Friday Full-Length: Earthride, Vampire Circus

Posted in Bootleg Theater on June 15th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Earthride, Vampire Circus (2005)

Like any long-lived scene, Maryland doom has watched ’em come and go. Bands get together, bands fall apart, mix members, grow into something else, etc. Lifers in anything are fewer and farther between. About 30 seconds into watching Dave Sherman front Earthride and there’s no imagining he’s anything else.

Sherman has fronted Earthride for over 20 years. The band got their start while he was still playing bass in the original incarnation of Spirit Caravan and released their self-titled debut EP in 2000 that was a clarion to the converted. Even more than the deeply weighted grooves and tonal low end thick enough to feel it in your chest, Earthride‘s Earthride was marked by a pervasive grit that would become a hallmark of the band along with classic-style hooks and a self-awareness of their place within the sphere of American doom. Over time, that place would only become more their own as they signed to Southern Lord Recordings for the release of their 2002 full-length debut, Taming of the Demons and its 2005 follow-up, Vampire Circus.

Both albums are nothing short of essential stoner doom. Earthride offer such a specific vision of what heavy is and should be, and on Vampire Circus, sometimes that’s aggressive, as with “Understand” and all its talk of coffin nails, and sometimes it’s just about following the riff, as on the bouncing title-track or the leadoff cut “Fighting the Devils Inside You,” which would become a hallmark of the band’s approach and the start of an opening salvo that by the time it’s done winds up comprising the entire first half of the record through the organ-laced “Dirtnap” and up to the aptly-titled “Interlude,” although quite frankly it’s not like there’s any dip in quality as “God’s Own Medicine” layers screams into its chorus and finds drummer Eric Little thudding out on his toms through verses telling tales of addiction horrors and igniting a chase with Kyle van Steinburg‘s guitar and Rob Hampshire‘s bass. Or anywhere, for that matter. The laid back fuzzer “Loss” follows with a mellow opening of drift that holds for nearly a minute and a half of its near-six-minute stretch. It’s a departure from the more straightforward material before it, but the character of the song is consistent to be sure, and even when it gets heavy — which, yes, it most certainly does — “Loss” retains that semi-psychedelic mood enough that it’s no surprise when it dips down again after the initial hook. Blues. Psychedelic blues. The chugging riff that emerges is quintessential Earthride in its nod, and van Steinburg makes a highlight of the solo just before the four-minute mark.

“Loss” is also a departure in its finish in that it jams out. As loose as Earthride sometimes sound in their ultra-swinging, cauldron-stirring rhythms on Vampire Circus, the structures of their songs are generally pretty straightforward. Cuts like “Fighting the Devils Inside You” and “Understand” and even “God’s Own Medicine” take a relatively traditional approach to craft: verses, choruses, bridges, solos, and so on. Identifiable parts making up the pieces that when put together make for memorable tracks. The ideal scenario, and an essential facet of Earthride‘s sound in terms of a deceptive simplicity that unfolds its true depths on repeated listens. Where “Loss” leaves that behind is after the aforementioned solo, as it moves back through a heavy chorus and into a spontaneous-sounding ending that makes one realize just how tight everything up to that point has been. It won’t belong before the speedy and winding “For Wrath and Ruin” is offering the advice to “Rip your head off and smoke your brain,” but even the context in which song appears is changed because of the breadth that “Loss” adds to entire album. And again, it’s subtle. It’s not something immediate. But it’s crucial to the overall impression the record makes.

Likewise, as much as “Fighting the Devils Inside You,” “Understand,” “Vampire Circus” and “Dirtnap” marked out their place at the start of Vampire Circus, so too does “For Wrath and Ruin” begin an ending salvo that’s quicker than just about anything before it. A reference to Black Sabbath‘s “Heaven and Hell” in the penultimate “The World I Live” is continually appreciated, and though it’s not as motoring as “For Wrath and Ruin” before it — some residual Spirit Caravan stylization there, perhaps; one can hear it too in “God’s Own Medicine,” and fair enough given Sherman‘s contributions to that band — the mood is still more uptempo than on the earlier material or even “Loss” after which the shift into the higher gear is made. “Swamp Witch” finishes and brings back the organ from “Dirtnap” — played by Mick Shauer, then also of Clutch — and finds itself capping Vampire Circus locked once more into a classic heavy midtempo groove, more Mountain than Sabbath, but with obvious Deep Purple overtones thanks to Shauer‘s guest spot.

