I know this is probably the least-relevant measure that’s ever been applied to the band, but I’ll take a Kylesa live performance 150 times before I go see Mastodon. The two groups, who pretty much have in common Georgian lineage and a move from the heavier end of sludge thrust into more progressive and melodically conscious fare — not nothing — aren’t really comparable at this point, with Mastodon having gotten a major label push a significant-enough difference to make them largely apples and oranges and Kylesa pretty much having broken up (at least for now) last year following the release of the apparently-aptly-titled Exhausting Fire through Season of Mist in 2015, but still. I’m just saying. Kylesa were fucking awesome live every time I saw them.
They’ll release Live at Maida Vale Studios on April 22. It’s their fourth outing for Season of Mist, which makes me wonder what the terms of their contract with the label might’ve been after three studio outings in Exhausting Fire, 2013’s Ultraviolet (review here) and 2010’s Spiral Shadow (review here). For some reason, three-album deals and five-album deals seem more likely in my head than four-album deals, which of course Live at Maida Vale Studios would fulfill. Odd.
Okay. Whatever happens with Kylesa in the future, remember they never stopped progressing. PR wire has art and details:
KYLESA release Record Store Day exclusive, “Live at Maida Vale Studios”
Savannah’s genre-defying heavy rock group KYLESA will see the release of ‘Live at Maida Vale Studios’ as part of Record Store Day 2017. ‘Live at Maida Vale…’ captures KYLESA’s February 2014 BBC Radio 1 Rock Show session in its entirety, and has never been commercially available before. The session was recorded with BBC DJ Daniel P. Carter for the BBC program “Rock Show with Daniel P Carter”.
The track list for ‘Live at Maide Vale…’ is: 1. Quicksand 2. Long Gone 3. Don’t Look Back 4. To Forget
‘Live at Maida Vale…’ is a one time pressing of 1500 12″ LPs, 1000 CDs, and 150 cassettes and will be available on April 22 2017 at independent record stores worldwide. A full list of confirmed Record Store Day special releases and more can be found here.
Maida Vale Studios is a complex of seven BBC sound studios in London.The historic set of studios have seen musical performances dating back from 1946 to the present. Past performances have include music from legendary rock icons such as DAVID BOWIE, LED ZEPPELIN, JIMI HENDRIX and many more.
KYLESA’s most recent studio release is their critically acclaimed record ‘Exhausting Fire’. ‘Exhausting Fire’, which is available across several CD and LP formats at the Season of Mist E-Shop. The album is streaming via Bandcamp, and is also available on Spotify.
Posted in Radio on February 6th, 2017 by JJ Koczan
A round of adds to The Obelisk Radio once a month doesn’t seem like too much to ask, right? Well, it probably will be as the rest of the year plays out amid my meandering attention span, onslaught of reviews, etc., but for now, I’m at least two-for-two on 2017, and that should count for something. I won’t speculate as to what.
Pretty varied batch this time around, with some familiar names stepping outside what might be perceived as their comfort zone and others digging into various traditions in rock, blues, psych, sludge and doom. Much as I try to keep the stream running at all times — one has server blips; it happens — I also try to mix things up at least in a context that makes sense from one song to the next, though every now and again as I listen I hear something that completely blindsides me. That can be fun too.
As always, I hope you find something in here you dig.
The Obelisk Radio adds, Feb. 6, 2017:
For those who know guitarist Ben McLeod for the bluesy, psychedelic flow he brings to the languid jamming of All Them Witches, no doubt the Inflamed debut from his Woodsplitter solo/side-project is going to be a marked surprise. That would seem to be at least in part the intent. Working in a fire-fueled vein of instrumental progressive metal, “Liturgy” introduces a sense of extremity yet unheard from McLeod. Backed only by his own programmed drums, self-recorded, -mixed and -released, it’s a 39-minute mostly-onslaught that calls to mind a sans-vocal Genghis Tron at times while perhaps nodding at Steve Vai technicality via Devin Townsend‘s more metallized approach. McLeod locks in a plodding groove on “Fatty’s Waltz,” but even this is a bold step stylistically, and subsequent “Pile” and two-part title-track — the second piece of which secures Inflamed‘s ultimate triumph — only continue the push into experimentation. Ultimately, McLeod lands sure-footed in this exploration, showcasing roots that many who’ll take on Woodsplitter probably didn’t know he had — including some post-rock layering at the tail end of closer “The Weather Outside is Frightful” — and setting up a future progression almost entirely distinct from that of his main outfit. Won’t be for everybody, but hits with an equal measure of purpose and force.
