Friday Full-Length: Electric Wizard, Witchcult Today

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 18th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Electric Wizard, Witchcult Today (2007)

Even a decade later, it’s hard to fully assess the influence Electric Wizard‘s sixth album has had, because that influence, like the band’s witchcult itself in the lyrics of the opening title-track, is still growing. Released in 2007 on Rise Above Records, Witchcult Today was a genuine landmark moment. For the band, it was such a turnabout and such a feeling of comeback that it was hard to believe it had only been three years since the band released the prior We Live, which introduced guitarist Liz Buckingham (formerly of 13 and Sourvein) to the lineup of the already-influential Dorset doomers alongside founder Jus Oborn. Electric Wizard had by then long since established themselves as crucial to the sphere of underground doom via the unholy trinity of their first three albums — 1995’s Electric Wizard, 1997’s Come My Fanatics… and 2000’s Dopethrone (discussed here) — and perhaps part of the reason Witchcult Today was so able to blindside their listenership and so greatly add to their reputation as stylistic forerunners was because 2002’s Let us Prey and the aforementioned We Live seemed to be searching for a new direction after hitting such a peak with their initial approach, but whatever did it, Witchcult Today brought a new generation of listeners under Electric Wizard‘s droner-stoner spell and perhaps even more than Dopethrone stands as the single most important work the band has done to-date. Without it, one can only wonder if cult doom would exist as it does.

There’s not really much secret to the approach of Witchcult Today, and whatever else one might accuse Electric Wizard of being throughout their nearly 25-year tenure — preceded by Oborn‘s time in Lord of Putrefaction and Thy Grief Eternal — they’ve never been subtle. But while Let us Prey and We Live descended into weedian scummer sludge and grew more abrasive in their overall affect, the unmanageable 59-minute/eight-track Witchcult Today brought that resin-coated filth to new levels of aesthetic achievement. At least partial credit has to go to Liam Watson at Toe Rag Studios, whose recording and mixing job highlighted the absolute tonal murk of Oborn and Buckingham‘s guitars and the depths of Rob Al-Issa‘s basslines while still allowing Oborn‘s vocals and Shaun Rutter‘s drums to cut through and provide listeners a lifeline so as to not get lost in the hazy onslaught — at least until the 11-minute penultimate instrumental, “Black Magic Rituals and Perversions,” where getting listeners lost is clearly the intention — but however more resonant the tracks became through the manner in which they were recorded on vintage gear and compiled at the mixing console, one can’t discount the raw achievement of songwriting on Witchcult Today either. There simply isn’t a miss. As “Witchcult Today” marched/oozed into subsequent tracks like the shuffling “Dunwich” and the drawling “Satanic Rites of Drugula,” Electric Wizard beat their audience over the head with riff after riff, hook after hook, and created an atmosphere of such memorable craft that even as they basically reused the rhythm of “Witchcult Today” in “The Chosen Few” and seemed to answer the opener’s riff in closer “Saturnine,” the tiny differences from one to the other to the other stood out and made all three songs highlight pieces only bolstered by their redundancy. It’s supposed to be a slog. You wouldn’t die otherwise.

And whether it was the interlude “Raptus” or the sampled whispers deep into “Black Magic Rituals and Perversions,” Witchcult Today boasted an ambience to match the grab-your-brain-and-melt-it catchiness of “Torquemada ’71” — the theme for a grainy horror movie that was never made — making its aesthetic impact all the more pivotal. The darkened swirl of “Saturnine” at the end of the record affirmed the fixation on death, misanthropy and cultish thematics, but even as the four-piece pushed outward to a noisy deconstruction of the bleak, stoned and sprawling world they created, they held fast to the hypnotic sensibility that typified the album as a whole. The tie-in between that hypnosis, the catchiness of their choruses, the sheer will of repetition executed, the lyrical references to old horror flicks speaking directly to the converted, and the sense of presence that came through Watson‘s mix made Witchcult Today absolutely work on every level in a way that Electric Wizard never had before, even on their early releases, which many will still argue as the pinnacle of the band. Like I said, there just wasn’t a miss, and I think the massive influence Witchcult Today has had over the last 10 years and continues to have speaks to this achievement in aesthetic. It’s early for such proclaiming, but no question the time will come when we speak about this record as a classic in doom. Already it serves as one of the most essential LPs of the 2000s.

Its influence would prove to be as much internal as external as well. In 2010, they followed Witchcult Today with Black Masses (review here), which renewed their collaboration with Watson and with songs like “Satyr IX,” “Black Mass,” and “Crypt of Drugula” felt very much informed by what the 2007 outing had established. Likewise, their 2012 tape EP, Legalise Drugs and Murder (review here) derived its title-track from a redux on “The Chosen Few,” and it seemed that even five years later, Electric Wizard were still affected by the scope of what they’d manage to bring to bear on Witchcult Today. 2014’s Time to Die (review here) — produced again by Watson, mixed by Chris Fielding — marked a shift to Spinefarm Records after a falling out with Rise Above, was their longest offering yet at 66 minutes and dug righteousness out of its chaotic gruel, but ultimately seemed staid more like it was playing to form of the two full-lengths before it rather than pushing farther in the way that one could say even Black Masses did via its more psychedelic take.

