The Obelisk Questionnaire: Sami Mustonen of Velvets

Posted in Questionnaire on July 16th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

velvets

The Obelisk Questionnaire is a series of open questions intended to give the answerer an opportunity to explore these ideas and stories from their life as deeply as they choose. Answers can be short or long, and that reveals something in itself, but the most important factor is honesty.

Based on the Proust Questionnaire, the goal over time is to show a diverse range of perspectives as those who take part bring their own points of view to answering the same questions. To see all The Obelisk Questionnaire posts, click here.

Thank you for reading and thanks to all who participate.

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Sami Mustonen of Velvets

How do you define what you do and how did you come to do it?

Velvets is an individual take on classic rock. We mixed together a lot of elements from blues, schlager, pop, funk and many different styles of rock’n’roll to get the sound right. The band started in January ’21 when me (Sami) and Sakke had some spare time on our hands while our other band Rokets couldn’t rehearse since our drummer got injured. The first idea for Velvets was to do love songs and along the way we added a bit more ingredients to it.

Describe your first musical memory.

As a kid I didn’t really listen to music that much. My parents didn’t listen to records, so everything I heard was on the radio, TV and movies. My first significant musical memory was when my older brother had just returned from a holiday in the US. I was 10 years old and he brought me a CD as a gift. The album was Cypress Hill’s “Black Sunday”. He had a CD player and we started listening to it. I was hooked. From then on I started exploring music and have been on that journey ever since. I never played any instruments, I just loved to sing, but it wasn’t something I was planning on doing in a band. It just happened when my best friends started a heavy metal band called United Seafood and needed a singer, so they asked me to try it out. Happy that they did!

Describe your best musical memory to date.

I don’t think I have a single best musical memory, but the best ones are from any packed shows we played with Rokets or Seafood. Doesn’t get much better than that. Looking forward to getting on stage with Velvets too, we have a boogie woogie band we really want you to hear and see!

When was a time when a firmly held belief was tested?

I grew up in a suburb that was a relatively safe place. As a kid the world didn’t seem that big and scary when it feels like your surroundings are constantly giving you hugs and kisses. When I started skateboarding and exploring other cities, it really showed me the world for what it could actually be like. People, places, music, culture, food – of all of these I learned through skateboarding while making a lot of friends doing it. It really opened up the world to me and I couldn’t be more grateful for it!

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

Towards better outcomes. Starting off with an idea of how you should do something and then learning different approaches, new ideas and techniques along the way to get the best out of you.

How do you define success?

Being happy with yourself and what you do. Feeling proud of and standing behind something that you have created. Sharing your life with someone you love and appreciate.

What is something you have seen that you wish you hadn’t?

David Cronenberg’s The Fly at age nine. Couple of nightmares was had after that. Learned to appreciate the film a bit older though. Gotta love the genius of Cronenberg!

Describe something you haven’t created yet that you’d like to create.

I’m studying cultural management and have a dream of running my own venue here in Helsinki. Would love to offer a space for up-and-coming bands as well as bigger names and to create an atmosphere for everyone to enjoy.

What do you believe is the most essential function of art?

For me it’s the freedom to create. It also works as a therapy of some sort. For the explorers of art, I think its purpose is to bring joy and understanding to people’s lives.

Something non-musical that you’re looking forward to?

Getting married in a couple of weeks! Love you Siri!

https://www.facebook.com/velvetshelsinki
https://www.instagram.com/velvetshelsinki/
https://velvetshelsinki.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/thesignrecords/
http://www.thesignrecords.com

Velvets, Velvets (2021)

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Skraeckoedlan Premiere “Kaktus Galaxus” Remastered Demo from Äppelträdet Anniversary Edition LP

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on May 25th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

skraeckoedlan

Skraeckoedlan will release the 10th anniversary edition of their 2011 debut, Äppelträdet (review here), on June 11 through The Sign Records. Ten years ago, Äppelträdet (“apple tree” in English) was an electrified blend of heavy elements, bringing together weighted fuzz and the impact of progressive metal’s rhythmic turns, like a spliced-gene monsterlizard crafted by pulling together elements of Mastodon and Truckfighters, and it remains precisely that. Led by the clarion riffing of “Världarnas Fall,” it was prone to even more massive ready-to-be-called-“slabs” of stomp like the instrumental “Chronos,” and as “Arise the Sun” or the title-track or the duly careening “Universum” demonstrated, there was always more to the Norrköping, Sweden-based outfit’s approach than tonal novelty. Even at their outset, they were songwriters first, and the fact that they had such a clear idea of what they were doing only furthered their cause.

