Friday Full-Length: Candlemass, Ancient Dreams

Posted in Bootleg Theater on December 8th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Candlemass, Ancient Dreams (1988)

As the history of doom metal has been written and rewritten over the years, it’s easy to see how Swedish epic-doom innovators Candlemass have been pushed to the side. This is due in part to trend pulling away from their often grandiose fare in favor of rawer cultism derived from garage rock and/or the original psychedelic era, and due in part to the band themselves, whose on-again-off-again reunion-making has been going on for more than a decade marked by sparse touring and releases that at this point are good enough and unheralded enough for one to legitimately consider them underrated. This, however, does nothing to take away from the landmark nature of the Swedes’ early works.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before — or, better yet, don’t — but it’s the first three records. In the case of Candlemass, I’d even go first four, considering the landmark shift in lineup that took place between the first and second, as original vocalist Johan Längquist stepped out to make way for the arrival of Messiah Marcolin, who would become one of doom’s defining frontmen. Marcolin made his debut with Candlemass on Nightfall in 1987 and would go on to leave his mark on the genre across that album, 1988’s Ancient Dreams, and 1989’s Tales of Creation before departing the band, who continued on first with Thomas Vikström on 1992’s Chapter VI and then Björn Flodkvist on 1998’s Dactylis Glomerata and 1999’s From the 13th Sun before finally running out of steam and calling it quits for a few years.

Now, I will never, ever, ever take anything away from Längquist‘s contributions to Candlemass‘ first LP, 1986’s Epicus Doomicus Metallicus. One fantasizes a day when founding bassist and main songwriter Leif Edling orchestrates a reunion with Längquist for a studio release, and all the more after Längquist delivered such a striking performance a few years back captured on the Epicus Doomicus Metallicus Live at Roadburn 2011 LP (review here), but the stage presence and all-in charisma of Marcolin isn’t to be understated. Amid Edling‘s classic, almost medieval post-Sabbathian riffing on songs like “Darkness in Paradise” and the “Mob Rules”-esque “Bells of Acheron,” Marcolin‘s command of Ancient Dreams on levels of technicality and chemistry is unflinching.

Even the chugging gallop of rhythm guitarist Mats “Mappe” Björkman and the shred of Lars “Lasse” Johansson on side B opener “Bearer of Pain” do nothing to hold Marcolin back. I’m not sure anything could. His voice pushes so easily into operatic vibrato that he not only deserves mention among the most powerful of metal singers — consider Ronnie James DioRobert Lowe, Hansi Kürsch, etc. — and after establishing himself on Nightfall with an inimitable performance on cuts like “At the Gallows End,” “Samarithan” and “Bewitched,” he’d continue to set a nigh on impossible standard across Ancient Dreams beginning with the speedy opener “Mirror Mirror” and continuing through the winding lumber of the title-track — speaking of underrated, drummer Jan Lindh‘s propensity for giving a crawling progression an underlying sense of motion is second to none among classic metal-style percussionists — all the way into the murk of closer “Epistle No. 81,” with lyrics written by 18th Century Swedish poet Carl Michael Bellman.

The bleak minor-key intro and the ensuing headbang-ready chug of “A Cry from the Crypt” seem to be a direct answer to “At the Gallows End” from the record preceding, but Marcolin takes the melody elsewhere, soaring in the dramatic verses as only he could, and whether it’s the brief subdued movement in the second half of “Darkness in Paradise” or the I-wield-this-storm wizardry atop the double-kick circa two minutes into “Bells of Acheron,” Ancient Dreams makes it plain just how special the dynamic in Candlemass was at this stage in their career. There was doom before them and there’s certainly been a lot of doom since, but the accomplishments of Candlemass between 1986 and 1990 are not to be understated when it comes either to the quality of Edling‘s songcraft or the performances of those with which he surrounded himself. These albums, while not necessarily timeless in their production, remain stunning these 30 years later.

Marcolin would of course rejoin Candlemass for their 2005 reunion that found them signing to Nuclear Blast and issuing their self-titled full-length, but was gone again by the time 2007’s King of the Grey Islands ultimately came together, with previously-mentioned Solitude Aeturnus singer Robert Lowe stepping in last-minute to fill the void as few could. Lowe would front Candlemass for that record and the two that followed, 2009’s Death Magic Doom (review here) and 2012’s Psalms for the Dead (review here), as the band moved from Nuclear Blast to Napalm Records for the latter, and would himself leave, only to have his position taken by Mats Levén (ex-Therion, among many others), who appeared on last year’s four-song Death Thy Lover EP (review here), which one can only hope was a test-run ahead of a full-length to arrive at some later date. As it would be six years after their last full-length, 2018 would be as good a time as any so far as I’m concerned.

As always, I hope you enjoy, and of course, doom on.

