White Tundra Premiere “Honningfella” From New 7″

Posted in audiObelisk on June 3rd, 2021 by JJ Koczan

white tundra

Norwegian heavy rockers White Tundra release their new seven-inch single Honningfella on June 11 through All Good Clean Records. The Trondheim-based four-piece released their Graveyard Blues EP last March — the same week the world ended, more or less — and seem well within their rights to follow it up with a two-songer that stretches the limits of the 7″ format at a meaty 11 minutes in length. It’s an affair defined in no small part by its brashness, and as the title-track remains wildly catchy, propelled into imaginary entire-drunken-venue singalongs, fists in the air and the like by its non-lyric “whoa-whoa-whoooa” chorus following the plundering path of the coinciding riff, it’s still a bruiser, make no mistake. Some of those fists in the air are landing punches.

So it was on the EP as well, that four-song offering digging into vibes like earlier Clutch or Orange Goblin circa 2005. Heavy. Beery. Swaggering. White Tundra‘s rawness is accented by the vocals, but by no means limited to them. The guitar fuzz pushes out of both channels, and the cymbal crash behind cuts through with a punkish sense of straightforwardness. white tundra honningfellaThey’re a heavy rock band, but “Honningfella” delights in its rougher edge, and is all the more exciting for that, breaking in its midsection only to resume the circle-pit-but-nobody’s-a-dick-about-it shove to close out.

Thus ensues the more fuzz-forward “One More Place,” which tips over the six-minute line and makes a fitting B-side, following the immediacy of the prior cut with a groove that’s distinct but complementary. Stops in the verse let the lyrics pop out but they’re still willfully mumbled en route to the shoutier chorus and that’s just fine. The sort of inebriated primitivism on display remains good fun throughout, and they give it a little extra oomph at the end that feels bolstered by the mix and master from Truckfighters‘ own Niklas Källgren at the famed Studio Bombshelter, finishing with a solo on top of another duly electrified progression.

Thinking album? Yeah, they might be. And between what they show on Honningfella and Graveyard Blues they might have enough different looks to get there, but at this point, one of their assets is that they sound like a new band feeling out the stylistic ground they want to cover. White Tundra know their influences, sure enough, and they know what they’re going for, but the process of discovering how to manifest that is something precious, and it’s more important that they keep writing songs at this point than that they set themselves to some grander task. If a record happens or there’s some longer-form story they want to tell, bonus. But for a group so very clearly reveling in the pummel of these tracks, their best course would seem to be to keep going with what they’re doing and let the rest sort itself out naturally.

In any case, the single’s a blast. You’ll find it streaming on the player below, followed by a few words from the band.

Enjoy:

White Tundra on “Honingfella”:

‘Honningfella’ means ‘honey trap’ in Norwegian. The lyrics spins around the occult and undefined fear of the darkness and unseen but also obvious traps hidden behind beauty or gullibility. The theme in Honningfella is symbolised in the artwork of the single.

Active for the last four years, White Tundra have released one EP titled “Graveyard Blues” on All Good Clean Records last year and now are back with a new 7inch “Honningfella” to be released once again on All Good Clean Records.

Recorded in Trondheim, mixed and mastered by Niklas Källgren of Truckfighters and Enigma Experience at his studio Bombshelter, “Honningfella” is deeply rooted in the dirtier side of stoner rock, displaying a heavy riffage and uncompromising rhythms inspired by the likes of Monster Magnet, Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats and Skraeckoedlan.

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Review & Track Premiere: Motorpsycho, Kingdom of Oblivion

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

motorpsycho kingdom of oblivion

[Click play above to stream ‘The Waning Pt. 1’ from Motorpsycho’s Kingdom of Oblivion. Album is out April 16 on Stickman Records and Rune Grammofon.]

The heavy prog Kings in the North — Trondheim isn’t Tromsø, but it’s far enough up — Motorpsycho return on the relative quick after wrapping up a trilogy between 2017’s The Tower (review here), 2019’s The Crucible (review here) and 2020’s Spellmannprisen-nominated The All is One (review here) with the new 70-minute 2LP Kingdom of Oblivion, a record that seems to speak to current times without necessarily being of them stylistically. Also without not. Trust me, it makes sense.

Now, to be sure, Motorpsycho are beyond review. I could say anything here and it doesn’t matter. To new listeners, their massive, decades-spanning discography might seem insurmountable, and indeed it might very well be a lifetime project of listening. Even their post-Heavy Metal Fruit (2010 and on) catalog is a mountain to climb, and perhaps an intimidating prospect.

More than that, though, Motorpsycho know what they’re doing and they have for some time. Kingdom of Oblivion enacts this massive span of work, but also makes it genuinely digestible with each side functioning as a piece of the whole. But with Motorpsycho, there’s just about no way founding members Bent Sæther (bass, lead vocals) and Hand Magnus “Snah” Ryan (guitar/vocals) as well as Swedish import drummer Tomas Järmyr, with the band since 2017, aren’t going to deliver the album they wanted to make.

