JIRM “Surge Ex Monumentis” Album Review + Stream + Videos…

JIRM

Surge Ex Monumentis – Double Vinyl // CD // DD

Small Stone Recordings – released March 16, 2018 

Reviewed by Ric “Suisyko” Dorr

Formed:
2004

Location:
Stockholm, Sweden

Lineup:
Karl Apelmo: vocals, guitars
Micke Pettersson: guitars
Viktor Källgren: Bass
Henke Persson: drums, percussions
Additional musician: Daniel Hägglund: organs

Previous Releases:
Elefanta (2009)
Bloom (2011)
Spirit Knife (2014)

 

 

Review:

First coming together in 2004 under the name of Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus, this quartet have spent many days and nights sharpening their skill-sets, both as a collective and individually through endless gigs and three solid releases that have kept their name on the lips of the ever-widening fanbase.  They have been described previously as quote, “a driving mindmeld between psychedelia, classic metal, heavy rock, and individualized realms beyond” enquote. With this fourth release, they have shortened the moniker to an abbreviation of the  previous name to the shorter and more accessible JIRM and results contained in this 7-track opus will leave jaws dropped and eyes wide.

Already known as a progressive force, dripping in the sweat of endless striving for those defining musical moments that set them apart from their peers, these four have taken that and have indeed redefined who they are and what they do as a unit and the result is this juggernaut that clocks in at just over an hour.

Recorded in their hometown of Stockholm, the record was mixed in Gothenburg, Sweden and then mastered in Ann Arbor, Michigan and the end result shows that JIRM remains stronger than ever and the proof is ‘in the pudding’ as it were with the sheer MIGHT that exudes from each song here. From the opening rolling chords of “Candle Eyes” that sets the pace before that high-scream hits hard at the 1-minute mark and has the hallmark tones of psychedelia melded into that hard rock/metal hybrid and is unrelenting in the delivery that grabs you by the arm and pulls you along to end solos that fade slowly into the opening organ sounds of “Dig”.

This track is fraught with that ‘space-rock’ feel, from the back and forth vocal fade in that sounds almost operatic in undertone. Being the longest of the seven songs contained, it is three minutes until we are given a bass line that gets your pulse matching the cadence and when the double guitar assault comes in, it is just as thick and churning as you could ask for. By the time the crescendos are at full gallop, there is no turning back and why would you want to go back anyway, right?? At the half-mark we are granted that clear voice again, soaring as high as you can possibly see and it seems almost too short as you take in the tale delivered with enough time-shifts and slight pauses to make the atmosphere around you shimmer as you surrender to every measure to the almost ghostly-solo that ends this time.

“Isle Of Solitude” fades in, even slower than it’s predecessor and at 11:26, it is the next-longest of the offerings and the name of the track tells the tale you will experience with this softer/slower parade that cascades by, showing the versatility of these guys in a manner most may not have expected, where “Nature Of The Damned” lets JIRM get even more complex in the weaving of bass, guitars, perfect cadences and that vocal that takes absolute control of you as it continues to reach even higher highs. “Giza” is another slower, softer track that does not fail to satisfy in its plush arrangement and is the perfect bookmark to take you into closer “Tombs Arise” that is as frantic and powerful as the opener and seems the absolute summation of the creature that stands before us in the guise of JIRM.

The one that really stood out for me here would have to be “The Cultist”. In MY opinion, this is the ultimate melding of the prowess of each musician here, comes at you out of the gate with a steady running tempo and power chord progressions to match, all served with that voice that truly IS the icing on the cake of this slab of wax that is guaranteed to satiate even the most fervent fan of progressive compositions.

I would have to put it out there that this WILL be one of the ‘must-have’ records released in 2018 and I encourage you to buy it and share it with all in your realm, support them live as they truly seem to never stop gigging, and spread the word about JIRM so nobody misses this juggernaut… and most importantly, keep it LOUD!!

Photograph by Sophia Hogman Myrbacka

Band Pic_Sophia Hogman Myrbacka

 


First Band From Outer Space “We’re Only In It For The Spacerock” Album Review + Stream…

First Band From Outer Space

We’re Only In It For The Spacerock – CD // DD

TRANSUBSTANS Records – Originally Released In 2005 (with a bonus video)

Re-released: digital Download February 14, 2017

Reviewed by Zachary “+Norway+” Turner

 

Lineup:
– JohanFromSpace / Vocals, Acoustic and Electric Guitars
– SpaceAce Frippe / Bass, Acoustic Guitar, Synths, Bells and Voice
– Starfighter Carl / Drums, Percussion and Voice
– Moon Beam Josue / Silver Flute

Previous Releases:
This was the band’s first full length album. The two previous releases were two demo CDr’s; the first “Further Magic” and “Aboard The Mothership Of Cosmic Sound Creation” both released in 2003 and none of the tracks have been re-released. Their second full length release “Impressionable Sounds Of The Subsonic” was released in 2006. The most recent release, from 2009, is “The Guitar Is Mightier Than The Gun”… Two bonus tracks that were on their MySpace: “Mellow Yellow” and “You Will Be Freed”…

Tracklist:

  1. Begin to Float (Intro) (4:44)
    2. Sannraijz (9:58)
    3. Sometimes Going Too Far is the Only Way To Go (7:13)
    4. Sannraijz 2 (4:43)
    5. We’re Only In it for the Spacerock (20:28)
    6. Make Yourself Heard for the Sake of the World (10:47)

Review:

The Band:

First Band From Outer Space are a Aleatoric/Psychedelic/Space Rock band from Gotenborg, Sweden. Their label describes them as  being “Swedish intergalactical starfighters on their eternal quest for infiltrating the human race with their alien psychic powers of enslaving the neanderthals by brainwashing [them] with the finest space rock ever done in Sweden!”

Album Art:

There are two variations of this cover. The one for the original release give you a better idea of what you are getting into once you get into the music. (Meaning it is more atmospheric) There is a person in a spacesuit on the right and there is a light coming from over their shoulder. The second cover is the one for the digital release it is black with a starfield and two light spots similar to CD, but instead of a astronaut there is a small module with the band’s name filling up most of the screen with the album title smaller on the bottom. (Both in the NASA font)

Original Artwork of “We Are Only In It For The Spacerock in 2005Only in it for the Spacerock_Original Cover

Track-by-track Breakdown:

  1. Begin to Float (Intro) – This track whirls in with a slow strumming of the guitar leading us into the First Band From Outer Space version of space. It is similar to “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” (Pink Floyd) in the way it builds and builds on itself. More bloops and bleeps are added and the music starts to pick up in the 2 minute area. Here we get our first clip; “All of my most sensitive areas were inflamed. My extremities pulsing and tingling sensation. …Floating higher and higher. A wonderful feeling! I began to float. Up, away from my body… My brain seemed to be held in a giant vice. Swaying back and forth. A beautiful thing taking me away. My head is spinning. It was a bell… a bell…” now we get fast beat of the drum. Building the tension. The guitar strumming along calmly.. and then
  1. Sannraijz – Now we are in a slightly different area. We are speeding through their space. The track slows at four minutes and then speeds back to it’s normal pace. At five minutes we get vocals. At the end of a comparatively quick singing passage we are told, by Johan that; “The end is always the start of something new” as we continue on our way through the rest of the track. Until it starts to slow in the last 20 or so seconds and our next clip; “No one had a bad trip. It was all very good.” as the next track cuts it off.   I could not find a translation of what the title means.
  1. Sometimes Going Too Far is the Only Way To Go – Here is where (more of) the 70’s rock comes in. A cowbell is counting in our next jam. Six minutes in we get our 90’s influence. A layered vocal not quite shouting at us. This is another short bit of lyrics. We are counted out by the cowbell as well.

