Cortez, The Depths Below: Blood Through the Citadel

Posted in Reviews on June 8th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Cortez_The_Depths_Below

A difference of intent behind the new Cortez album is signaled immediately through the artwork. Where their 2012 self-titled debut (review here) featured an Alex Von Wieding cover of a monstrous, armor-clad version of their namesake (who was also kind of a monster, actually) with red eyes and a laser being shot from his hand as he stands in outer space, The Depths Below opts for altogether deeper-toned fare. Drawn by David Paul Seymour, the front-piece for the Boston quintet’s sophomore outing, which is delivered via Salt of the Earth Records, features a horned dragon facing off in an underwater landscape with what seems to be a naked, neutered Aquaman-style character. Still in a comic style, its stark contrast of colors — blue, green, orange — speak more to harsh edges than than the kind of straightforward heavy rock which Cortez are known to proliferate.

But therein lies the key, because The Depths Below also greatly expands the scope of what Cortez accomplish sound-wise. Comprised of vocalist Matt Harrington, guitarists Scott O’Dowd and Alasdair Swan, bassist/backing vocalist Jay Furlo and drummer Alexei Rodriguez (though Jeremy Hemond plays here), Cortez touch on varied forms of classic metal throughout The Depths Below‘s nine-track/44-minute run and offer a few surprises along the way. They’ve never really been a touring band, but their reputation as songwriters is well established going back a decade to their 2007 Buzzville Records-issued Thunder in a Forgotten Town EP, and it’s that core of craftsmanship that allows them to go where they will sonically across this material. Despite several distinct sonic turns both early and late in the proceedings, Cortez remain in complete control of their direction, and so guide their listeners skillfully from front to back.

That’s fortunate, because they lead the way through some surprisingly dark places. With a notably spacious recording and mix by Benny Grotto at Mad Oak, Q Division and Moontower Recording Studio, a chug-plodder like second cut “Poor and Devoid” and the atmospheric spirit of “The Citadel” and closer “Orison” come through as particularly open-feeling despite their underlying structure. And even more uptempo movements like opener “All Gone Wrong” — heck of a title to start with — and its later companion-piece “To the Skies” have a moodier feel, the latter keeping a rhythmic swing behind near-militaristic layers of lead and rhythm guitar in its second half, Harrington seeming to take influence from Lo-Pan‘s Jeff Martin in his vocal presentation. A significant portion of The Depths Below‘s overall impact comes from its included three-parter, which follows “All Gone Wrong” and “Poor and Devoid” and seems to tell a story through “Walk Through Fire (Part I),” “The Citadel (Part II)” and “Blood of Heirs (Part III),” the last of which also plays a crucial role as the centerpiece of the tracklisting and (presumably) the end of a vinyl-style side A.

cortez

The three pieces act as a sort of album-within-the-album, and move from the aggressive thrust of “Walk Through Fire,” which roughs up mid-’90s chugging and adds gang vocals to its hook before a harmonized solo leads past the halfway point and into the even-more-thrashing back end of the track, setting up a contrast with the slower, ambient fluidity of “The Citadel” — a highlight of The Depths Below as a whole, but also arguably its darkest single moment, working back and forth through a downtrodden-feeling chorus toward a tempo pickup in the final third. It’s the longest inclusion at just over seven minutes, and again, is anchored by Cortez‘s songwriting in such a way as to allow for a fluid transition into the thrashing “Blood of Heirs.” One wonders if “Blood of Heirs” especially and some of the more generally metallic-feeling songs here have their root in O’Dowd‘s seemingly-defunct or at very least currently inactive other outfit, Black Thai, but either way, it would be hard to argue the shift in approach doesn’t suit Cortez, and so I won’t.

Part of that stems from overall progression of the band, though Harrington‘s vocal performance is especially noteworthy and he brings considerable frontman presence even to this studio output, whether that’s from deep in the mix of “The Citadel” or in topping the march of “To the Skies,” which leads off side B of The Depths Below with a return-to-ground hook that brings the listener back to a starting point similar to “All Gone Wrong” without directly aping that track’s impression. Each cut from here on out makes a decidedly distinct statement of who Cortez are as a band, whether it’s the grungier, somewhat melancholic heavy rock (again Lo-Pan seem to be a reference point) of “Kill Your Ghosts,” or the penultimate “Dead Channel,” which so directly calls out River Runs Red-era Life of Agony that it finds Harrington coming very, very close to rapping in a ’90s urban post-hardcore style, or the aforementioned closer “Orison,” which harmonizes over a more doomed vibe and broods its way toward a more active, chugging finish, very much a complement to “The Citadel” the way “To the Skies” seemed to speak to “All Gone Wrong.”

