Quarterly Review: High on Fire, Spaceslug, Lie Heavy, Burning Realm, Kalac, Alkuräjähdys, Magick Brother & Mystic Sister, Amigo, The Hazytones, All Are to Return

Posted in Reviews on May 14th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

The-Obelisk-Quarterly-Review

Alright, back at it. Putting together yesterday over the weekend was more scattershot than I’d prefer, but one might say the same of parenting in general, so I’ll leave it at that. Still, as happens with Quarterly Reviews, we got there. That my wife gave me an extra 40 minutes to bang out the Wizzerd video premiere was appreciated. As always, she makes everything possible.

Compared to some QRs, there are a few ‘bigger’ releases here. You’ll note High on Fire leading off today. That trend will continue over this and next week with the likes of Pallbearer, Uncle Acid, Bongripper, Harvestman (Steve Von Till, ex-Neurosis), Inter Arma, Saturnalia Temple spread throughout. The Pelican two-songer and My Dying Bride back to back a week from today. That’ll be a fun one. As always, it’s about the time crunch for me for what goes in the Quarterly Review. Things I want to cover before it’s too late that I can fit here. Ain’t nobody holding their breath for my opinion on any of it, or on anything generally for that matter, but I’m not trying to slight well known bands by stuffing them into what when it started over a decade ago I thought would be a catchall for demos and EPs. Sometimes I like the challenge of a shorter word count, too.

And I remind myself here again nobody really cares. Fine, let’s go.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

High on Fire, Cometh the Storm

high on fire cometh the storm

What seems at first to be business as usual for High on Fire‘s fourth album produced by Kurt Ballou, fifth for MNRK Heavy (formerly E1), and ninth overall, gradually reveals itself to be the band’s tonally heaviest work in at least the last 15 years. What’s actually new is drummer Coady Willis (Big Business, Melvins) making his first studio appearance alongside founding guitarist/vocalist Matt Pike (Sleep, Pike vs. the Automaton) and long-tenured bassist/backing vocalist Jeff Matz (also saz on the instrumental interlude-plus “Karanlik Yol”), and for sure Willis‘ thud in “Trismegistus,” galloping intensity in the thrashy and angular “The Beating” and declarative stomp beneath the big slowdown of 10-minute closer “Darker Fleece” is part of it, but from the way Pike and Matz bring “Cometh the Storm’ and “Sol’s Golden Curse” in the record’s middle to such cacophonous ends, the three-and-a-half-minute face-kick that is “Lightning Beard” and the suckerpunch that starts off with “Lambsbread,” to how even the more vocally melodic “Hunting Shadows” is carried on a wave of filthy, hard-landing distortion, their ferocity is reaffirmed in thicker grooves and unmitigated pummel. While in some ways this is what one would expect, it’s also everything for which one might hope from High on Fire a quarter-century on from their first demo. Triumph.

High on Fire on Facebook

MNRK Heavy website

Spaceslug, Out of Water

spaceslug out of water

A release concurrent to a remastered edition of their 2016 debut, Lemanis (review here), only puts into emphasis how much Spaceslug have come into their own over eight productive years. Recorded by drummer/vocalist Kamil Ziółkowski (also Mountain of Misery), with guitarist/vocalist Bartosz Janik and bassist/vocalist Jan Rutka dug into familiar tonal textures throughout five tracks and a quick but inevitably full-length-flowing 32 minutes, Out of Water is both otherworldly and emotionally evocative in the rollout of “Arise the Sun” following the intertwined shouts of opener “Tears of Antimatter,” and in keeping with their progression, they nudge toward metallic aggression as a way to solidify their heavy psychedelic aspects. “Out of Water” is duly mournful to encapsulate such a tragic notion, and the nod of “Delusions” only grows more forcefully applied after the return from that song’s atmospheric break, and while they depart with “In Serenity” to what feels like the escapism of sunnier riffing, even that becomes more urgent toward the album’s finish. The reason it works is they’re bending genre to their songs, not the other way around, and as Spaceslug mature as a group, they’ve become one of Poland’s most essential heavy acts.

Spaceslug on Facebook

Spaceslug on Bandcamp

Lie Heavy, Burn to the Moon

lie heavy burn to the moon

First issued on CD through JM Records in 2023, Lie Heavy‘s debut album, Burn to the Moon, sees broader release through Heavy Psych Sounds with revamped art to complement the Raleigh, North Carolina, four-piece’s tonal heft and classic reach in pieces like “In the Shadow” and “The Long March,” respectively. The band is fronted by Karl Agell (vocalist for C.O.C.‘s 1991 Blind album and now also in The Skull-offshoot Legions of Doom), and across the 12-song/51-minute run, and whether it’s the crunch of the ripper “When the Universe Cries” or the Clutch-style heavy funk of “Chunkadelic” pushing further from the start-stops of “In the Shadow” or the layered crescendo of “Unbeliever” a short time later, he and bassist/vocalist TR Gwynne, guitarist/vocalist Graham Fry and drummer/vocalist Jeff “JD” Dennis deliver sans-pretense riff-led fare. They’re not trying to fix what wasn’t broken in the ’90s, to be sure, but you can’t really call it a retread either as they swing through “Drag the World” and its capstone counterpart “End the World”; it all goes back to Black Sabbath anyway. The converted will get it no problem.

Lie Heavy on Facebook

Heavy Psych Sounds website

Burning Realm, Face the Fire

Burning Realm Face the Fire

Dublin, Ireland, trio Burning Realm mark their first release with the four-song Face the Fire EP, taking the cosmic-tinged restlessness of Wild Rocket and setting it alongside more grounded riffing, hinting at thrash in the ping ride on “From Beyond” but careening in the modern mode either way. Lead cut “Homosapien” gives Hawkwindian vibes early — the trap, which is sounding like Slift, is largely avoided, though King Gizzard may still be relevant as an influence — but smoothly gives over to acoustics and vocal drone once its urgency has bene vaporized, and spacious as the vocal echo is, “Face the Fire” is classic stoner roll even into its speedier ending, the momentum of which is continued in closer “Warped One (Arise),” which is more charged on the whole in a way that feels linear and intended in relation to what’s put before it. A 16-minute self-released introduction to who Burning Realm are now, it holds promise for how they might develop stylistically and grow in terms of range. Whatever comes or doesn’t, it’s easy enough to dig as it is. If you were at a show and someone handed you the tape, you’d be stoked once you put it on in the car. Also it’s like 1995 in that scenario, apparently.

Burning Realm on Facebook

Burning Realm on Bandcamp

Kalac, Odyss​é​e

Odyssee

Offered through an international consortium of record labels that includes Crême Brûlée Records in the band’s native France, Echodelick in the US, Clostridium in Germany and Weird Beard in the UK, French heavy psych thrusters Kalac‘s inaugural full-length, Odyss​é​e — also stylized all-caps — doesn’t leave much to wonder why so many imprints might want some for the distro. With a focus on rhythmic movement in the we-gotta-get-to-space-like-five-minutes-ago modus of current-day heavy neo-space-rock, the mostly instrumental procession hypnotizes even as it peppers its expanses with verses here or there. That might be most effectively wrought in the payoff noiseblaster wash of “II,” which I’m just going to assume opens side B, but the boogie quotient is strong from “Arguenon” to “Beautiful Night,” and while might ring familiar to others operating in the aesthetic galaxial quadrant, the energy of Kalac‘s delivery and the not-haphazard-but-not-always-in-the-same-spot-either placement of the vocals are enough to distinguish them and make the six-tracker as exciting to hear as it sounds like it probably was to record.

Kalac on Facebook

Crême Brûlée Records on Bandcamp

Clostridium Records store

Weird Beard Records store

Echodelick Records on Bandcamp

Alkuräjähdys, Ehdot.

Alkurajahdys ehdot

The live-tracked fourth outing from Helsinki psych improvisationalists Alkuräjähdys, the lowercase-stylized ehdot. blends mechanical and electronic sounds with more organic psychedelic jamming, the synth and bassier punchthrough in the midsection of opening piece “.matriisi” indeed evocative of the dot-matrix printer to which its title is in reference, while “központ,” which follows, meanders into a broader swath of guitar-based noise atop a languidly graceful roll of drums. That let’s-try-it-slower ideology is manifest in the first half of the duly two-sided “a-b” as well, as the 12-minute finale begins by lurching through the denser distortion of a central riff en route to a skronk-jazz transition to a tighter midtempo groove that I’ll compare to Endless Boogie and very much intend that as a compliment. I don’t think they’re out to change the world so much as get in a room, hit it and see where the whole thing ends up, but those are noble creative aims in concept and practice, and between the two guitars, effects, synth and whathaveyou, there’s plenty of weird to go around.

Alkuräjähdys on Instagram

Alkuräjähdys on Bandcamp

Magick Brother & Mystic Sister, Tarot Pt. 1

Magick Brother & Mystic Sister tarot pt. 1

Already a significant undertaking as a 95-minute 2LP running 11 tracks themed — as the title(s) would hint — around tarot cards, the mostly serene sprawl of Magick Brother & Mystic Sister‘s Tarot Pt. 1 is still just the first of two companion albums to be issued as the follow-up to the Barcelona outfit’s 2020 self-titled debut (discussed here). Offered through respected Greek purveyor Sound Effect Records, Tarot Pt. 1 gives breadth beyond just the runtime in the sitar-laced psych-funk of “The Hierophant” (swap sitar for organ, synth and flute on “The Chariot”) and the classic-prog pastoralia of closer “The Wheel of Fortune,” and as with the plague-era debut, at the heart of the material is a soothing acid folk, and while the keys in the first half of “The Emperor” grow insistent and there’s some foreboding in the early Mellotron and key lines of “The Lovers,” Tarot Pt. 1 resonates comfort and care in its arrangements as well as ambition in its scope. Maybe another hour and a half on the way? Sign me up.

