Frydee Ghost

Posted in Bootleg Theater on April 29th, 2011 by JJ Koczan

World traveler that I am (ha.), I’m in Maryland for the weekend, and while I hope to do some record shopping before I leave — it’s a maybe at this point — far more pressing in my head at the moment is the fact that I left the leather carry-case with all my clean clothes and toiletries back in Jersey, meaning I have nothing but the brown khakis and the Saint Vitus shirt on my back to last me through till at least Sunday afternoon. Not a crisis, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t note how incredibly stupid I felt as The Patient Mrs. left the hotel room a bit ago to go replenish our stock of toothpaste, deodorant, etc.

Tomorrow, it’s off to the fat-guy-clothes store. One can only hope they sell Black Sabbath t-shirts. This is me, not holding my breath.

A cool note for the curious: You might recall last year when I interviewed Greg Anderson about the Goatsnake reunion amongst other things. Well, Japanese blogger Keisuke Iwaya of just yesterday posted a Japanese translation of that interview, and though I’m completely ignorant of the beautiful Japanese language as I am of so many other things in this world, I think it’s fucking awesome anyway, so please check it out if you get the chance.

We end this week with Drunken Monkey‘s footage of Ghost from Roadburn. They’re playing NYC in early June, and I’m looking forward to that, but it was cool to catch them in Tilburg as well, as you’ll see in the clip above. Several of the songs from their Opus Eponymous debut have been in heavy rotation both in the mental jukebox and the actual CD player of late, so I figured it was a good way to go. I wonder if anyone has told them yet that the backing band behind Evil Pope Guy has the same stage costumes as Goblin Cock. Sometimes life is fun.

Next week I’ll have a fucking awesome interview I did yesterday with Justin Broadrick about Jesu‘s new album and the apparently ongoing Godflesh reunion, as well as the numbers for April (not as dismal as I thought) and reviews of new albums by Virginian progressive space rockers Corsair and Indianapolis trad-doom frontrunners The Gates of Slumber, among others. I don’t know how, but there always seems to be something killer on the horizon, so although I say it more than Yankees radio announcer John “Pure Radio Gold” Sterling says that you can’t predict baseball, stay tuned, because there’s good stuff to come.

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The Maple Forum Update: Blackwolfgoat Discs Are on Their Way

Posted in Label Stuff on April 29th, 2011 by JJ Koczan

I got the email yesterday from the manufacturer that the shipment of Blackwolfgoat‘s Dronolith, the third release on The Obelisk‘s in-house label, The Maple Forum, will be arriving shortly. I’ve got the UPS tracking number to prove it. According to those goons, the discs have departed from Aliso Viejo, California, and should be getting to Jersey by the end of the day next Wednesday.

Dronolith is unlike anything yet released on The Maple Forum, and that’s one of the things I like best about it. Guitarist and sole member Darryl Shepard has outdone himself in terms of mastering a droning and yet satisfyingly progressive feel. He plays with a bizarre and nuanced technicality that — yes, it’s hypnotic because there’s loops and intertwining layers and repetition — holds the attention of the listener almost in spite of itself. As always, I’m really excited to be sharing the album with you.

In the coming weeks before the May 24 release, I’ll have more info and maybe even a new song or two, so stay tuned for that. If I find I’m able to do so, I might even set up a pre-order at the Maple Forum store, or, failing that, just put it on sale early. Either way, lots of good stuff to come on it, and remember, the disc is limited to 100 copies, so if you want one, you’re going to have to get in on it early. So far everything The Maple Forum has released, I’ve sold out of, and expect Dronolith to go quickly as well, once it arrives and goes on sale.

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Indian, Guiltless: No Remorse in the Swarm of Flies

Posted in Reviews on April 29th, 2011 by JJ Koczan

Even before I opened the liner notes, I knew two things about Guiltless, the fourth full-length from Chicago misanthropic doomers Indian, just from listening, and those two things were: Sanford Parker recorded and that the guitars were running through Emperor cabinets. Tonally, the Chicago doom/dirge style (typified in several cases by those two elements) has become so distinct, so singularly its own, that one knows right away what one is dealing with. Of course, it helps that Indian already have a foundation of three strong outings behind them, but this, their much-anticipated Relapse Records debut, would seem to be a coming of age for the five-piece. Their frightful crashes, haunting atmospherics – in this I’ll liken them to Pig Destroyer, despite the obvious tempo disparity – and generally unsettling approach feels more solidified across Guiltless than it did on either Slights and Abuse or The Sycophant (or the CD compilation of the two) or their 2005 Seventh Rule debut, The Unquiet Sky. As a serial killer matures in a modus operandi and ritualizes his violence, so too does Indian seem to have developed into the beastly form that presents itself on Guiltless’ seven tracks.

