Quarterly Review: CHRCH, Bongripper, King Chiefs, Bonnacons of Doom, Boar, June Bug, Tired Lord, Bert, Zen Bison, Wheel in the Sky

Posted in Reviews on July 16th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-CALIFORNIA-LANDSCAPE-Julian-Rix-1851-1903

You know the deal by now, I’m sure: 50 reviews this week between now and Friday, in batches of 10 per day. It’s an unholy amount of music, but those who really dig in always seem to find something cool within a Quarterly Review. Frankly, with this much to choose from, I’d certainly hope so. I’m not going to delay at all, except to say thanks in advance for coming along on this one. It’s got some core-heavy and some-not-really-core-heavy stuff all bundled next to each other, so yeah, your patience is appreciated. Okay. No time like the present. Let’s do it.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

CHRCH, Light Will Consume Us All

chrch light will consume us all

Yeah, yeah, yeah, the songs are long. Blah blah blah it’s heavy as whatever kind of construction equipment you could want to name. What’s even more striking about Los Angeles doomers CHRCH’s Neurot Recordings debut, Light Will Consume Us All, is the sense of atmosphere. The follow-up to 2015’s massively well-received Unanswered Hymns (review here) is comprised of three songs presented in descending time order from opener/longest track (immediate points) “Infinite” (20:41) to centerpiece “Portals” (14:50) and closer “Aether” (9:29) and it finds CHRCH refining the unremitting patience of their rollout, so that even when “Aether” explodes in its second half to charred blastbeating and abrasive screams, the ambience is still dense enough to feel it in one’s lungs. CHRCH keep up this level of progression and soon enough someone’s going to call them post-something or other. As it stands, their second album builds righteously on the achievements of their debut, and is a revelation in its bleakness.

CHRCH on Thee Facebooks

Neurot Recordings website

 

Bongripper, Terminal

bongripper terminal

Pressed up as ever in DIY fashion, Bongripper’s Terminal presents two gargantuan slabs – one per vinyl side – that only seem to highlight the strengths in the Chicago instrumentalists’ approach. The tones are huge, the grooves nodding, the impact of each kick drum forceful. Repetition is central, that feeling of aural mass and destructiveness, but neither is Terminal – comprised of “Slow” (25:11) and “Death” (18:15) – lacking a sense of atmosphere. After 21 minutes of grueling pummel, “Slow” devolves into droning layers of noise wash and quiet guitar to finish out, and “Death” seems to hold onto an echoing lead in its closing minutes that accomplishes much the same thing in broadening the atmosphere overall. I don’t know if the two songs were composed to fit together –the titles would hint yes – but they invariably do, and as “Death” unleashes a more insistent punch before turning to a post-YOB gallop, it reconfirms Bongripper’s worship-worthy place in the stoner doom milieu, how their sound can be so familiar in its threat and yet so much their own.

Bongripper on Bandcamp

Bongripper webstore

 

King Chiefs, Blue Sonnet

King Chiefs Blue Sonnet

Born as Chiefs ahead of their 2015 debut album, Tomorrow’s Over (review here), Arizona-based four-piece King Chiefs make their own first outing in the form of the easily-digestible desert rocker Blue Sonnet (on Roosevelt Row and Cursed Tongue Records), comprised of 10 tracks running just under 40 minutes of older-school laid back heavy, swinging easy on cuts like “Surely Never” and “Drifter” while still finding some Helmeted aggressive edge in the riffs of “Slug” and “Walk the Plank.” The overarching focus is on songwriting, however, and King Chiefs hone in cleverly on ‘90s-era desert rock’s post-grunge sensibility, so that their material seems ready for an alternative radio that no longer exists. Such as it is, they do just fine without, and hooks pervade the two-guitar outfit’s material in natural and memorable fashion all the way to five-and-a-half-minute closer “Shrine of the Beholder,” which embraces some broader textures without losing the structural focus that serves so well on the songs before it.

King Chiefs on Thee Facebooks

Roosevelt Row Records website

Cursed Tongue Records website

 

Bonnacons of Doom, Bonnacons of Doom

bonnacons of doom bonnacons of doom

Heavy psychedelic experimentalism pervades the Rocket Recordings-issued self-titled debut album from Liverpool collective Bonnacons of Doom, rife with tripout ritualism and exploration of sound as it is, all chasing light and getting freaky in any sense you want to read it. Five tracks, each a voyage unto itself – even the bass-fuzzy push of shortest cut “Rhizome” (5:55) is cosmos-bound – feed into the larger weirdness at play that culminates in the undulating grooves of “Plantae” (8:39), which is perhaps the most solidified cut in terms of choruses, verses, etc., but still a molten, headphone-worthy freakout that pushes the limits of psychedelia and still holds itself together. If the album was a to-do list, it would read as follows: “Eat mushrooms. Get naked. Dance around. Repeat.” Whether you do or don’t is ultimately up to you, but Bonnacons of Doom make a pretty convincing argument in favor, and I don’t generally consider myself much of a dancer. Among the most individualized psych debuts I’ve heard in a long time.