The 3LP edition of Äppelträdet is duly huge, and you can see the details below. If you’ve been keeping up, the band — now comprised of guitarist/vocalist Robert Lamu, guitarist Henrik Grüttner, bassist Erik Berggren and drummer Martin Larsson — haveÄppelträdet 10 årsjubileum been posting re-recorded tracks from Äppelträdet ahead of the release of the box set. They’ve unveiled two of three intended thus far, with “Arise the Sun” (posted here) last month following “Universum” (posted here) in February, but also included in the comprehensive offering is a remastered version of Skraeckoedlan‘s two demos, Flykten Från Tellus and Världarnas Fall, both originally released in 2010. And it was a different Skraeckoedlan before they hit the studio with Truckfighters‘ own Oskar Cedermalm to record the debut full-length. By and large, the songs are longer, dirtier, and rawer, with “Skräcködlan” and “Från Havet Dom Kommer” forming a one-two of surging low-end and spacey melody that presages some of what the band would soon become, but still presents it in nascent fashion, bolstered by the energy of the band’s youth and the sheer excitement of playing that comes from the fact that, at the time, what they were playing was new to them as well as to the listener.

“Kaktus Galaxus,” which would become “Cactus” on Äppelträdet proper, is in its Flykten Från Tellus form a blast of fuzzy push and cymbal crash, its chugging verse and nuanced drums allowing the vocal melody to come through in a ready showcase of potential furthered by the chorus. These demos were compiled together on a tape in 2012, but the remaster brings new clarity to the speedy development that took place going from Flykten Från Tellus to Världarnas Fall and finally into Äppelträdet, and as a way to mark the passage of 10 years since the latter first arrived, the totality of the release is more about telling the story of who Skraeckoedlan were and how they got their start than it is simply putting a record back into print — although between you and me, even if it was just about getting Äppelträdet back out there, the album holds up now as it has seeing periodic represses. I actively remember when it came in the first time around and I’d still be stoked to have it show up as a brand new outing from a brand new band. A decade after the fact, I can’t think of anything more to ask of it. It tells the story it wants to tell and puts emphasis on the early growth of the band, which, if you’ve followed the course of their career — their most recent LP was 2019’s Eorþe (review here) — you know has not abated in the time since.

So, as a lead-in for Äppelträdet‘s 10th anniversary edition, let’s go back to the start with the demo of “Kaktus Galaxus” mentioned above. You can dig into the track on the player below, and Lamu was kind enough to offer some words about it beneath that.

Please enjoy:

skraeckoedlan appeltradet

Robert Lamu on “Kaktus Galaxus”:

You are riding along in your space craft through a sandless desert, the world is coming to an end and everything seems lost. That’s when you see her. A giant space cactus, your savior.

“Kaktus Galaxus” is without a doubt our most important recording to this date. Both the writing and recording of that song showed us our sound and a way to play together. That demo made us re-record it for our debut album, and the song “Cactus” was born. That song has become our anthem.

“Äppelträdet” will be released as an anniversary vinyl box on June 11 via The Sign Records. The box will be available in 500 copies and includes:

– 3 X 180g Gold-colored LPs in a black box with Gold Foil
– “Äppelträdet” (10th anniversary edition)
skraeckoedlan appeltradet– “Äppelträdet” (Original)
– Demo recordings “Flykten från Tellus” and “Världarnas fall”
– 3x Inner sleeve (black with Gold Foil)
– 2x Posters (size A2)
– Lyric sheet and story from the band

Skraeckoedlan’s debut album ”Äppelträdet” was produced by Truckfighters’ bass player Oskar Cedermalm and released on Transubstans Records in 2011. In 2015 they teamed up with Razzia/Sony for the release of their sophomore album ”Sagor”, and in 2019 they launched their third and latest studio full length, ”Eorþe”.

