Sumac to Release The Healer June 21; West Coast Tour Announced & Single Streaming

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 5th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

SUMAC (Photo by Nate Newton)

In the interest of honesty, I’ll tell you I’ve felt like I missed the boat on Sumac pretty much since their debut, The Deal (review here), came out in 2015, and now as they make public the first single from their four-song 2LP fifth album, The Healer, with all due ethereal presence amid its early, chugging post-metallic march, it’s much the same. I won’t deny the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Aaron Turner (ex-Isis, Mammifer, House of Low Culture, etc.), bassist Brian Cook (Russian Circles, Botch, ex-These Arms are Snakes, etc.) and drummer Nick Yacyshyn (Baptists, Genghis Tron, etc.) were a force to behold on stage when I was lucky enough to see them in 2019, and I won’t deny that they have an individualized creative breadth of their own that’s vast enough to justify their not being called a supergroup despite the pedigree in parentheses above — you can hear it in the 12-minute course of “Yellow Dawn,” to be sure — I’ve just never managed to get all the way on board with the hype as I probably should have considering who these guys are and the work they’ve done in this band.

A personal failing, then. The American branch of the style in which Sumac loosely reside — post-metal, though there’s plenty of harsh noise in “Yellow Dawn” too if you want to go by genre elements, never mind the angular crush that resolves the lead single’s 12 minutes — could use a new figurehead. Maybe it’s these guys, though their ambitions or at least the framing of the promotion around them have always come across as less adherent to categorization. I don’t know. They’re touring. They’ll probably tour more than this. Fair enough.

The Healer is out June 21 on Thrill Jockey, who sent the following down the PR wire:

sumac the healer

SUMAC announce new album The Healer, out Jun. 21st; share new track “Yellow Dawn”

Pre-order SUMAC’s The Healer:

SUMAC, the Northwest-based trio SUMAC consisting of guitarist/vocalist Aaron Turner, bassist Brian Cook, and drummer Nick Yacyshyn have announced their new album The Healer, out on June 21st on 2xLP. Alongside the album’s announcement, the trio have shared the single “Yellow Dawn,” an epic that churns meditative organ by Faith Coloccia into a glacial stomp that the band obliterates into swirls of airtight riffing and untethered, intoxicating improvisations.

On The Healer, recorded and mixed by Scott Evans (Kowloon Walled City, Thrice, Great Falls, Autopsy), SUMAC deepens its multi-faceted exploration into the parallel experiences of creation and destruction. Over the course of 4 tracks in 76 minutes, SUMAC presents a sequence of shifting movements which undergo a constant process of expansion, contraction, corruption and regrowth.

This musical methodology reflects the thematic nature of the record – narratives of experiential wounding as gateways to empowerment and evolution, both individual and collective. The group’s interpolation of melody, drone, improvisation, and complex riffing becomes a transmogrifying act embodying the depth of human experience. In its highest aspiration it mirrors our ability to endure mortal and spiritual challenges, through which we may emerge with an increased capacity for understanding, empathy, love of self and others. Dismal though the subterranean pits of The Healer may at first appear, from them can be felt the unwavering determination to embrace life, acknowledge interdependence, and honor the gift of existence.

SUMAC – The Healer tracklist:
1. World of Light
2. Yellow Dawn
3. New Rites
4. The Stone’s Turn

In support of the release of The Healer, SUMAC will be touring throughout North America, including a set at the Vancouver International Jazz Festival alongside Moor Mother, whom they recently recorded with.

SUMAC tour dates
Jun. 21 – Vancouver, BC – Fortune Sound Club (Vancouver International Jazz Fest) ^
Jun. 22 – Seattle, WA – Clock-Out Lounge #
Jun. 23 – Portland, OR – Mississippi Studios #
Jun. 25 – Chico, CA – Naked Lounge Coffee #
Jun. 26 – San Francisco, CA – Bottom of the Hill #
Jun. 27 – Oxnard, CA – Mrs. Olson’s #
Jun. 28 – Los Angeles, CA – Zebulon *
Jun. 29 – Los Angeles, CA – 2220 Arts + Archives ~
Jun. 30 – Las Vegas, NV – Backstage Bar & Billiards %
Jul. 1 – Reno, NV – Holland Project %
^ w/ Moor Mother
# w/ White Boy Scream, Grave Infestation
* w/ White Boy Scream, Sulfuric Cautery
~ w/ Zachary Watkins, White Boy Scream

Sumac, The Healer (2024)

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Quarterly Review: Dommengang, Ryan Kent, 1782, Seum, Old Mine Universe, Saint Karloff, Astral Sleep, Devoidov, Wolfnaut, Fuzz Voyage

Posted in Reviews on April 18th, 2023 by JJ Koczan


So here we are. A fascinating and varied trip this has been, and while I’m tempted to find some greater meaning in it as regards the ongoing evolution of genre(s) in heavy underground music, the truth is that the overarching message is really that it’s impossible to keep up with that complexity as it unfolds. Hitting 70 releases on this last day with another 50 to come in a couple weeks, I feel like there’s just so much out there right now, and that that is the primary signifier of the current era.

Whether it’s pandemic-born projects or redirects, or long-established artists making welcome returns, or who knows what from who knows where, the world is brimming with creativity and is pushing the bounds of heavy with like-proportioned force and intent. This hasn’t always been easy to write, but as I look at the lineup below of the final-for-now installment of the QR, I’m just happy to be alive. Thanks for reading. I hope you have also found something that resonates.

Quarterly Review #61-70:

Dommengang, Wished Eye

Dommengang Wished Eye

A fourth full-length from Dommengang — are they in L.A. now? Portland, Oregon? does it matter? — neatly encapsulates the heavy psychedelic scope and the organic-vibing reach that stands them out from the pack, as somehow throughout the nine songs of Wished Eye, the Thrill Jockey denizen trio are able to inhabit a style that’s the Americana pastoral wakeup of “Runaway,” the hill-howling “Society Blues,” the drift-fuzz of over solid drums of “Last Card,” the dense tube-burning Hendrixism of “Myth Time,” and the minimalist guitar of “Little Beirut.” And oh, it keeps going; each track contributing something to the lush-but-natural spirit of the whole work. “Blue & Peaceful” brings acoustics to its midsection jam, while “Petrichor” is the West Coast freedom rock you’ve been waiting for, the title-track goes inland for nighttime desertscaping that finishes in hypnotic loops on a likewise hypnotic fade, and “Flower” proves to be more vine, winding its way around the lead guitar line as the vocals leave off with a highlight performance prior a fire-blues solo that finishes the record as the amps continue to scream. Undervalued? Why yes, Dommengang are, and Wished Eye makes the argument in plain language. With a sonic persona able to draw from country, blues, psych, indie, doom, fuzz, on and on, they’ve never sounded so untethered to genre, and it wasn’t exactly holding them back in the first place.

