Here’s the Bio I Wrote for Worshipper’s Light in the Wire

Posted in Features on May 17th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Today marks the release date of Worshipper‘s second album, Light in the Wire (review here). Out on Tee Pee Records, it lands immediately following the return of the Boston four-piece from a European tour alongside labelmates The Skull that included stops at Desertfest in London and Berlin to follow-up on both bands’ appearance at the inaugural Desertfest NYC a few weeks back (review here).

The release will be celebrated tonight in Cambridge, MA, with a live in-store performance at Newbury Comics in Harvard Square. The retail outlet also has an exclusive color vinyl edition available that looks just lovely in the pictures that I’ve seen. I was fortunate enough to be asked when they were putting the promo package together to write the bio for the album, and I did so happily.

For the occasion of the release, here’s that bio I wrote, as it appears currently on their Bandcamp page:

worshipper light in the wire

Worshipper – Light in the Wire bio

Whatever frame you want to give it, Worshipper’s story is one of growth. What started four years ago with a couple digital singles has blossomed — yes, blossomed — into an expansive and individualized sound that’s like nothing else in heavy rock and roll. With patient and graceful songwriting, and thoughtful, detailed arrangements, the Boston-based four-piece bring something new to the hordes of those building altars to the capital ‘r’ Riff. Their second album, Light in the Wire, presents a progressive vision that’s not just about “oh hey we threw a keyboard on some guitar,” but instead bleeds into every melody, every smoothly-delivered rhythmic change, and every performance captured on the recording.

Worshipper’s first album, Shadow Hymns, came out in 2016 on Tee Pee, and they followed it with the 2017 covers EP Mirage Daze, a four-song jaunt exploring influences like Pink Floyd, The Who, Uriah Heep and doom rockers The Oath. That release gave new context to Shadow Hymns, and it informs Light in the Wire as well, though with the new LP, Worshipper are most recognizable as themselves.

Led by would-be-reluctant-were-it-not-for-all-that-pesky-stage-presence frontman John Brookhouse (guitar/vocals/synth), with Alejandro Necochea on lead guitar/synth, Bob Maloney on bass and backing vocals and Dave Jarvis on drums, Worshipper recorded Light in the Wire with Chris Johnson (also of Deafheaven, Summoner, etc.) at GodCity Studios and The Electric Bunker. Their intention to capture a sonic narrative has resulted 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. At the center, always, is the crafting of the songs themselves, so that each verse isn’t simply a placeholder for the next hook, but a statement unto itself, and each solo drips soul rather than devolving into a needless showcase of wankery.

Light in the Wire not only sees Worshipper grow as songwriters and performers, but it expands the palette they’re working with to do that. A stage-born chemistry pervades their musical conversation, but even more, the confidence with which they take on darkness and light, weight and drift, brings into focus how faithworthy their sound has become. They may push farther still, but hearing Light in the Wire leaves no question of their realization.

-JJ Koczan

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Worshipper, Light in the Wire (2019)

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Friday Full-Length: Elder, Dead Roots Stirring

Posted in Bootleg Theater on May 10th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

So yes, I’ve been thinking about what are some of the best heavy records of the decade. We’re almost halfway into 2019, it’s time for a bit of reflection on what the heavy ’10s have wrought. I’ll probably do a poll at some point in the next couple months instead of my own list — frankly, I’m more curious what everyone else thinks — but I have to imagine Elder‘s 2011 second album for MeteorCity, Dead Roots Stirring (review here), belongs somewhere in that discussion. I don’t think it’s album of the decade, or even the greatest achievement Elder have had in the last 10 years, but it was an important moment for the Massachusetts then-trio of guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo, bassist Jack Donovan and drummer Matt Couto, when they began to really show who they were becoming as a band and how their songwriting process was beginning to realize a more progressive vision. Their prior 2008 self-titled debut (discussed here) made its impression via riffs and grooving largesse. Dead Roots Stirring, at the time, was an entirely different level of achievement for Elder, and it set them on the path toward not only emerging as a touring band, but becoming an essential voice of progressive heavy rock and an influence for others to follow.

