Cortez, Sell The Future review (Ripple Music 2020)

Album number three from Cortez is Sell The Future and it rides a heavy wave of riff-powered demolition.

From the Boston area, Cortez has been releasing music since their 2006 demo. They have had a couple of lineup changes over the years, as most bands do. For Sell the Future, earliest members Jay Furlo (bass) and Scott O’Dowd {Scotty Fuse} (guitar) are joined by long time players Matt Harrington (vocals) and Alasdair Swan (guitar). Alexei Rodriguez (drums) is newest, dating from 2017 (if The Metal Archives has it facts straight).

Harrington’s voice is powerful and fierce when he wants it to be and yet he can attenuate it for different emotions and effects. The compositions rely on solid grooves and big riffs, with well-placed and clever lead breaks adding nuance to the work. The rippling and surprising percussion bursts that you hear from Rodriguez in unexpected places are a fundamental building block to the unique sound of the band.

“No Escape” is a banger, and the perfect choice for an up-tempo lead off song. The title track is next and sets a serious tone with a purposeful riff up front then pushes on with a heavy swagger. The tempo gets a switch in advance of the lead break, which flays the carcass of reason. “Look At You” has a driving rhythm that just won’t let you turn away, and if you are not hooked on this album by the time the third song is over, I don’t know what to say to you. I cannot pick a single favorite, but I will point to the way the songs dissimilarities enhance the set as a whole – listening to the furiously paced “Vanishing Point” right after “Sharpen The Spear,” which has a more plaintive structure, puts you off balance in just the right way for the closer, “Beyond.” This album was worth the wait. Highly recommended.

Sell the Future is out now. Bandcamp is a good place to look for the digital, and there are couple vinyl variants there, too.

Band photo by Bruce Bettis.

Links.

Ripple Bandcamp, https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/album/sell-the-future

Cortez website, http://www.cortezboston.com/

Cortez Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/cortezboston/

Cortez Soundcloud, https://soundcloud.com/cortezboston

Cortez, Sell The Future review (Ripple Music 2020)

Arcadian Child, Protopsycho review (Ripple Music 2020)

The third album from the Limassol, Cyprus psychedelic rock band Arcadian Child is a wellspring of musical circumstance. It has tendrils that will touch you even when the quiet comes.

I do not know much about the band. According to the internet, it is populated by Panagiotis Georgiou (vocals, guitars), Stathis Hadjicharalambous (guitars), Andreas Kerveros (bass and vocals), and Constantinos Pavlides (drums). Their first album was Afterglow (2017), followed by Superfonica (2018). These two albums have a more grunge-like approach than the new one, and they are a bit more musically linear. The latest is a departure. It is not completely different, but it has a more ethereal quality to it. Listening to Protopsycho muted my cerebral filters so let me just recount what poured out through my keyboard while it was happening.

“Snakecharm” has a definite winding and rectilinear undulation to it, with an exotic echo that becomes the musical pattern. “Wave High” continues the desert warble and magical theme, while “Sour Grapes” has more blatantly psychedelic elements and inward looking conceptualizations. Mysticism lives in “The Well,” from its harmony wave background (as in South Asian music) at the beginning to its ethereal insinuation that becomes the primary companion. The peace is disturbed by heavily distorted guitars on the back end that turn the trip toward a more sinister aspect.

“Bitter Tea” was released as a single. It has a plucky and chatty essence. “Bodies of Men” is a drive down a lonely road at night with only one working headlight and 3/8 of a tank of gas. Very catchy riffing. “Raisin’ Fire” has a long steady chanting set up for the sprint at the end, where things really start to kick in. The closer is the title track. It is the culmination of the ritual that has been going on since the record first started to spin. The music rises and repeats in a rotational confrontation to exterior motion. And then it comes to rest.

Protopsycho is a Rebel Waves Records release from Ripple Music, available at Bandcamp and the other regulars. I am going to have to sit with this music for a while to allow the full impact to land. My first impression is: recommended.

Links.

Band Bandcamp, https://arcadianchildband.bandcamp.com/

Band Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/arcadianchildband/

Band YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKI7gQhSPURQglbhd3MMm4g

Ripple Music, https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/

Arcadian Child, Protopsycho review (Ripple Music 2020)

Crystal Spiders, Molt review (Ripple Music 2020)

Raleigh, North Carolina-based Crystal Spiders add a new entry in the Stoner Rock ledgers with their full-length debut, Molt.

