Friday Full-Length: Acid King, Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere

Posted in Bootleg Theater on April 3rd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

You know how Olympic runners push their heads and chests forward at the end of a race to cut their time across the finish line? That’s me getting to this post, only I’m not in shape. And I’m flat-footed. And okay you know what, so maybe that’s not me, but the point is it’s been a long week and I’m glad to see the other end of it. Fine. You got me.

Let’s start over. “Try again?” as The Pecan says these days.

Time for a confession. Acid King‘s utterly brilliant 2015 album, Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere (review here, track premiere here, interview here, slathered praise here and here), is one that — even with that glut of parenthetical “link here” coverage — I still feel guilty about not giving its due. Issued through Svart Records as what was the essential San Francisco trio’s first offering in a decade since 2005’s III (discussed here), it was far and away my favorite full-length released that year. I put it on and it’s still a record that strikes me as an ideal vision of what their kind of heavy rock should be.

It’s heavy — always a good start — and spacious, melodic and reaching outward, flowing and carrying a presence of tone that is established with the immersion that starts on its “Intro” and carries through the subsequent “Silent Pictures,” the superlatively-catchy “Coming Down from Outer Space,” through “Laser Headlights” and “Red River” and “Infinite Skies,” “Center of Everywhere” and the bookending “Outro” with variations in tempo but an unwavering central purpose in its nod and groove. Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere is as gritty as it is gorgeous, and five years later — if the band are feeling social-media savvy, perhaps they’ll put up a post noting the anniversary; that seems to be a thing bands do these days; fan engagement and all that — and from its staff-wielding-bony-fingered-Gandalf-riding-a-tiger-through-space-past-a-pockmarked-moon to the gong in “Laser Headlights,” the record exudes a righteousnessacid king middle of nowhere center of everywhere that, from the first time I heard it, I knew I was going to be living with it for years to come. It was, unquestionably, my album of the year.

And there’s the rub. Because when December came, it wasn’t.

It’s silly, I know, and it doesn’t really matter, I know, but I put a lot of thought into those year-end lists. Once they’re out there, that’s it. I may update them for a few days, add honorable mentions or something I forgot, whatever, but after that, they’re set, and years later, I look back on them to see what was going on when, how I felt about it at the time and where records and bands sat in relation to each other at least in my mind.

Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere was every bit my favorite album of 2015, but it wasn’t the album of the year. I gave that to Elder‘s Lore instead.

I remember it well, making the decision that morning as I was adding the final part of the post which I’d written over two days, and I decided that the Elder record was too important, too forward thinking and too massive in its immediate impact on the heavy underground to not be the release that defined the year. And five years later, I’d make the same decision. I don’t regret it. Lore was glorious, but I listened to the Acid King more, and I still listen to the Acid King more, so on a personal level, there’s some part of me that will forever feel like I undersold just how much I love these songs.

That’s a bummer, but even that doesn’t stop me from enjoying the album. How could it? How could anything but the end of the universe itself? Follow the river to the hills, man. Pray for the blast off.

Make no mistake, we’re not anywhere near the end of the universe, or even humanity. I’m not going to downplay the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic or my own country’s inept federal response that, mired in politics and petty ratings games, will only prolong it. But the universe’ll still be around another 10 billion years or so without us and, yeah, sorry, we just don’t matter that much. Even the planet feels better when we take a seat for a few weeks, and there’s recent environmental data to prove it.

But people are dying, and the projections are that many more will, and that the next two weeks will prove pivotal in determining the ultimate direction the outbreak takes. I don’t know what magic line exists thereafter to make it start to get better, but at least here in the New York area — which is the epicenter of the US’ woes, as ever — that’s what Judy Woodruff is saying, and hell’s bells, if you can’t trust Judy, then we might as well be done as a species.

The epidemic doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with my confession about the Acid King record. I’m not laying it all on the line in case I get sick and my lungs catch fire or some such. But Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere is another record from which I’ve derived significant comfort over the last five years. Something I put on when I’m sick of everything and just want to hear something I love and groove for a while. And so I hope maybe it can do a little bit of the same work for you, if maybe you’re anxious like everyone is, or you’re tired of everything, or you’re overwhelmed by the noise and misinformation that are so, so, so rampant and so unrelenting.

It’s okay to feel exhausted and overwhelmed. This is hard. I don’t even mean social distancing and isolation. I know people are hurting financially and that stress is always a killer — sometimes literally — and that over nine million Americans filed for unemployment benefits in the last two weeks and that is both insane and unprecedented and it means that the multifaceted recovery from all of this will take years not the months being promised, but as screwed as we might all seem, at least music still sounds good.

At least there’s still that. Right?

Have a great and safe weekend. I wish you the best and continued health. Thanks for reading.

New Gimme show today at 5PM Eastern if you can listen. FRM.

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The Freeks Post “Yesterday’s Sweetheart” Rehearsal Footage with New Lineup

Posted in Bootleg Theater on April 1st, 2020 by JJ Koczan

the freeks 2020 lineup

You know what part I like? I like the part where Ruben Romano plays drums. I like that part. I like the part where Ed Mundell rips a solo while Jonathan Hall holds down the rhythm on guitar. That part is pretty sweet too. I like the part where Ray Piller throws a little funk into the bassline. Oh yeah, and I like that part too where Craig Riggs is on vocals.

