Live Review: Corrosion of Conformity and Red Fang in Worcester, Massachusetts, Feb. 1, 2018

Posted in Reviews on February 5th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

corrosion of conformity 1 (Photo JJ Koczan)

Before the four-piece launched into ‘Vote with a Bullet,’ Corrosion of Conformity frontman Pepper Keenan introduced the song by saying they wrote it a long time ago but that it had come back around full-circle — an obvious reference to political dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs; elected officials, Donald Trump and so on — and the general frustration and disaffection that dissatisfaction engenders. He’s right though. Considering that song, which appeared on 1991’s Blind and was the first track for which Keenan took on a lead-vocalist role in addition to playing guitar, was written during the post-Reagan Bush years, Gulf War I and all that, not much has changed. Oh, except now they’re talking about strategically deploying a modernized and rebuilt nuclear arsenal. “Forgive and forget? Fuck no. Next time I’m voting with an atom bomb.”

It had been at least 12 years and more like 15 since the last time I was at the Palladium for a show. That part of Worcester — which everyone who played had clearly long since been schooled to pronounce as “wooster” — hadn’t changed much. Some luxury commuter condos, or were they dorms, and that’s about it. The bill was three bands, with Portland, Oregon, exports Red Fang opening, C.O.C. in the middle supporting their recently-issued No Cross No Crown (review here) long-player on Nuclear Blast, and Zakk Wylde‘s Black Label Society as the headliner, pulling in a drunken Thursday night Massachusetts crowd populated by Sam Black Church and Pantera t-shirts very much of a dudely persuasion. My general goal for that kind of thing is not to get punched. I didn’t get punched — so, win.

The line was around the building to get in before Red Fang went on, and I could see their U-Haul and trailer where they’d loaded in their gear, which only emphasized to me how hard those dudes have worked on the road and for how long. We’re almost a decade removed from their 2009 self-titled, and it’s been seven years since they made their debut on Relapse with 2011’s Murder the Mountains (review here), from which “Wires” and “Number Thirteen” were set highlights, and they’re still slogging it out in a work van and a U-Haul. I have no doubt they have their processes and routines nailed down at this point, but still, the sheer amount of energy they’ve put in made their stage presence all the more impressive as they started off the show, with John Sherman pounding away on drums behind bassist/vocalist Aaron Beam front and center, flanked on one side by guitarist David Sullivan and the other by guitarist/vocalist Maurice Bryan Giles.

Particularly for this tour, a lot of the focus is on frontmen, and Pepper Keenan and Zakk Wylde — surrounded by massively talented individuals as they are — are significantly charismatic comparison points, but in addition to being part of a different generation, Red Fang have their own style of presentation, more geared to what the whole band brings than one individual as a focal point. Part of that is Giles and Beam sharing vocals as effectively as they do, part of it is Sullivan being so dug into and immersed in what he’s doing on guitar and part of it is how much fun Sherman looks like he’s having while he’s playing, but as they ran through “Prehistoric Dog” at the end of the set, the impression was prevalent all the same: they’re very much a complete group, and they did not at all become one by happenstance. Red Fang‘s is a professionalism earned the hard way: in that van down around the side of the building outside the Palladium.

Yes, C.O.C. were selling signed copies of No Cross No Crown at $20 a pop, and yes, I bought one. Sorry, I know it’s like nine bucks on Amazon, but screw it, I’ve only listened to the band since I was 11; I can shell out a little extra for the signatures. And sure enough, the front cover in silver marker has the markings of Keenan, bass hero Mike Dean, guitarist Woody Weatherman and drummer Reed Mullin, the latter of whom was absent from the show owing reportedly to a surgery-requiring knee surgery to be repaired, and filling in was drum tech Jon Green, also currently tenured in long-running Scottish folk rockers The Waterboys.

They kept the lights low on him and low in general, but the dude wailed and especially in a late jam as they played through “Clean My Wounds,” showed himself to be more than capable of holding down the fort until Mullin recovers. I happened to be standing by the table when they played and when I asked the person selling C.O.C.‘s merch who it was, she said Mullin‘s knee was, “the size of a grapefruit.” Obviously all the best to him for a speedy recovery.

It was a relatively quick set, just 10 songs: “Bottom Feeder (El Que Come Abajo)” leading into “The Luddite,” which was the only cut aired from the new album, “Seven Days” from 1994’s Deliverance (discussed here), the aforementioned “Vote with a Bullet,” which appeared on 1991’s transitional offering Blind, “Long Whip, Big America” from 1996’s Wiseblood (discussed here), “Who’s Got the Fire” and “13 Angels” from 2000’s America’s Volume Dealer, and a closing salvo of the chug-nodding “Broken Man,” “Albatross” and “Clean My Wounds,” all from Deliverance.

Hard to argue with the premise — Clearly they know their crowd — but I don’t think there would’ve been a revolt of boozed-up Massholes had a song like “Cast the First Stone” or “Wolf Named Crow” — the other front-loaded singles from No Cross No Crown past “The Luddite” — been included, let alone something like “Paranoid Opioid” from 2005’s In the Arms of God. But it wasn’t C.O.C.‘s show, ultimately, and one assumes time was a factor. Judging from all the various BLS logo paraphernalia adorned on t-shirts, bandannas, tattoos, etc., on the audience, a substantial portion of the room was there to see the headliner.

