Quarterly Review: Spelljammer, The Black Heart Death Cult, Shogun, Nadja, Shroud of Vulture, Towards Atlantis Lights, ASTRAL CONstruct, TarLung, Wizzerd & Merlin, Seum

Posted in Reviews on July 8th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

the-obelisk-fall-2016-quarterly-review

We proceed onward, into this ever-growing swath of typos, lineup corrections made after posting, and riffs — more riffs! — that is the Quarterly Review. Today is Day Four and I’m feeling good. Not to say there isn’t some manner of exhaustion, but the music has been killer — today is particularly awesome — and that makes life much, much, much better as I’ve already said. I hope you’ve found one or two or 10 records so far that you’ve really dug. I know I’ve added a few to my best of 2021 list, including stuff right here. So yeah, we roll on.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Spelljammer, Abyssal Trip

spelljammer abyssal trip

To envision an expanse, and to crush it. Stockholm three-piece Spelljammer return five years after Ancient of Days (review here), with an all-the-more-massive second long-player through RidingEasy, turning their front-cover astronaut around to face the audience head on and offering 43 minutes/six tracks of encompassing largesse, topping 10 minutes in the title-track and “Silent Rift,” both on side B with the interlude “Peregrine” between them, after the three side A rollers, “Bellwether,” “Lake” and “Among the Holy” have tripped out outward and downward into an atmospheric plunge that is a joy to take feeling specifically geared as an invite to the converted. We are here, come worship with us. Also get crushed. Spelljammer records may not happen all the time, but you won’t be through “Bellwether” before you’re saying it was worth the wait.

Spelljammer on Facebook

RidingEasy Records website

 

The Black Heart Death Cult, Sonic Mantras

The Black Heart Death Cult Sonic Mantras

A deceptively graceful second LP from Melbourne’s The Black Heart Death Cult, Sonic Mantras pulls together an eight-song/45-minute run that unfolds bookended by “Goodbye Gatwick Blues” (8:59) and “Sonic Dhoom” (9:47) and in between ebbs and flows across shorter pieces that maximize their flow in whether shoegazing, heavygazing, blissing out, or whatever we’re calling it this week on “The Sun Inside” and “One Way Through,” or finding their way to a particularly deadened meadow on “Trees,” or tripping the light hypnotic on “Dark Waves” just ahead of the closer. “Cold Fields” churns urgently in its 2:28 but remains spacious, and everywhere The Black Heart Death Cult go, they remain liquefied in their sound, like a seemingly amorphous thing that nonetheless manages to hold its shape despite outside conditions. Whatever form they take, then, they are themselves, and Sonic Mantras emphasizes how yet-underappreciated they are in emerging from the ever-busy Aussie underground.

The Black Heart Death Cult on Facebook

Kozmik Artifactz store

 

Shogun, Tetra

Shogun Tetra

Tetra is the third long-player from Milwaukee’s Shogun, and in addition to the 10-minute “Delta,” which marries blues gargle with YOB slow-gallop before jamming out across its 10-minute span, it brings straight-shooter fuzz rockers like “Gravitas,” the someone-in-this-band-listened-to-Megadeth-in-the-’90s-and-that’s-okay beginnings of “Buddha’s Palm/Aviary” and likewise crunch of “Axiom” later, but also the quiet classic progressive rock of “Gone Forever,” and the more patient coming together of psychedelia and harder-hitting movement on closer “Maximum Ray.” Somewhat undercut by a not-raw-but-not-bursting-with-life production, pieces like “Buddha’s Palm/Aviary,” which gives over to a sweeter stretch of guitar in its second movement, and “Vertex/Universal Pain Center,” which in its back end brings around that YOB influence again and puts it to good use, are outwardly complex enough to put the lie to the evenhandedness of the recording. There’s more going on in Tetra than it first seems, and the more you listen, the more you find.

Shogun on Facebook

Shogun on Bandcamp

 

Nadja, Luminous Rot

Nadja Luminous Rot

Keeping up with Nadja has proven nigh on impossible over the better part of the last two decades, as the Berlin-by-way-of-Toronto duo have issued over 25 albums in 19 years, plus splits and live offerings and digital singles and oh my goodness I do believe I have the vapors that’s a lot of Nadja. For those of us who flit in and out like the dilletantes we ultimately are, Luminous Rot‘s aligning Aidan Baker and Leah Buckareff with Southern Lord makes it an easy landmark, but really most of what the six-cut/48-minute long-player does is offer a reminder of the vital experimentalism the lazy are missing in the first place. The consuming, swelling drone of “Cuts on Your Hands,” blown-out sub-industrialism of “Starres,” hook of the title-track and careful-what-you-wish-for anchor riff of “Fruiting Bodies” — these and the noisily churning closer “Dark Inclusions” are a fervent argument in Nadja‘s favor as being more than a sometimes-check-in kind of band, and for immediately digging into the 43-minute single-song album Seemannsgarn, which they released earlier this year. So much space and nothing to lose.

Nadja on Facebook

Southern Lord Recordings website

 

Shroud of Vulture, Upon a Throne of Jackals

shroud of vulture upon a throne of jackals

Welcome to punishment as a primary consideration. Indianapolis death-doom four-piece hold back the truly crawling fare until “Perverted Reflection,” which is track three of the total seven on their debut full-length, Upon a Throne of Jackals, but by then the extremity has already shown its unrepentant face across the buried-alive “Final Spasms of the Drowned” and the oldschool death metal of “The Altar.” Centerpiece “Invert Every Throne” calls to mind Conan in its nod, but Shroud of Vulture are more about rawness than sheer largesse in tone, and their prone-to-blasting style gives them an edge there and in “Halo of Tarnished Light,” which follows. The closing pair of “Concealing Rabid Laughter” and “Stone Coffin of Existence” both top seven minutes and offset grueling tension with grueling release, but it’s the stench of decay that so much defines Upon a Throne of Jackals, as though somebody rebuilt Sunlight Studio brick for brick in Hoosier Country. Compelling and filthy in kind.

Shroud of Vulture on Facebook

Wise Blood Records website

Transylvanian Tapes on Bandcamp

 

Towards Atlantis Lights, When the Ashes Devoured the Sun

Towards Atlantis Lights When the Ashes Devoured the Sun

Ultra-grueling, dramatic death-doom tragedies permeate the second full-length, When the Ashes Devoured the Sun, from UK-based four-piece Towards Atlantis Lights, with vocalist/keyboardist Kostas Panagiotou and guitarist Ivan Zara at the heart of the compositions while bassist Riccardo Veronese and drummer Ivano Olivieri assure the impact that coincides with the cavernous procession matches in scope. The follow-up to 2018’s Dust of Aeons (review here), this six-track collection fosters classicism and modern apocalyptic vibes alike, and whether raging or morose, its dirge atmosphere remains firm and uncompromised. Heavy lumber for heavy hearts. The kind of doom that doesn’t look up. That doesn’t mean it’s not massive in scope — it is, even more than the first record — just that nearly everything it sees is downward. If there’s hope, it is a vague thing, lost to periphery. So be it.

