Friday Full-Length: Acrimony, Hymns to the Stone

Posted in Bootleg Theater on February 1st, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Acrimony, Hymns to the Stone (1994)

If you weren’t sure about Acrimony‘s roots in more deathly/doomly fare, look no further than the gracefully morose logo that’s on front of their debut CD, Hymns to the Stone. Released through Godhead Recordings — don’t worry, they’d sign to Peaceville soon enough — Acrimony‘s first outing arrived and helped jumpstart a pivotal moment in UK heavy. And their departure from the melancholic vibes proffered by their serif-logo forebears in Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride, Anathema, etc., came at just the right time. As those bands also sought out different sonic territory and in some cases more than flirted with gothic vibes, Acrimony went in another direction entirely. They got high and they rocked out.

1994: When stoner rock was stoned.

I don’t know if it’s Dorian Walters‘ vocals or the fact that they’ve got songs like “Leaves of Mellow Grace,” “Herb” and “Cosmic AWOL,” but something about Acrimony just always seemed that much more under the influence. The overarching sound of Hymns to the Stone shows some of its age these 25 years after the fact, but that hardly makes it less righteous. The guitars of Stu O’Hara and Lee Davies, Paul Bidmead‘s bass and Darren Ivey‘s drums managed to take some influence from the grunge that was saturating the US at the time, meld it with their own history in metal, and add more than a flourish of Sabbathian undertones — looking at you, “Spaced Cat #6” — and create something new from it. And they were legitimately right there at the start. Cathedral had embraced something of a rocking side with their 1993 sophomore outing, The Ethereal Mirror, but Acrimony took even that to a new level entirely. Consider that Orange Goblin were just getting together at the time, and Electric Wizard as well. Consider that Hymns to the Stone came out the same year as Welcome to Sky Valley. Acrimony were a nexus band. They helped craft the direction the UK heavy underground would take as it moved into the mid ’90s and beyond, and their impact can still be felt today in swaths of bands in the UK and out.

While it is a mystery how there hasn’t been a band who’s named themselves after the song “Urabalaboom,” that centerpiece track remains ACRIMONY HYMNS TO THE STONEessential to Hymns to the Stone as Acrimony conveyed a jammier sensibility ahead of the acoustic start to “Herb” — also duly Iommic in its riff — and “Magical Mystery Man,” which follows and brings back some of the earlier catchiness of “Leaves of Mellow Grace,” “The Inn” and “Second Wind” at the outset. The vibe of the album is set largely by the tonal largesse of the opener and the looseness of its swing, taking a heavy crunch and making it roll with two guitars working in tandem to shove it along the path laid out with bass and drums. When Walters‘ vocals arrive, they’re lower in the mix than on some of the later tracks, and the riff-comes-first ethic is as plain to hear as the weed-worship of the lyrics. “The Inn” makes the most of some swirling wah as it marches forth, as well as some late-arriving shuffle, and “Second Wind” plays with tempo shifts effectively to convey a doom rocking feel with a nod in its midsection leading to more butt-boogie chicanery as they round out.

The fluidity there serves them well moving into the ultra-compressed start of “Space Cat #6” and the ensuing touch of psychedelic rock fervor brought to its arrangement that will be even further fleshed out soon enough on the penultimate “Whatever.” That song, which is the only one on Hymns to the Stone to hit the seven-minute mark, is little short of a revelation, playing out across a molten linear build that’s all the more about the journey than the payoff, taking the message of the prior “Urabalaboom,” “Herb” and “Magical Mystery Man” and bringing it to life in sound. Stretching out in this way suited Acrimony well, and it was a lesson they’d take to heart by the time they got around to their second full-length, Tumuli Shroomaroom (discussed here), in 1997, which even in its opening track, “Hymns to the Stone” (but wait! that’s the name of this album!), topped nine minutes en route to a total 65, as opposed to Hymns to the Stone‘s manageable 44-minute run. Likewise, the pairing of “Magical Mystery Man” and “Whatever” right next to each other hardly feels accidental, with the shortest and longest tracks offering direct contrast. “Magical Mystery Man” has a punkish feel, and “Whatever” is more spaced than “Spaced Cat #6,” so yeah. “Cosmic AWOL” finishes out by returning that massive cannabinoid sprawl somewhat to ground, still loading in plenty of wah to its just-over-4:20 push, ending with a languid percussion-laced jam on a long fade as it moves farther into the great far out.