Earthride are in conversation there and throughout with Southern metal and heavy blues — an engineering job from Mike Dean of Corrosion of Conformity is never going to hurt in that regard — but the real success of Vampire Circus lies in taking what Earthride were feeling out through the Earthride EP and Taming of the Demons and telling their audience, “this is ours,” owning their sound and truly making it their own. The album ends its 10-track/43-minute run cold with a sweep of organ keys and a sudden cutoff of the riff, as if to mark out the inevitability of more to come. It’d be five years before Earthride would answer Vampire Circus with 2010’s Something Wicked (review here) on Doomentia Records, and though the years subsequent would be a tumult, with Sherman taking part in the reunion of Spirit Caravan, that band’s becoming a revived The Obsessed and an eventual split there that found him going back to Earthride to release last year’s Witch Gun single (discussed here) through Salt of the Earth Records, the extended time between full-length outings has found Earthride nonetheless increasing their profile among Maryland’s always prolific doom underground. As I type this, they’re wrapping a tour with The Skull that finds Sherman joined by a new lineup that includes When the Deadbolt Breaks‘ Aaron Lewis on bass, and they’ll be making an appearance at Maryland Doom Fest 2018 next week in Frederick, where no doubt they’ll be greeted with the respect and admiration they’ve long deserved and reaped by a scene that considers them one of its own. I can’t wait to see it.

As always, I hope you enjoy. Thanks for reading.

Coffee’s good this morning. It’s a little past 4:20 in the morning now and I’ve been up for about two hours. Enough time to make my way through a first pot off the Chemex with my lighter roast that I call The Obelisk Heavy Psych Blend, because I fantasize about someday having my own coffee in a way more than just filling out bean proportions on a web form through Dean’s Beans. There were talks for a minute there, but nothing seems to have come of it to-date. Oh well. In any case, coffee’s good. I’m on the last cup and I’d grind more but don’t want to wake the baby and thereby also The Patient Mrs., thus making myself Dickweed of the Morning, which is a role I’ve played too many times already.

We’ve been down in Jersey all week, staying at a house in Parsippany that used to belong to my grandmother, who passed away last September. I grew up about two minutes up the road, at a house in a neighborhood called Glacier Hills on a street called Forum Ct. where my mother still lives with my sister, her husband and their two sons. They just got a new kitten. It showed up in their driveway and they named it Solo, because Han, and Star Wars.

Saw them a lot this week, and it was great to be with my family. I’ve missed out on a lot with my nephews living in Massachusetts and it’s a little sad to see, but I’m happy for the time I’ve had with them. It’s not over, necessarily. The Patient Mrs. and I will be back here, but the next two weeks are more running around. We’re back up to Connecticut later today, then to Massachusetts on Monday until probably Wednesday. Wednesday we’re back to Connecticut because we’re hitting the Yankee game on Thursday — day game; bringing the baby to his first baseball game; so stoked — and I’m picking up my new camera at B&H in Manhattan, then it’s back here for the night and on to Maryland on Friday morning in time for the start of the aforementioned Maryland Doom Fest, which will be the first test of that camera. Going to be a crazy, packed weekend, but my goal is to see all of it. A couple late nights ahead. None of that going-to-sleep-at-8:30 stuff I’ve been doing for the last however long. Kind of bit me in the ass last night (earlier tonight?), I guess. I’ve always liked some me time on the overnights though. Music and coffee and the clacky of the keyboard. Mark it a win.

No doubt by this afternoon I’ll be saying something else.

I miss New Jersey. This is my home. I speak the way people here speak. The food here tastes right. The trees look the way I see trees when I close my eyes. Not that I have money to hit them, but I know where the record stores are and the fastest way to get to each. I know where to buy the pesto that it’s worth the 25 minutes to drive to buy.

Anyway.

Before all the shenanigans next weekend — I won’t close out next week because I’ll be writing over those days — next week is packed full. Subject to change, of course, but here’s what’s in the notes:

Mon.: Lord review/track premiere; Captain Caravan video; announcement from Ripple Music.
Tue.: Pushy review/track premiere; Death Hawks video.
Wed.: War Cloud video premiere. Maybe a review of the new Chubby Thunderous Bad Kush Masters or something else.
Thu.: Mountain of Smoke review/track premiere.
Fri.: Announcement from Cursed Tongue Records. Review of something or other.

I lost a lot of stuff for the Quarterly Review when my laptop was stolen in the UK, including my notes for what would be included. I’ve built some of that back up, but am still down on a bunch of things I know are just gone. There may be reviews I promised to people that won’t happen now. I don’t even know. In any case, I should be good to go on it by the start of next month, the week of July 4, I think. It’s in the planning stage now, and behind schedule, obviously.

Not gonna leave on that bummer note though, but rather relish the opportunity to get to know a whole new crop of albums, EPs, and so on. I also confirmed this week that I’ll be attending SonicBlast Moledo in Portugal in August. More on that to come, but obviously I’m very much looking forward to it.

Thanks for reading this week, and if you’re at Maryland Doom Fest next weekend, I’ll hope to see you there. Fingers crossed that new camera happens/works. I’d feel like a dope standing there taking photos on my phone all weekend. Ha.

