Posted in Whathaveyou on September 6th, 2016 by JJ Koczan
Long live the Kings! UK heavy psych rockers The Kings of Frog Island have secured an awaited vinyl release for their 2013 album, IV (review here), through Bilocation Records, and preorders are up now. This will mark the first time IV has received a physical pressing, and to be frank I’ll say it’s one well earned for the flowing psychedelia the band brought to it, as you can hear in the video for album highlight “Long Live the King” below. Some records are just a joy. This is one of those.
The Kings of Frog Island followed IV in 2014 with V (review here), another self-release, but this one pressed to a platter on their own. If the photos and vague posts on Thee Facebooks are anything to go by, work may or may not be underway on what I assume will be called VI when it’s done (if, you know, it exists), so I’ll be interested to find out in the weeks and months ahead what might be up in Amphibia these days.
For now, here’s the new cover for the record, the info on the vinyl and that video, ready for the digging:
IV now available on vinyl. Exclusive.
THE KINGS OF FROG ISLAND draw on a collective passion for cult movie soundtracks, mammoth riffs and high times. Stashed full of heavy psych rock and fragile laments to love, life and the eternal sleep. Journey across the mountains of madness, beyond the big black to the shores of Frog Island and on to the gates of Amphibia. Come take a trip …
After three successful releases on Elektrohasch Records The Kings Of Frog Island from Leicester, UK recorded their fourth effort – but unfortunately never released it until this day. The album shows the band in best form: tight stoner rock combined with amazing psychedelic touches, but never loosing their unique tone and style. A great blend, very refreshing in these days.
VINYL FACTZ – Plated & pressed on high performance vinyl in Germany – 111x green black white marbled (Exclusive mailorder edition, hand numbered) – 200x transparent green – 100x black – matte laquered 300gsm gatefold cover – special vinyl mastering
I maintain a deep affection for the second The Kings of Frog Island record, II, as I do for few others. Might sound like hyperbole, but the album is damn near perfect. Released by Elektrohasch in 2008, it followed their ’05 self-titled debut and fleshed out a sound somewhere between heavy psychedelia and warm-toned classic stoner rock that to this day, some eight years after the fact, remains high on my list of all-time outings in the genre. You know how sometimes an album hits you just right? That’s me and “The Watcher,” me and “Welcome to the Void,” “Joanne Marie,” “Hallucination,” the weirdo slide guitar pastoralism of “Laid” and the way it nods into “Ride a Black Horse” en route to the nighttime desert-style closing vibes of “Satanica,” “Witching Hour” and the epilogue “Amphibia Rising.” From the moment the train announcer comes on to say service to Frog Island has been canceled and we’ll have to catch the last train to Satansville, which departs at 23.58 from platform six, II has the perfect blend of flow and vibe and memorable songwriting. To be blunt about it, it’s one of my favorite records. I’m still surprised the universe didn’t collapse on itself when it was released, and of all the stuff that’s come out of the UK since, I can only assume it’s because The Kings of Frog Island don’t play out much that they haven’t had more of an influence. Much to the loss of everyone, really.
The band’s lineup has been somewhat nebulous in the years since II, but when I interviewed guitarist/vocalist Mat Bethancourtearly in 2009 (it was one of if not the first interviews to go on this site), he said the album was about, “The planets of Satanica and Amphibia are fighting an epic battle for control of the universe and all its lost souls.” Bethancourt, who cut his fuzzy teeth in the also-underrated Josiah, would move on from the band following 2010’s III (review here), to focus on the then-nascent Cherry Choke, but fellow founders Mark Buteaux (vocals/guitar) and Roger “Dodge” Watson (drums) would continue to delve into heavy psychedelia and an ever-jammier presence across 2013’s IV (review here) and 2015’s V (review here), basking in lush and exploratory elements that still owe part of their crux to what The Kings of Frog Island established here in the mega-fuzz of “Welcome to the Void” — a song that I continue to believe offers better tone than Electric Wizard‘s “Witchcult Today” — and the sentimental wisps of “Amphibia Rising.” I don’t know who won the battle for all those lost souls, but I know the process of duking it out made for one hell of a listen.
