Our Boxing Day Records Of The Week are two truly weird af extreme metal splits that came out fairly late in the year, and the Nuclear War Now! label happened to have a hand in each, so why not honor these two together?
Bunkur Vs. Mordor sees Swiss ambient industrial doom cult Mordor making their first recorded appearance in, like, 23 years (!), a surprising enough occurrence all by itself for those who remember them from the Wild Rags days of the very early '90s, and then to find them in the company of Dutch ultra-dooooomsters Bunkur (who themselves haven't put anything out since 2009's Nullify, incidentally recipient of one of the more amusing 0% Metal-Archives reviews we've run across) doing a conceptual covers album is really unexpected. And absurdly awesome.
On Bunkur and Mordor's respective sides, olde gods Carnivore and Venom are paid tribute to... very, very sloooooowly. Each side is just one song, but liberties have been taken. You get an extremely stretched out, slowed down, super-sized, epic-ized, chopped, screwed, etc. reinterpretation of the original being "covered." Voila, a full-length release to baffle all 'bangers!
Much more hectic and certainly no less whatthefuck-y, the With Gangrene Edges / Voiidwarp split (vinyl version care of NWN/Iron Bonehead, cd via the impeccable I, Voidhanger label) brings together two of the most guano bonkers bands in the whole unholy black/death realm: the recently split up (darn it!) Howls Of Ebb from somewhere 'round here in the Bay and our fave eccentriic extremiist krauts Khthoniik Cerviiks. You may need your EpiPen, this is nutty, nutty stuff! A great intro to two amazing, crazing bands ibb you are unfamiiilar with either, and absolutely necessary if you're already a fan of one or both as well.
Sure, we've picked a couple metal albums as Records Of The Week on this blog already, but nothing properly, truly old school heavy metal, until now. Until Legendry!
This particular example is very much up Allan's alley as a fanboy of epic D&D-ish medieval metal but it was Andee who first discovered this and told Allan about it (and of course he digs Legendry like crazy too).
As for me (Allan), well I figure if I pretty much run and order something as soon as I first hear it, and it immediately busts right into my year-end top ten, then it's fairly ROTW-worthy! Not sure how I hadn't heard of these particular Pittburgh Steelers (as in, swords of steel) before, they even have another cd from last year, too.
But, not being previously aware of 'em, from the (admittedly cool) cover art and album title, I almost thought this was gonna be cheesy modern power metal or maybe equally cheesy dungeon synth. Instead, the charmingly rough-hewn and slightly ramshackle-sounding Legendry conjure magickal Manilla Road-worshipping epic metal with one foot planted on a stage monitor in the early '80s NWOBHM era, the other tapping its toes in the mystical, proggy '70s. They've got galloping rhythms, rockin' riffs, soulfully psychedelic guitar wailing, sincere singing, some tasty use of organ, and perhaps most astonishingly, they are pretty gosh darn poppy in parts!
They don't sound like Uncle Acid, but we get the notion that what Uncle Acid is to Black Sabbath, Legendry are to their inspirations like Manilla Road and early Iron Maiden.
They also sound a lot like they could jump in a time machine (they might already have one), transport themselves back to 1976, record a 45, and eventually wind up, back in the future, on a compilation like our big fave Warfaring Strangers: Darkscorch Canticles.
Just the thing to crank the first time I get to play my newly acquired copy of the Dungeon Degenerates boardgame. But this isn't just about retro-nostalgic fantasy fun times, everything they play and sing here is also so obviously heartfelt. Lovin' it.
RIYL: Tarot (NZ), Realmbuilder, Ravensire, Eternal Champion, early Manilla Road, Legend (US), Brocas Helm, Pagan Altar, Lords Of The Crimson Alliance...
In celebration of tonight's heartening victory by Democrat Doug Jones over creepy Republican bigot Roy Moore in Alabama's special Senate election, let's have a Record Of The Week from our favorite visionary Alabamian, the late great Sun Ra!
It just so happens that a lovely collection of the out-there Afro-space-jazz icon's most 'exotic' sides – stuff that, in its own occasionally abstract way, perhaps surprisingly aligns with the likes of Les Baxter and Martin Denny – was recently released for the so-called Black Friday "Record Store Day" by Sundazed subsidiary Modern Harmonic. And of course, it's pretty great! There are several previously unreleased cuts among the twenty-five gems selected by compiler and outsider-music expert Irwin Chusid, who provides extensive liner notes along with Brother Cleve of Combustible Edison.
