Friday Full-Length: Ichabod, Merrimack

Posted in Bootleg Theater on June 14th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

I’ve lived in Massachusetts for six years. It’s long enough to not completely feel like a Yankees fan interloping on foreign territory in New England, but I’d never call myself a native, and on the periodic occasion when someone has asked where I’m from, I almost always said New Jersey. There’s something about the atmosphere of New England that I feel like I never quite earned, and Ichabod‘s Merrimack (review here), which is coming up on five years since its initial release in Oct. 2014, captures that spirit better than any other heavy record I can think of. It’s there in the Northern work song “The Strong Place” — taken from the translation from Algonquin of the name of the Merrimack River, for which the album is titled — and in vocalist John Fadden‘s crooning, “Give our souls to the river,” in the subsequent “Two Brothers Rock.” It’s there in the underlying aggression behind the drift of Dave Iverson‘s effects-laced solos and Jason Adam‘s riffing, in the flowing grooves from bassist Greg Dellaria and drummer Phil MacKay, whose brother, Ken (now of Oxblood Forge), helped Iverson start the band some 20 years ago in 1999.

Ichabod revamped in 2011, bringing aboard Fadden as frontman, as well as Adam, while MacKay had served behind the kit since 2000 and Dellaria (also now of Oxblood Forge) on bass since 2002. Merrimack was the band’s sixth full-length was unquestionably their broadest ranging work. For Iverson and Fadden, it held the personal significance of being an homage to their mothers as well as to the land and river itself, and even unto that internalization of place, its songs bleed a passion that is genuine and striking. From the summer-sun celebration “Watershed” and the progressive tension (also highlight bass) in “Life at the Loom” — featuring the line, “I wish I could sit around and talk about the weather forever,” which itself might be the most New England thing I’ve ever heard — to the blatantly Doors-style fearcrafting in “Child of the Bear,” slaughter in the three-minute “The Ballad of Hannah Dustin” and subsequent paranoid-in-the-woods noisy chaos of closer “The Return,” Merrimack distilled into psychedelic metal and sludge the varying sides of Massachusetts itself: the history, alternatingly troubled and beautiful — they sure burned witches and killed a bunch of native people, but golly those leaves are nice in Fall — the inherent Northeastern intensity, the contradictions between such a prevalent working class culture and the fact that Boston hosts some of the most elitist learning institutions in the country, and the ability to find space within that sphere where one can almost pretend to be at peace for a while. For me, it was looking at the high pines and thinking about the years those trees had seen. For Ichabod, clearly it was the river.

The peak achievement of Merrimack hit early, in its longest track, the 9:39 “Squall.” Well placed to build outward from “Two Brothers Rock,” it conveyed the storm to which its title alluded and ichabod merrimacksummarized much of the approach of the record as a whole, really only leaving out of its accounting the warmer and inviting vibe of “Watershed” and “Life at the Loom,” which follow in succession. “Squall” found little peace amid its tale of fishing boats bashed by nature’s power, Fadden moving between layered screams, emphatic spoken word and cleaner belting-out — a style that in itself has been the region’s ply and trade at least as much as seafood for the last 20 years in metal, since the kids of New England’s hardcore started to remember they all grew up as Metallica fans and began to blend the two sides at the turn of the century. Even the song’s quieter stretch in the middle held that undercurrent of threat in its e-bow guitar and the fluid rhythm, and the payoff that emerged therefrom left no choice but to end with a torrent of feedback afterward, giving way directly to the contrasting transition/introduction to “Watershed.” Grayscale in its cover art with a picture of the river itself — “Subjugated long ago when industry did reign/The mill towns, they are burning down/The river, it remains,” went the lyrics of “The Strong Place” — Merrimack was more colorful than one might initially think, but it was an album made very much to depict a specific idea and a specific, real place, and in its character and breadth, it was an utter success. Again, I’ve only ever been a dabbler in Massachusetts, but to my ears, Ichabod‘s portrait of the Bay State experience via this one river would seem to lack nothing in its realism. Maybe a Patriots bumper sticker on its back cover. Local sports is a big part of the culture up there.

By the end of this summer, I’ll be moved away from New England, back to New Jersey, where I grew up, to live in what was my grandmother’s house in the shadow of a different pine tree, planted almost 60 years ago by my grandfather, Joe Peterson, who died five years before I was born. As I embrace this personal history in a new way, I can’t help but think of what Ichabod did in speaking to theirs with Merrimack and the nature of the concept behind this record, how much it managed to bring to life of the place that, after more than half a decade there, could still make me feel like a tourist, and where I still had to use my phone to navigate the twisting back roads. It was there home. As I return to mine, it’s with some new measure of clarity of what it means to be from somewhere, and how even when one might leave a place, one never really loses the effect that place has had. Or the accent. I’ve definitely still got that as well, as regards New Jersey.

Ichabod were in the studio in 2015 and 2016 for a record that was set to be called Somewhere Between Zero and Infinity, and even went so far as to post a snippet of a rough version of the title-track to Soundcloud and another song as well. I wouldn’t put it past them to have another album out at some point, but neither am I holding my breath. If Merrimack indeed turned out to be their swansong, at very least one would have to say they put everything they had into making it. Some bands never get there.

As always, I hope you enjoy. Thanks for reading.

Next week is Maryland Doom Fest, if you can believe that. I think I leave on Wednesday to head south? Maybe Thursday? I’m not really sure. Either way, I’ll be there all weekend as I cash in all of the domestic capital I earned (and probably then some) running point on childcare in Ireland for two weeks in trade for four days of being pummeled into the ground by riffs. Thanks in advance to The Patient Mrs.

We’ve had people in the house all week to talk about doing windows, doing a kitchen, doing whatever else. A guy came and fixed a leak in the flashing above the fireplace. We got blown off by an electrician. All our furniture is still in MA, and frankly I have no idea where any of it is going to go, but I guess that’s a worry for when that place actually sells. I think it’s been on the market for three weeks? I don’t know. The sooner an offer comes in, the better. I don’t think anyone really wants to drag this out anymore than we need to.

