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

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

the-obelisk-fall-2016-quarterly-review

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

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

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

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Carlton Melton, Night Pillers

carlton melton night pillers

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

Carlton Melton on Facebook

Agitated Records website

 

Crown, The End of All Things

Crown The End of All Things

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

Crown on Facebook

Pelagic Records on Bandcamp

 

Noêta, Elm

Noêta elm

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

Noêta on Facebook

Prophecy Productions website

 

Polymerase, Unostentatious

Polymerase Unostentatious

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

Polymerase on Facebook

Polymerase on Bandcamp

 

Lucid Sins, Cursed!

lucid sins cursed

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

Lucid Sins on Facebook

Totem Cat Records store

 

Hekate, Sermons to the Black Owl

Hekate Sermons to the Black Owl

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

Hekate on Facebook

Black Farm Records store

 

Abel Blood, Keeping Pace with the Elephants

Abel Blood Keeping Pace with the Elephants

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

Abel Blood on Facebook

Abel Blood on Bandcamp

 

Suffer Yourself, Rip Tide

Suffer Yourself Rip Tide

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

Suffer Yourself on Facebook

Aesthetic Death website

 

Green Dragon, Dead of the Night

Green Dragon Dead of the Night

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

Green Dragon on Facebook

Green Dragon on Bandcamp

 

ÂGE TOTAL, ÂGE TOTAL

ÂGE ? TOTAL

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

Endless Floods on Facebook

Greyfell on Facebook

Soza Label on Bandcamp

 

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Mountain Wizard Death Cult to Release New Single July 23; Live Dates Announced

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 30th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

Not to be confused with any of the other death cults out there, including Melbourne’s The Black Heart Death Cult, Sydney-based four-piece Mountain Wizard Death Cult offer alternately ferocious and morose death-sludge with their 2020 two-songer, Thrones of Putrid Light, moving in “Thrones” from a subdued mournfulness into extremity of lurch that’s tsunami-immersive in tone and nod alike, even though they’re saving the real malevolence of atmosphere for “Putrid Light,” which is both more angular and harsher on the ear before it finally chills out. You could call it post-metal in some way if you wanted to — the PR wire does and isn’t wrong — but that doesn’t necessarily convey the extremity Mountain Wizard Death Cult harness when going full bore.

The band will release a new single, Wretch, on July 23 and have live dates booked for July and August into September. Beats Cartel was kind enough to send this along:

mountain wizard death cult

MOUNTAIN WIZARD DEATH CULT RELEASE & TOUR

Mountain Wizard Death Cult are the hidden diamond of the Sydney heavy scene with an underground buzz set to explode with next month’s visceral release ‘Wretch’, an onslaught of epic proportions.

The Sydney-based 4 piece, categorised as a Doom/Sludge/Post-Metal band, begin their first ever Australian tour this July, chalking up a serve of solid east coast shows on the back of touring minifest Aftermath, a festival appearance at Alice Spring’s Blacken Open Air and Thrashville Festival to manifest the track in various large number live settings.

Band guitarist Chris Chaplin says of the upcoming tour “The Wretched Invasion Tour really is a landmark moment for us as a band, heading out for our first shows away from our home State. I feel our new single ‘Wretch’ really encapsulates the raw purge of energy we experience together with the audience at every show, which is as hypnotic as it is heavy. We’re excited to share this experience with new people around the country and in a strange way timing couldn’t have worked out better.”

Built upon live recording sessions to capture the raw energy and chemistry of the band, Mountain Wizard Death Cult overcame flooding, quarantine and various curveballs to finish Wretch’, a follow up to 2020’s ‘Thrones of Putrid Light’, at Studio Bleus in their hometown of Windsor and are all set to offer up their brand of heavy to new ears, minds and souls.

“Wretch is an exploration of betrayal and the darker half within yourself and the other in a relationship. Acceptance of your own fallen nature and the mirroring of one’s perception onto another to give their own point of view credence. We create the character we want to believe. We cast aside the character we wish to be false. Uplifting and dragging down into reality.”

Having received airplay for their previous releases on Triple J’s The Racket, as well as multiple sold out local headline shows and support slots for heavy hitters King Parrot, Flaming Wrekage, Potion & Astrodeath, the time has come for Mountain Wizard Death Cult to hit their national stride. A must see live act for fans of the darker arts.

Mountain Wizard Death Cult will embark on tour from July through September 2021 in support of new single ‘Wretch’, now available as presale on a split 7″ through Tuff Cuff Records with friends Astrodeath. The Wretch release cycle will also see the release of the band’s debut film clip.

Beats Cartel Presents
MOUNTAIN WIZARD DEATH CULT ‘WRETCH’ 2021 Tour
Fri July 23 Wollongong DICEY RILEYS
Sat July 24 Canberra THE BASEMENT
Fri Jul 30 – Sun Aug 01 Arrente Country BLACKEN OPEN AIR
Sat Aug 07 Sydney FACTORY THEATRE
Fri Aug 13 Sunshine Coast ELEVEN DIVE BAR
Sat Aug 14 Brisbane WOOLLY MAMMOTH
Sun Aug 15 Gold Coast MO’S DESERT CLUBHOUSE
Sat Aug 28 Melbourne BENDIGO HOTEL
Sat Sep 11 Dashville THRASVILLE FESTIVAL

Full tour info and tickets at beatscartel.com/aftermath

‘Wretch’ single released across all streaming platforms Fri 23 July

https://www.facebook.com/mountainwizarddeathcult
https://www.instagram.com/mountainwizarddeathcult/
https://mountainwizarddeathcult.bandcamp.com/
https://linktr.ee/mountainwizarddeathcult

Mountain Wizard Death Cult, Thrones of Putrid Light (2020)

Mountain Wizard Death Cult, “Eye of the Sun” live at Housefox Studios

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Quarterly Review: Dopelord, Scorched Oak, Kings of the Fucking Sea, Mantarraya, Häxmästaren, Shiva the Destructor, Amammoth, Nineteen Thirteen, Ikitan, Smote

Posted in Reviews on March 31st, 2021 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-spring-2019

Third day, and you know what that means. Today we hit and pass the halfway mark of this Quarterly Review. I won’t say it hasn’t been work, but it seems like every time I do one of these lately I continue to be astounded by how much easier writing about good stuff makes it. I must’ve done a real clunker like two years ago or something. Can’t think of one, but wow, it’s way more fun when the tunes are killer.

To that end we start with Dopelord today, haha. Have fun digging through if you do.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Dopelord, Reality Dagger

Dopelord Reality Dagger

They put it in a 12″, and that’s cool, but in addition to the fact that it’s about 22 minutes long, something about Reality Dagger, the latest EP from Poland’s Dopelord, strikes me as being really 10″ worthy. I know 10″ is the bastard son of vinyl pressings — doesn’t fit with your LPs and doesn’t fit with your 7″s. They’re a nuisance. Do they get their own shelf? Mixed in throughout? Well, however you organize them, I think a limited 10″ of Reality Dagger would be perfect, because from the melodies strewn throughout “Dark Coils” and the wildly catchy “Your Blood” — maybe the most complex vocal arrangement I’ve yet heard from the band — to the ultra-sludge interplay with screams on the 10-minute closing title-track, it sounds to me like standing out from the crowd is exactly what Dopelord want to do. They want to be that band that doesn’t fit your preconceptions of stoner-doom, or sludge, or modern heavy largesse in the post-Monolord vein. Why not match that admirable drive in format? Oh hell, you know what? I’ll just by the CD and have done with it. One of the best EPs I’ve heard this year.

