Quarterly Review: Sunn O))), Crypt Sermon, The Neptune Power Federation, Chron Goblin, Ethereal Riffian, Parasol Caravan, Golden Core, Black Smoke Omega, Liquid Orbit, Sun Below

Posted in Reviews on January 10th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

Hey all, we made it to the final day of the Winter 2020 Quarterly Review, so congrats to ‘us’ and by us I mean myself and anyone still reading, which is probably about two or three people. On my end today is completely manic in terms of real-life, offline logistics — much to do — but no way I’m letting one last batch of 10 reviews fall by the wayside, so rest assured, by the time this goes live, it’ll be complete, even though I’ve had to swap things out as some stuff has been locked into other coverage since I first slated it. Plenty around waiting to be written up. Perpetually, it would seem.

But before we dive in, thank you for reading if you’ve caught any part of this QR. I hope your 2020 is off to an excellent start and that finding new music to love is as much a part of your next 12 months as it can possibly be.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Sunn O))), Pyroclasts

sunn o pyroclasts

The narrative — because of course there’s a narrative; blessings and peace upon it — is that drone-metal progenitors Sunn O))), while in the studio recording earlier-2019’s Life Metal (review here) with Steve Albini, began each day doing a 12-minute improvised modal drone working in a different scale. They used a stopwatch to keep time. Thus the four tracks of Pyroclasts were born. They all hover around 11 minutes after editing, which settles neatly onto two vinyl sides, and it’s the rawer vision of Sunn O))), with just Greg Anderson and Stephen O’Malley‘s guitars, rather than some of the more elaborate arrangements which they’ve been known to undertake. That they’d put out two studio records in the same year is striking considering it had been four years since 2015’s Kannon (review here), but I think the truth of the matter is they had these tapes and decided they were worth preserving with a popular release. I wouldn’t say they were wrong, and the immersion here is a good reminder of the core appeal of Sunn O)))‘s conjured depths.

Sunn O))) on Bandcamp

Southern Lord Recordings website

 

Crypt Sermon, The Ruins of Fading Light

Crypt Sermon The Ruins of Fading Light

Traditional doom rarely sounds as vital as it does in the hands of Crypt Sermon. The Philly five-piece return with The Ruins of Fading Light on Dark Descent Records as an awaited follow-up to 2015’s Out of the Garden (review here) and thereby bring forth classic metal with all the urgency of thrash and the poise of the NWOBHM. Frontman Brooks Wilson — also responsible for the album art — is in command here and with the firm backing of bassist Frank Chin and drummer Enrique Sagarnaga, guitarists Steve Jannson and James Lipczynski offer sharpened-axe riffs and solo scorch offset by passages of keyboard for an all the more epic vibe. The rolling “Christ is Dead” is pure Candlemass, but the galloping “The Snake Handler” might be the highlight of the 10-track/55-minute run, though that’s not to take away either from the Dehumanizer chug of “Key of Solomon” or the melodic reach of the closing title-track either. Take your pick, really. It’s all metal as fuck and glorious for that. If they don’t sell denim jackets, they should.

Crypt Sermon on Thee Facebooks

Dark Descent Records on Bandcamp

 

The Neptune Power Federation, Memoirs of a Rat Queen

the neptune power federation memoirs of a rat queen

“Can you dig what the Imperial Priestess is laying down?” is the central question of Memoirs of a Rat Queen, the first album from Sydney, Australia’s The Neptune Power Federation to be released through Cruz Del Sur Music, and it arrives over an ELO “Don’t Bring Me Down”-style arena rock beat on leadoff “Can You Dig?” as an intro to the rest of the LP. Strange, epic, progressive, traditional, heavy and cascading rock and roll follows, as intricate as it is immediately catchy, and whether it’s “Watch Our Masters Bleed” or “I’ll Make a Man out of You,” the Imperial Priestess Screaming Loz Sutch and company make it easy to answer in the affirmative. Arrangements are willfully over the top as “Bound for Hell” and “The Reaper Comes for Thee” engage a heavy rocker take on heavy metal’s legacy, maddened laughter and all in the latter track, which closes, and the affect on the listener is nothing less than an absolute blast — a reminder of the empowering sound of early metal on a disaffected generation in the late ’70s and early ’80s and how that same fist-pump-against-the-world has become timeless. No doubt the costumes and all that make The Neptune Power Federation striking live, but as Memoirs of a Rat Queen readily steps forward to prove, the songs are there as well.

The Neptune Power Federation on Thee Facebooks

Cruz Del Sur Music on Bandcamp

 

Chron Goblin, Here Before

chron goblin here before

Have Chron Goblin been here before? The title of their album speaks to a kind of creepy deja vu feeling, and that’s emblematic of the Canadian band’s move away from the party rock of their past offerings, their last LP having been Backwater (review here) 2015. Fortunately, while they seek out some new aesthetic ground, the 11 tracks of Here Before do maintain Chron Goblin‘s penchant for straight-ahead songcraft and unpretentious execution — and frankly, that wasn’t at all broken. Neither, perhaps was the let’s-get-drunk-and-bounce-around spirit of their prior work, but they sound more mature in a song like the six-minute “Ghost” and “Slipping Under” (premiered here) successfully melds the shift in presentation with the energy of their prior output. Maybe it’s still a party but we watch horror movies? I don’t know. They’ve still got “Giving in to Fun” early in the tracklisting — worth noting it follows the swaying “Oblivion” — so maybe I’m misreading the whole thing, or maybe it’s more complex than being entirely one thing or the other might allow for. Perish the thought. Either way, can’t mess with the songs.

