audiObelisk: Revelation Premiere “Terribilita” From New Album Inner Harbor

Posted in audiObelisk on August 27th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

Anytime you can see Maryland doom stalwarts Revelation, consider doing so highly recommended. First off, they don’t play live that often, and second, the trio of guitarist/vocalist John Brenner, bassist Bert Hall, Jr. and drummer Steve Branagan are a direct line to the defeat at the heart of classic doom. The band’s earliest material stems back to the beginnings of the ’90s, but even more than 20 years later, the emotional atmosphere they capture isn’t quite like anything else.

Revelation will be playing this Friday, Aug. 31, at Stoner Hands of Doom XII in New London, Connecticut, sharing the stage that night with Earthride, Pilgrim, Lord Fowl and others. To honor that event, and to spread word of their ongoing productivity, the band sent over the new song “Terribilita.”

The track comes from Revelation‘s upcoming full-length, Inner Harbor — one assumes named just as much for the hurts that stay with us as for the inner harbor of Baltimore — which will see release in the coming months. Shadow Kingdom will have a CD out, and Inner Harbor will be out on vinyl through Ireland’s Pariah Child Records. As with all Revelation releases and everything the band does with their alter-ego Against Nature incarnation as well, the album will also be available for free download from Brenner‘s own Bland Hand Records.

Before we get there, though, “Terribilita” brings forth Revelation‘s oft-understated vibing with previously unheard clarity in the recording. Brenner‘s guitar sounds fuller and more vibrant than ever, and even Branagan‘s drums come through more clearly even than on 2009’s For the Sake of No One, nestling into tight rhythms alongside Hall‘s always classy, always grooving bass. Decades later, Revelation remain an underground treasure.

Please enjoy “Terribilita” on the player below:

Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!

For more info and schedule information on SHoD XII, check out the fest’s official website.

All of Revelation and Against Nature‘s impossibly huge and ongoing discographies — including rare live recordings — can be downloaded for free over at Bland Hand‘s website, as well as releases from Iron Man, Beelzefuzz, Pale Divine and many others. Keep an eye on Shadow Kingdom‘s page too for news on the physical pressing.


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Coven, Worship New Gods: To Unravel the Riddle of Steel

Posted in Reviews on August 22nd, 2012 by JJ Koczan

Not to be confused with the early ‘70s occult folk outfit of the same name, the metal band Coven formed in Detroit in 1985. Soon after the release of their 1987 debut album, Worship New Gods, the foursome would be contacted by the Jinx Dawson-fronted unit who once reminded us that witchcraft destroys minds and reaps souls, and forced to change their name to Coven 13, but for the first record, which came to enjoy a kind of limited cult appeal over the years since its initial issue, they were still Coven, and so it is on the new Shadow Kingdom Records repress of Worship New Gods. The new version is billed as a 25th anniversary celebration release, but it’s not bloated with special bonus tracks, interviews or anything like that, instead just focusing on the album itself. Frankly, that’s treat enough. Shadow Kingdom have spent the last few years paying direct homage to the NWOBHM and classic metal, but Coven are a bit harder to place stylistically, aligning themselves to fantasy metal on songs like “Riddle of Steel” and the Camelot-themed “Wicked Day,” a sort of non-industrial proto-goth on “Kiss Me with Blood” and keep a semi-pagan sensibility in their use of runes on the album cover and in the memorable finale, “Loki.” Whatever else it has going for it, Worship New Gods bleeds personality. The vocals of David Landrum are more swaggering than one might expect for something so stylistically varied and roughly produced (the album sounds both of its era and of its budget), and bassist/keyboardist Roger Cyrkiel, who also recorded, adds a flourish of melody and atmosphere that goes beyond the traditional metal  songwriting. A song like “Ruler” may have gang-chant-esque backing vocals in its chorus, but “Threshold of the New,” despite having a near-Misfits punkish forward drive in Brian McGuckin’s drums, is as atmospheric as it is abrupt, Landrum’s vocals holding to a sub-swirl of compression and echo and guitarist Todd Kreda offering surprising shred in his solo.

