The Obelisk Questionnaire: Tom Blyth of Blind Monarch

Posted in Questionnaire on July 20th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

Tom Blyth of Blind Monarch

The Obelisk Questionnaire is a series of open questions intended to give the answerer an opportunity to explore these ideas and stories from their life as deeply as they choose. Answers can be short or long, and that reveals something in itself, but the most important factor is honesty.

Based on the Proust Questionnaire, the goal over time is to show a diverse range of perspectives as those who take part bring their own points of view to answering the same questions. To see all The Obelisk Questionnaire posts, click here.

Thank you for reading and thanks to all who participate.

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Tom Blyth of Blind Monarch

How do you define what you do and how did you come to do it?

I’m a lyricist, a vocalist and general contributor to all things related to Blind Monarch.

I began playing in bands in around 2004, when my brother Adam asked me to front a band he was starting and I told him I’d do it until he found someone more suitable. Early on the focus was on playing fast and technical death metal but at a certain point our attention was drawn to slower sub genres and bands, hearing Asunder for the first time had a particularly strong influence on us. Gradually we began to incorporate slower, grander sections into our songs, although the style of drumming in that band was too relentless to really let any of them breathe or function as they were intended.

When that band ended in the early 2010’s Adam and I were ready to start a new project based heavily on slower, more atmospheric influences while maintaining an abrasive, caustic element and so Blind Monarch was born.

Describe your first musical memory.

I’m not able to pinpoint exactly what my first musical memory is but I can narrow it down to about three possibilities. I’m either in my Dad’s car, a white or red boxy-shaped ’80s BMW 3 series or a black Opel Manta, and he’s playing No Jacket Required by Phil Collins or Brothers in Arms by Dire Straits. Or I’m in a bed with my brother in a caravan near Scarborough, my parents are still up playing scrabble and “Sunny Afternoon” by The Kinks is playing on Yorkshire Coast Radio.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

I’m not really one for favourites or bests, for one thing my memory is unreliable and on top of that I tend not to find it useful to try to rank things I enjoy or find meaningful. That said, I have really fond memories of recording What Is Imposed Must Be Endured, as uncomfortable a process that was at the time. We’ve spoken about it at length elsewhere for anyone who is interested but briefly, the album was recorded in freezing temperatures in a huge derelict building. There was no heating or lighting and we had to run electricity from the church adjacent to us, needless to say much of the record was tracked in the dark and in a state of discomfort but I wouldn’t change anything about the experience.

Off the top of my head, I also have great memories of seeing Bolt Thrower play at Damnation a few years ago, that may even have been their last gig but I’m not sure about that… Seeing Entombed play Left Hand Path live, also at Damnation, is another standout, as is seeing Graves at Sea at the Lughole in Sheffield.

Now I’m thinking about it, getting pinned and unable to even move my head in the front row at Cannibal Corpse in Sheffield in around 2010, a short conversation my brother and I had with David Berman when The Silver Jews played in Leeds and watching my friend Sam manage to throw a joint onstage and directly into Wino’s outstretched hand without him having to so much as reach for it, when Spirit Caravan played at Desertfest all seem worth a mention.

When was a time when a firmly held belief was tested?

I think strongly held beliefs and faith are highly overrated, dangerous concepts and as such I try not to become overly attached to ideas. I strive to always be open to new evidence and a change of opinion when the body of evidence begins to point away from what I thought I knew.

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

A sense of fulfilment.

How do you define success?

The ability to build and sustain an ethically sound means of living by ones own terms, based in creativity rather than drudgery. I have a long way to go…

What is something you have seen that you wish you hadn’t?

I saw a woman die on a transatlantic flight once while her husband stalked up and down the isle of the plane praying for her. I was flying home from a long trip on my birthday, where there was a surprise party waiting for me, that was my day. At the same time a woman’s life was ending a few feet away while a helpless man, trapped in a box over an ocean, begged to a higher power while his entire life fell apart in front of hundreds of strangers. While I wouldn’t say I wish I hadn’t seen it, it was a profoundly affecting experience in empathy, I certainly wish that couple had not had to endure that suffering.

Describe something you haven’t created yet that you’d like to create.

I’ve toyed with the idea to write a screenplay one day, although I don’t know if I ever will. I’m also learning to play guitar so it would be nice to reach a state of proficiency that allowed for a project with that.

What do you believe is the most essential function of art?

To act as a means for living rather than merely existing. It’s a cliché but I can’t think of a better answer.

Something non-musical that you’re looking forward to?

Getting older with the people I care about.

https://www.facebook.com/blindmonarchband/
https://www.instagram.com/blind_monarch/
https://blindmonarch.bandcamp.com/
https://www.drycoughrecords.com/
http://facebook.com/DryCoughRecords
http://instagram.com/dry_cough_records
https://blackbowrecords.bandcamp.com/
http://www.blackbowrecords.com/
https://blackbowrecords.bigcartel.com/

Blind Monarch, What is Imposed Must Be Endured (2019)

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Quarterly Review: Jess and the Ancient Ones, Dread Sovereign, Space Smoke, If it Kills You, Clara Engel, Maya Mountains, Cave of Swimmers, Blind Monarch, Cancervo, Sahara

Posted in Reviews on March 30th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-spring-2019

Hello Day Two of the Quarterly Review. It started by oversleeping by about an hour, but so it goes. Yesterday went about as smoothly as I can ask a QR day to go, so I’m hoping that today follows suit despite the rough start. There’s nothing like building some momentum once you get going with these writeups. It’s about as close to ‘in the zone’ as I get. Trance of productivity.