Chron Goblin on Thee Facebooks

Chron Goblin on Bandcamp

 

Ethereal Riffian, Legends

ethereal riffian legends

Ukrainian heavy rockers Ethereal Riffian make a pointed sonic shift with their Legends album (on Robustfellow), keeping some of the grunge spirit in their melodies as the eight-minute “Moonflower” and closer “Ethereal Path” show, but in songs like “Unconquerable” and the early salvo of “Born Again,” “Dreamgazer” and “Legends” and even the second half of “Kosmic” and “Pain to Wisdom,” they let loose from some of the more meditative aspects of their past work with a fiery drive and a theme of enlightenment through political and social change. A kind of great awakening of the self. There’s still plenty of “ethereal” to go with all that “riffian” in the intro “Sage’s Alchemy,” or the first half of “Kosmic” or the CD bonus “Yeti’s Hide,” but no question the balance has tipped toward the straightforward, and the idea seems to be that the electrified feel is as much a part of the message as the message itself. The only trouble is that since putting Legends out, Ethereal Riffian called it quits to refocus their energies elsewhere in the universe. Are they really done? I’m skeptical, but if so, then at least they went out trying new things, which always seemed to be a specialty, and on a note of directly positive attitude.

Ethereal Riffian on Thee Facebooks

Robustfellow Productions on Bandcamp

 

Parasol Caravan, Nemesis

parasol caravan nemesis

A second long-player behind 2015’s Para Solem, the eight-song/35-minute Nemesis is not only made for vinyl, but it’s made for rockers. Specifically, heavy rockers. And it’s heavy rock, for heavy rockers. Based in Linz, Austria, the double-guitar four-piece Parasol Caravan have their sound and style on lockdown, and their work, while not really keeping any secrets in terms of where it’s coming from in its ’70s-via-’90s modern take, is brought to bear with a clarity that seems particularly derived from the European heavy rock tradition. Para Solem was longer and somewhat fuzzier in tone, but the stripped down approach of the title-track at the outset and its side B counterpart, “Serpent of Time” still unfold to a swath of ground covered, whether it’s in the subdued instrumental “Acceptance” or “Transition,” which follows the driving “Blackstar” and closes the LP with a bit of a progressive metal edge. Even that has its hook, though, and that’s ultimately the point.

Parasol Caravan on Thee Facebooks

Parasol Caravan on Bandcamp

 

Golden Core, Fimbultýr

golden core fimbultyr

The title Fimbultýr translates to “mighty god” and is listed among the alternative names of Odin, which would seem to be who Oslo’s Golden Core have in mind in the leadoff title-track of their second album. Issued through Fysisk Format, it is not necessarily what one thinks of as “Viking metal” in the post-Amon Amarth or post-Enslaved context, but instead, the eight-song collection unfolds a biting modern sludge taking an edge of the earlier Mastodon lumber and bringing it to harshly-vocalized rollout. The 11-minute “Runatal” and only-seconds-shorter “Buslubben” are respective vocal points around which sides A and B of the release center, and each finds a way to give like emphasis to atmosphere and extremity, to stretch as well as pummel, and much to Golden Core‘s credit, they seem not only aware of the changes they’re presenting in their material, but in control of how and when they’re executed. The resulting linear flow of Fimbultýr, given the shifts within, isn’t to be understated as a victory on the part of the band.

Golden Core on Thee Facebooks

Fysisk Format on Bandcamp

 

Black Smoke Omega, Harbinger

Black Smoke Omega Harbinger

Harbinger may well be just that — a sign of things to come. The debut offering from Black Smoke Omega wraps progressive death-doom and gothic piano-led atmospherics around a thematic drawing from science-fiction, and while I’m not certain of the narrative being told by the Dortmund, Germany-based band, their method for telling it is fascinating. It’s not entirely seamless in its shifts, and it doesn’t seem like the band — seemingly spearheaded by multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Jack Nier, though Ashley James (The Antiquity) plays guitar on “A Man without a Heart” and Michael Tjanaka brings synth/piano to “Kainé” — want it to be, but there’s no denying that by the time “Falling Awake” seems to provide some melodic resolution to the often-slow-motion tumult prior, it’s doing so by bringing the different sides together. It’s a significant journey from the raw, barking shouts on “The Black Scrawl” and the lurching-into-chug-into-lurch of “The Man without a Heart” to get there, however. But this, too, seems to be on purpose. How it all might shake out feels like a question for the next release, but Black Smoke Omega seem poised here to leave heads spinning.

Black Smoke Omega on Thee Facebooks

Black Smoke Omega on Bandcamp

 

Liquid Orbit, Game of Promises

Liquid Orbit Game of Promises

While on the surface, Liquid Orbit might be on familiar enough ground with Game of Promises for anyone who has encountered the swath of up-and-comers working in the wake of Blues Pills, the Bremen, Germany, five-piece distinguish themselves through not just the keyboard work of Anders alongside Andree‘s guitar, Ralf‘s bass, Steve‘s drums and Sylvia‘s vocals, but also the shifts between funk, boogie, and edges of doom that play out in songs like “Shared Pain” and “Please Let Her Go,” as well as the title-track, which starts side B of the Nasoni Records-issued vinyl with a highlight guitar solo and an insistent snare tap beneath that works to bring movement to what’s still one of Game of Promises‘ shorter tracks at six and a half minutes, as opposed to the earlier eight-minute-toppers on side A or the psych-prog finale “Verlorene Karawane,” which translates in English to “lost caravan” and indeed basks in some Mideastern vibe and backward-effects vocal swirl. Bottom line, if you go into it thinking you know everything you’re getting, you’re probably selling it short.

