Saturday, February 28, 2015

Carve The Swine...

Melmak - Pig Songs EP (2015)

Coming in close to a year after their last EP, Melmak are back once again with Pig Songs, a noisy collection of five abrasive sludgy tracks.  "Live Dead" opens things up with a squeal of feedback into a wall of bass-heavy resonance, keeping a gnarly riff going while dipping into crunchy break-downs.  It's a very satisfying return from Melmak, as they've kept their style tight while still working in some new approaches, and it makes for some compulsive head-banging.  Speaking of "Compulsion", that's the title of track two, which continues the nasty vibes by way of a bass-tapping intro, feedback-layering, and an eruption into wicked off-beat rhythms and gurgling growls.
From there, it's on into "Abyss", which bleeds together the rougher vocals with a spacy drawl and cuts the rhythms into even trippier passages.  "Suffering Is A Pleasure" continues in a similar but more compact vein, drifting into the crusty "Piggery" to wrap things up with some sonic disintegration.
It's good to hear that Melmak have built on their previous wickedness with plenty of style, and just enough polish to really bring out the details, so sludge fans who haven't already had a chance to get familiar with this duo have a perfect opportunity to jump in now, and dig into the past stuff once they've given their ears a good dosing.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Open Tomb, Moloch, Acid Bath, Fudge Tunnel, Meth Drinker


Find Your Center...

Spiralism - Chakras (2015)

Though they've been around since 2010, Chakras marks the first album in Spiralism's catalog, and the 4+ years spent developing the music found here have clearly paid off.  "Drowning High" starts the album off with a collection of humming, revving, and other electrical noises, before the guitar and drums hesitantly emerge with a sparse melody a couple of minutes into the the track; after another minute, things are more fully fleshed-out, with things building further from there.  It's an impressive demonstration of the band's way with song-writing, and as an introduction, it leaves little room for doubt that they've come to impress their listeners, twisting into a variety of forms (metal, ambient, rock, psychedelic, and a pinch of drone, just to name a few) over the course of its 12-minute run.
With an opener like that, you've got to have something with real punch to follow it up and sustain that high, and Spiralism delivers that with "Sophia", a fuzzy growler which allows the band to unleash rock of a more straight-forward nature while keeping enough experimentation alive to maintain their genre-bending momentum.  Spiralism shows their confidence yet again with the next track ("Weighing of the Heart"), which jumps right back up to the 12-minute mark, front-loading the album with songs that would be ear-marked for the big finish by lesser bands.  It's like that for the rest of the album, with "The Fool", "Dust Devils", "Gnosis", and "Passages of Nuit" all breaking the 7-minute mark, and filling their durations with material that's just as fresh and varied as the amazing opening.
It's hard to imagine how Spiralism might follow up on such a strong debut, or how long that follow-up will be cooking away before release, but that just means that you'll have enough time to dig into Chakras' complex arrangements and familiarize yourself with their ins, outs, and mobius strip-like twists.  No word yet on a vinyl release, but with any luck, fans of wax will soon be able to pick up this monster and wear their needles thin; until then, grab yourself a digital copy from Inverse Records and let the learning begin.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Earth Drive, Lucuma, Mondo Drag, Planes of Satori, Domadora


Friday, February 27, 2015

Rusty And Crusty...

Veuve - Veuve EP (2015)

Veuve are a new band from Italy, here with their debut EP, and on it, the trio pour out a few barrels of sludge mixed with the more laid-back attitude of stoner rock.  Starting off with the lengthy "Private Drowning", Veuve grind out bass riffs and slow drum propulsion, bringing in a truly dirty-sounding guitar for extra effect once the basics are set, and keeping up a good stomping pace for most of the song.  The style set by the first track remains the standard for the rest of the EP, with leisurely pacing and some tasty guitar embellishments riding over regular bass hum.  There's not much in the way of earworms, but the material is played with enthusiasm and a promising dedication to keeping things going once they get the ball rolling.
As a first step for the band, it's decent, but my main complaint is that they don't get wild enough with it.  It feels like the band is having a difficult time balancing their influences, as the guitar solos rarely make the leap into imaginative finger-shredding or sweet tonality that you might hope for from the stoner rock elements (although the short 'n' sweet jamminess of "Dov'eri Tu Vent'anni Fa?" shows that they've got that potential, when they don't overthink or over-extend the songs), and they don't really do enough wallowing in filth or feedback to hold on to the sludge fans.  Veuve might be best served by dropping the more repetitive, drudgy sludge side of things and fully embracing the warmer grooves they have lurking under the muck, as it's the moments where they seem like they're having fun (instead of putting on a dour front) where their music seems to really come alive.  All in all, despite the rough edges, it's not a bad start, and the band shows enough sides to their musical personality to suggest that it would be worth the time to keep an eye and ear out for further developments.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Crypt Trip, Moon Curse, Brimstone Coven, Testosteroll, Sonora Ritual


Bang Your Head...

