Deathchant Premiere “Hex”; Self-Titled Debut out Jan. 10

Posted in audiObelisk, Whathaveyou on December 4th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

deathchant

Los Angeles four-piece Deathchant issue their self-titled debut on Jan. 10 through King Volume Records (LP) and Dune Altar (tape), and there’s some weird shit afoot. So, get this: Seven tracks/29 minutes. On the shorter end of an LP, but whatever. All the songs have one-word titles, so you’d think maybe pretty stripped down, right? And it’s Southern California, so you’d think maybe some boogie involved or some jams, right? Not really. Deathchant, led by guitarist/vocalist TJ Lemieux, make short work of expectation and offer a feedback-drenched take on darker heavy rock, so that even the strut of opener “Pessimist” can just absolutely collapse into biting noise at a moment’s notice — which it does — and then resume its course like nothing happened. There are “hey wait!” moments like that all over the album, and to add to that, Lemiuex‘s vocals are coated in reverb — he did similarly his band Child (who are not to be confused with the Australian blues rockers of the same name) — in such a way that in context of some of the severity surrounding feels like a tip of the hat to Wovenhand that immediately gives the songs a distinguishing element. There’s no shortage of groove to go around in “Pessimist” or elsewhere, and as the album unfolds with “Control” and “Ritual” — which as I understand it was going to be the title-track at one point — there is a linear character to the transitions that the noise-factor only helps further.

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Side A of the LP is those three songs: “Pessimist,” “Control” and “Ritual,” and the momentum factor isn’t to be understated. While Deathchant is short, and was recorded live obviously in an effort to capture an energetic vibe (easy to argue success there), the material doesn’t sound any more rushed than they want it to, and they’re in control the whole time of the thrust, which particularly as the drifting centerpiece “Eulogy” takes hold on side B and turns its wash over to the unbridled push of “Breathe,” “Hex” and closer “Trigger,” is key. Every song on the second half of the record is shorter than anything on the first, and it’s almost as though the band swapped out what would be the usual tack for an A/B long-player, putting the up-front rockers in back and the more ranging material up front, “Eulogy” notwithstanding. Either way, even at their most driving, in the forward pummel and tonal crush of “Breathe” or the chugga-shuffle of “Hex,” they hold firm to the atmosphere created by the earlier cuts, so that the most rocking of tracks is still imbued with a darker underlying spirit. As “Trigger” surges outward in go-go-go fashion before cutting to a closing minute-plus of eerie sampled noise and far-away guitar, the core blend of Deathchant‘s aesthetic is maintained — it is volatile, exciting and unpredictable. These are not words I use lightly.

Lemieux, who’s responsible for the songwriting and joined in the band by John Bolino, Colin Fahrner and George Camacho, also helped to mix the recording which was engineered by Stephen Schroeder (who also mastered it), has been and is involved in a number of projects, but Deathchant find their footing quickly on their self-titled, and potential abounds for further exploration, and the lean nature of Deathchant itself only furthers interest in how their ethic will develop over the longer term.

Want the short version? Cool track. Give it a listen:

Recorded live over a 2 day period at a secluded cabin in Big Bear, California. Mixed by TJ Lemieux and Stephen Schroeder. Engineered and Mastered by Stephen Schroeder. All Songs & words by TJ Lemieux. Copyright 2018 RAGWEED.

DEATHCHANT is the brainchild of TJ Lemieux (CHILD, Psychedelic speed freaks, Mainline ladies, Babylon) formed in 2018 in Los Angeles, CA. They have been dubbed Psychedelic rock, proto-metal, doom, stoner metal, noise-punk, hard rock, and everything in between, but if you ask them it’s “rock and roll with psychedelic influences.” Their imagery and sound seem to fluctuate rapidly between a peaceful meditative eastern-tinged message of unity and all out warcry with an underlying message of love and peace-through-violence.

