Days of Rona: Bo Sejer of Vestjysk Ørken & Esbjerg Fuzztival

Posted in Features on April 2nd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

The statistics of COVID-19 change with every news cycle, and with growing numbers, stay-at-home isolation and a near-universal disruption to society on a global scale, it is ever more important to consider the human aspect of this coronavirus. Amid the sad surrealism of living through social distancing, quarantines and bans on gatherings of groups of any size, creative professionals — artists, musicians, promoters, club owners, techs, producers, and more — are seeing an effect like nothing witnessed in the last century, and as humanity as a whole deals with this calamity, some perspective on who, what, where, when and how we’re all getting through is a needed reminder of why we’re doing so in the first place.

Thus, Days of Rona, in some attempt to help document the state of things as they are now, both so help can be asked for and given where needed, and so that when this is over it can be remembered.

Thanks to all who participate. — JJ Koczan

bo sejer vestjysk orken esbjerg fuzztival

Days of Rona: Bo Sejer of Vestjysk Ørken & Esbjerg Fuzztival (Esbjerg, Denmark)

How are you dealing with this crisis as a band? Have you had to rework plans at all? How is everyone’s health so far?

Luckily we only had a few live shows planned in March and April domestically in Denmark. Still, even a few shows cancelled meant a few boxes of freshly made merch we were not able to sell after live shows. Compared to other bands we’re talking to, we got off easy in that regard. We just announced a new album, though, and in that respect it could not come at a worse time: We’ll not be able to ride the new album wave for long and book new gigs as a current band.

This is only made worse since most venues are now busy re-booking bigger bands and acts for the Fall that should’ve played in the spring, meaning less potential dates for smaller bands like ourselves. Even worse though is that we can’t jam or rehearse, as we do not live in the same city. This last part is the most frustrating, I think. There’s little worse than being a band that can’t get together to create.

As a promoter for Fuzztival in Esbjerg, Denmark, we’ve been working overtime for weeks now. It took less than a week before the first band had to cancel after the crisis got really bad in Italy and the restrictions started happening all over Europe. After that we had somewhat of a snowball effect that resulted in some tough decisions. It’s not cheap to relocate a festival you have been working on for the better part of a year, and it’s not easy. But we felt it had to be done, and luckily we have been met with cooperation and understanding from all parts.

I don’t think anyone got much sleep the first two weeks, but once the decision was made to postpone the festival and we made the necessary arrangements to do so, I think we could all take a deep breath and reflect a bit on the situation. We have to make a lot of changes all over in the coming months, but I’m still positive we’ll have one hell of a party come August. People will be starved for fuzzy music, especially after both Desertfests and Roadburn had to cancel. While things can still be affected well into the summer, I think we all feel that something has to happen in August,or we’ll simply loose our minds!

What are the quarantine/isolation rules where you are?

Right now the borders are completely closed, all airports are closed down, and all travel restricted. All gatherings, inside or outside, of more than 10 people are forbidden (this means parks, beaches, whatever). All restaurants, cafes, bars, venues, theatres, whatever are closed. Everyone working in the public sector have been sent home, except healthcare workers, and everyone else have been asked to work from home, if they are able.

These are so far in effect until after Easter, but I think most people are expecting it to be extended at least two more weeks after that. Most likely we’ll see a gradual return to normalcy, maybe the oldest schoolchildren and students returning for the summer exams, and smaller establishments reopening sometime in April. Unlikely that we’ll be having any live music this side of the summer holidays, though.

How have you seen the virus affecting the community around you and in music?

Luckily, I don’t know anyone personally who contracted the virus, and I hope to keep it that way. People are taking this thing seriously, staying home. Sadly we’ve already seen several venues, smaller booking companies, promoters, and more going out of business, and several others struggling. I’m afraid this in turn mean that niche music like stoner/doom/heavy-psych is going to have an even harder time this year.

Already we’re seeing venues being booked solid this Fall with no room for touring bands in this genre, and I’m afraid it’ll continue into 2021 as well. This crisis will probably be the biggest blow a lot of bands will ever get to experience, and I fear for the consequences. Luckily, a lot of artists tend to bloom in their darkest hours, so what we’ll miss out on in live music, we might get to enjoy from upcoming releases. That’s a silver lining if any.

What is the one thing you want people to know about your situation, either as a band, or personally, or anything?

It’s crucial to stand together right now and support artists struggling to keep head above water. We’re not one of them, at least not financially, but we are represented by a one-man record company, and I know it’s not easy on his part either with the added shipping time all over. I think a great way to support these small businesses is buying records directly, if you can.

Our festival will survive this, as will most, but this is also a time to make sure you support your favourite festivals and venues. Keep your tickets, don’t return them, if you in any way can afford to do so. And make sure you get out, party, and listen to live music, as soon as you can wherever you are. This is a time to take chances on new music, and support artists you don’t necessarily already know. Let’s show the scene all the support we can – make sure even the smallest and most unknown of bands attract full venues later this year. That would really be something.

https://www.facebook.com/VestjyskOrken/
https://www.instagram.com/vestjysk_orken/
https://vestjyskorken.bandcamp.com/
https://interstellarsmokerecords.bigcartel.com/
https://www.facebook.com/esbjergfuzztival/
https://www.fuzztival.com/

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Revvnant Post New Single “The Second Coming”

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 31st, 2020 by JJ Koczan

revvnant

I do my best to not talk about politics on this site, and I’m not always successful. I am of the firm belief that everything — even the decision not to talk about politics on this site — is political. So as Revvnant, which is the post-The Flying Eyes project helmed by that band’s drummer Elias Schutzman (here cast as a multi-instrumentalist/vocalist), unveil the new single “The Second Coming” with lyrics derived from Yeats‘ poem of the same name — “what rough beast” and all that — it’s harder than usual not to engage with the political moment in which we’re living. As much as COVID-19 would seem to be the plague of our times — or at least until the next one hits — perhaps too one might consider the persistent spread of the schism between sides of humanity that might lead some people not to care as others are dying. I know that’s nothing new, but it sure is stark these days.

If you’re not considering radical labor action, you probably don’t work at a grocery store right now. I know the young woman who scanned my blueberries at Shop-Rite yesterday was thinking about putting a bullet in my brain, and I can’t fault her for that.

Capitalism. Symptoms and causes.

Enjoy the track:

revvnant the second coming

Elias Schutzman on “The Second Coming”:

Shortly after the 2016 election I came across the apocalyptic poem “The Second Coming” by William Butler Yeats… It perfectly expressed the existential dread I was feeling so I decided to put it to music, enlisting the help of Adam Bufano (my long time bandmate in The Flying Eyes) on guitar. I wasn’t really planning to release it, but in this moment it feels so relevant. This song isn’t the “feel good jam” people probably wanna hear right now. But for me music is supposed to express truth, no matter how dark and ugly that is. And the truth here is we are in deep shit. We have a “leader” who cannot, or will not adequately protect us in this time of crisis, instead feeding us incessant lies and looking out for his own self interest. If we don’t remove this human virus from office, we will truly reap the whirlwind…if we haven’t already.

