Quarterly Review: Ocean Chief, Barnabus, Helen Money, Elder Druid, Mindcrawler, Temple of Void, Lunar Swamp, Huge Molasses Tank Explodes, Emile, Saturno Grooves

Posted in Reviews on March 27th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

I’m not saying I backloaded the Quarterly Review or anything — because I didn’t — but maybe subconsciously I wanted to throw in a few releases here I had a pretty good idea I was gonna dig beforehand. Pretty much all of them, as it turned out. Not a thing I regret happening, though, again, neither was it something I did purposefully. Anyone see A Serious Man? In this instance, I’m happy to “accept the mystery” and move on.

Before we dive into the last day, of course I want to say thank you for reading if you have been. If you’ve followed along all week or this is the only post you’ve seen or you’re just here because I tagged your band in the post on Thee Facebooks, whatever it is, it is appreciated. Thank you. Especially given the global pandemic, your time and attention is highly valued.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Ocean Chief, Den Tredje Dagen

ocean chief den tredje dagen

The first Ocean Chief record in six years is nothing if not weighted enough to make up for anything like lost time. Also the long-running Swedish outfit’s debut on Argonauta Records, Den Tredje Dagen on CD/DL runs five songs and 59 minutes, and though it’s not without a sense of melody either instrumentally or vocally — certainly its guitars have plenty enough to evoke a sense of mournfulness at least — its primary impact still stems from the sheer heft of its tonality, and its tracks are of the sort that a given reviewer might be tempted to call “slabs.” They land accordingly, the longest of them positioned as the centerpiece “Dömd” seething with slower-Celtic Frost anxiety and the utter nastiness of its intent spread across 15-plus minutes of let-me-just-go-ahead-and-crush-that-for-you where “that” is everything and “no” isn’t taken for an answer. There’s respite in closer “Den Sista Resan” and the CD-bonus “Dimension 5,” but even these maintain an atmospheric severity consistent with what precedes them. One way or another, it is all fucking destroyed.

Ocean Chief on Thee Facebooks

Argonauta Records store

 

Barnabus, Beginning to Unwind

barnabus beginning to unwind

Come ye historians and classic heavy rockers. Come, reap what Rise Above Relics has sown. Though it’s hard sometimes not to think of the Rise Above Records imprint as label-honcho Lee Dorrian (ex-Cathedral, current With the Dead) picking out highlights from his own record collection — which is the stuff of legend — neither is that in any way a problem. Barnabus, who hailed and apparently on occasion still hail from the West Midlands in the UK, issued the Beginning to Unwind in 1972 as part of an original run that ended the next year. So it goes. Past its 10-minute jammy opener/longest track (immediate points) “America,” the new issue of Beginning to Unwind includes the LP, demos, live tracks, and no doubt assorted other odds and ends as well from Barnabus‘ brief time together. Songs like “The War Drags On” and “Resolute” are the stuff of ’70s-riff daydreams, while “Don’t Cry for Me My Lady” digs into proto-prog without losing its psych-folk inflection. I’m told the CD comes with a 44-page booklet, which only furthers the true archival standard of the release.

Barnabus on Thee Facebooks

Rise Above Relics store

 

Helen Money, Atomic

helen money atomic

To those for whom Helen Money is a familiar entity, the arrival of a new full-length release will no doubt only be greeted with joy. The ongoing project of experimental cellist Alison Chesley, though the work itself — issued through Thrill Jockey as a welcome follow-up to 2016’s Become Zero (review here) — is hardly joyful. Coping with the universality of grief and notions of grieving-together with family, Chesley brings forth minimalism and electronics-inclusive stylstic reach in kind across the pulsating “Nemesis,” the periodic distortion of her core instrument jarring when it hits. She takes on a harp for “Coppe” and the effect is cinematic in a way that seems to find answer on the later “One Year One Ring,” after which follows the has-drums “Marrow,” but wherever Chesley goes on Atomic‘s 47 minutes, the overlay of mourning is never far off.

Helen Money on Thee Facebooks

Thrill Jockey Records store

 

Elder Druid, Golgotha

elder druid golgotha

Belfast dual-guitar sludge five-piece Elder Druid return with seven tracks/39 minutes of ready punishment on their second album, Golgotha, answering the anger of 2017’s Carmina Satanae with densely-packed tones and grooves topped with near-universal harsh vocals (closer “Archmage” is the exception). What they’re playing doesn’t require an overdose of invention, with their focus is so much on hammering their riffs home, and certainly the interwoven leads of the title-track present some vision of intricacy for those who might demand it while also being punched in the face, and the transitional “Sentinel,” which follows,” brings some more doomly vibes ahead of “Vincere Vel Mori,” which revives the nod, “Dreadnought” has keys as well as a drum solo, and the penultimate “Paegan Dawn of Anubis” brings in an arrangement of backing vocals, so neither are they void of variety. At the feedback-soaked end of “Archmage,” Golgotha comes across genuine in its aggression and more sure of their approach than they were even just a couple years ago.

Elder Druid on Thee Facebooks

Elder Druid on Bandcamp

 

Mindcrawler, Lost Orbiter

mindcrawler lost orbiter

I know the whole world seems like it’s in chaos right now — mostly because it is — but go ahead and quote me on this: a band does not come along in 2020 and put out a record like Lost Orbiter and not get picked up by some label if they choose to be. Among 2020’s most promising debuts, it is progressive without pretense, tonally rich and melodically engaging, marked out by a poise of songcraft that speaks to forward potential whether it’s in the coursing leads of “Drake’s Equation” or the final slowdown/speedup of “Trappist-1” that smoothly shifts into the sample at the start of closer “Dead Space.” Mindcrawler‘s first album — self-recorded, no less — is modern cosmic-heavy brought to bear in a way that strikes such a balance between the grounded and the psychedelic that it should not be ignored, even in the massively crowded international underground from which they’re emerging. And the key point there is they are emerging, and that as thoughtfully composed as the six tracks/29 minutes of Lost Orbiter are, they only represent the beginning stages of what Mindcrawler might accomplish. If there is justice left, someone will release it on vinyl.

Mindcrawler on Thee Facebook

Mindcrawler on Bandcamp

 

Temple of Void, The World That Was

Temple of Void The World that Was

Michigan doom-death five-piece Temple of Void have pushed steadily toward the latter end of that equation over their now-three full-lengths, and though The World That Was (their second offering through Shadow Kingdom) is still prone to its slower tempos and is includes the classical-guitar interlude “A Single Obulus,” that stands right before “Leave the Light Behind,” which is most certainly death metal. Not arguing with it, as to do so would surely only invite punishment. The extremity only adds to the character of Temple of Void‘s work overall, and as “Casket of Shame” seems to be at war with itself, so too is it seemingly at war with whatever manner of flesh its working so diligently to separate from the bone. Across a still-brief 37 minutes, The World That Was — which caps with its most-excellently-decayed nine-minute title-track — harnesses and realizes this grim vision, and Temple of Void declare in no uncertain terms that no matter how they might choose to tip the scale on the balance of their sound, they are its master.