Liquid Orbit on Thee Facebooks

Nasoni Records website

 

Sun Below, Black Volume III

Sun Below Black Volume III

As the title hints, the name-your-price Black Volume III is the third EP release from Toronto’s Sun Below. All three have been issued over roughly a year’s span, and the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Jason Craig, drummer/backing vocalist Will Adams, bassist/backing vocalist Garrison Thordarson — who as far as I’m concerned wins this entire Quarterly Review when it comes to names; that’s an awesome name — and two have featured covers. On their debut, they took on “Dragonaut” by Sleep, and on Black Volume III, in following up the 12-minute nod-roller “Solar Burnout,” they thicken and further stonerize the catchy jaunt that is “Wires” by Red Fang. They’ve got, in other words, good taste. Black Volume III opens with “Green Visions” and thereby takes some righteous fart-fuzz for a walk both that and “Solar Burnout” show plenty of resi(n)dual Sleep influence, but honestly, it’s a self-releasing band with three dudes who sound like they’re having a really good time figuring out where they want to be in terms of sound after about a year from their first release, and if you ask anything else of Black Volume III than what it gives, you’re obviously lacking in context. Which is to say you’re fucking up. Don’t fuck up. Dig riffs instead.

Sun Below on Thee Facebooks

Sun Below on Bandcamp

 

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Fuzzed and Buzzed Records Presents The Powder Box Triple-7″ Box Set

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

Think of it like a split. If it was a split LP, you’d have three bands splitting a 12-inch platter or something like that, and it would be business as usual. Everyone would agree to art and cover some portion of the costs, the label would get behind it and blamo, the magic happens. Fuzzed and Buzzed Records out of Toronto has made the idea a little more complicated. The forthcoming The Powder Box — available direct from them in Canada, through DHU Records in Europe or the All That is Heavy store in the States — brings together Head, Cherry Hooker and Darlene Shrugg under an appropriately glam-style roof, with three separate seven-inchers all snuggled up together in a box set.

This is the second time the label has done this, arriving behind The Altar Box, which has long since sold out. I’d expect much the same with this round, despite the shift in aesthetic. In any case, kudos to the label for changing it up, and continuing its mission of highlighting their regional underground. That’s how you make shit happen. They obviously believe in it, and there’s very little better than that to sell something as far as I’m concerned.

They’ve posted a lot about it, here’s a bit of it:

va the powder box

THE POWDER BOX (2019)

HEY ROCKERS!!!!

OUR EUROPEAN HOMIES OVER @dhu_records ONLY HAVE 6 COPIES LEFT AND THAT’S IT!!!!

BOOGIE ON OVER AND SCORE ONE OF THE LAST POWDER BOXES FEATURING TORONTO ROCKERS @headrnr @cherryhooker @darleneshrugg

IF YOU’RE IN CANADA OR THE STATES, HIT UP @allthatisheavy OR YOURS TRULY @fuzzedandbuzzed!!

STAY BUZZED!!! @fuzzedandbuzzed FEST STARTS THIS THURSDAY NOV 28th 10pm @swandiveto!! NOV 29th IS THE HAMILTON RELEASE PARTY @doorspubhamilton AND THE FOLLOWING DAY, NOV 30th WE HAVE THE FINAL PARTY AT LEGENDARY @bovinesexclub

COME PARTY, BRING SOME FRIENDS OR MAKE NEW ONES!!!!!!!

3 Record Box (45″ Vinyl)

HEAD
A: Shudder
B: Journey to the Center of the Mind

CHERRY HOOKER
A: City Sidewalkin’
B: Machine

DARLENE SHRUGG
A: Reptile Radio
B: Some Weird Sin

https://fuzzedandbuzzed.myshopify.com/
https://www.instagram.com/fuzzedandbuzzed/
https://www.facebook.com/Fuzzedandbuzzed-631019733954614/

Head, “Shudder”

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Sons of Otis Finish Writing New Album; Reissuing Paid to Suffer & Spacejumbofudge

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 12th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Okay, yeah, I’ll admit that I saw the below posted from Totem Cat Records last week and held off putting it up here. I guess maybe I was hoping from a more substantive update or something specific, but what that doesn’t account for is that, hey man, it’s Sons of Otis. Take what you can get. Fair enough. The new album from the Toronto-based megastoners — who toured Europe last year, playing Hellfest and then some — is reportedly finished, and that’s nifty news because when it comes out, it’ll be their first studio offering since 2012’s Seismic (review here). They’ve also been saying they were writing for over a year now, but what the hell. Slow music happens slowly. Be really surprised or don’t.

You might recall that late last year, Totem Cat released the Live in Den Bosch LP capturing the band in 2011 in the Netherlands in an edition of a paltry 300 copies. They’re currently down to their last copies at the BigCartel store linked below, and I haven’t heard the thing, but I’ll happily spend your money and say you should pick it up. If for nothing else than to dedicate the shelf space to Sons of Otis, that’s probably better than whatever else you were going to buy. What was it? Groceries? A car? Nah, screw that. There’s riffs to be had.

The rather efficient announcement below also includes the news that the band’s 1994 debut EP, Paid to Suffer, and their 1996 debut album, Spacejumbofudge (discussed here) are being reissued. CLF Records also put out a vinyl of 2001’s Songs for Worship in 2017, leaving 1999’s Templeball in desperate need of another look.

