Posted in Whathaveyou on January 10th, 2017 by JJ Koczan
If you’re gonna go, go in style. It’s an ethic that riffy Denver trio The Munsens seem to have taken to heart. I don’t know what they’ll be riding around on this West Coast tour supporting their Nov. 2016 EP, Abbey Rose (review here), and that’s not really what I’m talking about. I’m talking about playing with some frickin’ awesome bands as they go from town to town. Look at that Long Beach show. Or the last night of the tour in Tempe? What a way to round out. And to have a couple nights in Colorado at the start before dipping to Ciudad Juarez and hooking up with Malahierba? Very cool.
I’d be interested to know what comes together for Vegas — or better yet, if you can make something happen there and help out the band, do it. Put on a good show. They’ve set a pretty high standard with these bills.
The Munsens’ Abbey Rose tour
Having just turned loose their new EP, Abbey Rose (self-released, Nov. 21), Denver, Colorado’s the Munsens is taking to the road for a 10 day, nine show run through the southwest US, beginning January 12.
Tour dates: 1.12 – Denver, CO – Hi-Dive (w/ Ketch, Matriarch, Night of the Living Shred) 1.13 – Colorado Springs, CO – Triple Nickel (w/ Still Valley, Night of the Living Shred) 1.14 – Juarez, MX – Hysteria (w/ Dizz Brew, Malahierba, Ultimo Trip) 1.16 – Albuquerque, NM – Low Spirits (w/ Hydrant, The Horned God) 1.17 – Las Vegas, NV – TBA 1.18 – San Francisco, CA – Elbo Room (w/ Love Moon, Mesmer, Externs) 1.19 – Long Beach, CA – Alex’s Bar (w/ Slow Season, Lords of Beacon House, of limbo) 1.20 – Oceanside, CA – Pierview Pub (w/ Red Wizard and special guests) 1.21 – Tempe, AZ – Palo Verde Lounge (w/ Goya, Twingiant, Grey Gallows)
The Munsens made a handful of appearances in Denver during the summer and fall of 2016, and just released their first recordings in nearly two years (Nov. 21) via a 45-minute EP titled Abbey Rose, which preludes their first full-length album, due out in the summer of 2017. Abbey Rose is available on cassette and as a digital download through the band’s Bandcamp page and will supported by two tours in early 2017, in January and in March.
The Munsens is: Shaun Goodwin Mike Goodwin Graham Wesselhoff
Posted in Features on January 1st, 2017 by JJ Koczan
The poll is closed, the results are counted and the top 20 albums of 2016 have been chosen. Hard to argue with the list as it’s shown up over the course of the past month, so I won’t try. Instead, let me just say thanks to incredible amount of participants who contributed this year.
All told, between Dec. 1 and Dec. 31, 612 people added their picks to the proceedings, compared to 388 in last year’s poll. Considering how much that number blew my mind on Jan. 1, 2016, I’m sure you can imagine how I feel about adding another 200-plus lists to the pot. In short, I’m astounded, deeply humbled and so, so, so grateful. I feel like we got enough of a sampling this year to give a genuinely representative showing for where people’s heads have been at, so thank you if you were a part of it.
Thank you as well as always to Slevin for running the poll’s back end and tabulating the results. As ever, the weighting system is one in which a 1-4 ranking is worth five points, 5-8 worth four, 9-12 worth three, 13-16 worth two and 17-20 worth one. You’ll find that list (plus some honorable mentions) below, followed by the raw-vote tally.
And after the jump, as has become the tradition, are the full lists of everyone who submitted, alphabetized by name. I’m in there too. It’s a huge amount to wade through, and even if you thought you heard everything in 2016, it should be more than enough to keep you busy for the next year.
One last note: I’m no statistician. Please allow for these numbers to change over the next couple days on some small level.
Top 20 of 2016 — Weighted Results
1. Wo Fat, Midnight Cometh (375 points)
2. Greenleaf, Rise Above the Meadow (368)
3. Elephant Tree, Elephant Tree (324)
4. Asteroid, III (302)
5. Brant Bjork, Tao of the Devil (295)
6. Gozu, Revival (274)
7. Neurosis, Fires Within Fires (253)
8. King Buffalo, Orion (244)
9. Mars Red Sky, Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul) (238)
10. Conan, Revengeance (232)
11. Cough, Still They Pray (228)
12. Holy Grove, Holy Grove (218)
13. SubRosa, For this We Fought the Battle of Ages (213)
14. Truckfighters, V (206)
15. Blood Ceremony, Lord of Misrule (200)
16. Khemmis, Hunted (192)
16. Red Fang, Only Ghosts (192)
17. Inter Arma, Paradise Gallows (181)
18. Witchcraft, Nucleus (174)
19. Opeth, Sorceress (173)
20. Church of Misery, And then there Were None (159)
Honorable mention to:
Causa Sui, Return to Sky (157)
Goatess, II: Purgatory Under New Management (157)
Black Mountain, IV (148)
Mos Generator, Abyssinia (144)
Wretch, Wretch (140)
Look at those tallies for number one and two. That race was close all month. Wo Fat kept out front for the most part, but Greenleaf kept it interesting and Elephant Tree’s debut snuck in there at third, which I love to see, both because it’s their first album and because that record was indeed so great. King Buffalo, another debut, also made the top 10, underscoring those two as bands to watch, and though Brant Bjork, Conan, Asteroid, Neurosis, Gozu and Mars Red Sky might be more expected names, they still certainly delivered excellent records, so again, nothing to fight with here. Things flesh out a bit in the 10-20 range, but I don’t think there’s one album on this list you could call is “miss.”
