Curse the Son’s Isolator to Receive Early 2017 Vinyl Release; Preorders Available

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 12th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

Riff-rolling Connecticut trio Curse the Son released their third full-length earlier this year on CD via Snake Charmer Coalition, and if you haven’t heard it, Isolator (review here), is about as right on in tone and vibe as anything I’ve heard come from the US this year. Curse the Son don’t really tour — they have some local shows coming up in New England, listed below — so they continue to be under-recognized, but since the CD/DL version came out (also sold out; repress reportedly on the way), word of an Isolator vinyl has been kicked around, and it seems like today we’re getting some solid info on the actual plan.

Originally set to come out through STB, which also did the LP edition of Curse the Son‘s prior outing, Psychache (review here), the Isolator vinyl will now see release via The Company Records in two versions, red wax and white wax with an included tape. Both are limited numbers. STB explained the situation, and you’ll find that below along with the pressing info, tracklisting, those live dates, and the stream of the album from Curse the Son‘s Bandcamp, in case you’d like a refresher of its badassery.

Have at you:


A lot of people have been asking me about the Curse the Son “Isolator” Release. Josh from The Company Records was kind enough to take some of the stress of my hands lately. He will be releasing this beast, almost like a sister label to STB Records.

Curse The Son, STB Records, and The Company are all on excellent terms and every party in the equation is really happy! You will be getting the same quality and service you would expect from myself because Josh has been working with me on ALL of my releases for 2 years now. So please support this new DIY effort that will be coming out of the gates swinging.

Limited Edition of 90 on Clear Vinyl included with limited edition cassette tape.

Limited Edition of 100 on Ox Blood Vinyl

1. Isolator
2. Callous Unemotional Traits
3. Sleepwalker Wakes
4. Hull Crush Depth
5. Gaslighter
6. Aislamiento
7. Side Effects May Include…

Curse the Son is:
Ron Vanacore – Guitars and Vocals
Michael Petrucci – Drums
Brendan Keefe – Bass

Curse the Son live:
Oct 15 13th Floor Music Lounge Florence, MA
Oct 28 The Ballroom at the Outer Space Hamden, CT
Dec 17 The Ballroom at the Outer Space Hamden, CT

Curse the Son, Isolator (2016)

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Buzzard Canyon Post “Highway Run” Video; Hellfire & Whiskey out Now

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 10th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster


Connecticut heavy rockers Buzzard Canyon released their debut album, Hellfire and Whiskey, this past Friday via Salt of the Earth Records. To mark the occasion — which they’ll also celebrate the hard-driving five-piece have unveiled a video for the raucous opening track from the record, aptly titled “Highway Run.” The core here is the energy the band present in the track, and that’s of course what comes through in the clip, as well as a narrative of suitable hellraising and underlying dangerousness — you’ll see what I mean as you watch. But the takeaway, yes, is good times, volume, riffs, groove, and go. All go.

Buzzard Canyon have been kicking around the Northeast Corridor for the last couple years, and accordingly, it’s easy to imagine the Rat Fink-esque speed-demon on the Bill buzzard-canyon-hellfire-and-whiskey-700Cole cover of Hellfire and Whiskey representing the band rolling down I-95 to the next show (cacti and other desert imagery aside, anyhow), but either way, the album tears through classic heavy rock style with a crisp production and vigilant commitment to dynamic and execution. There’s a bit of effects interplay at work as well in the vocals — you’ll hear it on “Highway Run” — and that adds some atmosphere to the proceedings that can be traced to guitarist Aaron Lewis‘ past dirty dealings in malevolent doomers When the Deadbolt Breaks.

Anyone who’s read this site for any stretch of time knows I’ve covered that band for years. I consider Lewis a friend, we’ve worked together on music before and he continues to be someone whose creativity I deeply respect, so if you want to take me posting his stuff with a grain of salt, that’s entirely up to you. For me, it makes sense from a community standpoint as well as for trying to help spread some heavy rock and roll, which, you know, is kind of what this is all about anyway. Lewis gave some comment about making the video which you’ll find under the clip below, as well as some good-company-keeping live dates Buzzard Canyon have coming up to celebrate the release of Hellfire and Whiskey.

