Nerveshatter Release “Homecomings” Single; West Coast Dates this Month

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 17th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Three and a half minutes! Perfect for radio! Seriously, imagine that for a minute. I mean, just because I’m thinking about it, I’m going to hop on Nerveshatter‘s Bandcamp page and grab their new single and play it on the next edition of The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio, but I mean signal FM broadcast radio. Imagine if actual, tune in, live DJs were playing this kind of thing. Imagine a whole commercial station based around something so weighted and purposefully abrasive. Imagine it thriving.

If you believe in the theory of infinite universes, where every action that’s ever been undertaken by a person, place or thing creates a new reality, that universe must exist somewhere. So does a universe wherein I express that idea more coherently. I wonder what those universes are like.

Nerveshatter head to Arizona and California later this month for a round of shows with Drainage, so the new single is timely, and they’ll be supporting Spotlights at Elsewhere in Brooklyn on Feb. 11. I haven’t been to Elsewhere yet, but it’s getting a lot of shows, so I kind of expect sooner or later I’ll make my way. Something new. Terrifying.

There’s also a universe where I don’t have anxiety issues.

See how fun that is?

Song is streaming below. Enjoy:

nerveshatter homecomings

NERVESHATTER – NEW SINGLE! Out NOW

We give you: “HOMECOMINGS”

Hear it, download it, and share it at Bandcamp NOW. Coming to all platforms soon. Recorded and mixed by Nerveshatter and Neil Cote in Somerville, NJ sometime in 2019. Mastered by Alan Douches at West West Side Music.

lyrics
Took a long road out of hell, man. Bled and sweat all sorrow out of me. Peace is just a passer-by, seems like only out of spite… Godhole, bottomless. Leopard spots, last forever. Changes are suffering. Time might heal, will not sever. Done it before, will again. Circle, pattern, what you will… Wishful thinking that is riddance, we can only trust the pain. I need not, yet go back. Needlepoint. Masochist.

http://nerveshattermusic.bandcamp.com/track/homecomings

To go along with this release we will be taking to the road. The first set will take place on our maiden voyage to the West Coast as a band:

01-30-2020 – Phoenix, AZ
01-31-2020 – Long Beach, CA
02-01-2020 – Chico, CA
02-02-2020 – Oakland, CA
All shows with: Drainage

Followed by:
02-11-2020 – Brooklyn, NY at Zone One at Elsewhere with: Spotlights and Semaphore

Nerveshatter is:
Richard Bukowski – guitars
Tim Haney – drums
Jonathan Cohn – bass
Jan Solo – vocals

https://www.facebook.com/nerveshattermusic
https://www.instagram.com/nerveshattermusic/
https://nerveshattermusic.bandcamp.com/

Nerveshatter, “Homecomings”

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The Obelisk Presents: THE BEST OF 2019

Posted in Features on December 24th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk best of 2019

[PLEASE NOTE: These are not the results of the year-end poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t contributed your list to the cause yet, please do so here.]

Make no mistake, my friends. 2019 was the year it went off the rails.

Every 12-month period brings a lot of records, and they all seem overwhelming, but this was the first year I’ve ever felt quite so helpless when it came time to sit down and actually make my list. Of course, I keep running notes all year long, but even so, ordering everything, bringing it all together? What a mess.

I almost thought of breaking it down into smaller lists in addition to the big one, subgrouped by style. But then, where does doom end and sludge begin? What about psych and heavy rock? Should prog get its own list? And what the hell counts as prog?

In the end, that didn’t seem like it would be doing me any favors, so we’ll stick with the one big list and then others for debut releases and another for EPs, splits, demos and so on. You know, the usual.

Pretty sure I say this every year too, but it bears repeating: if you read any of the below — and thanks if you do — and have a response, be nice. If I’ve forgotten something — and yes, I have; I’m sure of it — that you think needs to be included, and you want to leave a comment that says so, please, by all means. But keep it civil. I know people are passionate about this stuff and so am I, but consider there are probably over 200 offerings covered here by the time you get through all the lists and honorable mentions, and I’m one person. I’m doing my best, and though I try not to, I tend to take being called a dumbass personally. So yeah, chill out and please be constructive in calling me a dumbass. Words matter.

A few hard choices here, most especially for album of the year. I was back and forth with each of the top three in the top spot for a good long while, and it might change again between now and when this post goes up. But it’s been that kind of year. In 2018, there was no question. It was Sleep all the way. The question was what came after that. This year has been different without that kind of duh, punch-in-the-face obvious pick. Relative parity isn’t a bad thing though.

Enough delay. The usual parameters apply. These are a combo of my personal listening habits and what I think are the most important records/achievements of the year, critical importance, etc.

Here we go:

The Top 50 Albums of 2019

#50-31

50. Hazemaze, Hymns of the Damned
49. Lightning Born, Lightning Born
48. Bees Made Honey in the Vein Tree, Grandmother
47. PH, Osiris Hayden
46. Thunderbird Divine, Magnasonic
45. Abrahma, In Time for the Last Rays of Light
44. Uffe Lorenzen, Triprapport
43. Swallow the Sun, When a Shadow is Forced into the Light
42. Caustic Casanova, God How I Envy the Deaf
41. The Devil and the Almighty Blues, Tre
40. SÂVER, They Came With Sunlight
39. Ogre, Thrice as Strong
38. Lamp of the Universe, Align in the Fourth Dimension
37. Vokonis, Grasping Time
36. Sacri Monti, Waiting Room for the Magic Hour
35. Across Tundras, The Rugged Ranges of Curbs and Broken Minds
34. Duel, Valley of Shadows
33. Orodruin, Ruins of Eternity
32. Zaum, Divination
31. Inter Arma, Sulphur English

Notes: Honestly, if this had been the top 20 of the year, I’d still call 2019 a win. Aside from the fact that I somehow thought Caustic Casanova would enjoy coming in a number 42, the sheer quality of this stuff should tell you what kind of year 2019 was. Inter Arma’s Sulphur English was a significant achievement in genre melding, and Orodruin’s return after more than a decade since their last LP was a masterclass in doom worship. Debut albums from SÂVER and Thunderbird Divine and Lightning Born showed marked promise of things to come — and there’s more on them below as well — while Zaum’s, Bees Made Honey in the Vein Tree’s and Lamp of the Universe’s meditations, Vokonis’ noise, Abrahma’s emotive progressivisim, Swallow the Sun’s melodic melancholy, Sacri Monti’s boogie, and whatever the hell PH were doing on Osiris Hayden remind just how much the word “heavy” can encompass. The Devil and the Almighty Blues, Duel and Uffe Lorenzen and Hazemaze were musts here, and Ogre are perennial favorites whose work always brings a doomly grin. Don’t sleep on any of it.

30. Sun Blood Stories, Haunt Yourself

sun blood stories haunt yourself

Self-released. Reviewed Sept. 6.

Until they put out a complementary follow-up record of such fare, one might’ve accused Idaho three-piece Sun Blood Stories of becoming less experimentalist/droned-out/noisy on Haunt Yourself, but they seem to have met their quota one way or the other with the Oct. 2019 advent of Static Sessions Vol. 1. Still, it’s melody, heavy post-rock/psychedelic drift and emotive soul that rule the day on the crushing and enriching Haunt Yourself, and no complaints from me on that.

29. Church of the Cosmic Skull, Everybody’s Going to Die

Church of the Cosmic Skull Everybodys Going to Die

Released by Septaphonic Records. Reviewed Dec. 10.

I don’t have to do anything more than read the name of the album to have the chorus of the title-track stuck in my head, and it’s a reminder that although the Nottingham troupe put so much into their progressive style and vocal harmonies and arrangements, and a more conceptual theme in the case of Everybody’s Going to Die — their answer to 2018’s excellent Science Fiction (review here) — their roots are in songcraft, and it’s the foundation of songcraft that lets them soar. Would be higher on the list if it weren’t so new.

28. Devil to Pay, Forever, Never or Whenever

devil to pay forever never or whenever

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Nov. 4.

With their sixth album, Indianapolis’ Devil to Pay collect 10 tracks of unpretentious-almost-to-a-fault of straightforward heavy rock songwriting that continues to be woefully underappreciated. They have become utterly reliable in that regard — you know, to a certain extent, what’s coming — but the vocals of guitarist Steve Janiak (also Apostle of Solitude) and some more metallic turns to the riffing give Forever, Never or Whenever a subtlety that holds up all the more on repeat visits. I don’t know if Devil to Pay will ever get their due, but suffice it to say, they’re due.

27. Howling Giant, The Space Between Worlds

howling giant the space between worlds

Released by Blues Funeral Recordings. Reviewed Oct. 11.

If you’re of a certain age, you remember when the first Playstation came out and everyone looked around at their Nintendos and Segas like, “What the hell am I messing around with Mario Golf for? I could be playing Resident Evil!” That’s kind of what Howling Giant are as compared to “regular” rock bands. They’re the Playstation of heavy: that next progressive step forward carrying an inhuman amount of swagger and personality while still delivering a stepped-up product from their would-be peers. The scariest thing about The Space Between Worlds is it’s their first LP. One looks forward to the next generation.

26. Saint Vitus, Saint Vitus

saint vitus saint vitus

Released by Season of Mist. Reviewed March 19.

I know for a fact that bassist Pat Bruders and drummer Henry Vasquez had a hand in writing some of the material on Saint Vitus’ second self-titled LP, and yet the album so much bears the indelible mark of guitarist Dave Chandler that it’s hard not to think of it all as his. The album marked their first release with original singer Scott Reagers since 1995’s Die Healing (discussed here) and featured among their trademark low-tuned slog, an actual punk song, which showed the grinning glee that underlies all they do. Four decades on, Saint Vitus sound like they’re having fun. How is that not a win?

25. Ealdor Bealu, Spirit of the Lonely Places

ealdor bealu spirit of the lonely places

Self-released. Reviewed July 10.

Woodsy Rocky Mountain psychedelia abounded on Boise foursome Ealdor Bealu’s second full-length, and their blend of landscape meditations and grounded heavy progressive melodicism made Spirit of the Lonely Places as much about impact as about space, though of course the real joy was the experience of the entirety. Very much a sophomore album, it learned lessons from 2017’s Dark Water at the Foot of the Mountain (review here) that one only hopes the band will continue to push forward in scope as they so gracefully did here.

24. Yatra, Death Ritual

yatra death ritual

Released through Grimoire Records. Discussed Nov. 13, 2018..

