The Atomic Bitchwax Post Video for “Ice Age”

Posted in Bootleg Theater on February 29th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

the atomic bitchwax

True, The Atomic Bitchwax‘s sixth album, 2015’s Gravitron (review here), hit really hard. A lot of it was all-out, full-on, other-hyphenated-phrases-that-mean-really-fast winding riffage, the New Jersey trio of bassist/vocalist Chris Kosnik, guitarist/vocalist Finn Ryan and drummer Bob Pantella leaving most bands in their dust while also writing catchy, memorable songs. Think that’s easy? Try it.

But the Bitchwax do as the Bitchwax does, and while so much of Gravitron raged ahead with frenetic impact, closer “Ice Age” took a more laid back approach. They never lack for groove either way, but the album’s finishing track recalled some of the band’s more pop-informed fare, like “Wreck You” from 2008’s TAB4 in the unmitigated centrality of its hook, but still fitting with Gravitron‘s vibe overall. They’ve got a new video for “Ice Age” that reminds of how easy it was to get the song stuck in your head.

Actually, on the back of the CD, the song is listed as “Ice Age ‘Hey Baby'” with the “Hey Baby” in double quotes, and the promo I got had it as “Ice Age Hey Baby,” but the video calls it “Ice Age,” and since it’s the band putting it together, I won’t ague. By any other name, it’s still catchy as hell. Both the phrase “ice age” and the phrase “hey baby” get repeated enough either way that you’ll be able to pick up immediately which song it is if you heard the record, and if you didn’t, shit, you’re in for a treat.

Have at it:

The Atomic Bitchwax, “Ice Age” official video

New Jersey’s legendary, riff-centric power trio THE ATOMIC BITCHWAX returns with gargantuan riffs and jaw-dropping psych sonics on its sixth full length LP “GRAVITRON”.

Now featuring TWO members of MONSTER MAGNET – bassist/vocalist Chris Kosnik and drummer Bob Pantella – alongside shred-tastic gunslinger Finn Ryan, the band has perfected its unique style of NYC hard rock that High Times appropriately tabbed, “thunder-boogie.” On Gravitron, THE ATOMIC BITCHWAX’s Rush-like riff mazes and carpal-tunnel-inducing riffs are on full display; every note bleeds with urgency. There’s far too much exuberant energy on the record to lazily tag this as “Stoner Rock”; this is high-octane, ’70s-based hard rock infused with stabs of psychedelia and landslides of Tommy Bolin-inspired guitar heroics ! Gravitron is an A-level masterclass in bad ass Rock’N’ Roll and cements the THE ATOMIC BITCHWAX as an undeniable force in today’s heavy music landscape.

The Atomic Bitchwax on Thee Facebooks

Tee Pee Records

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Boss Keloid Announce New Album Herb Your Enthusiasm Due April 8

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 29th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

boss keloid

UK wall-o-riffers Boss Keloid will issue their sophomore album, the cleverly-titled Herb Your Enthusiasm, on April 8 via Black Bow Records. The band made their debut in 2013 with The Calming Influence of Teeth, and for the new one, they’ve enlisted the helmsmanship of Conan bassist/producer Chris Fielding at Skyhammer Studio. In fact, not only did Fielding record the album, but he and Conan guitarist/vocalist and Skyhammer owner Jon Davis also make guest vocal appearances on tracks. So, you know, not like they’re not giving you a reason to check it out.

There’s a teaser for Herb Your Enthusiasm under the PR wire info and tour dates below. Dig in:

boss keloid herb your enthusiasm

Undoubtedly BOSS KELOID are one of those bands you’ll listen to and keep repeating – ‘What the FUCK have I just listened to?’ Stoner Sludge? Southern Groove? Progressive Doom? Without the need to rip their arses open on a pigeonhole, Boss Keloid have simply ticked all the boxes and got on with making music that embodies their no-holds-barred eclecticism. Body swerving trends and transcending sub genres once again the band are set to release their second album, HERB YOUR ENTHUSIASM, via Black Bow Records on April 8th 2016.

