The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Debut Albums of 2016

Posted in Features on December 15th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk top 20 debut albums of 2016

Please note: This post is not culled in any way from the Year-End Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t yet contributed your favorites of 2016 to that, please do.

Of all the lists I do to wrap up or start any given year, this is the hardest. As someone obviously more concerned with first impressions than I am and thus probably better-dressed once said, you only get one chance at them. For bands, that can be a vicious bite in the ass on multiple levels.

To wit, you put out a great debut, fine, but there’s a whole segment of your listeners who’re bound to think you’ll never live up to it again. You put out a meh debut, you sell yourself short. Or maybe your debut is awesome but doesn’t really represent where you want to be as a band, so it’s a really good first impression, but a mistaken one. There are so many things that can go wrong or go right with any LP, but with debuts, the stakes are that much higher because it’s the only time you’ll get the chance to engage your audience for the first time. That matters.

And when it comes to putting together a list of the best debuts of the year, how does one begin to judge? True, some of these acts have done EPs and singles and splits and things like that before, and that’s at least something to go on, but can one really be expected to measure an act’s potential based on a single collection of songs? Is that fair to anyone involved? Or on the other side, is it even possible to take a debut entirely on its own merits, without any consideration for where it might lead the band in question going forward? I know that’s not something I’ve ever been able to do, certainly. Or particularly interested in doing. I like context.

Still, one presses on. I guess the point is that, like picking any kind of prospects, some will pan out and some won’t. I’ve done this for enough years now that I’ve seen groups flame or fade out while others have risen to new heights with each subsequent release. It’s always a mix. But at the same time, it’s important to step back and say that, as of today, this is where it’s at.

And so it is:

KING BUFFALO ORION

The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Debut Albums of 2016

1. King Buffalo, Orion
2. Elephant Tree, Elephant Tree
3. Heavy Temple, Chassit
4. Holy Grove, Holy Grove
5. Worshipper, Shadow Hymns
6. Vokonis, Olde One Ascending
7. Wretch, Wretch
8. Year of the Cobra, In the Shadows Below
9. BigPig, Grande Puerco
10. Fuzz Evil, Fuzz Evil
11. Bright Curse, Before the Shore
12. Conclave, Sins of the Elders
13. Pale Grey Lore, Pale Grey Lore
14. High Fighter, Scars and Crosses
15. Spirit Adrift, Chained to Oblivion
16. Bellringer, Jettison
17. Church of the Cosmic Skull, Is Satan Real?
18. Merchant, Suzerain
19. Beastmaker, Lusus Naturae
20. King Dead, Woe and Judgment

Honorable Mention

There are many. First, the self-titled from Pooty Owldom, which had so much weirdo charm it made my head want to explode. And Iron Man frontman Dee Calhoun‘s acoustic solo record was technically a debut. And Atala‘s record. And Horehound. And Mother Mooch. And Domkraft. And Spaceslug. And Graves at Sea? Shit. More than a decade after their demo, they finally put out a debut album. And Second Grave‘s full-length would turn out to be their swansong, but that doesn’t take away from the quality of the thing. There were a lot of records to consider in putting this list together. As always, it could’ve been a much longer list.

For example, here are 20 more: Swan Valley Heights, Arctic, Blues Funeral, Teacher, Psychedelic Witchcraft, Nonsun, Duel, Banquet, Floodlore, Mindkult‘s EP, Mountain Dust, Red LamaRed Wizard, Limestone Whale, Dunbarrow, Comacozer, Sinister Haze, Pants Exploder, Akasava, Katla and No Man’s Valley. That’s not even the end of it. I could go on.

Notes

It was a fight to the finish. There’s always one, and as late as yesterday I could be found kicking back and forth between King Buffalo and Elephant Tree in the top spot. What was it that finally put King Buffalo‘s Orion over Elephant Tree‘s self-titled? I don’t know. Ask me tomorrow and the answer might be completely different.

They had a lot in common. Not necessarily in terms of style — King Buffalo basked in spacious Americana-infused heavy psych jams while Elephant Tree proffered more earthbound riffing and melodies — but each executed memorable songs across its span in a way that would be unfair to ask of a debut. The potential for what both bands can turn into down the line played a part in the picks, but something else they share between them is that the quality of the work they’re doing now warrants the top spots. Orion and Elephant Tree were great albums, not just great first albums.

