Quarterly Review: Surya Kris Peters, Lewis and the Strange Magics, Lair of the Minotaur, Sonic Wolves, Spacelord, Nauticus, Yuxa, Forktie, Ohhms, Blue Dream

Posted in Reviews on December 14th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review

I had a terrible thought yesterday: What if this one… went to 11? That is, what if, after 10 days of Quarterly Review ending today with a grand total of 100 records reviewed since last Monday, I did another batch of 10? Like a bonus round? Like I said, terrible thought.

Pretty sure it won’t happen. I’ve already got a review and a video premiere booked for next Monday, but I definitely had the thought. It was easy, of course, to fill out another 10 slots, and who knows, maybe this weekend for the first time ever I wind up with some extra time and energy on my hands? Could happen, right?

Again, I’m fairly certain it won’t. Let’s proceed with the assumption today’s the last day. Thank you for reading. I hope you have found something cool in all of this that has really hit home. I certainly have. We cap very much in last-but-not-least fashion, and if nothing’s resonated with you yet, don’t count yourself completely out. You might just get there after all. Thanks again.

Quarterly Review #91-100:

Surya Kris Peters, Ego Therapy

Surya Kris Peters Ego Therapy

Those feeling technical will note the full title of the album is Surya Kris Peters’ Ego Therapy, but the point gets across either way. And even as Christian Peters — also guitarist/vocalist for Samsara Blues Experiment — acknowledges the inherent self-indulgence of the proverbial “solo-project” that his exploration of synth and classically progressive textures under the moniker of Surya Kris Peters has become, with Ego Therapy as his second full-length of 2018, he branches out in including drums from former Terraplane bandmate Jens Vogel. The 10-song/53-minute outing opens with its longest cut (immediate points) in the 15-minute “Angels in Bad Places,” a spaced-out and vibrant atmosphere more cohesive than psychedelia but still trippy as all hell, and moves through a bluesy key/guitar interplay in “Wizard’s Dream” following the dancey thriller soundtrack “Beyond the Sun” and into the Blade Runner-style grandeur of “Sleeping Willow” and the video game-esque “A Fading Spark” before bookending with the sci-fi “Atomic Clock” at the close. I don’t know how ultimately therapeutic Peters‘ solo offerings might be, but he only seems to grow bolder each time out, and that certainly applies here.

Surya Kris Peters on Thee Facebooks

Electric Magic Records on Bandcamp

 

Lewis and the Strange Magics, The Ginger Sessions

lewis and the strange magics the ginger sessions

How are you not gonna love a release that starts with a song called “Sexadelic Galactic Voyage?” Barcelona vamp rockers Lewis and the Strange Magics embrace their inner funk on the 23-minute self-released EP, The Ginger Sessions, finding the place where their uptempo ’70s fusion meets oldschool The Meters-style rhythm, digging into the repetitions of “Candied Ginger” after the aforementioned instrumental opening burst and then holding the momentum through “Her Vintage Earrings.” Some departure happens on what might be side B of the 10″, with “The Shadow of Your Smile” turning toward pastoral psychedelia, still rhythmic thanks to some prominent wood block and xylophone sounds, but much calmer despite a consistency of wah and keys. “Suzy’s Room II” follows in fuzzy fashion, bridging the earlier cologne-soaked, chest-hair-out vibes with garage buzz and a heavier low end beneath the synthesized experimentation. Mellotron shows up and continues to hold sway in closer “Witch’s Brew,” playing the band outward along with layers of drifting guitar for about two and a half minutes of bluesy serenity that feel cut short, as does the release on the whole. One hopes they don’t lose that funky edge going into their next album.

Lewis and the Strange Magics on Thee Facebooks

Lewis and the Strange Magics on Bandcamp

 

Lair of the Minotaur, Dragon Eagle of Chaos

Lair of the Minotaur Dragon Eagle of Chaos

Once upon the mid-aughts, Chicago’s Lair of the Minotaur roamed the land as the long-prophesied American answer to Entombed, as much classic, dirt-covered death metal as they were laden with heavy groove. Their tones filthy, their assault brutal all the while, war metal, ultimate destroyers. The whole nine. They released their last album, Evil Power (review here), in 2010. The two-songer Dragon Eagle of Chaos follows a 2013 single, and was released to mark the occasion of perhaps a return to some measure of greater activity. I don’t know if that’ll happen, but as both “Dragon Eagle of Chaos” and “Kunsult the Bones” affirm in about seven minutes between them, Lair of the Minotaur remain a wrecking ball made of raw meat when it comes to their sound. The madness that seemed to always underline their material at its most effective is present and accounted for in “Dragon Eagle of Chaos,” and the stripped-down production of the single actually helps its violent cause. Will they do another record? Could go either way, but if they decide to go that route, they clearly still have the evil power within.