We could chuck all the adjectives in the musical melting pot here and still not come close – Herb Your Enthusiasm is as heavy as it is massive and as filthy as it is passionate. Over the course of 10 colossal tracks you’ll wind your way through a myriad of hypnotic low-slung grooves, hulking riffs, captivating hooks and technical bi-polarcore for an experience that is both viscerally discomforting and invigorating.

Recorded and mixed by Chris Fielding at Skyhammer Studios (Conan, Electric Wizard, Napalm Death) and mastered by James Plotkin (Khanate, Isis, Conan, Palms) the result is an album that embodies originality, invention and unstoppable creative urges throughout.

Having perfected their sound on stages at Riff Fest and Red Sun Festival and with supports for Soulfly, Raging Speedhorn, Gurt and Slabdragger under their belt, as well as a UK tour with Widows, the band are set to spend the rest of 2016 gigging and touring, dates below.

Catch Boss Keloid:
2nd April // Manchester, Rebellion // Noiz All Dayer w/ Sir Admiral Cloudesley Shovell, Steak, Witchsorrow
11th April // Manchester, Star and Garter // Supporting Conan and Bendal Interlude
18th June // Manchester, Rebellion // Rum and Riffs w/ Chubby Thunderous Bad Kush Masters
9th July // Grimsby, Yardbirds // Grimfuzz Doom Festival – Headlining slot w/ Battalions, Regulus, Mastiff
30th July // Stoke, The Rigger // Void Worship All Dayer w/ Garganjua, Wode
26th Aug // London, Camden // w/ Ten Foot Wizard and Chubby Thunderous Bad Kush Masters
27th Aug // Bolton, The Alma // Riff Fest 2016
3rd Oct // Mammothfest 2016 // w/ Conan, Bast, Black Moth

1. Lung Mountain
2. Haarlem Struggle
3. Escapegoat
4. Cone
5. Axis Of Green
6. Highatus
7. Lung Valley
8. Elegant Odyssey
9. Chabal
10. Hot Priest

Additional vocals on Lung Mountain by Jon Davis and Chris Fielding. Additional vocals on Chabal by Jon Davis. Recorded and mixed by Chris Fielding at Skyhammer Studios. Mastered by James Plotkin. All songs written by Boss Keloid. Copyright © Boss Keloid. Artwork by Ben Tolman. Design and layout by Paul Swarbrick. Manufactured and distributed in the UK.

Paul Swarbrick – Guitar
Adam Swarbrick – Bass
Alex Hurst – Vocals
Ste Arands – Drums

Boss Keloid, Herb Your Enthusiasm album teaser

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Spirit Caravan Become The Obsessed; Playing Maryland Doom Fest 2016

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 29th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

the obsessed

A couple weeks ago, Spirit Caravan announced that Brian Costantino was taking over on drums alongside guitarist/vocalist Scott “Wino” Weinrich and bassist/vocalist Dave Sherman. That, apparently, was just the beginning — and actually, it wasn’t the beginning — of the changes underway, since this incarnation of Spirit Caravan has morphed into a new version of The Obsessed, with a new album in the works and a first show slated as headliners of the first night of Maryland Doom Fest 2016. Hard to think of a more appropriate place for them to make their live debut, since Maryland doom wouldn’t exist as it does without them.

To my knowledge, this is the first time Sherman has been in a lineup for The Obsessed. The band has played sporadically since making a reunion debut at Roadburn 2012 (review here), featuring at the time Guy Pinhas, who’d soon be replaced on bass by Reid Raley (Rwake, Deadbird), as well as drummer Greg Rogers, who also featured on Goatsnake‘s reunion album last year.

No word on a release or recording date for the new The Obsessed album, nor the avenue/label through which it will be issued, but Wino posted the following update filling everyone in, and Maryland Doom Fest 2016 has confirmed them taking the place of Spirit Caravan, as you can see in the running order below:

maryland doom fest 2016 poster

This is Wino. First, thanks to all our friends, fans and families everywhere for their tireless support we’ve received on this journey we chose in making the music we love.

All over the world I’ve listened to friends tell me we want you to bring back the Obsessed so I have decided to resurrect the Obsessed.

I have been waiting for the right combination of Ability, Attitude and Personality to accomplish this goal. From this day forward The Obsessed is myself, Dave Sherman and Brian Costantino who have proven to be dedicated, fearless and unwavering in their love of this music.

