Six Dumb Questions with Rev. Jim Forrester of Foghound & Serpents of Secrecy

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on December 8th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

rev jim photo shane gardner

This one has been a while in the making. It was a genuine shock this past summer when bassist Rev. Jim Forrester was suddenly beset with a barrage of life-threatening medical issues. Keeping tabs on updates via social media became a tense undertaking. A crowdfunding was set up. Benefit shows were announced and held. Forrester‘s recovery from what he details as being a near-death experience and the worst pain he’s ever felt is ongoing, as one might expect, but there was no question that the East Coast heavy underground and especially that of the Maryland/Chesapeake region rallied to his side when called upon to do so. A scene taking care of one of its own is a beautiful thing.

Forrester cut his teeth in the late 1990s as a member of heavy Southern rockers Sixty Watt Shaman and has been involved in numerous projects across a range of styles ever since. Sixty Watt issued three full-lengths during their time, the last of which was 2002’s Reason to Live, and when they were done, Forrester went on to form Angels of Meth and participate in other bands. His arrival in Foghound re-partners him with ex-Sixty Watt Shaman drummer Chuck Dukehart, and the two also play together in the assembled group Serpents of Secrecy, whose debut single, Uncoiled, was released earlier this year on Salt of the Earth Records ahead of a full-length debut reportedly to come in 2018.

Between life updates, band updates, Sixty Watt Shaman‘s aborted reunion, and so on, there was an awful lot to talk about, so I won’t delay further, except to thank Rev. Jim for being so open and candid about what he went through and is still going through. Anyone who’s ever seen him play on stage can attest to the sense of attack he brings to his instrument, and it’s clear that is an ethic and drive for intensity is something he lives by on multiple levels.

Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

rev jim photo bob plank

Six Dumb Questions with Rev. Jim Forrester

For anyone who hasn’t kept up on your situation, take us through the medical issues you’ve been dealing with. What the hell happened? How did it all start? Where are you at now? What’s your next step and, most importantly, how are you feeling day-to-day?

During and post illness, my wife Tina and Todd Ingram (King Giant, Serpents of Secrecy) started the #RallyforRev page on FB to keep everyone updated on my progress or lack thereof, as I was in no shape to communicate with the outside world during my hospitalizations and subsequent recovery. When I was able, looking back on things and generally being a very private person outside of “music and art land,” I began to feel uncomfortably overexposed and completely exhausted with explaining the situation, as well as constantly talking about myself. I needed a long break from me. Shortly after I fell ill, some tragedies befell two of the most important people in my life as well, Todd lost his mother after a short illness, and Tina lost her little brother. I felt that it was in no way appropriate to talk about “me” and my bullshit, when two people I loved dearly were experiencing so much personal pain and trauma. 2017 was a motherfucker.

So, what happened? Over Memorial Day weekend, the Sunday to be exact, I awoke from a dead sleep to the most abhorrent abdominal pain I’ve ever experienced. I think I may have a clue as to what being disemboweled feels like now. Tina rushed me to one hospital, and then I was transferred to another. I had a blood clot in my portal vein (liver) that was cutting off blood flow to my liver, pancreas, intestines, and various extremities. Basically I was dying and damn close to going into organ failure. Blood thinners saved my ass, but also caused esophageal varices to burst, resulting in me puking up half my blood supply, intubation, and a three-day medically induced coma in which I almost checked out a few times as well. Around week three, I underwent a “Tips” procedure, a stent placed in my portal vein, and a new blood flow passage was created in my liver to alleviate the blockage (it had been there for years apparently, and was so rock solid; they couldn’t drill the damn thing out). I was released and returned home on a continued blood thinner treatment plan. Three days later I awoke to what I thought was a heart attack. Returned to the hospital to find a pulmonary embolism, and a grouping of blood clots behind my right knee. Another week in the hospital, and back home with increased blood thinners (self administered stomach injections, very metal). Played the Maryland Doomfest III three days later with Serpents of Secrecy. Before any of these events occurred, I had been experiencing some pretty intense weakness and pain in my right hip. I had chalked it up to hard living/performing, and overcompensation for a torn ACL in my right knee. No dice. MRI revealed that the blockages had caused blood flow restriction to my hip joint, so I was walking around and performing on a dead, decrepit hip, still am.

I’ve been jumping through medical specialist hoops ever since to get hip replacement surgery, most likely occurring this February. How this all happened has some solid answers and some mystery still lingering. I had liver issues back in 2012 that I had worked through, I thought pretty successfully, but life and stress (my own issues with depression, the death of a very close friend, the Sixty Watt Shaman debacle I’ll get into at some point in the future, etc.) saw me backslide a bit personally. It’s no secret I previously was a drink and drug enthusiast (no hard drugs for years now I will note) as cliche as it is, and I managed to do some significant damage to myself over the years. At various points I’ve been a bit of a mess, and have a lot of regrets regarding that aspect of my time. That aside, I lived a pretty hard life for an extended spell, pushed myself physically in ways that have consequences, and some of that is a factor as well. There is also a genetic blood clotting disorder that runs in my family, but the jury is still out on that matter (testing), although it would explain a lot.

As things stand today, beyond my continued issue with my hip, I feel pretty damn good. Staying vigilant, and keeping up with my docs. The thinners are getting phased out, no pain killers, and a lot of my enzyme levels, etc. are normalized to livable standards if not 100 percent healthy. I’m six months completely sober, back to throwing down on stage and in the studio with Foghound and Serpents. If any positives can be derived, it all really strengthened my relationships with my wife and step-kids and my bandmates. My family. My passions and obsession with art and music remains and has surpassed full tilt crazy again. It reinvigorated me as far as writing and creating is concerned. I’m overwhelmingly thankful for the love, support, understanding, and solid kick in the ass when I need it, from the beautiful individuals I’ve been so fortunate to have in my life. We only have so much time, know what you’re fighting for.

