Ten Ton Slug Post “Ancient Ways”; Colossal Oppressor Due May 1

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 15th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

As is the case here, I often ask bands for quotes about songs, new albums, tours, whatever the news is, really. I think Ten Ton Slug might be the first outfit who’ve ever sent back a blurb about a new single and ended it with an all-caps “OUGH,” in the fine tradition of one Tom G. Warrior. Since the song the Irish burlbringers are unveiling from their upcoming Colossal Oppressor is the aggro-shoving “Ancient Ways,” this could hardly be more appropriate.

“Ancient Ways” brings five-plus minutes of overarching groove, layered growls, shouts and screams, and a largesse-bent approach that, if it was sloppier, you could probably call sludge, but that here stands astride your soon-to-be-hammer-smashed skull with poise in its own violence. It’s a big groove, big tone, big riffs, and the vibe is punishment, but almost certainly the kind of punishment inflicted on one’s neck after a night of headbanging, however ominous the threat of the album’s title.

Ten Ton Slug journey to the US in June for Maryland Doom Fest, and they’ve got dates in Limerick and Dublin before they travel. More on that, the quote, and of course the song follow here, courtesy of the PR wire:

TEN TON SLUG COLOSSAL OPPRESSOR

Ten Ton Slug on “Ancient Ways”:

The album ‘Colossal Oppressor’ concerns itself primarily on the theme of oppression in its many guises, and on the many ways it is inflicted on humanity by the world and by the Slug. ‘Ancient Ways’ is one of two tracks on the album (along with the Irish language track – ‘Mallacht an tSloda’) which deals with this theme not from the perspective of the oppressor, but instead from the perspective of those under the yoke of unbearable hardship. More specifically it reveals the mindset and determination needed to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles, to face the monster and beat it to the earth, to ultimately summon your power, and move forward.

The track is blues inspired with a stoner feel, featuring big dirty riffs and colossal drums.
OUGH.

Ten Ton Slug release the 2nd single from the upcoming album ‘Colossal Oppressor’ which releases everywhere on May 1st on Vinyl, CD and Digital

Stream it here: https://tentonslug.bandcamp.com/track/ancient-ways

The song ‘Ancient Ways’ is more stoner/blues/melody driven than the previous single yet contains all the elements one has come to expect from the Slug and more. Huge riffs, pummelling drums and grooves and melodies that stick in your head.

Subjugation approaches.

Catch the Slug live in Ireland this May:
May 3rd Dolans Limerick (ticket link)
May 5th The Grand Social Dublin (ticket link)

And in the USA this June:
June 23rd Maryland Doom Fest, Maryland, USA (ticket link)

Merch available here:
tentonslug.bandcamp.com

Ten Ton Slug:
Rónán Ó hArrachtáin – Vocals
Pavol Rosa – Bass
Sean Sullivan – Guitars/Vocals
Kelvin Doran – Drums*
*All drums written and arranged by Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin

https://www.facebook.com/TenTonSlug/
https://www.instagram.com/tentonslug/
https://tentonslug.bandcamp.com/
https://tentonslug.com/

Ten Ton Slug, Colossal Oppressor (2024)

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Northern Heretic Premiere New Single “Angrboda”

Posted in audiObelisk on April 9th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

northern heretic angrboda

This Friday marks the release of Northern Heretic‘s new single, “Angrboda.” It is the second offering from the New York three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Ken Wohlrob, bassist Davis Schlachter and drummer Rob Sefcik — whose collective NY-doom-tinged pedigree as you can see below includes Eternal Black, Reign of Zaius, Kings Destroy, Begotten, End of Hope, and so on — and like the preceding “Killing Floor” (premiered here), it offers a low-slung swing and moody vibe as part of what will be a series of four individually-issued tracks that one assumes will be compiled at some point onto an LP or CD or I don’t know just tape ’em off the computer speakers or something. Whatever, man. Format wars are over; no gods no masters no pressing plants no distro. DIY and die. The future’s already terrible. What’s more plastic?

Anyhow.

Something about the way “Angrboda” crashes in, lays out its groove and saunters into its verse reminds me of Soundgarden, but the abiding message in “Angrboda” is that Northern Heretic know who they are and what they’re about musically. The shift from verse to chorus isn’t overblown, northern hereticand in the steady flow from one to the other and back, there’s a flourish either of keys or another layer of guitar — maybe even acoustic? — that adds to the tension building up to the solo, which finds Wohlrob underscoring pulled notes with shred in the classic Iommic dance. The title “Angrboda” comes from Norse mythology — she’s Loki’s special lady, a giantess, and a mother of monsters, reportedly; thanks, internet — and that the song’s six minutes pass with such fluidity is testament to the even-keeled production and the sense of their digging into a structure born out of a riff-following jam. Not to spoil it, but what happens is doom.

I consider the hypnosis cast in “Angrboda” a strength on the part of the band, and with two songs out, I’m curious what the corresponding next pair of singles will bring when they arrive. No clue when that is beyond ‘this year,’ but fair enough. If they follow a similar course of low-key swagger and unpretentious, take-it-for-a-walk vibes, you won’t hear me complain about it. I like these guys and I like their band. Could hardly be more straightforward than that.

Comment from Northern Heretic and more PR wire info follows “Angrboda” on the player below.

Please enjoy:

Northern Heretic on “Angrboda”:

“Angrboda” predates Northern Heretic. Ken originally wrote this song during the pandemic while working on songs for what was supposed to be the third Eternal Black album. The song always had something different about it. It never quite felt like an Eternal Black song. It was going in a different direction than EB’s grittier doom. Once rehearsals began for Northern Heretic, “Angrboda” found a home. It was the first song that we all locked in on and in many ways it became ground zero for where the band wanted to go.

The track was recorded at Suburban Elvis Studios in New York State, the same studio where the Eternal Black and End of Hope albums were recorded, as well as the last Begotten album. Once again, we worked with Joe Kelly, who produced all of those albums and helped us to achieve the big sonic boom we wanted for this new project. The cover art for “Angrboda” is by New York artist Melissa Pracht, who also painted the cover for the “Killing Floor.” She will be creating art for all four NORTHERN HERETIC singles released in 2024. Each cover will be unique, but there will be a shared thematic feel to them.