Towards Atlantis Lights on Facebook

Kostas Panagiotou on Bandcamp

 

ASTRAL CONstruct, Tales of Cosmic Journeys

ASTRAL CONstruct Tales of Cosmic Journeys

It has been said on multiple occasions that “space is the place.” The curiously-capitalized Colorado outfit ASTRAL CONstruct would seem to live by this ethic on their debut album, Tales of Cosmic Journeys, unfurling as they do eight flowing progressions of instrumental slow-CGI-of-the-planets pieces that are more plotted in their course than jams, but feel built from jams just the same. Raw in its production and mix, and mastered by Kent Stump of Wo Fat, there’s enough atmosphere to let the lead guitar breathe, certainly, and to sustain life in general even on “Jettisoned Adrift in the Space Debris,” and the image evoked by “Hand Against the Solar Winds” feels particularly inspired given that song’s languid roll. The record starts and ends in cryogenic sleep, and if upon waking we’re transported to another place and another time, who knows what wonders we might see along the way. ASTRAL CONstruct‘s exploration would seem to be just beginning here, but their “Cosmos Perspective” is engaging just the same.

ASTRAL CONstruct on Instagram

ASTRAL CONstruct on Bandcamp

 

TarLung, Architect

TarLung Architect

Vienna-based sludgedrivers TarLung were last heard from with 2017’s Beyond the Black Pyramid (discussed here), and Architect continues the progression laid out there in melding vocal extremity and heavy-but-not-too-heavy-to-move riffing. It might seem like a fine line to draw, and it is, and that only makes songs like “Widow’s Bane” and “Horses of Plague” all the more nuanced as their deathly growls and severe atmospheres mesh with what in another context might just be stoner rock groove. Carcass circa the criminally undervalued Swansong, Six Feet Under. TarLung manage to find a place in stoner sludge that isn’t just Bongzilla worship, or Bongripper worship, or Bong worship. I’m not sure it’s worship at all, frankly, and I like that about it as the closing title-track slow-moshes my brain into goo.

TarLung on Facebook

TarLung on Bandcamp

 

Wizzerd & Merlin, Turned to Stone Chapter III

ripple music turned to stone chapter iii wizzerd vs merlin

Somewhere in the great mystical expanse between Kalispell, Montana, and Kansas City, Missouri, two practicioners of the riffly dark arts meet on a field of battle. Wizzerd come packing the 19-minute acoustic-into-heavy-prog-into-sitar-laced-jam-out “We Are,” as if to encompass that declaration in all its scope, while Merlin answer back with the organ-led “Merlin’s Bizarre Adventure” (21:51), all chug and lumber until it’s time for weirdo progressive fusion reggae and an ensuing Purple-tinged psych expansion. Who wins? I don’t know. Ripple Music in releasing it in the first place, I guess. Continuing the label’s influential split series(es), Turned to Stone Chapter III pushes well over the top in the purposes of both acts involved, and in that, it’s maybe less of a battle than two purveyors joining forces to weave some kind of Meteo down on the heads of all who might take them on. If you’ve think you’ve got the gift, they seem only too ready to test that out.

Wizzerd on Facebook

Merlin on Facebook

Ripple Music website

 

Seum, Winterized

Seum Winterized

“Life Grinder” begins with a sample: “I don’t know if you need all that bass,” and the answer, “Oh, you need all that bass.” That’s already after “Sea Sick Six” has revealed the Montreal-based trio’s sans-guitar extremist sludge roll, and the three-piece seem only too happy to keep up the theme. Vocals are harsh, biting, grating, purposeful in their fuckall, and the whole 28-minute affair of Winterized is cathartic aural violence, except perhaps the interllude “666,” which is a quiet moment between “Broken Bones” and “Black Snail Volcano,” which finally seems to just explode in its outright aggression, nod notwithstanding. A slowed down Ramones cover — reinventing “Pet Sematary” as “Red Sematary” — has a layer of spoken chanting vocals layered in and closes out, but the skin has been peeled so far back by then and Seum have doused so much salt onto the wounds that even Bongzilla might cringe. The low-end-only approach only makes it more punishing and more punk rock at the same time. Fucking mean.

Seum on Facebook

Seum on Bandcamp

 

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Quarterly Review: Carlton Melton, Crown, Noêta, Polymerase, Lucid Sins, Hekate, Abel Blood, Suffer Yourself, Green Dragon, Age Total

Posted in Reviews on July 5th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

the-obelisk-fall-2016-quarterly-review

This will be a two-week Quarterly Review. That means this Monday to Friday and next Monday to Friday, 10 releases per day, totaling 100 by the time it’s done.

Me? I’m taking it one week, one day, one album at a time. It’s the only way to go and not have it seem completely insurmountable. But we’ll get through it all. I started out with the usual five days, and then I went to seven, then eight, and at that point I felt like I had a pretty good idea where things were headed. The last two days I filled up just at the end of last week. Some of it is I think a result of quarantine productivity, but there’s a glut of relevant stuff out now and some of it I’m catching up on, true, but some of it isn’t out yet either, so it’s a balance as ever. I keep telling myself I’m done with 2020 releases, but there’s one in here today. You know how it goes.

And since you do, I won’t delay further. Thanks in advance for reading if you do.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Carlton Melton, Night Pillers

carlton melton night pillers

Rangey mellow psych collected together with the natural shimmer of a Phil Manley (Trans Am) recording and a John McBain master, the new mini-LP from Mendocino medicine makers Carlton Melton is a 31-minute, five-song meditative joy. To wit, “Safe Place?” Is. “Morning Warmth?” Is, even with the foreboding march of drums behind it. And “Striatum,” which closes with interplay of keys and fuzzy leads and effects, giving a culminating seven-minute wash that doesn’t feel like it’s pushing far out so much as already gone upon arrival, indeed seems like a reward for any head or brain that’s managed to make it so far. Opener “Resemblance” brings four minutes of gentle drone to set the mood ahead of “Morning Warmth” — it might be sunrise, if we’re thinking of it that way — and centerpiece “High Noon Thirty” bridges krauty electronic beats and organic ceremony that feels both familiar and like the band’s own. They may pill at night, but Carlton Melton have a hell of a day here.

Carlton Melton on Facebook

Agitated Records website

 

Crown, The End of All Things

Crown The End of All Things

Weaving in and around genres with fluidity that’s tied together through dark industrial foundations, Crown are as much black metal as they are post-heavy, cinematic or danceable. “Gallow” or the earlier “Neverland” call to mind mid-period, electronica-fascinated Katatonia, but “Extinction” pairs this with a more experimental feel, opening in its midsection to more unsettling spaces ahead of the dance-ready finish. There’s nothing cartoonish or vamp about The End of All Things, which is the French outfit’s fourth album in 10 years, and it’s as likely to embrace pop (closer “Utopia”) as extremity (“Firebearer” just before), grim atmospherics (“Nails”) or textured acoustics (“Fleuve”), feeling remarkably unconcerned with genre across its 45 entrancing minutes, and remarkably even in its approach for a sound that’s still so varied. It’s not an easy listen front to back, but the challenge feels intentional and is emotional as much as cerebral in the craft and performance.

Crown on Facebook

Pelagic Records on Bandcamp

 

Noêta, Elm

Noêta elm

Swedish duo Noêta offer their second record for Prophecy Productions in Elm, comprising a deceptively efficient eight songs and 38 minutes that work in atmospheres of darker but not grim or cultish folk. Vocalist Êlea is very much a focal point in terms of performance, with Andris‘ instrumentals forming a backdrop that’s mournful on “Above and Below” while shimmering enough to bring affirmation to “As We Are Gone” a short while later ahead of the electrified layering in “Elm” and the particularly haunted-feeling closer “Elm II.” “As I Fall Silent” is a singularly spacious moment, but not the only one, as “Fade” complements with strings and outward-sounding guitar, and some of Elm‘s most affecting moments are its quietest stretches, as “Dawn Falls” proves at the outset and the whispers of “Elm” reaffirm on side B. Subdued but not lacking complexity, Noêta‘s songs make an instrument of mood itself and are pointedly graceful in doing so.

