Gozu Announce June Tour Dates to Electric Funeral Fest

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 18th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

gozu (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I had the merry occasion last month to see Gozu twice. Once in their native Boston (review here), and the next night in Brooklyn (review here). Both nights, they killed. They were playing with a new drummer, and accordingly, one might’ve expected some lull as they get their feet under them with a new lineup dynamic, but their songs are fucking good that they just locked into them and went for it and the rest seemed to take care of itself. I’d expect that they’ll get even more solid as they go forward — certainly this upcoming tour in June will help that too — but it wasn’t like there was a lull when they played. They’re one of the strongest heavy rock acts to come out of New England in the last 15 years. Seeing them live is never anything but a boon to one’s evening.

They’re hitting some cool places on this tour as well — Lincoln, Nebraska, and Canton, Ohio, among some more expected stops in Chicago, Detroit, Buffalo, Brooklyn, etc. — so all the better as they make their way toward finishing off at Electric Funeral Fest in Denver, Colorado. Gozu have always put their work in and they continue to, but as I think the video below shows, their command of the stage has never been quite so palpable as it is now.

Their social medias post for the shows went as follows:

gozu june tour

Hitting the road in June and incredibly excited for these upcoming shows leading up to Electric Funeral Fest IV in Denver, CO!!

GOZU Tour
06.07.19 Friday Boston, MA Mid East Up
06.08.19 Saturday Brooklyn, NY Saint Vitus
06.09.19 Sunday Canton, OH Buzzbin
06.10.19 Monday Buffalo, NY Mohawk Place
06.11.19 Tuesday Detroit, MI Sanctuary
06.12.19 Wednesday Chicago, IL Reggies (Acid Witch, Against the Grain)
06.13.19 Thursday St. Paul, MN Turf Club
06.14.19 Friday Lincoln, NE 1867 Bar
06.15.19 Saturday Denver, CO Electric Funeral Fest- (Torche, Dead Meadow, Tombs, Call of The Void, Fotocrime, Un, GOZU, BUMMER, TEETH, the Munsens, The Lion’s Daughter, Sun Voyager, Trapped Within Burning Machinery, Chrome Waves, Horseneck, YATRA, Casket Huffer, Dizz Brew, THRA, Red Mesa.)

https://www.facebook.com/GOZU666
http://gozu.bandcamp.com
instagram.com/gozu666
https://twitter.com/GOZU666

Gozu, Live at Saint Vitus Bar, March 2, 2019

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Magic Circle, Departed Souls: A Way to Die

Posted in Reviews on April 3rd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

magic circle departed souls

There’s an awful lot of year left, so it’s probably best to avoid “best of”-type hyperbole, but it’s safe to say that whoever else puts out a traditional doom album in 2019 is going to have a hell of a time topping Magic Circle‘s Departed Souls. The Massachusetts five-piece’s third album and second through 20 Buck Spin behind 2015’s sophomore outing Journey Blind (review here) — they released the Scream Live! tape in 2016 as well — and their 2013 self-titled debut (review here). The intervening years between Journey Blind and Departed Souls would seem to have been crucial particularly for vocalist Brendan Radigan, who stepped in to act as live frontman for Pagan Altar. Singing for one of doom’s formative acts would seem to have had an effect on Radigan‘s approach, and where Journey Blind introduced a NWOBHM-style aspect to Magic Circle‘s sound, Departed Souls absolutely refuses to compromise between that and the doom that was so pervasive at their start.

I have said on more occasions than I care to count that classic metal belongs to doom, and Departed Souls proves it. Hell, “I’ve Found My Way to Die” alone might prove it, let alone anything else on the eight-song/45-minute LP. In terms of doom, they dig right to the root. The opening title-track begins with a synthesized-sounding sweep like that in Black Sabbath‘s “After Forever,” and from there, guitarists Chris Corry and Renato Montenegro begin a master class in tone and riff. Backed by the swing in Michael “Q” Quartulli‘s drums and the utterly crucial bass work of Justin DeTore, the two guitars fluidly drive tempo changes like that 3:33 into “Departed Souls,” where they kick into speedier shuffling after setting a middling pace prior — a classic Sabbathian move, and far from the last one on the album.

Particularly in terms of tone and the production of Will Killingsworth at Dead Air Studios Corry mixed and Andy Pearce and Matt Wortham mastered — it’s not just Black Sabbath, but particularly post-Master of Reality-era Sabbath, moving into the crunching riffs of Vol. 4Sabbath Bloody Sabbath and Sabotage circa 1973-’75, that seem to define album highlights like “Valley of the Lepers” and the closing “Hypnotized,” even as the melding of lead and rhythm tracks give the band an opportunity they most certainly take to make that style their own. One might say the same of the layers of background harmonies periodically surrounding Radigan in the otherwise relatively straightforward arrangements, as introduced in “Valley of the Lepers” and brought to bear in the acoustic-led “A Day Will Dawn Without Nightmares,” which follows, as well as on and off again throughout “Nightland,” “Gone Again” and the slower-marching “Hypnotized.” It’s not the first time he’s had backing vocals, but their use here shows not only his increased command of melody in his already-powerful voice, but the ability to use that command to a defined purpose. “A Day Will Dawn Without Nightmares” is a song that simply doesn’t happen either on Magic Circle or Journey Blind, but on Departed Souls, the band seems well at home in its making, Mellotron-style keys and all.

Magic Circle (Photo by Dakota Gordon)

Acoustic guitar returns on the side B interlude “Bird City Blues” placed right ahead of “Hypnotized,” but it’s an 80-second instrumental piece that seems intended to enhance the titular effect of the closer — i.e., hypnosis — and keyboards make even more of an impression in the subsequent “Nightland” and “Gone Again,” but it’s how it all comes together in “A Day Will Dawn Without Nightmares” that makes the difference, as well as the showcase the song provides for Radigan, though admittedly, that’s more a question of context than quality of performance. There isn’t a point on Departed Souls in which he or the band around him doesn’t shine, whether it’s repurposing the rhythm of the bridge riff to “Sabbra Cadabra” in “Gone Again” or building the hook to “I’ve Found My Way to Die” as an understated anthem of anti-conformity — the lines, “I will never die with the herd/I gotta make my stand/Right!,” efficiently capturing the middle-finger ideology that the earliest of heavy metal raised to the mainstream popular culture that left it on the margins and that has come in the years since to be one of metal’s most defining aspects. Who needs you when I’ve got this?

