Quarterly Review: Lamp of the Universe Meets Dr. Space, Inter Arma, Sunnata, The Sonic Dawn, Rifflord, Mothman and the Thunderbirds, The Lunar Effect, Danava, Moonlit, Doom Lab

Posted in Reviews on May 24th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

The-Obelisk-Quarterly-Review

This is it. This one’s for all the marbles. Well, actually there are no marbles involved, but if you remember way back like two weeks ago when this started out, I told you the tale of a hubristic 40-something dickweed blogger who thought he could review 100 albums in 10 days, and assuming I make it through the below without having an aneurysm — because, hey, you never know — today I get to live that particular fairy tale.

If you’ve kept up, and I hope you have, thanks. If not, click here to see all the posts in this Quarterly Review. Either way, I appreciate your time.

Quarterly Review #91-100:

Lamp of the Universe Meets Dr. Space, Enters Your Somas

Lamp of the universe meets dr space Enter Your Somas

Who’s ready to get blasted out the airlock? New Zealand solo-outfit Lamp of the Universe, aka multi-instrumentalist Craig Williamson (also Dead Shrine, ex-Datura, etc.), and Portugal-residing synth master Dr. Space, aka Scott Heller of Øresund Space Collective, Black Moon Circle, and so on, come together to remind us all we’re nothing more than semi-sentient cosmic dust. Enters Your Somas is comprised of two extended pieces, “Enters Your Somas” (18:39) and “Infiltrates Your Mind” (19:07), and both resonate space/soul frequencies while each finds its own path. The title-track is more languid on average, where “Infiltrates Your Mind” reroutes auxiliary power to the percussive thrusters in its first half before drifting into drone communion and hearing a voice — vague, but definitely human speech — before surging back to its course via Williamson‘s drums, which play a large role in giving the material its shape. But with synthy sweeps from Heller, Mellotron and guitar coming and going, and a steady groove across both inclusions, Lamp of the Universe Meets Dr. Space offer galactic adventure limited only by where your imagination puts you while you listen.

Lamp of the Universe on Facebook

Dr. Space on Facebook

Sound Effect Records website

Inter Arma, New Heaven

inter arma new heaven

Richmond, Virginia’s Inter Arma had no small task before them in following 2019’s Sulphur English (review here), but from the tech-death boops and bops and twists of New Heaven‘s leadoff title-track through the gothic textures of “Gardens in the Dark,” self-aware without satire, slow-flowing and dramatic, this fifth full-length finds them continuing to expand their creative reach, and at this point, whatever genre you might want to cast them in, they stand out. To wit, the blackdeath onslaught of “Violet Seizures” that’s also space rock, backed in that by the subsequent “Desolation’s Harp” with its classically grandiose solo, or the post-doom lumber of “Concrete Cliffs” that calls out its expanse after the seven-minute drum-playthrough-fodder extremity of “The Children the Bombs Overlooked,” or the mournful march of “Endless Grey” and the acoustic-led Nick Cavey epilogue “Forest Service Road Blues.” Few bands embrace a full spectrum of metallic sounds without coming across as either disjointed or like they’re just mashing styles together for the hell of it. Inter Arma bleed purpose in every turn, and as they inch closer to their 20th year as a band, they are masters unto themselves of this form they’ve created.

Inter Arma on Facebook

Relapse Records website

Sunnata, Chasing Shadows

sunnata chasing shadows

The opening “Chimera” puts Chasing Shadows quickly into a ritualized mindset, all the more as Warsaw meditative doomers Sunnata lace it and a decent portion of their 11-track/62-minute fifth album with an arrangement of vocals from guitarists Szymon Ewertowski and Adrian Gadomski and bassist/synthesist Michal Dobrzanski as drummer/percussionist Robert Ruszczyk punctuates on snare as they head toward a culmination. Individual pieces have their own purposes, whether it’s the momentary float of “Torn” or the post-Alice in Chains harmonies offset by Twin Peaks-y creep in “Saviours Raft,” or the way “Hunger” gradually moves from light to dark with rolling immersion, or the dancier feel with which “Like Cogs in a Wheel” gives an instrumental finish. It’s not a minor undertaking and it’s not meant to be one, but mood and atmosphere do a lot of work in uniting the songs, and the low-in-the-mouth vocal melodies become a part of that as the record unfolds. Their range has never felt broader, but there’s a plot being followed as well, an idea behind each turn in “Wishbone” and the sprawl is justified by the dug-in worldmaking taking place across the whole-LP progression, darkly psychedelic and engrossing as it is.

Sunnata on Facebook

Sunnata on Bandcamp

The Sonic Dawn, Phantom

The Sonic Dawn Phantom

Among the most vital classic elements of The Sonic Dawn‘s style is their ability to take spacious ideas and encapsulate them with a pop efficiency that doesn’t feel dumbed down. That is to say, they’re not capitulating to fickle attention spans with short songs so much as they’re able to get in, say what they want to say with a given track, and get out. Phantom is their fifth album, and while the title may allude to a certain ghostliness coinciding with the melancholy vibe overarching through the bulk of its component material, the Copenhagen-based trio are mature enough at this stage to know what they’re about. And while Phantom has its urgent stretches in the early going of “Iron Bird” or the rousing “Think it Over,” the handclap-laced “Pan AM,” and the solo-topped apex of “Micro Cosmos in a Drop,” most of what they’re about here harnesses a mellower atmosphere. It doesn’t need to hurry, baby. Isn’t there enough rush in life with all these “21st Century Blues?” With no lack of movement throughout, some of The Sonic Dawn‘s finest stretches here are in low-key interpretations of funk (“Dreams of Change,” “Think it Over,” “Transatlantique,” etc.) or prog-boogie (“Scorpio,” “Nothing Can Live Here” before the noisier crescendo) drawn together by organ, subdued, thoughtful vocal melodies and craft to suit the organic production. This isn’t the first The Sonic Dawn LP to benefit from the band knowing who they are as a group, but golly it sure is stronger for that.

