GIVEAWAY: Win a Contra CD and More from Robustfellow Productions!

Posted in Features on June 26th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Doing something different with the giveaway this time. If you’re on Thee Facebooks, I’ve teamed up with Ukrainian heavy specialists Robustfellow Productions to give away a special grab-bag with the new CD from Contra (review here), a copy of the 3CD Electric Funeral Cafe Vol. 3 compilation (review here), a Contra tape, a DVD and a bunch of other stickers and other goodies from the label.

All you have to do is hop on Thee Facebooks, follow Robustfellow Productions (their page looks like this) and comment on this post to enter to win all the stuff. If you’re not on social media or otherwise averse, I’ll count comments on this post as entries too in the usual way, but yeah, I’d like to give the label a real boost on Thee Facebooks if we can since they do good work, so if you’re up for it, thanks in advance for entering.

Here’s the prize pack and info:

robustfellow-giveaway

Robust Bag for Robust lottery @ The Obelisk

Robust Lottery is a tradition of each Robust Event.

This time we have a fresh, ground-breaking release that’s coming in the middle of the summer, so we have decided to ask The Obelisk to conduct the Robust Lottery throughout the whole globe.

Participating in the Robust Lottery you can win a lot of tasty stuff:

• Contra “Deny Everything” CD
• Contra “Deny Everything” MC L (ltd.ed. tape vs. cartridge and pin set)
• VA – Electric Funeral Cafe vol.3 (3 CD) – interstellar psychedelic voyage. “Immense document of Ukrainian heavy”
• Robustfest vol.III (DVD)
• bundle of stickers, patches, pins related to Robust scene

Here are few simple rules that you should follow to win a Robust Bag:

1) Press like, follow -> see first to “The Obelisk” and “Robustfellow” pages (if you haven’t done this before)
2) Write a comment below this post
3) Winner will be chosen randomly

The lottery starts today and ends next Tuesday (4 Jul 2017, +2 GMT). Don’t miss your chance!

Contra, Deny Everything (2017)

Various Artists, Electric Funeral Cafe Vol. 3 (2017)

Robustfellow Productions on Bandcamp

Robustfellow Productions on Thee Facebooks

Robustfellow Productions website

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Six Dumb Questions with Esben Willems

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on June 21st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

esben-willems-photo-Hank-Henrik-Oscarsson

Swedish tone-crushers Monolord recently finished work on their impending third album, which will be out later this year via RidingEasy Records. For drummer Esben Willems, the accomplishment is two-fold. In addition to playing, Willems also engineered — a credit he shares with guitarist/vocalist Thomas V. Jäger and bassist Mika Häkki — and mixed and mastered. This was done behind the board in the capacity of Berserk Audio, the nom de guerre under which Willems has helmed projects not only for his own outfits Monolord and formerly Marulk, but many others over the years including Långfinger, Vokonis and Cities of Mars.

Unsurprisingly, as Monolord‘s reputation has grown, that of Willems‘ capacity as an engineer has done likewise, and Berserk Audio has become more established as a result. Founded on principals of flexibility and passion — and coffee, of course — the studio is as mobile as the hard-touring Willems himself, and that’s fortunate, because as Monolord make ready to release the aforementioned new full-length, they’ve already announced a co-headlining Fall 2017 European tour with Conan (dates here) that will follow stops this summer at Stoned from the Underground in Germany, SonicBlast Moledo in Portugal, and so on.

A busy schedule, however, is the lifesblood of a recording engineer, and it would seem Willems‘ position is the more the merrier. Right on. Though he was interviewed here around the 2015 release of the second Monolord album, Vænir (review here), which was followed by the 2016 two-songer EP, Lord of Suffering / Die in Haze (review here), the work he’s done in bringing Berserk Audio to fruition isn’t to be underestimated, and it was high time to give due attention to this side of Willems‘ creative persona, which I hope the Q&A below does, at least in some measure.

Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

berserk audio logo

Six Dumb Questions with Esben Willems

How did you get your start in recording? What were some of your early projects and how did your technique develop? Do you have a philosophy when it comes to tracking bands or is each project different in what it requires from the engineer?

My first steps in recording was when I moved out of my parents’ house and to a different town in the early ‘90s, where I soon spent all free time in a rehearsal complex. After spending most of my childhood caught in uninspiring music theory in the local municipal music school – I’ve forgotten almost all of that, haha – I finally met likeminded people who just played music with focus on the music, not the strict theory behind it. That was a real eye-opener for me; I’ve been fascinated with the band format since before I even knew how to phrase that, and to be in an environment that was based on constant curiosity, testing, jamming, constantly forming new bands and side-projects, was pure inspiration. I learned so much more about music during those years than all previous years confined inside the make-believe rules of how music should be executed. The latter is still very mechanic to me; I think that mediating a feeling, a mood, a story, is the essence of music, regardless of genre. That’s still always the base of everything music related I do.

Anyway, that rehearsal complex was where I first started playing around with recording. The place had a small and very basic recording studio. One tiny recording room and one even tinier control room. The equipment wasn’t much more than a handful of crusty SM57’s and 58’s and a 4-track cassette recorder (constant creative mixdowns to get the channels you wanted, haha). That was it. We had so much fun at that house, I’m equally happy and sad that all those endless recording sessions are long gone.

Regarding my technique – if I really have any – I think that developed by the boundless and playful atmosphere at that place. Trying to capture a death metal session properly with a half broken 4-track machine forces your mind to come up with creative solutions. I still like to work that way, I’ve always felt that a certain amount of limitations is a good thing. It forces inspiration.

That also applies when recording different bands. All bands and all musicians are of course very different, with different references and experiences. So I don’t believe much in having a work template, apart from always – always – having a reliable supply of fresh coffee where I work.

Tell me about Berserk Audio. Did you build the studio? How did it all come together? What is the atmosphere like, what’s the layout of the rooms and how do you feel like the studio has developed over the last couple years as you’ve been doing more and more work there?

When I first started working professionally with audio I was aiming at building my own studio, and I wanted to do it by first being an apprentice at one or more established studios. I got the dream chance at a place I don’t want to name here, but it was everything I could ever hope for as a newly-graduated sound tech – welcoming atmosphere, fully booked with professional bands, great acoustics and equipment; and, I got the offer very early on to work there part time. But, the majority of bands recording there played a genre I just couldn’t stand, or understand, which is even more important. Also, the recording method was everything I feel takes the music out of music; sound replacing and quantizing drums, autotuning vocals, cut-and-paste editing in the mix and so on. So, after some grueling soul searching I came to the conclusion that it would kill my passion for music over time and I also wouldn’t do a proper job, since I wouldn’t be able to judge when the material was what the bands wanted. “Is this mechanic and sterile enough for you guys?” might not be the question a band wants. But with that said, I’m fully aware of that’s how the main part of the recording industry works and that it makes things very hard to exclude those studios.