We are diligently writing and working on getting into the studio to record a new Obsessed album and hope to have this out as soon as possible.

Maryland Doom Fest 2016

• The Obsessed 1235 – 135
• Internal Void 1120 – 1220
• Castle 1020 – 1105
• Ruby The Hatchet 925 – 1005
• Pale Divine 830 – 910
• Demon Eye 735 – 815
• Admiral Browning 645 – 720
• Atala 600 – 630
• Black Urn 515 – 545

• BANG 1235 – 135
• Place of Skulls 1140 – 1220
• Blackfinger 1125 – 1205
• Unorthodox 1030 – 1110
• War Injun 935 – 1015
• Hollow Leg 840 – 920
• Wizard Eye 750 – 825
• Spillage 700 – 735
• Argus 610 – 645
• Serpents of Secrecy520 – 555
• Wicked Inquisition 430 – 505
• Thousand Vision Mist 330 – 410
• Dee Calhoun 245-320

• Mos Generator 1140 – 1245
• Karma To Burn 1045 -1125
• King Giant 950 – 1030
• Wasted Theory 855 – 935
• Orodruin 800 – 840
• Toke 710 – 745
• Eternal Black 620 – 655
• Seasick Gladiator 530 – 605
• Doperider 445 – 515
• Flummox 400 – 430
• Mangog 300 – 340


The Obsessed, “Endless Circles/Lunar Womb” live at Roadburn 2012

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audiObelisk Transmission 056

Posted in Podcasts on February 29th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

Click Here to Download


I wanted this podcast to sound good in headphones, since in all likelihood that’s how I’ll be listening to it. That and keeping it under two hours long were my only standards, everything else was open. What we wound up with was some pretty massive tonality, and where it’s not massive, it’s at very least immersive. A lot of longer-form material. Maybe that’s me making up for missing last month in terms of putting one of these together, but either way, there’s a lot to dig into here, and it’s my hope you’ll do just that.

Some things to watch for: Causa Sui into Atavismo at the start is awesome. Also dig Seedship into Low Flying Hawks into Crippled Black Phoenix. There’s some real density going on during that stretch and I don’t want to say it’s my favorite part of the thing, because I also did the jumps in the middle and the second hour that gets darker as it goes, but it’s pretty solid either way. And by solid I mean fluid. Got it? Solid.

As always, I very much hope you enjoy.

Track details follow:

First Hour:

0:00:00 Causa Sui, “The Source” from Return to Sky
0:06:16 Atavismo, “Haribo” from Split with Grajo
0:11:48 Cultist, “Follow Me” from Three Candles
0:17:22 The Canadian Sweetmen, “New Cigarettes” from Intro b/w New Cigarettes
0:20:22 Beastmaker, “Burnt Offering” from Lusus Naturae
0:23:12 Seedship, “The Condemned Adrift” from Demo 2015
0:31:09 Low Flying Hawks, “Wolves Within Wolves” from Kofuku
0:36:47 Crippled Black Phoenix, “New Dark Age” from New Dark Age
0:50:50 Giobia, “Sun Spectre” from Magnifier

Second Hour:

1:05:44 Hijo de la Tormenta, “Un Mañana Aún Más Glorioso Nos Espera” from El Manto de la Especie
1:18:14 Eight Bells, “Landless” from Landless
1:30:57 Matriarch, “Moonburn” from The 44th Scribe and Lorde of the Hallucinauts

Total running time: 1:55:40


Thank you for listening.

Download audiObelisk Transmission 056


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The Order of Israfel to Release Red Robes May 27

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 29th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

the order of israfel

I’m going to assume that the listed May 27 release date for The Order of Israfel‘s second album, Red Robes, through Napalm Records is the release date for Europe. Napalm usually staggers releases by region, but not by much, so if you’re in the US or elsewhere and it’s not May 27, it’ll likely be somewhere around there. Whenever it shows, it will be the follow-up to the band’s 2014 debut, Wisdom, which found the Gothenburg-based outfit firmly entrenched in classic doom and metal while beginning to stake out their own territory in that space. If you don’t already have enough records to look forward to — and I humbly submit that you don’t — here’s another one for you.

