Quarterly Review: Tia Carrera, Inter Arma, Volcano, Wet Cactus, Duskwood, Lykantropi, Kavod, Onioroshi, Et Mors, Skånska Mord

Posted in Reviews on July 4th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review

Day four. I should’ve known we’d hit a snag at some point in the week, but it happened yesterday afternoon when Windows decided I desperately needed some update or other and then crapped the bed in the middle of said update. I wound up taking my laptop to a repair guy down the road in the afternoon, who said the hard drive needed to be wiped and have a full reinstall. Pretty brutal. He was going to back up what was there and get on it, said I could pick it up today. We’ll see how that goes, I guess. Also, happy Fourth, if America’s your thing. Let’s dive in.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Tia Carrera, Visitors / Early Purple

tia carrera visitors early purple

They had a single out between (review here), but the two-song LP Visitors / Early Purple is Tia Carrera‘s first album since 2011’s Cosmic Priestess (review here). The Austin, Texas, three-piece — which now includes bassist Curt Christianson of Dixie Witch alongside guitarist Jason Morales and drummer Erik Conn — haven’t missed a beat in terms of creating heavy psychedelic sprawl, and as the side-consuming “Visitors” (18:32) and “Early Purple” (16:28) play out, it’s with a true jammed sensibility; that feeling that sooner or later the wheels are going to come off. They don’t, at least not really, but the danger always makes it more exciting, and Morales‘ tone has been much missed. In the intervening years, the social media generation has come up to revere Earthless for doing much of what Tia Carrera do, but there’s always room for more jams as far as I’m concerned, and it’s refreshing to have Tia Carrera back to let people know what they’ve been missing. Here’s hoping it’s not another eight years.

Tia Carrera on Thee Facebooks

Small Stone Records on Bandcamp

 

Inter Arma, Sulphur English

inter arma sulphur english

I can’t help but think Inter Arma‘s Sulphur English is the album Morbid Angel should have made after Covenant. And yes, that applies to the harmonies and organ of “Stillness” as well. The fourth full-length (third for Relapse) from the Richmond, Virginia, outfit is a beastly, severe and soulful 66-minute stretch of consuming, beyond-genre extremity. It punishes with purpose and scope, and its sense of brutality comes accompanied by a willful construction of atmosphere. Longer pieces like “The Atavist’s Meridian” and the closing title-track lend a feeling of drama, but at no point does Sulphur English feel like a put-on, and as Inter Arma continue their push beyond the even-then-inventive sludge of their beginnings, they’ve become something truly groundbreaking in metal, doing work that can only be called essential to push forward into new ground and seeming to swallow the universe whole in the meantime. It’s the kind of record that one can only hope becomes influential, both in its purpose toward individualism and its sheer physical impact.

Inter Arma on Thee Facebooks

Relapse Records website

 

Volcano, The Island

volcano the island

So you’ve got Harsh Toke‘s Gabe Messer on keys and vocals and JOY guitarist/Pharlee drummer Zach Oakley on guitar, and bassist Billy Ellsworth (also of Loom) and Matt Oakley on drums, plus it seems whoever else happened to be around the studio that day — and in San Diego, that could be any number of players — making up Volcano, whose debut, The Island (on Tee Pee) melds Afrobeat funk-rock with the band’s hometown penchant for boogie. The songs are catchy — “10,000 Screamin’ Souls,” “Naked Prey,” “Skewered,” “No Evil, Know Demon”; hooks abound — but there’s a feeling of kind of an unthinking portrayal of “the islander” as a savage that I can’t quite get past. There’s inherently an element of cultural appropriation to rock and roll anyway, but even more here, it seems. They make it a party, to be sure, but there’s a political side to what Afrobeat was originally about that goes unacknowledged here. They might get there, they might not. They’ve got the groove down on their first record, and that’s not nothing.

