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

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

The-Obelisk-Quarterly-Review

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

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

Quarterly Review #91-100:

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

Lamp of the universe meets dr space Enter Your Somas

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

Lamp of the Universe on Facebook

Dr. Space on Facebook

Sound Effect Records website

Inter Arma, New Heaven

inter arma new heaven

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

Inter Arma on Facebook

Relapse Records website

Sunnata, Chasing Shadows

sunnata chasing shadows

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

Sunnata on Facebook

Sunnata on Bandcamp

The Sonic Dawn, Phantom

The Sonic Dawn Phantom

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

The Sonic Dawn on Facebook

Heavy Psych Sounds website

Rifflord, 39 Serpent Power

RIFFLORD 39 Serpent Power

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

Rifflord on Facebook

Ripple Music website

Mothman and the Thunderbirds, Portal Hopper

Mothman and the Thunderbirds Portal Hopper

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

Mothman and the Thunderbirds on Instagram

Mothman and the Thunderbirds on Bandcamp

The Lunar Effect, Sounds of Green and Blue

The Lunar Effect Sounds of Green & Blue

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

The Lunar Effect on Facebook

Svart Records website

Danava, Live

danava live

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

Danava on Instagram

Heavy Psych Sounds website

Moonlit, Be Not Afraid

moonlit be not afraid

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

Moonlit on Instagram

Moonlit on Bandcamp

Doom Lab, Northern Lights

Doom Lab Northern Lights

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

Doom Lab on YouTube

Doom Lab on Bandcamp

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Winter Announce Live in Brooklyn, NY Out April 19

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 14th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

Just a quick heads up to anyone not immediately in the borough’s sphere of influence as I am even way out here in the suburbs of my beloved Garden State, the proper pronunciation should be “Brooklyn New York,” three words, no comma. You don’t have to do a fake accent or make it cutesy, but that comma — which is correctly placed in the writing of Winter‘s impending live album, Live in Brooklyn, NY — is silent.

Between that and the fact that there’s a live release at all coming — Svart has it out April 19, like the header says — that’d probably be enough to get stoked on, but Winter‘s Stephan Flam also worked with Svart on the release of his dark experimental/conceptual outfit Göden, who yes, inherited a lot of Winter‘s pioneering extremity of doom, and it’s casually revealed below that a second Göden LP will be out this May. Considering we’re already starting to see release announcements for then, I’d expect word down the PR wire in the next couple weeks, since this will be first a month earlier.

In any case, a live Winter release from 2012 is probably the best thing one could hope for from them — I don’t know that a studio album would, could or should ever happen, but stranger things have — and a new Göden is sure to be far too weird for 99.9 percent of humans and all the more righteous for that. I look forward to hearing both the way one looks forward to plastic surgery — self-mutilation working toward a perceived good. They do that shit in stripmalls now. I feel like that alone makes a Winter live record necessary.

From the PR wire:

WINTER LIVE IN BROOKLYN NY

Svart Records are proud to release the first official live album from cult death doom band Winter!

In August and September of 2012, Winter participated in the “Power of the Riff East/West” series of concerts held in California and New York. After first playing the West Coast shows with bands like Pelican and Noothgrush among others, Winter returned to their hometown New York on September 2nd and played a show in Brooklyn’s Warsaw with their best line-up; Stephen Flam/Guitar, John Alman/Bass and vocals, Jim Jackson/Drums and original keyboardist Tony Pinnisi who played with the band first time since recording “Into Darkness” LP in 1989.

The rare appearance of this performance in Brooklyn, featuring all their classic tunes like “Servants of the Warsmen”, “Power and Might”, “Destiny, Eternal Frost” etc. was recorded, and is now presented here for all their fans. This isn’t any cheap nostalgia driven reunion cash out, but a real and raw deal. RISE!

Winter “Live in Brooklyn NY” vinyl, CD and t-shirts out 19.4.2024.

Winter’s spiritual successor Göden will release a new album on Svart Records in May 2024. More info on that will follow soon, so keep your eyes and ears open!

https://www.facebook.com/Winter.NY.official/
https://www.instagram.com/WINTER.ny.Official

www.facebook.com/svartrecords
https://www.instagram.com/svartrecords/
https://svartrecords.bandcamp.com/
www.svartrecords.com

Winter, “Eternal Frost” live at Power of the Riff East, Brooklyn, NY, 09.02.12

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Quarterly Review: Maggot Heart, Catatonic Suns, Sacri Suoni, Nova Doll, Howl at the Sky, Fin del Mundo, Bloody Butterflies, Solar Sons, Mosara, Jupiter

Posted in Reviews on October 4th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk winter quarterly review

Wednesday, huh? I took the dog for a walk this morning. We do that. I’ve been setting the alarm for five but getting up before — it’s still better than waking up at 4AM, which is a hard way to live unless you can go to bed at like 8 on the dot, which I can’t really anymore because kid’s bedtime, school, and so on — and taking Tilly for a walk around the block and up the big hill to start the day. Weather permitting, we do that walk three times a day and she does pretty well. This morning she didn’t want to leave the Greenie she’d been working on and so resisted at first, but got on board eventually.

In addition to physical movement being tied to emotional wellbeing — not something I’m always willing to admit applies to myself, but almost always true; I also get hangry or at least more easily overwhelmed when I’m hungry, which I always am because I have like seven eating disorders and am generally a wreck of a person — the dog doesn’t say much and it’s pretty early and dark out when we go, so I get a quiet moment out under the moon going around the block looking up at Venus, Jupiter, a few stars we can see through the suburban light pollution of the nearby thoroughfares. We go up part of the big hill, have done the full thing a couple times, but she’s only just three-plus months, so not yet really. But we’re working on it, and despite Silly Tilly’s fears otherwise, her treat was right where we left it on the rug when we got back. And she got to eat leaves, so, bonus.

There are minutes in your day. You can find them. You can do it. I’m not trying to be saccharine or to bullshit you. Life is short and most of it is really, really difficult, so take whatever solace you can get however you can get it. Let’s talk about records.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Maggot Heart, Hunger

maggot heart hunger

This is Maggot Heart‘s third record and they’re still a surprise. It can be jarring sometimes to encounter something that edges so close to unique within the underground sphere, but the Berlin outfit founded/fronted by Linnéa Olsson (ex-The Oath, ex-Grave Pleasures, ex-Sonic Ritual) offer bleak and subversively feminine post-punk informed by black metal on Hunger, and as she, bassist Olivia Airey and drummer Uno Bruniusson (ex-In Solitude, etc.), unfurl eight tracks of arthouse aggro and aesthetic burn, one can draw lines just as easily with “Nil by Mouth” or the later “Looking Back at You” to mid-’70s coke-strung New York poetic no wave and the modern European dark progressive set to which Maggot Heart have diligently contributed over the last half decade. The horn sounds on “LBD” are a nice touch, and “Archer” puts that to work in some folk-doom context, but in the tension of “Concrete Soup” or the avant garde setting out across the three minutes of the leadoff semi-title-track “Scandinavian Hunger,” Maggot Heart demonstrate their ability to knock the listener off balance as a first step toward reorienting them to the atmosphere the band have honed in these songs, slightly goth on “This Shadow,” bombastic in the middle and end of “Parasite,” each piece set to its own purpose adding some aspect to the whole. You wouldn’t call it easy listening, but the challenge is part of the fun.

