Quarterly Review: Emma Ruth Rundle & Thou, Spaceslug, Malsten, Sun Crow, Honeybadger, Monte Luna, Hombrehumano, Veljet, Witchrider, Devil Worshipper

Posted in Reviews on December 28th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

THE-OBELISK-FALL-2020-QUARTERLY-REVIEW

New week, same Quarterly Review. Today is the next-to-last round for this time, though once again, I look at the folders of albums on my desktop and the CDs and LPs that have come in and I realize it could easily go longer. I never really caught up from the last QR. I guess it’s been that kind of year. In any case, more good stuff today, so sit tight and enjoy. If you didn’t find anything last week that stuck out to you, maybe today’s your day.

Quarterly Review #51-60:

Emma Ruth Rundle & Thou, May Our Chambers Be Full

emma ruth rundle thou may our chambers be full

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Emma Ruth Rundle on Thee Facebooks

Thou on Instagram

Sacred Bones Records website

 

Spaceslug, Leftovers

spaceslug leftovers

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Spaceslug on Thee Facebooks

Spaceslug on Bandcamp

 

Malsten, The Haunting of SilvÄkra Mill

malsten The Haunting of Silvakra Mill

Malmö-based four-piece Malsten make their full-length debut on Interstellar Smoke Records with the four-song/44-minute The Haunting of SilvĂ„kra Mill, and in so doing show an immediate command of post-Pallbearer spaciousness and melodic-doom traditionalism. Their lumber is prevalent and engrossing tonally on opener “Torsion” (10:36), uses silence effectively on “Immolation” (10:24), and seems to find a place between Warning and Lord Vicar on “Grinder” (9:02) ahead of the epic-on-top-of-epics summary in closer “Compunction” (13:54), which finds Malsten having reserved another level of heavy to keep as their final statement. So be it. Very heavy and worthy of as much volume as you can give it, The Haunting of SilvĂ„kra Mill is an accomplished beginning and heralds significant potential on the part of what’s to come from Malsten. I’d watch this band do a live stream playing this record front-to-back. Just saying.

Malsten on Thee Facebooks

Interstellar Smoke Records webstore

 

Sun Crow, Quest for Oblivion

Sun Crow Quest for Oblivion

A significant undertaking of progressive heavy and noise rock, Sun Crow‘s Quest for Oblivion is among the most ambitious debut albums I’ve heard in 2020, but there’s nothing it sets for itself in terms of goals that it doesn’t accomplish, as vocalist Charles Wilson flips between clean melodies and effective screams atop the riffs of guitarist Ben Nechanicky, the bass of Brian Steel and Keith Hastreiter‘s drums. Somebody’s gonna sign these guys. Even at 70 minutes, Quest for Oblivion, from its post-apocalyptic standpoint, aesthetic cohesion, fluid songcraft and accomplished performance, is simply too good to leave without a proper 2LP release. Individualized in atmosphere though working with familiar-enough elements, it is an album that makes it joyously difficult to pick apart influences, unleashing an initial burst of four longer tracks before giving way (albeit momentarily) to “Fear” and the outlying, brazenly Motörheady “Nothing Behind” before returning to cosmic heavy in “Hypersonic” and the 11-minute “Titans,” which uses its time just as well as everything else that surrounds. Ironic that a record that seems to be about a wasteland should bring so much hope for the future.

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Sun Crow on Bandcamp

 

Honeybadger, Pleasure Delayer

honeybadger pleasure delayer

It doesn’t take Honeybadger long to land their first effective punch on their debut LP, Pleasure Delayer, as the hook of opener/longest track (immediate points) “The Wolf” hits square on the jaw and precedes an atmospheric guitar outro that leads into the rest of the album as a closer might otherwise lead the way out. A product of Athens’ heavy rock boom, the four-piece distinguish themselves in fuzzy tones and an approach that comes right to the edge of burl and doesn’t quite tip over, thankfully and gracefully staving off chestbeating in favor of quality songcraft on “The Well” and the engagingly bass-led “Crazy Ride,” from which the initially slower, bluesier “Good for Nothing” picks up with some Truckfighters, some 1000mods and a whole lot of fun. Side B’s hooks are no less satisfyingly straightforward. “That Feel” feels born for the stage, while “Laura Palmer” makes a memorable chorus out of that Twin Peaks character’s slaying, the penultimate “Holler” feels indeed like the work of a band trying to stand themselves out from a crowded pack and “Truth in the Lie” caps mirroring the energy of “Good for Nothing” but resounding in a cold finish. Efficient, hooky, smoothly executed. There’s nothing one might reasonably ask of Pleasure Delayer that it doesn’t deliver.

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Honeybadger on Bandcamp

 

Monte Luna, Mind Control Broadcast

monte luna mind control broadcast

Released name-your-price as a benefit for the venue The Lost Well in Monte Luna‘s hometown of Austin and derived from a CvltNation-sponsored livestream, the three-song Mind Control Broadcast follows 2019’s Drowners’ Wives (review here) and is intended as a glimpse at their impending third LP, likely due in 2021. That record will be one to look forward to, but it’ll be hard to trade out the raw bludgeon of “Blackstar” — the leadoff here — for another, maybe-not-live-recorded version. True, the setting doesn’t necessarily allow for the band to bring in guests like they did last time around or to flesh out melodies in the same way, but the sound is brash and thrilling and lets “Rust Goliath” live up to its name in largesse, while saving its nastiest for last in “Fear the Sun,” the glorious bassline of which it feels like a spoiler even mentioning for someone who hasn’t heard it yet. 22 of the sludgiest minutes you’re likely to spend today.

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Monte Luna BigCartel store

 

Hombrehumano, Crepuscular

hombrehumano crepuscular

As satisfying as the laid-back-heavy desert rock flow of “Rolito” is, and as well done as what surrounds on Hombrehumano‘s 2019 debut album, Crepuscular, turns out to be in its 53-minute run, it’s in the longer pieces like the Western “Puerto Gris” or the post-Brant Bjork “Metamorfosis” that they really shine. That’s not to take away from the opening instrumental “Nomada” that establishes the tones and sets the atmosphere in which the rest of the record takes place, or the nod of “Primaveras de Olvido,” and certainly the fuzz-boogie and percussion of “Ouroboro” shine in a manner worthy of being depicted on the cover, but the Argentinian four-piece do well with the extra time to flesh out their material. But, either way you go, you go. Hombrehumano craft sweet fuzz and spaciousness on “Puerto Gris” and answer it back later in “Zombakice” and add twists of percussion and acoustics and vocal effects — never mind the birdsong — on closer “Del Ensueño.” Es un ejemplo mĂĄs de lo que le falta a la cultura gringo al no adorar fuertemente a los sudamericanos.