Please have a great and safe weekend. Forum and radio.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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Clutch Set Sept. 7 Release for Book of Bad Decisions; “Gimme the Keys” Streaming Now

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 21st, 2018 by JJ Koczan

clutch (Photo by Dan Winters)-1400

All along in the recording process for their new album, Book of Bad Decisions, and particularly in a behind-the-scenes video series they’ve put out that you can see in its entirety on their website, Clutch have talked about capturing their live energy in working with producer Vance Powell and I think the newly-posted record-opener “Gimme the Keys” bears that out. No doubt the record has its ebbs and flows in terms of push — I don’t know if Clutch‘s listenership would let them put out an album without a blues song on it if they tried — but “Gimme the Keys” is a kick in the ass from start to finish and makes an excellent intro into what still has pro-shop studio clarity but maintains a stage-born vitality that’s as signature Clutch as Jean-Paul Gaster‘s drum fills. First taste? I dig.

You can dig too if you feel up for streaming the track at the bottom of this post. Album’s out Sept. 7 on Weathermaker Music; preorders up now. Details follow courtesy of the PR wire:

clutch book of bad decisions

CLUTCH TO RELEASE NEW ALBUM “BOOK OF BAD DECISIONS” SEPTEMBER 7th

Maryland rockers CLUTCH have announced Book of Bad Decisions as the title of their new studio album.

Book of Bad Decisions, CLUTCH’s 12th studio album is scheduled for a worldwide release on September 7th, 2018 via their own Weathermaker Music label.

The album was recorded at Sputnik Sound in Nashville, TN by producer Vance Powell (Jack White, Chris Stapleton, The Raconteurs, The Dead Weather) and consists of 15 new tracks.

“With Vance Powell as producer we were able to make a very different kind of an album. The songs feel as if they could jump out of the speakers!” says drummer Jean-Paul Gaster. Bassist Dan Maines seconds that when he says “Recording in Nashville with Vance Powell gave us a new and fresh approach towards making an album that truly captures the live energy of Clutch in a way I don’t think we’ve done before.” Guitarist Tim Sult adds “Laying down guitar tracks with Vance was fun and inspiring. Going through and trying out his and his engineer, Mike Fahey’s collection of vintage amps was one of my favorite recording studio experiences. I think the outro solo of “Emily Dickinson” turned out particularly great.”

The album cover was designed by renowned photographer Dan Winters.

Book Of Bad Decisions track listing:
1. Gimme the Keys
2. Spirit of ’76
3. Book of Bad Decisions
4. How to Shake Hands
5. In Walks Barbarella
6. Vision Quest
7. Weird Times
8. Emily Dickinson
9. Sonic Counselor
10. A Good Fire
11. Ghoul Wrangler
12. HB Is in Control
13. Hot Bottom Feeder
14. Paper & Strife
15. Lorelei

The first single from Book of Bad Decisions is “Gimme the Keys” and will be released May 18th, 2018. The accompanying lyric video was created by David Brodsky.

The song is about the band’s first tour back in 1991, a time where they began to cut their teeth in the live music business, dealt with show cancellations and incidents on the road. One particular show in a shed surrounded by cornfields in Lawrence, Kansas ultimately turned ugly over a missing microphone and accusations brought by drunk and gun-toting security people at the end of a long day. “Gimme the keys they can keep the guarantee | Gimme the keys and get the hell out of dodge” is a reflection of the mood of that night.

Pre-ordering the new album Book of Bad Decisions starts May 18th at www.pro-rock.com.

This single is the first of four to be released over the next couple of months as an instant gratification track when pre-ordering the album at:

iTunes (https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/book-of-bad-decisions/1376829212&app=itunes)
Amazon (http://amazon.com/dp/B07CNYD1R7).

All album formats (CD, 24-page book with CD, 2xLP Standard Black, Limited Colored 2xLP, and 2xLP Picture Disc) will have the same 15 tracks. In addition Weathermaker Music will release two very limited 7” Picture Discs.

“I’ve never been one for nostalgia,” says Neil Fallon, “I’ve always shied away from it. But after 27 years of this, I realize that there is a wealth of stories to look back upon as lyrical fodder. As the saying goes, ‘You don’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been.’ Not all the songs reference our collective experience as a band, but ‘Book of Bad Decisions’ seemed like an apt name for these various chapters, whether factual, fictitious, or somewhere in-between.”

CLUTCH:
Neil Fallon – Vocals/Guitar
Tim Sult – Guitar
Dan Maines – Bass
Jean-Paul Gaster – Drums/Percussion

www.facebook.com/clutchband
www.instagram.com/clutchofficial
www.twitter.com/clutchofficial
www.pro-rock.com
www.youtube.com/user/officialclutch

Clutch, “Gimme the Keys”

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Shadow Woods IV Announces Venue & Lineup Change

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

shadow woods iv banner

Hey, things happen. Sometimes lineups change, sometimes venues change, sometimes dates change. I think if you’re going to attend a festival, you know the underlying premise of ‘subject to change’ is always a factor. You have to be flexible about these things. Shadow Woods IV — the 2018 installment of I think what’s become one of the East Coast’s most essential and meticulously curated events — was going to happen this year in Virginia. Well, now it’s going to happen back in Maryand where it’s taken place in past years, and the dates have changed. There’s been some shuffling of the lineup as a result. You know what? Who cares? You still go, because it promises an experience unto itself.