Maggot Heart on Instagram

Svart Records website

Rapid Eye Records on Bandcamp

Catatonic Suns, Catatonic Suns

Catatonic Suns Catatonic Suns

Adjacent to New Psych Philly with their homebase in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and with a self-titled collection that runs between the shoegazing shine of “Deadzone,” the full-fuzz brunt of “Slack” or “Inside Out,” the three-minute linear build of “Fell Off” made epic by its melody, and the hooky indie sway of advance single “Be as One,” the trio Catatonic Suns make a quick turnaround from their 2022 sophomore LP, Saudade, for the lysergic realization and apparent declaration of this eight tracks/31 minutes. With most cuts punkishly short and able to saunter into the noise-coated jangle of “Failsafe” or the wash of “Sublunary” — speaking of post-punk — Catatonic Suns eventually land at closer “No Stranger,” which tops eight minutes and comprises a not-insignificant percentage of the total runtime. And no, they aren’t the first heavy psych band to have shorter songs up front and a big finale, but the swirling layered triumph of “No Stranger” carries a breadth in its immersive early verses, mellow, sitar-laced midsection jam and noise-caked finish and comes across very much as what Catatonic Suns has been building toward all the while. The same might be true of the band, for all I know — it seems to be the longest piece they’ve written to-date — but either way, put them on the ‘Catatonic Voyage’ tour with Sun Voyager for two months crisscrossing the US and never look back. Big sound, and after three full-lengths, significant potential.

Catatonic Suns on Instagram

Agitated Records website

Sacri Suoni, Sacred is Not Divine

Sacri Suoni Sacred is Not Divine

Densely weighted in tone, brash in its impact and heavy, heavy, heavy in atmosphere, Sacri Suoni‘s second album together and first under their new moniker (they used to be called Stoned Monkey; kudos on the change), Sacred is Not Divine positions itself as a cosmic doom thesis and an exploration of the reaches and impacts to be found through collaborative jamming. Four songs make it — “Doom Perspection of the Astral Frequency 0-1” (8:15), “Six Scalps for Six Sounds” (10:28), “Cult of Abysmus” (13:15) and “Plutomb, Engraved in Reality” (8:02) — and as heavy has they are (have I mentioned that yet?) there is dynamic at play as well in the YOB-ish noodles and strums at the start of “Six Scalps for Six Sounds” or in “Cult of Abysmus” around the 10-minute mark, or in the opener’s long fade, but make no mistake, the mission here is heft and space and the Milano outfit have both in ready supply. I think “Plutomb, Engraved in Reality” has maybe three riffs? Might be two, but either way, it’s enough. The character in this material is defined by its weight, but there are three dimensions to their style and all are represented. If you listen on headphones, try really hard not to pulverize your brain in the process.

Sacri Suoni on Facebook

Zanns Records website

Nova Doll, Denaturing

nova doll denaturing

Earthy enough in tone and their slower rolling moments to earn an earliest-Acid King comparison, Barrie, Ontario’s Nova Doll are nonetheless prone to shifting into bits of aggro punk, as in “Waydown” or “Dead Before I Knew It,” the latter of which closes their debut album, Denaturing, the very title of the thing loaded with context beyond its biochemical interpretations. That is, if Nova Doll are pissed, fair enough. “California Sunshine” arrives in the first half of the seven-song/29-minute long-player, with rhythm kept on the toms, open drones and a vastness that speaks at least to some tertiary affect of desert rock on their sound. Psychedelia comes through in different forms amid the crunch of a song like “Mabon,” or “California Sunshine,” and the bassy centerpiece near-title-track feels willfully earthbound — not complaining; they’re that much stronger for changing it up — but the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Casey Cuff, bassist Sean Alten and drummer Daniel Allen ride that groove in “Denaturation” like they already know the big spaceout in “Light Her Up” is coming. And they probably did, given the apparent care put into what is sometimes a harsh presentation and the variety they bring around the central buzz that seems to underscore the songs. Grown-up punk, still growing, but their sound is defined and malleable in its noisy approach on their first full-length, and that’s only encouraging.

Nova Doll on Instagram

Tarantula Tapes website

Black Throne Productions website

Howl at the Sky, In Line for the End Times

Howl at the Sky In Line for the End Times

With their self-released debut album, In Line for the End Times, hard-driving single-guitar four-piece Howl at the Sky enter the field with 12 songs and a CD-era-esque 55-minute run that filters through a summary of decades of heavy rock and roll influences. From their native state of Ohio alone, bands like Valley of the Sun and Lo-Pan, or Tummler and Red Giant a generation ago — these and others purveying straight-ahead heavy rock light on tricks and big on drive. More metal in their riffy underpinnings than some, certainly less than others, they foster hooks whether it’s a three-minute groover like “Stink Eye” and opener “Our Lady of the Knives” or the more spacious “Dry as a Bone” and the penultimate “Black Lung,” which has a bit more patience in its sway than the C.O.C.-circa-’91 “The Beast With No Eyes” and modernize ’70s vibes in the traditions of acts one might find on labels like Ripple or Small Stone. That is, rock dudes, rockin’. Vocalist Scott Wherle bears some likeness to We’re All Gonna Die‘s Jim Healey early on, but both are working from a classic heavy rock and metal foundation, and Wherle has a distinguishing, fervent push behind him in guitarist Mike Shope, bassist Scot “With One ‘T'” Fithen and drummer John Sims. For as long as these guys are together, I wouldn’t expect too many radical departures from what they do here. Once a band has its songwriting down like this, it’s really more just about letting grow on its own over time rather than forcing something, and the sense they give in listening is they know that too.

Howl at the Sky on Facebook

Howl at the Sky on Bandcamp

Fin del Mundo, Todo Va Hacia el Mar

Fin del Mundo Todo Va Hacia el Mar

The first two four-song EPs by Buenos Aires psych/post-rock four-piece Fin del Mundo — guitarist/vocalist Lucia Masnatta, guitarist Julieta Heredia, bassist Julieta Limia, drummer/backing vocalist Yanina Silva — wander peacefully through a dreamy apocalypse compiled together chronologically as Todo Va Hacia el Mar, the band’s Spinda Records first long-player. From “La Noche” through “El Fin del Mundo,” what had been a 2020 self-titled, the tones are serene and the melodies drift without getting lost or meandering too far from the songs’ central structure, though that last of them reaches broader and heavier ground, resonance intact. The second EP, 2022’s La Ciudad Que Dejamos, the LP’s side B, has more force behind its rhythms and creates a wash in “El Próximo Verano” to preface its gang-vocal moment, while closer “El Incendio” takes the Sonic Youth-style indie of the earlier material and fosters more complex melodicism around it and builds tension into a decisive but not overblown resolution. It’s 34 minutes long and even between its two halves there’s obvious growth on the part of the band being showcased. Their next long-player will be like a second debut, and I’ll be curious how they take on a full-length format having that intention in the first place for the material.

Fin del Mundo on Facebook

Spinda Records website

Bloody Butterflies, Mutations and Transformations

Bloody Butterflies Mutations and Transformations

A pandemic-born project (and in some ways, aren’t we all?), the two-piece instrumentalist unit Bloody Butterflies — that’s guitarist/bassist Jon Howard (Hordes) and drummer August Elliott (No Skull) — released their first album, Polymorphic, in 2020 and emerge with a follow-up in the seven tracks/27 minutes of the on-theme Mutations and Transformations, letting the riffs do their storytelling on cuts like “Toilet Spider” and “Frandor Rat,” the latter of which may or may not be in homage to a rat living near the Kroger on the east side of Lansing. The sound is punker raw and as well it should be. That aforementioned ratsong has some lumber to its procession, but in the bassy “Fritzi” that follows, the bright flashes of cymbal in opener “BB Theme” (also the longest inclusion; immediate points) and the noisy declaration of post-doom stomp before the feedback at the end of “Wormhole” consumes all and the record ends, they find plenty of ways to stage off monochromatism. Actually, what I suspect is they’re having fun. At least that’s what it sounds like, in a very particular way. Fair enough. It would be cool to have some clever lesson learned from the pandemic or something like that, but no, sometimes terrible shit just happens. Cool for these two getting a band out of it. Take the wins you can get.

