Review & Lyric Video Premiere: Gomer Pyle, Before I Die I…

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Reviews on February 18th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Gomer Pyle before I die I

[Click play above to see the premiere of Gomer Pyle’s ‘Laeviculus’ from their new album, Before I Die I…, out Feb. 28 on The Lab and Three Chords Records.]

A new full-length from Dutch-native heavy rockers Gomer Pyle isn’t something that simply happens every year or every other year. Or every five. Or 10. To wit, Before I Die I… is the third Gomer Pyle album, arriving as a 2LP through The Lab Records and Three Chords Records, and it follows behind their 1999 debut, Eurohappy, and its 2008 follow-up, Idiots Savants. While it’s true they’ve had a couple EPs out along the way, the latest of them being 2016’s three-song GP — which boasted “Side Kings,” also featured here as the longest track at 11:51 — three records over the course of 21 years, a one-per-seven-years average is still not a rate one would call prolific. One could spend months waxing poetic about the different world that 2020 presents as opposed to 2008, but the occasion bringing the band — with the listed membership of guitarist/vocalist Mark Brouwer, guitarist Mark van Loon, keyboardist Danny Gras (who also recorded), bassist Danny Huijgens and drummer Kees Haverkamp — together for Before I Die I… is more personal, and the clue is in the name. Like Astrosoniq‘s 2018 offering, Big Ideas Dare Imagination (review here), the title Before I Die I… is an extrapolation from Bidi, the first name of former manager Bidi van Drongelen, who passed away in June 2017. So that covers why.

As to how long some of these songs have been kicking around, the easiest guess considering the prior appearance of “Side Kings” is a mix of newer and older ideas, and Gomer Pyle‘s sound works much the same way, be it the progressive grunge of the penultimate “Your Demon,” which taps Alice in Chains-style harmonies and darkened vibes before resolving in a sudden thrust of harder-hitting noisy jaggedness, or the fluidity across 10-minute opener  “Remember the Days,” which gradually makes its way in over the first two-plus minutes and continues to unfold patiently despite an underlying rhythmic tension and a chorus of the type that one ends up hoping will be stuck in the head when it’s over, with just a current of pop-style wistfulness in the vocals that finds its payoff in the finale “Cyclus,” amid an instrumental build that the band gracefully let go into the ether after just four minutes of repeated lyrical structures and harmonizing. Across the 62 minutes and nine songs of Before I Die I…‘s span — and it is a span — the group make a case for themselves as being among the great lost generation of pre-social media underground heavy rock, but as with their countrymen in Astrosoniq, that “heavy rock” in their sound is really just a launch point for broader exploration.

Whether it’s “The Buzzer” bringing its hook after “Remember the Days” or the winding, swinging and brash “Scum Trade” or the insistent push of “Nicky McGee,” which follows — that one-two punch arriving, by the way, on the other end of the gorgeous unfurling of “Side Kings,” which is enough of a highlight that one hopes the 2LP positions it as its own side, simply because it deserves to stand alone — Gomer Pyle triumph through the varied currents of their songwriting, tying together sonic diversity through performance and distinctive tone and melody.

gomer pyle live at roadburn 2016

That’s not new math by any means, and while one wouldn’t accuse them of being revolutionary — for one thing, the word implies an urgency that despite some of their speedier grooves is undercut by the years between their releases — neither are Gomer Pyle anything resembling derivative in style. Rather, they present enough changes and shifts across Before I Die I… that one never quite knows where the next song is going to go, and that lack of predictability only makes finding out all the more thrilling as “Nicky McGee” rough-and-tumbles its way into the languid eight-minute stretch of “We Are One,” where the sweet and psychedelic guitar melody signals the emotional resonance at its core throughout the keyboard-laced linear build to come, meeting with a due payoff.

The subsequent “Laeviculus” is charged with distilling the sort of fluidity brought by “We Are One” and perhaps marrying it to some of the more straightforward impulses presented throughout Before I Die I…, but it does this across a six-minute run that still wants nothing for reach or memorability, thanks to a standout guitar solo in its second half, a particularly strong vocal, and a sense of nuance that extends to the timing of the snare hits around the five-minute mark. As it surges late and makes its sudden departure, it’s up to “Your Demon” to continue the momentum, which it does with a classic heavy rock swaggering groove, albeit one dressed in grunge melody and a quirky intertwining of guitar lines in the verse, perhaps hinting at some of the more open toying with structure that follows, but if there’s resolution to be had, it comes not only in the finality of the last thuds in “Your Demon” itself, but in the opening piano lines of “Cyclus,” which is, again, gorgeous and rife with class and sincerity without pretense, keeping a current of experimentalism in low-end electronic pulses underneath the emergent build, but finding its footing in the dramatic and sing-along ready vocals, though they’re there for a surprisingly short time.

Aren’t we all.