And if you think the serial killer analogy might be a little strong, I humbly ask that you take another listen to Guiltless’ frantic and disturbing nature. Tonally and atmospherically consistent, the album nonetheless seethes with an underlying energy and tension that comes out on nearly every song – the only notable exception being the late acoustic interlude “Supplicants,” which is creepy, but not necessarily the same kind of unhinged feel. For the rest of its vinyl-ready 41-minute duration finds Indian – guitarist/vocalists Dylan O’Toole and Will Lindsay (the latter ex-Middian and Wolves in the Throne Room, bassist Ron DeFries, drummer Bill Bumgardner (also of Lord Mantis) and noisemaker Sean Patton – reveling in their dense tonality, cutting through it only with hard-hit snares and vicious, throat-wrenching screams. As Guiltless opener “No Grace” breaks into just the guitar to introduce the movement that will encompass its last two minutes or so, one feels in listening that the album has already been on for much longer than it has. The songs are pillow-over-the-face oppressive, and the performances blisteringly tight.

“The Fate Before Fate” finds Indian underscoring black metal riffs with doomed groove, Bumgardner landing heavy on his cymbals in a noisy wash complemented by Patton’s underlying layers. The vocals are far back beneath O’Toole’s and Lindsay’s guitars, and some of Guiltless’ most scathing, working in the song’s faster pace to set up the lumbering feel of the ensuing title-track, which closes side A in madman fashion. It’s on “Guiltless” that Indian perhaps most uses the single-note thudding crashes that seem to pop up on several cuts, and to the greatest effect. The song is unflinchingly heavy and downright terrifying, DeFries’ bass working well with the drums to keep some movement happening under the raucous noise of the surface. O’Toole and Lindsay are in synch ringing out notes over the hits, and it’s almost as though the song grows more insistent over the course of its eight minutes, until finally it leads directly into “Guilty” on the CD (the LP requires a flip, so I imagine some of the effect is lost), which renews the pacing of “The Fate Before Fate” but keeps some of the same laborious feel as “Guiltless.” You won’t be surprised to find out it’s really fucking heavy, really fucking abrasive, and really fucking dark.

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Graveyard Interview with Axel Sjöberg: If it Has a Name, it Has No Trace

Posted in Features on April 28th, 2011 by JJ Koczan

Because my natural inclination is toward idiocy, there are lessons in life that I’ve had to teach myself time and again, and one of those lessons — an important one, on occasion — is “never schedule early interviews.” The morning I was scheduled to interview Graveyard drummer Axel Sjöberg found me sloshing my way through a late-March snowstorm, only to arrive at the office roughly five-minutes before the call was supposed to come in. Hey, at least I made it.

Graveyard trace their lineage back to guitarist/vocalist Joakim Nilsson and bassist Rikard Edlund‘s time in Norrsken, the formative vintage doom act from whence Witchcraft‘s Magnus Pelander also hails. In June, when I compile my annual top five of the first half of the year, don’t be surprised when Graveyard‘s Nuclear Blast debut, Hisingen Blues, is near the top of the list. The Gothenburg four-piece’s second full-length following a 2008 self-titled that saw North American domestic release via Tee Pee, Hisingen Blues is unflinching in the quality of its songwriting, and the more I listen to it — and I do keep going back for more — the more I find it’s different songs stuck in my head later. One listen has the mental jukebox with a 24-hour repeat cycle of opener “Ain’t Fit to Live Here,” and after another, it’s the boogie-swagger of “RSS.”

In either case, I’m not about to complain. Aside from the heartfelt classic rock sound and the fluidity of interplay between Nilsson and fellow guitarist/vocalist Jonatan Ramm, who came on after the self-titled was released, the reason Hisingen Blues is one of thus-far-2011’s brightest releases is because it manages to keep hold of groove, aesthetic and songcraft all at once. I know I went on and on in my review, but if you didn’t take that recommendation to heart, here’s another.