As of last month, The Kings of Frog Island were back in the studio working on what I can only assume will be called VI when it’s done. Whether or not that’ll be out this year or what, I don’t know, but they continue to be an act that I’m always deeply happy to hear from, and listening back to it now for the first time in a while, II (also previously discussed here) sounds more like a classic than it ever has, to me anyway.
As always, I hope you enjoy.
I’ve been in Atlanta all week for work. It’s been busy, but I feel like more for this site than for my job. Look at the last few days: Seven posts today, seven yesterday, five Wednesday (five is about normal), six Tuesday, six Monday. And I’ve been traveling. I said last Friday I didn’t know how it was going to work out, but it did. To the best of my knowledge, there isn’t anything I blew off. And if I’m wrong about that, it wasn’t anything malicious or conscious, I assure you.
I’ll be back in Massachusetts for it, but next week is also duly crammed. Monday I’m hosting a track premiere for Hotel Wrecking City Traders and a full album stream for Holy Grove. Tuesday is new stuff from Rhin and Young Hunter (and that review is going to take me a while, I can feel it already). Wednesday, a full stream from Ancient Warlocks. Thursday, a video premiere from Gozu. Friday, new Blackwitch Pudding. Plus I’ve got Merlin, Stars that Move, Queen Elephantine and Lord waiting to be reviewed, among others, so plenty to work on.
Because I apparently need to be this busy. And when I’m not, I have no idea what to do with myself.
We’ve been running the radio backup server for the last couple weeks, but this weekend I’m hoping to take the proper server hard drive and hook it into a Raspberry Pi I bought to replace the old box. Remains to be seen if I can actually make that happen, but I’m going to give it a shot anyway, and if it does happen, I have a bunch of records I want to add to the server, whether I get to write about them or not. And by that I mean I probably won’t have time to, but you know, we’ll see.
Just heard as well, but R.I.P. Keith Emerson.
Please have a great and safe weekend, whatever you’re up to. The Patient Mrs. and I will be bumming down to Providence tomorrow to buy ricotta cheese and probably some chicken, but other than that I’m looking forward to a quiet couple days before Monday brings the inevitable return-to-real-life shitstorm. Always an adventure.
Posted in Reviews on January 8th, 2016 by JJ Koczan
Last day. It’s been some week. When I otherwise would’ve been putting these reviews together yesterday? Jury duty. Yup, my civic responsibility. Add that to a busted laptop, a full-time job and a couple busy days for news, and you have a good argument for why with Quarterly Reviews prior I’ve gotten up at six in the morning over the weekend before and started writing to get as much out of the way as possible. Oh wait, I did that this time too. Well, maybe it was seven.
Either way, as it comes to a close, I want to personally express my thanks to you for checking it out and being a part of what’s become a weird seasonal ritual for me. I hope you’ve found something (or find something today) that resonates with you and stays with you for a long time. I’m pretty sure that’s what it’s all about.
Quarterly Review #41-50:
Satan’s Satyrs, Don’t Deliver Us
Virginian riff-turner trio Satan’s Satyrs passed the half-decade mark with their third album, late-2015’s Don’t Deliver Us (on Bad Omen Records), just one year after their sophomore outing, Die Screaming! crawled up from the foggy ’70s ether. In addition to touring the US with Electric Wizard, with whom Satan’s Satyrs shares bassist Clayton Burgess (also vocals), one assumes the trio spent the remainder of the year mining old VHS discount-bin horror to find inspiration and fitting subject matter for quick-turning cuts like “(Won’t You be My) Gravedancer” and “Crimes and Blood,” but whatever they did, it worked. As “Spooky Nuisance” jams out its Hendrix-via-Sabbath vibing and the subsequent “Germanium Bomb” leans into yet another impressive solo by guitarist Jarrett Nettnin complemented by the fills of drummer Stephen Fairfield, there’s an element of performance to what they do, but whether it’s the proto-doom of closer “Round the Bend” or the motor-chug of “Two Hands,” Satan’s Satyrs find that sweet spot wherein they constantly sound like they’re about to fall apart, but never actually do. For sounding so loose, they are enviably tight.
