Friday Full-Length: Iron Man, I Have Returned

Posted in Bootleg Theater on April 26th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

Iron Man‘s fourth album, I Have Returned (review here), was released 15 years ago this week, on April 25, 2009. It came out through Shadow Kingdom Records, which over the next couple years would also stand behind reissues of the quintessential Maryland doomers’ LP catalog up to that point — namely 1993’s Black Night (discussed herereissue review here), 1994’s The Passage (discussed here) and 1999’s Generation Void (reissue review here) — and its arrival was all the more ceremonious with the decade’s split between records.

Of course the truth is more complex than Iron Man returning and putting out a record called I Have Returned to mark the occasion — founding guitarist and principle songwriter “Iron” Alfred Morris III had brought the band back in the mid-aughts and released two live albums (both recorded in Cincinnati) and an EP, Submission, in 2007 — and though 10 years from one record to the next should be well long enough to build anticipation among fans, they were never a ‘hype’ kind of band.

I was about 12 at the time and can’t claim to have been aware/on board when their first two records landed through the venerable German label Hellhound Records, which dug into the Maryland doomsphere in the ’90s to unearth outfits like UnorthodoxThe ObsessedIron ManWretchedRevelationInternal Void and Vortex of Insanity — along with Count RavenPigmy Love CircusLost BreedSaint Vitus and plenty of others from elsewhere; their catalog is a lost trove of doomers’ doom dying for loyalist reissue — but for me and I think a generation of underground-heavy heads who would come up in the next few years, I Have Returned marked a new beginning.

Perhaps it was less that for Morris. When I asked him in a 2009 interview here how things were different after 10 years, doing a new record and bringing out a revamped lineup with vocalist Joe Donnelly, bassist Louis Strachan (Life Beyond, Wretched, now Spiral Grave), and drummer Dex Dexter (who had played in Force with Morris, pre-Iron Man), he said simply: “Nothing has changed much.”

Fair enough, and on a few levels that was almost certainly true. Morris had started Force, from which Iron Man sprang initially as a Black Sabbath tribute act, in 1976, and he would continue with Iron Man for the rest of his life until his passing in 2018 at the age of 60, after a long decline in health that had left him legally blind and largely unable to tour. For him, maybe, it was so much a part of himself that it wasn’t a big deal, iron man i have returned wasn’t a “comeback,” because as long as he existed so did the band, even if they hadn’t done an album in however long. To an extent, he was Iron Man.

And while I won’t discount the punch of Strachan‘s bass as “Burn the Sky” starts I Have Returned at a decent clip with Donnelly — a more technical Ozzy-style singer who had done Sabbath tributes as well, and something of a comedian on stage — riding the coursing groove in the verse, the coordinating efforts of their manager Michael Lindenauer (who gets an Executive Producer credit), or anyone else’s work throughout, Iron Man was forever rooted in the riffs. And in this regard, in his riffs, Morris was a poet. The production of Frank “The Punisher” Marchand (so many, from Unorthodox and Sixty Watt Shaman to Foghound and Borracho) gives each instrument its space, and while the ethic the band always followed was light on flourish in a way that became a tenet of ‘Maryland doom’ as a style, hooky second cut “Run From the Light” was damn near stately in its dense distortion as Morris‘ guitar set the pattern for the lyrics that turned Trouble on their head, and whether it’s the march of the memorable title-track or “Curse the Ages (Curse Me),” the speedier chug of “Blind-Sighted Forward Spiral” and the shredding finale “Among the Filth and Slime,” the dug-in lumber of “Sodden With Sin” or the standalone acoustic strum-and-pluck of the interlude “Days of Olde,” in tone, tempo and delivery, Morris‘ work distinguished Iron Man as ever sure of their purpose, never having forgotten where they were coming from.

It’s not a perfect record, even before you take on the sleazy lyrics of “Gomorrah Gold” — recommend you don’t, actually — but its love of classic metal and of course doom still resonate in the hard-hitting tension of “Among the Filth and Slime” as well as the more atmospheric nod of “Fallen Angel” just before it, and in “Run From the Light” and “I Have Returned,” “Burn the Sky” and “Curse the Ages (Curse Me),” etc., Iron Man declared themselves within and beyond the bounds of the fertile Maryland underground. Further, it was the point at which they started to get a modicum of the respect they’d long since deserved.

Strachan held the bassist position for the remainder of Iron Man‘s career, but Donnelly was out of the band and replaced by “Screaming Mad” Dee Calhoun (now Spiral Grave, solo, etc.) on vocals before 2011’s self-released 2011’s Dominance EP (review here), and Jason “Mot” Waldmann (also now Spiral Grave) would take over on drums circa 2012, in time to be part of the final Iron Man long-player, 2013’s South of the Earth (review here), also helmed by Marchand and issued via Rise Above Records in an era that saw Lee Dorrian (CathedralWith the Dead, etc.) standing behind landmark albums from the likes of Uncle Acid and the DeadbeatsGhostBlood Ceremony and others.

When Iron Man got picked up by Rise Above, it brought them to another level entirely. They would travel abroad to play a Rise Above anniversary party and other shows like the Castle of Doom Festival in Italy where the 2021 live album Hail to the Riff (on Argonauta) was recorded, and while they’ll probably always be undervalued to some degree, that it turned out to be their final run is bittersweet in hindsight because at least Morris had the chance to experience some of the impact of his work in and on the doom genre. I Have Returned set that in motion.

And in a move that remains both duly respectful and respectfully classy, after Morris‘ death, CalhounStrachan and Waldmann put the band to rest as well, moving on to Spiral Grave and carrying the legacy forward in new ways while telling their own story as well.

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

Most of this week was dedicated in my head to returning from, processing and thinking through the trip to Roadburn last week and weekend, and that’s how it played out. Thanks to the unending kindness of The Patient Mrs., coming home wasn’t nearly as overwhelming as it might’ve been, and while I wouldn’t say The Pecan took it easy on me — she had darted in the parking lot of the airport and had to be picked up and put in the car to leave, at which point comes the hitting and biting; she wanted to keep riding the people-mover after however many laps back and forth; transitions are always her hardest moments — we’ve done a lot of good reading this week, both about Zelda and not, and I think maybe she missed me a little bit. Not that such a thing would ever be said outright, mind you.

Specifically in terms of The Obelisk, it was a catchup week in which I didn’t get caught up, so maybe not the most successful, but neither was it the most ambitious, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t drop the ball on anything I was actually on the hook to post. A couple album announcements — Lord Buffalo spring to mind first — and tours for Greenleaf/Slomosa and Dopelord/Red Sun should’ve gone up and didn’t, but hopefully I’ll get there. I’m surviving, in the meantime, and the world continues to spin.

Where I’ve really been lacking is in email. I’ve got a backlog from the contact form of things to check out in addition to relevant press releases and contacts about this and that. Messenger has been a bit better but I’m behind on that too (also less comes in). But I’ve found that with the limited time and brainpower I have in a given morning/early afternoon, I need to be writing if I want to get done what I want to get done. Not saying interpersonal communication isn’t part of that — I’m not on a total blackout or anything, just not keeping up the way I should — but if I have the time to write, then I’m going to do all I can to put myself in a position where I’m writing.