Here’s the latest, for posterity, as well as a video of the band last year in Paris that unsurprisingly kicks ass:

sons of otis logo

New Sons of Otis album is fully written and will be recorded soon, we’re excited to be releasing it early next year. Paid To Suffer & Spacejumbofudge will be reissued on CD & LP as well.

https://www.facebook.com/sonsofotis/
https://www.reverbnation.com/sonsofotis
https://www.facebook.com/totemcatrecords/
http://totemcatrecords.bigcartel.com/

Sons of Otis, Live in Paris, 2018

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Quarterly Review: Elizabeth Colour Wheel, Black Lung, Giant Dwarf, Land Mammal, Skunk, Silver Devil, Sky Burial, Wizzerd, Ian Blurton, Cosmic Fall

Posted in Reviews on July 5th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review

Got my laptop back. Turned out the guy had to give me a new hard drive entirely, clone all my data on it, and scrap the other drive. I’m sure if I took it to another technician they’d have said something completely different, either for better or worse, but it was $165 and I got my computer back, working, in a day, so I can’t really complain. Worth the money, obviously, even though it was $40 more than the estimate. I assume that was a mix of “new hard drive” and “this is the last thing I’m doing before a four-day weekend.” Either way, totally legit. Bit of stress on my part, but what’s a Quarterly Review without it?

This ends the week, but there’s still one more batch of 10 reviews to go on Monday, so I won’t delay further, except to say more to come.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Elizabeth Colour Wheel, Nocebo

elizabeth colour wheel nocebo

A rare level of triumph for a first album, Elizabeth Colour Wheel‘s aesthetic scope and patience of craft on Nocebo result in a genre-spanning post-noise rock that maintains an atmospheric heft whether loud or quiet at any given moment, and a sense of unpredictability that feels born out of a genuinely forward-thinking songwriting process. It is dark, emotionally resonant, beautiful and crushing across its eight songs and 47 minutes, as the Philadelphia five-piece ebb and flow instrumentally behind a standout vocal performance that reminds of Julie Christmas circa Battle of Mice on “Life of a Flower” but is ultimately more controlled and all the more lethal for that. Bouts of extremity pop up at unexpected times and the songs flow into each other so as to make all of Nocebo feel like a single, multi-hued work, which it just might be as it moves into ambience between “Hide Behind (Emmett’s Song)” and “Bedrest” before exploding to life again in “34th” and transitioning directly into the cacophonous apex that comes with closer “Head Home.” One of the best debuts of 2019, if not the best.

Elizabeth Colour Wheel on Thee Facebooks

The Flenser on Bandcamp

 

Black Lung, Ancients

black lung ancients

Ancients is the third full-length from Baltimore’s Black Lung, whose heavy blues rock takes a moodier approach from the outset of “Mother of the Sun” onward, following an organ-led roll in that opener that calls to mind All Them Witches circa Lightning at the Door and following 2016’s See the Enemy (review here) with an even firmer grasp on their overarching intent. The title-track is shorter at 3:10 and offers some post-rock flourish in the guitar amid its otherwise straight-ahead push, but there’s a tonal depth to add atmosphere to whatever moves they’re making at the time, “The Seeker” and “Voices” rounding out side A with relatively grounded swing and traditionalist shuffle but still catching attention through pace and presentation alike. That holds true as “Gone” drifts into psychedelic jamming at the start of side B, and the chunkier “Badlands,” the dramatic “Vultures” and the controlled wash of “Dead Man Blues” take the listener into some unnamed desert without a map or exit strategy. It’s a pleasure to get lost as Ancients plays through, and Black Lung remain a well-kept secret of the East Coast underground.

Black Lung on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music website

Noisolution website

 

Giant Dwarf, Giant Dwarf

Giant Dwarf Giant Dwarf

This just fucking rules, and I feel no need to couch my critique in any more flowery language than that. Driving, fuzzy heavy rock topped with post-Homme melodies that doesn’t sacrifice impact for attitude, the self-released, self-titled debut from Perth, Australia’s Giant Dwarf is a sans-pretense 35 minutes of groove done right. They may be playing to genre, fine, but from the cover art on down, they’re doing so with a sense of personality and a readiness to bring an individual sensibility to their sound. I dig it. Summery tones, rampant vocal melodies in layers, solid rhythmic foundation beneath. The fact that it’s the five-piece’s first album makes me look less for some kind of stylistic nuance, but it’s there to be heard anyway in “Disco Void” and the bouncing end of “High Tide Blues,” and in surrounding cuts like “Repeat After Defeat” and “Strange Wool,” Giant Dwarf set to the task before them with due vitality, imagining Songs for the Deaf with Fu Manchu tonality in “Kepler.” No big surprise, but yeah, it definitely works. Someone should be beating down the door to sign this band.

Giant Dwarf on Thee Facebooks

Giant Dwarf on Bandcamp

 

Land Mammal, Land Mammal

land mammal land mammal

Land Mammal‘s debut outing is a 14-minute, proof-of-concept four-songer EP with clarity of presentation and telegraphed intent. Marked out by the Robert Plant-style vocal heroics of Kinsley August, the band makes the most of a bluesy atmosphere behind him, with Will Weise on wah-ready guitar, Phillip PJ Soapsmith on bass, Stephen Smith on drums and True Turner on keys. On opener “Dark with Rain” and closer “Better Days,” they find a pastoral vibe that draws from ’90s alternative, thinking Blind Melon particularly in the finale, but “Earth Made Free” takes a bluesier angle and “Drippin’ Slow” is not shy about nor ashamed of its danceability, as its lyrics demonstrate. For all the crispness of the production, Land Mammal still manage to sound relatively natural, which is all the more encouraging in terms of moving forward, but it’ll be interesting to hear how they flesh out their sound over the course of a full-length, since even as an EP, this self-titled is short. They have songwriting, performance and production on their side, however, so something tells me they’ll be just fine.