Sometimes you have an idea for a band, and it’s like, “I’m gonna start a band that puts this genre and this genre together.” In the case of Aussie four-piece Wildeornes, it’s stoner and black metal coming together on their second full-length, Erosion of the Self. I’ll give it to them, they pull it off. I’m not sure the “arising” instead of “rising” in “Serpent Arising” or the “So fucking high!” at the end of “The Subject” are really necessary, but hard to ignore the fact that before they get there, they’ve nodded at Pentagram, Crowbar, and Goatsnakeand included a couple measures of blastbeats, or the fact that throughout the album they effectively tilt to one side or the other, riding atmospheric cymbals over a rolling groove in “The Oblivion of Being” only to tap into Nile-brand Egyptology in “Incantation for the Demise of Autumn” only to affect Erosion of the Self‘s biggest chorus on “Winter’s Eve.” Whatever genre tag they, you or I want to give it, their roots are definitely metal, but the juxtaposition they offer within that sphere works for them.
Raw groove is at the core of what Oakland, California’s Blackwülf offer on their second album and Ripple Music debut, Oblivion Cycle. Divided neatly into two sides for an LP, its 10 track hearken to a stripped-down vision of classic metal on “Memories,” Sabbath and Maiden both a factor but not the end of the line when it comes to the four-piece’s influences. Somebody in this band (if not multiple somebodies) is a punker. The two impulses play out in a balance of grand stylization and lean production – to wit, “Wings of Steel” sneers even as it puts a triumphant foot on the stage monitor and gallops off – and if the punk/metal battle isn’t enough of a tip-off, let the umlaut serve as confirmation that these guys are going to miss Lemmy (who isn’t?), but their methods ultimately prove more indebted to Judas Priest than Motörhead by the time they get down to “Never Forget,” which touches on some vocal soaring as it rounds out that feels especially bold as well as well placed as a late gem before the slamming-groove-into-Iommic-flourish of closer “March of the Damned.” As much as Oblivion Cycle has these elements butting heads across its span, that’s not to say Blackwülf lack control or don’t know what they’re doing. Just the opposite. Their pitting ideas against each other is a big part of the appeal, for listeners and likely for the band as well.
Four years after issuing their second album, 2011’s Galaxia (review here), late-2015’s Phantom of an Era finds Connecticut’s VRSA a considerably more crunch-laden entity. They’ve have some lineup changes in the past half-decade, which is fair enough, but guitarist Andrius and guitarist/vocalist Josh remain prominent, leading the rhythm section of bassist/vocalist John and drummer Wes through prog-metal cascades, quiet parts shifting on a dime to full-volume assaults or holding off and making the change more gradual as tension builds. Either way, if the end-goal is heavy, VRSA get there, whether it’s the rolling, chugging and growling of “Grand Bois” or the winding and crashing and thrashing of the later “Marble Orchard,” or how closer “Baron Cimetière” sets up its waltz rhythm subtly in the beginning only to bash the listener’s skull with it as the inevitable crushing begins anew. There’s plenty of it to go around on Phantom of an Era, which keeps a consistent air of brutality even as it veers into clean, progressive or atmospheric forms.
As they get down elsewhere with hard-driving, Steak-style post-Kyuss desertism, Swiss four-piece Marant have just a couple of more laid back trips perfectly placed along the path of their debut album, High Octane Diesel. The first of them, “Smoothie,” follows opener “Kathy’s Trophy,” and like the later “Road 222,” it has its more raucous side as well, but the big tone-wash happens with the languid heavy psych roll of closer “N’BaCon?,” also the longest track at 8:47. The effect that varying their modus has on broadening the scope of more straightforward songs like “Evil Schnaps” and “The Good the Bad and the Trip” isn’t to be understated. Not only does it show a different side of the emerging chemistry between vocalist Jimmy, guitarist Sergio Calabrian Donkey, bassist Aff Lee and drummer Sir Oli with Snake, but it gives High Octane Diesel an atmospheric range beyond the desert and into an expanse no less ripe for exploration. Whichever method they employ, Marant engage fluidly across their first record.
