Friday Full-Length: Halfway to Gone, Second Season

Posted in Bootleg Theater on June 2nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Halfway to Gone, Second Season (2002)

A full 15 years since Halfway to Gone put out Second Season? Just over, actually. The sophomore full-length from the New Jersey outfit arrived in March 2002 via Small Stone Records and found the trio a tighter, meaner unit than even their impressive debut, High Five (discussed here), had shown them to be the year before. It was a purposeful play toward accessibility and craftsmanship that, when balanced with the tonal and rhythmic drive of songs like opener “Great American Scumbag” and the later “Lone Star Breakout,” resulted in a special moment for Halfway to Gone and their burgeoning audience alike. Comprised at that point of bassist/vocalist Lou Gorra, guitarist Lee Stuart and drummer Kenny Wagner, the three-piece cut themselves a place within the crowded sphere of NJ’s heavy underground — brimming at that point with bands like SolaceThe Atomic BitchwaxSolarized, etc., etc. — and staked a claim over Southern-stylized heavy rock that no one in the Garden State has been able to topple in the years since. A decade and a half later, Second Season still kicks your ass.

It does so mostly via songwriting. “Great American Scumbag” is the quintessential leadoff and boasts one of the record’s best — if not actually its best — hooks, but cuts like “Already Gone,” which immediately follows, and the post-C.O.C. chug of “Thee Song (A Slight Return)” and especially the bouncing “Whiskey Train” push deeper into thickened Heartland boogie such that by the time the swampy heavy blues of “Outta Smokes” and “Brocktoon’s Wake” arrive — the former distinguished by a guest harp performance from Eric Oblander of Ohio-based Small Stone labelmates Five Horse Johnson — Halfway to Gone are right at home in the down-home, and their balance between high-octane heavy rock and these other elements remains fluid through a burst like “Escape from Earth” and the later mid-tempo nodder “Never Comin’ Home.”

All the while, the band keep no secrets, make no bones about where they’re coming from in their classic influences, and ask absolutely nothing of the listener except maybe an adult beverage to wet the whistle and a bit of rocking out, which Second Season fosters to a nigh-irresistible degree. From the early trippy jam “Black Coffy” through the complementary, penultimate acoustic/electric sleepy vibe-piece “Tryptophan,” the record earns its way to the concluding cover of The Marshall Tucker Band‘s “Can’t You See” that consumes its final five minutes, and which also appeared on Small Stone‘s original Sucking the ’70s compilation in 2002, the group boldly taking on vocal harmonies and a loyalism to the original that speaks to their genuine love for Southern heavy despite their Northern origins.

Further, right from the start of when “Great American Scumbag” first kicks in, Second Season has such a sense of space to its sound. Like the drunken King Kong/Sasquatch/Yeti/whatever it is on its cover art, the record is positively huge, and it retains that largesse whether a given track is loud or quiet, faster or slower, uniting the material and only enhancing the flow of the 43-minute entirety. Having recorded High Five with Charlie Schaefer at W.O.M. Studios, they returned and took a more active role in the production the second time around, and the results speak for themselves in the impact of “Already Gone” and the breadth of the fuzz in “Brocktoon’s Wake.” At its core, Second Season is a great collection of songs, but it’s also a full album, and it resonates on both levels in lasting and righteous fashion.

Two years later, Halfway to Gone would issue their third long-player, Halfway to Gone, with a more mature sound overall, production by Bob Pantella of Monster Magnet (and a slew of engineers), and cuts like “Slidin’ down the Razor,” “Turnpike” and “Couldn’t Even Find a Fight.” By then, Halfway to Gone had been through a couple different drummers — among them Wagner and Sixty Watt Shaman‘s Chuck Dukeheart (now of Fogound and Serpents of Secrecy) — before settling in with Stu‘s brother, Danny Gollin, behind the kit. Perhaps weary from a few years of hard living and considerable time spent on the road, the self-titled would be the final Halfway to Gone offering of their initial run. Stu and Danny launched the new outfit A Thousand Knives of Fire as a two-guitar four-piece with Taj Estrada on bass and Paul Wiegand playing opposite Stu. They released their debut, Last Train to Scornsville, in 2008, killed it at shows up and down the Eastern Seaboard, and faded out as members moved onto other projects and Halfway to Gone regrouped for periodic reunion gigs in Jersey.

Though they’ve continually threatened to issue a follow-up, and as of the last time I saw them — granted it was five years ago now (review here) — they certainly sounded like they had at least one more kickass record in them, the self-titled has remained the third and final Halfway to Gone album since its release in 2004. As noted, through all that time, no one has come to claim their crown, and I expect that if they did ever get it together to produce a fourth outing, they’d be able to pick up where they left off despite the intervening years. That would be my wish for them anyway, but as a fan, I’m hardly impartial in that regard.

Great record. Underrated band. As always, I hope you enjoy.

Was up a dastardly five minutes before the alarm this morning. I suppose that’s better than being awake at 4AM, which was how it went yesterday, but still kind of annoying, both for missing out on that extra unconscious time and for how tired I was by the time I went to bed last night. It being a four-day week didn’t stop this one from being long as hell. Two weeks left of work as of today. Two weeks, then I’m unemployed again.

My feelings on the issue are somewhat complicated. If I made any money whatsoever doing this site, they would not be. Somehow I don’t think Donald Trump’s I’m-gonna-back-out-of-the-Paris-Accord ass is going to be the one to implement universal basic income, however, so even here in liberal Massachusetts (though not where I live; fucking racist white yutzes, everywhere), I’m not going to hold out much hope on that one. Some you win, some you lose. Some lose the popular count by three million votes and still win.

If you’re wondering, the baby boy The Pecan whom The Patient Mrs. and I are in the process of bringing into this wretched, doomed-in-a-bad-way world is doing well, as is she. 20-plus weeks along and starting to show, feeling aches and whatnot, but holding up. He’s riding low at the moment, which had me thinking of “Lameneshma” last night before dinner. “Hmm, maybe a Swedish name…” and so on. Golly Lowrider kick ass.

Writing at the kitchen table this morning instead of my usual place on the couch is my way of pretending it’s already the weekend. It isn’t, and in about half an hour I’ll need to get my shit together and head to the office, where as I did for most of this week I will sit and watch the minutes go by until I can leave and be with The Patient Mrs. again. That’s all I want these days. Together time.

This weekend is busy — a wedding in CT, some back and forth to do on Sunday — but here’s what’s in the notes for next week, subject to change as always:

Mon.: Vokonis full album stream/review. Abrams video.
Tue.: Six Dumb Questions with Summoner. Conclave video.
Wed.: Second Coming of Heavy review. Heat video.
Thu.: Solstafir review, tentatively. Or maybe that new Tuber. We’ll see.
Fri.: Six Dumb Questions with Godhunter.

Yup, doubling up on Six Dumb Questions interviews. I’ve got a backlog of them at this point that I’ve been sending out to people and need to bring it up to speed. Trying to balance that and still not get too far behind on reviews, but I suck at balance, and I suck at keeping up with reviews anyway, so it’ll be what it is. I want to get the Godhunter one up either way, so yeah.

Whatever you’re up to over the next couple days, I hope it’s fun and that you enjoy and are safe and don’t get anymore messed up than you want to be, and that you please check out the forum and the radio stream as well.

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Tomorrow’s Dream: 200+ of 2017’s Most Anticipated Releases

Posted in Features on January 23rd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

tomorrow's dream 2017

Looks like it’s going to be another busy 12 months ahead. It’s been a busy better-part-of-a-month already, so that stands to reason, but you should know that of the several years now that I’ve done these ‘Tomorrow’s Dream’ posts, this is the biggest one yet, with over 150 upcoming releases that — one hopes — will be out between today and the end of 2017.

Actually, at last count, the list tops 180. Do I really expect you to listen to all of them? Nope. Will I? Well, it would be nice. But what I’ve done is gone through and highlighted 35 picks and then built lists off that in order of likelihood of arrival. You’ll note the categories are ‘Gonna Happen and/or Likely Candidates,’ ‘Definitely Could Happen’ and ‘Would be Awfully Nice.’

