Friday Full-Length: Truckfighters, Mania

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 18th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

 

It was a put-up-or-shut-up moment for Sweden’s Truckfighters. Time to show who they really were going to be as a band and what their impact would be over the longer term. Their 2005 debut, Gravity X (discussed here), had certainly produced its share of memorable tracks, including “Gweedo-Weedo,” “Manhattan Project,” “Gargarismo” and its essential leadoff, “Desert Cruiser,” which over the years since would become the band’s signature piece. But 2007’s Phi seemed to be in an awkward place, with the Örebro three-piece adding a second guitarist in an experiment that ultimately wouldn’t last. It had been more than five years since they got their start on a split with bassist/vocalist Oskar Cedermalm‘s prior band, Firestone (discussed here), and as with so many third albums, it was time for Truckfighters to determine the direction they wanted their material to manifest.

On some level, conscious or not, they must have known it, because 2009’s Mania (review here) meets the formidable task before it in a way that’s nothing if not head-on. It’s the release by which I’ve judged every Truckfighters release since, and a significant standard to which a record might live up, taking the fuzz and memorable hooks of Gravity X and the somewhat moodier vibe of Phi and bringing them together is a way that showed heavy rock did not have to just be one thing. It didn’t just have to be out there, cruising in the desert. It could be progressive, heavy and energetic all at the same time. It could be richly melodic. It could be weighted and contemplative feeling. And in a quick turn, it could be fun, catchy, and nonetheless clear in its intention to engage the listener. With ManiaCedermalm, guitarist Niklas Källgren and then-drummer Oscar “Pezo” Johansson solidified Truckfighters‘ sound around something that could grow in multiple directions, and thereby helped set the stage for what’s come after, both from them and from a generation of heavy rockers who’ve worked to some degree or other under their influence.

It’s debatable whether Truckfighters‘ greater contribution to heavy rock has been on stage or in the studio. Largely self-recorded and self-released, their fuzzy tones have become a signature that’s recognizable in their work as well as in plenty of other acts, but what they do live is perhaps even more immediately striking. Cedermalm and Källgren, as the two founders and essential figures in the band, have a reputation for onstage physicality that is well earned, and I’ve seen them play sets that look as much like an aerobic workout as an artistic performance. Not every band can or wants to do that, of course, but Europe over the last decade has seen a boom of similarly-inclined heavy rock delivery, in the UK, in Germany, in Greece and elsewhere, and certainly Truckfighters have toured enough in that time — including in North America — to spread their influence across borders.

truckfighters mania

But Mania is also dynamic in a way that extends to being more than just a vehicle for a band to run back and forth and jump off drum risers while they play. Songs like the closer “Blackness,” the relatively mellow but still hooky leadoff “Last Curfew” and most especially the 13-minute “Majestic” and the later “Con of Man” actively, willfully push the Truckfighters sound and style to places it hadn’t yet been, reaching a new level of accomplishment as a result. This happened at the same time the early, drum-led “Monte Gargano” reconfirmed their desert rock mindset, and the subsequent “The New High” acted as a bridge from one side to another ahead of the arrival of “Majestic,” still relatively early in Mania‘s eight-song/50-minute run. The album sets up a back-and-forth dynamic, really from the start but especially from “Majestic” onward, that sees them push and pull between more straight-ahead fare and proggier impulses.

“Majestic” — which every bit lives up to its title via a sprawl the band has tried multiple times to recapture — and “Con of Man” are separated by the four-minute “Monster,” which emerges on revisit as a kind of lost standout. Surely overwhelmed by the sweep of what comes directly before and after, as nearly anything would be, its foundation in acoustic and electric guitar blend is itself a forward step for Truckfighters, and Cedermalm‘s laid back vocal there sets gives the song an all the more sunshiny vibe, only emphasizing the contrast in the severity of “Con of Man,” thereby enhancing the effect of both cuts on the audience. This, as well as the penultimate “Loose” — which seems like a direct answer stylistically and thematically to “Desert Cruiser” and is the shortest inclusion at 3:44 — bring a lightness to the end of Mania to keep it from taking itself too seriously. They remind that, hey, we’re all here to have a good time, and speak to a breadth in Truckfighters‘ songcraft that they’ve continued to develop in the years since.

It would be four years before they’d release anything else, but much of that time was spent touring. They came to America for the first time. They had a documentary made about them in 2012. They were on the road again and again in Europe, helping lead the charge of a booming underground heavy festival scene that continues to develop. An EP, The Chairman (discussed here), arrived in 2013, followed the next year by the Universe LP (review here) that seemed to pick up where Mania left off and present Truckfighters‘ growth as an ongoing process, and of course, more heavy road work. A licensing deal through their Fuzzorama Records imprint with Century Media resulted in wider distribution for 2016’s (review here), and they complemented that with the self-released Live in London (review here) that same year, courting controversy as well for their video for “Calm Before the Storm” (discussed here) from the V album. After weathering that and yet more touring, they announced a “long, long” hiatus in 2018 that lasted just about a year before they got back together and decided to hit the road playing Gravity X in full. “You can’t escape from what you are,” their statement said at the time, seeming almost resigned to the fact. Fair enough.