Bloody Butterflies on Facebook

Bloody Butterflies on Bandcamp

Solar Sons, Another Dimension

solar sons another dimension

Whilst prone to NWOBHM tapping twists of guitar in the leads of “Alien Hunter,” “Quicksilver Trail,” etc. and burling up strains of ’90s metal and a modern heavy sub-burl that adds nuance to its melodies, Solar Sons‘ fifth album, Another Dimension, arrives at its ambitions organically. The Dundee, Scotland, everybody-sings three-piece of bassist/lead vocalist Rory Lee, guitarist/vocalist Danny Lee and drummer/vocalist Pete Garrow embark with purpose on a narrative structure spread across the nine songs/62 minutes of the release that unveils more of its progressive doom character as it unfolds its storyline about a satellite sent to learn everything it can about the universe and return to save a dying Earth — science-fiction with a likeness to the Voyager probes; “The Voyage” here makes a triumph of its keyboard-backed second-half solo — presumably with alien knowledge. It’s not a minor undertaking in either theme or the actual listening time, but hell’s bells if Another Dimension doesn’t draw you in. Something in the character has me feeling like I can’t tell if it’s metal or rock or prog and yes I very much like that about it. Plenty of room for them to be all three, I guess, in these songs. They finish with the swing and shred and stomp of “Deep Inside the Mountain,” so I’ll just assume everything works out cool for homo sapiens in the long run, conveniently ignoring the fact that doing so is what got us into such a mess in the first place.

Solar Sons on Facebook

Solar Sons on Bandcamp

Mosara, Amena

mosara amena

A 5:50 single to answer back to last year’s second long-player, Only the Dead Know Our Secrets (review here), the latest from Mosara — which is actually an older track given some reworking, vocals and ambience, reportedly — is “Amena,” which immediately inflicts the cruelty of its thud only as a seeming preface for the Conan-like grueling-ultradoom-battery-with-shouts-cutting-through about to take place. A slow, noise-coated roll unfolds ahead of the largely indecipherable verse, and when that’s done, a cymbal seems to get hit extra hard as though to let everyone know it’s time to really dig in. It is both rawer in its harshness and thicker in tone than the last album, so it puts forth the interesting question of what a third Mosara full-length might bring atmospherically to the mix with their deepening, distorted roil. As it stands, “Amena” is both a steamroller of riff and a meditation, holding back only for as long as it takes to slam into the next measure, with its sludge growing more and more hypnotic as it slogs through the song’s midsection toward the inevitable seeming end of feedback and drone. Noisy band getting noisier. I’m on board.

Mosara on Facebook

Mosara on Bandcamp

Jupiter, Uinumas

Jupiter Uinumas

Jupiter‘s Uinumas is a complex half-hour-plus that comprises their fourth full-length, running seven songs — that’s six plus the penultimate title-track, which is a psych-jazzy interlude — as cuts like “Lumerians” and “Relentless” at the outset see the Finnish trio reestablish their their-own-wavelength take on heavy and progressive sounds classic and new. It’s not so much about crazy structures or 75-minute-long songs or indulgent noodling — though there’s a bit of that owing to the nature of the work, if nothing else — but just how much Jupiter make the aural space they inhabit their own, the way “After You” pushes into its early wash, or the later “On Mirror Plane” (so that’s it!) spaces out and then seems to align itself around the bassline for a forward shuffle sprint, or the way that closer “Slumberjack’s Wrath” chugs through until it’s time for the blowout, which is built up past three minutes in and caps with shimmer that borders on the overwhelming. An intricate but recognizable approach, Jupiter‘s more oddball aspects and general cerebrality might put off some listeners, but as dug in as Jupiter are on Uinumas, on significantly doubts they were shooting for mass appeal anyhow. Who the hell would want that anyway? Bunch of money and people sweating everything you do. Yuck.

Jupiter on Facebook

Jupiter on Bandcamp

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Quarterly Review: Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Graveyard, Hexvessel, Godsground, Sleep Maps, Dread Spire, Mairu, Throe, Blind River, Rifftree

Posted in Reviews on October 2nd, 2023 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk winter quarterly review

It’s been quite a morning. Got up at five, went back to sleep until six, took the dog out, lazily poured myself a coffee — the smell is like wood bark and bitter mud, so yes, the dark roast — and got down to set up this Quarterly Review. Not rushed, not at all overwhelmed by press releases about new albums or the fact that I’ve got 50 records I’m writing about this week, or any of it. Didn’t last, that stress-free sit-down — one of the hazards of being perfectly willing to be distracted at a moment’s notice is that that might happen — but it was nice while it did. And hey, the Quarterly Review is set up and ready to roll with 50 records between now and Friday. Let’s do that.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Slaughter on First Avenue

uncle acid and the deadbeats slaughter on first avenue

Recorded over two nights at First Avenue in Minneapolis sandwiching the pandemic in 2019 and 2022, Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats‘ 14-song/85-minute live album, Slaughter on First Avenue, is about as clean as you’re ever likely to hear the band sound. And the Rise Above-issued 2LP spans the garage doom innovators’ career, from “Dead Eyes of London” from 2010’s Vol. 1 (reissue review here) to “I See Through You” from 2018’s Wasteland (review here), with all the “Death’s Door” and “Thirteen Candles” and “Desert Ceremony” and “I’ll Cut You Down” you can handle, the addled and murderous bringers of melody and fuzz clear-eyed and methodical, professional, in their delivery. It sounds worked on, like, in the studio, the way oldschool live albums might’ve been. I don’t know that it was, don’t have a problem with that if it was, just noting that the sheer sound here is fantastic, whether it’s the separation between the two guitars and keys and each other, the distinction of the vocals, or the way even the snare drum seems to hit in kind with the vintage aspects of Uncle Acid‘s general production style. They clearly enjoy the crowd response to the older tunes like “I’ll Cut You Down” and “Death’s Door,” and well they should. Slaughter on First Avenue isn’t a new full-length, though they say one will eventually happen, but it’s a representation of their material in a new way for listeners, cleaner than their last two studio records, and a ceremony (or two) worth preserving.

Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats on Facebook

Rise Above Records website

Graveyard, 6

graveyard 6

Swedish retro soul rock forerunners Graveyard are on their way to being legends if they aren’t legends yet. Headliners at the absolute least, and the influence they had in the heavy ’10s on classic heavy as a style and boogie rock in particular can’t be discounted. Comprised of nine cuts, 6 is Graveyard‘s first offering of this decade, following behind 2018’s Peace (review here), and it continues their dual-trajectory in pairing together the slow, troubled-love woes emotionality of “Breathe In, Breathe Out,” “Sad Song” on which guitarist Joakim Nilsson relinquishes lead vocals, the early going of “Bright Lights,” and opener “Godnatt” — Swedish for “good night,” which the band tried to say in 2016 but it didn’t stick — setting up turns to shove in “Twice” and “Just a Drop” while “I Follow You,” closer “Rampant Fields” or the highlight “Just a Drop” finding some territory between the two ends. The bottom line here is it’s not the record I was hoping Graveyard would make, leaning slow and morose whereas when you could break out a groove like “Just a Drop” seemingly at will, why wouldn’t you? But that I even had those hopes tells you the caliber band they are, and whatever the tracks actually do, there’s no questioning them as songwriters. But the world could use some good times swagger, if only a half-hour of escapism, and Graveyard are perhaps too sincere to deliver. Fair enough.

