Youngblood Supercult Call it Quits

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 31st, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Bands come and go — it’s the nature of things — but it’s always a little bit sadder to see a band call it a day who both had potential and had yet to fully realize it in their work. Such is the case with Topeka, Kansas, four-piece Youngblood Supercult, and while I believe guitarist Bailey Smith when she says “see you in the future,” it’s not at all clear what shape that future will take.

Youngblood Supercult released three albums in their time in the form of 2017’s The Great American Death Rattle (review here), 2016’s High Plains (review here) and their 2014 debut, Season of the Witch, all of which were remarkably well received and which put forth a marked sonic progression one into the next. To what or where that might lead Smith and the other members of the band — drummer Weston Alford, bassist Brad Morris and vocalist David Merrill — I wouldn’t be able to guess, but Youngblood Supercult as a whole seemed to have more to say after the last record.

So it goes.

As noted, Smith made the announcement over Thee Facebooks, in two posts I’ve combined here:

youngblood supercult

First thing’s first: I’ve been having some issues with Bandcamp (again) on the merch side of things. ALL orders made between March and today should be shipped in a couple days whether or not you already received your order or got money back from something that wasn’t received. Thank goodness I have some backstock, and I apologized tremendously for the problems that have arisen from this. Thank you for your patience, everyone.

Secondly (and I wanted to post this as a separate announcement, because of the weight of it)….Youngblood Supercult, in its current existence, is no more. I will not be elaborating on the grimy details of what went wrong here, but unfortunately, this incarnation of the band has come to an end. I want to extend my deepest thanks to everyone who has supported us over the years, especially Robert Black, who gave us our first vinyl release and believed in us before anyone else did. To writers and reviewers who praised our musicianship. To everyone who came out to a show or told a friend about our music. To Joshua M. Wilkinson for collaborating with RB and DHU Records on our last release. You all are fantastic and special to me.

When I started this group in 2013, I had NO idea the impact our music would make on people all across the globe. My gratitude is endless. However, I WILL continue this group. I don’t know when, where, or with who. But it is the musical extension of my soul, and I have no intentions of letting it die. It might be a while. But you will see Youngblood Supercult in the future. In the meantime, I have a closet full of vinyl, including some first editions of High Plains and The Great American Death Rattle represses that recently arrived at my door. Once I get the merch from the previous post out, I’ll be posting links for those of you who are interested. You all kick ass, and I will see you in the future.

–Bailey

https://www.facebook.com/youngbloodsupercult/
https://youngbloodsupercult.bandcamp.com/

Youngblood Supercult, The Great American Death Rattle (2017)

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The Midnight Ghost Train Calling it Quits; Final Shows Announced

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 13th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

This was a special band. If you ever saw them live, you know what I’m talking about. The first time I saw them, I was drunk as a skunk in a Bayonne, New Jersey, firemen’s hall or VFW or whatever it was. They were playing with a buddy’s band called L.O.M.F., and they took the stage, did “John the Revelator,” and blew my addled mind. This had to be around 2008, because I’m pretty sure that’s where I picked up their The Johnny Boy EP (review here). Over the next several years, I’d come to find out that the raucous kicking of such ass was just kind of how it went for The Midnight Ghost Train. Standard procedure.

Fronted by the gravely-voiced Steve Moss, The Midnight Ghost Train would go on to tour the world and release four full-lengths: a 2009 self-titled debut (review here), 2012’s Buffalo (review here), 2015’s Cold was the Ground (review here) and 2017’s Cypress Ave. (review here). With Moss and drummer Brandon Burghart joined by a succession of bassists — Mike Boyne was the last of them and an excellent fit in the band — each record was a step forward from the last, and they never put out the same album twice. As much as their reputation rested on their live delivery, and rightly so for the madness that ensued on stage and the electrifying nature of Moss’ player-persona, they could always be counted on to showcase thoughtful creative progression in their songwriting as well.

I could go on, but the point is I’ve covered The Midnight Ghost Train for a decade. Saw them open for Truckfighters in Philly and stood close enough to the stage to get hit by Moss’ hair as he headbanged. Watched them through the door at Roadburn Festival because the room was too packed to get in. I never saw them give less than their everything on stage. Never. And while I’m glad they drop the hint that they might return at some point in the future, and while I wish them luck in whatever endeavors they might undertake, I hope they do take a few years’ break and come back stronger than ever, I’m even gladder I’ll get to see what seems to be their final performance at Maryland Doom Fest 2018 this June.

As they’d also been confirmed for Electric Funeral Fest III in Denver on June 29, I’m not entirely sure what’s happening there, but in the band’s farewell message, they list three shows, and MDDF is the last one. Here’s that note from the band, who will be missed:

the midnight ghost train

IMPORTANT MESSAGE TO ALL FANS:
It is with a heavy heart that we announce to you that The Midnight Ghost Train is hanging it up and saying goodbye. Our personal family lives have become more important to us than being on the road. We feel content and successful in what we have built in the past ten years, our amazing dedicated fan base being our greatest achievement. We respect our fans and our music, so we’ve decided it is time to say goodbye.