Whatever happens with, to or for them next, Mania 10 years later still holds up as a high point of their output to-date. I won’t take anything away from their other studio releases, but no question this was a special moment, and in a put-up-or-shut-up scenario, they every bit exceeded all expectations and helped reshape what fuzz rock could be.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

That it? Is the week done? Is it ever really over? Nah, not these days.

Whatever.

Life with The Toddlerian Pecan — this strange pain-in-the-ass alien who’s replaced the gorgeous chubby-cheeked baby who was my son mere months ago — continues to provide an assortment of thrills and spills. The Patient Mrs. has had to work all week, as one will when one has, you know, a job — she gotta bring home that bacon to support my ever-expanding blogger-ass — and so it’s been me and him. Me vs. him. I forfeit. He wins. I used to say that if I died in the house by myself, I was cool with The Little Dog Dio eating my face to survive. I don’t know in what scenario it ever would’ve happened like that, but you know, yeah. Well, I’m pretty sure The Pecan is getting ready to eat my face while I’m still alive and then cha-cha-cha stompy-foot dance on my exposed skull. Laughing his adorable laugh all the while.

I’ve never done heroin, but I imagine that laugh is what it’s like.

So it was that kind of week. Especially yesterday morning, which was h-a-r-d. I know I’m not exactly doing the world a favor by having a kid in the first place. Great. One more white dude. That’s bound to make everything better. But man, some days it sure feels like I’m doing him a favor by not opening the door and telling him to go live in the woods. You like squirrels so damn much? Off you go!

He’d go, too. Probably build himself a treehouse, the little fucker.

He’s not yet two. That’s next week.

So. So, so, so.

Speaking of next week, I think I’m gonna go see The Well at the Vitus Bar on Wednesday. Could stand to get out for a bit, and that’s probably just enough traffic to set me right. Also look for reviews of the new Om live LP, an interview with Colour Haze about their new LP (that’s on Monday), a premiere of The Lone Madman and a review of the new Year of the Cobra. That’s your week, right there. I’m sure there will be other stuff. I can’t seem to get through laying out a week on a Friday lately without something changing that day.

Today, for example, my initial plan was the Ogre stream. Then the Bible Black Tyrant premiere came together. Fine. Then last night, the Via Vengeance premiere came together last-minute. Well, okay. So yeah. One day, three premieres, six posts, one of which is this already-gone-on-too-long chicanery. Call it madness, because it is.

Ah shit, Pecan’s awake. 6:20, for the record. I got up at 4, as ever.

Real life.

Not that fake life.

Real life.

Great and safe weekend. Forum and radio. I swear there’s new merch coming soon.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

The Obelisk shirts & hoodies

Tags: , , , , ,

Via Vengeance Premiere “Haunt” Video; Diestractions from the Truth Preorders Available Today

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 18th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

via vengeance
Next time you want to piss off your autocorrect, try sending a text about the new Via Vengeance record, which has been dubbed Diestractions from the Truth and is due out Nov. 15 through Salt of the Earth Records. Preorders are open as of noon Eastern today from the label, and to mark the occasion, Shane Ocell, who comprises the entirety of the lineup, has a new video premiering for “Haunt,” which is also the first audio to be made public from the album. The title, carrying that implication likening distractions and death, isn’t the first instance of Ocell (who also drums for Sorxe) using that particular wordplay; Via Vengeance‘s 2007 debut, Dieography, was the project’s only release until 2016’s also-aptly-named Harsh Conditions, which, rest assured, had its own body count going by the time it got to closer “In the End Nothing Goes to Waste.” Fair enough. I don’t think you start a one-man sludge band unless you have a few things to get off your chest.

And Via Vengeance is a solo outfit in the truest sense. I’ve never seen him live, but by all accounts, Ocell handles via vengeance bannerit all on stage, drums, vocals, guitar, and the ethic would seem to extend to the studio as well. Can you hear the difference on a recording? I don’t know. What would “Haunt” sound like with a full band instead of one person doing it all? Maybe it’d be a huge difference. Maybe it’d be no different at all. Point is he’s doing it, so that’s what you get live and on the LP.

You can see a bit of it in the video — or at least the second half of it. For the first minute-plus, Ocell toys with the notion of there being multiple members of the band, wearing a couple different disguises as he separately plays drums and guitar and sings. The swap happens at 1:23 and for the rest of the 3:14 clip you can see Ocell holding a drum stick in between his ring finger and pinky while strumming his guitar to the rhythm of his own making and yelling out verse lines to top the march. As compared to Harsh Conditions, there’s a general uptick in production value and his shouts seem more noise rock than the gutturalism of the last album, but I wouldn’t necessarily expect “Haunt” to speak for the entirety of Diestractions from the Truth either, though I won’t argue with the first impression it makes.