Though hard- and to-date quick-working Maryland trio Yatra have already moved on and are looking ahead to releasing their second album, Blood of the Night (review here), their Grimoire-delivered debut, Death Ritual, is impossible to ignore for the impact it had on reminding listeners of the impact that primeval extreme sludge can have. Another couple tours and some bigger label — Relapse, Prosthetic, eOne, Season of Mist, whoever — will decide they’re “ready,” whatever that means, and then sign them and I won’t be cool enough to do track premieres for them anymore, but as far as accolades go, Yatra earn whatever they get and Death Ritual stands among 2019’s most landmark debuts. They’ve already outdone it, but it’s a stunner just the same.

23. Ecstatic Vision, For the Masses

ecstatic vision for the masses

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed Sept. 17.

Ecstatic Vision frontman Doug Sabolik has cast himself in the mold of Arthur Brown or Dave Wyndorf or probably seven or eight dudes who were in Hawkwind at some point as a manic-but-stoned space rock preacher with as he and his band behind him plunge headfirst-or-feetfirst-it-doesn’t-matter-because-your-body-is-an-illusion-man into the molten multicolor void. For the Masses. The ‘masses,’ such as they are, should be so lucky, but the double-meaning is the real tell for where the Philly unit are coming from. Their shows are the masses — gatherings of spirit and song to give praise to the willful expansion of mind. If you can’t get behind that, you might as well go get a job or something. This ain’t no lightweight party for squares and dabblers. This is a high-potency happening for werewolves on motorcycles and freaks of all stripes. Get weird stay weird. Ecstatic Vision are one mostly-mellow 15-minute “Spine of God”-style psych-epic away from perfection.

22. Beastwars, IV

beastwars iv

Released by Destroy Records. Reviewed June 27.

But for the circumstances that brought it about — i.e. Beastwars vocalist Matt Hyde’s cancer — the unexpected fourth installment in the Beastwars trilogy was nothing if not welcome. An grand-feeling sense of largesse was nothing new to the New Zealand four-piece, but after breaking up and getting back together to make the album, the grim sincerity with which they presented this exploration of mortality and betrayal by one’s own body was no less palpable than the undulating riffs that threatened, as ever, to consume all in their path. I don’t know their future plans in terms of continuing to write and/or record, but there are reports of touring beyond Aus/NZ for 2020, so one way or another, stay tuned for more from them. Whether or not they do anything else, IV was a triumph in spirit and execution.

21. Eternal Black, Slow Burn Suicide

eternal black slow burn suicide

Self-released. Reviewed June 7.

With the nine songs of Slow Burn Suicide, Brooklyn’s Eternal Black began to unveil the true depth of their project. Their 2017 debut, Bleed the Days (review here), was well received, and rightly so, but operated more in a straight-ahead doom sphere. The second outing, by contrast, delved into a particular vision of the style informed by the crunch of peak-era New York noise and crossover hardcore, and it succeeded not just because it did this, but because it did so around a conjuration of memorable riffs and tracks building on accomplishments carried over from its predecessor. Is this an awaited arrival of next-generation ‘New York doom’? Will theirs be a blueprint others will follow? It’s impossible to know now, and their next album will be telling either way, but the course they’ve set is significant.

20. Candlemass, The Door to Doom

candlemass the door to doom

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Feb. 22.

It may have been the Tony Iommi guest appearance that got Swedish doom legends Candlemass — the world’s earliest and foremost purveyors of doom both classic and epic — their recent Grammy nomination, but it was the long-overdue reunion with original vocalist Johan Längquist that made the album as a whole as powerful as it was. Pairing Längquist’s theatrical and vital approach with founding bassist Leif Edling’s second-to-none doomcraft, The Door to Doom was a catapult not to the bygone days of the band’s landmark debut, 1986’s Epicus Doomicus Metallicus, but an inspired look at not just what might’ve been had Längquist remained with the band longer, but what might still be if he does this time around. Candlemass have been through their share of singers, but as fresh as The Door to Doom sounded, it’s hard not to hope for something more than a one-off with he who got there first. The songs, the spirit, the sheer heart poured into Candlemass’ doom some 35 years past the band’s start only emphasizes how special they have always been.

19. Nebula, Holy Shit

nebula holy shit

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed June 13.

Anyone who might’ve predicted Nebula getting into the studio and making a new album was either in the room when it happened or talking out their ass. And speaking of, was Nebula’s Holy Shit named for the shock one might’ve felt at its existence, or the surprise at how good it actually sounded when you put it on? I don’t know. I probably won’t ever know. It was the best title I saw all year, but more than that, it was a Nebula record, fueled by the classic riffing and unmitigated desert punk soul of founding/guitarist Eddie Glass, whose absence from the heavy underground for the last decade left a void only too many others whiffed on filling. Holy Shit showed just how singular a player Glass was and is, and how much character there is in his style, particularly in solos, but also in rhythmic changes, and so on. I won’t discount the work of bassist Tom Davies and drummer Mike Amster in making Nebula what they are in this incarnation — they’re essential, obviously — but there’s simply no denying that presence at the band’s core.

18. Valley of the Sun, Old Gods

valley of the sun old gods

Released by Fuzzorama Records. Reviewed May 21.

This was a heavy rock record that had everything. Everything. It had songs, style, ups, down, purples, greens, ins, outs, all kinds of whathaveyou. Riffs forever. Valley of the Sun should keep their eyes on Sasquatch, because if they want it, that path is theirs. I know the Cincinnati outfit have had trouble keeping lineups together, but if they can hold onto one, and maybe after their next record start touring more, domestically and abroad — not at all a minor ask, I know — then people will catch on. Old Gods is evidence of the fact that they genuinely have something to offer, and frankly, it’s not at all the first such effective case they’ve made in their career. But they’ve never put anything out that wasn’t a step forward, and yet they’ve never lost sight of the roots of their initial inspiration. And they’ve never sacrificed the song for the riff, which so many do. They’ve only ever gotten better. Let Old Gods be a step toward them getting attention they’ve long since deserved.

17. Kadavar, For the Dead Travel Fast

Kadavar For the Dead Travel Fast

Released by Nuclear Blast. Reviewed Oct. 28.

In style and production, For the Dead Travel Fast is the most vintage-sounding offering Berlin trio Kadavar have made in over a half decade, yet neither is it looking backward wistfully toward 2013’s Abra Kadavar (review here) or giving up the modern clarity of 2017’s Rough Times (review here) or 2015’s Berlin (review here). Instead, it strikes a balance with a more sinister edge à la Uncle Acid in songs like “Children of the Night” and “Demons in My Mind” — both singles — and makes a home for itself between proto-metal and garage doom. Whatever genre tag you want to give it — and that might vary from track to track, mind you — it’s unmistakably Kadavar, with the signature hooks and memorable craftsmanship that have made them one of the decade’s most pivotal heavy bands. The real challenge at this point in their career is not to take for granted that Kadavar will produce material of such quality, because, frankly, that’s all they’ve ever done.

16. Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, Yn Ol I Annwn

mammoth weed wizard bastard yn ol i annwn

Released by New Heavy Sounds. Reviewed Feb. 7.

Welsh sci-fi cosmic doomers Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard billed Yn Ol I Annwn as the final installment of a trilogy that includes their two prior LPs, 2015’s Noeth Ac Anoeth (review here) and 2016’s Y Proffwyd Dwyll (review here), and while that may be true thematically, there’s also no question the third is a marked step forward from anything they’ve done before. They’re one foot out of the airlock and into space as their synth-laden longform riffing and melodies take them to places they’ve not yet gone, explorations of sight as much as sound, aural translation of colors humans aren’t gifted to see. Their songs across the 65-minute span unfold with the grace of a gravity spiral, pulling the listener deeper into the proceedings with each new phase that emerges until, what, obliteration? Stellar genesis? I’m not sure. They’ve reportedly got one more record to make and then they’re done. If that’s true, they’ll be missed then they’re gone.

15. Magic Circle, Departed Souls

magic circle departed souls

Released by 20 Buck Spin. Reviewed April 3.

They’ve found their way to die, and it’s upon an altar of classic metal and doom. And honestly, they make a pretty good case for it. Departed Souls is the third full-length from the Boston unit and their most stylistically realized work yet, with vocalist Brendan Radigan giving a standout performance alongside the guitars of Chris Corry and Renato Montenegro, the bass of Justin DeTore and Michael “Q” Quartulli’s drums, as the entire band taps into vibes from mid-’70s Black Sabbath and brings them to bear with an energy that is unlike anything in Magic Circle’s history. 2015’s Journey Blind (review here) brought in NWOBHM flash in the guitar work, sure enough, but Departed Souls doesn’t so much carry the torch of classic metal as it does use it to burn down the whole village and rebuild it in the five-piece’s image. From their doomed beginnings on their 2013 self-titled debut (review here) to now, they’re an act who’ve genuinely earned cult status. If you can find a backpatch, buy it.

14. Spaceslug, Reign of the Orion

Spaceslug Reign of the Orion cover

Released by BSFD Records. Reviewed Nov. 22.

Controversy! Drama! Well, probably not, but at very least some respectful disagreement on my part. You see, Poland’s Spaceslug have stated publicly that their latest release, the late-2019 surprise Reign of the Orion is an EP. Their albums regularly top 50 minutes, and at 36 minutes, I guess relative to that, you can see where they’re coming from. However, with the flow of these five songs and the ease with which they carry the listener from front-to-back through the listening experience, I’m sticking to my guns and calling Reign of the Orion an album. Sorry guys. True, it’s shorter than the other full-lengths, but it’s got everything you could ask an album to have in terms of how tracks like “Spacerunner” and the shouty “Half-Moon Burns” play into each other, and the fluidity of the outing on the whole is inarguable. An LP by any other name? Whatever you or they want to call it, there’s no question in my mind Reign of the Orion is one of 2019’s best records. If they insist on it being an EP, then it’s the best one of the year, but I still say it belongs in another category altogether, so here it is.

13. Green Lung, Woodland Rites

green lung woodland rites

Released by Kozmik Artifactz. Reviewed Jan. 28.

As hyper-crowded as London is with bands at this moment in history, there continue to be acts who sneak through with an individualized and intriguing perspective on doom and heavy rock, and Green Lung are a perfect example, learning from fellow Brits like Alunah and Elephant Tree and incorporating folk and forest goth vibes to their debut album, Woodland Rites. Laced with organ and stuck-in-the-head choruses like “Let the Devil In” and the creeper “Templar Dawn,” the record also pushed into drifting verses on “Into the Wild,” setting up future experimentation with atmospheric variety and genre manipulation. If part of any first album’s appeal is the potential it represents, Green Lung’s offers plenty, but wherever their subsequent course may or may not take them, their accomplishments here shouldn’t be overlooked. Woodland Rites is nothing less than the heavy rock debut album of the year, and though they emerge from a packed field, the work they do to stand themselves out already carries their mark and an apparent will toward progression. They’re on their way.

12. Lo-Pan, Subtle

lo-pan subtle

Released by Aqualamb Records. Reviewed May 9.