Even as they’ve consistently explored varying textures and sides of alternative rock, indie, classic heavy riffs and vibes — dig that solo three minutes into “The United Debased” — and keyboard-laced progressive serenity, among others, they’ve carved out an identity that is wholly their own and is maintained on Kingdom of Oblivion. Motorpsycho said they wanted to make a heavier record. So guess what? They did.

Of course it’s not that simple even on its face, but with any new Motorpsycho release, the assumption going into it is that the listener is being placed in the hands of masters, and that’s basically how it works out across Kingdom of Oblivion‘s span. These players are not fools and they do not make foolish decisions in terms of craft. They cast purpose across the punchier beginning the record gets in “The Waning Pt. 1 & 2” and “Kingdom of Oblivion” and the folkish harmonies of the subsequent “Lady May 1,” the experimental atmospherics of “The Watcher (Including the Crimson Eye)” and “Dreamkiller” after “The United Debased” (which, yeah, fair), as they make ready to dig into the post-jazz “Atet” and revive the more rocking progressions on “At Empire’s End,” offsetting with acoustic stretches as they careen between styles and motivations.

Kingdom of Oblivion, which on headphones functions with a smoothness that’s outright beautiful in how it uses bass to emphasize melody as well as rhythm alongside the guitar and drums, is patient in its execution and refuses to go anywhere it doesn’t want to go, but that doesn’t at all mean Motorpsycho are doing only one thing throughout, because they’re simply not. Even in the earliest going — which is unquestionably where the harder hitting material lies and is the first impression the band wanted to make as a lead-in for all that follows — the songs aren’t entirely singular in their purpose as the second part of “The Waning” picks up motorik in the second half of that 7:30 track and the title-track meets its early fuzz with later wash of keys ahead of the guitar solo that borders on orchestral.

motorpsycho

None of these moves are particularly unexpected for Motorpsycho, but that doesn’t make the journey less thrilling, and their embrace of a heavier push early gives the subsequent semi-extended pieces like “The United Debased” (9:04), “At Empire’s End” (8:36) and “The Transmutation of Cosmoctopus Lurker” (10:56) — each one featuring on its own side like the showcase work it is — all the more of a dynamic range to work from. Same goes for the acoustic work throughout and other more classically progressive moments.

“Lady May 1” feels like a nature-worshiping take on Simon & Garfunkel (that’s a compliment) and though “Dreamkiller” surges from its minimal beginning to striking heft, it flows easily to the wandering guitar of the two-minute “Atet” ahead of the grooving volume trades and engrossing payoff that “At Emipre’s End” provides, backed by “The Hunt,” a folkier jaunt that teases Tull-ish storytelling without going all-in with the flute and leg kick. Fair enough.

The softest and quietest Motorpsycho get on Kingdom of Oblivion is on side D, where the subdued “After the Fair” and the closer “Cormorant” surround on either side of “The Transmutation of Cosmoctopus Lurker.” As for the quizzically named longest cut on the record itself, it is duly dizzying in its riffs and solo work and melodically grand, vocals hitting an apex in the midsection leading to a guitar-and-keys chase that is, yes, head-spinning in King Crimsony tradition. They bring it down, threaten to build it up again, then leave it to quietest bass and ambience to cap, with silence as prelude to “Cormorant”‘s avant, far-off marching finish. An epilogue well earned, and they know it.

Here’s the thing. Yes, Motorpsycho put out a lot of records. Can’t be denied. I won’t pretend to have heard all of them. Yes, they have a history that goes back to 1989. Yes, it’s a lot. What matters more than quantity of the work they’ve done/do, however, is of course the quality of that work, and with Kingdom of OblivionMotorpsycho emphasize that the most essential moment is not the past but the present.

Motorpsycho are creating pivotal heavy progressive and psychedelic rock right now. Not in 1989. Not in 2015. Now. Before you feel overwhelmed by the prospect of taking on listening to them, not knowing where to start and so on, stop for a second and take it one thing at a time. Kingdom of Oblivion, oddly enough since some of it was recorded at the same time, works as an entry point even better than the prior trilogy because while one can hardly call it restrained across its run, it nonetheless brings to light so much of what makes Motorpsycho the crucial and influential band they are. I’m not saying ignore history and context altogether, but Kingdom of Oblivion stands on its own and is worth experiencing in that light.

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The Obelisk Questionnaire: Bent Sæther of Motorpsycho

Posted in Questionnaire on March 12th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

bent motorpsycho

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

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

Thank you for reading and thanks to all who participate.

