Quarterly Review: Monkey3, Asthma Castle, The Giraffes, Bask, Faerie Ring, Desert Sands, Cavalcade, Restless Spirit, Children of the Sün, Void King

Posted in Reviews on September 30th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

Call two friends and tell them to tell two friends to tell two friends, because the Quarterly Review has returned. This time around, it’s 50 records front to back for Fall 2019 and there are some big names and some smaller names and a whole lot of in between which is just how I like it. Between today and Friday, each day 10 album reviews will be posted in a single batch like this one, and although by Wednesday this always means I’m totally out of my mind, it’s always, always, always worth it to be able to write about so much cool stuff. So sit tight, because there’s a lot to get through and, as ever, time’s at a premium.

Thanks in advance for keeping up, and I hope you find something you dig.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Monkey3, Sphere

monkey3 sphere

It’s a full-on Keanu Reeves “whoa” when opening track “Spirals” kicks in on Monkey3‘s sixth album, Sphere (released by Napalm), and that’s by no means the last one on the cinematic six-tracker. The long-running Swiss mostly-instrumentalists have been consistently, persistently underappreciated throughout their career, but whether it’s the aural scope of guitar and keys in “Axis” or the swaps between intensity and sprawl in 14-minute closer “Ellipsis,” their latest work is consuming in its sense of triumph. Even the four-minute “Ida,” which seems at first like it’s barely going to be more than an interlude, finds a thread of majestic cosmic groove and rides it for the duration, while the proggy immersion of “Prism” and the harder drive of “Mass” — not to mention that shredding solo — make the middle of the record anything but a post-hypnosis dip. I won’t pretend to know if Sphere is the record that finally gets the Lausanne four-piece the respect they’ve already well deserved, but if it was, one could only say it was for good reason. Blends of heft, progressive craft, and breadth are rarely so resonant.

Monkey3 on Thee Facebooks

Napalm Records website

 

Asthma Castle, Mount Crushmore

Asthma Castle Mount Crushmore

When you call your record Mount Crushmore, you need to bring it, and much to their credit, Baltimorean sludge-rocking five-piece Asthma Castle do precisely that on their debut full-length. Issued through Hellmistress Records, the 37-minute/six-track outing is a wordplay-laced pummeler that shows as much persona in its riffing and massive groove as it does in titles like “The Incline of Western Civilization” and “The Book of Duderonomy.” Trades between early-Mastodonic twists and lumbering sludge crash add a frenetic and unpredictable feel to pieces like the title-track, while “Methlehem” trades its plod for dual-guitar antics punctuated by metallic double-kick, all the while the vocals trade back and forth between growls, shouts, cleaner shouts, the odd scream, etc., because basically if you can keep up with it, Asthma Castle wouldn’t be doing their job. One shudders to think of the amount of Natty Bo consumed during its making, but Mount Crushmore is a wild and cacophonous enough time to live up to the outright righteousness of its title. If I graded reviews, it would get a “Fuckin’ A+,” with emphasis on “fuckin’ a.”

Asthma Castle on Thee Facebooks

Hellmistress Records website

 

The Giraffes, Flower of the Cosmos

the giraffes flower of the cosmos

Some day the world will wake up and realize the rock and roll powerhouse it had in Brooklyn’s The Giraffes, but by then it’ll be too late. The apocalypse will have happened long ago, and it’ll be Burgess Meredith putting on a vinyl of Flower of the Cosmos in the New York Library as “FAKS” echoes out through the stacks of now-meaningless tomes and the dust of nuclear winter falls like snow outside the windows. The band’s tumultuous history is mirrored in the energy of their output, and yet to hear the melody and gentle fuzz at the outset of “Golden Door,” there’s something soothing about their work as well that, admittedly, “Raising Kids in the End Times” is gleeful in undercutting. Cute as well they pair that one with “Dorito Dreams” on this, their seventh record in a 20-plus-year run, which has now seen them find their footing, lose it, find it again, and in this record and songs like the masterfully frenetic “Fill up Glass” and the air-tight-tense “Like Hate” and “Romance,” weave a document every bit worthy of Mr. Meredith’s attention as he mourns for the potential of this godforsaken wasteland. Oh, what we’ll leave behind. Such pretty ruins.

The Giraffes website

The Giraffes on Bandcamp

 

Bask, III

bask iii

In the fine tradition of heavy rock as grown-up punk, North Carolina’s Bask bring progressive edge and rolling-Appalachian atmospherics to the underlying energy of III, their aptly-titled and Season of Mist-issued third album. Their foot is in any number of styles, from Baroness-style noodling to a hard twang that shows up throughout and features prominently on the penultimate “Noble Daughters II – The Bow,” but the great triumph of III, and really the reason it works at all, is because the band find cohesion in this swath of influences. They’re a band who obviously put thought into what they do, making it all the more appropriate to think of them as prog, but as “Three White Feet” and “New Dominion” show at the outset, they don’t serve any aesthetic master so much as the song itself. Closing with banjo and harmonies and a build of crash cymbal on “Maiden Mother Crone” nails the point home in a not-understated way, but at no point does III come across as hyper-theatrical so as to undercut the value of what Bask are doing. It’s a more patient album than it at first seems, but given time to breathe, III indeed comes to life.