Dopelord on Thee Facebooks

Dopelord on Bandcamp

 

Scorched Oak, Withering Earth

Scorched Oak Withering Earth

Don’t be surprised when you see Kozmik Artifactz, Nasoni Records, or some other respected probably-European purveyor of heavy coming through with an announcement they’ve picked up Scorched Oak. The Dortmund, Germany, trio seem to have taken the last few years to figure out where they were headed — they pared down from a five-piece, for example — and their rolling tides of fuzz on late-2020’s debut LP Withering Earth bears the fruit of those efforts. Aesthetically and structurally sound, it’s able to touch on heavy blues, metal and drifting psychedelia all within the span of a seven-minute track like “Swamp,” and in its five-songs running shortest to longest, it effectively draws the listener deeper into the world the band are creating through dual vocals, patient craft and spacious production. If I was a label, I’d sign them for the bass tone on 14-minute closer “Desert” alone, never mind any of the other natural phenomena they portray throughout the record, which is perhaps grim in theme but nonetheless brimming with potential. Some cool riffs on this dying planet.

Scorched Oak on Thee Facebooks

Scorched Oak on Bandcamp

 

Kings of the Fucking Sea, In Concert

Kings of the Fucking Sea In Concert

A scorching set culled from two nights of performances in their native Nashville, what’s essentially serving as Kings of the Fucking Sea‘s debut long-player, In Concert, is a paean to raw psychedelic power trio worship. High order ripper groove pervades “Witch Mountain” and the wasn’t-yet-named “Hiding No More” — which was introduced tentatively as “Death Dealer,” which the following track is actually titled. Disorienting? Shit yeah it is. And shove all the poignancy of making a live album in Feb. 2020 ahead of the pandemic blah blah. That’s not what’s happening here. This is all about blow-the-door-so-we-can-escape psychedelic pull and thrust. One gets the sense that Kings of the Fucking Sea are more in control than they let on, but they play it fast and loose and slow and loose throughout In Concert and by the time the mellower jam in “I Walk Alone” opens up to the garage-style wash of crash cymbal ahead of closer “The Nile Song,” the swirling fuckall that ensues is rampant with noise-coated fire. A show that might make you look up from your phone. So cool it might be jazz. I gotta think about it.

Kings of the Fucking Sea on Thee Facebooks

Agitated Records on Bandcamp

 

Mantarraya, Mantarraya

mantarraya mantarraya

They bill themselves as ‘Mantarraya – power trío,’ and guitarist/vocalist Herman Robles Montero, drummer/maybe-harmonica-ist Kelvin Sifuentes Pérez and bassist/vocalist Enzo Silva Agurto certainly live up to that standard on their late-2020 self-titled debut full-length. The vibe is classic heavy ’70s through and through, and the Peruvian three-piece roll and boogie through the 11 assembled tracks with fervent bluesy swing on “En el Fondo” and no shortage of shuffle throughout the nine-minute “120 Años (Color),” which comes paired with the trippier “Almendrados” in what seems like a purposeful nod to the more out-there among the out there, bringing things back around to finish swinging and bouncing on the eponymous closer. I’ll take the classic boogie as it comes, and Mantarraya do it well, basking in a natural but not too purposefully so sense of underproduction while getting their point across in encouraging-first-record fashion. At over an hour long, it’s too much for a single LP, but plenty of time for them to get their bearings as they begin their creative journey.

Mantarraya on Thee Facebooks

Mantarraya on Bandcamp

 

Häxmästaren, Sol i Exil

Häxmästaren sol i exil

At the risk of repeating myself, someone’s gonna sign Häxmästaren. You can just tell. The Swedish five-piece’s second album, Sol i Exil (“sun in exile,” in English), is a mélange of heavy rock and classic doom influences, blurring the lines between microgenres en route to an individual approach that’s still accessible enough in a riffer like “Millennium Phenomenon” or “Dödskult Ritual” to be immediately familiar and telegraph to the converted where the band are coming from. Vocalist Niklas Ekwall — any relation to Magnus from The Quill? — mixes in some screams and growls to his melodic style, further broadening the palette and adding an edge of extremity to “Children of the Mountain,” while “Growing Horns” and the capper title-track vibe out with with a more classic feel, whatever gutturalisms happen along the way, the latter feeling like a bonus for being in Swedish. In the ever-fertile creative ground that is Gothenburg, it should be no surprise to find a band like this flourishing, but fortunately Sol i Exil doesn’t have to be a surprise to kick ass.

Häxmästaren on Thee Facebooks

Häxmästaren on Bandcamp

 

Shiva the Destructor, Find the Others

SHIVA THE DESTRUCTOR FIND THE OTHERS

Launching with the nine-minute instrumental “Benares” is a telling way for Kyiv’s Shiva the Destructor to begin their debut LP, since it immediately sets listener immersion as their priority. The five-track/44-minute album isn’t short on it, either, and with the band’s progressive, meditative psychedelic style, each song unfolds in its own way and in its own time, drawn together through warmth of tone and periods of heft and spaciousness on “Hydronaut” and a bit of playful bounce on “Summer of Love” (someone in this band likes reggae) and a Middle Eastern turn on “Ishtar” before “Nirvana Beach” seems to use the lyrics to describe what’s happening in the music itself before cutting off suddenly at the end. Vocals stand alone or in harmony and the double-guitar four-piece bask in a sunshine-coated sound that’s inviting and hypnotic in kind, offering turns enough to keep their audience following along and undulations that are duly a clarion to the ‘others’ referenced in the title. It’s like a call to prayer for weirdo psych heads. I’ll take that and hope for more to come.

Shiva the Destructor on Thee Facebooks

Robustfellow Productions on Bandcamp

 

Amammoth, The Fire Above

amammoth the fire above

The first and only lyric in “Heal” — the opening track of Sydney, Australia, trio Amammoth‘s debut album, The Fire Above — is the word “marijuana.” It doesn’t get any less stoned from there. Riffs come in massive waves, and even as “The Sun” digs into a bit of sludge, the largesse and crash remains thoroughly weedian, with the lumbering “Shadows” closing out the first half of the LP with particularly Sleep-y nod. Rawer shouted vocals also recall earlier Sleep, but something in Amammoth‘s sound hints toward a more metallic background than just pure Sabbath worship, and “Rise” brings that forward even as it pushes into slow-wah psychedelics, letting “Blade Runner” mirror “The Sun” in its sludgy push before closer “Walk Towards What Blinds You (Blood Bong)” introduces some backing vocals that fit surprisingly well even they kind of feel like a goof on the part of the band. Amammoth, as a word, would seem to be something not-mammoth. In sound, Amammoth are the opposite.

Amammoth on Thee Facebooks

Electric Valley Records website

 

Nineteen Thirteen, MCMXIII

nineteen thirteen mcmxiii

With emotional stakes sufficiently high throughout, MCMXIII is urgent enough to be post-hardcore, but there’s an underpinning of progressive heavy rock even in the mellower stretch of the eight-minute “Dogfight” that complements the noisier and more angular aspects on display elsewhere. Opener “Post Blue Collar Blues” sets the plotline for the newcomer Dayton, Ohio, four-piece, with thoughtful lyrics and a cerebral-but-not-dead-of-spirit instrumental style made full and spacious through the production. Melodies flesh out in “Cripple John” and “Old Face on the Wall,” brooding and surging in children-of-the-’90s fashion, but I hear a bit of Wovenhand in that finale as well — though maybe the one doesn’t exclude the other — so clearly Nineteen Thirteen are just beginning this obviously-passion-fueled exploration of sound aesthetic with these songs, but the debut EP they comprise cuts a wide swath with marked confidence and deceptive memorability. A new turn on Rust Belt heavy.

Nineteen Thirteen on Thee Facebooks

Nineteen Thirteen on Bandcamp

 

Ikitan, Twenty-Twenty

ikitan twenty-twenty

Hey, you process trauma from living through the last year your way and Genova, Italy’s Ikitan will process it theirs. In their case, that means the writing, recording and self-release of their 20-minute single-song EP, Twenty-Twenty, a sprawling work of instrumentalist heavy post-rock rife with spacious, airy lead guitar and a solid rhythmic foundation. Movements occur in waves and layers, but there is a definite thread being woven throughout the outing from one part to the next, held together alternately by the bass or drums or even guitar, though it’s the latter that seems to be leading those changes as well. The shifts are fluid in any case, and Ikitan grow Twenty-Twenty‘s lone, titular piece to a satisfyingly heft as they move through, harnessing atmosphere as well as weight even before they lower volume for stretches in the second half. There’s a quick surge at the end, but “Twenty-Twenty” is more about journey than destination, and Ikitan make the voyage enticing.