I did not know Bidi van Drongelen, and seeing the impact his loss had on the community of which he was a part has only made that more regrettable, but grief is universal and touches everyone at one point or another to some measure. The manner in which Gomer Pyle channel that into the scope of Before I Die I… is the type of homage not simply everyone could pay, channeling not just the sadness of losing someone who matters to you, but representing and celebrating the beautiful, complex wholeness of a life worth missing. Even separated from this context, its emotional crux is striking and powerful, and the multifaceted nature of the band’s approach stands up to whatever angle or read one might want to put to it in craft, performance and presentation.

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Candlemass Post “Porcelain Skull” Lyric Video from The Pendulum EP

Posted in Bootleg Theater on February 17th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

candlemass

So far as I know, Candlemass founding bassist and principal songwriter Leif Edling didn’t actually play on Avatarium‘s Nov. 2019 album, The Fire I Long For, though he’s certainly been in the band’s lineup in the past, but he did contribute a few tracks to the proceedings, and one of those was “Porcelain Skull,” which, as interpreted by Candlemass themselves, is now set to appear on the new EP, The Pendulum that the epic doom progenitors will issue on March 27 through Napalm Records. It is the second lyric video they’ve done for the release behind that for the opening title-track, and it finds their rolling righteous grandiosity in fine form, with a subtly catchy chorus from returned frontman Johan Längquist that would’ve fit nicely on 2019’s The Door to Doom (review here) if, well, if it had fit, I suppose.

But indeed, Avatarium did record “Porcelain Skull” as well, and that band’s interpretation of it can be heard below. Edling, who the PR wire quotes below, calls the Candlemass version raw in comparison, and to a certain degree he’s right, though there’s still a sweep in the central riff that there’s really no getting away from either way. My feelings on The Pendulum remain unchanged: “New Candlemass; I’ll take it however it comes.” Seriously, time’s a wasting. Edling has retired the band multiple times over by now and though he hasn’t yet been able to actually put it to rest — and having recently reaped acclaim like winning a Swedish Grammy and being nominated for an American one, the band has rare momentum on their side — but who the hell knows what the future will bring. Particularly with having Längquist back in the fold more than 30 years on from the debut album on which he appeared, every moment they’re able to capture together is a worthwhile endeavor. This is archival-grade doom. Future generations will learn from it.

If they know what’s good for them, anyway.

The video’s a little over-the-top, as it would have to be, but the song is right on. You can dig in below, and please enjoy:

Candlemass, “Porcelain Skull” lyric video

Legendary classic doom icons CANDLEMASS who, in addition to their recent Grammy nomination, just won a Swedish Grammy for ‘Best Hard Rock’ act, recently announced the release of their brand new EP, entitled The Pendulum. Due out on March 27th via Napalm Records, The Pendulum features a fine selection of never-before-heard, unused tracks cut from the The Door To Doom recording sessions.

Pre-order the EP “The Pendulum” here: https://smarturl.it/ThePendulum

“I think the video really captures the schizophrenic lyrics to the Porcelain Skull song. It is about the eternal battle with our dark selves,” says band mastermind, Leif Edling. “Avatarium did a fine version of it on their latest album but this one is rawer and harder, hits you right in the face!”

The Pendulum Tracklisting:
1. The Pendulum
2. Snakes Of Goliath
3. Sub Zero
4. Aftershock
5. Porcelain Skull
6. The Cold Room

CANDLEMASS live:
April 11: SWE – Stockholm / Södra Teatern
April 12: SWE – Stockholm / Södra Teatern
April 18: US – Houston, TX / White Oak Music Hall
July 11: BUL – Chelopech / Park Korminesh

Candlemass are:
Leif Edling: Bass
Mats “Mappe” Björkman: Guitars
Jan Lindh: Drums
Lars “Lasse” Johansson: Guitars
Johan Langquist: Vocals

Avatarium, “Porcelain Skull”

Candlemass, “The Pendulum” official lyric video

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Iguana Post Live Videos from Translational Symmetry Release Show; Live Dates Announced

Posted in Bootleg Theater on February 17th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

iguana

It’s not the whole gig, and it doesn’t need to be to get the point across. In a newly posted playlist of four live tracks — “Vague as a Mirage,” “The Fish Code,” “Hear the Kid Out” and “Below the Hinterlands” — German heavy psych rockers Iguana give a 16-or-so-minute glimpse at what their release show was like for their latest album, Translational Symmetry (review here), and from what I can see in the clips and hear from the hooting of the crowd, it sounds like a party. Three of the four songs are from the album itself, while “Vague as a Mirage” is older, and it’s worth noting the shorter bursts that the newer pieces seem to be, with the longest of them arriving in the spacey push of “Below the Hinterlands” at four and a half minutes while “Vague as a Mirage” tops six. Not that Translational Symmetry doesn’t have its longer-form stretches, but I think they give a sense of the underlying tightness of their songwriting here, and the appeal from the stage is plain to see, even if the videos themselves are kind of dark.

