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.

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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.

Lemurian Folk Songs on Thee Facebooks

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.

Maya Mountains on Thee Facebooks

Go Down Records store

 

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Quarterly Review: The Cult of Dom Keller, Grandpa Jack, Woven Man, Charivari, Human Impact, Dryland, Brass Owl, Battle City, Astral Bodies, Satyrus

Posted in Reviews on March 25th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

Ah, the Wednesday of a Quarterly Review. Always a special day in my mind. We hit and pass the halfway point today, and I like the fact that the marker is right in the middle of things, like that sign you pass in Pennsylvania on Rt. 80 that says, “this is the highest point east of the Mississippi,” or whatever it is. Just a kind of, “oh, by the way, in case you didn’t know, there’s this but you’re on your way somewhere else.” And so we are, en route to 50 reviews by Friday. Will we get there? Yeah, of course. I’ve done this like 100 times now, it’s not really in doubt. Sleeping, eating, living: these things are expendable. The Quarterly Review will get done. So let’s do it.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

The Cult of Dom Keller, Ascend!

the cult of dom keller ascend

They’re not going quietly, that’s for sure. Except for when they are, at least. The Cult of Dom Keller send their listeners — and, it would seem, themselves — into the howling ether on the exclamatory-titular Ascend!, their fifth LP. Issued through Cardinal Fuzz and Little Cloud records it brings a bevvy of freakouts in psych-o-slabs like “I Hear the Messiah” and the early-arriving “Hello Hanging Rope” and the building-in-thickness “The Blood Donor Wants His Blood Back,” and the foreboding buzz of “We’re All Fucked (Up),” peppering in effective ambient interludes ahead of what might be some resolution in the closing “Jam for the Sun.” Or maybe that’s just narrative I’m putting to it. Does it matter? Does anything matter? And what is matter? And what is energy? And is there a line between the two or are we all just playing pretend at existence like I-think-therefore-I-am might actually hold water in a universe bigger than our own pea-sized brains. Where do we go from here? Or maybe it’s just the going and not the where? Okay.

The Cult of Dom Keller on Thee Facebooks

Cardinal Fuzz on Bandcamp

Little Cloud Records on Bandcamp

 

Grandpa Jack, Trash Can Boogie

Grandpa Jack Trash Can Boogie

Brooklynite trio Grandpa Jack are working toward mastery of the thickened midtempo groove on their second EP, Trash Can Boogie. Led by guitarist/vocalist Johnny Strom with backing shouts from drummer Matt C. White and a suitable flow provided by bassist Jared Schapker, the band present a classic-tinged four tracks, showing some jammier psych range in the 7:47 second cut “Untold” but never straying too far from the next hook, as opener “Ride On, Right On” and the almost-proto-metal “Imitation” show. Finishing with “Curmudgeon,” Grandpa Jack ride a fine line between modern fuzz, ’90s melody and ’70s groove idolatry, and part of the fun is trying to figure out which side they’re on at any given point and which side they’ll want to ultimately end up on, or if they’ll decide at all. They have one LP under their collective belt already. I’d be surprised if their next one didn’t garner them more significant attention, let alone label backing, should they want it.

Grandpa Jack on Thee Facebooks

Grandpa Jack on Bandcamp

 

Woven Man, Revelry (In Our Arms)

woven man revelry in our arms

There’s metal in the foundation of what Woven Man are doing on their 2019 debut, Revelry (In Our Arms). And there’s paganism. But they’re by no means “pagan metal” at least in the understood genre terms. The Welsh outfit — featuring guitarist Lee Roy Davies, formerly of Acrimony — cast out soundscapes in their vocal melodies and have no lack of tonal crunch at their disposal when they want it, but as eight-minute opener/longest track (immediate points) shows, they’re not going to be rigidly defined as one thing or another. One can hear C.O.C. in the riffs during their moments of sneer on “I am Mountain” or the centerpiece highlight “With Willow,” but they never quite embrace the shimmer outright Though they come right to the cusp of doing so on the subsequent “Makers Mark,” but closer “Of Land and Sky” revives a more aggressive push and sets them toward worshiping different idols. Psychedelic metal is a tough, nearly impossible, balance to pull off. I’m not entirely convinced it’s what Woven Man are going for on this first outing, but it’s where they might end up.

Woven Man on Thee Facebooks

Woven Man on Bandcamp

 

Charivari, Descent

charivari descent

Whether drifting mildly through the likes of drone-laden pieces “Down by the Water,” the CD-only title-track or “Alexandria” as they make their way toward the harsh bite at the end of the 11-minute closer “Scavengers of the Wind,” Bath, UK, heavy post-rockers Charivari hold a firm sense of presence and tonal fullness. They’re prone to a wash from leadoff “When Leviathan Dreams” onward, but it’s satisfying to course along with the four-piece for the duration of their journey. Rough spots? Oh, to be sure. “Aphotic” seethes with noisy force, and certainly the aforementioned ending is intended to jar, but that only makes a work like “Lotus Eater,” which ably balances Cure-esque initial lead lines with emergent distortion-crush, that much richer to behold. The moves they make are natural, unforced, and whether they’re trading back and forth in volume or fluidly, willfully losing themselves in a trance of effects, the organic and ethereal aspects of their sound never fail to come through in terms of melody even as a human presence is maintained on vocals. When “Down by the Water” hits its mark, it is positively encompassing. Headphones were built for this.

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Worst Bassist Records on Bandcamp

 

Human Impact, Human Impact

human impact human impact

Bit of a supergroup here, at least in the underrated-New-York-art-noise sphere of things. Vocals and riffy crunch provided by the masterful Chris Spencer (formerly of Unsane), while Cop Shoot Cop‘s Jim Coleman adds much-welcome electronic flourish, Swans/Xiu Xiu bassist Chris Pravdica provides low end and the well-if-he-can-handle-drumming-for-Swans-he-can-handle-anything Phil Puleo (also Cop Shoot Cop) grounds the rhythm. Presented through Ipecac, the four-piece’s declarative self-titled debut arrives through Ipecac very much as a combination of the elements of which it is comprised, but the atmosphere brought to the proceedings by Coleman set against Spencer‘s guitar isn’t to be understated. The two challenge each other in “E605” and the off-to-drone “Consequences” and the results are to everyone’s benefit, despite the underlying theme of planetary desolation. Whoops on that one, but at least we get the roiling chaos and artful noise of “This Dead Sea” out of it, and that’s not nothing. Predictable? In parts, but so was climate change if anyone would’ve fucking listened.