These changes in intent are no less striking than the sharp visual impression of Seymour‘s cover art, but once more, it’s Cortez‘s skill as songwriters that allows them to shift so drastically and still maintain their hold on their audience. Even parts that one doesn’t think of as “hooks” as an alternate word for “chorus,” whether it’s a standout riff, or bassline, or lyric manage to leave the listener with a memorable landmark — to say nothing of “Dead Channel,” on which the entire song itself becomes the standout — and that forms the basis of what Cortez ultimately bring to The Depths Below. As a group, they’ve never needed anything more than that to make their point, and they don’t here, but five years after their debut, it’s worth noting the multi-tiered development that’s taken place corresponding to their craft. They’re still very much a heavy rock band, and one suspects they always will be, but Cortez are brazenly pushing themselves to try new things on The Depths Below, and in direct contrast to the title, the results only seem to bring them to new heights of achievement.

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Six Dumb Questions with Summoner

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on June 6th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

summoner

It’s been five years since Summoner released their debut album, Phoenix, and nearly 10 since they first got together. In that span of time, the Boston-area four-piece have undertaken a willful creative development that’s led to the construction of material that cascades, careens, lands hard when it wants to or seems to float and drift away of its own volition. Their second long-player, Atlantian (discussed here), arrived in 2013, and after a four-year stretch of writing and playing shows, they follow it with the new, third full-length offering, Beyond the Realm of Light, and reach a fresh stage in terms of both craft and maturity.

Delivered like its predecessor through Magnetic Eye Records, the six-song Beyond the Realm of Light stands as proof that modern heavy need not choose between sonic weight and a progressive sensibility. Working in the model of thoughtful composition pioneered by the likes of Baroness and Mastodon, the foursome of bassist/vocalist Chris Johnson, guitarists A.J. Peters and Joe Richner and drummer Scott Smith create a full-album fluidity between songs like “The Huntress” and “Beyond the Realm of Light,” or between the crashing “The Emptiness” and the ambient beginning of “Skies of the Unknown,” the latter almost hopeful in its thrust as befitting a lyrical narrative playing out across the record’s span.

With considerable road-time under their collective belt and more to come — including a stop later this summer at Psycho Las Vegas (info here) — the still-fresh release of Beyond the Realm of Light provides Summoner their best reason yet to get out and spread their high-energy performance and writing style to as many ears as they can. In the Q&A that follows, Peters — with a quick contribution from Johnson as well — discusses the band’s writing processes, the recording of Beyond the Realm of Light, their upcoming plans and more.

Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

summoner beyond the realm of light

Six Dumb Questions with Summoner

Tell me how the songs came together for Beyond the Realm of Light. You were pretty assiduous in documenting the writing process for Atlantian. Was there ever any consideration toward doing the same kind of thing this time around?

The new album actually came together quite quickly as far as the writing was concerned. Our writing process hasn’t really changed much over the years. Sometimes we have bouts of writer’s block, but when things start happening they happen quickly. We didn’t really consider documenting the writing process too much with this one. Most of the time it’s just the four of us standing around noodling and then going, “so what about this?” Other times we write solo at home and bring what we have to table when we get together. Honesty it’s not that interesting of a process, haha.

It’s been four years since Atlantian came out, whereas it was only a year between Phoenix and Atlantian. You were doing shows, I know, but was there a reason for the longer stretch between albums? Do you feel the span affected the outcome of Beyond the Realm of Light at all? If so, how?

I feel like we had a lot more going on individually between Atlantian and BTROL than we did between Phoenix and Atlantian. Jobs, family… life in general, really. From our perspective everything was pretty evenly spaced, since Phoenix was pretty much written in full long before we ever went into the studio with it. We had been playing most of the songs off of Phoenix live for way too long before we recorded it. Once Phoenix was recorded, and even before the record was done we had started writing Atlantian.

After Atlantian we fell into a groove of gigging on those tunes. Eventually we got bored with them and decided to start writing the new one. When you lay it out according to each actual release date/year it seems almost hard to believe it was that long between the last two albums. I don’t think the span between albums had too much of an effect on BTROL, other than the fact that we all grew a little more musically and brought those influences to the table.

How do you feel the band has grown over the course of the three Summoner albums? You’ve always struck me as very purposefully pushing yourselves forward in terms of sound. Where do you feel this progression is leading?

We’ve definitely taken a more concise approach to our music lately and it shows on the new album. We work with a “cut the fat” mantra. BTROL, being only six songs, definitely shows this. There were many riffs and ideas that died horrible deaths on their way to becoming finished songs. One day we would be messing around with an idea and just stop and look at each other and say “this sucks.” We’d all kind of nod in agreement, let out a sigh of relief and move on. Why waste your time on a song you’re not proud of just to fill time? Doesn’t make any sense.

We do make a conscious effort to push ourselves musically, but are careful not to step too far away from makes us Summoner. I wish I could tell you how, or in what way, we’ll grow in the future but it’s really hard to tell. I know we want to focus more on the driving and energetic segment of our sound, but that doesn’t mean we won’t write another “Let the Light In” or “Reclaimer.”

Is there a narrative arc to the lyrics on Beyond the Realm of Light? What theme or themes are the songs exploring, and ultimately, what’s the story being told?

