Quarterly Review: Lamp of the Universe Meets Dr. Space, Inter Arma, Sunnata, The Sonic Dawn, Rifflord, Mothman and the Thunderbirds, The Lunar Effect, Danava, Moonlit, Doom Lab

Posted in Reviews on May 24th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

The-Obelisk-Quarterly-Review

This is it. This one’s for all the marbles. Well, actually there are no marbles involved, but if you remember way back like two weeks ago when this started out, I told you the tale of a hubristic 40-something dickweed blogger who thought he could review 100 albums in 10 days, and assuming I make it through the below without having an aneurysm — because, hey, you never know — today I get to live that particular fairy tale.

If you’ve kept up, and I hope you have, thanks. If not, click here to see all the posts in this Quarterly Review. Either way, I appreciate your time.

Quarterly Review #91-100:

Lamp of the Universe Meets Dr. Space, Enters Your Somas

Lamp of the universe meets dr space Enter Your Somas

Who’s ready to get blasted out the airlock? New Zealand solo-outfit Lamp of the Universe, aka multi-instrumentalist Craig Williamson (also Dead Shrine, ex-Datura, etc.), and Portugal-residing synth master Dr. Space, aka Scott Heller of Øresund Space Collective, Black Moon Circle, and so on, come together to remind us all we’re nothing more than semi-sentient cosmic dust. Enters Your Somas is comprised of two extended pieces, “Enters Your Somas” (18:39) and “Infiltrates Your Mind” (19:07), and both resonate space/soul frequencies while each finds its own path. The title-track is more languid on average, where “Infiltrates Your Mind” reroutes auxiliary power to the percussive thrusters in its first half before drifting into drone communion and hearing a voice — vague, but definitely human speech — before surging back to its course via Williamson‘s drums, which play a large role in giving the material its shape. But with synthy sweeps from Heller, Mellotron and guitar coming and going, and a steady groove across both inclusions, Lamp of the Universe Meets Dr. Space offer galactic adventure limited only by where your imagination puts you while you listen.

Lamp of the Universe on Facebook

Dr. Space on Facebook

Sound Effect Records website

Inter Arma, New Heaven

inter arma new heaven

Richmond, Virginia’s Inter Arma had no small task before them in following 2019’s Sulphur English (review here), but from the tech-death boops and bops and twists of New Heaven‘s leadoff title-track through the gothic textures of “Gardens in the Dark,” self-aware without satire, slow-flowing and dramatic, this fifth full-length finds them continuing to expand their creative reach, and at this point, whatever genre you might want to cast them in, they stand out. To wit, the blackdeath onslaught of “Violet Seizures” that’s also space rock, backed in that by the subsequent “Desolation’s Harp” with its classically grandiose solo, or the post-doom lumber of “Concrete Cliffs” that calls out its expanse after the seven-minute drum-playthrough-fodder extremity of “The Children the Bombs Overlooked,” or the mournful march of “Endless Grey” and the acoustic-led Nick Cavey epilogue “Forest Service Road Blues.” Few bands embrace a full spectrum of metallic sounds without coming across as either disjointed or like they’re just mashing styles together for the hell of it. Inter Arma bleed purpose in every turn, and as they inch closer to their 20th year as a band, they are masters unto themselves of this form they’ve created.

Inter Arma on Facebook

Relapse Records website

Sunnata, Chasing Shadows

sunnata chasing shadows

The opening “Chimera” puts Chasing Shadows quickly into a ritualized mindset, all the more as Warsaw meditative doomers Sunnata lace it and a decent portion of their 11-track/62-minute fifth album with an arrangement of vocals from guitarists Szymon Ewertowski and Adrian Gadomski and bassist/synthesist Michal Dobrzanski as drummer/percussionist Robert Ruszczyk punctuates on snare as they head toward a culmination. Individual pieces have their own purposes, whether it’s the momentary float of “Torn” or the post-Alice in Chains harmonies offset by Twin Peaks-y creep in “Saviours Raft,” or the way “Hunger” gradually moves from light to dark with rolling immersion, or the dancier feel with which “Like Cogs in a Wheel” gives an instrumental finish. It’s not a minor undertaking and it’s not meant to be one, but mood and atmosphere do a lot of work in uniting the songs, and the low-in-the-mouth vocal melodies become a part of that as the record unfolds. Their range has never felt broader, but there’s a plot being followed as well, an idea behind each turn in “Wishbone” and the sprawl is justified by the dug-in worldmaking taking place across the whole-LP progression, darkly psychedelic and engrossing as it is.

Sunnata on Facebook

Sunnata on Bandcamp

The Sonic Dawn, Phantom

The Sonic Dawn Phantom

Among the most vital classic elements of The Sonic Dawn‘s style is their ability to take spacious ideas and encapsulate them with a pop efficiency that doesn’t feel dumbed down. That is to say, they’re not capitulating to fickle attention spans with short songs so much as they’re able to get in, say what they want to say with a given track, and get out. Phantom is their fifth album, and while the title may allude to a certain ghostliness coinciding with the melancholy vibe overarching through the bulk of its component material, the Copenhagen-based trio are mature enough at this stage to know what they’re about. And while Phantom has its urgent stretches in the early going of “Iron Bird” or the rousing “Think it Over,” the handclap-laced “Pan AM,” and the solo-topped apex of “Micro Cosmos in a Drop,” most of what they’re about here harnesses a mellower atmosphere. It doesn’t need to hurry, baby. Isn’t there enough rush in life with all these “21st Century Blues?” With no lack of movement throughout, some of The Sonic Dawn‘s finest stretches here are in low-key interpretations of funk (“Dreams of Change,” “Think it Over,” “Transatlantique,” etc.) or prog-boogie (“Scorpio,” “Nothing Can Live Here” before the noisier crescendo) drawn together by organ, subdued, thoughtful vocal melodies and craft to suit the organic production. This isn’t the first The Sonic Dawn LP to benefit from the band knowing who they are as a group, but golly it sure is stronger for that.