Bonnacons of Doom on Thee Facebooks

Rocket Recordings on Bandcamp

 

Boar, Poseidon

Boar Poseidon

Poseidon, at six songs and 39 minutes, is the second long-player from Finnish four-piece Boar. Released on vinyl with no shortage of backing — Lost Pilgrims Records, Dissonant Society, Impure Muzik, S.K.O.D., Rämekuukkeli-levyt – it hurls forth a High on Fire-informed vision of noise rock on its opening title-track only to take on a slower roll in the subsequent “Shahar’s Son” and dig into massive crashing on “12.” Using echo to add a sense of depth all the while, they scream in tradeoffs à la Akimbo and boogie in “Featherless” and seem to find a post-metallic moment on “Dark Skies” before closing with the alternately brooding and scathing “Totally out of This World,” the song sort of falling apart into the feedback and noise that ends the album. There’s a persistent sense of violence happening, but it’s as much inward as outward, and though some of Boar’s most effective moments are in that rawness, there’s something to be said for the contemplation at the outset of “Shahar’s Son” and “12” as well.

Boar on Thee Facebooks

Boar on Bandcamp

 

June Bug, A Thousand Days

June bug A Thousand Days

Seemingly unrestrained by genre, the Lille, France-based duo June BugJune on vocals and multiple instruments and Beryl on backing vocals and multiple instruments – dig into some post-punk nudge on early cut “Reasons” from their debut album, A Thousand Days (Atypeek Music) after the folkish melodies of opener “Now,” but whether it’s the fuzzy indie vibes of “Freaks” or the harmonies, electronics and acoustic guitar of “Let it Rest,” or the keyboard-handclaps, lower tones and poppish instrumental hook of centerpiece “Mama,” there’s plenty of variety throughout. What ties the differing vibes and richly nuanced approach together is the vocals, which are mostly subdued and at times hyper-stylized, but never seem to fail to keep melodicism as their central operating method. That remains true on the subdued “Does it Matter” and the beat-laden “Silenced” at the album’s finish and brings everything together with an overarching sense of joy that holds firm despite shifts in mood and approach, making the complete front-to-back listen as satisfying as it might seem all over the place.

June Bug on Thee Facebooks

Atypeek Music website

 

Tired Lord, Demo

tired lord demo

Released by the band last year, the four-song Demo by San Francisco outfit Tired Lord has been picked up for an official cassette issue through From Corners Unknown Records and will reportedly be the only release from the black metal/sludge genre-benders. Presumably that means they broke up, rather than just refuse to ever record again, though the latter possibility intrigues as well and would be meta-black metal. Spearheaded by guitarist Bryce Olson, Tired Lord effectively bring a thickness of tone to charred riffing, and a balance between screams and growls brings a cast of general extremity to the material. So I guess this is the part where I’m supposed to regret their dissolution and wish they’d do a proper release. Fair enough for the brutal chug in “Serpent’s Ascent” and the 7:51 closer “Astaroth,” which one wouldn’t mind hearing fleshed out from their current form. Failing that, one of the 30 tape copies pressed of Demo seems like decent consolation. At least while they’re there for the getting and before Tired Lord go gleefully into that black metal demo tape ether where so many seem to dwell.

From Corners Unknown Records on Thee Facebooks

From Corners Unknown Records website

 

BerT, Relics from Time Zero

bert relics from time zero

Lansing, Michigan, trio BerT – bassist Phil Clark and brothers Ryan (guitar) and Rael (drums) Andrews – broke up. They even put out a posthumous rare tracks release in 2017’s The Lost Toes (review here), so what’s left? Well, another album, of course. Intended as a sequel to the sci-fi narrative of the never-released long-player Return to the Electric Church, the five-track/35-minute Relics from Time Zero is unfinished, sans vocals where they might otherwise be, and basically a look at what might’ve been had the band not dissolved. For those prior-exposed to the once-prolific heavy rock bizarros, some of the proceedings will seem familiar: riffs are plentiful and fluid in their tempo changes from driving rock to droned-out stomp, and there seems to be about 1.5 of them in the four-minute “In the Cave of the Batqueen,” so but for the fact that it’s not done, I’d just about call it business as usual for BerT. I know they’re done and all, but I still wouldn’t mind hearing these songs with some lyrics, let alone the record this one was intended to follow-up. Either way, even defunct, BerT remain on their own wavelength.

BerT on Thee Facebooks

BerT on Bandcamp

 

Zen Bison, Krautrocker

zen bison krautrocker

Classic-style heavy rock riffing pervades opener “Blow My Mind” (5:47) and the subsequent “Backseat Lovers” (5:15) – somewhere between Stubb and Radio Moscow — on Zen Bison’s debut LP, Krautrocker, but as the five-track/42-minute self-release moves into the 11-minute title-track, guitarist/vocalist Philipp Ott, bassist Steffen Fischer and drummer Martin Konopka – joined by organist Hans Kirschner and percussionist Bobby Müller –move into deeper-grooving and more psychedelic fare. That turn suits the mostly-live-recorded outfit well on the longer instrumental piece, and that leads to a side B with the likewise-sans-vocals “La Madrugada” (9:56) and the closing cover of Don Nix’s blues rocker “Going Down” (10:24), jammed out at the end in its middle and end with quick return to the chorus between. There isn’t much on Krautrocker one might actually consider krautrock in the traditional sense, but there’s certainly plenty of rock to go around on the impressive and varied first offering from the Rostock trio.

