From Spliff to Riff Fest Set for Oct. 21; Solace, Electric Horsemen, Green Meteor & More Confirmed

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 4th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Cool mix of bands taking part in the first-ever From Spliff to Riff fest this October in Allentown, Pennsylvania. The Alternative Gallery will play host to the event, and it’s worth noting that the top two acts on the bill — Solace and Electric Horsemen — are both relatively recently reformed. NJ chaosbringers Solace have been playing out sporadically since 2015 and earlier this year they released their first single since 2010’s A.D. (review here) in the form of the limited cassette  Bird of Ill-Omen (review here), which so far as I know has only been available at shows. In addition to headlining at From Spliff to Riff, they just topped the bill at the first NEPA Heavy-Psych-Doom fest in Stroudsberg, PA, and they’ll take part in the first Descendants of Crom festival in Pittsburgh this September as well.

Electric Horsemen, meanwhile, announced they were back just this past February. They posted a previously-recorded single and set about playing locally in the Eastern Pennsylvania region, and should be right at home at The Alternative Gallery in the company of fellow PA-based acts like HighburnatorLord CrowGreen MeteorThe Stone Eye and Mudbucker, as well as Black Hand, who will come north from Delaware to play.

Pretty strong group of locals to inaugurate what will hopefully become a yearly tradition. Here’s the lineup info and links as posted on the Thee Facebooks event page:

From Spliff to Riff banner

From Spliff To Riff Fest

OCT. 21

The Alternative Gallery
707 N 4th St, Ste 103, Allentown, Pennsylvania 18102

First annual “From Spliff To Riff Fest”

8 bands, 2 stages, a full day of heaviness in the heart of downtown Allentown at The Alternative Gallery! More details to come, but for now, just chew on this lineup!

SOLACE (NJ)
http://www.facebook.com/SolaceBand/
ELECTRIC HORSEMEN (PA)
https://www.facebook.com/electrichorsemen/
HIGHBURNATOR (PA)
https://www.facebook.com/highburnatorband/
LORD CROW (PA)
https://www.facebook.com/lordcrowriffs/
GREEN METEOR (PA)
https://www.facebook.com/greenmeteor/
BLACK HAND (DE)
https://www.facebook.com/BlackHandMarksYou/
THE STONE EYE (PA)
https://www.facebook.com/TheStoneEye/
MUDBUCKER (PA)
https://www.facebook.com/mudbucker/

https://www.facebook.com/events/209122586283542/
https://www.facebook.com/thealternativegallery/

Solace, “Indolence” live at the Brighton Bar, June 24, 2017

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Quarterly Review: Novembers Doom, Abrams, The Grand Astoria, Hosoi Bros, Codeia, Ealdor Bealu, Stone Lotus, Green Yeti, Seer, Bretus

Posted in Reviews on July 13th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-summer-2017

So, after kvetching and hemming and hawing and all that other stuff that basically means ‘fretting and trying to shuffle a schedule around’ for the last several days, I think I’ve now found a way to add a sixth day to this Quarterly Review. Looking at all the records that still need to be covered even after doing 50, I don’t really see any other way to go. I could try to do more The Obelisk Radio adds to fit things in, but I don’t want to over-tax that new server, so yeah, I’m waiting at the moment to hear back on whether or not I can move a premiere from Monday to Tuesday to make room. Fingers crossed. I’ve already got the albums picked out that would be covered and should know by tomorrow if it’s going to happen.

Plenty to do in the meantime, so let’s get to it.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Novembers Doom, Hamartia

novembers-doom-hamartia

Look. Let’s be honest here. More than 20 years and 10 records in, one knows at least on a superficial level what to expect from Chicago’s Novembers Doom. Since their first album arrived in 1995, they’ve played to one side or the other between the spectrum of death-doom, and their work legitimately broke ground in the style for a US band and in general. After a push over their last couple albums including 2014’s Bled White (review here) into more deathly fare, Hamartia (on The End Records) brings 10 tracks and 58 minutes of the melancholy dramas – special hello to the piano/acoustic-led title-track – and gut-wrenching, crushingly emotive miseries – special hello to “Waves in the Red Cloth” and “Ghost” – that have defined them. One doesn’t expect a radical departure from them at this point and they don’t deliver one even as they turn to another side of their overarching aesthetic, but whether it’s the still-propulsive death gallop of “Apostasy” or the lush nine-minute finale “Borderline,” Novembers Doom reinforce their position as absolute masters of the style and give their longtime fans another collection of vital woes in which to revel.