Magick Brother & Mystic Sister on Facebook

Sound Effect Records store

Amigo, Good Time Island

Amigo Good Time Island

The eight-year distance from their 2016 debut long-player, Little Cliffs, seems to have smoothed out some (not all, which isn’t a complaint) of the rough edges in Amigo‘s sound, as the seemingly reinvigorated San Diego four-piece of lead guitarist/vocalist Jeff Podeszwik (King Chiefs), guitarist Anthony Mattos, bassist Sufi Karalen and drummer Anthony Alley offer five song across an accessible, straightforward 17 minutes united beneath the fair-enough title of Good Time Island. Without losing the weight of their tones, a Weezery pop sensibility comes through in “Dope Den” while “Frog Face” is even more specifically indebted to The Cars. Neither “Telescope Boy” nor “Banana Phone” lacks punch, but Amigo hold some in reserve for “Me and Soof,” which rounds out the proceedings, and they put it to solid use for an approach that’s ’90s-informed without that necessarily meaning stoner, grunge or alt, and envision a commercially relevant, songwriting-based heavy rock and roll for an alternate universe that, by all accounts here, sounds like a decent place to be.

Amigo on Facebook

Roosevelt Row Records store

The Hazytones, Wild Fever

The Hazytones Wild Fever

Culminating in the Sabbathian shuffle of “Eye for an Eye,” Wild Fever is the hook-drenched third full-length from Montreal fuzzbringers The Hazytones, and while they’ve still got the ‘tones’ part down pat, it’s easy to argue the eight included tracks are the least ‘hazy’ they’ve been to-date. Following on from the direction of 2018’s II: Monarchs of Oblivion (review here), the Esben Willems-mixed/Kent Stump-mastered 40-minute long-player isn’t shy about leaning into the grittier side of what they do as the opening title-track rolls out a chorus that reminds of C.O.C. circa In the Arms of God while retaining some of the melody between the vocals of Mick Martel (also guitar and keys) and Gabriel Prieur (also drums and bass), and with the correspondingly thick bass of Caleb Sanders for accompaniment and lead guitarist John Choffel‘s solo rising out of the murk on “Disease,” honing in on the brashness suits them well. Not where one might have expected them to end up six years later, but no less enjoyable for that, either.

The Hazytones on Facebook

Black Throne Productions store

All Are to Return, III

All Are To Return III

God damn that’s harsh. Mostly anonymous industrialists — you get F and N for names and that’s it — All Are to Return are all the more punishing in the horrific recesses and engulfing blasts of static that populate III than they were in 2022’s II (review here), and the fact that the eight-songer is only 32 minutes long is about as close as they come to any concept of mercy for the psyche of their audience. Beyond that, “Moratorium,” “Colony Collapse,” the eats-you-dead “Archive of the Sky” and even the droning “Legacy” cast a willfully wretched extremity, and what might be a humanizing presence of vocals elsewhere is screams channeled through so much distortion as to be barely recognizable as coming from a human throat here. If the question being posed is, “how much can you take?,” the answer for most of those brave enough to even give III a shot will be, “markedly less than this.” A cry from the depths realizing a brutal vision.

All Are to Return on Bandcamp

Tartarus Records store

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Review: Kombynat Robotron & DUNDDW, Split LP

Posted in Reviews on July 11th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

Kombynat Robotron DUNDDW Split LP

Two bands, two sides, three jams. Kombynat Robotron and DUNDDW, from Germany and the Netherlands, respectively, offer their 37-minute/three-song split LP through Spinda Records (SP), Sunhair Music (DE), Echodelick Records (US) and Weird Beard Records (UK), and not to dwell so much on numbers, but yes, that is more record labels involved than there are songs on the release. As regards a title, I don’t know if it’s official, but the cover says Split LP, and that’s good enough as far as I’m concerned, and it’s fitting enough since, yes, that’s what it is, and being instrumental, both bands seem content enough to leave words at a minimum.

Kiel-based four-piece Kombynat Robotron — also stylized with Cyrillic letters: КОМВУИАТ ЯОВОТЯОИ — have been on a heavy psychedelic spree since their first outings (note the plural) in 2018, and they take side A with “Gamma” (7:34) and “Delta” (7:31), while side B goes to Nijmegen trio DUNDDW, with members of Bismut and Mt. Echo. The latter are closer to their origin point, having issued their first full-length in late-2022’s Flux (review here), but in addition to a shared aversion toward singers at least in the context of their own projects, the two acts share the improvisational ethic, and as DUNDDW unfold “VIII” (21:59) across side B, the unifying goal of Split LP is palpable as one of exploration.

There’s a bit of freakout here and there in “Gamma” and in the earlier going of “VIII,” DUNDDW‘s Peter Dragt just kind of starts to go nuts on drums and that energy becomes a build by itself until after the halfway point when they bring it back down, but serenity abounds otherwise; both bands foster an active forward reach amid miraculously unpretentious cosmic drift, harnessing the creativity of a fleeting moment and capturing it as it happened.

The tagline for the split is ‘100% improvised psych-kraut music from Germany and The Netherlands,’ and that may or may not be true — not sure why anyone would lie about that, but it’s happened before — the sounds fostered speak to the intention anyhow. I’m not arguing, in other words. Kombynat Robotron fade in on a cymbal wash for “Gamma,” but soon the guitar establishes the sunshiny central figure of the piece and they’re underway in a somewhat surprisingly song-ish manner. Mellow grunge in space? Post-whatever whatever?

Such interstellar krautrock pastoralia is set to a steady roller of a groove, and fluidity holds as they turn about a minute in — there must have been a head signal there or some such — to a more upbeat section. Guitarists James Ihnen and Richard Schröder, bassist Claas Ogorek and drummer Thomas Handschick are locked in from the outset, and whether they had some idea of what they wanted to do, or “Gamma” is cut out of a longer jam or what, the conversation happening between the members of the band, instrumentally speaking, is sharp. If they’re keeping it loose in any way, it’s conceptually, but there’s a linear build happening in “Gamma” that peaks just after six minutes in, and from there they noodle out on a long fade, and that hints at the very least toward a sense of direction rather than just showing up, plugging in and hitting it.

Not a complaint. Their “Delta” begins more subdued but has the same shimmer in the lower-mixed guitar and shifts after laying down that initial fuzzy breadth to a not-quite-motorik bit of push, fostering classic space rock vibes in its build en route to bringing that same lead guitar forward in the still-shimmying crescendo. They sound like they could keep going into perpetuity, but balance and the limitations of physical media require otherwise, so Kombynat Robotron fade to let DUNDDW start “VIII” with bass and drums.

dunddw

kombynat robotron

Is it the eighth recording the band has done? Possible. On Flux, the three-piece featured the 22-minute “VI” and had two parts of the at-least-four-part “VII,” so “VIII” would be next in that succession, and it’s not unreasonable to think that guitarist Gerben Elburg, bassist Huibert der Weduwen and drummer Peter Dragt either recorded “VIII” then or are simply following the Karma to Burn example of numerical (if Roman numerals) ordering their songs. Ups and downs to that approach, as with anything, but most importantly, the chemistry that DUNDDW so readily displayed on Flux is to be found on the Split LP as well, whether it’s the proggy bassline and jazz-style business of the drumming or the way the guitar seems to inhabit a space of its own, weaving along with the rhythm as it grows more intense early on but keeping an overarching calmness via its tonality.

Dragt is on the toms by the time they’re four minutes in, and part of the journey becomes the bumps and jabs of the bass and the steady punctuation of the snare and the guitar moves closer to a wash as they approach the six-minute mark. It’s like you can hear them digging in. Elburg doesn’t miss the opportunity to freak out, and soon enough, Dragt is following suit on cymbals, resolving in a gallop that der Weduwen seems only too happy to complement. They draw it back down somewhat after seven minutes, but they’re nowhere near finished as they push farther and farther into improvised space ambience.

The hi-hat is still tense keeping time for a while after everything else calms and the guitar goes to sparse melodic hum — by then it’s the snare shuffling underneath — but the movement is never completely gone, so as they grow subtly more energetic, it’s easy to follow along. At 14:45, they begin in earnest the build back to full-volume, and the swirl, the push and the wash all come together in righteous cacophony for a crescendo before the inevitable denouement.

DUNDDW end on a fade, but “VIII” is basically done anyhow, with some studio noise underscoring the in-the-room-as-it-happened feel of the Split LP as a whole. I don’t know whose idea it was to put these two acts together, but cheers. That Kombynat Robotron and DUNDDW could have so much in common on paper and still be so distinct in their respective takes results in a split that emphasizes how identifiable each of their styles is. Their unity of purpose is enhanced, not contrasted, by their similarities as well as the differences between them.

Kombynat Robotron & DUNDDW, Split LP (2023)

DUNDDW on Facebook

DUNDDW on Instagram

DUNDDW on Bandcamp

Kombynat Robotron on Facebook

Kombynat Robotron on Instagram

Kombynat Robotron on Bandcamp

Spinda Records on Facebook

Spinda Records on Instagram

Spinda Records on Bandcamp

Spinda Records website

Sunhair Music website

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Volume Announce 20th Anniversary Reissue for Requesting Permission to Land

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 26th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

What does it tell you about an album when five record labels get behind the release? Well, first it tells you that globalization was a farce that requires multiple DIY distributors to cover different territories around the planet because instead of actually helping smooth processes like releasing albums in multiple territories, it made the same five old white men who were already rich that much richer over the course of the last 30 years, but more immediately, it perhaps tells us that it’s time to start thinking of Volume‘s 2002 debut/only-LP Requesting Permission to Land (not the original cover below) as a lost classic, and maybe that it’s time to revisit that pre-social media era of heavy rock and roll in a similar fashion to how about 10 years back it seemed like every other week there was another lost classic from the heavy ’70s coming out on labels like Akarma and Rockadrome. Feels early, but I bet if you were there in the 1970s it felt early a decade ago too.

There are, of course, a near-infinite amount of treasures to be unearthed, because while I’d call the heavy underground well populated today and bolstered by the (semi-)democratization of recording gear/software and streaming, but whatever comes of it in the next few years, Volume‘s Requesting Permission to Land is easily worth the revisit, calling to mind nostalgia for the MySpace era when, say, one might’ve sent Patrick Brink a message requesting a copy of the record to play on one’s college radio stoner rock show. I’d say those were the days, but they weren’t really. I could go on off-topic, but you don’t care. If you want to talk and be friends in real life, hit me up. Also, don’t tell anybody that 2023 is actually the 21st anniversary of the album. Doesn’t matter. Pressing delays, timing, whatever. It exists and it’s coming out. That’s good enough for me.

The relevant info from the PR wire:

volume requesting permission to land

VOLUME To Release 20th Anniversary Edition of Requesting Permission To Land

Heavy fuzzed out psychedelic rock from the desert of Twentynine Palms, CA, is the offering from VOLUME. Formed in 1993, VOLUME are back following a hiatus to finish what they started and celebrate a career milestone. The 20th Anniversary edition vinyl pressing of Requesting Permission To Land will be released on October 27th.

