Dozer Interview & Full Album Stream, Pt. 2: Madre de Dios

Posted in Features on March 16th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

dozer madre era

Dozer‘s second album, Madre de Dios, will see reissue this Friday on Heavy Psych Sounds, and if the arrival just a week after In the Tail of a Comet (streamed/discussed here) feels quick, consider that in reality the sophomore LP came out just a year after the debut — so it was quick then as well. Born in 2001, Madre de Dios was pressed to vinyl through the band’s own Molten Universe imprint and to CD through Man’s Ruin Records, with different artwork for each, and despite the speedy turnaround from its predecessor, already one could hear growth in the sound of the Borlänge, Sweden, four-piece, who were beginning to take the desert rock style that had typified the first album and their earlier demos and splits and reshape it to their aesthetic will, consciously or not, through the seemingly simple act of honest songwriting.

With the returning lineup of guitarist Tommi Holappa, guitarist/vocalist Fredrik Nordin, bassist Johan Rockner and drummer Erik Bäckwall, songs like “Freeloader,” “Octanoid,” “Soulshigh,” the spacey “TX-9” and indeed, opener “Let the Shit Roll” — about which Holappa shares a good story below — showcased a fast progression on the part of the band, who were beginning to reach for a faster, sometimes more aggressive, sound that, ultimately, was more their own. In hindsight, it’s easy to look at Madre de Dios as a turning point from who Dozer were in their nascent days to who they’d become as they began to mature as a group, but the same could be said more or less of every album up to the last, since once it got underway, their progression never really stopped bringing their sound to new and exciting places in terms of craft.

But in 2001, fuzz was still king in Dozer‘s sound, and Madre de Dios‘ 10-track/39-minute run is as righteous a conglomeration of hairy riffs as one could ever hope to encounter. Propelled by the gallop in Bäckwall‘s snare and the emergence of Nordin as a frontman, from the moment the shit starts to roll, right down to the aptly-titled closer “Thunderbolt” — which even in its reissue form keeps the stretch of effects noise at the end — the record is sharp in its execution and still somehow laid back in its groove, as though Dozer were pushing that defining line of heavy rock and roll as far as it could go, testing those boundaries while actively working to find their place in (and/or out) of them. As a band, at this point they were on the road, and as part of the post-Kyuss movement of “stoner rock,” Dozer were helping to shape what we know today as the heavy underground. Their influence and their songs continue to resonate.

By which I mean Madre de Dios still kicks ass. Hear for yourself above. Holappa talks about it below.

Please enjoy:

Madre de Dios Q&A with Tommi Holappa

Tell me about being in the studio for Madre de Dios. What do you remember your attitude was coming off of the first record, and was there anything in particular you wanted to do differently with the second one?

After the first album was released we wanted more, bigger and better! Releasing albums and touring was fun! So we couldn’t wait to go back into the studio and record another album.

I´m pretty sure the attitude was that we just wanted to write the best songs we could and record an album that sounded fat as hell!

To be honest I can’t remember much of the recording session of this album, only some bits and pieces, it has nothing to do with drinking too much in the studio or anything it’s just that it’s so damn long ago hahaha! I remember that I got my Russian Big Muff and my Gibson SG just before this album so those two were used a lot.

The original CD and LP wound up with different covers. Was that a choice on the part of the band, or maybe Man’s Ruin? Do you feel that one or the other better represents the album?

The story is that Man’s Ruin didn’t want to release it on vinyl so we asked them if we could release it ourselves via Molten Universe. They were okay and we said cool, then we release it with different artwork and put a bonus track on it. I personally prefer the vinyl artwork and the song “Rings of Saturn” is on it, one of my favorite early tracks.

What was the reception like in Sweden specifically to the band at this point?

It was ok but nothing compared to Germany and some other central European countries. So most of the touring was done outside of Sweden where people actually showed up to see us hahaha!

How hard was Dozer touring at this point? What was the reception like to this material live? Are there any memories that stand out from the Madre de Dios era that you can share?

At this point we had started touring quiet a lot. Reception was good, outside of Sweden of course hahaha. “Let the Shit Roll” was a song that usually got the crowd going nuts and I have actually one pretty funny story about that song.

We were in Zurich/Switzerland and the DJ at the club started playing “Let the Shit Roll” just before we were about to go on stage, fuck! Why do they that song now!? What do we do? Should we just skip the song from the set or?! Fuck it let’s just play it!

Anyway we did our set and played “Let the Shit Roll” and I don’t think anyone cared that they heard it twice. We went off stage and the crowd was screaming for more so just when we were about to go on stage again to play the encores the promoter came up to us and asked if we can play “Let the Shit Roll.” We told him that we already played it and we will play a couple of other songs instead but he really kept going on and on about how much he wants to hear it, so he offered us one more case of beer if we would play it.

We went up on stage and of course we had to play it again! It’s free beer! And free beer is good beer! Hahaha! So we played “Let the Shit Roll” a second time and a couple of more tracks. When we were done we go off stage and guess what song the DJ starts playing? “LET THE SHIT ROLL!”

Anything else in particular you’d like to say about Madre de Dios?

I got the idea for the album title from an episode of The Simpsons.

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Dozer Interview & Full Album Stream, Pt. 1: In the Tail of a Comet

Posted in audiObelisk, Features on March 11th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Dozer

One could go on and on about how important or influential Dozer‘s early work and essential first album, In the Tail of a Comet (discussed here), has been over the 20 years since its release. The Borlänge, Sweden, four-piece — then comprised of guitarist Tommi Holappa, guitarist/vocalist Fredrik Nordin, bassist Johan Rockner and drummer Erik Bäckwall — had already amassed a decent catalog of short releases by the time the record came out through Man’s Ruin in April 2000, mostly splits with fellow Swedes Demon Cleaner, but also 1999’s Double EP split with Unida (discussed here) and the 1998 demo tape Universe 75 (discussed here), but it was the album that really solidified who Dozer were as a band and brought their yeah-we’re-from-Sweden-and-we-play-fuzzed-out-desert-rock-deal-with-it, all-go thrust and groove approach to its point of peak asskickery.

And that’s the thing about In the Tail of a Comet. Yeah, without it, an entire generation of Swedish heavy rock that followed in Dozer‘s wake probably sounds much different, but at its heart, the album just rocks. It’s a pretense-free collection of ultra-fuzz riffs and hard-hitting, unabashed stoner rock vibes. Coming just a few years after the dissolution of Kyuss and two years after the first Queens of the Stone Age, it was a part of the ascendant international heavy rock underground, a good deal of which was fostered through Frank Kozik‘s Man’s Ruin Records in bands like Acid KingLos NatasAlabama ThunderpussyGoatsnake, and so on.

