Quarterly Review: Lucifer, Heilung, Amarok, T.G. Olson, Sun Dial, Lucid Grave, Domadora, Klandestin, Poor Little Things, Motorowl

Posted in Reviews on July 19th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

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You know what’s disheartening? When someone goes ‘thanks dudes.’ You know, I share a review or something, the band reposts and goes ‘thanks to the crew at The Obelisk blah blah.’ What fucking crew? If I had a crew, I’d put up 10 reviews every single day of the year. “Crew.” Shit. I am the crew. In the description of this site, the very first thing it says is “One-man operation.” It’s a fucking solo-project. That’s the whole point of it. It’s like me looking at your bass and going, “Sweet guitar, thanks for the solos brah.” I’m happy people want to share links and this and that, but really? It’s been nine years. Give me a break.

Oh yeah, that’s right. Nobody gives a shit. Now I remember. Thanks for reading.

And while we’re here, please remember the numbers for these posts don’t mean anything. This isn’t a countdown. Or a countup. It’s just me keeping track of how much shit I’m reviewing. The answer is “a lot.”

Grump grump grump.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Lucifer, Lucifer II

lucifer lucifer ii

Recorded as the trio of vocalist Johanna Sardonis (ex-The Oath), guitarist Robin Tidebrink (Saturn) and guitarist/drummer Nicke Andersson (Death Breath, ex-Entombed, ex-The Hellacopters), Lucifer’s second album, Lucifer II (on Rise Above), follows three years after its numerical predecessor, Lucifer I (review here), and marks its personnel changes with a remarkable consistency of mission. Like Mercyful Fate gone disco, the formerly-Berlin/London-now-Stockholm group bring stage-ready atmospheres to songs like “Phoenix” and the riff-led “Before the Sun,” while unleashing a largesse of hooks in “Dreamer” and the boogie-pushing “Eyes in the Sky.” “Dancing with Mr. D” brings nod to a Rolling Stones cover, and “Before the Sun” reaffirms a heavy ‘70s root in their sound. I can’t help but wonder if the doomier “Faux Pharaoh” is a sequel to “Purple Pyramid,” but either way, its thicker, darker tonality is welcome ahead of the bonus track Scorpions cover “Evening Wind,” which again demonstrates the ease with which Lucifer make established sounds their own. That’s pretty much the message of the whole album. Lucifer are a big band. Lucifer II makes the case for their being a household name.

Lucifer on Thee Facebooks

Rise Above Records webstore

 

Heilung, Lifa

heilung lifa

Lifa is the audio taken from the live video that brought Denmark’s Heilung to prominence. Captured at Castlefest in The Netherlands in last year, the impression the expansive Viking folk group made was all the more powerful with elaborate costuming, bone percussive instruments, antlers, animal-skin drums, and so on. Their debut studio album, Ofnir, came out in 2015 and like LIFA has been issued by Season of Mist, but the attention to detail and A/V experience only adds to the hypnotic tension and experimentalist edge in the material. Does it work with just the audio? Yes. The 12-minute “In Maijan” and somehow-black-metal “Krigsgaldr” maintain their trance-out-of-history aspect, and the 75-minute set blends multi-tiered melodies and goblin-voiced declarations for an impression unlike even that which Wardruna bring to bear. Whether it’s the drones of “Fylgija Futhorck” or the chants and thuds of “Hakkerskaldyr,” LIFA is striking from front to back and a cohesive, visionary work that should be heard as well as seen. But definitely seen.

Heilung on Thee Facebooks

Season of Mist website

 

Amarok, Devoured

amarok devoured

Eight years after their founding, an EP and several splits, Chico, California, atmosludge extremists Amarok make their full-length debut with Devoured on Translation Loss. If it’s been a while in the making, it’s easy enough to understand why. The album is rife with brutalist and grueling sensibilities. Comprised of just four tracks, it runs upwards of 70 minutes and brings a visceral churn to each cut, not forgetting the importance of atmosphere along the way, but definitely focused on the aural bludgeoning they’re dealing out. Tempos, duh, are excruciating, and between the screams and growls of bassist Brandon Squyres (also Cold Blue Mountain) and guitarist Kenny Ruggles – the band completed by guitarist Nathan Collins and drummer Colby ByrneAmarok make their bid for Buried at Sea levels of heft and rumble their way across a desolate landscape of their own making. Eight years to conjure this kind of punishment? Yeah, that seems about right. See you in 2026.