Zen Bison on Thee Facebooks

Zen Bison on Bandcamp

 

Wheel in the Sky, Beyond the Pale

wheel in the sky beyond the pale

From opener “Rivers of Dust” onward, Wheel in the Sky’s second album, Beyond the Pale (on The Sign Records), proffers classy and classic digs, informed by a heavy ‘70s uptempo spirit on its title-track and moving into more complex volume and arrangement shifts in “Burn Babylon Burn” (video premiere here) and a poppy, goth-informed hook on “The Only Dead Girl in the City,” all the while held together through a quality of songwriting that even the band’s 2015 debut, Heading for the Night (review here), seemed to hint toward. It’s a mover, to be sure, but Wheel in the Sky execute their material with poise and a sense of clear intention, and no matter where they seem to go, their tonality and natural production assures the listener has an easy time tagging along. Might be a sleeper for some, but there are going to be people who really, really dig this album, and I’ve got no argument with them.

Wheel in the Sky on Thee Facebooks

The Sign Records website

 

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King Chiefs to Release Blue Sonnet on Cursed Tongue Records

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 22nd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

king chiefs

After making their full-length debut under their original moniker of Chiefs with Tomorrow’s Over (review here) in 2015, the redubbed King Chiefs (a promotion!) issued their second album, Blue Sonnet, in February of this year. With it, the now-four-piece reaffirmed their Southwest-born commitment to the tenets of classic desert rock as well as to their own songwriting. A collection of memorable tracks resulted and today word has come down from Cursed Tongue Records that it will press Blue Sonnet to vinyl with the usual deluxe-style treatment headed toward a release this coming October. While the cover art should certainly make for a gorgeous 12″ sleeve, it’s of course the songs themselves that will be the highlight of the LP edition, as King Chiefs plainly show their desert affiliations in 10 tracks and 39 minutes of high-grade vibe and hooks a-plenty.

The album, since it’s already released, is streaming in full at the bottom of this post, and also available on CD through Roosevelt Row Records. Info follows courtesy of the PR wire:

king chiefs blue sonnet

KING CHIEFS SIGNS TO CURSED TONGUE RECORDS FOR WORLD WIDE RELEASE OF THEIR SECOND ALBUM ‘BLUE SONNET’ IN OCTOBER 2018.

Cursed Tongue Records is thrilled to announce the signing of Phoenix, AZ based King Chiefs for a release of their sophomore full length album entitled ‘Blue Sonnet’ in October 2018.

Any journey begins with a single, small step and as such, the newly renamed King Chiefs’ journey began as a compact but powerful two-piece band in the Phoenix, Arizona area in 2012. Originally known as simply Chiefs, they play that type of blazing desert rock that can only be forged under the harsh gaze of the Sonoran sun. After releasing a couple early demos and playing numerous show around the Phoenix valley, the band expended it’s reach with a series of small regional tours that eventually led to the band relocating to California. Shortly after settling down in San Diego, the band self-released a four song demo titled Buffalo Roam, which found them embarking on numerous tours around the Southwest and West Coast.

Over time the band grew, first to a three-piece, then finally adding a permanent bass player and lead guitar player to morph into the four-piece form they are in today. These additions to the band raised the impact of the music, elevating it to the powerful live animal they are now. It was this iteration of the band that released it’s first full length album “Tomorrow’s Over” on west coast underground record label Battleground Records in February of 2015. The album garnered many favorable reviews and positive responses from fans and writers alike, further cementing King Chiefs as a band that simply must be caught live.

The band turned this momentum into a series of US tours, where they dazzled audiences across the country with their incendiary live set. People have compared their live act to such notable bands form the past as Helmet, Kyuss, Fu Manchu, Dozer and more. This was enough hype for Ripple Music to step in and ask them to be part of their Second Coming Of Heavy series, which saw them releasing a split LP with Desert Suns as Vol. V of the long running LP series.

Fast forward to February 2018 and King Chiefs release their sophomore album Blue Sonnet digitally on their bandcamp page and on CD via Roosevelt Row Records. It didn’t take Cursed Tongue Records much time to realize that this album demands our full attention and as being the most coherrent, accomplished and mature sounding release from King Chiefs to date it was really a no-brainer.

Blue Sonnet sees King Chiefs further deepening their signature sound of fuzzy riffs, catchy hooks and tightly knit interplay overlayed with Valle’s über melodic vocals. This is King Chiefs at their prime and Cursed Tongue Records is extremely happy to be able to roll out the red carpet for the Blue Sonnet this October. Expect the usual trademark setup of high quality heavy wight vinyl tasty packaging and sweet extras sure to please the distinguished vinyl collector.

