If you’ll allow me a sentimental moment: I remember quite clearly standing in front of the stage at Kimo’s in San Francisco in 2010 and singing along with Snail‘s Mark Johnson and Matt Lynch to the titular hook of their 2009 return album, Blood (review here). It was among the greatest joys of the day to do so again this past August at The Obelisk All-Dayer at the Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn. Some time passed between the two events, obviously, and Snail have put out two more records in the meantime in 2012’s Terminus (review here) and 2015’s Feral (review here) and shifted from a four-piece back to the original trio of Johnson on guitar, Lynch on bass and drummer Marty Dodson, but still, it was something special.
When I announced The Obelisk All-Dayer was a thing that was happening, Snail were among the first acts who got in touch with me, offering to make their way across the continent for what would be their first East Coast appearance ever in a history that stretched as far back as their 1993 self-titled debut (review here). The generosity of that gesture was unbelievable, but the truth of the matter is I’d already dreamed of having Snail involved in the show, as Feral was so decisively their best album to-date and those songs ones I very, very much wanted to see brought to life onstage. I’m hardly an impartial observer at this point, but they were even better in Brooklyn than they’d been six years earlier in California.
The video below for “Blood” was recorded at The Obelisk All-Dayer and takes footage captured by the esteemed Frank Huang and Jennifer Hendrix and manipulates it with some additional psychedelic weirdness suited to the overall vibe. But listen to the sound as well. Snail were so on-point that I was just blown away, and as I watch “Blood,” I can only keep my fingers crossed they follow this up with a companion clip for “Thou Art That,” or, you know, a tape release of the whole set. Either way. No pressure. Ha.
I’ve included the full-stream of Feral at the bottom of this post also. I know you’ve heard it, but hell, you should hear it again.
And please enjoy:
Snail, “Blood” at The Obelisk All-Dayer official live video
Happy New Year! The high point of 2016 (for us) was getting to play The Obelisk All-Dayer in Brooklyn. Matt combined footage from a variety of sources and the board tracks and created a really trippy video of our performance of ‘Blood.’ Check it out! See if you can find the footage of a person giving blood at a blood bank…
Video and Sound Production: Matt Lynch Footage courtesy of Frank Huang and Jennifer Hendrix. Photos by Jennifer Hendrix.
Special Thanks to: Jennifer Hendrix, Frank Huang, JJ Koczan and The Obelisk and all the folks who came to rock.
A full 17 years after the fact, it’s hard not to romanticize a release like the 1999 split between California’s Nebula and Sweden’s Lowrider. Hard not to look at the Arik Roper cover art — so goddamn righteous as it is — or to hear the (mostly) Jack Endino production on Nebula‘s tracks or the blatant post-Kyussism of Lowrider‘s “Lameneshma” and not say to yourself, “This is when stoner rock was stoner rock.” That designation is ultimately meaningless. Aesthetic was no less malleable back then than it is now, and the “stoner rock” of the mid-to-late ’90s was nothing if not part of a changing face of underground heavy that was already around for a quarter-century at that point and persists now, nearly 20 years later — still changing, still remaking itself, still moving forward. That, however, does not preclude a release like this one from representing a special moment within that process.
Issued in April 1999 by MeteorCity, the split followed roughly a month after Nebula‘s Sun Creature EP on Man’s Ruin Records — the tracks from which would be compiled with those from this release and a couple new songs on 2002’s Dos EPs, which I’ll feature around here one of these days, no doubt — and only about four months before their debut album, To the Center (discussed here), came out on Tee Pee. Meanwhile, for Lowrider, it served as an introductory moment for what must’ve at the time seemed like a next step in the kind of desert rock worship that Dozer were offering on their earliest records. And listening to the sweet fuzz proliferated on the instrumental “Upon the Dune,” which closes out the release, maybe it was, but in context of the time of its arrival, they had yet to follow it with the watershed moment of 2000’s Ode to Io (discussed here) and were just a new band paired with a Californian act that had some dudes who used to be in Fu Manchu in it.