Beyond that last one, anything else just seems like speculation — one might as well go “new Sabbath this year!” with zero info backing it up. The idea here is that no matter where a given band is placed, there has been some talk of a new release. In some cases, it’s been years, but I think they’re still worth keeping in mind.

Another caveat: You can expect additions to this list over the next week — probably album titles, band names people (fingers crossed) suggest in the comments, and so on — so it will grow. It always does. The idea is to build as complete a document as possible, not to get it all nailed down immediately, so please, if you have something to contribute and you’re able to do so in a non-prickish, “You didn’t include Band X and therefore don’t deserve to breathe the same air as me,” kind of way, please contribute.

Other than that, I think it’s pretty straightforward what’s going on here and I’ll explain the category parameters as we go, so by all means, let’s jump in.

— Tomorrow’s Dream 2017 —

Presented Alphabetically

1. Abrahma, TBA

Late last year, Paris heavy progressives Abrahma announced a new lineup and third full-length in progress. No reason to think it won’t come to fruition, and a follow-up to 2015’s Reflections in the Bowels of a Bird (review here) is an easy pick to look forward to. Even with the shift in personnel, it seems likely the band will continue their creative development, driven as they are by founding guitarist Seb Bismuth.

2. All Them Witches, Sleeping Through the War

all them witches sleeping through the warIf 2017 ended today, Sleeping Through the War would be my Album of the Year. Of course, there’s a lot of year to go, but for now, Nashville’s All Them Witches have set the standard with their second album for New West Records behind 2015’s Dying Surfer Meets His Maker (review here) and fourth overall outing. They’ve got videos up so far for “3-5-7” (posted here) and “Bruce Lee” (posted here). Both are most definitely worth your time. Out Feb. 24. Full review should be later this week.

3. Alunah, Solennial

Seems like UK forest riffers Alunah are on this list every year. Wishful thinking on my part. Nonetheless, their fourth LP and Svart Records debut, Solennial, is out March 17, and if the tease they gave already with the clip for “Fire of Thornborough Henge” (posted here) is anything to go from, its Chris Fielding-produced expanses might just be Alunah‘s most immersive yet.

4. Arbouretum, TBA

I asked the Baltimore folk fuzzers a while back on Thee Facebooks if they had a new record coming in 2017 and they said yes, so that’s what I’m going on here. The last Arbouretum album was 2013’s Coming out of the Fog (review here), and even with frontman Dave Heumann‘s 2015 solo outing, Here in the Deep (review here), factored in, you’d have to say they’re due. Keep an eye on Thrill Jockey for word and I’ll do the same.

5. Atavismo, Inerte

This is another one that already has a spot reserved for it on my Best-of-2017 year-end list. Spanish heavy psych rockers Atavismo up the progressive bliss level with their second full-length, Inerte, without losing the depth of style that made 2014’s Desintegración (review here) so utterly glorious. It probably won’t have the biggest marketing budget of 2017, but if you let Atavismo fly under your radar, you are 100 percent missing out on something special.

6. Bison Machine, TBA

In addition to the video for new track “Cloak and Bones” that premiered here, when Michigan raucousness-purveyors Bison Machine put out the dates for their fall 2016 tour, they included further hints of new material in progress. As much as I dug their earlier-2016 split with SLO and Wild Savages (review here) and 2015’s Hoarfrost (review here), that’s more than enough for me to include them on this list. Killer next-gen heavy rock.

7. Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, TBA

News of a follow-up to Brothers of the Sonic Cloth‘s 2015 Neurot Recordings self-titled debut (review here) came through in October, and it remains some of the best news I’ve heard about 2017 doings. Took them a while to get the first record out, so we’ll see what happens, but it kind of feels like looking forward to a comet about to smash into the planet and cause a mass extinction, and by that I mean awesome. Can’t get here soon enough.

8. Cloud Catcher, Trails of Kosmic Dust

cloud catcher trails of kosmic dustOkay, so maybe I jumped the gun and did a super-early review of Denver trio Cloud Catcher‘s second long-player and Totem Cat Records debut, Trails of Kosmic Dust, but hell, no regrets. Some albums require an early-warning system. Their 2015 debut, Enlightened Beyond Existence (discussed here), was a gem as well, but this is a band in the process of upping their game on every level, and the songwriting and momentum they hone isn’t to be missed.

9. Colour Haze, TBA

I’ve gotten some details on the upcoming full-length from Colour Haze. They do not include a title, artwork, audio, song titles or general direction. Less details, I guess, than word that the CD version of this answer to 2015’s To the Highest Gods We Know (review here) is set to come out next month, as ever, on Elektrohasch. That puts it out in time for Colour Haze‘s upcoming tour with My Sleeping Karma (announced here). Fingers crossed it happens. Colour Haze are perpetual top-albums candidates in my book.

10. Corrosion of Conformity, TBA

Signed to Nuclear Blast after being rejoined by guitarist/vocalist Pepper Keenan, North Carolina’s C.O.C. have been in the studio since last year. The lineup of Keenan, bassist/vocalist Mike Dean and guitarist Woody Weatherman and Reed Mullin on drums is the stuff of legend and last worked together on 2000’s America’s Volume Dealer, so no question this reunion makes for one of 2017’s most anticipated heavy rock records. They nailed the nostalgia factor on tour. Can they now add to their legacy?

11. Elder, TBA

I was incredibly fortunate about a month ago to visit progressive heavy rockers Elder at Sonelab in Easthampton, MA, during the recording process for their upcoming fourth album. I heard a couple of the tracks, and of course it was all raw form, but the movement forward from 2015’s Lore (review here) was palpable. That LP (on Stickman) brought them to a wider audience, and I expect no less from this one as well, since the farther out Elder go sound-wise, the deeper the level of connection with their listeners they seem to engage.

12. Electric Wizard, TBA

Could happen, could not happen. That’s how it goes. Announced for last Halloween. That date came and went. Word of trouble building their own studio surfaced somewhere along the line. That was the last I heard. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if it showed up tomorrow, if it showed up in 2018, or if the band broke up and never put it out. They’re Electric Wizard. Anything’s possible.

13. John Garcia, The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues

Out Jan. 28 on NapalmThe Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues (review here) is the first-ever acoustic album from former Kyuss frontman John Garcia, also of Unida, the reunited Slo BurnHermanoVista ChinoZun, etc. — basically the voice of desert rock. He does a couple Kyuss classics for good measure, but shines as well on the new/original tracks, and while it’s a piece for fans more than newcomers — that is, it helps if you know the original version of “Green Machine” — his presence remains as powerful as ever despite this new context.

14. Goya, Harvester of Bongloads

Riffs, dude. Goya seem to have them to spare. The Arizona-based wizard doomers have set a pretty prolific clip for themselves at this point, with at least two short releases out in 2016, one a 7″ of Nirvana covers (review here), and the The Enemy EP (review here). Set for a March 3 release through their own Opoponax Records imprint, Harvester of Bongloads continues the march into the abyss that 2015’s Obelisk (review here) and 2013’s 777 set in motion, finding the band coming more into their own as well. Creative growth — and bongloads! The best of both worlds.

15. Ides of Gemini, TBA

Ides of Gemini are set to record their yet-untitled third album with Sanford Parker early this year, and it will also mark their debut on Rise Above Records upon its release. They’ve also got a new lineup around vocalist Sera Timms and guitarist J. Bennett, so as they look to move forward from 2014’s Old World New Wave (review here), one can’t help but wonder what to expect, but to be honest, not knowing is part of the appeal, especially from a band who so readily specialize in the ethereal.

16. Kind, TBA

Three-fourths of Kind feature elsewhere on this list. Bassist Tom Corino plays in Rozamov. Drummer Matt Couto is in Elder. Vocalist Craig Riggs is in Roadsaw. And for what it’s worth, guitarist Darryl Shepherd has a new band coming together called Test Meat. How likely does that make Kind to release a second LP in 2017? I don’t know, but their 2015 Ripple Music debut, Rocket Science (review here), deserves a follow-up, and I know they’ve demoed some new songs. If it happens, great. If it’s 2018, at least these dudes will be plenty busy besides.