Lyrics adapted from William Butler Yeats’ poem “The Second Coming”…

“Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”

released March 24, 2020

Elias Schutzman- Vocals, Synthesizers, Programming
Adam Bufano- Guitar
Stella- Backing Vocals

Produced and mixed by Elias Schutzman

https://www.facebook.com/revvnantmusic
https://www.instagram.com/revvnant
https://revvnant.bandcamp.com/

Revvnant, “The Second Coming”

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

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

quarterly review

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

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

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Ocean Chief, Den Tredje Dagen

ocean chief den tredje dagen

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

Ocean Chief on Thee Facebooks

Argonauta Records store

 

Barnabus, Beginning to Unwind

barnabus beginning to unwind

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

Barnabus on Thee Facebooks

Rise Above Relics store

 

Helen Money, Atomic

helen money atomic

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

Helen Money on Thee Facebooks

Thrill Jockey Records store

 

Elder Druid, Golgotha

elder druid golgotha

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

Elder Druid on Thee Facebooks

Elder Druid on Bandcamp

 

Mindcrawler, Lost Orbiter

mindcrawler lost orbiter

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

Mindcrawler on Thee Facebook

Mindcrawler on Bandcamp

 

Temple of Void, The World That Was

Temple of Void The World that Was

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

Temple of Void on Thee Facebooks

Shadow Kingdom Records store

 

Lunar Swamp, Shamanic Owl

Lunar Swamp Shamanic Owl

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

Lunar Swamp on Thee Facebooks

Lunar Swamp on Bandcamp

 

Huge Molasses Tank Explodes, II

Huge Molasses Tank Explodes II

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

Huge Molasses Tank Explodes on Thee Facebooks

Retro Vox Records on Bandcamp

 

Emile, The Black Spider/Det Kollektive Selvmord

Emile The Black Spider Det Kollektive Selvmord

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

Emile on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds store

 

Saturno Grooves, Cosmic Echoes

saturno grooves cosmic echoes

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

Saturno Groove on Thee Facebooks

LSDR Records store

 

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Quarterly Review: Slift, IIVII, Coogans Bluff, Rough Spells, Goblinsmoker, Homecoming, Lemurian Folk Songs, Ritual King, Sunflowers, Maya Mountains

Posted in Reviews on March 26th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

Thursday. Everyone doing well? Healthy? Kicking ass? Working from home? There seems to be a lot of that going around, at least among the lucky. New Jersey, where I live, is on lockdown with non-essential businesses shuttered, roads largely empty and all that. It can be grim and apocalyptic feeling, but I’m finding this Quarterly Review to be pretty therapeutic or at least helpfully distracting at a moment when I very much need something to be that. I hope that if you’re reading this, whether you’ve been following along or not, it’s done or can do the same for you if that’s what you need. I’ll leave it at that.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Slift, Ummon

slift ummon

The second album from French space/psych trio Slift is a 72-minute blowout echoshred epic — too aware not to be prog but too cosmic not to be space rock. Delivered through Stolen Body Records and Vicious Circle, Ummon is not only long, it speaks to a longer term. It’s not an album for this year, or for this decade, or for any other decade, for that matter. It’s for the ongoing fluid now. You want to lose yourself in the depths of buzz and dreamy synth? Yeah, you can do that. You want to dig into the underlying punk and maybe a bit of Elder influence in the vocal bark and lead guitar shimmer of “Thousand Helmets of Gold?” Well hell’s bells, do that. The mega-sprawling 2LP is a gorgeous blast of distortion, backed by jazzy, organic drum wud-dum-tap and the bass, oh, the bass; the stuff of low end sensory displacement. Amid swirls and casts of melodic light in “Dark Was Space, Cold Were the Stars,” Slift dilate universal energy and push beyond the noise wash reaches of “Son Dong’s Cavern” and through the final build, liftoff and roll of 13-minute closer “Lions, Tigers and Bears” with the deft touch of those dancing on prior conceptions. We’d be lucky to have Ummon as the shape of space rock to come.

Slift on Thee Facebooks

Stolen Body Records store

Vicious Circle Records store

 

IIVII, Grinding Teeth/Zero Sleep

Two LPs telling two different stories released at the same time, Grinding Teeth/Zero Sleep (on Consouling Sounds) brings Josh Graham‘s aural storytelling to new cinematic reaches. The composer, guitarist, synthesist, programmer, visual artist, etc., is joined along the way by the likes of Jo Quail, Ben Weinman (ex-The Dillinger Escape Plan), Dana Schecter (Insect Ark), Sarah Pendleton (ex-SubRosa) and Kim Thayil (Soundgarden) — among others — but across about 90 minutes of fluidity, Graham/IIVII soundtracks two narratives through alternatingly vast and crushing drone. The latter work is actually an adaptation from a short sci-fi film about, yes, humanity losing its ability to sleep — I feel you on that one — but the former, which tells a kind of meth-fueled story of love and death, brings due chaos and heft to go with its massive synthesized scope. Josh Graham wants to score your movie. You should let him. And you should pay him well. And you should let him design the poster. And you should pay him well for that too. End of story.

IIVII on Thee Facebooks

Consouling Sounds store

 

Coogans Bluff, Metronopolis

coogans bluff metronopolis

Following the initial sax-laden prog-rock burst and chase that is opener “Gadfly,” Berlin’s Coogans Bluff bring a ’70s pastoralia to “Sincerely Yours,” and that atmosphere ends up staying with Metronopolis — their fifth album — for the duration, no matter where else they might steer the sound. And they do steer the sound. Sax returns (as it will) in the jabbing “Zephyr,” a manic shred taking hold in the second half accompanied by no-less-manic bass, and “Creature of the Light” reimagines pop rock of the original vinyl era in the image of its own weirdness, undeniably rock but also something more. Organ-inclusive highlight “Soft Focus” doesn’t so much touch on psychedelics as dunk its head under their warm waters, and “The Turn I” brings an almost Beatlesian horn arrangement to fruition ahead of the closer “The Turn II.” But in that finale, and in “Hit and Run,” and way back in “Sincerely Yours,” Coogans Bluff hold that Southern-style in their back pocket as one of several of Metronopolis‘ recurring themes, and it becomes one more element among the many at their disposal.

Coogans Bluff on Thee Facebooks

Noisolution store

 

Rough Spells, Ruins at Midday

rough spells ruins at midday

An underlying current of social commentary comes coated in Rough Spells‘ mysticism on Ruins at Midday, the Toronto unit’s second LP. Recorded by Ian Blurton and presented by Fuzzed and Buzzed and DHU Records, the eight-track LP has, as the lyrics of “Chance Magic” say, “No bad intentions.” Indeed, it seems geared only toward eliciting your participation in its ceremony of classic groove, hooks and melodies, even the mellow “Die Before You Die” presenting an atmosphere that’s heavy but still melodic and accessible. “Grise Fiord” addresses Canada’s history of mistreating its native population, while “Pay Your Dues” pits guitar and vocal harmonics against each other in a shove of proto-metallic energy to rush momentum through side B and into the closing pair of the swaggering “Nothing Left” and the title-track, which is the longest single cut at five minutes, but still keeps its songwriting taut with no time to spare for indulgences. In this, and on several fronts, Ruins at Midday basks in multifaceted righteousness.