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Hombrehumano on Bandcamp

 

Veljet, Viva El Diablo

veljet viva el diablo

Even my non-Spanish-speaking ass can translate Viva el Diablo, the title of Mexican instrumentalist three-piece Veljet‘s debut album. Initially released by the band in March 2020, it was subsequently reissued for physical pressing with a seventh track, “Leviatan,” added, bringing the runtime to a vinyl-ready 37 minutes. The apparently-devil-worshiping title-cut is still the longest at a doomly eight minutes, but though the production is fairly raw, Veljet‘s material taps into a few different impulses within the heavy rock sphere, offsetting willfully repetitive riffing in “El DĂ­a de las Manos” with scorching solo work while “Jay Adams” — presumably named in homage to the Dogtown skater — pulls some trad-metal riffing into its second half. “Cutlass” is short at 2:36, but makes the record as a whole feel less predictable for that, and the add-on “Leviatan” embodies its great sea beast with a nod up front that opens to later cacophony. The vibe throughout is you’re-in-the-room live jams, and Veljet have well enough chemistry to carry the songs across in that setting.

Veljet on Thee Facebooks

The Swamp Records website

 

Witchrider, Electrical Storm

witchrider electrical storm

Smoothly produced and executed, not lacking energy but produced for a very studio-style fullness, Witchrider‘s second LP arrives via Fuzzorama Records in answer to 2014’s Unmountable Stairs with a pro-shop feel for its 50-minute duration. Songs are sharply hooked and energetic, beefing up Queens of the Stone Age-style desert rock early on “Shadows” and “You Lied” before the guitars introduce a broader palette with the title-track. The chorus of “Mess Creator” and the big finish in closer “The Weatherman” are highlights, but songs like “Keep Me out of It” and “Come Back” feel built for a commercial infrastructure that — at least in radio-free America — doesn’t exist anymore. I’m not sure what it takes to attract the attention of picky algorithms, but if it’s grounded songwriting, varied material and crisp performance like it was when there was a cable channel playing music videos, then Witchrider are ready to roll. As it stands, the Austrian outfit seem underserved by the inability to even get on a festival stage and play this material live to win converts in that manner. They’re hardly alone in that, but with material that seems so poised specifically toward audience engagement, it comes through all the more, which of course is a testament to the quality of the work itself.

Witchrider on Thee Facebooks

Fuzzorama Records website

 

Devil Worshipper, 3

devil worshipper 3

Opening with its longest track (immediate points) in the 10-minute “Silver Dagger” and presented with the burning red eyes of Christopher Lee’s Dracula on the front, the 33-minute 3 tape from Seattle’s Devil Worshipper maintains the weirdo-experimental spirit of the outfit’s 2015 self-titled debut (review here), finding a kind of Butthole Surfers-into-a-cassette-recorder, anything-goes-until-it-sucks, dark ’90s psychedelia they call “garage metal.” Fair enough. Apparently more efficient than anything I can come up with for it, though what doesn’t necessarily account for is the way the 3 challenges the listener, the remastered versions of “Into Radiation Wave” and “Chem Rails” from the first album, or the horror atmospherics of “Drinking Blood.” It’s like it’s too weird for this planet so it finally made one for itself. Well earned.

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Puppy Mill Recordings on Bandcamp

 

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Quarterly Review: Bell Witch & Aerial Ruin, Cruthu, Sólstafir, ILS, Bismut, Cracked Machine, Megadrone, KLÄMP, Mábura, Astral Sleep

Posted in Reviews on October 8th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

THE-OBELISK-FALL-2020-QUARTERLY-REVIEW

We’ve reached the portion of the Quarterly Review wherein I would no longer know what day it is if I didn’t have my notes to help me keep track. I suppose it doesn’t matter — the day, that is — since it’s 10 records either way, but I’d hate to review the same albums two days in a row or something. Though, come to think of it, that might be a fun experiment sometime.

Not today. Today is another fresh batch of 10 on the way to 60 by next Monday. We’ll get there. Always do. And if you’re wondering, today’s Thursday. At least that’s what I have in my notes.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Bell Witch & Aerial Ruin, Stygian Bough Vol. I

bell witch aerial ruin Stygian Bough Volume 1

The collaborative effort Bell Witch & Aerial Ruin and their 64-minute full-length, Stygian Bough Vol. I — the intention toward future output together hinted at in the title already confirmed by the group(s) — is a direct extension of what Aerial Ruin, aka Erik Moggridge, brought to the last Bell Witch album, 2017’s Mirror Reaper (review here), in terms of complementing the crushing, emotionally resonant death-doom of the Washington duo with morose folk vocal melody. Stygian Bough Vol. I is distinguished by having been written by the two-plus-one-equals-three-piece as a group, and accordingly, it more fluidly weaves Moggridge‘s contributions into those of Bell Witch‘s Dylan Desmond and Jesse Shreibman, resulting in an approach like if Patrick Walker from Warning had joined Thergothon. It’s prevailing spirit is deep melancholy in longer pieces like “The Bastard Wind” and “The Unbodied Air,” both over 19 minutes, while it might be in “Heaven Torn Low I (The Passage)” and “Heaven Torn Low II (The Toll)” that the trio most effectively bring their intent to life. Either way, if you’re in, be ready to go all the way in, but know that it’s well worth doing so.

Bell Witch on Thee Facebooks

Aerial Ruin on Thee Facebooks

Profound Lore Records website

 

Cruthu, AthrĂș Crutha

cruthu AthrĂș Crutha

Traditional doom with flourish both of noise and NWOBHM guitars — that turn in the second half of opener “Transformation” is like a dogwhistle for Iron Maiden fans — I hear Cruthu‘s second album, AthrĂș Crutha, and all I can think of are label recommendations. The Michigan outfit’s 2017 debut, The Angle of Eternity (review here), was eventually issued on The Church Within, and that’d certainly work, but also VĂĄn Records, Shadow Kingdom, and even Cruz Del Sur seem like fitting potential homes for the righteousness on display across the vinyl-ready six-song/39-minute outing, frontman Ryan Evans commanding in presence over the reverb-loaded classic-style riffs of guitarist Dan McCormick and the accompanying gallop in Matt Fry‘s drums given heft by Derek Kasperlik‘s bass. Like the opener, “Necromancy” and “Dimensional Collide” move at a good clip, but side B’s “The Outsider” and closer “Crown of Horns” slow things down following the surprisingly rough-edged “Beyond the Pale.” One way or the other, it’s all doomed and so are we.

