Album Review: Craneium, Point of No Return

Posted in Reviews on April 1st, 2024 by JJ Koczan

Craneium Point of No Return

Each successive full-length from Turku, Finland’s Craneium up to this point has been a progressive step forward from the one before it. It’s where that progression has brought them that makes their fourth long-player, Point of No Return, a special moment. As the sweeping, lush and gorgeous crescendo of opening track “One Thousand Sighs” to its final peak — a tonally rich and urgent but not too fast chug pushed forward by emphatic snare carefully placed in the mix, surrounded by layers of melodic vocals in a dynamic movement that prefaces the encompassing breadth of much of what follows before dropping with residual echo to a sentimental intertwining of acoustic and electric guitar as denouement across the last 40 seconds of its 5:34 — the band’s mastery is glaringly obvious, a brightness cast in kind with the Jaime Zuverza cover art. Point of No Return is the four-piece’s second outing backed by The Sign Records after 2021’s Unknown Heights (review here), and sees them working again with that album’s producer, Joona Hassinen, who also mastered late-2018’s The Narrow Line (review here), at a Studio Underjord now relocated from Norrköping to Finspång, Sweden, while Karl Daniel Lidén of Stockholm’s Studio Gröndahl handled the mix and master.

Across the six songs and deceptively-expansive 37 minutes, whether it’s in the underlying performances of guitarist/vocalists Andreas Kaján and Martin Ahlö, bassist Jonas Ridberg and drummer Joel Kronqvist, or the more-than-the-sum-of-its-parts grandeur they cast in the memorable choruses of “One Thousand Sighs,” “The Sun,” “A Distant Shore,” “…Of Laughter and Cries,” “Things Have Changed” and “Search Eternal” — yeah, that’s all six; it’s front-to-back — or the way even the most impact-minded stretches complement and maintain the atmospheres harnessed through contemplative, patient, purposeful semi-drift, the overarching mastery can’t be ignored. More than a decade on from first getting together in 2011 and nine years after their debut LP, Explore the Void, got them picked up by Ripple Music for a 2016 release, Craneium present themselves as mature and intentional in their craft, graceful in rhythm and melody alike, and aware of what they want their songs to be doing and how they want each to inform the greater context and undulating flow of the album as a whole.

This is conveyed in Frida Eurenius of Spiral Skies guesting on vocals to help put that already-noted apex of “One Thousand Sighs” over the top, as well as Skraeckoedlan‘s Robert Lamu contributing lead guitar to “The Sun” — I’ll note also what seem to be keyboard or piano strikes in that song’s verse; Lamu‘s band employed similar urgency in “Mysteria” from their own new album for a nice shout-out — and, for a just-them example, the way the final solo of “A Distant Shore” holds its tension in Kronqvist‘s soon-fading toms as the non-lyric vocals (ready for an audience singalong as much as they are an epilogue), far-back Mellotron and airy guitar end side A only to have the initial crash of “…Of Laughter and Cries” immediately reground with the more uptempo groove that follows. With a direct shift, that bit of contrast echoes how the buildup of “The Sun,” which is Point of No Return‘s most fervent shove, responds to the quiet finish of “One Thousand Sighs” just before, and though the interaction changes as the couple seconds of silence on side B between the penultimate “Things Have Changed” — the chugging verse and declarative chorus of which mirror “The Sun” in their grounded execution — and “Search Eternal” are tense with anticipation, Craneium nonetheless feel mindful in these pairings and their arrangement across the two sides, each set up such that its procession complements the other.


The split on the vinyl version (I’m not sure there is a CD; take that, ’90s heads), between “A Distant Shore” and “…Of Laughter and Cries,” makes for three songs on each side, and the symmetry of construction extends to “A Distant Shore” (7:35) and “Search Eternal” (7:23) each as the longest running track among its respective three. It’s not the most radical difference between those and the others between five and six minutes long, but still a choice that feels purposeful, especially as “Search Eternal” enters its final outward-pointed movement in a midsection marked by near-elephantine keyboard swells and cycles of guitar that, indeed, seem to be exploring and finding their way forward. And that “Search Eternal” has a hook in its early going is no less representative of Point of No Return as a whole.

On sound alone, it and “A Distant Shore” both work as grand finales. The side-A-capper plunging into Mellotron-laced melancholy and a post-stoner float, and its chorus stands ready to imprint itself on your brain, but the way its riff hits more straight-on before the cymbal wash and danger-zone guitar lead into a heavier rush — still methodical in the detailing with key or guitar sounds peppered in the momentary tumult — before the solo brings “A Distant Shore” to a head and it recedes into the aforementioned, immersive ending, Ridberg‘s bass and Kronqvist‘s drums tasked with keeping feet on the ground through the transition as the melody and ambience lend an aspect of drama without feeling like Craneium have pushed too far and gotten lost. What makes “Search Eternal” function so well where it does is how it emphasizes the fluidity of everything preceding. Beginning with resonant low end fuzz and moving swiftly into its verse, it lacks nothing for fullness of sound at its heaviest — and the mix is a significant space to fill — but Point of No Return would be a much different album if volume was its only priority.

