Live Review: YOB, Voivod & Amenra in Brooklyn, 04.04.19

Posted in Reviews on April 5th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

YOB (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I arrived at the Warsaw in Brooklyn early enough to go to the market across the street and buy gum, go inside the venue and use the restroom, come back out and meander a bit and still be first in line to get in the door to see YOB, Voivod and Amenra, so yes, I was eager to see the show. And I’ll confess that after seeing Voivod in August at Psycho Las Vegas (review here) and Amenra at Høstsabbat (review here) in Oslo this past October, the band I was most overdue in seeing was YOB. It would be my first YOB gig since the release last year of Our Raw Heart (review here) on Relapse and going back even further than that to 2015. It’s been an adventurous couple of years, but still, that’s unacceptable.

Fortunately for me and everyone else in the venue — and perhaps, given the volume, everyone on the entire block — YOB were headlining. Amenra were soundchecking before doors opened and this would be my first time seeing them not in a festival setting. Being somewhat used to the Belgium-based forerunners of European post-metal with a high-grade production value in terms of lights, projections, strobe effects and so on, I was interested to find out how it would translate to a smaller stage. Perhaps unsurprisingly, they were blisteringly intense. The drastic contrast of their ambience and weighted sway seemed especially powerful as I stood by the low-end side of the stage for the lurching “Plus Près de Toi” from 2017’s Mass VI. They’ve been to Brooklyn at least once each year since that record came out, but in this context, they brought a headliner presence to the opening slot. There wasn’t one band of the three who wouldn’t readily headline their own tour.

Amenra probably aren’t a band I’d seek out on their own, but I’ve never regretted watching them play when I’ve had occasion to do so, and from where I sit there’s no denying the creative force behind cuts like “Razoreater” and “A Solitary Reign,” both of which were aired at the Warsaw ahead of the finale of “Diaken” from the last album. They’re maybe a bit tighter in their conception of what they do than I can fully appreciate, but they remain sonically devastating, and for the contrast with Canadian sci-fi metal legends Voivod alone, it was a fascinating experience. The sheer incongruity of the one into the other was a sight to behold, but once the switch was flipped and Voivod went on, the whole vibe in the room changed and went along with them, the Quebecois four-piece running through a set of classics and newer songs, smiling all the while.

They are a very, very specific kind of fun. It’s not everyone’s kind of fun, otherwise Voivod would’ve become Metallica, but their alien-rhythm punk-metal-proto-thrash-prog remains not so much ahead of its time, but from its own dimension. The opened with “Post Society” and vocalist Denis “Snake” Bélanger mentioned ahead of “Obsolete Beings” that they’d recently won the Juno award for metal with their latest album, The Wake, from whence that song comes, but if it was more recent stuff or “Into My Hypercube” from 1989’s Nothingface and “The Lost Machine” from 1993’s The Outer Limits, they were absolutely unmistakable, and as was the case last summer in the sweltering Las Vegas heat, theirs was among the most unabashedly joyful performances I’ve ever seen from a band that might be considered in any way. Voivod were having their very own kind of fun.

It was infectious, and I think if there was going to be a vaccine, it probably would’ve been developed sometime in the last 38 years. They ended the night with “Voivod” and a heartfelt shout to founding guitarist Denis “Piggy” D’Amour, who passed away in 2005, before the band got even that portion of “their due” that they’ve received up to now. I’m not sure I’d put a percentage to that, but I know it’s on the low side, and when they were done, Snake, founding drummer Michel “Away” Langevin, bassist Dominique “Rocky” Laroche and guitarist Daniel “Chewy” Mongrain took time to pass out their setlists and shake hands in the crowd. It sounds corny to say, but they were essentially sharing their love for what they do with the audience, both while they were playing and after. They’re one of the most admirable bands on the planet, for that as well as the decades of aesthetic innovation.

And then YOB played. Ha.

Let’s face it. YOB have been at it one way or another for the last 20-plus years, and they’ve only ever pushed themselves forward. I think every single seeing-YOB-is-a-spiritual-experience cliché has been exhausted at this point in their career — true though it otherwise might be — so I’ll spare you that, but I think it’s worth taking a minute to appreciate the relentless creativity that drives the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Mike Scheidt, bassist Aaron Rieseberg and drummer Travis Foster. And that’s not just a question of longevity. YOB don’t put out records because, “okay, well, we gotta go get back on tour, so we need to make an album.” They do it because they have something to express emotionally or something to contemplate and process through music. Their work has never ceased growing, and as they opened their set by tearing a chasm through the universe with “Prepare the Ground,” I couldn’t help but think how incredibly special and rare a band they are. To wit, there is one YOB. Eight billion people walking around the planet or something like that. One YOB.

The set was “Prepare the Ground,” “Kosmos,” “The Lie that is Sin,” “Marrow,” “Grasping Air” and “Burning the Altar,” and if six songs doesn’t sound like much to you, I humbly invite you to go listen to any single one of those cuts somewhere on the internet and be bowled over by them. “Marrow” had eyes moistened throughout the venue, and they brought out bassist Levy Seynaeve from Amenra to do guest vocals on “Grasping Air,” which I have a hard time thinking of as anything other than a dream come true. Even before that though, “Kosmos” and “The Lie that is Sin” made for a particularly resonant pairing ahead of “Marrow,” building on the momentous nod of “Prepare the Ground” with methodical groove that is continually YOB‘s own. Like I said at the outset, it had been too long. I didn’t realize until I was standing there watching them just how much too long it had been. Much too long.

No encore, but none necessary after “Burning the Altar.” I was kind of in a daze after that, to be honest, but stayed a couple minutes to chat rather than darting back to the car. It was a scheduling glitch that got me to see this show in Brooklyn rather than Boston, but no regrets. Nights like this one don’t happen all the time, and to not take advantage when they do is to genuinely miss out.

