Review & Track Premiere: Fuzz Evil, High on You

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on September 7th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

fuzz evil high on you

[Click play above to stream ‘High on You’ from Fuzz Evil’s new album of the same name. It’s out Sept. 14 and Fuzz Evil begin a West Coast tour that night. Click here for the poster with dates.]

Not every underground band can make a professional, commercial-style production work, but Fuzz Evil do. The Sierra Vista, Arizona, three-piece recorded their second album, High on You, with Paul Fig (Alice in Chains, Deftones, Fireball Ministry, and many others) at Studio 606, which is owned by Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters, and the material accordingly sounds not only ironed out in its sound, crisp and clear, but still weighted in tone and groove, but like someone was actively pushing the band to outdo themselves on each take. To wit, the self-aware start-stops and melodic turns of “The Strut” late in the record are air-tight, as drummer Orgo Martinez swaps toms out for crash-cymbal timekeeping in the verses and chorus, which is among several standout hooks on the ultra-manageable seven-song/34-minute release.

That runtime further speaks to an element of professionalism on the part of the band — Martinez as well as brothers Wayne Rudell (guitar/vocals) and Joey Rudell (bass/vocals) — who’ve made the decision to leave their audience wanting more rather than overwhelm with a glut of material, though recording time may have also had something to do with it as they had two days at Studio 606 to bust through all the songs and nail at least the basic tracks before doing overdubs back with Fig, but if that crunch shows itself at all in the songs, it’s in a sense of urgency in the material, whether it’s the speedy second cut “You Can Take Her Away,” which seems to reference Clutch‘s “Spleen Merchant” at the outset before unfolding another memorable hook, this one multi-tiered with Joey backing Wayne‘s lead vocals and an effective guitar solo in the second half of a purposeful three-and-a-half-minute run.

But that’s only after “Get it Together” hints at harmonies between the Rudells in an initial audience-engagement of funk-tinged swing drums, and a building verse that shifts easily into the soaring chorus. The impression that Fuzz Evil are stepping up their game even from what it was on their 2016 self-titled debut (review here) is immediate and resonant, and with fuzz-drenched riffs and leads, a thick and steady groove and an energetic delivery, the three-piece use “Get it Together” to set the tone for everything that follows. Tempos are fluid but by and large not too slow or fast — they kick into a couple speedy parts now and then, mostly to make a point, but maintain fervent control over the rush — and the overarching feel remains welcoming as “You Can Take Her Away” transitions smoothly into the slowdown of “Ribbons and Kills.”

fuzz evil

Spacious with a somewhat darker feel, “Ribbons and Kills” flows with the bass at its foundation and the creeping vocal line overtop. In some ways it’s a direct contrast to “You Can Take Her Away” before it, but that’s the point, and the two do sit well next to each other ahead of the centerpiece “If You Know,” which sets forth its riff at the start and picks up patiently from there. Finding a middle pace between Fuzz Evil‘s faster and slower speeds, its nod is a central factor in its success, and it helps keep the momentum going that the band has thus far built, giving High on You all the more of a full-album feel that, as they move deeper into the second half of the record, nothing diminishes. Further, it emphasizes the point of Fuzz Evil‘s songwriting, which is what serves as the heart of High on You. That’s not to diminish any aspect of their performance or the energy with which they play, but that energy is clearly directed in service to the songs themselves, which given the quality of their output here is probably how it should be anyhow.

“If You Know” caps with more soloing and a return to the chorus for good measure and gives way to “The Strut,” which may or may not be about the same fancy-walking individual as the KISS song — it’s easy to see the Fuzz Evil as potential fans, with their shared penchant for hooks and classic-style structures — and is one of the shorter pieces at just 3:33. It’s noteworthy for that since they pair it with the 6:31 title-track immediately following, which is the longest piece and uses its time wisely in a slower doomly crawl and open vocal with Wayne‘s voice over open space between drum thuds and far-back low end. The chorus of “High on You” is worth naming the record after, and while one might think they’d make up the difference in runtime with a jam or something like that, they don’t really. There’s a noisy solo in the second half, but by and large, “High on You” is longer because it’s that much slower than what surrounds.

