The Obelisk Presents: Alunah Spring 2018 Tour

Posted in The Obelisk Presents on February 26th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

alunah europe 2018 poster

I am a firm believer in Midlands, UK, naturalist doom rockers Alunah, who in 2018 find themselves engaged in perhaps the most difficult work they’ve done to-date. Their task is to find out who they are as a band without guitarist/vocalist Sophie Day at the forefront. After four strong full-lengths with the group — the latest of which, Solennial (review here), came out last year as their debut on SvartSophie announced she was leaving the band, and as her forest-worship lyrics provided so much of the band’s distinctive aesthetic, as guitarist Dave Day, bassist Daniel Burchmore and drummer Jake Mason move forward, the question remains what Alunah will be without that pivotal element.

While I don’t think we’ll really know for at least another album or two — in other words, not for years — Alunah have begun to play shows with new vocalist Siân Greenaway, and today I’m proud to announce that The Obelisk is among the sponsors for their upcoming May tour, which will obviously be the first with Greenaway at the mic. Ostensibly the band is still supporting Solennial, which, by the by, was fantastic, but more than that, they’re beginning the exploration of who they are in this new era and who they’re going to be going forward from here. As a fan of the band and the work they’ve done over the course of the last decade, I’m thrilled to be one of the sponsors for the tour and I will watch with great interest (also great distance) as they take to the Germany, France, and Belgium in May.

Alunah are also booked for Doom Over Vienna in Austria this November, and I imagine they’ll be keeping plenty busy in the interim over the summer, so stay tuned for more. In the meantime, here are the dates coming up, and presented with thanks to the band for having this site on board in this way:

alunah

After the first initial UK shows with our new line-up Alunah are very excited to confirm the following upcoming European run for 2018. We look forward to seeing old friends, and to also break new ground with festivals and venues we haven’t played before.

28th April UK Brighton “Green Door Store”
2nd May UK London “Nightclub Kolis/The Lounge”
3rd May Belgium Antwerp “Music City”
4th May Germany Oldenburg “MTS Records”
5th May Denmark Copenhagen “Northern Discomfort” Festival
7th May Germany Jena “Kulturbahnof”
8th May Germany Dresden “Chemiefabrik”
9th May Germany Stuttgart “Keller Klub”
10th May Germany Aachen “Musikbunker”
11th May France Paris “Fuzzy Sounds” Festival
12th May France Lille “Le Biplan”
18th May UK Coventry “The Phoenix”
19th May UK Bristol “The Old England”
10th Nov Aus “Doom over Vienna” Festival

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, “White Hoarhound” live at the Portland Arms, Cambridge

Alunah, Solennial (2017)

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Friday Full-Length: Black Sabbath, The Eternal Idol

Posted in Bootleg Theater on January 26th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Black Sabbath, The Eternal Idol (1987)

It’s taken me a really, really long time to come around to anything from the Tony Martin era of Black Sabbath. I’d say without hesitation it’s still a work in progress. In a way, it’s a matter of overcoming the narrative of the pre- and between-reunion years of Black Sabbath‘s ’80s and ’90s as a lost era for the heavy metal godfathers; a time spent wandering the wilderness for founding guitarist Tony Iommi that arguably began with 1983’s Born Again (discussed here) bringing in replacing Deep Purple‘s Ian Gillan to replace vocalist Ronnie James Dio, who himself took the reins following the band’s ultra-crucial first eight albums with Ozzy Osbourne. Aside from having an outright impossible standard to meet in following in the footsteps of three of rock and metal’s greatest frontmen ever, plus short-lived incarnations of the band as they worked with Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple) and Ray Gillen (Badlands), the Birmingham-born Martin was nowhere near the veteran presence of the likes of Iommi, who by 1987 was just coming off releasing the would’ve-been solo album Seventh Star with Hughes in 1986 and was long since the only remaining founding member of the band.