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Bent Sæther of Motorpsycho

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

We’ve never really felt the need to define this to ourselves, but Motorpsycho is the flag we fly and sail under when writing and playing and doing musical research work in our own main musical project. It is a constantly shapeshifting entity with its own life, and all we ever do is try to be honest and genuine in our musical research. Some people do projects for every different musical style they want to work in, but early on we decided that it’s all us and thus all Motorpsycho, and that we would do it all under this moniker.
I met Snah in high school and we’ve more or less played together since our late teens in the mid-’80s, but Motorpsycho as a band was established in 1989. Music was all any of us were ever any good at, so we played until it got good enough to interest someone else, and then we just kept at it with various lineups until today.

Describe your first musical memory.

Getting children’s records when I was really young — Disney’s Aristocats soundtrack was one early one, but some Norwegian fairytale thing was probably the very earliest. That said, finding my mum & dad’s 7’’ collection, putting singles on the turntable and eventually after many misses, finding — and loving — “Dynamite” by Cliff Richard, was probably the first mindblowing musical adrenaline rush moment of my life.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

I don’t think I can. There has been so many life affirming, great moments that all were so different they are incomparable, but that all were the best ever in the moment, that I struggle to put my finger on one specific moment. How do you compare that and decide that one is better than all the others when they were all out of this world?

Getting lost in the music is an entry point to transcendence, and all such experiences are potentially the best musical memory ever. Until the next one!

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

Oh, all the time! I am an opinionated loudmouth and catch myself spewing bullshit almost every day, so … ‘frequently’ would be the truest answer here!

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

…To new insight that hopefully leads to further artistic progress!

How do you define success?

Success to me means realizing my musical ambition – making an idea become manifest in its truest form.

The point isn’t really that a lot of people heard what I said, but that I actually managed to formulate and say it in the best and truest way I know how, if that makes sense? That is all we can do as ‘artists’ I think — once we end that process it’s out of our hands. Then it’s all about marketing and the selling of an image and a product, and that mercantile bit — the bit that usually is the marker — is not something we are interested in. Usually we suck at things that don’t interest us — this is no exception.

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

I’m good — knowing reality can only make me stronger.

That film a few years back that treated drumming like a sports contest tho’ …yikes!

That misunderstood utter crap waste of time made me see how many people relate music though, and realizing that a lot of people can only ever understand something in competitive terms made me really sad. I don’t believe you can win or lose at music — that is what makes it so great!

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

I’d love to create something that made humans treat the world around us less binary. Less back and white, less good or bad, less either / or: All the really interesting and good stuff is found in-between the fixed points and the extremes. If we realized this and understood the implications, the world would be a better place for everyone.

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

All art forms are in essence languages I think. Means to say something that can be said no other way, by no other art or language. It makes the artist able to communicate something he/she otherwise wouldn’t be able to. We’ve all felt the shortcomings of our spoken and written languages at some point, and we’ve all recognized the truth in good art at some point. A way to say the unsayable maybe?

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

Spring! I’m so fed up with the cold and the damp and having to stay indoors by now, feeling the heat of the sun today made me giddy with anticipation!

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Cliff Richard, “Dynamite”

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Motorpsycho to Release Kingdom of Oblivion April 16

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 22nd, 2021 by JJ Koczan

motorpsycho

Business as usual for Motorpsycho, being nominated for the Spellmann for one record even as they announce they’ve got another one in the can and due out in a couple months. Typical. You know what the difference is between Motorpsycho and other bands who put out a ton of records? The consistency. Motorpsycho could put out an album (or two) every year, and if some of them weren’t that good, well fine, you wait for the next. But they’ve amassed this insurmountable catalog, and I’m sure they’re not all gold — no way I’m going to tell you I’ve heard them all — but I’ve yet to find a real stinker in the bunch. And the run they’ve been on for the last decade is enviable to say the least. And when Enslaved shouts you out as an influence on their own latter-day work — and it’s true! — you’re doing alright.

Once again, onto my running upcoming albums list Motorpsycho go. I don’t know why I ever take them off, frankly.

Still, this is not a band to take for granted.

From the PR wire:

motorpsycho kingdom of oblivion

MOTORPSYCHO Announce New Album “Kingdom of Oblivion”!

Hard times call for big riffs. And, it seems, also for big news:

Not only was Motorpsycho’s 2020 album “The All is One” nominated for a Spellemannprisen (a Norwegian Grammy) in the Best Rock Album category, but just recently the band also announced a new Motorpsycho album titled Kingdom of Oblivion!

“It is clear to us that TAIO reached a pretty wide audience, and we are as grateful as ever for all of you taking the time to listen to what we do.” Comments the band on their homepage. “It is really important to us to not become an oldies band merely dealing in nostalgia, and the only way we can avoid that is by forging ahead and trying to make music that is true to who we are. When you lot show your appreciation by buying the new records and not just baying for the old schlägers, that makes it all feel worthwhile and important, and that is all we can ask. Thank you!

