Friday Full-Length: Khanate, Things Viral

Posted in Bootleg Theater on February 23rd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

If Khanate were still together today, you’d call them a supergroup. Hell, maybe they were a supergroup 15 years ago when they released their second album, Things Viral, on Southern Lord. Or maybe it’s this record’s sheer extremity that would make them so. Or maybe who gives a shit? Like about anything? Because it’s Khanate, and if there was ever anything that was going to completely level the playing field in terms of showing you how utterly meaningless everything you say and do — or have said or done, or will ever say and do — is, it’s this band. They are sonic nihilism brought to life.

Or death, since it’s hard not to listen to the original four tracks and unmanageable hour-long stretch of Things Viral and not find your mind awash in mental images of decay. With minimliast notes from guitarist Stephen O’Malley (of SunnO))) and many, many others), low-rumble from bassist James Plotkin (as in “mastered by,” which more than half the records your hear this year probably will have been), the scorched poetry of vocalist Alan Dubin (ex-OLD, currently of Gnaw) and accentuating thud of drummer Tim Wyskida (Blind Idiot God), Khanate were like nothing else even in the realm of drone. What was truly horrifying about their sound, what really haunted, was the contradiction in that what sounded so much like chaos in the second half of the 19-minute opener “Commuted” or its fuller-crushing 19-minute follow-up, “Fields,” could invariably not be chaos. Things Viral, which didn’t give away its title line until closer “Too Close Enough to Touch,” was methodical — premeditated. Not only because as the follow-up to Khanate‘s 2001 self-titled debut, the New York four-piece had an idea of where they were headed sound-wise, but even in its own crafting, it was thoughtfully constructed, brought to bear to be as aurally flaying as possible, and the abrasion conjured throughout its four tracks — the shortest of which, the penultimate “Dead” stands at 9:28 — was not a crime of passion. It was pure intent.

Given the bleakness, the immersiveness, the sheer swallow-you effect that Things Viral has even a decade and a half after its initial release, this is utterly staggering to realize. New bands get together every hour on the hour and say, “We’re going to be the heaviest thing in the world.” Most of the time it doesn’t work out. With Khanate, the mission seems to have been to haunt their listeners like some residue of trauma pushed into the subconscious. I think one of the most powerful moments on the album is in the ending of “Dead.” The final guitar ringout happens marked by a crash around the 8:30 mark and the last minute of the song is given to eerie whispering from Dubin and off-time drum hits from Wyskida that make for the most minimal and also the most terrifying moment on Things Viral as amps crackle in the background. The whole album’s use of empty space is something I’ve never heard matched in any form of doom or drone. Khanate were unafraid not only to create tension through spacing out the excruciatingly slow paces of “Commuted,” “Fields,” “Dead” and the abrasive, high-pitched scree of “Too Close Enough to Touch,” but over the course of the 59 minutes, there’s impact from emptiness as much as fullness, and the band proves no less extreme in this manner than they are in any (every) other.

Every bit worthy of hyperbole, Things Viral is the kind of record that might’ve proven more influential if there was any chance whatsoever anyone else could live up to its standard of malevolence and misanthropy. From the grueling hum and noise that starts “Commuted” — where the band just makes you wait for the punishment to begin — to the cacophonous final stretch of “Too Close Enough to Touch,” Khanate seemed to tap into an end point of pushing an idea as far as it could possibly go. It wasn’t about being dark, or being heavy at least in the way one traditionally thinks about either. But it was a conveyance of fear, paranoia, trust-betrayed, self-loathing and thoughtful violence that remains unmatched to this day. Khanate would of course go on to offer a number of other releases, from limited merch-table live outings to the 2005 Capture and Release EP to their third and final full-length, 2009’s Clean Hands Go Foul, and while I’m not about to take anything away from their swansong, which rounded out with the half-hour-long “Every God Damn Thing,” or that prior EP, Things Viral would continue to fester in the mind not only as a representation of the horrors of the age in which it was created — wars just beginning that still continue today; atrocities all around us large, small and bloody — but of the inward rotting we experience as a result of these things without even realizing it.

The version of Things Viral streaming above is Hydra Head‘s 2016 reissue. It has bonus tracks and swaps the running order a bit of the original core four songs, but it’s enough that you’ll get the point, to be sure.

I’d say I hope you enjoy, as is my custom, but that’s not really the idea here. Just absorb it, maybe close your eyes and see where its associations take you.

Good luck.

This week was a blur. Up early, pounding out this and that, trying to get as much done as possible while keeping appointments — I’m due at the dentist shortly — and trying to keep my head on tight while still undergoing this eating disorder treatment. Which is bullshit. I feel no healthier than I felt when I was starving myself and eating nothing but protein shakes. Don’t get me wrong, food is delicious — I ate like six oranges yesterday; it was fucking hilarious — but it’s a total waste of my time. My body aches all over. I’ve put on 50 pounds in like a month and much of that is water I’m retaining because who the hell knows why. My feet and legs are so swollen it hurts to walk. Miserable bastard then, miserable bastard now. I’d rather be hungry and dying. Do I mean that? If that’s the situation I was in before, then yes.

Nobody knows what the fuck “healthy” means anyway.

