Howling Giant’s debut full-length, The Space Between Worlds, is a sci-fi concept masterpiece

It’s difficult to believe that The Space Between Worlds is in fact Howling Giant’s first full length album. After three solid EP’s, the Nashville, TN band has released their debut album, adding to their consistently heavy and creative catalogue of sci-fi influenced stoner-rock. Released on September 27th, The Space Between Worlds was preceded by the epic pair of Black Hole Space Wizard Parts 1 & 2 EP’s in 2016 and 2017, and the self-titled Howling Giant EP in 2015, which was remastered in March of this year.

On the new album, the band continues in their tradition of producing tight, heavy music with melodic vocals that tell an epic science fiction narrative. If you’re a fan of bands like Sleep, The Sword, or Torche, you’re going to dig the unique hybrid of those sounds that Howling Giant creates. Since the last release, core members Tom Polzine (Guitars/Vocals) and Zach Wheeler (Drums/Vocals) are joined by new bassist and vocalist, Sebastian Balten. Drew Harakal again lends his keyboard talents which really help to fill out and solidify the band’s sound with a consistent organ presence and many tasty synth tones.

According to a statement by the band, the new album “is a concept album that follows the story of a huntress who travels the infinite metaphysical worlds brought into being by the dreams of humankind. In these realms, she encounters a dream eater which threatens to unravel the fabric of reality by devouring dreamers and destroying the dimensional gateways.” The great thing about Howling Giant’s approach to sci-fi is that they don’t take themselves too seriously. They take an almost comic, Mystery Science Theater 3,000 approach to the content, but then out of nowhere, they’ll touch on something that resounds with the listener in a visceral, emotional way. In short, the sci-fi adds to the experience big time. Here’s the track-list for the album:

1. Comet Rider 4:30
2. Nomad 5:10
3. Ghosts in the Well 2:42
4. The River Guide 5:43
5. Ice Castle 4:37
6. Cybermancer and the Doomsday Express 4:04
7. Everlight 7:57
8. The Orb 7:08
9. Stone Giant 6:17

Vocals and Lyrics: All three members of the band lend their vocal talents, creating beautiful three-part harmonies throughout and are notably catchy on tracks like the opener, Comet, and the sword and sorcery influenced track, Ice Castle, which also features guest vocals by Jason Shi of ASG. The rhythm of the vocals is carefully measured and timed, oftentimes giving the vocals a chant-like quality. A good example of this is the track, Everlight, which even features OM chants. The River Guide is the only track to feature a spoken word narrative, which the album thankfully does not rely heavily upon as in past releases. The vocals can also at times be catchy and hilarious, and you’ll find yourself singing along to lyrics like, “The cables are connecting to my face,” as well as, “My engines run on fuel-injected rage,” on Cybermancer and the Doomsday Express.

The guitars are diverse throughout the album, from heavy and driving tracks like The Orb, Everlight, to layers of acoustics on Ghosts in the Well. Also, don’t miss the heavy, chugging guitar riffs, evident on tracks like Nomad and Stone Giant, which also has a killer double guitar lead. There are awesome leads throughout, and the way the walls of guitars blend with the grinding organ is awesome.

The keyboards sound amazing throughout. They provide a wide range of tones from grinding organs like in the opener, Comet, to sci-fi sounding synth interludes such as in The River Guide. The great thing about all of the keyboard layers is that they complement the songs and the other instruments and add vital layers of texture that, though they don’t always stand out, would be sorely missed if absent.

The rhythm section is powerful, consisting of hard driving drums and an amazingly deep and heavy bass. The drums creatively fill most available free space with all kinds of awesome fills and double kick blast beat action. The drums utilize a full set of toms, range from high pitches to thunderously low ones, but there’s also an obvious awareness of when things need to be simplified to make the song even heavier. The bass pairs perfectly with the drums, sometimes creating a tribal quality, like on Everlight. The bass even takes the spotlight with a slow and heavy bass solo on the track, Stone Giant, propelling the song into one of the heavy riffs on the album.

