Rattlesnake Premiere New Single “Dirt in My Eyes”

Posted in audiObelisk on March 22nd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

In a collaboration between In for the Kill Records and H42 Records, newcomer New Yorker classic-style Southern rockers Rattlesnake will issue their debut seven-inch in May. The two-tracker boasts brand new material from the four-piece-maybe-turned-trio which features the likes of Adam Kriney of The Golden Grass and La Otracina on drums/vocals, J.P. Gilbert of JP and the Gilberts on guitar/vocals as well as bassist Don Berger, and comes in three different vinyl incarnations, all of course subject to limited pressings. Because that’s how it goes. If you don’t get it, it’s gone.

rattlesnake posterRattlesnake made a not-at-all-quiet entry last year, playing their first show in May and offering the three-song cassette demo, Outlaw Boogie (review here), that served as one of 2017’s best short releases. Its aesthetic seemed locked in, its presentation was professional, and the songwriting was ace in its structure and execution. “Dirt in My Eyes,” the premiere of which you can listen to via the YouTube player below, is no different but takes a step forward in its melodic reach and its meld of boogie and harder-edged impulses. It shares a brightness of perspective with The Golden Grass, but has an edge of its own in its harmonies and uptempo pulse. And yes, if you’re wondering, it’s maddeningly catchy.

In my experience, Kriney isn’t someone who embarks on a new project lightly. It could well be that Rattlesnake was started on a whim after a night of boozing among friends, but I doubt it. The Golden Grass had a plan, a timeline, goals, and given how much effort Rattlesnake puts into “Dirt in My Eyes,” I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if they do as well. Fair enough as far as I’m concerned. All that means is we’re likely to hear from them again soon, which I think as you dig into the interplay of bass and airy guitar in the second half of the track before the final “woo!” is delivered, you’ll agree isn’t a negative in the slightest.

You can read more about the three versions of Dirt in My Eyes / Picture Perfect and head to the preorders via the PR wire info below — the test pressing is signed and limited to 20, if that piques your interest– and of course get a preview of “Dirt in My Eyes” via the player immediately following.

Please enjoy:

Rattlesnake, “Dirt in My Eyes” official premiere

Rattlesnake “Dirt In My Eyes”
A-side of the Rattlesnake “Dirt In My Eyes”/”Picture Perfect” 7″ issued on H42 Records/In For The Kill Records May 2018.

For those who dig the heavy strut of Classic Southern Rock, when it dipped it’s country shufflin’ toes into the sweet honey of Progressive Rock & early-Heavy Metal, well you’re gonna find a real treat in this debut 7” from RATTLESNAKE. A rock-solid display, both earnest & creative, overflowing with killer vocal harmonies, powerful guitar solos, tough riffs, devastating bass runs, & tasty drum fills (featuring Adam Kriney of THE GOLDEN GRASS on vocals/drums, JP GILBERT of J.A.C.K. on vocals/guitar & Don Berger on bass/vocals).

*Available in black or yellow or green vinyl. Black vinyl comes in the brown sleeve. Yellow & Green vinyl comes in the green sleeve. Please specify vinyl colour choice in the comments section on the order form!

*Also available in a limited edition of 20 test pressings, with special signed and numbered “skull” sleeves!

*Comes with digital download card.

North American Preorder available via: http://www.goo.gl/GdCuoC

Rest of the World Preorder available via: http://www.h42records.8merch.com/services/store

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Eternal Black Release Bleed the Days on Limited Vinyl

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 7th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

eternal black (photo by Harry Booth)

It was a doomer’s delight last year when New York trio Eternal Black made their debut with Bleed the Days (review here). The band immediately brought their own stamp to what we think of as the genre’s traditions, and though you’d listen to it for sure and recognize its East Coast origins, there was something about it a little darker, a little more aggressive than a lot of the fare that comes out of Maryland. No escaping the intensity of the band’s NYC home-base, I guess.

Dudes have taken it upon themselves to put the album out on deluxe, gorgeous-looking limited vinyl — a no-compromises 2LP with a silkscreened side D that would seem to be little more than a gift for those who knew enough to pick up what they were putting down with the record. If you didn’t hear it last year, you’re by no means too late. Stream the full thing on the player below and bask in the dirge rhythms, weighted tones and general downer-metallurgy of the whole experience. You might just decide to pick up a record after doing so.

Yup, that’s me, spending your money.

Dig it:

eternal black bleed the days lp

ETERNAL BLACK’S ‘BLEED THE DAYS’ IS NOW AVAILABLE IN TWO LIMITED EDITION COLOR VARIANTS RELEASED VIA OBSIDIAN SKY RECORDS.

Eternal Black have announced their debut full-length ‘Bleed The Days’ is now available on vinyl pressing through the band’s own Obsidian Sky Records. The Brooklyn, NY doom metal trio battered the heavy music world in a bleak sea of crushing waves with their August 2017 album. Originally released on digital, CD and cassette, ‘Bleed The Days’ is now available in two limited-edition vinyl variants, with a ‘Die Hard’ colored vinyl bundle option and ‘Standard’ edition.

In August 2017, Brooklyn-based doom metal band ETERNAL BLACK unleashed their debut full-length album, ‘Bleed the Days’, on CD, Cassette (sold out), and Digital formats via their own Obsidian Sky Records label. Today the trio formally announce the February 4th release of ‘Bleed the Days’ available in two limited edition vinyl presses.

‘Bleed the Days’ is the band’s third release, following their 2015 self-titled EP, as well as a live recording from 2017, ‘Live at WFMU’.

According to the band, “Sonically, we were aiming for somewhere between Black Sabbath’s ‘Master of Reality’ and The Obsessed’s ‘Lunar Womb’. We wanted the album to be an obvious step forward in the progression of our sound; darker and heavier than anything you’ve heard from us before, with the grit of old school Doom.”