Iguana were in Darmstadt this past weekend — home to Wight, as well as roughly 158,250 other people — and they have a hometown show in Erfurt this week as well as more shows upcoming. Summer plans have yet to be unveiled, but there’s an already-booked appearance at the Tonzonen Fest in September, which is, naturally, hosted by their label, Tonzonen Records. I’ve not had the pleasure of seeing Iguana live, and though rock and roll has taught me the lesson time and again of never saying never as regards pretty much anything happening — from Ozzy rejoining Sabbath to, well, Dio rejoining Sabbath — I don’t know when such a thing might come to pass, so the chance to get a sense of what they’re like on stage is welcome as I have enjoyed their records for years at this point. Maybe you’ve seen them, maybe not, but a cool release show is worth capturing either way, and since Translational Symmetry itself was worth highlighting, it seems only fair to do the same for these clips. So here we are.

The album is out now on Tonzonen. Video playlist follows, as hosted by the band and shot by Daniel Wiesendorf.

Please enjoy:

Iguana, Live at AJZ Talschock Chemnitz 2019 playlist

Video: Daniel Wiesendorf – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCxSL_nWvKVIhoDCzEavanMA

Iguana live:
19.02. Erfurt, Frau Korte
22.02. Solingen, Waldmeister e.V. Raum für Kultur
29.02. Würzburg, Immerhin
11.09. Krefeld, KuFa Krefeld, Tonzonen Fest
12.09. Naumburg, The Black House

Order via Bandcamp: https://iguana.bandcamp.com/
Order via Tonzonen Records: https://www.tonzonen.de/iguana/

Iguana is:
Alexander Lörinczy | Vocals, Guitar, Synthesizer
Alexander May | Bass
Robert Meier | Drums
Thomas May | Guitar, Synthesizer

Iguana, “Time Translation Symmetry” official video

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Friday Full-Length: Cathedral, The Garden of Unearthly Delights

Posted in Bootleg Theater on February 14th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Cathedral, The Garden of Unearthly Delights (2005)

The various eras of Cathedral have their detractors and proponents, and if I’m perfectly honest, I don’t know where 2005’s The Garden of Unearthly Delights sits in terms of average fan esteem. And not to put too fine a point on it, but I also don’t really care. The record rules. It was the Coventry-based doomers’ eighth album, and also marked their first offering through Nuclear Blast after releasing 2002’s The VIIth Coming through Dream Catcher/Spitfire Records and spending the bulk of their career to that point on Earache Records, to which they signed ahead of their 1991 landmark debut, Forest of Equilibrium (discussed here; reissue review here).

Vocalist Lee Dorrian‘s ties to England’s formative years of grindcore in Napalm Death and Cathedral‘s transition from the harsher-edged doom of their own beginnings to and through the other end of stoner rock in LPs like 1996’s Supernatural Birth Machine andcathedral the garden of unearthly delights 1998’s Caravan Beyond Redemption and into the mature doom of 2001’s Endtyme and the aforementioned The VIIth Coming were already given considerations when it came to the band, and as they made their way onto Nuclear Blast for the first time, it seemed like they had a chance to refresh their sound with a collection of hyper-strong songs that not only reconciled the various sides of their approach, but celebrated them, giving the doom and the rock their due while looking through a progressive lens at what the band — who by then had already been together for some 16 years — might still accomplish. That’s exactly what The Garden of Unearthly Delights became.

Produced by Warren Riker, who’s probably more known for the work he was doing around that time with the likes of Crowbar and the resurgent Down, The Garden of Unearthly Delights highlighted the to-that-point-undervalued aspect of songwriting in the work of Dorrian and his fellow founder, guitarist Gaz Jennings, as well as bassist/flutist/mellotronist/synthesist Leo Smee and drummer Brian Dixon (lately to be found in The Skull). Its 10-track/70-minute run made it some 17 minutes longer than its predecessor, but it used that time wisely and purposefully, even if splitting up the near-27-minute multi-movement epic “The Garden” onto two vinyl sides of a double-LP version made for a somewhat awkward (and also, one has to admit, more digestible) presentation.

But even the preceding psych-doom quirk — singing kids, ’60s garage bounce, strings and all — of “Beneath a Funeral Sun,” the songs throughout The Garden of Unearthly Delights are unquestionably the focus of the record itself, rather than any particular stylistic concern. And the album is that much stronger for that. It’s as though Cathedral threw up their hands to some degree and said, “screw it, we don’t know what we’re supposed to sound like so let’s have fun,” and don’t tell anybody I said so — because what could be less doom than admitting to a good time — but The Garden of Unearthly Delights is an absolute blast. Sure, it opens grim with the intro “Dearth AD,” but that’s just the first minute, and then it’s off through the gruff riffing of “Tree of Life and Death,” dirty, rocking, brash — and fun.

So much fun. Crazy catchy. But not dumb. The arrangement is clever, the mix is golden and the performance is vital. “Tree of Life and Death” throws down a gauntlet that the historical narrative of “North Berwick Witch Trials” picks up with an even more earworming hook, and it seems like by the time the band are into “Upon Azrael’s Wings” and deceptively melodic “Corpsecycle,” sprinkling samples here and there amid chorus after memorable chorus, it kind of just feels like the band are showing off. And gloriously. I know the narrative of Cathedral is very much wrapped up in the deathly ways of the debut and all that, but seriously, I defy you to read this sentence, listen to “North Berwick Witch Trials” or “Corpsecycle” — your pick — and not nod along approvingly. I’ll tell you right now it won’t happen.