Thanks for reading. More pics after the jump.

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Slush Premiere “On the Silver Globe” from Lizard Skin

Posted in audiObelisk on March 27th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

slush

Brooklyn trio Slush make an offering of Lizard Skin on March 29, self-releasing the seven-song/50-minute long-player as their follow-up to the fuckall charm of 2016’s American Demons (review here). An current of experimentalism runs beneath the tube-blower fuzz of songs like “Golden Seam” and the slow-marching “Skeleton Queen,” prevailing through a sashimi-raw production that makes its anti-presence felt quickly on opening track “Graveyard,” however misleading — and there’s intent behind that, make no mistake — the leadoff’s punkishness might otherwise be, like if Ramones grew up listening to Nebula, or maybe the other way around.

Fuck it. Point is, Slush come out throwing curves at your head, and that doesn’t really stop just because once “Graveyard” and “Golden Seam” lead into the title-track and “Skeleton Queen” there’s a little bit of context for comparison. It’s freaked out. Not in the same way as the psych-blamo of the three-piece’s alter-ego unit Hot Knives — why not combine the two bands; Hot Slush; you’re welcome — but freaked out enough to make the title-track a down-home acoustic grunge number with a considered arrangement of backing vocals and some accomplished noodling. Because when you’re going to have expectation take a back seat, you might as well just tie it to the roof of the car instead.

Them Slushies cap side A with the slow-nodding tonal thickness slush lizard skinof “Skeleton Queen” and drift into hypnosis past the halfway-point of the tracklist centerpiece only to cut to feedback and turn out a more active ending, driven there by the restless drums of Tom Barnes as bassist Joe Dahlstrom and guitarist/vocalist Alex Boehm careen around the newfound central groove. It’s plenty heavy but a locked in moment all the same and soothing for that, a quick bit of security ahead of the B side’s own headed-out movement, which begins with “Megalodon,” renewing the vocal approach of “Graveyard” atop a shuffling progression that leads to a noisy solo late in the track with enough swagger that it’s easy to roll with it.

And of course before they get down to business in the 12-minute let’s-just-do-it-all-at-once finale “On the Silver Globe,” there’s “Cortex the Killer,” a mostly-instrumental (but for the last minute or so) exploration of Western-style acoustics and string-ish drone that’s no less trance-inducing than anything “Skeleton Queen” brought forth, but of course in its own context. And maybe it’s the initial lumber of “On the Silver Globe” that takes my weary head to the Melvins, but the start is barely the start of what the capper has to say, digging into earliest-Electric Wizard-style unabashed Sabbathery with reckless glee and teasing the inevitable into-oblivion jam a couple times before the actual point of departure. I won’t spoil it, but once you’re inside, there’s no getting out. Not that you’re looking for one.

The thing about even that stretch of freaky freaked-out freakery though is that Slush know what they’re doing, and that’s where the biggest distinction comes in between Lizard Skin and American Demons. For sure, both have exploration as a key component, and I expect and hope that would continue to be the case with whatever Slush might do next, but there’s a sense of purpose behind these songs that brings them to a different level in terms of execution. Side A makes that plain and side B reinforces it, with “On the Silver Globe” as something of a victory lap for the accomplishment of their intent.

Keep an open mind and check out the premiere of “On the Silver Globe” via the player below. Some comment from the band follows. Album is out Friday.

Please enjoy:

Slush on “On the Silver Globe”:

“On the Silver Globe” is a stolen title — I got it from a movie by Andrzej Zulawski, one of my favorite directors (most famous for his gorey, psychedelic rumination on infidelity, Possession, starring Sam Neill and Isabelle Adjani). Silver Globe was supposed to be Zulawski’s magnum opus. It’s a visually stunning sci-fi masterpiece to rival the best by Tarkovsky, but to make a long story short it’s a miracle the film ever got made (look it up! the history of the movie itself is wild).

Sonically, I was really trying to stuff everything I love about rock and roll into one song. I wanted to weave blown-out, dense riffs with a heavy garage drone and still maintain a hypnotic, entrancing effect throughout… I remember bringing it to the band and Joe and Tom gave real movement to it right away, which was the missing necessary element for such an excessive, indulgent song. It always feels good when a song clicks right away. Although my memory is terrible, generally speaking, I do recall playing it for the first time and us all taking it in the same direction pretty much instinctively.

The undulating feel Joe and Tom both give the song also inspired the lyrics, which loosely allude to a Lovecraftian tale of human sacrifice by drowning and subsequent transcendence into outer space. Each song on Lizard Skin has a similar underlying narrative and together they compose a complete, semi-secret story that lies beneath the album’s surface. As the last song on the album, “Silver Globe” also serves as the ending to that story.

Out March 29, Lizard Skin was self-produced and mastered by Bob Weston of Chicago Mastering, and will be pressed as a double LP on natural white vinyl.