From there, we see a wide swath of next-generation encouragement for the future of heavy rock, whether it’s coming from Sweden’s Vokonis or Philadelphia’s Heavy Temple, or London’s Bright Curse, or Los Angeles duo BigPig. The latter act’s punkish fuzz definitely benefited from guitarist/vocalist Dino von Lalli‘s experience playing in Fatso Jetson, but one hopes that as the years go on his own multifaceted songwriting style will continue to grow as well.

A few offerings weren’t necessarily unexpected but still lived up to the anticipation. High Fighter‘s EP prefaced their aggro sludgecore well. Ditto that for the grueling death-sludge of Massachusetts natives Conclave. The aforementioned Bright Curse, Merchant, Fuzz Evil, Atala, Bellringer, Holy Grove, Wretch and Worshipper all had offerings of one sort or another prior to their full-length debuts — in the case of Bellringer, it was just a series of videos, while Wretch had the entire The Gates of Slumber catalog to fall back on — but each of those albums offered surprises nonetheless.

It would’ve been hard not to be taken by the songwriting on display from the likes of Holy Grove, Year of the Cobra, Pale Grey Lore and Beastmaker, who between them covered a pretty broad variety of atmosphere but found ways to deliver high-quality crafted material in that. Those albums were a pleasure to hear. Put Boston’s Worshipper in that category as well, though they were just as much a standout from the pack in terms of their performance as what they were performing. Speaking of performance, the lush melodies from Church of the Cosmic Skull and classic progressive flourish were enough to make me a believer. Simply gorgeous. And one-man outfit Spirit Adrift shined, if in that matte-black doom kind of way, on an encouraging collection of modern melancholic heavy that seemed to hint at sprawl to come.

As we get down to the bottom of the list we find Pennsylvania ambient heavy post-rockers King Dead. Their Woe and Judgment was released digitally last year (2015) but the LP came out earlier this year, so I wasn’t quite sure where to place them ultimately. I know they got some mention on the 2015 lists somewhere, but while they’re an act who’ve flown under a lot of people’s radar as yet, I have good feelings about how they might continue to dig into their sound and the balance of bleakness and psychedelic color they bring to their material. They’re slated for a follow-up in 2017, so this won’t be the last list on which they appear in the next few weeks.

Like I said at the outset, putting out a debut album is a special moment for any band. Not everyone gets to that point and not everyone gets beyond it, so while a list like this is inherently bound to have some element of speculation, it’s still a worthy endeavor to celebrate the accomplishments of those who hit that crucial moment in their creative development. Hopefully these acts continue to grow, flourish, and build on what they’ve thus far been able to realize sonically. That’s the ideal.

And before I go, once again, let me reinforce the notion that I recognize this is just a fraction of the whole. I’d like it to be the start of a conversation. If there was a debut album that kicked your ass this year and you don’t see it here, please drop a note in the comments below. I’m sure I’ll be adding more honorable mentions and whatnot over the next couple days, so if you see glaring omissions, let’s have ’em.

Thanks for reading.

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Rozamov to Release This Mortal Road March 3

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 7th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

Boston three-piece Rozamov have been pretty tightlipped when it’s come to their debut album. I had to go back and look at the dates, but it was last summer that I visited them at New Alliance Audio (feature here) while they were tracking the full-length, the title for which has been revealed today as This Mortal Road, so to say it’s been a while in the making seems fair, but to have them announce a solid release date — March 3 — through not one but two record labels in Battleground Records (LP) and Dullest Records (CD/CS), well, that’s definite progress.

And not like they haven’t been busy in the interim, playing Psycho California, breaking in new drummer Jeff Landry and touring earlier this year with Moon Tooth to support their split single with Los Angeles’ Deathkings (review here). Bottom line is dudes have hardly been sitting on their collective ass — plus there were haircuts to get! (been there, can relate) — but I’m glad to see This Mortal Road making its way toward fruition.

The PR wire brings background and preliminaries:

rozamov

ROZAMOV: Boston Doom Outfit Completes Debut LP For Release Through Battleground Records And Dullest Records

Boston, Massachusetts-based doom metal outfit, ROZAMOV, has completed their first full-length recording, This Mortal Road. The band has hooked up with diverse underground labels, Battleground Records and Dullest Records, who are now solidifying the album for release in early 2017.