Ikitan on Thee Facebooks

Ikitan on Bandcamp

 

Smote, Bodkin

smote bodkin

Loops, far-out spaces and a generally experimentalist feel ooze outward like Icelandic lava from Bodkin, the five-song debut LP from UK-based solo-outfit Smote. The gentleman behind the flow is Newcastle upon Tyne’s Daniel Foggin, and this is one of three releases he has out so far in 2021, along with a prior drone collaboration tape with Forest Mourning and a subsequent EP made of two tracks at around 15 minutes each. Clearly a project that can be done indoors during pandemic lockdown, Smote‘s material is wide-ranging just the same, bringing Eastern multi-instrumentalism and traditionalist UK psych together on “Fohrt” and “Moninna,” which would border on folk but for all that buzz in the background. The 11-minute “Motte” is a highlight of acid ritualizing, but the droning title-track that rounds out makes each crash count all the more for the spaces that separate them. I dig this a lot, between you and me. I get vibes like Lamp of the Universe here in terms of sonic ambition and resultant presence. That’s not a comparison I make lightly, and this is a project I will be following.

Smote on Bandcamp

Weird Beard Records store

 

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Quarterly Review: Molasses Barge, Slow Green Thing, Haze Mage & Tombtoker, White Dog, Jupiterian, Experiencia Tibetana, Yanomamo, Mos Eisley Spaceport, Of Wolves, Pimmit Hills

Posted in Reviews on October 6th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

THE-OBELISK-FALL-2020-QUARTERLY-REVIEW

We roll on with day two of the Fall 2020 Quarterly Review featuring another batch of 10 records en route to 50 by Friday — and actually, I just put together the list for a sixth day, so it’ll be 60 by next Monday. As much as things have been delayed from the pandemic, there’s been plenty to catch up on in the meantime and I find I’m doing a bit of that with some of this stuff today and yesterday. So tacking on another day to the end feels fair enough, and it was way easy to pick 10 more folders off my far-too-crowded desktop and slate them for review. So yeah, 60 records by Monday. I bet I could get to 70 if I wanted. Probably better for my sanity if I don’t. Anyhoozle, more to come. For now…

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Molasses Barge, A Grayer Dawn

molasses barge a grayer dawn

Following up their 2017 self-titled debut issued through Blackseed Records, Pittsburgh-based rockers Molasses Barge present A Grayer Dawn through Argonauta, and indeed, in songs like “Holding Patterns” or the melancholy “Control Letting Go,” it is a somewhat moodier offering than its predecessor. But also more focused. Molasses Barge, in songs like stomping opener “The Snake” and its swing-happy successor “Desert Discord,” and in the later lumber of “Black Wings Unfurl” and push of the title-track, reside at an intersection of microgenres, with classic heavy rock and doom and modern tonality and production giving them an edge in terms of overarching heft in their low end. Riffs are choice throughout from guitarists Justin Gizzi and Barry Mull, vocalist Brian “Butch” Balich (Argus, ex-Penance, etc.) sounds powerful as ever, and the rhythm section of bassist Amy Bianco and drummer Wayne Massey lock in a succession of grooves that find welcome one after the other until the final “Reprise” fades to close the album. Its individuality is deceptive, but try to fit Molasses Barge neatly in one category or the other and they’ll stand out more than it might at first seem.

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Argonauta Records website

 

Slow Green Thing, Amygdala

slow-green-thing_amygdala-2000

Yes, this. Slow Green Thing‘s third album, Amygdala, is melodic without being overbearing and filled out with a consuming depth and warmth of tone. A less jammy, more solo-prone Sungrazer comes to mind; that kind of blend of laid back vocals and heavy psychedelic impulse. But the Dresden four-piece have their own solidified, nodding grooves to unveil as well, tapping into modern stoner with two guitars setting their fuzz to maximum density and Sven Weise‘s voice largely floating overtop, echo added to give even more a sense of largesse and space to the proceedings, which to be sure have plenty of both. The six-track/44-minute outing picks up some speed in “Dirty Thoughts” at the outset of side B, and brings a fair bit of crush to the title-track earlier and lead-laced finale “Love to My Enemy,” but in “Dreamland,” they mellow and stretch out the drift and the effect is welcome and not at all out of place beside the massive sprawl conjured in side A capper “All I Want.” And actually, that same phrase — “all I want” — covers a good portion of my opinion on the band’s sound.

Slow Green Thing on Thee Facebooks

Fuzzmatazz Records website

 

Haze Mage & Tombtoker, Split

Haze Mage Tombtoker Split

Anyone bemoaning the state of traditionalist doom metal would do well to get their pants kick’d by Haze Mage, and when that’s done, it’s time to let the stoned zombie sludge of Tombtoker rip your arms off and devour what’s left. The two Baltimorean five-pieces make a righteously odd pairing, but they’ve shared the stage at Grim Reefer Fest in Charm City, and what they have most in common is a conviction of approach that comes through on each half of the four-song/19-minute offering, with Haze Mage shooting forth with “Sleepers” and the semi-NWOBHM “Pit Fighter,” metal, classic prog and heavy rock coming together with a vital energy that is immediately and purposefully contradicted in Tombtoker‘s played-fast-but-is-so-heavy-it-still-sounds-slow “Braise the Dead” and “Botched Bastard,” both of which find a way to be a ton of fun while also being unspeakably brutal and pushing the line between sludge and death metal in a way that would do Six Feet Under proud. Horns and bongs all around, then.

Haze Mage on Thee Facebooks

Tombtoker on Thee Facebooks

 

White Dog, White Dog

white dog white dog

Oldschool newcomers White Dog earn an automatic look by releasing their self-titled debut through former Cathedral frontman Lee Dorrian‘s Rise Above Records, but it’s the band’s clearcut vintage aesthetic that holds the listener’s attention. With proto-metal established as an aesthetic of its own going on 20 years now, White Dog aren’t the first by any means to tread this ground, but especially for an American band, they bring a sincerity of swing and soul that speaks to the heart of the subgenre’s appeal. “The Lantern” leans back into the groove to tell its tale, while “Abandon Ship” is more upfront in its strut, and “Snapdragon” and opener “Sawtooth” underscore their boogie with subtle progressive nods. Closing duo “Pale Horse” and “Verus Cultus” might be enough to make one recall it was Rise Above that issued Witchcraft‘s self-titled, but in the shuffle of “Crystal Panther,” and really across the whole LP White Dog make the classic ideology theirs and offer material of eminent repeat listenability.

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Rise Above Records website

 

Jupiterian, Protosapien

jupiterian protosapien

The only thing that might save you from being swallowed entirely by the deathly mire Brazil’s Jupiterian craft on their third full-length, Protosapien, is the fact that the album is only 35 minutes long. That’s about right for the robe-clad purveyors of tonal violence — 2017’s Terraforming (review here) and 2015’s Aphotic (review here) weren’t much longer — and rest assured, it’s plenty of time for the band to squeeze the juice out of your soul and make you watch while they drink it out of some need-two-hands-to-hold-it ceremonial goblet. Their approach has grown more methodical over the years, and all the deadlier for that, and the deeper one pushes into Protosapien — into “Capricorn,” “Starless” and “Earthling Bloodline” at the end of the record — the less likely any kind of cosmic salvation feels. I’d say you’ve been warned, but really, this is just scratching the surface of the trenches into which Jupiterian plunge.