Lot of noise, lot of fuckall, not too many songs. Connecticut trio Grizzlor manage to pack seven songs onto a 7” release called Cycloptic (on Hex Records), most of which hover on either side of 90 seconds apiece. Dissonance, grit and tension pervade the offering front to back, and between “Sundays are Stupid” and “I’m that Asshole,” there’s an edge of experimentation in the vocals and rhythm as well, some starts and stops that add to the songwriting, though the peeled-skin noise rock of “Tommy” and the build-into-mayhem of “Winter Blows” ensure that the business of punkish intensity isn’t left out. Was it a danger to start with? Nah. Closer “Starship Mother Shit” and the earlier “Life’s a Joke” rolls out a sludgy-style groove, but with sneering and shouting overtop and hard-edged percussive punctuation, there’s no question where Grizzlor got all that aggression from. If Grizzlor are playing in the basement, somebody’s gonna call the cops.
Bull-in-a-china-shop’ing their way through nine mostly-blistering tracks in 43 minutes, Seattle trio Mother Crone make their full-length debut with the appropriately titled Awakening, a record that melts doom and thrash together with the best of earliest Mastodon and comes out of it sounding righteous, wildly heavy and solidly in control of their methods. Don’t believe it? First of all, why not? Second, check out the six-minute “Descending the North” – the third track after a beastly opening with the mysteriously JFK-sampling intro “Silt Laden Black” and “Black Sea” – which chugs and twists and stomps through its first half only to drop out to just-guitar ambience and burst to life again with a shredding solo finish that leads to – wait for it – the quiet guitar-and-vocals only spaciousness of “The Dream,” which marks a twist into a more experimental middle quotient of the album, the subsequent “Halocline” and furiously building “Revelation” more experimental in form, before the sludgy “Turning Tides” and raging “Apollyon” make the job of the nine-minute closing title-track even more difficult in summarizing everything that came before it. A task of which that song makes short work. For the momentum they build and the brashness they execute within that, Mother Crone‘s Awakening is indeed bound to stir.
Italian four-piece Psychedelic Witchcraft issued Black Magic Man in mid-2015 as their debut EP, and wound up selling through both its limited 10” vinyl pressings. For the Twin Earth Records CD version, it’s been expanded by two tracks – still EP length at 27 minutes – and given new artwork that underscores the band’s cultish bent, which comes across strong in the vocals of Virginia Monti, very much at the forefront of the group’s presentation on “Angela” and “Lying in Iron,” the opening duo that give way to the desert-toned push of the title-track, also the strongest hook included. Drummer Daniele Parrella leads the march into the grungier “Slave of Grief,” in which the guitar of Jacopo Fallai will take a noisy forward position in the midsection, giving way later to some blown-out singing from Monti given heft by bassist Riccardo Giuffrè, like 1967 time traveling to 1971. The production on the last two cuts, “Wicked Dream” and “Set Me Free” is audibly different (Vanni also plays bass), more modernly-styled, but the band’s core intent of living up to their name remains true.
Philadelphia and New York rarely agree on anything, but Chimpgrinder and Miscegenator, who make their homes respectively in those burgs, have come together at least long enough to share a split 7” between them, though of course what they do with that time is vastly different. Chimpgrinder proliferate a raw kind of sludge on their two tracks, not completely void of melody, but more geared toward groove than expanse, “Gates” taking off on an lengthy solo and deciding it’d rather not come back, ending in feedback fading to abrasive noise. That’s a fitting lead-in for what NY’s Miscegenator are up to on the other side, as “Hate Hate Hate” leads off a six-song set of visceral grind. Shit is raw and mean, and it d-beats its way either into your heart or off your turntable – it’s not the kind of music anyone ever played because they were feeling friendly. Blink and its gone, but the punk-rooted abrasion is like as not to leave a scar as closer “Tony Randall was Right” goes slicing, which is a fair enough answer to the pummel Chimpgrinder made their own a whopping five minutes earlier.