Further, the ease with which they turn from a few measures of bombast to the march-through-the-cosmos instrumental ending, while evocative of the stated climate-crisis thematic, underscores the point of the directorial role they’ve played a songwriters. It’s not that they’ve given up the riffy foundations from whence they’ve come, but while the core “The Sun” could be read as extrapolated from Songs for the Deaf-era Queens of the Stone Age, there’s no denying that Craneium take that particular charge and use it toward their own ends. That, coupled with the care and attention so clearly paid to the root performances and the additional layers constructed around them, affirms Point of No Return as the defining statement of Craneium‘s tenure thus far. Accordingly, where their own ‘search eternal,’ i.e., their collective ambitions in sound, craft and expression, might take them from here feels broader in possibility than it ever has.

Craneium, “Things Have Changed” official video

Craneium, “One Thousand Sighs” official video

Craneium, Point of No Return (2024)

Craneium on Facebook

Craneium on Instagram

Craneium on Bandcamp

The Sign Records on Facebook

The Sign Records website

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Craneium to Release Point of No Return Feb. 23

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 18th, 2024 by JJ Koczan


My understanding of the situation is that Turku, Finland, heavy progressives Craneium finished recording their upcoming fourth LP, Point of No Return, in Oct. 2022. That was a month after premiering a video for “Victim of Delusion”, which was issued as a standalone digital single following 2021’s Unknown Heights (review here), which was their first album for The Sign Records.

That’s plenty of lead time. I say put the thing out Friday. “One Thousand Sighs” sure sounds ready to be heard, let alone either of the tracks they’ve put out as singles thus far, “Things Have Changed” (true: the band have grown) and “The Sun,” which boasts a guest appearance from Skraeckoedlan‘s Robert Lamu. All told, Point of No Return runs six songs, and as someone listening to it right now, I’ve yet to find a dud in the bunch.

I can only imagine the relief Craneium will feel to get this out after sitting on it for a year-plus. Note the Karl Daniel Lidén mix and master and keep in mind ideas of clarity and refinement. Their choruses speak more to the listener here than they have before. I’m interested to get to know the songs better and I’ll hope to have more before the record’s already been out for like four months or some such.

From the PR wire:

Craneium Point of No Return

Craneium are set to release their fourth album “Point of No Return” in February 2024 via The Sign Records. The Finnish four piece’s upcoming, studio recorded effort is their most ambitious one yet, washing over you through a constant ebb and flow of fuzzy heaviness, complemented by psychedelic melodies and atmospheric passages. The album follows their 2021 studio effort “Unknown Heights” (The Sign Records), “The Narrow Line” (2018, Ripple Music), and “Explore The Void” (2016, Ripple Music).

The album was recorded by Joona Hassinen at his new Studio Underjord in Finspång, Sweden with mixing and mastering duties handled by legendary Karl Daniel Lidén (Studio Gröndahl). The band has long admired his work with giants such as Lowrider and Greenleaf, and we are more than pleased with the end result. With the songwriting expanding upon the Craneium sound with atmospheric guitar leads and heavy riffing, the dynamics have become more polished and clean. Conceptually, the lyrics deal with the climate catastrophe and the responsibility of mankind for planet Earth. The artwork was handled by psychedelic artist Jaime Zuverza and complements the music perfectly.

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

Craneium, “Things Have Changed” official video

Craneium, “The Sun” (feat. Robert Lamu) official video

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Craneium Post New Single “Sands of Gold”

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 13th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

Last I heard from Finnish outfit Craneium, the Turku-based heavy rockers had finished recording their next full-length for The Sign Records, following up on 2021’s Unknown Heights (review here). Frankly, it still hasn’t been that long since that record came out, so it’s not really a worry that instead of news about the next album, the new song “Sands of Gold” arrives specifically pointed out as a standalone single rather than a herald of an LP to follow.

If it’s the ubiquitous pressing delays, cost-of-everything concerns, or whatever else might be behind putting this out before moving forward with a new album, it doesn’t really matter. New Craneium is welcome regardless, and if this is the capstone for their Unknown Heights era, it both reminds how cool that record was and makes me look forward to what’s coming next.

YouTube stream is at the bottom of this post. If you prefer another service, there’s a bunch linked in the PR wire info that follows here:

Craneium Sands of Gold

Craneium release stand alone single “Sands of Gold”!

