Fuzz Manta, Opus II: Lady Sings the Fuzzy Blues

Posted in Reviews on November 30th, 2011 by JJ Koczan

Reduced by one guitar, the now-foursome Fuzz Manta made their return earlier in 2011 with the sophomore outing, Opus II, on CD and vinyl through Gateway Music. I wasn’t a huge fan of their 2009 Smokerings debut, finding it mostly generic but for the standout vocals of soulful frontwoman Lene Kjaer Hvillum, but with Opus II, the Copenhagen natives bring more elements of classic rock and blues to complement their natural-sounding fuzz, and the results are surprisingly impressive across the eight songs. Hvillum is still in the lead role and provides the album its several high points, but being down a guitar has forced Fuzz Manta to be more creative stylistically, and the added organ work of Jesper Bo Hansen melds gorgeously with the band’s sound. Hansen appears on three tracks – the early “Man with No Face” and side B’s closing duo “Corrosion” and “Let Me Walk” – adding rich melody alongside the vintage-style distortion of Frederik Jensen’s guitar and letting bassist Morten Clod-Svensson and drummer/recording engineer Pelle Moltke have room to flesh out the grooves in the rhythm section – which they don’t seem to have much trouble doing anyway, even on the songs without organ. As the album gets moving with opener “Motumann,” the shifts in their aesthetic are almost immediately apparent.

The groove is primary. The guitars and bass insistent. The drums forceful. The vocals perfectly cadenced. Fuzz Manta, from the very first minute of Opus II, sound like a more confident, more stylistically nuanced and more individual band than they did on Smokerings. “Motumann” strikes early with one of the record’s catchiest choruses, and offers a subdued break in its middle that foreshadows some of Opus II’s bluesier material. They cut the tempo behind Jensen’s solo and nod toward doom without ever really getting there or losing their rock sensibility, and through it all and the final chorus return, Clod-Svensson and Moltke sound like they could go anywhere with ease. That proves fortunate as “Man with No Face” begins with tempo and riff cadence similar to Deep Purple’s “Strange Kind of Woman” – Hansen’s organ only furthering the comparison as it works in Jon Lord-esque tandem with Jensen’s guitar. The bridge layers in acoustic guitar among the electric and organ, bass and drums, as Hvillum reiterates and reinterprets the chorus with jazzy flow. It’s not surprising when the rush returns and the song returns to its verse/chorus pattern, but the solo section and final chorus satisfy anyway in a way they might not have on Smokerings, and as if to confirm the growth of Fuzz Manta’s songwriting, the mostly acoustic “Quiet Monday” balances a breathy Stevie Nicks delivery from Hvillum over folksy Led Zeppelin picking and percussion. While the turn in approach might seem abrupt and maybe cutting short the momentum the first two tracks have built up, in the context of heavy ‘70s traditionalism, it makes more sense and sets up the riffier side A finale, “Lithia’s Box” to seem that much heavier with its layered rhythm and solo guitars, which gradually give way to Opus II’s first showing of the jam, where Clod-Svensson’s running bass makes me most regret the fadeout that cuts the song at 8:39.

Read more »

Tags: , , ,

Wino Wednesday: Spirit Caravan, “Lost Sun Dance”

Posted in Bootleg Theater on November 30th, 2011 by JJ Koczan

Happy Wino Wednesday.Among the quintessential songs from the Spirit Caravan era, “Lost Sun Dance” appeared first on the band’s original self-titled 7″ when they were still known as Shine. That version also appears on the excellent two-disc MeteorCity compilation, The Last Embrace, but this one was re-recorded by Spirit Caravan for their 1999 full-length debut, Jug Fulla Sun, released by Joe Lally of Fugazi on his Tolotta Records imprint.

I could probably post each track from Jug Fulla Sun individually and call it “quintessential” — and, let’s be honest, I probably will as the Wednesdays go on — but what stands out most about “Lost Sun Dance” to me is the balance it hits between tonal warmth and a kind of colder exterior. That contrast has become a key element in the ongoing development of Wino‘s blues, and the stomp here of Dave Sherman‘s bass and Gary Isom‘s drumming underscores how special this band really was in their day.

Man, I swear to Robot Jeebus that solo is talking.