The Sonic Dawn on Facebook

Heavy Psych Sounds website

Rifflord, 39 Serpent Power

RIFFLORD 39 Serpent Power

It’s not until the hook of second cut “Ohm Ripper” hits that Rifflord let go of the tension built up through the opening semi-title-track “Serpent Power,” which in its thickened thrashy charge feels like a specific callout to High on Fire but as I understand it is just about doing hard drugs. Fair enough. The South Dakota-based five-piece of bassist/vocalist Wyatt Bronc Bartlett, guitarists Samuel Hayes and Dustin Vano, keyboardist Tory Jean Stoddard and drummer Douglas Jennings Barrett will echo that intensity later in “Church Keys” and “Tumbleweed,” but that’s still only one place the 38-minute eight-track LP goes, and whether it’s the vocals calling out through the largesse and breadth of “Blessed Life” or the ensuing crush that follows in “LM308,” the addled Alice in Chains swagger in the lumber of “Grim Creeper” or the righteously catchy bombast of “Hoof,” they reach further than they ever have in terms of sound and remain coherent despite the inherently chaotic nature of their purported theme, the sheer heft of the tonality wielded and the fact that 39 Serpent Power has apparently been waiting some number of years to see release. Worth the wait? Shit, I’m surprised the album didn’t put itself out, it sounds so ready to go.

Rifflord on Facebook

Ripple Music website

Mothman and the Thunderbirds, Portal Hopper

Mothman and the Thunderbirds Portal Hopper

At the core of Mothman and the Thunderbirds is multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Alex Parkinson, and on the band’s second album, Portal Hopper, he’s not completely on his own — Egor Lappo programmed the drums, mixed, and plays a guitar solo on “Fractals,” Joe Sobieski guests on vocals for a couple tracks, Sam Parkinson donates a pair of solos to the cause — but it’s still very much his telling of the charmingly meandering sci-fi/fantasy plot taking place across the 12 included progressive metal mini-epics, which he presents with an energy and clarity of purpose that for sure graduated from Devin Townsend‘s school of making a song with 40 layers sound immediate but pulls as well from psychedelia and pop-punk vocals for an all the more emphatic scope. This backdrop lets “Fractals” get funky or “Escape From Flatwoods” hold its metallic chicanery with its soaring melody while “Squonk Kingdom” is duly over-the-top in its second-half chase soon enough fleshed out by “So Long (Portal Hopper)” ahead of the lightly-plucked finale “Attic.” The specificity of influence throughout Portal Hopper can be striking as clean/harsh vocals blend, etc., but given the narrative and the relative brevity of the songs complementing the whims explored within them, there’s no lack of character in the album’s oft-careening 38-minute course.

Mothman and the Thunderbirds on Instagram

Mothman and the Thunderbirds on Bandcamp

The Lunar Effect, Sounds of Green and Blue

The Lunar Effect Sounds of Green & Blue

Given its pro-shop nature in production and performance, the ability of The Lunar Effect to grasp a heavy blues sound as part of what they do while avoiding either the trap of hyper-dudely navelgazing or cultural appropriation — no minor feat — and the fluidity of one piece into the next across the 40-minute LP’s two sides, I’m a little surprised not to have been sick of the band’s second album, Sounds of Green and Blue before I put it on. Maybe since it’s on Svart everyone just assumed it’s Finnish experimentalist drone? Maybe everybody’s burnt out on a seemingly endless stream of bands from London’s underground? I don’t know, but by the time The Lunar Effect make their way to the piano-laden centerpiece “Middle of the End” — expanding on the unhurried mood of “In Grey,” preceding the heavy blues return of “Pulling Daisies” at the start of side B that mirrors album opener “Ocean Queen” and explodes into a roll that feels like it was made to be the best thing you play at your DJ night — that confusion is a defining aspect of the listening experience. “Fear Before the Fall” picks on Beethoven, for crying out loud. High class and low groove. Believe me, I know there’s a lot of good stuff out already in 2024, but what the hell more could you want? Where is everybody?