As to what unites Georgian five-piece Dead Hand and Floridian trio Shroud Eater on this late-2016 Southern Druid Records split 7″, it won’t take long to figure out. Both bands are heavy as hell. With “Guaiacol” from the former going head-to-head with the latter’s “Destroy the Monolith” it becomes a contest of churn vs. roll, Dead Hand taking an atmospheric approach that feels in comparison more derived from post-metal than Shroud Eater‘s nonetheless spacious sludgy pummeling. Either way you go, you’re getting crushed by a six-minute track that seems only to revel in the cruelty of its lumbering, Dead Hand‘s chug arriving over a torrent of double-kickdrum before opening to a more forward thrust on “Guaiacol” and locking into a nod that persists even in the relatively minimalist midsection before, the lumbering, growling extremity resumes. As a title like “Destroy the Monolith” might hint, Shroud Eater aren’t exactly taking it easy either. With a multi-vocalist arrangement and vastness of groove, they represent their core sound well as a precursor to the awaited arrival of their second album hopefully sometime in 2017. It’s a quick release — in and out in 12 minutes — but both acts are bound to make an impression on the listener as each shows off their own brand of brutality.
Issued through EXAG Records, the oddly-but-somehow-appropriately-stylized D. Klein is the second full-length from Belgium’s Moaning Cities, who seem as much at home in referencing The Velvet Underground and The Stooges on “Solitary Hawk” as drifting out All Them Witches-esque on the earlier “Sex Sells.” At 10 tracks/39 minutes, the Brussels-based outfit don’t express any particular need to settle into one sound-niche or another, but they keep a languid flow of psychedelic heavy blues in songs like “Insomnia” and the poetically-stomping “Vertigo Rising” that makes the okay-it’s-freakout-time arrival of the penultimate “Drag” all the more satisfying, even if their clear element of control is well maintained throughout. Flourish like the electronic beats in opener “Expected” and the soundscaping guitar in the finale “Daggers” add further depth to a release that already offers plenty, but Moaning Cities retain a classy, nigh-on-chic atmosphere without losing the tonal substance needed beneath to hold up such a strong aesthetic presentation. Whether they’re digging into ’90s alt vibes on “Born Again” — Violent Femmes goes West? — or tossing some sitar to go along with the spoken word of “Yell-Oh-Bahn,” Moaning Cities thrive on never quite letting their listeners know what’s coming next, and that nuance suits D. Klein well.
Between its five-minute, horror-sample-topped intro “Breaking Wheel” and its corresponding five-minute, horror-sample-topped outro “Magical Law,” Wartime‘s Wartime Vol. 1 delves so deep into classic doom via NWOBHM cultishness that I’m amazed Shadow Kingdom Records has yet to pick it up for a release. The Colombian trio’s 2016 debut, it’s as effective in the moodiness of its acoustic centerpiece “A Whisper” as in the brash Sabbathism of the eponymous “Wartime,” and an overarching rawness in the tracks only feeds the vision of doomed purity within them. Pressed in a limited number of CDs that, like their prior 2015 demo tape, are already long gone, it’s a fist-pump-worthy execution of doom for doomers that asks little by way of indulgences and delivers much in riff, metal-of-yore ambience and the songcraft of drummer/vocalist Alejandro, guitarist D-Pig and bassist Scum, who hold onto a punkish thrust for “Another Reality” before the Vitus-style plod of “Wicked Son.” Children of doom indeed. At 32 minutes, it’s on the shorter end of a full-length album, but it unquestionably sets the groundwork for an LP-style flow, and as Wartime‘s debut, impresses double with the realization of its conceptual bleakness. Special thanks to Juan Lopez for the recommendation on this one. I’m glad I got to check it out and will look forward to what Wartime do next.
I’ve been doing my dernedest to keep up with Australian one-man outfit Megaritual since getting hip to the White Dwarf aptly-named LP compilation, Mantra Music (review here), late last year. The product of multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Dale Paul Walker, Megaritual followed that release with the 25-minute single-song Eclipse EP (review here), and it’s to that offering that the 18-minute single-tracker Temple seems to have direct lineage, though actually the recording dates back further, to 2013/2014, and finds Walker joined by drummer Govinda Das in a duo incarnation of the band. Not entirely to find “Temple” is a little older, since Megaritual seem to be finding the patience later shown throughout the Mantra Music EPs that comprised the vinyl and then Eclipse afterward here, but you absolutely will not find me complaining about the edge of tonal buzz that complements the massive riff of this track, nor the improvised-sounding spaces around it being explored early on, nor the noise/drone that plays out over the course of the second half. If this is Walker giving a look at the project’s origins, he would seem to have come into Megaritual with an expressive concept in mind, and while it’s clear he’s put himself to the task of refining it, Temple demonstrates it was immersive even in its most formative moments.