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Transcending Obscurity Records on Bandcamp

 

Experiencia Tibetana, Vol. I

Experiencia Tibetana Vol I

It’s an archival release, recorded in 2014 and 2015 by the Buenos Aires-based band, but all that really does for the three-song/hour-long Vol. I is make me wonder what the hell Experiencia Tibetana have been up to since and why Vols. II and III are nowhere to be found. The heavy psych trio aren’t necessarily inventing anything on this debut full-length, but the way “Beirut” (18:36) is peppered with memorable guitar figures amid its echo-drifting vocals, and the meditation tucked into the last few minutes of the 26:56 centerpiece “Espalda de Elefante” and the shift in persona to subdued progressive psych on “Desatormentandonos” (14:16) with the bass seeming to take the improvisational lead as guitar lines hold the central progression together, all of it is a compelling argument for one to pester for a follow-up. It may be an unmanageable runtime, but for the come-with-us sense of voyage it carries, Vol. I adapts the listener’s mindset to its exploratory purposes, and proves to be well worth the trip.

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Experiencia Tibetana on Bandcamp

 

Yanomamo, No Sympathy for a Rat

yanomamo no sympathy for a rat

Filth-encrusted and lumbering, Yanomamo‘s sludge takes Church of Misery-style groove and pummels it outright on the opening title-track of their four-song No Sympathy for a Rat EP. Like distilled disillusion, the scream-laced answer to the Sydney four-piece’s 2017 debut, Neither Man Nor Beast, arrives throwing elbows at your temples and through “The Offering,” the wait-is-this-grindcore-well-kinda-in-this-part “Miasma” and the suitably destructive “Iron Crown,” the only letup they allow is topped with feedback. Get in, kill, get out. They have more bounce than Bongzilla but still dig into some of Thou‘s more extreme vibe, but whatever you might want to compare them to, it doesn’t matter: Yanomamo‘s unleashed assault leaves bruises all its own, and the harsher it gets, the nastier it gets, the better. Can’t take it? Can’t hang? Fine. Stand there and be run over — I don’t think it makes a difference to the band one way or the other.

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Iommium Records on Bandcamp

 

Mos Eisley Spaceport, The Best of Their Early Year

mos eisley spaceport the best of their early year

They mean the title literally — “early year.” Bremen, Germany’s Mos Eisley Spaceport — who so smoothly shift between space rock and classic boogie on “Further When I’m Far” and brash tempo changes en route to a final jam-out on “Mojo Filter,” finally unveiling the Star Wars sample at the head of organ-inclusive centerpiece “Space Shift” only to bring early Fu Manchu-style raw fuzz on “Drop Out” and finish with the twanging acoustic and pedal steel of “My Bicycle Won’t Fly” — have been a band for less than a full 12 months. Thus, The Best of Their Early Year signals some of its own progressive mindset and more playful aspects, but it is nonetheless a formidable accomplishment for a new band finding their way. They lay out numerous paths, if you couldn’t tell by the run-on sentence above, and I won’t hazard a guess as to where they’ll end up sound-wise, but they have a fervent sense of creative will that comes through in this material and one only hopes they hold onto whatever impulse it is that causes them to break out the gong on “Space Shift,” because it’s that sense of anything-as-long-as-it-works that’s going to continue to distinguish them.

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Mos Eisley Spaceport on Bandcamp

 

Of Wolves, Balance

of wolves balance

One doesn’t often hear “the Wolfowitz Doctrine” brought out in lyrics these days, but Chicago heavy noise metallers Of Wolves aren’t shy about… well, anything. With volume inherent in the sound no matter how loud you’re actually hearing it, conveyed through weighted tones, shouts of progressions unified in intensity but varied in aggression and actual approach, the three-piece take an unashamed stance on a range of issues from the last two decades of war to trying to put themselves into the head of a mass shooter. The lyrics across their sophomore outing, Balance, are worth digging into for someone willing to take them on, but even without, the aggro mosh-stomp of “Maker” makes its point ahead of the 17-second “Flavor of the Weak” before Of Wolves dive into more progressively-structured fare on the title-track and “Clear Cutting/Bloodshed/Heart to Hand.” After “Killing Spree” and the aural-WTF that is “Inside (Steve’s Head),” they finish with a sludgecore take on the Misfits‘ “Die, Die My Darling,” which as it turns out was exactly what was missing up to that point.

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Trepanation Recordings on Bandcamp

 

Pimmit Hills, Heathens & Prophets

Pimmit Hills Heathens Prophets

Comprised of four-fifths of what was Virginian outfit King Giant, it’s hard to know whether to consider Pimmit Hills a new band or a name-change, or what, but the first offering from vocalist David Hammerly, guitarist Todd “TI” Ingram, bassist Floyd Lee Walters III and drummer Brooks, titled Heathens & Prophets and self-released, hits with a bit of a bluesier feel than did the prior outfit, leaving plenty of room for jamming in each track and even going so far as to bring producer J. Robbins in on keys throughout the four-song/29-minute release. I suppose you could call it an EP or an LP — or a demo? — if so inclined, but any way you cut it, Heathens & Prophets plainly benefits from the band’s experience playing together, and they find a more rocking, less moody vibe in “Baby Blue Eyes” and the harmonica-laced “Beautiful Sadness” that has a feel as classic in substance as it is modern in sound and that is both Southern but refusing to bow entirely to cliché.

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Pimmit Hills on Bandcamp

 

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Quarterly Review: Steve Von Till, Cyttorak, Lambda, Dee Calhoun, Turtle Skull, Diuna, Tomorrow’s Rain, Mother Eel, Umbilichaos, Radar Men From the Moon

Posted in Reviews on October 5th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

THE-OBELISK-FALL-2020-QUARTERLY-REVIEW

Oh hi there. It’s Quarterly Review time again, and you know what that means. 50 records between now and Friday — and I may or may not extend it through next Monday as well; I think I have enough of a backlog at this point to do so. It’s really just a question of how destroyed I am by writing about 10 different records every day this week. If past is prologue, that’s fairly well destroyed. But I’ve yet to do a Quarterly Review and regret it when it’s over, and like the last one, this roundup of 50 albums is pretty well curated, so it might even be fun to go through. There’s a thought. In any case, as always, I hope you find something you enjoy, and thank you for reading if you do or as much as you do.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Steve Von Till, No Wilderness Deep Enough

steve von till no wilderness deep enough

Neurosis guitarist/vocalist Steve Von Till seems to be bringing some of the experimentalism that drives his Harvestman project into the context of his solo work with No Wilderness Deep Enough, his fifth LP and first since 2015’s A Life unto Itself (review here). Drones and melodic synth backs the deceptively-titled “The Old Straight Track,” and where Von Till began his solo career 20 years ago with traditional folk guitar, if slower, on these six tracks, he uses that meditative approach as the foundation for an outward-reaching 37-minute run, incorporating ethereal strings among the swirls of “Shadows on the Run” and finishing with the foreboding hum of “Wild Iron.” Opener “Dreams of Trees” establishes the palette’s breadth with synthesized beats alongside piano and maybe-cello, but it’s Von Till‘s voice itself that ties the material together and provides the crucial human presence and intimacy that most distinguishes the offerings under his own name. Accompanied by Von Till‘s first published book of poetry, No Wilderness Deep Enough is a portrait of the unrelenting creative growth of its maker.

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Neurot Recordings on Bandcamp

 

Cyttorak, Simultaneous Invocation of Apocalyptic Harbingers

Cyttorak Simultaneous Invocation of Apocalyptic Harbingers

Take a breath before you hit play only to have it punched right out from your solar plexus by the brutalist deathsludge Cyttorak cleverly call “slowerviolence.” Dominated by low end and growls, screams, and shouts, the lumbering onslaught is the second standalone EP for the three-piece who hail from scenic Pawtucket, Rhode Island (former home of the PawSox), and throughout its six-track run, the unit conjure an unyieldingly punishing tonal morass set to aggressive purpose. That they take their name from the Marvel Universe character who controls X-Men villain Juggernaut should not be taken as coincidence, since their sound indeed seems intended to put its head down and smash through walls and/or anything else that might be in its path in pursuit of its quarry. With Conan-esque lyrical minimalism, the songs nonetheless give clues to their origins — “Royal Shokan Dismemberment” refers to Goro from Mortal Kombat, and finale “Domination Lord of Coldharbour” to Skyrim (which I still regret not playing) — but if you consider comics or video games to be lighter fare, first off, you’re working with an outdated mentality, and second, Cyttorak would like a bit of your time to smother you with volume and ferocity. They have a new split out as well, both on tape.