I’m actually going to step aside and let Chris answer this one. There is a very definite theme to the lyrics that Chris came up with. He’s much better suited than I to answer…

Chris Johnson: Well, Beyond the Realm of Light is essentially a concept album at its core. It’s a little far out there, so bear with me…

In the somewhat distant future, we find the Earth in a state of emergency and decay due to man’s exploitation of our resources, forcing humanity to seek another planet capable of sustaining life. (Sounds familiar, right?) We find something suitable in the depths of space which seems to have had a previous civilization inhabiting it. Were they humans? Did they leave that planet for Earth or kill themselves off somehow? We may never know.

From there, we return to Earth to “gather the masses” to relocate humanity to this new/old planet. Some governments are on board, some aren’t, and those not down have threatened the people who chose to stay behind with nuclear devastation. In the end, we launch our vessels and are peering down through the windows of the great ships at “the Earth below, awash with flame” and, with heavy hearts, begin our long journey towards our new home in skies of the unknown.

Summoner’s work in the studio always sounds so clean, so sharp in its delivery. How do you feel Beyond the Realm of Light represents what Summoner do live compared to its predecessors?

This is something we really focused on when recording this one. We wanted BTROL to be a much better representation of us live than the previous two albums. We’ve always tracked the meat and potatoes of our songs live as a band, but sonically we wanted something completely different. We really changed it up in the studio this time, from mics and mic placement to layering and production. We took a more stripped-down approach. One thing that really bothered us about Phoenix and Atlantian was that they didn’t sound like us live. They were tracked, mixed and mastered more like doom records and less like rock and roll albums. We wanted BTROL to be in-your-face and aggressive and I think we did pretty well achieving that.

You’ll play Psycho Las Vegas in August. Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?

Well, we are really excited to be playing Psycho this year. The bill has shaped up to be quite impressive and we are truly humbled to be sharing the stage with all of those amazing bands. We only have one show in Boston lined up before that, with Mutoid Man, Helms Alee and Primitive Weapons, but there are some other things in the works for June/July.

In late September, we are playing Forge Fest in Providence which will be a blast also. Other than that we are anxiously awaiting the release of The Planet of Doom, which we contributed a yet to be released tune to, and also recording our song for the Magnetic Eye Records release of Pink Floyd’s The Wall [Redux]. We have also started putting together some ideas for our next release, so we’ll see…

Summoner, Beyond the Realm of Light (2017)

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Six Dumb Questions with Rozamov

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on May 15th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

rozamov

There is an odd duality to Boston three-piece Rozamov at this stage in their career. With numerous tours under their collective belt, years of experience slogging it out at fests like Psycho California, that time they opened for Slayer at a Converse show in their hometown, numerous short releases, lineup changes, and so on, it seems improper to think of them as anything but veterans. And yet, some five years after the arrival of their first, self-titled EP, it’s only now that Rozamov have hit the point of releasing their debut album. To call it “awaited” feels like a definite understatement.

The record is This Mortal Road (review here), issued this past March via Battleground Records and comprised of five darkened tracks that unquestionably benefit from Rozamov‘s tenure leading up to hitting the studio. Their doom finds heft in ambient stretches as well as in its most crushing moments, is patient when it wants to be but capable of a noisy assault, and when Rozamov want to punish — as on the 11-minute finale “Inhumation,” discussed below — the results leave bruises on the inner ear. They’ve proven to be as much a force in the studio as they have been on the stage. No small feat, but one hell of a debut.

Recorded with the trio of guitarist/vocalist Matt Iacovelli, bassist/vocalist Tom Corino and drummer Will Hendrix, the band is now comprised of Iacovelli, Corino and drummer Jeff Landry, and I’m happy to say that all three took part in this interview to talk about making the album, their experience to this point, the shift that brought Landry aboard and their plans going forward. You’ll find the Q&A below.

Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

rozamov this mortal road

Six Dumb Questions with Rozamov

Where did the title This Mortal Road come from? It’s been quite a journey for Rozamov to get to the point of releasing your first album. Was there an element of self-reflection in naming the record? Why is the road “mortal?”

Tom Corino: The title came basically out of some brainstorming and some in depth conversations between all of us. The road to making this record was certainly plagued or (or blessed in some cases) with twists and turns so I felt that the title was fitting.

Matt Iacovelli: The mortal road would be a metaphor for life and death and everything in between. The band feels like a crazy journey and ride that you don’t want to end.

Tell me about your time in the studio with Jon Taft at New Alliance Audio. How long was the recording process, what was the vibe like in the studio, and how do you feel about the sounds and tones you were able to capture?

MI: The time in the studio was a really great experience. Jon pushed us all to be tight and play tight. It took five-to-six days in the studio.

TC: I think Jon brought an outsider’s perspective to the record and a non-metal approach. It was really important to him that we not fall into certain trends he saw in other recent heavy recordings, so I think the album doesn’t necessarily have a prototypical modern metal sound. I’m pretty sure we used only amp distortion for the guitar tracks, which was a completely out of the box idea for us. I got to fiddle around with a bunch of distortions and amps. Nerd Knuckle Effects boxes had a huge hand in the way my bass sound came together on the record, Brad [Macomber] is really making some interesting stuff in his lab and has been a long time friend and solid dude.