Happy Wino Wednesday:

Tags: , , ,

New King Giant Album Due in January

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 29th, 2011 by JJ Koczan

Virginian heavy hitters King Giant made their debut with Southern Darkness in 2009, and are getting ready to unveil their sophomore outing, Dismal Hollow, come Jan. 31, 2012. Reportedly they’re getting a little more into the Appalachian thing this time around, and though I’m not quite sure what that means (dueling banjos and meth?), it should be interesting to find out either way.

The PR wire reveals itself unto you:

Taking the dark tales of their Appalachian folk forefathers to contemporary Southern doom territory, Northern Virgina-based quintet King Giant have wrapped up the final details on their sophomore full-length release, Dismal Hollow, and are preparing to self-release it just after the kickoff of the new year.

Brooding even darker and more sinister homage to their rock and metal forefathers than their heralded self-released 2009 debut album, Southern Darkness, this new album sets a new par for King Giant, further developing their hard but harmonized style, as always chock full of well-written hooks and deep grooving thunder. Recorded at Inner Ear Studio (Minor Threat, Fugazi, Avail, Jawbox, Dave Grohl), and inherently boasting full-on Americana both musically and conceptually, the eight tracks harnessed on Dismal Hollow are easily King Giant’s most well-written and monstrous anthems captured to date.

Dismal Hollow will be available worldwide on January 31, 2012 — a split release between King Giant’s band-operated imprint Graveyard Hill Records and The Path Less Traveled Records, part of the MRI Group, with distribution by RED, Code 7 and Plastichead — and will be available in CD, LP and digital download formats.

Dismal Hollow Track Listing:
1. Appomattox
2. Tale of Mathias
3. A Steward’s Prayer
4. Pistols and Penance
5. 6 O’Clock Swill
6. The Fog
7. Road to Eleusis
8. O’ Drifter

Tags: , , ,

Infernal Overdrive, Last Rays of the Dying Sun: New Dawn Tears Ass through the Pine Barrens

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

When I reviewed the self-titled demo from South Jersey non-retro heavy rock classicists Infernal Overdrive last year, the first thing that came to my mind about the songs was that they sounded tailor made for Small Stone Records. The four cuts included on Infernal Overdrive were riffy but not definitively stoner, Southern but not just Southern, and always with an eye toward ‘70s rock landmarks like Cactus, Free and Grand Funk Railroad. Maybe more than one eye, in fact. Either way, it worked out. Small Stone picked up the band for the Feb. 28, 2012, release of their first full-length, Last Rays of the Dying Sun, and as the title might suggest, classic rock references abound. Jimi Hendrix, whose posthumous First Rays of the New Rising Sun came out in 1997, is among them, obviously, but there are depths of style to which Infernal Overdrive dig that result in a mix more directly their own. In addition, guitarist/vocalist Marc Schleicher draws on his experience in Boston Southern rock acts Quintaine Americana and Antler (the latter also Small Stone alumnae) to add a modern feel to the classic ethic, and coupled with the dual-guitar antics of Schleicher and lead axe-handler Rich Miele and a well-utilized knack for injecting memorable choruses with distinct personality, the result is a blend across these eight tracks (even the fact that there are eight tracks on the album feels like a reference to the ‘70s) that’s familiar within the scope of American heavy rock, but not as easily pinned down beyond that to any single band. Nonetheless, much like the demo, Last Rays of the Dying Sun is right at home within Small Stone’s milieu, other Northeastern acts like The Brought Low and Roadsaw making fine enough comparison points to establish some idea of what Infernal Overdrive are working with stylistically.

The band returned to Andrew Schneider (Throttlerod, The Brought Low, partner in Coextinction Recordings) to record the full-length, and with what he was able to bring out of them on the demo, it’s no surprise. It’s easy to view Last Rays of the Dying Sun as an extension of their previous outing, both sonically and in terms of content. All four songs from Infernal Overdrive show up on side A of Last Rays of the Dying Sun, and in three-fourths the same order as they appeared before, opening with “I-95” and moving into “The Edge” and “Duel.” The longer “Motor,” which was 12 minutes on the demo and approaching 14 here, keeps its position as the closer, so in a way, that’s the same as well, but there are four other tracks between “Duel” and it that comprise the previously-unheard portion of the record. Both the newer and older material though sound crisp and fluid (Chris Goosman mastered), the shorter “I-95” and “The Edge” setting the tone quickly with unpretentious shuffle and Miele’s smooth leads, and stating in certain terms the rock ethic to be expanded on as the album progresses with songs like “Cage” and “Electric Street Cred.” “I-95” is no less engaging as an opener than it was on the demo, and Mike Bennett’s drumming (probably the most direct beneficiary of Schneider’s production; the guy just knows how to mic drums) and Keith Schleicher’s bass allow the guitars a solid foundation on which to speed up the motoring riff of “The Edge,” setting up the hooky chorus with a well-honed casual air, like it’s just the way it goes, man.

