Frydeep Purple Mk. II

Posted in Bootleg Theater on June 30th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

A hearty “damn you all” to the members of Mark II Deep Purple, mostly for putting out this awesome album and then consciously refusing to do anything else nearly as awesome. Though I like Fireball a lot, and it’s “Space Truckin'” from Machine Head that’s been stuck in my head all night, so I guess In Rock ain’t totally the shit, though you’d never know it listening to “Speed King.” Fucking song is righteous in the most religious sense of the word.

I was supposed to go to Brooklyn tonight to see Drew Mack‘s last show with Hull. Why I didn’t go is a more complicated situation than I really feel like typing out as we approach one in the morning and I wrap up my umpteenth and apparently final beer of the night, but Arzgarth‘s words of wisdom on the forum were a source of inspiration worth mentioning. Aside from that, it has to do with a trip to Long Island tomorrow, driving here and there and back again and all around, and me being old and lame. There. I guess that’s the whole story.

Anyhoozle, if you went to the Hull show, I hope you had a great time. The evening tonight I spent mostly in the back yard. I had some quality one-on-one time with one of the oldest friends I have (rare in these wifely days), and drank a not insignificant amount of bottled brews — a sixer of Bells Amber Ale that I brought back from Michigan and then some — while eating local-type pizza and listening to the Yankees lose on the radio. It was a good time, wrapped up by watching Super Troopers on the tv and, finally, putting on the Deep Purple album to which you’re hopefully now listening.

Thanks to everyone who downloaded the podcast. If you missed it, the podcast I’m talking about is here. I guess 76 times in less than a week isn’t bad, but still, I’d take more if more was an option. Whatever. The day’s worth of work I put into it and I hope you dig it. As for the rest of this week, it was a fitting amount of madness. Well, fitting in the way size 26 pants are fitting — which is to say not at all — but so it goes. I’ll crash out in a couple minutes, either having or not outlasted this Jon Lord organ solo, and that will be that. No frickin’ regrets.

Next week, my interview with Tommi Holappa of Greenleaf goes up, as well as a Buried Treasure on the last Argus record and whatever else I can think to review. It’ll be July, so we’ll do the June numbers, and I’ve got feelers out on a giveaway/album stream that I’m not yet at liberty to reveal, but it’s worth staying tuned to find out what it is and if it comes together. I guess that’s the best I can say about it at this point.

Hope you have a great and safe weekend. I’ll see you on the forum and back here just as soon as the ibuprofen kicks in. Monday sounds about right.

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Bereft, Leichenhaus: Crafting a New Abyss

Posted in Reviews on June 29th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

Released by The End Records at the end of April (it would be awesome if they only put out records the last week of every month, but I’m pretty sure that’s not how it actually works), the debut full-length from Los Angeles death/doomers Bereft, Leichenhaus, tells a lot of its story in its title. The German word for “funeral home,” Leichenhaus immediately lays out a lot of the thematic the band is working with, and one is perhaps left wondering if they went with the German instead of the English to avoid comparisons to the Norwegian band Funeral, who were among the pivotal acts in this genre – hence “funeral doom.” Similar flourishes of melodicism persist, though they’re hardly unique to these two acts – the band also shares its moniker with an Esoteric song – and Bereft’s influence from the extreme end of metal comes through in the pedigree of its members. Guitarist/vocalist Charles Elliott comes to Bereft via death metallers Abysmal Dawn (full disclosure: he’s also a publicist at Nuclear Blast with whom I’ve had dealings for years now), and bassist Derek Rydquist is formerly of Summer Slaughter Tour veterans The Faceless. Drummer Derek Donley and guitarist Sacha Dunable shared a tenure in Graviton, who released an album called Massless last year on Translation Loss, and Dunable is also of jazzy neo-prog metal technicians Intronaut. As complex as the history if its players might be, the sound of Bereft is equally cohesive, each member clearly well versed in plodding tempos and sorrowful melodies. If I’m honest, I’ve been kind of hoping a band like Bereft would come along for a while now and contrast all the cleaner-sung blues-derived doom that seems to be the staple of the genre these days. Nothing wrong with that stuff, but death/doom’s extremity is like a touchstone for how much misery you can actually pack into a song, and as Leichenhaus – at seven tracks/40 minutes – feels about twice as long, it’s pretty clear the foursome are doing something right.