I guess what I’m trying to say is I’m on board for hearing more from the new incarnation of Los Angeles-based heavy rockers The Freeks, who were seemingly all set to unveil their five-piece lineup at the L.A. edition of the Heavy Psych Sounds Fest a few nights ago. Obviously that didn’t happen, what with the certainty that there would be more than three people there or however many California has allowed to gather in a single place at the moment.

To be sure, “Yesterday’s Sweetheart” — a new song, at least so far as I know — is a rehearsal. They note as well it was Riggs‘ first time sitting in with the band — one has to wonder as to the logistics of that, if he’s still based in the Boston area, where his bands Kind and the kinda-not-really-semi-active-but-still-put-out-a-killer-record-last-year Roadsaw are, or if he’s gone west, where Sasquatch and now The Freeks are based; hell of a commute, either way — but of course he seems right at home alongside everyone else, even though there apparently aren’t proper lyrics to the song yet. “Hey Riggs, wanna just bust out a killer melody and wing it and we’ll make a video?” “Yeah sure, why not?”

Not many bands would make that choice, let alone pull it off. The Freeks circa 2020 do both. Keep writing, dudes. Write faster. Then record.

You know, as soon as more than three people can legally be in the same space, anyhow.

Enjoy the video:

The Freeks, “Yesterday’s Sweetheart” rehearsal, March 4, 2020

Because a lot of you have asked, we decided to take some rehearsal footage, add in some freeky trees and psychedelia to share with all of you during these times of trouble! Please note, This is a raw rehearsal recording for use as the bands audio review only and was not intended for public video, so, heads are cut off (but not bad for a one camera only edit). This is also Riggs’s first rehearsal with us and he kills it with some improvisational vocality. We hope you dig it as we feel we are putting our guts on the table and exposing our balls for y’all to give us a big kick.

The Freeks are:
Ed Mundell – Guitar
Jonathan Hall – Guitar
Ray Piller – bass
Craig Riggs – vocals
Ruben Romano – Drums

The Freeks on Thee Facebooks

The Freeks on Instagram

The Freeks website

Heavy Psych Sounds store

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Days of Rona: Gary Wendt of The Ghost Next Door

Posted in Features on April 1st, 2020 by JJ Koczan

The statistics of COVID-19 change with every news cycle, and with growing numbers, stay-at-home isolation and a near-universal disruption to society on a global scale, it is ever more important to consider the human aspect of this coronavirus. Amid the sad surrealism of living through social distancing, quarantines and bans on gatherings of groups of any size, creative professionals — artists, musicians, promoters, club owners, techs, producers, and more — are seeing an effect like nothing witnessed in the last century, and as humanity as a whole deals with this calamity, some perspective on who, what, where, when and how we’re all getting through is a needed reminder of why we’re doing so in the first place.

Thus, Days of Rona, in some attempt to help document the state of things as they are now, both so help can be asked for and given where needed, and so that when this is over it can be remembered.

Thanks to all who participate. — JJ Koczan

gary wendt THE GHOST NEXT DOOR

Days of Rona: Gary Wendt of The Ghost Next Door (Oakland, California)

How are you dealing with this crisis as a band? Have you had to rework plans at all? How is everyone’s health so far?

Well, we are presently short a drummer so we haven’t been rehearsing anyways. We were also minus a bassist when this whole thing started. Fortunately, we found someone amidst the chaos. We are currently having her learn the tunes on her own and plan to get together one-on-one next week. We had just finished prepro demos for the new record, so I’m in the studio all by my lonesome tracking guitars for our follow-up.

No one in our camp is ill, thankfully.

What are the quarantine/isolation rules where you are?

Shelter in place. Social distancing. Leave home only for necessities. That sort of thing.

How have you seen the virus affecting the community around you and in music?

Folks on the street are a bit tense, it seems. On edge.

I have not witnessed any bad actors, thus far, however. Stood in my first line for the grocery store yesterday. That was kinda strange. It’s difficult to keep six feet apart from folks in those aisles, I tell ya!

In music, well, hopefully folks are practicing and/or writing at home. Now’s the time to create, my friends!

Obviously, no shows, no rehearsals. Some I know are in big enough bands to actually help raise money for specific causes. Robb (MH) has been using social media to raise funds for medical masks as well as using profits of merch sales to help out. Way ta go, dude!

What is the one thing you want people to know about your situation, either as a band, or personally, or anything?

My wife, Bekki and I had our very first virtual happy hour with our friends, Snake and Allison the other night. The three hours we spent together online, just flew by! Love those cats!

So far, I’ve been keeping super busy. I like being home with the wife and kitties. My company has tagged on an extra two weeks sick time for everyone, so, I’m in a good place, monetarily, for the time being. She’s working from home. Still, the looming recession is not something I’m taking lightly. Probably my number one concern, right there.

Everyone, stay calm, don’t hoard, keep a safe distance and please, don’t fear monger.

Not helpful at all.

Triple check those “facts” before you go haphazardly posting on Facebook too.

https://www.facebook.com/theghostnextdoor/
https://www.instagram.com/theghostnextdoorband/
http://theghostnextdoorband.com/
https://www.facebook.com/theripplemusic/
ripplemusic.bandcamp.com
http://www.ripple-music.com/

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Agrabatti Sign to Interstellar Smoke Records for Beyond the Sun Release

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 24th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

In what might be called delightful happenstance if it actually were and I wasn’t just that behind on stuff, the just-reviewed San Francisco one-man space rock outfit Agrabatti have signed to Interstellar Smoke Records to release the debut album, Beyond the Sun, sometime between now and ever. When might that be? I don’t know, but let’s face it: the band formed in 2009 and it’s taking 11 years for the arrival of a first record. You can probably wait a little bit longer for it to show up on vinyl.