Looking to the future, King Chiefs is dedicated and devoted to the almighty riff and will continue making music and who knows what the future brings…

CTR-012 KING CHIEFS – ‘BLUE SONNET’, official release date: October 19th, 2018

King Chiefs is:
Paul Valle – Vocals, Guitar, Bass, Drums
Jeff Podeszwik – Vocals, Guitar
Anthony Alley – Drums
Anthony Mattos – Bass

Recorded, Mixed & Mastered by Ryan Butler at Arcane Digital Recording Studios in Chandler, Arizona.
All music written by King Chiefs (Paul Valle/Jeff Podeszwik)
Lyrics by Paul Valle (City That You Sleep, Surely Never, Drifter, Soul Sleeve, Slug, Walk The Plank, Blue Sonnet)
Lyrics by Jeff Podeszwik (Fossils, Yellow Jacket, Shrine Of Your Beholder)
Photography/Artwork by Michael Ruggiero
Layout & Design: Matt Martinez & Michael Andresakis

Track listing:

Side A
1. City That You Sleep
2. Surely Never
3. Drifter
4. Fossils
5. Soul Sleeve

Side B
6. Slug
7. Walk The Plank
8. Yellow Jacket
9. Blue Sonnet
10. Shrine Of Your Beholder

http://www.wearechiefs.com/
https://wearechiefs.bandcamp.com/
http://www.facebook.com/wearechiefs
http://www.instagram.com/kingchiefsband
http://cursedtonguerecords.bigcartel.com/
https://www.facebook.com/CursedTongueRecords
https://www.instagram.com/cursedtonguerecords

King Chiefs, Blue Sonnet (2018)

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Hudu Akil Announce First-Ever Tour Dates; Debut Album in the Works

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 8th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

First tours? Most bands might start with a weekender, a long weekender, five days, a week, etc. Phoenix, Arizona’s Hudu Akil, who aggro-up a bit a self-aware take on the West Coast fuzz/desert rock model with some screams amid lyrics about getting high, partying, shout outs to 1965 and so on on their 2017 self-titled EP, which itself followed a three-songer released in 2016.

Seems that they’ve finished writing for their debut full-length and they’ll hit the studio upon returning from the tour, so perhaps it’s all for the better that they’ve blown most first-tour expectations out of the water and booked a full three weeks’ worth of shows throughout the end of this month and June and into July. At least they can be sure they’ll have the new material set to go before they actually get to putting it down on tape.

The band send the following down the PR wire:

hudu akil

In just 4 weeks, we embark on our first tour as a band, covering much of the southern United States throughout a 21-day run. We are all very excited about this tour because it is a culmination of our collective dream thus far!

We have just recently finished writing our follow-up LP which we will begin recording after our tour.

Tour Dates:
5/29 Los Angeles, CA – Five Star Bar
5/30 Slab City, CA – The Range
5/31 Carlsbad, CA – Boar Cross’n
6/1 Yuma, AZ – The Maverick
6/2 Tuscon, AZ – The Loudhouse
6/3 Scottsdale, AZ – Rogue Bar
6/6 El Paso, TX – Rockhouse Bar
6/7 San Antonio, TX – The Mix
6/8 San Marcos, TX – KIVA
6/9 Austin, TX – The Lost Well
6/14 Houston, TX – Satellite Bar
6/15 Florence, TX Camp Festival
6/16 Corpus Christi, TX – Black Monk Tavern
6/21 Lafayette, LA – Freetown
6/22 New Orleans, LA – Twist of Lime
6/24 Jacksonville, AR – Elixir
6/28 Fort Worth, TX – The Rail Club
6/29 Oklahoma City, OK – The Blue Note
6/30 Denver, CO – Bar Bar
7/5 Yuma, AZ – Littlewood Co-op
7/6 Tijuana, MX – Mous Tache

www.huduakil.bandcamp.com
www.facebook.com/huduakil
www.twitter.com/huduakil
www.instagram.com/huduakil
https://huduakil.bigcartel.com/

Hudu Akil, Hudu Akil (2017)

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Fuzz Evil to Enter Studio to Record New Album High on You

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 23rd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Fuzz Evil, since making their first appearance in 2014 by sharing a split release with fellow Arizonans Chiefs (review here), have kept a steady clip of releases. They’re not Hawkwind-prolific, but they’ve managed to keep forward momentum on their side with a string of outings including a digital single (streamed here) in 2015, their 2016 self-titled full-length debut (review here), a couple of lyric videos for the tracks from that (posted here and here), and most recently, their taking part in Ripple Music‘s ongoing series, The Second Coming of Heavy, sharing the Chapter Seven LP (review here) with Switchblade Jesus. They’ve also toured with Dandy Brown from Hermano, thrown the Borderlands Fuzz Fiesta, and generally kept a solid presence in the forefront of their audience’s minds.

The news? They’re keeping it up. Next week they hit the studio to begin recording their second full-length, which they’ve given the title High on You. The three-piece will work with producer Paul Figueroa and a release is expected later this year. Since the self-titled came out on now-defunct Battleground Records, that may or may not make Fuzz Evil free agents, but I can’t imagine it’ll be too long before an announcement is made in that regard. Maybe like six minutes after the record is done, if I had to guess.

In the meantime, they sent the following down the PR wire:

fuzz evil

Fuzz Evil will be heading into the studio next week to record their fourth release, titled ‘High on You.’ Fuzz Evil have teamed up with producer Paul Figueroa (Alice in Chains, Slipknot) to record their new seven track record at David Grohl’s Studio 606.