“On that subject … we have a new record coming out in a couple of months!”

[ Artwork by Sverre Malling ]

The release date has been slated for April 16th, 2021 through Stickman Records, Kingdom of Oblivion will be available on 2LP, CD and digitally. While the pre-sale is scheduled to start on Friday, March 5th, watch out for many more details and a first single to follow in the weeks ahead!

Motorpsycho is: Bent Sæther, Hans Magnus “Snah” Ryan, Tomas Järmyr.

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Motorpsycho, “The All is One”

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Quarterly Review: Across Tundras, Motorpsycho, Dark Buddha Rising, Vine Weevil, King Chiefs, Battle Hag, Hyde, Faith in Jane, American Dharma, Hypernaut

Posted in Reviews on December 29th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

THE-OBELISK-FALL-2020-QUARTERLY-REVIEW

Just to reiterate, I decided to do this Quarterly Review before making my year-end list because I felt like there was stuff I needed to hear that I hadn’t dug into. Here we are, 70 records later, and that’s still the case. My desktop is somewhat less cluttered than it was when I started out, but there’s still plenty of other albums, EPs, and so on I could and probably should be covering. It’s frustrating and encouraging at the same time, I guess. Fruscouraging. Life’s too short for the international boom of underground creativity.

Anyway, thanks for taking this ride if you did. It is always appreciated.

Quarterly Review #61-70:

Across Tundras, The Last Days of a Silver Rush

Across Tundras The Last Days of a Silver Rush

Issued as part of a late-2020 splurge by Tanner Olson and Across Tundras that has also resulted in the full-length LOESS – LÖSS (review here), as well as three lost-tracks compilations called Selected Sonic Rituals, an experimental Western drone record issued under the banner of Edward Outlander, and an EP and three singles (two collaborative) from Olson solo, The Last Days of a Silver Rush offers subdued complement to the more band-oriented LOESS – LÖSS, with an acoustic-folk foundation much more reminiscent of Olson‘s solo outings than the twang-infused progressive heavy rock for which Across Tundras are known. Indeed, though arrangements are fleshed out with samples and the electrified spaciousness of “The Prodigal Children of the God of War,” the only other contributor here is Ben Schriever on vocals and there are no drums to be found tying down the sweet strums and far-off melodies present. Could well be Olson bridging the gap between one modus (the band) and another (solo), and if so, fine. One way or the other it’s a strong batch of songs in the drifting western aesthetic he’s established. There’s nothing to say the next record will be the same or will be different. That’s why it’s fun.

Across Tundras on Bandcamp

Eagle Stone Collective on Bandcamp

 

Motorpsycho, The All is One

motorpsycho the all is one

What could possibly be left to say about the brilliance of Trondheim, Norway’s Motorpsycho? One only wishes that The All is One could be blasted into place on a pressed gold vinyl so that any aliens who might encounter it could know that humanity isn’t just all cruelty, plagues and indifference. The prolific heavy prog kingpins’ latest is 84 willfully-unmanageable minutes of graceful and gracious, hyperbole-ready sprawl, tapping into dynamic changes and arrangement depth that is both classic in character and still decidedly forward-thinking. An early rocker “The Same Old Rock (One Must Imagine Sisyphus Happy)” and the shuffling “The Magpie” give way after the opener to the quiet “Delusion (The Reign of Humbug)” and the multi-stage “N.O.X.,” which unfolds in five parts, could easily have been an album on its own, and caps with a frenetic mania that is only off-putting because of how controlled it ultimately is. Then they throw in a couple experimental pieces after that between the nine-minute “Dreams of Fancy” and the mellow-vibing “Like Chrome.” Someday archaeologists will dig up the fossils of this civilization and wonder what gods this sect worshipped. Do they have three more records out yet? Probably.

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Dark Buddha Rising, Mathreyata

Dark Buddha Rising Mathreyata

From out of the weirdo hotbed that is Tampere, Finland, Dark Buddha Rising reemerge from the swirling ether with new lessons in black magique for anyone brave enough to be schooled. Mathreyata follows 2018’s II EP but is the band’s first full-length since 2015’s Inversum (review here), and from the initial cosmically expansive lurch of “Sunyaga” through the synth-laced atmosludge roll of “Nagathma” and the seven-minute build-to-abrasion that is “Uni” and the guess-what-now-that-abrasion-pays-off beginning of 15-minute closer “Mahatgata III,” which, yes, hits into some New Wavy guitar just before exploding just after nine minutes in, the band make a ritual pyre of expectation, genre and what one would commonly think of as psychedelia. Some acts are just on their own level, and while Dark Buddha Rising will always be too extreme for some and not everyone’s going to get it, their growing cult can only continue to be enthralled by what they accomplish here.