Joining those ranks for their first release, Dozer unleashed a collection of songs that has only gotten better with time. In the prime of the CD era, when albums regularly stretched past bloated 50-minute runtimes, In the Tail of a Comet was a taut 37-minute LP with not a moment to spare, and its tracks were front-to-back high-grade heavy. Nordin‘s voice was unmistakable from the start, tossing off lyrics about getting high while flying through space or whatever the hell it was as he and Holappa led the charge with riffs on cuts like “Supersoul,” “Speeder,” “Inside the Falcon,” “Riding the Machine,” “Grand Dragon,” and “High Roller” — or, you know, the whole record, really — while Rockner and Bäckwall alternated between swing and thrust behind, utterly locked in for the duration and charged with an energy that would become yet another signature of Dozer‘s approach, carrying them through the sonic progression that In the Tail of a Comet helped to launch.

As the record turns 20 and receives a well-earned reissue out this week on Heavy Psych Sounds to be followed by 2001’s Madre de Dios and 2003’s Call it Conspiracy on March 20, Tommi Holappa takes a few moments to reflect on In the Tail of a Comet and what it was like to be in Dozer at the time. Much laughter ensues. The band still plays periodically, of course, but it’s been 12 years since their last LP, and these days, Holappa is much more likely to be found in Greenleaf, who have started writing a new album with plans to record this Fall. The following interview begins a series of three that will continue next week covering the next two albums in Dozer‘s catalog, all of which remains crucial.

Please enjoy:

dozer in the tail of a comet

In the Tail of a Comet Q&A with Tommi Holappa

It’s been 25 years since Dozer started, and 20 years since the first album. What was it like being in Dozer during those early days? What do you remember about doing the splits with Demon Cleaner and how did you feel going into your first record?

What I remember the most from the beginning of Dozer is that it was very carefree and simple times. When we started the band we had just figured out that you can actually tune down your guitars to make them sound heavier and cooler and if you ad a fuzz pedal to that, then it would blow you away! So the songwriting was easy! Play a riff, add more fuzz to it… done! Maybe it wasn’t this easy but that’s how I remember it… hahaha!

The Demon Cleaner 7” splits were a lot of fun to do! After the first release it became kind of a friendly competition between us and Demon Cleaner, something like, “We have two songs ready for the next split, hope you have songs ready too because our songs will kick your ass!” hahaha!

We sold some demo tapes at the local records store here in Borlänge before this but the first split that came out in 1998 was our first official release.

After this came the Unida/Dozer split EP which was a huge thing for us as well, can you imagine to get asked to do a split John Garcia’s new band? Well we were blown away! Kyuss was the band that showed us that we can tune down our guitars.

So when we got signed to Man’s Ruin we felt like we were ready to release our first full-length album.

How did signing to Man’s Ruin Records come about? Tell me about that process.

When we felt it was time to start looking for a label to release our first full length Man´s Ruin was the only label we could think about. They had released stuff with all the coolest bands that we looked up to and we wanted to be one of those cool bands as well…hahaha! We never thought they would sign us but we sent a four or five track demo cassette (yes kids we are old hahaha) to them anyway. A couple of weeks later I checked my e-mail and there was a mail from Man’s Ruin and yeah the rest is history. One more funny thing about the whole thing is that we only sent out this one demo and we got signed, we didn’t send demos to any other labels.

What do you remember about being in the studio for In the Tail of a Comet? What was that experience like as compared to later Dozer records? How did you feel about it when it first came out and how do you feel about it now?

I don’t remember a lot from this specific recording, I remember it was recorded on tape, there were no computers around. The computer was invented just before we recorded Madre de Dios hahaha!

All the early stuff we recorded was recorded really fast and the more records we released the more time we put into songwriting and getting the right sounds, etc., etc. But I think In the Tail of a Comet still holds to this day! I´m proud of it!

What was the response like to In the Tail of a Comet at the time?

From what I remember the response was mostly good! Of course every once in a while people called us Kyuss clones or something, but fuck them, now we were on Man’s Ruin and we were one of the cool bands hahaha!

Anything else you’d like to add about In the Tail of a Comet in particular?

We had a hard time coming up with good album title so we just stole one, hahaha! It’s from one of our favorite Clutch songs, I’m not telling which one…

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Friday Full-Length: earthlings?, earthlings?

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 30th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

The 11 tracks of earthings? 1998 self-titled debut are a stirring reminder that sometimes the best thing one can be is weird. Among the core lineup of Dave Catching (who’s contributed one way or the other to Queens of the Stone Age, Mojave Lords, Eagles of Death Metal, Goon Moon, Masters of Reality, and many others), Fred Drake (Mark Lanegan, Queens of the Stone Age, and a host of others in various roles), and Pete Stahl (GoatsnakeScreamWool, Orquesta del Desierto), is the name of the Rancho de la Luna studio itself where earthlings? was recorded for eventual release through Crippled Dick Hot Wax and Man’s Ruin Records. The studio itself plays a massive role in the ultimate personality of the record, as songs become willfully bizarre explanations of drones or keys like the otherwise straightforward “Reaper (Don’t Fear This Child)” or seem built of Wonka-esque psychotronic experimentation like “Conversing Among Misfits,” which, by the way, is the centerpiece of the album, because of course it is.

In these pieces as well as in opener “Nothing” and the desert-Velvet Underground take of “Saving up for My Spaceship/Illuminate,” and even the QOTSA-adjacent riff-style of “Stungun” — with Scott Reeder on bass, no less — the feel becomes not unlike another hidden edition of Desert Sessions, with Stahl‘s malleable vocals, Drake‘s keys/vocals/sometimes-drums and Catching‘s guitar/keys/bass/whatever emerging as having been born of a similar sonic adventurism. No doubt tales of, “let’s get everyone in the studio for a few days, do drugs and make records,” have been exaggerated, but it’s worth noting that all three members of earthlings? were indeed involved in Desert Sessions at one point or another, and the vibe of the self-titled bears that out in “The Dreaded Lovelies” and the same goes for the subsequent ambience of “The Icy Halls of Sobriety (I Dare Not Tread)” and the chill finish in closer “Triumphant March of the Buffoons,” which rounds out a farewell salvo like the band blew out its songwriting apparatus on “Stungun” and decided to just roll with the anti-consciousness impulse. Sometimes the best thing one can be is weird.

Drake and Stahl share vocal duties on the punkish “Cavalry” while Adam Maples (Legal Weapon, Boneclub, Orquesta del Desierto) steps in on drums, and the pattern of offsetting more straight-ahead moments with bizarre fare continues as the impressionist “Happiest Day of My Life” arrives based around a piano line and interweaving vocals and keyboard, carrying forth a wistfulness that continues into an ending of traffic sounds and the arrival of the bouncing anythingism of “Conversing Among Misfits,” each song a departure from the one before it much as “Nothing” at the outset stands as a departure from reality. What ties them all together, such as they’re intended to be tied together at all, is the sense of freedom behind their making. The tracks on earthlings?‘s self-titled by and large earthlings earthlingsare not smoothed-over, structured pieces intended to land a hook. Their sense of expression is on a different trip.