– ‘Die Hard’ Edition – Limited to 120 copies. Double vinyl set, clear with black smoke vinyl. Side D is a silk-screened razor blade graphic. Includes a custom silk-screened graphic/lyric insert and patch.
– ‘Standard’ Edition – Limited to 115 copies. Double vinyl set, black vinyl. Side D is a silk-screened razor blade graphic.

“Bleed The Days” Track List:
A1. The Lost, The Forgotten, and The Undying
A2. Snake Oil and Coffin Nails
B1. Sea of Graves
B2. Into Nothing
B3. Stained Eyes on a Setting Sun
C1. Bleed The Days
C2. All Gods Fall
D side is a silk-screened graphic

https://eternalblack.bandcamp.com/merch
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07476RQL8/
https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/bleed-the-days/1263331681
https://open.spotify.com/album/4AgiDSE4pDn4nSc9CsqxZG

Eternal Black, Bleed the Days (2017)

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Review & Track Premiere: The Golden Grass, Absolutely

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on March 6th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

the golden grass absolutely

[Click play above to stream ‘The Spell’ from The Golden Grass’ new LP Absolutely. Album is out April 6 via Listenable Records with preorders here and The Golden Grass are on tour in Europe with Heat this May. Click here to pop out the tour poster.]

The very first lyrics one hears on the opening track of The Golden Grass‘ third long-player, Absolutely, arrive in the line, ‘I want a piece of the action.’ In no small way, that’s been the story of the Brooklynite trio all along. The boogie-minded trio made their self-titled debut (review here) in 2014 through Svart, and followed that up by signing to Listenable Records for the 2016 release of Coming Back Again (review here), a more spacious and progressive offering that nonetheless held onto the maddening catchiness of its predecessor. With Absolutely, they do likewise, and rein in some of the more complex impulses of the second album in favor of good-time heavy rock more akin to the debut.

Like everything the band has done since their outset, that can only be the result of a conscious decision — nothing in this group, whether it’s the vocal harmonies between drummer Adam Kriney and guitarist Michael Rafalowich on “Catch Your Eye,” the opener alluded to above, or the persistent shuffle in the penultimate “Out on the Road,” on which KrineyRafalowich and bassist/backing vocalist Frank Caira put themselves in direct conversation with “Wheels” from the debut in several interesting and telling ways. As they tell tales of the road, to think of a line like “Rock and roll was just out of season” working its way into “Out on the Road” could easily be taken as an assessment of their touring experience over the last several years, at least in the US. At the same time, “Out on the Road,” which is the longest track on the 39-minute Absolutely at 8:58, operates more efficiently than did “Wheels,” or, say, “See it Through” from Coming Back Again, the perspective of which also seems to be a factor here.

Could it be that a cynical or more jaded perspective is taking hold in the band after two records that, by all accounts, probably didn’t get the attention they deserved for their stylistic cohesion, nuance of sound, and quality of performance and craft? It wouldn’t be unreasonable if that were the case, but I’m not sure it is, because while The Golden Grass may have their frustrations as they approach the end of a resoundingly productive first half-decade together — three records, numerous tours at home and abroad, picked up by quality labels pretty much from the beginning — they’ve also never seemed to put more into their songwriting or arrangements. Cuts like “Show Your Hand” and “Runaway” deftly balance accessibility and subtlety in their execution.

the golden grass

The hooks are forward as ever, but there’s more complexity to the interplay of the trio singing together that would seem to be a lesson learned from Coming Back Again and repurposed into more straightforward songwriting — not that there isn’t still room for some psychedelic flourish from Rafalowich‘s guitar in “Runaway” or the brief “Never You Mind,” just that it comes in conjunction with the ultra-boogie of side B’s “The Spell” and harder-edged closer “Begging the Question,” which brings Iron Butterfly-via-Hendrix-style late ’60s fuzz to bear amid a longer instrumental stretch of dug-in turns and more highlight lead work from Rafalowich, who shines throughout Absolutely in a way he hasn’t yet done in The Golden Grass‘ material. The same could be said of his vocals as well in standing up to Kriney‘s still-the-lead-singer positioning, and more than ever, it’s the dynamic between these two that lets The Golden Grass be who they are throughout this mature and deceptively forward, hook-laden and gorgeously executed third outing.

And if The Golden Grass “want a piece of the action” — which I’ll grant they’re talking about in something of a different context in “Catch Your Eye,” but I still think applies to their situation overall; they started out as a band with an idea of who they were looking to match themselves with as broad an audience as possible — one could only say it would be a piece well earned. Their sound, which has always been so much their down despite basking in a swath of classic influences as it continues to do, has never sounded so developed or quite so engaging as it does here as “Never You Mind,” “Runaway” and the trippier “Walk Along” draw listeners deeper and deeper into the meat of the album, headed to the apex in “Out on the Road”‘s plotted but still jammy-sounding take, sounding no less like it was written for the stage than “The Spell” before it or “Show Your Hand” earlier in the tracklisting. Having long since mastered their aesthetic, The Golden Grass have yet to stop developing it, and that’s emblematic of the underlying force of will that drives them overall. Make no mistake, they still sound positive. The melodies are still sweet. The songs are still unbridled, unashamed fun and the vibe remains as upbeat and welcoming as one could possibly ask.

Three albums deep into their tenure, it’s strange to think of The Golden Grass as underrated, or as a cult band despite the absolute lack of sinister edge to what they do, but somehow both terms apply. Nonetheless, what was true about them four years ago remains true on Absolutely, and that’s that their good-times spirit is delivered with genuine and engaging energy and that it puts them in a category of their own in heavy rock, and remains a very-much-needed breath of fresh air in a heavy rock scene so often geared toward pessimism. Underrated or not, The Golden Grass remain a singular good time and sound more content than ever to let the rest of the world do what it is while they throw a party to which anyone and everyone who can get down — even for just a little while — is invited. That means you. They don’t want your blood. They just want you do dance. For those who take on the dare to let loose and meet The Golden Grass on their own level, Absolutely should be no less revered than anything they’ve done to-date. If anything, more so.