Lair of the Minotaur website

Lair of the Minotaur on Bandcamp

 

Sonic Wolves, Sonic Wolves

sonic wolves sonic wolves

Eight tracks/34 minutes of smoothly-arranged and well-executed doom rock brought to bear with an abiding lack of pretense and a developing sense of songcraft and dynamic — there’s very little not to dig about Sonic Wolves‘ self-titled LP (on Future Noise and DHU), from the Sabbathian stretch of “Ascension” down through the bouncing low-key-psych-turns-to-full-on-wah-overdose-swirl in the penultimate “Heavy Light.” Along the way, bassist/vocalist Kayt Vigil (ex-Pentagram, etc.) — joined by guitarists Jason Nealy and Enrico “Ico” Aniasi and drummer Gianni “Vita” Vitarelli (also Ufomammut) — gallop through the traditional metal of “Red Temple” and ride a fuzzy roll in “Tide of Chaos,” leaving the uptempo shuffle of “You’ll Climb the Walls” to close out by tapping into a “Wicked World”-style vision of heavy blues that casts off many of the tropes of what’s become the subgenre in favor of a darker approach. If their self-titled is Sonic Wolves declaring who they are as a band after making their debut in 2016, the results are only encouraging.

Sonic Wolves on Thee Facebooks

DHU Records webstore

Future Noise Recordings webstore

 

Spacelord, Indecipher

Spacelord Indecipher

There is an immediate sensibility drawn from classic heavy rock to the vocals on Spacelord‘s second record, Indecipher, like Shannon Hoon fronting Led Zeppelin, maybe? Something like that, definitely drawn from a ’70s/’90s blend. Produced, mixed and mastered by guitarist Rich Root, with Chris Cappiello on bass, Kevin Flynn on drums and Ed Grabianowski on vocals, the four-piece’s sophomore LP is comprised of a neatly-constructed eight songs working around sci-fi themes on bruiser cuts like “Super Starship Adventure” and the particularly righteous “Zero Hour,” as opener and longest track (immediate points) “For the Unloved Ones” sets forth the classic vibe amid the first of the record’s impressive solos and resonant hooks. Something about it makes me want them to go completely over the top in terms of production their next time out — layers on layers on layers, etc. — but the kind of false start Grabianowski brings to the ultra-Zepped “New Machine” has a charm that I’m not sure it would be worth sacrificing.

Spacelord on Thee Facebooks

Kozmik Artifactz website

 

Nauticus, Disappear in Blue

Nauticus Disappear in Blue

Six years after the release of their second album, The Wait (review here), Finnish atmospheric progressive metallers Nauticus effect a return with the 78-minute Disappear in Blue, which following the relatively straightforward opening with “Magma” casts out a vast sprawl in accordance with its oceanic theme. Longer tracks like “Claimed by the Sea,” “Strange Sequences/Lost Frequencies,” “Arrival” and “Hieronymus” are complex and varied but united through a deep instrumental dynamic that’s brought to light even in the three-minute ambient post-rocker “Desolation,” which is something of an interlude between “Strange Sequences/Lost Frequencies” and the tense build of “Singularity.” Other ambient spaces “Jesus of Lübeck” and the later “Whale Bones” complement and add reach to the longer-form works, but it’s hardly as though Nauticus‘ material lacks character one way or the other. Overwhelming in its length, Disappear in Blue might take some time to wade through, but what a way to go.

Nauticus on Thee Facebooks

Nauticus on Bandcamp

 

Yuxa, Yuxa

yuxa yuxa

As the greater part of anything related to post-metal invariably does, UK outfit Yuxa have their “Stones from the Sky” moment in “Founder in Light,” the opening cut from their self-titled debut EP, that most formative of progressions making itself known in modified form to suit the double-guitar four-piece’s intent with dramatic screams and shouts cutting through an ably-conjured surge of noisy adrenaline resolving in winding chug and crash en route to “Exiled Hand,” the seven-minute cut that follows and serves as centerpiece of the three-tracker. “Founder in Light,” “Exiled Hand” and nine-minute closer “Peer” are arranged shortest to longest, and the effect is to draw the listener in such that by the time the angular, purposeful lurch of the finale begins to unfold, Yuxa‘s rhythmic hypnosis is already well complete. Still, the straightforward arrangements of guitar, bass, drums and vocals give them a rawer edge than many synth- or sample-laden post-metallic cohorts, and that suits the atmospheric sludge with which they close out, harnessing chaos without giving themselves over to it. A quick sample of a creative development getting underway, though it’s telling as well that Yuxa ends with a sudden buzz of amp noise.