Also, if anyone wants to help me pack vinyl, that’d be great. Thanks. I’ll be back up there sometime in July, I think. Gotta get the mail, if nothing else.

Speaking of, I know the contact form on here is broken again. Just hit me up on Facebook in the meantime.

No new The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio this week. I’ll have one next week though, so hang in. There’s still a repeat Sunday night at 7PM Eastern if you get the chance. Hit up http://gimmeradio.com for the schedule.

We’ve been down in Jersey pretty much since we got back (last weekend?) from Ireland. I think we stayed in Connecticut for a night. I don’t really know. I know I missed taking out the garbage yesterday morning and there’s copious baby poop in the garage as a result. Whatever raccoon decides to get in our trash is in for a surprise.

But this weekend is… stuff? I don’t know. I have writing to do, and a bunch of whatnot I want to get done before Doom Fest, but I’ll the skip the notes. Look for a Pinto Graham track premiere Monday and an Across Tundras review Tuesday. That’s the plan as of now. Might do Burning Gloom on Wednesday.

It’s 5:48AM and The Pecan just woke up. The sun just came through the trees. I can see on the baby monitor he’s standing, so it’s likely the real deal. Takes him a few minutes to get going sometimes. But I’ll go grab him and then start the day here, which involves the usual amount of running around and probably me stressing about emails and whatever else. Who can keep up.

Anyway, I wish you a great and safe weekend. I think we’re grilling tomorrow if you want to come by. We’ll be back here after the duck races in the afternoon. Because when we do wholesome, we go all the fuck out.

Thanks for reading.

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Ichabod, Merrimack: A River and its People

Posted in Reviews on May 8th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

ichabod merrimack

The Merrimack River, in addition to connecting inland Northeast Massachusetts and New Hampshire with a direct line to the Atlantic Ocean — when there was a thing called “industry,” that was useful; in the before times, the long-long ago — has had homage paid to it in the past by figures as disparate as Henry David Thoreau and Mandy Moore, so rather than being first to tackle the subject, Lowell, MA, five-piece Ichabod are instead part of a longstanding regional tradition. That’s important to keep in mind when listening to Merrimack itself. Their sixth album is a take-it-as-a-whole eight-song/49-minute full-length with songs purposefully bleeding one into the next expansive in both its sonic breadth and emotional core, dedicated to the memory of the mothers of founding guitarist Dave Iverson and vocalist John Fadden, who made his debut with Ichabod on 2012’s Dreamscapes from Dead Space. That album was a beast of aggressive metal, heavy rock vibing and psychedelic density, but with the concept or at very least central thematic that Merrimack holds, and for the worn-on-sleeve personal attachment made so plain throughout the sixth outing’s span, it would be a mistake to call Merrimack anything other than Ichabod‘s finest and most complex work to date. Persistently underrated throughout their 15-plus years and across records like 2003’s Let the Bad Times Roll, 2005’s Reaching Empyrean and 2009’s 2012 (review here), they’ve always had the ability to bring a sense of mood to their output, but Merrimack brings this to a new level, and whether it’s the raging “Squall” on which one can almost hear intense rain pounding windows or the Blind Melon-style serenity found in the midsection guitar of the subsequent “Watershed,” the band — IversonFadden, bassist Greg Dellaria, guitarist Jason Adam and drummer Phil MacKay — prove utterly fearless throughout Merrimack‘s winding, flowing course.

Performances across the tracks bear that out, and Merrimack likewise benefits from the clarity of its production, helmed by Glenn Smith at Amps vs. Ohms in Cambridge, MA. The sound neither lacks punch nor is too muddled, which seems to bringing out the dynamics all the more of turns in songs like “Life at the Loom” and “The Ballad of Hannah Dustin,” whose kidnapping by Native Americans in the 1690s and her ensuing killing 10 of them with a hatchet became a rallying narrative more than a century later as destiny was manifest in settlement expansion and genocide — Thoreau also wrote about her. Ichabod open with more modern fare in “The Strong Place,” a 1:50 acoustic-led workingman’s folk shanty that boasts group backing vocals behind Fadden‘s northern twang, a stomp behind him in verses that opens with electric guitar in the chorus to give a somewhat auspicious, resoundingly dudely first impression, more outright fun than a lot of what follows on “Two Brothers Rock” and “Squall,” the former taking hold with a gradually unfolding post-grunge psychedelia, wah prevalent in Iverson‘s open-spaced progression. They’re building subtly throughout the first half of the track, and sure enough, “Two Brothers Rock” kicks into a heavier push shortly before the four-minute mark, Fadden switching to harsher shouts for the first of many such fluid transitions. His ability to match his approach to the instrumental turns behind him — he is a powerful singer, clean or otherwise — is key to Merrimack‘s ultimate success, and he carries the intensity of “Two Brothers Rock” into a noise-laden solo and building wash of noise, the track eventually brought down amid a chugging rumble that leads to “Squall,” both the longest and most accomplished cut on the album.

ichabod

More immediate in its impact than “Two Brothers Rock” — that’s not to insinuate that Ichabod should be doing the same thing all the time, just noting a difference in structure — “Squall” emerges from a seamless transition and casts a vision of metal that moves outside its own genre bounds. The push of its early going gives way to a psychedelic, gorgeously melodic, ebow-inclusive turn in the second half, Fadden again making the shift naturally, that itself is a build back toward the initial intensity of the chorus, which serves as a landmark for Merrimack as a whole, even as early into the record as it arrives. For an album the stated intent for which is a front-to-back listen to have such a defining moment in its third (really second) track is a risk of sequencing, but Ichabod work around it by continuing to expand the scope of the tracks, first with the aforementioned “Watershed” and its peaceful roll, which even when it gets heavier, retains its sun-drenched feel, memorable repeated lines “All I wanna do is just be a part of it” and “Saving all my sunshine” typifying the bright, hopeful mood that seems so far removed from the dense impact of “Squall” — a triumph though that was — and then with “Life at the Loom,” which follows a somewhat similar course in its atmosphere but is more upbeat and has an underlying tension that finds payoff in a more intense second half. To contrast, the repeated line there — another landmark hook — is “I wish I could sit around and talk about the weather forever,” and it’s screamed, the speaker in the lyrics seeming to be working at a textile factory, wondering earlier in the song what’s happening at home over more wistful ebow, a highlight bassline from Dellaria and MacKay‘s keep-it-moving drums. One might expect that kind of thrust to continue to bleed over into the next track, as Merrimack has managed to do up to this point, but “Life at the Loom” shifts in its last moments to something of a comedown, and the shorter “Child of the Bear” picks up from that with spacious guitar noodling immediately reminiscent of The Doors and, by then unsurprisingly, vocals and poetic lyrics to match, the river once again the central theme.

