Brass Hearse Post Debut Single “Living for the Grave”

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 24th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

I made no secret of being a fan of Boston-based experimentalist garage doomers and occasional psychedelic rockers Ice Dragon, whose prolific run between 2011 and 2015 produced no fewer than nine full-lengths in addition to numerous other singles, splits and short releases, and who, despite issuing an EP in 2016 called Broken Life (review here) and a single at the start of this year in “Into the Wasteland (Of Self),” seem to have dialed way back on output generally speaking.

Their members, particularly vocalist Ron Rochondo, have gone on to start numerous other experimental projects in vibes ranging from psych-lounge to freak folk, and with the new four-piece Brass Hearse, Rochondo unites with members of Wolfmen of MarsL. Liberty, J. Clapp and N. Merryweather — to unveil the first single “Living for the Grave” with a blown-out take on classic grunge that, if you can make it past the initial bluster, reveals a synth-laden hook that’s at once metallic and expansive. The verse reminds of Snail, which may or may not be sonic coincidence, but one can hear shades of Sabbath and more progressive fare in the guitar work as well, particularly in the clarity of the solo in the song’s second half before the final chorus.

Most of all, “Living for the Grave” makes me look forward to and hope that Brass Hearse will have more material to come soon. One would never dare to predict anything even vaguely Ice Dragon-related as this outfit is — that’s not to downplay the contributions of the three members from Wolfmen of Mars in any way, I’m just trying to measure X-factors — but yeah, hopefully this first single is just the beginning of a new exploration and it gets a follow-up of some form or other in short order.

You can hear the track at the bottom of this post. Artwork, links and preliminary info follow:

brass hearse living for the grave

Our first song… LIVING FOR THE GRAVE

Artwork by the incredible DoryWhynot

BRASS HEARSE
+++++++++++++
R Rochondo
L Liberty
J Clapp
N Merryweather

https://www.facebook.com/brasshearse/
https://instagram.com/brasshearse
https://twitter.com/brasshearse
https://brasshearse.bandcamp.com/releases
http://playingrecords.bandcamp.com

Brass Hearse, “Living for the Grave”

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The Obelisk Presents: Benthic Realm, Clamfight & More, Dec. 2 in Worcester, MA

Posted in The Obelisk Presents on October 23rd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

I’ve been fortunate enough to be asked to present some killer shows of late — seriously, check it out — but when it’s friends playing a gig, that’s all the more special to me. This one? Yeah, it’s a no-brainer. Good show. You should go. But the truth is that in addition to appreciating what Benthic Realm and Clamfight do as artists, I know these people. They’re good people. Isn’t life that much better when you can be sure the people you’re supporting aren’t assholes?

The gig has been dubbed the “Mid Atlantic Invasion” — because regionalism — and pits two Massachusetts acts of significant pedigree in Benthic Realm (members of Second Grave and Conclave) and Z/28 (members of Mourne and Grief against Clamfight from Philly and Pennsylvania’s Brain Candle. With Clamfight signed to Argonauta as of this Summer and the release of their new album, III, impending for early 2018, and Benthic Realm having brought in Conclave drummer Dan Blomquist since putting out their self-titled demo (review here) this Spring, it should be a significant battle indeed, and by that I mean way less a battle than bands from different areas getting together and putting on a really good show for those fortunate enough to witness it.

To that end, let me add that Ralph’s Rock Diner in Worcester is, in the now-four-years that I’ve lived in Massachusetts, hands down the best place I’ve found to see a show, and that along with MT Booking, I’m happy to have this site associated with goings on in that space once again. Great sound, cool vibe, good lighting, comfortable space, and burgers downstairs. They’ll even make you coffee if you ask nicely, though they won’t necessarily be happy about it.

Below, Clamfight drummer Andy Martin offers a bit of comment on the gig, and the preliminaries follow. It’s eight bucks. What the hell more could you possibly ask?

benthic-realm-clamfight-show

Andy Martin on the “Mid Atlantic Invasion”:

Allow me to peel back the curtain on how I book most Clamfight shows: Can we make it to work on Monday and is there someone there I want to hug? Whether we think it’ll be a good show is like a distant fourth.

