Wino Wednesday: Spirit Caravan Live at Saint Vitus Bar, April 15, 2014

Posted in Bootleg Theater on April 23rd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

I wasn’t fortunate enough to catch Spirit Caravan‘s reunion tour. Missed the Providence show by a couple hours as I was coming back from Roadburn — not at all a hardship — and as such, I was hoping the venerable Frank Huang would be on hand in Brooklyn to film the closing night of the tour at the St. Vitus Bar. As it happens, he got the whole set in glorious high definition, and the band looks and sounds killer running through classic Spirit Caravan material on the final evening of a long slog alongside doomly up-’n'comers Pilgrim.

The circa-35-date tour began in Maryland, fittingly enough for a band native and so pivotal to the underground there, but I can think of few places in the country as appropriate for it to wrap than at the Vitus Bar. As you can see in Huang‘s clip, the crowd is into it, the trio of Scott “Wino” Weinrich, bassist Dave Sherman (in an Earthride hat, killing it) and drummer Henry Vasquez sound as tight as one could ask for a band who’ve been on the road for more than a month across the country, and if ever there was a Wino Wednesday video to put on full-screen and groove to front to back, this one might be it.

Spirit Caravan are in Europe now getting ready to headline this weekend at Desertfest in Berlin and London. There are other shows booked throughout Europe for the summer and hopefully they do more in the US as well, if not 35 shows in a row. Though if they did, all the better to nail down the dynamic and the better chance of putting together a new studio album. Of course, I’d take a live record in the interim, but until that shows up, I’m even gladder to have footage like this of them at the top of their game on stage.

Enjoy and have a great Wino Wednesday:

Spirit Caravan, Live at St. Vitus Bar, April 15, 2014

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The Golden Grass, The Golden Grass: Heading for the County Line

Posted in Reviews on March 25th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

What sets  Brooklyn trio The Golden Grass apart from the hundreds of bands the world over who cull the bulk of their influence from the heavy rock of the early ’70s and/or the original psychedelic era is a relentlessly positive mindset. Where the current retro rock movement — and because of the modern production on the three-piece’s self-titled Svart Records full-length debut, I’d hesitate to even call it “retro” — spearheaded by the likes of Graveyard and the first couple Witchcraft outings has resulted in a slew of acts pretending to worship both the Devil and Jinx Dawson with due candles, incense and pomp, The Golden Grass turn that formula on its head and delight in a boogie free from these thematic constraints and the inherent moodiness they bring to classic rock sound. This was evident from their 2012 debut single, One More Time b/w Tornado, and the limited 456th Div. tape (review here), and the upbeat vibes remain consistent throughout The Golden Grass‘ farthest-out, most wandering moments, which arrive in the 12:51 penultimate jammer “Wheels,” a side B standout on a 36-minute LP that in no way overstays its welcome. As they did for the prior single, guitarist/vocalist Michael Rafalowich (Strange Haze), bassist Joe Noval and drummer/vocalist Adam Kriney (La Otracina) recorded with Andrea Zavareei at Urban Spaceman Studio, and Jeff Berner mixed at Galuminum Foil, and it’s a collaboration whose dividends show themselves in the crisp but natural feel of the songs and the balance that highlights organic tones without sacrificing the clarity of the vocal arrangements.

Those arrangements are a big part of what gives The Golden GrassThe Golden Grass its personality. There’s laughter on the album, and though its songs are heavy and relatively extended — the shortest is opener “Please Man” at 5:23 — it’s a friendly, inviting listen that even at its most driving, heading toward the finale of closer “Sugar ‘n’ Spice,” in the early verses of “Wheels” or eliciting the riffy bounce of “One More Time,” the initial single which makes a reappearance here as the centerpiece of the tracklist, is never outwardly aggressive. Rafalowich and Kriney trade off in the lead spot, but whoever’s out front, the other is never far off, and as “Please Man” emerges with a drum fill from its build-up intro wash of psychedelic guitar, it’s not long before the two are working together to get the most out of their harmonic range. The balance of straightforward, catchy rock and psychedelia is something else that shifts fluidly throughout the proceedings, and when they want to, The Golden Grass are well capable of playing one side off the other. “Please Man” does this in Rafalowich‘s opening and subsequent solo sections, as well as the slow, dreamy ending that gives way to the uptempo push of “Stuck on a Mountain,” the call and responses of which seem to be begging for a sing-along. There’s more engaging vocal interplay and Noval offers no shortage of texture in matching and side-stepping the riffs, but the real payoff in “Stuck on a Mountain” is when a build opens up to the chorus and The Golden Grass still don’t get mad.

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On Wax: Eidetic Seeing, Against Nature

Posted in On Wax on March 18th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

It’s a resonant but difficult to place course that Brooklyn trio Eidetic Seeing chart on their second, self-released full-length, Against Nature. The band — guitarist Sean Forlenza, drummer Paul Feitzinger (also synth) and bassist Danilo Randjic-Coleman — shift easily between pulses of aggro-jazz and post-rocking doom, resulting in a kind of gritty wash made all the more immersive by their mostly-instrumental approach. Particularly on side B’s “Ashplant Blues” and “K2,” both of which top 10 minutes, it’s hard to know where one stops and the other ends, and that’s obviously on purpose on the part of the three-piece, who seem to arrive at an airy dreariness on the 11-minute finale, like Crippled Black Phoenix gone wandering and slamming into a brick wall of stylized freakout, dense fuzz and those gravity waves from the Big Bang that I keep hearing so much about.

Tonal warmth is high, both on “K2″ and throughout most of what precedes it, which makes the cooler greys of the matte-finish LP cover — the record itself is black vinyl housed in a black dust jacket — somewhat mysterious, but I suppose multicolor psychedelia has been done to death and rebirth, black and white less so. If that’s representative of a drive toward individualism, it’s mirrored in the five songs included on Against Nature as well. From the opening strums of side A’s launch with “A Snake Whose Years are Long,” which give a deceptive impression of Americana that the song ultimately has little interest in fulfilling, Eidetic Seeing show themselves as patient when they want to be and propulsive in kind. The shortest inclusion on Against Nature is the third track, “Frôleuse,” and even that tops six and a half minutes, so there’s plenty of space for the trio to flesh out and pursue sonic whims where and when they might.