The new single from Finlands’ Craneium is called “Sands of Gold” and it oozes of heavy blues rock, desert sand and gasoline. But it’s more than a heavy rock tune with a lot of drive, it’s also a song filled with hope.

The stand alone single was written during the sessions for the bands’ latest album “Unknown Heights” (2021). The band recorded the song at V.R. Studio in Turku together with Joona Hassinen from Studio Underjord.

Listen to the single via your favorite streaming platform or right here:

Guitarist Martin, who also handles the lead vocal duties on the track, explains:
“The line ‘we all must do our part / got a new world here in our hearts’ is inspired by a quote by anarcho-syndicalist Buenaventura Durruti. The song is about believing in your thing and staying true to your ideas, even if it at times may seem dark. Something we all could use a little more of right now.”

“Sands of Gold” is out now on all streaming platforms via The Sign Records:

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

Craneium, “Sands of Gold”

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Album Review: Mansion, Second Death

Posted in Reviews on January 24th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

Mansion Second Death

Returning after four-plus years presumably spent repenting for how good their first record was, Finnish heavy cultists Mansion offer Second Death as the follow-up to 2018’s First Death of the Lutheran (review here) and bring even more sinister atmospheres and religious authoritarianism to bear across seven songs and 49 minutes of unrelenting commitment to aesthetic and presentation, sex and death. They remain true to their founding basis in exploring the ideas and practices of the Kartanoist sect in the first half of the 20th century led by Alma Kartano, a role played with if not exactly fully embodied by the band’s own Alma, who is introduced with due theatricality by fellow vocalist Osmo on opener “Sword of God,” full of warnings to the righteous and sinners alike of deathly penance to be paid.

The eight-piece band — Alma and Osmo singing, Jaakob and Samuel on guitar, Immanuel on bass, Matti-Juhani on the crucial organ, Aatami on drums (also guitar) and Mikael with lyrics — are malevolent in spirit and patient in the delivery of their material, as demonstrated early with the choral intro “Procession” before “Sword of God” begins its rollout, in the buildup of the second half of layered vocal highlight “No Funeral,” in the ambient transitions between songs throughout seemingly contributed by Juhana that make the record so effective in never quite letting you go until entire mass has ended, or in the chugging low end and semi-industrial wash that serves as the payoff for centerpiece “Heathen Hole,” that song something of an encapsulation of Mansion‘s take on making doctrine out of kink and vice versa.

As lush in its production — recording, mixing and mastering took place at Noise for Fiction in Turku and was helmed by Joona Lukala — as it is resonant in its darkness, Second Death answers back to the realizations of Mansion‘s first album with the increased dramaturge of “In the Court of the Sorrowless,” which moves from its slowly unfolding hook into an actual trial in its second half backed with chastising and foreboding lines of keyboard, far away percussion and rumbling bass that gradually give over to the transition to “Second Death” itself, the march of which is immediate and answers back to “First Death” from the debut in its emphasis on songwriting. Like “Sword of God” — which boasts the chorus, “Don’t break the rules, little boys and girls/There’s nothing out there for you in the world” in a tidy summary of the cult’s self-imposed misanthropy as led by Kartano — and “No Funeral,” “You Are Suspicious” still to come and “Heathen Hole,” the title-track is thoughtfully composed and engaging, mixed for depth and wholly immersive even as it willfully slogs (flogs?) in tempo and declares a soul-death in a swirl of howls and consuming doom that would be ecstatic were it not so menacing and implicitly violent.

Mansion 2022

This is the balance Mansion ultimately cast with Second Death, between individual songs standing themselves out from the collection — “In the Court of the Sorrowless” has its hook as well, but is more distinguished by the aforementioned trial, which, by way of a spoiler: divorce not granted — even as they place emphasis on drawing them together through theme, of course, and with the atmospheric stretches that lead from one piece to the next. Also there’s just more sex. First Death of the Lutheran wasn’t lacking, by any means, but Mansion more fully convey the bound-for-hypocrisy tenet of celibacy and theorize Alma‘s various punishments — “I shall whip you good,” she croons before the chorus on “You Are Suspicious” — as about domination as much as contrition before one’s god. As the leader of the movement, she is the god and her will, thematically speaking, is cast across the entire record. They end side A with “Heathen Hole.” How much clearer could they possibly make it?

And maybe there’s a winking sensibility behind some of that, but what matters most is that Mansion are completely without irony in their presentation. Straight-faced. I’m pretty sure putting your tongue even in your own cheek is a sin in Kartanoism. But that is the way it has to be, because the group simply wouldn’t work otherwise. Mansion would be another cult doom band, if one with a gimmick. And no, I’m not saying that Osmo actually lives in fear of Alma or that the band are practicing Kartanoists in their private lives, but like good theatre, they’re able to transport their listeners into a world where that is the case, and to tell their stories in such a way that the backdrop of fanaticism is unflinching, unquestioned. It doesn’t matter if you’re actually being hunted in “Sword of God,” because the song, like the rest of the album that follows, is so well crafted that its, ahem, procession, is followable without having to continually suspend disbelief.