Novembers Doom on Thee Facebooks

The End Records website

 

Abrams, Morning

abrams morning

Not a hair out of place in the execution of Morning, the Sailor Records second long-player from Denver three-piece Abrams (interview here). That has its ups and downs, naturally, but is suited to the band’s take on modern progressive heavy rock à la newer Mastodon and Baroness, and with production from Andy Patterson (of SubRosa) and Dave Otero (Khemmis, Cephalic Carnage, etc.), the crisp feel is both purposeful and well earned. Their 2015 debut, Lust. Love. Loss. (review here), dealt with a similar emotional landscape, but bassist/vocalist Taylor Iversen, guitarist/vocalist Zachary Amster and drummer Geoffrey Cotton are tighter and more aggressive here on songs like opener “Worlds Away” (video posted here), “At the End,” “Rivers,” “Can’t Sleep” and “Burned” (video posted here), and “Mourning,” “In this Mask” and closer “Morning” balance in terms of tempo and overall atmosphere, making Morning more than just a collection of master-blasters and giving it a full album’s flow and depth. Like I said, not a hair out of place. Structure, performance, delivery, theme. Abrams have it all precisely where they want it.

Abrams on Thee Facebooks

Abrams on Bandcamp

 

The Grand Astoria, The Fuzz of Destiny

the-grand-astoria-the-fuzz-of-destiny

Dubbed an EP but running 29 minutes and boasting eight tracks, The Grand Astoria’s The Fuzz of Destiny is something of a conceptual release, with the St. Petersburg, Russia-based outfit paying homage to the effect itself. Each song uses a different kind of fuzz pedal, and as the ever-nuanced, progressive outfit make their way through the blown-out pastoralism of opener “Sunflower Queen” and into the nod of “Pocket Guru,” the organ-inclusive bursting fury of “Glass Walls” and the slower and more consuming title-track itself, which directly precedes closer “Eight Years Anniversary Riff” – yup, it’s a riff alright – they’re able to evoke a surprising amount of variety in terms of mood. That’s a credit to The Grand Astoria as songwriters perhaps even more than the differences in tone from song to song here – they’ve certainly shown over their tenure a will to embrace a diverse approach – but in giving tribute to fuzz, The Fuzz of Destiny successfully conveys some of the range a single idea can be used to conjure.

The Grand Astoria on Thee Facebooks

The Grand Astoria on Bandcamp

 

Hosoi Bros., Abuse Your Allusion III

hosoi-bros-abuse-your-allusion-iii

Oh, they’re up to it again, those Hosoi Bros. Their 2016 full-length, Abuse Your Allusion III, from its Guns ‘n’ Roses title reference through the Motörhead riffing of “Saint Tightus” through the stoner punk of “Topless Gnome” and the chugging scorch of the penultimate “Bitches are Nigh” offer primo charm and high-order shenanigans amid the most professional-sounding release of their career. Across a quick 10 tracks and 36 minutes, Hosoi Bros. readily place themselves across the metal/punk divide, and while there’s plenty of nonsense to be had from opener “Mortician” onward through “Lights Out” (video premiere here) and the later swagger of “Unholy Hand Grenade,” the band have never sounded more cohesive in their approach than they do on Abuse Your Allusion III, and the clean production only seems to highlight the songwriting at work underneath all the zany happenings across the record’s span, thereby doing them and the band alike a service as they make a convincing argument to their audience: Have fun. Live a little. It won’t hurt that much.

