Wrought Iron – Rejoice and Transcend (2014)

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Wrought IronRejoice and Transcend (Grimoire Records, 24 June 2014)

 

Ever since the band was formed (which was at the end of 2011), and especially since they started playing live shows (the following spring), there’s been a significant amount of buzz surrounding Wrought Iron within Pittsburgh’s underground music scene. People who’ve caught their live shows (often appearing with some pretty big names, like Abigail Williams, Absu, Alcest, Dying Fetus, False, and Nachtmystium, just to name a few) have reported being spellbound by the ferocity as well as the raw talent on display.

Well, that — and one other thing too. It seems like whenever this band is being discussed, the performance of vocalist Kenny Snyder often gets brought up; several times I’ve witnessed certain people (without mentioning anyone specifically, but I will say it’s almost always been members of other local bands) trying to imitate the combined snarl-shriek-squawk that these folks affectionately refer to as “like a dying pterodactyl.”

Anyway. I personally may have been a little bit late to the party, but after hearing them recommended so highly for so long, I finally got the chance to see Wrought Iron last summer (and a couple more times since then). I was very impressed by what I saw and heard — they definitely lived up to the hype, no question about that. Fast-forward another year, and we find the band recording an album with Maryland’s Grimoire Records, which is being released digitally (as well as on CD or cassette) today.

 

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Agalloch – The Serpent & the Sphere (2014)

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AgallochThe Serpent & the Sphere (Profound Lore Records, 13 May 2014)

 

So tomorrow is the day when we’ll be making the trek west to Ohio, because Agalloch‘s tour will be hitting Cleveland. (Read all the details of that tour right here. I’ve been pretty excited about this for a while — I may only have discovered the band within the past few years, but quickly I found their style of vast, atmosphere-infused black/folk metal to be right up my alley. I enjoyed all the songs I’d heard (on Pandora or wherever) from their earlier albums like The Mantle and Ashes Against the Grain, so I thought I had a general idea of what this band was about, and I thought I knew basically what to expect from the upcoming show.

But no, honestly I don’t think anything could have prepared me for what happened when — partly out of curiosity, partly to get familiar with some of their newer stuff — I headed over to the Agalloch Bandcamp page and hit PLAY on their recently-released album The Serpent & the Sphere. I found myself instantly blown away by what I was hearing, a reaction that continued throughout the next fifty-nine minutes or so, through the conclusion of all nine tracks. I decided right then, even though this year isn’t even halfway over yet, that I find it unlikely I’ll hear anything better than this in 2014.

I hadn’t even really planned on writing this, but this was just one of those rare occasions where something caught my attention and spoke to me so much, I felt like I had to make sure other people knew about this record too.

 

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Tours Galore: Hivelords and Sadgiqacea Together Again

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Hivelords and Sadgiqacea Are Embarking on a Joint Summer Tour

 

Hey folks, if you live in the eastern half of the U.S. (that is, anywhere between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mississippi River, plus just a little further west in the case of Kansas City, Columbia, and Des Moines), you’re in for a real treat sometime in the next six weeks. Two Philadelphia-based bands who each play a uniquely interesting variant of black metal — Hivelords and Sadgiqacea — are heading out on the road, starting tomorrow night in New Jersey, and spiralling their way through the northeast, midwest, and southeast, before finally finishing up back in Philly at the end of July.

I saw these bands last July when they both played a show in Pittsburgh, and it made for a pretty amazing experience. I’d highly recommend it if you are able. I’ve got a video from each of their performances at that show, below, and then I’ll share the full list of dates for their current summer tour.

 

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Musk Ox – Woodfall (2014)

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Musk OxWoodfall (self-released, 17 June 2014)

 

Earlier this week I wrote about the current Agalloch North American tour, which began last night. In that post, I made mention of the fact that when the tour hits Ottawa on the third of July, the band would be joined by an acoustic group called Musk Ox. Led by guitarist Nathanaël Larochette (who contributed some interlude music to the recently-released Agalloch album The Serpent & the Sphere), and also consisting of cellist Raphael Weinroth-Browne and violinist Evan Runge, this instrumental trio has just released an album of their own, earlier this week.

The second full-length album under the Musk Ox name, Woodfall is the first to feature this particular line-up (the 2007 self-titled release was exclusively a solo project featuring Larochette on all instruments). This new album contains one continuous piece of music (over an hour in length), which was composed by Larochette and Weinroth-Browne. The larger piece is broken into five named sections; three of these (part 1 “Earthrise,” part 2 “Windswept,” and part 4 “Above the Clouds”) run around ten minutes long, while the other two (part 3 “Arcanum” and part 5 “Serenade the Constellations”) each exceed seventeen. On the whole, I find Woodfall fascinating for both its beauty and its simplicity, and I suspect many of you out there will feel the same way.

 

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The Bloody Seamen – Ahoy, Motherfuckers (2013)

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The Bloody SeamenAhoy Motherfuckers (self-released, 19 September 2013)

 

Hello there, friends and fans of great music! Here’s something I’d been planning on sharing with you last week, but I didn’t have a chance to get any writing done all week because shit got crazy at work. Between someone on vacation, someone at a week-long conference, someone having to go to the hospital, and a temp who doesn’t know how to do much yet, my department was reduced by about half. Which means instead of doing the work of two people, I was actually working for like three or four. No fun.

