Shun to Release Dismantle July 19; “Drawing Names” Streaming Now

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 5th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

shun (Photo by Audrey Wilson)

At least part of the PR wire text below comes from the bio I wrote for Shun‘s second full-length, Dismantle, which is coming out through Small Stone Records on July 19. I think from after the first sentence through the part where Matt Whitehead comments on the first single “Drawing Names,” maybe? There was a press quote in there too, but yeah. In any case, let the point here be the song, since as the guy who wrote the bio I’ll tell you outright you and the band both are probably better served just by hearing the song, which is in the embed at the bottom of the post.

Heavy post-hardcore rock? Emo-informed progressive grungegaze? I don’t know how you categorize it — which should make writing the review a blast — but Dismantle follows behind the Shun‘s 2021 self-titled debut (review here), and I didn’t know how to categorize that either, but I enjoyed it. The new one’s a banger too, as it happens.

Info follows in blue. You know what’s up:

shun dismantle

SHUN: North/South Carolina Rock Outfit To Release Dismantle Full-Length July 19th Via Small Stone Recordings; New Single Now Playing + Preorders Available

North/South Carolina heavy rock outfit SHUN will release their long-awaited new full-length, Dismantle, July 19th via Small Stone Recordings!

SHUN released their self-titled debut through Small Stone in 2021. Dismantle continues several crucial threads from the debut in terms of songwriting and the returning production of J. Robbins (who also contributes percussion, guitar, and synth), while expanding their scope with a more refined crunch and drifting, ethereal outreach. It is heavier and paints a broader landscape in Matt Whitehead’s vocal and guitar melodies, able to take a prog-metal chug in “Horses” and reshape it as the backdrop for weighted post-rock while refusing to sap its own vitality in service to shoegazey posturing.

Punk and noise rock such as Cave In and Hum feel like touchstones as much as Sabbath and whom- or whatever might’ve inspired the crush tucked at the end of “You’re The Sea,” and while Dismantle may hint as a title at notions of things coming apart, there’s as much being built in its ten tracks as is being destroyed. What results from the trio of Whitehead, bassist Jeff Baucom, and drummer Rob Elzey (Bo Leslie has since joined on guitar, re-completing the lineup) is material varied in its purpose but drawn together in traditional fashion by the electricity of its performances. The band-in-the-room feel in the methodical rollout of opener “Blind Eye” is all the more resonant with the debut having been remotely assembled during plague lockdowns.

Does that make Dismantle something like a second first album? Not really, but if it helps you get on board, you probably won’t get a ton of arguments. While Whitehead’s past in Small Stone denizens Throttlerod is still relevant to SHUN in some essential and riffy ways, SHUN steps forward with Dismantle and declares their meld of styles in tracks like “The Getaway” and “Interstellar” which are able to push, pull, crash down loud, or recede into float as they will. That they’d wield such command in their craft likely won’t be a surprise to those who took on the self-titled, but among the things Dismantle undoes, it strips the listener of expectations and replaces them with its unflinching creativity and refreshingly forward-looking take.

Comments Whitehead on the band’s first single, “‘Drawing Names’ was written in its entirety in under 30 minutes while jamming at our drummer’s house. I’ve found those quick-to-come-together songs that aren’t over-thought and overworked often turn out the best… go figure. The recording of the track was super fun and collaborative as well. I’ll never forget J. Robbins crouched down by my delay pedals turning knobs while I played one section. And then he later added a double tambourine part in the chorus which we absolutely loved.”

Dismantle, which features artwork by Alexander Von Wieding, will be released on CD, limited LP, and digital formats. Find preorders at THIS LOCATION:

Fans of Torche, Cave In, Alice In Chains, Failure, ASG, and huge riffs, pay heed.

Dismantle Track Listing:
1. Blind Eye
2. Aviator
3. Horses
4. Drawing Names
5. Storms
7. You’re The Sea
8. The Getaway
9. Through The Looking Glass
10. Interstellar

SHUN – Dismantle Record Release Shows:
7/19/2024 The Odditorium – Asheville, NC
7/20/2024 Swanson’s Warehouse – Greenville, SC
7/26/2024 New Brookland Tavern – Columbia, SC
8/02/2024 185 King – Brevard, NC

Matt Whitehead – guitar, vocals
Rob Elzey – drums
Jeff Baucom – bass
Additional musicians:
J. Robbins – percussion, synths, guitar
Bo Leslie – guitar

Shun, Dismantle (2024)

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Auralayer Announce Debut Album Thousand Petals Out July 14; Premiere “All My Time”

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 15th, 2023 by JJ Koczan


South Carolinian trio Auralayer make their full-length debut with Thousand Petals on July 14 through King Volume Records. The nine-song/35-minute outing is the latest in a splurge of quality offerings from the label — see also Fairie Ring‘s LP out in April and Lord Mountain‘s January release this year alone — and boasts production by former Kylesa guitarist Phillip Cope, who duly highlights the tonal depth and largesse on cuts like opener “All My Time,” which premieres below, while allowing for the movement in “Shelf Black,” first shuffle, then nod and (relative) lumber, enough breadth to exist fluidly side-by-side with the shove of “Dance to Thrash” and the bombastic stoner swing of “Monstrum” in which the High on Fire influence noted in the PR wire info comes home to roost in a rager of a riff and solo from guitarist Thomas Powell before the next galloping verse Kyuss careens through the barren wastes en route to “The Lake,” which pushes that lethal impulse even further in its chugging verse before opening to its unabashed hook.

Along with bassist/vocalist Jake “Kimble” Williams and drummer/backing vocalist Vladimir Doodle (also percussion), Powell lands numerous bruiser blows throughout, the band taking cues from ’90s and ’00s heavy and stoner rock and adding their own perspective as well as tonality such that “Faith to Reason” lands like dirtied-up C.O.C. and “Christ Antler” can build an atmosphere of its own around its beginning desert-style riff. The band call it “power doom” and fair enough for the push of air they unleash throughout, if not some of the more soaring aspects of power metal the self-applied tag might imply. They cap likewise melodic and intense on “You Walk,” nakedly referencing Sleep as they gleefully chug toward Thousand Petals‘ final payoff, but there’s a richer mix at play throughout the proceedings thanks to the sonic persona readily on display. That is, whatever aspects come across as familiar — that looming air of Goatsnake not directly traceable to any single riff, for example — Auralayer are purposeful in sounding like themselves.