That’s my take. If you were planning on heading to this thing, you should still be planning on heading to it.

From the PR wire:

shadow woods iv poster

Shadow Woods Metal Fest Announces Date & Venue Change, New Lineup Details!

The 2018 edition of Shadow Woods Metal Fest (aka Shadow Woods IV) had hoped to debut this year’s fest in a new location in Virginia, but it was not to be. The festival will return to the original Maryland location, Camp Hidden Valley. Due to changes in dates and venue, changes to the festival line-up had to be made.

Shadow Woods IV will now be held Sept 13-15, 2018 at Camp Hidden Valley (located at 4722 Mellow Rd. White Hall, MD) so that the fest could be presented in the manner that attendees have come to expect. All previously issued tickets will be honored for the new dates. Refunds will be given upon request by emailing Shadow.Woods.LLC@gmail.com.

“I did not arrive at this decision lightly,” said fest organizer Mary Spiro of Shadow Woods Productions, LLC. “But as I continued to try to work with our initial venue in Virginia, it became painfully evident that the location would not have created the type of experience I wanted to give fest devotees, to the bands performing, or to myself and our volunteers who would have to manage it. Fortunately I was able to contact the new owners of Camp Hidden Valley (the 200-acre children’s camp was sold in early 2018). If we intend to preserve the spirit of the fest and present it in the manner that it deserves, this was our best option. I investigated many other venues in the hopes of keeping the dates intact but with no luck. I worked furiously to resolve this in the best way possible and as quickly as possible. If there is any silver lining, it is that we are returning home to a familiar place where the fest was born and to the forests and fields that our Friends of Shadow Woods all love.”

Here’s what’s new: UADA and PANZERFAUST will no longer be able to play the fest; they will play the post-fest show on September 22 at The WindUp Space in Baltimore, along with IMPERIAL TRIUMPHANT and two past fest favorites NIGHT RAIDS and DARK WATER TRANSIT. TOMBS will also not be able to play the fest and were not able to play a rescheduled event.

The remainder of the Shadow Woods IV lineup remains remarkably unchanged, and three new bands have been added. As in previous years, Camp Hidden Valley will feature three alternating stages, this time it will be Woodland, Pavilion and Hall.

The entire festival lineup is listed below. Weekend and Day tickets, as well as camping, cabin and parking passes are available at https://ticketing.events/app/portal/1/2362/shadow-woods-iv

http://www.shadowwoodsmetalfest.com/
https://www.facebook.com/shadowwoodsmetalfest/
https://twitter.com/ShadowWoodsMF
https://harpersferryadventurecenter.com/

Shadow Woods Metal Fest 2018 playlist

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Friday Full-Length: Clutch, Blast Tyrant

Posted in Bootleg Theater on May 11th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Clutch, Blast Tyrant (2004)

Some records have the songs. Some the sound or the production. Some are pure performance. With Blast Tyrant, it’s everything. There simply wasn’t a level on which it didn’t work. The previous two Clutch albums, 2001’s Pure Rock Fury and 1998’s The Elephant Riders — yes, I know 1999’s Jam Room was between them; I’m trying to make a point — had run a gamut of presentation for the band’s signature heavy, funky grooves. The Elephant Riders was smoothed out, with a radio-ready sheen (sadly, radio was in the process of collapsing at the time) to its fuzz that both Jam Room and Pure Rock Fury answered back by being rawer affairs entirely. Blast Tyrant, which marked the first collaboration between Clutch — vocalist Neil Fallon, drummer Jean-Paul Gaster, bassist Dan Maines and guitarist Tim Sult — and producer Machine, as well as their first of three albums issued through DRT Entertainment, which was founded by, among others, Derek Shulman of classic prog rockers Gentle Giant.

That Blast Tyrant followed Pure Rock Fury is important, because at that point, and especially with the band’s departure from Atlantic Records, I don’t think anyone really knew what to expect from Clutch. They’d just gone from “The Soapmakers” to “American Sleep,” and somehow, they’d split the difference with songs like “Mercury,” “Profits of Doom” and “Cypress Grove.” Apart perhaps from their landmark 1995 self-titled, Blast Tyrant might be the most front-to-back album they’ve ever produced. Each song leads the listener into the next so perfectly, whether it’s “Mercury” at the outset or “Worm Drink” picking up from the more subdued vibe of “The Regulator” (still my favorite song to see them do live) and renewing the party atmosphere and momentum honed up to that point. Blast Tyrant wasn’t the moment Clutch came into their own, but it was the moment when, as a mature band both on stage and in the studio, they seemed to realize the full extent of their power. Clutch at Maxwell’s in Hoboken supporting Blast Tyrant? One of the best shows I’ve ever seen. Hands down. Hands down.