We will be finishing our career as The Midnight Ghost Train with three final shows. So if you want to see us perform one last time giving you every piece of our soul that’s left, here are your chances:

June 22-Topeka, KS @ J&Js Gallery
June 23- Newport, KY @ SGHR
With our final show being
June 24- @ The Maryland Doom Festival

Maybe we will come back some day down the road, and storm back to the stage better than ever, but at this time that plan is not in place for the distant future. Right now we want to focus on our family lives, and continue on with our other dreams and aspirations.

Once again, thank you to all of our devoted fans for helping us achieve our dreams. Every one of you holds a special place in our hearts. We hope that we have given you the same love that you have given us.

www.facebook.com/themidnightghosttrain
www.themidnightghosttrain.com
www.napalmrecords.com
www.facebook.com/napalmrecords

The Midnight Ghost Train, “Tonight” official video

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Youngblood Supercult, The Great American Death Rattle: Sunsets and Wildfires

Posted in Reviews on July 28th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Youngblood-Supercult-The-Great-American-Death-Rattle

With three albums to their credit in the four-year span since they got together in 2013, Topeka, Kansas, heavy garage rockers Youngblood Supercult are establishing themselves as working at a fairly prolific clip. Their debut was 2014’s Season of the Witch, which they followed with High Plains (review here) in 2016, and the four-piece’s third album is the rather severely-titled The Great American Death Rattle, which finds them aligned to The Company and DHU Records for US and EU distribution. Across this run, the band has kept a consistency to their aesthetic purposes, basking in an earthbound psychedelia and distorted grit, touching on the languid sleek of post-Uncle Acid buzzsaw tonality in the guitar of Bailey Smith, but not shy either about veering into fuller-on psychedelic wash, even if only for a quick lead on a song like “Master of None” from the new album.

Tone, in Smith‘s guitar and Brad Morris‘ bass, is essential to setting the vibe, and to-date, Youngblood Supercult have yet to not deliver on that level, but as it should, The Great American Death Rattle finds this aspect of their approach at its most realized. Songs are spacious enough to allow for echoes in David Merrill‘s vocals on the early cuts “Draugr” and the motor-shuffling hook-fest “Wormwood” that follows, but not strictly adherent to one methodology, so that when the semi-twang of “Mr. Gallows” unfolds in folkish layers of harmonized Zeppelin-ism, the proceedings remain fluid and the listener doesn’t feel blindsided by what’s a not-insignificant sonic turn. Youngblood Supercult, in other words, are in control, and in keeping with the strong pocket-dwelling swing provided by drummer Weston Alford — whose “tone” is no less essential here than either that of Smith or Morris and might be even more directly heavy-’70s — it’s the songwriting that allows them to keep that level of command at their foundation.

Craft. Sound. Performance. It’s an interesting circumstance around The Great American Death Rattle because there’s so much about Youngblood Supercult‘s style that’s been previously established. That is, they seem to have come into being knowing what they wanted to do, and they’ve set about working hard to do it over the last four years. Four years is less time than it takes some acts to put out their first record, let alone their third. And while there are elements that have been carried from one offering to the next, Youngblood Supercult also still come across very much as a growing band.

The Great American Death Rattle is their most refined presentation yet, but its nine tracks and 40 minutes — from the wah-soaked, languid, flowing roll and post-Alice in Chains vocal melody of the opening title-track onward — refuse to sound settled. There’s progression at work, a willful moving forward on the band’s part in how their material has come together, and it’s audible in the patience they show at the record’s outset and through the nod of “Burning Messiah,” which finds Merrill pushing his own limits effectively in delivering bluesy poetic metaphor as he will throughout the bulk of the subsequent tracks, malleable to the mood of what SmithMorris and Alford are doing behind him but having clearly honed a frontman presence that bolsters rather than competes with that instrumental chemistry while still speaking to the audience.

youngblood supercult

I don’t think a band would title a full-length something like The Great American Death Rattle if on some level they weren’t looking to engage a social theme, and certainly there’s plenty to talk about these days in the current US sociopolitical sphere if one wants to talk decline or regression, but even in “The Great American Death Rattle” and the penultimate “Liberty or Death,” the lyrics take a more general tack, couching any specific commentary in images of biblical destruction on “Burning Messiah” (though tanks do show up there) and four-minute centerpiece “The Hot Breath of God,” which tells a story of post-industrial economic disaffection leading to suicide even as its central riff reshapes the groove of Scorpions‘ classic “The Zoo” to back it, making for one of The Great American Death Rattle‘s most memorable overall impressions.