SLUSH is:
Joe Dahlstrom (bass)
Tom Barnes (drums)
Alex Boehm (guitar and vocals)

Slush on Instagram

Slush on Bandcamp

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Quarterly Review: Stuck in Motion, AVER, Massa, Alastor, Seid, Moab, Primitive Man & Unearthly Trance, Into Orbit, Super Thief, Absent

Posted in Reviews on March 18th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-spring-2019

Let the games begin! The rules are the same: 10 albums per day, this time for a total of 60 between today and next Monday. It’s the Quarterly Review. Think of it like a breakfast buffet with an unending supply of pancakes except the pancakes are riffs and there’s only one dude cooking them and he’s really tired all the time and complains, complains, complains. Maybe not the best analogy. Still, it’s gonna be a ton of stuff, but there are some very, very cool records included, so please keep your eyes and your mind open for what’s coming, because you might find something here you really dig. If not, there’s always tomorrow. Let’s go.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Stuck in Motion, Stuck in Motion

stuck in motion self-titled

The classic style cover art of Swedish trio Stuck in Motion‘s self-titled debut tells much of the story. It’s sweet-toned vintage-style soul rock, informed by Graveyard to some degree, but more aligned to retroism. The songs are bluesy and natural and not especially long, but have vibe for weeks, as demonstrated on the six-minute longest-track “Dreams of Flying,” or the flute-laden closer “Eken.” What the picture doesn’t tell you is the heavy use of clavinet in the band’s sound and just how much the vintage electric piano adds to what songs like “Slingrar” with its ultra-fluid shifts in tempo, or the sax-drenched penultimate cut “Orientalisk.” Comprised of guitarist/vocalist Max Kinnbo, drummer Gustaf Björkman and bassist/vocalist/clavinetist Adrian Norén, Stuck in Motion‘s debut successfully basks in a mellow psychedelic blues atmosphere and shows a patience for songwriting that bodes remarkably well. It should not be overlooked because you think you’re tired of vintage-style rock.

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Stuck in Motion on Bandcamp

 

AVER, Orbis Majora

aver orbis majora

Following up their 2015 sophomore outing, Nadir (review here), which led to them getting picked up by Ripple Music, Australia’s AVER return with the progressive shove of Orbis Majora, five songs in 50 minutes of thoughtfully composed heavy progadelica, and while it’s not all so serious — closer “Hemp Fandango” well earns its title via a shuffling stonerly groove — opener “Feeding the Sun” and the subsequent “Disorder” set a mood of careful craftsmanship in longform pieces. The album’s peak might be in the 13-minute “Unanswered Prayers,” which culls together an extended linear build that’s equal parts immersive and gorgeous, but the rest of the album hardly lacks for depth or clarity of purpose. An underlying message from the Sydney four-piece would seem to be that they’re going to continue growing, even after more than a decade, because it’s not so much that they’re feeling their way toward their sound, but willfully pushing themselves to refine those parameters.

AVER on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

 

Massa, Walls

massa walls

Flourish of keys adds nuance to Massa‘s moody, heavy post-rock style, the Rotterdam-based trio bringing an atmosphere to their second EP, Walls, across five tracks and 26 minutes marked by periodic samples from cinema and a sense of scope that seems to be born of an experimental impulse but not presented as the experiment itself. That is, they take the “let’s try this!” impulse and make a song out of it, as the chunky rhythm of instrumental centerpiece “Expedition” or the melodies in the prior “#8” show. Before finishing with the crash-into-push of the relatively brief “Intermassa,” the eight-minute “The Federal” complements winding guitar with organ to affect an engaging spirit somewhere between classic and futurist heavy, with the drums holding together proceedings that would seem to convey all the chaos of that temporal paradox. Perhaps it was opener “Shiva” that set this creator/destroyer tone, but either way, Massa bask in it and find a grim sense of identity thereby.

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Massa on Bandcamp

 

Alastor, Slave to the Grave

alastor slave to the grave

The first full-length from Swedish doomplodders Alastor and their debut on RidingEasy Records, late 2018’s Slave to the Grave is the four-piece’s most expansive offering yet in sonic scope as well as runtime. Following the 2017 EPs Blood on Satan’s Claw (review here) and Black Magic (review here), the seven-song/56-minute offering holds true to the murk-toned cultism and dense low-end rumble of the prior offerings, but the melodic resonance and sense of updating the aesthetic of traditional doom is palpable throughout the roller “Your Lives are Worthless,” while the later acoustic-led “Gone” speaks to a folkish influence that suits them surprisingly well given the heft that surrounds. They make an obvious focal point of 17-minute closer “Spider of My Love,” which though they’ve worked in longer forms before, is easily the grandest accomplishment they’ve yet unfurled. One might easily say the same applies to Slave to the Grave as a whole. Those who miss The Wounded Kings should take particular note of their trajectory.

Alastor on Thee Facebooks

RidingEasy Records website

 

Seid, Weltschmerz, Baby!

seid-weltschmerz_baby-web

If Norwegian space-psych outfit Seid are feeling weary of the world, the way they show it in Weltschmerz, Baby! is by simply leaving it behind, substituting for reality a cosmic starscape of effects and synth, the odd sample and vaguely Hawkwindian etherealism. The centerpiece title-track is a banger along those lines, a swell of rhythmic intensity born out of the finale of the prior “Satan i Blodet” and the mellow, flowing “Trollmannens Hytte” before that, but the highlight might be the subsequent “Coyoteman,” which drifts into dream-prog led by echoing layers of guitar and eventually given over to a fading strain of noise that “Moloch vs. Gud” picks up with percussive purpose and flows directly into the closer “Mir (Drogarna Börjar Värka),” rife with ’70s astro-bounce and a long fadeout that’s less about the record ending and more about leaving the galaxy behind. Starting out at a decent clip with “Haukøye,” Weltschmerz, Baby! is all about the journey and a trip well worth taking.

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Sulatron Records website

 

Moab, Trough

moab trough

A good record tinged by the tragic loss of drummer Erik Herzog during the recording and finished by guitarist/vocalist Andrew Giacumakis and bassist Joe Fuentes, the 10-track/39-minute Trough demonstrates completely just how much Moab have been underrated since their 2011 debut, Ab Ovo (discussed here), and across the 2014 follow-up, Billow (review here), as they bring a West Coast noise-infused pulse to heavy rock drive on “All Automatons” and meet an enduring punker spirit face first with “Medieval Moan,” all the while presenting a clear head for songcraft amid deep-running tones and melodies. “The Will is Weak” makes perhaps the greatest impact in terms of heft, but heft is by no means all Moab have to offer. With the very real possibility this will be their final record, it is a worthy homage to their fallen comrade and a showcase of their strengths that’s bound someday to get the attention it deserves whenever some clever label decides to reissue it as a lost classic.