But, I finally made the decision that most aspiring sound techs would feel was stupid: I kindly quit the apprenticeship at that studio, got freelance audio work at intensely boring conferences and invested in a small but efficient portable studio rig. I felt that if recording music that would just make me bitter, I might as well have a boring and undemanding day job and focus on recording bands I liked and with that contribute to a relevant production. That was over a decade ago and I haven’t regretted it once.

Of course I’d love to have my own studio, but never at the expense of the passion for music. I currently have a collab with a really cool place here in Gothenburg called Studio Svavel, which I rent when needed.

What have been some of your favorite projects to work on? Do you have a preference between recording, mixing and mastering?

I think my favorite projects are the ones where I’m part of the entire process, all the way from the rehearsal space. As I see it, most of the work should be done before entering the studio. Writing and selecting material, arranging, pre-production, discussions about sound, mood and feel of the production and so on. Most bands don’t have the possibility to rent a studio for a few months and just enter it with a blank slate, so in order to make the most of the time bands pay me for, I always emphasize the importance of that. If you’re well prepared, you’re actually able to compete with the bands that have all the studio time in the world. And the listener will never know or care about your budget. They’re gonna compare you with any and all of their favorite bands regardless.

That’s where that true essence of music comes in again. If your band is well rehearsed with songs you stand behind and your band sounds like an unbreakable unit – as opposed to a collection of humans just playing correctly in time – you actually will be able to make an album that kicks ass in spite of the ever-limited budget and time.

How has it been for you to record your own band? Is there a difference in how you approach working with Monolord as opposed to other acts? How do you coax a great performance out of a bandmate as opposed to someone who has hired you to work as a producer?

It’s weird and great. It’s inevitable that there’s a difference, since I’m one of the band members. But when we record, we all produce it collectively. We’re all part of the entire recording process. So in some ways the recording part doesn’t differ that much from everything else we do in the band. And the coaxing, I guess that’s a mutual three-way process, haha. When I tell my drum kit to go fuck itself, I rely on Thomas and Mika to filter my anger. And that goes the other way around as well.

The only part where I work alone is during mixing and mastering. But I constantly update my bandmates online, so they’re very much part of that process as well.

Recording your own band makes it a bit harder to be objective and to kill your darlings. But I enjoy that challenge. I’ve learned a lot from it through the years.

You recently finished mixing the third Monolord album. What’s the status of that release now? When can fans expect it to come out and what’s in store this time around from the band? How does splitting your time with being on the road and in the studio affect your ability to take on more recording jobs?

I really wish I could tell you everything about, but we’ll announce all details shortly. What I can tell you is that musically it’s groovier and more dynamic, in all aspects. Still misanthropic and still rumbling, though. The humanity is broken and this is our safety valve, as always.

The mixing and mastering is done and the album will be released in all its glory later this year. Hope you’ll like it!

Being a touring musician and also a studio leprechaun is actually the perfect combo. When I can, I work from home, which means I only have a deadline to consider. I’m not a fan of daily routines when it comes to working hours, so that fits me and my family life just perfectly. And my world is a world without borders, so I can easily have clients all over the planet. And when it comes to mixing and mastering they can easily hire me without insane travel expenses. I’m old enough to have grown up in an internet-free world, so I love the possibilities that has opened up thanks to the online community culture. Borders and flags are war tools. I’d rather work past them.

Who’s next in the studio? Any other recordings coming up, closing words or other plans you want to mention?

Next up is always working on new stuff with Monolord. That’s an ongoing process, so we’re always fiddling with ideas, regardless of actual future plans.

But apart from that, I have a few mastering projects this week I’m gonna sink my teeth into. I break every rule possible when I master and I’m sure most audiophiles would like to subject me to public torture, but the clients I’ve worked with seem to hear things the way I do, so I keep getting requests to do the things I do with their music.

And, with some actual free time for the first time in forever, I’m gonna start working on some side solo stuff that’s been rattling in the back of my head for a while. I have no idea what will come of it.

Monolord, “Lord of Suffering” official video

Berserk Audio on Thee Facebooks

Monolord on Thee Facebooks

Monolord on Twitter

RidingEasy Records website

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Six Dumb Questions with Abrams

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on June 16th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

abrams (photo chanelle leslie)

Denver progressive heavy rockers Abrams released their second album, Morning, exactly one week ago via Sailor Records, and immediately set about hitting the road to support it on a three-week West Coast tour. The remaining dates are below, and like what the trio have done with the videos for “Worlds Away” (posted here) and “Burned” (posted here), and even more than their 2015 debut, Lust. Love. Loss. (review here), the new collection seeks to capture the energy that Abrams bring to the stage. Recorded by Andy Patterson (SubRosa, Iota, etc.) and Dave Otero (Cephalic Carnage, Khemmis, etc.), Morning brims with sonic clarity, and balanced with a blistering performance from the three-piece, it not only emphasizes the development they’ve undertaken since getting together, but the varied approach to songwriting that’s been honed as a part of that.

One can readily hear progression in the vocals and the arrangements between bassist Taylor Iversen and guitarist Zachary Amster, who over the propulsive drumming of Geoffrey Cotton bring even more momentum as they trade back and forth in the lead role between tracks like “Rivers” and “Can’t Sleep,” shifting back and forth amid cleaner choruses and echoing shouts. Abrams credit this largely to working with Otero on vocal recording, and it’s an element they share with early-ish Mastodon that comes through more at some points than others, side B’s “Die in Love” taking this core influence and adding an edge of noise rock amid the winding riffery. Along with the clearheaded, crisp punch of the Patterson-tracked instrumentation, this is one more example of the underlying sense of purpose that drives every move Abrams make on Morning.

There isn’t a part that doesn’t serve the greater whole, or a change that doesn’t feed into making a given song better, and while I wouldn’t say they completely avoid indulgences — no one does in this style — Morning works fluidly to justify every turn it presents, and Abrams emerge from the atmospheric closing title-track having reached a new level in craft and delivery.

They’ve been on the road since June 9. Here are the remaining tour dates:

Abrams on tour:
Jun 16 – San Jose, CA @ The Caravan
Jun 17 – Santa Cruz, CA @ Caffe Pergolesi
Jun 18 – Sacramento, CA @ Starlite Lounge
Jun 19 – Reno, NV @ Shea’s Tavern
Jun 20 – Medford, OR @ Johnny B’s Tavern
Jun 21 – Eugene, OR @ Old Nick’s Pub
Jun 22 – Portland, OR @ The Kenton Club
Jun 23 – Seattle, WA @ Lo-Fi Performance Gallery
Jun 24 – Boise, ID @ The Shredder
Jun 25 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Club X
Jun 26 – Cheyenne, WY @ Ernie November
Jun 27 – Rapid City, SD @ West Dakota Improv
Jun 28 – Minneapolis, MN @ Triple Rock Social Club
Jun 29 – Chicago, IL @ Reggies
Jun 30 – Des Moines, IA @ The Fremont
Jul 1 – Denver, CO @ The Hi Dive

Iversen took time out to explain the band’s motives and writing methods. Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

abrams morning

Six Dumb Questions with Abrams

What lessons were you able to take from the first album? Tell me about incorporating them into these songs. What did you want to build on from the debut and what did you want to do differently?

