Valley of the Sun, Old Gods: What Faith Brings

Posted in Reviews on May 21st, 2019 by JJ Koczan

valley of the sun old gods

They nailed it. Absolutely. That’s as simple as I can say it. Cincinnati, Ohio-based heavy rockers Valley of the Sun bring new character and dimension to their core approach in fuzzy riffs and classic desert-style groove, and with their third album, Old Gods (on Fuzzorama), the four-piece answer both the potential of their earliest work and the development that took place over their first two LPs. Led by the founding duo of guitarist/vocalist Ryan Ferrier and drummer Aaron Boyer, with Josh Pilot on guitar and Chris Sweeney handling bass and keys, the band present 11 tracks in a sharp-turning 41 minutes, tying together around a theme of greater instrumental variety and songcraft executed with airtight efficiency and purpose. In following up 2016’s Volume Rock (review here) and 2014’s Electric Talons of the Thunderhawk (review here), Valley of the Sun sound like a band who know when to take their time — closer “Dreams of Sands,” for example — and when to tear-ass through the speakers, as on the sub-tw0-minute scorcher “Firewalker.”

That maturity and self-realization very much suit their basic sound, which has always been professional at its foundation, going back to their first two EPs, 2011’s The Sayings of the Seers (review here, discussed here) and the prior year’s Two Thousand Ten, but has never quite had the reach it does on Old Gods. The album is quick to showcase that with the mellow guitar intro to the opening title-track, but it comes out all the more in the series of interludes peppered through the tracklisting. Named on-theme to the title of the record itself, “Gaia Creates,” “Shiva Destroys” and “Buddha Transcends” do an incredible amount of work in terms of diversifying and bolstering the surrounding material, taking the mid-paced nod and catchy rush of “Old Gods” and the subsequent post-QOTSA careener “All We Are” and lending depth and a more complete-album feel, despite the variety between them, with “Gaia Creates” dipping into sunny folk acoustics, “Shiva Destroys” a suitable percussion interplay, and “Buddha Transcends” an effective delve into meditative minimalism.

“Gaia Creates” is the longest of them at 2:16, and yet the effect they have on the songs around them is palpable, perhaps nowhere more than in “Dim Vision,” which sits as the only cut in between “Gaia Creates” and “Shiva Destroys.” It’s as much a quintessential Valley of the Sun track as one could ask for, even more than the opening duo of “Old Gods” and “All We Are,” but with the lead-in and lead-out, it’s given a special focus that seems to highlight its execution. On paper, it’s nothing overly fancy — basically an instance of what the band at their best have been all along — but “Dim Vision” is emblematic just the same of the progression they’ve undertaken over the course of the last nine years in the studio and on tour. Like the aforementioned “Firewalker,” it’s a song that sounds like it was made to be played live, and to have these tracks appear in such proximity to each other feels purposeful as well, with side A moving smoothly through a course that would be deceptive in its complexity if it didn’t just lay it all out there and still manage to ease the listener through its changes, whether it’s the kick in tempo between “Old Gods” and “All We Are,” or the head-spinning shifts from “Gaia Creates” to “Dim Vision” to “Shiva Destroys” to “Firewalker.”

valley of the sun

It’s worth noting as well how quickly those changes take place. The last four tracks on side A don’t add up to the total runtime of the first two. It would be an easy place for the band to lose control of Old Gods‘ flow, but they never do. Instead, they bring “Firewalker” to a crisp finish and mirror the beginning of the album with “Into the Abyss” on side B, which also begins with a stretch of mellow guitar, runs a moderate pace and gives an immersive, rolling progression for the listener to dive into, made all the more so by a laid back vocal from Ferrier, who only moments ago, was in full-on belt-out mode for “Firewalker.” Especially listening in a linear format (CD or DL), it’s not at all the first striking shift on Old Gods, but it’s another one Valley of the Sun make sound much easier than it actually is.

Fuzz comes to the fore in the relatively brief but effective “Faith is for Suckers,” a hooky, cowbell-infused desert riffer with a driving volume tradeoff, and “Buddha Transcends” resets the mood to quiet ahead of “Means the Same” and “Dreams of Sands” at the finish. With “Into the Abyss” and “Dreams of Sands” — the latter of which is perfectly placed as a memorable closer — as six-plus-minute bookends for side B, “Faith is for Suckers,” “Buddha Transcends” and “Means the Same” play out in a kind of parabolic fashion, both in energy and runtime; longer-to-shorter-to-shortest, and back up, though “Faith is for Suckers” and “Means the Same” surround the centerpiece interlude with arguably a more active spirit than “Into the Abyss” and “Dreams of Sands.” But if that’s the case, it’s only because the longer pieces are more ambitious in their scope, and “Dreams of Sands” not only serves as payoff for side B, but for the record as whole, rewarding the risks taken on side A and the structural turn of side B with a scope of its own that, as analogy for the entirety of Old Gods pushes beyond what Valley of the Sun have done in the past, ending on a long fade as if to return the listener to wherever they might’ve been before the quiet beginning of the title-track first cropped up.