What was the timeline on the recording in terms of when Jeff joined on drums? My understanding is he came aboard after the tracking was done. How has his joining changed the band?

Jeff Landry: Yeah it’s been about a year now, I think. I joined after the record was tracked but I helped with a lot of the physical record itself, so I still feel attached to it. As for the songs itself, Matt and Tom gave me free range on rewriting the drum parts without drastically changing the songs, which I am grateful for. My initial goal was to give these songs more energy live and I really feel we nailed that. They ended up a little faster then the recordings.

MI: Jeff has brought a real songwriting aspect to the band. It’s good ‘cause now we are working on all cylinders.

TC: Our previous drummer, Will Hendrix, recorded all of the drums on the record. After recording we did a tour with our friends in Destroy Judas and Trapped Within Burning Machinery. It was shortly after that tour that Matt and I decided we needed to find a new solution behind the kit. Things had come to a head personally and musically, it was just impossible for the three of us to move on “as is” and be able to promote this record the way we wanted to. We wish Will all the best but it was just time for new blood, and Jeff has supplied that and then some.

Tell me how “Inhumation” came together.

MI: “Inhumation” was written right after Psycho Fest 2015. I remember putting the opening riff together in the jam room. I had one of the change riffs sort of around. The end riff… it’s really one set of chords played in a revolving order. It’s the doomiest we had ever been up to that point. I think it was all of the built up tension that Slayer, Psycho Fest, flying and eminent fact that changes need to be made. A ritualistic burial.

TC: It was the last song we finished for the record and cemented This Mortal Road’s “doom” feel. I remember walking in to Matt working on the last riff in the song and being very excited because we had never done anything that slow or noise-based before. As with all of the songs on the record, Jeff has breathed new life into it.

JL: This is the song that is the most drastically changed from record to live. We recorded it live in Chicago on this past tour and it will be hitting Spotify and Bandcamp pretty soon. Just waiting for some final mixes.

You went coast-to-coast on tour this past March. How was that experience for you as a band? What were the shows like? How was Austin Terror Fest and the rest of SXSW? You’ve of course done tours before. Is it strange to feel like a veteran while touring on your first record?

JL: I’ve been on a bunch of tours before, big and small. I have to say that spending almost a month on the road with my homies was a blast. We were able to establish a routine pretty quickly due to fact that I get a massive discount on hotels with my job. That was a huge deal. It enabled us to be pretty comfortable and focus more on our sets and getting better every night. We don’t really drink too much ether, so that helps. I think I had like three beers all tour. We did smoke a ton of weed though so I promise we are not boring.

TC: It was definitely the healthiest I’ve ever been on tour, both mentally and physically. We’ve done shorter tours before but this was by far the most ambitious outing yet. It is a little strange to have been a band for so long and to still have all these firsts happening; first LP, first full US tour… it’s odd I suppose, but in some aspects we’ve already done a lot in our five years or so as a band. This lineup is far and away the best we’ve ever been. I’m excited for the future of this band, now more than ever and this tour cemented that feeling.

MI: The tour was great, absolutely great. With each tour you learn things, you come back a little older and a little bit more experienced. You realize how your own personal world is so small and exact. We as humans are very ritualistic in nature so on tour you have to change your tune and adapt the best you can. You see other parts of the country and it’s not like home, but strangely it’s similar, strangely we are all in this together as I whiz by going hopefully 75 mph.

Any plans or closing words you want to mention?

JL: Yeah, we are more than halfway through writing our next record. We have a bunch of shows coming up too. We are playing Stoned to Death fest in Western Mass early next month; doing a few gigs in New York this July with Blood Sun Circle; doing a run with our homies and labelmates The Ditch and the Delta out to the Pacific Northwest, then down to Salt Lake for a fest out there, as well as Forge Fest down in Providence in Sept. We have this really rad tour/recording project we are working on for October that will be announced later.

TC: I’m eternally grateful for all of the people who had a hand in making this record a reality and who have supported us throughout the years. I want to specifically thank David [Rodgers] at Battleground Records for taking a chance on us. It’s a really tough climate for independent music and he’s been an absolute rock, and I’ve honestly learned a lot from him. He’s a man of his word and that’s a hard thing to find in today’s underground music “business.”

MI: Like the great Kid Rock once mused: “It’s been a couple of months in this smokey room/Eaten shrooms drinking Boones writing tunes/And hoping to get one of these mother fuckin’ songs to hit.”