And there’s no letup on Blast Tyrant. The album’s characters — “La Curandera,” “Worm Drink,” “Promoter (Of Earthbound Causes),” and so on — are hooks unto themselves, but “The Mob Goes Wild” made itself an immediate classic, and even later cuts like “Army of Bono,” “(In the Wake of) The Swollen Goat,” the quickie jam “Weathermaker” that would later become the name of Clutch‘s own label, Weathermaker Music, through which they’d start releasing albums with 2009’s Strange Cousins from the West, and the superfunk-heavy of “Subtle Hustle” — a hidden gem if ever there was one; one of the record’s most infectious hooks and they stuck it way down toward the end — or the acoustic-laced “Ghost.” Seriously, I feel like I could just go on naming tracks and let them simply argue for themselves — and they would, make no mistake. That’s the thing about Blast TyrantFallon had never been in such command as a frontman. His lyrics had always been a highlight of the band’s work, but lines like “Now who will toast our noble host who has this morning given up the ghost” seemed to show a new level of attention to detail. Likewise, Machine was able to capture a “bigger” Clutch sound than they’d ever had before, but it was still clear and nuanced. Each note from a Sult solo came through. The bounce in Maines‘ bass. Each pop in Gaster‘s snare. These things were treasures, both to established Clutch fans and those who came along to discover them later thanks to the band’s relentless touring.

It’s interesting that the second half of “(Notes from the Trial of) La Curandera” and jammy closer “Wysiwyg” — the latter more reminiscent of offshoot project The Bakerton Group — featured keys (as did others throughout), since by the time the band returned in 2005 with Robot Hive/Exodus (reissue review here), they’d have brought organist Mick Schauer on as a fifth member of the band, which he’d remain on the subsequent and likewise blues-informed From Beale Street to Oblivion in 2007, departing before Strange Cousins from the West. The three DRT albums — Blast TyrantRobot Hive/Exodus and From Beale Street to Oblivion — were re-released by Weathermaker in 2011, with Blast Tyrant receiving the special attention of including the Basket of Eggs collection of acoustic reinterpretations and demo tracks for songs like “Cypress Grove” and “La Curandera.” Obviously, given the legacy Blast Tyrant had earned on the part of fans in the intervening seven years, that was special attention well earned, and it’s noteworthy too that when Clutch were looking to head in a different direction after Strange Cousins from the West, they returned to work with Machine on 2013’s Earth Rocker (review here) and 2015’s Psychic Warfare.

And of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Clutch have a new record coming out later this year produced by Vance Powell (Jack White, Red Fang, etc.). Once again, no idea what to expect. Once again, no doubt it will kick ass. That’s pretty much how it goes.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

It’s Friday, right? Probably should’ve asked that at the start.

Being that it’s Friday (I checked), I’m flying out to London tomorrow night. Not that that happens every weekend, just this one. I’m a week late for Desertfest, sadly, but I’m headed over because The Patient Mrs. is taking a group of undergrads on a study-abroad trip and The Pecan and I get to tag along. I’m already going to go see Elephant Tree at The Black Heart on the 16th — or, you know 16 May, as it were — but if anyone knows anything else I need to hit I’ll be there through the 22nd, so please drop a line.

So between baby and travel and baby and travel and baby and travel and baby and travel, I’m not sure how much posting I’ll be able to do each day. Of course I’ll make it as much as I possibly can, but even though I’ve been to London before, this is actually the first overseas airplane trip The Patient Mrs. and I have taken together since… (pauses to ask her)… at least nine. We’ve done more travel separate inside the US and out, but yeah, it’s been a while since we hopped a plane together and crossed the Atlantic. I think last time we were in London together, Blast Tyrant had just come out.

My notes for next week are pretty vague. More so than usual. But here’s what I’ve got so far:

Mon.: Amorphis review.
Tue.: Witch Mountain review.
Wed.: Six Dumb Questions with Bong.
Thu.: Elephant Tree live review.
Fri.: Mr. Bison album stream.

Alright y’all, time to start doing laundry so I don’t go to the plane both with-a-baby and a foul-smelling mess. At least pretend I have it together for a little bit. You know how it goes.

Some potential news coming as regards August. And no, I don’t mean Psycho Las Vegas. I’m going to that. I’ve already said so. Something else.