Cruthu on Thee Facebooks

Cruthu on Bandcamp

 

SĂłlstafir, Endless Twilight of Codependent Love

SĂłlstafir endless twilight of codependent love

Whereas 2017’s Berdreyminn (review here) existed in the shadow of 2014’s Ótta (review here), Endless Twilight of Codependent Love brings Iceland’s SĂłlstafir to a new place in terms of their longer-term progression. It is their first album with an English title since 2005’s Masterpiece of Bitterness, and though they’ve had English-language songs since then, the mellow “Her Fall From Grace” is obviously intended to be a standout here, and it is. On the nine-song/62-minute course of the album, however, it is one impression of many, and in the raging “Dionysus” and post-blackened “DrĂœsill,” 10-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Akkeri,” richly atmospheric “Rökkur,” goth-lounging “Or” and worthy finale “Úlfur,” SĂłlstafir remind of the richly individual nature of their approach. The language swaps could be reaching out to a broader, non-Icelandic-speaking audience. If so, it’s only in the interest of that audience to take note if they haven’t already.

SĂłlstafir on Thee Facebooks

Season of Mist website

 

ILS, Curse

ils curse

Curse is the first long-player from Portland, Oregon’s ILS, and it’s a rager in the PNW noise tradition, with uptempo, gonna-throw-a-punch-and-then-apologize riffs and basslines and swaps between semi-spoken shouts and vicious screams from Tom Glose (ex-Black Elk) that are precisely as jarring as they’re meant to be. I don’t think Curse is anyone’s first time at the dance — Glose, guitarist Nate Abner, bassist Adam Pike or drummer Tim Steiner — but it only benefits across its sans-bullshit 28-minute run by knowing what it wants to do. Its longest material, like the title-track or “Don’t Hurt Me,” which follows, or closer “For the Shame I Bring,” rests on either side of three and a half minutes, but some of the most brutal impressions are made in cuts like “It’s Not Lard but it’s a Cyst” or leadoff “Bad Parts,” which have even less time to waste but are no less consuming, particularly at high volume. The kind of record for when you want to assault yourself. And hey, that happens.

ILS on Thee Facebooks

P.O.G.O. Records on Bandcamp

 

Bismut, Retrocausality

bismut retrocausality

Apart from the consciously-titled three-minute noiseblaster finale “Antithesis” that’s clearly intended to contrast with what comes before it, Bismut‘s second LP for Lay Bare, Retrocausality, is made up of five extended instrumental pieces the shortest of which is just under 13 minutes long. The Nijmegen-based trio — guitarist Nik Linders, bassist Huibert der Weduwen, drummer Peter Dragt — build these semi-improvisational pieces on the foundation they set with 2018’s Schwerpunkt (review here), and their explorations through heavy rock, metal and psychedelia feel all the more cohesive as a song like “Vergangenheit” is nonetheless able to blindside with the heavy riff toward which it’s been moving for its entire first half. At 71 minutes total, it’s a purposefully unmanageable runtime, but as “PredvĂ­danie” imagines a psych-thrash and “Oscuramento” drones to its crashing finish, Bismut seem to be working on their own temporal accord anyhow. For those stuck on linear time, that means repeat listens may be necessary to fully digest, but that’s nothing to complain about either.

Bismut on Thee Facebooks

Lay Bare Recordings website

 

Cracked Machine, Gates of Keras

Cracked Machine Gates of Keras

UK instrumentalists Cracked Machine have worked relatively quickly over the course of their now-three albums to bring a sense of their own perspective to the tropes of heavy psychedelic rock. Alongside the warmth of tone in the guitar and bass, feeling drawn from the My Sleeping Karma/Colour Haze pastiche of progressive meditations, there is a coinciding edge of English heavy rock and roll that one can hear not so much in the drift of “Temple of Zaum” as in the push of “Black Square Icon,” which follows, as well as the subtle impatience of the drums on “October Dawn.” “Move 37,” on the other hand, is willfully speedier and more upbeat than much of what surrounds, but though opener/longest track (immediate points) “Cold Iron Light” hits 7:26, nothing on Gates of Keras sticks around long enough to overstay its welcome, and even in their deepest contemplations, the feeling of motion carries them and the listener effectively through the album’s span. They sound like a band realizing what they want to do with all the potential they’ve built up.

Cracked Machine on Thee Facebooks

Kozmik Artifactz website

PsyKa Records website

 

Megadrone, Transmissions From the Jovian Antennae

Megadrone Transmissions From the Jovian Antennae

From cinematic paranoia to consuming and ultra-slow rollout of massive tonality, the debut offering from Megadrone — the one-man outfit of former Bevar Sea vocalist Ganesh Krishnaswamy — stretches across 53 minutes of unmitigated sonic consumption. If nothing else, Krishnaswamy chose the right moniker for the project. The Bandcamp version is spread across two parts — “Transmission A” (21:45) and “Transmission B” (32:09) — and any vinyl release would require significant editing as well, but the version I have is one huge, extended track, and that feels like exactly how Transmissions From the Jovian Antennae was composed and is supposed to be heard. Its mind-numbing repetitions lead the listener on a subtle forward march — there are drums back in that morass somewhere, I know it — and the piece follows an arc that begins relatively quiet, swells in its midsection and gradually recedes again over its final 10 minutes or so. It goes without saying that a 53-minute work of experimentalist drone crushscaping isn’t going to be for the faint of heart. Bold favors bold.

Megadrone on Thee Facebooks

Megadrone on Bandcamp

 

KLÄMP, Hate You

klamp hate you

Sax-laced noise rock psychedelic freakouts, blown-out drums and shouts and drones, cacophonous stomp and chaotic sprawl, and a finale that holds back its payoff so long it feels cruel, KLÄMP‘s second album, Hate You, arrives less than a year after their self-titled debut, and perhaps there’s some clue as to why in the sheer mania of their execution. Hate You launches with the angularity of its 1:47 title-track and rolls out a nodding groove on top of that, but it’s movement from one part to another, one piece to another, is frenetic, regardless of the actual tempo, and the songs just sound like they were recorded to be played loud. Second cut “Arise” is the longest at 7:35 and it plays back and forth between two main parts before seeming to explode at the end, and by the time that’s done, you’re pretty much KLÄMPed into place waiting to see where the Utrecht trio go next. Oblivion wash on “An Orb,” the drum-led start-stops of “Big Bad Heart,” psych-smash “TJ” and that awaited end in “No Nerves” later, I’m not sure I have any better idea where that might be. That’s also what makes it work.

KLÄMP on Thee Facebooks

God Unknown Records website

 

MĂĄbura, Heni

MĂĄbura heni

Preceded by two singles, Heni is the debut EP from Rio de Janeiro psychedelic tonal worshipers MĂĄbura, and its three component tracks, “AnhangĂĄ,” “III/IV” and “Bong of God” are intended to portray a lysergic experience through their according ambience and the sheer depth of the riffs they bring. “AnhangĂĄ” has vocals following the extended feedback and drone opening of its first half, but they unfold as a part of the general ambience, along with the drums that arrive late, are maybe sampler/programmed, and finish by leading directly into the crash/fuzz launch of “III/IV,” which just before it hits the two-minute mark unfurls into a watershed of effects and nod, crashing and stomping all the while until everything drops out but the bass only to return a short time later with the Riff in tow. Rumbling into a quick fade brings about the toking intro of “Bong of God,” which unfolds accordingly into a riff-led noisefest that makes its point seemingly without saying a word. I wouldn’t call it groundbreaking, but it’s a first EP. What it shows is that MĂĄbura have some significant presence of tone and purpose. Don’t be surprised when someone picks them up for a release.