“I’m super stoked that ‘Requesting Permission To Land’ will finally be out on vinyl like it was always supposed to be. Get ready to get cosmically freaked out!” – Patrick Brink

From the riff-fueled percussive-frenzy sound of the EP’s opener “Habit” to the rhythmic and progressive conclusion “Headswim”, Requesting Permission To Land is a thrilling collection of heavy acid rock tracks. The EP features a number of talented musicians with drums recorded by Scott Reeder (FU MANCHU), and bass played by James Scoggins (FINAL CONFLICT). If you like straight up fuzzed out psychedelic rock, sit back and let VOLUME spin your head!

About VOLUME:

Patrick Brink began VOLUME back in 1993 with the desire to have a project with which he could take the lead and steer the musical reins down psychedelic rocking routes. Having performed with a number of acts including doing vocals for FU MANCHU in their early days, VOLUME offered Patrick a new creative outlet. Over their career the band has shared stages with QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE, FU MANCHU, MASTADON and GOATSNAKE, and performed at festivals including Emmisions of the Monolith and Stoner Hands of Doom (SHoD). VOLUME draw musical influences from bands such as THE STOOGES, MC5 and BLACK FLAG to name a few, while also crafting their own distinctive heavy psychedelic identity.

Requesting Permission To Land will be released via Weird Beard (UK) We Here & Now (CA) Echodelick (US) Worst Bassist (EU) Ramble Records (AU)

Tracklisting:
1. Habit
2. Colossalfreak
3. Dont Look Around
4. Make Believe
5. Headswim

https://www.facebook.com/volumerocksofficial
https://www.instagram.com/volume_rocks/
https://twitter.com/RocksVolume
https://volume-rocks.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/ERECORDSATL
https://www.instagram.com/echodelickrecords/
https://echodelickrecords.bandcamp.com/
https://www.echodelickrecords.com/

https://www.facebook.com/WeHereandNow
https://www.instagram.com/wehereandnowrecordings/
https://wehereandnow.bigcartel.com/
https://wehereandnow.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/worstbassistrecords
https://www.instagram.com/worst.bassist.records
https://worstbassistrecords.bandcamp.com/
https://www.worstbassist.com/

https://www.facebook.com/Ramble-Records-104456548098088
https://www.instagram.com/ramble_records
https://ramblerecords.bandcamp.com/
https://ramblerecords.com/

https://www.facebook.com/WeirdBeardRecs/
https://weirdbeardrecs.bandcamp.com/
https://theweirdbeard.bigcartel.com/

Volume, Requesting Permission to Land (2002)

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Quarterly Review: Astrosaur, Kvasir, Bloodshot, Tons, Mothman & The Thunderbirds vs. World Eaters, Deer Lord, IO Audio Recordings, Bong Voyage, Sun Years, Daevar

Posted in Reviews on January 6th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-winter 2023

There was some pretty good stuff this week, I gotta say. Feels self-congratulatory to be like, ‘hey good job slating reviews, me!’ but there it is. I don’t regret hearing anything I have thus far into the Winter 2023 Quarterly Review, and sometimes that’s not the case by the time we get to Friday.

Of course, there’s another week to go here as well. We’ll pick it back up on Monday with another 10 records and proceed from there. If you’ve been following along, I hope you’ve found something you dig as well.

Winter 2023 Quarterly Review #41-50:

Astrosaur, Portals

ASTROSAUR Portals

This is what happens when you have virtuoso players writing songs rather than paeans to their own virtuosity. Led by founding guitarist Eirik Kråkenes, with drummer Jonathan Eikum (also Taiga Woods) and bassist Steinar Glas (also Einar Stray Orchestra), Astrosaur are blindingly progressive on their third full-length, Portals (on Pelagic), operating with post-metallic atmospheres as a backdrop for stunning instrumental turns, builds and crashes, willful repetition and the defiant denial of same. There’s more scope in the intro “Opening” than on some entire albums, and what “Black Hole Earth” begins from there is a dizzying array of sometimes cosmic sometimes earthborn riffing, twisting bass and mindfully restless drums. “The Deluge” hitting into that chase after four minutes in, that seemingly chaotic swirling noise suddenly stopping “Reptile Empire” and the false start to the 23-minute epic “Eternal Return” — these details and many besides give the overarching weight of Portals at its heaviest a corresponding depth, and when coupled with the guitar’s ability to coast overhead, they are genuinely three-dimension in their sound. You’d be right to want to hear Portals for “Eternal Return” alone, but there’s so much more to it than that.

Astrosaur on Facebook

Pelagic Records on Bandcamp

 

Kvasir, Sagittarius A* Star

Kvasir Sagittarius A Star

Kvasir‘s Sagittarius A* Star is named for the black hole at the center of the galaxy, and the 21-minute single-song EP is the follow-up to their 2021 debut album, 4 (review here), a dug-in proto-metallic exploration composed in movements that flow together as a whole organic work. The Portland-based four-piece of guitarists Christopher Lee (also vocals) and Gabriel Langston, bassist Greg Traw and Jay Erbe work on either side between traditional metal and heavy rock riffing, inhabiting both here as “Sagittarius A* Star” launches into its initial verses over the first four minutes, a solo emerging after 5:30 to set the pattern that will hold for the remaining three-fourths of the song. A slowdown takes hold about a minute later and grooves until at about nine minutes in when the bass comes forward and things get funkier. The vocals return at about 11:30 to complement a galloping riff that’s fleshed out until just after the 14-minute mark, when a jazzier instrumental movement begins and the band makes it known they’re going out and not coming back, the swaying finish with more insistent guitar, first interjecting then satisfyingly joining that sway, capping with a (still plotted) jammier feel. If that’s the Milky Way succumbing to ultragravity and being torn apart molecule by molecule en route to physics-defying oblivion, then fair enough. Worse ways to go, certainly.

Kvasir on Facebook

Kvasir on Bandcamp

 

Bloodshot, Sins of the Father

Bloodshot Sins of the Father

Though the leadoff Sins of the Father gets reminds of circa-’90s noise metal like Nailbomb, Marylander four-piece Bloodshot lean more into a hardcore-informed take on heavy rock with their aggressively-purposed debut album. Comprised of vocalist Jared Winegardner, guitarist Tom Stacey, bassist Joe Ruthvin (ex-Earthride) and drummer JB Matson (ex-War Injun, organizer of Maryland Doom Fest, etc.), the band push to one side or the other throughout, as on the more rocking “Zero Humility” and the subsequent metallic barker “Uncivil War,” the mid-period Megadeth-style riffer “Beaten Into Rebellion,” the brooding-into-chugging closing title-track and “Fyre,” which I’m pretty sure just wants to kick my ass. The 10-track entirety of the album, in fact, seems to hold to that same mentality, and there’s a sense of trying to recapture something that’s been lost that feels inherently conservative in its theme — “Faded Natives,” “Visions of Yesterday,” the speedier “Worn and Torn,” and so on — but gruff though it is, Sins of the Father offers a pissed-off-for-reasons take on heavy that’s likewise intense and methodical. That is to say, they know what they’re doing as they punch you in the throat.

Bloodshot on Facebook

Half Beast Records on Bandcamp

Nervous Breakdown Records store

 

Tons, Hashension

Tons Hashension

A second release through Heavy Psych Sounds and Tons‘ third full-length overall, Hashension wears its love of all things cannabian on its crusty stoner sludge sleeve throughout its six-track/39-minute run, begun with the riffnotic “Dope Dealer Scum” before “A Hash Day’s Night” introduces the throatripper vocals and backing growls and a more heads-down, speedier tempo that hits into a mosh of a slowdown. “Slowly We Pot” — a play on Obituary‘s Slowly We Rot — to go along with the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd (and Gummo) titular references — follows in a spirit as angry as one imagines Bongzilla might be if someone un-freed their weed. Yes, “Hempathy for the Devil” and “Ummagummo” precede the sample-topped slamming march of “Hashended,” and lo, the well-baked extreme sludge they’ve wrought rumbles and thuds its way out, not so much gnashing in the way of “A Hash Day’s Night” or the roll after the midpoint in “Ummagummo” — though the lyrics there seem to be pure weed-worship — but lumbering in such a way as to ensure the point gets across anyhow. I’m not going to tell you you should be stoned listening to it, because I don’t know, maybe you’re driving or something, but I doubt Tons would argue if you brought some edibles to the gig. Enough to share, perhaps.

Tons on Facebook

Heavy Psych Sounds store

 

Mothman & the Thunderbirds vs. World Eaters, Split

Mothman and the Thunderbirds vs World Eaters Split

In the battle of Philly solo-project Mothman and the Thunderbirds vs. Ontario-based duo World Eaters, the numbers may be on the side of the latter, but each act offers something of its own on their shared 18-minute EP. Presenting two tracks from each band, the outing puts Mothman and the Thunderbirds‘ “Rusty Shackleton” and “Nephilim” up front, the latter particularly reinforcing the Devin Townsend influence on the part of multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Alex Parkinson, while “Flash of Green” and “The Siege” from World Eaters — drummer Winter Stomp and guitarist/bassist/vocalist/synthesist David Gupta — present an atmospheric death metal, more than raw bludgeoning, but definitely that as well. As a sampler platter for both bands, there’s more time to get to know World Eaters since their songs are markedly longer, but the contrast from one to the other and the progression into the mire of “The Siege” gives the split an overlaid personality, almost a narrative, and the melodies in Parkinson‘s two cuts have a lingering presence over the masterful decay that follows in World Eater‘s material. One way or the other, these are both relatively upstart projects and their will toward progression is clear, as pummeling as its form may be. Right on.