In light of all that, tell me about getting on stage with Serpents of Secrecy at Maryland Doom Fest this year. What was that experience like for you? How was the response from the room, and how did you feel after the set?

I can’t pretend that I wasn’t a bit nervy. After going through all of that, I really didn’t know if I was going to be able to pull off a whole set, and perform to the level that I set for myself, but I pushed through. I wasn’t going to let my brothers in SoS (they wanted to cancel in light of everything, I refused), the fans that had waited four years to see that beast, or Mark Cruikshank and J.B. Matson down. I honor my commitments. Doomfest is always a big family reunion, with a lot of my favorite people in the world anyway, but it by far is one of my favorite sets. The love and support in the crowd was amazing, and I think at various points most of us got choked up. Afterwards… pure adrenaline and joy. For a brief few hours I felt like myself again.

The Serpents of Secrecy single is a long-time coming for sure. Tell me about the development of that band from its beginnings, where you guys are at now and what the plans are going forward. How has the response been to the first recordings so far?

The Serpents of Secrecy story has more twists and turns than the goddamn Grizzly (King’s Dominion reference), and would take more space to explain fully that I’m sure this article entails. I’ll make it as brief as possible. Back in 2012, Scott Harrington (313 Management, Salt of the Earth Records) and I had developed a really strong friendship. When I was taking a break from the world up in the mountains near Morgantown, WV, he and I were in regular contact. Scott had been a huge Sixty Watt Shaman fan, and was really bummed that I wasn’t actively playing or performing at the time (my last group, Angels of Meth in Cincinnati, had run its course and I was aimlessly floating for a few). If anyone knows Scott, he is a true idea man, and unbeknownst to me, as we were in contact, he was up to some shenanigans.

Long story short, he helped pull together a really interesting cast of characters for a project. Todd Ingram – guitar (King Giant), Chuck Dukehart – drums (Sixty Watt Shaman, The Expotentials, Foghound), Johnny Throckmorton – vocals (Alabama Thunderpussy), Aaron Lewis – guitar (When the Deadbolt Breaks), and myself on bass. We convened in Baltimore and jammed a few times, really hit it off, but as I mentioned previously, I fell ill for awhile. We tried to sustain at least the idea of that lineup for awhile during the following year or so, but due to distance, time, and obligations it ended up not working out. Todd and I continued writing together, and spent the better part of a year trading riffs back and forth, or just writing complete songs and editing together. We also got together to jam independently when time allowed. The chemistry and material was pretty undeniable, so we muscled through and kept the idea alive (with Greg Hudson from D.C.’s Tone on drums briefly, until Chuck returned to the fold).

During this time period, Scott had received some inquiries regarding Sixty Watt Shaman performing at Desertfest. With incredible hesitation, Chuck and I agreed to entertain the idea, and spoke to our former vocalist, moderated by Scott. With a lot of concessions made on our part, and the best of intentions at play, Todd came in on guitar, as our original guitarist Joe Selby apparently wanted nothing to do with the idea. Hence the Sixty Watt Shaman reunion: a kickoff set at Chuck‘s Moving the Earth Fest, appearances at Desertfest London and Berlin, two Feast of Krampus shows with Wino, and my 40th birthday show in Baltimore. Todd, Chuck, and myself also had begun orchestrating a load of new and previous Serpents material, due to sparse SWS rehearsals, and were on a tear creatively so to speak.

I also came on as Foghound‘s bassist in this time period, so Chuck and I were jamming nonstop. We began negotiations with Ripple Music to release a new SWS full-length, a bit hastily as history proved, and that’s where the thread really began unraveling. Taking the high road here, but after a lot of soul searching and hand wringing… Chuck, Todd and myself made what I still consider the best judgement call we could have, considering a lot of circumstances that are best left unsaid, and called an undetermined-in-length hiatus for SWS. After a barrage of legal threats and behavior I can best sum up as unstable from our previous bandmate, that hiatus evolved into us throwing in the towel on any hopes of reconciliation. For all intents and purposes that group is a memory, no matter how voraciously some would cling to glories past.

In turn, Chuck, Todd, and myself immediately entered the studio with J. Robbins at Magpie Cage Studio in Baltimore, and whirlwind recorded the lion’s share of our three years of stockpiled material written up to that point, two songs of which — “Warbird’s Song” and “The Cheat” — appear on the Uncoiled single. Al “Yeti” Bones (The Mighty Nimbus) came on as vocalist for a period of time, but once again due to obligations, time, and distance (Canada) Al had to move on, although we truly appreciate his contributions and the awesome work ethic he brought to the table. Enter Mark Lorenzo (Zekiah). How he came into the story is a tale best left for him and Todd to explain, but I will say he was a breath of fresh air, one of the strongest, most talented vocalists I’ve ever worked with and a goddamn joy of a human being.

Steve Fisher (guitar, Borracho) will tell you we never told him he was in the band, he just kept showing up, lol, but he was the final piece to the puzzle that’s taken years to complete. We’ve already been through a lot together, and as with Foghound, it feels like family. As this band goes, we had hoped to have the full-length out by now, but it looks like we are wrapping up the album Ave Vindicta in Jan./Feb. 2018, and it’s up to Scott Harrington and Salt of the Earth Records to give us a release date. As soon as we know, so will you. The response to the Uncoiled single has been very positive so far. It seems to have accomplished our goal with the idea: Ggve everyone a taste, leave them hopefully wanting more. Apparently they want, lol. We are looking to play out as much as schedules allow, hitting the road some in 2018 and are already booked for the next installment of the Descendants of Crom Fest (Pittsburgh) in September. We’ve also started writing new material (along with the backlog of songs we couldn’t fit on this album) for the eventual follow-up to Ave Vindicta, and some other alchemy at play… but that’s another story.

From Sixty Watt Shaman to Foghound to Serpents of Secrecy, it seems like you and Chuck have a really special respect and relationship as a rhythm section. Tell me about that friendship and how working with him in different bands has changed over the years. What does it mean to you as a bassist to know Chuck’s back there behind the kit pounding away?