The band is Brenna Leath and Tradd Yancey, bass/vocals and drums, respectively. They released a three-song demo last year, and Molt is the rapid follow up. Leath is also in the bands Lightning Born and The Hell No, creating music there and already finishing the principal writing on the next Crystal Spiders album after Molt. She is keeping the creative fires alive in this first year of the pandemic.

The new album has a straight-forward sound and a practical approach to Stoner Doom that sits atop a solid underlying heavy rock structure. There is occasional the lead work like near the end of “C.U.N. Hell” that complements the abiding rhythm, but it is those bass lines and the assertive percussion that gets the biggest notice. And the vocals, of course. Leath’s voice is clear and soulful and vaporous all at once, in the neighborhood of Jillian Taylor (Ruby The Hatchet) but a bit lower in register and huskier tone.

A couple of the songs stood out and stuck with me even among the field of excellent music the album creates. “The Call” is a rousing, pulsing rocker, with a piercing guitar upfront and a ponderous then menacing back end. The ethereal sounds and tones in “The Fog” were absolutely hypnotizing – I was so wrapped up in listening to it I didn’t even realize when the song ended and the album was done. The title track is a crackling burst of Punk energy and “Chronic Sick” is pure doom.

Molt is out now from Ripple Music at their Big Cartel store and through Bandcamp. I just finished listening to the new album again and I am already anticipating the next one. Recommended.

Band photo by Marissa Straw.

Links.

https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/album/molt

https://www.facebook.com/crystalspidersinmymind

https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/

Crystal Spiders, Molt review (Ripple Music 2020)

Ripple Round-Up 2020, Round 01

Ripple Music is releasing some of the best heavy music in the business. Their catalogue is truly amazing. We got behind here at The Cabal and couldn’t do full reviews of these albums, but we couldn’t let them go by without comment, either. So here is one paragraph on each. Oh, and don’t forget to add “Highly Recommended” to the end of every paragraph because it belongs there.

Wolftooth, Valhalla (May 22)

Many have noticed and remarked that there is a strong presence of New Wave Of British Heavy Metal style in Wolftooth, and allow me to pile on. There is a broad resurgence of this kind of music, with varying results – the result here on Valhalla is impeccable. Part of the success in the music is that it’s neither an homage nor a repetition. Instead, the songs integrate NWOBHM with other approaches like doom metal. “Firebreather” stands out to me because of its companioning rhythms and urgent march passages. “Scylla & Charybdis” is another one that has lodged in my mind, this time due to its eerie roll and escalating intensity. There is not a bad one in the bunch. No skips required.

War Cloud, Earhammer Sessions (May 22)

“Vulture City” opens the album with a solid crack right to your brainpan. The classic metal style holds up for War Cloud throughout, and their playing is spot on. Earhammer Sessions was recorded live, presumably in studio at Earhammer Studios. It adds up. The band stated that they wanted to capture the energy and vibe of the set they had been playing on their European tour. I didn’t see that tour but this album does have a live feel to it with its raucous explosive fury. “Chopper Wired” is a fine example of what I mean with the drum solo in the second half of the song. You don’t usually get that kind of thing in a studio album. “White Lightning” follows immediately and it is not possible to push Lemmy out of your mind listening to it. What I am saying is: this is rock and roll.

Forming The Void, Reverie (May 8)

The vocals are soaring and echoey, making them sound either ethereal or extraterrestrial or both. The distorted rumbling guitars form impressions and make assertions about time, space, and in between. Reverie is the band’s fourth full-length release, and their confidence shows. They are pushing at the edges of the sound they have been working with over the past five years, and the results are impressive. The feel of the album is gloom, and it is epitomized by “Ancient Satellite,” starting out as it does with dreary hopelessness. It does take a turn toward false hope a couple of times, but the ending sounds like the last wandering transmission of a conquered planet. You will have to look elsewhere for happiness but you can find an excellent doom album right here.