As always, I hope you find something here you dig. Today’s round is good and all over the place, so maybe everyone’ll get lucky. Here goes.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Jess and the Ancient Ones, Vertigo

jess and the ancient ones vertigo

More than a decade on from their founding, Finland’s Jess and the Ancient Ones are an established brand when it comes to cult psych rock, and their fourth full-length, issued through Svart, is gleeful to the point of witch-cackling on “Talking Board” (think Ouija) and offers rousing classically-stylized hooks on fellow early cuts like opener “Burning of the Velvet Fires” and “World Paranormal” as well as side B’s “Born to Kill,” the Dr. Strangelove-sampling “Summer Tripping Man” and the organ-washed “What’s on Your Mind” ahead of an 11-minute prog rock grand finale in “Strange Earth Illusion” that feels very much like the impetus toward which the album has been driving all along. Relax, you’re in the hands of professional mystics, and their acid rock vibes are made all the more grand by Jess‘ soulful delivery atop the ever-clever arrangements of guitar, organ, bass, drums, samples, and so on. This kind of cultish lysergic fare has never been and never will be for everyone. Listening to Vertigo, you can only really wonder why that is.

Jess and the Ancient Ones on Thee Facebooks

Svart Records website

 

Dread Sovereign, Alchemical Warfare

dread sovereign alchemical warfare

Metallic overload! Irish assault supreme! All sentences end with exclamation points! A new Dread Sovereign record doesn’t come along every day, or year, but the Dublin trio certainly make it count when one does. Alchemical Warfare is the third LP from the Alan Averill-fronted outfit, and with Johnny “Con Ri” King (also Conan) on drums and guitarist Bones Huse (also Wizards of Firetop Mountain), the band tear through nine tracks and 51 minutes of doom-colored metallurgy, throwing unrepentant fists in the air under darkened, irony-free skies. By the time 10-minute post-intro opener “She Wolves of the Savage Season” is over, if you’re not ready to quit your job and join the legion about to set march to “The Great Beast We Serve,” it’s no fault of the band’s. “Nature is the Devil’s Church” was the lead single and is a standout hook, but the grandiosity of “Ruin Upon the Temple Mount”‘s Candlemassy riffing is too good to be ignored, and they finish with a Bathory cover, because fucking a, that’s why.

Dread Sovereign on Thee Facebooks

Metal Blade Records website

 

Space Smoke, Aurora Dourada

Space Smoke Aurora Dourada

The debut EP from Brazilian instrumentalist trio Space Smoke runs all of 12 minutes, but that’s long enough for Aurora Dourada to give an impression of where the band are coming from. Three distinct tracks — “Magia Cerimonial,” “Interludio” and “Corpo Solar” — comprise the outing, and the middle one is indeed an interlude, so it’s really the opener and closer doing the heavy lifting. “Magia Cerimonia” starts off with a sense of foreboding but makes its way instead into hypnotic repetition, bordering on a meditative lumber that doesn’t stick around long enough to be redundant, and with the interlude as a breath between, the eight-minute “Corpo Solar” rounds out as the most substantial piece of the outing, drifting guitar over languid drums and bass, dreamy and sopping wet with reverb. They push it heavier than its quiet beginning, of course, but even the howling lead work near the finish maintains the inviting and immersive vibe with which they set out. Might be a blip of things to come, but it’s a blip worth checking out. Mini-trip.

Space Smoke on Instagram

Abraxas Events on Thee Facebooks

 

If it Kills You, Infinite Hum

if it kills you infinite hum

Infinite Hum is the striking debut LP from Bakersfield, California, post-hardcore heavy three/four-piece If it Kills You, who along with the periodic charred guest vocals on half the six tracks, bring together a quick assemblage for a 12″ that readily alternates between melodic sway and shoutier roll. They groove despite unpredictable turns, and their blend of hefted tones and punker-grown-up melodies makes a welcome impression on opener “We Don’t Belong Here” or “Moving Target.” Starts and stops and a bit of winding lead work give “Repeat Resolve” an edge of noise rock — more than an edge, actually; kind of like the flat side of a brick — but If it Kills You never push to one side or the other entirely, and as the screams return for later in “Repeat Resolve” and closer “Projections,” charged every time with and succeeding at pushing a crescendo over the top, the band manage to bring sincerity and structure together with what sounds like experienced hands. Don’t be fooled by “first album”; they know what they’re doing.

If it Kills You on Thee Facebooks

Killer Kern on Bandcamp

 

Clara Engel, A New Skin

Clara Engel A New Skin

I’m not sure if anyone still calls this kind of thing “neo-folk,” but I am sure I don’t care. The sense of atmosphere Clara Engel puts into her latest album, A New Skin, beginning with the shift between minimal guitar and keyboard on “Starry Eyed Goat,” uses negative space no less effectively than does the mostly-black cover art, and the eight-song/46-minute outing that ensues alternates between emotive and wondrously ambient, suited to the home recording done during (presumed) isolation in Fall 2020. Engel handles all instrumentation herself and remains indelibly human in her sometimes-layered vocal delivery all the while, speaking to a building-out process of the material, but one does not get the sense in listening to “Night Tide” and the sparse “Thieves” back-to-back that the foundation of all the songs is the same, which is all the more representative of an exploratory songwriting process. A New Skin as a whole feels likewise exploratory, a reflection inward as much as out.