The mournful vibe there is countered immediately by the punch of “Master of None,” which further emphasizes the sense of dynamic and flow Youngblood Supercult bring to bear in these tracks. Particularly as they move through the headed-to-the-highway “Wormwood” after the shuffle that emerges in the Fuzzorama-worthy second half of “Draugr,” The Great American Death Rattle expands its range in execution and feel. “Master of None” draws on a cycling repetitions of a Sabbath-meets-NWOBHM riff before closing with a highlight solo from Smith, and the aforementioned “Mr. Gallows” taps even deeper into poise and pastoralia, showcasing a depth of arrangement that’s new from Youngblood Supercult and that one hopes gives them the confidence to work again along similar lines and build on what they accomplish in it.

An uptempo turn in “Liberty or Death” splits “Mr. Gallows” and the thicker chug that begins the finale “Sticky Fingers” before that song — the longest here at 5:30 — shifts into a rare and thoroughly earned indulgence of noise wash and the guitar lead that tops its last march outward, and the play back and forth sees the foursome’s collective guiding hand at its steadiest, leading their audience through easily-paced twists with a maturity that belies their we’ve-been-around-for-less-than-half-a-decade status. One is tempted to call that process graceful, though in truth there’s a good amount of dirt under the fingernails of Youngblood Supercult — left there on purpose; why bother getting rid of it when there’s still so much digging to be done? — and that’s not to be discounted as an aspect of what works so well about their third outing.

Perhaps most crucially, they bask in their heavily stylized take while refusing to be defined on the basis of their influences alone. If The Great American Death Rattle is anything in relation to its predecessors, it’s the moment at which Youngblood Supercult are the most their own, and the manifold achievements that album makes are all the more satisfying for that. May they continue to evolve, reshape and cultivate as they move forward from here.

Youngblood Supercult, The Great American Death Rattle (2017)

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Six Dumb Questions with The Midnight Ghost Train

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on July 19th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the midnight ghost train

There’s always been a certain restlessness in The Midnight Ghost Train. Definitely anyone who’s ever seen them play live would concur, but even beyond their gripping, kinetic performances, whether it was early lineup changes, moving from Buffalo, New York, to Topeka, Kansas, or touring as incessantly as they have for the better part of the last decade — they’ve been a band on “go” for about as long as they’ve been a band.

At the same time, their material has followed a steady trajectory up to this point. From their 2008 The Johnny Boy EP (review here) through the subsequent ’09 self-titled long-play debut (review here), 2012’s Buffalo (review here) and their first outing for Napalm Records in 2015’s Cold was the Ground (review here), the power trio led by founding guitarist/vocalist Steve Moss have developed along a path blending supercharged heavy rock and roll with classic blues vibes and rhythms. With his distinct, gruff vocals as a hallmark of their approach, the propulsive, classy drum work of Brandon Burghart as a core to build from and the final piece added in bassist Mike BoyneThe Midnight Ghost Train became one of the most immediately identifiable bands in the US heavy underground. When you were listening to The Midnight Ghost Train, you knew who was on. Every time.

That’s still the case, but the scope of what that means has changed, and the restlessness that’s always been at play elsewhere seems to have extended itself to their creative process more now than ever before. To wit, their fourth full-length and second for Napalm is Cypress Ave. (review here), and while it largely holds firm to the underlying energy of the band and never feels staid, it also marks a special moment in that Moss and company seem more willing to take chances in the songwriting, to pull back on the aforementioned “go” in favor of a more diverse sonic take. Whether that’s showing itself in the drifting “Lemon Trees,” the funk-fortified “The Boogie Down” (with guest rapper Sonny Cheeba) or the acoustic “Break My Love,” it’s representative of a level of maturity previously unknown from The Midnight Ghost Train, and it makes Cypress Ave. their most fully realized and their boldest offering to-date.

It’s the kind of record that, if you thought you knew the band — as I did — can make you rethink your expectations. In the interview that follows, Moss talks about how some of the twists in the plot came about, how touring has shaped the group over the longer term of their time together, where Cypress Ave. actually is, and more. As I happen to know him to be a longtime Yankees fan, I couldn’t resist throwing in a question about baseball as well, and I thank him for the indulgence.

Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

the-midnight-ghost-train-cypress-ave

Six Dumb Questions with The Midnight Ghost Train

Talk to me about writing Cypress Ave. At what point coming off of Cold was the Ground did you know you wanted to do something different with The Midnight Ghost Train, and how did that come to fruition in the songwriting? Was it something conscious or something that you noticed later in the material? What was behind the shift in direction?

We have wanted to get out of doing the crazy fast heavy stuff way before Cold was the Ground. None of us actually enjoy listening to heavy music. It’s fun to play, but that’s really our only connection with music as heavy as we used to play. We could have very easily written another Cold was the Ground without even thinking twice. That’s why we have defaulted to such heavy music for our previous albums, it was really easy to write, and fun to play live, plus we had already built a following of people in the heavy music genre, so it just made sense to keep riding that wave and keep the fans we had. For this album we wanted to challenge ourselves artistically, and challenge our audience. We wanted to do something that felt right to us, and not necessarily what the following we have built wanted or expected. There was no reason for us to make the same album over and over again, especially since it didn’t feel right to us. So it was time to say goodbye and move on to something more challenging, and unexpected for our fans. Plus, we wanted to branch out to a wider fanbase than just the “stoner rock” fans. We never really felt like we fit in that group anyways so it just made sense to do something that was more us. Plus, the songs on this album are just a hell of a lot better than our previous stuff.