Tonight, I make pesto. It will be part of the first meal I’ve had since last Saturday not made of protein powder, and it will happen in a multi-stage process. First, I make garlic paste.

This involves store-bought roasted garlic, potentially my own fresh-roasted garlic as well — peel the cloves, foil over a ramekin with olive oil, water, black pepper; in the oven at 350 for an hour or so — plus fresh garlic, garlic powder, and a bit of olive oil. It all goes in the food processor and doesn’t come out until it looks like smooth peanut butter from an alternate universe. Should have the texture of a spread, in other words. It is delicious and lethal.

Once that’s done and in the fridge — I have a special container ready to go because I used regular tupperware for it once and had to run it through the dishwasher like six times to get the garlic smell out — then the pesto process begins in earnest. I’ll cut basil from what remains of the summer’s plant which I brought in out of the cold and have been doing my best to keep alive with a grow light and regular watering, to some avail. I have a couple store-bought packs of basil for backup as well. Once trimmed and washed, that will go in the recently-scrapped-out food processor with olive oil, more garlic, fresh-roasted pine nuts and Brazil nuts, red pepper flakes, maybe a hot pickled ring pepper or two, some onion powder, a light flourish of romano and parmesan cheeses, a splash of egg whites for thickness, salt, and indeed some of that garlic paste I just made, and be combined pretty much until it looks right. It’ll be light green with darker flecks of basil and will taste like a multi-tiered gift from the gods.

Some will go in a bowl for tonight’s meal, the rest in the fridge for whenever and some more, hopefully, in the freezer for later use. Tonight’s will be combined with more garlic paste — I’m the only one having it, so #garlicworship will be in full effect — and put to use topping four pieces of cloud bread that The Patient Mrs. will bake for me. If you don’t know what cloud bread is, it’s basically an egg-based low carb bread substitute, made my separating whites and yolks, mixing in cream cheese and a few other ingredients, recombining the eggs and baking. There are a million recipes around for it. This is where the garlic paste will really come into play, as I will throw a far-beyond-copious amount into the batter, along with some red pepper flakes, before it goes into bake for about half an hour or so. I prefer it well done because that way it holds up better to the pesto that I’m about to slather all over it.

The recipe we use and the proportions will result in four pieces of cloud bread each about the size of half a burger roll, give or take, and I will eat them with pesto and maybe a couple extra cloves of roasted garlic if I’m feeling fancy/will let myself have it, and that will be dinner. I’m looking forward to it the way I’m looking forward to the next YOB record.

It feels well enough earned after this week. The Patient Mrs. and I had my father up from North Carolina where he lives to meet The Pecan this week. He and I did not speak for well over a decade, and though we’ve been in touch for years at this point and this visit was by no means the least pleasant interaction he and I have ever shared, let’s just say the relationship is a work in progress. Garlic-pesto cloud bread: achieved.

Hoping otherwise for a quiet weekend. Some of The Patient Mrs.’ family might come up, her mother or her sister and company, but that’s fine. They know the drill at this point: Quiet hours start at 7 — everyone out. The Pecan needs wind-down time and, frankly, so do we by that point. He turned six weeks old on Wednesday. Has gotten big already. I hear that keeps happening for a while. Should be interesting.

Next week begins list season around here. I figure to do the cover-art list first, since that’s always a fun one. Here’s everything in the notes so far for the week, subject to change as always:

Mon.: 2017 artwork list; new Windhand video.
Tue.: Telescope review.
Wed.: Pretty Lightning review.
Thu.: Comacozer review.
Fri.: Borracho review.

I might jumble some of that around if premieres come along, but you can pretty much expect the next few weeks to be quiet in that regard, since the bulk of the music industry has gone into hibernation until January by now. Fair enough. Gives me some time to catch up ahead of the next Quarterly Review — likely to happen the first week of next month — and get the rest of the lists situated. I’m still not sure what my pick for album of the year is.

Speaking of, thanks to the 130-plus of you who’ve contributed to the 2017 Year-End Poll so far. That is amazing and hugely appreciated. Please keep the lists coming. There are a few tight races and I’m interested to see how they might resolve by the end of the month.

Alright, this post has gone on long enough. With pesto daydreams, I wish you a wonderful and safe weekend, whatever you might be up to. All the best from me and mine to you and yours. We’ll see you back here Monday for that list and more good times.

Thanks for reading, and please don’t forget to dig into the forum and radio stream.