Bask on Thee Facebooks

Season of Mist on Bandcamp

 

Faerie Ring, The Clearing

fairie ring the clearing

Listening to the weighty rollout of opening cut “Bite the Ash” on Faerie Ring‘s debut album, The Clearing (on King Volume Records), one is reminded of the energy that once-upon-a-time came out of Houston’s Venomous Maximus. There’s a similar feeling of dark energy surging through the riffs and echoing vocals, but the Evansville, Indiana, four-piece wind up on a different trip. Their take is more distinctly Sabbathian on “Lost Wind” and even the swinging “Heavy Trip” lives up to its stated purpose ahead of the chugging largesse of finisher “Heaven’s End.” They find brash ground on “The Ring” and the slower march of “Somnium,” but there’s metal beneath the lumbering and it comes out on “Miracle” in a way that the drums late in “Lost Wind” seem to hint toward on subsequent listens. It’s a mix of riff-led elements that should be readily familiar to many listeners, but the sheer size and clarity of presentation Faerie Ring make throughout The Clearing makes me think they’ll look to distinguish themselves going forward, and so their first record holds all the more potential for that.

Faerie Ring on Thee Facebooks

King Volume Records on Bandcamp

 

Desert Sands, The Ascent EP

Desert Sands The Ascent

Begun as the solo-project of London-based multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Mark Walker and presently a trio including Louis Kinder and Jonathan Walker as well, Desert Sands make their recorded debut through A Records with the three-song/half-hour The Ascent EP, a work of psychedelic existentialism that conveys its cosmic questioning even before the lyrics start, with an opening riff and rhythmic lurch to “Are You There” that seems to throw its central query into a void that either will or won’t answer. Does it? The hell should I know, but The Ascent proves duly transcendent in its pulsations as “Head Towards the Light” and 11:45 closer “Yahweh” — yeah, I guess we get there — bring drifting, languid enlightenment to these spiritual musings. The finale is, of course, a jam in excelsis and if drop-acid-find-god is the narrative we’re working with, then Desert Sands are off to a hell of a start as a project. Regardless of how one might ultimately come down (and it is, by my estimation at least, a comedown) on the question of human spirituality, there’s no denying the power and ethereal force of the kind of creativity on display in The Ascent. One will wait impatiently to see what comes next.

Desert Sands on Thee Facebooks

A Recordings on Thee Facebooks

 

Cavalcade, Sonic Euthanasia

Cavalcade Sonic Euthanasia

Say what you want about New Orleans or North Carolina or wherever the hell else, Midwestern sludge is another level of filth. To wit, the Carcass-style vocals that slice through the raw, dense riffing on “Aspirate on Aspirations” feel like the very embodiment of modern disillusion, and there’s some flourish of melodic guitar pluck there, but that only seems to give the ensuing crunch more impact, and likewise the far-back char of “Freezing in Fire” as it relates to the subsequent “Dead Idles,” as Cavalcade refute the trappings of genre in tempo while still seeming to burrow a hole for themselves in the skull of the converted. “Noose Tie” and “We Dig Our Own Graves” tell the story, but while the recording itself is barebones, Cavalcade aren’t now and never really have been so simple as to be a one-trick band. For more than a decade, they’ve provided a multifaceted and trickily complex downer extremity, and Sonic Euthanasia does this as well, bringing their sound to new places and new levels of abrasion along its punishing way. Easy listening? Shit. You see that eye on the cover? That’s the lizard people staring back at you. Have fun with that.

Cavalcade on Thee Facebooks

Cavalcade on Bandcamp

 

Restless Spirit, Lord of the New Depression

restless spirit lord of the new depression

Long Island chug-rockers Restless Spirit would seem to have been developing the material for their self-released debut album, Lord of the New Depression, over the last couple years on a series of short releases, but the songs still sound fresh and electrified in their vitality. If this was 1992 or ’93, they’d be signed already to RoadRacer Records and put on tour with Life of Agony, whose River Runs Red would seem to be a key influence in the vocals of the nine-track/39-minute offering, but even on their own, the metal-tinged five-piece seem to do just fine. Their tracks are atmospheric and aggressive and kind, and sincere in their roll, capturing the spirit of a band like Down with somewhat drawn-back chestbeating, “Dominion” aside. They seem to be challenging themselves to push outside those confines though in “Deep Fathom Hours,” the longest track at 7:35 with more complexity in the melody of the vocals and guitar, and that suits them remarkably well as they dig into this doomly take on LOA and Type O Negative and others from the early ’90s NYC underground — they seem to pass on Biohazard, which is fine — made legendary with the passage of time. As a gentleman of a certain age, I find it exceptionally easy to get on board.

Restless Spirit on Thee Facebooks

Restless Spirit on Bandcamp

 

Children of the Sün, Flowers

Children of the Sun Flowers

An eight-piece outfit based in Arvika, Sweden, which is far enough west to be closer to Oslo than Stockholm, Children of the Sün blend the classic heavy rock stylizations of MaidaVale, first-LP Blues Pills and others with a decidedly folkish bent. Including an intro, their The Sign Records debut album, Flowers, is eight track and 34 minutes interweaving organ and guitar, upbeat vibes and bluesier melodies, taking cues from choral-style vocals on “Emmy” in such a way as to remind of Church of the Cosmic Skull, though the aesthetic here is more hippie than cult. The singing on “Sunschild” soars in that fashion as well, epitomizing the lush melody found across Flowers as the keys, guitar, bass and drums work to match in energy and presence. For a highlight, I’d pick the more subdued title-track, which still has its sense of movement thanks to percussion deep in the mix but comes arguably closest to the flower-child folk Children of the Sün seem to be claiming for their own, though the subsequent closing duo of “Like a Sound” and “Beyond the Sun” aren’t far off either. They’re onto something. One hopes they continue to explore in such sünshiny fashion.