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Svart Records website

 

Vine Weevil, Sun in Your Eyes

vine weevil sun in your eyes

Together, brothers Yotam and Itamar Rubinger — guitar/vocals and drums, respectively — comprise London’s Vine Weevil. Issued early in 2020 preceded by a video for “You are the Ocean” (posted here), Sun in Your Eyes is the second album from the brothers, who are also both former members of Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, and in the watery title-track and the Beatles-circa-Revolver bounce of “Loose Canon” they bask in a folkish ’60s-style psychedelia, mellotron melodies adding to the classic atmosphere tipped with just an edge of Ween-style weirdness — it’s never so druggy, but that undercurrent is there. “You are the Ocean” hints toward heavy garage, but the acoustic/electric sentimentality of “My Friend” and the patient piano unfurling of “Lord of Flies” ahead of organ-led closer “The Shadow” are more indicative overall of the scope of this engaging, heartfelt and wistful 31-minute offering.

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Vine Weevil on Bandcamp

 

King Chiefs, Flying into Void

king chiefs flying into void

Since before their coronation — when they were just Chiefs — the greatest strength of San Diego heavy rockers King Chiefs has been their songwriting. They’ve never been an especially flashy band on a technical level, never over the top either direction tempo-wise, but they can write a melody, craft a feel in a three-or-four-minute track and tell any story they want to tell in that time in a way that leaves the listener satisfied. This is not a skill to be overlooked, and though on Flying into Void, the follow-up to 2018’s Blue Sonnet (review here), the album is almost entirely done by guitarist/vocalist Paul ValleJeff Podeszwik adds guitar as well — the energy, spirit and craft that typify King Chiefs‘ work is maintained. Quality heavy built on a foundation of grunge — a ’90s influence acknowledged in the cover art; dig that Super Nintendo — it comes with a full-band feel despite its mostly-solo nature and delivers 37 minutes of absolutely-pretense-free, clearheaded rock and roll. If you can’t get down with that, one seriously doubts that’ll stop King Chiefs anyhow.

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Battle Hag, Celestial Tyrant

battle hag celestial tyrant

How doomed is Battle Hag‘s doom? Well, on Celestial Tyrant, it’s pretty damn doomed. The second long-player from the Sacramento, California-based outfit is comprised of three worth-calling-slabs slabs that run in succession from shortest to longest: “Eleusinian Sacrament” (12:47), “Talus” (13:12) and “Red Giant” (19:15), running a total of 45 minutes. Why yes, it is massive as fuck. The opener brings the first round of lurch and is just a little too filthy to be pure death-doom, despite the rainstorm cued in at its last minute, but “Talus” picks up gradually, hard-hit toms signaling the plod to come with the arrival of the central riff, which shows up sooner or later. Does the timestamp matter as much as the feeling of having your chest caved in? “Talus” hits into a speedier progression as it crosses over its second half, but it’s still raw vocally, and the plod returns at the end — gloriously. At 19 minutes “Red Giant” is also the most dynamic of the three cuts, dropping after its up-front lumber and faster solo section into a quiet stretch before spending the remaining eight minutes devoted to grueling extremity and devolution to low static noise. There’s just enough sludge here to position Battle Hag in a niche between microgenres, and the individuality that results is as weighted as their tones.

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Hyde, Hyde

hyde hyde

It might take a few listens to sink in — and hey, it might not — but Parisian trio Hyde are up to some deceptively intricate shenanigans on their self-titled debut LP. On their face, a riff like that of second cut “Black Phillip” or “DWAGB” — on which The Big Lebowski is sampled — aren’t revolutionary, but the atmospheric purpose to which they’re being put is more brooding than the band give themselves credit for. They call it desert-influenced, but languid tempos, gruff vocals coated in echo, spacious guitar and rhythmic largesse all come together to give Hyde‘s Hyde a darker, brooding atmosphere than it might at first seem, and even opener “The Victim” and the penultimate “The Barber of Pitlochry” — the only two songs under five minutes long — manage to dig into this vibe. Of course, the 11-minute closing eponymous track — that is, “Hyde,” by Hyde, on Hyde — goes even further, finding its way into psychedelic meandering after its chugging launch rings out, only to roll heavy in its last push, ending with start-stop thud and a long fade. Worth the effort of engaging on its own level, Hyde‘s first full-length heralds even further growth going forward.