Top 20 of 2016 — Raw Votes
1. Wo Fat, Midnight Cometh (109)
2. Greenleaf, Rise Above the Meadow (92)
3. Brant Bjork, Tao of the Devil (87)
4. Elephant Tree, Elephant Tree (82)
5. Asteroid, III (80)
6. Gozu, Revival (76)
7. Conan, Revengeance (73)
8. Cough, Still They Pray (70)
9. Mars Red Sky, Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul) (68)
10. King Buffalo, Orion (67)
11. Truckfighters, V (62)
12. Red Fang, Only Ghosts (61)
13. Khemmis, Hunted (60)
14. Blood Ceremony, Lord of Misrule (59)
14. SubRosa, For this We Fought the Battle of Ages (59)
15. Holy Grove, Holy Grove (58)
16. Church of Misery, And then there Were None (53)
17. Inter Arma, Paradise Gallows (49)
17. Witchcraft, Nucleus (49)
18. Opeth, Sorceress (47)
19. Mos Generator, Abyssinia (45)
20. Black Mountain, IV (44)
20. Causa Sui, Return to Sky (44)
20. Wretch, Wretch (44)
Honorable mention to:
Goatess, II: Purgatory Under New Management (43)
Mondo Drag, The Occultation of Light (43)
Geezer, Geezer (41)
Crowbar, The Serpent Only Lies (41)
Gojira, Magma (37)
Slomatics, Future Echo Returns (36)
Graves at Sea, The Curse that Is… (35)
Black Rainbows, Stellar Prophecy (33)
Beastmaker, Lusus Naturae (32)
Vokonis, Olde One Ascending (31)
Left a few more honorable mentions in the raw-vote count, just for fun and so you could get more of a feel beyond the top 20 itself, which you’ll notice has a couple ties in it as the raw votes usually do and reorganizes a bit from the weighted results. One and two remain the same, however, and in the same order, and you’ll see Wo Fat was the only album that scored more than 100 votes on its own. As a whole, there were over 2,400 separate entries for albums this year, which is by far the most spread out that the voting has ever been. Frankly, with so many people involved and such a variety of stuff being voted on, I’m amazed anyone managed to agree on anything at all, but of course they did and once again a stellar list is the result.
Well, Happy New Year.
Before I go, thanks again to Slevin for the work put into running the back end of this site and this poll particularly. I show up with the finish lists, but it’s his code that makes it happen, and his efforts are appreciated more than I can say. Dude has never asked me for anything in the nearly eight years I’ve been a constant pain in his ass.
After the jump, you’ll find everybody’s list, alphabetized by name. Please enjoy browsing. I hope you find something awesome, because there’s certainly plenty in there that qualifies, and if you see something that looks like it appears often enough that it should be included in one or both of the counts above, let me know in the comments.
Posted in Reviews on December 26th, 2016 by JJ Koczan
2016 ends and 2017 starts off on the right foot with a brand new Quarterly Review roundup. The first time I ever did one of these was at the end of 2014 and I called the feature ‘Last Licks.’ Fortunately, I’ve moved on from that name, but that is kind of how I’m thinking about this particular Quarterly Review. You’ll find stuff that came out spread all across 2016, early, middle, late, but basically what I’m trying to do here is get to a point where it’s not March and I’m still reviewing albums from November. Will it work? Probably not, but in order to try my damnedest to make it do so anyway, I’m making this Quarterly Review six full days. Monday to Monday instead of Monday to Friday. 60 reviews in six posts. Sounds like madness because it is madness. Let’s get started.
Quarterly Review #1-10:
San Francisco trio Hornss debuted on RidingEasy Records with 2014’s No Blood No Sympathy (review here) and further their raw genre blend on Telepath, their half-hour follow-up LP delivered via STB, melding heavy punk and metallic impulses to a noisy, thick-toned thrust on songs like “Atrophic” and the bouncing “Sargasso Heart” while opener “St. Genevieve” and the penultimate “Old Ghosts” dig into more stonerly nod. The latter track is the longest inclusion on the record at 3:26, and with 11 cuts there’s plenty of jumping between impulses to be done, but the trio of guitarist/vocalist Mike Moracha, bassist/vocalist Nick Nava – both formerly of desert punkers Solarfeast – and drummer Bil Bowman (ex-Zodiac Killers) work effectively and efficiently to cast an identity for themselves within the tumult. It’s one that finds them reveling in the absence of pretense and the sometimes-caustic vibes of songs like “Leaving Thermal,” which nonetheless boast an underlying catchiness, speaking to a progression from the first album.
Easily justifiable decision on the part of Denver’s Khemmis to return to Flatline Audio and producer Dave Otero (Cephalic Carnage, etc.) for their second album, Hunted. No reason to fix what clearly wasn’t broken about their 2015 debut, Absolution (review here), and on the 20 Buck Spin Records release, they don’t. A year later, the four-piece instead build on the doomly grandeur of the first outing and push forward in aesthetic, confidence and purpose, whether that’s shown in mournful opener “Above the Water,” the darker “Candlelight” that follows, or the centerpiece “Three Gates,” which opens as muddied death metal before shifting into a cleaner chorus, creating a rare bridge between doom and modern metal. Khemmis save the most resonant crush for side B, however, with the nine-minute “Beyond the Door” capping with vicious stomp before the 13-minute title-track, which closes the album with an urgency that bleeds even into spacious and melodic break that sets up the final apex to come, as emotionally charged as it is pummeling.
In addition to the outright charm of titles like “Doominati,” “Coup d’étwat,” “Murdercycle” and “Urinal Acid” (the latter a bonus track), Rochester, New York’s Fox 45 offer fuzzy roll on their Twin Earth Records debut full-length, Ashes of Man, the three-piece of Amanda Rampe, Vicky Tee and Casey Learch finding space for themselves between the post-Acid King nod of “Necromancing the Stone” and more swing-prone movements like the relatively brief “Soul Gourmandizer.” Playing back and forth between longer and shorter tracks gives Ashes of Man a depth of character – particularly encouraging since it’s Fox 45’s first record – and the low-end push that leads “Phoenix Tongue” alone is worth the price of admission, let alone the familiar-in-the-right-ways straightforward heavy riffing of “Narcissister” a short while later. Very much a debut, but one that sets up a grunge-style songwriting foundation on which to build as they move forward, and Fox 45 seem to have an eye toward doing precisely that.