Children of the Sün on Thee Facebooks

The Sign Records on Thee Facebooks

 

Void King, Barren Dominion

void king barren dominion

Having made their debut with 2016’s There is Nothing (discussed here), Indianapolis downtrodden heavy rock four-piece Void King come back for a second go with Barren Dominion (on Off the Record Label), a title of similar theme that finds them doom riffing through massive tonality on “Burnt at Both Ends,” asking what if Soundgarden played atmospheric doom rock on “Crippled Chameleon” — uh, it would be awesome? yup — and opening each side with its longest track (double immediate points) in a clearly intended vinyl structure hell bent on immersing the listener as much as possible in the lumber and weight the band emit. Frontman Jason Kindred adds extra burl to his already-plenty-dudely approach on “Crippled Chameleon” and closer “The Longest Winter,” the latter with some harmonies to mirror those of opener “A Lucid Omega,” and the band around him — bassist Chris Carroll, drummer Derek Felix and guitarist Tommy Miller — seem to have no trouble whatsoever in keeping up, there or anywhere else on the eight-song/46-minute outing. Topped with striking cover art from Diogo SoaresBarren Dominion is deceptively nuanced and full-sounding. Not at all empty.

Void King on Thee Facebooks

Off the Record Label BigCartel store

 

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Leeds Point Premiere Title-Track of New Album Equinox Blues; Out Oct. 4

Posted in audiObelisk on September 30th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

LEEDS POINT

Long Island-based heavy trio Leeds Point will issue their third album, Equinox Blues, on Oct. 4. They’ve been kicking around the NY heavy underground for the better part of six years, with Eddie Combs on vocals and bass, Mike Minolfo on guitar and Anthony Minolfo on drums, and Equinox Blues follows a host of self-released outings; singles and EPs, but also 2016’s Fahnestock Rock and their 2014 debut, The Hooded Ones, which more openly embraced a straight-ahead stoner metal ethic. True to its title, Equinox Blues takes a bluesier approach across its seven-track/39-minute run, and considering the fact that the band record everything they do themselves — this time on analog equipment; self-recording is one thing, self-recording to tape quite something else — one can only think of the shift in sound as purposeful. Combs‘ vocals reside comfortably deep in the mix and are backed by harmonized layers. The guitar sound is wide-open and classic feeling but still weighted, and the drums push ahead through one rolling nodder groove after the next, resulting in a naturalism reminiscent of Mos Generator and Australia’s Child at the same time, but not really sounding like either.

After opening with its longest track (immediate points) in “Elemental Haze,” the album shoves its momentum forward on “Turn of the Wheel” while letting organ and mellotronLeeds Point Equinox Blues add shimmer to “Valley of Torches,” managing to keep an organic feel despite obvious and necessary use of layering — otherwise they’d need about six people — but I have to believe some amount of basic tracking was done live given the energy in the build of “Valley of Torches” or the way the boogie of “Elemental Haze” seems to follow the guitar’s direction in its later reaches. The title-cut is the shortest inclusion on the record at 3:34, but proffers a shuffle worthy of any heavy ’70s comparison you’d want to put to it, and still seems to bring a reminder that once upon a time a Cactus grew and a Mountain emerged from Long Island. Leeds Point aren’t doing pure ’70s worship either in songwriting intent or production style, but Equinox Blues tips the balance that’s always been in their sound to that direction, and as they find the right position of elements in the mix such as to maximize the fluidity and hook of “Sunken Mine” without any single piece being too high or too far back, it’s hard to argue with the notion that they nailed the stylistic shift that they undertook with such clearheaded intent.

By the time they get to the rampaging solo in “Sunken Mine,” they know it, and that swagger suits their sound as well, whether it’s the swing in Minolfo‘s drumming or the smooth air push in Combs‘ bass. “Sunken Mine” jams its way into a last roll and leads into “Blood from a Stone,” a more forceful boogie that acts as the penultimate shove before the mellotron drama of “The Ritual” closes out with a fervent final build culminating in tight but still natural twists as the band circle around the crisp rhythm they’re putting forth. They make it easy to imagine seeing that live, which likewise can only be purposeful, and underscores the success of the album as a whole in conveying its intended vibe. I don’t know what gave Leeds Point the blues sometime in the last three years, but it works for them, and seems to have taught them a more patient vision of songcraft and execution that allows parts to breathe without becoming redundant. If nothing else, Equinox Blues seems to be begging for a vinyl release, and if the band don’t do it on their own — they are pretty self-sufficient, remember — no doubt someone out there will pick them up for one.

Happy to premiere the title-track below ahead of the Oct. 4 release. Leeds Point have dates lined up in October around New York and Connecticut and you’ll find those listed below.

Please enjoy:

LEEDS POINT is a heavy rock band from New York, bent on doing things the old way. Drawing inspiration from many different eras of music, Leeds Point has used this as a foundation to create its own unique, timeless sound. With only three members, the band still manages to pack a punch utilizing a deep, heavy groove, and powerful riffage.

