9/19/2017

ROTW: Acid Nightmares!


This week, another easy, greasy, brain-frying pick. First off, it's a new release from the excellent Numero label, and it's hard to go wrong with anything put out by them. Second off, it's an entry in their Wayfaring Strangers series. No, actually, better yet, their WARfaring Strangers series.

Which means this new archival compilation of extremely rare cuts from a whole lot of trippin' hippies is a sequel of sorts to one of our all-time favorite anthologies from Numero or anywhere, the wizardly Warfaring Strangers: Darkscorch Canticles collection of obscure proto-metal treasures they put out three years ago!

This one’s maybe a bit less mystical D&Dish heavy prog, more garagey drug-addled acid rock, but if that’s a distinction it's one without much of a difference when it comes to awesomeness. It also includes a couple of drug fiending krautfits on it, as opposed to the all-American lineup of acts on the earlier comp. We've only heard of a few of the bands on here before, so this represents some deep digging. But that's what they do.

Fans of Darkscorch Canticles as well as RidingEasy's Brown Acid series (which is about to spawn its fifth volume, by the way!), should check this out pronto. And just peep that rad black light cover, something to dazzle the optic nerves while yer ears are getting dosed...

9/12/2017

ROTW: Down In The Bunker!



Hey, folks. Thus far, reviews here have been few and far between, we know. We’ve been working on various projects – including, slowly, ‘The Book’ – but would like to get more posts happening here.

So, gonna try to post, yes, a RECORD OF THE WEEK every week. Not necessarily a review, more like an alert, or announcement. A recommendation. An advisory. Regarding something that, were we still making ROTW choices for aQ, might have been this week’s model.

We’ll try to do this every Tuesday, in honor of the day of the week that the God of the Old Testament decreed was the Day of the New Release, before some fools changed that to Friday.

Our choice today is an easy one, a real doozy, coming from krautrockers German Oak, who are thee originators of (literal) Bunker-Funk, and Andee’s favorite krautrock band ever. Allan loves 'em a lot too, though can’t necessarily rate them higher than, say, Faust, Can or Amon Duul II. But they’re up there. And with this new, expanded, totes deluxe reissue of their mysterious masterpiece from back in 1972, maybe now really up there.

As you may recall, aQ reviewed a prior, bootleggish edition of German Oak’s self-titled album some years ago, making it a Record Of The Week then, naturally enough, and among the things said about it then was the following:

"Dark and frightening, ominous and rumbling. A huge cavernous space, giving everything the appropriate claustrophobic, underground feel, drums stumbling through the darkness, warm swells of guitar and organ billowing out like puffs of smoke. Almost ambient at times, pulsing and pounding at others… Super lo-fi but thick and heavy and lush in its own way. The sound of the bunker is definitely another instrument, a primitive caveman studio, adding a subterranean timbre to the creepy jams and abstract rhythms… So gorgeously spacey and ominous, throbbing and moody."

Amazingly, the Now-Again folks, who previously celebrated the essential Paternoster album with a reissue in this same fancy ‘Reserve’ series of theirs, have managed in some occult manner to get in contact with the original members of German Oak in order to fully excavate the bunker and make this expanded, remastered reissue package an undreamt-of reality. Which means, three LPs, three cds worth of German Oak’s bunker-brewed genius – with alternate, extended, & unreleased tracks! Also, the band’s preferred song titles are now featured, not the WWII-oriented ones found on the original private-press LP release. Which, incredibly enough, includes a track titled “Happy Stripes (On Cats)” – now that’s a bit different in mood from the likes of “Swastika Rising,” ain’t it?

Because of the change in some song names, and the sheer extra expanse of material on offer here, we’re still a little bit unsure of the exact overlap between German Oak recordings we’ve heard before and this release – it would appear the tracks from the Nibelungenlied disc that Witch & Warlock put out in ’92 are not included for some reason. If this was a proper review, we’d find out. Presumably, that information (and lots more) is probably in the band-sanctioned liner notes (with rare photos, etc.) included here, which we have yet to delve into.

Order from Forced Exposure while they’ve got copies! Stranded we’d imagine might have them too, vinyl anyway.

6/19/2017

Bad hobbits die hard

REVIEW: BARROW WIGHT KINGS IN SAURONS SERVICE CD/CS (HEAVY CHAINS RECORDS & TAPES, 2016)


Depending on your perspective, this release is either AOTYmaterial or totally dubious. Or both! Whatever it is, I like it. Here's the deal: Canadian underground metal combo Barrow Wight started life as a Venom cover band. You'll be able to tell right away – vocal-wise, the singer is a dead ringer for Cronos, for one thing. Along with his gravelly gargle, the raw bass-heavy riffage on offer here likewise owes a lot to Venom. But, as maybe you can glean from their name, this band is also obsessively into the Lord Of The Rings, that's their entire theme.

