Quarterly Review: Saturnalia Temple, Dool, Abrams, Pia Isa, Wretched Kingdom, Lake Lake, Gnarwhal, Bongfoot, Thomas Greenwood & The Talismans, Djiin

Posted in Reviews on May 15th, 2024 by JJ Koczan


Today is Wednesday, the day we hit and pass the halfway mark for this week, which is a quarter of the way through the entirety of this 100-release Quarterly Review. Do you need to know that? Not really, but it’s useful for me to keep track of how much I’m doing sometimes, which is why I count in the first place. 100 records isn’t nothing, you know. Or 10 for that matter. Or one. I don’t know.

A little more variety here, which is always good, but I’ve got momentum behind me after yesterday and I don’t want to delay diving in, so off we go.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Saturnalia Temple, Paradigm Call

saturnalia temple paradigm call

For the band’s fourth album, Paradigm Call, founding Saturnalia Temple guitarist/vocalist Tommie Eriksson leads the newcomer rhythm section of drummer Pelle Åhman and bassist Gottfrid Åhman through eight abyss-plundering tracks across 48 minutes of roiling tonal mud distinguished by its aural stickiness and Eriksson‘s readily identifiable vocal gurgle. The methodology hasn’t changed much since 2020’s Gravity (review here) in terms of downward pull, but the title-track’s solo is sharp enough to cut through the mire, and while it’s no less harsh for doing so, “Among the Ruins” explores a faster tempo while staying in line with the all-brown psychedelic swirl around it, brought to fruition in the backwards-sounding loops of closer “Kaivalya” after the declarative thud of side B standout “Empty Chalice.” They just keep finding new depths. It’s impressive. Also a little horrifying.

Saturnalia Temple on Facebook

Listenable Records website

Dool, The Shape of Fluidity

dool the shape of fluidity

It’s easy to respect a band so unwilling to be boxed by genre, and Rotterdam’s Dool put the righteous aural outsiderness that’s typified their sound since 2017’s Here Now There Then (review here) to meta-level use on their third long-player for Prophecy Productions, The Shape of Fluidity. Darkly progressive, rich in atmosphere, broad in range and mix, heavy-but-not-beholden-to-tone in presentation, encompassing but sneaky-catchy in pieces like opener “Venus in Flames,” the flowing title-track, and the in-fact-quite-heavy “Hermagorgon,” the record harnesses declarations and triumphs around guitarist/vocalist Raven van Dorst‘s stated lyrical thematic around gender-nonbinaryism, turning struggle and confusion into clarity of expressive purpose in the breakout “Self-Dissect” and resolving with furious culmination in “The Hand of Creation” with due boldness. Given some of the hateful, violent rhetoric around gender-everything in the modern age, the bravery of DoolVan Dorst alongside guitarists Nick Polak and Omar Iskandr, bassist JB van der Wal and drummer Vincent Kreyder — in confronting that head-on with these narratives is admirable, but it’s still the songs themselves that make The Shape of Fluidity one of 2024’s best albums.

Dool on Facebook

Prophecy Productions website

Abrams, Blue City

abrams blue city

After releasing 2022’s In the Dark (review here) on Small Stone, Denver heavy rockers Abrams align to Blues Funeral Recordings for their fifth album in a productive, also-touring nine years, the 10-track/42-minute Blue City. Production by Kurt Ballou (High on Fire, Converge, etc.) at GodCity Studio assures no lack of impact as “Fire Waltz” reaffirms the tonal density of the riffs that the Zach Amster-led four-piece nonetheless made dance in opener “Tomorrow,” while the rolling “Death Om” and the momentary skyward ascent in “Etherol” — a shimmering preface to the chug-underscored mellowness of “Narc” later — lay out some of the dynamic that’s emerged in their sound along with the rampant post-hardcore melodies that come through in Amster and Graham Zander‘s guitars, capable either of meting out hard-landing riffs to coincide with the bass of Taylor Iversen (also vocals) and Ryan DeWitt‘s drumming, or unfurling sections of float like those noted above en route to tying it all together with the closing “Blue City.” Relatively short runtimes and straightforward-feeling structures mask the stylistic nuance of the actual material — nothing new there for Abrams; they’re largely undervalued — and the band continue to reside in between-microgenre spaces as they await the coming of history which will inevitably prove they were right all along.

Abrams on Facebook

Blues Funeral Recordings website

Pia Isa, Burning Time

pia isa burning time

Superlynx bassist/vocalist Pia Isaksen made her solo debut under the Pia Isa moniker with 2022’s Distorted Chants (review here), and in addition to announcing the SoftSun collaboration she’ll undertake alongside Yawning Man‘s Gary Arce (who also appeared on her record), in 2024, she offers the three-song Burning Time EP, with a cover of Radiohead‘s “Burn the Witch” backed by two originals, “Treasure” and “Nothing Can Turn it Back.” With drumming by her Superlynx bandmate Ole Teigen (who also recorded), “Burn the Witch” becomes a lumbering forward march, ethereal in melody but not necessarily cultish, while “Treasure” digs into repetitive plod led by the low end and “Nothing Can Turn it Black” brings the guitar forward but is most striking in the break that brings the dual-layered vocals forward near the midpoint. The songs are leftovers from the LP, but if you liked the LP, that shouldn’t be a problem.

Pia Isa on Facebook

Argonauta Records website

Wretched Kingdom, Wretched Kingdom

Wretched Kingdom Wretched Kingdom

A late-2023 initial public offering from Houston’s Wretched Kingdom, their self-titled EP presents a somewhat less outwardly joyous take on the notion of “Texas desert rock” than that offered by, as an example, Austin’s High Desert Queen, but the metallic riffing that underscores “Dreamcrusher” goes farther back in its foundations than whatever similarity to Kyuss one might find in the vocals or speedier riffy shove of “Smoke and Mirrors.” Sharp-cornered in tone, opener “Torn and Frayed” gets underway with metered purpose as well, and while the more open-feeling “Too Close to the Sun” begins similar to “You Can’t Save Me” — the strut that ensues in the latter distinguishes — the push in its second half comes after riding a steady groove into a duly bluesy solo. There’s nothing in the material to take you out of the flow between the six component cuts, and even closer “Deviation” tells you it’s about to do something different as it works from its mellower outset into a rigorous payoff. With the understanding that most first-EPs of this nature are demos by another name and (as here) more professional sound, Wretched Kingdom‘s Wretched Kingdom asks little in terms of indulgence and rewards generously when encountered at higher volumes. Asking more would be ridiculous.

Wretched Kingdom on Facebook

Wretched Kingdom on Bandcamp

Lake Lake, Proxy Joy

lake lake proxy joy

Like earlier Clutch born out of shenanigans-prone punk, Youngstown, Ohio’s Lake Lake are tight within the swinging context of a song like “The Boy Who Bit Me,” which is the second of the self-released Proxy Joy‘s six inclusions. Brash in tone and the gutted-out shouty vocals, offsetting its harder shoving moments with groovy back-throttles in songs that could still largely be called straightforward, the quirk and throaty delivery of “Blue Jerk” and the bluesier-minded “Viking Vietnam” paying off the tension in the verses of “Comfort Keepers” and the build toward that leadoff’s chorus want nothing for personality or chemistry, and as casual as the style is on paper, the arrangements are coordinated and as “Heavy Lord” finds a more melodic vocal and “Coyote” — the longest song here at 5:01 — leaves on a brash highlight note, the party they’re having is by no means unconsidered. But it is a party, and those who have dancing shoes would be well advised to keep them on hand, just in case.