Since 2011, ROZAMOV has left their mark on the US metal circuit with their infectious psyche-tinged grueling doom, the band name having quickly spread beyond their local scene through touring abroad, having opened for countless national acts, and much more. Having independently released two EPs – 2012’s Rozamov and 2013’s Of Gods And Flesh – ROZAMOV now prepares to desensitize the masses with their proper debut album, This Mortal Road.

Following an already busy 2015, including performances at Psycho California, Converse Rubber Tracks Live alongside Slayer and Doomriders – with a corresponding Converse feature on the back cover of Decibel Magazine, a tour with Destroy Judas, and the release of a split 7″ with Deathkings, amidst the bleak and historic winter of 2014-15, ROZAMOV entered New Alliance Audio in Cambridge to record This Mortal Road. The result is a blistering sonic catharsis featuring the longest, heaviest and most progressive tracks the band has ever produced, the album recorded and mixed by Jon Taft at New Alliance Audio, and mastered by Nick Z at New Alliance East Mastering. The recording lineup for the album includes Tom Corino (bass/vocals/noise guitar), Matt Iacovelli (guitar/vocals/piano), and Will Hendrix (drums).

This Mortal Road will see release March 3rd on vinyl through Battleground Records (Vehemence, Eight Bells, CHRCH, Lago), on CD and cassette through Dullest Records (Cleanteeth, Crowhurst, Lambs, Hush), and digitally through the band. Stand by for the track listing, cover art, and additional details, audio samples, and more to be released in the coming weeks.

Since recording This Mortal Road, in 2016 ROZAMOV has completed a brief Canadian tour with Moon Tooth and added drummer Jeff Landry to the lineup, while finalizing the new album for release. A North American tour is currently being booked for March alongside the release of This Mortal Road.

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

Rozamov, “Ghost Divine”

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Gozu Sign to Blacklight Media / Metal Blade Records

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 17th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

gozu-live-photo-by-tim-bugbee

Boston heavy rockers Gozu have signed to Metal Blade subsidiary Blacklight Media for the release of their next album. Just back from a European tour alongside Holy Grove, the four-piece are riding high from this year’s Revival (review here), which served as their debut on Ripple Music following two records through Small Stone, 2013’s The Fury of a Patient Man (review here) and 2010’s Locust Season (review here).

No doubt it was their on-stage ferocity that caught the attention of Blacklight Media‘s Chris Santos (also of the Food Network’s Chopped). Coupled with their penchant for heavy groove and soulful edge, it has stood Gozu out from the pack in the American heavy rock underground for more than half a decade, and on behalf of this site and myself, congratulations to the band. May they continue to get the credit they’re due.

Gozu are currently — like, today — writing a new album that they’ll begin recording next June with Dean Baltulonis at The Wild Arctic Studio in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where the bulk of Revival was also tracked. One assumes Benny Grotto at Mad Oak will have a hand in it as well. In addition to the Blacklight deal, they’ve also signed on with Brooklynlarry Management (Sick of it All, among others), and have plans in the works to return to Europe next Spring or Fall.

We’ll let the PR wire make it official, and I’ve also added some exclusive quotes from guitarists Doug Sherman and Marc Gaffney that you’ll find peppered in below.

Dig it:

gozu-photo-by-james-jay-fortin

Gozu signs worldwide deal with Blacklight Media / Metal Blade Records

Blacklight Media / Metal Blade Records is proud to announce the worldwide signing of Boston’s rock/metal outfit Gozu. Formed in 2010, the four-piece have released one EP and three full-lengths to-date, and are currently writing their fourth studio album, set for a 2017 release.

Marc Gaffney on signing:

“A chance to sign to a label of this realm and magnitude, does not usually happen, so, when Chris Santos told us he wanted to work with us after a show at Lucky 13 in Brooklyn, we were in s state of shock. The four of us are simply in awe that we will be working with Brian Slagel, I mean Metal Blade, talk about Rock Royalty, I think Brian has to be in the upper echelon of respected gentleman in the field.Now, to work with such an intelligent and genuine soul as Chris Santos, my coffee tasted a little better this morning and the sun shined a bit brighter. Thanks to everyone who has helped and on to a new chapter. Ciao!”

Including a former member of Warhorse, Gozu heave the rock, yet embody the soul on their past releases. Fronted by Marc Gaffney on vocals and guitar, Doug Sherman on guitar, Joe Grotto on bass, and Mike Hubbard on drums, the band’s sound is tailor-made for blasting out the car speakers via international radio airwaves.