Yuxa on Thee Facebooks

Yuxa on Bandcamp

 

Forktie, EP

forktie forktie

The first EP release from Forktie — who stylize their moniker and titles all-lowercase: forktie — is untitled, but contains five tracks that tap into proto-emo post-hardcore and ’90s alt rock sensibilities, finding a place between heavy rock and grunge that allows for Aarone Victorine‘s bass to lead toward the hook of centerpiece “Decomposition Book” with a smooth presence that’s well complementary the vocals from guitarist Dom Mariano, their presence low in the mix only adding to the wistful feel of “Anywhere but Here” and “September Morning,” before the shorter “Spores” lets loose some more push from drummer Corey LeBlanc and closer “Ph.D. in Nothing” reinforces the underlying melancholy beneath the thicker exterior tones. It’s a new project, but Forktie have worked their way into a niche that suits their songwriting well, and given themselves a space to grow within their sound. Members experience in bands like UXO, Test Meat and textbookcopilot will serve them in that effort.

Forktie on Thee Facebooks

Forktie on Bandcamp

 

Ohhms, Exist

ohhms exist

As a fan generally of bands opening albums with the longest song included, I can get on board with UK heavy progressive metallers Ohhms opening Exist with the 22-minute “Subjects.” Immediate points and all that. Far more consequential, however, is the substance of that launch for the four-song/43-minute Holy Roar LP, which is the band’s fourth in four years. It’s a vast, broad and complex offering unto itself, consuming side A as vocalist Paul Waller embodies various entities, “I am wolf” (preceding a Duran Duran reference, perhaps inadvertent), “I am child,” and so on. Those proclamations are just the culmination of a progression that, frankly, is an album unto itself, let alone a side, and maybe should’ve been released as such, though the absolute post-metallic crush of “Shambles,” the seething of “Calves” and the heavy post-rock reach of “Lay Down Your Firearms” need no further justification than a simple listen provides, the last of them pummeling side B to a then-sudden stop. Ohhms are no strangers to longform work, and it suits them well enough to make one wonder if they couldn’t be headed toward a single-song LP in the near future.

Ohhms on Thee Facebooks

Holy Roar Records on Bandcamp

 

Blue Dream, Volume Blue

Blue Dream Volume Blue

Chicago four-piece Blue Dream issued their first LP, Volume Won, early in 2018 and follow with Volume Blue — as opposed to “two”; could ‘Volume Tree’ be in the works? ‘Volume Free?’ — which collects nine neo-psych-mit-der-funky-grooves cuts chic enough to be urbane but fuzzed out enough to make the freakouts more than just a come on. They open peaceful enough with “Delta,” before the hook of “9,000 lb. Machine” defines the course and cuts like “Thank You for Smoking” and the almost woefully catchy “She’s Hot” expand the parameters. I’ll take the dream-tone shimmer of “Kingsbury Goldmine” any day in a kind of self-aware reflection of British folk and/or the garage rock of “Shake the Shake,” but the dense roll of “Viper Venom” that immediately follows reimagines grunge as more than just an influence from three popular bands and something that could genuinely move forward from the perspective of a new generation. Hearing Blue Dream close out with the boogie of “The Glide,” one hopes they do precisely that, though I’d by no means limit them to one avenue of expression. They’re clearly able to harness multiple vibes here.

Blue Dream on Thee Facebooks

Blue Dream on Bandcamp

 

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Quarterly Review: Corrections House, Antimatter, Colossus, Bastard Lord, Monocluster, Valley, Shatner, Australasia, The Moth Gatherer, Super Witch

Posted in Reviews on January 6th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk quarterly review winter

Well, this is where we hit and pass the halfway point. It’s been a good week so far. Busy, but good. I hope you’ve found something that you dig or agree with or whatnot. I know it’s kind of hard to dig through 10 releases at once, but even if you see cover art that strikes a nerve, going with that impulse is rarely a bad idea, particularly when the level of commitment involved is clicking play on a Bandcamp player to get a taste. Pretty wide range today, so let’s dig in.

Quarterly review #21-30:

Corrections House, Know How to Carry a Whip

corrections house know how to carry a whip

Since they made their debut as a unit in 2013 with Last City Zero (also on Neurot), the don’t-call-it-a-supergroup Corrections House – vocalist Mike Williams (Eyehategod), guitarist/vocalist Scott Kelly (Neurosis), saxophonist/vocalist Bruce Lamont (Yakuza, Bloodiest) and programmer Sanford Parker (Buried at Sea) – have spread their bleak gospel of totalitarian industrial vehemence to audiences in the US and Europe. Their second offering, Know How to Carry a Whip, is bolder sound-wise and retains a very human, punk rock core with Williams’ sneer playing off Kelly’s gutturalism on “White Man’s Gonna Lose” and nearly goes goth in doing the same with Lamont in the later “When Push Comes to Shank,” but across the 45-minute span, the songs remain in the key of abrasion, and ultimately that’s what most unites them. As noisy as closer “Burn the Witness” gets, I can’t help but think of the acoustic, Lamont-led centerpiece “Visions Divide” as the bleakest moment of the record, twisting folkish conventions into a dystopian soundscape, but Williams’ spoken drug-poetry on “I was Never Good at Meth” provides stiff competition.