Rumors have abounded for more than a year at this point about release dates for a ninth Electric Wizard full-length being in various stages of production and/or readiness for release, and among the most encouraging aspects of an initial announcement put out last Spring was that the band was seeking a “fresh turn of the turf” in terms of their sound. Does that mean they’ll innovate their style with the kind of freshness they brought to Witchcult Today a decade ago? Can lightning strike three times for a group who already enjoy status as having made some of the most fundamental contributions to doom? Last I heard, we might find out before the end of the year. As to what actually happens when the next Electric Wizard surfaces, or when that actually will happen, only a fool would dare to offer any prediction.

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

Well, this weekend is turning out to be much different than was initially conceived. By the time you read this, The Patient Mrs. and I will very likely already be in New Jersey, which was not at all the original intent. An ambulance took my 102-year-old maternal grandmother to the hospital yesterday afternoon, and well, there’s little more you can do than get up at 4AM and get your ass out the door as quickly as possible to be there for your family. Gotta go, gotta go.

My original intention for the day had been to go see Anathema tonight in Boston, because I so very much enjoyed their new album and would like to see them again. Had a photo pass set up and everything. Not gonna happen.

I’ve also been back and forth with the Gozu dudes about doing an in-studio with them as they track their next record in New Hampshire, currently in progress. That was supposed to be tomorrow. Up in the air right now.

Everything is pretty much pending what the situation is with my grandmother. They said she broke her hip and no one really knows how. She’s old enough that, frankly, it could’ve just happened by moving or bumping into the corner of a table or something, but old people and busted hips. You know how it goes. Apparently she’s not really awake. There’s a consult this morning with an orthopedist, after which we’ll hopefully know more. Everyone’s very upset, myself included to be honest, but it’ll be what it’ll be.

My mind is elsewhere as I’m sure you can imagine, but here’s a quick rundown of how next week may or may not shake out as per my notes:

Mon.: Kal-El album stream/review; maybe Gozu in-studio.
Tue.: Grande Royale stream/review; Vokonis vinyl giveaway.
Wed.: Queens of the Stone Age review; Six Dumb Questions with Pagan Altar.
Thu.: Blackfinger track premiere/review; maybe R.I.P. track premiere as well.
Fri.: Grigax review.

Busy busy busy, and again, all of this is subject even more to change than usual pending how the above pans out, what state I’m in mentally and geographically at what point, and so on. Sorry to be vague but there’s just a lot right now I don’t really know. That’s the basic shape I hope to give next week. We’ll see if I can make it happen.

This weekend is Psycho Las Vegas. I was supposed to go. I didn’t. Kind of a long story there, and not entirely pleasant, but if you’re there, I hope it’s a blast and that you have a great and safe time. If you’re elsewhere, I hope the same. Either way, please take a few minutes if you have them to check out the forum and radio stream, and thanks once again for reading.

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Hypertonus Post 360° Video for “H.E.D.E.R.A.”

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 18th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

hypertonus

The new Hypertonus video starts out with a warning for those with sensitivity to flashing lights or sudden shifts in visual stimuli, and that’s a warning worth heeding if you’re prone to seizures or headaches as a result of changes in light, color, and so on. It hasn’t been all that long since the Bremen, Germany, instrumental three-piece gave us an interactive glimpse of the Harbor Inn 360° Session in which they took part by premiering a clip for “Phantasmagoria” (posted here) from their earlier-2017 self-released debut album, Tidal Wave (review here), but just a month later they’re following-up that video with a new one for the song “H.E.D.E.R.A.” that seems to come from the same source. Hey, if you’ve got it, use it.

Like “Phantasmagoria” before it, “H.E.D.E.R.A.” — an acronym for… oh wait, sorry, I have no idea what it’s an acronym for — bends the line between heavy rock and psychedelia. One can hear post-rocking airiness in the guitar of Patrick Büch, but the groove of bassist Arne Staats and drummer Hannes Christen is earthier and laden with a crunch that complements the leads rather than contrasts. As was the case throughout Tidal WaveHypertonus set themselves up for consideration as a progressive outfit whose style may just be in an early developmental stage in comparison to what they might go on to accomplish, but nonetheless already shows them with a pointed intention toward individuality that, hopefully, will underpin subsequent releases as well as it does the first full-length.