The aforementioned “All My Time” was one of three songs included on the band’s 2021 demo EP Solar Plexus, but like its compatriots “Faith to Reason” and “Christ Antler,” it’s been re-recorded and fleshed out for the record. You can hear it on the player below, followed by a quote from Williams and the announcement from King Volume of the upcoming release. We’ve got a few months before July gets here, but heads up anyway:

Auralayer, “All My Time” track premiere

Jake “Kimble” Williams on “All My Time”:

“All My Time” is one of the first Auralayer songs we wrote, which at the time Auralayer was just Thomas and Myself in the basement of my home, jamming and seeing what would happen when two very different types of musicians made music. No name, no drummer, just throwing ideas at the wall and seeing what worked. I was very much looking to prove myself at the time. This song is partially me telling myself “this time I have something to say, I have something to show the world.” And the other half is the self-doubt and the doubt of my peers growing up who didn’t believe in me telling me “You ain’t never going anywhere.” It’s me screaming back to the void of voices screaming self-doubt. It’s a song I think many can relate to. To be brave in the face of odds stacked against you, and believing in yourself when no one else does.


Bombastic Progressive Doom Power Trio Auralayer to Release Debut Album ‘Thousand Petals’ Through King Volume Records On July 14, 2023

Eclectic Album Engineered by Philip Cope (Kylesa)

Preorder link:

Auralayer, the visionary and captivating power trio out of Greenville, SC, has announced the release of their raucous debut album, Thousand Petals, through King Volume Records, due July 14, 2023. Delivering a unique blend of powerful doom riffs, kinetic progressive rock drums, and electrifying pop-inspired melodies, Thousand Petals is impressively heavy and undeniably catchy.

The band’s signature brand of metal comes from its members’ diverse musical interests. “I’m really into doom, especially bands like High on Fire,” says guitarist Thomas Powell. “Vlad, the drummer, is really into progressive rock, and his favorite drummer is Neil Peart. And Jake, our bassist, really likes pop music — The Beatles and Talking Heads.” Thanks to those disparate influences, the band is largely unencumbered by typical doom and stoner rock clichés during the writing phase — a fact that has helped them develop their own original metal sound.

To help them harness their energetic musical vision, the band recruited Philip Cope, the founder of the experimental metal band Kylesa, to engineer, mix, and master their debut at Jam Room Recording Studio in Columbia, SC. As with Kylesa, Cope helped to capture and channel the band’s diverse influences and experimentation into a cohesive sonic palette — on both the debut album and the band’s 2021 Solar Plexus EP.

“Phil has had a huge influence on me as an artist,” says Powell, “so it was great having him around. He’s just as passionate about our music as we are, so it almost feels like he’s part of the band. And since he’s worked on so many cool projects, like the first Baroness album, he has so many cool perspectives and great attention to detail, and that really helped us capture the sound we were going for.”

Despite the band’s collective encyclopedic knowledge of music, the trio has also pulled inspiration from a variety of artistic and philosophical sources—while still maintaining a unified final product. The album title, for example, comes from the Sahasrara padma, the crown chakra that translates to “the lotus of a thousand petals” and is symbolic of supreme consciousness and enlightenment.

Thousand Petals comes after the success of the band’s original demo EP, Solar Plexus (also inspired by Eastern cultures and the Chakra Manipura), which was released on August 13, 2021. All three songs from that demo — “Christ Antler,” “Faith to Reason,” and “All My Time” — have been sharpened and honed onto Thousand Petals.

Auralayer – Thousand Petals
Release Date: July 14, 2023
Label: King Volume Records

1. All My Time
2. Christ Antler
3. Dance to Thrash
4. Peacemonger
5. Faith to Reason
6. Shelf Black
7. Monstrum
8. The Lake
9. You Walk

Recording, Mix, and Engineering: Philip Cope (Jam Room Recording Studio, Columbia, SC)
Art: Juan Montoya (Formatted by Wes Brooks)

Thomas Powell (Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, FX/Pedals)
Jake “Kimble” Williams (Vocals, Bass Guitar, Miscellaneous Percussion)
Vladimir Doodle (Drums, Percussion, Backup Vocals)

Auralayer, Solar Plexus demo (2021)

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The Obelisk Questionnaire: Kevin Jennings of MNRVA

Posted in Questionnaire on November 14th, 2022 by JJ Koczan


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: Kevin Jennings of MNRVA

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

We call it doom fuzz; others call it doom metal. It hangs in that zone of black electricity that flows in between everything. We had been in other bands, and this was an outlet that was different from what we had done before. Byron had experience playing in technical, prog type metal over the years and Gina and I had been in the garage rock scene for a while. We just started jamming together doing cover songs at first and then it turned into us showing each other what we had been working on. Those turned into the songs on our album.

Describe your first musical memory.

I remember seeing Phil Collins on MTV when I was a kid and music videos interested me at an early age. That turned into appreciating the music. We would also watch movies and I’d find the soundtrack at the store and have my mom buy the tape. I remember my aunt bought me the Mortal Kombat movie soundtrack and I played the tape until it died. There were so many great bands on there like Bile, Traci Lords, and Gravity Kills. At a young age I was getting into the weird snippets of industrial an when I was in my early 20s, my old boss shined me onto Nitzer Ebb’s Belief and that album was nothing I had heard at the time. Great stuff.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

The best musical memory to date was my wife and I’s first date. It was also our other band’s first practice. Both the band and our relationship started at the same time.

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

That’s almost constant. The more you open yourself to what is outside of yourself or your small world, you really find how much you don’t know. That’s exciting though, living life like a sponge.

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

Artistic progression can lead you anywhere and to anything. Don’t settle for just one artistic outlet. Find multiple outlets to get the expression out. There’s no wrong way to go. See where it takes you.

How do you define success?

The only thing we have “for sure” is right now. There’s no guarantee of anything else. Take the opportunity to do what makes you happy, as long as it doesn’t hurt others. Success to me is being able to do the things you love and taking that to other places around the world.

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

Have you been on the internet?

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

I’d like to have the time to do a weird side project in the vein of Fever Ray’s first album.

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

The freedom of expression.

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

My wife and I are planning a trip to Hawaii in the spring!

MNRVA, Hollow (2022)

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Quarterly Review: Alunah, QAALM, Ambassador Hazy, Spiral Skies, Lament Cityscape, Electric Octopus, Come to Grief, ZOM, MNRVA, Problem With Dragons

Posted in Reviews on June 27th, 2022 by JJ Koczan


This is the part where I’m supposed to tell you I’m quaking in my flip-flops about doing 100 reviews in the span of two weeks, how worried I am I’ll run out of ways to say something is weird, or psychedelic, or heavy, or whatever. You know what? This time, even with a doublewide Quarterly Review — which means 100 records between now and next Friday — I feel like we got this. It’ll get done. And if it doesn’t? I’ll take an extra day. Who even pretends to give a crap?

