Judas Priest Unveil Firepower Preorders; Post “Lightning Strike” Video

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

judas priest Justin Borucki

I’ve said on multiple occasions that I consider classic metal within the purview of capital ‘h’ Heavy, and if you’ve got a problem with me covering Judas Priest, I don’t really know what to tell you. The metal legends are set to release full-length number 18 — 18! — on March 9. It’s up for preorder now, called Firepower, they’re touring like mad to support it in North America and Europe and no doubt beyond, and they’ve got a new video for the track “Lightning Strike” that, if you can deal with flashing lights and that sort of thing, showcases a truly badass song.

Make no mistake, it’s Priest sounding like Priest, but again, if that’s an issue, the issue isn’t with the band.

I’m stoked on this one. Hope you are too. Here’s the latest from the PR wire:

Judas Priest Firepower

JUDAS PRIEST FIRING ON ALL CYLINDERS WITH BRAND NEW STUDIO ALBUM – ‘FIREPOWER’

Judas Priest could easily rest on their laurels at this stage of their highly successful and influential career. However, the legendary metal band – singer Rob Halford, guitarists Glenn Tipton and Richie Faulkner, bassist Ian Hill, and drummer Scott Travis – refuse to do so as evidenced by the arrival of their eighteenth studio album overall – ‘Firepower,’ which can be pre-ordered via the link http://smarturl.it/Firepower.

Set for release on Friday, March 9th, 2018 via Epic Records – the album is comprised of fourteen tracks of pure and highly inspired metal. And to mark the occasion Priest has reunited with producer Tom Allom (the man behind the board for all of the band’s releases from 1979-1988, including such stellar classics as ‘Unleashed in the East,’ ‘British Steel,’ ‘Screaming for Vengeance’ and ‘Defenders of the Faith’) and with Grammy Award-winning producer Andy Sneap also helping to raise the sonic bar even higher.

“Tom Allom has got this classic metal thing,” explains Halford. “And Andy is a bit more of a ‘modern metal producer’ but his thinking is a little bit different to Tom’s. And I think to get this balance between that classic old school metal to what Andy’s world is was just a remarkable coalescence.” “Tom Allom has been with us since 1979, so his knowledge of ourselves and our music in general is immense,” adds Hill. And according to Travis Priest returned back to a recording method that worked incredibly well on the band’s earlier classics – “We went back to the organic way of recording where it’s all of us in a room and we got to play together.”

The album’s first single, ‘Lightning Strike’ will be available worldwide on Friday, January 5, 2018, and on the same day the song’s music video will be premiered. Full album pre-order and a PledgeMusic pre-order (https://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/judas-priest) will also begin the same day which includes exclusive limited autographed colored vinyl, autographed vinyl test pressings, an exclusive Judas Priest t-shirt and an extremely limited number of Judas Priest autographed guitars.

With the impending arrival of ‘Firepower’ and its ensuing tour (which kicks off on March 13th), THE PRIEST IS BACK!

‘FIREPOWER’ TRACKLISTING:
1. Firepower
2. Lightning Strike
3. Evil Never Dies
4. Never The Heroes
5. Necromancer
6. Children of the Sun
7. Guardians
8. Rising From Ruins
9. Flame Thrower
10. Spectre
11. Traitors Gate
12. No Surrender
13. Lone Wolf
14. Sea of Red

Firepower 2018 North American Tour Dates
March 13 Wilkes Barre, PA Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza
March 15 Youngstown, OH Covelli Centre
March 17 Uniondale, NY Nassau Coliseum
March 18 Washington, D.C. The Anthem
March 20 Newark, NNJ Prudential Center
March 22 Uncasville, CT Mohegan Sun Arena
March 23 Worcester, MA The Palladium
March 25 Ottawa, ON The Arena at TD Place
March 27 London, ON Budweiser Gardens
March 28 Oshawa, ON Tribute Communities Centre
March 30 Orillia, ON Casino Rama
March 31 Detroit, MI Detroit Masonic Temple
April 03 Milwaukee, WI Riverside Theater
April 05 Green Bay, WI Resch Center
April 08 Bloomington, IL Grossinger Motors Arena
April 10 Casper, WY Casper Events Center
April 11 Loveland, CO Budweiser Events Center
April 15 Kent, WA ShoWare Center
April 17 Portland, OR. Veterans Memorial Coliseum
April 19 San Francisco, CA The Warfield
April 22 Los Angeles, CA Microsoft Theater
April 24 Phoenix, AZ Comerica Theatre
April 26 Tulsa, OK BOK Center
April 28 Dallas, TX The Bomb Factory
April 29 Sugarland, TX Smart Financial Centre
May 01 San Antonio, TX Freeman Coliseum

http://www.facebook.com/OfficialJudasPriest
https://twitter.com/judaspriest
http://www.instagram.com/judaspriest
https://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/judas-priest
judaspriest.com
www.epicrecords.com/

Judas Priest, “Lightning Strike” official video

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Alunah Welcome New Vocalist Siân Greenaway; Live Debut this Month

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 2nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Just about five weeks after it was announced that founding guitarist/vocalist Sophie Day was leaving Birmingham, UK, doomers Alunah and that the band would continue on in her absence with her husband, guitarist David Day and drummer Jake Mason as the remaining original members, the four-piece have confirmed adding Siân Greenaway as their new singer. Greenaway, whose CV includes handling guitar/vocals in the more uptempo Bear Legs and other groups, steps into Alunah after the release of their fourth and arguably broadest ranging album, Solennial (review here), was released earlier in 2017 as their first offering through Svart Records.

As Sophie Day‘s nature-themed lyrics were a big part of Alunah‘s forest doom aesthetic both on that record and in the past, a huge question that remains to be answered is what Greenaway will bring to the band in that regard. It seems like we might have a while before we find out. The band will make their live debut on Nov. 27 in Birmingham, supporting Royal Thunder, and look to tour in 2018 while also working to solidify new material over that time. It doesn’t seem like they’re rushing to get back in the studio, but then, they did just put a record out, so one wouldn’t necessarily expect them to anyhow.

