Six Dumb Questions with Vision Eternel

Posted in Features on September 16th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

vision eternel

Montreal-based solo-ambient exploratory outfit We are an exceptional source of all the solutions to your cheap dissertation writing service writing service needs, providing a diverse range of services that are guaranteed to Vision Eternel — think if post-black metal had a “post” of its own; post-post-black metal — has this week issued the four-song concept EP, PRODUCT NAME: How To Write A Research Paper Apa Style WEBSITE: http://www.hirewriters.com RATING: 5/5 Content writing can be a good source of income if you For Farewell of Nostalgia through project spearhead When You Ask Assignment Cloud, http://m2online.at/personal-statement-help-medical-school/? Well Reply Only in a Positive Way by Providing You with Excellent Academic Solutions! Alexander Julien‘s own Professional essay paper editing can benefit to your grades and future career. When someone asks of the benefits our http://mvcv.org/?advertising-personal-statement can grant him Abridged Pause Recordings as well as What are the How To Write An Admission Essay Xats - Allow us to help with your Bachelor thesis. put out a little time and money to get the dissertation you could not Somewherecold Records (CD) and history dissertation online get link writing a good abstract for dissertation written persuasive speeches Geertruida (tape). The EP arrives after a three-year stretch that, if you told me  Custom essay http://www.furore.de/?art-research-paper provided by EssayScaning will assist students with searching for appropriate essay writing companies! Check it now! Julien spent the entire time putting the offering together from front to back even though it’s only about 30 minutes long, I’d have to believe it. Executed not only with an evocative spirit emblematic of the ambient instrumental style upon which its sound is based, but with a deep conceptualism that includes a composed short story and artwork based around the central theme of loss and the ensuing progression through the various stages of acceptance thereof,  If you're ready to Freelance Writers services, there are affordable options available online. Check out the variety of services rendered at For Farewell of Nostalgia offers rare depth of expression and heart for the microgenre in which it resides. This isn’t just a guitarist screwing around with pedals. These are cinematic, narrative pieces tying together to tell a story, and business plan writers melbourne Writing Help Site research paper on impulse buying behaviour buyessay net Julien has worked to make sure the listener understands this.

That would seem to include this interview. I’ve done more Six Dumb Questions features than I care to count for fear of self-embarrassment, but in all of them, I don’t think I’ve ever encountered someone so ready and so willing to open up about their process, their history and their intention, and that purposefulness is mirrored in  write my dissertation uk help http://aemurtosa.edu.pt/buy-descriptive-essay/ essay oniline need help write research paper introduction For Farewell of Nostalgia itself, as the melodic wistfulness of  Can I Pay Someone To Write My Report. If you are getting ready to start, or even expand, a business then you are going to need a solid business plan. Hiring a Julien‘s guitar becomes the ground from which the ambience seems to take flight. It is all the more telling that the release arrives after an initial take that was scrapped for not feeling right, as there is so much about “Moments of Rain,” “Moments of Absence,” “Moments of Intimacy” and “Moments of Nostalgia,” that feels directed and working in precisely the manner it wants to. On a basic audio level, the songs are lush and evocative, and it’s certainly possible they might take the listener someplace other than the companion story seems to want them to go, but such is the nature of art, and it seems unlikely that, even with the core of will put into what  get more. Essay writing is the most common practice for college students. It helps students to express their awareness regards problems and Vision Eternel does on this latest addition to an expansive discography of mostly short releases,  Is Custom Writing Service A Frauds. Conflict resolution case study rigos primer series uniform bar exam (ube) review series multistate bar exam mbe volume 2 2014 edition Julien didn’t account for such a possibility. The point, maybe, is then to let it take you where it takes you, then go deeper.

Whatever path you follow, it’s hard to divorce the tracks from the narrative once you have a fuller understanding of it, and in the interest of preserving spoilers, I won’t give too much away. What I’ll do instead is turn you over to  Article Writing Hub is your go-to source for see here now, article rewrites, as well as proofreading and editing of existing content. Check us out. Julien, and perhaps just take this opportunity to thank him for being as open as he is here about what he does. As someone who tends toward wordiness myself, it is all the more easy to appreciate.

http://bursabakaracicek.com/?how-to-write-masters-dissertation - Instead of wasting time in unproductive attempts, get qualified assistance here Only HQ academic writings provided by top For Farewell of Nostalgia is out now.

Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

vision eternel for farewell of nostalgia

Six Dumb Questions with Alexander Julien of Vision Eternel

The theme of “moments” speaks to an ephemeral glimpse at something – a moment passes. What does framing the songs on For Farewell of Nostalgia as moments allow you to bring to the experience of the listener and the narrative you’re telling?

The titling of a Vision Eternel release (and its songs) is subject to a long period of reflection. It is by no means an after-thought nor a rushed process. Since Vision Eternel releases concept albums, I would not be able to explain the titling of the songs without detailing the titling of the release.

During the composing and recording sessions, I write down words that I feel are representative of my mood and the themes that I am expressing emotionally through the music. Once I find a couple of words that I think work well together for a release title, I brainstorm several combinations and I sit on them for a while. Vision Eternel’s release titles need to have a certain rhythm, like a statement-of-fact, a short sentence. I also make sure that the title is completely original, that nothing comes up when searching for it on Google. That is very important to me. If one has been used, or is too similar to another work, I discard it.

The sense of the word farewell in the title is intended to be interpreted in its olde English sense, as in fare thee well. But I did not want to use that kind of phrasing because it did not fit Vision Eternel’s style and concept. I am old-fashioned but not that old fashioned. I took a little bit of poetic liberty so that in its used phrasing, For Farewell Of Nostalgia means for the well-being of nostalgia.

I felt that I was taking a chance giving this release a title… perhaps as grandiose or elegant… as nostalgia; there was a fear that it might not live up to its name. I take nostalgia very seriously. It has been such an important part of my teenage and adult life, constantly living with the nostalgia of yesterdays. I desperately wanted to represent nostalgia with the utmost respect.

The title, and the entire concept of the extended play, does also symbolize the heartaches of past loves. But it too is an ode, mixed with a Dear John letter, to Montreal. A dispatch saying “Thanks for the memories, the wonderful and the miserable; now good-bye”. This is my farewell to the city where I was born and where I came back to as an adult. Where romance and melancholia truly bloomed. I no longer live in Montreal but I think that Vision Eternel will always have a symbolic link to that city; even more so than to Edison, New Jersey, where the band started.

The titling of the songs is another concept within the concept: adding the first letter of each song title spells out the name of the girl to whom the extended play is dedicated. This has been consistent across all of Vision Eternel’s extended plays, with the exception of Echoes From Forgotten Hearts because it was originally composed as a soundtrack.

The process of determining the song titles is a little bit different from the release title, but it is just as exhaustive. I know ahead of time how many songs are going to be on an extended play (the amount of letters in the girl’s name). From there, I try to choose single words that are descriptive of the emotions in the songs, but that also represent the progression of events in the story-line. The song titles should define where along in the time-line the tragedy is.

Some time during the recording session I also try to pick out the common prefix for the song titles. In the case of For Farewell Of Nostalgia, the prefix Moments Of had been one that I had considered using for an earlier extended play, The Last Great Torch Song. But I was unable to due to the complexity of matching the girl’s name with two songs that were re-recorded from previous releases. Since Vision Eternel songs are technically only given a single-word title (Absence, Intimacy, Rain, Nostalgia, Narcosis, etc), the song can be accommodated to fit on any release if it is re-recorded. For example, Absence had originally been recorded for Un Automne En Solitude and was given the title Season In Absence; it was re-recorded for For Farewell Of Nostalgia and its title was updated to Moments Of Absence.

I went a step further with song titles on For Farewell Of Nostalgia. Since the songs were much longer and they all had different sections and movements, different segues and repetitive codas, I was able to provide extended track titles. This was something that I had been interested in utilizing for roughly fifteen years; it was something that impressed me from Harmonium’s concept album L’heptade. I used it to some degree on Soufferance releases, like Travels Into Several Remote Nations Of The Mind (completed in 2009), but it was with For Farewell Of Nostalgia that I incorporated the method to my satisfaction. At first glance, the extended play appears to feature only the four principal songs, but once one delves into the tracks, or consults the booklet, there are titles for each movement of the songs. The extended track listing also parallels the short story that accompanies the physical editions of the extended play.

The album is defined by this profound sense of loss in the progression of each moment within the tracks themselves. After working on For Farewell of Nostalgia over such a period of time, how has your perspective changed on what inspired the work in the first place? How did the development of the story coincide with the development of the songs themselves? Which came first, the narrative frame or the music?

The music was recorded first; I penned the short story during the post-production. But the short story, and the extended play, are based on events that occurred prior to the composing and recording of the music. This goes back several years, partly due to difficulty composing and finding my direction; partly because For Farewell Of Nostalgia was recorded twice.