Skraeckoedlan:
Robert Lamu – Vocals/Guitar
Henrik Grüttner – Guitar
Erik Berggren – Bass
Martin Larsson – Drums

Skraeckoedlan’s website

Skraeckoedlan on Instagram

Skraeckoedlan on Thee Facebooks

The Sign Records on Thee Facebooks

The Sign Records website

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Craneium Sign to The Sign Records; New Single Out Today

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 21st, 2021 by JJ Koczan

This year marks a decade since Craneium first came together in the underground hotbed that is Turku, Finland. In 2016, they made their full-length debut through Ripple Music with Explore the Void, and they’d follow it with The Narrow Line (review here) through the same imprint in 2018. Their 2019 single, “Sweet Relief,” was tracked at the same time as the second outing and posted first to Ripple subscribers on Bandcamp before being made available to the wider public, which it still is, in name-your-price fashion, no less.

The four-piece have newly signed to Swedish imprint The Sign Records, and will release their third album later this year. They recorded with Joona Hassinen of Studio Underjord fame, who’s also mixed, and I’m left wondering if what they’ve listed as ‘V.R. Studio’ just means they did the whole thing remotely. There isn’t much info about the LP as of yet — including the title — so put that down as maybe, with more info to come presumably as we get closer to the release, slated for before the end of 2021.

To mark the occasion of the signing, the new album and all that good stuff, Craneium have a new single out today called “A Secret Garden” that you can hear at the bottom of this post, along with the stream of The Narrow Line for a refresher.

Dig:

craneium

Craneium signs to The Sign Records – launch first single “A Secret Garden” from upcoming third album

Finnish fuzz-rock outfit Craneium has signed to The Sign Records for the release of their third studio album, set for release in autumn 2021. The first single leading up to the new album is called “A Secret Garden” and is out now on all streaming platforms.

Blending dreamy, psychedelic soundscapes with crushingly heavy riffs and thick layers of fuzz, Craneium offers a varied and dynamic take on desert rock. Hailing from Turku, Finland, the band entered the scene in 2011 and have since shared stages with bands such as Mars Red Sky and Skraeckoedlan, toured Europe on a frequent basis, and released 2 studio albums on US-based Ripple Music.

Now, Craneium announces their third studio full-length. Set for release in autumn 2021, the new album showcases Craneium’s experimental and colorful characteristics, more than ever before.
The band comments:

“We’ve been working towards this for the last 2-3 years or so, we finally feel that we have captured the music in a way that we haven’t before. Our songwriting is better, the recording is better and we’ve had more time than before to really make this one our best so far! We should also say that we are so excited to work with The Sign Records, which in our books is a mark of approval for any band our there.”

The first single leading up to Craneium’s third studio album is called “A Secret Garden”. Perfectly capturing the essence of the band’s sound, the single blends massive, fuzzed-out riffs with calmer, psychedelic sections. “A Secret Garden” is out on all streaming platforms May 21.

Pre-save and pre-add it now on Spotify and Apple Music: https://orcd.co/asecretgarden

Craneium is:
Andreas Kaján – Vocals & Guitars
Martin Ahlö – Vocals & Guitars
Joel Kronqvist – Drums
Jonas Ridberg – Bass

https://www.facebook.com/craneiumband/
http://craneiumband.bandcamp.com/
https://www.instagram.com/craneiumband/
https://www.facebook.com/thesignrecords/
http://www.thesignrecords.com

Craneium, The Narrow Line (2018)

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Full Album Stream & Review: Vokonis, Odyssey

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

Vokonis Odyssey

[Click play above to stream Vokonis’ Odyssey in full. Album is out Friday on The Sign Records.]

At the core of what Vokonis bring to their fourth full-length, Odyssey, is the blossoming dual-vocal dynamic between guitarist Simon Ohlsson and bassist Jonte Johansson. As the Borås, Sweden-based three-piece have progressed across the last six years, with steady releases acting as landmarks along the way — 2016’s Olde One Ascending (review here), 2017’s The Sunken Djinn (review here) and 2019’s Grasping Time (review here) — they have brought more and more styles of heavy under the umbrella of their aesthetic, and the six-song/40-minute Odyssey is both their most ambitious and most accomplished work in that regard. From the straight-ahead charge of “Rebellion” at the outset through the post-Scorpions progressive heavy rock touched on in Johansson‘s verses in 12-minute closer “Through the Depths,” there is nothing Vokonis reach for here that they don’t subsequently grab.