Having already been aired on national television (USA) via MTV (‘Road Rules’, ‘Dudesons’, ‘Real World’), NBC, and NASCAR, Gozu aims to take their critical and commercial success to new heights on their upcoming debut for Blacklight Media / Metal Blade Records, with worldwide touring to follow.

Douglas Sherman on signing:

“This is an amazing opportunity for Gozu to be a part of Blacklight Media / Metal Blade. To be actually be working with celebrity chef Chris Santos, who is extremely passionate about metal and successful with everything he touches, and the legendary Metal Blade CEO Brian Slagel is truly mindblowing. I’m looking forward to this new chapter in our career.”

Previously, the group shared the stage with the likes of Saint Vitus, Pallbearer, Lo Pan, Storm of Light, Helmet, Elder, Mos Generator, and Fu Manchu in the States, as well as Yob, Church of Misery and Kvelertak in Europe at Roadburn (Netherlands) and DesertFest Berlin (Germany). 2017 will surely see Gozu back on the road again, and at the forefront of the heavy rock and metal world.

Gozu comments: “We are extremely excited to be signed to Blacklight Media / Metal Blade Records, started by celebrity Chef Chris Santos and partnered with legendary Metal Blade founder and CEO, Brian Slagel. The four members of Gozu couldn’t be happier. This is why we plug in every night.”

Stay tuned for more news coming soon!

Gozu is:
Mike Hubbard- drums and percussion
Joseph Grotto- bass and low end
Douglas Sherman- lead guitar and sounds
Marc Gaffney- guitar and vocals

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

Gozu, Live at Psycho Las Vegas 2016

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Ice Dragon, Broken Life EP: Scratching at Meaning

Posted in Reviews on November 16th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

ice-dragon-broken-life

It’s only been about 18 months since Ice Dragon put out their last album, A Beacon on the Barrow (review here), but one wouldn’t necessarily be wrong to think of that as an eternity when it comes to the self-releasing Boston experimentalist doom rockers. After all, that record — which was the only thing they had out last year — capped a three-year period from 2012 to 2015 that saw Ice Dragon issue no fewer than eight full-lengths, starting with Tome of the Future Ancients (review here), Dream Dragon (review here), greyblackfalconhawk (review here) and Dead Friends and Angry Lovers (which wasn’t an Ice Dragon release, then it was) in 2012, Born a Heavy Morning (review here) in 2013, and Seeds from a Dying Garden (review here) and Loaf of Head (review here) in 2014. Peppered in with these were splits and shorter releases, one-off singles rife with studio fuckery, willfully trashcan sound and the band trying to dig heavy metal, psychedelic rock and/or garage doom down to their very core rawness, thereby remaking them in their own image.

What started as barebones crunch on their 2007 self-titled (review here) and 2010’s The Burl, the Earth, the Aether (review here) exploded into an anti-genre creative streak that simply refused to falter or not move itself forward, even if that motion was happening through regression. And make no mistake, there were plenty of times when it was. Recording themselves at Ron’s Wrecker ServiceIce Dragon developed a signature in the sometimes harsh production they elicited, but it was no less a part of their aesthetic on the Beach Boysian Born a Heavy Morning than it was on 2012’s patient and proggy single, Season of Decay (discussed here), or the return to doom in the 2013 two-tracker Steel Veins b/w Queen of the Black Harvest (review here). It was a part of who they were as a band.

Then they stopped. Bound to happen eventually, right? It would be unreasonable to ask a group to keep up the kind of pace Ice Dragon were working at into perpetuity. Vocalist Ron Rochondo worked on various side-projects, while drummer Brad played bass in Pilgrim, and presumably guitarist/bassist Carter and bassist/guitarist Joe were at work on something or other — maybe life. In any case, Ice Dragon awaken with the new EP Broken Life. Comprised of just two songs, “Scratch at Your Skin” and “Life Means Nothing, Death Means Nothing,” it’s nonetheless the first new output the band has had since A Beacon on the Barrow and so feels like an event in its arrival, even as that comes just through their usual means of posting on Bandcamp as a name-your-price download. In fact, there’s a lot about Broken Life that’s business-as-usual for Ice Dragon, including its unpredictability. After 18 months, who the hell would guess they were going to come up with anything at all, let alone take a stab at what that might actually sound like? Not me.