Thanks for reading and please have a great and safe weekend. More Monday. Forum and Radio.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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Dee Calhoun, Go to the Devil: The Mad Cacophony

Posted in Reviews on May 7th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

dee-calhoun-go-to-the-devil

There’s something of a shadow cast over the second solo release from singer-songwriter “Screaming Mad” Dee Calhoun. Go to the Devil — released, like Calhoun‘s 2016 debut, Rotgut (review here), via Argonauta Records — follows the January 2018 passing of “Iron” Alfred Morris III, the guitarist and founder of what for the better part of the last decade has been Calhoun‘s main outlet, Iron Man. Morris‘ death, which to my understanding was protracted and painful enough to truly be a work of Maryland doom, effectively brought that band’s long and storied career to a close, and while Calhoun has already begun developing a new full-band outfit alongside the likes of Bruce Falkinburg (The Hidden Hand) called Thee Iron Hand, there’s no way the loss of Morris didn’t affect him deeply as it did the entire Maryland doom community, to whom Morris was at least an Iommic figurehead, if not a direct mentor.

I’m relatively certain Calhoun had written if not actually recorded Go to the Devil before Morris passed away — that would make the penultimate “Your Face” about some other deeply personal loss — but it’s hard to think of the release outside this context, even if it’s more likely to be directly addressed next time around. And listening to Go to the Devil, there’s little doubt there will be a next time around. The album tops 55 minutes and features 11 tracks, so if nothing else, Calhoun has plenty to say. Even more telling there’s a clear line of progression from Rotgut to Go to the Devil in terms of overall approach, Calhoun overseeing an expansion of arrangements compared to the first collection and collaborating with another Iron Man bandmate, bassist Louis Strachan.

The two started working together during live sets to support Rotgut, and as he did to Calhoun‘s stage performance, Strachan brings significant character of play to songs here like opener “Common Enemy,” “The Lotus Field is Barren” and the title-track itself, the latter bordering on a full-band-style arrangement with a shaker for percussion alongside the guitar, bass and vocals. And of course, it’s the vocals that feature. Calhoun is a singer, and more, a metal singer, and while Go to the Devil communes with country twang and the blues much like its predecessor, it’s still coming from that very metal place, with Calhoun willing to unleash his inner Halford on “Born (One-Horse Town),” “Jesus, the Devil, the Deed” — also the title of a novella Calhoun has penned — the harmonica-laden “The Ballad of Dixon Bridge” or six-minute closer “Dry Heaves and Needles,” which opens with a news sample about a child found in a car whose parents had overdosed and seems to directly speak to the opioid epidemic.

dee calhoun and louis strachan

That last song would seem to be as close as Calhoun comes to a social statement or critique on Go to the Devil — that is, he’s not writing protest folk songs or anything of the like — but the tradeoff there is that this collection by and large feels more personal than did Rotgut, with cuts like the aforementioned “Your Face,” as well as “Bedevil Me,” and “Me, Myself and I” taking on issues of depression and loss, and a return appearance from Dee‘s son, Rob Calhoun, adding personal flair to “The Ballad of Dixon Bridge.” Other songs may be just as personal, tracks like “The Final Stand of the Fallen” or “The Lotus Field is Barren,” but their emotional crux is couched in metaphor and storytelling, which is something at which Calhoun excels as a performer.

And it should be noted that Go to the Devil is more complex in its delivery than was the preceding album. That is, Calhoun — the power of his lungs well established — isn’t nearly so unipolar in his vocal execution. He’s not just screaming, and he’s not just mad. Sure, he raises a defiant middle finger in leather-vest fashion to St. Peter in the title-track, but on “The Final Stand of the Fallen,” “The Lotus Field is Barren” or the already noted “Your Face.’ This adds character to Go to the Devil on the whole, offsetting some of the whiskey-and-hellfire material and, in combination with the richer arrangements, making Go to the Devil a decisive forward step from Rotgut.

This is even more the reason why I said above there’s so likely to be a next time around; Calhoun hasn’t simple issued a follow-up to Rotgut doing the same thing all over again — he’s tapped into a creative progression of his own as a solo artist (if one with accompaniment) and his drive seems to be not to establish a formula and continue to work within it, despite some consistency of lyrical thematic, but to continue to charge ahead into territory yet unknown to him as a songwriter and a performer. Go to the Devil does that and succeeds with a foundation of memorable tracks offering a variety of moods and a quality of performance that acts as the thread tying them together. Thus far into his solo career, there would seem to be no goal Calhoun has set for himself creatively that he hasn’t surpassed.

Dee Calhoun, “Jesus, the Devil, the Deed” official video

Dee Calhoun website

Dee Calhoun on Thee Facebooks

Argonauta Records website

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Alms to Release Act One Later This Year on Shadow Kingdom

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 1st, 2018 by JJ Koczan

alms

With a logo made for vest patches and an organ-laced classic doom rollout, Baltimore’s Alms bring a a modern take to the established tenets of Maryland doom. After impressing with their first demo (review here) in 2017, the band not only bring those two tracks — “Dead Water” and the garage-doom-stomping “The Offering” — to the new record, but four others as well, to the new outing, which has been given a release date of “later this year.” I don’t want to start throwing darts, but maybe September? I don’t know. Their sound would suit autumn well. I know that much.