No audio has yet been made public, but the art is pretty sweet, and in all its formats, the album will come with a bonus DVD of the band’s set at Sweden Rock last year, so if you dug the first record, you’ll still new versions of some of those tracks as well. Info follows, as seen on the social medias:

the order of israfel red robes

Ladies and Gentlemen of The Order!

We are very happy to announce that our second album, ‘Red Robes’, will be released via Napalm Records on May 27th. Check out the artwork below, again done by our brilliant friend Henrik Jacobson. It will be available as a double LP and digipack CD. Both versions will include a bonus live DVD of our performance at Sweden Rock 2015.

The track listing reads as follows:

1. Staff In The Sand
2. The Red Robes
3. In Thrall To The Sorceress
4. Swords To The Sky
5. Von Sturmer
6. Fallen Children
7. A Shadow In The Hills
8. The Thirst

Bonus DVD: Live At Sweden Rock Festival 2015

1. The Noctuus
2. The Earth Will Deliver What Heaven Desires
3. On Black Wings, A Demon
4. Promises Made To The Earth
5. Wisdom/Morning Sun (Satanas)

Raise your hammers!

The Order of Israfel, “On Black Wings, a Demon” official video

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Freak Valley 2016: Orange Goblin Added as Headliner

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 29th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

freak valley 2016 new header

Even as I was posting up the news of the last addition to the lineup for Freak Valley 2016, the German fest went ahead and added another band. And not just any other band — the added Orange frickin’ Goblin, who join on as a headliner for the fest, set for the end of May in Netphen. The UK doom lords join the ranks of Graveyard and Dead Meadow, and will no doubt provide ample riot fodder as they always do, having marked their 20th anniversary last year. You can see a clip from their annual holiday tour for “Acid Trial” below. They kill. It’s just what they do.

Any night they show up, that’s a good night. And they always show up. Freak Valley 2016 had this to say on the subject:

orange goblin freak valley 2016

We are thrilled to announce the return of one of our favourite Freak Valley bands! British heavy metal overlords ORANGE GOBLIN will play an exclusive headliner show at FREAK VALLEY FESTIVAL 2016

Heavy Metal is not just about music: it’s a way of life, a motivating mind-set, a positive force and an inspirational belief system. It’s the most exciting, life-affirming noise that exists on this planet of ours, and London’s indestructible masters of the furious form are Orange Goblin. Not just the UK’s reigning champions of balls-out, party-starting, booze-fuelled metal, but one of the very best live rock bands of all time, the mighty Goblin have been a permanent and universally admired fixture on the British metal circuit for the past 20 years.

Inspired by the gods of hard rock, heavy metal, punk rock and underground extremity, from Sabbath, Motörhead and Thin Lizzy through to Celtic Frost, Danzig and Black Flag, Orange Goblin were initially seen as major contenders amid the mid-90s stoner rock explosion, but it soon became apparent that this band had much more up their collective wizard’s sleeve than red-eyed boogie and flapping flares. In fact, over the course of their roller coaster career, the band have proved themselves to be one of the most consistent and persistent forces in modern heavy music, amassing a catalogue of albums that rivals anything released during the same period.

But it is as a live band that Orange Goblin have founded their formidable reputation. Long renowned as skilled crowd-pleasers and party masters, the band have toured all over the world and shared stages with countless big names, including Alice Cooper, Black Sabbath, Sex Pistols, Down, Queens Of The Stone Age, Dio, Monster Magnet and many more. They have headlined sell-out shows at New York’s revered CBGB’s, Los Angeles’ notorious Troubadour and the legendary Underworld in Camden, London. They have also blown fields full of minds at such prestigious festivals as Sonisphere, Download, Hellfest, Bloodstock Open Air, Roadburn, Dynamo, Maryland Death Fest and High Voltage. An Orange Goblin show is a guaranteed good time…all you need to do is get the beers in, prepare your neck muscles for maximum punishment and surrender to the sound of a grand heavy metal institution letting rip at full throttle.

A lean, mean hard rocking’ machine…the eight-legged tag team of frontman Ben Ward, bassist Martyn Millard, guitarist Joe Hoare and drummer Chris Turner have reached a new peak of creativity and one-two-fuck-you intensity on ‘A Eulogy For The Damned’. This is the album that deftly encapsulates everything that is exhilarating and admirable about this most dedicated and humble of British metal wrecking crews and that deserves to propel Orange Goblin to the front of the British metal queue. They’re back and the party is starting all over again. Whose round is it??