Temple of Void on Thee Facebooks

Shadow Kingdom Records store

 

Lunar Swamp, Shamanic Owl

Lunar Swamp Shamanic Owl

Lunar Swamp have spawned as a blusier-directed offshoot of Italian doomers Bretus of which vocalist Mark Wolf, guitarist/bassist Machen and drummer S.M. Ghoul are members, and sure enough, their debut single “Shamanic Owl,” fosters this approach. As the band aren’t strangers to each other, it isn’t such a surprise that they’d be able to decide on a sound and make it happen their first time out but the seven-minute roller — also the leadoff their first EP, UnderMudBlues, which is due on CD in June — also finds time to work in a nod to the central riff of Sleep‘s “Dragonaut” along with its pointed worship of Black Sabbath, so neither do they seems strictly adherent to a blues foundation, despite the slide guitar that works its way in at the finish. How the rest of the EP might play out need not be a mystery — it’s out digitally now — but as far as an introduction goes, “Shamanic Owl” will find welcome among those seeking comfort in the genre-familiar.

Lunar Swamp on Thee Facebooks

Lunar Swamp on Bandcamp

 

Huge Molasses Tank Explodes, II

Huge Molasses Tank Explodes II

The nine-track/42-minute second LP, II, from Milano post-this-or-that five-piece Huge Molasses Tank Explodes certainly finds the band earning bonus points based on their moniker alone, but more than that, it is a work of reach and intricacy alike, finding the moment where New Wave emerged from out of krautrock’s fascination with synthesizer music and bring to that a psychedelic shimmer that is too vintage-feeling to be anything other than modern. It is laid back enough in its overarching affect that “The Run” feels dreamy, most especially in its guitar lines, but never is it entirely at rest, and both the centerpiece “No One” and the later “So Much to Lose” help continue the momentum that “The Run” manages so fluidly to build in a manner one might liken to space rock were the implication of strict adherence to stylistic guidelines so implicit in that categorization. They present this nuance with a natural-seeming sense of craft and in “High or Low,” a fuzzy tone that feels like only a welcome windfall. Those who can get their head around it should seek to do so, and kudos to Huge Molasses Tank Explodes for being more than just a clever name.

Huge Molasses Tank Explodes on Thee Facebooks

Retro Vox Records on Bandcamp

 

Emile, The Black Spider/Det Kollektive Selvmord

Emile The Black Spider Det Kollektive Selvmord

Set to release through Heavy Psych Sounds on the same day as the new album from his main outfit The Sonic Dawn, The Black Spider/Det Kollective Selvmord is the debut solo album from Copenhagen-based singer-songwriter and guitarist Emile Bureau, who has adopted his first name as his moniker of choice. Fair enough for the naturalism and intended intimacy of the 11-track/39-minute outing, which indeed splits itself between portions in English and in Danish, sounding likewise able to bring together sweet melodies in both. Edges of distortion in “Bundlos” and some percussion in the second half’s title-track give a semblance of arrangement to the LP, but at the core is Emile himself, his vocals and guitar, and that’s clearly the purpose behind it. Where The Sonic Dawn often boast a celebratory feel, The Black Spider/Det Kollective Selvmord is almost entirely subdued, and its expressive sensibility comes through regardless of language.

Emile on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds store

 

Saturno Grooves, Cosmic Echoes

saturno grooves cosmic echoes

Sonic restlessness! “Fire Dome” begins with a riffy rush, “Forever Zero” vibes out on low end and classic swing, the title-track feels like an Endless Boogie jam got lost in the solar system, “Celestial Tunnel” is all-thrust until it isn’t at all, “Blind Faith” is an acoustic interlude, and “Dark Matter” is a punk song. Because god damn, of course it is. It is little short of a miracle Saturno Grooves make their second album, Cosmic Echoes as remarkably cohesive as it is, yet through it all they hold fast to class and purpose alike, and from its spacious outset to its bursting finish, there isn’t a minute of Cosmic Echoes that feels like happenstance, even though they’re obviously following one impulse after the next in terms of style. Heavy (mostly) instrumentalism that works actively not to be contained. Out among the echoes, Saturno Grooves might just be finding their own wavelength.

Saturno Groove on Thee Facebooks

LSDR Records store

 

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Arbouretum, Let it All In: Water and Wind

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

Arbouretum Let it All In

In some ways, Arbouretum‘s seventh album, Let it All In, tells you what you need to know right there in the title. It is a summary of the emotional perspective of the songs and the general outlook of the aesthetic, which embraces the world around it with open eyes and a keen sense of absorption and reflection, taking in ideas and melodies, turning them into cohesive expression, and giving them back in the form of eight songs that are as widely varied and stylistically adventurous as anything guitarist/vocalist/principal songwriter David Heumann and the Baltimore-based outfit have ever done before.

Issued by Thrill Jockey, it’s an album that might strum out electric folk blues on the way to an unexpected and understated guitar-goes-wandering jam on “No Sanctuary Blues” and then just as easily put keyboardist Matthew Pierce (also woodwinds) in the lead on synth for the two-minute instrumental “Night Theme,” the songs finding union through a thematic around the natural world even when Heumann‘s voice isn’t there to tie the material together. And it’s worth noting that even as Heumann, Pierce, drummer Brian Carey, bassist Corey Allendar and percussionist/drummer David Bergander get underway in opener “How Deep it Goes” — the title of which is doubly noteworthy as Heumann‘s 2015 solo debut was Here in the Deep (review here) — Heumann shifts his approach to a higher register so that the gentle delivery to be found on the subsequent quietly marching “A Prism in Reverse” and later pieces like “Buffeted by Wind” is replaced right away by something less familiar, something new. This as well speaks to the ethic of Let it All In as a whole, which remains distinctly Arbouretum‘s own while pushing the limits of what that means.

Tracked in a return collaboration by Steve Wright at Wright Way Studios in Baltimore with mastering by Sarah Register, the album is invariably marked out by its title-track, which arrives as an unmatched sprawl topped 11 minutes and taps into motorik beats and a sense of thrust that nothing else here or in recent memory from Arbouretum comes close to matching, be it 2017’s Song of the Rose (review here), 2013’s Coming out of the Fog (review here) or 2011’s The Gathering. They’ve certainly jammed and incorporated psychedelic aspects before — “The Rise” on 2007’s Rites of Uncovering was a positive freakout — but even with the additional percussion of Mike Kehl and Mike Lowry (the former also appears on “No Sanctuary Blues”) as part of the proceedings, “Let it All In” brings a progressive sense of construction that holds to its purpose even as it moves into further reaches. It goes, in short, until it stops.