Acrimony‘s legend, like that of a lot of heavy rock from their era — see also the aforementioned Kyuss — would grow in their absence. They put out Tumuli Shroomaroom in ’97 and had done The Acid Elephant EP before that in 1995 and a split with Iron Rainbow in 1996, but their last recording session was in 1999 for tracks that would later see release in 2003 on a split with Church of Misery and they were long since done by then. Lee Davies would go on to play in Lifer, but the rest of the lineup was quiet until coming together in 2009 as Sigiriya, a four-piece with Walters, O’Hara, Bidmead and Ivey. They released their debut, Return to Earth (review here), in 2011 and would lose Walters afterward, bringing in Matt Williams from Suns of Thunder for 2014’s Darkness Died Today (review here; also discussed here). Ivey would also depart in 2015 and the band brought in Rhys David Miles on drums and they’ve continued to play locally in Swansea and around the UK, doing fests and support slots as well as the occasional short run of tour dates — they were out with the reformed Iron Monkey twice last year.

According to their social media, Sigiriya, now with O’Hara and Bidmead as the connection to Acrimony have a third album they’re putting the finishing touches on, so it may well be that they’re heard from later in 2019. Here’s hoping. However that might come together, Acrimony‘s stoner-is-as-stoner-does heavy rock legacy continues to be a standout from the United Kingdom, and though in current music culture it’s almost too easy to neglect anything that isn’t punching you in the face with streaming videos capturing every fart at every rehearsal, Hymns to the Stone is a reminder of the roots from which what we think of modern heavy has grown out from over the last two and a half decades.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

Yesterday was amazing, thank you. Incredibly heartening and reinforcing. It felt like what I imagine birthdays probably feel like to most people. Thank you.

If you didn’t catch it, Shy Kennedy from Blackseed Design’s t-shirt for The Obelisk went up earlier this week at Dropout Merch. It’s awesome and I call it ‘Doom on the Moon,’ which is fun because I enjoy a slant rhyme as much as the next guy.

See it here: https://www.dropoutmerch.com/the-obelisk

Next week is busy. They’re all busy. Did you know I’ve got the Quarterly Review for March booked already? I might push it up and do five this year. I’m not sure I’d be able to call it Quarterly so much as Everynowandagainly at that point, or Bimonthly or whatever, but yeah. I’m thinking about it. For all the planning out ahead of time I do, I don’t do much planning out ahead of time. Ha.

Did you catch the slant rhyme above? Good.

Let’s do some quick notes for next week. Honestly, my head’s been so deep in everything for yesterday I’ve kind of slacked on mapping it out, but there’s still some cool stuff slated. As such:

MON: Static Tension video premiere; News catchup.
TUE: The Asound album review/video premiere.
WED: BLACKWVS track premiere; Soldati video premiere.
THU: Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard review.
FRI: Open right now. Maybe Old Mexico review unless something else grabs me.

It’ll be fun either way.

This Sunday at 7PM Eastern is also the ninth episode of The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio. I need to go cut the voice breaks for it, so I’m going to wrap this up on the quick and plug in the mic and pretend to be interesting for 20 minutes or so. If you get the chance to listen: http://gimmeradio.com.

And again, thanks for all the kind words yesterday.