Right into the riffy turn that marks the crescendo of “You Are Suspicious” with the arrival of the buzzsaw guitar solo at 6:33 into its total 9:27 — an extended edition features as a bonus track on the CD with additional ambience at the beginning and guitar by Henrik — departing from the earlier organ-inclusive death-doom-worthy plod into a faster moment of tension-release, Mansion keep hold of the consciousness, and with intricate arrangements of vocals, guitar and bass and keys, they’re able to portray ascetism without any actual aural drudgery, or at least no more than is intended. They are punishing sinners, after all.

Be it the duet undertaken by Osmo and Alma on “Heathen Hole” or the severity of the lumber behind them in “Second Death” itself, the melody that seems to break through the early going of “In the Court of the Sorrowless” or the build back to full-volume crux with the above-quoted admonition in “Sword of God,” Second Death is disturbing in its beauty in exactly the way it’s supposed to be. It solidifies some aspects of the first record while progressing in sound and scope overall, and weaves its holy retribution with purpose and mystique, of and at once outside genre for residing on its own level of execution. Sex, death, violence, mystique and control. Mansion bask in these notions and, centering their theme as they do, use them to manifest the puritanical ideal of who they are as a band, conceptually and practically.

Mansion, Second Death (2023)

Mansion on Bandcamp

Mansion on Facebook

Mansion on Instagram

Mansion on Spotify

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Mansion Announce New Album Second Death Due Jan. 13; Preorder Available

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 4th, 2022 by JJ Koczan

Mansion 2022

Oh shit. Nearly four years after the release of their awaited debut album, First Death of the Lutheran (review here), Finland’s Mansion — who win at cult rock by not being horror cinema cliché — hereby announce their follow-up out Jan. 13, Second Death. As fate and timing would have it, I’ve got the tape master playing right now for the first time while I’m writing, and my goodness this is awesome. Classic doom unfolding early in “No Funeral” with an entire drama laid out in the arrangement overtop, only after the hook in the second half of “Procession/Sword of God” has implanted itself on my brain. That’ll be a fun one to hear in my sleep. Oh, and “No Funeral” also goes nuts later on. Just a heads up.

I’m not at “You Are Suspicious” yet, and that’s the song that you’ll be able to stream at the bottom of this post by the time it goes live, but if you heard First Death of the Lutheran and/or some of Mansion‘s other short releases, I’m not sure that’s going to have prepared you for what’s on offer here, and that applies both to the most outwardly heavy parts thus far into side one and some of the psychedelia as “No Funeral” gives way in a fluid change to “Heathen Hole,” some Britfolk acoustic there as Osmo joins Alma again on vocals. Oh and then it does a doomer take on ’90s David Bowie. Ask more of it, I dare you. I’m not even halfway through yet, either the song or the record.

And again, “oh shit” for the riff in “The Court of the Sorrowless.” I can’t wait to hear how weird this gets. Yup, there it goes.

Some info or other will follow here if it doesn’t yet:

Mansion Second Death

MANSION – Second Death


Do you feel the rising heat? Do you smell the sulphur? It has been written and foretold, thus the Second Death is upon you.

Oh poor sinner, you have another thing coming for Mansion’s sophomore album Second Death will be released Jan. 13

This intimidating release contains accounts of the trials and tribulations of the chosen few, those who will sit by the Lord when the trumpets roar and the angels mourn the demise of humanity.

The tracks on this album are the group’s heaviest to date both in sound and content.

Mansion second Death lpThe hymns of Second Death attack the pitiful bearers of unclean thoughts, the turncoat serpents among the flock and the hypocritical justice of the sorrowless.

Second Death will be available on cassette, compact disc, vinyl and streaming.

Perdition (black) vinyl: 90 copies

No Rest for the Wicked (tr. violet) vinyl: 90 copies

Lake of Fire (Red/yellow marble) vinyl 80: copies

CD: 100 copies

Cassette: 35 copies

First single: You are Suspicious

Better forget your wicked ideas for Mother Alma sees through you and your deviant wit. The first single of the sophomore Mansion album Second Death is called You are Suspicious. You will get caught for your trespasses, have no doubt in your deceitful little mind.
The track features a fierce guitar solo by Tommi Hoffren (Jess and the Ancient Ones)

Sword of God
No Funeral
Heathen Hole
In the Court of the Sorrowless
Second Death
You Are Suspicious

The Band and guests:
Alma – Vocals
Osmo – Vocals
Aatami – Drums, guitar
Samuel – Guitar
Jaakob – Guitar
Immanuel – Bass
Matti-Juhani – Organ
Mikael – Lyrics