Double-guitar Pittsburgh four-piece Monolith Wielder make their self-titled debut through Italian imprint Argonauta Records, bringing together Molasses Barge guitarist Justin Gizzi and Zom guitarist/vocalist Gero von Dehn with bassist Ray Ward (since replaced by Amy Bianco) and drummer Ben Zerbe (also Mandrake Project) for 10 straightforward tracks that draw together classic Sabbathian doom with post-grunge heavy rock roll. There’s a workingman’s sensibility to the riffing of “No Hope No Fear” and the earlier, more ‘90s moodiness of “Angels Hide” – von Dehn’s vocals over the thick tones almost brings to mind Sevendust on that particularly catchy chorus – but Monolith Wielder’s Monolith Wielder isn’t shy about bringing atmospherics to the Iommic thrust of its eponymous cut or the penultimate “King Under Fire,” which recalls the self-titled Alice in Chains in its unfolding bleakness before closer “Electric Hessian” finishes with a slight uptick in pace and a fade out and back in (and a last sample) that hints at more to come.
The stomp and clap intro “The Man Who Would be King” casts an immediately bluesy hue on No Man’s Valley’s debut album, Time Travel (LP release on Nasoni), and the Netherlands-based five-piece seem only too happy to build on that from there. It’s a blend outfits like The Flying Eyes and Suns of Thyme have proffered for several years now between heavy psychedelia and blues, but No Man’s Valley find a niche for themselves in the dreamy and patient execution of “Sinking the Lifeboat,” a highlight of the eight-track/33-minute LP, and bring due personality to the classic-style jangle-and-swing of “The Wolves are Coming” as well, so that Time Travel winds up more textured than redundant as it makes its way toward six-minute piano-laden finale “Goon.” Once there, they follow a linear course with a post-All Them Witches looseness that solidifies into a resonant and deeply engaging apex, underscoring the impressive reach No Man’s Valley have brought to bear across this first LP of hopefully many to come.
Barcelona classic rocking four-piece Saturna seem to avoid the boogie trap when they want to, as on the more rolling, modern heavy groove of “Five Fools,” and that keeps their World in Sound/PRC Music third album, III/Lost in Time, from being too predictable after the opening “Tired to Fight” seems to set up Thin Lizzy idolatry. They dip into more complex fare on “Leave it All,” somewhere between Skynyrd leads, Deep Purple organ-isms topped with a rousing hook, but keep some shuffle on songs like “Disease” and the earlier “All Has Been Great.” Highlight/closer “Place for Our Soul” seems to be literal in its title, with a more subdued approach and harmonized vocal delivery, and listening to its more patient delivery one can’t help but wonder why that soul should be relegated to the end of the album instead of featured throughout, but the songwriting is solid and the delivery confident, so while familiar, there’s ultimately little to complain about with what III/Lost in Time offers.
Especially with the title of their second EP set as Hate from the Bong, one might be tempted to put Belgian outfit MØLK immediately in the same category of malevolent stoner/sludge metal as the likes of Bongripper, but frankly they sound like they’re having too much fun for that on the five-tracker, reveling in lyrical shenanigans on the politically suspect “Stonefish” and opener “Methamphetamine.” Make no mistake, they’re suitably druggy, but even Hate from the Bong’s title-track seems to keep its tongue in cheek as it unfolds its post-Electric Wizard echoes and tonal morass. That gives the five-piece an honest vibe – they’re a relatively new band, having released their first EP in 2016 as well; why shouldn’t they be having a good time? – to coincide with all that thickened low end and vocal reverb, and though they’re obviously growing, there isn’t much more I’d ask of them from a debut full-length, which is a task they sound ready to take on in these songs.
Italian cult rock outfit Psychedelic Witchcraft have proven somewhat difficult to keep up with over the last year-plus. As they’ve hooked up with Soulseller Records and reissued their Black Magic Man EP (review here), their full-length debut, The Vision, and already announced a follow-up compilation in 2017’s Magick Rites and Spells, the band consistently work to feature the vocals of Virginia Monti (also Dead Witches) amid semi-retro ‘70s-style boogie, as heard on the debut in cuts like “Witches Arise” and “Wicked Ways.” At nine tracks/34 minutes, however, The Vision is deceptively efficient, and though they’re unquestionably playing to style, Psychedelic Witchcraft find room to vary moods on “The Night” and the subdued strum of “The Only One Who Knows,” keeping some sonic diversity while staying largely on-theme lyrically. To call the album cohesive is underselling its purposefulness, but the question is how the band will build on the bluesy soulfulness of “Magic Hour Blues” now that they’ve set this progression in motion. Doesn’t seem like it will be all that long before we find out.
Following the heavy post-rock wash of their 2016 debut album, Tidals, Brooklynite two-piece Spotlights – bassist/guitarist/vocalist Sarah Quintero and guitarist/synthesis/vocalist Mario Quintero – return on the quick with a three-track EP, Spiders, and set themselves toward further sonic expansion. The centerpiece “She Spider” is a Mew cover, electronic beats back opener “A Box of Talking Heads V2” and the spacious closer “Joseph” is a track from Tidals remixed by former Isis drummer Aaron Harris. So, perhaps needless to say, they hit that “expansion” mark pretty head-on. The finale turns out to be the high point, more cinematic in its ambience, but still moving through with an underlying rhythm to the wash of what one might otherwise call drones before becoming more deeply post-Nine Inch Nails in its back half. How many of these elements might show up on Spotlights’ next record, I wouldn’t guess, but the band takes an important step by letting listeners know the potential is there, adding three wings onto their wheelhouse in three tracks, which is as efficient conceptually as it is sonically immersive.
This self-titled second full-length from Malmö, Sweden-based Moon Coven begins with its longest track (immediate points) in “Storm” and works quickly to nail down a far-reaching meld between heavy psych and riffy density. Issued through the much-respected Transubstans Records, it’s a nine-track/50-minute push that can feel unipolar on an initial listen, but largely avoids that trap through tonal hypnosis and fluid shifts into and out of jams on cuts like “The Third Eye,” while centerpiece “Haramukh High” provides a solidified moment before the organ interlude “The Ice Temple” leads into the mega-roll of finisher “White Sun.” What seems to be a brooding sensibility from the artwork – a striking departure from their 2014 debut, Amanita Kingdom – is actually a far more colorful affair than it might at first appear, and well justifies the investment of repeat visits in the far-out nod of “Conspiracy” and the swirling “Winter,” which goes so far as to add melodic texture in the vocals and notably fuzzed guitar, doing much to bolster the proceedings and overarching groove.