Please have a great and safe weekend, and please check out the forum and the radio stream and the merch at Dropout. Like such:

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Friday Full-Length: Various Artists, Burn One Up: Music for Stoners

Posted in Bootleg Theater on June 8th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Various Artists, Burn One Up: Music for Stoners (1997)

21 years ago, Roadrunner Records gathered together 15 bands on one compact disc, slapped a picture of an 18-wheeler truck in the desert on the front of it, and called it Burn One Up: Music for Stoners. It’s not easy to find a copy of it these days — I looked for a while before finally getting it in London in 2010 — but with bands like Queen of the Stone Age, Karma to Burn, Sleep, The Heads, Cathedral and Fu Manchu on board, it’s worth the search. Dig the full tracklisting:

1. Queens of the Stone Age, 18 A.D.
2. Karma to Burn, Ma Petit Mort
3. Fu Manchu, Asphalt Risin’
4. The Heads, GNU
5. Spiritual Beggars, Monster Astronauts
6. Floodgate, Feel You Burn
7. Slaprocket, Holy Mother Sunshine
8. Leadfoot, Soul Full of Lies
9. Celestial Season, Wallaroo
10. Cathedral, You Know
11. Acrimony, Bud Song
12. Blind Dog, Lose
13. Sleep, Aquarian
14. Hideous Sun Demons, Icarus Dream
15. Beaver, Green

It’s easy to argue that, as far as “stoner rock” goes, these are some of the bands who would most shape it. Yeah, Slaprocket never got an album out, but the New Jersey-based outfit divided into Solace and The Atomic Bitchwax, and both of them continue to make their mark to this day. Europe is represented through Dutch outfits Celestial Season, Hideous Sun Demons and Beaver, Sweden’s Spiritual Beggars and Blind Dog, and the UK shows off some of its best in The Heads, Cathedral and Acrimony. The aforementioned Slaprocket speak for the Northeast, while Floodgate hail from Louisiana, Karma to Burn from West Virginia and Leadfoot from North Carolina, so the Southeast is accounted for as well.

And of course we wouldn’t even be talking about the genre if it weren’t for California, which brings Fu Manchu, Sleep and an early incarnation of Josh Homme‘s then-new, on-the-rebound-from-Kyuss outfit, Queens of the Stone Age, which featured a frontman known only as “The Kid”. That’s a particular point of fascination unto itself, but with a first-album-era vocalized Karma to Burn as well and an off-album track from Cathedral, there’s plenty of fodder to make Burn One Up worth seeking for anyone who’d do so, but while the comp wouldn’t serve as a debut for Cathedral, or Celestial Season — who followed a similar path from doom to stoner rock and didn’t stick around long enough to make the turn back before reuniting in 2011 — or Acrimony or Sleep, etc., it’s still amazing to look at it and think of the legacy many of these bands cast. Shit, Sleep just put out their first record in 15 years and took over the world. Would instrumental heavy rock be where it is today without Karma to Burn? And Slaprocket through their already noted ties and Floodgate‘s vocalist, Kyle Thomas (also Exhorder) is currently fronting a little band called Troublem so you know, not exactly minor shakes there.

Blind Dog put out two records through MeteorCity before splitting up, closers Beaver would soon have a split out with openers Queens of the Stone Age via Man’s Ruin Records, and this would be the final appearance for Hideous Sun Demons, who released their only album, Twisted, in 1995. Spiritual Beggars gave an early look at their third album 1998’s Mantra III, with “Monster Astronauts,” while The Heads showcased how far out aural weedism could go with “GNU,” inarguably the trippiest cut on the release.

And The Heads are just one of the several bands who continue to make an impact. Fu Manchu. QOTSA. Karma to Burn. Sleep. Spiritual Beggars. One could argue the only dude missing here is Wino, and he would’ve been coming off The Obsessed and just getting going with Shine — later Spirit Caravan — so that could just as easily be a question of timing as anything else. Okay, maybe a bit of Orange Goblin and Electric Wizard would’ve been cool. You can’t have everything.

