In the Studio with Scissorfight at Mad Oak

Posted in Features on May 2nd, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

scissorfight in-studio 1 (Photo by Jay Fortin)

To run down the list of accolades that the Boston-area music scene has (rightly) foisted upon producer/engineer Benny Grotto of Mad Oak Studios over the last however many years would take a really, really long time, but suffice it to say that when an opportunity to watch him work is afforded, it’s not one you want to neglect. It’s a pleasure I first had six years ago, as Grotto — who also until recently was drumming in Slapshot — was mixing what would become Solace‘s long-awaited A.D. full-length, but of course his production credits go much further than that, including an entire pantheon of releases through Small Stone Records by DwellersRoadsaw — whose Craig Riggs is an owner of Mad Oak, along with Grotto and PK Pandey — SasquatchGozu and The Brought Low, as well as local luminaries like The ScimitarBlack Thai and Second Grave, among many others.

scissorfight in-studio 4 (Photo by Jay Fortin)But most of that, apart from the Second Grave, which is forthcoming, was done in the old Mad Oak. In January, the studio opened a new facility at 390 Cambridge St. in Allston, MA, and immediately set about filling the calendar with clients, among them reunited New Hampshire burl rockers Scissorfight, who were there tracking five songs for a new EP to be released sometime later this year. It will mark their first offering in a decade and their first with a new lineup including Doug Aubin on vocals and Rick Orcutt on drums alongside bassist Paul Jarvis and guitarist Jay Fortin that recently made their live debut to a sold-out Shaskeen in Portsmouth, NH, the first of many more live shows to come. The appeal of hearing new Scissorfight in-progress under Grotto‘s care was too good to ignore, so I headed into Allston last Wednesday to check out the tail end of the session.

Greeted outside by Jarvis‘ dog, Anna, who spent most of her time lounging on a bed made of an old flannel shirt, and Jarvis and Aubin, I made my way into the place to find Grotto, as ever, in front of a monitor filled with waveforms. A large tv on the wall behind him allowed anyone sitting on the plush couch nearby to see what he was doing, and from the spacious, clean layout of the room, it was clear that the studio had only been living in the redone space for a couple months. The floor, the ceiling, the giant monitors embedded in and in front of the wall to blast from a small stage in the control room — none of it had yet been kicked to hell by time, and the same went for the high-ceiling live room, which, if the sound of Orcutt‘s drums was anything to go by, is going to make a lot of percussionists very happy.

“From my end, I wanted to basically steal all the cool things I liked about the other studios I’d been working at, as well as minimize or eliminate the negative things that those places had,” Grotto explained. “For me, the general vibe and level of comfort were the primary issue. I wanted to set the place up in a way that really facilitates creativity and a relaxed atmosphere. We have unbelievable sight-lines scissorfight in-studio 3 (Photo by Jay Fortin)throughout the whole studio, lots of comfortable places to relax, and a wealth of instruments and gear that are all easily accessible, which helps artists to get ideas down quickly before the inspiration dries up.

“One of the big advantages to the new space is that we got to design it to our exact needs, from the ground up. So we were able take all the lessons that Riggs learned building the first place, combine them with my experience over the last couple years working in a variety of studios as a freelancer, and combine all that with PK‘s extensive experience as a studio building consultant, and really dial the whole thing into what is more or less our dream studio.”

The layout of the space reminds of a complex piece of software designed to look and operate simply. The live room is flanked on either side by isolation booths, there are big doors for load-in, the control room, a break space/kitchen, bathroom, etc., but from the cork in the ceiling to Grotto controlling colored LED lights from his phone and the acoustics as tracks were played back, what Mad Oak has become is clearly the result of meticulous work.

Craig really wanted to focus on the construction itself. He’s been on-site every day, basically working as the contractor, making sure everything is getting done to his very high standards, but he’s busting ass as a carpenter, a plumber, an electrician, everything. Very hands on. The work he and his guys have been doing in here is out of this world; the craftsmanship and attention to detail is really unlike anything I’ve seen in a recording studio.