Though if you feel some urgency in that regard, I respect that, and to be honest, I get it. I know it was just reviewed in a batch with nine other records, but Chad Davis — whose pedigree is full of almost embarrassingly awesome projects at this point — absolutely nails a traditionalist ’70s-style space rock vibe, and the album is awesome. It was a highlight of my day, frankly, so if I get to talk about it again now, well, that’s a win as far as I’m concerned. Probably won’t be the last time, either.

Here’s hoping for a follow-up in sometime less than a decade:

agrabatti beyond the sun

It is with great pleasure that I announce Interstellar Smoke Records has formed a cosmic allegiance with Agrabatti. To say I am delighted is beyond the fact! ISR have an amazing track record of releases and their commitment to the underground music movement is beyond unparalleled!!

The debut recording “Beyond the Sun” will be released in the form of a “Dark Nebula” vinyl edition that is black in lime green wax and limited to 250 units with poster. All killer galactic visuals created by the legendary ZZ Corpse!! Release date to be announced once pressing info has been received.

I am grateful to Jack and ISR for believing in the music enough to offer their services to support the sound and ideals of Agrabatti, and to bring this project forth from the cosmic dust it was formed from some 11 years ago.

Stay tuned in, turned on and STAY COSMIC!

Chad Davis

https://facebook.com/agrabatti/
https://agrabatti.bandcamp.com/
https://interstellarsmokerecords.bigcartel.com/

Agrabatti, Beyond the Sun (2020)

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Quarterly Review: Khemmis, Mutant Flesh, War Cloud, Void of Sleep, Pretty Lightning, Rosy Finch, Ghost Spawn, Agrabatti, Dead Sacraments, Smokemaster

Posted in Reviews on March 24th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

Alarm went off this morning at 3:45. Got up, flicked on the coffee pot, turned the heat on in the house, hit the bathroom and was back in bed in four minutes with an alarm set for 4:15. Didn’t really get back to sleep, but the half-hour of being still was a kind of pre-waking meditation that I appreciated just the same. Was dozing when the alarm went off the second time, but it’s day two of the Quarterly Review, so no time to doze. No time for anything, as is the nature of these blocks of writeups. They tend to be all-consuming while they’re going on. Could be worse. Let’s roll.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Khemmis, Doomed Heavy Metal

khemmis doomed heavy metal

Denver four-piece Khemmis have made themselves one of the most distinctive acts in metal, to say nothing of doom. With strong vocal harmonies out front backed by similarly-minded guitars, the band bring a sense of poise to doom that’s rare in the modern sphere, somewhat European in influence, but less outwardly adherent to the genre tenets of melancholy. They refuse to be Paradise Lost, in other words, and are all the more themselves for that. Their Doomed Heavy Metal EP (on 20 Buck Spin and Nuclear Blast) is a stopgap after 2018’s Desolation (review here) full-length, but at 38 minutes and six songs, it’s substantial nonetheless, headlined by the Dio cover “Rainbow in the Dark” — capably done with just a flair of Slough Feg — with a take on Lloyd Chandler‘s “A Conversation with Death” and “Empty Throne,” both rare-enough studio cuts, for backing, as well as three live cuts that cover their three-to-date albums. The growls on “Three Gates” are fun, but I’ll still take the Dio cover as the highlight. For a cobbled-together release, it feels at least like a bit of thoughtful fan-service, and really, a band could do worse than to serve their fans thoughtfully.

Khemmis on Thee Facebooks

20 Buck Spin store

Nuclear Blast Records store

 

Mutant Flesh, Evil Eye

mutant flesh evil eye

There are shades of doom metal’s origins underlying Mutant Flesh‘s first release, the eight-song/33-minute Evil Eye, but the Philly troupe are too gleeful in their weirdness ultimately to be paying full homage to the likes of Witchfinder General, and especially in a faster song like second cut “Meteoric” and the subsequent lead-guitar-flipout-and-vocal-soar title-track, they tap into the defiantly doomed vibe of earliest Saint Vitus. That’s true of the crawling “Euthanasia” as well, which crashes and nods as it approaches the six-minute mark as the longest inclusion here, but even the penultimate “Blight” brings that twisted-BlackFlag-noise-slowed-down spirit that lets you know there’s consciousness behind the chaos, and that while Mutant Flesh might seem to be all-the-way-gone, they’re really just getting started. Maybe their sound will even out over time, maybe it won’t, but for what it’s worth, they do ragged doom well from the opening “Leviathan (Lord of the Labyrinth)” onward, and feel right at home in the unhinged.