More when I hear it, I guess, but until then, best of luck to Alunah, Greenaway included, as they head into this new era. Here’s a press release I wrote for the band to make it official:

alunah

Alunah Announce New Vocalist Siân Greenaway & Live Debut

Midlands, UK, doom rockers Alunah have announced the addition of vocalist Siân Greenaway to their lineup. The new incarnation of the four-piece will make their live debut on 27 November at Mama Roux’s in their native Birmingham, supporting Royal Thunder.

Tickets for that show can be purchased here: https://www.seetickets.com/event/royal-thunder/mama-roux-s/1147450

Greenaway joins Alunah after the stunning departure in September of founding vocalist/guitarist Sophie Day, who fronted the band across four full-length releases, the latest of which, Solennial, was issued earlier this year on Svart Records. In conjunction with Day’s leaving, Alunah vowed to press on, and with the arrival of Greenaway, they will look to tour in 2018 and begin writing material for their next album.

“I’m honoured to be part of Alunah,” enthuses Greenaway. “I look forward to being part of the future of the band and am excited to take it forward.”

Bassist Dan Burchmore echoed the sentiment: “We were instantly impressed with Siân’s vocal ability, passion and commitment. We feel she will be a welcome addition to the band and we can’t wait to see what 2018 holds.”

Tour dates for 2018 are forthcoming. Booking enquiries can be sent to booking@alunah.co.uk.

Alunah is:
Siân Greenaway – Vocals
David Day – Guitar
Daniel Burchmore – Bass
Jake Mason – Drums

http://www.facebook.com/alunah.doom
http://twitter.com/#!/alunah_doom
http://alunah.bandcamp.com
http://www.alunah.co.uk
http://www.svartrecords.com

Alunah, Solennial (2017)

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Godflesh to Release Post Self Nov. 17; New Song Streaming; Streetcleaner Live at Roadburn 2011 Reissue out Dec. 1

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 1st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

godflesh

As Godflesh make ready to perform Streetcleaner in full this coming Sunday night, Nov. 5, at Warsaw in Brooklyn to mark the 20th anniversary of Hospital Productions, the legendary Justin K. Broadrick-led outfit are preparing to unveil two new releases. First is a new studio outing titled Post Self, which is a follow-up for 2014’s return long-player A World Lit Only by Fire (review here), and second is a CD reissue Dec. 1 on Burning World/Roadburn Records of the 2013 live outing, Streetcleaner Live at Roadburn 2011, capturing the performance six years ago that basically kicked off the duo’s resurgence, Broadrick and Benny Green taking the stage together and laying waste to the entire fest. I was there. It was a work of technology advanced enough to be considered magic by my feeble brain.

The title-track of Post Self is streaming now and the PR wire brings the latest on both releases:

Godflesh share the title track of their new album, Post Self; the legendary duo’s first album in three years, due out on November 17th

Godflesh Streetcleaner Live At Roadburn (CD) out Dec. 1

Industrial metal pioneers Godflesh will release their new album Post Self on November 17th via Justin K. Broadrick’s Avalanche Recordings on CD, digital and LP formats, with a cassette version incoming on Hospital Productions. Over two years in the making, Post Self explores a different side of Godflesh, taking in their formative influences to conjure something informed by late 70’s/early 80’s post-punk and industrial music. The album deals with themes of anxiety, depression, fear, mortality, and paternal/maternal relationships.

The previous Godflesh album, A World Lit Only By Fire, was released in October 2014.

Post Self track listing
1. Post Self
2. Parasite
3. No Body
4. Mirror Of Finite Light
5. Be God
6. The Cyclic End
7. Pre Self
8. Mortality Sorrow
9. In Your Shadow
10. The Infinite End

GODFLESH performed their seminal debut full-length album, 1989’s “Streetcleaner”, in its entirety at the 2011 edition of the Roadburn festival on Thursday, April 14 at the 013 venue in Tilburg, Holland. In addition, founding members Justin Broadrick and Benny Green played the “Tiny Tears” EP, which was conceived as part of the overall “Streetcleaner” vision, in full as well.

– Mastered specially for cd by James Plotkin.
– Originally released as a double album on Roadburn Festival Records in 2013. Now for the first time out on cd.

Tracklist
1. LIKE RATS (LIVE) 05:34
2. CHRISTBAIT RISING (LIVE) 07:46
3. PULP (LIVE) 04:21
4. DREAM LONG DEAD (LIVE) 05:36
5. HEADDIRT (LIVE) 04:20
6. DEVASTATOR / MIGHTY TRUST KRUSHER (LIVE) 09:40
7. LIFE IS EASY (LIVE) 04:25
8. STREETCLEANER (LIVE) 06:47
9. LOCUST FURNACE (LIVE) 04:36
10. TINY TEARS (LIVE) 03:21
11. WOUND (LIVE) 03:12
12. DEADHEAD (LIVE) 04:06
13. SUCTION (LIVE) 08:48

http://avalancherecordings.tumblr.com/
https://godflesh1.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/jkflesh/
https://twitter.com/jkbroadrick
https://www.instagram.com/justinkbroadrick/

Godflesh, “Post Self”

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Ember Announce New EP 271 Due Nov. 12

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 29th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

ember

Birmingham, Alabama, post-sludge doomers Ember will follow-up their 2016 261 EP (discussed here) by upping the stakes. By 10, apparently. The forthcoming release is titled 271 and it’s set to arrive on Nov. 12. Before they get there, Ember have a handful of dates booked in throughout October in Alabama and Georgia, including what I’m assuming is a video filming session in Tuscaloosa on Oct. 14 that will be for one of the tracks from the new EP. It’s listed with the shows, but seems to maybe be at a hospital?

Yeah, you might want to hit the band up to find out if that one’s actually open to the public, but I’ve included it here just in case. Maybe they want a crowd to show up. I don’t know. Either way, while I’m making rash assumptions, I’ll just go ahead and figure the gig on Nov. 12 — EP release date, if you forgot in the jump from one paragraph to the next — is a hometown release show. So if you can’t make it to the hospital, there’s always The Nick. Plenty of chances to have a good time.