Well, we wrote about 50 percent of Lust. Love. Loss. in three weeks’ time after a substantial but amicable personnel change, essentially on the eve of our 2014 West Coast tour. So with Morning, we really wanted to take our time with it. In a way, we’ve been writing Morning, since July of 2015, when the first songs began to take shape. We all entered into the writing process with the desire to create a more dynamic album.

We wanted to be less furious and driving from start to finish, and kind of take people on an emotional journey, though that sounds cliché as fuck. Still, you will notice many more “quieter” passages on Morning, and there is a much wider range to our vocal approach. Vocals were one of the things we wanted to improve upon most. We’re actually, you know, singing.

Talk about the writing process for Morning. How do songs like “18 Weeks” and “Can’t Sleep” come about?

When we wrote the songs, the actual instrumentation, I don’t think we consciously had any idea what we would be singing about. Everything kind of developed naturally in that way. Zach brings in most of the riffs, but we all then work together to make these ideas adhere into an Abrams song. Vocally, Zach and I just shouted nothings for a while. Slowly these nothings coalesced into words and passages that we found dealt with a lot of the same things.

For instance: I went through something like two breakups during the writing of this record, Zach had just gone through a difficult and prolonged breakup of his own, and to top it all off, Geoff‘s mother had just died. We were in a really odd place mentally. Songs like “Can’t Sleep” and “At the End” highlight a lot of that. All of these interpersonal relationships and the pain they caused are lyrically peppered throughout the album. “18 Weeks” is about an experience I had being dragged along by somebody I thought I loved, only to find out 18 weeks later they did not share these feelings. That’s also why, “I can’t sleep in this silence.” What’s beautiful though is I think each of us have our own interpretation of what each song represents. We really needed each other when we wrote this record. We needed these songs. So we made them.

You’ve mentioned duality as a theme for the album, and that “Morning” and “Mourning” are meant to complement each other because of the titles. Expand on that. What are you saying about duality, and what drove you to explore the idea in the first place?

I guess I’m lucky in that I still wake up every morning with a lot of hope for how things are going to go. “I’m going to kick today’s ass.” More often than not though, I lay my head down at the end of the day only to find that it very rightly kicked MY ass. What could have been if I’d just tried harder? Done better? Both songs, “Morning” and “Mourning,” feature that back and forth within them. I forget who mentioned the idea to whom first, but we were very pleased to find that we had all come to the same thematic idea on our own.

So there’s all that emotional turmoil of losing somebody you once shared love with, it’s all over the album. But there’s also these snippets of joy. Life can only be beautiful because it’s so often very painful. So you’ll find in “Rivers” or “Morning” there’s this serenity, this peace, this bright, hopeful liveliness. Yeah there’s a lot of shit about breakups and going insane too, but then for instance, I met somebody right before hopping into the studio and we’re still together. She’s all over the album lyrically too. That’s what it’s all about, you know: Hope vs. Despair. A little bit of good. A little bit of bad.

How does Samantha Muljat’s cover art play into the theme for you?

We presented the idea to Samantha and she just ran with it in a big way. She went searching the woods one morning and found this lonely cabin, not abandoned, but far, far away from anything else. The lonely road leading up past the cabin evokes the thought of a journey. But to where? How far until we get there? The morning light playing through the mist sets such a beautiful scene, but there’s darkness there too. It’s a cold, lonely image, but there’s also warmth and peace throughout.

To me, on the back, the bread represents life, while the fallen leaves scattered around represents death. There is darkness surrounding everything, but at the center of it all there’s the candles casting light throughout.

Tell me about your time recording with Andy Patterson. How long were you in the studio, what was the atmosphere like, and since this was your second time working with him, did you feel more comfortable being more familiar with the process? You also worked with Dave Otero. Who recorded what and how did it all come together?

Recording with Andy for us was like fuckin’ summer camp! We were in the studio with Andy for about a week, and just like last time Andy and his wife Cindi opened their home to us. We’re such good buddies with them, it’s hard not to enjoy every single moment. It’s a full day of rigorous and focused recording in his studio, but we’re so in tune with each other it went slick as butter. As soon as we’re out, we go back to their place and just crush beers, take rips from the bong, make homemade pizzas and watch garbage television. Grey’s Anatomy was last time, and this time it was just dirty-ass reality shows. We all kind of teared up when we were getting ready to leave. It really felt like the last day of summer camp.

Andy recorded all of the instruments, and we laid down some scratch vocal ideas with him as well. We sent that to Dave, and we all ruminated on that from September to October when we entered the studio with him to track the finalized vocals. If Andy was summer camp, Dave was boot camp. The first day he gave us a lowdown just like,”no booze, no smoke, drink lots of water and tea, above all else get a good night sleep.” From there it was a literal nine-to-five job for seven days where our only responsibility was to sing, and sing, and sing. At the end of the day, we’d go home and go right to sleep; absolutely drained and exhausted. But, if anybody can get a good vocal performance out of you, it’s Dave Otero.

He’ll push you harder than you’ve ever been pushed, and he’ll throw in plenty of his own ideas, which are always amazing. That’s precisely why we went to him. We also had Dave do the final mixes and mastering, which he knocked out of the park. That guy is a monster of his craft.

It was great to get two really professional, really talented audio juggernauts like Andy and Dave to lend their ears to what we were trying to do.

I’ve heard Summer tour dates are in the works. Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?

Yeah! We’ll be doing two tours this summer. Three weeks on the West Coast, and two-ish weeks on the East. June and August respectively. In July we have hopes to get demos for our third album, for which we already have a lot of songs. We’re hoping to tour on Morning as much as possible, so there’s been tentative plans to hit the southern half of the country this winter. We’ll see what happens. Maybe we’ll finally find a booking agent, and they’ll put us the fuck to work.

Abrams, Morning (2017)

Abrams on Thee Facebooks

Abrams on Bandcamp

Sailor Records website

Sailor Records on Bandcamp

Sailor Records on Thee Facebooks

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Six Dumb Questions with Lee Van Cleef

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on June 14th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

lee van cleef

There’s not much mystery behind what makes a group like Lee Van Cleef work. The Italian instrumentalists debuted in 2016 with Holy Smoke (review here), releasing the album digitally at first and then on vinyl through Berlin’s White Dwarf Records, and the appeal came through loud and clear in the distorted fuzz of Marco Adamo‘s guitar, the warmth in Pietro Trinità La Tegola‘s bass and the rolling grooves propelled by Guido Minervini‘s drums. Without any of these, songs like the 13-minute “Banshee” or opener “Heckle Yuppies” wouldn’t have worked. Simple answer? Chemistry. It’s what makes the whole thing go.