And while there is a suitable meandering sense for (mostly) instrumental heavy psych, this is somewhat offset by shifts into grounded, densely weighted riffs. “A Snake Whose Years are Long” establishes an expertise in the technique, not so much trading back and forth as oozing between one side and the other, and “White Flight” moves from a dreamy synth opening to some of the most dead-on traditional Sabbathian tonality I’ve heard. The kicker is Eidetic Seeing don’t use it to mimic Sabbath. Instead they just ride the riff momentarily on the way to a stomping verse of building intensity that, in turn, cuts back to smoky jazz, undercutting its class with abrasive feedback before moving on to more glorious space riffing. A noisy finish cuts cold into the start of “Frôleuse,” the capstone of an A side that shows no less delight in ignoring the Lego instructions of genre as it constructs a somewhat more tempered spaceship of its own design.

“Frôleuse” hands down disenchantment in a chaotically swirling culmination made rawer through natural-sounding production — that is, they’re not lush even at their farthest out — and after the flip, “Ashplant Blues” seems to answer back with some initially doomed-out lumbering, but the personality of the song and of the second side as a whole is distinct from the first half of Against Nature and shows Eidetic Seeing are comfortable pitting longform works against each other as they are the sounds of Morricone and Russian Circles. Ultimately, Against Nature – which presumably was not named in honor of the Maryland classic heavy rock outfit featuring the members of Revelation, though one never knows — stands as an intriguing and self-directed LP, and while Eidetic Seeing present an approach with some rougher edges, they seem more to delight in riding the sharp corners than to be in need of smoothing out. If it’s to be a long-term creative progression, Against Nature makes a solid argument for following it.

Eidetic Seeing, Against Nature (2013)

Eidetic Seeing on Bandcamp

Eidetic Seeing on Thee Facebooks

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The Golden Grass to Release Full-Length Debut May 9 on Svart

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 10th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Confession time: I’ve been looking forward to reviewing The Golden Grass‘ self-titled debut for a while now, and seeing the artwork today with the official tracklisting and release date reveal has only made me more so. The Brooklynite feelgood trio will issue the five-track The Golden Grass on May 9 via respected purveyors Svart Records.

Of course, before that, they will have already played shows this spring alongside White Hills, It’s Not Night: It’s Space, Blackout and Aqua Nebula Oscillator, so hit up their Thee Facebooks if you want to get fully caught up on their doings. The PR wire sends over plenty to dig into as well:

THE GOLDEN GRASS set release date for SVART debut

The glory of American hard rock has returned with the debut eponymous album by THE GOLDEN GRASS, set for international release on May 9th via SVART RECORDS. This Brooklyn-based power-trio is the real deal, and their LP harkens back to the golden age when heavy rock music was upbeat, skillfully played, energetic, edgy, and bursting with goodtime sunshine vibes. They come hard with a strong backbone of deep-pocket funky flare and an earnest/uplifting southern/country/mountain rock vibe, layered with waves of psychedelic textures that explode into jaw-dropping proto-metal moves. And throughout their progressive arrangements and timeless grooves are lush and powerfully delivered vocals, stacked with gorgeous harmonies and maddeningly catchy verses and choruses singing the tales of real-life loves, losses, and the drive to keep on keepin’ on! Cover and tracklisting are as follows:

Tracklisting for THE GOLDEN GRASS’ The Golden Grass
1. Please Man
2. Stuck On A Mountain
3. One More Time
4. Wheels
5. Sugar N’ Spice

THE GOLDEN GRASS formed in early 2013, and before they had even played their first show, they were signed to Svart Records. Their debut 7” was issued in October of that, as a split release with US label Electric Assault Records. Since playing their first show in September of 2013, they’ve shared the stage with an impressive and eclectic range of rock and metal groups, including Windhand, Natur, Ramming Speed, Serpent Throne, Wolf People, and an appearance at the Cincy Psych Fest.

What truly sets THE GOLDEN GRASS apart from the pack of modern ’70s-inspired music is their relentlessly upbeat, soulful energy and feel-good vibe, which is a welcome departure from the faceless sea of proto-metal/doom bands currently drowning the underground scene. This catchy five-track album will make you dance, smile, and catch yourself singing along! This album is a sure treat for fans of classic underground hard rock such as Truth and Janey, Dust, and Josefus as well as fans of classic UK psychedelia such as The Move, The Pretty Things, and Mighty Baby. THE GOLDEN GRASS will also greatly appeal to folks into the contemporary sounds of Danava, Horisont, Graveyard, and Dead Man.

The album was recorded by Andrea Zavareei at Urban Spaceman Studio in Brookly, New York where many seminal early La Otracina albums were also tracked. The album was mixed by Jeff Berner at Galuminum Foil Studio in Brooklyn. Jeff has also recorded albums by Naam, Heliotropes, and Weird Owl, among others, at this studio, and he is also a member of Psychic TV. The album was mastered by Brad Boatright at Audiosiege. The artwork was constructed by Niko Potocnjak of Seven That Spells. The collective experiences and talents of all involved were of utmost importance to the creation of this album.

THE GOLDEN GRASS is:
Adam Kriney – drums/vocals (also of LA OTRACINA and past tour member of NEBULA/CULT OF YOUTH/CASTANETS/CLOUDLAND CANYON)
Michael Rafalowich – electric guitar/vocals (also of STRANGE HAZE/WHOOPING CRANE and past tour member of TAV FALCO’S PANTHER BURNS)
Joe Noval – electric bass

MORE INFO:
www.facebook.com/thegoldengrass
www.svartrecords.com
www.facebook.com/thegoldengrass

The Golden Grass, Live at Johnny Brenda’s in Philly, Dec. 2013

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The Obelisk Radio Add of the Week: Hull, Legend of the Swamp Goat

Posted in Radio on February 19th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Written and initially recorded in 2007, Hull‘s “Legend of the Swamp Goat” coincides timing-wise with their debut EP, Viking Funeral as some of the earliest material from the band. The Brooklyn now-foursome never released the song to my knowledge, but it now emerges on a 7″ of the same name released in a variety of colors DIY through their own Iron Works Orchestra imprint to mark the occasion of a European tour with Boston’s Elder that will begin at Roadburn and end at Desertfest in London. It is, however, more than just a dug-up lost recording trotted out because they needed something for the shows. Guitarist/vocalist Nicholas Palmirotto went back in and tracked vocals and reworked the guitar, and the song is newly mixed and mastered, so while it also predates Hull‘s first full-length, 2009′s Sole Lord, it’s also their first studio output since their brilliant 2011 album, Beyond the Lightless Sky (review here). Sure enough, the single — which clocks in at just over five minutes long and features a laser etching on the B-side — is a blend of new ideas and old.