Super groovy, super recommended to both Sun Ra and exotica fans, or anyone into beautiful rhythmic reveries and mellow mood music derived from real and imagined primitive/jungle/ancient (and cocktail-drinking?) cultures.
Due to the whole Black Friday RSD collector thing, the swank colored triple vinyl version is, unfortunately, going to be hard to come by (and expensive) if you missed it then, but the label still has copies of the double cd version available at a normal price. Or, you could do digital download via Bandcamp, if you're like that, via the below link, also good for listening...
After the beautiful, but noisy, onslaught of Metallic OK by Bruce Russell last week, not to mention the noisiness and nastiness of our other recent picks from the likes of Brainbombs and Tetragrammacide, perhaps it's time for a Record Of The Week that you could, you know, take a nap to.
Well, okay, if you're like us you can happily fall asleep to lots of crazy stuff, but we're talking something that a normal person might actually agree was lovely and restful.
For that, we've selected the pure bliss of the 1982 debut Music For Nine Postcards from Japanese New Age/ambient musician Hiroshi Yoshimura (1940-2003). It's a record that's recently been reissued for the first time domestically by new label Empire Of Signs, run by Spencer Doran (of Visible Cloaks) and our old pal Maxwell Croy (of En and the Root Strata label). Thanks doods! Minimal, serene, tranquil studies home-recorded on electronic keyboard and Fender Rhodes, these are nine tracks to chillax with for sure. Exquisite.
Available on LP and compact disc via Light In The Attic (though, it seems that the vinyl is being repressed already, look for it again in February perhaps).
The latest solo album from guitarist Bruce Russell of New Zealand's finest, The Dead C, was recently released by resuscitated UK underground out-pop label Glass, or rather, Glass Redux. Bearing a title that nods to Iggy & The Stooges for reasons doubtless cool but not entirely obvious, it's a sprawling double cd set consisting in large part of two of our most very favorite-est things: feedback and field recordings!
Sure, sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between Bruce playing the guitar, and Bruce rummaging around in the shed; between Bruce playing the guitar, and Bruce mowing the lawn (perhaps – and it's quite possible he mows the lawn with his guitar), but it matters not. When given proper attention, the sounds here really draw you in, your ears curiously wondering just what's going on, and why and how it's all so noisily gorgeous.
And as Allan pointed out to Andee, well, we don't actually have to worry about selling any of them. So since we're both so psyched on it: ROTW, OK!
Heck, a new Brainbombs LP on Skrammel just landed Stateside, so there's our ROTW right there. Another slab of misanthropic sub-Stooges-y squall from this long-running Swedish outfit, who believe they figured out a long time ago (circa 1989) what rock was really for (against?) and has been bludgeoning the rest of us with it ever since, bless their sick hearts.
Inferno, their eighth or so album, represents an impressive, continuing dedication to noise and nihilism. Theseeight new songs are typically plodding and distorted, and as always are kinda catchy too, with titles proclaiming such typically Brainsbombs-esque sentiments as: "They All Deserve To Die" and "Wanted To Kill You." Enjoy.
Super duper in love with this, the lo-fi avantfolkmetal solo debut out on Nordvis from a Swedish guitarist named JoJöden (of outré black metallers Sorgeldom and Whirling).
In our estimation, Mr. J has composed, performed, and recorded a true, outsider-y masterpiece of “sensitive Viking” slash “forest
troll” music here on this intimate and emotive album, much of it instrumental and often acoustic (at times also featuring
electric organ and clattery drums).
While not without its harsh moments, ultimately this is just sooo very gorgeous and lovely, pastoral and melancholic – but also, equally, wonderfully woozy & off-kilter. Enough that it immediately made us think of the bizarre brilliance of Ved Buens Ende. One might also reference early Ulver and some Forgotten Woods, perhaps. We’re even hearing a smidgen of Bo Hansson.
Also, we'd be curious what fans of, say, Amps For Christ and Daniel Higgs might think about this – not that this sounds at all like either, but it could have some cross-genre appeal to those into wyrd folkster types...
For this Week's Record Of The, we've selected a slice of noisy, female-fronted indie pop that Andee thinks sounds a bit like The Swirlies if they were on Skin Graft. Kind of looks like a Skin Graft disc too, what with the comic strip cover art and all.