Premiere is below, followed by the preorder link.

Enjoy:

Via Vengeance, “Haunt” official video premiere

VIA VENGEANCE
“Diestractions From The Truth”
(VINYL / CD / Digital Download)
Release Date: 11/15/19

Preorders Start Today!!
**Friday (10/18) @ 12 PM (Eastern)**
www.SaltOfTheEarthRecords.com

From the deepest recesses and abstract corners of Shane Ocell’s (Sorxe) mind comes A one man juggernaut of unbridled heaviness…prepare to have your senses altered as the bar of creativity is raised to new heights. This is audio warfare.

The unrelenting Phoenix AZ based Sludge band known as VIA VENGEANCE was formed in 2006 by Shane Ocell with exploring the concept of being a one-man Sludge band being the ultimate mission… And he has been crushing solo ever since.

VIA VENGEANCE use no loops and Shane records all his tracks while playing both guitar and drums simultaneously. Combining both a finesse and a reckless audio abandon that must be heard, and felt to truly appreciate.

Via Vengeance on Thee Facebooks

Via Vengeance on Instagram

Via Vengeance website

Salt of the Earth Records on Thee Facebooks

Salt of the Earth Records website

Tags: , , , , ,

PH Post “Origo” Artwork Video; Osiris Hayden Due Nov. 1

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 15th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

ph

Peel open your brain and embrace the Hayden. An artwork-based video is the most appropriate outlet for PH at this stage in their seemingly ongoing evolution. As the Finnish atmospheric heavy experimentalists prepare the ground for the Nov. 1 Svart Records release of their new album, Osiris Hayden (review here), rife with cinematic soul-stirring synth, electronic soundscaping and a vague sense of futurism that’s neither u- nor dystopian, they’ve got a duly purple clip up for “Origo,” the nine-minute highlight/focal point of the offering and arguably its deepest plummet into the depths of weighted ambience. PH — also known as Mr. Peter Hayden at their outset — have never been a group to compromise their creative impulses, and their path has led them continually outward into climes (and climbs) both weirder and more gloriously spaced. In that regard, Osiris Hayden fits right in with the bunch.

So is this the part where I warn you about flashing lights and stuff like that? Oh, most definitely. “Origo” isn’t the most visually abrasive, by any means, but if you’re particularly sensitive to such things, you’re going to want to watch out. Still, it’s hard to imagine a song like this presented another way. It wouldn’t work as a band-in-rehearsal-space video, or even live unless it was done with some kind of visual twist maybe, but what the artwork clip allows PH to do is remove the human element from the creation itself and focus instead on the sound and atmosphere of the track, letting that shine through as what really matters and give their audience in some way a purer glimpse at the work than they might otherwise get. With the sense of immersion that “Origo” brings, it becomes all the more visually hypnotic as the pink/purple and black swap in rapid succession around the logo that has also become the band’s moniker, PH, as seen in the photo above. These guys have spent the last decade out on their own wavelength. With Osiris Hayden, they sound more at home there than ever before.

Dig into “Origo” on the player below. Preorder links for the record, live dates in suitably reverse-future order and further PR wire whatnot follow.

Please enjoy:

PH, “Origo” official video

Visual video for ‘Origo’ on Svart Records’ Youtube channel. Audio available on Spotify and other digital platforms. ‘Osiris Hayden’ album to be released on November 1st on LP/CD via Svart Records.

Pre-orders available at:
Svart Records: https://bit.ly/2kqyRdN
Levykauppa Äx: https://bit.ly/2lZ2Qdi
Shiny Beast: https://bit.ly/2m534PX
Bandcamp: https://bit.ly/2m0GeJz

Upcoming live shows:
December 13th, On the Rocks, Helsinki
December 6th, Bar 15, Seinäjoki
December 5th, Suistoklubi, Hämeenlinna
November 21st, Henry’s Pub Kuopio, Kuopio

PH on Thee Facebooks

PH on Instagram

Svart Records website

Svart Records on Thee Facebooks

Tags: , , , , ,

Friday Full-Length: Bang, Bang

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 11th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

 

Of course, the 1972 self-titled outing from Philadelphia power trio Bang is one of any number of releases in its era living in a long shadow cast by Black Sabbath, but in listening to a tracks like “Come with Me” and “Our Home,” the three-piece may have been a couple years ahead of the reality masters at their own game in terms of sound. The overall affect of the eight-track/34-minute LP is raw in its sound even in its various reissue incarnations, but the tones of guitarist Frankie Gilcken and bassist Frank Ferrara are a little more Sabbath-circa-’75 than they are Sabbath-circa-’72, and Ferrara‘s vocals — with backing from Gilcken and lyrics by drummer Tony Diorio — are more malleable than even Ozzy at his ’74-’76 era peak as a singer. But the working class sensibility behind early heavy rock and what one might now consider proto-metal bled into Bang‘s riffs and even the mood of a wistful cut like “Last Will” — its hook, “Happy people make their way through the world every day/Saddened people they can’t seem to find their way across that rejected line” s standout chorus rightly leaned on — draws from it. Recorded after the then-shelved 1971 concept LP, Death of a Country, and released as their debut the same year as its follow-up, Mother/Bow to the King, Bang‘s Bang has long been considered the band’s defining statement and a landmark of the original era of underground heavy rock and roll.