They sent the following info down the PR wire:

ember 271

EMBER announce release date for “271”

Birmingham, Alabama’s female fronted Doom/Rock outfit EMBER announce the official release of the 3 song EP “271”. The release is set for November 12th, 2017 and promises to be the band’s most focused and uncompromising material yet. Recorded, mixed and mastered by Matt Washburn at Ledbelly Sound (Mastodon, Royal Thunder, Norma Jean) this 3 song EP is a 25 minute musical journey through a dark myriad of peaks and valleys.

EMBER has imaginatively combined their vast influences to give us a hard-hitting and powerful follow-up. “271” is promising and incorporates new elements while staying true to the EMBER sound they established on their previous release “261”.

EMBER was established in 2015 and have crafted their own brand of doom/rock. Thick dynamic riffs, crushing guitar and bass tones, powerful hard-hitting drumming, all lay the framework for clean, intense and stunning vocals. From the first note, EMBER demand attention.

EMBER live:
11 Oct The Nick Birmingham, AL
14 Oct Bryce Hospital Video Shoot Tuscaloosa, AL
28 Oct The Oglethorpe Lounge Albany, GA
12 Nov The Nick Birmingham, AL

Ember is:
Crystal Bigelow – Vocals
Craig Shadix – Guitar
Jeremy Allen – Bass
Eric Bigelow – Drums

https://www.facebook.com/emberband
https://twitter.com/ember_rock_band
https://www.instagram.com/ember_band
https://emberband.bandcamp.com/
https://www.emberrockband.com/

Ember, 261 (2016)

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Friday Full-Length: Black Sabbath, Live Evil

Posted in Bootleg Theater on September 22nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Black Sabbath, Live Evil (1982)

Black Sabbath had already done the impossible by the time they released Live Evil in 1982. After a run of six albums resulting in several timeless and formative landmarks in the history of heavy metal, they’d seen something of a decline in the late ’70s with frontman Ozzy Osbourne and, after separating with him and hiring Rainbow singer Ronnie James Dio for the vocalist role, managed to bounce back and not only produce two more records in 1980’s Heaven and Hell (discussed here) and 1981’s Mob Rules (discussed here), but to use those albums as a means for redefining their personality as a band and reclaim their place at the forefront of a heavy metal movement they helped to shape at its outset. When ’82 rolled around, the New Wave of British Heavy Metal was underway, and rather than languish as so many ’70s heavy outfits did with those not already undone by punk either breaking up or fading into obscurity, Sabbath — guitarist Tony Iommi, bassist Geezer ButlerDio on vocals and first Bill Ward and subsequently Vinny Appice on drums — stormed forward into the new decade and continued to have an impact and an influence still felt today. Unbelievable. How many bands get to do that twice? How many get to do it once?

But for the fact that the lineup was once again falling apart at the time — with friction between Dio and Iommi documented in the latter’s memoir and other sources — and perhaps in spite of its terrible here-are-our-song-titles-turned-into-people (note the War Pig, the Neon Knight, etc.) cover art, one might consider the 14-track Live Evil a victory lap. Its 14 tracks span an 80-minute runtime and find Black Sabbath hitting with maximum force and presence that comes through clearly from each player. I don’t know if Dio ever sounded so powerful again as he does on this version of “Children of the Sea,” and certainly I’ve never heard a thrust from Appice to match the surge he puts into “Neon Knights” at the outset. Ozzy-era classics like “N.I.B.” and “Children of the Grave” find Butler and Iommi utterly refreshed compared to how they sound on 1980’s band-unsanctioned Live at Last (nothing against that release, but if you want primo live Ozzy Sabbath, chase down the Asbury Park ’75 soundboard bootleg), and in extended versions of “Voodoo” from Mob Rules and the Heaven and Hell title-track brim with vitality no less than the screaming rendition of “The Mob Rules” or the nine-minute take on “War Pigs.” Captured while the band was on the road for the second of the LPs issued with Dio during their first run together, Live Evil has a stateliness and fury in kind, and though it would ultimately mark the capstone for this version of Black Sabbath, it perfectly summarizes the absolute mastery they conveyed at this point on every level — style, structure, charge and poise.

Of course, even when a band releases a whole show officially, let alone a live record compiled from multiple sources like this one, they’re putting the best representation of themselves forward, but even with that caveat, Live Evil absolutely soars. With a crisp mix much bolstered by the keyboard work of Geoff Nicholls (who, sadly, passed away earlier this year) and an absolutely vital blend of songs like “Sign of the Southern Cross” and “Black Sabbath,” it represents Black Sabbath acknowledging what by then was already their history as well as their unwillingness to be bound by it. As they finish with “Children of the Grave,” they leave no question as to their place in the lore of metal and the NWOBHM specifically, and though the language of their serving as forebears of doom didn’t really exist at the time, that too is no less chiseled in stone here via Iommi‘s solo in “Heaven and Hell” than by the swing of “Voodoo” or the lumbering heft of “Iron Man.” This incarnation, this band, this moment: Untouchable.

And temporary. Within a year of Live Evil‘s release, Ronnie James Dio would be out of Black Sabbath. His debut with his own Dio band on Warner Bros., 1983’s Holy Diver, kicked off a trio of releases with the lineup of Dio, Appice, guitarist Vivian Campbell and bassist Jimmy Bain rounded out by 1984’s The Last in Line and 1985’s Sacred Heart that further affirmed his place among metal’s greatest frontmen while achieving massive commercial success in the studio and on tour. Sabbath, meanwhile, tried to go three-for-three in bringing aboard Deep Purple vocalist Ian Gillan for 1983’s Born Again (discussed here), and while the result was one of their darkest, grittiest albums and one that’s only flourished in appeal in the years since, at the time it didn’t have the same kind of far-reaching success as either Heaven and Hell or Mob Rules before it, and the lineup didn’t last. Iommi would work with another former Deep Purple singer, Glenn Hughes, for the Seventh Star album in 1986 — reportedly supposed to be a solo record that was later stamped as a Black Sabbath release — before settling in with singer Tony Martin to begin the band’s next era in earnest, which would carry them until their 1992 reunion with Dio for the Dehumanizer LP, and then pick up again for two more outings in the mid ’90s — 1994’s Cross Purposes and 1995’s Forbidden — before Iommi, Butler and Bill Ward eventually reunited with Osbourne in 1997.