Chuck is my best friend in the world. He’s my brother. Damn near every important event that’s ever transpired in my life, he was there. If not personally, in spirit, or he was a call away. We’ve had our ups and downs, but brothers do. We’ve known each other since elementary school, picked up our instruments at the same time, started our first bands together. I suppose you could say our stories are completely entangled. He’s had my back when I never knew he did or I needed him to, that’s real friendship. We made a promise to each other a long time ago, that we weren’t going to let the small town we grew up in swallow us up, we were going to get out and do something with our goddamn lives. I think we held up that promise. At this point, through all the tours (starting in ’97), all the shows, the studios, writing so many songs together, we kind of function together with one brain as a rhythm section, “The Rhythm Section from Hell.” There is a complete feeling of freedom and comfort in the live scenario jamming with Chuck. Opens up some of the fun improv stuff we slip into the mix when we know each other’s arsenal backwards and forwards so well. Fun is the keyword. If it’s not, it’s not worth doing. We learned that one together too.

What’s Foghound up to at this point? Where are you at with the next album? Do you know yet when you’ll record or who will produce?

Foghound is wrapping up the third album right now actually. Last studio session with Frank “The Punisher” Marchand (The Obsessed, Sixty Watt Shaman, etc.) is the first weekend in January, I believe. Frank engineered, we produced. Then it’s mastering, artwork, turned into Ripple Music. No idea on a release date considering the volume of music Todd [Severin] and the label are putting out there, but it will be in 2018. There are some morsels on the horizon beforehand, some hints coming as to what this new material is shaping up to be, but I can’t really reveal any of that yet. I will say, the new tunes are going to surprise anyone with expectations of us putting out The World Unseen Part 2. We’ve already begun booking for next year with appearances at Maryland Doomfest 2018 and New England Stoner and Doom Fest scheduled. Anyone intrigued should stop by, we’ll be adding in a good portion of new material to give everyone a taste.

Of course there’s the crowdfunding campaign going on, but any other plans or closing words you want to mention?

I just want to give another huge, heartfelt thank you to everyone for the words of love and support I received when I was ill, to the bands that played the benefit shows, to those that donated their time, hard work or financial assistance. You have no idea how much it meant, how much it’s appreciated, and how much it helped Tina and I get through such a difficult time. The only reason I can continue to do what I do is because of that, and not for a second is any of it taken for granted. I lived a lot of days looking in the mirror thinking I was a tremendous fuckup, and the friends, fans, and family that came to my side during one of the most horrible situations I’ve ever encountered, staring death in the goddamn face, telling me how much the work has meant to them, how much my efforts over the years made a difference, fueled me getting better, and keeps me fighting every day, and for that I am forever grateful. I am a very fortunate man to get to do what I do, surrounded by such amazing people. I love you all. Keep an eye out for new Arcane Recorporations creations, as well as Ave Vindicta by Serpents of Secrecy on Salt of the Earth Records, and the as-yet-untitled new Foghound record on Ripple Music out in 2018. Ave!

Serpents of Secrecy, Uncoiled – The Singles (2017)

Foghound, The World Unseen (2016)

Serpents of Secrecy on Thee Facebooks

Serpents of Secrecy on Bandcamp

Salt of the Earth Records website

Salt of the Earth Records website

Foghound on Thee Facebooks

Foghound on Bandcamp

Foghound website

Ripple Music

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Review & Track Premiere: Nupraptor, The Heresiarch

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on November 13th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

nupraptor-the-heresiarch

[Click play above to stream ‘Burning the Believers’ from Nupraptor’s The Heresiarch. Album is out Dec. 15 on Shadow Kingdom Records.]

For anyone into etymology — words, not bugs; that’s entomology — the title of Nupraptor‘s first long-player, The Heresiarch, will read plainly. I had to look it up to be sure it was a real word, but it is. Its two parts, “heresy” and “arch” denote one who is prime among heretics, like an archpriest, and in terms of the Baltimore one-man outfit’s Shadow Kingdom Records-delivered debut, if vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Matt St. Ours is campaigning for the position, he makes a compelling argument for taking ownership of the position. The album is comprised of seven tracks, and from the introductory “Black Mass” through the 11-minute closing epic “The Fall of Christ,” which gleefully recounts the crucifixion story, there isn’t one of them that on some level doesn’t play toward the title.

It’s a unipolarity of theme that, like St. Ours‘ shredding lead work, is born out of classic heavy metal, and the oldschool is indeed the well from which Nupraptor most readily draws. Drums, while programmed, march through straightforward arrangements of elder-style doom, from the Sabbath-via-Trouble march of “Through the Smoke” to the unbridled Candlemass idolatry of “Before the Eyes of God,” and in in vocal approach, St. Ours seems to place himself in the post-Robert Lowe, Messiah Marcolin, sphere, with stylistic flourishes tossed in from the likes of Witchfinder General and others of the NWOBHM who readily crossed the line to doom much as he does here. If you were living the dream and had a dual-deck, The Heresiarch is the kind of record you might dub for one of your buddies and draw the Nupraptor logo on the tape label, perhaps crudely.