Hosoi Bros on Thee Facebooks

Hosoi Bros. on Bandcamp

 

Codeia, “Don’t be Afraid,” She Whispered and Disappeared

codeia-dont-be-afraid-she-whispered-and-disappeared

There’s actually very little that gets “Lost in Translation” in the thusly-titled 22-minute opener and longest cut (immediate points) of German post-metallers Codeia’s cumbersomely-named Backbite Records debut album, “Don’t be Afraid,” She Whispered and Disappeared. With heavy post-rock textures and an overarching sense of cerebral progressivism to its wash underscored by swells of low-end distortion, the three-piece of guitarist/backing vocalist Markus L., bassist/vocalist Denis S. and drummer Timo L. bring to bear patience out of the peak-era Isis or Cult of Luna sphere, sudden volume shifts, pervasive ambience, flourish of extremity and all. Nine-minute centerpiece “Shaping Stone” has its flash of aggression early before shifting into hypnotic and repetitive groove and subsequent blastbeaten furies, and 16-minute closer “Facing Extinction” caps the three-song/48-minute offering with nodding Russian Circles-style chug topped with growls that mask the layer of melodic drone filling out the mix beneath. They’re on familiar stylistic ground, but the breadth, depth and complexity Codeia bring to their extended structures are immersive all the same.

Codeia on Thee Facebooks

Backbite Records website

Mountain Range Creative Factory website

 

Ealdor Bealu, Dark Water at the Foot of the Mountain

ealdor-bealu-dark-water-at-the-foot-of-the-mountain

“Water Cycle,” the 13-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) of Ealdor Bealu’s debut full-length, Dark Water at the Foot of the Mountain, introduces a meditative feel and a breadth of sound that helps to define everything that follows. The ostensible side B leadoff of the self-release, “This too Shall Endure” (11:04), offers no less depth of atmosphere, and the graceful psychedelic expanses of the penultimate “Behind the Veil” continue to add to the overall scope with interplay of tempo variety and acoustic and electric guitar, but even earlier, shorter cuts like the wistful indie rocker “Deep Dark Below” and the linear-building “Behold the Sunrise” have an underlying progressivism that ties them to the longer form material, and likewise the particularly exploratory feeling “Ebb and Flow,” which though it’s the shortest cut at just over five minutes resonates as a standout jam ahead of “Behind the Veil” and subtly proggy seven-minute closer “Time Traveler.” The Boise-based four-piece of guitarist/vocalist/spearhead Carson Russell, guitarist Travis Abbott (also The Western Mystics), bassist/vocalist Rylie Collingwood and drummer/percussionist/saxophonist Alex Wargo bring the 56-minute offering to bear with marked patience and impress in the complexity of their arrangements and the identifiable human core that lies beneath them.

Ealdor Bealu on Thee Facebooks

Ealdor Bealu on Bandcamp

 

Stone Lotus, Comastone

I can take spicier foods than I ever could before.

One might consider the title of “Mountain of Filth,” the second cut on Stone Lotus’ debut album, Comastone, a mission statement for the Southwestern Australian trio’s vicious ‘n’ viscous brand of rolling, tonal-molasses sludge. Yeah, the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Dave Baker, bassist Samuel Noire and drummer Reece Fleming bring ambience to the interlude “Aum,” the slower loud/quiet shifts in “Anthropocene” and the subsequent “Umbra” that leads into the creepy launch of the title-track – in fact, quiet starts are something of a theme throughout Comastone; even the thudding toms that begin opener “Swamp Coven” pale in comparison to the volume swell of massive distortion that follows closely behind – but it’s the rhythmic lumber and the harsh vocals from Baker that define their course through the darker recesses of sludged-out misanthropy. No complaints there, especially on a first long-player, but Stone Lotus are right to keep in mind the flourish of atmosphere their material offers, and one hopes that develops parallel to all the crushing weight of their mountainous approach.

Stone Lotus on Thee Facebooks

Stone Lotus on Bandcamp

 

Green Yeti, Desert Show

I'm not sure if that's an effect of dropping carbs or how it would be, but it's strange.

Even before it announces its heft, Green Yeti’s Desert Show casts forth its spaciousness. The second offering from the Athens-based trio in as many years dogwhistles heavy riffing intent even unto its David Paul Seymour album cover, but the five track rollout from guitarist/vocalist Michael Andresakis, bassist/producer Danis Avramidis and drummer Giannis Koutroumpis, as it shifts from the opening salvo of “Black Planets (Part 1)” and “Black Planets (Part 2)” into the Spanish-language centerpiece “Rojo” (direct homage perhaps to Los Natas? if so, effectively done) and into the broader-ranging “Bad Sleep (Part 1)” and 15-minute closer “Bad Sleep (Part 2)” builds just as much on its atmosphere as on its newer-school stoner rock groove and fuzz riffing. It is a 41-minute span that, without question, speaks to the heavy rock converted and plays to genre, but even taken next to the band’s 2016 debut, The Yeti has Landed, Desert Show demonstrates clear growth in writing and style, and stands as further proof of the emergence of Greece as a major contributor to the sphere of Europe’s heavy underground. Something special is happening in and outside of Athens. Green Yeti arrive at the perfect time to be a part of it.