Seems obvious, right?

Well, obvious it might be, but it’s also much easier said than done. At a time when Europe is awash in instrumental (or mostly instrumental) jam-based heavy psychedelic rock, for a three-piece like Lee Van Cleef to come along and manage to distinguish themselves from the pack on their first full-length is not insignificant. From the patient rollout in the aforementioned leadoff through the airy lead work that tops closer “Towelie” and the nod-ready Spring 2017 follow-up digital single Everyone Should Kill an Old Hippy (discussed here), on which watery wah borders on delivering a vocal line here and there, Lee Van Cleef emerge with a sense of spaciousness and a tonality of their own. They’ve only been around since 2015. Some bands barely pick up their instruments in their first two years of existence. Lee Van Cleef would seem to have clearly defined their aesthetic approach and already set about pushing it forward.

In light of that progression underway, it’s a great time to check in with Adamo and get a sense of the band’s origins, where they’re coming from, what was “the joke” that reportedly got them together, and what they have in store for the rest of 2017 and beyond. Before we get to the Q&A, let me just say I extra appreciate the guitarist taking the time for the interview considering the language barrier to do it in English. I know there’s no way my ignorant ass would fare nearly so well in Italian, so I am grateful for the effort.

Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

Six Dumb Questions with Lee Van Cleef

You’ve said that Lee Van Cleef formed as a joke. Can you let us in on what initially got you together in 2015? What was the joke, and at what point did you realize you had something in the jams that was really worth pursuing on a more serious level?

Maybe more than a joke it’s been something unpretentious and unplanned. We all had other projects at the time and Lee Van Cleef was born to experiment and basically have fun doing what we liked the most. I called Guido and Pietro and even if I knew they both were guitarists, I also knew they could play drum and bass. In a city like ours it’s hard to think about a project like this and hope to receive any kind of feedback. I’m not saying there’s no people who listen to this kind of music, but clubs they don’t really give much space to this music. It’s not that cool to play 10-minute jams with neverending guitar solos and just a few major chords!

But we didn’t really care and we did it. For us, mainly. We underestimated the web power, but when we realized we had something that was working we recorded it at the best we could and we put it on Bandcamp. After a while, Olaf [Angermund] from White Dwarf got in touch with us after having listened to us at the radio. The rest is history (laughs). The most important thing is that we’re still doing all of this for us and even if we had a lot of positive feedbacks, and we are really grateful to those who spent some of their time to listen to us.

Tell me about putting together the Holy Smoke album. What was the recording like? How long were you in the studio for it and how many of the songs were born from those early jams from when the band was starting out?

We recorded the tracks in a studio here in Naples called Godfather. We locked ourselves up for two days and we recorded everything live… as if it was a live session. When Olaf got in touch with us, proposed us to release vinyls as soon as possible, but at the time we only had three tracks, but after a few months we composed “Hell Malo,” “Heckle Yuppies” and “Towelie.” So than we went to the studio to record Holy Smoke. Everything was fast cause as I said everything was live. Two days to record and three/four days for mixing.

How did you get hooked up with White Dwarf Records for the vinyl release of Holy Smoke? What did it mean to you to get your first record put out as an LP?

For us it was totally unexpected as I said. We will always be grateful to White Dwarf to bet on us because it would have never happened here in Italy. For Italian labels it would have been too risky. Olaf just texted us on Facebook. Thank you dude.

You released the “Everyone Should Kill an Old Hippy” single earlier this Spring. What’s wrong with old hippies? And more importantly, will this track feature on the next Lee Van Cleef album?

Ahahahahahah I was expecting it. Actually we have nothing against old hippies. My dad was an old hippie. It’s more a joke. A provocation. A way to detach from a deeply-rooted tradition, from some attitudes. Here in Naples, at least, old hippies are that radical chic dudes who live in million euros houses. They send their children to private schools and lock them up at home because in the street there are evil people. Are those who ask you to turn down the volume if you are listening Jimi Hendrix. It’s just a provocation. I don’t think we’re going to kill anybody. Anyway, probably we could record another version in the next album, as we did with “Banshee” and “Mahana”…we don’t know yet…

Have you started work on a second record? Any idea how the material might develop going forward from the debut, and is there anything specific you want to build on or change coming off of Holy Smoke? Where is Lee Van Cleef headed sound-wise?

We’re working on new tracks, we are also preparing a Creedence cover (spoiler) and thinking about doing some experiments, like using more voice, or some synth… We will see

Will you do any touring this year? Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?

We’ll be at Red Smoke Festival in July; we’re working also for other dates. Certainly we’ll be touring in Germany, France and maybe Spain on next Autumn. We’d like to play more here in Italy and we hope to do that. I don’t deny that is pretty hard because this kind of music is not too much listened, at least in some part of the country. By the way we have no booking right now. We try to do all this shit alone and this make the work more difficult… If you add to this that we are incredibly lazy, it is a mortal mix! Probably we’ll release some other track suddenly, as we love to do.

Lee Van Cleef, “Everyone Should Kill an Old Hippy”

Lee Van Cleef on Thee Facebooks

Lee Van Cleef on Bandcamp

White Dwarf Records on Thee Facebooks

White Dwarf Records on Bandcamp

White Dwarf Records website

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The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 of 2017 So Far

Posted in Features on June 12th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk top-20-2017-so-far

The time has come to take a look at some of the best albums of 2017 so far. I hardly know where to start. In some ways, this list is harder to put together than the end-of-year one that comes out in December, because by then not only do you have the full year to draw on, but it’s easier to sort of put a narrative to the course of events of 12 months, whereas in this case, obviously, the story is half told. So I guess if the list feels incomplete, that might be part of why.

Even with just six months to work from, the list has become fairly immense. I’ve been keeping track of 2017 releases since about September of last year, and the amount of stuff that’s come through has been staggering. Every year brings good music, and the basic fact of the matter is that if you don’t think so it’s because you’re either unwilling to find it or unwilling to let yourself hear it, but 2017 has been a multi-tiered assault of sounds from all over the world, and it seems like whatever you might be into, the universe stands ready to accommodate.

There’s a lot to say about that — is the market flooded? — but it’s a topic for a different post. I’ll keep it short here and just say that as always, it’s an honor to be covering the stuff that I cover and that I deeply appreciate you taking the time to read. I hope if there’s a release you feel deeply passionate about that you don’t see on my list below that you’ll please let me know about it in the comments.