Though I was prepared for the conversation only in the sense of having listened to Hisingen Blues a ton of times, including as I sat in snowy traffic on my way to work that day, Sjöberg — who seemed to have no shortage of goings-on happening on his end of the line as well — was forthcoming about the making of Hisingen Blues, working with producer Don Ahlsterberg for the second time, touring and much more. As he explained throughout the conversation, the natural feeling in Graveyard‘s music comes from actually being spontaneous. Needless to say, I was floored.

After the jump, please find enclosed the complete Q&A of my interview with Sjöberg.

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Vincebus Eruptum Issue #10 Now Available

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 28th, 2011 by JJ Koczan

Go here to get it.

I haven’t a clue when the exact release date was, but at some point in the not too distant past, the Italian stoner rock devotees over at Vincebus Eruptum magazine put out their 10th issue boasting interviews with the likes of Al Cisneros (Om, Sleep), Alfredo Hernandez (Yawning Man, ex-Kyuss), Ufomammut and Spiritual Beggars, among others, and reviews of OJM, Vic Du Monte’s Persona Non Grata, Humo del Cairo and many more. Front cover to back cover, it’s obvious these dudes more or less bleed for the genre, so if you’ve got a couple extra Euros lying around, they’re well worth supporting. Plus, as someone semi-gainfully employed by one in my day-to-day, I’m always an advocate for those in the print media. Go analog — and yes, I recognize the irony there.

The ‘zine is in English, and it’s true there are some language-barrier issues that crop up throughout, but as I know I wouldn’t be able to do half of what they do were I ballsy enough to take on reviewing an album in Italian, I’ll reserve criticism. What shines through in spite of any linguistic or grammar discrepancies is that Davide “Davidew” Pansolin, Max Ugolini and the rest of the crew over there have a genuine love for what they’re doing. The reviews are honest, the interviews are packed with information (I personally used Luciano Gaglio‘s Death Row interview with Victor Griffin from issue #9 as a resource for my own), and you’re bound to come out of reading having discovered at least one new band. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone out there with as deep a knowledge of the European heavy rock underground.

In case you haven’t gotten it yet, I have a tremendous amount of respect for Vincebus Eruptum and what they do. If you can help their cause, I’d definitely advocate doing so. If not, at least spread the word to someone who might.

One more time, go here to check out Vincebus Eruptum #10.

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Bong, Beyond Ancient Space: Skull-Caving Drone Worship

Posted in Reviews on April 28th, 2011 by JJ Koczan

With its slew of 20-plus splits, EPs, live albums and compilations, Bong’s discography over the last four years is almost as murky as the UK four-piece’s music itself. On their Ritual Productions (who released Ramesses’ album last year and will have more from them shortly) debut, Beyond Ancient Space, Bong don’t so much affect an atmosphere as inflict it. From within a haze so thick you can’t see out of it, Bong straddle a line between sludge and drone that’s unquestionably heavy despite its jammed-out, live feel. The repetition on Beyond Ancient Space’s three tracks – which cover an overwhelming 79:51 runtime – is encompassing. In succession, “Onward to Perdóndaris” (25:33), “Across the Timestream” (25:03) and “In the Shadow of the Towers” (29:16) mesmerize with riffs, or rather, with riff, because despite an evolution within each track, Bong’s tendency is to spend an awfully long time jamming out the same part.

If you’ve ever seen a solo drone performance or someone constructing soundscapes with guitar, you’ve probably watched as they set a bed of loops that gradually, as the piece progresses, is built upon. As a full band, Bong nonetheless feel like they’re doing the same thing on Beyond Ancient Space’s component material. Each song begins gradually. “Onward to Perdóndaris” opens with silence before someone – presumably bassist Dave Terry, who handles vocals when they pop up – says “Perdóndaris” and the bass kicks in, soon followed by the drums of Mike Smith and Mike Vest’s guitar. Ben Freeth contributes sitar and Shahi Baaja, which rests repetitive figures on top of the aforementioned bed of drones. Smith does the honor of keeping Bong’s Beyond Ancient Space moving forward, which is no easy task, and one gets the sense that without his (again) gradual slowdown on “Across the Timestream,” the song might just go on forever into perpetuity.