Rough Spells on Thee Facebooks

Fuzzed and Buzzed store

DHU Records store

 

Goblinsmoker, A Throne in Haze, A World Ablaze

goblinsmoker a throne in haze a world ablaze

Upside the head extreme sludgeoning! UK trio Goblinsmoker take on the more vicious and brutal end of sludge with the stench of death on A Throne in Haze, A World Ablaze (on Sludgelord Records), calling to mind the weedian punishment of Belzebong and others of their decrepit ilk. Offered as part two of a trilogy, A Throne in Haze, A World Ablaze is comprised of three tracks running a caustic 26 minutes thick enough such that even its faster parts feel slow, a churning volatility coming to the crash of “Smoked in Darkness” at the outset only to grow more menacing in the lurch of centerpiece “Let Them Rot” — which of course shifts into blastbeats later on — and falling apart into noise and echoing residual feedback after the last crashes of “The Forest Mourns” recede. Beautifully disgusting, the release reportedly furthers the story of the Toad King depicted on its cover and for which the band’s prior 2018 EP was named, and so be it. The lyrics, largely indecipherable in screams, are vague enough that if you’re not caught up, you’ll be fine. Except you won’t be fine. You’ll be dead. But it’ll be awesome.

Goblinsmoker on Thee Facebooks

Sludgelord Records on Bandcamp

 

Homecoming, LP01

homecoming lp01

Progressive metal underpins French trio Homecoming‘s aptly-titled first record, LP01, with the guitars of second cut “Rivers of Crystal” leading the way through a meandering quiet part and subsequent rhythmic figure that reminds of later Opeth, though there’s still a strong heavy rock presence in their tones and grooves generally. It’s an interesting combination, and all the more so because I think part of what’s giving off such a metal vibe is the snare sound. You don’t normally think of a snare drum determining that kind of thing, but here we are. Certainly the vocal arrangements between gruff melodies, backing screams and growls, etc., the odd bit of blastbeating here and there, bring it all into line as well — LP01 is very much the kind of album that would title its six-minute instrumental centerpiece “Interlude” — but the intricacy in how the nine-minute “Return” develops and the harmonies that emerge early in closer “Five” tell the tale clearly of Homecoming‘s ambitions as they move forward from this already-ambitious debut.

Homecoming on Thee Facebooks

Homecoming on Bandcamp

 

Lemurian Folk Songs, Logos

lemurian folk songs logos

Tracked in the same sessions as the Budapest outfit’s 2019 album, Ima (review here), it should not come as a major surprise that the six-track/49-minute Logos from Lemurian Folk Songs follows a not entirely dissimilar course, bringing together dream-drift of tones and melodies with subtle but coherent rhythmic motion in a fashion not necessarily revolutionary for heavy psych, but certainly well done and engaging across its tracks. The tones of guitar and bass offer a warmth rivaled only by the echoing vocals on opener/longest cut (immediate points) “Logos,” and the shimmering “Sierra Tejada” and progressively building “Calcination” follow that pattern while adding a drift that is both of heavy psych and outside of it in terms of the character of how it’s played. None of the last three tracks is less than eight minutes long — closer “Firelake” tops nine in a mirror to “Logos” at the outset, but if that’s the band pushing further out I hear, then yes, I want to go along for that trip.

Lemurian Folk Songs on Thee Facebooks

Para Hobo Records on Bandcamp

 

Ritual King, Ritual King

ritual king ritual king

Progressive heavy rockers Ritual King display a striking amount of grace and patience across their Ripple Music-issued self-titled long-player. Tapping modern influences like Elder and bringing their own sense of melodic nuance to the proceedings across a tightly-constructed seven songs and 42 minutes, the three-piece of vocalist/guitarist Jordan Leppitt, bassist Dan Godwin — whose tone is every bit worthy of gotta-hear-it classification — and drummer/backing vocalist Gareth Hodges string together linear movements in “Headspace” and “Dead Roads” that flow one into the next, return at unexpected moments or don’t, and follow a direction not so much to the next chorus but to the next statement the band want to make, whatever that might be. “Restrain” begins with a sweet proggy soundscape and unfolds two verses over a swaying riff, then is gone, where at the outset, “Valleys” offers grandeur the likes of which few bands would dare to embody on their third or fourth records, let alone their first. Easily one of 2020’s best debuts.

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Ripple Music on Bandcamp

 

Sunflowers, Endless Voyage

sunflowers endless voyage

You know what? Never mind. You ain’t weird enough for this shit. Nobody’s weird enough for this shit. I have a hard time believing the two souls from Portugal who made it are weird enough for this shit. Think I’m wrong? Think you’re up for it and you’re gonna put on SunflowersEndless Voyage and be like, “oh yeah, turns out mega-extreme krautrock blasted into outer space was my wavelength all along?” Cool. Bandcamp player’s right there. Have at it. I dare you.

Sunflowers on Thee Facebooks

Stolen Body Records store

 

Maya Mountains, Era

maya mountains era

Italian heavy rockers Maya Mountains formed in 2005 and issued their debut album, Hash and Pornography, through Go Down Records in 2008. Era, which follows a narrative about the title-character whose name is given in lead cut “Enrique Dominguez,” who apparently travels through space after being lost in the desert — as one does — and on that basis alone is clearly a more complex offering than its predecessor. As to where Maya Mountains have been all the time in between records — here and there, in other bands, etc. But Era, at 10 tracks and 44 minutes, is the summation of five years of work on their part and its blend of scope and straight-ahead heavy riffing is welcome in its more heads-down moments like “Vibromatic” or in the purposefully weirder finale “El Toro” later on. Something like a second debut for the band after being away for so long, Era at very least marks the beginning of a new one for them, and one hopes it continues in perhaps more productive fashion than the last.

Maya Mountains on Thee Facebooks

Go Down Records store

 

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Quarterly Review: The Cult of Dom Keller, Grandpa Jack, Woven Man, Charivari, Human Impact, Dryland, Brass Owl, Battle City, Astral Bodies, Satyrus

Posted in Reviews on March 25th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

Ah, the Wednesday of a Quarterly Review. Always a special day in my mind. We hit and pass the halfway point today, and I like the fact that the marker is right in the middle of things, like that sign you pass in Pennsylvania on Rt. 80 that says, “this is the highest point east of the Mississippi,” or whatever it is. Just a kind of, “oh, by the way, in case you didn’t know, there’s this but you’re on your way somewhere else.” And so we are, en route to 50 reviews by Friday. Will we get there? Yeah, of course. I’ve done this like 100 times now, it’s not really in doubt. Sleeping, eating, living: these things are expendable. The Quarterly Review will get done. So let’s do it.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

The Cult of Dom Keller, Ascend!

the cult of dom keller ascend

They’re not going quietly, that’s for sure. Except for when they are, at least. The Cult of Dom Keller send their listeners — and, it would seem, themselves — into the howling ether on the exclamatory-titular Ascend!, their fifth LP. Issued through Cardinal Fuzz and Little Cloud records it brings a bevvy of freakouts in psych-o-slabs like “I Hear the Messiah” and the early-arriving “Hello Hanging Rope” and the building-in-thickness “The Blood Donor Wants His Blood Back,” and the foreboding buzz of “We’re All Fucked (Up),” peppering in effective ambient interludes ahead of what might be some resolution in the closing “Jam for the Sun.” Or maybe that’s just narrative I’m putting to it. Does it matter? Does anything matter? And what is matter? And what is energy? And is there a line between the two or are we all just playing pretend at existence like I-think-therefore-I-am might actually hold water in a universe bigger than our own pea-sized brains. Where do we go from here? Or maybe it’s just the going and not the where? Okay.