My head immediately goes to the hooks of “Ten Days” and “Ascension Day” and “Savage Heart,” but the up-down surges of guitar in “Old News/New Fire” and the midtempo soulfulness in “A Thousand Miles” are no less resonant when it comes to the actual listening experience of the fifth Lo-Pan LP. Subtle, when it came to living up to its name, as much wasn’t as it was. Flourishes of harmony in the vocals of Jeff Martin, the pops in Jesse Bartz’s snare punctuating and propelling in kind, turns in Scott Thompson’s bass work twisting around the guitar of Chris Thompson, a relative newcomer to the fold making his debut with the band and showing no apparent trouble fitting in. I don’t imagine Lo-Pan is an easy band to join, especially at this point. They thrive on personality clash and, through years of touring, have a chemistry they’ve built between them that comes through even on their recordings. Nonetheless, Subtle is their clearest, sharpest-edged work yet, and as tight as their songwriting has become, they still groove and groove mightily. They are a treasure of American heavy rock and roll. Believe it.

11. Roadsaw, Tinnitus the Night

roadsaw tinnitus the night

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed June 12.

While members of Roadsaw have spent the intervening years in projects like Kind, White Dynomite, Sasquatch and Murcielago, the Boston heavy rock kingpins have indeed been missed, and Tinnitus the Night works quickly to show why. It’s been well over 20 years since their first LP — hell, it’s been eight since they put out their 2011 self-titled (review here) — but their craft is at its own level, and Tinnitus the Night comes barreling through with “Shake” and “Along for the Ride” and “Final Phase” before opening up to broader fare on side B with “Find What You Need,” “Under the Devil’s Thumb” and “Midazolam” ahead of the subdued finale “Silence,” and the result is nothing less than a classic heavy rock LP structure as befitting what is itself a classic heavy rock LP. What’s Roadsaw’s future? I don’t know. It took them the better part of a decade to make this one happen, so take from that what you will, but to me, all it says is there’s even more reason to be grateful they got it done and out. To say the songs deserve that is putting it mildly.

10. Worshipper, Light in the Wire

worshipper light in the wire

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed April 24.

I’m not doing a ‘song of the year’ post, but if I was, Worshipper’s “Coming Through” might be it. The opening track from the Boston four-piece’s second album, Light in the Wire, marries classic pop drama in its melody with careening progressive riffing, and sets the tone for a record that is of both future and past, twistingly complex and yet immediately accessible, immersive as an entirety and still comprised of standout moments. These aren’t contradictions in Worshipper’s skillful hands, but the stuff of what’s already becoming their own take on rock. Tied together through melody, skillful rhythmic intricacy and solid structural foundations, “Light in the Wires,” “Visions from Beyond,” “Wither on the Vine” and others throughout post their own triumphs en route to enhancing the album as a whole, while “Nobody Else” and closer “Arise” underscore the emotive basis from which the perspective of the whole LP emanates. There are a lot of “next-gen” heavy rock bands out there weaving prog elements and traditional riffing together to some degree or other. Few, if any, can write a song like Worshipper can. I mean it. This band is something special.

9. Solace, The Brink

solace the brink

Released by Blues Funeral Recordings. Reviewed Nov. 21.

What is there to say about Solace? A band who, nine years after revealing the expectation-slaughtering masterpiece A.D. (review here), return with three-fifths of a swapped-out lineup and simply do it again? This band is explosive. Really. Like, they might explode at any minute. It’s a miracle The Brink ever happened. I’ll be honest, I had my doubts. But Solace are a force like nothing else I’ve ever encountered in music. They take metallic aggression, hardcore’s sense of self-righteousness and heavy rock’s groove, set it all to a doomly swing and they play it in such a way as to leave you utterly dumbfounded by what you just experienced. Here’s a challenge though, for the band personally. From me to them. Do another one. Go ahead. Put out another album. You don’t even have to do it in 2020. Do it 2021. Write the songs and give me a no-holds-barred 45-minute LP of the tightest, meanest shit you’ve ever written. Because massive as the accomplishments are on The Brink, it’s the potential to build from them that resonates most here. So do it, guys. Step up and take advantage of the moment. Call me greedy if you want, I don’t care. Give me another Solace record. I dare you.

8. Brume, Rabbits

brume rabbits

Released by Doom Stew Records & DHU Records. Reviewed Nov. 6.

Simply a case of a band wildly outdoing themselves. Easy story, yeah? In some ways, maybe, but the truth of what Brume achieve on Rabbits. Their second long-player behind 2017’s Rooster (review here), the five-track offering sees the San Francisco three-piece of vocalist/bassist Susie McMullan, guitarist/vocalist Jamie McCathie and drummer Jordan Perkins-Lewis working with producer Billy Anderson to bring theatricality and emotionalism together in a flowing post-heavy context that’s neither derivative nor working at cross purposes. Instead, it is a gorgeous and blooming undertaking across its 43-minute span, working in its own light/dark spectrum and bringing not just the sense of trapped fragility evoked by the cover art, but a corresponding sureness of intent to its ascendant heavy surges. Like Rooster before it, it is loaded with potential, but in “Scurry” and “Lament” and “Despondence” and “Blue Jay and “Autocrat’s Fool,” there’s a patience and command that absolutely does not waver. So yes, a band outdoing themselves. But so much more too.

7. Mars Red Sky, The Task Eternal

mars red sky the task eternal

Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed Sept. 20.

This may forever be known as the Mars Red Sky album they wrote in a cave, but the Bordeaux three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Julien Pras and bassist/vocalist Jimmy Kinast and drummer Matieu “Matgaz” Gazeau nonetheless plunged forward along the progressive course they charted back on 2014’s sophomore outing, Stranded in Arcadia (review here), and continued to manifest in 2016’s Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul) (review here). Their blend of melody and tonal heft has become a hallmark of their work to this stage in their career, but The Task Eternal continues to add a sense of breadth to the proceedings, giving their sound a full three-dimensional pull that feels tailor-made for headphones and is consuming in its entirety. With experiments in structure like the pairing of “Recast” and “Reacts,” and the rushing sweep of melody in “Hollow King,” Mars Red Sky’s latest is, as ever, their finest. Outdoing themselves would seem to be the task from which the record derives its title. Fine. Just keep going. Please.

6. Kings Destroy, Fantasma Nera

Kings Destroy Fantasma Nera

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed March 15.

Every time I think I understand where Kings Destroy want to go as a band, they pull the rug out. That’s what Fantasma Nera is. After their 2015 self-titled (review here) third LP seemed to declare them once and for all in a space between doom and noise rooted in their respective hardcore pasts, the Brooklynite five-piece hooked up with producer David Bottrill (Tool, etc.) and composed a rock album. A real live rock album! With progressive undertones in the guitar work and the most accomplished melodicism of their career, Kings Destroy put everything they had into making Fantasma Nera and one need look no further than the title-track to hear the result of that monumental effort. It is the realization of a band challenging themselves to go so far out of their comfort zone as to be only recognizable in the most rudimentary of ways, and to say it as plainly as I can, “Dead Before” on its own is enough of an accomplishment — and enough of a full-length, at all of 4:25 — to make this list on its own, whatever surrounds it. Song of the year. I’ll say every time I’m a Kings Destroy fan, but I’ve never been gladder to say it than I am in talking about Fantasma Nera.

5. Colour Haze, We Are

colour haze we are

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Reviewed Dec. 3.

If you’re saying to yourself, “Ah come on, Colour Haze are always on the list when they put out records,” I have two answers. One, you’re right, and two, if you have a problem with that, blow it out your ass. The Munich forefathers of the European heavy psychedelic underground — yup — marked their 25th anniversary this year, and did so not just by putting out an album, but by putting out We Are, which introduces a full-fledged fourth member to what’s been a three-piece since 1998. Granted, it’s not the first time guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek, bassist Philipp Rasthofer and drummer Manfred Merwald have worked with organist/keyboardist/synthesist Jan Faszbender, but never has the presence of keys been so integral to their work, and never has the dynamic between players shifted in the way it does on tracks like “The Real” and “Life” and “I’m With You,” with keys fleshing out melodies and enriching the bass and guitar. Add to that the Spanish-style guitar on centerpiece “Material Drive” or the operatic flash in the penultimate “Be With Me,” and it’s one more example of one of the best bands on earth refusing to rest on their laurels. Which, as it happens, is why they’re one of the best bands on earth. So hell yes, they’re on all my lists. Fact is my lists are lucky to have them.

4. Blackwater Holylight, Veils of Winter

blackwater holylight veils of winter

Released by RidingEasy Records. Reviewed Sept. 26.

Like nothing else I heard in 2019, Veils of Winter had repeat listenability. It was the album that, most often, when I was choosing something I actually wanted to hear, I went back to time and again. Its dark, moody psychedelic and heavy vibe stands alone among the year’s releases, and is a stylistic milestone that one only hopes other artists will pick up on. Toying with pop melodies on tracks like “Death Realms” and bringing hypnosis and clarity in kind to the subtly traditionalist winding riff of “Moonlit” — would it have been out of place on the first Witchcraft LP? — the Portland, Oregon, five-piece worked on a speedy turnaround and squashed even the significant expectations I had after their self-titled debut (review here) last year. They’ve begun to tour, so I don’t know if another full-length is in the works for 2020, but their craft is enviable in its flow and their songs are shimmering in tone and cohesion alike. Given how bold a step forward Veils of Winter is, I hear nothing in their material to this point to make me think their momentum won’t continue to carry them forward. But, you know, if not, I’d also take about six or seven records just like this one. That’d be fine too. Whatever they want, really.

3. Slomatics, Canyons

Slomatics Canyons

Released by Black Bow Records. Reviewed May 15.

Belfast, Northern Ireland, three-piece Slomatics — guitarists David Marjury and Chris Couzens and drummer/vocalist/synthesist Marty Harvey — finished a narrative trilogy with 2016’s Future Echo Returns (review here), and though the storyline was always vague throughout that and the preceding two offerings, the question of how they would proceed nonetheless hung over Canyons prior to its release. The answer is in the songs themselves. From the sci-fi majesty of lumbering, rolling groove in opener and longest track “Gears of Despair” — oh, they grind — through the mega-stomp of “Telemachus, My Son” and the righteously synth-laden wash that consumes “Mind Fortresses on Theia,” Slomatics bring together concept and execution with a readiness that highlights the fact of their 15th anniversary. They are mature in their approach, yes, but the fact is their approach is so much their own and so given to their particular mode of progression that it almost can’t help but feel fresh. How could something so utterly crushing also feel rejuvenating? As they plod through finale “Organic Caverns II” ending with more waves of synth and tectonic guitar — no bass, remember — they are as restorative as they are punishing, and they stand astride that duality with neither mercy nor pretense. Canyons, whether it’s setting up a new story, building from the old, or doing something completely different, stands on its own.