PK has a massive amount of experience as a studio building consultant, and we were able to make use of that experience in a major way. Specifically by tapping the Walter Storyk Design Group — which is the studio architectural firm responsible for an incredible list of studios all around the world, including Hendrixscissorfight in-studio 2 (Photo by Jay Fortin)s Electric Lady — to design the control room. That really elevates us to a whole new level in terms of prestige — not to mention, the acoustics in here sound incredible.”

I wouldn’t argue. Fortin was about to lay down some acoustic guitar flourish on a maddeningly catchy track with the working title “Beaver Fever” — the twist: it’s actually about Giardia — but already the material sounded huge, with the trademark crunch in his and Jarvis‘ weighted tones that became a staple of Scissorfight‘s sound in their initial run. Over top, Aubin brought his own edge to sardonic lyrics, snarls and growls about drinking beaver piss. The band called it a public service. I’ll assume the same applies to “Tits Up” and “’70s Boobs,” another working title.

Those three were mostly done. Jarvis put some banjo on “Beaver Fever” that may or may not make the final cut — was cool but might’ve been a bit much with the acoustic already there; would need to hear it mixed — and Aubin will have to go back in for “Ol’ Taint Rot” and “Stove,” but the basic tracks were finished to the point that Grotto, grumbling about the response time of his wireless mouse, was already compiling tracks for rough mixes to send the band. The mental organization involved in that process is not to be understated. At the same time he was cross-fading two tracks joining together, he was also running hard drive backups and drawing on markers so he knew where preamp dials were, for the next time the band are in, or maybe just to keep a record of it. Either way, there’s nothing haphazard about the process.

Grotto told me in a not at all complaining fashion that he’s had one day off since January. Watching him work again, I believe it. The drive and the passion he puts into what he does is inspiring, and as Scissorfight step up to claim the utter dominance of New England that has basically been theirs for the taking for the last decade, there are no better hands they could be in. With smartass jokes a-flying, FortinJarvis and Aubin (Orcutt wasn’t there) were completely at ease at Mad Oak, and it was clear just from being there for the few hours I was how much that was also part of the intricate design.

“The new space sounds amazing,” said Grotto. “It’s made my life so much easier. Every drummer who’s donescissorfight in-studio 5 (Photo by Jay Fortin) a session in here so far has told me it’s the best drum room they’ve ever played in. The room just sings. And we laid out the gear and infrastructure in a way that speeds up the workflow, so we’re just flying through setup, and the bands play great. It’s been fantastic.”

Scissorfight‘s new EP is called Chaos County and will be out later this year. Thanks to Jay Fortin for letting me use his photos of the session.

Scissorfight on Thee Facebooks

Scissorfight on Instagram

Mad Oak Studios website

Mad Oak on Thee Facebooks

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Worshipper Sign to Tee Pee Records; Shadow Hymns Due in August

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 28th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

Congratulations to Boston heavy rockers Worshipper on signing to Tee Pee Records for the release of their debut album, Shadow Hymns, this August. The hard-driving four-piece have impressed over the course of two 2015 singles — Place Beyond the Light (discussed here) and the preceding Black Corridor (review here) — as well as in a live setting so much that they’ve already picked up a Boston Music Award and, more recently, won the Rock and Roll Rumble competition of local acts. Boston loves its own, to be sure, but even so, that’s a considerable response for a band who hasn’t yet put a record out.

I asked guitarist/vocalist John Brookhouse to comment on the signing and he had this to say:

“Holy shit! I listen to my copy of the first Graveyard record constantly and to flip it over and see ‘Tee Pee’ on the back, the label that is putting out OUR first record, blows my mind. We’re all really proud of how it came out, sonically and visually. Bob did an amazing job with the artwork, so we’re excited for people to see it in person as well as to hear it.”

