Saturday, November 27, 2010

Been Obscene - The Magic Table Dance

Been Obscene
The Magic Table Dance

Denizens of the Germanic realms seem to be the ones upholding the tradition of 90s psychedelic stoner rock more diligently than anywhere else in the world, and the Munich-based Elektrohasch label (owned by Stefan Koglek of leading light Colour Haze) has that market cornered. Been Obscene, the company’s latest signing, hails from Salzburg, Austria, but its heart is covered by the Kyuss-ground sand of the California desert. At least that seems to be the case on The Magic Table Dance, the quartet’s latest LP. Powered by dynamic rhythms and distortion so warm it should come wrapped in a blanket, the catchy Impressions, the tuneful How It Feels, the brief Ring Ring and the massive epic Demons go down like oatmeal garnished with jalapeno spices – there’s enough bite to get your attention, but it’s still basically comfort food. Nothing wrong with that, of course, and as far as that goes, The Magic Table Dance is quite tasty.

- Michael Toland

Los Explosivos - Sonidos Rocanrol!!!

Los Explosivos
Sonidos Rocanrol!!!
Get Hip/Primitiv

As we all know already, rock & roll knows no national or cultural boundaries – indeed, if the country that invented it (the U.S.) was the sole caretaker of the whole three chords-and-a-cloud-of-dust thing, the whole shebang would’ve choked to death two decades ago on a lethal cocktail of synthetic R&B and American Idol. Fortunately, there are bands like Mexico City’s Los Explosivos around to keep us gringos honest. Sonidos Rocanrol!!!, the young quartet’s second LP, doesn’t fuck around – the band gets down to business knocking stripped down blasts of guitars/bass/drums rock/pop out of the park with as little fuss as possible. Quick rips like Voy Corriendo, No Puedes Salir and Bailando!!! are simply catchy and exciting blasts from the garage that do nothing but jump around the room and knock over the furniture. Singing drummer Ernesto proves himself a charismatic frontdude, though he graciously cedes the mic to Cynics vocalist Michael Kastelic for a cover the MoodsYou’ve Got Another Think Comin’. The band adds a spoonful of psychedelia to Amapola for variety, but doesn’t need any tricks or gimmicks beyond its own youthful verve to live up to its name.

- Michael Toland

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Watain - Lawless Darkness

Lawless Darkness
Season of Mist

Scandinavian black metal is almost like harmless, if ugly, wallpaper at this point – I mean, you know exactly what to expect from it, don’t you? Bug-eyed blasphemy spit out of throats coated in nails, a wall of guitars so dirty they sound like the strings were dipped in diarrhea, Iron Maiden melodies taken in the back room and gang raped, general kick drum abuse. It’s all so ho-hum. So it’s a pleasant surprise (well, not pleasant, but you know what I mean) to hear Nordic black metal sound so refreshed, like it had a great night’s sleep after a moribund night of defiling churches and goat sex. Lawless Darkness, the fourth LP from Swedish trio Watain, doesn’t reconceive black metal in the slightest. But it does sound like fresh coats of desecration and slime were applied.

P’s raging riffs sound absolutely filthy, but the basement window through with the chords rip is open, letting every grimy note hit home like a bullet. H’s blastbeats actually ride a groove, instead of splattering all over the damn place, giving the music a firm foundation of ominous thunder. Frontdevil E howls ‘n’ growls with hellacious purpose, as articulate as any beast spawned in the pits of Hades can be when given human form. (If you’ve ever seen him live, you’ll notice he’s got the mic-stand twirling rock star thing going on as well, which is something to see when he’s wearing corpse-paint.) Malfeitor, Wolves Curse (complete with howling canines in the background, which somehow doesn’t come off cheesy) and Reaping Death rip, shred and defecate with the best of ‘em, and the epic Waters of Ain maintains a level of fascinatingly malevolent brutality over the course of nearly 15 minutes. Watain doesn’t reinvent the wheel on Lawless Darkness, but it certainly spins it faster and more efficiently than any other demon has done in a long, long time.