I wouldn’t speculate on which layers are new and which ones older, but the sweeping lead that takes hold at 1:52 certainly reminds tonally of any number of Beyond the Lightless Sky‘s triumphant solos. Likewise, the multiple tracks of vocals show a complexity of arrangement that the band simply hadn’t yet developed on Viking Funeral – destructive as the debut was — and Palmirotto‘s voice holds the confidence of an approach that’s way more coming off its second record than making an initial demo. Fellow guitarist/vocalist Carmine Laietta, bassist/vocalist Seanbryant Dunn, then-guitarist/vocalist Drew Mack (currently in Cleanteeth) and drummer Jeff Stieber blend acoustics and electrics throughout and lock in a solid groove, showing some stoner roots in the verse rhythm, resulting in a Sleep-style march that Hull have since largely left behind. That, taken into account with the title “Legend of the Swamp Goat” itself and the swaggering riff-led midsection, give a somewhat lighthearted feel. It’s not exactly congruous with Sole Lord or Beyond the Lightless Sky, which were conceptual works both in theme and structure, but it’s fun, and the intensity of the final rush that caps “Legend of the Swamp Goat” gives a metallized apex that shows how willing Hull were even seven years ago to play various genre elements off each other, and how effectively they could do it.

Something of a curio, maybe, in terms of their overall catalog, but if the tour was an excuse for the single to surface, then three years beyond Beyond the Lightless Sky, I’m inclined to take what I can get. When or if a third Hull full-length will arrive remains to be seen, but the Legend of the Swamp Goat 7″ offers more substance than a stopgap and provides a listen unlike anything else in the band’s to-date discography. Paired alongside their recent vinyl reissue of Viking Funeral, it provides an insight into Hull‘s beginnings that may also offer some hint of where they may be headed.

Hear “Legend of the Swamp Goat” now as part of the 24/7 stream of The Obelisk Radio, and take a listen via the player below, snagged from Hull‘s Bandcamp page, where the 7″ can also be ordered:

Hull, “Legend of the Swamp Goat”

Hull on Thee Facebooks

Hull on Bandcamp

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Mountain God Announce New Forest of the Lost EP and Regional Shows

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 7th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

I was fortunate enough to get a taste of Mountain God‘s forthcoming single-track EP release, Forest of the Lost, seeing them in Brooklyn late last year. They’ll be playing the piece in full this April at the same venue, the Grand Victory, and they’ve slated a handful of other killer gigs as well for the spring, including O’Brien’s in Allston, MA, with Summoner and Second Grave and at the St. Vitus bar in Brooklyn with Syphilitic Lust. Not sure when they’ll record or if they already have, but I’m looking forward to hearing what the four-piece concocts to follow up on their 2013 demo tape, Experimentation on the Unwilling (review here).

The band sent show details and some background on Forest of the Lost down the PR wire:

Mountain God, the atmospheric doom band from Brooklyn NY, have announced a series of dates in support of their first album, “Experimentation on the Unwilling”. Since the album was released in July of 2013, it has been described as “moving forward irresistibly, often leaning into a rather hypnotic territory before another well placed riff shakes you out of your daze and gets you pumping your first again.” Their spring dates include gigs at St Vitus and the Acheron, and culminate with what should be a hellish show with fellow Brooklyn band Throaat, and Boston mainstays Summoner and Second Grave. A limited run of “Experimentation” cassettes will be available at each show.

In addition, Mountain God will be road-testing material for their new EP, tentatively titled “Forest of the Lost”. The EP is a concept record, consisting of a single song broken down into different movements. The diverse track twists and turns over the course of 20 minutes, focusing on the plight of a medieval village, whose children disappear into the night searching for proof of a local witch, all the while their parents engage in acts of depravity and debauchery. The EP, slated for a spring/summer release, is a melding of 60s and 70s psychedelics with the heaviness, crunch, and shattering riffs of traditional doom and metal. The band will be performing this EP at the Grand Victory on April 23rd, along with bands Jovian Drifts, We are all Savages, and Eidetic Seeing. This is the first time the song will be played in its entirety.

Upcoming Mountain God Shows:
Thursday February 20 at St Vitus/Brooklyn NY w/Syphilitic Lust, Arsantiqva and Jotunheim
Wednesday, March 5th at The Acheron/Brooklyn NY w/Mortals and Immortal Bird
Saturday, March 22nd at O’Briens/Allston MA w/Throaat, Summoner, Second Grave
Thursday, April 23rd at Grand Victory/Brooklyn NY w/Jovian Drifts, We are all Savages, Eidetic Seeing

https://www.facebook.com/MountainGodBand
http://mountain-god.bandcamp.com/album/experimentation-on-the-unwilling

Mountain God, Experimentation on the Unwilling Demo (2013)

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The Golden Grass Announce March and April Live Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 5th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Brooklyn it’s-okay-to-have-fun-while-you-play-rock-and-roll rockers The Golden Grass have their new LP in the can. I don’t have the release details or I’d give them, but like the preceding One More Time b/w Tornado single, it was engineered by Andréa Zavareei and mixed by Jeff Berner, so it’s not out of line to expect the same kind of crisp, classic-but-clear warmth in the sound of the full-length.

Maybe a spring release? That, again, would make sense with the sound of the trio, who serve as a fitting reminder that just because a song is heavy doesn’t mean it has to be mad about it, but we’ll see how it goes. The hint they drop below about doing some shows alongside Aqua Nebula Oscillator is particularly fascinating in that regard, and The Golden Grass have detailed other dates coming up in the next couple months, including a weekender split between Providence and Brooklyn and a couple other Friday nights worth noting, most importantly that at the BSP Lounge with the formidable assemblage of White Hills, It’s Not Night: It’s Space, Eidetic Seeing and Queen Elephantine. That gig is presented by Hudson Valley Psych Fest, though I’m not sure if it actually is the fest itself. I’d believe you if you told me it was. It could be.

