Quarterly Review: Saturnalia Temple, Dool, Abrams, Pia Isa, Wretched Kingdom, Lake Lake, Gnarwhal, Bongfoot, Thomas Greenwood & The Talismans, Djiin

Posted in Reviews on May 15th, 2024 by JJ Koczan


Today is Wednesday, the day we hit and pass the halfway mark for this week, which is a quarter of the way through the entirety of this 100-release Quarterly Review. Do you need to know that? Not really, but it’s useful for me to keep track of how much I’m doing sometimes, which is why I count in the first place. 100 records isn’t nothing, you know. Or 10 for that matter. Or one. I don’t know.

A little more variety here, which is always good, but I’ve got momentum behind me after yesterday and I don’t want to delay diving in, so off we go.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Saturnalia Temple, Paradigm Call

saturnalia temple paradigm call

For the band’s fourth album, Paradigm Call, founding Saturnalia Temple guitarist/vocalist Tommie Eriksson leads the newcomer rhythm section of drummer Pelle Åhman and bassist Gottfrid Åhman through eight abyss-plundering tracks across 48 minutes of roiling tonal mud distinguished by its aural stickiness and Eriksson‘s readily identifiable vocal gurgle. The methodology hasn’t changed much since 2020’s Gravity (review here) in terms of downward pull, but the title-track’s solo is sharp enough to cut through the mire, and while it’s no less harsh for doing so, “Among the Ruins” explores a faster tempo while staying in line with the all-brown psychedelic swirl around it, brought to fruition in the backwards-sounding loops of closer “Kaivalya” after the declarative thud of side B standout “Empty Chalice.” They just keep finding new depths. It’s impressive. Also a little horrifying.

Saturnalia Temple on Facebook

Listenable Records website

Dool, The Shape of Fluidity

dool the shape of fluidity

It’s easy to respect a band so unwilling to be boxed by genre, and Rotterdam’s Dool put the righteous aural outsiderness that’s typified their sound since 2017’s Here Now There Then (review here) to meta-level use on their third long-player for Prophecy Productions, The Shape of Fluidity. Darkly progressive, rich in atmosphere, broad in range and mix, heavy-but-not-beholden-to-tone in presentation, encompassing but sneaky-catchy in pieces like opener “Venus in Flames,” the flowing title-track, and the in-fact-quite-heavy “Hermagorgon,” the record harnesses declarations and triumphs around guitarist/vocalist Raven van Dorst‘s stated lyrical thematic around gender-nonbinaryism, turning struggle and confusion into clarity of expressive purpose in the breakout “Self-Dissect” and resolving with furious culmination in “The Hand of Creation” with due boldness. Given some of the hateful, violent rhetoric around gender-everything in the modern age, the bravery of DoolVan Dorst alongside guitarists Nick Polak and Omar Iskandr, bassist JB van der Wal and drummer Vincent Kreyder — in confronting that head-on with these narratives is admirable, but it’s still the songs themselves that make The Shape of Fluidity one of 2024’s best albums.

Dool on Facebook

Prophecy Productions website

Abrams, Blue City

abrams blue city

After releasing 2022’s In the Dark (review here) on Small Stone, Denver heavy rockers Abrams align to Blues Funeral Recordings for their fifth album in a productive, also-touring nine years, the 10-track/42-minute Blue City. Production by Kurt Ballou (High on Fire, Converge, etc.) at GodCity Studio assures no lack of impact as “Fire Waltz” reaffirms the tonal density of the riffs that the Zach Amster-led four-piece nonetheless made dance in opener “Tomorrow,” while the rolling “Death Om” and the momentary skyward ascent in “Etherol” — a shimmering preface to the chug-underscored mellowness of “Narc” later — lay out some of the dynamic that’s emerged in their sound along with the rampant post-hardcore melodies that come through in Amster and Graham Zander‘s guitars, capable either of meting out hard-landing riffs to coincide with the bass of Taylor Iversen (also vocals) and Ryan DeWitt‘s drumming, or unfurling sections of float like those noted above en route to tying it all together with the closing “Blue City.” Relatively short runtimes and straightforward-feeling structures mask the stylistic nuance of the actual material — nothing new there for Abrams; they’re largely undervalued — and the band continue to reside in between-microgenre spaces as they await the coming of history which will inevitably prove they were right all along.

Abrams on Facebook

Blues Funeral Recordings website

Pia Isa, Burning Time

pia isa burning time

Superlynx bassist/vocalist Pia Isaksen made her solo debut under the Pia Isa moniker with 2022’s Distorted Chants (review here), and in addition to announcing the SoftSun collaboration she’ll undertake alongside Yawning Man‘s Gary Arce (who also appeared on her record), in 2024, she offers the three-song Burning Time EP, with a cover of Radiohead‘s “Burn the Witch” backed by two originals, “Treasure” and “Nothing Can Turn it Back.” With drumming by her Superlynx bandmate Ole Teigen (who also recorded), “Burn the Witch” becomes a lumbering forward march, ethereal in melody but not necessarily cultish, while “Treasure” digs into repetitive plod led by the low end and “Nothing Can Turn it Black” brings the guitar forward but is most striking in the break that brings the dual-layered vocals forward near the midpoint. The songs are leftovers from the LP, but if you liked the LP, that shouldn’t be a problem.