Dommengang on Facebook

Thrill Jockey website


Ryan Kent, Dying Comes With Age

ryan kent dying comes with age

Formerly the frontman of Richmond, Virginia, sludgers Gritter, Ryan Kent — who already has several books of poetry on his CV — casts himself through Dying Comes With Age as a kind of spoken word ringmaster, and he’s brought plenty of friends along to help the cause. The readings in the title-track, “Son of a Bitch” and the title-track and “Couch Time” are semi-spoken, semi-sung, and the likes of Laura Pleasants (The Discussion, ex-Kylesa) lends backing vocals to the former while Jimmy Bower (Down, EyeHateGod) complements with a low-key fuzzy bounce. I’ll admit to hoping the version of “My Blue Heaven” featuring Windhand‘s Dorthia Cottrell was a take on the standard, but it’s plenty sad regardless and her voice stands alone as though Kent realized it was best to just give her the space and let it be its own thing on the record. Mike IX Williams of EyeHateGod is also on his own (without music behind) to close out with the brief “Cigarettes Roll Away the Time,” and Eugene S. Robinson of Oxbow/Buñuel recounting an homage apparently to Kent‘s grandfather highlights the numb feeling of so many during the pandemic era. Some light misogyny there and in “Message From Someone Going Somewhere With Someone Else Who is Going Somewhere” feels almost performative, pursuing some literary concept of edge, but the aural collage and per-song atmosphere assure Dying Comes With Age never lingers anywhere too long, and you can smell the cigarettes just by listening, so be ready with the Febreze.

Ryan Kent on Bandcamp

Rare Bird Books website


1782, Clamor Luciferi

1782 Clamor Luciferi

The first hook on Clamor Luciferi, in post-intro leadoff “Succubus,” informs that “Your god is poison” amid a gravitationally significant wall of low-end buzzfuzz, so one would call it business as usual for Sardinian lurch-doomers 1782, who answer 2021’s From the Graveyard (review here) with another potent collection of horror-infused live resin audibles. Running eight songs and 39-minutes, one would still say the trio are in the post-Monolord camp in terms of riffs and grooves, but they’ve grown more obscure in sound over time, and the murk in so much of Clamor Luciferi is all the more palpable for the way in which the guitar solo late in “Devil’s Blood” cuts through it with such clarity. Immediacy suits them on “River of Sins” just before, but one would hardly fault “Black Rites” or the buried-the-vocals-even-deeper closer “Death Ceremony” for taking their time considering that’s kind of the point. Well, that and the tones and grit of “Demons,” anyhow. Three records in, 1782 continue and odd-year release pattern and showcase the individual take on familiar cultism and lumber that’s made their work to-date a joy to follow despite its sundry outward miseries. Clamor Luciferi keeps the thread going, which is a compliment in their case.

1782 on Facebook

Heavy Psych Sounds website


Seum, Double Double

SEUM Double Double

What Seum might be seen to lack in guitar, they more than make up in disgust. The Montreal trio — vocalist Gaspard, bassist Piotr, drummer Fred — offer a mostly-hateful 32-minute low-end mudslide on their second album, Double Double, the disaffection leaking like an oily discharge from the speakers in “Torpedo” and “Snow Bird” even before “Dog Days” lyrically takes on the heavy underground and “Dollarama” sees the emptiness in being surrounded by bullshit. For as caustic as it largely is, “Torpedo” dares a bit of dirt-caked melody in the vocals — also a backing layer in the somehow-catchy “Razorblade Rainbow” and the closing title-track has a cleaner shout — and the bass veers into funkier grooves at will, as on “Dog Days,” the winding second half of “Snow Bird,” where the bassline bookending the six-minute “Seum Noir” reminds a bit of Suplecs‘ “White Devil” in its fuzz and feels appropriate in that. Shades of Bongzilla persist, as they will with a scream like that, but like their impressive 2021 debut, Winterized (review here), Seum are able to make the big tones move when they need to, to the point that “Dollarama” brings to memory the glory days of Dopefight‘s over-the-top assault. Righteous and filthy.

Seum on Facebook

Electric Spark Records website


Old Mine Universe, This Vast Array

Old Mine Universe This Vast Array

Clearheaded desert-style heavy rock is the thread running through Old Mine Universe‘s debut album, This Vast Array, but with a bit of blues in “No Man’s Mesa” after the proggy flourish of guitar in “Gates of the Red Planet” and the grander, keyboardy unfolding of “My Shadow Devours” and the eight-minute, multi-movement, ends-with-cello finale “Cold Stream Guards,” it becomes clear the Canadian/Brazilian/Chilean five-piece aren’t necessarily looking to limit themselves on their first release. Marked by a strong performance from vocalist Chris Pew — whom others have likened to Ian Astbury and Glenn Danzig; I might add a likeness to some of Jim Healey‘s belting-it-out there as well, if not necessarily an influence — the songs are traditionally structured but move into a jammier feel on the loose “The Duster” and add studio details like the piano line in the second half of “Sixes and Sirens” that showcase depth as well as a solid foundation. At 10 songs/47 minutes, it’s not a minor undertaking for a band’s first record, but if you’re willing to be led the tracks are willing to lead, and with Pew‘s voice to the guitar and bass of David E. and Todd McDaniel in Toronto, the solos from Erickson Silva in Brazil and Sol Batera‘s drums in Chile, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the tracks take you different places.