Mothman & The Thunderbirds on Bandcamp

World Eaters on Bandcamp

 

Deer Lord, Dark Matter Pt. 1

Deer Lord Dark Matter Pt 1

Preceded by the two-song single Witches Brew/Psychedelic Roadkill, the six-song/24-minute Dark Matter Pt. 1 is short but feels nonetheless like a debut album from Sonoma County, California (try the cabernet), three-piece Deer Lord, who present adventures like getting stoned with witches on a mountaintop, riding free with an out-on-bail “Hippie Girl” in the backseat of presumably some kind of roadster, going down the proverbial highway and, at last, welcoming you to “Planet Earth” after calling out and casting off any and all “Ego” along the way. It is a modern take on stonerized heavy, starting off with “Witches Brew” as the opener/longest track (immediate points) with a languid flow and psychedelic underpinnings that flesh out even amid the apex soloing of “Planet Earth” or the fervent push of the earlier “Ride Away,” that tempo hitting a wall with the intro of “Ego” (don’t worry, it takes off) so as to support the argument in favor of Dark Matter Pt. 1 as an admittedly brief full-length, the component tracks working off each other to enhance the entirety. The elements beneath are familiar enough, but Deer Lord put an encouraging spin of their own on it, and especially as their debut, it’s hard to imagine some label or other won’t get on board, if not for pressing this, then maybe Pt. 2 to come. Perhaps both?

Deer Lord on Facebook

Deer Lord on Bandcamp

 

IO Audio Recordings, Awaiting the Elliptical Drift & VVK

IO Audio Recordings Awaiting the Elliptical Drift & VVK

Compiling two 2022 EPs into a single LP and releasing through a microcosm of underground imprints in various terrestrial locales, IO Audio RecordingsAwaiting the Elliptical Drift & VVK is my first exposure to the Orange, CA, out-there-in-space unit, and from the blower kosmiche rocking “Awaiting the Elliptical Drift” to the sitar meditation “Luminous Suspension,” and the hazy wash of “Sunrise and Overdrive” (that’s side A) to the experimentalist consumption of “VVK” and “Gramanita” rounding out with its heartbeat rhythm giving over to a hardly-flatlined drone after shuffling cool and bassy and fuzzy with jangly jam strum overtop, I tell you in all sincerity it won’t be my last. There’s a broad cross-section stylistically, which suits a compilation mindset, but I get the feeling that if you called it an album instead, the situation would be much the same thanks to an underlying conceptualism and the adventuring purpose beneath the open-structured fluidity. That’s just fine, as IO Audio Recordings‘ sundry transformations only enhance the anything-that-works-goes and shelf-your-expectations listening experience. Not that there’s no tension in their groovy approach, but the abiding sensibility advises an open mind and maybe a couple deep breaths in and out before you take it on. But then definitely take it on. If you need me, I’ll be spending money I don’t have on Bandcamp.

Weird Beard Records store

Fuzzed Up and Astromoon Records on Bandcamp

We Here & Now on Bandcamp

Ramble Records on Bandcamp

Echodelick Records on Bandcamp

 

Bong Voyage, Feverlung

Bong Voyage Feverlung

While “bong” in a band name usually connotes dense sludge in my head, Oslo four-piece Bong Voyage defy that stereotype with their Dec. 2022-released second single, “Feverlung” — the first single was October’s “Buzzed Aldrin” — and no, the song isn’t about the pandemic, it’s about getting high. The six-minute rocker hoists jammy flourish mostly in its second half, in a break that, in turn, shifts into uptempo semi-space rock post-Slift pulsations atop a progression that, while I’ll readily admit it sounds little like the song on the whole still puts me in mind of Kyuss‘ “Odyssey” in its vocal patterning and melody. That ending is a step outward from the solidified early verses, which are more straight ahead heavy rock in the vein of Freedom Hawk or a less-directly-Ozzy take on Sheavy, and while one listening for them to bring it back around to the initial riff will find that they don’t, the band’s time isn’t necessarily misspent in terms of serving the song by letting it push beyond exospheric traps. They won’t catch me by surprise next time aesthetically, and it wouldn’t be a shock to find Bong Voyage in among the subset of up and coming heavy rockers that’s put Norway on the underground radar so much these last couple years. Either way, I’ll look forward to more here.

Bong Voyage on Facebook

Bong Voyage on Bandcamp

 

Sun Years, Sun Years (Demo)

IMGSun years demo

In its early going, Sun Years‘ “Codex” stagger-sludges like Eyehategod with guitarist Dalton Huskin‘s shouty echoing vocals on top, but as it moves into its second half, there’s a pickup in tempo and a bit of swirling lead guitar emerges in the 4:37 song’s closing stretch as Asechiah Bogdan (ex-Windhand, ex-Alabama Thunderpussy) makes his presence felt. Alongside bassist Buddy Bryant and drummer Erik Larson (once-and-again guitarist for Alabama Thunderpussy, drummer of Avail, Omen Stones, ex-Backwoods Payback, the list goes on), Bogdan and Huskin explore mellower and more melodic reaches the subsequent “Teeth Like Stars,” still holding some of their demo’s lead track’s urgency as a weighted riff takes hold in trade with the relatively subdued verse. That’s a back and forth they’ll do again, moving the second time from the more weighted progression into a solo and build into a return of the harsher vocals, some double-kick drumming and a last shove that lasts until everything drops out except one guitar and that riffs for a few seconds before being cut off mid-measure. Well, that’s a band with more dynamic in their first two tracks than some have in their entire careers, so I guess it’s safe to say it’ll be worth following the Richmond, Virginia, foursome to see where they end up next time out.

Sun Years on Bandcamp

Minimum Wage Recording on Facebook

 

Daevar, Delirious Rites

Daevar Delirious Rites Cover

Recorded by Jan Oberg (Grin, Slowshine, EarthShip) at Hidden Planet Studio in Berlin, Daevar‘s five-track/32-minute 2023 debut album, Delirious Rites, arrives likewise through Oberg‘s imprint The Lasting Dose Records and finds the man himself sitting in for guest vocals on the 10-minute “Leviathan” alongside the band’s own bassist/vocalist Pardis Latif, who leads the band from the depths of the rhythm section’s lurch on the gradually unfolding Windhand-vibing leadoff “Slowshine,” the particularly Monolordian “Bloody Fingers” with Caspar Orfgen‘s guitar howling over a marching riff, and “Leila” where Moritz Ermen Bausch‘s drums offer a welcoming grounding to Electric Wizardly nod and swirl. Thus, by the time his spot in the aforementioned “Leviathan” rolls (and I do mean rolls) around, just ahead of closer “Yellow Queen,” the layers of growling and screaming he adds to the procession are a standout shift well placed to play off the atmosphere established by the previous tracks. Shortest at 5:10, “Yellow Queen” lumbers through more ethereal doom and hints at a psychedelic current that might continue to develop in a midsection drifting break that builds back into the catchy plod from whence it came. Not necessarily innovative at this point — they’re a new band — but they seem to know what they want in terms of sound and style, and that only ever bodes well.

Daevar on Facebook

The Lasting Dose Records on Bandcamp

 

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Quarterly Review: Trigona, Blasting Rod, From Those Ashes, Hashishian, Above & Below, Lord Elephant, Dirty Shades, Venus Principle, Troy the Band, Mount Desert

Posted in Reviews on July 5th, 2022 by JJ Koczan

THE-OBELISK-FALL-2020-QUARTERLY-REVIEW

Day seven of a Quarterly Review is pretty rarefied air, by which I mean it doesn’t happen that often. And even with 100 records in the span of these two weeks, I’ll never ever ever ever claim to approach being comprehensive, but the point is take it as a sign of just how much is out there right now. If you find it overwhelming, me too.

But think about our wretched species. What’s our redeeming factor? Treatment resistant bacteria? War? Yelling for more war? Economic disparity? Abortion rights? Art. Art’s it. Art and nothing.

So at least there’s a lot of art.

Quarterly Review #61-70:

Trigona, Trigona

Trigona Trigona

With independent label distribution in the UK, US, Australia and Europe, Trigona‘s Trigona is about as spread out geographically as sonically. The Queensland, AUS-based instrumental solo outfit of Rob Shiels — guitar, bass, synth, drum programming, effects, noise, etc. — released the Meridian tape earlier in 2022 on Echodelick and I’m honestly not sure if this six-song self-titled is supposed to count as a debut full-length or what, expanded as it is from Trigona‘s 2021 EP of the same name, albeit remastered with a new track sequence and the eight-minute “Via Egnatia” tagged onto the end of side B to mirror side A’s eight-minute finale, “Rosatom.” Sweet toned progressivism and semi-krautrock bass meditation pervades, debut or not, as Shiels touches on more terrestrial songwriting in “Monk” only after “Shita Ue” has offered its uptempo, almost poppy except not at all pop take on space rock outwardness, a mirror itself somewhat for album opener “Von Graf,” while second cut “Nudler” spreads proggy guitar figures over a sunshiny movement, letting “Rosatom” handle the wash-conjuring. There’s a slowdown at the finish of “Via Egnatia,” its effect lessened perhaps by the programmed drums, but Trigona‘s Trigona is so much more about atmosphere than heft it feels silly to even mention. Debut or not, it is striking.

Trigona on Bandcamp

Weird Beard Records store

Ramble Records website

Echodelick Records website

Worst Bassist Records on Bandcamp

 

Blasting Rod, 月鏡 (Mirror Moon Ascending)

Blasting Rod Mirror Moon Ascending

Hells yeah J-psych. Nagoya-based three-piece Blasting Rod — guitarist/vocalist S. Shah (also electronics), bassist/guitarist Yoshihiro Yasui and drummer Chihiro (everybody also adds percussion) — already have a follow-up LP, Of Wild Hazel, on the way/streaming for the two-songer Mirror Moon Ascending, and that and some of their past work has aligned them with US-based Glory or Death Records, but if you’re looking to be introduced to their world of sometimes serene, sometimes madcap psychedelia, these two mono mixes by Eternal Elysium‘s Yukito Okazaki, with the drift and languid crash, far-back drums of “Mirror Moon Ascending” and the shaker-inclusive insistence of “Wheel Upon the Car of Dragonaut,” which turns its title into a multi-layered mantra, can be a decent place to start as a springboard into the band’s and S. Shah‘s sundry other projects. Their experimentalism doesn’t stop them from writing songs, at least not this time around, and it seems to drive aspects of what they do like mixing in mono in the first place, so there’s meta-screwing with form as well as get-weird-stay-weird heavy space rock push. After this, check out 2021’s III and then the new one. After that, you’re on your own. Good luck and have fun.