Yeah, it’s weird to think of Nebula that way as well, both because as they went on through To the Center and subsequent albums like 2001’s Charged, 2003’s Atomic Ritual, 2006’s Apollo and 2009’s Heavy Psych (review here) they’d craft their own legacy so distinct from that of the band from whom they brought on board bassist Mark Abshire and drummer Ruben Romano (now guitarist/vocalist in The Freeks), and because over those same years the lineup would change so much around guitarist/vocalist Eddie Glass. Since their sort-of-breakup in 2010 (see here and here, in that order), Nebula‘s name has been the one that seems to be more glaringly missing from the constant roster of reunions. Think about the bands from that same era who’ve come back. Some like Fu Manchu never left, but to have Dozer, Spirit Caravan and indeed Lowrider at least get back to playing shows and Nebula continue to be MIA, the attitude-laden swing of “Anything from You” and “Back to the Dawn” feels all the more like a vacant space since no one else has been able to capture it in quite the same way since their fadeout. I’ve heard rumors of various sorts about the state of the band and some of them just kind of make me sad, but in these tracks they hit with maximum vitality and their absence makes appreciating them seem all the more worthwhile.
With social media in its relative infancy at the time, at least compared to how it’s swallowed our collective current horror-show reality, the number of people who picked up on what Lowrider were doing with their included four cuts was probably nowhere near where it should’ve been. You could easily say the same of Ode to Io a year later, but here they revel in an even warmer production than on the subsequent debut. One can hear the difference from the start of “Lameneshma” and in the fuzz-laden nod of “The Gnome, the Serpent, the Sun.” They were, like Dozer, Colour Haze and a select few others, years ahead of their time, and though much of the impact and enduring influence they’d have would come from Ode to Io, in hindsight, these songs became a kind of complement to that. Sure, they were released first, but no question that “Shivaree” and “Upon the Dune,” when taken as the other crucial (and just about only) component in the Lowrider catalog, add something to the mix that makes the LP an even richer experience. How no one has done a complete discography release with these tracks, the album tracks, the version of “Lameneshma” from Lowrider‘s 1997 split 7″ with Sparzanza (review here) and any other odds and ends is well beyond me.
I’m also still hopeful that one of these days will bring word of a new Lowrider studio release. It’s coming up on four years now since they started doing sporadic festival gigs — they played Desertfest in 2013 (review here), will do so again in 2017 (info here) — but that remains wishful thinking on my part until something is confirmed. Nonetheless, like with Nebula‘s songs, Lowrider‘s inclusions on this split seem all the more precious for the relative dearth of public material they’ve issued compared to how vast their influence has been. It would’ve been hard to recognize this as a milestone at the time — 1999 was like The Year of Magical Riffing — but it was, and as worldwide heavy continues its constant outward expansion, it’s all the more reason to dig in and get a fuller picture of from whence that comes.
As always, I hope you enjoy. Thanks for reading.
Speaking of magical, I took this past Monday off work, and it was absolutely incredible. A real day off. No travel, no running around in a panic doing weekend errands that I know I won’t be able to do during the week, no dragging my ass off the couch to clean in the limited daylight hours. Just sitting on ass, listening to music, writing, and hanging out with The Patient Mrs. To say it was everything I want my life to be — with the recognition that I’d have chores to do eventually — would be underselling it. I felt genuinely refreshed as a human being in a way I rarely, rarely do.
So nothing else to do but dive into stuff like the Top 20 Debuts list that went up yesterday, last-minute album streams and fest writeups and putting together back end of the impending Top 30 — which, spoiler alert: actually goes to 50 this year — that’ll be posted on next Tuesday and become completely overwhelmed all over again, right? Right? Right.
Oh and then the week after Xmas is the Quarterly Review. Who decides this shit?