Whenever it shows up, Act One will bring with it a new edge to Maryland’s long-running arc of doom. Could it be that the sound is branching out from its ultra-straightforward riff-led methodology? I wouldn’t guess the trajectory of an entire region’s output, but Alms make an encouraging case either way.

From the PR wire:

alms act one

ALMS reveal first track from forthcoming SHADOW KINGDOM debut

Shadow Kingdom Records reveals the first track from Alms’ highly anticipated debut album, Act One. Titled “Dead Water,” you can hear the track HERE. Shadow Kingdom will be releasing Alms’ Act One on CD, vinyl LP, and cassette tape formats later this year.

Hailing from Baltimore, Alms honors Maryland’s rich heritage of doom metal with a swaggering, soulful sound that unselfconsciously spans decades and idioms. They made their first, grand steps with a two-song demo released at the beginning of 2017. Having already made waves in their local scene, this demo would soon spread like wildfire amongst doom fanatics, and soon the Alms name was on many a tongue. But alas, with the full-length Act One, that name will be on tongues worldwide.

Stomping forward across six BIG songs in a judiciously concise 34 minutes, Alms quickly establish a mood of both merriment and portent. Theirs is a sound which culls the bluesy ruminations of classic Deep Purple, the wild excursions of equally classic Uriah Heep, and the dark thunder of Maryland forebears The Obsessed. And yet, that aforementioned soul and swagger soon take center stage, both allowing the doom chunder to loosely lumber whilst putting a particularly pleading-for-deliverance aspect upon proceedings. It’s that eternal fire of the greatest rock music, especially in that pre-metal era of the 1970s, where fire and brimstone often coursed through rock ‘n’ roll, but near-equally pays homage to the heavy developments at the turn of the ’80s. But all of this would be for naught if Alms didn’t have the songs to back it up, and indeed does Act One have SONGS.

Head to the void or to the pub, or both: Alms will take you there (and back) with Act One! Hear for yourself with the new track “Dead Water” HERE at Shadow Kingdom’s Bandcamp. Release date and preorder info to be announced shortly. Cover and tracklisting are as follows:

Tracklisting for Alms’ Act One
1. Dead Water
2. The Toll
3. For Shame
4. The Offering
5. Deuces Low
6. Hollowed

Alms is:
Andrew Harris: Bass
Bob Sweeney: Guitar, Vocals
Derrick Hans: Drums
Jess Kamen: Keyboard, Vocals
Danny McDonald: Guitar

https://www.facebook.com/almsbaltimore/
https://almsbaltimore.bandcamp.com/releases
http://www.shadowkingdomrecords.com
http://www.facebook.com/shadowkingdomrecords

Alms, Act One (2018)

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Thought Eater Premiere “Bones in the Fire Pt. 1”; Album out May 18 on Grimoire Records

Posted in audiObelisk, Whathaveyou on April 26th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

thought eater

One has to wonder if when Baltimore’s Thought Eater chose their moniker they imagined they’d ever write material so evocative as that on their debut album, Bones in the Fire. Set for digital issue on May 18 via respected purveyor Grimoire Records, the new release runs an instrumentalist gamut from modern progressive metal to folk-tinged classic Zeppelinist whathaveyou, and with six tracks and a 40-minute playthrough, songs like “Speak Through Dreams,” “Covenant” and the two-part title-track — the first piece of which opens the record, the second is penultimate to closer “Umwelt” — there’s plenty of room for both sonic exploration and a current of noise rock to show themselves amid the central weavings of guitar and bass, reminiscent in their winding course of Leviathan-era and given added crunch of underlying aggression that staves off proggy self-indulgence entirely.

That’s not to say Bones in the Fire isn’t a progressive work. It’s just not a dick about it. The synth on “Umwelt” holds court in underscoring how far the three-piece of guitarist Douglas Griffith, 12-string bassist Darin Tambascio and drummer Bobby Murray have journeyed from “Bones in the Fire Pt. 1” and the blasting at the start of “Pantomimic Dances,” which follows, but there’s nothing overly showy about Thought Eater‘s presentation. They’re writing songs, not putting on a clinic.

And I think the difference is audible even just in the sampling you can find at the bottom of this post of the album’s wares in the form of the track premiere of “Bones in the Fire Pt. 1.” It doesn’t speak for the whole of the record stylistically, but it certainly gives a sense of the Noel Mueller-recorded impact that Thought Eater make in terms of tone and rhythmic intensity.

One more time, release date is May 18. Here’s info off the PR wire and that track premiere for your streaming enjoyment:

thought eater bones in the fire

I’m glad to report that we’ve finished work on Thought Eater’s first proper full-length album, titled “Bones in the Fire.” This is the follow up to their first release, a split with Iron Jawed Guru called Vortex 6.