They make every crash of Q‘s drums in the finale count, every subtle interaction between the lead and rhythm guitars, as in the first half of “Nightland,” the uptempo side B leadoff that breaks to a stretch of harmonies and mellotron that borders on the progressive but never loses its rawer, essential edge before it builds back up into the solo apex that finishes. With the swaggering title-track at the outset and the morose dirge of “Hypnotized” capping, Departed Souls is every bit a work of the classic metal that inspired it. Magic Circle are obviously versed in the style in which they’re working, but Departed Souls pushes further and internalizes that in a way that showcases the growth on the part of the band over the last six years. It’s as though they’ve taken the best of the first two outings and moved them both another step forward. On the most basic level, their songwriting has never sounded stronger, and their performances have never seemed so assured.

Add to that the atmosphere brought forth from the tones of DeToreCorry and Montenegro — hell, even the snare has a classic pop — and Magic Circle have tapped into something genuinely special within their sound. Subtleties like the guitar layering in “Gone Again” or the, yes, cowbell in “Departed Souls,” or even just the way they delay the entry of the vocal harmonies, letting that opener and “I’ve Found My Way to Die” act as a salvo before expanding the palette in “Valley of the Lepers” speak to an overarching fruition to their approach that, even those who’ve stood behind them since the first record would’ve been unlikely to predict. It is a triumph of style and substance that without question deserves consideration among the best albums of 2019.

Magic Circle, Departed Souls (2019)

Magic Circle website

Magic Circle on Bandcamp

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Leather Lung Sign to Magnetic Eye Records; New Album Later This Year

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 29th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

There’s been a fair amount of Magnetic Eye Records news this week, all culled from a packed newsletter the imprint sent out last Friday like they were trying to sneak it in before the weekend. Yesterday, we highlighted the successful crowdfunding of the Black Sabbath Vol. 4 Redux and The Best of Black Sabbath project, and before that, it was the signings of Caustic Casanova and Brume. Today, it’s Boston’s own Leather Lung who serve as the capoff to a the label’s additions, and they come to the roster through now-labelmates Summoner, whose Chris Johnson produced Leather Lung‘s 2016 full-length debut, Lost in Temptation (review here). They apparently already have a new record in the can and ready to go, and it’ll serve as their Magnetic Eye debut later this year, even as they also take part in The Best of Black Sabbath, covering a yet-to-be-announced track from the forebears of doom.

Not sure what I’ll do if Magnetic Eye sends out another newsletter today but you know I try to keep up as best I can.

From the band and PR wire:

leather lung mer

Leather Lung is thrilled to announce we have joined the Magnetic Eye family! We are excited to work with such an amazing label amongst so many talented artists! Much more on the way!!

Says the label: LEATHER LUNG joins us after label and band circled each other for a good two years, thanks to the continued efforts of Summoner singer (and Deafheaven bassist) Chris Johnson to make a love connection. At last, this crushing Boston 4-piece has arrived at MERHQ with a love for 90’s sludge, outlaw country and delta blues and a record that’s built to destroy all preconceptions of what “stoner metal” is. Expect to see their already-completed new album landing early in the second half of 2019

Leather Lung is:
Mike: Vocals
Zach: Guitar/Backup Vocals
Ben: Drums
Jesse: Bass/Backup Vocals

https://www.facebook.com/leatherlungcult/
https://www.instagram.com/leather_lung/
https://leatherlungcult.bandcamp.com/

Leather Lung, Lost in Temptation (2016)

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Worshipper Stream “Coming Through” from Light in the Wire out May 17; UK & Europe Touring with The Skull

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 25th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

worshipper (Photo by Tim Bugbee)

I keep a running list of what I think are the best songs of the year. The standouts of the standouts. The first entry I put on that list this year was the track you can hear at the bottom of this post. Titled “Coming Through” — Sligo all day — the song begins Worshipper‘s upcoming second album, Light in the Wire, and is both forward-thinking in its progressivism and growth from their first record and still rooted in a memorable structure such that as the band’s craft expands, it doesn’t lost its heart. Couple that with the performance the four-piece bring to it, and yeah, I’ll put it down as one of the best songs I’m gonna hear this year, absolutely. Only one way to find out if you agree.

Light in the Wire is out May 17 through Tee Pee Records, and in addition to playing Desertfest New York in April, Worshipper will hit the road for 10 days in Europe with labelmates The Skull and make stops at Desertfest in London and Berlin as well.

The PR wire has all the info:

worshipper light in the wire

Worshipper to Release New LP, ‘Light in the Wire’, May 17

Through its unique mix of contemporary and classic influences, Boston’s Worshipper proves that the fiery soul of melodic heavy music still burns brightly. The award-winning band takes all the fragments we love about legendary metal groups and molds them into shining shards of standout R’N’R. Worshipper will release its new LP, ‘Light in the Wire’, on May 17 via Tee Pee Records. The record is the full-length follow up to Worshipper’s 2016 debut, ‘Shadow Hymns.’

A sneak-peek as to what ‘Light in the Wire’ holds in store can be heard now, as Worshipper has made the album’s lead track, “Coming Through” available for streaming.

On its glowing new LP, ‘Light in the Wire’, Worshipper rocks like a hurricane as its high energy songs surge behind standout songwriting, shredding solos and memorable melodies. Classic rock-inspired arrangements meet modern rock creativity when Worshipper cranks it to 11. Worshipper recorded ‘Light in the Wire’ with Chris Johnson (also of Deafheaven, Summoner, etc.) at GodCity Studios and The Electric Bunker with the intention to capture a sonic narrative resulting in a fluidity tying the two sides of the album together even as individual pieces stand out with a sheen of classic heavy metal, rock, psychedelia and prog.

Worshipper will kick off live dates in support of ‘Light in the Wire’ with a performance at the inaugural Desertfest New York, set to take place April 26-28 in Brooklyn. For more details, visit this location.

