Hey Zeus Post “I Don’t Want It” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 13th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

hey zeus i dont want it

Hey, look. It’s never happened to me, but yeah, I totally understand where sometimes you wake up in the alleyway around the side from ONCE Ballroom in Somerville, Mass., and go inside the venue to have a kind of acid-laced virtual reality religious experience. I mean, who hasn’t been there, right? Hello?

Fine.

This coming weekend, Boston heavy rockers Hey Zeus bid safe travels to guitarist Pete Knipfing, who’ll relocate to Tennessee, presumably for the relative proximity to the Stax Museum. They’re playing Great Scott with Cocked ‘n’ Loaded and Scissorfight to mark the occasion — event page here — and while it seems that Knipfing will continue to work remotely to stay involved with the band, even just the geographic loss of the former Lamont axeman is significant. Makes it way harder to book a weekender or pop over to O’Brien’s for a show. The change comes just about seven months after the release of their awaited debut album, X (review here), which was issued through Argonauta Records, and they’re a four-piece. It’s not like they have an extra guitarist just hanging around to pick up the slack.

Come what may, “I Don’t Want It” is indicative of the kind of infectious songwriting and energy that is writ large throughout X. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Hey Zeus a couple of times — the lineup of Knipfing, vocalist Bice Nathan (also production and percussion), bassist Ken Cmar and drummer Todd Bowman — and the feeling of righteousness-in-riotousness that the studio versions of “I Don’t Want It” or the peelout-ready “Save Your” brought to beat had its foundations in what the band did together in a live setting. Was it Radio Bar where they covered Deep Purple twice in the same set? The entire room, hammered. What the hell ever happened to that place?

But maybe it makes all the more sense then that as the band says goodbye to Knipfing, they’re having a blowout. That’s kind of been their thing all along. If you’re in the area and reading this, you’re probably already planning to go, but if not, and if you haven’t given X its fair shot yet, the hook-driven energy of “I Don’t Want It” is a compelling argument in favor of doing so. And, of course, all the best to Knipfing on the big move.

Enjoy:

Hey Zeus, “I Don’t Want It” official video

“I don’t want it” by Hey Zeus
Featuring Victoria Norton

Argonauta Records

Produced by Bice
Directed by Michael Cimpher
https://www.cimpher.com

Hey Zeus on Bandcamp

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Argonauta Records website

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Argonauta Records on Instagram

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Cortez Enter Studio to Record New Album

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 13th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

I’m not trying to be a smartass or anything here, but three years between Cortez releases would be pretty good. The Boston heavy rockers issued The Depths Below (review here), in 2017, some five years after their 2012 self-titled debut (review here), and that followed five years after their 2007 first EP, Thunder in a Forgotten Town. Especially as they also had the split out last year with the now-defunct Wasted Theory (review here) as part of Ripple Music‘s The Second Coming of Heavy series, trimming that divide between full-lengths down to the three years from 2017-2020 is right on. It’ll be interesting to hear how momentum plays into what they do with the record.

Actually, scratch that. It’ll just be interesting to hear the record — period. Cortez‘s Boston-born heavy rock methodology is time-tested and headbang-secure, and The Depths Below was as solid as the bricks of Faneuil Hall. Not broken, not in needing of fixing: what Windows 95 once referred to as “plug and play.” Dudes do not screw around.

Accordingly, they’re working with Benny Grotto at Mad Oak. Because that’s what you do.

Here’s their announcement:

cortez

Boston Heavy Rockers Cortez Begin Recording New Album

Boston heavy rockers CORTEZ have entered Mad Oak Studios in Allston, MA to begin recording the follow up to their 2017 album “The Depths Below.” The band is once again recording with Benny Grotto (WORSHIPPER, SCISSORFIGHT, GOZU) manning the board. This will be the first recording to feature the current lineup:

Matt Harrington – vocals
Scott O’Dowd – guitar
Alasdair Swan – guitar
Jay Furlo – bass
Alexei Rodriguez – drums

Speaking about the material the band states, “We couldn’t be more excited; our new material is at once different and yet quintessentially Cortez. We are thrilled to be working with Benny Grotto again, as he totally gets what we are trying to achieve sonically. We can’t wait for everyone hear the songs.”