That sense of casualness – it’s not exactly laid back, but has a pack of cigarettes rolled up its sleeve and at least one hole in its jeans – adds a lot of the charm to what Infernal Overdrive are doing musically, which is neither lazy nor unstudied. Wails and one of Last Rays of the Dying Sun’s several big rock finishes cap “The Edge,” as if to highlight the idea that no one is taking themselves to seriously, and “Duel” commences with what can only be the basis for the song’s title in the interplay between Schleicher and Miele’s guitars. Bennett’s drums stomp and the bass walks in lock step with the guitar for the verses, but ultimately steps back to give the soloing room to breathe, and handclaps, tambourine and some guest vocals from Schneider in the final chorus give a party atmosphere to the ensuing and somewhat predictable conclusion, and following a quiet intro, “Cage” keeps the momentum going with thicker-sounding guitar, more claps and plenty of “mm-hmm” and “alright” peppering from Schleicher. The vibe of “Cage” is more modern, but the chorus asking the question “Can I be your little animal?” is all classic rock and a pretty good example on the grander scale of the way Infernal Overdrive mix the modern with the big-engine ‘70s. It’s something of a comedown after “Duel,” but “Cage” picks up at the end with some righteous solo work and Keith’s most impressive bassline underneath. Three big rock finishes in a row might seem ballsy, but it’s nothing in comparison to the fade-out/fade-back of highlight cut “Deported to Jersey,” which ends side A with a preview of what “Motor” will later do for the album as a whole, working deft riffing, skillfully arranged vocals and unashamed catchiness into the first four minutes before the fadeout starts. They go all the way to silence and rest there for a couple seconds before coming back to wrap in what can increasingly be thought of as the standard fashion for Last Rays of the Dying Sun.

Read more »

Tags: , , , ,

audiObelisk: Wight Stream New Demo Track; Free Download Available

Posted in audiObelisk on November 29th, 2011 by JJ Koczan

Things have been pretty busy for stonerly trio Wight since they last checked in with their Wight Weedy Wight debut full-length (a whole month and a half ago that it was reviewed). They’re getting ready to release a jam-centric split 12″ with Stone Axe on their own Fat and Holy Records imprint, and at the start of next month, they’ll be embarking on a weekender tour through their native Germany with fellow riff-minded Darmsdadters Bushfire that’s been dubbed the “Malakas of the Universe” tour. Good fun.

Perhaps the best of all, though is that Wight are set to release their second album in the first part of the imminent New Year. February/March 2012 will see the release of Through the Woods into Deep Water, both on CD through Fat and Holy, and also on vinyl through Bilocation Records. Wight will celebrate in April with a performance at the Berlin Desertfest.

To help spread the word about Through the Woods into Deep Water, Wight have made a demo of the new song “You!” available for free download through their website. The sound is rough, but still plenty clear to give an idea, and the blues jam that ensues is unmistakable. To complement the killer soloing of guitarist Rene Hofmann, guest vocal spots from Bill Brown (of Bushfire) and Sami Isin (of Jamie’s Backyard) add to a loose, grooving atmosphere worthy of the second The Kings of Frog Island record.

The band offered me the chance to host the track for streaming and after taking a listen and nodding my way through “You!,” the choice seemed obvious. You’ll find it on the player below. Hope you dig:

Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!

Wight‘s Through the Woods into Deep Water is expected to release in early 2012. The free download of the “You!” demo is available from Mediafire here. To keep up to date on all Wight‘s many doings, check out their website.

Tags: , , ,

Santa Psychedelica to Come to Germany Next Month with Hypnos 69, Sungrazer and Electric Moon

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

You know, I was listening to Hypnos 69‘s Legacy just yesterday, by coincidence, and I still feel like that record is lightyears beyond me. Maybe I wouldn’t feel that way if I was ever so fortunate as to see the band live, but that doesn’t do me much good now. As it stands, Legacy is one of probably two records (I can’t think of another, but will allow for the possibility) that I’ve reviewed since starting this site that I still feel like I’m learning more about with every listen. Simply brilliant.