“H.E.D.E.R.A.” doesn’t have the same clickable interactivity as had “Phantasmagoria,” but is distinguished through its camera shifts and lighting effects for something of a different feel. In either case, it serves well to demonstrate the burgeoning nuance of Hypertonus‘ approach, and whether you can actually watch the video or not without it overwhelming your senses — that’s not me knocking anyone with that kind of sensitivity at all; I often get immediate headaches from flashing lights and find it’s simply too much for me, especially in videos and also in the case of this one — the live performance of the track, which checks in at just under six minutes long, is easily worth that minimal investment of your time.

They promise more clips to come from this session, so when I see what’s next, I’ll do my best to keep up. Till then, please enjoy:

Hypertonus, “H.E.D.E.R.A.” Harbor Inn Session

This is HYPERTONUS, an instrumental three-piece hailing from Bremen, Germany, playing their track ‘H.E.D.E.R.A.’ at the Harbor Inn Studios Bremen.

This is the second part of our ‘Harbor Inn Sessions 360°’ – there’s more to be released soon!

Part I: ‘PHANTASMAGORIA’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0u2TEudxuqk

Listen to our debut ‘TIDAL WAVE’ here:
https://hypertonus.bandcamp.com

Hypertonus is:
Hannes Christen (drums)
Arne Staats (bass)
Patrick Büch (guitar)

Thanks to:
Timo Hollmann – Record Engineer
Ole Janßen – Camera & Audio-Editing

Hypertonus live:
18.08. – Bremen – Überseefestival Warm-Up
25.08. – Berlin – Mensch Meier
09.11. – Hamburg – Hafenklang

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Lewis and the Strange Magics Set Oct. 20 release for Evade Your Soul; New Video Posted

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Whathaveyou on August 18th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

lewis-and-the-strange-magics

Plenty to like immediately about the upcoming second long-player from Barcelona trio Lewis and the Strange Magics. Titled Evade Your Soul and set to release Oct. 20 through Soulseller Records, the follow-up to the band’s 2015 debut, Velvet Skin (review here), shows off an immediate uptick in the weirdo factor in a new video for the cut “You’ll be Free Forever.” It’s the first audio to be made public from Evade Your Soul and bodes remarkably well in its balance of sonic clarity and arrangement flourish — the keys, the call-and-response vocals, etc. — in a way that makes me look forward all the more to hopefully getting to experience the whole album sooner rather than later. Like for an advance review maybe? I’m just spitbaling ideas here. Just seeing what sticks.

Hopefully that sticks. This Fall isn’t short on badass forthcoming releases by any means, but standout stuff like this is always welcome as far as I’m concerned. Album art by Branca Studio, tracklisting details and that video all came down the PR wire, and Lewis and the Strange Magics are also set to play Cheapstock Vol. 4 in Barcelona next month, about which you can find more info here:

lewis-and-the-strange-magics-evade-your-soul

LEWIS & THE STRANGE MAGICS – New album details and video clip available

Spanish Heavy-Psych-Rockers LEWIS & THE STRANGE MAGICS are back with their second full-length!

“Evade Your Soul” will be released on 20th October 2017 via Soulseller Records on CD, vinyl and in digital formats.

Formed in Barcelona during the summer of 2014 and influenced by a wide range of styles from Black Sabbath to The Beatles, they shortly after released their debut demo which received great reception from audience and critics alike. Only a month later the band signed with Soulseller Records to release the debut LP, “Velvet Skin”, in August 2015.

With their new album “Evade Your Soul” the band offers a heavier and more psychedelic sound, highlighting melodic songs with fuzzy riffs, crazy keys, spiritual lyrics and a lot of groove. It was recored, mixed and mastered by L’Antoine LV at La Musaranya, a studio from Olesa de Montserrat. The front cover and all the artwork has been created by Branca Studio.

A video for the song “You’ll Be Free Forever” is available. Preorders start in September.

Tracklist:
1. Leaving Myself
2. Ugly Face
3. TV Monsters
4. Lisa Melts The Wax
5. Out Of My Home
6. You’ll Be Free Forever
7. RMS
8. Escape
9. Another Lonely Soul (On The Road)

Lewis & the Strange Magics:
Lewis P. – vocals, guitar, keyboard
Ivan Miguel – drums
Javi Bono – guitar, vocals

https://www.facebook.com/lewismagics
https://www.facebook.com/SOULSELLERRECORDS/
http://www.soulsellerrecords.com

Lewis and the Strange Magics, “You’ll be Free Forever”

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Queens of the Stone Age Post Video for “The Way You Used to Do”

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 17th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

queens-of-the-stone-age-Andreas-Neumann

As a people, a collective and a universe constantly in flux, we’re inching closer to the Aug. 25 official release date of Queens of the Stone Age‘s new album, Villains, on Matador Records. The record, which was announced back in June, has carried a sense of production value as a forward-facing theme since the outset — even the announcement was a well-directed and clever video — and with the emphasis on the recording by Mark Ronson (Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars, etc.) plays into that as well. So to it would seem does the new clip for the uptempo leadoff single “The Way You Used to Do.” Nothing quite like being on theme.