Human Impact on Thee Facebooks

Ipecac Recordings store

 

Dryland, Dances with Waves

dryland dances with waves

The nautically-themed follow-up to Bellingham, Washington, progressive heavy/noise/post-hardcore rockers Dryland‘s 2017 self-titled debut album, the four-song Dances with Waves EP finds the thoughtful and melodic riffers working alongside producer/engineer Matt Bayles (Mastodon, Isis, etc.) on a recording that loses none of its edge for its deft changes of rhythm and shifts in vocals. There’s some influence from Elder maybe in terms of the guitar on “No Celestial Hope” and the finale “Between the Testaments,” but by the time the seven-minute capper is done, it’s full-on Pacific Northwest noise crunch, crashing its waves of riffs and stomp against the shore of your eardrums in demand of as much volume as you’ll give it. Between those two, “Exalted Mystics” moves unsuspectingly through its first half and seems to delve into semi-emo-if-emo-was-about-sailing-and-death theatrics in its second, while “The Sound a Sword Adores” distills the alternating drive and sway down to its barest form, a slowdown later setting up the madness soon to arrive in “Between the Testaments.”

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Dryland on Bandcamp

 

Brass Owl, State of Mind

brass owl state of mind

Brass Owl foster on their self-released debut full-length, State of Mind, a brand of heavy rock that maintains a decidedly straightforward face while veering at the same time into influences from grunge, ’70s rock, the better end of ’80s metal and probably one or two current hard or heavy rock bands. You might catch a tinge of Five Horse Johnson-style blues on “No Filter – Stay Trendy” or the particularly barroom-ready “Jive Turkey,” which itself follows the funkier unfolding jam-into-shredfest of “The Legend of FUJIMO,” and the earlier “Hook, Line & Sinker” has trucker-rock all over it, but through it all, the defining aspect of the work is its absolute lack of pretense. These guys — there would seem to have been three when they recorded, there are two now; so it goes — aren’t trying to convince you of their intelligence, or their deep-running stylistic nuance. They’re not picking out riffs from obscure ’80s indie records or even ’70s private press LPs. They’re having a good time putting traditionalist-style rock songs together, messing around stylistically a bit, and they’ve got nine songs across 43 minutes ready to roll for anyone looking for that particular kind of company. If that’s you, great. If it ain’t, off you go to the next one.

Brass Owl website

Brass Owl on Bandcamp

 

Battle City, Press Start

Battle City Press Start

From even before you press play on Press Start, the 22-minute debut release from South Africa’s Battle City, the instrumental duo make their love of gaming readily apparent. Given that they went so far as to call one song “Ram Man” and that it seems just as likely as not that “Ignition” and “Ghost Dimension” are video game references as well, it’s notable that guitarist/bassist Stian “Lightning Fingers Van Tonder” Maritz and drummer Wayne “Thunder Flakes” Hendrikz didn’t succumb to the temptation of bringing any electronic sounds to the six-song offering. Even in “Ghost Dimension,” which is the closer and longest track by about three minutes, they keep it decidedly straightforward in terms of arrangements and resist any sort of chiptune elements, sticking purely to guitar, bass and drums. There’s a touch of the progressive to the leadoff title-track and to the soaring lead “Ignotion,” but Press Start does likewise in setting the band’s foundation in a steady course of heavy rock and metal, to the point that if you didn’t know they were gaming-inspired by looking at the cover art or the titles, there’d be little to indicate that’s where they were coming from. I wouldn’t count myself among them, but those clamoring for beeps and boops and other 8-bit nonsense will be surprised. For me, the riffs’ll do just fine, thanks.

Battle City on Thee Facebooks

Battle City on Bandcamp

 

Astral Bodies, Escape Death

Astral Bodies Escape Death

Spacious, varied and progressive without losing their heft either of tone or presence, Manchester, UK, trio Astral Bodies debut on Surviving Sounds with Escape Death, working mostly instrumentally — they do sneak some vocals into the penultimate “Pale Horse” — to affect an atmosphere of cosmic heavy that’s neither indebted to nor entirely separate from post-metal. Droning pieces like the introductory “Neptune,” or the joyous key-laced wash of the centerpiece “Orchidaeae,” or even “Pale Horse,” act as spacers between longer cuts, and they’re purposefully placed not to overdo symmetry so as to make Escape Death‘s deceptively-efficient 36-minute runtime predictable. It’s one more thing the three-piece do right, added to the sense of rawness that comes through in the guitar tone even as effects and synth seem to surround and provide a context that would be lush if it still weren’t essentially noise rock. Cosmic noise? The push of “Oumuamua” sure is, if anything might be. Classify it however you want — it’s fun when it’s difficult! — but it’s a striking record either way, and engages all the more as a first long-player.

Astral Bodies on Thee Facebooks

Surviving Sounds on Thee Facebooks

 

Satyrus, Rites

satyrus rites

Following its three-minute chanting intro, Satyrus let opener and longest track (immediate points) “Black Satyrus” unfold its cultish nod across an eight minutes that leads the way into the rest of their debut album, Rites, perhaps more suitably than the intro ever could. The building blocks that the Italian unit are working from are familiar enough — Black Sabbath, Saint Vitus, Electric Wizard, maybe even some Slayer in the faster soloing of second cut “Shovel” — but that doesn’t make the graveyard-dirt-covered fuzz of “Swirl” or the noisefest that ensues in “Stigma” or subsequent “Electric Funeral”-ist swing any less satisfying, or the dug-in chug of bookending nine-minute closer “Trailblazer.” Hell, if it’s a retread, at least they’re leaving footprints, and it’s not like Satyrus are trying to tell anyone they invented Tony Iommi‘s riff. It’s a mass by the converted for the converted. I’d ask nothing more of it than that and neither should you.