In hindsight, the post-rocking drift in the guitar of “Nothing” feels somewhat prescient, even with the launch-countdown over top, but what it conveys most of all is that earthlings? were not formed as a band with limits placed on their sound. They were not going to be “this” kind of band or “that” kind of band. They were going to see what happened. True, they inevitably are lumped into the sphere of Californian desert rock in no small part because of their many associations therewith, but that’s not a limit on what they do. With a first album that appeared shortly after Kyuss disbanded, they showed a different side of the desert, less aggressive and more embodying a kind of we-moved-to-the-middle-of-nowhere-for-a-reason aesthetic libertarianism, unwilling to follow dictates other than those of their own creativity. That would turn out to be plenty, of course, as “Saving up for My Spaceship/Illuminate” tops seven minutes of percussion-addled sand psych before giving way to the return of the drum kit on “Reaper (Don’t Fear This Child),” on which Drake‘s sneering vocal approach should recall for anyone who’s heard it that of Zach Huskey of Dali’s Llama, also long underappreciated.

And maybe that middle finger to convention is part of the desert ideal as well, though it’s hard to assess such things from (1:) across the country and (2:) two decades after the fact without indulging the peculiar gonzo romanticism of American counterculture. I’ll save my breath, if that’s cool, and just note that whatever accidents it might produce, the kind of stylistic individuality one hears on earthlings? is never itself anything but willful, and whatever the album might share in common with other outfits to which Stahl or Drake or Catching played in the years since seems much more born of the fact that it’s the same personality being taken along with them on the way. Those personae, in combination with each other and with Rancho de la Luna itself, produced something in this first earthlings? record that inherently could not be reproduced — the capture of a singular moment in time.

Of course, the self-titled isn’t the only thing earthlings? ever put out. They followed it with Human Beans, which featured an even broader range of guests, including Mark Lanegan, Barrett Martin, Josh Homme and Petra Hayden, as well as a drum spot from Dave Grohl, in 2000, members continuing to contribute to Desert Sessions in between. The death of Drake from cancer in 2002 came shortly after the band released their Disco Marching Craft EP, on which he did not appear, and over the years that followed, earthlings? would release sporadic short offerings like 2005’s Individual Sky Cruiser Theory or 2008’s Humalien EPs, bringing Mathias Schneeberger and a swath of other players into the lineup along the way. It wasn’t until 2016’s Mudda Fudda limited vinyl on Last Hurrah Records that earthlings? issued a third full-length, and I wouldn’t profess to know anything about future plans or anything like that. Still, their work remains delightfully strange and rife with the kind of indulgence one wants to indulge because it’s so much fun to follow along, and 21 years after the fact, earthlings? continues to stand resoundingly alone.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

New episode of The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio today at 1PM Eastern. I’m doing a special on the Kyuss family tree, the research for which I’ll admit also had me digging into this earthlings? record earlier this week. If you get to check that out, it would surely be appreciated.

Listen at: http://gimmeradio.com

And thanks.

It’s very nearly 4AM now. The Patient Mrs. and I had friends over last night. I turned in around 10 and fell asleep immediately, so don’t even know when she came to bed, but I woke up at 1:30 and never got back to sleep. That’s not going to make my day any easier, I think, but “making my day easier” has never been among my specialties.

This week was a fucking mess. The Esogenesi track that went up earlier I actually reviewed back on like Tuesday because I wanted to review the Orange Goblin show Wednesday morning and still be ahead, so wound up doing Esogenesi on Tuesday to go up today so that yesterday I could just do PH and have that go up immediately. Why does it make a difference? I’m not sure. Would it matter if the Orange Goblin review had gone up the next day? To me, maybe. Which I guess is how that dumb crap happens in the first place.

Ah, now it’s 4AM. The alarm on my phone just went off.

If you saw that Orange Goblin review, thanks. I was pretty thrilled with it. I bought a new lens last week as a moving-house present to myself and took it to that show and C.O.C. in Jersey in order to break it in. It’s fun. I’m pleased with it. It’s not a magic bullet to make me a better photographer or anything, but it’s pro-level even if I’m not. There are a few other shows coming up in the next several weeks, so I’m looking forward to getting to know it more.

This weekend? Yeah, I don’t know. The Patient Mrs. is gone at a conference in Washington, D.C., that will mark the longest time she’s been away from The Pecan. I think she’s nervous about that, but fortunately there’s plenty of distraction. The kid yesterday, man. Oof. What a day. Hitting and yelling and whining and pouting and smacking himself in the face and just crying for nothing. Made me want to check him for new teeth. “Bro, what the hell?” and so on. He can have some pretty intense moments, in the true spirit of a toddler. Splatter my brains on the fucking wall. He’ll be two in October. Not there yet.

It’s okay though. I hear it gets much easier from here and all the concerns go away and you just all of a sudden have a person you love a bunch and can talk to about baseballs and various kinds of gouda cheese and heavy metal and it’s all good and then they take care of you until you die. Pretty sure I read that somewhere.

I signed on to do a bio for WarHorse. It was an honor to be asked. I don’t know when they need it or anything, but I’ll probably post it here when the time comes. In the meantime, I’m interviewing Lori from Acid King next week for a streaming chat — those are getting me back on the phone/Skype with people and I like that; transcription had been keeping me away, and I hate setting up email interviews, which is why Six Dumb Questions only has six questions — and I’m supposed to email questions to the guys from a certain bud-loving British band for liner notes for a reissue they’re doing of a landmark album that I haven’t done yet, and I’m supposed to talk to Peder from Lowrider this weekend about their upcoming PostWax release for liner notes for that. I am, in a word, over-fucking-whelmed. But I do these things to myself. I like being asked to do things. I like being a part of things. I appreciate the fact that someone might give enough of a shit about what I say to print it with their record or to send it out as their statement of who they are as a band. Is the weekend when I’m on my own with the kid the time to be thinking about getting anything at all done? Yeah, no. Am I doing so anyway? Clearly.

What a dope.

I guess I’ll leave on that happy note. A few good premieres next week, and the audio of my interview with Jesse Bartz from L0-Pan that I recorded at their show in Jersey, so keep an eye out for those. It’ll be fun.

Alright. Have a great and safe weekend. Please check out the forum and radio stream and merch at Dropout.