Green Yeti on Thee Facebooks

Green Yeti on Bandcamp

 

Seer, Victims

seer victims

Let’s just assume that Seer won’t be asked to play at Dorney Park anytime soon. The Allentown, Pennsylvania, three-piece dig into largesse-minded instrumental riffing someplace between doom and sludge and do so on raw, formative fashion on the two-song Victims EP, which features the tracks “Victims… Aren’t We All?” and “Swollen Pit,” which is a redux from their 2015 debut short release, Vaped Remains. Some touch of Electric Wizard-style wah in Rybo’s guitar stands out in the second half of the opener, and the closer effectively moves from its initial crawl into post-Sleep stonerized idolatry, but the point of Victims isn’t nearly as much about scope as it is about Rybo, bassist Kelsi and drummer Yvonne setting forth on a stomping path of groove and riff worship, rumbling sans pretense loud enough to crack the I-78 corridor and offering the clever equalizer recommendation to put the bass, treble and mids all at six. Think about it for a second. Not too long though.

Seer on Thee Facebooks

Seer on Bandcamp

 

Bretus, From the Twilight Zone

bretus-from-the-twilight-zone

Doom! Horror! Riffs! Though it starts out with quiet acoustics and unfolds in echoing weirdness, Bretus’ new album, …From the Twilight Zone, more or less shouts these things from the proverbial cathedral rafters throughout its seven tracks. The Catanzaro, Italy, foursome weren’t shy about bringing an air of screamy sludge to their 2015 sophomore outing, The Shadow over Innsmouth (discussed here), but …From the Twilight Zone shifts more toward a Reverend Bizarre trad doom loyalism that suits the Endless Winter release remarkably well. Those acoustics pop up again in expanded-breadth centerpiece/highlight “Danza Macabra” and closer “Lizard Woman,” and thereby provide something of a narrative thread to the offering as a whole, but on the level of doom-for-doomers, there’s very little about the aesthetic that Bretus leave wanting throughout, whether it’s the faster-chug into drifting fluidity of “The Murder” or the nodding stomp of “In the Vault” (demo posted here) and crypto-NWOBHM flourish of “Old Dark House” (video posted here). Not trying to remake doom in their own image, but conjuring an eerie and engaging take in conversation with the masters of the form.

Bretus on Thee Facebooks

Endless Winter Records

 

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Live Review: Clutch, Mondo Generator and Saviours in Allentown, PA, 12.30.12

Posted in Reviews on January 2nd, 2013 by JJ Koczan

How bummed was I to miss Wino opening for Clutch, you ask? Well I was super friggin’ bummed. Thanks for rubbing it in. Between parking and standing on line to get into Crocodile Rock, I missed his set entirely to the point that I thought maybe he was going on after Saviours and before Mondo Generator, or maybe even after Mondo Generator and before Clutch, where they could transition from one set to another by launching into “Red Horse Rainbow” from Pure Rock Fury, on the album version of which Wino guested on guitar. No such luck. Turns out I just missed him.

It was a shitter way to start out an otherwise great night. Saviours were just getting ready to start up when I walked in. In all the years I’ve been going to shows, this was my first time at Crocodile Rock, which reminded me a bit of the Machine Shop in Flint, MI, in its late-’90s vibe. They were around for nü-metal and had the framed pictures on the wall of Union and Ill Nino to prove it. The sound wasn’t bad, but the place was already packed and only became more so. Doubtless a good portion of the crowd came as refugees from the originally scheduled Starland Ballroom show, unfortunately canceled in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy while that venue, which was flooded out, rebuilds and regroups.