As with most compilations, the sound is somewhat disjointed, as the material was recorded by different players in different studios often enough in different countries, but Burn One Up gives an amazing summary of where the genre was in the wake of Kyuss‘ breakup and as it looked forward to developing in the 21st century into the multi-headed beast it is now. You can hear the crunching influence of grunge in Beaver, Floodgate and Slaprocket, but clearly these bands and the rest were on their own wavelength already, and whether new or old, whether they went on to lead the aesthetic or folded soon after — that reminds me, I need to break out those old Leadfoot discs — Burn One Up: Music for Stoners shows an admirable prescience in its picks and is a true piece of treasure for anyone who’d seek it out in its summary of what heavy rock and roll was at the time and what it would go on to be.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

Went to bed last night around 8PM. I’d been up since one in the morning, so somehow it made sense, plus The Patient Mrs. was having trouble getting The Pecan to go to sleep and she had half a cocktail to finish, so it seemed only fair to tag in. I’d woken up early on account of said Pecan as well, his sort of nighttime mumblings varying between actual fuss, crying and a kind of sleepy coo, and decided to spend the extra hours organizing stuff on my new laptop, which I’ve dubbed The Silver Fox. Because it’s silver, you see. Yes, we’re all very clever over here.

Anyhoozle, kind of another rough night with the baby last night had me up at three. He was in the bed — something I swore up and down I wouldn’t let happen and then of course did — and had rolled toward me in such a way that I was against the wall pretty much pinned. By a kid who, at seven months, weighs about 18.5 pounds. Life does funny things to you. I woke up, enjoyed the snuggle-time for a bit, and then got up to work on the above post. Circa 5:30, The Patient Mrs. came out of the bedroom carrying the again-complaining baby — whose diaper I’d already changed at some point — and kind of at a loss for what to do. I went back to bed with both of them and sort of rocked him while standing up, a gentle bounce with his head on my shoulder and swayed back and forth until he was falling asleep, then got into bed while holding him basically the same way and he went out. We all caught a solid two hours of rest in that position and it’s early yet to call it (a little after 8 as I type this), but I think that might be the difference-maker on the day.

We’ll get in the car soon enough and head south from Connecticut, where we drove to yesterday for two magical hours of screaming-baby-in-the-car fun, to New Jersey, where once again we’re basically setting up shop for the summer. We’ll be back and forth between there and CT to hit the beach probably on weekends and/or various other times, and there’s still stuff that will need tending to in Massachusetts — The Patient Mrs.’ work commitments and the like — but it’ll be a lot of good family time over the summer with my people and her people and I’m looking forward to being in the New York area for probably the greatest amount of time in the half-decade since we moved away.

Around here, things will likely proceed as normal, if there is such a thing. Notes for next week look like this currently, but these things can and do change as you well know by now:

Mon: Demande a la Poussiere review/track premiere; Dust Lovers video premiere maybe.
Tue. Oresund Space collective review; Kal-El live video.
Wed. Orange Goblin review.
Thu.: Currently open. Maybe Astrosoniq review.
Fri.: King Heavy review/album stream.

Plus plenty of news and whatever else happens my way.

Ups and downs this week as ever, but I’m getting through. That’s the story from here.

I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Thanks for reading and stick around as there’s more good stuff to come. All the best. Forum and Radio.

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Friday Full-Length: Acrimony, Tumuli Shroomaroom

Posted in Bootleg Theater on September 20th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

Acrimony, Tumuli Shroomaroom (1997)