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Friday Full-Length: Electric Wizard & Orange Goblin, Chrono.Naut / Nuclear Guru Split

Posted in Bootleg Theater on March 15th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Electric Wizard & Orange Goblin, Split (1998)

Man’s Ruin Records had a thing for 10″ vinyl. Maybe it was cheaper at the time — oddly enough I’m not up on what pressing costs were 22 years ago — or maybe label head Frank Kozik took it as an aesthetic thing, but either way, during the years the imprint was active before sadly going belly-up in 2001/2002, it was responsible for 10″ EP releases from Kyuss, the Melvins, The Heads, Honky, Acid King, Entombed, Desert Sessions, Nebula, Dozer, Church of Misery, Iron Monkey, Fatso Jetson and a slew of others, some of which also wound up seeing issue on CD as splits — that’s also how the various volumes of Desert Sessions were compiled. The two EPs that make up the shared Man’s Ruin release between Electric Wizard and Orange Goblin indeed were issued separately first as 10″ vinyls, with Electric Wizard‘s Chrono.Naut seeing two pressings on purple andelectric wizard chrononaut orange platters starting in Sept. 1997 and Orange Goblin‘s Nuclear Guru two-songer arriving that December in similar fashion on orange vinyl.

Either way, particularly in hindsight, teaming them up seems prescient as to the impact both bands would ultimately have on the heavy underground, especially in the UK. Electric Wizard had offered up their self-titled debut (discussed here) in 1994/1995 through Rise Above, and their landmark second album, Come My Fanatics… arrived earlier in ’97, which put it roughly concurrent to Orange Goblin‘s own debut, Frequencies from Planet Ten (discussed here). Between the two shorter releases, Chrono.Naut was the more distinctive between the vinyl and CD versions, as the single song that comprised the release was split into two parts for the 10″ and presented in its 17-minute entirety on the compact disc. However one might come by it though, it’s essential early Electric Wizard. With the Dorset trio working with the classic lineup of guitarist/vocalist Jus Oborn, bassist Tim Bagshaw and drummer Mark Greening, they answer the call of prime raw Sabbath worship in the song’s first part, rolling out a stoned-as-ElectricWizard nod with an underproduced sensibility that — as the best of the band’s work does — turns that trashy sound into an aesthetic element. At 6:49 or thereabouts into the track, Oborn lets out an “alright!” and the trio shift into a dreamy, spaced-out jam that still holds to that rawness but stands among the most improvised-sounding moments they’ve ever put to tape. Labeled as “Chrono.Naut Phase II (Chaos Revealed),” it remains distinct even among Electric Wizard‘s other longform material, such as the two extended cuts on the Supercoven EP that showed up next year and were more coated in the grit that would soon enough make 2000’s Dopethrone (discussed here) the generation-defining monster it was.

Likewise, it’s strange to listen to Orange Goblin‘s “Nuclear Guru” and their take on “Hand of Doom” and have the one hold up to the other. Kind of blasphemy, right? I mean, that’s not just Black Sabbath — it’s Black Sabbath from Paranoid! But especially listening to the two right next to each other, for the sheer quality of the track, “Nuclear Guru” has every bit as much to offer the listener as “Hand of Doom.” Of course, one would be remiss to overlook the fact that Orange Goblin doesn’t happen without Black Sabbath as an influence — ditto Electric Wizard, while we’re at it — but the point is that hearing the songs side-by-side more than two decades after the fact, they’re both classic. And in the context of its arriving as part of a split with Electric Wizard, “Nuclear Guru” stresses how much of Orange Goblin‘s strength has orange goblin nuclear gurualways been in their songwriting. What was then the five-piece of vocalist Ben Ward (recently wedded; congrats to him), guitarists Joe Hoare and Pete O’Malley, bassist Martyn Millard and drummer Christopher Turner were certainly in their formative stages, but even then, they had the hooks and forward groove that would make their brand of doom rock as hugely influential as it became. And their take on “Hand of Doom” wasn’t just faithful to the original in terms of tone — an accomplishment unto itself — but it still brought the band’s signature stomp to its later verses and a boozer’s psychedelic edge to the leads. As Black Sabbath were just starting to get back together with their original lineup at the time, the homage feels well placed both in terms of showcasing Orange Goblin‘s roots and what they were able to bring to them in order to define their own sound.

All told, it’s about half and hour from two bands who would go on and continue to earn forerunner status in English heavy, their styles being picked up on not only by their peers — one could argue they influenced each other to some degree as well, especially early on — but successive generations of groups in the UK and beyond. They were both entering crucial eras for their approach, as Electric Wizard, as noted, had just put out Come My Fanatics… and would soon move onto Supercoven and Dopethrone, which some would argue as the pinnacle of their work — not me; I’m a believer in 2007’s Witchcult Today (discussed here) as their to-date crown jewel — while Orange Goblin would well earn a reputation for brash doom with Time Travelling Blues (discussed here) in 1998 and The Big Black (discussed here) in 2000. But as much as all things stoner, doom and/or heavy might’ve seemed like outsider art at the time, it’s striking just how sure of what they’re doing both bands sound on their split. There’s no doubt as Electric Wizard jam into oblivion on “Chrono.Naut” or as Orange Goblin shuffle through the later moments of “Nuclear Guru” that they knew what they were after in terms of style, or for that matter that they knew how to make that happen in the writing (or improvising) and recording. Not only were they in it early, they were in it early and kicking ass.

Certainly both would be a factor in establishing the height of their influence on the many who’ve followed the paths they each laid out.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

I let myself sleep in this morning, inadvertently. I woke up at around 2AM and was up for about an hour. With the alarm set for 4, going back to sleep at 3:15 felt needlessly cruel, so I set it for 4:30. When it went off, I turned it off, rolled over to get up and the next thing I knew it was quarter to six. Whoops. So much for productivity early in the day.

Doesn’t particularly matter, but it means that morning nap continues to be the time during which I get the most work done as it has been for the last couple weeks. I don’t love that system, but I don’t love getting up at 3:30 either, so you know, you give and take.

Next week is the Quarterly Review. It will run six days and include 60 albums. There’s a Saint Vitus premiere scheduled as well for Tuesday and maybe another video premiere on Thursday, but other than that, it’s all QR all the way. Expect fewer news posts, because that’s the tradeoff I need to make in order to survive the thing.

Oh, I’m also going to see All Them Witches next week in Boston. That’ll be fun.

And Sunday is a new episode of The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio. It’s a cool one, don’t miss it. 7PM Eastern, Sunday. Replay is Tuesday, 9AM Eastern. Listen at http://gimmeradio.com.

We’ve been down in Jersey all week as The Patient Mrs. has had Spring break (woo!), and that’s been good, but this weekend we’ll head back north in order to facilitate her going back to work Monday evening. It isn’t a short ride, but it’s generally worth the trip to be down here. Where we stay there’s more room for The Pecan to run around — and he does — and he needs all the space he can get. “Little Orc, bru-ra-rum,” and so on.

I’m gonna punch out so I can try and set up the back end of posts for the Quarterly Review before I start to fall asleep at the keyboard, so I’ll just wish you a great and safe weekend and leave it there. Have fun, don’t forget to listen to the Gimme Show, and thanks for reading.