Pia Isa on Facebook

Argonauta Records website

Wretched Kingdom, Wretched Kingdom

Wretched Kingdom Wretched Kingdom

A late-2023 initial public offering from Houston’s Wretched Kingdom, their self-titled EP presents a somewhat less outwardly joyous take on the notion of “Texas desert rock” than that offered by, as an example, Austin’s High Desert Queen, but the metallic riffing that underscores “Dreamcrusher” goes farther back in its foundations than whatever similarity to Kyuss one might find in the vocals or speedier riffy shove of “Smoke and Mirrors.” Sharp-cornered in tone, opener “Torn and Frayed” gets underway with metered purpose as well, and while the more open-feeling “Too Close to the Sun” begins similar to “You Can’t Save Me” — the strut that ensues in the latter distinguishes — the push in its second half comes after riding a steady groove into a duly bluesy solo. There’s nothing in the material to take you out of the flow between the six component cuts, and even closer “Deviation” tells you it’s about to do something different as it works from its mellower outset into a rigorous payoff. With the understanding that most first-EPs of this nature are demos by another name and (as here) more professional sound, Wretched Kingdom‘s Wretched Kingdom asks little in terms of indulgence and rewards generously when encountered at higher volumes. Asking more would be ridiculous.

Wretched Kingdom on Facebook

Wretched Kingdom on Bandcamp

Lake Lake, Proxy Joy

lake lake proxy joy

Like earlier Clutch born out of shenanigans-prone punk, Youngstown, Ohio’s Lake Lake are tight within the swinging context of a song like “The Boy Who Bit Me,” which is the second of the self-released Proxy Joy‘s six inclusions. Brash in tone and the gutted-out shouty vocals, offsetting its harder shoving moments with groovy back-throttles in songs that could still largely be called straightforward, the quirk and throaty delivery of “Blue Jerk” and the bluesier-minded “Viking Vietnam” paying off the tension in the verses of “Comfort Keepers” and the build toward that leadoff’s chorus want nothing for personality or chemistry, and as casual as the style is on paper, the arrangements are coordinated and as “Heavy Lord” finds a more melodic vocal and “Coyote” — the longest song here at 5:01 — leaves on a brash highlight note, the party they’re having is by no means unconsidered. But it is a party, and those who have dancing shoes would be well advised to keep them on hand, just in case.

Lake Lake on Facebook

Lake Lake on Bandcamp

Gnarwhal, Altered States

Gnarwhal Altered States

Modern in the angularity of its riffing, spacious in the echoes of its tones and vocals, and encompassing enough in sound to be called progressive within a heavy context, Altered States follows Canadian four-piece Gnarwhal‘s 2023 self-titled debut full-length with four songs that effectively bring together atmosphere and impact in the six-minute “The War Nothing More” — big build in the second half leading to more immediate, on-beat finish serving as a ready instance of same — with twists that feel derived of the MastoBaroness school rhythmically and up-front vocal melodies that give cohesion to the darker vibe of “From Her Hands” after displaying a grungier blowout in “Tides.” The terrain through which they ebb and flow, amass and release tension, soar and crash, etc., is familiar if somewhat intangible, and that becomes an asset as the concluding “Altered States” channels the energy coursing through its verses in the first half into the airy payoff solo that ends. I didn’t hear the full-length last year. Listening to what Gnarwhal are doing in these tracks in terms of breadth and crunch, I feel like I missed out. You might also consider being prepared to want to hear more upon engaging.

Gnarwhal on Facebook

Gnarwhal on Bandcamp

Bongfoot, Help! The Humans..

bongfoot help the humans

Help the humans? No. Help! The Humans…, and here as in so many of life’s contexts, punctuation matters. Digging into a heavy, character-filled and charging punkish sound they call “Appalachian thrash,” Boone, North Carolina, three-piece Bongfoot are suitably over-the-top as they explore what it means to be American in the current age, couching discussions of wealth inequality, climate crisis, corporatocracy, capitalist exploitation, the insecurity at root in toxic masculinity and more besides. With clever, hooky lyrics that are a total blast despite being tragic in the subject matter and a pace of execution well outside what one might think is bong metal going in because of the band’s name, Bongfoot vigorously kick ass from opener “End Times” through the galloping end of “Amazon Death Factory/Spacefoot” and the untitled mountain ramble that follows as an outro. Along the way, they intermittently toy with country twang, doom, and hardcore punk, and offer a prayer to the titular volcano of “Krakatoa” to save at least the rest of the world if not humanity. It’s quite a time to be alive. Listening, that is. As for the real-world version of the real world, it’s less fun and more existentially and financially draining, which makes Help! The Humans… all the more a win for its defiance and charm. Even with the bonus tracks, I’ll take more of this anytime they’re ready with it.

Bongfoot on Facebook

Bongfoot on Bandcamp

Thomas Greenwood & The Talismans, Ateş

Thomas Greenwood and the Talismans Ateş

It’s interesting, because you can’t really say that Thomas Greenwood and the Talismans‘ second LP, Ateş isn’t neo-psychedelia, but the eight tracks and 38 minutes of the record itself warrant enunciating what that means. Where much of 2020s-era neo-psych is actually space rock with thicker tones (shh! it’s a secret!), what Greenwood — AKA Thomas Mascheroni, also of Bergamo, Italy’s Humulus) brings to sounds like the swaying, organ-laced “Sleepwalker” and the resonant spaciousness in the soloing of “Mystic Sunday Morning” is more kin to the neo-psych movement that began in the 1990s, which itself was a reinterpretation of the genre’s pop-rock origins in the 1960s. Is this nitpicking? Not when you hear the title-track infusing its Middle Eastern-leaning groove with a heroic dose of wah or the friendly shimmer of “I Do Not” that feels extrapolated from garage rock but is most definitely not that thing and the post-Beatles bop of “Sunhouse.” It’s an individual (if inherently familiar) take that unifies the varied arrangements of the acidic “When We Die” and the cosmic vibe of “All the Lines” (okay, so there’s a little bit of space boogie too), resolving in the Doors-y lumber of “Crack” to broaden the scope even further and blur past timelines into an optimistic future.