Land Mammal on Thee Facebooks

Land Mammal on Bandcamp

 

Skunk, Strange Vibration

skunk strange vibration

Even before they get to the ultra-“N.I.B.” patterning of second track “Stand in the Sun,” Skunk‘s Sabbathian loyalties are well established, and they continue on that line, through the “War Pigs”-ness of “Goblin Orgy” (though I’ll give them bonus points for that title), and the slower “A National Acrobat” roll of “The Black Crown,” and while that’s not the only influence under which Skunk are working — clearly — it’s arguably the most forward. They’ve been on a traditional path since 2015’s mission-statement EP, Heavy Rock from Elder Times (review here), and as Strange Vibration is their second album behind 2017’s Doubleblind (review here), they’ve only come more into focus in terms of what they’re doing overall. They throw a bit of swagger into “Evil Eye Gone Blind” and “Star Power” toward the end of the record — more Blackmore or Leslie West than Iommi — but keep the hooks center through it all, and cap with a welcome bit of layered melody on “The Cobra’s Kiss.” Based in Oakland, they don’t quite fit in with the Californian boogie scene to the south, but standing out only seems to suit Strange Vibration all the more.

Skunk on Thee Facebooks

Skunk on Bandcamp

 

Silver Devil, Paralyzed

Silver Devil Paralyzed

Like countrymen outfits in Vokonis or to a somewhat lesser degree Cities of Mars, Gävle-based riffers Silver Devil tap into Sleep as a core influence and work outward from there. In the case of their second album, Paralyzed (on Ozium Records), they work far out indeed, bringing a sonic largesse to bear through plus-sized tonality and distorted vocals casting echoes across a wide chasm of the mix. “Rivers” or the later, slower-rolling “Octopus” rightfully present this as an individual take, and it ends up being that one way or the other, with the atmosphere becoming essential to the character of the material. There are some driving moments that call to mind later Dozer — or newer Greenleaf, if you prefer — such as the centerpiece “No Man Traveller,” but the periodic bouts of post-rock bring complexity to that assessment as well, though in the face of the galloping crescendo of “The Grand Trick,” complexity is a secondary concern to the outright righteousness with which Silver Devil take familiar elements and reshape them into something that sounds fresh and engaging. That’s basically the story of the whole record, come to think of it.

Silver Devil on Thee Facebooks

Ozium Records website

 

Sky Burial, Sokushinbutsu

sky burial Sokushinbutsu

Comprised of guitarist/vocalist/engineer Vessel 2 and drummer/vocalist Vessel 1 (also ex-Mühr), Sky Burial release their debut EP, Sokushinbutsu, through Break Free Records, and with it issue two songs of densely-weighted riff and crash, captured raw and live-sounding with an edge of visceral sludge thanks to the harsh vocals laid overtop. The prevailing spirit is as much doom as it is crust throughout “Return to Sender” (8:53) and the 10:38 title-track — the word translating from Japanese to “instant Buddha” — and as “Sokushinbutsu” kicks the tempo of the leadoff into higher gear, the release becomes a wash of blown-out tone with shouts cutting through that’s very obviously meant to be as brutal as it absolutely is. They slow down eventually, then slow down more, then slow down more — you see where this is going — until eventually the feedback seems to consume them and everything else, and the low rumble of guitar gives way to noise and biting vocalizations. As beginnings go, Sokushinbutsu is willfully wretched and animalistic, a manifested sonic nihilism that immediately stinks of death.

Sky Burial on Thee Facebooks

Break Free Records on Bandcamp

 

Wizzerd, Wizzerd

wizzerd st

One finds Montana’s Wizzerd born of a similar Upper Midwestern next-gen take on classic heavy as that of acts like Bison Machine and Midas. Their Cursed Tongue Records-delivered self-titled debut album gives a strong showing of this foundation, less boogie-based than some, with just an edge of heavy metal to the riffing and vocals that seems to derive not directly from doom, but definitely from some ’80s metal stylizations. Coupled with ’70s and ’90s heavy rocks, it’s a readily accessible blend throughout the nine-song/51-minute LP, but a will toward the epic comes through in theme as well as the general mood of the riffs, and even in the drift of “Wizard” that’s apparent. Taken in kind with the fuzzblaster “Wraith,” the winding motion of the eponymous closer and with the lumbering crash of “Warrior” earlier, the five-piece’s sound shows potential to distinguish itself further in the future through taking on fantasy subject matter lyrically as well as playing to wall-sized grooves across the board, even in the speedy first half of “Phoenix,” with its surprising crash into the wall of its own momentum.

Wizzerd on Thee Facebooks

Cursed Tongue Records webstore

 

Ian Blurton, Signals Through the Flames

Ian Blurton Signals Through the Flames

The core of Ian Blurton‘s Signals Through the Flames is in tight, sharply-executed heavy rockers like “Seven Bells” and “Days Will Remain,” classic in their root but not overly derivative, smartly and efficiently composed and performed. The Toronto-based Blurton has been making and producing music for over three decades in various guises and incarnations, and with these nine songs, he brings into focus a songcraft that is more than enough to carry song like “Nothing Left to Lose” and opener “Eye of the Needle,” which bookends with the 6:55 “Into Dust,” the closer arriving after a final salvo with the Scorpionic strut of “Kick out the Lights” and the forward-thrust-into-ether of “Night of the Black Goat.” If this was what Ghost had ended up sounding like, I’d have been cool with that. Blurton‘s years of experience surely come into play in this work, a kind of debut under his own name and/or that of Ian Blurton’s Future Now, but the songs come through as fresh regardless and “The March of Mars” grabs attention not with pedigree, but simply by virtue of its own riff, which is exactly how it should be. It’s subtle in its variety, but those willing to give it a repeat listen or two will find even more reward for doing so.