Noêta on Facebook

Prophecy Productions website

 

Polymerase, Unostentatious

Polymerase Unostentatious

Unostentatious, which is presumably not to say “humble,” may or may not be Polymerase‘s debut release, but it follows on from several years of inactivity on the part of the Philippines-based mostly-instrumentalist heavy psych trio. The band present four duly engaging and somewhat raw feeling jams, with a jump in volume as “Lightbringer//Lightgiver” picks up from “A Night with a Succubus” and opener “The Traveler” and a final touch of thickened, fuzzy sludge in the rolling “Green is the Color of Evil,” which closes at a lurch that comes across at significant remove from the title-hinted brightness of the song just before it. Uneven? Maybe, but not egregiously so, and if Polymerase are looking to give listeners an impression of their having a multifaceted sound, they most assuredly do. My question is over what span of time these tracks were recorded and what the group will do in moving forward from them, but I take the fact that I’m curious to find out at all as a positive sign of having interest piqued. Will hope for more.

Polymerase on Facebook

Polymerase on Bandcamp

 

Lucid Sins, Cursed!

lucid sins cursed

Lucid indeed. The band’s self-applied genre tag of “adult AOR” is more efficient a descriptor of their sound than anything I might come up with. Glasgow’s Lucid Sins released their acclaimed debut, Occultation, in 2014, and Cursed! is the exclamatory seven-years-later follow-up, bringing together classic progressive rock and modern cult heavy sensibilities with a focus on songwriting that’s the undercurrent from “Joker’s Dance” onward and which, as deep as “The Serpentine Path” or the title-track or “The Forest” might go, is never forgotten. To wit, the penultimate “By Your Hand” is a proto-everything highlight, stomping compared to the organ-prog “Sun and the Moon” earlier, but ultimately just as melodic and of enviable tonal warmth. Seven years is a long time between records, and maybe this material just took that long to put together, I don’t know, but I had no idea “cult xylophone” was a possibility until “The Devil’s Sign” came along, and now I’m not sure how I ever lived without it.

Lucid Sins on Facebook

Totem Cat Records store

 

Hekate, Sermons to the Black Owl

Hekate Sermons to the Black Owl

Australia’s history in heavy rock and roll is as long as that of heavy rock and roll itself and need not be recounted here, except to say that Hekate, from Canberra and Sydney, draw from multiple eras of it with their debut long-player, Sermons to the Black Owl, pushing ’70s boogie over the top with solos on “Carpathian Eagle” only after “Winter Void” and “Child of Black Magick” have seen the double-guitar-and-let’s-use-both four-piece update nascent doom vibes and “Burning Mask” has brought a more severe chug to the increasingly intense procession. A full production sound refuses to let the quick eight-tracker be anything other than modern, and though it’s only 28 minutes long, the aptly-titled “Acoustic Outro” feels earned atmospherically, even down to the early-feeling cold finish of “Cassowary Dreaming.” The balance may be then, then, then, and now, but the sense of shove that Hekate foster in their songs gives fresh urgency to the tenets of genre they seem to have adopted at will.

Hekate on Facebook

Black Farm Records store

 

Abel Blood, Keeping Pace with the Elephants

Abel Blood Keeping Pace with the Elephants

One does not evoke elephantine images on a heavy record, even on a debut release, if aural largesse isn’t a factor. New Hampshire trio Abel Blood — guitarist/vocalist Adam Joslyn, bassist Ben Cook, drummer Jim DeLuca — are raw in sound on their first EP, Keeping Pace with the Elephants, but the impact with which they land “The Day that Moby Died” at the outset is only encouraging, and to be sure, it’s not the thickest of their wares either. “Enemies” already pushes further, and as centerpiece “UnKnown Variant” would seem to date the effort in advance, it also serves the vital function of moving the EP in a different, more jangly, grungier direction, which is a valuable move with the title cut following behind, its massive cymbals and distorted wash building to a head in time for the nine-minute finale “Fire on the Hillside” to draw together both sides of the approach shown throughout into a parabolically structured jam the middle-placed surge of which passes quickly enough to leave the listener unsure whether it ever happened. They’re messing with you. Dig that.

Abel Blood on Facebook

Abel Blood on Bandcamp

 

Suffer Yourself, Rip Tide

Suffer Yourself Rip Tide

Begun in 2011 by guitarist/vocalist Stanislav Govorukha and based in Sweden by way of Poland and the Ukraine, death-doom lurchbringers Suffer Yourself are not strangers to longer-form material, but to my knowledge, “Spit in the Chasm” — the opening and longest track (immediate points) on their third record, Rip Tide — is the first time they’ve crossed the 20-minute mark. Time well spent, and by that I mean “brutally spent,” whether its the speedier chug that emerges from the willful slog of the extended piece’s first half or the viciously progressive lead work that tops the precise, cold end of the song that brings final ambience. Side B offers two shorter pieces in “Désir de Trépas Maritime (Au Bord de la Mer Je Veux Mourir),” laced with suitably mournful strings and a fair enough maritime sense of gothic drama emphasized by later spoken word and piano, and the brief, mostly-drone “Submerging,” which one assumes is the end of that plotline playing out. The main consumption though is in “Spit in the Chasm,” and the dimensions of that fissure are significant, figuratively and literally.

Suffer Yourself on Facebook

Aesthetic Death website

 

Green Dragon, Dead of the Night

Green Dragon Dead of the Night

High order Sabbathian doom rock from my own beloved Garden State, there’s very little chance I’m not going to dig Green Dragon‘s Dead of the Night, and true to type, I do. Presented by the band on limited vinyl after digital release late in 2020, the four-song, 24-minute outing brings guitarist/vocalists Zach Kurland and Ryan Lipynsky (the latter also adding keys and known for his work in Unearthly Trance, etc.), bassist Jennifer Klein and drummer Herbert Wiley to a place so dug into its groove it almost feels inappropriate to think of it as a peak in terms of their work to-date. They go high by going low, then. Fair enough. “Altered States” opens with a rollout of fuzz that miraculously avoids the trap sounding like Electric Wizard, while “Burning Bridges” murks out, “The Sad King” pushes speed a bit will still holding firm to nod and echo alike, and “Book of Shadows” plunges into effects-drenched noise like it was one of the two waterslides at the Maplewood community pool in summertime.

Green Dragon on Facebook

Green Dragon on Bandcamp

 

ÂGE TOTAL, ÂGE TOTAL

ÂGE ? TOTAL

The kind of record that probably won’t be heard by enough people but will inspire visceral loyalty in many of those who encounter it, the self-titled debut from French collaborative outfit Age Total — bringing together members from Endless Floods out of Bordeaux and Rouen’s Greyfell — is a grand and engrossing work that pushes the outer limits of doom and post-metal. Bookending opener “Amure” (14:28) and closer “The Songbird” (16:45) around the experimentalist “Carré” (4:06) and rumbling melodic death-doom of “Metal,” the album harnesses grandiosity and nuance to spare, with each piece feeling independently conceived and enlightening to musician and audience alike. It sounds like the kind of material they didn’t know they were going to come up with until they actually got together — whatever the circumstances of “together” might’ve looked like at the time — and the bridges they build between progressive metal and sheer weight of intention are staggering. However much hype it does or doesn’t have behind it, Age Total‘s Age Total is one of 2021’s best debut albums.