Says guitarist/vocalist Wayne Rudell: “We are all very proud of these songs. They have been a journey for us. To be able to record these specific songs on such a legendary counsel is exciting and humbling. This is the first album Orgo Martinez our new drummer wrote and played on. I feel that these songs are the most dynamic we have written. I feel the band has really matured since the Chiefs split back in 2014. There is a slight departure from what we have done before. This album we did a lot of exploring. We also decided to carry over ‘If Know You’ from the Ripple split.”

The album is expected to be released in mid to late 2018.

‘High on You’ tracklisting:
The Strut
You Can Take Here Away
High On You
Get It Together
If You Know
Ribbons and Kills
Are you In or Out

Fuzz Evil is:
Wayne Rudell – guitar/vocals
Joey Rudell – bass/vocals
Orgo Martinez – drums

https://www.facebook.com/FuzzEvil/
https://fuzzevil.bandcamp.com/

Fuzz Evil, The Second Coming of Heavy Chapter Seven (Split with Switchblade Jesus) (2017)

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The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Short Releases of 2017

Posted in Features on December 22nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk top 20 short releases

Please note: This post is not culled in any way from the Year-End Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t yet contributed your favorites of 2017 to that, please do.

This is the hardest list to put together, no question. Don’t get me wrong, I put way too much thought into all of them, but this one is damn near impossible to keep up with. Every digital single, every demo, every EP, every 7″, 10″ one-sided 12″, whatever it is. There’s just too much. I’m not going to claim to have heard everything. Hell, that’s what the comments are for. Let me know what I missed. Invariably, something.

So while the headers might look similar, assuming I can ever remember which fonts I use from one to the next, this list has a much different personality than, say, the one that went up earlier this week with the top 20 debuts of 2017. Not that I heard everyone’s first record either, but we’re talking relative ratios here. The bottom line is please just understand I’ve done my best to hear as much as possible. I’m only one person, and there are only so many hours in the day. Eventually your brain turns into riffy mush.

With that caveat out of the way, I’m happy to present the following roundup of some of what I thought were 2017’s best short releases. That’s EPs, singles, demos, splits — pretty much anything that wasn’t a full-length album, and maybe one or two things that were right on the border of being one. As between genres, the lines are blurry these days. That’s part of what makes it fun.

Okay, enough dawdling. Here we go:

lo-pan-in-tensions

The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Short Releases of 2017

1. Lo-Pan, In Tensions
2. Godhunter, Codex Narco
3. Year of the Cobra, Burn Your Dead
4. Shroud Eater, Three Curses
5. Stubb, Burning Moon
6. Canyon, Canyon
7. Solace, Bird of Ill Omen
8. Kings Destroy, None More
9. Tarpit Boogie, Couldn’t Handle… The Heavy Jam
10. Supersonic Blues, Supersonic Blues Theme
11. Come to Grief, The Worst of Times EP
12. Rope Trick, Red Tape
13. Eternal Black, Live at WFMU
14. IAH, IAH
15. Bong Wish, Bong Wish EP
16. Rattlesnake, Outlaw Boogie Demo
17. Hollow Leg, Murder
18. Mars Red Sky, Myramyd
19. Avon, Six Wheeled Action Man Tank 7″
20. Wretch, Bastards Born

Honorable Mention

Across Tundras, Blood for the Sun / Hearts for the Rain
The Discussion, Tour EP
Fungus Hill, Creatures
Switchblade Jesus & Fuzz Evil, The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter Seven
The Grand Astoria, The Fuzz of Destiny
Test Meat, Demo
Blood Mist, Blood Mist
Sweat Lodge, Tokens for Hell
Dautha, Den Foerste
Scuzzy Yeti, Scuzzy Yeti
Howling Giant, Black Hole Space Wizard Part 2
Decasia, The Lord is Gone
Bible of the Devil/Leeches of Lore, Split 7″

I can’t imagine I won’t add a name or two or five to this section over the next few days as I think of other things and people remind me of stuff and so on, so keep an eye out, but the point is there’s way more than just what made the top 20. That Across Tundras single would probably be on the list proper just on principle, but I heard it like a week ago and it doesn’t seem fair. Speaking of unfair, The Discussion, Howling Giant, The Grand Astoria and the Bible of the Devil/Leeches of Lore split all deserve numbered placement easily. I might have to make this a top 30 in 2018, just to assuage my own guilt at not being able to include everything I want to include. For now though, yeah, this is just the tip of the doomberg.

Notes

To be totally honest with you, that Lo-Pan EP came out Jan. 13 and pretty much had the year wrapped up in my head from that point on. It was going to be hard for anything to top In Tensions, and the Godhunter swansong EP came close for the sense of stylistic adventurousness it wrought alone, and ditto that for Year of the Cobra’s bold aesthetic expansions on Burn Your Dead and Shroud Eater’s droning Three Cvrses, but every time I heard Jeff Martin singing “Pathfinder,” I knew it was Lo-Pan’s year and all doubt left my mind. Of course, for the Ohio four-piece, In Tensions is something of a one-off with the departure already of guitarist Adrian Zambrano, but I still have high hopes for their next record. It would be hard not to.