Over the last decade, Shadow Kingdom has made itself an essential purveyor of precisely this type of fare: new acts purposefully breaking old ground. The label’s passion for the NWOBHM in particular is a thread one can hear woven through much of what it releases, and Nupraptor fit well into this oeuvre. St. Ours signals early with the aforementioned intro “Black Mass” that his guitar will be in the lead position in terms of arrangement focus, and the 50-minute offering goes according to plan. While it’s Nupraptor‘s first release, St. Ours has past experience working on his own, having founded metallers White Hornet as a one-man project before expanding it to a full lineup, and sure enough, as “Black Mass” gives way to the rolling plod of “Through the Smoke,” that history and the sense of command comes into play almost immediately.

nupraptor

A spoken introduction and initial crash begin “Burning the Believers,” which delivers its title in a whisper before unfurling one of The Heresiarch‘s most satisfying nods, topped with a mournful solo and brimming with downer atmosphere and layered, effected vocals. It is doom for doomers, but though St. Ours is based in Baltimore, it’s worth noting that Nupraptor don’t directly play to Maryland doom of the Pentagram or The Obsessed style. Sure, the pace in “Burning the Believers” picks up in the song’s second half, and the nine-minute title-track, the penultimate “Wasting Away” and “The Fall of Christ” have their rocking moments as well, but this is given to an Iron Maiden-esque gallop more than the rawer punk and hardcore roots from which much of Maryland doom sprang initially and still springs, the swinging progression of “Wasting Away” notwithstanding. Decisively metal, in other words. There is little doubt left as to intent in that regard, and in its craftsmanship, bleak cohesion and anti-Christian storytelling, the album answers the call of its own mission with a passionate delivery and complete-band sound.

That last element — the fact that The Heresiarch sounds like a work by a complete band — makes one wonder what the future for Nupraptor might hold, and if St. Ours could possibly put together a trio or, maybe more likely a four-piece given some of the interweaving guitar antics and harmonies here in “Before the Eyes of God,” etc., down the line. Whether or not that happens, he’s given himself a potent aesthetic model from which to work, and one that will preach loudly and righteously to a vigilant sect of the doom converted. If there aren’t vest patches printed yet, there should be. The Heresiarch speaks to a time in which heavy metal itself was the cult to be joined, and in its style and substance, it succeeds in establishing this context for St. Ours and Nupraptor to nonetheless move forward in bringing new life to this storied past.

Nupraptor on Thee Facebooks

Shadow Kingdom Records website

Shadow Kingdom Records on Thee Facebooks

The Heresiarch at Shadow Kingdom Records Bandcamp

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Blood Mist Change Name to Haze Mage

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 7th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

haze mage photo rock n roll socialite

Pretty familiar situation by now, I’d think. Baltimore’s Blood Mist put out their self-titled debut EP (review here) earlier this year on Grimoire Records, and got a pretty solid response for its blend of classic metal and doomly stylizations. Unfortunately, among the responses they got was from another band with a similar name who harangued them into changing their moniker, which they’ve now done, becoming Haze Mage.

One recalls in the middle of the last decade when the same thing happened to Mike Scheidt with Middian actually being sued, leading to the dissolution of that group. Well, then YOB got back together and put out The Great Cessation, so if Haze Mage want an example of putting being pissed off to really good use, one could hardly think of any more appropriate. Go get ’em, Haze Mage.

The band announced the change on Halloween thusly:

haze mage logo

On this, the eve of all Hallows day, spirits phase in and out of our reality, twisting our perception into madness. The reality we once knew was lost inside a thick crimson fog, and it was there in the Blood Mist where we were battle tested and thrust into an adventure of our own design. Now forged in the fight, the cloud of sanguine fluid has settled back into the ground from whence it came, where it will remain forevermore.

But where one malevolent force dissipates, another one slowly fades into view. A deep sunken dread that pounds inside your mind, beckoning you with an unknown terror. Barely visible, a single silhouette shrouded in blackness, the shadowy towering figure layered behind curtains of effluvium that envelope it. It’s clawed hands raise to the empyrean, slivered eyes glow red and massive spiked horns cut through the vapor to reveal the master of this miasma of smothering murk. A new age has begun. It is the age of the HAZE MAGE. And henceforth it shall be known we are it’s disciples and so should be you.

Haze Mage is John de Campos (drums), Matthew Casella (vocals), Nick Jewett (guitar), Kevin Considine (guitar), and Scott Brenner (bass).

https://www.facebook.com/hazemage/
https://www.instagram.com/hazemage/
https://hazemage.bandcamp.com/releases
https://grimoirerecords.bandcamp.com

Haze Mage, Blood Mist (2017)

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The Flying Eyes, Burning of the Season: Finding Golden Days

Posted in Reviews on October 11th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the flying eyes burning of the season

True, it’s been four years since Baltimore heavy psych/blues rockers The Flying Eyes made their last full-length offering. And in no small part because 2013’s Lowlands (review here) was such a satisfying follow-up to 2011’s Done So Wrong (review here) — their proper debut LP after compiling two EPs into a self-titled album (review here) the year prior — each one of those years has been felt. But it’s not as if The Flying Eyes have been sitting on their ass over that span of time. In 2014, they took part in the first four-way split from Heavy Psych Sounds alongside NaamWhite Hills and Black Rainbows (review here), and in 2015 they toured Europe for not the first time. They’d do so again in 2016 to mark their 10th anniversary as a group, also releasing the Poison the Well / 1969 7″ (discussed here) on H42 Records in the interim.

March 2016 brought dates in South America as well, and it was immediately following that stretch that the four-piece hit Estudio Superfuzz in Rio de Janeiro to record Burning of the Season, their third (or fourth, depending on how you count it) album and debut on Ripple Music, with producer Gabriel Zander, who’s built a reputation helming records for Mars Red Sky and others, and someone who clearly knows how to capture tone and vibe together. Both serve The Flying Eyes — the lineup of vocalist/guitarist Will Kelly, guitarist/lap steel guitarist Adam Bufano, bassist Mac Hewitt and drummer Elias Schutzman — remarkably well throughout, as does the arrangement-bolstering key work of Trevor Shipley on cuts like side A finale “Circle of Stone,” in which the record’s title line is repeated in a particular moment of arrival; one of several no less distinguished by its melody than overarching memorability.

But then, songwriting has always been part of the appeal of The Flying Eyes, and while their priorities have been and would seem to remain elsewhere geographically — tours in South America and Europe, not in the US, and so on — they continue to carry a measure of American pastoralia with them in pieces like opener “Sing Praise,” which makes an early show of Hewitt‘s bass tone en route to one of Burning of the Season‘s catchiest hooks, and the later melancholic “Farewell,” which resonates with the class of its delivery and a carefully conjured rhythmic bounce that manages not to pull away from the wistful mood. Splitting into two four-song sides, the record totals 43 symmetrical minutes, but casts an immersive and linear flow even as the aforementioned “Circle of Stone” — the longest cut at 7:41 save for closer “Oh Sister,” which hits 8:23; see how that works? — moves into twanging side B starter “Fade Away” such that it’s increasingly easy to follow the progression of the record as a singular work as it continues to move outward into greater expanses.

