Frydee Iron Man

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

They’re among the original harbingers of Maryland doom, and Baltimorian four-piece Iron Man have seen ’em come, and seen ’em go. The band’s last full-length, I Have Returned, came out in 2009 (review here), and in the time since then, they’ve been through I don’t even know how many drummers — at least two — and frontman Joe Donnelly has also departed, leaving “Iron” Al Morris III on guitar alongside bassist Louis Strachan, drummer Mike Rix (since out of the band), and newfound singer Dee Calhoun for the new Dominance EP. If we were doing SAT analogies, I might say that Calhoun : Rob Halford as Donnelly : Ozzy Osbourne, minus the physical mimicry of onstage persona. His voice fits well over the four tracks of Dominance, of which I’ll have a review in the next week or two.

In case you missed it, Iron Man aren’t the only ones who premiered a new video today. Pagan Altar, who already had a new track up this week, posted a brand new video from their forthcoming album, Never Quite Dead, for the song “Dance of the Vampires.” That video is on the forum here, and I’d recommend it if you’d like to get your doom fix a little bit more when you’re done with “Ruler of Ruin” above. Right on.

Tomorrow night I’ll be in Philly to check out Earthride, C.O.C. and Clutch at the Trocadero, which I’m confident is going to be a complete blast. While I’m posting links to new videos on the forum, Mike H. shot a yet-unreleased Clutch song Wednesday night in Maine, and embedded it here. Thanks as always to him for his diligence. Anyway, if you’re gonna be at the show tomorrow, I’m the fat guy with the long hair, beard and the brown messenger-type camera bag, singing along to the chorus, “The party’s over/You all got to go/The wolfman is coming out.” I imagine it’ll be the bag that most distinguishes me.

This week, aside from that probable Iron Man review, I’ll have a writeup on tomorrow’s show, as well as the new Cherry Choke album, and — if it kills me — I will get Skype to record on my laptop and hook up that Grifter interview. I’ll also have the December numbers (I have no idea how they are), and since it’ll be 2012, at some point in the week I’ll do a preview of the year to come, most likely in the spirit of last year’s two-parter of records I’ve heard and ones I haven’t yet.

And as we learned today, there will be some albums I won’t hear at all, and for that, I apologize profusely.

I wish you a safe, insanely happy and healthy New Year, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing. I hope your 2012 is overflowing with joy and personal fulfillment, large cash settlements and whatever else it is that will make you glad to be on this planet. Raise a toast to the killer records to come and we’ll see you back here Monday for more adventures in adjectival phrasing.

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One More List: The Top 5 Albums I Didn’t Hear in 2011

Posted in Features on December 30th, 2011 by JJ Koczan

I should say up front that there were way more than just five albums I didn’t hear in 2011. Five is just a convenient number. It’s half of 10, prime, odd, easily multiplied, etc. I could probably do a top 20 if I felt like it, but frankly, I don’t. Much as I (apparently) enjoy making a show of my ignorance, even that thrill has its limits.

Reactions varied to this year’s top 20 list when it went up, which was to be expected, and I appreciated it that people felt strongly enough to point out things I missed or things they felt deserved inclusion. That’s awesome. It gives me more records to hunt down, and well, what the hell is the point of all of this if not that?

Reserving the right to either purchase or not purchase these albums in the future depending on my cash flow, momentary impulse and fluctuations in taste, here’s the list. You should probably note that, since I didn’t hear any of them, the numbers are basically meaningless.

1. Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Blood Lust

When this didn’t make the top 20, the response was so immediate and horrified that I actually went and bought the damn thing off eBay. Import price, no less. Seriously, people were pissed. Windows were broken by flying bricks of disgust. Cars were flipped over and set on fire. “Oh my god it’s retro British occult doom how could you not have it on your list?” The hype being as massive as it is, I only hope my contrary nature (read: prickishness) doesn’t get the best of me and actually prevent me from enjoying it when it comes. Either way,  I’ll write on it. Not a full review, but something.

2. Orchid, Capricorn
One of several releases on The Church Within Records that I would’ve preferred to have been able to review (looking at you too, Serpent Venom and Lord Vicar), but I’m only one man, I only have so much money, and I feel bad chasing stuff down when there’s a list of records waiting to be written up. Plus, after a nasty one-liner about their performance at Planet Caravan in 2009 and a meh writeup on their Through the Devil’s Doorway EP, I don’t think I’m even on their radar for people whose opinions they care to hear about a full-length. Fair enough. I’ll probably pick up Capricorn eventually regardless.