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Satyrus on Bandcamp

 

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Quarterly Review: Khemmis, Mutant Flesh, War Cloud, Void of Sleep, Pretty Lightning, Rosy Finch, Ghost Spawn, Agrabatti, Dead Sacraments, Smokemaster

Posted in Reviews on March 24th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

Alarm went off this morning at 3:45. Got up, flicked on the coffee pot, turned the heat on in the house, hit the bathroom and was back in bed in four minutes with an alarm set for 4:15. Didn’t really get back to sleep, but the half-hour of being still was a kind of pre-waking meditation that I appreciated just the same. Was dozing when the alarm went off the second time, but it’s day two of the Quarterly Review, so no time to doze. No time for anything, as is the nature of these blocks of writeups. They tend to be all-consuming while they’re going on. Could be worse. Let’s roll.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Khemmis, Doomed Heavy Metal

khemmis doomed heavy metal

Denver four-piece Khemmis have made themselves one of the most distinctive acts in metal, to say nothing of doom. With strong vocal harmonies out front backed by similarly-minded guitars, the band bring a sense of poise to doom that’s rare in the modern sphere, somewhat European in influence, but less outwardly adherent to the genre tenets of melancholy. They refuse to be Paradise Lost, in other words, and are all the more themselves for that. Their Doomed Heavy Metal EP (on 20 Buck Spin and Nuclear Blast) is a stopgap after 2018’s Desolation (review here) full-length, but at 38 minutes and six songs, it’s substantial nonetheless, headlined by the Dio cover “Rainbow in the Dark” — capably done with just a flair of Slough Feg — with a take on Lloyd Chandler‘s “A Conversation with Death” and “Empty Throne,” both rare-enough studio cuts, for backing, as well as three live cuts that cover their three-to-date albums. The growls on “Three Gates” are fun, but I’ll still take the Dio cover as the highlight. For a cobbled-together release, it feels at least like a bit of thoughtful fan-service, and really, a band could do worse than to serve their fans thoughtfully.

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20 Buck Spin store

Nuclear Blast Records store

 

Mutant Flesh, Evil Eye

mutant flesh evil eye

There are shades of doom metal’s origins underlying Mutant Flesh‘s first release, the eight-song/33-minute Evil Eye, but the Philly troupe are too gleeful in their weirdness ultimately to be paying full homage to the likes of Witchfinder General, and especially in a faster song like second cut “Meteoric” and the subsequent lead-guitar-flipout-and-vocal-soar title-track, they tap into the defiantly doomed vibe of earliest Saint Vitus. That’s true of the crawling “Euthanasia” as well, which crashes and nods as it approaches the six-minute mark as the longest inclusion here, but even the penultimate “Blight” brings that twisted-BlackFlag-noise-slowed-down spirit that lets you know there’s consciousness behind the chaos, and that while Mutant Flesh might seem to be all-the-way-gone, they’re really just getting started. Maybe their sound will even out over time, maybe it won’t, but for what it’s worth, they do ragged doom well from the opening “Leviathan (Lord of the Labyrinth)” onward, and feel right at home in the unhinged.

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Mutant Flesh on Bandcamp

 

War Cloud, Earhammer Sessions

war cloud earhammer sessions

Having just shredded their way across Europe, War Cloud took their set into the Earhammer Studio with Greg Wilkinson at the helm in an attempt to capture the band in top form on their home turf. Did it work? The results on Earhammer Sessions (Ripple Music) don’t wait around for you to decide. They’re too busy kicking ass to take names, and if the resulting 29-minute burst is even half of what they brought to the stage on that tour, those must’ve been some goddamn shows. Songs like “White Lightning” and the snare-counted-in “Speed Demon” and “Striker” feel like they’re being given their due in the max-speed-NWOBHM-but-still-too-classy-to-be-thrash presentation, and honestly, this feels like War Cloud have found their method. If they don’t tour their next album and then hit the studio after and lay it down live, or at least as live as Earhammer Sessions is — one never knows as regards overdubs and isolation booths and all that — they’re doing themselves a disservice. War Cloud play metal. So what? So this.

War Cloud on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music website

 

Void of Sleep, Metaphora

Void of Sleep Metaphora

Void of Sleep return after half a decade with the prog-doom stylings of their third album, Metaphora (Aural Music), which stretches dramatically through songs like “Iron Mouth” (11:00), preceded by the intro “The Famine Years” and the shorter “Unfair Judgements,” preceded by the intro “Waves of Discomfort,” and still somehow manage not to sound out of place tapping into their inner Soilwork in the growled verses/clean choruses of “Master Abuser.” They get harsh a bit as well on “Tides of the Mourning,” which uses its 10:30 to summarize the bulk of the proceedings and close out the record after “Modern Man,” but that song has more of a scope and feels looser structurally for that. Still, that shift is only one of several throughout Metaphora, which follows the Italian five-piece’s 2015 LP, New World Order (discussed here), and wherever Void of Sleep are headed at any given moment, they head there with a duly controlled presence. Clearly their last five years have not been wasted.

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Aural Music store

 

Pretty Lightning, Jangle Bowls

pretty lightning jangle bowls

As yet, Germany’s Pretty Lightning remain a well kept secret of fuzz-psych-blues nuance, digging out their own niche-in-a-niche-in-a-niche microgenre with a natural and inadvertent-feeling sense of just writing the songs they want to write. Jangle Bowls, which puts its catchy, semi-garage title-track early in the proceedings, is the duo’s second offering through Fuzz Club Records behind 2017’s The Rhythm of Ooze (review here), and seem to present a mission statement in opener “Swamp Ritual” before bringing a due sense of excursion to “Boogie at the Shrine” — damn that’s a smooth groove — and reviving the movement in “RaRaRa,” which follows. Closer “Shovel Blues” is a highlight for how it drifts into oblivion, but the underlying tightness of craft in “123 Eternity” and “Hum” is an appeal as well, so it’s a tradeoff. But it’s one I’ll be glad to make across multiple repeat visits to Jangle Bowls while wondering how long this particular secret can actually be kept.