[Click play above to stream ‘Beyond the Electric Sun’ from Cloud Catcher’s Trails of Kosmik Dust. Album is out in March 2017 on Totem Cat Records. Tour dates announced at the bottom of this post.]
If you want to make an album, go on tour. That’s what Denver trio Cloud Catcher did to get ready to record their second offering. Their plan was to take to the road, get themselves in peak form, and then hit the studio to record as live as possible with Slow Season‘s Cody Tarbell at the helm. Listening to the raw scorch of Trails of Kosmic Dust — also their first release through Totem Cat Records — it would be difficult to say the tactic was anything other than a complete success. Their 2015 debut, Enlightened Beyond Existence (discussed here), skillfully blended progressive instrumental performance and classic-style heavy songwriting, but I don’t think there’s a level on which Trails of Kosmic Dust doesn’t bring Cloud Catcher‘s presentation to another level entirely.
Comprised of guitarist/vocalist Rory Rummings, bassist/vocalist Kam Wentworth and drummer Jared Soloman Handman, they benefit from the classic power trio construction in how the bass and drums hold down the boogie of a cut like “Celestial Empress” so that Rummings can embark on dizzying runs up and down the fretboard, but even when Cloud Catcher take a rare moment to slow their Atomic Bitchwaxian grooving onslaught, as on the well-placed “Dimensional Interlude” that would seem to finish side A or first half of the penultimate instrumental on side B, “Super Acid Magick,” Trails of Kosmic Dust isn’t necessarily about the work of one player or another more than the affect of the three-piece as a unit. They grant that some overdubs took place, and given some of the layering of feedback and leads I believe it, but one can hear in the basic underlying tracks how righteously tight they’ve become in such a short time. Across the span of eight tracks/39 minutes, they sound hungry, and mean, and perhaps scariest of all, like they’re still growing.
There may or may not be a consistent narrative taking place through the material, but it’s safe to say the lyrics are taking listeners on an adventure one way or the other, and though there are moments of spaced-out flourish even in a cut like “Beyond the Electric Sun” — the longest inclusion at just over seven minutes, with a jammy vibe and some thrilling start-stop moments in its second half before it returns to sprinting circles around the audience — perhaps the most psychedelic aspect of Trails of Kosmic Dust are the words. They come through clearly and mostly raw, playing to the live feel, from Rummings and Wentworth, at times reminiscent of Mos Generator‘s Tony Reed, as on “Righteous Ruler” or the ultra-Sabbathian boogie blues of “Visions” that leads off side B, and introduce characters like the “Astral Warlord” and “Celestial Empress” before embarking “Beyond the Electric Sun” and traveling through the “Dimensional Interlude” to see “Visions” in “Trails of Kosmic Dust” made from “Super Acid Magick” by a “Righteous Ruler.” That they’d tie “Righteous Ruler” at the end back to the opening duo — each of which would also seem to refer to a leader or monarch of one sort or other — is telling when it comes to a deceptive mindfulness in their structuring and processes.
It’s not all just chaos and boogie, in other words. There’s thought put into it, which is part of why one feels comfortable considering Trails of Kosmic Dust a progressive work. But the pummel-pummel-pummel impression the record makes through its opening salvo in “Astral Warlord,” “Celestial Empress” and “Beyond the Electric Sun” isn’t to be understated either. Those three tracks, one after another, would be almost impossibly frenetic were it not for their catchy hooks allowing for something to grab onto. Organic tones and shuffle are the basis for what makes a cut like “Celestial Empress” work — specific mention should be made of Wentworth‘s handling the low end, both in terms of what he’s playing either following the guitar or not and how it sounds — and Cloud Catcher demonstrate plainly the dynamic they’ve built from those elements before giving the peaceful minute of “Dimensional Interlude” as a means to transition into the expansion that side B brings.
And brings quickly. A change in vocals (I think) brings Wentworth to the fore for the shorter and more straightforward track, clean in tone and plainly playing toward earliest Sabbath in the patterning of lyrics and overall feel. Way more Black Sabbath than Master of Reality, “Visions” gives way to the title-track via a cymbal wash and “Trails of Kosmic Dust” calls back to the boogie thrust of side A in its construction early, but fluidly shifts in its midsection to a spacious and more open vibe. It’s still tense with the progression of Handman‘s drums under layers of Rummings‘ guitar, but hinting maybe at a patience in development within their approach that might come more to fruition on subsequent outings. Also welcome is the instrumental return to the bouncing chorus they insert at the end, so that “Trails of Kosmic Dust” doesn’t simply jam itself into oblivion, but highlights a sense of songwriting as well, making it all the more fitting that the album bears its name.
Nascent patience might be a factor early in “Super Acid Magick” as well. There are moments on Trails of Kosmic Dust when it sounds like the psychedelia is asserting itself as a setup for the band to use as a launch point, and “Super Acid Magick” directly recalls Death Alley‘s “Supernatural Predator” on a shorter scale in how it solidifies into a full-throttle thrust and continues to move outward from there. Another well-positioned instrumental, it changes up expectation on the part of the listener going into the finale, expands the palette of the record overall and reinforces the live feel while also providing a direct bleed into the initial nodding riff that introduces “Righteous Ruler,” a bluesy lead line from Rummings met by Wentworth‘s foundation of tone and rolling drums from Handman as it gradually builds speed before kicking into the verse line after a minute or so.
The closer is less a summary of Trails of Kosmic Dust on the whole than one might expect, but it does bring to mind a lot of what works well about it, whether that’s the cyclical feel of its hook, the on-a-dime shifts in tempo and rhythm or the final instrumental push that — this time — leads Cloud Catcher all the way out with no return, getting slower until finally a cymbal wash and noise leads to a last crash and cold finish. Show’s over, folks. They put on a hell of a set, and as noted above, there are ways in which Cloud Catcher, who got together in 2013, still feel like a growing band. Though their urgency often serves them well, I’ll be interested to hear next time out how the balance shifts between that and the more liquefied aspects in some of these tracks shifts, and what influences will emerge as they continue to tour. Ultimately though, one of the most encouraging results on Trails of Kosmic Dust is that Cloud Catcher come across as a band actively, consciously involved in that evolutionary process. It wasn’t happenstance that they went right from doing shows to the studio, and that kind of willful creative drive will only serve them well as they move forward from here.