Cyttorak on Thee Facebooks

Tor Johnson Records website

 

Lambda, Heliopolis

lambda heliopolis

Also signified by the Greek letter from which they take their moniker, Czech four-piece Lambda represent a new age of progressive heavy post-rock. Influences from Russian Circles aren’t necessarily surprising to find coursing through the instrumental debut full-length, Heliopolis, but there are shades of Elder as well behind the more driving riffs and underlying swing of “Space Express,” which also featured on the band’s 2015 EP of the same name. The seven-minute “El Sonido Nuevo” did likewise, but older material or newer, the album’s nine-song procession moves toward its culminating title-track through the grace of “Odysea” and the intertwining psychedelic guitars of “Milkyway Phaseshifter” with an overarching atmosphere of the journey to the city of the sun being undertaken. And when they get there, at the closer, there’s an initial sense of peace that gives way to some of the most directly heavy push Heliopolis has to offer. Payoff, then. So be it. Purposeful and somewhat cerebral in its execution, the DIY debut brings depth and space together to immersive effect.

Lambda on Thee Facebooks

Lambda on Bandcamp

 

Dee Calhoun, Godless

dee calhoun godless

Following his 2016 debut, Rotgut (review here) and 2018’s Go to the Devil (review here), Godless is the third full-length from former Iron Man and current Spiral Grave frontman Dee Calhoun, and its considerable 63-minute runtime finds him working in multiple directions while keeping his underlying roots in acoustic-based heavy metal. Certainly “To My Boy” — and Rob Calhoun has appeared on his father’s releases before as well — has its basis in familial expression, but its pairing with “Spite Fuck” is somewhat curious. Meanwhile, “Hornswoggled” cleverly samples George W. Bush with a laugh track, and “Here Under Protest,” “The Greater Evil,” “Ebenezer” and “No Justice” seem to take a worldly view as well. Meanwhile again, “Godless,” “The Day Salvation Went Away” and “Prudes, Puritanicals and Puddles of Piss” make their perspective nothing if not plain for the listener, and the album ends with the two-minute kazoo-laced gag track “Here Comes the Bride: A Tale From Backwater.” So perhaps scattershot, but Godless is nonetheless Calhoun‘s most effective outing yet in terms of arrangements and craft, and shows him digging further into the singer-songwriter form than he has up to now, sounding more comfortable and confident in the process.

Dee Calhoun on Thee Facebooks

Argonauta Records website

 

Turtle Skull, Monoliths

Turtle Skull Monoliths

Melodic vocal lines weave together and float over alternately weighted and likewise ethereal guitars on Turtle Skull‘s second album, Monoliths. The percussion-inclusive (tambourine, congas, rain stick, etc.) Sydney-based heavy psychedelic outfit create an immersive wash that makes the eight-song/55-minute long-player consuming for the duration, and while there are moments of clarity to be found throughout — the steady snare taps of “Why Do You Ask?” for example — but the vast bulk of the LP is given to the overarching flow, which finds progressive/space-rock footing in the 11-plus minutes of finale “The Clock Strikes Forever” and is irresistibly consuming on the drifting wash of “Rabbit” or the lysergic grunge blowout of “Who Cares What You Think?,” which gives way to the choral drone of “Halcyon” gorgeously en route through the record’s back half. It’s not the highest profile heavy psych release of 2020, but neither is it to be overlooked for the languid stretch of “Leaves” at the outset or the fuzz-drenched roll in the penultimate “Apple of Your Eye.”

Turtle Skull on Thee Facebooks

Art as Catharsis on Bandcamp

Kozmik Artifactz website

 

Diuna, Golem

diuna golem

In some ways, the dichotomy of Diuna‘s 2019 sophomore full-length, Golem, is set by its first two tracks, the 24-second intro “Menu” and the seven-minute “Jarmark Cudów” that follows, each longer song throughout is prefaced by an introduction or interlude, varying in degrees of experimentation. That, however, doesn’t cover the outsider vibes the Polish trio bring to bear in those longer songs themselves, be it “Jarmark Cudów” devolving into a post-Life of Agony noise rock roll, or the thrust in “Frank Herbert” cut into starts and stops and shouting madness. Heavy rock, noise, sludge, post-this-or-that, it doesn’t matter by the end of the 12-track/44-minute release, because Diuna establish such firm control over the proceedings and make so clear the challenge to the listener to keep up that it’s only fun to try. It might take a couple listens to sink in, but the more attention one gives Golem, the more one is going to be rewarded in the end, and I don’t just mean in the off-kilter fuckery of closer “Pan Jezus Idzie Do Wojska.”

Diuna on Thee Facebooks

Diuna on Bandcamp

 

Tomorrow’s Rain, Hollow

tomorrows rain hollow

“Ambitious” doesn’t begin to cover it. With eight songs (plus a bonus track) and 11 listed guest musicians, the debut full-length, Hollow, from Tel Aviv-based death-doomers Tomorrow’s Rain seems to be setting its own standard in that regard. And quite a list it is, with the likes of Aaron Stainthorpe of My Dying Bride, Greg Mackintosh of Paradise Lost, Fernando Ribeiro of Moonspell, Mikko Kotamaki of Swallow the Sun, and so on, it is a who’s-who of melodic/gothic death-doom and the album lives up to the occasion in terms of the instrumental drama it presents. Some appear on one track, some on multiple tracks — Ribeiro and Kotamaki both feature on “Misery Rain” — and despite the constant shifts in personnel with only one of the eight tracks completely without an outside contributor, the core six-piece of Tomorrow’s Rain are still able to make an impression of their own that is bolstered and not necessarily overwhelmed by the extravagant company being kept throughout.

Tomorrow’s Rain on Thee Facebooks

AOP Records website

 

Mother Eel, Svalbard

mother eel svalbard

Mother Eel‘s take on sludge isn’t so much crushing as it is caustic. They’re plenty heavy, but their punishment isn’t just meted out through tonal weight being brought down on your head. It’s the noise. It’s the blown-out screams. It’s the harshness of the atmosphere in which the entirety of their debut album, Svalbard, resides. Five tracks, 33 minutes, zero forgiveness. One might be tempted to think of songs like “Erection of Pain” as nihilistic fuckall, but that seems incorrect. Nah, they mean it. Fuckall, yeah. But fuckall as ethos. Fuckall manifest. So it goes through “Alpha Woman” and “Listen to the Elderly for They Have Much to Teach,” which ends in a Primitive Man-ish static assault, and the lumbering finish “Not My Shade,” which assures that what began on “Sucking to Gain” half an hour earlier ends on the same anti-note: a disaffected malevolence writ into sheer sonic unkindness. There is little letup, even in the quiet introductions or transitions, so if you’re looking for mercy, don’t bother.