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Moab on Bandcamp

 

Primitive Man & Unearthly Trance, Split

primitive man unearthly trance split

Well of course it’s a massive wash of doomed and hate-filled noise! What were you expecting, sunshine and puppies? Colorado’s Primitive Man and Brooklyn’s Unearthly Trance team up to compare misanthropic bona fides across seven tracks of blistering extremity that do Relapse Records proud. Starting with the collaborative intro “Merging,” the onslaught truly commences with Primitive Man’s 10-minute “Naked” and sinks into an abyss with the instrumental noisefest “Love Under Will,” which gradually makes its way into a swell of abrasive drone. Unearthly Trance, meanwhile, proffer immediate destructiveness with the churning “Mechanism Error” and make “Triumph” dark enough to live up to its most malevolent interpretations, while “Reverse the Day” makes me wonder what people who heard Godflesh in the ’80s must’ve thought of it and the six-minute finishing move “418” answers back to Primitive Man‘s droned-out anti-structure with a consuming void of fuckall depth. It’s like the two bands cut open their veins and recorded the disaffection that spilled out.

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Unearthly Trance on Thee Facebooks

Relapse Records website

 

Into Orbit, Shifter

Into Orbit Shifter

Progressive New Zealander two-piece Into OrbitPaul Stewart on guitar and Ian Moir on drums — offer up the single Shifter as the answer to their 2017 sophomore long-player, Unearthing. The Wellington instrumentalists did likewise leading into that album with a single that later showed up as part of a broader tracklist, so it may be that they’ve got another release already in the works, but either way, the 5:50 standalone track finds them dug into a full band sound with layered or looped guitar standing tall over the mid-paced drumming, affecting an emotion-driven atmosphere as much as the cerebral nature of its craft. Beginning with a thick chug, it works into more melodic spaciousness as it heads toward and through its midsection, lead guitar kicking in with harmony lines joining soon after as the two-piece build back up to a bigger finish. Whatever their plans, Into Orbit make it clear that just because something is prog doesn’t mean it needs to be staid or lack expressiveness.

Into Orbit on Thee Facebooks

Into Orbit on Bandcamp

 

Super Thief, Eating Alone in My Car

super thief eating alone in my car

Noise-punk intensity pervades Eating Alone in My Car, the not-quite-not-an-LP from Austin four-piece Super Thief. They call it an album, and that’s good enough for me, especially since at about 20 minutes there isn’t much more I’d ask of the thing that it doesn’t deliver, whether it’s the furious out-of-mindness of minute-long highlight “Woodchipper” or the poli-sci critique of that sandwiches the offering with opener “Gone Country” immediately taking a nihilist anti-stance while closer “You Play it Like a Joke but I Know You Really Mean It” — which consumes nearly half the total runtime at 9:32 — seems to run up the walls unable to stick to the “smoke ’em if you got ’em” point of view of the earlier cut. That’s how the bastards keep you running in circles, but at least Super Thief know where to direct the frustration. “Six Months Blind” and the title-track have a more personal take, but are still worth a read lyrically as much as a listen, as the rhythm of the words only adds to the striking personality of the material.

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Learning Curve Records website

 

Absent, Towards the Void

absent towards the void

Recorded in 2016, released on CD in 2018 and snagged by Cursed Tongue Records for a vinyl pressing, Absent‘s Towards the Void casts a shimmering plunge of cavernous doom, with swirling post-Electric Wizard guitar and echoing vocals adding to the spaciousness of its four component tracks as the Brasilia-based trio conjure atmospheric breadth to go along with their weighted lurch in opener “Ophidian Womb.” With tracks arranged shortest to longest between eight and a half and 11 minutes, “Semen Prayer,” “Funeral Sun” and “Urine” follow suit from the opener in terms of overall approach, but “Funeral Sun” speeds things up for a stretch while “Urine” lures the listener downward with a subdued opening leading to more filth-caked distortion and degenerate noise, capping with feedback because at that point what the hell matters anyway? Little question in listening why this one’s been making the rounds for over a year now. It will likely continue to do so for some time to come.

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Cursed Tongue Records webstore

 

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Kings Destroy, Fantasma Nera: Where You’ll Find Yourself

Posted in Reviews on March 15th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Kings Destroy Fantasma Nera

The usual disclaimer: I won’t pretend to be impartial about a new Kings Destroy release. I’ve followed with great intrigue the process by which the New York five-piece have made Fantasma Nera, from the composition of the songs to working with producer David Bottrill — who has helmed records for Tool, King Crimson, and many, many others — to their aligning with Svart Records for the release with an eye toward touring around it, right up to attending the release show at the Saint Vitus Bar last weekend (review here). I’m not bragging, like I’m Johnny Groundfloor or something; I’m telling you this because in addition to being a fan of their work — something that should already do away with any false-anyway notion of impartiality when it comes to critique — I consider these guys friends and I can’t and won’t pretend otherwise for the purposes of an album review. If that somehow for you invalidates whatever I say about Fantasma Nera or the band in general, then fine. Tune back in Monday for plenty more overly wordy stoicism. Or don’t. Up to you.

At 10 tracks and 43 minutes, Fantasma Nera is the most accomplished album Kings Destroy have put out in the decade they’ve been together. Their fourth behind a 2015 self-titled (review here) and 2017’s single-song None More EP (review here), it redefines their scope as a band entirely, with a greater focus on melody and a nothing-spare efficiency of songcraft that enhances rather than detracts from the impact of moments like the apex to “Seven Billion Drones” or the swinging chug and hook of “Yonkers Ceiling Collapse,” the winding beginning of opener “The Nightbird” or the angular turns of the penultimate “Bleed Down the Sun.”