Lake Lake on Facebook

Lake Lake on Bandcamp

Gnarwhal, Altered States

Gnarwhal Altered States

Modern in the angularity of its riffing, spacious in the echoes of its tones and vocals, and encompassing enough in sound to be called progressive within a heavy context, Altered States follows Canadian four-piece Gnarwhal‘s 2023 self-titled debut full-length with four songs that effectively bring together atmosphere and impact in the six-minute “The War Nothing More” — big build in the second half leading to more immediate, on-beat finish serving as a ready instance of same — with twists that feel derived of the MastoBaroness school rhythmically and up-front vocal melodies that give cohesion to the darker vibe of “From Her Hands” after displaying a grungier blowout in “Tides.” The terrain through which they ebb and flow, amass and release tension, soar and crash, etc., is familiar if somewhat intangible, and that becomes an asset as the concluding “Altered States” channels the energy coursing through its verses in the first half into the airy payoff solo that ends. I didn’t hear the full-length last year. Listening to what Gnarwhal are doing in these tracks in terms of breadth and crunch, I feel like I missed out. You might also consider being prepared to want to hear more upon engaging.

Gnarwhal on Facebook

Gnarwhal on Bandcamp

Bongfoot, Help! The Humans..

bongfoot help the humans

Help the humans? No. Help! The Humans…, and here as in so many of life’s contexts, punctuation matters. Digging into a heavy, character-filled and charging punkish sound they call “Appalachian thrash,” Boone, North Carolina, three-piece Bongfoot are suitably over-the-top as they explore what it means to be American in the current age, couching discussions of wealth inequality, climate crisis, corporatocracy, capitalist exploitation, the insecurity at root in toxic masculinity and more besides. With clever, hooky lyrics that are a total blast despite being tragic in the subject matter and a pace of execution well outside what one might think is bong metal going in because of the band’s name, Bongfoot vigorously kick ass from opener “End Times” through the galloping end of “Amazon Death Factory/Spacefoot” and the untitled mountain ramble that follows as an outro. Along the way, they intermittently toy with country twang, doom, and hardcore punk, and offer a prayer to the titular volcano of “Krakatoa” to save at least the rest of the world if not humanity. It’s quite a time to be alive. Listening, that is. As for the real-world version of the real world, it’s less fun and more existentially and financially draining, which makes Help! The Humans… all the more a win for its defiance and charm. Even with the bonus tracks, I’ll take more of this anytime they’re ready with it.

Bongfoot on Facebook

Bongfoot on Bandcamp

Thomas Greenwood & The Talismans, Ateş

Thomas Greenwood and the Talismans Ateş

It’s interesting, because you can’t really say that Thomas Greenwood and the Talismans‘ second LP, Ateş isn’t neo-psychedelia, but the eight tracks and 38 minutes of the record itself warrant enunciating what that means. Where much of 2020s-era neo-psych is actually space rock with thicker tones (shh! it’s a secret!), what Greenwood — AKA Thomas Mascheroni, also of Bergamo, Italy’s Humulus) brings to sounds like the swaying, organ-laced “Sleepwalker” and the resonant spaciousness in the soloing of “Mystic Sunday Morning” is more kin to the neo-psych movement that began in the 1990s, which itself was a reinterpretation of the genre’s pop-rock origins in the 1960s. Is this nitpicking? Not when you hear the title-track infusing its Middle Eastern-leaning groove with a heroic dose of wah or the friendly shimmer of “I Do Not” that feels extrapolated from garage rock but is most definitely not that thing and the post-Beatles bop of “Sunhouse.” It’s an individual (if inherently familiar) take that unifies the varied arrangements of the acidic “When We Die” and the cosmic vibe of “All the Lines” (okay, so there’s a little bit of space boogie too), resolving in the Doors-y lumber of “Crack” to broaden the scope even further and blur past timelines into an optimistic future.

Thomas Greenwood and The Talismans on Facebook

Subsound Records website

Djiin, Mirrors

djiin mirrors

As direct as some of its push is and as immediate as “Fish” is opening the album right into the first verse, the course that harp-laced French heavy progressive rockers Djiin take on their third album, Mirrors, ultimately more varied, winding and satisfying as its five-track run gives over to the nine-minute “Mirrors” and uses its time to explore more pointedly atmospheric reaches before a weighted crescendo that precedes the somehow-fluidity in the off-time early stretch of centerpiece “In the Aura of My Own Sadness,” its verses topped with spoken word and offset by note-for-note melodic conversation between the vocals and guitar. Rest assured, they build “In the Aura of My Own Sadness” to its own crushing end, while taking a more decisively psychedelic approach to get there, and thereby set up “Blind” with its trades from open-spaces held to pattern by the drums and a pair of nigh-on-caustic noise rock onslaughts before 13-minute capstone “Iron Monsters” unfolds a full instrumental linear movement before getting even heavier, as if to underscore the notion that Djiin can go wherever the hell they want and make it work as a song. Point taken.

Djiin on Facebook

Klonosphere Records website

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Review & Full Album Premiere: Bottenhavet, Ljud i Tysta Rum

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on April 10th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

Bottenhavet Ljud i tysta rum

Stockholm’s Bottenhavet make their full-length debut this week with Ljud i Tysta Rum on Fuzzorama Records. And yes, it’s in Swedish; titles and lyrics. I’ll spare you Anglicizing the songs or words — part out of respect to what feels like an aesthetic choice on the part of the four-piece, part just because there’s only so much room to go around and I’d rather talk about the music — and the truth of the matter is that while I don’t doubt the band have something to say, there’s plenty that gets posted around here in English that’s even less decipherable. If you find yourself wanting to sing along, swept up perhaps by opening cut “Våg” as it moves into its soaring chorus driven by a duly-fuzzed surge from Andreas Bohman‘s guitar, David Lecander‘s bass and Marcus Wigren‘s drums with the vocals of Kim Minkkinen, especially to my fellow Americans reading this sentence, I’ll just remind you that nobody’s gonna yell at you if you get the accent wrong in following the melody. We’re all friends here.

Its eight songs split in half such that the cyclical hum of interlude “Frågor Utan Svar” feeds into the start of “Jord” on side B — obviously in CD/DL, that’s a direct shift — Ljud i Tysta Rum (‘sound in quiet rooms’) plays out its 36 minutes with hook-minded accessibility, hitting hard at the outset with the aforementioned “Våg” to make sure all who are getting on board have good reason, before letting a more spacious verse hint at some of the progressive aspects that underscore “Bränn Broar” or the piano-inclusive “I Skuggan” in the shimmering, patient solo that matches the soulful vocal atop its post-Soundgarden nodding fluidity, and the twisting stylizations of guitar leading through vibrant closer “Hennes Liv.” To complement this emergent nuance, the big-riff ideology of “Talar Miljon,” the space cast in “Motorväg” to follow that of “Våg,” and even the drop to strum and vocals at the culmination of “Jord” — just talking about the last 20 seconds of the song, never mind what’s before that — offer character and craft alike, resulting in anBottenhavet across-album flow that is neither hurried nor content to dwell in one place in terms of sound.

These elements seem to have been there at the band’s beginnings in 2021’s Ett Hav av Tå​rar EP, which was answered over the next year by a trio of standalone singles, but Ljud i Tysta Rum is clear in its intention to continue to move forward along its varied course. What draws the individual pieces that comprise the record together are the tones, the vocals and the commitment to traditional heavy rock verse/chorus structures — “Frågor Utan Svar” notwithstanding — that make “Våg,” “Talar Miljon” and “Bränn Broar” with its furiously-drummed intro such an effective opening salvo. And while the dynamic at root in Bottenhavet‘s sound lets them explore the reaches and breadth in the payoff of the latter there before side A ends with its guitar almost solely focused on atmosphere is surely bolstered through the production of Robert Pehrsson, the immediacy of those initial moments never dissipates, even as the melancholic blues of “I Skugget” set out on their linear building course soon followed by . That is to say, in the foundations of the songs, Bottenhavet capture and maintain a live energy and momentum front-to-back, and the audience’s listening experience feels like a consideration in that balance.