This thankfully also leaves me little time for questions like, “Is this crazy?” or “Does this matter to anyone but me?” or “Is this how I should be spending my days?,” which I’m not sure are any help in the asking. Being someone who writes about music, a reviewer or, in my loftiest of self-assessments, a critic, I’m used to a certain amount of condescension, generally from other creative-types based on their own insecurities. How much I want to feed into that cycle, I’ve never been sure. With the proliferation of other blogs and here-listen-to-this algorithms, what do I really add to anything by stressing out about news posts?

I’m not ready to hang up the site, emotionally or practically. I don’t have another outlet, for example. Nowhere to go at this point. But “I just want to write” has become only one of the processes involved in The Obelisk, and I need to look at that. I am not a content-provider. I do not want to pose out for social media, or do reaction videos instead of reviews. Does that make the work I do here out of date and/or irrelevant? Maybe.

These are vague thoughts presented in vague terms, so I’ll be concrete and say this: someday this will end. I could get hit by a bus tomorrow. I’m 42 years old, and when The Obelisk started I wasn’t yet 30. I’ve dedicated 15 of the years of a life that in the best of cases is probably more than halfway over to this thing, and I’m comfortable thinking of it as my life’s work in terms of writing and reaching an audience. I’m happy with what it’s become, the generally respectful tone in which it’s spoken about, and that it’s spoken about at all. Every now and then, someone on the internet says something very nice about my work. I feel fortunate to have that as my situation. It is not something I take for granted. Thank you for reading, in other words. I’ll leave the discussion at that, which is what I most want to say anyhow.

This weekend we’re headed to Legoland, which I expect will be a total shitshow, but one of a familiar sort, and probably that will be the big event. I have two liner notes projects coming due at the same time, so my big plans to review Brume and DVNE and do three track/album premieres besides next week might prove too much, but I’ll do my best to dig into as much as I can, same as ever. Whatever you’re up to, I hope you enjoy the time. Have fun, be safe, hydrate and all that. It’s a hard world to live in, but there’s music too.


The Obelisk Collective on Facebook

The Obelisk Radio

The Obelisk merch



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Quarterly Review: ISAAK, Iron Void, Dread Witch, Tidal Wave, Guided Meditation Doomjazz, Cancervo, Dirge, Witch Ripper, Pelegrin, Black Sky Giant

Posted in Reviews on April 10th, 2023 by JJ Koczan


Welcome to the Spring 2023 Quarterly Review. Between today and next Tuesday, a total of 70 records will be covered with a follow-up week slated for May bringing that to 120. Rest assured, it’ll be plenty. If you’re reading this, I feel safe assuming you know the deal: 10 albums per day from front to back, ranging in style, geography, type of release — album, EP, singles even, etc. — and the level of hype and profile surrounding. The Quarterly Review is always a massive undertaking, but I’ve never done one and regretted it later, and looking at what’s coming up across the next seven days, there are more than few records featured that are already on my ongoing best of 2023 list. So please, keep an eye and ear out, and hopefully you’ll also find something new that speaks to you.

We begin.

Quarterly Review #1-10:


isaak hey

Last heard from as regards LPs with 2015’s Serominize (review here) and marking 10 years since their 2013 debut under the name, The Longer the Beard the Harder the Sound (review here), Genoa-based heavy rockers ISAAK return with the simply-titled Hey and encapsulate the heads-up fuzz energy that’s always been at the core of their approach. Vocalist Giacomo H. Boeddu has hints of Danzig in “OBG” and the swing-shoving “Sleepwalker” later on, but whether it’s the centerpiece Wipers cover “Over the Edge,” the rolling “Dormhouse” that follows, or the melodic highlight “Rotten” that precedes, the entire band feel cohesive and mature in their purposeful songwriting. They’re labelmates and sonic kin to Texas’ Duel, but less bombastic, with a knife infomercial opening their awaited third record before the title-track and “OBG” begin to build the momentum that carries the band through their varied material, spacious on “Except,” consuming in the apex of “Fake it Till You Make It,” but engaging throughout in groove and structure.

ISAAK on Facebook

Heavy Psych Sounds on Bandcamp


Iron Void, IV


With doom in their collective heart and riffs to spare, UK doom metal traditionalists Iron Void roll out a weighted 44 minutes across the nine songs of their fourth full-length, IV, seeming to rail against pandemic-era restrictions in “Grave Dance” and tech culture in “Slave One” while “Pandora’s Box” rocks out Sabbathian amid the sundry anxieties of our age. Iron Void have been around for 25 years as of 2023 — like a British Orodruin or trad-doom more generally, they’ve been undervalued for most of that time — and their songwriting earns the judgmental crankiness of its perspective, but each half of the LP gets a rousing closer in “Blind Dead” and “Last Rites,” and Iron Void doom out like there’s no tomorrow even on the airier “She” because, as we’ve seen in the varying apocalypses since the band put out 2018’s Excalibur (review here), there might not be. So much the better to dive into the hook of “Living on the Earth” or the grittier “Lords of the Wasteland,” the metal-of-yore sensibility tapping into early NWOBHM without going full-Maiden. Kind of a mixed bag, it might take a few listens to sink in, but IV shows the enduring strengths of Iron Void and is clearly meant more for those repeat visits than some kind of cloying immediacy. An album to be lived with and doomed with.

Iron Void on Facebook

Shadow Kingdom Records website


Dread Witch, Tower of the Severed Serpent

Dread Witch Tower of the Severed Serpent

An offering of thickened, massive lava-flow sludge, plodding doom and atmospheric severity, Dread Witch‘s self-released (not for long, one suspects) first long-player, Tower of the Severed Serpent, announces a significant arrival on the part of the onslaught-prone Danish outfit, who recorded as a trio, play live as a five-piece and likely need at least that many people to convey the density of a song like the opener/longest track (immediate points) “The Tower,” the eight minutes of which are emblematic of the force of execution with which the band delivers the rest of what follows, runtimes situated longest to shortest across the near-caustic chug of “Serpent God,” the Celtic Frost-y declarations and mega-riff ethos of “Leech,” the play between key-led minimalism and all-out stomp on “Wormtongue” and the earlier-feeling noise intensity of “Into the Crypt” before the more purely ambient but still heavy instrumental “Severed” wraps, conveying weight of emotion to complement the tonal tectonics prior. Bordering on the extreme and clearly enjoying the crush that doing so affords them, Dread Witch make more of a crater than an impression and would be outright barbaric were their sound not so methodical in immersing the audience. Pro sound, loaded with potential, heavy as shit; these are the makings of a welcome debut.

Dread Witch on Facebook

Dread Witch on Bandcamp


Tidal Wave, The Lord Knows

Tidal Wave the lord knows

Next-generation heavy fuzz purveyed with particular glee, Tidal Wave seem to explore the very reaches they conjure through verses and choruses on their eight-song Ripple Music label debut (second LP overall behind 2019’s Blueberry Muffin), The Lord Knows, and they make the going fun throughout the 41-minute outing, finding the shuffle in the shove of “Robbero Bobbero” while honing classic desert idolatry on “Lizard King” and “End of the Line” at the outset. What a relief it is to know that heavy rock and roll won’t die with the aging-out of so many of its Gen-X and Millennial purveyors, and as Tidal Wave step forward with the low-end semi-metal roll of “Pentagram” and the grander spaces of “By Order of the King” before “Purple Bird” returns to the sands and “Thorsakir” meets that on an open field of battle, it seems the last word has not been said on Tidal Wave in terms of aesthetic. They’ve got time to continue to push deeper into their craft — and maybe that will or won’t result in their settling on one path or another — but the range of moods on The Lord Knows suits them well, and without pretense or overblown ceremony the Sundsvall four-piece bring together elements of classic heavy rock and metal while claiming a persona that can move back and forth between them. Kind of the ideal for a younger band.