Amarok on Thee Facebooks

Translation Loss Records webstore

 

T.G. Olson, Ode to Lieutenant Henry

tg olson ode to lieutenant henry

Here’s a curious case: T.G. Olson, founding guitarist and vocalist of Across Tundras, is a prolific experimental singer-songwriter. His material ranges from psychedelic country to fuller-toned weirdo Americana and well beyond. He’s wildly prolific, and everything goes up on Bandcamp for a name-your-price download, mostly unannounced. It’s not there, then it is. Olson’s latest singe, Ode to Lieutenant Henry, was there, and now it’s gone. With the march of its title-track and a complementary cover of Townes van Zandt’s “Silver Ships of Andilar,” I can’t help but be curious as to where the tracks went and if they’ll be back, perhaps in some other form or as part of a different release. Both are plugged-in and coated in fuzzy tones, with Olson’s echoing vocals providing a human presence in the wide soundscape of his own making. The original is shorter than the cover, but both songs boast a signature sense of ramble that, frankly, is worth being out there. Hopefully they’re reposted at some point, either on their own as they initially were or otherwise.

Across Tundras on Thee Facebooks

T.G. Olson/Across Tundras on Bandcamp

 

Sun Dial, Science Fiction

sun dial sci fi

If space is the place, Sun Dial feel right at home in it. The long-running UK psychedelic adventurers collect two decades’ worth of soundtrack material on Science Fiction, their new release for Sulatron Records. Made with interwoven keyboard lines and a propensity to periodically boogie on “Mind Machine,” “Airlock,” “Infra Red,” etc., the experimentalist aspect of Science Fiction is all the more remarkable considering the album is compiled from different sources. One supposes the overarching cosmos is probably what brings it together, but with the samples and synth of “Saturn Return” and the lower end space-bass of pre-bonus-track closer “Starwatchers” – that bonus track, by the way, is a 15-minute version of opener “Hangar 13” – and though the vast majority of the Science Fiction relies on synth and keys to make its impression, it’s still only fair to call the proceedings natural, as the root of each one seems to be exploration. It’s okay to experiment. Nobody’s getting hurt.

Sun Dial on Thee Facebooks

Sun Dial at Sulatron Records webstore

 

Lucid Grave, Demo 2018

lucid grave demo 2018

There are three songs on Lucid Grave’s first outing, the aptly-titled Demo 2018, and the first of them is also the longest (immediate points), “Star.” It presents a curious and hard to place interpretation of psychedelic sludge rock. It is raw as a demo worthy of its name should be, and finds vocalist Malene Pedersen (also Lewd Flesh) echoing out to near-indecipherable reaches atop the feedback-addled riffing. Quite an introduction, to say the least. The subsequent “Desert Boys” is more subdued at the start but gets furious at the end, vocals spanning channels in an apparent call and response atop increasingly intense instrumental thrust. And as for “Ride the Hyena?” If I didn’t know better – and rest assured, I don’t – I’d call it doom. I’m not sure what the hell the København five-piece are shooting for in terms of style, but I damn sure want to hear what they come up with next so I can find out. Consider me enticed. And accordingly, one can’t really accuse Demo 2018 of anything other than doing precisely what it’s supposed to do.

Lucid Grave on Thee Facebooks

Lucid Grace on Bandcamp

 

Domadora, Lacuna

domadora lacuna

Comprised of four-tracks of heavy psychedelic vibes led by the scorch-prone guitar of Belwil, Domadora’s third album, Lacuna, follows behind 2016’s The Violent Mystical Sukuma (discussed here) and taps quickly into a post-Earthless league of instrumentalism on opener “Lacuna Jam.” That should be taken as a compliment, especially as regards the bass and drums of Gui Omm and Karim Bouazza, respectively, who hold down uptempo grooves there and roll along with the more structured 14-minute cut “Genghis Khan” that follows. Each of the album’s two sides is comprised of a shorter track and a longer one, and there’s plenty of reach throughout, but more than expanse, even side B’s “Vacuum Density” and “Tierra Last Homage” are more about the chemistry between the band members – Angel Hidalgo Paterna rounds out on organ – than about crafting a landscape. Fortunately for anyone who’d take it on, the Parisian unit have plenty to offer when it comes to that chemistry.