Track listing:
1.) Coming Through
2.) Who Holds the Light
3.) Nobody Else
4.) Light in the Wires
5.) Visions From Beyond
6.) It All Comes Back
7.) Wither on the Vine
8.) Arise

Pre-order ‘Light in the Wire’ at this location.

Worshipper w/ The Skull:
05.01 – TBA
05.02 – Brussels, Belgium @ Magasin 4
05.04 – London, Desertfest @ The Underworld Camden
05.05 – Berlin, Desertfest @ The Arena
05.07 – TBA
05.08 – Goteborg, Sweden @ Truckstop Alaska
05.09 – TBA
05.10 – Helsinki, Finland
05.11 – Sala, Sweden @ Rockland

Worshipper features Alejandro Necochea (lead guitar / synth), John Brookhouse (vocals / guitar), Dave Jarvis (drums) and Bob Maloney (vocals, bass).

Worshipper, “Coming Through”

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Quarterly Review: Bellrope, Cracked Machine, The Sky Giants, Sacred Monster, High ‘n’ Heavy, Warlung, Rogue Conjurer, Monovine, Un & Coltsblood, La Grande Armée

Posted in Reviews on March 25th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-spring-2019

Day Six. Not that there wasn’t a bit of a crunch along the way, but I definitely think this Quarterly Review was aided by the fact that I dug so much of what I was writing about on a personal-taste level. You get through it one way or the other, but it just makes it more fun. Today is the last day and then it’s back to something approaching normal tomorrow, but of course before this thing is rounded out I want to thank you as always for taking the time and for reading if you did. It means a tremendous amount to me to put words out and have people see them, so thank you for your part in that.

This could’ve easily gone seven or eight or 10 days if scheduling had permitted, but here’s as good a place to leave it. The next one will probably be the first week of July or thereabouts, so keep an eye out.

Quarterly Review #51-60:

Bellrope, You Must Relax

bellrope you must relax

How much noise can your brain take? I don’t mean noise like start-stop riffs and dudes shouting. I mean actual, abrasive, amelodic noise. Bellrope, with ex-members of the underrated Black Shape of Nexus start their Exile on Mainstream-delivered debut album, You Must Relax, with three minutes of chaff-separation they’re calling “Hollywood 2001/Rollrost.” It’s downright caustic. Fortunately, what follows on the four subsequent extended tracks devotes itself to lumbering post-sludge that’s at least accessible by comparison. “Old Overholt” is the only other inclusion under 10 minutes as the tracks are arranged shortest to longest with the 17:57 “CBD/Hereinunder” concluding. The thickened tones brought to bear throughout “Old Overholt” and the blend of screams and growls that accompany are more indicative of what follows on the centerpiece title-track and the penultimate “TD2000,” but the German four-piece still manage to sound plenty fucked throughout. Just not painfully so. There’s something threatening about the use of the word “must” in the album’s title. The songs realize that threat.

Bellrope on Thee Facebooks

Exile on Mainstream Records website

 

Cracked Machine, The Call of the Void

Cracked Machine The Call of the Void

Here be dragons. Though its core tonality is still within the bounds of heavy rock, Wiltshire, UK, four-piece bring a far more atmospheric and progressive style to fruition on their second album, The Call of the Void, than it might at first appear. With post-rock float to the guitar of Bill Denton, keyboard textures from Clive Noyes, and fluid rhythms carried through changes in volume and ambience from bassist Christ Sutton and drummer Blazej Gradziel, the PsyKA Records outfit present a cerebral seven tracks/47 minutes of immersive and seemingly conceptual work, with opener “Jormungandr” establishing the context in which each song that follows is named for a different culture’s dragon, whether it’s the Hittite “Illuyanka,” Japan’s “Yamata No Orochi” or the Persian “Azi Dahakar.” Cracked Machine use this theme to tie pieces together, and they push farther out as the record unfolds late with “Typhon” and “Vritra” a closing pair of marked scope. The shortest cut, the earlier 5:14 “Kirimu,” has probably the most straightforward push, but Cracked Machine demonstrate an ability to adapt to the needs of whatever idea they’re working to convey.

Cracked Machine on Thee Facebooks

PsyKA Records webstore

 

The Sky Giants, The Shifting of Phaseworld

the sky giants the shifting of phaseworld

Taking cues from psychedelia almost as much as jangly West Coast noise and punk, Tacoma, Washington’s The Sky Giants offer the 10-track sophomore outing The Shifting of Phaseworld, which finds a balance in songs like “Dream Receiver” between progressive heavy rock and its rawer foundations. The trio of guitarist/vocalist Jake Frye, bassist Jessie Avery and drummer/vocalist/engineer/graphic artist Peter Tietjen are comfortable tipping from one side to the other between and within songs, starting off with the shove of “Technicolor Kaleidoscope” and getting mathy on the later “Half Machine” ahead of the chunkier-riffed “Rhyme and the Flame,” which somehow touches on classic punk even as it hones a wash of distortion that that has to cut through. Closing each side with a longer track in the rolling, airy “Solid State” (6:53) and the frenetic ending of “Simian” (7:38), The Sky Giants stake out a sonic terrain very much their own throughout The Shifting of Phaseworld and only seem to expand their territory as they go.

The Sky Giants on Thee Facebooks

The Sky Giants on Bandcamp

 

Sacred Monster, Worship the Weird

sacred monster worship the weird

Topped off by the ace screams of vocalist Adam Szczygiel, who taps his inner Devin Townsend circa Strapping Young Lad on “High Confessor” and “Re-Animator,” Sacred Monster‘s debut album, Worship the Weird would seem to cull together elements of Orange Goblin and Bongzilla for a kind of classic-metal-aware sludge rock, the riffs of Robert Nubel not at all shy about digging into aggressive vibes to go with the layers of growls and throatrippers and the occasional King Diamond-esque falsetto, as on “Waverly Hills,” as bassist Guillermo Moreno and drummer Ted Nubel bolster that feel with tight turns and duly driven bottom end. I’ll take “Face of My Father” as a highlight, if only for the excruciating sound of Szczygiel‘s screech, but the swing in closer “Maze of Dreams” has an appeal of its own, and as a Twilight Zone and a Shatner fan, “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” offers its own charm.

