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Sunday, 24 November 2019

Rivercult - Halcyon Daze (Brooklyn Based Retro Heavy 2018)


Size: 168 MB
Bitrate: 320
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Halcyon Daze is Brooklyn based, heavy psychedelic trio River Cult's debut effort. The band's style comes from a range of influences, starting with the heavy sounds of the past, then pushing them into the future with a modern sensibility. 

The album moves fluidly through a range of emotions but still holds together as a cohesive whole; refusing to be burdened by a single genre. Though undeniably rooted in stoner rock and psychedelia, the subjects of River Cult's songs set the band apart by discussing feelings of angst and a struggle with the human condition. 


Though undeniably rooted in stoner rock, Brooklyn-based heavy psychedelic trio River Cult fluently weave a far wider array of sonic touchstones into an enveloping amalgamation that offers constant surprises – what may sound familiar at first heads rapidly in unexpected directions.

Debut full-length Halcyon Daze ranges through retro-fuzz, sweeping psych-doom and stark, almost post-metallic soundscapes.

The core of spacious heaviness remains throughout, but to hear a band channel (at any given moment) elements of Blue Cheer, ISIS, Ty Segall, Pentagram and Earthless, all while maintaining a vibrant originality, is truly a singular experience.


Making pigeonholing a further impossibility are River Cult’s lyrics. Themes of disillusionment, angst, alienation, addiction, and the mutual exclusivity of rightness and victory are just some of the personal and philosophical considerations that surface.

Metal Sucks called River Cult’s 2016 EP, “a fuzzed-out psych rock quest that sounds like it was recorded in a ’70s rec room in outer space.”

New York Music Daily described it as, “a roaring, psychedelic envelope of sound that’s a lot more propulsive than your typical stoner metal or postrock band.”


Halcyon Daze moves fluidly across sounds and emotions, a cohesive whole that refuses to be burdened by a single identifiable genre. The album’s tracks were recorded live in the studio, with minimal overdubs and edits, flowing together seamlessly to create an immersive aural voyage.

I didn’t wind up writing nearly enough about it, but the 2016 Demo from Brooklyn trio River Cult was one of my favorite short releases of 2016, and one to which I’ve continued to go back periodically since. It’s only ever good for general international relations when a US band attracts the attention of Nasoni Records, as River Cult have apparently done, but to find them releasing their debut album, Halcyon Daze, through Pittsburgh’s Blackseed Records as well speaks to a multi-pronged approach that one hopes is a portent of how they’ll support the offering on tour.


Oh, and not that I’ve heard it yet or anything like that, but the record smokes. It’s out March 15 and I’m happy to be able to premiere a teaser video for it below. Fingers crossed I’ll have more to come about it before the release date as well.

Bursting on to the scene with a highly acclaimed self-titled EP in 2016, Brooklyn NY’s River Cult are amassing a loyal following with their unique style. Pulling inspiration from Sleep, Neurosis, and Pentagram, River Cult’s songs are modern, yet authentic hunks of Heavy Psych, Doom/Stoner rock.

Fusing atmospheric jams, gritty vocals, and garage rock eminence, River Cult are poised to keep riding the wave of their heavy jams to further praise in 2018, with a recording reminiscent of the Led Zeppelin, Hawkwind oeuvre. In collaboration with Blackseed Records, the independent heavy underground label based in Pittsburgh, River Cult will unleash their debut full-length, “Halcyon Daze”, on March 15th, 2018.


Blackseed Records will release “Halcyon Daze” on both CD and limited-edition cassette. A harmonic release to coincide with a vinyl issuance on Nasoni Records (Berlin), these limited black-matte cassettes are capped at 50 hand-numbered copies.

Getting and having one’s house inorder are two very different things, but River Cult seem to manage both on their Blackseed Records and Nasoni Records debut album, Halcyon Daze. The five-track long-player, on which not one song is under seven minutes long, follow a promising 2016 demo that was among the year’s best short releases, and takes a tack of exploring a variety of different styles and moods, all of them heay in one way or another and drawn together by an overarching sense of tonal heft that permeates whether it’s the tense build-up-leading-to-rolling-fuzz-wall of centerpiece “Seething” or the dreamy, drifting end of 11-minute second cut and highlight “The Sophist” just prior.

