Geezer, Spiral Fires EP: Light in Darkworld

Posted in Reviews on February 8th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

geezer spiral fires

If Geezer sound different on Spiral Fires, part of that is because they are. The Kingston, New York, trio have charted a marked progression over the last five-plus years, shifting from slide-guitar-prone heavy blues rock to a jammier take with a foundation in songcraft, unafraid to swagger into an ether of whiskey vapor and heavy enough to land on solid ground when they so choose. Guitarist/vocalist Pat Harrington is the last remaining original member of the band, and on Spiral Fires, he and bassist Richie Touseull — who joined in 2015 ahead of the release of their 2016 self-titled LP (review here) — welcome new drummer Steve Markota to the fold. It’s worth noting that despite the turnover in personnel, Geezer have been able to remain steadily prolific over their time, and the four-song/25-minute Spiral Fires EP follows 2017’s Psychoriffadelia (review here), which only furthered the momentum built by the self-titled after 2015’s Gage (review here), bolstered as well by the band’s participation in Ripple Music‘s The Second Coming of Heavy split series (review here), 2014’s Live! Full-Tilt Boogie tape (review here) and sundry odds and ends going back to their 2013 debut, Electrically Recorded Handmade Heavy Blues.

Along with tours in the US and Europe, the continued stylistic growth evident in Geezer‘s studio work has made them a stronger, more confident band, as well as furthered the chemistry between Harrington and Touseull, who interact fluidly on the included jams throughout Spiral Fires. It may well be they’re testing the waters with Markota in the group ahead of either shows or more writing — something’s always next — but if that’s the case, then simply put, the dynamic works. Spiral Fires is Geezer‘s most out-there release to-date, and though it’s relatively brief — Geezer have always enjoyed an EP-style release; Gage was an EP originally — it flows smoothly throughout “Spiral Fires Part 1,” “Spiral Fires Part 2,” “Darkworld” and “Charley Reefer.” The latter two, which will no doubt comprise side B of the forthcoming Kozmik Artifactz vinyl, both geared more toward hooks, and particularly the closer has a bounce that stands among Geezer‘s sonic signatures, Harrington‘s tone always molasses-thick, but able to move nonetheless. They’re not strangers to boogie, and if that’s what a given listener is looking for, that’s where they’ll find it.

But even that is cosmically directed, and it demonstrates how much Geezer‘s reach has grown that they’re able to conjure such a molten vibe even over what’s ostensibly intended as a one-off recording session. The two parts of “Spiral Fires” of course run one into the next, but that transition is marked by a turn from dense riffing and more forward verses from Harrington to a mellow breadth topped with guest vocals. From roll to spread. It’s important to note that “Spiral Fires Part 1” begins with a wave of synth, since that has a subtle effect on the listener’s expectation that would be different, say, if the guitar or drums had led off. They tease a spacey course there and then make their way in that direction over the course of the nodding opener, cutting short the central riff at the end but still maintaining a direct tie to “Spiral Fires Part 2,” with Markota‘s drums setting the bed for some effects interplay as the track gets going.

geezer

Each side of Spiral Fires has a shorter song and a longer one, in that order, and “Spiral Fires Part 2” doesn’t quite hit the seven-minute mark as does “Charley Reefer” still to come, but it’s an open spirit just the same and while Touseull lays down a smooth bassline, Harrington winds lead guitar overtop where verses might otherwise be. They don’t feel missing, those verses, in no small part because Geezer are so assured in what they’re doing that they simply carry the listener along with them on this outward course. The vocals arrive after five and a half minutes into the total 6:57, so obviously not a focal point, but the quick appearance from Pam Grande (Grande) adds a psych-soul element that, if it’s a context Geezer want to continue to explore in their songwriting, well, that’d be just fine. Though it also begins with a quick splurge of effects, “Darkworld” is a marked shift in atmosphere, with the riff emerging from that initial wash and set to workmanlike punctuation by Markota‘s snare and the steady rumble of Touseull‘s low end. Its lyrics would seem to take on more of a straightforward social commentary position, and that’s fair enough for the more grounded path of the song as a whole.