Graveyard on Facebook

Nuclear Blast website

Hexvessel, Polar Veil

hexvessel polar veil

The thing about Hexvessel that has been revealed over time is that each record is its own context. Grown out from the black metal history of UK-born/Helsinki-residing songwriter Mat “Kvohst” McNerney, the band returns to that fertile ground somewhat on the eight-song Polar Veil, applying veteran confidence to post-blackened genre transgressions. Songs like “A Cabin in Montana” and “Older Than the Gods” have some less-warlike Primordial vibes between the epic melodies and tremolo echoes, but in both the speedy intensity of “Eternal Meadow” and the later ethereally-doomed gruel of “Ring,” Hexvessel are distinctly themselves doing this thing. That is, they’re not changing who they are to suit the style they want to play — even the per-song stylistic shifts of 2016’s When We Are Death (review here) were their own, so that’s not necessarily new — but a departure from the dark progressive folk of 2020’s Kindred as McNerney, bassist Ville Hakonen, drummer Jukka Rämänen and pianist/keyboardist Kimmo Helén (also strings) welcome a curated-seeming selection of a few guest appearances spread across the release, always keeping mindful of ambience and mood however raging the tempest around them might be.

Hexvessel on Facebook

Svart Records website

Godsground, A Bewildered Mind

Godsground A Bewildered Mind

Bookended by its two longest songs in “Drink Some More” (8:44) and closer “Letter Full of Wine” (9:17), Munich-based troupe Godsground offer seven songs with their 47-minute third long-player, working quickly to bask in post-Alice in Chains melodies surrounded by a warmth of tone that could just as easily be derived from hometown heroes in Colour Haze as the likes of Sungrazer or anyone else, but there’s more happening in the sound than just that. The melodies reach out and the songs develop on paths so that “Balance” is a straight-up desert rocker where seven-minute centerpiece “Into the Butter” sounds readier to get weird. They are well at home in longer forms, flashing a bit of metal in teh later solo of the penultimate “Non Reflecting Mirror,” but the overarching focus on vocal melody grounds the material in its lyrics, and that helps stabilize some of the more out-there aspects. With the roller fuzz of “A Game of Light” and side B’s flow-into-push “Flood” finding space between all-out go and the longer songs’ willingness to dwell in parts, Godsground emerge from the collection with a varied style around a genre center that’s maybe delighted not to pick a side when it comes to playing toward this or that niche. There’s some undercurrent of doom — though I’ll admit the artwork had me looking for it — but Godsground are more coherent than bewildered, and their material unfolds with intent to immerse rather than commiserate.

Godsground Linktr.ee

Godsground on Bandcamp

Sleep Maps, Reclaim Chaos

sleep maps reclaim chaos

Ambition abounds on Sleep MapsReclaim Chaos, as the once-NYC-based duo of multi-instrumentalist Ben Kaplan and vocalist David Kegg — finds somebody that writes you riffs like “Second Generation” and scream your ass off for them — bring textures of progressive metal, death metal, metal metal to the proceedings with their established post-whathaveyou modus. Would it be a surprise if I said it made them a less predictable band? I hope not. With attention to detail bolstered my a mix from Matt Bayles (Isis, Sandrider, etc.), the open spaces of “The Good Engineer” resonate in their layered vocals and drone, while “You Want What I Cannot Give” pummels, “In the Sun, In the Moon” brings the wash forward and capper “Kill the World” is duly still in conveying an apparent aftermath rather than the actual slaughter of the planet, which of course happened over a longer timeframe. All of this, and a good deal more, make Reclaim Chaos a heady feast — and that’s before you get to the ’00-era electronica of “Double Blind” — but in their reclamation, Sleep Maps execute with care and make a point about the malleability of style as much as about their own progression, though it seems to be the latter fueling them. Self-motivated, willful artistic progression is not often so starkly recognizable.

Sleep Maps website

Lost Future Records website

Dread Spire, Endless Empire

Dread Spire Endless Empire EP

A reminder of the glories amid the horrors of our age: Dread Spire‘s Endless Empire — am I the only one who finds it a little awkward when band and release names rhyme? — probably wouldn’t exist without the democratization of recording processes that’s happened over the last 15-20 years. It’s a demo, essentially, from the bass/drum — that’s Richie Rehal and Erol Kavvas — Cali-set instrumentalist two-piece, and with about 13 minutes of sans BS riffing, they make a case via a linear procession of crunch riffing and uptempo, semi-metal precision. The narrative — blessings and peace upon it — holds that they got together during the pandemic, and the raw form and clearly-manifest catharsis in the material is all the backing they need. More barebones than complex, this first offering wants nothing for audio fidelity and gives Rehal and Kavvas a beginning from which to build in any and all directions they might choose. The joy of collaboration and the need to find an expressive outlet are the best motivations one could ask, and that’s very obviously what’s at work here.

Dread Spire on Instagram

Dread Spire on Bandcamp

Mairu, Sol Cultus

MAIRU Sol Cultus

A roiling post-metallic churn abides the slow tempos of “Torch Bearer” at the outset of Mairu‘s debut full-length, Sol Cultus, and it is but one ingredient of the Liverpool-based outfit’s atmospheric plunge. Across eight tracks and 49 minutes, the double-guitar four-piece of Alan Caulton and Ant Hurlock (both guitar/vocals), Dan Hunt (bass/vocals) and Ben Davis (drums/synth) — working apparently pretty closely over a period of apparently four years with Tom Dring, who produced, engineered, mixed, mastered and contributed saxophone, ebow, piano and additional synth — remind in their spaciousness of that time Red Sparowes taught the world, instrumentally, to sing. But with harsh and melodic vocals mixed, bouts of thrashier riffing dealt with prejudice, and the barely-there ambience of “Inter Alia” and “Per Alia” to persuade the listener toward headphones, the very-sludged finish of “Wild Darkened Eyes” and the 10-minute sprawl of “Rite of Embers” lumbering to its distorted gut-clench of a crescendo chug ahead of the album’s comedown finish, there’s depth and personality to the material even as Mairu look outside of verse/chorus confines to make their statement. Their second outing behind a 2019 EP, and again, apparently in the works on some level since then, it’s explorational, but less in the sense of the band figuring out who they want to be than as a stylistic tenet they’ve internalized as their own.

Mairu on Facebook

Trepanation Recordings on Bandcamp

Throe, O Enterro das Marés

Throe O Enterro das Mares

At first in “Hope Shines in the Autumn Light,” Brazilian instrumentalist heavy post-rockers Throe remind of nothing so much as the robots-with-feelings mechanized-but-resonant plod of Justin K. Broadrick‘s Jesu, but as the 14-minute leadoff from the apparently-mostly-solo-project’s three-song EP, O Enterro das Marés (one assumes the title is some derivation of being ‘buried at sea’), plays through, it shifts into a more massive galaxial nod and then shortly before the nine-minute mark to a stretch of hypnotic beat-less melody before resolving itself somewhere in the middle. This three-part structure gives over to the Godfleshier “Bleed Alike” (6:33), which nods accordingly until unveiling its caustic end about 30 seconds before the song is done, and “Renascente” (7:59), in which keys/synth and wistful guitar lead a single linear build together as the band gradually and with admirable patience move from their initial drone to the introduction of the ‘drums’ and through the layers of melody that emerge and are more the point of the thing itself than the actual swell of volume taking place at the same time. When it opens at about five minutes in, “Renascente” is legitimately beautiful, an echoing waterfall of tonality that seems to dance to the gravity pulling it down. The guitar is last to go, which tells you something about how the songs are written, but with three songs and three different intentions, Throe make a varied statement uniform most of all in how complete each piece of it feels.