It gives the album a somewhat moodier feel, and thereby all the more breadth of expression, and turns to the closer “Are You in or Out” with an introduction from the drums before the swaying guitar line enters and gives the listener the center around which the finale will work. Sure enough, “Are You in or Out” brings one last vital surge from the band, with the title line repeated in such a way as to seem to ask the audience if it’s gotten on board with what Fuzz Evil put together in the tracks prior. They have, of course, made a solid argument for themselves, and while listeners will ultimately have to decide on their own whether they are in or out, there’s no denying Fuzz Evil lay it on the line in asking. Just as likely, though, the question is directed inward. It is no minor commitment in time, finance or effort to put together an album like High on You, so it could well be that “Are You in or Out” is the band talking itself into pushing forward with what they thought would lead them to make the best album possible. Whether that’s the case or not, their choice was correct. They’re in.

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Fuzz Evil to Enter Studio to Record New Album High on You

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 23rd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Fuzz Evil, since making their first appearance in 2014 by sharing a split release with fellow Arizonans Chiefs (review here), have kept a steady clip of releases. They’re not Hawkwind-prolific, but they’ve managed to keep forward momentum on their side with a string of outings including a digital single (streamed here) in 2015, their 2016 self-titled full-length debut (review here), a couple of lyric videos for the tracks from that (posted here and here), and most recently, their taking part in Ripple Music‘s ongoing series, The Second Coming of Heavy, sharing the Chapter Seven LP (review here) with Switchblade Jesus. They’ve also toured with Dandy Brown from Hermano, thrown the Borderlands Fuzz Fiesta, and generally kept a solid presence in the forefront of their audience’s minds.

The news? They’re keeping it up. Next week they hit the studio to begin recording their second full-length, which they’ve given the title High on You. The three-piece will work with producer Paul Figueroa and a release is expected later this year. Since the self-titled came out on now-defunct Battleground Records, that may or may not make Fuzz Evil free agents, but I can’t imagine it’ll be too long before an announcement is made in that regard. Maybe like six minutes after the record is done, if I had to guess.

In the meantime, they sent the following down the PR wire:

fuzz evil

Fuzz Evil will be heading into the studio next week to record their fourth release, titled ‘High on You.’ Fuzz Evil have teamed up with producer Paul Figueroa (Alice in Chains, Slipknot) to record their new seven track record at David Grohl’s Studio 606.

Says guitarist/vocalist Wayne Rudell: “We are all very proud of these songs. They have been a journey for us. To be able to record these specific songs on such a legendary counsel is exciting and humbling. This is the first album Orgo Martinez our new drummer wrote and played on. I feel that these songs are the most dynamic we have written. I feel the band has really matured since the Chiefs split back in 2014. There is a slight departure from what we have done before. This album we did a lot of exploring. We also decided to carry over ‘If Know You’ from the Ripple split.”

The album is expected to be released in mid to late 2018.

‘High on You’ tracklisting:
The Strut
You Can Take Here Away
High On You
Get It Together
If You Know
Ribbons and Kills
Are you In or Out

Fuzz Evil is:
Wayne Rudell – guitar/vocals
Joey Rudell – bass/vocals
Orgo Martinez – drums

https://www.facebook.com/FuzzEvil/
https://fuzzevil.bandcamp.com/

Fuzz Evil, The Second Coming of Heavy Chapter Seven (Split with Switchblade Jesus) (2017)

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Switchblade Jesus & Fuzz Evil, The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter Seven: Mountains and Cupids

Posted in Reviews on December 20th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

switchblade jesus fuzz evil second coming of heavy chapter seven

Ripple Music‘s ongoing series of split releases, The Second Coming of Heavy, has become an essential documentary project on the state of (mostly American) heavy rock and roll. Though cumbersomely and — arguably — historically inaccurately named, in pairing acts together on vinyl like Geezer and Borracho (review here), Supervoid and Red Desert (review here), Kingnomad and BoneHawk (review here), Red Mesa and Blue Snaggletooth (review here), Chiefs and Desert Suns (discussed here), and Kayleth and Favequaid (review pending), the label has not only given its own acts a chance to shine in a special showcase, but expanded its reach and broadened its audience base while furthering the development of a straightforward heavy rock aesthetic that has helped define not only the imprint’s path, but that of many acts as well working under their influence.