Bottom line? Same as ever: I hope you enjoy:

Buzzard Canyon, “Highway Run” official video

Aaron Lewis on “Highway Run”:

Buzzard Canyon was born out of need to play some fun, fast-paced rock and roll. Not to recreate the wheel, but do it in our own way and have fun at it. “Highway Run” was the first song I wrote for the band years ago and really encompasses the vibe we were going for. The video for “Highway Run,” which was filmed, edited and produced by Billy Freeman of Surge Unlimited and Will Beale of 1410 Media, (written and directed by yours truly…), tells the story of a heist gone wrong, and a double-cross as the two main players speed their way to a bloody end.

The album cover art; drawn by the amazing Bill Kole, coincides with all of this. The demon speeds away from a burning building, while soaking up gas fumes and whiskey. God only knows what he did, but we’re sure it ain’t good.

Buzzard Canyon live:
10/14 Cherry St Station in Wallingford CT, w/ Pinto Grahm, Bedroom Rehab and Wasted Theory
10/15 The Church in Bloomfield VT w/ Cortez, Ol’ Time Moonshine and Scissorfight
11/19 The Thirsty Turtle Nashua NH w/ Nick the Barbarian, Sasquatch and Scissorfight

Buzzard Canyon is:
Matt Raftery
Randy Dumas
Aaron Lewis
Amber Leigh
Mike Parkyn

Buzzard Canyon on Thee Facebooks

Salt of the Earth Records website

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Quarterly Review: Russian Circles, Salem’s Pot, Bridesmaid, Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell, Landing, Reign of Zaius, Transcendent Sea, Red Teeth, Sea of Bones & Ramlord, Holy Smoke

Posted in Reviews on October 6th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster


I’ll admit I’m a little surprised at the shape this Quarterly Review has taken. As I begin to look back on the year in terms of what records have been talked about over the span, I find it’s been particularly geared toward debut albums, both in and out of wrap-ups like this one. There’s less of that this time around, but what’s happened is some stuff that doesn’t fall into that category — releases like the first two here, for example — are getting covered here to allow space for the others. Let’s face it, nobody gives a shit what I have to say about Russian Circles anyhow, so whatever, but I’m happy to have this as a vehicle for discussing records I still think are worth discussing — the first two releases here, again for example — rather than letting them fall through the cracks with the glut of new bands coming along. Of course things evolve as you go on, but I wish I’d figured it out sooner. Let’s dive in.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Russian Circles, Guidance


From the warm wash of guitar that begins “Asa” onward, and no matter how weighted, percussive and/or chug-fueled Russian Circles get from there, the Chicago trio seem to be offering solace on their latest outing, Guidance. Recorded by Kurt Ballou and released through Sargent House, the seven-track offering crosses heavy post-rock soundscapes given marked thickness and distinct intensity on “Vorel,” but the record as a whole never quite loses the serenity in “Asa” or the later “Overboard,” crushing as the subsequent “Calla” gets, and though the spaces they cast in closer “Lisboa” are wide and intimidating, their control of them is utterly complete. Six albums in, Russian Circles are simply masters of what they do. There’s really no other way to put it. They remain forward thinking in terms of investigating new ideas in their sound, but their core approach is set in the fluidity of these songs and they revise their aesthetic with a similar, natural patience to that with which they execute their material.

Russian Circles on Thee Facebooks

Sargent House website


Salem’s Pot, Pronounce This!