The top five is rounded out by Stubb’s extended jam/single “Burning Moon,” which was a spacey delight and new ground for them to cover. The self-titled debut EP from Philly psych rockers Canyon, which they’ve already followed up, is next. I haven’t had the chance to hear the new one yet, but Canyon hit a sweet spot of psychedelia and heavy garage that made me look forward to how they might develop, so I’ll get there sooner or later. Solace’s return was nothing to balk at with their cassingle “Bird of Ill Omen” and the Sabbath cover with which they paired it, and though Kings Destroy weirded out suitably on the 14-minute single-song EP None More, I hear even greater departures are in store with their impending fourth LP, currently in progress.

A couple former bandmates of mine feature in Tarpit Boogie in guitarist George Pierro and bassist John Eager, and both are top dudes to be sure, but even if we didn’t have that history, it would be hard to ignore the tonal statement they made on their Couldn’t Handle… The Heavy Jam EP. If you didn’t hear it, go chase it down on Bandcamp. Speaking of statements, Supersonic Blues’ Supersonic Blues Theme 7″ was a hell of an opening salvo of classic boogie that I considered to be one of the most potential-laden offerings of the year. Really. Such warmth to their sound, but still brimming with energy in the most encouraging of ways. Another one that has to be heard to be believed.

The dudes are hardly newcomers, but Grief offshoot Come to Grief sounded pretty fresh — and raw — on their The Worst of Times EP, and the Massachusetts extremists check in right ahead of fellow New Englangers Rope Trick, who are an offshoot themselves of drone experimentalists Queen Elephantine. Red Tape was a demo in the demo tradition, and pretty formative sounding, but seemed to give them plenty of ground on which to develop their aesthetic going forward, and I wouldn’t ask more of it than that.

Eternal Black gave a much-appreciated preview of their Bleed the Days debut long-player with Live at WFMU and earned bonus points for recording it at my favorite radio station, while Argentine trio IAH probably went under a lot of people’s radar with their self-titled EP but sent a fervent reminder that that country’s heavy scene is as vibrant as ever. Boston-based psych/indie folk outfit Bong Wish were just the right combination of strange, melodic and acid-washed to keep me coming back to their self-titled EP on Beyond Beyond is Beyond, and as Adam Kriney of The Golden Grass debuted his new project Rattlesnake with the Outlaw Boogie demo, the consistency of his songcraft continued to deliver a classic feel. Another one to watch out for going into the New Year.

I wasn’t sure if it was fair to include Hollow Leg’s Murder or not since it wound up getting paired with a special release of their latest album, but figured screw it, dudes do good work and no one’s likely to yell about their inclusion here. If you want to quibble, shoot me a comment and quibble away. Mars Red Sky only released Myramyd on vinyl — no CD, no digital — and I never got one, but heard a private stream at one point and dug that enough to include them here anyway. They remain perennial favorites.

Avon, who have a new record out early in 2018 on Heavy Psych Sounds, delivered one of the year’s catchiest tracks with the “Six Wheeled Action Man Tank” single. I feel like I’ve had that song stuck in my head for the last two months, mostly because I have. And Wretch may or may not be defunct at this point — I saw word that drummer Chris Gordon was leaving the band but post that seems to have disappeared now, so the situation may be in flux — but their three-songer Bastards Born EP was a welcome arrival either way. They round out the top 20 because, well, doom. Would be awesome to get another LP out of them, but we’ll see I guess.

One hopes that nothing too egregious was left off, but one again, if there’s something you feel like should be here that isn’t, please consider the invitation to leave a comment open and let me know about it. Hell, you know what? Give me your favorites either way, whether you agree with this list or not. It’s list season, do it up. I know there’s the Year-End Poll going, and you should definitely contribute to that if you haven’t, but what was your favorite EP of the year? The top five? Top 10? I’m genuinely curious. Let’s talk about it.

Whether you have a pick or not (and I hope you do), thanks as always for reading. May the assault of short releases continue unabated in 2018 and beyond.

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Switchblade Jesus & Fuzz Evil, The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter Seven: Mountains and Cupids

Posted in Reviews on December 20th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

switchblade jesus fuzz evil second coming of heavy chapter seven

Ripple Music‘s ongoing series of split releases, The Second Coming of Heavy, has become an essential documentary project on the state of (mostly American) heavy rock and roll. Though cumbersomely and — arguably — historically inaccurately named, in pairing acts together on vinyl like Geezer and Borracho (review here), Supervoid and Red Desert (review here), Kingnomad and BoneHawk (review here), Red Mesa and Blue Snaggletooth (review here), Chiefs and Desert Suns (discussed here), and Kayleth and Favequaid (review pending), the label has not only given its own acts a chance to shine in a special showcase, but expanded its reach and broadened its audience base while furthering the development of a straightforward heavy rock aesthetic that has helped define not only the imprint’s path, but that of many acts as well working under their influence.

For The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter Seven, Texas and Arizona trios Switchblade Jesus and Fuzz Evil are added to this esteemed cadre of groups, each one bringing new material to mark the occasion. In the case of Switchblade Jesus, who released their self-titled debut (review here) in 2013, only to have it snagged first in 2014 for vinyl release via Bilocation Records and then a reissue by Ripple in 2015, it’s been somewhat longer than it might seem since they had anything out and they’ve been through enough changes to prove it. For Fuzz Evil, the Sierra Vista, AZ, three-piece made their own self-titled debut (review here) through Battleground Records in the second half of 2016, the turnaround is somewhat quicker, but they too have had a lineup change, bringing in Orgo Martinez, who is at least their third drummer in the last three years.