2. Year of the Cobra, Ash and Dust

year of the cobra ash and dust

Released by Prophecy Productions. Reviewed Oct. 24.

My anticipation for and expectations of Year of the Cobra’s second long-player were high most especially after 2017’s Burn Your Dead EP (review here), which along with the dead, set alight the notion that the Seattle duo of bassist/vocalist Amy Tung Barrysmith and drummer Jon Barrysmith were simply a heavy/doom band. With elements of post-punk, psych wash, minimalist stretches and propulsive gallop, Ash and Dust cast itself out over an aesthetic range that set a new standard not just for Year of the Cobra, but for anyone who’d dare match them at their own game — and that list will grow with time, absolutely. As their first outing through Prophecy Productions, Ash and Dust threw itself into the very melting pot of its own ambition and emerged with songs that didn’t just bring together disparate ideas, but made them flourish and engage and challenge the listener while still proving consistent in tone and underlying groove. For a two-person, two-instrument outfit (not counting voice, though I should), they proved more malleable than many with more than twice the number of hands on deck, and pushed the notion of what heavy rock is and does forward without stopping to look back or ask for permission. They just did it, and maybe Ash and Dust is the aftermath of all that burning.

2019 Album of the Year

1. Monolord, No Comfort

monolord no comfort

Released by Relapse Records. Reviewed Sept. 12.

Look back over the course of this list, and you will find no shortage of bands and releases that surpassed the group in question’s past work. With Gothenburg, Sweden’s Monolord, it wasn’t just about No Comfort — their debut on Relapse, fourth full-length overall — being better than 2017’s Rust (review here), because that was pretty jolly gosh darn enjoyable, but about the band reaching a moment of transcendence to which Rust and all their prior work across 2015’s Vænir (review here) and 2014’s Empress Rising has been leading. With the six tracks of No Comfort, guitarist/vocalist Thomas Jäger, bassist Mika Häkki and drummer Esben Willems not only overcome the influences that launched them — taking full ownership of their sound and defending that claim with the sheer quality of their songwriting — and they not only become as identifiable as those influences themselves, but they overcome themselves. No Comfort means no comfort. Monolord take the simplicity that once fueled their riffing, the willful primitivism of their earliest work, and with songs like “Larvae” and “The Bastard Son” and the closing title-track use it as the foundation it was apparently always intended to be. Monolord have toured plenty and certainly their studio output has shown an increasing complexity from one LP to the next, so progression isn’t unexpected, but the manner in which Monolord have executed that progression has been. Even on “The Last Leaf,” which is arguably the most straightforward fare on the album, one hears it as them rather than the manifestation of the acts that inspired them. The same holds for “Skywards” later on, and for the immersion that takes hold as the mournful “Alone Together” plays into “No Comfort” itself. Monolord take their place among the best bands on the planet, and deliver an Album of the Year for 2019 that, like the absolute best, will have an impact lasting much longer than any period of 12 months might convey.

The Top 50 Albums of 2019: Honorable Mention

You didn’t think we’d stop at 50, did you? Come on. You know me better than that. The fact is that the list itself, humongous as it is, is just the start of the tip of an iceberg attached to a glacier that’s somewhere on an entire planet constructed of ice.

Honorable mentions, you say? Yeah, a few. Here they are in no order whatsoever:

Lord Vicar, Goatess, The Lord Weird Slough Feg, Zone Six, Lykantropi, Earth, White Manna, Atala, Tia Carrera, Merlin, WEEED, Híbrido, Cities of Mars, Stone Machine Electric, Bretus, Blackwolfgoat, The Black Wizards, Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell, Alunah, V, Pale Grey Lore, Leeds Point, Sons of Alpha Centauri, Spidergawd, Bus, Death Hawks, BBF, Vessel of Light, Crypt Trip, The Pilgrim, Uffe Lorenzen, Brant Bjork, Doomstress, Black Lung, Kandodo3, Monkey3, Bask, Horseburner, Zed, Bright Curse, Spillage, Sigils, Papir, Dune Sea, Destroyer of Light, Mastiff, Warp, Centrum, Varego, Lord Dying, Volcano, Saint Karloff, Firebreather, High Reeper, Bible of the Devil, Obsidian Sea, Torche, Motorpsycho, Sunn O))), Deadbird, Russian Circles, El Supremo, Pyramidal, Holy Serpent, Elizabeth Colour Wheel, Demon Head, Red Beard Wall, Onhou, Kamchatka, Iguana, Arrowhead, The Whims of the Great Magnet, Serial Hawk, Scissorfight, Monte Luna, Lingua Ignota, Valborg, Sageness, Ruff Majik, The Giraffes, High Fighter, Comacozer, Burning Gloom, Swan Valley Heights, Mark Deutrom, Cable, AVER, Superlynx, The Munsens, No Man’s Valley, Old Mexico, Skraeckoedlan, Godsleep, Øresund Space Collective Meets Black Moon Circle.

Seems cruel to leave it to you to sort through those, but I’m tempted to do just that. You might notice some bigger names there in bands like Earth, Russian Circles, Torche and Sunn O))). Nothing against those bands, but I think we’re seeing a moment where a different group of artists are taking point in terms of innovating heavy styles across an entire swath of microgenres. Either way it’s not a slight that something is here instead of above. And of course, there are plenty of up and coming groups here as well, with Ruff Majik, Elizabeth Colour Wheel — who I’m sure would be a top 30 if I knew the record better than I do — Pale Grey Lore, Monte Luna, Papir, Destroyer of Light, The Munsens, No Man’s Valley, Skraeckoedlan, and so on, but hell’s bells, there’s already a list of 50 and I’m only one man. How high is the list supposed to go and still be a list?

Bottom line: Music is as endless as space and has as much beauty in it for those willing to hear. Do more digging.

The Top 20 Debut Albums of 2019

green lung woodland rites

1. Green Lung, Woodland Rites
2. Yatra, Death Ritual
3. Howling Giant, The Space Between Worlds
4. Thunderbird Divine, Magnasonic
5. SÂVER, They Came with Sunlight
6. Lightning Born, Lightning Born
7. Elizabeth Colour Wheel, Nocebo
8. The Pilgrim, Walking into the Forest
9. Sigils, You Build the Altar You Lit the Leaves
10. E-L-R, Maenad
11. Hey Zeus, X
12. Bellrope, You Must Relax
13. Asthma Castle, Mount Crushmore
14. Thronehammer, Usurper of Oaken Throne
15. Inner Altar, Vol. III
16. Infinity Forms of Yellow Remember, Infinity Forms of Yellow Remember
17. Hippie Death Cult, 111
18. Faerie Ring, The Clearing
19. Gone Cosmic, Sideways in Time
20. Haze Mage, Chronicles

Honorable Mention: Warp, Pelegrin, Lucy in Blue, Volcano, The Sabbathian, Red Eye Tales, Dune Sea, Dury Dava, Pharlee, Giant Dwarf, Ghost:Hello, Surya, Workshed, Children of the Sün, Burning Gloom, Temple of the Fuzz Witch.

Notes: As ever, I consider a band’s debut album something unique and separate from everything else they’ll ever do, and so worthy of highlighting in its own category. It’s a different standard in my mind, one that takes into account what a group might accomplish going forward as well as what they do on the record itself. Plus, putting out an album is hard. Getting two, three, four, five or more people to agree on anything is an accomplishment. Making a cohesive album? Come on. So yes. We see some crossover from the main list above, but I want to draw attention to Howling Giant, Thunderbird Divine and SÂVER particularly here. There’s a swath of genres represented and I feel like a couple of these releases — Sigils, Bellrope, Thronehammer, Inner Altar, Faerie Ring, Infinity Forms of Yellow Remember — didn’t get their due attention. It’s a busy year, I get it. But if you’re skimming through looking for stuff to check out, DON’T IGNORE THIS LIST. Aside from whatever line about the best of tomorrow you want to trot out, there’s important work being done by these acts today. As somebody who’s constantly behind the times, I urge you not to

The Top 20 Short Releases of 2019

geezer spiral fires

1. Geezer, Spiral Fires
2. Ufomammut, XX
3. All Them Witches, 1×1
4. Mount Saturn, Mount Saturn
5. Dopelord, Weedpecker, Major Kong & Spaceslug, 4-Way Split
6. Horehound, Weight
7. Molasses, Mourning Haze
8. Saint Karloff & Devil’s Witches, Split
9. Here Lies Man, No Ground to Walk Upon
10. The Golden Grass, 100 Arrows
11. Mount Atlas, Mistress
12. Midas, Solid Gold Heavy Metal
13. Glory in the Shadows, Glory in the Shadows
14. Hot Breath, Hot Breath
15. Crystal Spiders, Demo
16. Red Wizard, Ogami
17. Thermic Boogie, Fracture
18. Pinto Graham, Dos
19. High Priest, Sanctum
20. Set Fire, Traya
21. Seedium, Awake

Honorable Mention: Love Gang & Smokey Mirror Split, Forebode, Land Mammal, Very Paranoia, Plague of Carcosa, Daal Dazed, Komodor, Mourn the Light & Oxblood Forge Split, High on Fire, Mount Soma.

Notes: This is probably the least complete of the lists, because it’s the hardest category for me to keep up with. EPs, singles, demos, splits and basically anything else that isn’t an album, all lumped together. Still, I stand by the picks here, and I don’t think anyone who takes on any of them will regret doing so, whether it’s All Them Witches’ surprisingly weighted first single as a trio, Mount Saturn’s debut release, or Geezer’s cosmic jams. Felt a little like cheating putting Ufomammut on there, since technically XX wasn’t new material so much as reworked stuff captured live, but if you want to call me out on it, my own listening habits also factor in, and I’ve spent plenty of time with those reimagined tracks. But anyway, I’m sure there’s a ton of stuff that hasn’t been included here, so please feel free to let me know in the comments and I’ll work accordingly.

Postwax

I haven’t felt comfortable with the idea of writing about it editorially, since I’ve been involved in discussions about it since before it came together and since I did the liner notes for each of the six releases (plus one to come), but I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge the incredible work done on the Postwax vinyl subscription series by Blues Funeral Recordings. Label head Jadd Shickler and design specialist Peder Bergstrand (also of Lowrider) put together six offerings that came out in the span of this year and when you hold the LPs in your hand, you can feel the passion that went into making them, from the artists in question to those curating the series in the first place. I hear tell there’s going to be a Postwax Year Two, and I don’t know if I’ll be involved or not, but I’m proud of my miniscule part in the work that went into making these and wanted to bring them to your particular attention. They are something special for those who got to partake:

  • Elder, The Gold and Silver Sessions
  • Daxma, Ruins Upon Ruins
  • Besvärjelsen, Frost
  • Big Scenic Nowhere, Dying on the Mountain
  • Domkraft, Slow Fidelity
  • Lowrider, Refractions

And while we’re talking about projects I was proud to be involved with, I also did liner notes for Acrimony’s The Chronicles of Wode box set from Burning World Records and was honored to do so. Thanks to any and everyone in question for having me involved and dealing with me blowing past deadlines one after the next. It is humbling.