Sacred Monster on Thee Facebooks

Sacred Monster on Bandcamp

 

High n’ Heavy, Warrior Queen

high n heavy warrior queen

Shades of grunge and skate-fuzz fuckall pervade the Sabbathian grooves of High n’ Heavy‘s second album, Warrior Queen, as guitarist John Steele works some doomly keys into second cut “Shield Maiden” and vocalist Kris Fortin moves in and out of throaty shouts on side B’s “Lydia.” They thrash out in the noisy “Catapult” and Nick Perrone‘s drums seem to bounce even in the longer-winded “Lands Afar” and closer “Smell of Decay / Wings and Claw,” on which Mike Dudley‘s rumble backs classically metallic shred in the lead guitar after offering likewise support to the piano in the early going of “Join the Day.” Released through Electric Valley Records, the eight-song/36-minute LP comes across as raw but not without purpose in that, and its blend of tonal thickness and the blend of thrust and nod does well to ensure High n’ Heavy remain unpredictable while also living up to the standard of their moniker. There’s potential here that’s worth further exploration on the part of the band.

High n’ Heavy on Thee Facebooks

Electric Valley Records website

 

Warlung, Immortal Portal

Warlung Immortal Portal

Houston, Texas, four-piece make a quick case for the attention of Ripple Music on their sophomore outing, Immortal Portal, which is slickly-but-not-too-slickly produced and sharply-but-not-too-sharply executed, a professional sensibility in “Black Horse Pike” and the subsequent “The Palm Reader” — which manages to be influenced melodically by Uncle Acid without sounding just like them — ahead of the ’80s metallurgy of “Heart of a Sinner” and the reference-packed “1970.” “We All Die in the End” gives an uptempo swing to the opening salvo ahead of the more brooding “Between the Dark and the Light,” but Warlung hold firm to clearly-presented melodies and riff-led rhythms no matter where they seem to go in mood or otherwise. That ties the drift of the later “Heavy Echoes” to the earlier material and makes the harmony-laced “No Son of Mine” and the organ-ic proggy sprawling finale “Coal Minors” all the more effective in reaching beyond where the album started, so that the listener winds up in a different landscape than they started, still grounded, but changed nonetheless.

Warlung on Thee Facebooks

Warlung on Bandcamp

 

Rogue Conjurer, Of the Goddess / Crystal Mountain Lives

rogue conjurer of the goddess

Originally released digitally by the Baltimore-based unit in 2017, the two-songer Of the Goddess / Crystal Mountain Lives sees pressing as an ultra-limited tape via Damien Records and finds the three-piece of guitarist/bassist/vocalist Tonie Joy, drummer Colin Seven and organist Donny Van Zandt — since replaced by Trevor Shipley — honing a psychedelic take on doomly riffs and groove. “Crystal Mountain Lives” has a more distinct nod to its central progression, with a wah-drenched break and greater overall largesse of fuzz, but “Of the Goddess” brings an effective almost shoegazing sense to its downer spirit. The first track is also longer, so it has more time to move from that initial impression to its own payoff, but either way you go, Rogue Conjurer bring out their dead ably on the tape, showing influences from heavy psych and beyond as “Of the Goddess” winds its way to its close and “Crystal Mountain Lives” begins its fade-in all over again. No pretense, but a broad range that would allow for some if they wanted.

Rogue Conjurer on Instagram

Damien Records on Bandcamp

 

Monovine, D.Y.E

monovine dye

Athens heavy rockers Monovine wear their grunge influence proudly on their third full-length, D.Y.E, issued late in 2018 digitally with an early 2019 vinyl release. It’s writ large in the Nirvana-ism of the slurring “Mellow” at the outset and remains a factor through the melodies of “Void” and the later punkery of “Messed Up” or “Ring a Bell,” as well as the toying-with-pop “Me (Raphe Nuclei)” and “Your Figure Smells,” but where Monovine succeed in making that influence their own is by filtering it through a fuzzier presentation. The guitar and bass tones keep a modern heavy feel, and as the drums roll and crash through songs like “For a Sun” and “Why Don’t You Shoot Me in the Head,” that makes a difference in the overall impression the album leaves. Still, there’s little question as to their central point of inspiration, and they bring it out in homage and as a fairly honed mode of expression on closer “Haunt,” which teases an explosion in its melancholy strum and then… well, don’t let me spoil it.

Monovine on Thee Facebooks

Monovine on Bandcamp

 

Un & Coltsblood, Split

un coltsblood split

A festering 42 minutes of lurching agonies, Un and Coltsblood‘s split taps the best of modern death-doom’s emotionalism and bent toward extremity. Billed as a “tribute to grief: the final act of love,” it brings just two tracks, one per band, as Coltsblood open with “Snows of the Winter Realm” and Un follow with “Every Fear Illuminated.” Both bands proffer a terrifyingly weighted plod and offset it with a spacious ambience, whether it’s Un departing their grueling nod after about six and a half minutes only to build back up over the next six and grow more ferocious until devolving into noise and slamming crashes ahead of an outro of echoing, needs-a-tune-sounding piano, or Coltsblood fostering their own tonal brutalism and casting their lot with death and black metal while a current of airy guitar seems to mourn the song even as it plays out. Each cut is a monument built to loss, and their purpose in conveying that theme is both what unites them and what makes their work so ultimately consuming, as grief is.

Un on Thee Facebooks

Coltsblood on Thee Facebooks

 

La Grande Armée, La Grande Armée

La Grande Armée La Grande Armée

The blend of drifting guitar and psychedelic wash on opener “El Canto de las Ballenas” earns La Grande Armée‘s self-titled debut three-song EP immediate favor, and the patient execution they bring to the subsequent “Tripa Intergaláctica” and “Normandía,” particularly the latter, only furthers that appeal. The Chilean trio keep a decidedly natural feel to the exploratory-seeming work, and if this is them finding their sound, they seem happy to do it by losing themselves in their jams. All the better someone thought to press record, since although there’s clearly some trajectory behind the progression of songs — i.e., they know at least to a degree where they want to end up — the process of getting there comes across as spontaneous. Guitar pans channels as bass and drums hold down languid flow, and even in the more active midsection of “Tripa Intergaláctica,” La Grande Armée there’s a sense that it’s more about the space being created than the construction under way. In any case, wherever they want to head next, they would seem to have the means of travel at their disposal.

