7/20/2018

ROTW: Stereo Master!


“What's in a name? That which we call a rose,
   By any other word would smell as sweet”


But what if that rose was a band, and what if that band was called Bilbong Baggins? Would it sound as sweet? If you’re a longtime reader of the old aQ list and/or this WDYLI? blog, then the answer is probably 100% yes. So many of our favorite bands came to our attention solely based on having a ridiculous moniker, and we are rarely disappointed. I guess the idea is that a mind demented and warped enough to come up with a baffling band name, is probably also gonna come up with the music to match.

Which brings us back to Bilbong Baggins. A mysterious group that the label who put out this cassette (Atrocious Gnosis, also an amazing name for a label) describes as “Cryptic Doom about wizards, bugs and drugs”, and as if that didn’t already potentially promise too much, their description finishes by simply saying: “Better than Sabbath.” Which is true, assuming you wish Black Sabbath sounded more like Rusted Shut, and that Ozzy sounded more like some hybrid of Keiji Haino and a dying wildebeest, and that the guitar riffs sounded more like maybe some of the strings were missing and probably all of the tuning pegs were sheared off in a fit of noise-doom freakout, but the band decided ‘fuck it’ and continued on sans strings, tuning pegs and any real tuning at all.

That’s not to say there aren’t some solid riffs, there most definitely are, but they’re rendered in various shades of ‘fucked up’, the vibe being WAY more basement drug jam that epic doomage. “Weednado” sounds like weirdo country fuck-ups Jon Wayne crossed with Captain Beefheart, peppered with some crappy, almost Brainbombs-ish trumpet bleats. “The Wizard Approaches” gets heavy, but seemingly the heavier the guitars get, the more unhinged and over the top croony the vocals become, but it does definitely veer into some serious stumble-doom territory. Meanwhile album closer “The Horn Of The Ancient Alpine Elders” sounds like disembodied bits of black metal mixed with weird floorcore noisejams, a little Faxed Head handicap-core and a lot of lo-fi clatter and crumble.

Throughout the rest of the record, in between the above highlights, the band explores minimal, 4-track plod rock, fractured outsider psych, hushed bedroom folk damage and – on “Birds Of Death”, maybe our favorite jam here – some awesomely ham-fisted organ/synth noise-prog. That's rendered with the keyboard component cranked, and constantly jittering and jerking from note to note. That track eventually gets all tangled up with more horns and turns into a pretty mesmerizing weirdo psych jam.

And the oozing, rotten cherry on the top of the whole thing is the amazingly amateur high school binder, ballpoint pen cover art. Ta da, Record Of The Week.

So if you like your doom decidedly UN-doomy, and if you like your fucked up, basement-brawl, bruised and bloodied noise rock just a little bit doomy, or if you just dig stuff like Rusted Shut, Drunks With Guns, Puffy Areloas, Twin Stumps, Brainbombs, Drunkdriver, Homostupids or No Balls, but ONLY if that stuff is recorded on a busted up Walkman in a pile of broken bottles at the bottom of a smelly old trash can and fronted by a drunk and disgraced Vegas crooner, then Bilbong Baggins just might be your sweet smelling rose.

It’s probably also worth mentioning that the Atrocious Gnosis label is run by a longtime aQ pal, who is also the genius behind Book Of Sand, who has a new record out called Postmodern Witchcraft on Auris Apothecary, which recasts BoS’ previously more black metal sound in the form of creepy reverb drenched garage rock. Sounds weird maybe but it’s so beautiful and pretty much perfect. Obviously HIGHLY recommended as well…

7/11/2018

ROTW: Liquid Crystal Despair!

Our Record Of The this Week comes from Portland, Oregon's JonnyX And The Groadies. It makes sense that we flipped for these guys big time back in the day (they started off as a punk band in the late '90s and put out their first proper full-length in 2005). Originally described to us circa that album's release as being 'party black metal,' they actually kind of lived up to what could have potentially been a fairly unappealing sonic combo concept. Plus, they were called JonnyX And The Groadies! And as much as we may have (maybe surprisingly) had an aversion to what we call 'costume rock,' something about the Groadies' look – a glam metaller, a scientist, a bearded rocker and a skeleton (!) – when combined with their epic, over the top synth-soaked black metal influenced cybergrind, was kind of irresistible and pretty goddamn genius.