Clara Engel on Thee Facebooks

Clara Engel on Bandcamp

 

Maya Mountains, Era

maya mountains era

Long-running Italian trio Maya Mountains issued Era through Go Down Records in 2020 as their first album in some six years, readily engaging with desert rock on cuts like “San Saguaro” and closer “El Toro,” working in a bit of post-Queens of the Stone Age riffy quirk to go along with less bouncing and chunkier fare on “Vibromatic” and “Baumgartner,” or “Extremely High,” which makes its speedier tempo feel organic ahead of the finish. All told, it’s 44 minutes of solid heavy rock, with variation between songs of what each is working toward doing that does nothing to pull away from the vibe as a whole, whether that’s in a more aggressive moment like “Vibromatic” or the spacier playfulness at the start of “Raul,” the band clearly unafraid of letting a little funk hold sway for a minute or two. Engaging without being revolutionary, Era knows its craft and audience alike, and offers one to the other without pretense or presumption. It’s rock for rockers, but what’s wrong with that?

Maya Mountains on Thee Facebooks

Go Down Records website

 

Cave of Swimmers, Aurora

cave of swimmers aurora

An awaited first long-player from Miami duo Cave of Swimmers — vocalist/guitarist/synthesist Guillermo Gonzalez and drummer/percussionist/vocalist Arturo Garcia — packages epic metal in tight-knit bursts of heavy rock tonality. Choruses in “The Sun” and “Double Rainbow” are grand affairs not because their tones are so huge, but because of the melodies that top them, and at the same time, with riffs at the forefront of the verses, the duo make progressive shifts sound classic in the vein of Iron Maiden or Dio with a still-prevailing fuzzy topcoat. Centerpiece “My Human” is a love song that slams, while “Looking Glass” leans deeper into prog metal but brings the listener along with a another sweeping hook, a pattern of tension and release that carries over to “Dirt” as well, which leaves “C.S” to close out with its “Sign of the Southern Cross” keyboard-and-harmonies intro en route to a poised but still thrashing finish. There’s life in heavy metal, and here it is.

Cave of Swimmers on Thee Facebooks

Broomtune Records website

 

Blind Monarch, What is Imposed Must Be Endured

blind monarch what is imposed must be endured

Straight out of Sheffield, UK, Blind Monarch first released their What is Imposed Must Be Endured four-song/56-minute full-length on Black Bow Records in 2020 and it’s been picked up for a 2LP vinyl pressing by Dry Cough Records. There’s something to be said for splitting up these tracks each onto its own side, making the whole release more manageable despite getting up to do a side or platter flip, but any way you go, “Suffering Breathes My Name” (13:45), “My Mother, My Cradle, My Tomb” (10:47), “Blind Monarch” (14:10) and closer “Living Altar” (17:54) are geared toward sharp-toothed death-sludge consumption, extreme in thought and deed. Feedback is strewn about the place like so much flayed skin, and even in the quiet moments at the start and laced into “Living Altar,” the atmosphere remains oppressive. Yet, endure one must. Blind Monarch, even among the UK’s ultra-packed underground, are a standout in how maddeningly heavy they manage to be, and on their debut outing, no less. If you missed it last year, be ready to pay extra for shipping.

Blind Monarch on Thee Facebooks

Dry Cough Records website

Black Bow Records webstore

 

Cancervo, 1

cancervo 1

Each track on Italian instrumentalist trio Cancervo‘s debut album, titled simply 1, is intended to represent an area near their home in the mountainous region of Lombardy, Italy. Their tones are duly thick, their presentation patient and their cast is broad in terms of its landscape. From “Averara,” one might see kilometers, in other words. Whether or not you’re familiar with Cancervo‘s locale, their tonal warmth and heavy psychedelic expanse resonates immersively, letting each of the two sides develop on its own from the beginnings in “Cancervo” and “Darco,” both the longest cuts on their respective halves. The fuller fuzz of “SWLABR” and the punch of bass that accompanies the tom hits on closer “1987” are subtle shifts emblematic of Cancervo‘s creative progression getting underway, and the task to which they set themselves — portraying place in sound — is no less admirable than their accomplishment of same would see to be. I’ve never been there, so can’t confirm 100 percent if that’s what it sounds like, but in repeat listens, I’m happy to take the band’s word (or riffs) for it.

Cancervo on Thee Facebooks

Electric Valley Records website

 

Sahara, The Curse

sahara the curse

Its four cuts run 17 minutes with the last of them an instrumental title-track that’s under three, but I don’t care — the entire thing is so righteously raw and garage nasty that I’m on board with however much Argentina’s Sahara want to bring to The Curse. “Gallows Noose” sounds like it was taped, and then re-taped, and then re-taped again before finally being pressed (to tape), and there’s no mistaking that’s an aesthetic choice on the part of the band, who probably have phones that could make something with clearer audio, but the in-room demo feel of “Hell on Earth” and “Altar of Sacrifice,” the rootsy metal-of-doom feel of it hits on its own level. Sometimes you just want something that comes across barebones and mean, and that’s what The Curse does. Call it retro, call it unproduced, call it whatever you want, it doesn’t matter. Sahara (bring looks that) kill it on that Sabbath-worshiping altar and sound dirt-coated all the while, making everything everything else in the universe seem more complicated than it needs to be.