Pretty Lightning on Thee Facebooks

Fuzz Club Records store

 

Rosy Finch, Scarlet

rosy finch scarlet

The painted-blood-red cover of Rosy Finch‘s second album, Scarlet (on Lay Bare Recordings), and horror-cinema-esque design isn’t a coincidence in terms of atmosphere, but the Spanish trio bring a more aggressive feel to the nine-track outing overall than they did to their 2016 debut, Witchboro (review here), with additional crunch in the guitar of Mireia Porto (also vocals and bass) and bassist Elena Garcia, and a forward kick drum from Lluís Mas that hammers home the impact of a cruncher like “Ruby” and even seems to ground the more melodic “Alizarina,” which follows, let alone the crushing opener/longest track (immediate points) “Oxblood” or its headspinning closing companion “Dark Cherry,” after which follows the particularly intense hidden cut “Lady Bug,” also not to be missed. Anger suits Rosy Finch, it seems, and the band bring a physicality to the songs on Scarlet that only reinforces the sonic push.

Rosy Finch on Thee Facebooks

Lay Bare Recordings store

 

Ghost Spawn, The Haunting Continuum

Ghost Spawn The Haunting Continuum

Brutal, gurgling doom-of-death pervades The Haunting Continuum from Denver one-man-unit Ghost Spawn, and while the guitar late in “Escaping the Mortal Flesh” seems momentarily to offer some hope of salvation, rest assured, it doesn’t last, and the squibbly central riff returns with its extremity to prove once more that only death is real. Multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Kevin Berstler is the lone culprit behind the project’s first full-length and second release overall (also second this year, so he would seem to work quickly), and across 43 minutes that only grow more grueling as they proceed through the centerpiece title-track and into “The Terrors that Plague Nightly” and the desolate incantations of “Exiled to the Realm of Eternal Rot,” there are some hints of cleaner grunts that have made their way through — a kind of repeated “hup” vocalization — but this too is swallowed in the miasma of cave-echo guitar, drums-from-out-of-the-abyss, and raw-as-peeled-flesh production. Can’t get behind that? Probably you and 99.9 percent of the rest of humanity. For us slugs, though, it’s just about right.

Ghost Spawn on Thee Facebooks

Ghost Spawn on Bandcamp

 

Agrabatti, Beyond the Sun

agrabatti beyond the sun

It’s kosmiche thrust and watery vibes when Agrabatti go Beyond the Sun. What’s there upon arrival? Nothing less than a boogie down with Hawkwind at the helm of a spacey spaced-out space rocking chopper that you shouldn’t even be able to hear the revving engine of in space and yet somehow you can. Also synth, pulsating riffs and psych-as-all-golly-gosh awakenings. Formed in 2009 by Chad Davis — then just out of U.S. Christmas, already at that point known for his work in Hour of 13 and a swath of other projects across multiple genres — and with songs begun to come together at that time only to be shelved ahead of recording this year, Beyond the Sun sat seemingly in some unreachable strata of anomalous subspace, for 11 years before being rediscovered from its time-loop like Kelsey Grammer in that one episode of TNG, and gorgeously spread across the quadrant in its five-cut run, with its cover of the aforementioned Hawkwind‘s “Born to Go” so much at home among its companions it feels like, baby, it’s already gone. Do you need sunglasses in the void? Shit yeah you do.

Agrabatti on Thee Facebooks

Agrabatti on Bandcamp

 

Dead Sacraments, Celestial Throne

Dead Sacraments Celestial Throne

Four sprawling doom epics comprise the 2019 debut album — and apparently debut release — from Illinois four-piece Dead Sacraments, who themselves are comprised from three former members of atmospheric sludgers Angel Eyes, who finished their run in 2011 but released the posthumous Things Have Learnt to Walk That Ought to Crawl (review here). Those are guitarist Brendan Burchell, bassist Nader Cheboub and drummer Ryan Croson, and together with apparently-self-harmonizing vocalist/guitarist Mark Mazurek, they cast a doom built on largesse in tone and scope alike, given an air of classic-metal grandiosity but filtered through a psych-doom modernity that feels aware of what the likes of Pallbearer and Khemmis have done for the genre. Nonetheless, as a first record, Celestial Throne shines its darkness brightly across its no-song-under-nine-minutes-long lumber, and affirms the righteousness of doom with a genuine sense of reach at its disposal.

Dead Sacraments on Thee Facebooks

Dead Sacraments on Bandcamp

 

Smokemaster, Smokemaster

smokemaster smokemaster

The languid and trippy spirit in opener “Solar Flares” is something of a misdirect on the part of organ-laced, Cologne-based heavy rockers Smokemaster, who go on to boogie down through songs like “Trippin’ Blues” before jamming out classic heavy blues-style on “Ear of the Universe.” I’m not saying they don’t have their psychedelic aspects, but there’s plenty of movement behind what they do as well, and the setup they give with the first two cuts is effective in throwing off the first-time listener’s expectation. A pastoral instrumental “Sunrise in the Canyon” leads off side B after, and comes backed by “Astronaut of Love” (yup, a lovestronaut) and “Astral Traveller,” which find an engaging midpoint between the ground and the great beyond, synth and keys pushing outward in the finale even as the bass and drums keep it tethered to a central groove. It’s a formula that’s worked many times over the last half-century, but it works here too, and Smokemaster‘s Smokemaster makes a right-on introduction to the German newcomers.