Put together, “Child of the Bear” and “The Ballad of Hannah Dustin,” which follows, are shorter than “Two Brothers Rock,” “Squall,” “Watershed” or “Life at the Loom,” but both make a considerable impact in mood, the former with its wandering sensibility and psychedelic brooding and the latter with a descent into screaming, chugging madness that serves to efficiently summarize just how quickly the band can shift between vibes. A dominant-culture folk hero as its focus, “The Ballad of Hannah Dustin” is the shortest track at 3:13, but it leaves a considerable impact nonetheless and leads the way into 6:32 closer “The Return,” which has the difficult task of somehow tying the album together. Spoken word and tense drumming move into burly echo-shouts, ambient screams, churning riffs and an atmospheric intensity to complement that of “Squall” without being directly linked to it. A descent into tearing-itself-apart noise and feedback plays out before a long fade carries Merrimack to its finish, Ichabod choosing to end on a note of marked foreboding. Taking into account some of the more easy-tempered stretches of “Watershed” and “Life at the Loom,” and the toss-a-few-back good times of “The Strong Place” — that title, of course, being a translation of the name Merrimack itself — it underscores the journey the band has crafted here, and perhaps that’s the point in the first place. Merrimack bleeds out its regionalist love with zero irony and unabashed affection for the places, the people and the history of New England, but I think even taken out of that context and for those who listen elsewhere, it’s an easy record to appreciate for simply giving tribute to the band’s home and for conveying the spirit that birthed it in the first place.

Ichabod, Merrimack (2014)

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audiObelisk Transmission 047

Posted in Podcasts on April 22nd, 2015 by JJ Koczan

Click Here to Download

 

Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!

If you listen to these podcasts on the regular, you might notice this one is a little different than other recent editions have been. I was all set to start it off at a raging clip as per usual and then that Bison Machine track stood out to me with that warm bassline and I just decided that was the way to go, start off languid with that and My Sleeping Karma and ease into the rawer and meaner stuff from there. There are a couple jarring moments here and there, but that’s kind of the idea too, and I think overall across the board it flows well across the two hours, the second of which builds across All Them Witches’ jams and Ichabod’s sludge rock right into the atmospheric doom extremity of Bell Witch. Three songs in about 55 minutes. Awesome.

You might also notice the tracklist below has time stamps. Listed is the start time for each song, so if you get lost along the way, that should hopefully provide some point of reference. In case there was any doubt I pay attention to the stuff people say in comments to these podcast posts.

As always, hope you enjoy:

First Hour:
0:00:00 Bison Machine, “Gamekeeper’s Thumb” from Hoarfrost
0:07:12 My Sleeping Karma, “Prithvi” from Moksha
0:13:39 Weedeater, “Claw of the South” from Goliathan
0:19:00 Sinister Haze, “Betrayed by Time” from Betrayed by Time EP
0:24:15 Sun and Sail Club, “Dresden Fireball Freakout Flight” from The Great White Dope
0:26:11 Lasers from Atlantis, “Protectress” from Lasers from Atlantis
0:33:29 Arenna, “Drums for Sitting Bull” from Given to Emptiness
0:39:40 Mirror Queen, “Scaffolds of the Sky” from Scaffolds of the Sky
0:45:47 Les Discrets, “La Nuit Muette” from Live at Roadburn
0:51:02 Cigale, “Harvest Begun” from Cigale
0:54:49 Black Mare, “A Low Crimes” from Black Mare/Lycia Split

Second Hour:
1:00:03 All Them Witches, “It Moved We Moved/Almost There/A Spider’s Gift” from A Sweet Release
1:24:09 Ichabod, “Squall” from Merrimack
1:33:39 Bell Witch, “Suffocation, a Burial I – Awoken (Breathing Teeth)” from Four Phantoms

Total running time: 1:55:50

 

Thank you for listening.

Download audiObelisk Transmission 047

 

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Live Review: Deville, Ichabod, Bedroom Rehab Corporation and Four Speed Fury in MA, 06.12.14

Posted in Reviews on June 13th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

Swedish four-piece Deville had played in Boston on Tuesday night, but having such a favorable impression of Ralph’s Rock Diner in Worcester from this year’s Eye of the Stoned Goat fest, I decided to see them there instead. An extra 40 minutes or so on the road, but they were playing with Ichabod and Connecticut’s Bedroom Rehab Corporation, so I was up for it. Ralph’s runs what it calls “Metal Thursdays” that, from what I’ve seen and been told, are usually way more metal, and some of the crowd at this show had that look. I figured them for Thursday night regulars, playing the safe bet they’d get to show up and see something heavy. Fair enough.

It was a four-act bill, with Hanson-based (which is a town I know because it’s five minutes from me) newcomers Four Speed Fury opening. Fronted by former Ichabod vocalist Kenneth MacKay, it was their third show, second with the same five-piece lineup, so one adjusted expectations accordingly. To their credit, they didn’t say as much from the stage, I heard it in the crowd — bands making excuses is perennially lame, and really, they had nothing to make excuses for. While they were clearly getting their bearings in that post-Milligram/Roadsaw balance of groove and aggression, the band named after a car and suitably motoring, they still presented the beginnings of a solid songwriting process, particularly on “Stranger,” which closed and found them at their most comfortable. Comprised of MacKay, guitarists Robb Lioy and Keith Genest, bassist Bruce Wahl and drummer Shawn McIverthey found room in their set for a take on KISS‘ “God of Thunder” and were a decent start to a night of bruising rock.