If I didn’t so much enjoy the process of grinding myself into the ground, I’d almost think maybe it wasn’t good for my general sense of well-being.
I posted on Thee Facebooks about a sponsorship deal for the site. It’s happening. Starts in January. More info to come.
In the meantime, here’s what’s in the notes for next week, all tentative of course:
Mon.: Review/full stream of the new Necro, new video from Bright Curse.
Tue.: The Top 30 of 2016.
Wed.: Sgt. Sunshine review.
Thu.: Surya Kris Peters review.
Fri.: Either a track premiere or album stream from Larman Clamor, still TBD.
There’s a lot of news already to catch up on as well, which is good because I expect it’ll be a light week with the impending holiday and all. All the better as it’s more time to set up for the Quarterly Review and get that rolling. Did I mention I’m thinking of adding a sixth day this time? Well I am. We’ll see.
I hope you have a great and safe weekend, and I hope you’ll please take the time to check out the forum and the radio stream — and if you haven’t yet, to enter your best-of list into the 2016 Year-End Poll. Thanks again for reading.
None more Jersey. With the not-always-underlying current of hardcore punk in their sound, their ‘Die Drunk’ mantra, the sheer force of their delivery, and the absolute dogshit luck that has plagued them since their inception, Solace are about as Garden State as Garden State gets. Born of the same Red Bank/Long Branch-area heavy scene (oh, I do remember some shows at the Brighton Bar… vaguely) that ignited the likes of Monster Magnet, Core, Drag Pack, The Atomic Bitchwax, The Ribeye Brothers, Halfway to Gone, Daisycutter, Solarized, Lord Sterling, on and on, Solace started life as Godspeed and like Core, were picked up by Atlantic Records, for whom they’d release one album. Guitarist Tommy Southard and bassist Rob Hultz — the latter now also in doom legends Trouble — recruited singly-named, massively-talented and no-you-can’t-see-my-lyrics vocalist Jason and ran through a slew of drummers during the period of their 1998 self-titled EP and subsequent split with Solarized, which led into their 2000 debut, Further. Released by MeteorCity, that was an album ahead of its time, and it would be another three years before Solace were able to make the follow-up that would ultimately embody the tumult that has in large part always defined them: 2003’s 13.
Southard, Hultz, Jason and no fewer than four drummers — John Proveaux, Keith Ackerman, Bill “Bixby” Belford and Matt Gunvordahl — combined across, sure enough, 13 songs to make a record of near impossible cohesion. The kind of album one puts on, listens through, hears cuts like “King Alcohol,” “Common Cause” (with its Wino guest appearance from before that was a thing people did), the opening classic/modern meld of “Loving Sickness/Burning Fuel,” the raw aggression of “In the Oven,” the swinging Pentagram cover “Forever My Queen” (again, from long before everyone had their own version), the languid initial roll of “Try,” the conquering individualized blend that surfaces in “Rice Burner,” and so on, feels like they have a good understanding of, then gets through the end of bonus track “Shit Kisser” and is in a the-hell-did-I-just-witness daze for the rest of the day. Like few before or since, Solace have been able to bend chaos to their will. Part of that is personality — if you’re fortunate enough to know Tommy, it makes more sense — but part of it also originates in an inimitable complexity of songwriting that still comes through clear in its intent toward kicking ass, and with its punker roots, is never in danger of losing its way in a wash of pretentious technicality. Metal, punk, classic heavy and more all seemed to be in Solace‘s wheelhouse on 13, and over the course of the unmanageable, CD-era hour-plus runtime, Solace pivoted between them and drew them together in a ferocious, vibrant attack that no one, in Jersey or out, has been able to match, on stage or in studio. Sorry. No one.