17. Lo-Pan, In Tensions

lo-pan in tensionsYes, Lo-Pan‘s In Tensions (review here) has already been released — CD/LP with an artbook on Aqualamb. It’s out. Limited numbers. You can get it now. Why include it on a list of most anticipated releases? Because that’s how strongly I feel about your need to hear it. The fruit of a shortlived lineup with guitarist Adrian Zambrano, it distinguishes itself from everything they’ve done before in style while still keeping to the core righteousness that one hopes the Ohio outfit will continue to carry forward. It’s more than a stopgap between albums. Listen to it.

18. The Midnight Ghost Train, TBA

It seems to have been a rough ride for hard-boogie specialists The Midnight Ghost Train since their 2015 Napalm debut and third album overall, Cold was the Ground (review here). They’ve never taken it easy on the road or in terms of physicality on stage, and between injuries and who knows what else, their intensity at this point veers toward the directly confrontational. Nonetheless, they’ve been writing for album number four, may or may not have started the recording process, and I expect that confrontationalism to suit them well in their new material.

19. Monster Magnet, TBA

I have it on decent authority that NJ heavy psych innovators Monster Magnet were in the studio this past autumn. I’ve seen no concrete word of a new album in progress from Dave Wyndorf and company, and I wouldn’t necessarily expect to until it was time to start hyping the release, but after their two redux releases, 2015’s Cobras and Fire (review here) and 2014’s Milking the Stars (review here), their range feels broader than ever and I can’t wait to hear what they come up with next.

20. Mothership, High Strangeness

A pivotal moment for Mothership arrives with High Strangeness, and the heavy-touring, heavy-riffing Texas power trio seem to know it. Their third record on Ripple Music pushes into new avenues of expression and keeps the energy of 2014’s Mothership II (review here) and 2012’s Mothership (review here), but thus far into their career, it’s been about their potential and what they might accomplish going forward. 2017 might be the year for Mothership to declare a definitive place in the sphere of American heavy rock.

21. The Obsessed, Sacred

On Halloween 2016, founding The Obsessed guitarist/vocalist and doom icon Scott “Wino” Weinrich announced a new lineup for the band, with his former The Hidden Hand bandmate Bruce Falkinburg on bass/vocals, Sara Seraphim on guitar and Brian Costantino continuing on drums. A genuine surprise. Their first album since 1994, Sacred (due on Relapse) was tracked as the trio of WeinrichCostantino and bassist/vocalist Dave Sherman, but clearly they’ve moved into a new era already. Wouldn’t even guess what the future holds, but hopefully Sacred still comes out.

22. Orange Goblin, TBA

When it was announced that London’s Orange Goblin were picked up by Spinefarm as part of that label’s acquisition of Candlelight Records last Spring, the subheadline from the PR wire was “Working on Ninth Studio Album.” I haven’t heard much since then, but even as 2014’s Back from the Abyss (review here) pushed them deeper into metallic territory than ever before, their songs retained the character that’s made the band the institution they are. Always look forward to new Orange Goblin.

23. Pallbearer, Heartless

pallbearer heartlessDoomers, this is your whole year right here. I haven’t heard Pallbearer‘s third album, Heartless (out March 24 on Profound Lore), but I have to think even those who haven’t yet been won over by the Arkansas four-piece’s emotive, deep-running style have to be curious about what they’ve come up with this time around. I know I am. These guys have been making a mark on the genre since their 2012 debut, Sorrow and Extinction (review here), and there’s little doubt Heartless will continue that thread upon its arrival.

24. Radio Moscow, TBA

Fact: Radio Moscow stand among the best classic heavy rock live acts in the US. They’re the kind of band you can watch upwards of 15 gigs in a row — I’ve done it — and find them putting on a better show night after night, in defiance of science, logic and sobriety. Word of their signing to Century Media came just this past week and brought with it confirmation of a follow-up to 2014’s stellar Magical Dirt (review here), and for me to say hell yes, I’m absolutely on board, seems like the no-brainer to end all no-brainers. Can’t wait.

25. Roadsaw, TBA

Nearly six full years later, it’s only fair to call Boston scene godfathers Roadsaw due for a follow-up to their 2011 self-titled (review here). Granted, members have been busy in KindWhite Dynomite, and other projects, but still. Their upcoming outing finds them on Ripple Music after years under the banner of Small Stone Records, and though I haven’t seen a solid release date yet, my understanding is they hit Mad Oak Studio in Allston, MA, this past fall to track it, so seems likely for sooner or later. Sooner, preferably.

26. Rozamov, This Mortal Road

Speaking of albums by Boston bands a while in the making, This Mortal Road (out March 3 on Battleground Records and Dullest Records) is the debut full-length from Boston atmospheric extremists Rozamov. Haven’t heard it yet, but I got a taste of some of the material when I visited the band at New Alliance Audio in Aug. 2015, and the bleak expanses of what I heard seem primed to turn heads. I’m a fan of these guys, but in addition, they’ve found a niche for themselves sound-wise and I’m curious to hear how they bring it to fruition.

27. Samsara Blues Experiment, TBA

It’s been a pleasure over the last couple months to watch a resurgence of Berlin heavy psych trio Samsara Blues Experiment take shape, first with the announcement of a fourth album in October, then with subsequent confirmations for DesertfestRiff Ritual in Barcelona, and a South American tour. Reportedly due in Spring, which fits with the timing on shows, etc., the record will follow 2013’s righteous Waiting for the Flood (review here) and as much as I’m looking forward to hearing it, I’m kind of just glad to have these guys back.

28. Seedy Jeezus, TBA

Work finished earlier this month on Melbourne trio Seedy Jeezus‘ second full-length. As with their 2015 self-titled debut, the band brought Tony Reed of Mos Generator to Australia to produce, and after their blissed-out 2016 collaboration with Earthless guitarist Isaiah MitchellTranquonauts (review here), it’s hard not to wonder what experimentalist tendencies might show in the trio’s style this time out, and likewise difficult not to anticipate what guitarist Lex “Mr. Frumpy” Wattereus comes up with for the cover art.

29. Shroud Eater, Strike the Sun

Not to spoil the surprise, but Feb. 1 I’ll host a track premiere from Florida’s Shroud Eater that finds them working in a different context from everything we’ve heard from them to this point in their rightly-celebrated tenure. They also recently had a split out with Dead Hand, and their second long-player, Strike the Sun, will be their debut through STB Records. It’s been since 2011’s ThunderNoise (review here) that we last got a Shroud Eater album, so you bet your ass I’m dying to know what the last six years have wrought.

30. Sleep, TBA

If Sleep were any other band, they’d probably be in the “Would be Awfully Nice” category. But they’re Sleep, so even the thought of a new record is enough to put them here. The lords of all things coated in THC are reissuing their 2014 single, The Clarity (review here), on Southern Lord next month, but rumors have been swirling about a proper album, which of course would be their first since the now-legendary Dopesmoker. If it happens, it’ll automatically be a heavy underground landmark for 2017, but it’s one I’m going to have in my ears before I really believe it.

31. Stoned Jesus, TBA

Even as they tour playing their second album, 2012’s Seven Thunders Roar (review here), to mark its fifth anniversary and continued impact, Ukrainian trio Stoned Jesus are forging ahead with a fourth record behind 2015’s The Harvest (review here). The capital-‘q’ Question is whether or not looking back at Seven Thunders Roar and engaging that big-riffing side of their sound will have an impact on the new material, and if so, how it will meld with the push of The Harvest. Won’t speculate, but look forward to finding out.

32. Stubb, TBA

Since reveling in the soul of 2015’s Cry of the Ocean (review here) on Ripple, London trio Stubb have swapped out bassists, and they were in Skyhammer Studio this month recording a single that may be an extended psychedelic jam. I’ll take that happily, but I’m even more intrigued at the prospect of a third LP and what guitarist/vocalist Jack Dickinson, bassist/vocalist Tom Hobson and drummer Tom Fyfe might have in store as the band moves forward on multiple levels. Might be 2017, might not.