The self-titled, self-released, self-recorded debut EP from London four-piece Oak saves its burliest impression for “Ride with Me,” the third of its four component tracks. That’s not to say that “All Above” and “Queen of this Land” aren’t plenty dudely – the vocals of Andy Wisbey see to that – but “Ride with Me” feels particularly caked in testosterone. Somewhat quizzical that it also finds guitarist/engineer Kevin Germain, bassist Scott Mason and drummer Rob Emms (since replaced by Sergiu, it would seem) vibing out for a bit of quiet desert noodling in the middle and ending with a primo shuffle of the post-Kyuss variety. Maybe it’s a fine line when one considers the body of work of Orange Goblin as an influence, but it gives a different context to the two songs before and certainly to the stonerly bounce of “Dissolve” after to know that Oak have more in their playbook than the standard beer-pounding and chestbeating. Should be interesting to hear how the various impulses play out as they more forward.
UK heavy psych merchants Prophets of Saturn released their second album, Retronauts, this July on HeviSike Records. In their new video for “Witchrider,” a track taken from that record, they give us a glimpse of what calls forth their dense fuzz and deep-toned swirl — swapping back and forth between in-the-woods and in-the-practice-space vibes before finally ending out in a candlelit ritual. Needless to say, the clip covers all its bases, and in that, it makes a fitting companion to the song itself, which melds classic psych malevolence with a more modern aggression.
The album has sold through a goodly portion of its 400-pressed LP copies, but is out on CD as well and with tape TBA, so Prophets of Saturn are by no means done with it. Nov. 28, they’ll play a memorial show for Mage guitarist Ben Aucott, who passed away earlier this year. Mage, Temple of Lies and Garganjua will also take part. As Retronauts continues to reap praise in following up Prophets of Saturn‘s 2013 self-titled debut, look for the band to keep their momentum going hopefully into the New Year and beyond.
Clip for “Witchrider” is below, followed by more from the PR wire on that memorial gig and other doings. Enjoy:
Prophets of Saturn, “Witchrider”
Leicester, England psychedelic doomsters unveil new video for ‘Witchrider’
Following the release of the gargantuan RETRONAUTS album in June on HeviSike Records, Prophets of Saturn are pleased to unveil their latest labour of love. The video for Witchrider was created throughout the Summer of 2015. Featuring creepy woodlands, alluring witches and smokey chambers, the film captures the very essence of Prophets of Saturn’s sound.
The band return to their native Leicester for a one-off memorial gig in Novermber, celebrating the life of BEN AUCOTT, guitarist with local doom heroes MAGE. The event, held at Duffy’s Bar on Saturday 28 November will also feature local bands TEMPLE OF LIES and GARGANJUA.
The 2015 edition of The Electric Cool festival — otherwise known as ThElectriCool — is set for Oct. 17 at the 02 Academy in Leicester, UK. This is the second year of the fest, and along with the returning Cherry Choke, the lineup features headliners Siena Root as well as Roadburn veterans Cult of Dom Keller,as well as Alfa 9 and Electroshock Therapy. It’s a more than solid bill, but that seems like the music is only part of the experience. HeviSike Records will also be on hand with a distro, and there are DJs and vintage clothes around to buy.
Sounds like a psychedelic freakout party? Yeah, I think that’s pretty much the whole idea. Info follows, yoinked off the PR wire:
ThElectriCool – Festival of Psychedelic Rock will be held at 02 Academy, Leicester, UK, October 17th 2015. Organised by promoters ‘The Hidden Museum’ The second edition of The Electric Cool has again curated a fine collection psychedelic rock and sunshine pop groups from across the UK and Europe, including Siena Root, The Cult of Dom Keller, Cherry Choke, Alfa 9 and Elektroshock Therapy.