And the sound only expands as Cathedral move through the interlude “Fields of Zagara” through the speedy, careening “Oro the Manslayer” — boasting some highlight work from Jennings and Smee alike in a building instrumental section in the second half before shifting back to the verse and chorus — and into “Beneath a Funeral Sun,” the bizarre-seeming turns of which act as a preface to “The Garden,” which is a record-unto-itself smorgasbord of progressive doom construction.

The song clocks in at 26:59 and announces its arrival with a drum thud emerging from sparse but swelling noise, and subsequently tells a story of apocalyptic vision through nine parts, some of which have sub-movements. There are more strings, mellotron, guest vocals, acoustic stretches — and that’s the first two minutes — and an unabashed conceptual weirdness that almost 15 years after the fact still comes across as equal parts brazen and ambitious.

It’s a lot to take in — hence the comment above about digestibility of splitting it up — but even through it all, there’s a chorus, and as far off as the song goes, that chorus comes back in striking fashion in later reaches. It is gleeful in its weirdness, manifesting in every bit the spirit of the Dave Patchett full-poster foldout cover cathedral the garden of unearthly delights full posterart adorning the album in all its nuance and complexity. “Proga-Europa,” a minute-long semi-hidden track that emerges after a few minutes of silence to close out the record in boogie fashion, is about the only way they could have possibly backed it up.

It would be five years before Cathedral issued a follow-up to The Garden of Unearthly Delights in 2010’s The Guessing Game (review here), and that record shifted to incorporate many of the more progressive elements of “The Garden” into some of its own tracks, and pulled it off, but there seemed to be competing impulses at work. The next year, they marked 20 years since their debut with Anniversary (review here) on Dorrian‘s own Rise Above Records, and the same label would also stand behind Cathedral‘s final album, 2013’s The Last Spire (review here), which brought an end to the band’s arc by returning to the darkened grit of their earliest work but still retaining the lessons in craft the intervening years had taught. As ever, they did it on their own terms.

That’s very much how I look at The Garden of Unearthly Delights as well: the output of a band refusing to compromise on what they wanted to be and what they wanted to do. Even aside from the basic appeal of its initial salvo or the breadth of its semi-title-track, the scope and craft the band showcase throughout what, again, was their eighth long-player — long after most groups would have settled into a pattern of repetition or at least a basic aesthetic formula; a “sound,” to be more kind — remains deeply admirable. It is a reminder that any creative work is only worth pursuing over a longer term if it continues to grow and fascinate the artist or artists behind it.

Plus, riffs.

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

Most of the week was a blur, but I guess that’s not necessarily bad? It was The Patient Mrs.’ birthday on Wednesday, so my family came over for dinner. We’re doing a bigger thing on Sunday with her mother and sister coming down from Connecticut to spend the day and my family will be over again and so on. It’ll be good times, hopefully somewhat low-key, but probably not. Whatever. We’ve done this kind of thing enough at this point with this crowd that it’s pretty standard operating procedure. That, in itself, is kind of nice.

Living in New Jersey, having moved back, is not without its complications. There are all kinds of things we want to do to update this house and make it more livable that we can’t because we’re not actually on the deed — because paperwork, and family, and money, and lawyers — but I don’t regret being here.

Today at 5PM Eastern is a new episode of The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio. You’ve already seen the playlist, but it’s all C.O.C. in honor of Reed Mullin and I talk a bit on there about his impact on the band’s sound. I don’t really have any insights to offer, dude was just a great drummer and brought a lot to the band, so I thought the music was worth celebrating in its various eras and incarnations. You could do a hell of a lot worse than listen to two hours of Corrosion of Conformity, as far as I’m concerned. Despite the circumstances, that’s pretty much a gift to any day.

Listen on their app or at http://gimmeradio.com.

And thanks.

Next week is about half-planned. I don’t know. Do you really care? It’s gonna be rock and roll. I’ve been reviewing a lot of psych records lately — kind of where my head is at, honestly — but I think I’m going to try to tackle the Dool album on Monday for a change of pace and to give myself a bit of a challenge. That’s a good record, so it’ll be fun too to write about, but something a little different from all the melting-brain, lysergic whatnot. In the spirit of Cathedral above, gotta keep it interesting.

There are announcements and streams and this and that booked too for Tuesday, Thursday, Friday. Wednesday’s open now but something will either come along or I’ll find something to put there. Maybe I’ll go see Torche and maybe not. I haven’t really decided, which means probably not, but it would be nice to get out. I didn’t go see Church of Misery this week. Just too much. Plus, is murder really all that cool? I remain torn when it comes to that band, but in any case, I’ve seen them plenty and I wasn’t hurting for stuff to write about.

I guess I’ll leave it there since The Pecan is up — it’s after 6:30, so that’s no surprise — and needs to be retrieved before he tears down the drywall in his bedroom. Because he might. Because he’s two. So yeah.

Great and safe weekend, whatever you’re up to. Please check out forum, radio and merch at MiBK. The ol’ FRM.