Cortez are laying low on the live front to concentrate on recording, but currently have one show scheduled:

Friday, September 27 at Lucky 13 in Brooklyn, NY with Vessel Of Light, Eternal Black, and Clothesline.

http://www.cortezboston.com
http://www.instagram.com/cortezboston
http://www.facebook.com/cortezboston
http://cortezboston.bandcamp.com

Cortez, The Depths Below (2017)

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Gozu Welcome New Drummer Patrick Queenan; Touring Europe This Fall

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 15th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

gozu

Boston heavy rock purveyors Gozu bid welcome to new drummer Patrick Queenan. The band — once again a four-piece with bassist Joe Grotto and founding guitarists Marc Gaffney (vocals) and Doug Sherman (backing vocals) — toured last month headed westward and took part in the Electric Funeral Fest in Denver. This November, they’ll make a return to European shores to play the Heavy Psych Sounds Fest in Austria and more besides, hitting Germany, Italy, Slovenia, the UK, Belgium, France and Switzerland on a 15-day stretch that will serve as Queenan‘s inaugural stint with them. Trial by Old World fire and all that.

Also known for playing in Sundrifter, Queenan comes to Gozu as at least their third ‘permanent’ drummer, taking the role after a split with Mike Hubbard (now of the reactivated Warhorse). Gozu aren’t far removed from 2018’s Equilibrium (review here), but it doesn’t seem unreasonable to think that the shift in personnel might get them moving quicker on new material, getting a fresh take and all that with Queenan in the rhythm section.

Beyond the November tour, I won’t profess to know what the future holds for them, but Gozu always deliver live and in the studio, so whatever it is, I’ll happily take it as it comes. I look forward to seeing the new lineup.

They had some comment on bringing in Queenan:

gozu november tour

“Pat is an incredible musician with extraordinary feel. He brings a lot of skills to the table and we are very excited to have him in the fold. We look forward to writing and playing shows with him ASAP. Bottom line: He rules.” – Doug Sherman.

“Pat brings a whole new vibe of youth and groove that the old men needed. His playing and attitude is rather infectious, he describes his downbeat as, silky chicken.” – Marc Gaffney.

“First I just want to thank Gaff, Doug and Joe for allowing me to be apart of Gozu. They’ve been around and have been consistently crushing it and have done a lot of really great things as a band, things a lot of bands only dream of doing. I guess I feel real lucky to be playing drums in two badass rock bands (Gozu/Sundrifter) who both have really exciting futures ahead! As a musician I couldn’t have it any better right now!” – Patrick Queenan.

*** GOZU – EUROPEAN TOUR 2019 ***
01.11.2019 AT Innsbruck-PMK Heavy Psych Sounds Fest
02.11.2019 IT Udine-Backyardie
03.11.2019 SL Lubijana-Channel Zero
04.11.2019 IT Zerobranco-Altroquando
05.11.2019 AT Salzburg-Rockhouse
06.11.2019 DE Augsbrug-City Club
07.11.2019 DE Erfurt-Tiko
08.11.2019 DE Berlin-Heads Up Fest
09.11.2019 DE Oldenburg-MTS Record Shop
10.11.2019 DE Koln-MTC
11.11.2019 UK London tba
12.11.2019 BE Brugge-Jeugdhuis Comma
13.11.2019 FR Chambery-Le Brin du Zinc
14.11.2019 CH Martigny-Sunset Bar
15.11.2019 CH Zurich-Safari Bar
16.11.2019 CH Olten-Coq D’or

GOZU is:
Marc Gaffney – guitar and vocals
Joe Grotto – bass
Doug Sherman – lead guitar
Pat Queenan – drums

Photo was taken by Nicole Tammaro.

https://www.facebook.com/GOZU666
http://gozu.bandcamp.com
instagram.com/gozu666

Gozu, Equilibrium (2018)

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Gozu Announce Nov. 2019 European Tour

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 27th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

gozu (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Having recently-enough seen Gozu in Boston (review here) and Brooklyn (review here), I don’t at all mind saying they’re locked in. I minded even less standing in front of the stage to see it. Their upcoming European run will be the second tour they’ve undertaken this year, having gone out west earlier this month in order to play Electric Funeral Fest in Colorado.