But really, this review is way more overdue than that — the album I’m telling you about was actually released nine months ago (coincidentally, last year’s International Talk Like a Pirate Day), and I’ve been listening to it over and over since then. The debut album by Pittsburgh’s premier pirate rock band, The Bloody Seamen, impressed me and exceeded my expectations so much, it gained a spot on my list of 2013’s best releases. And today (finally!) I’d like to tell you why.

 

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Tours Galore: Agalloch Hitting the Road Throughout North America

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The Agalloch “Serpens in Cvlmination” Tour Begins its Trek Across North America

 

Last month, Portlandian atmospheric black/doom/folk band Agalloch released The Serpent & the Sphere, their fifth full-length over the past fifteen years (and the second on Profound Lore). In support of this new album, the band is heading out all across North America — starting tomorrow night (Wednesday, 18 June 2014) and running for about three weeks. On various dates of the tour, they will be joined by Obsidian Tongue, Vex, Jex Thoth, Thrones, and — for one lucky city — Musk Ox, the folk trio led by guitarist Nathanaël Larochette, who wrote and performed several interludes on The Serpent & the Sphere.

Personally, I’ll be making the trip out to Cleveland for the show this coming Saturday, and really excited since it’ll be my first time seeing Agalloch. See below for the full list of dates…

 

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Two Reviews: The Swan King and Jar’d Loose (2014)

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The Swan KingLast So Long (War Crime Recordings, 03 June 2014)

 

JL Turns 13

Jar’d LooseTurns 13 (CD/digital on The Path Less Traveled Records; vinyl on Threshold of Pain Records, 27 May 2014)

 

For those keeping track at home — yeah, this is the fifth article I’m publishing, as well as the seventh and eighth albums I’m reviewing, this week. That’s got to be some kind of a record. If I can keep up this level of productivity, it’ll only take me about two whole years to get caught up with all the stuff I want to write about. IF bands would just stop releasing new stuff during that time. Which is about as likely to happen as me being able to continue writing and publishing stuff at this current rate.

Oh well, here are two albums I’d like to share with you that were released within the past two weeks, by two different bands from Chicago, who have been travelling together on a mini-tour for about the past week or so, including a stop in Pittsburgh tonight (Saturday, 07 June – more info here) before heading back home to the windy city for a joint record release show tomorrow night (more info here)…

 

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King Buzzo – This Machine Kills Artists (2014)

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King BuzzoThis Machine Kills Artists (Ipecac Recordings, 02 June 2014)

 

The bulk of my formative years were spent in the 1990s, from age eleven (when I was being introduced to Faith No More and Overkill) through twenty (when I was discovering Pentagram and Emperor). I experienced lot of music both new and old during that decade, all of which had a strong influence over my tastes and preferences, and frankly, made a huge impression on my life in general. And looking back, I think it could be argued that (taking into account both direct and indirect effects) singer/guitarist Roger “Buzz” Osborne and his band The Melvins had made at least as much of an impact as any other person or band, if not more.

After all, not only did I discover their own music somewhere in my teens (and found myself blown away by it), but that band can be said to have been almost singlehandedly responsible for entire genres of music — some of which rank among my absolute favorite. Where would sludge or grunge metal be, if it weren’t for their groundbreaking work? What would Crowbar or Eyehategod have sounded like; TAD or Harvey Milk; or dozens of other bands who’ve served such an important role in my life?

So clearly, I don’t think I could overemphasize how big of a deal they — and by extension, their one constant member over their thirty year history — really are. And so when Ipecac Recordings issues an album full of Osbourne solo acoustic material, needless to say I am very intrigued…

 

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It’s All Greek To Me: Reviews of Aenaon and Hail Spirit Noir (2014)

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AenaonExtance (20 January 2014, Code666 Records)

 

Oi Magoi

Hail Spirit NoirOi Magoi (20 January 2014, Code666 Records)

 

First, a word about this article’s title: there is an equivalent expression to that idiomatic phrase in Greek — Αυτά μου φαίνονται κινέζικα — as there is in numerous other languages, which would be helpful for non-native English speakers, since in a literal translation the meaning may be lost to those readers. However, the idiom with a similar meaning in several other languages would exclude the double entendre intended by the title in English: that today I am writing about two albums by two ostensibly similar bands, who are both Greek.

Okay, with that out of the way, time to move on to some music. These two albums came out on the same day in January by Code666; each one is the second album from its respective band — Aenaon (based in the regions of Epirus and Thessaly) and Hail Spirit Noir (from Thessaloniki, Central Macedonia) — who are both firmly rooted in a black metal aesthetic, while bringing various other experimental and avant-garde elements into the mix.

 

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Devil to Pay – Fate is Your Muse (2013)

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Devil to PayFate is Your Muse (09 April 2013, Ripple Music)

 

I’M GETTING TOO OLD FOR THIS SHIT.

Anyone that read my reviews yesterday will be able to deduce what I’m talking about. My head is killing me, my entire body is aching, and overall I pretty much feel like a zombie. Accordingly, I feel like listening to something very pleasant this morning. Here’s what I came up with: an album (another one that ranked on my best-of-2013-list!) with a central theme (at least, as far as my tired mind can ascertain) about how you’re going to die someday and there’s nothing you can do about it. Furthermore, a recurring concept is that of being a born loser, unlucky at everything, and not being able to do anything about that either because it’s all pretty much dictated by fate. Just warms the heart right up, doesn’t it? Here’s Fate is Your Muse, the fourth full-length by midwestern heavy psych/blues/stoner/sludge metal band Devil to Pay, which came out just over a year ago, about a decade or so into that band’s career.

 

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