Imagine it’s 1972 and you’re one of three kids from Philly just signed to Capitol Records and they send you down to Miami to record with producer Michael Sunday, who’s just a couple years off working with Blue Cheer on their 1969 self-titled, and engineer Carl Richardson, who’d just had a hand in CactusRestrictions the year before. True, their confidence might’ve been shaken by having their first recording shelved, but still. One shudders to think of the amount of cocaine and who the hell knows what else might’ve been consumed at Criteria Studios, but whether the answer there is “all of it,” “none” or somewhere in between, the fact remains that nothing gets in the way of the songs on Bang. Like the logo on the front cover that would in itself become iconic over the course of the decade since it first appeared, the tracks that comprise Bang stand the test of time because of their inherent structure and the vitality with which they’re presented by the band. Late-arriving singles “Questions” and “Redman” — which is a word that I’m not even comfortable typing, honestly — reinforce this notion at the end of side B, but one need look no further than the opening salvo of the riffy, strutting “Lions, Christians” and the swing-happy “The Queen” to figure it out: This is prime ’70s heavy that has in no small way helped shape the definition thereof. Whether it’s Diorio‘s fills on “The Queen” or Ferrara‘s out-for-a-walk bassline on the prior opener, Bang are not shy about their intent and neither should they be. In answering their label’s call for something more straightforward to be released as their first album, they went back and wrote nothing less than a handful of classics.

bang bang

Go ahead and add the aforementioned quieter “Last Will” and the subsequent chug of “Come with Me” to that list as well, and really, when you factor in side B’s mega-hook in “Our Home” and the nodder riff of “Future Shock,” there isn’t a clunker in the bunch on the LP. “Future Shock” in particular emphasizes something Bang did exceptionally well even among their peers of the day in bringing together Gilcken, Ferrara and Diorio around a deceptively mid-paced groove. It would seem that, of the various lessons the three-piece took from Black Sabbath, that pace plays a role in dictating heaviness was not at all forgotten. “Questions” is more uptempo and thus makes a fitting single (it charted, so fair enough) and “Come with Me” would seem to be about as close to frenetic as Bang got, but though hardly subdued, “The Queen” maintains an overarching groove that’s still laid back despite being pushed along so fervently by the drums, and the same is true of the closer as well, and the brightness of the chorus melody there and in “Our Home” lends Bang a positive sensibility that even some of its moodier aspects in “Last Will” don’t undercut anymore than they mean to. It’s not as dynamic as some of the work they’d do later in their career, but Bang only thrives for the energy captured in a formative moment for the band.

Again, they’d follow it up with Mother/Bow to the King the same year — 1972 — and release Music on Capitol in 1973. That was it until 2000’s RTZ – Return to Zero and 2004’s The Maze, both self-released, but renewed interest came with reissues of their original work through Green Tree Records in Germany and eventually through Rise Above, which put out the Bullets box set in 2010 and gave Death of a Country its first official release in 2011. They’d tour with Pentagram in 2014, play the Psycho Las Vegas predecessor, Psycho California, in 2015 and do Roadburn in 2016 on a European run that got cut short when then-drummer Jake Leger abruptly went AWOL. They came back with the Franks and a new drummer to play Maryland Doom Fest in 2016 and 2017, roughly concurrent to Svart Records reissuing their back catalog, and though live activity has been sparse, last year, Ripple Music released a compilation, The Best of Bang, that of course highlights the songcraft that’s always been so essential to their righteousness.

I was fortunate enough to see Bang every night of their 2014 West Coast and East Coast tours as I was traveling with Kings Destroy, and I’ll say that as I listen to their self-titled now the versions I still hear in my head are coming from the band live, and that every time I saw them, without exception, including at Roadburn and Maryland Doom Fest, the absolute joy and appreciation for what they were doing and for the fact that, after two generations, they’d finally found the audience they’d long since deserved, was infectious. You could not watch them and not be happy for them. If that makes me less impartial about the album, so be it. I’ll take being a fan instead.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

Up and down week. Most are. Shit is complicated. Money is complicated. It’s a lonely semester with The Patient Mrs. starting a new job and a schedule that has her gone a lot of the day on a lot of days, so it’s just The Pecan and I for a lot of the week. Plus this week I was recovering from the trip to Norway and yeah. It was just a lot. Any angle you want to take. A lot.