They’ll do Heavy Psych Sounds Fest‘s Austrian edition on Nov. 1 as the first date of the Euro run, and also play Heads Up Fest in Berlin a week later, kicking around in the interim between Austria, Italy, Slovenia and Germany, and after that, they’ll do dates in the UK, Belgium, France and Switzerland. As one has come to expect, there’s a fair amount of German ground covered, but three dates in Switzerland sounds pretty awesome too, just as a way to spend one’s time.

All the whatnot just came in off the PR wire:

gozu november tour

GOZU – EUROPEAN TOUR 2019

To deserve the term ‘timeless’, an album really does have to transcend the era in which it was created. Equilibrium unequivocally achieves this. With roots in 60s psychedelia and classic rock, the fuzzy stoner riffs of the 70s, the grit of 90s grunge and the winning dirty rock n’ roll that has in recent years made a resurgence, Boston, MA’s Gozu have been churning out killer records since 2009. With 2016’s Revival they took their sound in a somewhat new and more aggressive direction, and in doing so, dropped the most compulsive, exciting and downright badass release of their career – and Equilibrium has only raised the stakes. “We wanted these songs to hit a nerve, make people shake their ass and enjoy simply being alive,” says vocalist/guitarist Marc “Gaff” Gaffney, who founded the band with lead guitarist Doug Sherman.

Much of the record’s strength stems from the unit growing since Revival. “I would have to say that the band is sounding the best it ever has right now,” Gaffney states plainly. “It takes a bit of time to feel everything out. When you are serious about it, you have to work as a team, and we are four guys that dig the same kind of music and love to play, but we all bring in different elements that give us our sound. It is not just one person channeling, it’s the four of us bringing in the ingredients and together making it a delicious meal.”

*** GOZU – EUROPEAN TOUR 2019 ***
01.11.2019 AT Innsbruck-PMK Heavy Psych Sounds Fest
02.11.2019 IT Udine-Backyardie
03.11.2019 SL Lubijana-Channel Zero
04.11.2019 IT Zerobranco-Altroquando
05.11.2019 AT Salzburg-Rockhouse
06.11.2019 DE Augsbrug-City Club
07.11.2019 DE Erfurt-Tiko
08.11.2019 DE Berlin-Heads Up Fest
09.11.2019 DE Oldenburg-MTS Record Shop
10.11.2019 DE Koln-MTC
11.11.2019 UK London tba
12.11.2019 BE Brugge-Jeugdhuis Comma
13.11.2019 FR Chambery-Le Brin du Zinc
14.11.2019 CH Martigny-Sunset Bar
15.11.2019 CH Zurich-Safari Bar
16.11.2019 CH Olten-Coq D’or

GOZU is:
Marc Gaffney – guitar and vocals
Joe Grotto – bass
Doug Sherman – lead guitar

https://www.facebook.com/GOZU666
http://gozu.bandcamp.com
instagram.com/gozu666

Gozu, Live at Saint Vitus Bar, March 2, 2019

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Roadsaw, Tinnitus the Night: Knock ‘Em All Down

Posted in Reviews on June 12th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

roadsaw tinnitus the night

If you believe in ‘due,’ Roadsaw were most certainly that. The Boston heavy rock kingpins have been somewhat limited in their activity over the last half-decade or so, as their core members Tim CatzIan Ross and Craig Riggs explored other projects like White DynomiteMurcielago and Kind, but with Tinnitus the Night, the band’s signing to Ripple Music back in 2016 bears long-awaited fruit and they give their 2011 self-titled (review here) the follow-up it so much deserved, even eight years after the fact. Their sixth full-length overall in a span of 24 years going back to 1995’s One Million Dollars (discussed here), it finds this pared-down version of the band with Riggs handling frontman and drum duties alike while Catz, as ever, is on bass and some background vocals and Ross turns in a you-should-be-talking-about-IanRoss-when-you-talk-about-heavy-rock-guitarists-style performance. As a three- or four-piece, Roadsaw are an absolute powerhouse, and the luster of their work has not dulled with time away.