Looking Ahead to 2020

A few names and nothing more about what definitely is and/or might be in the works for next year. Woefully incomplete, so feel free to add to it:

1000mods, Wolves in the Throne Room, Deathwhite, Mondo Drag, Drug Cult, Ocean Chief, Soldati, Sergio Ch., Mitochondrial Sun, Geezer, Mirror Queen, Mondo Generator, The Otolith, Asteroid, Yatra, Vestal Claret, Farer, Ryte, Shadow Witch, Six Organs of Admittance, Naxatras, Wolftooth, Snail, Elder, Pale Divine, Grey Skies Fallen, Ruby the Hatchet, Yuri Gagarin, Sasquatch, Godthrymm, Wo Fat, Red Mesa, CB3, Onsegen Ensemble, Insect Ark, Acid Mammoth, Ritual King, Ulls, Om.

Thank You

Thank you for reading, and please, if you have a thought or something you want to share in the comments, please remember to be kind to each other. We are all human beings behind our phones and keyboards, and while we’ll disagree, often in some ways and some cases, a basic level of respect is always appreciated. At least by me.

I am not so deluded as to think anyone might still be reading, but I want it on record how much I appreciate you being a part of this site and a part of my experience in making it. I’ve been ruminating all year since marking the 10th anniversary back in January about how much The Obelisk has become a part of who I am, and it’s utterly essential to my every day. The way I continue to think about it — and myself, as it happens — is a work in progress, and that would not be possible without you. One more time. Thank you. Always. Always thank you. Thank you.

More to come.

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Friday Full-Length: Kings Destroy, And the Rest Will Surely Perish

Posted in Bootleg Theater on December 20th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Invariably, the narrative I put to any Kings Destroy release at this point is one of progression, of learning from what they’ve done in the past and pushing themselves to new places in songwriting and style. I’m a fan of the band as artists and as people, but this narrative has the advantage of being true. No two Kings Destroy albums sound the same, which is even more remarkable when you consider the first three of them had the same producer in Sanford Parker (he of Buried at Sea, Corrections House, War Crime Recordings and production work for YOB, the entire city of Chicago, and so on). For a band to have started out with this kind of ambition wouldn’t necessarily be strange. Acts come along all the time who say they want to grow and change over time. Those who manifest it as palpably as the Brooklynite five-piece have since the 2010 arrival of their first single, Old Yeller/Medusa (review here), are significantly more rare. For a thankfully short period of time, this site had a label wing called The Maple ForumKings Destroy‘s eight-track/44-minute debut full-length, And the Rest Will Surely Perish, was one of the very few releases that came out under that banner.

At the time, the band was comprised of vocalist Steve Murphy, guitarists Carl Porcaro and Chris Skowronski, bassist Ed Bocchino and drummer Rob Sefcik. They’d played together in various guises over the years, but PorcaroSkowronski and Murphy were probably most known for their contributions to New York hardcore in bands like Killing Time and Uppercut, while Sefcik served in Electric Frankenstein and the sludgy Begotten. I have no problem admitting my ignorance when it comes to the history and folklore of NYHC. It’s just not my scene. But when Kings Destroy reached out about that initial 7″ and followed it with And the Rest Will Surely Perish, it seemed clear to me their hearts were in what they were doing, and the songs and groove were there. I was on board.

It’s been a while since I’ve put the record on. Earlier this year, they released their fourth LP in Fantasma Nera (review here) on Svart Records, and that’s taken precedence. What stands out from And the Rest Will Surely Perish now is the tone, and the level of detail. I visited the studio in Hoboken, briefly, while they were working on the album, and if I knew then what I know today about a recording process, I might ask the good Mr. Parker and the guitarists how the hell they managed to conjure that tone. In “Planet XXY” it has all the crunch and impact of the best of New York noise rock, but thickened all the more by Bocchino‘s basslines, comes across as fluid in a rolling groove set forth by Sefcik‘s drums. The opening salvo of “The Mountie,”kings destroy and the rest will surely perish “Dusty Mummy” and “The Whittler” boasts some of the best and most memorable songcraft on the album, but listening back, the level of detail gives little hints at the progression of sound the band would soon enough undertake. Vocal layering in “Dusty Mummy,” the echoing swirl of guitar late in “The Mountie,” a quick flourish of harmony in the last lines of “The Whittler”; amid the forward-facing riffs and grooves and the overarching doomed stylization, these subtleties and others that emerge throughout side B in the post-Clutch swagger  at the start of “Stung” or the tempo shifts in “Two Tons” give And the Rest Will Surely Perish an identity that immediately stands it apart from being a work playing to genre. Right from the start, Kings Destroy never quite fit as just being a doom band — here’s an interesting question as a nonsequitor: what is New York doom? ask Eternal Black — whatever aspects of doom might’ve been at play. They have not grown easier to categorize over the subsequent nine years.

That debut single is revisited on And the Rest Will Surely Perish as Bocchino‘s punch-in-the-gut bassline begins “Medusa” at the start of the tracklisting’s B side, which languishes purposefully in its first half only to kick into a more active riff in its second, lulling the listener into a momentary trance with effects (another detail I’d forgotten) and before one or the other of the guitars snaps back to reality. The tension in that track, though I think even the band themselves would probably call it primitive if you could force them to sit and listen to it, was pretty emblematic of where Kings Destroy were coming from at the time. While the players involved had explored different styles together in other bands, there was a sense in “Medusa” — and likewise “Old Yeller,” positioned here as the closer — that Kings Destroy‘s natural impulse was to break out, to play faster, to give some release to the tension of the songs that they felt as much as they wanted the listener to feel it. Realization of that came in a live setting, where their inherent New York-style confrontationalism was more brought to bear.

Considering I had a (slight, tiny, minimal, not-really) hand in releasing it on CD in the first place — vinyl followed on the also-now-defunct Hydro-Phonic Records, who were so ahead of the deluxe-limited-LPs game that’s it’s sad they never got their due — it would feel self-serving to call And the Rest Will Surely Perish my favorite Kings Destroy album. Anyhow, my favorite KD record is always the next one. But no question these songs, which I hear in my head more as the live versions than the studio when I think of them, hold a special place in my heart, as does the band itself. Thinking of the fact that it will be a full 10 years since it came out next year, I can only hope there’s some kind of reissue in the works to get it back in print, which is precisely where it deserves to be.

As we round out 2019 and this decade and inherently reflect on the year and years that have been, I consider myself fortunate to have music and people like this in my life. Writing about this album — something I did plenty of at the time, but in more of a promotional context, which I enjoyed far less and is why I stopped the label — was my own little Xmas present to myself, but as always, I hope you enjoy too.

Thanks for reading.

Would you believe the raw nerve today had in only being Friday? What the hell? Some people. Or days. Pretty ballsy, in any case.

Alarm went off this morning at 4, as usual, and I shut it off and went back to sleep for another hour and 45 minutes, because, really, screw it. The Patient Mrs. went out last night to see the new Star Wars with my family, who are all big fans — I’m the black-sheep Trekkie contrarian of the family, but they’re still supportive — and I stayed home with the (then-sleeping) Pecan, ate dinner and read a book until I started to fall asleep on the couch. I read Lincoln in the Bardo last week. It made me want to write, which George Saunders always does. That’s a dangerous impulse to ignite for me. Nothing good comes of it, and I don’t just mean my lousy first drafts.

The week prior was a week. I don’t know. The Patient Mrs. said earlier this morning that it went fast. I’m not sure I agree 100 percent, but it went like weeks go. I spent a goodly portion thinking about my favorite albums of the year, and exactly none of it actually getting a post ready to list them. Whoops. That should make for a few interesting mornings coming up, but basically my plan is to put it all together between this afternoon and Tuesday, post it on Tuesday — yeah, I know it’s Xmas Eve; I don’t care — and then sit tight over the holiday, put up a couple odds and ends the rest of next week and then hit the year-end poll(s) the week after as well as bang out a Quarterly Review, though I might honestly delay that to start on Jan. 6, depending on how much is going on otherwise. I’ll know by the middle of next week how it’s going to go.

Either way, as this will be my last opportunity to say so before the actual thing, I hope you have an enjoyable and safe holiday. I’ve made my feelings on Xmas known, and I stand by them, but if you can get a couple quiet minutes to yourself when/if you need them, eat a good meal and see family, you could surely do worse. I don’t know. Maybe we’ll all get jetskis this year. I don’t want a jetski, but you know what I mean. I’m looking forward to giving The Pecan his first Mr. Potato Head and a stuffed Pete the Cat and a few other odds and ends.

But first, the weekend of putting together the Best of 2019 list. I’ll start with 30 and go from there. There’s a lot this year, but I guess that’s true every year, and when the list goes up, I’m almost always disappointed. It never looks as big on the page as the effort that goes into making it. That’s just the bottom line. I know that some people appreciate it and I’m deeply grateful for that — it’s why I do it, frankly — but woof, what a pain in the ass, from the pre-making fretting about it, to the actual doing, to the inherent “you forgot Whatever Band I Like Or Am In!” responses that always come through. Yeah. We’ll get it done though. Got a video premiere going up Monday, but then nothing else until the list goes up on Tuesday.

Alright. Great and safe weekend. Careful out there if the roads are icy.

FRM: Forum, Radio, Merch at MiBK.

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Insect Ark Announce Feb. 28 Release for The Vanishing; Stream “Tectonic”

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 18th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

insect ark

Maybe by the time Dana Schecter gets a MacArthur Genius Grant she’ll get her due in the heavy underground. I have to think that the tour she and seemingly-permanent-ish Insect Ark drummer Andy “Super-Nice Dude” Patterson undertook this Fall alongside Oranssi Pazuzu couldn’t have hurt their cause, at least not if the social media crowd shots I saw were anything to go by. The righteously-in-its-own-dimension 2018 offering, Marrow Hymns (discussed here), will get a follow-up in 2020’s The Vanishing, which is due out Feb. 28, and the label and two-piece are streaming the six-minute opening track “Tectonic” from the LP now, its atmosphere recalling dark post-rock while pushing through chamber echo and a weighted atmosphere manifested by the tones and slow-rolling drums. TLDR? I dig. Bodes well. I don’t think I’m cool enough to premiere a song from it, but golly I’d love to if such a thing were possible.