Sata Kaskelottia - Sata Kaskelottia (2015)

Breaking out with their self-titled debut, the Finnish crew of Sata Kaskelottia have come out swinging with rough and gruff rock, delivered in their native tongue.  The stomping tempos and savage rhythms fuse well with the large-sounding and well-produced songs, and there's enough bar rock grit to keep things feeling authentically crusty in between high-speed rips from the guitar and drums.
Not being too conversant with the Finnish language beyond the occasional Fingerpori comic strip, I'm in the dark as to what the lyrical content is (although the words 'samurai' and 'zombie' pop up in a couple of track titles to lend recognizable elements).  Despite that, the earnest rock attitude comes through loud and clear, and with an enjoyable variety of vocals, the band is able to switch from yells to cleaner singing without missing a beat.  Sata Kaskelottia is able to work that same sort of magic with the music itself, though they do favor the harder stuff.  That balancing act seems to come through most clearly towards the center of the album, where "Veden Alle" and "Kyntö" hit some very sweet spots of combining the two extremes, before driving back into aggressive material for the rest of the songs.
It's a respectable first release, with a very strong voice for the styles that interest the band, though there are a few hints of ways in which they might expand their scope.  If you like your rock to blend tradition with more modern flavors, go ahead and try out some Sata Kaskelottia.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; MACH22, Buitre Humano, Oak & Bone, Father Sky, Destrage


Thursday, February 26, 2015

One Dirty Porker...

Chubby Thunderous Bad Kush Masters - Earth Hog EP (2015)

With members from Dopefight, Mama Moonshine, and Witchfist, Chubby Thunderous Bad Kush Masters (or CTBKM, for brevity's sake) have quite the respectable pedigree to their bluesy stoner rock.  This 5-track debut EP, allegedly recorded in somebody's living room, is one hell of a start to the band's catalog, kicking off with the stormy bluster of the title track, and cranking right along from there.  Fuzz, monster riffs, mean-ass bass, hellacious drumming, and vocals like a stoned demon are in abundance, swirling around with enough force to get your head reeling if you haven't already done something to put yourself in that condition, while a couple of the track titles push the munchies angle ("Chopsticks and Bad Meatballs", "Devil's Buttermilk").
Though it's currently only slated for release on cassette and CD (both of which will be popping up in March), I wouldn't be at all surprised if fans latch on to this EP hard enough to eventually justify a 12" release as well.  Very, very solid grooves, an overflow of energy, and some of the most well-worked feedback solos I've heard in quite a while all add up to an EP that has a great time screwing around, in the finest stoner rock tradition.  Keep your ears and eyes open for the incoming arrival on physical mediums, and grab up an Earth Hog to take home with you and blast out your ears.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Weedeater, early EyeHateGod, Weed Priest, Sleep, Ladybird


Hold Your Breath...

Oceans of Titan - 3rd Full Band Practice (2014)

Oceans of Titan are a new Chicago-based band, formed from the remains of three other bands (though which three those might be remains a mystery).  Their first release to the public is this practice session, which features four full tracks in rough form.  The first of these, "The Revelation", revolves around a meaty main riff, adorned with keyboard embellishments, guitar grooving, and strong playfulness from the drums.  The band flows smoothly from that opening into "Burning Dust", showing more desert rock flavor in its laid-back cruising before cranking up the heat as they carve into heavier sound.
"Son of Neptune" continues the session, dragging the stoner flavor further into hard and heavy territory, getting more intricate with the guitar, and generating a dense atmosphere.  It's also the first one (as far as I could detect) to incorporate vocals, though they remain muted in the background.  Lastly, "Beyond the Path" rolls like a tidal wave, picking up momentum before crashing into closing.
As a glimpse into the band's studio practice, the (album? EP? whatever) makes for a nice teaser, showing the band's proficiency with blending elements, their fondness for heaviness, and a strong rhythm section to keep things from being dragged down by their own weight.  There's also the demonstration that the band can easily handle long tracks, as the shortest one to be found here is over 7 and a half minutes, and their skill at putting together riffs which can handle those durations.  All in all, it's a very promising dive into the Oceans of Titan.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Rwake, Yob, Attalla, Saint Vitus, Gallileous


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Rips For The Road...

Mos Generator / Daily Thompson - Vol. IV / Spit Out The Crap (2015)

On the latest 7" from H42 Records, they've brought together America's Mos Generator with the German group of Daily Thompson, and the result is two very fine slices of heavy rock.  Mos Generator's side of the split, "Vol. IV" (a cover of a track by Golden Pig Electric Blues Band), smears dirty fuzz all over the insides of your ears, kicking along with a low-down groove which drifts casually into a near-psychedelic floatiness before getting heavy enough to drop back to earth once again.  According to the liner notes, this track was recording in a band member's living room, along with a track found only on the bonus cassette that comes with the die-hard edition.
Over on the B-side, "Spit Out The Crap" is Daily Thompson's contribution, and while it's just as fuzzy as the first song, there's a lot more driving by the drums to be heard here, propelling it further towards traditional desert rock than Mos Generator's side.  As mentioned earlier, there is a die-hard edition (limited to 75 copies on silver vinyl, 15 of them including a signed art print), which comes with a cassette including both vinyl tracks, with a mix of four live, demo, and studio tracks to round it out.  Aside from that edition, there'll be four other vinyl colorations (including a North American distribution), so you'll have a nice variety of options to pick up this bit of fuzzy goodness.  Pre-sale starts March 1st, with official release April 26th, so you've got a little time to get your finances in order and snap up one for your collection.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Powered Wig Machine, Slomatics, Aleph Null, Tuber, Kyuss


Claw Your Way Out...