I’ve been overweight my whole life. Shit, I’m overweight now. My whole life. It’s affected my every single day. I feel eyes staring at me, people judging me like I just got back from the Wendy’s drive-thru or like I mainline Dunkin Donuts or some shit. I turn down bands who offer to send me t-shirts because I’m embarrassed to ask for a 2XL. It’s fucking miserable, and it’s been miserable for nearly the entirety of my 36-plus years on this planet. I mean that. Every fucking day. During this process, starving myself as I allegedly was, remaking my body, I was underweight for the first time in my life. Why can I be that? For a while? Why? Why can’t I do that? What if it kills me? Who’s not better off without me in their lives? The Patient Mrs.? The baby? My family? There’s no one around me to whom I’ve ever been anything but a burden. Even now. I don’t work. I don’t contribute. I wake up early and blog about music, shouting into an abyss — and yeah, it’s awfully nice when someone sends a nice comment or a note saying they appreciate that, but even that’s more like, “I found this band, awesome!” And yeah man, that band is awesome. I don’t feel like I helped that process of connection. I just fucking feel empty.

Except for all that fluid I’m retaining. Ha. Seriously, it’s so much that it’s pulling my skin taut on my calves and thighs. My shoes fit me again, so something must be improving, but still. Long way to go, I guess.

Which is what the nutritionist tells me. Long way to go. It takes time. It’s a process. It’s complicated. Go see this other doctor who’s going to draw more blood and agree with me because your doctor doesn’t.

I was better off before.

My sister had bariatric surgery maybe two years ago now. She’s killing it. I should’ve done that. Stupid.

Wow.

Sorry. I guess that’s how you end up closing out a week with Khanate.

But hey, the first spring training games are on today, so it’s baseball time. Hopefully I’m back from the dentist to see it start. And I got to do a track premiere for the new Monster Magnet, which was awesome. So, you know, strikes and gutters. Some you win, some you lose.

Here’s what’s on tap for next week, subject to change as always:

Mon.: Messa review/video premiere; new Bismut video.
Tue.: Final installment of the Nebula interview/stream series, covering Dos EPs.
Wed.: Blackwater Holylight review/track premiere; Dandy Brown video.
Thu.: Sinistro track-by-track.
Fri.: Merlin review.

Jammed as it is but I’m sure more will come along as well, like all of a sudden today there was an announcement for the Psycho Las Vegas 2018 lineup. That’s how these things happen. One can only try to keep up as best as possible.

Have a great and safe weekend. If you need me I’ll be getting a crown put on, then watching baseball and cooking a spaghetti squash to go with pesto and chicken for dinner, because that’s how I do these days, apparently.

Please check out the forum and radio stream. And buy my book. I don’t think there are that many left.

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Psycho Las Vegas 2018 Reveals Lineup; Dimmo Borgir, Hellacopters, Godflesh, Witchcraft and More to Play

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 23rd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Psycho Las Vegas 2018 logo

It’s only taken a few years for Psycho Las Vegas to establish itself as the premier underground festival in the US. All well and good. With 2018’s lineup, though, it’s time to start thinking of Psycho among the best in the world.

Sounds like too much? Consider Godflesh and Dimmu Borgir sharing a stage, both for exclusive West Coast appearances. Think of Sweden’s Witchcraft playing one of the two shows they’ll do in the US at Psycho, and ditto that for Japanese riff-madmen Church of Misery. Think of US exclusives from Lee Dorrian’s With the Dead, or Lucifer, whose Johanna Sadonis will also DJ the Center Bar. The commitment to up and coming underground acts local, domestic and foreign like Temple of Void, King Buffalo, Dreadnought, The Munsens and DVNE. Picture yourself watching Wolves in the Throne Room headline a pre-fest pool party with Elder, Young and in the Way, Dengue Fever, Fireball Ministry and Toke.

2018 is the year Psycho Las Vegas outclasses even itself and pushes further than it ever has in terms of stylistic reach (Integrity walks by and waves… at Boris) and the sheer power of its construction. If you’re looking for the future, you’ll find it in scumbag paradise.

Here’s the lineup:

Psycho Las Vegas 2018 poster

Psycho Las Vegas 2018

Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Las Vegas
4455 Paradise Rd, Las Vegas, Nevada 89169

Tickets: https://www.vivapsycho.com/pages/tickets

PSYCHO LAS VEGAS 2018 lineup:
DIMMU BORGIR (west of chicago exclusive)
HELLACOPTERS (one of two shows to be played in the USA in 2018)
SUNN 0)))
GODFLESH (west of chicago exclusive)
WITCHCRAFT (one of two shows to be played in the USA in 2018)
ENSLAVED
AMERICAN NIGHTMARE
HIGH ON FIRE
ROCKET FROM THE CRYPT
RED FANG
ZAKK SABBATH
CHURCH OF MISERY (usa exclusive 2018 with exception to one other show in San Diego)
TINARIWEN
GOBLIN
CKY
VENOM INC
EYEHATEGOD
VOIVOD
BORIS
COVEN
INTEGRITY
PALLBEARER
WITH THE DEAD (USA exclusive 2018)
MONOLORD
LUCIFER (USA exclusive 2018)
ACID WITCH
SURVIVE
DOPETHRONE
BIG BUSINESS
UNEARTHLY TRANCE
MUTOID MAN
TODAY IS THE DAY
HELMS ALEE
SPIRIT ADRIFT
BATUSHKA
PRIMITIVE MAN
DVNE
ALL PIGS MUST DIE
EIGHT BELLS
WORMWITCH
INDIAN
NECROT
HOMEWRECKER
BRAIN TENTACLES
CLOAK
BLACK MARE
MAGIC SWORD
UADA
TEMPLE OF VOID
DREADNOUGHT
WOLVHAMMER
ASEETHE
DISASTROID
FORMING THE VOID
VENOMOUS MAXIMUS
GHASTLY SOUND
HOWLING GIANT
KING BUFFALO
NIGHT HORSE
THE MUNSENS
GLAARE