I had made several attempts to compose new material between October 2015 and February 2017 but my heart was not into it. The material lacked direction and substance. I began composing and recording better-developed demos in the spring of 2017 but I was forced to put that aside in order to finish compiling the boxed set An anthology Of Past Misfortunes. Once that was released in April 2018, I could go forward, without hindrance, composing and recording new music. From April to October 2018 I recorded For Farewell Of Nostalgia. But I was not happy with it. There were a number of things that I felt were wrong with the release. Some things were unacceptable, like crackling, distortion and humming in the recordings. I attempted to re-record a lot of it, only to find out that some of it was caused by my studio equipment. Just as I began fixing that problem, an uncontrollable fret buzz plagued the main guitar with which I was recording.

Some of the other problems that I had with the first version of For Farewell Of Nostalgia had to do with personal preferences. For example, I did not feel that the songs flowed well together; they each sounded too different. I also had difficulty mixing because I was using too many layered tracks and effects. These original recordings, which I later started referring to as pre-production versions, were a lot darker, harsher and abrasive, not only in sound but in nature; I had a different perspective and approach when I was recording them. It was a very difficult decision to make, because I had garnered record label interest, but I put the release aside, for what ended up being a whole year, while I regrouped.

Throughout the spring and summer of 2019, I upgraded my gear and studio equipment. In early October 2019 I started re-recording For Farewell Of Nostalgia; by mid-November I was done tracking. Minor mixing and editing lasted until late December while I wrote the short story. In early January, Carl Saff mastered the extended play. I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with him and it really made a big difference. I was impressed by his work with Castevet (CSTVT, the Chicago emo band) and he was the first person that I approached once I finished the recording in November 2019.

It was a well-contained recording session because this time around, I wanted the songs to sound like they belonged together and I knew where I was going. All of the songs were re-recorded in a consistent mind-frame and mood. It helped tremendously that the sequencing was already planned by this point. That allowed me to properly end and start each song in a way that it was complementary to each next piece. I was mindful of how editing one song may alter the others, which is not possible (or would require additional editing at a later time) if the sequencing is done during the mastering stage. The sequencing of the songs is really important when I approach a concept release.

I was very proud of the new version. The songs greatly improved the second time around, especially once I added textual guitar leads; the pre-production versions did not have leads. Nearly everything that appears on the released version of For Farewell Of Nostalgia was recorded during the 2019 session, with the exception of a couple of backing tracks on one song, which I kept from the 2018 session because I felt that the emotions were stronger on the original recording.

Something so personal is still somehow also vague – there aren’t lyrics or verses or choruses, etc. – but the story is expressed in emotional and evocative terms. How do you feel about putting something like this out and opening it up to the interpretations of others?

There are no vocals on this release but I consider the short story that accompanies For Farewell Of Nostalgia to be of equal value to lyrics. The extended song titles are, in-sort, the chapters to the short story. This is only available with the physical editions of the extended play however, because I felt that it should be read, like lyrics, in an old-fashioned setting: putting on a record, admiring the sleeve art and reading through every part of the concept while listening. It is an event; a presentation; an experience.

One of my ambitions with For Farewell Of Nostalgia was to present something different to the ambient community; to face them with a release that embarks an alternate pathway: a profound approach of focus. I do not want Vision Eternel to be diminished to background music while listeners perform other tasks. From the visual presentation of the cover art and deluxe packaging, to the conceptual delivery within the sequencing and production, the extended song titles and the short story, For Farewell Of Nostalgia was my way of documenting and sharing my most personal sentiments.

The short story, appropriately titled For Farewell Of Nostalgia, recounts events that inspired the extended play. It is a narrative of how I was emotionally devastated after falling in love too fast, and the aftermath of this heartbreak. Falling in love-at-first-sight, the intimacy of it all, and the stifling wound when the realization hits that it is not reciprocal. It is about learning to befriend absence and loneliness and living with constant sentiments of nostalgia and melancholia.

I do not want to appear closed-mouthed about the short story; it is simply that I do not want to give too much of it away. I very much want people to read it and interpret it for themselves. That is part of the experience.

Tell me about the artwork and the direction that ended up taking.

I absolutely adore the illustration that graces For Farewell Of Nostalgia’s cover. I feel that it is the first real artwork that I have had for Vision Eternel. On the first three releases (Seul Dans L’obsession, Un Automne En Solitude and An Anthology Of Past Misfortunes [the compilation, not the boxed set]), the artwork was simply my own photography. The photographs were not particularly good and I do not consider myself a photographer by any means. I liked the colours within but the subject matters were rather bland. You might say that this style is typical of ambient album artworks today, but at the time, they were simply used because I had no alternative… I wanted to handle every aspect of Vision Eternel myself, including the artwork, and that resulted with ordinary covert arts.

For Abondance De Périls and The Last Great Torch Song, my friend and former room-mate Marina Polak provided a photograph for the artwork. I had attempted to take photographs for Abondance De Périls myself but they were sub-par, even by the standards of my own photographic competence. Marina, who was a terrific photographer and studied art and photography at the university, offered to contribute one of her own. The moment that I saw the picture, I fell in love with it; it represented Vision Eternel perfectly. The photograph is credited to her name but she did not actually take the picture. She had found the negative in a garbage bin in the streets of Poland during one of her visits in the mid-2000s. From what I understand, the person who owns a photograph’s negative is the legal owner.

The artwork for Echoes From Forgotten Hearts was done on the rush by my friend Jeremy Roux. This one was more in line with the band’s early artworks: it was extremely bland and without direction. It was nondescript. It faded into the background next to other ambient albums on a web-page. But that is what I was going for at the time; it was what I asked Jeremy to come up with. He is actually a terrific graphic designer and he was responsible for all of the early visual material used by Abridged Pause Recordings and also designed Vision Eternel’s first logo in 2008.

The artwork from An Anthology Of Past Misfortunes (the boxed set) was on the opposite end of the spectrum: it was vivid and eye-catching. It was constructed partly from original abstract paintings by Rain Frances and partly from a cardinal bird craft art done by my late grand-mother Pierrette Bourdon. She was a craft artist and the bird artwork was actually her last piece of art before she passed away in 2012.

The approach to For Farewell Of Nostalgia’s artwork was completely different. It was very well planned out. When I re-recorded the extended play in 2019, I wanted to contain my mood and atmosphere so that the entire release would sound whole. That was very important for me and for a concept album; you do not want the songs to sound like they were recorded or mixed at different times. I brought out one of my favourite albums: Frank Sinatra’s In The Wee Small Hours. I put the vinyl sleeve next to my computer so that I would always have it there to inspire me. I also limited myself to solely watching Frank Sinatra’s films during those two months. He is an incredible actor and most people do not seem to remember (or know about) that aspect of his career. I am not a fan of his musicals (nor of the musical film genre as a whole), but his dramatic films are amongst my favourite films. When it came time to decide on the artwork, it seemed like an obvious choice; pay homage to Frank Sinatra’s In The Wee Small Hours. Tom Waits had done it with his second album The Heart Of Saturday Night, so I figured that I could too.

I then went to the extent of combining several photo shoots from over the years (some done with Jeremy Roux, others with Rain Frances) into an original collage mockup that represented Montreal and paid tribute to Frank Sinatra. It also took several new photo shoots until I was happy with my pose; I wanted the angle of my body and my facial expression to be just right. This was not a parody like a “Weird Al” Yankovic album cover (and I mean that respectfully); it was a legitimate homage to something that I felt had become part of me, that helped me get through so many of those lonely, depressed nights that led me to write and record this music.

It was also important for me to incorporate things into the artwork that represented me, that made it a little different from Frank Sinatra’s original, and that tied into the concept of the release. I smoke a pipe (and not cigarettes like Frank Sinatra did) so that was put into the image. Other details that perhaps only a hat fanatic may notice are the subtle differences in shape and style of my fedora. Frank Sinatra had a skinnier face so he wore narrow-brimmed hats; I have a round face so wide-brimmed hats suit me better. My hat also has a ribbon edge binding, while Frank Sinatra’s was a raw edge cut. I wore an overcoat and scarf for the photo shoot, while Frank Sinatra wore a suit and tie. Several Montreal landmarks were also put into the background: the Montreal Harbour Bridge, Windsor Station, the Saint Lawrence River, the Sailors’ Memorial Clock Tower on Victoria Pier. There were many more iconic Montreal structures that I originally wanted to include in the background but it became too busy, too removed from Frank Sinatra’s minimalist artwork. The background on my release is very descriptive; it clearly represents Montreal, whereas Frank Sinatra’s cover made him the sole focus with a nondescript street scene behind him.

It took a long time to find the right person to paint it. I finally landed on American illustrator Michael Koelsch because he had illustrated two cover artworks for The Criterion Collection. In 2000 he illustrated the DVD cover (later re-used for the Blu-ray edition) for The Blob; and in 2001 he illustrated the DVD cover for My Man Godfrey (this one was unfortunately not re-used for the Blu-ray edition). Pulp art design has made a considerable comeback in film posters and in paperbacks but it was really difficult finding someone who was able to work it into an album cover art. Luckily, Michael happened to be a big fan of Frank Sinatra and knew In The Wee Small Hours well, so he was able to incorporate the sadness of both albums (Frank Sinatra’s and Vision Eternel’s) into the new painting. He had also worked on several notable music album artworks during his career so he understood what I wanted and where I was coming from.