Sarin - Burial Dream (2015)

Burial Dream is the first full-length release from Canadian group Sarin, though they have two similarly atmospheric EPs in their back catalog.  Here, the group begins with a bang, bringing a crashing rhythm to life with the opening track, "As Well as the Body", in which near-howled vocals complement the shifts between loud metal din and softer melody.  It's more violent than you might expect of a dream's beginning, but sets the stage well for the rest of the LP's style.
The greatest strength of the album, at least as I heard it, was their attention to detail when developing the atmosphere with feedback, ambient development, reverb, delay banks, and such.  I would have really enjoyed more of the journeys into pure generative sound (as with "An Empty Place" and "Windows of the Skull"), with the band showing their skill at building and building on layer after layer; what is there feels like it gives way too quickly to the much more common and recognizable style of song-writing.  The contrast does provide some strength for their dream-like setting, though the divisions and transitions from one section to the next feel too clear-cut to really capture a sense of nightmare; part of the problem is that each track feels like its own separate dream, instead of the unified whole implied by the album's title.  Taken as, say, 'a month of nightmares,' the album's setting feels more coherent.
There's plenty of care for the music to be found here, to be sure, and when the music hits its groove, it really evokes some sinister vibes.  The problem is the sense of disconnection between the pieces, and how jarring the abrupt switches from one form to another are.  Some additional vocals provided by Angela Deveros on a pair of tracks point towards the strength some more vocal variety could have lent the album, as the unnverving inclinations work better when there's more than one antagonist voicing their opposition to the listener.  The digital release comes with three alternate versions of tracks (all of them being the more sonic-driven pieces), making for an interesting look at different ways the music could have gone, and providing some further balance against the reverberant yelling.  The band has shown its capabilities, now let's just hope that they keep sharpening their claws.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Jesu, Black Freighter, The Cure, White Darkness, Woods of Ypres


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Any Altitude

Drifter ~ Violent at Altitude (2014)

This rowdy three piece from Australia have been making a name for themselves over the last few years, with two releases of what they've dubbed as "flannelcore". The idea of their sound, mixing old school 70's punk rock and the fuzzed out sounds of stoner rock isn't new, but seldom is it done this well. They manage to balance everything nicely, from fuzz and aggression, to shouted sort of anthem styled vocals, and breakneck punk rock jams to the slower, heavy riffing of stoner rock. All of that packed into a solitary band and it almost seems effortless in the delivery. With thirteen tracks on the album, they have a lot to work with, and every song is pretty unique in its own right. When you come to "Hindsight" the third track, it's a pretty melodic, heavy stoner rock track with some grunge sprinkled on top.  Then on the very next song, "Bad" they go a completely different direction. Leaning pretty heavily toward the punk rock side of things, they come out with a Ramones sort of delivery to the whole song, especially the hook of "I kill to live". A few more tracks in you come across "Another Life", with the longest duration at just over four minutes, it's a much more atmospheric song than you find on the rest of the album, alternating between slamming hard rock riffs, and more subdued, melodic sections. With the diversity found from song to song, it'd take me forever to give you a detailed rundown of it all. If any of this sounds enticing, you can pick up the CD or download for this album over on Desert Highway's bandcamp, and their first EP "Head" at their own bandcamp.

For Fans Of; Mammoth Mammoth, The Phuss, The Ramones

Monday, February 23, 2015

Still Burning

Smokinace ~ Uncommon Manner (2015)

 Around this time last year I picked up Smokinace's 2014 release "With Honour. On Fire. Confused." for review, and the Russian trio were still a relatively new band. Now, with another couple of years under their belt they're back with "Uncommon Manner" and a newer, even heavier sound, with the addition of some prog sprinkled to the bluesy stoner mix at times. Just being four tracks that are around four to five minutes long, the new release flies by. I had three full plays ticked off before I realized it. While all four of the songs are excellent stoner rocks jams, the closer "Undone" seems to be one of their heavier songs this time around. Opening up with a distinct and spacey bass part, it's quickly joined by a guitar riff and some mid temp drumming. The same bluesy, melodic vocals that were prevalent on their last release are clearly a mainstay as they haven't changed a bit, and sound just as good over the expansive atmosphere of "Undone". Once you really get into the heart of the track, it starts to get a bit of a Alice in Chain vibe going, like if they were locked in a room with nothing to do but get stoned and watch sci-fi movies. Just after half way of the this five and a half minute epic, there's a heavy guitar solo to break things up just a little before heading back to familiar ground to finish things out with the same grungy riff, rolling bass lines, and crisp drumming that really got it going in the first place. While there is no physical copies of the release planned yet, you can pick up the digital version for a "name your price" deal over on their bandcamp page.