That’s not the end of Sabbath and Dio‘s complicated history together by any means. They’d get together again under the guise of Heaven and Hell in the aughts/early ’10s, tour and produce both a live and a studio album, the latter being 2009’s The Devil You Know (review here), and perform together essentially until sidelined by Dio‘s declining health and the battle with cancer that took his life in 2010.

If their work as Heaven and Hell proved anything at all, it was the continued relevance of this lineup and the sonic persona that made it distinct from any incarnation of Sabbath before or after. Live Evil represents that at its best and most vivid, and as always, I hope you enjoy.

Thanks for reading.

In the middle of a conversation about something else — I don’t remember what, but can only imagine it was baby-related as most things these days seem to be — The Patient Mrs. turned to me the other day and said this exact quote: “Also: we should listen to some Dio.” Sometimes a relationship provides you with a moment when you’re so filled with love that you feel carried by it, like you’re floating in its warmth and safety. My wife suggesting we put on Dio was, for me, one of those moments. Naturally I chose Live Evil to close the week in her honor.

This coming Monday is the 13th anniversary of our marriage in 2004. Next Thursday, Sept. 28, is an even bigger one, marking 20 full years since we got together in 1997. Staggering. Well more than half my life at this point. It is my marriage and my life with The Patient Mrs. that defines who I am as a person — whatever else I am and whatever else I do, I am hers first — and of all the courses I could have imagined for what my life would become in my childhood (which I still arguably was at 15 when we became a couple), I could never have dreamed of being so fortunate as to have her in that central role. Every day, I continue to be so, so, so lucky and so, so, so much in love. 20 years is nothing. Give me forever.

We’re celebrating this weekend by returning to Ludlow, Vermont, which has kind of become an “our place,” at least in my mind. You’d be forgiven for not recalling we rented a small cottage there last year after spending a month on the same property in 2010, and I think the intent is to make it as much of an annual anniversary-marking sojourn as we can. Sounds awesome. Three hours on the road this afternoon will be well worth it to see those mountains again with their already-changing leaves and to feel the cool clarity of the air at altitude. We’re there until Wednesday morning, and aside from the absolute-must of watching the premiere of Star Trek: Discovery on Sunday — please don’t suck please don’t suck please don’t suck — I believe the plan is to hang out mellow, maybe get some work done, and enjoy each other’s exclusive company before The Pecan arrives and transforms our life together as we know it.

Due date is in about three weeks. Oct. 15. Getting close now.

We had another ultrasound appointment yesterday. He looks like a person, is one, and seems to be healthy and hearty enough that if he was born today, he’d be small but otherwise fine. That’s good to know. I should probably note that when The Pecan arrives, I’ll probably put up a post about it, but if there are a few days there where I’m occupied outside this site, I hope you’ll forgive me. As it could happen anytime, the situation obviously requires flexibility. Allowances to be made, etc.

So of course I’m going to try to sneak in a six-day Quarterly Review starting this coming Monday. Ha. 60 albums written up between Monday and Monday. I’ve still got links and players to embed in the back ends of the posts — ugh — but otherwise we’re good to go. Here’s a full look at my notes for what’s coming:

Mon.: QR day 1, Doomstress announce/song premiere, Scream of the Butterfly video premiere.
Tue.: QR day 2, Radio Moscow review.
Wed.: QR day 3, Fungus Hill video.
Thu.: QR day 4, Windhand video.
Fri.: QR day 5, whatever else comes along.

Might not look like it, but that’s a packed week. The Quarterly Review is a huge amount of work on my end in a way that nothing else I do for this site is, but I’ve yet to put one together and not feel like it was worth the effort, so I expect to get there once again. There’s a lot of cool stuff included. It’ll be good. Stay tuned.

That’s gonna do it for me. The Patient Mrs. and I have another doctor’s appointment on this rainy-as-hell morning, because babies, doctors, that’s how it goes, and then it’s back home to pack and hit the road to Vermont. Whatever you’re up to, I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Thanks again for reading and please check out the forum and radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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Can We Talk About Ozzy Osbourne for a Minute?

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Features on August 21st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

ozzy osbourne

Yeah, I know. In the realm of heavy, there have been few topics as thoroughly discussed as just what to do with the legacy of Ozzy Osbourne. The founding and on-again-off-again frontman of Black Sabbath, solo bandleader and unparalleled metallic figurehead has had a half-century-long career with more than several lifetimes’ worth of ups and downs, highs and lows, and hyperbole-worthy triumphs and failures. Among living metal singers, he stands alone in needing only his name to conjure strong feelings on either side: Ozzy.

If you’re reading this, chances are I don’t need to lay out for you the ongoing influence of Osbourne’s work with Black Sabbath, whose first six albums played an essential role in forming the gospel on which heavy metal dogma was shaped. Likewise, Osbourne’s “solo” career, his bringing to light and fostering the playing and songwriting of guitarists like Randy Rhoads, Jake E. Lee and Zakk Wylde, has possibly been just as — if not more — influential. Artistically and commercially, the man is a giant in a way that no one else in heavy metal is.

My question is, how should we feel about Ozzy in 2017? Is it okay to love Ozzy again?

I remember going to see Ozzy in high school. I did the Ozzfest thing in the mid and late ’90s. Ozzy had his Prince of Darkness days, had put out the relatively strong Ozzmosis in 1995 and No More Tears in 1991, and yeah, neither of those records would have the impact of 1980’s Blizzard of Ozz, ’81’s Diary of a Madman or ’83’s Bark at the Moon — even 1986’s The Ultimate Sin and 1988’s No Rest for the Wicked had their moments (I don’t care what you say, “Crazy Babies” rules) — but for a guy who’d said he was retiring, there was still plenty of energy left in his work. He had more in the tank. And that showed live as well.