FREAK VALLEY FESTIVAL – 26th-27th-28th May 2016

FVF 2016 is SOLD OUT!!

Freak Valley Festival: No Fillers – Just Killers

Line-up 2016:
GRAVEYARD [SW] – Vintage Rock
ORANGE GOBLIN [UK] – Heavy Metal
DEAD MEADOW [US] – Psychedelic Stonerrock
SPIDERGAWD [NO] – Post-Boogie
WHITE HILLS [US] – Fuzzed Out Motorik Psychedelic
THE SHRINE [US] – Psychedelic Violence Rock and Roll
BABY WOODROSE [DK]- Psychedelic Garagerock
LONELY KAMEL [NO]- Heavy Blues, Hardrock & Stoner
ROTOR [D] – Instrumental StonerRock/Psychedelic
MONOLORD [SW] – Doom/Sludge
MANTAR [D] – Death Metal Doom Punk
TOUNDRA [SP] – Postrock
FARFLUNG [US] – Spacerock for 21st Century Heads
THE GOLDEN GRASS [US]- Heavy/Funk//Psych/Freakbeat
SPIDERS [SW] – Hard/Glam Rock
LÉ BETRE [SW] – Bluesy Hardrock
GIÖBIA [IT] – Acid Rock
THE SONIC DAWN [DK] – Psychedelic Rock
…more tba very soon

Orange Goblin, “Acid Trial” live in Wolverhampton, Dec. 3, 2015

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Psycho Las Vegas Announces New Lineup Additions

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 28th, 2016 by JJ Koczan


Goodness gracious. Here I was minding my business on a Sunday night and Psycho Las Vegas went and more than doubled the size of its lineup, adding Uncle Acid, Elder, Converge, Wovenhand, Boris, The Black Heart Procession, Budos Band, Dead Meadow, SubRosa, Midnight, Disenchanter, Lumerians, Tombstones, ASG, Death Alley, Ides of Gemini, Goya, Dirty Streets, Crypt Sermon, Mantar, Gozu, Beelzefuzz, Lo-Pan, Holy Grove, CHRCH, Carousel and more. Not like the fest wasn’t huge already, but big bands, small bands, in-between bands, European bands, Asian bands, West Coast bands, East Coast bands — pretty much if it falls under the category of “bands,” they’re probably playing. And by way of a friendly reminder, this isn’t it. As you can see in the lineup below, there are more announcements to come next month.

Just look at this insane shit:

psycho las vegas poster


Psycho Entertainment
Friday, August 26, 2016 at 12:00 PM – Sunday, August 28, 2016 at 12:00 AM (PDT)
Las Vegas, NV

(Announced March 3rd)
(Announced March 3rd)
SPENCER MOODY SOLO (Murder City Devils)

Psycho Pool Party 8.25.16

Join the bands and crew at the Hard Rock Hotel & use the code: Psych16 at checkout to recieve 30% off your rooms.

1/20 – “Warm up” Tickets Onsale 8am pst
2/14 – Full Lineup (60+ acts)
3/15 – Headliners Revealed
5/4 – Van/Chopper & Alt Exhibitions

Sleep, Live at Psycho California, May 16, 2015

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Total Coverage: Borderland Fuzz Fiesta Night Two, Tucson, Arizona, 02.27.16

Posted in Features, Reviews on February 28th, 2016 by JJ Koczan


Another night on the Southwestern front. What portion of the day I hadn’t spent writing, I spent huddled up in a tired mass, the hotel curtain drawn to keep out a punishingly hot desert sun. My excuse was I was saving energy for the show, but I think really I might’ve just been afraid of melting in unfamiliar terrain. Before I rolled back into 191 Toole for the second night of Borderland Fuzz Fiesta 2016, I walked through a little bit of downtown Tucson — or what seemed to be downtown Tucson, anyhow — and grabbed a cup of coffee and an iced tea.