The album is sandwiched by crushingly atmospheric instrumental pieces. First of them, “Corpse Flower” is a suitable lead-in, caked in feedback and ploddingly drummed, long sustained, detuned guitars ringing out a wash of noise and eyes-to-the-ground riffing. We’re still a ways off from Elliott’s first vocal, which arrives almost a minute into the second track, “Mentality of the Inanimate,” and begins to show more of where Bereft’s balance between death and doom metals lies on their debut album. His and Dunable’s guitars are quick to harmony, which would seem to be an indication both of melodic influence from classic European doom, and the technical awareness that current American extreme metal mandates. They know how to play guitar, is what I’m saying, and it’s just that here they’re doing it slowly and letting the parts breathe, rather than cramming scales in where they need not be. Perhaps most telling of all the elements in conveying the band’s death metal roots, though, are the vocals. Not just that they’re growls, but also how those growls are executed. Elliott’s guttural rasp on “Mentality of the Inanimate,” on “Withered Efflorescence,” which follows, and almost everywhere else it appears on Leichenhaus, is sharply ended. Rather than hold them in sustained defeat, he cuts his lines off cold. Dunable, Donley and Rydquist are all credited with backing vocals, and sure enough, there are variations in the types of screams and growls used – “Withered Efflorescence” is more complex in general and also features the first of several acoustic guitar parts, but especially around the three-minute mark it’s apparent that there’s more than one singer in the band. If that kind of vocal turns you off outright, Bereft won’t change your mind, but with mid-period Akerfeldtian clarity in his growl, Elliott is more than capable of conveying emotion and acting as more than just another member of the rhythm section. The natural shift from the return of that muti-vocal interplay to a sustained melodic guitar solo speaks to the emotionality of the vocals and indeed the song as a whole.

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audiObelisk: Vinum Sabbatum Stream “Tombstone Rider” from Bacchanale Premiere Full-Length Debut

Posted in audiObelisk on June 29th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

Due out Aug. 24 on Eyes Like Snow/Northern Silence, Finnish trad doomers Vinum Sabbatum‘s Bacchanale Premiere follows an impressive 2011 split CD with mischievous British stoners Groan (review here) and a reissue of their debut EP, Songs from the Convent. The new full-length finds the Hyvinkää five-piece well assured of their aesthetic and what they want to be as a band, the kind of doom they want to make and just how much classic and cult heavy rock they want to put into it.

The answer to that last question seems to be “a lot.” More even than their EP or the split, Bacchanale Premiere places itself next to the heavy of old, sonically, and as a result, atmospherically. The prevalent organ (hee hee) of Tomi Korpela alongside the guitar of Juha Köykkä keeps that feeling consistent throughout the record, and between the inventive blues rhythms of bassist Mika Pajula and new drummer Jarno Jaakkola and the woeful wails of vocalist Janne Salo, their classical allegiances come through loud and proud as one of their central defining characteristics.

Another, and one I think you’ll be able to hear as you stream the track “Tombstone Rider” on the player below, is a core of songwriting that underlies the obviously considerable amount of stylization. “Tombstone Rider” has the organs, it has the bluesy groove, but it also has a solid hook and memorable performances from the band. I’ve included some info from the label after the player. Hope you enjoy:

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

Vinum Sabbatum‘s first full-length displays a band grown into a tight unit. The material is somewhat removed from the doom metal approach of Songs from the Convent and showcases more of their love for prog and hard rock rooted in the ‘70s, such as Uriah Heep, Deep Purple or Atomic Rooster, along with blues-based heavy rock á la early Black Sabbath, Pentagram, Warhorse and Iron Claw.