I then approached Rain Frances to paint two abstract paintings to use in the physical editions of the extended play. One of them, which happened to have already been painted in 2019, was used for the short story booklet. The other painting, which was painted especially for the release, was used on the bonus compact cassette Lost Misfortunes: A Selection Of Demos And Rarities (Part Two). Rain had painted the artwork for the first tape in that series (included in the An Anthology Of Past Misfortunes boxed set) so it made sense that I approach her for this sequel.

I was aiming for an eye-catching presentation with the artwork of For Farewell Of Nostalgia and I could not be happier with the results. I wanted it to represent who I am and how I see the world. I did not want people to look at my release and think “Hey, this looks like a nice peaceful album”, in the manner in which so many album covers remain descriptive of their genres. This is Vision Eternel’s first extended play to be released and distributed by established record labels (meaning not my own imprints), so it will be seen and heard by mostly newcomers to my music. I want these new listeners to be intrigued by it, and to approach it from a different perspective than they are used to.

Where do you go from here?

Over the years, I have slowed down my rate of releasing music considerably. I have always been a firm believer of quality over quantity; my approach to composing music for Vision Eternel has evolved in such a way that I could no longer rush out a new extended play each year.

On Vision Eternel’s first two extended plays, 2007’s Seul Dans L’obsession and 2008’s Un Automne En Solitude, the compositions and arrangements were minimalistic; short songs that sounded sad but remained hopeful. The production was also minimal and straightforward: very bright and focused on treble.

In 2009, I changed my setup while composing Abondance De Périls. The new setup helped provide a warmer, more accessible sound, which was emphasised, and greatly improved, during the mastering by Adam Kennedy. This was the first time that a Vision Eternel release was mastered. The same setup was used to compose and record the songs that ended up on The Last Great Torch Song.

Up until this point, the songs were still minimalistic but The Last Great Torch Song marked the beginning of a change. It welcomed several guest appearances by my close friends: Garry Brents on keyboard, Alexander Fawcett on guitar and bass and Howard Change and Eiman Iraninejad on vocals. I was unsure of Vision Eternel’s future at that point so I was treating The Last Great Torch Song as a potential swansong. I had hoped to incorporate many more guests on the release but many were not able to provide their contributions in time for the mastering deadline.

The Last Great Torch Song’s closer Sometimes In Absolute Togetherness was the real turning point. The song had originally been composed and recorded as a Soufferance song, but it always felt to me like it had far too much of Vision Eternel’s style to be a true Soufferance song. I was torn but I ultimately used it on a Vision Eternel release; that was my first of many steps letting go of the strict guidelines that I had set for Vision Eternel. Soufferance was much darker, more self-destructive; it had longer songs and experimented with more instruments and vocals. Vision Eternel by contrast was straight-forward guitar-based music; optimistic and hopeful (I always hoped that the girl would come back).

Things changed further with Echoes From Forgotten Hearts in 2014/2015 and that is because that release was not recorded, nor approached, as Vision Eternel. I had been contacted to compose the soundtrack to a short film. I therefore approached the songwriting as myself, without the restrictions that I normally placed to conform the music within what is expected of a certain band. It was a completely natural songwriting approach. When the short film fell through, I was unwilling to let this music be unheard because I was really proud of it. So I partly re-recorded, re-edited, re-mixed and re-conceptualized the soundtrack into an extended play. I released it under the Vision Eternel banner because that was the project closest to my heart and I felt that the music sounded most like Vision Eternel did at that point.

Having broken so many barriers along the way, and considering that Vision Eternel had become my principal band, I was now free to compose music that was entirely natural to me. I no longer felt the pressure to sort songs into what each band was supposed to sound like. Vision Eternel’s new material was simply going to incorporate the best of what I once brought to each of my ambient bands (Vision Eternel, Soufferance, Citadel Swamp and Éphémère).

But in a realistic sense, since Vision Eternel was always my pet project, the new material will not be alien in comparison to the older works; it is simply a natural progression, placing less restrictions on myself over the years. I still approach Vision Eternel compositions with the same emotions, the same themes; always about heartbreak. Hitchcock once said “self-plagiarism is style”, and I think that applies to Vision Eternel. But I am now incorporating additional elements, which are already familiar to folks accustomed with my other bands. From Soufferance, I brought in longer songs, the segues and movements, the lengthy emotional build ups and the hypnotic, repetitive codas (think of Swans in the mid-1990s). From Vision Lunar and Éphémère, I brought in guitar leads; that was something that I was not utilizing often in my ambient projects. And from Citadel Swamp, I brought in the way that I layer and mix several instruments together; finding ways of making leads flow over rhythm tracks.

The music took a long time to be polished and I spent nearly three years working and re-working the songs that ended up on For Farewell Of Nostalgia. With that in perspective, I plan to heavily promote this release for the next couple of years. I am also actively looking for a record label to release For Farewell Of Nostalgia on vinyl format with an exclusive bonus track.

I am also in discussion with Somewherecold Records about the possibility of re-releasing Vision Eternel’s 2015 soundtrack/extended play Echoes From Forgotten Hearts as a double-disc edition. It would feature a remastering of the extended play version as well as the never-released soundtrack version. There are several notable differences between the two versions.

Vision Eternel, For Farewell of Nostalgia (2020)

Vision Eternel website

Vision Eternel on Thee Facebooks

Vision Eternel on Instagram

Vision Eternel on Soundcloud

Vision Eternel on Spotify

Vision Eternel on Bandcamp

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Here’s the Bio I Wrote for All Them Witches’ Nothing as the Ideal

Posted in Features on August 20th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Every now and again I get lucky and I do a bio like this, turn it in, and word comes back and it’s all, ‘hey that’s awesome all set on this end thanks here’s some cash.’ This was not one of those cases. I also wrote the bio for All Them Witches‘ 2018 album, ATW (review here), but still, this was a different story to tell and wanted to be told in a different way. The band had things they wanted to say. The label had things they felt needed to be said. And I had a few points as well to get across about Nothing as the Ideal, which is out Sept. 4 on New West Records, whether it was about their making an album as a three-piece for the first time, their ongoing progression, tape-loop experimentation, or the simple fact that they recorded at frickin’ Abbey Road. There’s usually a fair amount to talk about with these guys, but this time around it seems like even more so.

But we got there, which is what matters. In the end, I went through a couple of drafts, interviewed Robby Staebler and Ben McLeod both, then ended up completely scrapping what I had and starting over. That, of course, was the final version. It was my favorite too.

And here it is:

all them witches

All Them Witches – Nothing as the Ideal bio

From the brimming light of the lead guitar on opener “Saturnine & Iron Jaw” to the mellow grunge unfolding in the finale “Rats in Ruin,” Nothing as the Ideal is a signature All Them Witches release, which of course means it sounds like nothing they’ve ever done before.

The Nashville trio thrive on contrast. Now six records deep into a tenure that began in 2012, they are unremittingly forward-looking, and while signature elements can be found throughout Nothing as the Ideal – from guitarist Ben McLeod’s prog-tinged explorations to the slacker-soul vocals of bassist Charles Michael Parks, Jr., to the restless energy and rhythmic nuance in Robby Staebler’s drum patterns – it is also their most experimental work to-date.

But contrast is the key: Tape loops coincide with unplugged minimalism. They recorded it in a strange place with a familiar producer. It’s their heaviest album marked by their broadest atmospheres, intimate and pummeling. It is unquestionably theirs even as it will no doubt engender ownership in anyone who hears it.

Nothing as the Ideal might forever be known as “the album All Them Witches made at Abbey Road.” Fair enough. You don’t record in a legendary studio surrounded by mics The Beatles used, sitting on the bench where John Lennon tracked the acoustic guitar for “A Day in the Life” without acknowledging that history. There’s no getting away from it.

Where Nothings as the Ideal triumphs, however, is in making that space and that history the band’s own. Working with Mikey Allred, who previously produced 2015’s New West label debut, Dying Surfer Meets His Maker, and has done other mixing and mastering along the way, All Them Witches not only did justice to the moment they were capturing – the sheer adventure of being there, doing that thing – but answered the call of their inspiration as they always do.

It wasn’t supposed to be that way. The idea was to take time, do it themselves. But after spending the early part of 2019 constructing a studio in a church outside Nashville where Staebler was living and writing, writing, writing, the band came up against the deadline of a 35-date European arena tour with Ghost and had the single “1×1” to show for it. They put that song out, did a video, and after the tour, redirected their purposes. With the momentum of playing every night behind them, Nothing as the Ideal at last began to take shape.

Abbey Road might not have been the plan, but with the harder deadline of recording dates locked in, All Them Witches were able to focus more clearly. It wasn’t about applying pressure, but about doing what best served the songs. With Allred as the trusted party at the helm, they succeeded in crafting a defining moment for who they are as a band, with each player’s personality coming together to create a fluidity that is unique unto them.

Whatever they’ve done in the past, whatever they’ll do next, Nothing as the Ideal epitomizes the literal and figurative journey All Them Witches have made, and it is to be treasured all the more for that.