MĂĄbura on Thee Facebooks

MĂĄbura on Bandcamp

 

Astral Sleep, Astral Doom Musick

Astral Sleep Astral Doom Musick

It’s still possible to hear some of Astral Sleep‘s death-doom roots in their third album, Astral Doom Musick, but the truth is they’ve become a more expansive unit than that (relatively) simple classification than describe. They’re doom, to be sure, but there are progressive, psychedelic and even traditional doom elements at work across the record’s four-song/43-minute push, with a sense of conceptual composition coming through in “Vril” and “Inegration” in the first half of the proceedings while the nine-and-a-half-minute “Schwerbelastungskörper” pushes into the darkest reaches and closer “Aurinko ja Kuu” harnesses a swirling progressive spread that’s dramatic unto its last outward procession and suitably large-sound in its production and tone. For a band who took eight years to issue a follow-up to their last full-length, Astral Sleep certainly have plenty to offer in aesthetic and craft. If it took them so long to put this record together, their time wasn’t wasted, but it’s hard to listen and not wonder where their next step might take them.

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Astral Sleep on Bandcamp

 

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Bell Witch and Aerial Ruin to Release Collaborative Stygian Bough Volume 1 June 26

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 7th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Bell Witch and Aerial Ruin (Photo by Lauren Lamp)

Certainly Bell Witch and Aerial Ruin are no strangers to each other. As the PR wire details, Erik Moggridge, who is Aerial Ruin, has guested on Bell Witch releases since their outset, perhaps most gloriously on 2017’s gorgeous and excruciating Mirror Reaper (review here), so what making their collaboration official in the matrimonial sense would seem to indicate is mostly a change of mindset and perhaps writing process. Still, those who listened to that record — and if that’s not you, it’s not too late! — will have some decent idea of what Stygian Bough Volume 1 is going for in terms of basic feel, as the streaming track “Heaven Torn Low II (The Toll)” would seem to hint.

One can only look forward to appreciation the beauty in darkness to come with the album’s arrival, and having seen these two entities share a stage before, should the opportunity arise again, it won’t be one to miss.

The PR wire brings Adam Burke cover art and speaks thus:

bell witch aerial ruin Stygian Bough Volume 1

BELL WITCH AND AERIAL RUIN ANNOUNCE COLLABORATIVE RECORD STYGIAN BOUGH VOLUME 1 – OUT JUNE 26 ON PROFOUND LORE

REVEAL “HEAVEN TORN LOW II (THE TOLL)”

Renowned doom duo Bell Witch fully integrate themselves with dark folk elegist, Aerial Ruin. The collaborative effort, titled ‘Stygian Bough Volume 1’ is a collection of five transcendent, hauntingly beautiful songs that defy categorization.

On Stygian Bough Volume I, members Dylan Desmond and Jesse Shreibman of renowned doom duo, Bell Witch fully integrate themselves with dark folk elegist, Erik Moggridge of Aerial Ruin. Genuine collaborations are rare yet these two found a way to become one, resulting in a hauntingly beautiful record.

While Moggridge has been a part of Bell Witch’s sonic fingerprint on all their prior records, perhaps most notably for his vocals on their previous acclaimed full-length, Mirror Reaper, he’s now part of the very fabric that makes up the five, emotional and strikingly heavy songs that comprise Stygian Bough Volume 1.

The addition of guitar to the bass and drum-only dynamic came naturally as the threesome discussed potential models for their joint effort. Ulver’s unorthodox folk album Kveldssanger came up as did Candlemass’ mile marker Nightfall. But the real fuel to Stygian Bough Volume I was the Bell Witch track, “Rows (of Endless Waves)”, which was not only Moggridge’s first appearance with Bell Witch but also a track that has deeply resonated with Desmond over the years. With the approach in place, Bell Witch and Aerial Ruin collectively wrote five desolate yet mystical songs that defy categorization. From the mournful “The Bastard Wind” and the crepuscular “Heaven Torn Low I (the passage)” to the monstrous “Heaven Torn Low II (the toll)” and the liturgical gloom of “The Unbodied Air,” Stygian Bough Volume I is an album of deep, dark undertows and careful respite.

The themes explored by Bell Witch and Aerial Ruin were independently tackled from different angles but were mainly from similar spaces. Whereas Bell Witch plumbed the depths of purgatory—a place of atonement between life and death—across three full-lengths, Moggridge’s Aerial Ruin have centered on the loss of the self and the spiritual places the vacancy ultimately leads to. For Stygian Bough Volume I, Bell Witch and Aerial Ruin topics of choice intersect and complement, continuing in spirit but with a broader vantage point where “Rows (of Endless Waves)” left off.

“Stygian Bough is a reference to the theme of The Golden Bough,” observes Desmond. “The book’s theme is centered on the rites of a temple in ancient Italy where slaves were transformed into kings by slaying he who reigned as such after successfully stealing the Golden Bough from the sacred tree within the temple. Within that notion, a different sort of slavery was brought upon the newly crowned king, as he must understand sooner or later that his fate would ultimately be the same as his predecessor. In short, the golden bough made a king out of a slave only to find they were now enslaved to a different sort of tyranny, always stalking them from the darkest shadows of their imagination. From this perspective, the “golden bough” is better understood as a deception casting darkness. Thus, Stygian Bough.”

Adds Moggridge: “They presented that song [“Rows (of Endless Waves)”] to me in a mostly instrumental form with the idea that it’s about a ghost trapped on rows of waves that can’t reach the land. I ran with this idea and started to think of the ghost of a king who, if he reached land could be reborn and rule again. The king is also a larger metaphor for humanity who rules over the planet and other species. On this new album our ghost upon the waves flees not towards the land but towards death. The narrative, as much as it exists, is loose and not linear and definitely stream of consciousness. There are cyclical and spherical qualities to the journey where death, desolation, and the spirit are reflected in myriad ways.”

Stygian Bough Volume I sees its release June 26 via Profound Lore Records. For pre-orders and additional information on limited pressings and exclusive variants, visit here. Stygian Bough Volume I was recorded and mixed by Randall Dunn at Avast Recording Co. in Seattle. Bell Witch and Aerial Ruin then took the full-length to mastering ace Bob Weston at Chicago Mastering Service in Chicago. The result is a full-length of profound lows and delicate highs — fitting for Bell Witch and Aerial Ruin’s quiet/introspective and heavy/loud dynamic. As for the triumvirate’s next steps, they plan on touring in support of Stygian Bough Volume I when it’s safe to do so. Stay tuned for tour updates.