Hyde on Thee Facebooks

Hyde on Bandcamp

 

Faith in Jane, Mother to Earth

Faith in Jane Mother to Earth

Maryland’s best kept secret in heavy rock remain wildly undervalued, but that doesn’t stop power trio Faith in Jane from exploring cosmic existentialism on Mother to Earth even as they likewise broaden the expanse of their grooving, bluesy dynamic. “The Circle” opens in passionate form followed by the crawling launch of “Gone are the Days,” and whether it’s the tempest brought to bear in the instrumental “Weight of a Dream” or the light-stepping jam in the middle of the title-track, the soaring solo from guitarist/vocalist Dan Mize on the subsequent “Nature’s Daughter” or the creeper-chug on “Universal Mind,” the cello guest spot on “Lonesome” and the homage to a party unknown (Chesapeake heavy has had its losses these last few years, to say nothing of anyone’s personal experience) in closer “We’ll Be Missing You,” Mize, bassist Brendan Winston and drummer Alex Llewellyn put on a clinic in vibrancy and showcase the classic-style chemistry that’s made them a treasure of their scene. I still say they need to tour for three years and not look back, but if it’s 56 minutes of new material instead, things could be far worse.

Faith in Jane on Thee Facebooks

Faith in Jane on Bandcamp

 

American Dharma, Cosmosis

American Dharma COSMOSIS

Newcomer four-piece American Dharma want nothing for ambition on their 70-minute debut, Cosmosis, bringing together progressive heavy rock, punk and doom, grunge and hardcore punk, but the Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, outfit are somewhat held back by a rawness of production pulling back from the spaces the songs might otherwise create. A bona fide preach at the outset of “Damaged Coda” is a break early on, but the guitars and bass want low end throughout much of the 14-song proceedings, and the vocals cut through with no problem but are mostly dry even when layered or show the presence of a guest, as on closer “You.” Actually, if you told me the whole thing was recorded live and intended as a live album, I’d believe it, but for a unit who do so well in pulling together elements of different styles in their songwriting and appear to have so much to say, their proggier leanings get lost when they might otherwise be highlighted. Now, it’s a self-released debut coming out during a global pandemic, so there’s context worth remembering, but for as much reach as American Dharma show in their songs, their presentation needs to move into alignment with that.

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American Dharma on Bandcamp

 

Hypernaut, Ozymandias

hypernaut ozymandias

Call it a burner, call it a corker, call it whatever you want, I seriously doubt Lima, Peru’s Hypernaut are sticking around to find out how you tag their debut album, Ozymandias. The nine-song/38-minute release pulls from punk with some of its forward-thrusting verses like “(This Is Where I) Draw the Line” or “Cynicism is Self-Harm,” but there’s metal there and in the closing title-cut as well that remains part of the atmosphere no matter how brash it might otherwise get. Spacey melodies, Sabbathian roll on “Multiverse… Battleworld” (“Hole in the Sky” walks by and waves), and a nigh-on-Devo quirk in the rhythm of “Atomic Breath” all bring to mind Iowan outliers Bloodcow, but that’s more likely sonic coincidence than direct influence, and one way or the other, Hypernaut‘s “Ozymandias” sets up a multifaceted push all through its span to its maddening, hypnotic finish, but the real danger of the thing is what this band might do if they continue on this trajectory for a few more records.

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Review & Full Album Stream: Dune Sea, Moons of Uranus

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on November 3rd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

dune sea moons of uranus

[Click play above to stream Dune Sea’s Moons of Uranus in its entirety. Album is out Nov. 13 on All Good Clean Records.]

It’s a big universe, so why shouldn’t Dune Sea find a place of their own in it? The Norwegian trio embark on a niche recon with their second full-length in as many years, Moons of Uranus, and so take the delightful genre meld of their self-titled debut (review here) and push it a year and a half later into a kind of cross-franchise hyperdrive. Dropping references to “Sarlacc” and “Tusken” from Star Wars, “First Contact” from Star Trek and “Draw 4” from the card game Uno along their way, the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist/synthesist Ole Nogva, bassist Petter Solvik Dahle and new drummer Viktor Olsen Kristensen (joined in place of Erik Bråten, who played on the last album) pull likewise from various heavy style elements, tearing into a classically strutting solo on “Tusken” atop a rolling bassline only to  push into semi-motorik beatmaking on “Air” and minor-key mysticism on “Oracle.”

Nogva, who founded the band, is a key presence throughout, but from the garage doom swagger of “First Contact” at the outset — where else to put such a song? — the growth of the band is evident in how they work to make their sound their own, creative runs of synthesizer adding flourish and nuance to the material as they go. At their thickest, as with the dug-in low end of the title-track, where they might remind of some of Spaceslug‘s melody-in-vacuum, but Dune Sea songs move in a way that holds firm to their heavy rock underpinnings, so that even while the telltale fuzz of “Shaman” might sound like British Steel in space, it’s not disjointed from its surroundings for that. Or at least not any more than it’s intended to be. Running 10 songs and 34 minutes, Moons of Uranus is manageable and thoroughly unpretentious for the apparent ease with which it engulfs microgenres and regurgitates them like a suddenly active Martian volcano, and the more one listens, the more one is ingrained into its methods.