Mutant Flesh on Thee Facebooks

Mutant Flesh on Bandcamp

 

War Cloud, Earhammer Sessions

war cloud earhammer sessions

Having just shredded their way across Europe, War Cloud took their set into the Earhammer Studio with Greg Wilkinson at the helm in an attempt to capture the band in top form on their home turf. Did it work? The results on Earhammer Sessions (Ripple Music) don’t wait around for you to decide. They’re too busy kicking ass to take names, and if the resulting 29-minute burst is even half of what they brought to the stage on that tour, those must’ve been some goddamn shows. Songs like “White Lightning” and the snare-counted-in “Speed Demon” and “Striker” feel like they’re being given their due in the max-speed-NWOBHM-but-still-too-classy-to-be-thrash presentation, and honestly, this feels like War Cloud have found their method. If they don’t tour their next album and then hit the studio after and lay it down live, or at least as live as Earhammer Sessions is — one never knows as regards overdubs and isolation booths and all that — they’re doing themselves a disservice. War Cloud play metal. So what? So this.

War Cloud on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music website

 

Void of Sleep, Metaphora

Void of Sleep Metaphora

Void of Sleep return after half a decade with the prog-doom stylings of their third album, Metaphora (Aural Music), which stretches dramatically through songs like “Iron Mouth” (11:00), preceded by the intro “The Famine Years” and the shorter “Unfair Judgements,” preceded by the intro “Waves of Discomfort,” and still somehow manage not to sound out of place tapping into their inner Soilwork in the growled verses/clean choruses of “Master Abuser.” They get harsh a bit as well on “Tides of the Mourning,” which uses its 10:30 to summarize the bulk of the proceedings and close out the record after “Modern Man,” but that song has more of a scope and feels looser structurally for that. Still, that shift is only one of several throughout Metaphora, which follows the Italian five-piece’s 2015 LP, New World Order (discussed here), and wherever Void of Sleep are headed at any given moment, they head there with a duly controlled presence. Clearly their last five years have not been wasted.

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Aural Music store

 

Pretty Lightning, Jangle Bowls

pretty lightning jangle bowls

As yet, Germany’s Pretty Lightning remain a well kept secret of fuzz-psych-blues nuance, digging out their own niche-in-a-niche-in-a-niche microgenre with a natural and inadvertent-feeling sense of just writing the songs they want to write. Jangle Bowls, which puts its catchy, semi-garage title-track early in the proceedings, is the duo’s second offering through Fuzz Club Records behind 2017’s The Rhythm of Ooze (review here), and seem to present a mission statement in opener “Swamp Ritual” before bringing a due sense of excursion to “Boogie at the Shrine” — damn that’s a smooth groove — and reviving the movement in “RaRaRa,” which follows. Closer “Shovel Blues” is a highlight for how it drifts into oblivion, but the underlying tightness of craft in “123 Eternity” and “Hum” is an appeal as well, so it’s a tradeoff. But it’s one I’ll be glad to make across multiple repeat visits to Jangle Bowls while wondering how long this particular secret can actually be kept.

Pretty Lightning on Thee Facebooks

Fuzz Club Records store

 

Rosy Finch, Scarlet

rosy finch scarlet

The painted-blood-red cover of Rosy Finch‘s second album, Scarlet (on Lay Bare Recordings), and horror-cinema-esque design isn’t a coincidence in terms of atmosphere, but the Spanish trio bring a more aggressive feel to the nine-track outing overall than they did to their 2016 debut, Witchboro (review here), with additional crunch in the guitar of Mireia Porto (also vocals and bass) and bassist Elena Garcia, and a forward kick drum from Lluís Mas that hammers home the impact of a cruncher like “Ruby” and even seems to ground the more melodic “Alizarina,” which follows, let alone the crushing opener/longest track (immediate points) “Oxblood” or its headspinning closing companion “Dark Cherry,” after which follows the particularly intense hidden cut “Lady Bug,” also not to be missed. Anger suits Rosy Finch, it seems, and the band bring a physicality to the songs on Scarlet that only reinforces the sonic push.

Rosy Finch on Thee Facebooks

Lay Bare Recordings store

 

Ghost Spawn, The Haunting Continuum

Ghost Spawn The Haunting Continuum

Brutal, gurgling doom-of-death pervades The Haunting Continuum from Denver one-man-unit Ghost Spawn, and while the guitar late in “Escaping the Mortal Flesh” seems momentarily to offer some hope of salvation, rest assured, it doesn’t last, and the squibbly central riff returns with its extremity to prove once more that only death is real. Multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Kevin Berstler is the lone culprit behind the project’s first full-length and second release overall (also second this year, so he would seem to work quickly), and across 43 minutes that only grow more grueling as they proceed through the centerpiece title-track and into “The Terrors that Plague Nightly” and the desolate incantations of “Exiled to the Realm of Eternal Rot,” there are some hints of cleaner grunts that have made their way through — a kind of repeated “hup” vocalization — but this too is swallowed in the miasma of cave-echo guitar, drums-from-out-of-the-abyss, and raw-as-peeled-flesh production. Can’t get behind that? Probably you and 99.9 percent of the rest of humanity. For us slugs, though, it’s just about right.

Ghost Spawn on Thee Facebooks

Ghost Spawn on Bandcamp

 

Agrabatti, Beyond the Sun

agrabatti beyond the sun

It’s kosmiche thrust and watery vibes when Agrabatti go Beyond the Sun. What’s there upon arrival? Nothing less than a boogie down with Hawkwind at the helm of a spacey spaced-out space rocking chopper that you shouldn’t even be able to hear the revving engine of in space and yet somehow you can. Also synth, pulsating riffs and psych-as-all-golly-gosh awakenings. Formed in 2009 by Chad Davis — then just out of U.S. Christmas, already at that point known for his work in Hour of 13 and a swath of other projects across multiple genres — and with songs begun to come together at that time only to be shelved ahead of recording this year, Beyond the Sun sat seemingly in some unreachable strata of anomalous subspace, for 11 years before being rediscovered from its time-loop like Kelsey Grammer in that one episode of TNG, and gorgeously spread across the quadrant in its five-cut run, with its cover of the aforementioned Hawkwind‘s “Born to Go” so much at home among its companions it feels like, baby, it’s already gone. Do you need sunglasses in the void? Shit yeah you do.