“Open your eyes/Empty the cages/A new fire rages,” intones Harrington near the midpoint of the track, and the message of “Darkworld” is pretty clear without being overtly politicized or too much of the chaotic and polarized moment in which America is embroiled. All the while, the song moves forward efficiently as the only track under five minutes on Spiral Fires, the section where it might otherwise jam out — and indeed might live — instead keeping to a shorter repetitive course that devolves into swirl at the finish, letting “Charley Reefer” emerge from silence with a transitional keyboard line at the start soon joined by a guitar line reminiscent in its warmth of Colour Haze, and gradually easing its way into the verse riff. There’s some shuffle to “Charley Reefer,” as noted, and it shares a commonality of method with “Darkworld” in its verses and choruses, but at 7:38, it brings the two sides of Spiral Fires together and jams out from about minute-four onward, first building to a fervent wash and then drawing back to quiet and relatively minimal stretching.

All the pieces are still there — guitar, bass, drums, effects/synth — but the tension dissipates and Geezer draw down “Charley Reefer” with a live-feeling psychedelic devolution that ends cold sure enough but along the way serves as no less a reminder of the command the three-piece wield over their sound at this point. Even Markota in making his first appearance is able to bring a softer touch on drums to correspond with that finish, and it’s no less a satisfying moment than Geezer at their heaviest earlier in the track or back on side A for “Spiral Fires Part 1.” The question with an EP is always how indicative it might be of future output, and I don’t know to say for sure, but Spiral Fires fits in the line of their overarching development, and when it’s done, there’s little question left as to whether or not it’s the farthest outward they’ve yet pushed. As a fan of the band, I only want them to keep going.

Geezer, Spiral Fires (2019)

Geezer on Thee Facebooks

Geezer on Bandcamp

Kozmik Artifactz website

Kozmik Artifactz on Thee Facebooks

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Geezer Announce Spiral Fires EP out Feb. 8: Premiere “Spiral Fires Part 1”

Posted in audiObelisk, Whathaveyou on January 17th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

geezer

New Geezer? Don’t mind if I do, and whilst engaging in the groove-rolling outer-thereness of Spiral Fires, maybe take a second as well to process just how far the Kingston, New York, three-piece have come since issuing their first album, Electrically Recorded Handmade Heavy Blues, in 2013. With guitarist/vocalist Pat Harrington as the sole remaining founder of the band, the trio have moved from a heavy blues style to an anything goes, slide-infused grit-psych jam band with one foot in traditional songwriting and the other dropped into a region of cosmic trippery that Spiral Fires brings to emphasis even more than 2017’s Psychoriffadelia (review here). Working with labels like STB, Ripple, and indeed Kozmik Artifactz — who’ll have the new EP out on vinyl following its Feb. 8 digital release — the band has grown into a stylistically amorphous, richly expressive outfit who are unpredictable and reliable in kind. The kind of quality you can rely on.

To wit, I knew I wanted to premiere “Spiral Fires Part 1” before I heard it, and after hearing it, knew I was right in getting on board for it. Spiral Fires continues to expand Geezer‘s reach in its two-part title-track and in “Darkworld” and “Charley Reefer,” showcasing a shift in dynamic with drummer Steve Markota in the lineup with Harrington — who also produced — and bassist Richie Touseull. I had been expecting the band to turn out a long-player in 2019, and they may yet, but whenever that inevitable “next album” shows up, these songs give a righteous glimpse of where Geezer are at nearly a decade after getting together and where they might be headed from here. Uncharted space brought to earth with anchored, locked-in groove. You probably could ask for more, but you’d be a jerk if you did.

You can hear “Spiral Fires Part 1” at the bottom of this post in a lyric video provided by the band. Release info for the EP follows here, courtesy of the PR wire:

geezer spiral fires

GEEZER TO RELEASE NEW 4-SONG ‘SPIRAL FIRES’ EP ON FEBRUARY 8, 2019 – KOZMIK ARTIFACTZ TO RELEASE ACCOMPANYING VINYL FORMAT

After recruiting Steve Markota as Geezer’s new drummer in summer of 2017, the band knew it was now the peak time to refocus and start afresh. With gigs as their inspired motivation, over the following year or so the Kingston, New York heavy blues triad set about performing at multiple regional festivals in the U.S.. From the Doomed & Stoned Festival to the New England Stoner and Doom Festival, from The Maryland Doom Fest to the Descendants of Crom. Throw in a supporting slot for Acid King in Brooklyn and many other righteous shows, and a full year did bloom indeed.