It's the first full-length, Nothing Valley, from Chicago's oddly/pleasantly named Melkbelly, which came out not quite a month ago on Wax Nine Records as that new label's premiere release.
Allan agrees with Andee's assessment, but if he had to provide his own 'band math' description, it would be that a lot of this makes him think of, like, The Breeders jamming with Lightning Bolt.
Solidly catchy and chaotic stuff, see (hear) for yourself...
Lately, in the realm of underground metal, it seems like Iron Bonehead Productions is kinda the current 'it' label. And their latest release is something we've certainly been eagerly anticipating – the debut full-length from Indian black/death/noise metallers Tetragrammacide. Totes ROTW material here, if ultra esoteric extreme WTF?-ery in both sound & concept makes for ROTW-ness, which it does.
The so-wrong-it's-right insane production strategery of this band's previous recordings is tempered somewhat here, but not to the detriment of the music; indeed the ante is upped regarding the levels of sheer crazed chaotic metal-kill proffered. Plus, the pseudo-scientific sanity-loss lyrical content is the sort of absurd occult poetry that would make for potential, completely cracked PhD thesis subject matter. Track titles include the likes of "Intra-Dimensional Vessel of Were-Robotics, N-Logics and Assorted Lattice Intelligences" and "The Prognosticators of Trans-Yuggothian Meta-Reasoning," reminding us a bit of the cryptic, abstruse, mythos-referencing work of Iranian writer Reza Negarestani or something. Mind-bending, neck-spraining, earhole-abusing stuff...
ROTW runner-up this week, if you're asking, would be another crucial title from Japan's defunct P.S.F. label, now brought back by the unbelievable Black Editions reissue campaign: the first Tokyo Flashback comp, now on vinyl for the very first time. Originally released on cd in 1991, it features exclusive tracks from such scene pillars as White Heaven, Fushitsusha, Ghost, and High Rise – representing out-rock stuff that served as an inspiration for over two decades worth of shades-sportin' heavy psych acts on that label.
And, also, if we'd been picking a "Sixteen Compact Disc Box Set Of The Week," Roland Kayn's A Little Electronic Milky Way Of Soundwould have been a shoe-in for sure! A lovely, lengthy composition of droney electronic (or "cybernetic") music from this ex-member of the Gruppo di Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza.
Um, so in no particular order, and for no particular reason, here are a dozen reggae/dub albums circa 1976-'84 that happen to have cover art that I think could almost work perfectly well on the sleeve of a heavy metal record from roughly the same era instead. Or at least, if they got filed in the wrong bin you might not instantly notice. The urge to research & compile this list was inspired by our very first example:
The RevolutionariesTop Ranking Dub Volume One (Duke Reid, 1978) ... The typeface used isn't especially 'metal' but the red-eyed ghoul in WWII Nazi helmet imagery sure is. Who knew Eddie liked dub? Decent enough album but it only gets top ranking on this list due to the cover art.
Phil PrattStar Wars Dub (Burning Sounds, 1978) ... Darth Vader and lightning bolts are both hella metal, right? This is a pretty good dub album but it can't quite live up to the magnificent cover graphics, in my opinion. Still, someday when they make Vondur In Dub they can just use this cover.
Tappa ZukieEscape From Hell (Stars, 1978) ... Can't argue with skull, flames, and hell. Also, it's a great album.
Bunny WailerBlackheart Man (Solomonic, 1976) ... Super dark, grim n' spooky cover art. Album title rendered in what's almost a black metal logo style. Artist's name printed in a font quite similar to the one used on Black Sabbath's debut (the exact identity of that font being the subject of some debate, as it happens). Yeah, definitely one that belongs way up on this here list.
The RoyalsTen Years After (Ballistic Records, 1979) ... Take away that red-yellow-green border and maybe the dreads and you've got a cover that looks like it belongs on an early Judas Priest album for sure. Sad wings indeed.
Dennis BrownWords Of Wisdom (Laser Records, 1979) ... Meanwhile, this album has art that could do double duty on a proto-metal platter by some obscure, hypothetical Uriah Heep wannabe, whattya think?
Massive Dreads/t (Gorgon Records, 1979) ... Ok, so maybe this one doesn't really look like an actual heavy metal album cover. But, it's certainly rad, right? Furthermore, the brawny musculature and length of hair/beard of the fella on the front – and the size of the spliff he's smoking – would certainly qualify him to pose for some super-heavy stoner metal band's album cover, I think. A great freakin' album, sadly not reissued on cd as yet.