Agrabatti on Thee Facebooks

Agrabatti on Bandcamp

 

Dead Sacraments, Celestial Throne

Dead Sacraments Celestial Throne

Four sprawling doom epics comprise the 2019 debut album — and apparently debut release — from Illinois four-piece Dead Sacraments, who themselves are comprised from three former members of atmospheric sludgers Angel Eyes, who finished their run in 2011 but released the posthumous Things Have Learnt to Walk That Ought to Crawl (review here). Those are guitarist Brendan Burchell, bassist Nader Cheboub and drummer Ryan Croson, and together with apparently-self-harmonizing vocalist/guitarist Mark Mazurek, they cast a doom built on largesse in tone and scope alike, given an air of classic-metal grandiosity but filtered through a psych-doom modernity that feels aware of what the likes of Pallbearer and Khemmis have done for the genre. Nonetheless, as a first record, Celestial Throne shines its darkness brightly across its no-song-under-nine-minutes-long lumber, and affirms the righteousness of doom with a genuine sense of reach at its disposal.

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Dead Sacraments on Bandcamp

 

Smokemaster, Smokemaster

smokemaster smokemaster

The languid and trippy spirit in opener “Solar Flares” is something of a misdirect on the part of organ-laced, Cologne-based heavy rockers Smokemaster, who go on to boogie down through songs like “Trippin’ Blues” before jamming out classic heavy blues-style on “Ear of the Universe.” I’m not saying they don’t have their psychedelic aspects, but there’s plenty of movement behind what they do as well, and the setup they give with the first two cuts is effective in throwing off the first-time listener’s expectation. A pastoral instrumental “Sunrise in the Canyon” leads off side B after, and comes backed by “Astronaut of Love” (yup, a lovestronaut) and “Astral Traveller,” which find an engaging midpoint between the ground and the great beyond, synth and keys pushing outward in the finale even as the bass and drums keep it tethered to a central groove. It’s a formula that’s worked many times over the last half-century, but it works here too, and Smokemaster‘s Smokemaster makes a right-on introduction to the German newcomers.

Smokemaster on Thee Facebooks

Tonzonen Records store

 

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Quarterly Review: Total Fucking Destruction, Humulus, The River, Phantom Hound, Chang, The Dhaze, Lost Psychonaut, Liquido di Morte, Black Burned Blimp, Crimson Oak

Posted in Reviews on March 23rd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

I’ve got a fresh cup of coffee and 50 records that need to be reviewed, so it must be time for… constant distractions! Oh, no, wait, sorry. It must be time for the Quarterly Review. Yeah, there it is. I know there’s a global-pandemic-sized elephant in the room as a backdrop for the Spring 2020 Quarterly Review, but it seems to me that’s all the more reason to proceed as much as possible. Not to feign normality like people aren’t suffering physically, emotionally, and/or financially, but to give those for whom music is a comfort an opportunity to find more of that comfort and, frankly, to do the same for myself. I’ve said many times I need this more than you do, and I do.

So, you know the drill. 10 records a day, Monday to Friday through this week, 50 when we’re done. As Christopher Pike says, let’s hit it.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Total Fucking Destruction, …To Be Alive at the End of the World

Total Fucking Destruction To Be Alive at the End of the World

The long-running experimentalist grind trio Total Fucking Destruction remain a sonic presence unto themselves. Their strikingly apropos fifth LP, …To Be Alive at the End of the World, begins with the five-minute psychedelic wash of its unrepentantly pretty, somewhat mournful title-track and ends with a performance-art take on “The Star Spangled Banner” that shifts into eight or so minutes of drone and minimalist noise before reemerging in manipulated form, vocalist/drummer Richard Hoak (also the odd bit of flute and ocarina), bassist/vocalist Ryan Moll and guitarist Pingdum filling the between space with the blasts and jangles of “A Demonstration of Power,” the maddening twists of “Attack of the Supervirus 1138” and other mini-bursts of unbridled aggression like “Stone Bomb,” “Doctor Butcher” and the outright conceptual genius of “Yelling at Velcro,” which, indeed, is just 20 or so seconds of yelling ahead of the arrival of the closer. In an alternate future, Total Fucking Destruction‘s work will be added to the Library of Congress. In this future, we’re boned.

Total Fucking Destruction on Thee Facebooks

Translation Loss Records store

 

Humulus, The Deep

humulus the deep

For the six-song/51-minute The Deep, Italian three-piece Humulus somewhat depart the beer-rocking ways of 2017’s second LP, Reverently Heading into Nowhere (review here). Sure, the riff of “Gone Again” is pure Kyuss idolatry (not a complaint), and “Devil’s Peak (We Eventually Eluded Death)” brims with drunkard’s swagger, but factor in the wonderfully executed linear build that takes place across the eight-minute “Hajra,” the mellow emotionalism of the penultimate acoustic track “Lunar Queen,” and the two extended psychedelic bookends in opener “Into the Heart of the Volcano Sun” (14:48) and closer “Sanctuary III – The Deep” (14:59), and the narrative becomes decidedly more complex than just “they drink and play riffs.” These elements have been in Humulus‘ sound all along, but it’s plain to hear the band have actively worked to push themselves forward in scope, and the range suits them, the closer particularly filled with a theatricality that would seem to speak to further storytelling to come on subsequent releases. So be it. They called the album The Deep and have dived in accordingly.