Dates and details below, swiped from The Golden Grass‘ Thee Facebooks page:

upcoming THE GOLDEN GRASS shows!!!!

Friday March 7 at Kung Fu Necktie/Philadelphia/PA w/ RINGO DEATHSTARR + PURPLE + SORE SAINTS
Friday March 28 at Dusk/Providence/RI w/ HESSIAN + NIGHTBITCH + ALPHA OWL
Saturday March 29 at The Paper Box/Brooklyn/NY w/ HESSIAN + BLACKOUT
Friday April 4 at The Acheron/Brooklyn/NY w/ SATAN’S SATYRS + TBA
Friday April 18 at BSP Lounge/Kingston/NY w/ WHITE HILLS + ITS NOT NIGHT: ITS SPACE + EIDETIC SEEING + QUEEN ELEPHANTINE

Late April/Early May select tour dates with AQUA NEBULA OSCILLATOR (details coming)

https://www.facebook.com/thegoldengrass
https://www.facebook.com/events/1419345341637657/

The Golden Grass, One More Time b/w Tornado (2013)

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Live Review: The Golden Grass, Weird Owl and Worthless in Brooklyn, 12.06.13

Posted in Reviews on December 9th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

It was like someone dared the weather to be as miserable as possible. Just an awful night. Cold, bordering on freezing rain falling more or less in buckets, city wind blowing in your face. Visibility was pretty low as I drove over the Brooklyn Bridge to get to Hank’s Saloon, but screw it, I was going. My curiosity about The Golden Grass had been piqued by their debut single, and having managed to sneak a little family time in after the workday on what was a short post-Thanksgiving trip south, I made sure that even with the rain I got to Brooklyn in plenty of time to see them share the stage with fellow locals Weird Owl and Worthless.

The latter were on first, playing an engaging shoegazey psychedelic rock in a five-piece congregation that made the small stage at Hank’s – one of the room’s assets, in my opinion — appear even more crowded than usual. Flourishes of synth/organ from Nicole Zamfes and effects gave suitable echo and swirl to their material, with a current of guitar, bass and drums at the core to keep material fluid but anchored in a light, contemplative feel. Bassist Skyler Toski‘s vocals came through with an English accent, while guitarist Curtis Godino had more of an indie delivery, and the blend worked well, the drums not crashing so much as keeping a steady beat to ground the complexity around them in songs like “Slumber Time Blues” and “Summer of Love” from Worthless‘ debut tape. The only issue was the P.A.

Godino‘s mic had a persistent crackle, and the right side of the P.A. cut out on more than one occasion. It happened to Toski too and frustration was evident. Soon enough it would be the running theme of the night, which was twice a bummer since the downshift in mood didn’t exactly mesh with the sunshine in Worthless‘ jams. Still, they made the most of what they had, and while they sounded and seemed on stage as though they were still sorting out the dynamic between players in creating their sonic texture, the late ’60s vibe was appreciably realized. I dug it. The obvious thing to say would be they didn’t at all live up to their name, but there you go.

I wasn’t sure where all the people had come from when I turned around following the end of Worthless‘ last song, but Weird Owl pulled in a good crowd. The Tee Pee Records veterans released an EP this fall called Healing through Anton Newcombe of Brian Jonestown Massacre‘s A Recordings (info here), and “Change Your Mind” from it was a recognizable highlight of their set. The tracks for that were recorded by Jeff Berner (Naam, La Otracina, etc.), and as he’d also recently worked with The Golden Grass on an upcoming release, he turned out to see the two bands play. Weird Owl, who upped the synth level even from Worthless‘ material, with John Cassidy trading off between bass and keys (and tambourine), and J. David Nugent furthering the slowed-down space rock feel with an array of synth as guitarist/vocalist Trevor Tyrrell added an effects wash of his own.

Both the exploratory drift of their performance and the stretches wherein drummer Sean Reynolds stepped up to drive the material forward were welcome, but technical problems persisted. More P.A. crackling and cutting out. Watching them play, it was kind of hard to get lost in the groove with the interruptions, but the crowd didn’t seem to mind. Of more concern to me standing in front of the stage was the incense burning on the floor. I guess for a while I was standing right where the smell was coming up and hadn’t realized it and then it hit me all at once. I had to move to the back of Hank’s and wound up staying there for the rest of Weird Owl‘s set, though for what it’s worth, a new song that Tyrrell later referred to as “Craft” when I asked was a standout jam no matter where you were standing at the time. Weird Owl have been around a while at this point and this was the first time I’d seen them. It made me want to pay another visit to Healing and their two Tee Pee outings, 2009′s Ever the Silver Cord be Loosed and 2011′s Build Your Beast a Fire (track stream here).

And as for The Golden Grass, well, part of what made me want to catch their live show so badly was the sense of positivity that bleeds through the songs on their first single, One More Time b/w Tornado. There’s no shortage the world over of rock acts paying homage to the style and substance of the heavy ’70s era, but there is a shortage of those who are willing to let themselves look like they’re having fun doing it. The Golden Grass do not suffer from this if-we-don’t-seem-miserable-we-won’t-be-artsy phobia either on the single or their 456th Div. tape (review here), and I was pleased to find that the same applied to their stage presence, whether it was guitarist/vocalist Michael Rafalowich boogieing down as he took a solo in “Please Man,” drummer Adam Kriney propelling a shuffle all his own on drums while simultaneously contributing a major of the singing, including harmonies with Rafalowich on “Stuck on a Mountain” and others, or bassist Joe Noval grinning, satisfied, as he held down yet another warm, engaging groove. The Golden Grass were a damn good time, and that was the whole point.

Only trouble? They got it the worst when it came to the night’s technical problems. It turned out there was something wrong with one of the power bars that everything was plugged into, and Rafalowich‘s guitar (along with the Xmas lights on stage) cut out a few times early on. Kriney called for tape, but it had already been taped. Some kind soul swapped out for a different outlet a few songs in, but the toll was taken on the mood and the crowd. Having come from a ways away, it was a bummer to see, but the songs themselves were still right on, even through the technical problems. They opened with the B-side of the 7″, “Tornado,” and played the memorable “Stuck on a Mountain” and “Please Man” from the 456th Div. tape, hit “One More Time” — their signature cut as yet — jammed with a drum solo on “Wheels” and finished up with a song I hadn’t heard yet, “Sugar and Spice,” which nailed the lighthearted vibe perfectly. I can’t imagine it wouldn’t, but I hope it makes it onto the album when that arrives.