Throe on Instagram

Abraxas Produtora on Instagram

Blind River, Bones for the Skeleton Thief

Blind River Bones for the Skeleton Thief

Well guess what? They called the first track “Punkstarter,” and so it is. Starts off the album with a bit of punk. Blind River‘s third LP, Bones for the Skeleton Thief corrals 10 tracks from the UK traditionalist heavy rock outfit, who even on the likewise insistent “Primal Urges” maintain some sense of control. Vocalist Harry Armstrong (ex-Hangnail, now also bassist of Orange Goblin) belts out “Second Hand Soul” like he’s giving John Garcia a run for his pounds sterling, and is still able to rein it in enough to not seem out of place on the more subdued verses of “Skeleton Thief,” while the boogie of “Unwind” is its own party. Wherever they go, be it the barroom punkabilly of “Snake Oil” or the Southern-tinged twang of closer “Bad God,” the five-piece — Armstrong, guitarist Chris Charles and Dan Edwards, bassist William Hughes and drummer Mark Sharpless — hold to a central ethic of straight-ahead drive, and where clearly the intended message is that Blind River know what the fuck they’re doing and that if you end up at a show you might get your ass handed to you, turns out that’s exactly the message received. Showed up, kicked ass, done in under 40 minutes. If that’s not a high enough standard for you in a band recording live, that’s not Blind River‘s fault.

Blind River on Facebook

Blind River on Bandcamp

Rifftree, Noise Worship

Rifftree Noise Worship

Rifftree of life. Rifftree‘s fuzz is so righteously dense, I want to get seeds from it — because let’s face it, riffs are deciduous and hibernate in winter — and plant a forest in my backyard. The band formed half a decade ago and Noise Worship is the bass-and-drums duo’s second EP, but whatever. In six songs and 26 minutes, they work hard on living up to the title they gave the release, and their schooling in the genre is obvious in Sleepery of “Amplifier Pyramid” or the low-rumbling sludge of “Brown Flower,” the subsequent “Farewell” growing like fungus out of its quieter start and “Brakeless” not needing them because it was slow enough anyhow. “Fuzzed” — another standard met — ups the pace and complements with spacey grunge mumbles and harshes out later, and that gives the three-minute titular closer “Noise Worship” all the lead-in it needs for its showcase of feedback and amplifier noise. Look. If you’re thinking it’s gonna be some stylistic revolution in the making, look at the friggin’ cover. Listen to the songs. This isn’t innovation, it’s celebration, and Rifftree‘s complete lack of pretense is what makes Noise Worship the utter fucking joy that it is. Stoner. Rock. Stick that in your microgenre rolodex.

Rifftree on Facebook

Rifftree on Bandcamp

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Strange New Dawn to Release New Nights of Euphoria Nov. 24; “Fortune Bringer” Video Posted

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 12th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

Drifting in form with effects-laced guitars and keyboards to complement the melodic focus in the vocals, Strange New Dawn‘s introduction to their forthcoming New Nights of Euphoria album in the lead single “Fortune Bringer” is nonetheless inescapably metallic. You can hear it in the way the song seems anchored structurally despite having so much float, and that sense of the epic that the PR wire relates to Candlemass — not arguing — is part of it as well. That the band’s pedigree includes time in outfits like In the Woods and Green Carnation makes sense, though again, what’s brought to that is a psychedelia that strongly distinguishes “Fortune Bringer.”

As I wasn’t previously familiar with the work for Strange New Dawn, I’ll look forward to checking out how the proggy edge here develops across the whole album, but it seems I’ve got some homework to do in the interim, as ever.

From the PR wire:

strange new dawn new nights of euphoria

Strange New Dawn rises from Norway with ex-founding members of Green Carnation and In The Woods

8.9. Strange New Dawn: Fortune Bringer (digital)
https://orcd.co/1xovzlv

24.11. Strange New Dawn: New Nights of Euphoria LP/CD (pre-order)
https://www.svartrecords.com/en/product/strange-new-dawn-new-nights-of-euphoria/11814

Founding members of In The Woods and Green Carnation return to their classic origins in Strange New Dawn. Heavy psychedelic and progressive Doom, Strange New Dawn from Kristiansand, Norway unveils epic new album New Nights of Euphoria set for release via Svart Records on 24th of November 2023.

Strange New Dawn, born from the minds of visionary artists, from such legendary bands as Green Carnation and In The Woods takes you on a cosmic journey with their highly-anticipated album, New Nights of Euphoria. Strange New Dawn has redefined the sound of their past to create an ethereal, genre-blending experience that is bound to leave listeners in awe.

The band’s inception traces back to the year 2000 when the idea took root in the mind of Xbotteri. However, it wasn’t until 2012 that this idea blossomed into reality, with Xbotteri recruiting CM Botteri on bass (both founding members of Green Carnation and In The Woods), Sven Rothe on drums, and the powerhouse vocals of Geir Solli (formerly of Green Carnation). This star chamber of talents, culminated in the creation of New Nights of Euphoria, that pushes the boundaries of heavy Prog Metal, creating something entirely new with fascinatingly familiar origins.

Through the twists and turns of the creative process, some original members embarked on personal journeys of their own, making room for fresh talent. An old friend, Ex-Royal, took the helm as the vocalist, and Sven’s brother, Muld, joined on keys and samples, adding a layer of depth and creativity that reinvigorated the band and helped make New Nights of Euphoria richer and more eclectic in form. The addition of Bjørn Harstad (known as lead guitarist from In The Woods and Green Carnation) as the lead guitarist in Strange New Dawn solidified the band’s foundation.

With Xbotteri as the primary songwriter, Strange New Dawn’s sound naturally carries the echoes of In The Woods, which will delight fans who have missed that definitive signature. However, New Nights of Euphoria also ventures into a diverse array of genres, with an unwavering focus on creating atmospheres that captivate the heart and soul.

The album’s recording journey, spanning just under a year, was marked by trial and error, but the end result is nothing short of mesmerizing. To craft their harmonious resonance, Strange New Dawn chose to work on drums, guitars, bass, keys, and sample at Burnhill Studios which provided the ideal setting for their deep expedition into unknown musical landscapes, while Ex-Royal and Bjørn Harstad sculpted vocal and guitar magic at Endre Kirkesola’s Dub Studio.

“Fortune Bringer,” a track inspired by the earlier works of In The Woods, was the final gem added to New Nights of Euphoria. With lyrics penned nearly two decades ago by Ex-Royal and Muld, the sprawling epic track delves into global issues that should resonate with everyone in the current age, giving Strange New Dawn an eager and fresh impetus.

Strange New Dawn’s mission is clear: to provide listeners with an uplifting perspective on the world, coupled with a deeply euphoric journey through their musical landscape. The excitement felt by the bands emergence is shared equally between listener and creators: “We are thrilled with the album and believe we’ve created something truly special,” says Xbotteri. “Our collaboration has been exceptional, and this journey has been a source of inspiration and fulfilment for all of us.”

Drawing inspiration from luminaries like Pink Floyd, Candlemass, Arcturus, and Thule, as well as sci-fi films, esoteric documentaries, and cosmic literature, Strange New Dawn has harnessed their collective creativity to craft a sonic odyssey that defies boundaries.