33. Sun Blood Stories, It Runs Around the Room with Us

sun blood stories it runs around the room with usIt Runs around the Room with Us seems to find peace in its resonant experimentalist drones, loops, open, subdued spaces, but there’s always some underlying sense of foreboding to its drift, as if Boise’s Sun Blood Stories could anticipate the moment before it happened. Toward the end of the follow-up to 2015’s Twilight Midnight Morning (review here), they execute the 90-second assault “Burn” and turn serenity to ash. Look for it in April and look for it again on my best of 2017 list in December.

34. Ufomammut, TBA

Any new offering from the Italian cosmic doom magnates is worth looking forward to, and while Ufomammut have left the 15-year mark behind, they’ve never stopped progressing in style and form. To wit, 2015’s Ecate (review here) was a stunner after 2012’s two-part LP, Oro (review here and review here), tightening the approach but assuring the vibe was no less expansive than ever. They started recording last summer, finished mixing in November, so I’m hoping for word of a release date soon.

35. Vokonis, The Sunken Djinn

Born out of Creedsmen Arise, whose 2015 demo, Temple (review here), offered formative thrills, Swedish trio Vokonis debuted with last year’s Olde One Ascending (review here) and proved there’s still life in post-Sleep riffing when it’s wielded properly. They signed to Ripple in November and confirmed the title of their sophomore effort as The Sunken Djinn, as well as a reissue for the first album, which will probably arrive first. I don’t know how that will affect the timing on this one, but keep an eye out anyway.

Gonna Happen and/or Likely Candidates

Obviously some of these are more likely than others. Some have solidified, announced release dates — Dopelord‘s out this month, Demon Head‘s out in April, etc. — and others come from social media posts of bands in studios and hints at upcoming releases and so on. A big tell is whether or not a band has an album title with their listing, but even some of those without have their new albums done, like Atala and Royal Thunder, so it’s not necessarily absolute.

Either way, while I’m spending your money, you might want to look into:

36. Against the Grain
37. Amenra
38. Atala
39. Attalla, Glacial Rule
40. Ayahuasca Dark Trip, II
41. Beastmaker
42. Beaten Back to Pure
43. Blackout
44. Bretus
45. Buried Feather, Mind of the Swarm
46. The Clamps
47. Cold Stares
48. Coltsblood, Ascending into the Shimmering Darkness
49. Come to Grief, The Worst of Times EP
50. Cortez
51. Cruthu, The Angle of Eternity
52. The Dead-End Alley Band, Storms
53. Dead Witches, Dead Witches
54. Dealer
55. Death Alley, Live at Roadburn
56. Demon Head, Thunder on the Fields
57. The Devil and the Almighty Blues, II
58. Devil Electric
59. Doctor Cyclops, Local Dogs
60. Dool, Here Now There Then
61. Dopelord, Children of the Haze
62. Doublestone, Devil’s Own/Djævlens Egn
63. Dread Sovereign, For Doom the Bell Tolls
64. Drive by Wire
65. Elbrus, Elbrus
66. Electric Age
67. Electric Moon, Stardust Rituals
68. Endless Floods, II
69. Five Horse Johnson
70. Forming the Void, Relic
71. Funeral Horse
72. Greenbeard
73. Green Desert Water
74. Greenleaf
75. Grifter / Suns of Thunder, Split
76. Hair of the Dog, This World Turns
77. Heavy Temple, Chassit
78. Here Lies Man, Here Lies Man
79. Hollow Leg, Murder EP
80. Holy Mount, The Drought
81. Hooded Menace
82. Horisont, About Time
83. Hymn, Perish
84. Lecherous Gaze
85. Magnet, Feel Your Fire
86. Mastodon
87. Merlin, The Wizard
88. Merchant
89. Mindkult, Lucifer’s Dream
90. Mirror Queen
91. Moonbow, War Bear
92. Mos Generator
93. The Moth
94. MotherSloth
95. Mouth, Vortex
96. My Sleeping Karma, Mela Ananda – Live
97. Orango
98. Papir
99. PH, Eternal Hayden
100. Psychedelic Witchcraft, Magick Rites and Spells
101. Royal Thunder
102. Saturn, Beyond Spectra
103. Season of Arrows, Give it to the Mountain
104. Siena Root
105. Six Organs of Admittance, Burning the Threshold
106. Six Sigma, Tuxedo Brown
107. Sólstafir
108. The Sonic Dawn, Into the Long Night
109. Spelljammer
110. Spidergawd, IV
111. Steak
112. Stinking Lizaveta, Journey to the Underworld
113. Sula Bassana, Organ Accumulator
114. Summoner
115. Sun Voyager, Sun Voyager
116. Sweat Lodge, Tokens for Hell EP
117. Thera Roya, Stone and Skin
118. Toke
119. Troubled Horse, Revelation on Repeat
120. VA, Brown Acid The Third Trip
121. Weedpecker
122. Youngblood Supercult, The Great American Death Rattle

Definitely Could Happen

Maybe a recording process is upcoming (Gozu, Cities of Mars, YOB), or a band is looking for a label (The Flying Eyes), or they’ve said new stuff is in the works but the circumstances of an actual release aren’t known (Arc of Ascent, Dead Meadow, High on Fire), or I’ve just seen rumors of their hitting the studio (Freedom Hawk, La Chinga, Ruby the Hatchet). We’ve entered the realm of the entirely possible but not 100 percent.

So, you know, life.

Dig it:

123. The Age of Truth
124. Ape Machine
125. Arc of Ascent
126. At Devil Dirt
127. Bantoriak
128. Bask
129. BCAD
130. BoneHawk
131. La Chinga
132. Chubby Thunderous Bad Kush Masters
133. Cities of Mars
134. Crypt Sermon
135. Dead Meadow
136. Death Alley (Studio LP)
137. Dee Calhoun
138. Destroyer of Light
139. Devil
140. Devil Worshipper
141. Duel
142. Dustrider
143. Egypt
144. Electric Moon
145. Elephant Tree
146. Farflung
147. The Flying Eyes
148. Freedom Hawk
149. Gozu
150. The Great Electric Quest
151. Green Meteor, Consumed by a Dying Sun
152. High on Fire
153. Horrendous
154. Insect Ark
155. In the Company of Serpents
156. Iron Monkey
157. Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus
158. The Judge
159. Killer Boogie
160. King Dead
161. The Kings of Frog Island
162. Lords of Beacon House, Recreational Sorcery
163. Mangoo
164. Mondo Drag
165. Monolord
166. Mountain God
167. The Munsens
168. Naxatras
169. Never Got Caught
170. Ommadon
171. Orchid
172. Ordos
173. Pilgrim
174. Poseidon
175. Purple Hill Witch
176. Ruby the Hatchet
177. Sasquatch
178. Satan’s Satyrs
179. Serpents of Secrecy
180. Shabda
181. Shooting Guns
182. Sleepy Sun
183. Slow Season
184. Snowy Dunes, Atlantis
185. Spectral Haze
186. The Sweet Heat
187. Switchblade Jesus
188. Superchief
189. Tÿburn
190. YOB
191. Zone Six

Would be Awfully Nice

This last category is basically as close as I’m willing to come to rampant speculation. Endless Boogie have hinted at new material, and Queens of the Stone Age have talked about hitting the studio for the last two years. There were rumors about Om, and though Kings Destroy just put out an EP, they have new songs as well, though I doubt we’ll hear them before the end of 2017. I’ll admit that Across Tundras, Fever Dog, Lord Fowl, Lowrider and Hour of 13 are just wishful thinking on my part. A boy can hope:

192. Across Tundras
193. Eggnogg
194. Elephant Tree
195. Endless Boogie
196. Fever Dog
197. Fu Manchu
198. Halfway to Gone
199. Hour of 13
200. Kadavar
201. Kings Destroy
202. Lord Fowl
203. Lowrider
204. Masters of Reality
205. Om
206. Orodruin
207. Queens of the Stone Age

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading. Whatever this year brings, I hope it’s been great so far for you and I hope it continues to be so as we proceed inexorably to 2018 and all the also-futuristic-sounding numbers thereafter. At least we know we’ll have plenty of good music to keep us company on that voyage.

As always, comments section is open if there’s anything I’ve left out. I’m happy to add, adjust, etc., as need be, so really, have at it, and thanks in advance.

All the best.