Corrections House on Thee Facebooks

Neurot Recordings

Antimatter, The Judas Table

The Judas Table

Lush in its arrangements and doling out extreme measures of melancholy across its 56 minutes, Antimatter’s sixth album, The Judas Table (on Prophecy Productions), brings sonic depth to bear in rich textures of electric and acoustic guitars, keys, and the strength-through-fragility vocals of remaining founder and songwriter Mick Moss. The group’s last offering, 2012’s Fear of a Unique Identity (review here), pushed them into fuller tones, and an early cut like “Killer” builds on that, but the crux of The Judas Table is in subdued and brooding pieces like “Little Piggy,” remorseful and seething in kind as it moves through an acoustic-led arrangement marked out by strings and a sense of grace. “Integrity” asks the question, “What’s the point if no one else has any?” and sets a depressive run through one of the record’s grader builds, but Antimatter are hardly contained to one style here, as the New Wave inflection on “Can of Worms” or the rumbling apex of highlight “Stillborn Empires” demonstrate.

Antimatter on Thee Facebooks

Prophecy Productions

Colossus, The Breathing World

colossus the breathing world

Not to be confused with their Swedish countrymen who operated under the same moniker and whose lineup included a post-and-pre-Candlemass Messiah Marcolin, Stockholm’s Colossus play a decidedly progressive blend of Peaceville-style doom and metal, the trio of guitarist/vocalist Niklas Eriksson, bassist Peter Berg and drummer Thomas Norstedt adding a near-immediate inflection toward the epic via Primordial-style vocal patterning on opener “Yehi Aour/Wanderers” that holds for much of their 48-minute sophomore outing, The Breathing World (on Perennity Records). “Darkling Root” and more so the chugging “Fuga Mundi” delve into blackened fare in the guitar, but it’s just one of an array of genres in Colossus’ arsenal and in the case of the latter, soon enough complemented by Opethian prog noodling and soulful vocalizing. These turns, which more often than not happen in an instant, are a great strength of The Breathing World, but would fall flat without the crisp, confident delivery the band provides leading to the grand sprawl and long fade of 10-minute closer, “The Silent City.”

Colossus on Thee Facebooks

Colossus on Bandcamp

Bastard Lord, Bastard Lord

bastard lord bastard lord

One thing we’ve learned about Twin Earth Records thus far into the long-established label’s recent surge of activity is that it knows tone when it hears it. Thus comes treading Bastard Lord out of Buffalo, New York, whose four-song self-titled debut was initially self-released and remastered for a CD issue, rumble-fuzzing a murky Sabbath worship that oozes from the amps of bassist/vocalist David Braymiller and guitarist Mike Hermann – hard to tell at times in 13-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Cimmerian” where the one instrument ends and the other begins – and set to a suitable plod by Jeremy Coupe’s drumming. It’s little surprise when they pay homage to “Snowblind” in “Wormwood,” but the psychedelic edge in Braymiller’s vocals – drowned in effects, buried in the mix; both appropriately so – gives Bastard Lord a personality of its own the holds even into the faster closer “Into the Sea,” a Toner Low-style lysergic depth unflinching through that song and “Summoner” before it as Bastard Lord emerge from the mire with their intentions clear.

Bastard Lord on Thee Facebooks

Twin Earth Records

Monocluster, Monocluster

monocluster monocluster

One might be forgiven for entering into Monocluster’s self-titled, self-released debut album with an expectation for traditional stoner rock, between the band’s moniker and album cover – and if that’s what came through in playing the 35-minute, five-track outing, I very likely wouldn’t complain – but the German-language four-piece subtly veer into and out of spacier interludes in cuts like “Dantes Inferno” and “8 Stunden” and the later “Ich Atme” pushes even further along those lines, jamming out vast and echoing over a foundational bassline that holds the track together before it stops outright and resurfaces with Monocluster’s most righteous single nod. Centerpiece “Straße” demonstrates a touch of Colour Haze influence as well, but on the whole the Cologne four-piece seem headed in a different direction, and as the 10-minute closer “12 Minuten” ranges farther and heavier than everything before it, I’m only more intrigued to find out where they might end up. Heavy psych that’s not afraid to tighten up and make a more pointed impact when it feels one is needed.

Monocluster on Thee Facebooks

Monocluster on Bandcamp

Valley, Sunburst

valley sunburst

I have two reasons for writing a review of Valley’s Sunburst EP, and they are both ridiculously simple. Yes, the Swedish five-piece were featured in two podcasts (one here, one here) and mentioned in the roundup of 2015’s best short releases – however, reviewing Sunburst now gives me another excuse to put it back on and it gives me something to fall back to later when I’m praising the crap out of whatever they do next and want to link a past review. Simple reasons. If you haven’t yet heard the 2015 debut outing from the Stockholm post-heavy rock instrumentalists, basked in the warm, organic psychedelia of “Tunguska” and “Kiro” or the peaceful folk-jam of “Dream Shooter, Golden!” and the tense-and-release percussion and sample-topped progressive course of “Picture Puzzle Pattern Door,” then you have quite simply missed out. I’m sure plenty have and plenty more will liken it to a desert sound – in no small part because of the cover art – but the smooth melodicism goes beyond landscape here and is made to be appreciated regardless of climate or locale.