Luckily, Woostah fulfills all of those criterion.

It’s close, and we’ve (finally) got a record to flog, so that takes care of criteria one, and two, it’s home base for a lot of our favorite people.

From our brothers in Conclave, to Faces of Bayon, and our Boston homies who often make the trip out, Massachusetts and particularly Worcester have been really good to us so we are stoked to return, laden with riffs and hugs. Personally, I’m really looking forward to jamming with Benthic Realm for the first time too, and all the more now that they’ve snagged one of my favorite people on Earth, Dan Blomquist as their drummer.

As an added bonus we’ve got Philly shredders Braincandle with us in Worcester and the night before in Brooklyn, so it’s going to be a solid weekend of riffs and shenanigans, and well worth the pain we’ll all be in come Monday.

The Obelisk and MT Booking Present::
A night of Mid Atlantic meets Massachusetts Metal!

Ralph’s Rock Diner
148 Grove St., Worcester, MA
Saturday December 2, 2017
Doors @ 9PM
$8 At the door
21+ With valid I.D.

Benthic Realm (ex-Second Grave/Conclave)
https://benthicrealm.bandcamp.com/

Clamfight (Traveling from NJ/PA)
https://clamfight.bandcamp.com/

Brain Candle (Traveling from PA)
https://braincandlemusic.bandcamp.com/

Z/28 (ex-Grief/Mourne)
https://nobodyridesforfree.bandcamp.com/

Thee Facebooks event page

Benthic Realm on Thee Facebooks

Clamfight on Thee Facebooks

Brain Candle on Thee Facebooks

Z/28 on Thee Facebooks

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Glacier Premiere Video for “Though They be Red Like Crimson, They Shall be as Wool”; New Album out Now

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 5th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

glacier

Last week, Boston post-metallic five-piece Glacier marked the vinyl release of their properly punctuated second full-length, Though Your Sins be as Scarlet, They Shall be White as Snow; Though They be Red Like Crimson, They Shall be as Wool., basking in a long-running tradition of forward thinking atmospheric heft native to New England and the greater Northeast. Of course that lineage goes back to the early days of Isis‘ formative churn, but Glacier seem to find even more common ground with groups like Rosetta from Philly, defunct Brooklynites Red Sparowes, or Russian Circles from Chicago as regards their method of conjuring ambient wash and presenting it with patient, longform fluidity. They hit the half-decade mark this year, and as their emergent penchant for cumbersome titles demonstrates, their approach is both mature and still very much geared toward a future, longer-term progressive evolution.

That’s admirable as far as ethos is concerned, but ultimately says little about the music. In that, the cerebral approach of the triply-guitarred Glacier — comprised of the first-names-only lineup of Dooley, Matthew, Derek, Ryan and Jesse — finds them crafting graceful textures of airy layering, driven intermittently by heavier stretches. The album derives its lengthy glacier though your sins be as scarletname from its two likewise lengthy inclusions, “Though Your Sins be as Scarlet, They Shall be White as Snow” (12:58) and “Though They be Red Like Crimson, They Shall be as Wool” (15:31), and while the risk a band invariably runs in creating such headphone-ready immersiveness of wash lies in pulling out the human aspect of their sound, Glacier have found a way to directly work against this in their new video for the longer side B piece. And it’s something of a classic idea as well: They perform the song live. I know — pretty crazy, right?

While you’re filing the concept under ‘what’ll they think of next?,’ make sure to actually check out the clip for “Though They be Red Like Crimson, They Shall be as Wool.” Captured by Treebeard Media and filmed at The Record Co. in Boston, it’s a familiar enough band-in-a-room-rocking-out form, but the instrumental fluidity of what Glacier do comes through unabated in the recording, and as it’s a little bit rawer than the version on the album proper, it’s got more of an impact to it as well, which only enhances the several peaks in volume and intensity. Still headphone-worthy, but with no shortage of heft behind it either, the song is all the more resonant for the passion behind it that becomes so obvious in watching the band play. Nicely done all the way around.