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Friday Full-Length: Solarized, Neanderthal Speedway

Posted in Bootleg Theater on April 6th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Solarized, Neanderthal Speedway (1999)

Primo fuzz the way they used to make it. New Jersey heavy rock, like my beloved Garden State itself, will always hold a special place in my heart, but I’ll confess I never got to see Solarized live. That hasn’t stopped me from over the years periodically taking Neanderthal Speedway or its 2001 follow-up, Driven off the shelf and giving them a spin. And why would it? The albums, the first of which came out on Man’s Ruin Records on April 9, 1999, have a fuzz and personality of their own, but listening back to the 12 tracks of Neanderthal Speedway now, my head is flooded with associations, from the riff of “Solar Fang” being directly tied to Monster Magnet‘s “Zodiac” to the low end work that Lou Gorra was simultaneously bringing to his own band, Halfway to Gone, while doubling alongside Solarized‘s core founding duo of guitarist/vocalist Jim Hogan and drummer Reg Santana, to the smell of sweaty summer nights at the Brighton Bar in Long Branch and the ride back north on the Parkway. Rounded out by guitarist Pete Hauschild on the debut, Solarized were never the highest-profile of the New Jersey heavy underground set, which at the time was being widely picked up by labels big and small in the wake of Monster Magnet‘s commercial success, whether it was Core on Atlantic, Solace on MeteorCity, Halfway to Gone on Small Stone, or The Atomic Bitchwax on Tee Pee.

There was certainly plenty enough rock to go around, and one can hear the punker roots that a lot of the above bands share/shared in Solarized‘s “Psyclone Tread,” but like so many others of their ilk, slowing down (some) and fuzzing out suited Solarized impeccably. They started Neanderthal Speedway at a good clip with “Nebula Mask,” seeming to answer Californian desert rock directly with a decidedly Eastern Seaboard crunch to their guitar tones. Hogan‘s vocals were clean but not overly melodic — another punk trait — and the drive of the tracks on the whole was more geared toward rawness than patience, even when it came around to cuts like “Shifter” on which Ed Mundell and Tim Cronin — both of Monster Magnet at one point, now of The Ultra Electric Mega Galactic and The Ribeye Bros., respectively — turned in guest appearances on guitar and percussion. Solarized seemed far more comfortable in the middle ground of songs like “Fire Breather,” “Gravity Well” and “Black Light Swill,” digging into hooks and hard-hitting, mid-paced riff-led fare, given to an overarching nod, but not necessarily slow in itself. Even a song like “February Sixth (Anti-Life Equation),” which boasted such rhythmic swing, kept to a solid tempo. Hey, if you’ve got a thing, and it works, go for it.

The four-piece’s original bio for Neanderthal Speedway, which was posted here seven years ago, noted Hogan‘s and Santana‘s connections to Daisycutter, in which Cronin and Mundell also played, as well as The Atomic Bitchwax‘s Chris Kosnik later on, and called Solarized “atomic boogie rock.” Fair enough. To hear “Aftermath,” it’s a decent description, and though Solarized saved the most of their lysergy for when Mundell showed up as on “Cloud King” or the excuse-me-I-believe-you-have-it-backwards instrumental closer “Monolith,” and it worked for them when they broke it out, but their sound was by no means a constant one way or they other. That worked for them too. Here’s the full bio in case you don’t feel like clicking the link:

solarized neanderthal speedway bio

As you can see, it was a pretty easy sell. Fuzz-drenched heavy rock and roll from what was at the time one of the country’s most fertile underground scenes. After Man’s Ruin went under, Solarized hooked up with MeteorCity for Driven — the label had also put out the Jersey Devils split with Solace (discussed here) in ’99 — and then seemed to sort of dissolve by the mid-aughts. Jim and Reg, who share the last name Hogan these days, play together in the punk band Defiance Engine, and Reg has another new outfit called 19DRT who’ll play their first show on April 20 at the Mill Hill Basement in Trenton. Ah, memories of that place.

I guess I’ve got New Jersey on the brain because, you know, I wish I lived there, but whatever the case, as always I hope you enjoy.

If how long it’s taken me to put together this post and how much of the last hour I’ve spent asleep with my head down on the kitchen table is anything to go by, I probably should’ve gone back to bed at some point after the alarm went off at 4:30AM. Perhaps the hint I should’ve taken was when I looked at my phone and it was 4:45 and I’d missed the first two rounds of the alarm. It was not my most fluid of mornings.

But that only feels fair enough since this was the LONGEST FUCKING WEEK EVER. Oh my god damn was this week long. Yesterday, I was sitting in The Patient Mrs.’ car waiting to pick her up from work and I fell asleep with my head on the steering wheel as I tried to calm The Pecan in the back seat, who was screaming like a madman — because he hates when the car sits still, likes it when the car moves. He finally quieted down and we both fell asleep at about the same time with the car idling outside the library on her campus. Some time later there’s a knock on the driver’s side window and I’m shocked awake. I jumped and rolled down the window and told the cop, “You scared the shit out of me,” which is apparently something you can say when you’re 36 years old, so white you’re practically transparent, and driving a Volvo with a baby and a dog in back. I told him I was waiting for my wife and my explanation for why I was unconscious was as simple as pointing to the back seat and saying, “five month old.” He said, “It gets better,” and went on his way.

But still, longest week ever. I can’t believe it’s not next Wednesday yet. Between the Quarterly Review, getting the last bits of the Roadburn ‘zine in place — still working on that — and other writing projects, my big luxury yesterday was stopping to go the bathroom and take a shower. I didn’t have time to do either, really. What a wreck. The Quarterly Review wraps on Monday, which will be a relief, and then it’s back toward some semblance of normality.

Subject to change as always, here are the notes for the week:

Mon.: QR6, Brond track premiere.
Tue.: Rancho Bizzarro EP stream, Green Desert Water video premiere.
Wed.: Shrine of the Serpent track premiere.
Thu.: Hound the Wolves Six Dumb Questions; Greenbeard video premiere.
Fri.: Mirror Queen video premiere.

So yeah, that plus catching up on all the news that slipped through the cracks this week should be a nice break. That’s why I get paid the big bucks. Ha.

On that happy note, I wish you a great and safe weekend. If you need me, I’ll still be here, trying to catch up. Maybe I’ll even answer some email and Facebook messages for the first time in like a week.

Please check out the forum and radio stream.

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Friday Full-Length: The Desert Sessions, Volume I. Volume II

Posted in Bootleg Theater on February 2nd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

The Desert Sessions, Vol. I & II

Imagine you’re an alien sent to Earth on a mission of galactic diplomacy. You’ve done your homework, read the full portfolio, and you feel pretty confident in your ability to get here, know the score, drop off your pamphlets about joining the interstellar union of planets (that’s not to say “Galactic Federation”) and get back out again. Easy peasy.