ice-dragon

Further, most of the recording seems to have been done at Rubber Tracks Studio in Boston, which is either owned by or somehow affiliated with shoemaker Converse. They still mixed and mastered at Ron’s Wrecker Service, and recorded vocals and some acoustic guitar there as well, but that’s a significant change in venue for an Ice Dragon offering. Would Broken Life had happened in another circumstance, i.e., without the push of putting it to tape someplace else? I don’t know the circumstances that led to their revival anymore than I do what led to their break, but when it comes to new material, I’ll take it either way. Which brings us around to “Scratch at Your Skin” and “Life Means Nothing, Death Means Nothing.” Together, they run just under 11 minutes. If they’d fit they’d make an excellent 7″ pressing — particularly with the Samantha Allen cover art out front — and in their short span of time they manage to reaffirm what made Ice Dragon‘s prolific stretch so satisfying, most of all that part about always moving forward.

Production, as it turns out, is a factor in that process. While Rochondo‘s howling lyrics in the first cut, “It’s killing you/But not quite yet,” may have been recorded at their home studio, the guitar tone that accompanies them, though still plenty raw, comes through bright and clear at the fore of the mix. I’d be willing to bet Baines Kluxen and Matt Carlson, who helmed the session at Rubber Tracks, had at least some measure of prior familiarity with the band going into the session, because they manage to preserve some of the core features of their sound in the guitar, bass and far-back crash of the drums, while enhancing the overall feel. Vocals echo cavernous over a march in the second half where the title line is delivered in a context outside its usual chorus, and “Scratch at Your Skin” rumbles and hums to a finish, leading to the more prominent bass roll of “Life Means Nothing, Death Means Nothing,” a classic doom rocker that seems to inadvertently come across like darker Kadavar in its verse before moving into a chorus capped with surprising harmonies and a guitar triumph that affects immediate nod before shifting into an acoustic stretch.

The heavier push reemerges after the four-minute mark and more prominent harmonies in the hook help carry Ice Dragon to the finish of the second and closing track. I don’t know a lot about this material — when it was written, how the recording came about, whether it will lead to more, etc. — but if Ice Dragon are marking a return with Broken Life, or even general intent toward one, or if it’s a happenstance one-off and they’ll melt back into the semi-psychedelic doom ooze from which they came, it’s secondary to the fact of how well these two songs work together and off each other. Again, if they wanted to press it, as a fan of the band, I wouldn’t argue, but even as a digital release, Broken Life would seem to signify there’s vitality in Ice Dragon yet. Maybe they won’t put out four albums a year, or even one, but if they do or don’t, it’s comforting to know their creativity and sonic individualism are still intact, for whenever or however often they might want to put them to use.

Ice Dragon, Broken Life (2016)

Ice Dragon on Thee Facebooks

Ice Dragon on Instagram

Ice Dragon on Bandcamp

Playing Records on Thee Facebooks

Playing Records on Bandcamp

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Friday Full-Length: Eden’s Children, Eden’s Children

Posted in Bootleg Theater on November 4th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

Eden’s Children, Eden’s Children (1968)

One often hears about the fast pace of modern existence. Not inappropriately. Shit moves quick these days. Words come and go out of our lexicon before they’re defined thanks to rising and falling internet usage. Whatever happened to the “Dat Boi” meme? And so on. The thing is, if you think that’s anything new, you’re out of your mind. To wit, take a listen to the 1968 self-titled debut from heavy hippies Eden’s Children above and dig the context in which the album arrived.

It was 1968. Western culture, already 50 years post-collapsing, was re-collapsing. War, assassinations, popular uprising, and the closest thing to a cultural shift America has ever known gives even historical hindsight a sense of the tumult that must’ve been felt, and yet ABC Records was looking for something new. The prior year’s West Coast boom — Summer of Love and all that — was over, and it was time for the next thing. And while the “Bosstown Sound” out of New England wouldn’t produce another Janis Joplin, another Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix or Blue Cheer, it did bring an interesting breadth of artists in proto-heavy rock and psychedelic groove and folk. The Boston trio Eden’s Children, comprised of guitarist/vocalist Richard “Sham” Schamach, bassist Larry Kiley and drummer Jimmy Sturman, were one such act. Not a full year removed from the groundbreaking on a generation’s finest musical movement, it was old hat. The good old days, right?