Arbouretum (photo by Patrick McQuade)

And it’s not so much about pushing to the outer limits of — what? expectation? — as it is finding a place on the borderline between celebration and exploration; a fuzzy lead that takes hold around seven minutes in does no less than dance over the central rhythm beneath it, winding its way with a sure-handed cosmic pull. And since “Let it All In” is the penultimate inclusion on the album that shares its name, and since by the time it comes around, Arbouretum have already found the pastoral serenity in a post-truth world on “How Deep it Goes,” set to the organ-inclusive warm spaciousness of “A Prism in Reverse” — reminding of precisely the kind of “heft” in which they’ve long specialized, as well as the essential role of Allendar‘s bass tone therein — pulled all the wires and laid back down on “No Sanctuary Blues,” cast the meditative space of “Night Theme,” rambled and reveled in the fuzz-folk of “Headwaters II” with particularly satisfying snare punctuation, and reclaimed the shimmer on “Buffeted by Wind,” really the only thing left to do is throw in a bit of honky-tonk and call it a day, right? Right? Because where else do you go after the 11-minute flowing space-prog epic other than the ’70s AOR saloon, graced with piano by Hans Chew and culminating in an apex further marked out by an arrangement of trumpet and flugelhorn by Dave Ballou? How could it possibly be otherwise.

Of course, it works. The sudden turn from riding-light-through-the-galaxy to “High Water Song” (note also the opening “How Deep it Goes” to the closing “High Water Song” thematic bookend) might not make sense on paper, but as Arbouretum have proved on a reliable basis before, it’s the songwriting itself that is the underlying foundation of everything they do. The difference between Let it All In and even Song of the Rose, which was by no means lacking in breadth, is simply that they go further in a broader range of directions. All of these elements have been in their sound all along, but it’s as though the band have sought to reshuffle the balance thereof and the material is intended to highlight the varying facets of their approach. But again, it works, because of songwriting. After 15-plus years, Arbouretum have no trouble in positioning the listener where they want them to be, and with an overarching sense of melodic detail in vocals and instrumentation alike, from “How Deep it Goes” onward, Let it All In serves as its own best advice.

There is no mistaking a standout moment like Heumann‘s voice ringing out the repeated lines of “No Sanctuary Blues” — the whole song seems to come to a halt and give him the space to do so, then recover as it makes its way into its jam — but whether it’s that highlight or the sweet procession of “A Prism in Reverse” or the sunshine-laced bounce of “Buffeted by Wind,” the album as an entirety earns its communion with the natural world, and maybe it is looking for a sanctuary, or some manner of escape, but there’s nothing cloying or desperate about it. It remains clearheaded for the 45-minute duration and lets the horns finish “High Water Song” in a clean, sharp, but still fluid finish, serving as one final reminder that Arbouretum are no less accomplished than they are underrated. You’ll either let it in or you won’t, but if you take the time to listen, a record like this only makes your life richer.

Arbouretum, Let it All In (2020)

Arbouretum on Thee Facebooks

Arbouretum on Bandcamp

Thrill Jockey Records on Bandcamp

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Helen Money Announces New Album Atomic out March 20; Song Streaming & European Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 28th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

helen money

Chicago-based cellist Alison Chesley will release her new album under the moniker of Helen Money on March 20 through Thrill Jockey Records. It’s the first new Helen Money album in four years since Become Zero (review here) in 2016 — though Chesley has hardly been idle in that time — and a glimpse at its atmospheric reach is being given in the streaming leadoff track “Midnight,” which will open the 11-song LP in duly cinematic fashion. Always experimental but on sure aesthetic ground, Chesley weaves layers of cello on each other to create a tense build and cascade that, as it should, only makes me want to dive into the rest of the album to follow. It would seem her work continues to defy genre and yet remain heavy in atmosphere and emotionalist intent.

Badass, in other words.

A European tour has been announced. Dates and album info, as the PR wire has it:

helen money atomic

Helen Money announces powerfully emotional new album Atomic, out Mar. 20th

Helen Money touring Europe this spring

Helen Money has announced new album Atomic, out March 20th, as well as shared the album’s intimate, expansive single “Midnight”. Composer Alison Chesley stands as one of the most unique and versatile cellists working today. Under the Helen Money moniker, Chesley uses the instrument to access and channel the extremities of human emotion, employing extensive sonic manipulation and an array of plucking and bowing techniques to summon an astonishing breadth and depth of sound. A prolific collaborator, Chesley recently transcribed and performed on Bob Mould’s Sunshine Rock has worked with the likes of Jason Roeder (Sleep/Neurosis) and Rachel Grimes (Rachel’s), and she has toured extensively with Mould, Russian Circles, Earth, Shellac, Sleep and MONO. On her new album Atomic, Chesley pushes even further out towards the extremes of her output with a daring leap forward in her songwriting through minimalist arrangements that stand as her most intimate, direct, and emotionally bare work to date.

Atomic was written during a period of transition for Chesley and her family. She explains: “After my parents passed away, we had to find new ways to be – with ourselves and each other. The whole process brought us closer together, strengthening the bonds between the three of us; between us and our friends; between us and my extended family. My sister and brother and I would often get together at my brother’s house in the Redwoods of Northern California. Being there with them, looking up at these giant trees that were there long before we were, looking up at the Milky Way, looking out at the Pacific Ocean – it just gave me a sense of perspective and how connected we all are to everything.” The experience of recalibrating herself in the world came to subconsciously inform Atomic’s searching tone, Chesley pushing her music to surprising new places, both intimate and powerfully emotional.

Helen Money – Atomic tracklist:
1. Midnight
2. Understory
3. Nemesis
4. Coil
5. Coppe
6. Something Holy
7. Brave One
8. One Year One Ring
9. Marrow
10. Redshift
11. Many Arms

Helen Money EU tour dates
May 2 – Copenhagen, DK – Vega
May 3 – Goteborg, SE – Koloni
May 5 – Prague, CZ – Klub 007
May 7 – Gdansk, PL – Drizzly Grizzly
May 8 – Poznan, PL – Pawillon
May 9 – Hranice na Morav?, CZ – Karnola
May 10 – Kosice, SK – Taba?ka Kulturfabrik
May 12 – Vienna, AT – Fluc
May 13 – Zurich, CH – Schallbeton
May 14 – Torino, IT – Blah Blah
May 15 – Lyon, FR – Le Sonic
May 17 – Lille, FR – La Malterie
May 20 – Glasgow, UK – Broadcast
May 21 – Newcastle, UK – Cluny
May 23 – London, UK – Raw Power Festival w/ Pye Corner Audio, Enablers + more
May 24 – London, UK – Raw Power Festival w/ Pye Corner Audio, Enablers + more

Pre-order Helen Money’s Atomic:
http://thrilljockey.com/products/atomic

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Helen Money, “Midnight”

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Arbouretum Stream “A Prism in Reverse”; Let it All In Due March 20

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 27th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Arbouretum (photo by Noel Conrad)

I added three albums to my budding best-of-2020 list this past weekend, and Arbouretum‘s Let it All In was one of them. The Baltimore psych-folk stalwarts will issue the follow-up to 2017’s Song of the Rose (review here) on March 20 through Thrill Jockey Records and I’m not even going to pretend I don’t love it. They bliss out motorik space rock. They dive in mellow wash. They even honky-tonk a little bit. And it’s all cool, and it’s all them. They’ve got a single streaming now called “A Prism in Reverse” — as you maybe read in the headline above — and it’s a decent lead-in to their style, but what they do is so rich here that I don’t think any one song could really do it justice.