Mother Eel on Thee Facebooks

Mother Eel on Redbubble

 

Umbilichaos, Filled by Empty Spaces

Umbilichaos Filled by Empty Spaces

The four-song/39-minute atmospheric sludge long-player Filled by Empty Spaces is listed by Brazilian solo outfit Umbilichaos as being the third part of, “the Tetralogy of Loneliness.” If that’s the emotion being expressed in the noise-metal post-Godflesh chug-and-shout of “Filled by Empty Spaces Pt. 02,” then it is loneliness viscerally presented by founding principal and multi-instrumentalist Anna C. Chaos. The feel throughout the early going of the release is plodding and agonized in kind, but in “Filled by Empty Spaces Pt. 01” and “Filled by Empty Spaces Pt. 03” there is some element of grim, crusted-over psychedelia happening alongside the outright dirge-ism, though the latter ultimately wins out in the four-minute instrumental capper “Disintegration.” One way or the other, Chaos makes her point through raw tonality and overarching intensity of purpose, the compositions coming across simultaneously unhinged and dangerously under control. There are many kinds of heavy. Filled by Empty Spaces is a whole assortment of them.

Umbilichaos on Thee Facebooks

Sinewave website

 

Radar Men From the Moon, The Bestial Light

radar men from the moon the bestial light

Fueled by avant grunge/noise impulsion, Radar Men From the Moon‘s latest foray to Planet Whothefuckknows arrives in the eight-song/41-minute The Bestial Light, a record alternately engrossing and off-putting, that does active harm when the sounds-like-it’s-skipping intro to “Piss Christ” comes on and then subsequently mellows out with psych-sax like they didn’t just decide to call the song “Sacred Cunt of the Universe” or something. Riffs, electronics, the kind of weirdness that’s too self-aware not to be progressive, Radar Men From the Moon take the foundation of experimentation set by Astrosoniq and mutate it via Swans into something unrecognizable by genre and unwilling to compromise its own direction. And no, by the time “Levelling” comes on to round out, there is no peace to be found, though perhaps a twisted kind of joy at the sheer postmodernism. They should score ballets with this stuff. No one would go, but three centuries from now, they’d be worshiped as gods. Chance of that anyway, I suppose.

Radar Men From the Moon on Thee Facebooks

Fuzz Club Records on Bandcamp

 

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Turtle Skull Set Aug. 28 Release for Monoliths

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 24th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

turtle skull

Kind of a note to myself here. This record came in this morning and I was curious, so checked it out and I think it might be awesome. It’s the Sydney-based band’s second full-length behind a 2018 self-titled and it’s coming out through Art as Catharsis and Kozmik Artifactz, so that’s good backing either way, but it was the actual sound of the thing that might’ve sold me. Folky, bright, but still heavy underpinnings to the psychedelic flow to what I’ve heard. I guess everything coming out of Oz at this point is represented as being influenced by King Gizzard but I can’t really speak to that one way or the other, but if you know that Khruangbin record and Kikagaku Moyo, you know that’s good territory to be in.

So why the post? Well, my time’s pretty bare these days so it’s a reminder to myself to put on the record tomorrow and listen through the entire thing when this post goes live. It’ll be Thursday so I’ll have a couple extra minutes. If I told you what was going on on my right-hand side right now — first, it would be a longer explanation than the press release below, but second, it still wouldn’t make any sense. It’s been quite a week. I’m looking forward to checking Monoliths out.

Dig:

Turtle Skull Monoliths

TURTLE SKULL – Monoliths 28.08.2020, Art As Catharsis / Kozmik Artifactz

Art As Catharsis are proud to announce the release of Turtle Skull’s second album, Monoliths – a texture-rich record that dances between bone-crushing lows and ethereal highs.

Taking inspiration from Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd and Crosby Stills Nash & Young, Turtle Skull’s blend of warped psychedelia, shattering doom and indie-rock sensibility merges into their own brand of music dubbed ‘flower doom’.

While the final product contains a faint similarity to the sounds of King Gizzard & The Lizzard Wizard, Khruangbin, or Kikagku Moyo, Monoliths is distinctively its own beast. It’s a record that heaves and soars, taking joyous compositions and steering them headfirst into a realm of fuzz and fury.

“For me this album and this band was an opportunity to take everything back to the simplest form,” says vocalist/guitarist Dean McLeod. “I’d been listening to lot of drone, heavy psych, stoner doom, ambient stuff, and one of the things that often unite these somewhat disparate genres is the extensive use of drones and ambient synths.

“This record is about the intimate connection we share with the Earth on which we stand. It’s about the world and your place in it. It’s about looking deep inside yourself and seeing what you find. It’s about life and death and everything in between… and most of all it’s about the pure joy of creation. We are very happy to share it with you.”

At the end of its runtime, Monoliths undeniably displays a much more fleshed-out realisation of the doom, psych rock and indie fusion that launched the five-piece into the public eye following their self-titled release. Tipping between heavy and catchy is the strength of Monoliths – the roar of the fuzzed-out amps is counterbalanced by feather-light vocals, creating a contrast as clear and harmonious as sun and sky. For fans old and new, this is fusion at it’s finest – a record with something to offer every listener.

1. Leaves
2. Rabbit
3. Heartless Machine
4. Why Do You Ask?
5. Who Cares What You Think?
6. Halcyon
7. Apple Of Your Eye
8. The Clock Strikes Forever

This record is about the intimate connection we share with the Earth on which we stand. It’s about the world and your place in it. It’s about looking deep inside yourself and seeing what you find. It’s about life and death and everything in between. It’s about greed, racism, colonialism and technological destruction. It’s about hopelessness and despair. It’s about self love and introspection. It’s about friendship and the power of shared experience. It’s about life-changing psychedelic journeys. It’s about connecting with the source. And most of all it’s about the pure joy of creation. We are very happy to share it with you.

Tobia Blefari – Percussion (congas, rain stick, shaker, tambourine)
Julian Frese – Bass, piano, vocals
Dan Frizza – Synths
Charlie Gradon – Drums, vocals
Dean McLeod – Guitars, vocals

https://www.facebook.com/turtleskullmusic/
https://www.instagram.com/turtleskullmusic/
https://turtleskullmusic.bandcamp.com/
http://www.facebook.com/artascatharsis
https://instagram.com/artascatharsis
http://artascatharsis.bandcamp.com/
http://kozmik-artifactz.com/
https://www.facebook.com/kozmikartifactz

Turtle Skull, Monoliths (2020)

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Quarterly Review: Horisont, Ahab, Rrrags, Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs, Earthbong, Rito Verdugo, Death the Leveller, Marrowfields, Dätcha Mandala, Numidia

Posted in Reviews on July 7th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

the-obelisk-qr-summer-2020

Well, I’m starting an hour later than I did yesterday, so that’s maybe not the most encouraging beginning I could think of, but screw it, I’m here, got music on, got fingers on keys, so I guess we’re underway. Yesterday was remarkably easy, even by Quarterly Review standards. I’ve been doing this long enough at this point — five-plus years — that I approach it with a reasonable amount of confidence it’ll get done barring some unforeseen disaster.

But yesterday was a breeze. What does today hold? In the words of Mrs. Wagner from fourth grade homeroom, “see me after.”

Ready, set, go.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Horisont, Sudden Death

horisont sudden death

With a hefty dose of piano up front and keys throughout, Gothenburg traditionalist heavy rockers Horisont push retro-ism into full-on arena status. Moving past some of the sci-fi aspects of 2017’s About Time, Sudden Death comprises 13 tracks and an hour’s runtime, so rest assured, there’s room for everything, including the sax on “Into the Night,” the circa-’77 rock drama in the midsection of the eight-minute “Archeopteryx in Flight,” and the comparatively straightforward seeming bounce of “Sail On.” With cocaine-era production style, Sudden Death is beyond the earlier-’70s vintage mindset of the band’s earliest work, and songs like “Standing Here” and the penultimate proto-metaller “Reign of Madness” stake a claim on the later era, but the post-Queen melody of “Revolution” at the outset and the acoustic swing in “Free Riding” that follows set a lighthearted tone, and as always seems to be the case with Horisont, there’s nothing that comes across as more important than the songwriting.