Volcano on Instagram

Tee Pee Records website

 

Wet Cactus, Dust, Hunger and Gloom

wet cactus dust hunger and gloom

Sometimes you just miss one, and I’ll admit that Wet CactusDust, Hunger and Gloom got by me. It likely would’ve been in the Quarterly Review a year ago had I not been robbed last Spring, but either way, the Spanish outfit’s second long-player is a fuzz rocker’s delight, a welcoming and raucous vibe persisting through “Full Moon Over My Head,” which is the second cut of the total five and the only one of the bunch under seven minutes long. They bring desert-jammy vibes to the songs surrounding, setting an open tone with “So Long” at the outset that the centerpiece “Aquelarre” fleshes out even further instrumentally ahead of the penultimate title-track’s classic build and payoff and the earth-toned nine-minute finale “Sleepy Trip,” which is nothing if not self-aware in its title as it moves toward the driving crescendo of the record. All throughout, the mood is as warm as the distortion, and Wet Cactus do right by staying true to the roots of desert rock. It’s not every record I’d want to review a year after the fact; think of it that way.

Wet Cactus on Thee Facebooks

Wet Cactus on Bandcamp

 

Duskwood, The Long Dark

duskwood the long dark

A follow-up EP to Duskwood‘s 2016 debut long-player, Desert Queen, the four-track The Long Dark is a solid showcase of their progression as songwriters and in the capital-‘d’ Desertscene style that has come to epitomize much of the UK heavy rock underground, taking loyalism to the likes of Kyuss and topping it off with the energy of modern London-based practitioners Steak. The four-piece roll out a right-on fuzzy groove in “Mars Rover” after opening with “Space Craft” and show more of a melodic penchant in “Crook and Flail” before tying it all together with “Nomad” at the finish. They warn on their Bandcamp page this is ‘Part 1,’ so it may not be all that long before they resurface. Fair enough as they’ve clearly found their footing in terms of style and songwriting here, and at that point the best thing to do is keep growing. As it stands, The Long Dark probably isn’t going to kick off any stylistic revolution, but there’s something to be said for the band’s ability to execute their material in conversation with what else is out there at the moment.

Duskwood on Thee Facebooks

Duskwood on Bandcamp

 

Lykantropi, Spirituosa

Lykantropi-Spirituosa

Sweet tones and harmonies and a classic, sun-coated progressivism persist on Lykantropi‘s second album, Spirituosa (on Lightning Records), basking in melodic flow across nine songs and 43 minutes that begin with the rockers “Wild Flowers” and “Vestigia” and soon move into the well-paired “Darkness” and “Sunrise” as the richer character of the LP unfolds. “Songbird” makes itself a highlight with its more laid back take, and the title-track follows with enough swing to fill whatever quota you’ve got, while “Queen of Night” goes full ’70s boogie and “Seven Blue” imagines Tull and Fleetwood Mac vibes — Flutewood Mac! — and closer and longest track “Sällsamma Natt” underscores the efficiency of songwriting that’s been at play all the while amidst all that immersive gorgeousness and lush melodicism. They include a bit of push in the capper, and well they should, but go out with a swagger that playfully counteracts the folkish humility of the proceedings. Will fly under many radars. Shouldn’t.

Lykantropi on Thee Facebooks

Lightning Records website

 

Kavod, Wheel of Time

kavod wheel of time

As Italian trio Kavod shift from opener “Samsara” into “Absolution” on their debut EP, Wheel of Time, the vocals become a kind of chant for the verse that would seem to speak to the meditative intention of the release on the whole. They will again on the more patient closer “Mahatma” too, and fair enough as the band seem to be trying to find a place for themselves in the post-Om or Zaum sphere of spiritual exploration through volume, blending that aesthetic with a more straight-ahead songwriting methodology as manifest in “Samsara” particularly. They have the tones right on as they begin this inward and outward journey, and it will be interesting to hear in subsequent work if they grow to work in longer, possibly-slower forms or push their mantras forward at the rate they do here, but as it stands, they take a reverent, astral viewpoint with their sound and feel dug in on that plane of existence. It suits them.