The Cult of Dom Keller on Thee Facebooks

Cardinal Fuzz on Bandcamp

Little Cloud Records on Bandcamp

 

Grandpa Jack, Trash Can Boogie

Grandpa Jack Trash Can Boogie

Brooklynite trio Grandpa Jack are working toward mastery of the thickened midtempo groove on their second EP, Trash Can Boogie. Led by guitarist/vocalist Johnny Strom with backing shouts from drummer Matt C. White and a suitable flow provided by bassist Jared Schapker, the band present a classic-tinged four tracks, showing some jammier psych range in the 7:47 second cut “Untold” but never straying too far from the next hook, as opener “Ride On, Right On” and the almost-proto-metal “Imitation” show. Finishing with “Curmudgeon,” Grandpa Jack ride a fine line between modern fuzz, ’90s melody and ’70s groove idolatry, and part of the fun is trying to figure out which side they’re on at any given point and which side they’ll want to ultimately end up on, or if they’ll decide at all. They have one LP under their collective belt already. I’d be surprised if their next one didn’t garner them more significant attention, let alone label backing, should they want it.

Grandpa Jack on Thee Facebooks

Grandpa Jack on Bandcamp

 

Woven Man, Revelry (In Our Arms)

woven man revelry in our arms

There’s metal in the foundation of what Woven Man are doing on their 2019 debut, Revelry (In Our Arms). And there’s paganism. But they’re by no means “pagan metal” at least in the understood genre terms. The Welsh outfit — featuring guitarist Lee Roy Davies, formerly of Acrimony — cast out soundscapes in their vocal melodies and have no lack of tonal crunch at their disposal when they want it, but as eight-minute opener/longest track (immediate points) shows, they’re not going to be rigidly defined as one thing or another. One can hear C.O.C. in the riffs during their moments of sneer on “I am Mountain” or the centerpiece highlight “With Willow,” but they never quite embrace the shimmer outright Though they come right to the cusp of doing so on the subsequent “Makers Mark,” but closer “Of Land and Sky” revives a more aggressive push and sets them toward worshiping different idols. Psychedelic metal is a tough, nearly impossible, balance to pull off. I’m not entirely convinced it’s what Woven Man are going for on this first outing, but it’s where they might end up.

Woven Man on Thee Facebooks

Woven Man on Bandcamp

 

Charivari, Descent

charivari descent

Whether drifting mildly through the likes of drone-laden pieces “Down by the Water,” the CD-only title-track or “Alexandria” as they make their way toward the harsh bite at the end of the 11-minute closer “Scavengers of the Wind,” Bath, UK, heavy post-rockers Charivari hold a firm sense of presence and tonal fullness. They’re prone to a wash from leadoff “When Leviathan Dreams” onward, but it’s satisfying to course along with the four-piece for the duration of their journey. Rough spots? Oh, to be sure. “Aphotic” seethes with noisy force, and certainly the aforementioned ending is intended to jar, but that only makes a work like “Lotus Eater,” which ably balances Cure-esque initial lead lines with emergent distortion-crush, that much richer to behold. The moves they make are natural, unforced, and whether they’re trading back and forth in volume or fluidly, willfully losing themselves in a trance of effects, the organic and ethereal aspects of their sound never fail to come through in terms of melody even as a human presence is maintained on vocals. When “Down by the Water” hits its mark, it is positively encompassing. Headphones were built for this.

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Worst Bassist Records on Bandcamp

 

Human Impact, Human Impact

human impact human impact

Bit of a supergroup here, at least in the underrated-New-York-art-noise sphere of things. Vocals and riffy crunch provided by the masterful Chris Spencer (formerly of Unsane), while Cop Shoot Cop‘s Jim Coleman adds much-welcome electronic flourish, Swans/Xiu Xiu bassist Chris Pravdica provides low end and the well-if-he-can-handle-drumming-for-Swans-he-can-handle-anything Phil Puleo (also Cop Shoot Cop) grounds the rhythm. Presented through Ipecac, the four-piece’s declarative self-titled debut arrives through Ipecac very much as a combination of the elements of which it is comprised, but the atmosphere brought to the proceedings by Coleman set against Spencer‘s guitar isn’t to be understated. The two challenge each other in “E605” and the off-to-drone “Consequences” and the results are to everyone’s benefit, despite the underlying theme of planetary desolation. Whoops on that one, but at least we get the roiling chaos and artful noise of “This Dead Sea” out of it, and that’s not nothing. Predictable? In parts, but so was climate change if anyone would’ve fucking listened.

Human Impact on Thee Facebooks

Ipecac Recordings store

 

Dryland, Dances with Waves

dryland dances with waves

The nautically-themed follow-up to Bellingham, Washington, progressive heavy/noise/post-hardcore rockers Dryland‘s 2017 self-titled debut album, the four-song Dances with Waves EP finds the thoughtful and melodic riffers working alongside producer/engineer Matt Bayles (Mastodon, Isis, etc.) on a recording that loses none of its edge for its deft changes of rhythm and shifts in vocals. There’s some influence from Elder maybe in terms of the guitar on “No Celestial Hope” and the finale “Between the Testaments,” but by the time the seven-minute capper is done, it’s full-on Pacific Northwest noise crunch, crashing its waves of riffs and stomp against the shore of your eardrums in demand of as much volume as you’ll give it. Between those two, “Exalted Mystics” moves unsuspectingly through its first half and seems to delve into semi-emo-if-emo-was-about-sailing-and-death theatrics in its second, while “The Sound a Sword Adores” distills the alternating drive and sway down to its barest form, a slowdown later setting up the madness soon to arrive in “Between the Testaments.”

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Dryland on Bandcamp

 

Brass Owl, State of Mind

brass owl state of mind

Brass Owl foster on their self-released debut full-length, State of Mind, a brand of heavy rock that maintains a decidedly straightforward face while veering at the same time into influences from grunge, ’70s rock, the better end of ’80s metal and probably one or two current hard or heavy rock bands. You might catch a tinge of Five Horse Johnson-style blues on “No Filter – Stay Trendy” or the particularly barroom-ready “Jive Turkey,” which itself follows the funkier unfolding jam-into-shredfest of “The Legend of FUJIMO,” and the earlier “Hook, Line & Sinker” has trucker-rock all over it, but through it all, the defining aspect of the work is its absolute lack of pretense. These guys — there would seem to have been three when they recorded, there are two now; so it goes — aren’t trying to convince you of their intelligence, or their deep-running stylistic nuance. They’re not picking out riffs from obscure ’80s indie records or even ’70s private press LPs. They’re having a good time putting traditionalist-style rock songs together, messing around stylistically a bit, and they’ve got nine songs across 43 minutes ready to roll for anyone looking for that particular kind of company. If that’s you, great. If it ain’t, off you go to the next one.