Rozamov, This Mortal Road (2017)

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Cortez Post New Single “Walk Through Fire”; Confirm June 16 Release for The Depths Below

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 12th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

I’m kind of embarrassed to admit I have’t yet heard the new Cortez record, The Depths Below, which is out in just about a month via Salt of the Earth Records. It’s been five years since Cortez issued their self-titled (review here), so you’ll pardon me if I’m somewhat impatient, and the newly-posted single “Walk Through Fire” only adds intrigue to the promise of the outing as a whole, both through the grimness of its artwork — seriously, kind of looks like a death metal album, doesn’t it? — and the aggressive push in the song itself. Of course, it’s Cortez, so there’s still a righteous riff-led hook to be found in the song, but it’s surrounded by some surprising intensity and I can’t help but wonder how that plays out over The Depths Below‘s full span.

And I’m still wondering… because I haven’t heard the record yet. And that’s not the coy, “not saying I’ve heard it or anything” — I actually haven’t heard it. What’s up, Cortez? Some of us would like to get going on a review, you know.

You can hear why I’m in a hurry at the bottom of the post:

cortez walk through fire

CORTEZ release new single; announce release date for The Depths Below

Boston, MA heavy rockers CORTEZ release the digital single “Walk Through Fire” in advance of their new album The Depths Below. The single features artwork by Joe Keinberger and is available via the CORTEZ bandcamp page: http://cortezboston.bandcamp.com/track/walk-through-fire

CORTEZ’ sophomore full length The Depths Below will be released via Salt Of the Earth Records on CD and digital formats on June 16, 2017. The band’s first full length since the 2012 self-titled, features nine songs and clocks in at 45 minutes. Running the gamut from heavy rock to NWOBHM-influenced metal songs, The Depths Below is sure to surprise some longtime fans of the band with its variety. The Depths Below was recorded and mixed by Benny Grotto (Scissorfight, Orange Goblin, Worshipper) at three different studios (Q Division, Mad Oak, and Moontower Recording) and was mastered by Jeff Lipton at Peerless Mastering. The cover art for The Depths Below is courtesy of David Paul Seymour.

For preorders, visit: http://www.saltoftheearthrecords.com

The Depths Below Track Listing:

1. All Gone Wrong
2. Poor And Devoid
3. Walk Through Fire
4. The Citadel
5. Blood Of Heirs
6. To The Skies
7. Kill Your Ghosts
8. Dead Channel
9. Orison

CORTEZ is:
Matthew Harrington – vocals
Scott O’Dowd – guitar, backing vocals
Alasdair Swan – guitar
Jay Furlo – bass, backing vocals
Alexei Rodriguez – drums

Jeremy Hemond performed all drums on The Depths Below.

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Cortez, “Walk Through Fire”

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Worshipper Announce Mirage Daze EP & June Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 10th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

worshipper Photo-by-James-Jay-Fortin

Boston four-piece Worshipper were among the first bands announced for the Magnetic Eye Records tribute to Pink FloydThe Wall [Redux], but I have to wonder if the Floyd track they’ll reportedly include on their upcoming Mirage Daze EP will be the same song appearing on that release or a studio version of their take on the 1968 B-side “Julia Dream,” which they’ve performed live since before issuing their debut album, Shadow Hymns (review here), last year on Tee Pee. Either way, it’s one of four cuts that will be included on Mirage Daze — get it? because Garage Days? — which is set to release later in 2017 and will also include cuts from The OathThe Who and Uriah Heep.

Worshipper are also set to hit the road next month in a grander fashion than they have to-date, keeping company with Great Electric Quest along the way as they continue to support the debut. Below, guitarist Alejandro Necochea offered some comment on the goings on. You’ll find the tour dates as well, followed by the band’s video for the album track “Darkness,” which came out in January.

Dig it:

worshipper tour dates

Alejandro Necochea on Mirage Daze & touring:

We are very much looking forward to getting out of town, finally, and having the opportunity to spread our wings a bit and see the country together. It’s been a long time coming. We’re not spring chickens anymore. We have jobs, wives, mortgages, car payments, and need to pick our spots carefully. Bob, our bassist and artist, is an assistant professor at an art school and we can’t drop everything and travel for weeks at a time so the time we do spend on the road needs to count. The band has had the great fortune of working with Aaron Gray at Tone Deaf Touring who has come into our little organization like the Kool-Aid Man and is making our dreams come true. I’d love to take credit for keeping us busy but we really have Aaron to thank for that.

The “Mirage Days” EP is a labor of love. We recorded it live in the studio very quickly last Fall to give ourselves something to do while we settled back into our regular-life schedules after releasing “Shadow Hymns” and experiencing the fanfare that went with it. The idea was to make our own “Garage Days” revisiting the music from bands that inspired us to get together. Old groups like Uriah Heep, Pink Floyd, and The Who along with The Oath, a band that is relatively recent but their LP was one that brought us all together however long ago. Big fans. We are still dealing with the logistics involved in releasing covers and hope to have this out, in some form, later this Summer or Fall. We will see. I played our version of “Night Child” for Johanna Sadonis recently and she was very kind and supportive. That was a good day.