And if you’re lucky enough to be in Germany for the end of 2011, you can catch those Belgian prog wonders with Dutch fuzz upstarts Sungrazer (whose Mirador is pretty high on my list for this year) and Glowsun from France, whose split with Electric Moon was recently reviewed. Brash German hardcore punkers DxBxSx will guest on the first three of the four “Santa Psychedelica” tour dates, which Sound of Liberation was kind enough to send over. Behold:

Xmas is coming soon and we have some sweets for you as well…

Hypnos 69 (BEL), Sungrazer (NL) and Glowsun (F) combining their psychedelic spirits to deliver you some outstanding After-Xmas–Shows!

Special Guest for the “Punkedelica” After Show Parties in Cologne, Munich and Dresden are DxBxSx from Berlin… well know for their wild Party Rock n Roll!

Santa Psychedelica Vol. 1
27.12 Cologne Underground w/ DxBxSx
28.12 Munich Feierwerk w/ DxBxSx
29.12 Dresden Sektor E w/ DxBxSx
30.12 Berlin Lido

Tags: , , ,

Skrogg, Raw Heat: Heavy Like Granite

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

From the state that brought forth the slogan “Live Free or Die,” a mountain shaped like an old man’s face, Laconia Bike Week and Scissorfight come the burly grooves of Skrogg. They have some post-Clutch riff-led beard-fodder – think Omegalord, Sugar Daddie, Borracho – in common with the Granite State Destroyers, or maybe that’s just wishful thinking on my part. Either way, the rock on Skrogg’s five-song Raw Heat EP (Drug Rug Records) is mean but fun and thoroughly boozed. At 29 minutes, it gives a firm showing of what will probably later seem like Skrogg’s rudimentary beginnings, but shows them as having the basics down when it comes to thick and heavy rock. The “These go to 11” This is Spinal Tap sample that precedes opening cut “Cajun Lady” acts as an immediate indicator that their hearts are in the right place, and the wah guitar of “Reverend” Jeff Maxfield (Tractorass) that kicks on to introduce the bouncing riff is steady confirmation. Mostly the material covers familiar ground thematically, with witches, space, motorcycles, etc., but Maxfield, who also handles vocals, seems well aware of the fact that these ideas have been presented before. For Skrogg on their first outing, it seems to be more about the riff and the nod than any kind of grandstanding.

And that suits Skrogg well on these five tracks, which are unpretentious enough to last longer than the half-hour listening to them requires. The “Cajun Lady” and “Anita Ride” follow similar structures and make the most of a catchy chorus, with bassist Jason “Jasper” Lawrence and drummer Felix Whitty filling out and nailing home the groove. “Anita Ride” cuts out after the solo section at about halfway through its 5:37 and moves back into its verse in a way that leaves the impression that Skrogg just weren’t sure how to make the transition, but the song’s strengths remain nonetheless, and Lawrence’s bass tone is definitely among them, adding wah funk to the central riff and veering into fills here and there while Whitty crashes behind. Maxfield’s vocals – he’s got a touch of the “stoner rock voice” going – are mixed high, and that holds true on Raw Heat’s bluesy title and centerpiece track, which takes a 12-bar structure and gives it a ride in Fu Manchu’s boogie van. At over seven minutes, it breaks following the third verse/chorus tradeoff into a long instrumental riff jam that culminates with a surprising smoothness (they could just as easily have let it fall apart and no one would think twice) that’s worthy of any next-gen stoner rock comparison you want to make of it. Maxfield takes a pronounced solo that cuts through the rough production surrounding, and comes back in time to meet Lawrence and Whitty for a single riff cycle that speaks to the precision and thought put into the arrangement of “Raw Heat,” no matter how jammed and loose it might otherwise feel.

Read more »

Tags: , , ,

Black Pyramid to Play London Desertfest

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

…And it’s not bullshit. Bassist Gein and drummer Clay Neely have decided to continue the band without guitarist Andy “Dinger” Beresky, and have joined forces with none other than Maple Forum alum Darryl Shepard (Blackwolfgoat, Hackman, Milligram, et al) to fill the vacant role. There’s reportedly an official announcement coming in the next day or so, so I’ll have more on it then, but in the meantime, this new incarnation of Black Pyramid has been added to next year’s London Desertfest, and here’s the flyer to prove it:

Black Pyramid‘s II full-length was also released by MeteorCity this Black Friday weekend. More info on that here.

Tags: , ,