Glacier‘s Though Your Sins be as Scarlet, They Shall be White as Snow; Though They be Red Like Crimson, They Shall be as Wool. is available now, from the group directly and from Kapitän Platte in Europe. The band offers some comment on the track below and some more background, as well as upcoming live dates.

Please enjoy:

Glacier, “Though They be Red Like Crimson, They Shall be as Wool” official video premiere

Glacier on “Though They be Red Like Crimson, They Shall be as Wool”:

“We’re excited to have this video to serve as an accompaniment to our new record. As a group, we tend to stray away from anything that doesn’t highlight the music. That being said, we utilized the resources we had to invite the listener to watch us play the latter half of the record. The idea was that we really wanted whoever might be interested to experience the feeling of intimacy of being in a room with us while we play. This marks the only time you’ll see Glacier live without going deaf.”

Glacier’s track “Though They Be Red Like Crimson, They Shall Be as Wool” performed live at The Record Co. in Boston, MA. Engineered by Jesse Vengrove and Corey Wade at The Record Co. Assisted by Matt Cohen. Mixed and Mastered by Benny Grotto at Mad Oak Studios. Camera Operators Stephen Lo Verme, Erin Genett, Jenny Berman, and Matt Cohen. Editing and Color by Stephen Lo Verme. No Happy Music, The Record Company, Treebeard Media.

Bio:
Formed in Boston in 2012, Glacier is a five-piece instrumental band whose music fully embodies their name: a crushingly loud and unrelenting force. After releasing dual sophomore records (‘Black Beacon’ and ‘Kirtland’) in 2014, Glacier played heavily in the northeast/New England area with friends such as Astronoid, Pray for Sound, Infinity Shred, Destroyer Of Light, Horseburner, Isenordal, Harris, InAeona, KYOTY, and Sea. The band has built a reputation for being an honest and hardworking band in the music community.

In July of 2017, Glacier released a new LP titled “Though Your Sins Be As Scarlet, They Shall Be White as Snow; Though They be Red Like Crimson, They Shall Be As Wool.” Clocking in at just under 28-minutes, the two song LP (recorded at Converse Rubber Tracks and mastered at Hills Audio) is currently available for streaming/download as well as vinyl in the U.S. through No Happy Music and in Europe through Kapitän Platte. The new tracks are the most focused and powerful songs the band has written and are the clearest representation of what they’ve set out to do from the beginning.

Glacier live:
Oct 09 Charlie’s Kitchen Cambridge MA w/ Pray for Sound, Set
Oct 28 Dungeon of Doom Peterborough NH
Nov 17 O’Brien’s Pub Allston MA w/ SEA, Pray for Sound

Glacier on Thee Facebooks

Glacier on Instagram

Glacier on Twitter

Glacier on Bandcamp

Glacier website

Kapitän Platte on Bandcamp

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Bong Wish to Release Self-Titled EP Oct. 27; New Song Streaming

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 18th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Oh my, yes. That’ll do nicely. High-order freak folk would seem to be the course set by Massachusetts-based weirdo troupe Bong Wish, who, led by vocalist/guitarist Mariam Saleh, will release their self-titled debut EP Oct. 27 via Brooklyn imprint Beyond Beyond is Beyond. Much to my chagrin, I haven’t heard it in its entirety as yet, but I’ve been through the two-and-a-half-minute leadoff cut “My Luv” about six times, and with its classic-sounding flourish of strings, lightly-strummed liquefied guitar work, molten flow and forward voice from Saleh and whoever among the EP’s numerous other contributors that might be backing her, I’m definitely looking forward to doing so. Seriously. The track is at the bottom of this post. It’s gorgeous and bizarre and it flat-out rules. Do yourself a favor and check it out.