Notably, Odyssey marks the debut of drummer Peter Ottosson, who joined the band prior to the release of Grasping Time (but after the recording), and finds the band’s already formidable dynamic arrangements fleshed out through the inclusion of the near-ubiquitous Per Wiberg, whose organ/keyboard expressions build melody and atmosphere not only in the most pivotal stretches of that mentioned finale, but in the earlier title-track and the penultimate “Hollow Waters” — a highlight among highlights — as well.

The vinyl edition of Odyssey separates those last two from the rest of the proceedings, and fairly enough so, as they create a kind of flow between themselves that distinguishes from the mostly shorter surroundings — the title-track, which directly follows “Rebellion” and runs nine minutes, is the exception, acting as a foreshadow of things to come — but even in its most pointed moments of attack, Odyssey finds Vokonis confident of who they are as a band and willfully pulling their songs over the borderlines between microgenres, culling from noise, post-hardcore, black metal, doom, progressive heavy rock, and whatever else suits them as they embark on a craft that is all the more their own for being inclusive of so many elements.

“Rebellion,” then, might be the band’s statement against expectation. Its Mastodonic lead riff is topped by channel-swapping shouts from Ohlsson before Johansson joins on melodic, “cleaner” vocals. The two have never sounded more complementary than they do immediately on this three-minute piece, and the screams that arrive as the song moves into its second half act as a blindside but become a crucial element in Vokonis‘ arsenal across this Odyssey, not at all overused, but enhancing more intense moments throughout and putting emphasis on breadth almost in spite of their own rawness. “Odyssey” opens with keys and is an immediately more patient turn.

vokonis

No doubt its winding initial movement will draw some Elder comparisons, but Vokonis go to someplace more pastoral across the first half, and Wiberg‘s organ backs Johansson in the song’s midsection in a way that sets the stage for a linear build over the next several minutes, a solo arriving at 6:20 born of the layered ether, shifting into higher and lower gutturalisms, and effective right unto the oh-hell-yes “blech” that follows in using extreme metal as a tool rather than a crutch — that is, not aggressive for aggression’s sake, but to add to the scope of Odyssey (and “Odyssey”) overall. Unsurprisingly, “Blackened Wings” keeps the thread going, picking up at full speed and shoving through screamed/shouted verses into a more soaring chorus, a hook emerging just in time to be swallowed by the solo that caps as the track gives way to the more moderately-paced “Azure,” which informs that “Ashes and dust will be all that remains in the end” before a final scream over guitar and organ closes out side A in righteous fashion. Seems like Vokonis might need a full-time keyboardist — or at very least a laptop — if they’re thinking of bringing this material to life at anytime soon, but as a studio work, the complexity of design the band has brought to these songs, even as barebones as their structures can be, isn’t to be ignored.

So who is Vokonis, then? Are they the rippers on “Rebellion?” The mosh-crunchers of the second half of “Hollow Waters?” The conjurors of swirl who make “Through the Depths” both live up to its title and set a new height of achievement for the band at the same time? The “duh” answer is Vokonis are all of these, and that the identity of the group as portrayed in their sound has become that much richer over time. “Hollow Waters” and “Through the Depths” should be taken on their own, even in a digital, all-at-once context. Of course, they’re consistent sound-wise with the four songs preceding, and as noted, “Odyssey” does well in prefacing the grandeur to unfold later, but even the background screams buried in the mix of “Hollow Waters” and the rumble that bounces along with the drums beneath the guitar in the first half of “Through the Depths” — thinking before the charred screams hit around the four-minute mark — are details that earn a close listen through the sheer strength of their craft.