I was not, frankly. Nothing necessarily against Black Label Society — they have their thing, they do it, and I certainly had my time as a fan circa 1919 Eternal — but this was my first night out since the birth of my son three months ago and I was new-parent-anxious to get back home. After C.O.C. played, a weekday morning DJ from local rock radio institution WAAF got on stage to plug the headliner set to come and to thank any troops in the crowd for their service, lest the evening go untinged by jingoism. People cheered as they will.

After a while, Wylde and company dropped their huge banner from the front of the stage, lit up the lights and smoke release that would’ve been fire pre-The Station and launched into “Genocide Junkies” and “Funeral Bell,” the band — Wylde, bassist John DeServio, guitarist Dario Lorina and drummer Jeff Fabb — all spot-on in pro presentation, side-to-side headbanging, raising picks in the air as though each pinch harmonic was an offering to the gods of metal themselves, half-Viking, half-biker, all dude. The crowd ate it up like riff-driven clam chowder with Maine lobster still to come.

On my way out, one of the security personnel took the time to tell me to look both ways while I crossed the empty street, which I did. I then heard her take credit for saving my life to one of her coworkers. I guess it was that kind of night at the office. Anyway, I’d just seen Red Fang and C.O.C. put on killer sets one after the other, and I had a thermos of coffee waiting for me in the car for the ride home, so the effort was appreciated.

Thanks for reading. Click any of the images above to see larger versions.

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Fistula and Come to Grief Announce Spring Tour

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 25th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Safe bet this one isn’t gonna be pretty. Hell, I ain’t even sure this is street legal. Fistula from Ohio, Come to Grief from Massachusetts, kicking around the country and meeting up with the likes of Cough along the way? If you ever thought you liked your sludge nasty, this would be the way to find out how true that is. A litmus test the entire planet seems doomed to fail.

They’ve got splits and whatnot for the merch table, should you want to take the scathe home with you and show everyone where those scars came from.

Oh yeah, and it’s misanthropic too.

To the PR wire:

fistula-come-to-grief-poster

FISTULA: Ohio Sludgecore Veterans Announce May Tour With Come To Grief

Ohio sludgecore veterans FISTULA have confirmed a spring tour this May with fellow sludge stalwarts Come To Grief. The soul-crushing journey will commence on May 1st in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and trample thirteen venues through May 13th in Portland, Maine with Cough, Midmourner, and No Funeral to appear on select shows. See confirmed dates below.

FISTULA recently issued the first wave of an ongoing split seven-inch series celebrating twenty years of sonic misery. Released via PATAC Records, the first two installments find FISTULA sharing wax space with Come To Grief and -(16)-.

The band’s split with Come To Grief features two original and categorically scathing unreleased tracks while the second features -(16)- ‘s cover of “Complications” by Killing Joke and FISTULA’s rendition of “Mongoloid,” by Devo.

Each limited edition seven-inch is available in various color variants (all clear vinyl is sold out). The Come To Grief / FISTULA split is also available on cassette. To order, visit THIS LOCATION.

FISTULA w/ Come To Grief:
5/01/2018 Kung Fu Necktie – Philadelphia, PA
5/02/2018 Strange Matter – Richmond, VA w/ Cough
5/03/2018 Maywood Tavern – Raleigh, NC w/ Midmourner
5/04/2018 529 Bar – Atlanta, GA w/ Midmourner
5/05/2018 White Water Tavern – Little Rock, AR
5/06/2018 Fubar – St. Louis, MO
5/07/2018 Rock Island Brewing Co. – Rock Island, IL w/ No Funeral
5/08/2018 Eagles 34 – Minneapolis, MN w/ No Funeral
5/09/2018 Reggie’s – Chicago, IL
5/10/2018 Black Circle Brewing Co. – Indianapolis, IN
5/11/2018 Mohawk Place – Buffalo, NY
5/12/2018 The Irish Wolf Pub – Scranton, PA
5/13/2018 Geno’s Rock Club – Portland, ME

http://www.fistula666.com
http://www.facebook.com/extremesludge
http://www.facebook.com/16Band
http://www.facebook.com/fistula666
http://www.patacrecords.com
http://www.facebook.com/patacrecords

Come to Grief & Fistula, Split EP (2017)

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Quarterly Review: Wolves in the Throne Room, Gravy Jones, Marmora, Mouth, Les Lekin, Leather Lung, Torso, Jim Healey, Daxma, The Re-Stoned

Posted in Reviews on January 9th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Lodewijk de Vadder (1605-1655) - 17th Century Etching, Landscape with Two Farms

The Obelisk’s Quarterly Review continues today with day two of five. I don’t mind telling you — in fact I’m pretty happy to tell you — that this one’s all over the place. Black metal, post-metal, singer-songwriter stuff, psych jams, heavy rock. I feel like I’ve had to go to great pains not to use the word “weird” like 17 times. But I guess that’s what’s doing it for me these days. The universe has plenty of riffs. All the better when they start doing something different or new or even just a little strange. I think, anyhow. Alright, enough lollygagging. Time to dive in.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Wolves in the Throne Room, Thrice Woven