Worshipper live:
JUNE 2: GENO’S – PORTLAND, ME
JUNE 3: FAT BABY – MANHATTAN, NY
JUNE 4: THE DEPOT – BALTIMORE, MD*
JUNE 5: MCCORMACK’S – RICHMOND, VA*
JUNE 6: SLIM’S – RALEIGH, NC*
JUNE 7: TIN ROOF – SC*
JUNE 8: MASQUERADE – ATLANTA, GA*
JUNE 9: SPRINGWATER – NASHVILLE, TN*
JUNE 10: TBA – NEW ORLEANS, LA
JUNE 12: TBA
JUNE 13: FIREBIRD – ST LOUIS, MO
JUNE 14: RIOT ROOM – KANSAS CITY, MO
JUNE 15: REGGIE’S – CHICAGO, IL
JUNE 16: BOURBON ST. – COLUMBUS, OH
JUNE 17: HOWLER’S – PITTSBURGH, PA
JUNE 18: KUNG FU NECKTIE – PHILADELPHIA, PA
* with Great Electric Quest

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Worshipper, “Darkness” official video

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Review & Track Premiere: Summoner, Beyond the Realm of Light

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on April 27th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Summoner-Beyond-the-Realm-of-Light

[Click play above to stream ‘Into Oblivion’ from Summoner’s Beyond the Realm of Light. Album is out May 12 on Magnetic Eye Records.]

As they approach a decade of making music together, Boston four-piece Summoner bring forth the album which all that time seems to have been building toward. One can quibble on the “decade” figure depending on when they got going under their original moniker, Riff Cannon, but what’s undeniable is the mindful songcraft and crisp delivery across the two sides of Beyond the Realm of Light, released on Magnetic Eye Records as their third full-length. The basic elements at play aren’t all that different from what Summoner offered on 2013’s Atlantian (discussed here) or even their 2012 debut, Phoenix, but from the patience they bring to the post-rock textures early in “Skies of the Unknown” to the crushing roll in the apex of their near-eight-minute title-track, there’s a mature sensibility underlying this material that steers itself away from self-indulgence.

Instead, what bassist/vocalist Chris Johnson, guitarists A.J. Peters and Joe Richner and drummer Scott Smith conjure is a dynamic and efficient six-song/32-minute run that never stagnates and never overwhelms the listener with its technicality — though, as ever, Summoner tear it up; check the solo in “Into Oblivion” to confirm — at the cost of the impact either of a given track or the record as a whole. They pull together a brisk full-album flow that’s not overthought or hyper-cerebral, and while some will hear the initial vocal melody of opener “New Sun” and the subsequent “The Huntress” and compare them to Elder for their locality and proggy bent, Summoner emerge from Beyond the Realm of Light as their own entity driven by their own motivations toward their own ends.

That in itself is significant, as is the fact that Beyond the Realm of Light arrives four years after Atlantian, which itself came only one year after their debut. Summoner have played shows all the while, and no doubt a good portion of “real life” happens in a four-year stretch as well, but as “New Sun” and “The Huntress” unfold the okay-are-we-all-here-good-let’s-do-this-thing beginning of the album, the band displays a growth in their songwriting that simply can’t be faked. At four and five minutes, respectively, the opening duo are a pivotal introduction — not to mention a third of the tracklist, which is only six songs, remember — to where Summoner are at this stage in their tenure, and though they’re energetic and given to a thrust that’s long been present in their sound, the band themselves don’t actually sound hurried or like they’re in anything but total control of their direction.

In the sphere of modern progressive heavy rock, post-Baronesstodon, that’s important, but more so is the balance with which Summoner execute their prog influence, and the rocking start of “New Sun” and “The Huntress” leading into the longer, grander title-track is essential in establishing that. It affects the whole album following, so that when they do begin to unroll “Beyond the Realm of Light” itself, with its measured drum march, far-back echoing clean-sung verse and stomping largesse, the effect is that the palette is gracefully expanded rather than haphazardly thrown together. Summoner push further, and further still as “Beyond the Realm of Light” digs into a quick atmospheric midsection before resuming its roll toward a piano-topped apex and subsequent ambient epilogue, but because they’ve shown such mastery of their songwriting up to this point, there’s no question about the listener being able to follow them on the drifting fadeout that ends the record’s first half.

summoner

If there’s a narrative at work in Beyond the Realm of Light, one finds it growing richer on side B along with the band’s sound, a resolution perhaps in the melodic hook of “The Emptiness,” the multifaceted push of “Skies of the Unknown” and aforementioned bring-it-all-full-circle closer “Into Oblivion” that complements and builds on what the band accomplished with “New Sun,” “The Huntress,” and the title-track. One doesn’t want to speculate on their methodology in piecing the record together, but part of the front-to-back flow that proves so resonant across this still-brief span is a perceptible deepening of the exploration side A began.