True to form, it would be seven years before 13 got its own follow-up. They released two EPs, Hammerhead and The Black Black, in 2004 and 2007, respectively, with the lineup solidified around Southard, Hultz, Jason, guitarist Justin Daniels and drummer Kenny Lund, but it still wasn’t until 2010 that their third full-length, A.D. (review here), arrived as their ultimate, and to-date final, triumph. No doubt it’ll be featured in this space at some point as well, but it was my pick for Album of the Year that year, and I stand by that entirely. At the time, it seemed Solace were back and ready to roll. I talked about it as the beginning of a new era for the band. Well, in 2012 they broke up, so there you go. They played what was to be their last show headlining at Days of the Doomed II (review here) in Cudahy, Wisconsin, and then were done until a semi-reunion brought Southard, Daniels and Hultz together with drummer Tim Schoenleber and vocalist/keyboardist Justin Goins for an appearance at 2015’s Vultures of Volume II (review here) in Maryland, playing on the bill directly under their one-time compatriots in Spirit Caravan, on their own reunion.
As to what the future holds, I wouldn’t dare to predict. The new incarnation of the band were in the studio as recently as this summer and fall working on new material, though to what end, I don’t know. Chaos remains a factor never far from the center of what they do, but I’ll note that we are coming up on seven years since A.D. in 2017, which would match the span between that and 13 before it.
Whether it’s new to you or old, I hope you enjoy 13. I’ve been a fan of the band for a long time, played shows with them, seen them more times than I could or would like to count and still pronounce their name “sol-ah-chay” in the spirit of Puny Human frontman Jim Starace (R.I.P., four years this month), but I can still hear new things in this album, and my sincere wish is that you do as well.
Thanks for reading.
Had to be something from New Jersey to close out this week, since I’m down here visiting family for the Thanksgiving holiday. I don’t get to see my people that often, at least not en masse, and as I’ve gotten older and as the physical distance has settled in over the past few years since The Patient Mrs. and I moved north, I’ve come to miss them dearly. My nephews are growing up and I don’t get to be a part of it in the way I otherwise would. It makes me sad, and it makes me appreciate the chances I do get to be with them all the more. They’re eight (going on nine, he’d want me to note) and six now. The years fly.
If you’re in the States, I hope you had a great Thanksgiving, however you marked the day. Like a lot of stuff about this country, it has a pretty fucked origin, what with all that genocide of the land’s native people and culture — ongoing; look at DAPL — but at least it’s become a holiday less about cashing in and more about sitting down to a meal with loved ones, whatever rampant consumerism might happen the day after. It’s a little easier for me to take that than the holidays about selling greeting cards or candy or whatever else. Anyway, hope you enjoyed yours as I enjoyed mine.
Tonight, we head back north, The Patient Mrs. and I. Exhausting, but worth it in order to wake up at home tomorrow in our own bed. I will make myself an entire pot of coffee, as is my wont, and drink it leisurely as I begin to put stuff together for next week and play the Final Fantasy V remake on my cheapie tablet. Here are my current notes for what’s coming up:
Mon: Comacozer LP review and Year of the Cobra video premiere.
Tue: Akris review and Chubby Thunderous Bad Kush Masters video premiere.
Wed: Megaritual LP review and Black Moon Circle video.
Thu: The 2016 Readers Poll goes live. Yup, it’s Dec. 1 already. Also Backwoods Payback review.
Fri: Right now it’s a Child review, though that might shift depending on what else comes through.
Some of that still needs to be organized, but it’s a basic running plan anyhow. It’s a start. Whatever it winds up being, I appreciate you taking the time to read.
Please have a great and safe (holiday) weekend, and please check out the forum and the radio stream.
I’ve been in touch with MeteorCity co-founder Jadd Shickler since I was a sniveling college kid sending out cold-call emails looking to get labels to send me CDs to play on my dinky stoner rock radio show. When he sold off the label and its All That’s Heavy webstore to the crew from StonerRock.com, it was legitimately the end of an era that brought great records from the likes of Nebula, Unida, Solace, Lowrider and many more, and as such, it’s great to see him step back into the game in joining forces with Mike Vitali as part of Magnetic Eye Records. Shickler has been writing for The Ripple Effect for a while now, and as a next stage of re-involvement in heavy rock, this seems like an awesome way to go.