Cloud Catcher 2017 Midwest Tour:
^Saturday March 11th Denver, CO HI-DIVE^ ^Sunday March 12th Colorado Springs, FLUX CAPACITOR^ ^Monday March 13th Santa Fe, NM THE UNDERGROUND AT EVANGELO’S^ ^Tuesday March 14th Ft. Worth, TX The Grotto^ ^Wednesday March 15th Austin, TX SXSW^ Thursday March 16th Austin, TX SXSW Friday March 17th Austin, TX SXSW ^Saturday March 18th San Antonio, TX FAUST TAVERN^ Sunday March 19th Houston, TX SATELLITE BAR Monday March 20th Texarkana, TX THE ARROW BAR Tuesday March 21st Memphis, TN BUCANEER LOUNGE Wednesday March 22nd Columbus, OH HOUSE SHOW *Thursday March 23rd Ft. Wayne, IN BRASS RAIL* *Friday March 24th Detroit, MI SMALL’S* *Saturday March 25th Chicago, IL LIVEWIRE * *Sunday March 26th Milwaukee, WI RIVERWEST PUBLIC HOUSE* Tuesday March 28th Denver, CO SUMMIT MUSIC HALL ^ WITH THE MUNSENS *WITH BISON MACHINE
Denver trio The Munsens release their new EP, Abbey Rose, on Nov. 21. The sense of worship is almost immediate on the four-track/40-minute offering, which is their second behind 2014’s Weight of Night (review here), and the band manages to meter out waves of undulating riffs while giving hints of influences from modern doom without becoming beholden to them. To say it adds to what the New Jersey expats did with the prior outing is perhaps to undercut the strange vibes they conjure throughout or the atmosphere in which one finds oneself immersed while listening despite a near-garage rawness of tone. Their low end — it seems to come from the guitar of Shaun Goodwin and the drums of Graham Wesselhoff as much as the fuzz-laden bass of Michael Goodwin (also vocals and cover photography) — is palpable in the extended pieces “You’re Next” (11:25), “Abbey Rose” (8:12), “To Castile” (9:38) and the closing sequel to the finale of Weight of Night aptly dubbed “The Hunt II” (11:39), and that’s a uniting factor through some shifts in tempo, but while I might argue that something with such a front to back flow that also happens to be 40 minutes long is an album whether The Munsens want it to be or not, what they’ve specifically positioned as a second EP gives more than an ample showing of their hefty wares going into a long-player planned for release next year. If this is them laying groundwork, they’re making sure that ground is duly flattened before they build on it.
And fair enough. With the opening buzz that leads the way into “You’re Next,” I’m immediately reminded of Heavy Temple‘s plug-and-praise sensibilities, but The Munsens take their time letting the leadoff track develop on its own, bass and drums joining the guitar so that by two minutes in the plod is completely underway but you’re not quite sure how. One could find tonal touchstones in Weedeater, Bongzilla, etc., and what The Munsens bring to the mix is an overall cleaner take on sludge than one usually finds in the disaffected libertarian screams the genre usually proffers. Michael‘s vocals still arrive in cave-echoing shouts, but they do so on “You’re Next” with a post-Jus Oborn inflection, calling to mind Electric Wizard‘s earlier, rawer glories, which is a stonerism reaffirmed as they pick up the tempo and shift into a dual-layered solo late in the track, riding the riff into a final slowdown and the memorable nod of the Abbey Rose title-track. It’s the shortest of the four, but has the most prevalent hook of the four cuts, and particularly in light of the cover art seems to play toward a kind of gothic horror vibe as it slow-motion boogies its way into a quieter midsection that builds to a fervent churn across the final four minutes. “To Castile” feels even more immediate. Its quicker tempo brings Wesselhoff‘s raw drum sound to the fore, and though less theatrical than the preceding “Abbey Rose,” it pushes further into a similar kind of atmospheric dankness, breaking in the first half to a section of sparse guitar, slower drumming and far-back organ.
This turn is especially well done, and it’s not the last in “To Castile.” Over the next couple minutes, the Goodwins and Wesselhoff careen through winding prog and chunky-style sludge before landing in near-silence just past the halfway mark, from which they mount a surprisingly and engagingly semi-psychedelic build, never quite returning to what was the core of “To Castile,” but ending in slower, thicker riffing that serves as a reminder nonetheless. And much like the longer-shorter-shorter-longer arrangement of the four songs recalls a mirror, so too does the gradual unfolding of closer “The Hunt II” seem to be as much in conversation with “You’re Next” as it is clearly intended to be with “The Hunt” from Weight of Night. That release, which was far easier to argue as an EP overall than is Abbey Rose, was bigger in terms of its production, but as the organ returns in “The Hunt II”‘s mid-tempo midsection and is met with flourish of lead guitar amid all the crush of low end, and as the slower final instrumental push begins that will develop over the last several minutes of the song, topped with another impressive-if-short solo, I can’t say The Munsens aren’t well served by the organic, live feel brought to bear in this material. It gives the vitality of their delivery a fitting complement and positions them not so much trying to crush everything in their path as carving out a space for themselves in a niche-within-a-niche kind of way. As to which modus their debut album — again, debatable whether or not this is it, and they may indeed decide a couple years from now that it is — might follow when it arrives next year, I’d expect it to keep at least partially in this direction, though one never knows when a steady roll is going to present a sudden turn. It’ll be one to look forward to, either way.
The Munsens‘ Abbey Rose is out Nov. 21 on tape and digital.
Please find a premiere of “You’re Next” below, followed by more background on the band from the PR wire, and enjoy:
The Munsens have remained a bit of an enigma over the last handful of years due to the scattered whereabouts of the band’s members, surfacing intermittently for a sporadic arrangement of tours and a pair of releases. 2016 saw the most prominent establishment of the group thus far, with the entire band now residing in the same city for the first time in the band’s career, featuring a rearranged lineup. (Original drummer Shaun Goodwin moved to guitar, with Graham Wesselhoff, formerly of Denver’s Skully Mammoth, taking the helm behind the drums.)