Old Gods brings Valley of the Sun‘s take to a new level, pushing aside preconceptions of who the band are by using its theme to tie the material together instrumentally and structurally, and leaving one to wonder where they might go from here, whether it’s in integrating the acoustics and percussion of the interludes to their songwriting — would be fair enough ground to cover — or continuing to progress in some other, unexpected way. Perhaps most telling of all, listening to Old Gods, one feels less concerned about what shape the inevitable ‘new gods’ might take than the achievements brought to bear here. This is what Valley of the Sun have been moving toward for the last nine years. This realization. For now, it seems most crucial to understand that and appreciate the work on its own merits. Where it might lead is a concern for another day, but if you’re worried about it, have a little faith.

Valley of the Sun, Old Gods (2019)

Valley of the Sun on Thee Facebooks

Valley of the Sun on Bandcamp

Fuzzorama Records

Fuzzorama Records on Thee Facebooks

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Electric Citizen Announce European & UK Touring; Playing Desertfest, Esbjerg Fuzztival, Muskelrock and More

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 21st, 2019 by JJ Koczan

electric citizen

Ohio heavy rockers Electric Citizen have been on the Desertfest bills for a while now, London, Berlin and New York, and it was known as well they’d be in Denmark for the Esbjerg Fuzztival, so it’s not really much of a surprise they’re stringing those appearances together with a tour, but, you know, it’s nice to have the wheres and whens on that actually happening. They’ll head abroad in time for a May 1 show in Bristol, UK, after hitting Psycho Smokeout in L.A. and the aforementioned Desertfest in NYC, and then continue to make their way onto mainland Europe after Desertfest London and go for the next month, finishing out in Copenhagen on June 1. There are some days off, as will happen, but it’s still a pretty significant tour, and course the band go supporting their third album, last year’s Helltown (review here), which came out as ever through RidingEasy Records.

The PR wire brought the awesome poster and dates accordingly:

electric citizen tour

Electric Citizen announce EU & UK tour dates, plus Psycho Smokeout 4/20 in L.A. and DesertFest NYC 4/27

Also includes DesertFest London, DesertFest Berlin

Electric Citizen announce UK & EU festival and headlining tour dates for Spring 2019 in support of their recently released third album Helltown (RidingEasy Records.) They kick off the overseas trek with performances at the inaugural Psycho Smokeout Festival in Los Angeles on April 20th and DesertFest in Brooklyn, NY on April 27th. Please see all dates below.

ELECTRIC CITIZEN TOUR 2019:
04/20 Los Angeles, CA @ Psycho Smokeout Festival
04/27 New York, NY @ DesertFest NYC
05/01 Bristol, UK @ The Lanes
05/02 Newcastle, UK @ Trillans
05/03 London, UK @ DesertFest London
05/04 Liege, BE @ La Zone
05/05 Berlin, DE @ DesertFest Berlin
05/08 Malmo, SE @ Plan B
05/09 Stockholm, SE @ Undergangen
05/10 Esbjerg, DK @ Esbjerg Fuzzfestival
05/11 Gothenburg, SE @ Truckstop Alaska
05/13 Oldenburg, DE @ MTS LP Store
05/16 Olten, CH @ Coq’D’Or
05/17 Munster, DE @ Rare Guitar
05/18 Cottbus, DE @ Zum Faulen August
05/22 Koln, DE @ MTC Club
05/23 Karlsruhe, DE @ Alte Hackerei
05/24 Innsbruck, AT @ PMK
05/25 Bolzano, IT @ Pippo Stage
05/26 Monastier di Treviso, IT @ Krach
05/27 Munich, DE @ Backstage
05/28 Vienna, AT @ Arena
05/29 Linz, AT @ Kapu
05/31 Alvesta, SE @ Muskelrock Festival
06/01 Copenhagen, DK @ Lygtens Kro

www.electriccitizenband.com
www.facebook.com/electriccitizen
www.twitter.com/electriccitizen
www.instagram.com/electriccitizenband
ridingeasyrecs.com

Electric Citizen, “Hide it in the Night” official video

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Valley of the Sun to Release Old Gods May 24; New Song Streaming

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 19th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

valley of the sun

Okay, fine. I guess that’s why you wait for the press release. Last week when I apparently jumped the gun on posting Valley of the Sun‘s upcoming tour dates with Bellringer, I said they were due but I didn’t know anything about a new record coming out. Sure enough, here we are and here’s the announcement of that new record, along with a new track. Fine. You got me. There’s a new Valley of the Sun record and I’m not cool enough to know shit about shit ahead of time. Story of my god damn life.

New song does sound awesome though. Seems like Ryan Ferrier might be pulling back from some of the belt-it-out-all-the-time mindset that’s characterized the band’s past work in favor of a more measured approach. I don’t know if that’s the case across the whole record — recall I didn’t know the damn thing existed, so I definitely haven’t heard it — but it works well in “Means the Same,” which will serve as the penultimate track.