Paradise Pool Pre Party
August 16th

WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM
ELDER
YOUNG AND IN THE WAY
DENGUE FEVER
FIREBALL MINISTRY
TOKE

Center Bar DJ’s
Andrew W.K.
Nicke Andersson (Entombed/Hellacopters)
Johanna Sadonis (Lucifer)

https://www.facebook.com/psychoLasVegas/
https://www.facebook.com/events/125340824913552/
http://vivapsycho.com

High on Fire, Live at Psycho Las Vegas 2016

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Review & Track Premiere: Monster Magnet, Mindfucker

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on February 23rd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

monster magnet mindfucker

[Click play above to stream the premiere of the Hawkwind cover ‘Ejection’ from Monster Magnet’s new LP, Mindfucker, out March 28 on Napalm Records.]

For about the first seven seconds of its opening track, Monster Magnet‘s Mindfucker is indistinguishable from a Ramones record. Over a howl of feedback, the drums count-in quickly and with the ringing-out of a first power chord and a “let’s go!” from founding frontman Dave Wyndorf, the 3:30 “Rocket Freak” is underway, almost immediately giving the forward position to the album’s stated mission of proto-punk simplicity meeting heavy rock drive. Wyndorf can’t resist an excursion or two into space — nor should he, frankly — as the ranging seven-minute “Drowning” shows, or the mid-paced warnings in closer “When the Hammer Comes Down,” but with a crux in impactful, forward-thrusting cuts like “Soul,” “Mindfucker,” the take on Hawkwind‘s “Ejection,” “Want Some” and “Brainwashed,” even the penultimate “All Day Midnight” balances its melancholia with stage-ready energy in its delivery, and even in comparison to the long-running New Jersey troupe’s recent output, 2013’s Last Patrol (review here), the two let’s-weird-’em-up redux specials — 2014’s Milking the Stars (review here), which took on Last Patrol, and 2015’s Cobras and Fire (review here), which did likewise for 2010’s Mastermind (review here) — Mindfucker sounds invigorated, genuinely rooted in the place where punk and heavy rock meet, and is of course rife with the lyrical nuance of Wyndorf‘s written and spoken voice as a keystone presence.

Yes, Monster Magnet sound like Monster Magnet. To expect otherwise 30-some years after the band began to take shape seems, frankly, like a ridiculous notion. But as ever, they’re also working to twist that meaning and expand their overarching context, so that even as they sound like themselves, with some drum contributions from producer Joe BarresiWyndorf and guitarist Phil Caivano worked largely alone in the studio — the live band is rounded out by guitarist Garrett Sweeny, drummer Bob Pantella and bassist Chris Kosnik (the latter two also of The Atomic Bitchwax) — to reshape, and for lack of a better phrase, fuck with that definition, expanding it in new and interesting dimensions.

Two items to note in the interest of full disclosure here. First, I’m a Monster Magnet fan. I grew up in New Jersey, and I’d admired the band’s work throughout the various stages of their career. Their albums aren’t always perfect, and there have been times when it’s seemed like they’ve put out records almost to antagonize the expectations of their fanbase — oh, you wanted Superjudge? well here’s 4-Way Diablo — but even that speaks to a creative will I find admirable. Second, I was hired by Napalm Records to help write the bio for Mindfucker, which I hope to post here sooner or later, and compensated for that effort. I don’t believe that affects my impartiality about Mindfucker‘s 10-track/49-minute run, because I don’t think I had any to start with, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention it. There. Now it’s out of the way.

Chiefly, what Mindfucker does is work toward a long-stated goal on the part of Wyndorf to tap into the raw ’70s power of bands like MC5 and The Stooges, the early punk of the aforementioned Ramones and others of a more garage-ly ilk. Its production remains modern — Milking the Stars and Cobras and Fire experimented with some true retro stylization, and it worked, but Mindfucker‘s are too high-energy to give up their aural clarity in such a way — but it’s interesting to note that Monster Magnet and long-running Danish garage acolytes Baby Woodrose have perhaps never sounded so similar from this end as they do on “Ejection,” “Brainwashed” or even the more melancholy “All Day Midnight,” which retain a character of performance less outwardly speeding-at-night-punked than “Rocket Freak” or the subsequent “Soul” at the outset, but prove no less memorable in their hooks, while songs like “I’m God” and “Mindfucker” itself continue the social commentary of Last Patrol, with Wyndorf positioning himself as the “living among the clouds” observer of the downward spiral that modernity seems perpetually to be riding.