It’s been a while since we heard from JXTG (eight years!) and they’ve now rebranded themselves as purveyors of 'Lazer blackened trans-dimensional cosmic-thrash,' which is surprisingly pretty accurate, especially as it concerns their latest release, Liquid Crystal Despair, a head-spinning sci-fi concept record about, well… shit, we have no idea what it's about actually… crystals probably, and despair… um… and liquids? But sonically, it's a dizzying mix of furious blasting beats, space-y electronics, raspy blackened vocals, epic melodies, all wreathed in a killer production and laced with the sort of oddball detail that made them so original and unique in the first place.

It’s pretty ambitious too, with moments of moody ambience, haunting piano passages, stretches of gloomy dungeon synth, some almost Viking metal sounding majesty, swirling, squelchy electronics, and wild programmed rhythms. But all of that is in service to a sound that solidly places them in some solid black-thrash company. The songwriting is top notch, with the sound easily shifting from furious buzzing, to crushing bombast, to moody, metallic mesmer… A reviewer online compared it to some kind of mix between Celtic Frost and Hawkwind, and besides being something we would (and should) have said about them, it’s pretty spot on! Hear for yourself via their Bandcamp page, where, aside from digital, you can buy the physical album on either 12" vinyl, chrome cassette tape, or CD-R:

7/08/2018

NWOFHM 101, part two

While we didn't post a ROTW last week due to the patriotic holiday, at least I managed to finish this – at long last, what folks have been quietly clamoring for (I can only assume, having no evidence either way): the follow-up post to part one of my New Wave Of Finnish Heavy Metal primer.

Part two covers a bunch more crucial bands in the so-called NWOFHM movement, which is, as previously discussed, a bit of a joke hatched by our friends from Finnish neo-krautrock legends Circle. Yet, a lot more than a joke.

In the more than a year-and-a-half (!) since I posted part one, we've seen the release of a few more efforts in the NWOFHM realm, including a Circle album, Terminal, on mostly metal label Southern Lord, and more recently an excellent new Pharaoh Overlord, Zero. Then there was the Danko Jones/Circle side project Iron Magazine who put out a 12" last year, and also, more recently, the second Split Cranium 'crossover' collaboration featuring members of CircleIsis, Converge, Mammifer and Old Man Gloom. Perhaps most notable, though, was the first release in six years from Steel Mammoth, Atomic Oblivion! None more NWOFHM than them, so as promised, they'll kick off this 2nd part of our NWOFHM 101 primer, here goes...

STEEL MAMMOTH!!! Probably Jussi & Co.’s flagship act when it comes to pure NWOFHM stuff (and “post-grunge” stuff too). The sheer metalness of their name, album titles, song titles, cover graphics, adds up to NWOFHM heroes. Steel Mammoth is a joke wrapped in a riddle inside an iron fist wearing a velvet glove, etc., etc.

The band is fronted by the signature voice of the NWOFHM, Ville Pirinen aka Garfield Steel. He’s a quirky Finnish indie rocker and visual artist with a bunch of different bands on his C.V. that predate his involvement in the NWOFHM scene, such as the blues rock/synth pop of Black Audio, which you can definitely hear a bit of in Steel Mammoth. Also, Pirinen currently is part of one of thee best bands in the current wave of ‘female-fronted occult rock’ bands, Seremonia – a subject for another post someday. Check out Seremonia though if you’re at all into bands like Blood Ceremony and The Devil's Blood - they’re by far the most legitimately psychedelic of the lot! Another guy from Seremonia is in Steel Mammoth too, Ilkka Vekka, who is also behind the psychedelic/noise/industrial project Haare.