Art and info, as well as those tour dates again, and the track — all from the PR wire:

valley of the sun old gods

Ohio hard rock quartet VALLEY OF THE SUN return with new album on FUZZORAMA RECORDS | Stream new single ‘Means the Same’

Fuzzorama Records – home to world beating rock of Truckfighters, Deville and Skraeckoedlan – is thrilled to announce the release of Old Gods; the brand-new studio album US trio, Valley of the Sun.

Formed in Cincinnati, OH in 2010, the band instantly established themselves as a force to be reckoned with, thanks to an impressive succession of self-released EPs; the kind that never seem to go unnoticed/unheard for long. Often compared to the likes of Corrosion of Conformity, Alice in Chains and Badmotorfinger-era Soundgarden – the latter due in no small part to singer Ryan Ferrier’s exemplary vocal range – listeners are treated to a sound that runs the gamut of blues, hard rock, grunge and heavy metal; with big riffs, fuzzed out hooks and deep bass grooves.

For the band, whose last release came in 2016 with the impressive Volume Rock, new album Old Gods – their third album on Fuzzorama Records – is a new and exciting concoction expertly packaged and delivered with a raw and unbridled power whether listened to via stage or speaker. In this incarnation, incorporating heady moments of psychedelia and assuming a form unlike anything the band has ever attempted before.

“To me, Old Gods is a meditation on who I once was, who I am now, and who I’d like to become,” explains guitarist/vocalist Ryan Ferrier.

“We try to evolve with each album,” adds drummer Aaron Boyer. “On Old Gods we added some heavier elements, darker tones, and a touch of psychedelia. We tried some things on this record that we’ve never done before and that made it a lot of fun to make.”

Old Gods by Valley of the Sun is released on 24th May 2019 and can be pre-ordered via Fuzzorama Records HERE. Editions of Old Gods will include gatefold splatter (only sold at live shows and directly through Fuzzorama), gatefold transparent green, gatefold black and CD digipak.

TRACK LISTING:
1. Old Gods
2. All We Are
3. Gaia Creates
4. Dim Vision
5. Shiva Destroys
6. Firewalker
7. Into the Abyss
8. Faith is for Suckers
9. Buddha Transcends
10. Means the Same
11. Dreams of Sands

VALLEY OF THE SUN – TOUR DATES:
US/Canada with BELLRINGER (feat. Mark Deutrom of Melvins)
4/13/2019 – Milwaukee WI Cactus Club
4/14/2019 – Iowa City IA Wildwood
4/15/2019 – Sioux Falls SD Bigs
4/16/2019 – Fargo ND Aquarium
4/17/2019 – Winnipeg MB Windsor Hotel
4/18/2019 – Saskatoon SK Amigos
4/19/2019 – Edmonton AB Starlite
4/20/2019 – Calgary AB 420 Fest
4/23/2019 – Vancouver BC Astoria
4/24/2019 – Portland OR High Water Mark
4/25/2019 – Seattle WA El Corazon
4/27/2019 – Sacramento CA Cafe Colonial
4/29/2019 – Los Angeles CA Resident
4/30/2019 – Phoenix AZ Club Red
5/02/2019 – Austin TX Come And Take It Live
5/03/2019 – Ft Worth TX Lolas
5/04/2019 – Oklahoma City OK 89th Street
5/05/2019 – St Louis MO Fubar
5/06/2019 – Kansas City MO Riot Room
5/07/2019 – Chicago IL Reggies

VALLEY OF THE SUN:
Ryan Ferrier – Guitar/Vocals
Aaron Boyer – Drums
Chris Sweeney – Bass, Keys
Josh Pilot – Guitar

https://www.facebook.com/valleyofthesun/
http://valleyofthesun.bandcamp.com/
http://www.twitter.com/centaur_rodeo
http://www.fuzzoramarecords.com/
http://www.twitter.com/fuzzorecords
http://www.facebook.com/Fuzzorama

Valley of the Sun, “Means the Same”

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Valley of the Sun Announce US/Canada Touring with Bellringer; Playing 420 Fest and More

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 12th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

valley of the sun

Not to put too fine a point on it, but Valley of the Sun don’t exactly announce US touring every day. Over the last five years or so, they’ve been much more apt to head abroad and do stints in Europe, so as they head out next month with Bellringer from Austin, Texas, it’s something of an occasion. They’ll make a stop at 420 Music & Arts Festival in Calgary up in Canada, and will make circuit stops in the Midwest and along the West Coast as they continue to support 2016’s Volume Rock (review here), their latest full-length, which was released through Fuzzorama. Given that record came out upwards of three years ago, I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if they had something new in the works, but I haven’t heard either way as to progress in that regard. In any case, the possibility of new songs being aired out only adds to the impetus to see them where and when you can.