Thomas Greenwood and The Talismans on Facebook

Subsound Records website

Djiin, Mirrors

djiin mirrors

As direct as some of its push is and as immediate as “Fish” is opening the album right into the first verse, the course that harp-laced French heavy progressive rockers Djiin take on their third album, Mirrors, ultimately more varied, winding and satisfying as its five-track run gives over to the nine-minute “Mirrors” and uses its time to explore more pointedly atmospheric reaches before a weighted crescendo that precedes the somehow-fluidity in the off-time early stretch of centerpiece “In the Aura of My Own Sadness,” its verses topped with spoken word and offset by note-for-note melodic conversation between the vocals and guitar. Rest assured, they build “In the Aura of My Own Sadness” to its own crushing end, while taking a more decisively psychedelic approach to get there, and thereby set up “Blind” with its trades from open-spaces held to pattern by the drums and a pair of nigh-on-caustic noise rock onslaughts before 13-minute capstone “Iron Monsters” unfolds a full instrumental linear movement before getting even heavier, as if to underscore the notion that Djiin can go wherever the hell they want and make it work as a song. Point taken.

Djiin on Facebook

Klonosphere Records website

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Rebreather Post “Sicksicksick” Video From The Line, its Width, and the War Drone

Posted in Bootleg Theater on May 4th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

rebreather (Photo by Mollie Crowe)

If you’re prone to getting headaches from things like flashing lights, jumpy video or — I guess? — hard riffs, you’ll probably want to skip Rebreather‘s new video. The song is “Sicksicksick,” and it’s telling as to the ethic of the Ohio trio generally that it doesn’t even come up for air until more than two minutes into its total 3:13. The punk-rooted Youngstown sludgers made the clip, one assumes, to remind any and all of the righteousness of their late-2021 return long-player, The Line, its Width and the War Drone (review here), which was released through Aqualamb Records as their first full-length offering since 2009.

By all accounts, the world missed Rebreather more than Rebreather missed the world during that time. “Sicksicksick” opened the album with the decisive thud of Steven Gardner‘s drumming setting the foundation even before Barley Rantilla started in with the guitar or the bite of the first verse lines. Given necessary and appreciated density by Steve Wishnewski‘s bass, a later piece like “Residual Madness” offered despondent nod following the punker fuckall of “Choke on It,” and while you may have already seen the video for “Drown” (posted here) with  Gwyn Strang of fellow Ohioans Frayle (who are, like, a big deal now) sitting in on vocals, or caught the “Choke on It” clip when it premiered here, well, this is some shit you haven’t seen yet, and until they do one for “Silent H” or “It Comes in Threes” — by the way, please do — it’s my excuse to put the album on for this afternoon and anything else is a bonus.

I’ve got a Rebreather shirt in my Bandcamp cart. I think The Patient Mrs. gets paid on Friday. Gonna make that happen. So I guess that’s why bands put out videos. Maybe you should check it out too and see if maybe you also want to upgrade your wardrobe. There’s also the A Brief History Remastered compilation that’s $10 whether you buy the disc or just the DL. At that point, the plastic is its own excuse for being.

Enjoy the clip. I asked Rantilla for a few words on making it and he was kind enough to offer some comment, which you’ll find below the player.

Here goes:

Rebreather, “Sicksicksick” official video

Barley Rantilla on “Sicksicksick”:

This video is for the track “sicksicksick” from our album The Line, Its Width, and the War Drone. We shot it in our old practice space with three cameras fastened to one tripod. Our friend Johnny Eckard stood in the middle of the room rotating the cameras as we played through the song. It was my first time ever editing video, so it was a huge learning experience for me. I leaned on Steve Wishnewski (bass) for his editing knowledge to get me through all of my wrong moves. Overall, it was a pretty fun puzzle to put together.

Rebreather is:
Barley Rantilla – Guitars and Vocals
Steven Gardner – Drums
Steve Wishnewski – Bass

Rebreather, The Line, its Width and the War Drone (2021)

Rebreather, A Brief History Remastered (2021)

Rebreather on Facebook

Rebreather on Instagram

Rebreather on Bandcamp

Rebreather website

Aqualamb Records website

Aqualamb Records on Bandcamp

Aqualamb Records on Facebook

Aqualamb Records on Instagram

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The Obelisk Questionnaire: Barley Rantilla of Rebreather

Posted in Questionnaire on March 14th, 2022 by JJ Koczan

Barley Rantilla of Rebreather

The Obelisk Questionnaire is a series of open questions intended to give the answerer an opportunity to explore these ideas and stories from their life as deeply as they choose. Answers can be short or long, and that reveals something in itself, but the most important factor is honesty.

Based on the Proust Questionnaire, the goal over time is to show a diverse range of perspectives as those who take part bring their own points of view to answering the same questions. To see all The Obelisk Questionnaire posts, click here.

Thank you for reading and thanks to all who participate.

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Barley Rantilla of Rebreather

How do you define what you do and how did you come to do it?

I turn my guitar amps up and holler a bunch. It feels real good the whole time I’m plugged in. Super glutinous, masturbatory, self-serving… but incredibly cathartic. I’m going deaf, my head hurts when I stop, and sometimes I’m a little sad afterwards. But, while its happening, it’s the best and I never want it to stop. When I was a little kid, my cousin let me hold his electric guitar while it was plugged into some tiny practice amp and the amount of feedback and noise screaming out of that speaker completely captivated me. It would be years later that my dad ended up getting me my first guitar and several years after that I got ahold of my first tube amp. From that point on, it’s been a challenge to harness that feedback and noise and try to turn it into music.

Describe your first musical memory.

My parents were really into a wide range of music and my dad always had piles of records to dig through. On Saturday mornings, my brothers and I would wake up early and spin Nilsson albums or Rick Wakeman’s “Journey to the Centre of the Earth” as the soundtracks to us destroying our Star Wars action figures in the living room. I feel bad for how many scratches we probably put on all those albums. Fortunately, my parents were less concerned with the safety of the albums and more stoked on us enjoying them.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

Too many “best music” memories.

Being a little kid and staying at my grandparent’s house. They had basic cable, so I was gonna get to watch MTV all day long… YES!!! So stoked on music videos as a kid. The Clash, Van Halen, RUN DMC, fucking Thriller! Michael Jackson’s Thriller! Holy shit! A horror music video… nuts!