La Grande Armée on Thee Facebooks

La Grande Armée on Bandcamp

 

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Live Review: All Them Witches in Boston, MA, 03.20.19

Posted in Reviews on March 22nd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

All Them Witches (Photo by JJ Koczan)

The sun was setting quickly as I parked in the lot across from The Sinclair in Cambridge, surrounded by swank Harvard tourist traps and the restaurants that rightfully gouge the parents of the privileged and talented. It was the vernal equinox; the first day of Spring, and at night, a supermoon would loom large over a navy blue sky that might otherwise be black. Amid all this natural phenomena, Nashville’s All Them Witches were headlining a two-band bill, and though I walked in only minutes after doors opened, I still couldn’t get a spot in front of the middle of the stage to take pictures. A band about whom their fans feel strongly. So be it.

I was early, well in time to catch openers Plague Vendor, whose frontman gangly-jellylegged and James Brown‘ed and DavidBowie-via-NickCave‘d as the band behind him held down solid harder-hitting post-punk vibes, some groovy rockers, songs about getting drunk on highways, sex, the like. Stuff the kids do. They were aerobic, and not entirely my speed, but they put on a good show, said frontman at one point grabbing the Red Sox hat off a dude in the front row — and, much to his credit, confirming quickly that it was okay he did so — and wearing it down over his eyes as he wound up as though to pitch the start of the next verse. It was a nice move, and he gave the hat back after.

Crowd ate it up. I got silently cynical about the music industry, but whatever. If I was into fun, I’d probably have been all over it. You know how it goes.

They finished — may they never go bald; may they never get fat — and the room had a moment to breathe before All Them Witches went on with “War Pigs” as their intro. I don’t want to say it like I’m Jonny Investigativereporter or something, but I was curious to seem them. I’ll admit that. I’ve been fortunate enough to encounter All Them Witches live a couple times since they started touring, and since late last year when the band announced they’d parted ways with keyboardist Jonathan Draper, who was brought in ahead of their 2018 album, ATW (review here), and would remain a trio for the foreseeable future, I wanted to know how it would affect their sound. With five records, they certainly have enough material to draw from that they don’t have to focus on stuff that featured the work of Draper or the Fender Rhodes of Allan Van Cleave, whom Draper replaced, but it was a chance to see the band on a decent-size stage as they took on this task of renewing their approach. I wanted to see how they did it.

Well, bassist/vocalist Charles Michael Parks, Jr., guitarist Ben McLeod and drummer Robby Staebler hit the stage, went into “Funeral for a Great Drunken Bird” from 2013’s Lightning at the Door (review here), “3-5-7” from 2017’s  Sleeping Through the War (review here) and the brooding single “Diamond” from ATW, and I swear to you — this is completely honest; not exaggeration, not hyperbole, not a convenience of a narrative I’m trying to build — I forgot all about it. It wasn’t until after they were through “1st vs. 2nd” from the new album and “Dirt Preachers” from 2015’s Dying Surfer Meets His Maker (review here), “Fishbelly 86 Onions” and its subdued fellow ATW track “Harvest Feast” — which Parks introduced by saying, “This is a blues song. Time to get blue,” that I even remembered to think about it. In the meantime, ParksMcLeod and Staebler jammed their way into wide open psych-blues spaces and gave the answer to the question: they’re moving forward. That’s all there was to it.

They had no trouble at all stating their case to the room. One imagines that owning the larger stage as they did was something they mastered while on tour last summer with Mastodon and Primus playing amphitheaters and the like, but either way, whether it was Parks‘ grungey charisma leaning into the mic or the dry wit of his stage banter, the manner in which Staebler seemed to throw his whole body into the groove as he always has, but this time all the more looming for being on a riser, or McLeod seeming to step somewhat reluctantly — he’s usually pretty quiet on stage — forward in carrying forth the atmospherics of a song like “Warhorse” from the newest LP, or for that matter in the jam of “Harvest Feast” just before. His presence was quiet but not lacking energy, as, with his hair largely in front of his face, he helped guide the way through the subtly progressive aspects of the material.

I don’t think All Them Witches would’ve chosen to be a three-piece if you’d asked a few years ago, but they can make it work, and more importantly, keep progressing in this form should they so desire. They made highlights of “Charles William” and “When God Comes Back” from Lightning at the Door, playing them back to back before turning on the disco ball for Sleeping Through the War‘s “Alabaster” because, as Parks noted, “It’s a dance song.” And so it was. Perhaps not in the same sense of the heavier parts of “When God Comes Back” — which was one of several moments that actually had people moshing; any excuse to throw a punch in this town — but a dance song nonetheless and one that not only showcased the range of the band’s work, but the dynamic nature in which they’ve learned to pull it all off live.

The regular set capped with “Swallowed by the Sea,” again from Lightning at the Door, and they left the stage, only to come back out for “Blood and Sand/Milk and Endless Waters” from Dying Surfer Meets His Maker, which was as fitting an end as anything as they took the song and ran with it in a jam as they had with “Harvest Feast” earlier. There’s no question that the lineup shift has changed them, and maybe this tour is how they’re getting their feet under them in this form, or maybe that’s a multi-tour process as they continue to grow, but the terrifying truth of All Them Witches is just that: Growth. In the time since their 2012 debut, Our Mother Electricity (review here), their progression has never stopped, and though certain aspects of their approach are defined in terms of how they play or perform, they’ve never really settled in terms of sound. Their next record will be different, but honestly, it was going to be different anyway. Which two All Them Witches records sound the same?

Maybe they’ll add a fourth member, maybe not. The question was no longer on my mind as I made my way out of The Sinclair and back to the parking lot across the street to pay the robot and make my way home under that night-blue sky that seemed all the more appropriate given what I’d just witnessed.