Beyond Beyond is Beyond is pressing up 100 copies on tape, which are up for preorder now, as the PR wire informs:

bong wish bong wish

Introducing Mariam Saleh’s BONG WISH

Mariam Saleh began performing under the heady moniker of BONG WISH in the Massachusetts of yesteryear. Drawing from British folk, Ween, and fantasy, Bong Wish skews to the far out lyrically, encouraging universal love and inner peace. The debut EP presents a patchouli-scented fantasia of pure, unsolicited rage. Mostly home-recorded, the eponymous EP sees Mariam and her mystical cohorts explore different moods, styles and vibes across four tracks, ranging from lush string arrangements and exotic flutes to shimmering guitars and earthy percussion. And Beyond Beyond is Beyond is quite overjoyed to share the Bong Wish majesty with you. Come along…

**releases October 27, 2017**
**check out “My Luv” now and pre-order on cassette or digi**

Tracklisting:
1. My Luv
2. Saturn Spells
3. Conversation With Business People
4. In The Sun

Tour dates:
10/6 Jamaica Plain, MA Jeanie Johnston
10/7 Northampton, MA The Basement
10/8 Portland, ME Apohadion Theater
10/10 Burlington, VT Monkeyhouse
10/11 Providence, RI TBD
10/12 Hamden, CT Best Video
10/13 Baltimore, MD Wind-Up Space
10/14 Washington, DC Safari
10/15 Brooklyn, NY The Gateway

https://www.facebook.com/BONGWISH/
https://bongwishbbib.bandcamp.com/album/bong-wish-ep-pre-order
https://www.facebook.com/beyondbeyondisbeyond
https://twitter.com/BBiB
https://www.instagram.com/bbib/
http://beyondbeyondisbeyond.com/

Bong Wish, “My Luv”

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Rozamov and Husbandry Announce October Weekender Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 18th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Boston’s Rozamov just got back from a tour that included a stop at Crucialfest and New York’s Husbandry have a brand new video for the track ‘Grab Twist Pull’ and will head out with Moon Tooth in November, so both bands have plenty going on as they move toward rounding out 2017 both supporting and looking to move forward from their debut releases on Battleground/Dullest Records and Aqualamb, respectively. All the better to team up for a quick weekender next month for shows in their native territories of New York and Massachusetts, and to add intrigue, the final of the three dates for the weekender run, to be held at The Middle East — one assumes upstairs, but you can never be sure — that’s going to be recorded by GodCity Studio‘s mobile unit.

Does that mean Kurt Ballou (Converge) is going to helm live outings for both bands? Can’t imagine they’d bring him out and not put out the results. Something to watch for maybe as we head into 2018.

Show info came down the PR wire:

Rozamov & Husbandry – Northeast dates

Rozamov and Husbandry have announced a short string of Northeast dates this October, culminating in a show to be recorded by Godcity Studio at The Middle East in Cambridge, MA.

10/20 – Brooklyn, NY @ The Well
10/21 – Florence, MA @ The 13th Floor Lounge
10/22 – Boston, MA @ The Middle East

Says Husbandry guitarist Jordan Usatch:

“There’s never an absence of ‘heavy’ young bands these days, but I’ve always felt that it’s few and far between of bands that do ‘heavy’ but also ‘interesting’ – so of course, ever since meeting the guys in Rozamov we’ve felt a kinship with them between odd-timed riffs and our mutual big-ass pedalboards. When approached to do a mini-tour in the New England area, using it to hire Godcity mobile recording services for a future live split-record project, we had to say yes. The tour starts at The Well in Brooklyn and culminates 10/22/17 at the Middle East Upstairs, where both bands will record our live sets, featuring new (and previously unreleased) music from both bands. The Middle East show will be rounded out by two other Boston bands- Kal Marks as well as Nomad Stones.”

Rozamov released their debut LP “This Mortal Road” this past March and have completed two tours since including stops at Austin Terror Fest and Crucialfest. The band digitally released a live recording from their March tour titled “Adaptations” earlier this summer and are have been hard at work on new material.