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Sergio Ch. Premieres Video for “Tomatito”

Posted in Bootleg Theater on December 7th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

sergio ch

Surrounded by amps in a studio with cameras set up around him switching from fixed position to fixed position, the new video for Sergio Chotsourian‘s what would seem to be an as-it-was-recorded version of the Los Natas song “Tomatito” demonstrates once again that that band’s former frontman always seems to have something in the works. Some new project, some new release either of his own projects or through his South American Sludge Records imprint, some new solo album, or in this case, apparently a couple minutes to spare and the simple will to make a new video happen. Directed by Pablo Fernandez, it’s not unlike the clip posted last year for “El Laud” from his second solo full-length, Aurora (review here), in terms of what’s actually happening — i.e., he’s playing the song directly to the viewer — but to get a rare updated take on an older Los Natas track, you’re certainly not about to hear me complain.

“Tomatito” originally opened the much-missed, Argentina-based heavy rockers exploratory set Toba Trance II, issued in 2004 via Nasoni Records. Its foundation was acoustic then as well, and it gave a humble start to the companion-piece to Toba Trance I — the two offerings would eventually be compiled together on CD — and set a contemplative mood ahead of the jammy explorations that followed as the trio made their way through extended pieces like “Traicion en el Arrocero” and “Humo de Marihuana.” Working under his long-established nom-de-guerre of Sergio Ch., Chotsourian here brings a new intimacy to the piece while also making it more expansive via vocal delay and an amplified acoustic sound that lends weight to the strum at its root. The melody, wistful as ever, comes through clearer in the newer version as well, and where previously “Tomatito” was almost too easy to pass over for the spaciousness of what followed on Toba Trance II, here it becomes a work of almost anthemic folk, sounding as fresh in its delivery as it does timeless in its structure.

I’ve had the pleasure of hosting numerous premieres for Chotsourian over the last couple years for videos, audio tracks and whatnot. This is not happenstance. I consider myself a huge fan of his work and I’m happy to continually post about it in its various manifestations. One never quite knows what might be coming next from Sergio Ch., but whatever he delivers, he delivers.

Please enjoy “Tomatito” below:

Sergio Ch., “Tomatito” official video

VIDEO OFICIAL DEL DISCO DE LOS NATAS – “TOBA TRANCE”
PRODUCIDO POR SERGIO CH.
VIDEO DIRIGIDO Y REALIZADO POR PABLO FERNANDEZ

EKTRO RECORDS
NASONI RECORDS
OUI OUI RECORDS
SOUTH AMERICAN SLUDGE RECORDS

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Kayleth Premiere “Forgive” Video; Colossus out Next Month

Posted in Bootleg Theater on December 6th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

kayleth

As previously announced, Verona-based heavy rockers Kayleth will release their new album, Colossus, on Jan. 12 via Argonauta Records. Of the 12 tracks included on the Italian five-piece’s second full-length, I’m especially glad that it was ‘Forgive’ that they decided to give visual accompaniment. It’s a sensible choice, since among its peers on Colossus in hook-laden tracks like the rolling “Mankind’s Glory,” the fuzz-stomping “The Angry Man” and the atmospherically ranging “The Spectator,” it emphasizes the group’s blend of space and riff-fueled heavy rocks and the vitality with which they’re combined in some of the record’s best moments.

The synth of Michele Montanari is a prominent factor in making that happen, and it comes through on “Forgive” as well as the subsequent “Ignorant Song” just how much that’s the case. kayleth colossusWhat could easily otherwise be positioned as post-Kyuss/Dozer desert-style riffing is given an ethereal edge thanks to the fourish of keys, and as vocalist Enrico Gastaldo acts as the guiding hand through the barrage of careening riffs from guitarist Massimo Dalla Valle, the rhythm section of bassist Alessandro Zanetti and drummer Daneile Pedrollo more than capably handle the turns the riffs present, whether they might arrive in a slower-unfolding piece like “Pitchy Mantra” or in the nod-ready momentum-building opener “Lost in the Swamp,” which signals early to riff-hounds that they’re about to be in good company for the ensuing 59-minute stretch.

That’s not an insignificant run for Kayleth to make on their second LP, but like the robot walking around in the video for “Forgive,” they manage to cover an awful lot of ground in the time they have, and while there are some tracks that might reiterate a point, leading one to think that efficiency is still an emerging factor in their sound, the fact of the matter is they’re nearly a decade on from their first EP release, so it’s not like they’re an inexperienced band at this point. Maybe they just had a lot to say. That happens sometimes, and while they border on the unmanageable in the album’s stretch, the fact that later pieces like “Solitude” and “The Angry Man” offer so much punch alongside their resilient spaciousness staves off redundancy and leaves Colossus that much more fulfilling on the whole.

You can check out the premiere of the clip for “Forgive” below, followed by more info from the PR wire.

Please enjoy:

Kayleth, “Forgive” official video premiere

After the massive feedback of the deluxe edition of their latest album “Space Muffin” during the past Summer, KAYLETH are now ready to unleash their new effort. An intensive and unique blend of Stoner Rock sonorities, Sci-Fi atmospheres, stellar vocals and exciting guitar riffings, to build-up their best album to date.