Fanboy ranting? Most definitely. No regrets. More of that to come, I’m sure.

Art, info, preorder link and track from the PR wire:

Arbouretum Let it All In

Arbouretum announce the transportive new album Let It All In Out on March 20th

On March 20th, Arbouretum will release their transportive album Let It All In. The album’s first single “A Prism In Reverse” encapsulate’s guitarist/vocalist Dave Heumann’s deep sense of spirituality and command of storytelling through myth and metaphor. Arbouretum has always centered around Heumann’s remarkable voice and songwriting, and his skill as a vocalist and guitar player have led to playing with artists such as Cass McCombs, Will Oldham, and many others. Heumann’s songs are transportive and decidedly album-oriented, and Let It All In is an invitation to jump into an album rich with timeless elegance.

Arbouretum’s mystic folk-rock collapses a continuum of 20th century music into decidedly classic song structures. English folk, country blues, Americana and 70s psychedelia all serve as touchpoints in their singular and distinctive sound. The Baltimore-based band have perfected the craft of storytelling using the delicate interplay of melodies and prosaic lyrics to tell vivid stories that engage the listener and transport them the way an immersive novel would. Recorded at Wrightway Studios with Steve Wright and featuring guests such as Hans Chew and David Bergander, each song is a vivid scene or tale; meticulously detailed and crafted, transporting the listener to another world and time.

Listen to Let It All In single “A Prism In Reverse”: https://arbouretum.bandcamp.com/track/a-prism-in-reverse

Arbouretum – Let It All In tracklist
1. How Deep It Goes
2. A Prism In Reverse
3. No Sanctuary Blues
4. Night Theme
5. Headwaters II
6. Buffeted By Wind
7. Let It All In
8. High Water Song

Pre-order Arbouretum’s Let It All In: http://thrilljockey.com/products/let-it-all-in

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https://arbouretum.bandcamp.com/
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Quarterly Review: Dommengang, Ice Dragon, Saint Karloff, Witch Trail, Love Gang, Firebreather, Karkara, Circle of Sighs, Floral Fauna, Vvlva

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

quarterly review

We begin Day Two of the Winter 2020 Quarterly Review. Snow on the ground fell overnight and the day ahead looks as busy as ever. There’s barely time to stop for sips of coffee between records, but some allowances must be made. It’s Tuesday after all. There’s still a lot of week left. And if we can’t be kind to ourselves in the post-holiday comedown of wintry gray, when can we?

So yes, pause, sip — glug, more likely — then proceed.

I don’t usually play favorites with these things, but I think today’s might have worked out to be my favorite batch of the bunch. As always, I hope you find something that speaks to you.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Dommengang, No Keys

dommengang no keys

Driving heavy psych and rock meet with spacious Americana and a suburbanite dreaminess in Dommengang‘s No Keys, the now-L.A. trio’s follow-up to 2018’s Love Jail (review here). It is a melting pot of sound, with emphasis on melting, but vocal harmonies and consistently righteous basslines like that in “Stir the Sea” act to tie the nine component tracks together, making Dommengang‘s various washes of tone ultimately the creation of a welcoming space. Early cut “Earth Blues” follows opener “Sunny Day Flooding” with a mindful far-outbound resonance, and the later “Arcularius – Burke” finds itself in a linear building pattern ahead of “Jerusalem Cricket,” which reimagines ’70s country rock as something less about nostalgia than forward possibility. Having come far on their apparently keyboard-less journey, from the breadth-casting verses of “Stir the Sea” to the doomy interlude “Blues Rot,” they end with “Happy Death (Her Blues II)” which sure as hell sounds like it has some organ on it. Either way, whether they live up to the standard of the title or not is secondary to the album’s actual achievements, which are significant, and distinguish Dommengang from would-be peers in atmosphere, craft and melody.

Dommengang on Thee Facebooks

Thrill Jockey Records on Bandcamp

 

Ice Dragon, Passage of Mind

ice dragon passage of mind

Though they don’t do it nearly as often as they did between 2012 and 2015, every now and then Boston’s Ice Dragon manage to sneak out a new release. Over the last few years, that’s been a succession of singles, but Passage of Mind is their first LP since 2015’s A Beacon on the Barrow (review here), and though they’ll always in some part be thought of as a doom band, the unassuming organic psychedelia of “Don’t Know Much but the Road” reminds more of Chris Goss‘ work with Masters of Reality in its acoustic/fuzz blend and melody. The experimentalism-prone outfit have been down this avenue before as well, and it suits them, even as members have moved on to other projects (Brass Hearse among them), with the seven-minute “One of These Days” basing itself around willfully simplistic-sounding intertwining lines of higher and lower fuzz. There are moments of serenity, like closer “Dream About You” and “Sun in My Eyes,” but “The Sound the Rain Makes” is more of a blowout, and even the darker vibe of “Delirium’s Tears” holds hits melody as top priority. Hey guess what? Here’s an Ice Dragon album that deserves more attention than it’s gotten. I think it’s the 12th one.

Ice Dragon on Thee Facebooks

Ice Dragon on Bandcamp

 

Saint Karloff, Interstellar Voodoo

Saint Karloff Interstellar Voodoo

Oslo’s Saint Karloff squash the high standard they set for themselves on their 2018 debut, All Heed the Black God (review here), with the 41-minute single-song long-player Interstellar Voodoo, basking in bluesy Sabbathian grandeur and keeping a spirit of progressive adventuring beneath without giving over entirely to self-indulgent impulses any more than one could as they careen from one movement to the next in the multi-stage work. With vinyl through Majestic Mountain Records, tape on Stoner Witch Records and CD through Ozium Records, they’re nothing if not well represented, and rightly so, as they veer in and out of psychedelic terrain in exciting and periodically elephantine fashion, still making room for classic Scandi-folk boogie on side A before the second half of the track stomps all over everything that’s come before it en route to its own organ-laced jammy meandering, Iommi shuffle and circa-’74 howl. As a new generation of doom rock begins to take shape, Saint Karloff position themselves well as earlier pursuers of an individualist spirit while still drawing of course on classic sources of inspiration. The first record was encouraging. The second is more so. The third will be the real tell of who they are as a band.