Domadora on Thee Facebooks

Domadora on Bandcamp

 

Klandestin, Green Acid of Last Century

klandestin green acid of last century

That’s a big “fuck yes, thank you very much” for the debut album from Indonesian stoner metallers Klandestin. Green Acid of the Last Century arrives courtesy of Hellas Records and is THC-heavy enough that if they wanted to, they could probably add “Bong” to the band’s name and it would be well earned. Eight tracks, prime riffs, watery vocals, dense fuzz, stomp, plod, lumber, shuffle – it’s all right there in homegrown dosage, and for the converted, Green Acid of the Last Century is nothing short of a worship ceremony, for the band itself as well as for anyone taking it on. With the march of “Doomsday,” the unmitigated rollout of “Black Smoke,” and the swirling green aurora of “The Green Aurora,” Klandestin wear their holding-back-a-cough riffage as a badge of honor, and couldn’t be any less pretentious about it if they tried. From the hooded weedian on the cover art to the Sleepy nod of closer “Last Century,” Green Acid of Last Century telegraphs its intent front-to-back, and is all the more right on for it.

Klandestin on Thee Facebooks

Hellas Records on Bandcamp

 

Poor Little Things, Poor Little Things

poor little things poor little things

You get what you pay for with “Rock’n’Roller,” which leads off the self-titled debut EP from Bern, Switzerland-based Poor Little Things. Around the core duo of vocalist Tina Jackson and multi-instrumentalist Dave “Talon” Jackson (also of Australia’s Rollerball) on guitar, bass, synth and percussion is Talon’s The Marlboro Men bandmate Fernando Marlboro on drums, and together the band presents five tracks of remember-when-rock-rocked-style groove. Fueled by ‘70s accessibility and a mentality that seems to be saying it’s okay to play big rooms, like arenas, cuts like “Drive” seem prime for audience participation, and “Break Another Heart” gives a highlight performance from Tina while “About Love” showcases a more laid back take. They close with the 6:37 “Street Cheetah,” which struts appropriately, and end with a percussive finish on a fadeout repeating the title line. As a showcase of their style and songwriting chops, Poor Little Things shows significant promise, sure, but it’s also pretty much already got everything it needs for a full-length album.

Poor Little Things on Thee Facebooks

Poor Little Things on Bandcamp

 

Motorowl, Atlas

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Every now and then you put on a record and it’s way better than you expect. Hello, Motorowl’s Atlas. The German troupe’s second for Century Media, it takes the classic stylizations of their 2016 debut, Om Generator, and pushes them outward into a vast sea of organ-laced progressive heavy, soaring in vocal melodies and still modern despite drawing from an array of decades past. The chug in “The Man Who Rules the World” would be metal for most bands, but on Atlas, it becomes part of a broader milieu, and sits easily next to the expansive title-track, as given to post-rocking airiness in the guitar as to synth-laden prog. That mixture of influences and aesthetics would be enough to give the five-piece an identity of their own, but Atlas is further characterized by Motorowl’s ambitious songwriting and benefits greatly from the melodic arrangements and the clear intention toward creative development at work here. Those who take on its seven-track/45-minute journey will find it dynamic, spacious and heavy in kind.

Motorowl on Thee Facebooks

Motorowl at Century Media website

 

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Quarterly Review: Wheel in the Sky, Sun Dial, LSD & the Search for God, Duel, The Canadian Sweetmen, Wren, Transient, Desert Storm & Suns of Thunder, Telstar Sound Drone, Fantasy Arcade

Posted in Reviews on March 28th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk quarterly review spring 2016

So it begins. I’d say this one snuck up on me, but the terrible truth of these things is that there are months of planning involved. You know the drill by now: Between today and Friday, I’ll be posting 50 record reviews in batches of 10 per day, and that’s the Quarterly Review. They’re not really in any order. Some have been out for a while, some aren’t out yet. I have tried to mark 2015 stuff where possible, if only to keep my own organizational modus straight. We’ll see how that goes as the week plays out. In any case, I hope you find something here that you dig. I know I have.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Wheel in the Sky, Heading for the Night

wheel in the sky heading for the night

Although Wheel in the Sky’s presentation is modern enough on their The Sign Records debut album, Heading for the Night, to steer them clear of Sweden’s boogie-mad masses, they’re still very clearly taking influence from classic rock, most notably The Who on cuts like opener “Fire, Death to All” (also the longest track; immediate points), “Total Eclipse of the Brain” and “Thrust in the Night.” The clarity of sound and approach puts them more in line with bands like The Golden Grass and, for a countrymen example, Troubled Horse, than Graveyard, and the Uppsala/Stockholm four-piece distinguish themselves further through the dual-lead interplay of “A Turn for the Wicked,” which hints just a bit toward Thin Lizzy bounce to feed into closer “God on High,” which coats its vocals in echo to add a sense of grandeur before the last instrumental push, which picks up the pace at the end to cap a first album from a band clearly looking to find their own niche within a classic heavy rock feel.