Brass Owl website

Brass Owl on Bandcamp

 

Battle City, Press Start

Battle City Press Start

From even before you press play on Press Start, the 22-minute debut release from South Africa’s Battle City, the instrumental duo make their love of gaming readily apparent. Given that they went so far as to call one song “Ram Man” and that it seems just as likely as not that “Ignition” and “Ghost Dimension” are video game references as well, it’s notable that guitarist/bassist Stian “Lightning Fingers Van Tonder” Maritz and drummer Wayne “Thunder Flakes” Hendrikz didn’t succumb to the temptation of bringing any electronic sounds to the six-song offering. Even in “Ghost Dimension,” which is the closer and longest track by about three minutes, they keep it decidedly straightforward in terms of arrangements and resist any sort of chiptune elements, sticking purely to guitar, bass and drums. There’s a touch of the progressive to the leadoff title-track and to the soaring lead “Ignotion,” but Press Start does likewise in setting the band’s foundation in a steady course of heavy rock and metal, to the point that if you didn’t know they were gaming-inspired by looking at the cover art or the titles, there’d be little to indicate that’s where they were coming from. I wouldn’t count myself among them, but those clamoring for beeps and boops and other 8-bit nonsense will be surprised. For me, the riffs’ll do just fine, thanks.

Battle City on Thee Facebooks

Battle City on Bandcamp

 

Astral Bodies, Escape Death

Astral Bodies Escape Death

Spacious, varied and progressive without losing their heft either of tone or presence, Manchester, UK, trio Astral Bodies debut on Surviving Sounds with Escape Death, working mostly instrumentally — they do sneak some vocals into the penultimate “Pale Horse” — to affect an atmosphere of cosmic heavy that’s neither indebted to nor entirely separate from post-metal. Droning pieces like the introductory “Neptune,” or the joyous key-laced wash of the centerpiece “Orchidaeae,” or even “Pale Horse,” act as spacers between longer cuts, and they’re purposefully placed not to overdo symmetry so as to make Escape Death‘s deceptively-efficient 36-minute runtime predictable. It’s one more thing the three-piece do right, added to the sense of rawness that comes through in the guitar tone even as effects and synth seem to surround and provide a context that would be lush if it still weren’t essentially noise rock. Cosmic noise? The push of “Oumuamua” sure is, if anything might be. Classify it however you want — it’s fun when it’s difficult! — but it’s a striking record either way, and engages all the more as a first long-player.

Astral Bodies on Thee Facebooks

Surviving Sounds on Thee Facebooks

 

Satyrus, Rites

satyrus rites

Following its three-minute chanting intro, Satyrus let opener and longest track (immediate points) “Black Satyrus” unfold its cultish nod across an eight minutes that leads the way into the rest of their debut album, Rites, perhaps more suitably than the intro ever could. The building blocks that the Italian unit are working from are familiar enough — Black Sabbath, Saint Vitus, Electric Wizard, maybe even some Slayer in the faster soloing of second cut “Shovel” — but that doesn’t make the graveyard-dirt-covered fuzz of “Swirl” or the noisefest that ensues in “Stigma” or subsequent “Electric Funeral”-ist swing any less satisfying, or the dug-in chug of bookending nine-minute closer “Trailblazer.” Hell, if it’s a retread, at least they’re leaving footprints, and it’s not like Satyrus are trying to tell anyone they invented Tony Iommi‘s riff. It’s a mass by the converted for the converted. I’d ask nothing more of it than that and neither should you.

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Satyrus on Bandcamp

 

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Quarterly Review: Khemmis, Mutant Flesh, War Cloud, Void of Sleep, Pretty Lightning, Rosy Finch, Ghost Spawn, Agrabatti, Dead Sacraments, Smokemaster

Posted in Reviews on March 24th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

Alarm went off this morning at 3:45. Got up, flicked on the coffee pot, turned the heat on in the house, hit the bathroom and was back in bed in four minutes with an alarm set for 4:15. Didn’t really get back to sleep, but the half-hour of being still was a kind of pre-waking meditation that I appreciated just the same. Was dozing when the alarm went off the second time, but it’s day two of the Quarterly Review, so no time to doze. No time for anything, as is the nature of these blocks of writeups. They tend to be all-consuming while they’re going on. Could be worse. Let’s roll.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Khemmis, Doomed Heavy Metal

khemmis doomed heavy metal

Denver four-piece Khemmis have made themselves one of the most distinctive acts in metal, to say nothing of doom. With strong vocal harmonies out front backed by similarly-minded guitars, the band bring a sense of poise to doom that’s rare in the modern sphere, somewhat European in influence, but less outwardly adherent to the genre tenets of melancholy. They refuse to be Paradise Lost, in other words, and are all the more themselves for that. Their Doomed Heavy Metal EP (on 20 Buck Spin and Nuclear Blast) is a stopgap after 2018’s Desolation (review here) full-length, but at 38 minutes and six songs, it’s substantial nonetheless, headlined by the Dio cover “Rainbow in the Dark” — capably done with just a flair of Slough Feg — with a take on Lloyd Chandler‘s “A Conversation with Death” and “Empty Throne,” both rare-enough studio cuts, for backing, as well as three live cuts that cover their three-to-date albums. The growls on “Three Gates” are fun, but I’ll still take the Dio cover as the highlight. For a cobbled-together release, it feels at least like a bit of thoughtful fan-service, and really, a band could do worse than to serve their fans thoughtfully.

Khemmis on Thee Facebooks

20 Buck Spin store

Nuclear Blast Records store

 

Mutant Flesh, Evil Eye

mutant flesh evil eye

There are shades of doom metal’s origins underlying Mutant Flesh‘s first release, the eight-song/33-minute Evil Eye, but the Philly troupe are too gleeful in their weirdness ultimately to be paying full homage to the likes of Witchfinder General, and especially in a faster song like second cut “Meteoric” and the subsequent lead-guitar-flipout-and-vocal-soar title-track, they tap into the defiantly doomed vibe of earliest Saint Vitus. That’s true of the crawling “Euthanasia” as well, which crashes and nods as it approaches the six-minute mark as the longest inclusion here, but even the penultimate “Blight” brings that twisted-BlackFlag-noise-slowed-down spirit that lets you know there’s consciousness behind the chaos, and that while Mutant Flesh might seem to be all-the-way-gone, they’re really just getting started. Maybe their sound will even out over time, maybe it won’t, but for what it’s worth, they do ragged doom well from the opening “Leviathan (Lord of the Labyrinth)” onward, and feel right at home in the unhinged.

Mutant Flesh on Thee Facebooks

Mutant Flesh on Bandcamp

 

War Cloud, Earhammer Sessions

war cloud earhammer sessions

Having just shredded their way across Europe, War Cloud took their set into the Earhammer Studio with Greg Wilkinson at the helm in an attempt to capture the band in top form on their home turf. Did it work? The results on Earhammer Sessions (Ripple Music) don’t wait around for you to decide. They’re too busy kicking ass to take names, and if the resulting 29-minute burst is even half of what they brought to the stage on that tour, those must’ve been some goddamn shows. Songs like “White Lightning” and the snare-counted-in “Speed Demon” and “Striker” feel like they’re being given their due in the max-speed-NWOBHM-but-still-too-classy-to-be-thrash presentation, and honestly, this feels like War Cloud have found their method. If they don’t tour their next album and then hit the studio after and lay it down live, or at least as live as Earhammer Sessions is — one never knows as regards overdubs and isolation booths and all that — they’re doing themselves a disservice. War Cloud play metal. So what? So this.