It’s pretty easy to see why Worship New Gods earned its reissue. Apart from the fact that Coven have reunited as Coven 13 with second guitarist Richie Karacynski and reportedly begun work on a new album to be released on Shadow Kingdom, this nine-track/39-minute collection seems to feed off its blend, and while in the years since its initial release, some of the elements at work across this material have broken off into their own styles – goth, doom, pagan metal, etc. – these songs arguably capture a crossroads moment in the growth of metal as a whole. Apart from that, it sounds cool. More to the point, it sounds Old, and mysterious, and obscure, which no doubt accounts for a good portion of its appeal. That said, Coven had a surprising grasp on their aesthetic, multifaceted as it was, and songs like “Burial Ground,” “Wicked Day,” “Ruler,” and “Threshold of the New” sound dated here, but not at all irrelevant. “General’s Eyes” is memorable in more than just its commonality of progression with Metallica’s “Four Horsemen” (and, by extension, Megadeth’s “Mechanix”), and whether the foursome is thrashing out as they are early in that track or working in the more open, plodding style of “Loki,” they maintain a strong undercurrent of craft and pop hooks that works to tie Worship New Gods together as a cohesive whole. Landrum’s vocals are rough in some places – on the closer he seems to be struggling to keep up with the chorus – and his over-the-top approach probably isn’t going to sit well in all ears, but he effectively caps the atmosphere in “Riddle of Steel” and “Kiss Me with Blood,” and despite only being three tracks apart, the stylistic gap between those songs is much wider. I don’t know if Coven set out to make an album so varied – it’s hard to listen to a reissue like this and divorce hindsight from what actually went into making it a quarter-century ago – but the nuances they bring to their approach make Worship New Gods a richer listen than one might initially think on the first or second time through.

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Pale Divine, Painted Windows Black: Eternity Revived

Posted in Reviews on February 27th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

It’s been 15 years since Eastern Pennsylvania doomers Pale Divine released their pivotal Crimson Tears demo in 1997. That release in many ways would come to define them, as they signed with Game Two Records to issue their also-stellar Thunder Perfect Mind debut in 2001 and shifted to Martyr Music Group for 2004’s follow-up, Eternity Revealed. Some three years later, Cemetery Earth on Shadow Kingdom – who also reissued Crimson Tears in 2008 – promised to be the band’s last album, and it was plain to see their formula had run its course. The record, like everything the band had done leading up to it, was American doom built directly from the traditional prototype, wrecked emotionally but still rooted in a heavy metal burliness that came through in the thick riffs of band mastermind Greg Diener (guitar/vocals). As Pale Divine marked their return with a set at 2011’s Days of the Doomed fest in Wisconsin and followed with one at Stoner Hands of Doom in Maryland in the fall, they seemed armed with a new energy and newfound enthusiasm for what is patently unenthusiastic. Diener and drummer Darin McCloskey (also of Beelzefuzz) teamed with Sinister Realm bassist John Gaffney for those shows, but on their awaited fourth album, Painted Windows Black (Shadow Kingdom), it’s Jerry Bright taking on low end duties for eight tracks packed with enough doom to account for the five years since the last Pale Divine offering.

A lot of what has always been true about Pale Divine remains so on the 68 minutes of Painted Windows Black, and one imagines the band wouldn’t have it any other way. They are doom for doomers, playing off the genre’s conventions even as they remold them in their own image, making what is inherently familiar about traditional doom sound fresh, or at very least newly-miserable. Diener’s vocals keep to a middle range, neither high nor especially low, but add melody nonetheless alongside his guitar despite sometimes moving to the other side of bottom-of-the-mouth post-Hetfield heavy metal conventionalities. Those same conventionalities, though, often work in Pale Divine’s favor, as the instrumental “Nocturne Dementia” opens Painted Windows Black with marked immediacy both in Diener’s guitar and in McCloskey’s capable drumming, which sustains double-kick bass remarkably well underneath layered guitar solos. At six and a half minutes, “Nocturne Dementia” has to be more than just an intro, but the function is the same, even if it works faster than most of the songs’ plod, it sets the tone nonetheless, and the strong opening salvo continues with “The Prophet” (the shortest and most straightforward track at 5:26) and “Angel of Mercy” (9:13), which has Painted Windows Black’s most memorable chorus. Fantastic lead play is near-constant with Diener at the fore, and the album is mixed well so that although he clearly dominates with lead play and is often backing himself with rhythm tracks as well as Bright’s bass, it’s not necessarily overbearing when it’s not trying to be.