New Nights of Euphoria is a testament to the boundless creativity of Strange New Dawn, and as with their past work, it is destined to be a milestone in the world of heavy music. Look out for this Strange New Dawn rising!

https://www.facebook.com/Strangenewdawnnorway/
https://strangenewdawncom.bandzoogle.com/home

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Strange New Dawn, “Fortune Bringer” official video

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Messa Announce US Tour with Maggot Heart

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 4th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

It was somewhat inevitable, I guess, that Messa would come to the US to tour. They’ve crisscrossed Europe already in support of their 2022 album, Close (review here), and given the broad swath of plaudits that record continues to receive, the demand is legitimately there in a way it isn’t always for bands traveling from Europe for Stateside shows. The US has a reputation as being a more difficult touring sphere than Europe in no small part — long drives, scrounging meals, and so on — but sharing those burdens with co-headliners Maggot Heart should take some of the sting out. And in any case, Messa no doubt have a touring routine down that will be applicable as they go coast-to-coast and hit spots in between.

Only one chance to see them the first time, and this is a band you might just brag about seeing. Dates from socials:

messa maggot heart tour

MESSA – US TOUR ANNOUNCEMENT

MAGGOT HEART & MESSA are joining forces for a co-headline coast-2-coast US tour this fall.

Says MESSA: “We’re so thrilled to finally play on the American soil! We will be on the road for three weeks with majestic and brilliant @maggotxheart . We can’t wait to play in the USA and meet all of you!”

Says @maggotheart : “2 albums, one EP and a pandemic later we’re finally coming back to the States. Can’t wait to show what kind of band we’ve turned into, and to share the stage with the great and hardworking MESSA every night”

Presented by @overrun_booking & @swampbooking , the dates are as follows. Tickets on sale NOW!

Oct 17 NYC NY Le Poisson Rouge
Oct 18 HAMDEN CT Space Ballroom
Oct 19 PHILADELPHIA PA Kung Fu Necktie
Oct 20 WASHINGTON DC Comet Ping Pong
Oct 21 CLEVELAND OH Beachland
Oct 22 CHICAGO IL Empty Bottle
Oct 23 YPSILANTI MI Ziggys
Oct 24 CINCINNATI OH Woodward Theatre
Oct 25 NASHVILLE TN The Cobra
Oct 26 ATLANTA GA The Earl
Oct 27 ORLANDO FL Will’s Pub
Oct 28 MIAMI FL Gramps
Oct 30 NEW ORLEANS LA Gasa Gasa
Nov 1 DENTON TX Rubber Gloves
Nov 2 AUSTIN TX The Lost Well
Nov 5 SAN DIEGO CA Brick by Brick
Nov 7 SAN FRANCISCO CA Bottom of the Hill
Nov 8 LOS ANGELES CA Zebulon

https://www.instagram.com/messa_band/
https://www.facebook.com/MESSAproject
https://messaproject.bandcamp.com/

www.svartrecords.com
www.facebook.com/svartrecords
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Messa, Close (2022)

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Hexvessel to Release Polar Veil Sept. 22; “Older Than the Gods” Video Posted

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

hexvessel band

Maybe Polar Veil will be the moment where Hexvessel and principal songwriter Mat McNerney tie it all (or at least mostly) together. 2019’s All Tree (review here) and 2020’s Kindred stepped back into forest folk atmospheres after 2016’s When We Are Death (review here) blew the doors off what had been their established modus, McNerney by then having already begun a journey through side-projects like Beastmilk and Grave Pleasures, all three bands (and a swath of other influences) seeming to intermingle over the longer term as regards style. I get post-black metal vibes off Polar Veil‘s first single “Older Than the Gods,” with the wash of pretty but stark electric guitar at the forefront and the melodic vocals that accompany, but that’s a pretty superficial classification on my part and most of all it sounds like Hexvessel.

And at least for myself, I seem to enjoy this band most when they’re screwing with their own norms a bit. I wouldn’t expect one track ever to speak for the entirety of a Hexvessel LP, but if it’s representative even on a basic tonal level of the sphere they’re working in this time out, well, maybe the norms are getting what for.

From the PR wire:

hexvessel polar veil

Forest Folk Rockers HEXVESSEL Announce New Album, ‘POLAR VEIL’, Out September 22nd

Share New Single “Older Than the Gods” + Music Video

Preorder link: https://www.svartrecords.com/en/bestsearch/hexvessel?q=hexvessel

Finland’s HEXVESSEL return with their sixth album, ‘Polar Veil’, a cold, metallic hymn to the Sub Arctic North. Haunted by primal forest spirits, Mat “Kvohst” McNerney summons the ghosts of his past in a jaw-dropping, unheard-of rebirth of style and sound. At once unmistakably HEXVESSEL, ‘Polar Veil’ is also steeped in the nocturnal atmosphere of McNerney’s past, churned in the cauldron of black metal, ritual folk psychedelia and doom rock, and echoing with shivering gothic undertones.

From their inception in 2009, HEXVESSEL, created by Mat McNerney as what he described as “a free spiritual journey and a musical odyssey with no boundaries”, have captivated audiences and listeners with their evolution.

Holed up in a home-made studio in his log cabin during the winter of 2022, McNerney drew on all the fundamental elements of his music career as a shamanic shapeshifter, with only the isolation of nature’s solitude as inspiration. Painting an aura with ‘Polar Veil’ which resonates with solitary reflection and themes of personal spiritual transcendence, HEXVESSEL’s new album is a bold statement from an artist who continues to reinvent and explore nature mysticism through music.

When the components of the medicine are familiar but brewed in a completely novel concoction, the resulting side effects can be deliriously intoxicating. Peer behind this ‘Polar Veil’ for a breath of fresh tundra air with HEXVESSEL’s new single “Older Than The Gods” now.

“Nature represents freedom, darkness and the call of the wild. Black metal has always been at the borders of my sound and playing, at the heart of everything I do. Tradition, nature, ritual, mythology, mysticism and philosophy, along with clashing and jarring chords have always been synonymous with HEXVESSEL. It was natural with ‘Polar Veil’, finally now as we reach the zenith of the journey, that these influences surface to the human ear, and with the freezing cold guitar sound that the climate here demands.”

A track such as “Crepuscular Creatures”, with unhinged, discordant guitar chords, as bassist Ville Hakonen’s hand snakes up and down the frets, is at the more avant-garde end of the album. Long term drummer Jukka Rämänen thundering the toms like never before, as McNerney croons Scott Walker-esque lyrics, somewhere between Edith Södergran and Ted Hughes.

Whereas “Listen To The River” with its ominous M.R James/Folk Horror lyrics of perilous environmental warning, featuring Ben Chisholm main collaborator and multi-instrumentalist with Chelsea Wolfe on lush, haunting keys and strings, could have appeared on HEXVESSEL’s sophomore album ‘No Holier Temple’, albeit with a sound of that era, progressing out of folk.

‘Polar Veil’ features Nameless Void from Negative Plane, performing the guitar solo on the song “Ring” and on “Older Than The Gods”, Okoi from Bølzer provides guest vocals. At first an unlikely partnership but one that makes total sense as the album deepens, and threads can be drawn that reveal the place ‘Polar Veil’ is coming from.

On the process of recording ‘Polar Veil’, McNerney explains:

“I built a studio at home in the log hut on our field, surrounded by large trees, called Pine Hill, to escape from everything and everyone. ‘Polar Veil’ is what a spiritual home sounds like.”

https://www.facebook.com/hexvessel
http://instagram.com/hexvesselband
https://hexvessel.bandcamp.com/
https://www.hexvessel.com/

www.svartrecords.com
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Hexvessel, “Older Than the Gods” official video

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Quarterly Review: Yakuza, Lotus Thrones, Endtime & Cosmic Reaper, High Priest, MiR, Hiram-Maxim, The Heavy Co., The Cimmerian, Nepaal, Hope Hole

Posted in Reviews on May 10th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

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Coming at you live and direct from the Wegmans pharmacy counter where I’m waiting to pick up some pinkeye drops for my kid, who stayed home from half-day pre-k on Monday because the Quarterly Review isn’t complicated enough on its own. It was my diagnosis that called off the bus, later confirmed over telehealth, so at least I wasn’t wrong and shot my own day. I know this shit doesn’t matter to anyone — it’ll barely matter to me in half an hour — but, well, I don’t think I’ve ever written while waiting for a prescription before and I’m just stoned enough to think it might be fun to do so now.