For Fans Of; Kyuss, Fu Manchu, Alice in Chains

Sunday, February 22, 2015

DIY Everything

AxAttack ~ Gig Review

 A couple weeks ago boredom dictated that I find something to do outside of my usual routine, after a grand total of fifteen minutes looking around town for something to do, an invitation to a house show came across my computer screen. Local thrash metal heroes AxAttack playing in a house on the other side of town. The room that everything was set up in had mattresses propped up against three of the four walls around the band for a little sound proofing, but luckily the place was in a mostly commercial area, so there weren't many people around by the time things kicked off. There weren't really any opening bands to speak of, just the one man act M, playing a long, intricate guitar piece. With his back to the gathering crowd he slow built up to a crushing torrent of sound coming from the guitar cab. After an intermission and grabbing some beers, everyone packed into the smoke filled room, the lights went out except for the two green lights that were pointed at the band. Opening up with one of their latest works "Beer, Battered, and Bruised" everything was off and running like a drunken bar brawl. It didn't take long for a handful of people to start pushing each other and moshing for most of the song. By the time things zoomed along to the next song, bright flashes streaked across the room and over the band. Like a makeshift pyrotechnics crew, a group of people were in the corner with roman candles, doing their best to miss band members and equipment with each incendiary projectile they sent across the room. Once their supply ran dry they were looking for a new pyro fix, handing out sparklers at first then reverting to a couple bottle rockets when things got dire, after a few more songs. Their EP's title track "Toxic Wasted" was played next to last, with the gnarled vocals clawing their way out over top of the break neck guitar riffs. The bass has a clean and very rounded tone that still manages to cut through the onslaught of guitars and slamming drum parts. They closed everything out with their latest track to be released, "Who the Fuck is Slayer?" included on a split with death metal band Suppressive Fire and their cover tracks from the likes of Thin Lizzy and Black Flag. But with a song title like that, do you really need anymore incentive to go check that one out?

For Fans Of; Venom, Motorhead, Toxic Holocaust

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Higher And Higher...

Planes of Satori - Planes of Satori (2015)

Planes of Satori's self-titled LP is also, as you might expect, their first full-length, coming on the heels of a warm-up 7" which emerged around this time last year.  The time since then has evidently been well-spent, as the music shows signs of the band's care in polishing up their sound and synergy, and in crafting deep and varied assemblages of off-beat, high-energy whirlwinds of funky tones and rhythms.  Trying to ID everything swirling around in this mix feels like a fool's game, but some of the most evident influences are the loose and jazzy technical style, some proggy jam indulgences, and psychedelic flavor grounded by the sensibilities of kraut-rock's idiosyncrasies.  The band shows their skill at swimming from tightly-regimented twists of nested rhythms into loose-flowing drifts of echoing delight, a style made all the more exciting whenever the fact that this is still just their first album leaps up to shake you with the possibilities for the future.
There's a lot on this album into which you can sink your teeth, but the band keeps a cool sense of fun engaged while churning through the styles.  There's no sense, as can sometimes happen with highly prog-driven material, of part of a song being there just so they could wrap up whatever math equation went into adding drum to bass to guitar et al.  The music feels organic and lively, and best of all, the band seems to be enthused and enjoying their complex work.  As I said before, the possibilities for this group's future are enough to make you shiver in anticipation, but putting this album on for another spin will warm you right back up in no time.
Who Can You Trust? Records is the label responsible for delivering this music to the world, in the form of 500 black vinyl copies.  Hopefully they've already got plans for a second batch, as I expect this will very quickly become one of those items that people tear their hair out in search of otherwise.  Don't suffer any hair loss yourself, get one ordered as soon as you can, and dig into some rich, awesome, and experimental rock.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    3rd Ear Experience, Magma, Earth Drive, Mondo Drag, Frank Zappa


Bullets And Guts...

Enos / Mangoo - Son of a Gun / The Grey Belly (2015)

H42 Records have built themselves into what's pretty much the place to go for reliably high-quality stoner/heavy rock 7" releases, and with this new one, that reputation only gets reinforced.  The first side of this split is provided by UK band Enos, and in their big and brassy track, they set the bar high with chunky chords, casually rockin' vocals, and an extended break-down that stretches near the breaking point before showing mercy.  It's a fun trip, and "Son of a Gun" is the sort of song you can throw on whenever you need a spark to pick yourself up for the day.
On the B-side, Finland's own Mangoo meet the challenge set by the first song with "The Grey Belly", which cruises along with cool vibes and a devil-may-care attitude.  Switching back and forth between the roaring fuzz of the bass and a crisper guitar tone, the lads of Mangoo pack a hefty amount of variety into their ~5-minute fiesta, moving from calm to crazed and right back again.
Both tracks are worth hunting down a copy of the split to get your hands and ears on, and with four different color pressings coming from H42 Records on March 26th (with each band getting their own distinct version), you'll have your choice of how to get it.  Presales start on the 1st, and you'll want to act fast, as these releases always seem to vanish in a flash.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Slomatics, Holly Hunt, Lord Of Giant, ZQKMGDZ, Snake Thursday


Friday, February 20, 2015

That Time Of Night...