Tell me about Cypress Avenue itself. Where is it? What is it like? Set the scene for those of us who’ve never been there. What was behind the choice to name the album after it?

Cypress Ave. is a stop on the 6 train in the Bronx, it’s a small local neighborhood, no attractions or anything like that, just an area for the locals. My family is from Parkchester which is a few stops more uptown, so we would pass Cypress Ave. on our way up to Parkchester. Since this album is so different musically we decided to go a different route with the album photos, and the title than usual. All of our albums have had that Midwestern, Kansas, country, feel to them, which actually only one of us (our drummer) is from Kansas. So instead we decided to go more personal to mine and my family’s upbringing in the Bronx. Give people a look at where I’m actually from. So we wanted to keep with the Bronx theme throughout the album. Since Parkchester is kind of a lame album title, we basically just went through all the names of the subway stops in the Bronx, and Cypress Ave. was just the best sounding one. Plus, it reminded me of the Van Morrison song off of one of my favorite albums, Astral Weeks, (although it’s spelled differently).

The Midnight Ghost Train turns 10 next year and you’ve put in so much time on the road over the last decade. How do you think touring has shaped the band? How do you feel it has worked to develop the chemistry between you, Mike and Brandon?

Aigh god, that seems like a lot longer than it feels. Feels like we’re still just getting started. Touring has definitely been the most rewarding part to this band. Despite all the bullshit and hard times we have gone through, when we step on stage it makes it all worthwhile. We have always believed that the live show is the most important expression of who a band is, and we have worked tirelessly on always making our show better. What better way to learn about the stage that we love so much than touring as much as possible? Touring has definitely made us realize who we are as a band and what we feel is most important to the existence of TMGT. Getting on stage is the only piece that no matter what always feels like the right choice to make. Bands that don’t play a lot of shows can’t ever find their true musical selves. Plus, if you never do it how could you possibly be that good at it?

How did “The Boogie Down” come about?

Very simply, I love hip-hop, and our bass player and drummer love to play funk. So we decided to mix the two together. The riff that the bass player and drummer play in that song is what they have always done on stage when my amp or pedalboard breaks and I have to fix shit. They would just break out into a funk jam, then when I got back up and running I would chime in. It was always fun to do live, so we decided to record it. Sonny Cheeba (the artist on that track) is also a Bronx native. I grew up listening to his group Camp Lo. So it was awesome to get to work with him in the studio. We recorded the album in Athens, GA, and he happened to be living in Atlanta at the time we recorded, so it just worked out nicely. We let him do his thing, while we did ours, it was fun to mix the two styles, and challenging for us. Something new and fun to do. Why not?

What was your time in the studio like making the album? It seems like you specifically varied the guitar tone more throughout the songs this time around. How important was it for you for Cypress Ave. to show multiple sides of the band?

Oh yes, different sounds on all the instruments as well as vocally, was very important for this album. The tones and vocals we used for Cold was the Ground or Buffalo would not work for these songs. I used probably 30 different amps throughout this album, plus I added a Gibson 335 to my arsenal, which was my main guitar on this album, instead of the Les Pauls I [have] normally used. Our previous albums just had one tone through the entire album: HEAVY. This album is just so dynamic throughout the record, with so many different style songs. Not one song sounds the same, so we wanted to make sure that neither did the instruments.

You’ve got the US tour coming up in August and September. Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?

Oh yes, we will also be touring the USA in October as well. We’re in the works of putting together a European tour which will be from the end of January through March. So keep an eye out for tour dates, ‘cause we’re going everywhere. Might even be paying a visit to South America, if things pan out. Our album is available for preorder right now at our website www.themidnightghosttrain.com. Enjoy the new album, I know we do.

Bonus question (asked before the Major League Baseball All-Star break): Do you think the Yankees actually have a shot at the division? Boston’s been coming on strong. Is the NYY collapse of the last couple weeks the true face of the team or just a temporary injury setback? What do you think of Judge and Sanchez in the Home Run Derby?

Absolutely they still have a chance, they have been plagued with injuries lately which is inevitable but still costly when you lose guys like Castro, Bird, Holliday, Hicks, Warren, and Sabbathia (who was on a fantastic roll). Boston is making a big push, they have great starting pitching, but hopefully at the trade deadline we get rid of Chris Carter and get someone like Eric Hosmer at first base, and pick up one more locked starter, because we can’t rely on Tanaka’s inconsistency to bring us the entire way. I’m stoked to see what Judge and Sanchez do, I think they will be fine, and they are good enough hitters that the myth of screwing up their swing won’t affect them. Judge is going to be the Rookie of the year, AL MVP, and triple crown winner. He’s taking it all. I haven’t seen the city buzz on anyone since Derek Jeter breaking in. Loving it.