Also, please note that in order to qualify for this list, a record had to come out on or before June 9. That’s the cutoff.

Okay, here goes:

The Top 20 of 2017 So Far

elder reflections of a floating world

1. Elder, Reflections of a Floating World
2. All Them Witches, Sleeping Through the War
3. Samsara Blues Experiment, One with the Universe
4. Colour Haze, In Her Garden
5. Atavismo, Inerte
6. Sun Blood Stories, It Runs Around the Room with Us
7. Cloud Catcher, Trails of Kozmic Dust
8. Vokonis, The Sunken Djinn
9. The Obsessed, Sacred
10. Mothership, High Strangeness
11. Spaceslug, Time Travel Dilemma
12. Electric Moon, Stardust Rituals
13. Alunah, Solennial
14. Arc of Ascent, Realms of the Metaphysical
13. Rozamov, This Mortal Road
14. Siena Root, A Dream of Lasting Peace
15. PH, Eternal Hayden
16. Geezer, Psychoriffadelia
17. T.G. Olson, Foothills Before the Mountain
18. Telekinetic Yeti, Abominable
19. The Devil and the Almighty Blues, II
20. Lord, Blacklisted

Notes

If you keep up with this site at all, there probably aren’t a lot of surprises in there. These are all records that have been discussed at great length over the last six months, reviewed, streamed, analyzed, whathaveyou’d all the way. If you don’t believe me, search any of the names. Still, as far as my personal picks go and who I think has crafted something special over the last six months, this feels pretty representative to me. I managed to live for a full week with the list as you see it above, without making changes. That’s usually my standard.

And as always, it’s a combination of what I’ve listened to most and what I feel has had the greatest impact thus far into the year. Between the two, there was little doubt Elder would take the top spot. I’ve probably listened to the All Them Witches record more than anything else this year, including Elder’s Reflections of a Floating World, but the truth is the Massachusetts trio are working at a level of their own making in terms of their sonic progression, and that they’ve emerged as one of if not the most pivotal American underground heavy rock bands going. The situation was much the same when they put out Lore in 2015 and claimed that year’s top-album spot, but even since then their sound has expanded and they continue to demand ultimate respect.

As for the All Them Witches album — absolute stunner. The increased depth of their arrangements on Sleeping Through the War came at no expense of songwriting, resulting in ultra-memorable material that could either wash over you with melody or shove you out of your seat with the force of its rhythm, and that band continues to be a treasure. No other way to put it.

From there, we move into what I think are the four best heavy psych offerings of 2017 so far, with Samsara Blues Experiment, Colour Haze, Atavismo and Sun Blood Stories, in that order. Samsara Blues Experiment’s return has been a joy to witness and their first album in four years lived up to the occasion. Colour Haze expanded the palette from their last album with In Her Garden and proved as immersive as always. I’m still getting to know that record. Atavismo’s second full-length upped the progressive influences without losing fluidity or cohesion in songwriting, and Sun Blood Stories’ hypnotic shoegaze offered expansive thrills and a sense of varied, beautifully crafted exploration.

A pair of exciting young bands thereafter in Colorado’s Cloud Catcher, whose boogie is right-on-right-on and whose development continues to hold much potential, and Vokonis, whose crushing riffs on The Sunken Djinn were met with an increased focus on structure and tightening of approach that maximized overall impact. The Obsessed’s unexpected return could only be called a triumphant one, and Mothership’s third long-player found them working in a richer sense of mood than previous outings, adding yet more character to what was still a blast of good-time rock and roll. They round out the top 10 in full command of who they are as players.

Granted, the next 10 releases are kind of all over the place, but I think that just shows the overarching quality of work being done across the board. From Spaceslug’s melodic stoner-psych to Electric Moon’s studio return — so, so, so good — to Alunah’s continued growth in nature-worshiping heavy and Arc of Ascent’s comebacker of rolling heavy riffs and metaphysical themes, there’s been so much to take in. I especially like the pairing of Rozamov and Siena Root as a sense of scope for 2017 so far; the former being so dark and crushing and the latter who lived up to calling their record A Dream of Lasting Peace. You want to know both ends of the spectrum? There they are.

PH’s Eternal Hayden gets a nod for its effective reset of the context of that band following the completion of their trilogy of albums, and Geezer’s Psychoriffadelia might have been something of a tossoff in the making, but the level at which the New York trio jams nonetheless assures it a spot here. Plus, a Nazareth cover. So duh.

I couldn’t help but include T.G. Olson’s Foothills Before the Mountain on the list as the Across Tundras frontman creeps closer to a full-band sound for his solo work, adding to his acoustic singer-songwriter foundations, and the crush of Telekinetic Yeti’s post-Sleep riffing evoked so many nods I thought they deserved one here as well. Placing The Devil and the Almighty Blues was difficult, but especially after seeing them live, I felt like I had a better idea of where they were coming from on II, so knew they belonged somewhere, even if it was tucked in at the end. And of course, Lord. Always killer, always experimenting, always chaotic. Never have grind and sludge sounded more cohesive together. They’re the band I wish Soilent Green had become, and yes, I mean that.

Honorable Mention

Let’s do another 10 releases, shall we?

21. Beastmaker, Inside the Skull
22. Arduini/Balich, Dawn of Ages
23. Brume, Rooster
24. John Garcia, The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues
25. Six Sigma, Tuxedo Brown
26. Demon Head, Thunder on the Fields
27. Summoner, Beyond the Realm of Light
28. Steak, No God to Save
29. Six Organs of Admittance, Burning the Threshold
30. Dool, Here Now There Then

And just to make the point, here are even more worthy of note in this space:

Elbrus, Elbrus
Cortez, The Depths Below
Ecstatic Vision, Raw Rock Fury
Child, Blueside (a December 2016 release, maybe, but I think the vinyl was this year, so whatever)
Pallbearer, Heartless
Spidergawd, IV
Green Meteor, Consumed by a Dying Sun
Loss, Horizonless

There are of course other names as well that come to mind. Like I said at the outset, it’s a crowded field: Hymn, Arbouretum, Green Meteor, REZN, Demon Head, Galley Beggar, Devil’s Witches, Orango, Heavy Traffic, Coltsblood, Mt. Mountain, Vokonis, Solstafir, High Plains, on and on.

Also worth highlighting several really, really quality live records that have surfaced so far this year. I didn’t really know where to place them among the other studio offerings, but they deserve note for sure:

Causa Sui, Live in Copenhagen
Death Alley, Live at Roadburn
My Sleeping Karma, Mela Ananda – Live
Enslaved, Roadburn Live

More to Come

Of course, we’re still just barely halfway through the year, so keep on the lookout for more to follow. If you didn’t see my massive 200+ albums to watch for list in January, it has many that have come out and many more still to surface, but here are a few highlight names as well that you’re going to want to keep an eye on in the months ahead:

Queens of the Stone Age
Radio Moscow
The Atomic Bitchwax
Kadavar
Ufomammut
The Midnight Ghost Train
Moon Rats
Clamfight
Egypt
the Melvins
Bison Machine
Seedy Jeezus
High on Fire
Monster Magnet

Thanks for Reading

Before I check out, I’d like to give special mention to Lo-Pan’s In Tensions EP as the best short release of the year thus far. Along with EPs from Godhunter, Kings Destroy, Solace and Shroud Eater, it has assured those seeking a quick fix are handed their ass in return for asking.