Hijos del Culto - Hora de la Vampiro (2015)

"La Hora del Vampiro" (or 'The Hour of the Vampire') is the first single from Hijos del Culto, whom I believe are the first band from Peru to get in touch with us.  Released just three days short of a year after their first album, Víctimas de la Ciencia Ficción, "La Hora del Vampiro" takes the group's rockabilly sound and gives it a small shot of doom, as you'll hear with the creaking of the coffin that opens the track.  The surf rock elements are still largely intact despite the infusion, resulting in a truly distinctive style you're not likely to come across elsewhere, as they tune down the usual tremolo guitar, shine up your average heavy rock riffs, and throw themselves about with little care for their safety.
The band undoubtedly has more material cooking away, and while they may not necessarily pursue the heavier leanings explored in this single, it'll still have charm for those who like their rock dirty, energized, and bouncing off of the walls.  If you count yourself among those ranks, go ahead and give this uncommon concoction a chance to seep through your ear canals and into your brain, then see how long it takes you to escape the haunting main riff.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    The Electric Knives, The Escatones, Alien Sex Fiend, The Functional Blackouts, Ramones


The Quiet River...

Honeysuckle Mantra - Lonesome Universe (2014)

Lonesome Universe is the first release from one-man band Honeysuckle Mantra, who assembled the album in a truly old-school fashion: one track each for guitar, bass, and drums, and no overdubs.  The music resulting from this dedication is faithful to the flavors it channels from the '70s inspirations, though they're filtered through a more modern emphasis on bass presence and semi-grungy grooves, and it emerges with a refreshing naturality that comes across as more heart-felt than the majority of modern heavy rockers.  That approach also allows Honeysuckle Mantra easy fluidity with the moods and melodies, most strongly evidenced in the times when things slip smoothly into a drifting, dream-like stream of output (shown early on with "100 Years" and "Bell").
While fully capable of crunching out the harder and heavier stuff, Honeysuckle Mantra's music has an uncommon amount of good-hearted sweetness filling its spaces, though not so much as to destabilize the album's flow.  There's vulnerability blended in with the humming stringed feedback, and enough humanity to make the use of past styles land as real fondness for the bands of yesteryear, instead of another one of those calculated cash-ins on trends that have become increasingly common over the past few years.
In short, this is an album that seems meant for those who are more than happy to get their fingers dusty picking through heaps of vinyl in search of gold.  There's a nice show-casing of Honeysuckle Mantra's skills and character, and having shown his chops with the recording set-up pulled from the past, a little extra studio work wouldn't be too shocking a change for the follow-up, now that the foundation's been set.  So go on, get in touch with your own Lonesome Universe, and take it easy for a little while.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    From Deep Space, Seed, Catherine, Black Mountain, Dax Riggs


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Lore Of The Ages...

Father Sky - Tower Heist EP (2015)

From the melting pot of Austin, Texas, comes Father Sky, a four-piece band with a focus on capturing the spirit of the late '70s.  On this, their debut EP, Father Sky plunks down five tracks (recorded with analog equipment for that extra juicy sound) of bleary-eyed hard blues rock, dripping with rich tones and pedal effects.  Sometimes laid-back (like a few of the sections in "Rain Will Fall"), at other times keyed-up and anxious (as with the body-mover "Silver Spoon"), the band explores their musical territory with all the enthusiasm of the bands from whom they seem to take inspiration, like ZZ Top, Thin Lizzy, and Uriah Heep.  No doubt their live shows are a treat, with the already sizable scoops of jamming rolled out into solo after solo.
The EP tops off at just over 16 minutes of material, but for that whole time, the band keeps things fresh, with an unhurried momentum that carries them smoothly from one down-home rock groove to the next.  Retro rock seems to be growing bigger with each passing month, so if you haven't found a band to quite scratch that itch enough for you yet, pick up a copy of Tower Heist once it emerges in the next couple of months, and see what Father Sky can do to take care of you.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    La Chinga, Orchid, Kadavar, Lords of Beacon House, Electric Citizen


Burning The Maps...

Agatha - Gravis Atque Gravior (2013)

Here with their third LP is Agatha, a group which started out as a trio, but has functioned as a two-piece since their last album, Goatness.  On Gravis Atque Gravior, the duo unleash sludge with plenty of noisy excitement, bolstered by a sense of momentum and groove that doesn't hold back on snap or anger.  Between the bass and drums, Agatha generates a storm cloud of sound, sparking with their vocals and shifting dramatically through a variety of approaches to pour out their wrath.
The instruments are put to work without mercy, twisted and stretched into an array of forms thanks to the duo's inventiveness, pedals, and open-minded technique, with what sounds like some light application of studio effects to further enhance their sound.  Each of the songs effectively creates its own mood and atmosphere, as with the stomping "Right Not Right", the hard glide of "Black Owl", and the closing darkness of "Keep Breathing Please".  "Planets Conspiracy", which crops up near the middle, shakes up the percussion style once again, and features a vocal appearance by Stefania Pedretti of Ovo, who meshes in well with the style surrounding her on the album.  From start to finish, Agatha acquit themselves admirably, maintaining enough freedom from the limits of expectations to really create something undeniably all their own.
The album is available on vinyl in Europe and North America, on cassette in the US from No Work Records, and on CD by Overdrive Records, so if you enjoy sludge that takes the NOLA blueprints and throws them in a fire before setting off on their own, you've got your choice of format for giving this group a shot.  There's no telling where they'll head off to from here, but it certainly won't be revisiting old territory.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Sunken, Fange, Acid King, Wolf Blood, Factrix