And balance is a big part of by Ljud i Tysta Rum works so well and holds such promise. Regardless of the language barrier, it is thoroughly Swedish in style, and whether it’s a flash of Skraeckoedlan‘s melodiousness or Truckfighters‘ shove, Graveyard‘s soul or a Dozerian charge — and don’t make me namedrop November for classic prog; I’m just crazy enough to do it — a rich history and tapestry of Bottenhavet‘s native underground influences can be felt throughout, even as the band begin to distill them into the persona that they will hopefully carry ahead on subsequent offerings. To present thrills and optimistic futures, then. Skål.

Ljud i Tysta Rum streams in its entirety below. Bottenhavet have dates coming up in Sweden, Poland and Finland, and you’ll find those along with more PR wire background and the video for “Våg” after the YouTube embed.

Happy trails:

Bottenhavet, Ljud i Tysta Rum album premiere

Preorder link: https://www.fuzzoramastore.com/

Bottenhavet (translates to ’The Bothnian Sea’) was originally formed in 2020 by Marcus Wigren, Kim Minkkinen and Charlie Karlsson (2020-2023), and later joined by Andreas Bohman (2021). All being musicians with various musical backgrounds adding their skills and preferences to the mix that together creates the ”Bothnian sound”. To add another layer of uniqueness to the music, the songs are sung in their native language, Swedish. After gaining a steadily increasing following with their initial four track EP release “Ett hav av tårar” (released March 19th 2021) as well as follow up singles “När tiden dör”, “Faller” (released summer and autumn of 2021) and “Allt på svart” (released spring of 2022), the band knew it was about time to start working on their debut album.

The writing process started late 2022. And in mid April 2023 Bottenhavet entered Studio Humbucker, owned and run by the legendary Robert Pehrsson (known from Robert Pehrsson Humbucker, Death breath, Dundertåget, Imperial state electric etc), to record drums. Vocals and guitars were recorded by the band themselves before Pehrsson later mixed and mastered the album. In the summer of 2023 Bottenhavet signed a record deal with Fuzzorama Records, run by none less than the masterminds behind fuzz rock giants Truckfighters, Oskar Cedermalm and Niklas Källgren. The album ‘Ljud i tysta rum’ is to be released on Fuzzorama Records in early 2024.

In 2023 the band played the 4th edition of Fuzz Festival in Stockholm and David Lecander joined the band.

‘Ljud i tysta rum’ album tracklisting:
1. Våg
2. Talar miljon
3. Bränn Broar
4. Frågor Utan Svar
5. Jord
6. Motorväg
7. I Skuggan
8. Hennes Liv

Touring coming up as well, don’t miss out:

APR 13 – LATITUDE 59 – Uppsala, SWE
APR 18 – UTOPIA – Turku, FIN
MAY 4 – TBA – Stockholm, SWE
MAY 16 – 2PROGI – Poznan, PL
MAY 17 – PROXIMA – Warzawa, PL

Get tickets HERE: https://www.bottenhavet.se/gigs

Kim Minkkinen – Vocals
Marcus Wigren – Drums
Andreas Bohman – Guitar
David Lecander – Bass

Bottenhavet, “Våg” official video

Bottenhavet on Facebook

Bottenhavet on Instagram

Bottenhavet on YouTube

Bottenhavet on Bandcamp

Bottenhavet website

Fuzzorama Records website

Fuzzorama Records on Facebook

Fuzzorama Records on Instagram

Fuzzorama Records on Bandcamp

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Quarterly Review: Lord Dying, Black Glow, Cracked Machine, Per Wiberg, Swell O, Cower, HORSEN3CK, Troll Teeth, Black Ocean’s Edge, SONS OF ZÖKU

Posted in Reviews on February 27th, 2024 by JJ Koczan


A word about the image above. ‘AI art’ has become a thing people argue about on the internet. Like everything. Fine. I made the above image with a prompt through whatever Microsoft is calling its bot this week and got what I wanted. I didn’t have to talk to anyone or pay anyone in anything more than the personal data you compromise every time you use the internet for anything, and it was done. I could never draw, but when I finished, I felt like I’d at least taken part in some way in making this thing. And telling a computer what to make and seeing what it gets right and wrong is fascinating. You might feel a bit like you’re painting with words, which as someone who could never draw but could construct a sentence, I can appreciate.

I’m a big supporter of human creativity, and yes, corporations who already hold creative professionals — writers, editors, graphic designers, etc. — in such outward contempt will be only too happy to replace them with robots. I was there when magazines died; I know how that goes. But instead of being reactionaries and calling for never-gonna-happen-anyway bans, isn’t it maybe worth acknowledging that there’s no going back in time, that AI art isn’t going anywhere, and that it might just have valid creative uses? I don’t feel like I need to defend myself for making or using the image above, but I did try to get a human artist first and it didn’t work out. In the hard reality of limited minutes, how much should I really chase when there’s an easier way to get what I want? And how much can people be expected to live up to that shifting moral obligation in the long term?

The future will laugh at us, inevitably, either way. And fair enough with the world we’re leaving them.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Lord Dying, Clandestine Transcendence

Lord Dying Clandestine Transcendence

While bearing the tonal force of their roots in doom, Portland’s Lord Dying have nonetheless willfully become a crucial purveyor of forward-thinking death metal, driven by extremity but refusing to subdue its own impulses to fit with genre. At 12 songs and an hour’s runtime, Clandestine Transcendence neither is nor is supposed to be a minor undertaking, but with a melodic declaration in “Unto Becoming” that’ll elicit knowing nods from Virus fans and a mentality of creative reach that’s worthy of comparison to EnslavedLord Dying showcase mastery of the style the four-piece of guitarist/vocalist Erik Olson, guitarist Chris Evans, bassist/vocalist Alyssa Maucere and drummer Kevin Swartz explored with vigilance on 2019’s Mysterium Tremendum (review here), and an ability to depart from aggression without losing their intensity or impact on “Dancing on the Emptiness” or in the payoff of “Break in the Clouds (In the Darkness of Our Minds).” They may be headed toward too-weird-for-everybody megaprogmetal ultimately, but the challenges-to-stylistic-homogeny of their material are only part of what gives Clandestine Transcendence its crux, and in fostering the call-and-response onslaught of “Facing the Incomprehensible” alongside the epic reach of “A Bond Broken by Death,” they cast their own mold as unique within or without of the heavy underground sphere.

Lord Dying on Facebook

MNRK Heavy website

Black Glow, Black Glow

black glow black glow

The late-2023 self-titled debut from Black Glow marks a new beginning for Monterrey, Mexico, guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Gina Rios, formerly of Spacegoat, and something of a creative redirect, taking on a sound that is less indebted to boogie and classic doom but that has clearly learned the lessons of its influences. Also credited with producing (Victor “KB” Velazquez recorded, mixed and mastered, which doesn’t invalidate the credit), Rios is a strong enough performer to carry the five-song EP/short-LP on her own, but thankfully bassist Oscar Saucedo and drummer Octavio Diliegros bring tonal fullness to the breadth of atmosphere in the rolling closer “Obscured Jail,” reaching past seven minutes with fluidity that adds to Black Glow‘s aspects of purpose and craft, which are significant despite being the band’s first outing. As a vehicle for Rios‘ songwriting, Black Glow sound immediately like they can evolve in ways Spacegoat likely couldn’t or wouldn’t have, and that prospect is all the more enticing with the accomplishments displayed here.

Black Glow on Facebook

Black Glow on Bandcamp

Cracked Machine, Wormwood

Cracked Machine Wormwood

Between the leadoff of “Into the Chronosphere” and “The Glowing Sea,” “Return to Antares,” “Burning Mountain” and “Desert Haze,” UK instrumentalists Cracked Machine aren’t short on destinations for the journey that is their fourth full-length, Wormwood, but with more angular texturing on “Eigenstate” and the blend of tonal float — yes, even the bass — and terrestrial groove wrought in the closing title-track, the band manage to emphasize plot as well as a sense of freedom endemic to jam-born heavy psychedelia. That is to say, as second cut “Song of Artemis” gives brooding reply to the energetic “Into the Chronosphere,” which is loosely krautrocky in its dug-in feel and exploratory as part of that, they are not trying to pretend this material just happened. Layers of effects and a purposeful reach between its low and high ends in the solo of “The Glowing Sea” — with the drums holding the two together, as one would hope — and subsequent section of standalone guitar as the start of a linear build that spreads wide sonically rather than overpowering with volume speaks to a dynamic that’s about more than just loud or quiet, and the keyboard holding notes in the culmination of “Burning Mountain” is nothing if not purposeful in its shimmering resonance. They may be headed all over the place, but I think that’s just a sign Cracked Machine know how to get there.