Connecticut duo Bedroom Rehab Corporation followed. I recalled the work of bassist/vocalist Adam Wujtewicz and drummer Meghan Killimade from their 2013 full-length Red Over Red (review here), and I had been impressed last year with the variety the duo brought to their recorded output, but frankly, I was caught off guard by how cohesive and commanding they were live. In front of Wujtewicz on stage was a sprawling pedal array that turned his bass — pumped through an Orange Terror Bass head; those things are adorable — into a fuzzed-out echo buzzsaw or a wash of noisy feedback, and the set was impeccably constructed for maximum impact. His dynamic with Killimade impressed, and both players impressed individually as well, Killimade singing along with the songs as she stomped her way through them.

Their grooving instrumental “All Hands” made an excellent centerpiece before the more brooding “S.O.S. (Son of Siren),” and the starts and stops in “No Payment for the Boatman” only underscored how much more tonally creative and full-sounding Bedroom Rehab Corporation were, Wujtewicz showboating a bit on vocals but selling it well. There was a point at which I had to step back and tell myself that if they keep going the way they are in five years they’ll be completely unfuckwithable. Flourishes of Melvins-style weirdness that didn’t come through on the record made them seem all the more volatile, and that only worked in their favor. They’ll play Boston in the fall as well and I expect I’ll look forward to seeing them again.

I’ve seen Ichabod three times now in three months (reviews here and here), so I kind of knew what to expect, but “Baba Yaga” and “Huckleberry” from 2012’s Dreamscapes from Dead Space made an enticing opening salvo, guitarists Dave Iverson and Jason Adam, bassist Greg Dellaria, vocalist John Fadden and drummer Phil MacKay wasting little time in brutalizing the assembled post-burger Ralph’s masses with their riffy extremity and Fadden‘s vicious screams. Any day that dude opens his mouth is “Metal Thursday,” I don’t care if it’s Sunday afternoon. Later into the set, they brought up Ken MacKay — also Phil‘s brother — to guest on “Sleeping Giants,” the opening track from 2009’s 2012, on which he originally sang, and he and Fadden traded parts while the band loosed various furies behind, closing out — fittingly — with the newer “Squall” from the forthcoming Merrimack LP and reserving perhaps their most brutal moment for last, an atmospheric jam providing momentary respite from an onslaught for which my respect only seems to increase.

By then it had already been a long night. It was after midnight as Deville got on stage, but the four-piece came all the way from Malmö to play, and even if they hadn’t crashed with The Patient Mrs. and I the night before, sticking around seemed like the bare minimum effort to make. A big part of why I wanted to see them in Ralph’s was for the good lighting, and I had my “well of course” moment when guitarist/vocalist Andreas Bengtsson asked the sound guy to turn the lights down and put them in red. The full O’Brien’s experience, only further away. Fortunately, Deville‘s set itself was a reminder of how killer professional-grade heavy rock can be, the double-Andreas/double-Markus lineup of Bengtsson , fellow guitarist/backing vocalist Andreas Wulkan, bassist Markus Åkesson and drummer Markus Nilsson building an irresistible momentum as they ran through cuts from their 2013 Small Stone debut, Hydra (review here), like “The Knife,” “Lava” and the savagely catchy “Iron Fed,” all of them weightier in tone live — Wulkan joined the band after Hydra was released as well, so that could be a factor — and delivered with energy that spoke to a genuine sense of performance. They could’ve been on stage at a European festival, from the look of them, and carried themselves just as well.

That level of professionalism, again, can be heard on Hydra, but the active engaging of the crowd and the four-piece’s vigor in conveying the material went a long way. Deville were seven shows into their first US tour, and coming from having an off day on Wednesday, so I expected they’d be pretty tight, but they outdid my expectations with apparent ease, and reminded me of what I dig so much about European heavy rock and particularly Swedish heavy rock: that a band can be so heavy and so raging and still craft a quality song. The largesse of the riff in set-closer “Rise Above” — also the cap to their 2007 debut, Come Heavy Sleep, recently reissued by Heavy Psych Sounds (bought the vinyl) — was among the most satisfying I’ve heard since Wooly Mammoth’s “Mammoth Bones” and they took it for everything it was worth, jamming it out to give the show a huge finish that brought the audience all the way forward and extended even the reissue’s newly-recorded version’s eight-minute runtime.

During that finale, I had a moment where it suddenly didn’t seem that unreasonable to drive two hours to see them again tonight in New Haven, and while I don’t think that’ll actually happen, the impulse was there. For a band like Deville to come and try to break ground with a US audience is an undertaking of considerable personal sacrifice, but aside from being admirable on that level, they absolutely killed it on stage, and my only hope is that this tour proves worth their while enough for them to plan another one at some point. We’ll have to wait and see, I guess. The rest of the dates are here. They didn’t make it easy on themselves, but as they showed on stage last night, hey’re obviously willing to put in some effort.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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Front to Back: The Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 in Worcester, MA, 05.04.14

Posted in Reviews on May 6th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

You learn the same lessons over and over at a festival. Bring ibuprofen. Hydrate. If you’re going to be somewhere all day, know the spots to stand, to lean, to sit if you’re lucky, and if you want to sit early, do it for an investment in standing later. No one wants to bum out while the headliner’s on and the days are long. You do these things because it’s what you love to do. You’re not young anymore, you get tired. Your head aches. Your back aches. You smell. You’re in people’s way when you stand up front. Minimize that if you can. Be mobile. Enjoy yourself. This is where life gets good, after all.

There are cavernous potholes in the unpaved parking lot of Ralph’s Rock Diner. I kicked up dust even at crawling speed to park for Day Two of the Eye of the Stoned Goat 4, making sure I was plenty early to catch Skrogg lead off a day that also included Geezer, Foghound, Clamfight, Rozamov, Ichabod, Volume IV, Curse the Son, The Scimitar and Order of the Owl. Had enough time to sit at the counter in the dining car, watch a little bit of the original Star Trek on the tv there and have a cup of coffee, which I was warned against ordering from one of the guys who wasn’t working that day for fear of being yelled at. I’d have to laugh at someone getting pissed at a patron ordering coffee in what claims to be a diner, but I’m glad to have avoided the issue altogether. Two bucks and about 15 minutes later and I was back upstairs and dug in for the start of the show.