Humulus on Thee Facebooks

Kozmik Artifactz website

 

The River, Vessels into White Tides

The River Vessels into White Tides

An atmosphere of melancholy is quickly established on The River‘s third LP, Vessels into White Tides (on Nine Records), and for being the London four-piece’s first album 10 years, it takes place in a sense of unrushed melody, the band rolling out a morose feel born of but not directly aping the likes of My Dying Bride and Paradise Lost as the vocals of guitarist Jenny Newton (also strings, percussion) — joined in the band by guitarist Christian Leitch, bassist Stephen Morrissey and drummer Jason Ludwig — make their presence felt soon in opener “Vessels,” which unfolds gracefully with a crash and rumble fading into the beginning of the subsequent “Into White” (15:01) with the four-minute string-laced “Open” and the 9:44 shifting-into-intensity “Passing” preceding closer “Tides,” which is duly rolling in its progression and offers a sweet bit of release, if wistful, from some of the more grueling moments before it, capping not with a distorted blowout, but with layers of strings reinforcing the folkish underpinning that’s been there all along, in even the most tonally or emotionally weighted stretches.

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Phantom Hound, Mountain Pass

Phantom Hound Mountain Pass

Mountain Pass, which begins with “The Northern Face,” ends with “The Southern Face” and along the way treks through its on-theme title-track and the speedier “You Don’t Know Death,” catchy “Thunder I Am” and fairly-enough bluesy “Devil Blues,” has its foundations in oldschool metal and punk, but is a decidedly rock-based offering. It’s the debut from Oakland’s Phantom Hound, and its eight component tracks make no attempt to mask their origins or coat their material in unnecessary pretense — they are what they are; the album is what it is. The three-piece dip into acoustics on the instrumental “Grace of an Angel,” which shifts with a cymbal wash into the lead guitar at the outset of the eight-minute title-track — the stomp of which is perhaps more evocative of the mountain than the passing, but still works — but even this isn’t so far removed from the straightforward purposes of “Irons in the Fire,” which stakes its claim to dead-ahead metal and rock, barely stopping along the way to ask what else you could possibly need.

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Chang, Superlocomotodrive

chang superlocomotodrive

Munich-based trio Chang, with clear, modern production behind them, present their debut EP release with the 29-minute Superlocomotodrive, and though it’s short, one is left wondering what else they might need to consider it an album. What’s missing? You’ve got the let’s-jam-outta-here in the six-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Mescalin,” and plenty of gruff riffing to back that up in “Old Rusty Car” and the later title-track, with a bit of Oliveri-era Queens of the Stone Age edge in the latter to boot, plus some psychedelic lead work in “Sterne,” some particularly German quirk in “Bottle Beach” and a massive buildup in tension in the finale “Bombs Whisper” that seems to arrive at its moment of payoff only to instead cut to silence and purposefully leave the listener hanging — an especially bold move for a first release. Yeah, it’s under half an hour long, but so what? The heavy rock terrain Chang are working in is familiar enough — right down to the less-than-P.C. lyrics of “Old Rusty Car” — but there’s no sense that Superlocomotodrive wants to be something it isn’t. It’s heavy rock celebrating heavy rock.

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The Dhaze, Deaf Dumb Blind

the dhaze deaf dumb blind

Though the grunge influence in the vocals of guitarist Simone Pennucci speak to more of a hard-rocking kind of sound, the basis of The Dhaze‘s sprawl across their ambitious 53-minute Sound Effect Records debut album, Deaf Dumb Blind, is more in line with progressive metal and heavy psychedelia. Bassist Vincenzo La Tegola backs Pennucci on vocals and locks in fluid mid-tempo grooves with drummer Lorenzo Manna, and makes a highlight of the low end in “Death Walks with Me” ahead of the titular trilogy, presented in the order of “Deaf,” “Blind” and “Dumb,” which flow together as one piece thanks in no small part to the synth work added by La Tegola and Pennucci together. Obviously comfortable in longer-form stretches like “Death Walks with Me” or the earlier “Neurosis,” both of which top nine minutes, the Napoli trio bring a fervent sense of variety to their work while leaving themselves open to future growth in terms of sound and playing with the balance between elements they establish here.

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Lost Psychonaut, Lost Psychonaut

Lost Psychonaut Lost Psychonaut

Hailing — because metal bands hail, to be sure — from the Pittsburgh area, newcomers Lost Psychonaut boast in their ranks two former members of sludgers Vulture in guitarist/vocalist Justin Erb and bassist
Garrett Twardesky, who, together with drummer Tristan Triggs, run through a debut LP made up of five tracks that skirt the line between groove metal and heavy rock, tapping-like-flowing-kegs influences from the likes of ’90s-era C.O.C. and others such burl-laced groovers. Tales of day-to-day struggles make a fitting enough backdrop to the riff-led proceedings, which commence with the prior-issued single “My Time” and roll-groove their way into a duo of longer cuts at the end in “Restitution Day” (8:46) and “On a Down” (7:44). Frankly, any mention of the word “Down” at all in a song that feels so outwardly “buried in smoke” can hardly be coincidental, but that nod is well earned. With a couple years behind them, they know what they’re going for in this initial batch of songs, and the clearheaded nature of their approach only gives their songwriting more of a sense of command. There’s growth to be undertaken, but nothing to say they can’t get there.