The news came down the PR wire, as I expect much more will continue to do from Magnetic Eye from here on out. Cheers to Shickler and Vitali and all the best of luck:
MeteorCity founder joins Magnetic Eye
Through an unexpected cosmic confluence of entrepreneurial ambition and musical obsession, a significant addition has been made to the MER core team: original MeteorCity and All That’s Heavy co-founder and former label boss Jadd Shickler has joined Magnetic Eye as Director of Label Operations.
You may remember MeteorCity’s string of milestone releases from Nebula, Spirit Caravan, Solace, Dozer and Blind Dog, not to mention the first music released anywhere from scene icons like Unida, Lowrider, The Atomic Bitchwax, and Sixty Watt Shaman. Needless to say, Shickler’s instincts and experience are certain to help push Magnetic Eye to even greater successes going forward.
“We actually have Elephant Tree to thank for this,” Shickler says. “I’d been writing for a couple music blogs, and among all the new stuff coming my way in early 2016 was this massive record from a truly amazing band. I got to work on an Elephant Tree piece for The Ripple Effect, which brought me in touch with Mike Vitali at their label. It turned out he’d done the Solace/Greatdayforup split when I still had Solace signed, so that helped me appreciate where he was coming from. After signing off on the sale of MeteorCity in 2008, I stayed away from the music biz for a while, eventually landing in digital marketing. But working in music was my first professional love, and I’d been itching to get back to it – I just needed to wait till the moment felt right. When Mike made it known that he was looking to expand his team, the moment felt right.”
One of the first things Shickler has done since coming on board is to get MER’s retail distribution on track by leveraging existing partnerships and establishing new ones. Beginning with our MEANTIME [Redux] release in September, your favorite record shops across North America and the United Kingdom (Brexit be damned) will be able to bring in Magnetic Eye’s glorious limited edition LPs and digipak CDs via our distribution partners The Orchard (USA) and Plastic Head (UK), not to mention All That’s Heavy.
“I had become more serious about partnerships and growing the label,” Vitali says, “so when Jadd and I connected over his Elephant Tree piece for Ripple, I realized it was a once in a lifetime moment. I had been a huge fan of MeteorCity and All That’s Heavy, and truly believe that teaming up with him is one of the best decisions I’ve made since starting out. These first five years have really been a lot of trial and error, so with Jadd bringing all his experience to the table, I feel like we’re ready to apply what we know to help make a real impact for both the bands and the fans. I couldn’t be more excited to be working with him.”
I guess after closing out last week with Truckfighters, my head got to thinking about heavy rock from that same year and that same era in general. A decade isn’t an inconsiderable amount of time, but to look at it in terms of records come and gone, it’s been a quick jump from 2005 to 2015, though one could easily argue that the entire shape of the heavy underground in the US and Europe, has changed. This shift has been generational, no doubt about it — Gen X moving out, the Millennials coming up — but when I think of a band like The Atomic Bitchwax, who formed in 1999 and are still going strong, the fact that they’ve managed to cross that divide where so many didn’t make it to the other side only increases their appeal in my mind. They have, at least to this point, stood the test of time.
No need to lie, The Atomic Bitchwax weren’t hurting for “appeal in my mind” anyway. As I was discovering heavy rock and roll, finding new bands and checking out all these incredible sounds from all around the world, the Long Branch, New Jersey, trio very quickly became hometown heroes. Their roots trace back to the more metallic Godspeed, in which bassist/vocalist Chris Kosnik played, and Monster Magnet, in which founding lead guitarist Ed Mundell cut his teeth. Alongside Kosnik and then-drummer Keith Ackerman, 3 was a pivotal, turning-point moment for the band in that it was their first to bring aboard guitarist Finn Ryan, formerly of NJ rockers Core — whose two outings, Revival (1996) and The Hustle is On (1999), remain gems well worth searching out — who would not only bring a different style of play to the band’s winding riffs, but would add his vocals to Kosnik‘s changing the dynamic of the band both on stage and on record.