A Sunday vibe is different from a Saturday vibe. You know this. Plague of hangovers, plus Monday’s looming threat of the return to real life — these things bleed in, even if subconsciously. Eye of the Stoned Goat came prepared for such an eventuality:

Skrogg

New Hampshire heavy-toned rockers Skrogg were a hair-of-the-dog start to Day Two and they knew it. The ink is barely dry on their later-2013 outing, Blooze (review here), but they’ve got a follow-up in the works called Done a Bad, Bad Thing and they aired the single “Wheels, Women and Whiskey” from that, as well as a slower, wah-loaded jam that would provide the prevailing impression of their set in laid back, weeded-out evil-woman boozer blues grit. If I hadn’t actually heard guitarist/vocalist Jeff Maxfield speak in the same voice with which he sings, I’d likely swear up and down his “whiskey-soaked” vocals were an affectation, but no, that’s how he sounds, and with the chemistry between him, bassist Jason Lawrence and drummer Felix Starr — who traded out the house kit in favor of his own, much larger set — what struck me most about Skrogg was how well they jammed. Last time I saw them, at Stoner Hands of Doom XII in 2012, they didn’t come across nearly as comfortable on stage. They were supporting their Raw Heat demo/EP (review here) then, so obviously the intervening two years haven’t been misspent on their part. I wondered what they’d do with more time to maybe elongate their songs and really stretch out and improvise. In hindsight, Blooze had some of that going in “Born to Blooze.” Hopefully they keep developing that side with their new one.

Geezer

If Skrogg were the first shot of the day, Geezer were a fitting chaser. The New York trio were jamming before they even started. Their soundcheck was a jam, and a good one. They opened with “Ghost Rider Solar Plexus,” and between that and “Ancient Song,” also from the 2013 Gage EP (review here) which has a vinyl issue impending on STB Records, they offered a support lesson in the importance of chemistry for a three-piece to work. Guitarist/vocalist Pat Harrington gets a lot of the attention in the band, between his Electric Beard of Doom podcast, gravelly voice and accompanying facial hair, but bassist Freddy Villano and drummer Chris Turco carried the psych-blues jams on which Harrington spaced out, and it was a classic dynamic made that much stronger by how well particularly Harrington and Villano know each other on stage, having played together for some time in Gaggle of Cocks in addition to developing Geezer‘s bluesier take over the last couple years. One of just two acts alongside Lord Fowl to carry over from 2013’s Eye of the Stoned Goat 3 in Brooklyn, Geezer rounded out with “Pony” from 2013’s Electrically Recorded Handmade Heavy Blues debut full-length and drew the early crowd in like moths to a lightbulb with the song’s quirky stoner bounce and nod-ready groove. Easy to dig these guys, and they’ve only gotten better the couple times I’ve seen them. If ESG needed a house band, they’d be a good bet.

Foghound

The second appearance in two days for Sixty Watt Shaman drummer Chuck Dukehart III, Foghound were a much different band. I don’t know if they planned their set to highlight the fact that all four members — Dukehart, guitarists Dee Settar and Bob Sipes, bassist Geoffrey Freeman IV — also contribute vocals, but it worked out that way and it was a major distinguishing factor not only between Foghound and Sixty Watt — who of course had a completely different presence anyway with one guitar and a standalone frontman who only sometimes added guitar — but between Foghound and the vast majority of the Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 bill. And not only did everyone sing, but they all could. Foghound‘s late-2013 Quick, Dirty and High debut CD (review here) boasted the same elements, but of course it’s different seeing it play out on stage. Underlying that was a swing that was among the weekend’s finest as Foghound pulled more toward the heavy rock end from Day Two’s bluesy beginning, the standout “Resurrect the Throwaways” from the album reminding of Foghound‘s potential to land a hook when they need to and the new song “Truth Revealed” finding Dukehart taking the lead vocal on drums for yet another driving groove. They seem to be getting their approach together quickly, and as impressive as they already were, I wouldn’t be surprised to find Foghound even more solidified when next I’m fortunate enough to see them play.

Clamfight

Like the marauding bastards they are, Clamfight rolled into Ralph’s, set up, destroyed the place, and were gone. I’m obviously biased as regards the double-guitar foursome split between Jersey and Philly, but if the day had a quota of thrash, Clamfight met it head on and then some, kicking out “Sand Riders,” “Age of Reptiles” and staple closer “Stealing the Ghost Horse” from 2013’s Maple Forum release, I vs. the Glacier in addition to “Block Ship” and a new song called “Selkie” (or was that “Selfie?”) that will reportedly be on their next album. Perhaps the highlight of their whole set was watching lead guitarist Sean McKee shred his was through solos in the intro to “Stealing the Ghost Horse,” but there’s some stiff competition in that regard. I’ve been watching Clamfight play for the better part of eight years now and they have never been so good. I mean it. They’ve become an absolutely devastating live act, and their brutal groove has become a signature that’s their own much more than derived from any influence. Between McKee and Joel Harris‘ guitars, Louis Koble‘s bass and Andy Martin thud ‘n’ roar on drums and vocals, Clamfight barely stopped to let Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 catch its breath before their next round of pummeling began. Unreasonably heavy — and immediate. Barely half an hour off I-95, they locked into “Sand Riders” and didn’t look back. I can’t wait to hear their new stuff recorded.