Worshipper release Shadow Hymns on Tee Pee Records on Aug. 28. The PR wire makes it official:

worshipper

WORSHIPPER Sign With Tee Pee Records

Award-Winning Massachusetts Metal Band To Unleash Full-length Debut, ‘Shadow Hymns’, this Summer

Boston-based metal band WORSHIPPER has signed to NYC’s Tee Pee Records, the independent record label known for releasing landmark albums from acts such as High on Fire, Graveyard, Earthless and Sleep. With a sound described as “darkly epic”, WORSHIPPER has earned consistent accolades since its formation, being named the “Metal Artist of the Year” at the 2015 Boston Music Awards and, most recently, being chosen over 23 other participating bands as champions of the 2016 “Rock and Roll Rumble”, a competition hailed as “The World Series of Boston Rock” that has taken place annually since 1979.

WORSHIPPER will release its full-length debut, Shadow Hymns, on August 28. The record was recorded at Q Division, Mad Oak, and Converse Rubber Tracks Studios with producers Benny Grotto (Aerosmith, Orange Goblin) and David Minehan (The Replacements) and showcases WORSHIPPER’s melodically thunderous sound. Through its unique mix of contemporary and classic influences, WORSHIPPER prove that the horn-throwing soul of melodic heavy music’s past still burns brightly.

“We couldn’t be more pleased to be welcomed to the Tee Pee family,” comments guitarist Alejandro Necochea. “We think it’s a perfect fit and we are immensely proud to have our music released by the same label that put out some of our favorite records of the past couple decades.”

In addition to Necochea, WORSHIPPER features John Brookhouse (vocals / guitar), Dave Jarvis (drums) and Bob Maloney (vocals, bass).

https://www.facebook.com/worshipperband/
http://worshipper.bandcamp.com/
http://teepeerecords.com/products/

Worshipper, Place Beyond the Light / Step Behind (2015)

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Moon Tooth and Rozamov Announce Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 27th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

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

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

Word came down the PR wire:

moon tooth rozamov poster

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

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

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

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

Moon Tooth, Chromaparagon (2016)

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

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Roadburn 2016 Trip Pt. 1: Hover

Posted in Features on April 12th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

theee airporte

04.12.16 — 6:35PM Eastern — Boston Logan Intl. — At the gate

The flight before my flight, or maybe the flight before the flight before my flight — one does like to get to the airport early — seems to be running late, so the place is packed. A constant murmur bleeding through the quiet moments of the Spotlights album, which, despite that, is pretty good. Whenever my time comes, I’ll board the plane and fly redeye-style to Reykavik, which may be the coolest thing I ever get to say in my life: “Yeah, it was a redeye to Reykjavik.” No big deal. I do it all the time.

Nothing, of course, could be farther from the truth. This doesn’t happen all the time. This happens once a year. After connecting in Reykjavik, I head on to Amsterdam and then — maybe a car, maybe a train?; not sure yet — to Tilburg for what will be my eighth attendance the Roadburn Festival, third as editor of the Weirdo Canyon Dispatch daily ‘zine. I am no longer able to convey how special this time of year is for me, nor can I accurately describe the clawing I’ve done through the last several weeks to get to this point. Last year, I walked onto the loading dock behind the 013 venue, where Roadburn is held or at very least based, and said out loud it was good to be home. That space has been redone in the interim — so have I, to an extent — but I know once I get there and figure out where the stages are it will be the same feeling.

An ultimate escape from real life, and right now particularly, one sorely needed. Having gone back to work full-time has drained me past a comfortable point of the parts of me that I consider myself, and as I’ve been squirming in my seat for I don’t even know how long, this is precisely the kind of okay-go-play I need to make me feel alive again, like I’m something more than a commuter with short hair or the office weirdo who always takes his shoes off at his desk. I need to not be that, I think probably even more than I realize I need it.

If you’ve read this site’s Roadburn coverage in previous years, then you know how it goes. Each night, after the day’s events are over, I will update with a wrap up of that day. It’s not quite live-blogging, which would be me tweeting that Neurosis are awesome while Neurosis are playing and offers in my view precious little substance (though I will probably post some stuff on Instagram as well), but I hope to capture a fraction of the vibrant, creative mania that drives this event and, in my view and my experience, makes it different from everything else out there and, yes, special as fuck.

Let’s say each day’s review will be up before the next day starts, at the latest. But unless a piano falls on my head, that means late-night posts all the way.