wolves in the throne room thrice woven

True, it’s something of a cliché when it comes to Wolves in the Throne Room to think of their work as “an awaited return,” and perhaps that speaks to the level of anticipation with which their outings are greeted generally. Nonetheless, Thrice Woven arrives via the band’s own Artemisia Records six years after Celestial Lineage, their last proper full-length, and three after its companion, Celestite (review here), so the five-track/42-minute offering from the USBM innovators is legitimately due. The Washington-based troupe’s black-metal-of-the-land remains heavily focused on atmosphere, with a sharp, experimental-feeling turn to ambience and melody in opener “Born from the Serpent’s Eye” and the later drone interlude “Mother Owl, Father Ocean” that precedes the rampaging closer “Fires Roar in the Palace of the Moon,” which caps Thrice Woven with a long fade into the sound of rolling waves. Between them, “The Old Ones are with Us” casts a vision of blackened folk-doom that seems to pull off what Agalloch was always aiming for, and centerpiece “Angrboda” blasts through an early wash before splitting near the midsection to minimalism and rebuilding itself on a slow march. 15 years on from their beginning, Wolves in the Throne Room still sound like no one else, and continue to push themselves forward creatively.

Wolves in the Throne Room on Thee Facebooks

Artemisia Records on Bandcamp

 

Gravy Jones, Funeral Pyre

gravy jones funeral pyre

It’s a crazy world into which Gravy Jones invite their listeners on their self-issued debut full-length, Funeral Pyre, and the fire they bring is born of a molten classic psychedelic rock underpinned by low end weight and further distinguished by its use of organ and proto-metallic vocal proclamations. Opener and longest track (immediate points) “Heavens Bliss” tops 10 minutes in its weirdo roll, and subsequent cuts “The Burning of the Witch” and “It Came from the Sea” do little to dispel the off-center vibe, the former dug into rawer NWOBHM-ism and the latter, the centerpiece of the five-tracker, beaming in from some kind of alt-universe Deep Purple idolatry to lead into the particularly doomed “Gilgamesh” and the shuffle-into-noisefest onslaught of the closing title-track. All told it’s 41 minutes of bizarre excursion that’s deceptively cohesive and feels like the start of a longer-term sonic exploration. Whether or not Gravy Jones even out sound-wise or hold to such an unhinged vibe, they definitely pique interest here.

Gravy Jones on Thee Facebooks

Gravy Jones on Bandcamp

 

Marmora, Criterion

marmora criterion

Criterion – yes, like the collection – is the debut EP from Chicago four-piece Marmora, who released a single in 2013 before the core brotherly trio of Zaid (guitar), Alejandro (bass) and Ulysses (drums) Salazar hooked up with vocalist/guitarist/synthesist Allan Cardenas in 2015. The three-tracker that has resulted begins with its title-cut, which thrusts forth a wash of heavy post-rock that makes an impression in weight as much as space before turning to the more grounded, propulsive, aggressive and punkishly noise-caked “Apathy” and closer “Flowers in Your Garden,” which turns traditional heavy rock riffery on its head with frenetic drum work and rhythmic turns that feel born of modern progressive metal. Significant as the crunch factor and aggro pulsations are, Criterion isn’t at all without a corresponding sense of atmosphere, and though there isn’t much tying these three tracks together, for a first EP, there doesn’t need to be. Let that come later. For now, the boot to the ass is enough.

Marmora on Thee Facebooks

Marmora on Bandcamp

 

Mouth, Live ’71

mouth live 71

Perhaps in part as a holdover between their 2017 second album, Vortex (review here), and the impending Floating to be issued in 2018, German progressive retroists Mouth offer Live ’71. No, it was not actually recorded in 1971. Nor, to my knowledge, was it recorded in 2071 and sent back in time in a slingshot maneuver around the sun. It’s just a play on the raw, captured-from-the-stage sound of the 55-minute set, which opens at a 19-minute sprawl with “Vortex” itself and only deep-dives further from there, whether it’s into the keyboard throb of “Parade,” the nuanced twists of “Into the Light” or the more straightforward riffing of “On the Boat.” There’s room for all this scope and the stomp of “Master Volume Voice” in a Mouth set, it would seem, and if Live ’71 is indeed a stopgap, it’s one that shows off the individualized personality of the long-running band who seem to still be exploring even as they approach the 20-year mark.

Mouth on Thee Facebooks

Mouth on Bandcamp

 

Les Lekin, Died with Fear

les lekin died with fear

A second full-length from Austrian heavy psych trio Les Lekin, Died with Fear is perhaps more threatening in its title than in its overall aesthetic. The four inclusions on the 43-minute follow-up to 2014’s All Black Rainbow Moon (review here) set their mission not necessarily in conveying terror or some overarching sense of darkness – though low end is a major factor throughout – as in cosmic hypnosis born of repetition and chemistry-fueled heavy psychedelic progressivism. Well at home in the extended and atmospheric “Orca” (10:41), “Inert” (10:21), “Vast” (8:59) and “Morph” (13:34), the three-piece of guitarist Peter G., bassist Beat B. and drummer Kerstin W. recorded live and in so doing held fast to what feels very much like a natural and developing dynamic between them, their material all the more fluid for it but carrying more of a sense of craft than most might expect from a release that, ostensibly, is based around jams. Sweeping and switched-on in kind, Died with Fear turns out to be remarkably vibrant for something under a banner so grim.