Was there ever a more charismatic metal frontman? Robert Plant — a peer — was always too pretty. Ian Gillan too poised. Lemmy was rawer and less directly engaged with the audience. Halford, Dickinson and Dio were always far better singers, but in his stage presence, Ozzy could have an entire arena on his side by doing little more than showing up and saying hi. He still can. He’s screwed up lyrics onstage for as long as he’s been playing songs. He’s become less and less able to carry a tune. It’s arguable he hasn’t had a decent record out under his own name this century, but as much as one can level cash-grab accusations his way at nearly every turn, isn’t there something appealing about the fact that Osbourne just can’t bring himself to quit? Can’t leave the stage behind? Can’t stop that direct link to his fans? And so long as people keep buying tickets, should he really be expected to?

When MTV began airing The Osbournes 15 years ago, it was impossible to know the damage it would do to Ozzy’s reputation, but real quick, he went from the Prince of Darkness, the guy who gave us “Suicide Solution” and “Over the Mountain,” to an utter buffoon. In some ways, he’s never recovered from that cringe-inducing scene of him shaking, lost in his own garden, calling for his then-wife and manager, Sharon. The show, which was hammered into the ground and dead-horse-beaten across increasingly painful seasons, was only one of many questionable business decisions throughout the years.

Do we even need to talk about replacing Bob Daisley and Lee Kerslake’s tracks on album reissues? The list goes on. Ozzfest by then was on the wane. Sabbath’s late-’90s reunion had produced one mediocre single, some righteous touring, and then fizzled once again, and neither the 2005 covers collection Under Cover nor 2007’s Black Rain full-length did much to dissuade anyone from feeling like a slide into uninspired mediocrity was complete. What the hell had happened?

Was it decades of drug and alcohol use catching up? Had Ozzy simply lost it? As Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi and bassist Geezer Butler reunited with Ronnie James Dio in Heaven and Hell, Osbourne seemed left in the dust, and his 2010 album, Scream — his most recent studio effort — was forgettable at best.

Hopes were high when it was announced Osbourne would reunite with Black Sabbath and that the band would set to work with producer Rick Rubin on what became 2013’s 13 (review here). The results were debatable, and debated, issues of integrity not at all helped by a lengthy, ugly and public contract dispute with original drummer Bill Ward. But even as Iommi was ailed with a cancer fight, touring ensued. Once again, Sabbath was bringing their show (review here) to the people. Landmark songs, some new stuff in the mix, and though he was off-key as ever, Ozzy’s charisma was still there, still intact.

Let me put it this way: We’re now a decade and a half removed from The Osbournes, and whatever else Ozzy has done, he’s really never stopped touring. It’s not like he needs the money, so isn’t it just possible he’s doing it because he loves it? He turns 69 in December. On the basic level of physical exhaustion, it can’t be a pleasant experience for him to be onstage for an hour-plus at this point, even with nights off between shows on tour. His well-documented history of substance abuse notwithstanding, he’s held it together better than some, and while the shape of the brand has changed, he’s still overseeing and headlining an Ozzfest Meets Knotfest this Fall in San Bernadino, California. The leadoff single from Black Rain was “I Don’t Wanna Stop.” Isn’t it possible that’s the truth?

I don’t know Ozzy and in my time have gotten to ask him precisely one question in an interview, so I can’t speak to his motivations, but whatever his ultimate reasoning is, I think it’s worth stopping for a minute and realizing how special his career has been, how pivotal his contributions to heavy music have been, and how much of his life he’s dedicated to bringing joy to his audience. Yeah, he’s made a pretty penny doing it, and done as much to tarnish his persona as to hone it over the years, but whether it’s through the sheer longevity of his relevance, the classic nature and ongoing influence of his work with Sabbath and the early incarnations of the Ozzy Osbourne band, or the smile on his face when he steps out in front of a crowd, it still seems to me that there’s plenty to appreciate about Ozzy in 2017.

That’s worth considering as well as all the rest when we think about the man, his music and the impact both have had on our lives.

Ozzy Osbourne website

Ozzy Osbourne on Thee Facebooks

Black Sabbath, Paris 1970

Black Sabbath, California Jam 1974

Ozzy Osbourne, “Mr. Crowley” live in 1981

Ozzy Osbourne, “Crazy Babies” official video

Ozzy Osbourne, Live in Minnesota, Aug. 2017

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Friday Full-Length: Judas Priest, Sad Wings of Destiny

Posted in Bootleg Theater on July 28th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Judas Priest, Sad Wings of Destiny (1976)

I’m reasonably certain that in the 41 years since its release enough has been said about Judas Priest‘s Sad Wings of Destiny — positive, negative and in between — to make anything I have to offer on the subject entirely redundant. Still, looking at the Birmingham outfit’s ultra-classic 1976 second album, its status as a landmark only seems to further emphasize how much classic metal is rightly stewarded by modern heavy rock. I had much the same feeling last time I saw Priest live in 2011 (review here), but it comes through even more on the studio recordings of songs like “The Ripper,” “Deceiver,” “Tyrant” and “Island of Domination” just how closely linked to heavy ’70s the roots of metal actually are. It wasn’t a change that happened overnight. Neither Black Sabbath, nor Deep Purple, nor Led Zeppelin, nor Priest or anyone else flipped a switch and said, “now metal exists,” but as they flew in the face of popular culture on any number of levels and reacted to the rise of arena rock and punk (and one could argue as well punk was a reaction to the grandiosity of arena rock and glam), metal gradually solidified from the molten heavy rock that preceded and Sad Wings of Destiny‘s nine-track/39-minute stretch captures an essential step in that process. Decades later, it’s easy to put a bow on an insular narrative and call it history, but there can be no question that the accomplishments of Judas Priest — comprised then of vocalist Rob Halford, guitarists Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing, bassist Ian Hill and drummer Alan Moore — in this era were imperative in setting the stage for what heavy metal became in their wake, in the NWOBHM, the US and German thrash movements, and beyond.