As far as Steel Mammoth goes, all their albums and eps are essential NWOFHM listening, here’s but a taste, beginning with "Nuclear Barbarians" off of their 2007 debut:


This next track, "Extinction," from their third album Nuclear Ritual (2009), is a big fave too. When we reviewed that release on the aQuarius list, we compared this album-ending eight-plus minute song's lumbering stoner/doom riffage to Witchcraft and Jex Thoth, and went on to say that it "eventually morphs into an extended lysergic jam worthy of Circle in its krautiness, with a bassline that Rick Rubin woulda loved on Bloodsugarsexmagic, that never seems like it will end and when it does you'll want to start it again... With results like this, Steel Mammoth are doing something right, even if they're playing metal 'wrong'." Check it out:


And finally, here's a video of a track from 2011's Nuclear Rebirth, the second in the trilogy of vinyl-only albums that has seen Steel Mammoth evolving into sounding like an actual metal (or metalpunk) band, a super thrashy and gnarly one at that:




AKTOR!!! A collaboration between Jussi and the almost equally prolific Chris "Professor" Black of Dawnbringer and High Spirits fame. It sounds like an '80s keyboard infused, sci-fi frazzled version of High Spirits in a lot of ways, trading the positive pop metal sound of that band for something equally poppy but more paranoid, definitely heavily influenced by Blue Öyster Cult circa The Revölution By Night and even Club Ninja. Plus a dose of Angel Rat era Voivod and, I dunno, maybe even some Return To Forever. And, 'cause of the BÖC thing, this band may perhaps remind some folks of Sweden's Ghost as well.

So far, Aktor is responsible for one wonderful full-length in 2015 and, before that, a 7" single from 2013. Here’s the A-side of that single:


Good news though – Aktor have a new 2018 album coming out SOON, teaser track here:




ARKHAMIN KIRJASTO!!! Jussi, again, with support from one of the other Steel Mammoth guys, takes the NWOFHM into Nordic black metal territory, sort of a la Darkthrone and Satyricon. But way weird and psychedelic and Lovecraftian (the band's name in English is "Arkham Library"). They've put out two 7" singles and a full-length album, and in the aQuarius review of the latter we noted that "if their tongues are in cheek here, they're well hidden." Serious rockin' death/black metal business happening here. In fact, it's the least metal tracks on there that sound the most typically NWOFHM. Here's a taste, a video for the opening track on their Torches Ablaze (2012) album:




OK, so that wraps up our run down on thee NWOFHM essentials so far! However, stay tuned someday for part three of this primer, where I'll dig into the 'roots of the NWOFHM' (inspirations and influences) and also discuss some other contemporary non-Finnish bands that kind of fit into the NWOFHM sound, like Realmbuilder. Or perhaps I'll save those for an eventual part four... which could include mention of the non-Circle-related, actual New Wave Of Traditional Heavy Metal from Finland (NWOTHMFF?) including Iron Griffin, Lord Fist, Angel Sword, Rotör and more.

But, before we go today, if you have another 18 minutes to spare, and haven't already wandered down some YouTube hole as a result of the above, gonna leave you with this 'bonus track' – an up close and personal documentary segment about the life and art of Garfield Steel himself, from Sami Sänpäkkilä's 'A Day In The Mouth' series:


All hail the NMOFHM! (–Allan)

6/26/2018

ROTW: RTK!!


Heads up, folks, nothin' new (or old) this week, not even the 73-track super deluxe Appetite For Destruction reissue, is gonna beat this – a double CD or triple LP freekout of rare vintage material from these hypnotic UK garage fuzz jammers, including the tracks from their debut split 7", all newly compiled and remastered from the first three releases they put out on Rocket, circa 1998-2002.

It includes a 'Conga'd Out' version of their classic (and classically titled) "Spliff Riff" and also a track named "Neu75" so you know it's gotta be good. One of the cuts, "KRT," takes up two whole sides of vinyl (or most of the 2nd disc in the compact disc set). It and the rest of this collection are the definition of sprawling, glorious, drugged-out, and fuzz-filled (natch).

Released by The Heads' own Rooster Rock label, you can pick this up from Midheaven mailorder, where you'll find a few sound samples to check out – if such checking out is even necessary before purchase of anything to do with The Heads. Or dive into a couple of the tracks via YouTube, below:


6/21/2018

ROTW: The Water, The Stars!

Andee's such a big, big fan of this band, whose 2013 debut we made an aQuarius Record Of The Week (we closed up shop before reviewing their second album, unfortunately), that he volunteered to write this big, big review of their brand new third LP (on Lauren Records) for the band's website. Thus, this is a surefire WDYLI ROTW pick, too! Read on and check out what might be your new favorite indie rock album...