The songs on 3, up to and including the Deep Purple cover “Maybe I’m a Leo,” were the band’s first to capitalize on that new dynamic, but they’d continue to progress from there on 2008’s TAB4, 2011’s riff-fest instrumental The Local Fuzz (review here) and this year’s excellent Gravitron (review here), drummer Bob Pantella (also Monster Magnet) coming aboard in replacement of Ackerman in time for TAB4 and continuing in that position through to the current day, his fluid grooves and crisp style adding both swing and a grounding effect on the head-turning riffs of Kosnik and Ryan, who have long since mastered the kind of turns that “Going Guido” here presents while keeping the memorable songwriting at their core that one finds on 3‘s “The Destroyer,” “You Oughta Know,” “You Can’t Win,” “If I Had a Gun” and “The Passenger,” the latter of which seems to directly address Mundell‘s departure from the band in the line from the chorus, “I fill the space with fuzz.”
3 for sure offers plenty of that. As much as The Atomic Bitchwax are an underrated band now — though they’ve started to get their due with increased touring in Europe after re-signing to Tee Pee — this record remains something of a hidden treasure of their songwriting, and as it’s 10 years old this year, it seemed all the more worth a revisit. I hope you enjoy.
Gonna make this very quick because I’m already missing hangout time with my niece and nephew to put this together, and that’s a limited resource. This weekend in the US is the 4th of July holiday. Today was a much-appreciated day off work. I felt like sleeping in alone was well worth all the troublesome colonialism in my country’s history. Or at least that whole Tea Party thing. The actual one with tea, not the one with the shitheads upset about having a black dude for president. Nothing justifies that.
Anyway. Thanks to all who checked in this week and caught any part of the Quarterly Review. I hope you found something in there you dug. I did. 50 reviews and I got one comment off it on here. I had to laugh.
Next week, reviews of Kadavar, Anathema‘s three vinyl reissues and whatever else I can come up with. I wish I could say the Quarterly Review completely caught me up on reviews, but yeah. Also a Fuzz Evil premiere in the works and more to come. It will be busy. It will not be as busy as this week. I will like that about it. Ha.
Alright. I hope you have a great and safe weekend, whether you’re someplace celebrating or not. See you back here Monday for more good times, and please check out the forum and the radio stream.
In part because its opener has become such a clarion, reliably launching — and I do mean launching — every gig the band plays, and because July marks 10 years since its original release, it’s tempting to view Truckfighters‘ 2005 debut full-length, Gravity X, as a watershed moment or generational swap-out in Swedish heavy rock. The truth of that is more complicated. Even as Truckfighters were stomping their way onto the scene after their first release following two early EPs, a 2003 joint offering with bassist/vocalist Oskar “Ozo” Cedermalm‘s prior outfit, Firestone, titled The Fuzzsplit of the Century (discussed here), that was also Fuzzorama Records‘ premiere catalog entry, bands like Dozer were well into their tenure, releasing Though the Eyes of Heathens the same year, while at the same time, fellow Örebro natives Witchcraft were releasing their second album, Firewood, almost precisely the same day on Rise Above. Nonetheless, if Gravity X‘s arrival through Fuzzorama and MeteorCity has become something of a landmark in the annals of Swedish and/or European heavy rock at large — and it’s pretty easy to argue that it has — that status is a testament to the grueling work that the band has put in in the years since it was first issued, writing and recording, touring incessantly across an ever-widening geographic range, and of course fostering other acts at the helm of Fuzzorama. As much as “Desert Cruiser” seems now to be an immediate and resounding call to those ready to worship at the altar of fuzz, it’s worth remembering it took Truckfighters years of hand-delivering what’s become their signature riff to audiences for it to become that.