Sahara on Thee Facebooks

Helter Skelter Productions website

 

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Bible Basher to Release Loud Wailing Tape June 26

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 9th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Took me a second to do the mental recall on the source of Bible Basher‘s moniker; I’ll readily admit it’s been a long time since I put on Deicide. But that track, with Glenn Benton‘s high screams/low growls belting out with speed so silly, is one bound to leave an impression anyhow, so yes, that’s where it comes from. Loud Wailing is the Sheffield, UK-based band’s debut release — the first EP — and holy shit it’s heavy. Sludgelord Records is pretty reliable when it comes to putting this stuff out on tape, and I have no doubt they’re up to the task here, but in apparently bringing together members of Kurokuma, Archelon, Temple of Coke and Spaztik Munkey, the new outfit are a vision of extreme sludge metal that pushes beyond the pill-popping pestilence that is Fistula and into more deathly, rot-infused grime.

Their slogan would seem to be “words from the bible, riffs from hell,” and if you can understand the lyrics of “So Samson Sang” well enough to discern if that’s true, kudos. The band are streaming that EP opener right now at the bottom of this post ahead of the tape coming out on June 26, so by all means, give it a shot, but know that you’ve been warned what’s coming.

Let the self-flagellation begin:

bible basher loud wailing

Bible Basher – Loud Wailing

Words from the Bible, riffs from hell. Slamming doom/death metal featuring members of Temple of Coke, Kurokuma, Archelon and Spaztik Munkey. A Sheffield, UK supergroup if you will, with each track featuring a different vocalist. Tape pre-orders already all sold out in just three days.

Official release date is 26th June via Sludgelord Records, digital and tape: https://thesludgelord.bandcamp.com/album/loud-wailing

Any reviews, mentions, plays, interviews would be much appreciated.

First track, So Samson Sang is up on the Bandcamp now.

https://www.facebook.com/sludgelordrecords/
https://www.instagram.com/sludgelordrecords/
https://thesludgelord.bandcamp.com/

Bible Basher, Loud Wailing (2020)

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Kurokuma & Under to Release Kurokunder Split 7″ Nov. 15

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 21st, 2019 by JJ Koczan

I played the crap out of the original Ecco the Dolphin on Sega Genesis in 1992, but I don’t recall ever picking up the sequel, Ecco II: The Tides of Time, when it came around two years later in ’94. No doubt I was too busy reveling in the easy access to porn and bootlegged software provided by America Online on my dial-up, finding beta versions of Windows 95 that invariably destroyed whatever Pentium PC I was using. Oh, also solitaire. Played a lot of solitaire. I was a pretty lonely kid.

What were we talking about?

Ah yes. Apparently the second Ecco installment made an impression on the dudes from Kurokuma, as their inclusion on a new split 7″ with Under is a cover of the soundtrack to the game, so hey, that’s fun. Under, meanwhile offer the eight-minute “Abyssal Gigantism,” which leaves one to wonder how they’re even fitting it on a 7″ platter. Science, I guess. The future is wow.

There’s a trailer below with a kind of atmospheric snippet taken from what’s been cleverly dubbed Kurokunder, and info follows from the PR wire as well. Have at it:

kurokuma under split

KUROKUMA / UNDER SPLIT 7″ EP RELEASE – ASTRAL NOIZE RECORDS

NOV 15th 2019 – VINYL / DIGITAL – AN 016

Two of the weirdest bands from the UK heavy underground, KUROKUMA and UNDER join forces to each release a brand new song for this 7″ vinyl exclusive through ASTRAL NOIZE RECORDS. Available to pre-order here.

Kurokuma follow from the success of their latest EP release Sheffield’s Best Metal Bands, Vol.1, keeping up their love of unlikely cover songs with a doomy rendition of the theme music from retro gaming classic Ecco The Dolphin: The Tides of Time. The song builds patiently around a swirling arpeggio, slowly escalating into a pulverising and trippy doom riff, leading to one of Kurokuma’s most melodic and grandiose songs yet.

Under push their craft further forward with their lengthiest composition to date, Abyssal Gigantism. Sonically and compositionally, this track branches further from their dense and eerie sophomore album Stop Being Naive. Abyssal Gigantism is a multi-faceted nightmare, taking the listener through unsettling twists and turns. Their signature use of harmonised vocals and unconventional time signatures are intact, but with a much more daring exploration of erratic tempo changes, recalling the wild ebb and flow of The Dillinger Esc. Plan.

Pairing Kurokuma and Under for this exclusive 7″ vinyl release makes perfect sense. Both are unique and talented acts that think outside the box and stand tall amongst their contemporaries. The two bands have already toured together and share a dark and twisted sense of humour, absurd lyrical themes and a daring desire to experiment and challenge listeners.

TRACKLIST
A. Kurokuma – The Tides of Time [5:32]
B. Under – Abyssal Gigantism [8:03]

CREDITS
ANR 016. Artwork by Mullet. Mastered by John Simm at Hidden Colour Audio.
‘The Tides of Time’ written by Attila Dobos, Andras Magyari, David Javelosa and Andy Armer.
Performed by Kurokuma. Recorded and mixed by Tich.
‘Abyssal Gigantism’ written and performed by Under. Recorded and mixed by Rian Gamble.