The Midnight Ghost Train, “The Watchers Nest” lyric video

The Midnight Ghost Train on Thee Facebooks

The Midnight Ghost Train website

The Midnight Ghost Train on Twitter

The Midnight Ghost Train on Instagram

Napalm Records website

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Review & Video Premiere: The Midnight Ghost Train, Cypress Ave.

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Reviews on July 3rd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the-midnight-ghost-train-cypress-ave

[Watch the premiere of the lyric video for The Midnight Ghost Train’s ‘The Watchers Nest’ by clicking play above. Cypress Ave. is out July 28 via Napalm Records. Impending tour dates here.]

As the first preliminary details began to surface about Cypress Ave., Topeka, Kansas, heavy blues rockers The Midnight Ghost Train put word out to their listeners to expect something different on this, their fourth album and second for Napalm Records. Their tone was almost a warning more even than a general ‘heads up,’ and for a band who’ve spent the last decade stomping their way across the US and subsequently Europe and whose reputation has always been for a brash, gruff, and full-charged vision of heavy, it struck me as a decidedly human, near-insecure move; for the first time, The Midnight Ghost Train let themselves show some concern for how their work might be received by the audience they worked so hard to build. Clearly it was a warning to take seriously, and it’s one to which Cypress Ave. lives up.

The Midnight Ghost Train debuted on Napalm with 2015’s Cold was the Ground (review here), a mature celebration of what’s made them who they are throughout their career going back through offerings like 2012’s Buffalo (review here), their formative 2009 self-titled debut (review here) and 2008’s The Johnny Boy EP (review here), sounding very much like the payoff moment for a stylistic growth shaped by time on the road as much as an expanded writing palette from band spearhead/guitarist/vocalist Steve Moss. That payoff moment might actually be on Cypress Ave., which outdoes its predecessor in scope, presentation, and its overall level of daring, foreshadowing stylistic turns in opener “Tonight” that range from the melancholia of “The Watchers Nest” and “Black Wave” to the acoustic-centered, unabashed Tom Waits-ery of album centerpiece “Break My Love,” through the jangly spaciousness of “Lemon Trees” and a collaboration with rapper Sonny Cheeba on “The Boogie Down.”

The latter, though admirably funky and an honest acknowledgement of the influence of the various strains of traditionally African American music that have played out in The Midnight Ghost Train‘s sound in their nine years together, from roots-blues to modern hip-hop, is nonetheless the widest “departure” from the rest of the material here, pulling away from the fuzz that serves to unite varied-in-mood cuts like “Red Eyed Junkie Queen” (video premiere here), “The Echo” and “Glenn’s Promise.” And no doubt it’ll be a sticking point for some listeners — because even the threat of rap-rock crossover proved enough to do that even before internet racism was a thing — but on the most basic level, it’s an attempt by Moss, bassist Mike Boyne and drummer Brandon Burghart to shake things up and offer something genuinely unexpected. That doesn’t mean it’s not a head-turning change from the pastoral strum of “Lemon Trees” before it or the tense but quiet “Black Wave” after, but it does mean that that’s very likely the whole point of its being in the first place.

the midnight ghost train

And those of the band’s followers looking for a studio-born manifestation of the riotousness they’ve long been noted as bringing to the stage will find the bursts of energy throughout “Tonight” and “The Watchers Nest,” “The Echo,” “Red Eyed Junkie Queen” and “Bury Me Deep” residing in comfortable-enough terrain, though even these bring forth a style from The Midnight Ghost Train more given to holding its tension than exploding forth from it, showing the band ultimately as more dynamic even within what one might think of as their core sound than they’ve ever been before. To wit, the opening salvo of “Tonight,” “Red Eyed Junkie Queen,” “Glenn’s Promise” and “Bury Me Deep,” which, while basking in some of the most satisfying guitar tone this side of circa-1995 Kyuss — sounds like hyperbole; isn’t — spends as much time gritting its teeth and seething as it does outwardly raging. There’s plenty of rock to be had on Cypress Ave. — plenty — but it’s in the nuance and the sonic caveats that The Midnight Ghost Train define the work they’re doing.

It’s fair to think of that as new ground for them almost as much as “The Boogie Down,” but the point is that even as the band bounces through different styles en route through side B of the 52-minute/11-track outing toward six-minute closer “I Can’t Let You Go,” on which Boyne‘s tone shines nearly as much as that of Moss amid memorable repetitions of the title-line, and a not-in-anymore-of-a-rush-than-it-needs-to-be rhythm given due swing by Burghart, the shifts in aesthetic and the expansion of who they are as a band throughout Cypress Ave. has grown naturally out of what they’ve done prior. Are they consciously making the decision to try new things? Most definitely, but even that is a manifestation of the impulses under which they’ve always functioned. They are, as they warned, delivering something different. In this context and in the sheer front-to-back listening experience, they’re a richer group. They benefit from the chemistry they’ve hard won on tour and succeed in crafting a narrative for who they are that goes beyond the bull-in-a-china-shop raucousness of their earlier outings.