That’s hindsight, so I’ll stress that when it came out, no one knew that was going to happen. Elder had played some outside of their native Boston and gained a reputation for blowing much older bands off the stage, but I can remember vividly putting on Dead Roots Stirring for the first time, making my way through “Gemini” and the 12-minute title-track that follows it, and being fairly blindsided by the leap in their sound. Now, that’s just what they do, right? Every album is a considerable step forward from the one before it. They’ve done it four times. But Dead Roots Stirring was the first leap, and I still feel the impact of that when I listen to the record. The turn to acoustics in the intro to the instrumental “III” and the graceful build-up from there; the way they embraced not only the longer-form work of the debut, but shifted that to tell a story with the music as well as the lyrics. Elder‘s songwriting process has long since defied conventional logic. That is, they’ve never really been a verse-chorus-verse-chorus band. It’s always, “We’ll take this part and put it next to this part and sometimes we’ll maybe repeat a part and it’ll be awesome because Matt half-times the drums or something.” And why the hell should that work? Aside from Couto half-timing the drums, because I’m sorry, but that’s always going to be great. But seriously, Elder manage to turn a part played once into a hook, and one can hear that throughout Dead Roots Stirring, on “Dead Roots Stirring” itself, certainly, so elder dead roots stirringthat when a riff does come back around, its effect is all the more highlighted. It’s dumbfounding. It shouldn’t work. Other bands do it, and it just sounds like part-mashing. Elder do it and it’s brilliant.

I won’t take away from the opening salvo of which that title-track is part. “Gemini” into “Dead Roots Stirring” is probably one of the strongest one-two punches a heavy rock record has offered in the last 10 years — and yes, I mean that — but “III,” “The End” and “Knot” showed even more how far their reach had expanded in the three years since their debut. Already noted was the poise of “III,” which not only served its individual function, but fed into the overarching flow of the entire album as its centerpiece, leading to the tumbling fuzzout of “The End,” which was probably the most guitar-led of an album that’s still very much guitar-led. Peppered throughout with leads and backed by a solid groove, the song moved through a long instrumental passage at its end to cap with undulating volume swells and give a direct transition into close “Knot,” which was just a few second shy of the title-cut’s 12 minutes. The finale showed rare swagger on the part of the band, much bolstered by Donovan‘s bass, and swung its way into a overload wash of noise at the end, something Elder‘s cleaner tones on subsequent work would never really allow them to do again. I recall hearing a lot of Colour Haze in Dead Roots Stirring at the time, and I hear some less now, but there’s no question Elder were already pulling from more than just the conventional heavy-rock-riffout playbook even eight years ago. This was something special. Still is.

And of course, Elder have continued to build on it to a point where they’ll be back on tour in Europe starting next week (click here to pop out tour banner). I was fortunate enough to see them two weeks ago headlining the inaugural Desertfest NYC (review here), and they were every bit the headlining act, professional in their delivery but still clearly passionate about what they do and with the kind of draw to anchor a festival lineup. Their last two albums, 2015’s landmark Lore (review here) and 2017’s Reflections of a Floating World (review here), have pushed them further along the progressive path, growing increasingly clearheaded in their purposes as they step forward from what Dead Roots Stirring and its 2012 companion EP, Spires Burn/Release (review here), accomplished, and their profile has only grown to match. The last album was doubly notable for being the point where they added a fourth member in guitarist/keyboardist Mike Risberg, and allowed themselves a little more room to explore different textures touching on psychedelia and jamming in ways they never had before. They’re slated to release a new EP along those lines called The Gold and Silver Sessions of instrumental work — kind of a one-off — but it will be interesting to hear when they embark on a fifth full-length if and how that plays into their sound.

Because if Elder‘s output over the last 11 years been anything, it’s been a narrative thread of progress, with each offering using the one before it as a springboard to new modes of expression. I won’t guess where their next record will take them in terms of sound, but I’ll be glad to find out when the time comes, just as I was that first time I put on Dead Roots Stirring years ago.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

Oh, my aching head. Whenever I get a real-deal toothache, I think of that scene in Cast Away where Tom Hanks goes DIY-dentist on his mouth with an ice skate. Something on the stage left side of my mouth has been giving me similar impulses all week, and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a distraction from writing. Last night I was up a few times overnight from the combined pain of the toothache plus the inevitable jaw clenching I do in my sleep because, well, unresolved trauma, I guess? I don’t know. Anyway, it hurt like a bastard to the point that 2AM found me downstairs digging the tube of Orajel out of the couch cushion to numb it up. Good fun.

So yes, this week, as American democracy develops yet-more cracks in its imitation-Roman marble and the UN says like a million species are dying because humans exist, I’ve been busy thinking about my hurty tooth. Is it the worst thing that’s every happened to anyone in the existence of mankind? Yes. It is. Sorry. It’s the worst.