Smokemaster on Thee Facebooks

Tonzonen Records store

 

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Quarterly Review: Total Fucking Destruction, Humulus, The River, Phantom Hound, Chang, The Dhaze, Lost Psychonaut, Liquido di Morte, Black Burned Blimp, Crimson Oak

Posted in Reviews on March 23rd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

I’ve got a fresh cup of coffee and 50 records that need to be reviewed, so it must be time for… constant distractions! Oh, no, wait, sorry. It must be time for the Quarterly Review. Yeah, there it is. I know there’s a global-pandemic-sized elephant in the room as a backdrop for the Spring 2020 Quarterly Review, but it seems to me that’s all the more reason to proceed as much as possible. Not to feign normality like people aren’t suffering physically, emotionally, and/or financially, but to give those for whom music is a comfort an opportunity to find more of that comfort and, frankly, to do the same for myself. I’ve said many times I need this more than you do, and I do.

So, you know the drill. 10 records a day, Monday to Friday through this week, 50 when we’re done. As Christopher Pike says, let’s hit it.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Total Fucking Destruction, …To Be Alive at the End of the World

Total Fucking Destruction To Be Alive at the End of the World

The long-running experimentalist grind trio Total Fucking Destruction remain a sonic presence unto themselves. Their strikingly apropos fifth LP, …To Be Alive at the End of the World, begins with the five-minute psychedelic wash of its unrepentantly pretty, somewhat mournful title-track and ends with a performance-art take on “The Star Spangled Banner” that shifts into eight or so minutes of drone and minimalist noise before reemerging in manipulated form, vocalist/drummer Richard Hoak (also the odd bit of flute and ocarina), bassist/vocalist Ryan Moll and guitarist Pingdum filling the between space with the blasts and jangles of “A Demonstration of Power,” the maddening twists of “Attack of the Supervirus 1138” and other mini-bursts of unbridled aggression like “Stone Bomb,” “Doctor Butcher” and the outright conceptual genius of “Yelling at Velcro,” which, indeed, is just 20 or so seconds of yelling ahead of the arrival of the closer. In an alternate future, Total Fucking Destruction‘s work will be added to the Library of Congress. In this future, we’re boned.

Total Fucking Destruction on Thee Facebooks

Translation Loss Records store

 

Humulus, The Deep

humulus the deep

For the six-song/51-minute The Deep, Italian three-piece Humulus somewhat depart the beer-rocking ways of 2017’s second LP, Reverently Heading into Nowhere (review here). Sure, the riff of “Gone Again” is pure Kyuss idolatry (not a complaint), and “Devil’s Peak (We Eventually Eluded Death)” brims with drunkard’s swagger, but factor in the wonderfully executed linear build that takes place across the eight-minute “Hajra,” the mellow emotionalism of the penultimate acoustic track “Lunar Queen,” and the two extended psychedelic bookends in opener “Into the Heart of the Volcano Sun” (14:48) and closer “Sanctuary III – The Deep” (14:59), and the narrative becomes decidedly more complex than just “they drink and play riffs.” These elements have been in Humulus‘ sound all along, but it’s plain to hear the band have actively worked to push themselves forward in scope, and the range suits them, the closer particularly filled with a theatricality that would seem to speak to further storytelling to come on subsequent releases. So be it. They called the album The Deep and have dived in accordingly.

Humulus on Thee Facebooks

Kozmik Artifactz website

 

The River, Vessels into White Tides

The River Vessels into White Tides

An atmosphere of melancholy is quickly established on The River‘s third LP, Vessels into White Tides (on Nine Records), and for being the London four-piece’s first album 10 years, it takes place in a sense of unrushed melody, the band rolling out a morose feel born of but not directly aping the likes of My Dying Bride and Paradise Lost as the vocals of guitarist Jenny Newton (also strings, percussion) — joined in the band by guitarist Christian Leitch, bassist Stephen Morrissey and drummer Jason Ludwig — make their presence felt soon in opener “Vessels,” which unfolds gracefully with a crash and rumble fading into the beginning of the subsequent “Into White” (15:01) with the four-minute string-laced “Open” and the 9:44 shifting-into-intensity “Passing” preceding closer “Tides,” which is duly rolling in its progression and offers a sweet bit of release, if wistful, from some of the more grueling moments before it, capping not with a distorted blowout, but with layers of strings reinforcing the folkish underpinning that’s been there all along, in even the most tonally or emotionally weighted stretches.

The River on Thee Facebooks

Nine Records store

 

Phantom Hound, Mountain Pass

Phantom Hound Mountain Pass

Mountain Pass, which begins with “The Northern Face,” ends with “The Southern Face” and along the way treks through its on-theme title-track and the speedier “You Don’t Know Death,” catchy “Thunder I Am” and fairly-enough bluesy “Devil Blues,” has its foundations in oldschool metal and punk, but is a decidedly rock-based offering. It’s the debut from Oakland’s Phantom Hound, and its eight component tracks make no attempt to mask their origins or coat their material in unnecessary pretense — they are what they are; the album is what it is. The three-piece dip into acoustics on the instrumental “Grace of an Angel,” which shifts with a cymbal wash into the lead guitar at the outset of the eight-minute title-track — the stomp of which is perhaps more evocative of the mountain than the passing, but still works — but even this isn’t so far removed from the straightforward purposes of “Irons in the Fire,” which stakes its claim to dead-ahead metal and rock, barely stopping along the way to ask what else you could possibly need.

Phantom Hound on Thee Facebooks

Phantom Hound on Bandcamp

 

Chang, Superlocomotodrive

chang superlocomotodrive

Munich-based trio Chang, with clear, modern production behind them, present their debut EP release with the 29-minute Superlocomotodrive, and though it’s short, one is left wondering what else they might need to consider it an album. What’s missing? You’ve got the let’s-jam-outta-here in the six-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Mescalin,” and plenty of gruff riffing to back that up in “Old Rusty Car” and the later title-track, with a bit of Oliveri-era Queens of the Stone Age edge in the latter to boot, plus some psychedelic lead work in “Sterne,” some particularly German quirk in “Bottle Beach” and a massive buildup in tension in the finale “Bombs Whisper” that seems to arrive at its moment of payoff only to instead cut to silence and purposefully leave the listener hanging — an especially bold move for a first release. Yeah, it’s under half an hour long, but so what? The heavy rock terrain Chang are working in is familiar enough — right down to the less-than-P.C. lyrics of “Old Rusty Car” — but there’s no sense that Superlocomotodrive wants to be something it isn’t. It’s heavy rock celebrating heavy rock.