NORTHERN HERETIC – a new heavy rock trio made up of members from Kings Destroy, Eternal Black, End of Hope, Clothesline, and Begotten – are releasing their second single “Angrboda” on Friday, April 12, 2024 via all streaming platforms and their Bandcamp page (northernheretic.bandcamp.com).

Formed in April 2022, NORTHERN HERETIC consists of Rob Sefcik (Kings Destroy, Begotten) on drums, Davis Schlachter (Reign of Zaius, Clothesline, End of Hope) on bass, and Ken Wohlrob (Eternal Black, End of Hope) on guitar and vocals. “Angrboda” follows the band’s first single, “Killing Floor, ” which was released on November 10th, 2023.

Northern Heretic is:
Davis Schlachter (Reign of Zaius, Clothesline, End of Hope): bass, keyboards, backup vocals
Rob Sefcik (Kings Destroy, Begotten, Thinning the Herd): drums
Ken Wohlrob (Eternal Black, End of Hope): guitars, vocals, keyboards

Northern Heretic on Facebook

Northern Heretic on Instagram

Northern Heretic on Soundcloud

Northern Heretic on Bandcamp

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Semuta to Release Debut LP Glacial Erratic May 24; Title-Track Video Posted

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 3rd, 2024 by JJ Koczan

semuta

I don’t know at whose house Semuta filmed the video for the first single and title-track from their upcoming debut album, Glacial Erratic, but with that skate ramp in the back yard, a P.A., and plenty of room for an entire crowd of people — plus at least one chainsaw — to chase some dude out, it looks like a pretty killer spot. “Glacial Erratic” is the first I’ve heard of the two-piece with Benjamin Caragol on guitar/vocals and Ben Stoller on drums, but the reason I’m posting about it is that after hearing it, I’m curious to hear more, so take that as you will. The way the descriptions below align to post-metal with some emotive current through it presents an immediate purpose in aesthetic terms. A goal they’re working toward.

Glacial Erratic is up for preorder from the band on Bandcamp, which I’m sure you know because you probably hang out with these guys and you’re probably in the video because you have friends and aren’t alienated from everyone around you including your family sitting right on the other couch as you beeline on your trajectory to being someone’s divorced asshole dad whose kid never speaks to you again — at least I’m liberal — and the video’s at the bottom of the post. I don’t have anything else to add here that doesn’t round out to hating myself while I wait for the gummy to kick in so I don’t have to think about it anymore or at least not with the words moving so fast in my brain, so here you go. Enjoy:

Semuta Glacial Erratic

SEMUTA: Portland post-metallers debut title track from new album “Glacial Erratic”; official music video features members of Usnea, Dark Castle, more

Preorder: https://semutamusic.bandcamp.com/album/glacial-erratic

Semuta is the duo of guitarist/vocalist Benjamin Caragol and drummer Ben Stoller, former members of noted Rose City bands Burials, Dark Numbers, and more. Together as Semuta, the two summon a mournful strain of sludgy post-metal, marked by enthralling songcraft and passionate execution.

Mixed by Scott Evans at Antisleep Audio (Kowloon Walled City, Great Falls) and mastered by Brad Boatright at Audiosiege (Portrayal of Guilt, Torche), debut full-length Glacial Erratic depicts an ocean of melancholy, punctuated by triumphant swells. Its five songs unfold over the course of 37 minutes, with Caragol’s rich, clean vocals soaring over icy lulls and metallic eruptions. Navigating gentle interludes, tense buildups peppered with odd time signatures, and heroic climaxes, Stoller delivers rock-solid beatings in the Bonham tradition and Caragol unfurls a spectrum of six-string magic, all in service of the songs’ momentum.

Caragol states: “When I was a kid all I really cared about was metal, but around the time I was 15 or 16 I started to branch out. A big moment for me was seeing Radiohead for the first time. I had never seen a group of musicians so willing to dispense with conventions, and explore such a wide array of sounds. After that I was drawn to heavy bands that experimented with sonics, odd times, and emotive melodies; bands like Neurosis, Converge, Godspeed… I really appreciate music that pushes boundaries while maintaining a lot of feeling. I want the music we make to be ambitious, but I also want it to resonate with people emotionally.”

Caragol’s goal, to create music that challenges the mind whilst stirring the soul, has been realized with Glacial Erratic, an album likely to hook the ears of any fan of progressive heavy music, from Russian Circles to Cave In and beyond.

Revealing the themes at play behind the new album, Caragol states: “Most of our songs are about the ways in which human systems are failing us. Governments waging endless war. Corporations hoarding wealth and exploiting natural resources at the cost of an inhabitable planet. The abandonment and persecution of our most vulnerable populations. It’s hard to look at our civilization and not see a gaping wound. And most people bury their heads in the gutter of social media and vapid entertainment; a desperate attempt to hold onto fleeting moments of joy as the world around us falls apart.”

In contrast to the grave messaging, the official music video for the album’s title track sports a lighthearted, B-movie tone. Directed by renowned documentarian of Portland’s metal and punk scenes, Shelby Kray, the video sees a party at a backyard skateboard ramp devolve into hallucinatory horror. Making cameos are a bevy of Semuta’s hometown friends, including members of Usnea, Dark Castle, Armed for Apocalypse, Stoneburner, Nasalrod, and more. “Portland has a pretty thriving music scene,” says Caragol, in regards to the video casting. “There’s a wide variety of bands, and the music community is pretty close knit.”

The Glacial Erratic album artwork was created by Ashleigh Caragol, with design and layout by Justin Cory. The album follows one self-titled EP, released by the band in 2020.

Semuta has announced a string of West Coast dates for the spring, teaming up with such bands as Conan and Heiress along the way.