Saint Karloff on Thee Facebooks

Majestic Mountain Records webstore

 

Witch Trail, The Sun Has Left the Hill

witch trail the sun has left the hill

The jangling guitar strum in centerpiece “Lucid” on Witch Trail‘s The Sun Has Left the Hill (Consouling Sounds) has the indelible mark of classic rock and roll freedom to it. One wonders if Pete Townshend would recognize it, or if it’s too far blasted into oblivion by the Belgian trio’s aesthetic treatment across The Sun Has Left the Hill‘s convention-challenging 29-minute span, comprising seven tracks that bring together a heavy alternative rock and post-black metal vision marked by spacious echoes and cavern screams that are likewise tortured and self-assured. That is to say, there’s no mistaking the intent here. In the early intensity of “Watcher” or the shimmering and more patiently unfolding “Silent Running,” the Ghent three-piece mark out their stylistic terrain between bursts of noisy chaotic wash and clearheaded execution. The six-minute “Afloat” hisses like a lost demo that would’ve rewritten genre history some 25 years ago, and even in closer “Residue,” one can’t help but feel like Witch Trail are indeed looking to leave some lasting effect behind them with such forward-thinking craft. Sure to be a shock for those who take it on with no idea of what to expect.

Witch Trail on Thee Facebooks

Consouling Sounds website

 

Love Gang, Dead Man’s Game

love gang dead mans game

Shortly before Love Gang are halfway through the opening title-track of their debut album, Dead Man’s Game, just when you think you might have their blend of organ-laced Radio Moscow and Motörhead figured out, that’s when Leo Muñoz breaks out the flute and the whole thing takes a turn for the unexpected. Surprises abound from the Denver foursome of Muñoz (who also handles organ and sax), guitarist/vocalist Kam Wentworth, bassist Grady O’Donnell and drummer Shaun Goodwin, who find room for psychedelic airiness amidst the gallop of “Addiction,” which doesn’t seem coincidentally paired with “Break Free,” though the two don’t run together. Love Gang‘s 2016 self-titled EP (review here) had a cleaner production and less aggro throb, and there’s some of that on Dead Man’s Game in the peaceful melody of “Interlude,” but even seven-minute closer “Endless Road” makes a point of finishing at a rush, and that’s ultimately what defines the album. No complaints. Love Gang wield momentum as another element of inventive arrangement on this encouraging first long-player.

Love Gang on Thee Facebooks

Love Gang on Thee Facebooks

 

Firebreather, Under a Blood Moon

firebreather under a blood moon

‘Tis the stuff of battle axes and severed limbs, but it’s worth noting that three of the six inclusions on Firebreather‘s second LP and first for RidingEasy Records, Under a Blood Moon, have some reference to fire in their title. The follow-up to their brazen 2017 self-titled debut (review here) starts with its longest track (immediate points) in the nine-minute “Dancing Flames,” then follows immediately with “Our Souls, They Burn” and launches side B with the eponymous “Firebreather,” as the Gothenburg trio of Mattias Nööjd, Kyle Pitcher and Axel Wittbeck launch their riffy, destructive assault with urgency that earns all that scarred land left in its wake. The High on Fire comparison remains inevitable, perhaps most of all on “Firebreather” itself, but Firebreather have grown thicker in tone, meaner in approach and do nothing to shy away from the largesse that such a sound might let them convey, as “Our Souls, They Burn” and in the volume surges of closer “The Siren.” Under a Blood Moon is a definite forward step from the first LP, showing an evolving sound and burgeoning individuality that one hopes Firebreather continue to hunt down with such vigilance.

Firebreather on Thee Facebooks

RidingEasy Records on Bandcamp

 

Karkara, Crystal Gazer

karkara crystal gazer

Presented through Stolen Body Records, the debut long-player from French trio Karkara purports to be “Oriental psych rock,” which accounts for an Eastern influence in the overall sound of its seven-track/41-minute run, but there are perhaps some geographical questions to be undertaken there, as “Camel Rider” and others show a distinctive Mideastern flair. Whatever works, I guess. At its core, Crystal Gazer is a work of psychedelic space rock, brought to bear with a duly open sensibility by guitarist/vocalist Karim Rihani (also didgeridoo), bassist Hugo Olive and drummer/vocalist Maxime Marouani as seemingly the beginning stages of a broader sonic adventure. That is to say, the stylistic aspects at play here — and they are very much “at play” — feel purposefully used, but like the foundation of what will be future growth on the part of Karkara as a unit. Will they progress along a more patient and meditative path, as “The Way” hints in some of its early roll, or will the frenetic winding of closer “Jedid” set their course for subsequent freakouts? I don’t know, but Karkara strike as a band who won’t see any point to standing still creatively any more than they do to doing so rhythmically.

Karkara on Thee Facebooks

Stolen Body Records website

 

Circle of Sighs, Desolate

circle of sighs desolate

Information is limited on Circle of Sighs, and by that I primarily mean I don’t have any. They list their point of origin as Los Angeles, so there’s that, but as to the whos and whats, wheres and so on, it’s a mystery. Something tells me that suits the band, whose four-track debut EP, Desolate, gracefully executes a blend of melodic downerism with more extreme elements at play, melodic vocal arrangements offset by screams in the closing title-track after the prior rolling groove of “Burden of the Flesh” offered a progressive and synth-laden take on Pallbearer-style emotive doom. Acoustics, keyboard, and a clear use of multiple singers give Circle of Sighs‘ first outing a kitchen-sink feel, but one can only admire them for trying something new at their (presumed) outset, and the catchy chug of “Hold Me, Lucifer” speaks to more complex aesthetic origins than the simplistic subject matter might lead one to believe. The outlier is the penultimate nine-minute cut “Kukeri,” which broods across its first three minutes in a manner that would make Patrick Walker proud before unfolding the breadth of its lumber and arrangement, harmonies and screams and the first real showcase of more extreme impulses taking hold in its second half — plus strings, maybe — which “Desolate” itself will build upon after a bookending acoustic close. There’s some sorting out to do in terms of sound, but already they show a readiness to push in their own direction, and that’s more than it would seem reasonable to ask.

Circle of Sighs on Thee Facebooks

Circle of Sighs on Bandcamp

 

Floral Fauna, Pink and Blue

floral fauna pink and blue

Way out west, Chris Allison of the band Lord Loud is taking on psychedelic shimmer under the ostensible solo moniker of Floral Fauna, but the situation of the project’s 11-tracker debut LP, Pink and Blue is more complicated in personnel and style than that, melding fuzzy presence, classic ’60s surf-tone, rampant hooky melody and ready-to-go-anywhere-as-long-as-it-works pop experimentalism together in a steaming lysergic cauldron of neo-yourface-ism that’s ether blissed enough to tie funk and ancient R&B to cosmic flow together in a manner that feels like an utter tossoff, like, hey, yeah man, this kind of thing just happens all the time here. You know, no big deal on this wavelength. Mellow dreams in “Great White Silence,” a spacey ramble in “Velvet and Jade” and the echoing leadwork of “Red Anxiety” continue the color theme from the opening title-track, and the record caps with “Herds of Jellyfish,” which at last brings forward the vocal harmony that the whole album seems to have been begging for. Cool debut? Shit, man. It’s 36 minutes of straight-up psych joy just waiting to bring you on board. Legal psilocybin now.