Ian Blurton on Thee Facebooks

Ian Blurton on Bandcamp

 

Cosmic Fall, Lackland

Cosmic Fall Lackland

“Lackland” is the first new material Berlin three-piece Cosmic Fall have produced since last year’s In Search of Space (review here) album, which is only surprising given the frequency with which they once jammed out a record every couple of months. The lone 8:32 track is a fitting reminder of the potency in the lineup of guitarist Marcin Morawski, bassist Klaus Friedrich and drummer Daniel Sax, and listening to the Earthless-style shred in Morawski‘s guitar, one hopes it won’t be another year before they come around again. As it stands, they make the eight minutes speed by with volcanic fervor and an improvised sensibility that feels natural despite the song’s ultimately linear trajectory. Could be a one-off, could be a precursor to a new album. I’d prefer the latter, obviously, but I’ll take what I can get, and if that’s “Lackland,” then so be it.

Cosmic Fall on Thee Facebooks

Cosmic Fall on Bandcamp

 

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Ian Blurton Sets June 7 Release for Signals Through the Flames

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 24th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

ian blurtons future now

Way back in January, you might recall a track was premiered from Ian Blurton’s Future Now called “Space is Forever.” That first single will be issued as a 7″ next month and even when that was being posted, it was intended as a lead-in for Blurton‘s upcoming solo-ish record, Signals Through the Flames. Well, I got the album yesterday and the short version is it kicks ass, which is why I’m writing about it now. It’s due out June 7 and I’m sure there will be preorders and advance public audio all that fun stuff, but consider this a heads up. If you’re not from Toronto or the surrounding area, maybe you’re less familiar with Blurton‘s three-decade-plus career in bands and producing, and that’s fine. Don’t worry about it. That context is nice, but in listening to Signals Through the Flames, the songs stand on their own. I’m going to hope to have more on the record before it’s out, but yeah, just early warning here, that’s all. It’s the kind of record that’s really going to hit with some people. I think I might be one of them.

Art and PR wire info follow:

Ian Blurton Signals Through the Flames

Ian Blurton – Signals Through The Flame – Pajama Party

Release: 7 June 2019

It’s time for a veteran to show the new generation how it’s done. After 35+ years in the Canadian music industry, playing in over 40 bands and producing, engineering and mixing over 100 albums, Ian Blurton is finally releasing a solo record. You’ve probably seen Blurton play in your town, fronting Change of Heart, Blurtonia, Bionic, C’mon, or the still-active Public Animal. If you missed those bands, his name is still likely to pop up somewhere in your record collection; you’ll find Blurton’s producer credit on career-defining albums for Blood Ceremony, Cursed, Tricky Woo, the Weakerthans and more. Or you may have caught him guest with acts as diverse as Richard Lloyd, Buffy Sainte-Marie , the Sadies, Teenage Head, Twink or The Viletones.

It’s no surprise that Blurton’s inaugural solo effort pulls from an impressive pool of talent and a range of influences. In 2017 a sudden torrent of inspiration brought him a slew of songs best suited to a power-trio format. Enlisting friends who also happened to be some of his favorite drummers and bassists, he set out on a quest to create a combination of dark pop hooks, molten riffage and ambient soundscapes that is his heaviest work to date. Between Blurton’s layers-upon-layers of guitar, a plethora of gifted musicians such as Mike Armstrong (King Cobb Steelie), PJ Dunphy (Iron Giant), Eric Larock (Tricky Woo), Glenn Milchem (Blue Rodeo), Damon Richardson (Danko Jones), Anna Ruddick (Randy Bachman), Nick Sewell (Biblical), and Darcy Yates (Flash Lightnin’) all make appearance on Signals Through the Flames. The result is a heavy music melting pot with one foot in the past and the other planted firmly in the future.

Mixed by Daryl Smith (Godspeed You! Black Emperor) at Chemical West and mastered by Brad Boatright at Audiosiege, Signals Through The Flames will be released by new Toronto imprint Pajama Party digitally, on vinyl and cassette June 7, 2019.

The first single, Space Is Forever b/w Upon Yesterday, is out May 4 on Yeah Right! Records, launching at a release show at Toronto’s Dakota Tavern and can be heard here: ianblurton.bandcamp.com

The live band, Ian Blurton’s Future Now, draws from the same talent as the record, and currently features drummer Glenn Milchem, bassist Anna Ruddick and Aaron Goldstein as second guitarist. This spring and summer sees the band playing dates between Montreal and Calgary, including appearances at Sled Island and Hillside Festival.

Tracklisting
01 EYE OF THE NEEDLE 4:55
02 SEVEN BELLS 3:34
03 DAYS WILL REMAIN 3:30
04 THE MARCH OF MARS 4:18
05 NOTHING LEFT TO LOSE 3:16
06 ICQ 2:58
07 KICK OUT THE LIGHTS 4:53
08 NIGHT OF THE BLACK GOAT 4:47
09 INTO DUST 6:37

Tour dates
May 1 Montreal – Turbo Haus w/ Dead Quiet, Mountain Dust
May 4 Toronto – Dakota Tavern w/ Sick Things, Rough Spells
May 17 Peterborough – Gordon Best Theatre w/ Mokomokai
June 6 Toronto – Sneaky Dees w/ Spirit Adrift
June 7 Kitchener – The Starlight w/ Hawkeyes
June 14 Toronto – secret show NXNE
June 17 Sudbury – The Townehouse
June 18 Thunder Bay – The Apollo
June 19 Winnipeg – The Handsome Daughter
June 20 Saskatoon – Amigo’s
June 21 Edmonton – The Rec Room Edmonton South
June 22 Calgary – The Palomino/Sled Island Festival
June 23 Regina – The Club at The Exchange
July 14 Guelph – Hillside Festival
July 19 Hamilton – This Ain’t Hollywood
July 20 Toronto – The Horseshoe Signals Through The Flames record release

ianblurton.bandcamp.com
twitter.com/ianblurton

Ian Blurton, “Space is Forever”