“I’m God,” lyrically, imagines a new flood of sorts, while “Mindfucker” couches the totality of the daily news cycle in the standout hook of its chorus: “You’re a mindfucker baby, look what you done to my head/You’re a mindfucker baby, settin’ fire to my bed/Soul crushin’ love child, deep inside of my brain/You’re a mindfucker baby, beautiful and insane,” putting the world in which we live in the position of the proverbial crazy significant other. And fairly enough so.

monster magnet (photo jeremy saffer)

“Mindfucker” itself is maddeningly, almost unfortunately, catchy. This is an aspect it shares with “I’m God,” “Want Some” and “Ejection,” the latter of which is perhaps unsurprisingly about as pure a classic rocker as the band offers throughout. As the side B leadoff, it mirrors somewhat the push of “Rocket Freak” at the start of side A, but with even more choice lead guitar work, flourish of tripped-out effects and lyrics that, instead of celebrating the “Rocket Freak” — “She’s my rocket freak and it’s the end of the world” — see space as an inevitable place of escape from the woes of the day. I don’t want to paint Mindfucker as being overly political, since it’s not like Wyndorf is calling for legislation banning assault weapons or writing anti-Republican protest songs, but there’s an underlying awareness of the absurdity in which America, and indeed the world, exist on a day-to-day basis that seems to be the undercurrent lyrical theme tying the record together in the places where it does.

That comes through certainly in “Brainwashed,” which leads the way into the closing duo of “All Day Midnight” and “When the Hammer Comes Down,” which seem to break away a bit from some of the moves the rest of Mindfucker is making. Less so “All Day Midnight” the elevator of which gets off right at the 13th floor and knows exactly where it wants to head, but much as “Drowning” — the longest cut on the album at 7:21 — offered a melancholy and contemplative finish to side A, “When the Hammer Comes Down” at the very least makes no attempt to hide the dire nature of its point of view, which can be summarized in the final lines, “You tapped a supernova when you left the truth to drown/The universe will do you right, when the hammer comes down,” which, in the context of the earlier, “Karma’s a bitch, people/I hope you bought a nice bed,” would seem to leave little to question as to what Wyndorf sees as the direction in which humanity is headed.

However, much as the album isn’t overly political in an obvious way — you can put it on, rock out, and not think once about rising ocean levels, mass shootings, #metoo moments or the social media misadventures of a commander in chief culled from reality television — neither is it a downer. Quite the opposite. Though its lyrical skepticism is pervasive, and its very title — which I admit elicited a “really dude?” from me at first as well, as would seem to have been at least part of Wyndorf‘s intention toward his audience — is somewhat abrasive, Mindfucker‘s multifaceted tracks build significant momentum between them and the long-player as whole pushes forward with only a bare minimum of letup to allow for dynamics to play out.

It is continually satisfying to be unable to predict where Monster Magnet and Wyndorf as the auteur thereof will head on a given release — one still hopes for more go-back-and-screw-with-it revisionist works eventually for records like 2001’s Monolithic Baby! and the aforementioned 4-Way Diablo, let alone the potential to play up the bizarro aspects of these cuts — and Mindfucker indeed presents a sonic turn even from Last Patrol as it veers away from the psychedelic aspects on display there and toward more bare-bones structures and direct, stage-ready presentation. What’s unflinching, however, and wherever the band goes at any given point, is genuine lyrical genius, and a conceptual foundation that challenges its audience to actively engage with it even as the songs themselves are classic-pop catchy and unabashed in being centered around memorable hooks.

Any Monster Magnet release is going to provoke strong opinions on multiple sides of their now-multigenerational fanbase, and with a certain amount of confrontationalism even on the most superficial of levels, Mindfucker will be no different in that regard. But what remains true is that even as they approach the 30-year mark since their founding in 1989, they continue to be moved by an unrelenting creative spirit, and that seems unlikely to change anytime soon, regardless of the direction any individual release might take. As vast an influence as they’ve had, Monster Magnet are still one of a kind, and as Wyndorf asks the question in the title-track here, “Why you gotta fuck with my head?,” yeah, he’s summarizing the social strata in which we currently exist, but also he surely does so knowing that in the balance of the band’s years and decades, he’s given as good as he’s got in terms of mindfuckery.

Monster Magnet, “Mindfucker” official video

Monster Magnet website

Monster Magnet on Thee Facebooks

Monster Magnet on Twitter

Monster Magnet on Instagram

Monster Magnet at Napalm Records

Napalm Records on Thee Facebooks

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Fuzz Evil to Enter Studio to Record New Album High on You

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 23rd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Fuzz Evil, since making their first appearance in 2014 by sharing a split release with fellow Arizonans Chiefs (review here), have kept a steady clip of releases. They’re not Hawkwind-prolific, but they’ve managed to keep forward momentum on their side with a string of outings including a digital single (streamed here) in 2015, their 2016 self-titled full-length debut (review here), a couple of lyric videos for the tracks from that (posted here and here), and most recently, their taking part in Ripple Music‘s ongoing series, The Second Coming of Heavy, sharing the Chapter Seven LP (review here) with Switchblade Jesus. They’ve also toured with Dandy Brown from Hermano, thrown the Borderlands Fuzz Fiesta, and generally kept a solid presence in the forefront of their audience’s minds.

The news? They’re keeping it up. Next week they hit the studio to begin recording their second full-length, which they’ve given the title High on You. The three-piece will work with producer Paul Figueroa and a release is expected later this year. Since the self-titled came out on now-defunct Battleground Records, that may or may not make Fuzz Evil free agents, but I can’t imagine it’ll be too long before an announcement is made in that regard. Maybe like six minutes after the record is done, if I had to guess.

In the meantime, they sent the following down the PR wire:

fuzz evil

Fuzz Evil will be heading into the studio next week to record their fourth release, titled ‘High on You.’ Fuzz Evil have teamed up with producer Paul Figueroa (Alice in Chains, Slipknot) to record their new seven track record at David Grohl’s Studio 606.