I think that’s probably the right idea, so let’s get this show on the road, as my dear wife is fond of saying.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Alunah, Strange Machine

alunah strange machine

Following on from 2019’s Violet Hour (review here), Birmingham’s Alunah offer the nine songs and 42 minutes of Strange Machine on Heavy Psych Sounds. It’s a wonder to think this is the band who a decade ago released White Hoarhound (review here), but of course it’s mostly not. Alunah circa 2022 bring a powerhouse take on classic heavy rock and roll, with Siân Greenaway‘s voice layered out across proto-metallic riffs and occasional nods such as “Fade Into Fantasy” or “Psychedelic Expressway” pulling away from the more straight-ahead punch. One can’t help but be reminded of Black Sabbath with Ronnie James Dio — a different, more progressive and expansive take on the same style they started with — which I guess would make Strange Machine their Mob Rules. They may or may not be the band you expected, but they’re quite a band if you’re willing to give the songs a chance.

Alunah on Facebook

Heavy Psych Sounds on Bandcamp


QAALM, Resilience & Despair

QAALM Resilience Despair

Skipping neither the death nor the doom ends of death-doom, Los Angeles-based QAALM make a gruesome and melancholic debut with Resilience & Despair, with a vicious, barking growl up front that reminds of none so much as George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher, but that’s met intermittently with airy stretches of emotionally weighted float led by its two guitars. Across the four-song/69-minute outing, no song is shorter than opener “Reflections Doubt” (14:40), and while that song, “Existence Asunder” (19:35), “Cosmic Descent” (18:23) and “Lurking Death” (17:16) have their more intense moments, the balance of miseries defines the record by its spaciousness and the weight of the chug that offsets. The cello in “Lurking Death” adds fullness to create a Katatonia-style backdrop, but QAALM are altogether more extreme, and whatever lessons they’ve learned from the masters of the form, they’re being put to excruciating use. And the band knows it. Go four minutes into any one of these songs and tell me they’re not having a great time. I dare you.

QAALM on Facebook

Hypaethral Records website

Trepanation Recordings on Bandcamp


Ambassador Hazy, The Traveler

Ambassador Hazy The Traveler

The Traveler is Sterling DeWeese‘s second solo full-length under the banner of Ambassador Hazy behind 2020’s Glacial Erratics (review here) and it invariably brings a more cohesive vision of the bedroom-psychedelic experimentalist songcraft that defined its predecessor. “All We Wanted,” for example, is song enough that it could work in any number of genre contexts, and where “Take the Sour With the Sweet” is unabashed in its alt-universe garage rock ambitions, it remains righteously weird enough to be DeWeese‘s own. Fuller band arrangements on pieces like that or the later “Don’t Smash it to Pieces” reinforce the notion of a solidifying approach, but “Simple Thing” nonetheless manages to come across like Dead Meadow borrowed a drum machine from Godflesh circa 1987. There’s sweetness underlying “Afterglow,” however, and “Percolator,” which may or may not actually have one sampled, is way, way out there, and in no small way The Traveler is about that mix of humanity and creative reaching.

Ambassador Hazy on Facebook

Cardinal Fuzz webstore


Spiral Skies, Death is But a Door

spiral skies death is but a door

Strange things afoot in Stockholm. Blending classic doom and heavy rock with a clean, clear production, shades of early heavy metal and the odd bit of ’70s folk in the verse of “While the Devil is Asleep,” the five-piece Spiral Skies follow 2018’s Blues for a Dying Planet with Death is But a Door, a collection that swings and grooves and is epic and intimate across its nine songs/43 minutes, a cut like “Somewhere in the Dark” seeming to grow bigger as it moves toward its finish. Five of the nine inclusions make some reference to sleep or the night or darkness — including “Nattmaran” — but one can hardly begrudge Spiral Skies working on a theme when this is the level of the work they’re doing. “The Endless Sea” begins the process of excavating the band’s stylistic niche, and by “Time” and “Mirage” it’s long since uncovered, and the band’s demonstration of nuance, melody and songwriting finds its resolution on closer “Mirror of Illusion,” which touches on psychedelia as if to forewarn the listener of more to come. Familiar, but not quite like anything else.

Spiral Skies on Facebook

AOP Records website


Lament Cityscape, A Darker Discharge

Lament Cityscape A Darker Discharge

Almost tragically atmospheric given the moods involved, Wyoming-based industrial metallurgists Lament Cityscape commence the machine-doom of A Darker Discharge following a trilogy of 2020 EPs compiled last year onto CD as Pneumatic Wet. That release was an hour long, this one is 24 minutes, which adds to the intensity somehow of the expression at the behest of David Small (Glacial Tomb, ex-Mountaineer, etc.) and Mike McClatchey (also ex-Mountaineer), the ambience of six-minute centerpiece “Innocence of Shared Experiences” making its way into a willfully grandiose wash after “All These Wires” and “Another Arc” traded off in caustic ’90s-style punishment. “The Under Dark” is a cacophony early and still intense after the fog clears, and it, “Where the Walls Used to Be” and the coursing-till-it-slows-down, gonna-get-noisy “Part of the Mother” form a trilogy of sorts for side B, each feeding into the overarching impression of emotional untetheredness that underscores all that fury.

Lament Cityscape on Facebook

Lifeforce Records website


Electric Octopus, St. Patrick’s Cough

Electric Octopus St Patricks Cough

You got friends? Me neither. But if we did, and we told them about the wholesome exploratory jams of Belfast trio Electric Octopus, I bet their hypothetical minds would be blown. St. Patrick’s Cough is the latest studio collection from the instrumentalist improv-specialists, and it comes and goes through glimpses of various jams in progress, piecing together across 13 songs and 73 minutes — that’s short for Electric Octopus — that find the chemistry vital as they seamlessly bring together psychedelia, funk, heavy rock, minimalist drone on “Restaurant Banking” and blown-out steel-drum-style island vibes on “A2enmod.” There’s enough ground covered throughout for a good bit of frolicking — and if you’ve never frolicked through an Electric Octopus release, here’s a good place to start — but in smaller experiments like the acoustic slog “You Have to Be Stupid to See That” or the rumbling “Universal Knife” or the shimmering-fuzz-is-this-tuning-up “Town,” it’s only encouraging to see the band continue to try new ideas and push themselves even farther out than they were. For an act who already dwells in the ‘way gone,’ it says something that they’re refusing to rest on their freaked-out laurels.