Tonally, it’s the smoothest-sounding Kings Destroy have ever been, as Carl Porcaro and Chris Skowronski suit their sound to a more rocking feel overall that sets well in the rush of “Barbarossa” early in the record or the more foreboding riffing of “You’re the Puppet” later on, and even in the presentation of the underlying groove of bassist Aaron Bumpus and drummer Rob Sefcik (also of Begotten), the shift is palpable, puling away from some of the outward confrontationalist attack that seemed most to define their second outing, 2013’s A Time of Hunting (review here), and instead metering the in-your-facery in a way they never have before. I do not imagine that getting a bunch of dudes whose roots are in New York hardcore on board with the idea that not everything needs to be played as hard as possible at all times was an easy task, but the truth is Kings Destroy laid the foundation for this kind of work their last time out, even if the actual result is a considerable leap forward.

kings destroy

Perhaps most of all, it’s a collection of songs by a band putting everything on the line. As vocalist Steve Murphy successfully brings in falsetto on “Unmake It,” or is joined by a gang chorus on “The Nightbird” — a theme that continues directly from self-titled closer “Time for War” — or pushes into new levels of melodic complexity that seem drawn from YOB‘s “Marrow” in melancholy album highlight “Dead Before,” which is brilliantly paired with the bouncing riff of “Yonkers Ceiling Collapse” right after, there’s a sense that Kings Destroy, all five of them, are leaving it all out there. Closer “Stormy Times,” in which Skowronski and Porcaro come together in a final stretch of harmonized soloing to end the record, seems to be a moment of exhalation, and it ends with notes held out to fading feedback as though at the end of it the band could finally breathe. Though Fantasma Nera is unquestionably their most “rock” album in the sheer listening process, it carries a sense of extremity nonetheless in how much of themselves they put into making it.

And I haven’t said this to anyone in the band yet, but my principle concern in listening to these tracks is that Fantasma Nera might be the last Kings Destroy record. That after putting everything into this, there might not be anything left. I don’t know that, of course, and I don’t think at this point they would either, but Kings Destroy aren’t just making a sonic turn with this material — they’re providing a culmination of what their prior offerings were driving toward. In a way, Fantasma Nera defines them more than did the self-titled. What do you do after that? Where do you go from there?

Hell if I know.

They’re questions that don’t need immediate answering, but the thought lingers in the back of my head even while the title-track and “Barbarossa” proffer hooks in a salvo with the opener that help define the spirit of what follows, and even as the second half of the record takes on more of a commentary component between “Yonkers Ceiling Collapse,” “Seven Billion Drones,” “You’re the Puppet” and “Stormy Times” — hell, even “Bleed Down the Sun” could be read that way, if you take the imagery as metaphor — it retains the urgency of expression of “Fantasma Nera” itself or “Dead Before,” which in its verses is the most subdued Kings Destroy get here, but is nonetheless vital in its melody and emotionalism.

If Fantasma Nera were to be the last Kings Destroy record — and I’m not saying it is, or that it should be; I’m just working in a hypothetical; they’ll probably put out another album in a couple years and blow this one out of the water — then they’re not leaving anything in reserve. There’s no holding back in these songs. It’s all laid bare for the listener to take in, as though the band reeled back and unleashed the material they’ve been aiming for all this time. My hope is that it’s not the last one, but whether it is or not, there’s no doubt after “Stormy Times” works its way out that they’ve pushed themselves to what at least for right now is their limit in terms of craft and performance. It is a new peak for them, and a triumph begging to be heard.

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Kings Destroy website

Kings Destroy on Bandcamp

Svart Records website

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The Golden Grass Premiere “100 Arrows”; New EP to Coincide with Euro Tour

Posted in audiObelisk on March 14th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

the golden grass

The Golden Grass head back to Europe in just under two weeks’ time, and as they go, they’ll carry 150 CD-R copies of their new EP, 100 Arrows along for the ride. And yes, it’s an EP, but when one includes the bonus tracks, it’s also eight songs and 35 minutes long, so the Brooklyn outfit aren’t exactly half-assing it either. Last year, the trio released their third album, Absolutely (review here), which found them bringing a progressive bent to their harmony-laced classic heavy rock, taking a path of willful creative growth after debuting on Listenable Records with their 2016 second full-length, Coming Back Again (review here), while holding firm to the bright tonality and sunshine vibes that have been among their most distinguishing features all along.

The returning trio of guitarist/vocalist Michael Rafalowich, drummer/vocalist Adam Kriney and bassist/backing vocalist Frank Caira present four new recordings for the EP proper, launching with the title-track in barnburner fashion as a driving opening riff is quickly introduced by the drums and the motor-gallop is off. A swaggering verse conveys 100 Arrows as a more straight-aheadthe golden grass 100 arrows offering than was Absolutely, and the subsequent “Fast Time Running” bears that out despite a seven-minute runtime that moves into call-and-response lines in its second half ahead of a quick turn to Steppenwolf chug and wah-drenched earliest-doom riff and soloing, backed by Kriney‘s steady beat and plenty of oh-hell-yes bass from Caira. That’s a digging lead-in for their take on “Magic Potion” by Open Mind, which taps into late-’60s bikerism, and a redux of The Bubble Puppy‘s “Hot Smoke and Sassafras,” which originally appeared on the 4-Bands Split Vol. 2 (review here) from Heavy Psych Sounds in 2016. An overarching rawness in the recording, at least relative to the last album, gives these songs a live feel, which is only appropriate since that’s their context, but frankly the jam in “Hot Smoke and Sassafras” or the attitude-soaked push of “100 Arrows” itself makes the EP worth the price of admission, especially if you’re already going to the show.