Valley on Thee Facebooks

Version Studio Records

Shatner, EP

shatner ep

An edge of Northeastern aggression is unmistakable at the core of Shatner’s 20-minute self-released six-track EP. Based in Boston, the tree-piece boasts guitarist/vocalist Jim Healey (Black Thai, We’re all Gonna Die), bassist/backing vocalist Jesse Sherman (We’re all Gonna Die) and drummer Rob Davol (Cocked ‘n’ Loaded), and so a touch of anger isn’t unexpected given the personnel – even Healey’s acoustic work has brooding tension underlying – but if “Special” and “Black Market Liver” are variations on an ongoing theme, they’re of consistent quality in terms of songwriting, and the Thin Lizzy cover “Bad Reputation” is positioned well just past the halfway point to add variety amid a slew of potent hooks. Not their first time working together, but Healey and Sherman’s voices complement each other well on “Dead in Your Eyes” and “Death Reheated,” and with the solid foundation that Davol provides throughout, Shatner’s EP is an encouraging start to what’s hopefully an ongoing development.

Shatner on Thee Facebooks

Shatner on Bandcamp

Australasia, Notturno

australasia-notturno

Harvested, sometimes manipulated samples and synthesized textures permeate Notturno, the mostly-instrumental second album from Italian atmospheric project Australasia. Comprised solely of Gian Spalluto, it’s somewhat more surprising that songs like the cascading “Lumen” and “Kern” are able to conjure such full-band progressions, but layering was bound to be a factor one way or another in Australasia’s approach, so if it’s Spalluto’s vision at play, so be it. Sonically, the impression of much of the material – including the guest-vocalized centerpiece “Invisibile” – winds up somewhere between the dystopian ambience of Red Sparowes and the brighter aspirations of post-black metallers Alcest, but songs like “Haxo” and the closing title-track, a (mostly) solo piano piece, have a cinematic edge as well. Rather than play one side against the other, Spalluto brings them together in one overarching flow that engages conceptually and sonically throughout a nine-track/39-minute course that willfully refuses to acknowledge a line between post-rock and post-metal.

Australasia on Thee Facebooks

Apocalyptic Witchcraft Recordings

The Moth Gatherer, The Earth is the Sky

the moth gatherer the earth is the sky

Synth ambience and distorted severity meet head-on with the second full-length from Swedish post-metallers The Moth Gatherer, The Earth is the Sky (on Agonia Records). Produced over a two-year span with Karl Daniel Lidén (Greenleaf, VAKA, etc.), it punishes intensely on “The Black Antlers” with no less underlying fluidity than it had on the quietly atmospheric “Dyatlov Pass” preceding, the four-piece of bassist/vocalist Alex Stjernfeldt, guitarist/vocalist/programmer Victor Wegeborn, guitarist Ronny Westphal and drummer Svante Karlsson finding a place sound-wise that swaps between peaceful and threatening, delving into extreme progressive metal and electronica in kind on “Attacus Atlas” while setting up the consuming, gradual push of 11-minute closer “In Awe Before the Rapture,” which seems in conversation with the synth of the earlier “Probing the Descent of Man” in creating a layered structure of sound, while also attempting to marry the various impulses displayed throughout. Familiar to a degree, but immersive in its bringing earth and sky together.

The Moth Gatherer on Thee Facebooks

Agonia Records

Super Witch, Super Witch has Risen

super witch super witch has risen

You might wonder just what kind of neighborhood it is that would pair “The House that Dripped Blood” next door to “House of Warlocks” – perhaps that street is on the “Island of Lost Souls” – but then you probably wouldn’t get the crux of Memphis heavy punk foursome Super Witch’s debut full-length, Super Witch Has Risen, which has tales of horror front to back, “Spaceship Cadillac” notwithstanding. The Tennessean outfit dip into garage grunge on “Night of the Hunter” and stomp out call and response and Melvins chug on on “The Need,” show some more patient swing on “Smash Your Own Face,” but it’s “Army of Werewolves” and the opening “Super Witch Has Risen” that tell the story of the band’s intent more than the semi-swirl of “Smash Your Own Face” or the all-the-way swirl of closer “With the Lights Out,” as satisfying as the closer is in pulling off a rare feat – psychedelic punk. Split between two recording sessions, there are some changes in sound throughout, but it would take a supernatural force to derail Super Witch from their underlying purpose.