Following their 2014 RidingEasy Records debut, …Lurar ut dig på prärien (discussed here) – which, presumably met with some pronunciation trouble outside the band’s native Sweden – Salem’s Pot return with Pronounce This!, further refining their blend of psychedelic swirl, odd vibes and garage doom riffing. They remain heavily indoctrinated into the post-Uncle Acid school of buzz and groove, and aren’t afraid to scum it up on “Tranny Takes a Trip” or the slower-shifting first half of “Coal Mind,” but the second portion of that song and “So Gone, so Dead” take a more classically progressive bent that is both refreshing and a significant expansion on what Salem’s Pot have accomplished thus far into their tenure. Still weird, and one doubts that’ll change anytime soon – nor does it need to – but as Pronounce This! plays out, Salem’s Pot demonstrate an open-mindedness that seems to have been underlying their work all along and bring it forward in engaging fashion.

Salem’s Pot BigCartel store

RidingEasy Records website


Bridesmaid, International House of Mancakes


International House of Mancakes – yup – is the follow-up to Bridesmaid’s 2013 long-player, Breakfast at Riffany’s, and like that album, it finds the Columbus, Ohio, instrumentalists with a penchant for inserting dudes’ names into well-known titles – see “Hungry Like Nick Wolf” and “Ronnin’ with the Devil” – but it also expands the lineup to the two-bass/two-drum four-piece of Scott Hyatt and Bob Brinkman (both bass) and Cory Barnt and Boehm (both drums). Topped off with KISS-meets-Village People art from W. Ralph Walters, there are shortages neither of snark nor low end, but buried underneath is a progressive songwriting sensibility that doesn’t come across as overly metal on cuts like “Ricky Thump” and doesn’t sacrifice impact or heft for the sake of self-indulgence. Opening with its longest track (immediate points) in “It’s Alectric (Boogie Woogie Woogie),” International House of Mancakes unfolds a heavy rock push that, while obviously driven in part by its sense of humor, earns serious consideration in these tracks for those willing to actually listen.

Bridesmaid on Thee Facebooks

Bridesmaid on Bandcamp


Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell, Keep it Greasy!


Too thick in its tones to be a completely vintage-style work, the sleazy vibes of Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell’s Keep it Greasy! (on Rise Above) are otherwise loyal to circa-1971 boogie and attitude, and whether it’s the rewind moment on opener “U Got Wot I Need” or proto-metallic bass thrust of the “Hawkline Monster” or the brash post-Lemmy push of “Tired ‘n’ Wired,” the album is a celebration of a moment when rock isn’t about being any of those things or anything else, but about having a good time, letting off some steam from a shit job or whatever it is, and trying your damnedest to get laid. Radio samples throughout tie the songs together, but even that carries an analog feel – because radio – and the good Admiral are clearly well versed in the fine art of kicking ass. Familiar in all the right ways with more than enough personality to make that just another part of the charm.

The Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell on Thee Facebooks

Rise Above Records website


Landing, Third Sight


The invitation to completely immerse comes quickly on the 13-minute “Delusion Sound,” which opens Landing’s Third Sight (on El Paraiso), and from there, the Connecticut four-piece sway along a beautiful and melodic drift, easing their way along a full-sounding progression filled out with airy guitar and backing drones, moved forward patiently by its drum march and topped with echoed half-whispers. It’s a flat-out gorgeous initial impression to make, and the instrumental “Third Site” and “Facing South” follow it with a tinge of the experimentalism for which Landing are more known, the former led by guitar and the latter led by cinematic keyboard. To bookend, the 14-minute “Morning Sun” builds as it progresses and draws the various sides together while creating a rising soundscape of its own, every bit earning its name as the vocals emerge in the second half, part of a created wash that is nothing short of beautiful. One could say the same of Third Sight as a whole.