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Sun Blood Stories Premiere “Everybody Loves You” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on February 14th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

sun blood stories

Slide guitarist/vocalist Amber Pollard of Idaho trio-for-now Sun Blood Stories has been experimenting with videography for a while now in terms of representing the music she, guitarist/vocalist Ben Kirby and keyboardist/drummer Jon Fust bring to life. To wit, “Everybody Loves You” which is premiering below, is at least the fourth clip from their fourth long-player, Haunt Yourself (review here), behind ones for “Up Comes the Tunnel” (posted here), “All the Words in Meaning” (posted here), and “See You on the Other Side” (posted here) and that album only came out last September as the follow-up to 2017’s It Runs Around the Room with Us (review here), which also had its share of moving-picture manifestation. The videos have become another means of exploring atmospherics for Sun Blood Stories, whose particular style of emotive post-psych can be either a salve or caustic depending on where their creative whims take them, and whose commitment to experimentation extends to the music itself as well, as the even-more-recent noise work, Static Sessions: Vol. 1 (discussed here), showcases.

The track “Everybody Loves You,” which finds Pollard very much in the lead vocally atop a rich backing of smoothly unfurled psychedelic undulation, echoing uke and all, comes with a twist. And not to spoil it, but the twist is you have to die first. The chorus of the song, “Everybody loves you, when you’re dead,” is haunting enough on its own to justify the album’s title, and repeated with the backing of Kirby and suitably ghostly harmonies surrounding, it’s one of Haunt Yourself‘s most striking and resonant impressions — which is saying something, since “striking and resonant” is a specialty when it comes to Sun Blood Stories‘ work on the whole. As the video captures tour footage from a Fall 2019 run — keep your eye out for the brainfreeze; it’s in there — and the band inherently turns the consideration of the lyrics onto themselves, essentially putting themselves (from the perspective of the viewer, at least) in the position of being the dead in question, it takes on another level of social and emotional comment, while remaining catchy in its melancholic abide.

Amid the chaos at the dawn of 2020, Sun Blood Stories posted an update promising changes coming to their social media: “We are expanding our membership this year so expect to see more bodies on stage and to hear more lush in our sound.”

It would not be the first time they went beyond the core trio form, and I’ll admit I’m intrigued to see/hear how “more lush” comes to pass in their music, not the least since, particularly if you take even a momentary sample of the video below, you’ll note there’s already plenty of “lush” in their sound as-is. But, to be perfectly honest, Sun Blood Stories are a band whose work has earned my trust at this point, and their idea of “feels right” in the music has only produced material that fascinates and challenges heart and mind alike. Wherever they might be headed, it’ll be worth finding out.

Comment from Pollard and the Haunt Yourself album stream follow the video.

Enjoy:

Sun Blood Stories, “Everybody Loves You” official video premiere

Amber Pollard on “Everybody Loves You”:

Sometime in 2018, “Everybody Loves You” came to form in our basement at 1:00a while we were taking a break from recording “Up Comes the Tunnel.” We had spent an extensive amount of time that evening talking about friends who had taken their lives and the emotions associated with that conversation were fresh and weighing on all our hearts. Jon started messing around with some beautiful chords on the ukulele, Ben hit record, and I started singing. 20 minutes later we were sitting on our back porch listening to the recording, deciding on the song’s structure, and writing down the lyrics (which ended up totaling six pages). We whittled the lyrics down to fit the agreed upon song structure and recorded it.

Flash forward to October 2019: the album had recently been released and we were out on tour for the better part of a month. I started documenting our days from the start but had no plans on what to do with the videos other than to show them to my kid when we got back. When we got home, I compiled and edited together all the footage to make a little tour diary for everyone. It wasn’t until December 2019, that I realized the tour footage (well, a condensed version of the tour footage) might make a good music video for “Everybody Loves You.” Much like the lyrics, I whittled away the excess footage and here we are.

Sun Blood Stories, Haunt Yourself (2019)

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My Dying Bride Post “Tired of Tears” Lyric Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on February 13th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

my dying bride

It seems strange to think of My Dying Bride — a band who’ve been around for 30 years as of 2020 — as prospects, but I really look at their new album, The Ghost of Orion, as one that is particularly rife with potential to be one of this year’s best doom records. And it’s not just excitement for an LP from a good band. It’s different. With their signing to Nuclear Blast, they’ve got a chance to capitalize on new focus and energy and reach different listeners than they otherwise might in a way that could turn new heads in their direction. I’m going to be interested in how it all plays out when The Ghost of Orion arrives on March 6.

“Tired of Tears” is the second bit of audio unveiled from the release behind the single “Your Broken Shore” (video posted here), and it comes in the form of a new lyric video, which highlights what seems to be the emotional core from which The Ghost of Orion stems, in the despair and horror felt by founding vocalist Aaron Stainthorpe in relation to his daughter — his only child, as he says below — having her life threatened by illness. It is this raw cosmic wrongness, the child passing before the parent, that “Tired of Tears” puts into poetry and a flowing song structure, and though it’s totally incongruous with the theme, the track itself is damn near a sing-along for its catchiness and the effectiveness which which Stainthorpe self-harmonizes atop the sorrowful riffs of his fellow founder, guitarist Andrew Craighan.