Juhana – Additional instrumentation & ambient soundscapes
Henrik – Guitar solo on “You Are Suspicious”
Kustaa – Ambient sounds on ”Procession / Sword of God” and ”Heathen Hole”

Mansion, “You Are Suspicious”

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Craneium Finish Recording New Album

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 25th, 2022 by JJ Koczan

Finnish heavy rockers Craneium are barely one year removed from Oct. 2021’s Unknown Heights (review here), but they’ve finished putting their next full-length to tape, working with Joona Hassinen as producer, as they will, en route to mixing/mastering by the increasingly-esteemed Karl Daniel Lidén. That’s a whole process in itself, of course, but I saw the announcement the follows here and bothered guitarist/vocalist Martin Ahlö for more info, and as you can see below, a previously recorded single will arrive in February. To me, that says maybe a release in mid-summer?

Depends obviously on pressing delays, but being done tracking is an occasion worth marking just the same. Live dates coming soon? So much the better.

Unknown Heights came out through The Sign Records and I expect the next album, whatever they end up calling it, to do the same. Here’s what they had to say on it:

Craneium recording

That’s a wrap! Recording your own music can be quite a nerve-racking experience. That’s why we wanted to do it at Studio Underjord together with Joona. He manages to take the stress out of the equation and has guided us through our process with calm and precision. We’re one big step closer to #craneiumvol4

Thanks for an unforgettable week ❤️ It was dreamy as fuck!

No release date is set for the album yet, but we had good songs written already and decided to hit the studio. We love working with Joona Hassinen so we went to his new studio in the Swedish forests. The mixing and mastering will be done by Karl-Daniel Lidén since we are amazed with what he did on the Greenleaf, Dozer, Lowrider albums (among others).

We will soon publish more live dates for the winter and spring, and a previously recorded single will be released in February.

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

Craneium, Unknown Heights (2021)

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Craneium Premiere “Victim of Delusion” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on September 14th, 2022 by JJ Koczan


Turku, Finland’s Craneium released their new single, ‘Victim of Delusion,’ on Sept. 2 through The Sign Records. The thus-far digital-only offering is the band’s first inkling of moving forward from their 2021 third album, Unknown Heights (review here), though to be fair it hasn’t even been a year since that came out. And the grainy look of the video below directed by Joni Tuominen isn’t an accident either, matching as it does the rough aesthetic edges that permeate in most of the song.

There’s a surprisingly doomed feel throughout “Victim of Delusion.” At the halfway point into the just-under-four-minute piece, they drop out to a proggier break that feels specifically drawn from the European retro set — now almost retro itself — but gives way to an organ-laced (unless I’m hearing things) and charged solo before guitarist/vocalists Andreas Kaján and Martin Ahlö bring the chorus back around for a final runthrough near the end. With Jonas Ridberg‘s bass and Joel Kronqvist‘s drums added to the march, and lyrics like the standout line, “Good things will never come to pass for you nor me,” I feel like the nod to doom noted above is justified on more than one level, and it pulls away from some of the more psych moments on Unknown Heights, but there’s still plenty of ethereal energy to coincide with their terrestrial, dirt-dance riffing.

I’m not ready at all to declare a twist in the direction of Craneium as a whole — standalone singles are their own beast anyway, sometimes — but the harder edges in “Victim of Delusion” hits as something of a surprise and it seems worth noting for anyone else who’s followed the four-piece since at least the last record. Where will 2023 take them? Shows would be my guess. They’ve been a well-kept-secret of heavy for heavy heads, even releasing through labels like The Sign and Ripple Music — no minor shakes, as far as this kind of thing goes — so hopefully as the air continues to clear in the post-pandemic age and the everybody-tours-this-Fall-yes-we-mean-everybody-even-you-get-going leads to a more evened-out live music sphere, Craneium will be able to get out and be a part of it. They usually work at a three-year clip between records, so I’m not expecting a new record, but certainly I’ve been surprised before and am willing to be again.

For now, I hope you enjoy the video. PR wire info and comment from the band follow below:

Craneium, “Victim of Delusion” video premiere

Stream the single:

Heavy fuzzrock outfit Craneium shares the standalone single ”Victim of Delusion”. The single is the first release from the Finnish four piece since their third studio album ”Unknown Heights” from 2021, and is released together with a music video.

Joel from Craneium comments:

“Our new single Victim Of Delusion is a straightforward rocker in true retro style. It’s fuzzy and it’s bluesy. Dare we even say it’s a bit proto metalesque? Lyrically the song talks about how nothing good comes out of trying to control people. Instead it’s easy to end up a delusional lonely person. To accompany the song we wanted to make a video that tips the hat to retro psychedelic filmmaking. We teamed up with music video maker Joni Tuominen who had an idea on a video with acid fried aesthetics. It turned out great and we had a blast doing it.”