Priest made their debut with 1974’s Rocka Rolla, an often — and, I’ll gladly argue, wrongly — maligned collection of heavy rock tunes indicative of the era in which they were released. Maybe a year or two too late to be really innovative, there was nonetheless a tightness in their execution that foreshadowed the drive that would emerge in the band’s sound on subsequent outings. Though it leans decisively harder in its impact, Sad Wings of Destiny still holds to many of these rocker elements. Extended opener “Victim of Changes,” the sharply-produced balladry of “Dreamer Deceiver” and side B’s piano-led, semi-Queen-derived “Epitaph” might pull back on the throttle as opposed to the soaring tension of “The Ripper,” which serves as a formative moment for Priest‘s core approach to songwriting, but there’s still rock to be found at their foundation. Likewise, “Genocide” leads with its riff and an almost deceptive amount of rhythmic swing giv en its ultimately forward heading, and while Halford‘s trademark growls and screech put “Deceiver” squarely in headbang territory, if one listens to the guitars and bassline backing him, it’s a classic-rocking shuffle if ever there was one.

This is barely an insight, but it’s worth pointing out in terms of finding the moment and moments when heavy metal grew out of the harder end of rock and roll and became its own genre. Is that “The Ripper?” Or even “Victim of Changes” at the outset? It’s hard to know — and even harder when one steps back and looks at the overall context of what was happening in the UK and elsewhere musically at the time — to say, “Yes, this is when it happened,” but if one wanted to hold Sad Wings of Destiny forward as a case for how it happened, the album makes a strong argument for itself as pivotal in that movement from one side of the line to the other. Because ultimately it’s both and neither. All the more, then, does it seem to be the domain of modern heavy rock and doom, which largely eschew the aggression of metal — though there’s plenty of dudely chest-thumping, depending on the style of a given act, and plenty of that in Priest as well; underground rock’s perpetual reaffirmation of insecure masculinity is a subject for a different time — in favor of a style of groove that seems to play directly off the same influences as Sad Wings of Destiny-era Priest. Taking the heavy rock that came before and trying to make something new from it. What’s that if it’s not a genre-based approach?

Any band with the stature of Judas Priest is going to foster divided opinions: Lovers, haters, fans, the indifferent, etc. What’s undeniable is the multifaceted nature of their influence, and as the metal of our age has become a showcase for self-indulgent mathematicians and splintered along an ever-increasing swath of border-fenced subgenres, it seems all the more the task of doom and underground heavy in general to embrace the classicism of records like Sad Wings of Destiny and their continued relevance to the shaping of modern aesthetic. It may be one of many, but it’s a touchstone nonetheless, and time has only added to its fortification as such.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

Some ups and downs this week, I guess, but on the whole I suppose I’m less inclined to complain than I might otherwise be. I got to see my son’s face in a 3D ultrasound and he looked pissed about not being born yet, so I take that as an encouraging sign of The Pecan being imbued from the start with a strong personality. My hope at this point is he has inherited his mother’s capacity for sleep. Really, anything he could get off her in terms of inheriting traits would be a boon. It’s those fatherly learned behaviors — “this is how you make an ass out of yourself in a social situation, boy; pay attention” — he might want to avoid.

But anyway, that was good. My laptop kind of sort of shit the bed. Less good. The fancy blender I had to make protein shakes also shit the bed. Less good. My plan for today and the early part of the weekend likewise. Some you win, some you lose, as Orange Goblin tells us. Big picture shit — positive. Little annoyances that cost money — negative.

I have some work to do on a project the Borracho guys are putting together this weekend, so I expect that will take a decent portion of my time, but should be an interesting if time-consuming venture. I got to interview all three of them together and it was great to hear how they interacted with each other in that we’re-really-close-so-we-only-need-to-speak-in-half-sentences-to-get-our-point-across kind of way. That sort of conversationalism and musical chemistry go hand-in-hand in my opinion. Each is a symptom of the other and I think you can hear that in how tight they’ve become over their three albums.

Digression. Sorry. The Patient Mrs., the impending Pecan, the Little Dog Dio and I — the whole fam — came down to hazy Connecticut yesterday to take care of some administrative stuff, donating an old car to National Public Radio, etc., and we’re heading back north this morning. Meh. I don’t know about hers or the dog’s, but my tail is tucked thoroughly between my legs. I got a grilled salmon caesar salad from the diner down the way for dinner last night though (they deliver; it took longer than usual, but still, they deliver) and that was glorious.

I had a whole other paragraph here about dinner preparations, cooking, and so on, but I guess the bottom line is I’m still enjoying being unemployed. Money has indeed gotten tighter the last couple weeks — we’re already charging things like gas and groceries — but we’ll make it through. Baby preparations continue. I did a very large amount of very tiny laundry earlier this week that will need folding this weekend, and we’ve moved some furniture to allow for a nursery and we’ve begun hoarding baby wipes from Costco, so there you go. October will be here soon, but progress takes many forms.

Speaking of — next week is crammed as ever. Here are my notes as they stand; subject to change as always:

Mon.: Radio Adds (delayed from this week), plus a slew of news I’m already behind on.
Tue.: Review/lyric video premiere for the Eternal Black record, which I think a lot of people will dig once they hear it.
Wed.: Review/track premiere for the new Papir; Six Dumb Questions with Beastmaker.
Thu.: Review/track premiere for the new Howling Giant.
Fri.: Review of the new Zone Six live album.

If you’ve emailed me and not heard back this past week, it’s because (1:) I suck and (2:) my busted laptop has my Outlook account on it and I don’t have access to webmail outside of that. Just my phone, which is a pain in the ass and, frankly, no way for humans to communicate with each other save for the most urgent of circumstances. I’ll do my best to get back to as many people as possible, but in the meantime, hit me up on Thee Facebooks if you haven’t yet. Keep in mind though I’m behind on messages there as well. As noted, I suck.