I say “it would seem” as regards the new video though because all I’ve seen of the thing is the teaser clip below. Queens of the Stone Age released it exclusively through Apple Music, and while I’m sure it’ll make its way to YouTube in short order if it hasn’t by the time this post is live, the notion of paying to watch a music video in 2017 strikes me as more than its fair share of ridiculous. Most bands can barely give away a video, and while I’ve already reconciled myself to writing about it and subsequently purchasing Villains when it comes out — I used to be cool enough to get promos of their stuff to review; this one’s got me chasing down leaks like I’m the dag-nab Attorney General — you’ll pardon me if I try and hold onto some measure of propriety, at least, you know, until I don’t.

Anyway, I’m sure you’ve all heard the record by now and have your own opinions on it. I’ll have a review up I think next week for it if all pans out the way I’m hoping it does, and then the universe will proceed on its merry way, catchy songs and whatnot.

Here’s the teaser for the video and more info from Matador‘s website:

Queens of the Stone Age, “The Way You Used to Do” teaser

“Dancing and headbanging are truly individualistic expressions of losing oneself fully in appreciation of music—who better to combine these things into a singular vision than someone who’s directed Madonna and Lady Gaga videos–and also happens to have been a member of Bathory?”—Joshua Homme

“The Way You Used To Do,” the recently released first single from Queens Of The Stone Age’s ominously approaching seventh album ‘Villains’, has been realized as a fever dream Satanic dance ritual extravaganza—featuring QOTSA founder and frontman Joshua Homme lighter on his feet and darker in his soul than ever before.

Conceived by Homme, directed by Jonas Akerlund and produced by Serial Pictures, “The Way You Used To Do,” somehow fit its multiple sets, wardrobe changes and intricate dance routines into one day of shooting August 8th in Los Angeles. Considering potential reactions to the sinister shuffle of “The Way We Used To Do” being translated into a panoramic soul-selling dance trip, Homme says “It’s our way of paying tribute to Cab Calloway and the film Hellzapoppin’. I fully realize that may be a little more than some are open to, and that’s perfectly fine with me. There’s the door. If some of the more close-minded are gently pruned, that just leaves more room on the dance floor for the open-minded ones to get loose. That’s been the spirit of Queens Of The Stone Age and the space we’ve worked to create from day one.”

‘Villains’ is co-produced by Mark Ronson and will be released worldwide on August 25th.

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Matador Records website

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Bushfire Post “Zombi” Video; When Darkness Comes out in December

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 15th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

bushfire

Set for release in December, When Darkness Comes will serve as the third full-length from DIY Darmstadt, Germany, earth rockers Bushfire. The double-guitar five-piece were last heard from with Dec. 2013’s Heal Thy Self (review here), which was a formidable slab of wax in following their 2010 debut, Black Ash Sunday (review here), affirming the focus on songwriting and the dudely approach of frontman Bill Brown, which seems to be intact as well as Bushfire push forward, guitarists Marcus Bischoff and Miguel Pereira joined by the newcomer rhythm section of bassist Vince and drummer Sascha.

Heavy Southern groove is the thing, make no mistake, and at this point Bushfire have been doing it long enough that they’ve got the process down. The new video — animated, of the lyric-video type — for “Zombi” brings the first audio to be unveiled ahead of the release of When Darkness Comes, and not that there was any doubt about Bushfire‘s delivery, but it’s good to know that the last four years hasn’t dulled their affinity for what’s at root beneath their processes. One finds a Clutch-style blues bounce put to righteous use via a clear and full production, and some measure of social commentary in the words as belted out by Brown.

You know how Dawn of the Dead saw the zombies all go to the mall because blind consumerism was what they knew in life? Well, “Zombi” kind of makes a similar point, but about our current inability to disconnect from our mobile devices, cellphones and the like. The clip sees skulking figures in a dark world lit mostly by tiny screens and highlights lines like, “I see zombies transmitting with no communication/I see zombies restless when no connection is there.” The ups and downs of a connected culture are still very much a matter of some philosophical debate and likely will be until we’ve all uploaded our brains to the digitally-immortal singularity (which of course the last human being alive will trip over the plug for and wipe us all out; whoops), but Bushfire make their argument clear and back it with some pointedly heavy riffing, and as a first glimpse of When Darkness Comes, it bodes well in style and sound alike.

Looking forward to hearing more of the record as we get closer to the end of the year. Until then, dig this:

Bushfire, “Zombi” official video

Video: DADIVE STUDIO
Band: BUSHFIRE
Song: ZOMBI
Album: When Darkness Comes (unreleased, est.12/17)
Recorded: 05/17 Lofthaus studios Darmstadt, Germany
Mastering: Tony Reed, Heavy Head Recording Studios, Seattle, WA, USA

By now, Bushfire‘s bio reads like that of one of the really big bands: three demo EPs and two albums, shows and tours through half of Europe, TV airplay on DMAX, a loyal fanbase – all of that WITHOUT any label or management. Because Bushfire means self-determination, passion, freedom, just DIY in its purest form. There‘s the band doing handicraft, drawing, designing, thinking, sawing, even signing in blood.