The Lunar Effect on Facebook

Svart Records website

Danava, Live

danava live

Even if I were generally inclined to do so — read: I’m not — it would be hard to begrudge Portland heavy rock institution Danava wanting to do a live record after their 2023’s Nothing But Nothing (review here) found them in such raucous form. But the aptly-titled Live is more than just a post-studio-LP check-in to remind you they kick ass on stage, as side A’s space, classic, boogie, heavy rocking “Introduction/Spinning Temple” and “Maudie Shook” were recorded in 2008, while the four cuts on side B — “Shoot Straight with a Crooked Gun,” “Nothing but Nothing,” “Longdance,” “Let the Good Times Kill” and “Last Goodbye” — came from the European tour undertaken in Fall 2023 to support Nothing But Nothing. Is the underlying message that Danava are still rad 15 years later? Maybe. That certainly comes through by the time the solo in “Shoot Straight with a Crooked Gun” hits, but that also feels like reading too much into it. Maybe it’s just about representing different sides of who Danava are, and if so, fine. Then or now, psych or proto-thrashing, they lay waste.

Danava on Instagram

Heavy Psych Sounds website

Moonlit, Be Not Afraid

moonlit be not afraid

A free three-songer from Varese, Italy’s Moonlit, Be Not Afraid welcomes the listener to “Death to the World” with (presumably sampled) chanting before unfurling a loose, somewhat morose-feeling nighttime-desert psych sway before “Fort Rachiffe” howls tonally across its own four minutes in more heavy post-rock style, still languid in tempo but encompassing in its wash and the amp-hum-and-percussion blend on the shorter “Le Conseguenze Della Libertà” (1:57) gives yet another look, albeit briefly. In about 11 minutes, Moonlit — whose last studio offering was 2021’s So Bless Us Now (review here) — never quite occupy the same space twice, and despite the compact presentation, the range from mid-period-QOTSA-gone-shoegaze (plus chanting! don’t forget the chanting!) to the hypnotic Isis-doing-space-push that follows with the closer as a but-wait-there’s-more/not-just-an-afterthought epilogue is palpable. I don’t know when or how Be Not Afraid was recorded, whether it’s portentous of anything other than itself or what, but there’s a lot happening under its surface, and while you can’t beat the price, don’t be surprised if you end up throwing a couple bucks Moonlit‘s way anyhow.

Moonlit on Instagram

Moonlit on Bandcamp

Doom Lab, Northern Lights

Doom Lab Northern Lights

Much of Northern Lights is instrumental, but whether or not Leo Scheben is barking out the endtimes storyline of “Darkhammer” — stylized all-caps in the tracklisting — or “Night Terrors,” or just digging into a 24-second progression of lo-fi riffing of “Paranoid Isolation” and the Casio-type beats that back his guitar there and across the project’s 16-track latest offering, the reminder Doom Lab give is that the need to create takes many forms. From the winding scales of “Locrian’s Run” to “Twisted Logic” with its plotted solo lines, pieces are often just that — pieces of what might otherwise be a fleshed-out song — and Doom Lab‘s experimentalism feels paramount in terms of aural priorities. Impulse in excelsis. It might be for the best that the back-to-back pair “Nice ‘n’ Curvy” and “Let ’em Bounce” are both instrumental, but as madcap as Scheben is, he’s able to bring Northern Lights to a close with resonant homage in its title-track, and cuts like “Too Much Sauce on New Year’s Eve” and “Dark Matter” are emblematic of his open-minded approach overall, working in different styles sometimes united most by their rawness and uncompromising persona. This is number 100 of 100 records covered in this Quarterly Review, and nothing included up to now sounds like Doom Lab. A total win for radical individualism.

Doom Lab on YouTube

Doom Lab on Bandcamp

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Rifflord Sign to Ripple Music; New Album Due in June

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 2nd, 2024 by JJ Koczan

Sioux Falls, South Dakota, conjurors of tonal warmth Rifflord will release their new album through Ripple Music reportedly this June. The band and label both took to socials to make it official, with Ripple and Rifflord both noting the release month and the band even giving a hint as to the title in their all-caps declaration that “serpent power rides.” Fair enough. Their last record was 2018’s 7 Cremation Ground / Meditation (review here), so if they were to opt for something less opaque as regards a title, they’d probably be well within their rights.

Whatever it’s called by the time it gets released, just give me the thing. While their moniker sells them short in highlighting only their lordliness as regards riffing, I’d add to the list melody, groove and songcraft, though admittedly that makes an awkward thing to call your band and Rifflord rolls off the tongue in a way that Riffsplussongsandgrooveandmelody could never hope to do.

But June will come. I’m gonna keep my fingers crossed Rifflord make an appearance at this year’s Desertfest New York, but I haven’t heard anything in that regard. Just wishful thinking. And I’ll follow-up with more on what will be Rifflord‘s third full-length when I’ve got it. For now, here’s a start:

rifflord ripple music

How much goodness can you take in one day? How about this one. Been keeping this under wraps for a while but now it’s time to bust it open. Please welcome the monsters of heavy, RIFFLORD to the Ripple family. Brand new album coming this June!!

Says Rifflord: “We are ecstatic to announce that we have signed to @ripplemusic for our long awaited upcoming album to be released! Thank you all for the support and following us on this journey! This June SERPENT POWER RIDES!”