For The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter Seven, Texas and Arizona trios Switchblade Jesus and Fuzz Evil are added to this esteemed cadre of groups, each one bringing new material to mark the occasion. In the case of Switchblade Jesus, who released their self-titled debut (review here) in 2013, only to have it snagged first in 2014 for vinyl release via Bilocation Records and then a reissue by Ripple in 2015, it’s been somewhat longer than it might seem since they had anything out and they’ve been through enough changes to prove it. For Fuzz Evil, the Sierra Vista, AZ, three-piece made their own self-titled debut (review here) through Battleground Records in the second half of 2016, the turnaround is somewhat quicker, but they too have had a lineup change, bringing in Orgo Martinez, who is at least their third drummer in the last three years.

Those shifts notwithstanding, what is even more remarkable about The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter Seven, and indeed about the series as a whole, is the diversity of sound between the two groups, both of whom function without question under the umbrella category of “heavy rock.” With three cuts from Switchblade Jesus and four from Fuzz Evil, each band gets about 20 minutes to showcase their wares on a vinyl side, and though the samplings are quick, the point of sonic variety is underscored.

It’s not that they don’t fit together — quite the opposite; they make a surprisingly complementary pair — but that they represent starkly different interpretations of what “heavy” is and does. In “Snakes and Lions,” “Wet Lungs” and the highlight chorus and chug of “Heavy is the Mountain,” Switchblade Jesus present a dudely, burly vision of riff-led semi-metallic vibing, with guitarist Eric Calvert taking over the role of vocalist and proffering an approach very much in the spirit of Orange Goblin‘s Ben Ward.

With bassist Chris Black and drummer Jon Elizondo, what was once a five-piece is now a power trio, and their sound is duly crisp as “Snakes and Lions” (5:17) leans into the forward momentum it will build over the course of its first minute. “Snakes and Lions” is ultimately Switchblade Jesus‘ most straight-ahead inclusion, and “Wet Lungs,” which is the longest track on The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter Seven at 9:42, begins with samples of, among other things, The Louvin Brothers‘ “Satan is Real,” takes a more patient and rolling route, riding its riff comfortably while relying less on its hook than its immediate predecessor.

switchblade jesus fuzz evil

That leaves “Heavy is the Mountain” (7:38) as the proverbial just-right bowl of riffly porridge, which is just what it turns out to be. Taking the slick, well-paced nod of “Wet Lungs” and giving it just a bit of the energy “Snakes and Lions” brought to bear, as well as the most memorable chorus of the release as a whole — the title-line shouted upward from the mix amid suitable largesse for the subject matter — it’s enough to make one anticipate a future outing from Switchblade Jesus in this incarnation on its own, never mind the album-style flow the band conjures across just these three tracks and the fluidity with which they nestle into that groove.

The Rudell brothers — Wayne (vocals/guitar) and Joseph (bass/vocals/graphics) — who, again, aren’t that far removed from their debut album, continue forward in the spirit of that release across their four tracks, beginning with the post-Songs for the Deaf push of “Better off Alone,” which gives “Heavy is the Mountain” a run for its money in terms of the strength of its hook while also completely revamping the direction of the release overall, pulling away from whiskey-drenched dudery and more toward traditionalist desert fuzz.

But for jammier closer “Flighty Woman,” which reaches over the six-minute mark, Fuzz Evil‘s inclusions are shorter and more upfront in their structures, though still plenty weighted as “Better off Alone” gives way to the bass at the start of “Graves and Cupids.” Some talkbox/wah makes an appearance in Wayne‘s lead as they head toward the midsection and surfaces again in the second half, standing the track out even more than its chorus already did owing to the confidence in its vocal delivery and the flourish of soul emergent there.

Comprising the last 10-plus minutes of the outing between them, “If You Know” and “Flighty Woman” round out with a due focus on songcraft, calling to mind the sense of individually-focused tracks that one found on their self-titled as well — each piece standing out on its own rather than feeding as directly into an overarching whole as, say, Switchblade Jesus do on side A here. That disparity of style is no less a distinction for Switchblade Jesus and Fuzz Evil than the burl vs. the fuzz, but as the insistent rhythm of “If You Know” shifts into the thickened boogie of “Flighty Woman,” Wayne‘s vocals echoing out just a bit in a trippier fashion before the jam really takes hold and Fuzz Evil go exploring, there’s little to argue that either tack doesn’t produce success here.