Seeing my first “underground” punk shows in a dirty basement bar… crazy looking people everywhere… the smell weed, stale beer, and patchouli. I still wear patchouli because it reminds me of those nights.

Playing shows with my friends. Watching them go on stage and destroy the place… what could be better than that? I’ve been lucky enough to witness that an unbelievable amount of times. So crazy to be so proud and so jealous at the same time haha.

When was a time when a firmly held belief was tested?

Anytime you see someone rise to the top after working themselves to death. Believing in yourself is the most important part. I don’t think you’ll get anywhere without that.

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

Man… ahhh… to Death. I think that’s where everything leads… haha. So… practice makes perfect, right. I think the more you do something, then obviously you should become more comfortable doing it. Therefore, I would assume that your comfort should allow you more freedoms with whatever you are doing artistically. So, hopefully it would lead to more depth, better expression, and more of an ability to convey whatever it is you are trying to convey.

How do you define success?

If you are happy and humble, then you have won. Feeling content is tough. If you can step back and be thankful for whatever you have, then you’re moving in the right direction.

What is something you have seen that you wish you hadn’t?

Well, I took my daughter to see Justin Bieber for her birthday… that was pretty bad. Also, I got roped into seeing some bible thumping Christian rock band when I was a little kid. The Christian rock band kept asking the crowd not to have premarital sex. Justin Bieber just kept talking about how sore his ankle was. I wish I hadn’t seen either of them, but I guess the Christian rock band seems worse. At least my daughter enjoyed Bieber. But shit… if I hadn’t had premarital sex, then I would have never had to see Justin Bieber… those christian rock band might be wiser than I thought.

Describe something you haven’t created yet that you’d like to create.

I’ve had this idea for a board game floating around in my head for years. Someday I will for sure embarrass myself by mocking up a prototype haha.

What do you believe is the most essential function of art?

To communicate emotion, mainly. It can be super subjective, but if you’re on the same wavelength, you can pick up on the intent, or even discover an intent that suits you. I think art can do a lot of things… it can teach, it can distract, it can provoke. But, in my opinion, inspiring some sort of feeling or emotion would be the most essential function of art.

Something non-musical that you’re looking forward to?

I’m always looking forward to hanging with friends and family. Whether it’s a vacation, a party, a night out, or just a chat… I’m always down.


Rebreather, The Line, Its Width, and The War Drone (2021)

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Rebreather Premiere “Choke on It” Video from The Line, its Width and the War Drone

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on October 7th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

Rebreather w_ Westside Bowl Owner Nate Offerdahl photo by Mollie Crowe

Ohio noisemakers Rebreather return with their first full-length in 13 years, The Line, its Width and the War Drone, on Dec. 3. Out through Aqualamb Records, the offering was first announced in August, and at that time, a video was unveiled — also it involved actual veils — for the song “Drown” that saw the band collaborate with fellow Buckeye Staters Frayle, whose Gwyn Strang brought extra-witchly vibes to the intermittently bursting aggression of the atmospheric sludge behind her. By answering back now with “Choke on It” — premiering below — the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Barley Rantilla, bassist Steve Wishnewski and drummer Steven Gardner bring into emphasis two essential truths about their cumbersomely-titled comebacker. First, it is a multifaceted beast of a record. Second, this band can fucking wail.

In both these things, The Line, its Width and the War Drone is largely consistent with where Rebreather left off, and hints of where they’re at today have been dropped since they started playing again, both with their 2018 self-titled EP (discussed here) and their earlier-2021 covers two-songer, Pets / Orange Crush (review here), for which they brought their spin to tracks by Porno for Pyros and R.E.M., respectively. The former shows up on the full-length as well — not so much “Orange Crush” — and it’s one more in the melee of shifts the trio present across the entirety, from the beginning punk-grown-up urgency of “Sick Sick Sick” through the languid, heavy post-rock unfurling of “It Comes in Threes,” which follows immediately, and down through the aptly-titled closer “Closer,” runs comes through like some kind of rawer Youngstown edition of the Desert Sessions crashed into indie rock whateverism. I thought it might be another cover. Maybe it is. It’s a big world. There’s a lot of songs in it. In any case, coming after “Pets,” as “Closer” does, the ’90s vibe runs strong, but again, Rebreather are not at all a Rebreather The Line its Width and the War Dronedo-one-thing kind of outfit, and nearly 20 years on from their debut, their fifth long-player is a welcome refresh of their particular approach.

“Choke on It” arrives at the probable end of a vinyl’s side A, and in a linear format is part of a crucial midsection to the record. It is preceded by “Silent H,” which runs just under five minutes and is likewise broad in echo and weighted in tone. There are guest vocals — these by Shy Kennedy of Pittsburgh’s Horehound — that add to the patient march, peppered with chugging builds and moving to a culmination marked by a higher-register feedback tone (as well as a lower one) that follows a payoff wash that, to call it noise would be doing a disservice to its intentional fullness. On the other hand, “Choke on It” is as raw and intense as The Line, its Width and the War Drone gets, and no less purposeful in that. Gardner‘s drums are furious to coincide with Rantilla‘s frantic vocals, and the low end that steps forward in the take-a-breath bridge is a subtle foreshadow of things to come as side B launches with “Residual Madness,” a song atmo-sludge enough to play slow motion off of Neurosis “Stones From the Sky” while set atop a bed of feedback that is there at the outset, runs through much of the song’s six and a half minutes, and is the final piece to end, providing a direct transition into “Drown” as the start of an even-more-dug-in side B.

What do we learn? The core lesson of Rebreather is that Rebreather are underrated. They always were. In an age before post-metal happened, they already had their own take on it, and as time has gone on, the emergence progressive heavy microgenres has only proven them right. What’s better, The Line, its Width and the War Drone has none of the pretense to which it would probably be entitled. WishnewskiRantilla and Gardner hit it with an attitude that’s straightforward, sans-bullshit and this-is-who-we-are enough to birth any number of wax-poetic Rust Belt analogies. No time for that garbage. There’s a song to stream.