Photo by @brody_bb

https://www.facebook.com/rifflordusa/
https://www.instagram.com/rifflord/
https://rifflord.com/
https://linktr.ee/RIFFLORD

https://www.facebook.com/theripplemusic/
https://www.instagram.com/ripplemusic/
https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/
http://www.ripple-music.com/

Rifflord, 7 Cremation Ground / Meditation (2018)

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Rifflord: 26 Mean and Heavy Remaster Preorders Go Live Tomorrow

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 6th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

rifflord preorders

Even as Rifflord made a triumphant debut on STB Records last year with their 7 Cremation Ground / Meditation LP (review here), the band not only acknowledged it had been a long time since their debut — as evidenced as well by the fact that it was a totally different lineup around founding guitarist/vocalist Wyatt Bronc Bartlett — but that the first record was a hell of a legacy to live up to. Well, 26 Mean and Heavy is out there if you want to and can afford to chase it down, but STB Records is standing behind a one-time reissue of the album with preorders going up tomorrow and that seems to me to be a much more convenient option on the whole. The imprint based in my beloved Garden State has a knack for turning on-sale dates into events, and this one, it would seem, is no exception. Hey, good record, new master. I get it.

I was asked to write the PR for it, and yeah, I did. You’ll find that press release I wrote, some exclusive Rifflord pics from the era courtesy of the band, and a teaser video below:

RIFFLORD – 26 Mean & Heavy Preorders On Sale Dec. 7 @ 12PM EST

Mark your calendar, set your alarm — do whatever you have to do to be ready for Dec. 7 at 12PM EST, because once these are gone, they’re gone. New Jersey-based STB Records and Sioux Falls, South Dakota, amplifier worshipers Rifflord have aligned to remaster and reissue a one-time-only vinyl pressing of the band’s 2010 debut album, 26 Mean and Heavy.

And they mean it. It’s happening once.

Preorder here: https://smarturl.it/26-mean-and-heavy

Founding guitarist/vocalist Wyatt Bronc Bartlett brought in Mike Dresch of Cathouse Studios on the new master, and those who’ve tried for years to chase down original copies of 26 Mean and Heavy will find the sound refreshed and all the more vibrant in its delivery of weighted Southern-style groove, classic in form and gorgeous in its purpose.

“What’s interesting about this remaster is that the original audio files were a mix that wasn’t released on vinyl or digitally,” informs Bartlett. “It was supposed to be released and our guitarist and founding member Tom Davoux did a last-minute remix and master to it. So these haven’t been heard. Vocals and instruments are leveled out differently throughout the album. We had it remastered by Mike Dresch of Cathouse Studios specifically for vinyl.”

STB’s vinyl treatments have become the stuff of legend, and 26 Mean and Heavy will be given a full multi-edition run:

Die Hard Edition –
Limited Edition of 75 Units
Opaque Gold Vinyl
Remastered, Repackaged and comes with Chapter 1 of the RIFFLORD Story in book form.

Pinwheel Edition –
Limited Edition of 100
Black and Gold pinwheel style vinyl variant.
Remastered, Repackaged and comes with Chapter 1 of the RIFFLORD Story in book form.

Not So Standard Edition –
Limited Edition – 125
Black and Gold vinyl swirl variant
Remastered, Repackaged and comes with Chapter 1 of the RIFFLORD Story in book form.
25 Will be available via Kozmik Artifactz and 25 will be available via All That Is Heavy

As to the Rifflord story, Bartlett doesn’t give away too many details, but admits, “As people we were young, naive and pretty wild during this era. It was the Salad Days of RIFFLORD and I feel that rawness and sincerity really comes through on this record. It was recorded in a basement and took us over a year to record and mix it with primitive tools.

“The band has changed a lot over the years and continues to do so. The core idea though has always remained the same. Guitar worship, big amps, heavy organ and loud drums. We’ve been at this since 2007. On “26 mean and heavy” we had a truly special line up. Dan Nissen our drummer was a power house behind the kit and his brother Mike Nissen was a classically trained pianist on the organ. Dave Duffet was our bassist with somewhat of a legendary persona among the Midwest circle. Lastly Tom Davoux was the guitarist, producer, mixer and tracker of the album, truly a phenom.”

Rifflord followed 26 Mean and Heavy with the long-awaited 7 Cremation Ground / Meditation in 2018 (also on STB Records), but their debut has remained a sought-after piece for collectors and fans of righteous fuzz alike. With the album about to hit 10 years since its first release, this may be the last chance to get it, and rest assured, they’ll go in no time.

Dec. 7. Noon EST.

Rifflord is now:
Lead Guitar and Vocals: Wyatt Bronc Bartlett
Guitar: Paul Pinos
Bass: Matthew Mcfarland
Keys: Tory Jean Stoddard
Drums: Tommy Middlen

https://www.facebook.com/rifflordusa/
https://www.instagram.com/rifflord/
https://rifflord.com/
https://www.facebook.com/STB-Records-471228012921184/
https://www.instagram.com/stbrecords/
https://stbrecords.bandcamp.com/
https://stbrecords.bigcartel.com/

Rifflord, 26 Mean and Heavy reissue teaser

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Rifflord Release 7 Cremation Ground / Meditation on CD Through Salt of the Earth Records

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 19th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

rifflord

Just a quick plug here for a cool band doing good stuff. Rifflord from South Dakota released their second album, 7 Cremation Ground / Meditation (review here), on vinyl this month through STB Records, and they’ve also signed to Salt of the Earth Records for the CD issue, which, as it happens, is also out now. Nothing like efficiency. If you’re really the pick-your-media or the gotta-catch-’em-all type, there are also tapes available from Tescio Dischi in ultra-limited fashion, the deluxe edition long since gone. But for those of us who enjoy a straightforward piece of plastic, there’s still nothing quite like a compact disc to get the job done, and as I know I’m not the only loyalist to the format — nothing against vinyl — I figured it was worth sharing the news.