Les Lekin on Thee Facebooks

Tonzonen Records webstore

 

Leather Lung, Lost in Temptation

leather lung lost in temptation

Oh, they’re mad about it, to be sure. I’m not sure what ‘it’ ultimately is, but whatever, it’s got Leather Lung good and pissed off. Still, the Boston-based onslaught specialists’ debut full-length, Lost in Temptation, has more to its cacophony than sheer violence, and though that intelligence is somewhat undercut by the hey-check-it-out-it’s-cartoon-tits-and-also-because-snakes-are-like-wieners cover art, the marriage between fuckall noise intensity on “Gin and Chronic” and trades between growl-topped thrust and more open and melodic plod on “Shadow of the Scythe” and upbeat rock on “Momentum of Misfortune.” Put it in your “go figure” file that the closer “Destination: Void,” which is marked as an outro, is the longest inclusion on the 28-minute offering, but by then due pummel has been served throughout pieces like “Deaf Adder” and “Freak Flag” amid the willful stoner idolatry of “The Spice Melange,” so there’s texture in the assault as well. Yeah though, that cover. Woof.

Leather Lung on Thee Facebooks

Leather Lung on Bandcamp

 

Torso, Limbs

torso limbs

I won’t deny the strength of approach Austria’s Torso demonstrate across Limbs, their StoneFree Records debut LP, in the straightforward structures of songs like “Meaning Existence” or “Mirror of My Mind” or “Skinny and Bony” and the semi-acoustic penultimate grown-up-grunge alternarocker “Down the Highway,” but it’s hard to listen to the nine-minute spread of “Red Moon” in the midsection of the album and not come away from its patient psychedelic execution thinking of it as a highlight. Shades of post-rock and moodier fare make themselves known in “Come Closer” and the righteously melodic “Ride Up,” and closer “Voices” delivers a resounding payoff, but it’s “Red Moon” that summarizes the atmospheric and emotional scope with which Torso are working and most draws together the various elements at play into a cohesive singularity. One hopes it’s a model they’ll follow going forward, but neither should doing so necessarily draw away from the songwriting prowess they show here. It’s a balance that, having been struck, feels ready to be manipulated.

Torso on Thee Facebooks

StoneFree Records website

 

Jim Healey, Just a Minute More

jim healey just a minute more

Companioned immediately by a digital release of the demos on which it’s based, including four other songs that didn’t make the cut of the final, studio-recorded EP, Jim Healey’s Just a Minute More conveys its sense of longing in the title and moves quickly to stake its place in a long-running canon of singer-songwriterisms. Healey, known for fronting metal and heavy rock acts like We’re all Gonna Die, Black Thai, Set Fire, etc., could easily come across as a case of dual personality in the sweetly, unabashedly sentimental, acoustic-based opener “The Road” or the more-plugged-in “You and I” at the outset, but in the fuzzed-out centerpiece “Swamp Thing,” the emotionally weighted memorable hook of “Faced,” and the piano-topped payoff of closer “Burn Up,” the 18-minute EP unfurls a sense of variety and a full-band sound that sets the project Jim Healey on its own course even apart from the man himself. Some of those other demos aren’t too bad either. Just saying.

Jim Healey on Thee Facebooks

Jim Healey on Bandcamp

 

Daxma, The Head Which Becomes the Skull

daxma-the-head-which-becomes-the-skull

Signed to Magnetic Eye for the release, Oakland post-metal five-piece Daxma answer the ambition of their half-hour single-song 2016 debut EP, The Nowhere of Shangri-La, with the even-fuller-length The Head Which Becomes the Skull, demonstrating a clear intent toward sonic patience and ambient reach that balances subtle builds and crashes with engaging immersiveness and nod. Three of the six total inclusions top 10 minutes, and within opener “Birth” (10:53), “Abandoning All Hope” (11:34) and the penultimate “Our Lives Will be Erased by the Shifting Sands of the Desert” (13:42), one finds significant breadth, but not to be discounted either are the roll of “Wanderings/Beneath the Sky,” the avant feel of the closing title-track or even the 80-second drone interlude “Aufheben,” which like all that surrounds it, feeds into a consuming ambience that undercuts the notion of The Head Which Becomes the Skull as a debut album for its purposefulness and evocative soundscaping.

Daxma on Thee Facebooks

Magnetic Eye Records on Bandcamp

 

The Re-Stoned, Chronoclasm

the re-stoned chronoclasm

For their first new outing since they revisited their debut EP in 2016 with Reptiles Return (review here), Moscow instrumentalists The Re-Stoned cast forth Chronoclasm, a six-track long-player of new material recorded over 2015 and 2016 that ties together its near-hour-long runtime with a consistency of guitarist Ilya Lipkin’s lead tone and a steady interweaving of acoustic elements. “Human Without Body,” “Save Me Under the Emerald Glass,” “Psychedelic Soya Barbecue” and the title-track seem to have some nuance of countrified swing to their groove, but it’s lysergic swirl that ultimately rules the day throughout Chronoclasm, Yaroslav Shevchenko’s drums keeping the material grounded around Lipkin’s guitar and Vladimir Kislyakov’s bass. The trio are joined on percussion by Evgeniy Tkachev on percussion for the CD bonus track “Quartz Crystals,” which picks up from the quiet end of “Chronoclasm” itself and feels like a nine-minute improve extension of its serene mood, adding further progressive sensibility to an already wide scope.

The Re-Stoned on Thee Facebooks

Oak Island Records on Thee Facebooks

 

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The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Short Releases of 2017

Posted in Features on December 22nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk top 20 short releases

Please note: This post is not culled in any way from the Year-End Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t yet contributed your favorites of 2017 to that, please do.

