Saturday, April 29, 2017

Keeping The Light On...

Clouds Taste Satanic - Dawn of the Satanic Age (2016)

With their third album, the NY-based crew of Clouds Taste Satanic has changed up their cover art style a bit, leaving behind the Renaissance-evoking paintings of religious imagery for a more psychedelic landscape, and altering their music in comparable fashion. Right from the start, opening track “Enthroned” pulls out a more rock-styled lead riff than the band's seemed inclined to use on previous outings, and while they retain a doomy weight to the tones, sustain, and pacing, the exploratory genre-blurring leads them to some intriguingly unconventional places. In other spots, it's faint strains of the band's past post-rock playing that's twisting the bass and drums, grungy tones coating the guitar strings in spots, touches of straight-forward heavy metal swinging heads elsewhere, and proggy jangles of complex riffage crossing various bridges.
It all sounds like the output of a band that's continuing to challenge itself in the process of writing their songs, and keeping themselves nice and fresh by doing so. Going from one CTS album to the next, there's recognizable lineage, but no sense that they're getting bogged down or feeling uninspired. There's liveliness, good grooves, and a sense of storytelling without vocals, and I can't wait to hear what new directions the band will explore on their follow-up. And while there's fun in comparing the albums to each other, CTS have also made an album which stands strongly on its own, especially with the stylish closing of “Demon Among the Stars”. If this is your first encounter with the band, check it out already; if you've heard their earlier albums, there's still surprises in store for you.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Earthling, Merlin, Sea Bastard, Sumokem, Wizard Smoke


Friday, April 28, 2017

Heavy, Low End, Swamp...

Witchapter - Spellcaster EP (2017)

Dark, brutal, and (slightly melodic) black metal coming out of Childer Thornton, UK, with this three-song EP you should check out if you’re still mourning the loss Lord Mantis.  Starting with a bit of a groove riff, the first track, “Veiled Aggressor”, brings the thunder.  First kick of the vocals and these guys are really scratching that Lord Mantis itch with heavy low-end and those slightly distorted/reverb’d vocals.  This stuff is awesome.  Super heavy breakdown around the three-minute mark with double-tracked guitar that starts to slow and slow until you can feel the gears grinding to a halt. This is one of my blackest and favorite tracks of the year. 
Second track “Through Smoke and Sulphur” starts clean, almost with a Sabbath or Pentagram type of vibe.  One stomp of the box and the roof is blown off this track, into slow sludge with a slightly '90s vibe to it, the low end on this thing is nuts.  Ending with the final track, “Everywhere I Look I See My Grave”, Witchapter continues the sludge saunter accentuated with a huge crash 1-2 and a Weekend Nachos style de-tune.  Guitars fade and a bass groove begins and the whole thing boils back up again as Witchapter walk off with an awesome three-song EP.  Fans of Thou, look this up.

For Fans OfFALSE, Thou, Lord Mantis, Demonic Death Judge


Saturday, April 22, 2017

Nights In Green Paisley...

The Sonic Dawn - Into the Long Night (2017)

With their second album, the Danish outfit of The Sonic Dawn wades into the older and more popularly-tailored depths of psychedelic rock, as it was in the mid-'60s, with gentle swirls of melody a more prominent part of song-writing than heavy vibes of feedback. As such, there's more than a slight poppy flavor to Into the Long Night, but it's of a form blended with others, so the peppy rhythms and upbeat vocals come out as a tasty groove, not an obnoxious ear-worm.
That lightness of being isn't the only thing TSD have pulled from the '60s, though, as the warmth of production is so on-point it's almost startling. When the vocals get distorted, for example, it sounds passable as something mixed in mono and doubled up into stereo output, with a unity of sonic presence that suggests the band was paying just as much attention to the presentation as to their content. And while a nice wrapping ain't nuthin' without goodies inside, they bring strong substance on that front as well, with the guitar lines and outbursts of drumming charging out full of life, optimism only slightly dimmed by the realities of the age in which we live.
And when the band makes the blues component of their music more overt, as in “Six Seven” (quite possibly my personal favorite), the heaviness and sense of earthy vibrancy really kicks things up, making their sparing use of it all the more effective in its contrast and impact. As the album continues, that side of things becomes more evident in their song-writing and lyrics, with the initial starriness turning a bit more jaded and weighty, the guitar riffs spikier, the electric organ more pronounced. It's an album that holds a full journey within itself, and while the first few songs may put off those looking for something with more punch, those who give the full album a listen should find plenty there (and plenty of variety) to reward their patience. Firm recommendation on this one, those who are fans of psych rock should give this a try and see how genuine feeling for the music will beat affectation any day.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Blue Cheer, Cream, John Mayall, Southwest F.O.B., Ultimate Spinach