Endless Floods on Facebook

Greyfell on Facebook

Soza Label on Bandcamp

 

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Friday Full-Length: Barr, Skogsbo is the Place

Posted in Bootleg Theater on April 9th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

The first thing you hear — and it’s quick, but it’s there — is birdsong. Swedish mushroom folk serenity-bringers Barr released their debut album, Skogsbo is the Place (discussed here), in 2008 through the Transubstans Records-affiliated imprint Sakuntala. MySpace era. I bought it, as you can read in that link, after sampling an MP3 from the now-gone All That’s Heavy webstore, and digging further into the entire affair thereafter. It has proven almost infinitely listenable — the kind of record that calls you back over time, or even just pops into your head somewhere along the line while you’re listening to something else; a source of sonic coincidence. That’s what happened this week and prompted the revisit, but for all the time I’ve spent hearing it, I’m not sure I ever bothered to look up what or where Skogsbo is until now.

I’ve listened to enough Scandinavian metal to know “skog” is “forest” in English, and that makes sense with the cover art of Skogsbo is the Place, and in the east of Sweden, there are a bunch of places with the designation. Bus stops, little spots. A nature preserve south of Gothenburg that would be a pretty good candidate, but the band were based in Stockholm and Finspång, so who knows. “Skogsbo,” the word, translates to “forest estate,” so fair enough. I guess it could just be a cottage in the woods belonging to someone in the band — vocalist Andreas Söderström (also harmonium, glockenspiel, dulcimer), vocalist/guitarist Patrik Andersson, vocalist/flutist Hanna Fritzson, vocalist/guitarist Marcus Palm, bassist/cellist Svante Söderqvist, pianist Patric Thorman, percussionist Fredrik Ohlsson — or it could just as easily be a made-up place that doesn’t really exist. It doesn’t make the record any less transporting either way.

“Summerwind” is the opener that gets underway with that birdsong noted above, and that’s not the last nature-sound throughout. The folkish impression is immediate with harmonium and acoustic guitars backing soulful, sweetly melodic vocals, and that presence of arrangement, who’s singing or who’s playing what at any given moment, will change from song to song — Fritzson taking lead vocals on centerpiece “Calling My Name” and the title-track that follows, or or the meandering duet vocals over piano barr skogsbo is the placeof “Words Would Do,” others intertwining at various points between “Summerwind,” “Words Would Do” and “He Ain’t a Friend, He’s a Brother.” Those three serve as the immersive lead salvo that marks one’s passage into these woods, lines like, “I watch the sunrise/It soothes me,” and “Far, far away” and “Let everyone surround you” standing out over arrangements likewise lush, be it the cello sneaking into the end of “Summerwind” and “He Ain’t a Friend, He’s a Brother,” flute amid the harmonies of “Calling My Name,” the subtle snare shuffle on the penultimate “Moonfall” or the return of cello on “Sister,” the closing track which builds in its finish and pulls itself apart leading to captured forest-at-night audio — there’s a cough and some speech as well — before “Lovers Alone” ends the proceedings as a semi-secret track, no less gorgeous for being tucked away as it is.

One wouldn’t call Skogsbo is the Place long at 43 minutes, in no small part because its songs are so wonderfully engaging, but they’re not necessarily short in the way one finds a lot of neo-folk operating. “Words Would Do” at four and a half minutes and the lyric-less title-track at three minutes are the two shortest cuts (“Lovers Alone” might actually be shorter, but it’s somewhere around three minutes as well), and everything else tops six. “Moonfall” stretches to 6:53 and uses its time well to build into a melodic payoff that’s still more about the journey than the destination, and certainly “Summerwind” and “He Ain’t a Friend, He’s a Brother” and “Calling My Name” and “Sister” prove memorable enough with their understated hooks and classic feel that while I can’t really say anything that at any point involves a glockenspiel isn’t indulgent on some level, it’s an indulgence well worth making. Like precious few albums I’ve encountered since, Skogsbo is the Place has the ability to carry the listener along its course, and with particular attention paid to atmosphere and the overarching organic presentation, there’s no regrets in going where it goes.

It was one of the first records I wrote about for this site that wasn’t outwardly heavy but carried a presence of tone and melody and/or an emotional heft to coincide with its abidingly natural psychedelia. It’s not acid folk in the sense of being coated in reverb or blissed out on effects or any of that kind of thing. I think there’s electric guitar on there, but it’s surrounded by acoustics, 12-string, and the diversity of the vocal arrangements to the point that it’s clearly not intended to be a primary factor. Some of the songs sound like the strum came first, others the vocals, others other things. That spirit of song-happening-to-artist is rampant throughout, and the more I hear Skogsbo is the Place, the more it feels like an album I’ll continue to come back to, like visiting an old friend, or a brother. Time changes your context of appreciation, but some records continue to speak to the person you’ve become as well as the person you were. 13 years isn’t eternity, but when I think of the amount of music I’ve come across in that time, Barr‘s debut feels all the more special.

The band’s 2012 follow-up, Atlantic Ocean Blues (discussed here), gave up some of the intimacy of the first offering in favor of breadth, marked in particular by the fuller, jammier take on “He Ain’t a Friend, He’s a Brother” that made its way onto the release. To be perfectly honest with you, I keep that album on my phone in case of emergencies, so I’m not going to say a bad word about it or the resonance it shares with its predecessor. To the best of my knowledge, Barr haven’t done anything since, and whether theirs was a two-album course or if they ever do anything else, I consider myself fortunate to have this music in my life.

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

I woke up this morning before four. I haven’t slept well all week, that helps nothing. Yesterday was a turnaround point though. The morning was wretched. We’ve been trying to push on potty training with The Pecan, and just… no. He’s flat-out refused it, and it’s made the house a miserable place and me miserable and stressed and I finally yesterday decided fuck it. I took a xanax in the morning and by the time I put him upstairs for a rest — he doesn’t nap anymore, but goes upstairs for an hour or 90 minutes or however long in the afternoon, and just kind of chills out with himself, plays, whatever; it’s a pattern that benefits everybody; Daniel Tiger has a whole song about a quiet rest being good for you — did some vocals for nascent-heavy-industrial-project, worked on more posts for today and by the time that was done, I’d decided that’s it. I don’t care anymore.

I don’t care when he pisses in the toilet. I don’t care when it happens. Means nothing in the grand scheme of his life. I’ll change his fucking diapers for as long as it takes. I don’t care anymore. It’s not worth the struggle or the stress, or him losing his mind or holding in poop for two days because he feels bad about going in his diaper but is terrified of the potty. I just can’t do it anymore. I don’t care that much. I’m sorry. There’s part of me that feels like I should rip off his diaper, refuse to put another one on, push him out of the nest, and so on, but seriously, fuck it. Maybe I’ll give don’t-be-a-prick a shot and see how that goes.

Yesterday afternoon? Much better. I felt like I’d pushed a weight off my shoulder and because I wasn’t miserable, he wasn’t either. We played and read books and he pissed in his diaper and it was fine. The day proceeded. We had dinner.

He’s been off from school all week. Spring break. We’ve had some real hang-out time. I’ve been spoiled sleeping mornings by him going to school, and there continues to be a big difference in my head between getting up at 5AM or before (I beat the alarm a couple days this week, including today) and getting up at 6AM or even later. Maybe I’ll nap later if I can.

I can’t. I have an interview this afternoon that I rescheduled from yesterday because I was such a mess and then kind of zoned out on meds.