Cypress Ave., like Buffalo before it, touches on a definitive sense of place — its cover art helps in this — but it finds The Midnight Ghost Train pushing a more exploratory sensibility that nonetheless draws strength from its tones, the underlying songcraft and structures with which the songs are executed, and the performances throughout of MossBoyne and Burghart, who’ve never sounded more complete and realized as a group than they do here. That’s not to take anything away from their prior work at all or the steps Moss as the band’s founder has taken along the way, including on Cold was the Ground, but as the band approach the decade mark in 2018, one has to acknowledge the bravery in such decided, willful progression. It turns out taking chances suits The Midnight Ghost Train, and one hopes they continue to do so as they move inexorably forward from Cypress Ave. to whatever their next destination may be.

The Midnight Ghost Train, “Red Eyed Junkie Queen” official video

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The Midnight Ghost Train website

The Midnight Ghost Train on Twitter

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The Midnight Ghost Train Premiere “Red Eyed Junkie Queen” Video

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

the midnight ghost train

I’m not even going to pretend like I haven’t heard it — wait until you get a load of the fucking tones The Midnight Ghost Train bring on Cypress Ave. Pure, dug-in weighted fuzz of the highest order. Guitarist/vocalist Steve Moss and bassist Mike Boyne bring a thickness and drummer Brandon Burghart makes it move, and together, the power trio offer not only a swap between moody, airy heavy blues and driving thrust like one can hear on “Red Eyed Junkie Queen” — premiering today in the new video below — but a more expansive aesthetic palette than ever, taking the go-go-go of 2015’s hands-up righteous Cold was the Ground (review here) and offering a multidirectional expansion of style, whether that’s in the grungy build of “The Watchers Nest,” the jangly meander of “Lemon Trees” or “The Boogie Down,” on which the band acts as a live funk backup for rapper Sonny Cheeba.

Yeah, shit gets pretty wild — and that’s not even to mention the brooding back end of Cypress Ave. with “Black Wave,” “The Echo” and “I Can’t Let You Go” — but that’s the idea as The Midnight Ghost Train willfully endeavor to take their sound places it’s never been before. “Red Eyed Junkie Queen” is the second song on the album behind opener the midnight ghost train cypress ave.“Tonight,” and is more in line with what their audience might expect of them, but even in its tense verses and in Moss‘ post-Tom Waits lyrical storytelling — see also “Break My Love” later on — they give a sense of the wider sonic berth the record will cast as it continues to unfold. Bolstered by a speedy tempo and a catchy hook that sets its place and its character both down and dirty, the track rushes through its four-minute runtime and helps continue the momentum set by the opener with a richness of groove that continues through the rest of the opening salvo in “Glenn’s Promise” and “Bury Me Deep.”

Bottom line, I suppose, is that “Red Eyed Junkie Queen” doesn’t necessarily speak for the whole of Cypress Ave., but neither is it intended to do so. The video takes us inside the studio with The Midnight Ghost Train as they record the album, tracking live and playing through the process by which these songs came together. One can only wonder if as they filmed it just how much the results of their efforts would stand apart from everything they’ve done before.

The Midnight Ghost Train release Cypress Ave. this July 28 via Napalm Records, and as they will, the band hit the road in August for a lengthy US tour. More info from the PR wire and live dates follow the clip below.

Please enjoy:

The Midnight Ghost Train, “Red Eyed Junkie Queen” official video

Pre-order “Cypress Ave.” now: http://smarturl.it/CypressAve-NPR

Out July 28!

THE MIDNIGHT GHOST TRAIN keeps rollin’ along, spewing exhaust along sandy desert roads, and filling lungs with dust: now with their fourth opus ‘Cypress Ave.’ this impulsive trifecta torch dark’n’dirty Southern Rock with a hefty portion of Sludge and Funk. Seared by the Sunflower State of Kansas, their organic and authentic sound lives in the musics throaty vocals, deep lyrics, melancholic melodies and forceful, shaky riffs. Roaring amps plow through eardrums as if they were earth, dry as a bone. Highlight: the fruity-fresh “The Boogie Down [feat. Sonny Cheeba]”. Honest, straight-forward and peppered with woefulness. An absolute must for blues-fans!