Demos for “Catch Your Eye” and “Burn it all Away” from the pre-production session for Absolutely follow, and as the latter — an instrumental that seems to in this form be awaiting its vocal arrangement — didn’t make it onto that album, it’s another piece that fans should be curious to get. Takes on Tin House‘s “I Want Your Body” and Icecross‘ “Wandering Around” follow, both of which come from a Daytrotter Session recorded in Iowa in 2017. The Tin House track is all about swing and swagger and so right in The Golden Grass‘ territory, and they bring an upbeat shove to “Wandering Around” as well that turns smoothly into a cowbell-inclusive jam before a quick “woo!” makes the transition to the solo and back to the verse, The Golden Grass — as ever — taking classic material and making it their own. They’ve been exceptionally proficient at that since their 2014 self-titled debut (review here), and it would seem that wherever they go in terms of sound — or, for that matter, actual going — that’s the constant they bring with them. The ready familiarity of their original material makes them an all the more inviting listen, and their covers only give further context. Nothing they’ve done up to this point has been an accident, and as they move beyond Absolutely and whatever might come after this tour, they continue to go with confidence and melody in like measure.

I’m happy to host the premiere of “100 Arrows” for your streaming pleasure. You’ll find it on the player below, followed by the text of the one-sheet for the release, including the tour dates for the upcoming European run, for which The Golden Grass will be joined by Wedge from Berlin.

Please enjoy:

In For The Kill Records is proud to announce the release of “100 Arrows”, the brand new limited edition CD EP by Brooklyn based heavy boogie rock trio THE GOLDEN GRASS! This release coincides with their March-April 2019 European Tour, their 5th time crossing the pond! This release sees the prolific trio move further into harder and darker territories, with proto-metal moves flexing wildly, yet still retaining all their signature soulful good-time swing & glorious vocal harmonies.

After 6 years of touring, not to mention 3 LPs and a handful of split releases along the way, the Grass have proven themselves to be one of the hardest working bands in the global traditional heavy rock underground, and this new EP is a majestic culmination of their musical abilities and seamless breadth of influence.

The “100 Arrows” EP consists of 4 brand new studio recordings, featuring 2 original new compositions as well as smashing covers of OPEN MIND’s “Magic Potion” & BUBBLE PUPPY’s “Hot Smoke And Sasafrass”, both of which have been standards in THE GOLDEN GRASS’ live show for several years. In fact, this is the 2nd time they have recorded “Hot Smoke And Sasafrass”, as it previously appeared on their 2xLP split release with KILLER BOOGIE, BANQUET & WILD EYES in 2016 (on Heavy Psych Sounds), and they chose to re-record it because they had developed such an intense and expansive version of it over the years, it needed proper documentation!

The CD release will also include 4 bonus tracks, 2 of which come from 2016 pre-production demos for their “Absolutely” LP and the other 2 from their live Daytrotter session from 2017, which includes cover versions of TIN HOUSE’s “I Want Your Body” and ICECROSS’ “Wandering Around”, both of which had also been staples in their live repertoire for years.

This EP is released in an edition of 150 pro-printed CD-Rs exclusively for their March-April 2019 European Tour with German hard rockers WEDGE.

Order at:
Bandcamp: https://tinyurl.com/y6rxx574
BigCartel: https://tinyurl.com/y3bn22cs

THE GOLDEN GRASS “100 Arrows” Track Listing:
1. 100 Arrows
2. Fast Time Running
3. Magic Potion (originally by OPEN MIND)
4. Hot Smoke And Sasafrass (originally by BUBBLE PUPPY)
Bonus Tracks
5. Catch Your Eye (2016 demo)
6. Burn It All Away (2016 demo)
7. I Want Your Body (2017 Daytrotter Session, originally by TIN HOUSE)
8. Wandering Around (2017 Daytrotter Session, originally by ICECROSS)

2019 European Tour Dates with WEDGE, presented by Swamp Booking and Magnificent Music:
27.03. (PL) Torun Dwa Swiaty
28.03. (PL) Warszawa Chmury
29.03. (PL) Krakow Alchemia
30.03. (PL) Poznan Pod Minoga
31.03. (PL) Wroclaw D.K. Luksus
01.04. (AT) Vienna 3Raum
02.04. (AT) Salzburg Rockhaus
03.04. (DE) Frankfurt Parkhaus-wk-16
04.04. (DE) Höxter Toneburg
05.04. (DE) Chemnitz Die Zukunft
06.04. (DE) Berlin Zukunft/Ostkreuz
07.04. (DE) Leipzig Moertelwerk
08.04. (DE) Jena Kulturbahnhof
09.04. (CZ) Bilina Moskva
10.04. (CZ) Brno Kabinet Muz
11.04. (AT) Innsbruck PMK
12.04. (IT) Bologna Freakout
13.04. (IT) Milano COX18
14.04. (CH) Martigny Caves du Manoir
15.04. TBA
16.04. TBA
17.04. (DE) Wurzburg Immerhin
18.04. (CH) Olten Coq d’Or
19.04. (DE) Münster Rare Guitar
20.04. (DE) Oldenburg MTS

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Live Review: Kings Destroy, Gozu, Forming the Void and Clamfight in Brooklyn, 03.02.19

Posted in Reviews on March 5th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Kings Destroy (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Half a decade ago, I tagged along with Kings Destroy on a West Coast tour that took us, among other places, through a snowstorm in Wyoming. It was late at night, and cars were sliding off the road and pulled over with their flashers on, plows nowhere to be seen. A general wreck. I took over driving that night — hi, I’m sober — and we just went to where we were staying very, very slowly. One does not want to flip the Sprinter van with all the gear in it when one is not even in the band.