Yabby You & The ProphetsBeware Dub (Grove Music, 1979) ... I dunno, this cover just says 'THRASH!' to me.
LizzardSatta I (Trojan Records, 1976) ... Color scheme aside, totally '70s proggy proto-metal lookin' cover art and logo style here, eh? The (sadly not on cd) reggae album is pretty cool but I'd love to hear the imaginary mystical metal record that would share this sleeve in an alternate universe. Maybe something a bit Thin Lizzy-ish? Or, a la Rainbow?
RevolutionariesRevival (Cha Cha Cha Music, 1982) ... These cats show up for a second time on this list with this militant album. It looks more like an action movie poster than a heavy metal album, ok, but the very first track is called "Black Sabbath!" (And another is titled "Death.")
Prince AllaEvil Forces (Calabash Records, 1984) ... Dude's face/expression isn't very metal, nor is the logo at the top, but I think the bloody font used for the album title qualifies this for inclusion here, as do the various examples of evil forces listed on the cover (which sadly aren't song titles). Plus, bats.
ScientistHeavy Metal Dub (Clocktower, 1980) ... Although it fails the truth-in-advertising test (there's nothing 'heavy metal' about the music) you can't argue with these Star Trek themed dub tracks. And thanks to the title & the sorta Pedro Bell style space operatic cover art this had to be on this list!
That's the dozen! I've thought of a few runners-up already but if anyone else has any further suggestions to add to this list, comments are welcome. Number 13 on the list would, of course, be the amazing album by Black Ark Oaken Saw, if only it wasn't just an April Fool's joke. (–Allan)
Thanks to our pal Matt for recently turning us on to this cool album, the debut recording by jazz/drone/rock minimalists Derby Derby, released earlier this year. Especially since we might not have checked it out otherwise, on account of their less than evocative moniker, if we'd ever even run across it in the first place.
The disc features essentially one piece, divided into two tracks, of instrumental music performed on trompette électrifiée, basse, and batterie (they're French, this trio is).
It's plodding (but slowly, inevitably accelerating), droned-out, deceptively simple, texturally dense, and totally trance-inducing stuff, definitely for fans of Outside The Dream Syndicate by Tony Conrad & Faust, as the sole commenter on their Bandcamp page quite accurately notes. We could also imagine folks into the likes of The Necks, Dead C, Circle, and Oren Ambarchi all digging this.
And please don't get scared off by the electric trumpet – if told it was a guitar, we'd believe it, certainly when the skronky soloing frenzy erupts on the more propulsive track two, "Dance."
Copies on cd [edit: actually cd-r, despite the pro-printing and nice digipak] or vinyl are available for mailorder from the Ormo label's online shop.
We make no apologies. Being that WDYLI is the "webzone of ex-aQ overlords Andee and Allan," after all, what do you expect us to do? Of course this self-titled album of long-lost recordings by defunct Seattle band Gruntruck would have to be Record Of The Week.
Both of us are Gruntruck fans from way back in the day, so when a suddenly unearthed, previously unreleased third album by the group, recorded circa 1998-2002, is brought out by the aptly-named (such is their mission) Found Recordings label, automatic ROTW, yep! However, those of you not partial to grunge, well, get with the program (or just check back next week). 'Cause Gruntruck = grunge.
The band featured members of The Accüsed and Skin Yard (including frontman Ben McMillan, who sadly passed away in 2008 from complications related to diabetes) and leaned heavily to the more metallic side of the grunge equation. This 'new' album, produced by Jack Endino and some other fella, is totally in the vein of their original, earlier two records, 1990's Inside Yours and 1992's Push, and thus makes for a welcome, if posthumous, return for fans like us.
Okay, so to be clear, it's not like we're necessarily asserting that this is absolutely the greatest Record that came out this Week... nor are we proclaiming it the best Gruntruck album ever (if you've never heard 'em before, definitely start with Inside Yours). But it just might be the best grunge album released in the past week, and is without a doubt the only Gruntruck album this week! So, ROTW as far as Andee and Allan are concerned.
Take a look at this video for the song "Bar Fly" from the album, made with vintage live footage of the band, and see if it pushes any of your (perhaps dormant) grunge-lovin' buttons, too:
Gruntruck is available for mailorder on both cd and lp from Light In The Attic, where you will also find some sound clips to check out.