Still, Painted Windows Black is clearly led by the guitar and makes no pretense otherwise. “Angel of Mercy” skillfully returns to the chorus following a long instrumental break (there’s room for it), and ends quietly, letting the opening riff of “End of Days” – one of the larger-sounding – add a grandeur to what’s already a well-crafted album. Pale Divine stick to the theme that riff presents for most of that song, letting it play out even under Diener’s solos, but there is some development to be found amid the nine and a half minute sprawl, and by the time the six-minute mark is passed, one is reminded just as much of Pepper Keenan as of Bruce Franklin. More than some of the cuts in the bottom half of the tracklisting, those on the first stand out individually. Their structures largely the same, they nonetheless show personality in their choruses and, bolstered by the lead work – again, Diener’s pretty much putting on a clinic on how to play doom guitar – the tab book would have to come in volumes – tap into what’s always made Pale Divine stand out among their morose peers: technical ability coupled with quality songwriting and a tight grasp on their influences. It’s a clarity of purpose that continues onto “Black Coven,” which works with an ethic similar to “The Prophet” in being a straightforward lead-in for lengthier indulgences to follow. Perhaps not as memorable as “The Prophet” itself, but no less accessible on a doomly level, its familiarity is nearly instant, so that by the end of the song, you already know it and are well grounded as Painted Black Windows moves into its longest and most atmospheric piece, “The Desolate.”

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Live Review: Las Cruces and Iron Man in Philadelphia, 08.27.10

Posted in Reviews on August 30th, 2010 by JJ Koczan

Much as I love the city of Philadelphia — and I do; it’s the Wesley Snipes to NYC‘s Stephen Dorff — it’s a long way away. Nonetheless, for a lineup like Las Cruces and Iron Man, the trip is well worth it. And hey, I didn’t drive as far as Las Cruces, who are from San Antonio, and thus know what salsa should taste like. So it could be worse.

I was in no hurry to get to the Millcreek Tavern, since it was just the two bands on the bill and I knew the show would be running late. Las Cruces went on first, playing tracks off of their latest, Dusk, as well as older material and a new song called “Egypt” that I shouted from the crowd was a keeper. And it was. There wasn’t much of an audience — apparently some fest was happening down the street — but the loyal few enjoyed what the four-piece had to offer, myself included, and when they played “Wizard” and “Cocaine Wizard Woman” back-to-back, I felt like life was doing me a personal favor. Two songs with “wizard” in the title — in a row! Doesn’t get more doomed than that, folks.

In general I consider myself a fan of a singing drummer, and Paul DeLeon of Las Cruces didn’t disappoint. While guitarists George Trevino and Mando Tovar (Pillcrusher) poured out killer riffs and solos and bassist Jimmy Bell windmilled a breeze enough to feel it from in front of the stage, DeLeon held down the rhythm and the melody of material both old and new. Dusk is the band’s first full-length in 12 years, but the band and the songs sounded fresh and they put on a righteous show despite the fact that there weren’t too many people in the crowd to see it.

A chicken cheese steak was enjoyed in between sets — no onions — and I had plenty of time to eat, as Iron Man took their time getting going. Vocalist Joe Donnelly must have been running late, or else waiting outside to make his grand entrance, since he came in just before the set started. Bassist Louis Strachan and new drummer Mike Rix (who has about four more toms in his rack-mounted kit than he needs for doom) make for a killer rhythm section, and Donnelly‘s Ozzy-style antics are well documented and always good for a laugh, but the essential component in Iron Man is Al Morris III, whose sheer presence while he plays guitar makes the whole set. I managed to get video of the opener, “I Have Returned,” which you can see below. Watch his solo and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Amazing.

Iron Man played a new song as well. I didn’t catch the name of it, but it’s good to know they’re working on material for a follow-up to I Have Returned. They were selling the recent Shadow Kingdom reissues of Generation Void, Black Night and The Passage as well, though I don’t know how many people were there who didn’t already have them. They played an 11-song set, which seemed like a bit much, but although it’s three days later and my sleep pattern is still thrown off, I’m not going to say it wasn’t worth the time or effort to get to the show. It was all the more special because of the sparse attendance, and with Las Cruces having come so far, and Iron Man having made the trip from Maryland, it seemed the least I could do to show up. I guarantee whatever else was going on in town that night wasn’t as doomed out as this show was.