      4. Sannraijz II – Here is an almost Mike Oldfield type of track, there are birds chirping. We have now landed on a strange desert planet.           This is the most radio friendly song; it is acoustic and has lyrics throughout. It serves as an intro to the next track.

      5. We’re Only In It for the Spacerock – This track is an experience. It is a slow jam calling back to the first track. It is similar to a                 song by Acid Mothers Temple and the Cosmic Inferno called “Anthem of the Space.” Just a very spacey sounding with heavier guitar. There is another sound clip at the end but I cannot quite make it out.   The title is likely in reference to the Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention album We’re Only In It for the Money.

6. Make Yourself Heard for the Sake of the World – This track has a Jethro Tull flute part in it. We get our space or eastern                      sounding intro then we get a rocking riff and MoonBeamJosue is bringing us home with his flute. Two minutes in we get our 80’s/90’s            sounding vocal style again. The track ends how it begins. The tracks are all faded into another so it is a continuous piece.

Band Pic

The synth parts of the music are like a 50’s or 60’s look at what music from aliens, (meaning the bloops and bleeps) that was depicted in the old sci-fi movies/shows with guitar and rhythms from 70’s (and at some points the late 90’s) Rock. This album is a mix of Budgie and Acid Mothers Temple and the Cosmic Inferno that I didn’t know that I needed until now. The band show their influences well while making their own brand of Spacerock.

If you like 70’s style Rock with some space synths added in you should definitely pick this release up.

Stream and download the album here.   “No one had a bad trip. It was all very good.

Extra links:

http://www.progarchives.com/album.asp?id=9483

https://www.discogs.com/First-Band-From-Outer-Space-Were-Only-In-It-For-The-Spacerock/release/1166182

https://transubstansrecords.bandcamp.com/album/were-only-in-it-for-the-spacerock

http://www.transubstans.com/

https://myspace.com/firstbandfromouterspace

https://www.discogs.com/First-Band-From-Outer-Space-Further-Magic/release/5373943

https://myspace.com/firstbandfromouterspace/music/song/mellow-yellow-37764068-39871988

https://www.discogs.com/First-Band-From-Outer-Space-Further-Magic/release/5373943

https://www.discogs.com/First-Band-From-Outer-Space-Aboard-The-Mothership-Of-Cosmic-Sound-Creation/release/5373935

https://www.discogs.com/First-Band-From-Outer-Space-Impressionable-Sounds-Of-The-Subsonic/release/1759512

https://www.discogs.com/First-Band-From-Outer-Space-The-Guitar-Is-Mightier-Than-The-Gun/master/377219

https://www.facebook.com/firstbandfromouterspace/?ref=br_rs


Monolord “Rust” Album Review + Tracks Stream…

Monolord

Rust – Vinyl // CD // DD

Riding Easy Records – Release Date September 29th 2017

Reviewed by Andy “Dinger” Beresky

 

Lineup:
Thomas V Jäger – Guitars & vocals
Esben Willems – Drums
Mika Häkki – Bass

Born:
2013

Review:

I don’t write many reviews of actual doom albums, for good reason.  It’s a surprisingly complicated subject, not to mention a very personal one.  The whole stoner doom “genre” has a rather rich history, which through inexplicable luck, I’ve been privileged enough to play a small part in.  Like any other “genre” (and I use the word very loosely), it’s tough to pinpoint its exact birth, the point where it all started.  There are obviously precursors, though for me, the first real groundbreaking record of the genre was Sleep’s Holy Mountain.  And what exactly made it so groundbreaking?  It was such a convincing replica of the Black Sabbath model, condensed into a power trio, that even Black Sabbath said that Sleep did it best.  Perhaps you’ll already see where I’m going with this.  Stoner doom isn’t generally about innovation and originality, unless you’re YOB.  It’s more about the VIBE, man….

Sleep once again pulled off a landmark album with Jerusalem/Dopesmoker, which was innovative only in that it pushed the limits of length and repetition to their logical extreme, eschewing traditional songwriting structures in favor of elements from classical composition and Eastern motifs.  Perhaps most importantly, it established the importance of unique tones and massive low end above all else.  It’s largely unimportant from a critical perspective that the album is so monotonous – the repetition actually works in its favor, whereas with other genres, it would not.  Dopesmoker simply punishes, relenting only in shorter, quieter sections.

Other groundbreaking albums in the genre followed suit – Acid King pretty much perfected the combination of fuzzed out post-Sabbath riffs and ethereal vocals on Busse Woods.    Electric Wizard’s Dopethrone pushed the limits of production to the very extreme, with spaced, blown out vocals, hyper fuzzed guitar, unearthly effects and massively distorted bass.  I often deride this album as my least favorite of the Electric Wizard catalog, sheerly because it doesn’t sound GOOD.  However, that was never the point.  It doesn’t sound like anything else that came before it, and that’s why it’s so important.  I remember the first time I heard that bass burst in with that massive riff from “Vinum Sabbathi”, and my jaw literally dropping in disbelief.  Nothing had ever sounded like this up to that point.  Nothing.  Sure, Witchcult  Today sounds much better, Black Masses has much better songs….and Dopethrone will always hold a special place in my heart.  When you get into these groups, there’s only a couple ways you can get out….

Tour Schedule

There’s a few other landmark albums I’ll reference for context – Warhorse released As Heaven Turns To Ash, offering a sound that branched into death metal territory, utilized more dynamics and pushed the extremes to which a guitar can be downtuned.  Despite their sole album, they’re always going to be fondly remembered as the band that blew Electric Wizard off the stage when they ventured to our lovely continent on their first American tour.  Around the same time, Sloth borrowed Electric Wizard‘s gear and somehow unveiled a real corker of an album that seemed to stop both time and space in the wake of its gravitational field.  Goatsnake dropped a couple key albums around the turn of the millennium, matching big tone with accomplished vocals and making Sunn 0))) amps a household name and a much valued commodity.  A little later down the line, The Sword’s main achievement was in marketing and promotion, though they did introduce faster tempos and broke away from the established power trio format, utilizing NWOBHM inspired harmonies.  Conan pushed the limits of volume and heaviness with their first release, issuing forth a single-minded and monolithic statement of intent.  Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats injected sugar coated Beatles-eque harmonies into their psych-doom, and frankly, also changed the face of marketing by deliberately cultivating an air of mystery, concocting a lovely yet bogus legend around their origins, and then initially refusing to play live.  This combination resulted in massive hype.