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Friday Full-Length: Halfway to Gone, High Five

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 15th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

Halfway to Gone, High Five (2001)

Put Halfway to Gone against any Southern heavy band you want to — including the late, great Alabama Thunderpussy, with whom they once shared a split — and see if they don’t stand up. Of course, they weren’t actually from the South, unless you consider Central New Jersey the South, which some people I know in North Jersey most definitely do. Born in 1999 as an offshoot of Solarized, Halfway to Gone came out of the same Red Bank scene that gave planet earth gifts like The Atomic Bitchwax, Solace, Core and the mothers of them all, Monster Magnet. They released three records on Small Stone in their time — 2001’s High Five was the debut (after the aforementioned ATP split), followed by 2002’s Second Season and a 2004 self-titled — and toured hard at the time, but have played only intermittently over the last eight or nine years. Guitarist Lee “Stu” Gollin and his brother, drummer Danny Gollin, continued on for a while in A Thousand Knives of Fire, whose 2007 outing, Last Train to Scornsville, was recorded in part by Halfway bassist/vocalist Lou Gorra, but that petered out when their bassist moved away. Gorra in the meantime founded his studio and set about recording other bands, including mine, Halfway to Gone getting together every now and again to play Long Branch’s The Brighton Bar, perpetually killing the place.

If I’m not mistaken, they did a show there last year. Last I saw them was 2012, and they were still a force on stage. There was talk at the time of a long-awaited fourth album, though to-date nothing has come of it. Gorra was playing bass with Sourvein this year for their European tour — it was a beyond-pleasant surprise to run into him at Roadburn — but knowing this band and knowing these dudes, I’d never quite count them out. Still, it’s good to go back to the beginning and revisit High Five, which from where I sit is a Jersey classic. Dig that slide guitar on “Story of My Life,” or the reworked Gettysburg Address in “Kind Words for the Southern Gentleman” — the band taking the “you’re not Southern!” contingent head on — and the hook in “Devil Spit (The Van Zant Shuffle)” or the slow roll of “Limb from Limb.” Gorra does whiskey-soaked vocals without the chestbeating Down-ery that seems to have unfortunately become the hallmark of the style over the last decade, and Stu and Danny tear it up, a thick-toned power trio ahead of their time as much as they were behind it. They’d tighten up further structurally on the second record and branch out stylistically on the third, but as far as starting points go, there’s not much for which I’d trade High Five.

Hope you enjoy.

In Connecticut for the weekend. Was here last weekend as well. Actually, the only reason I drove back to Massachusetts on Tuesday was to see High on Fire at The Sinclair — my first show in Boston in, uh… I don’t even know, since Fu Manchu maybe? — and I didn’t get in. It was a free show! No ticket for me. Ugh. I was so beat by the time I’d stood on line for half an hour, right at the front, and listened to the stupid-assed conversations of those around me after driving two-plus hours to get back up there that when I couldn’t get in, I didn’t even have the energy to make a case for myself. I walked back to my car through college-bound Cambridge and went the fuck home to bury my head. What a bummer.

Next weekend is Sleep at the House of Blues with Earthless and Heavy Blanket jamming out to open. Got my fingers crossed for that. The day before, I’ll be in Pennsylvania for All Them Witches and King Buffalo, so a bit of travel there as well. Whatever. I won’t regret it.

This weekend though, some rest and some research. I’ve got a few things in the works that I’m hoping fall into place over the next couple weeks — all very hush hush, or I’d give you the details outright — so it’s important to keep my head straight. Getting there is pretty much my intent for the next couple days.

Reviews coming up for Witch Mountain and maybe the Fatso Jetson/Herba Mate split, but after doing Powered Wig Machine today and Demon Eye yesterday, I’m starting to feel pretty good about tackling the pile, so I might keep up with that as well. I’ll play it by ear and do as much as I have the energy to do. You know how it goes by now. I pretty much post until I feel like I’m ready to fall over and then I stop for a few hours and then post again.

Clacky clacky clacky. Always with the keyboard.

For now though, I’m gonna go watch some Star Trek with The Patient Mrs. and call it a night.

Please have a great and safe weekend and please check out the forum and radio stream, because they are awesome.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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Buried Treasure and the Walking Ghosts

Posted in Buried Treasure on February 7th, 2013 by JJ Koczan

Time was limited. It was Monday morning and I was supposed to go to work after all, but as I was in New England anyway, a quick run to Armageddon Shop in Providence didn’t seem all that unreasonable. I’ve never come out of there feeling less than satisfied, and even back in December at the Boston store, I was able to pick up a few winners. Plus, Armageddon‘s been on my mind lately with their handling the repress of Elder‘s Spires Burn EP and the release of Magic Circle‘s self-titled, for which I have a review pending. All that, coupled with my general desire to crane my neck before a CD rack, made the stop a necessity. Turned out work was still there when I finally showed up anyway. Go figure.

On the wall of my office is a post-it with albums I’ve been meaning to pick up — mostly review stuff that labels won’t send out physical copies of anymore that I’ll grudgingly buy and devalue the effort I put into writing about them while also diminishing my appreciation for the record out of the pervasive annoyance. It’s a vicious cycle. Anyway, most of what’s on it I couldn’t remember, but it was fine. I managed to find enough and then some, as you can see in the stack above. The new Bedemon (track stream here) and Seremonia (track stream here) records were a must, and I hadn’t actually gotten a CD of the last Enslaved (review here), so I figured if I was going to give someone the cash for it, at least I could feel good about it going to Armageddon. The rest was gravy.

The first Hooded Menace full-length, Fulfill the Curse, Orodruin‘s Claw Tower and Other Tales of Terror and the repress of Life Beyond‘s Ancient Worlds were cool finds, but I was even more stoked on the 2003 Cream Abdul Babar/Kylesa split on At a Loss. I think they came by their progression honestly and I think Spiral Shadow (review here) bears that out, but it’s easy to forget how blisteringly heavy that band was at one point, all noise and fury and potential. With the unbridled weirdness of Cream Abdul Babar to complement, that split was a killer. The punkish War and Wine by the UK’s The Dukes of Nothing was something I had my eye on for a while, with Orange Goblin‘s Chris Turner on drums, bassist Doug Dalziel (ex-Iron Monkey) and Stuart O’Hara (ex-Acrimony, current Sigiriya) as one of two guitars, and more on the hardcore end, the self-titled collection from Hard to Swallow was a pleasant surprise, spanning the short tenure of the outfit that featured Jim Rushby (Iron Monkey) on guitar and Justin Greaves (Iron Monkey and even later of Crippled Black Phoenix) on drums and a host of others from that sphere ripping out primitive, violent bursts in rapid succession.

With 13 tracks in 27 minutes, there’s little room for screwing around, so Hard to Swallow get right to it, blending raw riffage with extreme punk fuckall. The compilation was released on Armageddon‘s own label, and though it’s more hardcore than what I’ll generally grab, it’s a solid, intense listen. A secret track incorporating Sabbath‘s “Under the Sun” into a grind medley made a decent, meaner answer to The Dukes of Nothing‘s album on Tortuga, and the metallic outing from Enslaved and Seremonia‘s distinctly Finnish weirdness. More local to home, I grabbed Halfway to Gone‘s split with Alabama Thunderpussy, which I already own but figured for six bucks I’d take a double, and the 1997 debut from underrated Jersey-based psychedelic rockers, Lord Sterling.

Your Ghost Will Walk was one of those albums I figured I’d probably never happen upon, perhaps even less so in Rhode Island. I haven’t been chasing it down for years and years or anything like that — a preliminary search can find copies out there — but neither was I going to pass up the chance to get a new one. The pressing is on Chainsaw Safety Records, may or may not be original, and for anyone who heard Lord Sterling‘s Weapon of Truth (2002, Rubric) or Today’s Song for Tomorrow (2004, Small Stone), the first one is a little more jagged, a little more post-hardcore, somewhat less psychedelic, though the ethereal garage via The Doors vibes of the later albums are definitely present in some nascent form. I always dug those guys, so it was cool to hear where they came from a little bit.