Old Mine Universe on Facebook

Witch City Music on Facebook


Saint Karloff, Paleolithic War Crimes

Saint Karloff Paleolithic War Crimes

Although Olso-based riffers Saint Karloff have tasked Nico Munkvold (also Jointhugger) for gigs, the band’s third album, Paleolithic War Crimes, was recorded with just the duo of guitarist/vocalist Mads Melvold (also keys and bass here) and drummer Adam Suleiman, and made in homage to original bassist Ole Sletner, who passed away in 2021. It is duly dug-in, from the lumbering Sabbath-worship repetitions of “Psychedelic Man” through the deeper purple organ boogieprog of “Blood Meridian” and quiet guitar/percussion interlude “Among Stone Columns” into “Bone Cave Escape” tilting the balance from doom to rock with a steady snare giving way to an Iommi-circa-’75 acoustic-and-keys finish to side A, leaving side B to split the longer “Nothing to Come” (7:01), which ties together elements of “Bone Cave Escape” and “Blood Meridian,” and closer “Supralux Voyager” (8:26) with the brash, uptempo “Death Don’t Have No Mercy,” which — I almost hate to say it — is a highlight, though the finale in “Supralux Voyager” isn’t to be ignored for what it adds to the band’s aesthetic in its patience and more progressive style, the steadiness of the build and a payoff that could’ve been a blowout but doesn’t need to be and so isn’t all the more resonant for that restraint. If Munkvold actually joins the band or they find someone else to complete the trio, whatever comes after this will inherently be different, but Saint Karloff go beyond 2019’s Interstellar Voodoo (review here) in ambition and realization with these seven tracks — yes, the interlude too; that’s important — and one hopes they continue to bring these lessons forward.

Saint Karloff on Facebook

Majestic Mountain Records store


Astral Sleep, We Are Already Living in the End of Times

Astral Sleep We Are Already Living in the End of Times

Feels like a gimme to say that a record called We Are Already Living in the End of Times is bleak, but if I note the despair laced into the extremity of songs like “The Legacies” or “Torment in Existence,” it’s in no small part to convey the fluidity with which Finland’s Astral Sleep offset their guttural death-doom, be it with melancholic folk-doom melody as on the opening title-track, or the sweetly weaving guitar lines leading into the bright-hued finish of “Invisible Flesh.” Across its 46 minutes, Astral Sleep‘s fourth LP picks up from 2020’s Astral Doom Musick (review here) and makes otherwise disparate sounds transition organically, soaring and crashing down with emotive and tonal impact on the penultimate “Time Is” before “Status of the Soul” answers back to the leadoff with nine-plus minutes of breadth and churn. These aren’t contradictions coming from Astral Sleep, and while yes, the abiding spirit of the release is doomed, that isn’t a constraint on Astral Sleep in needing to be overly performative or ‘dark’ for its own sake. There’s a dynamic at work here as the band seem to make each song an altar and the delivery itself an act of reverence.

Astral Sleep on Facebook

Astral Sleep on Bandcamp


Devoidov, Amputation

devoidov amputation

The second single in two months from New Jersey sludge slayers Devoidov, “Amputation” backs the also-knife-themed “Stab” and brings four minutes of heavy cacophonous intensity that’s as much death metal as post-hardcore early on, and refuses to give up its doomed procession despite all the harshness surrounding. It’s not chaotic. It’s not without purpose. That mute right around 2:40, the way the bass picks up from there and the guitar comes back in, the hi-hat, that build-up into the tremolo sprint and kick-drum jabs that back the crescendo stretch stand as analogue for the structure underlying, and then like out of nowhere they toss in a ripper thrash solo at the end, in the last 15 seconds, as if to emphasize the ‘fuck everything’ they’ve layered over top. There’s punk at its root, but “Amputation” derives atmosphere from its rage as well as the spaciousness of its sound, and the violence of losing a part of oneself is not ignored. They’re making no secret of turning burn-it-all-down into a stylistic statement, and that’s part of the statement too, leaving one to wonder whether the sludge or grind will win in their songwriting over the longer term and if it needs to be a choice between one or the other at all.

Devoidov on Instagram

Devoidov on Bandcamp


Wolfnaut, Return of the Asteroid

Wolfnaut Return of the Asteroid

Norwegian fuzz rollers Wolfnaut claim a lineage that goes back to 1997 (their debut was released in 2013 under their old moniker Wolfgang; it happens), so seems reasonable that their fourth full-length, Return of the Asteroid, should be so imbued with the characteristics of turn-of-the-century Scandinavian heavy. They might be at their most Dozerian on “Crash Yer Asteroid” or “Something More Than Night” as they meet careening riffs with vital, energetic groove, but the mellower opening with “Brother of the Badlands” gives a modern edge and as they unfurl the longer closing pair “Crates of Doom” (7:14) and “Wolfnaut’s Lament” (10:13) — the latter a full linear build that completes the record with reach and crunch alike, they are strident in their execution so as to bring individual presence amid all that thick tone crashing around early and the takeoff-and-run that happens around six minutes in. Hooky in “My Orbit is Mine” and willfully subdued in “Arrows” with the raucous “G.T.R.” following directly, Wolfnaut know what they’re doing and Return of the Asteroid benefits from that expertise in its craft, confidence, and the variety they work into the material. Not life-changing, but quality songwriting is always welcome.

Wolfnaut on Facebook

Ripple Music website


Fuzz Voyage, Heavy Compass Demo

fuzz voyage heavy compass demo

If you’re gonna go, take a compass. And if your compass can be made of primo fuzz riffing, isn’t it that much more useful? If not as an actual compass? Each of the four cuts on Washington D.C. instrumentalists Fuzz Voyage‘s Heavy Compass Demo coincides with a cardinal direction, so you get “South Side Moss,” “North Star,” “East Wind” and “West Ice Mountain.” These same four tracks featured across two separate ‘sessions’-type demos in 2020, so they’ve been fairly worked on, but one can’t discount the presentation here that lets “East Wind” breathe a bit in its early going after the crunching stop of “North Star,” just an edge of heavy psychedelia having featured in the northerly piece getting fleshed out as it heads east. I might extend the perception of self-awareness on the part of the band to speculating “South Side Moss” was named for its hairy guitar and bass tone — if not, it could’ve been — and after “East Wind” stretches near seven minutes, “West Ice Mountain” closes out with a rush and instrumental hook that’s a more uptempo look than they’ve given to that point in the proceedings. Nothing to argue with unless you’re morally opposed to bands who don’t have singers — in which case, your loss — but one doesn’t get a lot of outright fuzz from the Doom Capitol, and Fuzz Voyage offer some of the densest distortion I’ve heard out of the Potomac since Borracho got their start. Even before you get to the concept or the art or whatever else, that makes them worth keeping an eye out for what they do next.