Hours to go before I leave, and from what I hear I have a middle seat on the flight — of the exit row, but still — so I don’t expect too many favors from the universe on this one, but at the end of this slog is Roadburn, and if Roadburn is anything at all, it’s worth getting to. This is the start of my calendar, a retreat for mind and what in my pitiful case passes for a spirit, and I can’t wait to be surrounded by the music, the people and to be in the place itself. There isn’t a doubt in my mind it will be incredible. Not one.

Thanks in advance for reading if you do and for being a part of this.

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Kind Sign with Total Volume Agency; Touring Europe this Fall

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 12th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

Kind‘s 2015 debut album, Rocket Science (review here), is available now on vinyl through Ripple Music. The band have done some sporadic live shows over the months since the CD dropped last December, as members continue their work on other bands and tours — drummer Matt Couto out with Elder again, bassist Tom Corino wrapping up the awaited debut from Rozamov, vocalist Craig Riggs (also Roadsaw and White Dynomite) touring on drums with Sasquatch, guitarist Darryl Shepard busy being the mayor of Boston heavy rock — but it seems their intention is to head to Europe in October and do a round of shows to support the record. They’ve just signed a deal with Total Volume Agency, in good company with the likes of Valley of the SunGeezerTuberBlaak HeatNaxatras and Funeral Horse, which will no doubt help them in that cause.

Total Volume announced the partnership thusly:

kind (Photo by Nicole Tammaro)

Total Volume – First addition to our roster this year : KIND!

Formed in 2013 by Matt Couto (Elder), Darryl Shepard (Black Pyramid, The Scimitar) and Tom Corino (ROZAMOV) – after the trio spent time jamming together in-between day-to-day commitments – the doom supergroup KIND quickly cemented their formation with the addition of Roadsaw vocalist Craig Riggs.

Out of the mind-bending riffs and extended jam sessions, whole songs began to take shape through winter rehearsals down in Couto’s freezing cold basement in 2014, where the newly formed quartet began laying down ideas for their soon to be released debut, Rocket Science, which officially landed this December on Ripple Music.

Shows were soon booked to share the tunes with the curious. Further riffs materialized, new songs banged into shape, and yet more shows confirmed, so keen were the band to test their mettle and mixture of heavy metal, psych, Krautrock and straight-up classic rock and roll.

With four songs recorded at Mad Oak Studios serving as the band’s demo in the spring of 2015, KIND entered New Alliance Studios with engineer Alec Rodriguez to record their first full-length, Rocket Science, which received an official release this past December on the California-based label Ripple Music.

https://www.facebook.com/KINDtheband/
http://www.ripple-music.com/
http://www.totalvolumeagency.com/kind.html

Kind, Live at Saint Vitus Bar, Dec. 2015

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Hepatagua Announce East Coast Tour; Premiere New Track “Ganesha”

Posted in audiObelisk, Whathaveyou on April 5th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

hepatagua

If you want to give people a taste of what you’re going for with your debut EP, a 10-minute track will probably get the job done. Thus Boston-based duo Hepatagua unveil the sprawling “Ganesha,” the closing cut from their upcoming Worms release, which is out this Friday and which they’ll carry with them on their upcoming East Coast tour, all serving as a precursor to their first full-length, The Lost Art of Dropping Dead, due out later this year. Got all that? It’s a lot, I know.

The take-away is that Hepatagua, the two-piece of guitarist/vocalist Aaron Gray and drummer Nate Linehan, are getting ready to unveil their first offering, Worms, by taking it down and back up the Eastern Seaboard for shows in Philly, Brooklyn, Connecticut, Massachusetts, South Carolina, Alabama, etc. A release tour is a pretty bold move for a band like Hepatagua, but a listen to the EP finds their sound working likewise, either reveling in noisy aggro crush, as on its title-track, melding post-metallic progressive churn and soaring melodies on “No Rights” or moving from the initially frantic opening stretch of “Ganesha” to the patient, semi-psychedelic wandering that follows and rounds out with Gray‘s guitar offering full-on hypnotic drone at the finish.