Hot Box The Garage

Bandersnatch 原子 (2017)

Eclectic stoner garage jams coming out of Moscow. This is my first run in with Bandersnatch and these three dudes + one girl are pretty wild! Lots of different ideas going on here but it never gets old or stale. Big production (not over produced) and somewhat drastic master changes between songs are pulled off effortlessly. First track “Trigger” fires out of the gate. Everything is separated in an interesting way and allowed to breath, but this track just rips like crazy. Second track “Letters” starts out before diving into it. Throughout the entire record songs effortlessly flow from one song into the next. “Alone II” clocking in at 5:49 is the longest (and spaciest) jam on the record but really shows off the atmospheric sludge skills of Bandersnatch. Outside of that keeping the 2 - 3 minute track times keep everything feeling fresh and never stale. Sounds like something that Kyuss could have kicked out if they would have stuck together, or early Queens Of The Stone Age with more edge. Amplifier Worship / Pink era Boris fans are going to eat this up.

For Fans OfTruckfighters, Sonic Chicken 4, Boris, Kyuss, early Queens Of The Stone Age


Monday, April 17, 2017

Supreme Scottish Space Rockers...

The Cosmic Dead ~ Psych Is Dead (2017)

The Cosmic Dead are one of those few bands that, to my knowledge at least, have never really failed to produce an album or EP thats anything other than great. Maybe thats down to the forgiving nuances of the instrumental post rock genre, or maybe it's just sheer talent. Sure, when you're not saddled with the burden of thinking up vocals, it possibly frees up a bit more focus... but having caught these guys live once before I'd like to think that the Scottish quartet swing more towards the latter.
So anyway, here they bring us Psych Is Dead, their first release of 2017. I say first release, as these chaps seem to be the hardest working bastards out their. If they're not in the studio, they seem to be on tour throughout the deepest darkest depths of Europe. So I doubt this will be all we hear from them over the next eight months... I sure do feel for their loved ones.
But onto the album, and it's deceptively misleading title. Misleading, because if the 30 minute runtime is anything to go by, psych is well and truly alive and kicking... Albeit on a seemingly menacingly sounding trajectory towards some kind of interstellar apocalypse. Like being slowly sucked towards the event horizon of a black hole with a synth and sitar soundtracking your inevitable doom.
From start to finish Psych Is Dead is a relentlessly eerie and haunting sci fi ride. Smattered with moments of melancholy and discordance thrown in to occasionally knock you off guard. What never seems to waiver is the underlying feeling of foreboding. Seriously, if HAL had gone to the trouble of creating a score to play over Dave's demise throughout 2001 A Space Odyssey, then this is exactly what that psychotic little bastard would have come up with.
The album climaxes with #FW, it's third and final track, which after four minutes of lulling you into a false sense of serenic security, suddenly smashes it's way in with all the force of Vladimir Komarov's Soyuz capsule hitting Russian soil (damn I'm proud of all these Space related analogies I'm managing to crowbar in here). The violent and aggressive turn works well to draw the album to an end. The build up of drums coupled with the discordant synth adds the final dose of peril to the whole space rock journey, culminating with an abrupt finish. The finale of which left me in much the same state as Kubrick did at the end of the aforementioned 2001 A Space Odyssey - A resounding feeling of dazed awe, mild confusion and a slight sense of "what the fuck just happened"!?
I bloody loved it.
~ Jay

For Fans Of; Russian Circles, Au Revoir, Ghost Box Orchestra, Caspian, Red Sparowes, 

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Knocking Down Pews...