Stygian Bough Volume 1 Track Listing:
1 – The Bastard Wind
2 – Heaven Torn Low I (the passage)
3 – Heaven Torn Low II (the toll)
4 – Prelude
5 – The Unbodied Air

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Bell Witch & Aerial Ruin, “Heaven Torn Low II (The Toll)”

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Snail Post “Nothing Left for You” Video; New Single out Now

Posted in Bootleg Theater on May 6th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

snail

New Snail video, you say? Don’t mind if I do, thanks. The timing certainly works, as the Pacific Coast — Seattle-ish and Los Angeles — three-piece have newly issued the single Nothing Left for You/Fearless, with the second cut being a cover of Meddle-era Pink Floyd and the first cut being their first recording since later-2015’s Feral (review here). They hit the studio in January to get going on their next long-player, and while “Nothing Left for You” will feature on that album, it’s hard to know how representative it might be of the upcoming-at-some-point batch of material either way, but it does find them making some interesting turns in sound, with some of the raw buzz one might find in their 1993 self-titled debut (review here) resurfacing along with the speedier groove than one has come to expect. It’s also catchy as hell, so if I haven’t said this before about it — and I’m pretty sure I have — I’m glad to take it as it comes.

They are right at home in “Fearless” as well, with guitarist Mark Johnson‘s dreamy vocal melody floating out over his own watery effects, backed by bassist/recording engineer Matt Lynch with drummer Marty Dodson keeping the groove grounded and rolling forward. As much as “Nothing Left for You” is about shove — and particularly ‘shove-away,’ in terms of its lyrical theme — Snail make “Fearless” into a deep-dive melodic showcase, emphasizing not only the influence of Pink Floyd, but the grittier, and weightier edge they bring to what was already there. Both songs end with a fadeout, and the underlying message of the release is clearly that there’s more to follow, and as a fan of the band, I can only look forward to the next album whenever it might arrive. Everyone’s plans being shot as they are this year, I wouldn’t hazard a guess as to when something might manifest, but in the interim, the video for “Nothing Left for You” has some fun with being stuck at home during quarantine, and again, I’ll take it as it comes.

And it bears mentioning that Lynch mixed and mastered Nothing Left for You/Fearless at his Mysterious Mammal Recordings in L.A. (they tracked at All Welcome Records) and as discussed in his days of rona, he’s up for mixing whatever you’ve got and is looking for remote clients. When I finally get to recording that spoken word/keyboard drone album, I’ll definitely be sending it to him to edit out the burps.

Enjoy the video:

Snail, “Nothing Left for You” official video

From the single Nothing Left For You / Fearless released 5/1/2020. Get your copy here: https://snailhq.bandcamp.com/

Video edited and produced by Matt Lynch. Music by Snail (Mark Johnson, Matt Lynch, Marty Dodson)

Recorded by Matt Lynch at All Welcome Records, Los Angeles USA. Mixed and mastered by Matt Lynch at Mysterious Mammal Recordings Los Angeles. Additional recording by Mark Johnson at home in Seattle. Engineered by Jennifer Hendrix.

Snail is:
Matt Lynch (Bass/Vocals)
Marty Dodson (Drums)
Mark Johnson (Lead Vocals/Guitar)

Snail, Nothing Left for You / Fearless (2020)

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Snail to Issue Nothing Left for You / Fearless Single This Friday

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 29th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

snail

The new original track buzzes with a neo-psych edge that Snail‘s never quite shown in this way before, and the B-side is a take on Meddle-era Pink Floyd, so yes, the first new music from Snail in a whopping half-decade is welcome. Nothing Left for You / Fearless comes topped off with artwork by Sean “Skillit” McEleny and is intended as something of a precursor to the next Snail long-player, which the band reports is already mostly done. That’s good news too, frankly, since it’s going on five years since 2015’s Feral (review here) and that means they’re certainly due. “Nothing Left for You” bodes well of what that album might portend tonally — it doesn’t quite drift, but the guitars seem to have loosed some heft in favor of shimmer and that’s interesting to hear from a band whose trade has been psych-through-lumber for so long.

Fascinating, as Spock would say.

He’d also say you should check it out on Friday when it’s released. No, I don’t know what day it is, but I know it’s not Friday because the song isn’t on their Bandcamp yet. That’s all I’ve got to go on.

Well, that and this from the PR wire:

snail nothing left for you fearless

Snail to Release First New Music in Six Years

Snail will release their first new music since 2014’s Feral on May 1, 2020. “Nothing Left For You,” the advanced single from their forthcoming as-yet-untitled LP, will be accompanied by a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Fearless”. This is only the second time Snail has recorded a cover song in its 27-year existence. The two songs will be available as a digital-only download from Bandcamp. “Nothing Left For You” will appear on the LP in physical form in the future, but “Fearless” will be an exclusive digital release.

“Nothing Left For You” is a particularly vicious rant against an unnamed entity. It’s fuzzy, driving, and pissed off.

Says Snail: “We’ve all had someone or something in our lives that were just toxic, and no amount of expended energy could turn that around. This song is a final kiss-off; a cathartic, scathing take down that is sometimes necessary to move past a relationship and regain a sense of self and power.”

Why cover “Fearless”? “Having been Floyd fans forever, we have been talking about doing that tune for 25 years. It’s a great song, and seemed open for a heavy interpretation. When writing “Nothing Left For You,” I actually used some characters from “Fearless” in the lyrics, so it only made sense to pair these two and finally realize the vision,” says Matt Lynch, bassist/producer.

Snail’s full length LP is currently in the overdub and mixing stage, and should be ready for release in the summer. The band recorded enough material back in January to complete an EP as well, so watch the newswire for updates.

SNAIL:
Marty Dodson – Drums and Percussion
Mark Johnson – Guitar and Lead Vocals
Matt Lynch – Bass, Keys and Vocals

Artwork by Skillit.

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Snail, “Nothing Left for You” drum recording

Snail, Feral (2015)

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Days of Rona: Matt Lynch of Snail & Mysterious Mammal Recording

Posted in Features on April 8th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

The statistics of COVID-19 change with every news cycle, and with growing numbers, stay-at-home isolation and a near-universal disruption to society on a global scale, it is ever more important to consider the human aspect of this coronavirus. Amid the sad surrealism of living through social distancing, quarantines and bans on gatherings of groups of any size, creative professionals — artists, musicians, promoters, club owners, techs, producers, and more — are seeing an effect like nothing witnessed in the last century, and as humanity as a whole deals with this calamity, some perspective on who, what, where, when and how we’re all getting through is a needed reminder of why we’re doing so in the first place.

Thus, Days of Rona, in some attempt to help document the state of things as they are now, both so help can be asked for and given where needed, and so that when this is over it can be remembered.

Thanks to all who participate. To read all the Days of Rona coverage, click here. — JJ Koczan

snail matt lynch

Days of Rona: Matt Lynch of Snail & Mysterious Mammal Recording (Los Angeles, California)

How are you dealing with this crisis as a band? Have you had to rework plans at all? How is everyone’s health so far?