There’s a repeated line in the opener of Zoroaster‘s Matador (review here) that would seem to sum up the entire attitude of the album. It goes: ‘Don’t tell me how to die.’ I’m not sure if I’d call it part of a chorus, but it comes up once or twice in “D.N.R.” and as the last line of the song, is the lead-in to the bizarro crush that follows throughout the Atlanta-based doomers’ 2010 swansong. I recall when I first heard the record — which arrived just one year after their second outing, 2009’s Voice of Saturn (review here), as their debut on E1 Music — it took a while to settle in, and by that I mean I didn’t completely understand what the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Will Fiore, bassist/vocalist Brent Anderson and drummer Dan Scanlan were doing with their sound. I’d followed their progress since their 2005 self-titled CD demo through the self-released 2007 debut, Dog Magic, and on from there, and everything they did from outing to outing showed clear growth from one to the next, but when the nine-track/44-minute Matador hit with its swirling, Sanford Parker-produced spaciousness, the prevailing vibe was so weird that I was caught almost entirely off-guard. One expected big riffs and grooves from Zoroaster. One didn’t expect the chants and meditations of “Old World.” It took some getting used to.
On the off-chance you clicked the review link in the first sentence of this post, you’ll see I did eventually adjust my consciousness to Matador‘s wavelength. Took me a minute, but I got there. The record came out in July 2010 — I had an interview with Fiore up to mark the release; spoke to him a few times over the years and he never remembered me but was always cool to talk to — and by then I was ready to proclaim it one of the year’s best. Six years later, I stand by that. It would wind up being Zoroaster‘s final album, but at the time, Matador sounded like it was just the beginning, and in that blend of psychedelia and the churning sludge from whence they emerged, Fiore, Anderson and Scanlan discovered a sound that was truly their own — one only bolstered by Parker‘s production. Their years of hard touring paid off in pure aesthetic achievement, and whether it was the rawer thrust of “Ancient Ones,” the soaring leads of “Trident,” the meaner shouts of “Black Hole” or the languid vibes of “Odyssey II,” a companion-piece to righteous and deceptively catchy third cut “Odyssey,” and the final gravity well of its title-track, Matador was immersive across its span in a way that neither Voice of Saturn nor Dog Magic could’ve possibly been. That’s not to say anything against either of those LPs, which I wouldn’t do, just that the effort Zoroaster put into what they did came to fruition in these tracks, and as we moved into the current decade, they seemed poised to be among the forerunners of adventurous, forward thinking US doom. New label, more expansive sound, touring as much as ever — there were few safer bets to make.
Accordingly, that’s not at all how it went. These years later, I’m somewhat amazed that in the array of reunions happening, nobody has kicked around Zoroaster‘s name as one due for a resurgence. Maybe it’s too soon — the last touring I heard of from them was with Church of Misery in 2013; by then, Anderson was out of the band and replaced by Mike Morris — but their laser lightshow was always welcome every time I was able to catch it and I can’t imagine their presentation wouldn’t find favor amid the new generation of heavy aficionados that has surfaced in increasing numbers since the band’s departure. We may or may not get there eventually — you won’t find me daring to predict, having sort of learned my lesson in that regard — but the point is that both live and in the studio, Zoroaster were a special group and delivered something that no one else did in quite the same way. I have to wonder what planes of existence they might’ve moved to had they kept going after Matador, where all this lysergic weight would’ve carried them. As it stands, one can find Anderson in Order of the Owl, who released their We are Here to Collect Our Crown EP earlier this year following up on 2012’s In the Noon of the After Day full-length debut, while Fiore rounds out the four-piece incarnation of Royal Thunder, who will reportedly have a new record out in 2017. Last I heard, Scanlan, who was an absolute difference-maker especially on stage, wasn’t currently with a band.
Whether Zoroaster ever make a return is something the years will tell, but in revisiting Matador so long after the fact, it’s even more obvious to me how much they had to offer. If you were into it at the time or if it’s new to you now, I hope you enjoy.