Tracklisting:
1. Elemental Haze
2. Turn of the Wheel
3. Valley of Torches
4. Equinox Blues
5. Sunken Mine
6. Blood From a Stone
7. The Ritual

Leeds Point live:
10.07 Tipperary Huntington NY
10.08 Mr. Beery’s Bethpage NY
10.21 Lucky 13 Brooklyn NY
10.28 Outer Space Ballroom Hamden CT
11.18 Mr. Beery’s Bethpage NY

Leeds Point are:
Eddie Combs – Vocals/Bass
Mike Minolfo – Guitar
Anthony Minolfo – Drums

Leeds Point on Thee Facebooks

Leeds Point on Instagram

Leeds Point on Bandcamp

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Eternal Black Release Live at WFMU Digital Live Album

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 9th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

eternal black

Brooklyn doomers Eternal Black are reportedly in the midst of having their upcoming debut album, Bleed the Days, mastered by none other than Mos Generator‘s Tony Reed (who else?), but that’s not stopping them from giving a preview of four of the record’s tracks with their new live outing, Live at WFMU. Recorded last month at the world-renowned freeform radio station — a jeweled treasure of my beloved Garden State, to be sure — Live at WFMU has been posted on Eternal Black‘s Bandcamp as a name-your-price download, so not only have guitarist/vocalist Ken Wohlrob, bassist Hal Miller and drummer Joe Wood gone to the trouble of putting the thing together, but they actually want you to hear it, too.

If you caught wind of the trio’s 2015 self-titled demo EP (review here), I doubt you need me to tell you checking it out is worth your time and the utter non-investment of a (free) download. I’ve got personal history with these guys via Wood — the good kind of personal history — so I might be extra looking forward to the arrival of Bleed the Days on account of that, but if you’d like to join me in that anticipation, feel free to check out Live at WFMU on the streaming player below. It makes a convincing argument.

Wohlrob was also kind enough to send along some comment about the new offering, and you’ll find that below as well:

eternal-black-live-at-wfmu

Eternal Black – Live at WFMU

On February 12th, we were honored to be able to record a live set at WFMU’s studios in Jersey City, New Jersey. This was for an episode of “What Was Music?” hosted by Marcel M, which airs on Wednesdays. We loaded in our gear, checked sound, and then tore into six songs like we would at any live gig. In addition to a few songs off our EP, we played four new songs that will be on our upcoming album, Bleed the Days.

Once we heard the playback, we thought it would make a hell of a live album. No messing about, get the damn thing out fast. Hal designed the cover. Kol Marshall handled the mastering. And in the end, we decided to make it available for free via Bandcamp. It’s our way of saying thanks to the doom heads who support our music.

Tracklisting:
1. All Gods Fall 10:44
2. Bleed the Days 06:26
3. Sea of Graves 06:11
4. The Dead Die Hard 06:23
5. Stained Eyes on a Setting Sun 07:22
6. Obsidian Sky 04:46

Recorded live at WFMU Studios, Jersey City, NJ, February 12th, 2017 for “What Was Music?” hosted by Marcel M.
Recorded and mixed by Scott Konzelmann
Mastered by Kol Marshall
Cover design by Hal Miller
Words and Music by Wohlrob
Obsidian Sky Records

Eternal Black is:
Hal Miller: Bass
Joe Wood: Drums
Ken Wohlrob: Guitars, Vocals

http://eternalblackdoom.com/
https://www.facebook.com/blackhanddoom
https://instagram.com/eternalblackdoom/
https://eternalblack.bandcamp.com/album/live-at-wfmu

Eternal Black, Live at WFMU (2017)

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Cactus Announce New Lineup & European Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 31st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Why it seems like only the other day I was attempting to wrap my head to some degree around the complicated history of legendary heavy rockers Cactus, and here they are making the task even more difficult. As the reactivated Long Island outfit make ready to head to Europe for their first tour abroad in nearly half a decade, founding drummer Carmine Appice has announced the addition of new bassist Jimmy Caputo and guitarist Paul Warren. Warren is a touring member — founder Jim McCarty still contributes to the studio incarnation of the band — and has played with Tina Turner among others, while Caputo worked with Carmine and his brother, Vinny Appice, on tour in their The Appice Brothers Drum Wars outfit. Vocalist Jimmy Kunes and harmonica-ist Randy Pratt, both of whom play on Cactus‘ first album in 10 years, Black Dawn — released last fall with a new CD issue maybe impending? — are still in the band alongside Carmine.

Got it? All caught up? Cool. Here’s how the story’s told by the PR wire:

cactus

CACTUS “Redux” Carmine Appice rebuilds legendary rock band with powerful new line-up.

Coming off a very successful US tour and the release of its first studio album in 10 years, Black Dawn, the time has come for founding member and world renown drummer Carmine Appice to re-energize and rebuild Cactus. The band was once heralded by critics as America’s answer to Led Zeppelin.

Appice announced two new members to the legendary band’s line-up: bassist Jimmy Caputo and guitarist Paul Warren. Caputo replaces bassist Pete Bremy, who has left Cactus to pursue other projects. Warren, best known as lead guitarist for Rod Stewart, Tina Turner and Joe Cocker, will be the band’s new guitarist for touring, taking over for founding member Jim McCarty. McCarty remains a writing and recording member of Cactus but unfortunately is unable to tour with the band due to health reasons.