One does not necessarily think of Vokonis as a meditative or navelgazing band, but there’s no question this material has been considered, thought through, and built with a mind toward conveying the fluidity that comes across in the end result, and it deserves all the more consideration for that. It shows that the arc of growth Vokonis enacted even from their earliest demo work had not yet peaked even on Grasping Time, and that on performance and songwriting levels, their will is to keep pushing themselves forward. May they continue to do so for the duration, because as Odyssey readily proves, they’re only more able to create something special for each prior outing. As his first recording with the band, Ottosson deserves a mention for his play and how ably he fits in style-wise, but the fact of the matter is it’s the whole band who have made Odyssey the proggy pleasure piece it is, and likewise honed the multifaceted nature of who Vokonis have become.

Vokonis, “Blackened Wings” official video

Vokonis on Thee Facebooks

Vokonis on Instagram

Vokonis on Bandcamp

The Sign Records on Thee Facebooks

The Sign Records website

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Skraeckoedlan to Release 10th Anniversary Edition of Debut Album Äppelträdet June 11

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 3rd, 2021 by JJ Koczan

skraeckoedlan

What’s being dubbed the Äppelträdet 10 årsjubileum is in any language a celebration of 10 years since Swedish progressive fuzzers Skraeckoedlan first issued their 2011 debut album, Äppelträdet (review here). The band already has streamed two of the three songs they’ve re-recorded with Swedish lyrics for the forthcoming special-release triple-vinyl-plus-other-goodies box set, and they and The Sign Records have set June 11 as the arrival date for the entire package, which also includes their two demos, posters, inner sleeve art and a lyric sheet with liner notes from the band. I wonder if those are in Swedish too? Maybe Swedish and English both?

I seem to recall June being the release time for the last of the three singles as well, and I’ve been back and forth about streaming one of the remastered demos, so we’ll see if and when that comes together later this month. Either way, Äppelträdet was a killer take on heavy fuzz when it first came out, and even as Skraeckoedlan‘s material has grown increasingly complex in the 10 years since, the debut has held its appeal without question.

Cover art and release info follow, courtesy of the PR wire:

Äppelträdet 10 årsjubileum

Äppelträdet (10th Anniversary Edition) by Skraeckoedlan

As Skraeckoedlan’s debut album “Äppelträdet” turns 10, the band is launching an anniversary vinyl box. The box is telling the story of how ”Äppelträdet” grew from early demo recordings to the 2011 album – and now into something new. The box includes a completely new, 10th-anniversary edition of ”Äppelträdet”. On this edition, the three English tracks featured on the original 2011 album have been re-recorded from scratch with Swedish lyrics. The 10th-anniversary edition of the album has been re-mastered by Magnus Lindberg (Cult of Luna).

A decade has passed since Skraeckoedlan released their debut album “Äppelträdet”, an album that reignited and marked the start of the modern Swedish stoner rock scene. Originally recorded in 2010, in Truckfighters’ Studio Bombshelter, ”Äppelträdet” has grown to become a modern classic in the genre, with the album title-track, as well as the mighty colossus ”Cactus”, being some of the band’s most widely recognized creations until this day.

”Äppelträdet”, translated into ”The Apple Tree”, was originally released with three English tracks; “Universe”, Soluppgång”, and “Doedaroedlan”. Robert Lamu, vocalist, and guitarist in Skraeckoedlan, comments:

“We thought that we might limit ourselves as a band if we only had songs in Swedish. We cowardly wrote three songs with English lyrics, because we simply did not know if it would work to play heavy, groovy rock in Swedish and still be able to get out and play around the world, something we all had as a childhood dream. It has turned out that the Swedish songs have absolutely worked even outside of Sweden. Due to our cowardly decision, we have almost never played any of these three English songs live. We want to change that.”

Celebrating their ten-year anniversary, Skraeckoedlan is re-releasing their debut album “Äppelträdet”. This time with all 10 tracks recorded in Swedish lyrics. The English tracks have been completely re-recorded from scratch with Swedish vocals, making them more fierce and distinctive sounding than ever. All tracks have been re-mastered by Cult of Luna-drummer Magnus Lindberg who’s added a new dimension to Skraeckoedlan’s unique, massive sound.