Of course, there’s also the first Black Pyramid album (full disclosure: I am a member of), which for some inexplicable reason made quite a splash at the time.  I don’t know – I just tried to draw influence from these bands, and I also tried to write good, brutal songs that mix things up in terms of tempo and style.  I wrote the lyrics to be evil in a way that I didn’t think evil was fully explored in the genre.  That’s it.  It wasn’t rocket science or anything, and I’ve honestly never fully understood the appeal.  I guess it just hit the right spots at the right time.

Band Pic

Enough ruminating on the past, let’s fast forward to the present.  It’s 2017, stoner doom is somehow still a thing, and Monolord is the band of the movement.  They are a Swedish trio and their bassist was previously in the grind outfit Rotten Sound, whom I rather like.  The other two were previously in Marulk, whom I’ve never heard.  I suppose that doesn’t matter all that much, as they’re in Monolord now, and I’m writing about them.

What can I say about Monolord?  How do they contribute to the landscape of the genre?  Well, first off, their name is an excellent description of their sound.  Secondly,  they’re very obviously influenced by most of the bands I’ve listed above, with the obvious exception of The Sword.  There’s some serious Sleep, Electric Wizard, and Acid King worship going on, so if you dig those bands, I don’t see any reason you’d write this off.  Thirdly, they’re a relatively young band, though not green by any means.  Their first album was released in 2014, and they’ve had an impressive array of releases since.  A single here, an EP there, a sophomore album in 2015; they’re certainly staying busy and making a name for themselves.  Their sound has stayed pretty consistent from their first release, and it’s everything that you’d want and expect from a good stoner doom band – downtuned, fuzzy guitar interspersed with trippy effects and bursts of feedback, huge bass tones, spaced out vocals, and a rock-solid drummer holding it down underneath all that precious noise.  They tend to stretch song lengths upwards of ten minutes at times, though I’d be hard pressed to define what criteria differentiates their decision to keep a song shorter or to extend it.  If I had to venture a guess, I’d say they just ride out the riffs that they really, really like to play, and this lends an authentic, organic vibe to what they’re all about.  That’s vitally important in a genre that’s so inherently derivative.

pics and patches

If anything, I’d say that the consistency has been Monolord’s strongest suit up to this point.  They haven’t made many efforts to tread new ground, and up until, they haven’t really felt the need to.  Their second album, Vaenir, is a little more polished than the debut, and this was exactly what they needed to do – double down on what’s obviously working.  The Lord of Suffering 10″ showcased a little more maturity in the songwriting department, and it’s still exactly what you’d expect.  This brings us up to Rust, where they’ve thrown out everything that’s come before, re-written the proverbial book and drastically redefined who they are as a band.

….

I’m just kidding, none of that is true.  Any one of the songs on Rust could have comfortably fit on a prior release.  That’s by no means a bad thing – I’ve already touted the consistency of their artistic vision.  The subtle though obvious shift this time around is that they’re beginning to make more use of the studio to explore more textures and sounds, and it makes for delicious little surprises interspersed between gargantuan riffs.  After opening the album with two pretty straight forward songs, the title track initiates with a haunting organ intro that drives the catchiness of the vocal hook home.  Once the riffs do actually drop, it makes for an extremely effective counterpoint.  It’s a seemingly little thing, and it makes a whole world of difference.  This is my favorite track on the album, and I think it’s the best song they’ve written to date.

They follow this up with “Wormland”, an instrumental with slower, more deliberate riffing that takes a stark turn once again into more melodic territory, with a most triumphant, transcendent lead guitar line once again surprises by finishing up with a violin echoing the same melody.  “Forgotten Lands” once again surprises us by making ample usage of its near 13 minute run time, detouring into a full-blown psychedelic breakdown mid song, with a delightfully wonky guitar solo and more exotic, modal guitar work.  The final song, “At Niceae”, basically utilizes a false ending.  It’s an otherwise standard track for Monolord, except that the riffs fade out, leaving us with feedback.  I thought the album was over, and then an acoustic guitar kicked in, overlaid with some heavily echoed vocals and a sorrowful melody.  It’s a great conclusion to a well executed album.

Monolord_Band Pic

As I stated earlier, there has been a maturity inherent in the development of the band, and it’s firmly showcased on Rust.  It’s not like they’ve gone full prog or anything – they still do what they do best, which is just heavy, zonked to the nipples doomliciousness.  There is simply an increased emphasis on melody within the songwriting itself, while retaining the heavy, trippy sound that’s made a name for them.  As far as how it fits into the continuum and tradition of the genre?  Well, they’re currently on top of the game.  Electric Wizard’s last album was far from their best work; it’s most likely their weakest.  Veterans like Acid King and Goatsnake are only sporadically active.  The Sword have a full-blown musical identity crisis on each album.  If Sleep actually drops a new album, that will be a game changer based on the strength of the one song they’ve recorded since their reunion.  Since for some inexplicable reason, there’s still a lot of interest in this sound, it leaves a lot of room at the top for more established bands that aren’t quite stoner royalty yet,  like Windhand and Cough, as well as newcomers who are able to make a name and get some momentum behind them, like Monolord and Vokonis.

In closing, I’m continually perplexed at the longevity of stoner doom.  Other genres that are so pigeonholed and overspecialized have only occupied a single moment in musical history before they’ve been forced to evolve or become redundant and obsolete.  You can’t really call it a trend – trends quickly rise and fall within the realm of heavy music, though doom’s rise in prominence has been slow, steady, and continual.  Indeed, there are those who have already evolved beyond their humble roots, bands like High On Fire, Elder and YOB.   What is it about turning up really loud, tuning down really low, and aping Black Sabbath that’s had such a lasting, overarching appeal?    Is it that musically, it digs right to the very roots of metal, the birthplace of all things heavy? Is it some primal, ritualistic element buried deep within the collective human subconscious?  Is it an attempt to identify with, and thereby transcend the darker aspects of human nature?  Some kind of catharsis for our more socially unacceptable emotions and fantasies? Once again, I don’t really know.  I can tell you that even I’m not immune to its perpetual pull – even though I’m bored with the more common cliches associated with the genre, I’m such a sucker for a huge, over-amplified Sabbath riff.  In that regard, Monolord has delivered the goods in spades.  As always, my brain jumps right head to “what are they doing to do next?”  It’s a fair question even now.  Will they continue down the path of predictable consistency, with a pragmatic and gradual approach to change, or will they choose to truly branch off into the outer limits, returning to us with some unique permutation of psychedelic doom-inspired mayhem that will blow our minds like the forebearers of the genre did before them?