It was a rough night technically, I think probably most of all for The Golden Grass, but none of the three bands let that derail them. I picked up a copy of One More Time b/w Tornado and said a quick-enough goodnight before heading out into the rain. It was around one in the morning. I was fortunate enough to have been offered a place to crash in Manhattan, and woke up a bit before 6:30AM to start the drive back north. No regrets for the travel, no regrets for the weather, no regrets for the P.A. I had wanted to see if The Golden Grass would be able to convey the same sense of positivity in their live show as they do on the studio versions of their songs, and even in rough circumstances, the answer was a resounding yes.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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Live Review: Eggnogg and Mountain God in Brooklyn, 12.05.13

Posted in Reviews on December 6th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

By the time I rolled into Williamsburg’s The Grand Victory after a more-than-long-enough work day, 100 and Zero were already well into their set of aggressive NY-style noise punk. They were first on a four band bill shared with grinders Scowl, atmospheric sludge metallers Mountain God and thick riff specialists Eggnogg, all local to Brooklyn. Fair enough. Scowl followed shortly thereafter, with drummer Chris Dialogue recognizable as the former vocalist of Alkahest. He handled backing vocals in Scowl as well on the small Grand Victory stage, and put his microphone to use — as did bassist Derek Stephan and vocalist Matt Viel who paced pack and forth in front of the stage, leaving only guitarist Zack Birmingham mic-less — as much, if not more, for banter between the songs, which were mostly short, grinding blasts with the occasional stoner groove thrown in for good measure.

Hell, I can get down with a little stoner extremity every now and again and nothing says charm like when band members spend entire minutes before the next cut calling each other assholes, so yeah, right on. They said they were playing a short set, and it might’ve been in just the material involved, but there was the back-and-forth as well to coincide with saying the next song was about football, or about “sucking on that glass dick, whatever that means,” and such. It was almost an overdose of snark, but all in good fun. When they were done, Mountain God loaded on and were immediately a completely different vibe, their sludge given texture through the keyboard work of Jonathan Powell. Both Powell and Mountain God bassist Nikhil Kamineni used to be in Alkahest as well, but as was evident on their Experimentation on the Unwilling demo tape reviewed last month, the new band is working from its own amalgam of influences.

I recognized some of what they played from that tape, which I always take as a good sign, but the real highlight of their set was the new song “Forest of the Lost,” which worked in multiple movements and got more to the core of their blend of doom riffing and ambient depth. The vocals of guitarist Jared Fishman come across in a wash of echo throughout most of the studio versions of songs, but live he was inevitably clearer and that gave the set a more tangible resonance. Riff-wise, “Forest of the Lost” tapped into a classic metal malevolence — maybe some Cathedral in there, but thoroughly doomed either way — and though the bulk of the long, unfolding progression was instrumental, what vocals there were came across in a blend of screams and cleaner singing, a noise rock vibe cutting through the tonal morass of Kamineni‘s bass and his own guitar as drummer Ian Murray turned an otherwise chaotic churn into cohesive forward motion.

They’ve reportedly got a new release in the works centered around some incarnation of “Forest of the Lost,” which was well past 10 minutes long on stage, so I took that as a good sign, and when Mountain God finished, Eggnogg took the stage quickly as the last act of the night. It had been more than a year since the last time I saw them — my loss — and in the interim, the prior trio of Bill O’Sullivan, guitarist Justin Karol and drummer Jason Prushko added bassist Corey Dozier to make a four-piece. This move put O’Sullivan from bass to rhythm guitar — as well as vocals — resulting in Karol taking on more of a lead-player role, in which he excelled. In the past, seeing Eggnogg live, I’ve regretted that some of the funk influence that shows up in their studio output, be it last year’s Louis EP (review here) or 2011′s Moments in Vacuum sophomore full-length (review here), is somewhat lost in favor of their pure, unabashedly stoner stomp, enjoyable as that is.

Sure enough, the songs they played at The Grand Victory – a new one to start from their forthcoming, “mostly done” third full-length, You’re all Invited, plus “The God’s Will Destroy the Hive” and “Northern Lights” from their 2009 debut The Three, and an eponymous encore — carried that much more of the funk for the simple fact that Karol was able to devote his attention completely to his solos when they arose. “Northern Lights,” which was the elephantine highlight of their set, soulful as he plucked notes and even threw in a little stoner-rock softshoe, which as far as I’m concerned is always welcome. Together with O’Sullivan‘s low vocal register and the rumble of Dozier‘s six-string bass, Eggnogg were indeed another notch above the already heavy watermark that past shows I’ve seen from them had set. More importantly, Dozier – although he spent a decent amount of time off the stage, playing in front of it or to the side — blended well with the trio tonally and in terms of presence, and provided a thickened match for both guitars and the marching snare of Prushko, which impressed all the more with some subtle ghost notes and increasing character of play.

Of Eggnogg, you could say they seem to be getting to where they want to be in terms of their sound. I frickin’ loved Moments in Vacuum and put on Louis regularly as well, so the chance to see and hear new songs from them was thoroughly appreciated. I don’t know when You’re all Invited will see release, but as far as I’m concerned the sooner the better. I’d hoped to be able to pick up a CD copy of their Apocrypha compilation — the only physical pressing of Louis, which couples it with their 2010 Nogg EP — but to no avail, and by that I mean there were none available. Still, well worth the trip to the city to catch them with Mountain God, also in a process of coming into their own, albeit in a much different fashion.

I thought maybe there was a late show happening afterwards, as for a time there were a few extra people walking around with instruments, but maybe they were playing across the street at Trash Bar or something and decided to walk over. When Eggnogg finished, the sound guy put on Songs for the Deaf to let the place clear out. I shuffled back to my car and made the trek back to Jersey to crash — a trip that seems even more arduous now than when I lived there — the dark and quiet roads of my former river valley rendered largely invisible by a dense, rolling fog.