“Äppelträdet” will be released as an anniversary vinyl box on June 11 via The Sign Records. The box will be available in 500 copies and includes:

– 3 X 180g Gold-colored LPs in a black box with Gold Foil
– “Äppelträdet” (10th anniversary edition)
– “Äppelträdet” (Original)
– Demo recordings “Flykten från Tellus” and “Världarnas fall”
– 3x Inner sleeve (black with Gold Foil)
– 2x Posters (size A2)
– Lyric sheet and story from the band

“Äppelträdet” (10th anniversary edition) will be available to purchase separately. The album is released on 1000 copies of 180g clear/transparent vinyl with the new cover artwork.

“Äppelträdet” (10th anniversary edition) will be released on all streaming platforms on June 11.

The original version of “Äppelträdet” is re-released on 1000 copies of 180g clear/transparent vinyl with it’s original LP cover artwork. Released as Gatefold.

Skraeckoedlan’s debut album ”Äppelträdet” was produced by Truckfighters’ bass player Oskar Cedermalm and released on Transupstans Records in 2011. In 2015 they teamed up with Razzia/Sony for the release of their sophomore album ”Sagor”, and in 2019 they launched their third and latest studio full length, ”Eorþe”.

Skraeckoedlan:
Robert Lamu – Vocals / Guitar
Henrik Grüttner – Guitar/Vocals
Erik Berggren – Bass
Martin Larsson – Drums/Vocals

http://www.skraeckoedlan.com/
http://instagram.com/skraeckoedlan
https://www.facebook.com/SKRAECKOEDLAN/
https://www.facebook.com/thesignrecords/
http://www.thesignrecords.com

Skraeckoedlan, “Arise the Sun”

Skraeckoedlan, “Universum” official video

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Skraeckoedlan Stream “Arise the Sun” Single Marking Debut’s 10th Anniversary

Posted in Bootleg Theater on April 20th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

skraeckoedlan arise the sun

So, the original version was a Swedish title with English lyrics appearing on Skraeckoedlan‘s 2011 debut, Äppelträdet (review here). Now titled “Arise the Sun,” what was “Soluppgång” before has Swedish lyrics. Opposite the title. If you manage to keep that straight before actually listening to one song or the other, you’ll have done better than me.

Actually, it took me a little bit (before I saw the info below, obviously) to work out which song on Äppelträdet “Arise the Sun” corresponded with. If you take the roots it makes sense. “Sol” relates to sol, solar, the sun. And I know from Dutch that “utgang” is exit, so it makes sense that “uppgång” in Swedish would be relatively close to getting up, or rising. So, sunrise, basically. “Arise the Sun.” I wish I could say I was linguistically talented enough to have worked that out just reading the titles beforehand, but no. I matched the riffs. “Soluppgång” was the second track on Äppelträdet and is readily recognizable from that position in its new incarnation.

This is the second single the Borlänge four-piece have issued to celebrate the 10th anniversary of their first long-player — their most recent was 2019’s Eorþe (review here) — coming behind “Universum” which arrived in February. As I recall, this was to be a series of three, so that puts them on track for June for the last one? I guess that’ll be “Doedaroedlan,” which opened side B of the original vinyl. Here’s looking forward, whenever it arrives.

Enjoy:

Skraeckoedlan, “Arise the Sun”

“Arise the Sun” by SKRAECKOEDLAN out now!
Stream the single: https://orcd.co/arisethesun

If you’ve heard Skraeckoedlan’s 2011 debut album “Äppelträdet”, you probably recognize this massive track. “Arise the Sun” was originally released with English lyrics, with the title “Soluppgång.”

Celebrating their 10 year anniversary, Skraeckoedlan has re-recorded the track, this time with Swedish lyrics. “Arise the Sun” is mastered by Cult of Luna’s Magnus Lindberg.

Enjoy it loud, and stay tuned – More anniversary releases from Skraeckoedlan TBA!