The Sonic Dawn on Facebook

Heavy Psych Sounds website

Rifflord, 39 Serpent Power

RIFFLORD 39 Serpent Power

It’s not until the hook of second cut “Ohm Ripper” hits that Rifflord let go of the tension built up through the opening semi-title-track “Serpent Power,” which in its thickened thrashy charge feels like a specific callout to High on Fire but as I understand it is just about doing hard drugs. Fair enough. The South Dakota-based five-piece of bassist/vocalist Wyatt Bronc Bartlett, guitarists Samuel Hayes and Dustin Vano, keyboardist Tory Jean Stoddard and drummer Douglas Jennings Barrett will echo that intensity later in “Church Keys” and “Tumbleweed,” but that’s still only one place the 38-minute eight-track LP goes, and whether it’s the vocals calling out through the largesse and breadth of “Blessed Life” or the ensuing crush that follows in “LM308,” the addled Alice in Chains swagger in the lumber of “Grim Creeper” or the righteously catchy bombast of “Hoof,” they reach further than they ever have in terms of sound and remain coherent despite the inherently chaotic nature of their purported theme, the sheer heft of the tonality wielded and the fact that 39 Serpent Power has apparently been waiting some number of years to see release. Worth the wait? Shit, I’m surprised the album didn’t put itself out, it sounds so ready to go.

Rifflord on Facebook

Ripple Music website

Mothman and the Thunderbirds, Portal Hopper

Mothman and the Thunderbirds Portal Hopper

At the core of Mothman and the Thunderbirds is multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Alex Parkinson, and on the band’s second album, Portal Hopper, he’s not completely on his own — Egor Lappo programmed the drums, mixed, and plays a guitar solo on “Fractals,” Joe Sobieski guests on vocals for a couple tracks, Sam Parkinson donates a pair of solos to the cause — but it’s still very much his telling of the charmingly meandering sci-fi/fantasy plot taking place across the 12 included progressive metal mini-epics, which he presents with an energy and clarity of purpose that for sure graduated from Devin Townsend‘s school of making a song with 40 layers sound immediate but pulls as well from psychedelia and pop-punk vocals for an all the more emphatic scope. This backdrop lets “Fractals” get funky or “Escape From Flatwoods” hold its metallic chicanery with its soaring melody while “Squonk Kingdom” is duly over-the-top in its second-half chase soon enough fleshed out by “So Long (Portal Hopper)” ahead of the lightly-plucked finale “Attic.” The specificity of influence throughout Portal Hopper can be striking as clean/harsh vocals blend, etc., but given the narrative and the relative brevity of the songs complementing the whims explored within them, there’s no lack of character in the album’s oft-careening 38-minute course.

Mothman and the Thunderbirds on Instagram

Mothman and the Thunderbirds on Bandcamp

The Lunar Effect, Sounds of Green and Blue

The Lunar Effect Sounds of Green & Blue

Given its pro-shop nature in production and performance, the ability of The Lunar Effect to grasp a heavy blues sound as part of what they do while avoiding either the trap of hyper-dudely navelgazing or cultural appropriation — no minor feat — and the fluidity of one piece into the next across the 40-minute LP’s two sides, I’m a little surprised not to have been sick of the band’s second album, Sounds of Green and Blue before I put it on. Maybe since it’s on Svart everyone just assumed it’s Finnish experimentalist drone? Maybe everybody’s burnt out on a seemingly endless stream of bands from London’s underground? I don’t know, but by the time The Lunar Effect make their way to the piano-laden centerpiece “Middle of the End” — expanding on the unhurried mood of “In Grey,” preceding the heavy blues return of “Pulling Daisies” at the start of side B that mirrors album opener “Ocean Queen” and explodes into a roll that feels like it was made to be the best thing you play at your DJ night — that confusion is a defining aspect of the listening experience. “Fear Before the Fall” picks on Beethoven, for crying out loud. High class and low groove. Believe me, I know there’s a lot of good stuff out already in 2024, but what the hell more could you want? Where is everybody?

The Lunar Effect on Facebook

Svart Records website

Danava, Live

danava live

Even if I were generally inclined to do so — read: I’m not — it would be hard to begrudge Portland heavy rock institution Danava wanting to do a live record after their 2023’s Nothing But Nothing (review here) found them in such raucous form. But the aptly-titled Live is more than just a post-studio-LP check-in to remind you they kick ass on stage, as side A’s space, classic, boogie, heavy rocking “Introduction/Spinning Temple” and “Maudie Shook” were recorded in 2008, while the four cuts on side B — “Shoot Straight with a Crooked Gun,” “Nothing but Nothing,” “Longdance,” “Let the Good Times Kill” and “Last Goodbye” — came from the European tour undertaken in Fall 2023 to support Nothing But Nothing. Is the underlying message that Danava are still rad 15 years later? Maybe. That certainly comes through by the time the solo in “Shoot Straight with a Crooked Gun” hits, but that also feels like reading too much into it. Maybe it’s just about representing different sides of who Danava are, and if so, fine. Then or now, psych or proto-thrashing, they lay waste.