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Ian Blurton’s Future Now Premiere “Space is Forever”

Posted in audiObelisk on January 17th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

ian blurton

Ian Blurton’s Future Now played their first show this past New Year’s Eve at Bovine Sex Club in their native Toronto. The project is spearheaded by its eponymous figure, whose career in bands and production goes back decades to his work in Change of Heart, who released their debut album in 1986. Along the way, Blurton has helmed outings for Blood Ceremony, Electric Magma, Cursed, The Weakerthans and a wide swath of others in just as wide a swath of genres, and as one might imagine, his new project benefits from an array of influences. Joined by guitarist Aaron Goldstein, bassist Anna Ruddick and drummer Glenn Milchem, Blurton elicits a vibe in the band’s first single, “Space is Forever,” that brings to mind the sharp-hewn indie quirk of Pinback while tapping into a classic heavy strut with its rhythm and a timeless melody that speaks to hours spent in sunshine and gives its progressive edge an accessible complement.

It does not feel happenstance, which is to say there’s more to come. Blurton will release a solo album in May titled Signals Through the Flames, and the band seems to be so formative that I’m not even sure if “Space is Forever” has anyone else playing on it, but the clearheadedness of its aesthetic moves — the way it drifts smoothly into echoes as it fades — tell the tale of more to come either way. I’ll go one step further and note that New Year’s Eve was like two and a half weeks ago, and I don’t think the four-piece lineup of Ian Blurton’s Future Now were around all that long before that, so there could well be some changes as they continue to take shape. They might, for instance, decide just to call themselves Future Now, since although born out of the Ian Blurton solo-project, they’re a full band now one way or the other. Whatever they end up calling themselves by the time Signals Through the Flames lands, “Space is Forever” is a catchy, tightly-structured but still laid back-feeling cut that sounds fresh even as it taps into familiar genre elements. The power of songwriting laid bare.

Whatever the coming months and beyond (that’s not to say “the future”) might bring for them — as of Twitter two days ago, they were recording a B-side for a new 7″, so it may well be that this song will feature there — I’m happy today to host the premiere of “Space is Forever,” which you’ll find on the ol’ Bandcamp embed below, followed by a few words from Blurton about the track and a couple Ontario live dates.

I hope you enjoy:

Ian Blurton on “Space is Forever”:

The song is about staring into the endless infinity of space and trying to find light in its darkness. It’s about days becoming nights and nights becoming days and the sun and moon leading us through them. It’s about pondering the planetary phases of the solar system and coming to the realization that the future is now.

Ian Blurton’s Future Now upcoming live shows:
Sat Jan 19 Toronto at The Horseshoe Tavern – Biblical, Whoop-Szo, IBFN
Sat Feb 2 Hamilton at This Ain’t Hollywood – Not Of, IBFN, Mount Cyanide

Future Now (the band) has been put together to play shows in support of Ian’s upcoming solo record (Signals Through The Flames, due out in May) and two pre-LP tracks of which Space is Forever is one. They consist of Toronto heavy hitters Glenn Milchem on drums (Holy Fuck/Starvin’ Hungry), Anna Ruddick on bass (Randy Bachman) and Aaron Goldstein on flying V (Daniel Romano) backing Ian, a 35+ year veteran of the Toronto music scene as a musician and producer (Cursed, Tricky Woo, Blood Ceremony).

Ian Blurton on Twitter

Ian Blurton on Bandcamp

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Rough Spells Sign to DHU Records; Debut Album out This Year

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 3rd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

DHU Records has announced the pickup of Toronto-based cultists Rough Spells, who issued their debut EP, Modern Kicks for the Solitary Witch — please tell me they got the title out of an alternative-lifestyle shoe catalog that was trying to be hip; even if it’s not true and I’m sure it isn’t, please just let me believe it — last summer. Tapes were pressed just last month through Hoove Child Records, and DHU will present the as-yet-untitled long-player sometime before the end of 2019, which is pretty much now. I like the fact that the signing was the result of an Instagram comment and the mysterious interference of a dude named Reggie (please also let me believe it was Reggie Jackson; I’ve got a whole narrative going here), and it seems like all manner of witchly doom is set to unfold, so cool by me. I’ll admit their signing is the first I’m hearing of the band, so I look forward to digging in.

If you’re in a similar situation, you can check out the EP at the bottom of this post, courtesy of the band’s Bandcamp. The announcement came, of course, from the PR wire:

rough spells

DHU Records signs Rough Spells to release debut full length in 2019

DHU Records is thrilled to announce the signing of Toronto, Canada’s Dysfunctional/Doom outfit Rough Spells!

When in the summer of 2018 DHU Records first was introduced to Rough Spells via a comment on Instagram, a spell was cast and the stars started to align.

A man by the name of Reggie, who is an acquaintance of the band, sent DHU a message informing he’ll be in Amsterdam for a week and would love for us to hear this record nobody had yet heard of outside of Canadian borders.

With only 2 songs available on Soundcloud and a 6 song LP that was in existence but only sold locally, we thought it wise to spread this outstanding classic to the world through the vinyl community, and so it did, like wildfire!

Since then they opened a Facebook account, put their record titled “Modern Kicks for the Solitary Witch” up on Bandcamp and Spotify so listeners can now fully enjoy these 6 powerful incantations and at DHU we are over the top excited to be working with them!