The Munsens made a handful of appearances in Denver during the summer and fall of 2016, and on November 21, will release their first recordings in nearly two years via a 45-minute EP titled Abbey Rose, which preludes their first full-length album, due out in the summer of 2017. Abbey Rose will be available on cassette and as a digital download through the band’s Bandcamp page and will supported by two tours in early 2017, in January and in March. Dates and cities TBA.
All songs by the Munsens Cover photography: Michael Goodwin Recorded and mixed by Jamie Hillyer, Module Overload Mastered by Dennis Pleckham, Comatose Studios the Munsens is Michael Goodwin, Shaun Goodwin, Graham Wesselhoff
Posted in Reviews on October 5th, 2016 by JJ Koczan
Today we hit the halfway mark on the Fall 2016 Quarterly Review. Always an occasion worthy of song — or, you know, another batch of 10 records — which happens to be precisely the plan. We pick up much where we left off yesterday in working across a broad spectrum of heavy, and though there are some major releases in here as seems to be the case increasingly, please make sure to note some of the deeper underground stuff as well, whether it’s Hands I Annul Yours or Astral Cult, as nothing here is included by mistake. Some of this I’m late on, some of it isn’t out yet, but all of it is pretty current, so if there’s something here you’ve missed, bigger name or smaller, I hope you get some use out of the lot of it. Here goes.
Quarterly Review #21-30:
Blues Pills, Lady in Gold
Blues Pills – like their Nuclear Blast labelmates in Witchcraft, Graveyard and Kadavar before them – have modernized. Their second album behind what became a landmark self-titled debut (review here) in 2014, Lady in Gold arrives with a slick production casting off the vintage vibes while holding onto classic sensibility and rightfully continuing to feature the soulfulness of vocalist Elin Larsson, joined in the band by guitarist Dorian Sorriaux, bassist Zack Anderson (ex-Radio Moscow) and drummer André Kvarnström (ex-Truckfighters). Its 10 tracks/40 minutes are unmistakably pop in their construction, and deftly, complexly arranged, and play to an alternative vision of commercial accessibility in rock that I’m not sure exists anymore even in Europe. Or needs to for an album like Lady in Gold to be successful. As they weave into and out of gospel and R&B conventions, Blues Pills take a bold step away from what one might have expected coming off their debut and ultimately define themselves precisely through that boldness. Whether that works for them in the longer term will have to remain to be seen. For now, Lady in Gold can be jarring at first, but one would be hard pressed to come up with something else out there that sounds quite like it.
Los Angeles three-piece Arctic make their entry into Southern California’s crowded sphere of heavy/psychedelic rock with their self-titled debut on Outer Battery Records. To call them skate rock seems fair enough, since guitarist Justin “Figgy” Figueroa (also Harsh Toke), bassist Don “The Nuge” Nguyen and drummer Frex are all professional skateboarders, but the core of Arctic’s five-track/half-hour-flat runtime is in mixing classic stoner impulses with heavy psych jamming. Most of the record is instrumental, including 8:51 opener and longest track (immediate points) “Over Smoked,” but vocals pop up to surprise on centerpiece “Burnt Ice” and return again in form drawled enough to justify their having called the nodding closer “High” as they do. At very least they make it believable. Between the dankness throughout, the guitar-led fuzz boogie of “Cryptic Black Sun,” the natural vibes, the Arik Roper cover art and the utter lack of pretense, Arctic summarize much of the appeal of the West Coast’s current heavy movement, and so, should have no trouble continuing to make their name as part of it.
Three new tracks from Poland’s Major Kong is nothing to complain about. The Lublin trio have been not-at-all-quietly stomping out quality riffs for more than half a decade now, and with “Energy Whip,” “Escape from the Holodeck” and “Pollution Halo,” the instrumentalists are in and out of Brave New Kong in under 14 minutes, working quickly and efficiently with a crisp but still thick production that pulls away from some of the focus on crush from late last year’s Galactic Cannibalism EP (review here). That may well be the Brave New Kong to which the title refers, or it’s entirely possible they’re just having fun with their own moniker – subsequent offerings will tell the tale – but Major Kong continue to be a well-kept secret for Poland’s fertile heavy underground, and if nothing else, they sound like a group due for a third full-length album, which will hopefully arrive sooner than later.
One could make the argument that given the swath of cultural icons passed away, 2016 is the Year of Death to which Hands I Annul Yours are alluding to in the title of their latest Major Destroyer Records three-song tape, but aside from the fact that they specify it was 2013, one seriously doubts they give a shit about famous people dying. Beginning with the drone and feedback noise of “Year of Death Part I,” the cassette moves into a 19-minute stomp and crush that’s as misanthropic as it is weighted, and much as there is one, the prevailing sentiment is less reflecting on loss than it is rolling out claustrophobic heft. Fair enough. Following the tape-only “Verloren,” “Year of Death Part II” boasts more sample manipulation and a discernible lead from the guitar, but finds its way toward abrasion as well, rounding out Year of Death with a dissolution into feedback that would seem to bring it full circle.
Fortunately, the fact that Storm Ross named the opening track of Welcome, Sunshine “We Need to be Fugazi Now, More than Ever” is only the start of the 37-minute/10-track LP’s experimentalist charms. The follow-up to the Michigan-based guitarist’s 2014 return full-length, The Green Realm (review here), this new collection finds Ross himself once again making his way through soundscapes manic and pastoral with like ease, and as one piece feeds into the next on “Please Don’t Kill My Family” and “Benzie County Farm Fire, 1973” or the synth-infused, tech-shredding “Atheon” fading into the penultimate post-rock drift of “The Smiler” later (think Dylan Carlson solo gone sentimental for the West, plus a late uptick of noise), the sense of Welcome, Sunshine as a whole work is even more palpable than was the last outing, even as Ross jumps from one style to another or incorporates keys, percussion, etc., following various whims toward a universally progressive payoff. Limited to 300 copies on yellow vinyl or on cassette through Already Dead Tapes and Records.
