Quarterly Review: Sonic Flower, Demon Head, Rakta & Deafkids, Timo Ellis, Heavy Feather, Slow Draw, Pilot Voyager, The Ginger Faye Bakers, Neromega, Tung

Posted in Reviews on April 2nd, 2021 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-spring-2019

Friday morning and the Spring 2021 Quarterly Review draws to a close. It’s been a good one, and though there are probably enough albums on my desktop to make it go another few days, better to quit while I’m ahead in terms of not-being-so-tired-I’m-angry-at-everything-I’m-hearing. In any case, as always, I hope you found something here you enjoy. I have been pleasantly surprised on more than a few occasions, especially by debuts.

We wrap with more cool stuff today and since I’m on borrowed time as it is, let me not delay.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Sonic Flower, Rides Again

sonic flower rides again

Like Church of Misery‘s groove but feel kind of icky with all those songs about serial killers? Legit. Say hello to Tatsu Mikami‘s Sonic Flower. Once upon a 2003, the band brought all the boogie and none of the slaughter of Tatsu‘s now-legendary Sabbathian doom rock outfit to a self-titled debut (reissue review here), and Rides Again is the lost follow-up from 2005, unearthed like so many of the early ’70s forsaken classics that clearly inspired it. With covers of The Meters and Graham Central Station, Sonic Flower makes their funky intentions plain as day, and the blowout drums and full-on fuzz they bring to those cuts as well as the five originals on the short-but-satisfying 28-minute offering is a win academically and for casual fans alike. You ain’t gonna hear “Jungle Cruise” or their take on “Earthquake” and come out complaining, is what I’m saying. This is the kind of record that makes you buy more records.

Sonic Flower on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds on Bandcamp

 

Demon Head, Viscera

demon head viscera

With Viscera, Copenhagen’s Demon Head make their debut on Metal Blade Records. It is their fourth album overall, the follow-up to 2019’s Hellfire Ocean Void (review here), and it continues the five-piece’s enduring exploration of darker places. Dramatic vocals recount grim narratives over backing instrumentals that are less doom at the outset with “Tooth and Nail” and “The Feline Smile” than goth, and atmospheric pieces like “Arrows” and “The Lupine Choir” and “A Long, Groaning Descent” and “Wreath” and certainly the closer “The Triumphal Chariot of Antimony” further the impression that Viscera, though its title conjures raw guts, is instead an elaborate entirety — if perhaps one of raw guts — and meant to be taken in its 36-minute whole. Demon Head make that LP-friendly runtime a progression down into reaches they’d not until this point gone, tapping sadness for its inherent beauty.

Demon Head on Thee Facebooks

Metal Blade Records website

 

Rakta & Deafkids, Live at Sesc Pompeia

Rakta Deafkids Live at Sesc Pompeia

Next time someone asks you what the future sounds like, you’ll have a good answer for them. Combined into a six-piece band, Brazilian outfits Rakta and Deafkids harness ambience and space-punk thrust into a sound that is born of a past that hasn’t yet happened. Their Live at Sesc Pompeia LP follows on from a 2019 two-songer, but it’s in the live performance that the spirit of this unity really shines through, and from opener/longest track (immediate points) “Miragem” through the semi-industrialized effects swirl of “Templo do Caos,” into the blower-noise dance party “Sigilo,” the weirdo-chug-jam of “Forma” and the space rock breakout “Flor de Pele” and the percussed buzz and echoing howls of “Espirais,” they are equal parts encompassing and singular. It is not to be ignored, and though there are moments that border on unlistenable, you can hear from the wailing crowd at the end that to be in that room was to witness something special. As a document of that, Live at Sesc Pompeia feels like history in the making.