I have more writing to do. Another news post I’d like to have go up today — that’ll be six posts; always gotta pack stuff in on Friday, I guess — and then the second of my two interviews for the Roadburn ‘zine. I put together the Steve Von Till piece yesterday or the day before. Wednesday, it was. The Patient Mrs. took The Pecan out of the house so I could get some time, I wound up transcribing that and Tau both. Still need to write up Tau. That was a cool chat. Seems like a nice guy. Steve Von Till I hadn’t talked to in a long while, so that was interesting as well. He’s kind to put up with my stupid fucking questions about process.

Hey, I like process.

The birds are out and yelling at the sun to rise, so The Pecan will be up soon. It’s almost six. I’m gonna try and get that other post done before it’s breakfast time and then, I don’t know, finish my coffee? That’d be cool. I can’t seem to sit still these days.

Am I the only one super-anxious about shows coming back? Not because of the plague, but because of the shows themselves? I’m not worried about wearing a mask or social distancing, but I’m not sure I ever want to leave the house again either. I miss live music, but there’s so much other bullshit about shows I don’t miss. People, most venues, taking pictures, the work of writing up a live review and knowing that no one’s going to care about it, driving there, driving back, losing basically two days because I was out so late, the pre-show anxiety, the post-show fatigue.

It feels like so much, like the prospect of having that in my life again is overwhelming. I wasn’t dude-at-three-shows-a-week anymore anyway — I did my fucking time — but still. The thought of being out and around. It’s troubling in a way I didn’t anticipate when the world went into lockdown last year and concerts evaporated.

If you have any thoughts, I’d appreciate. On that happy note, thank you for reading. Have a great and safe weekend. Don’t forget to hydrate — so important — and watch your head. New merch up next week, I think.

FRM.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

The Obelisk merch

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Besvärjelsen Sign to Magnetic Eye Records; New Album Later This Year

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 9th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

I’m not saying it can’t happen or that I wouldn’t be stoked if it did, but unless they’re hitting the studio, like, next week, a 2021 timeline for Besvärjelsen‘s second album seems ambitious, especially if they’re also taking part in Magnetic Eye Records‘ upcoming AC/DC tribute (man, they just keep pumping out those reduxes). The PostWax veterans released their Frost EP (discussed here) in 2019 as a follow-up to 2018’s Vallmo (review here), and for sure the wintry aspects of their sound would be highlighted by a release in, say, November, but even if their songs are nailed down tight and all that, I guess it just seems like to go from zero to mastered-album, then give figure three months lead time for promo, preorders, all that stuff, that puts you into probably September at the earliest. Doable, yeah. But with a band like this, whose sound is so meditative and fleshed out, you’d almost rather they take their time.

Don’t hurry, is all I’m saying. Yes, I’m very much looking forward to what Besvärjelsen might do next. I guess maybe I’m just fretting over nothing. Such a worrier, this one.

More important, congrats to the band on the Magnetic Eye signing, though they were with Blues Funeral, so it’s Jadd either way. Distribution don’t hurt though.

PR wire brings details:

besvarjelsen (Photo by Stine Rapp)

BESVÄRJELSEN sign deal with Magnetic Eye Records

BESVÄRJELSEN have penned a multi-album deal with Magnetic Eye Records. The Swedish forest rockers will release their sophomore album via the label this year and also contribute a track to the forthcoming “Back in Black Redux” homage to AC/DC.

BESVÄRJELSEN comment: “We are extremely thrilled to be joining Magnetic Eye Records”, writes drummer Erik Bäckwall. “We know that we have come to the right team as we will be joining an amazing roster on this renowned label. In all modesty, we think that we have written our finest material yet for the new record, so we are very much looking forward to record and share it with the world as soon as possible!”

Jadd Shickler welcomes the Swedes: “I feel extremely privileged in welcoming Besvärjelsen onto our roster and I promise that the world of heavy music will be floored by what this amazing group does next”, comments the Magnetic Eye Records label director. “Having been part of the heavy rock underground for some time, I am fortunate to know many great musicians going back quite a few years. Sometimes such artists re-emerge with new bands and projects and I am lucky to be one of the first to hear about them. The very moment that original Dozer drummer Erik let me hear material from his new band Besvärjelsen, I knew they were something special and magical. Altareth, Heavy Temple, and now Besvärjelsen, 2021 is shaping up to be a hell of year for great bands joining Magnetic Eye Records.”

Spellbinding five-piece BESVA?RJELSEN take their name from the Swedish word for “conjuring”, which is a fitting description for their haunting approach to Northern heaviness. The Scandinavians carry melodic doom at their hearts, but lace their sound with subtle touches of prog as well as punk, folk, and classic rock.

The Swedes set out to with a clear vision to channel the vast Dalarna forests, a region otherwise famous for its painted wooden horses, instead of following the general trend among European riff-rock bands to try and evoke the American deserts.

The band was co-founded by guitarists and vocalists Andreas Baier and Staffan Stensland Vinrot in 2014, inspired by their magical geographic location. The musicians had both grown up on old Norse and Finnish grounds in Dalecarlia, Sweden surrounded by its lore, its mysticism, and its dark, droning musical traditions. The duo saw their new band as a means to create heavy music infused with all those elements.

Andreas, coming from a background in punk and hardcore, had realised that by constantly making his music faster, it finally hit a point where fast started to become slow. The timing of riffs would cut in half, even with blastbeats going underneath, and his instinctive pattern for slowing things down laid the foundation for BESVA?RJELSEN’s approach.

Initially Andreas and Staffan shared vocal duties, but they concluded that a full-time singer would free them to explore the complexity of their music further. While the duo never made a conscious decision to look for a female vocalist, Lea Amling Alazam arrived with a passion for punk and stoner rock that had started at age 13 at the local skate park. When, to the surprise of the guitarists, her distinctive voiced summoned the intimacy and charisma of singers like NINA SIMONE or AMY WINEHOUSE, Lea became the obvious choice.

BESVA?RJELSEN released their debut EP “Villfarelser” in 2015, which was followed quickly with the “Exil” EP in 2016. At this time, former DOZER and GREENLEAF drummer Erik Ba?ckwall joined the line-up. Both releases, though self-financed and released with minimal promotion, were well-received and even found airplay on Swedish National Radio.

Bass player Johan Rockner (DOZER, GREENLEAF) joined in 2018; just before their debut full-length “Vallmo” came out. The quintet merged crushing riffs and storming drums with increasingly sophisticated melodies and thoughtful themes. The album debut was greeted with great acclaim and even earned BESVA?RJELSEN a festival slot opening for DEEP PURPLE.

With Erik and Johan having played in various bands together and sharing a musical language, the rhythm section started to contribute to the songwriting for the mini-album “Frost”, which was released in late 2019. While BESVA?RJELSEN were forced into involuntary live performance hibernation like every band other during 2020, the Swedes kept themselves busy with intensive songwriting during all those months.

Having now joined Magnetic Eye Records, BESVA?RJELSEN will enter studio in spring 2021 to record their sophomore full-length to be released via the label this year.