The Watchers, High and Alive (April 24)

The four songs on this EP were captured live at the House of Rock in Santa Rosa in Fall 2019. The set starts out menacingly, then slips in a wah-wah and a phase shifter which lightens the atmosphere a little on “Black Abyss” but not the guitars. “Just A Needle” has a nice buzzy bounce. The main lead break sounds like a spy novel.  “Sabbath Highway” is a heavy metal rodeo that rolls right over you. “Starfire” is my favorite track on the album because of its sheer exuberance, but I mean it when I say they are all great. The musical precision combined with pulsing vitality of the band is an incomparable combination.

Bone Church, Acid Communion (March 13)

One of the best bands in the heavy guitar-driven bluesy industry brings a monster to your doorstep. “You’re always welcome at the Church of Bone where you can live the life divine.” The track I most remember is “Iron Temple” for its expansive stature, and it is also the place in the set where the music shifts gears a little and leads into the valley of the closing movement. On the other hand, “Iron Temple” could be the mountain that is summited and traversed from the beginning of the album and the end of the album. That debate is one for the listeners to work out on their own. The final song on the album is the title track, almost nine minutes long, and it is an epic story told with powerful, heavy guitars. I am delighted by Acid Communion and I can’t wait to get my ears on more.

Links.

Ripple Music, https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/

Wolftooth, Valhalla, https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/album/valhalla

War Cloud, Earhammer Sessions, https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/album/earhammer-sessions

Forming The Void, Reverie, https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/album/reverie

Bone Church, Acid Communion, https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/album/acid-communion

Ripple Round-Up 2020, Round 01

High Priestess, Casting the Circle Review (Ripple Music, 2020)

The new album from High Priestess is the next step in their atmospheric doom ensemble that will take you to places you have never been before.

High Priestess is a three-piece band from Los Angeles: Katie Gilchrest (guitars, vocals, organ), Mariana Fiel (bass, vocals), and Megan Mullins (drums, percussion). Their first album, High Priestess, met with significant praise in 2018 for its rich compositions and boundary-challenging style. The guitars and themes of the music are heavy yet often the music is deceptively gentle at times, insinuative. Many of the passages in their songs have a deep desert aura and are mesmerizing to the point of hypnosis. And still the heavy is in there, and so is the doom.

The new album is Casting the Circle.The opening track, fittingly titled “Casting the Circle,” is a somber meditation for the first couple of minutes, and then it opens up into an aerial view of an encamped army on a low sloping hillside at dusk with campfires just beginning to appear. “Erebus” follows and it definitely feels like a dark ritual and a spell. Fitting, given the name. Very mystical and creepy. Halfway through the 9+ minute song, a forlorn guitar bleeds into the soundscape and tells a story of blood magic and sadness. The mood is heavy in these first two pieces. In the third song, “The Hourglass,” there is more of a narrative message and the song structure is rather Floydian, to an expanding positive effect.

The centerpiece of the album is the 17 minute “Invocation.” It is a long journey that is well rewarded. The parameters are established early, and by the five minute mark the band is working in a beautiful and intoxicating guitar lead before transitioning into the choral mantra of the cycle. By the end you have become an initiate. The album closes with “Ave Satanas,” an echoey acapella conclusion of beautiful, overlaid voices. As a whole, Casting the Circle is entirely satisfying. It is complete in its construction and execution. It is original and captivating, so much so that it lodges itself among your memories and in your desires. This is one you will not soon forget. Recommended.

The CD and vinyl, as well as streaming and digital download, are available today, April 10, 2020. You can get them at Bandcamp and the usual other outlets (links below).

Photo: The band photo is from their Facebook page, by @roadrash666.

Links.

http://www.highpriestessmusic.com

https://highpriestessmusic.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/highpriestessmusic/

High Priestess, Casting the Circle Review (Ripple Music, 2020)

Review of Enter Galactic Wasteland, Mr. Bison and Spacetrucker (Ripple Music, 2020)

Ripple Music, the unrivaled Doom Metal label, has launched Turned to Stone, a new series of splits. Chapter 1 is Enter Galactic Wasteland featuring three tracks each from Mr. Bison and Spacetrucker.