Chang on Thee Facebooks

Chang on Bandcamp

 

The Dhaze, Deaf Dumb Blind

the dhaze deaf dumb blind

Though the grunge influence in the vocals of guitarist Simone Pennucci speak to more of a hard-rocking kind of sound, the basis of The Dhaze‘s sprawl across their ambitious 53-minute Sound Effect Records debut album, Deaf Dumb Blind, is more in line with progressive metal and heavy psychedelia. Bassist Vincenzo La Tegola backs Pennucci on vocals and locks in fluid mid-tempo grooves with drummer Lorenzo Manna, and makes a highlight of the low end in “Death Walks with Me” ahead of the titular trilogy, presented in the order of “Deaf,” “Blind” and “Dumb,” which flow together as one piece thanks in no small part to the synth work added by La Tegola and Pennucci together. Obviously comfortable in longer-form stretches like “Death Walks with Me” or the earlier “Neurosis,” both of which top nine minutes, the Napoli trio bring a fervent sense of variety to their work while leaving themselves open to future growth in terms of sound and playing with the balance between elements they establish here.

The Dhaze on Thee Facebooks

Sound Effect Records store

 

Lost Psychonaut, Lost Psychonaut

Lost Psychonaut Lost Psychonaut

Hailing — because metal bands hail, to be sure — from the Pittsburgh area, newcomers Lost Psychonaut boast in their ranks two former members of sludgers Vulture in guitarist/vocalist Justin Erb and bassist
Garrett Twardesky, who, together with drummer Tristan Triggs, run through a debut LP made up of five tracks that skirt the line between groove metal and heavy rock, tapping-like-flowing-kegs influences from the likes of ’90s-era C.O.C. and others such burl-laced groovers. Tales of day-to-day struggles make a fitting enough backdrop to the riff-led proceedings, which commence with the prior-issued single “My Time” and roll-groove their way into a duo of longer cuts at the end in “Restitution Day” (8:46) and “On a Down” (7:44). Frankly, any mention of the word “Down” at all in a song that feels so outwardly “buried in smoke” can hardly be coincidental, but that nod is well earned. With a couple years behind them, they know what they’re going for in this initial batch of songs, and the clearheaded nature of their approach only gives their songwriting more of a sense of command. There’s growth to be undertaken, but nothing to say they can’t get there.

Lost Psychonaut on Thee Facebooks

Lost Psychonaut on Bandcamp

 

Liquido di Morte, IIII

liquido di morte iiii

I suppose you could, if so inclined, live up to Liquido di Morte‘s slogan, “We play music to take drugs to,” but you’d be shorting yourself on the experience of a lucid listen to their third long-player IIII. Issued in limited handmade packaging by the band, the Milan instrumentalists offer a stylistic take across the late-2019 five-tracker that stands somewhere between heavy post-rock and post-metal, but in that incorporates no shortage of thoughtful psychedelic meditations and even some kraut and space rock vibes. The primary impact is atmospheric, but there’s diversity in their approach such that the centerpiece “Tramonto Nucleare” begins cosmic, or maybe cataclysmic, and ends with an almost serene roll into the floating guitar at the outset of the subsequent “Rebus (6,5),” which is the longest inclusion at 13:40 and an encompassing, hypnotic srpawl that, whether you take drugs or not, seems destined to commune with expanded or expanding minds. The front-to-back journey ends with “The Fattening,” a cinematic run of synth after which a slaughter feels almost inevitable, even if it arrives as silence.

Liquido di Morte on Thee Facebooks

Liquido di Morte on Bandcamp

 

Black Burned Blimp, Crash Overdrive

Black Burned Blimp Crash Overdrive

Bonus points to Netherlands four-piece Black Burned Blimp for including song titles like “What Doesn’t Kill You, Makes You Weirder” and “The Good, the Bad and the Fucking Horrific” and, at the start of “Desert Wizard,” the sample from Trailer Park Boys wherein Mr. Lahey declares, “I am the liquor” on their debut LP, Crash Overdrive. Native to a heavy rock legacy that includes acts like 13eaver, 35007, Astrosoniq and Celestial Season, among many others, the band hint toward melodic complexity while remaining focused on raw energy in their songwriting, such that even the drumless, harmonized and minute-long “Flock” seems to seethe with unstated tension for “Robo Erectus,” which follows, to pay off. It does, though perhaps with less of a tempo kick than one might expect — certainly less than the careening “The Good, the Bad and the Fucking Horrific” a few tracks later — but somehow, no matter what speed they’re actually playing, Black Burned Blimp seem to make it sound fast. Vitality will do that.

Black Burned Blimp on Thee Facebooks

Black Burned Blimp on Bandcamp

 

Crimson Oak, Crimson Oak

crimson oak crimson oak

Though their arrival comes amid a German heavy rock underground that’s nothing if not well populated, Fulda-based five-piece Crimson Oak present with their self-titled debut long-player a stylistic take that’s both modern and genuine sounding, finding solid ground in well-crafted songs drawing more from ’90s-era heavy and punk in “Danger Time,” which follows the contemplative “Of My Youth,” the bulk of what surrounds expressing a similar level of self-awareness, up to and including the nine-minute side B opener “Brother of Sleep,” which sets psychedelic guitar against some of the album’s biggest riffs (and melodies). There’s middle ground to be had in cuts like “Displace” and “Sunset Embrace” still to come and “Fulda Gap” earlier, but Crimson Oak seem to touch that middle ground mostly en route to whichever end of the spectrum next piques their interest. At seven songs and 42 minutes, it’s not an insubstantial LP, but they hold their own with confidence and a poise that speaks to the fact that some of this material showed up on prior EPs. That experience with it shows but does not hold the band or songs back.