Bushfire is:
Bill (vocals)
Marcus (guitar)
Miguel (guitar)
Sascha (drums)
Vince (bass)

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Bushfire website

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Review & Video Premiere: Steak, No God to Save

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Reviews on August 15th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

steak-no-god-to-save

[Click play above to watch Steak’s new video for ‘Living Like a Rat.’ No God to Save is available now via Ripple Music.]

In the nearly three years that have passed since the London four-piece made their full-length debut, Steak‘s desert rock loyalism has taken them back and forth across the UK and continental Europe for tours and appearances at festivals like Keep it Low, Reverence Valada in Portugal, Desertfest Athens, Stoned from the Underground, of course Desertfest London — of which guitarist Reece Tee is a founder/organizer — and, most recently, Bloodstock. Even prior to the arrival of Slab City (review here) via Napalm Records, their 2012 Disastronaught (review here) and 2013 Corned Beef Colossus (review here) EPs were earning them a reputation for raucous fuzz, comic-style storytelling and a formidable, growing presence in London’s crowded heavy rock underground.

The inevitable follow-up, No God to Save, finds Steak signed to respected purveyor Ripple Music out of California, and while the foursome made a point to travel to that most golden of states’ desert to record their debut — a once-in-a-lifetime chance of which any band would be foolish not to take advantage for the memory and life experience alone, never mind the actual fuzz captured at Thunder Underground — this time they’ve stuck closer to home, putting together the 10-track/48-minute offering at Titan Studios in Watford, northwest of London, with producer Steve Sears (KrokodilGallowsDiesel King, etc.). That’s a significant change of approach in itself — not to mention geography — but with the vocals of Chris “Kippa” Haley at the forefront of forward-driving cuts like “Coke Dick” and “Living Like a Rat,” Steak reemerge on their second full-length with a deeply recognizable sound in tone and structure. They sound, in other words, like themselves.

And it comes through clearly in the songwriting that their time on stage over the last few years has helped them refine the definition of what “themselves” means. While it cut its teeth in tonal buzz and a generally straightforward build of momentum, Slab City was almost inextricably tethered to the post-Kyuss vibe it actively sought. No God to Save still showcases this influence in some of Tee‘s riffing on seven-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Overthrow” or the later “Creeper,” but when one examines the tracklisting as a whole, that becomes only one element at work across a much broader and ultimately richer presentation. Atop the solid foundation in the rhythm section of bassist James “Cam” Cameron and drummer Sammy ForwaySteak explore more spacious vibes beginning in “Overthrow” and throughout ensuing pieces like the bass-led “Clones,” “Mountain” and the penultimate “Wickerman.”

steak photo sam mellish

“Rough House” provides some rolling middle-ground in side B, as “King Lizard” does on side A, and instrumental closer “The Ebb” brings in acoustic atmospherics complemented by a sparse landscape of electric lead flourish and dramatic piano, cymbal hits and tom thud, and with the aforementioned thrust of “Coke Dick” and “Living Like a Rat,” there’s a firm sense of dynamics at work. But it’s the shift into this more multifaceted style that most distinguishes No God to Save from Slab City and Steak‘s prior short releases, and listening to the fluidity brought to bear as “Overthrow” shifts into “Coke Dick” and “Clones” moves through “King Lizard” en route to “Living Like a Rat,” No God to Save feels built with the intention to emphasize the variety between one piece and the next, even as the flow goes uninterrupted for the duration. If one takes “Mountain” as the leadoff for side B (also the longest track there; secondary points), Steak envision even wider expanses as “Rough House,” “Creeper,” “Wickerman” and “The Ebb” push further outward from what the first half of No God to Save already proves — namely that, while still earthy in their heft and tone, Steak are interested in expressing more than played-to-style desert rock.

That becomes the prevailing impression of No God to Save as the band groove and careen along their increasingly diverse path, and while one wonders how far they’d be willing to push that impulse before snapping back to dead-ahead riff-rocking à la “Living Like a Rat” as a focal point — they’ve jammed before, to be sure, but how psychedelic can Steak get? — the fact that they’re demonstrating multiple sides of their sonic personality establishes them as a more mature and complete unit. Add to that the sharp performances of TeeCameron and Forway, the commanding frontman-ism of Haley and the depth of mix given to the material by Sears‘ studio work, and No God to Save becomes more than just a check-in from a band who had an impressive debut a couple years back and positions them all the more as a group to be taken seriously when it comes to making an impact within and beyond their regional scene. All along, Steak have been a band with marked potential. Front to back, in its individual moments of detail and its increased range, No God to Save sees that begin to pay off.

