Back in the primordial days of this here blog, we attempted something called “AMG’s Unsigned Band Rodeo.” The basic idea was to select a bunch of unsigned bands and give them the collective review treatment to find the most worthy buried gems. It was our humble effort to remind folks that the metal underground is still an important part of the world of metal.
After several years of self-righteous elitism where we largely overlooked unsigned acts, it’s high time we make amends. And so we’re bringing AMGs Unsigned Band Rodeo back from the dustbins of history with a fresh paint job and a butt-load of new reviewers! Whenever we fucking feel like it, we will pluck a band from metallic obscurity, review the holy Bejesus out of them and leave them to the mercy of you, the fickle masses. At year’s end we will crown the best in show and shower them with accolades, cheap beer and day old sushi. Now that you know the score, welcome to the Rodeo, mofos!
It’s high time the posse rides again, and we’ve assembled a new squad of musical regulators to do the dirty deed. Team Manhandled Pancreas is set to take on Serbian stoner doom outfit, Tentacle Wizard and their massive debut, Bringer of False light. The band claims their style is all about “chemistry, honesty and improvisation,” therefore they insist on recording live as a unit with absolutely no studio fixes. They want you to accept their flaws as part of the purity of creation or not accept them at all, so let’s see how that works out for them. You can learn more about the band on their Bandcamp page and over at the Facebook. Now strap in and prepare for untamed opinions and tough judgement!
Steel Druhm – 53 minutes and only 3 freakin songs?? This is gonna be rough sledding. Wait… this ain’t so bad, I kinda maybe like it. And so Tentacle Wizard‘s brand of stoned out, Sabbath-y doom wrapped me in a coiled embrace and made me partake of their intoxicating mushroom tea. With 2 bassists and one guitarist, this is jammy as hell, raw, unrefined and spaced out squid-bait. These half-baked fiends just riff away unhurriedly in a feedback-drenched stupor, caring little if you have places to be and things to do. Riffs meander in languid ways, hypnotizing and entrancing, as minimalist gruff vocals act as road markers on the long journey each track presents. Your clothing will soon be coated with particles of Grateful Dead and Jimi Hendrix as they float by in the purple haze of bygone decades, joined by modern influences like Kyuss and CoC. The band definitely has a knack for keeping you hooked in for the long haul, but the runtimes are just too massive, and the vocals are so close to the Cookie Monster as to be unintentionally comical. They aren’t the focus of these riff-driven epics, but still. With improved vox and some judicious trimming these guys could be an 8-armed force of suction-cup slapping wengeance. Praise Tentaclese! 3.0/5.0
Kronos – This being not my first unsigned band rodeo, I was none too pleased to learn of my assignation to Team Incredibly Lengthy Stoner Metal Jams1 and expected the worst out of Tentacle Wizard. It bring me great bliss to report that the worst I did not receive; in fact, even as a noted skeptic of such endeavors I find Bringer of False Light charming. Sure, the band owe almost their entire musical identity to Black Sabbath and weed, but that admixture proves potent here. “Tentacle Wizard” rambles in with a kooky sense of drama equal parts Lovecraft and Hanna-Barbera and proceeds to ever so patiently wind itself up to screaming heights. This band might be long-winded, but they know how to tell a story with suspense. Even the closer “Death of a Silent Star” proves tolerable despite being 25 minutes long. The last seven of those minutes are the climax of the album, with a fat Southern bass riff drowning in waves of cacophonous tremolo. Bringer of False Light hits all of the highs a good stoner record needs; propulsion, clever repetition, and confident improvisation. Altered states not required. 3.0/5.0
Akerblogger – Like a whore squirting body lotion over a mangle corpse, “Tentacle Wizard” opens with voluptuous unease. This is smooth sexiness mounted upon bearded gruffness. A skin-slapping, body-pumping groove pulls me through the song and I feel like I’m riding a beast clad in sticky tentacle effluence in a slow-motion blur. It’s humid here and the stench of sweat sears from the cloying wrap of echoing vocals and air-conditioning-esque amplifier noise. Atop this Lovecraftian beast you lose track of time, seven-minutes have gone in a flash and soon you’re bucking the bronco in a seedy back-alley tavern as neon lights strobe into your dilated iris. The sensual tap of a hi-hat drives you into a harmonious rhythm; you ride the blues into the blustery, heady climax. Chug chug chug: the song splutters. You’re ready to stop, you feel hives forming in your brain. The tentacle has gripped your throat and you find yourself wanting it to let up – you just need a nap. But there’s 38 more minutes of this and your ear-canals are already starting to chafe as the compressed roughness of this entity vibrates through you. “I enjoy your full-bodied charm,” I say, it can hear the pleading dread in my voice, “but I need something different.” There’s a lull – the tender touch of mid-song LSD trips and threads of splendid, stomach-turning soloing – and you start to get back in the groove in “Bringer of False Light” and the first half of “Death of a Silent Star,” but even this sensuality becomes too soft and stale. It’s taken a lot of effort for you to get here though and, although you’ve enjoyed moments of it, it’s difficult to navigate the muddy topiary of this sludge-ridden tentacled-beast. 2.5/5.0