All the while, a revitalized Geezer was writing and road-testing new songs. During that process, it became clear that one album was not enough to fully capture what was happening. An EP would be the foundation to set the stage for the upcoming full-length LP. Drawing inspiration from the vinyl version of the most recent Child EP, Geezer hooked up with Kozmik Artifactz to release their own EP in the same vein. Limited Edition, one color cover, black vinyl, no bells and whistles… just rock and roll.

The result is the mind-altering new EP, ‘Spiral Fires’. A three-song collection edifying the embodiment of Geezer’s quest for all things heavy, trippy, and groovy. Spiral Fires is the first passage in Geezer’s new journey.

Guitarist and vocalist Pat Harrington on the new EP:

“Hooking up with Steve changed the band. For the first time in a long while, we had the ability to really take our time and see where the music would take us. Changes were taking place, we were traveling to new musical landscapes. Along the way, a flash of light would appear over the horizon, these songs are those moments… lightning in a bottle.”

The EP was produced by Pat Harrington and recorded at Darkworld Studio in Kingston, NY, assisted by Engineers David Daw and Robert Kelly. Mixing was done by Matthew Cullen at The Cat Haus in Catskill, NY, with Mastering by Scott Craggs at Old Colony Mastering in Boston, MA. The Spiral Fires cover artwork is by Lee Fenyves, with design layout by Steve Markota.

Spiral Fires will be available on vinyl through Kozmik Artifactz in the very near future. Firstly, the band is releasing the EP for digital download and streaming through their Bandcamp page on February 8, 2019.

Kozmik Artifactz Webstore: http://shop.bilocationrecords.com/
Geezer Bandcamp: https://geezertown.bandcamp.com/

Spiral Fires – Track List:
Spiral Fires Part 1
Spiral Fires Part 2
Darkworld
Charley Reefer

UPCOMING LIVE SHOWS:
Jan. 25 – Kingston, NY @ BSP Kingston (w/ Sun Voyager, Shadow Witch)
https://www.facebook.com/events/295547331302289/
Feb. 23 – Baltimore, MD @ Oliver Brewing (w/ Backwoods Payback, Cavern, Dana Ortt)
https://www.facebook.com/events/275935323074808/
Mar. 20 – New York, NY @ Arlene’s Grocery – ODE TO DOOM (w/Thunderbird Divine, Ancient Stone, +)
https://www.facebook.com/events/253278718707961/
Apr. 20 – Kingston, NY @ The Anchor (w/ River Cult, Eternal Black)
https://www.facebook.com/events/2329157044035387/

Geezer is:
Pat Harrington – Guitar, Vocals
Richie Touseull – Bass
Steve Markota – Drums

https://igg.me/at/xxo6XcM2mD4/x/16460786
https://www.facebook.com/geezerNY/
http://geezertown.bandcamp.com/
http://kozmik-artifactz.com/
https://www.facebook.com/kozmikartifactz

Geezer, “Spiral Fires Part 1”

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Shadow Witch Sign to Argonauta; Under the Shadow of a Witch Due in 2019

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 14th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

It has not been all that long since Shadow Witch put out word their drummer search had ended with the acquisition of Connecticut-based Scott Wadowski. Actually, it was about a week and a half ago. In the time since, the Kingston, New York, dark heavy rockers have made public their alliance with Argonauta Records for the release of their next album, the more-than-self-titled Under the Shadow of a Witch, which will be issued next year. There hasn’t been a release date set that I’ve seen, but the band already has slots booked at Maryland Doom Fest, New England Stoner and Doom Fest and SX Stoner Jam at SXSW. On their own, that’d probably be enough to call it a good year, but no doubt there’s more to come as well.

Looking forward to the brew Shadow Witch cook up for their next record, and to seeing them again, first in Connecticut, then hopefully in Maryland as well if they’ll have me. They were awesome at MDDF this year.

From the PR wire:

shadow witch

SHADOW WITCH SIGNS WITH ARGONAUTA RECORDS!

New album coming in 2019!

In 2015, a crew of veteran musicians in Kingston, New York started to share the passion to create powerfully original music. SHADOW WITCH drew their musical influences from various directions, but their goals were simple: harness decades of experience into a cohesive, monstrous sound. While the velocity by which those goals were met is no surprise, the band has now signed a worldwide deal with Italy’s powerhouse label ARGONAUTA RECORDS!