Tinnitus the Night, which earns immediate charm points for its title alone, comprises 10 tracks and 45 minutes of high-quality songwriting and hooks, the band essentially serving their fanbase a reminder of why they’ve been missing Roadsaw all these years. Cuts like the opener “Along for the Ride,” the extra-scorching “Final Phase” and side B’s “Find What You Need” are barn-burners in classic Roadsaw fashion, though the latter features a slowdown in its second half mirrored in its lyrics as well, while the more extended “Peel” (6:40) and “Midazolam” (7:03) — a sedative; I guess somebody had surgery? — are more spacious, touching on psychedelia while also emphasizing the vinyl construction of the album as a whole, the former positioned as the finale of side A led to by the catchy “Along for the Ride,” “Shake,” “Fat Rats” and “Final Phase” while the latter pushes outward on a solo-topped drift until its sudden stop that brings about the acoustic-based closer “Silence,” so not the actual finish of the record, but clearly the apex just the same. The sense of variety and depth that these songs add to the two sides of Tinnitus the Night isn’t to be taken for granted.

And still, one gets the sense that Roadsaw could just sit down for five minutes and bang out a tune like “Shake” whenever they felt like it. The middle component of the opening salvo is a bruiser riff with an echoing vocal melody and harmonized layers that is air-tight in its structure — nothing wasted, nothing without purpose — and RiggsRoss and Catz make it sound like just another day at the office. That’s not a comment on their performance — far from it; throughout the entire offering, they sound awfully driven for a band who haven’t released an LP in eight years — but on just how easy and natural they make what they do sound. Part of that is experience, obviously, but it goes to the heart as well of who they are as a band. They’ve never been overly flashy or indulgent — they’re punks as much as classic heavy rockers — but they’re a band who will step on stage and blow everyone else out of the room, and that’s also what’s happening with Tinnitus the Night.

roadsaw

“Along for the Ride” brings the audience into the creation of forward momentum, “Shake” pushes deeper and “Fat Rats” cuts the tempo but draws out the melody and makes them three-for-three on memorable choruses. Much the same happens on side B, with “Knock ‘Em All Down” — the chorus, “I’ve seen ’em come, I’ve seen ’em go/But none of that matters now/I’ve had enough, more than enough/You wanna set ’em up I’ll knock ’em downs” feels purely autobiographical — “Find What You Need” (likewise) and “Under the Devil’s Thumb.” If we’re picking highlights, the latter might be mine, at least for today, as it answers back the vocal layering of “Shake” while holding an upbeat rhythm and makes tradtionalist fare sound fresh as only truly great songcraft can. But again, Roadsaw make it all sound easy, fluid, natural. Ain’t no thing to just toss out six or seven flawless slabs of heavy rock, then, you know, maybe space out a bit or kick into the next gear, whichever suits the moment. I’m not in a band, but I imagine that if I was, Roadsaw would be infuriating to listen to.

So if “Along for the Ride,” “Shake,” “Fat Rats,” “Knock ‘Em All Down,” “Find What You Need” and “Under the Devil’s Thumb” serve as the root of Tinnitus the Night‘s impact, the moments where the band branches out are no less pivotal. After the rush of “Final Phase,” “Peel” rolls forth on a slower, thicker-feeling progression that pushes the vocals deeper to give a sense of largesse and seems to pull the punch of Catz‘s bass forward for the same reason, even as Ross solos into oblivion, seeming to crunch as the track winds its way toward the five-minute mark, but they were right to leave it. A mellower stretch follows but the nod resumes and takes its time fading. “Midazolam” feels even bigger in its melody, and its crescendo tops Ross‘ solo with the chorus in such a way as to unquestionably be the payoff for the album as a whole, but cuts short at 6:48, perhaps to convey the moment of losing consciousness. Its transition to “Silence” is stark and clearly meant to be that. Keys, drums, acoustic guitar, effects wash and a quiet distorted riff back Riggs in “Silence” and the feeling is very much one of epilogue to Tinnitus the Night; the party is over and they know it. Fair enough.