Burgeoning maturity suits Steak well, and it’s worth pointing out that even as they learn the value of offsetting balls-out drive with more patient fare, they still deliver the material on No God to Save with a markedly energetic spirit. That too can be read as derived from their experience on various stages throughout the last couple years, but it’s certainly not something that was lacking before, and of the various aspects of their approach they’re carrying forward as they grow, no question it’s a helpful one to bring along for the ride. I will not claim to know where Steak are headed when it comes to their ongoing progression, but there’s an underlying sense of craft in No God to Save that bodes remarkably well for that journey, and as they reach new terrain in sound and substance, the core of who they are as songwriters becomes even stronger in its purposes. At this point, it’s hard to see them letting that go, and nor should they.

Steak, No God to Save (2017)

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Enslaved Post Video for “Storm Son” from New Album E

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 14th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

enslaved e storm son

A few crucial learnings from the new Enslaved track, and you know I love crucial learnings. The mainstay Norwegian progressive black metallers announced last week they’ll issue their new album, E, on Oct. 13 via Nuclear Blast, and in a week that was full of good news of releases to come, that might’ve been the most welcome date to mark on the calendar. In accordance with unveiling the cover runic origins, cover art, tracklisting and preorders for E, they said they’d be posting the first single “Storm Son” on Friday, and sure enough, they lived up to their word.

The 10-minute track makes a substantial sampling of what famed producer Jens Bogren is bringing to themix and master E in terms of clarity of vision and precise instrument separation — the track is immediately clean, very much in the style of Bogren‘s work on Enslaved‘s last four albums and countless others — and the video is by Josh Graham. You might recognize his crow-flying-in-profile motif from Neurosis‘ “Stones from the Sky” video, though there’s plenty going on here besides.

Before we get to the clip, let’s run through what we find out in it:

1. New dude can sing.

Granted, we may or may not be getting a guest appearance in the second half of “Storm Son” from Einar Selvik of Wardruna as well, and as the subsequent gallop takes off, bassist Grutle Kjellson‘s rasp is front and center (his own clean vocals are there too, somewhat buried in the layering), but early in the track, we get to hear new keyboardist Håkon Vinje‘s voice for the first time, and yeah, he pretty much nails it. What Vinje would bring to the band in filling the void left by Herbrand Larsen, who stepped away earlier in 2017 after a 13-year tenure, was to my mind the biggest question going into E, and if “Storm Son” is any indicator, things are gonna be alright. Larsen‘s progression as a vocalist over the last decade was a hallmark of Enslaved‘s stylistic progression, and obviously the band didn’t want to take any backward steps in losing him.

2. The style hasn’t changed that much.

A start-stop riff from guitarists Ivar Bjørnson and Arve Isdal carries the spirit of 2015’s In Times (review here) forward, and as one would expect, drummer/famed fisherman Cato Bekkevold is malleable to whatever changes the song might present. Much as it marks a new beginning for Enslaved in terms of their lineup, “Storm Son” doesn’t come across as a radical shift from where they were two years ago in terms of sound so much as the next step in their ongoing evolution. I’m not sure I’d count on one song to speak for E as a whole — yes, that’s me hedging my bets — but even with some notable post-rock flourish, I don’t feel blindsided by what the band is doing here.

3. Metallic patience abounds.

That said, one can hear a certain meditativeness in the repetitions early; Enslaved seeming to take that extra measure or two before switching to the next part of the track. That’s what I mean by “metallic patience.” It’s not like they’re jamming out — one would never really expect them to suddenly go improv — but while Enslaved resolve “Storm Son” with significant rhythmic charge, they also allow the textures of the track to flesh out a bit without growing fed up with waiting, losing their grip, and blasting out before it feels right to do so. There’s still a build in “Storm Son” along a linear course, but pay attention to how Enslaved handle it on their way through and I think you’ll notice as well that they hold their sense of poise even as that fury mounts, and that control is emblematic both of their experience and of the place that has brought them as players and songwriters.

Enjoy the video:

Enslaved, “Storm Son” official video

True avant-garde Norwegians ENSLAVED will release their epic new studio album E on October 13th, 2017 and with this 14th full-length record, the virtuoso herald a new chapter in the band’s history. To provide a first taste of what’s to come, the band now unveils their debut music video for the 10 minute long single “Storm Son” that blends mesmerizing prog with jarring extreme metal and a folky atmosphere. The music video was designed by Josh Graham, who previously worked with SOUNDGARDEN and NEUROSIS among others, and delivered a truly spectacular piece of animated art.

“‘Storm Son’ deals with the duality of man and nature, how important and basic that relationship is,” explains songwriter and guitarist Ivar. “Everything we do and create are imitations of nature; as we evolved from nature, that is how it must be – yet modern man thinks he and she is independent of nature, that we somehow are so superior that we do not have to take nature into consideration other than as a backdrop for shitty movies. Or festivals. Losing touch with nature is basically to lose touch with being human.”