People outside, in shorts, enjoying the weather and each other’s company. Sitting outside of restaurants and markets, speaking English, Spanish, some mixture of the two. Awesome. Families with babies, couples, singles, loners, and me and my coffee lumbering back toward 6th St. Doors were 6:30, first band 7PM. I found fest organizers Joey and Wayne Rudell of Fuzz Evil near the back of the venue in a conversational round with much the same group as yesterday as bands were making their way in. Immediately it was more crowded than night one had been, and only became more so as bands swapped back and forth between the floor and the main stage.

That process was smoother than it had been on the first night of the fest, somewhat expectedly, but I think a big part of that was that everyone showed up. No food poisoning. So it was easier to get a sense of what Wayne and Joey — both sociable, friendly, gracious guys, but with different enough personalities that one imagines they could’ve had some real knock-down-drag-outs as kids — were going for in structuring the lineup, moving from the desert to crunchier fare and finally out among spaces so vast that they might as well be space itself. We’ll get there.

Once again, the show featured the fantastic talents of Lance Gordon and Mad Alchemy. Things seen and heard:

Sounds Like Murder

sounds like murder 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Each night of Borderland Fuzz Fiesta 2016 featured two bands from Arizona. Phoenix trio Sounds Like Murder lead off the second night of the fest with gritty metallic push. Sounds more like riffs than murder, but they got their point across. Vocalist/bassist Dirty had the low-garble vocal thing going, and he wouldn’t be the last of the night, and could barely be understood talking between songs — in my head I heard David Huddleston call it “authentic frontier gibberish” — but while much of their output came from the post-Down school of dudely chug, they had some funk in their opener that showed there was more going on under the surface. That may have come via Clutch, it was hard to tell from the stage, but either way, the place was more crowded early and the Southern style Sounds Like Murder proffered effectively foreshadowed Switchblade Jesus‘ set later on and Dirty, guitarist Irish Mike and drummer Opie had a strong idea of what they were going for, even going so far as to add some throat singing at the end of “1340,” which was a genuine surprise.

Dandy Brown

dandy brown 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

A quick swap in vibe brought up Dandy Brown, guitarist for Hermano, playing with a solo band. A double-guitar four-piece who would share bassist Damien Lautiero with Waxy later on, they ran through a set of fluid desert rock, brought a crowd with them, and emphasized quality songcraft from the very start in swaps between restraint and letting go. Brown himself seemed right at home in classic structures, familiar but not necessarily derivative, and his and the other guitar meshed fluidly throughout the songs, also adding backup vocals on “The Sleeper.” While they were still playing, I wondered if they had records for sale — even better, turned out they had CDs for free; I grabbed two — and though they didn’t have time to get to their planned cover of Floyd‘s “Astronomy Domine,” that spirit came through nonetheless. In front of the stage, kids played while wearing earmuffs, giving the set even more of a wholesome feel as Brown worked in his John Garcia-style croon and the righteously laid back feel of “Santa Fe Trail” before new song “This World” finished out. Hermano reportedly have new stuff in the works, following up on 2007’s underrated Into the Exam Room, but whenever/whether it comes to fruition, that spirit was served and represented well at Borderland Fuzz Fiesta 2016.

Cloud Catcher

cloud catcher 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Denver trio Cloud Catcher damn near ran away with this entire festival. I mean it. I dug the hell out of their debut album, Enlightened Beyond Existence (discussed here and here), and was thrilled to find that the live delivery was no less vigorous. Guitarist/vocalist Rory Rummings, bassist Kam Wenworth and drummer Jared Handman were only on the second night of an 11-show tour, but they were air tight through upbeat twists and tempo changes, dead on grooves culled from ’70s giants transposed onto thick tones and shredding leads, propulsive crash and rumble. When they’re done with this tour, they’ll record a new album — exactly the right time to do it — which they should send everywhere, because frankly I can’t imagine some label wouldn’t want to pick them up based on what I heard. They posted a demo for “Celestial Empress” last month, and that song was aired along with “Visions” and others from the forthcoming release. Watching the crowd have its ass handed to it, I couldn’t help but hope they expand their geographic reach for the sophomore LP, because while Cloud Catcher had the West Coast heavy thing down, set-finale “Righteous Ruin” shifted from its twists and turns into a big, bluesy slowdown that showed they’re bringing even more of themselves to the table. Hands were up for high fives before they even finished playing the song, and rightly so.