Nekromant “Snakes And Liars” Album Review + Stream…

NEKROMANT

Snakes And Liars – Limited Vinyl // CD // DD

Transubstans Records – released June 16, 2017

Reviewed by Ric “Suisyko” Dorr

 

Established – 2011

Location – Vänersborg, Sweden

Band Members:
Adam Lundqvist– Guitars
Mattias Ottosson – Bass/Vocals
Joakim Olsson – Drums

 

Previous Releases:

As SERPENT – ‘Master Of Ceremony’ single (Oct 2015)

“Nekromant” (Dec 2015)

As NEKROMANT – ‘Stoned To Death, Doomed To Die single (May 2017)

‘Ashes & Rain’ single (June 2017)

 

Review:

Quote – “Fans of Black Sabbath, Pentagram, och and so on will not be disappointed!” Enquote. The first words I saw used to describe this three piece from the land of the often refereed ‘NWOSHM’ movement of the last several years, with bands rising to the forefront that are letting the rest know that they are just bloody sick of nu-metal and the glut of ‘pretentious hipsters’ that think they know what good old blues-based HEAVY is about with their auto-tuned machine based garbage and hyper-polished turds being passed off as the best-yet…

Back to basics, balls out and cranked to the top, these guys show that they are here to represent with some of the best progressions and time shifts held high on thick bass runs that hit you in the chest with each note. No splintering of genres here, but higher, CLEAR vocals that are easily understood, unlike so many that permeate anymore and the fit is tighter than a glove with the precision-playing that slices cleaner than the sharpest blade.

Coming together in 2011, Adam and Mattias spent the better part of the next two years consumed in a series of jamming/drinking sessions in the metropolis Mjölby, located in the eastern part of Sweden, playing hard rock, which did result in an EP and an LP.  It was in 2013 that  they joined forces with Jocke, a hard-hitting drummer with roots in both heavy metal and other types of music, that everything coalesced into what is now presented to us as NEKROMANT.

 

Band Pic

 

Thirty-five minutes totaling from 9 tracks that stand out on their own as individuals as well as are the perfect summation as a whole. From the immediately head-banging inducing opener ‘Stoned To Death, Doomed To Die’ with it’s quick-gallop paced tempo and screaming squeals of harmonic bending strings over that soaring vocal, the stage is set and even the seemingly effortless time shift halfway through, you are hooked for what will prove to be exactly what you have been waiting for to show; that true rock-and-fucking-roll still exists. This is proof positive that it is indeed alive, well and flourishing in all the riff-laden, relentlessly paced ecstasy you could ask for. And when ‘Funeral Worship’ hits, slow and rolling low, it is the precise gear-shift needed, fully owning a doom-laden structure with Mattias’ voice ringing clear and true, never wavering in delivery all the way to the sudden-stop ending.

‘Black Velvet’ comes out in full 80’s metal glory, wringing of a sound that made me think of a mixture of Italian masters BULLDOZER meets WITCHFINDER GENERAL in a salute to the essence of that heavy duty blues-rooted guitar onslaught so thick in tone that you almost forget there are only three guys in the room here, where ‘Ashes & Rain’ is from the start all loopy and heavily, dare I say it, ‘progressive’ in structure and pace in the arrangement that transcends any labeling with the various soft-touches scattered throughout this song.  Again, further showing a versatility you may not have expected after the last full length, yet sounds honest and natural here, and in my opinion is what makes for legendary music. It can really be heard if you mean it when you play it.  When it is from the core of your being as these songs each show these three are doing, then they become timeless and relevant as would seem to follow their original statement in intent.

From the soft fade-in wash cymbal of ‘Inside Yourself’ with another crop of time-shifts from hell, perfectly stirred into this brew, to the instrumental indulgence of ‘Mardröm’ through to the even-slower measures of ‘Never Saved’, there is no room for dissapointment here as you have been consumed along the path you have been walking with this album to get to the title track ‘Snakes & Liars’ that gives its ALL with its staccato opening that is close to being the fastest beat on this album and you are pulled right along this almost two minute run through the “Fortune and Fire” described.

Closer ‘Spelmannen’, which translates to English as ‘Player’ is sung in Dutch, has an almost traditional-folk song feel to it before the power chords hit, and even then, still maintains an anthemic feel that made even my black-heart feel a little less dark in the soaring solo sections and chorus alike. Excellent choice to wrap this package together and there is not one song on here I would not want them to play in a live setting!!

Keep this one as an option on your best-of lists for 2017, make SURE it is part of your library, AND your best buddy’s too and catch them live if the chance comes to you… keep it LOUD!!

Band Logo


Vokonis – “The Sunken Djinn” Album Review & Track Stream…

Vokonis

The Sunken Djinn – Vinyl // CD // DD

Ripple Music – June 9th, 2017

Reviewed by Andy “Dinger” Beresky

 

Vokonis is a stoner doom band from Sweden and this is their sophomore album.  The second release is often-times paramount in a band’s development.  There’s a widespread belief that a band has all the time in the world to write their first album, so that’s often why a band can release a stunning debut, but it’s the sophomore album that’s more telling of what a band is capable of in the long term.  I’m not sure that’s entirely accurate – some bands write and record their debuts very quickly after coming together, though I do agree that a band’s second album is often indicative of their longevity and ability to thrive in a crowded music scene.  There usually is more pressure on the band to deliver the goods, from fans, from their label contacts, as nothing spells success like a powerful follow-up to a promising debut.

I hadn’t heard of Vokonis before being assigned this review, so I went back and did some digging once I learned this wasn’t their first record.  They formed out of the ashes of a former project called Creedsmen Arise, so you know where their loyalties lie.  After a slight shift up in the lineup, they changed the name to its current moniker.  The newer name is apparently taken from some legendary king, though I couldn’t find anything to verify whether King Vokonis actually existed outside of the band’s private mythology.   In 2016, they released their debut on Ozium Records, entitled Olde One Ascending.  It’s a fairly standard album that largely follows the template for the genre: a power trio with a Black Sabbath and Sleep inspired sound, fuzzed out and tuned down for maximum thumpitude. Long, meandering arrangements punctuated by guitar solos, slower passages, and trippy atmospheres. Gruff, monotone vocals that sit somewhere between Fu Manchu’s slacker spoken word and (16)’s screamed sludge abandon, dark psychedelic artwork and lyrical themes.  If you’ve been into the genre for awhile, none of this should be particularly surprising or off-putting, well, other than that it’s been done to death.  Vokonis obviously aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel or do anything too wildly experimental here, just six songs of old-fashioned, stoned-out doom.

 

Band Pic

 

Still, the debut apparently made enough of an impact to land the group a record deal with the prestigious Ripple Music, and that leads us right into their aforementioned sophomore album, The Sunken Djinn.  Right away, from the very title, I already like it better than the debut.  Sure, the Olde Ones and Lovecraft are super cool and creepy, though how many songs can I hear about Lovecraft inspired themes before they just lose their impact and become another tired cliche that’s plagued this genre for nearly a decade?  Well, Muslim mythology and the story of the djinn is equally intriguing, a race that’s neither human nor angel.  They’ve always held a unique place in the heart of Arabic culture, both classical and contemporary,  this particular source material hasn’t been harvested to point of being completely fallow ground.  It’s refreshing to see a band looking outside the tried and true.