But hey, I hope you have a great and safe weekend. I’m gonna head back up to Massachusetts in a little bit, dig last night’s baseball game this afternoon and try and have a couple quiet hours leading into a couple solid days of chores and varying degrees of whatnottery. Enjoy the Priest above and please check out the Forum and the Radio stream and we’ll be back here on Monday for more good times.

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The Obelisk Radio

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Quarterly Review: Alcest, Galley Beggar, Pontiak, White Light Cemetery, Fever Dog, Duel, Seven Nines and Tens, Automatic Sam, The Next Appointed Hour, Blown Out

Posted in Reviews on March 29th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

cropped-Charles-Meryon-Labside-Notre-Dame-1854

Always a special moment in the Quarterly Review when we pass the halfway mark. That’s where today’s batch brings us, and in rocking style as well. You might say I’ve been taking it easy on myself with the selections this time out — albums there’s plenty to say on and generally good stuff — but the basic fact of the matter is even with 50 reviews in a week, this is still just a fraction of what’s out there and still just a fraction of what I’d cover if I had the time. I couldn’t in terms of my own sanity, but one could probably do 10 reviews a day every day of the year and still have room for more. I do the best I can. Picking and choosing is a part of that process. Let’s get to it.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Alcest, Kodama

alcest kodama

After the bold departure presented in 2014’s Shelter (review here) toward even-airier, more indie-hued fare, French post-black metal innovators Alcest make a no-less-bold return to their core sound – screams included, as they’re quick to show on “Eclosion” – with 2016’s Kodama (on Prophecy Productions). It’s a less progressive move, and for that distinct in Alcest’s discography, but one can’t argue with their execution of a track like “Je Suis d’Ailleurs” and the immediately recognizable melodic wash they craft, as resonant emotionally as it is heavy in its tone. Most of the six cuts seem contented to have (re-)found their place, but “Onyx” finishes out with just under four minutes of layered guitar droning, and so Alcest seem to tease that perhaps they’re not completely ready to settle the issue of their aesthetic just yet. One hopes that’s the case, and in the meantime, the reorientation that Kodama brings with it should no doubt please those longtime fans who bristled at the turn they made their last time out.

Alcest on Thee Facebooks

Prophecy Productions on Bandcamp

 

Galley Beggar, Heathen Hymns

galley-beggar-heathen-hymns

Galley Beggar’s fourth offering and second for Rise Above, Heathen Hymns, brings 42-minutes of the traditional acid folk one has come to expect from them over the last half-decade plus, no less graceful in its melodies, harmonies and weaving into and out of psychedelia, Eastern inflections on the sitar-laced “The Lake” and cleverly rhythmic in the post-rocking electric flourish of “Let No Man Steal Your Thyme.” Knowing what to expect, however, does nothing to diminish the joy of the listening experience. Rather, the return of Galley Beggar’s fluid string and/or more rock-based arrangements, memorable songcraft and gorgeous vocal treatments is welcome, and perhaps most of all on closer “My Return,” which draws their multiple sides together in a cohesive vision of futures past that only benefits from the maturity they’ve grown into. With poise as a defining feature as much as their British folk stylistic lineage, Galley Beggar remain a special outfit doing deeply individualized and satisfying work.

Galley Beggar on Thee Facebooks

Rise Above Records website

 

Pontiak, Dialectic of Ignorance

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A steady foundation of low-end drone underpins songs like “Ignorance Makes Me High” and “Hidden Prettiness” on Pontiak’s Dialectic of Ignorance (released via Thrill Jockey), and though they move away from it somewhat in the more active freakout “Dirtbags,” the patience shown by the Virginian trio forms a key part of the album’s personality. To wit, they open with “Easy Does It,” essentially telling their listener their intention for what will ensue throughout the eight-track/46-minute offering. Brothers Jennings, Van and Lain Carney bring forth willful drift in that opener and across the percussive-but-still-shoegazing “Tomorrow is Forgetting,” finding an organ-laced folkadelic middle ground later in “Youth and Age” and punctuating the dreamy harmonized gorgeousness of “Herb is My Next Door Neighbor” with fervent tom runs and ping ride before closer “We’ve Fucked this Up” starts out amid blistering chaos only to smooth itself as it goes. Serene and somewhat moody to the same degree their last outing, 2014’s Innocence, was raw, Dialectic of Ignorance carries the feel of a personal journey undertaken, but is ultimately too warm in tone and melody not to welcome its audience to be a part of that as well.

Pontiak on Thee Facebooks

Pontiak at Thrill Jockey Records

 

White Light Cemetery, Careful What You Wish For

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Nearing the mark of their first decade together, Louisiana Southern heavy four-piece White Light Cemetery issue their second full-length, Careful What You Wish For, through Ripple Music and keep a steady focus on songcraft throughout. Heavy riffs, a bit of boogie on “Sky River” and the stomping “Better Days,” boozy Southern-isms on the directly countrified “On a Dime” and a cowbell-infused finish with “Bullet to Erase” – it’s only fair to say White Light Cemetery hit all the marks. The beery post-Deliverance execution of “Looking Out (For Number One)” will likely ring familiar to many who take it on, but that’s the idea, as vocalist/guitarist Shea Bearden, guitarist Ryan Robin, bassist Tara Miller and drummer Thomas Colley are clearly less concerned with reinventing rock in their own image than honoring the pantheon of those who’ve come before them in the style. Hard to argue with the ethic preached or the dual-guitar harmonies of “Quit Work, Make Music,” though the record as a whole seems awfully “workingman’s rock” for any such bohemian aspirations.