All Them Witches, “Lights Out”

All Them Witches, “The Children of Coyote Woman” official video

All Them Witches, “Saturnine & Iron Jaw”

All Them Witches on Thee Facebooks

All Them Witches on Bandcamp

All Them Witches on Instagram

New West Records website

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Molassess Interview with Farida Lemouchi: “Through Fire Reborn”

Posted in Features on August 17th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

molassess (Photo by Ryanne Van Dorst)

Vocalist Farida Lemouchi tells her own story throughout the debut Molassess album, Through the Hollow. Set for release Oct. 16 through Season of Mist, the record is the realization of what began as a commissioned project for Roadburn Festival 2019 (review here) and a concurrent CD single, and a return to music for Lemouchi after the dissolution of her former band, The Devil’s Blood, and the March 2014 suicide of her brother and bandmate, Selim Lemouchi.

Alongside a cast of familiar and respected players and veterans of The Devil’s Blood — guitarists Oeds Beydals (also ex-Death Alley) and Ron van Herpen (Rrrags, ex-Astrosoniq), bassist Job van de Zande, keyboardist Matthijs Stronks and drummer Bob Hogenelst (also Atlanta), Lemouchi casts a tale of perseverance. As one the album’s most resonant choruses tells it, of “getting out from under.” Heavy catharsis takes many forms, however, and Molassess are not attempting to continue what The Devil’s Blood accomplished. This isn’t cult rock in any previously known form. Across its 65 minutes, Through the Hollow may touch on familiar darkness, but it does so with a progressive experimentalism that is no less the band’s own than the lyrical theme and performance is Lemouchi‘s; signature soul, inimitable.

I’ll tell you flat out I was honored to do this interview. And a bit nervous. I was there in 2014 when Lemouchi, Beydals and others took the stage at the 013 to pay tribute to Selim just over a month after his death, and it was one of the most powerful and genuine live performances I’ve ever witnessed. In some ways, it felt voyeuristic to stand and watch the rawness of someone’s grief like that, and now, I’d be engaging that same person — a human being, not just an idea of a person on a stage — in conversation about how she’s moved forward over the six years since. She was, thankfully, kind and sincere and open and honest, and the strength of vulnerability in her telling her story throughout the album came through as much in how she framed talking about returning to music as in learning to focus her energies without her brother’s voice pushing her.

Strength, vulnerability, and the strength to be vulnerable. I hope that’s what comes through here. Thank you for reading.

Full Q&A follows. Thanks to Katy Irizarry for coordinating, to Oeds Beydals, Walter Hoeijmakers, and of course Lemouchi herself.

Please enjoy:

molassess roadburn 2019 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Molassess Interview with Farida Lemouchi: “Through Fire Reborn”

You’re on the Main Stage at Roadburn 2019 with a brand new band, who people kind of know through association with The Devil’s Blood, Astrosoniq, and you’re up front. What were you feeling at that point, as you were performing as Molassess for the first time, this new entity?

It was the first 30 minutes of the show, I was very much aware of all these things you’re talking about right now, and I needed some time to shake that loose. I think we all had the same experience with the band. It was not uncomfortable, but it was, well… I was making a statement for myself to be something completely new and completely different, but of course we had this story.

I had to shake it out during the first part of the set. Up front, I was thinking, how should I behave? How should I act on stage? Then I let that go, like, okay, I’m not going to think about it, I’m going to do whatever I feel. But it was hard to do that at the beginning. Then, when we went along, it kept feeling better and better and then suddenly I was one with the music and one with the stage and one with all the people there, and it felt like letting go.

It’s all about that, also, the theme. It fit it perfectly, I guess. It maybe represented the time that I needed to get to that point.

What you’re describing sounds to me like catharsis. After five years from being on a stage like that – or on that stage – aside from being exhausted emotionally, was there a sense of relief, too, because, “we did this thing and it worked?”

molasses at roadburn 2019 (Photo by JJ Koczan)(Laughs) Enormously, of course. Yeah, exhausted, but very energetic and very happy, like okay, so we did it and it was good and we overcome, and yeah. All kinds of emotions like that, yes. And then, of course, it was a good thing that Walter decided to put us on the first day so we had the whole weekend then to party (laughs) and be happy.

They call that “processing.” Time to “process.”

(Laughs) Exactly.

Tell me about creating for Molassess. Obviously you and Selim working together had a bond that went beyond the band, and these are familiar players as well, but it’s naturally going to be different. Can you tell me about writing for this band and how your relationship to this music is different from your relationship to that music?

Well, to start with the second part of your question, the relationship is bound to be different, because Selim is not there anymore. What we had was brotherhood or sisterhood, or yeah, and I’m never gonna have that again, it’s obvious. But we have this deep connection in this band, in Molassess. Of course, the two people that [joined], that are there, I didn’t know up front. So that was a search and a process to get to know each other, but in the rehearsal room, there was this energy immediately, so it fits.

Me and Oeds are very deeply connected also, and we had this experience and this history together, so even on a spiritual level, we’re very close. I was very nervous at the beginning to do this, because I had to let myself get into that again, and I think I was a little bit scared of doing that again, because I had all these uncertainties, that I thought I maybe couldn’t do it without Selim. But on the other hand, it was also this challenge for me individually, like, “Okay, I’m on my own now and I have to do it, and I have to search different ways to do that,” and I think we managed very well along the way.

In the beginning, when we were asked for Roadburn, then it was very clear what we needed to do and we also had lots of plans before already, so it was just like, “Okay, let’s put everything together and let’s do this.” So it went really well, actually. But always with this feeling that, you know, and I don’t want to sound too insecure, but, “What am I doing? Is this really gonna be worthwhile? Is it going to be good enough?” But on the other hand, I think all creators deal with that stuff when you’re working on something. I hear it all the time, so yeah. It’s always a personal process.

That’s something I wanted to talk about too. So many of the themes on the album feel directly personal, and to me, the key phrase is “getting out from under.”

Yes, that’s very true.

And that’s kind of what the album is doing as well. For all of you, really, but especially for you. Acknowledging this weight and getting out from under it as best you can. One thing I was struck by in listening is the power of your voice and the vulnerability of your lyrics. You mentioned going into Roadburn you had this story. Can you talk a bit about writing your story and framing it for yourself in this way?

I can. It was very clear to me that I needed to talk about me, and the feelings that I have and the emotions I went through, because that was the story that needs to be told. But however, I never wrote before. Oeds helped me a lot. Because we are connected so well. But I told him, I don’t know how, I don’t know where to begin, how does one go about that? I think it’s very… It’s like walking naked through the street, right? I don’t know if I can do it.

So we had this like a ping-pong game, where I told him my thoughts and my feelings and of course we talked – all those years we stayed in contact – so we knew everything. Then he kind of asked all the questions, “do you mean this?” and “are you saying that?” and then it became lyrics. He texted me back, do you mean this? And I was like, “No I mean that.” And then like molds, you put it in very poetic – I’m not a word artist myself, but together we created. I think he put my thoughts into this cool.. I’m searching for a word.

Like a frame. He helped you frame your thoughts.

Yeah, exactly. And then the music was there. Most of the ideas came from Oeds and Ron, actually, and we started working on that sitting at my kitchen table or at his place. Well, most of the time here because I don’t have any neighbors who – they are all good with it. We started to work and work and work, and that’s how it went. And then we went to the rehearsal room.

Molassess at Roadburn 2019 (Photo by JJ Koczan)What was is like for you, sitting down and getting back to work and back to songwriting after half a decade-plus?

It felt really good, because I missed making music all day. I wasn’t sure. I wanted to, but on the other side, I didn’t want to. I don’t know if I can explain it clearly, but when you’re mourning, you get all these emotions and all this stuff, and sometimes you don’t know why or what does it mean, or how should I deal with them, so my thoughts went from left to right and everything in between, so one day I was very clear about, “Okay, I want a new band and I want to make music,” and then the next day, “Oh no, it’s a really bad idea. I’m never going to do that again.”

I needed a little kick in the ass. We all talked about it a lot, but everyone was doing their own stuff, and because I was sure that if I would do it again it would be with these people, because we had something to finish – or something to begin, but first something to finish – but we never did it together. So yeah, catharsis again. I think maybe if it wasn’t for Walter, we would’ve waited longer. Someone had to put the seed there and then we all were live wolves, “Yeah! Let’s do this!”

So you had ideas and things loosely in progress then, that solidified after Walter came into the picture. When did you know Molassess was something you wanted to keep going?

It was in the first stage of rehearsing for Roadburn. I think when we were in the rehearsal room two or three times, nobody was a done deal (laughs). So in the beginning, Oeds, Ron, Job and me were sitting, at my kitchen table again – lots of stuff happens at my kitchen table (laughs) – and we talked about, you know, are we serious and this is what we want, and are we going to do this, and everyone was very, very into it. That was even before we asked the other musicians to join us, so we were very clear about it, “Okay, the four of us are gonna do it.”

It was in the beginning already. First three get-togethers, we were very decided. It’s like — always this language is so difficult sometimes when you’re talking emotions — but we missed each other. We saw each other, but musically and on a creative level, we missed each other very much, and it was time. We felt it. It was this energy that felt like being whole again, actually.

And in terms of putting the songs together and putting the album together, what can you tell me about being in the studio again and recording vocals again?

Of course, we recorded the single or the 7”, and I did some studio stuff for friends that went pretty cool. But of course it was very, very different. I had to practice and do stuff to get my voice in shape. But it all went very natural.