But for missing Wino (I mean, seriously, how do I miss Wino? I’m Mr. Wino Wednesday — you’d think I’d just have like a Wino-dar to go off and let me know when he’s playing), the evening had much to offer. Clutch rolling through on their annual holiday run playing no fewer than four new songs from the forthcoming Earth Rocker, a reinvigorated Mondo Generator, and Saviours, who I hadn’t seen in three years since they hit Brooklyn supporting Saint Vitus. Not much had changed, though their stonerly riffer’s thrash seemed all the more Californian perhaps because it was 20 degrees outside and half the crowd had their winter coats on. Some stuff is just better left to warmer weather.

Still, the band seemed to waste no time in winning over any skeptics who might have been present. “Crucifire,” from their full-length debut of the same name, was especially visceral, with guitarists Austin Barber and Sonny Reinhardt doing classic metal harmonics for an audience that seemed to appreciate the Maiden influence. Bassist Carson Binks and drummer Scott Batiste made a formidable rhythm section beneath the rampant soloing, locking in fast grooves in a kind of insistent thrust, all thrash but aware too of classic metal and hints of doomed thickness. Whatever else you can say about Saviours, they’ve always effectively straddled genre lines, and though I basically missed the boat on their 2011 album, Death’s Procession, they made a resounding statement in its favor by closing with “Crete’n” from it. If I’d been able to get to the merch table from where I was standing, I’d probably have bought a copy.

Ditto that for Mondo Generator‘s 2012 offering, Hell Comes to Your Heart, because whatever else you can say about Nick Oliveri‘s many adventures — in and out of Kyuss Lives/Vista Chino, on probation for a well-publicized swat team incident, etc. — he fucking brought it to Croc Rock. I was surprised, though I probably shouldn’t have been. He’s got more than enough presence to front a band, and though in Mondo Generator, the focus is largely on the abrasive-type edge he brought to Queens of the Stone Age during his tenure there, his songwriting core remains above average. I’m a firm believer that neither he nor Josh Homme are as strong separately as they are together, but I suppose you could say the same for any number of pivotal collaborations. Either way, the band behind him was tight, and they threw in enough QOTSA material — opening with “Ode to Clarissa” and also sprinkling “Gonna Leave You” and “Millionaire” throughout — to keep any attention that might have otherwise wandered, my own included.

At least from where I was standing, it seemed like a pretty hip room, so I think most people knew what and whom they were watching, though I heard someone comment that they must have been from NJ because guitarist Ian Taylor was wearing a shirt that said “Don’t Mess with Jersey” on the front. That led me to wonder what it might be like to see Mondo Generator without any of the context of Oliveri‘s time in Kyuss, Queens of the Stone Age, etc., and just to take it all on the level of “some band opening for Clutch.” I think I’d still call them a solid stage act, but the level of appreciation would undoubtedly be different, as when they closed with “13th Floor” from 2000’s Cocaine Rodeo, realizing the song also appeared on QOTSA‘s Rated R as “Tension Head.” It’s the little things. In any case, for never having caught Oliveri‘s outfit live before, they impressed, and his bass tone remains enviable pretty much unto itself.

I was still holding out hope that Wino might just jump on stage for a couple acoustic songs before Clutch got going, but no dice. It would’ve been hard to follow the unhinged punkisms of Mondo Generator anyway, and the crowd around me didn’t exactly look like the unplugged type. Dudes in Fear Factory and Deftones shirts, Black Label Society and so forth. Sometimes I forget how distinguishable “heavy” and “metal” can be, but it’s cool, or at least it was once Clutch took the stage. They were universally agreed upon.

The set opened with “The Mob Goes Wild” and went right into “Walking in the Great Shining Path of Monster Trucks” from Transnational Speedway League: Anthems, Anecdotes and Undeniable Truths. That Clutch would hit up their full-length debut — which turns 20 in 2013 — at all was a shocker, but to do it so early in the set even more so. By the time they got around to some of the new songs, though, it made sense. Following “50,000 Unstoppable Watts” from 2009’s Strange Cousins from the West, the landmark Maryland foursome dove headfirst into “Crucial Velocity,” which was as straight-ahead and aggressive a song from them as I’ve heard since 2001’s Pure Rock Fury. They’ve said all along that was their intent for Earth Rocker, or at least how things wound up, but still, “Crucial Velocity” hit with a surprising swiftness from a band who’ve spent their last three records reveling in blues and funk influences almost exclusively.