As far as the music itself, I like it a lot.  It takes everything that they did well on the first album and simply trims the fat.  It’s super meat and potatoes, not just in terms of the previous output, but in comparison to the stoner doom scene as a whole.  While this genre is often rife with excess, for better or for worse, Vokonis’s stripped down approach is a breath of fresh air.  My earlier comparison to Fu Manchu works well; just as the Fu’s stripped stoner rock to its essential bare-bones elements, Vokonis have done the same with doom (yes, I’m aware that Fu Manchu have been around much longer than the questionable term “stoner rock” has been in usage).  The songs are shorter, though still fully realized and revolve around a couple key riffs and musical motifs.  There’s still enough atmosphere, dynamics and variation to keep it all from getting too stale and one dimensional.  There’s some usage of odd, dissonant chords and phrasing to keep it from sounding too generic and regurgitated.  Although The Sunken Djinn still owes a heavy debt to all things Sleep and Sabbath, nothing sounds like complete cookie cutter cloner rock. On top of that, the album has a great coherency and flow.

 

 

The production is a bit tighter and cleaner than its predecessor, allowing for more breathing room and space within the songs.  This has the effect of making the material sound heavier and darker, with more menace and bombast. Even the artwork is more nuanced and ominous, as much as I like the cover of the debut.  In 2017, when we’re talking doom, it’s somewhat of an innovation to just keep it simple and straight to the point. Vokonis have essentially emphasized everything that I love about classic stoner doom, while cutting out the elements that have largely become redundant and cliche.

That’s not to say that Vokonis is totally free from some of the more irksome elements of stoner rock and doom.  I told you that I researched them a bit, and I did see pretty gratuitous displays of amplifier pornography on their Facebook page.  Maybe that floats some people’s proverbial “boats.” For me, if you’ve seen one Orange amp, you’ve seen them all, and we all know what they say about people with big amps.  I know that I’m generally inclined to extended rants and digressions, though I also like to tailor the format of my reviews to suit the album in discussion, so I’m going to take a page from the band’s playbook and keep today’s diatribe to a mere and brief five sentences.

 

7inch Single_Album Cover

 

I foresee pretty big things on the horizon for Vokonis.  They’re building a good deal of momentum for themselves in a short period of time, with a compelling and buzz-worthy debut, a hot off the presses 7″ showcasing a song from the new album, and the backing of a label that’s known to be extremely artist friendly and supportive.  This could very easily be their breakthrough album, it’s well crafted and immediate.  By all accounts they seem to be ambitious, hungry, and upwardly mobile.  Once this album drops and Vokonis take the show on the road, barring any unforeseen circumstances, they’re going to make quite the impact and leave a good sized crater of charred audiences in their wake….


New Album Review – Alastor “Black Magic”

Alastor

Black Magic – CD / DD

Twin Earth Records – March 18th 2017

 

There’s a bit of mystery surrounding the “Southern Swedish” band Alastor.  They never actually specify where exactly in Southern Sweden they’re from, and they only list a single capital letter as credits for who is playing what.  That’s okay, I can roll with that.  I love a good mystery, and it’s rather indicative of their overall aesthetic.  With an album title like this and a sigillistic logo, you damn well better believe that they’re singing about the occult mysteries, for better or for worse.

Why do I say for better or for worse?  Well….everyone sings about and is steeped in occult imagery these days, especially in doom circles.  Sure, there are rumors and allegations that I myself dabble in or have extensive knowledge of the occult, though that’s not something that I talk about or flaunt much, is it?  I’ll just say this – I do believe that the more recurrent occult themes are utilized, the more ubiquitous they become, the more they lose their unique power.  With that in mind, let’s talk Black Magic.  Alastor’s cauldron is full to the brim with your typical brew: one part fuzz-splattered, feedback laden guitar, one part reverb-drenched, so wet they’re dripping female vocals, one part groovin’ subsonic bass that swings like a hangman’s noose, and one part thundering drums.  Add some psychedelic and atmospheric flourishes, tune down and turn up accordingly, and voila!! Simmer and serve.

 

Live Band Shot

 

I’m going to address what’s a bit atypical – the vocals are pretty buried, and this sounded a bit strange to me on first listen.  They’re coated in delay and caked with reverb, though otherwise they’re relatively clean.  Still, it’s hard to decipher the lyrics, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing given the band’s flair for the mysterious.  It works with their overall vibe, and once I’d fallen under the spell of their second song, it all seemed natural.  Black Magic clocks in at 34 minutes, and consists of just three epic length tracks.  That’s pretty good for a debut; they come in, cast their choral curses, then leave you begging for more.  I can appreciate that approach.  The songwriting is pretty straight forward; opener “Enemy” begins with a barrage of feedback and sub-bass, then breaks into a menacing, staggering riff as the guitars boil and bubble in your ears.  This isn’t just a metaphor, there’s a lot of undulation and overtones going on in the drawn these drawn out chords, which really adds to the aesthetic atmosphere.  Eventually the song picks up to a more mid tempo groove, and the vocals kick in.  Around the 8 minute mark, it breaks down into feedback and allows the rhythm section to shine through the glorious haze, eventually morphing into a barrage of minimalistic yet psychedelic lead guitars until the song’s conclusion.

“Nothing To Fear” fades in with feedback and then launches right into a barrage of blistering riffs.  It’s simplistic yet effective, like a doll poked full of pins and needles.  The vocals come in soon after, and the song alternates between some verse and chorus riffs. At around the five and a half minute mark, it switches things up from this straightforward power groove into a more shuffling swing, there’s a bit more singing, some wah drenched soloing, and then it ends just as it began, with a bi-tonal blast of dual guitar feedback fading into nothingness.  The title track, “Black Magic” also starts with some feedback before establishing its main theme, a slow burning, sinister melody that morphs into more active riffs between the vocals, which are noticeably more menacing throughout.  I like this song a lot, it’s like the perfect culmination of Electric Wizard and Acid King, with the vocals alternating between a lower pitched delivery over the main riff, then switching to a higher register over a more melodic chord progression.   Once again, the song breaks down around the 8 minute mark into simply a slow rolling bass line drifting between the wash of echoed noise and the iconic hum of a cranked tube amplifier.  This gives way to some subtle drum work before the album collapses and climaxes into a doomy ode to the dark arts, complete with harmonized vocals that seems to add more layers each time their barely decipherable spell.