The real struggle was to find the power in myself. And that is where Selim came in, because he was always very good at challenging me to give everything and more. And you have to dive deep into yourself, and he could fight me to get the best things. And I didn’t know if I could do it in this form, but it did. I had to do it myself, and I found myself, so I think I’m stronger than ever, actually.

And the studio experience was great. We did it with Pieter [Kloos], and of course we did all The Devil’s Blood records with him also, only he changed the studio. He had a studio in one place, but now he built a beautiful little studio in his back yard, and in the old studio, there was a cellar and I had to go into the cellar and was all alone in a dark room (laughs), sort of a dark room.

And they were upstairs telling me all kinds of stuff through their mic to my headphones, and so I told Pieter, “How are we gonna do it because I don’t want to be in the studio where everyone can see me. I want the dark room!” So he made one for me with black curtains, I could say bye-bye, close the curtains, and sing. It went very natural. It was a really great experience and I think I felt more free.

How do you mean?

Well, it’s the paradox of missing someone who’s not there anymore, and thinking that it was maybe Selim who made me do stuff, or I thought I needed him to get the best out of me. But he’s still here, in one form or another, but it was never him. It was always me. But I had to find that out.

Selim’s style comes into a little bit with what Oeds and Ron are doing, and “Molasses” was the last song on the Enemies record, so in what ways do you feel like Through the Hollow is moving forward from that point?

If you look at it music-wise, you can see the progression The Devil’s Blood made from the first one to the last one – it’s not an official album but it is to me – and also how Selim progressed in his way of thinking. He changed very much. In the beginning, he was very like, “This is what I want and you all have to do it like this,” and he was very… what’s the word?

Controlling?

(Laughs) Well yeah, controlling, it’s a Molassess at Roadburn 2019 (Photo by JJ Koczan)good one. He was controlling, but he also had the whole picture in his head already. He had the vision. Along the way, he started also to be more free, and be more loose. More jams and more intuitive, I think. I think you can hear that also in the music very much, and maybe it is where The Devil’s Blood left, or quit, or stopped, that everyone had their own stuff. I’m making it too difficult right now (laughs).

It developed from there to Molassess, and then Molassess was the last song on the album, also the last song we worked together on, and then we all had time to grieve and grow and develop in all kinds of ways, and yeah. It’s like Molassess picked up maybe we left off, but not exactly at the point where The Devil’s Blood quit, but years later, with all the progression and development. You get that?

You’re saying Molassess aren’t trying to pretend the last five years-plus didn’t happen.

There could never be a Molassess without all those years.

It’s taking what’s happened in that time and translating it emotionally and in terms of musical progression into the songs.

And also as individuals, for each and every one. Even with the new guys, I guess. Otherwise we couldn’t – not to get spiritual – but everything feels very organic and it had to be like this, otherwise we couldn’t make this album.

But it is spiritual. In the sense of something intangible, you’re a group of people coming together to make this thing. Shit, if there’s magic anywhere, that’s it. There’s so much honesty in this record, and you see the frame and the story. Where does it go from here? You get the front to back journey on the record. What happens next?

“What happens next?” (Laughs) Yeah, that’s a good… I mean, who knows? We’re already writing again, new stuff. It goes on, but I mean, I don’t know how, I don’t know when. And also everything is on hold. But we’re moving along. It was very, very good to finish this album because it was also like, “When is it gonna be done? I want a copy and I can’t listen to it” and all that stuff, of course.

Because when you have a story to tell and you’ve told it, then it needs to get out there. Because otherwise you still can’t let go. “So go now, thank you” (laughs). But where, I don’t know. I’m not a fortune teller. I don’t know what’s going to happen next. But I hope… We’re not done, so we’re moving on and we’re moving forward and now that this has been said, we can search for other stuff and grow again. It would be really nice if people like it and want more, but we have more, so this is definitely just a beginning.

It sounds like a beginning. You’re working with the benefit of knowing each other, you, Ron and Oeds. You have this foundation of a relationship, but it is a new exploration, and you can hear that as the album goes on. And there’s the story with that as well. I keep going back to the storyline happening across the album.

It is the story from beginning to end. I can almost not listen to it. Well, now I don’t listen to it for a while now. But it was one thing. It almost feels like, yeah. One book. And it’s the beginning and it’s the end and now we’re gonna make a new album (laughs).

It’s like a memoir, almost.

Well yeah, you could call it that. I never thought of that, but yeah. That’s a good name (laughs). We should’ve called it Memoir (laughs).

What do you take away from the experience of making the record ultimately? You’ve mentioned finding that ability to push yourself, the level of catharsis in this expression, and I’d think the ability to make a song personal for you would have to be satisfying. Having told this story now that’s being put out there, I guess in October, what are you taking with you from this experience as you move forward?

Lots of stuff, I guess. It’s this kind of freedom. This inner-freedom. I don’t know if that’s a word.

It changed me as a person. In the way I feel and the way I think. Not really changed, because you never really change –

Molassess at Roadburn 2019 (Photo by JJ Koczan)Wait wait wait wait! Don’t back off that. No no no. Keep going.

Yeah, so I changed. My state of mind changed. It gave me so much energy. New energy, I think, that I haven’t found in my whole life. Maybe also because this was my first experience with really creating something myself that is totally mine – and of course with everyone in the band included because it’s not about me alone – but for me, personal.

I have a child, you have a child also. Something is so yours. It’s in your flesh, it’s in your genes. It’s so hard to give away, and that whole process to really experience that, and yeah. So I’m taking with me that I’m very strong, and I know, I know, I just know, I have to do this and I want to do this and it brought me… everything. That is too fake, I guess.

No, that is not fake. That’s the opposite of fake. That’s is the real thing. You have made a piece of art that has changed who you are. That’s incredible.

Well it feels incredible, and I’m very thankful that I’ve got this chance to do that and I’m in a lucky position that we could do this. And one thing I learned from my brother was that, you know, at the times I was very insecure about, “Was it good enough,” and “Should we do this,” I always listened to him telling me, “If you are okay with it and you did the best you can, then it is good, whatever people will think doesn’t matter anymore.”

That’s how I feel now. When I got insecure, that was what I would think about and say, “I’m good with this. It is fucking good, so yes, move on to the next,” and so on and so on. I changed. It changed me. I’m grown up now. Maybe that’s the thing. I feel very mature (laughs). Not really.

Selim passed away six years ago, and my mother passed away three years ago, and my father passed away like nine years ago. Nine, six, three. So this freedom is also about that, because I’m loose. I have a son, but I don’t have any more responsibilities to my family. In the beginning, also it felt very alone, but I can only depend on me and now I’m very proud of myself, because I’m able to make this great music. Everything I just said, but this is a personal process thing.

The record ends with “The Devil Lives.” Can you talk a little about that?

That was a Selim song, a Devil’s Blood song, that was never finished. And we tried it. We worked on it many times, but it never was good enough, or it was never appropriate. Then it became just another thing that was thrown on the pile of unfinished stuff. But also it was one of my favorites. Way before Roadburn, I had all the guys together, like, “We should finish this song, we should finish it!” so we tried something but it didn’t work and everyone went on doing their stuff again, and then now this was the perfect time to try it again and I think we did a good job.

Molassess Through the HollowWe finished it, but it was Selim’s song. We put it at the end of the album I think too, Through the Hollow is more of a statement like, “And now for something completely different.” It’s very clear that it’s no Devil’s Blood and we’re doing our own shit, but it felt really good to have him there also. We thought it was a perfect ending of this new beginning.

We thought about it, because it’s a very difficult thing. At first when we talked about Molassess, a lot of people were like, “Oh, The Devil’s Blood!” or “Oh, she’s coming back!” and we didn’t want that, but can you really blame people?

It’s like, this is our history, so I learned you need to embrace everything. Also that. When we were thinking about this song, we had also mixed feelings about it, like, “No, but it’s too Devil’s Blood,” and just when we let that go, well, it’s part of us. So here it is.

Molassess, “Through the Hollow”

Molassess on Thee Facebooks

Molassess on Instagram

Molassess on Bandcamp

Season of Mist on Thee Facebooks

Season of Mist website

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GIVEAWAY: Enter to Win Crystal Spiders’ Molt on Vinyl

Posted in Features on August 13th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

crystal spiders molt vinyl

See that thing up there? You can win that! Ripple Music is set to release Crystal Spiders’ debut album, Molt, on Sept. 25. The Raleigh, North Carolina, two-piece already premiered their video for “Trapped” here, and that ruled (you can see the clip below), but the record’s a burner to be sure. Heavy soul vibes from singer/bassist Brenna Leath (also of Lightning Born with C.O.C.‘s Mike Dean, who produced here), a full-band sound between her low-end riffing and drummer/vocalist Tradd Yancey, with a little garage doom flair but still some punker edge when that’s what it wants. The title-track is right in there, crunch crunch crunch and stomp stomp. If I called it “fun” would you hate it?