KAYLETH “Colossus” will be released on CD/DD by ARGONAUTA Records and available from January 12th, 2018. Preorders run here: http://bit.ly/2hKjhFu

Kayleth is:
Massimo Dalla Valle: Guitar
Alessandro Zanetti: Bass
Daniele Pedrollo: Drums
Enrico Gastaldo: Vocals
Michele Montanari: Synth

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Sun Voyager Premiere “Caves of Steel” Video; Debut LP Seismic Vibes Available to Preorder

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Whathaveyou on December 5th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

sun voyager photo by seth applebaum

I don’t even want to talk about how long I’ve been waiting for the debut album from Sun Voyager, but suffice it to say, it’s been a while. The New York-based heavy psych trio’s early EPs, 2015’s Lazy Daze tape (review here) and 2013’s Mecca (review here), brought immersive thrills delivered with the inimitable energy of youth, and splits with Greasy Hearts (discussed here) in 2014 and The Mad Doctors (discussed here) last year only furthered anticipation. Though it’s taken them a fair minute to get there, the band will issue their first long-player in the form of Seismic Vibes via King Pizza Records on April 20, 2018. The album actually exists. You can preorder it now direct from the label.

And I suggest you do. Not just because the numbers are limited, but because Seismic Vibes — about which I’m of course hoping sun voyager seismic vibesto have much more coverage over the course of the next several months — indeed follows through on the potential Sun Voyager has continued to show over the last several years, drawing from grunge, psych, shoegaze, post-rock, heavy riffing, garage stylization and beyond and mashing it all together into songs that are neither pretentious nor overly wrought. A cut like “Hair Brained” howls  and shuffles with should-get-TeePeeRecords‘-attention abandon, while “Open Road” sets a foundational hook early and the later “Psychic Lords” drifts languidly into a vision of heavy indie/neopsych to lead into charged finale “God is Dead.”

That song, or rather a shorter, four-piece version of it, opened Lazy Daze, and opener “Trip” was unveiled earlier this year with a prior album update, so not all of Seismic Vibes will be unfamiliar to those who’ve been keeping up, but the 34-minute run Sun Voyager bring to bear feels in its initial impressions like it’s been worth the wait, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to host the preorder and tour-date announcement below, as well as the video for the uptempo “Caves of Steel,” which boasts one of the record’s catchiest choruses. You’re going to want to watch it more than once, so be ready to commit more than the actual three and a half minutes of the song itself. That’s really just the beginning of it.

All info follows the clip on the player below, courtesy of the PR wire.

Please enjoy:

Sun Voyager, “Caves of Steel” official video premiere

Sun Voyager Premiere “Caves of Steel”; Seismic Vibes Available to Preorder

Hudson Valley natives Sun Voyager are thrilled to premiere the video for their new single, “Caves of Steel,” off the debut album Seismic Vibes coming out April 20th on King Pizza Records.

This eight-song journey is Sun Voyager’s first true long player and it’s a planet-shattering thunder mountain possibly too nasty for your turntable. It was recorded by Paul Ritchie in Neptune, NJ, produced by Sun Voyager, Paul Ritchie, and keyboardist Evan Heinze, mastered by Alan Douches at West West Side Music in New Windsor, NY, and album art was designed by Boston’s TJ Freda.

Seismic Vibes is available for preorder today on vinyl with exclusive options limited to 100 White, 100 Gold, as well as Interstellar Black.

Tracklist:
1. Trip
2. Open Road
3. Caves of Steel
4. Stellar Winds
5. Hair Brained
6. Too Much
7. Psychic Lords
8. God is Dead

The name “Caves of Steel” is taken from an Isaac Asimov novel about robots living among us in society and the music video was directed by Danghul Bangyana filmed mostly at Tweed Mountain in Nyack, NY.

Catch Sun Voyager on tour this month:
12/7 – Knoxville, TN – The Pilot Light
12/8 – Boone, NC – Black Cat Burrito
12/9 – Richmond, VA – Lucy Lane
12/10 – Montclair, NJ – The Meatlocker
12/11 – Saratoga Springs, NY – One Caroline
12/12 – Allston, MA – Great Scott
12/13 – Brooklyn, NY – Zone One at Elsewhere*
* – w/ Elephant Stone

Sun Voyager is:
Carlos Francisco
Stefan Mersch
Kyle Beach

Preorder link: http://kingpizzarecords.storenvy.com/products/22483149-sun-voyager-seismic-vibes-lp

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Cyanna Mercury Post “Apollo” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on November 29th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

cyanna mercury

Might at first seem like a curious choice on the part of Athens-based five-piece Cyanna Mercury in picking a track for a video to represent their debut album, Archetypes (review here). After all, they could’ve gone with the heavy blues vibes of opener “Horse Dark as Night” or the organ and folk-ish percussion of the later, soulful “If We Were Blind,” the handclap-laden “Lilith” or even the moody “Ode to Absent Father,” but instead they went with the 90-second “Apollo,” a piano-and-voice piece that, while fair enough in capturing the brooding sensibility of Archetypes on the whole, hardly speaks for the scope of the band’s arrangements throughout. Well, it turns out they already did videos for all the other songs, and “Apollo” is the last one left, so there you go.