If The Line, its Width and the War Drone is your first exposure to Rebreather, awesome. It’ll make a great place to start. Their Bandcamp has all their past work, for further investigative purposes.

Enjoy “Choke on It” below:

Rebreather, “Choke on It” video premiere

Barley Rantilla on “Choke on It”:

Steve Wish (Steve Wishnewski, bass) came up with the initial riffs and title for “Choke on It.” We needed a good finale for the song, so we pulled a riff out of a song Gardner and I had been jamming on years earlier and Frankenstein-ed it together. It worked perfectly. The lyrics are all over the place; I worked backward from the title. The dumbed-down explanation would be a theme of trying to get along better with the people around you. About listening more and thinking more about what you’re saying. Choke on those words you wanna spit out initially.

The “Choke on It” video was really a trial for a filming strategy that we had devised. Attach three cameras in a triangular pattern, aim one at each of us, and randomly turn them as we record. This way, we will all be constantly shuffling around the screen. It was kinda last minute, but we hit up a few friends, went to Westside Bowl, and set up on their patio. We asked our friends to “act as usual while we stare at these cameras.” We shot three takes and liked them all, so we decided to use nine frames instead of three. We did this two hours before we shot the “Drown” video with Frayle. Apologies to them for us showing up a bit tipsy. Such a fun day.

Preorder: https://rebreather-ohio.bandcamp.com/album/the-line-it-s-width-and-the-war-drone

Produced by Rebreather and mastered by Carl Saff (John Carpenter, Bongzilla, Elder), ‘The Line, Its Width, and the War Drone’ takes trickles from both the band’s past releases and 20 years experience and coalesces the trio’s “cave pop” into a roaring river of soaring sound. Flush with oddly accessible, dazzlingly tight metalcraft, ominous, propulsive basslines, and a rampaging rhythmic verve, the record’s widescreen sheen gleams with a mercurial mystique befitting of only the most tight-knit, veteran units. Today, Rebreather releases a video for the new song, “Drown”, which is a true collaboration with fellow Ohioans and Aqualamb lablemates Frayle.

‘The Line, Its Width, and the War Drone’ track listing:
1.) Sicksicksick
2.) It Comes In Three’s
3.) Silent H
4.) Choke On It
5.) Residual Madness
6.) Drown
7.) Pets (Porno for Pyros cover)
8.) Closer

Rebreather is:
Barley Rantilla – Guitars and Vocals
Steven Gardner – Drums
Steve Wishnewski – Bass

Rebreather, The Line, its Width and the War Drone (2021)

Rebreather on Facebook

Rebreather on Instagram

Rebreather on Bandcamp

Rebreather website

Aqualamb Records website

Aqualamb Records on Bandcamp

Aqualamb Records on Facebook

Aqualamb Records on Instagram

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Rebreather Announce The Line, its Width and the War Drone Due in December

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 27th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

rebreather (Photo by Mollie Crowe)

It’s all fun and games until the hypnotized backyard-pool baptism turns sinister. So it goes in the new Rebreather video for the atmospheric and heavy “Drown,” a first single from the band’s first full-length since 2008’s Sunflower. They’ve come a long way in that time, and following the 2018 self-titled EP (discussed here) that marked the Youngstown, Ohio, trio’s return to activity and their earlier-2021 covers two-songer (review here), the cumbersomely titled The Line, its Width and the War Drone will see release on Dec. 3 through Aqualamb in the imprint’s established art-book format. Sign me up.

“Drown” brings a collaboration with Frayle, who are also signed to Aqualamb, and whose Gwyn Strang drowns Rebreather in the aforementioned video. I guess there are worse ways to go? Either way, the track unfolds over seven minutes with an impact-minded chorus and a patience in craft and melody prefaced by the prior covers (one of which is included on the LP as well) that makes me all the more curious to hear what they’ve come up with elsewhere on the release. A December arrival puts The Line, its Width and the War Drone just a month shy of the 2022, which will be the 20th anniversary of Rebreather‘s 2002 debut, Need Another Seven Astronauts, which one continues to remember fondly.

The years pass.

Video and song are awesome and at the bottom of the post. Looking forward to the album. Here’s details from the PR wire:

Rebreather The Line its Width and the War Drone

Rebreather to Release New LP, ‘The Line, Its Width, and the War Drone’, December 3

Ohio Noise Rock Trio Teams Up with Labelmates Frayle on Stunning New Song/Video “Drown”

Youngstown, Ohio noise rock / sludge metal band Rebreather creates punishing, tenacious, and metallic music that seethes and breathes. More than a barrage of stark noise and earthen sludge, Rebreather creates songs; glorious, winding songs that allow dissonant, harmonic guitar/bass tones to soothe before they strike, drumming that builds and then batters, and vocals that display a powerful, shimmering vulnerability. On December 3, Rebreather will release its fifth full-length LP, ‘The Line, Its Width, and the War Drone’, via Aqualamb Records. Pre-orders are live at Aqualamb.org.

Produced by Rebreather and mastered by Carl Saff (John Carpenter, Bongzilla, Elder), ‘The Line, Its Width, and the War Drone’ takes trickles from both the band’s past releases and 20 years experience and coalesces the trio’s “cave pop” into a roaring river of soaring sound. Flush with oddly accessible, dazzlingly tight metalcraft, ominous, propulsive basslines, and a rampaging rhythmic verve, the record’s widescreen sheen gleams with a mercurial mystique befitting of only the most tight-knit, veteran units. Today, Rebreather releases a video for the new song, “Drown”, which is a true collaboration with fellow Ohioans and Aqualamb lablemates Frayle.