Craneium’s latest studio album ”Unknown Heights” was released on The Sign Records during the autumn of 2021. The album is available on white/blue splatter vinyl, black vinyl, CD, and all streaming platforms.

Get the album:

Craneium has released two albums through California label Ripple Music, an independent cassette release and two split vinyls with 3rd Trip (FIN) and Black Willows (CH). Their third album “Unknown Heights” was recorded and mastered by producer Joona Hassinen (Studio Underjord) and released during the autumn of 2021 on The Sign Records.

Andreas Kaján – Guitars and Vocals
Martin Ahlö – Guitars and Vocals
Jonas Ridberg – Bass
Joel Kronqvist – Drums

Craneium on Facebook

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Craneium on Twitter

Craneium on Bandcamp

The Sign Records on Facebook

The Sign Records website

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Quarterly Review: The John Denver Airport Conspiracy, Clara Engel, Cormano, Black Lung, Slowenya, Superlynx, Øresund Space Collective, Zone Six, The Cimmerian, Ultracombo

Posted in Reviews on July 1st, 2022 by JJ Koczan


Today’s Friday, and in most but a decreasing number of circumstances, that means a Quarterly Review is over. Not this one. Remember, doublewide means it goes to 100 albums. The really crazy part? It could go longer. I could add another day. It could go to 11! Have I done that before?

Probably. That Spinal Tap reference is too obvious for me to have never made it. In any case, I’ve got something booked for Monday after next already, so I won’t be adding another day, but I could just on the releases that came in over the last couple days. Onto the list for next time. Late September/early October, I think.

If you’re hurting for Quarterly Review in the meantime? Yeah, stick around. There’s a whole other week coming up. That’s what I’ve been saying. Have a great weekend and we’ll pick back up on Monday with another 10 records.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

The John Denver Airport Conspiracy, Something’s Gotta Give

John Denver Airport Conspiracy Something's Gotta Give

Hail Toronto psych. The John Denver Airport Conspiracy released Something’s Gotta Give as a 16-tracker name-your-price Bandcamp download nearly a year ago, and vinyl delays give squares like yours truly who missed it at the time another opportunity to get on board. The 14-song LP edition runs 42 minutes, and it’s time well spent in being out of its own time, a pedal steel Americana-fying the ’60s drift of “Comin’ Through” while “Jeff Bezos Actually Works for Me” pairs garage strum-and-strut with a cavernous echo for an effect like shoegaze that looked up. “2000 November” and closer “The Lab” dares proto-punk shimmy and “Green Chair” has that B3 organ sound and lazy jangle that one can’t help but associate with 1967, “Ya, I Wonder” perhaps a few years before that, but “The Big Greaser” works in less directly temporal spaces, and the whole album is united by an overarching mellow spirit, not totally in a fog because actually the structures on some of these songs are pretty tight — as they were in the 1960s — but they’ve definitely and purposefully kept a few screws loose. Their sound may solidify over time and it may not, but as a debut album, Something’s Gotta Give is deceptively rich in its purpose and engaging in its craft and style alike. I wish I’d heard it earlier, I’m glad to have heard it now.

The John Denver Airport Conspiracy on Instagram

Cardinal Fuzz Records webstore

Little Cloud Records website


Clara Engel, Their Invisible Hands

Clara Engel Their Invisible Hands

Clara Engel‘s experimentalist folk songwriting moves into and across and over and through various traditions and methods, but their voice is as resonant, human and unifying as ever, and that’s true from “O Human Child” through the softly echoing guitar pieces “Golden Egg” and “High Alien Priest,” the more ethereal “Glass Mountain,” and so on, while excursions like “I Drink the Rain,” “Cryptid Bop” and “Dead Tree March” earlier add not only instrumental flourish but an avant garde sensibility consistent with Engel‘s past work, even if as songs they remain resoundingly cohesive. That is to say, while founded on experimentalist principles, they are built into songs rather than presented in their rawest form. The inclusion of organ in finale “The Devils are Snoring” is striking and complements the minimalist vocals and backing drone, but by then Engel has long established their ability to put the listener where they wants, with the image of “Rowing Home Through a Sea of Golden Leaves” duly poetic to suit the music as demonstration. Gorgeous, impassioned, hurt but striving and ever moving forward creatively. Engel‘s work remains a treasure for those with ears to hear it. “I Drink the Rain” is an album unto itself.