KUROKUMA
Joe E Allen – Drums
George Ionita – Bass
Jacob Mazlum – Guitar

UNDER
Matt Franklin – Bass & vocals
Simon Mayo – Guitar & vocals
Andy Preece – Drums & vocals

https://www.facebook.com/kurokumauk/
https://www.instagram.com/kurokumauk/
https://kurokumauk.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/understockport/
https://www.instagram.com/under_ist_krieg/
https://understockport.bandcamp.com/

https://astralnoizeuk.com/
https://www.facebook.com/astralnoizerecords/
https://www.instagram.com/astralnoize/
https://astralnoize.bandcamp.com/music

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The Obelisk Presents: Kurokuma and Blind Monarch UK Tour

Posted in The Obelisk Presents on December 31st, 2018 by JJ Koczan

kurokuma

blind monarch

This is a pretty good example of how I regularly conduct business with this site. I’m dicking around looking at Star Trek memes on social media and Jon Davis from Conan gets in touch and tells me he’s got a new management thing going called Blackskull Services and do I want to present a tour with Kurokuma and Blind Monarch? My responses: Awesome, and yes. Done. I did not at that point have to turn anything over to a lawyer, there were no deals made, money did not exchange hands. It was, even in the stale form of typed communication sent across long distances — telegraph by any other name — remarkably human. Three minutes later, I was back to Trek memes.

And nifty as they are, even niftier is the two Sheffield outfits getting together to kick ass, destroy minds, harvest souls, and so on. I’ll admit this run is my first exposure to Blind Monarch, but their story checks out with their eponymous demo posted last year, a dense glob of sludge clocking in at 12 minutes of head-stomper riffing plus a bit of chanting that’s its own excuse for being. Kurokuma, it just so happens, released their two-songer Dope Rider EP in July on Doom Stew and hit the road in Eastern Europe this past summer to support it. If you haven’t heard, it’s the good kind of cavernous and can be streamed in full on the player at the bottom of this post.

Proud to be involved in the small way I am with a run of shows that’s sure to be just an absolute wash of beer and noise. If you’re in their path, be in their path.

Info follows from the PR wire:

kurokuma blind monarch tour

KUROKUMA AND BLIND MONARCH ANNOUNCE UK TOUR

Blackskull Services are proud to announce the addition of Blind Monarch as the main support for Kurokuma who are hitting the road in Feb/March in one of the few UK tours Kurokuma they will be doing in 2019!

Please keep an eye on the Blackskull Services and Blind Monarchs event tabs on our pages for ticketing info and other supports as announced.

27th Feb – Newcastle, Trillians w/ Goblinsmoker
28th Feb – London, The Black Heart
1st March – Nottingham, Soan w/ Bismuth
2nd March – Bristol, The Gryphon
3rd March – Coventry, The Phoenix

In association with The Obelisk and Off Me Nut Records.

Blind Monarch commented, “As the frosts thaw, the Blind Monarch begins a pilgrimage from beneath the shadow of the Dark Peak. To spread a dismal gospel across a land of despair, all that hear the word shall fall under that terrible shadow.”

Kurokuma further commented “We’ve been wanting to do a run of shows with Blind Monarch for a long time. They have some serious gear and tone and we played plenty of times here in Sheffield with ’em so now it’s time to take it on the road. It’s gonna be our last tour for a while. Come and watch us get topless in late February, early March.”

https://www.facebook.com/kurokumauk/
http://kurokumauk.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/blindmonarchband/?
http://blindmonarch.bandcamp.com/

Kurokuma, Dope Rider (2018)

Blind Monarch, “Blind Monarch (Demo)”

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Quarterly Review: Khemmis, Morag Tong, Holy Mushroom, Naisian, Haunted, Pabst, L.M.I., Fuzz Forward, Onségen Ensemble, The Heavy Eyes

Posted in Reviews on July 18th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-CALIFORNIA-LANDSCAPE-Julian-Rix-1851-1903

I always say the same thing on the Wednesday of the Quarterly Review. Day 3. The halfway point. I say it every time. The fact is, doing these things kind of takes it out of me. All of it. It’s not that I don’t enjoy listening to all these records — well, I don’t enjoy all of them, but I’m talking more about the process — just that it’s a lot to take in and by the time I’m done each day, let alone at the end of the week, I’m fairly exhausted. So every time we hit the halfway point of a Quarterly Review, I feel somewhat compelled to note it. Cresting the hill, as it were. It’s satisfying to get to this point without my head falling off.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Khemmis, Desolation

khemmis desolation

Continuing their proclivity for one-word titles, Denver doom forerunners Khemmis take a decisive turn toward the metallic with their third album for 20 Buck Spin, the six-track/41-minute Desolation. Songs like opener “Bloodletting” and its side B counterpart “The Seer” are still tinged with doom, but the NWOBHM gallop in “Isolation” and “Maw of Time” – as well as the sheer force of the latter – is an unexpected twist. Khemmis showed classic metal elements on 2016’s was-a-very-big-deal Hunted (review here) and 2015’s debut, Absolution (review here), but it’s a question of balance, and as they’ve once again worked with producer Dave Otero, one can only read the shift as a conscious decision. The harder edge suits them – certainly suits the screams in “Maw of Time” and side A finale/album highlight “Flesh to Nothing” – and as Khemmis further refine their sound, they craft its most individualized manifestation to-date. There’s no hearing Desolation and mistaking Khemmis for another band. They’ve come into their own.