Driven by Thomas (TJ) Lemieux’s brooding aesthetic and signature psychedelic guitar character, DEATHCHANT echoes through the darker side of Proto-metal and hard rock. Reflections of past endeavors from TJ Lemieux, John Bolino, Colin Fahrner, and George Camacho (Roast, psychedelic speed freaks, high rise, Babylon) cascade into an immersive wall of noise-induced heavy metal mania, equal parts paranoia and transcendental harmony. These four create a sound that is loud, massive, and about as melodic as a sonic assault of this magnitude can be. They resonate with wherever or whoever you are and deliver an excitingly raw and catchy brand of rock and roll. Ask a freak!!

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Friday Full-Length: Ancestors, Neptune with Fire

Posted in Bootleg Theater on November 24th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Ancestors, Neptune with Fire (2008)

The timing of Ancestors‘ debut album, Neptune with Fire, is important to remember. This is by no means a complete context, but in particular, three factors stand out to my mind about its release in 2008: First, it was right before Thee Facebooks really started to take over the planet when it came to being the primary outlet for bands to communicate with their fanbase. MySpace at that point had kind of crapped the bed, but the shift hadn’t yet fully been made in terms of groups finding ways to promote themselves through Facebook, so it was kind of a grey area and a transitional period. The notion of a group talking directly to their fans via Twitter or Instagram, or effectively bringing their whole audience on tour via mobile updates, etc., was radically new and not at all nearly as widespread as it would become.

Second, Sleep hadn’t reunited yet, but there was basically an entire generation of new listeners waiting for them to do so, or waiting for someone to pick up that mantle and become that band, leading the charge for a weedian vision of stoner metal that, as we know, continues to be relevant nearly a decade later perhaps even more than it was at the time and certainly more than it was during Sleep‘s original run in the 1990s.

Third, Neptune with Fire was released by Tee Pee Records in August 2008. In the US, the presidential campaign that would elect Barack Obama was just really heating up, and about two months after this two-song full-length’s arrival, the prior seven years of needless war would catch up with and effectively bottom out the American economy, costing countless individuals (myself included) their jobs, bankrupting investments, semi-collapsing the housing market, and so on. To a degree that would resonate for years, shit hit the fan.

Despite all of this, I remember the response to Neptune with Fire being absolutely massive. Part of it, I think, relates to the second factor above — that there had just been this generational shift in the general heavy rock fanbase, and particularly as internet word of mouth was becoming more widespread about the existence of all this music to start with, listeners were looking for someone to spearhead a movement of new stoner rock. Along comes Ancestors out of Los Angeles with this massive two-song/38-minute debut album (actually it was their demo that got picked up and issued as a full-length), topped with Arik Roper art and a vibe that not only captured huge and lumbering riffs in its extended component cuts, “Neptune with Fire” (16:47) and “Orcus’ Avarice” (21:38), but added to that a sense of spaciousness and atmosphere, as each of those songs boasted a sprawling break in its midsection, side A with a lengthy foray into psychedelic trancemaking and side B with a more progressive roll topped with ambient and operatic vocalizations. Neptune with Fire captured the core righteousness of the heavy rock and roll of the decade prior — clearly those lessons had been learned — but carried forward into something new of which its audience could take ownership. They could make the sound theirs, just as the band was doing.

Thing of it is, though — Ancestors never really wanted to be that band. With their second record, 2009’s Of Sound Mind (review here), they’d distance themselves almost immediately from the lumbering riffcraft of Neptune with Fire and especially the title-track thereof. One can hear shades in “Orcus’ Avarice” of the post-rock vibes they’d elicit on the subsequent Invisible White EP (review here) in 2011 and the progressive soundsculpting they’d do on 2012’s aesthetic triumph In Dreams and Time (review here), but though it was just the beginning of the departure, their sophomore outing nonetheless sent a clear signal that Ancestors were going to be a different kind of outfit than people might be expecting.

