Live Music: Barbacoa and Quiltro at Backside 405, Burlington

Higher Ground kicked off its 2021 summer outdoors live concert series at Backside 405 over Memorial Day weekend with Quiltro and Barbacoa.

The venue is Backside 405 located at 405 Pine Street in Burlington, Vermont. It is outdoors with one stage, food trucks, and a bar – it is a lot like a mini-festival set-up. Open air music is planned for every Friday and Saturday through August.

The first live bands played on Saturday, May 29th. They are both three-piece instrumental rock bands but they play very different music.

Quiltro is a space rock band, laying down laid back, ethereal lines meant to envelope you and send you on a journey, Their first album came out last year and you can get it at the Bandcamp link below. The band is Mark Taylor (guitar and keys), J. D. Hoffmann (drums), and Mike McKinley (bass).

Barbacoa is often described as a surf rock band. They do play in that vein, and also rockabilly along with other recognizable stylings. The music is upbeat and peppy – great for summer nights. Their latest album is Pharoah’s Camaro which came a couple weeks ago (link below). The band is Bill Mullins (guitar), Jeremy Fredericks (drums), and Kirk Flanagan (bass).

For now the crowd is limited to 500 people but could grow as the summer warms and the limits start to melt away. Backside 405 is a great place to spend Friday and Saturday nights – I’ll be there most every weekend.

You can get tickets at the Higher Ground link below, including a season pass to all the shows.

All photos by Wayne Edwards.

Links.

Higher Ground, https://highergroundmusic.com/

Quiltro

Bandcamp, https://quiltro.bandcamp.com

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/QuiltroMusic

Barbacoa

Bandcamp, https://barbacoa.bandcamp.com/music

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/Barbacoa-184518134930665

Live Music: Barbacoa and Quiltro at Backside 405, Burlington

Soul Grinder, Lifeless Obsession (MDD Records 2021)

Germany’s speedy Death Metal band Soul Grinder hands down another slab of pitiless heavy music.

Last year’s Chronicles Of Decay was the initial foray for the band into long-player territory. Following on the heels of the Sadistic Parasite (2018) EP, Chronicles delivered on that earlier insinuation. And now here is another taste to hold fans over until tours start. Soul Grinder is Mathias Junge (bass and vocals), Matè “Balrogh” Balogh (drums), and Jan Resmer (guitar).

There are five tracks on Lifeless Obsession. The music is characterized by rolling riffs that push against the groovy lane on the regular, cruising alongside ravaging percussion. Junge’s vocals are coarse and harsh while still being decipherable. The regulated manner of the musical construction is an effective platform to launch surprises and unexpected swerves. For example, in “Terradeformer” the pace and style changes enough to make your neck ache. Rollicking riffs followed by blast beat percussion pitched against a solemn choir.

The highlights for me are “Worm’s Repast” and “Mercyful Fate.” The former is sinister and dramatic with an explosive lead break while the latter is broader in its scope and has a thoughtful homage in its bones. High marks to the closer as well, the title track, which walks in unassuming then drops the hammer hard enough to crack the anvil. There is a lot to admire here. Recommended.

Lifeless Obsession appears this week, Friday, June 4th on MDD Records. Links below for the gathering.

Links.

Soul Grinder website, https://www.soulgrinder.de/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/soulgrindermetal/

MDD Records, https://mdd-records.de/

Soul Grinder, Lifeless Obsession (MDD Records 2021)

Gwar, The Disc With No Name (Pit Records 2021)

Horror metal masters Gwar punch you quietly with an acoustic set.

There is a long story to Gwar and a short story. Let’s go short. It is a metal band composed of musicians who dress in elaborate prosthetics to represent space aliens. The costumes look more like medieval dark fantasy legends than aliens to me, but in either case they certainly are impressive. There is quite an extensive backstory and you can read all about it on their website. The music is loud and the lyrics are obnoxious and the live shows are amazing. Most people do not have a middle-of-the-road opinion of the band. It is a love them or don’t situation.