You’ll note Salt of the Earth says below that it’s signed the band. I’m not sure if that means for future releases as well, but I guess we’ll find out. Either way, good record, good fit, so all the better. From the PR wire:

rifflord salt of the earth

SALT OF THE EARTH RECORDS is proud as all hell to announce the signing of the mighty RIFFLORD.

In an unholy alliance between STB Records and Salt Of The Earth Records,

RIFFLORD “7 Cremation Ground / Meditation” is now available in all glorious formats. So twist a fatty… and burn, burn, burn!

And do you know what makes this announcement all the sweeter?!

The RIFFLORD “7 Cremation Ground / Meditation” cds are in stock NOW!!

No wait.

We are psyched to be offering up RIFFLORDs brand new collection of heavy ass tunes on Compact Disc… thus making it very easy to blast RIFFLORD “7 Cremation Ground / Meditation“ very loudly in Vans, Camaros, El Caminos and in most underground lairs.

Seriously though, you HAVE to check this RIFFLORD album out, it’s a collection of songs that are very easy to lose yourself in…This is one hell of an infectious album.

Rifflord is:
Lead Guitar and Vocals: Wyatt Bronc Bartlett
Guitar: Paul Pinos
Bass: Matthew Mcfarland
Keys: Tory Jean Stoddard
Drums: Tommy Middlen

https://www.facebook.com/rifflordusa/
https://www.instagram.com/rifflord/
https://rifflord.com/
www.facebook.com/SaltOfTheEarthRec
www.saltoftheearthrecords.com
http://stbrecords.bigcartel.com/
https://www.facebook.com/STB-Records-471228012921184/
https://teschiodischi.bandcamp.com/

Rifflord, “The Other Side” official video

Rifflord, 7 Cremation Ground / Meditation (2018)

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Rifflord Premiere “The Other Side” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on November 27th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

rifflord

Playing before a monolithic wall of citrus-hued amps and cabinets, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, five-piece Rifflord give a taste of their tonal-worship vibes and catchy songcraft in their new video for “The Other Side,” an early cut from their forthcoming second album, 7 Cremation Chant / Meditation, which is no less at home tapping into David Eugene Edwards-style Americana than it is digging into High on Fire gallop or Electric Wizard riffing with Fu Manchu-esque vocals. By the time “Seven” has made its way into “Dead Flower Child” — note the veer into Sabbath‘s “Hand of Doom” in the latter — and “The Other Side” itself, there’s no question why STB Records would pick them up for the vinyl. Shit, somebody was bound to do it.

Rifflord work quickly across the album, almost deceptively so. To wit, “The Other Side” is one of only three out of the total 13 tracks to top four minutes in runtime, and other pieces like the 2:16 “BB Gun” is a sharp boogie that takes the murderousness out of its Rifflord 7 Cremation Ground-Meditationunderlying prairie feel, while “Lucid Trip” brings together acoustic guitar and underlying keyboard/voice drones that lead into the charging second half of the album with the immediacy of “Poison Mother,” a vocal change bringing keyboardist Tory Jean Stoddard into the foreground with guitarist Wyatt Bronc Bartlett stepping back after the more aggro chug of album centerpiece “Transcendental Medication.” Momentum is swiftly built and rigorously maintained throughout, but the songs themselves don’t feel rushed in either their composition or delivery. The keys help flesh out the melodic presence of the vocals and Bartlett and Paul Pinos‘ guitars, while bassist Matthew Mcfarland and drummer Tommy Middlen carry through the molasses-thick tones with a sense of movement that continues even into the lumbering “Electric Grave” — as opposed to, yes, an “Electric Funeral” — or the aptly-named “The Riffman Cometh,” which is a cold-ending celebration of all things heavy rock, doom and otherwise Iommic.

The blend of Western and heavy principles on “Dead Flower Child” or “Coyote Fodder” and “Holy Roller” early on adds depth to the personality of 7 Cremation Chant / Meditation — the number in the title is still something of a mystery and I suspect that’s intentional — and as the closing pair of “Hou Dou Vou Dou” and “Thunder Rider” present the record’s most fervent boogie and a corresponding shove to respond to that of “Transcendental Medication” earlier, the variety in Rifflord‘s songwriting would seem to undercut their moniker. That is, they’re by no means simply a “riff band.” Certainly riffs are a factor, but the roles they play throughout the material run in different if still cohesive directions, and the organ and other key sounds throughout come off as no less of a focus. ‘Keylord’ or ‘Choruslord’ wouldn’t necessarily make for a great band name, but the point is don’t go into “The Other Side” thinking it’s just about the riffs, because there’s a lot more to Rifflord, and a lot more to 7 Cremation Chant / Meditation, than might at first be implied.

PR wire with vinyl info, preorder link, etc., follows the video below.

Please enjoy:

Rifflord, “The Other Side” official video premiere

Battle-scarred heavy rockers RIFFLORD are set to release their second album, 7 Cremation Ground / Meditation, via STB Records in the coming weeks. This follow-up to their self-released 2010 debut 26 Mean and Heavy is the product of mushroom-induced brawls, dashed expectations, and a band that’s coming back stronger than it ever was before.