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Century Media website

 

Ahab, Live Prey

ahab live prey

Scourge of the seven seas that German nautically-themed funeral doomers Ahab are, Live Prey is their first live album and it finds them some five years removed from their last studio LP, The Boats of the Glen Carrig (review here). For a band who in the past has worked at a steady three-year pace, maybe it was time for something, anything to make its way to public ears. Fair enough, and in five tracks and 63 minutes, Live Prey spans all the way back to 2006’s Call of the Wretched Sea with “Ahab’s Oath” and presents all but two of that debut’s songs, beginning with the trilogy “Below the Sun,” “The Pacific” and “Old Thunder” and switching the order of “Ahab’s Oath” and “The Hunt” from how they originally appeared on the first record to end with the foreboding sounds of waves rolling accompanied by minimal keyboards. It’s massively heavy, of course — so was Call of the Wretched Sea — and whatever their reason for not including any other album’s material, at least they’ve included anything.

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Napalm Records website

 

Rrrags, High Protein

rrrags high protein

Let’s assume the title High Protein might refer to the fact that Dutch/Belgian power trio Rrrags have ‘trimmed the fat’ from the eight songs that comprise their 33-minute sophomore LP. It’s easy enough to believe listening to a cut like “Messin'” or the subsequent “Sad Sanity,” which between the two of them are about as long as the 5:14 opener “The Fridge” just before. But while High Protein has movers and groovers galore in those tracks and the fuzzier “Sugarcube” — the tone of which might remind that guitarist Ron Van Herpen is in Astrosoniq — the stomping “Demons Dancing” and the strutter “Hellfire,” there’s live-DeepPurple-style breadth on the eight-minute “Dark is the Day” and closer “Window” bookends “The Fridge” in length while mellowing out and giving drummer/vocalist Rob Martin a rest (he’s earned it by then) while bassist Rob Zim and Van Herpen carry the finale. If thinking of it as a sleeper hit helps you get on board, so be it, but Rrrags‘ second album is of unmitigated class and straight-up killer performance. It is not one to be overlooked.

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Lay Bare Recordings website

 

Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs, Viscerals

pigs pigs pigs pigs pigs pigs pigs viscerals

There’s stoner roll and doomed crash in “New Body,” drone-laced spoken-word experimentalism in “Blood and Butter,” and post-punk angular whathaveyou as “Halloween Bolson” plays out its nine-minute stretch, but Viscerals — the third or fourth Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs album, depending on what you count — seems to be at its most satisfying in blowout freak-psych moments like opener “Reducer” and “Rubbernecker,” which follows, while the kinda-metal of “World Crust”‘s central riff stumbles willfully and teases coming apart before circling back, and “Crazy in Blood” and closer “Hell’s Teeth” are more straight-up heavy rock. It’s a fairly wide arc the UK outfit spread from one end of the record to the other — and they’re brash enough to pull it off, to be sure — but with the hype machine so fervently behind them, I have a hard time knowing whether I’m actually just left flat by the record itself or all the hyperbole-set-on-fire that’s surrounded the band for the last couple years. Viscerals gets to the heart of the matter, sure enough, but then what?

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Rocket Recordings on Bandcamp

 

Earthbong, Bong Rites

Earthbong Bong Rites

Kiel, Germany’s Earthbong answer the stoner-sludge extremity of their 2018 debut, One Earth One Bong (review here), with, well, more stoner-sludge extremity. What, you thought they’d go prog? Forget it. You get three songs. Opener “Goddamn High” and “Weedcult Today” top 15 minutes each, and closer “Monk’s Blood” hits half an hour. Do the quick math yourself on that and you’ll understand just how much Earthbong have been looking forward to bashing you over the head with riffs. “Weedcult Today” is more agonizingly slow than “Goddamn High,” at least at the beginning, but it builds up and rolls into a pace that, come to think of it, is still probably slower than most, and of course “Monk’s Blood” is an epic undertaking right up to its last five minutes of noise. It could’ve been an album on its own. But seriously, if you think Earthbong give a shit, you’re way off base. This is tone, riff and weed worship and everything else is at best a secondary concern. Spend an hour at mass and see if you don’t come out converted.

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Rito Verdugo, Post-Primatus

rito verdugo post-primatus

No doubt that at some future time shortly after the entire world has moved on from the COVID-19 pandemic, there will be a glut of releases comprised of material written during the lockdown. Peruvian four-piece Rito Verdugo are ahead of the game, then, with their Post-Primatus four-song EP. Issued digitally as the name-your-price follow-up to their also-name-your-price 2018 debut, Cosmos, it sets a 14-minute run from its shortest cut to its longest, shifting from the trippy “Misterio” into fuzz rockers “Monte Gorila” (which distills Earthless vibes to just over three minutes) and “Lo Subnormal” en route to the rawer garage psychedelia of “Inhumación,” which replaces its vocals with stretches of lead guitar that do more than just fill the spaces verses might otherwise be and instead add to the breadth of the release as a whole. Safe to assume Rito Verdugo didn’t plan on spending any amount of time this year staying home to avoid getting a plague, but at least they were able to use the time productively to give listeners a quick sample of where they’re at sound-wise coming off the first album. Whenever and however it shows up, I’ll look forward to what they do next.

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Death the Leveller, II

Death the Leveller II

Signed to Cruz Del Sur Music as part of that label’s expanding foray into traditionalist doom (see also: Pale Divine, The Wizar’d, Apostle of Solitude, etc.), Dublin’s Death the Leveller present an emotionally driven four tracks on their 38-minute label debut, the counterintuitively titled II. Listed as their first full-length, it’s about the same length as their debut “EP,” 2017’s I, but more important is the comfort and patience the band shows with working in longer-form material, opener “The Hunt Eternal,” “The Golden Bough” and closer “The Crossing” making an impression at over nine minutes apiece — “The Golden Bough” tops 12 — while “So They May Face the Sun” runs a mere 7:37 and is perhaps the most unhurried of the bunch, playing out with a cinematic sweep of guitar melody and another showcase for the significant presence of frontman Denis Dowling, who’s high in the mix at times but earns that forward position with a suitably standout performance across the record’s span.

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Cruz Del Sur Music website

 

Marrowfields, Metamorphoses

marrowfields metamorphoses

It isn’t surprising to learn that the members of Fall River, Massachusetts, five-piece Marrowfields come from something of an array of underground styles, some of them pushing into more extreme terrain, because the five songs of their debut full-length, Metamorphoses, do likewise. With founding guitarist/main-songwriter Brandon Green at the helm as producer as well, there’s a suitably inward-looking feel to the material, but coinciding with its rich atmospheres are flashes of blastbeats, death metal chug, double-kick and backing growls behind the cleaner melodic vocals that keep Marrowfields distinct from entirely traditionalist doom. It is a niche into which they fit well on this first long-player, and across the five songs/52 minutes of Metamorphoses, they indeed shapeshift between genre elements in order to best serve the purposes of the material, calling to mind Argus in the progressive early stretch of centerpiece “Birth of the Liberator” while tapping Paradise Lost chug and ambience before the blasts kick in on closer “Dragged to the World Below.” Will be interesting to see which way their — or Green‘s, as it were — focus ultimately lies, but there isn’t one aesthetic nuance misused here.

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Black Lion Records on Bandcamp

 

Dätcha Mandala, Hara

datcha mandala hara

Dätcha Mandala present a strong opening salvo of rockers on Hara, their second album for MRS Red Sound, before turning over to all-out tambourine-and-harp blues on “Missing Blues.” From there, they could go basically anywhere they want, and they do, leading with piano on “Morning Song,” doing wrist-cramp-chug-into-disco-hop in “Sick Machine” and meeting hand-percussion with space rocking vibes on “Moha.” They’ve already come a long way from the somewhat misleading ’70s heavy of opener “Stick it Out,” “Mother God” and “Who You Are,” but the sonic turns that continue with the harder-edged “Eht Bup,” the ’70s balladry of “Tit’s,” an unabashed bit o’ twang on “On the Road” and full-on fuzz into a noise freakout on closer “Pavot.” Just what the hell is going on with Hara? Anything Dätcha Mandala so desire, it would seem. They have the energy to back it up, but if you see them labeled as any one microgenre or another, keep in mind that inevitably that’s only part of the story and the whole thing is much weirder than they might be letting on. No complaints with that.