Even that swapping position — “Final Phase” before the longer track on side A, “Silence” after the longer track on side B — and the fact that those two songs are more or less opposites, should give the audience some idea of the range with which Roadsaw are ultimately working while still basically keeping to verse/chorus patterning. They don’t need to do otherwise. The only question as regards Tinnitus the Night is what it might lead to. Is it the last Roadsaw album? One final blowout? They certainly sound like they have more to say, but that’s never stopped bands from stopping before. When in 2008 they released See You in Hell! after an eight-year absence, they followed three years after that with the self-titled. They had three records out between 1995 and 2000. So maybe Roadsaw do things in bunches. I don’t know. What feels more important in listening to Tinnitus the Night is appreciating the level of accomplishment Roadsaw bring to what they do. It is a majestic execution of a purposefully un-majestic form.

Maybe it leads to something, maybe it leads to nothing. The point is that after eight long years and a shift in lineup, Roadsaw came back to stake their claim on their legacy and add to it with one more round of their nigh-unmatched execution. It’s a gift to their listenership and should be received as such.

Roadsaw, Tinnitus the Night (2019)

Roadsaw on Thee Facebooks

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Ripple Music website

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Roadsaw Announce June 7 Release for New Album Tinnitus the Night

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 20th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

roadsaw

I’m gonna try real hard not to take it personally that I’m leaving the Boston area and Roadsaw FINALLY decide to release a new album. And, actually, after eight years since their self-titled (review here) on Small Stone, they’re kind of doing it on the quick. June 7 is like three weeks from now. “Oh, by the way, we haven’t done a record in the better part of a decade, but so here’s one.” Whatever, I’ll take it as it comes.

To that end, they’re streaming “Shake” now and it’s a fitting reminder of why you’ve been missing Roadsaw all this time even as members have embarked on developing other projects like White DynomiteMurcielago or Kind — oh yeah, then there’s that whole thing about Riggs joining Sasquatch — all of which are most certainly welcome ways for them to spend their time. Still, there’s only one Roadsaw, and the reaffirmation is welcome.

Preorders are up now from Ripple, so have at it:

roadsaw tinnitus the night

ROADSAW: Boston’s Hard Rock Bruisers Are Back, Louder and Heavier Than Ever! | New Album Out Next Month, Share New Song ‘Shake’

Tinnitus the Night by Roadsaw is officially released on 7th June 2019

It’s been a long time coming but the wait is finally over. Boston legends Roadsaw return this June with their eighth full-length album, Tinnitus the Night, a record that’s sure to please their faithful followers, while pulling in plenty of new ones along the way.

With a sound as searing and sleazy today as it was eighteen years ago, the heart and soul of the classic Roadsaw line-up has remained intact with Ian Ross on guitar, Tim Catz on bass and Craig Riggs doubling up on vocal and drum duties. Once again the band holed up in familiar digs at Mad Oak Studios in Allston with Benny Grotto on production. Packed front to back with rippers, trippers, killers and thrillers, from opener ‘Along for The Ride’ through to the stoner opus ‘Peel’, and weighty epic of ‘Midazolam’, Roadsaw dig deep to deliver the goods.

With every tour and new record released, their fans and friends come back for more. On the road, they’ve shared stages big and small on both sides of the Atlantic with the likes of Orange Goblin, Fu Manchu, Queens of The Stone Age, Nebula, Karma To Burn, Black Label Society and many others. They’ve also been regular guests at CMJ and SXSW events and played every metal and stoner festival that would have them.