It was a quiet week overall, though it hardly started that way on Monday driving back from holiday celebrations with family in New Jersey. Granted we stopped for dinner, but seven-plus hours of a four-hour trip felt perhaps needlessly brutal. Fortunately, I had plenty of time to recover with the week off from work. And that’s exactly what I did. Errands here and there, and it turned out to be the perfect span for the Quarterly Review — which wraps on Monday — since otherwise it was pretty quiet, but in the main it was delicious food prepared not at all in a post-workday panic, hanging out with The Patient Mrs. playing Final Fantasy XV, making our way through the entirety of the Die Hard film franchise, etc.
Call it a reminder of how much I prefer existence when I can wake up and write every day on my own terms; of what I want my life to be. I need weeks like this.
Next week, a return to somewhat frenetic normalcy. Here’s what I’ve got planned so far, subject to change as always:
SUN: Year-End Poll results.
MON: Quarterly Review Day 6 and a new video from The Progerians.
TUE: Sgt. Sunshine review and Drone Hunter video.
WED: Review/premiere from Blood Mist, announcement from Hair of the Dog.
THU: Much-delayed Surya Kris Peters review, video premiere from Drive by Wire.
FRI: Sergio Ch. review slated as of now, but that might shift.
Lots of good stuff to come as we get into 2017. I’ve got my list of most anticipated releases coming together — it’s over 100 strong at this point. I want a week or two to solidify things further and give myself a break from writing lists generally, but it’ll be posted before the end of January.
In the meantime, as noted above, the motherload of lists — the results of the Year-End Poll — goes up this weekend, so stay tuned for that. As of this post, it’s still a really close race as it has been all month, and we’ve totally blown away last year’s number of contributors by nearly 200, so I’m very, very pleased with how it’s all turning out. Of course, everyone’s list will be included as always. It will be massive and probably crash the site, but whatever. Poll-time comes but once a year.
I say this every week, but if you’re the type to celebrate New Year’s, it’s especially true: Please be safe and have a great time. No DUIs, no fireworks blowing off hands, none of that shit. Not saying you can’t enjoy yourself, just saying no casualties. The universe needs all the rockers it can get.
Alright, that’s it for me. Can’t say I’ll mourn 2016’s passing, as it was a rough one on any number of levels personal and otherwise, but let’s all look forward and hope for better times to come. Please know you have my best wishes.
Posted in Whathaveyou on October 28th, 2016 by JJ Koczan
I’m a pretty easy sell at this point on Shroud Eater anything. Presumably the Miami trio’s forthcoming split seven-incher alongside Georgian doomers Dead Hand will serve as a precursor to their upcoming STB Records full-length, Strike the Sun, which was announced over the summer and (also) presumably will be out early 2017. Not a moment too soon, frankly, and while I don’t know if their inclusion on the split, which will be out on Southern Druid Records and is available to preorder now, will show up on the LP as well, if it does then it’s a preview for the record and if it doesn’t then it’s a bonus for those who seek it out. Either way, it’s not like you really lose. But then again, like I say, I’m a pretty easy sell.
Release date for the split is Nov. 21. Info follows from the PR wire:
SHROUD EATER / DEAD HAND split 7″
Dead Hand and Shroud Eater join forces to deliver this sonic pummeling of a 7″.
Shroud Eater brings their Miami Sludge groove harder than ever on “Destroy the Monolith”. Dead Hand prove once again that they are masters of Doom with their track “Guaiacol”.
Pre-order ships on 11/21/16.
Brooding Miami riff sorcerers SHROUD EATER continue to deliver crushing alms to the altar of heavy. Riding high off the frenetic energy of their last release, the trio are releasing a newly recorded version of slow-churning wickedness in “Destroy the Monolith”. The song will be released on a split 7″ with Georgia’s tone lords Dead Hand. The split is set to be released 11-18-2016 via Jacksonville’s Southern Druid Records.
Starting as an idea in 2012, Dead Hand hit the ground running with a split 7 inch with Philly shredders, Repellers in Jan 2014 on Divine Mother Recordings.Mastered by Dan Randall of Mammoth Sound (Ash Borer, Noothgrush, Unearthly Trance), the split received stellar reviews. An EP in July 2014 and regional touring filled up the remainder of the year. In June 2015, Dead Hand released their first full length, “Storm of Demiurge” on Divine Mother Recordings in the USA and Third I Rex in Europe.