Fuzz Voyage on Instagram

Fuzz Voyage on Bandcamp


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Dommengang to Release Wished Eye April 21;

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 17th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

Dommengang (Photo by Jess Buckley)

Dommengang are an ‘all of the above’ kind of band when it comes to what’s working in their favor. Chops, chemistry, songwriting; these together with an ability to inherit the organic vibes of classic heavy rock without necessarily being a retread. They’ve reaped plaudits far and wide, but I’m glad to add my voice to that chorus for whatever it’s worth. The proverbial new single, from the proverbial new album, and me talking about how the band are underrated? Yeah, we’ve been here before, and I’m not gonna tell you that if you’ve been listening to heavy rock and roll for the last year, five years, 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 years that they’re the first dudes ever to pick up a guitar and riff, but their work resonates with sincerity, and frankly, that should be enough.

The new record is called Wished Eye, and it’s out April 21 on Thrill Jockey, which is nothing you probably didn’t already know but good news just the same. The song is “Society Blues,” and it’s a rocker. You’ll find it at the bottom of the post. Everybody cool? Alright, I’m gonna go grind some almond butter.

From the PR wire:

Dommengang Wished Eye

Portland trio Dommengang announce new album
Wished Eye Out on Apr. 21st

Pre-order Dommengag’s Wished Eye:

Listen to the explosive, dynamic first single “Society Blues”:

Dommengang touring Europe this spring, including a set at Desertfest

Power trio Dommengang deliver heavy psych rock on new album Wished Eye, out April 21st. The album delivers super tasty, dirty guitars, serpentine psychedelic grooves, and propulsive drumming with gleeful abandon. First single “Society Blues” builds to an exuberant explosion of crisp, blues-laden guitar lines that soar over a driving rhythm section, bringing to mind the 1970’s power of a Louis Dambra solo. The dynamic song is carried by ascendant vocals, the band stretching out at the midway point and expanding into the outer world, giving the listener a taste of their explorative live shows.

Wished Eye is the studio album of a band that, live, ignites chaotic release and otherworldly meditation. To capture this energy and freedom in the studio, the trio tracked all the songs together to tape and let experimentation run wild. Working without time constraints or limitations, they could dig deeper into their ever expanding lines, their songs expanding as the guitar explores. Dommengang’s sheer joy of making music together, delivered with skill, imagination and abandon, make Wished Eye an immersive journey without ever leaving home – what a trip it is.

Dommengang will be touring Europe this spring following the release of Wished Eye, including a performance at Desertfest London. More worldwide tour dates and festivals to be announced.

Dommengang – Wished Eye tracklist
1. Runaway
2. Society Blues
3. Last Card
4. Myth Time
5. Little Beirut
6. Blue & Peaceful
7. Petrichor
8. Wished Eye
9. Flower

Dommengang, Wished Eye (2023)

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Sumac Announce Fall European Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 7th, 2022 by JJ Koczan

Not to be left out, Sumac will hit the road in Europe next month. The stint comes just ahead of the band’s releasing a new collaborative live album with Keiji Haino given the too-long-for-filenames Into this juvenile apocalypse our golden blood to pour let us never, which is the third joint offering from Sumac and the weirdo legend Haino. Like the two before it, it’s a live improvisation, and for Sumac it’s also the follow-up to 2020’s May You Be Held, their last proper studio album, if you can use the word proper for a band who regularly and historically have so little time for such conventionalities.

They’ve got slots at Gloomy Days in Stockholm — I would love to spend a few gloomy days in Stockholm, as a side note — and Amplifest in Portugal — I’d take Portugal as well, whatever the weather — and between the two they’ll bounce hither and yon throughout the EU, heading as far north as Helsinki and swinging as far south as Madrid before hitting Porto on the West Coast of Europe. Even with a couple days off, this is a significant amount of ground to cover, but Sumac are hardly new to the dance, even if all you look at is their own three studio LPs, never mind the pedigree of those involved in Russian Circles, Isis, Baptists.

Dates were posted on socials. They’ll be in France when the Keiji Haino collab comes out. I’ve included the info and preorder for that too, because one likes to be thorough:

Sumac tour dates

SUMAC EUROPEAN TOUR – OCTOBER 2022 – w/Patrick Shiroishi – ….. begins soon…. looking forward to seeing you….

01/10 – Stockholm // SE – Gloomy Days fest
02/10 – Helsinki // FIN – Tavastia ∆
03/10 – Copenhagen // DK – Vega *
05/10 – Antwerp // BE – Trix *
06/10 – Tilburg // NL – Little Devil*
07/10 – Metz // FR – Les Trinitaires *
08/10 – Monthey // CH – Pont Rouge *
09/10 – Zurich // CH – Rote Fabrik *
11/10 – Barcelona // ES – Sala Boveda *
12/10 – Madrid // ES – Mon Live †
13/10 – Porto // PT – Amplifest

* w/ Patrick Shiroishi
∆ w/ Pharaoh Overlord
† w/ Deafheaven

Photo: Mike Boyd

Thrill Jockey Records is proud to present Into this juvenile apocalypse our golden blood to pour let us never, the third collaborative album by Japanese free music provocateur Keiji Haino and expressionist metal trio SUMAC.


Like its predecessor, Even for just the briefest moment Keep charging this “expiation” Plug in to make it slightly better (Trost Records, 2019), Into this juvenile apocalypse captures Haino and the three members of SUMAC live on stage, navigating a series of spontaneous compositions in front of an attentive audience, with no prior discussions or planning involving the direction of the music. While all four participants agree that the Even for just the briefest moment session documents a particularly circuitous journey from discord to synchronicity, they also agree that Into this juvenile apocalypse finds the quartet navigating the push-and-pull of creative interplay with bolder strides and stronger chemistry. Recorded on May 21, 2019, at the Astoria Hotel on Vancouver BC’s notorious East Hastings Street as a one-off performance during a short North American tour for Haino, the six compositions comprising Into this juvenile apocalypse showcase a musical unit bouncing unfiltered ideas off of one another, mining a trove of textures and timbres from their armory to buoy and bolster these living and breathing pieces. Like so many albums documenting free music, the thrill here is in the tight rope walk, the wavering moments of uncertainty, and the ecstatic moments of shared brilliance.