You can hear “Ganesha” via the player below, following the tour info and some more background on Worms and the impending The Lost Art of Dropping Dead.

It all goes like this:

hepatagua worms

Hepatagua announces East Coast Spring 2016 Tour in support of their upcoming EP titled “Worms”

Boston sludge/doom/dark rock duo, Hepatagua are about to hit the road for their first East Coast tour. They’ll kick things off with an EP release (a selection of the upcoming LP) show at O’Brien’s Pub in Allston, MA on Friday April 8th, 2016 and then head out down to AL and back to support the EP. Also joining them will be local sludge titans, Phantom Glue, hardcore/metal/thrashers Jack Burton vs David Lo Pan (also their LAST SHOW), and sludge/doom heartthrobs, Upheaval.

Hepatagua East Coast TOUR DATES
4/8/16 O’Brien’s Pub – Allston, MA
4/9/16 33 Golden St – New London, CT
4/10/16 Lucky 13 Saloon – Brooklyn, NY
4/12/16 The Radio Room – Greenville, SC
4/13/16 The Ordnance – Birmingham, AL
4/14/16 Union EAV – Atlanta, GA
4/15/16 The Odditorium, Asheville, NC
4/16/16 Guido’s Speakeasy, Frederick, MD
4/17/16 Kung Fu Necktie – Philadelphia, PA

Hepatagua was once described as a two headed giant fighting another giant with the limbs of a third giant. It came to life in 2013, when BFF’s Nate Linehan (of AxCx/Fistula fame) and Aaron Gray (owner of Grayskull Booking) came to realize that they loved The Melvins, Nirvana, High on Fire, Failure, and formed a two piece dedicated to the riff and the exploration of playing whatever genre they feel like as long as it’s heavy as fvck. They’ve shared stages with the likes of Weedeater, King Parrot, Jucifer, Lo-Pan, and more and their debut EP, Worms, is just a taste of their upcoming LP titled “The Lost Art of Dropping Dead.”

www.facebook.com/hepatagua
www.hepatagua.bandcamp.com
twitter : @hepatagua

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Gozu Sign to Heavy Psych Sounds Booking; Euro Tour in September

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 4th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

This seems an awful lot like a winning match. I’ve heard the Gozu record, and among the primary impressions I have of the band at this point is the fact that they should be touring. They play locally a lot, and they’ve been to Europe before, certainly, but they should be on the road. Particularly for the upcoming Revival (review pending), they’re more than ready to take their game to a wider public, and since Europe is where that kind of thing happens these days, teaming up with the booking arm of the oh-so-busy Heavy Psych Sounds, yeah, that’s a good way to go.

Looks like September is when they’ll head over, as the PR wire explains:

gozu (Photo by Tim Bugbee)

Well the old saying, “Rock is my business and business been good.” This statement is definitely coming true for the Boston 4 piece Gozu.

First signing earlier this year to California’s heavy rock label, Ripple Music, and having their new album coming out to the masses in June they have now teamed up with Italy’s Heavy Psych Records Booking department for their upcoming European tour in September.

“The group is very excited to be working with Gabriel, the brains behind Heavy Psych.” said vocalist/guitarist Marc Gaffney. His roster is incredibly strong and all of us enjoy the bands that he works with and felt it would be a comfortable home. When booking a tour you want to feel a sense of calmness and togetherness and that was concretely evident, hence signing with Heavy Psych to book the band. We feel it will be a vibrant and fortuitous relationship.”

“Ripple Music is thrilled to have Gozu touring Europe with Heavy Psych Sounds Booking,” said Ripple Music CEO Todd Severin. “They’ve done a great job of booking European tours for other Ripple bands, such as Ape Machine and Mos Generator, and as the relationship between our two like-minded organizations grows hopefully they will be able to help many more Ripple bands tour Europe in the future.”