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King Volume Records on Bandcamp

 

Vvlva, Silhouettes

vvlva silhouettes

There are a couple things you can figure on in this wacky universe, and one of them is that German imprint World in Sound knows what it’s doing when it picks up a classic heavy rock band. Silhouettes is the second long-player the label has released from woefully-monikered Aschaffenburg-based four-piece Vvlva, and indeed in the upfront boogie of “Cosmic Pilgrim” or the more progressive unfolding of pieces like “Tales Told by a Gray Man,” the centerpiece “Gomorrah,” or the longer “Night by Night/The Choir” and “Dance of the Heathens,” which seem to bring the two sides together, there’s enough vintage influence to make the case once again. Like the more forward thinking of their contemporaries, Vvlva have brought this modus into the present when it comes to production value and clarity, and rather than sound like it’s 1973, they would seem to be making 1973 sound like them. Whether one dives in for the early hooks in “Cosmic Pilgrim” or “What Do I Stand For?” or the fuzzy interplay between the solo and organ in the maddeningly bouncing “Hobos,” there’s plenty in Silhouettes to demonstrate the vitality and continued evolution of the style.

Vvlva on Thee Facebooks

World in Sound website

 

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White Hills Post “Automated City” Video Ahead of European Tour

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 23rd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

white hills

I believe that if you go back and check the Official Bureau of Records on Such Things, the central thesis of my last post about New York’s White Hills was that nobody has any idea what they’re doing and that people who pretend otherwise are full of crap. It was something like that, anyhow. Or if not, that’s what it should’ve been. Whatever. In support of this argument I may or may not have been making — I don’t have the funds to file a 27B/6 request with the Official Bureau to check the record and find out — I humbly offer the band’s new video for “Automated City,” which they’ve newly posted ahead of the European tour on which they’ll embark next month.

“Band releasing a new video ahead of a tour,” you say. “Not much weird about that.” Correct. However. Check out the track itself before you fully assess. Yeah, you’ll hear some krautrock vibes in there as well as intangibles like the legacy of New York’s noisemaking experimentalist scene such as it was before Thurston and Kim got divorced, and you’ll hear any number of things all coming together as White Hills, but isn’t that the point? Put a tag on that. Call it something other than the band’s name. Double-dog dare you. As I know I said last time, verbatim: “Good fucking luck.”

And once you’ve accomplished that task, I’ll gladly set you on figuring out what might lead White Hills to make a video for a song from 2015’s Walks for Motorists rather than their latest LP, 2017’s Stop Mute Defeat, or maybe even something new they’re working on from their next album in progress.

And once you’ve accomplished that task, I’ll leave you to the video itself, put together by the band’s own Ego Sensation, and looking like something out of a Hitchcock opening credits sequence.

Have fun:

White Hills, “Automated City” official video

White Hills present “Automated City”, a noir vignette shot and constructed by Ego Sensation. Inspired by noir films of the 1940s and the avant-garde stage theater of American director and playwright Robert Wilson, the video traverses a shadowy dream world of shifting perspective. A firm fan favourite, the song is from the band’s 2015 album Walks For Motorists, produced by David Wrench, best known for his work with Goldfrapp, Caribou and FKA Twigs as well as with his own synth-duo audiobooks.

White Hills are currently in the studio working on a new album with Jeff Berner (Psychic TV) at Studio G in Brooklyn featuring a slew of unique collaborators including; Jim Jarmusch (Filmmaker & Musician), Yasmine Hamden (singer-songwriter who also appears in Jarmusch’s “Only Lovers Left Alive”), Simone Marie Butler (bassist with Primal Scream), Jim Coleman (Cop Shoot Cop) and Alex Macarte (GNOD).

White Hills – Buy The Ticket Take The Ride EU tour 2019 Dates:
14/11 CH Bern Spinnerei
15/11 ITA Busto Arsizio Circolo Gagarin (with Martin Bisi)
16/11 ITA Roma Roma Psych Fest
17/11 ITA Loreto Reasonanz (with Martin Bisi)
18/11 ITA Perugia T-Trane
19/11 ITA Torino BlahBlah
20/11 ITA Padova Nadir
21/11 ITA Ravenna Transmission Festival (with Martin Bisi)
22/11 ITA Ravenna Transmission Festival
23/11 AT Salzburg Dome of Rock Festival
24/11 DE Karlsruhe Alte Hackerei
25/11 DE Leipzig Nato
26/11 DE Berlin Urban Spree (with Martin Bisi)
27/11 SWE Malmo Plan B
28/11 SWE Gothenborg Musikenhus
29/11 DK Copenhagen BASEMENT
30/11 DE Munster Rare Guitar
1/12 NL Den Bosch W2 Poppodium
2/12 BE Bruxelles Mag 4 (with Martin Bisi)
3/12 FRA Paris Supersonic

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White Hills on Bandcamp

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Dommengang Touring East Coast with Dead Meadow; No Keys out May 17

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 26th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

dommengang (Photo by Christie Maclean)

If you haven’t yet told two friends about the badassery of Los Angeles three-piece Dommengang, now would be a good time. They’ve got a new record out next month called No Keys to follow-up on early 2018’s Love Jail (review here), with two new songs currently streaming — player below — and an upcoming East Coast tour alongside fuzzgaze mavens Dead Meadow that hits a few spots in the Northeast before jutting up into Canada and looping back through the Midwest en route home. It’s not the longest tour ever, but that’s all the more reason to show up, quite frankly.

Album is available for preorder, as the PR wire informs:

dommengang no keys

Dommengang touring the East Coast this spring with Dead Meadow

Dommengang’s No Keys out May 17th

A few short weeks ahead of the release of their new album No Keys, Dommengang have announced a tour throughout the U.S. east coast with Dead Meadow in June. Dommengang’s No Keys (out May 17th) channels the wailing, psych-rock abandon of their previous work into a lean, dark-edged record, colored by shared personal loss. Recorded with guitarist and engineer Tim Green (Joanna Newsom, Howlin’ Rain, Sleepy Sun, Fresh and Onlys, Golden Void), the album capture’s the trio’s spontaneous energy and restless spirit.

Dommengang’s spiritual home of LA makes its mark on No Keys. The songs are fit for the late-night drive into the California desert, a real and metaphorical escape for a rootless band always searching for a balance between the city and the rougher expanses of nature. It speaks to the explorer, and to the abandon of those willing to go all in. It is for the rocker giving it all, living out of a van, without a key to a permanent home.