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Review & Track Premiere: River Cult, Halcyon Daze

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on February 6th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

river cult halcyon daze

[Click play above to stream the title-track of River Cult’s Halcyon Daze. The album is out Feb. 9 with a release show March 15 via Blackseed Records and Nasoni Records.]

Getting and having one’s house inorder are two very different things, but River Cult seem to manage both on their Blackseed Records and Nasoni Records debut album, Halcyon Daze. The five-track long-player, on which not one song is under seven minutes long, follow a promising 2016 demo that was among the year’s best short releases, and takes a tack of exploring a variety of different styles and moods, all of them heay in one way or another and drawn together by an overarching sense of tonal heft that permeates whether it’s the tense build-up-leading-to-rolling-fuzz-wall of centerpiece “Seething” or the dreamy, drifting end of 11-minute second cut and highlight “The Sophist” just prior.

Either way, River Cult — the Brooklyn-based trio of Sean Forlenza, Anthony Mendolia, and Tav Palumbo — sound like they’ve definitely been to school when it comes to their influences, and whether it’s the Acrimony-style grit, roll, drift and nod of “The Sophist” or the West Coast boogie into spacious slowdown in opener “Likelihood of Confusion,” which only minutes prior to hitting the cosmos proffered softshoe-worthy wah swirl and swing and the first of the album’s many jammed-out-feeling leads. At various points throughout they ask aesthetic questions about what might’ve happened if Thrasher magazine had taken over the world circa 1997 and, particularly on the title-track, what might’ve happened had Chris Hakius taken on a role drumming for Acid King. These issues, along with shades of Dead Meadow-style shoegazing on closer “Point of Failure,” are met with workaday lyrics and a loose-swinging vibe that, at less than a moment’s notice, is prone to kick into explorations of full-on Man’s Ruin-style fuzz overdrive.

The key word there might be “explorations,” and that’s because although Halcyon Daze sets itself purposefully to the work of proffering earthy tonality and a classic stoner fuckall in its looseness of structure and willingness to depart from verses and choruses into more open jamming, River Cult by no means sound set in their ways, and the 41-minute album carries the spirit of a band in the process of discovering who they are together as players and where they want to go in terms of their sound. Having first gotten together in 2015, it’s not entirely surprising they’d be at this stage on their first full-length, and it’s much to their credit that they capture the moment with the obvious commitment to sonic organics they show here.

To wit, after unfurling a groove of such deeply-weighted fuzz, the title-track moves easily into a soundscape of vast, drifting post-rock guitar drones that work on a long fade into the garage-via-Stooges riff that starts closer “Point of Failure.” That they’d cover such a swath of ground on their first long-player is impressive enough, but to do so with the kind of fluidity they bring out of the patient opening minutes of “Seething,” for example, or the confidence on display as “Likelihood of Confusion” begins its pivot almost exactly at its midpoint before, at 4:30, crashing through the door of its next sonic dimension. They’re an East Coast band, to be sure, and “The Sophist,” “Halcyon Daze” and the crunchier, grunge-minded sections of “Point of Failure” show that edge, but there’s little here one might consider confrontational, and rather, River Cult invite their listeners along with them on their journey of discovery as they feel their way ahead into what one hopes is the just the beginning stages of a longer-term sonic development.

river cult

And to its credit and to the band’s credit, where that development might ultimately bring River Cult feels like a secondary consideration in comparison to the groove here, which at points recalls earliest Fu Manchu and other such before-stoner-rock-had-a-name rawness. Taking advantage of the room in each track to flesh out their parts and ride the riffs to hypnotic and repetitive effect, as on the title-track’s outward trajectory or what seems to be a switch from otherworldliness to personal criticism on “The Sophist,” the first chorus of which brings the standout lines, “Sophistry/Yeah, you talk too much.” This perspective, somewhat disaffected but not necessarily raging, is writ large throughout Halcyon Daze, and it helps River Cult find their balance between more weighted, riffier fare and more atmospheric psychedelia.

It’s also worth noting that, while I have little doubt that Halcyon Daze was put together with a vinyl release in mind — “Likelihood of Confusion” and “The Sophist” on one side, “Seething,” “Halcyon Daze” and “Point of Failure” on the other — the album works perhaps even better in linear form, taken as one whole work unfolding in different stages in ups and downs of energy, pace, volume and emotion, weaving its way into and out of jams whole always keeping its ultimate trajectory forward, as shown when the feedback and noise wash of “Seething” gives way into “Halcyon Daze” or the effects loops of “Likelihood of Confusion” seem to dive into the airy tones that spread themselves over the initial going in “The Sophist.”

The bottom line is there’s a lot happening on Halcyon Daze when it’s taken front-to-back — which is how it feels like it was meant to be taken — and while one might imagine or expect River Cult to continue solidifying their approach in style and structure, what they’ve crafted in the meantime stands among the most promising Brooklynite heavy psychedelic debuts since Naam‘s Kingdom EP and should be commended for its level of craft, naturalism of execution, and unbridled flow. It’s a good one to get lost in, so go ahead and get lost in it.

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Six Dumb Questions with Somnuri

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on January 31st, 2018 by JJ Koczan

somnuri

You really wanna know what took me so long to come around to Somnuri‘s Somnuri (review here)? Why I wasn’t immediately on the Brooklyn trio’s Magnetic Eye self-titled debut the way I should’ve been? Is the suspense killing you?

Probably not, but the truth is I knew that when it came to Somnuri, a three-piece featuring guitarist/vocalist Justin Sherrell (Blackout, ex-Bezoar, etc.), bassist Drew Mack (ex-Hull) and drummer Phil SanGiacomo (Family), there was just about no way I wasn’t going to dig the album. Then it was just going to be one more CD that I really wanted that I couldn’t really afford to shell out for, and that would only lead to frustration and ultimately I didn’t immediately give the digital promo the time of day it very much deserved because, well, it was going to kick ass. And you know what? It did.