Next week, premieres for Hazemaze, Woodhawk, Hot Breath and Ogre, not necessarily in that order. Plus a review of the Death Hawks LP reissues which Svart was kind enough to send my way, and whatever else happens to come down the pike. That’s kind of how it goes these days. My calendar is pretty full through the end of the month as it is. Sometimes people are like, “hey can you do this thing tomorrow?” and I have to say no. Sorry folks. My brain’s melted as it is. Burnout is real.

I slept through my alarm I guess on Wednesday? Maybe Tuesday? It felt like the end of the fucking universe, whatever day it was. To lose that two-plus hours of writing before The Pecan gets up in the morning? Holy shit, that’s my whole day. That’s what keeps me sane, let alone on pace with stuff around here. The Patient Mrs. came through in the pinch and gave me extra time to work after she got home from teaching class, but without that, I’d have been properly fooked. A reminder of the fragility of the whole thing, I guess. Drop a piano on it and see what happens. Mostly to my mental state.

There’s more, but I’ve no inclination toward further navelgazing — well, I do, but I’ll deny it — and I want to get another post live before the kid wakes up and needs a diaper, breakfast, I need to shower, etc., so off I go. I wish you the greatest and safest of weekends. Have fun, do what you do. Forum, radio, new merch coming soon, old merch I think still available.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

The Obelisk shirts & hoodies

Tags: , , , , ,

Video Premiere: Electric Jaguar Baby, “Witch I Love” from Self-Titled LP

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 9th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

electric jaguar baby

The Oct. 25 release of Electric Jaguar Baby‘s self-titled debut long-player follows behind an impressive string of three EPs issued over two years. Obviously the Parisian duo are on the same page when it comes to songwriting. Their output would seem to manifest that as well, listening to the advance single “Witch I Love.” They had previously streamed the track as a teaser for the album to come — and fair enough so, it’s catchy as hell — but have now backed that up with a video to really make their case. Again, fair enough. With the full-length so impending, the zero-nonsense strut of “Witch I Love” feels all the more urgent in its post-Queens of the Stone Age style of riffing and vocal patterning. Frank D. and Antonio D. comprise the outfit and employ a range of guests across the album’s nine-track span, but their sound is ultimately only further distinguished and bolstered by the inherent rawness of recording as a duo, and that comes through in “Witch I Love” as well.

But the primary impression, of course, is in the whole affect of the song itself, and by that I mean the clarity of intention behind it. Think later Homme, not so much Songs for the Deaf or even Lullabies to Paralyze, but the QOTSA sound thereafter and the sidestep of Them Crooked Vultures, and you’ll get a sense of where the production is coming from, but more than that, listening to “Witch I Love,” the structure is air-tight. There’s a swift build in momentum over a clean 3:44 run in the video, and the hook, as noted, is right on, but listen to the track as you make your way through and ask yourself what you would leave out? What would you cut? Nothing, right? It’s not that it’s spare in any way — I’m sorry, but you just don’t call your band Electric Jaguar Baby if you’re not a style-conscious individual or group — but they absolutely nail the balance between sounding natural and conveying attitude while also having this super-strong underlying foundation of verses and chorus. It’s a classic formula, certainly, but put to good use here for sure.

As to the rest of the record, I haven’t heard it and would have to wonder what the purported “fuzz rap” of “Storm (Me Against Me)” with Mark Northey of Watkins and 7 Days Before might sound like — though I’ll admit some trepidation in finding out — but there’s no substitute for a quality single, and Electric Jaguar Baby seem to know they have one.

The video is likewise pretty straightforward: a performance clip run through a filter of analog pops to make it look like a warped tape, but well lit and edited and pro-shop generally, so dig in below. Credits follow as posted by the band.

Please enjoy:

Electric Jaguar Baby, “Witch I Love” official video premiere

NEW SINGLE 2019 ! Parisian fuzzers Debut album out October 25th !
Vinyls out via Slice of Wax Records in 3 limited editions : 3 colors and 3 screeprinted covers !
CD & K7 tapes out via El Diablo Records.

Bandcamp: https://electricjaguarbaby.bandcamp.com/merch

Video by :
Réalisation : Aurelia Authome ( @aureliaa18 )
Cadrage/assistant réal : Renaud Tilman ( @renaudtilman )
Shoot @ Mains D’oeuvres (93400 ST Ouen).

Electric Jaguar Baby on Thee Facebooks

Electric Jaguar Baby on Instagram

Electric Jaguar Baby website

Electric Jaguar Baby on Bandcamp

Slice of Wax Records on Thee Facebooks

Slice of Wax Records on Bandcamp

Tags: , , , , , ,

Splinter Post Video for “Bitter Sounds”; Debut Single out Now

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 8th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

splinter logo

Before you start feeling like you’re out of the loop — I promise you, you’re way more in the loop than I am; stuck in the rhombus over here — Splinter are a pretty new band. Based in the Netherlands (I think probably Amsterdam or somewhere thereabouts), they did what was most likely their first recording session this past March, with Igor Wouters (indeed in Amsterdam), and from that issued the debut single Hurt b/w Brand New Future that they self-released as a 7″ vinyl with the logo you see above as its cover. There was a video for “Hurt” — no it’s a not a cover of the Nine Inch Nails song later taken on by Johnny Cash — that went up last month, and that’s now been followed-up with a new clip, this time for a song called “Bitter Sounds.”