Tidal Wave on Facebook

Ripple Music on Bandcamp


Guided Meditation Doomjazz, Expect

Guided Meditation Doomjazz Expect

Persistently weird in the mold of Arthur Brown with unpredictability as a defining feature, Guided Meditation Doomjazz may mostly be a cathartic salve for founding bassist, vocalist, experimentalist, etc.-ist Blaise the Seeker, but that hardly makes the expression any less valid. Expect arrives as a five-song EP, ready to meander in the take-the-moniker-literally “Collapse in Dignity” and the fuzz-drenched slow-plod finisher “Sit in Surrender” — watery psychedelic guitar weaving overhead like a cloud you can reshape with your mind — that devolves into drone and noise, but not unstructured and not without intention behind even its most out-there moments. The bluesy sway of “The Mind is Divided” follows the howling scene-setting of the titular opener, while “Stream of Crystal Water” narrates its verse over crunchier riffing before the sung chorus-of-sorts, the overarching dug-in sensibility conveying some essence of what seems despite a prolific spate of releases to be an experience intended for a live setting, with all the one-on-one mind-expansion and arthouse performance that inevitably coincides with it. Still, with a rough-feeling production, Expect carries a breadth that makes communing with it that much easier. Go on, dare to get lost for a little while. See where you end up.

Guided Meditation Doomjazz on Facebook

The Swamp Records on Bandcamp


Cancervo, II

Cancervo II

II is the vocalized follow-up to Cancervo‘s 2021 debut, 1 (review here), and finds the formerly-instrumental Lombardy, Italy, three-piece delving further into the doomed aspects of the initial offering with a greater clarity on “Arera,” “Herdsman of Grem” and “The Cult of Armentarga,” letting some of the psychedelia of the first record go while maintaining enough of an atmosphere to be hypnotic as the vocals follow the marching rhythm as the latter track moves into its midsection or the rhythmic chains in the subsequent “Devil’s Coffin” (an instrumental) lock step with the snare in a floating, loosely-Eastern-scaled break before the bigger-sounding end. Between “Devil’s Coffin” and the feedback-prone also-instrumental “Zambla” ahead of 8:43 closer “Zambel’s Goat” — on which the vocals return in a first-half of subdued guitar-led doomjamming prior to the burst moment at 4:49 — II goes deeper as it plays through and is made whole by its meditative feel, some semblance of head-trip cult doom running alongside, but if it’s a cult it’s one with its own mythology. Not where one expected them to go after 1, but that’s what makes it exciting, and that they lay claim to arrangement flourish, chanting vocals and slogging tempos as they do bodes well for future exploration.

Cancervo on Facebook

Electric Valley Records website


Dirge, Dirge

Dirge Dirge

So heavy it crashed my laptop. Twice. The second full-length from Mumbai post-metallers Dirge is a self-titled four-songer that culls psychedelia from tonal tectonics, not contrasting the two but finding depth in the ways they can interact. Mixed by Sanford Parker, the longer-form pieces comprise a single entirety without seeming to have been written as one long track, the harsh vocals of Tabish Khidir adding urgency to the guitar work of Ashish Dharkar and Varun Patil (the latter also backing vocals) as bassist Harshad Bhagwat and drummer Aryaman Chatterji underscore and punctuate the chugging procession of opener “Condemned” that’s offset if not countermanded by its quieter stretch. If you’re looking for your “Stones From the Sky”-moment as regards riffing, it’s in the 12-minute second cut, “Malignant,” the bleak triumph of which spills over in scream-topped angularity into “Grief” (despite a stop) while the latter feels all the more massive for its comedown moments. In another context, closer “Hollow” might be funeral doom, but it’s gorgeous either way, and it fits with the other three tracks in terms of its interior claustrophobia and thoughtful aggression. They’re largely playing toward genre tenets, but Dirge‘s gravity in doing so is undeniable, and the space they create is likewise dark and inviting, if not for my own tech.

Dirge on Facebook

Dirge store


Witch Ripper, The Flight After the Fall

Witch Ripper The Flight after the Fall

Witch Ripper‘s sophomore LP and Magnetic Eye label-debut, The Flight After the Fall, touches on anthemic prog rock and metal with heavy-toned flourish and plenty of righteous burl in cuts like “Madness and Ritual Solitude” and the early verses of “The Obsidian Forge,” though the can-sing vocals of guitarists Chad Fox and Curtis Parker and bassist Brian Kim — drummer Joe Eck doesn’t get a mic but has plenty to do anyhow — are able to push that centerpiece and the rest of what surrounds over into the epic at a measure’s notice. Or not, which only makes Witch Ripper more dynamic en route to the 16:45 sprawling finish of “Everlasting in Retrograde Parts 1 and 2,” picking up from the lyrics of the leadoff “Enter the Loop” to put emphasis on the considered nature of the release as a whole, which is a showcase of ambition in songwriting as much as performance of said songs, conceptual reach and moments of sheer pummel. It’s been well hyped, and by the time “Icarus Equation” soars into its last chorus without its wings melting, it’s easy to hear why in the fullness of its progressive heft and melodic theatricality. It’s not a minor undertaking at 47 minutes, but it wouldn’t be a minor undertaking if it was half that, given the vastness of Witch Ripper‘s sound. Be ready to travel with it.

Witch Ripper on Facebook

Magnetic Eye Records store


Pelegrin, Ways of Avicenna

Pelegrin Ways of Avicenna

In stated narrative conversation with the Arabic influence on Spanish and greater Western European (read: white) culture, specifically in this case as regards the work of Persian philosopher Ibn Sina, Parisian self-releasing three-piece Pelegrin follow-up 2019’s Al-Mahruqa (review here) with the expansive six songs of Ways of Avicenna, with guitarist/vocalist François Roze de Gracia, bassist/backing vocalist Jason Recoing and drummer/percussionist Antoine Ebel working decisively to create a feeling of space not so much in terms of the actual band in the room, but of an ancient night sky on songs like “Madrassa” and the rolling heavy prog solo drama of the later “Mystical Appear,” shades of doom and psychedelia pervasive around the central riff-led constructions, the folkish middles of “Thunderstorm” and “Reach for the Sun” and the acoustic two-minute “Disgrace” a preface to the patient manner in which the trio feel their way into the final build of closer “Forsaken Land.” I’m neither a historical scholar nor a philosopher, and thankfully the album doesn’t require you to be, but Pelegrin could so easily tip over into the kind of cartoonish cultural appropriation that one finds among certain other sects of European psychedelia, and they simply don’t. Whether the music speaks to you or not, appreciate that.