Of course, by the time I’m writing the reviews below — tomorrow morning, as it happens — this scrip will have long since been ready and retrieved. But a moment to live through, just the same.

We hit halfway today. Hope your week’s been good so far. Mine’s kind of a mixed bag apart from the music, which has been pretty cool.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Yakuza, Sutra

Yakuza sutra

Since it would be impossible anyway to encapsulate the scope of Yakuza‘s Sutra — the Chicago-based progressive psych-metal outfit led by vocalist/saxophonist Bruce Lamont, with Matt McClelland on guitar/backing vocals, Jerome Marshall on bass and James Staffel on drums/percussion — from the transcendental churn of “2is1” to the deadpan tension build in and noise rock payoff in “Embers,” the sax-scorch bass-punch metallurgical crunch of “Into Forever” and the deceptively bright finish of “Never the Less,” and so on, let’s do a Q&A. They still might grind at any moment? Yup, see “Burn Before Reading.” They still on a wavelength of their own? Oh most definitely; see “Echoes From the Sky,” “Capricorn Rising,” etc. Still underrated? Yup. It’s been 11 years since they released Beyul (review here). Still ahead of their time? Yes. Like anti-genre pioneers John Zorn or Peter Brötzmann turned heavy and metal, or like Virus or Voivod with their specific kind of if-you-know-you-know, cult-following-worthy individualist creativity, Yakuza weave through the consuming 53-minute procession of Sutra with a sensibility that isn’t otherworldly because it’s psychedelic or drenched in effects (though it might also be those things at any given moment), but because they sound like they come from another planet. A welcome return from an outfit genuinely driven toward the unique and a meld of styles beyond metal and/or jazz. And they’ve got a fitting home on Svart. I know it’s been over a decade, but I hope these dudes get old in this band.

Yakuza on Facebook

Svart Records website

 

Lotus Thrones, The Heretic Souvenir

Lotus Thrones The Heretic Souvenir

The second offering from Philadelphia multi-instrumentalist Heath Rave (Altars of the Moon, former drums in Wolvhammer, etc.) under the banner of Lotus Thrones, the seven-song/38-minute The Heretic Souvenir (on Disorder and Seeing Red) draws its individual pieces across an aural divide by means of a stark atmosphere, the post-plague-and-the-plague-is-capitalism skulking groove of “B0T0XDR0NE$” emblematic both of perspective and of willingness to throw a saxophone overtop if the mood’s right (by Yakuza‘s Bruce Lamont, no less), which it is. At the outset, “Gore Orphanage” is more of an onslaught, and “Alpha Centauri” has room for both a mathy chug and goth-rocking shove, the latter enhanced by Rave‘s low-register vocals. Following the Genghis Tron-esque glitch-grind of 1:16 centerpiece “Glassed,” the three-and-a-half-minute “Roses” ups the goth factor significantly, delving into twisted Type O Negative-style pulls and punk-rooted forward thrust in a highlight reportedly about Rave‘s kid, which is nice (not sarcastic), before making the jump into “Autumn of the Heretic Souvenir,” which melds Americana and low-key dub at the start of its 11-minute run before shifting into concrete sludge chug and encompassing trades between atmospheric melody and outright crush until a shift eight minutes in brings stand(mostly)alone keys backed by channel-swapping electronic noise as a setup for the final surge’s particularly declarative riff. That makes the alt-jazz instrumental “Nautilus” something of an afterthought, but not out of place in terms of its noir ambience that’s also somehow indebted to Nine Inch Nails. There’s a cough near the end. See if you can hear it.

Lotus Thrones on Facebook

Seeing Red Records store

Disorder Recordings website

 

Endtime & Cosmic Reaper, Doom Sessions Vol. 7

endtime-cosmic-reaper-doom-sessions-vol-7-split

Realized at the formidable behest of Heavy Psych Sounds, the seventh installment of the Doom Sessions series (Vol. 8 is already out) brings together Sweden’s strongly cinematic sludge-doomers Endtime with fire-crackling North Carolinian woods-doomers Cosmic Reaper. With two songs from the former and three from the latter, the balance winds up with more of an EP feel from Cosmic Reaper and like a single with an intro from Endtime, who dedicate the first couple of minutes of “Tunnel of Life” to a keyboard intro that’s very likely a soundtrack reference I just don’t know because I’m horror-ignorant before getting down to riff-rumble-roll business on the righteously slow-raging seven minutes of “Beyond the Black Void.” Cosmic Reaper, meanwhile, have three cuts, with harmonized guitars entering “Sundowner” en route to a languid and melodic nod verse, a solo later answering the VHS atmosphere of Endtime before “Dead and Loving It” and “King of Kings” cult-doom their way into oblivion, the latter picking up a bit of momentum as it pushes near the eight-minute mark. It’s a little uneven, considering, but Doom Sessions Vol. 7 provides a showcase for two of Heavy Psych Sounds‘ up-and-coming acts, and that’s pretty clearly the point. If it leads to listeners checking out their albums after hearing it, mission accomplished.

Endtime on Facebook

Cosmic Reaper on Facebook

Heavy Psych Sounds website

 

High Priest, Invocation

High Priest Invocation

Don’t skip this because of High Priest‘s generic-stoner-rock name. The Chicago four-piece of bassist/vocalist Justin Valentino, guitarists Pete Grossmann and John Regan and drummer Dan Polak make an awaited full-length debut with Invocation on Magnetic Eye Records, and if the label’s endorsement isn’t enough, I’ll tell you the eight-song/44-minute long-player is rife with thoughtful construction, melody and heft. Through the opening title-track and into the lumber, sweep and boogie of “Divinity,” they incorporate metal with the two guitars and some of the vocal patterning, but aren’t beholden to that anymore than to heavy rock, and far from unipolar, “Ceremony” gives a professional fullness of sound that “Cosmic Key” ups immediately to round out side A before “Down in the Park” hints toward heavygaze without actually tipping over, “Universe” finds the swing buried under that monolithic fuzz, “Conjure” offers a bluesier but still huge-sounding take and 7:40 closer “Heaven” layers a chorus of self-harmonizing Valentinos to underscore the point of how much the vocals add to the band. Which is a lot. What’s lost in pointing that out is just how densely weighted their backdrop is, and the nuance High Priest bring to their arrangements throughout, but whether you want to dig into that or just learn the words and sing along, you can’t lose.

High Priest on Facebook

Magnetic Eye Records store

 

MiR, Season Unknown

mir season unknown

Its catharsis laced in every stretch of the skin-peeling tremolo and echoing screams of “Altar of Liar,” Season Unknown arrives as the first release from Poland’s MiR, a directly-blackened spinoff of heavy psych rockers Spaceslug, whose guitarist/vocalist Bartosz Janik and bassist/vocalist Jan Rutka feature along with guitarist Michał Zieleniewski (71tonman) and drummer Krzystof Kamisiński (Burning Hands). The relationship to Janik and Rutka‘s other (main?) band is sonically tenuous, though Spaceslug‘s Kamil Ziółkowski also guests on vocals, making it all the more appropriate that MiR stands as a different project. Ripping and progressive in kind, cuts like “Lost in Vision” and the blastbeaten severity of “Ashen” are an in-genre rampage, and while “Sum of All Mourn” is singularly engrossing in its groove, the penultimate “Yesterday Rotten” comes through as willfully stripped to its essential components until its drifting finish, which is fair enough ahead of the more expansive closer “Illusive Loss of Inner Frame,” which incorporates trades between all-out gnash and atmospheric contemplations. I won’t profess to be an expert on black metal, but as a sidestep, Season Unknown is both respectfully bold and clearly schooled in what it wants to be.