Says guitarist/vocalist Wayne Rudell: “We are all very proud of these songs. They have been a journey for us. To be able to record these specific songs on such a legendary counsel is exciting and humbling. This is the first album Orgo Martinez our new drummer wrote and played on. I feel that these songs are the most dynamic we have written. I feel the band has really matured since the Chiefs split back in 2014. There is a slight departure from what we have done before. This album we did a lot of exploring. We also decided to carry over ‘If Know You’ from the Ripple split.”

The album is expected to be released in mid to late 2018.

‘High on You’ tracklisting:
The Strut
You Can Take Here Away
High On You
Get It Together
If You Know
Ribbons and Kills
Are you In or Out

Fuzz Evil is:
Wayne Rudell – guitar/vocals
Joey Rudell – bass/vocals
Orgo Martinez – drums

https://www.facebook.com/FuzzEvil/
https://fuzzevil.bandcamp.com/

Fuzz Evil, The Second Coming of Heavy Chapter Seven (Split with Switchblade Jesus) (2017)

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Strauss Stream New EP Falena in its Entirety

Posted in audiObelisk on February 23rd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

strauss (Photo by Magda Wrzeszcz Photography)

London four-piece Strauss will release their third EP, Falena, on March 2. They play a launch gig that very same night (it’s next Friday) at the famed The Black Heart venue in Camden Town, and in so doing will mark the official start of a new era for the band. They were a fivesome at the time they issued their last short outing, 2015’s five-tracker, Luia (review here), and have continued to undergo significant personnel and aesthetic changes moving them away from where they started out on 2013’s self-titled EP (review here), playing to a more aggressive style as heard in the harsh shouts throughout Falena‘s six songs/28 minutes from vocalist Stef Sacchetto, joined in the band at this point by founding guitarist Charles Fusari, and the newcomer rhythm section of bassist Mark Lotz and drummer Seb Tull.

The drop from five players to four means the loss of a second guitar alongside Fusari‘s, but whether it’s the dug-in prog-metal riffing of churning closer “Distant” or the start-stop dude-mosh bounce at the start of “JB Taylor,” which later moves into more spacious terrain, or complementing the Faith No More-style funk in Lotz‘s bass and Sacchetto‘s strauss falenamanic snare groove on the subsequent “Pantomine,” the six-stringer proves more than versatile enough to hold down the position on his own, even jamming out a bit in the second half of “Lit Corners” as Sacchetto works in a quick couple lines of cleaner vocals before the fuller-brunt assault is reignited. That’s not to downplay the loss of a member or discount the impact of the shifts that Strauss has undergone in the last couple years, but with a strong current of noise rock throughout Falena, they don’t seem to have taken any step backwards in terms of their overall progression. It may have taken them an extra year to get the songs together — three between releases, as opposed to two — but they still got there, as “2016”‘s blend of sludgy lumbering and sample-laden post-hardcore thrust demonstrates plainly.

I said last time out that Strauss were ready to take on the task of a debut full-length. It’s clear why they might not have wanted to go that route. Losing a guitarist is one thing. Changing out a bassist or a drummer is another. To have all of that happen between one batch of tracks and another, and yeah, a band might want to make sure things are working as well as they might seem to before making a statement as strong as a first long-player invariably becomes about who they are and the ultimate direction they’ll look to take. Nonetheless, in the blend of toughguy groove and progressive melody-making brought to bear on “Ashwagndha” and “Distant” and the four cuts between them, Strauss still show a significant sonic persona of their own, and I remain convinced that, should they feel like they’re there in terms of making a complete record as their next step, they indeed are. I guess we’ll see how that goes.

Below, you can stream the Falena EP in its entirety and read some commentary from the band about everything they’ve been through in the last couple years.

Please enjoy:

Strauss on Falena EP:

“Strauss have undergone a few lineup changes since their last release, ‘Luia’, in 2015. Seb Tull took on drums in 2016 and began co-writing with guitarist Charles Fusari.This talent-merger brought radical differences into the band’s sound and the project rapidly evolved into a brand-new melt of personal tastes, influences and musical endeavours.

In June 2017, they entered the recording studio for the third time and gave birth to the new EP ‘Falena’ within a few days, under the guidance of recording engineer Wayne Adams. Shortly after, bassist and original band member, Bill Tandy, left the project and was replaced by Mark Lotz.

Somehow hybrid and intense, the musical variation that so much characterises Strauss’s new sound was pushed even further by vocalist Stef Sacchetto. Finally cured from long-term depression in 2017, he was able to prepare and lay lyrical sets that, in this particular record, aim at questioning, provoking and guiding the audience into reflection and self-analysis, as well as being influenced by recent global events.”

Strauss on Thee Facebooks

Strauss on Bandcamp

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Amorphis Announce May 18 Release for Queen of Time

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 23rd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

amorphis
You know what? The more we actually find out about this upcoming Amorphis album, the more excited I am to hear it. The band already announced a long, long string of North American tour dates to support it this Fall — and they hadn’t even given away the title yet. Well, the record is called Queen of Time — you’ll note that 2015’s Under a Red Cloud opened with “Death of a King,” the video for which you can see at the bottom of this post — and the newly-unveiled artwork is absolutely frickin’ awesome. I’d buy that shirt. Hell, I’d buy two. One to sleep in, one to wear around.

Oh who the hell am I kidding? I’d wear the sleepy shirt everywhere.

