Review & Video Premiere: Druglord, New Day Dying

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Reviews on September 4th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

druglord new day dying

[Click play above to stream the premiere of Druglord’s video for ‘Blood and Body.’ Their third album, New Day Dying, is out Sept. 14 on Sludgelord Records.]

It’s gonna get ugly. Pretty much from the moment “Blood and Body” starts, actually. The leadoff cut on Druglord‘s third full-length and first for Sludgelord Records, New Day Dying, is indicative of the kind of harsh, shimmering dankness the band emits, though it doesn’t necessarily speak for the album as a whole, as the organ lines of “Walk with God” (I suppose that could be a guitar effect) and the faster push in the first half of nine-minute side A finale “Rot of This Earth” — I see what you did there — find guitarist/vocalist Tommy Hamilton, bassist Julian Cook and drummer Bobby “HufKnell” Hufnell offering some standout factor from the surrounding tracks such that the Richmond, Virginia-based trio’s six-song/40-minute march to a swampy death never seems to be any more redundant than it intends.

That is, to take on the cyclical, rolling riffs of “Blood and Body,” topped with Hamilton‘s vocals that howl like an Ozzy Osbourne driven by the gutturalism of Matt Pike and Mike Scheidt with more than a hint of Southern sludge, is to expect a certain amount of repetition, and that is gleefully delivered across the LP’s two sides, basically even split at three songs apiece and each finishing with a longer piece: “Rot of This Earth” at 9:04 and the capstone title-track at 8:20. Druglord have dwelt in a post-Electric Wizard sphere since the days of their 2010 self-titled demo (review here), but on New Day Dying, they push their particular hazy fuckall into a place all their own, finding a niche in extreme sludge and an atmosphere that moves deeper even than their two prior long-players, 2014’s Enter Venus (review here) and 2011’s debut, Motherfucker Rising (review here), conjuring a feeling of pressing on into opioid tragedy as “Buried Demons” and “The Flesh is Weak” lead inexorably to the dirt-caked march of the closer, the swirling, noisy payoff of which seems to emphasize the “final” in “finale.” It’s fucked up. It sounds fucked up. It’s supposed to; that’s the idea. But they got there for sure.

Aiding in that cause is the production of Windhand guitarist Garrett Morris at Phantom Sound Recording and ReproductionMorris and Druglord have worked together since Enter Venus — he also helmed 2015’s Deepest Regrets EP (review here) — and the ongoing collaboration pays dividends throughout New Day Dying in the spaciousness of the mix and the wretched heft that occupies that space. There is an underlying clarity to the songwriting of New Day Dying that Druglord have never had before to such a degree, and Morris plays a large role in bringing that to bear without losing focus on the filthy tonality from Hamilton and Cook that plays such a significant role in the band’s approach. It’s not about sounding huge — at least it’s not just about sounding huge; they get there anyway — so much as psychologically brutal, and where records of all sorts might evoke a sense of place or time, New Day Dying culls the hopelessness of depression, that it’s-always-been-like-this-and-there’s-no-point-at-which-it-won’t-be-like-this feeling that seems to accompany some of life’s darkest moments.

druglord (Photo by Scott Badger)

Aesthetically, it’s not trying to perform this — that is, I don’t think Druglord set out to write an album about coping with mental illness; if anything, anti-dogmatic themes seem to persist in cuts like “Blood and Body” and “Walk with God” and “Rot of This Earth,” etc. — but there is that overarching disillusionment all the same, and as the opener begins to unfurl its liquefied onslaught, that mood holds firm throughout all that follows. Yet there’s a structure to it as well. Sides A and B mirror each other somewhat in form with “Buried Demons” finding a grim dirge to answer back “Blood and Body” while retaining the central breadth of tone, and “Walk with God” and “The Flesh is Weak” both offer hints of melody, the former in layered-in keys and the latter in its second-half guitar solo, though admittedly, the chug that surrounds threatens to consume all, even that lead which seems to cut through. Likewise, “Rot of This Earth” and “New Day Dying” share not just a prospective outlook — things are grim, folks — but a summary of the proceedings and a culmination thereof. Druglord seem to save their most punishing moments for these longer songs.

And fair enough. “Rot of This Earth” and “New Day Dying” itself are fitting examples of how Druglord have grown in the four years since Enter Venus stunned with artwork and craft alike, and as the first outing with Cook in the lineup in place of Greta BrinkmanNew Day Dying epitomizes the creative nexus that has been at root in the band all along — the fact that Hamilton knows what he wants their style to be and knows more than ever how to bring that to life in the studio with Morris. These songs were recorded over a year ago, so one imagines Druglord either have more new material in the works or at very least have become even tighter as a unit since they were made, but either way, New Day Dying still hones resonant miseries across its span, and in the lumber of “The Flesh is Weak,” the impact of each of Hufnell‘s kicks in “Walk with God” and the rolling psych-osis in the noise wash of “Buried Demons,” the band finds a new apex of a style that wrangles chaos without losing itself completely in it and is all the more theirs than anything they’ve done before.