3. Tombs, Path of Totality
Years ago, I interviewed Mike Hill for the Aquarian when the former Anodyne guitarist/vocalist was releasing that band’s The First Four Years compilation on his own Black Box Recordings. He was a nice guy, and he talked about starting a new band in Brooklyn that was in a heavier direction. That turned out to be Tombs. And then they signed to Relapse, and then they were really popular. I wasn’t too huge on their first record, and this one just kind of fell through the cracks, but by all accounts it’s fairly amazing. I don’t doubt it.

4. Hammers of Misfortune, 17th Street
While I’m reliving irrelevant memories (see #3 above), at SXSW in 2007, I was at a merch table for a show Weedeater were playing. Maybe it was Om. Or both. Slough Feg were also on the bill, though I’d missed them, and I wound up drunkenly buying everything Hammers of Misfortune had for sale from Sanford Parker, who assured me they kicked ass. I don’t recall ever finding out one way or the other, and neither did I manage to keep up with the band’s 2008 double release, Fields/Church of Broken Glass, but each time they put out a record, I feel like I should get aboard, and this one’s no different.

5. Argus, Boldly Stride the Doomed
I was given a free download of the album, I got the .zip file, and then it sat there. And in the end, I didn’t not review it because I didn’t want to listen — I didn’t review it because I didn’t want to listen, dig the hell out of it and then have to go buy it. That’s the truth. It’s nothing against Pittsburgh trad doomers Argus, whom I’ve seen live and whose sound I dig a lot — I just didn’t want to have to shell out the cash for another record. Would be a different scenario if they were playing a show, and hopefully I’ll run into them over the course of the next year and be able to make fiscal amends for my neglect.

Honorable mention goes to Seven that Spells, The Heavy Eyes and probably six or seven others I can’t think of. You know, I was kind of hoping that doing this feature would make me feel better about missing out on some of this stuff, but nope. I just feel lame and out of touch. Maybe in 2012 I’ll be cool enough to keep up, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

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Druglord, Motherfucker Rising: Licking Their Wounds

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

Virginian trio Druglord left the rehearsal space to record their second demo, and listening to Motherfucker Rising, the difference is palpable. The Richmond three-piece, who made their debut in 2010 with a self-titled three-songer, are cleaner-sounding but still raw, and though these songs probably weren’t recorded live, they’re roughly produced enough to still be considered of demo quality. Stuff like this is made by the underground for the underground, and as Druglord – guitarist/vocalist Tommy, bassist Greta and drummer Bobby – riff out on hard-drug grooves and an overarching sense of defeat at their hands, they also showcase a little melodic growth. Just a little though, so don’t be worried. Tommy’s vocals are blown-out but low in the mix enough not to be painful, and it’s still the guitar and the bass tones very much at the fore, but Bobby’s drums come through clearer. Pressed to CD in a thick-stock sleeve edition of 100, Motherfucker Rising is, as the title might indicate, the sound of a group of players beginning to become a cohesive unit. It’s rudimentary – still a step up from the self-titled – but it also presents Druglord at one of the most exciting stages one can find a band: as they’re beginning to find themselves.

Familiar elements abound, and fans of Weedeater, Saint Vitus, Black Sabbath and Electric Wizard will be able to pick out and trace parts from Motherfucker Rising to their influences. Greta’s bass, for example, follows a progression similar to that of “Long Gone” by Weedeater at the end of the opening title-track, and based on its central riff alone, “Cleansed,” which follows, might seem a nastier take on traditional doom. Tommy’s vocals are compressed, throaty and sub-melodic but still cleaner than outright screams, and they do the bulk of the work distinguishing Druglord from its points of inspiration. “Cleansed” dares to add a bit of melody in the guitar and vocal line after halfway through, but again, it’s all very raw, and the distortion in the guitar and the bass seems to swallow it as the biting solo takes hold. Bobby is consistent on drums, but not flashy as he moves smoothly into and through tempo changes like the slowdown at the end of “Cleansed” or the pick-up and drop-off of “Motherfucker Rising,” which starts loud and rebuilds from a quiet section to be one of the demo’s stronger tracks. Overall, though, it’s “Lick the Wound” that proves to be the highlight of Motherfucker Rising. The only inclusion also found on the self-titled, it balance of melody, slow groove and abrasiveness is the most accomplished to be found on the CD, and shows that even in an aesthetic as unforgiving as that of Druglord, a memorable song can be crafted out of strong performances.