Lead vocalist extraordinare Jimmy Kunes and harmonica wizard Randy Pratt, both of whom joined when the band re-grouped in 2006 remain in the line-up.

“Nearly five decades after I formed this band, the time has come to re-invent Cactus once again,” says Appice, who also still drums for Vanilla Fudge, The Appice Brothers, and The Platinum Rock All Stars. Adds Appice: “The music remains the same and Cactus is still a ‘hot and sweaty’ band. The level, quality and consistence of the band’s musicianship is as strong as ever.”

“I saw the original Cactus live a few times, and they absolutely killed it,” says guitarist Paul Warren. “That was one of the great bands of the era, and they are still a great band, today. I am excited, and honored, to play with such an historic band!” Warren, who has his own successful solo band, is a native of Detroit and who considers Jim McCarty as one of his biggest musical influences. “Filling in for Jim McCarty will be a challenge. Not only is he a founding member of the band, he is a brilliant guitarist and one of the best to ever come out of Detroit. Jimmy could never be replaced. I plan to honor and pay homage to his work with Cactus while still bringing some of my own ‘Detroit attitude’ to the legendary music of this band.”

Bassist Jimmy Caputo has worked in a myriad of national touring acts including The Appice Brothers Drum Wars show, which also includes both Carmine and his brother Vinny.

Cactus returned in 2016 with Black Dawn, a new studio album, its first in almost 10 years. Featuring the blistering riff-rock that the band built its reputation upon, Black Dawn is a classic Cactus album with a fresh new energy that the band has not had since its heyday in the early 1970s. The new lineup of Cactus and the release of the Black Dawn CD will land just days ahead of the band’s first string of European dates in 4 years upcoming in May 2017.

The band has had a long and turbulent history. Formed in 1970 from the ashes of The Vanilla Fudge by Carmine Appice and Tim Bogert. the initial line up also featured McCarty and vocalist Rusty Day. (Appice and Bogert had originally planned a new band with Jeff Beck which was put off until 1973 because of Beck’s near fatal car crash in 1969). Jim McCarty had come from Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels and was playing with The Buddy Miles Express. Tim and Carmine also found vocalist Day in The Amboy Dukes with Ted Nugent. Together, the four musicians formed Cactus, named after the peyote cactus, which provided a key ingredient in mind-altering drugs.

While Cactus saw success from the start and soon built a loyal fan base, by early 1973 the band had collapsed mainly due to lack of real support from its label and the fact that Beck was now ready play with Carmine and Tim.

It would not be until 2006, three decades after the tragic death of Rusty Day that the group reformed with Pratt and Kunes to record CACTUS V and play Sweden Rock. When Tim Bogert was forced into retirement due to complications after a serious motorcycle accident, Pete Bremy joined on bass in both in Cactus and Vanilla Fudge.

Now, with Jimmy Caputo and Paul Warren onboard, Cactus embarks on a new and exciting musical journey – just as powerful as before – and bound to be just as successful…one way or another.

See Cactus on tour in Europe
Sa May 6- Stockholm,Sweden Göta Kallare
So May 7- Oslo, Norway Hard Rock Café
Mo May 8- Vaasa,Finland Ritz
Tue May 9 Helsinki, Finland On the Rocks
Thu May 11 Hannover, Germany Bluesgarage
Fri May 12 Hamburg, Germany Downtown Bluesclub
Sa May 13 Dresden, Germany Tante Ju
Tue May 16 Bensheim,Germany Musikkafee Rex
Thu May 18 Dortmund, Germany Piano
Fri May 19 Verviers, Belgium Spirit of 66

http://cactusrocks.net/Pages/tourdates.htm
www.cactusrocks.net
https://lnk.to/blackdawn

Cactus, “Headed for a Fall” official video

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Friday Full-Length: Cactus, Cactus

Posted in Bootleg Theater on January 20th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Cactus, Cactus (1970)

Quite simply one of the best heavy rock records ever released, and more likely than not you don’t need me to tell you that. The 1970 self-titled debut from Cactus, with the classic lineup of vocalist Rusty Day (The Amboy Dukes), guitarist Jim McCarty (The Buddy Miles Express), bassist Tim Bogert (Vanilla Fudge) and drummer Carmine Appice (Vanilla Fudge) stands among the all-timers. Put it up against SabbathLed Zeppelin, Cream, I don’t care who. The first in a heavy rock holy trinity of original-lineup Cactus releases with 1971’s One Way… or Another (discussed here) and Restrictions behind it, it was originally issued on Atco Records and retains a country-blues swagger the better part of half a century later that utterly distinguishes them from their peers, and from the manic thrust of their take on Mose Allison‘s “Parchman Farm” which opens to the harmonica-laden swing of “Bro. Bill” on down through the rush of “Let Me Swim” and the finale drum showcase of “Feel so Good,” there is not a fuckwithable second to be found herein. Hyperbole? You bet your ass.