Released in Sept. 2017, Somnuri‘s Somnuri builds outward atmospherically from the traditions of intensity that permeate New York’s particular brand of noise rock. One can hear shades of modern progressive metal noodling in Sherrell‘s guitar — I don’t know this for a fact, but he strikes as the kind of guy who can pick up just about any instrument in front of him and wail on it — and the accompanying turns in Mack‘s bass and SanGiacomo‘s drumming. The proceedings are furious and contemplative in kind, a thoughtful onslaught that runs about 40 minutes and yeah, makes me want to pick up the CD as soon as possible.

Because, by the way, I still buy CDs. Maybe you’ve got room for all your vinyl in that mansion of yours, but I’m working with what I’ve got here.

Somnuri, who could’ve easily blown my ass off and been like, “yeah buddy, you’re way late on our record and you suck therefore bite it,” were kind enough to tackle the following short interview to give some background on how the songs and the album came together, and where they might be headed from here.

Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

somnuri somnuri

Six Dumb Questions with Somnuri

Tell me about Somnuri getting together. How did the band form and how did the sound start to take shape? Was there a concept behind the sound before you got started?

Phil SanGiacomo: We all knew each other from playing in local bands and it was probably bound to happen. Justin had a longtime project he wanted to bring to life and asked me to try some drum grooves over his ideas. We’re both natural drummers that play guitar, so the dynamic was great. I was really into the rawness and rhythmic intensity of the riffs and tried to emulate them as best I could on drums. Drew came in to play second guitar but I think we all quickly realized that the low end was priority. Being an adaptive and versatile player, Drew filled this role perfectly and added more texture. We all agreed that we liked the rigidness of the power trio and we were on our way. We’ve never really discussed any defining concepts, but those things do develop naturally over time. Nothing is off the table with Somnuri and in many ways, the sound has shaped itself.

What was the songwriting process like for the self-titled? How long did it take for the album to come together and how much did everyone contribute to the tracks?

Justin Sherrell: I had been writing riffs knowing that they wouldn’t necessarily fit with bands I was in at the time and kind of putting them in the vault. At some point, the vault started to get to full, so when Drew and Phil came in the mix there was maybe three or four pretty complete tunes with skeletons of a few more. It was a little difficult at first, being able to take criticism on things that I never intended for anybody to hear. It didn’t take long to settle into our perspective roles and really push and pull each other to get new, fresh takes on ideas that were kind of just sitting around. All in all, it took about two years to write and record this album. At the end of recording, we ended up with more material than could fit on a record, which we plan on using for a split or an EP. Or fuck it, maybe just give it away.

How was your time in the studio with Jeff Berner? He did the guitars and drums, but who did the bass and vocals? How long were you in the studio altogether and what was the vibe like as the album started to take shape?

Drew Mack: Recording in Studio G with Jeff Berner was like meeting some lost lover in a newly built version of your favorite bar. We all immediately became good pals and Jeff really didn’t seem to mind how much nerding out we did over all of Studio G‘s extensive gear selection. We were however on somewhat of a time crunch/budget so the idea was to mainly just get drums in an awesome room and do most of everything else in our practice space. As it turned out, not only did we settle into the process so easily and quickly, we also have a complete beast of a drummer who does everything in one take with no clicks, no flubs, no prisoners. So we just kept moving right along and decided to track some of the guitars there as well! I think we basically had a total of three whole days in Studio G and then moved on to our practice space where we could spend as much time as we wanted capturing more guitar, bass, and all the vocal layers. Having Phil mix the record gave us a lot of freedom to experiment and get the right takes. Most importantly, we feel we captured our sound well.

Talk about the cover art. The piece by Miriam Corothers is striking and gives the album a very progressive look. Where did it come from and how was it chosen to represent the record? What is the significance of its use to the band?

PS: We loved Miriam’s enthusiasm about the music and ultimately trusted her vision, which was a sort of collage of different shapes, each containing juxtaposed elements of nature. The result was a dreamscape like image. I think it’s a great visual representation of how fluid our sound can be, but still bold and unforgiving.

You guys cast a pretty broad sound throughout these tracks. Can you give me any idea where Somnuri might head from here in terms of sonic direction? Is there anything in particular you want to try next time around coming off of this record?

DM: I personally find it extremely exciting to cast a large sonic shadow over all the silly, albeit usefully coined genres in heavy music today. I think all three of us listen to an extensive range of music styles and personally, I find it more difficult in these sonically saturated times to remain excited throughout an entire album. My only hope in moving forward is that we continue to explore ways to stay excited and proud of the music we create, and, for me, that usually means we have to try to remain DIFFERENT.

Any plans or closing words you want to mention?

JS: Our plans at this point are to keep writing new tunes and keep it fresh! We‘re gonna start hitting the road more and playing out of NYC. Right now, starting with East Coast runs and then putting together some more extensive tours. We’re excited to meet new bands and potential fans alike.

Somnuri, Somnuri (2017)

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The Golden Grass Announce April 6 Release for New LP Absolutely

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 29th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

THE GOLDEN GRASS

It stands to reason there would be a new record from The Golden Grass this year, but that doesn’t make the confirmation of its coming any less welcome. Given the righteous title Absolutely the third long-player and second for Listenable Records from the good-time-harmonious Brooklynite trio will comprise eight tracks and see release April 6. The central question involved is whether the new offering will continue down the progressive path that their 2016 sophomore outing, Coming Back Again (review here), or readjust the focus back toward the classic-feeling hooks that permeated The Golden Grass‘ 2014 Svart Records self-titled debut (review here). Nothing this band does is by mistake, so wherever they end up, you can get it’s entirely right where they want to be sound-wise. I look forward to finding out just where that is.

Info from the PR wire. Be friends with it:

the golden grass absolutely

THE GOLDEN GRASS: Psychedelic Retro Rock Power Trio To Release Absolutely Full-Length Via Listenable Records This Spring

Brooklyn, New York’s THE GOLDEN GRASS is free-wheelin’, good-time rock ‘n’ roll band manifesting a soulful mix of heavy-country-funk-boogie and progressive-psychedelic-freakbeat. The group effortlessly draws their influence from a time when rock ruled the world as if they truly are from that “Golden” era. But their gift to us is in The Now, and it is an epic, soulful, and hard-hitting maelstrom of anthemic and tough-swinging aural delights.