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Staring Down A Bear...

fubear. - Hopeless EP (2014)

With two years of touring to hone their skills since the release of their first EP, fubear. are back with a follow-up, sounding heavier than ever.  The Finnish group opens up with the title track, a smooth blend of doom and desert rock which alternates between vocals that aim for the sky and the drums driving the song back into the ground.  There's some great wild rocking going on, with the feedback burning hot, and it makes for a stand-out opener to the band's new chapter.  After that, it's on into "Lords of the Frail", with the doom dropped out in favor of an almost alt-rock switch-up, though here too, they bring the percussion and bass in with enough force to dispel any illusions of softness.
"Children of the Wasteland" serves as the EP's center track, with fubear.'s focus moved back to the sounds of the desert, a sturdy fuzz riff pushing things forward through the song, and a freak-out break-down at the end.  "Oceans" maintains the groove, mellowing out just a bit to capture the drifting vibe implied by its name and showing off some very tasty tone-work in doing so; it's a tough call between this one and "Hopeless" for my personal top pick from the EP, but the care taken in the minute-long effects stretch at the end of "Oceans" helps clinch it.  Lastly, "P.F.I.H" sees things off with the band just having a good time rocking out in the studio, getting down with some old-school grit.
Altogether, it's a nice burst of flavors, varied enough to keep your ears engaged, but compact enough to leave you wanting more.  The EP's currently only available in digital and CD format, but I wouldn't be at all surprised to see this surface on a lush 12" in the near future.  Fun and toothsome, these guys are going places.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Powered Wig Machine, Manthrass, Acid Kola Turbo, The Hunted Crows, Slow Season


Growls And Thunder...

Mayak - Allegiance To None (2014)

Moving on from their 2013 demo EP, Mayak have released their first album, and on it, they blend thrash, sludge, and touches of doom with the aggression and vocals of hardcore and black metal.  Every now and then, the pounding percussion and string-slamming let up for brief melodic interludes, though these are inevitably drawn back to the more chaotic stylings.  The band spits forth plenty of frenzied mania, rarely sitting on one riff for too long, a quality that combines with the singular style of vocals to make it difficult to peel the songs apart when thinking back over the album.  At the same time, it probably makes for a distinctive live performance, as testified by Mayak's high volume of shows since breaking out with their demo.
The band's greatest strength seems to lay in its ability to bring punishing heavy onslaught on and on in waves, giving brief breaks for breath before the next breaker rolls its way out of your speakers and over your ears.  They do have a few indulgences in sustained melodies (maybe most notably in "S.M.O.D."), which I'd like to hear them experiment more with on future releases, just to find out what they can do with a riff that sticks around for a full track.  At the same time, their ability to leap from one rhythm smoothly into another, and another, and another does call for some respect of their chops on the technical side of things, particularly considering they can pull this stuff off on-stage instead of just Frankensteining it together in the studio.
The album is available on vinyl through SellYourSoul Records, with a cassette release by Mustard Mustache scheduled for the near future, so if you've got a taste for the high-speed and twitchy, give Mayak your ears for an afternoon, and see how they're treated.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Countress, Light Bearer, Northless, Black Freighter, Primate


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

How Time Flies

The Dolly Rocker Movement ~ Our Days Mind the Tyme (2010)

Even though the album "Our Days Mind the Time" came out way back in February of 2010 on Bad Afro Records, it unsurprisingly sold out quick. While The Dolly Rocker Movement is now defunct, Bad Afro has re-issued the album on CD and limited vinyl. Like label mates Baby Woodrose, they have that immortal 60's psych sound mastered, it's like the summer of love never ended. That's not to say it's some cookie cutter album that lacks all originality, quite the opposite. Even though the sounds on the album harken back to those good ole' days of free love and plentiful acid, it's very much capable of standing on its own two feet in the present day, and a testament that there will always be people who appreciate psych rock. Just take the opener "The Only One" for example, starting off with a hypnotizing electric organ part that demands attention, backed up with a strumming guitar piece, it takes a few moments for the vocals to make an appearance in all of their reverb drenched glory, but when everything comes together you have a song that any unsuspecting listener would say is from a time long gone. And that would just be the tip of the classic psych rock iceberg, with all of the songs having a different vibe, slightly different influences it would seem. Like the third track "A Sound For Two", with heavy folk rock influences, or the next track "Coffin Love" following down the folk rock path again, but this time with a female vocalist in tow. By the time you get to the fifth track "My Heavenly Way" you're caught off guard by a garage rock whirlwind, and then you still have five more songs to contend with. Luckily it seems there are still some vinyls available over at the Bad Afro Shop, and even a few CDs, so move quick and you shouldn't have any problem snagging one or both.