Also featuring visuals by the Innerstrings Psychedelic Lightshow, Psych Soundz by The Early Remains & DJ Biff!Bang!Pow!, Hevisike Record Store, Vintage Clothing by Yesterday’s Children. The University of Leicester campus venue opens its doors at 5pm. First live act 5:45pm. Curfew 1:00am.
SIENA ROOT came to life in Stockholm in the late 90’s and today are considered as pioneers of an old school Deep Purple influenced psych-prog rock sound. From flaming gongs to sitar solos this amazing live act put on an uncompromising show. Their heavy duty vintage ooze will expand your mind and make your body move to its cosmic caftan wearing sound scape.sienaroot.com
THE CULT OF DOM KELLER Whether melting the minds of an over-capacity packed-out room at the legendary Roadburn Festival in Tilburg, Netherlands, following Walter Roadburn’s ‘Album of The Day’ feature in February for The Second Bardo or performing at the Austin Psych Fest in the big old US of A. This Nottingham based four piece will blow you away.facebook.com/cultofdomkeller
CHERRY CHOKE have become one of the UK’s finest heavy psych rock groups. The band recorded their third LP “Raising The Waters” for Elektrohasch Records with Stefan Koglek of Colour Haze at the controls. Live these new tracks take on a life of their own with wigged out jams and heart attack inducing rhythms.cherrychoke.co.uk
ALFA 9 Cosmic sunshine folk-psych masters influenced by late 60’s masters The Byrds and the Paisley Underground bands of early ’80s. Rich harmonies, ringing 12 string guitars and naturally overdriven and fuzz.alfa9.co.uk
ELECTROSHOCK THERAPY Inspired by the counter-culture movement of the late 1960’s, and with a sound akin to the West Coast bands of the day, you could easily be mistaken into believing that an intense acid trip had sent them deep into the space–time continuum, before dumping them on earth, nearly half a century into the future.electroshocktherapy.bandcamp.com
Spacious UK psych-doomers Prophets of Saturn will release their second album, Retronauts, on July 17 through HeviSike Records. The four-piece issue their self-titled debut in 2013, and that was later picked up by HeviSike for a CD and tape pressings, so the new album will be a continuation of the relationship. Additionally, opening song “Retronaut,” which I guess is about as close to a title-track as Prophets of Saturn are getting this time around, unless they decide to pluralize elsewhere on the record, is streaming now and you can hear it below.
Prophets of Saturn have a couple live dates booked in the UK for this summer, as the PR wire informs:
Prophets of Saturn announce new album Retronauts on HeviSike Records
Retronauts by Prophets of Saturn will be released on 17th July 2015 on HeviSike Records
Hailing from the British Midlands, English psych-metal four-piece Prophets of Saturn return this July with a follow-up to their 2013, self-titled debut on the Birmingham-based label HeviSike Records.
Offering up a heady excursion into the dope-smoking amplifier-worship of Pentagram, Saint Vitus and Electric Wizard, Retronauts is for neither the faint of heart nor mind. Traversing cosmic ley-lines on an antiquarian journey through the lineage of English proto-metal, a lysergic love of Cream, The Beatles and fellow Midlanders Black Sabbath permeates Prophets of Saturn’s sound. A sound laced in equal measure with both the usual and unusual, from a band possessed to the point of lunacy with channeling bad acid trips, occultism and electrified doom through a fuzz box to get out of it the desired winding riffs and demented wails.
Like their debut – originally released on Cosmic Tomb and later rereleased by HeviSike Records on limited edition CD and cassette – Retronauts is a must-hear for fans of spaced-out, groove-laden metal. The kind committed to analogue tape in the most esoteric of studios and best heard live through vintage stacks.