The thing about “Bitter Sounds?” It wasn’t on that single.

So clearly there’s more to come.

Fair enough. Splinter‘s heralding of a busier future is extra notable given that the band is fronted by Douwe Truijens, formerly of Death Alley, and also features guitarist Sander Bus, who was brought in as that group’s second bassist, as well as drummer Barry van Esbroek and organist Gertjan Gutman (also of Utrecht’s Birth of Joy, who played their final show in January), whose contributions to both “Hurt” and “Bitter Sounds” are significant. The sound is either a formative punker take on classic heavy rock or a formative heavy rocker take on classic punk, depending on the angle you look at it, and for an act who are just getting going, they’ve clearly got their songwriting ducks a row. That is to say, get ready to want to put on “Bitter Sounds” twice, and maybe clap along the second time.

Video follows here, and definitely stay tuned for more.

Please enjoy:

Splinter, “Bitter Sounds” official video

Recorded and mixed by Igor Wouters at Amsterdam Recording Company

Mastered by Attie Bauw at Bauwhaus

Video by Hakki Takkie, shot and cut by Max Westendorp

Splinter live:
Oct 19 Ballroom Fest Zukunft am Ostkreuz Friedrichshain

Splinter is:
Douwe Truijens – vocals
Sander Bus – guitar
Gertjan Gutman – organ
Barry van Esbroek – drums

Splinter on Thee Facebooks

Splinter BigCartel store

Tags: , , ,

Besvärjelsen Premiere “All Things Break” Video; Frost EP out Now

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 2nd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

besvarjelsen

The message of Besvärjelsen‘s latest single would seem to be pretty clear, as it’s right there in the title. But there’s a secondary, more subtle lesson to be learned from “All Things Break” from the band’s recently-issued Frost EP — and especially from the video for it. That message? If you’re going to film your video on an old train bridge, be damn certain there aren’t any trains coming.

Frost was issued in August after being included in Blues Funeral Recordings‘ limited-deluxe-edition-subscription service, PostWax. I did the liner notes for that version of the five-song outing, which also included an exclusive track, and was proud to help them tell their story in that way, because, you know, good band and all that. Their approach throughout Frost was fascinating in the five members of Besvärjelsen adjourning to the out-in-the-woods home studio of guitarist/backing vocalist Andreas Baier (also of V) to record their parts, and considering that their debut album, Vallmo (review here), came out just last year, a quick turnaround to boot. The time factor does nothing to take away from the progressive sensibility of the songs, however — that is to say, they don’t sound rushed — and the pervasive moody feeling that emanated from the first LP is definitely intact in cuts like “When We Fall,” “In the Dark,” and of course, “All Things Break,” which brings us to the video in question and out to that train bridge in Sweden.

Drummer Erik Bäckwall, who, like bassist Johan Rockner, is a Dozer alum — Besvärjelsen is completed by vocalist Lea Amling Azalam and guitarist/backing vocalist Staffan Stensland Vinrot — sets the scene in his quote below, so I won’t take away from that and recount a narrative you can already read here, but I will note that the entirety of Frost can be streamed below, with the aforementioned cuts as well as the adrenaline build of “Human Habits” and the surge and deconstruction that seems to take place in seven-minute closer “Past in Haze” as the band touches new ground in drive as well as atmosphere. After you dig into the video, I hope you’ll check that out as well.

And please enjoy:

Besvärjelsen, “All Things Break” official video premiere

Lea Amling Azalam on “All Things Break”:

“‘All Things Break’ was the first song I finished for the EP. The lyrics handle the bitter side of relationships that don’t work out. It’s about the emotions when you feel left behind. Not only romantically but the general feeling of loneliness. And that everything turns to shit in the end.”

Erik Bäckwall on the video:

“The video was shot in the northwest of our region by our friend Tony at Az Foto. I had an idea of the video with us isolated in the woods to supplement the lyrics. Tony had done some location scouting and said he had a perfect place for shooting. An old railroad bridge, built in 1903, with no train traffic any more. Close to a waterfall called Helvetesfallet (‘the Hell fall’). The bridge is about 186 feet tall, with creaky wooden planks with space between, so you could see all the way down. It wasn’t a good place to be if you didn’t like heights.