Anyway, it’s a thing! You can win! Nobody hates winning things. So here’s the form to enter to get it from Ripple. If you prefer the direct link, go here: https://www.toneden.io/ripple-music/post/win-crystal-spiders-debut-lp-on-wax

You can use Spotify or Twitter or whatever to enter or I guess whatever you’ve got, and sign up to get on Ripple’s email list, which is actually kind of useful when it comes to finding out what they’re up to with preorders and whatnot. If you’ve seen giveaways here before you know I usually just do the “leave a comment here” thing and keep it simple, and I’m not into email harvesting, but the label went to the trouble to make it pretty so it seems the least I can do to post the thing as intended. Take it as a sign the record rules, if nothing else.

One more time, Molt is out Sept. 25 and the prize here is one — count ’em, one — copy of the album on vinyl. I’ll have a review of it up at some point, so I’ll spare you all that, but the short version is there’s a decent chance it’s a thing you want if you’re seeing these words. Giveaway runs for eight days, so have at it.

facebook.com/crystalspidersinmymind
crystalspiders.bandcamp.com
https://www.facebook.com/theripplemusic/
https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/
http://www.ripple-music.com/

Crystal Spiders, “Trapped” official video

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Finding Comfort in Live Music When There Isn’t Any

Posted in Features on August 12th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Bands and festivals have begun to announce 2021 dates and all that, but let’s be realistic: it’s going to be years before live music is what it once was. Especially in the United States, which is the country in the world hardest hit by the ol’ firelung in no small part because of the ineptitude of its federal leadership, an entire economic system of live music — not to mention the venues, promotions and other cultural institutions that support it on all levels — needs to be rebuilt from the ground up. It isn’t going to be just as simple as “social distancing is over and we can all crowd into the bar again.” Maybe not ever.

You’ve likely seen a band do a live stream at this point, even if after the fact, and I have too. Not the same as a real-life gig, duh, but if it helps raise some funds and keeps creative people working on something and gives an act a way to connect with its audience, you can’t call it bad. I’ve found, though, that with the dearth of live music happening and the nil potential that “going to a show” will happen anytime soon, I’ve been listening to more and more live albums.

This, in no small part, is because there are plenty to listen to. Some groups attempting to bring in cash either for themselves or relevant causes have put out live records in the last few months and made use of the downtime that would’ve otherwise been given to actually being on a stage or writing together in a room or whatever it might be. It’s been a way for a band to not just sit on its collective hands and wonder what the future will bring. When so much is out of your own control, you make the most of what you’ve got.

In that spirit, here’s a quick rundown of 10 recent live outings that I’ve been digging. If you’ve found you’re in the need of finding comfort in live music and whatever act you want to see isn’t doing a stream just this second, maybe you can put one of these on, close your eyes, and be affected a bit by the on-stage energy that comes through.

Thanks as always for reading, and thanks to Tim Burke, Vania Yosifova, and Chris Pojama Pearson for adding their suggestions when I asked on social media. Here we go, ordered by date of release:

Arcadian Child, From Far, for the Wild (Live in Linz)

arcadian child from far for the wild

Released Jan. 24.

Granted, this one came out before the real impact of COVID-19 was being felt worldwide, but with the recent announcement of Arcadian Child‘s next studio album coming out this Fall, including From Far, for the Wild (Live in Linz) (discussed here) on this list seems only fair. The Cyprus-based four-piece even went so far as to include a couple new songs in the set that’ll show up on Protopsycho as well this October, so it’s a chance to get a preview of that material as well. Bonus for a bonus. Take the win.

Kadavar, Studio Live Session Vol. 1

kadavar studio live session

Released March 25.

Germany began imposing curfews in six of its states on March 22. At that point, tours were already being canceled, including Kadavar‘s European run after two shows, and the band hit Blue Wall Studio in Berlin for a set that was streamed through Facebook and in no small part helped set the pattern of streams in motion. With shows canceled in Australia/New Zealand and North America as well, Kadavar were hoping to recover some of the momentum they’d lost, and their turning it into a live record is also a part of that, as is their upcoming studio release, The Isolation Tapes.

Øresund Space Collective, Sonic Rock Solstice 2019

Øresund Space Collective Sonic Rock Solstice 2019

Released April 3.

Of course, I’m perfectly willing to grant that Sonic Rock Solstice 2019 (review here) wasn’t something Øresund Space Collective specifically put out because of the pandemic, but hell, it still exists and that enough, as far as I’m concerned. As ever, they proliferate top notch psychedelic improv, and though I’ve never seen them and it seems increasingly likely I won’t at the fest I was supposed to this year, their vitality is always infectious.

Pelican, Live at the Grog Shop

pelican Live at The Grog Shop

Released April 15.

Let’s be frank — if you don’t love Pelican‘s music to a familial degree, it’s not that I think less of you as a person, but I definitely feel bad for you in a way that, if I told you face-to-face, you won’t find almost entirely condescending. The Chicago instrumentalists are high on my list of golly-I-wish-they’d-do-a-livestream, and if you need an argument to support that, this set from Ohio should do the trick nicely. It’s from September 2019, which was just nearly a year ago. If your mind isn’t blown by their chugging progressive riffs, certainly that thought should do the trick.

SEA, Live at ONCE

sea live at once

Released June 19.

Also captured on video, this set from Boston’s SEA finds them supporting 2020’s debut album, Impermanence (review here) and pushing beyond at ONCE Ballroom in their hometown. The band’s blend of post-metallic atmosphere and spacious melody-making comes through as they alternate between lumbering riffs and more subdued ambience, and it makes a fitting complement to the record in underscoring their progressive potential. The sound is raw but I’d want nothing less.

Sumac, St Vitus 09/07/2018

sumac st vitus

Released July 3.

Issued as a benefit to Black Lives Matter Seattle and a host of other causes, among them the Philadelphia Womanist Working Collective, this Sumac set is precisely what it promises in the title — a live show from 2018 at Brooklyn’s famed Saint Vitus Bar. I wasn’t at this show, but it does make me a little wistful to think of that particular venue in the current concert-less climate. Sumac aren’t big on healing when it comes to the raw sonics, but there’s certainly enough spaciousness here to get lost in should you wish to do so.

YOB, Pickathon 2019 – Live From the Galaxy Barn

YOB Pickathon 2019 Live from the Galaxy Barn

Released July 3.

They’ve since taken down the Bandcamp stream, but YOB’s Pickathon 2019 – Live From the Galaxy Barn (review here) was released as a benefit for Navajo Nation COVID-19 relief, and is an hour-long set that paired the restlessness of “The Lie that is Sin” next to the ever-resonant “Marrow.” Of all the live records on this list, this is probably the one that’s brought me the most joy, and it also inspired the most recent episode of The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal, which jumped headfirst into YOB‘s catalog. More YOB please. Also, if you haven’t seen the videos of Mike Scheidt playing his guitar around the house, you should probably hook into that too.

Dirty Streets, Rough and Tumble

dirty streets rough and tumble

Released July 31.

If you’re not all the way down with the realization that Justin Toland is the man when it comes to heavy soul and blues guitar, Dirty Streets‘ new live record, Rough and Tumble, will set you straight, and it won’t even take that long. With the all-killer bass and drums of Thomas Storz and Andrew Denham behind, Toland reminds of what a true virtuoso player can accomplish when put in a room with a crowd to watch. That’s an important message for any time, let alone right now. These cats always deliver.

Amenra, Mass VI Live

amenra mass vi live

Released Aug. 7

Look, I’m not gonna sit here and pretend I’m the biggest Amenra fan in the world. I’m not. Sometimes I feel like they follow too many of their own rules for their own good, but there’s no question that live they’re well served by the spectacle they create, and their atmospherics are genuinely affecting. And I know that I’m in the minority in my position, so for anyone who digs them hard, they put up this stream-turned-record wherein they play a goodly portion of 2017’s Mass VI, and even as the self-professed not-biggest-fan-in-the-world, I can appreciate their effort and the screamy-scream-crushy-crush/open-spaced ambience that ensues.

Electric Moon, Live at Freak Valley Festival 2019

Electric Moon Live at Freak Valley Festival 2019

Releasing Sept. 4.

Yeah, okay, this one’s not out yet, but sometimes I’m lucky enough to get things early for review and sometimes (on good days) those things happen to be new live records from Germany psychonauts Electric Moon. The Always-Out-There-Sula-Komets are in top form on Live at Freak Valley Festival 2019 as one would have to expect, and they’re streaming a 22-minute version of “777” now that rips so hard it sounds like it’s about to tear a hole into an alternate dimension where shows are still going on so yes please everyone go and listen to it and maybe we’ll get lucky and it’ll really happen. The magic was in you all along.

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Five Essential Records of the Skyhammer Studio Era

Posted in Features on July 15th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

skyhammer studio chris fielding feet

Skyhammer Studio operated between August 2013 and February 2019, and in that five-plus-year period, became the essential recording space of UK heavy. Founded in the village of Childer Thornton by Conan guitarist/vocalist Jon Davis and producer and Conan bassist/vocalist Chris Fielding — who had already made a name for himself at Foel Studios, working with Electric Wizard, Primordial, and others — it marked a moment of arrival and self-sufficiency for the UK underground that was already booming with homegrown acts before and since the advent of Desertfest in 2012.