I have not yet heard the entirety of The Ghost of Orion, which means I probably won’t until it’s out, largely I expect because I’m not cool enough, but even if I have to wait for the CD as opposed to a link down the PR wire, the mastery on display here only makes me want to dig in more.

And not at all on a side note, I hope exploring this situation through lyrics at least brought Stainthorpe some strength or clarity or resolve, because it’s one thing to perform despair — and certainly My Dying Bride are no strangers to that — and another thing to live it to the kind of degree he talks about below.

Video follows:

My Dying Bride, “Tired of Tears” lyric video

The cold fingers of “The Ghost Of Orion” reach out for the world to wrap it in desperate misery, heavy melodies and hopeless misery: MY DYING BRIDE release their new album on March 6th via Nuclear Blast.

The track has a particularly special meaning for frontman Aaron Stainthorpe, as he explains:

“The track touches upon the most terrifying, stressful and harrowing period of my entire life – the near death of my only child. I have been down before but it never hurt like this. This was true darkness and I was not sure my mind could take it. My entire world looked like it was going to implode but I was determined to fight all the way. Tired of tears was exactly how I felt. They had been flowing freely from me for months and I was a shadow of my former self. It is sad that this will continue for many others. Innocent people. so very tired of tears.”

Pre-order “The Ghost Of Orion” here:
https://nblast.de/TheGhostOfOrion

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My Dying Bride at Nuclear Blast website

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Villagers of Ioannina City Post “For the Innocent” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on February 11th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

VILLAGERS OF IOANNINA CITY

Greek heavy psych rockers Villagers of Ioannina City had a pretty busy 2019 and it’s looking like they’re going to have a busy 2020 as well. Having put out their latest album, Age of Aquarius, on their own last Fall, the band subsequently inked deals with Sound of Liberation for booking and Napalm Records for label-ing (?) and has already begun showing signs of next-levelry to match the progressive intentions of the record itself. As the Greek scene gains long-since-deserved broader recognition across Europe’s underground, the folk-laden style of Villagers of Ioannina City seems to put a positive face on what’s happening in a sonically diverse and still-booming sphere.

And as the faces of the “innocents” featured in the band’s new video for “For the Innocent” from Age of Aquarius begin to flash and meld and come together and all the eyes seem to become one, the message is not lost, even as the camera speeds through a tunnel amid silhouettes of the group themselves, didgeridoo and all. The song itself gives some indication of the scope of the record as a whole, without necessarily spoiling the linear entirety for anyone who has yet to take it on — and if not, go right ahead, it’s streaming in full and has been for months now — but as they get introduced to new audiences via Napalm‘s broader distribution and promotional reach, “For the Innocent” certainly offers a welcome sampling of what Age of Aquarius is all about.

They’ve already announced a Spring tour to coincide with the April 3 arrival of the physical pressing, and they’ll make a stop at the pre-show for Desertfest Berlin as a part of that. I would only expect more to come as we move through the Summer and Fall. Villagers of Ioannina City are stepping up in a big way, and accordingly, it’s going to be a busy year.

Enjoy the video. Credits and tour dates follow:

Villagers of Ioannina City, “For the Innocent” official video

Pre-order “Age of Aquarius” here: https://smarturl.it/AgeOfAquarius-NPR

VILLAGERS OF IOANNINA CITY on “For the Innocent”:
“We are really really happy to present to you our new video clip! Dedicated to all the dreamers, the deviants, the immigrants of life and the wanderers of mind! To all the innocent ones!”

Concept:
Villagers of Ioannina City, Stathis Mitsios

Director, Editor:
Stathis Mitsios

Video Shootings:
Stathis Mitsios, Zissis Tsoumpos, Eleftheria Kalpenidou, Yorgos Dellis, Spiros Andromaneskos , Dimitris Zarkadas

Photo Shooting:
Eleftheria Kalpenidou

Assistants:
Georgia Nikoletou, George Asteris, Mitsaki Racoon, Thomas Papathomas, Rosemary Kourouni, Despoina Gazi, Lefteris Mitsios, Magda Togkouri

Starring:
All the innocents

Recorded by Asteris Partalios at Magnanimous Studio, Thessaloniki, GR
Mixed by Keith Armstrong at Pietown Sound, Los Angeles, CA
Mastered by Justin Shturtz at Sterling Sound, Nashville TN

Listen on Spotify and all digital platforms here: https://orcd.co/vic_ageofaquarius