Husbandry recently released a video for their song “Grab Twist Pull” off of their debut LP “Fera” which was released last year. They also recently announced a US tour with fellow New York weirdos Moon Tooth for this November.

https://www.facebook.com/Rozamov
http://battlegroundrnr.com/
http://www.facebook.com/battlegroundrecords
http://battlegroundrecords.bigcartel.com
https://dullestrecords.bandcamp.com
https://www.facebook.com/DullestRecords

https://www.facebook.com/husbandrynyc
http://www.twitter.com/husbandrynyc
http://instagram.com/husbandrynyc
https://husbandryny.bandcamp.com/
https://aqualamb.bandcamp.com/
http://www.aqualamb.org/

Husbandry, “Grab Twist Pull” official video

Rozamov, “Serpent Cult” official video

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Jim Healey Announces Just a Minute More EP out Sept. 26; New Song Streaming

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 6th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

jim healey

Later this month, Boston singer-songwriter Jim Healey will issue his latest EP, Just a Minute More, in DIY digital fashion. Known for his work in heavy rock/metal acts like We’re all Gonna Die, Black Thai, Shatner and Set Fire, Healey‘s solo output — which, on this outing as it often does, features a full band behind him — resides in a soulful and emotional context all of its own, and the same voice so capable of channeling aggression into his heavier work once again proves itself capable of expressing a broader range of wistfulness and regret on songs like the new track “Faced” that’s streaming below as a first sampling of the upcoming release.

If you make your way over to Healey‘s Bandcamp, you’ll find plenty more to dig into as well, including his 2015 full-length, This is What the End Looked Like (review here), which continues to resonate as well. Healey‘s something of a well-kept secret of the Boston area, or at very least of greater New England, but his work translates regardless of region or other factors with the honesty of his performance and quality of his songcraft.

Here’s info on the release and the “Faced” stream, courtesy of Healey via the PR wire:

jim-healey-just-a-minute-more

NEW SOLO EP BY JIM HEALEY – “Just A Minute More”

RELEASE DATE: Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Jim Healey will release his third solo release entitled JUST A MINUTE MORE Tuesday, September 26, 2017.

JUST A MINUTE MORE is the follow-up to Healey’s second solo album, THIS IS WHAT THE END LOOKED LIKE, released in 2015.

The five song EP was recorded and mixed between February and June of this year at New Alliance studio in Cambridge by Jon Taft. The album was mastered by Nick Zampiello at New Alliance East Audio in Cambridge.

The album features performances by Jim Healey (vocals, electric and acoustic guitar), Joe McMahon (electric bass, keyboards, backing vocals), Kyle Rasmussen (drums, keyboards), Glenn Smith (electric guitar, e-bow guitars), and Jess Collins (backing vocals)

JUST A MINUTE MORE tracklisting (all songs written by Jim Healey)
1. The Road
2. You and I
3. Swamp Thing
4. Faced
5. Burn Up

https://jimhealey.net
https://www.facebook.com/JimHealeySolo
https://jimhealey1.bandcamp.com
https://twitter.com/jimhealey

Jim Healey, “Faced”

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Sundrifter Premiere “Till You Come Down”; New Album in Progress

Posted in audiObelisk on August 18th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

sundrifter-photo-Mario-Forgione

“Till You Come Down” is the second track to be released ahead of Boston trio Sundrifter‘s sophomore full-length. The yet-unnamed follow-up to 2016’s Not Coming Back is still being put together, but listening to the spacious riffing and rampant melody at work in this cut and in “Death March,” which preceded it earlier this year, as well as yet-to-surface rough mixes of stompers like the eight-minute “Fire in the Sky” or the Torche-style thrust of “Light Worker,” one can get an immediate sense of why they’d be eager to start getting their material out there. Fueled by catchy structures and the soaring vocals of guitarist Craig Puera, who is joined in the band by bassist Paul Gaughran and drummer Patrick Queenan, the affect of Sundrifter is to blend grounded craftsmanship with otherworldly themes, outward-reaching echoes, and a rhythmic push that remains fervent despite the pace of an individual song.