Blasting Rod on Facebook

Low&Slow.Disk on Facebook

 

From Those Ashes, Contagion

From Those Ashes Contagion

From Those Ashes, a double-guitar four-piece from Chicago, present four songs in Contagion of thrash-derived but ultimately mostly mid-tempo metal, vocalist/guitarist Aaron Pokoj (also production) leading the charge with Jose “Mop” Valles ripping solos for good measure and bassist Ryan Compton and drummer Omar “Pockets” Mombela holding together tight grooves amid the deathlier moments of the title-track. Pokoj‘s trades between harsh and clean vocals show a firm grasp of melody and arrangement, and though their lyrical perspective is disaffected until basically the last two lines of EP-closer “Light Breaks,” the aggression doesn’t necessarily trump craft, though “The Reset Button” moves through throwing elder-hardcore elbows and the first words shouted on opener “Devoid of Thought” are “fuck it.” Fair enough. The Iron Maiden-style opening of “Light Breaks” is a standout moment, though guitar antics aren’t by any means in short supply, but when From Those Ashes build their way into the song proper, the death-thrash onslaught is fervent right up to the end. And those last lines? “As light breaks through the shadow and gives way to life/Sustained emergence of the soul and the will to survive?” Brutally, righteously growled.

From Those Ashes on Facebook

From Those Ashes on Bandcamp

 

Hasishian, Hashishian

hasishian hasishian

Rarely does music itself sound so stoned. Across six tracks of bassy, at least partially Dune-referential — the hand-drummed “Shai Hulud,” etc. — meditative heavy, the anonymous outfit Hashishian from somewhere, sometime, convey a languid, loosely Middle Eastern-informed, vibe-dense aural weedianism. And much to their credit, “Mountain of Smoke” seems to live up to its name. Less so, perhaps, “Let Us Reason,” which is drawn out in such a way that the moderation implied, maybe with desperation, is inhaled like so much pine-smelling vapor. “Shai Hulud” is the longest cut, mostly instrumental, and might be as far out as Hashishian go, but even the twisting feedback and lead notes at the beginning of closer “Nazareth” feel like a heavy-eyelidded march toward the riff-fill’d land, never mind the bass-led procession of the song itself, manifesting the ethic of opener “Onward” that seems to be the mentality of the 39-minute self-titled as a whole. It is molten in a way not much can claim to be, more patient than the most patient person you know, and seems to find way to make even the tolling bell of the penultimate “High Chief” a drone. Definitely post-Om in sound, Hashishian‘s Hashishian is a sprawl of sand waiting to engulf you. And to whoever is playing this bass, thank you.

Hashishian on Bandcamp

Herby Records on Bandcamp

 

Above & Below, Suffer Decay Alone

Above and Below Suffer Decay Alone

Ohio-based industrialists Above & Below — primarily Plaguewielder‘s Bryce Seditz on vocals, guitar, synth, programming with Chrome WavesJeff Wilson adding bass, noise, production and a release through his Disorder Recordings imprint — make their debut with the seven tracks/27 minutes of Suffer Decay Alone, which digs into modern stylistic features like the weighted tonality of the guitar in “Isolate” and the screams on top, some The Downward Spiraling atmosphere given a boost in rhythm from the dense machine churn of Author & Punisher there and on the prior “Hope,” while “Rust” approaches danceable but for all that screaming. “Dead” sounds like something Gnaw might come up with, but the cold realization of craft in “Tear” feels like a signpost telling the project where it wants to head, and the same applies to the 3Teeth-style horror noise of “Covered.” I don’t know which impulse will win out, songwriting or destructive noise, and I’m not sure it needs to be one or the other, but Suffer Decay Alone sets out with a duly harsh mentality and sounds to match. If this is Rust Belt fuckall circa 2022, I’m on board.

Above & Below on Facebook

Disorder Recordings website

 

Lord Elephant, Cosmic Awakening

Lord Elephant Cosmic Awakening

Shades of Earthless‘ more meandering stretches pervade “Cosmic Awakening Pt. I – Forsaken Slumber,” the opener of Lord Elephant‘s Heavy Psych Sounds debut, Cosmic Awakening, and those are purposefully brushed away as “Cosmic Awakening Pt. II – First Radiation” brings on more straight-ahead instrumental shove. The Florence, Italy, trio issued the eight-track album independently in 2021 and their being on the label they are earns them a certain amount of trust before one even listens, but the vibe throughout the outing’s 43 minutes is a don’t-worry-we-know-what-we’re-doing blend of psychedelia and underlying tonal heft. Bass. Tone. Guitar. Tone. Drums. On point. There’s nothing overly fancy about it and there doesn’t need to be as “Raktabija” is a rush and a blast at once, “Covered in Earth’s Blood” crunches and builds and builds and crunches again and “Stellar Cloud” has enough low end to make you feel funny for staring. I wouldn’t put it past them to make friends with an organist at some point, but they’ve got everything they need for right now even without vocals, and the combination of weight and breadth is effectively conveyed from front to back, with closer “Secreteternal” executing a final slowdown until it just seems to come apart. Right on.

Lord Elephant on Facebook

Heavy Psych Sounds website

 

Dirty Shades, Lift Off

Dirty Shades Lift Off

French double-guitar four-piece Dirty Shades released their debut EP in March 2020, so yeah, there goes that. Lift Off is the four-song follow-up short release, tagged as a ‘live session,’ and given the organic vibe of the performances, I’m inclined to believe it. Vocalist/guitarist Anouk Degrande leads the way as “Dazed” picks up in winding style from the more ethereal opening across the two-minute “Ignition,” her voice reminding in places of No Doubt-era Gwen Stefani, albeit in a much different context. Fellow guitarist Nathan Mimeau provides backing for the chorus, ditto bassist Martin Degrande, and drummer Mathurin Robart is charged with keeping the patterns together behind the various turns in volume and intensity through “Dazed” and the subsequent “Running for Your Life,” which is full, spaced and surprisingly heavy by the time its five minutes are done but is still somehow more about the trip getting there. And a shorter take on now-closer “Trainwreck” appeared on 2020’s Specific Impulse, but its added dreaminess serves it well. Jazzy in spots and showing the band still seeking their stylistic niche, Lift Off may well prove to be the foundation from which the band launches.

Dirty Shades on Facebook

Dirty Shades webstore

 

Venus Principle, Stand in Your Light

Venus Principle Stand in Your Light

Best case scenario when a band revamps its lineup is that listeners get another killer band out of it. With that, bid hello to Venus Principle‘s debut album, Stand in Your Light. With vocalist/guitarist Daniel Änghede (also Astroqueen), pianist/vocalist Daisy Chapman, guitarist/keyboardist Jonas Stålhammar (also At the Gates), keyboardist/backing vocalist Mark Furnevall and drummer Ben Wilsker all having been in Crippled Black Phoenix — only bassist Pontus Blom would seem not to be an alumnus — this more recent project perhaps unsurprisingly digs into a deeply, richly melodic, expanded-definition-of-heavy post-rock. The songs across the 68-minute 2LP, which starts with its longest track (immediate points) in the 10:34 “Rebel Drones,” are afraid neither to be loud nor minimal, and standout moments like “Shut it Down” or the Mellotron into absolute-melody-wash of “Sanctuary” bear out that vibe as a reminder of the gorgeousness that can come from emotions normally thought negative. The promo text for this record says it, “provides balm for the wound that the split of ANATHEMA has caused,” and that’s a lofty claim from where I sit, but you know, it’s a start, and clearly a lineup capable of a certain kind of magic that they represent well here.

Venus Principle website

Prophecy Productions store

 

Troy the Band, The Blissful Unknown

troy the band the blissful unknown

One doesn’t imagine it’s easy to be a new band in London at this point, with the seen-it-all-plus-we’re-all-in-like-10-bands-ourselves crowd and so many acts in and around the sphere of Desertfest, etc. — or maybe I’m way off and the community is amazing; I honestly don’t know — but Troy the Band distinguish themselves through the pendulum swing in their debut EP, The Blissful Unknown, guitars and bass both fuzzed to and beyond the gills and just a bit showy in “Michael” to give the outing a hint of strut despite its generally laid back attitude. Opener “I Wage a War” is the shortest inclusion by far on the 26-minute offering, and it’s a sprint compared to the more plodding, drone-hum-backed “Less Than Nothing,” and after “Michael” chugs and sways to its noisy finish, the title-track blows it all out to end off by underscoring the encouragingly atmospheric impression made by the songs prior, loose-sounding but not at all sloppy and occupying an expanse that comes across like it only wants to grow bigger. Here’s hoping it does exactly that. In the meantime, even in England’s green, pleasant and perpetually-full-of-riffs land, Troy the Band carve a fascinating place for themselves between various microgenres, psychedelic without being carried off by self-indulgence.

Troy the Band on Facebook

Troy the Band on Bandcamp

 

Mount Desert, Fear the Heart

Mount Desert Fear The Heart

Oakland, California’s Mount Desert make an awaited full-length debut with Fear the Heart a full seven years after releasing their self-titled two-songer (review here), both cuts from which feature on the record. Hey, life happens. I get that. And if the tradeoff for not putting out two or three records in the interim is the airy float of guitar throughout and the subtle-then-not-so-subtle build in “Semper Virens,” I’ll take it. Who the hell needs more records when you can have one that speaks to your unconscious like that? In any case, Fear the Heart is striking in more than just its moments of culmination, “Blue Madonna” and “New Fire” at the outset casting a fluidity that “The River I” and “The River II” perhaps unsurprisingly further even as they find their own paths into the second half of the record. “The Wail” closes with nighttime howls only after “Fear the Heart” — one of the two from the first outing — and the aforementioned “Semper Virens” have their say in progressive guitar and weighted psychedelicraft, earthbound thanks to vocal soul and ‘them drums tho,’ and especially as a debut, and one apparently a while in the making, Mount Desert‘s first LP justifies all that hype from more than half a decade and 15 lifetimes ago. They’re a band with something to say aesthetically and in songwriting. I hope they continue to move forward.

Mount Desert on Facebook

Mount Desert on Bandcamp

 

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Quarterly Review: Pike vs. The Automaton, End Boss, Artifacts & Uranium, Night City, Friends of Hell, Delco Detention, Room 101, Hydra, E-L-R, Buffalo Tombs

Posted in Reviews on April 8th, 2022 by JJ Koczan

THE-OBELISK-FALL-2020-QUARTERLY-REVIEW

You have your coffee yet? I’ve got mine. Today’s Friday, which means day five of this six-day Spring 2022 Quarterly Review, and it’s been a hell of a week. Yesterday was particularly insane, and today offers not much letup in that regard. If you’d have it another way, I’m sorry, but there’s too much cool shit out there to write about stuff that all sounds the same, so I don’t. I’ve had a good time over this stretch and I hope you have too if you’ve been keeping up. We’ll have one more on Monday and that’s it until late June or early July, so please enjoy.