- Michael Toland

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Lightning Swords of Death - The Extra Dimensional Wound

Lightning Swords of Death
The Extra Dimensional Wound
Metal Blade

American black metal bands tend to be on the arty side. Acts like Nachmystium, Leviathan and Xasthur don’t stint on the power, filth and brutality that drive black metal, but they like to experiment, folding in other musics and generally pushing the boundaries of the form. While that’s never a bad thing, I have to admit that it’s refreshing a USBM group that so clearly emulates the more stripped-down, straightforward ugliness of its Norwegian forebears. Though the band hails from sunny Southern California, Lightning Swords of Death takes its inspiration from crude Scandinavian innovators like Immortal and Darkthrone on The Extra Dimensional Wound. Tunes like the savage Invoke the Desolate One, the bleak Venter of the Black Beast and the majestic Damnation Pentastrike (which has got to be the greatest song title of all time – seriously, who wouldn’t listen to a song called Damnation Pentastrike?) give the middle finger to niceties like keyboards, clean vocals and dynamics. With the exception of the breath-catching Zwartgallig, every song here is about massive riffs, ravaged larynxes and scorched earth. Monstrous.

- Michael Toland

Rotor - 4


Germany’s Rotor is nothing if not consistent. Its appropriately titled fourth album is in the same vein as its previous work: angular psychedelic hard rock with melodies that stick and jams that stay focused. De Weisse Angst and Costa Verde flow over the speakers like the molten heart of a cracked star, all dark chocolate guitars and cosmic vibes. Derwisch rocks like your favorite 70s metal band after it fired that annoying-as-all-hell singer that sang like a castrated badger and drank all the beer.

The difference here is the addition of vocals to a pair of tracks, to inconclusive effect. Andre Dietrich’s screech does nothing to improve the fortunes of the angry An3R4. Nico Kozik’s vox are far more appropriate to the cover of the Obsessed’s Neatz Brigade, but said version is so faithful to the original it seems kind of pointless. Wanting to expand beyond your own self-imposed boundaries is a good thing, but the larynx experiments don’t put Rotor on any plane it couldn’t have raised itself to by doing well what it always does.

- Michael Toland

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Lo-Pan - Sasquanaut (Remixed & Remastered)

Sasquanaut (Remixed & Remastered)
Small Stone

The best heavy rock marries the crushing weight of a fat dinosaur to memorable melodies that slither and soar – Black Sabbath and Kyuss both had that down cold. Lo-Pan re-officiates that marriage and presides over the subsequent orgy on Sasquanaut (Remixed & Remastered). Originally self-released with a bit less fidelity (hence the parenthetical designation), the sophomore LP from the Columbus quartet undulates with shimmering walls of six-string distortion and nimble rhythms that know when to smash and bash and when to pirouette. Singer Jeff Martin brings a shit-ton of charisma and flow to the proceedings as well. Thus the combo is equally comfortable with rumbling dirges (Kurtz, Savage Henry), atmospheric drift (Vego) and driving rock & roll (Vega). When Lo-Pan puts it all into one track, as with the epic Wade Garrett, it really takes off into the smoky stratosphere. Admittedly not the most innovative band on the block, Lo-Pan forgoes experimentation and just lays down the jams with passion, precision and power.

- Michael Toland

Monday, November 01, 2010

The Kings of Frog Island - s/t

The Kings of Frog Island
The Kings of Frog Island

Clearly a band who doesn’t need anything as pesky as album titles, The Kings of Frog Island is the psychedelic side project of singer/guitarist Mathew Bethancourt, former leader of British butt-rockers Josiah and currently majordomo of grungy garage thumpers Cherry Choke. With Josiah defunct, Bethancourt sets the hash pipe aside occasionally and steers the Kings’ third record towards the earthy hard rock of his original power trio. There’s plenty of trippiness, mind you – Ode to Baby Jane strains guitars through an acid blotter, A Cruel Wind Blows evokes an albatross plunging from wispy clouds into a choppy sea, More Than I Should Know drifts along like Syd Barrett in a rare lucid moment and The Keeper of… would make Hawkwind proud. But a fair chunk of this record is meaty power rock like I Ain’t Sorry, Bride of Suicide and Glebe Street Whores, a mode of expression about which Bethancourt knows a thing or two. Iron fist, kiss velvet glove.

- Michael Toland
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