Landing on Thee Facebooks

El Paraiso Records website


Reign of Zaius, Planet Of…


While they’ve spent the last few years kicking around the deeper recesses of Brooklyn’s heavy underground, Reign of Zaius mark their debut release with the 26-minute Planet Of… EP, bringing together seven tracks that show what their time and buildup of material has wrought. Opener “Hate Parade” reminds of earliest Kings Destroy, but on the whole, Reign of Zaius are rawer and more metal at their core, the five-piece delving into shuffle on “Out of Get Mine” and showing an affinity for classic horror in both “They Live” – which starts with a sample of Roddy Piper being all out of bubblegum – and “Farewell to Arms,” previously issued as a single in homage to Evil Dead. The charm of a “Dueling Banjos” reference at the start of “Deliver Me” leads to one of the catchier hooks on Planet Of…, and the shorter “Power Hitter” closes with a bass-heavy paean to smoking out that digs into punkish summation of where Reign of Zaius are coming from generally as they continue to be a band up for having a good time without taking themselves too seriously.

Reign of Zaius on Thee Facebooks

Reign of Zaius on Bandcamp


Transcendent Sea, Ballads of Drowning Men


Kind of a mystery just where the time goes on Sydney rockers Transcendent Sea’s self-released 50-minute first album, Ballads of Drowning Men. Sure, straightforward cuts like “Over Easy” and “Mind Queen” are easily enough accounted for with their post-Orange Goblin burl and boozy, guttural delivery from vocalist Sean Bowden, but as the four-piece of Bowden, guitarist Mathew J. Allen, bassist Andrew Auglys and drummer Mark Mills get into the more extended “Throw Me a Line,” “Blood of a Lion” and closer “Way of the Wolf” – all over 10 minutes each – their moves become harder to track. They keep the hooks and the verses, but it’s not like they’re just tacking jams onto otherwise structured tracks, and even when “Way of the Wolf” goes wandering, Bowden keeps it grounded, and that effect is prevalent throughout in balancing Ballads of Drowning Men as a whole. It takes a few listens to get a handle on where Transcendent Sea are coming from in that regard, but their debut proves worth at least that minimal effort.

Transcendent Sea on Thee Facebooks

Transcendent Sea on Bandcamp


Red Teeth, Light Bender


Brothers Rael and Ryan Andrews, both formerly of Lansing, Michigan, art rockers BerT, revive their heavy punk duo Red Teeth with the four-song Light Bender 7” on GTG Records. Both contribute vocals, and Ryan handles guitar and bass, while Rael is on drums and synth through the quick run of “Light Bender, Sound Bender,” “Tas Pappas,” “134mps” and “Elephant Graveyard,” the longest of which is the opener (immediate points) at 4:49. By the time they get down to “Elephant Graveyard,” one can hear some of the Melvinsian twist and crunch that often surfaced in BerT, but whether it’s the ‘90s-alt-vibes-meet-drum-madness of “134mps” or the almost rockabilly riffing of “Tas Pappas,” Red Teeth – whose last release was eight years ago – have no trouble establishing personality in these songs. Approach with an open mind and the weirdness that persists will be more satisfying, as each track seems to have a context entirely of its own.

Red Teeth on Bandcamp

GTG Records website


Sea of Bones & Ramlord, Split


One can hear the kind of spacious darkness and through-the-skin cold of New England winters in this new split EP from Connecticut crushers Sea of Bones and grinding New Hampshire compatriots Ramlord from Broken Limbs Recordings. What the two share most of all is an atmosphere of existential destitution, but there’s an underlying sense of the extreme that also ties together Sea of Bones’ “Hopelessness and Decay” (10:36) and Ramlord’s “Incarceration of Clairvoyance (Part III)” (10:10), the latter of which continues a series Ramlord started back in 2012 on a split with Cara Neir. Both acts are very much in their element in their brutality. For Sea of Bones, this is the second release they’ve had out this year behind the improvised and digital-only “Silent Transmissions” 27-minute single, which of course was anything but, and for Ramlord, it’s their first split in two years, but finds their gritty, filthy sound well intact from where they last left it. Nothing to complain about here, unless peace of mind is your thing, because you certainly won’t find any of that.