And thanks as always for reading.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Pike vs. the Automaton, Pike vs. The Automaton

matt pike vs the automaton

Matt Pike acoustic? It happened, and YOU were there! Truth is, the strumming foundation on which “Land” is built is just one example of Pike vs. The Automaton‘s singular get-weirdness, and followers of his career arc through Sleep and High on Fire from playing basements to winning a Grammy will recognize pieces of cuts like “Abusive” and “Trapped in a Midcave,” the all-out rager “Alien Slut Mom” (which of course was the lead single), the bombastic expanse of “Apollyon,” the even-more-all-out-rager “Acid Test Zone” and the dug-in get-weirdness of “Latin American Geological Formation” as one of heavy music’s most influential auteurs welcomes (?) listeners into a world of swirling chaos, monsters, conspiracies and, of course, riffs. The album saves its greatest accomplishment for last in the 11-minute “Leaving the Wars of Woe,” but if you’re old enough to remember when Rob Zombie did those off-the-wall cartoons for White Zombie videos and the Beavis and Butt-Head movie, listening to Pike vs. the Automaton is kind of like living in that for a while. So yeah, awesome.

Pike vs. The Automaton website

MNRK Heavy website

 

End Boss, They Seek My Head

End Boss They Seek My Head

Maybe the heaviest sans-bass low end since Floor? That’s not a minor claim, but at very least Wellington, New Zealand’s End Boss put themselves in the running with They Seek My Head, their debut album. The guitars of Greg Broadmore and Christian Pearce are the crushing foundation on which the band is built, and with Beastwars‘ own Nathan Hickey on drums, there’s a reliable base of groove to coincide as all that weight becomes the backdrop for E.J. Thorpe‘s vocals to soar over top on cuts like “Heart of the Sickle” and “Punished.” It’s a wide breadth throughout the eight songs and 33 minutes, allowing “Becomes the Gold” to show some emotive urgency while “Nail and Tooth” seems only to be sharpening knives at the outset of side B, while “The Crawl” just about has to be named after its riff and fair enough. “Lorded Over” hints at an atmospheric focus that may or may not further manifest in the future, but the closing title-track is what it’s all about, and it’s big nod, big melody, big hooks. You can’t lose. Onto the ‘best debuts of 2022’ it goes.

End Boss on Facebook

Rough Peel Records website

 

Artifacts & Uranium, Pancosmology

Artifacts and Uranium Pancosmology

Fred Laird (Earthling Society, Taras Bulba) and Mike Vest (Bong, Blown Out, etc.) released their self-titled debut as Artifacts & Uranium in 2021 as a collection of three massive dronescapes. Their follow-up, Pancosmology, telegraphs being more compositionally-focused even before you put it on, running eight songs instead of three, and indeed, that’s how it turns out. There are still massive waves of exploratory drones, guitar, electric piano, drums programmed and real — Nick Raybould plays on half the tracks, so a potential third in the duo — synth, bass, whatever a Gakken Generator is, it all comes together with an understated splendor and a sense of reaching into the unknown. Witness the guitar and synth lines of “Silent Plains,” and are those vocals buried so deep in that mix? I can’t even tell. It doesn’t matter. The point is that for 37 minutes, Laird and Vest (and Raybould) take you on a psych-as-spirituality trip into, around and through the universe, and by the time they get to “The Inmost Light” noisewashing at the finish, the feeling is like being baptised in a cold river of acid. If this is the birth of the gods, I’m in.

Taras Bulba on Facebook

Echodelick Records website

Weird Beard Records webstore

 

Night City, Kuang Xi

Night City Kuang XI

After the slower rolling opener “Broken Dick,” Night City‘s debut cassette EP, Kuang Xi, works at a pretty intense clip, taking the Godflesh vibe of that lead track, keeping the abiding tonal thickness, and imbuing it with an also-’90s-era Ministry-ish sense of chaos and push. The four-song outing works from its longest track to shortest and effectively melds heavy industrial with brutal chug and extreme metal, and one should expect no less from Collyn McCoy, whose plumbing of the dark recesses of the mind in Circle of Sighs is a bit more purely experimentalist. That said, if “Encryptor/Decryptor” showed up as a Circle of Sighs track, I wouldn’t have argued, but the use of samples here throughout and the explicitly sociopolitical lyrics make for coherent themes separate from McCoy‘s other project. “Steppin’ Razor” uses its guitar solo like a skronky bagpipe while calling out Proud Boy bullshit, and in fewer than three minutes, “Molly Million$” finds another gear of thrust before devolving into so much caustic noise. The version I got also featured the dancier “Tomorrow’s World,” but I’m not sure if that’s on the tape. Either way, a brutalist beginning.

Night City on Facebook

Dune Altar website

 

Friends of Hell, Friends of Hell

friends of hell friends of hell

Rise Above Records signing a band that might even loosely be called doom is immediately noteworthy because it means the band in question has impressed label owner Lee Dorrian, formerly of Cathedral, who — let’s be honest — has some of the best taste in music the world over. Thus Friends of Hell unleash 40 minutes of dirt-coated earliest-NWOBHM-meets-CelticFrost chugging groove, with former Electric Wizard bassist Tasos Danazoglou (currently Mirror) on drums and Sami “Albert Witchfinder” Hynninen (Spiritus MortisReverend BizarreOpium Warlords) on vocals, biting through catchy classic-sounding cuts like “Into My Coffin” and side B’s “Gateless Gate” and “Orion’s Beast.” Unremittingly dark, the nine-song collection ends with “Wallachia,” a somewhat grander take that still keeps its rawness of tone and general purpose with a more spacious vibe. It is not a coincidence Friends of Hell take their name from a Witchfinder General record; their sound seems like prime fodder for patch-on-denim worship.

Friends of Hell on Instagram

Rise Above Records website

 

Delco Detention, What Lies Beneath

Delco Detention What Lies Beneath

The second full-length keeping on a literally-underground theme from 2021’s From the Basement (review here), the 10-song/35-minute What Lies Beneath finds founding Delco Detention guitarist Tyler Pomerantz once again getting by with a little help from his friends, up to and including members of Hippie Death CultEddie Brnabic shreds over instrumental closer “FUMOFO” — The Age of Truth, Kingsnake and others. Angelique Zuppo makes a highlight of early cut “Rock Paper Scissors,” and Dave Wessell of Ickarus Gin brings a performance that well suits the strut-fuzz of “War is Mine,” while instrumentals “What Lies Beneath” and “Velcro Shoes” find Tyler (on bass and guitar) and drummer Adam Pomerantz digging into grooves just fine on their own. The shifts between singers give a compilation-style feel continued on from the first record, but a unifying current of songwriting brings it all together fluidly, and as “A Slow Burn” and “Study Hall Blues” readily demonstrate, Delco Detention know how to take a riff out for a walk. Right on (again).

Delco Detention on YouTube

Delco Detention on Bandcamp

 

Room 101, Sightless

Room 101 Sightless

Put Lansing, Michigan’s Room 101 up there with Primitive Man, Indian and any other extreme-sludge touchstone you want and their debut long-player, Sightless, will hold its own in terms of sheer, concrete-tone crushing force. In answering the potential of 2019’s The Burden EP (review here), the album offsets its sheer bludgeoning with stretches of quiet-tense atmospherics, “Boarded Window” offering a momentary respite before the onslaught begins anew. This balance is further fleshed out on longer tracks like “Dead End,” with a more extended break and the title-cut with its ending guitar lead, but neither the sub-five-minute “Windowlicker” nor “Boarded Window” earlier want for mood, and even the finale “The Innocent, the Ignorant and the Insecure” brings a feeling of cohesion to its violence. This shit is lethal, to be sure, but it’s also immersive. Watch out you don’t drown in it.

Room 101 on Facebook

Room 101 on Bandcamp

 

Hydra, Beyond Life and Death

Hydra Beyond Life and Death

Heralded by the prior single “With the Devil Hand in Hand” (posted here), which is positioned as the closer of the 41-minute five-tracker, Hydra‘s second full-length, Beyond Life and Death, finds the Polish four-piece pushing deeper into doomed traditionalism. Where their 2020 debut, From Light to the Abyss (review here), had a garage-ist edge, and if you work hard, you can still hear some of that just before the organ kicks in near the end of “On the Edge of Time” (if that’s a “Children of the Sea” reference we can be friends), but after the more gallop-prone opener “Prophetic Dreams” and the penultimate “Path of the Dark”‘s whoa-oh backing vocals, the crux of what they’re doing is more NWOBHM-influenced, and blending with the cult horror lyrical themes of centerpiece “The Unholy Ceremony” or the aforementioned closer, it gives Hydra a more confident sound and a more poised approach to doom than they had just two years ago. The adjusted balance of elements in their sound suits them, and they seem quickly to be carving out a place for themselves in Poland’s crowded scene.

Hydra on Facebook

Piranha Music on Bandcamp

 

E-L-R, Vexier

e-l-r vexier

The two 12-minute tracks “Opiate the Sun” and “Foret” bookend Swiss trio E-L-R‘s second LP for Prophecy Productions, Vexier, and the intention would seem to be plain in hooking and immersing the listener in the experience and flow of the album. Like their wildly impressive 2019 debut, Mænad (review here), this collection has plenty of post-metallic elements, and there’s specifically a post-black metal bent to “Three Winds” in its earliest going — by the midsection it’s come apart into broad, open spaces, but the rush comes back — and the centerpiece and shortest track, “Seeds,” which seems to shine even brighter in its melody than the opener, as the vocals are once more presented on a level plane with the rest of the atmospheric elements, far back in the mix but not at all lacking resonance for being vague. “Seeds” is a fitting summary, but “Fleurs of Decay” leans into the expectation of something harsher and “Foret” boasts a more complex linear build, stretches of drone and a broader vocal arrangement before bringing the record to its gentle finish. I liked the first record a lot. I like this one more. E-L-R are doing something with sound that no one else quite has the same kind of handle on, however familiar the elements making it up might be. They are a better band than people yet know.