For example, Gaughran‘s bass-heavy intro to “Till You Come Down,” matched soon with Queenan‘s thudding toms and the opening riff from Puera, doesn’t seem to be in any hurry, but within 30 seconds, the three-piece are digging into the first verse, and in short order from there, Puera is delivering the title-line in a hook that’s derived in part from Soundgarden-style soul but still retains a thicker underpinning in its tonality. “Death March,” which is perhaps fuzzier in the guitar and dreamier in its transitions through sustained echoes, carries a like-minded modernity-in-a-blender feel, but even in unfinished form, it’s clear Sundrifter put a decided emphasis on songwriting and creating a sense of place in their tracks — even if that place is only intended to be “somewhere else.”

Like Not Coming Back before it, Sundrifter‘s new offering was recorded by Dan Schwartz at Futura Productions in Massachusetts. The band is currently seeking a label to get behind the release and it’s hard to imagine they’ll have trouble finding one once the record is completed, given a title, artwork, and so on. What we can know right now from hearing pieces like “Till You Come Down,” “Death March,” the more desert-minded “Hammer Burn” and others is that the songs are there, and that’s the best starting point a band could ask for going into any new release. Once that’s down, the rest tends to take care of itself.

On the player below, you’ll find the premiere of “Till You Come Down,” as well as some comment from the band. I’ve also gone ahead and included an embed for “Death March” at the bottom of this post in case you’d like to dig further and get a side-by-side from one single to the next. “Death March” can be downloaded name-your-price-style and I wouldn’t be surprised if sooner or later Sundrifter posted “Till You Come Down” in similar fashion, so keep an eye out. And when I hear more about the album coming together, I’ll post accordingly.

In the meantime, please enjoy:

Sundrifter on “Till You Come Down” & New Album:

“Till You Come Down” is our second single released from our coming full-length album. The album is still in the final mixing and mastering phases of the recording process and is expected to be released this Fall 2017. “Till You Come Down” is a song about contacting and connecting with beings or entities from different dimensions, worlds or time periods.

The track is a part of the greater whole of the album that covers topics of ancient theories about extraterrestrials, spiritual and psychedelic subjects. With this album we made a slight shift up in heaviness from our previous release, Not Coming Back. Our first album has a lot more desert vibes but this follow-up will be like if you lost yourself in the desert and you begin to lose your mind and next thing you know cruising through space fighting alien scum. We also self-released the first single back in June titled “Death March” found at www.sundrifter.bandcamp.com. The track was recorded mixed and mastered by Dan Schwarts at Futura Productions, Roslindale, Massachusetts.

Sundrifter is:
Craig Peura – Vocals/Guitar
Paul Gaughran – Bass
Patrick Queenan – Drums

Sundrifer, “Death March”

Sundrifter on Thee Facebooks

Sundrifter on Twitter

Sundrifter on Instagram

Sundrifter on Bandcamp

Sundrifter website

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Six Dumb Questions with Cortez

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on August 16th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

cortez

Let’s face it: a new Cortez outing doesn’t come along every day. The Boston heavy rockers offered up their first release in 2007’s Thunder in a Forgotten Town EP through Buzzville Records. It would be five years before they’d answer with their 2012 Bilocation Records self-titled debut full-length (review here), and five more beyond that for the recently-landed second album, The Depths Below (review here), to make its mark this year as their first domestically-backed collection, issued via the Connecticut-based imprint Salt of the Earth Records. They had a 2014 split with Borracho (review here) and a 2016 digital single covering Deep Purple‘s “Stormbringer” (posted here), but still, they’re not exactly what you’d call prolific.

But, when a new Cortez outing does arrive, it’s all the more of an occasion worth marking. The last half-decade has brought some significant changes in the band, as seen in the departure of longtime drummer Jeremy Hemond (who still plays on The Depths Below) and his replacement with Alexei Rodriguez and the addition of second guitarist Alasdair Swan alongside founding six-stringer Scott O’Dowd, bassist/backing vocalist Jay Furlo and frontman Matt Harrington, but one thing that has remained central to the band is their songwriting. The Depths Below, from the opening aggro thrust of “All Gone Wrong” through the three-part storytelling of “Walk Through Fire,” “The Citadel” and “Blood of Heirs,” and the Life of Agony-esque “Dead Channel” late in the tracklisting, is a shining example of how Cortez are and seem to have always been underrated for the quality of their craft and the purpose of their execution. A well-kept secret known to denizens of smaller Boston-area venues and European labels, it would seem, but primed nonetheless for a wider reach.