DHU Records will release Rough Spells as of yet untitled Debut Full Length in 2019 on Limited Edition vinyl

STAY DOOMED STAY HEAVY

Rough Spells:
Sarena Sairan: Vocals/Guitar
Maija Martin: Guitar/Vocals
Dave Lucas: Bass
Tobey Black: Drums

https://www.facebook.com/Rough-Spells-441982039657307/
https://www.instagram.com/roughspells/
https://roughspells.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/DHURecords/
https://www.instagram.com/dhu_records/
https://twitter.com/dhu_records
https://darkhedonisticunionrecords.bandcamp.com/
darkhedonisticunionrecords.bigcartel.com/

Rough Spells, Modern Kicks for the Solitary Witch (2018)

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Review & Track Premiere: Sundecay, Gale

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on November 14th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

sundecay gale

[Click play above to stream “Gales” from Sundecay’s new EP, Gale. Vinyl is out Nov. 30.]

It’s an old debate, EP vs. LP. Where the line stops between a short release and a full-length. I take my cues from bands, and Sundecay have made it clear that their new self-released four-songer, Gale, is an EP. But I don’t necessarily agree. At half an hour long, it’s right on the border of one side or the other, but the key factor for me is the way the Toronto DIY five-piece arrange the songs themselves to set up a clear flow from opener “Heavy Motions” through the 11-minute closer “The Land that Never Thaws.” Gale breaks roughly even into two vinyl sides — which is fortunate, because they’ve pressed it up as a 12″ in limited numbers, gold-embossed front lettering, etc. — of two songs apiece, and especially in physical form, there’s no substance lacking that one would say it isn’t an impressive debut album.

Does it ultimately matter? Probably not, and it could well be that Sundecay will next year put out a full-length that’s a 70-minute 2LP and show themselves as thinking of an album as a completely different entity — I don’t know that that’s going to happen, I’m just positing a hypothetical — but the bottom line either way is that Gale presents a strong front-to-back fluidity amid its burly double-guitar riffs, spacious vocal echoes and largesse of groove to ignite the argument.

With Mark Chandler and Brian Scott (the latter also cover art) on guitar, Derek Hoffman as bassist, engineer and mixer, Julian Vardy on drums and Rich Pauptit on vocals, Sundecay bring together “Heavy Motions,” “Gales,” “From Corners” and “The Land that Never Thaws” with a firm sense of aesthetic, capturing some of the marauding sensibility of mid-period High on Fire but played at maybe two-thirds speed, so that the battle axe of riffs is swinging, but kind of in slow motion. Tempo shifts and moments of ambience like those that open “Heavy Motions” or appear in the second half of “The Land that Never Thaws” suit the band well, but of course the sheer level of impact is a major consideration in what they do.

And their work hits hard. “From Corners” is the shortest cut on the EP at 3:57, pairing smoothly with the closer on side B, and it has an almost classic doom approach to its swaggering groove, making it all the more understandable where they’re coming from in touting a Pentagram/proto-metal influence, but someone in this band listens to or listened to earlier Mastodon, and the effect of that style of weighted, almost-angular chugging tension is present in the guitar as well as the dreary atmospheres surrounding. It’s a fitting answer to the echoing beardo-burl of Pauptit‘s vocals, which seem to call up in “Heavy Motions” from beneath the rolling nod in a way that’s both headphone-worthy and calling for max-volume presentation, so, you know, watch your eardrums.

sundecay gale vinyl

If nothing else, “Heavy Motions” lives up to its name, moving from its gradual start into a melodic interplay of guitar for the verse before seeming to grow thicker as it progresses through the midsection and plods into a drum-dropout before the five-minute mark, only to resume the fervent march in apex fashion as the ending, which concludes in a long fade bringing about the foreboding open of “Gales,” the guitars evoking a bluster of wind from the outset that seems to blow in multiple directions. Like “Heavy Motions” before, the opening is gradual, but does much to establish the feel of the song itself, and when the drums and bass kick in at full-tone, there’s a feeling of arrival.

A more driven push takes hold before two minutes in with a faster meter and some of that crunching angularity brought forward in the guitar at the central position. They wind their way into a slowdown in the middle third but hold to it for a while, and make it unclear at first if they’l even go back at all to the chug from whence they came. When they do, it’s with about a minute left, and they run through the verse one more time before finishing out with a showcase of symmetry that seems all the more relevant for ending the first half of the record.

The relatively brief “From Corners” follows and plays a crucial role not only in offsetting “The Land that Never Thaws” still to come, but in allowing the band to expand the context of the album — (coughs loudly) — overall, with a departure from the methods of the two prior tracks. “From Corners” is inherently more straightforward in its structure, and while it remains tonally and rhythmically consistent with what surrounds, Sundecay use it to efficiently demonstrate a malleable methodology on the whole.

Their 2014 debut, Bodies at the Frontier, had a similar construction to its songs, if swapped in side A and B, but the band’s growth in sound is palpable and it’s hard to argue against closing with “The Land that Never Thaws,” which drops its title-line in the first verse and brings its slower chug to bear along with a markedly epic feel underscored by the lumber of the drumming at its root. It’s not the first time the band have gone marching, but they do it well and with a particularly downtrodden flare in “The Land that Never Thaws,” and as that gives way to the stretch of guitar, bass and vocals alone, the nigh-goth pastoralism is one more fascinating turn that makes the surge that begins after nine minutes in even more of a crescendo. Pauptit‘s vocals come to the fore of the mix with surrounding wails of guitar and plod of bass and drums, and the guitars cap in chugging fashion on a fade to mirror that of “Heavy Motions.”

Whether one considers Gale an EP or an LP, that symmetry is essential to the progressive impression the band makes on the whole. It may well be that this collection is just a sampling of their intent toward larger- and longer-form works to come. If so, fine. But the adage of “it’s just an EP” doesn’t really apply to the formidable presence Sundecay establish or the swath of heavy styles they seem to so naturally make their own in this material.

Sundecay on Bandcamp

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