War Cloud on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music website

 

Void of Sleep, Metaphora

Void of Sleep Metaphora

Void of Sleep return after half a decade with the prog-doom stylings of their third album, Metaphora (Aural Music), which stretches dramatically through songs like “Iron Mouth” (11:00), preceded by the intro “The Famine Years” and the shorter “Unfair Judgements,” preceded by the intro “Waves of Discomfort,” and still somehow manage not to sound out of place tapping into their inner Soilwork in the growled verses/clean choruses of “Master Abuser.” They get harsh a bit as well on “Tides of the Mourning,” which uses its 10:30 to summarize the bulk of the proceedings and close out the record after “Modern Man,” but that song has more of a scope and feels looser structurally for that. Still, that shift is only one of several throughout Metaphora, which follows the Italian five-piece’s 2015 LP, New World Order (discussed here), and wherever Void of Sleep are headed at any given moment, they head there with a duly controlled presence. Clearly their last five years have not been wasted.

Void of Sleep on Thee Facebooks

Aural Music store

 

Pretty Lightning, Jangle Bowls

pretty lightning jangle bowls

As yet, Germany’s Pretty Lightning remain a well kept secret of fuzz-psych-blues nuance, digging out their own niche-in-a-niche-in-a-niche microgenre with a natural and inadvertent-feeling sense of just writing the songs they want to write. Jangle Bowls, which puts its catchy, semi-garage title-track early in the proceedings, is the duo’s second offering through Fuzz Club Records behind 2017’s The Rhythm of Ooze (review here), and seem to present a mission statement in opener “Swamp Ritual” before bringing a due sense of excursion to “Boogie at the Shrine” — damn that’s a smooth groove — and reviving the movement in “RaRaRa,” which follows. Closer “Shovel Blues” is a highlight for how it drifts into oblivion, but the underlying tightness of craft in “123 Eternity” and “Hum” is an appeal as well, so it’s a tradeoff. But it’s one I’ll be glad to make across multiple repeat visits to Jangle Bowls while wondering how long this particular secret can actually be kept.

Pretty Lightning on Thee Facebooks

Fuzz Club Records store

 

Rosy Finch, Scarlet

rosy finch scarlet

The painted-blood-red cover of Rosy Finch‘s second album, Scarlet (on Lay Bare Recordings), and horror-cinema-esque design isn’t a coincidence in terms of atmosphere, but the Spanish trio bring a more aggressive feel to the nine-track outing overall than they did to their 2016 debut, Witchboro (review here), with additional crunch in the guitar of Mireia Porto (also vocals and bass) and bassist Elena Garcia, and a forward kick drum from Lluís Mas that hammers home the impact of a cruncher like “Ruby” and even seems to ground the more melodic “Alizarina,” which follows, let alone the crushing opener/longest track (immediate points) “Oxblood” or its headspinning closing companion “Dark Cherry,” after which follows the particularly intense hidden cut “Lady Bug,” also not to be missed. Anger suits Rosy Finch, it seems, and the band bring a physicality to the songs on Scarlet that only reinforces the sonic push.

Rosy Finch on Thee Facebooks

Lay Bare Recordings store

 

Ghost Spawn, The Haunting Continuum

Ghost Spawn The Haunting Continuum

Brutal, gurgling doom-of-death pervades The Haunting Continuum from Denver one-man-unit Ghost Spawn, and while the guitar late in “Escaping the Mortal Flesh” seems momentarily to offer some hope of salvation, rest assured, it doesn’t last, and the squibbly central riff returns with its extremity to prove once more that only death is real. Multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Kevin Berstler is the lone culprit behind the project’s first full-length and second release overall (also second this year, so he would seem to work quickly), and across 43 minutes that only grow more grueling as they proceed through the centerpiece title-track and into “The Terrors that Plague Nightly” and the desolate incantations of “Exiled to the Realm of Eternal Rot,” there are some hints of cleaner grunts that have made their way through — a kind of repeated “hup” vocalization — but this too is swallowed in the miasma of cave-echo guitar, drums-from-out-of-the-abyss, and raw-as-peeled-flesh production. Can’t get behind that? Probably you and 99.9 percent of the rest of humanity. For us slugs, though, it’s just about right.

Ghost Spawn on Thee Facebooks

Ghost Spawn on Bandcamp

 

Agrabatti, Beyond the Sun

agrabatti beyond the sun

It’s kosmiche thrust and watery vibes when Agrabatti go Beyond the Sun. What’s there upon arrival? Nothing less than a boogie down with Hawkwind at the helm of a spacey spaced-out space rocking chopper that you shouldn’t even be able to hear the revving engine of in space and yet somehow you can. Also synth, pulsating riffs and psych-as-all-golly-gosh awakenings. Formed in 2009 by Chad Davis — then just out of U.S. Christmas, already at that point known for his work in Hour of 13 and a swath of other projects across multiple genres — and with songs begun to come together at that time only to be shelved ahead of recording this year, Beyond the Sun sat seemingly in some unreachable strata of anomalous subspace, for 11 years before being rediscovered from its time-loop like Kelsey Grammer in that one episode of TNG, and gorgeously spread across the quadrant in its five-cut run, with its cover of the aforementioned Hawkwind‘s “Born to Go” so much at home among its companions it feels like, baby, it’s already gone. Do you need sunglasses in the void? Shit yeah you do.

Agrabatti on Thee Facebooks

Agrabatti on Bandcamp

 

Dead Sacraments, Celestial Throne

Dead Sacraments Celestial Throne

Four sprawling doom epics comprise the 2019 debut album — and apparently debut release — from Illinois four-piece Dead Sacraments, who themselves are comprised from three former members of atmospheric sludgers Angel Eyes, who finished their run in 2011 but released the posthumous Things Have Learnt to Walk That Ought to Crawl (review here). Those are guitarist Brendan Burchell, bassist Nader Cheboub and drummer Ryan Croson, and together with apparently-self-harmonizing vocalist/guitarist Mark Mazurek, they cast a doom built on largesse in tone and scope alike, given an air of classic-metal grandiosity but filtered through a psych-doom modernity that feels aware of what the likes of Pallbearer and Khemmis have done for the genre. Nonetheless, as a first record, Celestial Throne shines its darkness brightly across its no-song-under-nine-minutes-long lumber, and affirms the righteousness of doom with a genuine sense of reach at its disposal.