Rakta on Thee Facebooks

Deafkids on Thee Facebooks

Rapid Eye Records website

 

Timo Ellis, Death is Everywhere

Timo Ellis Death is Everywhere

A madcap, weighted-but-anti-genre sensibility comes to life in supernova-experimentalist fashion throughout the four songs of Timo EllisDeath is Everywhere. The lockdown-era EP from Ellis (Netherlands, Yoko Ono, Cibo Matto, on and on) makes post-modern shenanigans out of apocalypses inner and outer, and from lines like “this bridal shower is bumming me out” in the unabashedly hooky “Vampire Rodeo” to “the earth will still breathe fire without you!” in “Left Without an Answer,” the stakes are high despite the flittering-in-appreciation-of-the-absurd mood of the tracks themselves. The title-track and “Evolve or Die” blend sonic heft and the experimental pop movement that “Vampire Rodeo” sets forth — the third cut is positively manic and maniacally positive — while “Left Without an Answer” almost can’t help but be consuming as it rolls into a long fade leaving intertwining vocals lines as the last to go, telling the listener to “learn to say goodbye” without making it easy. Won’t be for everyone, doesn’t want to be. Is expression for itself. Feels genuine in that, and admirable.

Timo Ellis on Thee Facebooks

Timo Ellis on Bandcamp

 

Heavy Feather, Mountain of Sugar

heavy feather mountain of sugar

With not-at-all-subtle nods to Humble Pie and Ennio Morricone in its opening tracks, Heavy Feather‘s second LP, Mountain of Sugar, has boogie to spare. No time is wasted on the 38-minute/11-track follow-up to 2019’s Débris & Rubble (review here), and true to the record’s title, it’s pretty sweet. The collection pits retro mindset against modern fullness in its harmonica-laced, duly-fuzzed title-track, and goes full-Fleetwood on “Come We Can Go” heading into a side B that brings a highlight in the soft-touch-stomp of “Rubble and Debris” and an earned bit of Southern-styled turn in “Sometimes I Feel” that makes a fitting companion to all the bluesy vibes throughout, particularly those of the mellow “Let it Shine” earlier. The Stockholm outfit knew what they were doing last time out too, but you can hear their process being refined throughout Mountain of Sugar, and even its most purposefully familiar aspects come across with a sense of will and playfulness.

Heavy Feather on Thee Facebooks

The Sign Records on Thee Facebooks

 

Slow Draw, Yellow & Gray

slow draw yellow and gray

Don’t tell him I told you so, but Slow Draw is starting to sound an awful lot like a band. What began as a drone/soundscaping project from Stone Machine Electric drummer/noisemaker Mark Kitchens has sprouted percussive roots of its own on Yellow & Gray, and as Kitchens explores textures of psychedelic funk, mellow heavy and even a bit of ’70s proggy homage in “Sylvia” ahead of the readily Beck-ian jam “Turntable” and acousti-drone closer “A Slow Move,” the band-vibe is rampant. I’m going to call Yellow & Gray a full-length despite the fact that it’s 24 minutes long because its eight songs inhabit so many different spaces between them, but however you want to tag it, it demonstrates the burgeoning depth of Kitchens‘ project and how it’s grown in perhaps unanticipated ways. If this is what he’s been doing in isolation — as much as Texas ever shuttered for the pandemic — his time has not been wasted.

Slow Draw on Thee Facebooks

Slow Draw on Bandcamp

 

Pilot Voyager, Nuclear Candy Bar

plot voyager nuclear candy bar

Freak! Out! The 66-minute Nuclear Candy Bar from Hungarian psychedelicists Pilot Voyager might end mostly drifting with the 27-minute “23:61,” but much of the four tracks prior to that finale are fuzz-on-go-go-go-out-out-out heavy jams, full in tone and improv spirit however planned their course may or may not actually be. To say the least, “Fuzziness” lives up to its name, as guitarist/founder Ákos Karancz — joined by bassist Bence Ambrus (who also mastered) and drummers Krisztián Megyeri and István Baumgartner (the latter only on the closer) — uses a relatively earthbound chug as a launchpad for further space/krautrocking bliss, culminating in a scorching cacophony that’s the shortest piece on the record at just under seven minutes. If you make it past the molten heat of the penultimate title-track, there’s no turning away from “23:61,” as the first minute of that next day pulls you in from the outset, a full-length flow all unto itself. More more more, yes yes yes. Alright you get the point.