Broken Limbs Recordings on Bandcamp

Sea of Bones on Thee Facebooks

Ramlord on Thee Facebooks


Holy Smoke, Holy Smoke! It’s a Demo!


Philadelphia-based five-piece Holy Smoke formed in the early hours of 2015, and the exclamatory Holy Smoke! It’s a Demo! three-track EP is their debut release. Opening with its longest cut (immediate points) in “Rinse and Repeat,” it finds them blending psychedelic and heavy rock elements and conjuring marked fluidity between them. As the title indicates, it’s a demo, and what one hears throughout is the first material Holy Smoke thought enough of to put to tape, but on “Rinse and Repeat” and the subsequent “Blue Dreams” and “The Firm,” they bring the two sides together well in a way it’s easy to hope they continue to do as they move onto whatever comes next, pulling off “The Firm” particularly with marked swing and a sense of confidence that undercuts the notion of their being their first time out. They have growing to do, and by no means would I consider them established in style, but there’s a spark in the songs that could absolutely catch fire.

Holy Smoke on Thee Facebooks

Holy Smoke on Bandcamp


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When the Deadbolt Breaks Release Limited EP Until it all Collides

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 26th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

Connecticut creepers When the Deadbolt Breaks have signed to Salt of the Earth Records for the release of a new limited EP titled Until it all Collides that finds them taking their malevolent drone and despairing doom on the road for a handful of shows. The band, who were last heard from with 2013’s Drifting Towards the Edge of the Earth full-length, are past the decade mark in their tenure, but they remain thoroughly undervalued in my estimation. I’ve never known anyone who’s seen them live consider them anything less than devastating, one way or another.

On record and certainly in videos like those for “The Woods are Full of Killers” (posted here) and “Sleeps in Burning Hills” (review here), that devastation is complemented by a threatening aesthetic, a looming sense of violence beneath the music and imagery of their material. Seems only fair to think the same applies to Until it all Collides going by the fetish cover art and the promo video for the release, which you can see below. Dark impulses all over the place.

The PR wire sent over the following if you’d like to curdle some blood, either your own or that of those around you. Dig it:

when the deadbolt breaks until it all collides

When the Deadbolt Breaks follows no one. They seek nothing from above. They only wish to trample under foot the masses as they march hand in hand over the falls…

If you are weak, don’t bother.

Salt of the Earth Records is proud to announce the signing of CT doom heavyweights When the Deadbolt Breaks!!!

Today we release the band’s fifth endeavor: Until it all Collides.

This is a limited run, special tour edition EP.

Order yours now while supplies last!

When the Deadbolt Breaks & Buzzard Canyon: The Great Highway Run
08.26 B Side Ballroom Oneonta NY
08.27 Hard Luck Bar Toronto ON – Doom Over T.O. w/ Mars Red Sky, Kings Destroy, Foghound, Castle and more
08.28 CroBar Montreal QC
08.29 Battery Street Jeans Burlington VT
10.01 Spanky’s Dive Bar Springfield VT
10.07 33 Golden New London CT

When the Deadbolt Breaks is:
Aaron Lewis
Mike Parkyn
Randy Dumas

When the Deadbolt Breaks, Until it all Collides promo video

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Buzzard Canyon Sign to Salt of the Earth Records

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 30th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

Connecticut heavy rockers Buzzard Canyon have been signed by Salt of the Earth Records for the September release of their debut album, Hellfire and Whiskey. I was fortunate enough to catch the band playing live last fall at Vultures of Volume II (review here) and from the demo-type release I got from them at the show, they run the line between Northern and Southern visions of riffy groove, the vocals of Amber Leigh and guitar of Aaron Lewis (also When the Deadbolt Breaks) leading the way through classic-feeling material of which you can get a sample now with the streaming track “Soma’Bitch.”

Lewis also recorded at his Room SevenZeroEight studio, which indeed, is in the back woods of CT. More info follows, courtesy of the PR wire:

buzzard canyon

SALT OF THE EARTH RECORDS proudly announces the signing of the big rock riff cult, BUZZARD CANYON!!!