Now, Tolkien is a common enough lyrical influence in metal. Heck, it sometimes seems as if almost every black metal band is named after some place or personage in Middle Earth – and Venom was the original black metal band, after all – but still, the idea of the primitive, rippin' Motorhead-ed metal of Venom mixing with the more mystical high fantasy stuff that full-on Frodo fandom can conjure is just a bit wonderfully absurd.** 

In practice it is too, in a totally enjoyable way. Barrow Wight let us know that they are aware of the absurdity – you can't title a track "No Sleep Til Gondor" without a sense of humor – but they pull it off, sounding something like a cross between Venom (or contemporary metalpunks Midnight) and their fellow Heavy Chains recording artists Tarot! I mention the latter 'cause Barrow Wight's Tolkien side isn't just in the titles and lyrics, but is also made musically manifest a time or two via elements of hoary 'hobbit rock' from the sixties and seventies not commonly associated with Venom. Just listen to "Osgiliath" with its "Astronomy Domine" sounding parts:



The strains of Pink Floyd heard here help to make Barrow Wight stand out as being not just a mere Venom clone. Elsewhere, also, occasional echoes of the acid rock of Uriah Heep, The Doors, and/or Iron Butterfly crop up by surprise. One of the most overt examples of Barrow Wight's 'psychedelic prog chocolate in my metal punk peanut butter' songwriting schtick occurs at the two-and-a-half minute mark of "In League With Sauron" when the heavy, dirty riffing suddenly gives way to some groovy organ-based jam-a-lama, unexpected and exuberant.



The result of this stylistic collision is that Barrow Wight are one of the few bands around who, probably without even intending it, could hang with the similarly screwy likes of Meads Of Asphodel and Zemial (the musty majesty of the sinister, percussive "Dwimmerlaik" really reminds me of those genius Greeks).



Can I really justify my love for this album? At the end of the day, Barrow Wight of course aren't Venom – and they're a lot further from being Bo Hansson – but they do a good job of paying tribute to their idols, delivering on their dorky (but cool) cult concept without being too silly or too serious. Bottom line, this puts a grin on my face. So, yeah. Hail Sauron and rock on! (–Allan)

*That'd be 'Album Of The Year' for last year, but that's ok, 'cause we haven't finalized our 2016 lists yet.

**Though not as odd as the Tolkien-themed dub of Prince Far Isengard!

1/30/2017

Mellows un-harshed at any speed

REVIEW: KANDODO/MCBAIN LOST CHANTS/LAST CHANCE 2CD/2LP (ROOSTER ROCK, 2016)

Man, I really, really love this! Perhaps that's no surprise, considering that in its two principals it boasts the talents of one of The Heads and one of the Monster Magnets.

That's right, joining forces for this mellow, mantric psych rock guitar opus you've got Simon Price from British psych-garage-fuzz icons The Heads who records solo as Kandodo, and you've got John McBain, former lead guitarist for doped up American spacelords Monster Magnet, circa 1989-1993 (and more recently a Carlton Melton collaborator).

Along for the ride with those two guitar guys is the rhythm section from The Heads as well, Messrs. Morgan and Maskell. So make that three Heads and one Monster Magnets! Why, then, it's not billed as The Heads/McBain I dunno, but the music does come closer to the sort of spaced-out, synth-laden kraut channelling that Price's Kandodo project specializes in than it does the more manic fuzzfestering grungery typical of The Heads, delivering all-instrumental, lengthy, super stoned hypno-jams summoning the spirits of early Ash Ra Tempel, Agitation Free, and Guru Guru for sure. More current-day comparisons could be to Carlton Melton (natch), Hills, or a really, really relaxed Earthless, perhaps. Urthona, too.

These guys know what they're doing (drugs, one might assume) and it never gets boring or aimless, as this sort of thing might from lesser lights. There's a fluency and fluidity to this that's magical. Devotees of lulling, lolling reefer-riffery should not require much further encouragement – strap on the headphones and get ready to float away on these softly flowing waves.

So what more do you really need to know? Just one thing: making me love this even more, the album is explicitly intended to be played at either 45 or 33rpm, listener's choice. That is, at 45rpm, you'll hear what's presumably the original, 'normal' speed version of the recording, titled Lost Chants – but it's also meant to be played at 33rpm, becoming the slower, lower Last Chance opusSince there are no vocals, they can do this, it works pretty well. And as probably anybody would predict, the lugubriously lovely 33rpm version is perhaps the better of the two, but it's nice to have both. These spacey grooves are already pretty monumental at any speed. Slowing 'em down just makes 'em even more enjoyably endless seeming, more somnolently enveloping, and of course 'more heavier.' A real nod scene. But then, sometimes I'm in the mood for the sharper, relatively jaunty (but still lumberous and slumberous) Lost Chants original.

Each track even has a different title assigned to it depending upon the chosen playback speed, a nice touch. For example, opening track "Blowed Out" on Lost Chance at 45 becomes "Really Blown Out" on Last Chance at 33; likewise track four "Chant Of The Ever Circling (Last Vulture)" stretches out into the "Chant Of The Every So Slowly Circling (Last Vulture)" in its slower, downpitched incarnation, and so forth. At least, that's what the internet (Discogs) tells me, though the compact disc edition I'm reviewing doesn't include the 33rpm track titles anywhere I can find. However, as a further nice touch, it has been issued as a double, with Lost Chants one one disc and Last Chance on the other, so those of us like myself who prefer cds over vinyl can hear both versions without having to invest in a variable speed CDJ player (still wish I had one of those, though...).

I also kind of wish they'd have gone and made it a triple cd, with a 16rpm disc as well. Though actually then it would have to be a quadruple cd, 'cause the 33rpm disc is already near capacity at over 74 minutes so you'd need two discs for the 16rpm version. Still, c'mon! Of course, I guess if you get the vinyl and have a turntable that spins at 16 rpm (or you own one of those aforementioned CDJs) you can still listen to that unauthorized, even slooooower version for which no alternate song titles have been provided.

Again though, whatever speed you play it at, this album is... just such a pleasant place to be. Like I said, I really love it. Heck, I've been wanting to do a write up on this literally since it came out in September, but every time I put it on, well, I get a little lost in it. Where did the time go? (–Allan)