Because I can’t resist a CD on Man’s Ruin and because I’m forever a sucker for NYC noise, I impulse grabbed The Cuttroats 9‘s self-titled. The band had Chris Spencer and Dave Curran from Unsane in it, so I figured I couldn’t go wrong and I was right. It was a last-minute thing as I was looking through, but I’ve done way worse. All told, the haul was well-rounded and with a cup of coffee from the bakery down the street, I felt like the win was even more complete. About five hours later, I strolled into my office like I owned the place.

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Looking for Today: 20 Albums to Watch for in 2013

Posted in Features on January 15th, 2013 by JJ Koczan

Last year was a monster. You might say I’m still catching up on reviews for records that came out in October. Yet here we stand in 2013. It’s a whole new year and that means instead of looking back at some of the best releases, it’s time to look ahead and nerd out at what’s to come. Frankly, either way is a good time, but with some of what’s included on this list, 2013 has the potential to be yet another incredible year for lovers of the heavy.

Across a range of genres and subgenres, there are bands big and small, known and unknown, getting ready to unleash debuts, follow-ups and catalog pieces that by the time December rolls around, will have defined the course of this year. It’s always great to hold an album in your hands, to put it on and listen to it for the first or 19th time, but part of the fun is the excitement beforehand too, and that’s where we’re at now.

Some of these I’ve heard, most I haven’t, and some are only vague announcements, but when I started out putting this list together, my plan was to keep it to 10 and I wound up with twice that many because there was just too much happening to ignore. The list is alphabetical because it doesn’t make any sense to me to rate albums that aren’t out yet, and I hope if you find something you’d like to add, you’ll please feel free to leave a comment below.

Thanks in advance for reading, and enjoy:

Acid King, TBA


We begin with only the basest of speculations. Would you believe me if I told you that 2013 makes it eight years since the heavier-than-your-heavy-pants San Francisco trio Acid King released their last album, III? Of course you wouldn’t believe me. You’d be like, “Dude, no way,” but it’s true. Eight friggin’ years. They’ve hinted all along at new material, toured Europe and played fests in the States like Fall into Darkness, but really, it’s time for something new on record. Even an EP. A single! I’ll take what I can get at this point, so long as it’s Lori S. riffing it.

Ararat, III


Chances are, the above isn’t the final art for Argentinian Los Natas-offshoot Ararat‘s forthcoming III, but frontman Sergio Chotsourian has posted a few demos over the last several months and the logo image came from that. Either way, with as far as last year’s II (review here) went in expanding their sound, I can’t wait to hear the final versions of the tracks for the next one. They’re still flying under a lot of people’s radar, it seems, but Ararat are quickly becoming one of South America’s best heavy psych acts. Do yourself a favor and keep an eye out.

Bezoar, TBA


Brooklyn trio Bezoar‘s 2012 debut, Wyt Deth, might have been my favorite album that I never reviewed last year, and needless to say, that’s not a mistake I’m going to make twice. The new songs I’ve heard the three-piece play live have ruled and an alliance with engineer Stephen Conover (whose discography includes Rza and Method Man) is intriguing to say the least. I’m sure whatever Bezoar come out with, the performances from bassist/vocalist Sara Villard, guitarist Tyler Villard and drummer Justin Sherrell will be as hard to pin down as the debut was. It’s a record I’m already looking forward to being challenged by.

Blaak Heat Shujaa, The Edge of an Era


Due out April 9, Blaak Heat Shujaa‘s The Edge of an Era will mark the full-length debut for the ambitious trio (now based in L.A.) on Tee Pee Records following on the heels of the impressive The Storm Generation EP (review here). From the Scott Reeder production to the band’s engaging heavy psych/desert rock blend, this one seems bound to win Blaak Heat Shujaa a lot of new friends, and if the advance EP is anything to go by, The Edge of an Era could prove to be aptly-titled indeed.

Black Pyramid, Adversarial


No release date yet, but so far as I know, Adversarial, which is Massachusetts doom rockers Black Pyramid‘s third album and first to be fronted by guitarist/vocalist Darryl Shepard, is recorded, mixed and mastered. Song titles include “Swing the Scimitar,” “Onyx and Obsidian,” “Issus,” “Bleed Out” and “Aphelion” (the latter was also released as a limited single in 2012 by Transubstans as a split with Odyssey), and having seen the band live with this lineup, expect no less than a beheading. Also watch for word from the recently announced side-project from Shepard and bassist Dave Gein, The Scimitar.

Black Sabbath, 13


There was a bit of a shitstorm this past weekend when the title of Black Sabbath‘s first Ozzy Osbourne-fronted album since 1978 was revealed in a press release. Nonetheless, 13 is set for release in June and will feature Brad Wilk of Rage Against the Machine on drums in place of Bill Ward, who last year was engaged in a well-publicized contract dispute with the band. Bummer though that is and as crappy and generic a title as 13 makes — especially this year — let’s not forget that Heaven and Hell‘s The Devil You Know also had a crap title and it was awesome. I’m not sure if I’m willing to stake anticipation on the difference between the vocals of Ronnie James Dio circa 2010 and Ozzy Osbourne in 2013, or Rick Rubin‘s production, but hell, is Geezer Butler playing bass on it? Yes? Well, okay then, I’ll listen. The world can do a lot worse than that and another batch of Tony Iommi riffs, whatever else may be in store.

Clutch, Earth Rocker


It’s a ripper. With Earth Rocker, Clutch reunite with Blast Tyrant producer Machine and the results are a record varied enough to keep some of the recent blues elements of the past couple albums (“Gone Cold”) while also showcasing a reinvigorated love of straight-up heavy rock numbers on tracks like “Crucial Velocity,” “Book, Saddle & Go” and “Cyborg Betty.” Longtime Clutch fans can expect a bigger guitar sound from Tim Sult, killer layering and much personality from vocalist Neil Fallon and yet another stellar performance from the best rhythm section in American heavy, bassist Dan Maines and drummer Jean-Paul Gaster. No doubt in my mind it’ll prove one of the year’s best when 2013 is done. Once more unto the breach!

Devil to Pay, Fate is Your Muse


Last month, I hosted a Devil to Pay video premiere for the Indianapolis-based rockers’ new track, “This Train Won’t Stop,” from the 7″ single of the same name that precedes the release of their Ripple Music debut full-length (fourth overall), Fate is Your Muse. If the 575-plus Thee Facebook “Likes” are anything to go by, anticipation for the album is pretty high. Reasonably so. When I saw Devil to Pay at last year’s SHoD fest, the new material was killer and the band seemed more confident than ever before. Stoked to hear how that translates to a studio recording and how the band has grown since 2009’s Heavily Ever After.

Egypt, Become the Sun


Technically speaking, Become the Sun is the full-length debut from North Dakota doomers Egypt. The band released their self-titled demo through MeteorCity in 2009 (review here), were broken up at the time, and reassembled with a new guitarist for Become the Sun — which is the only album on this list to have already been reviewed. I don’t know about a physical release date, but it’s available now digitally through iTunes and other outlets, and however you do so, it’s worth tracking down to get the chance to listen to it. Underrated Midwestern riffing, hopefully with a CD/LP issue coming soon.

The Flying Eyes, TBA


Currently holed up in Lord Baltimore Studios with producer Rob Girardi, Baltimore’s The Flying Eyes are reportedly putting the finishing touches on the follow-up to 2011’s immersive Done So Wrong, an album full of young energy and old soul. Along with Blaak Heat Shujaa above, I consider these dudes to be right at the forefront of the next generation of American heavy psych and I’m excited to hear what kind of pastoral blues works its way into their tracks when the album finally gets released. They’re a band you’re probably going to hear a lot about this year, so be forewarned.

Gozu, The Fury of a Patient Man


The melodicism of Boston-based Gozu‘s second Small Stone full-length, The Fury of a Patient Man (I swear I just typed “The Fury of a Patient Mrs.”) is no less striking than its album cover. I’ve had this one for a while, have gotten to know it pretty well and my plan is to review it next week, so keep an eye out for that, but for now, I’ll just say that the sophomore outing is a fitting answer to the potential of Gozu‘s 2010 debut, Locust Season (review here) and marks the beginning of what already looks like another strong year for Small Stone. I never thought I’d be so into a song called “Traci Lords.”