Pelegrin on Facebook

Pelegrin on Bandcamp


Black Sky Giant, Primigenian

Black Sky Giant Primigenian

Lush but not overblown, Argentinian instrumentalists Black Sky Giant fluidly and gorgeously bring together psychedelia and post-rock on their third album, Primigenian, distinguishing their six-song/31-minute brevity with an overarching progressive style that brings an evocative feel whether it’s to the guitar solos in “At the Gates” or the subsequent kick propulsion of “Stardust” — which does seem to have singing, though one can barely make out what if anything is actually being said — as from the denser tonality of the opening title-track, they go on to unfurl the spiritual-uplift of “The Great Hall,” fading into a cosmic boogie on the relatively brief “Sonic Thoughts” as they, like so many, would seem to have encountered SLIFT‘s Ummon sometime in the last two years. Doesn’t matter; it’s just a piece of the puzzle here and the shortest track, sitting as it does on the precipice of capper “The Foundational Found Tapes,” which plays out like amalgamated parts of what might’ve been other works, intermittently drummed and universally ambient, as though to point out the inherently incomplete nature of human-written histories. They fade out that last piece after seeming to put said tapes into a player of some sort (vague samples surrounding) and ending with an especially dream-toned movement. I wouldn’t dare speculate what it all means, but I think we might be the ancient progenitors in question. Fair enough. If this is what’s found by whatever species is next dominant on this planet — I hope they do better at it than humans have — we could do far worse for representation.

Black Sky Giant on Facebook

Black Sky Giant on Bandcamp


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Iron Void to Release IV Jan. 27; New Single “Grave Dance” Posted

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 8th, 2022 by JJ Koczan

iron void

Even before you get to the pun with IV as both the band’s initials and the Roman numeral four, the news of new stuff coming from long-running Wakefield, UK, doom metallers Iron Void is news well met. All the more so for the streaming single “Grave Dance,” which boasts a fighting-tyranny lyrical narrative well suited to its triumph of a riff, taking shades of classic metal with its doomly traditionalism in a way that remains true to the heart of the band that put out Excalibur (review here) in 2018. Shadow Kingdom will handle the release, which feels like a “well duh” kind of situation, and it’s worth noting as you can see below that drummer Scott Naylor will make his studio debut with them now nearly five years after actually joining the band. Well due and well doomed. You can’t lose.

Got your 2023 most anticipated list going yet? Here’s one for it if so:


IRON VOID – IV – New Single – “Grave Dance” & Pre-Orders UP

SHADOW KINGDOM RECORDS is proud to present IRON VOID’s highly anticipated fourth album, IV, on CD and vinyl LP formats.

“Slow and steady wins the race,” and so it is the same in the doom scene. IRON VOID was originally formed by Jonathan “Sealey” and Andy Whittaker (Solstice, The Lamp of Thoth) in 1998 in order to create an old-school doom metal band, worshiping at the altar of doom legends such as Black Sabbath, Saint Vitus, Pentagram, etc. The band re-formed in 2008, and proceeded to release a live album, an EP, and a digital single, each exactly two years apart, before delivering their self-titled debut album in 2014. The Doomsday follow-up came a year later, with 2018’s critically acclaimed Excalibur arriving via new label home SHADOW KINGDOM.

Consolidating IRON VOID’s position as proud ‘n’ pure purveyors of dependable doom metal is the aptly titled fourth album, IV. This new record sees the arrival of “new” drummer Scott Naylor, who’s actually been with the band since 2018, and who’s renown for his work in Reign of Erebus, Heathen Deity, and Atra Mors among others. Together, this new-look power-trio look back to the old, to IRON VOID’s roots, and create a stripped-down DOOM METAL album. Whereas Excalibur had a concept encompassing the historical past and legend, IV by contrast takes a long, hard look at everyday matters: real-world themes that are darker and more tangible, particularly in these days of Covid-19 and political unrest across all nations. Musically, IRON VOID match form to content with direct, hard-hitting doom steeped in the old school, but they’re equally adept at varying their dynamics whilst retaining their core sound. Like many bands during these dark days, IRON VOID had to write the whole album remotely during lockdown using file-sharing software, something Sealey says was admittedly “probably the hardest record to write” since they’d never previously done such before. However, the recorded results of IV burst with energy and personality, proving that these old dogs are anything but tired!

No other words needed: IRON VOID are doom metal maniacs, for doom metal maniacs. IV is your unlucky number!

Iron Void, IV (2023)

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Quarterly Review: Hour of 13, Skepticism, Count Raven, Owl Cave, Zeup, Dark Bird, Hope Hole, Smote, Gristmill, Ivory Primarch

Posted in Reviews on October 4th, 2021 by JJ Koczan


Hope you had a good weekend. Hope your bank account survived Bandcamp Friday. I gotta admit, I hit it a little hard, made four $10-plus purchases. A certain rainforest-named mega-corporate everything-distro site has me out of the habit of thinking of paying for shipping, but that comes back to bite you. And if there’s a tape or a CD and the download costs $7 and the tape costs $10 and comes with the download too, what would you have me do? Throw another five or six bucks in there for shipping and that adds up. Still, for a good cause, which is of course supporting bands nd labels who make and promote killer stuff. I don’t mind that.

We’ve arrived at the next to last day of the Fall 2021 Quarterly Review. It’s a cool one, I hope you’ll agree. If not, maybe tomorrow.

Quarterly Review #51-60:

Hour of 13, Black Magick Rites

hour of 13 black magick rites

The history of Hour of 13, 14 years on from their self-titled debut (discussed here) is complex and full of comings and goings. With Black Magick Rites — which was posted for a day in Nov. 2020 and then removed from the public sphere until this Shadow Kingdom release — founding multi-instrumentalist Chad Davis takes over vocal duties as well, charting the way forward for the band as a complete solo-project with seven songs and 43 minutes of lower-fi classic-style doom that bears in its title track some semblance of garage mentality but avoids most of the modern trappings such a designation implies. Satan features heavily, as one would expect. “House of Death” leans on its chorus hard, but opener “His Majesty of the Wood” and the eight-minute “Within the Pentagram,” as well as the payoff of closer “The Mystical Hall of Dreams” seem to show where the long-tumultuous outfit could be headed melodically and in grimly grandiose style if Davis — also of The Crooked Whispers, The Sabbathian, countless others in a variety of styles — wills it. Here’s hoping.

Hour of 13 on Bandcamp

Shadow Kingdom Records website


Skepticism, Companion

skepticism companion

Graceful death. 30 years later, one might expect no less from Finnish funeral doom progenitors than that, and it’s exactly what they bring to the six-song/48-minute Companion. “Calla” sets the tempo for what follows at a dirge march with keyboard adding melodies to the procession as “The Intertwined” continues the slow roll, with drums and piano taking over in the midsection before the full brunt is borne again. “The March of the Four” follows with church organ running alongside the drawn-out guitar movement, each hit of the kick drum somehow forlorn beneath the overlaid growls. At least superficially, this is the Skepticism one imagines: slow, mournful, beauty-in-darkness, making dirty sounds but emerging without a stain on their formalwear. Closer “The Swan and the Raven” is a triumph in this, a revelry-that-isn’t, and “Passage” and even gives the tempo a relative kick, but that and the consuming drama of “The Inevitable” feel within the band’s aesthetic wheelhouse. Or their mortuary, anyhow. Honestly, they know what they’re doing, they’ve done it for a long time, and they don’t release records that often, so there’s an element of novelty just to the fact that the album exists, but if you put on Companion and listen to it, they also sound like they’re taking an entire genre to school. A genre they helped define, no less.