Mr. Bison inhabits side one. They are a band from Italy, and their music is full of vibrato and slow builds. There are a lot of drifty, ethereal elements cushioning the strong blues-soaked guitar advances. All three songs are about seven minutes long, giving the musical theory behind them time grow and discover itself. The names of the songs even signal the sound of the compositions: “The Grace of Time,” “The Stranger,” and “Oracle Prophecy.” You know what plane you’re on when you take off, but you are not exactly sure where it is going. Free your mind.

Mr. Bison

Spacetrucker leads us through the second half of the journey, and their jam is less trippy and more earthshaking. Also a three-piece, this band puts the guitar right in front with their opener, “Nosedive,” where it blasts a path wide open for the barreling bass, drums, and vocals. The lead breaks are aggressive, and the tempo is on the speedy side of the doom spectrum. The next song is “Distant Earth,” where we slow down a little, reflect on our place in the cosmos, and let that guitar tell us the story. “King Cheeto” is the closer and runs like a single – just under three minutes, it is a sharp crack on your skull.

Spacetrucker (Photo by David Torrence)

Mr. Bison and Spacetrucker are an expertly curated pair to open the Turned To Stone series. With a split, you want two bands that go together but that do not sound too much alike. Yes? That’s what you get here. Enter Galactic Wasteland needs to go in your daily rotation now. Recommended.

You can get the digital at Bandcamp. Even better, if you subscribe to Ripple Music there, you get all the new releases automatically. Physical versions are also available in different vinyl shades but they are almost sold out already, on Day 1.

Links:

Main website, https://www.ripple-music.com/

Ripple at Bandcamp, https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/

Direct album site, https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/album/turned-to-stone-chapter-1-enter-galactic-wasteland

Mr. Bison:

https://www.facebook.com/mrbisonband

https://www.instagram.com/mrbison_band/

https://mrbison.bandcamp.com/

Spacetrucker:

https://www.facebook.com/spctrckr/

https://www.instagram.com/spctrckr/

https://spctrckr.bandcamp.com/

Review of Enter Galactic Wasteland, Mr. Bison and Spacetrucker (Ripple Music, 2020)

Horseburner, Set Review, Monkey House, Winooski, Vermont, October 8, 2019

I have been going to music festivals all summer – huge, overwhelming affairs held in the great outdoors with multiple stages and thousands of people, dozens of bands. They’re great. I love them. Going to one after another of these extravaganzas, it is easy to forget that there are other ways to enjoy music. Like in a club, or a bar. I was really happy, then, to go to the Monkey House tonight in Winooski, Vermont to see Horseburner and get a refresher course on how a small venue can, in many ways, be a bigger experience.

Horseburner is a doom band from West Virginia. They are gearing up for a US tour in November and made a stopover in the North Country supporting their newest release, The Thief (out now on Ripple Music). Horseburner was the middle act on the Tuesday night show between the opener, Sachem, and the headliner, Wolfhand, both these other bands being Vermont products. The Monkey House is a great little bar in a small town that is adjacent to Burlington, the largest place in Vermont (but it is still not very big). There are not a lot of places to hear heavy music in the Burlington area, so metal fans are lucky to have the Monkey House which DOES sometimes feature loud rock – the Sunday lineup this week, for example, includes Scaphism, Callous, Crypitus, Hell Priest, and Shitangel. It is a small bar, so bands like Horseburner have a sound that is sometimes a little too much for the space. But that is one of the things that is so great about seeing bands in bars and small places because it is a whole different experience. Hearing a song in a tight room late on a Tuesday night is a whole other thing than hearing the same song by the same band on a Saturday afternoon standing outdoors in a parking lot in front of a giant stage.

Horseburner only had 35 minutes and they made the most of it, featuring new material and cracking the whip from the small stage in the back. During the heavy driving movements, the four-piece creates a full sound, giving the impression that the room is being surrounded by an advancing army. The bridges are dramatic, and lead you right off the cliff. Quiet, even soft moments don’t last long, and the occasional lead break, when it comes, is blistering. It was an excellent set.

Check out Horseburner while they are out on the road next month rolling all over the US. And listen to The Thief, too – it is on Spotify or you could always buy it at Bandcamp and other places. Having seen them play at a bar, now I’ll be looking for Horseburner on the festival circuit. They have made my list.

Horseburner, Set Review, Monkey House, Winooski, Vermont, October 8, 2019