You can now pre-order the physical editions of the album here: nuclearblast.com/enslaved-e

Or get the digital version and stream the new track “Storm Son” via this link: nblast.de/EnslavedDigital

The track list contains these majestic anthems:
01. Storm Son (10:54)
02. The River’s Mouth (5:12)
03. Sacred Horse (8:12)
04. Axis Of The Worlds (7:49)
05. Feathers Of Eolh (8:06)
06. Hiindsiight (9:32)
Bonus tracks available on the digipak:
07. Djupet (7:39)
08. What Else Is There? (Röyksopp cover) (4:44)

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Friday Full-Length: YOB, The Great Cessation

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 11th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

YOB, The Great Cessation (2009)

From their 2002 12th Records debut, Elaborations of Carbon, onward, each YOB album has established its own personality, but I don’t think there’s any question 2009’s The Great Cessation (review here) is the angriest of the seven offered to-date. Released as the first of two outings for Profound Lore Records — the other, Atma (review here), followed in 2011 — it marked the return of the groundbreaking Eugene, Oregon, cosmic doomers, who had split after the release of what was then their pinnacle achievement, The Unreal Never Lived (discussed here), was released in 2005.

The story behind that stretch of time has been told and retold, but the tumult plays directly into The Great Cessation‘s atmosphere and five tracks. Guitarist/vocalist Mike Scheidt continued to work with Metal Blade Records, who had put out The Unreal Never Lived and the preceding 2004 full-length, The Illusion of Motion, as he formed the new project Middian and released a debut album therefrom in 2007 titled Age EternalMiddian, who went so far as to tour to support that record — something that YOB was really only starting to do when they called it quits in ’06 — wound up getting sued by an unsigned Wisconsin-based outfit called Midian who had trademarked the name and apparently decided the world wasn’t big enough for more than one band to use it despite the different spelling, and that basically brought the project to an end. Age Eternal, which invariably had some commonalities with YOB‘s work, languished, and though there was a brief time where Middian had changed their name to Age Eternal and it looked like they might press forward, by 2008, Scheidt had reformed YOB with drummer Travis Foster and new bassist Aaron Rieseberg, and work had begun on The Great Cessation, which somewhat ironically given its title, was nothing if not a new beginning for them as a group.

It was also, apparently, the receiving vessel for all the frustration that was born of this troubled time. While Catharsis had cut its teeth in a formative, slow-motion psychedelic doom, The Illusion of Motion made its mark with the perennially satisfying roll of “Ball of Molten Lead,” and The Unreal Never Lived found a place to dwell between sonic spiritualism and crushing heft, The Great Cessation was fueled by a rawer impulse. Produced by Sanford Parker, its sound was crisp and full, but the impact was near-immediate with opening track “Burning the Altar,” and what unfolded from then on would only become more scathing until arriving at its final resolution in the closing 20-minute title cut. To wit, the lurch forward that begins “Burning the Altar,” as YOB seem to reel back and attempt to smother the listener with the weight of the opening riff, or the explosive and caustic turns of the subsequent “The Lie that is Sin,” which crashes and rumbles and seethes even in its quietest stretches, finding Scheidt switching between cleaner vocals and harsh screams amid a final linear build that doesn’t so much offer payoff as it tightens until it can go no further and collapses on itself. “Burning the Altar,” which even eight years later commands nothing less than maximum volume at all times, had something of an instrumental hook, but YOB would pull the rug out from under it with “The Lie that is Sin,” and “Silence of Heaven” and “Breathing from the Shallows” only continued the descent into the darkest territory YOB had pursued up to that time, and maybe the darkest they’ve ever pursued, period.

Among those, particularly “Silence of Heaven.” Don’t get me wrong, “The Lie that is Sin” has just as much crunch as soar, and “Breathing from the Shallows” is second to none in terms of both growl and the critique of lines like “Where are you going with your greed” and “Ambition like cancer,” but if there’s a single representation on The Great Cessation of the raw anger running through the band at the time, it’s the centerpiece. It barely has lyrics, and seems to dedicate the energy that would otherwise go into crafting them into tearing its own flesh off. Furious and, for that, a little sad when taken in relation to the spiritualism or at least metaphysical searching Scheidt and YOB have put at the center of the band’s aesthetic all along, it feels right to call it a moment of pure catharsis despite having nothing to do with that album of the same name. Even when one goes back and listens to “Burning the Altar” or “The Lie that is Sin” before it, the rage of “Silence of Heaven” seems to radiate in all directions, affecting the songs before it as well as those after.