The title-track starts its ending at about minute six, and the remaining two-plus minutes are given to Sabbathian solo layering and a thrust of low end that begins gradually to deconstruct itself to feedback during a series of hits from the drums and a declining riff. It doesn’t quite pull itself apart willingly as much as it gives over to the destructive impulse that’s been lurking in the album all along. It’s hard to think of a more fitting end to New Day Dying than to have the song that shares its name actually die as it closes out, and that’s only further emblematic of the consciousness behind what Druglord do here. Their approach isn’t just happenstance and their manifestation of it is a revelry for the depraved.

Druglord, New Day Dying (2018)

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Friday Full-Length: Shovelhead, Red Sky Horizon

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 31st, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Shovelhead, Red Sky Horizon (2003)

Dig that vibe for just a minute, that’s all I ask. I know dipping back to a record like Red Sky Horizon isn’t exactly high-profile, but man, New Jersey’s Shovelhead could jam. They’d stand on stage at the Brighton Bar in Long Branch, all power-trio style and humble about-to-wreck-the-place swagger, and guitarist Jim LaPointe (also vocals) would unload these space-toned solos that stretched out as much as on, while bassist Sha Zaidi — usually chewing a toothpick, I guess because rockabilly — and drummer Mike Scott with his Vistalite kit set up on the small riser in back would hold down these righteous grooves. You can hear it in the mellow groove after the initial Motörheady thrust of third cut “Bottom,” or get a feel for some of LaPointe‘s power-trio-leading in the opening title-track, but the point is Shovelhead played with so much character, whether it was the take on mellow Sabbath that launched “The Weight” or in the Hendrixed-up instrumental take on “Amazing Grace” that closes out, fittingly enough, after the hard-driving chug of “Bastard.” On stage — usually on that stage — they were utterly at home. I had the pleasure of seeing Shovelhead on multiple occasions and even did shows with them, and it was always a bittersweet experience because I knew no matter how good a show it might otherwise be, Shovelhead were about to blow my band right out of the water.

A bit of nostalgia? Yeah, probably, but I remain a Shovelhead fan even though their last record, the all-lowercase spitting oil, came out in 2007. That was their third outing, and by then, they were long since underrated, having made their debut as Shovelhead with a self-titled CD in 2001 following a name change from their original moniker The Lemmings, which I guess wasn’t stoner rock enough. Maybe? I don’t know what motivated the switch, but they had a disc out called The March of Provocation in ’98 that was pretty good as I recall and I seem to think there was at least one other, maybe an EP? It’s kind of fuzzy two decades later, but either way, they were part of the NJ shore-region cohort of post-Monster Magnet heavy rock and came up roughly around the same time as the likes of The Atomic BitchwaxSolaceHalfway to GoneLord SterlingSix SigmaCore, and so on, and while some of those bands would get picked up by labels large and small — Core were on AtlanticBitchwax and Solace on MeteorCityHalfway on Small Stone, etc. — Shovelhead went unsigned for the duration. Fair enough. I don’t think they had particularly huge ambitions for touring or anything like that, so it was just as easy for them to DIY their releases and play where and when they could and felt like doing so. They were a well-kept secret of that scene, and for me, Red Sky Horizon was the album that came closest to capturing what they were able to do live.

To some degree, second track “Crop Duster” is a defining groove in my mind for them. It’s got the speed-punker root in its shovelhead red sky horizonverses, and LaPointe‘s vocals echo out on top to make even that verse a hook before everything stops and he asks, “Do you know what you’re doing?” and “Do you know what you’re saying?” before they kick full-boar into winding power trio jamming. They mellow out before halfway through the track’s six minutes, but just before hitting the four-minute mark turn to a funky series of starts and stops with Zaidi filling out the space with low and as LaPointe busts out a solo and Scott‘s drums gradually build their way back to the verse and chorus to finish out, the last question, “Do you know where you’re going?” held out with a bluesy soul. Likewise, after the seven-minute nod-fest boogie of “The Weight,” the instrumental “Uncle Jesse” begins a salvo of four shorter tracks that includes “Moon Shine Blind” and “Bastard” ahead of “Amazing Grace,” and what might otherwise be a side B in the second half of the tracklisting winds up efficiently expanding on the adventurous vibe of “Red Sky Horizon,” “Crop Duster,” “Bottom” and “The Weight,” stripping down some of the psychedelic elements at play, but keeping that character in their tones and the classic heavy rock spirit of the instrumentals. And hey, fun fact: when I reviewed Red Sky Horizon for the paper in NJ I worked for at the time, I compared “Moon Shine Blind” to the main song from the movie O Brother Where Art Thou? and LaPointe was the first person ever to tell me I nailed it on getting his inspiration for the vocal melody right. That was at least 15 years ago now and I still feel good about it to this day.