“We had set up the drums on the middle of the bridge and I was just adjusting the toms when Johan shouted ‘traaaain!’ Of course we thought it was a joke, but it wasn’t. I turned around and heard the train behind the trees. Me and Lea took whatever drum pieces we could get and ran with the train coming behind us. My first thought was to get away from the bridge, the second was that It’s probably gonna hit the parts of the drum kit we couldn’t carry, bass drum included. Fortunately the traindriver saw us and stopped. We had to do a walk of shame to collect the rest of the drums with seniors taking pictures from the train and face an angry train driver. So after the Stand by Me moment we checked the time table and saw that we had three hours before the next train. So we just got on with it.”

Besvärjelsen “All Things Break”
Taken from the EP “Frost”
Originally released as PostWax Year One, Volume 3
Available at besvarjelsen.bandcamp.com/album/frost

On “Frost” — the follow-up to BESVA?RJELSEN’s 2018 debut “Vallmo” — the feeling of being isolated in a cold wilderness in the grip of higher forces is palpable throughout the five tracks, with haunting, enveloping vocals from singer Lea Amling Alazam, outstanding songwriting from guitarists/vocalists Andreas Baier and Staffan Stensland Vinrot, and the forceful rhythm section of Johan Rockner and Erik Bäckwall (both formerly of Dozer).

“Frost” was recorded in the dead of winter in a cabin in the woods of Dalarna county in Sweden, and mastered by Karl Daniel Lidén.

BESVÄRJELSEN is
Andreas Baier – Guitar, vocals
Staffan Stensland Vinrot – Guitar, vocals
Johan Rockner – Bass, vocals
Lea Amling Alazam – Vocals
Erik Bäckwall – Drums

Besvärjelsen, Frost EP (2019)

Besvärjelsen on Thee Facebooks

Besvärjelsen on Bandcamp

Besvärjelsen website

Blues Funeral Recordings on Thee Facebooks

Blues Funeral Recordings on Bandcamp

Blues Funeral Recordings website

Tags: , , , , ,

Friday Full-Length: Witchcraft, The Alchemist

Posted in Bootleg Theater on September 27th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Witchcraft, The Alchemist (2007)

 

I never liked Witchcraft‘s The Alchemist. Listening to it now, I can’t help but wonder why the hell not? In the narrative I’d constructed in my head, it was too clean, too much trying to be prog, and it had lost the simple charm of their 2004 self-titled debut (discussed here, albeit briefly) and its 2005 follow-up, Firewood — both records to which I feel some pretty significant fan attachment — and I recall being disappointed in the title-track, thinking it was boring and too long and pretentious in its forced-seeming 14-minute sprawl.

But wow, was I wrong.

I’m not sure the Magnus Pelander-led Swedish classic heavy rockers could ever have put out another album I’d reach for as often as the self-titled, but The Alchemist stands some 12 years later as testament to how prescient the band was in their craft, finding a way forward for retro rock that didn’t betray the vintage aesthetic but allowed for growth in songwriting. They didn’t quite “go prog,” but having recently given Black Sabbath‘s Technical Ecstasy (discussed here) a fair shake, The Alchemist doesn’t feel like an entirely dissimilar vision of creative evolution, whether it’s the referential nods in “Hey Doctor” — which seems not only to allude to Sabbath in its drum fills in the speedier second half, which is a compliment to the work of Fredrik Jansson, but indeed to Witchcraft‘s own prior work as well in its earlier riff — or the saxophone worked into the penultimate “Remembered.” Even the acoustic guitar John Hoyles (later of Spiders and now in Big Kizz as well) brings to “The Alchemist” itself and the flourish of organ from Tom Hakava deep in the mix alongside the bass of Ola Henriksson (now in Troubled Horse) make that song a richer experience in concept and execution alike. I won’t say it’s void of self-indulgence, but neither is it defined by that on an expressive level across its three-part spread. That middle section is gorgeous. I feel like I’ve been missing on enjoying it for over a decade.

Opener “Walk Between the Lines” launches the album with a strong sense of movement, something to sweep the listener into the proceedings with a clarity of strum front and witchcraft the alchemistcenter that even Firewood couldn’t claim in terms of production value, sharper as that record was than the debut. Layers of acoustic and electric intertwine in the solo section, perhaps prefacing the title-track on the album’s other end or at very least sounding cool, and rather than make their way back to the stomp of the song’s early going, they bend strings to twist their way to the song’s finish and instead pick up the thread with “If Crimson was Your Colour,” which was released as a standalone 7″ by Rise Above before The Alchemist came out, and remains one of the catchiest tracks they’ve ever written. “Leva” delves into Swedish-language lyrics for not the first time — recall “Schyssta Lögner” from the first album — and does so atop a creeping blues riff that’s a hook unto itself, while also subtly shifting the mood from the all-go momentum of the opening duo to the more rolling vibe that will continue to proliferate through “Hey Doctor” and “Samaritan Burden,” which brings a turn to gorgeous and folkish tonal wash that fades gently as it moves toward its conclusion and only leaves one wanting more.