The athleticism involved in that delivery notwithstanding, there has always been more to Truckfighters — the core of Cedermalm and guitarist Niklas “Dango” Källgren, as portrayed in the 2012 “fuzzomentary” A Film about a Band Called Truckfighters (review here), along with a cast of drummers that has continued to rotate over the last several years — than jumping around on stage. Even on Gravity X, the reaches of which are considerable with a 67-minute runtime, the band showcased a penchant for instrumental exploration that would continue to serve them well as they progressed through subsequent offerings like 2007’s Phi, 2009’s Mania (review here) and last year’s long-awaited Universe (review here), balanced against a core of songcraft that remained prevalent no matter who happened to be in the band with Källgren and Cedermalm at the time — former drummers Oscar Johansson and Andre Kvarnström have gone on to play in Witchcraft and Blues Pills, respectively — and cuts like “Gargarismo,” “In Search of (The),” “Gweedo-Weedo” and “Manhattan Project” have maintained their vitality over the 10-year span as highlights both of Truckfighters‘ catalog and that of Swedish heavy rock, the one only becoming more and more pivotal to the other over that same stretch. Meanwhile the toying with spaciousness of “Superfunk” seems in hindsight to presage some of the moodier turns of Universe and Mania before it, the band’s dynamic growing as relentlessly as their tour schedule, which has seen them become a fixture of both the European and American circuits particularly over the last half-decade.
Gravity X was compiled with Phi onto what was dubbed the Super 3-LP in 2013 — the band also put out their The Chairman EP that year as a stopgap between Mania and Universe — and of course, as forward as they’ve progressed in the years since, some of this material remains a staple of live sets, and among heavy rock records, I think you’ll find Gravity X has rare staying power, undulled by time. Hope you enjoy.
Well, next week is it: the Quarterly Review. I’ve been teasing it for about the last month, I’ll be writing reviews all weekend to get a jump on it, and next week, from Monday to Friday, somehow, some way, we’ll have 10 reviews each day for a total of 50. Don’t ask me how that’s going to get done. It just is.
Not much more to come other than the Quarterly Review, honestly. I’ve got a Mammoth Mammoth video premiere slated for Thursday, but I’m basically trying to keep it pretty stripped down other than the big post each day and whatever news comes down the PR wire. That should be plenty to work with. I’m thinking of doing a vinyl week the next week, just to keep things as complicated and time-consuming for myself as possible. You know, bash my head on the rocks to keep from drowning and all that.
If you’re headed to the Maryland Doom Fest this weekend — should be starting right around now, actually — I hope it’s great. I wish I could be there as well. I’ll look forward to seeing video of Spirit Caravan and hopefully they do a The Obsessed cover or two.
To be perfectly honest, there’s more, but I’m so beat I don’t even know what it is. Long work day, and I’m planning on spending the next two days working behind the scenes on the site, so while nothing’s going to be posted Saturday and Sunday, I’m not so much signing off as checking out for the evening.
Either way, I hope you have a great and safe weekend. See you back here Monday and please check out the forum and radio stream.
The Hidden Hand happened at a pretty interesting juncture for American heavy, just when underground riff-worship was really starting to get a foothold in a wider public consciousness beyond what it had been in the days before the widespread instant-gratification of the internet became a way to access just about anyone’s music anytime. Their second album, the stellar Mother Teacher Destroyer, certainly got some attention when it was issued by Southern Lord in 2004 — helped perhaps by the publicity of Dave Grohl‘s Probot project, released that same year, and Wino‘s visible involvement in that on guitar and vocals — but the preceding full-length debut, 2003’s Divine Propaganda, had no such high-profile lead-in. Not to shoehorn it into too convenient a narrative, but it was simply Wino‘s new band after Spirit Caravan broke up.