I thought about that snowstorm at seven in the morning on Saturday to go south from Massachusetts to see Kings Destroy‘s record release show at the Saint Vitus Bar in the Lost City of Brooklyn after seeing them the night before in Boston, with Gozu and Forming the Void, who’d also be playing again, while Philly’s Clamfight stepped into the opening spot. It’s not every band on the planet I’d leave the house for, let alone take six hours to make a four-hour trip. It all worked out, though, and nobody flipped any vehicles. A win, even before the night started.

It was an early show, which is fine by me forever. There was an NYC Beer Week event with metal breweries at the Vitus Bar before the show kicked off, and Alewife Brewing had a special beer for Gozu — a Gozu Gose — and so it was a double release gig, with Kings Destroy marking the arrival this week of their fourth album, Fantasma Nera, and Gozu having a few cans of their own special brew on hand. There was no way it wasn’t going to be a party.

The beer thing was basically irrelevant to me other than the Gozu cans were cool looking, but it made sure the crowd had gotten plenty of “tasting” done by the time Clamfight went on. Here’s how it all went from there:

Clamfight

Clamfight (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Hugs all around. I’ve known Clamfight for well over a decade at this point, and they played three songs at the Saint Vitus Bar, but honestly, apart from being happy to see them and the fact that in the time since I last did — in the same place, no less — they released last year’s III (review here), which was by any measure a huge leap forward in sound and approach, I spent the bulk of their set feeling cripplingly nervous. I had put out on social media a post with their track “Echoes in Stone” that said how I daydreamed about singing the song on stage with them, and they invited me to do it. When I was in a band a decade ago, we used to do shows together a lot and it was how we got to be friends. They invited me to do the song, and, after much hemming and hawing, I actually did it. I sang backups to drummer Andy Martin and was up on the Vitus Bar stage with him, bassist Louis Koble and guitarists Joel “Papa” Harris and guitarist Sean McKee and I did the song. The last time I was on a stage was eight years before, and I thought I’d never do it again, but in the end, the situation felt right and when it was done, I was glad I did it. Sore, and glad. And sore. But also glad. And sweaty. Before I got up, they also killed and the metal-breweries crowd left over from the beer event earlier were right on board with their more aggressive side. It had been too long since I saw them, and I’m glad to know I’ll catch them again at New England Stoner & Doom Fest this Spring.

Forming the Void

Forming the Void (Photo by JJ Koczan)

It was really, really easy to watch Forming the Void play two nights in a row. They seemed comfortable on a bigger stage, and were able to spread out a bit more in their setup, but the huge tones and progressive melodies came through no less effectively for the larger space they occupied in Brooklyn than they had in Boston. And it’s interesting to see that people are clearly onto them. They brought out a good, growing-band crowd both nights, and what they brought to the bill was to be the one on the lineup that people hadn’t seen yet on the tour. The seeing-them-for-the-first-time band, because of course neither Gozu nor Kings Destroy — nor Clamfight, for that matter — were strangers to the venue, but you could see in the crowd people being engaged by the Louisiana natives, and that initial curiosity turning into fandom in real-time. Touring suits them. They’re building a stage presence and as they become more confident in their approach, that will become all the more a factor, but they’re already able to take a room and bring the people in it onto their side, and that is a massive step. Good band. Good band. Go see Forming the Void. Their next album or two — they work quickly — will tell the tale, but already, good band. They’ll be at Maryland Doom Fest in June, I’m hoping with new material in tow.

Gozu

Gozu (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Appropriately enough, Gozu and Kings Destroy switched up the order from the night before in Boston, giving the New York band the play-last spot in their hometown, but Gozu still tore through Saint Vitus Bar like headliners. This was their last night of the three on the road with Kings Destroy and Forming the Void — Portland, Boston, Brooklyn — and they railed into their set in absolute blowout fashion. If I didn’t know they were playing with a new drummer in Alex Fewell, I wouldn’t have thought twice about it, and it was clear they were getting it together as they were going. No flubs that I heard, and frankly, I was paying pretty close attention. If he’s permanent, Fewell (also of thrashers Black Mass) would be the third drummer in Gozu, and though he’s playing established material with parts originally written by someone else — either Mike Hubbard or Barry Spillberg — he brings his own sensibility to it. I was glad to see him a second night with the band, because that came through all the more. He’s not a pure tech drummer, but he’s able to carry the sharp-edged “Nature Boy” without trouble and still swing when called upon to do so. By the time guitarist/vocalist Marc Gaffney was shaking his hips later into the set in the middle of the stage with guitarist Doug Sherman and bassist Joe Grotto headbanging on either side, Gozu seemed fully locked in and sustainable as they are now. I don’t know how fluid their situation is, but their intent to keep moving forward was plain to see, and it’s worth being thankful for that.

Kings Destroy

Kings Destroy (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I was at the record release show at Saint Vitus Bar in 2015 for Kings Destroy‘s self-titled third LP (review here). I got to do a track premiere for that one. This time, I wasn’t cool enough, but as they move toward the release of their fourth album, Fantasma Nera, this week as their offering under the banner of Svart Records, I couldn’t help but think back to that show and the massive difference in sound between that material and the newer stuff. They liken it to grunge, which is fair in a sense, but New York — and really, East Coast — grunge was always a bit meaner, and that holds true for Kings Destroy as well. What they’ve ended up with is a kind of heavy rock that in some ways communes with their hardcore past, but is much more melodically present and more than ever sure of its songwriting approach. I said of the Boston show they were still feeling out how to present the new songs live — once again, they played all Fantasma Nera material except for “Mr. O” from the last album — but being on their home turf definitely helped. This was their 25th show at the Saint Vitus Bar. I haven’t been at every one of those shows, but I’m happy to have seen as many as I have, and I know full well this won’t be the last one I catch. They are the masters of that domain, new songs or old, and owned the show the way you own your living room. I stood in the middle of the crowd — something I rarely do — and however many times I’ve seen them later, still felt lucky to be there.

Sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of yourself and your place. Some people come to underground music with an endgame in mind. They have a goal and are working toward that goal. That’s not always the wrong call, but if you’re looking for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow of underground heavy, you’re doing it wrong. It’s not about the gold, it’s about the rainbow. It’s not what you get from the work, it’s the work itself. The work is the reward. People can support each other and help out and whatever else, but at the end of the night when you’re driving home from the show, if you’re not happy with the work, there’s no point to any of it. Because that gold? It’s bullshit. You’re never going to get it. But rainbows really do exist and they’re fucking awesome. Live for the work or live wrong. Nights like this, they help you align your perspective and inspire you to keep it right.

Thanks for reading. More pics after the jump.

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Desertfest New York 2019 Makes Final Lineup Announcement; Here Lies Man, Fatso Jetson, Black Cobra, Heavy Temple, Steak & More Added

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

desertfest new york 2019 banner

Desertfest New York 2019, the first one ever, has completed its lineup for this April. Taking place at The Well and Saint Vitus Bar, the three-night event will be headlined by Black CobraWindhand and Elder and will boast newly-announced performances from SteakHigh Tone Son of a BitchHeavy TempleTowerGreen Milk from the Planet OrangeDuelSun VoyagerFatso Jetson and others. It was always going to be a stacked bill, and well, it’s worked out to be a stacked bill. Obviously the Desertfest brand, with history in London, Berlin, Athens and Antwerp, are no strangers to putting on an event, and as Desertscene and Sound of Liberation partner with NY-based Tee Pee Records, there was really no way this was going to be a flop, and it looks like it won’t be.

Calendar’s marked.

Here’s the final lineup:

desertfest new york 2019 poster

THE 1ST DESERTFEST NEW YORK

FULL LINE-UP + DAY SPLITS ANNOUNCED FOR DF NYC – BLACK COBRA, WEEDEATER, HERE LIES MAN, ASG + MORE

Taking place at Saint Vitus Bar on Friday 26th April and The Well on Saturday 27th & Sunday 28th April, please welcome to the bill:

• black cobra
• Weedeater
• Here Lies Man
• ASG
• Ruby the Hatchet
• FATSO JETSON
• Electric Citizen
• HTSOB
• Steak
• Mick’s Jaguar
• DUEL
• Heavy Temple
• TOWER
• Green Milk From The Planet Orange
• Sun Voyager

Unfortunately, we also have to announce that The Atomic Bitchwax can no longer play due to touring conflicts, along with Cali rockers Dommengang. Both band conflicts were out of our control, but we apologise for any inconvenience caused.

2-day weekend passes for ‘The Well’ shows only (Sat + Sun) are still available via www.desertfest.nyc

3-day passes which include access to Saint Vitus on Friday are SOLD OUT

Desertfest NYC will take place at Saint Vitus Bar on Fri 26th April & The Well on Sat 27th April + Sun 28th April

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https://facebook.com/Desertfestnyc/
https://www.instagram.com/desertfest_nyc/
http://www.desertfest.nyc/

Green Milk from the Planet Orange, “Phoenix”

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The Obelisk Presents: Kings Destroy Fantasma Nera Release Tour with Gozu & Forming the Void

Posted in The Obelisk Presents on January 31st, 2019 by JJ Koczan

kings destroy

Brooklyn’s Kings Destroy are getting ready once again to fuck with the formula via their fourth long-player, Fantasma Nera, which branches into new levels of progressive songwriting and melody while turning their confrontational aspect inward as much as outward in theme and execution. Like everything they’ve done, it leaves the past in its dust. Set to release March 8 on Svart Records — which is a label of taste broad and reliable enough to suit them — its arrival will be preceded by a run up the Eastern Seaboard in the company of Gozu and Forming the Void, and it’s my sincere pleasure to be among the presenters of the tour.

They’ll be at Maryland Doom Fest 2019 as well this June — along with many, many others — but even for those planning to see them there, this is an early chance to get introduced to the songs and, presumably, pick up a copy of the album before it’s officially out. Preorders are great and available now, but there’s nothing quite like a merch table either.

The shows kick off Feb. 27 in Kingston, New York, with hometown heroes Geezer and head into Canada for a stop on Montreal before swinging through Rochester, Cleveland and Pittsburgh to finish up. I’ll be at the Brooklyn gig that has Clamfight as the much-welcome fourth for the bill, and there’s no doubt in my mind it’s going to be a party. A sweaty, sweaty party.

Poster is by Bill Kole, and you can stream the Fantasma Nera title-track below:

kings destroy tour poster

Fantasma Nera pre-orders are available now via Svartrecords.com/artist/kings-destroy with physical bundles including colored vinyl and other merchandise. Digital pre-orders include an instant download of the title track.

The band has announced an East Coast Tour prior to the week of release as well as a recently announced performance at the Maryland Doom Fest on June 20.

Kings Destroy tour dates:
February 27 Kingston, NY The Anchor w/ Geezer
February 28 Portland, ME Geno’s
March 1 Boston, MA Middle East w/ Test Meat
March 2 Brooklyn, NY Saint Vitus w/ Clamfight
March 3 Montreal QC TurboHaus
March 4 Rochester, NY Bug Jar
March 5 Cleveland, OH Now That’s Class
March 6 Pittsburgh, PA Howlers w/ Horehound

Kings Destroy is Aaron Bumpus (bass), Stephen Murphy (vocals), Carl Porcaro (guitar), Rob Sefcik (drums) and Chris Skowronski (guitar).

Kings Destroy, “Fantasma Nera”

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Kings Destroy website

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