Thanks for reading. More pics after the jump.

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Quarterly Review: Electric Octopus, Crypt Trip, Love Gang & Smokey Mirror, Heavy Feather, Faith in Jane, The Mound Builders, Terras Paralelas, The Black Heart Death Cult, Roadog & Orbiter, Hhoogg

Posted in Reviews on March 21st, 2019 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-spring-2019

Day four of the six-dayer. Head’s a little reeling, but I’m not sure any more so than, say, last week at this time. I’d be more specific about that, but oddly enough, I don’t hook my brain up to medical scanners while doing reviews. Seems like an oversight on my part, now that I think about it. Ten years later and still learning something new! How about that internet, huh?

Since I don’t think I’ve said it in a couple days, I’ll remind you that the hope here is you find something you dig. There’s a lot of cool stuff in this batch, so that should at least make skimming through it fun if you go that route. Either way, thanks for reading if you do.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Electric Octopus, Smile

Electric Octopus Smile

It’s been about two months since Electric Octopus posted Smile, so they’re about due for their next release. So, quick! Before this 82-minute collection of insta-chill jams is out of date, there’s still time to consider it their latest offering. Working as the four-piece of Tyrell Black and Dale Hughes — both of whom share bass and guitar duties — drummer Guy Hetherington and synthesist Stevie Lennox, the Belfast improv jammers rightfully commence with the 25-minute longest track (immediate points) “Abberation” (sic), which evolves and devolves along its course and winds up turning from a percussive jam to a guitar-led build up that still stays gloriously mellow even as it works its way out. You can almost hear the band moving from instrument to instrument, and that’s the point. The much shorter “Spiral,” “Dinner at Sea, for One” and closer “Mouseangelo” bring in a welcome bit of funk, “Moth Dust” explores minimalist reaches of guitar and ambient drumming, and “Hyperloop” digs into fuzz-soaked swirl before cleaning up its act in the last couple minutes. These cats j-a-m. May they do so into perpetuity.

Electric Octopus on Thee Facebooks

Electric Octopus on Bandcamp

 

Crypt Trip, Haze County

crypt trip haze county

Onto the best-albums-of-2019 list go San Marcos, Texas, trio Crypt Trip, who, sonically speaking, are way more Beto O’Rourke than Ted Cruz. The three-piece have way-way-upped the production value and general breadth from their 2018 Heavy Psych Sounds debut, Rootstock, and the clarity of purpose more than suits them as they touch on ’70s country jams and hard boogie and find a new melodic vocal confidence that speaks to guitarist Ryan Lee as a burgeoning frontman as well as the shredder panning channels in “To Be Whole.” Fortunately, he’s backed by bassist Sam Bryant and drummer Cameron Martin in the endeavor, and as ever, it’s the rhythm section that gives the “power trio” its power. Centerpiece “Free Rain” is a highlight, but so is the pedal steel of intro “Forward” and the later “Pastures” that precedes six-minute closer “Gotta Get Away,” which makes its transport by means of a hypnotic drum solo from Martin. Mark it a win and go to the show. That’s all you can do. Haze County is a blueprint for America’s answer to Europe’s classic heavy rock movement.

Crypt Trip on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds website

 

Love Gang & Smokey Mirror, Split Double EP

smokey mirror love gang split double ep

A bit of Tull as Love Gang‘s flute-inclusive opener “Can’t Seem to Win” skirts the line of the proggier end of ’70s worship. The Denver outfit and Dallas’ Smokey Mirror both present three tracks on Glory or Death RecordsSplit Double EP, and Love Gang back the leadoff with “Break Free” and “Lonely Man,” reveling in wall-o’-fuzz chicanery and organ-laced push between them, making their already unpredictable style less predictable, while Smokey Mirror kick off side B in particularly righteous fashion via the nine-minute “Sword and Scepter,” which steps forth to take ultra-Sabbathian ownership of the release even as the filthy tone of “Sucio y Desprolijo” and the loose-swinging Amplified Heat-style megashuffle of “A Thousand Days in the Desert” follow. Two bands in the process of finding their sound coming together to serve notice of ass-kickery present and future. If you can complain about that, you’re wrong.

Love Gang on Thee Facebooks

Smokey Mirror on Thee Facebooks

Glory or Death Records BigCartel store

 

Heavy Feather, Débris & Rubble

Heavy Feather Debris & Rubble

Very much a solid first album, Heavy Feather‘s 11-song Débris & Rubble lands at a run via The Sign Records and finds the Stockholm-based classic heavy blues rockers comporting with modern Euro retroism in grand fashion. At 41 minutes, it’s a little long for a classic-style LP if one measures by the eight-track/38-minute standard, but the four-piece fill that time with a varied take that basks in sing-along-ready hooks like those of post-intro opener “Where Did We Go,” the Rolling Stones-style strutter “Waited All My Life,” and the later “I Spend My Money Wrong,” which features not the first interplay of harmonica and lead guitar amid its insistent groove. Elsewhere, more mellow cuts like “Dreams,” or the slide-infused “Tell Me Your Tale” and the closing duo of the Zeppelinian “Please Don’t Leave” and the melancholy finisher “Whispering Things” assure Débris & Rubble never stays in one place too long, though one could say the same of the softshoe-ready boogie in “Hey There Mama” as well. On the one hand, they’re figuring it out. On the other, they’re figuring it out.

Heavy Feather on Thee Facebooks

The Sign Records on Bandcamp

 

Faith in Jane, Countryside

Faith in Jane Countryside

Five full-lengths deep into a tenure spanning a decade thus far, Faith in Jane have officially entered the running to be one of the best kept secrets of Maryland heavy. Their late-2018 live-recorded studio offering, Countryside, clocks in at just under an hour of organic tonality and performance, bringing a sharp presentation to the chemistry that’s taken hold among the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Dan Mize, bassist Brendan Winston and drummer Alex Llewellyn, with Mize taking extended solos on the Wino model throughout early cuts “All is All” and “Mountain Lore” while the trio adds Appalachian grunge push to the Chesapeake’s flowing groove while building “Blues for Owsley” from acoustic strum to scorching cacophonous wash and rolling out the 9:48 “Hippy Nihilism” like the masters of the form they’re becoming. It’s not a minor undertaking in terms of runtime, but for those in on what these cats have been up to all the while, hard to imagine Countryside is seen as anything other than hospitable.