Khemmis on Thee Facebooks

20 Buck Spin website

 

Morag Tong, Last Knell of Om

morag tong last knell of om

A rumbling entry into London’s Heavy Generation, the four-piece Morag Tong unfold voluminous ritual on their debut full-length, Last Knell of Om. Largely slow and largely toned, the work of guitarists Alex Clarke and Lewis Crane brings the low end to the forefront along with the bass of James Atha while drummer Adam Asquith pushes the lurch forward on cuts like “New Growth” and “To Soil,” the band seemingly most comfortable when engaged in crawling tempos and weighted pummel. Asquith also adds semi-shouted vocals to the mire, which, surrounded by distortion as they are, only make the proceedings sound even more massive. There’s an ambience to “We Answer” and near-13-minute closer “Ephemera: Stare Through the Deep,” which gives the record a suitably noisy finish, but much of what Morag Tong are going for in sound depends on the effectiveness of their tonality, and they’ve got that part down on their debut. Coupled with the meditative feel in some of this material, that shows marked potential on the band’s part for future growth.

Morag Tong on Thee Facebooks

Morag Tong on Bandcamp

 

Holy Mushroom, Blood and Soul

holy mushroom blood and soul

Working quickly to follow-up their earlier-2018 sophomore long-player, Moon (review here), Spain’s Holy Mushroom present Blood and Soul, an EP comprised of two songs recorded live in the studio. I’m not entirely sure why it’s split up at all, as the two-minute “Introito” – sure enough, a little introduction – feeds so smoothly into the 19-minute “Blood and Soul” itself, but fair enough either way as the trio shift between different instrumentation, incorporating sax, piano and organ among the guitar, bass, drums and vocals, and unfold a longform heavy psychedelic trip that not only builds on what they were doing with Moon but is every bit worthy of being released on its own. I don’t know if it was recorded at the same time as the record or later – both were done at Asturcon Studios – but it’s easy to see why the band would want to highlight “Blood and Moon.” Between the deep-running mix, the easy rhythmic flow into and out from drifting spaciousness, and the turn in the middle third toward more expansive arrangement elements, it’s an engaging motion that makes subtly difficult shifts seem utterly natural along the way. And even if you didn’t hear the latest full-length, Blood and Soul makes for a fitting introduction to who Holy Mushroom are as a band and what they can do.

Holy Mushroom on Thee Facebooks

Clostridium Records website

 

Naisian, Rejoinder

naisian rejoinder

Sludge-infused noise rock serves as the backdrop for lyrical shenanigans on the three-song Rejoinder EP from Sheffield, UK, trio Naisian. Running just 12 minutes, it’s a quick and thickened pummel enacted by the band, who work in shades of post-metal for “90 ft. Stone,” “Mantis Rising” and “Lefole,” most especially in the middle cut, but even there, the focus in on harsh vocals and lumbering sonic heft. It’s now been seven years since the band sort-of issued their debut album, Mammalian, and six since they followed with the Monocle EP, and the time seems to have stripped down their sound to a degree. “Lefole” is the longest track on Rejoinder at 5:18 and it’s still shorter than every other song Naisian have put out to-date. Their crunch lacks nothing for impact, however, and to go with the swing of “Lefole,” everybody seems to contribute to a vocal assault that only adds to the punishing but thoughtful vibe.

Naisian on Thee Facebooks

Naisian on Bandcamp

 

Haunted, Dayburner

haunted dayburner

The effects-laden vocal swirl at the outset of Haunted’s “Mourning Sun” and moments in the Italian act’s longer-form material, “Waterdawn” or “Orphic,” for example, will invariably lead some listeners to point to a Windhand influence, but the character of the band’s second album, Dayburner (on Twin Earth, DHU and Graven Earth all), follows their 2016 self-titled (review here) by holding steady to a developing identity of its own. To be sure, vocalist Christina Chimirri, guitarists Francesco Bauso and Francesco Orlando, bassist Frank Tudisco and drummer Dario Casabona make their way into a deep, murky swamp of modern doom in “Dayburner” (video posted here), but in the crush of their tones amid all that trance-inducing riffing, they cast themselves as an outfit seeking to express individuality within the set parameters of style. Their execution, then, is what it comes down to, and with “Orphic” (12:46) and “Vespertine” (13:19) back to back, there’s plenty of doom on the 66-minute 2LP to roll that out. And they do so in patient and successful form, with marked tonal vibrancy and a sense of controlling the storm they’re creating as they go.

Haunted on Thee Facebooks

Twin Earth Records website

DHU Records webstore

Graven Earth Records webstore

 

Pabst, Chlorine

pabst chlorine

So, the aesthetic is different. Pabst play a blend of noise, post-punk, heavy rock and grunge, but with the ready pop influence — to wit, the outright danceability of “Shits,” reminiscent in its bounce of later Queens of the Stone Age – and persistent melodicism, there’s just a twinge of what Mars Red Sky did for heavy rolling riffs happening on Chlorine, their Crazysane Records debut. It’s in that blend of dense low-end fuzz and brighter vocal melodies, but again, Pabst, hailing from Berlin, are on their own trip. Weird but almost more enjoyable than it seems to want to be, the 12-track/35-minute outing indulges little and offers singalong-ready vibes in “Catching Feelings” and “Waterslide” while “Waiting Loop” chills out before the push of “Accelerate” and the angularity of “Cheapskate” take hold. Chrlorine careens and (blue) ribbons its way to the drive-fast-windows-open stylization of “Summer Never Came” and the finale “Under Water,” a vocal effect on the latter doing nothing to take away from its ultra-catchy hook. It’s not for everyone, but it’s a record someone with just the right kind of open mind can come to love.