Known for their commanding and mesmerizing stage shows the band has shared stages recently with the likes of Wounded Kings, Bong, Goatess and Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell and play a number of dates this summer in support of the album’s official release. (See live dates below.)
Retronuats by Prophets of Saturn will be released on 17th July 2015 on HeviSike Records.
Prophets of Saturn Live: Fri, 17th July – Chameleon Arts Cafe, Nottingham (w. Witchsorrow and Iron Void) Sat, 1st August – The Rigger, Newcastle-Under-Lyme (w. Trippy Wicked & The Cosmic Children of The Knight and Space Witch)
Prophets of Saturn: Ben Shone (Guitars) Max Mead (Bass) Duncan Torrance (Drums) George Sanderson (Vocals)
It’s been a fascinating journey Mat Bethancourt has undertaken for the last half-decade or so. Since putting underrated fuzz rock trio Josiah to rest in 2009 with Procession (review here), a collection of unreleased and live tracks, the Leicester-based guitarist/vocalist has spent time in Dexter Jones’ Circus Orchestra, been in and out of The Kings of Frog Island and founded and released two, now three, albums with Cherry Choke, all operating under different parameters within the umbrella of heavy rock and psychedelia. With The Kings of Frog Island, Bethancourt explored a fuzzed-out expanse on the first two records and then stripped down the methods for his final album with them, 2010’s III (review here), his songwriting not comprising the whole core of their sound — as subsequent Kings outings would prove — but having a significant impact on it all the same. That more garage rock style would seem to be foundation on which Cherry Choke was based. On Elektrohasch, the trio released their self-titled debut (review here) in 2009 and followed it relatively quickly with A Night in the Arms of Venus (review here) in 2011, the second album expanding on the ideas of the first but keeping the elemental feel intact. Four years later, Cherry Choke offer Raising the Waters, their third full-length on Elektrohasch, recorded and mixed analog with label head and Colour Haze guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek at his Colour Haze Studio (Koglek also adds some vocals and 12-string acoustic), which brings together Bethancourt and drummer Daniel Lockton with bassist/vocalist Simon Beasley, formerly of — wait for it — Josiah.
So yes, more than half a decade and numerous twists and turns of sound and cohort later, Cherry Choke brings together a two-thirds reunion of Josiah on their third album, but they’re doing precious little across the 10-track/50-minute outing to recapture former glories, and instead, Cherry Choke‘s Raising the Waters pursues a blend of classic, laid-back heavy rock songwriting and psychedelic exploration, beginning with the seven-minute “Rage On,” which presents with its first lines one of the record’s landmark and defining hooks, “You move like Lucifer on the floor/Hypnotize me with your flesh and bone,” around which the three-piece builds a psychedelic roll that proves immediately immersive, Bethancourt‘s well-established penchant for layering wah leads and nodding rhythm tracks met by Lockton‘s swinging groove and Beasley‘s warm-toned low-end. The opener is a fitting summary of what the album as a whole has to offer, and there’s no shortage of vibe throughout the rest of side A, but as the hooks of the speedier, Monster Magnet-esque “Mindbreaker,” the preaching “Black Aniss” and the jamming-but-still-chorus-driven “Used to Call You Friend” play out, it’s easy to lose touch with the more psychedelic aspects presented in “Rage On,” perhaps even more so since the aforementioned “You move like Lucifer…” line is given a reprise on “Hypnotize Me,” but the second half of the tracklist brings this further into focus, making Raising the Waters not just a step forward in the aesthetic presented on the first two Cherry Choke outings, but a grander leap into a pool of tone that more than lives up to the goal a title like “Hypnotize Me” sets forth. With guest sitar from Mario Oberpuncher — who also mastered with Koglek — and Hammond M3 and Fender Rhodes by Martin Bischof, the back end of Raising the Waters fulfills in short order the atmospheres that “Rage On” seems to promise, still in league with the memorable songwriting of “Mindbreaker” and “Black Aniss,” but pushing throughout the rolling “6ix and 7even,” the grounded “My Mind to Lose” and acoustic-led “Discarded Hearts” into a bliss of their own making.