“We are incredibly excited about the next album, and feel that the move to Argonauta Records is the great step forward SHADOW WITCH have been waiting for“, comments vocalist Earl Walker Lundy on the signing. “The music for our upcoming album UNDER THE SHADOW OF A WITCH pushes the band in new directions, that folks may be surprised by. It’s our bluesiest so far, and it’s also a deeply personal album for me. We’re proud of what we’ve written, and honored to be sharing it with the world through Gero and the Argonauta family!”

In August 2016, SHADOW WITCH released their first full-length album ‘Sun Killer’, to excellent reviews from the international heavy music community. The album is a diverse assemblage of songs pulling in doom, thrash, psychedelic and stoner metal, and they back it up with intense, explosive live shows to annihilate any listener hesitation.

While member resumes may have eased their footing inside the door of many venues, their future is unquestionably solid. SHADOW WITCH began a new chapter in their music history with the official release of their second full-length album ‘Disciples Of The Crow’ in December 2017.

Followed by the recent signing with Argonauta Records, SHADOW WITCH will make their return with an amazing new release filled with the band’s special mood, atmosphere, killer riffs and vocals. The songs are all that’s needed to raise you above the light, surround you in darkness, and bind your ears, hearts and mind as one. SHADOW WITCH will be coming for you in 2019, so stay tuned for more album news and first tunes to be unveiled soon!

SHADOW WITCH is:
Scott Wadowski – drums
David Pannullo – bass
Earl Lundy – voice / mellotron / loops
Jeremy Hall – guitars

LIVE:
3/14 2019 (US) SX Stoner Jam 2019 / Spiderhouse, Austin, TX
5/3-5 2019 (US) – New England Stoner And Doom Fest 2 / Altone’s Music Hall, Jewett City, CT
6/20-23 2019 (US) – Maryland Doom Fest 2019 / Cafe 611, Frederick, MD
with many more dates to follow soon!

www.facebook.com/shadowwitch.band
www.shadowwitch.bandcamp.com
www.argonautarecords.com

Shadow Witch, Disciples of the Crow (2017)

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Shadow Witch Welcome New Drummer Scott Wadowski

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 3rd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Hey, I like trivia as much as the next guy — assuming, that is, that the next guy isn’t really all that into trivia either — so here’s one for you. Shadow Witch‘s new drummer, Scott Wadowski, is listed below as having a 25-year history of recording and playing out. Cool. But enigmatic as they reliably are, Shadow Witch doesn’t go on to say what bands Wadowski‘s actually been in. Well, some cursory interwebular research produced the name Rumblehead as being a Connecticut-based act in the mid-’90s in which Wadowski was involved. I immediately of course looked for music but found none — that’s not to say it’s not out there somewhere, just that I didn’t find it — but I did stumble on an article from the Metro section of the New York Times from 1994 that talks about the band rehearsing in a self-storage facility. It’s got quotes from a bandmate of Wadowski‘s as well as Thurston Moore and Ian MacKaye. Check it out here.

Apropos of anything? Surely not, but Shadow Witch are nothing if not eclectic, and I know that if my band got a mention in the Times 24 years ago, I’d still have the article framed on a wall, so hey. I’ve heard, and had, way lamer claims to fame. Wadowski and his new cohorts in Shadow Witch will record a new album in 2019 to follow-up 2017’s Disciples of the Crow (review here). More on that, but probably not more trivia, as we get there.

The band’s announcement is short and sweet:

shadow witch

Scott Wadowski, a Central CT based power playing drummer, with over 25 years experience performing and recording in studio, playing in a wide range of styles including hard rock, metal, symphonic and progressive, and thrash.

Scott , known lovingly as Wad, is a Leo who likes long barefoot walks on beach…;)

SHADOW WITCH is:
David Pannullo (bass)
Scott Wadowski (drums)
Earl Walker Lundy (vocals, mellotron, samples)
Jeremy H. Hall (guitars)

https://www.facebook.com/shadowwitch.band/
https://shadowwitch.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/SaltOfTheEarthRec/
www.saltoftheearthrecords.com

Shadow Witch, Disciples of the Crow (2017)

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Shadow Witch Seeking Drummer; New Album to be Recorded

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 14th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Kind of an odd situation for Shadow Witch, but Shadow Witch are kind of an odd band, and that’s part of their appeal. The Kingston, New York, four-piece are getting ready to record the follow-up to their sophomore full-length, Disciples of the Crow (review here). They’ve given the new album the title Under the Shadow of a Witch, and they’ll record with drummer Doug “Beans” Thompson, but then after that, Thompson‘s leaving the band and they’re looking to bring someone else in.