Electric Octopus on Facebook

Interstellar Smoke Records store


Come to Grief, When the World Dies

come to grief when the world dies

Behold, the sludge of death. Maybe it’s not fair to call When the World Dies one of 2022’s best debut albums since Come to Grief is intended as a continuation by guitarist/backing vocalist Terry Savastano (also WarHorse) and drummer Chuck Conlon of the devastation once wrought by Grief, but as they unleash the chestripping “Life’s Curse” and the slow-grind filthy onslaught of “Scum Like You,” who gives a shit? When the World Dies, produced of course by Converge‘s Kurt Ballou at GodCity, spreads aural violence across its 37 minutes with a particular glee, resting only for a breath before meting out the next lurching beating. Jonathan Hébert‘s vocal cords deserve a medal for the brutality they suffer in his screams in the four-minute title-track alone, never mind the grime-encrusted pummel of closer “Death Can’t Come Fast Enough.” Will to abrasion. Will to disturb. Heavy in spirit but so raw in its force that if you even manage to make it that deep you’ve probably already drowned. A biblical-style gnashing of teeth. Fucking madness.

Come to Grief on Facebook

Translation Loss Records store


ZOM, Fear and Failure

Zom Fear and Failure

In the works one way or the other since 2020, the sophomore full-length from Pittsburgh heavy rockers ZOM brings straight-ahead classicism with a modernized production vibe, some influence derived from the earlier days of Clutch or The Sword and of course Black Sabbath — looking at you, “Running Man” — but there’s a clarity of purpose behind the material that is ZOM‘s own. They are playing rock for rockers, and are geared more toward revelry than conversion, but there’s no arguing with the solidity of their craft and the meeting of their ambitions. Their last record took them to Iceland, and this one has led them to the UK. Don’t be surprised when ZOM announce an Australian tour one of these days, just because they can, but wherever they go, know what they have the songs on their side to get them there. In terms of style, there’s very little revolutionary about Fear and Failure, but ZOM aren’t trying to revamp what you know of as heavy rock and roll so much as looking to mark their place within it. Listening to the burly chug of “Another Day to Run,” and the conversation the band seems to be having with the more semi-metal moments of Shadow Witch and others, their efforts sound not at all misspent.

ZOM on Facebook

StoneFly Records store


MNRVA, Hollow

mnrva hollow

Making their debut through Black Doomba Records, Columbia, South Carolina’s MNRVA recorded the eight-song Hollow in Spring 2019, and one assumes that the three-year delay in releasing is owed at least in to aligning with the label, plus pandemic, plus life happens, and so on. In any case, from “Not the One” onward, their fuzz-coated doom rock reminds of a grittier take on Cathedral, with guitarist Byron Hawk and bassist Kevin Jennings sharing vocal duties effectively while Gina Ercolini drives the march behind them. There’s some shifting in tempo between “Hollow” and a more brash piece like “With Fire” or the somehow-even-noisier-seeming penultimate cut “No Solution,” but the grit there is a feature throughout the album just the same. Their 2019 EP, Black Sky (review here), set them up for this, but only really in hindsight, and one wonders what they may have been up to in the time since putting this collection to tape if this is where they were three years ago. Some of this is straight-up half-speed noise rock riffing and that’s just fine.

MNRVA on Facebook

Black Doomba Records on Bandcamp


Problem With Dragons, Accelerationist

Problem With Dragons Accelerationist

The third full-length, Accelerationist, from Easthampton, Massachusetts’ Problem With Dragons is odd and nuanced enough by the time they get to the vocal effects on “Have Mercy, Show Mercy” — unless that’s a tracheostomy thing; robot voice; that’s not the first instance of it — to earn being called progressive, and though their foundation is in more straightforward heavy rock impulses, sludge and fuzz, they’ve been at it for 15 years and have well developed their own approach. Thus “Live by the Sword” opens to set up lumbering pieces like “Astro Magnum” and the finale title-track while “In the Name of His Shadow” tips more toward metal and the seven-minute “Don’t Fail Me” meets its early burl (gets the wurlm?) with airier soloing later on, maximizing the space in the album’s longest track. “A Demon Possessed” and “Dark Times (for Dark Times)” border on doom, but in being part of Problem With Dragons‘ overall pastiche, and in the band’s almost Cynic-al style of melodic singing, they are united with the rest of what surrounds. Some bands, you can just tell when individualism is part of their mission.

Problem With Dragons on Facebook

Problem With Dragons on Bandcamp


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Quarterly Review: Messa, Witchpit, Dirty Nips, Ocean to Burn, Mt. Echo, Earl of Hell, Slugg, Mirage, An Evening Redness, Cryptophaser

Posted in Reviews on April 7th, 2022 by JJ Koczan


It’s been a load road, getting from there to here, and here isn’t even there yet if you know what I mean. Alas, Thursday. Day four — 4, IV, I can’t remember how I’ve been writing it out — of the Spring 2022 Quarterly Review, and it’s a doozy. These things are always packed, in fact it’s pretty much the idea, but I still find that even this week as I’m putting out 10 reviews a day — we’ll get to 60 total next Monday — I’m playing catchup with more stuff coming down the pike. It seems more and more like each Quarterly Review I’ve done out of like the last five could’ve been extended a day beyond what it already was.

Alas, Thursday. Overwhelmed? Me too.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Messa, Close

Messa close

After two LPs through Aural Music, Italy’s Messa arrive via Svart with a crucial third album in Close. The hype surrounding the record has been significant, and Close earns every bit of it across its 10-song/64-minute run, intricately arranged as the Italian four-piece continue to bridge stylistic gaps with an ease born of expansive songcraft and stunning performance, first from vocalist Sara Bianchin (also percussion) and further from guitarist Alberto Piccolo (also oud, mandolin), bassist/synthesist/vocalist Marco Zanin (also various keys and percussion), and drummer Rocco Toaldo (also harsh vocals, percussion), who together create a complete and encompassing vision of doom that borrows periodically from black metal as anything artsy invariably must, but is more notable for its command of itself. That is, Messa — through the entirety of the hour-plus — are nothing but masterful. There’s an old photo of The Beatles watching Jimi Hendrix circa 1967, seeming resigned at being utterly outclassed by the ‘next thing.’ It’s easy to imagine much of doom looking at Messa the same way.

Messa on Facebook

Svart Records website


Witchpit, The Weight of Death

witchpit the weight of death

If what goes around comes around, then don’t be surprised when “Fire & Ice” goes circle-mosh near the end and you get punched in the head. Old. School. Southern. Sludge. Metal. Dudes play it big, and mean, and grooving. Think of turn of the century acts like Alabama Thunderpussy and Beaten Back to Pure, maybe earlier Sourvein, but with a big old lumbering update in sound thanks to a Phillip Cope recording job and a ferocity of its own. They’ve got a pedigree that includes Black Skies, Manticore and Black Hand Throne, and though The Weight of Death is their first long-player, they’ve been a band for seven years and their anti-dogmatic culmination in “Mr. Miserum” feels sincere as only it can coming from the land of the Southern Baptist Church. Aggression pervades throughout, but the band aren’t necessarily monochromatic. Sometimes they’re mad, sometimes they’re pissed off. Watch out when they’re pissed off. And am I wrong for feeling nostalgic listening? Can’t be too soon for them to be retro, right? Either way, they hit it hard and that’s just fine. Everybody needs to blow off steam sometime.