Tinnitus the Night by Roadsaw is officially released on 7th June 2019 via Ripple Music, www.ripple-music.com

TRACK LISTING:
1. Along For The Ride
2. Shake
3. Fat Rats
4. Final Phase
5. Peel
6. Knock Em All Down
7. Find What You Need
8. Under The Devil’s Thumb
9. Midazolam
10. Silence

Roadsaw:
Ian Ross – Guitar
Craig Riggs – Vocals
Tim Catz – Bass

https://www.facebook.com/ROADSAW-106440249390336/
https://www.facebook.com/theripplemusic/
https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/
http://www.ripple-music.com/

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Here’s the Bio I Wrote for Worshipper’s Light in the Wire

Posted in Features on May 17th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Today marks the release date of Worshipper‘s second album, Light in the Wire (review here). Out on Tee Pee Records, it lands immediately following the return of the Boston four-piece from a European tour alongside labelmates The Skull that included stops at Desertfest in London and Berlin to follow-up on both bands’ appearance at the inaugural Desertfest NYC a few weeks back (review here).

The release will be celebrated tonight in Cambridge, MA, with a live in-store performance at Newbury Comics in Harvard Square. The retail outlet also has an exclusive color vinyl edition available that looks just lovely in the pictures that I’ve seen. I was fortunate enough to be asked when they were putting the promo package together to write the bio for the album, and I did so happily.

For the occasion of the release, here’s that bio I wrote, as it appears currently on their Bandcamp page:

worshipper light in the wire

Worshipper – Light in the Wire bio

Whatever frame you want to give it, Worshipper’s story is one of growth. What started four years ago with a couple digital singles has blossomed — yes, blossomed — into an expansive and individualized sound that’s like nothing else in heavy rock and roll. With patient and graceful songwriting, and thoughtful, detailed arrangements, the Boston-based four-piece bring something new to the hordes of those building altars to the capital ‘r’ Riff. Their second album, Light in the Wire, presents a progressive vision that’s not just about “oh hey we threw a keyboard on some guitar,” but instead bleeds into every melody, every smoothly-delivered rhythmic change, and every performance captured on the recording.

Worshipper’s first album, Shadow Hymns, came out in 2016 on Tee Pee, and they followed it with the 2017 covers EP Mirage Daze, a four-song jaunt exploring influences like Pink Floyd, The Who, Uriah Heep and doom rockers The Oath. That release gave new context to Shadow Hymns, and it informs Light in the Wire as well, though with the new LP, Worshipper are most recognizable as themselves.

Led by would-be-reluctant-were-it-not-for-all-that-pesky-stage-presence frontman John Brookhouse (guitar/vocals/synth), with Alejandro Necochea on lead guitar/synth, Bob Maloney on bass and backing vocals and Dave Jarvis on drums, Worshipper recorded Light in the Wire with Chris Johnson (also of Deafheaven, Summoner, etc.) at GodCity Studios and The Electric Bunker. Their intention to capture a sonic narrative has resulted in a fluidity tying the two sides of the album together even as individual pieces stand out with a sheen of classic heavy metal, rock, psychedelia and prog. At the center, always, is the crafting of the songs themselves, so that each verse isn’t simply a placeholder for the next hook, but a statement unto itself, and each solo drips soul rather than devolving into a needless showcase of wankery.

Light in the Wire not only sees Worshipper grow as songwriters and performers, but it expands the palette they’re working with to do that. A stage-born chemistry pervades their musical conversation, but even more, the confidence with which they take on darkness and light, weight and drift, brings into focus how faithworthy their sound has become. They may push farther still, but hearing Light in the Wire leaves no question of their realization.

-JJ Koczan

https://www.facebook.com/worshipperband/
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https://worshipper.bandcamp.com/
http://teepeerecords.com

Worshipper, Light in the Wire (2019)

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Friday Full-Length: Elder, Dead Roots Stirring

Posted in Bootleg Theater on May 10th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

So yes, I’ve been thinking about what are some of the best heavy records of the decade. We’re almost halfway into 2019, it’s time for a bit of reflection on what the heavy ’10s have wrought. I’ll probably do a poll at some point in the next couple months instead of my own list — frankly, I’m more curious what everyone else thinks — but I have to imagine Elder‘s 2011 second album for MeteorCity, Dead Roots Stirring (review here), belongs somewhere in that discussion. I don’t think it’s album of the decade, or even the greatest achievement Elder have had in the last 10 years, but it was an important moment for the Massachusetts then-trio of guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo, bassist Jack Donovan and drummer Matt Couto, when they began to really show who they were becoming as a band and how their songwriting process was beginning to realize a more progressive vision. Their prior 2008 self-titled debut (discussed here) made its impression via riffs and grooving largesse. Dead Roots Stirring, at the time, was an entirely different level of achievement for Elder, and it set them on the path toward not only emerging as a touring band, but becoming an essential voice of progressive heavy rock and an influence for others to follow.