Skepticism on Facebook

Svart Records website


Count Raven, The Sixth Storm

Count Raven The Sixth Storm

Long-running Swedish doom traditionalists Count Raven are in immediate conversation with their own classic era with the album title The Sixth Storm serving as a reference to their 1990 debut, Storm Warning. Indeed, it is their sixth full-length, and it makes up for the decade-plus it’s been since they were last heard from with a 73-minute, all-in nine-track assemblage of oldschool Sabbathian doom metal, tinged with classic heavy rock and a broader vision that picks up where 2009’s Mammons War left off in epics like “The Nephilims” and “Oden,” the latter the album’s apex ahead of the Ozzy-ish piano/keyboard ballad “Goodbye” following on from the earlier “Heaven’s Door.” Some contemplation of mortality perhaps from founding guitarist/vocalist/keyboardist Dan “Fodde” Fondelius to go with the more socially themed “The Giver and the Taker,” “Baltic Storm,” opener “Blood Pope” or even “Oden,” which bases itself around Christianity’s destruction of pagan culture. Fair enough. Classic doom spearheaded by a guy who’s been at it for more than three decades. No revolution in style, but if you’d begrudge Count Raven their first album in 12 years, why?

Count Raven on Facebook

I Hate Records website


Owl Cave, Broken Speech

owl cave Broken Speech

Something for everyone in Owl Cave‘s Broken Speech, at least so long as your vision of “everyone” just includes fans of various extreme metallic styles. The Parisian one-man outfit’s debut release arrives as a single 43-minute track, led off by the sample “your silence speaks volumes.” What unfolds from there is a linear progression of movements through which S. — the lone party responsible for the guitar, bass, drum programming and other sampling, as there are obscure bits that might be manipulated voices and so on — weaves progressive black metal, doom, industrial churn, noise rock and other genre elements together with a willful sense of experimentalism and uniting heft. Some stretches are abrasive, some are nearly empty, some guitar-led, some more percussive, but even at its most raging, “Broken Speech” holds to its overarching atmosphere, grim as it is, and that allows it to ponder with scorn and melancholy alike before finishing out with a cacophony of blasts and wash leading to a last residual drone.

Owl Cave on Facebook

Time Tombs Production webstore


Zeup, Blind

Zeup Blind

Sharply executed, uptempo heavy/desert-style rock in the Californian tradition as filtered through a European legacy of bands that spans no less an amount of time, Zeup‘s second EP, Blind, is an in-and-out kind of affair. Four songs, 17 minutes. They’re not looking to take up too much of your day. But the energy they bring to that time, whether it’s the swinging bassline in “Belief” or the initial jolt of “Illusions,” the rolling catchiness of “Who You Are” or the closing title-track’s more Sabbath-spirited stomp, is organic, full, and sincere. In terms of style, the Copenhagen three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Jakob Bach, bassist/backing vocalist Morten Rold and drummer Morten Barth aren’t trying to get away with convincing anybody they invented heavy rock and roll, but the stamp they put on their own songs is welcome right up to the capper solo on “Blind” itself. Familiar, but crisp and refreshing like cold beer on a hot day, if that’s your thing.

Zeup website

Zeup on Bandcamp


Dark Bird, Out of Line

Dark Bird Out of Line

A drift calls you forward as Dark Bird‘s fourth album (amid many short releases and experimentalist whathaveyous), Out of Line, begins with “And it All Ends Well” and its title-track, the Toronto-based Roan Bateman pushing outward melodically before adding more fuzz to the shroom-folk of “Stranger,” an underlying sense of march telling of the made-in-dark-times spirit that so much of the record seems to actively work against. “Down With Love” is a dream given shimmer in its strum and no less ethereal when the maybe-programmed drums start, and “Undone” is the bummed-out-with-self ’90s-lysergic harmony that you never heard at the time but should have. So it goes en route to the buzzing finale “This is It,” with “Minefied” echoing “Out of Line” with a vibe like Masters of Reality at their most ethereal, “With You” making a late highlight of its underlying organ drone and the vocals that top it in the second half, and “The Ghost” somehow turning Western blues despite, no, not at all doing that thing. 43 minutes of a world I’d rather live in.

Dark Bird on Facebook

NoiseAgonyMayhem website

Cardinal Fuzz webstore


Hope Hole, Death Can Change

hope hole death can change

I’m not saying they don’t still have growing to do or work ahead of them in carving out their own approach from the elements their self-released debut album, Death Can Change, puts to work across its nine songs, but I am definitely saying that the Toledo, Ohio, duo of M.A. Snyder and Mike Mullholand, who’ve dubbed their project Hope Hole, are starting out in an admirable place. Throughout a vinyl-ready 37 minutes that makes a centerpiece of the roughed up The Cure cover “Kyoto Song,” the two-piece bridge sludged nod, classic heavy rock, progressive doom ambience, stonerly awareness — see “Cisneros’ Lament” — and a healthy dose of organ to result in a genre-blender sound that both chases individuality and manifests it in rudimentary form, perhaps arriving at some more melodic cohesion in the of-its-era closer “Burning Lungs” after rougher-edged processions, but even there not necessarily accounting for the full scope of the rest of the songs enough to be a full summary. The songs are there, though, and as Hope Hole continue to chase these demons, that will be the foundation of their progress.

Hope Hole on Facebook

Hope Hole on Bandcamp


Smote, Drommon

smote drommon

Newcastle, UK, weirdo solo-outfit Smote released the two-part Drommon concurrent to March 2021’s Bodkin (review here), with tapes sold out from Base Materialism, and Rocket Recordings now steps in for a vinyl issue with two additional tracks splitting up the two-part title-cut, each piece of which runs just on either side of 16 minutes long. Drones and acid folk instrumentation, acoustics, sitars, electrified swirl — all of these come together in purposeful passion to create the textures of “Dommon (Part 1)” and “Drommon (Part 2),” and though it feels more directed with the complementary “Hauberk” and “Poleyn” included, the album’s experimental heart is well intact. Smote will make a stage debut next month, apparently as a four-piece around founder Daniel Foggin, so how that might play into the future of Smote as a full band in the studio remains to be seen. Drommon serves as argument heavily in favor of finding out.

Smote on Instagram

Rocket Recordings on Bandcamp


Gristmill, Heavy Everything

Gristmill Heavy Everything

East Coast dudes playing West Coast noise, it may well be that Gristmill deserve points right off the bat on their debut long-player, Heavy Everything, both for the title and for avoiding the trap of sounding like Unsane that defines so, so, so much of Atlantic Seaboard noise rock. They’re too aggro in their delivery to be straight-up doom, but the slower crawl of guitar in “Remains Nameless” and “Glass Door” adds depth to the pounding delivered by the initial salvo of “Mitch,” “Mute” and “Irony,” but the punch of the bass throughout is unmistakable, and though I can’t help be reminded in listening about that time Seattle’s Akimbo went and wrote a record based in my beloved Garden State, the drawn-out roll of “Stone Rodeo” and final nod-into-chug in “Loon” show readiness to encompass something beyond the raw scathe in their work. Yeah, if they wanted to put out like six or seven albums that sound just like this over the next 15 or so years, I’d probably be on board for that for the meanness and more of this debut.