Cracked Machine on Facebook

Cracked Machine on Bandcamp

Per Wiberg, The Serpent’s Here

PER WIBERG The Serpent's Here cover

Currently also of Kamchatka and Spiritual Beggars and maybe Switchblade, the career arc of Per Wiberg (also ex-Opeth, live work and/or studio contributions for Candlemass, Grand Magus, Arch Enemy, mostly on keys or organ) varies widely in style within a heavy sphere, and it should be no surprise that his solo work is likewise multifaceted. Following on from 2021’s EP, All Is Well In the Land of the Living But for the Rest of Us… Lights Out (review here), the six-song and 41-minute (seven/47 with the bonus track Warrior Soul cover “The Losers”) finds cohesion in a thread of progressive styles that allows Wiberg to explore what might be a Gary Numan influence in the verses of “The Serpent’s Here” itself while emerging with a heavy, catchy and melodic chorus marked by a driving riff. The eight-minute “Blackguards Stand Silent” works in movements across a structural departure as the rhythm section of Mikael Tuominen (Kungens Män) and drummer Tor Sjödén (Viagra Boys) get a subtle workout, and “He Just Disappeared” pushes into the cinematic on a patient line of drone, a contemplative departure after the melancholic piano of “This House is Someone Else’s Now” that allows “Follow the Unknown” to cap the album-proper with a return to the full-band feel and a pointed grace of keys and synth, clearly working to its creator’s own high standard.

Per Wiberg on Facebook

Despotz Records website

Swell O, Morning Haze

Swell O Morning Haze

Bremen, Germany’s Swell O released their apparently-recorded-in-a-day debut album, Morning Haze, in Feb. 2023 and followed with a vinyl release this past Fall on Clostridium Records, and if there’s anything clouding their vision as regards songwriting, it didn’t make it onto the record. Proffering solid, engaging, festival-ready desert-style heavy rock, “Hitchhiker” sweeps down the open highway of its own riff while “Black Cat” tips hat to Fu Manchu, the title-track veers into pop-punkish uptempoism in a way “Shine Through” contrasts with less shove and more ambience. The seven-minute “Summit” extrapolates a lean toward the psychedelic from Kyussian foundations, but the crux on Morning Haze is straightforward and aware of where it wants its songs to be aesthetically. It’s not a revolution in that regard, but it’s not supposed to be, and for all its in-genre loyalism, Morning Haze demonstrates an emergent persona in the modernized ’90s fuzz-crunch semi-blowout of “Venom” at the end, which wraps a salvo that started with “Hitchhiker” and lets Swell O make the most of their over-quickly 31-minute first LP.

Swell O on Facebook

Clostridium Records store

Cower, Celestial Devastation

cower celestial devastation

Accounting for everything from goth to post-hardcore to the churn of Godflesh in an encompassing interpretation of post-punk, London outfit Cower could fill this space with pedigree alone and manage to nonetheless make a distinct impression across the nine songs of Celestial Devastation. Organic and sad on “We Need to Have the Talk,” inorganic and sad on “Hard-Coded in the Souls of Men,” electronic anti-chic before the guitar surge in “Buffeted by Solar Winds,” and bringing fresh perspective to Kataonia-style depressive metal in “Aging Stallions,” it’s a album that willfully shirks genre — a few of them, actually — in service to its songs, as between the software-driven title-track and the downer-New-Wave-as-doom centerpiece “Deathless and Free,” Cower embark on an apparent critique of tech as integrated into current life (though I can’t find a lyric sheet) and approach from seemingly divergent angles without losing track of the larger picture of the LP’s atmosphere. Celestial Devastation is the second album from the trio, comprised of Tom Lacey, Wayne Adams (who also produced, as he will) and Gareth Thomas. Expect them to continue to define and refine this style as they move forward, and expect it to become even more their own than it is here. A band like this, if they last, almost can’t help but grow.

Cower’s Linktr.ee

Human Worth on Bandcamp

HORSEN3CK, Heavy Spells

horsen3ck heavy spells

Boston’s HORSEN3CK, who’ve gone all-caps and traded their second ‘e’ for a ‘3’ since unveiling the included-here “Something’s Broken” as a debut standalone single this January, make a rousing four-song statement of intent even as the lineup shifts from piece to piece around the core duo of Tim Catz and Jeremy Hemond, best known together for their work as the rhythm section of Roadsaw. With their maybe-not-right-now bandmate Ian Ross adding guitar to “Something’s Broken” and a different lead vocalist on each song, Heavy Spells has inherent variety even before “Haunted Heart” exalts its darker mood with pulls reminiscent of Alice in Chains‘ “Frogs.” With Catz taking a turn on vocals, “Golden Ghost” is punk under its surface class, and though “Haunted Heart” grows in its crescendo, its greater impact is in the vibe, which is richer for the shift in approach. “Thirst” rounds out with a particular brashness, but nowhere HORSEN3CK go feels even vaguely out of their reach. Alright guys. Concept proved, now go do a full-length. When they do, I’ll be intrigued to see if the lineup solidifies.

HORSEN3CK on Facebook

HORSEN3CK on Bandcamp

Troll Teeth, Sluagh Vol. 1

troll teeth sluagh vol. 1

New Jersey doom rockers Troll Teeth‘s stated goal with Sluagh Vol. 1 was to find a sound the character of which would be defined in part by its rawer, retro-styled recording. The resultant four-song outing, which was their second EP of 2023 behind Underground Vol. 1, doesn’t actually veer into vintage-style ’70s worship, but lives up to the premise just the same in its abiding rawness. “3 Shots for a 6 Shooter” brings a Queens of the Stone Age-style vocal melody over an instrumental that’s meaner than anything that band ever put to tape, while nine-minute opener “1,000 Ton Brick” feels very clearly titled in honor of its own roll. It might be the heaviest stretch on the EP but for the rumbling low distortion spliced in among the psychedelic unfolding of 16-minute closer “Purgatory,” which submerges the listener in its course after “Here Lies” seems to build and build and build through the entirety of its still-hooky execution. With its title referencing the original name of the band and a focus on older material, the rougher presentation suits the songs, though it’s not like there’s a pristine “1,000 Ton Brick” out there to compare it to. Whether there will be at Sluagh Vol. 2 at any point, I don’t know, but even the intentionality of realizing his material in the recording process argues in favor of future revisits.

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Black Ocean’s Edge, Call of the Sirens

black ocean's edge (Photo by Matija Kasalo)

Celebrating their own dark side in the opener “Wicked Voice,” German heavy rockers Black Ocean’s Edge keep the proceedings relatively friendly on Call of the Sirens, their debut long-player behind 2022’s Dive Deep EP, at least as regards accessibility and the catchiness of their craft. Vibrant and consistent in tone, the Ulm four-piece find room for the classic rock of “Leather ‘n’ Velvet” and the that-might-be-actual-flute-laced prog-psych payoff of “Lion in a Cage” between the second two of the three parts that comprise the title-track, which departs from the heavy blues rock of “Drift” or “Cold Black Water,” which is the centerpiece and longest inclusion at 7:43 and sets its classic-heavy influences to work with a forward-looking perspective. At 42 minutes and nine tracks, Call of the Sirens feels professional in how it reaches out to its audience, and it leaves little to doubt from Black Ocean’s Edge as regards songwriting, production or style. They may refine and sharpen their approach over time, and with these songs as where they’re coming from, they’ll be in that much better position to hit the ears of the converted.