They also seem to have made more lineup changes, which, you know, happens. Even so, whatever form you get to catch them, expect them to be in nothing less but top form. Good band. I wouldn’t complain about a new record.

From the social medias:

valley of the sun tour

VALLEY OF THE SUN – TOUR ANNOUNCEMENT!!!

US/CANADA with BELLRINGER feat. Mark Deutrom of Melvins!!!

04/13/2019 Milwaukee WI Cactus Club
04/14/2019 Iowa City IA Wildwood
04/15/2019 Sioux Falls SD Bigs
04/16/2019 Fargo ND Aquarium
04/17/2019 Winnipeg MB Windsor Hotel
04/18/2019 Saskatoon SK Amigos
04/19/2019 Edmonton AB Starlite
04/20/2019 Calgary AB 420 Fest
04/23/2019 Vancouver BC Astoria
04/24/2019 Portland OR High Water Mark
04/25/2019 Seattle WA El Corazon
04/27/2019 Sacramento CA Cafe Colonial
04/29/2019 Los Angeles CA Resident
04/30/2019 Phoenix AZ Club Red
05/02/2019 Austin TX Come And Take It Live
05/03/2019 Ft Worth TX Lolas
05/04/2019 Oklahoma City OK 89th Street
05/05/2019 St Louis MO Fubar
05/06/2019 Kansas City MO Riot Room
05/07/2019 Chicago IL Reggies

Ryan Ferrier-Guitar/Vocals
Aaron Boyer-Drums
Chris Sweeney-Bass and Keys
Josh Pilot-Guitar

https://www.facebook.com/valleyofthesun/
http://valleyofthesun.bandcamp.com/
http://www.twitter.com/centaur_rodeo
http://www.fuzzoramarecords.com/
http://www.twitter.com/fuzzorecords
http://www.facebook.com/Fuzzorama

Valley of the Sun, Volume Rock (2016)

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Static Tension Premiere “Blank Silhouette” Video from Debut Album Ashes to Animation

Posted in Bootleg Theater on February 4th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

static tension

The 10-track debut album from Ohio four-piece Static Tension dogwhistles its metallic underpinnings in a CD design evocative of, among others, Metallica’s Master of Puppets, with a red ring around the disc, an oldschool “Compact Disc Digital Audio” stamp and simple block letters running down the middle, broken in half by the hole in the disc itself. And though the record starts off with the melancholy, relatively-minimal unfolding of “Kindling,” it’s not long before the alluded fire takes hold and shows that metal-style tinge in the double-kick of “Bury My Body.” Coupled with this are harmonies out of the post-Alice in Chains sphere and a sense of melody and progressive crunch in tone and rhythm that derives in part from Tool and likewise from the modern prog metal fostered by earlier Mastodon and their sundry acolytes. The subsequent “No Return” takes a more classic-style approach and sets up the more spacious linear build of “In Spite,” which rounds out an initial four-track salvo that marks the first of three waves in which the album takes place.

From there, Static Tension — vocalist Rob Rom, guitarist Greg Blachman, bassist Brian Spurrier and drummer Tony Sager — draw back to the two-minute interlude “Absence” to introduce the fluidity at the outset of “Got to Give,” which unfurls a static tension ashes to animationdowntrodden heavy rocking sensibility ahead of the nine-minute “Serpentine,” which is duly winding as it makes its way along its melodically-complex course, finding solid footing in doom as much as classic rock with a still-raw presentation in its production that gives an earthy vibe to otherwise unearthly sounds. This is the end of Ashes to Animation‘s second movement, and the third picks up with the Staley/Cantrell-style harmony of “Blank Silhouette” — presumably that’s just Rom, so kudos — and a melancholy atmosphere to correspond with that of “Kindling” and “Absence,” while also being more realized as a complete song. That change in itself speaks to the overarching forward development across the three movements that comprise the record, but even if you’re listening to it front-to-back, the vibe comes through as suitably dynamic.

The penultimate “Where’s the Air?” takes a more aggressive posture but is still melodic at its base as it pushes into some light screaming along with the cleaner layers of singing, and its second half is dedicated to a quieter procession, leaving “Bloody Shadow” as a bookend outro featuring some guest vocals to match ambience with “Kindling” before a few moments’ silence at the end round out. Despite its somewhat depressive thematic, there’s no lack of energy in Static Tension‘s work, and as their first album, Ashes to Animation finds them setting out on a course with multiple avenues of exploration before them. They had two EPs out prior to the album — 2017’s Out of Reach and 2015’s Rebirth — so they’re not exactly coming into their LP with nothing else establishing their stylistic foundation, and they don’t sound that way either, however much one might imagine that foundation leading to continued growth.

You can check out the premiere of the video for “Blank Silhouette” below, which I think captures the spirit of the song with an appropriate human touch.

As always, I hope you enjoy:

Static Tension, “Blank Silhouette” official video premiere

As found on Static Tension’s 2019 album “Ashes To Animation.”