Those shifts notwithstanding, what is even more remarkable about The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter Seven, and indeed about the series as a whole, is the diversity of sound between the two groups, both of whom function without question under the umbrella category of “heavy rock.” With three cuts from Switchblade Jesus and four from Fuzz Evil, each band gets about 20 minutes to showcase their wares on a vinyl side, and though the samplings are quick, the point of sonic variety is underscored.

It’s not that they don’t fit together — quite the opposite; they make a surprisingly complementary pair — but that they represent starkly different interpretations of what “heavy” is and does. In “Snakes and Lions,” “Wet Lungs” and the highlight chorus and chug of “Heavy is the Mountain,” Switchblade Jesus present a dudely, burly vision of riff-led semi-metallic vibing, with guitarist Eric Calvert taking over the role of vocalist and proffering an approach very much in the spirit of Orange Goblin‘s Ben Ward.

With bassist Chris Black and drummer Jon Elizondo, what was once a five-piece is now a power trio, and their sound is duly crisp as “Snakes and Lions” (5:17) leans into the forward momentum it will build over the course of its first minute. “Snakes and Lions” is ultimately Switchblade Jesus‘ most straight-ahead inclusion, and “Wet Lungs,” which is the longest track on The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter Seven at 9:42, begins with samples of, among other things, The Louvin Brothers‘ “Satan is Real,” takes a more patient and rolling route, riding its riff comfortably while relying less on its hook than its immediate predecessor.

switchblade jesus fuzz evil

That leaves “Heavy is the Mountain” (7:38) as the proverbial just-right bowl of riffly porridge, which is just what it turns out to be. Taking the slick, well-paced nod of “Wet Lungs” and giving it just a bit of the energy “Snakes and Lions” brought to bear, as well as the most memorable chorus of the release as a whole — the title-line shouted upward from the mix amid suitable largesse for the subject matter — it’s enough to make one anticipate a future outing from Switchblade Jesus in this incarnation on its own, never mind the album-style flow the band conjures across just these three tracks and the fluidity with which they nestle into that groove.

The Rudell brothers — Wayne (vocals/guitar) and Joseph (bass/vocals/graphics) — who, again, aren’t that far removed from their debut album, continue forward in the spirit of that release across their four tracks, beginning with the post-Songs for the Deaf push of “Better off Alone,” which gives “Heavy is the Mountain” a run for its money in terms of the strength of its hook while also completely revamping the direction of the release overall, pulling away from whiskey-drenched dudery and more toward traditionalist desert fuzz.

But for jammier closer “Flighty Woman,” which reaches over the six-minute mark, Fuzz Evil‘s inclusions are shorter and more upfront in their structures, though still plenty weighted as “Better off Alone” gives way to the bass at the start of “Graves and Cupids.” Some talkbox/wah makes an appearance in Wayne‘s lead as they head toward the midsection and surfaces again in the second half, standing the track out even more than its chorus already did owing to the confidence in its vocal delivery and the flourish of soul emergent there.

Comprising the last 10-plus minutes of the outing between them, “If You Know” and “Flighty Woman” round out with a due focus on songcraft, calling to mind the sense of individually-focused tracks that one found on their self-titled as well — each piece standing out on its own rather than feeding as directly into an overarching whole as, say, Switchblade Jesus do on side A here. That disparity of style is no less a distinction for Switchblade Jesus and Fuzz Evil than the burl vs. the fuzz, but as the insistent rhythm of “If You Know” shifts into the thickened boogie of “Flighty Woman,” Wayne‘s vocals echoing out just a bit in a trippier fashion before the jam really takes hold and Fuzz Evil go exploring, there’s little to argue that either tack doesn’t produce success here.

As has been the case all along with The Second Coming of Heavy, this latest chapter serves this essential function in demonstrating just how far heavy rock and roll has come and the many forms it can take and still find a path to righteousness. With two separate takes, Switchblade Jesus and Fuzz Evil both resound with potential in their songwriting and in the execution of their material, and one is only left hoping it won’t be long before either is heard from again. The mission is accomplished and the mission, no doubt, will continue. Right on.

Switchblade Jesus & Fuzz Evil, The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter Seven (2017)

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Fuzz Evil and Switchblade Jesus Team up for The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter Seven

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 14th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

This news came in and I realized that somewhere in there I missed a chapter of Ripple Music‘s ongoing The Second Coming of Heavy series of splits. I’ve done my best to cover all of them — been late on almost every one, but still, I’ve gotten there eventually — but when I saw word that Chapter Seven was set to feature Fuzz Evil and Switchblade Jesus my joy at the prospect of some quality rock and roll was tempered by the question nagging at the back of my mind: Hey wait a second, what happened to Chapter Six?

I don’t have the promo for it in my email, which is kind of a bummer, but I’ll assume I did at one point or another or that it got lost in the transition between laptops from the one I called Ol’ Dusty to the one I use now, Big Red. In any case, if I can, I might try to sneak that Kayleth and Favequaid shared offering in at some point while also doing my best to cover Switchblade Jesus and Fuzz Evil, whose installment is set to arrive on Dec. 8, of course on Ripple.