Expand your brain thusly:

insect ark the vanishing

INSECT ARK: Instrumental Psychedelic Doom Duo Completes Work On New Album, The Vanishing, Set For Release February 28th Through Profound Lore Records; New Track Streaming

INSECT ARK — currently made up of founder Dana Schechter (Swans) and Andy Patterson (ex SubRosa) — have been crafting uncomfortable soundscapes that feel both intimate and icy cold since 2011. Nightmarish horror film-like visions, outer space travel, and gritty noir textures were explored in their previous offerings — the much-praised Portal / Well (2015) and Marrow Hymns (2018) — but now, something far greater is coming. Prepare for The Vanishing.

Set for release next year via Profound Lore Records, the Colin Marston-engineered opus serves as INSECT ARK’s third, and most harrowing and punishing record to date. Though many of its segments veer off into mind-expanding outer realms, the interplay between the bass, lap steel guitar, synths, and drums represent a strong and defiant collection of songs that demand your exclusive attention forcefully. It’s heavier, darker, and denser than anything INSECT ARK has ever done, without losing any of the writing characteristics that have become synonymous with their personality, like the persistent coating of eerie psychedelia, the alien feel of the melodies, or the ominous dread they often exhale.

“The album’s title refers to a recurring daydream I had of disappearing completely – floating out to sea alone, and never being found,” offers Schechter of the themes driving the record. “On a much bigger level, it’s about the impermanence of life itself, trying to retain perspective of how small we really are.”

INSECT ARK’s The Vanishing will be released worldwide on CD, LP, and digital formats February 28th, 2020 with preorders to be unveiled next month.

The Vanishing Track Listing:
1. Tectonic
2. Three Gates
3. Philae
4. Danube
5. Swollen Sun
6. The Vanishing

A New York City-based multi-instrumentalist known for her collaborations with Swans (for whom she is now part of the main touring lineup), Angels Of Light, Gnaw, Zeal & Ardor, Wrekmeister Harmonies, and Årabrot, as well as her own projects Bee And Flower and Gifthorse, Dana Schechter is now joined by former SubRosa drummer Andy Patterson, also known for his bands DØNE, the Otolith, INVADRS, and as owner/operator of Salt Lake City recording studio The Boar’s Nest. This partnership appears to have completely nailed the true essence of INSECT ARK. After a quick first meeting, within a period of two short months, Schechter and Patterson finished preparing all the new songs for The Vanishing, preceded by a full North American tour with Oranssi Pazuzu to get the new songs up to speed.

The intensity, determination, and dedication poured into the album is clearly audible, captured by the wizardry of engineer Colin Marston (Dysrhythmia, Krallice, Behold The Arctopus). The sound was steered in a visceral, organic direction; you feel enclosed within a living, pulsating, slithering organism. The album artwork, a stunning painting by French artist Sonia Merah, is in and of itself a work of art, but when paired with the sounds of The Vanishing, it becomes a truly haunting and mesmerizing vision of some terribly twisted alternate reality.

“Making music takes a lot out of me,” Schechter admits, and it’s hard not to understand why after listening to the tour de force that is INSECT ARK’s new album. “To pull it out of my heart and put it into the world can be emotionally difficult, since it comes from a complex place with so many facets like pain, belief, hope, anger, joy.”

http://www.insectark.com
http://www.facebook.com/InsectArk
http://www.instagram.com/insectark/
http://www.insectark.bandcamp.com
http://www.profoundlorerecords.com
http://www.facebook.com/profoundlorerecords
http://www.profoundlorerecords.bandcamp.com

Insect Ark, “Tectonic”

Insect Ark, Marrow Hymns (2018)

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Tombs Sign to Season of Mist; New LP Monarchy of Shadows Available to Preorder; Title-Track Streaming

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 12th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

tombs

Quite a metallic CV that Brooklyn’s Tombs have put together over the course of the last decade plus, having worked first with Relapse, then Metal Blade and now Season of Mist for their latest long-player, Monarchy of Shadows. The new record is out Feb. 28 and up for preorder now with the title-track streaming at the bottom of the post — that’s the crucial info here, though the artwork, below, is also pretty crucial as far as I’m concerned — and as Tombs have always resided between worlds stylistically in terms of their aggro roots — frontman Mike Hill‘s background in hardcore is well documented — and their thrust of raw black metal melded together with more spacious atmospheres than the genre’s if-it-doesn’t-sound-shitty-it-don’t-count nonsensical purist ethic might allow.

So maybe too much this for one crowd, too much that for another, but just right to actually be an interesting band, which I think is why the press has been all over them since their first album and why RelapseMetal Blade and Season of Mist have all taken a shot at giving them a push. For Tombs‘ part, they’ve never stopped pushing themselves creatively and on the level of sheer intensity of their craft and output, and hell, if you don’t admire them for anything else, admire them for that, because it’s a pretty high standard to live up to at this point.

That’s my two cents. I haven’t heard the whole album yet, but I will, and though my general feeling is that Tombs needs coverage from me like they need a hole in the head, I’ll probably try to give a crack at a proper album review as well. Nothing like a challenge sometimes.

Anyway, here’s PR wire info on the record:

Tombs Monarchy of Shadows

TOMBS Sign to Season of Mist, Reveal New Song and Details of Forthcoming Release

Season of Mist are proud to announce the signing of Brooklyn, NY metal formation TOMBS! The band will make their official debut to the label on February 28 with the release of their brand new EP, ‘Monarchy of Shadows.’ The eponymous first single from the offering can be heard at THIS LOCATION.

TOMBS mastermind Mike Hill comments: “I’ve been a huge fan of Season of Mist for years, so I feel honored for TOMBS to be joining the label. The rest of the guys share the same sentiments. ‘Monarchy of Shadows’ is a full on display of the new era of the band. Ferocious, brutal, but with an intense introspection. This is the best work that we’ve done to date.”

‘Monarchy of Shadows’ can be pre-ordered HERE.

Studio: Frightbox Recording (Passaic, NJ, U.S.A.)
Producer/Sound Engineer/Mixing Studio Engineer: Bobby Torres
Mastering studio engineer: Alan Douches @ West West Side Music

The cover artwork for ‘Monarchy of Shadows,’ which was created by Valnoir, can be found here along with the tracklist.

Tracklist
1. Monarchy of Shadows (07:32)
2. Once Falls the Guillotine (04:44)
3. Necro Alchemy (05:47)
4. Man Behind the Sun (06:02)
5. The Dark Rift (05:58)
6. Path of Totality (Midnight Sun) (04:44)
Total: 0:34:47

Line-Up:
Mike Hill – guitar / vocals
Justin Spaeth – drums /electronics
Drew Murphy – bass / vocals
Matt Medieiros – guitar / vocals

Guest Musicians:
Mike Goncalves – guest vocals on “Path of Totality (Midnight Sun)”
Ben Karas – strings on “The Dark Rift”
Terence Hannum – synth on “Monarchy of Shadows”

https://www.facebook.com/TombsBklyn
https://www.instagram.com/tombscult
https://www.youtube.com/tombscult
https://www.facebook.com/seasonofmistofficial
http://www.season-of-mist.com/

Tombs, “Monarchy of Shadows”

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Live Review: Magnetic Eye Records Day of Doom in Brooklyn, 11.02.19

Posted in Reviews on November 2nd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

magnetic eye records day of doom poster

Before the Show

Well, don’t tell anybody, but the dude sitting at the end of the bar DJ’ing is me. Actually, come to think of it, I’m pretty sure I don’t care if you tell anybody. At this point, I know most of the seven or eight people in this room right now. But I made a playlist, edited it together so it all plays as one track, and it’s three hours long — like the old podcasts, including a really long song or two along the way — but that’s going, so as far as I’m concerned, sitting here on my laptop is why they asked me to come early. The rest is kind of just waiting around, so at least this way I can look like I’m doing something.

I’ve been kicking around the idea of writing the review while the show is happening — I’m not committing to posting any of it live, since I’ve never done photos on this machine before when I’m actually in a hurry — but it’s 15-minute breaks between bands, DAY OF DOOM SCHEDULEso it’s going to depend on how I can time it either way. The important thing? That I stress out about it. Obviously.

And oh yeah, I included Earthride on my playlist specifically with the Saint Vitus Bar in mind, because they often play them between bands. My nod to the room. No one cares, but I wouldn’t expect otherwise, so there it is.

This is the Magnetic Eye Records Day of Doom, a nine-band label showcase that will go from at least now — coming on 1:30 — to 10:30 tonight, so yes, a full day of doom, as it were. At very least, if today had a quota of heavy, I suspect it’ll be filled by the end of it and then some.

But we enter now the sit-tight portion of the afternoon, so that’s my plan. Will check in with more either during or after it’s all over.

During the Show

These Beasts

these beasts (photo by jj koczan)

One would not accuse Magnetic Eye Records of easing into the day with These Beasts. Rather, the Chicago three-piece are at this very moment bludgeoning a Vitus Bar live room with an ultra-aggro, thickened noise rock that’s only sense of letting up is in letting up on the letup. By which I mean there is none. It’s somewhat awkward to be sitting here while they’re playing and admit I don’t know their self-titled LP, released earlier this year, but they’re showing me the error of my ways in pummeling fashion. Can hear punk roots coming through amid the intertwining screams and shouts, but there’s a definite heft to the tone and some vocal echo adds atmosphere to go with all that heads-down force. But there’s plenty of that too and it’s the sheer physicality of what they’re playing that’s letting them pull in such an early crowd. To wit, I’m one of like three people in the back bar right now and I’m about to head back in. Clearly they’re doing something right in there.

Leather Lung

Leather Lung (Photo by JJ Koczan)

It’s been weeks, not months, not years — more than days, though — since I last saw Boston’s Leather Lung. Last time? Dudes brought stoner-sludge chicanery to Ode to Doom in Manhattan (review here). This time? The location has changed, but the mission not so much. Vocalist Mike Vickers has had the cast taken off his arm and judging by his onstage mosh-shuffle, all seems to be in good working order, so that’s my official medical checkup, but beyond that, they’re bringing a groove that’s plenty fresh in my memory; sludge played from the heart via the crotch that makes no bones about where it’s coming from — Boston — and no bones about its affection for all manner of inebriating. Their groove has this toughguy edge to it that I can’t quite put my finger on and couldn’t last time either, but I don’t think these dudes want to fight so much as they want to get fucked up and play riffs. Like I said, the mission hasn’t changed much since I last saw them. I’ll check back on them in a bit and hope for no more busted limbs from them or anyone else in attendance, for that matter. “It’s all fun and games, until,” and so on.