So what did Tony Iommi‘s Black Sabbath sound like on The Eternal Idol? Unsurprisingly, the band’s days of the innovative blend of heavy rock, dark psychedelia and blues that we’d come in the decades since to think of as doom were long gone. They’d settled into a mature, largely straightforward, hyper-produced commercial form of heavy metal, still very much driven by Iommi‘s guitar work, but without the loose swing and dynamic of their earliest days or the progressive majesty that emerged on the Dio-fronted albums, 1980’s Heaven and Hell and 1981’s Mob Rules. 30 years later, the snare from former KISS drummer Eric Singer sounds dated. Does that mean that The Eternal Idol and thus Martin‘s tenure were doomed from the start? If so, Martin still had a pretty good ride with the band. Admittedly, not every track on The Eternal Idol is a gem — “Nightmare” on side B feels like filler, despite being catchy, and though its last-minute uptick of energy is appreciated, the penultimate “Lost Forever” doesn’t accomplish much that “Hard Life to Love” and the following “Glory Ride” didn’t already bring to bear earlier on in dudely ’80s keyboard-drama — but even in opener “The Shining,” the subsequent “Ancient Warrior” one can hear shades the band working on a self-referential level, calling out pieces of the live version of “Heaven and Hell” (think “A big black shape…”) and “Children the Sea,” respectively. Which is to say nothing of the closing title-track’s semi-political bent — something Sabbath had proffered since “Hand of Doom” on 1970’s Paranoid — but rendered largely toothless on “The Eternal Idol” with a more generic, less pointed social critique. Ah, the Thatcher years.

So rather than necessarily pushing brazenly forward, as one might argue even the Gillan-fronted Born Again did in 1983 as arguably the harshest sounding record Sabbath ever put out, The Eternal Idol seems to be playing to form even as it presents a new incarnation of the band that would continue for the better part of the next decade, interrupted only by the temporary reunion with Dio for 1992’s triumphant Dehumanizer LP and corresponding tour. What, then is the appeal that finally won me over? Well, first of all, Martin is a killer vocalist. Having bassist Bob Daisley, who just a couple years before had played on the first couple Ozzy solo records, alongside Singer in the rhythm section didn’t exactly make for a powerhouse in the Butler/Ward tradition, but they could certainly hold down the straightforward roll of “Eternal Idol” or the motor-thrust of “Hard Life to Love,” and that allowed both Iommi and Martin to shine in their own performances, and while again, they’re not really breaking any ground, they did manage to give a more than solid showing of what Black Sabbath could be in the bizarre heavy metal climate that was the pre-grunge late ’80s. Big as their hair got — it got sort of big — Iommi was the spearhead of a prior generation, and The Eternal Idol was the beginning point of the band becoming stable and sustainable for the better part of the next decade. Like Black SabbathHeaven and Hell and Born Again before it, it set a tone that future outings would follow. Granted, they’re hardly considered the pinnacle of the band, but without The Eternal Idol, no question the shape of 1989’s Headless Cross1990’s Tyr (my personal favorite of this era), 1994’s Cross Purposes and 1995’s Forbidden — which was the final Black Sabbath studio recording until the band got back with Ozzy to record the “Psycho Man” single in 1998 and then the Dio-fronted bonus tracks included with the 2007 compilation The Dio Years that prefaced the splintering off of what became for all too short a time Heaven and Hell.

I’m not saying it’s all gold, or that the decade Iommi spent working with Martin — split up in ’92 by the reunion with Dio, overshadowed subsequently by the reunion with Ozzy — is some magical lost trove of groundbreaking heavy rock and/or metal. But it’s got some choice Iommi riffing, and whatever else you can say about Martin‘s style being very post-Dio, he’s better at it than most, so what the hell is there to lose? Hardly the first point in their career Black Sabbath went through the motions to keep themselves on the road, and frankly, I’m not inclined to hold that against them, especially now that their career is — allegedly — over.