Witchpit on Facebook

Heavy Psych Sounds website


Dirty Nips, Can O’ Dirty Demo Nipples

Dirty Nips Can o Dirty Demo Nipples

Do I even need to say it, that a band called Dirty Nips offering up a demo called Can O’ Dirty Demo Nipples get up to some pretty cheeky shenanigans therein? I hope not. Still, as the Bristol-via-Poland outfit crunch out the riffs of “The Third Nipple” and harmonica-laced Hank Williams-style country blues on “As I Stumbled” and touch on psychedelic jamming in opener “The Basement” and the later experimental-feeling “Dirty Nips Pt. II,” which just drops to silence in the middle enough to make you wonder if it’s coming back (it is), there’s clearly more going on here than goofball chicanery. “Jechetki” builds on the blues and adds a grunge chug, and closer “Mountain Calling” is — dare I say it? — classy with its blend of acoustic guitar and organ, echoing spoken vocal and engagingly patient realization. They may end up wishing they called themselves something else as time goes on, but as it stands, Dirty Nips‘ demo tape heralds a sonic complexity that makes it that much harder to predict where they might end up, and is all the more satisfying a listen for that.

Dirty Nips on Facebook

Galactic Smokehouse store


Ocean to Burn, Vultures

Ocean to Burn Vultures

Though they’re by no means the only band in Sweden to dig into some form of traditionalism in heavy rock, Västerås five-piece Ocean to Burn evoke a decidedly more straight-ahead, Southern-heavy feel throughout the nine songs and 33 minutes of Vultures, their self-released full-length. The throaty grit of vocalist Adam Liifw is a big part of that impression, but in the guitars of Mathilda Haanpää and Fredrik Blomqvist, the tone is more stripped-down than huge-sounding, and the grooves from bassist Pontus Jägervall and drummer Fredrik Hiltunen follow suit. That central purpose suits songs like “Wastelands” and the more strutting “Nay Sayer,” and though they largely stick to their guns style-wise, a bluesier nod on “No Afterlife” early and a breakout in closer “Vulture Road” assure there’s some toying with the balance, even as the tracks all stick to the three- to about four-and-a-half-minute range. They’ve been at it for a while, and seem to revel in the ‘nothin-too-fancy’ attitude of the material, but honestly, they don’t need tricks or novelty to get their point across.

Ocean to Burn on Facebook

Ocean to Burn on Reverbnation


Mt. Echo, Electric Empire

Mt Echo Electric Empire

Following an encouraging start in 2019’s Cirrus (review here), Nijmegen instrumentalists Mt. Echo return with the conceptual-feeling Electric Empire, still holding some noise rock crunch in “Automaton” following the opener “Sound & Fury,” but saving its biggest impacts for the angular “50 Fanthoms,” the 10-minute “Flummox” and subsequent “As the Tide Serves,” and on the whole working to bring that side of their approach together with the atmospheric heavy post-rock float of “The End of All Dispute” and the early going of “These Concrete Lungs.” At 10 songs and just under an hour long, Electric Empire has room for world-building, and one of Mt. Echo‘s great strengths is being able to offset patience with urgency and vice versa. By the time they cap with “Torpid,” the trio of Gerben Elburg, Vincent Voogd and Rolf Vonk have worked to further distinguish themselves among their various sans-vocals proggy peers. One hopes they’ll continue on such a path.

Mt. Echo on Facebook

Mt. Echo on Bandcamp


Earl of Hell, Get Smoked

Earl of Hell Get Smoked

Vocalist Eric Brock, guitarist/backing vocalist/principal songwriter Lewis Inglis, bassist Dean Gordon and drummer Ryan Wilson are Edinburgh’s Earl of Hell, and their debut EP, Get Smoked, builds on the brash grooves of prior singles “Arryhthmia” (sic) and “Blood Disco,” the latter of which appears as the penultimate of the six included tracks on the 23-minute outing. More stomp-and-swing than punch-you-in-the-face, “I Am the Chill” nonetheless makes its sense of threat clear — it is not about chilling out — as if opener “Hang ’em High” didn’t. Split into two three-song sides each with a shorter track between, it’s in “Parasite” and “Blood Disco” that the band are at their most punk rock, but as the slower “Bitter Fruits” mellows out in opening side B, there’s more to their approach than just full-sprint shove, though don’t tell that to closer “Kill the Witch,” which revels in its call and response with nary a hesitation as it shifts into Spanish-language lyrics. High-octane, punk-informed heavy rock and roll, no pretense of trying to push boundaries; just ripping it up and threaten to burn ladies alive, as one apparently does.

Earl of Hell on Facebook

Slightly Fuzzed Records store


Slugg, Yonder

Slugg Yonder

Released on New Year’s Day after being recorded in Dec. 2021 in the trio’s native Rome, “Yonder” serves as the initial public offering and first single from Slugg, and at 9:59, it is more than a vague teaser for the band they might be. The guitar of Jacopo Cautela and the bass of Stephen Drive bring a marked largesse that nonetheless is able to move when called upon to do so by Andrea Giamberardini‘s drumming, and Cautela‘s corresponding vocals are pushed deeper back in the mix to emphasize those tones. Much of the second half of “Yonder” is given to a single, rolling purpose, but the band cleverly turn that into a build as they move forward, leaving behind the gallops of the first few minutes of the song, but making the transition from one side to another smoothly via midsection crashes and ably setting up the ring-out finish that will draw the song to its close. Not without ambition, “Yonder” crushes with a sense of physical catharsis while affecting an atmosphere that is no less broad. They make it easy to hope for more to come along these lines.

Slugg on Facebook

Slugg on Bandcamp


Mirage, Telepathic Radio

Mirage Telepathic Radio

Joe Freedman, also of Banshee, first saw Telepathic Radio released as the debut full-length from Mirage in 2021 through Misophonia Records on tape. There are still a few of them left. That version runs 30 songs and 90 minutes. The Cardinal Fuzz/Centripetal Force edition is 50 minutes/20 tracks, but either way you go, get your head ready for dug-in freakness. Like freakness where you open the artwork file for the digital promo and all three versions are the cover of a Rhapsody album. Ostensibly psychedelic, songs play out like snippets from a wandering attention span, trying this weird thing and seeing it through en route to the next. In this way, Telepathic Radio is both broad-ranging and somewhat contained. The recordings are raw, fade in and out and follow their own paths as though recorded over a stretch of time rather than in one studio burst, which seems indeed to be how they were made. Horns, samples, keys, even some guitar, a bit of “TV Party” and “TV Eye” on “TV Screens,” Mirage howls and wails out there on its private wavelength, resolved to be what it is regardless of what one might expect of it. By the time even the 20-track version is done, the thing you can most expect is to have no clue what just happened in your brain. Rad.