E-L-R on Facebook

Prophecy Productions store

 

Buffalo Tombs, III

Buffalo Tombs III

Titled Three or III, depending where you look, the third long-player from Denver instrumental heavy rockers Buffalo Tombs follows relatively hot on the heels of the second, Two (review here), which came out last October. Spearheaded by guitarist/bassist Eric Stuart, who also recorded the instrumentation sans Patrick Haga‘s own self-recorded drums (lockdown? depends on when it was) and mixed and mastered — Joshua Lafferty also adds bass to “Ancestors” and “Monument,” which are just two of the six contemplations here as Buffalo Tombs explores an inward-looking vision of heavy sounds and styles, not afraid to shove or chug a bit on “Swarm” or “Gnostics/Haint,” but more consistently mellow in mood and dug into its own procession. “Familiars” hints at aspects of heavy Americana, but the root expression on III comes across as more personal and that feeling of intimacy suits well the mood of the songs.

Buffalo Tombs on Facebook

Buffalo Tombs on Bandcamp

 

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Quarterly Review: Dopelord, Scorched Oak, Kings of the Fucking Sea, Mantarraya, Häxmästaren, Shiva the Destructor, Amammoth, Nineteen Thirteen, Ikitan, Smote

Posted in Reviews on March 31st, 2021 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-spring-2019

Third day, and you know what that means. Today we hit and pass the halfway mark of this Quarterly Review. I won’t say it hasn’t been work, but it seems like every time I do one of these lately I continue to be astounded by how much easier writing about good stuff makes it. I must’ve done a real clunker like two years ago or something. Can’t think of one, but wow, it’s way more fun when the tunes are killer.

To that end we start with Dopelord today, haha. Have fun digging through if you do.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Dopelord, Reality Dagger

Dopelord Reality Dagger

They put it in a 12″, and that’s cool, but in addition to the fact that it’s about 22 minutes long, something about Reality Dagger, the latest EP from Poland’s Dopelord, strikes me as being really 10″ worthy. I know 10″ is the bastard son of vinyl pressings — doesn’t fit with your LPs and doesn’t fit with your 7″s. They’re a nuisance. Do they get their own shelf? Mixed in throughout? Well, however you organize them, I think a limited 10″ of Reality Dagger would be perfect, because from the melodies strewn throughout “Dark Coils” and the wildly catchy “Your Blood” — maybe the most complex vocal arrangement I’ve yet heard from the band — to the ultra-sludge interplay with screams on the 10-minute closing title-track, it sounds to me like standing out from the crowd is exactly what Dopelord want to do. They want to be that band that doesn’t fit your preconceptions of stoner-doom, or sludge, or modern heavy largesse in the post-Monolord vein. Why not match that admirable drive in format? Oh hell, you know what? I’ll just by the CD and have done with it. One of the best EPs I’ve heard this year.

Dopelord on Facebook

Dopelord on Bandcamp

 

Scorched Oak, Withering Earth

Scorched Oak Withering Earth

Don’t be surprised when you see Kozmik Artifactz, Nasoni Records, or some other respected probably-European purveyor of heavy coming through with an announcement they’ve picked up Scorched Oak. The Dortmund, Germany, trio seem to have taken the last few years to figure out where they were headed — they pared down from a five-piece, for example — and their rolling tides of fuzz on late-2020’s debut LP Withering Earth bears the fruit of those efforts. Aesthetically and structurally sound, it’s able to touch on heavy blues, metal and drifting psychedelia all within the span of a seven-minute track like “Swamp,” and in its five-songs running shortest to longest, it effectively draws the listener deeper into the world the band are creating through dual vocals, patient craft and spacious production. If I was a label, I’d sign them for the bass tone on 14-minute closer “Desert” alone, never mind any of the other natural phenomena they portray throughout the record, which is perhaps grim in theme but nonetheless brimming with potential. Some cool riffs on this dying planet.

Scorched Oak on Facebook

Scorched Oak on Bandcamp

 

Kings of the Fucking Sea, In Concert

Kings of the Fucking Sea In Concert

A scorching set culled from two nights of performances in their native Nashville, what’s essentially serving as Kings of the Fucking Sea‘s debut long-player, In Concert, is a paean to raw psychedelic power trio worship. High order ripper groove pervades “Witch Mountain” and the wasn’t-yet-named “Hiding No More” — which was introduced tentatively as “Death Dealer,” which the following track is actually titled. Disorienting? Shit yeah it is. And shove all the poignancy of making a live album in Feb. 2020 ahead of the pandemic blah blah. That’s not what’s happening here. This is all about blow-the-door-so-we-can-escape psychedelic pull and thrust. One gets the sense that Kings of the Fucking Sea are more in control than they let on, but they play it fast and loose and slow and loose throughout In Concert and by the time the mellower jam in “I Walk Alone” opens up to the garage-style wash of crash cymbal ahead of closer “The Nile Song,” the swirling fuckall that ensues is rampant with noise-coated fire. A show that might make you look up from your phone. So cool it might be jazz. I gotta think about it.

Kings of the Fucking Sea on Facebook

Agitated Records on Bandcamp

 

Mantarraya, Mantarraya

mantarraya mantarraya

They bill themselves as ‘Mantarraya – power trío,’ and guitarist/vocalist Herman Robles Montero, drummer/maybe-harmonica-ist Kelvin Sifuentes Pérez and bassist/vocalist Enzo Silva Agurto certainly live up to that standard on their late-2020 self-titled debut full-length. The vibe is classic heavy ’70s through and through, and the Peruvian three-piece roll and boogie through the 11 assembled tracks with fervent bluesy swing on “En el Fondo” and no shortage of shuffle throughout the nine-minute “120 Años (Color),” which comes paired with the trippier “Almendrados” in what seems like a purposeful nod to the more out-there among the out there, bringing things back around to finish swinging and bouncing on the eponymous closer. I’ll take the classic boogie as it comes, and Mantarraya do it well, basking in a natural but not too purposefully so sense of underproduction while getting their point across in encouraging-first-record fashion. At over an hour long, it’s too much for a single LP, but plenty of time for them to get their bearings as they begin their creative journey.

Mantarraya on Facebook

Mantarraya on Bandcamp

 

Häxmästaren, Sol i Exil

Häxmästaren sol i exil

At the risk of repeating myself, someone’s gonna sign Häxmästaren. You can just tell. The Swedish five-piece’s second album, Sol i Exil (“sun in exile,” in English), is a mélange of heavy rock and classic doom influences, blurring the lines between microgenres en route to an individual approach that’s still accessible enough in a riffer like “Millennium Phenomenon” or “Dödskult Ritual” to be immediately familiar and telegraph to the converted where the band are coming from. Vocalist Niklas Ekwall — any relation to Magnus from The Quill? — mixes in some screams and growls to his melodic style, further broadening the palette and adding an edge of extremity to “Children of the Mountain,” while “Growing Horns” and the capper title-track vibe out with with a more classic feel, whatever gutturalisms happen along the way, the latter feeling like a bonus for being in Swedish. In the ever-fertile creative ground that is Gothenburg, it should be no surprise to find a band like this flourishing, but fortunately Sol i Exil doesn’t have to be a surprise to kick ass.

Häxmästaren on Facebook

Häxmästaren on Bandcamp

 

Shiva the Destructor, Find the Others

SHIVA THE DESTRUCTOR FIND THE OTHERS

Launching with the nine-minute instrumental “Benares” is a telling way for Kyiv’s Shiva the Destructor to begin their debut LP, since it immediately sets listener immersion as their priority. The five-track/44-minute album isn’t short on it, either, and with the band’s progressive, meditative psychedelic style, each song unfolds in its own way and in its own time, drawn together through warmth of tone and periods of heft and spaciousness on “Hydronaut” and a bit of playful bounce on “Summer of Love” (someone in this band likes reggae) and a Middle Eastern turn on “Ishtar” before “Nirvana Beach” seems to use the lyrics to describe what’s happening in the music itself before cutting off suddenly at the end. Vocals stand alone or in harmony and the double-guitar four-piece bask in a sunshine-coated sound that’s inviting and hypnotic in kind, offering turns enough to keep their audience following along and undulations that are duly a clarion to the ‘others’ referenced in the title. It’s like a call to prayer for weirdo psych heads. I’ll take that and hope for more to come.

Shiva the Destructor on Facebook

Robustfellow Productions on Bandcamp

 

Amammoth, The Fire Above

amammoth the fire above

The first and only lyric in “Heal” — the opening track of Sydney, Australia, trio Amammoth‘s debut album, The Fire Above — is the word “marijuana.” It doesn’t get any less stoned from there. Riffs come in massive waves, and even as “The Sun” digs into a bit of sludge, the largesse and crash remains thoroughly weedian, with the lumbering “Shadows” closing out the first half of the LP with particularly Sleep-y nod. Rawer shouted vocals also recall earlier Sleep, but something in Amammoth‘s sound hints toward a more metallic background than just pure Sabbath worship, and “Rise” brings that forward even as it pushes into slow-wah psychedelics, letting “Blade Runner” mirror “The Sun” in its sludgy push before closer “Walk Towards What Blinds You (Blood Bong)” introduces some backing vocals that fit surprisingly well even they kind of feel like a goof on the part of the band. Amammoth, as a word, would seem to be something not-mammoth. In sound, Amammoth are the opposite.

Amammoth on Facebook

Electric Valley Records website

 

Nineteen Thirteen, MCMXIII

nineteen thirteen mcmxiii

With emotional stakes sufficiently high throughout, MCMXIII is urgent enough to be post-hardcore, but there’s an underpinning of progressive heavy rock even in the mellower stretch of the eight-minute “Dogfight” that complements the noisier and more angular aspects on display elsewhere. Opener “Post Blue Collar Blues” sets the plotline for the newcomer Dayton, Ohio, four-piece, with thoughtful lyrics and a cerebral-but-not-dead-of-spirit instrumental style made full and spacious through the production. Melodies flesh out in “Cripple John” and “Old Face on the Wall,” brooding and surging in children-of-the-’90s fashion, but I hear a bit of Wovenhand in that finale as well — though maybe the one doesn’t exclude the other — so clearly Nineteen Thirteen are just beginning this obviously-passion-fueled exploration of sound aesthetic with these songs, but the debut EP they comprise cuts a wide swath with marked confidence and deceptive memorability. A new turn on Rust Belt heavy.