AGE OF AQUARIUS | SPRING TOUR 2020
02/4 – Bucharest (RO) – Quantic
03/4 – Cluj Napoca (RO) – FORM Space
05/4 – Krakow (PL) – Klub Za?cianek
07/4 – Warsaw (PL) – Klub Hydrozagadka
08/4 – Poznan (PL) – Klub u Bazyla
09/4 – Dresden (DE) – Beatpol
11/4 – Jena (DE) – Kulturbahnhof Jena
15/4 – Paris (FR) – GLAZART
16/4 – Aachen (DE) – Musikbunker Aachen
18/4 – Rotterdam (NL) – Podium Grounds
22/4 – London (UK) – The Dome, Tufnell Park
23/4 – Manchester (UK) – Night People & The Twisted Wheel Club
25/4 – Nantes (FR) – La Scène Michelet
29/4 – Hamburg (DE) – Knust Hamburg
30/4 – Berlin (DE) – Lido Berlin
01/5 – Wiesbaden (DE) – Schlachthof Wiesbaden
02/5 – Munich (DE) – Feierwerk
03/5 – Zurich (CH) – Rote Fabrik
05/5 – Zagreb (HR) – Klub Mo?vara
07/5 – Vienna (AT) – ARENA WIEN
09/5 – Novi Sad (RS) – Ritam Evrope
10/5 – SOFIA (BG) – “Mixtape 5”

VILLAGERS OF IOANNINA CITY are:
Alex (guitar/vox)
Akis (bass)
Aris (drums)
Kostantis (clarinet, winds)
Kostas (bagpipe)

Villagers of Ionnina City, Age of Aquarius (2019)

Villagers of Ioannina City on Thee Facebooks

Villagers of Ioannina City on Instagram

Villagers of Ioannina City on Bandcamp

Napalm Records website

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Friday Full-Length: The Wounded Kings, Embrace of the Narrow House

Posted in Bootleg Theater on February 7th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

From the organ and obscure sample at the start of its three-part opening title-track, there was something different about The Wounded Kings‘ debut album, Embrace of the Narrow House. Arriving in July 2008 through Eichenwald Industries — I was never able to get a full CD copy of the original edition before the pressing sold out; still stings — the seven-track/41-minute initial offering took on atmospheres of cultism in a way that, especially for the time, could only be considered innovative, and embraced a multifaceted approach to the history of British doom that sought not to conform to expectation, but to remake genre boundaries to suit its own purposes. Based in Dartmoor in the UK, begun in 2004 and led by guitarist Steve Mills — who on the first record also played bass, drums and keys and also contributed lyrics and the music alongside the lyrics of vocalist, guitarist and bassist George Birch; they both produced and mixed, while John Macedo mastered — The Wounded Kings would issue five full-lengths total, but Embrace of the Narrow House kept a distinctive place within their catalog, even as they grew beyond it. They were, in the creation of the tonal murk of pieces like “The Hours” and the later “Master of Witches,” or in the attention to ambient detail in the intertwining organ lines of the penultimate interlude “Shroud of Divine Will,” well ahead of their time and what over the next couple years became the cult rock movement, though The Wounded Kings were never a cult rock band. Whatever else they may have been prior to their breakup in 2016, The Wounded Kings were doom, through and through.

Each side of Embrace of the Narrow House begins with its longest track (double points) in “Embrace of the Narrow House” (8:45) and “The Eighth House” (7:23), the second of which, like the opener, is a multi-part affair. In these two cuts, The Wounded Kings unveil a conceptualism that bleeds into the music itself, declaring in no uncertain terms some 12 years ago that they were a band formed with an expressive purpose, and not at all a let’s-get-in-the-studio-and-see-what-comes-out kind of project. Their aesthetic bears that out in the willful slog and ultra-patient unfolding of a song like “Melanthos,” which caps side A with a leading dirge riff and consuming wash of noise that builds over the course of its six minutes. Birch‘s vocals, more samples, and waves of guitar soloing weave together to create a swell in its second half, but it never lets go of its excruciatingly slow pace, never gives in to the adrenaline it seems to be The Wounded Kings Embrace of the Narrow Housecharging — a glorious moment of restraint that’s all the more rare on a first LP. The track and the first half of Embrace of the Narrow House cap with a gurgling kind of spoken incantation, but “The Eighth House,” which subdivides as ‘i: Transcendence of Agony, ii. Mistress of Beasts,’ is readily hypnotic and sets up a change of structure on the second half, with “Master of Witches” shorter than its side A counterpart “The Hours” and centered entirely around its main riff, and “Shroud of Divine Will” afterward to lead into the finale “The Private Labyrinth.” It is up to the closer to summarize and resolidify some of the preceding fog, and it does that to the extent Mills and Birch ask it to, but does not prove any more interested in dumbing down or capitulating to audience even as its basks in a so thoroughly doomed moodiness.