That’s hindsight, so I’ll stress that when it came out, no one knew that was going to happen. Elder had played some outside of their native Boston and gained a reputation for blowing much older bands off the stage, but I can remember vividly putting on Dead Roots Stirring for the first time, making my way through “Gemini” and the 12-minute title-track that follows it, and being fairly blindsided by the leap in their sound. Now, that’s just what they do, right? Every album is a considerable step forward from the one before it. They’ve done it four times. But Dead Roots Stirring was the first leap, and I still feel the impact of that when I listen to the record. The turn to acoustics in the intro to the instrumental “III” and the graceful build-up from there; the way they embraced not only the longer-form work of the debut, but shifted that to tell a story with the music as well as the lyrics. Elder‘s songwriting process has long since defied conventional logic. That is, they’ve never really been a verse-chorus-verse-chorus band. It’s always, “We’ll take this part and put it next to this part and sometimes we’ll maybe repeat a part and it’ll be awesome because Matt half-times the drums or something.” And why the hell should that work? Aside from Couto half-timing the drums, because I’m sorry, but that’s always going to be great. But seriously, Elder manage to turn a part played once into a hook, and one can hear that throughout Dead Roots Stirring, on “Dead Roots Stirring” itself, certainly, so elder dead roots stirringthat when a riff does come back around, its effect is all the more highlighted. It’s dumbfounding. It shouldn’t work. Other bands do it, and it just sounds like part-mashing. Elder do it and it’s brilliant.

I won’t take away from the opening salvo of which that title-track is part. “Gemini” into “Dead Roots Stirring” is probably one of the strongest one-two punches a heavy rock record has offered in the last 10 years — and yes, I mean that — but “III,” “The End” and “Knot” showed even more how far their reach had expanded in the three years since their debut. Already noted was the poise of “III,” which not only served its individual function, but fed into the overarching flow of the entire album as its centerpiece, leading to the tumbling fuzzout of “The End,” which was probably the most guitar-led of an album that’s still very much guitar-led. Peppered throughout with leads and backed by a solid groove, the song moved through a long instrumental passage at its end to cap with undulating volume swells and give a direct transition into close “Knot,” which was just a few second shy of the title-cut’s 12 minutes. The finale showed rare swagger on the part of the band, much bolstered by Donovan‘s bass, and swung its way into a overload wash of noise at the end, something Elder‘s cleaner tones on subsequent work would never really allow them to do again. I recall hearing a lot of Colour Haze in Dead Roots Stirring at the time, and I hear some less now, but there’s no question Elder were already pulling from more than just the conventional heavy-rock-riffout playbook even eight years ago. This was something special. Still is.

And of course, Elder have continued to build on it to a point where they’ll be back on tour in Europe starting next week (click here to pop out tour banner). I was fortunate enough to see them two weeks ago headlining the inaugural Desertfest NYC (review here), and they were every bit the headlining act, professional in their delivery but still clearly passionate about what they do and with the kind of draw to anchor a festival lineup. Their last two albums, 2015’s landmark Lore (review here) and 2017’s Reflections of a Floating World (review here), have pushed them further along the progressive path, growing increasingly clearheaded in their purposes as they step forward from what Dead Roots Stirring and its 2012 companion EP, Spires Burn/Release (review here), accomplished, and their profile has only grown to match. The last album was doubly notable for being the point where they added a fourth member in guitarist/keyboardist Mike Risberg, and allowed themselves a little more room to explore different textures touching on psychedelia and jamming in ways they never had before. They’re slated to release a new EP along those lines called The Gold and Silver Sessions of instrumental work — kind of a one-off — but it will be interesting to hear when they embark on a fifth full-length if and how that plays into their sound.