Listening back now, over a decade later and in light of the two albums The Hidden Hand released after it, Divine Propagandais a standout if somewhat uneven release. Issued by MeteorCity, it was the first studio output from Wino, bassist/vocalist Bruce Falkinburg and drummer Dave Hennessy, and it introduced a lot of the Illuminati/conspiracy/socio-political framework in which a good portion of the band’s lyrics would work for the duration of their tenure, but thanks in no small part to the Weinrich/Falkinburg collaboration in the songwriting, it also pushed into territory that was neither The Obsessed-style doom nor the freewheeling heavy rock of Spirit Caravan. There was something else going on, and that’s evident on Divine Propaganda, even if the trio were still figuring out what they wanted their sound to be and what shape that collaboration would take.
In all honesty, “The Last Tree” — track seven of the record’s total 10 — probably could’ve been a Spirit Caravan song with its rolling groove of a chorus riff, but as the verse shows, The Hidden Hand were already becoming something distinct, and the fuzz that Falkinburg puts on his bass in the track is not to be missed. It’s something of a forgotten gem from the largely underappreciated band, whose timing and whose songwriting continue to intrigue.
MeteorCity released some fantastic stuff in their early going — records from Nebula, The RibeyeBros., Spirit Caravanand Solace come to mind — but I don’t know if anything from that era matches up to Lowrider‘s 2000 full-length debut, Ode to Io. By any standard you might want to measure it, what remains Lowrider‘s only long-player to date is an absolute classic, and one that stands up with the best that fuzz and heavy rock have to offer, even 14 years later. Not only has it been wildly influential in Sweden’s fertile underground and beyond, but it still sounds fantastic. To put it on and hear that opening riff of “Caravan” remains an absolute pleasure, and Ode to Iois one of those records at this point that, if you and I are total strangers, one of us can say to the other, “Dude, Ode to Io?” and we’re immediately friends.
To be perfectly honest, I’m not 100 percent that I haven’t closed a week out with it before — in fact, I’m relatively sure I have at least with “Texas Pt. I & II,” but screw it. I’ve had Lowrider on the brain since they let the news out that they had a sophomore outing in the works, that they’re set to record this year for their first release since Ode to Io, and after seeing them at the 2013 Desertfest in London — something I never through I’d be able to say I’ve done — I couldn’t be more thrilled at the prospect. I’ve already encountered a few records over the last couple months that I know will be landmarks for the year, but even sight-unseen, a new Lowrider earns a place on that list. I wouldn’t go into it expecting a clone of Ode to Io, but I do believe the band still has plenty to offer, and I’m greatly looking forward to finding out what that might be.
And if it’s an excuse to break out Ode to Ioagain in the meantime, you definitely will not hear me complaining. As always, I hope you enjoy.
Quite a week. I feel like I never stopped from last week because, oh wait, I didn’t. I’ve heard stories for years about people coming home from a tour and having a rough go adjusting back to real life. Presumably it’s different when you’re playing a show, but making an adjustment back wasn’t so much my problem as being tired and braindead. I might’ve phoned it in for a while but I felt like I couldn’t even get a dial tone. Of course there was more I wanted to write about this week than I had time or energy to cover — that’s pretty much standard — but even trying to keep up with email was a challenge.
The weather in Massachusetts is supposed to be halfway decent tomorrow, and The Patient Mrs. and I have a good friend in from out of town, so I’m hoping the combination will prove restorative somewhat over the next couple days. Next week I’ll look to pick back up with reviews of Ogre and a batch of ’60s/’70s psych records from World in Sound. I’ve still got a Conan interview in the can that golly, I’d love to get posted, and a ton of other stuff as well. The Spirit Caravan reunion tour starts tonight, so hopefully by Wednesday there’ll be some video from one of the shows. Got my fingers crossed.
I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Please check out the forum and the radio stream.