Super Witch on Thee Facebooks

Super Witch on Bandcamp

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Friday Full-Length: Buffalo, Volcanic Rock

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

Buffalo, Volcanic Rock (1973)

Issued in July 1973, the sophomore outing from Aussie heavy rockers Buffalo falls right between Deep Purple‘s Who Do We Think We Are? (Jan.) and Black Sabbath‘s Sabbath Bloody Sabbath (Dec.), and when it comes to Volcanic Rock itself, that’s not a bad way to think about where it was coming from generally. The Sydney-based band formed in 1971 and released their debut, Dead Forever, in 1972, and so missed out on taking part in the barrage of self-titled offerings that showed up in the few years prior, 1970-’71 serving as a nexus point from which heavy rock and roll still seems to be expanding. Still, if they were a little behind the times, Volcanic Rock is no less sincere than any of its 1971 counterpart offerings from gritty rockers like Atomic Rooster, Cactus or countless others. If anything, Buffalo are harder-edged from the start of the propulsive “Sunrise (Come My Way)” through the epic proto-metal finish of “Pound of Flesh/Shylock.” Led by John Baxter‘s guitar and with Dave Tice‘s bluesy vocals, Buffalo represent much of the best of their era, and if the fact that Volcanic Rock showed up two years later means anything in the long run, it means the band’s time was well spent in making it.

To wit, the lurching groove of the nine-minute “Freedom” is an absolute high point, swinging and patient with Jimmy Economou‘s drums and Peter Wells‘s bass. It would be easy for this song and any number of others to fall into post-Led Zeppelin theatric posturing, but it never quite does. Instead, it captures a dead-on nod-jam that sets the tone for some of what “Shylock” will offer later on before giving way to “Till My Death,” in which one can hear the seeds of what Judas Priest would soon enough turn into classic metal. Through that track and “The Prophet,” which thickens up hard-blues grooves and plays off a traditional American gospelism, Buffalo cast an identity for themselves that remains resonant to this day, their methods simply burlier and more roughed up than a lot of heavy rock was and would become as it continued to grow under a progressive influence. Buffalo had their own path, and after Volcanic Rock — the bizarre cover art of which is discussed here — they would continue down it with 1974’s Only Want You for Your Body, 1976’s Mother’s Choice and their final album, 1977’s Average Rock ‘n’ Roller, all through Vertigo Records.

As will happen with this kind of thing, there are numerous editions of the album in existence. I don’t know from which the bonus tracks included in the video above are culled, but whatever. The record itself ends after “Shylock” at 37:25. If you want to push beyond that into the rest, that’s cool too. None of it sucks.

Hope you enjoy.

Quiet start to the New Year, all things considered. I knew it was midnight last night when someone down the way started setting off fireworks. I was still up, but kind of lost in the process of putting together the Year-End Poll Results that went up earlier today. The Patient Mrs. was already asleep. Guess I wasn’t paying attention. Happy New Year.

Also woke up early this morning to finish laying out images, players and links and to start writing the Quarterly Review, which starts next week and of which I got a pathetic amount done between the hours of seven this morning and one this afternoon. I’ll get it done. It’ll be fine. I’m not gonna stress about it (yes I am), or the La Chinga full-album stream that’s slated for Monday, or any of the news posts I’m already behind on (Graveyard playing Freak Valley, etc.). Why stress? Why get upset?

Oh right, because I’m compulsive.

So anyway, yeah, next week is the Quarterly Review. 50 albums written up across Monday to Friday, 10 per day. Since I’m counting it as the end of a quarter of 2015 even though we’re into 2016 already, that will make 200 records covered this year under that format. Next one should be at the end of March/early April, depending on how I can time it with going to Roadburn. Let me get through this one first. Then I’ll start on the next.

The Quarterly Review will eat up a good portion of the week’s posts, but where and when I see news, videos, audio, whatever else there might be, I’ll get as much of it in as I can. That’s the deal around here anyway.

One more time before I sign off for the weekend: Happy New Year and thanks to everybody who took part in the Year-End Poll. At some point this month I’ll have a list up of albums to look forward to in 2016. Last I checked, I was over 100 names. No idea how I’m going to organize it yet, but I will. Gotta see if I can write Mars Red Sky and Neurosis in extra-big letters.

Have a great and safe weekend, and please check out the forum and radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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The Midnight Ghost Train Announce Six-Week US Tour

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 15th, 2013 by JJ Koczan

When The Midnight Ghost Train go on tour, they stay on tour. Still in support of last year’s raging blues rocker Buffalo, the unhinged Kansas-based trio will hit the road once again starting this week. The band played Roadburn this Spring as part of a European run, and in addition to currently working on new material, they’ll also have a live record out of that performance come September, which is pretty much also how long this US tour is set to last. Go figure.