Apr 18 – Portland, OR @ Mississippi Studios (w/ Conan)
May 31 – Portland, OR @ The High Water Mark (w/ Yellfire)
June 1 – Bellingham, WA @ Make Shift (w/ Melancholia)
June 2 – Seattle, WA @ The Sunset Tavern (w/ Heiress)
June 8 – Santa Rosa, CA @ Shady Oak (w/ Ex Everything)
June 9 – Oakland, CA @ The Stork Club (w/ Ex Everything)

Tracklist:
1) Toeing the Line
2) A Distant Light
3) Glacial Erratic
4) Selective Memory
5) Wounds at the Stem

Lineup:
Benjamin Caragol – guitar, bass, vocals
Ben Stoller – drums

https://www.facebook.com/semutapdx/
https://www.youtube.com/@SEMUTAPDX
https://semutamusic.bandcamp.com/

Semuta, “Glacial Erratic” official video

Semuta, Glacial Erratic (2024)

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Sun Years Announce April/May Touring

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

Also set to appear among the multitudes on the bill for this year’s Maryland Doom Fest in June, Richmond, Virginia’s Sun Years will undertake a round of touring in the Northeast (plus Ohio) starting later this month. The band, which draws together members of Smoke and Alabama Thunderpussy, among others, released their lone studio offering to-date in a raw-grooving self-titled two-songer demo (review here) from 2022, but in real life that’s not actually that long ago, so fair enough. Touring DIY-style to play with a bunch of other killer bands, including Slow Wake and Trash Mountain (the latter twice) in Ohio, The Company Corvette in Philly, Afghan Haze in CT, Problem with Dragons in MA and Holy Fingers in Baltimore — at a matinee, no less! — could hardly be considered time misspent, even if I am curious to hear more from them.

If you’ve either heard the demo before or hear it now and find yourself feeling similarly, the obvious solution is to get out to a gig if you can. These aren’t the first dates they’ve done and likely won’t be the last.

From Instagram, etc.:

Sun years tour sq

Appreciate the folks who helped pull this northeast run together. See you soon!

Dig it!
4/26- Philadelphia PA- Keystone State Cycles w/ Company corvette and Terroreign
4/27- Worchester Mass- Ralph’s Rock Diner w/ Tears from a Grieving Heart, Sliimo
4/28- Bristol CT- Bleechers w/ Killer Kin, Other Nerve, Afghan Haze
4/29- East Hampton Mass- The OHM w/ Problem with Dragons
4/30- New Bedford Mass- The dNB w/ TBD
5/1- Troy NY- El Dorado w/ The Scurves, Lungbuster
5/2- Youngstown OH- Westside Bowl w/ Trash Mountain +1
5/3- Akron OH- Musica w/ Trash Mountain, Slow wake
5/4- Baltimore MD- The Metro Gallery (matinee show! Doors at 4:30pm) w/ Holy Fingers, Scrylops
5/5- Harrisonburg VA- The Golden Pony w/ Heemeyer, Taffy

Sun Years:
Asechiah Bogdan – Guitar
Buddy Bryant – Bass
Dalton Huskin – Guitar / Vocals
Erik Larson – Drums

https://www.instagram.com/sun_years
https://sunyears.bandcamp.com/

Sun Years, Sun Years (Demo) (2022)

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Rope Trick Announce Spring Northeast Touring; Red Tide EP Out Now

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 25th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

Philadelphia-based heavy transcendentalists Rope Trick released their two-songer Red Tide EP at the start of February. Recorded live, it’s their first output since 2017’s Red Tape EP (discussed here), which was also their debut, and with Indy Shome and Nate Totushek from Queen Elephantine (yes, both) comprising the lineup, it should be little surprise that they dig in as deeply as they do across “Crescent” (12:28) and “Neptune” (8:39), the former of which is well broiled in its tense rhythm before the vocals even start circa five minutes in, and the latter of which dares more melody in its culmination and feels more straightforward perhaps for the fuzz in Shome‘s guitar, but on closer inspection is no less exploratory than the cut before it.

It’s not what you’d call a lush production — and Queen Elephantine have never been really about that either, so it makes sense — but there’s plenty enough clarity for Red Tide to establish a meditative vibe and argue in favor of following where the music flows, whether that’s the crashes and raw vocal plead of “Crescent,” which is somehow still also mathy-jazzy in its comedown tumult, or the chunk-chug in the outset of “Neptune” building up like an extrapolation of Melvins in their oddball heyday. Yeah, it’s been seven years. Time is imaginary.

Except, maybe, for marking shows on your calendar. Those you’ll find below as Rope Trick head out to support Red Tide live as they also did for its ruby-hued predecessor, courtesy of the PR wire:

rope trick

ROPE TRICK release RED TIDE and announce Northeast US shows

ROPE TRICK is an experimental heavy psych rock duo from Philadelphia, consisting of Indy Shome on guitar and vocals and Nate Totushek on drums (also of Queen Elephantine). Listeners have compared them to Neil Young, Soundgarden, Jandek, Fela Kuti, and Black Midi.

RED TIDE was released digitally on February 1st. The artwork was done by Josh Yelle and it was recorded by Bruce Howze at Red Planet Studios.

ROPE TRICK is supporting it with a series of shows this Spring 2024 through the Northeast US, ranging from Virginia to New Hampshire.

TOUR
Spring 2024 ▼ East Coast

3/29 – Clinton CT, Scottish Dave’s Pub
3/30 – Southbridge MA, Starlite Gallery
4/12 – Somerville MA, The Rockwell
4/13 – Providence RI, AS220
4/21 – Queens NY, Trans-Pecos
4/27 – Dover NH. Flight
5/04 – Philadelphia PA, Haus of Yarga
5/10 – Baltimore MD, The Crown
5/11 – Richmond VA, Fuzzy Cactus

Rope Trick are:
Guitar + Vocals by Indy Shome
Drums by Nate Totushek

https://www.instagram.com/ropetrickband/
https://www.facebook.com/ropetrickband
ropetrickband.bandcamp.com
http://ropetrickband.com

Rope Trick, Red Tide (2024)

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Ten Ton Slug to Release Debut Album Colossal Oppressor May 1

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 6th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

Ten Ton Slug (Photo by Ken Coleman)

Preorders are up now for Ten Ton Slug‘s debut full-length, Colossal Oppressor, which the Galway, Ireland, burlbringers will self-release on May 1. To mark the announcement and presumably let listeners know the sort of bludgeoning they’re signing up for in preordering, the band has posted “Mindless and Blind” as the first single from the outing, and it quickly becomes clear they were not lacking self-awareness in their choice of album titles. Presented with a fervent groove and aggressive overarching feel, they take the metal angle on sludge metal and emerge likewise methodical and ferocious. It’s gonna be a heavy record, is what I’m telling you.