You certainly know the drill by now. Whatever your preconceptions about this stage of Sabbath‘s tenure, I hope you’ll give The Eternal Idol a fair shot, and of course, I hope you enjoy.

Thanks for reading.

So far this week I’ve had The Pecan home alone — that is, sans The Patient Mrs. — for parts of three days. On each of those days, he has taken food from me out of a bottle. Given our prior experience in this regard, this is a huge fucking triumph. Huge. Yesterday, she came home while he was still eating and he kept going — didn’t even stop because she was there. No way that would’ve gone down like that before. He’d have immediately been like, “Fuck this, give me the real deal,” and gone for the boob. I get it, but was still frustrating when it happened.

What led to turning that corner? I kind of just realized he doesn’t want to be held by me when he’s eating. I’ve alternated putting him flat on his back on the playmat and in his sit-upright chair in the kitchen while giving him the bottle, and that’s been okay. I’ve also been having oranges with breakfast, so I’ve been kind of rubbing my finger on the pulp there and giving him a taste of the juice off my finger, just to get him more used to different flavors and taking food from me in general. He still takes bites of scrambled egg from me as well and we have some sweet potato in the fridge that we’ve been waiting to try, but we haven’t really needed to because it’s gone so well with the bottle. I’m not willing to say we’re 100 percent out of that woods, but it felt really, really fucking good this week to be able to feed my kid after three months of complete and total failure at it.

I guess I should follow up on last week’s Friday post. Shit was pretty dire feeling and I conveyed that in the most honest, truest-to-my-mindset language I could. I spent a good portion of last week thinking of death as an easier out than the way I was living. That’s just how it was. I don’t apologize for that, and I don’t expect sympathy, or “tough love” or whatever else. I can only be the person I am at a given moment and I can only write from that perspective about being in that place.

If you’re concerned, I’m under the care of several professionals. I have a nutritionist I’ve started seeing twice a week for eating disorder counseling — she’s making me eat; it’s fucking torture but I’m doing it — as well as a regular therapist and my primary care physician, who just this week put me on klonopin in addition to the 30mg anti-depressant dose I take every day. It seems to put me to sleep, which may prove somewhat inconvenient in the long run, but after being up half the nights last week I’m at very least looking at as something of a win for the immediate.

That’s where I’m at. I’m in a really, really hard place, working through a lot of really, really hard shit that I think unless you’ve been where I am you probably neither understand nor particularly give a shit about. Even then, probably questionable on that second part. But I’m doing the work I’m supposed to be doing. I’m doing what I’m told. I ate roasted potatoes the other night. I’ve been eating bread. Fruit. Lots of fruit. It’s madness. I never knew I was into pineapple. Or grapefruit. Let alone mixing them together like I just did. Sheer madness. It has me out of my head.

So that’s that. For what it’s worth, I had to put on a second pot of coffee just to get through those paragraphs. Light roast, but still.

Next week is packed. Here’s what’s in the notes for next week. It’s stupid how full it is:

MON.: Beneath Oblivion track premiere; new Ararat video.
TUE.: Malady full-album stream/review; other stuff I don’t want to give away yet.
WED.: MaidaVale video premiere; Six Dumb Questions with Somnuri.
THU.: Lowburn EP stream/review.
Fri.: Cataclysmic Events track stream.

Goes without saying that all this is subject to change with no notice whatsoever. I’ve kind of decided to nix my 2018 most-anticipated list for the time being. Not enough hours in the day and I’ve got a lot going on otherwise, but if I can still make it happen even in some preliminary way — a list of names — I will try to do so. I’ve also started kicking around the notion of doing more t-shirts if there’s a way I don’t have to ship them out, because that was awful. We’ll see where I end up on that. I said “never again” on merchandise which would seem to make it inevitable, right?

If you’re interested or not, I’ll probably keep you posted.

Thanks again for reading, and please have a great and safe weekend. Don’t forget to hit up the forum and the radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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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

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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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