Pabst on Thee Facebooks

Crazysane Records webstore

 

L.M.I., IV

lmi iv

If you’ve got a dank basement full of skinny college kids, chances are Lansdale, Pennsylvania’s L.M.I. are ready to tear their faces off. The sludge-thickened riff punkers run abut 11 minutes with their five-song release, L.M.I. IV, and that’s well enough time to get their message across. Actually, by the end of “Neck of Tension” and “Weaning Youth,” roughly four and half minutes in, the statement of intent is pretty clear. L.M.I. present furious but grooving hardcore punk more given to scathe than pummel, and their inclusions on L.M.I. IV bring that to life with due sense of controlled chaos. Centerpiece “Lurking Breath” gives way to “First to Dark” – the longest cut at a sprawling 2:55 – and they save a bit of grunge guitar scorch and lower-register growling for closer “June was a Test,” there isn’t really time in general for any redundancy to take hold. That suits the feeling of assault well, as L.M.I. get in and get out on the quick and once they’re gone, all that’s left to do is clean the blood off the walls.

L.M.I. on Thee Facebooks

L.M.I. on Bandcamp

 

Fuzz Forward, Out of Nowhere

fuzz forward out of nowhere

Released one way or another through Discos Macarras, Odio Sonoro, Spinda Records and Red Sun Records, the eight-song/43-minute debut album from Barcelona’s Fuzz Forward, Out of Nowhere, has earned acclaim from multiple corners for its interpretation of grunge-era melodies through a varied heavy rock filter. Indeed, the vocals of Juan Gil – joined in the band by guitarist Edko Fuzz, bassist Jordi Vaquero and drummer Marc Rockenberg – pull the mind directly to a young Layne Staley, and forces one to realize it’s been a while since that low-in-the-mouth approach was so ubiquitous. It works well for Gil in the laid back “Summertime Somersaults” as well as the swinging, cowbell-infused later cut “Drained,” and as the band seems to foreshadow richer atmospheric exploration on “Thorns in Tongue” and “Torches,” they nonetheless maintain a focus on songwriting that grounds the proceedings and will hopefully continue to serve as their foundation as they move forward. No argument with the plaudits they’ve thus far received. Seems doubtful they’ll be the last.

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Fuzz Forward on Bandcamp

 

Onségen Ensemble, Duel

Onsegen ensemble duel

The kind of record you’re doing yourself a favor by hearing – a visionary cast of progressive psychedelia that teems with creative energy and is an inspiration even in the listening. Frankly, the only thing I’m not sure about when it comes to Oulu, Finland, outfit Onségen Enseble’s second album, Duel, is why it isn’t being released through Svart Records. It seems like such a natural fit, with the adventurous woodwinds on opener “Think Neither Good Nor Evil,” the meditative sprawl of the title-track (video posted here), the jazz-jam in the middle of “Dogma MMXVII,” the tribalist percussion anchoring the 12-minute “Three Calls of the Emperor’s Teacher,” which surely would otherwise float away under its own antigravity power, and the free-psych build of closer “Zodiacal Lights of Onségen,” which shimmers in otherworldly fashion and improvised-sounding spark. On Svart or not, Duel is one of the best albums I’ve heard this year, and one the creativity of which puts it in a class of its own, even in the vast reaches of psychedelic rock. Whether it means to or not, it tells a story with sound, and that story should be heard.

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Onsegen Ensemble on Bandcamp

 

The Heavy Eyes, Live in Memphis

the heavy eyes live in memphis

Since so much of The Heavy Eyes’ studio presentation has consistently been about crispness of sound and structured songwriting, it’s kind of a relief to hear them knock into some feedback at the start of “Mannish Boy” at the outset of Live in Memphis (on Kozmik Artifactz). The three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Tripp Shumake, bassist Wally Anderson and drummer Eric Garcia are still tight as hell, of course, and their material – drawn here from the band’s LPs, 2015’s He Dreams of Lions (review here), 2012’s Maera, 2011’s self-titled, as well as sundry shorter offerings – is likewise. They’ve never been an overly dangerous band, nor have they wanted to be, but the stage performance does add a bit of edge to “Iron Giants” from the debut, which is followed by singing “Happy Birthday” to a friend in the crowd. One of the most enjoyable aspects of Live in Memphis is hearing The Heavy Eyes loosen up a bit on stage, and hearing them sound like they’re having as good a time playing as the crowd is watching and hearing them do so. That sense of fun suits them well.

The Heavy Eyes on Thee Facebooks

The Heavy Eyes at Kozmik Artifactz

 

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Kurokuma Announce Eastern European Tour; New EP Dope Rider Due in August

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 29th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

kurokuma

Good word from the UK in that sludge rockers Kurokuma will release a new EP, titled Dope Rider, on vinyl in August through Doom Stew Records. The three-piece have a string of Eastern European tour dates booked in order to celebrate the impending two-songer, which is based around a comic series of the same name. They showed influences psychedelic and tribal on their prior outing, 2016’s Advorsus, which is streaming at the bottom of this post, and since that release, they’ve toured with the likes of ConanDVNE, among others. I wouldn’t necessarily predict how the new release will sound — and I can’t pretend not to have heard it while talking about it, because, hey, I actually haven’t heard it — but I wouldn’t be surprised if their road experience translates into an even broader scope.

We’ll find out when we get there, of course, but in the meantime, shows in Romania, Slovakia, Hungary, Poland, Germany, Lithuania and Latvia should bring them to the attention of that region’s passionate underground and help their cause generally. The extremity they brought to Advorsus was visceral in its three-track rollout, and as they center around a narrative structure, there’s an opportunity to bring new progressive sensibility to the proceedings.