As has been the case all along with The Second Coming of Heavy, this latest chapter serves this essential function in demonstrating just how far heavy rock and roll has come and the many forms it can take and still find a path to righteousness. With two separate takes, Switchblade Jesus and Fuzz Evil both resound with potential in their songwriting and in the execution of their material, and one is only left hoping it won’t be long before either is heard from again. The mission is accomplished and the mission, no doubt, will continue. Right on.

Switchblade Jesus & Fuzz Evil, The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter Seven (2017)

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Fuzz Evil on Thee Facebooks

Fuzz Evil on YouTube

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Ripple Music website

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Fuzz Evil and Switchblade Jesus Team up for The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter Seven

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 14th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

This news came in and I realized that somewhere in there I missed a chapter of Ripple Music‘s ongoing The Second Coming of Heavy series of splits. I’ve done my best to cover all of them — been late on almost every one, but still, I’ve gotten there eventually — but when I saw word that Chapter Seven was set to feature Fuzz Evil and Switchblade Jesus my joy at the prospect of some quality rock and roll was tempered by the question nagging at the back of my mind: Hey wait a second, what happened to Chapter Six?

I don’t have the promo for it in my email, which is kind of a bummer, but I’ll assume I did at one point or another or that it got lost in the transition between laptops from the one I called Ol’ Dusty to the one I use now, Big Red. In any case, if I can, I might try to sneak that Kayleth and Favequaid shared offering in at some point while also doing my best to cover Switchblade Jesus and Fuzz Evil, whose installment is set to arrive on Dec. 8, of course on Ripple.

The PR wire has it like this:

the second coming of heavy chapter 7

Switchblade Jesus / Fuzz Evil “Chapter 7: The Second Coming of Heavy” out on December 8 via Ripple Music

Ripple Music sets December 8th, 2017 as official release date for Switchblade Jesus / Fuzz Evil “Chapter 7: The Second Coming of Heavy” split!

Formed in 2014, Fuzz Evil is a chug-heavy 3 Piece that tames the fuzziest guitar and bass tones on the planet and wields them to blast a monolithic speaker-ripping fuzzapocaplyse for your ears and soul. Raw and dirty in “Stooges-like” fashion with soaring soulful vocals. Fuzz Evil released their first single, “Glitterbones” on a 7” split with the California trio Chiefs on Battleground records in 2014. In 2016 they followed up the single with a full self-titled debut release on Battleground records. In the past few year they have gone through a few line-up changes.. The current line-up is Orgo Martinez on drums, Wayne Rudell on guitar and vocals, and his brother Joey Rudell on bass and vocals.

From the depths of Texas, Switchblade Jesus returns with a heaviness and deep grooves that succeed their previous recordings. Mixing southwestern boogie, desert-worn blues, retro-metal assault and fierce rocking into a sound that screams Texas–at times sanguine and starkly beautiful, at others full of damn sexy groove and assaulting violence can only describe the music of Texan power rocking, fuzzed out stoner blues trio, Switchblade Jesus.

Consisting of Eric Calvert (Vox/Guitar) Jon Elizondo (Drums) and new comer Chris Black (bass) to the fold to create a new chapter in Switchblade Jesus, more Doom and Gloom but no lack of the groove that the Texan’s brought in the beginning.

https://www.facebook.com/theripplemusic/
http://www.ripple-music.com

Kayleth & Favequaid, The Second Coming of Heavy Chapter Six (2017)

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Fuzz Evil Post “Black Dread” Video; Tour with Dandy Brown Starts this Weekend

Posted in Bootleg Theater on April 10th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

fuzz evil

Ah, the public domain. Someday the greedy, soulless, oligarchical bastards who run our lives will take away that most human of notions — that something created and put into a public sphere belongs, after a time, to that sphere more than to its creator — because royalty checks, but while we’ve still got it, it’s nice to see it being put to good use. “Black Dread” is the second DIY video from Fuzz Evil‘s 2016 Battleground Records self-titled debut (review here) to cull its footage from such sources behind a lyric clip that surfaced in Nov. for “Killing the Sun” (posted here), and it uses creative editing to give a psychedelic impression from old educational cartoons filled with gloriously outdated science about atoms, space and the threat of nuclear annihilation. My mother tells stories about being told to “duck and cover” if the bomb got dropped. I’d say it was a horrifying time to be alive, but when wasn’t?