So far everyone’s health is good. Mark is convinced that he and his wife had it in late January in Seattle. Of course, this is conjecture but the symptoms matched up. This was before it was even on our radar and no testing but Seattle was the first place it showed up in the States. They are okay now though. I’m in Los Angeles, Mark is in Seattle and Marty is in San Diego, so we don’t play live that often and didn’t have any tour plans yet. We were already in the middle of recording our record and Mark is in the overdub phase up in Seattle so fortunately we are in a good place there. I edit and mix and overdub once Mark is done, so luckily this is something we can continue to do in isolation. I am going to have more time to do this now because I have been laid off from my day job at a travel marketing agency. Not a lot of work going on there, so I’m freed up for mixing and mastering the Snail stuff and finishing Collyn’s Diesel Boots record as well as projects for other artists.

What are the quarantine/isolation rules where you are?

We are in a shelter-in-place here in Los Angeles. We go out for groceries and to walk our dogs. All non-essential businesses are closed, which means everything except medical, grocery, and media. All the beaches and parks are shut down, including bike and walking paths. They tried to keep them open but there are just too many people here in general and we aren’t great at following rules apparently.

How have you seen the virus affecting the community around you and in music?

Everything is closed except to get groceries. My job is gone, at least for the time being. Gigs are all cancelled. There have been a lot of cool live streams happening with music though, and the time to enjoy them. A lot of people are coming together virtually in my community, sharing information, helping each other with groceries and where to find them, trading food items among neighbors for recipes. People are cooking more again, playing music as a family – a bit of the old ways are creeping back in, which is a nice positive. It seems that musicians, or the musicians I know anyway, are generally into cooking. I think there is a parallel there of putting individual elements together to make a whole that is stronger than its parts that appeals to musicians.

What is the one thing you want people to know about your situation, either as a band, or personally, or anything?

I think the most important takeaway from this for me is that this has proven just how fast society can change. We are going to come out on the other side of this to a new normal — it won’t be the same — so now is the time to take stock and decide for yourself what you want that new normal to look like, and work towards making it happen.

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Quarterly Review: Slift, IIVII, Coogans Bluff, Rough Spells, Goblinsmoker, Homecoming, Lemurian Folk Songs, Ritual King, Sunflowers, Maya Mountains

Posted in Reviews on March 26th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

Thursday. Everyone doing well? Healthy? Kicking ass? Working from home? There seems to be a lot of that going around, at least among the lucky. New Jersey, where I live, is on lockdown with non-essential businesses shuttered, roads largely empty and all that. It can be grim and apocalyptic feeling, but I’m finding this Quarterly Review to be pretty therapeutic or at least helpfully distracting at a moment when I very much need something to be that. I hope that if you’re reading this, whether you’ve been following along or not, it’s done or can do the same for you if that’s what you need. I’ll leave it at that.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Slift, Ummon

slift ummon

The second album from French space/psych trio Slift is a 72-minute blowout echoshred epic — too aware not to be prog but too cosmic not to be space rock. Delivered through Stolen Body Records and Vicious Circle, Ummon is not only long, it speaks to a longer term. It’s not an album for this year, or for this decade, or for any other decade, for that matter. It’s for the ongoing fluid now. You want to lose yourself in the depths of buzz and dreamy synth? Yeah, you can do that. You want to dig into the underlying punk and maybe a bit of Elder influence in the vocal bark and lead guitar shimmer of “Thousand Helmets of Gold?” Well hell’s bells, do that. The mega-sprawling 2LP is a gorgeous blast of distortion, backed by jazzy, organic drum wud-dum-tap and the bass, oh, the bass; the stuff of low end sensory displacement. Amid swirls and casts of melodic light in “Dark Was Space, Cold Were the Stars,” Slift dilate universal energy and push beyond the noise wash reaches of “Son Dong’s Cavern” and through the final build, liftoff and roll of 13-minute closer “Lions, Tigers and Bears” with the deft touch of those dancing on prior conceptions. We’d be lucky to have Ummon as the shape of space rock to come.

Slift on Thee Facebooks

Stolen Body Records store

Vicious Circle Records store

 

IIVII, Grinding Teeth/Zero Sleep

Two LPs telling two different stories released at the same time, Grinding Teeth/Zero Sleep (on Consouling Sounds) brings Josh Graham‘s aural storytelling to new cinematic reaches. The composer, guitarist, synthesist, programmer, visual artist, etc., is joined along the way by the likes of Jo Quail, Ben Weinman (ex-The Dillinger Escape Plan), Dana Schecter (Insect Ark), Sarah Pendleton (ex-SubRosa) and Kim Thayil (Soundgarden) — among others — but across about 90 minutes of fluidity, Graham/IIVII soundtracks two narratives through alternatingly vast and crushing drone. The latter work is actually an adaptation from a short sci-fi film about, yes, humanity losing its ability to sleep — I feel you on that one — but the former, which tells a kind of meth-fueled story of love and death, brings due chaos and heft to go with its massive synthesized scope. Josh Graham wants to score your movie. You should let him. And you should pay him well. And you should let him design the poster. And you should pay him well for that too. End of story.

IIVII on Thee Facebooks

Consouling Sounds store

 

Coogans Bluff, Metronopolis

coogans bluff metronopolis

Following the initial sax-laden prog-rock burst and chase that is opener “Gadfly,” Berlin’s Coogans Bluff bring a ’70s pastoralia to “Sincerely Yours,” and that atmosphere ends up staying with Metronopolis — their fifth album — for the duration, no matter where else they might steer the sound. And they do steer the sound. Sax returns (as it will) in the jabbing “Zephyr,” a manic shred taking hold in the second half accompanied by no-less-manic bass, and “Creature of the Light” reimagines pop rock of the original vinyl era in the image of its own weirdness, undeniably rock but also something more. Organ-inclusive highlight “Soft Focus” doesn’t so much touch on psychedelics as dunk its head under their warm waters, and “The Turn I” brings an almost Beatlesian horn arrangement to fruition ahead of the closer “The Turn II.” But in that finale, and in “Hit and Run,” and way back in “Sincerely Yours,” Coogans Bluff hold that Southern-style in their back pocket as one of several of Metronopolis‘ recurring themes, and it becomes one more element among the many at their disposal.