So proceed. The following came in hot on the PR wire:

kurokuma eastern europe tour

Kurokuma Eastern Europe Tour 2018

UK psychedelic sludge band, Kurokuma slash their way through Eastern Europe this August, hitting up Rockstadt Festival in Romania and Brutal Assault in Czech Republic along the way. Playing alongside the likes of Obituary and Converge, this is their first time in mainland Europe. There will also be a performance at Berlin’s independent cinema, ZUKUNFT am Ostkreuz, in conjunction with a screening of The Doom Doc.

The tour is in support of their Dope Rider EP which comes out on vinyl, CD and cassette through San Fran’s Doom Stew Records in the same month. The EP contains two lengthy tracks in tribute to Dope Rider, a graphic fiction story originally printed in High Times starting in the 1970s. The release features artwork by the strip’s creator, Paul Kirchner; the vinyl version especially features a whole Dope Rider story on the insert. The EP was recorded at The Cro’s Nest by Slabdragger’s Sam Thredder and mastered at Skyhammer Studio by Chris Fielding.

4/8 Rockstadt – Brasov, Romania
5/8 Revolver Sound Studio – Budapest, Hungary
6/8 Garaze – Bratislava, Slovakia
7/8 Bar Pod Hodinam – Kolin, Czech Republic
8/8 Brutal Assault – Jaromer, Czech Republic
11/8 Zukunft am Ostkreuz – Berlin, Germany
12/8 Chmury – Warsaw, Poland
13/8 Carpenter Inn – Olsztyn, Poland
14/8 XI20 – Vilnius, Lithuania
15/8 Melno Cepurisu Balerija – Jelgava, Latvia

https://www.facebook.com/kurokumauk/
http://kurokumauk.bandcamp.com/
@kurokumauk
https://www.doomstew.com/

Kurokuma, Advorsus (2016)

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Vinnum Sabbathi to Begin UK Touring this Weekend

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 4th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

vinnum sabbathi

Mexican riffbringers Vinnum Sabbathi have been on the road in Europe since last month supporting their debut long-player, Gravity Works (review here), which was released earlier this year. The run, which wrapped up its continental portion on July 1, will pick up again this coming Friday at the warm-up party for the Bristol Psych Fest, and from there, Vinnum Sabbathi hit the road alongside Kurokuma — who’ve newly issued a Kraftwerk cover as a name-your-price download — for a stretch of dates across the UK that includes another free all-dayer in Kurokuma‘s native Sheffield and gigs in Coventry, Bath, Hull, Liverpool, Edinburgh, and so on.

It’s a solid stint to continue Vinnum Sabbathi‘s push for their awaited first full-length, and they’ll cap their time abroad on Aug. 12 with an appearance at SonicBlast Moledo in Portugal, which, frankly, is an awesome way to go out.

Dates, links and music follow here. Dig it:

vinnum-sabbathi-kurokuma tour

Vinnum Sabbathi / Kurokuma UK dates

ALL THE INFO ABOUT OUR UK TOUR IN JULY WITH:
Kurokuma / Cegvera / SODEN

July 07 Bristol Bristol Psych Fest WARM UP PARTY (Free Entry)
July 13 Edinburgh Vinnum Sabbathi / Kurokuma / Lucifers Corpus – Bannermans Bar
July 14 Hull HNC#50 Vinnum Sabbathi (Mexico) / Kurokuma / Battalions / Still
July 15 Dewsbury Vinnum Sabbathi/Kurokuma/Sick Tapestry/Gandalf The Green at The Old Turk
July 16 Liverpool KUROKUMA // VINNUM SABBATHI // PHULLOPIUM DUDE // MR TED
July 20 Coventry Vinnum Sabbathi / Kurokuma / Cegvera + MK1 Soundsystem
July 21 London Vinnum Sabbathi, Kurokuma, Cegvera, Doomicidal
July 22 Bath Vinnum Sabbathi, Kurokuma, Cegvera, Doomicidal
July 23 Sheffield Doomlines III – free doom/sludge/stoner all-dayer
July 28 Manchester Vinnum Sabbathi (Mexico) + special guests
July 29 Scunthorpe Vinnum Sabbathi (Mexico) + Guests

Vinnum Sabbathi:
Aug. 12 SonicBlast Moledo, Portugal

Vinnum Sabbathi is a space doom band from Mexico City founded in 2011 and formed by Alberto (guitar), Gerardo (drums), Samuel (bass) and Roman (live samples).

With influences like Ufomammut, YOB, Electric Wizard and 35007, the band mixes heavy riffs with scientific themes to bring loud and distorted sonic textures and energetic live performances; playing in venues all around Mexico with the Fume On Tour (2014), the Fuzzonaut Tour (2015) and the TerroNaut Tour (2016) along with bands like Terror Cosmico, Weedsnake and El Ahorcado.

Vinnum Sabbathi have just released Gravity Works to widespread acclaim.
https://vinnumsabbathi.bandcamp.com/album/gravity-works

Kurokuma have just released their cover of Kraftwerk’s “Radioactivity”.
https://kurokumauk.bandcamp.com/track/radioactivity-kraftwerk-cover

www.facebook.com/VinnumSabbathi/
https://vinnumsabbathi.bandcamp.com/
http://aimdownsightrecords.com/
https://lsdr.bandcamp.com/

www.facebook.com/kurokumauk
kurokumauk.bandcamp.com

Vinnum Sabbathi, Gravity Works (2017)

Kurokuma, “Radioactivity”

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