Well, that’s about where I’m at with it. As per usual, I’m sure there are things I forgot and/or left off here, because I’m human and whatnot, so please if you have something to add, feel free to do so in the comments so long as you can keep it cordial. No name calling. I’m sensitive and you’ll ruin my whole day. I mean that.

Thanks again for being a part of this and here’s to an excellent rest of 2017.

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Six Dumb Questions with Godhunter

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on June 9th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

godhunter codex narco lineup

As a basic matter of course, I respect the hell out of Godhunter guitarist David Rodgers. Originally based in Tucson, Arizona, and relocated to Washington, the six-stringer does admirable, passionate work not only in his own band, but in promoting the output of others like CHRCH, Methra, Rozamov and Fuzz Evil (among others) through his label, Battleground Records, and has helmed impossibly righteous festivals in the form of the Southwest Terror Fest, the Austin Terror Fest at SXSW and the Northwest Terror Fest, which is next week in Seattle with Coven and Cephalic Carnage at the top of the bill. He’s someone who pulls no punches in letting you know what he thinks and someone who backs up his beliefs with genuine, real-world effort. The only reason I’ve never interviewed him before in this space is because I was kind of worried he’d tell me to fuck off and call me a lightweight, as he’d be well within his rights to do to at least 90 percent of everybody.

The occasion this time, however, was too much to let slip. Last month, through Battleground and Baby Tooth Records, Godhunter released their latest EP, Codex Narco (review here), a bold and ranging piece of stylistic experimentation and atmospheric post-sludge that it basically took the group falling apart after a 2015 tour alongside Destroyer of Light (live review here) to come up with. With Rodgers, guitarist/keyboardist Matthew Davis and drummer Andy Kratzenberg bringing in an array of guests including CHRCH vocalist Eva RoseJosh Thorne of Thorne on “Like Glass Under Black Fingernails” and “Cocaine Witches and Lysergic Dreams,” and Methra‘s Nick GenitalsDemon Lung‘s Adam Sage and Mountaineer‘s Clayton Bartholomew on the Tegan and Sara cover “Walking with a Ghost,” Godhunter construct a sound distinct from anything they’ve done before, whether it was on the 2015 Endsville split with Destroyer of Light (discussed here) or their 2014 LP, City of Dust (review here).

In the Q&A below, Rodgers describes the circumstances that brought Codex Narco to fruition and what the EP’s shift in sound may or may not mean for Godhunter going forward, as well as the possibility of future touring and the complexities of coordinating so many contributions outside the core members of the band. Thanks to him for taking the time when he’s no doubt swamped in Northwest Terror Fest business, and double-thanks for not telling me to fuck off, which again, he very easily could’ve done.

Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

godhunter codex narco

Six Dumb Questions with Godhunter

What happened to the band after the tour with Destroyer of Light in 2015? What was the lineup situation and how did you come to realize you wanted Godhunter to continue and in this form?

Well, the simplest explanation is that life happened. Life is never that simple though. So Matt had moved to Georgia before Endsville even came out, because he works for a huge tech company so they moved him out there and set him up with a house and such, so with his family that was a no-brainer for him. The Endsville sessions was the last time Matt was actually in the same studio or jam room with us. I moved to Washington State before Endsville was released as well, so things were already splintering before we left for that tour. We basically put together a tour set of songs that we could do without Matt, which was harder than it sounds because he plays on every song we’ve ever released except the very first Methra split.

When we got home from tour, both Dick and Jake had family stuff staring them in the face. Dick had a new baby, so it was time to get serious about being a dad and Jake got engaged and got a real job and just decided that touring wasn’t in the picture for him anymore. Let’s be serious here, touring is expensive as fuck and it breaks bands all the time. I can’t blame anyone for wanting to keep their life on track. So we all amicably decided that was the end of that formation of Godhunter.

A couple of months go by, and we (Matt and myself, but mostly Matt) had started working on a couple songs for Josh Thorne. Originally they were going to be Thorne releases, with us doing the programming and such. Matt is a fucking wizard at computers and has done remixes (he did an amazing one for Lament Cityscape) and such before, so it was right up his alley. Once the songs started developing though, we kind of fell in love with them. We started tweaking them here and there. More guitars here. More bass here. It got to a point where they started sounding like electronic Godhunter songs, which is when the proverbial lights came on and we realized we were writing Codex Narco.

It seems like the interludes could have come from studio experiments, but in terms of “Like Glass Under Black Fingernails” and “Cocaine Witches and Lysergic Dreams,” how were those pieced together?

The writing process was very long, for us, because this was the first time we weren’t all in the same room writing together. We’ve never been a band that sends stuff to each other on the internet and shit. Always been more of a hands-on thing. But once we had a stable foundation for those two songs, we just started adding layers and depth using electronic drums and such until we had a “demo” version of them. That’s what we took to the studio and replaced everything electronic with real instruments. We re-amped all the guitars and bass as well.

Then while we were in the studio working on those two, we added all the other stuff around those two main songs. Andy (our drummer) is also in Methra with Nick, and they wrote the intro and outro songs and “Unarmed Combat” and recorded those parts while we were doing the drums and guitars on the other songs. We went into it with the idea of just recording a bunch of stuff we had and then piecing it together afterwards into the EP. I can’t say that we went into this recording process knowing exactly how everything would go. We really wanted to experiment and ignore a lot of the methods we had used on every release before this.

Tell me about assembling the lineup for Codex Narco, bringing in Josh Thorne and Nick Genitals and all the guest spots. When was the decision made to reach outside the core lineup of the band for contributions, what brought it on, and what went into it logistically in terms of making it happen?

This is where it gets really funny. At some point in the recording process, I picked up a serious Steely Dan habit. I have always loved that band, but for some reason I got reinterested and really dove into the band and some of their processes and was reading old interviews and such where they described how they would write the songs, but then get better musicians to play the parts on the album. Neither myself, Matt or Andy can sing like Eva or Josh can. And none of us can play bass anything like Adam does. We don’t have that ear to find those chimey post-rock chords and accents that Clay does. But what we can do is send each of them the songs and ask them to play on them, which is exactly what we did.