Tracklisting:
1. Sunny Day Flooding
2. Earth Blues
3. Wild Wash
4. Stir The Sea
5. Blues Rot
6. Kudzu
7. Arcularius – Burke
8. Jerusalem Cricket
9. Happy Death (Her Blues II)

Dommengang tour dates:
May 16 – Long Beach, CA – Good Bar
May 17 – Los Angeles, CA – Zebulon
May 18 – Oceanside, CA – Pour House
May 19 – Landers, CA – Landers Brew
Jun. 5 – Washington, DC – Black Cat *
Jun. 6 – Philadelphia, PA – Underground Arts *
Jun. 7 – Brooklyn, NY – Bell House *
Jun. 8 – Boston, MA – Sonia *
Jun. 9 – Montreal, QC – Bar Le Ritz PDB *
Jun. 10 – Toronto, ON – Velvet Underground *
Jun. 12 – Cleveland, OH – Beachland Ballroom *
Jun. 13 – Chicago, IL – Empty Bottle *
* w/ Dead Meadow

Pre-order Dommengang’s No Keys:
https://thrilljockey.com/products/no-keys

https://www.facebook.com/dommengang/
https://dommengang.bandcamp.com/
http://www.thrilljockey.com/thrill/Dommengang/

Dommengang, No Keys

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Quarterly Review: Sumac, Cortez & Wasted Theory, Thunder Horse, The Howling Eye, Grime, URSA, Earthling Society, Bismarck, Grand Reunion, Pledge

Posted in Reviews on December 7th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review

As we land on what would otherwise be the end of a Quarterly Review — day 5, hitting the standard 50 records across the span of a week that this time we’re doubling with another 50 next week — it occurs to me not how much 100 albums is, but how much it isn’t. I mean, it’s a lot, don’t get me wrong. I’ve been sitting and writing about 10 records every day this week. I know how much that is. But it’s astounding to me just how much more there is. With the emails I get from people looking for reviews, discs sent in the mail, the messages on Facebook and everything else, I could do another 100, easy.

Well, maybe not ‘easy,’ but it would be full.

Is it a new golden age of heavy? 45 years from now are rockers going to look back and say, “Hell yeah, from like 2012-2019 was where it’s at,” all wistful like they do now for the ’70s? Will the Heavy ’10s be a retro style? I don’t know. But if it was going to happen, there would certainly be enough of an archive to fuel it. I do my best to cover as much as I can, but sometimes I feel like we barely crack the surface. With 100 records.

That said, time’s a-wasting.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Sumac, Love in Shadow

sumac love in shadow

What are Sumac if not the most vital and highest profile atmospheric metal act out there today? With Aaron Turner (Isis, etc.) on guitar/vocals, Brian Cook (Russian Circles) on bass and Nick Yacyshyn (Baptists) on drums, they qualify easily as a supergroup, and yet their third album, Love in Shadow (on Thrill Jockey), is still more about creative growth and the exploration of sound than anything else. Certainly more than ego — and if it was a self-indulgent exercise, it’d probably still be pretty good, frankly. As it stands, the four massive tracks through which Sumac follow-up 2016’s What One Becomes (review here) and their 2015 debut, The Deal (review here), refine the sound Sumac has developed over the past three years-plus into a sprawling and passion-driven sprawl that’s encompassing in scope, challenging in its noise quotient, and in utter refusal to not progress in its approach. And when Sumac move forward, as they do here, they seem to bring the entire aesthetic with them.

Sumac on Thee Facebooks

Thrill Jockey Records on Bandcamp

 

Cortez & Wasted Theory, The Second Coming of Heavy: Chapter Nine

cortez wasted theory second coming of heavy ch 9

Ripple Music‘s split series The Second Coming of Heavy hits its ninth chapter in bringing together Boston’s Cortez and Delaware’s Wasted Theory, and neither band fails to live up to the occasion. Cortez‘s range only seems to grow each time they hit the studio — vocalist Matt Harrington makes easy highlights of the opener and longest track (immediate points) “The Firmament” and the echo-laden “Close” — and Wasted Theory‘s “Ditchpig,” “Abominatrix,” “Baptized in Gasoline” and “Heresy Dealer” are so saturated with whiskey it might as well be coming out of their pores. It’s a decidedly North/South release, with Cortez rolling straightforward New England heavy rock through “Fog of Whores” and the Deep Purple cover “Stormbringer” while Wasted Theory dig with all good speed into a grit that’s more and more become their own with time, but there’s a shared penchant for hooks and groove between the two acts that draws them together, and whatever aspects they may or may not share are ultimately trumped by that. As Ripple starts to wind down the series, they continue to highlight some of the finest in heavy that the underground has to offer. One would expect no less.

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Wasted Theory on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

 

Thunder Horse, Thunder Horse

thunder horse thunder horse

There’s an unmistakable sense of presence throughout Thunder Horse‘s six-song/43-minute self-titled debut that undercuts the notion of it as being the San Antonio four-piece’s first album. With professionalism and a firm sense of what they want to be as a band, the Texans liberally sprinkle samples throughout their material and hone a professional sound built around massive riffs and even-more-massive lumbering grooves. Indeed, they’re not strangers to each other, as three-fourths of the group — guitarist/vocalists Stephen Bishop, guitarist/sampler T.C. Connally and drummer Jason West — double in the more industrial-minded Pitbull Daycare, whose debut LP came out in 1997. Completed by bassist/vocalist Dave Crow, Thunder Horse successfully cross the genre threshold and are well comfortable in longer cuts like “Liber ad Christ Milites Templi” and “This is the End,” both of which top nine minutes, and shorter pieces like the rocking “Demons Speak” and the shimmering finale “Pray for Rain.” With “Coming Home” and the sneering “Blood Ritual” at the outset, Thunder Horse pulls listener quickly toward dark atmospheres and flourishes amid the weighted tones therein.

Thunder Horse on Thee Facebooks

Thunder Horse on Bandcamp

 

The Howling Eye, Sonorous

the howling eye sonorous

Poland’s The Howling Eye make a lengthy long-player debut with Sonorous, but more important than the reach of their runtimes — closer “Weedblazer” tops 16 minutes, the earlier “Reflections” hits 12, etc. — the reach of the actual material. The common pattern has been that psychedelic jamming and doom are two distinct things, but The Howling Eye tap into a cosmic interpretation of rolling riffs and push it with an open spirit far into the ether of spontaneous creation. It’s a blend that a group would seem to need to be cautious to wield, lest the whole notion fall flat, but with the assurance of marked chemistry behind them, the Bydgoszcz-based trio of drummer/sometimes vocalist Hubert “Cebula” Lewandowski (also harmonica where applicable), guitarist Jan Chojnowski and bassist Mi?osz Wojciechowski boldly shift from the more structured beginnings of the funky “Kairos” and the aggro beginning “Stranded” into an outward push that’s ambient, psychedelic and naturalistic all at once, with room left over for more funk and even some rockabilly on “The Potion.” It is not a minor conglomeration, but it works.