Danava on Instagram

Heavy Psych Sounds website

Moonlit, Be Not Afraid

moonlit be not afraid

A free three-songer from Varese, Italy’s Moonlit, Be Not Afraid welcomes the listener to “Death to the World” with (presumably sampled) chanting before unfurling a loose, somewhat morose-feeling nighttime-desert psych sway before “Fort Rachiffe” howls tonally across its own four minutes in more heavy post-rock style, still languid in tempo but encompassing in its wash and the amp-hum-and-percussion blend on the shorter “Le Conseguenze Della Libertà” (1:57) gives yet another look, albeit briefly. In about 11 minutes, Moonlit — whose last studio offering was 2021’s So Bless Us Now (review here) — never quite occupy the same space twice, and despite the compact presentation, the range from mid-period-QOTSA-gone-shoegaze (plus chanting! don’t forget the chanting!) to the hypnotic Isis-doing-space-push that follows with the closer as a but-wait-there’s-more/not-just-an-afterthought epilogue is palpable. I don’t know when or how Be Not Afraid was recorded, whether it’s portentous of anything other than itself or what, but there’s a lot happening under its surface, and while you can’t beat the price, don’t be surprised if you end up throwing a couple bucks Moonlit‘s way anyhow.

Moonlit on Instagram

Moonlit on Bandcamp

Doom Lab, Northern Lights

Doom Lab Northern Lights

Much of Northern Lights is instrumental, but whether or not Leo Scheben is barking out the endtimes storyline of “Darkhammer” — stylized all-caps in the tracklisting — or “Night Terrors,” or just digging into a 24-second progression of lo-fi riffing of “Paranoid Isolation” and the Casio-type beats that back his guitar there and across the project’s 16-track latest offering, the reminder Doom Lab give is that the need to create takes many forms. From the winding scales of “Locrian’s Run” to “Twisted Logic” with its plotted solo lines, pieces are often just that — pieces of what might otherwise be a fleshed-out song — and Doom Lab‘s experimentalism feels paramount in terms of aural priorities. Impulse in excelsis. It might be for the best that the back-to-back pair “Nice ‘n’ Curvy” and “Let ’em Bounce” are both instrumental, but as madcap as Scheben is, he’s able to bring Northern Lights to a close with resonant homage in its title-track, and cuts like “Too Much Sauce on New Year’s Eve” and “Dark Matter” are emblematic of his open-minded approach overall, working in different styles sometimes united most by their rawness and uncompromising persona. This is number 100 of 100 records covered in this Quarterly Review, and nothing included up to now sounds like Doom Lab. A total win for radical individualism.

Doom Lab on YouTube

Doom Lab on Bandcamp

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Quarterly Review: DANG!!!, Stew, Nothing is Real, Jerky Dirt, Space Coke, Black Solstice, Dome Runner, Moonlit, The Spacelords, Scrying Stone

Posted in Reviews on December 16th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

THE-OBELISK-FALL-2020-QUARTERLY-REVIEW

Day four. Fancy pants. Yesterday was the most effective writing day I’ve had in recent memory, which makes today kind of a harrowing prospect since the only real way to go after that is down. I’ve done the try-to-get-a-jump-on-it stuff, but you never really know how things are going to turn out until your head’s in it and you’re dug into two or three records. We’ll see how it goes. There’s a lot to dig into today though, in a pretty wide range of sounds, so that helps. I’ll admit there are times when it’s like, “What’s another way to say ‘dudes like to riff?'”

As if I’d need another way.

Anyhoozle, hope you find something you dig, as always. If not, still one more day tomorrow. We’ll get there. Thanks for reading.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Dang!!!, Sociopathfinder

dang sociopathfinder

It would take all the space I’ve allotted for this review to recount the full lineup involved in making DANG!!!‘s debut album, Sociopathfinder, but the powerhouse Norwegian seven-piece has former members of The Cosmic Dropouts, Gluecifer, Nashville Pussy, and Motorpsycho, among others, and Kvelertak drummer Håvard Takle Ohr, so maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise they get down to serious business on the record. With influences spanning decades from the ’60s-gone’90s organ-laced electro-rock of “Long Gone Misery” and the Halloween-y “Degenerate,” to the rampaging heavy rock hooks of “Manic Possessive” and “Good Intentions” and the “In the Hall of the Mountain King”-referencing closer “Eight Minutes Till Doomsday,” the 12-song/46-minute outing is a lockdown-defiant explosion of creative songwriting and collaboration, and though it features no fewer than six guitarists throughout (that includes guests), it all flows together thanks to the strength of craft, urgency of rhythm, and Geir Nilsen‘s stellar work on organ. It’s a lot to take on, but pays off any effort put in. Unless you’re a sociopath, I guess. Then you probably don’t feel it at all.

DANG!!! on Facebook

Apollon Records website

 

Stew, Taste

stew taste

Following up their 2019 debut, People (review here), Swedish classic-heavy trio Stew offer an efficient nine-song/38-minute excursion into ’70s/’10s-inspired boogie rock and heavy blues with Taste, balancing modern production and its own yore-born aesthetic in sharp but not overly-clean fashion. The vocal layering in the back half of opener “Heavy Wings” is a clue to the clarity underlying the band’s organic sound, and while Taste sounds fuller than did People, the bounce of “All That I Need,” the blues hooks in “Keep on Praying” and “Still Got the Time,” subtle proto-metallurgy of “New Moon” (one almost hears barking at it) and the wistful closing duo of “When the Lights Go Out” and “You Don’t Need Me” aren’t so far removed from the preceding outing as to be unrecognizable. This was a band who knew what they wanted to sound like on their first album who’ve set about refining their processes. Taste checks in nicely on that progress and shows it well underway.