“We finished recording “Drown” and got through the overdubs, but there was a sense that it felt like just a little something was missing,” says Rebreather guitarist/vocalist Barley Rantilla. “We ended up shooting what we had finished over to our friends Sean and Gwyn to see if they were interested in adding some of their “Frayle” magic to it. When they sent back the demo of what they wanted to add, we were blown away. This was not only “our” song anymore…it was totally possessed by Frayle. Gwyn’s vocals added such a great dark melody and Sean’s guitar layers pushed everything into the right space. A couple weeks later, Sean hit us up with an idea to film a video for the song. Shooting was cool. We definitely inhaled more than enough water being drowned by Gwyn, but we all survived in the end.”

Frayle vocalist Gwyn Strang adds, “We were excited when Rebreather asked us to collaborate with them on their song, “Drown”. Adding our layers of vocals and guitars over another band’s song was a new experience for us. It was interesting to combine our approach to sounds and songwriting with Rebreather’s aggressive and stripped-down composition.”

Rebreather’s new LP, ‘The Line, Its Width, and the War Drone’, will be released on December 3 via Aqualamb Records.

‘The Line, Its Width, and the War Drone’ track listing:

1.) Sicksicksick
2.) It Comes In Three’s
3.) Silent H
4.) Choke On It
5.) Residual Madness
6.) Drown
7.) Pets (Porno for Pyros cover)

This Friday, August 27, Rebreather and Frayle will share the stage at the Westside Bowl in Youngstown, Ohio for a celebration of the bands’ collaboration. Noted Brewery, Noble Creature, who brew small batch Wild Ales & Lagers in a former church in Youngstown, has brewed a special limited-edition beer — also named Drown — in honor of the release of the new song and video.

Rebreather tour dates:

August 27 Youngstown, OH Westside Bowl (w/ Frayle)
August 28 Cleveland, OH Grog Shop
September 3 Akron, OH Musica
September 4 Columbus, OH Spacebar

Rebreather is:
Barley Rantilla – Guitars and Vocals
Steven Gardner – Drums
Steve Wishnewski – Bass


Rebreather w/ Frayle, “Drown” official video

Rebreather, “Pets” official video

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Quarterly Review: Papir, Kosmodemonic, Steve Von Till, Sex Blender, Déhà, Thunder Horse, Rebreather, Melmak, Astral Magic, Crypt Monarch

Posted in Reviews on July 6th, 2021 by JJ Koczan


Day two already, huh? It’s a holiday week here in the States, which means people are on vacation or have at least enjoyed a long weekend hopefully without blowing any body parts off with fireworks or whatnot. For me, I prefer the day on rather than the day off, so we proceeded as normal yesterday in beginning the Quarterly Review. “We now return to our regularly scheduled,” and so on.

There’s a lot of good stuff here, as one would hope, and since we’re still basically at the start of this doublewide edition of the Quarterly Review — 10 down, 90 to go — I won’t delay further. Thanks for reading.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Papir, Jams

papir jams

Two sessions, three days apart, three pieces from each, resulting in six tracks running just about 80 minutes that Papir are only within their rights to have titled simply as Jams. With this outing, the Copenhagen-based psychedelic trio present their process at its most nakedly exploratory. I don’t know if they had any parts pre-planned when they went into the studio, but the record brims with spontaneity, drums jazzing out behind shimmering guitar and steadily grooving basslines. Effects are prevalent and add to the spaciousness, and the sessions from whence these songs came, whether it’s the key-led four-minute “20.01.2020 #2” or the 20-minute opener “17.01.2020 #1” — all tracks sharing the same date-and-number format as regards titles — feel vibrant and fluid in a way that goes beyond even the hazy hypnotics of “20.01.2020 #3.” Papir‘s instrumental dynamic is of course a huge part of what they do anyway, but to hear their chemistry come through in freer fashion as it does here can only be refreshing. I hope they do more like this.

Papir on Facebook

Stickman Records website


Kosmodemonic, Liminal Light

Kosmodemonic Liminal Light

Brooklyn outfit Kosmodemonic exist almost exclusively within genre border regions. Their second album, Liminal Light, fosters an approach that’s too considered not to be called progressive, but that owes as much to the cosmic doom of YOB as to black metal as to noise rock as to Voivod as to any number of other various ores in the metallic sphere. In their sprinting moments or in the consuming dark grandeur of centerpiece “Ipomoea,” they are pointedly individual, and cuts like “Drown in Drone” and the later slammer “Brown Crown” owe much to sheer impact as to the cerebral underpinnings of their angularity. Liminal Light is vicious but methodical, and feels executed with a firm desire to catch the audience sleeping and then blindside them with a change, be it in moving from one song to another or within one song itself, like when the penultimate “Chains of Goddess Grove” rears back from its lurching movement and spews thrashier fire in its final minute. Put these moments together and you get a record that challenges on multiple levels and is unflinchingly worth the effort of close engagement.

Kosmodemonic on Facebook

Transylvanian Tapes on Bandcamp


Steve Von Till, A Deep Voiceless Wilderness

Steve Von Till A Deep Voiceless Wilderness

The sixth solo offering from Neurosis guitarist/vocalist Steve Von Till is a first for being completely instrumental. The narrative — blessings and peace upon it — goes that Von Till wrote the music for 2020’s No Wilderness Deep Enough (review here) late during jetlagged nights alone on his wife’s family’s property in Germany, where her family has lived for 500 years, only to later be convinced by producer Randall Dunn to write lyrics and record vocals for the songs. A Deep Voiceless Wilderness, as the title hints, pulls those vocals back out of these re-named pieces, allowing elements like the quiet textures of keyboard and piano, horns and mellotrons to shine through in atmospheric fashion, layers of drone intertwining in mostly peaceful fashion. It is the least guitar-based record Von Till has ever done, and allows for a new kind of minimalism to surface along with an immersive melodic hum. Subdued, meditative, exploratory, kind of wonderful.