RIFFLORD was founded in 2007 by vocalist/guitarist Wyatt Bronc Bartlett and guitarist Tom Davoux after discovering a love affair the two had with vintage tube amps, Hammond organs, and tinnitus-inducing volume. Today RIFFLORD is based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, reanimated by Bronc and a wall of Orange amps. Bronc says of the band’s music and journey:

Some things are the result of calculated decision making. Other things drag you face down through the dirt by virtue of their own momenta. RIFFLORD, for me, has been a combination of both. The album […] is a visceral product of struggle, mottled with the fingerprints of both terrible and glorious human beings. It is the sound of countless trips across rural South Dakota and hours of refinement in one studio session after another. The album was mixed five separate times, and remastered three. It is the true and living testament of the Riff. Thank you for waiting.

7 Cremation Ground / Meditation will be released digitally on November 27th, 2018 with a variety of personalized vinyl options coming out on December 1st.

https://stbrecords.bandcamp.com/album/7-cremation-ground-meditation

Vinyl Pressing Information
-Test Press: Limited to 15. Comes with a Handmade leather LP jacket hand whip stitched and branded by Wyatt Bronc Bartlett of RIFFLORD
-Die Hard Edition: Limited to 100 units on black smoke and transparent brown vinyl comes with a special high-density high-quality LP jacket that is foil stamped with “die hard edition” as well as some other foil stamping and Spot UV upgrades on the jacket. Each die hard edition also comes with Special edition band specific tarot cards exclusive only to the die hard pressing. Exclusive booklet with “The Story Of Rifflord” and Picture outtakes.
-OBI Series: Limited to 100 units hand numbered alternate art work spine wrapped OBI strip. Vinyl is a clear base with silver center and brown and white splatter. Jacket comes with floor UV effects.
-Not So Standard Edition: Limited to 150 units on white and brown swirl. Jacket comes with floor UV effects.
-Band Edition / Distro: Limited to 150 Units on Cloudy White vinyl. Jacket comes with floor UV effects.

Rifflord is:
Lead Guitar and Vocals: Wyatt Bronc Bartlett
Guitar: Paul Pinos
Bass: Matthew Mcfarland
Keys: Tory Jean Stoddard
Drums: Tommy Middlen

Rifflord on Thee Facebooks

Rifflord on Instagram

Rifflord website

STB Records BigCartel store

STB Records on Thee Facebooks

Salt of the Earth Records website

Salt of the Earth Records on Bandcamp

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Rifflord to Release 7 Cremation Ground / Meditation Dec. 1 on STB Records

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 6th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

rifflord

I was trying to think about why South Dakota’s Rifflord might have such a thing for numbers in their titles. Their 2015 debut was 26 Mean and Heavy, and 26 is two times 13, a number with a long connection to weed culture, ‘m’ being the 13th letter of the alphabet, etc. So either they’re twice stoned or they’re doubling down on their dedication. Maybe it works out to be the same. Their new album, which will be released on Dec. 1 through respected purveyor STB Records, is 7 Cremation Ground / Meditation, is a little harder to figure out. Seven is a prime number, which in itself is something special, and the band was founded in 2007, but if there’s some mysticism at work, it’s too obscure for my unresearching ass.

Either way, the band’s focus seems way more on gear, so maybe that’s how many tubes they blew out while recording. Whatever the motivation, I doubt much of anything will distract them from their main riffy purposes, so while it might be a point of curiosity, it’s ultimately tertiary to the album itself, which is fuzzed to the hilt and rolling forth with a digital release later this month.

The PR wire has details:

Rifflord-7-Cremation-Ground-Meditation

RIFFLORD – 7 Cremation Ground / Meditation – STB Records

1 December 2018

Battle-scarred stoner rockers RIFFLORD are set to release their second album, 7 Cremation Ground / Meditation, via STB Records in the coming weeks. This follow-up to their self-released 2010 debut 26 Mean and Heavy is the product of mushroom-induced brawls, dashed expectations, and a band that’s coming back stronger than it ever was before.

RIFFLORD was founded in 2007 by vocalist and guitarist Wyatt Bronc Bartlett and his friend Mike Hutchins, known as “Hutch” in the band’s lore, after they accidentally snorted meth at a basement party. Over the course of a decade, the band’s location, priorities, and lineup changed many times. One thing, however, remained constant: the love of the all mighty RIFF.

Today RIFFLORD is based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, reanimated by Bronc and a wall of Orange amps. Bronc says of the band’s music and journey:

Some things are the result of calculated decision making. Other things drag you face down through the dirt by virtue of their own momenta. RIFFLORD, for me, has been a combination of both. The album 7 Cremation Ground / Meditation is a visceral product of struggle, mottled with the fingerprints of both terrible and glorious human beings. It is the sound of countless trips across rural South Dakota and hours of refinement in one studio session after another. The album was mixed five separate times, and remastered three. It is the true and living testament of the Riff. Thank you for waiting.

7 Cremation Ground / Meditation will be released digitally on November 27th, 2018 with a variety of personalized vinyl options coming out on December 1st.