T-Shirt design by Joe Gettler

The band has some great merch to go along with the new release, including black and yellow color merge vinyl for U.S. orders, translucent green for UK/Euro orders, CD’s, and a brand new T-Shirt design by Joe Gettler. Their products are going fast. You can find the band on Bandcamp, as well as Youtube, Facebook, and Instagram. Thank you for reading the Sonic Sofa. Go in peace and rock on, Sofanauts.

Tour Dates

Nov. 9 Steel and Stone 2019 – Asheville, NC

Album Review: Melvin’s Holiday, by Lewis and the Strange Magics (Plus Interview)

Lewis and the Strange Magics are a heavy-psych band from Barcelona, Spain. The band produces groovy, stylish, psychedelic music, with strong funk and jam undercurrents. The band just released their third full length, Melvin’s Holiday. The album is a followup to the 2015 full-length Velvet Skin, the 2017 full-length Evade Your Soul, and the 2018 EP, The Ginger Sessions.

Melvin’s Holiday was independently released on September 6, 2019. It’s a concept album made up of nine, 1960’s and 70’s inspired, sexy, velvety, groovy, shag-carpeted tracks. Even the artwork by Shaun Miller is a throwback, with its retro style and filmy look. The album tells the story of Melvin, a rich man who divorces his wife and takes off on holiday in the Mediterranean, where he seeks happiness but finds only loneliness.

Musically, the entire album is catchy and easy to listen to, with plenty of creative guitar and keyboard tones. The lyrics are melodic and catchy, roughly comparable to the style of Ric Ocasek of The Cars. The album carries echoes of bands such as Pink Floyd, The Eagles, and Steely Dan, but with the psychedelic style and attitude that makes Lewis and the Strange Magics completely one of a kind. Get ready to sink into a velvet sofa and be carried away with the smooth flowing tracks. To help me get a better idea of the band’s song writing process and influences, I caught up with band leader and multi-instrumentalist, Luis Pomés, for the following interview.

The Sonic Sofa (TSS): Can you tell us a little bit about your recording process?

Luis P (LP): For this album we recorded everything in my home studio, with an audio interface to the computer and some microphones. Everything is digital but we tried to find an old/vintage sound.

TSS: What insight can you give us about the album’s lyrics and the Melvin character?

LP: My first intention was to do an album with songs that had a common theme: a summer and decadent atmosphere. I liked this concept and then when I was working on the final steps of the composition I realized that I could connect the songs by creating a character who lives all of the experiences that the lyrics show. So, I created the rich man, Melvin, and I changed some of the words to make a kind of rock opera. I think I got the idea of this concept, among other things, from a Roxy Music song that describes the decadence of a rich person who has a mansion but no one to share it with.

TSS: What is the band’s songwriting process and how does jamming play a part in it?

LP: I write everything in my mind, then I usually record some demos, or I explain the ideas to my band-mates to make a kind of jam. This last process was the one we used in our previous release, The Ginger Sessions EP. Sometimes I record a song without a definitive demo, making the arrangements while I’m recording, and this is why some tracks can have a jam band sensation.

TSS: What are the band’s influences, both musical and otherwise?

LP: All music I enjoy can be an influence, but for this album I think there’s a lot of Roxy Music, Funkadelic, Pink Floyd, Steely Dan, heavy-psych in general, and cult movies from the 70s, both for the general atmosphere of the film or from their soundtracks. For example, the track Carpet Sun is a direct tribute to erotic movies soundtacks from those years, and the whole album is very cinematographic.

“groovy, stylish psychedelic music”

The album opens with Melvin (2:51), a short track featuring hand percussion, smooth organ tones, a crisp drum sound, and some tasty wah pedal. A Funky feel, harmonized vocals, and some jazzy brass tones make this a catchy intro track. Next up, Sad in Paradise (3:48) brings a tight, progressive, fuzzy riff. This track stands out among the others with straight up catchy vocals and a hook-filled chorus. Don’t miss the cool stereo effects of the double guitar lead.