Note: this album is out in April and I couldn’t find cover art. Band photo above is by Matija Kasalo.

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sons of zoku endless

If an album could ask you, musically, why you’re in such a hurry — and not like hurrying to work, really in a hurry, like in how you live — the mellow psych and acid folk proffered by Adelaide, Australia’s SONS OF ZÖKU on their second full-length, ËNDL​Ë​SS, might just be doing that. Don’t take that to mean the album is still or staid though, because they’re not through “Moonlight” after the intro before the bass gets funky behind all that serene melody, and when you’re worshiping the sun that’s all the more reason to dance by the moon. Harmonies resonate in “Earth Chant” (and all around) atop initially quiet guitar noodling, and the adventures in arrangement continue in the various chimes and percussion instruments, the touch of Easternism in “Kuhnoo” and the keyboard-fueled melodic payoff to the pastoralism of “Hunters.” With flute and a rhythmic delivery to its group vocal, “O Saber” borders on the tribal, while “Yumi” digs on cosmic prog insistence in a way that calls to mind the underappreciated Death Hawks and finds its way in a concluding instrumental stretch that doesn’t lose its spontaneous feel despite being more cogent than improv generally comes across. “Lonesome Tale” is a melancholy-vibe-reprise centered around acoustic guitar and “Nu Poeme” gives a sense of grandeur that is unto itself without going much past four minutes in the doing. Such triumphs are rare more broadly but become almost commonplace as SONS OF ZÖKU set their own context with a sound harnessing the inspiration of decades directing itself toward an optimistic future.

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Kungens Män: Track-by-Track Through För samtida djur 1 & Full Album Premiere

Posted in audiObelisk, Features on February 9th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

Kungens Män

Today’s the day, kiddos. Swedish jammers Kungens Män release their latest collection, För samtida djur 1 (review here), through Majestic Mountain Records as the first of two chapters with the next to be unveiled later this year. And when I say a phrase like “Swedish jammers” in that prior sentence, rest assured what I mean is that the warm-toned, organic-vibes-only-yes-even-in-the-synth six-piece head ever closer toward the heart of the creative spark itself, endeavoring with the ethic of harnessing a moment of creation as it happens — the proverbial lightning in the bottle. This is an ideology held by a lot of improv-based outfits, some of whom write three-minute pop songs, which even as Kungens Män refine their own approach and dig into crafting material more across this nine-song/45-minute outing, remains open, experimental, righteously weird, and very much its own kind of fun.

The title För samtida djur 1 translates to English as ‘For contemporary animals 1,’ and fair enough. I played it for the dog and she didn’t seem to mind, but I take the ‘animals’ more in the sense of an outsider cast. Maybe that’s you, maybe that’s them, I think it’s probably everybody at some point or another, but as you immerse in the album stream below, maybe something to hold onto in the back of your head while perusing the track-by-track that the band has generally offered, giving insight into their methods, theKungens Män För Samtida Djur 1 circumstances of the album’s making (as well as that of the video for the title-track that premiered here and you can see near the bottom of the post), and revealing some of the little things — a guitar that sounds like a cat, some cellphone interference — that made the experience from the band’s own point of view. I can’t help but feel like for an album that starts off basking in anachronism with the dialing of a rotary phone, the phrase, “Confusion is what we like,” posited below by the band, is a fitting summary. See also, “Perhaps not to reach a goal but to feel alive.”

So jump in and maybe let yourself be confused a bit. För samtida djur 2 will reportedly be more of a stretch-out in terms of longer songs and such, but if maybe you’re new to the band as a result of their being picked up by Majestic Mountain or other happenstance, this initial För samtida djur installment should make for a rousing introduction.

I beg of you, enjoy yourself. Thanks to the band for the time and words. Thanks to the label for letting me host the stream. Thank you for reading.

Here we go:

Kungens Män: För Samtida Djur 1 Track-by-Track

”Framtidens start” (The start of the future)

Mikael: The hotline to Moderskeppet, Aspudden.

Indy: …which is where we hang out to create our stuff.

”För samtida djur” (For contemporary animals)

Mikael: This is from a session without Indy, so Peter brought out the drum machine instead. Everything is steady, but slightly off like it should be. Someone from another timezone in the real world is eager to get in touch while we keep on dreaming about androids getting eaten by ancient fish.

Gustav: When we shot the video for this song, video director Patrik Instedt thought his cat was meowing – three times in a row! “The cat” is me playing the pointy guitar. We also have some classic cell phone disturbances somewhere in all the mess. Confusion is what we like.

”Tycka rakt” (To think straight)

Mikael: Me and Gustav are wearing our Sonic Youth worship on our sleeves in this song, though in a very mellow way. A threatening slow, dark undercurrent is flowing in the bass and synth department giving the song very interesting temperament layers.

Gustav: Micke is 100% right. I still haven’t gotten over Sonic Youth not being an active band, and it’s been a few years now.

”Grovmotorik” (Gross motor skills)

Mikael: The main riff is invented by Gustav, followed by a catchy synth riff, the rest of us chugging away while Hans paints a floating landscape. Then gradually falling apart until the song enters a completely different headspace in the tail end.

Gustav: An example of an occasion when everyone makes their own musical decision, sticking to it while trying to find their place among the rhythms and riffs. The mood shifts by the end, the music falls apart.

”Motarbetaren” (The opposer)

Mikael: This is probably my favorite song on this album. I have never quite heard anything like it. To me it sounds like The Velvet Underground making music for a 1970:s children’s tv show. Distorted steam train awakening.

Gustav: The organ grinder from Rabbalshede market is here and he cranks and he cranks.

”Virvelresan” (The vortex trip)

Mikael: Serenity among the spikes. Once again an interesting conversation full of information, but still the space remains open and open ended.

Gustav: Another mood swing! A conversation, just like Micke says. Things are constantly happening on all fronts, and even if we talk over each other’s mouths sometimes it’s more like we’re filling in each other’s speech.

”Bra moln” (Nice cloud)

Mikael: Meditation music. Watch the thoughts/clouds passing by. Chimes and horns – breath in, breath out.

Gustav: “Thank you, if you appreciated the tuning so much I hope you will enjoy the playing more”. Like the famous quote from Ravi Shankar, it’s more like we are tuning than playing here. Sometimes it’s the most basic things that hit you the hardest.

”Tyska ninjor” (German ninjas)

Mikael: Relentless hi-hat beauty by Indy. Sometimes we have to run with this machinelike state of mind. Perhaps not to reach a goal but to feel alive.

Gustav: Get up! Time to shake your hips! One thing that Micke sometimes does while he’s mixing is to have the “riff guitar” up front in the mix while the “lead guitar” is a little more in the background. This creates a certain atmosphere, and it sharpens your ears.

”Nu eller aldrig” (Now or never)

Mikael: The Pharoah Sanders vibe is strong here, what is there not to love? This was an exciting space to be in, with everyone adding dots, splashes, mirrors and shades, painting a loud whisper.

Gustav: As a completely subjective observer, I can conclude that “För samtida djur 1” is a very diverse and very good album. This track sums it all up very well.

Kungens Män, “För Samtida djur” official video

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Friday Full-Length: Candlemass, Epicus Doomicus Metallicus

Posted in Bootleg Theater on February 2nd, 2024 by JJ Koczan

I’m not trying to sound like a gatekeeper here, or like I’m invalidating anyone’s opinions about whatever, but I will give some serious side-eye to any list of the best all-time doom or metal records that doesn’t have a reverential place reserved for Candlemass‘ debut album, Epicus Doomicus Metallicus. Released through Black Dragon and Leviathan Records in 1986 — arguably a pinnacle year for metal with landmarks from Slayer, MegadethMetallica, Voivod, Iron Maiden, and Saint Vitus, among others — it set in motion one of doom’s most essential, genre-defining progressions and became a model that, more than 35 years after its arrival, continues to inform the aesthetic in mood and sound. It is a blueprint for doom metal even as it captures a band who never really existed.