Stew on Facebook

Uprising! Records website

 

Nothing is Real, Transmissions of the Unearthly

nothing is real transmissions of the unearthly

Are the crows I hear cawing on “Tyrant of the Unreal” actually in the song or outside my window? Does it matter? I don’t know anymore. Los Angeles-based psychological terror rock unit Nothing is Real reportedly conjured the root tracks for the 87-minute 2CD Transmissions of the Unearthly with guest drummer Jeremy Lauria over the course of two days and the subsequent Halloween release has been broken into two parts: ‘Chaos’ and ‘Order.’ Screaming blackened psychedelia haunts the former, while the latter creeps in dark, raw sludge realization, but one way or the other, the prevailing sensory onslaught is intentionally overwhelming. The slow march of “King of the Wastelands” might actually be enough to serve as proclamation, and where in another context “Sickened Samsara” would be hailed as arthouse black-metal-meets-filthy–psych-jazz, the delivery from Nothing is Real is so sincere and untamed that the horrors being explored do in fact feel real and are duly disconcerting and wickedly affecting. Bleak in a way almost entirely its own.

Nothing is Real on Facebook

Nothing is Real on Bandcamp

 

Jerky Dirt, Orse

Jerky Dirt Orse

After immersing the listener with the keyboard-laced opening instrumental “Alektorophobia” (fear of chickens), the third album from UK outfit Jerky Dirt, Orse, unfolds the starts and stops of “Ygor’s Lament” with a sensibility like earlier Queens of the Stone Age gone prog before moving into the melodic highlight “Orse, Part 1” and the acoustic “Eh-Iss.” By the time the centerpiece shuffler “Ozma of Oz” begins, you’re either on board or you’re not, and I am. Despite a relatively spare production, Jerky Dirt convey tonal depth effectively between the fuzz of “Ygor’s Lament” and the more spacious parts of “In Mind” that give way to larger-sounding roll, and some vocal harmonies in “The Beast” add variety in the record’s second half before the aptly-named “Smoogie Boogie” — what else to call it, really? — and progressive melody of “Orse, Part 2” close out. A minimal online presence means info on the band is sparse, it may just be one person, but the work holds up across Orse on multiple listens, complex in craft but accessible in execution.

Jerky Dirt on Bandcamp

 

Space Coke, Lunacy

Space Coke Lunacy

A scouring effort of weirdo horror heavy, the five-track Lunacy from South Carolina’s Space Coke isn’t short on accuracy, seemingly on any level. The swirl of nine-minute opener “Bride of Satan” is cosmic but laced with organ, underlying rumble, far-back vocals and sundry other elements that are somehow menacing. The subsequent “Alice Lilitu” is thicker-toned for at least stretches of its 13 minutes, and its organ feels goth-born as it moves past the midpoint, but the madness of a solo that ensues from there feels well cast off (or perhaps on, given the band’s moniker) the rails. Shit gets strange, people. “Frozen World” is positively reachable by comparison, though it too has its organ drama, and the ensuing “Lightmare” starts with an extended horror sample before fuzzing and humming out six minutes of obscure incantation and jamming itself into oblivion. Oh, and there’s a cover of Danzig‘s “Twist of Cain” at the end. Because obviously. Doom filtered through goth kitsch-horror VHS tape and somewhere behind you something is lurking and you don’t see it coming until it’s too late.

Space Coke on Facebook

Space Coke on Bandcamp

 

Black Solstice, Ember

Black Solstice Ember

Broken into two halves each given its own intro in “Intervention” and “Celestial Convoy,” respectively, the debut full-length from Stockholm’s Black Solstice brings back some familiar faces in guitarist Anders Martinsgård and drummer Peter Eklund, both formerly of Ponamero Sundown. Ember, with flourish of percussion in “Signs of Wisdom,” grunge-style harmonies in “Burned by the Sun” and just a hint of winding thrashy threat in “Firespawn,” is deeply rooted in doom metal. They count Sabbath as primary, but the 10-track/42-minute offering is more metal than stonerized riff worship, and with vocalist “Mad Magnus” Lindmark and bassist Lelle B. Falheim completing the lineup, the four-piece boast an aggressive edge and hit harder than one might initially think going in. That is no complaint, mind you. Perhaps they’re not giving themselves enough credit for the depth of their sound, but as their first long-player (following a few demos), Ember finds a niche that hints toward the familiar without going overboard in tropes. I don’t know who, but someone in this band likes Megadeth.

Black Solstice on Facebook

Ozium Records webstore

 

Dome Runner, Conflict State Design

Dome Runner Conflict State Design

Begun as Paleskin before a probably-for-the-best name change, Tampere, Finland’s Dome Runner offer a hard-industrial bridge between Godflesh at their angriest and earliest Fear Factory‘s mechanized chugging assault. Conflict State Design is the trio’s first full-length, and along with the stated influences, there’s some pull from sludge and noise as well, shades of Fudge Tunnel in “Unfollow” met with harsh screaming or the churning riff underscoring the explosions of synth in “The Undemonizing Process,” like roughed-up Souls at Zero-era Neurosis. With the seven-minute extreme wash of “Impure Utility of Authoritarian Power Structure” at its center, Conflict State Design harkens back to the dreary industrialism of two decades ago — it very pointedly doesn’t sound like Nine Inch Nails — but is given a forward-thinking heft and brutality to match. Amid something of an industrial revival in the heavy underground, Dome Runner‘s debut stands out. More to the point, it’s fucking awesome.