Among the many elements Cactus‘ Cactus boasts over its heavy ’70s peers from outfits like DustMountain — both also Long Island bands — as well as groups like Atomic RoosterLeaf Hound, and so on, is that it’s unabashed, unashamed fun. Even the wistful “My Lady from South of Detroit,” which is an immediate and bold departure from the opener into acoustic balladry, is basically a song about getting laid. And then they move into “Bro. Bill,” which remains one of the best heavy rock hooks ever conjured, and through Willie Dixon‘s “You Can’t Judge a Book by the Cover” — listen to Bogert‘s bass! — revive the thrust with “Let Me Swim,” blues jam on “No Need to Worry” with McCarty‘s astonishing lead work, tie the blues and the rock together on “Oleo” (again, the bass, this time in a well-earned solo) and then wrap with the aforementioned “Feel so Good,” which, yes, does pull back from its drum solo to give the record a proper ending, and god damn, it’s just perfect. There’s no other word for it. It’s everything a classic American heavy rock album should have been and should be in its attitude, energy and execution. No pretense, no posturing — only 40 of the most efficiently killer minutes ever put to tape. Though I’ve always kind of associated it as a summer record, it remains an utter joy to revisit year-round, and seems to heat up any room in which it plays from the inside out. Fire on a platter.

As will almost invariably happen, the history of Cactus post-original lineup becomes more complicated the farther one follows it through the years. After Restrictions, the band split with Day and McCartyBogert and Appice brought in keyboardist Duane Hitchings, guitarist Werner Fritzschings and vocalist Peter French (Leaf Hound) for 1972’s ‘Ot ‘n’ Sweaty, which opened with a redux of “Let Me Swim,” and though Hitchings would soon lead the short-lived The New Cactus Band and Day had his own version of Cactus prior to his still-unsolved murder in 1982, it would not be until 2006 that Bogert, Appice and McCarty played together again, joining forces with ex-Savoy Brown singer Jimmy Kunes for Cactus V and playing reunion shows.

They’ve done gigs off and on in the decade since — bassist Pete Bremy replacing Bogert in 2008, Fritzschings once more stepping in on guitar for a time — but in 2016, Cactus released a sixth full-length, Black Dawn, with Kunes, McCarty, and Appice alongside Bremy and harmonica-ist Randy Pratt, and toured to support it as well. Not that one needed proof of the continued relevance of the original lineup, but the final two cuts on Black Dawn, “Another Way or Another” and “C-70 Blues,” are lost cuts featuring Day, McCarty, Bogert and Appice, and well, if those don’t qualify as bonus tracks, nothing in the universe does.

All that shuffling of personnel makes CactusCactus seem even more like simpler times, and getting lost in the languid blues flow of “No Need to Worry,” one not only misses Day‘s raw-throated whiteboy soul, but can’t help but imagine what Cactus would’ve gone on to do had they held it together following Restrictions, which offered some jammier stylistic expansion. But maybe that’s being greedy. Any way you want to approach, the self-titled Cactus is a special, special album, and there’s nothing else — nothing they did after, nothing anyone else has done — quite like it. Classic. Essential. The words seem pale.

As always, I hope you enjoy, and I’m quite confident you will.

If you’ll forgive me, I’m going to try to be somewhat expeditious in wrapping this up. Not out of any particular hurry to be done with it so much as a hurry to get to work on the ‘Tomorrow’s Dream’ post of 2017’s most anticipated albums. There are, according to my half-assed count of the list, over 150 of them, with 35 of the year’s biggest upcoming releases highlighted and the rest listed under three categories of likelihood that they’ll happen — from ‘Gonna Happen and Likely Candidates’ to ‘Definitely Could Happen’ to ‘Would be Nice’ — and like the complicated history of Cactus, it’s a lot to sort through.

My hope is basically to write that all weekend and get it posted on Monday. Here’s how the rest of the week is shaping up so far:

Mon.: 150+ Most Anticipated Releases of 2017 list. Also some news from Bison Machine and others.
Tue.: Track premiere from Altar of Betelgeuze, video premiere from Pater Nembrot.
Wed.: Either a PH track premiere or a Hymn review, and a Dr. Keyboardian video.
Thu.: Either a Hymn review or a PH track premiere.
Fri.: All Them Witches review.

Obviously all of that could change, and the day for that PH premiere is still TBA, but I’m hopeful it will be one or the other.

Quite a week this week. I had Monday off and left work early on Wednesday and was out yesterday just for being kind of wiped out, but still plenty beat. Family coming up this weekend though from Connecticut, and the universe seems to be in a pretty constant state of chaos, so I’m just gonna drink my coffee and try to get by. That’s what I’ve got.

Of course, I wish you a great and safe weekend. Please have some fun, be safe, and check back Monday for that mega-list and more besides.

And don’t forget the forum and radio stream.

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Friday Full-Length: Dust, Dust

Posted in Bootleg Theater on July 8th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

Dust, Dust (1971)

When Dust‘s 1971 self-titled debut was reissued on Sony Legacy in 2013 along with 1972’s Hard Attack, I was fortunate enough to interview original drummer Marc Bell, who of course later went on to become Marky Ramone of The Ramones, about the process of revisiting those two albums from early in his career. One of the things I asked him about the process of overseeing those remasters was whether it was strange to go back to hearing that material after so long and being so known for other work. Here’s what he had to say:

It wasn’t strange; it was more of a grateful opportunity to be able to do this because we were still in high school when we did these two albums. We were on a label called Buddha/Kama Sutra, which catered to bubblegum bands. So we really weren’t on the right label that could really push the genre of music, which was heavy metal. Looking back and knowing what we were facing and now, it was a little strange in a way. Because if we did a third album on a legitimate label that knew how to handle this kind of music, I think we would have went over the top with Dust. But in the studio we were remastering it a few months ago, we were thinking of the great memories we had.