Skraeckoedlan:
Robert Lamu – Vocals/Guitar
Henrik Grüttner – Guitar
Erik Berggren – Bass
Martin Larsson – Drums

Skraeckoedlan, “Soluppgång” from Äppelträdet (2011)

Skraeckoedlan, Eorþe (2019)

Skraeckoedlan’s website

Skraeckoedlan on Instagram

Skraeckoedlan on Thee Facebooks

The Sign Records on Thee Facebooks

The Sign Records website

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

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

quarterly-review-spring-2019

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

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

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Sonic Flower, Rides Again

sonic flower rides again

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

Sonic Flower on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds on Bandcamp

 

Demon Head, Viscera

demon head viscera

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

Demon Head on Thee Facebooks

Metal Blade Records website

 

Rakta & Deafkids, Live at Sesc Pompeia

Rakta Deafkids Live at Sesc Pompeia

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

Rakta on Thee Facebooks

Deafkids on Thee Facebooks

Rapid Eye Records website

 

Timo Ellis, Death is Everywhere

Timo Ellis Death is Everywhere

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

Timo Ellis on Thee Facebooks

Timo Ellis on Bandcamp

 

Heavy Feather, Mountain of Sugar

heavy feather mountain of sugar

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

Heavy Feather on Thee Facebooks

The Sign Records on Thee Facebooks

 

Slow Draw, Yellow & Gray

slow draw yellow and gray

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

Slow Draw on Thee Facebooks

Slow Draw on Bandcamp

 

Pilot Voyager, Nuclear Candy Bar

plot voyager nuclear candy bar

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

Pilot Voyager on Thee Facebooks

Psychedelic Source Records on Bandcamp

 

The Ginger Faye Bakers, Camaro

the ginger faye bakers camaro

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

The Ginger Faye Bakers on Thee Facebooks

The Ginger Faye Bakers on Bandcamp

 

Neromega, Nero Omega

Neromega Nero Omega

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

Neromega on Thee Facebooks

Helter Skelter Productions website

 

Tung, Bleak

TUNG BLEAK

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

Tung on Thee Facebooks

Plain Disguise Records website

 

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The Obelisk Questionnaire: Simon Ohlsson of Vokonis

Posted in Questionnaire on March 2nd, 2021 by JJ Koczan

simon ohlsson vokonis

The Obelisk Questionnaire is a series of open questions intended to give the answerer an opportunity to explore these ideas and stories from their life as deeply as they choose. Answers can be short or long, and that reveals something in itself, but the most important factor is honesty.

Based on the Proust Questionnaire, the goal over time is to show a diverse range of perspectives as those who take part bring their own points of view to answering the same questions. To see all The Obelisk Questionnaire posts, click here.

Thank you for reading and thanks to all who participate.

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Simon Ohlsson of Vokonis

How do you define what you do and how did you come to do it?

I play guitar, sing and mainly I’m a songwriter in the band Vokonis. That’s what I want to put forth the most I guess. That I write songs with my friends and are very lucky to have some people like what we do.

Describe your first musical memory.

It was probably my dad listening to Bruce Springsteen. I do not know if that’s frowned upon but I’ve been to some of his concerts as well and they’ve all been very good.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

Iggy and The Stooges a couple of years ago. I had the pleasure of being able to rush the stage during Fun House and dance next to James Williamson. Iggy is probably my biggest “rock star”. So that alone ranks it above a lot of other concerts.

When was a time when a firmly held belief was tested?

Probably around ten years ago when I lost my faith in god and religion. I was very Christian in my teens and as a lot of bad stuff happened I just couldn’t find it in myself or in the universe that god exists.

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

To happiness. I don’t want to stand still musically. I get bored very fast if I don’t feel I make progress.

How do you define success?

To love yourself. To be happy with what I do and to surround myself with good people.

What is something you have seen that you wish you hadn’t?

Most Adam Sandler movies. Grown-Ups in particular.

Describe something you haven’t created yet that you’d like to create.

A 20-minute song. That is what we set out to do with Odyssey. It turned into a more traditional album instead but I’m still happy about it.

What do you believe is the most essential function of art?

It adds spice and value to life. The fact that art isn’t appreciated in the same way by two people speaks a lot too.

Something non-musical that you’re looking forward to?

The rest of the NBA season. I’m happy to have that going even if the pandemic is still rolling.

https://www.facebook.com/OfficialVokonis/
https://www.instagram.com/vokonisofficial/
https://open.spotify.com/artist/3DZoit5R0ahZQCNLbDnNxr?si=eh0iJ7YHQQOblw_ztadm1Q
https://www.facebook.com/thesignrecords/
http://www.thesignrecords.com

Vokonis, Odyssey (2021)

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