A brand new three-piece instrumental band from Baltimore, MD, featuring a 12-string bass through a big muff. This monstrosity is a standard bass with three of everything, producing a bizarre double-vision effect on every note. Uniquely hypnotic riffs reminiscent of High On Fire and Mastodon along with Black Sabbath-esque tempo changes are woven into angular, odd-time compositions. Prior to forming Though Eater, bassist Darin Tambascio was a founding member of the prog metal two-piece National Sunday Law and Graviton, which featured both members of NSL and Sacha Dunable from Intronaut.”

The crazy sounding 12 string bass is actually more prominent than ever, as is a more significant sprinkling of shimmery 12 string acoustic guitar, and occasional synths for added texture. However, on this album, you will find more a sprawling, almost meditative atmosphere, more proggy riffs, more weird harmonies, just.. more everything. They still sound like High on Fire, early Mastodon, and Zebulon Pike, but have managed to grow a couple of mutant appendages to their sound.

Here’s the pre-order page: https://grimoirerecords.bandcamp.com/album/bones-in-the-fire

“Bones in the Fire” is released on 5/18/18 world wide as a digital download via Grimoire Records. Will be available on Spotify, iTunes, Amazon mp3, and direct download through Bandcamp. No physical release for this one!

Thought Eater is Darin Tambascio (12 string bass), Douglas Griffith (guitar), and Bobby Murray (drums). “Bones in the Fire” was recorded by Noel Mueller in November of 2017 and January of 2018. Mixed and Mastered by Noel Mueller. Artwork by Andrew Notsch. © 2018 Grimoire Records.

https://www.facebook.com/thoughteaterband
https://grimoirerecords.bandcamp.com/album/bones-in-the-fire

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Gloop Announce The Tourist Due June 1; Premiere “Samurai Birthday”

Posted in audiObelisk, Whathaveyou on April 12th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

gloop

It slices! It dices! It… has riffs! Frederick, Maryland-based noisemakers Gloop may or may not cut through a thick-skinned tomato like it’s warm butter, but there is a definite sharpness to their forthcoming The Tourist release. Due out June 1 through respected recording house/release shop Grimoire Records, the eight-track outing is only 17 minutes long, but I’m inclined to call it a full-length anyway as there’s not much more I think one might ask of it than it delivers in terms of impact, flow — such as it is for material so angular in nature — and intensity. Punk in its roots, Gloop‘s second EP overall seems way more loyal to shenanigans than to genre, and that serves them well throughout.

One is reminded of mid-’90s Midwestern noise and post-hardcore acts who captured a similar head-about-to-explode unhinged sensibility to that which Gloop bring to a song like closer “Dancing Tongues” — among the longest cuts on The Tourist at a sprawling 2:42 — and that impression is only furthered by the raw recording job of Grimoire head Noel Mueller, who captures every crack in the voice of guitarist Dominic Gianninoto (also of Rhin), as well as the deft turns of drummer Max Detrich and bassist Blake Douglas on early rocker “Skunked” or the explosive 1:23-long “Salamander.” Whatever their sonic intention, Gloop harken to an age when post-hardcore was newly grown and still finding its way, kicking and screaming. They seem to be doing likewise, and the freshness of their approach suits them.

At the bottom of this post, you can stream the official premiere of “Samurai Birthday” from The Tourist. Though especially brief at 1:15, it nonetheless represents the frenetic energy of Gloop well and gives a quick, sans-bullshit glimpse of what they’re all about on an aesthetic level.

Mueller sent along the following info to go with the track premiere, including the preorder link for the album and tour dates. Have at it:

gloop the tourist

The band is called Gloop, and the release is a ~18 minute long ripper, short, sweet and insane sounding (probably the most shamelessly dirty and roomy recording I’ve ever done).

The band features Dominic Giannotto from Rhin on vocals and guitar. They’re a 3 piece noise rock/sludge band from Frederick, MD, and this is their second release and first time working with me/Grimoire Records.

The pre-order page: https://grimoirerecords.bandcamp.com/album/the-tourist

“The Tourist” is released on 6/1/18 on Limited Edition CD and high quality cassette, and digitally via Grimoire Records.

The band has the following dates lined up to celebrate the release:

6/07 Frederick, MD
6/07 Harrisonburg, VA
6/09 Charlottesville VA
6/10 Shepherdstown, WV
6/15 Philadelphia, PA
6/16 New York, NY
6/17 Baltimore, MD matinee with Thought Eater and Myopic
6/17 Harrisburg, PA

Credits:
Max Detrich – drums
Dominic Gianninoto – guitar/vox
Blake Douglas – bass

“The Tourist” was recorded by Noel Mueller on December 9th and 10th, 2017. Mixed and mastered by Noel Mueller for Gloop and Grimoire Records. Cover art by Mindy Sizemore, typography by Max, Blake and Dom, layout by Noel Mueller.

https://www.facebook.com/gloopband/
https://gloopmusic.bandcamp.com/releases
https://www.facebook.com/GrimoireRecords/
https://grimoirerecords.bandcamp.com/album/the-tourist

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