Eden’s Children would release two LPs in the same year — this self-titled and the follow-up, Sure Looks Real — and among the standout aspects that the nine tracks of the 35-minute album boasts is something I think you can still hear New England bands bring to a heavy rock sound to this day. Of course, it’s easier to read into the material nearly half a century after the fact, but to listen to tracks like opener “Knocked Out” or the later “Stone Fox” and delightfully fuzzed “My Bad Habit,” Eden’s Children are definitely working in a post-Blue Cheer/Hendrix model, but they bring a tension and aggressive undertone to their approach that I think has always been central to the divide between East Coast and West Coast bands and very much remains so. Think about the differences between New York punk and California punk, or the current West Coast heavy psych boom and the Eastern Seaboard’s digging into increasingly vicious sludge. Obviously it’s a formative scale at work, but I think Eden’s Children‘s self-titled shows this same core difference happening even as the very notion of sound as something that could be “heavy” was beginning to take shape.

Which brings me back to my original point — it happened fast. The Bosstown Sound was a marketing scheme more than it was a grassroots musical movement, but Eden’s Children weren’t without something to offer to the mix of late-’60s psychedelia and nascent heft. Their delivery was tight, the songs on this record are memorable, and even almost 50 years later, one can hear how someone might’ve thought they’d be that always-sought next thing.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

Demolished.

Let’s go through next week’s notes. Subject to change:

Mon: Full stream/review for The Freeks’ new one; Wight tour news; Soldati video, etc.
Tue: Full stream/review of the new Iron Tongue; Boss Keloid video; big announcement from Seedy Jeezus, etc.
Wed: Year of the Cobra review, Monsternaut tour news, etc.
Thu: Full stream/review of the new Geezer.
Fri: Review of the new Akris.

More stuff will come up, but that’s how we’re beginning. There’s more news in there already than I’ve listed, but that seems like plenty to start with. I expect more fest news next week as well. Keep an eye out for that.

Woof. Feeling pretty dead to the world at this point. I just want to go home and play Final Fantasy V and not talk to anybody and hydrate and recover. I’ve had the same cold and had the pleasure of sharing it with The Patient Mrs. for the better part of the last three weeks. When I lie down I can feel the mucus shift in my chest and I can’t breathe. It’s dark in the morning when I go to work and dark at night on my way home. Up late the last couple nights with the sick dog. I need more sleep than there are hours in the day. I don’t say people’s names when I talk to them. Next Tuesday is the election.

Yeah. “Demolished” said it. That’s where I’m at.

To bed tomorrow and Sunday? Not a chance. Maybe sometime in January. Pretty much everything till then is booked. Blamo.

Have a great and safe weekend. Be awesome and visit the Forum and Radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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Worshipper, Shadow Hymns: Sowing and Reaping

Posted in Reviews on October 19th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

worshipper-shadow-hymns

The simple fact of the matter is that bands like Worshipper don’t just happen every day. Granted, I don’t think this is any of the members’ first project, but just because a player is experienced does not necessarily mean a given endeavor is going to click when other players become involved. Worshipper have not only clicked, but they’ve clicked on their first record, and they’ve clicked in such a way that the Tee Pee-delivered Shadow Hymns has felt destined to be on the best debuts of 2016 list since before it actually came out.

An anticipated debut? Not that it never happens, but like I said, it’s certainly not every day. Listening to the spacious crashes of opener “High Above the Clouds” or the NWOBHM-derived chug of “Step Behind,” which follows and fosters a momentum that continues across Shadow Hymns‘ eight-track/38-minute span, it reminds one of buying some tech product, opening the box, and having it ready to run immediately. Worshipper don’t need to charge up; there’s no assembly required. Guitarist/vocalist John Brookhouse, guitarist Alejandro Necochea, bassist/backing vocalist Bob Maloney and drummer Dave Jarvis have taken care of everything.

Working at three studios — Mad Oak, Q Division and Converse Rubber Tracks — they’ve meticulously constructed songs that thread together impulses from heavy rock and classic metal. Their native scene has already taken notice and embraced them heartily, handing them a Boston Music Award last year on the strength of their two 2015 singles, Place Beyond the Light b/w Step Behind (discussed here) and the earlier Black Corridor b/w High Above the Clouds (review here).