Halfway to Gone, TBA


What I’d really like to see happen is for Halfway to Gone — who are high on my list of New Jersey hometown heroes and who haven’t had a new LP out since their 2004 self-titled — to put out a new record in 2013, for it to lay waste to everyone who hears it, and for the band to finally get the recognition they’ve long since deserved. I’ve been charged up on revisiting their three albums since I saw them at the Brighton Bar this past July and after a long wait, rumors, breakups, makeups, etc., I’ve got my hopes up that this year is when these dudes pull it together and make a new one happen. It’s been too long and this band is too good to just let it go.

Kings Destroy, TBA


Confession time: I have the Kings Destroy record. I’ve had it for a bit now. It rules. I don’t know when you’re gonna hear it, but it’s strange and eerie and kind of off the wall stylistically and it doesn’t really sound like anything else out there. Last I heard they’re looking for a label, and whoever ends up with it is lucky. I use a lot of descriptors for bands and their albums, but rarely will I go so far as to call something unique. This album is. If you’ve had the chance to check out songs like “The Toe” and “Turul” live, you know what I’m talking about, and if you haven’t, then stick around because with all the sessions I’ve had with the tracks, I still feel outclassed by what these guys are doing. Shine on, you doomed weirdos.

The Kings of Frog Island, Volume IV


I keep going back to the video for “Long Live the King” that Leicester, UK, fuzz rockers The Kings of Frog Island put up back in October. No, really, I keep going back. It’s a good song and I keep listening to it. Just about any other details regarding their fourth album and first without guitarist/vocalist Mat Bethancourt (Josiah, Cherry Choke), Volume IV, are nil, but periodic updates on the band’s Thee Facebooks have it that progress on the recording is being made, and in the meantime, I don’t seem to have any trouble paying return visits to “Long Live the King.” Hopefully Elektrohasch stays on board for a CD release, and hopefully it happens soon.

Lo-Pan, TBA


Several times over the last couple months I’ve had occasion to say it to people and I’ll say it here as well: I think Lo-Pan are the best American stoner rock band going right now. I was interested to see how they handled the bigger stage for their opening slot for High on Fire and Goatwhore (review here), and as ever, they killed. I haven’t the faintest idea what their recording plans might be, if they’ll even sit still long enough to put an album to tape in time to have it out in 2013 — I suspect it depends on what tour offers come up in the meantime — but new songs “Colossus” and “Eastern Seas” bode well for their being able to continue the course of momentum that the excellence of 2011’s Salvador (review here) and all their hard work before and since has put them on.

Queens of the Stone Age, TBA


It probably wouldn’t be fair to call the upcoming Queens of the Stone Age album a reunion between Josh Homme and Dave Grohl since the two also played together in Them Crooked Vultures and Grohl only drummed on Songs for the Deaf, but it’s exciting news anyway and could mean good things are coming from QOTSA, whose last outing was 2007’s comparatively lackluster Era Vulgaris. The big questions here are how the time apart from the band may or may not have affected Homme‘s songwriting and where he’s decided he wants to take the Queens sound. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Sungrazer & The Machine, Split


With the Strikes and Gutters tour already booked to support it (dates above; or here), Dutch upstart heavy psych jammers The Machine and Sungrazer have teamed up for a split release as well that’s bound to feature some of the year’s best fuzz. The two bands have a lot in common, but they’re pretty distinct from each other sonically too, and with The Machine guitarist/vocalist David Eering helming the recording, you can safely bet it’ll capture the live, jammy feel both groups share. Latest word has it that the mastered tracks are in-house, so watch for more to come as we get closer to the Valentine’s Day launch of the tour.

Truckfighters, TBA


The Swedish fuzz juggernauts’ fourth album overall, this will be Truckfighters‘ first with new drummer McKenzo alongside the core songwriting duo of Dango and Ozo. They’ve been teasing recording updates and threatening song clips, but as soon as I run into something concrete, I’ll share. I’m especially looking forward to the Truckfighters album since it means they’ll likely come back to the US for another tour, and since 2009’s Mania (review here) was so damned brilliant. Not sure on a release date, but it’s high on the list of necessities anyway, however low it may appear alphabetically.

Valley of the Sun, TBA


All I’m going on in including Ohio-based desert rockers Valley of the Sun on this list is a New Year’s message they put out there that read, “Happy New Year, Brothers and Sisters!!! You can count on a Valley of the Sun full-length in 2013.” Hey, I’ve relied on less before, and even if you want to call it wishful thinking, the Cincinnati trio are due a debut full-length behind 2011’s righteous The Sayings of the Seers EP (review here). Even if it doesn’t show up until November or December, I’ll basically take it whenever the band gets around to releasing. Riffs are welcome year-round.

Vhöl, TBA


Well, I mean, yeah. Right? Yeah, well, sure. I mean. Well. Yeah. I mean, sure. Right? It’s a supergroup with YOB‘s Mike Scheidt on vocals, John Cobbett of Hammers of Misfortune on guitar, Sigrid Sheie of Hammers of Misfortune on bass and Aesop Dekker of Agalloch and Worm Ouroboros on drums. Album’s done, set for release on Profound Lore. So, I mean, you know, yeah. Definitely. No music has made its way to the public yet — though that can’t be far off — but either way, sign me the fuck up. Anywhere this one goes, I’m interested to find out how it gets there.

Vista Chino, TBA

After that lawsuit, it’s not like they could go ahead and call the band Kyuss Still Lives!, so the recently-announced Vista Chino makes for a decent alternative and is much less likely to provoke litigation. But still, the Kyuss Lives! outgrowth featuring former Kyuss members John GarciaNick Oliveri and Brant Bjork along with guitarist Bruno Fevery is of immediate consequence. I’m not sure what the timing on the release is, but they’ve already been through enough to get to this point that one hopes a new album surfaces before the end of 2013. What I want to know next is who’s recording the damn thing.

Yawning Man, Gravity is Good for You


Not much has been said in the time since I interviewed Gary Arce, guitarist and founder of influential desert rock stalwarts Yawning Man, about the 2LP Gravity is Good for You release (the Raymond Pettibon cover for which you can see above), but the band has been confirmed for Desertfest since then and they’re playing in L.A. on Jan. 25, so they’re active for sure and presumably there’s been some progress on the album itself. It remains to be seen what form it will take when it surfaces, and the lineup of the band seems somewhat nebulous as well, but when there’s a desert, there’s Yawning Man, and there’s always a desert. 2010’s Nomadic Pursuits (review here) was a triumph, and deserves a follow-up.

Anyone else notice that the “20 Albums to Watch for” list has 22 albums on it? Maybe I wanted to see if you were paying attention. Maybe I can’t count. Maybe I just felt like including one more. Maybe I had 21 and then added Vista Chino after someone left a comment about it. The possibilities are endless.

So too is the list of bands I could’ve included here. Even as I was about halfway through, a new Darkthrone track surfaced from an album due Feb. 25 called The Underground Resistance, and news/rumors abound of various substance concerning offerings from YOB, EggnoggWhen the Deadbolt Breaks, Mars Red SkyAsteroid, Apostle of Solitude, WindhandPhantom Glue, the supergroup Corrections House, Kingsnake, Sasquatch — I’ve already made my feelings known on the prospect of a new Sleep record — news went up yesterday about Inter Arma‘s new one, and you know Wino‘s gonna have an album or two out before the end of the year, and he’s always up to something good, so 20, 22, 35, it could just as easily go on forever. Or at least very least the whole year.

If there’s anything I forgot, anything you want to include or dispute, comments are welcome and encouraged.

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Small Stone Records Detroit Showcase: A Great Way to Lose Your Liver

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 28th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

A friendly reminder that this very Saturday is Small Stone‘s showcase at The Magic Stick in Detroit. Since the one in Boston earlier this month was such an unholy good time, I can only heartily recommend that the entire Midwest shows up and prepares itself for riffy communion. Even if The Obelisk wasn’t presenting it, it’d still be a kickass rock gig, and probably as far east as we’re going to get Sasquatch anytime soon.