High Priest

High Priest (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Chicago’s High Priest issued their Sanctum EP (review here) earlier this year and it was kind of a sleeper, but they were high (pun like 25 percent intended) among my list of anticipated acts for the day. Nothing too complex, but they roll out big-time riffs and dig into some hazy vibes and especially after the nasty nasty nastiness that was These Beasts and Leather Lung back to back, they’re a chance to show off some of the stylistic breadth on Magnetic Eye‘s roster. The kind of label as likely to redux Pink Floyd as Helmet, you know. They’d be a fitting complement to a tour with Elephant Tree, if we’re doing label pairings, but I guess probably there needs to be an album out before one starts nailing down dates. We’re in November now, so kind of fair to look back on some of the year’s highlights, and seeing High Priest live for the first time is a reminder of just how much I dug those tunes this past Spring. I’m apparently learning stuff all over the place today. Fun and educational! They also finished by dissolving into a total wash of noise that was affecting and psychedelic in kind. A pleasure to watch. Can’t say it plainer than that.

Caustic Casanova

Caustic Casanova (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Of the nine bands on this bill, I’m pretty sure Caustic Casanova win the prize for having the most recent release. Their new record, God How I Envy the Deaf, came out on Oct. 18 as their first through Magnetic Eye and they’re playing Vitus Bar as a precursor to hitting the road on the next of their seemingly endless string of tours. This is also the first time I’m seeing them as the four-piece of drummer/vocalist Stefanie Zaenker, bassist/vocalist Francis Beringer, and guitarists Andrew Yonki and Jake Kimberley, the last of whom is a new recruit. For a band on the road as much as they are, I have to imagine finding someone to mesh with wasn’t easy — Caustic Casanova‘s particular take on melodic heavy rock is a big-time beneficiary of the chemistry they’ve built through touring — but they did it, and the match extends to onstage energy, to be sure. How many bands could cover “Wicked World” and make it sound believable? Caustic Casanova played it like they wrote it, and their original material was no less vital. I’ll make it easy: this is a band you should see. They make it even easier by touring their collective ass off, but even if they didn’t, they’d be worth the effort of showing up when possible. Magnetic Eye made a good-ass pickup when they signed them.

Ghastly Sound

Ghastly Sound (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Rivaling Caustic Casanova in the running for most-recent-outing is Vermont trio Ghastly Sound, whose debut full-length, Have a Nice Day, dropped like a sarcastic anvil in September. This was my first time seeing the three-piece, but it’s worth noting they primo position on the bill they’ve received, and I’ll admit that because of that alone, my expectations were high before they went on. Is this the part where I say the band slaughtered those expectations outright, blah blah blah dominance, blah blah blah heavy band destroys minds reaps souls and all the rest? Well, my mind feels pretty destroyed and if I ever had a soul — nope — it’s long gone, but yeah, they delivered in a big spot, taking crossover-style hardcore and leaving the guitar at home, adding melody through vocal effects and reviving a bit of the aggression from earlier in the day. The way they were set up on the Saint Vitus Bar stage made me think there was a guitarist somewhere missing in the building, but nope, and it turned out they didn’t need one, though one hesitates to say such things on a day that has featured thus far and will continue to feature so much choice riffing. A little — or a lot, as in this case — of rumble goes a long way. Also with the shouting and the being really loud. No question the pressure was on, and I know their record was a while in coming, but if I didn’t know they’d just released their debut, I’d say they’d been around much longer.

Horsehunter

Horsehunter (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Okay. Putting together a nine-band bill? Pretty impressive. Doing so and bringing in bands from the UK and Europe? Even more impressive. Doing so and bringing a band from Australia? And that band is Horsehunter? Who I don’t think are really even together at this point? Yeah, that’s some next level shit. The Aus megasludge four-piece put out their self-titled second album (discussed here) and swansong earlier this year — like, earlier than September — and had already been busted up for two years. Should they be broken up? No, they should not. Even if one could manage to put aside the context of seeing them play even just for 45 minutes as being a total once-in-a-lifetime experience, a group of the Melbourne four-piece’s destructive potential should continue to exist. If they were the only band playing today, it would still be a Day of Doom, and in volume and viscosity alike, they’re on a plane of their own amid this lineup. I don’t know what the future might hold for them, as members have already moved onto different projects, but I have to think that if a band is willing to get together and travel to the other side of the planet to play essentially a one-off gig, they’d have to feel motivated to maybe follow that up with something? Or maybe this would be a pinnacle anyway? I don’t know. Either way, it’s clearly a special moment for all involved parties — those in attendance, those playing, and the Magnetic Eye crew, who believed in them enough to release the record even though they were done — and I’m lucky to have been here for it. Biggest big rock finish of the day as well, so bonus points there, as if they needed them.

Domkraft

Domkraft (Photo by JJ Koczan)

This is my second time seeing Sweden’s Domkraft after being fortunate enough to catch them about 13 months ago in Oslo, Norway, at Høstsabbat (review here). They were at that point heralding the release of their second album, Flood (review here), and as they got ready to go on just now I thought back fondly to the positive impression they made that day, blending noise rock, sludge and an almost post-metallic kind of ambience. That’s a fun little narrative, right? Sure it is. Lost in that, however, is the rhythmic undulation of that nod, but man, when they decide to lock that in — and they don’t always, because they’re not a do-one-thing kind of band — they are hypnotic. They had their work cut out for them in following Horsehunter, as anyone would, but guitarist Martin Widholm, bassist/vocalist Martin Wegeland and drummer Anders Dahlgren captured a feeling of spaciousness that seemed to take all the crush of the mighty performance before them and taffy-pull it into a headier, spacier reach, still deeply weighted, still giving that feeling of surrounding you while you’re standing there in front of it, but at the same time extending outward beyond you, beyond the room — maybe just beyond, period. They’ve been to the States before, having played Psycho Las Vegas, and I guess you could count the show they did last night in Jersey with Solace too, but they feel like a band who are really stepping into themselves, and the identity they’re finding as a part of that process suits them. I’m already looking forward to their next record, and far be it from me to tell you how to live your life, but you probably should be too.

Summoner

Summoner (Photo by JJ Koczan)

If you know anything about Magnetic Eye Records, or label founder Mike Vitali (also Black Electric, Ironweed, ex-Greatdayforup, etc.), it’s probably that the label frickin’ loves Boston’s Summoner. I’ve seen them live a handful of times over the years, certainly dug the crap out of 2017’s Beyond the Realms of Light (review here) as I have their material since their days a decade ago operating as Riff Cannon — a name they quickly outgrew and were smart enough to realize it, even though it was a cool moniker to have — and it’s hard to argue. I knew accordingly what to expect going into their set, at least to a degree, but with the recent change that brought Worshipper‘s Dave Jarvis to the lineup on drums — I’m not sure if it’s a permanent or temporary thing; dude was sitting next to me like 15 minutes ago, I should’ve asked — there was an added sense of intrigue to seeing them for what was the first time in a while anyway. However, part of knowing what Summoner do is knowing they do it pro-shop, and as their slot found them positioned right before Elephant Tree at the end of the show, they had an occasion to rise to and they rose to it accordingly, Jarvis sliding right in alongside bassist/vocalist Chris Johnson and guitarists A.J. Peters and Joe Richner, on familiar material while still bringing some of his own swing to it. You won’t hear me disparage the work of Summoner as they were, but if they’re indeed pressing on in this configuration, they’ll be just fine. When Johnson stops smiling on stage, I’ll worry. Didn’t happen at Day of Doom, even after the strap of his bass broke and he had to finish the song with it resting on his knee. That was like two songs in, maybe? No loss of momentum. Pro-shop, front to back.

Elephant Tree

Elephant Tree (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Elephant Tree‘s second full-length, which will actually be released by Holy Roar Records at least in the UK — I admit there might be some regional deal worked out with Magnetic Eye that I don’t know about — is reportedly in the mastering stage. At least, that’s what they told me and I’m not sure what would be their motive for lying about it. Last I heard were a couple rough mixes, but that was a while ago, and I’m all-the-way-serious when I tell you that I can’t think of another record that’s been announced for 2020 that I’m anticipating more. The Londoners’ 2016 self-titled debut (review here) has lost none of its appeal for the subsequent three years — just ask Sister Rainbow, who flew from the UK for this show basically just to see them for what I understand is at least the 48th time — and with the progression I heard evident in their performance (again) at Høstsabbat 2018 (review here) and those rough versions, yeah, I feel justified in my high hopes. It wouldn’t have made sense for them to come to Brooklyn and play only new stuff, but as noted, even the cuts from their self-titled were welcome. The fact that even after such a full show they were given a complete hour for their set should tell you something, and basically it should tell you they’re a band just waiting for your loyalty. See them 49 times? Well, I’m up to at least three now and I feel like that’s barely worth calling a start. Also of note, they’re a four-piece now, with John Slattery on guitar and keys and vocals joining the trio of guitarist/vocalist Jack Townley, bassist/vocalist Peter Holland (of the green strings) and drummer Sam Hart, so that’s all the more of an occasion for their primo stage banter. They’ve just hit into “Aphotic Blues,” if you’ll excuse me… Yeah, that’s an earplugs-out moment not to be missed. And to have them then follow it by bringing album-engineer/multi-instrumentalist/vocalist/he’s-kinda-in-the-band-but-not-really-anymore-except-I-guess-sometimes-like-tonight Riley “The Wizard” MacIntyre on stage first to scream like mad, then to take over Townley‘s guitar for “Wither” only highlighted how incredible this day has been. What a trip. It’s not over. I mean, it’s mostly over, but they’ve got about 10 minutes left, so I’m going to stow the computer and get back to what’s important and get up front for the end, which is where it feels like I should be.

After the Show

Just past 12:30AM. I left the Saint Vitus Bar at I guess around 10:45PM and got back here a little bit ago, cursing the name of the tech giant whose mappery failed yet again to take into account Lincoln Tunnel traffic in its calculations. Next time, I take the FDR unless it’s visibly on fire.

Elephant Tree finished with their slowed-down take on Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid,” which given the Brooklyn setting found Holland’s gruffer vocal reminding all the more of Peter Steele from Type O Negative (green strings may have been a factor there as well), and followed that with a new song called “Bird,” the harmonies of which are particularly gorgeous and lush seeming. Mike Vitali Magnetic Eye Records (Photo by JJ Koczan)I can’t wait to hear that album.

Basically I’m keying down from the show, and there was a lot of show to key up. Kind of striking how even the bands whose sounds had common elements were able to stand themselves apart. That was true the whole time. And I stayed the whole time. And I wound up running the playlist the whole time as well, at least until Elephant Tree were done. So I guess that’s a thing. I DJed the show. Wasn’t planned, but I was plugged in and using my laptop anyway, so there you have it. I dug the tunes, anyway. Hopefully I wasn’t the only one.