Dead Sacraments on Thee Facebooks

Dead Sacraments on Bandcamp

 

Smokemaster, Smokemaster

smokemaster smokemaster

The languid and trippy spirit in opener “Solar Flares” is something of a misdirect on the part of organ-laced, Cologne-based heavy rockers Smokemaster, who go on to boogie down through songs like “Trippin’ Blues” before jamming out classic heavy blues-style on “Ear of the Universe.” I’m not saying they don’t have their psychedelic aspects, but there’s plenty of movement behind what they do as well, and the setup they give with the first two cuts is effective in throwing off the first-time listener’s expectation. A pastoral instrumental “Sunrise in the Canyon” leads off side B after, and comes backed by “Astronaut of Love” (yup, a lovestronaut) and “Astral Traveller,” which find an engaging midpoint between the ground and the great beyond, synth and keys pushing outward in the finale even as the bass and drums keep it tethered to a central groove. It’s a formula that’s worked many times over the last half-century, but it works here too, and Smokemaster‘s Smokemaster makes a right-on introduction to the German newcomers.

Smokemaster on Thee Facebooks

Tonzonen Records store

 

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Quarterly Review: Total Fucking Destruction, Humulus, The River, Phantom Hound, Chang, The Dhaze, Lost Psychonaut, Liquido di Morte, Black Burned Blimp, Crimson Oak

Posted in Reviews on March 23rd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

I’ve got a fresh cup of coffee and 50 records that need to be reviewed, so it must be time for… constant distractions! Oh, no, wait, sorry. It must be time for the Quarterly Review. Yeah, there it is. I know there’s a global-pandemic-sized elephant in the room as a backdrop for the Spring 2020 Quarterly Review, but it seems to me that’s all the more reason to proceed as much as possible. Not to feign normality like people aren’t suffering physically, emotionally, and/or financially, but to give those for whom music is a comfort an opportunity to find more of that comfort and, frankly, to do the same for myself. I’ve said many times I need this more than you do, and I do.

So, you know the drill. 10 records a day, Monday to Friday through this week, 50 when we’re done. As Christopher Pike says, let’s hit it.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Total Fucking Destruction, …To Be Alive at the End of the World

Total Fucking Destruction To Be Alive at the End of the World

The long-running experimentalist grind trio Total Fucking Destruction remain a sonic presence unto themselves. Their strikingly apropos fifth LP, …To Be Alive at the End of the World, begins with the five-minute psychedelic wash of its unrepentantly pretty, somewhat mournful title-track and ends with a performance-art take on “The Star Spangled Banner” that shifts into eight or so minutes of drone and minimalist noise before reemerging in manipulated form, vocalist/drummer Richard Hoak (also the odd bit of flute and ocarina), bassist/vocalist Ryan Moll and guitarist Pingdum filling the between space with the blasts and jangles of “A Demonstration of Power,” the maddening twists of “Attack of the Supervirus 1138” and other mini-bursts of unbridled aggression like “Stone Bomb,” “Doctor Butcher” and the outright conceptual genius of “Yelling at Velcro,” which, indeed, is just 20 or so seconds of yelling ahead of the arrival of the closer. In an alternate future, Total Fucking Destruction‘s work will be added to the Library of Congress. In this future, we’re boned.

Total Fucking Destruction on Thee Facebooks

Translation Loss Records store

 

Humulus, The Deep

humulus the deep

For the six-song/51-minute The Deep, Italian three-piece Humulus somewhat depart the beer-rocking ways of 2017’s second LP, Reverently Heading into Nowhere (review here). Sure, the riff of “Gone Again” is pure Kyuss idolatry (not a complaint), and “Devil’s Peak (We Eventually Eluded Death)” brims with drunkard’s swagger, but factor in the wonderfully executed linear build that takes place across the eight-minute “Hajra,” the mellow emotionalism of the penultimate acoustic track “Lunar Queen,” and the two extended psychedelic bookends in opener “Into the Heart of the Volcano Sun” (14:48) and closer “Sanctuary III – The Deep” (14:59), and the narrative becomes decidedly more complex than just “they drink and play riffs.” These elements have been in Humulus‘ sound all along, but it’s plain to hear the band have actively worked to push themselves forward in scope, and the range suits them, the closer particularly filled with a theatricality that would seem to speak to further storytelling to come on subsequent releases. So be it. They called the album The Deep and have dived in accordingly.

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Kozmik Artifactz website

 

The River, Vessels into White Tides

The River Vessels into White Tides

An atmosphere of melancholy is quickly established on The River‘s third LP, Vessels into White Tides (on Nine Records), and for being the London four-piece’s first album 10 years, it takes place in a sense of unrushed melody, the band rolling out a morose feel born of but not directly aping the likes of My Dying Bride and Paradise Lost as the vocals of guitarist Jenny Newton (also strings, percussion) — joined in the band by guitarist Christian Leitch, bassist Stephen Morrissey and drummer Jason Ludwig — make their presence felt soon in opener “Vessels,” which unfolds gracefully with a crash and rumble fading into the beginning of the subsequent “Into White” (15:01) with the four-minute string-laced “Open” and the 9:44 shifting-into-intensity “Passing” preceding closer “Tides,” which is duly rolling in its progression and offers a sweet bit of release, if wistful, from some of the more grueling moments before it, capping not with a distorted blowout, but with layers of strings reinforcing the folkish underpinning that’s been there all along, in even the most tonally or emotionally weighted stretches.

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Nine Records store

 

Phantom Hound, Mountain Pass

Phantom Hound Mountain Pass

Mountain Pass, which begins with “The Northern Face,” ends with “The Southern Face” and along the way treks through its on-theme title-track and the speedier “You Don’t Know Death,” catchy “Thunder I Am” and fairly-enough bluesy “Devil Blues,” has its foundations in oldschool metal and punk, but is a decidedly rock-based offering. It’s the debut from Oakland’s Phantom Hound, and its eight component tracks make no attempt to mask their origins or coat their material in unnecessary pretense — they are what they are; the album is what it is. The three-piece dip into acoustics on the instrumental “Grace of an Angel,” which shifts with a cymbal wash into the lead guitar at the outset of the eight-minute title-track — the stomp of which is perhaps more evocative of the mountain than the passing, but still works — but even this isn’t so far removed from the straightforward purposes of “Irons in the Fire,” which stakes its claim to dead-ahead metal and rock, barely stopping along the way to ask what else you could possibly need.

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Chang, Superlocomotodrive

chang superlocomotodrive

Munich-based trio Chang, with clear, modern production behind them, present their debut EP release with the 29-minute Superlocomotodrive, and though it’s short, one is left wondering what else they might need to consider it an album. What’s missing? You’ve got the let’s-jam-outta-here in the six-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Mescalin,” and plenty of gruff riffing to back that up in “Old Rusty Car” and the later title-track, with a bit of Oliveri-era Queens of the Stone Age edge in the latter to boot, plus some psychedelic lead work in “Sterne,” some particularly German quirk in “Bottle Beach” and a massive buildup in tension in the finale “Bombs Whisper” that seems to arrive at its moment of payoff only to instead cut to silence and purposefully leave the listener hanging — an especially bold move for a first release. Yeah, it’s under half an hour long, but so what? The heavy rock terrain Chang are working in is familiar enough — right down to the less-than-P.C. lyrics of “Old Rusty Car” — but there’s no sense that Superlocomotodrive wants to be something it isn’t. It’s heavy rock celebrating heavy rock.