 For Fans Of; The Doors, Baby Woodrose, Syd Barrett

Dolly Rocker Movement Facebook Bad Afro Facebook Bad Afro Bandcamp

Monday, February 16, 2015

Upon the Darkest Sludge

Tripping the Mechanism ~ Potestas Virtus EP (2015)

Coming a few years after their initial release "Start the Evolution", their new two track EP "Potestas Virtus" is more of the great sludge we've come to expect from this three piece. But with Philip Cope from Kylesa putting his producer's touch on it this go 'round, and recording at The Jam Room Studio with Jay Matheson, the overall production and recording are way beyond their debut effort. Add to that what seems like a band that are constantly developing and refining their sound, and you're left with what could be one of the best EPs of the year, and easily two of the coolest sludge tracks you'll hear this year.
The first track was my pick of the two. "Eye to the Skies" opens with a drum part that seems as though it should be accompanied by a formation of warhorses bearing down on you, and vocals that are like a witch hissing madness inducing sweet nothings in your ear. It doesn't last long though, and you're handed off to a sort of black metal guitar medley that becomes massive when the bass drops in a few moments later. It's the cue for the thunderous attack that follows, with the vocals coming in shortly after that. The bass player uses a great mix of clean and guttural vocals to their maximum effect, playing one off the other excellently. After the halfway point, the track changes direction some, with things slowing down and becoming a bit more atmospheric for a period, before returning to the initial onslaught of sound to round out the track. The group have really stepped their game up even further for their new EP, with the songs managing to sound even darker and more menacing than just about anything on their previous album. You can hear the new songs over on their bandcamp right now, then score a CD and support the cause.

For Fans Of; Acid Bath, Kylesa, The Melvins

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Breaking Down Barriers...

Lucuma - Destruye La Ciudad Psicológica (2014)

Back in 2010, Lucuma released El No Tiempo, and now the Argentinian gang is back to rock your eardrums once again.  The new journey begins with "Omnicronía", a sharp-edged slammer that immediately establishes the group's powerful style.  Mixing hard rock's dynamic approach to guitar and drums with psych and prog rock's inventiveness and technical prowess, the band performs a dizzying balancing act between rampage and rhythm, curling in tight patterns before exploding into big stretches of blistering grooves.  Song after song bursts with rich flavors and intricate song-writing, carrying the album with a victorious confidence and high quality from front to back.
There's not a weak track to be found, and while the basic style ties things together, each one plays about in its own realm of skull-rocking stomps.  The time put into practicing, playing, and perfecting the music of Destruye La Ciudad Psicológica really shines out of the final product, absolutely qualifying it as a retroactive Top 20 Of 2014 entry.  If you've got any sort of fondness for rock, then get over to Lucuma's BandCamp page and throw them some money (how much is up to you) for a copy of this great album.  This feels like one that will be picked up by a smart label in a few months for a vinyl release, so go ahead and get yourself familiarized with what will be snapped up in short order as soon as it materializes in physical form.  Hail Lucuma!
~ Gabriel

 For Fans Of;    Craneón, Manthrass, Mondo Drag, Bruto, Monolith


Hot Over Rocks...

Testosteroll - Bullet Rye (2015)

Testosteroll have been kicking around Germany since 2009, working to develop their sound, and next month, they'll be rolling out this new mini-LP with the help of Pink Tank Records.  The music put together by the band fuses together doom, blues, psych, and a few other influences, cranking out a tasty brew that draws freely from early Black Sabbath, the South's delta sound, and heavy rock of all stripes.  From the opening sprawl of "Cold Blue Eyes", on through the burning "Desert", past the promises of "Salvation", the smoky rumble of "I Keep My Motor", and the clutch of "Fear", all the way to "No Recollection", the band delivers seriously high-grade grooves, kept raw and dirty enough to satisfy even the pickiest of old-timers.
Copies will be limited to 300 vinyl LPs in four different colorations, though in order to get one of the purple & blue pressings, you'll need to treat yourself to catching the band in concert.  Whether you can make it to one of their shows or not, you should be checking out this crew, cranking their tunes, and thanking your lucky stars that there are still bands willing to put in the effort to get their music sounding so good.  Get on it already!
~ Gabriel

 For Fans Of;    Groggy, Motorhead, Danzig, Bitchcraft, Sonora Ritual


Saturday, February 14, 2015

Ride The Red Winds...