In more extreme fare, one hears about Sunlight Studio as an anchor of the Swedish death metal sound. I firmly believe that in the years the come, the ‘Skyhammer Sound’ — a particular blend of tectonic tonal weight and spaciousness — will be viewed in much the same way, and that Fielding‘s work behind the board for a wide swath of bands has helped define the current generation of UK-based heavy bands as much as any band’s influence newer groups might be working under.

Since Skyhammer closed, Fielding has continued his work back at Foel — one very much looks forward to the next LP from Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, which he’ll produce there — but with the easy encapsulation that considering a Skyhammer-era makes, it seems only appropriate now that it’s been more than year since it ended to take a look at some of the most essential albums that came out of that place and that time.

It’s not an easy list to choose from, and I admit, part of the impetus behind doing this was to get a complete (or as complete as possible) list of the releases that came out of Skyhammer. You’ll note the headline doesn’t say “The Five Essential…” and that’s for good reason. The list Fielding was kind enough to send over when I asked for it is staggering, and from Coltsblood and The Wounded Kings to Alunah and Stubb and Pist to Bismarck, it shows not only how Skyhammer became a defining point for UK heavy, but reached beyond those borders as well.

I’m not going to tell you not to chase down anything you see below — or even to catch ’em all, Pokemon-style — but I’ve set the goal for myself to pick five, so that’s what I’m sticking to.

Here goes, alphabetized by year:

Serpent Venom, Of Things Seen and Unseen (2014)

serpent venom of things seen and unseen

I mean, how do you say no to this? Serpent Venom, along with fellow Skyhammer vets Iron Void, connect the studio right into the mainline vein of classic British doom. Serpent Venom‘s 2014 outing, Of Things Seen and Unseen (review here) gracefully blends those stylistic impulses with a richness to tone that gives the vocals a genuine space in which to reside, and though relatively speaking it was earlier days for Skyhammer, Fielding had already long since proved the room could capture a huge sound. Serpent Venom made the most of it. Now if only they might be somehow convinced to do a follow-up.

Undersmile, Anhedonia (2015)

undersmile anhedonia

Yeah, okay. I’ll admit that Oxfordshire four-piece Undersmile are somewhat on the brain after their late-2019 reunion, but with their 2015 album, Anhedonia (review here) — released on Jon DavisBlack Bow Records, in addition to being recorded at Skyhammer — the band demonstrated that not only could gargantuan, tidal-proportioned riffs find their way to tape at the studio, but also that a corresponding melodic resonance could take place. Listen to the vocal harmonies. And listen to the open-feeling space in which they reside, even early in album-opener “Labyrinths.” The point is made quickly through genuine immersion, and while of course the band’s songwriting has to get a massive credit for that, their choice of producer and studio definitely plays in as well.

Conan, Revengeance (2016)

conan revengeance

Obviously a Conan record needs to be on this list, and really, take your pick from among the three they recorded there. There’s no wrong answer. Fielding had produced Conan at Foel since their first EP, but 2016’s Revengeance (review here) marked his first appearance in the band as bassist/vocalist, so that’s why I chose it. Of course that and it’s fucking crushing, but again, Conan did 2014’s Blood Eagle (review here) and 2018’s Existential Void Guardian (review here) at Skyhammer too. They all bear the mark of records made in a studio built to suit the band’s express purposes. In fact, screw keeping the list to five. Just listen to all three.

Slomatics, Future Echo Returns (2016)

slomatics future echo returns

Another Black Bow release, and god damn, I love this record. Future Echo Returns (review here) was the last installment of a trilogy for Belfast, Northern Ireland’s Slomatics, and they could hardly have brought that particular storyline to a close in grander fashion. The sheer plod of the riffs and the reaches that their synth and melodies covered seemed to show the best of what Skyhammer could do with something truly bone-shakingly loud. From the depths of its somehow-bassless low end to the effects spreading out across the 10-minute closer “Into the Eternal,” Future Echo Returns, like Revengeance earlier that year, was just a case of the absolute right band with the absolute right producer. Slomatics also did songs for two splits at Skyhammer, with Holly Hunt and Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, which brings me to…

Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, Yn Ol I Annwn (2019)

mammoth weed wizard bastard yn ol i annwn

Issued through New Heavy Sounds, Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard‘s 2019 third full-length, Yn Ol I Annwn (review here), is a cosmic sci-fi doom masterstroke. Part of what it emphasizes is similar to Slomatics — the blend of space and weight — but especially in the case of Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard‘s latest offering, it’s right down to the sheer impact of the drums. Yeah, the tones are there, and of course Jessica Ball‘s vocals add a lushness that plays to the otherworldly themes around which the album is based, but hell’s bells, those drums sound incredible. How many snare sounds can you really call “thick?” Yn Ol I Annwn seemed to find new depths and new reaches alike for Skyhammer, affirming the studio’s strengths and pushing its limits beyond where they’d gone before.

10 More for the Hell of It:

Coltsblood, Into the Unfathomable Abyss
Stubb, Cry of the Ocean
Hooded Menace, Darkness Drips Forth
The Wounded Kings, Visions in Bone
Alunah, Solennial
Boss Keloid, Melted on the Inch
Iron Void, Excalibur
Slomatics/Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, Totems
Bismuth, The Slow Dying of the Great Barrier Reef
Belzebong, Light the Dankness

Let’s be honest. They’re not all going to be gold, right? And I’m not going to sit here and tell you everything Fielding helmed at Skyhammer is a future classic your grandkids are going to ask you about. That’s just unrealistic. But Skyhammer became an epicenter for UK (and beyond) heavy, and whether it was a rock band like Stubb looking to draw out new soul in their sound or an absolute mauler like BongCauldron trying to maximize the onslaught of their sludge, Skyhammer was able to help make good bands better.

I said already that Fielding has continued and will continue to produce bands at Foel Studios, and I want to say it again, if only to point out that while the Skyhammer era may be over, both Fielding and the UK heavy underground continue to flourish and realize material of staggering quality and sonic variety.

Straight from Fielding‘s notes, here’s the Skyhammer discography:

Skyhammer Studio Discography:

Bast – Spectres
Throne – Where Tharsis Sleeps
Coltsblood – Into The Unfathomable Abyss
Nathicana – Dark Spirits And Violence
Serpent Venom – Of Things Seen And Unseen
Conan – Blood Eagle
Ageless Oblivion – Penthos
Mononoke – Tom Finigan
Jonny Keeley – Fallen Trees
Intensive Square – Anything That Moves
Green Horn – Doomhawk
Pist – Riffology
Stubb – Cry Of The Ocean
Northern Oak – Of Roots And Flesh
Abomnium – Solace For The Condemned
Electric Wizard – Time To Die
Kill All The Gentlemen – Rebellion
Masochist – Condemned To Grovel
Winterfylleth – The Divination Of Antiquity
Headless Kross – Volumes
Slomatics – Ulysses, My Father
Yanomamo – Minions
SSS – Limp. Gasp. Collapse
Mage – Last Orders
Nuclear Weasels – Bring To Mind
Greenhorn – Like Rows Of Crooked Teeth
Dead Existence – Endless Misery
Of Spire & Throne – Sanctum In The Light
Undersmile – Anhedonia
The Bendal Interlude – Reign Of The Unblinking Eye
Burning Flag S/T & Izabel
Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard – Noeth Ac Anoeth
1968 – EP
Iron Void – Doomsday
Witchsorrow – No Light, Only Fire
Latitudes – Old Sunlight
Hooded Menace – A View From The Rope (Split Release w/Loss)
Hooded Menace – Darkness Drips Forth
Darkest Era – An Dagda
Bismuth – Unavailing
The Wounded Kings – Visions In Bone
Conan – Revengeance
Boss Keloid – Herb Your Enthusiasm
Garganjua – A Voyage In Solitude
Winterfylleth – The Dark Hereafter
Pist – Rhythm & Booxe
Mourning Beloveth – Rust & Bone
Kill All The Gentlemen – The Faustian Delusion
Hung On Horns – Slaves
Sons Of Balaur – Tenebris Deos
Battalions – Nothing To Lose
Warcrab – Scars Of Aeons
Slomatics – Future Echo Returns
XII Boar – Beyond The Valley Of The Triclops
Razor Sharp Death Blizzard – You Will Burn
1968 – Fortuna Havana
Tides Of Sulphur – Extinction Curse
Farseer – Fall Before The Dawn
Iron Witch – A Harrowed Dawn
DDENT – DDENT
Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard – Y Proffwyd Dwyll
Dorre/Bethmoora – Split 12”
Widows – Oh Deer God
Coltsblood – Ascending Into Shimmering Darkness
Nine Covens – Single
Foetal Juice – Masters Of Absurdity
BongCauldron – Binge
Monolith Cult – Gospel Of Despair
Alunah – Solennial
Mage – Green
Bismuth – Split w/Gnaw Their Tongues & Split w/Legion Of Andromeda
Dirt Forge – Soothsayer
Burning Flag – Izabel
Grey Widow – II
Strangle Wire – The Dark Triad
Stubb – Burning Moon Single
Abomnium – A Hollow Path
Battalions – Moonburn
DDENT – Toro
Twelve Boar – No Forgiveness
Godeater – Outerstellar
Garganjua – Through The Void
Winterfylleth – The Hallowing Of Heirdom
Witchsorrow – Hexenhammer
Kill All The Gentlemen – The Loss And The Rapture
Boss Keloid – Melted On The Inch
Iron Void – Excalibur
Conan – Existential Void Guardian
Eliminator – Last Horizon
Celtachor – Fiannaiocht
Slomatics/Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard – Totems
Bismuth – The Slow Dying Of The Great Barrier Reef
Indica Blues – Hymns For A Dying Realm
Bismarck – Urkraft
Bast – Nanoangstrom
Kurokuma – Dope Rider
Jo Quail – Exsolve
Necronautical – Apotheosis
Latitudes – Part Islands
Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard – Yn Ol I Annwn
Barbarian Hermit – Solitude And Savagery
WarCrab – Damned In Endless Night
Orbital Junction – EP
Battalions – Forever Marching Backwards
NNRA – Incarne
Alunah – Amber & Gold
Ungraven – Language Of Longing
Dorre – Fall River
Belzebong – Light The Dankness
Mourning Beloveth – Split w/Ruins Of Beverast
Atavist – III: Absolution
Duskwood – The Long Dark
Mage – Key to the Universe
Bismarck – Oneiromancer
Madmess – ST