The Midnight Ghost Train live:
Aug 24 2017 The Grotto Ft Worth, TX
Aug 25 2017 Swan Dive Austin, TX
Aug 26 2017 Boom Boom Room Lafayette, LA
Aug 27 2017 Siberia New Orleans, LA
Aug 28 2017 TBA Jackson, MS
Aug 29 2017 TBA Hattiesburg, MS
Aug 30 2017 TBA Muscle Shoals, AL
Aug 31 2017 Handlebar Pensacola, FL
Sep 1 2017 Snug Harbor Charlotte, NC
Sep 2 2017 Masquerade w/ Camp Lo Atlanta, GA
Sep 3 2017 Banditos Richmond, VA
Sep 6 2017 TBA Baltimore, MD
Sep 7 2017 Atlas Brew Works Washington, D.C.
Sep 8 2017 Kung Fu Necktie Philadelphia, PA
Sep 9 2017 Gold Sounds Brooklyn, NY
Sep 10 2017 TBA Connecticut
Sep 11 2017 Firehouse 13 Providence, RI
Sep 12 2017 O’Brien’s Pub Boston, MA
Sep 13 2017 TBA Rochester, NY
Sep 14 2017 TBA Cleveland, OH
Sep 15 2017 Radio Radio Indianapolis, IN
Sep 16 2017 The Rockery Detroit, MI
Sep 17 2017 TBA Kalamazoo, MI
Sep 18 2017 Frequency Madison, WI
Sep 19 2017 Gasoline Green Bay, WI
Sep 20 2017 The Lift Dubuque, IA
Sep 21 2017 Reggie’s Music Joint Chicago, IL
Sep 22 2017 Green Lantern Lexington, KY
Sep 23 2017 Southgate House Revival Newport, KY
Sep 24 2017 TBA Nashville, TN
Sep 25 2017 TBA Charleston, SC
Sep 26 2017 TBA Raleigh, NC
Sep 27 2017 The Empty Bottle Charleston, WV
Sep 28 2017 The Buzzbin Shop Canton, OH
Sep 29 2017 Blind Bob’s Dayton, OH
Sep 30 2017 Descendants of Crom Fest Pittsburgh, PA

The Midnight Ghost Train on Thee Facebooks

The Midnight Ghost Train website

The Midnight Ghost Train on Twitter

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The Midnight Ghost Train to Release Cypress Ave. July 28

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 15th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the-midnight-ghost-train

What’s in store for the new album from The Midnight Ghost Train? I don’t know, and considering the Kansas heavy rockers are headed into their fourth full-length, that’s a particularly comforting notion. Their last record, 2015’s Cold was the Ground (review here), was their Napalm Records debut, and they played to their strengths in unhinged-sounding, manic blues. With the forthcoming Cypress Ave., due July 28 also via Napalm, the trio promises stylistic experimentation like they’ve never had before, and I’m inclined to take their word for it.

I haven’t heard any of it yet, so I’m not speaking from experience in that or anything, but The Midnight Ghost Train have always been purposeful enough to know what’s up, so yeah, I’m looking forward to checking out what might be in store this time around.

The PR wire teases possibilities:

the-midnight-ghost-train-cypress-ave

THE MIDNIGHT GHOST TRAIN ANNOUNCE BRAND NEW ALBUM!

‘Cypress Ave.’ Coming July 2017 on Napalm Records!

Seared by the Sunflower State of Kansas, THE MIDNIGHT GHOST TRAIN keeps rollin’ again – and they are about to return with their most diverse album to date!

The band’s fourth opus titled ‘Cypress Ave.’ is set to be released July 28th 2017 on Napalm Records, and will please both old and new fans alike. Never before has THE MIDNIGHT GHOST TRAIN shown this side of themselves. Their new album proves that they ‘re not just another rock band, they’re explorers, risk takers, and true artists. This is not a departure, but an expansion:

“It was time to challenge ourselves, and our fanbase, and do something completely different that hasn’t been done before in this genre“, says guitarist & vocalist Steve Moss. “No sense in doing the same thing over and over again, there is no growth in that. We want to learn, create, and leave our true artistic impression on the world.“ He continues: “Not one song on this album sounds the same. Each track has a completely different feel and unique quality to it. Something in this album for everyone in every genre of music out there. Exploring and challenging new grounds is what this album is about.“

Now THE MIDNIGHT GHOST TRAIN have unveiled the album artwork for ‘Cypress Ave.’, and the tracklist will read as follows:

1. Tonight
2. Red Eyed Junkie Queen
3. Glenn’s Promise
4. Bury Me Deep
5. The Watchers Nest
6. Break My Love
7. Lemon Trees
8. The Boogie Down [feat. Sonny Cheeba]
9. Black Wave
10. The Echo
11. I Can’t Let You Go [Bonus Track]

The band’s organic and authentic sound lives in the musics throaty vocals, deep lyrics, melancholy melodies and forceful, shaky riffs. Honest, straight-forward and peppered with woefulness.

‘Cypress Ave.’, coming July 28th on Napalm Records, is an absolute must for every blues- and rock fan. Be prepared, for the return of THE MIDNIGHT GHOST TRAIN with their most diverse and unique sounding album to date!

www.facebook.com/themidnightghosttrain
www.themidnightghosttrain.com
www.napalmrecords.com
www.facebook.com/napalmrecords

The Midnight Ghost Train, Live in Paris 2016

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Youngblood Supercult, High Plains: Mindful Drift (Plus Track Premiere)

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on February 15th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

youngblood-supercult-high-plains

Midwestern fuzz ideologues Youngblood Supercult release their sophomore full-length, High Plains, on Feb. 19. An 11-track/48-minute CD with double-vinyl impending for this summer, it follows early 2014’s debut, Season of the Witch, and marks a significant change in vibe on the part of the graphic-design-inclined Topeka, Kansas, three-piece. Where the debut took a classic metal bent toward heavy rock, more straightforward and rhythmically driving, High Plains offers plenty of sonic weight — the guitar and bass working together on “Black Hawk,” or the clawing “Nomad” earlier on — but takes a more lurching, atmospheric approach overall. This seems to have been a purposeful shift in aesthetic as much as one of lineup, but either way, it suits them.