Anyhoozle, the song “Black Dread,” the title of which refers to one of Aegon Targaryen’s dragons in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire — Balerion, if you’re wondering — may or may not have anything to do with the structure of atoms or humanity’s thanatos drive, but it was one of my favorite tracks on Fuzz Evil‘s Fuzz Evil, so I’m happy for the chance to revisit it. More laid back than the bulk of the record, which found the trio of guitarist/vocalist Wayne Rudell, bassist Joseph Rudell and drummer Marlin Tuttle (the latter since replaced by Daniel Graves) dug into the crisp execution of sans-frills fuzz rockers like “Good Medicine” and “My Fuzz,” it was both the longest track at nearly seven minutes and the finale of that sub-half-hour outing, leaving the audience with a dreamier impression and perhaps a sign of sonic expansion and progression to come from the Arizona-based three-piece, whose desert vibes were writ large one way or another over each groove and the laid back, unpretentious atmosphere of the record as a whole.

Fuzz Evil, it just so happens, head out this coming weekend on a run to support the self-titled, going alongside Hermano‘s Dandy Brown and his band for shows in the Southern Californian desert and in Phoenix and their hometown of Sierra Vista, AZ. You can find those dates included under the video for “Black Dread” below, which it’s my pleasure to host for your streaming enjoyment.

So please, enjoy:

Fuzz Evil, “Black Dread” official video

Music by: Fuzz Evil
Edited by: Joseph Rudell of Fuzz evil

Music written, recorded, and owned by Fuzz Evil
All Footage from The archive.org and in the public domain.

Footage from:
–“Principles of Electricity” – Published 1945 – Usage Public Domain
–“Duck and Cover” by Archer Productions, Inc. – Published 1951 – Usage Public Domain
— “Drug Addiction” by Encyclopaedia Britannica Films, Inc. – Published 1951 – Usage Public Domain
— “A is for Atom” by Sutherland (John) Productions – Published 1953 – Usage Public Domain

Fuzz Evil live w/ Dandy Brown:
Saturday – 4/15 – San Diego, CA – Tower Bar
Monday – 4/17 – Riverside, CA
Tuesday – 4/18 – Joshua Tree, CA – The Beatnik Lounge
Wednesday – 4/19 – Palm Desert, CA – The Red Barn
Thursday – 4/20 – Pheonix, AZ – Yucca Tap Room
Friday – 4/21 – Sierra Vista, AZ – The Horned Toad

Fuzz Evil on Thee Facebooks

Fuzz Evil on YouTube

Fuzz Evil on Bandcamp

LP order page at Battleground Records

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The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Debut Albums of 2016

Posted in Features on December 15th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk top 20 debut albums of 2016

Please note: This post is not culled in any way from the Year-End Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t yet contributed your favorites of 2016 to that, please do.

Of all the lists I do to wrap up or start any given year, this is the hardest. As someone obviously more concerned with first impressions than I am and thus probably better-dressed once said, you only get one chance at them. For bands, that can be a vicious bite in the ass on multiple levels.

To wit, you put out a great debut, fine, but there’s a whole segment of your listeners who’re bound to think you’ll never live up to it again. You put out a meh debut, you sell yourself short. Or maybe your debut is awesome but doesn’t really represent where you want to be as a band, so it’s a really good first impression, but a mistaken one. There are so many things that can go wrong or go right with any LP, but with debuts, the stakes are that much higher because it’s the only time you’ll get the chance to engage your audience for the first time. That matters.

And when it comes to putting together a list of the best debuts of the year, how does one begin to judge? True, some of these acts have done EPs and singles and splits and things like that before, and that’s at least something to go on, but can one really be expected to measure an act’s potential based on a single collection of songs? Is that fair to anyone involved? Or on the other side, is it even possible to take a debut entirely on its own merits, without any consideration for where it might lead the band in question going forward? I know that’s not something I’ve ever been able to do, certainly. Or particularly interested in doing. I like context.

Still, one presses on. I guess the point is that, like picking any kind of prospects, some will pan out and some won’t. I’ve done this for enough years now that I’ve seen groups flame or fade out while others have risen to new heights with each subsequent release. It’s always a mix. But at the same time, it’s important to step back and say that, as of today, this is where it’s at.