Nothing against either approach. Frankly, Clutch could do whatever the hell they want and their audience, likely myself included, would be along for the ride. And if Clutch have in fact decided to take an approach more similar to their earlier noise-rocking days — some of the stuff I’ve heard from Earth Rocker bears that out, some less so; I’ve yet to listen the whole album and can only go on what I’ve seen them do live — it makes an interesting kind of sense in terms of how they relate one album to the next. Interview fodder, if nothing else. They backed “Crucial Velocity” with “Gravel Road,” frontman Neil Fallon picking up his slide and joining Tim Sult on guitar, while bassist Dan Maines — who I ‘m pretty sure was in the pocket before he even walked on stage — and drummer Jean-Paul Gaster held together a semi-extended jam that seemed to indicate that Clutch are working on reconciling the different aspects of their musical personality, still developing after more than 22 years.

“Earth Rocker” itself, the title-track of the upcoming album, reads more or less like a manifesto. Lines like, “If you’re gonna do it, do it live on stage/Or don’t do it at all,” and, “I don’t need your stinkin’ laminate/I don’t need your VIP/I don’t need your dedications/’Cause I wear it on my sleeve,” certainly back that up, and Fallon makes a convincing case with Clutch‘s roadtime bolstering his argument. The chorus was smoother in Allentown even than when I saw them play the track in Jersey in October. Once again offsetting old and new, “Earth Rocker” shot into “A Shogun Named Marcus,” and though I’d seen the setlist beforehand to take a picture of it, it was still a palpable thrill when they threw in “Regulator” from 2004’s Blast Tyrant — their first collaboration with producer Machine, who also helmed the new album. Have I mentioned Clutch have a new record coming yet? Oh, I have? Okay then.

One hopes you’ll forgive the overkill on the point, but honestly, seeing the new stuff was a big part of the reason I wanted to catch the show, Clutch‘s holiday tour tradition notwithstanding. “Cyborg Betty” seemed like it needed some more time to set in than the other two — or maybe that’s just because I didn’t know it as well — though it did well shifting into “Child of the City” from From Beale Street to Oblivion, which is a cut I initially wrote off when the record came out but has since become a favorite live, and “Cypress Grove” once again from Blast Tyrant, the pair of songs united by a heavy stomp that is definitively Clutch‘s own, and before I knew it, the show was almost over. I stayed up front the whole time, having kind of hollowed out a niche near the security barricade, and waited for “D.C. Sound Attack,” positioned as the penultimate feature of the regular set, right before “Electric Worry.”

That’s pretty good company to keep, especially for a new song, but Clutch seemed to be betting that the harmonica and midsection cowbell jam would find favor even among people unfamiliar with the song as a whole, and they were right. Probably also helped that “D.C. Sound Attack” has one of those choruses you seem to want to sing along to even before it’s over the first time — “Hell hounds on your trail/What a pity/But that’s the price you pay/Shaking hands in Necro City” — but no question that the place went off when Fallon picked up the cowbell from his mic stand. They seemed like they were still nailing down some of the transitions, and especially compared to “Cypress Grove” or “Child of the City,” two songs Clutch could probably play in their sleep if they were so inclined, “D.C. Sound Attack” seemed particularly new, but they killed it nonetheless, and one imagines that by the time Earth Rocker is out and they come back through with Orange Goblin in tow, the response will be significant.

When they came back out for an encore following “Electric Worry” — a fight broke out in the middle of the song and Fallon called it “boring” — the joke was that it was for “a couple more thrashers,” but with “Animal Farm” from 1995’s self-titled and “Pure Rock Fury,” that kind of turned out to be the case. They ripped through one song and then the next, both are classics in the Clutch canon at this point, and then were gone, offstage just past midnight. It seemed like a fast 90 minutes, but there you go.

By the time I got home about 95 minutes later, I could already feel the cold I’d been nursing come to its full brunt, and though I consoled myself for missing Wino by saying I’d catch him in Brooklyn with Mondo Generator and Saviours as their tour continues following the end of the Clutch holiday run, I left work early on account of feeling like crap and now know that’s not the case. So it goes. But though I spent Dec. 31 in full-on dead duck mode, hopped up (down?) on NyQuil and barely conscious, I still feel like I sent out 2012 in high spirits for having seen Clutch one more time before hanging up the new calendar.

Extra pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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