The Disc With No Name is an acoustic set of four well-known songs from the Gwar catalogue. It was hard for me to even conceive of what this would sound like. Their music is so boisterous and in your face that toned-down versions seem like something from another world. Wait a minute … maybe that does work after all.

The songs included are “Fuck This Place,” “Gonna Kill You,” “I’ll Be Your Monster,” and “The Road Behind.” If you are a fan of the band you will certainly recognize these titles. What does it sound like? Well, it is the chords from these songs played acoustically with mostly clear vocals. You have to hear it for the full effect, of course. The main thing that is jarring is the cognitive dissonance of listening to gentle, quiet, soothing music with lyrics from, say, “Fuck this Place.” It messes with your head a little.

This one is a curiosity and I don’t expect the band will repeat it often, or ever. Fans of Gwar are going to like it. I expect the physical versions will sell out fast but there is always the digital. At the very least you want to hear this so hit up a streaming service to get a taste. Recommended.

The Disc With No Name is out now. Gwar has all the goods at their website.

Links.

Gwar website, https://gwar.net/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/gwar

Gwar, The Disc With No Name (Pit Records 2021)

Sadistik Forest, Obscure Old Remains (Transcending Obscurity 2021)

The follow-up to Morbid Majesties is a thundering EP of hammering Death Metal.

Sadistik Forest is from Finland, and they put out there first recording in 2010, a self-titled full-length album. Two years later came Death, Doom, Radiation, and then a split (with Septory) the very next year. After that there was a bit of an hiatus. 2018’s Morbid Majesties was very well received by both fans and critics – listening to the album, it seemed as if no time had passed at all. The band is now Antti Heikkinen (guitar), Jarkko Lahtinen (guitar), Markus Makkonen (bass and vocals), and Jimi Myöhänen (drums) – Vesa Mutka played drums on Obscure Old Remains.

There are four songs on the EP. The band has stated in a Facebook post that these four tracks were recorded in a studio live, meaning all the instruments were playing simultaneously. The studio was set up with separate isolated booths for each member allowing for this especially energetic form of recording. The style leans in on an old school vibe, and according to the band is somewhat reminiscent of “early Cannibal Corpse, Carcass, early Atheist and Darkthrone.” I’d say that is right – you can definitely hear it in the music.

The compositions spread the weight around in all four songs, bringing together voice, rhythm, and lead for most of each song while also allowing the lead guitar or bass or drums to have moments in the spotlight. “Mandragore” throws out the percussion up front then lays on a riff that sounds like the soundtrack to dangerous experiments undertaken in a castle laboratory. “Barbarian” has a combative feel, a struggle for survival sentiment – trials and tribulations. “Nihil” fades in and builds up into a dramatic presentation that is the most theatrical of the tracks. And “Waters Black” is dark and dooming, dripping with eldritch infestations. This set is a great side-step for the band that keeps the metal pouring from Sadistik Forest. Recommended.

Obscure Old Remains is out now and ready for the taking at Bandcamp or at the Transcending Obscurity store.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://sadistikforest.bandcamp.com/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/entertheforest

Transcending Obscurity, https://transcendingobscurity.aisamerch.com/band/sadistik-forest

Sadistik Forest, Obscure Old Remains (Transcending Obscurity 2021)

Silver Talon, Decadence And Decay (M-Theory Audio 2021)

The first full-length album from dark power metal band Silver Talon is an epic attack on your senses.

With a sound as big and complete as Silver Talon produces, Decadence And Decay is a promising sign of what we hope will turn out to be a long string of mesmerizing albums. The band is unusually large, with three listed guitarists: Wyatt Howell (vocals), Bryce VanHoosen (guitar), Sebastian Silva (guitar), Devon Miller (guitar), Walter Hartzell (bass), and Michael Thompson (drums). They make the most of all these assets in the performance of their sweeping compositions.