And so it is:

KING BUFFALO ORION

The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Debut Albums of 2016

1. King Buffalo, Orion
2. Elephant Tree, Elephant Tree
3. Heavy Temple, Chassit
4. Holy Grove, Holy Grove
5. Worshipper, Shadow Hymns
6. Vokonis, Olde One Ascending
7. Wretch, Wretch
8. Year of the Cobra, In the Shadows Below
9. BigPig, Grande Puerco
10. Fuzz Evil, Fuzz Evil
11. Bright Curse, Before the Shore
12. Conclave, Sins of the Elders
13. Pale Grey Lore, Pale Grey Lore
14. High Fighter, Scars and Crosses
15. Spirit Adrift, Chained to Oblivion
16. Bellringer, Jettison
17. Church of the Cosmic Skull, Is Satan Real?
18. Merchant, Suzerain
19. Beastmaker, Lusus Naturae
20. King Dead, Woe and Judgment

Honorable Mention

There are many. First, the self-titled from Pooty Owldom, which had so much weirdo charm it made my head want to explode. And Iron Man frontman Dee Calhoun‘s acoustic solo record was technically a debut. And Atala‘s record. And Horehound. And Mother Mooch. And Domkraft. And Spaceslug. And Graves at Sea? Shit. More than a decade after their demo, they finally put out a debut album. And Second Grave‘s full-length would turn out to be their swansong, but that doesn’t take away from the quality of the thing. There were a lot of records to consider in putting this list together. As always, it could’ve been a much longer list.

For example, here are 20 more: Swan Valley Heights, Arctic, Blues Funeral, Teacher, Psychedelic Witchcraft, Nonsun, Duel, Banquet, Floodlore, Mindkult‘s EP, Mountain Dust, Red LamaRed Wizard, Limestone Whale, Dunbarrow, Comacozer, Sinister Haze, Pants Exploder, Akasava, Katla and No Man’s Valley. That’s not even the end of it. I could go on.

Notes

It was a fight to the finish. There’s always one, and as late as yesterday I could be found kicking back and forth between King Buffalo and Elephant Tree in the top spot. What was it that finally put King Buffalo‘s Orion over Elephant Tree‘s self-titled? I don’t know. Ask me tomorrow and the answer might be completely different.

They had a lot in common. Not necessarily in terms of style — King Buffalo basked in spacious Americana-infused heavy psych jams while Elephant Tree proffered more earthbound riffing and melodies — but each executed memorable songs across its span in a way that would be unfair to ask of a debut. The potential for what both bands can turn into down the line played a part in the picks, but something else they share between them is that the quality of the work they’re doing now warrants the top spots. Orion and Elephant Tree were great albums, not just great first albums.

From there, we see a wide swath of next-generation encouragement for the future of heavy rock, whether it’s coming from Sweden’s Vokonis or Philadelphia’s Heavy Temple, or London’s Bright Curse, or Los Angeles duo BigPig. The latter act’s punkish fuzz definitely benefited from guitarist/vocalist Dino von Lalli‘s experience playing in Fatso Jetson, but one hopes that as the years go on his own multifaceted songwriting style will continue to grow as well.

A few offerings weren’t necessarily unexpected but still lived up to the anticipation. High Fighter‘s EP prefaced their aggro sludgecore well. Ditto that for the grueling death-sludge of Massachusetts natives Conclave. The aforementioned Bright Curse, Merchant, Fuzz Evil, Atala, Bellringer, Holy Grove, Wretch and Worshipper all had offerings of one sort or another prior to their full-length debuts — in the case of Bellringer, it was just a series of videos, while Wretch had the entire The Gates of Slumber catalog to fall back on — but each of those albums offered surprises nonetheless.

It would’ve been hard not to be taken by the songwriting on display from the likes of Holy Grove, Year of the Cobra, Pale Grey Lore and Beastmaker, who between them covered a pretty broad variety of atmosphere but found ways to deliver high-quality crafted material in that. Those albums were a pleasure to hear. Put Boston’s Worshipper in that category as well, though they were just as much a standout from the pack in terms of their performance as what they were performing. Speaking of performance, the lush melodies from Church of the Cosmic Skull and classic progressive flourish were enough to make me a believer. Simply gorgeous. And one-man outfit Spirit Adrift shined, if in that matte-black doom kind of way, on an encouraging collection of modern melancholic heavy that seemed to hint at sprawl to come.