So there is still heaviness here, they merely traded the obvious doom metal leanings for an exciting mix of bluesy doom and gloom, combined with psychedelic and rocking grooves with enchantingly catchy melodies, and crowned by the remarkable voice of Janne Salo and the Hammond organ and keyboard of Tomi Korpela.

The first press of the CD comes in A5-digipak, limited to 1000 copies, and a vinyl version will also be released later on.

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The Convocation, The Convocation 7″: Unraveling Their History Mystery

Posted in Reviews on June 28th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

Initially formed in the late ‘90s, Maryland’s The Convocation started out as The Convocation Of… and was a three-piece featuring guitarist/vocalist Tonie Joy, bassist Guy Blakeslee and drummer George France. In 2000 and 2001, they released a self-titled full-length and a follow-up called Pyramid Technology before fizzling out as bands do circa 2002. Blakeslee went on to form The Entrance Band, and Joy and France reignited the trio as The Convocation first in 2005 and have since played with a slew of bassists, among them Matthew Hall, Chris Camden, current bassist Donny Van Zandt and Jason Stevens, who happened to be in The Convocation for the 2009 release of their self-titled redux 7” single, The Convocation, on Gravity Records. Since the duo of tracks, “My History Mystery” and “Face to Face with the Beast,” the band has put out three more on a split with Chrissakes, but in the seven years since Joy (a veteran of hardcore outfit Born Against and a slew of others) and France reformed as The Convocation, neither a full album nor an EP has materialized. Whatever the situation in the band was or is, the songs “My History Mystery” and “Face to Face with the Beast,” both circling around the four-minute mark, prove worthy of a follow-up, reminding as they do of the earliest part of the ‘90s, as grunge didn’t yet have the name and was still just the weirdo rock that baggy-pants skaters listened to.

Both tracks affect that kind of sensibility – if updated some in the production – but especially “My History Mystery,” which quickly after its launch brings in ringing-out guitar notes and a visceral rhythmic tension, calls to mind some intangible aspect of the year 1991. I don’t know if it’s Helmet I’m hearing there, or Soundgarden, or even something like Tad, but all are a fair touchstone one way or another for the atmosphere The Convocation are culling together on the single, Joy’s vocals coming on as though from a blown out megaphone. The song has basically three parts, a verse, a chorus and an ending, but the simplicity is put to good use, and whatever may have happened to eject Stevens from the band since, his bass is a key factor in what makes the song work so well. Along with straightforward drumming from France, Joy has a rhythmic, almost Fugazi-type vocal cadence, but his efforts most pay off as his voice and the guitar come together in the lines of the verse. It’s a rolling groove in the first part of the song, and that continues into the second, which follows a short, heavily-wah’ed solo and once again seems to find its foundation in the bass-led rhythm. A single line is repeated over a subtle build, and if you pay too close attention to it, it almost sounds like they’re doing it too much, but if you back off a bit and just ride it out, the build can genuinely take you along with it to a kind of sub-culmination – it’s not like there’s a sudden burst of energy that might qualify as a payoff – of slick basslines and guitar leads and France’s kit holding the whole thing together. As one of two, it’s a solid leadoff track, and its second part, though repetitive, turns out to be the catchiest part of the entire release.

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Video Premiere: Borracho Unveil New Clip for “All in Play”

Posted in Bootleg Theater on June 28th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

Not something I usually recommend, but you might want to go full-screen on this one. The brand new video for Washington D.C. heavy rockers Borracho‘s “All in Play” was directed by Richard Bomgren, who you might remember as having put together the desert-minded clip for Valley of the Sun‘s “Riding the Dunes.” “All in Play” works with similar methods, playing long and short cuts of breathtaking HD nature footage off each other in time to the music of the eight-plus-minute song.

The chief difference is that with “All in Play,” there’s a progression in the video, gradually pulling away from the earth until, finally, you’ve left it. The song comes off Borracho‘s 2011 full-length debut, Splitting Sky — the gatefold vinyl cover art of which you can see above — and if you haven’t had the chance to check out the band, kick back and enjoy the perfect opportunity to get to know them and see the lava flows and the craters that so perfectly complement their work.