As with American Dollar Bill and Even for just the briefest moment, Into this juvenile apocalypse our golden blood to pour let us never is an unfiltered and undoctored document of a specific moment in time. There are equipment failures. There are ideas left dangling in the ether. There are the technical handicaps of recording in a dingy hotel dive bar in a bad neighborhood as opposed to the optimal acoustics of a proper recording studio. But there is also an electricity in the air, and a continuous sense of creative elation and goosebump-inducing inspiration. It’s an hour-long exercise in seeking out happy accidents and reveling in the wreckage.

SUMAC: Aaron Turner, Brian Cook, and Nick Yacyshyn.

Sumac, May You Be Held (2020)

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Pelican to Reissue Australasia Aug. 19

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 3rd, 2022 by JJ Koczan

For my money, which I just might spend on this reissue, Pelican‘s Australasia (discussed here) is one of the best heavy records of all time. If you narrow those parameters to instrumental releases, it only moves higher up the list. Issued through Hydra Head, it broke ground for heavy atmospherics in a way that continues to resonate, and as one of series of reissues through Thrill Jockey Records (more info here), this reissue follows a stint for the band in Europe that included a headline slot at Freak Valley 2022 (review here) in Germany that I felt lucky to be able to witness. Guess that saves you the trouble of reading the review, which I’m pretty sure no one was going to do anyhow.

The release date is Aug. 19 and the vinyl is colored to the cover’s theme —  always classy, I think — with preorders up through Bandcamp. I have to imagine that if these don’t go beforehand, they will by the time the band plays a weekender in September that includes a stop at Post Festival in Indianapolis. I’ve never been to X-Ray Arcade in Cudahy (unless it’s the old Blue Pig), but I’ve hit Pyramid Scheme in Michigan before, and that place is fabulous. But really, anywhere Pelican are showing up is where you want to be.

From the PR wire:

pelican australasia

Pelican announces deluxe reissue of their classic debut album Australasia Out on August 19th, 2022

Featuring never-before released material from the era, remastered audio by Josh Bonati, and expanded artwork

Original guitarist Laurent Schroeder-Lebec has rejoined the quartet, reinstating the band’s original lineup

Listen to Australasia:

Following a headlining European tour including sets at Dunk! Festival, Freak Valley Festival, and Hellfest, Chicago/Los Angeles quartet Pelican have announced the first of their Thrill Jockey reissues, Australasia, out on August 19th. The deluxe reissue will feature remastered audio by Josh Bonati and bonus material, including a never-before shared track, a live recording of the album’s title track from the era of the album’s release, a remix by James Plotkin, and artwork by ISIS/SUMAC/Hydra Head founder Aaron Turner.

Pelican’s debut album Australasia, originally released in late 2003 by Hydra Head Records, is a landmark record in the shifting tides of heavy music that took place at the turn of the millennium. 20 years since its release and with several sold out represses, Australasia is a proven essential for any listener exploring the bounds of rock music. Following the release of the band’s auspicious self-titled EP, Australasia’s singular integration of melodic complexity and tremendous density redefined conceptions of what constituted “heavy.” Pelican’s unique manipulation of atmosphere and dynamics seamlessly alchemized their disparate influences beyond metal into music grand, mercurial and utterly sublime, worthy of the album’s namesake.

Billowing clouds of strange serenity give way to tectonic riffs. Hypnotic rhythms chug at the precipice between doom and euphoria. Guitarists Trevor Shelley de Brauw and Laurent Schroeder-Lebec twirl soaring harmonies around the roaring thunder of bassist Bryan Herweg and drummer Larry Herweg. Throughout the album, the quartet move as one like a glacier, awesome and forever imbuing the landscape with their mark. Australasia stands as a pioneering work, unmatched in the level of unbridled beauty and devastation.

Pelican will be playing a handful of Midwest shows this September, including a headlining set at Indianapolis’s Post Festival.

Pelican tour dates
Sep. 9 – Grand Rapids, MI – The Pyramid Scheme
Sep. 10 – Indianapolis, IN – Post Festival at The Vogue Theatre
Sep. 11 – Cudahy, WI – X-Ray Arcade

Pelican, Australasia (2003)

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Pelican to Reissue Australasia, The Fire in Our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw & City of Echoes; European Tour Set for May/June

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 24th, 2022 by JJ Koczan


Holy trinity? Maybe it would be if the rest of Pelican‘s discography wasn’t also so good. Still, you won’t hear a bad word from me about Australasia (discussed here), and I still remember the first time I listened to follow-up The Fire in Our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw was at a gate at Chicago O’Hare airport waiting for a connecting flight to Austin, Texas, for SXSW a couple rows away from Sanford Parker, to whom I was too shy to say hello. I have a million stories like that, about not talking to people. More than ever, it seems.

City of Echoes was badass too, crunchy and defying-expectations-of-escapism and all. But the additional cool news to go with the remasters that Pelican‘s upcoming European tour will include founding member Laurent Schroeder-Lebec is certainly welcome, though Dallas Thomas was killer as well. Truth of the matter is I guess I’ll take Pelican as they come. It is my deep hope to be able to catch them at Freak Valley Festival. If that doesn’t happen, well at least I’ll have more stories of not interacting with humans.