Jazzy drums and organ set the tone for The Answering Machine (2:11), and heavy effects on the vocals and a crisp ride cymbal gives the song a San Francisco jazz feel. Fashion Siren (5:31) has a great sounding snare drum and crisp, Steely Dan-like tones on guitar. Probably one of the catchiest songs on the album, with creative keyboard lines and a funky, eclectic chorus, self-referencing the band’s “Strange Magic” in the lyrics.

Carpet Sun (2:21) features a dreamy intro, with some great layering and effects from the keyboards. Synthy and velvety, this short musical interlude is a nice, reflective break in the action. Following up, Village’s Wizard (4:32) is a nice, percussion heavy track, with easygoing keyboard tones and guitar and a smooth, Latin-jazz feel.

Driving classic-rock riffs and catchy, love song lyrics set the stage for Only a Fantasy (4:13). This track features a great keyboard lead with some interesting scifi-esque tones. Lounge Decadence (2:27) opens with a great bass line and the song employs plenty of Latin style rhythms. And closing the album, Afternoon on the Sand (6:28) starts off soft, with great sounding vocal harmonies before shifting to a swingy, bluesy style to finish off the album.

Melvin’s Holiday is an album that should be listened to straight through, from start to finish, for the full effect. The album is currently available for digital download on Bandcamp, and hopefully we’ll see a vinyl release in the coming months. Make to support the band by listening to their music and buying their merch. Thanks for reading The Sonic Sofa. Go in peace, and rock on, Sofanauts.

Admission, the new album by Torche

Admission was released on July 12th, by Relapse Records

Torche is a four-piece heavy metal band from from Miami, Florida. Their music is characterized by heavy riffs and catchy, harmonic vocals. The band formed in 2004 and have released five full lengths and four EPs. Original members include Steve Brooks on guitar and vocals, Jonathan Nuñez who switched from bass to guitar duties in 2016, and Rick Smith on drums. The group was also joined in 2016 by bass player, Eric Hernandez, who made his first recording with the band on the new album, Admission.

“an absolute juggernaut”

Released by Relapse Records (known for producing such bands as Baroness and High on Fire) on July 12, Admission is the fifth album by Torche, following Restarter in Feb, 2015. The band released several singles during the weeks counting down to the new release, as well as new media content such as a music video for Admission, and a videologue look inside the studio. The album can be bought on standard black vinyl, CD, cassette, or digital download on their Bandcamp page. Also, check out the band’s website for even more merch, tour info, and information about the band.

Torche formed in 2004

The entire album is an absolute juggernaut. The songs tend to be shorter than other bands in the genre, but the abbreviated quality makes the album more listenable, and perhaps will leave the listener wanting more, or at the very least, repeat listens. The bass and guitar tones are magnificent, tuned low and overdriven. Melodic vocals harmonize over the hypnotic riffs, and the drums hold the entire album down, with pounding, creative beats. Heavy, distorted riffs fluidly meld with catchy, “pop” sensibilities in the way that only Torche has done for the past 15 years.

From Here opens the album, pounding eardrums with its relentless force and high energy. Other fast-paced headbangers on the album include What Was, with almost subsonic bass notes and creative drumming, and Extremes of Consciousness, which plods forward with driving guitars, and complementing fuzzy bass.

Among some of the poppier songs on the album are Slide, Times Missing, Admission and Changes Come. Slide has intensly catchy riffs and vocal harmonies, yet still finds the opportunity to explore some progressive off-time sections later in the song. Times Missing slows things down with a simpler chord progression and incredible vocal harmonies over the droning guitars and slick musical turnarounds. A poppy beat on Admission propels the song forward, and the lyrics are more contemplative and self-reflecting. Changes Come, the album’s closer, wraps the album up with an incredibly uplifting tone amidst phasing guitars.