THE GOLDEN GRASS will release their third full-length, titled Absolutely, this Spring via Listenable Records. An eight-track sonic adventure steeped in psychedelic flavored blues riffs, the mind-warping fantasy of early progressive/jazz rock, a pulsating British freakbeat/mod sound, heavy doses of proto-metal power, funk, sou, and a southern rock edge, Absolutely is undoubtedly the band’s strongest, most accomplished offering to date.

Absolutely will see North American release on April 6th via Listenable Records with teaser tracks, preorders, and further info to be announced in the coming weeks.

Absolutely Track Listing:
1. Catch Your Eye
2. Show Your Hand
3. Never You Mind
4. Runaway
5. Walk Along
6. The Spell
7. Out On The Road
8. Begging The Question

THE GOLDEN GRASS Discography:
456thDiv. – Cassette EP
One More Time / Tornado 7″ EP
A Curious Case / The Pilgrim 7″ EP
Realisations 11″ EP
The Golden Grass (Svart Records)
Coming Back Again (Listenable Records)
Absolutely (Listenable Records)

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The Golden Grass, Coming Back Again (2016)

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Quarterly Review: Iron Monkey, Deadsmoke, Somnuri, Daira, Kavrila, Ivan, Clara Engel, Alastor, Deadly Vipers, Storm of Void

Posted in Reviews on January 11th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Lodewijk de Vadder (1605-1655) - 17th Century Etching, Landscape with Two Farms

Day Four of the Quarterly Review! Welcome to the downswing. We’re past the halfway point and feeling continually groovy. Thus far it’s been a week of coffee and a vast musical swath that today only reaches even further out from the core notion of what may or may not make a release or a band “heavy.” Is it sound? Is it emotion? Is it concept? Fact is there’s no reason it can’t be all of those things and a ton more, so keep an open mind as you make your way through today’s batch and we’ll all come out of it better people on the other end. Alright? Alright. Here we go.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Iron Monkey, 9-13

iron monkey 9-13

I’ll admit to some level of skepticism at the prospect of an Iron Monkey reunion without frontman Johnny Morrow, who died in 2002, but as founding guitarist Jim Rushby (now also vocals), bassist Steve Watson (who originally played guitar) and new drummer Brigga revive the influential UK sludge outfit with the nine songs of 9-13 on Relapse, it somehow makes sense that the band’s fuckall and irreverence would extend inward as well. That is, why should Iron Monkey find Iron Monkey an any more sacred and untouchable property than they find anything else? Ultimately, the decision will be up to the listener as to acceptance, but the furies of “OmegaMangler,” “Mortarhex,” “Doomsday Impulse Multiplier” and the nine-minute lumber-into-torrent closer “Moreland St. Hammervortex” make a pretty resounding argument that if you can’t get down with Iron Monkey as they are today, it’s going to be your loss and that, as ever, they couldn’t care less to see you stick around or see you go. So welcome back.

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Deadsmoke, Mountain Legacy

deadsmoke mountain legacy

Mountain Legacy, which is the second Deadsmoke album for Heavy Psych Sounds, might be the heaviest release the label has put out to-date. For the band, it marks the arrival of keyboardist Claudio Rocchetti to the former trio, and from the lumbering space of aptly-titled post-intro opener “Endless Cave” to the later creeping lurch of “Wolfcurse,” it’s an outing worthy of comparison to the earlier work of Italian countrymen Ufomammut, but still rooted in the gritty, post-Sleep plod the band elicited on their 2016 self-titled debut (review here). The central difference seems to be an increase in atmospheric focus, which does well to enrich the listening experience overall, be it in the creepy penultimate interlude “Forest of the Damned” or side A finale “Emperor of Shame.” Whether this progression was driven by Rocchetti’s inclusion in the band or the other way around, it’s a marked showing of growth on a quick turnaround from Deadsmoke and shows them as having a much broader creative reach than expected. All the better because it’s still so devastatingly weighted.

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Heavy Psych Sounds website

 

Somnuri, Somnuri

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To call Somnuri a formidable trio is underselling it. The Brooklynite three-piece is comprised of guitarist/vocalist Justin Sherrell (Blackout, ex-Bezoar, etc.), bassist Drew Mack (ex-Hull) and drummer Phil SanGiacomo (Family), and the noise they make on their Magnetic Eye-released self-titled debut is as progressive as it is intense. Recorded by Jeff Berner and mixed my SanGiacomo, cuts like “Kaizen” and “Same Skies” land with a doomed heft but move with the singular fury of the Northeastern US, and even as eight-minute closer “Through the Dead” balances more rock-minded impulses and seems to touch on a Soundgarden influence, it answers for the ultra-aggro tumult of “Pulling Teeth” just before. A flash of ambience in the drone interlude “Opaque” follows the plodding highlight “Slow Burn,” which speaks to yet another side of Somnuri’s potential – to create spaces as much as to crush them. With an interplay of cleaner vocals, screams, growls and shouts, there’s enough variety to throw off expectation, and where so much of New York’s noise-metal history is about angry single-mindedness, Somnuri’s Somnuri shows even in a vicious moment like “Inhabitant” that there’s more ground to cover than just being really, really, really pissed off.

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Magnetic Eye Records website

 

Daira, Vipreet Buddhi

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Time to get weird. No. Really weird. In the end, I’m not sure Mumbai semi-improvisationalist troupe Daira did themselves any favors by making their sophomore LP, Vipreet Buddhi, a single 93-minute/16-track outing instead of breaking it into the two halves over which its course is presented – the first being eight distinct songs, the second a flowing single jam broken up over multiple parts – but one way or another, it’s an album that genuinely presents a vibe of its own, taking cues from heavy psych, jazz, funk, classic prog, folk and more as it plays through its bizarre and ambient flow, toying with jarring stretches along the way like the eerie “Apna Ullu Seedha” but so dug in by the time it’s jammed its way into “Dekho Laal Gaya” that it seems like there’s no getting out. It’s an overwhelming and unmanageable offering, but whoever said the avant garde wasn’t supposed to be a challenge? Certainly not Daira, and they clearly have plenty to say. Whatever else you listen to today, I can safely guarantee it won’t sound like this. And that’s probably true of every day.