Rozamov


Five bands in, it was pretty easy to see fest-organizer Brendan Burns‘ logic in how Day Two of Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 was going to flow, from the blues-styled start to more rock-minded push and into heavier, more thrashing terrain. In that regard, Boston’s Rozamov would take the evening to its most bludgeoning, darkest place. The trio of guitarist/vocalist Matt Iacovelli, bassist/vocalist Tom Corino and drummer Will Hendrix — who also earned my vote for best shirt of the weekend with his Maggot Brain tee — have some riff-minded aspects to what they do, but on the whole, their sound is much more rooted in the extreme. They were a step further into the abyss after Clamfight, impressively tight as a trio after scaling down from a four-piece since I saw them last fall (review here). Likewise, they seemed to have a fair amount of new material in tow, but “Famine” from last year’s Of Gods and Flesh EP was insistent and violent in kind, and no matter where the songs took them, Rozamov remained in control of their course, alternately blasting and bleeding out thickened and ferocious thrashing grooves, Iacovelli and Corino coming together periodically for dual screams that only added to the extremity at hand. I don’t know what their plans are for putting their new stuff together and getting it out, but they carried the songs across with such urgency that I had to stop and remind myself of how far the day had come since its start still just a short time before.

Ichabod

Mean, volatile and given to fits of utter sonic cruelty, Ichabod were nonetheless a pullback toward heavy rock from Rozamov‘s assault. Also native to Boston, the double-guitar five-piece were the band on the Stoned Goat bill I’d seen most recently, back in in late-March in Allston, but of course the setting and compulsion toward a half-hour set between Rozamov and Volume IV — not to mention the sound and lighting at Ralph’s, which, again, are among the finest I’ve found since moving to Massachusetts — gave this go a different context. Vocalist John Fadden, guitarists Dave Iverson and Jason Adam, bassist Greg Dellaria and drummer Phil MacKay have reportedly finished work on the follow-up to 2012’s Dreamscapes from Dead Space, titled Merrimack, and as last time, some new material was showed off prior to Dreamscapes cuts like “Baba Yaga” — introduced as a “stoner rock song” — and “Hollow God,” which seems to take a similar angst-fueled approach to Boston’s Irish Catholicism that a lot of Southeast heavy takes to the Southern Baptist Church, Fadden‘s screams proving particularly visceral on the lines “Your god is irrelevant,” driving home a passionate if somewhat familiar argument, reminding of just how devastated the cultural landscape of this region has been by corruption in its religious institutions. That’s the kind of thing one might think of seeing the band twice in little more than a month, but the bulk of the room seemed more consumed with the general nastiness in Ichabod‘s sound. Justifiably so.

Volume IV

Building on the more rock side of Ichabod‘s sound, Atlanta natives Volume IV steered the fest back toward crisp, pro-grade heavy. A somewhat odd pairing in all but geography, they arrived at the Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 on tour with Order of the Owl having played in New York the night before, supporting their Ripple Music debut, Long in the Tooth (review/stream here). A solid, cohesive trio, and particularly interesting to watch after Sixty Watt Shaman in giving a modern look at how similar influences have developed in the time since the Day One headliners’ first run. Their being from Atlanta, it was tempting to try and read some measure of Mastodon influence into Volume IV‘s approach, but apart from some eye-squinting on the part of guitarist Joe Carpenter while he delivered his vocals, there was next to nothing in common. Both bands use guitars, if you want to reach that far. Songs were straightforward in their structure and well executed, and whether it was the chug of “Awake the Dreamer” or the ZZ Top-style motoring of “Locust Have No King,” they made a more effective presentation than I had expected. Set closer “Iron Fist” would be the first of two Motörhead covers for the evening, and Volume IV Carpenter, bassist/vocalist Blake Parris and drummer Troy King — took one of classic metal’s most recognizable hooks and made it their own much the same way they added an individual sense to Southern heavy in the material from Long in the Tooth. I was into the record well enough, but they were better live without question.

Curse the Son

In a word: Tone. Playing in front of two full-stacks topped with custom heads from Dunwich Amplifiers that glowed from inside through a clear front with the word “weed” etched on it, guitarist/vocalist Ron Vanacore of Hamden, Connecticut, trio Curse the Son had thickest guitar sound of the entire two-day festival. Order of the Owl would outdo them for volume, but in terms of the sheer viscosity of their sound — which, as Vanacore joked in reference to his amps, was “brought to you by the power of weed” — Curse the Son was an overdose of righteously engrossing fuzz. Bassist Richard “Cheech” Weeden made the sound even fatter, and with Mike Petrucci (also of Vestal Claret) bringing subtle touches of complexity to the drums, cuts like “Goodbye Henry Anslinger” and the particularly catchy “Spider Stole the Weed” were rolling-groove high points of the day, the “whoa”s in the chorus of the latter seeming to come in layers even though Vanacore was the only one with a mic. Their 2012 full-length, Psychache (review here) is set to come out on STB Records vinyl any day now, and while it was “Pulsotar Bringer” from 2011’s Klonopain (review here) that closed out the set, the nod was constant throughout the room in Ralph’s as Curse the Son built successive walls of distortion. They’re a pretty well-kept secret at this point, though with that LP version of Psychache coming, I can’t help but wonder how much longer that will be the case. Tetrahydrocannabinolic riff worship of the highest order, and since the last time I saw the band play on all their own gear was 2011, it seems I’m about due for a trip to New Haven.

The Scimitar

No doubt Boston will miss Gein‘s gallop. The bassist’s technique has been a key element in Black Pyramid‘s warmongering, in Second Grave‘s explorations of the melancholic and in The Scimitar‘s still-nascent branching off from Black Pyramid‘s roots, but Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 Day Two brought the second and final of his last shows. Guitarist/vocalist Darryl Shepard, who has said he’ll continue to make music in this vein under his own name after the release of The Scimitar‘s debut and likely only full-length, Doomsayer, noted it as The Scimitar‘s last gig with Gein “for a while,” and it’s true you never know what’ll happen, but Los Angeles is a long way from Ralph’s Rock Diner, so yeah, a while indeed. I noted that drummer Brian Banfield cut his hair since the last time I saw The Scimitar, which at least meant we didn’t look so much alike, but more of a focal point was how well The Scimitar carried across the songs from Doomsayer, “World Unreal,” “Babylon” and even the night’s second Motörhead cover, “Metropolis,” leading to the longer album-closer “Crucifer,” which seemed like it was going to be their last song until they added “Forever and Ever and Ever.” The show was running early, and they started early as well, so there was plenty of time to spare, and that hook was worth including one way or another, Gein as ever reliably riding a foundational groove in the low end. He’ll make a good SoCal surfer. There wasn’t any grand farewell or anything like that when The Scimitar were done — he has always had a calm, collected stage presence — but it was still no doubt an emotional set for the bassist, who again, will be missed around these parts.