Steve Von Till website

Neurot Recordings store


Sex Blender, Studio Session I

Sex Blender Studio Session I

Based in Lviv, Ukraine, instrumentalist krautrock bizarros Sex Blender have two full-lengths behind them, and Studio Session I takes the consumingly fuzzed “Diver” from 2018’s Hormonizer and three cuts from 2020’s The Second Coming and turns them into a stirring 44-minute set captured on video for a livestream. Reportedly some of the arrangements are different, as will certainly happen, but as someone being introduced to the band through this material, it’s easy to be struck by the palpable sense of glee with which Sex Blender present their songs. “Crimson Master” is the shortest of the bunch at just over six minutes — it’s the only one under 11 — but even there, the manipulated keyboard sounds, drum fluidity and undercurrent of rumbling distortion push Sex Blender into a place that’s neither doom nor prog but draws from both, crawling where the subsequent “Rave Spritz” can’t help but bounce with its motorik drums and intertwined synth lines. May just be a live session, but they shine all the same.

Sex Blender on Facebook

Drone Rock Records website


Déhà, Cruel Words

Déhà Cruel Words

Déhà‘s third long-player Cruel Words was originally issued in 2019 and is seeing a first vinyl pressing on Burning World Records. The Brussels solo outfit has released no fewer than 17 other full-length outings — possibly more, depending on what counts as what — in the two years since these songs initially surfaced, but, well, one has to start someplace. The 2LP runs 75 minutes and includes bonus tracks — an acoustic version of opener “I Am Mine to Break,” a cover of The Gathering‘s “Saturnine” and the piano-into-post-metal “Comfort Me II” — but the highlights are on the album itself, such as the make-Amenra-blush 12-minute crux of “Dead Butterflies,” wherein a lung-crushing weight is given patient drama through its prominent keyboard layers, or the goth early going of “Pain is a Wasteland,” which seems to brood until it finally can’t take it anymore and bashes its head (and yours) into the wall. Surprisingly methodical for the manic pace at which Déhà (né Olmo Lipani) works, it makes artistry of its arrangement as well as performance and is willfully overwhelming, but engaging in that.

Déhà on Facebook

Burning World Records website


Thunder Horse, Chosen One

Thunder Horse Chosen One

Big riffs, big grooves, big hooks, Thunder Horse‘s second long-player, Chosen One, sees the San Antonio, Texas, outfit inherit some aspects from the members’ past outfits, whether it’s the semi-industrial vocal style of Stephen Bishop on “Among the Dead” or the classically shredding solo work of Todd Connally. With Dave Crow on bass and Jason “Shakes” West on drums, Thunder Horse elbow their way into a nod quickly on Chosen One and hold their ground decisively, with Dehumanizer-esque tones and flourish of keys throughout that closes in lead position on the outro “Remembrance” in complement to the strumming, whistling “Texas” a short while earlier. Even when they shuffle, as on the second half of “Song for the Ferryman,” Thunder Horse do it heavy, and as they did with their 2018 self-titled debut (review here), they make it hard to argue, either with the atmosphere or the sheer lumber of their output. An easy record to dig for the converted.

Thunder Horse on Facebook

Ripple Music website


Rebreather, Pets / Orange Crush

Rebreather Pets Orange Crush

Heads up children of — or children of children of — the 1990s, as Youngstown, Ohio’s Rebreather effectively reinterpret and heavy up two of that decade’s catchiest hooks in Porno for Pyros‘ “Pets” and R.E.M.‘s “Orange Crush.” Taking songs that, if they ever left your head from rock radio, will certainly be right back in there now, and trying to put their own spin on them is ambitious, but Rebreather have no trouble slowing down the already kinda languid “Pets” or emphasizing the repetitive urgency of “Orange Crush,” and the tonal weight they bring to both honors the original versions as well as who Rebreather are as a band, while showcasing the band’s heretofore undervalued melodies, with call and response vocal lines in both cuts nodding to their sludge/noise rock roots while moving forward from there. They chose the songs well, if nothing else, and though it’s only about 10 minutes between the two cuts, as the first new Rebeather material since their 2018 self-titled EP (discussed here), I’ll take the two covers happily.

Rebreather on Facebook

Aqualamb Records website


Melmak, Down the Underground

Melmak Down the Underground

Spanish duo Melmak — guitarist/vocalist Jonan Etxebarria and drummer/vocalist Igor Etxebarria — offer an awaited follow-up to their 2016 long-player Prehistorical (review here) and demonstrate immediately that five years has not dulled their aggressive tendencies. Opener “Black Room” is a minute-long grindfest, and though “Scum” finds its way into a sludgy groove, it’s not far behind. “Poser” starts out as a piano ballad but turns to its own crushing roll, while “The Scene” rumbles out its lurch, “You Really Don’t Care” samples a crying baby over a sad piano line and “Ass Kisser” offers knee-to-the-face bruiser riffing topped with echoing gutturalism that carries the intensity into the seven-minute, more spacious “Jaundiced,” which gives itself over to extremity in its second half as well, and the closing noise wash of “The Crew.” What we learn from all this is it would seem Melmak find the heavy underground wanting in violent terms. They answer that call in bludgeoning fashion.

Melmak on Facebook

Melmak on Bandcamp


Astral Magic, Visions of Infinity

Astral Magic Visions of Infinity

Ostensibly a solo-project from Dark Sun bassist Santtu Laakso, Astral Magic‘s debut LP, Visions of Infinity, features contributions from guitarist Martin Weaver (Wicked Lady, Doctors of Space) and Scott “Dr. Space” Heller (Doctors of Space, Øresund Space Collective), as well as Samuli Sailo on ukulele, and has been mixed and mastered and released by Heller, so perhaps the plot thickens as regards just how much of band it is. Nonetheless, Astral Magic have all the cosmos to work with, so there’s plenty of room for everybody, as Visions of Infinity harnesses classic Hawkwindian space rock and is unafraid to add droning mysticism to the ever-outward procession on “Ancient Mysteries” or “Onboard the Spaceship,” to grow playful on “I Was Abducted” or bask in cosmic serenity on “Winds of Time” and “Wizards.” Off we go, into the greater reaches of “out there.” It’s a fun ride.