Wheel in the Sky on Thee Facebooks

The Sign Records

 

Sun Dial, Mind Control

sun dial mind control

Offered first by the band in 2012 and reissued through Sulatron Records with two bonus tracks from the same recording session, Sun Dial’s Mind Control puts the long-running UK psych/space rockers in their element in a kosmiche expanse quickly on “Mountain of Fire and Miracles,” and while electronic experimentation is a factor throughout “Radiation” and “Burned In,” there’s always a human spirit underneath and sometimes out front in what Sun Dial do, and the newly-included “Seven Pointed Star” and “World Within You” fit in with the sense of acid ritual that the original album tracks convey, the title cut transposing Hawkwindian warp drive on a more relaxed atmosphere, each measure seemingly a mantra in a longer meditation. Even with its wah-soaked ending, “In Every Dream Home a Heartache” has a more straightforward tack, proving that even when you think you know what a group like Sun Dial are up to, you’re probably wrong.

Sun Dial on Thee Facebooks

Mind Control at Sulatron Records

 

LSD and the Search for God, Heaven is a Place

lsd and the search for god heaven is a place

The second EP from San Francisco-based shoegazing psychedelic rockers LSD and the Search for God, Heaven is a Place, arrives a whopping nine years after its self-titled predecessor. Granted, it might be the wash of effects and the almost-whispered vocal melodies that seem to barely break the surface of the waves of airy distortion, but if any of this material goes back that far, it doesn’t show its age. The five-piece – guitarist/vocalist Andy Liszt, vocalist Sophia Cambell, guitarist Chris Fifield, bassist Ryan Lescure and drummer Ricky Maymi – offer five tracks of blissed-out, dripping wet vibe, with “Outer Space (Long Way Home)” at the center of a post-grunge swirl following the cosmic push of “(I Don’t Think that We Should) Take it Slow” and before the serenity of “Elizabeth” takes hold as a lead-in for seven-minute finale “Without You,” simultaneously the most lucid and dreamy of the cuts included. Nine years is a long time. Heaven is a Place begs for a quicker follow-up.

LSD and the Search for God on Thee Facebooks

LSD and the Search for God on Bandcamp

 

Duel, Fears of the Dead

duel fears of the dead

Austin purveyors Duel make a striking impression from the cover onward with their Heavy Psych Sounds full-length debut, Fears of the Dead. The four-piece, which by all reports features two former members of Scorpion Child, get down with classic swing on the opening title-track and thereby broadcast the intent of the album as a whole, bringing ‘70s-style grooves and boogie forward in time with modern fullness and a crisp production that highlights the gruff vocals of guitarist Tom Frank, who alongside bassist/vocalist Shaun Avants, guitarist Derek Halfmann and drummer JD Shadowz, swaggers through the record’s eight included slabs as one might through a crowded venue for the next in a long series of an evening’s beers. Later cuts like “When the Pigs are Fed” and 7:52 closer “Locked Outside” bring some more variety to the approach, but the heart of Fears of the Dead remains brash and unbridled, and one doubts if Duel would have it any other way.

Duel on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds

 

The Canadian Sweetmen, Intro b/w New Cigarettes

the canadian sweetmen intro new cigarettes

One might blink and miss the debut single from somewhat mysterious psychedelic rockers The Canadian Sweetmen, which totals its A and B sides together for a runtime of about four and a half minutes, but the fact that the 90-second “Intro” (the A side) manages to marry The Velvet Underground and The Beach Boys in that span is definitely something worth taking the time to note. There’s just about no information on the band as to who they are, where they come from, where they’re going, etc., but the three-minute “New Cigarettes” makes an impression on style and substance alike and offers an encouraging glimpse at what seems to be a psychedelia bolstered by organ and Rhodes and unbound by a need to adhere to genre tenets. “Intro” doesn’t even stick around long enough to do so, but “New Cigarettes” careens into a rhythmic push for its chorus that offers an earthy undertone to the heady, spaced-out vibe. More please.

The Canadian Sweetmen Tumblr

The Canadian Sweetmen on Soundcloud

 

Wren, Host

wren host

Absolutely devastating. UK post-sludgers Wren dole out a punishment that won’t be soon forgotten on their second EP, Host (on Holy Roar), following up the blackened post-rock of their 2014 self-titled EP (review here) and their 2015 split with Irk (review here) with four pummeling but still richly atmospheric cuts. Working now as the lineup of Owen Jones, Chris Pickering, Robert Letts and John McCormick, Wren have had three different vocalists on their three releases, but not a one of them has failed to add to the ambience and crushing impression of their riffs, and the hook of “No Séance” particularly on Host signifies that despite whatever lineup shifts they may have had, Wren continue to progress and refine their attack. “Stray,” “No Séance,” “The Ossuary” and “Loom” are unshakable, deeply weighted and righteously spaced. They may have flown somewhat under the radar up to this point, but Wren are too loud to be a well kept secret for much longer.