The story is famous by now that Candlemass were set to record their first long-player and founding bassist, principal-songwriter and bandleader Leif Edling brought in Johan Längquist to fill the role of lead singer. Candlemass had been around for a couple years at that point, operating under the moniker of Nemesis since 1982 with guitarist Mappe Björkman joining in 1985 — lead guitarist Lars Johansson and drummer Jan Lindh joined in ’87; the band’s second album, Nightfall (discussed here), came out that year and was their first with frontman Messiah Marcolin — and Längquist wasn’t so much in the band as on the songs. Difficult to imagine anyone involved thought they were making a heavy metal landmark when it came out, but there continues to be magic in the six-song/43-minute run of Epicus Doomicus Metallicus. Opening track “Solitude” is morose in its beginning in a way that feels like it’s speaking to what would’ve been a nascent goth culture in 1986, and the riff that takes hold is a clarion to worshipers of Black Sabbath: “Come in and be among your own.”

“Solitude,” “Demon’s Gate,” “Crystal Ball,” “Black Stone Wielder,” “Under the Oak,” “A Sorcerer’s Pledge” — the immediacy of side A gives over to more of a storytelling feel for side B, and therein lies the heart of doom. Because Candlemass are rightly credited with crafting a style tagged as “epic doom,” and a lot of the bands working under their influence in the last, oh, 35-plus years are tagged the same. Fair enough. But that’s really more about Nightfall and its own follow-ups, 1988’s Ancient Dreams (discussed here) and 1989’s Tales of Creation, and the Messiah Marcolin era that hadn’t begun yet when Epicus Doomicus Metallicus was recorded, even if the band themselves are telling you how to consider their work right there in the title: “epicus.” Certainly what they would become and the path they’d take over the course of the rest of the 1980s — which is inarguably the root of the influence they’ve had on two-plus generations of doomers subsequent to their earliest output; Candlemass share another commonality with Sabbath in that their 1990s work is undervalued in light of what they’d done prior — were hinted toward in “Under the Oak,” “Black Stone Wielder,” and the narrative “A Sorcerer’s Pledge,” but their doom hadn’t yet earned its patience or poise, and Epicus Doomicus Metallicus is rougher than nearly everything Candlemass would do after in terms of its basic sound. This becomes a great strength throughout the album.

The version streaming above is a 2007 remaster from Peaceville Records. It came with a bonus disc of live material recorded in the UK in 1988 that’s also part of the Bandcamp stream. You can hear in its sound a little more candlemass epicus doomicus metallicusseparation between the instruments — that may just be a result of raising the volume for what was then a 2CD/LP edition; a 3LP version came out in 2022 — and maybe that’s imaginary or power of suggestion, but it feels just slightly different from the original. Consider Längquist in the open space at the end of “Solitude.” That’s a brief moment, but so pivotal, and in this edition he seems just a little more isolated. I’m not saying it’s an enhancement to the material — it’s neither pro or con — just something you should be aware of if you listen. The original version I’m sure is on YouTube or whathaveyou if you feel like you want to chase it down, I just went with an official release.

One way or the other, I believe strongly in a Canon of Heavy, which is to say a league of records no home should be without. A level of performance, songwriting, aesthetic or craft that’s so essential to understanding what heavy is, was, or can be, that it can and should not be ignored. I’m talking about universality within a heavy subculture. Some shit everybody can and should get on board with. Epicus Doomicus Metallicus stands among the ultimate examples in my mind of this, and is a release that should be celebrated for its own accomplishments in innovating and helping to shape the style of doom metal, as well as for how cognizant it seems to be of what it’s doing. That is, Candlemass probably didn’t know they’d still be putting out records in the 2020s, but they are, and as on 2022’s Sweet Evil Sun (review here) and on 2019’s The Door to Doom (review here) that earned them wide accolades and a Grammy nomination, it’s Längquist on vocals — a part of the band at last, in addition to being an essential component of their history and thus that of doom at large.

It was a long and tumultuous road, with breakups, reunions, Robert Lowe from Solitude Aeternus fronting them for three records after coming aboard in another need-a-singer situation following an apparently-final split with Marcolin ahead of 2007’s King of the Grey Islands, which I can’t believe hasn’t closed out a week here before. So it goes with a band whose discography is rich both with singularly righteous doom and historical back and forth. But the work stands, as ever, and in Epicus Doomicus Metallicus, in their very first album, Candlemass set forth a blueprint for themselves and for others of what doom could be, how it could engage with the likes of the NWOBHM or even thrash, and retain its signature melancholy. Also it’s great.

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

Made it through the week, which feels impressive. Earlier this week sucked. Early every week sucks. The Patient Mrs.’ semester has started, so she’s in class on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. We were in Connecticut last Saturday and last Sunday had company for a brunch playdate. The Pecan threw up Monday morning so I kept her home and that killed Monday and Tuesday here. 15 years later and I’m still scrounging for seconds of the day to write. Feels great.

I turned on Zelda and let the kid play so I could at least bang out some text to go with the two premieres that happened on Tuesday, and that was basically the day. Tuesday she went back to school and I dug into the whatnot, have been trying to catchup ever since and have not yet succeeded. But the week’s over, so I’ll pick back up Monday and still be behind. This weekend? Oh, well, Saturday we’re having company for brunch and then Sunday is a playdate. I expect the usual amount of getting caught up to take place.

Apologies if you’ve sent me email and I haven’t answered. Or social media messages. Whatever. Sorry. I’m trying my best and can’t even slate reviews for stuff I want to write about, let alone stuff I haven’t heard yet.

My new laptop, which is smaller — and if you’d call me out for bitching about that when I’m typing on a brand new computer, I’ll kindly refer you to the 40-plus years of my fucking life I’ve spent engaging with materials designed for people smaller than I am, whether it’s clothes, cars, Nintendo controllers, laptop keyboards, socks, on and on, and I’m not even just talking about being fat and trying to squeeze my ass in somewhere; I’m talking about how I have to scrunch my shoulders in to properly position my wrists on the condensed keyboard and it fucking hurts now when shit doesn’t fit because I’m old — came with a bunch of obnoxious intrusive bundled crap that no one ever, ever, ever wants but that keeps one jackass employed at Microsoft, presumably whichever AI they’ve hired as the CEO. I should’ve stayed home from CT last Saturday and set it up. Instead, I did it over the course of Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday while also trying to do Obelisk stuff and blew my brains out like 70 times trying to perform what seem to be for most individuals basic functions and tasks and failing outright all the time, every day. Constantly.

Do you know what my wife has? My wife has a text chain. Okay. A text chain. This text chain was born out of a Facebook group. The Facebook group was splintered off another one. The original was called Academic Mamas, and it was/is a group for mothers who are in academia, who are college professors like my wife or researchers, etc. Then it was Academic Mamas of 2017s for those who had kids the same year we had The Pecan. Then she found Academic Mamas of Special Needs 2017s, and then that became a text chain. Madness, right? Stay with me.

Do you know what they do on this text chain? They support each other. They talk about their day, or something that was hard, something that was easy, and they’re just there for each other, with advice or encouragement, whatever it is. They’re supported. Women supporting each other. Sometimes I very much wish there wasn’t so much shame around masculinity. I feel like I’m so ashamed of being angry, sad, bitter, resentful, all of these things, that they just sit and fester and I lose out on so much because I’m still back there trying to lug my own bullshit baggage. See? I even just called it bullshit! I can’t even get through a sentence talking about it without undercutting myself. That’s how it feels to be a man.

And nobody gives a shit. Nobody. Ain’t no text chains here. You got a problem? Sort it out, man. Man up. Go watch some football or something. Go punch a wall, which I’ve definitely done. Go shoot up a grocery store, or your school, or anywhere. Jump off a bridge. If you’re me, eat compulsively. This is what men get as options, and I think it’s perhaps the only instance wherein the cultural privilege of being a man is a detriment — because usually that’s pretty good livin’ as regards cultural dominance; I’ll remind you I don’t have a job — because since everybody else is worse off between women and those who identify outside the cisgender binary who the hell is going to offer any sympathy when one of the conditions for being a man in the first place, along with your babykiller pickup truck and, I don’t know, being a cop?, is killing that sympathy within yourself? The word ‘toxic’ is overused, but not misused.