That happens with a somewhat marked shift in sensibility on the part of the band itself, which makes a raucous salvo of “Sing Praise,” “Come Round” and “Drain” at the outset before stretching out on “Circle of Stone,” and yeah, “Come Round” has a quiet part here and there, and “Circle of Stone” pulls back on tempo to emphasize largesse in its loud/quiet tradeoffs prior to its airy solo, but while that song gets its answer in “Oh Sister,” which again brings in Shipley‘s organ work as it revives a more upbeat feel, the balance of the dynamic at play is what shifts, and it becomes much to the richness of the entire listening experience that it does.

the flying eyes

On a sheer level of craft and performance, The Flying Eyes have never sounded better or like they have more to offer their listenership in terms of stylistic reach. Kelly as a vocalist is a commanding frontman who knows when to step back and let his and the surrounding instrumentation have its space, as shown even early on in an echoing break within the second half of “Sing Praise” further marked by standout tom work from Schutzman, and as “Fade Away” and “Farewell” expand the emotional center of Burning of the Season as a whole, he is able to convey genuine-seeming feeling without losing melodic focus, finding a delicate balance between storytelling and owning the material on a personal level. His and Bufano‘s guitar work throughout is likewise stellar, fluid, patient when it wants to be, insistent elsewhere and able to capture a feeling in just a single short progression, as on “Fade Away,” or cast a spaciousness in “Rest Easy” while still remaining grounded thanks to the complementary work of Hewitt on bass and Shipley on keys, who might need to become a permanent member of the band if he hasn’t yet.

Together with Zander‘s full-sounding and clear but still naturalist production (and some overdubs back in Baltimore at The Magpie Cage), all of these elements come to find a summary point in the revival hook and drive of “Oh Sister,” which picks up from the subdued trio of “Fade Away,” “Farewell” and “Rest Easy” to make its impression through the tapping of Schutzman‘s snare and the molten motion signaled thereby between more active and quieter stretches. The finale doesn’t hit quite the same level of emotional expression as, say, “Farewell,” but it does nod to some of the quieter parts of Burning of the Season while emphasizing its chorus en route to the triumphant wash with which it caps the album — a push-toward-crescendo that takes hold just past the six-minute mark with an uptick in volume and thrust and brings The Flying Eyes, whose control has been so resolute all the while, to an especially spirited end with a moment of chaos no less willful in its execution.

It may have tested patience and anticipation for fans, but four long years to bring about Burning of the Season was not wasted time in light of the growth shown in these tracks even from where Lowlands found The Flying Eyes in 2013. They are as sure in their approach as they’ve seemed to be perennially in their songwriting, and they remain underappreciated (at least in the US; I can’t speak for how other continents might receive them at this point) for what they bring to both in terms of quality and clear-minded, purposeful engagement. They’ve been a special band for a long time. Never more so than here.

The Flying Eyes, Burning of the Season (2017)

The Flying Eyes on Thee Facebooks

The Flying Eyes on Bandcamp

The Flying Eyes on Twitter

The Flying Eyes website

Ripple Music on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music on Twitter

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

Ripple Music website/

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Quarterly Review: Primitive Man, Black Lung & Nap, Zone Six, Spectral Haze, Cosmic Fall, Epitaph, Disastroid, Mastiff, Demons from the Dungeon Dimension, Liblikas

Posted in Reviews on October 2nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk quarterly review

The final round of the Fall 2017 Quarterly Review starts now. 60 reviews done. I think if this particular QR session proves anything it’s that come hell or high water, once it’s set, there’s no stopping this train. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but the site was down for half of last week and we’re still getting to 60 reviews from Monday to Monday. That’s not not impressive from where I sit, especially since I spent that downtime going out of my mind trying to get things up and running again while also trying to write posts that I didn’t even know if they were going to happen. But they happened — thanks again, Slevin and Behrang — and here we are. All is well and we can get back to normal hopefully for the rest of this week. Thanks for reading any of this if you did. Let’s get to it.

Quarterly Review #51-60:

Primitive Man, Caustic

primitive-man-caustic

Primitive Man’s Caustic is the concept of “heavy” taken to the superlative. It is a 12-track/77-minute onslaught for which no less than absolute hyperbole will suffice. In following-up their 2013 Relapse Records debut, Scorn (review here), a series of splits and 2015’s Home is Where the Hatred Is EP (review here), the Denver trio reign in terror as they make Caustic live up to its name in the crushing tones, feedback of and slow churn of “My Will,” “Commerce” “Tepid,” and “Sugar Hole,” the consuming wave of “Victim,” the blastbeating death assault of “Sterility,” and the biting atmospherics of harsh interludes “Caustic,” “Ash” and “The Weight,” which preface the nine minutes of vague noise that close on “Absolutes,” following the grueling slaughter of “Disfigured” and the rightfully-named 12-minute “Inevitable,” which seems even slower and more weighted somehow than everything before it. On the sheer level of heft for that song alone, it’s time to start thinking about Primitive Man among the heaviest bands in the world. I’m serious. Caustic is an overwhelming masterwork of unbridled extremity, and with it, Primitive Man set a new standard both for themselves and for anyone else who’d dare to try to live up to it in their wake.