Knowledge is power trio:

THE MIDNIGHT GHOST TRAIN Announces U.S. Headlining Tour in Support of New LP “Buffalo”

Powerful, High-Caliber Rock Band Set to Barnstorm the U.S. on Massive, Six Week Cross Country Tour

Utterly unique Topeka, Kansas based HEAVY rock band THE MIDNIGHT GHOST TRAIN will launch a U.S. headlining tour in support of its sophomore LP Buffalo on July 18 at the Downtown Music Hall in Little Rock, Arkansas. Boasting a gargantuan sound that has been described as “ZZ Top trampled by mammoths” and “like the great depression era blues shouter Blind Willie Johnson, if he had fronted the ’60s San Francisco band Blue Cheer at their sludgiest,” THE MIDNIGHT GHOST TRAIN’s epic live shows are “intense and real” and an uplifting cure-all for fans or critics that may feel rock music has lost its “edge”. The 34 city trek will run through September 7, showcasing a trio that has averaged over 300 live shows per year since its formation in 2007.

A phenomenal band who has the wind behind their backs and momentum on their side, THE MIDNIGHT GHOST TRAIN (aka TMGT) transcends geography, generation and genre. With a name inspired by an old Hank Williams lyric and a live show that hits with adamantine force, TMGT is led by guitarist Steve Moss, whose gruff-throated, Tom Waits-like vocals, gloriously fuzzy tone and unbridled, wailing guitar solos combine to deliver an entirely new form of musical power and intensity. With literally thousands of live shows under their collective belt — including 13 U.S. tours (both solo and alongside acts such as Jucifer and Truckfighters) and 3 full European jaunts — the band has developed a strong reputation for blowing the doors off every venue in which they perform, leaving a whole new contingent of music fans awestruck and hungry for more with each and every show. THE MIDNIGHT GHOST TRAIN isn’t just a band you hear, it’s something you feel deep down. Its pulse affects you.

Released in 2012 via Karate Body Records, Buffalo was recorded with producer / engineer David Barbe (Harvey Milk, Son Volt, Drive-By Truckers) and has met to shining critical acclaim in the time since its release; hailed for its soul, energy and thick Mississippi Delta-rooted Rock ‘N’ Roll. Dark, heavy blues is as much an influence on TMGT’s sound as rock/metal, but it’s also seriously head bang-able with loads of densely-packed furry riffage, heavy/quiet tradeoffs and memorable hooks. The record also contains a re-imagined cover of Huddie “Lead Belly” Ledbetter’s 1940 classic “Cotton Fields”.

MIDNIGHT GHOST TRAIN tour dates:
July 18 Little Rock, AR Downtown Music Hall
July 19 Lafayette, LA The Wild Salmon Bar & Grill
July 20 Ocean Springs, MS The Squeaky Lizard
July 21 Pensacola, FL The Handlebar
July 22 Valdosta, GA Ashley Street Station
July 24 Charleston, SC The Mill
July 25 Fayetteville, NC Black Cat Lounge
July 26 Frederick, MD Guido’s Speakeasy
July 27 Indianapolis, IN Indy’s Jukebox
July 28 Cleveland, OH Now That’s Class
July 30 Akron, OH Annabell’s Bar and Lounge
July 31 Dayton, OH Therapy Cafe
August 1 Chicago, IL Reggie’s Music Joint
August 2 Green Bay, WI Crunchy Frog
August 3 La Crosse, WI JB’s Speakeasy
August 7 Billings, MT Shooters Bar
August 8 Great Falls, MT Machinery Row
August 10 Spokane, WA The Hop
August 11 Seattle, WA Victory Lounge
August 14 Red Bluff, CA The End Up Saloon
August 15 Fresno, CA Audie’s Olympic
August 18 Albuquerque, NM Launchpad
August 19 Fort Collins, CO Surfside 7
August 22 Denver, CO Tennyson’s Tap
August 23 McCook, NE Sports
August 24 Oklahoma City, OK The Conservatory-OKC
August 26 Midland, TX The Blue Max
August 27 Austin, TX The Legendary White Swan
August 29 Monroe, LA Oaks Bar & Grille
August 30 Jackson, MS Sam’s Lounge
August 31 Birmingham, AL The Nick
September 4 Lexington, KY Green Lantern
September 7 Warrensburg, MO Bottomfeeder Bay

As part of its European headlining tour last spring, THE MIDNIGHT GHOST TRAIN delivered a jaw-dropping live performance as part of the hallowed Roadburn international rock festival. This week, it was announced that the fest’s record label, Roadburn Records will release TMGT’s full live set from the festival on both LP and CD this September as part of its popular “Live From Roadburn” series.

The Midnight Ghost Train, Buffalo (2012)

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The Midnight Ghost Train Winter Tour 2012 Starts Nov. 29

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 20th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

Note they call this one the “Winter Tour 2012.” One can only assume that’s as opposed to The Midnight Ghost Train‘s Winter Tour 2013, which will probably see the band take off two minutes after New Year’s and only stop in time for their Spring Tour 2013. The Midnight Ghost Train tour a lot, is the point I’m making.