So I’m gonna go sort all that out over the next 48 hours or so. Then probably write a book and live off speaking fees for the rest of my life. You have a great and safe weekend. Have fun, watch your head, hydrate, kill the patriarchy for the betterment of all humanity. End war. End fossil fuel consumption today. End money. End guns. Start love.


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Kungens Män Premiere “För Samtida Djur” Video; För Samtida Djur 1 Due in February

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Reviews on January 18th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

Kungens Män

Next month, Swedish exploratory jammers Kungens Män make their debut on Majestic Mountain Records with the first of at least two full-lengths they’ll release this year. Titled För Samtida Djur 1, the 45-minute eight-songer marks a turn for the instrumentalist unit, whose common modus finds them with longer pieces generally, but is of course only half the story the band will have told by the end of 2024, as both För Samtida Djur 1 and För Samtida Djur 2 — the latter of which will be out in May, last I heard, but I don’t think I’ve come across a solid date for it yet — capture different sides of the Stockholm-based six-piece. A duology!

Ideally, I would stream all the audio. Both records, right now. Does that make any sense when we’re just at the opening of preorders for the first of two records? No, and Majestic Mountain knows that which is why it’s not happening. But this is going to sound obvious and stupid but it’s something anyone who critiques anything will rarely admit: the best way to get immersed in the work of Kungens Män is just to do it. The first single from För Samtida Djur 1 is the drum-machined and titular “För Samtida Djur” — video premiering below; it’s more properly written in Swedish as “För samtida djur” — which sets the tone for the purposefully meandering experiments, psychedelic fluidity and wonko-jazz prog to follow as shimmering guitar at the start of “Tycka Rakt” brings pastoralia to the proceedings. You’ll note in their upcoming live shows below a slot alongside legendary-if-you-know Kungens Män För Samtida Djur 1proggers Träd, Gräs och Stenar, who feel like a touchstone for parts of För Samtida Djur 1, though even that’s just a part of the scope for the eight-song/45-minute outing.

As they make their way through with a casual, organic production that gives the loose and improv-sounding landings of “Motarbetaren” an in-the-room feel after “Grovmotorik” — the title telling you where it’s coming from stylistically — positions its steady cosmic flow outside most boxes. The experimental feel of “För Samtida Djur” at the outset is mirrored throughout, with “Virvelresan” resulting in a mellow jam more dug into guitar than the sax-led “Bra Moln,” which follows immediately and sees the two instruments find a middle-ground in the renewed space rock-derived semi-push of “Tyska Ninjor,” which manages to stuff a freakout into its four minutes — Hawkwind, maybe even Stooges in the strum — before “Nu Eller Aldrig” commences its drone-jazz comedown for a finish that resonates as surprisingly dark. Could be that’s Kungens Män setting up a transition into För Samtida Djur 2, or could just be how that came out and they thought it sounded cool. You don’t always get to know those things. And it’s fine when the music works, which it does here.

The reported difference between För Samtida Djur 1 and its also-upcoming sequel is that För Samtida Djur 2 is focuses more on the longform jams for which Kungens Män have become known, which makes this first part not just a departure from that, but a chance for the band to encapsulate at least part of what they do in a way that might catch ears being introduced for the first time and draw an audience toward digging deeper. Certainly there’s a catalog there. And if direct-engagement is a piece of the goal, the video for “För Samtida Djur” should be weird enough to do the trick. Coming off the paintings and stuff at the beginning is cool and all, but it’s the awkward dancing for the win. No doubter.

Melody and expanse, adventure and dynamic. If you’ve got chemistry, you can go just about anywhere you want if you have the will to do it. I look forward to hearing where För Samtida Djur 2 takes them.

Until then, then:

Kungens Män, “För Samtida djur” video premiere

Preorder link: http://majesticmountainrecords.bigcartel.com/product/kungens-man-for-samtida-djur-1-pre-order

Imagine for a moment if you will, a lush and verdant world where the senses are completely enraptured by vibrations of melody reverberating through the psyche with jubilant, electric pulsation and entrancing bliss uninhibited. A complete soul rapture in the form of literal, rhythmic poetry, a full sonic immersion, exploration and expression of life itself via organic, symphonic, orchestral mastery.

Well Majestic people, we’re about to take you there. It has always been the goal of MMR to release music that has an “otherness” about it, a quality of inimitable magic, sometimes not tangibly quantifiable but instead, felt in the gut; ultimately pulling at the heart. This signing is exactly that philosophy in its essence. For a very long time we have been ecstatically awaiting the time when we could make today’s announcement and that time has finally arrived.

Please ready yourselves for transportation to a completely different star system with Kungens Män joining the Majestic Mountain Records constellation for an incredible release in two parts.

“För samtida djur” (For Contemporary Animals) will come in two lush editions with a limited press of 250 each.

“In February 2024, the first part of “För samtida djur” (For contemporary animals) will be released. It consists of eight songs of Kungens Män in their most condensed form, yet with a great degree of variation and some soundscapes previously unheard in our improvised world. The second part which comes out in May, is a more classic Kungens Män collection, with long, sprawling songs that are invitations to inner and outer space. The music has been recorded over the last two years in between tours of Europe and UK. These twin albums also mark our first cooperation with a Swedish label, Majestic Mountain Records. A label built on love for the music and a supplier of high quality vinyl with an emphasis on psych, doom and stoner.”

Kungens Män have previously released albums on Riot Season, Cardinal Fuzz, Adansonia Records and their own label Kungens Ljud & Bild and Majestic Mountain Records is not only delighted but honored to be bringing you the next chapter in the evolution of their legendarily groovy, deeply trippy and fiercely funky, free form psychedelia.

Please give them a follow if you are not already and do keep an eye out for more regarding these monumental explorations into the art of sound.

The quote from the band:
“After more than a decade in constant motion, Kungens Män are now ready to unleash one of their most ambitious project thus far. In February 2024, the first part of “För samtida djur” (For Contemporary Animals) will be released. It consists of eight songs with Kungens Män in their most condensed form, at the same time with a great degree of variation and some soundscapes previously unheard in the improvised world of the adventurous Swedes. The second part which comes out in May is a more classic Kungens Män collection, with long, sprawling songs that are invitations to inner and outer space. The music has been recorded over the last two years in between tours of Europe and UK.

These twin albums also mark the band’s first cooperation with a Swedish label, Majestic Mountain Records. A label built on love for the music and a supplier of high quality vinyl with an emphasis on psych, doom and stoner, the label has asked about the possibility of releasing Kungens Män for several years. And now the time is right!”

kugens man tour

Kungens Män live:
2024-02-09 Hus 7/Slaktkyrkan, Stockholm (SE) w/ Träd Gräs och Stenar.
2024-02-21 Inkonst, Malmö (SE) w/ VED
2024-02-22 Lygtens Kro, Copenhagen (DK)
2024-02-23 BLO-Ateliers, Berlin (DE)
2024-02-24 KOHI-Kulturraum, Karlsruhe (DE)
2024-02-25 De Onderbroek, Nijmegen (NL)
2024-02-26 TBA
2024-02-27 C.Keller & Galerie Markt 21 e. V., Weimar (DE)
2024-02-28 KuBa, Jena (DE)
2024-02-29 TANKSTATION, Enschede (NL)
2024-03-01 Terminus Saarbrücken, Saarbrücken (DE)
2024-03-02 TBA (Hamburg area?)

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Saturnalia Temple to Release Paradigm Call March 1; “Revel in Dissidence” Posted

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 29th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

Preorders are up for the fourth full-length from Swedish cult metallers Saturnalia Temple, who present a glimpse at the malevolent churn and gurgle of Paradigm Call by means of the first single “Revel in Dissidence,” which you can check out in the lyric video at the bottom of this post. The album will be out March 1 and is the second release for Saturnalia Temple through Listenable Records, on whose talent roster they are a standout as they’d be on just about anyone’s. Fewer bands sound more like they recorded by candlelight.