Vinyl Pressing Information

Test Press: Limited to 15. Comes with a Handmade leather LP jacket hand whip stitched and branded by Wyatt Bronc Bartlett of RIFFLORD

Die Hard Edition: Limited to 100 units on black smoke and transparent brown vinyl comes with a special high-density high-quality LP jacket that is foil stamped with “die hard edition” as well as some other foil stamping and Spot UV upgrades on the jacket. Each die hard edition also comes with Special edition band specific tarot cards exclusive only to the die hard pressing. Exclusive booklet with “The Story Of Rifflord” and Picture outtakes.

OBI Series: Limited to 100 units hand numbered alternate art work spine wrapped OBI strip. Vinyl is a clear base with silver center and brown and white splatter. Jacket comes with floor UV effects.

Not So Standard Edition: Limited to 150 units on white and brown swirl. Jacket comes with floor UV effects.

Band Edition / Distro: Limited to 150 Units on Cloudy White vinyl. Jacket comes with floor UV effects.

Band Members
Lead Guitar and Vocals: Wyatt Bronc Bartlett
Guitar: Paul Pinos
Bass: Matthew Mcfarland
Keys: Tory Jean Stoddard
Drums: Tommy Middlen

https://www.facebook.com/rifflordusa/
https://www.instagram.com/rifflord/
https://rifflord.com/
http://stbrecords.bigcartel.com/
https://www.facebook.com/STB-Records-471228012921184/

Rifflord, 26 Mean & Heavy (2015)

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T.G. Olson, Foothills Before the Mountain: Streams of Life Below

Posted in Reviews on April 12th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

tg-olson-foothills-before-the-mountain

The latest in a long string of solo full-lengths from founding Across Tundras guitarist/vocalist T.G. OlsonFoothills Before the Mountain nonetheless represents a landmark in the prolific South Dakota-based songwriter’s steadily-expanding catalog. Where recent outings like 2016’s La Violenza Naturale (review here), From the Rocky Peaks b/w Servant to Blues single (discussed here) and The Broken End of the Deal (review here) and Quicksilver Sound (discussed here) long-players found Olson — who indeed works alone on most of these offerings, playing any and all instruments and recording and releasing DIY as he does here — dug into drone-folk meditations, working to bring together acoustic country blues authenticity and a pervasive experimentalism of form, Foothills Before the Mountain leans decidedly in a different direction.

In some cases, with a song like new-album centerpiece “Dust on the Wayside,” the change is mainly the inclusion of louder and distorted electric guitar and drums laid on top of a similar acoustic foundation, but from the opening title-track onward, Olson seems willing to shirk off minimalism in a way that feels like a significant shift, bringing in flourish of keys, flute, percussion, etc., in mindful arrangements or even just working to play the acoustic and electric guitar off each other more directly, as in “Dying on the Silver Screen,” the second track. Songs vary in structure and overall feel, some darker, some brighter, but all are marked by a production that, while raw, allows for depth enough to mostly bury the vocals in the mix, and all carry the rhythmic ramble and sway that has become perhaps the defining hallmark of Olson‘s songwriting style — or certainly wound up no less so than his Dylanesque approach to singing.

Already noted, the placement of Olson‘s vocals in the mix throughout these tracks — low, always under the guitar, usually coated in reverb; somewhat obscured by the surrounding instrumentation — comes across as entirely purposeful. So much so that as the somewhat intense guitar line of “Foothills Before the Mountain” gives way to the roll of “Dying on the Silver Screen,” which is probably as close as Olson has come in a solo context to sounding like his main outfit, and the drearier march of “No More Debts to Pay,” which is the longest cut on Foothills Before the Mountain at 5:38, one can’t help but wonder if the music itself isn’t intended as an aural representation of landscape. That is, if the fullness of sound around him isn’t the mountain and his own presence is at the foothills, lower, looking up, the way his vocals seem to be echoing to the higher altitude of the guitar laid over.

This impression holds through the moody “A Stones Throw,” and while even at their barest, Olson‘s songs always carry a sense of space with them, that space has yet to spread as wide as it does on Foothills Before the Mountain, and if the tracks are meant to tie together in this way, the theme of being made small by surrounding nature would fit not only with the starkness of the prairie that Olson calls home but also his long-running allegiance to conveying a sense of place in both his solo material and with Across Tundras, the post-Earth Americana rumble of “A Stones Throw” only providing further evidence of intent as it distant-thunder-rumbles some impending threat into “Dust on the Wayside” as the gateway to the record’s second half.

t.g. olson

The winding guitar line of the aforementioned centerpiece feels like a moment of arrival, with a steady build of guitar and handclap-easy punctuation of drums behind, but “simplicity” has proven to be a point of deception for Olson before and it is here again, as neither the elements at use nor their arrangement in the mix are at all haphazard or lacking consciousness behind them. Foothills Before the Mountain, while still sounding as organic as anything Olson has done as a solo artist in the last several years, brings forth an entirely different level of purpose in his songwriting.

I don’t think that’s overstating it, since the shift is one from doing the work of a one-man outfit to basically doing the work of a band. It’s a new mindset. The backing flute in “Leader of the New Death” might be an echo of the opening title cut, but the guitar, drums, drones, vocals and other elements at play around it seem geared toward conveying plurality, and likewise the rhythmic pickup of “What’s Mine,” which pushes the guitar even farther forward in an almost teasing verse progression, slow winding but over a straight-ahead percussive march. Olson‘s in there, a human presence in this wide-cast reach, but perhaps at his most vague, and the contrast between his obscurity and the clarity of definition in the acoustic and electric guitar, the bass and the drums is yet another example of the atmospheric crux of Foothills Before the Mountain: the evocation of landscape through soundscape and exploring where a person fits in that.