Cursus - Cursus (2017)

This is Cursus' first full-length album, and with it, the duo of guitarist/vocalist CJ Duron and drummer Sarah Roorkfirst introduce themselves to the world at large with a fair amount of style. Opening track “Her Wings Covered the Sky” moves at a slow and deliberate pace, the down-tuned guitar chugging along with the clack of the drums a higher counter-point, and occasional growled vocals punching in spots of change among the steady instrumental growls, establishing a foundational style which sticks around through the rest of the album.
Some sharper riffs are brought in to tweak the formula with “Waters of Wrath”, with the vocal presence expanding alongside those changes, and the heaviness gets more direct in its shaping. Things proceed in similar fashion from there, and while there's some solid riffs built into the proceedings, it feels like the music is missing some vital spark to bring it to the next level. Maybe these songs do better in a live context, with the band able to shape things more to the reactions of the audience, but in the studio-captured form, it feels too ponderous, and oddly sterile. That might be due to the low variety range in dynamics that the band is able to pull together with their chosen set-up, as the timbres and tones tend to stick pretty much in place from song to song, with a few exceptions (their cover of Pink Floyd's “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun”, for example). And the gut-belted growls could stand to be used in more moderation, probably, as the contrast provided by comparatively clean vocals in “Trail of Tears” really makes the latter shine.
Those complaints aside, Cursus do a good job of maintaining consistency in their chosen mood, and the mixing pushes each part of their ensemble out with near-equal spotlighting. Nothing feels too quiet or awkward in the mix, some of the grooves land quite solidly, and when they take things in the slower, more thoughtful directions (mainly in the last two songs), it all gels with real appeal. But debut albums are where bands are supposed to cut their teeth, get a feel for what works in long-form song arrangements, and so on, so with what they show here, there's little reason to believe that Cursus won't deliver with their follow-up, whenever it may come.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Ahna, Aldebaran, Dažd, Grime, Oak


Friday, April 14, 2017

Heavy Noise From Below...

Mutautu - Basement Tapes EP (2017)

Does Finland have a desert?  Some very solid slices of legit OG desert rock here.  I usually get pretty bored with some of the new 'desert rock' stuff coming out, but this is right up my alley.  The production is pretty cool, you can tell they spent some time on the guitars, but vocals and drums sit pretty far back, and might just be a bunch of condenser mics in a room?  Either way, it works, don’t change! 
First track “Outskirts” is riff-heavy, and reminds me a bit of the later Kyuss stuff in terms of maturity.  Second track “TAHMA” adds a bit more sludge to the mix and overlays a handful of keys on top, with some really great back-and-forth guitar work.  Last track “Spaceroller” almost has an Earthless quality to it, but much more concise.  Everything rocks, but each in a different way, pretty cool.  A pretty solid 3-track EP here, some great driving music, and I'm excited to see what they come up for the LP.  

For Fans OfSabbath, Graveyard, Horisont, Kyuss, Rated-R era QOTSA


Saturday, April 08, 2017

Comets In The Atmosphere...