Kavod on Thee Facebooks

Kavod on Bandcamp

 

Onioroshi, Beyond These Mountains

onioroshi beyond these mountains

Onioroshi flow smoothly from atmospheric post-sludge to more thrusting heavy rock and they take their time doing it, too. With their debut album, Beyond These Mountains, the Italian heavy proggers present four tracks the shortest of which, “Locusta,” runs 10:54. Bookending are “Devilgrater” (14:17) and “Eternal Snake (Mantra)” (20:30) and the penultimate “Socrate” checks in at 12:29, so yes, the trio have plenty of chances to flesh out their ideas as and explore as they will. Their style leans toward post-rock by the end of “Devilgrater,” but never quite loses its sense of impact amid the ambience, and it’s not until “Socrate” that they go full-on drone, setting a cinematic feel that acts as a lead-in for the initial build of the closer which leads to an apex wash and a more patient finish than one might expect given the trip to get there. Beyond These Mountains is particularly enticing because it’s outwardly familiar but nuanced enough to still strike an individual note. It’s easy to picture Onioroshi winding up on Argonauta or some other suitably adventurous imprint.

Onioroshi on Thee Facebooks

Onioroshi on Bandcamp

 

Et Mors, Lux in Morte

et mors lux in morte

Whoever in Maryland/D.C. then-four-piece Et Mors decided to record their Lux in Morte EP in their practice space had the right idea. The morose death-doom three-songer takes cues from USBM in the haunting rawness of “Incendium Ater,” and even though the 19-minute “House of Nexus” comes through somewhat clearer — it was recorded to tape at Shenandoah University — it remains infected by the filth and grit of the opener. Actually, “infected” might be the word all around here, as the mold-sludge of closer “Acid Bender” creeps along at an exposed-flesh, feedback-drenched lurch, scathing as much in intent as execution, playing like a death metal record at half-speed and that much harsher because they so clearly know what they’re doing. If you think it matters that they mixed stuff from two different sessions, you’re way off base on the sound overall here. It’s patch-worthy decay metal, through and through. Concerns of audio fidelity need not apply.

Et Mors on Thee Facebooks

Et Mors on Bandcamp

 

Skånska Mord, Blues from the Tombs

skanska mord blues from the tombs

When Sweden’s Skånska Mord are singing about the deep freeze in album opener “Snow” on the Transubstans-released Blues from the Tombs, I believe it. It’s been seven years since Small Stone issued their Paths to Charon LP (review here), and the new record finds them more fully dug into a classic rocker’s take on hard-blues, rolling with Iommic riffs and a mature take on what earliest Spiritual Beggars were able to capture in terms of a modern-retro sound. “Snow” and “Simon Says” set an expectation for hooks that the more meandering “Edge of Doom” pulls away from, while “The Never Ending Greed” brings out the blues harp over an abbreviated two minutes and leads into a more expansive side B with “Blinded by the Light” giving way to the wah-bassed “Sun,” the barroom blueser “Death Valley Blues” and the returning nod of closer “The Coming of the Second Wave,” stood out by its interwoven layers of soloing and hypnosis before its final cut. It’s been a while, but they’ve still got it.

Skånska Mord on Thee Facebooks

Transubstans Records website

 

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Volcano Premiere “Naked Prey” Video; The Island Due Feb. 15

Posted in Bootleg Theater on January 3rd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

volcano naked prey

The first real inkling of what Volcano are all about came last year when the San Diego unit released a single track on their Bandcamp page. Already an album was said to be in the works, and soon after “10,000 Screamin’ Souls” (discussed here) showed up, the band was booked at Roadburn. It was, if I recall right, their second — maybe third? — show, in the 700-capacity Green Room, and EarthlessMario Rubalcaba sat in on percussion. Not too shabby. I was fortunate enough to be there to see it, and with Harsh Toke‘s Gabe Messer on keys and vocals as the madman bandleader and JOY guitarist Zach Oakley jamming through funked-out riffs and classic-style soloing backed by the rhythm section of bassist Billy Ellsworth (also Loom) and drummer Matt Oakley (brother to Zach), the band were immediately locked in to being free as all hell, obviously having a blast and inviting the crowd to do the same as they ran through songs like “Naked Prey,” “No Evil, Know Demon,” “10,000 Screamin’ Souls” and “The Island” melded Afrobeat grooves with the psychedelia and heavy rock that’s become such a staple of their hometown.