As they have been all along. Maybe on that level the lessons of The Depths Below are a refresher course in the kind of straightforward righteousness Cortez have honed since they got their start more than a decade ago, but if check-ins from them are to be so periodic in their nature, then attention and appreciation for the band’s work on its own terms are no less duly earned than they might be if they busted out a new record every eight months. In the interview that follows, O’Dowd and Harrington talk about making The Depths Below and the shifts in lineup Cortez have undergone since the self-titled, as well as the work that’s already begun on their next outing, which is set to arrive whenever the hell they decide it’s good and ready to arrive.

Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

cortez the depths below

Six Dumb Questions with Cortez

A lot has changed for Cortez since the self-titled. How do you feel about everything that’s gone down with the band in the last five years? Tell me about bringing in Alasdair on guitar and Alexei on drums. How do you feel about where the band is at now?

Scott O’Dowd: In the five years since the release of our self-titled album, quite a lot has happened. Not the least of which was adding Alasdair on second guitar. We’ve always envisioned ourselves as a two-guitar band, but after Tony (our original second guitarist) left the band in 2008, we continued on as a four-piece. This was only because we didn’t have anyone else in mind to fill the position. We’re big believers in chemistry, both musically and personally, so rather than adding someone that we didn’t know, we decided to continue with the four remaining members until we found the right fifth member. Alasdair (who happens to be married to my wife’s cousin) had recently moved to the US from Scotland and we really hit it off on a musical and personal level. I told the rest of the guys about him and he came down to rehearsal. He was a perfect fit and has been with us ever since (2012).

We parted ways with our long time drummer Jeremy [Hemond] in November of 2016 when he moved back to Vermont. As might be expected, devoting time to the band had become an issue because of the distance. We decided to move on and look for another drummer. In a complete stroke of luck, Alexei came across an ad we placed and came down to audition. After trying out a handful of drummers who weren’t right for us, we knew Alexei was our guy from the first song. He fit right in and we all feel a renewed sense of purpose.

We’re really happy, looking forward to working on new material, and playing shows.

How did the writing process work out for The Depths Below? When did you start thinking about a follow-up for the self-titled and how did the material come together? Was there anything in particular you wanted to do coming off the first album?

SO: The writing process worked pretty much the same way it always does, except for Alasdair contributing to the songs, and Matt having even more input this time around. We very rarely stop and say, “OK, it’s time to write for the new album.” Instead, we are always working on ideas whenever we have a chance or are feeling inspired. It’s a perpetual thing for us. Sometimes songs will come together rather quickly, such as “Johnny” from the self-titled. Other times we may have a couple of parts and not be able to finish the song. When that happens we tend to put that particular idea on the back burner and come back to it at a later date. Sometimes even years later. We work on a particular idea until we feel it’s finished, however long that takes. It’s not enough for us to throw a few riffs together and call it done. It’s important that a song has a flow and makes sense. We work democratically and listen to each other’s input and tweak parts until we are satisfied. We’re our own toughest critics.

Some of the material written shortly after the self-titled was in the process of being recorded. Some of the other ideas were fleshed out later on. As I mentioned above, it’s an ongoing thing.

When did you know that “Walk Through Fire,” “The Citadel” and “Blood of Heirs” would tie together? How did that come about, and what is the narrative uniting the songs?

SO: I’m going to defer to Matt on this one.

Matt Harrington: If I’m remembering correctly, “The Citadel” was the first song we completed of the three. “Walk Through Fire” is in a different tuning, but I must have heard it right before “The Citadel” on a practice recording because I remember really liking the way they led into one another. I also knew I wanted to tell a little more of the story when I finished “The Citadel,” which also plays into the lyrical why of “Blood of Heirs.”

“In the Shadows of Ancients” is a loose adaptation of a story I wrote. “Walk Through Fire” is the radicalization of the disenfranchised, “The Citadel” is the execution of the oath by the faithful with a little familial revenge thrown in, and “Blood of Heirs” is a homecoming of sorts with the backdrop of a battle.