Pair that next to the maddening tension of “Bastard” — the standout line: “Take all your bullshit, shove it up your ass” — and cap it off with “Amazing Grace” and you’ve got an eight-track/40-minute outing that’s thoughtful but natural sounding and traditionalist in its dynamic, but again, so filled with personality on the part of its players that it almost can’t help but be original. I used to stand in front of the stage at the Brighton, my seventh beer probably in my hand, and you could watch any individual member of Shovelhead at any point in their set and you had at least an 80 percent chance your jaw would drop from what they were playing. That sounds like hyperbole, but these guys were great, and I love this record, so while I know it’s not the biggest release ever and people might prefer something they already know or be hesitant to take on an out-of-print 15-year-old disc from a NJ heavy rock band who once upon a time were really cool, fuck it, it’s my site and I wanted to listen to Shovelhead. I don’t need any more reason than that.

As noted, spitting oil was their third and final album in 2007, so their social media presence is pretty much nil. What was their website would seem to be long gone. I couldn’t even find a MySpace page lingering. But if you’re into Red Sky Horizon, there’s no Bandcamp or anything, but all three of Shovelhead‘s full-lengths are available as downloads from CDBaby — as opposed to being available on CD from DownloadBaby — and there isn’t one of them that isn’t worth time and dime alike.

So dig in, and as always, I hope you enjoy.

For the first half-hour I was awake this morning, I thought it was Saturday. I came downstairs, turned on the coffee pot, was all set to start writing stuff for Monday posts in that casual, maybe-I’ll-just-read-about-baseball-for-a-while way of Saturday mornings, when I remembered I hadn’t even done the Shovelhead post yet. Missed a day there, guy. Might want to get on that. In my defense, I’ll note only that said “first half-hour” was the half-hour between 2:30 and 3AM.

Hard week. On Monday I think it was or maybe Sunday, I can’t even remember, we said goodbye to my family and headed north to Connecticut to come back to Massachusetts, pretty much to hunker down for the semester ahead. We moved the coffee pot, so that’s it. We’ve done plenty of back and forth, but where the Chemex goes is home and it’s back in MA now. I have no problem admitting I was sad to go. It was awesome to spend so much time in New Jersey this summer, to see my family, to have The Pecan get to know those cousins, his aunt and uncle, his grandmother, and have him meet assorted friends. I saw Slevin two days in a row this summer! That’s a special event in itself.

We’ll be back down there a couple times over the next few months — once in October for sure, then again for holidays, but in terms of the daily where-I’m-at, it’ll be back here in MA in the townhouse. The Patient Mrs. has a conference this weekend in Boston, so we’re headed there this morning early — it’s quarter to five now, so by “early” I mean in about two hours, maybe a little less — and I’ll be on baby duty. Should be interesting in a hotel room, but weather permitting, which always a gamble in Boston, I’ll take him out and we’ll go somewhere around town. Even if it’s Armageddon Shop or wherever. Just something to do rather than sit on ass and try to stop him from climbing on the furniture — it’s not so much the climbing I’m opposed to as the inevitable falling off that follows — while I try and fail to stare at my phone and be bored. “You old enough to have a conversation yet? No? Okay, let’s go for a walk somewhere.”

We also found out yesterday that The Little Dog Dio has bone cancer. The vet showed us the rather sizable tumor in her shoulder on the x-ray. We knew she wasn’t well — hence going to the vet — and she’s 12, so the possibility that it wasn’t something minor had occurred to us, but it still hit pretty hard. They did a bunch of blood tests to see if it’s in her organs [Update: it’s not.] and the vet gave us some pain meds for her in the meantime. We have a follow-up appointment next week, which looms large and ominous in my mind. He said the treatment was either amputate her leg — she’s 12; so no — or start her on radiation, which would make her miserable and really only help pain management anyway. Light on options. Heavy on grief.

In the meantime, she’s sleeping a lot. She’s lost five pounds in the last month, going from 37 to 32, which is the lowest I can recall her being as a full-grown dog. We’ve had her since she was nine weeks old. She’s the last of the Koczans. My heart breaks.

Monday is Labor Day but I’ll be posting. It’s a busy week because it’s the start of the semester and I’ll be slammed with babytime, so of course I’ve booked a ton of premieres. Here are the notes, with likely changes:

Mon.: Kelly Carmichael track premiere; P.H.O.B.O.S. track premiere.
Tue.: Druglord video premiere/review; Stone Titan track premiere.
Wed.: Stoned Jesus review/album stream.
Thu.: La Chinga review/album stream; LaGoon lyric video premiere.
Fri.: Fuzz Evil review/track premiere; Yung Druid video premiere.

The week is full. I don’t like to do more than one premiere a day, and there are two booked for four out of the five days next week. I know there are a lot of releases coming up, but that’s just silly. I may whittle down the amount of news so I can fit it all in and still, I don’t know, exist?, but we’ll see. To be perfectly honest, I’ve kind of pulled the wind out of my sails thinking about it.

It’s a busy weekend though, so I’m going to punch out and get to it. If you need me, I’ll be social media-available intermittently and otherwise around. One never really detaches these days, or if so, not for very long.

I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Thank you for reading, and please check out the forum and the radio stream.