That’s not to say the earlier tracks aren’t likewise tripped out or that Raising the Waters plays out like two records in one. There’s a flow between the album’s two halves and the creativity across both is open to be sure, it’s just a question of structure, and what turns out to be side B on the vinyl is clearly intended to expand on the ideas of side A, bringing about a bold, unexpected sonic foray into Euro-style heavy psych that, by the time “Discarded Hearts” is over, has offered as much emotional as aural breadth. “Where the Sun Rises” is an instrumental highlight as deep and lush in sound as one might ask, and “6ix and 7even” picks up that psychedelic thread and adds — Hammond! — yes, the Hammond, but also the fervent rhythmic push of “Mindbreaker” and “Rage On”‘s clever structuring, and while “My Mind to Lose” has a back-to-earth-again effect for the clarity of its chorus, it still spreads wide across a back-half lead section that recalls the best of Bethancourt‘s work with The Kings of Frog Island. A tone wash emerges to carry “Discarded Hearts” into a moment of silence, from which “Where the Sun Sets” picks up as the album’s closer and, entirely backwards, provides a mirror to “Where the Sun Rises” in much the same way “Hypnotize Me” answered back “Rage On” on side A. It’s a dreamy, droning kind of finish a long way from the already-stuck-in-your-head “Rage On,” but fitting somehow for the progression that Cherry Choke have undertaken across Raising the Waters, as Bethancourt, Beasley and Lockton take the band to ground new and familiar and forge a character sound-wise that’s neither one thing nor the other, but encompassing with songwriting that remains graceful in the expanse. It’s a delicate balance to strike, but Cherry Choke make it seem easy and manage to stay afloat no matter how high the waters rise.
Posted in Whathaveyou on December 17th, 2014 by JJ Koczan
UK trio Cherry Choke will release their third album, Raising the Waters, in January on Elektrohasch. The heavy garage rocking three-piece were last heard from with 2011’s A Night in the Arms of Venus (review here), which refined the classically-minded push and Who-style heavy of their 2009 self-titled debut (review here) to an even more natural vibe. To have them return four years later with a new record after a period of relative inactivity on their part — Cherry Choke played ThElectriCool festival this fall, and guitarist/vocalist Mat Bethancourt (ex-Josiah, ex-The Kings of Frog Island)designed the cover for the new Colour Haze record, so it hasn’t been complete stillness — I wouldn’t speculate what they might be up to this time around, but that just makes the anticipation more fun until the album’s release next month.
Cherry Choke will join Radio Moscow and the aforementioned Colour Haze for part of the Up in Smoke V tour in March. Their dates, plus the art and tracklisting for Raising the Waters, follow:
Elektrohasch 167 Cherry Choke – Raising The Waters CD & LP
Soon the new Cherry Choke will be released. Produced in the Colour Haze Studio you can look forward to maybe the best record Mat Bethancourt (Josiah, The Beginning, Kings Of Frog island, Dexter Jones Circus Orchestra….) made in his long career so far…
The new Cherry Choke 10 track album “Raising The Waters” out on Elektrohasch Records January 2015 featuring the tracks:
1. Rage On 2. Mindbreaker 3. Black Annis 4. Used To Call You Friend 5. Hypnotize Me 6. Where The Sun Rises 7. 6ix & 7even 8. My Mind To Lose 9. Discarded Hearts 10. Where The Sun Sets
Cherry Choke on Up In Smoke Tour w/ Colour Haze + Radio Moscow
01.03.2015 UK, London, The Garage 02.03.2015 FR, Paris, Le Divan du Monde 03.03.2015 BEL, Brussels, Magasin 4 04.03.2015 GER, Hamburg, Markthalle 05.03.2015 GER, Berlin, SO36 06.03.2015 A, Vienna, Arena 07.03.2015 A, Salzburg, Rockhouse