Diabolus in Muzaka – I’ve never understood the point of stoner metal, much like I don’t understand the point of getting stoned. Why smoke pot and make an intellectually stunted dullard out of yourself, or why make long, boring songs with an intended audience of said intellectually stunted dullards? Tentacle Wizard wastes a wonderful name and does just that, waging a two-front war of aural attrition on both taste and patience. Fuzzed out riff imitations dominate the proceedings, and nary a single one is worthwhile or memorable. Even the sweet release of silence is painstakingly delayed; the ending of the title track is a full two minutes long. There’s no atmospheric value here, despite what seems like an attempt to create one via droning guitars and a bunch of gruelling, tedious solos which often sound like what a marginally talented sloth would try on a Gibson Explorer at Guitar Center. Don’t do drugs, folks. 0.5/5.0
Mark Z. – As someone who’s never acquainted himself with the ol’ Mary Jane, stoner doom is rarely my genre of choice, though I can certainly appreciate good music in the style when I hear it. And Tentacle Wizard is good music. These Serbian boys are clearly skilled in the arts of Electric Wizardry, combining seismic heft with tangly leads that billow from the haze like someone just took a big rip of whatever Kyuss was smoking. Opener “Tentacle Wizard” even shows off some skilled songwriting in its 14-minute runtime, with a recognizable chorus section and massive closing chugs. Sadly Light’s two other tracks are a bit less interesting, particularly 25-minute closer “Death of a Silent Star,” which makes me wish the star would have died (and gone silent) far sooner. Nonetheless the Ahabian interludes are a nice touch, the ubiquitous leads keep one intrigued, and the thick production engulfs you in the vintage world of blacklight lava lamps and schlocky horror movie posters that fans of Sleep and their ilk have no doubt come to love. Plus, they have a “lead” bassist. So that’s cool I guess. 3.0/5.0
Roquentin – As Tentacle Wizard‘s promo blurb informs us, the Serbian foursome is all about “chemistry, honesty, improvisation” and “capturing the moment with a full band simultaneous recording.” While an exciting prospect on paper, the end result is an unambitious and vanilla piece of music which most often devolves into a tiresome jam. Bringer of False Light is stylistically lodged somewhere between the most tedious grooves of stoner and post-metal with strained pinches of psychedelia mixed in for good measure. While the band hits its stride occasionally, blurting out sleek guitar licks and involving passages, these seem more the result of coincidence rather than any conscious creative effort. This is music to be played loud, too loud, in a smoke-filled bar as a backdrop for the incessant chit-chat and drinking of disinterested patrons. 2.0/5.0
Dr. Wvrm – That Muppet. A fifty-three minute stoner doom album? Really!? These rodeos are supposed to be easy, yo, just some light listening on the side! I certainly didn’t sign up for fourteen minute-long doom digressions, no matter how delicious and capable they may be. Why would anyone want to listen to an album this slow, even if it is meticulously crafted? It’s Sleep, if Sleep weren’t so one-note and conducive of narcolepsy. The gargantuan length is equal parts detractor and boon, but in the right circumstances allows Tentacle Wizard more time to experiment. Don’t encourage that! “Death of a Silent Star” uses the time and space to spiral off down passages rife with a delightful fuzz, heavy southern vibes, and an occasional brightness that keeps the whole thing moving. They’re even on the ball enough to muzzle those heinous Cookie Monster vocals, their greatest flaw, early and often (T is for Tentacles, who’s hungry for some?). I can’t hate this! I should be able to hate this! Why do I like this?! 3.0/5.0
Master ov Mvppets – Bringer of False Light is not an assortment of throwaway riffs and recycled formulae broken into quickly processed, quickly forgotten 3 minute bursts. Something like an unholy alliance of Motherslug, Dead is Dead, and Mizmor, Tentacle Wizard‘s sound is a sprawling, multifaceted monstrosity, and Bringer of False Light‘s power is most effectively felt when its reign of musical terror is allowed to reign terrifyingly from beginning to end. There’s an improvisational vibe even throughout the slower, plodding bits that really makes this thing feel alive, and such is the energy here that the minimal vocal presence feels natural and right. Grimy grunts and growls paint trippy scenery on their own, but the music itself is a peyote ride through the desert night sky. This is imaginative, emotive yet adventurous and challenging stuff, the song lengths demand a more engaged listen than traditional releases (at nearly 26 minutes, the final track of the trio is something to the effect of EPception) but the results are more than worth it. If a weirder, metal-er Motherslug sounds like your kinda thing, look no further. If it doesn’t, go look at the walls Outside the Hall and think on how to be a better person. 3.5/5.0