Gristmill on Instagram

Gristmill on Bandcamp


Ivory Primarch, As All Life Burns

Ivory Primarch As All Life Burns

This is a satisfying meat grinder in which to plunge one’s face for about an hour. A Buschemi-chipper. A powdering-of-bone that begins with the lurching of longest track (immediate points) “The Masque” — beginning with an acid-test sample, no less — and moving through “Gleancrawler” and the faster-for-a-while-but-still-probably-slower-than-you’re-thinking title-track, having just consumed half an hour of your life and a little of your soul. Hyperbole? Of course. But these are extreme sounds and extreme times, so fuck it. Melbourne duo Ivory Primarch, throughout As All Life Burns, demonstrate precious little regard for whatever standard of decency one might apply, and the deathly, fetid “Keeper of Secrets” and the keyboard-laced “Aetherbeast” — seeming to answer back to the opener — are self-aware enough to be willful in that, not to mention the fact that they top off with the noise-drone of “Aftermath,” as if to survey the devastation they just wrought, mangled and duly bludgeoned. Nothing sounds cruel enough? Try this.

Ivory Primarch on Facebook

Cursed Monk Records on Bandcamp


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Hour of 13 to Release Black Magick Rites on Shadow Kingdom

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 1st, 2021 by JJ Koczan

Last September, Hour of 13 founding multi-instrumentalist and spearhead Chad Davis let slip the info that the band’s fourth record would be released through Shadow Kingdom Records and titled Black Magick Rites. The new song “His Majesty of the Wood” also went up at that point. That announcement apparently was preface to a 24-hour limited digital release of the album on Nov. 1 — shame on me for missing it — and it seems likely that it’ll be Sept. 2021 before the album sees broader release, as Davis said, through Shadow Kingdom. Or maybe they’ll wait for Halloween. Why the hell not? It’s been nine years since 2012’s 333 (discussed here). You mean to tell me they’re gonna rush it now?

In addition to the LP sneak-peak, Davis also released the Deathly Nights EP under the Hour of 13 moniker last Fall. You can stream that as well as “His Majesty of the Wood” below, following this info from the PR wire:

hour of 13

HOUR OF 13 sign with SHADOW KINGDOM for long-awaited new album

Shadow Kingdom Records announces the signing of the legendary Hour of 13 for the release of their long-awaited fourth album, Black Magick Rites, on CD, vinyl LP, and cassette tape formats.

By now, Hour of 13 should require little introduction. For the better part of two decades, mainman Chad Davis has pursued a unique and intensely personal iteration of traditional doom metal. Along the way and over the course of three albums and numerous EPs, Hour of 13 have built a formidable discography that’s amassed a fanatic following awaiting each spooky ‘n’ somber offering Davis and his rotating cast of cohorts creates. And while he’s released records for a variety of labels over the years, in between a couple breakups, Davis brings Hour of 13 back to Shadow Kingdom, who released the band’s self-titled debut album in 2007 long before the hype started.

Hour of 13’s first full-length offering in over eight years, Black Magick Rites was available digitally on November 1st, 2020 for only 24 hours. Just as uniquely, Black Magick Rites also marks the first Hour of 13 album where he handles not only all instruments, but also all vocals. Indeed, Davis’ vocals evoke an ancient nostalgia, of doom metal before it was “doom metal” – of the days when bands like Black Sabbath, Pagan Altar, and Witchfinder General simply followed their respective muses wherever it took them. And for Davis, Black Magick Rites sees him taking his Hour of 13 muse toward a rougher, more rock ‘n’ roll expression and yet tinged with an emotive melancholy that resonates deeply within the soul. No, no flavor-of-the-week “occult rock” cliches here, for Davis still prizes blue-collared authenticity in his doom, but he likewise never lets it hamper his immediately recognizable songwriting, which here ever so subtly inches closer to classic deathrock territory (think the likes of early Christian Death and Voodoo Church). Naturally, with a title like Black Magick Rites, an indulgence in occultism is expected, and you can literally feel the fingers of the black beyond reaching out to you across every electric minute of this 44-minute monolith.

Despite those isolated breakups, Hour of 13 continue to get better with age. Perfectly titled as any record in their enviable discography, Black Magick Rites is the sweet sound of salvation…through damnation.

Release date, cover art, tracklisting, and preorder info to be announced shortly. For more info, consult the links below.

Hour of 13, “His Majesty of the Wood”

Hour of 13, Deathly Nights (2020)

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Hour of 13 Announce Black Magick Rites LP; Post New Song “His Majesty of the Wood”

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 16th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

For an original post that was all of one sentence long — actually it was two, but the second one was just encouraging social media sharing so I left it out — there’s an awful lot to unpack in this post concerning Hour of 13. By astounding coincidence, I was already planning on closing out the week with the band’s 2007 self-titled debut, and I may or may not still do that, but the announcement that the band has a new album in the works is a genuine surprise. Founding guitarist/multi-instrumentalist/sometimes-vocalist Chad Davis would seem to have put the original incarnation of the band to rest in 2016, issuing the compilation Salt the Dead: Rare and Unreleased (review here) on Shadow Kingdom Records, which also put out the aforementioned debut.

Davis, who relocated to California as one will, sort-of-revived the band in 2018 under the banner of Hour of Thirteen and professed with a couple short releases a love of dark punk and heavy rock, traditional metal and cultish. The sound was tied in some ways to what Hour of 13 had been, but as 2019’s two-originals-and-two-Samhain-covers EP, A Knell Within the Crypt, showcased, it was also a new direction worthy of consideration on its own level. In re-adopting Hour of 13 — the number “13” instead of the word — as a moniker, Davis likewise refocuses on the doomlier side of the band. He handles vocal duties on “His Majesty of the Wood,” the new song that’s been posted with the announcement of the forthcoming Black Magick Rites that will apparently also see release through Shadhow Kingdom.

When? I don’t know, but I’ll take it whenever. Kind of hard to imagine it’ll be out before 2021 — because, I mean, if you weren’t contractually obligated to put something out in 2020, why would you? — but maybe Black Magick Rites can serve as an “October surprise” late next month. I suppose anything’s possible since, you know, it exists in the first place.

So here you go. One sentence and a song. Some bands, that’s all it takes to get excited for a new record:


**HOUR OF 13 premiere**

I present to you a track from the upcoming album “Black Magick Rites” on Shadow Kingdom Records.

Hour of 13, “His Majesty of the Wood”

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Quarterly Review: Ocean Chief, Barnabus, Helen Money, Elder Druid, Mindcrawler, Temple of Void, Lunar Swamp, Huge Molasses Tank Explodes, Emile, Saturno Grooves

Posted in Reviews on March 27th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

I’m not saying I backloaded the Quarterly Review or anything — because I didn’t — but maybe subconsciously I wanted to throw in a few releases here I had a pretty good idea I was gonna dig beforehand. Pretty much all of them, as it turned out. Not a thing I regret happening, though, again, neither was it something I did purposefully. Anyone see A Serious Man? In this instance, I’m happy to “accept the mystery” and move on.