It’s been almost exactly two years since Sacramento musical mesmerists Sun Valley Gun Club released their practically perfect, self-titled sophomore album. That record was absolutely my favorite album of 2016, and remains one of my favorite records to this day, getting almost as much play in 2018 as when I first heard it. The only times I ever really stopped listening really, were the occasional desperate attempts to try to avoid getting sick of those songs, which I quickly discovered was something I didn’t really need to worry about at all!

So when I first discovered there was a new SVGC record, I was pretty excited. I had been hearing the band perform some of these songs live for a while, but when gathered all up together, as The Water, The Stars, they revealed themselves to be yet another pitch perfect collection of classic indie rock, filtered through SVGC’s unique sonic lens: a hook-heavy hybrid of languorous twang and noise pop crunch, each song impossibly catchy on its own, but even more compelling as part of the whole. Like with the previous album, I had to fight the urge to simply listen to individual songs over and over and over endlessly. But honestly, I didn’t really fight all that hard...

The opening track “If You Would Only Wait” perfectly encapsulates the Sun Valley Gun Club sound, a galloping blast of jangle and crunch, driven by distorted vocals, fuzzy guitars and some dizzyingly loose-limbed drumming. Hooks everywhere, the bridge as catchy as the verse, the verse as catchy as the chorus, the band deftly delivering the occasional feedback drenched squall or slipping into syncopated, almost metallic heft. And of course, one of the most distinctive parts of SVGC’s sound, their tendency to take what is essentially a pop song and stretch it WAY out at the end, letting it transform into something much more psychedelic and dreamily droney, a sprawling, hazy and heavenly psych jam that could stretch out forever, and I would not mind one bit.

As if the opener wasn’t good enough, “She Is Gone” might be one of the best songs SVGC have ever written, which is saying a lot for a band whose catalog is essentially made up of coulda/shoulda/woulda been stone cold classics. Laconic vox draped over woozy jangle, a sweetly slacker indie rock that finds the perfect middle ground between Pavement and Built To Spill, laced with some of the most divine background harmonies, the whole song demonstrating the band’s unparalleled pop-song mastery, still channeling the nineties, but making that sound wholly and totally their own.

And that’s just two songs in. The rest of the record unfurls just as dramatically, from the slow burn of “Falling Apart”, replete with spidery guitar melodies and a seriously crushing breakdown, again liberally laced with feedback and impossibly catchy hooks, to “Goodbye Columbus”, which sounds like a twangier take on unsung San Diego math pop crew Heavy Vegetable, to the last-call mope pop, countrified slow-jam of “Years After All”, an hypnotic see-saw between the Beatles-beholden Weezer-shred of San Francisco pop legends the Ovens, and a drowsy and drunken, sleepy smolder, laced with lush horns that lend the song an almost funereal Calexico vibe, all dusty and dusky.

As the record draws to a close, the sound winds down as well, “Time” takes the mumbled country of the late great Souled American, and lets it blossom into late night, Wilco-worthy dirge pop, the group effortlessly infusing that last-call melancholy with the sort of pathos more often paired with sonic bombast, instead of subtle, subdued songsmithery. And finally, the record closes with “I Saw A Pigeon,” lush with organ and horns, another sweetly maudlin dirge, that slowly builds to a fierce finale, a bombastic big finish: swirling squalls of guitar shred, raspy emotive vox and soaring horns. It’s like the final number of some big production, indie rock musical, that just as quickly fades into silence with one final peal of feedback.

As a whole, The Water, The Stars ambitiously expands on the group’s already impressively expansive sound, exploring a more diverse sonic palette: electric piano, slide guitar, organ and those aforementioned horns, as well as displaying the group’s ever-evolving songwriting and arranging. SVGC manage to make all of these songs sound oh so warm and familiar, but somehow at the same time, manage to make that familiarity impossibly exciting and unpredictable.