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Relapse Records webstore

 

Black Lung & Nap, Split

black-lung-nap-split

A heavy blues trio from Baltimore and a progressive boogie outfit from Oldenburg, Germany, might seem like an odd pairing, but by the time the 25 minutes of Black Lung and Nap’s split 12” platter (on Noisolution) are up, the release has come to make its own peculiar kind of sense. In following 2016’s See the Enemy (review here), Black Lung present two new songs in “Strange Seeds” and “Use this Stone” as well we the prior-issued Marvin Gaye cover “Inner City Blues” done in collaboration with rapper Eze Jackson, where Nap answer their debut album, Villa (review here), with the shuffle-into-psychedelia of “Djinn,” the spacious, patient rollout of the airy guitars in “Vorlaut” and the final thrust of “Teer.” Each of the two acts establishes a context for itself quickly – Black Lung brazenly defying theirs in the shift from “Use this Stone” to “Inner City Blues”; Nap expanding between “Djinn” and “Vorlaut” – and though one wouldn’t be likely to mistake one group for the other, their disparate sounds don’t at all hinder the ability of either group to make an impression during their brief time.

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Noisolution webstore

 

Zone Six, Zone Six

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Originally issued in 1998 via Early Birds Records with the lineup of bassist/synthesis/Mellotronist Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt, guitarist Hans-Peter Ringholz, drummer/keyboardist Claus Bühler and vocalist Jodi Barry, the self-titled debut from German space/krautrock explorationists Zone Six sees something of a redux via Sulatron Records to mark the 20th anniversary of the band’s founding. Eight minutes shorter than the original edition at 51 minutes, the new version whittles down the original 13-track presentation to two vinyl sides – titles: “Side A” (27:04) and “Side B” (24:39) – and drops the vocal tracks entirely to make it a completely instrumental release. That’s a not-insignificant change, of course, but let there be no doubt that it works in terms of highlighting the flow, which as it transitions between what used to be one song and another loses not one step and instead simply becomes an engrossing and multifaceted jam. This is truer perhaps to the band Zone Six have become – if you missed their 2015 full-length Love Monster (review here), it was glorious and it’s not too late to catch up – than the band they started out as, but Zone Six have found a way to make an old release new again, and new Zone Six is never anything to complain about, whatever the occasion.

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Sulatron Records? webstore

 

Spectral Haze, Turning Electric

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Space rock warriors Spectral Haze return after three years in the Gamma Quadrant with Turning Electric via Totem Cat Records, a six-song sophomore outing behind 2014’s I.E.V.: Transmutated Nebula Remains (review here) that quickly enters a wormhole of Hawkwindian thrust on opener “The Dawn of the Falcon” – perhaps that’s what’s represented on the glorious Adam Burke cover art – and takes a winding but directed course deeper and deeper into interstellar realms for its duration of what on earth is only six songs and 33 minutes. Each of the intended two vinyl sides boasts a longer track, be it “Cathexis/Mask of Transformation” on side A or “They Live” on side B, but whether it’s in those or shorter rocket boosters like the title-track, “Ajaghandi” or the aforementioned leadoff, the Oslo-based four-piece keep it dreamy and kosmiche even unto the doomlier roll of closer “Master Sorcerer,” a collection of final psychedelic proclamations that cuts off quickly at the end as though breaking a transmission from the heart of the galaxy itself. Heck of a destination, and getting there’s a blast, too.

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Totem Cat Records webstore

 

Cosmic Fall, Jams for Free

cosmic-fall-jams-for-free

Kind of a bummer how Jams for Free came about, but for the reassurance that Berlin heavy psych improvisationalists Cosmic Fall will keep going after what seems to have been an unceremonious split with now-ex-guitarist/vocalist Mathias, I’ll take it. With two new explorations, bassist Klaus and drummer Daniel introduce new guitarist Martin, and those worried they might lose the funk of their original incarnation should have their fears duly allayed by “A Calmer Sphere” (12:19) and “The Great Comet” (8:10), which begin a new era of Cosmic Fall after the remaining founders were forced to stop selling their prior works. If there’s anger or catharsis being channeled in Jams for Free, though, it comes through as fluidity and serene heavy psych, and with the resonant live-in-studio vibe, Cosmic Fall essentially seem to be picking up where they left off. With Martin making a distinguishing impression in the soloing of “A Calmer Sphere”’s second half particularly, the future continues to look bright for the German asteroid riders. Right on, guys. Keep jamming.

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Cosmic Fall on Bandcamp

 

Epitaph, Claws

Epitaph-Claws

Doomers of Verona Epitaph trace their origins back some 30 years, but Claws (on High Roller Records) is just their second long-player behind 2014’s Crawling out of the Crypt. Matters not. Theirs is the doom of ages one way or the other, presented in this collection of five songs in traditional fashion with an edge of the Italian bizarrist movement (think early Death SS) and, from the “Neon Knights”-style riff of “Gossamer Claws” to the “After All (The Dead)”/”Falling off the Edge of the World”-style dramaturge of “Wicked Lady,” the nods to ‘80s and early-‘90s Black Sabbath are manifold and executed with what sounds like a genuine love for that era of the band and classic metal in general. Hard to fault Epitaph that influence, particularly as they bring it to bear in the guttural riffly chug of centerpiece “Sizigia,” tonally as much as in the form of what’s actually being played. As a mission, the homage is perhaps a bit single-minded, but as they continue to build their own legacy in these classic sounds, it’s impossible to say Epitaph’s collective heart isn’t in the right place.

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High Roller Records webstore

 

Disastroid, Screen

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The nine songs of Disastroid’s fourth self-released LP, Screen, are drawn together by a songwriting prowess that’s better heard than described and by a heft of tone that, especially on stompers like “Dinosaur” early and “Coyote” later on, proves likewise. Is the point of this review, then, that you should listen to the album? Yuppers. At a crisp 35 minutes, Screen finds the Bay Area trio willfully nestled someplace between heavy rock riffing, noise crunch, punk and metal, and they fly this refusal to commit to one style over another no less proudly than they do the hook of “Getting in the Way” or “I Didn’t Kill Myself,” which along with the push of “Choke the Falcon” and the Melvinsian “Clinical Perfection” make up a series of short burst impressions contrasted by the longer “Screen” and “New Day” at the outset and the six-minute finale “Gunslinger,” though wherever Disastroid seem to go, they bring a current of memorable craft with them, making an otherwise purposefully bumpy ride smooth and a chaos-fueled joy to undertake.