Dig it, followed by an update on the band’s doings, which are manifold:

Capital City fuzz fanatics Borracho today unleash the video for “All In Play” – the follow up to the first single from their debut long player Splitting Sky. The video’s imagery focuses on the elemental nature of the Earth, and provides a scenic backdrop to one of the band’s defining songs. Watch it now on the band’s YouTube channel.

Conceived and created by Richard Bomgren, a fan of the band from the north of Sweden, the new Borracho clip takes viewers on a journey from the center of the Earth, around the globe, and out into space in the span of the eight-and-a-half-minute track. Brilliant, awe-inspiring footage of earth, air, water, fire, and ice collide in glorious high definition with soaring guitars, bombastic rhythms, and gritty vocals, creating an audiovisual experience that must be seen and heard.

The video drops on the eve of the release of a new digital compilation from The Ripple Effect, The Ripple Effect Presents:  Volume One – Head Music, which will feature a live version of “All in Play.” Recorded in Washington, D.C. in December 2011, the live track offers fans who have not had an opportunity to see the band perform live a chance to hear them in their natural setting. The comp will feature a mix of new and more established bands, with previously unreleased tracks being contributed by Devil to Pay, Venomin James, and Black Earth, among many others. Keep your eyes open for its release in the coming weeks.

But that’s not all. Borracho will be appearing at the 12th Stoner Hands of Doom Festival on Sept. 2, 2012, in New London, CT, and will join brothers-in-arms Black Thai for shows in New York and Boston leading up to the festival. These shows mark the first live dates for the band since February, and will include some surprises for fans and newcomers to the band alike. More details on all live performances are below.

08/31 TBD, New York, NY w/ Black Thai, TBC
09/01 O’Brien’s Pub, Allston, MA w/ Black Thai, Fire Faithful, TBC
09/02 The El ‘n Gee Club, New London, CT, Stoner Hands of Doom Festival

Borracho’s website

Borracho on Thee Facebooks

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Ancestors Interview with Justin Maranga: The Tribulations of Forward Motion, Including: To Whom Belongs the City

Posted in Features on June 28th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

I’m a fan of Los Angeles progressive heavy rockers Ancestors, and that’s something for which I make absolutely no apologies. By their own admission, the band is not without their self-indulgences — latest album In Dreams and Time (review here) has plenty — but wherever they go musically, I seem to be willing to follow them. And so far, that’s been an exciting trip. From their 2008 debut, Neptune with Fire, to the beginning shifts heard on the next year’s Of Sound Mind, to the more drastic changes of last year’s Invisible White EP, Ancestors have never failed to, as guitarist/vocalist Justin Maranga succinctly puts it no fewer than 10 times in the interview that follows, “move forward.”

If there’s one thing that I took away from my conversation with Maranga, which was nearly an hour long and among the most cordial interviews I’ve done in some time, it’s that he’s also incredibly passionate about what the band does. Whether he’s speaking about the basslines of Nick Long, the prospect of writing to Daniel Pouliot‘s drums, Jason Watkins‘ vocal melodies, organ and piano, or the loss of Matt Barks‘ Moog/synth to their live incarnation, Maranga discusses Ancestors as one might convey one’s own central passion, because when he speaks about the band, about their progression over the course of the last half-decade and where they might be going, that’s exactly what he’s going.

It was an honest discussion, and not all of it is included here, but the vast, vast majority remained on-record. Maranga opines on their constant battle against the perceptions of others regarding what the band is. He comes right out and says it: People expect Ancestors to be a stoner rock band, and that’s something they’ve never really been since before Neptune with Fire was released, and certainly not something they’ve ever worked toward being. Perhaps more than ever with In Dreams and Time, Ancestors are without if not in open defiance of genre — wearing their influences on their sleeve, perhaps, but nonetheless making that sleeve no more than a part of their total stylistic ensemble. Frankly, I think they’re one of the best bands in America right now, and on a personal level, if you can’t get down, I think it’s your loss.