Either way, River Cult — the Brooklyn-based trio of Sean Forlenza, Anthony Mendolia, and Tav Palumbo — sound like they’ve definitely been to school when it comes to their influences, and whether it’s the Acrimony-style grit, roll, drift and nod of “The Sophist” or the West Coast boogie into spacious slowdown in opener “Likelihood of Confusion,” which only minutes prior to hitting the cosmos proffered softshoe-worthy wah swirl and swing and the first of the album’s many jammed-out-feeling leads. At various points throughout they ask aesthetic questions about what might’ve happened if Thrasher magazine had taken over the world circa 1997 and, particularly on the title-track, what might’ve happened had Chris Hakius taken on a role drumming for Acid King. These issues, along with shades of Dead Meadow-style shoegazing on closer “Point of Failure,” are met with workaday lyrics and a loose-swinging vibe that, at less than a moment’s notice, is prone to kick into explorations of full-on Man’s Ruin-style fuzz overdrive.

The key word there might be “explorations,” and that’s because although Halcyon Daze sets itself purposefully to the work of proffering earthy tonality and a classic stoner fuckall in its looseness of structure and willingness to depart from verses and choruses into more open jamming, River Cult by no means sound set in their ways, and the 41-minute album carries the spirit of a band in the process of discovering who they are together as players and where they want to go in terms of their sound. Having first gotten together in 2015, it’s not entirely surprising they’d be at this stage on their first full-length, and it’s much to their credit that they capture the moment with the obvious commitment to sonic organics they show here.

To wit, after unfurling a groove of such deeply-weighted fuzz, the title-track moves easily into a soundscape of vast, drifting post-rock guitar drones that work on a long fade into the garage-via-Stooges riff that starts closer “Point of Failure.” That they’d cover such a swath of ground on their first long-player is impressive enough, but to do so with the kind of fluidity they bring out of the patient opening minutes of “Seething,” for example, or the confidence on display as “Likelihood of Confusion” begins its pivot almost exactly at its midpoint before, at 4:30, crashing through the door of its next sonic dimension. They’re an East Coast band, to be sure, and “The Sophist,” “Halcyon Daze” and the crunchier, grunge-minded sections of “Point of Failure” show that edge, but there’s little here one might consider confrontational, and rather, River Cult invite their listeners along with them on their journey of discovery as they feel their way ahead into what one hopes is the just the beginning stages of a longer-term sonic development.

And to its credit and to the band’s credit, where that development might ultimately bring River Cult feels like a secondary consideration in comparison to the groove here, which at points recalls earliest Fu Manchu and other such before-stoner-rock-had-a-name rawness. 

Taking advantage of the room in each track to flesh out their parts and ride the riffs to hypnotic and repetitive effect, as on the title-track’s outward trajectory or what seems to be a switch from otherworldliness to personal criticism on “The Sophist,” the first chorus of which brings the standout lines, “Sophistry/Yeah, you talk too much.” This perspective, somewhat disaffected but not necessarily raging, is writ large throughout Halcyon Daze, and it helps River Cult find their balance between more weighted, riffier fare and more atmospheric psychedelia.

It’s also worth noting that, while I have little doubt that Halcyon Daze was put together with a vinyl release in mind — “Likelihood of Confusion” and “The Sophist” on one side, “Seething,” “Halcyon Daze” and “Point of Failure” on the other — the album works perhaps even better in linear form, taken as one whole work unfolding in different stages in ups and downs of energy, pace, volume and emotion, weaving its way into and out of jams whole always keeping its ultimate trajectory forward, as shown when the feedback and noise wash of “Seething” gives way into “Halcyon Daze” or the effects loops of “Likelihood of Confusion” seem to dive into the airy tones that spread themselves over the initial going in “The Sophist.”

The bottom line is there’s a lot happening on Halcyon Daze when it’s taken front-to-back — which is how it feels like it was meant to be taken — and while one might imagine or expect River Cult to continue solidifying their approach in style and structure, what they’ve crafted in the meantime stands among the most promising Brooklynite heavy psychedelic debuts since Naam‘s Kingdom EP and should be commended for its level of craft, naturalism of execution, and unbridled flow. It’s a good one to get lost in, so go ahead and get lost in it.

The Band:
Sean Forlenza: Guitar, Vocals
Anthony Mendolia: Bass
Tav Palumbo: Drums

Released February 9, 2018
01. River Cult - Likelihood of Confusion
02. River Cult - The Sophist
03. River Cult - Seething
04. River Cult - Halcyon Daze
05. River Cult - Point of Failure

Released July 7, 2016 (Recorded live at WFMU)
06. River Cult - Temps Perdu 
07. River Cult - Shadow Out Of Time 

Released February 4, 2016
08. River Cult - A Drop In The Ocean 

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