So you find what seems to be a decent parking spot for your craft at a strip mall or wherever and land outside a record store. You have your clipboard under your arm to give you a sense of authority and you walk into the place — because in your portfolio it says that record stores are where Earthlings conduct their most important diplomatic transactions; totally true, by the way — and blaring through the speakers is the 1998 compilation Desert Sessions Vol. I & II. You hear John McBain‘s weepy lap steel guitar on “Monkey in the Middle.” You hear the bizarre preach that starts off the record and the even more bizarre preach that finishes it. You hear Josh Homme and Dave Catching‘s intertwining guitars on the jazzy and psychedelic “Cowards Way Out.” And what the hell can you possibly think is happening? Wouldn’t you have to immediately get back in your ship and space-truck the hell out of there? Final report: Earth is too weird for first contact.

The first of them issued some 20 years ago this month, the Desert Sessions releases — there would wind up being 10 of them recorded between 1997 and 2003, compiled two per CD, with the first six pressed independently on vinyl — have become something of a legend of desert rock. A glorious tale of shroom-laden spontaneous creative endeavor, spearheaded by a recently-enough post-Kyuss Josh Homme, at that point really just getting going with Queens of the Stone Age — who over the subsequent years would derive songs like “Avon” and “Monster in the Parasol” from Sessions material — working under the moniker The Acquitted Felons at Rancho de la Luna in Joshua Tree, CA, with the even-then-unfuckwithable lineup of McBain (Monster Magnet, Wellwater Conspiracy), Brant Bjork (ex-Kyuss, Fu Manchu), Alfredo Hernández (Yawning Man, Queens of the Stone Age), Ben Shepherd (Soundgarden, Wellwater Conspiracy), Pete Stahl (earthlings?, Goatsnake) and studio owners Fred Drake and Dave Catching, it’s a narrative almost too fitting to the genre: anti-establishment, raw creativity, drugs. It’s so on-its-own-terms it might as well be in its own language.

And in a way, it is. First released in 1997 as Volume I: Instrumental Driving Music for Felons and 1998 as Vol. II: Ships Commander Butchered (well, at least we know what happened to our interplanetary diplomat), the first two Desert Sessions installments were independent vinyl EPs before Man’s Ruin brought them together as a single 10-song/39-minute full-length CD, which frankly works better. Whether it’s the nine-minute bizarro-garage push of “Cake (Who Shit on The?)” or the more straightforward “Johnny the Boy,” on which Homme seems to do his best vocal impression of Fatso Jetson‘s Mario Lalli, whatever else you might say about The Desert Sessions and the stories of their making, they are vibrantly creative outings, especially earlier on. Spontaneity abounds throughout the first two volumes, and pulled together on a single disc, the listener gets a sense of being at Rancho de la Luna with The Acquitted Felons as they draw inspiration from the land around them, from each other, and yeah, probably from a healthy-ish amount of psilocybin. These tracks and the others in the editions that would follow have become something of historical footnotes perhaps to the wider stylistic contributions of Queens of the Stone AgeMasters of Reality, et al to the sphere and scope of this era of desert rock, from which much of the subgenre’s influence continues to derive, but even so the substance of the release itself more than justifies holding Vol. I & II in such regard. Two decades later, it’s a disc that remains gleefully, irrepressibly weird, and in so doing captures an essential part of the spirit of desert rock too often lost in favor of simple fuzz tones and Kyuss-style riffing.

Frankly, I’m surprised it’s not a model that’s been followed more often. When I think about locales with booming heavy undergrounds — from Austin, Texas, to Portland, Oregon, to Berlin, London, Barcelona, Rome, Athens, and so on — it seems like there would or should be someone picking up this form and bringing something new to it. It doesn’t have to be a “desert session,” necessarily, but just the notion of getting a group of musicians together who respect each other, putting them in a studio fora  couple days and seeing what comes out of it. Can you imagine if members of Causa SuiPapir and Baby Woodrose got together? Or Electric Moon and Øresund Space Collective? You could have 10 “sessions” of material in an afternoon! Or how about Gabriele Fiori from Black Rainbows putting together a team with contributions from Ufomammut members and others from around the Roman underground? Or the 1000mods guys leading the charge for Greece? There’s so much potential in the notion, I suppose, that it’s kind of sad it hasn’t happened.

I guess these things can be hard to coordinate, even if they might end up staving off an alien invasion.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

Going to make this quick because it’s five in the morning and as good as this coffee is, I’m writing with one eye open as a result of being so gosh dern tired. I got back last night at about midnight from seeing Corrosion of Conformity and Red Fang rip it up in Worcester, Mass., which is more than an hour away from where I live (what isn’t?) and was magically awake again at 2AM, so yeah a bit of punishment.

I’ll be reviewing that show for Monday. Next week is also packed with streams and premieres. Here’s the notes, obviously subject to change:

Mon.: All Souls album stream/review; C.O.C. live review.
Tue.: River Cult track premiere/review; Zhora video.
Wed.: Green Lung EP stream.
Thu.: Green Druid review/track premiere; Six Dumb Questions with Black Space Riders.
Fri.: Lonely Kamel track premiere.

Like I said, packed.

As regards a personal update for anyone who’s been keeping up the last couple weeks or who reads the photo floatovers — not that there’s ever anything to read in the photo floatovers; please ignore the snark behind the curtain — it’s been a really tough time. I’m being treated for an eating disorder and it’s playing havoc with my body and mental state. I’m doing the work I need to be doing, doing what I’m told and all that shit, eating, but yeah, it’s been a really low time for me on a personal level and that has manifested in some pretty dark thoughts and impulses. I’m doing my best to get through it for my wife and our baby. That’s all I really want to say at this point about it.

On a brighter note, a lot of people said a lot of really nice things about the site this week on the occasion of the ninth anniversary, here and on the social medias, and that was thoroughly appreciated. Thank you for giving a crap. It’s the reason I’m up at five in the morning putting this post together. Well, that and persistent anxiety issues. But the point is it’s definitely both as a factor, and your ongoing support of The Obelisk means more to me than I can say. Thank you.

I hope you have a great and safe weekend. I’m going to eat a hamburger today. I’m a little nervous about it and unsure if I’ll have it with eggs or on a bun, but either way, this thing is happening. That and singing Deep Purple and Dio to my son while changing his diapers will be my adventure for the next couple days.

Please don’t forget to check out the forum and radio stream.

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Friday Full-Length: Unida, Coping with the Urban Coyote

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 13th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Unida, Coping with the Urban Coyote (1999)

Among the many branches of the Kyuss family tree, Unida continue to hold a special place. Their story will perhaps forever be one of oh-what-could’ve-been, and though their legacy is marked by the abruptness with which their momentum was cut short, the quality of their debut and only officially released album to-date, Coping with the Urban Coyote resonates perhaps even more now, 18 years after its original release, than it might’ve at the time it came out on Frank Kozik‘s Man’s Ruin Records. Certainly to listen to the eight tracks and 41-minutes, there’s little to make it sound anything less than vital. With so much time passed and so much that’s happened since, that would only seem to emphasize how special a release it actually is and has been all along.