Clara Engel on Facebook

Clara Engel on Bandcamp


Cormano, Weird Tales

Cormano Weird Tales

Though the initial push of doomer riffing and melodic vocals in the post-intro title-track “Weird Tales” reminds a bit of Apostle of Solitude, the hooky brand of heavy wrought by Chilean three-piece Cormano — vocalist/guitarist Aaron Saavedra, bassist/backing vocalist Claudio Bobadilla, drummer/backing vocalist Rodrigo Jiménez — on their debut full-length is more about rock than such morose proceedings, and in fact it’s the prior intro “La Marcha del Desierto” that makes that plain. They’ll delve into psychedelic airiness in “El Caleuche” — the bassline underneath a highlight on its own — and if you read “Bury Me With My Money” as a capitalist critique, it’s almost fun instead of tragic, but their swing in “Urknall” and the roll of “Rise From Your Grave” (second Altered Beast reference of this Quarterly Review; pure coincidence) act as precursor to the thickened unfurling of “Futuere” and “A Boy and His Dog,” a closing pair that reinforce Cormano‘s ultimate direction as anything but settled, the latter featuring a pointedly heavy crash before a surprisingly gentle finish. Will be curious to see where their impulses lead them, but Weird Tales is that much stronger for the variety currently in their influences.

Cormano on Facebook

Cormano on Bandcamp


Black Lung, Dark Waves

Black Lung Dark Waves

Like the rest of reality, Baltimorean heavy psychedelic blues rockers Black Lung have undergone a few significant changes in the last three years. Guitarist/vocalist Dave Cavalier (also Mellotron) and drummer/synthesist Elias Schutzman (also Revvnant, ex-The Flying Eyes) bid farewell to fellow founding member Adam Bufano (guitar, also ex-The Flying Eyes) and brought in Dave Fullerton to fill the role, while also, for the first time, adding a bassist in Charles Braese. Thus, their first record for Heavy Psych Sounds, the J. Robbins-produced/Kurt Ballou-mixed Dark Waves is a notable departure in form from 2019’s Ancients (review here), even if the band’s core methodology and aesthetic are the same. The sound is fuller, richer, and more able to hold the various Mellotrons and other flourishes, as well as the cello in “Hollow Dreams” and guest vocals on “Death Grip” and guest keys on “The Cog” and “The Path.” Taking inspiration from modern global uncertainties sociopolitical, medical and otherwise, the band put you in a mind of living through the current moment, thankfully without inducing the level of anxiety that seems to define it. Small favors amid big riffs. With shades of All Them Witches and further psychedelic exploring transposed onto their already-a-given level of songwriting, Black Lung sound like they’re making a second debut.

Black Lung on Facebook

Heavy Psych Sounds website


Slowenya, Meadow

Slowenya Meadow

Make a big space and fill it with righteousness. Finland’s Slowenya are born out of an experimentalist hotbed in Turku, and the three-piece do justice to an expectation of far-out tendencies across the nonetheless-concise 31 minutes and six songs of Meadow, their second long-player in as many years. There’s an undercurrent of metal as “Synchronized” holds forth with a resilient, earthy chug, but the melodicism that typifies the vocals running alongside is lighter, born of a proggy mindset and able to keep any overarching aggression in check. With synths, samples, and ambient sounds filling out the mix — not that the massive tonality of the guitar and bass itself doesn’t do the job — a breadth is cast from “Intro” onward through “Nákàn” and the gone-full-YOB swell of “Irrevocable,” which is yet another of the tracks on Meadow one might hear and expect to be 20 minutes long and instead is under seven. The penultimate “Transients” pushes deeper into drone, and “Resonate and Relate” (7:53) caps Slowenya‘s impressive second LP with a due blend of melodic wash and lurching rhythmic physicality, the screams into a sudden stop effectively carrying the threat of more to come. You want to hear this.


Karhuvaltio Records on Facebook


Superlynx, Solstice EP

Superlynx Solstice

As their growing fanbase immediately set about waiting for their third full-length after 2021’s Electric Temple, Norwegian heavy-broodgaze trio Superlynx issued at the very end of the year the Solstice EP, combining covers from Saint Vitus, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Nat King Cole (because obviously he’d be third on that list) and Nirvana with two originals in “Reorbit” and “Cosmic Wave.” As bassist/vocalist Pia Isaksen has already put out a solo release in 2022, drummer Ole Teigen has a blues band on the side among other projects, and one assumes guitarist Daniel Bakken is up to something else as well, Solstice serves as a welcome holdover of momentum after the album. It’s worth the price of admission (eight Euro) for the take on Nirvana‘s “Something in the Way” alone, but the so-slow-it-sounds-like-it’s-about-to-fall-apart “Reorbit” and the leadoff adaptation of “Born Too Late” enforces that song’s message with a modernized and made-even-more slogging sense of defeat. Maybe we were all born too late. Maybe that’s humanity’s fucking problem. Anyway, after you get this, get Isaksen‘s solo record as Pia Isa. You won’t regret that either, especially with the subdued vibe in some of the material on this one.