Dome Runner on Facebook

Dome Runner on Bandcamp

 

Moonlit, So Bless Us Now…

Moonlit So Bless us now

Varese, Italy, instrumentalist heavy post-rockers Moonlit almost can’t help but bring to mind Red Sparowes with their debut album, So Bless Us Now…, though the marching cymbals early in the 17-minute finale “And We Stood Still Until We Became, Invisible” seem to be in conversation with Om‘s meditative practice as well, and the violin on the earlier “Empty Sky/Cold Lights…” (11:25) is a distinguishing element. Still, it is a melding of heft and float across “For We Have Seen” (12:29) at the beginning of the record, more straight-ahead riffing met with a focus on atmospherics beyond conventional sense of aural weight. Each piece has its own persona, some linear, the penultimate “Shine in the Darkest Night” more experimentalist in structure and its use of samples, but the whole 55-minute listening experience is consuming, minimal in its droning finish only after creating a full wash of mindful, resonant psychedelic reach. With titles drawn from Nietzsche quotes from Thus Spake Zarathustra, there are suitably lonely stretches throughout, but even at its maddest, So Bless Us Now… holds to its stylistic purpose.

Moonlit on Instagram

Moonlit on Bandcamp

 

The Spacelords, Unknown Species

The Spacelords Unknown Species

Not to be confused with New York outfit Spacelord, the now-decade-plus-runnin German instrumental kosmiche-harvesters The Spacelords present Unknown Species across three — and I’m just being honest here — wonderful extended works, arranged from shortest to longest as “F.K.B.D.F.” (8:10), “Unknown Species” (14:53) and the initially-unplugged “Time Tunnel” (20:26) unfurl a thoughtful outbound progression that finds beauty in dark times and jams with intent that’s progressive without pretense — and, when it wants to be, substantially heavy. That’s true more of the end in “Time Tunnel” than the initial synth-laced drift of “F.K.B.D.F.,” but the solo-topped punch of the title-track/centerpiece isn’t to be understated either. In 2020, the trio released their Spaceflowers (review here) LP, as well as a documentary about their recording/writing processes, and Unknown Species pushes even further into defining just how special a band they are, gorgeously constructed and impeccably mixed as it is. Can’t and wouldn’t ask for more.

The Spacelords on Facebook

Tonzonen Records website

 

Scrying Stone, Scrublands

Scrying Stone Scrublands

A debut outing from Michigan-based newcomers Scrying Stone, the 29-minute Scrublands flows like an album so I’m going to consider it one until I hear otherwise. And as a first album, it sets melody and tonal density not so much against each other, but toward like purposes, and even in the instrumental “Ballad of the Hyena,” it finds cohesive ground for the two sides to exist together without contradiction and without sounding overly derivative of its modern influences. “At Our Heels” makes an engaging hello for first-time listeners, and the faster “The Marauder” later on adds a sense of dynamic at just the right moment before the fuzzy overload of “Desert Thirst” dives into deeper weedian idolatry. There’s some boogie underneath the title-track too, and as a companion to the willing-to-soar closer “Dromedary,” that unrushed rush feels purposeful, making Scrublands come across as formative in its reach — one can definitely hear where they might branch out — but righteously complete in its production and songwriting; a strong opening statement of potential for the band to make en route to what might come next.

Scrying Stone on Facebook

Scrying Stone on Bandcamp

 

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Athon Sign to Argonauta Records; Self-Titled Debut out Sept. 25

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 4th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

athon

You can hear the modern prog-metal influences reportedly at the core of Athon‘s sound in their new streaming track “Reverse Satyr” — at the bottom of the post, obviously — but there’s a good heaping of sludge rock that goes along with that, and the song, which is the centerpiece of the band’s five-track self-titled debut long-player to be released Sept. 25 through Argonauta, balances the two sides well, not letting the indulgences of the one undercut the ferocity of the other, or vice versa. I don’t know if that’s the dynamic that plays out across the album as a whole, but with variety added through shifts between multiple vocalists, the proceedings become less predictable and more satisfying as they edge through aggression and tense rhythms. For a band who apparently started out playing covers, they seem bent much more toward finding an individualized sound to inhabit. Go figure.

The PR wire brought details thusly:

athon athon

Sludge doomsters ATHON sign worldwide deal with Argonauta Records And release first single from upcoming album!

Of what started as a cover project in 2014, paying a tribute to bands alike Mastodon, Black Tusk, Red Fang or Sleep, should soon become a hot tip of Italy’s eclectic underground scene, when ATHON began to create their own tracks and sound. The four-piece collective hailing from the alps of Varese, Italy, combines their various influences with individual ideas, songwriting and a personal trademark sound, balancing graciously between the elements of stoner, sludge and doom metal. After ATHON played several shows performing their very own stamp of a musical identity live, they gained the attention of Italy’s powerhouse label Argonauta Records, who is proud to welcome ATHON to their high class artist roster and for the release of the band’s debut album!

“We are convinced that the first release is the fundamental starting point for any band.” ATHON comment. “Having found a record label interested in our project is certainly a great satisfaction …. now our next goal, with the release of the record, will be to make ourselves known by a wider audience and with the support of Argonauta Records we are sure to achieve our goal.”

ATHON’s self-titled debut will see the light of day on September 25th, 2020 with a pre-sale to start via Argonauta Records soon, and will contain 5 blistering tracks showcasing 40 minutes of pure, raw and finest sludge, doom and stoner metal. Today, the band shared a first glimpse of what to expect from their upcoming record, listen to the first single, “Reverse Satyr”, here.