That’s an action I don’t disagree with — it seemed perhaps a bit premature in the way Barack Obama won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, when he’d been president for a matter of weeks — but Worshipper have been nominated for three more such awards in 2016, so clearly the Boston music scene agrees with itself, which it can be relied upon to do generally. As regards Worshipper, it’s right.

worshipper

Four of Shadow Hymns‘ eight songs appeared on those prior singles, and while “Step Behind” and “Place Beyond the Light” and “High Above the Clouds” and “Black Corridor,” which closes, are standouts for having been issued before, the level of songwriting on “Ghosts and Breath,” “Darkness,” “Another Yesterday” and “Wolf Song” is not only consistent, but broadens an atmospheric scope that may or may not still be in development, but already sounds accomplished. “Ghosts and Breath” taps into Slayer-esque dual-leads at its outset even as it moves into one of the record’s plethora of hooks, while “Darkness” and the penultimate “Wolf Song” bring in layers of acoustic guitar (a specialty of producer Benny Grotto) for a feel bordering on gothic.

These moments of flourish come together fluidly with the gallop that emerges in “Place Beyond the Light,” united by stellar lead work from Necochea, Brookhouse‘s soulful vocals and the steady, forward drive of Jarvis and Maloney, which might be the most metallic aspect of what Worshipper do, ultimately. In its tone, Shadow Hymns is crisp without being unnatural or overproduced-sounding, but even as “Darkness” hits into its nodding chorus, the rhythm section holds to the tension of the verse before, setting up the transition to the solo section that follows. With a strong sense of structure throughout, it works. Worshipper manage their transitions within and between songs gracefully, and on a sheer level of execution, Shadow Hymns is miles ahead of what one generally expects going into a debut album.

“Having their shit together” might be Worshipper‘s most defining sonic feature at this stage. I would not guess their stylistic development is complete as of their first long-player — at least one hopes not — but for how firmly they nail down the airy spookiness of the slower “Another Yesterday” and the dynamic turns of “Step Behind,” they sound remarkably in command and sure of what they want to be doing. With an even side A/B split between “Darkness” and “Place Beyond the Light,” Shadow Hymns‘ personality is made even richer, but it remains drawn together through performance and songcraft, as well as a depth of mix that finds Brookhouse as much at home at the forefront of “Darkness” as buried under “Ghosts and Breath.”

There is room to expand the overall palette of mood — Shadow Hymns tends toward the dark in its themes and ambience — but Worshipper also put themselves in a solid position from which to enact that growth, structurally and in terms of how deftly they move between their rock-meets-metal influences, and with memorable cuts like “Step Behind,” “Ghosts and Breath,” “Place Beyond the Light,” “Another Yesterday,” “Black Corridor,” and so on, they’re working from a foundation solid enough to sustain any number of future directions. Like the best of debuts, the potential of the band in question is part of the appeal, but as noted, if this is just the start, Worshipper have already delivered.

Worshipper, Shadow Hymns (2016)

Worshipper on Thee Facebooks

Worshipper on Twitter

Worshipper on Bandcamp

Worshipper at Tee Pee Records

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Gozu Post Full Set Video from Psycho Las Vegas

Posted in Bootleg Theater on September 1st, 2016 by JJ Koczan

gozu at psycho las vegas

Seems like a good time to be in Gozu. The Boston-based four-piece issued Revival (review here), their fourth and deadliest outing yet, earlier this summer via Ripple Music. Last month, they headed out on a choice weekender with the reformed Scissorfight and Backwoods Payback, and this past weekend they took part in what I think is arguably the best heavy rock festival lineup the US has ever seen at Psycho Las Vegas, sharing a bill with everyone from YOB to Alice Cooper to Beelzefuzz. Oh, and later this month they make their way over to Europe to tour with Holy Grove from Portland, Oregon, on a run put together by Heavy Psych Sounds.

No shortage of occasion, is what I’m saying, and if you want to see a band rise to the occasion, look no further than the video of their full set from the Hard Rock Cafe‘s Vinyl Stage. A number of Psycho Las Vegas full sets have begun to show up already, and I might post more as I stumble on them, but even with some technical problems, Gozu absolutely kill it. The momentum they build through “Mr. Riddle,” “Nature Boy” and “Big Casino” is infectious, and closing out with the D’Angelo cover “Brown Sugar” — a bonus track on the vinyl version of 2013’s The Fury of a Patient Man (review here) on which they collaborated with Lo-Pan vocalist Jeff Martin — is a particularly groovy touch to a set that spends so much time raging, if soulfully.