Georgia-based trio Stars that Move released their self-titled debut (review here) in the second half of last year, so that they’d turn around and bring forth a follow-up in less than 12 months’ time in the form of No Riders (on Twin Earth Records) comes across as something of a surprise initially. In truth, the quick turnaround is in line with the band’s ’70s ethic — Black Sabbath released their self-titled debut in Feb. 1970 and answered back with Paranoid in September of that same year. Whether that’s the thinking behind Stars that Move‘s desire to press forward beyond their first album, some of the material from which was also featured on a prior Demo Songs EP (review here), I don’t know, but the three-piece of guitarist/bassist Richard Bennett, drummer Frank Sikes and vocalist Elisa Maria definitely draw from that well stylistically, so it would make a kind of sense to follow suit in their methods.
Could be the debut was recorded earlier or Bennett and Sikes — both of whom play/ed in Starchild as well — had the material and decided to track it, but No Riders, which clocks in at an utterly manageable 29 minutes, does show progression from where Stars that Move started out just months ago. That’s something of an impressive feat — consider that some bands take years between records and don’t grow at all — but in addition to Maria sounding more comfortable on vocals, the band seems to have set about smoothing edges in their songwriting in a way that sets up even more of a flow across the included eight tracks than was featured last time out.
An encouraging sign, no doubt, but No Riders is still just months removed from Stars that Move, so one wouldn’t necessarily expect the second record to be leaps and bounds ahead of the first. Opener “The Devil’s Fountain” finds the band reestablishing the post-Uncle Acid riffing that worked so well on “The Blue Prince” from the self-titled and backing it with some proggy noodling on the guitar, buried deep in the verses. The sound on No Riders overall is clearer and fuller, less demo-feeling, and as “The Devil’s Fountain” gives way to the more shuffling “Witchtower,” Stars that Move seem to be right in their element, somewhere between modern cult heavy rock, classic proto-doom and fuzzy psychedelia.
With echo on Maria‘s voice, “Castles” takes a subtler approach rhythmically, is a little more subdued in its beginning, but finds Bennett nailing down a bluesy solo that’s a multi-layered joy of Iommic tendencies, feeding back to the verse before a long fadeout brings the shorter “Lost Beyond the Stars,” the end of side A and something of a stylistic landmark, with a faster push and backing vocals behind Maria that further distinguish it from its surroundings. Again, at 2:26, it’s in and out quickly, but “Lost Beyond the Stars” is a definite example of the progress Stars that Move are making as a band. Whether it’s indicative of an overall direction they might head, faster songs with more of a straightforward thrust, departing the swing of “Witchtower” or “Oh Sharon” still to come, I wouldn’t speculate, but it already shows variety growing in their songcraft, and for that is a highlight.
Expansion of process is what I’m talking about on a general level, and that will continue in the second half of No Riders as well, less in cuts like closer “People of the Sea,” which seems in direct conversation with “The Devil’s Fountain” in its purpose and execution, and more in the cover of ZZ Top‘s “TV Dinners,” which has an ultra-simple, no-way-it’s-taking-itself-too-seriously lyric — it’s actually about tv dinners — and shows that while they might start out with the creeper-doom of “Burning Village,” Stars that Move are nnot limited to cultish imagery by any means. They remain exceedingly catchy either way, but where “Burning Village” exudes grim classicism and “Oh Sharon” follows with a more upbeat garage inflection, “TV Dinners” would be punk if its central riff wasn’t straight out of an early ’80s arena rock playbook.
The self-titled had a cover of Sabbath‘s “A National Acrobat,” so “TV Dinners” feels like a reasonable answer for that and is a mega-hook departure before “People of the Sea” caps off with layered guitar boogie and a return to the ethereal heavy swing that the beginning of the album set forth. Though consistent in its sound, No Riders actually benefits from its variation in mood and rhythm. I wouldn’t call it anything but guitar-led on the whole, but Bennett steers the songwriting with a mind toward classic LP structuring, and that suits the material well. Whenever they get around to a third one, maybe sooner, maybe later, it’ll be worth keeping an eye out for, but in the meantime, Stars that Move have established themselves in a niche of post-Sabbathian heavy rock that’s both loyal to its sources and moving toward an identity of its own.
Posted in Whathaveyou on November 19th, 2015 by JJ Koczan
The forthcoming Pillars of Ash by Savannah, Georgia, trio Black Tusk represents their final recorded work with bassist/vocalist Jonathan Athon, who passed away a year ago following a motorcycle accident. The hard-touring outfit — who’ve since recruited Corey Barhorst, formerly of Kylesa and who just released a new record called Heading East (review here) with his other band, Niche, as their third member — will no doubt hit the road in the New Year to support the new album, but preorders are up now and nothing has yet been announced for shows.