Virginian doomers Sinister Haze follow-up their 2015 debut EP, Betrayed by Time (review here), with the raw and scummed up Laid Low in the Dust of Death LP on STB Records. Recorded by Chad Davis (Hour of 13), it’s their first outing to feature Naam’s Eli Pizzuto on drums, and they do trip out a bit on guitar, but if you’re thinking slow space rock here you’ve got the wrong picture. Guitarist/vocalist Brandon Marcey (ex-Cough) and bassist/vocalist Sam Marsh lead the charge – the low-end is particularly satisfying in its roll throughout – and fellow newcomer JK (Lost Tribe) adds to the mix as well, so the spirit of Laid Low in the Dust of Death is bare-bones and classic, but positively covered in its titular dust. And maybe one or two other kinds. Six tracks split easily onto two sides, Sinister Haze’s first full-length outing comes across as a reaction against cleanliness in doom – call it gutter doom – flowing in its 12-minute closer “A Buried Dream,” but still clearly from the gut.
The flute-laden heavy rock with which Denver’s Love Gang open their debut EP might stand among the best outcomes of Colorado’s marijuana legalization. A four-piece with a full sound only enhanced by the organ/woodwind work of Leo Muñoz, Love Gang self-release their first outing as four tracks that sap classic prog of its pretense and offer ‘70s heavy chemistry without leaning on vintage production. Guitarist/vocalist Kam Wentwork, bassist Grady O’Donnell and drummer Shaun Goodwin, together with Muñoz, get down to business on “Can’t Seem to Win” and the instrumental “Lonely Man,” go bluesy on “Highway” and boogie to a finish in “Sands of Time,” all the while sounding ready in their songcraft and execution for whatever label might come calling to stand behind their work. It’ll be somebody. Some bands take time to develop into their own sound, and some break the doors down out of the gate. Love Gang are the latter. Whenever they get around to a first full-length, I hope they remember to weird out a little bit.
Though five of the eight tracks on Nap’s debut, Villa, have words at one point or another, it’s probably still fair to note the psych-inflected German trio as a mostly-instrumental outfit. The lyrics, when they’re there, arrive in short verses, lines included it seems more to create the impression of a human presence rather than affirm a structure. They are vague in theme for the most part, but there, though there isn’t a song in the bunch that goes as far as a chorus. No complaints. Nap, as a project, feel much more given toward the spacious and atmospheric exploration one finds in the midsection of second cut “Sabacia” than the four or five lines in the driving riff subsequent. As the record plays out, they incorporate elements of surf – surprisingly more on “Duna” and closer “Autobahn” than “Xurf,” but it could also be a Yawning Man influence surfacing – resulting in an overarching progressive feel that serves their fluidity on this first album.
Heavy rocking Buenos Aires three-piece Manthrass issued their debut, Blues del Destino, last year and were subsequently snagged for release through South American Sludge Records, no doubt for the record’s cohesive, hard-driving bluesy push, natural tones and easy-grooving feel. The shuffle of “Una Flor” is a highlight, but neither will you find me arguing with the Pappo’s Blues cover “El Brujo y el Tiempo,” with a burlier vocal and a rolling progression that seems to sum up a lot of where Manthrass are coming from to start with, though closer “Navegar” gets down with more raucous fare. A quality first full-length with a crisp production balanced by a fervent live feel in the energy from the trio of guitarist/vocalist Mariano Castiiglioni, bassist/vocalist Ángel Rizzo and drummer/backing vocalist Fede Martínez, who are clearly versed in modern heavy as well as the classics, and are able to control their own destiny here accordingly.
Commencement comes on Astral Cult’s second album, The Sacred Flame, via the ritualized psychedelic incantations of “Prayer,” and from there, the Californian four-piece unfold a molten vision of heavy space rock that stands apart from a lot of what bands further sound in San Diego or even San Francisco are doing, vocalist Alexandre Lapuh, guitarist Ryan Musser, bassist Stefan Henskens and drummer Brazdon Goodwin (since replaced by Cristian Gonzalez) finding their footing in a lumbering and deceptively doomed “Quetzalcotl” after so much lysergic preaching on “Call of the Wild” and “Beacon of Darkness.” The range is surprising, but more so is the fluidity Astral Cult conjure between what are often disparate styles, the four-piece nearly hitting the 13-minute mark on the closing title-tack as they lay the two sides together, one into the next. It’s a rarer blend, but The Sacred Flame, at nearly an hour long, gears itself for maximum immersion.
Posted in Whathaveyou on October 4th, 2016 by JJ Koczan
The name just rolls off the tongue. Similar perhaps to the way in which sliders might roll on the tongue in quick enough succession to earn you $500 worth of band merch at The Decemburger at Hi-Dive in Denver, Colorado, on Dec. 3.
That’s the rather considerable prize for the first person to eat 10 sliders — sounds easy, right? — at an eating contest that’s set to take place later in the day at this new fest from Dust Presents, who also put on the Electric Funeral Festival this past June. They’ll bring together a raucous assemblage of acts — from skate rock forerunners The Shrine on down through Austin, Texas, riff ambassadors The Well and Duel to home-grown heavy classic prog upstarts Cloud Catcher, among many others — in order to complement this gluttony with a corresponding potentially-lethal dose of fuzz. It looks like it’s gonna be a party.
If you’re interested in trying your luck with the slider contest — and I mean, come on, it’s not like it’s full-sized burgers — there are only 10 spots available. I’ve never done any competitive eating, and I wouldn’t disrespect anyone who has because I’ve seen those videos and that Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest looks hard as hell, but in addition to a killer show, this seems like an awesome way to get both a bunch of new t-shirts (provided they’ll still be the right size when you’re done) and a great story to tell about how you obtained them.
Tickets available now. Full lineup and show info follows, courtesy of the Thee Facebooks event page linked below:
DUST Presents: The Decemburger 2016
“Grass-Fed Rock n Roll”
Saturday, December 3 at 3 PM Hi-Dive Denver 7 S Broadway, Denver, Colorado 80209
The Shrine The Well In the Company of Serpents Zig Zags DUEL Malahierba Cloud Catcher The Munsens LOVE GANG
SLIDER EATING CONTEST **Want to share the stage with your favorite bands? There are 10 tickets available for the slider-eating contest (fest entry included), which will be held on stage before one of the last sets. First contestant to eat ten sliders will win a merch package worth $500!