Label honcho (and Luder guitarist, as it happens) Scott Hamilton was recently interviewed by Detroit’s Metro Times about how he manages to thrive where so many others have succumbed to the likes of internet piracy, generational disinterest in rock, and so on. Pretty fascinating read, but before you click over, make sure you’ve got the skinny on the gig Saturday, because you don’t want to miss it.

Info comes courtesy of the Thee Facebooks event page:

Since many folks have been asking us for a few years now, we have finally caved in… So here it is in all its glory, a full blown SSR Showcase in the state that we actually live in. We have put together a top notch line up which features the return of New Jersey’s Halfway To Gone for the first time since 2005! Come early, stay late… The Magic Stick is great venue, and the drinks will be flowing at reasonable prices too… It should be an epic evening of rawk… Hell, we might even have copies of the new album from Five Horse Johnson at the show too.

Featuring:

Halfway To Gone (Long Branch, NJ)
Five Horse Johnson (Toledo, OH)
Sasquatch (Los Angeles, CA)
Freedom Hawk (Virginia Beach, VA)
Luder (Ferndale, MI)

Doors: 7pm
Tickets: $10.00

The Fine folks over at Tito’s Vodka are helping us and the Magic Stick will have Tito’s Drink Specials All Night!

Advance tickets can be purchased here.

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Halfway to Gone Interview with Lou Gorra: Blues for the King of the World and His Long Lost Soul

Posted in Features on July 27th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

Late last Saturday night, New Jersey’s Halfway to Gone stood on the stage of an overheated Brighton Bar and positively destroyed the place. It wasn’t their first time doing so, but this show in particular (review here) will hopefully serve as the beginning of a new era for the band. Not a moment too soon.

It’s been eight long years since Halfway released their third album. Self-titled, it was a fitting culmination of what the trio of bassist/vocalist Lou Gorra, guitarist Lee Gollin, aka Stu, and drummer Danny Gollin had accomplished on their 2001 debut, High Five and its 2002 follow-up, Second Season. More melodically complex, it never quite let go of the Red Bank three-piece’s Southern rock fetish, and tracks like the landmark opening duo “Turnpike” and “Couldn’t Even Find a Fight” became part of the Halfway to Gone canon, no less heralded than, say, “Holiday in Altamont” from the first record or the anthemic “Great American Scumbag” from the second.

But eight years feels like forever. In rock and roll, that might as well be a generation, and despite sporadic appearances here and there, usually at the Brighton, Halfway to Gone‘s legacy seemed set. Like many before them — including Solarized, in which Lou played bass and Stu guitar — and many after, they seemed to be another Jersey heavy rock act who never quite got their due. On June 2, I got a text from Gorra that they were playing, and that Solarized guitarist Jim Hogan and drummer Reg Hogan‘s new band Electrikill would be sharing the bill, that a new album was in the works and they’d be playing new material at the gig. Well, that was all I needed to hear.

Electrikill didn’t wind up on that bill, but Halfway ruled and their triumph played out in heavy distortion and thunderous riffs. Prior to, I’d had the chance to get on the phone with Gorra and talk about some of the practicalities involved in getting Halfway to Gone moving again, writing new material, and what they might look to accomplish this time around with the band. Having already toured the US extensively in their initial run, Gorra was candid about his desire to get over to Europe, and I’m hard pressed to think of ambassadors as fitting for all that’s righteous in American heavy rock.

Complete Q&A with Lou Gorra of Halfway to Gone is after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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Live Review: Halfway to Gone in Jersey, 07.21.12

Posted in Reviews on July 23rd, 2012 by JJ Koczan

There are some bands who seeing them on stage at the Brighton Bar is like seeing an animal in its natural habitat, and Halfway to Gone is one of them. Originally, the newly formed Electrikill was set to open the show, which would’ve provided a good bit of symmetry since Jim and Reg Hogan from that band also founded Solarized, in which Halfway bassist/vocalist Lou Gorra and guitarist Lee Gollin (aka Stu) also played in in Solarized‘s heyday before joining forces with Stu‘s brother, drummer Danny Gollin as the original trio Halfway to Gone. But the semi-reunion wasn’t to be, and when I rolled into a crowded Saturday night in Long Branch, it was Jay Monday and The X-Men on the bill.

Jay Monday was on as I arrived. They’re set sometime soon to record an album with Gorra, also an engineer/producer, and were young. Pulled a young crowd and played young rock and roll. Could’ve been worse. They had a pit going and, well, kids these days. The X-Men, on the other hand, got on stage after a break and immediately proclaimed themselves to be “old fucks,” and held an extra level of interest for featuring as their frontman the owner of the BrightonGreg Macolino, on guitar and vocals. Their energy and sound were both classic punk, with Macolino bouncing up and down while jamming out and proudly proclaiming the band’s 28 years. Apparently it had been 25 since they last played with that bassist.

Impressive in itself, but the night was unquestionably Halfway to Gone‘s. It belonged to them. They’ve played sporadic shows over the last several years — YouTube confirms the last one was November 2010 — mostly at the Brighton, to crowds of friends and loyal supporters. That was pretty much the case this time too, but the difference between Saturday and the last few times I’ve seen Halfway was that this show they proclaimed the coming of a new album. Gorra spoke about it from the stage, and along with raucous standbys like “Great American Scumbag” from 2002’s Second Season and “Holiday in Altamont” from their 2001 full-length debut, High Five — both highlights, make no mistake — there was a yet-untitled new  song that the trio was clearly excited about.

With good reason. That’s their first new material since their 2004 self-titled third album, and while Stu and Danny had played in A Thousand Knives of Fire together in the interim, for Gorra, he was obviously excited about the prospect of picking up Halfway again as the band got going. And the kids loved it. I mean that. Kids. At the stoner rock show. Jay Monday seemed to have a whole crew with them, and they pumped fists, moshed, stage dove (if you can fucking believe that), and had a full-on punk rock brodown while the band played. Cuts like “Turnpike” from the self-titled and “Couldn’t Even Find a Fight” were met with sing-alongs and spilled beer. It was like someone was filming a video, except not staged, and a far cry from the usual “still life with beardos standing” tableau one expects at gigs of this sort.

Halfway fed off it and hit a stride that was palpable. Danny remains a massively underrated drummer, and Stu has enough personality for an entire trio on his own, and together with Lou‘s obviously sincere appreciation for the crowd, the songs and the night as a whole, it was great to watch. The night was getting late, but it didn’t matter. People were practically running in circles while they played, and even a blown bass amp early on did little to derail the momentum. Noodling on Lynyrd Skynyrd‘s “Sweet Home Alabama” and a few others off classic rock FM, Stu got on mic and announced that he’d never met the bass head that could stand up to Gorra‘s playing. Jay Monday stepped up to provide in that regard and peace spread across the land. By peace, I mean “Never Comin’ Home” off of Second Season. Same difference.

They threw a curve in the form of the slower, moodier “Stormy Day” from the first record, which cut the energy level in the crowd some in the beginning, until a break in the middle in which Gorra teased, “You think the song is over! If you pressed stop on the CD player now, you’d miss one of the best parts of the whole thing,” before introducing Stu by saying he was going to be playing some “heavy metal guitar.” The riff that followed could just as easily have served as the central figure for a metalcore breakdown — and in most bands it probably would — but Halfway to Gone repurposed it into the basis of a killer solo jam, and kept the renewed forward drive going with “Whiskey Train” and “Thee Song” from their 2000 split with Alabama Thunderpussy. When they got off stage, it was to a rousing chorus of shouts for one more song.

Had they played that one more song, I expect they’d probably been in the same situation. Ditto that two songs and so on into the night. It was after 1AM when they finished — the Brighton living up to its reputation for late nights as it had earlier in the week — and the crowd filed out right away to stand in front of the front door of the venue and block passage while blowing smoke in the face of everyone as they walked out, clueless as only frivolous youth can be. I shook a few hands and said a couple goodnights and was back on the Parkway soon enough for the drive north, reminiscing with myself about the many times I’ve made that drive before and the excellent shows — including this one — that routine has followed.

Halfway to Gone never disappoint. Looking forward to that new album and hopefully more nights like this one. Extra pics after the jump.

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