Look for the Ripple album, Revival, to hit the stores on both sides of the Atlantic on June 10th, in LP, CD and digital formats. Available world-wide in music outlets and the Ripple Music Webstore, and digitally via Ripple Music Bandcamp and all known digital platforms

“Gozu is extremely excited to get back to Europe and let the rock roll,” said Gaffney “So see you all in September as there will truly be a Revival!”

https://www.facebook.com/GOZU666/
http://www.ripple-music.com/
www.heavypsychsounds.com

Gozu, “Nature Boy” official video

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Live Review: Bongzilla, Black Cobra, Kings Destroy and Lo-Pan in Somerville, MA, 04.02.16

Posted in Reviews on April 4th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

bongzilla show 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

The bill pushed the envelope of ridiculous. As part of their ongoing reunion, Wisconsin sludgers Bongzilla have been on tour since late February with nomadic thrashers Black Cobra and only-slightly-less-nomadic heavy rockers Lo-Pan. They met up with New York’s Kings Destroy — freshly back from their Australian run with Radio Moscow — at SXSW last month, and have continued along the Eastern Seaboard since. Friday night was a sold-out show at Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn, and Saturday was ONCE Ballroom in Somerville, Massachusetts, for a show that was put on by Grayskull Booking and presented in part by this site.

It was my first time at ONCE Ballroom, but I’d like to extend personal gratitude to whoever decided to leave the lights on while the bands played. The P.A. was formidable, and it was a night that would push its limits, and the layout like the kind of place you might rent for a wedding reception. That’s not a dig on it — actually the room was quite nice — it’s just the first thing that came to my oh-so-domestic mind. There was a dance floor in front of the stage and carpeted floor space all around, bar to the side and another bar upstairs in kind of a lounge with a pool table Addams Family pinball machine and so on. To the best of my knowledge, they haven’t been doing shows there long, which explains how the carpet wasn’t completely disgusting or otherwise gone, but for the most part, the evening ran smoothly.

Here’s how it went down:

Lo-Pan

lo-pan 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I don’t know how many shows the Ohio four-piece have done with Black Cobra over the years, and in fact I doubt it’s a figure even they could quote at this point, but to understate it, I’d say they’re well past the range of “several.” It had been nearly a full 12 months since last time I saw them, which was at Roadburn 2015 (review here). To be blunt, they were missed. I was particularly interested to see a year later how guitarist Adrian Zambrano had continued to fit in the band after joining late in 2014 the lineup with vocalist Jeff Martin, bassist Scott Thompson and drummer Jesse Bartz, who was positioned, as ever, at the front of the stage. Most of what they played was new, and in terms of where they’re at in progressing from the high-impact delivery of their 2014 fourth album, Colossus (review here), they seemed not at all to have taken a step back, but to have integrated Zambrano‘s energy into their own. And the guitarist had plenty to integrate, stepping up to lead songs with riffs or space out just a bit in two quieter cuts. They reportedly have some new recordings in the can, which I’m dying to hear, and the last song of their set, “Pathfinder,” might be the best thing I’ve ever heard them play. I’d never heard the song before but was taken in completely by its flow, by Martin‘s out-of-this-world vocals, by Bartz‘s signature crashes, the swing in Thompson‘s bass and the dynamic volume switches in Zambrano‘s guitar. They’ve been on the road for a month, so I figured they’d be tight, but Lo-Pan served voluminous reminder of their place among the US’ finest heavy rock acts. Keeping my fingers crossed it’s not another year until I see them again.

Kings Destroy

kings destroy 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Another case of been-too-long. Kings Destroy are very nearly a year out from the release of their self-titled third full-length (review here), and the last time I caught them was at the release show (review here) for it, which, yeah, is too damn long for my preferences. They played a six-song set, and the change in vibe from Lo-Pan was immediate. Each of the bands on this tour offers something different from the others, but I hadn’t really considered how smoothly the acts — especially the first three, but Bongzilla as well — would flow between them, Lo-Pan starting off with a charged-fuzz boot to the ass, Kings Destroy turning that more aggressive, Black Cobra hitting with unmatched intensity, and finally, Bongzilla finishing out with a mass of tone. For being disparate in their sound, Kings Destroy followed Lo-Pan well. They had a fill-in bassist in Mike Moebius (also producer for Pilgrim, Kings Destroy, The Munsens and others) holding down Aaron Bumpus‘ usual spot next to drummer Rob Sefcik and guitarist Chris Skowronski, and while Skowronski didn’t run across the stage to kick fellow guitarist Carl Porcaro, so I can’t call it the most raucous Kings Destroy set I’ve ever seen, they showed themselves plainly to be ready to move forward from the last record. This tour hasn’t been quite back to back with the aforementioned Australian stint, but close enough to it that when it’s over I wouldn’t be surprised if they hunkered down for a while and set to finishing material for their fourth LP. Whatever their plans, it was great to bang my head again to “Mr. O” and “Smokey Robinson,” to groove on the catchy creeper vibes of “The Mountie” and to hear vocalist Steve Murphy‘s changed cadence in the hook of “Blood of Recompense,” which finished out. I’m hardly impartial on the subject, but I’ve really missed these guys.