And good for them, as their hard work has seen them added to next year’s Roadburn (part of the Spring tour, no doubt; announcement here), and their 2012 outing, Buffalo (stream it below), will give them no shortage of kickass songs to play there. In the meantime, here are the Winter Tour dates:

The Midnight Ghost Train Winter Tour 2012

Nov 29 Green Lantern Lexington, KY
Nov 30 Ultra Lounge Chicago, IL
Dec 1 Southgate House Newport, KY
Dec 2 Brass Rail Fort Wayne, IN
Dec 4 Pegasus Records Florence, AL
Dec 5 Squeaky Lizard Ocean Springs, MS
Dec 6 Twist Of Lime Metairie, LA
Dec 7 Tsunami Monroe, LA
Dec 8 Beer Land Austin, TX
Dec 9 Jakes Downtown Tulsa, OK

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Visual Evidence: The Midnight Ghost Train Silkscreen Posters on the Back of PBR Boxes

Posted in Visual Evidence on July 30th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

This one was too cool not to post. Topeka, Kansas, heavy as hell trio The Midnight Ghost Train are once again hitting the road in support of their new album, Buffalo (review here). To promote their Aug. 9 Brooklyn gig with Reign of Zaius and Eidetic Seeing, the band has silkscreened posters onto the backs of PBR boxes. Even as someone who doesn’t drink the beer, I think that’s pretty clever. Click to enlarge:

Check out the full list of The Midnight Ghost Train tour dates (including European shows this fall) at their website.

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The Debate Rages: Tittyhawk vs. the Ass-Volcano

Posted in The Debate Rages on October 6th, 2011 by JJ Koczan

They’re both obviously classic heavy rock records. British outfit Atomic Rooster released their first album, Atomic Roooster (with the extra ‘o’), in 1970, and Aussie proto-doomers Buffalo unleashed Volcanic Rock three years later. If you’re standing in a store, and the two of them are there on the shelf in front of you, there’s no decision. You buy both.

But what I’m curious about in this new feature (that I hope will be a series from here on out, depending on the reaction/response it gets) is the artwork. Atomic Roooster and Volcanic Rock have some of the most ridiculous artwork ever put on a vinyl sleeve.

The first is a hawk trapped in a glass cube that inexplicably has breasts — and what’s up with that chair in the corner? — and the latter it what looks like a skull-faced neuter from Dragon Ball Z holding a giant penis over his head as he stands atop a giant volcano that turns out on the second half of the gatefold to be a woman’s ass and what may or may not be menstrual lava.

Each astounds in how little sense it makes, so I put it to you — which is the better cover?

Atomic Rooster, Atomic Roooster (1970)

or Buffalo, Volcanic Rock (1973)

Click either to enlarge the image, and leave your vote in the comments.

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Buried Treasure Gets Trampled by Buffalo

Posted in Buried Treasure on July 8th, 2011 by JJ Koczan

Wow. I guess if you don’t read this site regularly, that headline makes no fucking sense whatsoever. So be it. Mysterious headlines are totally tr00 kvlt.

Aussie rockers Buffalo issued one of the great underground classics of the heavy ’70s in the form of 1973’s Volcanic Rock. They were never huge in their day, they put out a couple records and lost members, put out a couple more records, and then broke up. Pretty much the story of every band ever. But if you’re a fan of early Black Sabbath and you don’t check out Volcanic Rock, you’re missing out.

It’s another one of those records that I’d had my eye on for what feels like an eternity before I finally gave in and picked it up from eBay. The version I got — a silver-disc in a full jewel case with professionally printed artwork — is nonetheless almost certainly a bootleg. There’s no label information on any of the art, but the disc says “SM The CD Label” and lists its country of origin as West Germany. Cold War boots. Awesome.

Whatever. Unlike every other edition of Volcanic Rock I could find in the wide intertubular expanse, this one was reasonably priced, so no regrets. It’s hard to pick a favorite track among the five killer bluesy, heavy riffing cuts, but I think “Freedom” might just be it. The bassline is too awesome to go ignored, and though opener “Sunrise (Come My Way)” is catchy, the preaching in “The Prophet” is top notch and the riff from “Shylock” is so “Symptom of the Universe” it makes my head want to explode that I didn’t buy this record sooner, there’s a doomed groove to “Freedom” that trumps all.

In the long run, Buffalo‘s second album is probably more known for its artwork — the skull-faced androgyne on top of a lava-menstruating volcano holding aloft a penis-shaped rock — than the music itself, but these songs flat-out rule. I’m glad as hell that I didn’t make a heavy ’70s podcast before picking this one up. Good shit, highly recommended for riff historians and those who, like me, weren’t there the first time around.

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