Heavy enough they got Karl Willetts from Bolt Thrower in for guest vocals and Adam Burke to do the cover, which, thankfully, features the giant slug you can see below. Crowbar and Sepultura duking it out sound about right? Could be. There’s more here than just that, but it’s a start at least. And it was seven years ago and at least in part a different lineup, but I did get to see these guys one time in Ireland (review here) and they smoked then as well. Relevant as they’ll be coming to the US to feature at Maryland Doom Fest 2024 in June, headlining what was the stage at Olde Mother Brewing but will now be a second stage at Cafe 611, for which there’s ample room. They play Friday, June 21, as per the timetable (posted here).

All other info and the preorder link follow, sourced fresh from the PR wire:

TEN TON SLUG COLOSSAL OPPRESSOR

TEN TON SLUG – Colossal Oppressor – May 1

‘Colossal Oppressor’ , the highly-anticipated debut album by Ten Ton Slug, releases May 1st 2024 digitally on all major streaming platforms, and on CD and Vinyl pre-order through Bandcamp.

Following up previous EP releases ‘Brutal Gluttonous Beast’ and ‘Blood & Slime’ and clocking in at just over 40 minutes, ‘Colossal Oppressor’ is the bands first full-length release and represents a natural progression from previous releases with an increased focus on songwriting and dynamics, yet still featuring the trademark huge riffs and pummelling drums that have come to characterise the sound of the Slug.

Featuring guest vocals from Memoriam/Bolt Thrower frontman Karl Willetts on the track ‘Brutus’, Colossal Oppressor represents five years of work and riffs distilled into 8 tracks of unrelenting heaviness. First single stream and pre-orders open March 4th: http://tentonslug.bandcamp.com/

Tracklist:
1. The Ooze
2. Balor
3. Ancient Ways
4. Brutus*
5. Mindless and Blind
6. Ghosts of the Ooze
7. Mallacht an tSloda
8. Mogore the Unkind

*featuring guest vocals by Karl Willetts of Memoriam/ Bolt Thrower

Original hand-painted artwork (acrylic on wood) by Adam Burke at Nightjar Illustration Recorded at Ciaran Culhane Recording in Limerick. Mixed and mastered at Trackmix Recording Studio Dublin by Michael Richards. Produced by Sean Sullivan and Rónán Ó hArrachtáin. All songs written by Ten Ton Slug(Sean Sullivan, Rónán Ó hArrachtáin, Micheal O Suilleabhain, Pavol Rosa). This release was part funded by the Galway City Arts Office. Dedicated to the memory of Dessie Harrington.

Ten Ton Slug:
Rónán Ó hArrachtáin – Vocals
Pavol Rosa – Bass
Sean Sullivan – Guitars/Vocals
Kelvin Doran – Drums*
*All drums written and arranged by Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin

https://www.facebook.com/TenTonSlug/
https://www.instagram.com/tentonslug/
https://tentonslug.bandcamp.com/
https://tentonslug.com/

Ten Ton Slug, Colossal Oppressor (2024)

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Quarterly Review: Megaton Leviathan, Merlin, Stonerhenge, Guiltless, MR.BISON, Slump & At War With the Sun, Leather Lung, Citrus Citrus, Troubled Sleep, Observers

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

The-Obelisk-Quarterly-Review

So this is it, but before we — you and I, not at the same time but together nonetheless — dive into the final 10 records of this well-still-basically-winter-but-almost-spring-and-god-damn-I-wish-winter-was-over Quarterly Review, how about a big, deep breath, huh? There. In occupational therapy and other teach-you-how-to-keep-your-shit-together circles, deep breathing is spoken of like it’s a magic secret invented in 1999, and you know what, I think it was. That shit definitely didn’t exist when I was a kid. Can be helpful though, sometimes, if you need just to pause for a second, literally a second, and stop that rush in your brain.

Or my brain. Because I’m definitely talking about me and I’ve come to understand in time not everyone’s operates like mine, even aside from whatever I’ve got going on neurologically, sensorially, emotionally or in terms of mental health. Ups and downs to that, as regards human experience. There are a great many things that I’m useless at. This is what I can do, so I’m doing it. Put your head down, keep working. I can do that. 10 records left? Easy. You might say I did the same thing yesterday, and that was already my busiest day, so this is gravy. And gravy, in its various contexts, textures, tastes, and delivery modes, is delicious. I hope you heard something new this week that you enjoyed. If not yet, there’s still hope.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Megaton Leviathan, Silver Tears

Megaton Leviathan Silver Tears

I’ll confess that when I held this spot for groundfloor now-Asoria, Oregon, dronegazers Megaton Leviathan, I was thinking of their Dec. 2023 instrumental album, Magick Helmet, with its expansive and noisy odes to outsider experimentalism of yore, but then founding principal Andrew James Costa Reuscher (vocals, guitars, synth, bass, etc.) announced a new lineup with the rhythm section of Alex Wynn (bass) and Tory Chappell (drums) and unveiled “Silver Tears” as the first offering from this new incarnation of the band, and its patient, swirling march and meditative overtones wouldn’t be ignored, however otherwise behind I might be. Next to Magick Helmet, “Silver Tears” is downright straightforward in its four-plus minutes, strong in its conveyance of an atmosphere that’s molten and maybe trying to get lost in its own trance a bit, which is fair enough for the hypnotic cast of the song’s ending. The lesson, as ever with Megaton Leviathan, is that you can’t predict what they’ll do next, and that’s been the case since their start over 15 years ago. One assumes the new lineup will play live and that Reuscher will keep pushing into the ether. Beyond that, they could head anywhere and not find a wrong direction.

Megaton Leviathan on Facebook

Megaton Leviathan on Instagram

Merlin, Grind House

merlin grind house

They put their own spin on it, of course, but there’s love at heart in Merlin‘s take on the classic “Let’s All Go to the Lobby” jingle that serves as the centerpiece of Grind House, and indeed, the seven-song late-2023 long-player unfolds as an intentional cinematic tribute, with “Feature Presentation” bringing the lights down with some funkier elevator vibes before “The Revenger” invents an ’80s movie with its hook alone, “Master Thief ’77” offers precisely the action-packed bassline and wah you would hope, “Endless Calamity” horror-soundtracks with keyboard, “Blood Money” goes west with due Dollars Trilogy flourish, and the 12-minute “Grindhouse,” which culls together pieces of all of the above — “Let’s All Go to the Lobby” included — and adds a voiceover, which even though it doesn’t start with “In a world…” sets its narrative forth with the verve of coming attractions, semi-over-the-top and thus right on for where Merlin have always resided. Interpreting movie music, soundtracks and the incidental sounds of the theater experience, isn’t by any means the least intuitive leap the Kansas City four-piece could make, and the ease with which they swap one style for another underscores how multifaceted their sound can be while remaining their own. If you get it, you’ll get it.