Here’s word from the PR wire. Listen to Pelican today:

pelican tour

Thrill Jockey to reissue three essential albums by Pelican:

The Fire In Our Throats Will Beckon The Thaw
City of Echoes

Deluxe vinyl reissues throughout 2022-2023 will include rarities, unreleased outtakes, demos and remastered audio

Pelican touring Europe this Spring with original lineup

Thrill Jockey are proud to reissue acclaimed and innovative classic albums by Chicago/Los Angeles quartet Pelican: Australasia (2003), The Fire In Our Throats Will Beckon The Thaw (2005), and City of Echoes (2007). The trilogy is streaming now and will be issued on deluxe vinyl editions throughout 2022 and 2023. The reissues will include a bevy of bonus material comprising rarities, unreleased recordings, long out of print singles & EPs and more. Each album will feature painstakingly remastered audio by Josh Bonati as well as deluxe artwork that recreates the classic artwork expanded to include unseen images sourced from the band’s archive.

Pelican have announced a European tour this spring, including their return to headlining Dunk! Festival, as well as rescheduled appearances at Hell Fest, Freak Valley Festival, and a handful of headlining shows. Following the departure of long-standing guitarist Dallas Thomas, the band will be joined on upcoming dates by founding guitarist Laurent Schroeder-Lebec, reuniting the classic Pelican lineup behind their first three albums.

Pelican is a dreamlike art-metal institution, a band whose kaleidoscopic melodies and ocean-dredging riffs have now hypnotized audiences for more than two decades. Emerging from the frozen tundras of Chicago, Pelican were early adopters in blending majestic repetition with sludge metal’s skull-vibrating bluster, adding their own singular sense of keening emo-psychedelia and heavy-metal motorik. Since then, their prismatic instrumental mesmerism has rippled across six critically acclaimed studio albums, been featured in television and film, and influenced countless bands in their wake.

Pelican tour dates
May 28 – Ghent, BE – Dunk! Festival
June 12 – Vienna, AT – WUK
June 13 – Linz, AT – Kapu
June 14 – Dudingen, CH – Bad Bonn
June 15 – Karlsruhe, DE – Jubez
June 16 – Netphen-Deuz, DE – Freak Valley Festival
June 17 – Strasbourg, FR – La Laiterie
June 18 – Clisson, FR – Hellfest

Pelican, Australasia (2003)

Pelican, The Fire in Our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw (2005)

Pelican, City of Echoes (2007)

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Quarterly Review: Howling Giant, Rose City Band, The Tazers, Kavrila, Gateway, Bala, Tremor Ama, The Crooked Whispers, No Stone, Firefriend

Posted in Reviews on July 9th, 2021 by JJ Koczan


You know what? We’re through the first week of the Quarterly Review as of this post. Not too bad. I feel like it’s been smooth going so far to such a degree that I’m even thinking about adding an 11th day comprised purely of releases that came my way this week and will invariably come in next week too. Crazy, right? Bonus day QR. We’ll see if I get there, but I’m thinking about it. That alone should tell you something.

But let me not get ahead of myself. Day five commence.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Howling Giant, Alteration

howling giant alteration

Let the story be that when the pandemic hit, Nashville’s Howling Giant took to the airwaves to provide comfort, character and a bit of ‘home’ — if one thinks of live performance as home — to their audience. With a steady schedule of various live streams on Twitch, some playing music, some playing D&D, the band engaged their listenership in a new and exciting way, finding a rare bright point in one of the darkest years of recent history. Alteration, a crisp four-song/20-minute EP, is born out of those streamed jams, with songs named by the band’s viewers/listeners — kudos to whoever came up with “Luring Alluring Rings” — and, being entirely instrumental from a band growing more and more focused on vocal arrangements, sound more like they’re on their way to being finished than are completely done. However, that’s also the point of the release, essentially to showcase unfinished works in progress that have emerged in a manner that nobody expected. It is another example from last year-plus that proves the persistence of creativity, and is all the more beautiful for that.

Howling Giant on Facebook

Blues Funeral Recordings website


Rose City Band, Earth Trip

Rose City Band Earth Trip

Vaguely lysergic, twanging with a non-chestbeating or jingoistic ’70s American singer-songwriter feel, Rose City Band‘s Earth Trip brings sentiment without bitterness in its songs, engaging as the title hints with nature in songs like “Silver Roses,” “In the Rain,” “Lonely Planes,” “Ramblin’ with the Day,” “Rabbit” and “Dawn Patrol.” An outlet for Ripley Johnson, also of Wooden Shjips and Moon Duo, the “band” isn’t so much in Rose City Band, but there is some collaboration — pedal steel here and there, as on “Ramblin’ with the Day” — though it’s very much Johnson‘s own craft and performance at the core of this eight-song set. This is the third Rose City Band long-player in three years, but quickly as it may have come about, the tracks never feel rushed — hushed, if anything — and Johnson effectively casts himself in among the organic throughout the proceedings, making the listener feel nothing if not welcome to join the ramble.

Rose City Band on Facebook

Thrill Jockey Records website


The Tazers, Dream Machine

The Tazers Dream Machine

Johannesburg, South Africa’s The Tazers are suited to a short-release format, as their Dream Machine EP shows, bringing together four tracks with psychedelic precociousness and garage rock attitude to spare, with just an edge of classic heavy to keep things grooving. Their latest work opens with its languid and lysergic title-track, which sets up the shove of “Go Away” and the shuffle in “Lonely Road” — both under three and a half minutes long, with nary a wasted second in them, despite sounding purposefully like tossoffs — and the latter skirts the line of coming undone, but doesn’t, of course, but in the meantime sets up the almost proto-New Wave in the early going on “Around Town,” only later to give way to the band’s most engaging melody and a deceptively patient, gentle finish, which considering some of the brashness in the earlier tracks is a surprise. A pleasant one, though, and not the first the three-piece have brought forth by the time they get to the end of Dream Machine‘s ultra-listenable 16-minute run.

The Tazers on Facebook

The Tazers on Soundcloud


Kavrila, Rituals III

Kavrila Rituals III

Pressed in an ultra-limited edition of 34 tapes (the physical version also has a bonus track), Kavrila‘s Rituals III brings together about 16 minutes of heavy hardcore and post-hardcore, a thickened undertone giving something of a darker mood to the crunch of “Equality” as guitars are layered in subtly in a higher register, feeding into the urgency without competing with the drums or vocals. Opener “Sunday” works at more of a rush while “Longing” has more of a lurch at least to its outset before gradually elbowing its way into a more careening groove, but the bridge being built is between sludge and hardcore, and while the four-piece aren’t the first to build it, they do well here. If we’re picking highlights, closer “Elysium” has deft movement, intensity and atmosphere in kind, and still features a vocal rawness that pushes the emotional crux between the verses and choruses to make the transitions that much smoother. The ending fades out early behind those shouts, leaving the vocals stranded, calling out the song’s title into a stark emptiness.