Faith in Jane on Thee Facebooks

Faith in Jane on Bandcamp

 

The Mound Builders, The Mound Builders

The Mound Builders The Mound Builders

Lafayette, Indiana’s The Mound Builders last year offered a redux of their 2014 album, Wabash War Machine (review here), but that was their last proper full-length. Their self-titled arrives as eight bruiser slabs of weighted sludge/groove metal, launching with its longest track (immediate points) in the 7:30 “Torchbearer,” before shifting into the outright screams-forward pummel of “Hair of the Dogma” and the likewise dry-throated “Separated from Youth.” By the time they get to the hardcore-punk-via-sludge of “Acid Slugs,” it’s not a little heavy. It’s a lot heavy. And it stays that way through the thrashing “Star City Massacre” and “Regolith,” hitting the brakes on “Broken Pillars” only to slam headfirst into closer “Vanished Frontier.” Five years later and they’re still way pissed off. So be it. The four-formerly-five-piece were never really all that gone, but they still seem to have packed an extended absence’s worth of aggro into their self-titled LP.

The Mound Builders on Thee Facebooks

Failure Records and Tapes

 

Terras Paralelas, Entre Dois Mundos

TERRAS PARALELAS ENTRE DOIS MUNDOS

It’s a fluid balance between heavy rock and progressive metal Terras Paralelas make in the six inclusions on their debut full-length, Entre Dois Mundos. The Brazilian instrumentalist trio keep a foundation of metallic kickdrumming beneath “Do Abismo ao Triunfo,” and even the chugging in “Espirais e Labirintos” calls to mind some background in harder-hitting fare, but it’s set against a will toward semi-psychedelic exploration, making the giving the album a sense of refusing to play exclusively to one impulse. This proves a strength in the lengthier pieces that follow “Infinito Cósmico” and “Do Abismo ao Triunfo” at the outset, and as Terras Paralelas move from the mellower “Bom Presságio” and “Espirais e Labirintos” into the more spaciously post-rocking “Nossa Jornada Interior” and the nine-minute-plus prog-out title-track that closes by summarizing as much as pushing further outward, one is left wondering why such distinctions might matter in the first place. Kudos to the band for making them not.

Terras Paralelas on Thee Facebooks

Terras Paralelas on Bandcamp

 

The Black Heart Death Cult, The Black Heart Death Cult

the black heart death cult the black heart death cult

Though one wouldn’t accuse The Black Heart Death Cult of being the first cumbersomely-named psych-rocking band in the current wave originating in Melbourne, Australia, their self-titled debut is nonetheless a gorgeous shimmer of classic psychedelia, given tonal presence through guitar and bass, but conjuring an ethereal sensibility through the keys and far-back vocals like “She’s a Believer,” tapping alt-reality 1967 vibes there while fostering what I hear is called neo-psych but is really just kinda psych throughout the nodding meander of “Black Rainbow,” giving even the more weighted fuzz of “Aloha From Hell” and the distortion flood of “Davidian Dream Beam” a happier context. They cap with the marshmallowtron hallucinations of “We Love You” and thereby depart even the ground stepped on earlier in the sitar-laced “The Magic Lamp,” finding and losing and losing themselves in the drifting ether probably not to return until, you know, the next record. When it shows up, it will be greeted as a liberator.

The Black Heart Death Cult on Thee Facebooks

Oak Island Records webstore

 

Orbiter & Roadog, Split

orbiter roadog split

I’m pretty sure the Sami who plays drums in Orbiter is the same dude playing bass in Roadog, but I could easily be wrong about that. Either way, the two Finnish cohort units make a fitting complement to each other on their two-songer 7″ single, which presents Orbiter‘s six-minute “Anthropocene” with the hard-driving title-track of Roadog‘s 2018 full-length, Reinventing the Wheels. The two tracks have a certain amount in common, mostly in the use of fuzz and some underlying desert influence, but it’s what they do with that that makes all the difference between them. Orbiter‘s track is spacier and echoing, where “Reinventing the Wheels” lands more straightforward in its three minutes, its motoring riff filled out by some effects but essentially manifest in dead-ahead push and lyrics about a motorcycle. They don’t reinvent the wheel, as it happens, and neither do Orbiter, but neither seems to want to do so either, and both bands are very clearly having a blast, so I’m not inclined to argue. Good fun and not a second of pretense on either side.


Orbiter on Thee Facebooks

Roadog on Thee Facebooks

 

Hhoogg, Earthling, Go Home!

hhoogg Earthling Go Home

Space is the place where you’ll find Boston improvisationalists Hhoogg, who extend their fun penchant for adding double letters to the leadoff “Ccoossmmooss” of their exclamatory second self-released full-length, Earthling, Go Home!, which brings forth seven tracks in a vinyl-ready 37 minutes and uses that opener also as its longest track (immediate points) to set a molten tone to the proceedings while subsequent vibes in “Rustic Alien Living” and the later, bass-heavy “Recalled to the Pyramids” range from the Hendrixian to the funkadelicness he helped inspire. With a centerpiece in “Star Wizard, Headless and Awake,” a relatively straightforward three-minute noodler, the four-piece choose to cap with “Infinitely Gone,” which feels as much like a statement of purpose and an aesthetic designation as a descriptor for what’s contained within. In truth, it’s a little under six minutes gone, but jams like these tend to beg for repeat listens anyway. There’s some growing to do, but the melding of their essential chemistry is in progress, and that’s what matters most. The rest is exploration, and they sound well up for it.