As we get down to the bottom of the list we find Pennsylvania ambient heavy post-rockers King Dead. Their Woe and Judgment was released digitally last year (2015) but the LP came out earlier this year, so I wasn’t quite sure where to place them ultimately. I know they got some mention on the 2015 lists somewhere, but while they’re an act who’ve flown under a lot of people’s radar as yet, I have good feelings about how they might continue to dig into their sound and the balance of bleakness and psychedelic color they bring to their material. They’re slated for a follow-up in 2017, so this won’t be the last list on which they appear in the next few weeks.

Like I said at the outset, putting out a debut album is a special moment for any band. Not everyone gets to that point and not everyone gets beyond it, so while a list like this is inherently bound to have some element of speculation, it’s still a worthy endeavor to celebrate the accomplishments of those who hit that crucial moment in their creative development. Hopefully these acts continue to grow, flourish, and build on what they’ve thus far been able to realize sonically. That’s the ideal.

And before I go, once again, let me reinforce the notion that I recognize this is just a fraction of the whole. I’d like it to be the start of a conversation. If there was a debut album that kicked your ass this year and you don’t see it here, please drop a note in the comments below. I’m sure I’ll be adding more honorable mentions and whatnot over the next couple days, so if you see glaring omissions, let’s have ’em.

Thanks for reading.

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Fuzz Evil Begin Lyric Video Series with “Killing the Sun”

Posted in Bootleg Theater on November 2nd, 2016 by JJ Koczan

fuzz evil

A righteous hook is never a bad place to start, and Arizona heavy rock trio Fuzz Evil certainly have that working in their favor as they begin a new series of lyric videos from their self-titled debut (review here). My understanding is that it’s their intent to create a clip to coincide with each of the six tracks on the album, which came out on Battleground Records at the end of September, and they begin with the catchy and uptempo “Killing the Sun.” Among the cuts surrounding, it’s one of the more purely desert rock in theme and execution, and it finds the Sierra Vista three-piece neck-deep in the classic-style chemistry shared between the lineup of guitarist/vocalist Wayne Rudell, bassist Joey Rudell and drummer Marlin Tuttle, since replaced by Daniel Graves.

Joey Rudell took on the responsibility for putting together the lyric video himself, snagging an awesome public domain space cartoon from archive.org and setting the text to it with some creative, rhythmic editing and a retro font to keep the look consistent. The Rudells have shown a genuine DIY streak over the last couple years, in Fuzz Evil and their other outfit, Powered Wig Machine, as well as in their helming the Borderland Fuzz Fiesta festival, so to find them diving into a task of promoting their first Fuzz Evil album with what will (theoretically at this point; sometimes plans change) basically result in a video for each track seems about consistent to their general operating modus. If you haven’t yet been introduced to the LP, the clip is a charming means of accomplishing that, and if nothing else, think of it as an excuse to pay another visit to a cool track from the record. Not that you really need one, but still.

Credits and links follow the video below.

Enjoy:

Fuzz Evil, “Killing the Sun” lyric video

Credits:
Song From: Fuzz Evil 2016 release “Fuzz Evil”
Written, and owned by Fuzz Evil

Footage: “from Destination Earth”
Downloaded from https://archive.org/
by Sutherland (John) Productions
Published 1956
Usage Public Domain
Sponsor American Petroleum Institute
Audio/Visual Sd, C

Edited by: Joseph Rudell

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Fuzz Evil, Fuzz Evil: The Good Medicine (Plus Full Album Stream)

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on September 30th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

fuzz-evil-fuzz-evil

[Click play above to stream Fuzz Evil’s self-titled debut in its entirety. Album is out today, Sept. 30, on Battleground Records.]

If Arizona trio Fuzz Evil‘s debut album feels like it’s been a long time coming, it hasn’t. The band based in Sierra Vista — near Mexico, but I don’t know if it qualifies as a “border town” — only formed in 2014, and it’s much to the credit of the impression they’ve made thus far that their first full-length hits with such a measure of anticipation.