Unida formed in 1998 and made their debut the next year by including their The Best of Wayne-Gro EP as part of a split with Sweden’s Dozer released by MeteorCity. Later in ’99, Coping with the Urban Coyote would surface on Man’s Ruin as their proper first album. With frontman John Garcia fresh off his time in Slo Burn, whose Amusing the Amazing LP was issued in 1997, the ex-Kyuss singer seemed poised to once again make an impact in the heavy rock underground. And so he did. Joined in Unida‘s Coping with the Urban Coyote lineup by guitarist Arthur Seay, drummer Mike Cancino and bassist Dave Dinsmore — who’d later be replaced by Scott Reeder (ex-KyussThe Obsessed, etc.) — Garcia presented a new outfit that tightened the desert rock approach of Kyuss on songs like “Plastic” and the blasting “If Only Two,” delving into his trademark patterning of repeating lines in his lyrics, pushing out vocals with from-the-gut soulfulness, and capturing the spirit of place that few other vocalists from that region or elsewhere have been able to match since, while also presenting trippier fare on the nine-minute finale “You Wish” and finding a sound that was distinct enough from Kyuss to not simply be recapturing what was lost in a way that Slo Burn seemed at times to be trying to do. Unida may have been working in a similar sphere, but they were their own band already on their first record, even with Garcia‘s strong ties to his own sonic past.

The Unida story has been told many times, both here and elsewhere, and so I don’t necessarily think I need to delve into the details of the fate of their follow-up to Coping with the Urban Coyote, but just as a refresher: what was originally titled For the Working Man and later became known as The Great Divide was tracked by mega-producer Rick Rubin and set to be issued through Rubin‘s American Recordings imprint through Island Def Jam in 2002. The record company shelved it, owned it, and that was basically the end. It’s been bootlegged many times since and accordingly is readily available online, but it’s never been officially released, and the commercial potential it represented in terms of bringing Unida — and really desert rock as a whole, since although they had two records out, Queens of the Stone Age were still about a year away from “happening” on a more widespread level and claiming that forerunner mantle as their own — to a broader audience went unfulfilled. A much, much worse fate than the album deserved, and it was effectively the end of the group. Unida played sporadic shows throughout the years, and notably they got back together to headline Desertfest London in 2013 (review here), and would head to Berlin to play there and tour Australia with Beastwars, also reissuing Coping with the Urban Coyote via Cobraside Distribution in 2014 with a bonus disc of live tracks from their Desertfest performance.

Of course, in the intervening years, Seay and Cancino went on to form House of Broken Promises and would issue the debut long-player, Using the Useless (review here), via Small Stone in 2009. It wasn’t until this fall that release got a follow-up — the Twisted EP came out last week on Heavy Psych Sounds and the band is on tour in Europe to promote it — but with Unida seemingly once more at rest, presumably there’s time for Seay to focus on the other outfit.

That’s nothing to complain about, though, because as much as Unida‘s circumstances and narrative define the band, and as much as Garica‘s presence as frontman leaves an indelible mark on their output, I’d argue gladly that it’s Seay‘s underlying songwriting ability that is the most distinguishing factor, and I think revisiting Coping with the Urban Coyote plainly demonstrates that. To listen to the clear-headed riff that drives “Nervous,” the flourish leads peppered throughout that track or the start-stop swing in opener “Thorn,” the forward thrust of “Black Woman” and the penultimate “Dwarf It” or the mid-paced ease with which “Human Tornado” is brought to bear, and the rolling spaciousness of “You Wish,” even in light of everything that’s happened since (and hasn’t happened since) with this band and its players, the vision of Seay‘s craft is so purposeful in hitting all its marks and yet still comes across as natural and born of the chemistry between himself, Garcia, Cancino and Dinsmore.

I’d also say that’s the key factor that’s allowed Coping with the Urban Coyote to hold up so well over time. Something to keep in mind as you dive in and think about either chasing down The Great Divide via some interwebular chicanery or finding yourself a copy of that Cobraside reissue (which is about where I’m at, honestly), and of course either way, I very much hope you enjoy.

Thanks as always for reading.

I decided to let myself sleep late today, by which I mean the alarm was set for 6AM. I woke up at 5:23AM and decided quickly that I was too conscious to bother with the remaining 35 pre-alarm minutes. Been a stressful few days as The Patient Mrs. and I continue to await the arrival of The Pecan. Her due date is Sunday, but really it feels like it could be any minute now. Today would work. Tomorrow. Whenever. He’ll come when he comes. The catchphrase we’ve been using is “babies are born on their birthday.” I’m sure everyone says the same shit when waiting like this. Few things in life turn out not to be cliches one way or another.

Our families are excited. We had kind of a final pre-baby get-together last weekend in Connecticut and that was really good if also kind of tiring. The Patient Mrs., as one might expect, has been especially beat the last few days, as we’ve gotten invariably closer to the beginning stages of labor, and I can see the change. She went to a couple meetings at work yesterday and was alright when she first got home, but once she had some dinner and keyed down a bit had very clearly hit a wall. We went to bed at about 8PM to lay down and I read for a while to The Pecan from the Star Trek novel I’m currently making my way through. I don’t know how into the adventures of Will Riker among the Romulans this kid will ultimately be, but it seems the least I can do to start him off right, especially while words are just sounds to help bonding. It’s not like he really needs to know what a subspace warp field is at this point.

That’ll come later.

But while we’re already not really sleeping and we’re doing stuff like making sure there’s gas in the car (there isn’t currently) to get to the hospital when the time comes to go, and our bags are packed and we’ve got our for-labor positions and massages all practiced with the doula and the midwife and as much as the stage can be set, the stage is set, the bottom line is we’re really excited to have this baby. Yeah, it’s a huge difference and everything in my life is about to get turned upside down and all the rest of that stuff — diapers and priorities will likewise be changed — but the anticipation of what’s coming is huge at this point. We can’t wait to meet him. Say hi and whatnot. It’ll be cool. I hope he’s not a dick. Ha.

Before I head out, here’s a schedule for next week that’s obviously more tentative and subject to change without notice than ever:

Mon.: The Spacelords review/stream; The Road Miles video premiere.
Tue.: The Age of Truth review/stream; new I Klatus video.
Wed.: Year of the Cobra review/stream; new Bushfire video.
Thu.: Cities of Mars review.
Fri.: Special surprise review/stream that I can’t talk about yet but that is going to rule. I don’t want to give it away, but stay tuned.