Crimson Oak on Thee Facebooks

Crimson Oak on Bandcamp

 

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Smokemaster Set April 24 Release for Self-Titled Debut; Teaser Streaming

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 18th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

smokemaster

Yeah, it’s kind of a goofy name in the tradition of stoner rock bands having a goofy name, and I think that’s on purpose given the band’s sound, but stay with me on this one as I present a few key words you want to note: “Germany.” “Heavy psych.” “Tonzonen.” “Colour.” I’m coming to trust the label’s taste more and more, and while I generally think of their output as being in a more classically progressive vein, Smokemaster‘s bluesy vibe on some of their self-titled debut isn’t screwing around. Think latter-day organ-laced Siena Root with forward vocals when it comes to a piece like “Trippin’ Blues,” which leads into the 10-minute “Ear of the Universe” — a live version of which you can hear below — and the arrival of a harmonica, but there’s a sonic reach here as well and an exploratory vibe that builds off those more straightforward moments in interesting ways. I’ve got the record on now and it won’t be the last time I listen, for whatever that’s worth.

I’ll leave it to the PR wire to fill in the details and present the album teaser. Like everything else in the universe, it’s out April 24:

smokemaster smokemaster

Tonzonen Records: Psychedelic Rock Five-Piece SMOKEMASTER Announces New Album. Teaser Online!

Smokemaster announce their self-titled debut album via Tonzonen Records for April 24, 2020.

Smokemaster is a psychedelic rock band from Cologne, Germany. Their musical spectrum ranges from slow and spherical parts that are reminiscent of Pink Floyd to colourful jam parts that remind you of The Doors or Colour Haze.

The self-titled debut album starts with gentle tones. The first track Solar Flares starts quite slowly and takes the listener on a musical journey. However, this dream-like journey abruptly ends when they speed up with their song Trippin’ Blues which is a blues-rock song. This is the first time on the album that singer Björn Bear presents his warm voice.

Ear Of The Universe is the third and longest song on the album. It’s about ten minutes long and as intense as Trippin’ Blues. It starts as a mid-tempo krautrock number, however this changes and the song evolves from colourful jam parts to an epic kind of post rock song. Sunrise In The Canyon, a song that might remind you of Tarantino’s Wild West movies.

On Astronaut Of Love the band dives into real stoner rock, starting with a fuzzy bass riff which is later supported by heavy guitar. It is the last time on this album you will hear Björnsen Bear’s warm voice. The song ends with an epic and massive organ. Finally, the last track Astral Traveller, is a 60s or 70s heavy psychedelic song that is moving forward constantly before guitarist Jay starts with a solo that sends you to a far away universe – or to another dimension.

Smokemaster are extremely happy about working with the sound genius Eroc, who is widely known as the drummer of the German band Grobschnitt. The band is one of the bands of the golden age of krautrock. With his dedication and commitment Eroc gave the album the brilliance and power Smokemaster wanted to achieve.

The first single, Astral Traveller, will be released soon with a video that was directed by psychedelic artist Larry Carlson from New York. Stay tuned.

Tracklist
1. Solar Flares
2. Trippin’ Blues
3. Ear Of The Universe
4. Sunrise In The Canyon
5. Astronaut Of Love
6. Astral Traveller

Smokemaster are:
Björnson Bear – Vocals/Guitar
Jay Wood – Guitar
TobMaster – Bass Guitar
Tobi Tack – Organ/Synthesizers
Lukas Bönschen – Drums

https://smokemaster.rocks
https://facebook.com/SmokemasterPsychedelic
https://smokemaster.bandcamp.com
https://www.tonzonen.de

Smokemaster, “Ear of the Universe (Live)”

Smokemaster, Smokemaster album teaser

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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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Review & Full Album Premiere: Sorcia, Sorcia

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on March 10th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

sorcia sorcia

[Click play above to stream Sorcia’s self-titled debut in full. Album is out this Friday, March 13.]

Sorcia unveil a host of influences in their self-titled debut and just the same manage to declare who they are as artists. To be sure, they’re children of the 1990s, either demographically or spiritually. In the AliceinChains-via-AcidBath clean vocals of guitarist Neal De Atley, who complements with harsh, sludgy grunts and is met head on by bassist Jessica Brasch, whose low end rumble makes a highlight of the overdose tale “Nowhere But Up,” second of the seven tracks on the 45-minute offering after “In the Head” sets a stomp-laden tone as the leadoff.

Production by West Coast noise figurehead Tad Doyle (of TAD, Hog Molly and Brothers of the Sonic Cloth) assures that De Atley, Brasch and drummer Bryson Marcey come through with as much density and the impact is only heightened through a Jack Endino (producer for Nebula, Nirvana, Windhand, High on Fire, etc.) mastering job, but if Sorcia are keeping such esteemed company on their first album, it only underscores the awareness the Seattle trio have of their own intent as a project.

To be sure, the three-part turns of “Nowhere But Up,” which goes from its quieter lumbering verses to a louder part and then chugs into a faster chorus, are clear delineations that mark Sorcia as a first album, at least so far as one imagines them as being lines so clearly drawn here that will inevitably blur in the band’s future work, but but the clarity with which Sorcia present their material, both early on in “In the Head” and “Nowhere But Up” and in the also-circa-five-minutes-long “Coffin Nails” and “Sunburn” that follow on side A, as well as the longer stretches of side B’s nine-minute “Stars Collide,” and the two seven-minute cuts that follow, “Stoned Believer” and “Repression,” which continue to flesh out the gritty-but-not-totally-raw atmosphere of the proceedings as a whole. Even the stark A/B divide, with four tracks on the first and three on the second, feels purposeful on the part of the band.

And yes, that’s a strength. Perhaps more subtle than Brasch‘s bass tone in terms of what comes across when one puts on the digital version of the album and lets it run through, but one that will carry through multiple formats of an eventual physical release — LP, tape, even CD; certainly the Mike Hawkins cover art works for all of them. But from the Electric Wizard-esque opening riff of “In the Head” onward, the signaling being done across Sorcia‘s Sorcia is of a vision of sludge rock that neither wants to be trapped by the confines of genre nor completely separate from them.