Even so, the point is I’m getting stoked to find out what the long-running Finnish outfit — who with Queen of Time also welcome back bassist Oppu Laine — have in store for their new outing, and though the info is coming in drips and drabs (i.e. no tracklisting yet), I’m just gonna keep posting the press releases and probably a video or two until the album itself actually shows up.

Come on. Come be psyched with me:

amorphis queen of time

AMORPHIS reveal album title, cover and release date

AMORPHIS have finally finished recording their upcoming new studio album, entitled Queen Of Time. The record is scheduled for a May 18th release via Nuclear Blast. In comparison to its predecessor, Under The Red Cloud (2015), the album will include the use of real strings, flutes, orchestral arrangements and even choirs! In addition, this will be the first time that people will be able to hear their lyricist Pekka Kainulainen on the album as he contributes a speech in Finnish.

Today, the band unveils some more details on the production, the album title, the album cover (see above) and on working with their new/old bassist Olli-Pekka Laine.

The album was once again produced by the famous Jens Bogren (OPETH, AMON AMARTH, KREATOR, and many others), who is well-known for challenging and motivating the artists during the recording process. He isn‘t afraid to push them to their limits!

Esa comments: “I guess Queen Of Time turned out as a massive surprise to all of us. During the rehearsing and pre-production we didn‘t have any idea that Jens had this huge picture inside of his head about the landscape of the album. It‘s a very natural continuation to Under The Red Cloud but with steroids. The songs are more aggressive but there‘s more dynamics, harmonies and orchestral arrangements present. The result is AMORPHIS as something you‘ve never heard before! Essentially, working with Jens worked really well. As a person he is very similar to us – we share the same kind of weird humor and we all like to work hard.”

The cover artwork, which was created once again by French artist Jean ”Valnoir” Simoulin from Metastazis, captures the feeling of the lyrics and the music. With Pekka Kainulainen’s (lyricist) words, the lyrical theme is universal: “Cultures rise, flourish, and are destroyed. The story of man is the story of searching, finding, and forgetting. A single spark can set the world afire, a single idea can give birth to a new culture. The greatest can stagnate into insignificance, the smallest can hold the power for change. The lyrics on this album are distant echoes of ancient forest peoples, from a time when meaning was proportioned by the cosmic forces that govern birth and death. If the connection was lost, they sought for a strand of knowledge, found a new direction, and a new age began.”

Queen Of Time will be also the first album with their old/new bass player Olli-Pekka ‘Oppu’ Laine following the departure of Niclas Etelävuori in 2017. Oppu was one of the founding members in 1990 and recorded the early releases with AMORPHIS (The Karelian Isthmus LP, 1992; Privilege Of Evil EP, 1993; Tales From The Thousand Lakes LP, 1994; Black Winter Day EP, 1995; Elegy LP, 1996; My Kantele EP, 1997 and the Tuonela LP, 1999) before he parted ways with the band in spring 2000.

“To be honest, Oppu was the only guy we could imagine being in AMORPHIS. It was funny – when we started to play our first shows together again last summer it all felt so familiar. He was involved with arranging songs and he also even brought some new songs to the table… really good ones, too!” says Esa. And Oppu adds: “Even though the last year with AMORPHIS has been exciting, nostalgic and fun, it’s also been truly comfortable to be with the guys again. As a clichéd expression, it’s been like returning home from a lenghty odyssey. After eighteen years, it feels like we are picking up where we left off from the good ol’ days! I’m really looking forward for the upcoming tour. The new album itself is a really strong package, the only hard thing will be picking which songs to play live! It‘s safe to say we are set to pull off some killer shows over the next few years. After that, I’m predicting a long and fruitful career for the band in its current form…”

The band will soon kick off pre-orders for Queen Of Time and release their first single, so stay tuned!

AMORPHIS, DARK TRANQUILLITY, MOONSPELL, OMNIUM GATHERUM
07.09. USA New York, NY – Gramercy Theatre
08.09. CDN Montréal, QC – Café Campus
09.09. CDN Québec City, QC – Impérial de Québec
10.09. CDN Toronto, ON – The Opera House
11.09. USA Ft. Wayne, IN – Piere’s Entertainment Center
12.09. USA Detroit, MI – Harpos Concert Theatre
13.09. USA Joliet, IL – The Forge
14.09. USA Minneapolis, MN – The Cabooze
15.09. CDN Winnipeg, MB – The Park Theatre
17.09. CDN Edmonton, AB – The Starlite Room
18.09. CDN Calgary, AB – Dickens
19.09. CDN Vancouver, BC – Rickshaw Theatre
20.09. USA Seattle, WA – El Corazon
22.09. USA Berkeley, CA – UC Theatre
23.09. USA Anaheim, CA – City National Grove
24.09. USA West Hollywood, CA – Whiskey a Go Go
25.09. USA San Diego, CA – Brick by Brick
26.09. USA Tempe, AZ – Marquee Theatre
27.09. USA Las Vegas, NV – House of Blues
28.09. USA Salt Lake City, UT – Liquid Joe’s
29.09. USA Denver, CO – Herman’s Hideaway
01.10. USA Dallas, TX – Trees
02.10. USA San Antonio, TX – The Rock Box
03.10. USA Houston, TX – Scout Bar
05.10. USA Tampa, FL – The Orpheum
06.10. USA Lake Park, FL – Kelsey Theater
07.10. USA Atlanta, GA – Masquerade
09.10. USA Louisville, KY – Diamond Pub & Billiards
10.10. USA Durham, NC – Motorco Music Hall
11.10. USA Baltimore, MD – Soundstage
12.10. USA Philadelphia, PA – Trocadero Theatre
14.10. USA Clifton Park, NY – Upstate Concert Hall

www.amorphis.net
www.facebook.com/amorphis
www.nuclearblast.de/amorphis

Amorphis, “Death of a King” official video

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Gozu Set April 13 Release for New Album Equilibrium; Preorders Available and New Video Posted