 

Frontman_ Live Shot

 

Fans of Windhand should eat this up, it’s the same sort of sound with its own twists on the style.  Like I mentioned above, this is a great debut, as it’s short and to the point, a statement of intent that leaves plenty of room for a young band to grow and develop.  If they’re going to distinguish themselves within an over-saturated scene of Black Sabbath worshiping Weedians, they will need to do just that, as this is obviously not the most original sounding album in the world.  I’d like to see them take some more chances with their songwriting and incorporate other influences on future releases, and I’d also like to hear them put the vocals up a bit more at the forefront, as they’re a strong point when they’re allowed some breathing room.  For now though, this hits the spot on for me on a gloomy Sunday morning.  I was raised Catholic, and I still to this day firmly believe in keeping holy the Sabbath.

Reviewed By Andy “YUM Dinger” Beresky


New Album Review – Kingnomad “Mapping The Inner Void”

Kingnomad

Mapping The Inner Void – Vinyl / CD / DD

Ripple Music – Release Date: February 25th 2017

 

Kingnomad is a band out of northern Sweden, and they don’t really mention their actual hometown on any of their biographical information, only that they’re from a small village.  I like that, a little mystery right off the bat, especially for a band with supposed occult leanings.  I use the word “supposed” because it’s clear from this foursome’s bio that they’re a bunch of down-to-earth dudes in it for the ha-ha’s, not hardcore Satanists intent on destroying the universe by hurling curses from Ancient Grimoire of black magic.  That’s fine and dandy, though I’m not sure how many of you caught the recent blog post from the fabulous Invisible Oranges author Joseph Shafer, entitled “Ten Metal Clichés We Can Do Without.”  I’m going to doing something that I’ve never done, and link it here for posterity, because it really spoke to me: http://www.invisibleoranges.com/ten-metal-cliches-we-can-do-without/

Give it a read.  Go ahead.  You might hate the article, and you might hate me for agreeing with the vast majority of what the author has to say.  Why do I bring this up within the context of this review? Well, that’s kind of my thing, isn’t it? No album or band exists within a bubble or a vacuum, and I firmly believe that context and relevancy are extremely important.  I’m also a firm believer in the Zeitgeist, the “spirit of the age”, and if an album doesn’t in some way, shape or form speak to that spirit, then it’s simply not for me.

I may constantly chastise myself for my tangential reviews, though there’s a method to my madness.  I have two diatribes to launch into for this review, and luckily, they flow pretty well from one to the other.

 

Band shot with Ripple

 

Firstly, did you read the Invisible Oranges article?  If you’ve read some of my reviews, you’ll probably know by now that I’m highly critical of quite a number of these things listed.  I remember seeing the title of this article and thinking “Man, they had better have Satan as the number one cliché or I’m going to be extremely disappointed in humanity.”  Thank you, Invisible Oranges, for delivering the goods – I’ve had enough disappointments with the whole of humanity as of late.

Kingnomad manage to encapsulate and incorporate three of the items on the cliché list: Black Sabbath worship, Satan, and Cthulhu.  I’d like to emphasize that the aforementioned article calls for moderation and thoughtfulness, a “less is more” approach rather than an outright abolition of some of metal’s most traditionally treasured golden calves and sacred cows.  I could use plenty of examples from occultism and esoteric traditions to illustrate the validity of this argument, though I’ll instead drudge up one from contemporary popular culture.  In the Star Wars mythos, one of the main ideological differences between the Jedi and the Sith is their interpretation of the Force, beyond the light and dark sides of it.  The Jedi believe that the Force is like a candle, and that a bright burning flame can be used to light many more candles, while the Sith believe that the Force is more like venom, and to spread it out too thinly is to dilute its potency.  When it comes to metal, I’d have to agree with the Sith on this one.  The reason that lyrical subject matters that are traditionally held as taboo carry so much weight and power is their relative scarcity.  It’s the fact that they’re not the norm that makes them so alluring.  The ritualistic and artistic deconstruction of societal barriers releases a wave of liberating cultural energy that can be harnessed into transformative effects.  That’s the basis for a whole system of esoteric practice that’s intrinsically linked to metal, The Left Hand Path (let’s save that particular can of worms for another review, though it is worth mentioning here).  However, as these themes become overused and ubiquitous, they lose their ability to shock and awe; their potency is diluted.  They cease to be the language of counterculture, heterodoxy and ultimately liberation, and instead become the manifestation of a mindless adherence to a tired and cliched orthodox blueprint.  Anything that holds the potential for liberation also carries with it the threat of oppression when it transitions from the realms of the fantastic and abnormal into just another lame-and-tame inevitability of the mundane world.

 

Pro Band Shot

 

In that regard, Kingnomad are not one of the more egregious offenders, as their references to Lovecraft and Lucifer His Dark Majesty are used sparingly and light-heartedly.  The band openly admits that they’re in it for the fun, and that’s just fine with me.  Ghost set the stage for the whole “Scooby Doom” school of metal, and it looks like the good times are here to roll.  As far as the Black Sabbath worship, well…. if you’re playing metal and feel like you’re not indebted and influenced by The Sabs, then you’re doing it wrong.  I’ve attempted to defy the unquestioned supremacy of Sabbath for many years now, to cast doubt on their reign in hopes of finding other worthy usurpers to the crown who’ve lurked in their shadows, and I’ve come to the conclusion that Black Sabbath are kings, lords and masters wherever The Heavy is concerned.  This you can trust.  Plenty of their contemporary proto-metal protégées from the late 60’s and early 70’s left their marks and signposts, though none blazed a trail the way that Ozzy and crew did from the moment that the iconic tri-tone of their title track was committed to tape.

On Mapping The Inner Void, Kingnomad mine the Sabbath treasure troves for what that they’re worth, though their incorporation of the more psychedelic elements of bands like Witch and Mammatus sets them in a place firmly above a mere Sabbath clone.  They’ve got more of that indie rock vibe that started creeping in from the neo-psych movement that Dead Meadow brought to the forefront of the stoner scene.  They’re able to use some of those fuzzy, major key riffs that Dead Meadow pulled off with such poise on their debut and also dive into some of the more nuanced, layered sounds that made Feathers such a breakthrough album.  They’re also going for some of the pop hooks and harmonized vocals that turned Ghost and Uncle Acid And The Deadbeats songs into such mesmerizing ear candy.

Herein lies my second tangent, which is the continued resistance to the melding of the metal and indie worlds.  I bring this up because Kingnomad wisely call themselves “doom rock”, rather than doom metal.  This may seem like a small distinction, though it’s a very important detail to some.  Metal carries with it a sense of tradition that lends itself to puritanism, while rock is more open ended.  I’m a pragmatist who also doesn’t like to falsely advertise; if you’re a traditionalist or purist who is turned off by the bands that I’ve name dropped above, then this album very well may not be for you.  I personally have never been turned off by indie rock getting its proverbial peanut butter mixed in with metal’s chocolate.  I’m a steadfast believer in one of the central themes of the Russian dramatist Anton Chehkov’s continual literary themes: that art needs new forms.