Drawing upon influences stemming from classic rock, grunge, and progressive metal, Static Tension creates a sound unique to their own, self described as “Progressive Grunge”. The band’s influences are vast and diverse, at times resembling classic sounds of Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, while also channeling a grungy, somber atmosphere similar to Alice In Chains and Soundgarden with hints of modern, heavy tones of Mastodon and Gojira.

Static Tension is:
Rob Rom – Vocals
Greg Blachman – Guitar
Brian Spurrier – Bass
Tony Sager – Drums

Static Tension, Ashes to Animation (2019)

Static Tension on Thee Facebooks

Static Tension on Twitter

Static Tension on Instagram

Static Tension website

Static Tension on Bandcamp

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Review & Track Premiere: Electric Citizen, Helltown

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on July 17th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

electric citizen helltown

[Click play above to stream ‘Lunch’ from Electric Citizen’s Helltown. Album is out Sept. 28 on RidingEasy Records.]

The stated intention behind Electric Citizen‘s third album for RidingEasy RecordsHelltown, is a turn from where the band was two years ago on their sophomore outing, Higher Time (review here). Likewise, Higher Time brought the Cincinnati four-piece to someplace their 2014 debut, Sateen (review here), hadn’t dared to go. Around a central core of memorable hooks and classic heavy rock riffing, Electric Citizen wove a vision of heavy glam, taking the riff-led fare of Sateen to someplace entirely bigger — in production value, in scope, in its unabashed poppiness. Helltown once more finds vocalist Laura Dolan, guitarist Ross Dolan, bassist Nick Vogelpohl and drummer Nate Wagner in an aesthetic pivot. While it would same to be driven by the same impulse toward refining their sound and trying to bring their songs to different levels of expression, etc., the manifestation is markedly different. Dolan‘s voice still commands the proceedings with pointed melodicism, and the guitar runs the instrumental charge beneath with classic swing from the rhythm section.

What’s different is largely down to presentation, and it’s one that finds Electric Citizen engaged in entirely rawer fare. Gone is the pop-ready sheen of Higher Time, and it’s been replaced by proto-metal tonality on the part of Dolan — as heard in the solo of second cut “Hide it in the Night,” as well as the riffs throughout — and Vogelpohl, as well as a decided lack of the keys/organ that featured so prominently last time out — “Father Time,” “New Earth” and “Mother’s Little Reject” notwithstanding — in favor of a more stripped down approach overall. Vocals are treated but not as many-layered, and the album as a whole is shorter, running nine songs and 32 minutes where the last one was 10 and 40. They largely stay away from following a punkish impulse — even centerpiece “Ripper,” which is definitely not a cover of Judas Priest‘s “The Ripper,” holds more to classic metal style — but the LP’s purpose is clearly to shoot for a more live sound, something that can be brought to life on stage, say, when the band tours as support for Monster Magnet in support of Helltown this Fall.

That’s not to say there isn’t any progressive edge to be found. Dolan as a guitarist is an intricate riffer and has been since he was doing his best mid/late-’70s Iommi on Sateen. As much as the smoothness and fluidity of Higher Time suited his style, he thrives here in showcasing his chemistry with Laura‘s vocals and with the righteous solidity of the bass and drums. Of course, a more barebones production style like this is no less an aesthetic choice than something hyper-elaborate, but the stylistic turn suits him and the rest of the band well, and would seem to have been something purposefully brought to the songwriting process. These tracks, in addition to being fewer in number, feel shorter and tighter in their structure. There are still drum transitions in “Lunch” and Dolan isn’t shy about taking a solo when called on to do so, but Helltown — named for the Cincinnati neighborhood the band calls home, as if to further telegraph the “back to their roots” sentiment at play — seems to pull back on some of the expanse that Electric Citizen made their own last time out, and it’s a meaner sound for it.

electric citizen

Of course, what draws the work together is the craft behind it. “Father Time” is the longest cut on Helltown at 4:25, and its quiet, more gradual introduction would seem to be a departure from some of the immediacy held forth in songs like prior opening salvo of “Heart Attack,” “Hide it in the Night” or “Cold Blooded Blue,” all of which are into their first verse before the first 30 seconds are up. Pacing in general is a big part of what makes Helltown distinct in Electric Citizen‘s catalog. Sateen was dug into semi-garage doom shuffle, and so had a middling pace, and Higher Time followed suit with its more outwardly accessible fare. Helltown isn’t a Motörhead record or anything, but “Ripper,” “The Pawn,” “Heart Attack” have a quick pulse to be sure, and even as “New Earth” would seem to be a transitional moment into the closing duo of “Lunch” and “Mother’s Little Reject,” the momentum holds steady. And though “Lunch” digs into that eased-up tempo somewhat and “Mother’s Little Reject” starts out with organ-backed spoken word over a “War Pigs”-esque progression before igniting a finale-worthy bounce, the energy in Electric Citizen‘s delivery is unflinching.