The music the band creates is usually described as Power Metal but that does not catch all the aspects of Silver Talon. The precision of the lead guitar – and the astonishing speed – has to be heard to be believed. There are many prog elements here, too, with complex parts working together to achieve a greater whole. Wyatt Howell’s vocals press to the soaring in a broad range. The rhythm section is at times in the service of the meter and at other moments a whirling inclination of its own. Taken together, the effect can be overwhelming.

The lyrical themes are often dark fantasy and breathe the essence of large gathered forces in conflict. The eight songs on the album average in the five minute range giving plenty of opportunity for extension and expression. The epic closer, “Touch The Void,” runs over eight minutes at the end and has the full complement of entreaties. It is essentially a suite, and it tests the highs and lows, the speeds and slows. If you are looking for spacious metal with both straight-forward and complex compartments, you will be glad you found Silver Talon. Recommended.

Digital, CD, cassette, and vinyl versions become available from M-Theory Audio on Friday, May 28th.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://silvertalon.bandcamp.com/album/decadence-and-decay-2

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/silvertalonband

Silver Talon website, https://www.silver-talon.com/

M-Theory Audio, https://www.m-theoryaudio.com/

Silver Talon, Decadence And Decay (M-Theory Audio 2021)

Ghastly, Mercurial Passages (20 Buck Spin 2021)

Death and doom boil to the surface in Ghastly’s newest album, Mercurial Passages.

Ghastly hails from Finland and Mercurial Passages is their third full-length album following Carrion Of Time (2015) and Death Velour (2018). As three-piece metal bands go, Ghastly creates a full and heavy sound than you might imagine possible, achieving unexpected penetration and breadth. Ten years in, they still seem to be gaining momentum.

There are seven tracks on the album. It starts off doom-centric with “Ouroborus,” a song that does give you a feeling of perpetual struggle. “Out of the Psychic Blue” follows and has a fast clip throughout thereby giving the listener a more direct taste of the Death Metal aspect of the band. It is “Sea of Light” that strikes me as the first song of the set that represents the core of the band and its compositional approach with its big builds, growling vocals, and frenetic outburst that punctuate and disrupt the steady state.

The album is anchored by two big tracks at the end, “Dawnless Dreams” and “Mirror Horizon.” The former is a dark story filled with Eldritch secrets and lurking, fell beasts while the latter is an even darker story with a saturating heaviness and hopelessness that drives you down into the endless abyss. The guitar in the second half of “Mirror Horizon” is playing you off into eternity and the dual vocal performance is hair-raising in its creepiness. This is the stuff of the most desolating, dreaded dreams. Recommended.

20 Buck Spin releases Mercurial Passages on Friday, May 28th. Look to the label website or Bandcamp for all the possibilities.

Band photo by S. Kujansuu.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://listen.20buckspin.com/album/mercurial-passages

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/ghastlydeathmetal

20 Buck Spin, https://www.20buckspin.com/products/ghastly-mercurial-passages-cd

Ghastly, Mercurial Passages (20 Buck Spin 2021)

Cirith Ungol, Half Past Human (Metal Blade Records 2021)

Cirith Ungol reimagines music that was long thought forgotten for their new EP.

The California metal band Cirith Ungol released four albums in the 1980s to early 1990s, most notably (for me anyway), King Of The Dead (1984). Big dark fantasy themes, wailing guitars, and the unique and unforgettable voice of Tim Baker helped write the band’s name in the book of eternity. They passed into the mist only to return in 2019 with a live album and in 2020 with their first studio release in decades, the earth shaking Forever Black. Cirith Ungol was definitely back. The band is Tim Baker (vocals), Greg Lindstrom (guitar), Robert Garven (drums), Jim Barraza (guitar), and Jarvis Leatherby (bass).

Half Past Human contains four songs from the vaults – songs that were written but never released during earlier sessions. These pieces have been re-worked and newly invigorated for fans to hold them over until the touring starts up again.