This time around our WDYLI ROTW is the latest release from the always awesome Utech label: a compact disc by a ritualistic Taiwanese drone-folk-psych-synth duo that's new to us, though this is their seventh or so entry in a discography dating back to 2013, mostly composed of tapes and cd-rs – this is their first actual cd.
On Sua-Hiam Zun, Scattered Purgatory unfurls gently pulsing rhythms and deep, distorted drones. The disc's compelling kosmiche kraut influenced atmospheres feature a mix of synthesized and organic textures and conjure an amazing ceremonial, late-night vibe; sorta New Agey and blissful but also somewhat sinister (a definite sweet spot for us). Check it out...
There are a bunch of essential/awesome vinyl reissues that dropped recently that could easily be Records Of The Week: Danish hippie psych band Alrune Rod with their wonderfully trippy Hej Du LP originally released in 1971 (now on Shadoks); an unusual Italian library (more like laboratory) music artifact from '72 called Science & Technology by Raskovich (via Dead-Cert); the self-titled 2003 debut from Steven R. Smith's Eastern European influenced folkdrone project Hala Strana on vinyl for the first time (on Desastre); and also for the first time on vinyl the most crucial masterpiece from John Zorn, Bill Laswell and Mick Harris's grind-jazz-dub-ambient outfit Painkiller, 1994's overwhelming double disc set Execution Ground (on Karlrecords)... all worthy potential ROTW picks... but what about something new for a change?
Well, California's White Manna aren't a brand new band, but they do have a new record, brought to you by the combined powers of both the Cardinal Fuzz and Agitated labels, and it's a good call to be thee ROTW this week for anyone into Hawkwindy psych rock, with a dash of the Stooges. Which is everyone we know, pretty sure? Loads of riffs, effects, and, yes, songs too. Catchy ones, even. 'Twas recorded by our pal Phil "Life Coach" Manley and mastered by former Monster Magnet John McBain.
The Bandcamp page we're linking to already sez "sold out" of all formats, but don't panic, chances are that Midheaven Mailorder has copies, or perhaps your favorite local record store will, upon its release date of 10/6/17 – this Friday. Meanwhile, by the way, those other fantastic albums mentioned in the first 'graph above all ought to be sourceable from Forced Exposure if you're interested.
Ooooh. Another desirable reissue to fill this week’s ROTW slot. We would have loved to have had a reissue of this to list back in the aQ days!
Originally released as an LP in 1989, and then reissued on cd & vinyl again in 1991, this is the long-out-of-print debut solo album from Hungarian ethnomusicological electronic maestro László Hortobágyi. In the years since, has added quite a few more discs to his idiosyncratic discography, which sometimes veers a bit too far into ravey nineties cyber-electronica territory for our tastes, although his detailed faux-ethno concepts are always intriguing. In any case, this debut, recorded circa '88-'89, is solidly recommended.
Transreplica Meccano is a beautiful, unsettling, mysterious masterpiece of ambient/drone ethno-forgery utilizing sampling and synthesis. Now it’s being reissued on vinyl by discerning Dutch label Lullabies For Insomniacs (official street date this Friday, September 30th).
We should note it has slightly different track list than previous editions. Same actual tracks though, essentially. Apparently, Hortobágyi remastered and reworked the songs in 2006, making some small changes to the vocals and mixes, as well as to the running order of the album, and slightly altering the track titles too, for some reason (a la German Oak, who apparently had their children come up with new titles for their songs, which explains a lot, see our ROTW two weeks ago). It’s still full of creepy vocal intonations, blissful sinister ambience, and esoteric industrial ‘world music’ atmosphere, however!
Samples on this album are said to include:
Ageng Gong from Java
Balinese Tjak Choir
Saron from Sunda
Voice of Girija Devi, Gwailor
Muezzin from Mecca
St. Sophia Cathedral Choir of Nowgorod
Flute sample from Cirebon Area of West-Java
Vocoder demo by I.R.C.A.M
Also quite recommended, by the way, and reportedly getting a small repress this month, is the same label's recent vinyl reissue of early '80s Japanese electronic composer Yasuo Sugibayashi's The Mask Of The Imperial Family.
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...
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.
REVIEW: BARROW WIGHTKINGS IN SAURONS SERVICE CD/CS (HEAVY CHAINS RECORDS & TAPES, 2016)
Depending on your perspective, this release is either AOTY* material 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!
REVIEW: KANDODO/MCBAINLOST 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 opus. Since 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)