This is the hardest list to put together, no question. Don’t get me wrong, I put way too much thought into all of them, but this one is damn near impossible to keep up with. Every digital single, every demo, every EP, every 7″, 10″ one-sided 12″, whatever it is. There’s just too much. I’m not going to claim to have heard everything. Hell, that’s what the comments are for. Let me know what I missed. Invariably, something.

So while the headers might look similar, assuming I can ever remember which fonts I use from one to the next, this list has a much different personality than, say, the one that went up earlier this week with the top 20 debuts of 2017. Not that I heard everyone’s first record either, but we’re talking relative ratios here. The bottom line is please just understand I’ve done my best to hear as much as possible. I’m only one person, and there are only so many hours in the day. Eventually your brain turns into riffy mush.

With that caveat out of the way, I’m happy to present the following roundup of some of what I thought were 2017’s best short releases. That’s EPs, singles, demos, splits — pretty much anything that wasn’t a full-length album, and maybe one or two things that were right on the border of being one. As between genres, the lines are blurry these days. That’s part of what makes it fun.

Okay, enough dawdling. Here we go:

lo-pan-in-tensions

The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Short Releases of 2017

1. Lo-Pan, In Tensions
2. Godhunter, Codex Narco
3. Year of the Cobra, Burn Your Dead
4. Shroud Eater, Three Curses
5. Stubb, Burning Moon
6. Canyon, Canyon
7. Solace, Bird of Ill Omen
8. Kings Destroy, None More
9. Tarpit Boogie, Couldn’t Handle… The Heavy Jam
10. Supersonic Blues, Supersonic Blues Theme
11. Come to Grief, The Worst of Times EP
12. Rope Trick, Red Tape
13. Eternal Black, Live at WFMU
14. IAH, IAH
15. Bong Wish, Bong Wish EP
16. Rattlesnake, Outlaw Boogie Demo
17. Hollow Leg, Murder
18. Mars Red Sky, Myramyd
19. Avon, Six Wheeled Action Man Tank 7″
20. Wretch, Bastards Born

Honorable Mention

Across Tundras, Blood for the Sun / Hearts for the Rain
The Discussion, Tour EP
Fungus Hill, Creatures
Switchblade Jesus & Fuzz Evil, The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter Seven
The Grand Astoria, The Fuzz of Destiny
Test Meat, Demo
Blood Mist, Blood Mist
Sweat Lodge, Tokens for Hell
Dautha, Den Foerste
Scuzzy Yeti, Scuzzy Yeti
Howling Giant, Black Hole Space Wizard Part 2
Decasia, The Lord is Gone
Bible of the Devil/Leeches of Lore, Split 7″

I can’t imagine I won’t add a name or two or five to this section over the next few days as I think of other things and people remind me of stuff and so on, so keep an eye out, but the point is there’s way more than just what made the top 20. That Across Tundras single would probably be on the list proper just on principle, but I heard it like a week ago and it doesn’t seem fair. Speaking of unfair, The Discussion, Howling Giant, The Grand Astoria and the Bible of the Devil/Leeches of Lore split all deserve numbered placement easily. I might have to make this a top 30 in 2018, just to assuage my own guilt at not being able to include everything I want to include. For now though, yeah, this is just the tip of the doomberg.

Notes

To be totally honest with you, that Lo-Pan EP came out Jan. 13 and pretty much had the year wrapped up in my head from that point on. It was going to be hard for anything to top In Tensions, and the Godhunter swansong EP came close for the sense of stylistic adventurousness it wrought alone, and ditto that for Year of the Cobra’s bold aesthetic expansions on Burn Your Dead and Shroud Eater’s droning Three Cvrses, but every time I heard Jeff Martin singing “Pathfinder,” I knew it was Lo-Pan’s year and all doubt left my mind. Of course, for the Ohio four-piece, In Tensions is something of a one-off with the departure already of guitarist Adrian Zambrano, but I still have high hopes for their next record. It would be hard not to.

The top five is rounded out by Stubb’s extended jam/single “Burning Moon,” which was a spacey delight and new ground for them to cover. The self-titled debut EP from Philly psych rockers Canyon, which they’ve already followed up, is next. I haven’t had the chance to hear the new one yet, but Canyon hit a sweet spot of psychedelia and heavy garage that made me look forward to how they might develop, so I’ll get there sooner or later. Solace’s return was nothing to balk at with their cassingle “Bird of Ill Omen” and the Sabbath cover with which they paired it, and though Kings Destroy weirded out suitably on the 14-minute single-song EP None More, I hear even greater departures are in store with their impending fourth LP, currently in progress.

A couple former bandmates of mine feature in Tarpit Boogie in guitarist George Pierro and bassist John Eager, and both are top dudes to be sure, but even if we didn’t have that history, it would be hard to ignore the tonal statement they made on their Couldn’t Handle… The Heavy Jam EP. If you didn’t hear it, go chase it down on Bandcamp. Speaking of statements, Supersonic Blues’ Supersonic Blues Theme 7″ was a hell of an opening salvo of classic boogie that I considered to be one of the most potential-laden offerings of the year. Really. Such warmth to their sound, but still brimming with energy in the most encouraging of ways. Another one that has to be heard to be believed.