Merlin on Facebook

Merlin on Instagram

Stonerhenge, Gemini Twins

stonerhenge gemini twins

After what seem to have been a couple more group-oriented full-lengths and an initial solo EP, Minsk-based heavy rockers Stonerhenge seem to have settled around the songwriting of multi-instrumentalist Serge “Skrypa” Skrypničenka. The self-released Gemini Twins is the third long-player from the mostly-instrumental Belarusian project, though the early 10-minute cut “The Story of Captain Glosster” proves crucial for the spoken word telling its titular tale, which ties into the narrative derived Gemini myth and the notion of love as bringing two halves of one whole person together, and there are other vocalizations in “Time Loop” and “Hypersleep,” the second half of “Starship Troopers,” and so on, so the songs aren’t without a human presence tying them together as they range in open space. This is doubly fortunate, as Skrypničenka embarks on movements of clear-eyed, guitar-led progressive heavy exploration, touching on psychedelia without getting too caught up in effects, too tricky in production, or too far removed from the rhythm of the flowing “Solstice” or the turns “Over the Mountain” makes en route its ah-here-we-are apex. Not without its proggy indulgences, the eight-song/46-minute collection rounds out with “Fugit Irreparable Tempus,” which in drawing a complete linear build across its five minutes from clean tone to a distorted finish, highlights the notion of a plot unfolding.

Stonerhenge on Facebook

Stonerhenge on Instagram

Guiltless, Thorns

GUILTLESS Thorns

Guiltless make their debut with the four songs of Thorns on Neurot Recordings, following on in some ways from where guitarist, vocalist, noisemaker and apparent-spearhead Josh Graham (also ex-Battle of Mice, Red Sparowes, Neurosis visuals, etc.) and guitarist/more-noisemaker Dan Hawkins left off in A Storm of Light, in this case recording remotely and reincorporating drummer Billy Graves (also Generation of Vipers) and bringing in bassist Sacha Dunable, best known for his work in Intronaut and for founding Dunable Guitars. Gruff in the delivery vocally and otherwise, and suitably post-apocalyptic in its point of view, “All We Destroy” rumbles its assessment after “Devour-Collide” lays out the crunching tonal foundation and begins to expand outward therefrom, with “Dead Eye” seeming to hit that much harder as it rolls its wall o’ low end over a detritus-strewn landscape no more peaceful in its end than its beginning, with subsequent closer “In Radiant Glow” more malleable in tempo before seeming to pull itself apart lurching to the finish. I’d say I hope our species ultimately fares a bit better than Thorns portrays, but I have to acknowledge that there’s not much empirical evidence to base that on. Guiltless play these songs like an indictment.

Guiltless on Facebook

Neurot Recordings website

MR.BISON, Echoes From the Universe

mr.bison echoes from the universe

The latest check-in from the dimension of Italian four-piece MR.BISON, Echoes From the Universe is the band’s most realized work to-date. It’s either their third LP or their fifth, depending on what counts as what, but where it sits in the discography is second to how much the effort stands out generally. Fostering a bright, lush sound distinguished through vocal harmonies and arrangement depth, the seven-song collection showcases the swath of elements that, at this point, has transcended its influence and genuinely found a place of its own. Space rock, Elderian prog, classic harmonized melody, and immediate charge in “The Child of the Night Sky” unfold to acoustics kept going amid dramatic crashes and the melodic roll of “Collision,” with sepia nostalgia creeping into the later lines of “Dead in the Eye” as the guitar becomes more expansive, only to be grounded by the purposeful repetitions of “Fragments” with the last-minute surge ending side A to let “The Promise” fade in with bells like a morning shimmer before exploring a cosmic breadth; it and the also-seven-minute “The Veil” serving as complement and contrast with the latter’s more terrestrial swing early resolving in a an ethereal wash to which “Staring at the Sun,” the finale, could just as easily be referring as to its own path of tension and release. I’ve written about the album a couple times already, but I wanted to put it here too, pretty much just to say don’t be surprised when you see it on my year-end list.

MR.BISON on Facebook

Heavy Psych Sounds website

Slump & At War With the Sun, SP/LIT

slump at war with the sun split

You’d figure with the slash in its title, the split release pairing UK sludge upstarts At War With the Sun and Slump, who are punk-prone on “Dust” and follow the riff on “Kneel” to a place much more metal, would break down into two sides between ‘SP’ and ‘LIT,’ but I’m not sure either At War With the Sun‘s “The Garden” (9:54) or the two Slump inclusions, which are three and seven minutes, respectively, could fit on a 7″ side. Need a bigger platter, and fair enough for holding the post-Eyehategod disillusioned barks of “The Garden” and the slogging downer groove they ride, or the way Slump‘s two songs unite around more open verses, the guitar dropping out in the strut of “Dust” and giving space to vocals in “Kneel,” even as each cut works toward its own ends stylistically. The mix on Slump‘s material is more in-your-face where At War With the Sun cast an introverted feel, but you want to take the central message as ‘Don’t worry, England’s still miserable,’ and keep an eye to see where both bands go from here as they continue to develop their approaches, I don’t think anyone’ll tell you you’re doing it wrong.