Line-up
Lea Amling Alazam- vocals
Staffan Stensland Vinrot – guitars, vocals
Andreas Baier – guitars, vocals
Erik Bäckwall – drums
Johan Rockner – bass

https://www.facebook.com/besvarjelsen
https://www.instagram.com/besvarjelsen
https://besvarjelsen.bandcamp.com/
http://store.merhq.com
http://magneticeyerecords.com/
https://www.facebook.com/MagneticEyeRecords

Besvärjelsen, Frost (2019)

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JIRM Sign to Ripple Music; The Tunnel, the Well, Holy Bedlam Due Next Year

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 6th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

Sweden’s JIRM have inked a deal with Ripple Music to release their fifth album, The Tunnel, the Well, Holy Bedlam, next year. And, you know, presumably whatever they do from that point on as well. The band also recently announced a reissue through Majestic Mountain Records of their 2011 album, Bloom, and with the forthcoming album as the follow-up to 2018’s Surge Ex Monumentis (discussed here), it will be the second LP since they shortened their moniker from Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus.

I gotta be honest with you. I saw this band about five years ago and was pretty blown away by what they were doing. The last album pushed in a way different, proggier and more classic metal direction, but from where I sit that only makes them less predictable in terms of the new stuff, particularly with the pandemic-born changes in the recording process noted in the PR wire info below. I don’t know what to expect from them and I like that.

I don’t know about this promo photo though.

Either way, kudos to band and label and here’s looking forward to what’s coming:

jirm

JIRM (formerly Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus) ink worldwide deal with Ripple Music for the release of their fifth studio album.

Stockholm-based hardest heavy rock stalwarts JIRM (formerly known as Jeremy Irons & the Ratgang Malibus) announce their signing to US powerhouse Ripple Music, for the release of their fifth full-length “The Tunnel, The Well, Holy Bedlam” in early 2022.

JIRM will make an impact on you: they have an innovative, and highly personal take on psychedelic rock and its many facets and elements. It is music with a retrospective outlook, taking the listener on adventurous excursions, deep into one’s mind. Their music aims to broaden your horizons and consciousness.

The band was formed in 2004 under the name Jeremy Irons & the Ratgang Malibus, by Micke Backendal and Karl Apelmo. In 2007, they were joined by Henke Persson and Viktor Källgren to seal the definitive line-up. JIRM has toured extensively, from Sao Paulo (Brazil) to Pleszew (Poland), positioning themselves as one of the hardest working and most prolific outfits of the underground heavy rock scene. They decided to change the name to JIRM when releasing their fourth full-length ‘Surge Ex Monumentis’ in 2018, a record that brimmed with newfound energy.

Their upcoming fifth album “The Tunnel, The Well, Holy Bedlam” has been recorded in a true pandemic style: the tracks were recorded one by one, in five different studios across Sweden. It’s been a challenge both from a songwriting and technical point of view. However, the end result sounds bigger and better than ever, with no holds barred. There is one thing you you can be absolutely sure of with JIRM’s upcoming fifth album: “it’s not a joke this time, I’m leaving reality for sure”.

“The Tunnel, The Well, Holy Bedlam” is slated for an early 2022 release through Ripple Music. Stay tuned for more details!

JIRM is
Karl Apelmo — vocals, guitar
Micke Backendal — guitar
Viktor Källgren — bass
Henke Persson — drums

http://www.facebook.com/JeremyIronsandtheRatgangMalibus
https://www.instagram.com/jirm_band/
http://www.jirm.se/
https://www.facebook.com/theripplemusic/
https://www.instagram.com/ripplemusic/
https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/
http://www.ripple-music.com/

JIRM, Surge ex Monumentis (2018)

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Quarterly Review: Sonic Flower, Demon Head, Rakta & Deafkids, Timo Ellis, Heavy Feather, Slow Draw, Pilot Voyager, The Ginger Faye Bakers, Neromega, Tung

Posted in Reviews on April 2nd, 2021 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-spring-2019

Friday morning and the Spring 2021 Quarterly Review draws to a close. It’s been a good one, and though there are probably enough albums on my desktop to make it go another few days, better to quit while I’m ahead in terms of not-being-so-tired-I’m-angry-at-everything-I’m-hearing. In any case, as always, I hope you found something here you enjoy. I have been pleasantly surprised on more than a few occasions, especially by debuts.

We wrap with more cool stuff today and since I’m on borrowed time as it is, let me not delay.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Sonic Flower, Rides Again

sonic flower rides again

Like Church of Misery‘s groove but feel kind of icky with all those songs about serial killers? Legit. Say hello to Tatsu Mikami‘s Sonic Flower. Once upon a 2003, the band brought all the boogie and none of the slaughter of Tatsu‘s now-legendary Sabbathian doom rock outfit to a self-titled debut (reissue review here), and Rides Again is the lost follow-up from 2005, unearthed like so many of the early ’70s forsaken classics that clearly inspired it. With covers of The Meters and Graham Central Station, Sonic Flower makes their funky intentions plain as day, and the blowout drums and full-on fuzz they bring to those cuts as well as the five originals on the short-but-satisfying 28-minute offering is a win academically and for casual fans alike. You ain’t gonna hear “Jungle Cruise” or their take on “Earthquake” and come out complaining, is what I’m saying. This is the kind of record that makes you buy more records.

Sonic Flower on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds on Bandcamp

 

Demon Head, Viscera

demon head viscera

With Viscera, Copenhagen’s Demon Head make their debut on Metal Blade Records. It is their fourth album overall, the follow-up to 2019’s Hellfire Ocean Void (review here), and it continues the five-piece’s enduring exploration of darker places. Dramatic vocals recount grim narratives over backing instrumentals that are less doom at the outset with “Tooth and Nail” and “The Feline Smile” than goth, and atmospheric pieces like “Arrows” and “The Lupine Choir” and “A Long, Groaning Descent” and “Wreath” and certainly the closer “The Triumphal Chariot of Antimony” further the impression that Viscera, though its title conjures raw guts, is instead an elaborate entirety — if perhaps one of raw guts — and meant to be taken in its 36-minute whole. Demon Head make that LP-friendly runtime a progression down into reaches they’d not until this point gone, tapping sadness for its inherent beauty.

Demon Head on Thee Facebooks

Metal Blade Records website

 

Rakta & Deafkids, Live at Sesc Pompeia

Rakta Deafkids Live at Sesc Pompeia

Next time someone asks you what the future sounds like, you’ll have a good answer for them. Combined into a six-piece band, Brazilian outfits Rakta and Deafkids harness ambience and space-punk thrust into a sound that is born of a past that hasn’t yet happened. Their Live at Sesc Pompeia LP follows on from a 2019 two-songer, but it’s in the live performance that the spirit of this unity really shines through, and from opener/longest track (immediate points) “Miragem” through the semi-industrialized effects swirl of “Templo do Caos,” into the blower-noise dance party “Sigilo,” the weirdo-chug-jam of “Forma” and the space rock breakout “Flor de Pele” and the percussed buzz and echoing howls of “Espirais,” they are equal parts encompassing and singular. It is not to be ignored, and though there are moments that border on unlistenable, you can hear from the wailing crowd at the end that to be in that room was to witness something special. As a document of that, Live at Sesc Pompeia feels like history in the making.

Rakta on Thee Facebooks

Deafkids on Thee Facebooks

Rapid Eye Records website

 

Timo Ellis, Death is Everywhere

Timo Ellis Death is Everywhere

A madcap, weighted-but-anti-genre sensibility comes to life in supernova-experimentalist fashion throughout the four songs of Timo EllisDeath is Everywhere. The lockdown-era EP from Ellis (Netherlands, Yoko Ono, Cibo Matto, on and on) makes post-modern shenanigans out of apocalypses inner and outer, and from lines like “this bridal shower is bumming me out” in the unabashedly hooky “Vampire Rodeo” to “the earth will still breathe fire without you!” in “Left Without an Answer,” the stakes are high despite the flittering-in-appreciation-of-the-absurd mood of the tracks themselves. The title-track and “Evolve or Die” blend sonic heft and the experimental pop movement that “Vampire Rodeo” sets forth — the third cut is positively manic and maniacally positive — while “Left Without an Answer” almost can’t help but be consuming as it rolls into a long fade leaving intertwining vocals lines as the last to go, telling the listener to “learn to say goodbye” without making it easy. Won’t be for everyone, doesn’t want to be. Is expression for itself. Feels genuine in that, and admirable.