“Route 666” revs to life with a roaring engine and hits the road with pelting goodtime riffs and pops. Dual complementary lead guitars are the highlight. “Shelob’s Lair” sends us on a trek through the darkness and lifts us up with an energetic and impassioned lead break and outro. “Brutish Manchild” is the shortest track and could function well as a single or a rousing live standard to whip the crowd into a frenzy at just the right moment.

The closer is “Half Past Human,” and it is more on the epic side than the others. The song starts out quietly, forlornly, then builds steadily to a louder, fuller sound. The composition has a sweeping production with extended elements that highlight the best aspects of the band and never overstay their welcome. It is just the right nightcap, and it is good to have these songs finally released. Fans will be delighted that they are seeing the light of day. Recommended.

Half Past Human is out on Friday, May 28th, and can be accessed through the links below.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://cirithungol.bandcamp.com/album/half-past-human

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/cirithungolofficial

Metal Blade Records, https://www.metalblade.com/cirithungol/

FFMB review of Forever Black, https://flyingfiddlesticks.com/2020/04/25/cirith-ungol-forever-black-review-metal-blade-records-2020/

Cirith Ungol, Half Past Human (Metal Blade Records 2021)

Maul, Gallery Of Torment (Corrupted Flesh Records 2021)

Gathered together for your aural annihilation, Gallery Of Torment is a compilation of Death Metal delights from Maul.

Maul came together four years ago or so in the northern plains. Plying the Death metal trade with an eye to individualization, the band has laid down steady tracks with demos, splits and EPs. This new collection gathers together enough breadcrumbs so you can hear what the band is about. Currently, Maul is Anthony Lamb (guitar), Alex Nikolas (guitar), Garrett Alvarado (vocals), Robby Anderson (drums), and Michael Nikolas (bass).

The compilation has twelve songs altogether with four tracks from Monarchy of Mold (2020), two each from Midwest Death Demo (2018), Deity Demise (2020), and Soaked in Penance, Solicit the Torture (2018), and one each from Ambiguous Lurk (2019) and Adoration Through Annihilation (2019). That covers a lot of ground and gathers together the principle components from these earlier releases (and the whole thing in the case of the single “Ambiguous Lurk”).

There is a good deal of variety in the music. The opening track, for example, “Chained, Hanged, and Dragged,” has a military march feel to it in the opening riffs that kick in after the intro and the urging percussion is matched nicely to doom sensibilities. “Infatuation” has a more all-encompassing vibe to it, while “Monarchy of Mold” goes off in an eerie direction. There is a lot here to engage you.

My favorites are “Same Soil” – I really like the driving directness – and “Deity Demise” – the heavy, pulverizing approach had me running that track a few times. Gallery Of Torment is an excellent way to catch up on Maul if you have not been following the trail so far. It is Death Metal that leans more on the heavy than the speed. Recommended.

The album drops on Friday, May 28th in versions from four different publishers including Hostile Records (Malaysia, Asia cassette version), Frozen Screams Imprint (US, cassette version), Cavernous Records (UK, CD version), and Corrupted Flesh Records (Germany, EU cassette and LP versions). Bandcamp is a good place to search for these varieties.

Links.

Corrupted Flesh Bandcamp, https://corruptedfleshrecords.bandcamp.com/album/gallery-of-torment

Maul Bandcamp, https://maul701.bandcamp.com/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/MAULND/

Maul, Gallery Of Torment (Corrupted Flesh Records 2021)

Wytch, Exordium (Ripple Music 2021)

The debut album from Sweden’s Wytch is a rugged and dynamic statement of intent burgeoning with both straight-forward and clandestine perambulations.

Formed in 2017 as Aska, the band released an EP under that name and then switched to Wytch for their first long-player, Exordium. The musicians have performed with numerous other bands over the years, including Vintersorg. The roster is Simon Lundström (bass), Fredrik Nilsson (drums), Niklas Viklund (guitars), Mattias Marklund (guitars), and Johanna Lundberg (vocals).