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Noisolution store

 

Rough Spells, Ruins at Midday

rough spells ruins at midday

An underlying current of social commentary comes coated in Rough Spells‘ mysticism on Ruins at Midday, the Toronto unit’s second LP. Recorded by Ian Blurton and presented by Fuzzed and Buzzed and DHU Records, the eight-track LP has, as the lyrics of “Chance Magic” say, “No bad intentions.” Indeed, it seems geared only toward eliciting your participation in its ceremony of classic groove, hooks and melodies, even the mellow “Die Before You Die” presenting an atmosphere that’s heavy but still melodic and accessible. “Grise Fiord” addresses Canada’s history of mistreating its native population, while “Pay Your Dues” pits guitar and vocal harmonics against each other in a shove of proto-metallic energy to rush momentum through side B and into the closing pair of the swaggering “Nothing Left” and the title-track, which is the longest single cut at five minutes, but still keeps its songwriting taut with no time to spare for indulgences. In this, and on several fronts, Ruins at Midday basks in multifaceted righteousness.

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Fuzzed and Buzzed store

DHU Records store

 

Goblinsmoker, A Throne in Haze, A World Ablaze

goblinsmoker a throne in haze a world ablaze

Upside the head extreme sludgeoning! UK trio Goblinsmoker take on the more vicious and brutal end of sludge with the stench of death on A Throne in Haze, A World Ablaze (on Sludgelord Records), calling to mind the weedian punishment of Belzebong and others of their decrepit ilk. Offered as part two of a trilogy, A Throne in Haze, A World Ablaze is comprised of three tracks running a caustic 26 minutes thick enough such that even its faster parts feel slow, a churning volatility coming to the crash of “Smoked in Darkness” at the outset only to grow more menacing in the lurch of centerpiece “Let Them Rot” — which of course shifts into blastbeats later on — and falling apart into noise and echoing residual feedback after the last crashes of “The Forest Mourns” recede. Beautifully disgusting, the release reportedly furthers the story of the Toad King depicted on its cover and for which the band’s prior 2018 EP was named, and so be it. The lyrics, largely indecipherable in screams, are vague enough that if you’re not caught up, you’ll be fine. Except you won’t be fine. You’ll be dead. But it’ll be awesome.

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Sludgelord Records on Bandcamp

 

Homecoming, LP01

homecoming lp01

Progressive metal underpins French trio Homecoming‘s aptly-titled first record, LP01, with the guitars of second cut “Rivers of Crystal” leading the way through a meandering quiet part and subsequent rhythmic figure that reminds of later Opeth, though there’s still a strong heavy rock presence in their tones and grooves generally. It’s an interesting combination, and all the more so because I think part of what’s giving off such a metal vibe is the snare sound. You don’t normally think of a snare drum determining that kind of thing, but here we are. Certainly the vocal arrangements between gruff melodies, backing screams and growls, etc., the odd bit of blastbeating here and there, bring it all into line as well — LP01 is very much the kind of album that would title its six-minute instrumental centerpiece “Interlude” — but the intricacy in how the nine-minute “Return” develops and the harmonies that emerge early in closer “Five” tell the tale clearly of Homecoming‘s ambitions as they move forward from this already-ambitious debut.

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Homecoming on Bandcamp

 

Lemurian Folk Songs, Logos

lemurian folk songs logos

Tracked in the same sessions as the Budapest outfit’s 2019 album, Ima (review here), it should not come as a major surprise that the six-track/49-minute Logos from Lemurian Folk Songs follows a not entirely dissimilar course, bringing together dream-drift of tones and melodies with subtle but coherent rhythmic motion in a fashion not necessarily revolutionary for heavy psych, but certainly well done and engaging across its tracks. The tones of guitar and bass offer a warmth rivaled only by the echoing vocals on opener/longest cut (immediate points) “Logos,” and the shimmering “Sierra Tejada” and progressively building “Calcination” follow that pattern while adding a drift that is both of heavy psych and outside of it in terms of the character of how it’s played. None of the last three tracks is less than eight minutes long — closer “Firelake” tops nine in a mirror to “Logos” at the outset, but if that’s the band pushing further out I hear, then yes, I want to go along for that trip.

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Para Hobo Records on Bandcamp

 

Ritual King, Ritual King

ritual king ritual king

Progressive heavy rockers Ritual King display a striking amount of grace and patience across their Ripple Music-issued self-titled long-player. Tapping modern influences like Elder and bringing their own sense of melodic nuance to the proceedings across a tightly-constructed seven songs and 42 minutes, the three-piece of vocalist/guitarist Jordan Leppitt, bassist Dan Godwin — whose tone is every bit worthy of gotta-hear-it classification — and drummer/backing vocalist Gareth Hodges string together linear movements in “Headspace” and “Dead Roads” that flow one into the next, return at unexpected moments or don’t, and follow a direction not so much to the next chorus but to the next statement the band want to make, whatever that might be. “Restrain” begins with a sweet proggy soundscape and unfolds two verses over a swaying riff, then is gone, where at the outset, “Valleys” offers grandeur the likes of which few bands would dare to embody on their third or fourth records, let alone their first. Easily one of 2020’s best debuts.

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Ripple Music on Bandcamp

 

Sunflowers, Endless Voyage

sunflowers endless voyage

You know what? Never mind. You ain’t weird enough for this shit. Nobody’s weird enough for this shit. I have a hard time believing the two souls from Portugal who made it are weird enough for this shit. Think I’m wrong? Think you’re up for it and you’re gonna put on SunflowersEndless Voyage and be like, “oh yeah, turns out mega-extreme krautrock blasted into outer space was my wavelength all along?” Cool. Bandcamp player’s right there. Have at it. I dare you.

Sunflowers on Thee Facebooks

Stolen Body Records store

 

Maya Mountains, Era

maya mountains era

Italian heavy rockers Maya Mountains formed in 2005 and issued their debut album, Hash and Pornography, through Go Down Records in 2008. Era, which follows a narrative about the title-character whose name is given in lead cut “Enrique Dominguez,” who apparently travels through space after being lost in the desert — as one does — and on that basis alone is clearly a more complex offering than its predecessor. As to where Maya Mountains have been all the time in between records — here and there, in other bands, etc. But Era, at 10 tracks and 44 minutes, is the summation of five years of work on their part and its blend of scope and straight-ahead heavy riffing is welcome in its more heads-down moments like “Vibromatic” or in the purposefully weirder finale “El Toro” later on. Something like a second debut for the band after being away for so long, Era at very least marks the beginning of a new one for them, and one hopes it continues in perhaps more productive fashion than the last.

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Friday Full-Length: Lords of the North, Lords of the North

Posted in Bootleg Theater on March 13th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Lords of the North, Lords of the North (2008)

 

A proposal for a science experiment:

Some label — for hypothetical purposes let’s say it’s Cursed Tongue Records for the vinyl and Ripple Music for the CD, and maybe someone else does a limited tape version somewhere along the line too; I like King Volume, so let’s go with that — releases Lords of the North‘s self-titled debut. That’s it. That’s the experiment.

But here’s the thing. I’m not talking about a reissue. While I may have my fantasies about doing a curated series of reissues through this or that imprint — call me, RidingEasy! — I’m talking about putting out Lords of the North‘s Lords of the North with no mention whatsoever of the fact that the album originally came out in 2008. Sure, on the LP itself you’d probably need to mention when it was recorded or that the Seattle three-piece originally had it out on CD through their own not-really-a-label Tundra Music, but the theory I’m testing is that if you released this record today, 12 years on from its first arrival, it would still kill it.