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Friday Full-Length: Iota, Tales

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 24th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

What a record. I’ve mentioned Iota here and there over the years, mostly when talking about other bands, but it’s now been 10 years since the Salt Lake City-based trio released their debut and apparent swansong, Tales, on Small Stone, and it seems high time the album got a revisit. In hindsight, it was a collection ahead of the curve in its blend of straightforward heavy rock riffing and more open-feeling jams, and even when it came out, it was clear the band were onto something special. I was still working print mags at the time and I remember calling it “like Kyuss in space,” and I stand by that to some degree. Under the mountain-filled skies of Utah, Iota harnessed a style that was as comfortable in the high-rolling lead guitar strut deep into the seventh minute of “The Sleeping Heathen”‘s total 10 as it was tearing through the opening duo of “New Mantis” and “We are the Yithians,” neither of which was half as long. Those two tracks, however brief, were utterly crucial to the overall impression made by guitarist/vocalist Joey Toscano, bassist Oz Yosri and drummer/engineer Andy Patterson in what followed.

To wit, with “New Mantis” (4:40) and “We are the Yithians” (3:37) at the outset, Tales subsequently launched into three cuts that would comprise roughly 84 percent of its runtime. “The Sleeping Heathen” (10:42), the sprawling “Dimensional Orbiter” (22:56) and closer “Opiate Blues” (8:14) shot outward from where Tales began, but the context of the two opening tracks gave a straightforward edge to even the most dug-in jams of “Dimensional Orbiter,” which as it hit the five-minute mark, pivoted from its hook and the gritty vocal delivery of Toscano into a consuming instrumental rush that continued until after 19 minutes in, when a slowdown brought the vocals back atop masterful crashing and more wah-drenched lead work. “Dimensional Orbiter” was and remains a gorgeous demonstration of the potential in Iota‘s sound, but the basic elements from which it was crafted are right there in “New Mantis” and “We are the Yithians.” From the furious chug and snare punishment that started the former to the tension of its verses and the takeoff into a solo before the first half was done, to the hook that emerged through the barrage of high-desert tonality and ethereal who-the-hell-knows-what-they’re-talking-about lyrics, and into the semi-metallized slower-thrash riffing of “We are the Yithians,” catchy, quick, efficient as it was, the sense of Iota careening from one movement to the next was palpable even before “The Sleeping Heathen” took hold.

And once it did, it was the beginning point of an entirely different stage of the album. I’d call it a transition point, but it really wasn’t. While “The Sleeping Heathen” picked up at a sprint from “We are the Yithians” and would turn fluidly into “Dimensional Orbiter” on the other end, its place on the record was hardly just about making the shift from one side of the band’siota tales personality to the other. That’s part of what made Tales so special. There was of course a flow between — and plenty within — its tracks, but a huge part of the reason it all worked so well was simply that Toscano, Yosri and Patterson had the confidence to pull it off. Toscano was a grounding presence as a frontman, and the importance of his leading the band through the return to structure in the final minutes of “Dimensional Orbiter” isn’t to be understated for the work it did in establishing Iota‘s songwriting as central. Yeah, they jammed way, way, way out, but they didn’t let the track end without bringing it back either. That was the job of “Opiate Blues,” with its harmonica-laced wash of fuzz and all-gone-not-coming-back vibe. But all the more, then, what “Dimensional Orbiter” did was to show that Iota were conscious of what they were doing in the material. It might sound like they were getting lost in the vastness of their own making, and maybe they were for a while, but they weren’t about to actually stay lost. I’ll happily maintain that Iota‘s Tales was one of 2008’s most exciting albums, and if it showed up now, a decade later, I’d still be dying to hear what the band did next.

A lot’s changed in 10 years, of course, but you take my meaning. Consider the vinyl revival. Tales, as the runtimes and track placements were on the original disc, wouldn’t work on vinyl. You’d probably have to drop off “Opiate Blues” and lose that harmonica-jam finish to close with “Dimensional Orbiter” as a standalone cut on side B. Side A would work with “New Mantis,” “We are the Yithians” and “The Sleeping Heathen” as they are, but the linear aspect of the record would be gone and it would be a marked change in the overall affect. Maybe it would be cool, but I’m not sure sacrificing the closer to fit on a 12″ would be a fair enough trade. But 2008 was a different time. It was a moment of transition in the social media landscape, but even more than that, consider that Texas’ Wo Fat, who’d made their debut in 2006 with The Gathering Dark, would release Psychedelonaut the next year and embark on a similar course of blending straightforward rock with jammier fare. Their take was bluesier, and they certainly went on to do it more than once, but it stands as another example of how new the idea was at that point. Iota were right on the cusp of that movement waiting to happen.