Kavrila on Facebook

The Chinaskian Conspiracy on Bandcamp


Gateway, Flesh Reborn

gateway flesh reborn

Brutal rebirth. Robin Van Oyen is the lone figure behind Bruges, Belgium-based death-doom outfit Gateway, and Flesh Reborn is his first EP in three years. Marked out with guest guitar solos by M., the four-track/25-minute offering keeps its concentration on atmosphere as much as raw punishment, and while one would be correct to call it ‘extreme’ in its purpose and execution, its deathliest aspects aren’t just the growling vocals or periods of intense blast, but the wash of distortion that lays over the offering as a whole, from “Hel” through “Slumbering Crevasses,” the suitably twisting, later lurching “Rack Crawler” and the grandeur-in-filth 12-minute closing title-track, at which point the fullness of the consumption is revealed at last. Unbridled as it seems, this material is not without purpose and is not haphazard. It is the statement it intends to be, and its depths are shown to be significant as Van Oyen pulls you further down into them with each passing moment, finally leaving you there amid residual drone.

Gateway on Facebook

Chaos Records website


Bala, Maleza

Bala Maleza

Admirably punk in its dexterity, Bala‘s debut album, Maleza, arrives as a nine-track pummelfest from the Spanish duo of guitarist/vocalist Anx and drummer/vocalist V., thickened with sludgy intent and aggression to spare. The starts and stops of opener “Agitar” provide a noise-rock-style opening that hints at the tonal push to come throughout “Hoy No” — the verse melody of which seems to reinvent The Bangles — while the subsequent “X” reaches into greater breadth, vocals layered effectively as a preface perhaps to the later grunge of “Riuais,” which arrives ahead of the swaggering riff and harsh sneer of “Bessie” the lumbering finale “Una Silva.” Whether brooding in “Quieres Entrar” or explosive in its shove in “Cien Obstaculos,” Maleza offers stage-style energy with clarity of vision and enough chaos to make the anger feel genuine. There’s apparently some hype behind Bala, and fair enough, but this is legitimately one of the best debut albums I’ve heard in 2021.

Bala on Facebook

Century Media Records website


Tremor Ama, Beneath

Tremor Ama Beneath

French prog-fuzz five-piece Tremor Ama make a coherent and engaging debut with Beneath, a first full-length following up a 2017 self-titled EP release. Spacious guitar leads the way through the three-minute intro “Ab Initio” and into the subsequent “Green Fire,” giving a patient launch to the outing, the ensuing four songs of which grow shorter as they go behind that nine-minute “Green Fire” stretch. There’s room for ambience and intensity both in centerpiece “Eclipse,” with vocals echoing out over the building second half, and both “Mirrors” and “Grey” offer their moments of surge as well, the latter tapping into a roll that should have fans of Forming the Void nodding both to the groove and in general approval. Effectively tipping the balance in their sound over the course of the album as a whole, Tremor Ama showcase an all-the-more thoughtful approach in this debut, and at 30 minutes, they still get out well ahead of feeling overly indulgent or losing sight of their overarching mission.

Tremor Ama on Facebook

Tremor Ama on Bandcamp


The Crooked Whispers, Dead Moon Night

The Crooked Whispers Dead Moon Night

Delivered on multiple formats including as a 12″ vinyl through Regain Records offshoot Helter Skelter Productions, the bleary cultistry of The Crooked Whispers‘ two-songer Dead Moon Night also finds the Los Angeles-based outfit recently picked up by Ripple Music. If it seems everybody wants a piece of The Crooked Whispers, that’s fair enough for the blend of murk, sludge and charred devil worship the foursome offer with “Hail Darkness” and the even more gruesome “Galaxy of Terror,” taking the garage-doom rawness of Uncle Acid and setting against a less Beatlesian backdrop, trading pop hooks for classic doom riffing on the second track, flourishing in its misery as it is. At just 11 minutes long — that’s less than a minute for each inch of the vinyl! — Dead Moon Night is a grim forecast of things to come for the band’s deathly revelry, already showcased too on last year’s debut, Satanic Whispers (review here).

The Crooked Whispers on Facebook

Regain Records on Bandcamp


No Stone, Road into the Darkness

No Stone Road into the Darkness

Schooled, oldschool doom rock for denim-clad heads as foggy as the distortion they present, No Stone‘s debut album, Road into the Darkness, sounds like they already got there. The Rosario, Argentina, trio tap into some Uncle Acid-style garage doom vibes on “The Frayed Endings,” but the crash is harder, and the later 10-minute title-track delves deeper into psychedelia and grunge in kind, resulting in an overarching spirit that’s too weird to be anything but individual, however mmuch it might still firmly reside within the tenets of “cult.” If you were the type to chase down a patch, you might want to chase down a No Stone patch, as “Devil Behind” makes its barebones production feel like an aesthetic choice to offset the boogie to come in “Shadow No More,” and from post-intro opener “Bewitched” to the long fade of “The Sky is Burning,” No Stone balance atmosphere and songcraft in such a way as to herald future progress along this morose path. Maybe they are just getting on the road into the darkness, but they seem to be bringing that darkness with them on the way.

No Stone on Facebook

Ruidoteka Records on Bandcamp


Firefriend, Dead Icons

Firefriend Dead Icons

Dead Icons is the sixth full-length from Brazilian psychedelic outfit Firefriend, and throughout its 10 songs and 44 minutes, the band proffer marked shoegaze-style chill and a sense of space, fuzzy and molten in “Hexagonal Mess,” more desert-hued in “Spin,” jangly and out for a march on “Ongoing Crash.” “Home or Exile” takes on that question with due reach, and “Waves” caps with organ alongside the languid guitar, but moments like “Tomorrow” are singular and gorgeous, and though “Three Dimensional Sound Glitch” and “666 Fifth Avenue” border on playful, there’s an overarching melancholy to the flow, as engaging as it is. In its longest pieces — “Tomorrow” (6:05) and “One Thousand Miles High” (5:08) — the “extra” time is well spent in extending the trio’s reach, and while it’s safe to assume that six self-recorded LPs later, Firefriend know what they want to do with their sound, that thing feels amorphous, fleeting, transient somehow here, like a moving target. That speaks to ongoing growth, and is just one of Dead Icons‘ many strengths.