Since the very first time I heard Sun Valley Gun Club, I was totally perplexed that somehow, this band was not hugely popular. I’d see them play in front of 50 or 100 people, but the sound seemed impossibly incongruous to me. It was the sound, and the songs, of a band that should be playing huge festivals, selling out multiple nights at midsize venues, a group who should have music writers everywhere slavering, and blogs and magazines losing their ever loving shit. And every song on every one of their records should be finding their way onto mixtapes and playlists and should probably never, ever leave your stereo. The Water, The Stars only reinforces that impression, along with my belief, that Sun Valley Gun Club could very well, and SHOULD very well, be your new favorite band.

6/19/2018

ROTW: x6 (playing catch-up)

Hey, sorry, we skipped posting a Record Of The Week last week. To make up for that, here are six picks from the past six months of releases that really coulda, shoulda also been ROTW selections here already:

Brownout Fear Of A Brown Planet (Fat Beats)
The Austin, Texas Latin funk band that made two great albums of groovy, horn-section-enhanced Black Sabbath covers now brings us an album of Public Enemy songs... 'nuff said!


Fondation Les Cassettes 1980-1983 (Bureau B)
Collection of material from obscure early '80s cassette releases by this husband-wife ambient synth pop duo from France, who had previously played in such experimental/prog acts as Zed, Musica Elettronica Viva and Spacecraft. Beautiful stuff. Bureau B sure can dig 'em up...


Mind Spiders Furies (Dirtnap Records)
The fifth album from these electronic garage punk faves is, as always, awesome, and more blippy-bloopy-bouncy than before. They do a cool cover of a Grauzone song, even! Brings back some Six Finger Satellite memories...


Pharaoh Overlord Zero (Hydra Head/Ektro/Full Contact)
Latest hypnotic and idiosyncratic example of "NWOFHM" from this crucial Circle-side project. Guest starring Antti Boman (Demilich) and Hans Joachim Irmler (Faust) – and yes, mesmeric krautrock mixed with extreme Finnish weirdness is what this is all about.



Profligate Somewhere Else (Wharf Cat)
Black leather dim neon glow techno pop boy-girl duo (formerly boy solo) that can be both hauntingly atmospheric and harshly abrasive... oh, and also rhythmically and melodically compelling.


Tomb Mold Manor Of Infinite Forms (20 Buck Spin)
Thee best death metal album so far this year and probably of the rest of this year, too. You wanna argue about it? Heck even if you do, then you must be into death metal enough to at least admit this second proper full-length from Toronto's rotting, rocking and ruling Tomb Mold is pretty freaking sick and brutal, eh? If not, take our word for it.

6/06/2018

ROTW: Mouvement!

Not brand spanking new (it came out back in February) and in fact this "Black Metal" (yeah let's put that in quotes, and you can add "Death Metal, Doom, Drone, Psychedelia" to that as per their Discogs page) band has an even newer release out since, from April, a 12" vinyl only collaboration on Utech with saxophonist Mats Gustafsson that's also great, BUT for those who may have missed this and have any sort of affinity for out-there extreme metallish weirdness we wanted to give this second proper Chaos Echœs full-length some belated ROTW attention.

Featuring in their ranks two brothers, both former members of a French technical death/black metal band called Bloody Sign whose final album from 2010 was titled Chaos Echoes, the band Chaos Echœs is what happens when blackened death metal goes experimental. While it doesn't sound like jazz (despite their motto being a Wayne Shorter quote, "To hell with the rules, I am going for the unknown" and of course the above-mentioned association with a saxophone player) it is somewhat improvised and freeform sounding, the tracks as atmospheric and endless as their wordy, obscure song titles. It's compelling like an unbidden vision of the unknown. Uneasy listening, both ambient and aggressive, it's a trance-inducing experience of extremity that both Aluk Todolo and Ævangelist fans should appreciate. Get their 2015 album Transient first, perhaps (also on NWN!) and then sink into this one. Or vice versa, doesn't matter.

Check Mouvement out via Bandcamp, below, and listen for the following: left speaker guitars, effects, ebow, noises, oscillations, organistrum, harmonium, piano, overtone flute, whispers, vocals, drums, bells, crotales cymbals, hammered dulcimer, organistrum, daf, sansula, snare effects microphone, overtone flute, death whistle, whispers, vocals, bass, effects, bow, whispers, vocals, right speaker guitars, effects, ebow, oscillations, piano, whispers, vocals.