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Liquido di Morte, IIII

liquido di morte iiii

I suppose you could, if so inclined, live up to Liquido di Morte‘s slogan, “We play music to take drugs to,” but you’d be shorting yourself on the experience of a lucid listen to their third long-player IIII. Issued in limited handmade packaging by the band, the Milan instrumentalists offer a stylistic take across the late-2019 five-tracker that stands somewhere between heavy post-rock and post-metal, but in that incorporates no shortage of thoughtful psychedelic meditations and even some kraut and space rock vibes. The primary impact is atmospheric, but there’s diversity in their approach such that the centerpiece “Tramonto Nucleare” begins cosmic, or maybe cataclysmic, and ends with an almost serene roll into the floating guitar at the outset of the subsequent “Rebus (6,5),” which is the longest inclusion at 13:40 and an encompassing, hypnotic srpawl that, whether you take drugs or not, seems destined to commune with expanded or expanding minds. The front-to-back journey ends with “The Fattening,” a cinematic run of synth after which a slaughter feels almost inevitable, even if it arrives as silence.

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Black Burned Blimp, Crash Overdrive

Black Burned Blimp Crash Overdrive

Bonus points to Netherlands four-piece Black Burned Blimp for including song titles like “What Doesn’t Kill You, Makes You Weirder” and “The Good, the Bad and the Fucking Horrific” and, at the start of “Desert Wizard,” the sample from Trailer Park Boys wherein Mr. Lahey declares, “I am the liquor” on their debut LP, Crash Overdrive. Native to a heavy rock legacy that includes acts like 13eaver, 35007, Astrosoniq and Celestial Season, among many others, the band hint toward melodic complexity while remaining focused on raw energy in their songwriting, such that even the drumless, harmonized and minute-long “Flock” seems to seethe with unstated tension for “Robo Erectus,” which follows, to pay off. It does, though perhaps with less of a tempo kick than one might expect — certainly less than the careening “The Good, the Bad and the Fucking Horrific” a few tracks later — but somehow, no matter what speed they’re actually playing, Black Burned Blimp seem to make it sound fast. Vitality will do that.

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Crimson Oak, Crimson Oak

crimson oak crimson oak

Though their arrival comes amid a German heavy rock underground that’s nothing if not well populated, Fulda-based five-piece Crimson Oak present with their self-titled debut long-player a stylistic take that’s both modern and genuine sounding, finding solid ground in well-crafted songs drawing more from ’90s-era heavy and punk in “Danger Time,” which follows the contemplative “Of My Youth,” the bulk of what surrounds expressing a similar level of self-awareness, up to and including the nine-minute side B opener “Brother of Sleep,” which sets psychedelic guitar against some of the album’s biggest riffs (and melodies). There’s middle ground to be had in cuts like “Displace” and “Sunset Embrace” still to come and “Fulda Gap” earlier, but Crimson Oak seem to touch that middle ground mostly en route to whichever end of the spectrum next piques their interest. At seven songs and 42 minutes, it’s not an insubstantial LP, but they hold their own with confidence and a poise that speaks to the fact that some of this material showed up on prior EPs. That experience with it shows but does not hold the band or songs back.

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Tyrant Set May 15 Release for Hereafter on Shadow Kingdom Records

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

The first full-length from Los Angeles heavy metallers Tyrant earns further intrigue — and likely its Candlemass-esque Thomas Cole artwork as well — with the inclusion of vocalist Robert Lowe. The powerhouse singer joined Tyrant, which was founded in 1978 by bassist Greg May, in 2017, following the conclusion of his stint with the aforementioned Swedish doom legends. Of course known for his work as well in Solitude Aeturnus, Lowe invariably brings some of his patented Dio-of-doom spirit to Tyrant‘s Hereafter as well, as the streaming title-track readily demonstrates.

The release is May 15 on Shadow Kingdom, whose affection for traditional metal goes back well beyond the current revivalist trend, and the band will also travel east to headline the New England Stoner and Doom Fest, as the PR wire informs:

tyrant hereafter

Shadow Kingdom Records sets May 15th as the international release date for the long-awaited comeback album of America’s Tyrant, Hereafter, on CD, vinyl LP, and cassette tape formats.

Hailing from Pasadena, California, Tyrant formed in 1978 and put out their first demo in ’82. However, it was with their pair of albums for Metal Blade – 1985’s Legions of the Dead and 1987’s Too Late to Pray – where they’d etch their name into cult heavy metal legendry. Proud and powerful, theirs was steel tempered in the purest and proudest tradition: neither NWOBHM nor speed metal nor doom nor hair metal by any strict definitions, but uniquely dipping that blade into all at any given moment, and given an almost medieval atmosphere considering the ever-changing stylistic landscape during those years, which would be deemed “old-fashioned” as the 1980s came to a close. It took nearly a decade for Tyrant’s next album to arrive, 1996’s King of Kings, and indeed were the band even more out of place in that landscape; despite staunchly sticking to their guns, this would be their otherwise-final album.