Misophonia Records on Bandcamp

Cardinal Fuzz webstore

Centripetal Force Records website


An Evening Redness, An Evening Redness

An Evening Redness Self-titled

With its first, self-titled release, An Evening Redness basks in morose Americana atmospheres, slow, patient guitar drones, warm bass and steady rhythms giving way to periodically violent surges. Founded perhaps as a pandemic project for Brandon Elkins of Auditor and Iron Forest, the six-song full-length explores the underlying intensity and threat to person and personhood that a lot of American culture just takes for granted. The name and inspiration for the project are literary — ‘An Evening Redness in the West’ is the subtitle of Cormac McCarthy’s 1985 novel, Blood Meridian — and An Evening Redness, even in the long instrumental stretch of 12-minute opener/longest track (immediate points) “Alkali,” treats the subject matter with duly textured reverence. Elkins isn’t alone here, and the vocals of Bridget Bellavia on the brooding “Mesa Skyline” and the closing pair of “Pariah” and “Black Flame at the Edge of the Desert,” as well as the contributions of other guests in various locales around the world up to and including Elkins‘ native Chicago should not be downplayed in enriching these explorations of space and sound. Bands like Earth and Across Tundras warrant mention as precursors of the form, but An Evening Redness casts its own light in the droning “Winter, 1847” and the harmonica-wailing “The Judge” enough to be wholly distinct from either in portraying the sometimes horrifying bounty of the land and the cruelty of those living in it.

An Evening Redness on Twitter

Transylvanian Recordings on Bandcamp


Cryptophaser, XXII

Cryptophaser XXII

Brothers John and Marc Beaudette — who if they aren’t twins are close enough — comprise New Hampshire’s Cryptophaser, and XXII is their first demo, pressed in an edition of 50 purple tapes. Dudes might as well just open my wallet. Fair enough. In what’s a show of chemistry and musical conversation that’s obviously been going on longer than these songs — that is, I highly suspect the maybe-twin brothers who drum and play guitar have been playing together more than a year — they bring an adversarial bent to the conventions of heavy fuzz, and do so with the proverbial gusto, breaking away from monolithic tones in favor of sheer dynamic, and when they shift into the drone in “October 83,” they make themselves a completely different band like it isn’t even a thing. Casual kickass. At 13 minutes, it flows like a full-length and has a full-length’s breadth of ideas (some full-lengths, anyway), and the energy from one moment to the next is infectious, be that next part fast, slow, loud, quiet, or whatever else they want it to be.

Cryptophaser website

Music ADD Records website


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Witchpit Set March 25 Release for The Weight of Death; Preorder Available

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 10th, 2021 by JJ Koczan


South Carolinian sludge rockers Witchpit were announced two weeks ago as having signed to Heavy Psych Sounds for the release of their debut album, The Weight of Death, on March 25. Given the production of Philip Cope, formerly of Kylesa — whose albums have also seen reissue through the same label — one wonders if perhaps there wasn’t some inroad there for the four-piece, but their lead single “The Blackened Fee” certainly sets its own brash appeal, reminding vocally and tonally of a slowed-down mid-period High on Fire while cleverly skirting the trap of sounding either like Weedeater (nothing wrong with them, mind you) or falling into chestbeating dudely Southern-heavy cliché.

I haven’t heard the record yet — March 25 might as well be 2023 as far as my silly brain is concerned — but “The Blackened Fee” is an eight-minute sampling of their wares and one of six songs on the long-player to come, so definitely not nothing to go on either. I say dig in. Worst that happens is you get punched in the gut.

From that ol’ PR wire:

witchpit the weight of death

WITCHPIT – The Weight Of Death

– debut album of the South Carolina based sludge metal band –

South Carolina-based blackened sludge metal four-piece WITCHPIT sign to Heavy Psych Sounds for the release of their debut album ‘The Weight of Death’ on March 25th, 2022. Watch their new video “The Blackened Fee” now

WITCHPIT is a four-piece sludge metal band from South Carolina whose unorthodox approach pushes the genre in exciting new directions. Their sound fuses the influence of high-powered stoner rockers like High On Fire, with the more moody and thoughtful work of Neurosis. With a heavy dose of tone worship and a passion for vintage gear, the band is able to conjure up classic tones that serve to bring the sound to an exciting new places.

The band just signed to Heavy Psych Sounds for the release of their debut full-length “The Weight of Death”, which was recorded, mixed and mastered at the Jam Room by Phillip Cope of Kylesa. The artwork was designed by Nino Andaresta. It will be issued on March 25th, 2022 in limited colored vinyl editions, black vinyl, CD and digital, with preorders available now at this location:

WITCHPIT Debut album ‘The Weight of Death’
Out March 25th on Heavy Psych Sounds – Preorder:

01. OTTR
02. The Blackened Fee
03. The Weight of Death
04. Autonomous Deprivation
05. Fire & Ice
06. Mr. Miserum

Formed back in 2015 by Thomas White from The Sign of the Southern Cross, Your Chance To Die and his long-lasting relationships from around the South Carolina heavy music community, WITCHPIT quickly became a serious force in their scene. After recording their first single “Infernal” in 2018, the band started to make waves. Over the next few years, the band dropped another pair of singles and started to receive some meaningful press and support from around the community. In the meantime, they picked up endorsements from Emperor Cabinets and Black Harbor Strings.

WITCHPIT are now gearing up to release their debut LP on European powerhouse Heavy Psych Sounds. They have worked hard to build up their reputation and refine their sound into something special and emotionally powerful. It’s hard not to be compelled by Witchpit’s classic rock-infused sludge metal assault. This might well be the next step for a unique band that can’t help but impress. Will you join them in their mission to bring the heavy all across the globe?

Denny Stone — Vocals
Thomas White — Guitar
Zach Hanley — Bass
Harold Smith — Drums

Witchpit, “The Blackened Fee” official video

Witchpit, The Weight of Death (2022)

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MNRVA Sign to Black Doomba Records; New Album in 2022

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 3rd, 2021 by JJ Koczan

Columbia, South Carolina’s MNRVA will make their full-length debut sometime in 2022 on Black Doomba Records. You can hear the ol’ crunchnlumber of their 2019 EP, Black Sky (review here), below and from there the label’s interest should pretty much be self-explanatory. The three-piece clearly know how to conjure some rumble and whether it’s the guitar hook of “Not the One,” the low-end-forward, punk-at-half-speed grit of “No Solution” or the chug that comes to define the title-track, the three-tracker makes no bones about where it’s coming from sonically and wouldn’t make any sense if it did. Riffs by riff-heads, groove by groovers, captured in such a way as to give a sense both of space and largesse.