Guitarist/vocalist Justin Maranga spoke directly about this in an interview here back in 2012:

I think people thought we were gonna be a stoner rock band. And I think it put us in that hole where we constantly still get referred to as a stoner rock band, and I don’t think we’re that at all. Are we music for stoners? Yeah, but so’s jazz, and I can say without a doubt that we all listen to 50 times more jazz than we do stoner rock. None of us really listen to stoner rock.

I mean, I like Sleep, I like Kyuss, and a good stoner rock band comes out once in a while, but to me, it’s a genre full of retread. That’s not exciting to me. I don’t know where I would put us, genre-wise, but we definitely got lumped into the stoner rock genre, and I won’t say that we’ve gone out of our way to spite it ever since, but there doesn’t really seem to be a way out… I feel like you can’t escape from where you started.

And Neptune’s a cool record, it’s just not really us anymore. I like the song “Neptune with Fire” a lot. “Orcus Avarice” we’re never going to play again – it’s just not us. But it’s not a bad record, it’s just I feel like we’ve grown up a little bit.

Ancestors would not be the first or the last band to exist in the shadow of their first offering and the expectations it set up on the part of their listeners, but this is also where the other two factors come in. Very soon after Neptune with Fire‘s release, the entire world seemed to slam into a wall. All of a sudden, money to go out drinking at shows was nil, and the impetus to do so became less drastic anyway with the proliferation of online/mobile engagement with artists. Fact of the matter is Ancestors that whatever else they had going for them in terms of songwriting and the will toward sonic growth — and that’s plenty, to be sure — Ancestors were never much for self-promotion. Did they ever tour the Eastern Seaboard? I’m not sure they did. I’d finally see them at Roadburn 2012 (review here), and I continue to feel fortunate for having done so, but they were never one of those bands who seemed to have an Instagram post up about it every time one of the dudes cut a fart. You know the kind of bands I’m talking about. Ancestors were always more keen to let the music do the talking for them, and mind you that’s not necessarily a negative.

Rumors have been abound of a fourth Ancestors long-player over the last couple years, and back in August, the band posted a new track called “Gone” that they said would open the album, to be released in 2018. Stranger things have certainly happened. In the meantime, they started their own label, Dune Altar (discussed here), and have used it not only to reissue Neptune with Fire on tape, but to act as an outlet for members’ other projects as well, so they’ve been keeping busy one way or the other. As a fan of their work and someone who thought In Dreams and Time was not only their greatest accomplishment but one of the best records of this decade — yup, I mean it; it’s on the list — obviously the concept of a follow-up is one I’d find duly intriguing. We’ll see how it goes, I guess.

Until then, and as always, I hope you enjoy Neptune with Fire for what it is and for the depth, richness and heft it brings to bear. Thank you for reading.

Yesterday was Thanksgiving here in the US — a holiday with a troubled historical foundation that’s manifest basically as an excuse to get together with loved ones and enjoy a ridiculously proportioned meal. If you’ve been reading these posts, you know I’ve been having some food issues of late. I made myself a protein shake and The Patient Mrs. made me some low-carb scones for dessert and that was my Thanksgiving dinner. After a breakfast of protein powder in coffee, I skipped lunch — which would’ve been the same thing anyway — on account of traveling to Connecticut, where we were to dine with her family at their house and with my family, up from New Jersey. And yeah, no turkey or anything else for me. I sat at the table for basically as long as I could do so with my shake and then kind of had to vacate.

The day ended with The Patient Mrs. asking me if I wanted to talk to a therapist, so perhaps not my best showing. I told her yes, incidentally. I’ve been through one therapy cycle in my life and didn’t get much from it, but I’ve been on antidepressants for about the last six months now, maybe longer, and I kind of feel like I owe it a little bit to The Pecan to at least take as many steps as I can take toward not being a miserable bastard and infecting him with my negative point of view. Or at least do something to mitigate it. A step my own father never took. Call it generational progress.

Better yet: don’t.