Cloud Catcher - Trails of Kozmic Dust (2017)

Picking up where they left off with 2015's Enlightened Beyond Existence, the Denver-based trio of Cloud Catcher have returned with eight tracks of fuzzy grooving, hard rocking, and gnarly twist-ups. Rumbling in the low end and burning through crescendos, the band shows a strong knack for infusing their jammy bashes with a sense of direction and purpose more in line with the types of bands who do full concept albums than the smoky bar yellers to which their sound seems to owe so much influence. It's heavy rock with some real life to it, not content to just ride along and retrace the pathways blazed in the '70s, but wanting to cover some new territory of their own, and doing a damn fine job of it.
That's not to say that they don't give some fairly big channels to those older pioneers; “Visions”, for example, is basically a faster rendition of “War Pigs”, and the band bears more resemblance to the heavy psych bands of the late '60s/early '70s than they do to most of their 21st-century contemporaries. As the desert-tinged turbulence bumps along, it does a great job of wrapping listeners up in a warm fuzzy tone-blanket, feeling so reassuring in its tangles of rhythms and tasty feedback that it's hard to imagine it coming to an end. When it does, though, the finish comes with style to spare, and it brings the whole journey to an end that just makes you want t start it over again. The work by the band in putting this album together is just great, and it's one of those where imagining the songs played live, with full room to improvise and spin off into wild solos, makes me practically shiver. Fans of heavy rock, heavy psych, and fuzz rock should all do themselves a favor and check this one out ASAP.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Frozen Planet....1969, Mondo Drag, Pollution, Slow Season, Weedpecker


Friday, April 07, 2017

Centrifugal Pressure...

Radien - Maa EP (2017)

I must be cashing in karma, because I’ve been having good luck with bands out of Helsinki lately.  Radien cook up a nice EP of atmospheric black sludge here, reminding me a bit of the older Thou stuff, but it’s not quite the same, and the vocal tracks on this are amazing. 
A-side “Varjot” opens up a ton of atmosphere before bursting into this brutal river of black metal.  I guess the closest thing you could compare this to are the slower parts of FALSE, with a much darker undercurrent.  The production on the A-side sounds like the vocals are pushed through some kind of overdrive pedal, and it’s fucking awesome.  While the tone chasing is heavy here, there is substance to go with it.  The entire side just crushes and the amount of low end is perfect.  Towards the end of the side, when we have some kind of high end tremolo or keys on top of the entire thing, it's just icing on the cake. 
The B-side gets off and running right away with incredible low end, and more vocal heaviness right off the bat, but with less filter, letting us see that the power isn’t coming from the production, but from the vocalist, Jyri.  An onslaught on double-tracked vocals leads into a huge breakdown, leading us out of this heavy as fuck EP.  

For Fans OfFALSE, Sunn 0))), Throne of Ahaz, Thou, YOB


Saturday, April 01, 2017

Internal Expansion...

Beyond From Within - Beyond From Within (2015)

Hailing from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the trio of Beyond From Within are making their debut with this album (though the band itself seems to have been cooking for a few years), which works from a base of easy-going psychedelic rock while spinning in touches of garage rock and '60s pop.  They do a convincing job of emulating that era, with twists of guitar tone, smooth-flowing wave undulations, and strong drumming (usually laid-back, but rising to fiery heights at times) joining the mellow vocals for an experience that channels its influences to impressive effect.
Virtually all of the songs are compact in their execution, and though they don't really give the impression of following set formulas, each one pulls off its vibe with a conciseness that makes for a weird fit with the psychedelic flow.  Only three of the dozen songs on the CD break the four-minute mark, and personally, I would have liked for them to cut loose into some more sprawling cuts once or twice.  At the same time, that doesn't feel like something that would necessarily fit with their song-writing process at this point, and it's surprisingly easy to sink into the whorls and valleys of the songs, even as short as they are.
The way the band works together in the songs adds a lot of charm to the music, with the relatively simple workings of a usual three-piece put to more obscure purposes here, in the sense that the swirling tunes and effects make it feel as though there's more players present, with what you heard a moment ago not necessarily being what really happened.  In effect, it's a genuinely psychedelic array of music, and the group deserves big props for being able to tap into and deliver such an authentic slice of early psych rock, something made all the more impressive by this being their debut.  For fans of classic psych, it's a treat that they should be sure not to miss.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Honeysuckle Mantra, The Kaleidoscope, The Moody Blues, Southwest F.O.B., Tommy James & The Shondells