Tracklist:
Kaleidogscope
Dakhma
Reverse Satyr
The End
Absinthe

ATHON is:
Ame – Guitar/vocals
Caste – Guitar/vocals
Giona – Drums
Manu – Bass Guitar/vocals

https://www.facebook.com/athon.sludge/
https://www.instagram.com/athonsludge/
https://www.facebook.com/ArgonautaRecords/
https://argonautarecords.bandcamp.com/
www.argonautarecords.com

Athon, “Reverse Satyr”

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Stoned Monkey Sign to Argonauta Records for Debut Album

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 19th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

As habit dictates, I was scouring the internet for some media to include with this post about Italy’s Stoned Monkey signing to countryman imprint Argonauta Records for the CD and tape release of their forthcoming debut album. I managed to find a clip on their YouTube page that’s 57 seconds long and pretty much just a riff. One riff. A minute of riff. And you know what? I feel like I get it. I get why Argonauta picked them up. All it took was one riff.

Bongripper would seem to be a reference point for the instrumental three-piece, what with the largesse of that lone riff and all, but I won’t claim to speak for their sound as I’ve heard basically nothing. Still, that was a sick riff, as in, “Sick riffs, bro,” which is what you’d probably say to the guitarist right after they got off stage.

In my case, it’s “sick riff, bro.” Singular. Fair enough.

Info from the PR wire:

stoned monkey

Sludge rockers STONED MONKEY ink worldwide deal with ARGONAUTA RECORDS!

Born in Varese, Italy, in 2017, Sludge ‘n Doom Noise rockers STONED MONKEY have signed a worldwide record deal with Argonauta Records! Mesmerizing atmospheres, high pitched amplifiers, heavy soundwalls and a strong scent of the weed distinguish the experience on a STONED MONKEY trip: An unmistakable Sludge timbre mixed with the rhythmic-sonorous intensity by influences such as Doom and noisy Stoner Rock.

Says Argoanuta Records owner Gero Lucisano: “Once I’ve heard the very first notes of these guys, I’ve been totally levelled by their massive approach. Back in the days I received some rough mixes and I have been surprised how an instrumental band can generate a so huge wall of sound. I heard echoes of Bongripper and Sleep, though in a more dynamic way yet a lot hypnotic and abrasive”.

While the band is currently working on their upcoming debut, followed by an extensive touring schedule, STONED MONKEY are excited to have signed with Argonauta:

“As fans of the genre, we are proud to sign with such an important label in the sludge/doom scene and we are glad to release out debut with them soon. This record will be the fruits of a lot of hard work, commitment and dedication, and let’s not forget about the neurons we burnt on every single track. We are ready to share our concept of music with the whole world soon!“

STONED MONKEY is:
CPX – Drums
DESA – Guitar
TIA – Bass

www.facebook.com/stonedlikeamonkey
www.argonautarecords.com

Stoned Monkey, “Satanic Warhead” live Circolo Degli Artisti Vinago, April 7 2018

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Quarterly Review: Chron Goblin, Slabdragger, Jupiter, Izo, Cultist, Haoma, Spaceslug, Slush, Menimals, The Linus Pauling Quartet

Posted in Reviews on April 1st, 2016 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk quarterly review spring 2016

Thus ends another successful Quarterly Review. And by successful I mean I survived. There were a few minutes there when I actually thought about spreading this out to six days, doing another batch of 10 on Monday, but then what happens? Then it’s seven days, then eight, then nine, and before I know it I’m just doing 10 reviews every day and it’s more of a daily review than a quarterly one. Next week we’ll get back to whatever passes for normality around this place, and at the end of June, I’ll have another batch to roll with. Maybe the beginning of July, depending on time. In any case, thank you for reading this week. I hope you’ve found something in all this that you’ve dug, and that this final round offers something else that resonates.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Chron Goblin, Backwater

chron goblin backwater

Calgary party rockers Chron Goblin pay homage to Seattle with a song named after the city on their third album, Backwater (on Ripple Music), but they continue to have way more in common with Portland, Oregon. The follow-up to 2013’s Life for the Living (review here) pushes into psychedelic groove early in its title-track and gets bluesy for most of the subsequent “The Wailing Sound,” but it seems even that song can’t resist the urge to throw down and have a good time by the end, and cuts like “Give Way,” the galloping opener “Fuller” and the requisite “Hard Living” reaffirm the band’s commitment to heavy riffs and positive vibes. The stylistic elephant in the room continues to be Red Fang, but as they’ve done all along, Chron Goblin work in shades of other influences in heavy rock – if they were from the Eastern Seaboard, I’d call it Roadsaw – and put a stamp of their own on the style.

Chron Goblin on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music

 

Slabdragger, Rise of the Dawncrusher

slabdragger rise of the dawncrusher

“Mercenary Blues” is near-immediate in telegraphing the level of heft Slabdragger will emit across their second album, Rise of the Dawncrusher, which tops an hour in five tracks (one of them four minutes long) and shifts between clean vocals, screams and growls from bassist/vocalist Yusuf Tary and guitarist/vocalist Sam Thredder as drummer Jack Newham holds together tempo shifts no less drastic. The shorter cut, “Evacuate!,” is an extreme take on heavy rock, but as Slabdragger move through the extended “Shrine of Debauchery” (12:23), “Dawncrusher Rising” (15:16) and “Implosion Rites” (17:20), their methods prove varied enough so that their material is more than just an onslaught of thickened distortion. I wouldn’t call it progressive exactly, but neither is it lunkheaded in its intention or execution, as the chanted melodies buried deep in “Shrine of Debauchery”’s lumber, derived perhaps in part from Conan and Sleep but beholden to neither so much as its own righteous purposes.