Then nothing happened. They played SXSW a couple times and would talk about new material for a while, but by the second half of 2009, Toscano was beginning to establish his new outfit, Dwellers, and they’d go on to release two records also through Small Stone to-date, while Patterson would take hold of the drums in SubRosa and continue to build his reputation as a producer. Careers took different paths, and gradually Iota became a footnote and a case of what-coulda-been-style potential unrealized. I heard as recently as last year they had some new jams, but nothing has come to the surface as yet, and in the meantime, everyone seems plenty busy otherwise. SubRosa‘s For This We Fought the Battle of Ages (review here) was the best album of 2016, and Dwellers, whose 2014 outing, Pagan Fruit (review here), continues to get periodic revisits, have reportedly started hammering out material for a third LP, to which one looks forward. Yosri was playing with Bird Eater alongside members of the crushing Gaza, but they broke up in 2014. Iota had early demos with different personnel in the rhythm section, but Tales stands alone as the document of what they accomplished during their time. And 10 years after the fact, it still kicks unreasonable amounts of ass.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

We were getting ready to leave Connecticut the other day — prepping for the by-now-so-familiar-The-Pecan-doesn’t-even-really-mind-it-anymore trip south to New Jersey for a final week here before the semester starts and we have to go back to Massachusetts to hunker down for the winter ahead. I was packing the car. I had a laundry basket full of clean clothes coming south, and the baby didn’t want to be put down. He’s got three teeth, working on numbers four and five already, and has been hair-trigger pretty much daily for the last three weeks running. Brutal. I said, “You wanna go for a ride in the laundry basket?” and he gave me a look like, “The fuck kinda question is that chief OF COURSE I wanna go for a ride in the laundry basket,” so I loaded him in, he held onto the sides and I marched out to put the basket in the car. Fine.

I think it must have been when I pulled the basket up onto the back bumper so I could open the hatch on The Patient Mrs.’ car that my back went out. Brutally out. This was Wednesday early on and it’s Friday morning as I write this and I’m still considerably uncomfortable. I’ve spent the last two days with heating pads and ibuprofen and I’m better than I was by Wednesday evening when we got here and I couldn’t really move, but very clearly something was pulled. Something necessary for basic functions. It has sucked, and it continues to suck. Yesterday I could pick the baby up, but couldn’t really hold him long. Just to kind of put him from one place to the other. No way to live.

My father always had chronic back pain. My sister as well, for years. Real genetic lottery winner, this one.

So that’s kind of peppered my last couple days, and by “peppered” I mean “been excruciating and frustrating.” But so it goes. In addition, I’ve been up in the middle of the night doing Obelisk stuff so that I can be available during the day to watch the baby so The Patient Mrs. can work. Working the overnights. “Four-shift crew rotation, Riker. Get it done.” I don’t actually mind that. I can relax and not be as rushed to get things done, but it does pretty much necessitate a nap later on. And every now and then I cry a bit.

–Wow. So I just went fucking apeshit and typed out a whole miserable screed about depression and pills and being a wreck. I deleted it, it’s gone, but it was there. It sucks that I’m not really comfortable enough to post that kind of thing here anymore. I used to feel like I could say anything at any time. Now, it’s setting myself up for bullshit.


Let’s do the notes instead. That’ll be productive. Did you listen to that Moab track today? That record smokes, so I hope so. Here’s what’s up for next week as of now:

Mon.: Clutch review; The White Swan track premiere.
Tue.: Fvzz Popvli track premiere/review; news catchup.
Wed.: Constant Lovers track premiere.
Thu.: Juicer track premiere.
Fri.: Ramprasad EP full stream.

Busy busy, as ever. Probably Monday we’ll head back north to Connecticut and then follow-up with a return to Massachusetts thereafter. The Patient Mrs. has to go be brilliant as she will at a conference in Boston next weekend, so I’m on baby duty for the duration there, which is fine. I should be able to move by then.

Which reminds me: ibuprofen.

I’m gonna finish downing this coffee, fire off an email or two and go back to bed hopefully for 90 minutes or so until The Pecan wakes up. If you need me this weekend, I’m on the social medias and checking in as much as I can getting ready for next week. That Clutch review is going to be a fun one to put together.

Alright. Great and safe weekend, please. And please too, forum and radio:

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Son of the Morning Post “Left Hand Path” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 24th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

son of the morning

The trick I finally learned to tell my left from my right was that your left hand is the one that makes the ‘L.’ The “Left Hand Path” has been a feature in heavy rock and metal for decades. Lest we forget it was the title of Entombed‘s first record 28 years ago, and of course, blah blah blah Anton LaVey, and the term goes much farther back in relation to black magic and, even deeper, to the breaking of societal taboos in India centuries ago. The Sanskrit word is “vamachara,” which, frankly, I can’t believe a band hasn’t taken for their moniker. That’s here or there, and certainly, Iowan cult rockers Sons of the Morning‘s name is Luciferian enough. Their self-titled debut album is out now on DHU Records, and their new video for the song “Left Hand Path” — the title of which is the reason for the whole non sequitur above; sorry about that — basks in its darkly ethereal visuals and features an assortment of actual left hands. Good to make sure the point gets across.

In the clip we meet Son of the Morning vocalist Lady Helena head on as she leads the way through the track, which is one of eight featured on the full-length that came out earlier this month, and gradually the rest of the four-piece seems to be brought into her purview. Helena‘s work on organ also features heavily on the swinging, classically doomed cut, and guitarist Levi Mendes shows up later to join in on vocals, chapeau and all. It’s a pretty straightforward video, though well designed by Transpiritus, and its atmosphere is both colorful and over-the-top enough to be fun as well as to showcase the cultish leanings of the band. Being catchy never hurts either, and “Left Hand Path,” which was also on the band’s 2017 self-titled three-tracker EP (review here), is most certainly that.