So what Shadow Witch need is a drummer not to play on the album, but to pick up with live shows thereafter and, presumably, record with them next time around. If you’re a drummer, that gives you the chance to get to know the other guys in the band before rather than stepping into a situation where they have a bunch of completed songs and you have to catch up to them. It’ll require learning the material, but it would anyway. Like a lot of what Shadow Witch does, it makes a weird kind of sense.

Replacing Thompson in the lineup won’t be easy, but as fascinating a band as Shadow Witch are, especially live, I have no doubt they’d be able to find someone.

Here’s their announcement:

shadow witch

New York’s SHADOW WITCH are sadly on a search for a new drummer. Doug “BEANS” Thompson (MURPHY’S LAW, BROOKLYN) with whom the band recorded and toured their second release DISCIPLES OF THE CROW, is having to leave the band for personal/family reasons.

The band is currently working on their next release “UNDER THE SHADOW OF A WITCH,” an album singer/lyricist Earl Walker Lundy says was written during an intense and torrid affair.

“All the songs are thematically tied to love as witchcraft, with obsession, addiction and loss as the outcome. We’re recording the album with Doug, but are in need of a replacement of his caliber to follow up with touring, and to move forward with the band. It’s an enormous challenge.”

SHADOW WITCH is:
David Pannullo (bass)
Doug “Beans” Thompson (drums)
Earl Walker Lundy (vocals, mellotron, samples)
Jeremy H. Hall (guitars)

https://www.facebook.com/shadowwitch.band/
https://shadowwitch.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/SaltOfTheEarthRec/
www.saltoftheearthrecords.com

Shadow Witch, Disciples of the Crow (2017)

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Shadow Witch Post “Disciples of the Crow” Video; Vinyl out Now

Posted in Bootleg Theater on June 21st, 2018 by JJ Koczan

shadow witch

Shadow Witch are one of those bands who are just about totally out there on their own wavelength, and as a result either get lumped into places they don’t belong — called metal, for example, which they’re not — or underrated entirely for the work they’re doing. Sure, metal is a part of what they do, but so is heavy rock, so is goth rock, so is doom, so is punk, grunge, and so on. The band’s second album, Disciples of the Crow (review here), was released at the end of last year by Salt of the Earth Records, and is available now on vinyl either directly through the band or via Kozmik Artifactz in Europe. The timing couldn’t be better, since the platter just so happens to coincide with a new video for the title-track and the band’s appearance this coming weekend at Maryland Doom Fest 2018. Amazing how these things work out sometimes.

And like much of the record that shares its name, “Disciples of the Crow” isn’t overblown tonally or in terms of aggression. It finds a place for itself in between varying stylistic elements, sharing aspects here and there with elements of the styles noted above, but creating one whole sound from them rather than simply jumping from one part to the next, one genre to the next. What that means when it comes to the album is a more cohesive listening experience, since the material ties together in terms of vibe and actual production alike, and keeps a steady foundation of songwriting beneath from the melodic opener “Love Could Be Like This” to the hook in the finale of “Dead Heroes.” As far as representing the record, the title-track does it well — duh — and showcases the aesthetic nuance at play in what Shadow Witch do as well as the lack of pretense with which they do it. For all their melding, Shadow Witch could still rightly be called straightforward.

They have more dates following Maryland Doom Fest, and you’ll find those, as well as the link to pick up Disciples of the Crow on LP, after the video below, all of which comes courtesy of the social medias.

Please enjoy:

Shadow Witch, “Disciples of the Crow” official video

Limited Edition 180gram Cloudy Orange Vinyl. Now available through Kozmik Artifactz in Europe, and stateside at the Shadow Witch bandcamp site: https://shadowwitch.bandcamp.com/album/disciples-of-the-crow

Shadow Witch live:
JUN 22 The Maryland Doom Fest 2018 Frederick MD
JUN 22 Bar XIII Wilmington DE w/ Beelzefuzz, Witch Hazel, Season of Mourning
JUN 24 Pourhouse of Norfolk • La Fin Du Monde Norfolk, VA w/ Doomstress, Witchkiss, VRSA, That Which Sleeps
JUL 7 The Anchor Kingston NY w/ Wasted Theory, Sun Voyager
AUG 3 The Anchor Kingston NY w/ Brimstone Coven, Cat Skulls
SEP 7 13th Floor Music Lounge Florence MA w/ Toke, Curse the Son, Geezer