If Helltown has a central message, that’s it. It’s enough of a declaration of who Electric Citizen are that part of me is surprised it isn’t self-titled. That identity can change, of course, and likely will if their three-to-date albums are anything to go by, but the statement in these tracks is clear and unmistakable. Whatever else Electric Citizen might do and wherever their sound might take them, they’re a heavy rock band at heart. Helltown is a performance-minded collection that would seem to be the result of some genuine soul-searching on the part of the band. It could well be they’ve found themselves as players and as a group and that whatever they do from here will be a hopeful step forward from where they currently are. Or it could be that this album, like the one before it, will spur an equal and almost-opposite reaction and the Electric Citizen will move in a different direction entirely. I like the fact that, four years and three records into their tenure as a band, I have no idea what to expect from them next.

Other than songwriting. That’s the key. It let them serve introductory notice on Sateen and it provided the foundation for the expanded-sound of Higher Time, and now it serves as the very core of being for Helltown. And if it wasn’t there, there’d be no hiding it. This is as stripped-down as Electric Citizen have gotten, and if they didn’t have the songs and didn’t have the performance and the vibe, it simply wouldn’t work. Fortunately, they do and it does. I won’t discount what each of the past two records did for their own accomplishments in their own contexts, but listening to Helltown, it very much seems to be marking a new level for Electric Citizen, and as they cull the most essential facets of their approach as a band, they emerge from that process stronger than ever and at their most vital.

Electric Citizen, “Hide it in the Night”

Electric Citzen on Thee Facebooks

Electric Citizen on Twitter

Electric Citizen on Instagram

Electric Citizen on Bandcamp

RidingEasy Records on Thee Facebooks

RidingEasy Records on Bandcamp

RidingEasy Records website

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Friday Full-Length: Valley of the Sun, The Sayings of the Seers

Posted in Bootleg Theater on March 23rd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Not that they haven’t done plenty since, but can you believe it’s coming up on seven years since Valley of the Sun released The Sayings of the Seers (review here)? The Ohio-based heavy rockers issued their second EP in June 2011, and at the time, it was impossible to know what it would signal. I remember getting the vinyl and being so enthralled by the potential. Did it sound like Slo Burn? Shit yeah, but that wasn’t about to stop me from singing along to “Hearts Aflame” or “Riding the Dunes,” and for a band who was so new, they seemed to have their sound so together, so dead on, that — I’ll be honest — I thought they were going to take over the US heavy underground.

In a way, they did. The signal that was impossible to see at the time was just how much The Sayings of the Seers indicated that a new generation of American heavy rockers was on the rise and would take hold of the greater rock consciousness throughout the course of this decade. Ripple Music had gotten rolling in 2010, and certainly a heavy rock label boom followed in the wake of their success — it’s ongoing — but that wouldn’t have happened without an explosion of bands, and Valley of the Sun, if they were concurrent, they were also more cohesive than most at the time. Though its only five tracks long, The Sayings of the Seers presented them as a band whose work was essentially ready to roll out. Like few others in the sphere of US heavy — names like fellow Ohioans Lo-Pan, Portland forerunners Red Fang, Texas’ Wo Fat and Mothership and maybe one or two from a then-nascent scene in San Diego — Valley of the Sun not only represented a generation of heavy rock coming to fruition in the post-Facebook age, but did so at the head of the wave. The next couple years 2012, 2013, and 2014, would see a massive increase in the number of riff-led acts from across the country. Valley of the Sun by no means invented heavy rock and roll, but they sure as shit knew what they were doing when they started to play it.

The evidence of that is as plain as riff on “Hearts Aflame”‘s face. The way that song starts out a rager and subtly builds from there to give a genuine crescendo feel at the end. With guitarist Ryan Ferrier‘s vocals so dead-on in their John Garcia-esque delivery, Valley of the Sun seemed to be speaking immediately to a swath of the converted that most didn’t even know existed. The Sayings of the Seers only got stronger with the momentum-building boogie of “Deep Light Burns,” which gave their future Fuzzorama Records label bosses Truckfighters a run for their money in terms of its energy and seemed to be daring the audience to keep up with it. Later on, “Aquarius” would provide a likewise charge at the outset of side B, but to get there, one first had to brave the hook that was centerpiece “Mariner’s Tale,” which remains seven years later the kind of song one might listen to and say, “Okay, well there’s no way in hell they could possibly come up with anything catchier than this,” and then you hear “Riding the Dunes” close out and have to just throw up your hands and admit defeat. In sound, in the crispness of their production, the clarity of their execution, the vibe born of their tones and the accomplishment of their songwriting, Valley of the Sun wanted for absolutely nothing. At the time, I said, “Provided Valley of the Sun can continue to hone this level of craft and grow into their own as a band, I see no reason they couldn’t stand with a select few others at the forefront of their generation of American heavy rockers.”