Before we dive into the last day, of course I want to say thank you for reading if you have been. If you’ve followed along all week or this is the only post you’ve seen or you’re just here because I tagged your band in the post on Thee Facebooks, whatever it is, it is appreciated. Thank you. Especially given the global pandemic, your time and attention is highly valued.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Ocean Chief, Den Tredje Dagen

ocean chief den tredje dagen

The first Ocean Chief record in six years is nothing if not weighted enough to make up for anything like lost time. Also the long-running Swedish outfit’s debut on Argonauta Records, Den Tredje Dagen on CD/DL runs five songs and 59 minutes, and though it’s not without a sense of melody either instrumentally or vocally — certainly its guitars have plenty enough to evoke a sense of mournfulness at least — its primary impact still stems from the sheer heft of its tonality, and its tracks are of the sort that a given reviewer might be tempted to call “slabs.” They land accordingly, the longest of them positioned as the centerpiece “Dömd” seething with slower-Celtic Frost anxiety and the utter nastiness of its intent spread across 15-plus minutes of let-me-just-go-ahead-and-crush-that-for-you where “that” is everything and “no” isn’t taken for an answer. There’s respite in closer “Den Sista Resan” and the CD-bonus “Dimension 5,” but even these maintain an atmospheric severity consistent with what precedes them. One way or another, it is all fucking destroyed.

Ocean Chief on Thee Facebooks

Argonauta Records store


Barnabus, Beginning to Unwind

barnabus beginning to unwind

Come ye historians and classic heavy rockers. Come, reap what Rise Above Relics has sown. Though it’s hard sometimes not to think of the Rise Above Records imprint as label-honcho Lee Dorrian (ex-Cathedral, current With the Dead) picking out highlights from his own record collection — which is the stuff of legend — neither is that in any way a problem. Barnabus, who hailed and apparently on occasion still hail from the West Midlands in the UK, issued the Beginning to Unwind in 1972 as part of an original run that ended the next year. So it goes. Past its 10-minute jammy opener/longest track (immediate points) “America,” the new issue of Beginning to Unwind includes the LP, demos, live tracks, and no doubt assorted other odds and ends as well from Barnabus‘ brief time together. Songs like “The War Drags On” and “Resolute” are the stuff of ’70s-riff daydreams, while “Don’t Cry for Me My Lady” digs into proto-prog without losing its psych-folk inflection. I’m told the CD comes with a 44-page booklet, which only furthers the true archival standard of the release.

Barnabus on Thee Facebooks

Rise Above Relics store


Helen Money, Atomic

helen money atomic

To those for whom Helen Money is a familiar entity, the arrival of a new full-length release will no doubt only be greeted with joy. The ongoing project of experimental cellist Alison Chesley, though the work itself — issued through Thrill Jockey as a welcome follow-up to 2016’s Become Zero (review here) — is hardly joyful. Coping with the universality of grief and notions of grieving-together with family, Chesley brings forth minimalism and electronics-inclusive stylstic reach in kind across the pulsating “Nemesis,” the periodic distortion of her core instrument jarring when it hits. She takes on a harp for “Coppe” and the effect is cinematic in a way that seems to find answer on the later “One Year One Ring,” after which follows the has-drums “Marrow,” but wherever Chesley goes on Atomic‘s 47 minutes, the overlay of mourning is never far off.

Helen Money on Thee Facebooks

Thrill Jockey Records store


Elder Druid, Golgotha

elder druid golgotha

Belfast dual-guitar sludge five-piece Elder Druid return with seven tracks/39 minutes of ready punishment on their second album, Golgotha, answering the anger of 2017’s Carmina Satanae with densely-packed tones and grooves topped with near-universal harsh vocals (closer “Archmage” is the exception). What they’re playing doesn’t require an overdose of invention, with their focus is so much on hammering their riffs home, and certainly the interwoven leads of the title-track present some vision of intricacy for those who might demand it while also being punched in the face, and the transitional “Sentinel,” which follows,” brings some more doomly vibes ahead of “Vincere Vel Mori,” which revives the nod, “Dreadnought” has keys as well as a drum solo, and the penultimate “Paegan Dawn of Anubis” brings in an arrangement of backing vocals, so neither are they void of variety. At the feedback-soaked end of “Archmage,” Golgotha comes across genuine in its aggression and more sure of their approach than they were even just a couple years ago.

Elder Druid on Thee Facebooks

Elder Druid on Bandcamp


Mindcrawler, Lost Orbiter

mindcrawler lost orbiter

I know the whole world seems like it’s in chaos right now — mostly because it is — but go ahead and quote me on this: a band does not come along in 2020 and put out a record like Lost Orbiter and not get picked up by some label if they choose to be. Among 2020’s most promising debuts, it is progressive without pretense, tonally rich and melodically engaging, marked out by a poise of songcraft that speaks to forward potential whether it’s in the coursing leads of “Drake’s Equation” or the final slowdown/speedup of “Trappist-1” that smoothly shifts into the sample at the start of closer “Dead Space.” Mindcrawler‘s first album — self-recorded, no less — is modern cosmic-heavy brought to bear in a way that strikes such a balance between the grounded and the psychedelic that it should not be ignored, even in the massively crowded international underground from which they’re emerging. And the key point there is they are emerging, and that as thoughtfully composed as the six tracks/29 minutes of Lost Orbiter are, they only represent the beginning stages of what Mindcrawler might accomplish. If there is justice left, someone will release it on vinyl.

Mindcrawler on Thee Facebook

Mindcrawler on Bandcamp


Temple of Void, The World That Was

Temple of Void The World that Was

Michigan doom-death five-piece Temple of Void have pushed steadily toward the latter end of that equation over their now-three full-lengths, and though The World That Was (their second offering through Shadow Kingdom) is still prone to its slower tempos and is includes the classical-guitar interlude “A Single Obulus,” that stands right before “Leave the Light Behind,” which is most certainly death metal. Not arguing with it, as to do so would surely only invite punishment. The extremity only adds to the character of Temple of Void‘s work overall, and as “Casket of Shame” seems to be at war with itself, so too is it seemingly at war with whatever manner of flesh its working so diligently to separate from the bone. Across a still-brief 37 minutes, The World That Was — which caps with its most-excellently-decayed nine-minute title-track — harnesses and realizes this grim vision, and Temple of Void declare in no uncertain terms that no matter how they might choose to tip the scale on the balance of their sound, they are its master.

Temple of Void on Thee Facebooks

Shadow Kingdom Records store


Lunar Swamp, Shamanic Owl

Lunar Swamp Shamanic Owl

Lunar Swamp have spawned as a blusier-directed offshoot of Italian doomers Bretus of which vocalist Mark Wolf, guitarist/bassist Machen and drummer S.M. Ghoul are members, and sure enough, their debut single “Shamanic Owl,” fosters this approach. As the band aren’t strangers to each other, it isn’t such a surprise that they’d be able to decide on a sound and make it happen their first time out but the seven-minute roller — also the leadoff their first EP, UnderMudBlues, which is due on CD in June — also finds time to work in a nod to the central riff of Sleep‘s “Dragonaut” along with its pointed worship of Black Sabbath, so neither do they seems strictly adherent to a blues foundation, despite the slide guitar that works its way in at the finish. How the rest of the EP might play out need not be a mystery — it’s out digitally now — but as far as an introduction goes, “Shamanic Owl” will find welcome among those seeking comfort in the genre-familiar.