Jan. 29 is the release date, Relapse is the label, Joel Grind of Toxic Holocaust the producer. Details and the new song “God’s on Vacation” follow from the PR wire:
BLACK TUSK ANNOUNCE ‘PILLARS OF ASH’ LP & PREMIERE NEW SONG
Savannah, GA’s Black Tusk have established themselves as one of the hardest working bands in rock since their formation over 10 years ago. After four full-lengths, numerous splits and EP’s and thousands of shows under their belts, the punk/metal power trio was faced with an immense and unexpected tragedy in late 2014 when founding bassist/vocalist Jonathan Athon passed away after a motorcycle accident in his hometown. Now, as a testament to his profound and lasting legacy on the heavy music scene, the band are releasing Pillars of Ash, their final recordings with Athon, on January 29th, 2016 via Relapse Records. Recorded with Toxic Holocaust’s Joel Grind behind the boards and featuring gorgeous artwork by Jeremy Hush (Skeletonwitch, Rwake), Pillars of Ash is the culmination of three brothers-in-arms’ blood, sweat and tears, and is Black Tusk’s finest accomplishment to date.
Formed in 2005 by Athon, guitarist Andrew Fidler and drummer James May, Black Tusk hit the ground running and toured relentlessly on their first EP, When Kingdoms Fall. They kept up a manic pace, recording two more demos (2006’s untitled demo and 2007’s The Fallen Kingdom). Hyperrealist signed on to release their debut LP, 2008’s Passage Through Purgatory, and 2009 saw them churn out a trio of splits with the likes of The Holy Mountain, ASG, and Fight Amp. Soon after, the band signed to Relapse and formed a partnership that lasts to this day, first collaborating on their 2010 breakthrough Taste the Sin and then on their highly ¬anticipated 2011 follow up, Set the Dial. Since then, Black Tusk have released a pair of EP’s—2013’s Tend No Wounds and the digital¬-only 2014 EP Vulture’s Eye—and kept pounding the pavement in the United States, Europe, and the UK alongside bands like Red Fang, Kvelertak, Down, Municipal Waste, Fu Manchu, Inter Arma, Intronaut, and so many others, as well as being hand¬picked to appear on Metallica’s Orion Festival in 2012.
In 2014, Black Tusk hit the studio with their old friend and accomplished audio engineer, Joel Grind, to work on Pillars of Ash. Before they could get their new record into stores and jump back up in their big white tour van, though, the band suffered a setback beyond what most could even imagine. In November, mere weeks before the band was due to kick off their biggest tour yet, Athon was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident. Several days later, on November 9, 2014, he passed away at the age of 31, leaving behind hundreds of friends, family members, and his beloved dog Cutter as well as his brothers in Black Tusk. Support poured in from fans, friends, and fellow musicians from around the world; stunned, Andrew and James laid down their instruments and tried to process the loss. For a few weeks, the band’s future was uncertain, but ultimately, the remaining duo made the difficult decision to soldier on and carry on in Athon’s memory. Athon himself could have chosen no better successor than Corey Barhorst, a longtime friend and veteran musician who heads up his own project, Niche, and previously held down the low end for Kylesa. Barhorst initially joined the band as a live member in time for their European tour with Black Label Society, but after that, was welcomed into the fold as a full-blooded member of Black Tusk.
Black Tusk have lived through the kind of hardship and heartbreak that would cripple a lesser band, but it’s that dedication, gumption, and pure bullheaded stubbornness that’s taken them around the world and as far away from the lacey Spanish moss and sweltering streets of Savannah than any of them could’ve dared dream.
Look for Pillars of Ash to be available January 29th, 2016 and stay tuned for more news coming soon.
Pillars of Ash, track listing: 1. God’s On Vacation 2. Desolation of Endless Times 3. Bleed on Your Knees 4. Born of Strife 5. Damned in the Ground 6. Beyond the Divide 7. Black Tide 8. Still Not Well 9. Walk Among the Sky 10. Punk Out 11. Leveling
Posted in audiObelisk on November 6th, 2015 by JJ Koczan
The prevailing vibe is vibe, and the vibe is its own excuse for vibing. In the first 20 seconds of their third album, Heading East, Savannah, Georgia’s Niche offer a glimpse at Thin Lizzy meeting up with Queen for summertime harmonies. Plus heavy. Plus Mellotron. Really, it’s the kind of launch that so immediately soothes, there’s little to do but throw up your hands and admit to yourself you’re hooked for the duration. Fortunately, Niche do not disappoint from there. Instead, they build on the pastoral feel with liberal doses of organ and a persistence of melody that comes not in contrast to tonal or rhythmic weight, but in collusion with it.