Posted in Whathaveyou on September 22nd, 2016 by JJ Koczan
This year marks 15 since the beginning of Wovenhand. The band was founded by songwriter, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist David Eugene Edwards as his prior outfit, 16 Horsepower was on the wain. Their self-titled debut (discussed here) arrived in 2002, followed by a partial remake, Blush Music in 2003 and the sophomore outing, Consider the Birds, in 2004. A decade ago, Wovenhand released Mosaic, their third album, and though one could still hear some flashes of 16 Horsepower‘s alternative Americana banjo in songs like “Swedish Purse,” it was more than established by then that the band had wider intentions.
Ever since, they’ve released full-lengths on the even years — Ten Stones in 2008, The Threshingfloor (discussed here) in 2010, The Laughing Stalk (review here) in 2012, and Refractory Obdurate (review here) in 2014 — regularly checking in on a progression of sound that has seen them become much more band than project, delving into a heavier, deeper-toned style still defined in large part by Edwards‘ voice and approach to songcraft, but nonetheless more outwardly weighted.
That was especially true of Refractory Obdurate, and in some ways it applies to the eighth long-player, Star Treatment (on Sargent House in the US and Glitterhouse in the EU), as well, though as Wovenhand once grew less and less beholden to neofolk, it now grows less beholden to ideas of what it means to be heavy. Wovenhand‘s work has always been atmospheric, but in listening to the spacious drone experimentation of second track “Swaying Reed” after the full-sprint leadoff “Come Brave,” what they make most readily clear is a focus on breadth rather than intensity, the idea that the process has grown more open over time, not more closed.
Edwards, on guitar and vocals, is joined in Wovenhand by guitarist Chuck French, bassist Neil Keener, percussionist Ordy Garrison and keyboardist Matthew Smith, and like its predecessor, Star Treatment was recorded and mixed by Sanford Parker, so there’s sonic continuity to be found between the two for sure, but the band has never ceased moving forward in one if not multiple directions, and that’s the case in these 11 tracks/54 minutes as well, the opening salvo signaling precisely that kind of multifaceted growth.
With the hard-snare punctuation of “Come Brave” and the post-Swans goth-lysergic pulse of “Swaying Reed” — it does sway — “The Hired Hand” could just about go anywhere, but it’s probably closer to the opener in its emergent shuffle, though it provides the first of several opportunities throughout Star Treatment for Smith‘s keyboards to stand out. Just after the chorus, marked out by the line “give up your dead,” there’s a push of keyboard at the fore the mix that carries into the next verse, and while Wovenhand have had any number of piano, organ, and other key-based instruments in their often complex arrangements throughout the years, rarely have they let them sound so brazenly synthesized.
It adds a psychedelic touch momentarily to “The Hired Hand” and will crop up again soon enough in “Crook and Flail” after “Crystal Palace,” with which it seems paired in part by the memorable hooks around which they both seem to work, “Crystal Palace”‘s more straightforward à la “Come Brave” or “The Hired Hand,” and “Crook and Flail” playing off minor key Eastern spaciousness, still distinctly American in its rhythm, Garrison once more making an impression on drums and a variety of other percussive instruments as he has over the last several records.
What would seem to be the end of side A comes with the quieter start of “The Quiver,” a sort of calming lull that launches with the last of its four minutes into bombast outdoing anything Star Treatment has yet had on offer in its wash of noise and chaotic-feeling surge, Edwards seeming to be at the center of this storm, making obscure proclamations.
Still, the moodier turn is important because it is a major factor in how the second half of Star Treatment plays out, beginning with the near-eight-minute “All Your Waves,” the longest track included by a decent margin, which does not explode deep in its run, but holds to its melancholy poetry and keeps a sense of movement with a far-back but consistent percussion line, shaker or maybe tambourine or could even be a hi-hat, but its enough to hold together its not-sparse-but-wide-open surroundings, and just before six minutes in a heavier distorted guitar line takes hold and it seems like “All Your Waves” might burst forward like “The Quiver” before it, but instead, the guitar simply holds its place and becomes a drone-style ending, swirling forward just as it rounds out into the start of “Golden Blossom,” with a signature blend of acoustic and bright-toned electric guitar.
Keys return, but are more subtle behind the guitar and bass and while Garrison will add cymbal punctuation more for the final chorus, Wovenhand avoid the trap of falling into a build or even teasing one. The vocal melody leads the way through a love song lyric, and for a moment, a portion the severity of songs like “The Quiver” and “Swaying Reed” or “The Hired Hand” is let go. “Go Ye Light” brings some of it back, if only in the more distinct drumming, but is ultimately more about ambience than push, a wisp of lead guitar standing out toward the midpoint that will return again behind the chorus at the end to engaging effect, but it’s “Five by Five” that further revives the impact of Star Treatment‘s early going as it makes its way toward the closer.
Forward distortion and drums are tied to a subdued start by a sparse piano figure before feedback fades into the start of “Low Twelve,” which as the finale would seem to speak directly to the album’s star-minded theme, cosmic in its sensibility and perspective but still held to the earth — repetitions of “heavenly bodies” make for a clever lyrical play even in light of Edwards‘ well-documented and oft-represented Christian faith. This interplay of land and ether would seem to be the central duality at work across the album as a whole.
Likewise, they end neither with bang nor whimper, but on steady ground, and the lasting effect of Star Treatment is even more about the breadth in the music than its thrust, which is a marked departure from Refractory Obdurate and a potential sign of things to come for Wovenhand as a whole. I wouldn’t actually speculate in that regard — because one just never knows — but it has happened that what started out as moments of flourish later became foundations for Edwards‘ songwriting.
The only real safe bet is continued, progressive creativity. Edwards has been called everything from a shaman to the second coming of Johnny Cash via Nick Cave. I’m not sure if to-date he’s sounded less like those things or more like himself than he does in these songs, but even in that, Star Treatment feels like a step in a much larger, ongoing process.