Slabdragger on Thee Facebooks

Holy Roar Records

 

Jupiter, Interstellar Chronodive

jupiter interstellar chronodive

Finnish heavy psychedelic rockers Jupiter take a decidedly naturalist position when it comes to their style. Yeah, there are some effects on the guitars throughout Interstellar Chronidive, the trio’s second album behind 2014’s Your Eccentric State of Mind, but it’s more about what the three players can accomplish with dynamic tempo and mood changes than it is creating a wash, and that gives songs like “Stonetrooper” and “Dispersed Matter/Astral Portal” a classic feel despite a decidedly modern production. “Premonitions” provides raucous fuzz worthy of any next-gen stoners you want to name, and the 14-minute “In Flux” answers its own initial thrust with and expansive, liquefied jam that’s all the more emblematic of the organic core to their approach, Hendrix-derived but not Hendrix-emulating. Bright guitar tone, rich bass and swinging drums aren’t necessarily unfamiliar elements, but the touches of space rock narration on “Dispersed Matter/Astral Portal” and the consuming nod of closer “Vantage Point” assure there’s no shortage of personality to go around.

Jupiter on Thee Facebooks

Jupiter on Bandcamp

 

Izo, Izo

izo izo

Also stylized as IZ? with a long accent over the ‘o,’ Izo is the self-titled debut from Italian double-guitar instrumental four-piece Izo, who bookend four flowing and densely weighted progressions with an intro and outro to add to the atmospheric breadth. Rather than choose between heaviness or ambience, Izo – guitarists Paolo Barone and Maurizio Calò, bassist Francesco de Pascali and drummer Luca Greco – play both into each other so that a song like “Hikkomori” is as engaging in its heft as it is hypnotic. That might be easier to do without vocals, but it’s essential to Izo’s approach, and something that, for their debut, sets up future expansion of post-metal and psychedelic elements. I’m not sure if there’s a theme or narrative for the album, but consistent use of Japanese language and imagery ties the material together all the same, and Izo emerge from their first album having shown a clearheadedness of purpose that can only continue to serve them well.

Izo on Thee Facebooks

Acid Cosmonaut Records

 

Cultist, Three Candles

cultist three candles

Cultist made their introductory statement in the early hours of 2016 with Three Candles, a five-song EP from the social media-averse Cleveland, Ohio, trio featuring members of Skeletonwitch, Mockingbird and Howl. In the wall of fuzz they construct, the swing injected into their rhythms and the use of multiple vocalists, there’s a strong undercurrent of Uncle Acid to “Path of the Old One,” but “Consuming Damnation” distinguishes itself with a more aggressive take, rawer in its melodies, and the creeping closer “Eternal Dark” is up to something entirely more doomed. How this balance will play out with the more familiar riff-patterning in “Follow Me” is the central question, but for their first tracks to be made public, Cultist’s Three Candles offers fullness of sound and the realization of an aesthetic purpose. Yes, there’s room to grow, but they already have a better handle on what they want to do than a lot of bands, so it should be interesting to keep up.

Cultist on Instagram

Cultist on Bandcamp

 

Haoma, Eternal Stash

haoma eternal stash

Ultra-thick, ultra-dank, Haoma is the work of Swedish duo R (bass/vocals) and S (drums), and the three-tracker Eternal Stash is their second self-released EP. The offering takes its title from the opener and longest track (immediate points), and wastes no time with subtlety in getting down on molten Cisneros-style stoner-doom grooves. Sleep meets Om isn’t a huge divide to cross, but there’s a blown-out sensibility to the vocals as well that speaks to some element of Electric Wizard at play, and the overarching roughness suits Haoma’s tonal crunch well. Even when they break to wah bass in the second half of “Eternal Stash” to set up the ensuing jam, this underlying harshness remains, and “Unearthly Creatures” and “Orbital Flight” build on that, the latter with a march that feels more decidedly individual even if constructed on familiar ground. Heavy, raw, unpretentious celebration of groove is almost always welcome by me, and so Haoma’s Eternal Stash is likewise.

Haoma on Thee Facebooks

Haoma on Bandcamp

 

Spaceslug, Lemanis

spaceslug lemanis

Another boon to Poland’s emerging heavy rock scene, Wroclaw’s Spaceslug slime their way out of the ground with their debut long-player, Lemanis, a seven-cut paean to weighted tone and laid back roll. Vocally, the trio seem to take a cue from the Netherlands’ Sungrazer, but their riffs are far more dense and while the penultimate interlude “Quintessence” and the earlier “Galectelion” demonstrate a sense of spaciousness, the context in which that arrives is much more weighted and, particularly in the second half of “Supermassive,” feels culled from the Sleep school of Iommic idolatry. No complaints. The record clocks in at 43 minutes all told and in no way overstays its welcome, rounding out with the nine-minute title-track, an instrumental that’s probably not improvised but comes across as exploratory all the same. The CD version is out through BSFD Records, but don’t be surprised when someone picks it up for a vinyl issue, as both the front-to-back flow and the artwork seem to be made for it.