I’m assuming “Drakon,” which you can see on the tracklisting below precedes “Revel in Dissidence” and is just over two minutes long, is an intro, which would make “Revel in Dissidence” something of an opener. So as you make your way through the lyric video’s bubbling-mud riffing, throaty grunt, gnarly cosmic vibes and seeming argument for “ugh” as a perspective on the world (not arguing with any of it, mind you), keep in mind that in many cases a band will put their most accessible fare at the beginning of records in order to hook a potential listnership and engage them to take on the rest. Not saying that’s Saturnalia Temple‘s motivation — indeed, more likely it isn’t — but if norms-departure is your launch point, the single is doing its work on its own terms. Little could represent Saturnalia Temple better in my mind.

The PR wire had this, mostly with links:

saturnalia temple paradigm call

Saturnalia Temple preorder for ‘Paradigm Call’ are available

🛒 https://shop-listenable.net/en/149_saturnalia-temple

🎧 https://bfan.link/revel-in-dissidence

Saturnalia temple created their own niche of Occult Doom Metal with their unique brand of hauntingly atmospheric psychedelia.

New album ‘Paradigm Call’ is very powerful trance inducing madness !

Pure Evil !

Tracklisting :
1) Drakon 02:08
2) Revel In Dissidence 08:55
3) Paradigm Call 07:42
4) Among The Ruins 05:17
5) Black Smoke 07:31
6) Ascending The Pale 07:01
7) Empty Chalice 05:03
8) Kaivalya 05:05

Paradigm Call’ Album was mastered by Jérémie Bezier at Blackout Studio, Brussels.

A new live line up includes brothers Gottfrid Åhman (In Solitude, Pågå) on bass and Pelle Åhman (In Solitude, Pågå) on drums.

Tommie Eriksson (Guitars)
Pelle Åhman (Drums)
Gottfrid Åhman (Bass)



Saturnalia Temple, “Revel in Dissidence” lyric video

Saturnalia Temple, Paradigm Call (2024)

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Per Wiberg Announces The Serpent’s Here LP Due Feb. 9

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 6th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

Per Wiberg (Photo by Soile Siirtola)

Esteemed multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Per Wiberg, who I’m pretty sure sat in for shows on Clutch‘s most recent European tour just because he’s Per Wiberg and on any given night he’ll probably make your band better. Known for his work on organ with OpethSpiritual Beggars, Clutch offshoot The Bakerton Group and a big ol’ etc., etc., as well as for playing bass in classic heavy blues rockers Kamchatka, a trio I was lucky enough to see at Freak Valley this year (review here) — I passed him backstage but didn’t introduce myself; I hate going up to people I write about and being like, “Hi, I write about you on the internet”; it’s a singularly awkward experience and usually leads to a short, likewise brief conversation — Wiberg‘s new solo outing is The Serpent’s Here, a full-length follow-up to 2021’s EP, All Is Well In the Land of the Living But for the Rest of Us… Lights Out (review here), and his second solo long-player overall behind 2019’s Head Without Eyes.

The album isn’t out until February, which is much further off in my head than it is in reality, but you can stream the title-track now, and it makes it abundantly clear that Wiberg isn’t screwing around. With a driving, heavy groove, a full-band-style sound, and a core structure resonating through its grunge-informed chorus, “The Serpent’s Here” calls together different eras of heavy and subtly revels in its underlying metallism, without falling prey to self-indulgence or tipping over into an aggression that would be out of place amid the tones. It’s cogent, coherent, sharp and energetic; textbook right unto how it seems to throw that textbook away in the middle and get all noisy before coming back around to finish. If you’re not looking forward to the album on the strength of Wiberg‘s track record alone — and that would be enough, mind you — then certainly it should help the cause.

I’ll hope to have more as we get closer, and it’s worth noting that Wiberg‘s got a three-piece together with members of Viagra Boys and Kungens Män, so tour dates might be forthcoming.. Could easily see him showing up in Spring fest announcements with a solo band to support The Serpent’s Here. I think he’d probably just have to decide he wanted to do it, but we’ll see. The PR wire sent details and links for the album:

per wiberg the serpent's here cover art

PER WIBERG: Swedish Multi-Instrumentalist To Release The Serpent’s Here Full-Length February 9th, 2024 Via Despotz Records; Title Track Streaming + Preorders Available

Swedish multi-instrumentalist PER WIBERG today unveils his brilliant new track, “The Serpent’s Here.” It’s the first single taken from his upcoming album of the same name, set for release on February 9th, 2024 via Despotz Records.

As an unrivaled musical alchemist, WIBERG’s work has illuminated an array of now-classic albums over the years performing with the likes of Opeth, Spiritual Beggars, and Candlemass, as well as Clutch/The Bakerton Group, Switchblade, and Kamchatka, among others, for over thirty years. However, it’s WIBERG’s solo conjurings that serve as the zenith of his musical voyages.

In 2019, WIBERG released his debut solo offering, Head Without Eyes. A record of Nordic prog submerged in a gnawing stew of jolting guitar notes and emotive melodies, WIBERG’s debut laid bare an unexplored sonic landscape that surpassed the successes of his past and solidified his strong presence as a unique solo artist in his own right. WIBERG followed Head Without Eyes with his equally stunning 2021-released All Is Well In The Land Of The Living, But For The Rest Of Us… Lights Out EP, a compelling celebration of innovative rock at its finest. Expanding and further evolving his vision, WIBERG expertly composed the definitive and established paradigms of traditional progressive rock with spirited and electrifying twists of dark tone. 

The Serpent’s Here continues WIBERG’s innovative trajectory boasting six consuming tracks, plus a fantastically gloomy rendition of Warrior Soul’s “The Losers,” that are at once grim and surreal; airy yet ominous. WIBERG paints vivid sound tapestries with his clever sense of dynamics and thoughtful lyricism. Each song moves with alluring subtlety and suspense, not unlike the conventions of classic film noir. And while WIBERG strays far from the traditional musical constructs, there’s an inescapable melodicism and intrinsic catchiness to his output that makes even his most experimental outpourings seamlessly accessible.

“The music has a strong familiar identity I’d say,” notes WIBERG, “It’s heavy in its tone but this time a little braver, uptempo, loose, and ‘rock’n’roll’ compared to the previous two albums. Overall, this is the most epic sounding of my stuff so far. Things are more defined. I worked hard with lyrics and vocal arrangements this time.”

On The Serpent’s Here, WIBERG is joined by drummer Tor Sjödén (Viagra Boys) who played drums on the previous EP, as well as bassist Mikael Tuominen (Kungens Män). Basic live tracks (drums, basses, grand piano) were recorded at Studio Gröndahl by David Castillo and, as with previous releases, the record was mixed and mastered by Jonas Kjellgren at Blacklounge Studios.

“All songs are built from rough song sketches that I showed Tor and Mikael,” elaborates WIBERG of The Serpent’s Here’s writing process. “The idea was that they could improvise. All basic tracks were recorded live in an afternoon to give it that extra spontaneous energy, and then I’d layer keys, guitars, and vocals on top of what we recorded. Overall, there are more guitars this time as well as two basses on the majority of the tracks.”

Stay tuned for more track teasers from the record to be revealed in the weeks to come.

Find The Serpent’s Here preorder bundles at the Despotz Records webshop HERE: https://despotz.bigcartel.com/artist/per-wiberg

The Serpent’s Here Track Listing:
1. Dead Sky Lullaby
2. The Serpent’s Here
3. Blackguards Stand Silent
4. This House Is Someone Else’s Now
5. He Just Disappeared
6. Follow The Unknown
7. The Losers (Warrior Soul cover)



Per Wiberg, The Serpent’s Here (2024)

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