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audiObelisk: Hotel Wrecking City Traders and Gary Arce Stream Track From Collaboration 12″ (Pre-Order Available)

Posted in audiObelisk on April 28th, 2011 by JJ Koczan

The recently-reviewed Hotel Wrecking City Traders and Gary Arce collaborative 12″ is available for pre-order now. If you missed it, the two-song, 20-minute release will ship at the end of June from Bro Fidelity Records, the label imprint of Hotel Wrecking City Traders, whose crunchy Aussie noise rock is surprisingly well-complemented by Arce‘s wide-ranging guitar sound, known best as heard in Yawning Man, Ten East and a host of other projects.

Topped off with beautiful artwork from Exotic Corpse and text from Ben Matthews (aka Ben Wrecker of HWCT), the pre-order comes with an exclusive t-shirt and of course the record itself, which is heavyweight blue vinyl and limited to 300 copies.

Hotel Wrecking City Traders and Gary Arce (I’ve been referring to the project as HWCTARCE and you’re more than welcome to as well, I suppose) have posted the track “Coventina’s Crusade” for streaming and were kind enough to offer to let me host. Please enjoy it on the player below.

Also of note, Hotel Wrecking City Traders have set up an Indie Go-Go page and are taking donations to help raise the recording costs to put together their next 12″ release. You can see how it’s going and donate here. Arce‘s next release is a split 12″ between his collaboration with British proggers Sons of Alpha Centauri — dubbed Yawning Sons — and a project he has started with Mario Lalli and Tony Tornay of Fatso Jetson (the former also of Yawning Man) called Waterways. More to come on both.

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El Hijo de la Aurora, Wicca: Las Brujos de Lima

Posted in Reviews on April 27th, 2011 by JJ Koczan

The hardest part about listening to Peruvian experimental doomers El Hijo de la Aurora is trying to imagine whether their mysterious musical concoctions were crafted in a darkened science laboratory amid bubbling vials of green and blue liquid, or in a pagan forest amidst animal skulls and unspoken heathen rites. If the cover and general atmosphere of the Lima trio’s second full-length (first for R.A.I.G.), Wicca: Spells, Magic and Witchcraft Through the Ages, is anything to go buy, it’s probably the latter, but given some of the bizarre turns and villainous twists contained within these eight tracks (there are nine listed on the back of the disc, but eight show up when I put it in my player), I’m still not sure. Something about this kind of stuff just seethes with malefic and haunting forethought.

El Hijo de la Aurora — which boasts drummer and effects-master Joaquin Cuadra (who also produced here) and bassist Manolo Garfias (also guitar), formerly of Don Juan Matus alongside vocalist Rafael Cantoni – made their full-length debut with last year’s avant drone outing, Lemuria (review here). What the two records have in common, aside from dense atmospherics and a foreboding throughout, is a slew of guest appearances. Wicca engineer Saul Cornejo shows up on Hammond for the later shuffling rocker “Akasha,” Marcos Coifman wrote the lyrics to that song, and takes vocals on it and “Vril,” which follows, Tania Duarte sings on the shorter acoustic closer “Cuentos de Bosque Encantado Part II,” as she sang on the finale of Lemuria, and there are numerous other appearances as well on theremin, Hammond, Moog and vocals. A big difference between Lemuria and Wicca is the inclusion of Cantoni as a uniting vocal factor throughout at least several if not most of the tracks, and as Wicca is less barren and instrumentally drone-based, I’d say there’s been a shift in songwriting approach as well.

That shouldn’t be surprising, given the avant and openly creative feel El Hijo de la Aurora showed on the debut, but the raw Sabbathian doom definitely comes to the fore from the start of Wicca with opener “Der Golem,” which I think is combined with the sampled intro “El Ojo Hipnotico” (“The Hypnotic Eye”) to get the track listing/disc disparity. The song starts with Cuadra on drums setting a mid-tempo plod for Garfias to follow on the riff before Cantoni rides the groove vocally. All told, Wicca is a more active-feeling album than what Lemuria, but nothing feels sacrificed in terms of ambience, and the blend of classic riffage and doom that El Hijo de la Aurora proffered there remains one of the strongest assets here. In the hands of a band less capable of affecting a mood, “Psicodrama” might just come off as stoner rock, but El Hijo de la Aurora make the song more than the sum of its riffs, setting up the massive 14-minute “Libro de las Sombras (Including Dios Astado & el Escrito)” like the person who bends down behind you while someone in front pushes you over. Just when you think you know what to expect from El Hijo de la Aurora, they change it on you.

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