And yet, when The Great Cessation arrives at the quiet opening guitar line of its 20-minute closing title-track, isn’t there some sense of resolution? Isn’t that YOB willing itself — themselves — to press forward from that very anger and get back to the things that truly matter, court costs, legalese and other concerns be damned? In the tradition of “Catharsis,” “The Illusion of Motion” and “The Unreal Never Lived” — each an extended closing title-cut for the record on which it appeared — “The Great Cessation” provided YOB a landing point for the expression of The Great Cessation as a whole, but in its more melodic and serene atmosphere, that landing point also serves to answer “Silence of Heaven”‘s clenched fist with a release of tension. An exhale. Sure, the second half moves into some growling and lumbering riffs, and Rieseberg‘s bass is a thickening presence as always amid Foster‘s popping snare that does so much across the album’s 62 minutes to hold it all together, and the song devolves into noise as it makes its way out, but in comparison, even that seems reassuring compared to the blisters raised earlier. After such chaos, even the final howls of Scheidt‘s guitar — almost like a siren as the bass and drums fade out — are a sign of YOB leaving that anger behind. Purged.

They would indeed keep moving forward. The Great Cessation was my album of the year in 2009 (also the first year this site was up), and Atma followed suit in 2011, but YOB would hit their to-date transcendental peak with 2014’s Clearing the Path to Ascend (review here). Also their debut on Neurot Recordings, it was a record — yes, the top one released that year — that looked inward as much as outward, to the self and the universe surrounding, and in addition to being YOB‘s most sonically progressive songwriting, it seems in hindsight to have taken the will to put its emotions brazenly at the forefront from The Great Cessation, and thereby wind up in a much different place in terms of representing YOB as people and as a group.

I’ve said on multiple occasions that YOB are the best band of their generation, and I stand by that assessment completely. They’re said to have a follow-up to Clearing the Path to Ascend in the works, which I imagine was delayed somewhat owing to recent health issues on Scheidt‘s part (he had surgery multiple times over but seems to be doing well, which is fortunate; all the best to him of course), and seems a likely candidate for most anticipated LP of 2018. Whenever it arrives, rest assured, it will be welcome. In the interim and despite its representing such a dark period of renewal for the band, I hope you enjoy revisiting The Great Cessation.

Thanks for reading and listening.

Kind of a weird week around here, I guess. I had company in town into Tuesday morning, so Monday was kind of a blur, yet in terms of response, it was easily the biggest day for posts. The rest of the week was pretty quiet, relatively speaking, including some stuff that I was hoping would catch more eyes. I recognize not everything is going to reach as many people as Uncle Acid reissuing their first record, but still. A few killer premieres — Blaak Heat, Old Man Wizard, The Quill — and reviews — Paradise Lost, Mindkult — that are well worth a look if you get there. If not, thanks at least for reading this sentence.

In Connecticut today, New Jersey tomorrow and back to Massachusetts on Sunday, so it’s going to be a busy weekend, but I have already and will continue to see family as a part of that process, so I’m looking forward to it. Some pretty cool stuff in store for next week though. Might do a surprise poll if I can bother Slevin to help me put it together over the next day or two, so keep an eye out for that, but there’s plenty besides even if that doesn’t shake out.

Here are the notes, subject to change as always:

Mon.: Blues Funeral track premiere/album review; news on End Hip End It, Attalla and more.
Tue.: Steak video premiere/overdue album review; maybe that poll.
Wed.: Red Mountains track premiere/review; Six Dumb Questions with Cortez.
Thu.: Sundrifter track premiere.
Fri.: Stinkeye review.

These posts have gotten longer and longer lately — writing about YOB is a sure way for me to not at all cure that — but here’s a nice moment to leave you with before I sign off for the weekend:

While waiting to go to a haircut appointment late yesterday afternoon, The Patient Mrs. and I sat outside at a cafe here in CT which we frequent when we’re here. The place was getting ready to close up but there were a couple people sitting at the outside tables and they weren’t chasing anyone away or anything. They just kind of leave them there. The sun was shining and we sat there looking at a clothing rack outside the little for-middle-aged-ladies boutique next door at a black and white shirt with a rose on it and a bird or something and I started cracking wise about buying it and being goth with its wide neck and wearing it when I get hangry and sad before meals. “Aww, what’s the matter, pookie? Did your eating disorder make you goth? Did you have to put on your sad goth shirt because of it?”

My wife, about two months away from giving birth to what will be our first and only child, laughing loud enough so that the people at other tables looked over to see what was going on. My favorite sound in the world. Her amazing laugh. Her wonderful face. I had to stop for a minute to realize how lucky I am to be where I am in my life. I’m 35 years old, unemployed, just waiting to take up the stay-at-home-dad mantle, but it was such an incredible feeling of warmth and beauty in her laugh that I damn near wept behind my sunglasses. How lucky I am. How stupidly, stupidly unworthy I am of the last 19-plus years with her. How much I’m looking forward to the terrific and terrifying adventures ahead and to facing them together. It was such a simple thing, and that moment didn’t last — had to go get that haircut, after all — but if I lived for a thousand years, I’d hope to never forget it.

Thanks again for reading, and have a great and safe weekend. Please check out the forum and radio stream.

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