How about the recording? Was the album done in one shot or over multiple sessions? It seems like there’s a more aggressive sound this time around. Was that something you were looking to bring out purposefully, or just how it worked out in the writing and production?

SO: We recorded the whole album with Benny Grotto. I give him major credit for understanding exactly what we wanted and helping us capture it in the recording. The album was recorded in a few different sessions. The basic tracks (drums, bass, and some guitars) were recorded at Q Division in Somerville, MA, in December of 2014. We recorded most of the rest of the rhythm guitar tracks at Mad Oak in Allston, MA. We finished up leads and vocals at Moontower (R.I.P.) in Somerville. The actual recording was finished in June of 2015. From there we mixed with Benny and sent it off for mastering to Jeff Lipton and Maria Rice at Peerless Mastering.

As for the more aggressive sound, I think partly it just had to do with some of the songs themselves. We’ve always listened to all sorts of music, and I know I tried to bring some more of my metallic influences to the forefront on a few songs. “Walk Through Fire” for example, was a song that had a bit of a NWOBHM feel to me when I came up with the main riff. “Blood of Heirs” has more of an oldschool thrash-metal-meets-Bathory sort of feel to the main riff. I know we made a conscious effort to have a lot of variation in tempo and feel. I’m sure that directly contributed to the genesis of those two songs. Aside from wanting a good amount of variety, there were no strict “rules.” We like to write riffs and songs we enjoy and try not to worry too much about something being a stylistic outlier or odd man out sort of thing. If we like it, we go with it.

What’s the story behind “Dead Channel?”

MH: I’ve always loved dystopias. I never expected to live in one, but that’s a whole other thing.

The name is a nod to the first line of William Gibson’s seminal cyberpunk book, Neuromancer: “The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.”

That line drew a young me in instantly, and the visual is a favorite of mine. Pretty soon, someone who picks up that book for the first time won’t know what that is without checking Google, if they even bother to. Isn’t it sort of weird, uncomfortable, and exciting all at once that culture and technology change so completely and frequently now?

Lyrically, this song is a companion of sorts to “Poor and Devoid,” in that they both touch on the idea that we are both consumer and product everywhere we go physically and virtually, and what is presented to us (and sometimes what we present) isn’t always genuine or real.

I watched online communities go from USENET and dialing into BBSs to message boards/forums to where we stand now in both the more mainstream and less accessible parts of a vast internet. These communities have become global cultures and I think this sort of connection without boundaries or borders has power, both positive and negative. The optimist in me likes to think that interconnectivity, community, and freedom are ultimately a good thing.

Do we want to live in a dying world or die knowing we built something that lives on? Maybe we find a better us together, and find better ways to communicate and collaborate without the noise, ideologies, or agendas. Maybe we take a look at the old and say… you know what, it’s okay that isn’t a thing anymore. Maybe we decide to tear every last vestige of those old things down completely. Sometimes it takes weird, uncomfortable, and/or exciting to make something new. Nostalgia and fear shouldn’t prevent people from building things. My hope is that the new things we create are real and genuine and not born from the distractions that are all around us now.

You did the release show earlier this month for The Depths Below, so what’s next for you guys? Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?

SO: To be honest, there was a great sense of relief in releasing The Depths Below and playing the actual release show. The record had been a long time in the “gestation” period (which seems to be our pattern at this point), and it was our first Boston show with Alexei on drums. We wanted to pick up right where we left off and, at the same time, state our intent to continue progressing as a band. It was a packed house at our favorite club, with some of our favorite folks. We couldn’t have been happier.

As for what’s next, we’re working on new material, getting Alexei up to speed on some choice older tunes, and looking forward to the demo process for the new stuff. We’re already pretty booked up for the Fall with a bunch of regional shows. We also have a split 12″ in the works; that will hopefully be released late this year/early next year. We’re just looking to keep it rolling, wherever it takes us.

Our album is available from our Bandcamp page, or at shows.

Cortez, The Depths Below (2017)

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