Doing shows with Alice Cooper, John Mayall, Uriah Heep then coming back to the high school — Erasmus, where I went. Seeing the album in the windows in the record store. It was really amazing for an 18-year-old teenager to see this. Then everyone wanted to be my friend in high school. Even the people that hated me. It was strange but it brings back funny and youthful memories of how well we played as a unit, three people at that time. — Marky Ramone

He was pretty on-message the entire interview, by which I mean he had the story of the band and albums down and stuck to it for the duration of our talk — something with which, I should mention, I have no problem; as long as it’s cordial, I consider it a sign of professionalism for someone to know what they want to say going into a phoner — and he was vigilant in calling Dust a heavy metal band, and one of the first in America. Ever since, that’s kind of stuck in my head as the standout point. I don’t usually think of proto-metal as metal, or heavy rock as metal, and with its liberal use of slide guitar on opener “Stone Woman” and the classically swinging rhythm of “From a Dry Camel,” I’m still not sure I’d call the self-titled debut or its follow-up metal proper. For sure it was pushing in that direction, but it would still be five years before Judas Priest offered up the visionary Sad Wings of Destiny, and to call Dust‘s Dust metal diminishes the scope of the boom of heavy rock in which it arrived. Consider, for example, that Dust formed in 1969, the same year as fellow New Yorkers Cactus, though that band’s first record landed a year earlier in 1970. Dust were a standout for sure, but they didn’t exist in a vacuum, and to call them metal takes away from the progressive elements of “Often Shadows Felt” or “Goin’ Easy,” however much Bell, guitarist/vocalist Richie Wise and bassist Kenny Aaronson might push Mountain further on “Love Me Hard” or scorch in Motörheady fashion on closer “Loose Goose.”

In whatever genre you want to tag it, Dust‘s self-titled debut remains a classic of the original heavy rock era. The band would make arguably their greatest achievement on “Suicide” from Hard Attack, but their first outing is one not to be missed — frankly, I was surprised to find I hadn’t closed out a week with it before — and I hope as always that you enjoy.

Did you read that Buried Treasure post earlier this week? The one all about driving to Maryland and back? I still feel like I’m recovering from that trip, and as such, no Connecticut this weekend. Staying home. I’ll be back down that way in a couple weeks — both CT and MD, actually — so I honestly think the quiet time will do me some good. Plus I just finished my second week at the new job at Hasbro, and that’s been a pretty big change. Lots to get used to there, many different processes to figure out still. Everyone I talk to there says it takes time, and nothing I’ve seen leads me to think they’re wrong. It’s been good so far though. They dig their board games, and it’s awesome to be in surroundings where people is into what they’re doing.

I’ve been getting up at 5AM — yesterday was earlier, actually, but the alarm was set for five — in order to write reviews and then filling in news posts and such during the day, things like the Brant Bjork announcement yesterday going up as quickly as possible, and doing some writing at night as well, so the balance still needs to be worked out, but I’ll get there. That takes time too. For now, getting up early hasn’t been so bad, even if it’s meant I’m in bed by like 10PM each night. Worth it to get stuff done.

Speaking of, there’s a lot on the docket next week. Monday and Tuesday a couple new album announcements booked for stuff on Small Stone, and also look for reviews and streams from HyponicMos Generator16Naevus and The Company Corvette — that’s one a day for the whole week — as well as new videos from SeaMonkey3 and Hey Zeus, as well as all the news that’s fit to cut and paste and whatever else I can come across. Should be plenty to keep me busy on those mornings.

It’s not really applicable here — though I could make arguments either way — but if you think it’s something you might also be into, I’ve been very much enjoying Monolith of Phobos by The Claypool Lennon Delirium, which I picked up this week. It’s Les Claypool of Primus and Sean Lennon, and the two play all the instruments and share vocal and keyboard duties and some of it has a really dead-on psychedelic vibe. I don’t think I’ll review it, but it’s worth checking out if you have a spare couple minutes to track it down on YouTube or something.

Alright, gotta run, but I hope you have a great and safe weekend, whatever you might be up to. Please check out the forum and radio stream.

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Moon Tooth and Rozamov Announce Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 27th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

In a little less than a month, Long Island prog-metallers Moon Tooth head out on tour to support their latest album, Chromaparagon, which was released in February. They’ll be doing essentially a month-long swing down and back up the Eastern Seaboard, playing New England with Warm at the end of May, pushing into the South early in June, and then cutting back north, meeting up with Boston trio Rozamov to continue into Upstate New York and into Canada for shows in Montreal and Toronto before rounding out June 20 in Burlington, Vermont.

All put together, it’s a not inconsiderable run, and hardly Moon Tooth‘s first, the band over the last several years having basically forced their way into East Coast the progressive consciousness through hard work and volume. As noted below, this is the first time both of these acts will hit Canada, and Rozamov do so ahead of the release of their much anticipated debut album, due out later this year. They’ll apparently be playing new material at these shows.

Word came down the PR wire:

moon tooth rozamov poster

Long Island progressive sludge rock weirdos Moon Tooth and Boston atmospheric sludge mongers Rozamov have announced a string of dates together this June. This will be both bands’ first excursion north of the border, hitting both Montreal and Toronto on this run. Moon Tooth are supporting their self released debut LP “Chromaparagon” which has reached numbers 85 and 120 on the Hard Rock and Best New Artist charts respectively.