Pilot Voyager on Thee Facebooks

Psychedelic Source Records on Bandcamp

 

The Ginger Faye Bakers, Camaro

the ginger faye bakers camaro

Sit with The Ginger Faye BakersCamaro EP for a little bit. Don’t just listen to the first track, or even the second, third or fourth, on their own, but take a few minutes to put it all together. Won’t take long, the thing’s only 17 minutes long, and in so doing you’ll emerge with a more complex picture of who they are as a band. Yeah, you hear the opening title-cut and think early-Queens of the Stone Age-style desert riffing, maybe with a touch of we’re-actually-from-the-Northeast tonal thickness, but the garage-heavy of “The Creeps” feels self-aware in its Uncle Acid-style swing, and as the trio move through the swinging “The Master” and “Satan’s Helpers,” the last song drawing effectively from all sides, the totality of the release becomes all the more sinister for the relatively straight-ahead beginning just a short time earlier. Might be a listen or two before it sinks in, but they’ve found a niche for themselves here and one hopes they continue to follow where their impulses lead them.

The Ginger Faye Bakers on Thee Facebooks

The Ginger Faye Bakers on Bandcamp

 

Neromega, Nero Omega

Neromega Nero Omega

If you’re not yet keeping an eye on Regain Records offshoot Helter Skelter Productions, Rome’s Neromega are a fervent argument for doing so. The initials-only cultish five-piece are Italian as much in their style of doom as they are in geography, and across their four-song Nero Omega debut EP, they run horror organ and classic heavy rock grooves alongside each other while nodding subtly at more extreme fare like the death ‘n’ roll rumble in closer “Un Posto” or the dirt-coated low end that caps “Pugnale Ardore,” the drifting psych only moments ago quickly forgotten in favor of renewed shuffle. Eight-minute opener “Solitudine,” might be the highlight as well as the longest inclusion on the 24-minute first-showing, but it’s by no means the sum total of what the band have on offer, as they saunter through giallo, psychedelia, doom, heavy riffs and who knows what else to come, they strike an immediately individual atmospheric presence even while actively toying with familiar sounds. The EP is cohesive enough to make me wonder what their initials are.

Neromega on Thee Facebooks

Helter Skelter Productions website

 

Tung, Bleak

TUNG BLEAK

Some of the made-even-bigger-by-echo vocals from guitarist Craig Kasamis might remind of Maurice Bryan Giles from Red Fang, but Ventura, California’s Tung are up chasing down a different kind of party on 2020’s Bleak, though Kasamis, guitarist David Briceno (since replaced by Bill Bensen), bassist Nick Minasian and drummer Rob Dean have a strong current of West Coast noise rock in what they’re doing as well in “Runaway,” a lurcher like “Spit” later on or the run-till-it-crashes finisher “Fallen Crown,” which the only song apart from the bookending opener “Succession Hand” to have a title longer than a single word. Still, Tung have their own, less pop-minded take on brashness, and this debut album leaves the bruises behind to demonstrate its born-from-hardcore lineage. Their according lack of frills makes Bleak all the more effective at getting its point across, and while they’d probably tell you their sound is nothing fancy, it’s fancy enough to stomp all over your ears for about half an hour, and that’s as fancy as it needs to be. Easy to dig even in its more aggressive moments.

Tung on Thee Facebooks

Plain Disguise Records website

 

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Gygax to Release Critical Hits on Jan. 22

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 10th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

gygax

One has to wonder if former Gypsyhawk bassist/vocalist Eric Harris and guitarist Bryant Throckmorton had alphabetics in mind when they decided to name their new outfit in homage to the father of Dungeons and Dragons. The moniker Gygax will place them likely right in front of their prior outfit on shelves once their debut LP, Critical Hits, arrives from its Jan. 22 release date on Creator-Destructor Records. That assumes, I guess, everybody alphabetizes their records. Call me an optimist.

Anyhoozle, much Thin Lizzyisms ensue on “Draw Breath,” which marks the first audio to come from the record. You can hear that underneath the art and PR wire info below, should you feel so inclined:

gygax critical hits

GYGAX: Debut LP From Act Founded By Former Gypsyhawk Frontman To See Release Through Creator-Destructor Records

Creator-Destructor Records is ultra-stoked to announce the impending release of Critical Hits, the debut LP by California-based quartet, GYGAX.