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76 HeavyPink Singles Left; Addressing Download Concerns

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

Shipping Option

As of this post, there are 76 copies of HeavyPink‘s HeavyPink 7″ left. If you don’t have yours yet, you can order it using the Paypal button above or by clicking here to go to the Maple Forum store. It’s come to my attention that some people who’ve bought the record have had trouble with the download card — the link on the little piece of paper doesn’t work. If that’s you, I’d hope that instead of, say, calling me a chump on Facebook, you’d reach out and ask me for a solution to the problem. I’m more than happy to help out anyone who’s had trouble in any way I can, whether it’s sending you the files direct or anything else I can do to rectify the situation.

A full version of “Flower and Song,” the A-side to the single, has made its way to YouTube, and I thought I’d include it here for you to check out if you haven’t yet seen/heard it. Once again, HeavyPink is the one-man psychedelic incarnation of Tony Reed, whose careful hands have in the past sculpted Mos Generator and Stone Axe from out of the rock and roll ether. Reed handles all the instruments, vocals and recording equipment himself, and I’m just glad he let me be involved at all.

Thanks to everyone so far who has ordered a copy of the record. Your support of The Maple Forum and The Obelisk is genuinely appreciated.

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Bible of the Devil Announce New Year’s Plans

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

We’re now on day 1,146 of this Bible of the Devil drought. It’s been more than three years since the Chicago asskicking specialists released their most excellent Freedom Metal album, and at the risk of being honest, I’m starting to feel it. The passage of time is wearing me down, and unlike those of you lucky enough to be situated somewhere in the proximity of Windy City venue Quenchers this New Year’s Eve, I won’t have the chance to get my fix anytime soon. Unless I buy their new 7″ split with Winterhawk that is. Maybe I’ll do that.

Here’s show and split-acquisition info. Go get you some:

Bible of the Devil will round out the 2011 year in style with one last show to take place at Quenchers. Details are as follows:

Quenchers 2401 N. Western
BOTD 12am
Tight Phantomz 11pm
$10 cover 9pm Doors 21+

The BOTD/Winterhawk split 7″ is now out and is going quickly.  There are a limited number of white and black copies available. Email Onslaught of Steel Records at or to get your copy while they last.

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Lantlôs, Agape: Collecting all the Light

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

It is as caustic as it is melodically rich, and Agape, the third album from post-black metallers Lantlôs, masterfully blends melancholic solipsism with gripping aggression. Released like the French/German duo’s second album, .Neon (2010), through Prophecy Productions, Agape is best understood through the lens of collaboration. Lantlôs brings together Alcest’s Stéphane “Neige” Paut on vocals and multi-instrumentalist Markus “Herbst” Siegenhort, and each has a pivotal role to play in the overall atmosphere of Agape, for which Felix Wylezik also handled session drum work. Herbst, who also comprised the one-man black metal outfit of the same name and drummed for Impavida, is the driving figure behind the music of Agape’s five tracks, and is more concerned overall with setting a mood and an atmosphere than executing verses and choruses in succession. The songs are linear for the most part, or cyclical in some way, but even when parts repeat, they do so having changed somehow, so that the lushness of the melody behind the distortion at the beginning of closer “Eribo – I Collect the Stars” changes as the song develops and moves into and out of its ambient stretch. Long breaks find Herbst experimenting with guitar, bass and keys, as on opening cut “Intrauterin,” in which underwater guitar lays on top of far-off melodic echoes, or “Bliss,” which splits itself from the blasting of its first half to proffer winding-smoke jazz in its second, Wylezik adding personality to each tap of his ride cymbal in a way that wholly justifies his presence alongside Neige and Herbst.