Because if Elder‘s output over the last 11 years been anything, it’s been a narrative thread of progress, with each offering using the one before it as a springboard to new modes of expression. I won’t guess where their next record will take them in terms of sound, but I’ll be glad to find out when the time comes, just as I was that first time I put on Dead Roots Stirring years ago.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

Oh, my aching head. Whenever I get a real-deal toothache, I think of that scene in Cast Away where Tom Hanks goes DIY-dentist on his mouth with an ice skate. Something on the stage left side of my mouth has been giving me similar impulses all week, and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a distraction from writing. Last night I was up a few times overnight from the combined pain of the toothache plus the inevitable jaw clenching I do in my sleep because, well, unresolved trauma, I guess? I don’t know. Anyway, it hurt like a bastard to the point that 2AM found me downstairs digging the tube of Orajel out of the couch cushion to numb it up. Good fun.

So yes, this week, as American democracy develops yet-more cracks in its imitation-Roman marble and the UN says like a million species are dying because humans exist, I’ve been busy thinking about my hurty tooth. Is it the worst thing that’s every happened to anyone in the existence of mankind? Yes. It is. Sorry. It’s the worst.

It’s been two weeks since I properly closed out a week. Whoops. Two weeks ago was Desertfest NYC. That was fun. Last week was the New England Stoner and Doom Fest, and though I didn’t end up going — family matters; it happens — I didn’t really pull the plug on it until Friday afternoon, and as I was already in the car and driving, just didn’t have the opportunity to put something together. I only mention it because it was noted in a comment. If you’ve been aching for a Friday Full-Length, I thought Elder would probably do the job nicely. I hope that’s the case.

This past weekend was The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio. The 15th episode. I’ve been talking this week to the program director, Brian Turner, about swapping out for a weekday shift, since apparently the Thursday replays have been going well. I think that’s pretty nifty. I didn’t really imagine doing the radio thing would last this long. I thought it would be a couple episodes, the audience would be like, “This isn’t Dave Mustaine — screw you!” and I’d get summarily shitcanned. Not to say it couldn’t still happen, but it hasn’t yet. I’ll keep you posted when the next episode is going to go live, but it looks like maybe Friday the 24th at 1PM Eastern? We’ll see if that’s final. I need to email Brian back, which I’ll do as soon as I finish writing this.

Neat either way, though, and twice as encouraging, because basically with that show I’m trying to play so much new stuff. I don’t know. It feels good to do a thing and have it be well received. That’s all. Give me my moment. I know it won’t last.

Next week is packed. I’ve been getting to the point where people hit me up for coverage and stuff and I’ve had to issue flat turn-downs. Not because I don’t want to cover whatever it is, just because everything’s already slated. It’s madness, I tell you.

Here are the notes, subject to change blah blah:

MON 05/13 LAMP OF THE UNIVERSE REVIEW
TUE 05/14 ETHEREAL RIFFIAN VID PREMIERE; LANGFINGER LIVE ALBUM TRACK PREMIERE
WED 05/15 SLOMATICS PREMIERE
THU 05/16 KALEIDOBOLT TRACK PREMIERE
FRI 05/17 VALLEY OF THE SUN ALBUM STREAM

There might also be another video premiere on Monday if I can properly coordinate it in time. If not, maybe later in the week? I don’t know. This week was oddly light on news, but I’ve already got stuff slated for Monday — friggin’ Truckfighters are putting together a festival in Stockholm; thanks guys, I was gonna do that! — so that’s good. I feel better when I’m playing catchup.

But seriously, new Slomatics, Kaleidobolt, Valley of the Sun and Langfinger next week? All premieres? And a new Ethereal Riffian video? Even if nothing else happens, that’s a pretty badass week right there. I’m stoked to be doing a Slomatics premiere. Their new album frickin’ fantastic. Likewise Valley of the Sun. Two year-end-listers for sure.

Alright, this post has gone on long enough and I won’t delude myself into thinking anyone’s still reading, but if you are, thanks for doing so. I hope you have a great and safe weekend, and I hope you check out the forum, radio stream and merch over at Dropout.

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