White Light Cemetery on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

 

Fever Dog, Mainframe

fever dog mainframe

It’s been three years since next-gen Californian desert trio Fever Dog released their last album, Second Wind (review here), which was long on potential, big on songwriting and resonant in vibe. I’d been hoping for a third long-player in 2017, but even the arrival of new single Mainframe – which of course doesn’t preclude a subsequent album release – is fine by me, the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Danny Graham, bassist Nathan Wood and drummer/organist/synthesist/vocalist Joshua Adams digging into progressive vibes on the title-track and the subsequent, talkbox-inclusive “Let Me Out.” I don’t know if they’re planning to press a 7” – somebody call H42 Records! – but the cover art certainly justifies one if the songs themselves don’t (and they do), and the name-your-price download comes with the raw 19-minute classic heavy rock jam “Alpha Waves Medley Live at Club 5,” which emits buzz like it’s a bootleg from 1973. If Mainframe is the process of Fever Dog getting weirder, it bodes well. All the more reason one might keep their fingers crossed for a new full-length.

Fever Dog on Thee Facebooks

Fever Dog on Bandcamp

 

Duel, Witchbanger

duel witchbanger

“If you see him it’s much too late/Close your eyes, girl, accept your fate.” So goes the title-track hook of Duel’s Witchbanger, the Austin-based rockers’ second album for Heavy Psych Sounds. Released on a quick turnaround from last year’s debut, Fears of the Dead (review here), the eight-track/34-minute swaggerfest delves into fantasy themes drawn from classic metal – hard not to look at six-minute closer “Tigers and Rainbows” and not think of Dio, at least thematically – but cuts like “Astro Gypsy” and “Heart of the Sun” in the record’s midsection build on the ‘70s loyalism of the first outing and find guitarist/vocalist Tom Frank, guitarist Jeff Henson, bassist/vocalist Shaun Avants and drummer JD Shadowz clear in their intentions in that regard. Though it takes a sizable grain of salt to get over that title, Duel’s heavy rock traditionalism comes complemented by efficient songwriting and a natural-sounding recording that’s neither completely retro nor totally modern but draws strength and fullness from both sides. A worthy and rousing follow-up.

Duel on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds website

 

Seven Nines and Tens, Set the Controls for the Heart of the Slums

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If the dates are to be believed, the second full-length from Vancouver’s Seven Nines and Tens, cleverly-titled Set the Controls for the Heart of the Slums, has roots going back to 2014, when basic live tracks were recorded and subsequently built on for about two years. Indeed, the four-song offering – whose tracks “I Come from Downtown,” “Metropolis Noir / Rigs” and closer “Rave Up” have been presented in the meantime as singles and/or on early 2017’s Live at the Smilin’ Buddha Cabaret – has plenty of layers in its heavy post-rock wash, and it’s with depth and heft that guitarist/bassist/vocalist David Cotton and drummer Mario Nieva (the current incarnation of the band has a different lineup), make their prevailing impression, be it in the roll of 13-minute “Metropolis Noir / Rigs” or the loud/quiet trades of “Dope Simple,” which follows. With a focus on atmosphere over structure, Seven Nines and Tens offer a quick 32-minute immersion that feels less pretentious than purposeful and would seem to have been worth the time it took to construct.

Seven Nines and Tens on Thee Facebooks

Seven Nines and Tens website

 

Automatic Sam, Arcs

automatic sam arcs

With their third album, Nijmegen’s Automatic Sam bring together a straightforward and coherent collection of well-intentioned semi-psychedelic heavy rock. Their past works, 2011’s Texino and 2013’s Sonic Whip, have been conceptual or at least thematic pieces, and it may be that the 13-track/38-minute Arcs (on Goomah Music) is as well, but if so, it would seem to find that theme in a vision of post-grunge ‘90s alt rock, cleanly and clearly executed and vibrant in the performance of vocalist/guitarist Pieter Holkenborg, guitarist/vocalist Rense Slings, bassist/vocalist Erik Harbers and drummer/vocalist Lars Spijkervet, who open with the five-minute “Ukiyo” (their longest inclusion; immediate points) and then run through a varied swath of shorter pieces from the attitude-laden “City Lights” through the uptempo post-punk of “This is Not a Holiday” and the fuller push of “Parnassia.” Side B seems more flowing, with that song, “Tarantula,” a complementary reprise, the title-track and drifting acoustic closer “So Long in E Minor,” but Automatic Sam manage to hone a diverse approach across Arcs’ span while skillfully directing themselves around choppier waters.

Automatic Sam on Thee Facebooks

Automatic Sam at Goomah Music

 

The Next Appointed Hour, Not the End of the World

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Ambition may be the defining aspect of Not the End of the World. The 2016 self-released debut from Birmingham, Alabama’s The Next Appointed Hour willfully refuses easy categorization, basking in bright psychedelic space rock harmonies one minute and digging into folkish melancholia the next in a way that one is left with no other option but to call “progressive.” What ultimately makes songs like “Keeper’s Heart” and the ethereal pop of “Back to You back to Me” work is an underlying cure of songcraft, and whatever ground the six-piece cover on the 10-track outing, from the fuzzy rush of “Drone Riot” to the trippy shimmer of the penultimate “Red Flame,” that core is maintained, uniting the material and making Not the End of the World a work of scope rather than haphazard. It requires an open mind, but rewards open-mindedness with moments like the accordion on “Valley,” or the rhythmic drift of “Any Who but Here,” the nuance of which is no less gracefully held together than the overarching flow of the album as a whole.

The Next Appointed Hour on Thee Facebooks

The Next Appointed Hour on Bandcamp

 

Blown Out, Superior Venus

blown out superior venus

Already sold out on preorders, the vinyl edition of Superior Venus from UK cosmic jammers Blown Out features two tracks – one per side – of space-wash heavy righteousness. “Impious Oppressor” and “Superior Venus” both top 15 minutes (and are accompanied by demo versions if you get the download), and proffer the kind of progressive improvisation-based flow that, indeed, might make one inclined to get an order in while the getting’s good. Blown Out, with members of Bong and Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs, have put out a slew of live and studio releases over the last three years, but as planets invariably revolve in cyclical patterns, so too does the regular frequency of their work become part of the expression itself. If you’re going to jam, do it all the time. On Superior Venus, Blown Out once more bring this ethic to life, and the resulting material spreads itself wide over its still relatively brief span. A short trip to orbit, perhaps, but well worth the undertaking.

Blown Out on Thee Facebooks

Riot Season Records on Bandcamp

 

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