SHADOW WITCH is
David Pannullo ~ bass
Doug “dougy beans” Thompson ~ drums
Earl Walker Lundy ~ vocals, mellotron, samples
Jeremy H. Hall ~ guitars

Shadow Witch on Thee Facebooks

Shadow Witch on Instagram

Shadow Witch on Bandcamp

Shadow Witch at Salt of the Earth Records

Salt of the Earth Records on Thee Facebooks

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Geezer Working on New Album; Announce Drummer Change

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 2nd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

One tries not to read omens at the start of a year, but doesn’t the prospect of a new Geezer record in 2018 sound pretty awesome? The New York-based heavy psych blues trio made it almost too easy to get greedy after issuing Psychoriffadelia (review here) last year on such a quick turnaround from their 2016 self-titled (review here), so how can I really be blamed if I take the word from guitarist/vocalist Pat Harrington below that new material is in the works as a sign that something new could be out before 2018 is done. He floats the second half of the year as a possibility. That’s good enough for me.

Whenever it arrives, the next Geezer will mark the debut of new drummer Steve Markota alongside Harrington and bassist Richie Touseull. Markota hit the road with the band last Fall and they’ve been putting new songs together since. Hopefully by the time they get around to playing Maryland Doom Fest in June — which I’m very much hoping to attend this year — they’ll have some stuff ready for the stage. Fingers crossed on that one. In the meantime, they’ve got an Obelisk-presented gig Jan. 10 at Saint Vitus Bar with Sun VoyagerThe Hazytones and Heavy Traffic. Damn that’s a good lineup.

Here’s what the band has to say:

geezer

We hooked up with local heavy hitting drummer and all around cool cat, Steve Markota (Grape and the Grain, Nightmares for a Week) a few months ago to do the Doomed & Stoned Festival and September’s Ode To Doom in NYC. The three of us gelled pretty quickly. Once our gigging commitments were over, we started jamming and eventually songs started to take shape. Currently, we have three songs that we are actively working on and it feels like we are just scratching the surface to what this lineup can do. The music is what I would call “bombastically heavy & groovy” and we are really taking our time to flush out arrangements, fine tune riffs, etc. The process is shaping up to be much like what we did with the self-titled album.

We are playing a bunch of US festivals next year (Maryland Doom Festival, Descendants of Crom, and other as-yet-to-be-announced festivals), so we want to have new material up and running in time for these gigs. I have no idea what shape any future releases will take, however, knowing us, I’ll guess we’ll have something out during the second half of 2018.

In the meantime, we are stoked to be jumping onto The Hazytones tour for a gig on January 10th with Sun Voyager and Heavy Traffic at St. Vitus Bar in Brooklyn, as well as playing the local CD release party for our brothers in Shadow Witch at The Anchor in Kingston on January 27th.

Geezer is:
Pat Harrington – Guitar, Vocals
Richie Touseull – Bass
Steve Markota – Drums

Live photo by Johnny Hubbard.

https://igg.me/at/xxo6XcM2mD4/x/16460786
https://www.facebook.com/geezerNY/
http://geezertown.bandcamp.com/

Geezer, Psychoriffadelia (2017)

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Review & Full Album Stream: Shadow Witch, Disciples of the Crow

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on December 5th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Shadow Witch Disciples of the Crow

[Click play above to stream Shadow Witch’s Disciples of the Crow in its entirety. Album is out Dec. 15 on Salt of the Earth Records.]

Proffering eight tracks of ominous heavy blues, Shadow Witch sneak out their sophomore full-length, Disciples of the Crow, in some of the darkest hours of 2017, which seems somehow fitting considering the somewhat apocalyptic vibes on hand. Even a faster cut like the more classically metal “Stranger Skies” has a kind of Biblically-informed fire and brimstone despite its lyrical references to red dawns and yellow kings, and certainly the earlier pair of “Reap” and “Cruel” that follow opener “Love Could be Like This” have those elements at work as well as vocalist/mellotronist Earl Walker Lundy injects the material with a preacher’s soulfulness that becomes no less a defining factor than the multi-layer progressive shred guitarist Jeremy H. Hall brings to the second half of the aforementioned “Stranger Skies.”