Thanks to Mike Vitali and to Jadd Shickler for having me on board for that and for putting the thing together generally. This was a pretty astounding feat when it comes to coordination, and those efforts on their behalf were deeply appreciated. Vitali got on stage before Horsehunter went on to thank everybody and it was plain to see it was an emotional night for him as well. It would have to be, frankly.

Thanks to the bands, to everyone who said hi and/or nice things, and thanks to you for reading. Most of all, thanks to The Patient Mrs., who made my being there possible, and who makes pretty much everything that’s possible possible.

Now off to bed.

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Clouds Taste Satanic Post “Second Sight (The Seer)” Video; Album out Tomorrow

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 30th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

all that much.clouds taste satanic

Yeah, I’ll readily admit that I’ve largely slept on the progression of Brooklyn instrumental heavymakers Clouds Taste Satanic. No one’s fault but my own. Of course, I’ve seen their name bandied about the New York-region doomosphere for years, but the last time I actively wrote about them was 2015, and frankly, I didn’t write all that much. My loss? As usual, most definitely. The double-guitar four-piece played Maryland Doom Fest this year and made a splash — it was the venue I couldn’t get into because of a lost (misplaced, not DUI or anything) drivers license — to the point that people seemed genuinely excited about them, and I don’t think I’ve ever casually perused a record of theirs without being like, “Yeah, this is cool,” before going about my business. clouds taste satanic second sightWell, Second Sight is their sixth album overall and their second of 2019 behind April’s Evil Eye, and it’s out tomorrow to finish out the complementary Walpurgis and Halloween releases — spooky times indeed — and it brings together two extended, side-consuming tracks each broken into multiple parts that stand on their own almost as individual collections of ideas.

“Second Sight (The Seer)” is the new video, and with its righteous solo and driving Northeastern aggro groove beneath, it definitely makes an impression, but really it’s just the first stage of a larger movement. Positioned on side A — which itself is called ‘Lesser Magic’ — “Second Sight” (21:20) breaks down into ‘The Seer (Vision),’ ‘The Psychic (Mist),’ and ‘The Pythia (Blood)’ while side ‘Greater Magic’ is consumed by “Black Mass” (21:06), which in turn divides into ‘The Goat (Dawn),’ ‘The Demon (Star),’ and ‘The Devil (Templar),’ thereby ensuring that even though there aren’t lyrics or vocals to dig into, the proceedings are well complicated enough to keep listeners occupied until a follow-up seventh LP happens along. Bullet points and outline structure notwithstanding, what Clouds Taste Satanic do over the course of these pieces is bring together a progressive take on heavy riffing that’s both of doom and willing to look outside it when called for. Past its halfway point, “Second Sight” turns to a swaggering bluesy swing for just a moment and the resulting impression is that not only are there multiple parties contributing to the songs — something I don’t know for sure, so don’t quote me on it — but that their interest lies in building a sonic complexity to match that of their structural presentation.

Do they get there? Yeah, I think they do. It’s subtle, but as “Second Sight” shifts into what would seem to be its final movement with a sleeker, bass-led section of brooding, the build that ensues is both effective and accounting for the piece as an entirety as well as its own movement. The payoff, in other clouds taste satanic second sight tracklistwords, more than justifies the journey to it, and as “Black Mass” crashes in to start the second leg of Second Sight, the momentum has hardly subsided, carrying through a patient unfolding toward some classic stonerly fuzz-wah lead work and plays back and forth in tempo and roll as (perhaps) ‘The Demon (Star)’ takes hold amid more driving fare in the middle third of the track, eventually giving way to long crashes and dueling leads, post-Sabbath starts and stops and a long fadeout that has a due dirge vibe given the progression still underway. At two songs/42 minutes, it’s not a minor undertaking, but it’s clearly not supposed to be, and Clouds Taste Satanic live up to the weighty goals they’ve set for themselves, practically in terms of making two records in a year and creatively in terms of crafting something forward-thinking at the same time as it is heavy, doomed and all that other vibed-out stuff that essentially means “heavy” and “doomed.”

So yes, it’s to my regret that it took me this long to really dig into what Clouds Taste Satanic were up to. Better late than never, I guess? Despite the urgency created by Pokemon to do so, you can’t really ever catch them all, and I do the best I can. Bottom line is this is a cool record and I gave myself another reason to feel like a yutz today, so that’s one box ticked for my morning. Time to chase down some older records, I suppose.

They play a release show tomorrow in Brooklyn and the lineup is awesome, Eternal Black and a bunch of others. More info on thee social medias here.

Enjoy the video:

 

Clouds Taste Satanic, “Second Sight (The Seer)” official video

Guitarist Steve Scavuzzo states:

“Despite the mystical mellowness the name implies, Second Sight is actually the most aggressive Clouds Taste Satanic record to date. Not sure when that happened, but at some point the doom turned angry.”

CLOUDS TASTE SATANIC formed in Brooklyn, New York in 2013. These Post-Doom Instrumentalists have steadily built a reputation as one of the few truly great DIY riff-heavy underground bands playing today. Patiently and deliberately developing a unique sound that melds riff-dominated Stoner Rock with Heavy Doom, their live show is a multi-sensory atmospheric display, offering a true experience and companion to their albums.

In 2014, the band released their debut album, ‘To Sleep Beyond the Earth’. The debut, along with second album ‘Your Doom Has Come’ (2015), third album ‘Dawn of the Satanic Age’ (2016), fourth full-length ‘The Glitter of Infinite Hell’ (2017), and their most recent ‘Evil Eye’ (2019) all demonstrate the band has no intentions of slowing down. The band celebrated its fifth year anniversary in 2018 by releasing ‘In Search of Heavy’, a four CD Box Set.

In 2019, the band has retained solid footing without falter, soon to achieve a bold goal of releasing two albums in one year. ‘Evil Eye’ came out April 30th (Walpurgis Eve), and we now await ‘Second Sight’ on October 31st (Halloween).

Steve Scavuzzo – Guitar
Sean Bay – Bass
Greg Acampora – Drums
Brian Bauhs – Guitar

Clouds Taste Satanic website

Clouds Taste Satanic on Bandcamp

Clouds Taste Satanic on Thee Facebooks

Clouds Taste Satanic on Instagram

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Tower Sign to Cruz Del Sur Music; New Album Coming in 2020

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 30th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Had the chance earlier this year to check out NY trad metallers Tower at the inaugural Desertfest New York (review here), and having done so, and in light of their new EP, Yesterday and Tomorrow — kudos to whoever in the band came up with that title; it’s a perfect summation of what they do — I’ll say that yeah, Cruz Del Sur makes sense as a label home for them. This is the label, after all, that puts out Slough Feg, and if you ever need know-your-shit-about-traditional-heavy-metal cred, putting out something by Slough Feg is about as much as you can do to argue in your own favor. Tower join those esteemed ranks, as well as those of ArgusApostle of SolitudeOgre and Orodruin, and come aboard as being tight with Twisted Tower Dire and Sanhedrin, so clearly, clearly in good company, and they’ll reportedly work to have a new full-length out sometime in the middle of next year.

Congrats to the band, and respect for guitarist Danzo in what he says about image in the PR wire info below. Anyone who claims they’re not conscious of how they’re perceived by others is fucking lying to you and probably trying to sell you something. Likely clothing.

Dig:

tower

New York City Metal Brigade TOWER Joins CRUZ DEL SUR MUSIC

Cruz Del Sur Music is proud to announce the signing of New York City’s own TOWER. The label will release the band’s sophomore full-length in mid-2020.

Formed in 2015, TOWER plays a brand of classic, traditional metal inspired by legends such as JUDAS PRIEST and SCORPIONS, further propelled by the imitable, almost Pat Benatar-esque vocals of Sarabeth Linden. To date, TOWER has one studio album to their credit, 2016’s self-titled, as well as this year’s “Tomorrow & Yesterday” EP.

Shortly after the release of the video for “Run For My Life”, multiple record companies came calling for TOWER, including Cruz Del Sur. What sealed the deal for TOWER and Cruz Del Sur, though, was the good word put in by some of the label’s existing bands.

“We’re close friends with Nate Honor and Jim Hunter, whose bands SANHEDRIN and TWISTED TOWER DIRE are/were on Cruz Del Sur,” says guitarist James Danzo. “We heard so many good things about Cruz that it was pretty clear from the beginning which route we should take. In the few years we’ve been a band, we’ve learned not to rush into things and to be very deliberate, but we know we made the right choice!”

Danzo describes the first four years of TOWER’s existence as a “real wild ride,” with the band (who is rounded out by second guitarist Zak Penley, bassist Jeff Filmer and drummer Claire Vastola) going from formation to the demo stage, to playing shows, then scoring their first record deal for the release of their self-titled album. “In this crazy world of ours not everything is ice cream sundaes and cherries on top — we’ve been through some changes with lineups and labels when it became clear we had different goals in mind. We look back with pride on our debut album and especially the new EP. It’s been a huge boost in morale and poured gasoline on the fire inside us!”

The origins of TOWER date back to when Linden and Danzo were playing in THE PSYCHO HIPPIES, a group that primarily played ’50s, ’60s and ’70s pop covers, along with some RAMONES songs to boot. Because of her experience playing such music, Linden brings a unique brand of soul and style to metal, with Danzo noting she even sang at the legendary Apollo Theater as a teenager. Fret not true metal believers: Linden’s vocal idol happens to be Ronnie James Dio, further rounding out a band who is equal in music and image.

“Metal bands love to say, ‘we hate image!’” notes Danzo, “but truth be told, we have a vision and are very protective of it. It’s important to us to come across as real, first and foremost. Everyone in the band has a unique style and persona and we aren’t about to mess with it. We try to avoid clichés when it comes to album covers, too — so far photographs have worked, they’re just classic and real. We’re just here to kick some ass and I think that comes across clear as day.”

TOWER will fill up the rest of 2019 with occasional live duty, but the priority remains to get ready for their forthcoming second studio album. Danzo says “lack of material has never been a problem” for TOWER: The band has three songs leftover from the “Tomorrow & Yesterday” session, as well as another cut that has already been aired live.

“Unlike the last two releases which took forever in spaced-out sessions from weekend to weekend, we plan on blocking out 7-10 days of studio time and doing it as a concise and complete project like a band would do in the old days. Onward and upward!”

Tower is:
Sarabeth Linden: VOCALS
James Danzo: GUITAR
Zak Penley: GUITAR
Jeff Filmer: BASS
Claire Vastola: DRUMS

https://www.facebook.com/TOWERnyc/
https://towernyc.bandcamp.com/
cruzdelsurmusic.com
facebook.com/cruzdelsurmusic
cruzdelsurmusic.bandcamp.com

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