These guys have spent the last few years becoming one of the most powerful heavy rock bands as part of a long lineage for their hometown, and clearly their efforts have started to pay off. I hope they keep going, because the more they do, the more heads are going to turn.

Tour dates follow the video. Enjoy:

Gozu, Live at Psycho Las Vegas

Thanks Psycho Las Vegas!! Thanks to everybody who came out to see us!! This is our set from Friday. Super fun, might be one of our best sets we’ve ever played with backline issues and all. We end the set with a D’Angelo cover of Brown Sugar. Thanks again!!

We are very excited to announce that we are heading back to Europe with the amazing Holy Grove!! We look forward to seeing you all soon!! Ciao!! HEAVY PSYCH SOUNDS Ripple Music

GOZU + HOLY GROVE Euro Tour!!
28/09/2016 IT Rome-Init
29/09/2016 IT Erba – Centrale Rock
30/09/2016 IT Ravenna – Bronson
01/10/2016 AT Feldkirch – Villa K
02/10/2016 AT Salzburg – Rockhouse
03/10/2016 IT Trieste – Tetris
04/10/2016 IT Zero Branco – Altroquando
05/10/2016 CH Basel – Terrorsamba
06/10/2016 DE Mannheim – 7er Club
07/10/2016 DE Munster – Rare Guitar Shop
08/10/2016 BE Liege – La Zone
09/10/2016 DE Dresden – Chemiefabrik
10/10/2016 DE Koln – Limes
11/10/2016 DE Leipzig
12/10/2016 DE Berlin – Urban Spree
13/10/2016 DE Stuttgart – Keller Klub
14/10/2016 CH Olten – Coq D’or
15/10/2016 CH Frauenfeld – Kaff

Gozu on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music website

Psycho Las Vegas

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Roadsaw Sign to Ripple Music

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 25th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

Roadsaw news is good news. The Boston heavy rock magnates have announced that they’ll hit Mad Oak Studio to work with producer Benny Grotto next month in order to record their eighth album, the awaited follow-up to their 2011 self-titled (review here), which will be released — and here comes the twist — on Ripple Music. Formerly the quintessential Small Stone band, Roadsaw will work with Ripple for their new one, the label having already released material from heavy punkers White Dynomite, whose lineup features Roadsaw‘s Tim Catz and Craig Riggs.

Ripple continues its upswing and will have the new Roadsaw album out early next year, as the PR wire informs:

roadsaw

Boston Riff-Masters, Roadsaw, Sign World-Wide Deal with Ripple Music – New Album out Early 2017

Ripple Music is proud to announce the signing of legendary riff-masters, ROADSAW to the label’s hard and heavy roster. The veteran Boston motor-stoner act still consists of the decade-long classic line up and will be heading into the illustrious Mad Oak Studios with producer Benny Grotto to lay down a potent new batch of songs, due out early 2017, that are sure to please old fans and turn on new ones.

For the unfamiliar ROADSAW invite you to climb inside their jaded jalopy and careen headlong into their amplified analog landscape. From the shores of British electric blues, across the pond to America’s sonic 70s stomp; down to the Southern swamps, thru the New York groove, straight into heart of California’s psychedelic desert. ROADSAW’s long strange trip is a virtual history of heavy riffs.

ROADSAW’s often turbulent career includes 7 albums , numerous compilations, and a smattering of hard-to-find singles. The band has shared stages big and small on both sides of the Atlantic with comrades like Orange Goblin, Fu Manchu, Queens Of The Stone Age, Nebula, Scissorfight, Karma To Burn, Black Label Society and many others. Together with Ripple, the band looks forward to adding a big bold exclamation point to this already impressive resume. US and European tours are being booked for spring 2017, including an appearance at London’s Desert Fest. Spirits are high for the much anticipated return of one of riff rocks most loyal disciples.

Like cockroaches in a post apocalyptic fall out, ROADSAW rise once again. Having survived every storm, war, trend and taste, ROADSAW simply refuses to die. Now, they’re signed to one of the world’s leading heavy rock, stoner, doom and heavy psych label’s, Ripple Music, and it’s a certainty that mayhem will follow. Look for limited edition vinyl, CD’s and digital to be spread around the world in Spring 2017.

So there you have it. New year. New music. New label. The ‘Saw remains the same.

https://www.facebook.com/ROADSAW-106440249390336/
www.ripple-music.com

Roadsaw, Roadsaw (2011)

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