Just like Tyrant were when they originally formed so long ago, there existed true believers across the pond who were keeping the traditional metal faith alive as the ’90s came to a close, as well as a quietly growing renaissance in the States as the 2000s began. Tyrant’s catalog subsequently received a long-overdue reappraisal, and a new, younger generation of metalheads investigated their mysteries of steel. Although never “broken up” officially, the sleeping beast awoke, with the original Tyrant lineup reuniting for 2009’s esteemed Keep It True festival in Germany. Shadow Kingdom, who’ve indeed kept it true since the beginning, reissued Tyrant’s first two albums in 2018, furthering that reappraisal and bringing the band’s name to an even younger, hungrier generation. The stage was thus set for a grand return…

At last, it arrives with Hereafter, courtesy of truest believers Shadow Kingdom. With founding member Greg May on bass along with longtime guitarist Rocky Rockwell and powerhouse drummer Ronnie Wallace, who’s been with the band since 2010, Tyrant now feature a significant new addition on vocals: the one and only Rob Lowe, he of Solitude Aeternus and ex-Candlemass fame. His addition proves especially significant given Tyrant’s doomier direction on Hereafter. While no doubt sounding like the same band who delivered those two classics on Metal Blade so long ago, the Tyrant of Hereafter conjures forth a classy, ominously melodic style of doom METAL – or at least traditional heavy metal steeped in doom, much like Black Sabbath in the early ’80s with Dio and then Ian Gillan on the mic – with each of these 11 mini-epics headbanging forward with power, poise, and a stately sort of grace. Aiding that granite-thick surge is the production of one Bill Metoyer, the legendary producer who’s recorded all of Tyrant’s albums to date. Evading any sort of “retro” moves, Metoyer keeps the sound on Hereafter rich, robust, and above all timeless, just like Tyrant’s ever-unyielding style of metal. Truly, this is the homecoming the legions have been waiting for!

To coincide with this momentous event, Tyrant will be headlining this year’s New England Stoner & Doom Fest, performing the new album in its entirety along with a full set of classic material. In 2020 and beyond, long may Tyrant live Hereafter!

In the meantime, see & hear the brand-new lyric video for the title track “Hereafter” HERE at Shadow Kingdom’s official YouTube channel. Preorder info can be found HERE at Shadow Kingdom’s Bandcamp as well as HERE.

Tracklisting for Tyrant (U.S.)’s Hereafter
1. Tyrant’s Revelation
2. Dancing on Graves
3. The Darkness Comes
4. Fire Burns
5. Hereafter
6. Pieces of Mine
7. Until the Day
8. When the Sky Falls
9. Bucolic
10. Beacon the Light
11. From the Tower

Tyrant are:
Greg May (bass guitar)
Rocky Rockwell (guitars)
Robert Lowe (vocals)
Ronnie Wallace (drums)

https://www.facebook.com/TYRANT-172515856798/
https://www.facebook.com/ShadowKingdomRecords/
https://shadowkingdomrecords.bandcamp.com/

Tyrant, “Hereafter”

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Jason Simon to Release A Venerable Wreck May 22; Streaming “The Same Dream”

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 12th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

jason simon

Now we’re talkin’, but the catch is we’re talkin’ in a language only aliens can understand. Jason Simon of Dead Meadow will issue his first solo LP since 2016’s Familiar Haunts (review here) on May 22 through Chile’s BYM Records. Titled A Venerable Wreck, the record is advanced by the banjo-based “The Same Dream,” which is… just gorgeous. It’s just gorgeous. Clean out your ears and take a listen. Really. I could go on and on about what Dead Meadow have contributed to psych-gaze over the years, or how I dug Simon‘s last record and the Old Mexico self-titled (review here) he was a part of that came out last year on Cardinal Fuzz, but it’s more important that you spend your next three-plus minutes listening to the track, so whatever, just go do that. It’s at the bottom of the post, like always.

Some PR wire info to read while you listen, preorder link included:

jason simon a venerable wreck

JASON SIMON: A VENERABLE WRECK LP OUT ON 5/22

NEW TRACK THE SAME DREAM

Anachronistic troubadour, Jason Simon has announced the release of a new solo album for May 22nd. A Venerable Wreck will be released on LP/Digi via Chilean label, BYM Records (Föllakzoid, Chicos de Nazca, The Ganjas). With this announcement is the leak of first single The Same Dream which is a bucolic dose of lysergic Americana mainly composed of Simon’s banjo-picking and voice.

Speaking on the track (which he has already been playing in live shows recently) he said The Same Dream was written on a banjo where I’ve attached a 60’s gold foil pickup to the head allowing it to be amplified in way akin to an electric guitar and using a tuning I picked from the likes of Clarence Ashley and Dock Boggs. Lyrically the song investigates our shared delusions inherent in the concept of endless economic growth.

Though Simon has explored the amplified range of psychedelia for the past two decades fronting Dead Meadow, his solo material is used for the exploration of intimate and stripped-back music that touches upon country-tinged Psych-folk and more avant-garde moments. While it’s mostly Simon on the record, a circle of musicians including Nate Ryan of The Warlocks and Mark Laughlin, his band-mate in Dead Meadow were brought in to add their ingredients to a melting pot of arrangements.

Album pre-order: http://bymrecords.com/releases/148

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