MiR on Facebook

MiR on Bandcamp

 

Hiram-Maxim, Colder

Hiram-Maxim Colder

Recorded by esteemed producer Martin Bisi (Swans, Sonic Youth, Unsane, etc.) in 2021-’22, Colder is Hiram-Maxim‘s third full-length, with hints of Angels of Light amid the sneering heaviness of “Bathed in Blood” after opener/longest track (immediate points) “Alpha” lays out the bleak atmosphere in which what follows will reside. “Undone” gets pretty close to laying on the floor, while “It Feels Good” very pointedly doesn’t for its three minutes of dug-in cafe woe, from out of which “Hive Mind” emerges with keys and drums forward in a moody verse before the post-punk urgency takes more complete hold en route to a finish of manipulated noise. As one would have to expect, “Shock Cock” is a rocker at heart, and the lead-in from the drone/experimental spoken word of “Time Lost Time” holds as a backdrop so that its Stooges-style comedown heavy is duly weirded out. Is that a theremin? Possibly. They cap by building a wall of malevolence and contempt with “Sick to Death” in under three minutes, resolving in a furious assault of kitchen-sink volume, that, yes, recedes, but is resonant enough to leave scratches on your arm. Don’t let anyone tell you this isn’t extreme music just because some dude isn’t singing about killing some lady or quoting a medical dictionary. Colder could just as easily have been called ‘Volcanic.’

Hiram-Maxim on Facebook

Wax Mage Records on Facebook

 

The Heavy Co., Brain Dead

The Heavy Co Brain Dead

Seeming always to be ready with a friendly, easy nod, Lafayette/Indianapolis, Indiana’s The Heavy Co. return with “Brain Dead” as a follow-up single to late-2022’s “God Damn, Jimmy.” The current four-piece incarnation of the band — guitarist/vocalist Ian Daniel, guitarist Jeff Kaleth, bassist Eric Bruce and drummer TR McCully — seem to be refocused from some of the group’s late-’10s departures, elements of outlaw country set aside in favor of a rolling riff with shades of familiar boogie in the start-stops beneath its solo section, a catchy but largely unassuming chorus, and a theme that, indeed, is about getting high. In one form or another, The Heavy Co. have been at it for most of the last 15 years, and in a little over four minutes they demonstrate where they want their emphasis to be — a loose, jammy feel held over from the riffout that probably birthed the song in the first place coinciding with the structure of the verses and chorus and a lack of pretense that is no less a defining aspect than the aforementioned riff. They know what they’re doing, so let ’em roll on. I don’t know if the singles are ahead of an album release or not, but whatever shows up whenever it does, The Heavy Co. are reliable in my mind and this is right in their current wheelhouse.

The Heavy Co. on Facebook

The Heavy Co. on Bandcamp

 

The Cimmerian, Sword & Sorcery Vol. I

the cimmerian sword and sorcery vol i

The intervening year since L.A.’s The Cimmerian made their debut with Thrice Majestic (review here) seems to have made the trio even more pummeling, as their Sword & Sorcery Vol. I two-songer finds them incorporating death and extreme metal for a feel like a combined-era Entombed on leadoff “Suffer No Guilt” which is a credit to bassist Nicolas Rocha‘s vocal burl as well as the intensity of riff from David Gein (ex-The Scimitar) and corresponding thrash gallop in David Morales‘ drumming. The subsequent “Inanna Rising” is slower, with a more open nod in its rhythm, but no less threatening, with fluid rolls of double-kick pushing the verse forward amid the growls and an effective scream, a sample of something (everything?) burning, and a kick in pace before the solo about halfway into the track’s 7:53. If The Cimmerian are growing more metal, and it seems they are, then the aggression suits them as the finish of “Inanna Rising” attests, and the thickness of sludge carried over in their tonality assures that the force of their impact is more than superficial.

The Cimmerian on Facebook

The Cimmerian on Bandcamp

 

Nepaal, Protoaeolianism

Nepaal Protoaeolianism

Released as an offering from the amorphous Hungarian collective Psychedelic Source Records, the three-song Protoaeolianism arrives under the moniker of Nepaal — also stylized as :nepaal, with the colon — finding mainstay Bence Ambrus on guitar with Krisztina Benus on keys, Dávid Strausz on bass, Krisztián Megyeri on drums and Marci Bíró on effects/synth for captured-in-the-moment improvisations of increasing reach as space and psych and krautrocks comingle with hypnotic pulsations on “Innoxial Talent Parade” (9:54), the centerpiece “Brahman Sleeps 432 Billion Years” (19:14) and “Ineffable Minor States” (13:44), each of which has its arc of departure, journey and arrival, forming a multi-stage narrative voyage that’s as lush as the liquefied tones and sundry whatever-that-was noises. “Ineffable Minor States” is so serene in its just-guitar start that the first time I heard it I thought the song had cut off, but no. They’re just taking their time, and why shouldn’t they? And why shouldn’t we all take some time to pause, engage mindfully with our surroundings, experience or senses one at a time, the things we see, hear, touch, taste, smell? Maybe Protoaeolianism — instrumental for the duration — is a call to that. Maybe it’s just some jams from jammers and I shouldn’t read anything else into it. Here then, as in all things, you choose your own adventure. I’m glad to be the one to tell you this is an adventure worth taking.

Psychedelic Source Records on Facebook

Psychedelic Source Records on Bandcamp

 

Hope Hole, Beautiful Doom

Hope Hole Beautiful Doom

There is much to dig into on the second full-length from Toledo, Ohio, duo Hope Hole — the returning parties of Matt Snyder and Mike Mulholland — who offer eight originals and a centerpiece cover of The Cure‘s “Sinking” that’s not even close to being the saddest thing on the record, titled Beautiful Doom presumably in honor of the music itself. Leadoff “Spirits on the Radio” makes me nostalgic for a keyboard-laced goth glory day that never happened while also tapping some of mid-period Anathema‘s abiding downer soul, seeming to speak to itself as much as the audience with repetitions of “You reap what you sew.” Some Godflesh surfaces in “600 Years,” and they’re resolute in the melancholy of “Common Sense” until the chugging starts, like a dirtier, underproduced Crippled Black Phoenix. Rolling with deceptive momentum, the title-track could be acoustic until it starts with the solo and electronic beats later before shifting into the piano, beats, drift guitar, and so on of “Sinking.” “Chopping Me” could be an entire band’s sound but it’s barely a quarter of what Hope Hole have to say in terms of aesthetic two records deep. “Mutant Dynamo” duly punks its arthouse sludge and shreds a self-aware over-the-top solo in the vein of Brendan Small, while “Pyrokinetic” revives earlier goth swing with a gruff biker exterior (I’d watch that movie) and a moment of spinning weirdo triumph at the end, almost happy to be burned, where the seven-minute finale “Cities of Gold” returns to beats over its gradual guitar start, emerging with chanting vocals to become its own declaration of progressive intent. Beautiful Doom ends with a steady march rather than the expected blowout, having built its gorgeous decay out of the same rotten Midwestern ground as the debut — 2021’s Death Can Change (review here) — but moved unquestionably forward from it.

Hope Hole on Facebook

Hope Hole on Bandcamp

 

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