Superlynx on Facebook

Dark Essence Records website


Øresund Space Collective, Oily Echoes of the Soul

oresund space collective oily echoes of the soul

The always-hit-record ethic of multinational conglomerate jammers Øresund Space Collective pays dividends once again as Oily Echoes of the Soul emerges publicly — it was previously released in a different form to Bandcamp subscribers — as carved from a session all the way back in 2010. At the time I’m pretty certain all members of the band actually lived in Denmark, but sitarist K.G. Westman, who appeared here while still a member of Siena Root, is from Sweden, so whatever. Ultimately the affair is less about where they’re from than where you’re going while hearing it, which is off to a laid-back, anything goes psychedelic improvisation, beginning with the funky and suitably explorational, half-hour-long opener “Bump and Grind ØSC Style” before moving into the sitar-led “Peace of Mynd” (13:27) and the 24-minute title-track’s organic surges and recessions of volume; proggy, ’70s, and unforced as they are. Before twang-happy and much shorter closer “Shit Kickin'” (4:10), the 15-minute “Deep Breath for the EARTH” offers affirmation of the project’s reliably expansive sound. I’ve made no secret that I listen to this band in no small part for the emotionally and/or existentially soothing facets of their sound. Those are on ready display here, and I’ll be returning to this 12-year-old session accordingly.

Øresund Space Collective on Bandcamp

Space Rock Productions website


Zone Six, Beautiful EP


Recorded in Dec. 1997 at Zone Six‘s practice space, the two-song Beautiful EP portrays a much different band than Zone Six ultimately became, with Australian-born vocalist Jodi Barry and then-Liquid Visions members Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt (bass, effects), Hans-Peter Ringholz (guitar, noise) and drummer/recording specialist Claus Bühler as well as keyboardist/etc.-ist Rusty and bringing two longform, molten works of pioneering-at-the-time heavy psychedelia. I mean, we’re talking 20 years ahead of their time, at least, here. It’s still forward-thinking. The guitars and breathy vocals in “Something’s Missing” are a joy and “Beautiful” plays off drone-style atmospherics with intermittently jazzy verses and a more active rhythm, winding guitar and pervasively spaced mindbending. Imagining what could’ve been if this record had been finished, one could repaint the scope of 2010s-era European heavy psychedelia as a whole, but on their own, the two extended inclusions on the 23-minute EP are a gorgeous glimpse at this fleeting moment in time. It is what it says it is.




The Cimmerian, Thrice Majestic

The Cimmerian Thrice Majestic

Thrice Majestic and four-times barbarous comes this debut EP release from Los Angeles’ The Cimmerian, a new trio featuring Massachusetts expat David Gein (ex-bass, The Scimitar, etc.) on guitar, and the brand of heavy that ensues readily crosses the line between metal and doom, as the galloping “Emerald Scripture” reinforces directly after the eight-minute highlight and longest groover “Silver and Gold.” Drummer David Morales isn’t shy with the double-kick and neither should he be, and bassist/vocalist Nicolas Rocha has a bark that reminds of Entombed‘s L.G. Petrov, and that is not a compliment I’m ever going to hand out lightly. Lead cut “Howls of Lust and Fury” promises High on Fire-ist thrash in its opening, but The Cimmerian‘s form of pummel goes beyond any single point of inspiration, even on this presumably formative suckerpunch of an EP, which balances intensity and nod in the finishing move “Neck Breaker,” a last growl perhaps the most brutal of all. Fucking a. More of this.

The Cimmerian on Facebook

The Cimmerian on Bandcamp


Ultracombo, Season II

Ultracombo Season II

You could probably sit and parse out where Ultracombo are coming from — geographically, it’s Vincenza, Italy — in terms of sound on the sequentially titled follow-up to 2019’s Season I (review here), but to do so denies the double-guitar five-piece credit for the obvious efforts they’ve put into making this material their own. Those efforts pay off in the listening experience of the five-tracker, which runs 25 minutes and so offers plenty enough to make an impression. Witness the slowdown in centerpiece “Umanotest” or the keyboard-or-keyboard-esque lead in the back half of the prior “Follia,” the added jammy feel in “Specchio,” the this-is-the-difference-the-right-drummer-makes “12345” or the return of the synth and an added bit of playfulness before the big ending in — what else? — “La Fine.” That this EP manages to careen and pull such hairpin turns of rhythm is a triumph unto itself. That it manages to do so without sounding like Queens of the Stone Age feels like a fucking miracle. “Dear Ultracombo, Hope you’re well. Time to make an album. Put in an interlude or two depending on space. Sincerely, some dude on the internet.”

Ultracombo on Facebook

Ultracombo on Instagram


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