Lunar Swamp on Thee Facebooks

Lunar Swamp on Bandcamp


Huge Molasses Tank Explodes, II

Huge Molasses Tank Explodes II

The nine-track/42-minute second LP, II, from Milano post-this-or-that five-piece Huge Molasses Tank Explodes certainly finds the band earning bonus points based on their moniker alone, but more than that, it is a work of reach and intricacy alike, finding the moment where New Wave emerged from out of krautrock’s fascination with synthesizer music and bring to that a psychedelic shimmer that is too vintage-feeling to be anything other than modern. It is laid back enough in its overarching affect that “The Run” feels dreamy, most especially in its guitar lines, but never is it entirely at rest, and both the centerpiece “No One” and the later “So Much to Lose” help continue the momentum that “The Run” manages so fluidly to build in a manner one might liken to space rock were the implication of strict adherence to stylistic guidelines so implicit in that categorization. They present this nuance with a natural-seeming sense of craft and in “High or Low,” a fuzzy tone that feels like only a welcome windfall. Those who can get their head around it should seek to do so, and kudos to Huge Molasses Tank Explodes for being more than just a clever name.

Huge Molasses Tank Explodes on Thee Facebooks

Retro Vox Records on Bandcamp


Emile, The Black Spider/Det Kollektive Selvmord

Emile The Black Spider Det Kollektive Selvmord

Set to release through Heavy Psych Sounds on the same day as the new album from his main outfit The Sonic Dawn, The Black Spider/Det Kollective Selvmord is the debut solo album from Copenhagen-based singer-songwriter and guitarist Emile Bureau, who has adopted his first name as his moniker of choice. Fair enough for the naturalism and intended intimacy of the 11-track/39-minute outing, which indeed splits itself between portions in English and in Danish, sounding likewise able to bring together sweet melodies in both. Edges of distortion in “Bundlos” and some percussion in the second half’s title-track give a semblance of arrangement to the LP, but at the core is Emile himself, his vocals and guitar, and that’s clearly the purpose behind it. Where The Sonic Dawn often boast a celebratory feel, The Black Spider/Det Kollective Selvmord is almost entirely subdued, and its expressive sensibility comes through regardless of language.

Emile on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds store


Saturno Grooves, Cosmic Echoes

saturno grooves cosmic echoes

Sonic restlessness! “Fire Dome” begins with a riffy rush, “Forever Zero” vibes out on low end and classic swing, the title-track feels like an Endless Boogie jam got lost in the solar system, “Celestial Tunnel” is all-thrust until it isn’t at all, “Blind Faith” is an acoustic interlude, and “Dark Matter” is a punk song. Because god damn, of course it is. It is little short of a miracle Saturno Grooves make their second album, Cosmic Echoes as remarkably cohesive as it is, yet through it all they hold fast to class and purpose alike, and from its spacious outset to its bursting finish, there isn’t a minute of Cosmic Echoes that feels like happenstance, even though they’re obviously following one impulse after the next in terms of style. Heavy (mostly) instrumentalism that works actively not to be contained. Out among the echoes, Saturno Grooves might just be finding their own wavelength.

Saturno Groove on Thee Facebooks

LSDR Records store


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Tyrant Set May 15 Release for Hereafter on Shadow Kingdom Records

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 17th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

The first full-length from Los Angeles heavy metallers Tyrant earns further intrigue — and likely its Candlemass-esque Thomas Cole artwork as well — with the inclusion of vocalist Robert Lowe. The powerhouse singer joined Tyrant, which was founded in 1978 by bassist Greg May, in 2017, following the conclusion of his stint with the aforementioned Swedish doom legends. Of course known for his work as well in Solitude Aeturnus, Lowe invariably brings some of his patented Dio-of-doom spirit to Tyrant‘s Hereafter as well, as the streaming title-track readily demonstrates.

The release is May 15 on Shadow Kingdom, whose affection for traditional metal goes back well beyond the current revivalist trend, and the band will also travel east to headline the New England Stoner and Doom Fest, as the PR wire informs:

tyrant hereafter

Shadow Kingdom Records sets May 15th as the international release date for the long-awaited comeback album of America’s Tyrant, Hereafter, on CD, vinyl LP, and cassette tape formats.

Hailing from Pasadena, California, Tyrant formed in 1978 and put out their first demo in ’82. However, it was with their pair of albums for Metal Blade – 1985’s Legions of the Dead and 1987’s Too Late to Pray – where they’d etch their name into cult heavy metal legendry. Proud and powerful, theirs was steel tempered in the purest and proudest tradition: neither NWOBHM nor speed metal nor doom nor hair metal by any strict definitions, but uniquely dipping that blade into all at any given moment, and given an almost medieval atmosphere considering the ever-changing stylistic landscape during those years, which would be deemed “old-fashioned” as the 1980s came to a close. It took nearly a decade for Tyrant’s next album to arrive, 1996’s King of Kings, and indeed were the band even more out of place in that landscape; despite staunchly sticking to their guns, this would be their otherwise-final album.

Just like Tyrant were when they originally formed so long ago, there existed true believers across the pond who were keeping the traditional metal faith alive as the ’90s came to a close, as well as a quietly growing renaissance in the States as the 2000s began. Tyrant’s catalog subsequently received a long-overdue reappraisal, and a new, younger generation of metalheads investigated their mysteries of steel. Although never “broken up” officially, the sleeping beast awoke, with the original Tyrant lineup reuniting for 2009’s esteemed Keep It True festival in Germany. Shadow Kingdom, who’ve indeed kept it true since the beginning, reissued Tyrant’s first two albums in 2018, furthering that reappraisal and bringing the band’s name to an even younger, hungrier generation. The stage was thus set for a grand return…

At last, it arrives with Hereafter, courtesy of truest believers Shadow Kingdom. With founding member Greg May on bass along with longtime guitarist Rocky Rockwell and powerhouse drummer Ronnie Wallace, who’s been with the band since 2010, Tyrant now feature a significant new addition on vocals: the one and only Rob Lowe, he of Solitude Aeternus and ex-Candlemass fame. His addition proves especially significant given Tyrant’s doomier direction on Hereafter. While no doubt sounding like the same band who delivered those two classics on Metal Blade so long ago, the Tyrant of Hereafter conjures forth a classy, ominously melodic style of doom METAL – or at least traditional heavy metal steeped in doom, much like Black Sabbath in the early ’80s with Dio and then Ian Gillan on the mic – with each of these 11 mini-epics headbanging forward with power, poise, and a stately sort of grace. Aiding that granite-thick surge is the production of one Bill Metoyer, the legendary producer who’s recorded all of Tyrant’s albums to date. Evading any sort of “retro” moves, Metoyer keeps the sound on Hereafter rich, robust, and above all timeless, just like Tyrant’s ever-unyielding style of metal. Truly, this is the homecoming the legions have been waiting for!

To coincide with this momentous event, Tyrant will be headlining this year’s New England Stoner & Doom Fest, performing the new album in its entirety along with a full set of classic material. In 2020 and beyond, long may Tyrant live Hereafter!

In the meantime, see & hear the brand-new lyric video for the title track “Hereafter” HERE at Shadow Kingdom’s official YouTube channel. Preorder info can be found HERE at Shadow Kingdom’s Bandcamp as well as HERE.

Tracklisting for Tyrant (U.S.)’s Hereafter
1. Tyrant’s Revelation
2. Dancing on Graves
3. The Darkness Comes
4. Fire Burns
5. Hereafter
6. Pieces of Mine
7. Until the Day
8. When the Sky Falls
9. Bucolic
10. Beacon the Light
11. From the Tower

Tyrant are:
Greg May (bass guitar)
Rocky Rockwell (guitars)
Robert Lowe (vocals)
Ronnie Wallace (drums)

Tyrant, “Hereafter”

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