Order of the Owl


Imagine volume as a weapon. You knew some serious noise was about to be doled out when Atlanta’s Order of the Owl loaded no fewer than six Orange cabinets onto the stage, but I don’t think even the actual sight of such things prepared the room at Ralph’s for what was coming. To see that many dollars’ worth of amps in a single band, you know the parties involved have made a life choice. There had been a few instances throughout the day when I could feel my earplugs vibrate in my head — during Clamfight, during Curse the Son — but Order of the Owl went further and just rendered them useless from the start. Feedback proved no less essential to the sound than the trio’s riffs and lumbering grooves, but basically, Order of the Owl came through as a wash of noise. Bassist/vocalist Brent Anderson, formerly of Zoroaster, brought some of his ethic (not to mention his posture as he bent way over to the low microphone) from that band to this one, but with guitarist Casey Yarbrough and drummer Joe Sweat, Order of the Owl had a personality of their own carved from the massive tones emanating from that impressive backline. To Sweat‘s credit, the drums cut through, which Anderson‘s vocals didn’t — even a place with decent sound like Ralph’s can only put so much power into the P.A. before the lights shut off — and even in the back of the room was consumed by the overload. I couldn’t tell you what they played, but clearly the intent wasn’t so much to dazzle with individual songs or ideas so much as create a whole of such overwhelming push, and Anderson, Yarbrough and Sweat clearly had that working in their favor. Again, they seemed like a strange fit to hit the road with Volume IV, but they made a suitable closer for Eye of the Stoned Goat 4, giving the festival one final dose of ultra-heavy that nobody in their right mind would want to follow anyway. Their new album is probably finished being recorded at this point. One shutters to think of the devastation that awaits.

My ears were ringing fairly hard by the time I left Ralph’s. Sunday was an earlier night than Saturday had been anyway, and the last few bands had run short anyway, so it wasn’t yet midnight, but after running the full front-to-back of 20 bands over the two days, I’d hardly say I was up for more action than I got. The Masspike and news stories of Cinco de Mayo lime shortages carried me home and I’m not sure I’ve woken up since.

Thanks to Brendan Burns for his diligent efforts putting together The Eye of the Stoned Goat 4. Thanks as well to Derek and Jenn Bradshaw, Bill Kole, Ray Dickman, Jaki Cunha, Mark, everybody else who stuck it out for the weekend, and of course you for reading.

More pics after the jump.

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Live Review: Ichabod, Holly Hunt, Hollow Leg and Balam in Allston, MA, 03.25.14

Posted in Reviews on March 26th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

I have yet to see a show at O’Brien’s Pub in Allston and regret having shown up. At this point, that’s a pretty good track record, since I’ve far and away spent more time in that room than anywhere else since moving north last year. Last night was Holly Hunt and Hollow Leg on tour from Florida, joined by Newport, Rhode Island’s Balam and Boston’s own Ichabod for a persistently heavy but still varied four-band bill of doom and sludge. I’d had no coffee owing to a dentist appointment in the afternoon and have no problem admitting that I’m still reeling from being laid off last week from my last remaining income-providing job, but I was ready to see a show, and I got what I went for, Balam starting off with their well-honed take on doom.

Vocalist Alexander Carellas mentioned on stage that he and a couple others in the double-guitar five-piece were sick, but the band sounded no worse for the wear up to and including his own voice, which had also impressed when I saw them last summer with Olde Growth and Keefshovel (review here). They were starting off a week-long stint of shows around the Northeast — Boston, Providence, Portland, Burlington, Poughkeepsie, New Bedford, Providence again — and fresh from a gig at Dusk in Providence with Magic Circle, playing songs from an upcoming full-length for which the recording is reportedly in progress, so it wasn’t really a surprise they were tight, but it made for a solid start to the evening nonetheless, their riffs adding trad doom edge that the sludgier Hollow Leg would contradict almost immediately upon stepping on stage.

My desire to see Hollow Leg was twofold. First (spoiler alert) they’re good. Second, they seem to be in a state of transition. Their 2013 full-length, Abysmal (review here), followed in the muck-caked Southern sludgy footsteps of its predecessor, 2010’s Instinct, albeit with more of a focus on songwriting than the debut. Their 2014 single, “God-Eater,” on the other hand, came with word of seeking out a new direction “sonically, visually and lyrically,” so I was curious to find out how that played next to Hollow Leg‘s ultra-aggressive prior approach. Sure enough, “God-Eater” was pretty easy to pick out as the second song of their set, but it wasn’t necessarily incongruous with what surrounded.

Maybe hearing it once through in a set isn’t the best way to get a feel overall, but from what I heard, the new song worked well next to “8 Dead (in a Mobile Home)” from Abysmal, though I imagine the context of Hollow Leg‘s next studio output will make the shift more obvious. I look forward to finding out, and wasn’t sorry to hear their abusive crunch in the meantime, somewhat cleaner than Sourvein but definitely of that ilk. Last I saw them was before Abysmal was released, and they had a commanding presence then, but they got on stage and clicked immediately, which was only fitting for being five shows deep into the tour. The duo Holly Hunt, also from Florida and whom I hadn’t seen previously, would soon follow suit.

Holly Hunt also had new material from an EP called Prometheus that’s set to release next month as the follow-up to the Miami-based instrumental two-piece’s 2012 Year One full-length debut. They’re one of those bands that I’ve heard from several reliable sources that “you gotta see.” Sure enough, as heavy as their recorded stuff is, it does little justice to the volume emanating from guitarist Gavin Perry‘s dual Hiwatt heads or the distinct crash of Beatriz Monteavaro, who celebrated her birthday in lumbering style. Sound-wise, they are as elemental as you’re likely to hear — elephantine riffs cycled through in vicious nod, played very, very loud. On paper it’s a simple formula, standing in front it’s enough to shake your ribcage. At one point I heard a crackle and was convinced the O’Brien’s P.A. wasn’t long for this world, but fortunately it held out under the tonnage of tonal heft Holly Hunt supplied.