Timo Ellis on Thee Facebooks

Timo Ellis on Bandcamp

 

Heavy Feather, Mountain of Sugar

heavy feather mountain of sugar

With not-at-all-subtle nods to Humble Pie and Ennio Morricone in its opening tracks, Heavy Feather‘s second LP, Mountain of Sugar, has boogie to spare. No time is wasted on the 38-minute/11-track follow-up to 2019’s Débris & Rubble (review here), and true to the record’s title, it’s pretty sweet. The collection pits retro mindset against modern fullness in its harmonica-laced, duly-fuzzed title-track, and goes full-Fleetwood on “Come We Can Go” heading into a side B that brings a highlight in the soft-touch-stomp of “Rubble and Debris” and an earned bit of Southern-styled turn in “Sometimes I Feel” that makes a fitting companion to all the bluesy vibes throughout, particularly those of the mellow “Let it Shine” earlier. The Stockholm outfit knew what they were doing last time out too, but you can hear their process being refined throughout Mountain of Sugar, and even its most purposefully familiar aspects come across with a sense of will and playfulness.

Heavy Feather on Thee Facebooks

The Sign Records on Thee Facebooks

 

Slow Draw, Yellow & Gray

slow draw yellow and gray

Don’t tell him I told you so, but Slow Draw is starting to sound an awful lot like a band. What began as a drone/soundscaping project from Stone Machine Electric drummer/noisemaker Mark Kitchens has sprouted percussive roots of its own on Yellow & Gray, and as Kitchens explores textures of psychedelic funk, mellow heavy and even a bit of ’70s proggy homage in “Sylvia” ahead of the readily Beck-ian jam “Turntable” and acousti-drone closer “A Slow Move,” the band-vibe is rampant. I’m going to call Yellow & Gray a full-length despite the fact that it’s 24 minutes long because its eight songs inhabit so many different spaces between them, but however you want to tag it, it demonstrates the burgeoning depth of Kitchens‘ project and how it’s grown in perhaps unanticipated ways. If this is what he’s been doing in isolation — as much as Texas ever shuttered for the pandemic — his time has not been wasted.

Slow Draw on Thee Facebooks

Slow Draw on Bandcamp

 

Pilot Voyager, Nuclear Candy Bar

plot voyager nuclear candy bar

Freak! Out! The 66-minute Nuclear Candy Bar from Hungarian psychedelicists Pilot Voyager might end mostly drifting with the 27-minute “23:61,” but much of the four tracks prior to that finale are fuzz-on-go-go-go-out-out-out heavy jams, full in tone and improv spirit however planned their course may or may not actually be. To say the least, “Fuzziness” lives up to its name, as guitarist/founder Ákos Karancz — joined by bassist Bence Ambrus (who also mastered) and drummers Krisztián Megyeri and István Baumgartner (the latter only on the closer) — uses a relatively earthbound chug as a launchpad for further space/krautrocking bliss, culminating in a scorching cacophony that’s the shortest piece on the record at just under seven minutes. If you make it past the molten heat of the penultimate title-track, there’s no turning away from “23:61,” as the first minute of that next day pulls you in from the outset, a full-length flow all unto itself. More more more, yes yes yes. Alright you get the point.

Pilot Voyager on Thee Facebooks

Psychedelic Source Records on Bandcamp

 

The Ginger Faye Bakers, Camaro

the ginger faye bakers camaro

Sit with The Ginger Faye BakersCamaro EP for a little bit. Don’t just listen to the first track, or even the second, third or fourth, on their own, but take a few minutes to put it all together. Won’t take long, the thing’s only 17 minutes long, and in so doing you’ll emerge with a more complex picture of who they are as a band. Yeah, you hear the opening title-cut and think early-Queens of the Stone Age-style desert riffing, maybe with a touch of we’re-actually-from-the-Northeast tonal thickness, but the garage-heavy of “The Creeps” feels self-aware in its Uncle Acid-style swing, and as the trio move through the swinging “The Master” and “Satan’s Helpers,” the last song drawing effectively from all sides, the totality of the release becomes all the more sinister for the relatively straight-ahead beginning just a short time earlier. Might be a listen or two before it sinks in, but they’ve found a niche for themselves here and one hopes they continue to follow where their impulses lead them.

The Ginger Faye Bakers on Thee Facebooks

The Ginger Faye Bakers on Bandcamp

 

Neromega, Nero Omega

Neromega Nero Omega

If you’re not yet keeping an eye on Regain Records offshoot Helter Skelter Productions, Rome’s Neromega are a fervent argument for doing so. The initials-only cultish five-piece are Italian as much in their style of doom as they are in geography, and across their four-song Nero Omega debut EP, they run horror organ and classic heavy rock grooves alongside each other while nodding subtly at more extreme fare like the death ‘n’ roll rumble in closer “Un Posto” or the dirt-coated low end that caps “Pugnale Ardore,” the drifting psych only moments ago quickly forgotten in favor of renewed shuffle. Eight-minute opener “Solitudine,” might be the highlight as well as the longest inclusion on the 24-minute first-showing, but it’s by no means the sum total of what the band have on offer, as they saunter through giallo, psychedelia, doom, heavy riffs and who knows what else to come, they strike an immediately individual atmospheric presence even while actively toying with familiar sounds. The EP is cohesive enough to make me wonder what their initials are.

Neromega on Thee Facebooks

Helter Skelter Productions website

 

Tung, Bleak

TUNG BLEAK

Some of the made-even-bigger-by-echo vocals from guitarist Craig Kasamis might remind of Maurice Bryan Giles from Red Fang, but Ventura, California’s Tung are up chasing down a different kind of party on 2020’s Bleak, though Kasamis, guitarist David Briceno (since replaced by Bill Bensen), bassist Nick Minasian and drummer Rob Dean have a strong current of West Coast noise rock in what they’re doing as well in “Runaway,” a lurcher like “Spit” later on or the run-till-it-crashes finisher “Fallen Crown,” which the only song apart from the bookending opener “Succession Hand” to have a title longer than a single word. Still, Tung have their own, less pop-minded take on brashness, and this debut album leaves the bruises behind to demonstrate its born-from-hardcore lineage. Their according lack of frills makes Bleak all the more effective at getting its point across, and while they’d probably tell you their sound is nothing fancy, it’s fancy enough to stomp all over your ears for about half an hour, and that’s as fancy as it needs to be. Easy to dig even in its more aggressive moments.

Tung on Thee Facebooks

Plain Disguise Records website

 

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JIRM to Reissue 2011’s Bloom on Majestic Mountain Records

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 11th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

jirm

Originally released on Transubstans Records and re-pressed in 2013 ahead of the band’s 2014 debut on Small Stone, Spirit Knife, 2011’s sophomore outing from the band once known as Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus, Bloom, is seeing a 10th anniversary reissue through Majestic Mountain Records with preorders set to go up on Friday.