The dudes are hardly newcomers, but Grief offshoot Come to Grief sounded pretty fresh — and raw — on their The Worst of Times EP, and the Massachusetts extremists check in right ahead of fellow New Englangers Rope Trick, who are an offshoot themselves of drone experimentalists Queen Elephantine. Red Tape was a demo in the demo tradition, and pretty formative sounding, but seemed to give them plenty of ground on which to develop their aesthetic going forward, and I wouldn’t ask more of it than that.

Eternal Black gave a much-appreciated preview of their Bleed the Days debut long-player with Live at WFMU and earned bonus points for recording it at my favorite radio station, while Argentine trio IAH probably went under a lot of people’s radar with their self-titled EP but sent a fervent reminder that that country’s heavy scene is as vibrant as ever. Boston-based psych/indie folk outfit Bong Wish were just the right combination of strange, melodic and acid-washed to keep me coming back to their self-titled EP on Beyond Beyond is Beyond, and as Adam Kriney of The Golden Grass debuted his new project Rattlesnake with the Outlaw Boogie demo, the consistency of his songcraft continued to deliver a classic feel. Another one to watch out for going into the New Year.

I wasn’t sure if it was fair to include Hollow Leg’s Murder or not since it wound up getting paired with a special release of their latest album, but figured screw it, dudes do good work and no one’s likely to yell about their inclusion here. If you want to quibble, shoot me a comment and quibble away. Mars Red Sky only released Myramyd on vinyl — no CD, no digital — and I never got one, but heard a private stream at one point and dug that enough to include them here anyway. They remain perennial favorites.

Avon, who have a new record out early in 2018 on Heavy Psych Sounds, delivered one of the year’s catchiest tracks with the “Six Wheeled Action Man Tank” single. I feel like I’ve had that song stuck in my head for the last two months, mostly because I have. And Wretch may or may not be defunct at this point — I saw word that drummer Chris Gordon was leaving the band but post that seems to have disappeared now, so the situation may be in flux — but their three-songer Bastards Born EP was a welcome arrival either way. They round out the top 20 because, well, doom. Would be awesome to get another LP out of them, but we’ll see I guess.

One hopes that nothing too egregious was left off, but one again, if there’s something you feel like should be here that isn’t, please consider the invitation to leave a comment open and let me know about it. Hell, you know what? Give me your favorites either way, whether you agree with this list or not. It’s list season, do it up. I know there’s the Year-End Poll going, and you should definitely contribute to that if you haven’t, but what was your favorite EP of the year? The top five? Top 10? I’m genuinely curious. Let’s talk about it.

Whether you have a pick or not (and I hope you do), thanks as always for reading. May the assault of short releases continue unabated in 2018 and beyond.

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Brass Hearse Post Debut Single “Living for the Grave”

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 24th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

I made no secret of being a fan of Boston-based experimentalist garage doomers and occasional psychedelic rockers Ice Dragon, whose prolific run between 2011 and 2015 produced no fewer than nine full-lengths in addition to numerous other singles, splits and short releases, and who, despite issuing an EP in 2016 called Broken Life (review here) and a single at the start of this year in “Into the Wasteland (Of Self),” seem to have dialed way back on output generally speaking.

Their members, particularly vocalist Ron Rochondo, have gone on to start numerous other experimental projects in vibes ranging from psych-lounge to freak folk, and with the new four-piece Brass Hearse, Rochondo unites with members of Wolfmen of MarsL. Liberty, J. Clapp and N. Merryweather — to unveil the first single “Living for the Grave” with a blown-out take on classic grunge that, if you can make it past the initial bluster, reveals a synth-laden hook that’s at once metallic and expansive. The verse reminds of Snail, which may or may not be sonic coincidence, but one can hear shades of Sabbath and more progressive fare in the guitar work as well, particularly in the clarity of the solo in the song’s second half before the final chorus.

Most of all, “Living for the Grave” makes me look forward to and hope that Brass Hearse will have more material to come soon. One would never dare to predict anything even vaguely Ice Dragon-related as this outfit is — that’s not to downplay the contributions of the three members from Wolfmen of Mars in any way, I’m just trying to measure X-factors — but yeah, hopefully this first single is just the beginning of a new exploration and it gets a follow-up of some form or other in short order.

You can hear the track at the bottom of this post. Artwork, links and preliminary info follow:

brass hearse living for the grave

Our first song… LIVING FOR THE GRAVE

Artwork by the incredible DoryWhynot

BRASS HEARSE
+++++++++++++
R Rochondo
L Liberty
J Clapp
N Merryweather

https://www.facebook.com/brasshearse/
https://instagram.com/brasshearse
https://twitter.com/brasshearse
https://brasshearse.bandcamp.com/releases
http://playingrecords.bandcamp.com

Brass Hearse, “Living for the Grave”

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The Obelisk Presents: Benthic Realm, Clamfight & More, Dec. 2 in Worcester, MA

Posted in The Obelisk Presents on October 23rd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

I’ve been fortunate enough to be asked to present some killer shows of late — seriously, check it out — but when it’s friends playing a gig, that’s all the more special to me. This one? Yeah, it’s a no-brainer. Good show. You should go. But the truth is that in addition to appreciating what Benthic Realm and Clamfight do as artists, I know these people. They’re good people. Isn’t life that much better when you can be sure the people you’re supporting aren’t assholes?