Given the unromantic duty of closing out a four-bander on a Tuesday night, two-guitar fivesome Ichabod answered Holly Hunt‘s demolition with their own brand thereof, frontman John Fadden shifting with intimidating ease between clean vocals and sit-tight-because-I-can-do-this-all-night screaming, lending the set a sense of drama to go with the alternately rocking and crushing riffs of Dave Iverson and Jason Adam, the steady and inventive bass of Greg Dallaria and the drums of Phil MacKay, which somehow prove to be the uniting force between the band’s space-rock push and their seething, malevolent sludge. Their psycho-delia was fluid through two new cuts from their upcoming LP, Merrimack, as well as favorites “Baba Yaga,” “Huckleberry” and “Hollow God” from 2012’s Dreamscapes from Dead Space, the latter of which closed out the evening on perhaps its angriest note — no small accomplishment considering the company Ichabod were keeping.

With the evening-long assault of volume as a comparison point, Allston seemed especially quiet on my way out of the venue. Holly Hunt and Hollow Leg roll into Brooklyn tonight, March 26, to share a bill at St. Vitus with The Scimitar, Kings Destroy and Clamfight as a benefit show for Aaron Edge of Lumbar to help with medical bills in his continued fight with MS. Info on that gig is here, and no doubt it’ll be one for the ages. Me, I’ll take what I can get, and was glad I got to see these acts at all, let alone on a show that was so dead on, front to back. No complaints.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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The Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 Lineup and Runtimes Finalized

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 3rd, 2014 by JJ Koczan

Though one hesitates to ever use the word “final” when it comes to a festival lineup, particularly when we’re still a few months out from the event taking place, The Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 looks pretty damn complete. Some recent upheaval in the lineup has brought in Lord Fowl as a replacement for Phantom Glue and Kings Destroy for Kingsnake, but things seem solid and ready to proceed otherwise. Should be a packed weekend May 3 and 4 at Ralph’s Rock Diner in Worcester, Mass., and it’s definitely one I’m looking forward to with a killer blend of bands local to New England and not.

Complete lineup as it stands today follows, along with the runtimes for each set. Feel free to dive in:

Snake Charmer Booking proudly presents: THE EYE OF THE STONED GOAT 4 Festival

Saturday, May 3rd – Sunday May 4th 2014

2 Days! 20 Bands! 20 Bucks!

Ralphs Rock Diner
148 Grove St.
Worcester, MA 01605

Saturday, May 3rd 2014
Doors: 4:30pm
Admission: $20 (ALL WEEKEND)
Line-Up and Set Times:

SIXTY WATT SHAMAN (The Reunion!!!)
12:20am-1:15am

CORTEZ (Boston, MA)
11:20pm-12:00am

KINGS DESTROY
10:25pm-11:05pm

SUMMONER (Boston, MA)
9:30pm-10:10pm

LORD FOWL (New Haven, CT)
8:45pm-9:15pm

BEELZEFUZZ (Church Within Records – Maryland)
8:00pm-8:30pm

SECOND GRAVE (Massachusetts)
7:15pm-7:45pm

JOHN WILKES BOOTH (Long Island, NY)
6:30pm-7:00pm

SET (Worcester, MA)
5:45pm-6:15pm

BIRCH HILL DAM (Fitchsburg, MA)
5:00pm-5:30pm

Sunday, May 4th 2014
Doors: 3:30pm
Admission: $20 (ALL WEEKEND)
Line-Up and Set Times:

ORDER OF THE OWL (Atlanta, GA)
11:20pm-12:00am

THE SCIMITAR (Boston, MA)
10:20pm-11:00pm

CURSE THE SON (Connecticut)
9:25pm-10:05pm

VOLUME IV (Ripple Music – Atlanta, GA)
8:30pm-9:10pm

ICHABOD (Boston, MA)
7:45pm-8:15pm

ROZAMOV (Boston, MA)
7:00pm-7:30pm

NEON WARSHIP (Small Stone Records- Ohio)
6:15pm-6:45pm

FOGHOUND (Baltimore, MD)
5:30pm-6:00pm

GEEZER (Kingston, NY)
4:45pm-5:15pm

SKROGG (New Hampshire)
4:00pm-4:30pm

Tickets On-Sale NOW!!!!
http://www.showclix.com/event/3788105/listing

$20.00 for the ENTIRE WEEKEND!!!

Sponsored By:

Ripple Music
Electric Beard Of Doom
Grip of Delusion Radio
Three Thirteen Inc Artist Management
Heavy Planet

https://www.facebook.com/events/586404324760804/
https://www.facebook.com/TheEyeOfTheStonedGoat
http://www.theeyeofthestonedgoat.com/

Cortez, “Johnny”

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Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 Coming to Boston; Sixty Watt Shaman Reunion and More Confirmed

Posted in Visual Evidence on October 31st, 2013 by JJ Koczan

Well, this is convenient. Now a two-day fest, the Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 is coming to Allston, MA, and is set for May 3-4 at O’Brien’s Pub. I think I can safely say this will be the least amount of driving I will have ever done to get to a festival. And while that’s not as appealing as the the fact that Sixty Watt Shaman are doing a reunion set or that I’ll have another chance to check out Beelzefuzz and Curse the Son along with native Boston acts like Summoner, The Scimitar, Cortez and Ichabod, the ease of commute is not to be overlooked. I don’t have a 2014 calendar yet, but once I get one, you can pretty much consider it marked.

Kudos to Brendan Burns, who’s also gearing up to present Stoner Hands of Doom XIII in Virginia next weekend. Check out the poster for the event and the preliminary announcement below. More to come:

***SNAKE CHARMER BOOKING ANNOUNCES ESG4!***

Saturday May 3rd- Sunday May 4th 2014
O’Briens Pub / Allston, MA

Tickets On Sale: Jan 1st 2014 9am.

THIS IS A LIMITED ENGAGEMENT, THIS EVENT WILL SELL OUT!!!
More details as they develop!

https://www.facebook.com/TheEyeOfTheStonedGoat

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