Hell, put it on Bandcamp with a bare minimum of social media here-it-is-go-get-it-style promotion and I wouldn’t be surprised. The songs. The riffs. The grooves. It’s only 33 minutes long and six tracks, but it taps into the essential heart of what’s so appealing about heavy rock and roll. It has a classic groove and an atmosphere that’s rife for digging in, absolutely no pretense, and whether it’s the Zeppelin-style solo jam-out in the eight-minute “Beams of Light” or the mega-choruses of opener “Souls Come Rising,” the subsequent “Follow the Falcon” or the rougher-edged closing duo of “Loyal Legion” — the chug-verse-into-swing-hook of which is a highlight unto itself; if we’re picking tracks, this one might be the most likely to be stuck in your head for, say, somewhere in the neighborhood of 12 years — and the aptly-named knuckledragging finisher “The March.”

The influences are right there to be absorbed. Comprised of bassist/vocalist Pat Brian Kearney, guitarist Tony Tharp and drummer James Roche and recorded by the band with Chris Duryee, mixed by Phil Ek and mastered by Ed Brooks (cheers, Discogs), the band and record touched on familiar enough pieces from what was already a burgeoning heavy revival. Shades of High on Fire as distilled through The Sword‘s earliest riffing and the Melvins showed up in their work, so of Lords-of-the-North-self titledcourse there’s some Sabbath there too, but the prevailing theme of chilled-to-the-bone frozen wastes that comes through the artwork, the band’s moniker, the subjects of the songs themselves and even the name they picked for their not-really-a-label is all about being really, really, really cold, and that comes through in the tonality as a part of the record’s overarching personality as well.

Mostly it’s conveyed through largesse. Big riffs, big groove, big echo. It may have been their debut, but Lords of the North seem even now to have had no doubt about what they wanted to get across to their audience. There’s perfectly-timed boogie and enough variety in the jammier feel into which “Beams of Light” veers, first with its acoustic guitar and then its going-going-gone lead and the interlude “Steam Caves” that follows, not to mention the rougher-edged vocals that emerge in “Loyal Legion” and “The March,” to carry easily through the 33-minute run without the band coming close to overstaying their welcome. For its lack of pretense, the songwriting on display and the manner in which they put the album together — I wonder if a vinyl release would adjust the tracklisting so that “Beams of Light” and “Steam Caves” were on the same side, or if maybe “Loyal Legion” and “The March” would be split up so that each ended a half of the record to give it more symmetry, but those too are hypotheticals, and for the CD it was, it certainly worked — it was a collection that was has stood the test of time as a kind of refresher on how to make heavy rock sound simple and straightforward without losing sight of the need to find a sense of perspective within the genre.

Because that’s what Lords of the North were doing here. Yeah, it’s a bunch of songs put together to make a record, and that’s hardly a mystical process at this point in history — or, for that matter, in 2008 — but among the lessons the band might have take from what worked so well on their declarative self-titled is that they succeeded in crafting a vision to tie the material together, so that it wasn’t just songs, or just riffs, or crash, or stories about barbarian armies cresting the ice-covered hillside, it was all of it functioning together in order to create a striking and multi-tiered persona for the band and the album.

Would that persona have grown richer with time? I have no reason to think it wouldn’t, but of course, Lords of the North‘s debut was also their swansong. Their social media shows them in the studio in 2012 putting together a follow-up to the self-titled, and in 2014 they unveiled plans for a comic book to go with the album that resulted in some cool-looking panels in keeping with the cover art here — if I’m not mistaken, at some point in their history they worked with Mark Johnson from Snail, either before or after the album, I can’t remember which — though nothing came to fruition for whatever reason. One assumes the usual: life moves on, people move on, etc.

But I’ll stand by this album’s enduring quality and I honestly think that if it came out today — or with a proper promotional cycle befitting a new release — it would catch on in a way it never did during its time. Will that happen? Yeah, probably not. I don’t think labels are lining up yet to mine the late-aughts pre-social media “lost era” of heavy rock for the cause of scientific progress quite yet — there’s still so much of the ’90s to unearth first, underproduced as it all is — but when they get there, Lords of the North will be waiting. Until then, I’m happy to count myself in this record’s loyal legion.

As always, I hope you enjoy. Thanks for reading.

What a fucking nightmare. Here’s the thing — am I talking about the ensuing noise and panic about coronavirus or am I talking about trying to feed my kid a peanut butter sandwich before he goes to kiddie-gymnastics class? See? You don’t even know which one it is.

Millions will die.

From the sandwich.

I don’t have any great observations about the pandemic to make that haven’t been said a thousand times by people more eloquent, so screw it. I’m tired. Don’t get sick. There. I said it.

I still don’t wash my hands with soap most of the time.

I still touch my mouth.

If I die of COVID-19, I want my grave to say, “It was biting his nails whut did him in.” Make sure you misspell “what” like that.

I’m so tired.

The Patient Mrs. took the The Pecan aka Dr. “NO!” out to that gymnastics class. That’s good for a few moments’ reprieve. There’s a new Lamp of the Universe album coming out in June. Whatever happens with Roadburn will happen. It will be what it is. Somehow I’m most anxious about that.

Next week is great. Not good. Great. Two more Dozer full album streams on Monday and Wednesday. Tuesday the new King Buffalo EP streams in full. Thursday is a review of Wednesday night’s Ode to Doom in Manhattan and a video premiere for Last Rizla from Greece. Friday is a Thunderbird Divine track premiere from their new EP. That’s right. Not fucking around. Great week.

Yesterday I had two bands tell their PR they wanted to do premieres with this site. That was the nicest thing that happened to me this week. Easily.

A new Star Trek book came out. It’s TOS, kind of meh, but fine. I feel like a lot of those are just trying to recombine episodes from different episodes, throw in an alien threat, maybe retcon some dumb shit they did on tv in 1967 and make Kirk the hero over the course of 200-plus pages and you’re set. I’d love to write one of those books. I’d love to write any book. I just keep writing news posts.

I was supposed to interview Chris Goss yesterday for the Desertfest London programme. Well, the interview didn’t happen and this morning I got an email they’re pulling the plug on the programme, I assume for financial considerations. This is life right now. New realities, none of them remotely believable.

The new Forming the Void record is so good I want to shit a brick.

That’s all I’ve got.

Great and safe weekend. Don’t get the fucking plague. I’m gonna go count the minutes until dinner and read about Spock and the Andorian from that one episode of The Animated Series where Spock goes back in time and sees himself as a kid. Curiously no Michael Burnham there. Funny how that goes.

Blah blah blah.

Love always,
JJ Koczan

PS: FRM.

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