waxy 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

By the time Waxy — the Palm Desert-dwelling trio of guitarist/vocalist Robbie Owen. Damien Lautiero and drummer Jeff Bowman (Unsound) — took the stage, the momentum of the night was set. Borderland Fuzz Fiesta 2016 was moving quickly, but smoothly, and Waxy would follow-up on the desert stylizations of Dandy Brown with more solidly constructed desert rock, delving into an earlier Queens of the Stone Age vibe, which of course is nothing to complain about. Their latest album, Without Any Explanation Why (get it? W-A-X-Y?), was released in 2014, and “Motorcade” from it (also from their 2007 debut, Chainsaw Holiday) was a highlight, richly toned and catchy in a Kyuss-style mid-paced push. Laid back until they weren’t, they effectively switched up moods while keeping a steady flow throughout, Lautiero backing Owen effectively despite being a little low in the mix at first. That got worked out as they went on toward “Disaster” from their 2011 self-titled second record, which of course was anything but, as they provided a last look at the desert before the evening dipped into harder-edged fare. I don’t know if they’re planning a new release, but they were an easy sell for the crowd, myself included.


blackwulf 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Back on the floor stage, Oakland aggro punk-metallers Blackwülf boasted both the weekend’s only umlaut and the weekend’s only standalone frontman (apart from Sean Wheeler guesting in Fatso Jetson) in Alex Cunningham, and even he had a tambourine and some maracas on-hand. They made their Ripple Music debut late last year with Oblivion Cycle (review here), their second offering overall, from which the hook of “Never Forget” stood out thanks in no small part to its fist-pumping riff. Guitarist Pete Holmes, bassist Scott Peterson and drummer Dave Pankenier fostered a tense vibe under Cunningham‘s shouts, sneers and singing, but wanted nothing for tonal heft either in “Faith Healer” or “Acid Reign,” the creeping guitar progression of which felt less “South of Heaven” live than on record. Their set seemed to end abruptly. Not sure if they got cut off for time or were just done quick — seemed like some acts played it looser than others when it came to how much time they spent on stage, as will happen — but it felt short, which I took as an encouraging sign either way. Everything they played came from Oblivion Cycle, and in addition to the accent in their name and the lack of a guitar or bass in Cunningham‘s hands, they were also distinguished by being clearly the angriest band of the fest. They won the title outright, and then, presumably, stomped on it because they were so pissed off.

Switchblade Jesus

switchblade jesus 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Blackwülf may have been the angriest band of the two nights, but Switchblade Jesus I think were the loudest. I didn’t have a dB meter to confirm that or anything, but god damn, the Corpus Christi, Texas-based four-piece were loud. Most notably in Jason Beers‘ bass. The punch of his Gibson Thunderbird came through the 191 Toole room mix in full assault, and the effect was that the dual guitars of Billy Guerra (who played on the dark side of the stage) and Eric Calvert (also vocals) sounded viscous as they conjured dudely chug, nasty and grooving. Burl. All the burl. Songs about whiskey. Drummer Jon Elizondo, encased in shadow behind Calvert, served as the foundation on which all of it was laid, and to go along with “The Wolves” and “Sick Mouth” from their 2013 self-titled debut (review here), which was subsequently reissued via both Kozmik Artifactz and Ripple Music in 2014 and 2015, they had a host of new material in “Snakes,” “Bastard,” the plus-sized nod of “Wet Lungs” and closer “Mountain” to show where they’re at now. Their cap was preceded by Calvert asking the crowd “You want it heavy or what?” The answer was clear as they brought it for “Mountain,” its rolling chorus sure to catch attention when their next record shows up.