Dual-guitar leads from Justin Dick (also vocals) and Kristopher Maedke-Russell (also also vocals) ring through a crisp classic heavy rock dogwhistle to those clued in to the aforementioned Irish pioneers, but with the organ/key work of Corey Barhorst and the fluid rhythms of bassist Michael Redmond and drummer Lee Vallier, a song like “When I’m Gone” digs into its own creative space, sounding rich but not overcooked as it meanders through an extended instrumental jam in which all five parties involved take advantage of an opportunity to shine. “When I’m Gone” is one of two longer (over eight-minute) inclusions on Heading East — they’re arranged one per side; the other is closer “Days to Come” at 9:21 — and as far out as it goes, it leaves room to come back to the chorus at the end, Niche keeping songwriting at the fore even as they deliver highlight performances.
“On Down the Line” is a reminder of how Steely Dan‘s hits happened, an inviting vocal arrangement at the forefront, but like with the guitars of “Exiled to Islands,” Barhorst‘s keys do much to enrich the proceedings. Barhorst is a former Kylesa bassist (currently also in Black Tusk), and Heading East was recorded by that band’s Philip Cope at The Jam Room in Colombia, South Carolina, and released on Kylesa‘s Retro Futurist Records imprint, but there’s little sonic comparison between the two to be made. Niche‘s sound is progressive in its way, but the earthy psychedelia they exude as “On Down the Line” Mellotrons its way toward the conclusion of side A is geared toward establishing an organic, classic-styled flow.
And while vinyl is the clear intent in the album’s structure, “Sweet Dear Anne” picks up with a logical continuation of the spirit of “On Down the Line,” moving into even more peaceful stylizations, reminiscent of some of what Night Horse did on their second record in terms of patience with a core of memorable craftsmanship behind it, but the pace gets a boot in the second half and that sets up “Tough and Mean” still to come. They never go so far as to start issuing threats, but Niche get a big thicker on the six-track offering’s penultimate cut, shifting from the quiet final measures of “Sweet Dear Anne” into a swell of lead guitar and cymbal wash that builds over the course of its first minute into the bed for a proto-metallic chug. They’re still having a good time, but the mood is a discernible turn from the song preceding, and in true side B fashion, it expands the context of the album overall, even as it underscores a lot of what has tied the whole release together in a toss-off reference to “the boys” as it winds to its ending.
Somewhat grander in its purposes, “Days to Come” closes out more in a classic prog vein, the early vocal melody in league with late-period Hypnos 69 likely by coincidence, but still, and seems less of a mind to provide a summary of what’s come before it than to expand on it with something even more lush. The one works just as well as the other might, honestly, given how in control of their sound Niche have been all along. The essential difference between “When I’m Gone” and “Days to Come” is that the closer doesn’t make that return to the verse, instead thrusting into more open spaces on propulsive soloing in an entirely instrumental second two-thirds that builds in pace and energy until an inevitable big rock finish brings “the set” to a close. Even in that moment, Niche remain wholesome, and if the last 15 seconds or so of their record is a bit of an indulgence, it’s one well-earned by Heading East‘s 38 minutes prior.
Today I have the pleasure of hosting “When I’m Gone” from Heading East as a track premiere. Please find it on the player below, followed by more about the record from the PR wire, and enjoy:
With two previous self-released albums under their belt — So Be It and The Other Side Of The End, which were both recorded by their good friend Chris Adams — in December 2014, NICHE went to The Jam Room in Colombia, South Carolina to record their third album with longtime friend Phillip Cope of Kylesa at the helm of producing the album, the first release with their current lineup. Titled Heading East, the album catapults six new tracks with nearly forty minutes of mega rich, perfectly hazy, psychedelically-induced classic rock fueled and jacked-up for modern times, completed with beautiful, kaleidoscopic artwork by Samantha Muljat.
Offers NICHE’s Michael Redmond about the new release, “The music scene in Savannah has always been a family to me; we work, play, live, love, cry and party together. We help and support each other. I could not be happier that something I’m so proud of will be released by friends and musicians here in Savannah.”
Heading East will see release through Retro Futurist on digital and CD November 13th with a vinyl pressing to follow in early 2016.