Hhoogg on Thee Facebooks

Hhoogg on Bandcamp

 

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Live Review: Gozu, Kings Destroy, Forming the Void and Test Meat in Boston, 03.01.19

Posted in Reviews on March 4th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Gozu (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Someday the Middle East will be gone. The real estate is simply too valuable. Walking up to what’s one of Boston’s most celebrated venues, you can see the encroaching condos across the street looming over the restaurant, nightclub and huge Downstairs basement space like skeletal godzillae, hollow inside and just waiting for their alluring names to add to the faux-distinguished aesthetic. They will conquer, maul, consume and dismember ex-culture even as they celebrate the “spirit” of the place and little the street with green straws. This will be the story of Boston until the city drowns.

But while it’s still there, it’s all the more worth appreciating for its inevitably-fleeting nature, so I got off my ass and did that. Gozu headlining the Middle East UpstairsMidEastUp to the locals, which after six-plus years living in the area, I’m still not — as the second of three nights with New York’s Kings Destroy and Louisiana’s Forming the Void, plus Test Meat added as a fourth, Boston-based bookend opener.

The crowd was there early and stayed late and the vibe was a party all the way through. Here’s how it went down:

Test Meat

Test Meat (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Darryl Shepherd is nothing less than an institution. In the pantheon of New England heavy rock and roll, his decades of contributions in bands like Slapshot, Milligram, Roadsaw, Hackman, Blackwolfgoat, etc., are a CV that is a touchstone of the Boston underground. The man, in short, is a treasure, and rather than rest on his considerable laurels, he continues to move forward. Test Meat began as a trio and has pared down to the two-piece of Shepherd on guitar/vocals and Mike Nashawaty (ex-Planetoid) on drums. They played set up on opposite sides of the stage, both toward the front, and with Nashawaty‘s cannon-esque kick drum facing Shepherd head on. Shades of classic grunge were given a noise rock underpinning songs like “Brunt” and “Class,” the purposefully short songs digging intensely into the punk roots of Nirvana with some of Helmet‘s tonal crunch and penchant for starts and stops. Their 2018 7″, Please Hurt, was for sale alongside some winning-the-night stickers with their moniker presented in Testament‘s classic logo — it worked really well — and while those recordings were done as a trio with Aarne Victorine on bass, the inherent rawness of working as a duo suited the songs really well, and as they move forward, I’d have to wonder if they wouldn’t be best served playing off that spirit. Either way, they were a righteously barebones start to the night.

Forming the Void

Forming the Void (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Big riffs, big melodies, vocal harmonies playing out from guitarists on both sides of the stage while massive roll emanates from the drums and bass between them — Forming the Void are right there. Right on the edge of it. The material is strong, the performance is strong, and up to this point, they’ve built significant momentum in their favor, with both live shows and a steady stream of releases. Running through “Shrine,” “Arcane Mystic” and “On We Sail” from last year’s third album, Rift (review here), the four-piece showed clearly how much atmosphere they bring to their work, so that it’s about more than just tone or groove, and the mood they create feels as much purposeful as it is resonant. I don’t know another way to say it: This is really good band. They are on their way, and if they keep touring and tightening up their approach, watch out. They reportedly have studio time booked for their next album, which even though they’re signed to Ripple at this point and have worked quickly to get three records out in three years, feels fast, but they haven’t failed to progress yet, and their approach is only growing broader each time. This was my second time seeing Forming the Void. If you haven’t yet, that is a thing you should make efforts to rectify as soon as possible. They are right on the verge of becoming something really special, and the crowd at the Middle East knew it.

Kings Destroy

Kings Destroy (Photo by JJ Koczan)

What, am I gonna pretend to be impartial about Kings Destroy? Clearly not. Their fourth record, Fantasma Nera, comes out this week on Svart, and if you ever wanted to hear a band pour everything they have into a collection of songs, that’s what it sounds like. I’ll hold over-editorializing that thought until I review the album, but their oh-shit-we-just-hit-another-level feel was evident not only in the fact that they’ve changed their stage setup, but that all but one song — “Mr O.,” from their 2015 self-titled (review here) — were new. The uptempo “Barbarossa,” the title-track and “Seven Billion Drones” were highlights, that latter particularly given a harsher edge live than on the record, but it was fascinating to see Kings Destroy, who for nearly a decade have made on-stage confrontationalism such a huge part of their approach, function in a more restrained and controlled context. In some ways, Fantasma Nera is their most rock-based offering to-date, but it’s also the most undeniably their own, and though they were still getting used to presenting those songs live, watching them play, it was already clear that they’ve only become a richer and more complex band. Ending with the triumphant riff in “Yonkers Ceiling Collapse” didn’t hurt either. Again, I’m not going to feign critical distance from their work. I’m both a fan of the band and I consider them friends, so if you want to take this with that grain of salt, that’s fine. It’d only be your loss to miss them.

Gozu

Gozu (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Gozu have been the best heavy rock band in Boston for a while now, and it suits them. Whether it’s been their time on tour in Europe or playing bigger shows like their run on the Metal Alliance Tour in the States, they’ve of course branched out beyond Beantown’s confines, but when they play in town, they make it easy to root for the hometown squad. They always pull a good crowd, and this show was no exception, and they absolutely delivered. It had been a good night already. Three bands, all killer, each doing their own thing, but Gozu topped it all off beautifully. In impeccable command of the room, well familiar with the place and the stage and the sound and light or lack thereof. All of it. It was a band in their element. It has been too long since I last saw them, but their 2018 LP, Equilibrium (review here), stepped forward willfully from what they accomplished in 2016 with Revival (review here), and catching that material live was a total pleasure. Guitarist Doug Sherman called everyone to the front of the stage, and people came forward, and he, guitarist/vocalist Marc Gaffney, bassist Joe Grotto and new drummer Alex Fewell absolutely made it worth their trip. As midnight crept on and passed, there was no letup as Gozu underlined the absolute force they’ve become over the last decade-plus. They owned that room, and whatever might or might not become of the Middle East with condo-encroachment, on this night, Gozu capped an evening that showed a vitality that endures regardless of market prices.

Hood up, hat on, out the door into the cold. Down some poorly-shoveled sidewalk to the car. Home in an hour or so, no traffic. In bed about 10 minutes later and up four hours after that for a six-hour-in-the-snow drive to New Jersey to see three out of these four bands again in Brooklyn, but that’s a story for tomorrow.

Thanks for reading. More pics after the jump.

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