Disastroid website

Disastroid on Bandcamp

 

Mastiff, Bork

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Ultimately, bludgeon-ready UK five-piece Mastiff might owe as much to grind as they do to doom or sludge – at least if “Nil by Mouth” has anything to say about it – but more than loyalty to any subgenre or other, the Hull unit’s 25-minute Bork full-length (released on CD by APF Records) is interested in presenting an extreme vision of sonic heft. Brutal pummel infects the rolling chorus of “Everything Equals Death” and the initial chug of “Tumour” alike, and where opener “Agony” was content to blast out its cacophony in fury of tempo as much as weight, as they settle in for the mosh-ready six minutes of closer “Eternal Regret,” Mastiff seem to have dug out a position between lumbering doom and early ‘00s deathcore, a telltale breakdown capping Bork in grooving and familiar fashion. Their intensity might prove a distinguishing factor over the longer term, though, and they certainly have plenty enough of it to go around.

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APF Records website

 

Demons from the Dungeon Dimension, An Organic Mythology

demons-from-the-dungeon-dimension-an-organic-mythology

The righteously-monikered Demons from the Dungeon Dimension made a striking and individualized – and bizarre – impression in 2016 with the There was Ogres EP (discussed here), a follow-up to the debut full-length, As the Crow Flies, released just weeks earlier. With the new single An Organic Mythology and the five-minute, raw-recorded track of the same name, the Durban, South Africa-based project is laid to rest. A burly opening and thickened distortion lead to a pushing verse with dry vocals over top – sounding very much like a home-recorded demo outright and not trying to be anything else – and soon enough the track shifts into a spoken-word-dissertation over an instrumental build that carries it into its final minute, at which point the verse kicks back in to end. As with the prior EP, which topped 25 minutes, the vibe is willfully strange throughout “An Organic Mythology,” and if this is indeed the last we’ll hear from Demons from the Dungeon Dimension (doesn’t it just sound like something TOR Books would put out?), somehow it seems right we live in an age where the material can reside in the digital ether, waiting to be stumbled on by curious parties soon to be blindsided by what they hear.

Demons from the Dungeon Dimension on Bandcamp

Demons from the Dungeon Dimension on YouTube

 

Liblikas, Unholy Moly

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From the initial semi-gothic vibes from vocalist Oliver Aunver to the progressive fuzz rock that ensues on opener “Holy Underground,” Estonian five-piece Liblikas seem to specialize in the unexpected on their second full-length, Unholy Moly. Aunver, guitarists Temo Saarna (also vocals) and Henrik Harak, bassist Joosep Käsper and drummer/backing vocalist Mihkel Rebane, oversee a brisk 45-minute run across eight tracks of genre-spanning grooves, from the chugging almost-doom of “Highest Hound” to the semi-folk experimentalist interlude “Fugue Yeah! (Diary Pt. II),” which follows “Dear Diary, Yeah!” a track that starts out with what might be a Japanese-language sample and psychedelic unfolding to more cohesive, harmony-topped prog rock bounce before the fuzz emerges and meets with forward vocals and effective interplay of acoustics in the chorus. Why yes, there is a six-minute song called “Pornolord” – funny you should ask. It appears before the oud-laced “Ol’ Slime” and nine-minute closer “Keezo,” which embraces the difficult task of summing up the weirdo intensity that’s been on display throughout Liblikas’ songwriting all along, and with wispy guitar leading to a big, noisy finish, succeeds outright in doing so.

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Liblikas on Bandcamp

 

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Nupraptor Set Dec. 15 Release for Debut Album The Heresiarch; Two New Songs Streaming

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 20th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

nupraptor

Newcomer one-man outfit Nupraptor will release its debut full-length, The Heresiarch, Dec. 15 via Shadow Kingdom Records, with vinyl to follow at the start of the New Year. I’ve said on multiple occasions that when it comes to all things tinged with classic metal, there are few whose tastes are as trustworthy as that of the Pittsburgh-based imprint, and in its picking up Nupraptor — founded just last year in Baltimore, Maryland, by multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Matt St. Ours, also of White Hornet — my position is only reaffirmed. You can stream two new tracks from The Heresiarch below, including the 11-minute album finale “The Fall of Christ,” which opens with St. Ours reciting the Our Father, because, you know, heavy metal and all that.

Interesting to note that White Hornet also started out as a one-man project before becoming a full band. One can’t help but wonder if Nupraptor might end up on a similar path if the demand is there for live shows. I wouldn’t mind hearing “Through the Smoke” at a gig. Just saying.

From the PR wire:

nupraptor-the-heresiarch

NUPRAPTOR set release date for SHADOW KINGDOM debt, reveal first tracks

Shadow Kingdom Records sets December 15th as the international release date for the surprise debut of Nupraptor, The Heresiarch, on CD and cassette tape formats. The vinyl version shall be released later, on January 12th, 2018.

Curiously named, Nupraptor is the solo-project of White Hornet mastermind Matt St. Ours, who’s been itching to record some pure ‘n’ powerful doom metal for a while now. And that’s exactly what you get with The Heresiarch: the purest DOOM, powerful as it comes, downtrodden and desolate to the bitter end. Hailing the old European gods of traditional doom, Nupraptor crafts seven slumbering beasts of majestic misery within a mystical continuum of 51 minutes, starting with a “Black Mass” and on “Through the Smoke” before “Burning the Believers” “Before the Eyes of God,” and at last “Wasting Away” before “The Fall of Christ.”

Verily, St. Ours crafts music for the grave and the graveyard, his haunting vocals heralding the onset of long nights wrapped in the fog’s embrace, languorous and lonely. Or, more accurately, you simply cannot craft doom metal of such a beautifully barren hue without having LIVED it – and dying for it. Behold The Heresiarch, for it has arrived as Nupraptor!