Firefriend on Facebook

Cardinal Fuzz store

Little Cloud Records store


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Album Review: Terry Gross, Soft Opening

Posted in Reviews on January 19th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

terry gross soft opening

Terry Gross, the person, is the host of the interview show Fresh Air on National Public Radio. It’s produced at WHYY in Philadelphia and syndicated through the NPR network of stations to over 600 outlets. It’s a very popular show, and Gross has a very particular way of exhaling while saying its title.

Terry Gross, the band, hail from San Francisco (local station KQED) and are a three-piece featuring guitarist/vocalist Phil Manley (also Trans Am), bassist/vocalist Donny Newenhouse and drummer Phil Becker, who jam. Oh my goodness how they jam. And indeed, they do bring a breath of fresh air to the form of doing so. The narrative — blessings and peace upon it — is that since all three are part owners of El Studio, which is Spanish for… the studio, the band started as a way for them to test out equipment and have fun presumably during downtime when no one else was using the space. So coy. But my, they do jam. A song tracked in late 2016 surfaced the next year and that was it until a series of lockdown jams appeared across months in 2020, reportedly mined from years’ worth of recordings.

These ultimately make a procession leading toward Terry Gross‘ Thrill Jockey-issued debut full-length, Soft Opening. At a manageable 38 minutes, the LP brings together three songs that work off impulses from heavy psychedelic expanse à la Earthless to sunnier West Coast skate vibes and an underlying touch of noise rock gone melodic that only adds to the energy and chemistry to rampantly on display. Two extended pieces, opener and longest cut (immediate points) “Space Voyage Mission” (19:21) and “Worm Gear” (13:32) make up the bulk of the outing, and side B rounds out with the shorter “Specificity (Or What Have You)” (5:55), which condenses the pairing of instrumentalist sprawl and structured verses that the first two tracks make.

“Space Voyage Mission” launches duly cosmic, with Becker working subtle jazz on the snare while Manley trips out and Newenhouse channels the motorik across the first five-plus minutes. There’s a trip-out on effects while the drums still move behind, but the whole thing feels more consumed as they move toward the seven-minute mark. Then Becker stops the drums and Manley introduces ‘the Riff.’ Da-dum, da-dum, da-dum, da-dum dum dum. Newenhouse teases bass entry twice before actually coming in with the drums, and the band launch the first harmonized verse like surf-grunge, but that riff is pure West Coast noise, even if much-transposed onto what Terry Gross want it to be. A guitar solo stretches out over what’s quickly become the central rhythm, and they give that groove its due for the next few minutes until the next comedown signals a change to come.

Once more, it’s an excursion into effects driving the gradual-then-sudden change, and you can’t quite hear the pedal click at 11:42, but it’s there as the guitar thickens and surges forward with drums for propulsion behind it. A quick few lines of vocals from Manley and Newenhouse and then Terry Gross are off into improvised-sounding space-psych revelry, eschewing prog-tinged indulgences while remaining exploratory in vibe and hypnotic in spirit, looping rhythm and lead stretches as they weave into, out of and back into a fade before capping with just the lead, looped, on a long fade. Side A, accomplished.

terry gross

On the most basic level, “Worm Gear” works similarly. There’s a long instrumental opening that gives way to standout riffage and righteous vocals, then much soloing and feeling-of-way-through the finish. But the structure is different, the beginning stretch longer, the ending stretch shorter, and the mood is different as well, with fiercer distortion and play on tempo evoking doom without ever really tipping over into it beyond a basic sense of lumber. Less devotedly space rock than “Space Voyage Mission,” if one thinks of a worm digging in dirt, then the earthbound, grittier nature of “Worm Gear” should make sense. As with the opener, roots in punk and noise are signaled through the underlying groove, but Terry Gross have changed the central ideology of these things and reshaped them into what they want them to be.

The slowdown — blessings and peace upon it — follows a change first signaled by Newenhouse in drawing out the bassline. They get loud, then crash out and between 9:15 and 9:20 move into a purely Sabbathian riff that’s not meant to be anything more than that, but of course is. Vocal echo adds to the largesse before the guitar takes off on a solo with the bass mirroring its melody and the drums holding down the drawn-out flow, and by the time they’re through that — the vocals there, then gone — the willfully filth-coated distortion is locked in and the overarching nod is brought to full, crashing fruition like a dust storm in your brain that suddenly disappears.

That leaves just the sub-six-minute “Specificity (Or What Have You)” to begin with a dogwhistle of intent in the drum tension moving behind the initially shimmering guitar that first subsides as the winding bassline comes into focus, then returns in thicker-toned declaration. They’re not two minutes in before Manley and Newenhouse are together on vocals in what’s inarguably the most straightforward verse/hook on Soft Opening, turning to cosmic grunge via effects and the consistent shove of Becker‘s drum progression. Just when you think they’re going to go far out for the remainder, the voices return and a chorus of sorts emerges, and that’s carried into a finish in a way that’s plotted but still feels organic.

Well, the gear works.

So does the band.

Soft Opening — as opposed to a “grand opening” — functions with the chemistry between ManleyNewenhouse and Becker at its core. These three are obviously not strangers to each other and have clearly honed their instrumental conversation to a point where one element plays off the others — be it the guitar, bass or drums — in such a way as to bolster all three. Entirely possible that Soft Opening is a one-off and it’s however many years before Terry Gross do another record, if they ever do, or it might be three months before the next round of sung-over jams is brought to bear. Either way, the work they’ve done in these three tracks refreshes familiar turns with a sense of personality and finds its niche in the spaces between genre even as it pulls from different aspects thereof.

Terry Gross, Soft Opening (2021)

Terry Gross on Thee Facebooks

Terry Gross on Bandcamp

Thrill Jockey Records website

Thrill Jockey Records on Thee Facebooks

Thrill Jockey Records on Instagram

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