The sixty cycle hum of a tube powered stack bellowing through the silence. The deafening roar of a 454 throwing power at some winding dirt road up riff mountain. This is full fledged Camaro rock.

BUZZARD CANYON have been amassing a loyal following, built upon the bands delivery of massive riffs and endless gigging. Gigs that have included performances on notable stoner and doom metal fests throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. As well as many direct support slots for national acts. And with the impending release of “Hellfire & Whiskey” this September 2016, Buzzard Canyon will be expanding their reach and broadening their audience via an even larger onslaught of road work: Bringing the loud to the stage. So be prepared. They are coming for you.

Recorded in the back woods of Connecticut at Room SevenZeroEight, Buzzard Canyon’s “Hellfire and Whiskey” holds heavy grooves, whiskey fueled lyrics, dual vocals and rippin’ Thin Lizzyesque twin guitar harmonies as it winds you through twisting dirt roads, stories of oceanic battles and dark internal struggle. This album will be an instant classic to old and new fans and will be offered on Vinyl, CD and digital formats.

Check out the new single Soma’ Bitch

Buzzard Canyon, “Soma’Bitch”

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Landing Post “Morning Sun” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on May 31st, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster


Like the song it features, much of Landing‘s new video is impressionistic. Footage of vocalist Adrienne Snow reciting the lyrics is overlaid with a gently rolling tide, and elsewhere there are images of color and shapes that feel less geared toward telling a story than complementing the atmosphere of “Morning Sun” as a whole. There is, of course, plenty of atmosphere to complement. The Connecticut-based four-piece — Adrienne as well as Aaron SnowDaron Gardner and John Miller — issue their new album, Third Sight, June 17 via El Paraiso Records, and though it only comprises four tracks, it effectively creates its own world within those songs and invites the listener to engage with it.

Third Sight is my first exposure to the New Haven outfit, who’ve been around since 1998, but better late than never for the bright tones and immersive ambience they bring to this latest and by my count eighth full-length outing, which as previously noted, may be one of two out before the end of the year. If you haven’t had the chance to check them out yet, “Morning Sun” might take a runthrough or two to really sink in, since invariably the first time it’ll just hypnotize and leave you wondering where the last five minutes just went when it’s done, but it proves immediately worth repeat, steadfastly conscious listens.


Landing, “Morning Sun” official video

Morning Sun
from the album Third Sight
LP + CD available June 17th, 2016 from El Paraiso Records
Directed by Aaron Snow
© 2016 Structure vs Chaos Music (SESAC)

Catalog number: EPR034
Formats: CD/DL/LP (transparent green vinyl limited to 750 copies, includes download card)
Release date: June 17, 2016
Distributed by: Cargo Records / Forced Exposure (US)

Connecticut’s Landing have specialized in a mild and rural kind of psychedelia for almost two decades. Recent releases have seen them closer to post-punk and shoegaze territory than ever, but Third Sight – recorded specifically for El Paraiso Records’ Impetus series – builds on the hallucinatory soundscapes of the band’s earliest days.

There’s a unique sense of motoric drift to these four long pieces, and an organic blend of rock instrumentation and analog electronics that brings to mind Eno’s best collaborations in the 1970s. But the group’s flair for fuzzy drones and new weirdsy commune-folk also betrays their affiliation with the experimental American east coast scene – playing shows with Bardo Pond, releasing a split EP with Windy & Carl, playing Terrastock a couple of times, among other things throughout their career.