If you feel like you might be able to vibe to such a thing, and you’re still reading this sentence, you’re probably right. So have at it.

Announcement came down the PR wire:


MNRVA Sign to Black Doomba Records

Conjuring ludicrously distorted guitar tones and guttural lows, doom-fuzz trio MNRVA combine the essence of doom metal with a razor-sharp sludge edge. Since forming in 2018, MNRVA have been striving to transcend the boundaries within heavy music by cultivating a progressive style. Their debut EP Black Sky provided a tantalising glimpse of MNRVA’s musical capabilities and paves the way for their upcoming full-length, releasing via Black Doomba Records.

MNRVA comments:

“We are super excited to announce we’ve signed to Black Doomba Records! The vibe they are on is the perfect fit for MNRVA and we can’t wait for everyone to hear the record in 2022.”

Tommy Stewart of Black Doomba Records comments:

“Black Doomba Records is proud to have sealed a pact with South Carolina’s MNRVA. I’m looking forward to sharing the upcoming album which is dripping with fuzzy sludgy vibes and a bit of southern style sludge. Initially I think what got me the most were the vocals, cloaked in floating and haunting melodies and the songs themselves. MNRVA will be out on vinyl and CD and I can wait to share it with fans.”

MNRVA’s forthcoming release was recorded at The Jam Room Recording Studio which has been used by the likes of southeastern U.S. heavyweights such as BARONESS, BLACK TUSK, and KYLESA. The heavy trio strive to produce an unyielding sound blending the guitar grind of the MELVINS, the vocal interplay of MASTODON, and the post-doom heaviness of BEREFT.

Byron Hawk – guitar, vocals
Kevin Jennings – bass, vocals
Gina Ercolini – drums

MNRVA, Black Sky (2019)

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Quarterly Review: Ufomammut, Horehound, Lingua Ignota, Valborg, Sageness, Glacier, MNRVA, Coroza, Noosed, zhOra

Posted in Reviews on October 4th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

Oh hi, I didn’t see you there. Earlier this week — Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and yes, even Wednesday — the alarm went off at 4AM as usual and I got up, got coffee going and a protein bar and sat down to write, starting basically around quarter-after with a quick email check and whatnot. In terms of basic timing, this last morning of the Fall 2019 Quarterly Review is no different. I even have the baby monitor streaming on my phone as I would most mornings, so I can keep an eye on when The Pecan gets up. What’s changed is I’m sitting in a hotel lobby in Oslo, Norway, having just arrived on an overnight flight from Newark. Managed to sleep some on the plane and I’m hopeful adrenaline will pick up the rest of the slack as regards getting through the day. That and caffeine, anyhow.

Although, speaking of, my debit card doesn’t work and I’ll need to sort that out.

First thing’s first, and that’s reviews. Last batch of 10 for the week. We made it. Thanks as always for reading and being a part of this thing. Let’s wrap it up in style, and because I like working on a theme, three Irish bands in a row close out. Hey, I went to Ireland this year.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Ufomammut, XX


Five years ago, Roman cosmic doom masters Ufomammut took a reflective look back at their career for its 15th anniversary with the documentary/live-performance DVD XV (review here). And since one might define the arc of their tenure as constantly trying to top themselves, for their 20th anniversary, they’ve issued a 12LP boxed set, titled simply XX, that compiles their nine albums to-date and tops them off with the mostly-subdued-style XX itself, which reimagines past cacophonies like “Mars” and “Plouton” in a quieter context. That part of the mega-offering issued through their own Supernatural Cat imprint comprises six songs recorded live and makes highlights out of the hypnotic strum and incantations of “Satan” as well as the rumbling drone of “Lacrimosa,” which takes on new emotional resonance for the shoegazy treatment it receives. I’ve said on multiple occasions throughout the years that Ufomammut are a band to be treasured, and I stand by that 100 percent. The XX box should be perceived by fans as an opportunity to do likewise.

Ufomammut on Facebook

Supernatural Cat website


Horehound, Weight

horehound weight

Less than a year after issuing their second long-player in the form of Holocene (review here) through Blackseed and Doom Stew Records, Pittsburgh atmosludgers Horehound align with DHU Records for the two-song 8″ EP Weight, which brings “Unbind” and “The Heavy,” two new cuts that, while I’m not sure they weren’t recorded at the same time as the last album — that is, they may have been — they nonetheless showcase the emergent melodic breadth and instrumental ambience that is developing in their sound. Even as “Unbind” rolls toward its low-end tempo kick, it does so with marked patience and a willingness to stay slow until just the right moment, which is not something every band cane effectively do. “The Heavy,” meanwhile, builds itself around a Crowbar-style dirge riff before Shy Kennedy‘s verse arrives as a standalone element, all the instruments around her dropping out from behind. That moment alone, frankly, is worth the price of admission, as whether it’s through that extra inch in diameter of the platter itself or through the audio of the tracks in question, Horehound continue to distinguish themselves.

Horehound on Facebook

DHU Records BigCartel store


Lingua Ignota, CALIGULA


I’m not sure I’m qualified to write about Lingua Ignota‘s CALIGULA (on Profound Lore), but I’m not sure anyone else is either. Like a self-harmonizing mega-Jarboe turning existential horror into epic proclamations of “I don’t eat/I don’t sleep” on “DO YOU DOUBT ME TRAITOR?” amid bass throb and terrifying melodic layering before making bedroom black metal sound like the lightweight self-indulgence it’s always been on the subsequent check-out-the-real-shit “BUTCHER OF THE WORLD,” Kristin Hayter‘s work is little short of experimentalist brilliance. She is minimal and yet over-the-top, open in creative terms but unwaveringly dark and rife with melody but severe to the point now and again of true aural abrasion. She weaves a context of her own into “FUCKING DEATHDEALER” as she recalls the lyrics to the aforementioned “BUTCHER OF THE WORLD,” while the outright brutality of “SPITE ALONE HOLDS ME ALOFT” is married to a piano-led meditation that, even without the noise wash from whence it comes, is enough to recast visions of what heavy is and can be in musical terms. I won’t pretend to get all the references like “kyrie eleison” (“lord have mercy”) worked into “IF THE POISON WON’T TAKE YOU MY DOGS WILL” and the violent strains surrounding, but it’s impossible not to realize the power of what you’re hearing when you listen.