Even so, given the sonic variety between the tracks above and the rest that make up Archetypes, Cyanna Mercury don’t really have just one that speaks for the entirety of the album, the 47 minutes record of which fluidly blend Greek folk elements with heavy, psychedelic and classically progressive rock into a sound that’s patient and expressive without veering into being overblown or more theatrical than it wants to be. It’s a balance that would be hard for a more experienced group to strike, but Cyanna Mercury not only make it flow on their debut, but do so without sounding rushed or like they’re fuddling their way through finding their sound. They come across, in other words, like they know what they’re doing.

And hell, maybe they do. In that case, even without knowing all the other clips exist, one might be more inclined to give Cyanna Mercury the benefit of the doubt on a curious choice like giving “Apollo” visuals over some of the other tracks on Archetypes, since clearly there’s a master plan at work. As to how their plan might play out, I don’t know, but one of the hallmarks of Greece’s emergent heavy underground is that its bands have a genuine sense of stylistic adventurousness and that, for the most part, they’re not content to simply carbon-copy the work of others from outside their geographic sphere without putting something of their own into it. “Apollo,” in the span of about a minute and a half, proves Cyanna Mercury are immediately engaged in this as well, and so maybe it was the way to go after all.

Video and credits follow here. Please enjoy:

Cyanna Mercury, “Apollo” official video

Produced by Dimitris Lilis & Cyanna Mercury
Co-produced, Mixed, Engineered by Alex Bolpasis
Recorded at Artracks studios
Mastered by James Plotkin

Video created by Iam Nothe
https://www.facebook.com/IamNotheDesign

Music by Diamond Pr & Spyreas Sid
Lyrics by Spyreas Sid

Cyanna Mercury is:
Spyreas Sid – vocals & percussion
Nick Sid – keyboard
Diamond Pr – guitars
Dennis Panagiotidis – drums
Dimitri Georgopoulos – bass

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The Atomic Bitchwax Post “Houndstooth” Video; Force Field out Dec. 8

Posted in Bootleg Theater on November 28th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the atomic bitchwax

Gearing up to start a European tour with Greenleaf and Steak on Dec. 1, New Jersey heavy rock forerunners The Atomic Bitchwax will issue their seventh album, Force Field, via Tee Pee Records on Dec. 8. I’ll have a review up one way or the other before the record lands, but the short version is it’s a blazing follow-up to to the aggro charge of 2015’s Gravitron (review here), only further tightened by a renewed commitment to touring that’s seen the power trio tearing ass across Europe, North America and South America. They have bordered on relentless.

The new album does likewise. It’s longest track is “Alaskan Thunder Fuck” at a whopping 3:48 and even that has not a moment to spare in its pursuit of dizzying turns and the band’s trademark winding riffing. With vocal trades between founding bassist Chris Kosnik and guitarist Finn Ryan atop the propulsive drumming of Bob Pantella, the Bitchwax haven’t lost the melodic sensibility that emerged amid the mid-paced fare of records like 2005’s 3 (discussed here) or 2008’s TAB4, but ever since 2011’s single-song instrumental outing The Local Fuzz (review here), the band has gotten faster, meaner and Force Field is rawer in its approach, unafraid to say “fuck” when it wants to, and it rocks with a show-’em-how-it’s-done efficiency that easily distinguishes their boogie from just about everything else the Eastern Seaboard of the US has to offer.

Seriously. Check out their new video for “Houndstooth” below and find me another band on the East Coast who does this kind of thing better than the Bitchwax do it. I dare you.

They just don’t exist.

Again, more to come on Force Field sometime in the next week, but for now, you can dig into the sunglasses-on vibes of “Houndstooth” below, followed by more info from the PR wire and those European tour dates, which are presented by Sound of Liberation.

Please enjoy:

The Atomic Bitchwax, “Houndstooth” official video

Featuring the powerhouse rhythm section from legendary space lords Monster Magnet, The Atomic Bitchwax plays balls-to-the-wall rock ‘n’ roll that smashes space rock and proto-metal into a towering celebration of the riff. The New Jersey power trio (aka TAB) will release its seventh full length LP, Force Field, on December 8 via Tee Pee Records.