Landing on Thee Facebooks

Landing on Bandcamp

Landing website

El Paraiso Records website

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Landing Release Third Sight June 17 on El Paraiso

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 19th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster


Unless you’re looking to be completely consumed by a warm wash of psychedelic serenity, I’d have to advise you to avoid Landing‘s new single at all costs. For the rest of you non-squares, dive into “Delusion Sound” below and I guarantee you won’t touch bottom. The Connecticut-based band formed in 1998 (how have I not heard them before???) but will make their label debut on El Paraiso next month with Third Sight, a new long-player that, at least according to their website, isn’t the only one that will be out this year — a Complekt album is mentioned in an update from February. Whatever. However much they do or don’t do for the rest of 2016, it seems from “Delusion Sound” like Third Sight is going to have plenty of wash to dig into as the lines between post-rock and psychedelia continue to blur. Sign me up for that drift.

Info follows as hoisted from El Paraiso‘s preorder page, also linked below:

landing third sight

Connecticut’s Landing have specialized in a mild and rural kind of psychedelia over the course of nearly two decades. Recent releases have seen them closer to post-punk and shoegaze territory than ever, but Third Sight – recorded specifically for El Paraiso Records’ Impetus series – builds on the hallucinatory soundscapes of the band’s earliest days.

There’s a unique sense of motoric drift to these four long pieces, and an organic blend of rock instrumentation and analog electronics that brings to mind Eno’s best collaborations in the 1970s. But the group’s flair for fuzzy drones and new weirdsy commune-folk also betrays their affiliation with the experimental American east coast scene –these guys have played shows with their friends in Bardo Pond, releasing a split EP with Windy & Carl and playing numerous Terrastocks throughout their existence.

Listening through this LP is likely to stimulate mental images of rural winds blowing across vast American fields of grass, bonfires, blue rivers and power lines sailing through rolling hills. Landing’s psychedelia possesses a rare timelessness. We are proud to present this offering from the band in the El Paraiso catalog!

Landing, “Delusion Sound”

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Curse the Son, Isolator: Catharsis in Fuzz

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on March 1st, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster


[Click play above to hear the premiere of the title-track from Curse the Son’s Isolator. Album out March 18 on Snake Charmer Coalition CD, with LP to follow on STB Records.]

Since making their debut in 2011 with Klonopain (review here), tone has been a big part of Curse the Son‘s game. Led by guitarist/vocalist Ron Vanacore, the Hamden, Connecticut, trio has swapped out its rhythm section since then, first introducing drummer Michael Petrucci (also Lord Fowl) on 2012’s follow-up, Psychache (review here), which was independently released at first and picked up for vinyl (review here) through New Jersey’s esteemed STB Records in 2014. That record was and remains a gem of rolled-groove righteousness, Vanacore, Petrucci and then-bassist Richard “Cheech” Weeden proffering lumbering Sabbathian vibes grown out from the debut and marked by particularly strong songwriting. Not necessarily trying to do too much, but hitting a fine balance between the aforementioned tone and execution. The outfit’s third offering (some earlier work notwithstanding), is Isolator.

Recorded at Dirt Floor in Chester, CT, it marks their first CD release through Delaware’s Snake Charmer CoalitionSTB will follow-up with an LP version — and serves as the studio debut of bassist Brendan Keefe, who complements and bolsters Vanacore‘s guitar work strongly on the seven-track/40-minute full-length. Indeed, while I won’t take away from the progression in Vanacore‘s self-harmonizing vocal approach as evidenced on songs like “Gaslighter,” the semi-title-track “Aislamiento” or swinging closer “Side Effects May Include…” (nor from Weeden‘s prior work), Keefe‘s contributions prove essential to making Isolator the forward step that it is for the band. They are a richer, all the more immersive and soulful outfit than they were just several years ago.