I’ve tried to mitigate stuff in light of the impending Pecan, and that’s about as well as I could do to be minimal. If it comes to it and I need to kill news posts to make room, I will, but we’ll see when we get there. Hell, the kid could not come for another week and a half. Who knows?

It’s going to be fun finding out.

Of course I’ll keep you posted when I have news, but in the interim, I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Please do something fun, enjoy yourself and your time and your loved ones if you can, and please check out the forum and the radio stream.

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Friday Full-Length: Operator Generator, Polar Fleet

Posted in Bootleg Theater on December 23rd, 2016 by JJ Koczan

Operator Generator, Polar Fleet (2001)

There is an essential truth in Operator Generator‘s 2001 debut, Polar Fleet, and if you’ll indulge me for a minute or two, I’d like to explore it. The San Jose, California, four-piece of vocalist Mitchell French, guitarist Tom Choi, bassist Joe Tucci and drummer Michael Parkinson released the eight-track outing in 2001 during the latter days of Man’s Ruin Records — it’s catalog number MR-2008, which means it came after the label’s ill-fated 1999 distribution alignment with Artemis Records, so that makes sense — and even beyond the basic fact of its quality riffing, or of its groove, to me it represents a clear marker in the march of generations of heavy rock. I’ve talked about this a lot, in Friday Full-Length posts, in reviews, and so on, but while it’s by no means the only example — Man’s Ruin alone remains a treasure trove of now-obscure pre-social-media heavy, from SuplecsBottomBegotten and Drunk Horse to the rawer Mass and Greenmachine, let alone anything anyone else put out on a label or independently — Operator Generator remains a perfect example of a record that, now, it’s almost too easy to view as being ahead of its time.

Granted, they had a direct line to Sleep via Choi, who previously played guitar in Asbestosdeath as part of a lineup that also included Matt PikeAl Cisneros and Chris Hakius, but to listen to the post-Sleep’s Holy Mountain chug of “Infinite Loop” and any number of acts who send me the Bandcamp links to their “debut EP” — a demo by any other name — on a weekly basis, you would in many ways think the last 15 years never happened. I’m not saying these bands aren’t allowed to take influence from the past. Far from it. One could and probably should quite easily argue that representing aesthetic traditionalism is half the point of working within any genre — the other half, hopefully, being originality — but as listeners, I feel like we have a responsibility to dedicate ourselves to understanding where those traditions come from, and so that’s why I tend to go on at such lengths about the days before Facebook and Instagram brought a new wave of bands particularly from the US, Europe and Australia. That might sound like I’m advocating a dry, academic approach to listening to music, and I’m not — at least not to the extent that cold analysis would trump actual enjoyment — but part of moving a style forward, or moving anything forward, is exploring the history that birthed it. Enjoying the output of new bands is one of the greatest joys the planet has to offer, and it’s one I feel can only be enriched by a fuller framework.

What’s the fucking point? The fucking point is riffs weren’t invented in 2006. Or 2001. Or 1995. Or 1969. Or 1955. Or 1928. The impulse to create something of meaning and presence goes back to cave drawings and probably long before that. Listening to Polar Fleet, whether it’s the forward push the title-track or the on-theme vibes of the later “Arctic Quest,” I’m reminded of just how crucial it is that as creative people — and both hearing and making records can be creative acts, make no mistake — attempts are made to engage with history. Not at the sacrifice of the present, but toward its future. Operator Generator had two releases out in their time in this long-player and a prior self-titled EP on 12th Records, and if either showed up in my inbox today, I might note the dated sound of the drums on “Museum’s Flight,” but I’d be just as likely to offer high praise to the psychedelic expansion of closer “Soil of Lavamore,” and if I didn’t know the album’s origin, I’m sure I could be convinced it was brand new. I invite you to put it next to any number of current releases and see if you don’t get where I’m coming from. The more time passes, the more records like this one become important, and the more important it becomes to realize the effect they’ve had on the development of heavy music worldwide. Context matters.

Polar Fleet has an impending reissue by Twin Earth Records — which, if you want the context, is headed by Ric Bennett, of high-grade Sabbath worshipers Starchild and Stars that Move. More on that as I hear it.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

I appreciate your indulging the preach, but as we come down to the wire on 2016 and lists start to come out and stuff like that, I can’t help but feel like there are an awful lot of not-that-new ideas being celebrated as revolutionary. That’s the nature of things, I suppose, and end-of-year critical hyperbole is a fact of life — I’ve certainly been guilty of it as well — but I don’t know. Maybe I’m just getting old. I remember being 22 and starting to seriously dig into heavy rock — hardly ground floor; this is circa 2002-2003 — and it all sounded so fresh, when even bands like Operator Generator were feeding off what came before them. Dudes who saw Kyuss in 1992, or for that matter Mountain in 1971, were probably shaking their heads and wondering what the big deal was. Like I said, nature of things.

This weekend is the Xmas holiday. If it’s one you celebrate for either religious or secular reasons, I hope it’s a good one for you. Family, gift-giving, food, the whole bit. The Patient Mrs. and I will head south, first to her family in Connecticut and then to mine in New Jersey — not that her family isn’t my family and my family isn’t hers, I’m just categorizing by blood relation; love abounds from all sides and I feel remarkably fortunate for that — but should return to Massachusetts on Monday following the revelry. Not certain on the exact timing yet, but it’s hardly our first time at this rodeo, so we’ll figure it out, and as I’ve discovered time and again, I can run a decent enough hotspot from my phone on the I-95 corridor to get posts up from my laptop while on the road.

That’s good, because Monday starts the Quarterly Review, which will take us into the New Year as it’s six days this time instead of the traditional five. I’m thinking of it as kind of a wrap-up for 2016, so there’s a lot to cover. It could’ve been two full weeks, but I’d lose my mind. I’ll be plenty busy as it is. Here’s a tentative look at the week-plus:

Mon.: Quarterly Review day one; comment from Geezer on touring Europe.
Tue.: Quarterly Review day two; track premiere from Michael Wohl.
Wed.: Quarterly Review day three.
Thu.: Quarterly Review day four.
Fri.: Quarterly Review day five.
Sun.: Year-End Poll results out.
Mon.: Quarterly Review day six.

Yup, look for those results on New Year’s Day, and the last batch of Quarterly Review writeups — 10 records per day, as usual — that Monday. Starting on the first, I’ve also got a new sponsorship deal for the site being tried out that I’m excited for, and of course there’s plenty of news and videos and other stuff peppered throughout the week that still needs to be sorted. It will be busy and require much coffee, and that’s apparently how I like it.

But as I sign off even momentarily — because really I’m just about to get back to work on the aforementioned Quarterly Review; not actually going anywhere — let me please wish you once again a happy holiday. Be safe, have a great time, and listen to awesome music. If you missed it, there’s a four-hour podcast that went up yesterday that might help in that endeavor. Just saying.

All the best and back Monday. Thanks for reading, and please check out the forum and radio stream.

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