Nineteen Thirteen on Facebook

Nineteen Thirteen on Bandcamp

 

Ikitan, Twenty-Twenty

ikitan twenty-twenty

Hey, you process trauma from living through the last year your way and Genova, Italy’s Ikitan will process it theirs. In their case, that means the writing, recording and self-release of their 20-minute single-song EP, Twenty-Twenty, a sprawling work of instrumentalist heavy post-rock rife with spacious, airy lead guitar and a solid rhythmic foundation. Movements occur in waves and layers, but there is a definite thread being woven throughout the outing from one part to the next, held together alternately by the bass or drums or even guitar, though it’s the latter that seems to be leading those changes as well. The shifts are fluid in any case, and Ikitan grow Twenty-Twenty‘s lone, titular piece to a satisfyingly heft as they move through, harnessing atmosphere as well as weight even before they lower volume for stretches in the second half. There’s a quick surge at the end, but “Twenty-Twenty” is more about journey than destination, and Ikitan make the voyage enticing.

Ikitan on Facebook

Ikitan on Bandcamp

 

Smote, Bodkin

smote bodkin

Loops, far-out spaces and a generally experimentalist feel ooze outward like Icelandic lava from Bodkin, the five-song debut LP from UK-based solo-outfit Smote. The gentleman behind the flow is Newcastle upon Tyne’s Daniel Foggin, and this is one of three releases he has out so far in 2021, along with a prior drone collaboration tape with Forest Mourning and a subsequent EP made of two tracks at around 15 minutes each. Clearly a project that can be done indoors during pandemic lockdown, Smote‘s material is wide-ranging just the same, bringing Eastern multi-instrumentalism and traditionalist UK psych together on “Fohrt” and “Moninna,” which would border on folk but for all that buzz in the background. The 11-minute “Motte” is a highlight of acid ritualizing, but the droning title-track that rounds out makes each crash count all the more for the spaces that separate them. I dig this a lot, between you and me. I get vibes like Lamp of the Universe here in terms of sonic ambition and resultant presence. That’s not a comparison I make lightly, and this is a project I will be following.

Smote on Bandcamp

Weird Beard Records store

 

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Moths & Locusts Premiere Title-Track of New LP Exoplanets

Posted in audiObelisk on October 23rd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

moths & locusts

Exoplanets is the fourth long-player from British Columbia space rockers Moths & Locusts, due out Oct. 30 through NoiseAgonyMayhem and Weird Beard Records. “Exoplanets” is also the 15:39 title-track of said album, and from its quietly progressive flute-included opening through the gradual unfolding of harmonized vocals and opera of cosmic noise that builds to fruition across its first six-plus minutes, only to recede into airy drift and fuzz as it meanders through its midsection, through an ensuing stretch of barely-there minimalism, darker-atmosphere krautrock vocal manipulations and the fed-through-a-grinder tonality that typifies its final movement, it is only fair to call it alien.

The six-piece outfit recorded “Exoplanets” itself with James Paul in Toronto at what was apparently once a slaughterhouse — fair enough — and it’s one of at least four separate sessions in which the recording took place, the other out in rural Saskatchewan at Sinewave Studios with Chad Mason at the helm, the third at Lap of Luxury in Sooke, Vancouver Island, with Scott Henderson, and the last in the band’s studio, Republic of Doom, in Nainamo.

So, the numbers: Seven tracks, 44 minutes, six players, four studios, infinite freakout.

Comprised of vocalists Valentina Cardinalli and Samantha Letourneau (also flute), guitarists Angus Barter (also vocals) and Mike Breen (also electric sitar on “Exoplanets”), and the doubly-Dave’d rhythm section of bassist/synthesist Dave Read and drummer/vocalist Dave BeanMoths & Locusts are simply too cognizant to not be progressive and at the same time too weird not to be experimental. Oh yes, most certainly Exoplanets opens with the five-minute fuzz-from-space rocker “Cocaine Kangaroo” tapping modern and classic heavy interstellarism with a hook to boot as it pushes outward in motorik fashion toward and through a jam and finish of residual synth en route to the percussive thud of “Ghenghis Khan,” which indulges some orientalism in its guitar, flute and chant-like vocal, but is also explosive and bombastic at its loudest, despite the flute tying its loud and quiet parts together. Low end drone adds an undercurrent layer behind the more out-there stretch, and by the time the song comes back around to its verse, Moths & Locusts have established their own sense of normality so that the return feels grounding when in fact it’s still ethereal in the extreme.

Setting their own context is a lot of what Moths & Locusts do on Exoplanets. Certainly in the title-track, but consider moths and locusts exoplanetstoo the short acoustic guitar/synth/effects/chant piece “Nero’s Surgery,” which at 2:28 is the briefest cut but still more substantial arrangement-wise than an interlude. That acoustic strum takes hold after “Ghenghis Khan” and by the time it starts, the listener simply goes with it.

Track turns into layers of synth battling for dominance over stretched-out guitar and chants? In under two and a half minutes? Well of course it does. But the reason Moths & Locusts are able to bring so many disparate ideas together and make it flow over the course of the whole LP isn’t just because they’re willing to do so — though rest assured, that’s part of it — but because they establish almost immediately that Exoplanets is going to shift according to these whims.

“A Ram Named Drama” somewhat revives the motorik-ness of “Cocaine Kangaroo,” bringing a prominent and welcome bassline-as-baseline sensibility to the explorational guitar and effects work surrounding. Instrumental save for a spoken sample, it feels improvised and is no less whole for that, capping with birdsong before the more charged “Avulsion 2020” arrives to close side A.

An apparent redux of “Chase River Avulsion” from Moths & Locusts‘ 2011 debut 7″ The Astronomical Significance Of…, “Avulsion 2020” joins “Nero’s Surgery” (which showed up on a 2013 single as the B-side to “Nero’s Tale”) and “Cocaine Kangaroo” (which recorded in 2016 and released in 2018 to accompany “Peyote Coyote”) among Exoplanets‘ at-least-in-part-previously-issued material, but if the group are looking back on their decade together and perhaps making some effort to summarize that time, that would account for the scope one encounters moving between the tracks, such as the robot-voice oddity that comes with “Avulsion 2020” and of course “Exoplanets” itself, which consumes the bulk of side B.

Its doing so leaves “Fresh Red Blood” to close out the record, which it does with an atmospheric comedown vibe, not so much giving up the journey or even landing at its destination as offering a moment of epilogue to the stage of passage that Exoplanets might represent on the longer voyage. Or maybe that’s too meta.

Whatever. The finale answers the patience with which the title-track unfurls with a gradual wash of melodic guitar and synth, seeming to harness stability out of liquefaction, and ending the pattern of who-knows-what like a breathing exercise that’s readying listeners to return to their real lives after being so immersed in Moths & Locusts‘ preternatural quirk. Those six minutes are no less crucial than anything before them, of course, and they complete Exoplanets in a way that gives the audience space to process that preceding undertaking, though to be fair to both the band and their listenership, that might take a bit longer given how deep into far-out the band range in these songs.

I have the pleasure today of hosting the premiere of “Exoplanets” from Exoplanets. You’ll find it below, followed by more info on the various recording sessions from the PR wire.

Enjoy:

2020 marks ten years of existential exploration for Nanaimo BC space rock sextet MOTHS & LOCUSTS, a decade that saw the band release a trio of acclaimed LPs (2013’s Mission Collapse, 2016’s Helios Rising and 2017’s Intro/Outro) alongside numerous assorted EPs and 7” singles. In addition to the aforementioned albums under their own name, they also released a double live album with legendary Can frontman Damo Suzuki in 2014, plus 2019’s Think Pink IV: Return to Deep Space collaboration album with Pink Fairies/Pretty Things man Twink.

Showing only signs of acceleration with time, their 4th LP EXOPLANETS distills several studio recording sessions from across Canada into seven elemental songs that reflect a band at the height of their power.

The album’s centerpiece is the six part, near-16-minute long title track. Exoplanets is a visceral tour through a sonic spectrum of intense emotions and otherworldly landscapes, from the haunting primary melody, through layered vocal harmonies to the cathartic, crushing climax. Recorded with engineer James Paul in a former abattoir in downtown Toronto, each band member features prominently on the track, displaying the musical versatility the band is becoming known for: guitarist Angus Barter & drummer Dave Bean’s harmony vocals on the verses bring to mind pre-Dark Side era Pink Floyd; Samantha Letourneau’s layers of flute in the opening has an element of prog rock; lead guitarist Mike Breen’s serpent-like shredding (and electric sitar) is strategically placed to drill straight through listeners’ skulls. The track ends with vocalist Valentina Cardinalli’s soulful wailing and bassist Dave Read’s massive effects-laden doom choir pushing the speakers to the max.

From a session with engineer Chad Mason at Sinewave Studios, located literally in the middle of Saskatchewan canola fields and reachable only via longitude & latitude coordinates, come crushing versions of live favourites Cocaine Kangaroo and Genghis Khan, the latter remixed by Ian Blurton (Change Of Heart/C’mon/Public Animal). The Saskatchewan session also yielded the album’s closing track Fresh Red Blood, evoking some of Mogwai’s recent soundtrack work.

From closer to the band’s home base of Vancouver Island BC comes triple bass psych freakout A Ram Named Drama, recorded by Scott Henderson at his Lap Of Luxury studio in Sooke; and from the band’s own Republic Of Doom studio in Nanaimo come the tracks Nero’s Surgery and Avulsion 2020. All seven tracks together form a cohesive album, one that perfectly ends one decade and begins another for a band that’s built to last.

EXOPLANETS is a co-release by NoiseAgonyMayhem Records (North America) and Weird Beard Records (EU).

Tracklist:
Cocaine Kangaroo 5:00
Genghis Khan 5:59
Nero’s Surgery 2:28
A Ram Named Drama 5:29
Avulsion 2020 3:54
Exoplanets 15:39
Fresh Red Blood 6:02

Moths & Locusts are:
Angus Barter – guitar, vocals
Dave Bean – drums, vocals
Mike Breen – guitar, electric sitar on “Exoplanets”
Valentina Cardinalli – vocals
Samantha Letourneau – flute, vocals
Dave Read – bass guitar, synths

Moths & Locusts on Thee Facebooks

Moths & Locusts on Bandcamp

Moths & Locusts website

NoiseAgonyMayhem Records website

NoiseAgonyMayhem Records on Bandcamp

NoiseAgonyMayhem Records on Thee Facebooks

Weird Beard Records on Thee Facebooks

Weird Beard Records on Instagram

Weird Beard Records webstore

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