The gig has been dubbed the “Mid Atlantic Invasion” — because regionalism — and pits two Massachusetts acts of significant pedigree in Benthic Realm (members of Second Grave and Conclave) and Z/28 (members of Mourne and Grief against Clamfight from Philly and Pennsylvania’s Brain Candle. With Clamfight signed to Argonauta as of this Summer and the release of their new album, III, impending for early 2018, and Benthic Realm having brought in Conclave drummer Dan Blomquist since putting out their self-titled demo (review here) this Spring, it should be a significant battle indeed, and by that I mean way less a battle than bands from different areas getting together and putting on a really good show for those fortunate enough to witness it.

To that end, let me add that Ralph’s Rock Diner in Worcester is, in the now-four-years that I’ve lived in Massachusetts, hands down the best place I’ve found to see a show, and that along with MT Booking, I’m happy to have this site associated with goings on in that space once again. Great sound, cool vibe, good lighting, comfortable space, and burgers downstairs. They’ll even make you coffee if you ask nicely, though they won’t necessarily be happy about it.

Below, Clamfight drummer Andy Martin offers a bit of comment on the gig, and the preliminaries follow. It’s eight bucks. What the hell more could you possibly ask?

benthic-realm-clamfight-show

Andy Martin on the “Mid Atlantic Invasion”:

Allow me to peel back the curtain on how I book most Clamfight shows: Can we make it to work on Monday and is there someone there I want to hug? Whether we think it’ll be a good show is like a distant fourth.

Luckily, Woostah fulfills all of those criterion.

It’s close, and we’ve (finally) got a record to flog, so that takes care of criteria one, and two, it’s home base for a lot of our favorite people.

From our brothers in Conclave, to Faces of Bayon, and our Boston homies who often make the trip out, Massachusetts and particularly Worcester have been really good to us so we are stoked to return, laden with riffs and hugs. Personally, I’m really looking forward to jamming with Benthic Realm for the first time too, and all the more now that they’ve snagged one of my favorite people on Earth, Dan Blomquist as their drummer.

As an added bonus we’ve got Philly shredders Braincandle with us in Worcester and the night before in Brooklyn, so it’s going to be a solid weekend of riffs and shenanigans, and well worth the pain we’ll all be in come Monday.

The Obelisk and MT Booking Present::
A night of Mid Atlantic meets Massachusetts Metal!

Ralph’s Rock Diner
148 Grove St., Worcester, MA
Saturday December 2, 2017
Doors @ 9PM
$8 At the door
21+ With valid I.D.

Benthic Realm (ex-Second Grave/Conclave)
https://benthicrealm.bandcamp.com/

Clamfight (Traveling from NJ/PA)
https://clamfight.bandcamp.com/

Brain Candle (Traveling from PA)
https://braincandlemusic.bandcamp.com/

Z/28 (ex-Grief/Mourne)
https://nobodyridesforfree.bandcamp.com/

Thee Facebooks event page

Benthic Realm on Thee Facebooks

Clamfight on Thee Facebooks

Brain Candle on Thee Facebooks

Z/28 on Thee Facebooks

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Glacier Premiere Video for “Though They be Red Like Crimson, They Shall be as Wool”; New Album out Now

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 5th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

glacier

Last week, Boston post-metallic five-piece Glacier marked the vinyl release of their properly punctuated second full-length, Though Your Sins be as Scarlet, They Shall be White as Snow; Though They be Red Like Crimson, They Shall be as Wool., basking in a long-running tradition of forward thinking atmospheric heft native to New England and the greater Northeast. Of course that lineage goes back to the early days of Isis‘ formative churn, but Glacier seem to find even more common ground with groups like Rosetta from Philly, defunct Brooklynites Red Sparowes, or Russian Circles from Chicago as regards their method of conjuring ambient wash and presenting it with patient, longform fluidity. They hit the half-decade mark this year, and as their emergent penchant for cumbersome titles demonstrates, their approach is both mature and still very much geared toward a future, longer-term progressive evolution.

That’s admirable as far as ethos is concerned, but ultimately says little about the music. In that, the cerebral approach of the triply-guitarred Glacier — comprised of the first-names-only lineup of Dooley, Matthew, Derek, Ryan and Jesse — finds them crafting graceful textures of airy layering, driven intermittently by heavier stretches. The album derives its lengthy glacier though your sins be as scarletname from its two likewise lengthy inclusions, “Though Your Sins be as Scarlet, They Shall be White as Snow” (12:58) and “Though They be Red Like Crimson, They Shall be as Wool” (15:31), and while the risk a band invariably runs in creating such headphone-ready immersiveness of wash lies in pulling out the human aspect of their sound, Glacier have found a way to directly work against this in their new video for the longer side B piece. And it’s something of a classic idea as well: They perform the song live. I know — pretty crazy, right?

While you’re filing the concept under ‘what’ll they think of next?,’ make sure to actually check out the clip for “Though They be Red Like Crimson, They Shall be as Wool.” Captured by Treebeard Media and filmed at The Record Co. in Boston, it’s a familiar enough band-in-a-room-rocking-out form, but the instrumental fluidity of what Glacier do comes through unabated in the recording, and as it’s a little bit rawer than the version on the album proper, it’s got more of an impact to it as well, which only enhances the several peaks in volume and intensity. Still headphone-worthy, but with no shortage of heft behind it either, the song is all the more resonant for the passion behind it that becomes so obvious in watching the band play. Nicely done all the way around.