As for Neige — who has seen the profile and cross-genre appeal of Alcest rise over the course of its two (soon three) full-lengths – his vocals will no doubt surprise many who approach Agape expecting something similar to the soft, wispy melodicism of his recent work. The slow, doomly march of “Intrauterin” is made all the more abrasive by his deep-seated screams, and though the song opens with two solid minutes of manipulated noise, there’s little to prepare the listener for either the heaviness of Wylezik’s crashes or the whine in Herbst’s guitar once the track actually gets going. Neige comes right in as well and sounds like his throat is trying to tear itself from his neck, and for the next two minutes, Lantlôs emit blackened doom of terrible ferocity, taking a pause after 4:30 as fading feedback gives way to the aforementioned melodic break. Around 7:45, they revive the plod and Neige reenters with screams, but the melody line skillfully interwoven, and it’s less a switch back and forth than a joining of the two sides into a cohesive and complementary whole – much like the band itself. At 9:52, “Intrauterin” is the longest song on Agape (immediate points there), and does a decent job of laying out the scope of the album, but “Bliss” immediately expands and somewhat works itself against those expectations by launching from the guitar line into a flurry of d-beat sub-blast drumming and drawn-out screams that seem to set up the slowdown that arrives at 1:23.

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audiObelisk: Dwellers Stream “Vultures” from Good Morning Harakiri

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

Some diligent internet research on Dwellers (and by that I mean looking up their ReverbNation and Bandcamp pages) will result in a couple tracks already available from their Good Morning Harakiri debut full-length. The album is also already available on iTunes for those inclined to download it there, and will be pressed to CD by Small Stone at the end of January.

It hasn’t yet been a full week since I reviewed Good Morning Harakiri, so I’ll spare the long-winded descriptions of how the album as a whole functions and just say that the pairing of former Iota guitarist/vocalist Joey Toscano with the rhythm section of bassist Dave Jones and drummer Zach Hatsis — both of post-metal unit  SubRosa — results in a unique mixture of riff-driven heaviness and thickened jam explorations. While this elements aren’t necessarily uncommon, Dwellers‘ blend of space and blues winds up being almost entirely their own.

Case in point, “Vultures” is the longest track on Good Morning Harakiri at just over 10 minutes. It’s got a bluesy semi-Southern riff and Toscano‘s vocals are graveled as they deliver the initial verses, but the song soon opens up to an expansive heavy jam with a waltzing progression that feels born as much from willful exploration as from its classic rock soloing.

Small Stone was kind enough to let me host “Vultures” for your streaming pleasure, and you’ll find it on the player below. Hope you enjoy:

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

DwellersGood Morning Harakiri is available now on iTunes through Small Stone Records, and is set for CD release at the end of January. The band will be playing Burt’s Tiki Club in their native Salt Lake City, Utah on Jan. 21 with YOB and Old Timer, and will also take part in Small Stone‘s annual showcase at SXSW in Austin, Texas, on March 16. More info on that is here, and you can check out Dwellers on Thee Facebooks here.

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Review Roundup: A Trip through the Spam Filter

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

Things are traditionally quiet in the music industry in the week between Xmas and New Year’s, so I’ve had more downtime than usual at work. I’ve taken the opportunity to catch up on some organization I let slide while the semester was finishing up, and in the process, discovered a bevvy of emails that had come in from the contact form that went to my spam folder.

The issue with the contact form has been corrected — so it shouldn’t be a problem going forward — but basically that means that people who had reached out to me from bands and other related concerns weren’t getting answers, and for that, I’m sorry. There’s stuff in there I feel like I’ve missed the boat on at this point. I’ve made commitments of my time elsewhere, and besides, I’d feel like a douche to go chasing all of them down, like, “Uh, hey man, yeah, send me your CD,” two months after the fact. What a jerk.

On the other hand, I feel bad for not getting back to them at all, so I thought what I’d do is hit up the Bandcamp links that were sent to me, and host the material here in this post, all in one shot, so that anyone interested can get a sense of what the bands are about and investigate further if so inclined. Made sense at 2AM last night when I thought of it, anyhow, so we’ll see how it works out.