To wit, “The Emptiness” is short at just over four minutes, but offers one of Beyond the Realm of Light‘s most engaging moments in its chorus, and the longer “Skies of the Unknown” seems to answer the title-track’s purposes with the winding course of its own, led as ever by the guitars through purposeful shifts in tempo and texture through its 6:42 that draw together the nuance thus far displayed and at about 4:30 in align them toward the solo crescendo of the album as a whole, which pulls back to the NWOBHM-style gallop and hook to finish ahead of the introductory crash of “Into Oblivion,” continuing the momentum with fist-raising righteousness. A last forward shove in “Into Oblivion” makes a fitting way to tie Beyond the Realm of Light together, but even this is just a part of the overarching and more complex trajectory Summoner have set for themselves.

Accordingly, when they hit into the last solo and around again through one last verse and chorus before a somewhat sudden, thudding stop, the sense of determination isn’t lost. It’s not that Summoner couldn’t say more or couldn’t keep going — Atlantian was 43 minutes, Phoenix 49 — but that they’ve come to know what best serves the purposes of the outing’s entirety, and the length of Beyond the Realm of Light becomes another aspect emblematic of that; less immediate than the progress they’ve made in songwriting or honing a flow between a given song’s parts and between the songs themselves, certainly, but important nonetheless. On the whole, Beyond the Realm of Light finds Summoner a more grounded, more engaging band than they’ve ever been, but among the most encouraging signals it sends is that even as they enter this new stage of their time together, they show no signs of slowing their creative development, and it is ultimately that will toward growth that defines them.

Summoner on Thee Facebooks

Summoner on Bandcamp

Magnetic Eye Records on Bandcamp

Magnetic Eye Records webstore

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Roadburn 2017 Trip, Pt. 1: Dos Soles

Posted in Features on April 18th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

logan airport terminal b gates 1-3

04.18.17 – 3:06PM Eastern – Tuesday – Logan Airport Terminal B Gate 2, Boston

This portion of Logan Airport is so kicked to shit it’s almost retro. It’s like a dive. You could set up a “stage” in the corner, find a ratty couch for the other side of the room, get a half-busted P.A. and six local openers and put on every Tuesday-night show Boston has ever known. Plus it starts at 10PM.

Seriously. On my way into the terminal, checking in, the TSA agent warned me. He said there’s nothing in here. Just a snack bar and some chairs. He was not kidding, though I’m not sure I’d go as far as “snack bar.” I’m not really one to take advantage of airport amenities anyhow, but it smells like old-person fart in here and even the good folk of Air Canada working in this tucked-away corner of what purports to be a major international hub seem to know they’ve gotten the shaft. Like Boston took “Blame Canada” to heart in doling out what airline gets what gates.

I’m already nervous about flying. I’m already nervous about missing my flight home, plotting staying up all night and hiring a car to take me the 80-minute trip from the hotel in Tilburg to Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam on Monday morning. Thinking about what I’m going to have for dinner when I get back Monday evening. I haven’t even left yet.

Last night, incidentally, I had a grilled chicken caesar salad (no croutons) from the pizza place down the way — they do the best one in the area; rest assured I’ve fucking had them all — and a peanut butter-flavored protein shake for dessert that The Patient Mrs. was kind enough to make earlier and stick in the freezer for me. So if I die in a maple leaf-branded tin can on my way to the connecting flight in Toronto that will take me to Amsterdam, at least know that I enjoyed the living shit out of my last proper meal. Really. That’s a good salad. Another one is in major contention for when I return on Monday.

Oh yeah, and in between now and then? Roadburn 2017. This is my ninth time making this trip, and so much of this anxiety in which I’m presently boiling feels like ritual. I have a two-hour layover in Toronto, which is good because the plane is already delayed getting here — it wasn’t due to come in for another hour, now another 85 minutes, soon to be another two hours I’m sure — then on to Amsterdam and out to Tilburg hopefully getting there tomorrow afternoon in time to catch an hour or two of sleep before the start tomorrow night of the Hard Rock Hideout.

We’ll see how long my sunglasses last this year — they didn’t make it from the airport in 2016 — and we’ll see how crazy I get by Friday afternoon in general, but whatever. This thing is happening. I’m going to Roadburn.

If there is one advantage to having done this so many times at this point — aside from already knowing I’m going to be late for that flight back, rather than having it be a surprise on any level — it’s that I know precisely how lucky I am to be in this position. As crowded as Tilburg is going to be over the course of the next couple days, there will be even more people around the world who wish they could be there who can’t. I am incredibly, deeply fortunate to be making this trip. There hasn’t been a year since 2009 that Roadburn was not my musical highlight. I expect 2017 will be no different when I look back on it in December. One is rarely tempted to use words like “blessing” and “blessed.”

For the rest of this week and this weekend, I’ll be covering as much of Roadburn 2017 as much as I’m able. No one person — no 10 people — can see the festival in its entirety, but I am going to do everything I can to both enjoy myself and take in as much of it as possible. Because, god damn, right down to a spiritual level, I fucking need this. This trip is how I get right. How my head comes together. And as I’ve done nothing but wilt and fret for the last three months, I’m very much looking forward to a little bit of restoration for my general state of being. At least a little.

