Hello again from the unofficial VOS WFH substation. Things are starting to settle down around here, at least to some small degree. At least, we’re all doing the best we can to adapt to this new reality of staying cooped indoors and never interacting with anyone except via a computer or other electronic device. To be honest, aside from no longer driving to and from work each day, that description isn’t all that far from how things have always been for me.
But anyway, disruptions to the day job modus operandi have really wrecked my publishing schedule, especially with large chunks of each day now spent on conference calls and in Skype meetings. But it’s time we get back into doing what we love best around here: talking about music we’ve enjoyed hearing lately and that you also may enjoy hearing.
First up is cinematic doom duo Insect Ark. Since the last time we checked in with them, founder/composer/bassist/slide-guitarist Dana Schechter (who has added collaborating with Swans to an already impressive resume that included work with Wrekmeister Harmonies, Gnaw, and others) has now been joined by new drummer Andy Patterson (who coincidentally had been looking for a new gig following the dissolution of his former band SubRosa right around the same time this group’s drummer had moved on).
And then more recently, Insect Ark‘s third album The Vanishing had just been released and the twosome had just headed out on a scheduled tour of Europe and the UK throughout the month of March, when the whole world suddenly went to hell (leaving the band with numerous cancelled dates and scrambling to find their way back to the USA). So, without any further ado…
Slaves BC – Third Temple (The Fear and the Void Recordings, 18 March 2020)
Hello from the Valley of Steel Quarantine Command Headquarters. Hoping that everyone is staying safe out there, wherever you are.
Personally, my coworkers and I had barely begun adapting to an entirely new accounting and ERP software system, which we had been preparing to implement for about the past year and a half, and which finally launched company-wide, a mere three days before the mandatory work-from-home proclamation went out. But as stressful and difficult as this has been for me, I know how fortunate I really am to have a job flexible enough to allow me to perform my duties from the safety of home — unlike so many folks who have to continue venturing out into the world, or so many others who simply aren’t able to work at all under these circumstances.
That’s always very important: to recognize the relative triviality of our own struggles when compared with those of other people; but especially in times of widespread crisis like this, we should all be asking ourselves what more we could be doing to lend a hand to those who might need it. This philosophy is perfectly embodied by local Pittsburgh band (and longtime friends of this website) Slaves BC, who released a brand-new song a few days ago accompanied by the following announcement:
With the global pandemic we are now facing, a lot of people are losing their jobs and are really struggling financially.
We were going to use this track for something else, but we decided to release it early to raise money to help people we love.
For the foreseeable future, any money paid for this track and all other releases by Slaves BC will go to friends in need.
Humulus – The Deep (Kozmik Artifactz, 28 February 2020)
If you couldn’t tell from the band name (humulus are the plants which grow the flowers we refer to as hops), that very cool cover art of a cephalopod holding up a beer bottle may clue you in: this Italian trio is birra-obsessed.
In fact, in the first ten years since their formation, these Lombardi gentlemen have put as much passion and effort into the development of their own self-titled brew as they have into creating three albums and EPs. So while their sound on this fourth release The Deep (released just a few days ago) may superficially resemble the style universally known as “stoner rock,” wouldn’t it make much more sense to call this “alcoholic rock”?
Konvent – Puritan Masochism (Napalm Records, 24 January 2020)
Good afternoon, readers. How are things where you are? Here, we’ve had a few pleasant and sunny days in a row, which is certainly a rarity. But today is a typically dismal and dreary Tuesday. So fittingly, it’s time to listen to some dismal and dreary music.
Without any further ado, here is Puritan Masochism by Copenhagen’s Konvent.
Kirk Windstein – Dream in Motion (eOne Heavy / Entertainment One, 24 January 2020)
Exactly twenty-five years and eleven months ago, on the 24th of March 1994, the sixth episode of the fourth season of Beavis and Butthead aired on MTV. That was the first exposure — for myself, and I suspect for many others who were teenagers at that time — to the music of Crowbar, as that episode included a portion of the New Orleanian sludge innovators’ “All I Had (I Gave)” video. (For the record, yes I do have a fairly good memory, but no I did not know all of those details off the top of my head; thank you to Wikipedia.)
Anyway, that day marked a pivotal moment in my music fandom. What I heard on that show prompted me to pick up a copy of the band’s self-titled 1993 album, and their blending of sheer heaviness with absolute raw emotion had me hooked for life. That combination is what has set the band apart from most of their peers and imitators over the years. And now after nearly a dozen albums with Crowbar (in addition to participating in a handful of other people’s projects over the past three decades) the founder, vocalist and guitarist Kirk Windstein, has released a solo record — eschewing some of the heaviness this time around, but retaining every bit of the passion and intensity.
Here’s some news that just popped into the Valley of Steel inbox: Greek psychoexperimental black-ish-metal sextet (more on that later) Hail Spirit Noir have a new deal with Poland’s Agonia Records, with a new album planned in just a few months!
Völur – Disir (Prophecy Productions, 24 June 2016)
Völur – Ancestors (Prophecy Productions, 02 June 2017)
Hey folks! The Shadow Frost festival that we talked about recently starts tomorrow and runs through the next day. Whomst among you are headed to Maryland for this event? That’s a pretty enticing line-up, huh?
So having said that, today seemed like an appropriate time to delve into a pair of albums by Torontonian trio Völur that I’ve been meaning to discuss ever since they first caught my attention several years ago. Not an ideal time to write about them, of course, as that would have been actually in 2016 and in 2017 (respectively) when they came out — but nevertheless, an appropriate time. Here we go!