At War With the Sun on Facebook

At War With the Sun on Bandcamp

Slump on Facebook

Slump on Bandcamp

Leather Lung, Graveside Grin

leather lung graveside grin

They know it’s gonna get brutal, the listener knows it’s gonna get brutal, and Massachusetts riff rollers Leather Lung don’t waste time in getting down to business on Graveside Grin, their awaited, middle-fingers-raised debut full-length on Magnetic Eye Records. An established live act in the Northeastern US with a sound culled from the seemingly disparate ends of sludge and party rock — could they be the next-gen inheritors of Weedeater‘s ‘ I don’t know how this is a good time but it is’ character? time will tell — the 40-minute 11-songer doesn’t dwell long in any one track, instead building momentum over a succession of pummelers on either side of the also-pummeling “Macrodose Interlude” until “Raised Me Rowdy,” which just might be an anthem, if a twisted one, fades to its finish. I’ve never been and will never be cool enough for this kind of party, but Leather Lung‘s innovation in bringing fun to extreme sounds and their ability to be catchy and caustic at the same time isn’t something to ignore. The time they’ve put in on EPs and touring shows in the purpose and intensity with which they execute “Empty Bottle Boogie” or the modern-metal guitar contortions of “Guilty Pleasure,” but they are firm in their purpose of engaging their audience on their own level, and accessible in that regard. And as raucous as they get, they’re never actually out of control. That’s what makes them truly dangerous.

Leather Lung on Facebook

Magnetic Eye Records store

Citrus Citrus, Albedo Massima

citrus citrus albedo massima

A new(-ish) band releasing their first album through Sulatron Records would be notable enough, but Italy’s Citrus Citrus answer that significant endorsement with scope on Dec. 2023’s Albedo Massima, veering into and out of acid-laced traditions in what feels like a pursuit, like each song has a goal it’s chasing whether or not the band knew that when they started jamming. Drift and percussive intrigue mark the outset with “Sunday Morning in the Sun,” which lets “Lost It” surprise as it shifts momentarily into fuzzier, Colour Haze-y heavy psych as part of a series of tradeoffs that emerge, a chorus finish emphasizing structure. The Mediterranean twists of “Fantachimera” become explosively heavy, and that theme continues in the end of “Red Stone Seeds” after that centerpiece’s blown out experimental verses, keyboard drift building to heft that would surprise if not for “Lost It” earlier, while “Sleeping Giant” eschews that kind of tonal largesse for a synthier wash before “Frozen\Sun” creates and fills its own mellow and melancholy reaches. All the while, a pointedly organic production gives the band pockets to weave through dynamically, and melody abides. Not at all inactive, or actually that mellow, Albedo Massima resonates with the feel of an adventure just beginning. Here’s looking forward.

Citrus Citrus on Instagram

Sulatron Records webstore

Troubled Sleep, A Trip Around the Sun & Solitary Man

troubled sleep a trip around the sun

Two initial tracks from Swedish newcomers Troubled Sleep, released as separate standalone singles and coupled together here because I can, “A Trip Around the Sun” and “Solitary Man” show a penchant for songwriting in a desert-style sphere, the former coming across as speaking to Kyuss-esque traditionalism while “Solitary Man” pushes a little further into classic heavy and more complex melodies while keeping a bounce that aligns to genre. Both are strikingly cohesive in their course and professional in their production, and while the band has yet to let much be known about their overarching intentions, whether they’re working toward an album or what, they sound like they most definitely could be, and I’ll just be honest and say that’s a record I’ll probably want to hear considering the surety with which “A Trip Around the Sun” and “Solitary Man” are brought to life. I’m not about to tell you they’re revolutionizing desert rock or heavy rock more broadly, but songs this solid don’t usually happen by accident, and Troubled Sleep sound like they know where they’re headed, even if the listener doesn’t yet. The word is potential and the tracks are positively littered with it.

Troubled Sleep on Facebook

Troubled Sleep on Bandcamp

Observers, The Age of the Machine Entities

observers the age of the machine entities

I’m not sure how the double-kick intensity and progressive metal drive translates to the stately-paced, long-shots-of-things-floating-in-space of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, but Observers‘ debut, The Age of the Machine Entities, is sweeping enough to bridge cynical headscratching. And of course there were the whole lightspeed freakout and we-invented-murder parts of Arthur C. Clarke’s narrative as well, so there’s room for All India Radio‘s Martin Kennedy, joined by bassist Rich Gray, drummer Chris Bohm and their included host of guests to conjure the melodic wash of “Strange and Beautiful” after the blasting declarations of “Into the Eye” at the start, with “Pod Bay Doors” interpreting that crucial scene in the film through manipulated sampling (not exclusive to it), and the 11-minute “Metaphor” unfurls a subtly-moving, flute-featuring ambience ahead of the pair “The Star Child” and “The Narrow Way Part II” wrap by realigning around the project’s metallic foundation, which brings fresh perspective to a familiar subject in the realm of science fiction.

Observers on Facebook

Observers on Bandcamp

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Quarterly Review: Monkey3, The Quill, Nebula Drag, LLNN & Sugar Horse, Fuzzter, Cold in Berlin, The Mountain King, Witchorious, Skull Servant, Lord Velvet

Posted in Reviews on February 29th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

The-Obelisk-Quarterly-Review

Day four of five puts the end of this Quarterly Review in sight, as will inevitably happen. We passed the halfway point yesterday and by the time today’s done it’s the home stretch. I hope you’ve had a good week. It’s been a lot — and in terms of the general work level of the day, today’s my busiest day; I’ve got Hungarian class later and homework to do for that, and two announcements to write in addition to this, one for today one for tomorrow, and I need to set up the back end of another announcement for Friday if I can. The good news is that my daughter seems to be over the explosive-vomit-time stomach bug that had her out of school on Monday. The better news is I’ve yet to get that.

But if I’m scatterbrained generally and sort of flailing, well, as I was recently told after I did a video interview and followed up with the artist to apologize for my terribleness at it, at least it’s honest. I am who I am, and I think that there are places where people go and things people do that sometimes I have a hard time with. Like leaving the house. And parenting. And interviewing bands, I guess. Needing to plow through 10 reviews today and tomorrow should be a good exercise in focusing energy, even if that isn’t necessarily getting the homework done faster. And yeah, it’s weird to be in your 40s and think about homework. Everything’s weird in your 40s.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Monkey3, Welcome to the Machine