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 22nd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

gozu

If you haven’t been waiting for word on the new Gozu record, that’s only because you’ve been waiting for word on the new Gozu record and didn’t know it. The Boston-based four-piece will make their debut on Blacklight MediaMetal Blade Records with Equilibrium, which is set to release on April 13 as the follow-up to 2016’s resoundingly successful Revival (review here), which was issued through Ripple Music and found Gozu touring Europe, playing Psycho Las Vegas and much more in support.

The alliance between Gozu and Blacklight Media was announced late in 2016, and the foursome have been working on Equilibrium pretty much since then. They returned to New Hampshire to record with Dean Baltulonis, who also helmed Revival, and have expanded on both the melodic range and sonic impact that album presented in the new tracks. Not saying I’ve heard it yet or anything, but the record is a joy. If you’re still reading this, you’re gonna like it a lot.

Copious background comes from the PR wire, as it will:

gozu equilibrium

Gozu reveals details for new album, ‘Equilibrium’; launches video for first single, “Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat”, online

On April 13th, Boston’s rock/metal outfit Gozu will release their new album, Equilibrium, via Blacklight Media Records. For a first preview of Equilibrium, the video for the new single “Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat” (directed by Tony Simone at Zenbeast Audio / https://www.facebook.com/ZenBeastAudio) can be viewed now at: http://www.blacklightmediarecords.com/gozu – where the record can also be pre-ordered in the following formats:

–CD
–180g black vinyl + download card
–sky-blue marbled vinyl + download card (limited to 300 copies – USA exclusive)
–magenta marbled vinyl + download card (limited to 200 copies – USA exclusive)
–transparent petrol blue vinyl + download card (limited to 200 copies – EU exclusive)
–olive/black marbled vinyl + download card (limited to 200 copies – EU exclusive)
* exclusive bundles with a shirt, plus digital options are also available!

With roots in 60s psychedelia and classic rock, the fuzzy stoner riffs of the 70s, the grit of 90s grunge and the winning dirty rock n’ roll that has in recent years made a resurgence, Gozu has been churning out killer records since 2009. With 2016’s Revival they took their sound in a somewhat new and more aggressive direction, and in doing so, dropped the most compulsive, exciting and downright badass release of their career – and Equilibrium has only raised the stakes. “We wanted these songs to hit a nerve, make people shake their ass and enjoy simply being alive,” says vocalist/guitarist Marc “Gaff” Gaffney, who founded the band with lead guitarist Doug Sherman. Much of the record’s strength stems from the unit growing since Revival, the first full-length featuring drummer Mike Hubbard and bassist Joseph Grotto. Having also reunited with Revival producer Dean Baltulonis (Hatebreed/Goes Cube/The Hold Steady) at Wild Arctic Studio in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the record is certainly the catchiest and most instant music dropped by the quartet, embracing their love of pop music but without compromising on any of the other vital elements of their sound.

Equilibrium track-listing:
1. Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat
2. The People vs. Mr. T
3. King Cobra
4. Manimal
5. They Probably Know Karate
6. Prison Elbows
7. Stacy Keach
8. Ballad of ODB

Gozu live:
Mar. 8 – Gramercy Theatre – New York, NY (Blacklight Media showcase with Candiria, Good Tiger, Mother Feather, Oni, Eyes Of The Sun)
March 15- Crowbar RI
March 31 Equilibrium Listening Party – Sonny’s Dover
April 21- Obriens with Birnum Wood – Eyes of the sun and Sundrifter
May 4th- Stonechurch Scissorfight
May 5th Lucky 13 Brooklyn

Gozu line-up:
Marc Gaffney – guitar and vocals
Joe Grotto – bass
Mike Hubbard – drums
Doug Sherman – lead guitar and sounds

https://www.facebook.com/GOZU666
http://gozu.bandcamp.com
instagram.com/gozu666
https://twitter.com/GOZU666

Gozu, “Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat” official video

Gozu, Revival (2016)

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Review & Full Album Premiere: Deathwhite, For a Black Tomorrow

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on February 22nd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

deathwhite for a black tomorrow

[Click pay above to stream Deathwhite’s For a Black Tomorrow in its entirety. Album is out Feb. 23 via Season of Mist with preorders available here.]

Going by what your ears tell you, you’d have to be forgiven for guessing wrong at mood-metal three-piece Deathwhite‘s base of operations. Sweden? Nope. The UK? Nope. Poland? Nope. Romania? Nope. Some frigid former Soviet Bloc nation with little scene to speak of but plenty of passion and sadness to spare? Wrong-o, chief. The correct answer is Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Steel City. The trio choose to remain anonymous under their hooded robes — I’ve seen AM and LM listed as a partial lineup, so maybe there’s a pair of brothers in there, but maybe not — but when it comes to their debut album for Season of Mist, the nine-song/43-minute For a Black Tomorrow, their intention couldn’t be clearer. The mission of the album, front to back, is to pay homage to the greats of melancholic metal. Perhaps Katatonia, and in particular the Last Fair Deal Gone Down era of that Swedish outfit’s work, most of all, but definitely the oeuvre of the so-called ‘Peaceville Three’ — My Dying Bride, Paradise Lost and Anathema — as well.