The Howling Eye on Thee Facebooks

The Howling Eye on Bandcamp

 

Grime, What Have We Become

grime what have we become

Their roots in metal, North Dakota trio Grime — not to be confused with the Italian sludge outfit of the same name — unleash their first full-length in the form of What Have We Become, an ambitious 51-minute offering of progressive heavy rock marked by thoughtful lyrics and fluid songwriting made all the more so by the shared vocals of bassist Andrew Wickenheiser and guitarist Nick Jensen, who together with drummer Tim Gray (who would seem to have been replaced by Cale Mogard) effect a classic feel through “Alone in the Dark” while chugging and winding through the not-a-cover “Hand of Doom” with some harsher vocals peppered in for good measure. Seven-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Through the Eye” sets a broad tone that the rest of the record seems to build on, with the penultimate “Sunshine” delivering the title line ahead of the grittier closer “The Constant Grind,” which seems to payoff everything before it with a final explosion before a big rock finish. They’ll need to decide whether their sound will ultimately tighten up or loosen over time, but for now, what they’ve become is a band with a solid foundation to grow from.

Grime on Thee Facebooks

Grime on Bandcamp

 

URSA, Abyss Between the Stars

ursa abyss between the stars

Modern doom meets a swath of metallic influences on URSA‘s full-length debut, Abyss Between the Stars (on Blood Music), as members of Petaluma, California’s Cormorant take on such classic themes as wizards, dragons, yetis, witches, a spider king, mountains, and… actually, yeah, that covers the six included tracks on the 46-minute LP, which shifts gracefully between epic fantasy doom and darker, soemtimes more extreme fare. It’s easy enough to put URSA in the narrative of a band started — circa 2016 — around a central idea, rather than just dudes picking up instruments and seeing what happened next. Not just because bassist/vocalist Matt Solis, guitarist/keyboardist Nick Cohon and drummer Brennan Kunkel were already three-quarters of another band, but because of the purposefulness with which they approach their subject matter and the cohesion in all facets of their approach. They may be exploring new ground here, but they’re doing so on sure footing, and that comes not only from their experience playing together, but from knowing exactly where they want to be in terms of sound. I would not be surprised if that sound adopted more post-Candlemass grandeur with time — one can hear that burgeoning in “Serengeti Yeti” — but whatever direction they want to go, their debut will only help them on that path.

URSA on Thee Facebooks

Blood Music website

 

Earthling Society, MO – The Demon

earthling society mo the demon

Look, if you can’t get down with a bunch of freaks like Earthling Society tapping into the lysergic fabric of the cosmos to come up with an unsolicited soundtrack to a Hong Kong martial arts movie, I just don’t know what to tell you. Issued by Riot Season, the seven-track MO – The Demon is reportedly the end of the band’s technicolor daydream, and as they crash their plane into the side of “Mountains of Bliss” and hone space rock obliteration throughout “Super Holy Monk Defeats the Black Magic Mothafucker,” their particular experimentalist charm and go-anywhere-anytime sensibility demonstrates plainly exactly why it will be missed. There’s a sharp high-pitched tone at the start of opener “Theme from MO – The Demon” that’s actually pretty abrasive, but by the time they’re through the kosmiche laser assault in “Spring Snow” and the let’s-be-flower-children-until-it’s-time-to-freak-the-fuck-out throb of closer “Jetina Grove,” that is but a distant memory. So is consciousness. Fare thee well, Earthling Society. You were a band who only sought to make sense to yourselves, and for that, were all the more commendable.

Earthling Society on Thee Facebooks

Riot Season Records on Bandcamp

 

Bismarck, Urkraft

bismarck urkraft

Norwegian five-piece Bismarck bring spaciousness to doom riffing on their debut album, Urkraft, which is constructed of five molten tracks for a 34-minute totality that seems much broader than the time it takes to listen. Vocals are growls and shouts across a cosmic stretch of tone, giving a somewhat aggressive pulse to heavier psychedelic soundscaping, but a bouncing rhythm behind “A Golden Throne” assures the song is accessible one way or the other. The 10-minute “Vril-Ya” is naturally where they range the farthest, but the Bergen outfit even there seem to be playing by a set of aesthetic principles that includes maintaining a grounded groove no matter how spaced they might otherwise get. Rolling riffs bookend in opener “Harbinger” and closer “The Usher,” as “A Golden Throne,” playing-to-both-sides centerpiece “Iron Kingdom” and the subsequent “Vril-Ya” explore atmospheres that remain resonant despite the low end weight that seems to chug out beneath them. The mix by Chris Fielding at Skyhammer (who also co-engineered) doesn’t hurt in crafting their largesse, but something tells me Urkraft was going to sound big no matter what.

Bismarck on Thee Facebooks

Apollon Records website

 

Grand Reunion, In the Station

grand reunion in the station

In the Station doesn’t seem like anything too fancy at first. It’s produced cleanly, but not in any kind of overblown fashion, and Grand Reunion‘s songwriting is so solid that, especially the first time through their eight-track debut LP, it’s easy to say, “Okay, that’s another cool hook,” and not notice subtleties like when the organs turn to keyboard synth between opener “Eres Tan Serpiente” and second cut “Gordon Shumway,” or to miss the Latin percussion that Javier Tapia adds to Manuel Yañez‘s drumming, or the ways that guitarist Christian Spencer, keyboardist Pablo Saveedra, bassist Mario Rodríguez and Tapia work to complement guitarist Cristóbal Pacheco on vocals. But all of that is happening, and as they make their way toward and through the eight-minute fuzzer “Band Band the Headbang,” through the soaring “Weedow” and into the acoustic-led closer “It’s Alright,” the character and maturity in Grand Reunion‘s songwriting shows itself more and more, inviting multiple listens in the most natural fashion possible: by making you want to hear it again.

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Grand Reunion on Bandcamp

 

Pledge, Resilience

pledge resilience

16 minutes of scathing post-hardcore/sludge from Portuguese four-piece Pledge, who are in and out of their Resilience EP with a clean break and a windmill kick to the face. The newcomers lack nothing for ferocity, and with the throat-searing screams of Sofia M.L. out in front of the mix, violent intentions are unmistakable. “Profer Lumen Caecis,” “The Great Inbetweeness,” “Doom and Redemption” and “The Peter, the Wolf” nonetheless have groove built on varying degrees of extremity and angularity, with Vítor Vaz‘s bass maintaining a steady presence alongside the guitar of Hugo Martins and Filipe Romariz‘s drumming, frenetic as it sometimes is. I wouldn’t say things calm down in “The Peter, the Wolf” so much as the boiling seems to take place beneath the surface, waiting for a time to burst out, which it eventually does, but either way, for all its harsher aspects, Pledge‘s material isn’t at all void of engagement. It does, however, state the requirement right there on the front cover.

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Pledge on Bandcamp

 

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