The lead cut swings through its guttural hook en route to its eventual slowdown/speed-up finish and shift into “Nowhere But Up,” which brings in Brasch on vocals in the shouty, chugging chorus — somewhere between a shuffle, a chug, and being punched in the face — and there is a sense of flow to the proceedings, but the brashness of the faster parts speaks to some influence from earlier, not-afraid-to-be-called-stoner High on Fire, and as the subsequent “Coffin Nails” makes the album’s first of two mentions of a blood red sky with a second to follow later in “Stars Collide,” it also finds De Atley and Brasch coming together more fluidly on vocals.

sorcia

A call and response verse led off by the bassist singing met by the guitarist’s shouts would seem like a direct portend of things to come as regards further developing the dynamic and sense of arrangement Sorcia already bring to this first offering. The Goatsnake-ian figure that caps “Coffin Nails” serves as reminder that it and “Nowhere But Up” were both included on Sorcia‘s 2019 demo and so might have been earlier compositions, but to put a narrative to the album that places the first four tracks as being written first and the last three longer, more complex pieces later feels too convenient, even with a record as up front about its purposes as Sorcia is. It is, however, the kind of thing one might ask the band in an interview.

Whenever it was put together, “Sunburn” is both the centerpiece and a plod-laden highlight, holding to a mid-tempo push for most of its duration but picking up near the end and giving something of a streamlined impression with De Atley at the fore on vocals. The fact that Sorcia are so willing to change up their approach vocally speaks not only to multiple contributions to songwriting, but only more potential, and as “Stars Collide” offers a surprising bit of drift and Brasch takes her turn invoking the blood red sky lyrically, the emergent thud seems to hit even harder for the quiet spaciousness that it offsets.

They shift smoothly back and forth and find a roll to lock in as “Stars Collide” moves into its second half and opens to its solo, and a final slowdown brings back the crashing central riff delivered with a stage-style energy that resonates into the speedy beginning of the penultimate “Stoned Believer,” brazen in its speed with De Atley‘s throaty vocal grit moving into a cleaner approach effectively in mid-verse. A quieter stretch in the middle-third brings about an echoing guitar solo with Marcey driving a return to the full thrust in the last 90 seconds or so of the song and still finding room to shift back into the slower part before they’re done.

It’s a choice bit of songwriting that answers a question or two about room for complexity amid Sorcia‘s sludge, much like the track before it, and with a direct lead into the finale of “Repression,” the album finds its fluidity at just the right time, with “Repression” shoving toward an inevitable big finish that comes and is not overblown but gets the point across enough to justify rounding out with rumbling feedback. As it will no doubt be the first impression the band makes on a number of listeners, Sorcia functions very much as a first album should. It brings forward the basic foundations upon which the three-piece set about their aesthetic construction, and it showcases the potential for progression and several of the sonic avenues they might pursue going forward.

Prospective aspects aside, the meld of influences they play toward, whether native to their own Pacific Northwestern home or not, can already heard being consciously brought into their own context via craft, performance and the nascent De Atley/Brasch vocal dynamic. Being concrete-slab heavy doesn’t hurt either, and Sorcia most definitely is that.

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Sorcia on Instagram

Sorcia on Bandcamp

Sorcia website

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Loose Sutures to Release Self-Titled Debut March 27

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 3rd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

So let’s assume that Loose Sutures formed with a pretty healthy idea of what they wanted to do as a band. Their self-titled debut full-length, which is out later this month on Electric Valley Records, arrives only months after the group formed in June 2019. And seeing as it’s nine songs, plus five that are listed as interludes and one of which is a cover, that still hardly seems like enough time to even write them all, let alone record them, but I think if you listen to either of the streaming tracks from the record below — one of which is the aforementioned cover — you can kind of get the feel that the Sardinian four-piece are trying to keep things as to-the-point as possible. I haven’t heard the full album yet, but I’ll be interested to hear how the interludes complement the broader tracks.

The PR wire brings the album info:

loose sutures (Photo by Peppe Corronca)

LOOSE SUTURES: Sardinian fuzzy heavy/garage rockers share new track; self-titled LP sees release this month via Electric Valley Records

Loose Sutures’ self-titled debut album comes on 27th March 2020 via Electric Valley Records. Depicting killer profiles and kinky love stories, this album contains nine tracks (including a cover version of The Laughing Dogs’ “I Need a Million”) and 5 interludes. The track “Lie” features additional guitar contributions from the legendary Trevor Peres (from Obituary).

Artwork: Sscvlt

Formed in June 2019, Loose Sutures is a razor-sharp four-headed machine with lots of evil beats, killer fuzz, and unhealthy lyrics. These 4 Sardinian roughnecks play classic ’70s riffs with a pinch of modern punk attitude, conveying a blend of stoner and garage energy with the spirits of Fuzz, Blue Cheer, and King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard and The Stooges.

The self-titled debut album will be released on Red Vinyl, 50x LTD Marbled Red/Black Vinyl, 25x Ultra LTD “Murder Edition,” and Digital formats via Electric Valley Records.

Recorded: RKS Studios, Sardinia (Italy)
Mixed and Mastered: Alfredo Carboni
Artwork: Sscvlt
Band Photos: Peppe Corronca

Upcoming Shows:
06/19 – Electric Valley Festival in Ossi, Sardinia, Italy
October 2020 – European Tour (TBA)

Pre-order:
http://bit.ly/2vT0YHP (Red Vinyl)
http://bit.ly/32aTImZ (50x LTD Marbled Red/Black Vinyl)
http://bit.ly/329muo2 (25x Ultra LTD “Murder Edition)
http://bit.ly/2SJimbf (Bandcamp)

Loose Sutures are:
Antonio Pilo – Guitar/Vocals
Gianpaolo Cherchi – Guitar/Vocals
Marcello Meridda – Bass
Marco Angius – Drums

https://www.facebook.com/loosesutures
https://www.instagram.com/loose_sutures_band
https://loosesutures.bandcamp.com
https://www.facebook.com/electricvalleyrecords
https://www.instagram.com/electricvalleyrecord
http://electricvalleyrecords.com/

Loose Sutures, Loose Sutures (2020)

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