A bit of a hyperbolic prediction, I’ll admit — there are many other factors besides quality of work that come into play between one band “making it” and another not; how much they tour, their management choices, their PR, their label, who they play with, when and where, etc. — but it was true enough that there was nothing at that point to indicate Valley of the Sun didn’t have that kind of potential. They’ve only grown bolder throughout their two to-date Fuzzorama LPs, 2014’s Electric Talons of the Thunderhawk (review here) and 2016’s Volume Rock (review here), though lineup shuffles around Ferrier and drummer Aaron Boyer have been a steady issue. Their work may be slightly underappreciated as a result, but they’ve never doled out anything less than ultra-engaging, sharply-turned professional heavy rock. Looking back on it now, The Sayings of the Seers was nothing if not a righteous statement of this intent.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

I really, really wanted to sleep until six this morning. I didn’t. I had an announcement that I’d meant to write yesterday for the Freak Valley Festival — it’ll be posted here Monday — that I needed to bang out on European time, so it was a 4AM wakeup, which quite frankly is better than 2:30. After I did the writeup, futzed through some emails and stutter-started this post, falling asleep with my head on the kitchen table all the while, I went back to bed for a bit. Maybe an hour and a half or so. Something like that.

It really only matters because tonight I’m driving to Worcester to see Judas Priest and Saxon, and as I’ll be taking The Patient Mrs.’ car — mine is registered and starts now, but the brakes, not so much — I’d prefer not to fall asleep at the wheel and veer into the woods off the Masspike. It would be just my luck to completely total her car and survive to catch hell about it for the rest of my life.

That possibility notwithstanding, I’ll have a review up of that show on Monday. Monday’s also a pretty special occasion that I’ll be marking, so please keep an eye out for that. Here’s the rest of the notes for the week:

Mon.: Special post, Judas Priest review, Malady album stream/review.
Tue.: Baby Bones track premiere, Black Rainbows video.
Wed.: Sunnata review.
Thu.: T.G. Olson double-review.
Fri.: Soldat Hans review.

Those last three are basically me doing myself a favor pre-Quarterly Review, which is the following week, but they might get moved around. We’ll see.

You’re probably not, but if you’re wondering, eating disorder treatment continues and continues to suck. I’ve hit the point in this process of “getting healthy” where just about none of the clothes I’ve bought or acquired in the last two years fit me — a record label very kindly sent me a t-shirt this week that I’ll never be able to wear — and my favorite flannel — “the wizard flannel,” so dubbed because it’s huge like a wizard’s robe and when you wear it, its magical powers make the world seem less shitty — has gone missing. It’s probably in the basement where the clothes are kept [update: it was], somewhere among the mass of baby clothes and now-too-tight boxer shorts, but frankly, every time I go down there to look and get something to wear, I see the stack of shirts people sent me, from Year of the Cobra to Comacozer to Cosmic Fall, on and on and on, that can’t get around me anymore and it makes me want to veer into the woods off the side of the Masspike. So I try not to go downstairs. Not a sustainable plan, but fuck it. I’m a homemaker. If I wear the same t-shirt three days in a row, as I have with this Ancestors shirt I have on now, the only people who are going to be disappointed in me are myself and Donna Reed. Oh, and I’ve also stopped showering every day because I hate the sight of my own body in the bathroom mirror. “Getting healthy!”

That’s a fun one. Also fun is my anxiety about leaving the house — I’m nervous enough about going to Worcester tonight; Roadburn already has me terrified — and the generic platitudes I get about how much better I’m doing. Some level of some stupid fucking thing in my bloodwork is higher or lower than it used to be, isn’t that great? Who fucking cares? Do I live forever now? “Well, you were miserable at 150 pounds too.” No shit. I’d rather be miserable and have my fucking clothes fit me. I went out last summer and bought three pairs of hippie pants. Real hippie pants. Not that I could get them around my ass if I tried, but I don’t ever want to wear colors again. Let me just fucking do whatever I can do disappear and leave it at that. Like stay home and fall asleep typing and feel bad about not answering emails and Facebook messages fast enough.

So many fucking typos. I’m doing my best to catch them, but I know they’re getting through. It’s because I’m only half-conscious when I’m writing. Now you know.

Wow. Okay. Hard reboot? Delete everything past the notes for next week and start over? Nah fuck it. If you’re interested enough to keep reading this far into a 1,600-word post, you deserve nothing less than the truth about what a wretched wreck (“wrecktched?”) I am. So there it is. This week. And everyone tells me I’m getting better.

I hope you have a great and safe weekend. I wish I lived in New Jersey. I wish I had money enough to not have to worry about money. I wish I didn’t have to write down every fucking thing I eat in a day so it can be checked over like fourth grade math homework. I sucked at that too.

Thanks for reading. Please don’t forget to check out the forum and radio stream, and just to not end on a bummer note, please make sure you check back Monday for that special post. It’ll be the first post of the day and it’s a big one, so yeah, stay tuned. It’ll be fun. I mean it.