Many of the core touchstones remain unchanged in terms of their influences. Black SabbathSleep and so on continue to resonate in Vanacore‘s thick riffing, but there’s a new edge as well in the vocals that’s especially engaging in light of Goatsnake‘s Black Age Blues. Not that they’re going for the same thing — no backup singers appear here, for example — but as the opening title-track unfolds from its languid start, its hook arrives in harmonized form and is an immediate standout and signal of intent. Likewise, the tempo of “Isolator” itself is rife with upbeat thrust in Petrucci‘s crash, its riffs in the first half being shoved along quickly such that I’d almost be tempted to call it boogie if it weren’t so darn thick. They break back to the quieter lines of the intro in the midsection and revive the chorus to set up a nodding bridge and final swing through the verse and chorus again to end, Keefe‘s bass staking its claim as well in the start of “Callous Unemotional Traits,” the slower pace of which opens up to massive tom hits from Petrucci and call and response vocal layering from Vanacore.

curse-the-son (Photo by JJ Koczan)

For those harmonies, “Callous Unemotional Traits” is a highlight of Isolator, but it also speaks to the emotional struggle that seems to be a running lyrical theme throughout cuts like “Aislamiento,” “Isolator,” “Sleepwalker Wakes,” “Hull Crush Depth,” “Gaslighter” and “Side Effects May Include…” — which, if you’re keeping track, is all the songs. So maybe it’s a strong running theme. Fair enough. “Callous Unemotional Traits” nods out a downer finish underpinned by stomping tom work and Keefe‘s dense low end, leading to the gargantuan lumber of “Sleepwalker Wakes.” A subdued, echoing verse fosters a deceptively catchy melody, but again, it’s the harmonies of the chorus, “Alone/Alone/Leave me alone” that really make it. The second half of the track turns on drum fills to a last verse, but instead of going back to the hook, as on “Isolator,” they instead ride that plodding groove into the wah-drenched intro of “Hull Crush Depth,” on which Keefe takes the lead on bass, the verses populated by steady drums, Vanacore‘s vocals and sparse guitar noise before the fuzz kicks back in, builds, and ultimately recedes for a swap in vibe that, as the centerpiece, only further emphasizes how far Curse the Son have come.

Starting with the drums, “Gaslighter” works similarly to some degree, Vanacore shifting to a lower register vocal and moving forward in the mix. There are also some ambient sounds worked later on that are either keys or falsetto singing, but even bringing the verses and chorus forward marks a change in intent. “Gaslighter” is the shortest track here at 4:24, but leaves an impression in its later blend of swing and chug, in its fluid transitions and in its lyrics. It gives way to “Aislamiento” — the longest track at 7:13 — the Spanish title of which translates to “isolation,” and which unfolds a viscous, patient intro and nears the two-minute mark before it hits into the first verse, Keefe‘s bassline keeping the roll moving forward as Vanacore‘s guitar wahs out, coming back to full tone for the fluid shift into the chorus. The flow is smooth as they cycle through again and the bass drops out to let the guitar and drums creep and give Petrucci a chance for some Bill Ward-style jazzy tension-keeping.

Bass and full-fuzz guitar return as Petrucci keeps the vibe going, and riffs build in intensity accordingly, nodding back to the chorus without actually delivering it and pushing outward on a few last lines from Vanacore before crashing to an end, the first half of a closing duo with “Side Effects May Include…,” which bookends some of the Goatsnake stylization of “Isolator” and also revives the multi-layered vocals, an open, almost Alice in Chains-y verse kicking in after thudding toms. They chug and roll through one last hook and at around 4:30 on a Keefe bassline, they turn to a more swinging last movement. Keefe takes a welcome solo that comes through from under the guitar, but Curse the Son finish crashing as a full trio and in fine form, someone noting after the amps click off that, “That’s fucking ridiculous,” only to be answered, “That’s fucking rock and roll, right there.” You will not hear me argue. For at least the last half-decade, and actually longer, Curse the Son have been a too-well-kept secret holed up on the line between heavy fuzz and doom. Isolator, as their strongest offering to-date, not only lives up to the standard of Psychache, but surpasses it, and can only hope to turn heads in the band’s direction. It may not be genre reinvention, but the way Curse the Son reform stylistic tenets to their purposes throughout Isolator is what allows the album to truly stand alone.

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