Await the arrival with the new tracks “Through the Smoke” and “The Fall of Christ” at Shadow Kingdom’s Bandcamp, where all three formats of the album can be preordered.

Tracklisting for Nupraptor’s The Heresiarch
1. Black Mass
2. Through The Smoke
3. Burning The Believers
4. The Heresiarch
5. Before the Eyes of God
6. Wasting Away
7. The Fall Of Christ

Nupraptor is:
Matt “Saint” St.Ours – Vocals, Guitars, Bass, Drum Programming

https://www.facebook.com/NupraptorBand
www.shadowkingdomrecords.com
www.facebook.com/shadowkingdomrecords
https://shadowkingdomrecords.bandcamp.com/album/the-heresiarch

Nupraptor, The Heresiarch (2017)

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Azurea Post Video for “Huntress”

Posted in Bootleg Theater on September 12th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

azurea-photo-rick-fleddermann

Much I’m sure to my own loss, I haven’t actually watched the third season that began earlier this year of Twin Peaks, the rebooted-25-years-later series helmed by director/creator/noted-bringer-of-weirdness David Lynch. I probably should’ve been all about it. I’m old enough to remember when the show was on TV a quarter-century ago and how creeped-out it was, with Bob, and Laura Palmer, and all that, but I guess I just haven’t gotten on board yet with the new incarnation. I may get there eventually.

I bring it up because Azurea‘s new video for the track “Huntress” points specifically to Twin Peaks and purports to pay tribute to it, presumably in the dark and mind-creeper spirit of the thing. There’s the checkered floor and red drapes as one might expect, and if you’ve ever seen Twin Peaks at all, you probably can get a sense where vocalist/keyboardist Stella and keyboardist/vocalist/noisemaker Elias Schutzman — also drummer of The Flying Eyes and Black Lung — are coming from. Or if not, it’s dark and it’s atmospheric, so there you go.

The vibe of “Huntress” itself certainly bears that out as well, with Stella establishing an operatic presence early in the spirit of Diamanda Galás or some of Jarboe‘s statelier work. There’s an underlying tension of rhythm that comes through in the beat and pays off later, but not before the song nestles into a slow-jam electronica feel complemented by organ sounds, later sampling, and Schutzman joining in on vocals. Azurea have a few other songs posted on their Soundcloud (linked at the bottom of the post), including a cover of Velvet Underground‘s “Venus in Furs,” should you be up for further exploration.

Before you dig into the clip below, a heads up: Watch out for flashing lights. Especially in the second half. If you’re sensitive to that kind of thing or prone to seizures, you might want to avert your eyes when the track picks up. It gets pretty manic there for a bit.

Given that caveat, I hope you enjoy:

Azurea, “Huntress” official video

Our debut song and music video for “Huntress”, a tribute to the legendary Twin Peaks. Directed by us, filmed by Human Being Productions…

Stella Schutzman- Vocals
Elias Schutzman- Keyboards, Vocals, Programming

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Azurea on Soundcloud

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The Flying Eyes Release Burning of the Season this Month; Stream “Sing Praise”

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 8th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

THE FLYING EYES

Usually I might like to make it deeper into a record than the third track before I add it to my ongoing list of the year’s best releases, but with my initial impression of The Flying Eyes‘ fourth full-length, Burning of the Season, which I have on for the very first time as I type this, the truth is I barely made it that far. Set for issue via Ripple Music and preceded by the stream of the track “Sing Praise” which you can hear at the bottom of this post, Burning of the Season is one I’ve been waiting on for a while, as the Baltimorean four-piece tracked it in Brazil with Gabriel Zander in 2016 and it’s been four years since their last proper album, Lowlands (review here), came out in 2013.

Of course, they’ve been plenty busy since then, touring in South America and Europe multiple times over, putting out shorter releases like the Poison the Well 7″ (discussed here) and this year’s split with Lazlo Lee and the Motherless Children, but golly it’s good to have a new record from them on the way. Like, really good. Like, one of the best albums of 2017 good.

Art and details follow via the PR wire:

the-flying-eyes-burning-of-the-season

THE FLYING EYES – Burning of the Season – New album on Ripple Music | Released 22 September 2017

With a name taken from a 1962 science fiction novel about giant, disembodied eyes that descend from space to control humanity, Baltimore’s The Flying Eyes are a heavy psychedelic rock band with a difference.

Primarily operating as an organ drenched, blues riffed rock’n’roll outfit of wayfaring journeymen, with a driven, hard rock sound; thunderous drums and distorted guitar leads The Flying Eyes have been compared in recent times to Blue Cheer, Hawkwind and Dead Meadow.

In 2007 they founded Farm Fest, a DIY music festival in Maryland which ran for six years and featured the likes of Black Moth Super Rainbow, Celebration and White Hills among many others. Yet hardly strangers to the stage themselves, since their formation over ten years ago they have supported the likes of The Raveonettes, The Black Angels and Dan Auerbach, and achieved an impressive following in Europe with extensive club touring. Not to mention countless festival appearances at Burg Herzberg Festival, Rockpalast Crossroads, DesertFest (Belgium) and the Synchronicity Festival in India.

Produced last year by Gabriel Zander (Mars Red Sky) at Super Fuzz Studio in Rio de Janeiro while on tour in South America, Burning of the Season is a return to the band’s roots of fuzzed-out blues and soulful psychedelia and is released on 22nd September 2017 through Ripple Music.

Track Listing:
1. Sing Praise
2. Come Round
3. Drain
4. Circle of Stone
5. Fade Away
6. Farewell
7. Rest Easy
8. Oh Sister

https://www.facebook.com/theflyingeyes/
https://theflyingeyes.bandcamp.com/
https://twitter.com/TheFlyingEyes
http://www.theflyingeyes.com/
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ripple-Music/369610860064
https://twitter.com/RippleMusic
https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/
http://www.ripple-music.com/

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