There are eight tracks on the album. Each song is set up with a clever and catchy hook that the song develops around. It is a bluesy heavy psych sound defined by those rummaging guitar parts and Johanna Lundberg’s unforgettable, haunting voice. The zippy lead breaks are sometimes pepperpot shots and at other times are languid and insinuating. Sturdy bass and drum lines free the voice and guitars to crossover each other while simultaneously self-actualizing therewith, engendering a synergistic construct. It all sounds effortless but of course it couldn’t be. Music like this is rare.

Stand-out tracks for me are the pairings of expansive “Blood” with “Evil Heart” and doomy “Break You Down” with “You.” That’s half the set, isn’t it – I’m not really narrowing it down much. The thing is when you first hear any song on the album it immediately draws you in and holds onto you with a mystical spell that may or may not be sinister. It is not like a Siren song but instead it is more like the snowfall that awakens the intrepid journeyers in The Wizard Of Oz. It just doesn’t make any sense to stop listening. Recommended.

You can get Exordium right now. Look over the options at Ripple Music’s store or on Bandcamp.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/album/exordium

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/people/Wytch-Band/100063579726744/

Ripple Music, https://ripplemusic.bigcartel.com/product/wytch-exordium-limited-digipak-cd

Wytch, Exordium (Ripple Music 2021)

Monster Magnet, A Better Dystopia (Napalm Records 2021)

Monster Magnet comes out with a cover album of psychedelic songs you have probably never heard before.

The legendary Monster Magnet was formed in New Jersey on the cusp of the nineties. Creating an innovative fuzzy sound that sparked memories of the psychedelic past, Spine Of God (1991) and Superjudge (1993) are now classics that set the stage for the popular success of Dopes To Infinity (1995) with the radio hit “Negasonic Teenage Warhead.” Best remembered in the mind of society afterwards for Powertrip (1998) and Mastermind (2010), Monster Magnet has always created music on their own terms. The band is founder Dave Wyndorf (vocals) along with Phil Caivano (guitar), Garret Sweeny (guitar), Alec Morton (bass), and Bob Pantella (drums).

You never know for sure what the next Monster Magnet album is going to be like. The Last Patrol came out in 2013 and then the very next year the band released a “re-imagining” of that album, Milking The Stars, with substantially altered arrangements. Then in 2015 Mastermind got a make-over with Cobras And Fire in a similar fashion. Mindfucker (2018) was tailored for the wild turn the world took in 2016 and now we have A Better Dystopia, a collection of covers that many fans will be entirely unfamiliar with. Consider this: Is it a cover tune to the listener if they never heard the original?

An odd choice, this album, but a bold and brilliant one. Drawing mainly from psychedelic-styled work from a by-gone era, the songs chosen by Wyndorf and crew have a contemporary resonance. Some of these were new to me and are genuine deep pulls. Here is the track list to marvel at: “The Diamond Mine” (Dave Diamond), “Born to Go” (Hawkwind), “Epitaph for a Head” (J. D. Blackfoot), “Solid Gold Hell” (The Scientists), “Be Forewarned” (The Macabre), “Mr. Destroyer” (Poo-Bah), “When the Wolf Sits” (Jerusalem), “Death” (Pretty Things), “Situation” (Josephus), “It’s Trash” (The Cave Men), “Motorcycle (Straight To Hell)” (Table Scraps), “Learning to Die” (Dust), and “Welcome to the Void” (Morgen).

The song that interested me most was Dust’s “Learning To Die.” I love Dust and this song in particular has always been one of my favorites. Like all the music on this album – and every album by Monster Magnet – energy and passion blazes through no matter the tempo or perspective. Expect fuzzed-up heavy psychedelic stoner rock. First listen to this album all the way through, then go out and dig up the originals. It is a trip comparing the new versions with the way-back-whens. Highly recommended.

A Better Dystopia is out now in myriad forms to please each and every one of the people of the Earth.

Links.

Napalm Records, https://www.napalmrecordsamerica.com/monstermagnet

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/monstermagnet/

Bandcamp, https://monstermagnetofficial.bandcamp.com/

Monster Magnet, A Better Dystopia (Napalm Records 2021)