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Daira on Bandcamp

 

Kavrila, Blight

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Chest-compressing groove and drive will no doubt earn Hamburg four-piece Kavrila’s second album, Blight (on Backbite Records), some comparisons to Mantar, but to dig into tracks like “Gold” and “Each (Part Two)” is to find a surprising measure of atmospheric focus, and even a rage-roller like “Abandon” has a depth to its mix. Though it’s just 24 minutes long, I’d still consider Blight a full-length for the two-sided flow it sets up leading to the aforementioned “Gold” and “Each (Part Two),” both being the longest cut on their respective half of the record in addition to splitting the tracklisting, as well as for the grinding aspects of songs like “Apocalypse,” “Demolish” and “Golem” on side B, the latter of which takes the rhythmic churn of Godflesh to a point of extremity that even the earlier thrust of “Lungs” did little to foretell. There’s a balance of sludge and hardcore elements, to be sure, but it’s the anger that ultimately defines Blight, however coherent it might be (and is) in its violent intent.

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Backbite Records webstore

 

Ivan, Strewn Across Stars

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Employing the session violin services of Jess Randall, the Melbourne-based two-piece of Brodric Wellington (drums/vocals) and Joseph Pap (guitar, bass, keys) – collectively known as Ivan – would seem to be drawing a specific line in the direction of My Dying Bride with their take on death-doom, but the emotionalist influence goes deeper than that on Strewn Across Stars, their second LP. Shades of Skepticism show themselves in opener and longest track (immediate points) “Cosmic Fear,” which demonstrates a raw production ready for the limited-cassette obscurism the band conjured for their 2016 debut, Aeons Collapse, but nonetheless fleshed out melodically in the guitar and already-noted, deeply prevalent string arrangement. The subsequent “Ethereal” (12:41), “Hidden Dimensions” (12:25) and “Outro” (8:18) dig even further into plodding shattered-self woefulness, with “Hidden Dimensions” providing a brief moment of tempo release before the violin and keys take complete hold in “Outro” to give listeners one last chance to bask in resonant melancholia. A genre-piece, to be sure, but able to stand on its own in terms of personality and patience alike.

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Ivan on Bandcamp

 

Clara Engel, Songs for Leonora Carrington

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Toronto singer-songwriter Clara Engel pays ambient folk homage to the Mexican surrealist painter/author with the five-tracks of Songs for Leonara Carrington, fleshing out creative and depth-filled arrangements that nonetheless hold fast to the intimate human core beneath. Engel’s voice is of singular character in its melding of gruff fragility, and whether it’s the psychedelic hypnosis of opener and longest track (immediate points) “Birdheaded Queen” or the seemingly minimalist drift of the penultimate “The Ancestor,” her confident melodies float atop gorgeous and sad instrumental progressions that cast an atmosphere of vast reaches. Even the more percussively active centerpiece “Microgods of all the Subatomic Worlds” feels informed by the gradual wash of guitar melody that takes hold on the prior “Sanctuary for Furies,” and as Engel brings in guest contributors for drums, bass, guitar, theremin and choir vocals alongside her own guitar, pump organ, flute and singing, there seems to be little out of her reach or scope. It is a joy to get lost within it.

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Wist Records website

 

Alastor, Blood on Satan’s Claw

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I don’t know whether the title-cut of Blood on Satan’s Claw, the new two-songer EP from dirge-doomers Alastor, is leftover from the same sessions that bore their 2017 debut album for Twin Earth Records, Black Magic (review here), but as it’s keeping company with a near-11-minute take on Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising,” the four-piece’s return is welcome either way. Unsurprisingly, not much has changed in their approach in the mere months since the full-length was issued, but that doesn’t mean the swing of “Blood on Satan’s Claw,” the central riff of which owes as much to Windhand as to Sleep as to C.O.C.‘s “Albatross” as to Sabbath, isn’t worth digging into all the same, and with psychedelic vocals reminiscent of newer Monolord and flourish of creeper-style organ, its doom resounds on multiple levels leading into the aforementioned cover, which drawls out the classic original arrangement with a wilfully wretched tack that well earns a nod and raised claw. Alastor remain backpatch-ready, seemingly just waiting for listeners to catch on. If these tracks are any indication, they’ll get there.

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Alastor on Bandcamp

 

Deadly Vipers, Fueltronaut

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Give it a couple minutes to get going and Fueltronaut, the debut full-length from French four-piece Deadly Vipers, is more than happy to serve up energetic post-Kyuss desert rock loyalism that’s true to form in both spirit and production. Shades of earliest Dozer and the wider pre-social media older-school Euro heavy underground show themselves quickly in “Universe,” but in the later mid-paced reach of “Stalker,” there’s more modern bluesy vibing and as the mega-fuzzed “Meteor Valley,” the driving jam of “Supernova,” and the let’s-push-the-vocals-really-high-in-the-mix-for-some-reason “Dead Summer” shove the listener onward with righteous momentum toward pre-outro closer “River of Souls,” each track getting longer as it goes, the melody that emerges there indeed feels like a moment of arrival. My only real complaint? The intro “Fuel Prophecy” and (hidden) outro, “Watch the Road End.” Especially with the immediacy that strikes when “Universe” kicks in and the resonant finish of “River of Souls” at its six-minute mark, having anything before the one and after the other seems superfluous. A minor quibble on an impressive debut (one could also ramble about cartoon tits on the cover, but what’s the point?) and showcase of potential from an exciting newcomer outfit clearly assured of the style for which they’re aiming.