monkey3 welcome to the machine

What are Monkey3 circa 2024 if not a name you can trust? The Swiss instrumental four-piece are now more than 20 years removed from their 2003 self-titled debut, and Welcome to the Machine — their seventh album and fourth release on Napalm Records (three studio, one live) — brings five new songs across 46 minutes of stately progressive heavy craft, with the lead cut “Ignition” working into an early gallop before cutting to ambience presumably as a manifestation of hitting escape velocity and leaving the planetary atmosphere, and trading from there between longer (10-plus-minute) and shorter (six- and seven-minute) pieces that are able to hit with a surprising impact when they so choose. Second track “Collision” comes to crush in a way that even 2019’s Sphere (review here) didn’t, and to go with its methodical groove, heavy post-rock airiness and layered-in acoustic guitar, “Kali Yuga” (10:01) is tethered by a thud of drums that feels no less the point of the thing than the mood-aura in the largesse that surrounds. Putting “Rackman” (7:13, with hints of voice or keyboard that sounds like it), which ends furiously, and notably cinematic closer “Collapse” (12:51) together on side B is a distinct immersion, and the latter places Monkey3 in a prog-metal context that defies stylistic expectation even as it lives up to the promise of the band’s oeuvre. Seven records and more than two decades on, and Monkey3 are still evolving. This is a special band, and in a Europe currently awash in heavy instrumentalism of varying degrees of psychedelia, it’s hard to think of Monkey3 as anything other than aesthetic pioneers.

Monkey3 on Facebook

Napalm Records website

The Quill, Wheel of Illusion

the quill wheel of illusion

With its Sabbath-born chug and bluesy initial groove opening to NWOBHM grandeur at the solo, the opening title-track is quick to reassure that Sweden’s The Quill are themselves on Wheel of Illusion, even if the corresponding classic metal elements there a standout from the more traditional rock of “Elephant Head” with its tambourine, or the doomier roll in “Sweet Mass Confusion,” also pointedly Sabbathian and thus well within the wheelhouse of guitarist Christian Carlsson, vocalist Magnus Ekwall, bassist Roger Nilsson and drummer Jolle Atlagic. While most of Wheel of Illusion is charged in its delivery, the still-upbeat “Rainmaker” feels like a shift in atmosphere after the leadoff and “We Burn,” and atmospherics come more into focus as the drums thud and the strings echo out in layers as “Hawks and Hounds” builds to its ending. While “The Last Thing” works keyboard into its all-go transition into nodding capper “Wild Mustang,” it’s the way the closer seems to encapsulate the album as a whole and the perspective brought to heavy rock’s founding tenets that make The Quill such reliable purveyors, and Wheel of Illusion comes across like special attention was given to the arrangements and the tightness of the songwriting. If you can’t appreciate kickass rock and roll, keep moving. Otherwise, whether it’s your first time hearing The Quill or you go back through all 10 of their albums, they make it a pleasure to get on board.

The Quill on Facebook

Metalville Records website

Nebula Drag, Western Death

Nebula Drag Western Death

Equal parts brash and disillusioned, Nebula Drag‘s Dec. 2023 LP, Western Death, is a ripper whether you’re dug into side ‘Western’ or side ‘Death.’ The first half of the psych-leaning-but-more-about-chemistry-than-effects San Diego trio’s third album offers the kind of declarative statement one might hope, with particular scorch in the guitar of Corey Quintana, sway and ride in Stephen Varns‘ drums and Garrett Gallagher‘s Sabbathian penchant for working around the riffs. The choruses of “Sleazy Tapestry,” “Kneecap,” “Side by Side,” “Tell No One” and the closing title-track speak directly to the listener, with the last of them resolved, “Look inside/See the signs/Take what you can,” and “Side by Side” a call to group action, “We don’t care how it gets done/Helpless is the one,” but there’s storytelling here too as “Tell No One” turns the sold-your-soul-to-play-music trope and turns it on its head by (in the narrative, anyhow) keeping the secret. Pairing these ideas with Nebula Drag‘s raw-but-not-sloppy heavy grunge, able to grunge-crunch on “Tell No One” even as the vocals take on more melodic breadth, and willing to let it burn as “Western Death” departs its deceptively angular riffing to cap the 34-minute LP with the noisy finish it has by then well earned.

Nebula Drag on Facebook

Desert Records store

LLNN & Sugar Horse, The Horror bw Sleep Paralysis Demon

LLNN Sugar Horse The Horror Sleep Paralysis Demon

Brought together for a round of tour dates that took place earlier this month, Pelagic Records labelmates LLNN (from Copenhagen) and Sugar Horse (from Bristol, UK) each get one track on a 7″ side for a showcase. Both use it toward obliterating ends. LLNN, who are one of the heaviest bands I’ve ever seen live and I’m incredibly grateful for having seen them live, dig into neo-industrial churn on “The Horror,” with stabbing synth later in the procession that underscores the point and less reliance on tonal onslaught than the foreboding violence of the atmosphere they create. In response, Sugar Horse manage to hold back their screams and lurching full-bore bludgeonry for nearly the first minute of “Sleep Paralysis Demon” and even after digging into it dare a return to cleaner singing, admirable in their restraint and more effectively tense for it when they push into caustic sludge churn and extremity, space in the guitar keeping it firmly in the post-metal sphere even as they aim their intent at rawer flesh. All told, the platter is nine of probably and hopefully-for-your-sake the most brutal minutes you might experience today, and thus can only be said to accomplish what it set out to do as the end product sounds like two studios would’ve needed rebuilding afterward.

LLNN on Facebook

Sugar Horse on Facebook

Pelagic Records website

Fuzzter, Pandemonium

fuzzter pandemonium

Fuzzter aren’t necessarily noisy in terms of playing noise rock on Pandemonium, but from the first cymbal crashes after the Oppenheimer sample at the start of “Extinción,” the Peruvian outfit engage an uptempo heavy psych thrust that, though directed, retains a chaotic aspect through the band’s willingness to be sound if not actually be reckless, to gang shout before the guitars drift off in “Thanatos,” to be unafraid of being eaten by their own swirl in “Caja de Pandora” or to chug with a thrashy intensity at the start of closer “Tercer Ojo,” doom out massive in the song’s middle, and float through jazzy minimalism at the finish. But even in that, there are flashes, bursts that emphasize the unpredictability of the songs, which is an asset throughout what’s listed as the Lima trio’s third EP but clocks in at 36 minutes with the instrumental “Purgatorio,” which starts off like it might be an interlude but grows more furious as its five minutes play out, tucked into its center. If it’s a short release, it is substantial. If it’s an album, it’s substantial despite a not unreasonable runtime. Ultimately, whatever they call it is secondary to the space-metal reach and the momentum fostered across its span, which just might carry you with it whether or not you thought you were ready to go.