If you feel like hangin’ a louie, you can check out the video below, followed by more info from the PR wire.

Please enjoy:

Son of the Morning, “Left Hand Path” official video

Official music video for “Left Hand Path” by Son of the Morning
Video by Transpiritus

From the pale grey light of America’s Midwest, come Son of the Morning. An occult rock, doom band that interplays the whimsical with the diabolical. The four members of Son of the Morning form the inner-circle of creativity that call upon the forebearers of dark hard rock and heavy metal. However, all is not as it seems as odd-meter and syncopated arrangements dwell within the musical offerings.

To most, the band would be considered new, if it were not for the wealth of experience amongst its members. Combined, the quintet represents decades of musical accomplishment and exploration. The bond was forged in 2016 and most of the year was spent crafting the band’s signature sound. 2017 saw a year of festivals and shows along with the release of a self-titled debut extended play featuring 3 songs. The release was well received by fans and critics alike.

Son of the Morning:
Lady Helena – Vocals, Organ
Lee Allen – Electric Bass Guitar
H.W. Applewhite – Trap Kit
Levi Mendes – Electric Guitar

Son of the Morning, Son of the Morning (2018)

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Fuzz Forward Post “Despairs” Video; Announce Spanish Tour Dates

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 23rd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

fuzz forward

Let’s face it: just about anyone can make a music video these days. If you’ve got a phone and an Instagram filter, you’re in. Worked for Kadavar, if you’ll recall. But even taking into account the (relative) democratization of media, it’s one thing to make a music video and quite something else to make a music video and hang out with your dogs in the process. Interspersed with performance footage of Barcelona four-piece Fuzz Forward rocking out the song “Despairs” from their debut album, Out of Nowhere (review here), are clips of their dogs hanging out with them on stage, chewing on drumsticks, etc. Charm goes a long way in my book, always.

Charm, however, is hardly the only strength working in Fuzz Forwards favor on Out of Nowhere. The album was released earlier this year with the formidable backing of Red Sun Records, Discos MacarrasOdio Sonoro, and Spinda Records, and its penchant for melody and crisply-produced heavy rock came coupled with a grunge-style melody specifically attributable in the vocals of Juan to an Alice in Chains influence. My old man ears recall a time when it seemed like every rock singer was copping Layne Staley‘s bottom-of-the-mouth approach — some made good careers off doing so — but in this context and in this age where old flannels are new again, Fuzz Forward sound fresh and “Despairs” captures the fluidity of rhythm and the solidity of craft that they brought to the entirety of the record.

Also noteworthy is that the video was made in the Rocksound venue in Barcelona, a respected space the banner for which appears in any number of excellent live photos of groups touring through. The Iberian heavy rock scene has never had the kind of boom one finds in Germany or Sweden, but has always had its own spin on underground methods, and to see Fuzz Forward emerge as a next-generation take on that is all the more exciting. And it’s nice to have friends with venues that let you film videos there and bring your dogs. An all-around win.

Fuzz Forward put it in drive this Fall on a succession of shows keeping in good company all the while. Tour dates follow the clip here, as sent along the PR wire:

Fuzz Forward, “Despairs” official video

Barcelona’s grunge infected four piece FUZZ FORWARD are keeping themselves busy. They now present us their first video. Despairs is the opening track from their debut album “Out Of Nowhere” and also the first single. The band seems to like to keep all things under control. In other words, DIY philosophy. They shot, edited and directed the video, just like they did producing and mixing their record.

After the release of “Out Of Nowhere” cd (Red Sun Records) and vinyl (Discos Macarras, Odio Sonoro, Spinda Records, Red Sun Records), now the band is eager to spread some fuzz around the peninsula for the first time. So far cities confirmed are Barcelona, Madrid, Bilbao, Santander, Alicante, Terrassa … more to be added soon.


Upcoming shows:

14 sept – Terrassa @ The Cavern (+ Tears In Rain play Mad Season’s “Above”)
28 sept – Bilbao @ tbc
29 sept – Santander @ Rock Beer The New (+ Wet Cactus)
5 octubre – Reus @ tbc
6 octubre – Alicante @ Surnia Fest ( + Rosy Finch +…)
7 octubre – Barcelona @ Rocksound (+ Sasquatch)
3 noviembre – Barcelona @ Auditori Can Batlló de Sants (+ Matote)
30 noviembre – Barcelona @ Freedonia (+ Keloidrop + Golíat)
22 diciembre – Madrid @ Wurlitzer Ballroom (+ Electric Valley + Krazark)

… more to be announced soon!