Fuzz Evil

fuzz evil 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Before Fuzz Evil started their set proper, brothers Wayne Rudell and Joey Rudell — also the showrunners for Borderland Fuzz Fiesta — took a couple minutes for a guitar and bass jam. Drummer Marlin Tuttle seemed to have loaned some drum hardware to Switchblade Jesus, so the changeover wasn’t as immediate, and while they may have just been filling time noodling, that jam came to inform everything they played thereafter, resulting in a much more psychedelic set than I expected from either their 2015 single “Born of Iron” (streamed here) or prior 2014 split with Chiefs, both of which were more straightforward. That surprise made it for me. It was a thrill to see Joey, his machine-gun bass held aloft, and Wayne, his guitar coated in tone worthy of the band’s name, work side by side to carry across a set of mostly new material. As to when they might get around to a full-length debut, they weren’t forthcoming, but I’ll hope they capture some of that impromptu spirit, because as it blended with their established penchant for fuzzy hooks and driving, straightforward songs — see the swinging “Glitterbones” — it made their time on stage that much richer to experience. They moved the progression of the evening away from the burl of Switchblade Jesus and provided a transition into Yawning Man still to come, but more than that, they gave the assembled crowd, which included Dead Meadow, who showed up to watch, a set worthy of headliners while at the same time not being afraid to smile onstage and actively have a good time. Mirroring their start, they ended with an effects-drenched jam, Wayne twisting pedal knobs while Joey and Marlin held the flow together, so that in addition to having put on a killer show, Fuzz Evil put on a killer show. Go figure.

Yawning Man

yawning man 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I’ve been fortunate enough to see Yawning Man before (review here), so in a conceptual sense I knew what was coming, but until I stood there and had the bliss of tone provided by the guitars of Gary Arce and special guests Mario Lalli and Dino von Lalli (both Fatso Jetson) oozing forth from the stage, I don’t think I really had any idea. All three were recognizable, clear in the mix — which, taken with the keys of Malene Arce (also LewdFlesh), the bass of Justine Summer Heaven and Bill Stinson‘s cymbal wash, felt like a friggin’ miracle — and each added something different, Dino holding down rhythms, Mario tearing into leads and Gary finger-plucking strings to emit serenity through his years-in-the-making tone, as signature to the desert as sand and dry air. Long a power trio, as a six-piece, Yawning Man bordered on orchestral, and while parts were definitely recognizable, a good portion of their time was spent moving into, through and back out of open jamming, keys adding to the airy feel and Stinson and Heaven and sometimes Dino marking out a rhythmic terrain and holding firm while Arce and Mario traded adventurous leads. It was glorious. Liquid enough that you wanted to swim in it, warm enough that you wanted to get a sunburn, and raw and creatively vital. Glances from Arce and Mario guided the band through peaks and valleys in new song “Wind Cries Linn” (streamed here), its core guitar lines memorable and built outward on stage, and “Dark Meet” from the band’s 2013 split with Fatso Jetson was the foundation for an extended final jam, Dino keeping a start-stop rhythm line that gave a progressive, languid space rock vibe. The crowd had thinned out by then, but those who remained knew they were seeing and hearing something special. Yawning Man carried that jam up, down and around again, deconstructing it only to put it together again, Mario pulling an ebow out of his pocket and Bill leaning his whole body into his cymbals, which seemed to have moved somewhat away from where they started out. As the four-piece of Gary and Malene Arce, Heaven and Stinson, Yawning Man will reportedly have a new EP out this year, and I can’t wait to hear what spaces they explore next. Like Dead Meadow the night before, they closed out Borderland Fuzz Fiesta 2016 on an otherworldly note and offered a prime example of why they’re so often given the “legend” tag.

When they were done, I hung around for a few minutes to say a couple goodnights and thank yous, so I’ll do the same here. First, to Wayne and Joey Rudell, without whose support and efforts this trip simply wouldn’t have happened. Thanks also to The Patient Mrs. for her coordinating prowess, to Todd Severin, Randy Blood, Bucky Brown, Mark Aceves, Rory Rummings, Mario and Dino Lalli, Gary Arce and everyone else I was lucky enough to hang out with over this weekend.

In a few minutes, I’ll get the hell out of this hyper-pretentious, Mickey Mouse reggae coffee shop and head to see some desert before I go to the airport. My flight is 11:30PM tonight and puts me into Boston at 6AM, gaining two hours back in the return to Eastern time. I’m looking forward not necessarily to getting back to real life — from which I think I needed a respite even more than I understood — but to seeing The Patient Mrs. and the Little Dog Dio, and that’s enough to get me home.

Thank you for reading. This has been an unreal experience and wouldn’t have happened without your support.

More pics after the jump.

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