 

Great Live Pic

 

With two tangents down, it’s time to get this review back on track and talk about the music itself.  Kingnomad write slow to mid-paced fuzz-fests characterized by an overall ethereal vibe.  All the songs have a delightful other-worldliness, from the juxtaposition of super saturated and squeaky clean guitar tones, to the wispy vocal delivery and the smidgens of choice samples from horror movies that the band laces into their songs.  There’s some cool synth sounds too, which I’m always a sucker for.  There are seven songs total; the entire album clocks in at just under 40 minutes, so it’s the perfect length for vinyl, and it won’t test either your attention span or your patience.  All the songs are good, distinctive and memorable, making for a inclusive and cohesive listening experience that deepens with repeat listens.  I don’t really have a favorite song, though ‘Nameless Cult’ certainly burrowed its way through the canals of my inner ear and lodged itself unwittingly into my memory with its haunting chords and major key dalliances.  Similarly, the closing track, and the longest of the album, ‘The Waiting Game’ is also a highlight in its epic take on heavy psych rock freak-outs.  Even the shortest track, the instrumental interlude ‘Whispers From R’Lyeth’ confidently stands on its own strengths.  This is fine album in my eyes, especially for a debut.

In case you haven’t noticed, I also have a penchant for offering constructive criticism when I think that it’s pertinent.  With that being said….guys, keep it fun and keep it fresh as you move forward with your musical career.  This is an extremely imaginative release, and you’re going to have to up the ante on your next one to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump.  Look into all the weird fiction that’s out there beyond the wall of sleep.  There are lots of great anti-heroes that you can draw upon for inspiration besides The Adverse One.  Keep drinking your beer and writing your riffs, because you’re obviously onto something, and no one can take that away from you, not even me with my feeble pen and polished words.

Reviewed by Andy “Esteban Dinger” Beresky


New Album Review – Horisont “About Time”

Horisont

About Time – Vinyl / CD / DD

Century Media Records – Release Date:  February 3rd 2017

 

“Odyssey” really saw them forge their own path instead of being a Witchcraft/Graveyard also-ran. – Brian “Butch” Balich

 

I hope that Brian Balich, of Argus fame (for starters), doesn’t mind me quoting him to start off this review, though he beautifully summed up my thoughts on Horisont with this one sentence when we were recently having a lively Facebook discussion regarding their releases.  I remember getting my hands on the first Horisont record some years ago, I believe it was when I was writing reviews for the now defunct Stonerrock.com, as that was a period in my life when I had all kinds of random promos floating through my home office.  I remembered that they were a Swedish retro 70’s rock band, as was very much in vogue at the time with the success of Graveyard and Witchcraft, though they sang a considerable deal more in Swedish than Witchcraft, and there was a little more of ZZ Top’s boogie and swagger in their sound than was typical of the other throwback bands of the era.  These guys obviously owned well-worn copies of Cactus albums.  That was really the extent of the impression that their debut left upon me.  It was well written, it was cleverly crafted and executed with style and poise, though for me personally, there wasn’t much to distinguish Horisont from any other band devoted to that big blues rock sound of lore.  When I later received a promotional copy of their sophomore album, Second Assault, it just sounded like more of the same, and I kind of wrote them off as exactly what Butch described: a hopeful band following in the footsteps of these aforementioned other more successful bands, and ultimately finding themselves swallowed in the shadows instead.

 

Great Band Shot

 

With this in mind, it was with some surprise that I found more than a few people heralding Horisont’s 2015 album, Odyssey, as their favorite of the year.  Granted, I’d no longer kept up on the band, because  honestly there’s just too much music out there for any one person to fully absorb in a live time, and they’d just done nothing thus far to captivate my ever-ebbing attention span.  Still, there was something so insistent, so fanatical about the praise being heaped on Odyssey, from people that I knew and trusted. I had to check it out for my lonesome.

I’m glad that I did, because it’s a real gem, a literal diamond in the proverbial rough.  It blew me totally out of the water – right out of left field, Horisont had unleashed the best conceptual sci-fi metal album these ears had heard since Slough Feg’s most triumphant Traveler.    Perhaps there was some trace of this transition in the band’s third album, Time Warriors, which I’d never heard prior to starting this review. I intend to remedy this situation and find out for myself.  Okay, fuck it….I listened to it on YouTube just now, and although it’s a leap forward from the first two albums, flirting with some NWOBHM and prog rock influences, it’s nowhere near as actualized as Odyssey.  Perhaps it was the addition of second guitarist Tom Sutton, who had previously played in a past incarnation of Japanese doom mongers Church Of Misery, that galvanized Horisont to so radically step up their game on their fourth album.  The most obvious point of departure from the prior albums is the sheer scope of influence that Odyssey so seamlessly encompasses.  It’s also worth pointing out that in their bio, they straight up state that it was Tom’s idea to write the ten minute song that eventually morphed into the title track, so there’s that.  At any rate, this is the album that The Sword wished that they’d pulled off with Warp Riders, a 70’s throw back album that goes heavy on the science fiction elements without going full prog and thus sacrificing the bodacious boogie.

As much as I’d love to wax poetic about Odyssey for another several paragraphs, I’m going to resist that constant temptation for tangents, just this once.  Instead, let’s fast forward a bit to the present moment; the year is 2017, and Horisont is on the verge of releasing their follow-up album, About Time.     Tom Sutton is out, some other guy named David is in.  This is their first album that’s coming out on Century Media, about a year and a half after Rise Above released Odyssey.  I bring these things up strictly because they’ve boxed themselves into a very tight corner, coming off a real creative high point, signing with a new label, replacing a guitarist, then perhaps feeling some pressure to establish themselves on said label with a new release that’s going to follow up their crowning achievement.  That’s a tall order, and a year and a half isn’t a lot of time to deliver.

About Time does ultimately deliver, capitalizing on the same strengths that marked its predecessor.  It’s another progressive proto-metal album that reminds me of the mid-70’s output of some of my favorite bands of the era: Scorpions, Rush, Thin Lizzy, Blue Oyster Cult, Uriah Heep, Judas Priest, you get the idea.  Musically, there’s a ton of super cool things going on.  I can’t find a credit anywhere for who is covering the keyboard work, though that’s really one of the album’s strengths, the increased usage of synths both in terms of melodic lead parts and more atmospheric backdrops.  The dual guitar attack is once again superb, each part bubbling over with taste and tact.  The vocals continue to show improvement, mostly in the sheer bravado of frontman Axel’s delivery, though there are also so many awesome, Scorpions-esque backing parts laced throughout.  I also enjoy the playfulness and subtle irreverence of the lyrics, plus the now obligatory song sung in Swedish.  The bass and drums play well off one another, and they’ve both got an uncanny knack for holding down the groove while also making sure things stay fresh and interesting.  The production is stellar – it’s a nice clean mix that brings out all the myriad elements.  It’s also worth noting that the cover art is bad ass, looking like a page from a long lost comic book adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine.