Recorded at the Freakshop in Keyport, NJ , mixed at The Panic Room in Ocean, NJ and mastered by Alan Douches (Chelsea Wolfe, Tombs, The Obsessed), The Atomic Bitchwax’s high energy, scale-based guitar mangling hits astronomical levels on Force Field, with full stack amps pushing out dangerous levels of blown-out metallic mayhem. An awe-inducing tumult of head-down forward drive and top tier hard rock, Force Field mashes Sci-Fi and Hi-Fi, rocketing The Atomic Bitchwax into the outer reaches of the modern day heavy music universe.

Track listing:
1.) Hippie Speedball
2.) Earth Shaker (Which Doobie U Be)
3.) Alaskan Thunder F*ck
4.) Shocker
5.) Crazy
6.) Fried Dyed And Layin To The Side
7.) Shell of a Man
8.) Houndstooth
9.) Tits and Bones
10.) Humble Brag
11.) Super Highway
12.) Liv A Little

Pre-order Force Field at this location.

The Atomic Bitchwax w/ Greenleaf & Steak:
01.12.17 – London | Underworld
02.12.17 – Brussels | Magasin 4
03.12.17 – Hamburg | Markthalle
04.12.17 – Cologne | Luxor
05.12.17 – Wiesbaden | Schlachthof
06.12.17 – Leipzig | Werk2
07.12.17 – Munich | Feierwerk
08.12.17 – Olten | Schuetzenhaus
09.12.17 – Linz | Posthof
10.12.17 – Vienna | Arena
11.12.17 – Stuttgart | Universum
12.12.17 – Saarbruecken | Garage
13.12.17 – Nijmegen | Doornroosje
14.12.17 – Paris | Glazart
15.12.17 – Dortmund | JunkYard
16.12.17 – Berlin | Bi Nuu

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Friday Full-Length: Ancestors, Neptune with Fire

Posted in Bootleg Theater on November 24th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Ancestors, Neptune with Fire (2008)

The timing of Ancestors‘ debut album, Neptune with Fire, is important to remember. This is by no means a complete context, but in particular, three factors stand out to my mind about its release in 2008: First, it was right before Thee Facebooks really started to take over the planet when it came to being the primary outlet for bands to communicate with their fanbase. MySpace at that point had kind of crapped the bed, but the shift hadn’t yet fully been made in terms of groups finding ways to promote themselves through Facebook, so it was kind of a grey area and a transitional period. The notion of a group talking directly to their fans via Twitter or Instagram, or effectively bringing their whole audience on tour via mobile updates, etc., was radically new and not at all nearly as widespread as it would become.

Second, Sleep hadn’t reunited yet, but there was basically an entire generation of new listeners waiting for them to do so, or waiting for someone to pick up that mantle and become that band, leading the charge for a weedian vision of stoner metal that, as we know, continues to be relevant nearly a decade later perhaps even more than it was at the time and certainly more than it was during Sleep‘s original run in the 1990s.

Third, Neptune with Fire was released by Tee Pee Records in August 2008. In the US, the presidential campaign that would elect Barack Obama was just really heating up, and about two months after this two-song full-length’s arrival, the prior seven years of needless war would catch up with and effectively bottom out the American economy, costing countless individuals (myself included) their jobs, bankrupting investments, semi-collapsing the housing market, and so on. To a degree that would resonate for years, shit hit the fan.

Despite all of this, I remember the response to Neptune with Fire being absolutely massive. Part of it, I think, relates to the second factor above — that there had just been this generational shift in the general heavy rock fanbase, and particularly as internet word of mouth was becoming more widespread about the existence of all this music to start with, listeners were looking for someone to spearhead a movement of new stoner rock. Along comes Ancestors out of Los Angeles with this massive two-song/38-minute debut album (actually it was their demo that got picked up and issued as a full-length), topped with Arik Roper art and a vibe that not only captured huge and lumbering riffs in its extended component cuts, “Neptune with Fire” (16:47) and “Orcus’ Avarice” (21:38), but added to that a sense of spaciousness and atmosphere, as each of those songs boasted a sprawling break in its midsection, side A with a lengthy foray into psychedelic trancemaking and side B with a more progressive roll topped with ambient and operatic vocalizations. Neptune with Fire captured the core righteousness of the heavy rock and roll of the decade prior — clearly those lessons had been learned — but carried forward into something new of which its audience could take ownership. They could make the sound theirs, just as the band was doing.

Thing of it is, though — Ancestors never really wanted to be that band. With their second record, 2009’s Of Sound Mind (review here), they’d distance themselves almost immediately from the lumbering riffcraft of Neptune with Fire and especially the title-track thereof. One can hear shades in “Orcus’ Avarice” of the post-rock vibes they’d elicit on the subsequent Invisible White EP (review here) in 2011 and the progressive soundsculpting they’d do on 2012’s aesthetic triumph In Dreams and Time (review here), but though it was just the beginning of the departure, their sophomore outing nonetheless sent a clear signal that Ancestors were going to be a different kind of outfit than people might be expecting.