Peppered with samples throughout — crows on the title-track (premiered here), a thunderstorm to open the six-and-a-half-minute “The Sea,” a spoken part and tolling bell later into “Cruel,” etc. — what might otherwise be a straightforward heavy rocker is given depth of character and atmosphere (samples are also provided by Lundy), but that foundation in dead-ahead structuring is very much present in the drumming of Doug Thompson and bass work of David Pannullo, who are charged as the rhythm section with keeping Disciples of the Crow moving at the clip it does. A decidedly smooth tonality from Pannullo and Hall, perhaps with the exception of the penultimate three-minute blaster “Beneath the Veil,” adds another level of intrigue overall, making the manageable 36 minutes of the record an all the more fascinating proposition worthy of repeat visits.

In the case of the latter — the fuzz — one might liken it on “Love Could be Like This” or even the stomping title-track to the round-edged warmth of Clutch‘s Elephant Riders, though it’s important to keep in mind in doing so that Shadow Witch‘s approach on the whole draws more from metallic traditionalism amid its heavy rocking pulse. Further, if one wanted to draw a line to the Maryland stalwarts, Clutch‘s “Impetus” might be just as appropriate for the immediacy of momentum with which “Love Could be Like This” begins via Thompson‘s drums. It’s also pivotal to remember that the vision cast throughout Disciples of the Crow brims with a willful, purposeful bleakness of mindset. Consider “Cruel,” with the vaguely of-our-times comment, “Your creature comfort/Honey that don’t mean a thing to me/And your social justice/Well the bell it tolls but freedom it don’t ring.”

shadow witch

This examination of privilege, kind of a chorus led into by the first verse, comes with a grim sonic turn, and while one wonders at the perspective overall with which Shadow Witch are approaching the ever-shifting, ever-manic, ever-tragic modernity in which we somehow continuously spiral, the blue-collar perspective is as clear as the adoption of bluesman’s language to present it. This is more of a theme earlier on, though even “Beneath the Veil” drips back to reference the yellow king in the lyrics again, and Disciples of the Crow sets up a nearly bipolar personality for itself with the title-track rounding out side A and “Stranger Skies” beginning a more careening side B with shades of Iron Maiden in its gallop. The flaw in that argument is not accounting for the acoustic aspects of “The Sea” or melody-fueled angular chug of closer “Dead Heroes,” but when one considers Leviathan-era Mastodon for the former or perhaps even late-’90s Tool for the rhythmic chop of the latter — at least before it straightens itself out in the hook — it’s not too much of a stretch to think of them as a more metal manifestation either than some of the earlier pieces.

Wherever Shadow Witch are coming from on a given track or in a given verse — and yes, one is reminded of Soundgarden‘s “Rusty Cage” as Lundy intones “I’m gonna break…” twice near the end of “Dead Heroes”; hard to imagine that’s not on purpose given the song’s title — the cauldron brew they concoct from that complex recipe is very much their own. Their 2016 debut, Sun Killer (discussed here), worked with a similar potency, but Disciples of the Crow is more memorable in its progression and comes across as more efficient in how it’s been crafted. While of course there are tempo shifts, most notably between the pair of the patient “The Sea” and the ensuing thrust of “Beneath the Veil” — the longest cut running headfirst into the shortest — the work Shadow Witch are doing here never feels like it’s in more of a rush than it should be, and for that, there isn’t a single track among its eight that doesn’t end up with some standout aspect emerging, particularly after a couple times through.

United by the foreboding ambience, the quality of the riffs and by Lundy‘s accomplished melodicism as a singer able to hone a dramatic feel without ever leaving behind the idea of serving the material itself rather than the other way around, Disciples of the Crow sets its own terms for its brand of accessibility, and while Shadow Witch are without a doubt speaking to the converted, the nuanced voice in which they do so leads one to think the converted will find the message well worth receiving. As well, for the fluidity of the front-to-back listen despite the turns between the first four songs and the second, in addition to the shifts nestled into side B between “Stranger Skies” and “The Sea,” “Beneath the Veil” and “Dead Heroes” — the last one feeling almost like a bonus track by the time it’s done — Disciples of the Crow is a considerable achievement for Shadow Witch and a firm declaration of who they are aesthetically and their potential to continue to develop along these lines. A moment of arrival? Maybe, but there’s enough drive at root in their sound to make me think they won’t be staying still all that long.

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