Adding to the argument in favor of attendance was not knowing when Las Cruces would be back this way. Iron Man is killer, don’t get me wrong, but I’ve already seen them this year and worse comes to worst, Maryland is only three hours away. San Antonio is a little farther out from Jersey, and since I enjoyed Dusk so much (even the tracks not about wizards of any shape or form), I wanted to be there to support the band. I don’t know if it did them any good in terms of getting gas money to get to the next show, but there you go. Should have been a couple local acts on the bill to round it out and fill up the place, should have been more people there, but it was a killer gig and easily justified the ride down. No complaints out of me.

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Against Nature Interview with John Brenner: The Painter Paints, the Writer Writes, the Singer Sings (All the Time)

Posted in Features on August 11th, 2010 by JJ Koczan

Guitarist/vocalist John Brenner of Maryland outfits Against Nature and Revelation has probably the “healthiest” work ethic I’ve ever encountered when it comes to recording, and by “healthy,” I mean obsessive. Since 2005, Against Nature has put out no fewer than 14 records, and it always feels like the next one isn’t far off — because it isn’t. A little while ago, I reviewed Chasing Eagles, only to find out that Cross Street would be arriving shortly, with Stone over Stone due up thereafter.

They’re a lot to keep up with for sure. Releasing albums through their own Bland Hand Records imprint with art by Brenner himself, Against Nature is the vehicle by which Brenner, bassist Bert Hall, Jr. and drummer Steve Branagan explore their more rocking influences, from the early prog of Rush to the swaggering boogie of Humble Pie. When it comes time to doom out, the same lineup performs as Revelation, which has been active in one incarnation or another since 1986, and in the last two years put out albums through labels such as Japan‘s Leaf Hound, Germany‘s The Church Within, and Pittsburgh‘s Shadow Kingdom.

If two constantly expanding discographies wasn’t enough, Brenner is also partially responsible for the Born to be Doomed festival, which this year featured Revelation alongside acts like Apostle of Solitude, Black Pyramid and Blood Farmers on July 2 and 3, with Against Nature headlining a warm-up show the night before. It was on the first day of the festival that I called for the following interview, and found Brenner, unsurprisingly, to be moving quickly from one thing to the next.

In the conversation after the jump, John Brenner discusses the differences between Revelation and Against Nature, how one band grew out of the other, his writing methods and how he is able to maintain such a prolific level of output. I found him to be friendly, engaging and completely unpretentious. I hope you enjoy our conversation as much as I did. Read more »

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Doom Grows in Garden of Worm

Posted in Reviews on June 29th, 2010 by JJ Koczan

With Finnish doomers Garden of Worm, the trick in listening is not to succumb to riff hypnosis and miss out on the interludes and progressive movements that make their sound unique. Right from the opening track of their self-titled debut Shadow Kingdom full-length, the trio offer deceptive intricacy on songs like “Spirits of the Dead” and “The Ceremony,” sounding on the one hand like little more than post-Reverend Bizarre players in a crowded scene, but actually exploring roots both deeper and more satisfying to hear. You’re not three songs in before they break out the mellotron sounds.

In fact, you’re not through the aforementioned “Spirits of the Dead” before a left turn leads to a proggy-type jam that concludes the cut. The guitars of EJ. Taipale take a temporary backseat to SJ. Harju’s foundational bass (both also handle vocals), and gradually the track comes to an apex with the driven cymbal work of drummer JM. Suvanto, and if you weren’t paying attention you could have easily missed it. To be perfectly clear, this is doom we’re dealing with. Garden of Worm play doom and Garden of Worm is a doom album. “The Black Clouds” is lumbering, slow and riff-led, with crashes and mournful vocals in the grand tradition. There’s just also more to it structurally. Like the opener, it soon twists toward the progressive for its back end.