Given the association with JOY and Harsh Toke, and the fact that the music was awesome, it was no surprise to find out Volcano had signed to Tee Pee Records, which together with Kommune Records will handle thevolcano the island release of The Island, the band’s first album. Comprised of Messer, the Oakleys, Ellsworth, and Ake Arndt (Operation Mindblow) on percussion, the studio incarnation of Volcano would seem to be no less feral in their intent than the stage version was last April. Having since pulled down “10,000 Screamin’ Souls” as a single from their Bandcamp page, the band has made “Naked Prey” available as the first audio from The Island, and it’s my pleasure today to host the premiere of the song’s accompanying video.

The footage is kind of grainly, but it doesn’t seem like anyone is getting naked, but if running through a jungle surrounded on all sides by ocean with no clothes on is the vibe Volcano are going for, they’ve pretty much got it down. “Naked Prey” is first and foremost a party, a good time in the tradition of letting loose, breaking through stylistic barriers and exploring a range of sounds from a range of places. A bit of cultural appropriation? Oh, most definitely. The video moves in a different direction, though, tapping into a grainy tube-TV aesthetic that Zach, who directed and offers some comment under the clip below, relates directly to early ’70s German music television. Because obviously. And suitably enough, they’re thinking of “Naked Prey” as analogous to what the rest of The Island has to offer. I haven’t heard the full thing yet, but having been lucky enough to hear at least some of these songs live, I believe it.

The Island is out Feb. 15. If you have an ass, get ready to shake it.

Enjoy:

“Naked Prey” official video premiere

Zach Oakley on “Naked Prey”:

“Every song on this record was fun to write, record and produce so it was hard to pick a first single. I think we chose “Naked Prey” because it’s the first tune on the record and so why not have it act as Volcano’s first introduction to the world.

It’s the leadoff track on the record for a couple reasons. First of all, it’s a banger! The drum intro is syncopated and groovy and the rest of the band drop in all at once with a twin guitar and keys melody that foreshadow a lot of what you’ll hear during the rest of the album. We’re basically telling people that if they like the first 15 seconds of “Naked Prey”, then they’re gonna dig the rest of the album too!

Lyrically speaking it sets the tone for the record. We tell the story arch of “The Island” and it’s inhabitants over the course of the record. Each tune it’s own chapter. In this first chapter we learn about their ruthless gods and the relentless aggression of nature and it’s dark governing forces. It’s a theme that we explore throughout the record, and it starts with NAKED PREY! Let the chase begin!

The “Naked Prey” music video began as a complete joke. Just talking about filming ourselves for a video was too goofy to take seriously. But we set out with the attitude that if it turned out too silly to release then we’d simply ditch it and never tell anyone we tried! I had just filmed and edited a short film documenting a jam session that I had been a part of at a friend’s property in Campo, CA, a month or two earlier and it turned out cool. Nothing too complex or professional looking, but really neat and nostalgic and plenty psychedelic. I took that same approach to shooting and editing Volcano’s first music video.

We felt like keeping it simple since it was our first video. Very little plot line aside from Gabe speaking as an angry deity. It’s mostly shots of the members of the band playing the tune against a non-descript background. It puts the focus on us as a players. No frills. Just plenty of trippy edits and overlays and other tricks lifted straight from the editing playbook of the 60s-70s German Television show “The Beat Club.” Anyone that has seen the Birth Control, Black Sabbath or Rory Gallagher performances on that show will get a kick, or at least a giggle out of our new video! We hope everyone has as much fun watching it as we did making it!”

Volcano on Instagram

Volcano on Bandcamp

Kommune Records on Bandcamp

Tee Pee Records website

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