That proves to be the perfect setup for “Remembered” to revive the thrust of the initial salvo, which it does while also leaving room for the aforementioned sax — courtesy of Anders Andersson — as well as some mellotron from Hakava, thereby working as well as a transition into “The Alchemist” via the added arrangement elements, broadening listener expectation again in subtle ways. And when they get there, the title-track is consuming in narrative and its patient delivery, with its long, open-feeling midsection, later return, and post-silence epilogue as it makes its way to its 14-minute finish. It wasn’t the first time Witchcraft surpassed the 10-minute mark — that would be Firewood closer “Attention!” — and they’ve done it a few times since, but “The Alchemist” is nonetheless a standout moment amid their work before or after, a complete idea realized at a new level of complexity and presentation.

So what was it that didn’t let me see that at the time? I’ve always been a first-two-records-only Witchcraft fan, and I guess when The Alchemist came out, I was too busy resenting the indie cred they’d amassed to appreciate the sonic progress they were making. It has been my loss, but I’m glad to have taken the opportunity to correct my error. It won’t make up for the 12 years over which I might’ve dug putting it on from time to time, but at least I know going forward that it’s a more than suitable follow-up to the brilliance of those other offerings I’ve so enjoyed for the last decade and a half. Never stop learning.

The Alchemist was Witchcraft‘s last outing through Rise Above and the last to feature Hoyles on guitar. Henriksson would hold out on bass through 2012’s Nuclear Blast debut, Legend (review here), which greatly modernized their sound, and then indeed split with the band as well, leaving Pelander as the remaining founder. In 2016, they issued Nucleus (review here), which built on the steps that Legend had taken, and later that same year, Pelander under his own name released Time (review here), a solo full-length following a 2010 EP that seemed to preface more to come. Not to say it couldn’t happen, but Witchcraft have steadily been performing shows and at festivals — they flew to New York last Fall to play Le Poisson Rouge — and may or may not have new material in the works, which is to say I have no idea what’s going on with them.

Either way, The Alchemist isn’t the departure I’d so long thought it was, turning its back on the rawness of its forebears in Witchcraft‘s discography. It’s an outgrowth of those crucial first accomplishments, and an essential third in what’s been a trilogy all along. It’s not dropping off, it’s soaring.

As always, I hope you enjoy. Thanks for reading.

By Wednesday morning I was pretty ready to die. The Pecan was out of his mind. He’d had a cold earlier in the week and was getting over it but clearly not back up to 100 percent yet. And ugh. Hitting and biting and mad and not eating and just going from one thing to the next that he knows he’s not supposed to be doing. My laptop, the kitchen cabinets, slamming the fridge door, pulling on the oven — for which we’ve had to get a lock — just one to the next to the next without stopping. It gets so overwhelming. Pulling his mother’s laptop charger out of the wall. Trying to climb up behind the tv. Grabbing burning hot coffee. Climbing on me while I’m on the can. Dude, just bash my brains in and be done with it. Please. Please. I give. Mercy. Just kill me.

It was so bad that it was my 15th wedding anniversary and I told The Patient Mrs. that I found running a stoner rock blog more satisfying than parenting.

I said that shit.

Out loud.

And meant it.

And worse: I feel like I made a convincing case.

It took basically spending two hours at the park with the sandbox to set him right. Yesterday was better to some degree. It would almost have to be. Today he has baby-gymnastics, so I’m hoping that can take it out of him a little bit, let him work off some of whatever residual fuckall remains. We shall see. My severed head, on a pike made by Melissa & Doug.

He’s not yet two.

We were going to start potty training this weekend. No fucking way. I can’t even get the kid to sit down to put shoes on.

So that’s life. Real life.

No new episode of The Obelisk Show today on Gimme Radio. They had some production stuff going on this week and were overwhelmed and asked if I minded if we skipped the episode. Being overwhelmed myself, I said fine. Next week is the Quarterly Review anyhow, so yeah, plenty going on. I’m also flying to Norway for Høstsabbat. And I need to get those Acrimony liner notes finally done this weekend. So yes, I didn’t need to be cutting Gimme voice breaks yesterday afternoon, fun as that is to do.

I needed to sleep.

Which is probably what I should’ve done this morning when the alarm went off as well. Took me about three minutes to get up and flick the on switch for the coffee pot, giving myself a little pep talk in the meantime. “Come on Cocksan, it’s just one post. Get off your ass and make that coffee and write it.” And here we are.

No rest this weekend, no rest next week with the Quarterly Review and the fest after that. I’m also going (I hope) to Acid King on Monday in Brooklyn, so I’ll have a live review of that. And yeah. I don’t know. The whole thing just feels overwhelming and supremely dumb to me at this point, but I keep going. And I guess by the whole thing I mean life. But hey, the new Iguana record is good.

Kaboom.

Thanks for reading. Great and safe weekend. Forum, radio, merch.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

The Obelisk shirts & hoodies

Tags: , , , , ,