The Rocky Mountains are a humbling sight, to put it lightly, and with those foothills in mind it’s maybe not wrong to think of Olson as humbling himself before them in “What’s Mine,” ironic as that might make the title, but either way, the overarching impression of humanity as a small thing and nature as a big thing is the core of what the record presents conceptually, and it remains vigilant as side B heads toward its finale with “From Where You Came” and “Cut Losses.” The latter, the closer, is the shortest inclusion at 4:21 and it follows a tempo kick in “From Where You Came,” which boasts more stomp than just about anything before it, marked by an echoing snare, howling lead line and crisp strum. Also speedier than “What’s Mine” or “Leader of the new Death,” “Cut Losses” closes out instrumentally and comes fairly close to a genuine wash between its low and high ends, a current of drone playing out beneath energetic guitars and far-back percussion, tonal fuzz and acoustics melding together one last time against a backdrop of ghostly noise, culminating in a decisive but not necessarily cold finish.

When Olson first posted Foothills Before the Mountain — which, like all his releases, is available name-your-price from the Across Tundras and T.G. Olson combined Bandcamp page — I speculated that perhaps the fuller sound was itself the foothills and the mountain before it/them was the prospect of a new album from Across Tundras, whose last long-player, Electric Relics (review here), came out four years ago. Having dug further into Foothills Before the Mountain, I’m not sure I still feel that way. It’s certainly not impossible that’s Olson‘s intent, that this record should be a transition back into actually functioning as part of a complete-band lineup, but it seems more likely that the mountain in question here is creativity itself, and that, like all works in one way or another, these songs are telling the story of their own making even as their execution expands and in some ways redefines the scope of their creator’s aesthetic. I won’t guess at what Olson will do next, as to do so would simply be an opportunity to be wrong, but as much development as he’s shown as a singer-songwriter over the last several years, Foothills Before the Mountain feels like a crucial forward step for and from him, and whatever it leads to can only benefit from the lessons to be gleaned in its tracks.

T.G. Olson, Foothills Before the Mountain (2017)

Across Tundras on Thee Facebooks

Across Tundras/T.G. Olson on Bandcamp

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T.G. Olson Releases New Album Foothills Before the Mountain

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 22nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

T.G. Olson of Across Tundras steps away from the acoustic drone folk of his recent solo work with his latest album, Foothills Before the Mountain, and it doesn’t take long for one to notice the change. In addition to layers of acoustic and electric guitar, flutes, organ, vocals, tambourine, and so on, the opening title-track has a rhythmic heft and — wait for it — drums! It’s much more of a full-band vibe this time out, and it may indeed be that the mountain whose foothills we’re standing in is the much-awaited next offering from Across Tundras. If that’s the case, Olson is effectively drawing the line sonically in that direction here, as cuts like “Dying on the Silver Screen” and “What’s Mine” have that inimitable combination of swing and Americana ramble that has become the hallmark of Across Tundras‘ style.

I’m going to review the Foothills Before the Mountain hopefully sometime in the next couple weeks, so I won’t say much more about it than that for now. Olson, however, was kind enough to offer some comment on its making, and as ever, the album’s been released as a name-your-price download on the Across Tundras/T.G. Olson Bandcamp, and you can stream it and get the files at the bottom of this post.

Dig it:

tg-olson-foothills-before-the-mountain

T.G. Olson – Foothills Before the Mountain

New album of heavy sounds available for free/name your price download!

Played, recorded, and mixed by T.G. Olson in the months of December 2016 through March 2017. All instrumentation played by T.G. Olson.

Tanner Olson on Foothills Before the Mountain:

After finishing La Violenza Naturale and really all the recent solo albums which leaned towards the lighter folk/country side and followed a similar formula, I just knew wanted to do something drastically different. I actually wrote these songs and recorded the basic structure on organ first… which I had never done before. I had no idea what they would turn into from the outset. As I started recording and building the tracks the sound took shape and it was somewhere in between Across Tundras and T.G. Olson along with weird ’90s and other random influences. It’s a bit different than previous albums… but what the hell, Across Tundras and my solo stuff are all over the place musically as is… so I guess it keeps up with that unpredictable and changing nature.

I also thought it would be a good little tide over until the new Across Tundras album finally sees the light of day, which will hopefully be later this year. The songs are written and demoed, just waiting for everyone involved who are currently scattered around the country to come together and start playing again!

Tracklisting:
1. Foothills Before the Mountain 04:47
2. Dying on the Silver Screen 04:53
3. No More Debts to Pay 05:37
4. A Stones Throw 05:01
5. Dust on the Wayside 05:02
6. Leader of the New Death 05:02
7. What’s Mine 04:43
8. From Where You Came 04:55
9. Cut Losses 04:21

https://www.facebook.com/AcrossTundrasBand/
https://acrosstundras.bandcamp.com/

T.G. Olson, Foothills Before the Mountain (2017)

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