Rozamov recently wrapped up the recording for their own first full length, and will be airing songs from the album on this run. Last year saw Rozamov release “Ghost Divine” on a split with Deathkings via Midnite Collective.

June 16th – Kingston, NY @ The Anchor
June 17th – Rochester, NY @ Monty’s Krown
June 18th – Montreal, CAN @ Crobar
June 19th – Toronto, CAN @ Smiling Buddha
June 20th – Burlington, VT @ Nectar’s

https://www.facebook.com/Rozamov/
https://www.facebook.com/moontoothband/

Moon Tooth, Chromaparagon (2016)

Rozamov, “Ghost Divine” from split with Deathkings (2015)

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Friday Full-Length: Mountain, Climbing!

Posted in Bootleg Theater on November 20th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

Mountain, Climbing! (1970)

The guitar playing is so paramount to Mountain‘s mega-classic 1970 debut, Climbing!, that I think sometimes Leslie West‘s string prowess trumps everything else, but while stellar, it’s far from all the record has to offer. Both West and bassist Felix Pappalardi shine as vocalists, and in addition to the cowbell overdose on “Mississippi Queen” and “Never in My Life,” Corky Laing‘s drums swing so heavy throughout that sometimes it seems a wonder they can move at all, let alone groove as voraciously as they do. From the organ-laced “Theme for an Imaginary Western” to the later acoustic semi-psychedelics of “The Laird,” Climbing! has versatility, poise and sonic and emotional heft. It is no coincidence that it came out in 1970 — a full 45 years ago as of this March — and so many groups went on to beef up their sound circa ’71 and ’72.

I won’t take away from the opener’s landmark status or the rhythm and blues at root in “Sittin’ on a Rainbow,” the subtle proto-prog of “Boys in the Band,” but I think for me the highlight of the album is “Silver Paper,” which gives a decidedly Northern take on a feel that Lynyrd Skynyrd would soon define exclusively as Southern rock, as it seems to draw together all sides of the record, Pappalardi and West trading off vocals, Laing doing much with a relatively straightforward drum progression, Steve Knight‘s hand bells and organ fleshing out the sound. That’s just as likely to change with any given mood though, Mountain positively nailing it as few acts ever have on their first record. Naturally that has its ups and downs as regards the entirety of a career, since while they called it Climbing!, they’d never — at least commercially, if not creatively — reach these heights again, though neither are their subsequent works or members’ contributions to outfits like West, Bruce and Laing (with Cream‘s Jack Bruce, who also wrote “Theme for an Imaginary Western”). An influence as enduring as Mountain has had doesn’t come from just one record, even a monster like this one.

Something of a given in the sphere of heavy rock, it’s an oversight that I haven’t closed out a week with Climbing! before. Actually, I thought I had until I went back and couldn’t find it, so there you go. I don’t imagine that this will be the first time hearing it for many who read this, but as an excuse to revisit it on a Friday afternoon — maybe you’re thinking about a kickass weekend coming up or even just not being at work for a couple days — I thought we could all do a lot worse.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

I didn’t get the chance to say it last week, but rest in peace Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor. The former drummer of Motörhead‘s passing reminds us of the power that band wields and the generations-spanning effect they have had on rock and roll and heavy musics of all stripes. The work remains but Taylor will be missed.

So, this post, or at least the above portion of it, was originally slated to go up last Friday evening, written in Philadelphia, to which I had flown from my work trip in Chicago on Thursday night. Obviously the attack in Paris superseded that and just about everything else. What a shitshow. Particularly as an American who was conscious when his country passed the Patriot Act late in Oct. 2001, it’s sad to see Europe closing its borders to refugees and to its neighbors, ending the Schengen Agreement, but panic is panic regardless of where it’s born. Now I’m hearing about hostages in Mali. Off to war, forever and always.

What were we talking about? Oh yeah, rock and roll.

Next week is a holiday here in the States, and I’ll be traveling to Connecticut and to New Jersey to see family, so I’m not sure how much posting I’ll be doing Thursday and Friday, but I’ll have a podcast up probably Wednesday in case I’m not the only one hitting the road. Monday and Tuesday I’ve also got reviews and full-album streams slated for Moon Curse and Tombstones, so there will be plenty to listen to one way or another.

Speaking of, if you didn’t check out the Kungens Män that went up today, the jams are right on and ripe for digging in. I was into it enough to chase down hosting it, so yeah.

I meant to mention it last week, but at this point I’m well into planning out the next Quarterly Review as well. I’ve got about six records slated for each of the five days when it will take place. I’m thinking maybe the week after Xmas for it, though that has it ending on New Year’s Day, and I don’t imagine too many people will really be interested in reading reviews. Maybe the first week in January? I’ll figure it out.

We’re almost getting on year-end list time too, and the readers poll. Dec. 1 is a Tuesday, so I’ll launch that then (with Slevin‘s always-appreciated assistance), and hopefully everyone will have the chance to chime in. I always get nervous with that kind of thing that nobody’s going to bother. Please bother.

Alright. I think that should do it.

Since I likely won’t get the chance to say so before the day actually comes, a very happy Thanksgiving if you’re here in the US. It’s based on a genocidal lie, but still nice to get everyone together. All the best to you and yours wherever you might be though. I hope you have a great and safe weekend, and please check out the forum and radio stream.

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