The Dust Bowl - Sangre Grande (2014)

Located in the midst of Spanish deserts, The Dust Bowl have resurfaced with a second album, trundling out ten tracks of inventive rock with wind-blown and craggy features.  Bursting forth from the start with "Diamond Eyes", the group simmers along with psychedelic energy coated in a sun-baked outer layer of harder desert rock, with bits of alt-leaning grooves to get lodged in your ears.  The bursting vibes of the album continue on through tracks like the cocky "Apocalyptic Blue", the growling cruise of "Maserati", the nocturnal desert cool of "Agua De 1000 Cactus", and the big closer of the title track, which brings the album to a finish with riffs that will linger in your head for days and days.
Taken all together, it's a very solid rock construction, with enough variety and range to give you new things to notice each time you spin it again.  All of the musicians are firing on full cylinders, there's a well-balanced amount of extra polish added in the mixing and effects, and very little bloat to be found in the well-kept leanness of the songs.  It's a strong successor to the band's first album, setting more than enough sense of its own character to draw in (and keep) new listeners, while never seeming afraid to try out new approaches or stylistic inclusions.  It's just a great grab-bag of impressive material with an abundance of coolness and something for any fan of rock, be it heavy, desert, psych, or other.  Sangre Grande was released on CD a couple of months ago, and has a vinyl release looming in the near future, so do yourself a favor and get on this already!
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Powered Wig Machine, Mondo Drag, Acid Elephant, Tuber, Manthrass


Strikes The Skies...

ZQKMGDZ - Dimension Plasma (2015)

Here with their first EP, the three-piece of 10,000 km² gegen die Zeit (or ZQKMGDZ for short) have assembled four tracks of cosmos-crawling psych metal, blending big bleary-eyed tangles of sound with tight percussive focus for a wave of slow-rolling vibes that reach out past Pluto for their inspiration.  The music of ZQKMGDZ has been cooking since the band's original formation as a duo back in 2012, though the addition of their bassist in the following year doubtlessly helped juice up their treks into the more colorful regions of space.
All four of the songs to be found here bring the fire with enough feverish wildness to please even the pickiest fans of heavy psychedelic sound, with pedal effects, creative trips on guitar, and long-distance vocals twined together before being cut loose to rocket out.  The track names add to the sense of far-out fun, as the EP is populated with "Brainsnail Octopus", "Mammoth Manifest", "Ambrosia", and the 14-minute-plus "Astrosabbath", which does a very solid job living up to the promise of its name.
The EP will be available from Pink Tank Records in the near future, released in a limited edition of 75 copies on orange & black splatter vinyl, plus a poster for you to proudly display; needless to say, you'll want to act ASAP if you want to get your hands on one of these babies, or you'll be kicking yourself for missing out while you save your pennies for their next release.  Either way, wrap your ears around this and turn up the volume!
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Space God Ritual, Telstar Sound Drone, Mondo Drag, Manthrass, early Black Sabbath


Friday, February 13, 2015

First Shot Fired...

Five Black Bullets - DIE!! EP (2014)

Following up on their demo, Five Black Bullets have released their first EP, and with its five tracks of traditional hard rock, the Spanish band throws themselves into their music with considerable passion.  They've got a good knack for keeping the guitar and drums cranking right along, with some solos that slam in, rock out, then launch right back into the rest of the song without bumping the momentum out of line or seeming disconnected.  It's stuff that would fit in well at a rowdy pool hall or bar, with the old-school love of (as the last track puts it) "Sexx Booze and Rock&Roll" worn on their sleeves and fueling their hot-blooded rips and riffs.
A highlight of the EP is the easy-going way in which the band is able to blend together influences from all the decades going back to their roots in the '70s, adding some arena touches here, some semi-grungy alt there, and distilling a smooth (but not too smooth) and tasty brew from all the flavors packed into the mix.  They've got the skills and verve to get your feet tapping, so if you're in the mood for some earnest rock & roll, load up Five Black Bullets and give them a shot.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Thin Lizzy, Orchid, La Chinga, Black Plastic Caskets, early Guns 'n' Roses


Crawling Through Cells...

Plaguewielder - Succumb to the Ash (2015)

Formed from the line-up shake of a few different bands, Plaguewielder are a blackened doom sludge band from the wilder side of Ohio, debuting with this collection of dirty sounds and grandiose titles.  Beginning with "Commence in the Ritual of Death", Succumb to the Ash issues a warning growl of fuzzy feedback, untuned radio signals, and deep bass rattle, before howling out into the fuller sound that characterizes the rest of the album.  Some atmospheric interludes here and there (as with the ethereal "Beyond the Body" and its mate in "Beyond the Mind") strengthen the band's presentation of the moody grime and gloom that they thunder through in the other songs.
There's also an understated current of keyboarding on a few of the tracks, lending them an extra edge of electrical hum that juices things up without overshadowing the grit.  The drums pass through a range of contributions, from funereal slowness to full-steam-ahead thrashery, and the rest of the band matches that willingness to roam into fruitful exploration with a well-landed load of approaches.  It all comes to a finish with the last (and longest) song of the album, the dark exultation of "Offered Up to the Sky".  The band's done right by themselves for their first release, so stay tuned for further developments and news of when it lands.  Until then, you can enjoy the teaser tracks up at their BandCamp, though there will be plenty of surprises once you Succumb to the Ash in full.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Fleshpress, Buried God, Eibon, Moloch, Attalla