Reaching out was easy, as I’ve known Josh since he was a teenager, I grew up with Adam back in New York, Clay is one of my good friends and obviously Eva is on my record label. Nick was the first on board though, as he had already stepped into the bass position in the band, as at the time we were planning on doing some touring (more on that later though…) after the album release. Nick‘s always up for whatever crazy idea I give him anyway. From there it was just a matter of sending the individuals their parts and letting them record in their studios of choice. They sent us back the tracks, and we mixed them in. Pretty simple, all in all, just a timely process.

Where did the Tegan and Sara cover come from? Was there a particular reason that you picked “Walking with a Ghost” to take on?

We’ve always loved cover songs. We’ve covered The Beastie Boys and Nirvana in the past. Once we had the skeletons of this EP built, we needed one more song to round it out, so we figured a cover song would be good for that. For the longest time it was going to be “You Keep Me Hanging On” by The Supremes. That song just has an amazing downbeat push to it that we felt would translate really well to our style and we may still do it one day for the fuck of it. I was just driving down to work one day listening to Tegan and Sara, and I was playing So Jealous, which is one of their older albums, and “Walking with a Ghost” came on and it was like lightning striking. I knew that was going to be the cover song.

I sent it to Matt, who was building all the sound beds in Georgia and I honestly thought he would veto it since we were already elbow deep in the Supremes song but he totally agreed and said it was the right choice so we went with it. It’s a goddamn perfect pop song and so incredibly catchy, so the guitar parts are done in our tunings, but played in the actual key of the song, so it still has a super poppy feel to it. Kinda pop-punkish. We actually had no idea who was going to do the vocals until really late in the game when the Methra album came out and when I heard Nick do the clean vocals on that album, I knew he had to do the vocals on “Walking with a Ghost.” Again, I thought he would say no, but he was totally into it. I love it when my band does whatever silly shit I come up with. Usually turns out fucking great, like this cover.

Codex Narco as a whole represents a pretty significant shift in sound for Godhunter. Do you see the band continuing down this path, or will future releases head elsewhere? Can you talk about what drove you to explore different textures in sound with this material, what inspired you emotionally and sonically?

You know, I have no idea at all what we will do next, to be honest. We’ve never really stuck to a script. Each release is somewhat different than the previous one and we’ve done some really out there stuff before. I know what we are working on right now, and it’s nothing like Codex Narco and nothing like anything previous to that. I think at this point in the band’s evolution, it’s really turned into a vanity project if you will. We’re going to write a lot of weird shit that we’ve always wanted to do and put it out under the Godhunter name because we’re such a small band that it’s not like we’re going to lose a huge fanbase. We’re going to put out stuff that we like. We hope people like it too. If not, cool, there are a lot of other bands out there.

As far as what drives us to explore new sounds, well, that’s just us. At every point of Godhunter it’s always been filled with people with wildly varying likes and tastes as far as music. The more influences you mix up, the weirder shit you end up with. Does the world really need another band trying to sound like Master of Reality or Blues for the Red Sun? In my opinion, the answer to that is fuck no. What we do need is more bands willing to stretch some boundaries and wear their musical heart on their sleeve and show us what they really care about. I know way too many dudes with huge beards and full sleeves and leather vests that love Carly Rae Jepsen. It’s okay, boys. Come to the dork side.

But to the point at hand, Codex Narco is FFO: Jan Hammer soundtracks, Killing Joke, Late-‘90s/early-2000s alt-pop.

Will Godhunter tour again in any form? Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?

I really doubt Godhunter will tour again. We had a bunch of stuff lined up for this year, including a US tour and a couple festival appearances, but once we started adding up the costs of flying people to Tucson for rehearsals and extended absences from good jobs, reality struck and we all realized that this band is probably never going to make enough money for us to slog it out in a van anymore. We’re all really comfortable with where we are in life now too. So in that regard, Codex Narco is sort of an experiment for us. Can we release an album without touring and will people care? Jury is still out on that, but overall people seem stoked about the album so we’re not really feeling any pull to go back to old methods right now.

On a personal level, I run Battleground Records and because of that my outlook on touring has drastically changed over the last few years. I used to think that bands could release a good album, hit the road with it, and win the country over. I think that method is outdated now. The digital world has really changed everything. Now, I think you can release an album, then wait and see if it hits. If it does, and the money is there, then go out on tour without losing your ass on a whim. I think the days of bands coming home broke from tour should be over and if anyone is still doing that, you’re wasting your precious fucking time. Throw that shit on Bandcamp and send it to some blogs and if it’s worth it, you’ll know soon enough. If it doesn’t hit, go back and write something better. Does this mean less bands might be on tour? Yes, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing either.

Godhunter on Thee Facebooks

Battleground Records on Bandcamp

Battleground Records website

Battleground Records on Twitter

Battleground Records on Instagram

Baby Tooth Records on Bandcamp

Baby Tooth Records on Thee Facebooks

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Six Dumb Questions with Summoner

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on June 6th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

summoner

It’s been five years since Summoner released their debut album, Phoenix, and nearly 10 since they first got together. In that span of time, the Boston-area four-piece have undertaken a willful creative development that’s led to the construction of material that cascades, careens, lands hard when it wants to or seems to float and drift away of its own volition. Their second long-player, Atlantian (discussed here), arrived in 2013, and after a four-year stretch of writing and playing shows, they follow it with the new, third full-length offering, Beyond the Realm of Light, and reach a fresh stage in terms of both craft and maturity.

Delivered like its predecessor through Magnetic Eye Records, the six-song Beyond the Realm of Light stands as proof that modern heavy need not choose between sonic weight and a progressive sensibility. Working in the model of thoughtful composition pioneered by the likes of Baroness and Mastodon, the foursome of bassist/vocalist Chris Johnson, guitarists A.J. Peters and Joe Richner and drummer Scott Smith create a full-album fluidity between songs like “The Huntress” and “Beyond the Realm of Light,” or between the crashing “The Emptiness” and the ambient beginning of “Skies of the Unknown,” the latter almost hopeful in its thrust as befitting a lyrical narrative playing out across the record’s span.

With considerable road-time under their collective belt and more to come — including a stop later this summer at Psycho Las Vegas (info here) — the still-fresh release of Beyond the Realm of Light provides Summoner their best reason yet to get out and spread their high-energy performance and writing style to as many ears as they can. In the Q&A that follows, Peters — with a quick contribution from Johnson as well — discusses the band’s writing processes, the recording of Beyond the Realm of Light, their upcoming plans and more.

Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

summoner beyond the realm of light

Six Dumb Questions with Summoner

Tell me how the songs came together for Beyond the Realm of Light. You were pretty assiduous in documenting the writing process for Atlantian. Was there ever any consideration toward doing the same kind of thing this time around?