The second half of Garden of Worm is little different from the first, although anyone with a track name fetish should be able to easily get off on “Psychic Wolves.” As for the song itself, it’s a great hulking beast, all the more powerful coming off “The Black Clouds” – both songs are well past seven minutes in length – but Taipale’s guitar leads into a jazzy, near Opethian thoughtful musical space where the song seems to want to rest a while. Guest keyboards from Markus Pajakala (who also provided the “mellotron” to “Rays from Heaven”) make the piece standout, but the real surprise is when a heavy Scott Kelly-style riff takes hold and Garden of Worm transpose the vocal style they’ve been using the whole time over top of it. You wouldn’t think it would fit, but they make it work.

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When Buried Treasure Gets Unearthed: A Reissue Roundup

Posted in Buried Treasure, Reviews, Whathaveyou on May 28th, 2010 by JJ Koczan

Thinking about Church of Misery‘s Early Works Compilation the other day got me in a reissue state of mind, so I thought I’d take a look at some other recent re-releases. Rest assured, there’s never a shortage. Dig it:

Goatsnake: This came up in my interview with Greg Anderson, but it’s worth mentioning here as well that Goatsnake‘s 2000 sophomore outing, Flower of Disease (originally on Man’s Ruin), has been reissued on Southern Lord. Unlike when they did I/Dog Days a couple years back, there’s no new artwork or bonus material, but Flower of Disease has been out of print for probably about eight years now, and if you never managed to get a copy of it, it should go without saying that doing so is a worthwhile endeavor. It’s not the classic the first album is, but it stands the test of time nonetheless, with “Easy Greasy” and “A Truckload of Momma’s Muffins” set to kick your ass with doomed out goodness.

16: In 2009, Relapse put out 16‘s underrated Bridges to Burn reunion album and sent them off on the road like they’d never left it in the first place. Now the label has repressed the Los Angeles noise metal band’s blazing first two albums, Curves that Kick (1993) and Drop Out (1996), which for my money are right up there with Buzzov*en‘s terminally fucked up sludge and anything Unsane were doing at the time.

16 has always been one of those acts that never quite got the mass attention they deserved, and it doesn’t look like that’s about to change, but for the few who will check them out (new artwork and all), Curves that Kick and Drop Out both prove to be ahead of their time. No word on reissues of 16‘s other two albums, 1997’s Blaze of Incompetence and 2003’s Zoloft Smile.

Jameson Raid: The obscure pre-NWOBHM act formed in 1976 and barely made it past 1982, but the ever-vigilant Shadow Kingdom Records has seen to it their work will garner new appreciation (such as mine) with the discography collection, Just as the Dust Had Settled. Vocalist Terry Dark has a little Phil Lynott inflection to his voice, but it fits well over the music, which is culled from 1979’s debut Seven Days of Splendour single, 1980’s End of Part One EP and the Electric Sun demo from 1982. The songs vary in quality (and lineup), but the essential elements of the band come across even with dated production, the early Priest-isms of shining through without hindrance. Like a lot of Shadow Kingdom‘s reissues, Just as the Dust Had Settled is going to find itself a small but passionate market appeal, but NWOBHM fanatics and other curious parties should be thrilled to get their hands on it.

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Iron Man’s Black Night Lives Again

Posted in Reviews on March 11th, 2010 by JJ Koczan

If the elder’s fables are true, and there really is a cult of true doom, then I can’t help but feel that somewhere in the initiation process is Black Night, the 1992 debut offering from Maryland legends Iron Man. Among the most sought-after of the Hellhound Records catalog, it’s an album whose legacy has only grown with time. I don’t know if it’s a rite of passage or some kind of challenge to would-be cult inductees or what. Maybe you have to air guitar all of Al Morris III’s riffs while on fire or something. That would be cool in a very Beavis and Butt-Head kind of way.

Shadow Kingdom Records, whose reissue kung fu is like Bruce Lee in fast forward, capped off 2009 by re-releasing this rare doom gem, capturing the Iron Man lineup of Morris, Larry Brown (bass), Ron Kalimon (drums) and Rob Levey (vocals; also the man behind the Stoner Hands of Doom series of festivals) in their first incarnation after leaving behind their Black Sabbath cover band roots and trotting out their premiere batch of original material. With cuts like “Life After Death,” “Black Night,” “A Child’s Future” and classic album opener “Choices,” we can only be glad 18 years later that they did.

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