It’s been two weeks since I properly closed out a week. Whoops. Two weeks ago was Desertfest NYC. That was fun. Last week was the New England Stoner and Doom Fest, and though I didn’t end up going — family matters; it happens — I didn’t really pull the plug on it until Friday afternoon, and as I was already in the car and driving, just didn’t have the opportunity to put something together. I only mention it because it was noted in a comment. If you’ve been aching for a Friday Full-Length, I thought Elder would probably do the job nicely. I hope that’s the case.

This past weekend was The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio. The 15th episode. I’ve been talking this week to the program director, Brian Turner, about swapping out for a weekday shift, since apparently the Thursday replays have been going well. I think that’s pretty nifty. I didn’t really imagine doing the radio thing would last this long. I thought it would be a couple episodes, the audience would be like, “This isn’t Dave Mustaine — screw you!” and I’d get summarily shitcanned. Not to say it couldn’t still happen, but it hasn’t yet. I’ll keep you posted when the next episode is going to go live, but it looks like maybe Friday the 24th at 1PM Eastern? We’ll see if that’s final. I need to email Brian back, which I’ll do as soon as I finish writing this.

Neat either way, though, and twice as encouraging, because basically with that show I’m trying to play so much new stuff. I don’t know. It feels good to do a thing and have it be well received. That’s all. Give me my moment. I know it won’t last.

Next week is packed. I’ve been getting to the point where people hit me up for coverage and stuff and I’ve had to issue flat turn-downs. Not because I don’t want to cover whatever it is, just because everything’s already slated. It’s madness, I tell you.

Here are the notes, subject to change blah blah:

MON 05/13 LAMP OF THE UNIVERSE REVIEW
TUE 05/14 ETHEREAL RIFFIAN VID PREMIERE; LANGFINGER LIVE ALBUM TRACK PREMIERE
WED 05/15 SLOMATICS PREMIERE
THU 05/16 KALEIDOBOLT TRACK PREMIERE
FRI 05/17 VALLEY OF THE SUN ALBUM STREAM

There might also be another video premiere on Monday if I can properly coordinate it in time. If not, maybe later in the week? I don’t know. This week was oddly light on news, but I’ve already got stuff slated for Monday — friggin’ Truckfighters are putting together a festival in Stockholm; thanks guys, I was gonna do that! — so that’s good. I feel better when I’m playing catchup.

But seriously, new Slomatics, Kaleidobolt, Valley of the Sun and Langfinger next week? All premieres? And a new Ethereal Riffian video? Even if nothing else happens, that’s a pretty badass week right there. I’m stoked to be doing a Slomatics premiere. Their new album frickin’ fantastic. Likewise Valley of the Sun. Two year-end-listers for sure.

Alright, this post has gone on long enough and I won’t delude myself into thinking anyone’s still reading, but if you are, thanks for doing so. I hope you have a great and safe weekend, and I hope you check out the forum, radio stream and merch over at Dropout.

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Review & Track Premiere: Worshipper, Light in the Wire

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on April 24th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

worshipper light in the wire

[Click play above to stream ‘Visions from Beyond’ from Worshipper’s new album, Light in the Wire, out May 17 on Tee Pee Records. European tour dates here.]

“Become one with the circuit/Come alive with a purpose/You are light in the wires/Transcend, higher and higher,” croons Worshipper frontman John Brookhouse on the mid-paced pluralized-title-track “Light in the Wires” from his band’s second album, Light in the Wire. Brookhouse, guitarist Alejandro Necochea, bassist Bob Maloney and drummer Dave Jarvis make their return through Tee Pee Records and find a suitable home for their richly melodic, guitar-based proggy heavy rock, seeming to draw influences from across decades — and no, that’s not limited to the ’70s and ’90s, as one might usually expect; there’s an unmistakable ’80s sheen to the sound, and the interplay of humans and technology is as much of a theme as I could possibly think of for the aughts, unless they wanted to write about needless war — to create a sound that’s forward thinking, impeccably modern, righteously arranged, sharply executed, and engaging in its craft and structure, with verses, choruses, solos aplenty and an overarching atmosphere that all work to pull the listener in further as the band progresses.