The four-piece rebranded themselves in 2018 to JIRM and issued Surge Ex Monumentis (discussed here) as a likewise departure in sound from the classic-style heavy rock and boogie they’d brought to bear on prior offerings. For what it’s worth, they pulled that shift off well, and sounded no less sure of what they wanted to be doing than they ever had. I still think of them as a young band. Funny they’re doing decade-anniversary reissues. For their second record. Ha.

The PR wire has it like this:

jirm bloom

JIRM (AKA Jeremy Irons & The Ratgang Malibus) to Celebrate Anniversary of Bloom with Reissue on Majestic Mountain Records

Majestic Mountain Records is thrilled to announce the official reissue of Bloom, the sophomore album from Swedish psych rockers JIRM… AKA Jeremy Irons & The Ratgang Malibus.

Originally formed in 2004 by close friends Micke Pettersson and Karl Apelmo, the curiously monikered Swedes were keen to implement their surrealist reimagining of heavy psych, early doors. Cementing their line-up in Stockholm circa-2007 with the addition of drummer Henke Persson and bassist Viktor Källgren, the quartet signalled the grand old return of Krautrock and psychedelic grooves to the underground scene. The culmination of which can be best heard on their 2011 album, Bloom, which celebrates its tenth anniversary this year.

Recorded by Marcus Sjoberg at Studio Skyline in the Swedes’ home city of Eskilstuna; Bloom provided listeners with a bed of raw, blues-based hard rock from which myriad sophisticated sonic structures are built. Bathing in the sunlit influence of bands like Led Zeppelin and The Allman Brothers, the album was lauded upon release and has only grown in prestige over the past decade.

“We recorded the album on old Vox AC30s and a bunch of cheap guitars, while trying to figure out amongst ourselves how delay pedals worked,” remembers Karl Apelmo. “Ten years on and we believe Marcus did a fantastic job in recording and capturing the magic in those songs and thanks to Majestic Mountain Records you’ll be able to hear it again. We’re psyched!”

And for MMR’s Marco Berg, the feeling is mutual. “We’re huge fans of this band so it’s a real honour to be able to reissue this classic rock album for anyone who was unlucky to have missed it first time around.”

Majestic Mountain Records will be releasing two exclusive editions of Bloom by JIRM (as Jeremy Irons & The Ratgang Malibus) this year with pre-orders for both imprints going live on 12th March at 19:00 CET / 13:00 EST / 10:00 PST / 18:00 BST here – https://bit.ly/3t0gPwy.

BLOOM EDITION ///
Limited to 200 – Black and green marbled 180g heavyweight vinyl, housed in full colour gatefold cover

SKIN DEEP EDITION ///
Limited to 300 – Black and green swirl 180g heavyweight vinyl, housed in full colour gatefold cover

http://www.facebook.com/JeremyIronsandtheRatgangMalibus
https://www.instagram.com/jirm_band/
http://www.jirm.se/
http://majesticmountainrecords.bigcartel.com
http://facebook.com/majesticmountainrecords
http://instagram.com/majesticmountainrecords

Jeremy Irons & the Ratgang Malibus, Bloom (2011)

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Spelljammer Announce New LP Abyssal Trip out Feb. 26; Post “Lake”

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

Oh hello feedback. Oh hello drums. Oh hello pummeling riff. Oh hello Spelljammer. It’s been a while. Indeed, half a decade has gone by since the Stockholm-based heft hefters released Ancient of Days (review here) in October 2015, their debut album, though to listen to the crush they foster in the seven-minute “Lake,” which is the first audio to be unveiled from the forthcoming second LP, Abyssal Trip, it hardly feels like a day. The three-piece will release Abyssal Trip — as in, “a trip to the abyss”; one can only assume they’re speaking in terms of tone — on Feb. 26, which is just far away enough to think that the world might be on some course toward restoration of ‘life as we knew it,’ though even saying that makes me fear the alternative, as I suspect it will into perpetuity.

Whatever reality greets it upon its arrival, the world needs more crushing riffs, and Spelljammer seem only too pleased to provide. You can read the PR wire info below — and you should, because information is good, knowledge is power and all that — and check out “Lake” at the bottom of this post because I genuinely believe it’ll make your day better.

Album preorders are up through RidingEasy Records, and the link is right on the other side of the cover art:

spelljammer abyssal trip

SPELLJAMMER (RidingEasy Records) first single from first new album in 5 years

Pre-orders: https://www.ridingeasyrecs.com/product/spelljammer-abyssal-trip/

“The vastness of everything is something that I think about a lot,” says Spelljammer bassist/vocalist Niklas Olsson. And it certainly shows in both the expansive, sludgy sounds and contemplative lyrics of the Stockholm, Sweden based trio. Following a 5-year break between their previous album, Ancient of Days — perhaps fittingly spent pondering said vastness — Spelljammer is back with an album that perfectly bridges the band’s earlier desert rock leanings and their later massive, slow-burning riffs.

Abyssal Trip (note: carefully re-read that album title) takes its moniker from the perpetually dark, cold, oxygen-free zone at the bottom of the ocean. The 6-song, 44-minute album fittingly embodies that bleak realm with rumbling, oozing guitars intercut with dramatic melodic interludes. The songs take their time to unfurl, making them even more hypnotic. Likewise, the lyrics take a poetic approach to establishing the sonic scenery.

“The lyrical themes we address, like the ultimate doom of man, and the search and longing for new and better worlds, are still there,” Olsson says. “The concept of something undiscovered out there in vast emptiness is pretty much always present.”

The recording process for Abyssal Trip differs from previous releases in that the band — guitarist Robert Sörling, drummer Jonatan Rimsbo and Olsson — opted to capture the performances while holed up in the mental bathysphere of a house in the countryside near Stockholm. “The songs benefitted from the relaxed environment of being away from everything,” Olsson explains. Indeed, the album sounds confident and meticulously arranged, afforded by the band’s isolation. Sörling mixed the album and it was mastered by Monolord drummer Esben Willems at Berserk Audio.

Album opener “Bellwether” begins dramatically with a very slow, nearly minute-long fade in of rumbling distortion setting the stage for heavily distorted bass and guitar plucking out the lugubrious riff for another minute and a half before the drums begin, and likewise equally as long before vocals gurgle to the surface. “Lake” abruptly shifts gears, opening with an unusually fast gallop before rupturing into thundering doom that soon drops into a clean-tone Middle Eastern melodic breakdown. The title track serves as the album centerpiece, opening with ominous film dialogue about blood sacrifice that launches into pummeling, detuned guitars rumbling over gut-punching drums and howling vocals hearkening to the proto-sludge of Pink Floyd’s “The Nile Song.” The dynamic relents briefly for a slow building clean guitar melody before all instruments lock into a jerking riff topped off by a trilling Iommi style lead. Throughout, Abyssal Trip is, just like its title suggests, an epic tour through desolate zones which yields much to discover.

Abyssal Trip will be available everywhere on LP, CD and download on February 26th, 2021 via RidingEasy Records.

Artist: Spelljammer
Album: Abyssal Trip
Label: RidingEasy Records
Release Date: February 26, 2021

01. Bellwether (6:38)
02. Lake (7:04)
03. Among The Holy (6:18)
04. Abyssal Trip (10:38)
05. Peregrine (2:22)
06. Silent Rift (10:09)

Spelljammer are:
Niklas Olsson: bass/vocals
Robert Sörling: guitar
Jonatan Rimsbo: drums

spelljammer.bandcamp.com
facebook.com/Spelljammer
ridingeasyrecords.com

Spelljammer, “Lake”

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