Black Cobra

black cobra 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

What can you do when Black Cobra take the stage other than bow to their utter supremacy? I don’t know. The San Fran (now) twosome of guitarist/vocalist Jason Landrian and drummer Rafa Martinez hit the 15-year mark in 2016, a decade since their first album, Bestial, was released, and their assault has only gotten more and more vicious. Their newly-issued Season of Mist debut, Imperium Simulacra (review here), made its primary impression — or at least a complementary one to their omnipresent fury — in an expansion of their capacity for atmosphere, in Landrian‘s willingness to drone out in contrast to the thrashing riffery that has become the band’s signature, and I was pleased to find them bring that sensibility to the stage as well. I’m not going to take away from the joy of watching Martinez blast the hell out of an all-out cut like “Obsolete,” slamming his floor tom in place of a double-kick, or the unmitigated tension of “Challenger Deep,” but to hear them hit the brakes even momentarily to ride out a rolling groove or to have Landrian create an excruciating soundscape of drone before the next wave of the attack was launched made the experience of watching them that much richer. They are a live band and always have been, and anyone who has heard their records but not seen them only has half the story, but the fact that the growth that was so clearly signaled on the record showed up so plainly on stage as well is emblematic of their all-around progression. I won’t say it’s a question of maturity, since I’d argue Black Cobra hit that stride with 2011’s Invernal, but perhaps of how they’re putting that maturity to use, deepening their approach. It’s a thrill to watch Black Cobra break the rules they’ve set for themselves, and one hopes that the explorations of Imperium Simulacra are a sign of things to come.

Bongzilla

bongzilla 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I’ve been wracking my brains for the last couple weeks trying to remember if I’d seen Bongzilla before and I’ve finally decided that the answer is no, because if I had caught them at some point during their initial run, which ended after their 2005 album, Amerijuanican, on Relapse, I’d remember it. The ultra-weedian four-piece of guitarist/vocalist Muleboy, guitarist Spanky, bassist Cooter Brown and drummer Magma stacked their amps high — everything was high — and were loud enough in their early going that, I think in their third song, the power cut out. Not like they blew an amp, like they blew a fuse. It was an unexpected break in the set, during which the band encouraged everyone to go out and smoke weed — because weed — but seemed somehow fitting for the band’s legacy of over-the-top, crusty-as-hell sludge that the room simply couldn’t take it. I learned later they’d plugged a bunch of their amps into a single surge protector, and I guess that’d do it if that’s how it happened, but they got everything back up and running sooner or later and the crowd was right back into the set as they had been all along, the reefer-obsessed anti-hits rolling out in a slow-motion barrage of consuming tonal density. On a couple levels, one knew what to expect going into the show — Bongzilla have never been in danger of being subtle — but those expectations were delivered on thoroughly, and with the response they’ve gotten all along on this tour, and the one before it, and the one before that, I had to wonder how long it might be before they embark on a new record to follow-up on the series of reissues that Relapse and Hydro-Phonic have done over the past years. Wouldn’t want to make any hasty predictions or anything, but I bet whenever they do come out with a fifth record, it’ll have a song or two about weed on it. No complaints. In life, you gotta follow where your passion takes you.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading, and once again, thanks to Grayskull Booking for having me as a presenter on this show. Check out their Thee Facebooks for more dates coming up.

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