 

2017 Touring Pic

 

Okay, let’s revisit a point I was making earlier in relation to Odyssey.  I often don’t like it when an album feels “rushed”, like the band wrote it hastily for some reason that leans more heavily towards being business rather than artistically oriented.  I could potentially make that argument here.  About Time clocks in at 10 songs in 37 minutes, which is quite a downsize from Odyssey’s 12 tracks and 52 minutes, plus we’re not getting a ten minute epic opener.  About Time lacks that special kind of ambition and urgency, it doesn’t overflow with the feeling of unrestrained liberation unleashed by the breaking of prior constraints flows through every note of Odyssey.  Rather, it’s more about a refining process, of solidifying and then expanding on previous ideas until they reach their new heights.  I really enjoy the songs in and off themselves, the hooks and the pop sensibilities incorporated into a heavier retro metal format, that same alchemical formula for success which catapulted Ghost’s career, minus the corny costumes.  Ultimately, this is my favorite Horisont album, largely on the strength of its songwriting, which in my mind frees me from that feeling that they might have been better off if they’d spent some more time on its creation.

Whenever I review a band that’s obviously going for any form of retro-rock shtick, I find myself wanting to go on a tangent about whether or not it’s creatively limiting to strictly mine certain eras of the past for inspiration, if such an approach ultimately cuts an artist off from whole swaths of potential influence.  Horisont have pretty much put that particular internal argument to rest for me, as they’ve proven that any time period is a potential goldmine if one is simply willing to expand the breadth of one’s influences.  Does any given retrophile act still reek a bit of gimmickry, however sincere in its intent?  Sure, though that’s so often the price of entertainment, isn’t it?

Reviewed by Andy “A Beautifully Simple Smart Doorbell By Ding” Beresky


Album Review – A Projection “Framework”

A Projection

Framework – Vinyl / CD / DD

Tapete Records – Released January 13th, 2017

 

I’d been telling Taste Nation brainchild Matthew Thomas that I needed some good new post-punk in my life.  Believe it or not, I don’t just sit around listening to stoner metal, doom, and all the old Black Sabbath albums all the time.  I actually have fairly eclectic tastes, and I start to feel pretty burned out listening to one genre of music all the time.  I beg and practically whine to be able to review someone who doesn’t list Kyuss or Sleep as influences, and eventually Matthew was kind enough to oblige.  Okay, maybe not initially, when he tricked me into reviewing another stoner metal band by telling me it was a post-punk band, but I’m willing to forgive him that little bait and switch tactic, because it was a good stoner album, and the next band that landed on my proverbial desk was Sweden’s A Projection.  Matthew basically asked me, “Is this post-punk enough for you yet??”  And I answered with a resounding YES, then proceeded to bombard his Facebook page with cute pictures of kittens as a show of gratitude, for which you’d think that he’d be far more appreciative.

 

Band Pic

 

From the opening bassline from first track, ‘Hands’, which creeps and crawls through the brain like some long-lost Joy Division outtake that’s just resurfaced circa 2017, you pretty much know what you’re getting into: frenetic, restless and infectious basslines, drumbeats that pulse with a steady, hypnotic monotony, cold baritone vocals delivering bleak lyrics and minimalistic melodies, soaring synthesizer parts, and guitars that toe the line between lush ambiance and abrasive angularity.  The second track, ‘Dark City’, follows suit quite nicely, with a catchy instrumental hook that’s reminiscent of the classic Joy Division tune, “24 Hours”, though A Projection definitely ups their early Cure influence on this one.  This tune for me represents the peak of what they can accomplish with the whole  Joy Division exchanging bloody kisses and  black roses with The Cure approach, so I think that it’s cool that they change things up by the third song, “Transition”.  The memorable line “No more singing on the dance floor” is reinforced with the more dance friendly beat and song structure, and it marks a turn towards the more upbeat, which continues on the next track “Sensible Ends”, with its curt vocal delivery and driving drum rhythms that eventually morph into a straight up four-to-the-floor dance beat.

The next track, ‘Scattered’, is where they really start to shake things up a bit.  A Projection utilizes a two chord major key progression that’s eerily reminiscent of the Modern English song “I’ll Melt With You.”  There’s also a really cool and quirky keyboard breakdown thrown into the middle before the vocals break out of the baritone range into more ecstatic octaves.  In case you think that they’re going soft on us, rest assured that the next song ‘I’m Not Here’ once again launches into  a dark and emotionally tortured dalliance, like Ian Curtis providing guest vocals for a Disintegration outtake.  This is followed by ‘No Light’, which is more in the same vein of the second song, “Dark City.”  Just read the above description of that track; it’s the same idea.

‘Next Time’ once again strays into pop territories, with a ridiculously infectious main hook initially introduced by the guitars and then driven home by the catchy chorus.  I swear that I’ve heard this hook in another prominent 80’s tune, though I can’t place it off the top of my head.  The ending of the song is great too, as it descends into this ranting style of vocals, like a goth-rock take on R.E.M.’s 

‘It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (I Feel Fine).’  The next song, ‘For Another Day’, once again reminds me of early Cure, which is fine and dandy. ‘Betrayal’ is next, and once again brings that major key melodic sense to the table, and the quicker tempo gives it an irresistible urgency.  ‘Hollow Eyes’ is slower and bleaker, with a more dissonant, eerie progression and some harsh triggered electronics in the background, along with a splendid descending keyboard line after the chorus.  ‘Breach’ is in the same realm as “Dark Cities”, right down to the main guitar part that reminds me of “24 Hours.”  The final track, ‘Listen To The Dark’ once again makes heavy use of electronics and effects – the drums and vocals are punctuated by heavy delay, which stretches out the otherwise sparse arrangement into a dark abstract soundscape that recalls some of The Soft Moon’s best work.  This would have been a goth anthem were it only released in 1983.

 

Framework_Album Cover

 

I’m sure that you know what you’re thinking right now – I started this review by saying that I was burned out only listening to bands that sound a lot like other bands, and yet here I am reviewing a band that by my own account, simply sounds a lot like other bands.  This is absolutely true; I’m guilty as charged.  A Projection aren’t bravely treading new ground, nor do they really attempt to do so.  This is an album made solely in the post-punk/goth/new wave tradition of the early 80’s.  I’m not going to lie to you or insult your intelligence  by saying that this album is the greatest thing since sliced bread and you must be living under a rock if you haven’t heard it.  It’s just a well written collection of thirteen songs that are executed, performed, and produced to accomplish a particular effect, namely to conjure the spirit of a bygone age of music past.  Right now, that’s simply scratching a particular itch that’s been nagging at my backside for the past couple weeks, plain and simple.  If this albums sounds like it scratches your particular itch as well, then I’d encourage you to check it out for yourself.  If this doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, and you’re looking to drink down something more in the mode of a 70’s rock throwback, the new Horisont album is most excellent in my humble opinion.

Reviewed by Andy “Darkwave Duck” Beresky