GYGAX is a no-frills, classic rock/heavy metal hybrid, heavily steeped in the imagery of fantasy literature and role playing games, and rooted in the musical stylings of metallic ’70s rockers Thin Lizzy and Deep Purple, with equal parts metal and boogie-inducing groove. Though their name is attributed to the creator of Dungeons & Dragons, the band has described themselves more simply as “a beacon and an anthem for anyone who’s interests lie in creativity and the powers of imagination.”

Hailing from Ventura, California, GYGAX was born out of the ashes of vocalist/bassist Eric Harris’ previous heavy-metal brainchild, Gypsyhawk, whose Patience & Perseverance 2xLP also saw release through Creator-Destructor in 2009. Bryant Throckmorton, who played second guitar in Gypsyhawk also joins Harris in GYGAX on guitar. When Gypsyhawk decided to disband, Harris and Throckmorton took some time alongside friend and fellow guitarist Armand John Lizzy to begin demoing new material, then solidifying their lineup with Justin Dempsey on drums.

The debut from GYGAX, Critical Hits boasts nine feverishly triumphant burners backed by huge solos and even more massive choral melodies which come alive with a fuzzed-out and hazy attitude but immortalized with crystal clear production values on Critical Hits, an LP that could accidentally get sucked into your ragin’ uncle Bob’s dust-encrusted classic rock platters and your older brother’s equally grimy classic metal/early doom collection and blend right into either. The first public listen to the GYGAX sounds can be heard in an exclusive premiere of the album’s third fist-pumpin’ number, “Draw Breath.”

These maiden GYGAX recordings are set to see a January 22nd release date via Creator-Destructor on 12″ LP pressed on 180-gram colored vinyl, and on all digital platforms. More information including additional audio from Critical Hits and preorders for the album will be announced very soon, so stay tuned!

Critical Hits Track Listing:
1. Lesser Magick
2. World Breaker
3. Draw Breath
4. The Rope of Shadow
5. Dirge For A Deposed Duke
6. Chain Lightning
7. Demons
8. Liliana
9. The Hunter’s Heart

http://www.facebook.com/GygaxUSA
http://www.creator-destructor.com
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Creator-Destructor-Records/281868423801
http://www.twitter.com/CD_Records
http://www.creator-destructor.bandcamp.com

Gygax, “Draw Breath”

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Tee Pee Records Signs a Band with a Naughty Word in Their Name

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 23rd, 2010 by JJ Koczan

Aggressive stoner metallers The Fucking Wrath have been picked up by Tee Pee Records. For a label whose recent output has been closer to Dead Meadow-style psychedelic post-rock, it’s something of a surprise, given all the hardcore punk The Fucking Wrath inject into their music, but I guess you gotta change things up. Either way, it’s pretty god damn heavy.

The Fucking Wrath will have a new EP out this year and are set to hit the road this Fall alongside Ancestors. No, they’re not coming East. The PR wire speaks, we listen:

Tee Pee Records is proud to introduce the newest addition to their roster: The Fucking Wrath. The band will issue the EP Terra Fire in October on Tee Pee Records followed by a full-length in the spring of 2011. The Fucking Wrath will be performing at the recently-announced Power of the Riff Festival taking place on August 8th in Los Angeles. October dates have also been announced with new labelmates Ancestors!

Tour Dates:
08/08/2010 The Echoplex, Los Angeles, CA (Power of the Riff)
10/20/2010 Zahn Zillas, Ventura, CA*
10/21/2010 Hemlock Tavern, San Francisco, CA*
10/22/2010 East End, Portland, OR*
10/23/2010 Comet Tavern, Seattle, WA*
10/25/2010 Jambalaya, Arcata, CA*
10/26/2010 Nick’s Night Club, Chico, CA*
10/27/2010 Jose’s Mexican Bar & Grill, Monterey, CA*
* w/ Ancestors

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