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Deadly Vipers on Bandcamp

 

Storm of Void, War Inside You

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Tokyo duo Storm of Void make their full-length debut with the nine-track/48-minute War Inside You, a full-length that might first snag attention owing to guest vocal spots from Napalm Death’s Mark “Barney” Greenway and Jawbox’s J. Robbins, but has no trouble holding that same attention with its progressive instrumental turns and taut execution. Released by Hostess Entertainment, it’s instrumental in bulk, with eight-string guitarist George Bodman (Bluebeard) and drummer Dairoku Seki (envy) coming together to deliver brisk and aggressive prog metal centered around chugging riffs and a tension that seems to take hold in “Into the Circle” and let up only for the momentary “Interlude” in the midsection before closer “Ghosts of Mt. Sleepwalker” finally allows for some exhalation. As for the guest spots, they’re nothing to complain about, and they break up the proceedings nicely placed as they are, but if Storm of Void are going to hook you, it’s going to be on their own merits, which are plentiful.

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Hostess Entertainment website

 

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Quarterly Review: Gruntruck, The Dead Ends, Albatross Overdrive, High Priestess, Monolith Cult, Kayleth & Favequaid, Black Wail, Psychic Lemon, Ixion, Rattlesnake

Posted in Reviews on January 10th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Lodewijk de Vadder (1605-1655) - 17th Century Etching, Landscape with Two Farms

Day Three of the Quarterly Review! I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling great. Plowing through, hearing a ton of good stuff. The week is rolling and though it’s most definitely caused me to be a neglectful husband and father for the last 72 hours (so far!), at very least the music is killer. That’s something, right? I didn’t really have a theme in picking today’s batch, but there are some commonalities between some of the inclusions all the same. See if you can find them, like one of those old puzzles in a Highlights magazine in your orthodontist’s wood-paneled office. Ready? Okay, let’s go.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Gruntruck, Gruntruck

gruntruck-gruntruck

Held back due to legal issues with their original label, Roadrunner, the self-titled third album from Seattle groove-grungers Gruntruck hits like an open time-capsule nearly two decades after the fact of its recording: a little dusty but full of vitality and potential for what could’ve been. With a tad more crunch than the likes of Soundgarden and a crunch less TAD than TAD, Gruntruck found a middle-space between the melodies of their age and scene and heavier impulses, and if songs like “Trip,” the post-Nirvana “Build a Hole,” and the later “Spy” sound dated, well, they should. They are dated. It’s an album that was recorded over 20 years ago. That does nothing to take away from the quality of the songwriting, however, as closer “Flang” shows by demonstrating how thin the line between grunge and heavy rock has always been in the first place, let alone how fluidly Gruntruck were able to cross from one side to the other.

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Found Recordings website

 

The Dead Ends, Deeper the Dark the Brighter We Shine

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This warm and psychedelically charmed debut from Kavala, Greece’s The Dead Ends works quickly to deliver its cumbersome title-line in opener “Memory Ship (Sails at Dawn)” amid a build of organ-laced Doors-style drama, but the overarching spirit of the Sound Effect Records release is nonetheless patient and fluid. The keyboard work of vocalist Giorgos Sechlidis proves to be a major standout factor on the playful “Narri-E Narri-O” as rhythms and melodic elements out of Greek folk rear their head, and as guitarist Serios Savvaidis and drummer Dimitris Apostolidis provide vocal support throughout, the nine tracks of Deeper the Dark, the Brighter We Shine envelop with a depth that corresponds to their outward reach, still based around pop structures practically and conceptually, but feeling open and resolved to remain that way all the same. The jangly “Peter 2:18” closes out by building into a melodic wash, as if to underscore the potential within this exciting outfit’s budding stylistic nuance.

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Sound Effect Records website

 

Albatross Overdrive, Keep it Running

albatross-overdrive-keep-it-running

Issued in 2016, Albatross Overdrive’s second full-length pulls together a sans-pretense 31 minutes of barroom-style heavy rock born of the California desert but not necessarily indebted solely to its aesthetic so much as to boozy swing and chug and meaner, engine-revving impulses. “Fire Dancer” and “Higher” make impressions early with catchy choruses and hard-delivered riffs, a touch of metal to the latter particularly, and the later “Preaching Love Not War” boasts a highlight performance from bassist Mark Abshire, formerly of Fu Manchu, while gritty vocalist Art Campos leads the five-piece – completed by guitarists Andrew Luddy and Derek Phillips and drummer Rodney Peralta – through the grunge-chug of “Earth Mother,” recalling Alice in Chains’ “Again” in its cadence momentarily, though ultimately driven along its own course, headed into closer “Neva,” which finishes the album in top form just as it might cap a raucous live set on any given and much-improved Friday evening.

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Albatross Overdrive website

 

High Priestess, Demo

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Los Angeles trio High Priestess were recently snagged by Ripple Music for the release of their impending debut album this year, and on the strength of this five-track demo, one could hardly argue. Tonally rich, perfectly paced in its rollout, melodically centered and meditative with surprising flashes of metallic noise, cuts like 10-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Firefly” offer psychedelic immersion and a sense of worldmaking rare in a band’s first long-player, let alone their initial demo. Weighted low end gives Demo an earthy sensibility, and there’s definitely a desert-style aspect to “Take the Blame” and “Mother Forgive Me,” but the intertwining vocal melodies of guitarist/organist Katie Gilchrest and bassist Mariana Fiel atop Megan Mullins’ drums provide a spaciousness well across the line of transcendent into ethereal psychedelia. Likewise, after the salvo of “Firefly” and its nine-minute companion “Despise,” the peaceful, organ-laced closer “Earth Dive” draws emphasis on sonic diversity with its patient build and underlying command. Especially as demos go, High Priestess’ is dangerously coherent.