Did I mention I got effectively laid off last week? Yeah. My employment contract runs out in June. Made me feel way less guilty about taking this time off, I’ll say. But even with impending disenfranchisement hanging over, I want to get out of my own head for a couple days, and Roadburn — this magical fucking place that I’m so, so, so fortunate to be going — is where that happens. I know exactly how lucky I am.

I have a couple other posts going up tomorrow as well, but stay tuned for more and thanks in advance for reading if you get the chance.

The Roadburn 2017 coverage starts now.
 

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Sea Premiere “Breathe” Video; Touring East Coast with KYOTY

Posted in Bootleg Theater on April 13th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

sea in berlin

Even before you get down to the repeated lyrics ‘No hope/No future’ in SEA‘s inclusion on their new split cassette with KYOTY, a strong dystopian current runs throughout the release. Offering up the track and welcome reminder “Breathe,” the Boston-based double-guitar four-piece made a first incursion onto European shores for a tour last summer alongside Weedwolf from Germany, and the new split with KYOTY — released on awesome-looking, limited-to-100-copies-only tapes by Deafening Assembly — follows suit from that run in that the two bands will also be hitting the road together. It’s a quicker run along the East Coast starting in Boston on April 15, but it brings together the like-minded Massachusetts and New Hampshire outfits in a way that, as the cassette also shows, finds them complementing each other exceedingly well.

KYOTY‘s inclusion is the 10-minute “L,” which begins with creeping ambience before an airy guitar line arrives as the first inhabitant of the space created. It’s desolate, but evocative as a preface for the crush that soon emerges, and the progressive play between experimentalist atmospherics and a fully-weighted post-metallic assault is immersive, patient, and later, effective in its transition to more extreme fare that the trio of Rob Brown, Nick Filth and Nathaniel Parker Raymond rear back and loose at around seven minutes in, on the way — of course — to a wash of noise that’s manipulated to their purposes as they close out. The underlying story of “L” is one of control and the handle KYOTY are able to keep on what they’re doing, andkyoty as SEA undulate between abrasion and melody, harsher and cleaner sonic terrain, control is the thread that ultimately unites the two bands most of all.

“Breathe” follows the single “Return” (posted here) from the aforementioned Weedwolf split, and embarks on a similarly dynamic vision of post-metal. SEA started out with a self-titled demo EP (review here) in 2015 and showed an immediate predilection for the early work of Isis or some of Neurosis‘ rawer moments, and though they’ve been — let’s say — deliberate in making their way toward an initial full-length, the scope they demonstrate as “Breathe” spreads out across its eight minutes only offers further proof of how ready they are to take that step. Bassist/vocalist Stephen LoVerme (Olde Growth), guitarists Liz Walshak (ex-Rozamov) and Mike Blasi and drummer Andrew Muro not only have a clear vision of what they want the track to do, but they’re able to convey this sense of defeat and explore an emotionally grueling sensibility without actually alienating their listener.

The aforementioned lyrics, “No hope/No future,” are mirrored toward the end of the track by “Red sun/Glowing/Burning up,” and I’m not sure if the effect is to convey a sense of hope or final casualty — or if it needs to be one or the other, for that matter — but the feeling of culmination is palpable all the same without being overly theatrical, melodramatic or pretentious. As it builds off of KYOTY‘s ambience on side 1, it draws its audience further into a void in the creation of which we would all seem to be implicated.

You can check out the premiere of the Treebeard Media video for SEA‘s “Breathe” below, followed by the SEA and KYOTY tour dates. I’ve also included the Bandcamp stream of the whole tape at the bottom of the post.

Hope you enjoy:

Sea, “Breathe” official video

sea kyoty tour

The video for “Breathe” visually evokes the bleakness and rawness of the music, as well as the lyrical sense of hopelessness and despair confronting our civilization. Washed out, degraded film footage of industrial pollution, gas masks, respirators, duck and cover drills, chemical weapons tests, and the destruction wrought by nuclear weapons paints a grim portrait of a civilization on course for self-assured annihilation.

SEA Tour dates with KYOTY
4/15 – Boston, MA @ Democracy Center w/ Courage Cloak, Big Mess
4/18 – Philadelphia, PA @ Blackhouse w/ Supine, False Gods, Landstryder
4/19 – Washington DC @ Slash Run w/ Foehammer, At the Graves
4/20 – Richmond, VA @ Hell’s Door w/ Listless, Gemtone
4/21 – Frederick, MD @ Guido’s Speakeasy w/ The Mostly Dead, Cheshi, My Friday Anthem

Bandcamp link for split: http://deafeningassembly.com/album/kyoty-sea-split

Available April 15 from Deafening Assembly.

SEA are:
Vocals/Bass – Steve LoVerme
Guitars – Mike Blasi
Guitars – Liz Walshak
Drums – Andrew Muro

KYOTY & SEA, Split (2017)

Sea on Thee Facebooks

Sea on Bandcamp

Sea on YouTube

Deafening Assembly on Bandcamp

KYOTY on Thee Facebooks

Deafening Assembly on Thee Faceboks

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