Who doesn’t want to get down with a little Acrimony? In the thrilling world of demographic research, there is a class of people known as “early adopters.” As a group, they want to be the first with a new piece of technology, new gadget, etc. They embrace new ideas and ways of thinking. I can’t come up with a better phrase than that to position UK outfit Acrimony when it comes to stoner rock’s ’90s heyday. While Electric Wizard wouldn’t release their self-titled debut until 1995 and Orange Goblin‘s Frequencies from Planet Ten didn’t surface until 1997, Acrimony issued their Hymns to the Stone debut in 1994. Yeah, it’s produced like a metal album — that was very much Acrimony‘s background; not a coincidence they wound up on Peaceville Records — but by the time they got around to 1997’s sophomore outing, Tumuli Shroomaroom, that metallic bite had smoothed out to a killer heavy rock and roll vibe, and Acrimony‘s groove help set the high standard to which the UK underground continues to aspire, songs like “Million Year Summer,” “Find the Path” with its “give me some Valium” urgings and the all-over-10-minutes closing trio of “Motherslug (The Mother of all Slugs),” “Heavy Feather” and “Firedance” consuming listeners with brilliantly executed nod that, if it showed up in my mailbox this week, I’d still be stoked on it.

Acrimony were also way more unabashedly stoner rock than many of their contemporaries. Their final release, a compilation titled Bong on – Live Long! came out in 2007, preceded by a 2003 split with Church of Misery, and while Acrimony may have been ahead of their time, Tumuli Shroomaroom is a record whose legend has continued to grow in spite of the band’s dissolution. Most of Acrimony — guitarist Stuart O’Hara, bassist Paul Bidmead and drummer Darren Ivey — can be found these days in Sigiriya, whose second offering, Darkness Died Today, was released earlier this year as their Candlelight Records debut following 2011’s re-debut, Return to Earth. Still, Acrimony‘s work stands out for what they did, how well they did it, and when they did it. They didn’t invent stoner rock, but they sure as hell got the gist of it quickly. I know these guys are at the top of a lot of reunion wishlists, and I wouldn’t complain about seeing them live at some point, but particularly with Sigiriya kicking around, I’m content to leave Acrimony‘s legacy untouched if that’s what the band would rather do. This record’s gonna kick ass forever one way or another.

Hope you enjoy.

Late night, right? I got back a bit ago from seeing Elder‘s return show in Cambridge. It was ElderRozamovSummoner and Set, which is quite possibly the best all-local lineup I’ve seen since I moved here. I’ll have to go back and check the archive on that one to be sure, but it certainly felt like it when I was at the show. I’ll have a review on Monday with some pictures from the so-dark-it-made-everyone-look-grim-and-black-metal Middle East Upstairs, but the quick version is it was an excellent time.

Also Monday, look out for a track premiere from Latitude Egress as they cross the line between blackened doom and doomed black metal, and later on in the week, new tracks from Larman Clamor and Angels of Meth, whose demo is being reissued — the band became Phantom Glue — on tape. Also hoping to get to see Earth on Tuesday and Uncle Acid on Thursday, so it’s going to be quite a week. Somewhere in there, I’d also finally like to give All Them Witches‘ Lightning at the Door a proper review, since they’ve now given it a proper release, but we’ll see how it is with hours in the day, there being only so many of them and whatnot.

Thanks to everyone who checked in for Vinyl Week this week, took a look at the records, entered a contest (or two), etc. It was a lot more work than I thought it was going to be, but a good time on the whole, so I appreciate you indulging me. I still have a bunch more vinyl to write about, so the week may be over, but the pile remains. More to come.

But not tonight. It’s well after 2AM here — early Saturday morning in the UK; I’ll confess I had GMT in mind when I picked Acrimony to end the week — and that’s time to put on some Mystery Science Theater 3000 and call it a night. If you’re in New York and attending the Uninvited festival this weekend, you have my jealousy, but wherever you might be and whatever you might be up to, I hope it’s fantastic. Be safe, have a blast, and we’ll see you back here on Monday.

Please don’t forget to check out the forum and the radio stream.

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Frydee Acrimony

Posted in Bootleg Theater on September 21st, 2012 by JJ Koczan

Yeah, I know I’ve closed out with Acrimony before, but I’ve decided to do a UK special next week, and as Acrimony were one of the best British stoner rock bands ever, I figured I could hardly go wrong. The clip above is for “Million Year Summer” from 1997’s Tumuli Shroomaroom. Great stuff that still sounds great 15 years later.