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High Priestess on Instagram

 

Monolith Cult, Gospel of Despair

monolith-cult-gospel-of-despair

From the first listen onward, the hardest thing about putting on Monolith Cult’s second full-length, Gospel of Despair, is actually letting the seven tracks play without constantly interrupting them by saying “hell yes.” Whether it’s the hook of opener “Disconnection Syndrome,” the subsequent plod of the title-track that follows, the massive slowdown that hits about a minute into “Sympathy for the Living” as it moves into its chorus, or the Candlemassian finale chug and stomp of “Death Means Nothing,” the Bradford, UK, five-piece’s follow-up to their 2013 debut, Run from the Light (review here), dwells in similar terrain between righteous classic metal and doom as Cruz del Sur denizens Argus, and the band are likewise firm in their purposes and assured in their delivery. “King of all that’s Lost” feels exceptionally weighted in its impact, but set next to the faster motion in the first half of the penultimate “Complicit in Your Abuse,” it feeds into an overarching flow and sense of leather-on-fistpump-or-headbang-take-your-pick-ready audience response. Hell yes? Oh, hell yes.

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Transcending Records

 

Kayleth & Favequaid, The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter Six

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In bringing together Verona’s Kayleth and Palermo’s Favequaid, The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter Six works more on a direct theme than some of the other installments in the impressive and impactful series from Ripple Music. But if there’s a particularly nation’s scene worth highlighting in the heavy rock underground, the emergent riffy movement in Italy makes a riotous case for itself as Favequaid bull-in-a-china-shop their way through the nine-minute “Hypochondria” on side B or Kayleth unfold the highlight nod and melody of “The Survivor” earlier, hitting a mark of spatial weight that’s as much about its crash as reach. Starting with the atmospheric pulse of “Desert Caravan” and following up “The Survivor” with the melodic push of “Magnetar,” Kayleth come across as the more progressive of the two outfits, but with the brash finale of “First” rounding out, Favequaid help put emphasis on the underrated diversity within Italian heavy rock on the whole, and maybe that was the idea in the first place.

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Black Wail, Chromium Homes

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Though it gradually comes to life around an intro of Hendrixian noodling at the start of “They,” its opener and longest track (immediate points), the third EP from New Jersey’s Black Wail, Chromium Homes, isn’t through that same song before a decidedly Dio-esque “lookout!” is tossed into the pot. Abrasive, sludgy screaming follows. So yeah, it gets weird pretty quick, but that turns out to be the fun of the 27-minute six-tracker, since it just as easily digs back into languid wah-led groove or lets its keyboards flesh out classic heavy rocking melodies. “Thee Ghost” chugs metallic before stepping back to a harmonized a capella midsection and swinging to its finish, and the title-track basks in heavy blues rock like nothing ever happened – the perfect setup for the nastier “The Dead Man’s Hand,” and weirdo bounce-into-punk-thrust of “Radioactive Mutation” that follow. And because why the hell not: a closing doomed-out cover of “Norwegian Wood.” Somehow that was the only thing missing. Black Wail are getting strange and daring you to do the same. If you think you’re up for it, maybe you are.

Black Wail on Bandcamp

Rhyme and Reason Records

 

Psychic Lemon, Frequency Rhythm Distortion Delay

Psychic-Lemon-Frequency-Rhythm-Distortion-Delay

Prepare for spacedelic immersion. Somewhere there’s a countdown happening and waiting on the other end of it is Psychic Lemon’s sophomore LP, Frequency Rhythm Distortion Delay, the title of which reads like the recipe from which its five tracks have been constructed. The 41-minute sprawler from the London-based trio sets itself to the task of atmospheric breakout with 8:31 opener “Exit to the Death Lane,” and while it’s hard not to be drawn immediately to a track called “International Fuzz Star” – let alone one that’s almost 10 minutes long – one skips the cosmic-grunge shuffle of “Hey Droog!” and the sped-up Sonic Youthism of centerpiece “You’re No Good” at one’s own peril. They tease tension in the kick drum but ultimately end up soothing in meandering closer “Satori Disko,” but the progressive threat has been laid all the same, and it says something about their accomplishment overall that even in the final moments of Frequency Rhythm Distortion Delay, one can’t be certain where Psychic Lemon might be headed next.

Psychic Lemon on Thee Facebooks

Tonzonen Records webstore

 

Ixion, Return

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Brittany, France-based Ixion is a project spearheaded by multi-instrumentalist/growler/recording engineer/cover artist Julien Prat, and Return (on Finisterian Dead End) is the band’s third full-length. With clean vocals contributed by Yannick Dilly (who also mixed), it captures a contemplative and majestic balance of hope and sorrow, woeful in its extremity but bright-toned in its sprawling lead guitar figures in pieces like “Into Her Light” and the later “Stranger.” This meld fascinates throughout the nine-song/47-minute run, but it’s the poise of execution of all these ideas that make cuts like “Back Home” and the electronics-infused “Contact” stand out and recall some of the best moments of mid-period Katatonia, and from opener/longest track (immediate points) “Out of the Dark” onward, Return makes plain its self-awareness and resilience in capturing its formidable stylistic intention in the reality of the recording. It is a true work of beauty-in-darkness and affecting in both its scope and raw emotionalism.

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Finisterian Dead End website

 

Rattlesnake, Outlaw Boogie

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It’s just three songs, but Rattlesnake’s debut demo, Outlaw Boogie (also discussed here), was enough of an aesthetic mission statement all the same to wind up on my list of 2017’s best short releases, and with the swing and swagger provided by drummer/vocalist Adam Kriney of The Golden Grass, the classic-style riffing of guitarists Blake Charlton (Ramming Speed) and JP Gilbert (also vocals) and the wah bass Don Berger brings to “The Reason Why,” well, the reason why is frickin’ obvious. The New York-based newcomers capture a bright ‘70s vibe not dissimilar from The Golden Grass’ self-titled debut, but less serene and more urgent, more charged in its purposes on the whole, and dudelier in that okay-now-it’s-time-to-grow-a-mustache kind of way. Unsurprisingly, Outlaw Boogie is almost maddeningly catchy and cohesive and clear in its direction and intent, and the band seem to arrive in their conceptual foundation ready to move forward onto the next stage of their development. The only reason I call the three-tracker a demo at all and not an EP is because the band does. Otherwise there’s very little about it that doesn’t already denote it as a professional-grade work.

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In for the Kill Records webstore

 

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