NICHE Live: 12/11/2015 The Jinx – Savannah, GA w/ Caustic Casanova
Posted in Reviews on September 11th, 2015 by JJ Koczan
The self-titled debut full-length from Georgian trio Stars that Move is a richly stylistic and still somewhat understated affair. To explain: tonally, in its classic swing and garage-buzz presentation, topped off with stare-at-it-long-enough-and-lose-your-mind artwork by David Paul Seymour, the eight-track offering is clear in its aesthetic intent. Touches of cult rock pervade songs like “The Blue Prince” and “She that Rules the King,” but that’s not necessarily the entirety of the band’s context. More pivotal to the experience of the album than any thematic leaning in the lyrics are the swaying rhythms that take hold with opener “I Hold a Gaze” and remain firmly in place leading to the spaciousness of closer “Burning in Flames.”
Both the opener and the closer, as well as “The Blue Prince,” “She that Rules the King” and the penultimate acoustic interlude “No Evil Star” were included on Stars that Move‘s earlier-2015 Demo Songs EP (review here) in what may well have been the same recordings. Likewise, the Black Sabbath cover “A National Acrobat” that serves (“No Evil Star” notwithstanding) as the centerpiece of the album, was previously issued as a digital single, but if the full-length was compiled from past recordings, its sound is consistent and its flow uninterrupted. All of this, and it’s still fair to call Stars that Move “somewhat understated,” as above, because it’s only 25 minutes long. In fact, the only song that touches the four-minute mark is the Sabbath cover, and for the rest of what the three-piece of vocalist Elisa Maria, guitarist Richard Bennett and drummer Frank Sikes create, the core structures are so straightforward and traditional that, while stylistically elaborate, they retain a wide accessibility. A catchy song is a catchy song.
Stars that Move have plenty of them. Bennett and Sikes both being members of underrated stoner-doomers Starchild — also not shy about covering Sabbath in their day, or Sleep — one might expect tonal overload, but that’s not what this band is about. The upshot of “I Hold a Gaze” and “The Blue Prince” one into the next is that a lot of the impression is left to Maria to carry, but between her layering and the grit in Bennett‘s guitar, which, as anyone who ever heard Starchild can tell you is not an accident — he is someone who has given considerable thought and effort to crafting a tone — the initial vibe of Stars that Move feels somewhat derived from Uncle Acid but working in its own vein as well.
“From East to West,” which follows, is one of two songs not traced to a prior outing — either Demo Songs or the Jan. 2015 No Evil Star EP — the other being “The Hidden Hand,” which arrives after “A National Acrobat,” and has more bounce than swing, but ultimately works in a similar mindset, though Maria‘s vocals come through less layered and more distinct. The same could be said of “The Hidden Hand,” but that song is even further distinguished by the open groove of its chorus and psychedelic lead-work that emerges in the second half, less directly Iommic than that of “The Blue Prince,” though whether that’s a result of actually being newer or just something easily read into the narrative of what I know about the recordings, I couldn’t say. Either way, “A National Acrobat” between them, they seem to stand out all the more, though I won’t take anything away from Stars that Move‘s version of the Sabbath classic or how well the trio adapt it to their own aesthetic. Maria even adds the Ozzy laugh “Ha-ha!” as it swirls toward the end, though ultimately its Bennett whose performance proves the most striking in taking on such broadly identifiable solos.
It is short, true, but Stars that Move is likewise hypnotic, and while the cover will be somewhat jarring on a first listen through if only because it’s likely the audience will know the original version, “The Hidden Hand” restores the trance with its interlaced leads and start-stop riffing, resulting in what’s to that point the most psychedelic push yet. That might make “She that Rules the King” a return to earth, but the hook retains some airiness amid the strutting central riffs, and so the vibe once again is maintained leading to “No Evil Star” — which appeared both on Demo Songs and as the intro to the EP that shared its name; “Burning in Flames” followed on both releases as well — perhaps no less Sabbathian than the cover for its “Laguna Sunrise”-style feel and thoughtful acoustic strum.
No question as to why “Burning in Flames” would be paired with it across three separate offerings: it works. Also based around acoustic guitar, the finale of the album is also its most atmospheric cut and hits its mark around the lines, “We are the world/Burning in flames,” delivered in Maria‘s most confident declaration here, even if it is the prior recording repurposed. It’s a quiet finish to Stars that Move, but effective, and even it gives some hint at where and how the band might develop moving forward. Because of its quick runtime, I’d almost be tempted to say it’s an EP, but the flow Stars that Move pull off across the span is unmistakable in its aim, and though brief, they deliver a long-player feel and a deceptively broad scope in these tracks, while also establishing a foundation from which to work going into whatever they do next and staking an aesthetic claim that finds them cohesive in sound and approach and varied enough to work in a range of moods. To call it anything other than a successful first album would be denying it its due.