Spaceslug on Thee Facebooks

Spaceslug on Bandcamp

 

Slush, American Demons

slushies american demons

An element of twang that seems present even in the most uproarious moments of SlushAmerican Demons tape comes to the fore with the brief “Leshy,” a quick, fleetly-strummed bit of slide guitar the follows highlight cut “Bathysphere” and precedes “Death Valley,” both of which bask full-on in the garage shake, proto-punk vibe and anything goes swagger the Brooklynite trio have on offer throughout their third EP. That countrified twist plays well alongside the drawling skate rock of “In the Flesh,” which seems to take on some of The Shrine’s West Coast skate vibes with a twist of New York fuckall, and the quick crotchal thrust off “Silk Road,” which serves as Slush’ most purely punkish moment. “Death Valley” closes out with a tale of drugs and the desert, the vocals somewhere between Misfits and early Nick Cave, drenched in attitude and accompanied by fuzz that seems to be likewise. Bonus points for the silver tape and copious included art and info.

Slushies on Bandcamp

Lean on Bandcamp

 

Menimals, Menimals

menimals menimals

Strange spirits are afoot throughout MenimalsMenimals, the maybe-debut from the Italian troupe who engage wantonly in the proliferation of post-Mike Patton creepy darkjazz across five cuts of sparse, spacious weirdness. Issued through Phonosphera/Riot Season, it’s a work of high atmospheric density but ultimately more about mood than sonic impact, evoking complex shapes – dodecahedrons, tetrahedrons, octahedrons – as a mirror for its own quizzical mission. The kind of record that those who don’t spend time trying to figure it out are going to have more fun with, it makes its most effective impression on “Transitioning from a Cube to the Octahedron” on side B, evoking minimalist drone rock atmospheres as whispered vocals tie it to the rest of Menimals’ bizarre vibe. That’s not to take away from the noisy finish of closer “Bird on the Wind as a Hinge,” which follows, just to note that Menimals manage to somehow find balance in all the subdued seething and resonant experimentalism.

Menimals on Thee Facebooks

Riot Season Records

Phonosphera Records

 

The Linus Pauling Quartet, Ampalanche

the-linus-pauling-quartet-ampalanche

By way of a confession, I wanted to end this batch of 50 reviews with something I knew I dug, and that distinction goes to Houston rockers Linus Pauling Quartet, whose latest full-length, Ampalanche, is released via the label wing of Italian ‘zine Vincebus Eruptum. An album that offers some of the most pretense-free rock flute I’ve ever heard on “Slave to the Die,” it’s a down-home weirdo rocker that might, at a moment’s notice, plunge full-on into psychedelia in “Sometimes” or, say, include a 49-minute echoing space-drone “Vi, de Druknede (We, the Drowned)” as a download-only bonus track, and the fact that Linus Pauling Quartet can always be relied on for something different but consistent in charm and the quality of songwriting is not to be taken for granted, whether it’s the Midwestern noise rock of “Brisket” or the fuzzy roll of dreamy album-closer “Alive.” Yeah, I was doing myself a favor by finishing with Ampalanche. I have absolutely zero regrets. Linus Pauling Quartet continue to be woefully underappreciated.

Linus Pauling Quartet on Thee Facebooks

Vincebus Eruptum webstore

 

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Duuude, Tapes! Fuoco Fatuo, Fuoco Fatuo

Posted in Duuude, Tapes! on January 9th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

Limited to 100 hand-numbered copies from Caligari Records, the Fuoco Fatuo tape compiles two 2012 EPs by the Italian extreme sludge trio of the same name, and the development is palpable from one to the next. The cassette comes professionally printed, with the screen directly on the tape (i.e. no sticker) and a six-panel j-card that only adds to the blackened atmosphere on hand within the music. Fuoco Fatuo — the lineup of guitarist/vocalist Milo Angeloni, bassist Giovanni “Ken” Piazza and drummer Fabrizio Moalli — released their self-titled, four-song EP in April 2012 and followed just months later with 33 Colpi di Schizofrenia Astrale Nell’Abisso Nero, in August. That latter EP is the rawer of the two, and its three songs come, fittingly enough, sandwiched between an intro, “Alpha,” and outro, “Omega.”

They’re also situated first on the Caligari tape, which basks in its filth without exactly making a show of it. The audio is compressed and dirty sounding even digitally, so on the cassette it self is all the more vicious. If I’d been forced to guess, I would have thought that the later songs on the tape were the newer material from the band, since Angeloni has a few cleaner-sung parts and there’s generally a more diverse approach musically, but it seems that Fuoco Fatuo‘s progression is more of a deconstruction at this initial stage and they’re endeavoring to get even more extreme stylistically. It works for them. A blackened take still comes through with sludge viscosity and the screams sound all the more tortured for the morass out of which they rise on “L’Abisso,” which adds a creepier vibe thanks to guest keys, credited to Adamennon.

But though they crossed the threshold that held the warning, “Abandon melody all who enter here,” there’s still character to their charred assault, and Fuoco Fatuo‘s two EPs show a distinct process solidifying any way you want to look at them. The viciousness and rawness of 33 Colpi and the sludgier push of Fuoco Fatuo play well off each other, and in the end it’s almost like the three-piece were putting out a split tape with themselves. That it was mere months between the two releases I can only chalk up to a genuine decision on the part of the band to become even more fucked sounding. The tape isn’t going to be for everyone — it’s not subtle and it already hates you — but if you’ve got a taste for absolutes and like your lo-fi offset by a bit of tonal weight, Fuoco Fatuo offer pummel and slice in like measure across these two releases compiled as one.

Fuoco Fatuo, Fuoco Fatuo (2013)

Fuoco Fatuo on Thee Facebooks

Fuoco Fatuo on Bandcamp

Caligari Records

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