The new album actually came together quite quickly as far as the writing was concerned. Our writing process hasn’t really changed much over the years. Sometimes we have bouts of writer’s block, but when things start happening they happen quickly. We didn’t really consider documenting the writing process too much with this one. Most of the time it’s just the four of us standing around noodling and then going, “so what about this?” Other times we write solo at home and bring what we have to table when we get together. Honesty it’s not that interesting of a process, haha.

It’s been four years since Atlantian came out, whereas it was only a year between Phoenix and Atlantian. You were doing shows, I know, but was there a reason for the longer stretch between albums? Do you feel the span affected the outcome of Beyond the Realm of Light at all? If so, how?

I feel like we had a lot more going on individually between Atlantian and BTROL than we did between Phoenix and Atlantian. Jobs, family… life in general, really. From our perspective everything was pretty evenly spaced, since Phoenix was pretty much written in full long before we ever went into the studio with it. We had been playing most of the songs off of Phoenix live for way too long before we recorded it. Once Phoenix was recorded, and even before the record was done we had started writing Atlantian.

After Atlantian we fell into a groove of gigging on those tunes. Eventually we got bored with them and decided to start writing the new one. When you lay it out according to each actual release date/year it seems almost hard to believe it was that long between the last two albums. I don’t think the span between albums had too much of an effect on BTROL, other than the fact that we all grew a little more musically and brought those influences to the table.

How do you feel the band has grown over the course of the three Summoner albums? You’ve always struck me as very purposefully pushing yourselves forward in terms of sound. Where do you feel this progression is leading?

We’ve definitely taken a more concise approach to our music lately and it shows on the new album. We work with a “cut the fat” mantra. BTROL, being only six songs, definitely shows this. There were many riffs and ideas that died horrible deaths on their way to becoming finished songs. One day we would be messing around with an idea and just stop and look at each other and say “this sucks.” We’d all kind of nod in agreement, let out a sigh of relief and move on. Why waste your time on a song you’re not proud of just to fill time? Doesn’t make any sense.

We do make a conscious effort to push ourselves musically, but are careful not to step too far away from makes us Summoner. I wish I could tell you how, or in what way, we’ll grow in the future but it’s really hard to tell. I know we want to focus more on the driving and energetic segment of our sound, but that doesn’t mean we won’t write another “Let the Light In” or “Reclaimer.”

Is there a narrative arc to the lyrics on Beyond the Realm of Light? What theme or themes are the songs exploring, and ultimately, what’s the story being told?

I’m actually going to step aside and let Chris answer this one. There is a very definite theme to the lyrics that Chris came up with. He’s much better suited than I to answer…

Chris Johnson: Well, Beyond the Realm of Light is essentially a concept album at its core. It’s a little far out there, so bear with me…

In the somewhat distant future, we find the Earth in a state of emergency and decay due to man’s exploitation of our resources, forcing humanity to seek another planet capable of sustaining life. (Sounds familiar, right?) We find something suitable in the depths of space which seems to have had a previous civilization inhabiting it. Were they humans? Did they leave that planet for Earth or kill themselves off somehow? We may never know.

From there, we return to Earth to “gather the masses” to relocate humanity to this new/old planet. Some governments are on board, some aren’t, and those not down have threatened the people who chose to stay behind with nuclear devastation. In the end, we launch our vessels and are peering down through the windows of the great ships at “the Earth below, awash with flame” and, with heavy hearts, begin our long journey towards our new home in skies of the unknown.

Summoner’s work in the studio always sounds so clean, so sharp in its delivery. How do you feel Beyond the Realm of Light represents what Summoner do live compared to its predecessors?

This is something we really focused on when recording this one. We wanted BTROL to be a much better representation of us live than the previous two albums. We’ve always tracked the meat and potatoes of our songs live as a band, but sonically we wanted something completely different. We really changed it up in the studio this time, from mics and mic placement to layering and production. We took a more stripped-down approach. One thing that really bothered us about Phoenix and Atlantian was that they didn’t sound like us live. They were tracked, mixed and mastered more like doom records and less like rock and roll albums. We wanted BTROL to be in-your-face and aggressive and I think we did pretty well achieving that.

You’ll play Psycho Las Vegas in August. Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?

Well, we are really excited to be playing Psycho this year. The bill has shaped up to be quite impressive and we are truly humbled to be sharing the stage with all of those amazing bands. We only have one show in Boston lined up before that, with Mutoid Man, Helms Alee and Primitive Weapons, but there are some other things in the works for June/July.

In late September, we are playing Forge Fest in Providence which will be a blast also. Other than that we are anxiously awaiting the release of The Planet of Doom, which we contributed a yet to be released tune to, and also recording our song for the Magnetic Eye Records release of Pink Floyd’s The Wall [Redux]. We have also started putting together some ideas for our next release, so we’ll see…

Summoner, Beyond the Realm of Light (2017)

Summoner on Thee Facebooks

Summoner on Bandcamp

Magnetic Eye Records on Bandcamp

Magnetic Eye Records webstore

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GIVEAWAY: Win a Prize Pack from Salt of the Earth Records with Cortez, Scissorfight, Atala and More!

Posted in Features on June 1st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

salt-of-the-earth-records-prize-pack

[TO ENTER GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment on this post with your email address in the form. You’ll be contacted at that address if you win.]

My pleasure today to partner up with Salt of the Earth Records for a nine-album prize pack giveaway that includes releases from Cortez, Scissorfight, Buzzard Canyon, Ol’ Time Moonshine, When the Deadbolt Breaks, Atala, Oxblood Forge and Shadow Witch.

The occasion is the June 16 release of Cortez‘s new album, The Depths Below, and to mark it, the label is giving away CD copies of its entire catalog and then some out of its online distro, plus buttons and stickers and presumably any other whatnot they might have laying around the office. You never know with this kind of thing. “Here’s a stapler just for the hell of it!,” and so on.

Please note: I don’t think you’ll actually get a stapler. You will get plenty of killer releases though, which Salt of the Earth details below. Leave a comment on this post to enter. Winner is chosen one week from today, on June 8. Good luck to all:

To celebrate the much anticipated release of CORTEZ “The Depths Below”, we would like to hook a lucky The Obelisk reader up with a killer collection of heavy ass tunes!

The whole damn complete SALT OF THE EARTH RECORDS catalog!!!

CORTEZ – “The Depths Below” (not pictured, but you still get it!)
SCISSORFIGHT – “Chaos County”
BUZZARD CANYON – “Hellfire & Whiskey”
OL’ TIME MOONSHINE -“The Apocalypse Trilogies”
WHEN THE DEADBOLT BREAKS – “Until It All Collides”

Plus from the gems from the SALT OF THE EARTH RECORDS distro vaults…

CORTEZ – “Thunder In A Forgotten Town”
ATALA -“S/T”
OXBLOOD FORGE – “S/T”
SHADOW WITCH – “Sun Killer”

And of course we will also throw in some badass Stickers and Buttons too!

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