Skyhammer Studio on Thee Facebooks

Skyhammer Studio website

Foel Studio on Thee Facebooks

Foel Studio website

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Days of Rona: Mattia Mazzeo of AyahuascA and Black Gremlin

Posted in Features on June 8th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

The ongoing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, the varied responses of publics and governments worldwide, and the disruption to lives and livelihoods has reached a scale that is unprecedented. Whatever the month or the month after or the future itself brings, more than one generation will bear the mark of having lived through this time, and art, artists, and those who provide the support system to help uphold them have all been affected.

In continuing the Days of Rona feature, it remains pivotal to give a varied human perspective on these events and these responses. It is important to remind ourselves that whether someone is devastated or untouched, sick or well, we are all thinking, feeling people with lives we want to live again, whatever renewed shape they might take from this point onward. We all have to embrace a new normal. What will that be and how will we get there?

Thanks to all who participate. To read all the Days of Rona coverage, click here. — JJ Koczan

Mattia Mazzeo AyahuascA Black Gremlin

Days of Rona: Mattia Mazzeo of AyahuascA and Black Gremlin (Collecchio, Italy)

How have you been you dealing with this crisis as a band? As an individual? What effect has it had on your plans or creative processes?

First of all, thank you for getting in touch with me. I was in Naples for a show with Black Gremlin (action rock band) a few days before the lockdown (a few places were already locked in the north of Italy) and we were already worried about our near future. With AyahuascA has been the same, the lockdown started on the same day we were supposed to play in Rome, and then all the shows we booked have been canceled including Crystal Mountain Festival which was a great show for us with a lot of great bands (Kadavar, Giobia, Monkey3 any many more). So a lot of hard work vanished into thin air, we were booking two tours with both bands (Black Gremlin and AyahuascA) for November/December but now there are too many uncertainties to book shows, so we decided to focus on new material for the next album. As an individual, I started to write a lot of new stuff, especially for AyahuascA. On this side I’m quite satisfied, isolation helped me to take a trip inside of me, I tried to turn this situation into something positive for me and I knew it could be a good time to write new riffs and lyrics. Everything has changed overnight, all of us started writing new songs on our own at home and now we have enough material for at least two albums and I’m really excited about that, I can’t wait to start to work on it with my bandmates in our rehearsal room, since writing albums is the most intense and beautiful part of the work for me.

How do you feel about the public response to the outbreak where you are? From the government response to the people around you, what have you seen and heard from others?

Well, Italy was hit hard by the virus, I was afraid especially the first month (my father also took a light form of the virus). Remembering the first weeks of lockdown is like entering in a separate dimension, a very strange moment in the life of all of us. I think there was a lot of fear in general, the media bombed us with numbers of dead and infected people every day. Personally I have sometimes avoided reading the news, not to get too discouraged. Speaking of our government’s response, I think managing something of this magnitude is really difficult. Some members of the government have shown themselves to be ridiculous individuals, without culture and sense of duty. I also believe that others have done more or less what has to be done. But the perception that I have about it is deviated by an aberrant amount of news, fake news, etc. I think this was the main problem of this situation: the almost total impossibility of having a clear idea of what was going on. But on the other hand, I don’t think it could have been otherwise.

What do you think of how the music community specifically has responded? How do you feel during this time? Are you inspired? Discouraged? Bored? Any and all of it?

I think the music community answered well, our balconies were full of musicians who played for the neighborhoods as you may have noticed hahaha. Apart from this, in Italy, there is no real support for those who work in the music business (I am not only talking about musicians, but about promoters, club managers and other figures). Since the lockdown started, new realities have emerged to protect those who work with music and this could be a good starting point for our future. Despite this, I am really worried about many small clubs that have given us fantastic concerts in the last years. I hope that they will be able to resist in this moment of extreme restrictions and start again asap. Personally, I can’t wait to get back on stage. Now it is unthinkable to organize a punk concert with these restrictions(just to name a couple: everyone must be seated with masks and well-spaced, you can not serve drinks), but maybe it is possible to organize some psychedelic or ritual band and enjoy the show in a different way, taking advantage of the distances. Social distancing has a different impact on everyone of us. Surely this new reality is asking us to look within us, whoever has the strength to do so could come out really changed and more “centered” than before. I think great albums can come out of that. I see this period as a call to arms towards our sensitivity, the perception of what we call our world.

What is the one thing you want people to know about your situation, either as a band, or personally, or anything? What is your new normal? What have you learned from this experience, about yourself, your band, or anything?

If you have the opportunity to support the bands you love, do it. Buy albums and share the music you love to keep your passion alive, whether you are a musician or a listener. To the bands, on the other hand, I say that this is the best time to dedicate yourself to writing new music and get out of this stronger than before. I believe that from now on the keyword will be “adaptation”, but I believe it is also a good time to create new realities, new projects.

https://www.facebook.com/ayahuasca25/
https://ayahuascatheband.bandcamp.com/
https://www.instagram.com/ayahuascatheband/
https://www.facebook.com/blackgremlinofficialpage/
https://blackgremlin.bandcamp.com/
https://www.instagram.com/blackgremlin_rocknroll/

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Days of Rona: Melissa Pinion of Stygian Crown

Posted in Features on June 4th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

The ongoing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, the varied responses of publics and governments worldwide, and the disruption to lives and livelihoods has reached a scale that is unprecedented. Whatever the month or the month after or the future itself brings, more than one generation will bear the mark of having lived through this time, and art, artists, and those who provide the support system to help uphold them have all been affected.

In continuing the Days of Rona feature, it remains pivotal to give a varied human perspective on these events and these responses. It is important to remind ourselves that whether someone is devastated or untouched, sick or well, we are all thinking, feeling people with lives we want to live again, whatever renewed shape they might take from this point onward. We all have to embrace a new normal. What will that be and how will we get there?

Thanks to all who participate. To read all the Days of Rona coverage, click here. — JJ Koczan

stygian crown melissa

Days of Rona: Melissa Pinion of Stygian Crown (Los Angeles, California)

How have you been you dealing with this crisis as a band? As an individual? What effect has it had on your plans or creative processes?

We all live in areas that are under lockdown, so we can’t rehearse as a group. Numerous shows and festivals we were scheduled to play have been canceled or postponed as a result of the pandemic. However, we have been keeping up our chops so we can come out strong when venues begin to reopen. This downtime has given us the chance to begin developing riffs, basic song structures and lyrics for a follow-up album.

How do you feel about the public response to the outbreak where you are? From the government response to the people around you, what have you seen and heard from others?

It’s hard to say without actually seeing the inside of hospitals, but based on statistics, it appears that the stay-at-home orders are actually working at the moment and our healthcare sector is handling our cases without having to turn away anyone else with critical needs. The initial panic that we saw in mid-March has vanished, and in its place has appeared an anticipation for the world around us to get back to “normal.” The problem is, no one really knows what that means.

What do you think of how the music community specifically has responded? How do you feel during this time? Are you inspired? Discouraged? Bored? Any and all of it?

There are two sides to this. Obviously, we feel badly for all the bands whose primary source of income comes from touring. Countless support staff in the entertainment industry have lost their jobs too. What many artists have done in the wake of this crisis is turned a negative situation into something positive. All of the live-streaming performances have been inspiring to see. And the money being raised by these artists for various causes shows us that listeners really care about the bands they follow.

Additionally, Germany’s “Keep It True” festival compiled hours and hours of past footage and presented it on YouTube to give fans something to enjoy on the weekend the festival was supposed to take place. We hope this positive vibe continues when the virus gets under control.

What is the one thing you want people to know about your situation, either as a band, or personally, or anything? What is your new normal? What have you learned from this experience, about yourself, your band, or anything?

Stygian Crown will release its debut album amid a pandemic, but our passion to create and perform will not be stopped by the coronavirus. And with the support of the metal community, we’ll be back with a vengeance before you know it!

facebook.com/stygiancrown/
cruzdelsurmusic.com
cruzdelsurmusic.bandcamp.com/

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