Fuzz Forward is:
Juan – Vocals
Jordi Vaquero – Bass
Marc Rockenberg – Drums
Edko Fuzz – Guitar

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Vision Éternel Post Teaser for Sixth EP

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 21st, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Vision Éternel

Info is pretty sparse as yet for the forthcoming sixth EP from Vision Éternel, and one suspects that’s the way project-spearhead Alexandre Julien likes it. Julien, who’s still pretty fresh off issuing April 2018’s An Anthology of Past Misfortunes boxed set (discussed here), has been rather prolific in terms of posting videos and singles and snippets from releases in the past, and it seems as he gives a glimpse of what’s in store for Vision Éternel‘s next outing, that will continue unabated. This is the first clip related to the yet-untitled offering. I’d be very surprised if it’s the last.

The release date is set for late this year/early next, but whichever it is, it seems Julien‘s proclivities in experimentation with post-black metal drones and soundscapes are moving forward as ever. The clip below is brief — only 42 seconds — but the song it previews is only two and a half minutes, so it’s not actually an insubstantial portion thereof. That balance, it seems, has been somewhat essential to understanding where Vision Éternel is coming from. It’s long-form work presented in short-form fashion. Quick immersions, scenes from a film that the listener is then left to piece together. Always evocative, even here in this short piece of a short piece, Vision Éternel never quite covers the same ground twice, but constantly seems to move the story forward into some next act.

I’ll hope to have more to come on Vision Éternel‘s next release as we get closer to its arrival, but in the meantime, the preview clip is below, followed by the 2015 EP, Echoes from Forgotten Hearts (review here), if you’d like to get further acquainted with Julien‘s methods.

Either way, please enjoy:

Vision Éternel, Sixth EP Teaser

A Preview Of Vision Éternel’s Forthcoming Sixth EP, due out in late 2018/early 2019.

Vision Éternel is a melogaze band from Montreal, Canada. It was founded by Alexandre Julien in January of 2007.

Vision Éternel, Echoes from Forgotten Hearts (2015)

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Review & Video Premiere: Backwoods Payback, Future Slum

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Reviews on August 15th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

backwoods payback future slum

[Click play above to view the premiere of Backwoods Payback’s ‘Generals.’ Their new album, Future Slum, is out now.]

Future Slum could hardly sound more sincere if Backwoods Payback had cut themselves open and bled it out. And, listening to the melodic, post-grunge ending of “It Ain’t Right” — an Alice in Chains reference, maybe? — I’m not entirely sure they didn’t. There are raging moments as the album begins at a sprint in “Pirate Smile” and “Generals” seems to lay hands on the listener only to shove them out of its way, and the later “Alone” offers tonal thickness and grooving lumber of a more seasoned pace. This while “Lines” finds the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Mike Cummings, bassist Jessica Baker and drummer Erik Larson locked into blood-boiling tension before skillfully cramming in one last chorus for the opening salvo that ends with the rolling “Whatever” bringing forth a hook that one might call “signature” before guest vocalist Mlny Parsonz of Royal Thunder hurls out a scream that reminds of the harsher edge Backwoods Payback stand ready to unleash at any given moment.

Rest assured, Cummings will answer soon enough in “Threes” at the end of side A as Larson gives his toms a torrential workover, and “Generals” wants nothing either in terms of aggro edge. To the notion of authenticity as a myth in terms of art or, really, anything — it’s a false standard at the very least — Future Slum is a challenge. It is so much the band’s own, and so much of it comes across as an arrival point in their ongoing growth, that in kind with the atmospheric spaces it covers in “Cinderella” and “Alone,” its punk, metal, grunge and heavy rock elements craft an identity that stands in the middle of a Venn diagram of genres while delivering a hard no to committing to any of them for more than the purposes of the single track being served. And as they make their way through the 10 songs/34 minutes of Future Slum, what ties their disparate ideas together — aside from Baker‘s basslines, which would probably be enough on their own — ends up being that flat-out refusal to play to style or be anything other than the band they’ve become.

This isn’t accidental, of course. Backwoods Payback have never been shy in terms of getting out and touring, and as they returned in trio form with 2016’s Fire Not Reason (review here) after a half-decade’s relative quiet — they had a 2012 live release (discussed here) and 2014’s In the Ditch EP (review here) filling that gap — following 2011’s Small Stone-delivered sophomore album, Momantha (review here), they maintained their commitment to pushing their sound forward on stage. Future Slum only benefits from this on a performance level, as CummingsBaker and Larson are tighter as a unit than they were even just two years ago, and one can hear it in the initial thrust of “Pirate Smile” as much as the dug-in emotionalism of the memorable “Big Enough,” a wistful highlight as much for its self-harmonizing as the instrumental build happening beneath, culminating in a wash and some quiet strum soon enough devoured by the opening riff of the penultimate “Alone.”

backwoods payback (Photo by Useless Rebel)

I used to call Backwoods Payback “dirt rock,” and there’s an aspect of that still applicable, but Future Slum makes easy tags a thing of the past, and as a fan, it’s all the more an exciting release for that. It’s been two full-lengths thus far, but since Cummings and Baker brought in Larson on drums, one can hear in the songs not that they’re playing against each other, but that all three members of the band are challenging each other to make the whole group stronger. And they do. Future Slum has three inclusions over four minutes long, and the band’s execution is accordingly teeth-grindingly tight, but as they continue to refine their processes and their delivery, their output makes it plain for anyone to hear that they’ve reached a new level in style and substance. Fortunately, in accord with this is a consistency of songwriting. Cummings‘ lyrics are spit poetry and the forward drive he, Baker and Larson are able to conjure amid dynamic turns of tempo and melody, is unmistakable. Fire Not Reason laid the foundation, and as a result of that, Future Slum is the strongest release they’ve ever had.