Glacier‘s Though Your Sins be as Scarlet, They Shall be White as Snow; Though They be Red Like Crimson, They Shall be as Wool. is available now, from the group directly and from Kapitän Platte in Europe. The band offers some comment on the track below and some more background, as well as upcoming live dates.

Please enjoy:

Glacier, “Though They be Red Like Crimson, They Shall be as Wool” official video premiere

Glacier on “Though They be Red Like Crimson, They Shall be as Wool”:

“We’re excited to have this video to serve as an accompaniment to our new record. As a group, we tend to stray away from anything that doesn’t highlight the music. That being said, we utilized the resources we had to invite the listener to watch us play the latter half of the record. The idea was that we really wanted whoever might be interested to experience the feeling of intimacy of being in a room with us while we play. This marks the only time you’ll see Glacier live without going deaf.”

Glacier’s track “Though They Be Red Like Crimson, They Shall Be as Wool” performed live at The Record Co. in Boston, MA. Engineered by Jesse Vengrove and Corey Wade at The Record Co. Assisted by Matt Cohen. Mixed and Mastered by Benny Grotto at Mad Oak Studios. Camera Operators Stephen Lo Verme, Erin Genett, Jenny Berman, and Matt Cohen. Editing and Color by Stephen Lo Verme. No Happy Music, The Record Company, Treebeard Media.

Bio:
Formed in Boston in 2012, Glacier is a five-piece instrumental band whose music fully embodies their name: a crushingly loud and unrelenting force. After releasing dual sophomore records (‘Black Beacon’ and ‘Kirtland’) in 2014, Glacier played heavily in the northeast/New England area with friends such as Astronoid, Pray for Sound, Infinity Shred, Destroyer Of Light, Horseburner, Isenordal, Harris, InAeona, KYOTY, and Sea. The band has built a reputation for being an honest and hardworking band in the music community.

In July of 2017, Glacier released a new LP titled “Though Your Sins Be As Scarlet, They Shall Be White as Snow; Though They be Red Like Crimson, They Shall Be As Wool.” Clocking in at just under 28-minutes, the two song LP (recorded at Converse Rubber Tracks and mastered at Hills Audio) is currently available for streaming/download as well as vinyl in the U.S. through No Happy Music and in Europe through Kapitän Platte. The new tracks are the most focused and powerful songs the band has written and are the clearest representation of what they’ve set out to do from the beginning.

Glacier live:
Oct 09 Charlie’s Kitchen Cambridge MA w/ Pray for Sound, Set
Oct 28 Dungeon of Doom Peterborough NH
Nov 17 O’Brien’s Pub Allston MA w/ SEA, Pray for Sound

Glacier on Thee Facebooks

Glacier on Instagram

Glacier on Twitter

Glacier on Bandcamp

Glacier website

Kapitän Platte on Bandcamp

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Bong Wish to Release Self-Titled EP Oct. 27; New Song Streaming

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 18th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Oh my, yes. That’ll do nicely. High-order freak folk would seem to be the course set by Massachusetts-based weirdo troupe Bong Wish, who, led by vocalist/guitarist Mariam Saleh, will release their self-titled debut EP Oct. 27 via Brooklyn imprint Beyond Beyond is Beyond. Much to my chagrin, I haven’t heard it in its entirety as yet, but I’ve been through the two-and-a-half-minute leadoff cut “My Luv” about six times, and with its classic-sounding flourish of strings, lightly-strummed liquefied guitar work, molten flow and forward voice from Saleh and whoever among the EP’s numerous other contributors that might be backing her, I’m definitely looking forward to doing so. Seriously. The track is at the bottom of this post. It’s gorgeous and bizarre and it flat-out rules. Do yourself a favor and check it out.

Beyond Beyond is Beyond is pressing up 100 copies on tape, which are up for preorder now, as the PR wire informs:

bong wish bong wish

Introducing Mariam Saleh’s BONG WISH

Mariam Saleh began performing under the heady moniker of BONG WISH in the Massachusetts of yesteryear. Drawing from British folk, Ween, and fantasy, Bong Wish skews to the far out lyrically, encouraging universal love and inner peace. The debut EP presents a patchouli-scented fantasia of pure, unsolicited rage. Mostly home-recorded, the eponymous EP sees Mariam and her mystical cohorts explore different moods, styles and vibes across four tracks, ranging from lush string arrangements and exotic flutes to shimmering guitars and earthy percussion. And Beyond Beyond is Beyond is quite overjoyed to share the Bong Wish majesty with you. Come along…

**releases October 27, 2017**
**check out “My Luv” now and pre-order on cassette or digi**

Tracklisting:
1. My Luv
2. Saturn Spells
3. Conversation With Business People
4. In The Sun

Tour dates:
10/6 Jamaica Plain, MA Jeanie Johnston
10/7 Northampton, MA The Basement
10/8 Portland, ME Apohadion Theater
10/10 Burlington, VT Monkeyhouse
10/11 Providence, RI TBD
10/12 Hamden, CT Best Video
10/13 Baltimore, MD Wind-Up Space
10/14 Washington, DC Safari
10/15 Brooklyn, NY The Gateway

https://www.facebook.com/BONGWISH/
https://bongwishbbib.bandcamp.com/album/bong-wish-ep-pre-order
https://www.facebook.com/beyondbeyondisbeyond
https://twitter.com/BBiB
https://www.instagram.com/bbib/
http://beyondbeyondisbeyond.com/

Bong Wish, “My Luv”

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