This was a balance that Embrace of the Narrow House walked better than most. The next couple years after its release would see the growth of a cult rock movement that the band occasionally got lumped into but were never really a part of. At the same time, their style of grueling riffs recalled some of Electric Wizard‘s most glorious slogs, but refused to have more in common with the Dorset kingpins than that. From the beginning, The Wounded Kings were on their own wavelength, dug into their own niche within the niche within the niche, and they would remain that way for the next eight years. As cultish heavy began to (re-)emerge circa 2010, The Wounded Kings issued their second full-length, The Shadow over Atlantis (review here) and a more or less concurrent split with Virginia’s CoughAn Introduction to the Black Arts (review here). Both releases found the band pushing themselves forward without regard for the tropes of genre taking shape around them. They touched on some of it, of course, but only what they needed to continue to do their own thing. The Cough split was particularly notable for being the first The Wounded Kings release with a full-band lineup around Mills and Birch, though the latter would soon depart and be replaced by Sharie Neyland on 2011’s In the Chapel of the Black Hand (review here). It was both a quick turnaround from Mills and an exciting time for the band, who seemed to have momentum on their side with a quickly building catalog and an already-apparent progressive drive to their sound, but they would continue to be plagued by lineup issues. Neyland, guitarist Alex Kearney and drummer Mike Heath stayed aboard between In the Chapel of the Black Hand and 2014’s Candlelight-released fourth album, Consolamentum (review here), but bassist Alex Eliadis was swapped in for Jim Willumsen, so even there there was some change happening.

Kearney moved to bass as Birch rejoined The Wounded Kings on their last album, 2016’s Visions in Bone (review here), which arrived even after they called it quits. At the time, they were already well undervalued for the distinctive qualities of their work, and that hasn’t much changed in the ensuing four years. As the response to Embrace of the Narrow House had been so fervent, it seemed like listeners had trouble keeping up — the slow churn of their tempos notwithstanding — with the shifts in personnel and sound across their various releases, and the band toured to some extent, having put together a full lineup to do so, but were never really a “road act” whose primary concern was building a listenership. They remained true to their own path in progressive, richly atmospheric and immersive doom. The rest be damned.

Embrace of the Narrow House was reissued in 2011 on vinyl through High Roller Records, on CD in 2012 through Eyes Like Snow and on tape in 2015 through Sarlacc Productions (that’s the version streaming above). Most if not all pressings are sold out.

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

I got a prescription for xanax, or at least some generic version thereof — I think it’s called Alakazam or something; as in, “Alakazam! You’re not anxious anymore!” like a birthday party magician — this week. It came in the mail on Wednesday and at The Patient Mrs.’ recommendation I took a whole one and it knocked me out. Quite literally, I fell asleep for three hours. Zonked. So maybe half a pill is enough. That’s what I did yesterday and it seemed about right. Enough to let me think one thought at a time for what feels like the first time in three months and not so much that I’m a zombie trying to chase a two-year-old like, “Hey man, could we stop playing in the oven please? Daddy’s trying to roast some cauliflower, duder.”

So, you know.

But no question in my mind that’s a good thing and needed. I take 40mg of Citalopram a day for depression as well and more often than not that does fine for me. Up days and down days, of course. I don’t anticipate the xanax will be an everyday thing long-term, but for a bit to even me out and in certain situations — like leaving the house; ha — it makes sense at this point.

Wednesday turned out to be a good day for me to be so obliterated as well as I’d spent most of Monday and Tuesday freaking out because I thought I’d forgotten a stream, that my notes were wrong. I knew the week had been full because I’d double-booked and moved something else to accommodate what was there, but then I somehow lost track of what that was, couldn’t remember on Monday morning when I should’ve been setting it up, and was losing my goddamn mind. I never did figure it out, but I got pitched the Seven Planets stream later on Monday, and with nothing else in that spot, I took it. Was there something I forgot? Was I never double-booked? I still don’t know.

What got moved was a premiere for Kungens Män, which’ll be up early, first thing on Monday. Tuesday, a Pale Mare premiere. Wednesday, Shadow Witch LP stream. Thursday, Sleepwulf track premiere. Friday, Sun Blood Stories video premiere. There’s no Gimme Radio show this week, but next Friday (Feb. 14) it moves to the new timeslot at Friday 5PM Eastern. I just turned in the playlist for that and it’s a two-hour tribute to Reed Mullin, so a full two hours of C.O.C. I’ll plug it again next week, but keep an eye out for it.

Also this past Wednesday I met up with Dylan Gonzalez from the Diary of Doom podcast and he interviewed me talking about this site and heavy music and whatnot. That was fun, and I was nervous about it, so the xanax helped, and so did the extra sleep, as the interview went past 9:30PM, well beyond my normal bedtime. Hell, by the time I got home and ate the pizza-place salad I’d picked up en route back for a late dinner, it was nearly 10. More often than not, that’s when I’d be getting up (For the first time; I’m well hydrated) to use the bathroom. Middle of the damn night.

But the interview was cool (I hope) and Dylan was kind to ask me to do it. He’s on Instagram @diaryofdoom and posts cool stuff.

This weekend I’ll be sorting out Weirdo Canyon Dispatch for Roadburn as well as hopefully getting my flights booked for Freak Valley. There’s some trouble booking international whatnot this year, I assume as a result of my country’s fascist lockdown, but either way, it’s hardly convenient, even when you discount the decay of ideology, ego cult, locking immigrants in cages (still happening, btw) and so on.

But The Pecan is getting up and it’s about time I started chasing him around the house the way I do and start the day properly (just after 6AM at writing time). I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Have fun, be kind, watch Star Trek: Picard so they keep making more of it, and thank you as always for reading.

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