Wren on Thee Facebooks

Wren on Bandcamp

 

Transient, Transient

transient transient

Some 12 years after their initial demo surfaced in 2003, Massachusetts’ Transient present an atmospheric take on alt-metal with their self-titled debut full-length, self-released last fall. Bringing together nine tracks/46 minutes with a patient but tense pacing and underlying currents of progressive metal in cuts like “Ditch of Doubt” and “Wrong Time,” it unfolds gracefully with the intro “Voyager One” and finds an aggressive burst in “Wrong Time” and the Tool-gone-psych build of the penultimate “Slightest Scare.” That song is part of an extended two-cut closing suite with “Hold this Grudge,” which highlights Scott McCooe’s bass tone as it provides a surprising but satisfying laid back finish. McCooe, joined here by guitarist/vocalist Tim Hayes and drummer John Harris, splits his time with metalcore progenitors Overcast, and as Transient was recorded over a year’s stretch and then mixed and mastered a year after that – living up to the band’s name – it may be a while before a follow-up, but after so long from their demo, it’s still a welcome debut.

Transient on Thee Facebooks

Transient on Bandcamp

 

Desert Storm & Suns of Thunder, Split

desert storm suns of thunder split

Issued by H42 Records in a limited edition for this year’s Desertfest, the new split 7” from UK heavy platoons Desert Storm and Suns of Thunder is so dudely they could sell it as vitamin supplements on late-night tv. A complex critique of gender it is not, heavy it is. One track from each band. Desert Storm bring the burl of “Signals from Beyond,” which with its strong hook and gravely vocals brings to mind Orange Goblin nestled into a nodding riff. For Swansea’s Suns of Thunder, it’s “Earn Your Stripes,” with its complex vocal arrangements for lyrics about small men and big men, paying your dues and other whathaveyou that dominant culture tells those with testicles will make them more complete people. Fine. Masculinity and femininity are scams to sell pants, but “Earn Your Stripes” is catchy as all anything and “Signals from Beyond” is even catchier than however catchy that is, so a testosterone overdose seems a small price to pay.

Desert Storm on Thee Facebooks

Suns of Thunder on Thee Facebooks

 

Telstar Sound Drone, Magical Solutions to Everyday Struggles

telstar sound drone magical solutions to everyday problems

Magical Solutions to Everyday Struggles is the second album from Copenhagen-based auralnauts Telstar Sound Drone, and like much of what Bad Afro releases, it presents a strong temptation to drop out, tune in and turn on. Little surprise the band is something of an offshoot from Baby Woodrose, sharing guitarist Mads Saaby and drummer Hans Beck with the seminal garage rockers, but the lush impression made on “Something I Can’t Place” with the watery vocals of Sean Jardenbæk comes from an even more lysergic place, and the experimental side that comes through on “Closer Again,” “Dark Kashmir” and the languid “Dead Spaces” is a multi-tiered dreamscape that closer “Lean down on White” seems sad to leave. Reasonably so. With guest spots from members of Spids Nøgenhat, Bite the Bullet and Baby Woodrose (Kåre Joensen on bass/synth), Telstar Sound Drone’s sophomore outing is an otherworldly psychedelic vision that, as promised, does seem to cure what ails, exciting even in its most subdued moments.

Telstar Sound Drone on Thee Facebooks

Bad Afro Records

 

Fantasy Arcade, Fantasy Arcade

fantasy arcade fantasy arcade

Initially offered by the band in 2012 and subsequently pressed to a six-song 7” and jewel case CD, the self-titled debut EP from San Diego trio Fantasy Arcade only runs about 11 minutes, but that’s all it needs to bring together punk, thrash, sludge and heavy rock across fuckall-heavy cuts like “The Dwarves are Missing” – the longest song here at 3:38 – and the rumbling finale “Die Before You Suck,” which gallops and shouts and seems to crash into walls on its way out, though drummer/vocalist Adam, bassist/vocalist Chris and guitarist Mike actually do well in deciding when to keep control and when to let it go. More nuanced than it lets on, Fantasy Arcade is an aggressive pulse given to moments of frustration boiling over, but being rooted in metal as much as punk, its dwelling in two worlds gives heft to the freneticism at play, as shown in “Poison Arrow,” the first half of which runs at a sprint right into the brick wall slowdown of its second, and final, minute.

Fantasy Arcade on Thee Facebooks

Fantasy Arcade on Bandcamp

 

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