Formerly a four-piece with a standalone singer, Youngblood Supercult lost both their bassist and frontman between the two records, leaving guitarist Bailey Smith and drummer Weston Alford to pick up the pieces and continue ahead, recruiting David Merrill first to fill the vocalist role and eventually the bassist one as well prior to recording with Jon Pederzani at Bone Hag Studios. That’s no minor challenge to overcome, and it’s produced no minor shift when listening to the first record next to the second one, the most lysergic vibe of which bleeds through from the intro “Stone Mountain Blues” through the penultimate buzzer “Acid Tongue” and the folkish closer “Down 75.” Merrill has a decidedly ’70s bent to his vocals and while the band overall boasts a mostly modern sound — if one drawing somewhat from the New Millennium Analog pastiche — their core sensibility is organic throughout and effective in signaling the shift in their intent.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, there are distinct moments where High Plains sounds like a debut. Youngblood Supercult have been a band for two and a half years, and they’ve worked quickly in that time, but with a sonic turn and new lineup, it makes sense these songs would sound fresh. That doesn’t hurt them. Hypnotic grooves persist as they play bright guitars over warm low-end on “Monolith,” Smith‘s guitar chugging a lurker verse behind Merrill‘s echoing vocals pushed along by Alford‘s fills in the chorus. A more forward-directed stomp takes hold for a brief solo and they end to give way to “Nomad,” one of several memorable highlights throughout High Plains, with tinges of Uncle Acid and maybe even Mars Red Sky prevalent in the guitar and vocals and a Sabbathian nod that holds sway even as they pick up the pace after the midpoint.

youngblood supercult

The ensuing “Before the Dawn” is shorter but no less tonally engrossing than “Nomad” before or “Mind Control” after, the heady vibe adding a level of confidence as the song seems to cut itself short (granted that might be an error with the file I got), as the folkier centerpiece “White Nights” begins to unfold on tom rolls, subdued guitar and Merrill‘s best included vocal performance, tapping into a quiet/loud dynamic range as it moves into its second half that emphasizes the growth underway in Youngblood Supercult‘s sound. Guitars space out over a languid bassline and swinging drums, and that expansion persists until eventually the track is pulled apart around the solo. A purposeful departure from the structural soundness the band has thus far shown, it’s another example of how they’re finding their way with these songs.

What I’ll assume marks the start of the second LP, “Hell Hath No Fury” begins with a more swinging progression that recalls “Monolith” or “Nomad” in its verse/chorus intent but features especially satisfying lead work from Smith, first in its midsection and then in its fadeout, moving into the seven-minute album high-point “Forefather,” which blends the semi-psychedelic aspects of Youngblood Supercult‘s style with the folkish impulse of “White Nights” into the most resonant hook on offer, “Oh man, oh man/I got my mother’s eyes,” departing from some of the cult rock lyricisms present elsewhere as it turns on a dime into a prog-metal riff with stops and starts before hitting the brakes and tripping out behind its guitar solo, as extended as it is satisfying when the verse kicks back in.

They end with that hook, and rightly so, and the more raucous early going of “Black Hawk” effectively buries Merrill‘s voice under crash cymbals and guitar and bass fuzz, and playing well against “Acid Tongue”‘s later shuffle to summarize much of what’s working in the band’s favor throughout High Plains before the acoustic “Down 75” closes out. There’s a substantial part of me that wishes they worked in more quiet, subdued moments like the closer across the album, since they do it so well and it makes an excellent showcase for the vocals, but as noted, they’re still growing and it would be just as easy to overdo it as to do it, so perhaps that would be fixing what isn’t broken in their sound. Still, as a last-minute expansion of their approach, it fits well, and reminds that while Youngblood Supercult clearly have their aesthetic path carved out for them as the trio they are now, they remain engaged in a growth process that, one hopes, will continue as they move forward from here, having taken full advantage of this opportunity to partially revamp what they do.

Below, you can hear a track premiere of “Hell Hath No Fury,” as chosen by the band. Under the player, Smith offers some comment on the song. Please enjoy:

Bailey Smith (guitar) on “Hell Hath No Fury”:

Well, a lot of people think it’s about a scorned lover. I actually wrote it in the throes of a bad panic attack. It’s a personification of anxiety, and how unforgiving it can be, in musical form. A lot of our songs have very personal, subliminal meanings. People hear the shell of a song’s lyrics and create their own meanings for them. That’s what music is for — it’s all subjective.

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Youngblood Supercult website

Youngblood Supercult on Bandcamp

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