Maranga talks about dealing with that expectation put on the band, and how Neptune with Fire pigeonholed them into the stoner rock scene almost in spite of what the band had actually moved on to creating by the time it was released, and the melodic focus that led them to create epic In Dreams and Time closer “First Light,” which seems to reconcile every side and sound they’ve presented to the public to date while also pushing ahead into bold, rich, beautiful territory they’ve not yet covered. But always present in the discussion — I hope this is something that comes through in the basic Q&A transcript — is that passion, driving Maranga and informing his approach to everything Ancestors does and has become. The dude means it. No question.

They were among the highlights of my Roadburn experience in 2012 and the album remains one of my favorites of the year so far. I’m sure I’ll have more on it as the next few months and beyond play out, but for now, please find the complete interview with Maranga after the jump, and please enjoy.

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The Brought Low: Live Dates, New Album and Reissue in the Works

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 27th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

The Brought Low. I took this picture. Me. It's not great, but fuck it, it's mine. (Photo by JJ Koczan)In answer to your next question: “Ain’t nothin’ better than The Brought Low live, fool.” I guess that was assuming your next question was, “What’s better than The Brought Low live?” A band The Obelisk rightly calls “the best rock band in New York City” (nice quote, gents), the burg’s most powerful power trio have booked a couple not-to-be-missed Brooklyn shows for July, including a date this coming Sunday with The Sights, who are currently on tour with Tenacious D (I interviewed Jack Black and Kyle Gass for this week’s The Aquarian), and Cropduster and recently reviewed labelmates Mellow Bravo. Sounds like good fun to me, but then again, I’m about as big a sucker for The Brought Low as they come. Maybe there’s a size up. I don’t know.

Also, so you don’t miss out, the band sends along word that they’ve got a new album in the works that’ll be out on the all-around respectable-type Small Stone Records come 2013 and a vinyl reissue slated for this fall for their 2006 label debut, Right on Time. Bad. Ass.

Here there be details on those shows:

07/0 1 Union Hall, Brooklyn w/ The Sights
07/14 The Gutter, Brooklyn w/ Mellow Bravo, Cropduster, Year of Dragon

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On the Radar: Destroyer of Light

Posted in On the Radar on June 27th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

Everything seems to be going as you might expect with the self-titled debut from Austin, Texas, doomly foursome Destroyer of Light, then all of a sudden a background in extreme metal becomes very, very apparent. Guitarist/vocalist Steve Colca keeps an inflection in his clean singing that’s more than a little kin to Karl Simon from The Gates of Slumber and that has its roots in the likes of CandlemassMessiah Marcolin — who did it best even if he didn’t do it first — but then Colca shifts into a vicious growl that’s right out of death metal. He doesn’t use it on every track of the self-released six-song album, but it’s striking when it comes up and if you’re not ready, half the fun (which I’ve just spoiled, I guess) is being caught off guard.

Destroyer of Light formed earlier this year in Austin, and as such, I’d imagine that one single member — be in Colca, guitarist Keegan Kjeldsen, bassist Mark Mars or drummer Penny Turner — is responsible for the songwriting. I’d guess that’s Colca, but I’ve been wrong about that kind of thing before and don’t want to assume. Whichever player it is, they’re obviously schooled in the modern interpretations of the doom of old, and the added element of extremity sits well alongside the riffy groove they craft. There are a few rough patches in the recording, but no doubt it all came together pretty quick, and as a basic demo, the down and dirty, sludgier riff of “Coffin Hunter” still gives a basic impression of what they’re going for stylistically.

And to put a name on it, what they’re going for is doom. Destroyer of Light also have a live recording up on their Bandcamp that’s worth checking out, but the album itself leaves a stronger impression. I might want more effects on the vocals next time out — something about lyrics about virgin sacrifices and all the rest just beg to be drenched in echo — but it seems from the sampling they’ve made available that the band are on the right path. They’re on Thee Facebooks here, and here’s the record if you want to check it out:

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