Astral Magic on Facebook

Space Rock Productions website


Crypt Monarch, The Necronaut

Crypt Monarch The Necronaut

Costa Rican trio Crypt Monarch offer their debut full-length in the form of the three-song/36-minute The Necronaut, the sound of which makes the claim on the part of the band — bassist/vocalist Christopher De Haan, guitarist Jose Rodriguez, drummer/vocalist J.C. Zuñiga — that it was made live in a cabin in the woods easy enough to believe. Though mixed and mastered, the 15-minute opener “Morning Star Through Skull” (15:41) and ensuing rollers “Rex Meridionalis” (10:12) and “Aglaphotis” (10:08) maintain a vigilant rawness, laced with noise even as De Haan and Zuñiga come together vocally on the latter, clean singing and gurgles alike. It is stoner metal taken to a logical and not entirely unfamiliar extreme, but the murk in which Crypt Monarch revel is dense and easy to get lost within. This, more than any single riff or lumbering groove, speaks to the success of the band’s intention in crafting the record. There is no clearly marked exit.

Crypt Monarch on Facebook

Electric Valley Records website


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Rebreather Return with Self-Titled EP Release

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 1st, 2018 by JJ Koczan


Ohio’s Rebreather always brought a sense of character and individuality to sludge, and while it’s been the better part of a decade since their last release, they still do. The Youngstown trio — who will forever live in doom trivia by being the first band ever to grace the Nyabinghi stage at the inaugural Emissions from the Monolith Festival in 2000 — are back with a six-song self-titled EP that follows up on their return to the stage and general band activity. “Open Your Eyes” and “Countdown” have plenty of the bombast for which they’re known, the rawness taken from noise rock and slowed to a pummel, while “Sunday” forms a melodic center around which the rest of the EP seems to revolve, getting an answer in the rawer heavy rock of closer “Five.”

Because they can be so scathing when they want to be, they’ve always been a band whose atmospheres are somewhat deceptive, but going back to 2002’s Need Another Seven Astronauts — a title that was as topical at the time — and that essential characteristic is certainly revived in the depth of these songs. If this is Rebreather declaring who they are in 2018, I’ll take it.

From the PR wire:

rebreather self-titled ep


Ohio band returns after indefinite hiatus

Heavy Ohio rock outfit Rebreather have self-released a new EP. The band, originally formed in 1999, exited the doom/stoner/sludge music scene in 2013 with no immediate plans for return. Fast-forward to 2017, when founding member and vocalist/guitarist Barley Rantilla and drummer Steve Gardner began playing shows of back catalog material with new bassist Steve Wishnewski. Momentum built quickly, and the band’s 18-year fanbase returned in full force to fill up venues.

“Things picked up very rapidly when we started playing shows again, and it just made sense to continue and see what would develop.” – Barley Rantilla

Rebreather invite you to review the new EP, as well as peruse their entire back catalog at https://rebreather-ohio.bandcamp.com

“The sleeping giant awakens…” – Josh Roman, MindRocket Recording Studio

1. Open Your Eyes 05:04
2. Starved 03:09
3. Sunday 05:43
4. Countdown 05:13
5. Destroy That Silence 04:11
6. Five 04:21

Rebreather is:
Barley Rantilla – Guitars and Vocals
Steve Gardner – Drums
Steve Wishnewski – Bass


Rebreather, Rebreather EP (2018)

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Wino Wednesday: Spirit Caravan Live at Emissions from the Monolith II, May 2001

Posted in Bootleg Theater on March 4th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

wino wednesday

The last Emissions from the Monolith festival took place in 2007 in Austin, Texas, but the fest will always be associated with Youngstown, Ohio. A beaten, post-industrial burg off Route 80 on the other side of the Pennsylvania state line, there wasn’t much to see in Youngstown, and that was part of the point. Nestled deep in a street that, on any given day, someone might rob the deli down the block, the Nyabinghi itself was a mirror of dropped-out culture. Not the glorified kind, but the kind that actually didn’t give a fuck. From 2000 through 2006, Emissions from the Monolith was held at the Nyabinghi and its lineups looked an awful lot like the shape of heavy to come.

I only went to one. The last in Ohio, in 2006. A little band called Baroness opened one of the days and to date it’s the only US appearance Colour Haze have ever made. There was some blowup with SunnO))) that resulted in thrown monitors. To tell you the truth, there’s a lot of it I don’t remember. Apparently Orange Goblin and Scissorfight‘s tour took them out that way. Awesome. I remember seeing that in New York, but if I caught it at Emissions, it’s news to me. It was that kind of a thing. A blackout weekend every Memorial Day. There was very little fashionable about heavy rock and doom at the time, and barbecue sandwiches sold on the back patio. It’s hard to write about without glorifying it, but maybe it should be glorified. Probably not if we’re judging by standards of public safety. I remember handing one of my band’s demos to Greg Barratt, who owned the place and booked Emissions. He was polite enough.

Wino was a regular fixture at the fest, between Spirit Caravan in 2000 and 2001 and The Hidden Hand in 2003 and 2004. The year this week’s Wino Wednesday clip comes from is 2001. Spirit CaravanWino, bassist Dave Sherman, drummer Gary Isom — were joined on the bill by Warhorse, Bongzilla, Halfway to Gone, Weedeater, Witch Mountain, Disengage, Pale Divine, Tummler, Sherman‘s own Earthride and many others. I imagine it was a hell of a weekend. At the start of their set, Wino thanks Barratt for putting the thing on and says something about police activity the night before. That sounds about right.

Not sure who filmed it, but the audio is by Michael “Lucifer Burns” Lindenauer. Enjoy:

Spirit Caravan, Live at Emissions from the Monolith II, May 2001

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