What exactly does a “UK special” entail? Well, for starters, the four or five reviews I do will all be of British bands. At very least, I’ll have Alunah, Groan, Litmus and Blut writeups. The kind souls in Undersmile also signed on to do a Six Dumb Questions feature, and I’ll hopefully have that before the end of the week, and I’ve been granted permission to stream the recent Black Magician release, so I’ll have that in as well. Toss in some On the Radars, maybe a Debate Rages and a Buried Treasure and you’ve got yourself a British special.

Of course, if there’s news or something like that that’s not about a UK band, I’ll have that too, but I thought it would be a fun thing to do since there’s so much happening over there right now. As always, I hope you’ll enjoy it.

I’ve got a couple email interviews to bang out this weekend, including one to Colour Haze in which I hope to have Stefan Koglek catalog the various hindrances to the release of their new album, She Said, so stay tuned for that maybe the week after this one coming. While I’m thinking about that record, thanks to everyone who took the time to read that review the other day. At the time, it was the longest review I ever wrote and probably the most detailed as well, so if you read it, I hope it was at least useful. If you missed the news that the CD of She Said is available, you can get it through Elektrohasch now.

And the reason I said “at the time” is because it was the longest and most detailed review I ever wrote… until today. It took me more than six hours to put together that Neurosis review for Honor Found in Decay this afternoon, but I genuinely felt it was worth the time and the attention and I hope that, whatever else came across, that did. One of those two will end up being my pick for album of the year, I have no doubt, but it’s going to come down to the wire as to which it actually is.

There’s a while before I have to pick and I’m thankful for that. In the meantime, I’ll try my best to bang out some work this weekend and get a little decompression time in if I can, maybe watch a little Star Trek tonight, sleep late tomorrow. I hope that works out.

And wherever you are and whatever you’ve got going, I hope you have a great and safe weekend. I’ll be kicking around on the forum zapping spambots and so forth, so if you’ve got a minute, feel free to say hey. See you there and back here on Monday for the start of that UK special and all kinds of riffly shenanigans.

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Frydee Acrimony

Posted in Bootleg Theater on June 17th, 2011 by JJ Koczan

After a solid six and a half hours of traffic hell driving — mostly in and out of the same rainstorm headed northeast — The Patient Mrs. and I are finally in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where we’ll be staying until Sunday for a friend’s wedding. Well, it’s one of her friends, anyway. I’m anticipating a maximum amount of social awkwardness on America’s own little fjord, but you do what you have to do, and I’ve only ever been to one dry wedding in my life, so there’s always that, plus hopefully some record shopping on the way back to Jersey whenever we finally leave.

It was a hell of a ride here though, I-195 flooded out in parts and whatnot. Acrimony, who you can hear in the clip above, was one of the bands that I brought along for the trip, which was also long enough so that I could hear both the Yankees lose and the Red Sox win on the radio. Whoever the Boston announcer is called it “Title Town, USA.” I guess they’re really feeling that Bruins victory up here. Good to know.

Stick around next week, when I’ll be counting down the Top Five of the First Half (TFFH) of 2011. It’s always a good time, and I did some work this week putting it together. I think I’ve got it nailed down, though honestly, both Elvis Deluxe and The Book of Knots, which were reviewed this week (here and here) could easily make the cut. These things are all about impulse anyway. Whatever, it’ll be fun.

I’ll have a long overdue review of Michigan rockers Mean Mother too, as well as my interview with Stevie Floyd of Dark Castle, which was awesome. And first or second thing Monday, I’ll have a track premiere of a new song from Swedish rockers The Quill. Their first album in half a decade is coming up for release, and the tune is definitely worth hearing, so yeah. Good stuff to come.

Hope you have a safe, enjoyable weekend. I’m gonna go make sure no spambots registered for the forum, then get to bed. Cheers.

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