Some more pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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Kowloon Walled City and Batillus to Release Split 7″ on Dec. 10

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 25th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Trading singers and covering industrial pioneers, Kowloon Walled City and Batillus have united in a bi-coastal split 7″ that will be the third in a series put out by Brutal Panda Records. Fade Kainer of Batillus joins Kowloon Walled City for a rendition of “Anthem” by Godflesh – no word on whether it will synch up with Jesus Christ Superstar as well as the original, but one can hope — and Scott Evans will join Batillus to take on Ministry‘s “Lava.” Sound like a neat idea? It is.

The PR wire has more info, band links and the goods on where a pre-order for the 7″, due out on Dec. 10, can be placed, so get up if you wanna get down:

KOWLOON WALLED CITY / BATILLUS Announce Split 7″

San Francisco’s KOWLOON WALLED CITY and Brooklyn’s BATILLUS have teamed up for a split 7″ of cover songs as part of the the third release in Brutal Panda Records’ split 7″ series.  Recorded at Sharkbite Studios in Oakland, CA and mixed by Scott Evans at Antisleep, the split features KWC playing a cover of the Godflesh classic “Anthem” with Fade Kainer of BATILLUS on vocals.  Side B features BATILLUS covering Ministry’s “Lava” with Scott Evans of KWC on vocals.

The split will be officially released on December 10th and is available for pre-order here.  Also released in the 7″ series were splits from BLACK TUSK / FIGHT AMP and HELMS ALEE / LADDER DEVILS.  The fourth and final release will be a split between WHORES and RABBITS with details to emerge soon.

Kowloon Walled City on Facebook
Kowloon Walled City on Bandcamp

Batillus on Facebook
Batillus on Bandcamp

Kowloon Walled City, Container Ships (2012)

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On Wax: Blackout, We are Here

Posted in On Wax on November 22nd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

I think I finally figured out what I like so darn much about We are Here, the six-song debut from Brooklyn heavy plodders Blackout. It often happens early into a stoner rock band’s career that they have one riff to rule them all. There’s one song that everyone in their scene knows them for and at least for a while, that’s their hit. With Blackout, almost every riff is that riff, so by the time you get around to the end of side B and the we’ll-just-go-right-over-these-skulls march of “Seven,” the scale of judgment is completely thrown off. I’m not saying it’s revolutionary — the three-piece seem purposefully bent on not fucking with what the Melvins got right the first time around — just that, while formative, it’s done remarkably well.

The vinyl edition of We are Here arrives, with a download card, pressed on 180g wax, but rather than the pressing info (one can only imagine it’s limited to some number or other), the highlight of the album is the crushing weight of it. There’s an almost garage sense of dirty echo to Christian Gordy‘s guitar, Justin Sherrell‘s bass and Taryn Waldman‘s drums, and that gives the recording, which was helmed by Rob Laasko and mastered by Kyle Spence of Harvey Milk, a raw feel, but it lacks nothing for heft in part because of that space created in the audio and how well the three-piece fills it with nodding, unashamedly heavy groove, at least partially derived from Sleep, but already en route to an individual push.

Part of the reason I say that comes down to Gordy‘s vocals, which have a compressed effect on them on each of the tracks. In another context, this might get redundant, but as We are Here doesn’t overstay its welcome and as so much more of the focus to songs like “Indian” and the side A closer “Smoker” is on the riffs, the compression gives the songs just a touch of something to distinguish them, just something to make them weird, and both in theory and in the actual finished product of the album, the effect is to make Blackout stand out. They’re not trying too hard to be unique, they’re not trying too hard to fit into a genre. They’re being themselves and writing songs, and what came out of that on their debut is all the stronger for it.

Things get pretty blown out as “Seven” heads toward its inevitable collapse and the needle makes its return, but in the context of the heft thrown around on “Amnesia” and the ensuing creeper progression in “Smoker” — which, the more I hear the record the more it replaces “Seven” as my pick of the bunch — it works, and if it’s an added level of quirk in line the vocals and garage stomp, that’s fine too. Included with the record and download is an insert with the lyrics on one side and Blackout‘s should-be-iconic band photo on the other, so any way you want to look at it, We are Here is as complete a document of the band’s arrival as one could ask.

Blackout, We are Here (2013)

Blackout on Thee Facebooks

Blackout on Bandcamp

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Duuude, Tapes! The Golden Grass, 456th Div.

Posted in Duuude, Tapes! on November 21st, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

If you’ve got the time, The Golden Grass have the vibe. Their 456th Div. tape is available now on In for the Kill Records in a limited edition of 50. I don’t know what of that number are left — the Brooklyn trio were taking Paypal orders on their Thee Facebooks — but considering there weren’t that many to start with, it’s likely there aren’t that many remaining, but even though the audio is fairly rough, 456th Div. offers listeners something different even from the band’s more official debut, the One More Time b/w Tornado 7″ single. That release has clean studio versions of two songs, and the A-side appears here as well, but it arrives coupled with two April 2013 demos — one for “Please Man” and one for “One More Time” — and the live track “Stuck on a Mountain” that, to date, I haven’t come across anywhere else. Between that and the Boy Scout-esque patch with which the cassette arrives, it proves a fitting curio both for collectors or someone interested in the development of the band in their early going.

“One More Time” is almost maddeningly catchy. With lead vocals from drummer Adam Kriney (La Otracina) and backing tracks from guitarist Michael Rafalowich (Strange Haze), it’s a smooth summertime roll that comes on friendly and stays crisp front to back. In its finished, studio form, it’s a classic rocker all the way, comfortably paced and worthy of the sing-alongs for which the chorus seems to be asking. The demo version that closes here, as expected, is more bare-bones, without the vocal interplay. Fortunately, throughout all the material but most especially the live track “Stuck on a Mountain,” which was recorded at Brooklyn’s St. Vitus bar on Sept. 6, bassist Joe Noval comes through at the fore, where all too often with tape compression the low end suffers most. Of course a lot depends on your system and equalizer, but he’s there. This being my first exposure to “Stuck on a Mountain” and “Please Man” — both of which may or may not show up on The Golden Grass‘ full-length debut, reportedly tracked last week with Jeff Berner (Naam) — the songs didn’t have the immediate familiarity of “One More Time” (there’s nothing to make you feel like you know a song like listening to it a bunch of times), but were immediately engaging nonetheless and fitting with the positive spirit and classic rock warmth that seems to typify all of The Golden Grass‘ material that I’ve encountered thus far.