Guitarist/vocalist Justin Maranga spoke directly about this in an interview here back in 2012:

I think people thought we were gonna be a stoner rock band. And I think it put us in that hole where we constantly still get referred to as a stoner rock band, and I don’t think we’re that at all. Are we music for stoners? Yeah, but so’s jazz, and I can say without a doubt that we all listen to 50 times more jazz than we do stoner rock. None of us really listen to stoner rock.

I mean, I like Sleep, I like Kyuss, and a good stoner rock band comes out once in a while, but to me, it’s a genre full of retread. That’s not exciting to me. I don’t know where I would put us, genre-wise, but we definitely got lumped into the stoner rock genre, and I won’t say that we’ve gone out of our way to spite it ever since, but there doesn’t really seem to be a way out… I feel like you can’t escape from where you started.

And Neptune’s a cool record, it’s just not really us anymore. I like the song “Neptune with Fire” a lot. “Orcus Avarice” we’re never going to play again – it’s just not us. But it’s not a bad record, it’s just I feel like we’ve grown up a little bit.

Ancestors would not be the first or the last band to exist in the shadow of their first offering and the expectations it set up on the part of their listeners, but this is also where the other two factors come in. Very soon after Neptune with Fire‘s release, the entire world seemed to slam into a wall. All of a sudden, money to go out drinking at shows was nil, and the impetus to do so became less drastic anyway with the proliferation of online/mobile engagement with artists. Fact of the matter is Ancestors that whatever else they had going for them in terms of songwriting and the will toward sonic growth — and that’s plenty, to be sure — Ancestors were never much for self-promotion. Did they ever tour the Eastern Seaboard? I’m not sure they did. I’d finally see them at Roadburn 2012 (review here), and I continue to feel fortunate for having done so, but they were never one of those bands who seemed to have an Instagram post up about it every time one of the dudes cut a fart. You know the kind of bands I’m talking about. Ancestors were always more keen to let the music do the talking for them, and mind you that’s not necessarily a negative.

Rumors have been abound of a fourth Ancestors long-player over the last couple years, and back in August, the band posted a new track called “Gone” that they said would open the album, to be released in 2018. Stranger things have certainly happened. In the meantime, they started their own label, Dune Altar (discussed here), and have used it not only to reissue Neptune with Fire on tape, but to act as an outlet for members’ other projects as well, so they’ve been keeping busy one way or the other. As a fan of their work and someone who thought In Dreams and Time was not only their greatest accomplishment but one of the best records of this decade — yup, I mean it; it’s on the list — obviously the concept of a follow-up is one I’d find duly intriguing. We’ll see how it goes, I guess.

Until then, and as always, I hope you enjoy Neptune with Fire for what it is and for the depth, richness and heft it brings to bear. Thank you for reading.

Yesterday was Thanksgiving here in the US — a holiday with a troubled historical foundation that’s manifest basically as an excuse to get together with loved ones and enjoy a ridiculously proportioned meal. If you’ve been reading these posts, you know I’ve been having some food issues of late. I made myself a protein shake and The Patient Mrs. made me some low-carb scones for dessert and that was my Thanksgiving dinner. After a breakfast of protein powder in coffee, I skipped lunch — which would’ve been the same thing anyway — on account of traveling to Connecticut, where we were to dine with her family at their house and with my family, up from New Jersey. And yeah, no turkey or anything else for me. I sat at the table for basically as long as I could do so with my shake and then kind of had to vacate.

The day ended with The Patient Mrs. asking me if I wanted to talk to a therapist, so perhaps not my best showing. I told her yes, incidentally. I’ve been through one therapy cycle in my life and didn’t get much from it, but I’ve been on antidepressants for about the last six months now, maybe longer, and I kind of feel like I owe it a little bit to The Pecan to at least take as many steps as I can take toward not being a miserable bastard and infecting him with my negative point of view. Or at least do something to mitigate it. A step my own father never took. Call it generational progress.

Better yet: don’t.

So let’s talk about next week. I was supposed to do an album stream on Monday, but the band put the record up on Bandcamp in its entirety, so there goes that. I don’t know yet how that’ll shake out, if they’ll take it down and we’ll just pretend they didn’t already share it on Facebook, etc., or if I’ll review something else, but whatever. Plenty of fish in the sea as regards stuff needing review. The point, as ever, is that the notes are subject to change. Here they are:

Mon.: Les Lekin review/stream OR Uncle Acid Vol. 1 review; Monarch ticket giveaway.
Tue.: Eggnogg Six Dumb Questions & track premiere; Sun Voyager video premiere.
Wed.: Slow review; The Atomic Bitchwax video.
Thu.: Eternal Elysium reissue review; Cyanna Mercury video.
Fri.: Stahv track premiere; Merlin video premiere.