Released on Battleground Records, Fuzz Evil‘s Fuzz Evil follows behind two prior short outings: a late-2014 split with Chiefs (review here) that marked their first release, and a single, “Born of Iron” (streamed here), that hit in the middle of last year. Both of those showed considerable promise on the part of the band in pushing forth unpretentious desert-minded heavy rock, straightforward in construction and based around an easy flowing songwriting process putting the brotherly pair of guitarist/vocalist Wayne Rudell and bassist Joey Rudell — also both of Powered Wig Machine and organizers of the Borderland Fuzz Fiesta — at the fore in tone and presentation.

Fuzz Evil, the album, marks the farewell of drummer Marlin Tuttle, who has since been replaced by Daniel Graves (also Powered Wig Machine), and the band’s original lineup goes out much the way it came in: on a foundation of quality songs incorporating influences without being overly indebted to them.

I don’t think they’re the kind of band looking to set the world on fire, but the spirit behind the material across the manageable six-track/29-minute span here is genuine, and for as little as Fuzz Evil ask in indulgences of the listener — maybe a couple jammy minutes at the end of closer “Black Dread”; still not much in the grander scheme of existence — what they deliver far outweighs. Six-string wizard Arthur Seay of House of Broken Promises and Unida puts in a guest spot on lead guitar for opener “Good Medicine,” but even his blazing fret work becomes another part of the total impression the band makes, as does the later organ work of Brian Gold, who also recorded, mixed and mastered the collection at Primrose Studio.

One might say the same of the production itself, since from the sound of the crash-in cymbals of “Good Medicine,” Fuzz Evil have a rawness of sound that persists even as they expand outward from the album’s first four tracks into the longer and jammier final two. By the time “Good Medicine” has seen fit to give way to the subsequent “My Fuzz” — some charming self-awareness paired with a strutting riff — it’s even harder to ignore in light of the band’s name how much Rudell‘s guitar tone actually has in common with old Celtic Frost or even circa-1984 Saint Vitus in its bite, playing to both the “fuzz” and the “evil.”

fuzz-evil

Whether that’s on purpose or not, I wouldn’t speculate, but as “My Fuzz” proffers one of the record’s best hooks, it adds depth to the proceedings overall, and speaks at very least to the band’s ability to evoke a varied response. I could be way off any actual influences, in other words, but “Killing the Sun,” which is more post-Queens of the Stone Age in its construction, has some of that underlying darkness too, bolstered by the fact that the vocals are pushed down in the mix under the guitar and bass.

Remembering this is Fuzz Evil‘s first album, and that it’s short, the momentum the Rudells and Tuttle build across the first four tracks is all the more impressive for its flow from one to the next, “My Fuzz” collapsing into the start of “Killing the Sun,” or “Bring Them Through” picking up on the beat from there with a more forward melody in its hook and a mid-paced tempo that does well in setting up the expansion that begins with “Odin Has Fallen” and continues into closer “Black Dread,” the latter also the longest song on Fuzz Evil at just over seven minutes.

Not that Fuzz Evil are going completely off the rails or anything — they keep a consistent sense of craftsmanship — but they space out some wah on “Odin Has Fallen” and in the second half of the track, Wayne drawls out his vocals in a way that reminds of Electric Wizard‘s Jus Oborn, albeit in a much different context. That track finishes with a crash and organ at the beginning of “Black Dread” immediately provides a signal that the palette has expanded.

The aforementioned prior single “Born of Iron” demonstrated a jammier side of Fuzz Evil‘s style, and with its fluid lead work, effects flourish, keys, and languid rhythmic motion, “Black Dread” seems to be building on similar impulses. By its midsection, it’s conjuring howling psychedelia and is locked into the instrumental jam that will carry through its remaining three minutes, each member of the trio playing their part in a final exhibition of the chemistry they’ve established to this point.

Like most of the record before it, “Black Dread” is smooth and will be accessible for the already converted, but the manner in which it adds to the earlier and more straight-ahead material isn’t to be understated. Especially for a debut, it’s a pivotal turn, and one well made. With a few surprises in its overall sound, roughness, songwriting and front-to-back push, Fuzz Evil‘s first expands on the work they have done in setting it up through their singles and sets in motion a creative progression that could continue in any number of directions. It’s reassuring to hear a relatively new band with such a clear idea of who and what they want to be.

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