Saying that might lead one to believe there are death-doom elements at play throughout For a Black Tomorrow, or that the band engages a rawness of production à la those groups’ transformative works in the early ’90s — a specific aspect I’d argue just about no one has been able to accurately recreate — but no. Deathwhite take on the atmospheric, emotional, and melodcally ranging side of these bands’works, and while tracks like the later “Death and the Master” offer some shouts and heavier thrust, and amid one of the album’s strongest hooks, the earlier “just Remember” proffers a riff with a sharper bite than that of, say, opener “The Grace of the Dark,” which unfolds at the beginning of Deathwhite‘s first album with a patience that immediately puts the band in command of both the aesthetic and the outward-moving progression of the LP itself. In other words, there’s an awful lot about what they want to do that Deathwhite have already figured out.

The band has two prior EPs in 2014’s Ethereal and 2015’s Solitary Martyr, but while I obviously have no confirmation to back me up, I’d more likely credit their cohesiveness as regards overall mission to members’ prior experience in other outfits. Do I know that? Nope. But though Deathwhite have been together for upwards of six years, there are still parts of For a Black Tomorrow that speak to pedigree beyond this band itself. The fluidity with which “The Grace of the Dark” unfurls atop double kick drums, building tension in its verse to release in the chorus, or how the subsequent “Contrition” picks up with a more urgent and metallic chug topped with a plotted but classy lead that fades out of the mix just as the first verse begins, the band galloping forward for the duration into the depressive acoustic/full-breadth tone trades that take place in “Poisoned,” a swapping out of layers masterfully handled by producer Shane Mayer that only make the fullness of tone in the subsequent “Just Remember” all the more resonant.

That song, along with the following centerpiece “Eden,” might be the emotional and aesthetic crux of For a Black Tomorrow — i.e., the moments at which Deathwhite‘s tribute is most readily paid to their influences. Once again, that’s primarily directed toward Katatonia, but there are darker impulses at work as well, in the guitar and bass tones, though the vocals and the pacing assure that the prevailing vibe is emotionally downtrodden in just such a specific way. It’s also gorgeous — especially “Eden” — so another manner in which Deathwhite seem to nod to their stylistic forebears is finding beauty amid the darkness of their making and not forgetting to highlight the one alongside the other. That, ultimately, is a major factor in what separates this kind of doom from its more workmanlike, traditionalist contemporaries.

deathwhite

It’s not until they come around to sixth track “Dreaming the Inverse” that Deathwhite cross over the five-minute mark. One could argue this shows a monotony of structure, but that’s simply not the case — rather, it’s an efficiency of songcraft from which the trio begin to branch out as For a Black Tomorrow progresses toward its finale title-track. After “Eden,” “Dreaming the Inverse” (5:01) brings turns between double-kick gallop and quieter, brooding verses, the sudden moves between one and the other a familiar tactic and not entirely dissimilar from what Deathwhite already brought to “Poisoned,” though heavier on the whole and more soulful vocally. That vocal soul sets up the primary impression that “Death and the Master” will make over the course of its six and a half minutes, as a rawer shout — still melodic, but the delivery changes, to be sure — emerges to top the fuller push of the band behind it.

As one of the most engrossing moments of For a Black Tomorrow, “Death and the Master” takes on a declarative vibe that could be derived from Primordial at least in part or perhaps unintentionally, but it’s a powerful standout either way, and though an interlude of some sort might’ve worked well to separate the two, “Death and the Master” still doesn’t necessarily overshadow “Prison of Thought,” which follows, the two songs rather acting as complements as the latter revives shifts from hard-driving distortion and acousti-poetics, settling by its finish on a raucous but still very much controlled payoff. “For a Black Tomorrow” itself rounds out, the band quickly dropping a lyrical reference to Anathema‘s “Shroud of False” from Alternative 4, and moving through a return to the shorter songcraft of earlier pieces, but with something of a looser feel as the guitar leads the way through. There’s still a tension in the chug, but open-ringouts remind of the patience in “The Grace of the Dark,” and the vocal harmonies that top the final section before the fadeout in the song’s second half are nothing less than beautiful. One could hardly ask for a more appropriate ending.

What Deathwhite present on their debut album is a powerful showcase of aesthetic. They prove readily in these tracks that they know what they want to sound like, know where they’re coming from in terms of influence and style, and know how they want to bring that to fruition in their own work. As the question was eventually put to the likes of AnathemaKatatoniaParadise Lost and My Dying Bride, sooner or later, Deathwhite will have to answer how they’ll be able to take these elements and craft something more individualized from them — that is, something to distinguish them from their forebears in the subgenre — but that is perhaps best left to time and the natural development of the group over their next however-many releases. As regards For a Black Tomorrow, it speaks with resonance to a certain depression of spirit and though Deathwhite may seem a novelty at first for the simple fact of their surprising geographic locale, there’s nothing in these nine songs that feels like a put-on or a less than genuine expression on its own level.

Deathwhite on Thee Facebooks

Deathwhite on Bandcamp

Deathwhite website

Season of Mist website

Season of Mist on Thee Facebooks

Season of Mist on Twitter

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