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The Dhaze, Deaf Dumb Blind

the dhaze deaf dumb blind

Though the grunge influence in the vocals of guitarist Simone Pennucci speak to more of a hard-rocking kind of sound, the basis of The Dhaze‘s sprawl across their ambitious 53-minute Sound Effect Records debut album, Deaf Dumb Blind, is more in line with progressive metal and heavy psychedelia. Bassist Vincenzo La Tegola backs Pennucci on vocals and locks in fluid mid-tempo grooves with drummer Lorenzo Manna, and makes a highlight of the low end in “Death Walks with Me” ahead of the titular trilogy, presented in the order of “Deaf,” “Blind” and “Dumb,” which flow together as one piece thanks in no small part to the synth work added by La Tegola and Pennucci together. Obviously comfortable in longer-form stretches like “Death Walks with Me” or the earlier “Neurosis,” both of which top nine minutes, the Napoli trio bring a fervent sense of variety to their work while leaving themselves open to future growth in terms of sound and playing with the balance between elements they establish here.

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Sound Effect Records store

 

Lost Psychonaut, Lost Psychonaut

Lost Psychonaut Lost Psychonaut

Hailing — because metal bands hail, to be sure — from the Pittsburgh area, newcomers Lost Psychonaut boast in their ranks two former members of sludgers Vulture in guitarist/vocalist Justin Erb and bassist
Garrett Twardesky, who, together with drummer Tristan Triggs, run through a debut LP made up of five tracks that skirt the line between groove metal and heavy rock, tapping-like-flowing-kegs influences from the likes of ’90s-era C.O.C. and others such burl-laced groovers. Tales of day-to-day struggles make a fitting enough backdrop to the riff-led proceedings, which commence with the prior-issued single “My Time” and roll-groove their way into a duo of longer cuts at the end in “Restitution Day” (8:46) and “On a Down” (7:44). Frankly, any mention of the word “Down” at all in a song that feels so outwardly “buried in smoke” can hardly be coincidental, but that nod is well earned. With a couple years behind them, they know what they’re going for in this initial batch of songs, and the clearheaded nature of their approach only gives their songwriting more of a sense of command. There’s growth to be undertaken, but nothing to say they can’t get there.

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Liquido di Morte, IIII

liquido di morte iiii

I suppose you could, if so inclined, live up to Liquido di Morte‘s slogan, “We play music to take drugs to,” but you’d be shorting yourself on the experience of a lucid listen to their third long-player IIII. Issued in limited handmade packaging by the band, the Milan instrumentalists offer a stylistic take across the late-2019 five-tracker that stands somewhere between heavy post-rock and post-metal, but in that incorporates no shortage of thoughtful psychedelic meditations and even some kraut and space rock vibes. The primary impact is atmospheric, but there’s diversity in their approach such that the centerpiece “Tramonto Nucleare” begins cosmic, or maybe cataclysmic, and ends with an almost serene roll into the floating guitar at the outset of the subsequent “Rebus (6,5),” which is the longest inclusion at 13:40 and an encompassing, hypnotic srpawl that, whether you take drugs or not, seems destined to commune with expanded or expanding minds. The front-to-back journey ends with “The Fattening,” a cinematic run of synth after which a slaughter feels almost inevitable, even if it arrives as silence.

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Black Burned Blimp, Crash Overdrive

Black Burned Blimp Crash Overdrive

Bonus points to Netherlands four-piece Black Burned Blimp for including song titles like “What Doesn’t Kill You, Makes You Weirder” and “The Good, the Bad and the Fucking Horrific” and, at the start of “Desert Wizard,” the sample from Trailer Park Boys wherein Mr. Lahey declares, “I am the liquor” on their debut LP, Crash Overdrive. Native to a heavy rock legacy that includes acts like 13eaver, 35007, Astrosoniq and Celestial Season, among many others, the band hint toward melodic complexity while remaining focused on raw energy in their songwriting, such that even the drumless, harmonized and minute-long “Flock” seems to seethe with unstated tension for “Robo Erectus,” which follows, to pay off. It does, though perhaps with less of a tempo kick than one might expect — certainly less than the careening “The Good, the Bad and the Fucking Horrific” a few tracks later — but somehow, no matter what speed they’re actually playing, Black Burned Blimp seem to make it sound fast. Vitality will do that.

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Crimson Oak, Crimson Oak

crimson oak crimson oak

Though their arrival comes amid a German heavy rock underground that’s nothing if not well populated, Fulda-based five-piece Crimson Oak present with their self-titled debut long-player a stylistic take that’s both modern and genuine sounding, finding solid ground in well-crafted songs drawing more from ’90s-era heavy and punk in “Danger Time,” which follows the contemplative “Of My Youth,” the bulk of what surrounds expressing a similar level of self-awareness, up to and including the nine-minute side B opener “Brother of Sleep,” which sets psychedelic guitar against some of the album’s biggest riffs (and melodies). There’s middle ground to be had in cuts like “Displace” and “Sunset Embrace” still to come and “Fulda Gap” earlier, but Crimson Oak seem to touch that middle ground mostly en route to whichever end of the spectrum next piques their interest. At seven songs and 42 minutes, it’s not an insubstantial LP, but they hold their own with confidence and a poise that speaks to the fact that some of this material showed up on prior EPs. That experience with it shows but does not hold the band or songs back.

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Eternal Engine Release Debut Album Into the Void Today

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 20th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

eternal engine

One might hazard a guess that with the name of their first record being Into the Void, Germany’s Eternal Engine would have a fairly strong Black Sabbath influence. Well, I mean, kinda. No more than everyone, I suppose, in that they’re in any way, shape, or form a heavy band. Their record is a bit more on a progressive kick in the post-Elder modern sphere that seems to very much be the way things are going right now. And by things, I mean bands. Lots of them. Some classic metal thrown in there as well. That’s almost always welcome.

Nothing wrong with that, of course. If the worst thing that happens is a bunch of groups start trying really hard to put thought into their music, I think we’ll be fine. There never seems to be a shortage of lunkheaded riffing around, regardless.

This one is out today and orders are up so by all means, have at it:

eternal engine into the void

ETERNAL ENGINE – Into the Void – debut album out 20-03-20

A lot of crazy stuff is going on in the world right now, but it won’t stop us from releasing our album this week. Pre-order is coming up tomorrow and with that we release the first song. Don’t forget to follow us on Bandcamp to get notified as soon as pre-orders are available.

Out of the bleak landscape of rural South Germany, between huge industrial plants and dark, remote forests, comes ETERNAL ENGINE. They combine the progressive approach of bands like ELDER or SKRAECKOEDLAN with melodic doom like PALLBEARER and heavy stoner riffing like THE SWORD, without sounding like any of those bands. Since their founding in 2014 guitarist and vocalist Uwe Halmich, drummer Corbinian Schwarz and bassist Bouke Van Haasteren crafted a unique sound of heavy riffs and atmospheric melodies and finally managed to capture all that on INTO THE VOID.

INTO THE VOID tells 7 stories from the top of the highest mountain, over the war-ravaged lands to the deepest of hell and into the void of space. It will be out on 20th march 2020.

https://distrokid.com/hyperfollow/eternalengine/into-the-void
https://www.facebook.com/beholdtheengine
https://beholdtheengine.bandcamp.com
https://www.eternal-engine.de

Eternal Engine, Into the Void (2020)

Eternal Engine, Eternal Engine EP (2017)

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