We start in the UK:

What’s included in the player is just a six-minute sampler of British five-piece Dead Existence‘s two-song EP, Born into the Planet’s Scars. If the name sounds familiar, Dead Existence released a split with Dopefight in 2009, but even more than that, I feel bad for missing out on this one because it’s so fucking brutal. Even listening to the six minutes here, I feel like I’ve gotten by ass kicked. Dead Existence take the metal side of sludge and push it to deathly extremes, and with just two extended tracks, “Down the Crooked Path” (11.57) and “Gutless and Full of Shame” (14.33), I’d have been interested to hear how they filled that time. What they have here almost borders on hardcore in terms of the vocals and some of the chugging riffs, but it still has enough groove to cross over in terms of appeal. Heavy is heavy, and hopefully when their next platter arrives, I suck less at life and don’t miss it. They’re on Thee Facebooks here and Bandcamp here.

The threat is right there in the title, and while the three-song 2011 demo from UK blackened doomers Drear, dubbed We Will Use Your Blood for Fertilizer, is malevolent, even more than that, it’s oppressive atmospherically. These three songs were reportedly recorded in 2009, but the bitterness and smell of rotting flesh is still fresh on them. “Finally” offsets telltale stomp with progressive complexity and back-loaded forest screams, and “Madness and Civilization” incorporates both things — samples and disturbing drones culminate in what sounds like an emergency call, making way for the ultra-slow drone of “Capturecultivateconsume.” The real surprise (sorry to spoil it) comes at 2:58 into the closer, when the melee drops out and beautiful ambient guitar cycles in to make way for the finale. Impressive and unsettling in equal proportion. Check out their website here and Bandcamp here.

“Sun Doesn’t Rise,” the opening track of Low Sonic Drift‘s 2009 EP, Shadows of the Titan, has one of those “fuck yeah” riffs. Press play above and see if you don’t agree. The Scottish trio shares guitarist/vocalist Omar Aborida with psych purveyors The Cosmic Dead, and though Low Sonic Drift is less exploratory in a jam sense, the tracks vary widely, from the angular prog of “Hyperion” to the Indian-derived “Tamrine Namayesh.” “Shadows” effectively blends most of these elements and highlights some thrash besides, and more than anything else, I’m left wondering what Low Sonic DriftAborida plus bassist Paul Wilson and drummer Javaud Habibi — have been doing these last two years. Hopefully it’s not too long before another installment makes its way to the public, and when it does, I’m going to try my damnedest not to miss out. They’re on Bandcamp here and Blogspot here.

Released just at the beginning of December with a solid blue cover in a limited vinyl edition of 250 by Deep Distance Records, Kösmonaut I is the product of a one-man instrumental psychedelic electronica project from Texas-based Patrick R. Pärk. I’m not sure if Kösmonaut really fits with what this site covers, but then again, fuck it, it’s at least interesting. These five pieces were previously available on a limited CDR called Voyage of Time, and Pärk seems to be rather prolific, since by either name you want to take it, it’s one of four records he’s put out this year. I guess it’s pretty easy for material to pile up when there’s no one else to argue with and you’re running loops the whole time. I dig the spacey ambient stretches more than the “active” material, and I expect the appeal overall would be pretty limited, but maybe it’s just weird enough to make a few friends around these parts. On Bandcamp here and Blogspot here.

I make no secret of the fact that I’m a nerd for Swedish heaviness, so it’s with a sad heart that I listen to Malva, the self-released debut from Gothenburg‘s One Inch Giant. Recorded completely live, it promises almost immediately that “Rock and roll can make us ripe and bold,” and listening to the five tracks that follow, I believe it. “Fur of the Lord” is drenched in fuzzy mammoth charm (befitting Malva‘s album art), and the Fu Manchu-ism of “Feed the Fire” is put to the test by the slower grooving riff of “Echoes in the Night.” God damn it. This is really good. The vocals are a little high in the mix, but who knows how that translates from a stream to the physical disc or actual download? One Inch Giant are unsigned as yet, but the poise with which they make their way through the seven minutes of “Treasures that Betray” hints that perhaps that’s a temporary condition. Either way, Malva rocks. Check the band out on Thee Facebooks here and Bandcamp here.

Well, that’s it. There were others, but I think we’ll leave it there for now. Again, I’m sorry to the people involved in these bands who reached out to me that I wasn’t able to get back in a reasonable amount of time, and I hope that this coverage — however miniscule it might be as compared to a full review around here (the difference, I suppose, being that someone might actually read these blurbs the whole way though) — makes up in some small way for my dickheadedness. Thanks for reading.

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