So let’s talk about next week. I was supposed to do an album stream on Monday, but the band put the record up on Bandcamp in its entirety, so there goes that. I don’t know yet how that’ll shake out, if they’ll take it down and we’ll just pretend they didn’t already share it on Facebook, etc., or if I’ll review something else, but whatever. Plenty of fish in the sea as regards stuff needing review. The point, as ever, is that the notes are subject to change. Here they are:

Mon.: Les Lekin review/stream OR Uncle Acid Vol. 1 review; Monarch ticket giveaway.
Tue.: Eggnogg Six Dumb Questions & track premiere; Sun Voyager video premiere.
Wed.: Slow review; The Atomic Bitchwax video.
Thu.: Eternal Elysium reissue review; Cyanna Mercury video.
Fri.: Stahv track premiere; Merlin video premiere.

Busy busy, but that’s how I like it, apparently.

Was up at four this morning with The Pecan, who needed changing. The Patient Mrs. handling the feeding, I’ve been doing the bulk of the diapers still the last couple weeks. That’s fine. She gets more time with him at this point but I imagine that equation will change once he’s on a bottle and she goes back to work and so on. These things are fluid anyway, though I’ll admit I’m jealous of the quality time they spend. A shitty diaper ain’t no thing, though. I’ve gotten pretty good at catching the Rocketass output and for the most part the fountain around front is contained too, so yeah. The boy likes waiting until the diaper comes off to really go to town. We all have our preferences.

For what it’s worth, he did better at Thanksgiving than I did, so I take that as an encouraging sign.

I hope you have a great and safe weekend. If you’re the kind of go out and do post-Thanksgiving holiday shopping, be kind to retail employees. I worked retail for years at a toy store and it’s hard, especially right now, and a little basic courtesy can really go long in helping someone get through their day. Just something to keep in mind. Whatever you’re up to though, enjoy it as much as you can.

And as always, thanks again for reading. Please check out the forum and the radio stream.

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Ancestors Reissue Neptune with Fire on New Label Dune Altar

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 10th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

ancestors (Photo by Darrel D'Itri)

I don’t know how many tapes are left, but Los Angeles progressive heavy rockers Ancestors have reissued their riffy 2008 debut, Neptune with Fire, via their newly unveiled imprint Dune Altar, and if you haven’t heard that record (it was also their demo), it basically presaged all the Sleep-style stoner epicness that has become so de rigueur the last couple years by at least half a decade. Comprised of two extended tracks and originally issued through Tee Pee Records, it legitimately brought something new to ‘heavy’ that had been, at that point, lacking.

Dune Altar will reportedly serve as a releasing base for Ancestors‘ past work, as well as solo offerings and other projects. The band’s last album, 2012’s In Dreams and Time (review here), had a scope that few records I’ve heard since came close to matching, and from what I hear there’s new stuff in the works as well that will hopefully be out (or at least in my inbox) sooner rather than later. Across all their offerings to-date, Ancestors have never lost their drive to keep growing and adding something new to the mix. In Dreams and Time wound up a long ways away from where Neptune with Fire started out, but it’s been the force of the creativity behind it that has ultimately united everything Ancestors have done up to now.

If you’re wondering, I went for the bundle with the tape, the t-shirt and the split 7″ with Graveyard. Couldn’t resist. Also didn’t want to:

ancestors-neptune-with-fire

ANCESTORS – NEPTUNE WITH FIRE CASSETTE

Cassette reissue release with bonus track

Limited to 150

‘Neptune With Fire’ was the 2008 debut release from Los Angeles-based band Ancestors.

‘Neptune With Fire’ is a concept album that tells of the metaphorical trials of Orcus and Neptune, respectively, and their cosmic, psychological journey through war, celebration, remorse and revelation. The character of Neptune was written as an immortal personification of the mortal man, and for the band, his plight was conceived of as a way of realizing their own epistemological struggles.

Since the release of this now out-of-print album, Ancestors has continued to create new and innovative music. But it all starts here.

https://www.facebook.com/ancestorsband/
http://ancestorsmusic.com/
https://www.facebook.com/dunealtar/
http://dunealtar.bigcartel.com/products

Ancestors, Neptune with Fire (2008)

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