This is accomplished in part through a deceptive clarity of purpose and structure beneath all the aesthetic shuffling. “First Contact” is a cry for assistance into the void — so, timely — and rushes behind its first of two keyboard solos, but its pleading “Please turn around/Please come back/We need your help/Please come back,” is a memorable first impression and while structurally grounded, the theme of interstellar communication bolsters the kosmiche excursions that follow. Are Dune Sea more grounded than they were a year ago? I don’t think so, but I’m also not sure that’s the right question to be asking, since the debut proved so well the solidity of their foundation. What one finds through “Shaman” and the subsequent two-and-a-half-minute space rocker “Absinthe Blues” is that the band’s vision of heavy psychedelia is encompassing, and whether that’s conjuring modes of space, fuzz, ’70s heavy or prog rocks, they’re able to bring whatever they do into the sphere of these proceedings.

dune sea

“Tusken” puts the melody line of the keyboards forward and is stronger for that turn after the more guitar-minded “Absinthe Blues,” but its rhythmic foundation in Dahle‘s punchy bass tone and Kristensen‘s crash-happy drumming is so set that there’s never a question about whether Dune Sea will return from however far out they venture. And they do. And efficiently. By the time side A closes with the title-track — also the longest song yet at just 4:06 — they have wasted not a minute of Moons of Uranus‘ time or the listener’s, and even in the atmospheric introduction to “Moons of Uranus” itself, the stage is being set for an instrumental hook and an explosion of spacious wash that’s immersive and propulsive in kind. That too is not any longer than it needs to be, and in the fading of residual melody, one almost imagines the band reminding themselves to keep it quick, not allowing themselves to veer too far away from the central intent of their craft.

Side B’s “Air” is the second of only three songs over the four-minute mark in terms of runtime — the other is the closer “Globe of Dust”; longest at 4:48 — and it brings together guitar and synth with a riff born out of classic heavy and a verse chug that’s rife with personality and tonal detailing matched in rhythm by the tambourine that moves along with the drums. The sound is warm but gives way to a standalone keyboard solo before bouncing back in a way perhaps as to signal that the second half of Moons of Uranus will stretch even broader than did the first. So be it. “Air” rolls to its end ahead of the speedy “Draw 4” with its there-and-gone two-minute run that still manages somehow to evoke folk metal in its middle and then turn back to its verse like nothing ever happened, turning the procession over to “Oracle,” which is clearly positioned a moment of contemplation. Vocals are deeper in the mix, guitars are forward and meditative if still somewhat impatient, and it’s not until nearly three minutes in that they crash into a bout of Sabbathian riffing that serves as the apex or perhaps revelation in keeping with the “Oracle” theme.

That side B sense of departure is lived up to in some of the disjointedness between “Air” and “Draw 4” and “Oracle” and “Sarlacc” is tasked with reorienting the audience ahead of the finale, which it does through layered space-echo vocals and forward charge, winding but inviting for all that. It does its job, and “Globe of Dust” follows with a lurch more resonant for its echoing snare pops in its verse and the transmuted “Iron Man” riff of its bridge, marching like Witch blasted to their molecules before at last in their final minute, Dune Sea find synthy glories to behold, a tunnel perhaps of bright-light slipstream that consumes the track, the band, and whatever else might happen across its gravitational field. Given the quick turnaround even with a lineup change and the aspects carried over from the debut, easy to think of Moons of Uranus as a next step in the band’s process of developing their sound and their methods on the whole. If that’s the case, it’s an engaging one, and it still holds promise for what they might accomplish as they push further into uncharted cosmos.

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Spidergawd to Tour Next March for New Album VI

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 1st, 2020 by JJ Koczan

spidergawd

Stoked on the idea of Spidergawd hitting the road? Yeah, well you probably should be, whether you live in the path of their newly-announced March 2021 European touring or not, because it means that there’s going to be a new Spidergawd album to coincide with said tour. Yes, friends of a heavy-rocking persuasion, I speak of Spidergawd VI, begat by 2019’s Spidergawd V (review here), which was begat by 2017’s Spidergawd IV (review here), which was begat by 2016’s Spidergawd III (review here), which was begat by 2015’s Spidergawd II (review here), which, indeed, was begat by Spidergawd (review here) in 2014.

No concrete release date yet for the VIth installment in Spidergawd‘s ongoing series of kick-you-in-the-ass-and-ask-nothing-in-return albums, but one assumes the issuance will spring forth at the behest of Crispin Glover Records and Stickman Records, much as has been the case in the past. As the Norwegian troupe have continued to amass a discography of high-grade/high-class outings, their progressive bent and forays into psychedelia have not gone unnoticed, and whether or not VI works forward the thread of either, the safest bet you can possibly make as regards anything Spidergawd is that it’s going to be awesome.