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MRS Red Sound

 

Numidia, Numidia

Numidia Numidia

If you’ve got voices in your band that can harmonize like guitarists James Draper, Shane Linfoot and Mike Zoias, I’m not entirely sure what would lead you to start your debut record with a four-minute instrumental, but one way or another, Sydney, Australia’s Numidia — completed by bassist/keyboardist Alex Raffaelli and drummer Nathan McMahon — find worthy manners in which to spend their time. Their first collection takes an exploratory approach to progressive heavy rock, seeming to feel its way through components strung together effectively while staying centered around the guitars. Yes, three of them. Psychedelia plays a strong role in later pieces “Red Hymn” and the folky “Te Waka,” but if the eponymous “Numidia” is a mission statement on the part of the five-piece, it’s one cast in a prog mentality pushed forward with poise to suit. Side A capper “A Million Martyrs” would seem to draw the different sides together, but it’s no minor task for it to do so, and there’s little sign in these songs that Numidia won’t grow more expansive as time goes on.

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Nasoni Records website

 

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Review & Track Premiere: Comacozer & Vinnum Sabbathi, Here and Beyond Split LP

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on May 14th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Comacozer Vinnum Sabbathi Here and Beyond

Preorders are up now for Here and Beyond, the new split LP between Sydney, Australia’s Comacozer and Mexico City, Mexico’s Vinnum Sabbathi. Issuing through Tasmanian imprint Psychedelic Salad Records, the release carries just three tracks, comprising Comacozer‘s sprawling 19-minute “Sun of Hyperion” and two companion pieces from Vinnum Sabbathi on side B, “HEX IV: Cassini’s Last Breath” (6:50) and “HEX V: X-15 Research Project” (9:55). If the pairing seems odd on paper given the disparate geography, in context it’s not actually much of a surprise the bands would be aware of each other, considering the international nature of the underground, social media, and bands being listeners as well as creators in a noted style.

That style as it plays out across Here and Beyond is a marked take on instrumental heavy psychedelia with roots in stoner rock jamming and a sense of purpose beyond simply that. Both groups use samples to provide a human voice — for Comacozer, the introductory drift of “Sun of Hyperion” comes accompanied by obscure dialogue about LSD, while Vinnum Sabbathi‘s live-recorded “HEX” tracks are laced with what sounds mission control communications and clips snagged from the public domain. “HEX” is an ongoing series for the trio/four-piece (depends on the show, I think) and these tracks arrive on the heels of their recently-issued Of Theories and Dimensions full-length on Stolen Body Records and a late-2019 live three-songer that featured other “HEX” pieces en route to their stated goal of 16 total. Comacozer, meanwhile, issued their fourth album, Mydriasis (review here), last summer.

It’s noteworthy of course that Vinnum Sabbathi are continuing a series that at this point dates back five years to their 2015 split with Bar de Monjas (review here), because Comacozer are as well. A 10-minute cut called “Helios Hyperion” featured on their 2014 Sessions EP and “Sun of Hyperion” — one suspects the use of “sun” there is a play on the horror-genre convention of “son of…” as well as the actual translation of “helios” — revises that formative jam. The central guitar figure, languid and building across the first half of the piece, is roughly the same as that which defined “Helios Hyperion” and if anything the feel of “Sun of Hyperion” is that Comacozer took the demo and fleshed it out across a broader reach.

It still keeps its foundation but uses it to spread itself farther out into the spaciousness and the spaciness of its own making, and is all the more hypnotic for both the reach and depth it conjures along the way. While it was recorded at the same time as Mydriasis, it works entirely as a standalone on side A of Here and Beyond, emphasizing a bit of both sides of the title in a way that Vinnum Sabbathi have no problem answering back with their two inclusions, though for their shorter runtimes, “HEX IV: Cassini’s Last Breath”  and “HEX V: X-15 Research Project” are obviously more contained in themselves.

They also utilize samples to a broader degree than did “Sun of Hyperion,” lacing them throughout the proceedings rather than just at the start. “Cassini’s Last Breath” hits its mark — as did the Comacozer track — near its halfway point, and takes off with its full weight accordingly, rolling out a huge-sounding crunch with no hesitation, then recedes as the sample returns with a post-script congratulating the NASA crew on Cassini’s accomplishments. In terms of incorporating the samples and recording live, the timing is exceptional enough that one wonders if the samples weren’t overlaid later, but it’s certainly possible that the band timed it out during the tracking process, whether it was with hand signals or just playing together with headphones on.

As “Cassini’s Last Breath” lolls toward its end, there’s a final push of volume, but it’s just a few hits that fade soon enough, naturally bringing to mind the cut communication from the satellite named in its title. Though the voice describing it sounds remarkably like Keith Carradine, the X-15 was a real research aircraft, meant for high speeds and altitudes, and the sample Vinnum Sabbathi use comes from a documentary clip about it that one can find easily enough on archive.org. There are other voices throughout the piece, but by then the band have launched a flight of their own, lumbering out the progression that defines the piece without looking back. They hold to it well, as Comacozer did to “Sun of Hyperion,” and it’s not until after seven minutes in that they seem willing to meander elsewhere, the drums still anchoring that initial crash that propelled them forward.

But the first finish is a fake-out, as Vinnum Sabbathi surge to life again in the last minute-plus of “HEX V: X-15 Research Project,” with a faster, more urgent burst than Here and Beyond has yet presented in its 39-minute course. They end with a sudden flash of feedback and are gone in a snap — not quite mach six, but it gets the message across.

From the beginning trance induced by Comacozer to that somewhat blindsiding shove from Vinnum SabbathiHere and Beyond is a journey that should be familiar enough to the experienced heads who will take it on, but that doesn’t necessarily make it any less enjoyable. As both groups maintain a sense of control over the proceedings — at least as much as they want to — they’re able to bring the listener along with them on their outward course, and whether they’re mourning for Cassini or celebrating the star of another world, their complementary nature comes through in the split in a way that emphasizes the strengths of each. It’s an easy one to dig if you’re up for the digging.

Below, to mark the occasion of preorders going live from Psychedelic Salad, you’ll find the premiere of Comacozer‘s “Sun of Hyperion,” along with the album info and one of the two Vinnum Sabbathi contributions (previously posted).

Please enjoy:

Comacozer, “Sun of Hyperion” official premiere

“Here & Beyond” a split Album between Comacozer (Sydney) and Vinnum Sabbathi (Mexico) coming on May 20th on digital and on vinyl format via Psychedelic Salad Records (Tasmania).

Australian heavy psychedelic space rockers Comacozer are back, this time with a new nineteen-minute journey that continues on from their debut track, ‘Helios Hyperion’, written and recorded in 2014. A regular feature of their live shows, ‘Sun of Hyperion’ was recorded at the same time as their last album, ‘Mydriasis’ and therefore sees them operating as a four-piece once again. As is always the case with Comacozer, this track will take you exactly where you need to go, this time in the comfort of your own
home – perfect for the current climate!

These two new tracks from Mexico’s Vinnum Sabbathi form part of the band’s HEX series, from the Base 16 or hexadecimal numeral system. The goal is to write 16 HEX songs in total for split collaborations such as this. Musically-speaking, HEX IV is quite different to the band’s usual approach – a relatively short song with little distortion – while HEX V sees a return to their classic riffing. Just like every other track in the HEX series, both songs were recorded in a single take, with only samples being added in later.

Pre orders go live on May 14th

1. Sun of Hyperion (Comacozer)
2. HEX IV: Cassini’s Last Breath (VS)
3. HEX V: X-15 Research Project (VS)

Art by Six. D. Six
Mastered by Kent Stump at Crystal Clear Sound

Vinnum Sabbathi, “HEX IV: Cassini’s Last Breath”

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