That’s true in terms of performance, craft and overall production sound, which remains thick where and when it needs to be while allowing the three-piece to still have a live feel and highlight nuances like the layered-in guitar effects in the second half of the opener or the timely shouts that punctuate the lines of “Generals.” Following the weighted nod of “Alone,” “Lucky” closes out as the longest cut at 4:57 and seems to find some middle ground in a Sabbathian central riff and steady initial pace, but true to form, it ups the tempo in a classically metallic turn — no less Sabbath, for that matter — that soon enough gives way to the slower chorus before landing in a chug that seems to disintegrate as it fades out, ending Future Slum with a bit of tension that one might even dare to think Backwoods Payback would answer with the start of their next album. Whether they do or don’t, and wherever they might go from here, the organic nature of their progression only makes Future Slum all the more of an accomplishment.

Some 11 years removed from their self-titled debut, they’ve risen to their own challenge and come together to create something special and truly theirs. It’s not dirt rock. It’s not stoner, or Southern rock, or doom or grunge or hardcore punk or whatever else. It’s Backwoods Payback. They’ve carved their sonic persona out of all of these things, and most of all, stayed true to themselves while embracing such a breadth of influence. In their faster and slower songs alike, one can hear the sense of immediacy, and it’s completely reasonable why. Backwoods Payback have been around, and they’re not dumb. This is a moment they’ve managed to capture, and there are parts of Future Slum that sound like they’re almost chasing after themselves before they get away. That’s not a negative at all. Rather, as it manifests here, it serves notice of the consciousness underlying their efforts, and they’re right. This is a watershed for them. Their urgency is nothing if not well placed.

Backwoods Payback, Future Slum (2018)

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Sons of Alpha Centauri Post “Solar Storm” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 13th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Sons of Alpha Centauri

So there’s this submarine. And it’s in a lake. And it’s huge. And the video starts out and there’s all this movement and driving and going through different scenes and where are we going I don’t know but it works really well with the riff so just roll with it and so on. Eventually, we get up to the lake. Maybe a pond? A relatively small-ish body of water. We get there and Sons of Alpha Centauri arrive and there’s no way they all came in the same car because there isn’t enough room for all their gear but whatever that’s not the point. All the while “Solar Storm” is playing and it’s got this crazy kind of tension to it and the band walk out to a spot by the water on what seems to be some pretty nice farmland.

It’s all in black and white until they start playing. And then like purple and orange lasers come out of their guitars and whatnot and start to hit the submarine like they’re rerouting power from the auxiliary systems to feed through the dilithium core — am I right? — and then the submarine shoots into space at what looks an awful lot like warp six. If I had to guess. And then the submarine careens through outer space like it’s the dude in 2001: A Space Odyssey for a while, it breaks through water and then the clip cuts back to the band, who pack up their gear — I still think it’s studio magic to think they fit two guitars, a bass, a full drum kit and themselves in that car, but maybe they’re Tetris pros — and split. The end.

Video of the year? Maybe.

“Solar Storm” comes from Sons of Alpha Centauri‘s new album, Continuum (review here), on H42 Records and Cobraside Distribution and it’s produced by Aaron Harris, who was in Isis when they were a band. Sons of Alpha Centauri recently shared stages with Yawning Man in the UK and have other stuff going on, but quite frankly I’ve delayed enough. You should just dig in here and enjoy:

Sons of Alpha Centauri, “Solar Storm” official video

The journey into instrumental progressive rockers SONS OF ALPHA CENTAURI’s new album “Continuum” progresses, as the video for “Solar Storm” lands today on all channels.
“Solar Storm is the cumulative blend of fast, slow, heavy, progressive styles of SOAC all encapsulated within a five minute adrenaline shot. Working with Simon Risbridger on this video was awesome as he completely understands our visual aesthetic and secluded introspective approach. We wanted the video to represent the different segments and styles within the track as part of the journey – it has been highly stylised with multiple references and subliminal messages. Embark the journey and embrace the storm!’ states SOAC bassist Nick Hannon.

The video starts a black and white fine art epic shot in and around the spiritual home of SOAC, Swale and the Isle of Sheppey and the story progresses into a cinematic visual feast of intergalactic travel through space and time. The introspective journey of ‘Solar Storm’ has been directed by long term collaborator Simon Risbridger who worked with Sons of Alpha Centauri on visuals including live performances with A Storm of Light.

Marlon King – Guitars
Nick Hannon – Bass
Stevie B. – Drums
Blake – Textures

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