I already alluded to it, but the actual sound of 456th Div. is raw. If it’s going to be your first exposure to the band, the 7″ is probably the way to go, but as a further precursor to the LP and a complement to the single, it makes sense. The four-song program repeats on sides one and two of the plain white tape, and at louder volumes, there’s a considerable hiss. This would seem to be less in the interest of the songs themselves, though particularly for the demo cuts and the live track it makes sense in that, “Dude, my buddy just dubbed this for me” kind of way, and if the options are no physical pressing of this material or 456th Div., I’d certainly rather have the than not, hiss or no. As The Golden Grass move quickly into the making of their debut, one might think of 456th Div. in combination with the 7″ as a document of their beginnings, and on that level as well as getting a whatever-the-aural-version-of-a-sneak-peak-is at two yet-unheard songs, I’m glad to have gotten a copy.

The Golden Grass, One More Time b/w Tornado (2013)

The Golden Grass on Thee Facebooks

In for the Kill Records

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Tombs Enter Studio to Record New Album

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 11th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Working with Hate Eternal‘s Erik Rutan as producer, Brooklyn’s Tombs have entered the studio to record a follow-up to their massively lauded 2011 sophomore outing, Path of Totality. No word yet on a release date for the third Tombs record, but one could reasonably expect a Summer 2014 release on Relapse, unless somehow it takes them eight months to get it put to tape. Anything’s possible, I guess, but certainly anticipation will be high for the new album when it arrives.

The PR wire has confirmation and comment from guitarist/vocalist Mike Hill:

TOMBS Begin Recording New Album

Brooklyn, NY’s Tombs have announced that they will be entering the studio today to begin recording their follow-up to 2011′s critically acclaimed Path of Totality. The band will be working with famed producer Erik Rutan (Morbid Angel, Cannibal Corpse, Hate Eternal) over the next two weeks at his Mana Recording Studios in St. Petersburg, Florida. Stay tuned for updates from the studio!

Tombs vocalist / guitarist Mike Hill commented on what to expect from the highly anticipated new album: “The new material is darker and more extreme than the last record. The addition of [bassist] Ben Brand and [guitarist] Garett Bussanick have really stepped up the playing and musicianship to a new level.”

Tombs have released two full-lengths and one singles / rarities collection via Relapse Records, all of which are available for streaming via Bandcamp here.

https://www.facebook.com/TombsBklyn

Tombs, Path of Totality (2011)

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Duuude, Tapes! Mountain God, Experimentation on the Unwilling

Posted in Duuude, Tapes! on November 6th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

What I like most about Mountain God‘s debut demo tape, Experimentation on the Unwilling (released on Archaic Revival Records), is that it gets more and more fucked the further into it you go. Based in Brooklyn, the four-piece band incorporate a dreary kind of psychedelia, and come across partially indebted to Electric Wizard on the nodding “Fields of Life” or side two closer “Maarrat al-Nu’man,” but seem less fixated on the darker aspects of pop, and so are less generally anchored and all the more chaotic for it. The five tracks included on the tape would sound blown-out no matter what media they appeared on, but Mountain God – which features Alkahest members Nikhil Kamineni and Jonathan Powell on bass/vocals/engineering and keys/vocals, respectively, as well as guitarist/vocalist Jared Fishman and drummer Ian Murray — make their atmospheric intentions clear on their first outing, and the format on which they’ve chosen to present it plays a role in that as well.

So do the keys, actually. And the multiple vocalists. And the overbearing buzz of the guitar distortion. Really the whole thing is feeding into an overarching sense of mood — foggy, vaguely demented, generally but not necessarily outwardly threatening — but it’s Powell‘s keys that make the most striking impression, and they do so most of all on “Prophet,” which rounds out side one. With just a few single notes that reach up from the chaotic, swirling morass, Powell pushes the song into a different league of individuality and memorability — somebody had The Downward Spiral when they were in high school – and elsewhere on Experimentation on the Unwilling, as on the preceding “Fields of Life,” the keys lend a horrific ambience to what would otherwise be almost expected churn. The sheer nastiness that comes across on the opening title cut and spacious chug of “Fallout” would likely be enough to distinguish Mountain God anyway, but the listening experience is that much richer for the creeping melodies that ensue from the keyboard.

Particularly from a demo, I wouldn’t ask much more than that kind of rudimentary show of personality, but Mountain God‘s songs have more to offer than nascent aesthetic and generalized potential. For the consuming tones of “Fallout” alone or the lyrical narrative of the lysergically-riffed “Prophet,” Experimentation on the Unwilling gives more to dig into than it might initially seem, and taken as two whole sides on the tape, it’s immersive and hypnotic in keeping with its atmosphere. I hope these guys have a fog machine. They might need two or three by the time they get around to writing their next batch of material. In the meantime, their debut is available currently in a physical edition of 100 cassettes that seem to just be waiting for vinyl companionship.

Mountain God, Experimentation on the Unwilling (2013)

Mountain God on Thee Facebooks

Mountain God on Bandcamp

Archaic Revival Records

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Live Review: Orange Goblin, Holy Grail, Lazer/Wulf and Polygamyst in Brooklyn, 11.02.13

Posted in Reviews on November 4th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Odd matchups seemed to be the running theme of the night, whether it was UK doomers Orange Goblin doing a six-week tour with the thrash outfit Holy Grail and Atlanta tech metallers Lazer/Wulf or the show also serving as St. Vitus bar’s Halloween party and more than a handful of patrons arriving in costume throughout the night. For what it’s worth, I didn’t dress up — I mean, at least not any more than the public identities we create for ourselves counts as “dressing up,” anyway. Existentially speaking, we’re all in costume, man. So dig that for your pagan ceremony.