It feels like a relatively quick turnaround but isn’t for Worshipper, whose debut, Shadow Hymns (review here), was released through Tee Pee in 2016 and who also had the Mirage Daze EP (review here) out last year as a stopgap with covers of Uriah Heep, The Oath, Pink Floyd and The Who, but more important than the span of time between records is the clear growth the Boston-based outfit have undertaken since their first record. They’ve had songwriting on their side since their 2015 singles, Black Corridor b/w High Above the Clouds (review here) and Place Beyond the Light b/w Step Behind (discussed here), but as dynamic tracks like “Wither on the Vine” and the second cut “Who Holds the Light” demonstrate, the level at which they’re working has simply become more complex and more cohesive at the same time. Worshipper‘s identity as a band, and more, their identifiability — that is, the “hear a song and know it’s them” factor — is more prevalent and offers more depth throughout Light in the Wire, and with that same foundation in craft and performance supporting that the first album made so plain, it is the work of a band beginning to realize their potential and one of the best albums of 2019. “Come alive with a purpose.” And so they have.

They make that clear early on in opening with “Coming Through.” Also the longest track on Light in the Wire (immediate points), it is the proverbial closer-as-opener, with a stirring build to its crescendo beginning at about the halfway point that consumes much of the rest of what follows, a resonant sense of melody throughout and a style that blends psychedelia, heavy rock, cult riffing, classic metal and probably six or seven other factors that blend together naturally to give Worshipper their own style. Whatever else it might be, it is guitar rock, most certainly. Necochea is a six-stringer’s six-stringer, and his interaction with Brookhouse‘s melodies is a big part of what makes Light in the Wire — and “Coming Through” at the outset — so fluid. That’s not to minimize the work of Maloney on bass or backing vocals or Jarvis on drums, just to note that it’s called “lead guitar” for a reason, and “Coming Through” very much sets that tone for the rest of the record to follow, as well as establishing the science-fiction thematic that continues to play out loosely to some degree or other in tracks “Lights in the Wire,” “Visions from Beyond” and closer “Arise.”

worshipper (Photo by Tim Bugbee)

In terms of lyrics, these ideas are brought into an interpersonal context, so Worshipper aren’t just talking about uploading your consciousness into the cloud and attaining digital immortality, but approaching these concepts from a perspective based around the human heart. That suits the emotionality of Brookhouse‘s vocals well, and in songs like “Nobody Else,” which follows “Who Holds the Light” as side A plays out, that plays a forward role in the delivery of the songs while also setting up the easy flow into the subdued beginning of “Light in the Wires,” which slows down the forward push but still moves readily and gives way to “Visions from Beyond” with the kind of smooth transition that argues for linear formats. Otherwise, “Visions from Beyond” starts side B with a subtle urgency to its central riff and rhythm and one of Light in the Wire‘s strongest hooks.

Plenty of competition in that regard, but the turns from “Nobody Else” to “Light in the Wires” and “Visions from Beyond” should serve to emphasize the reach that Worshipper have made their own here. While remaining consistent in tone, they’ve massively expanded their sound, and done so with confidence and poise enough to actually pull it off. “It all Comes Back” ups the tempo in its central progression and features some highlight bass from Maloney in its second half before turning back to the guitar to show the way out, and the arrival of “Wither on the Vine” with a stomping riff that immediately conjures images of early-’80s Iommi feels like a landmark indeed for the entire album. Momentum is long since on Worshipper‘s side, and they make the most of it in the 6:37 cut, playing with pace and melody while holding to that central figure on a long fade that mirrors what “Coming Through” did at the beginning of the record as it provides a seeming apex for the end of it. That would seem to make “Arise” something of an afterthought, which it isn’t really, despite a more straightforward progression and a right-on wash of crash from Jarvis behind the lumbering guitars.

Another particularly Sabbathian riff — I’m thinking Vol. 4, but could be the mid-’70s era — serves as the foundation for the finale, and Worshipper seem happy to ride that groove all the way through, leaving the listener off with some residual amp noise feeling refreshed and, as perhaps was the intent, not overwhelmed by the twists and turns preceding. It’s almost as though in putting the closer first with “Coming Through,” they also decided to put what would otherwise be the rocking opener “Arise” as the closer. Tricky, tricky. Bottom line, it works, and it’s another example of Worshipper knowing just what the album needs not only to stand out from its predecessor or the heavy rock underground at large, but to create a more memorable impression generally as an entire piece. Light in the Wire very much functions in that way, and while that leads one to wonder if a concept record might be in their future, what matters now is the sheer accomplishment Worshipper have made with these songs and how they’re put together. That is not a minor consideration, and if Light in the Wire has any core statement to make, it’s that Worshipper are onto something that could be really special. I don’t know about becoming one with the circuit, but there would seem to be plenty of transcendence to go around.

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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
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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)

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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

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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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