Lingua Ignota on Facebook

Profound Lore Records on Bandcamp


Valborg, Zentrum

valborg zentrum

With an intensity born out of a history of industrial music and focus on tight rhythms making an impact in even-tighter songwriting, Valborg are neither beholden to death metal nor entirely separate from it, but their style has taken on a life of its own over the course of the last 10 years, and their latest offering, Zentrum (on Prophecy Productions), is the German trio’s most individualized take yet, whether that’s shown in the unbridled melodicism of “Anomalie,” the sludgy riff that drives the barking “Ultragrab” or the seemingly unrelenting snare pops of “Kreuzer” that, even when they finally release that tension, still make it only a temporary reprieve. Valborg‘s sense of control through the epic “Nonnenstern” should not be understated, and though the track is under four minutes long, yes, “epic” very much applies. Suitably enough, they close with “Vakuum” and throw everything at the listener at once before resolving in relatively peaceful atmospherics that could just as easily serve as an introduction to the next round of malice to come, whenever it shows up.

Valborg on Facebook

Prophecy Productions webstore


Sageness, Akmé

sageness akme

Spanish trio Sageness — also written SageNESS — conjure smooth Electric Moon-style soundscapes on their second album, Akmé, and yes, that is a compliment. The record brings forth six tracks of easy-rolling instrumentalist jam-based heavy psychedelia that offer much and take little in return, the richness of the guitar tone from Dawyz and Michi‘s bass given jazzy fluidity by Fran‘s drumming. “Ephemeral” touches most directly on a Colour Haze, as it would almost have to, but even there, the feeling of spaciousness that Sageness present in the recording is a factor that helps them come across as more individual. Earlier, “The Thought” is a little more directly space rock, but opener “Andromeda” seems to be charting the course with its liquefied effects and somehow-even-more-liquefied groove, and if you can’t get down with that, I’ve got nothing for you and neither does the rest of the universe.

Sageness on Facebook

Spinda Records website


Glacier, No Light Ever

glacier no light ever

It’s not exactly true, about their being no light ever on Boston post-metallers Glacier‘s latest full-length, No Light Ever. Sure, it’s plenty dark and heavy and brooding and all that fun stuff, and the riffs get loud and the drums break stuff and all that, but it’s certainly colorful in its way as well, and more than just shades of black on black. Comprised of four tracks cumbersomely titled in keeping with the traditions of the likes of Red Sparowes and the band’s own past work, cuts like “O World! I Remain No Longer Here.” and “The Bugles Blow, Fanned by Hysteria.” stretch themselves out along a scope as massive as the tonality the band emits, and as the wash of “We Glut Our Souls on the Accursed,” — the comma is part of the title there — gives way to feedback and the onset of “And We Are Damned Amid Noble Sound.” the sense of immersion is complete and clear as the priority under which they’re working. It’s about the whole album, or at least the two sides, as a unified work, and about crafting a world through the atmosphere evoked in the material. It works. If they say there’s no light in that world, so be it. It’s whatever they want it to be.

Glacier on Facebook

Wolves and Vibrancy Records webstore


MNRVA, Black Sky

mnrva black sky

Not-entirely-bereft-of-vowels South Carolina heavy trio MNRVA make their debut with the three-song EP Black Sky, a beast of a short release led by the riffs of guitarist Byron Hark on a stretch of ’90s-style crunch and sludge, with bassist/vocalist Kevin Jennings and drummer Gina Ercolini adding to the weight and shove of the proceedings, respectively. “Not the One” has the hook, “No Solution” has the impact and the title-track has both, and though I’m by no means saying the issue of their sound is settled 100 percent and they won’t grow or find their way from this — again, their debut — EP, they do prove to be well in charge of where their songs head in terms of mood and the atmosphere that comes through elements like the blown-out vocals and the rumbling bass beneath the lead guitar in the second half of “Black Sky” itself. Indeed, it’s those harsher aspects that help MNRVA immediately establish their individuality, and the vibe across these 18-plus minutes is that the punishment is only getting started.

MNRVA on Facebook

MNRVA on Bandcamp


Coroza, Chaliceburner

coroza chaliceburner

Just because Irish four-piece Coroza — guitarist/vocalists Ciaran Coghlan and Jack O’Neill, bassist/vocalist Jonny Canning and drummer Ollie Cunningham — might write a song that’s 18 minutes long, that doesn’t mean they forgot to actually make it a song as well. Thus it is that extended cuts like “The Plutonian Drug” (18:24) and closer “Iron from the Sky” (19:30) have plenty of room to flesh out their more progressive aspects amid the other three also-kind-of-extended pieces on Chaliceburner, the group’s ambitious hour-plus/five-track debut full-length. Each song essentially becomes a front-to-back movement on its own, with shifts between singers arranged thoughtfully from one part to the next and hooks along the way to serve as landmarks for those traversing, as in the opening “Chaliceburner” or the gruff winding moments of “Mountain Jaw,” which follows the nine-minute sax-inclusive centerpiece “Scaltheen,” because of course there’s a saxophone in there somewhere. All of this is a recipe for a band biting off more than they can chew stylistically, but Coroza manage pretty well the various twists and turns of their own making, particularly considering it’s their first album.

Coroza on Facebook

Coroza on Bandcamp


Noosed, She of the Woods

noosed she of the woods demo

Encased front and back by witchy samples and creepy vibes, Sept. 2019’s She of the Woods is the second demo in two months to come from Cork, Ireland’s Noosed. And you know it when they get around to the closing seven-minute title-track because it’s just about the only thing other than “Intro” that isn’t raging with grind intensity, but that stuff can be fun too. I don’t know how much witch-grind-doom is out there, but Noosed‘s first, self-titled demo (released in August) had a sludgy edge that seems to have separated out to some degree here into a multifaceted personality. Can one possibly be certain of the direction the band will ultimately take? Shit no. It’s two demos with basically no time differential between them. But if they can effectively bridge the gap between “Fuck Up,” “Wretch” and “She of the Woods,” or even play directly with the contrast, they could be onto something with all this noise and fuckall.

Noosed on Facebook

Noosed on Bandcamp


zhOra, Ruthless Bastards

zhora ruthless bastards

The narrative — blessings and peace upon it — has it such that Irish four-piece zhOra wanted to do something less complicated than was their 2017 album, Ethos, Pathos, Logos (discussed here), so they went ahead and wrote a song that’s five minutes long and purposefully hops between subgenres, going from sludge to doom to a deathcore breakdown, with a snare-pop count-in, to blackened death metal and then back to a lumbering chug to finish out. Okay, zhOra, “Ruthless Bastards” is a an awful lot of metal and an awfully good time, but you missed the mark on “simple” by a considerable margin. If indeed the band had been plotting toward something, say, easier to play or to compose, “Ruthless Bastards” ain’t it. They’ll have to settle for being brutal as fuck instead. Something tells me they’ll survive having made that trade, as much as anything will.

zhOra on Facebook

zhOra on Bandcamp


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