I can only imagine those who did dress up were hot as hell for having made the effort. The show was sold out and more or less packed by the time Polygamyst went on as openers and local support for three touring acts. I had seen them over the summer with Mirror Queen and The Atomic Bitchwax at a boat show, so I knew their wares were metal, but apparently the ensuing months had vocalist George Souleidis, guitarist Phi Moon (also Mirror Queen) and drummer Chadius Broccolius of their second guitarist and bassist, the latter of whom was replaced by James Corallo, also of Mirror Queen. Hammering out a lineup is inevitable as a band continues to get settled, but Polygamyst were nothing if not in the spirit of the show. Broccolius played most of the set with a mask on, his beard poking through the bottom, Moon had a wig, war paint and bandanna — Uli Jon Roth? — and Souleidis seemed to be a sultan of some sort or other, robes and all.

Their set was no less ready to party, running through classic metal wails enough to justify closing out with a cover of Judas Priest‘s “Breaking the Law,” which got some early moshing going as a sign of things to come. Corallo fit well with Moon‘s amorphous lead style, and though he shed the wig as time wore on, Souleidis seemed even more confident as a frontman than he had just five months prior. That could be an effect of having more shows under his belt, or it could be the fact that St. Vitus wasn’t being tossed around the East River while Polygamyst were playing. Either way. When jazzy quirk-prog trio Lazer/Wulf took the stage, a tone was set for sonic diversity that would only continue as the night wore on.

Guitarist Bryan Aiken had a mic set up mostly to thank the crowd and let out various maniacal laughs, “let’s go!” exclamations and periodic melodic vocal lines, but the crux of Lazer/Wulf‘s approach was instrumental. As one might expect five weeks into a six-week tour, Aiken, bassist Sean Peiffer and drummer Brad Rice were ridiculously tight, and it’s a good thing, since their kind of technical, progressive metal completely falls flat when the situation is otherwise. Theirs didn’t. They were well received by a Vitus crowd that seemed to know little about them, myself included, and they had stretches of thrash-style groove that went along well with what I’m told the kids call “djent” but a decade ago just used to be a Meshuggah influence. Not really my thing, but they won over the room and their enjoyment of what they were doing was infectious, even if it was as different from Polygamyst as Holy Grail would be from them when they took the stage.

Studded armbands, uniform black stage garb, a record each out on Prosthetic and Nuclear Blast, plus Kirk Hammett bangs on vocalist James-Paul Luna, Holy Grail had their thrash credentials well in order. I’ve never been huge on revivalist thrash, and though the band traces their roots back to White Wizzard and Bonded by Blood, they weren’t really going for the hightops and Alcoholica thing. “Call of Valhalla” showed some metalcore influence — a surefire generational tell — and one could hear shades of Shadows Fall in the dual-guitar harmonies, but whatever they were doing, they were obviously doing it right. Fists were pumped, moshing was had, axes were shredded, blahs were blah blahed. Holy Grail didn’t have to win the room; the room was already with them. The title-track from their 2013 outing, Ride the Void, went over particularly well, and one of the other dudes up front sang along so hard to “My Last Attack” that I thought his face was going to explode. Fair enough.

So there you go. Sold out night, three bands deep. Temperature up. Things had been moving at a decent clip up to Holy Grail, who played a long set, and Orange Goblin didn’t wind up going on until after 11:30PM. Didn’t really matter. After driving four hours south from Massachusetts a couple days before, that trip was far enough out of mind for the next day that I wasn’t stressing about it like I had been at Truckfighters last time I was at the Vitus bar; the late night was no threat. All the better for stargazing en route back to the humble river valley I used to call home and where I’d be staying for the evening. In any case, when Orange Goblin stormed their way into “Scorpionica” to open their set, it was well worth being awake to see. They came out to AC/DC‘s “It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock & Roll),” and a more fitting theme for the band — now coming up on their 20th year if you count from their getting together as Our Haunted Kingdom in 1994 — would be hard to find.

Returned guitarist Joe Hoare, who’d sat out a not insignificant amount of road time in Europe on account of an injury to his Achilles tendon, looked to be in good spirits despite what had already been a long slog back on the road alongside bassist Martyn Millard, drummer Chris Turner and vocalist Ben Ward, still supporting the 2012 studio release, A Eulogy for the Damned (review here), and subsequent live album, A Eulogy for the Fans (review here), and Ward — his fists raised in what seems to be a permanent conquest — was as engaging as I’ve seen him. He is a mountainous walking advertisement for whiskey, and among underground metal’s best frontmen, but his performance is also about more than the show. “Acid Trial” from A Eulogy for the Damned and “Rage of Angels” from 2002′s Coup de Grace followed “Scorpionica” in succession and showed how little the foursome’s potency has diminished in the last decade, even though one could argue they’re just getting their due recognition now in the States thanks to tours like this one and their earlier-2013 run with Clutch.

I don’t think they were through “Rage of Angels” before I realized I had brown liquor running down my back. Who threw or spilled what remains a mystery, but yeah. That happened. Hazards of the trade. It was fairly rowdy up front for the duration — I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to seeing people moshing to doom — but I stuck it out for a while before dropping back to the other side of the pit around the time “Shine” from 1998′s sophomore outing, Time Travelling Blues, made its appearance. They’d later include the title cut from that album as well, which was a welcome addition, though I’d hoped for “Blue Snow” as well. Some you win, some you lose.

Speaking of, that song was aired, with Hoare and Millard stepping in for backing vocals in the call and response, and after “Cities of Frost,” Exodus and Generation Kill frontman Rob Dukes joined the band onstage for a raging take on “Your World will Hate This” from Coup de Grace. By then, Orange Goblin could’ve done little to derail their own momentum — following it with “Time Travelling Blues” was a risk, but it paid off — and the guest spot was met with due excitement, as was the Black Sabbath cover “Into the Void,” the rolling groove of which was expertly handled like the precious artifact it is. It should probably say something about Orange Goblin‘s recent surge that more recent songs like “They Come Back (Harvest of Skulls)” from 2007′s Healing through Fire and the Eulogy single “Red Tide Rising” would appear so late in the set along with the cover and “Quincy the Pigboy,” which like “Scorpionica” comes off 2000′s The Big Black, but the songs stood up, and “Red Tide Rising” made for a riotous closer.

There was karaoke slated for afterwards and the vibe seemed like it was going to stay lively for some time. That’s not my scene, but I can see the appeal. My car, which has a bent rim, 185,000 miles that I’ve put on over the last eight years, and shakes like a massage chair, was around the corner and I drove empty roads back through Jersey to crash out and hit the highway in the morning.

Extra pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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