Fuzzter on Facebook

Fuzzter on Instagram

Cold in Berlin, The Body is the Wound

cold in berlin the body is the wound

The listed representation of dreams in “Dream One” adds to the concrete severity of Cold in Berlin‘s dark, keyboard-laced post-metallic sound, but London-based four-piece temper that impact with the post-punk ambience around the shove of the later “Found Out” on their The Body is the Wound 19-minute four-songer, and build on the goth-ish sway even as “Spotlight” fosters a heavier, more doomed mindset behind vocalist Maya, whose verses in “When Did You See Her Last” are complemented by dramatic lines of keyboard and who can’t help but soar even as the overarching direction is down, down, down into either the subconscious referenced in “Dream One” or some other abyss probably of the listener’s own making. Five years and one actual-plague after their fourth full-length, 2019’s Rituals of Surrender, bordering on 15 since the band got their start, they cast resonance in mood as well as impact (the latter bolstered by Wayne Adams‘ production), and are dynamic in style as well as volume, with each piece on The Body is the Wound working toward its own ends while the EP’s entirety flows with the strength of its performances. They’re in multiple worlds, and it works.

Cold in Berlin on Facebook

Cold in Berlin website

The Mountain King, Apostasyn

the mountain king apostasyn

With the expansive songwriting of multi-instrumentalist/sometimes-vocalist Eric McQueen at its core, The Mountain King issue Apostasyn as possibly their 10th full-length in 10 years and harness a majestic, progressive doom metal that doesn’t skimp either on the doom or the metal, whether that takes the form of the Type O Negative-style keys in “The White Noise From God’s Radio” or the tremolo guitar in the apex of closer “Axolotl Messiah.” The title-track is a standout for more than just being 15 minutes long, with its death-doom crux and shifts between minimal and maximal volumes, and the opening “Dødo” just before fosters immersion after its maybe-banging-on-stuff-maybe-it’s-programmed intro, with a hard chug answered in melody by guest singer Julia Gusso, who joins McQueen and the returning Frank Grimbarth (also guitar) on vocals, while Robert Bished adds synth to McQueen‘s own. Through the personnel changes and in each piece’s individual procession, The Mountain King are patient, waiting in the dark for you to join them. They’ll probably just keep basking in all that misery until you get there, no worries. Oh, and I’ll note that the download version of Apostasyn comes with instrumental versions of the four tracks, in case you’d really like to lose yourself in ruminating.

The Mountain King on Facebook

The Mountain King on Bandcamp

Witchorious, Witchorious

WITCHORIOUS SELF TITLED

The self-titled debut from Parisian doomers Witchorious is distinguished by its moments of sludgier aggression — the burly barks in “Monster” at the outset, and so on — but the chorus of “Catharsis” that rises from the march of the verse offers a more melodic vision, and the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Antoine Auclair, bassist/vocalist Lucie Gaget and drummer Paul Gaget, continue to play to multiple sides of a modern metal and doom blend, while “The Witch” adds vastness and roll to its creeper-riff foundation. The guitar-piece “Amnesia” serves as an interlude ahead of “Watch Me Die” as Witchorious dig into the second half of the album, and as hard has that song comes to hit — plenty — the character of the band is correspondingly deepened by the breadth of “To the Grave,” which follows before the bonus track “Why” nod-dirges the album’s last hook. There’s clarity in the craft throughout, and Witchorious seem aware of themselves in stylistic terms if not necessarily writing to style, and noteworthy as it is for being their first record, I look forward to hearing how they refine and sharpen the methods laid out in these songs. The already-apparent command with which they direct the course here isn’t to be ignored.

Witchorious on Facebook

Argonauta Records website

Skull Servant, Traditional Black Magicks II

skull servant traditional black magicks ii

Though their penchant for cult positioning and exploitation-horror imagery might lead expectations elsewhere, North Carolinian trio Skull Servant present a raw, sludge-rocking take on their second LP, Traditional Black Magicks II, with bassist Noah Terrell and guitarist Calvin Bauer reportedly swapping vocal duties per song across the five tracks while drummer Ryland Dreibelbis gives fluidity to the current of distortion threaded into “Absinthe Dreams,” which is instrumental on the album but newly released as a standalone single with vocals. I don’t know if the wrong version got uploaded or what — Bauer ends up credited with vocals that aren’t there — but fair enough. A meaner, punkier stonerism shows itself as “Poison the Unwell” hints at facets of post-hardcore and “Pergamos,” the two shortest pieces placed in front of the strutting “Lucifer’s Reefer” and between that cut and the Goatsnake-via-Sabbath riffing of “Satan’s Broomstick.” So it could be that Skull Servant, who released the six-song outing on Halloween 2023, are still sorting through where they want to be sound-wise, or it could be they don’t give a fuck about genre convention and are gonna do whatever they please going forward. I won’t predict and I’m not sure either answer is wrong.

Skull Servant on Facebook

Skull Servant on Bandcamp

Lord Velvet, Astral Lady

lord velvet astral lady

Notice of arrival is served as Lord Velvet dig into classic vibes and modern heft on their late 2023 debut EP, Astral Lady, to such a degree that I actually just checked their social media to see if they’d been signed yet before I started writing about them. Could happen, and probably will if they want it to, considering the weight of low end and the flowing, it’s-a-vibe-man vibe, plus shred, in “Lament of Io” and the way they make that lumber boogie through (most of) “Snakebite Fever.” Appearing in succession, “Night Terrors” and “From the Deep” channel stoned Iommic revelry amid their dynamic-in-tempo doomed intent, and while “Black Beam of Gemini” rounds out with a shove, Lord Velvet retain the tonal presence on the other end of that quick, quiet break, ready to go when needed for the crescendo. They’re not reinventing stoner rock and probably shouldn’t be trying to on this first EP, but they feel like they’re engaging with some of the newer styles being proffered by Magnetic Eye or sometimes Ripple Music, and if they end up there or elsewhere before they get around to making a full-length, don’t be surprised. If they plan to tour, so much the better for everybody.

Lord Velvet on Facebook

Lord Velvet website

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