Until then, all the best.

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Review & Track Premiere: Beneath Oblivion, The Wayward and the Lost

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on January 29th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

beneath-oblivion-the-wayward-and-the-lost

[Click play above to stream ‘Satyr’ from Beneath Oblivion’s The Wayward and the Lost. Album is out March 27 on Weird Truth Productions.]

The sludge that Beneath Oblivion elicit is nothing less than a destructive force. While the Midwest and particularly Ohio is known for the unhinged, pill-added fuckall proffered by the likes of Fistula and their many offshoots and related outfits, 2018 marks a decade and a half of the Cincinnati-based troupe’s onslaught, and they celebrate with the issue through Japanese imprint Weird Truth Productions of their first full-length in seven years. Last heard from with 2011’s From Man to Dust, the woeful foursome return to apply roughly that same ethic to the five-track/64-minute churn of The Wayward and the Lost. It lurches. It crushes. It creates a sonic and emotional miasma from which it feels like there’s no escape.

Its depression runs deep through extended tracks like opener “The City (My Mausoleum)” (15:12) and “The Liar’s Cross” (13:47), and is immersive in its atmospheric punishment as founding guitarist/vocalist Scott Simpson leads the way through the molasses trudge. Granted, it’s been over half a decade, so one shouldn’t necessarily be surprised at some measure of stylistic shift, but Beneath Oblivion‘s approach on the whole throughout The Wayward and the Lost is more atmospheric than either of its two predecessors, From Man to Dust or 2006’s Existence Without Purpose, both of which were released through The Mylene Sheath and had more of a post-hardcore spirit than shown in the droning extremity of The Wayward and the Lost even in its shortest track, the penultimate “Savior-Nemesis-Redeemer” (7:21), which precedes ultra-lurching closer “Satyr” itself an all-consuming 16:20 of aural quicksand. Revelry in brutality; brutality in excess.

Taken in the context of the recent triumph of darkness that was Bell Witch‘s 2017 offering, Mirror Reaper, it’s perhaps not surprising to learn that The Wayward and the Lost was also helmed by Billy Anderson (Acid KingNeurosis, etc.), as its blend of claustrophobic tonality from Simpson and Allen Scott — who also adds to the liberal amount of drones and noise included throughout these tracks — though the bulk of the basic material seems to have been put to tape in 2015 by SimpsonScott, bassist Keith Messerle and drummer Nate Bidwell with further grim flourish added after the fact.

beneath oblivion and billy anderson

One can hear the effects of that as drones and echoes fill out the reaches of the otherwise minimalist, extreme and excruciating “Satyr” at the album’s finish, but from “The City (My Mausoleum),” which opens with a deceptive innocent melancholy of guitar and eerie cymbal wash, the threat of violence is never completely absent. Unlike most of The Wayward and the Lost, “The City (My Mausoleum)” in its early going feels specifically indebted to Neurosis via YOB, but by the time Beneath Oblivion build into their first slow-motion rollout and engulfing, nod-topping screams, their course through sludge-laden cruelty seems set, and while their approach is by no means unipolar — that is, the screams and growls and lumber and pummel dissipate in favor of trades into sparse lines of guitar, swells of volume emerging in a dynamic back and forth interplay — they’ve already somewhat subtly begun the work that will continue throughout the subsequent tracks.

Now, it’s important to keep in mind that, as regards subtlety and Beneath Oblivion, it’s probably not the first word that’s going to come to mind, what with the unmanageable 64 minutes of punishment that The Wayward and the Lost carries across with such ferocity and patience, but as grueling and intense as these songs can be, there’s a sense of exploration within them as well. That comes through in the pre-midsection of “The Liar’s Cross” and in the rolling “Savior-Nemesis-Redeemer,” which might be the most straightforward inclusion here from Beneath Oblivion by whatever standard one might want to apply. Again, all things are relative. The impulse with a band like Beneath Oblivion is to cast them as misanthropes, as a kind of four-man counterculture working against the norms of songcraft and accessibility.

Well, I’m perfectly willing to grant that The Wayward and the Lost is about as audience-friendly as a carpenter’s nail through the skull when taken front to back, but to separate the group from what it is to be human and especially what it is to be human in the varied age of wonders and horrors in which we live cheats the band of perhaps one of the most crucial elements of their expression. A group doesn’t just come back after seven years and put out a record if they don’t have something do say, and with the stated theme of addiction, The Wayward and the Lost explores a pivotal aspect of this moment, but even if one wants to take it on a less analytical, more impressionistic level, it shows us the depths to which our minds can go that more often than not we’re more afraid to plunder. The growth the band has undertaken that has allowed them to do so is no less evident than the volume of their delivery, and in Beneath Oblivion‘s maturity there is a focus of intent that belies the album’s title. We may be wayward, lost, but the band has every idea of how they want to represent that, and in their success, they cast depths and spaces the harshness of which reflects our own cruelties and apathy back at us.

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