Busy busy, but that’s how I like it, apparently.

Was up at four this morning with The Pecan, who needed changing. The Patient Mrs. handling the feeding, I’ve been doing the bulk of the diapers still the last couple weeks. That’s fine. She gets more time with him at this point but I imagine that equation will change once he’s on a bottle and she goes back to work and so on. These things are fluid anyway, though I’ll admit I’m jealous of the quality time they spend. A shitty diaper ain’t no thing, though. I’ve gotten pretty good at catching the Rocketass output and for the most part the fountain around front is contained too, so yeah. The boy likes waiting until the diaper comes off to really go to town. We all have our preferences.

For what it’s worth, he did better at Thanksgiving than I did, so I take that as an encouraging sign.

I hope you have a great and safe weekend. If you’re the kind of go out and do post-Thanksgiving holiday shopping, be kind to retail employees. I worked retail for years at a toy store and it’s hard, especially right now, and a little basic courtesy can really go long in helping someone get through their day. Just something to keep in mind. Whatever you’re up to though, enjoy it as much as you can.

And as always, thanks again for reading. Please check out the forum and the radio stream.

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Pillars Premiere “Pyres and Gallows” Official Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on November 21st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

pillars

Based out of Nice, France, and given every now and again to throwing in a Celtic Frost-style ‘ough!’ to signal a turn toward more extreme and shouted fare, the four-piece Pillars recently issued their debut EP, Pyres and Gallows, and with its four tracks began an exploration of traditionalist doom marked out by its overarching sense of atmosphere in the guitar. Setting its own context in the growls of “Cult Seeker” or the classic-horror vibes that persist in opener “Green Magik Ritual” — somewhere between Goatsnake and Cathedral, that one is — the EP knocks on the door of full-length territory at 33 lumber-prone minutes, and particularly in the early unfolding of “Dirty Whoreshippers” and the more patient, slower 10-minute closing title-track, calls to mind the earliest output by now-defunct UK outfit The Wounded Kings.

Now, that’s not a comparison to be made lightly, either in terms of the band The Wounded Kings started out as, the band they became, or the many tumultuous steps they had to undertakepillars pyres and gallows to get from one to the other, but as the throaty but melodic echoes of vocalist Klem tops JJ‘s crashing drums in “Pyres and Gallows,” with Djé‘s guitar and Disaster‘s bass ensuring that the mournful arrangement is delivered with due viscosity, I think it’s a fair enough line to draw, and it speaks as well to the progressive potential in general from Pillars, which would only seem to offer further avenues of possible exploration with the more extreme elements put to use at various points throughout. The darkness of the ambience and the nuance that Pillars discover within traditional doom could very well lead them on their own path over time, but wherever that might end up, they’ve sent a clear signal with this first offering that it’s going to be worth finding out.

Today I have the pleasure of hosting “Pyres and Gallows” as a video premiere to coincide with the EP’s official limited cassette release on Seeing Red Records. The label is also hosting the full stream of the tracks via Bandcamp, and they’re at the bottom of the post as well, for further digging.

Enjoy:

Pillars, “Pyres and Gallows” official video premiere

Disaster on “Pyres and Gallows”:

“Pyres and Gallows” is essentially about the Middle Ages, the Inquisition, no rules, and chaos everywhere. In the end, everything ends up burning… “Pyres and Gallows” is our favorite song to play live: epic, massive and chaotic ending. Our new material is definitely more in this vein, less ‘stoner rock’ than older songs… darker and heavier.”

Harnessing the powers of anguish and majesty simultaneously, PILLARS carve a tortured place in the psyche of doom and sludge with an unshakably focused assault on the senses. Harsh, brooding, and calculated, the music drags your soul through the muck and buries you, your screams a part of the choir of devastation. Sacrificing the vintage and retro flare commonplace in the genre as of late and replacing it with the vile discomfort of a forgotten past, Pillars bring only agony and promise only torment. Prepare your grave.

Pillars was formed in 2014 by ex-members of extreme bands from the South of France such as SVART CROWN, IMPERIAL SODOMY, ADDICTED and UNCLEMOSH. When the band began, their sound displayed more of a dark stoner vein, but when Clément (vocals) joined the band in March 2015, they chose to alter their path towards slow crushing doom. “Pyres and Gallows” contains a bit of the old style while teasing their newer direction, both a promising look at what is to come in 2018.

PILLARS is:
Disaster – Bass
Djé – Guitars
JJ – Drums
Klem – Vocals

Pillars, Pyres and Gallows (2017)

Pillars on Thee Facebooks

Pillars on Bandcamp

Seeing Red Records on Thee Facebooks

Seeing Red Records on Instagram

Seeing Red Records website

Seeing Red Records on Bandcamp

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