The PR wire has it like this:

the second coming of heavy chapter 7

Switchblade Jesus / Fuzz Evil “Chapter 7: The Second Coming of Heavy” out on December 8 via Ripple Music

Ripple Music sets December 8th, 2017 as official release date for Switchblade Jesus / Fuzz Evil “Chapter 7: The Second Coming of Heavy” split!

Formed in 2014, Fuzz Evil is a chug-heavy 3 Piece that tames the fuzziest guitar and bass tones on the planet and wields them to blast a monolithic speaker-ripping fuzzapocaplyse for your ears and soul. Raw and dirty in “Stooges-like” fashion with soaring soulful vocals. Fuzz Evil released their first single, “Glitterbones” on a 7” split with the California trio Chiefs on Battleground records in 2014. In 2016 they followed up the single with a full self-titled debut release on Battleground records. In the past few year they have gone through a few line-up changes.. The current line-up is Orgo Martinez on drums, Wayne Rudell on guitar and vocals, and his brother Joey Rudell on bass and vocals.

From the depths of Texas, Switchblade Jesus returns with a heaviness and deep grooves that succeed their previous recordings. Mixing southwestern boogie, desert-worn blues, retro-metal assault and fierce rocking into a sound that screams Texas–at times sanguine and starkly beautiful, at others full of damn sexy groove and assaulting violence can only describe the music of Texan power rocking, fuzzed out stoner blues trio, Switchblade Jesus.

Consisting of Eric Calvert (Vox/Guitar) Jon Elizondo (Drums) and new comer Chris Black (bass) to the fold to create a new chapter in Switchblade Jesus, more Doom and Gloom but no lack of the groove that the Texan’s brought in the beginning.

https://www.facebook.com/theripplemusic/
http://www.ripple-music.com

Kayleth & Favequaid, The Second Coming of Heavy Chapter Six (2017)

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Godhunter Announce Breakup

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 17th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

In no small way, the end of Godhunter is made even more of a bummer by the recent release of what will apparently serve as their swansong EP. That offering, the seven-track Codex Narco (review here), came out earlier this year via Battleground Records and Baby Tooth Records and marked a distinct broadening of aesthetic on the part of the band, who were once based in Tucson, Arizona, but who according to founding guitarist David Rodgers (interview here) had relocated as far as Washington and Georgia.

Likely that geographical challenge played a role in bringing about the band’s end, but either way, what Codex Narco represented in sound was a manifestation and further realization of the experimental impulse that Godhunter had previously shown on releases like their 2015 Endsville split with Destroyer of Light (discussed here) or their 2014 Gh/0st:S split (review here), distinct from the aggressive approach fostered through their 2014 full-length, City of Dust (review here), or their 2011 debut EP, Wolves (review here), but not entirely separate in its sense of atmosphere. Marked out by the inclusion of guest appearances by Nick Genitals of MethraCHRCH vocalist Eva Rose and Josh Thorne of Thorne, among others, it found the core three-piece of Rodgers, guitarist/keyboardist Matthew Davis and drummer Andy Kratzenberg bringing to life a sound that was as much ambient as it was scathing, and though the mood was persistently grim throughout the release — even the poppy cover of Tegan and Sara‘s “Walking with a Ghost” (video posted here) had a darker edge — it was hard not to be hopeful about what the band’s future might bring, distant though they might be in locale.

Codex Narco was already on my list of 2017’s best short releases, but it becomes especially poignant as the final offering from Godhunter (if in fact it turns out to be that; never say never in rock and roll). The band wasn’t going to make any kind of announcement, but I chased down Rodgers and basically bothered him into doing so. Sorry about that, but as a group whose creative potential it seemed was only beginning to really be explored, it seemed to me that the very least they deserved a proper sendoff. I’ll miss having the chance to hear how Godhunter might’ve followed up Codex Narco, but Rodgers has a new, extreme black metal outfit going called Taarna in Portland, OR — they recently shared the stage with righteous death metallers Vitriol — and their first demos are available now to stream. So there’s future productivity to look forward to, one way or the other.

Here’s what Rodgers had to say about the end of Godhunter:

godhunter codex narco lineup

David Rodgers on the end of Godhunter:

‘Ichi-go Ichi-e’ is a Japanese idiom that describes the idea that when people meet together for something, even if they see each other regularly, that meeting is unique and can never be replicated. It’s often translated as “for this time only” or “one chance in a lifetime.”

Since day one, back in 2009, this is something that Godhunter has always embraced both consciously and subconsciously. We have always tried to keep each musical release unique from the previous release, each piece of album art or each t-shirt design unique from that which came before.

In keeping with this idea, we have decided that this unique meeting of friends, this once in a lifetime experience, is over now. Over the past eight years we’ve given our most sincere effort to bring the world something unique, and now that we have said all that we had to say, our time as a band is over.

Thank you to everyone that shared this beautiful experience with us. You remain in our hearts forever.

http://www.facebook.com/godhuntersludge
https://battlegroundrecords.bandcamp.com
http://www.battlegroundrnr.com
https://twitter.com/BattlegroundRNR
http://instagram.com/battleground_records
https://babytoothtucson.bandcamp.com
https://www.facebook.com/babytoothtucson

Godhunter, Codex Narco (2017)

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