“almost impossibly slow and heavy”

Some of the slowest, heaviest moments on the album are toward the end of the album, with the back to back songs On the Wire, and Infierno. On the Wire combines doom-like riffs, with stark, high-pitched guitar harmonies. Infierno is an almost impossibly slow and heavy track, which will test your subwoofers to the limit.

Other notable tracks on the album are Submission and Reminder. Submission has amazingly melodic vocals, with crashing cymbals and trance like repetition of the riff, reaching a fever pitch at the end. Beatles-esque vocal harmonies, paired with swinging, heavy riffs, abound on Reminder.

Torche has once again proven that they can release music which is both incredibly heavy as well as incredibly listenable, while staying consistent with the sound of the band’s previous albums. Admission is an intense musical journey, and listeners will find more beauty in the details with each listen. Make sure to listen to the album all the way through to fully appreciate the arrangement and balanced quality of the LP as a whole.

Tour dates

Sept. 16 The Olympic Venue – Boise, ID

Sept. 17 Diabolical Records – Salt Lake City, UT

Sept. 18 Larimer Lounge – Denver, CO

Sept. 20 Zanzabar – Louisville, KY

Sept. 21 Heavy Mountain Fest – Asheville, NC

Sept. 22 The Wilbury – Tallahassee, FL

Sept. 23 The Atlantic – Gainesville, FL

Nov. 1 FEST – Gainesville, FL

Nov. 9 Levitation 2019 – Austin, TX

“Weightless Waters,” the third EP by Finnish band, King of None

Weightless Waters, the third EP by Helsinki’s King of None

King of None is a hard-rock band from Helsinki, Finland. They produce riffy hard rock, with plenty of stoner and prog-rock elements. From the remnants of previous projects, the band was formed by vocalist Miiro Kärki, guitarist Aleksi Kärkkäinen, drummer Patrick Enckell, bassist Juho Aarnio, and guitarist Juha Pääkkö. The group has produced three EPs: the self-titled King of None in 2015, 2016’s Trouble by the Score, and most recently, 2019’s Weightless Waters.

Weightless Waters, released on April 28, 2019, is composed of six heavy songs. It’s a high energy ride that is arguably their most polished, mature EP to date. The songs range from four and a half to seven minutes. Each song is crisp and tight and it’s a headbanging, hard rock ride from start to finish.. The artwork was produced by musician and artist, Petri Lampela. The album is available for sale on Bandcamp and is also available for streaming on Spotify and YouTube.

Throughout the album, the vocals are melodic with aggressive, occasionally growly touches. Always on pitch, they pair well with the groovy, crunchy compositions. Thematically, the lyrics cover a number of topics. Starbirling and Desolator contain sci-fi elements as well as some hints at self-examination and perhaps absurdism. Worlds Collide and the opener, Words of Mine, seem to be more introspective, with the latter even tipping the hat to Carly Simon’s You’re so Vain. Frog Palace and Yellow Snake King contain fantasy-like lyrics, more typical to stoner rock.

Picture credit: Amirasaad Photography

Musically, the entire album is very tight. The guitars are heavy and over driven. There are some great wah pedal riffs, like on Yellow Snake King, as well as some creative double guitar leads, notably in Worlds Collide. Heavy walls of guitars will blow you away, like the fantastically slow and heavy intro to Desolator, but they prove in the same song that they are able to explore softer, more subtle moments, with psychedelic tinges.

The drums and bass are always locked together, like a tight, rhythmic force. The bass sounds heavy and chunky, and can be heard really well on the opening of Yellow Snake King. The drums are relentless, shuffling along with a constant barrage of fluid beats and drum fills, including lots of double kick-pedal work. There’s some nice use of a china cymbal and some intricate drum work on Frog Palace, as well as some really shuffly grooves throughout the album.

King of None have proven once again that they can produce some awesomely fast paced, intricate hard rock. Weightless Waters is an EP that will reward repeat listens, and should be in your music rotation. Support the group by purchasing the EP on Bandcamp today and check out their track, Desolator, below.