To wit, the band’s re-recorded 2019 version of “Sanctuary” from the second album. It’s awesome. That’s how they do.

When and if I hear more about the album, I’ll let you know. Hopefully it’s sooner than later, but you know how 2020 plans have gone.

Dates:

spidergawd vi tour

SPIDERGAWD – March 2021

HELLO FUTURE!

We are happy to announce the european tour for Spidergawd VI!

Hope to see all of you in march 2021!

03.03. Knust Hamburg
04.03. Vera Groningen
05.03. Essen turock – disco, live-club and lounge
06.03. Cologne, Gebäude 9
07.03. Nijmegen, Doornroosje
09.03. Schlachthof Wiesbaden
10.03. The Backstage Paris
11.03. Stuttgart, Universum
12.03. Winterthur, Gaswerk
13.03. Nuremburg, Der Hirsch
14.03. Backstage München
16.03. ((szene)) Wien
18.03. NAUMANNs Leipzig
19.03. Berlin, Frannz Club
20.03. Copenhagen, Spillestedet Stengade

Tickets: https://www.seaside-touring.com/tours/#spidergawd

https://www.facebook.com/spidergawd/
https://www.instagram.com/spidergawdofficial/
http://www.spidergawd.no/
https://www.stickman-records.com/
http://www.crispingloverrecords.com/

Spidergawd, “Sanctuary (2019)”

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Motorpsycho Announce The All is One out Aug. 28

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 22nd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

The upcoming Motorpsycho album, The All is One, will be the completion of a trilogy for the influential Norwegian progressive heavy rockers that began with 2017’s The Tower (review here) and continued on last year’s The Crucible (review here). True to form, it is a double-album, and among the assets the band teases it to include is a 42-minute five-part track that was written for ballet. Because obviously. If the question is, “Who’s going there?,” there’s a decent chance the answer is Motorpsycho.

Of course, the 2LP was slated to come out this Spring through Stickman Records, but, well, a lot of shit was supposed to happen this Spring that didn’t. If you’re reading this, congratulations on surviving, and I know that sounds sarcastic, but I actually mean it. Because a lot of people didn’t.

Stickman sent out word in their newsletter and the band had a post on their own site as well. Both are included here for your perusal:

motorpsycho the all is one

New Motorpsycho album The All Is One announced

Today we’re happy to announce the first details about Motorpsycho’s new album The All Is One!

The All Is One is the final chapter in the loosely-connected and informally titled “Gullva?g Trilogy” kicked off by 2017’s The Tower and connected by 2019’s The Crucible. Recorded between September-November of 2019 in France and Norway, the album was originally planned for a release in spring but was inevitably postponed due to – what else – Covid 19. However, the moment is ripe for new music and the band has used their extra time to give attention to every detail, resulting in a spectacular double album that is dense and Motorpsychodelic in the best possible way. We’ve been digging into this album the past few weeks at HQ and really excited to share more with you soon!

Release date has been set for August 28th, 2020.

Says the band:

THE ALL IS ONE
Hi psychonauts!

Summer is coming on strong and whatever bit of the world that still went to work ….will soon not.

No rest for the wicked though, and both we, our team and our record company friends are busy preparing the next Motorpsycho album for release! This album is called The All Is One, and will be released on 2xLP, 2xCD as well as digitally through both Stickman Records and Rune Grammofon on August 28, 2020.

The cover art is once again by Håkon Gullvåg, and this time around is art painted esp for us! It is a long album that features music from two sessions we did last year. The first session included our favourite Stockholmian Norwegian Reine Fiske, and took place in Black Box Studio in France in September. The second, featured two of our favourite Norwegian musicians, Ola Kvernberg and Lars Horntveth, and was a brief three day affair at Ocean Sound Studio on the Norwegian west coast in November.

At the center of this album is a long 5 part piece featuring some of the most radical stuff we’ve done on record in a while, but if the prospect of a 42 minute piece for ballet inspired by paintings, alchemy and the tarot seems too daunting, there is also a handful of loosely related shorter songs to get into. For us this is obviously just different views and tangents of the one thing, but you will all make of it what you will, and hopefully it will all make some sort of sense to you however deep you choose to go.

We guess the details – cover, song titles and whatnot – will be made public as summer moves along, so watch the various relevant spaces for relevant info and hang loose – it’ll be worth the wait, we promise!

Bob leBad
esq.

Motorpsycho is: Bent Sæther, Hans Magnus “Snah” Ryan, Tomas Järmyr.

https://www.facebook.com/motorpsycho.official/
https://twitter.com/motorpsychoband
http://motorpsycho.no/
https://www.facebook.com/Stickman-Records-1522369868033940/
https://www.instagram.com/stickmanrecords/
https://www.stickman-records.com/

Motorpsycho, The Crucible (2019)

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