Greenleaf, The Atomic Bitchwax & Steak Announce Dec. European Tour

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 16th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

True, the Fall festival season will pretty much be over by the time December rolls around, but that doesn’t mean that enviable package tours still can’t kick into gear all over the European continent. It never stops, folks. Just as they make ready to issue their new album, Force Field, via Tee Pee Records, my beloved Garden State’s own The Atomic Bitchwax will head abroad once more to team up with Swedish mainstays Greenleaf — who last I heard were planning a new record of their own for 2018, though it’s been a minute since I last harassed guitarist Tommi Holappa with a, “When’s your next album coming out?,” message on Thee Facebooks; should get on that — and London desert bruisers Steak for a 16-date run beginning Dec. 1.

The tour is presented by Sound of Liberation — of course — and if you need me to tell you that it’s a killer mix of acts, you probably shouldn’t. There’s really no letup between the three of them. I’m not saying I’ve heard the new Bitchwax or anything, but word on the street is it’s an absolute supercharged monster, bringing to life the ethic of “Coming in Hot” that 2015’s Gravitron (review here) proffered. That’s the rumor. All the better for them to be on the road heralding new material. Greenleaf meanwhile head out once again supporting 2016’s ultra-righteous Rise Above the Meadow (review here), and Steak go on the heels of 2017’s Ripple Music debut, No God to Save (review here), which brought them to new levels of accomplishment in aesthetic and songwriting alike. Bottom line? You can’t miss with this one. If you’re in its path, consider yourself lucky.

Poster and dates follow, as seen on the social medias by Sound of Liberation:

greenleaf-the-atomic-bitchwax-steak-tour

Greenleaf – The Atomic Bitchwax – Steak – Hail the Hounds Tour 2017

We are proud to present the “HAIL THE HOUNDS” Tour 2017, with Greenleaf + The Atomic Bitchwax + Steak!!

01.12.17 – London | Underworld
02.12.17 – Brussels | Magasin 4
03.12.17 – Hamburg | Markthalle
04.12.17 – Cologne | Luxor
05.12.17 – Wiesbaden | Schlachthof
06.12.17 – Leipzig | Werk2
07.12.17 – Munich | Feierwerk
08.12.17 – Olten | Schuetzenhaus
09.12.17 – Linz | Posthof
10.12.17 – Vienna | Arena
11.12.17 – Stuttgart | Universum
12.12.17 – Saarbruecken | Garage
13.12.17 – Nijmegen | Doornroosje
14.12.17 – Paris | Glazart
15.12.17 – Dortmund | JunkYard
16.12.17 – Berlin | Bi Nuu

It’s gonna be hot in December

https://www.facebook.com/greenleafrocks/
https://www.facebook.com/The-Atomic-Bitchwax-86002001659/
https://www.facebook.com/steakuk/
https://www.facebook.com/Soundofliberation/

Greenleaf, “Howl” lyric video

The Atomic Bitchwax, “Hope You Die” live in West Virginia, Sept. 12, 2017

Steak, “Living Like a Rat” official video

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Conan Announce Man is Myth – Early Demos

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 2nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

conan

As we mortals wait for the thunder on the horizon to materialize as the next proper Conan full-length, the UK riff-destroyers have made available for preorder a new collection titled Man is Myth – Early Demos, which will see release via Napalm Records next month. Anyone who’s heard Horseback Battle Hammer (review here) can tell you that early Conan wanted nothing for heft, and as the three-piece make ready to unveil a new record in 2018 (fingers crossed; nothing yet announced) and hit the road with Monolord in just a matter of days, one expects Man is Myth to much more embody the likes of a gravity chasm than, say, a stopgap, even if it is a means to keeping momentum rolling into the New Year. Shit, it’s a new Conan release. Take it and be grateful.

The PR wire has details:

conan-man-is-myth-early-demos

CONAN Unveil Album Details! ‘Man Is Myth – Early Demos’ Now Available For Pre-Order!

The world’s heaviest doom metal-band CONAN finally provide some exciting insights into a secret world! ‘Man Is Myth – Early Demos’ are the unheard beasts out of the band’s rehearsal room and studio, and will see the light of day on November 17th on Napalm Records.

It roars and cranks all over, dull distortion drags nerves into the coldest regions of the world. It’s no accident that they call themselves Caveman Battle Doom. Man Is Myth – Early Demos is the primordial soup for everything that CONAN stands for!

Says guitarist & vocalist Jon Paul Davis:

Conan has been active since 2006. Our first demo was recorded on Jan 27th, 2007 and since then we have continued to release our music and tour worldwide. We started out with nothing and gave it everything, like most respected bands. We are proud of where we have been and excited about where we may still go. These demos show a little bit of our progression through this time and hopefully can give the listener an idea of where we have come from. Our aim is always to play to our strengths and not over complicate, it held true at the beginning and it holds true now.
Never give up.

Now the doom heavy weights unveil first, hotly anticipated details about their upcoming release and unleash the cover and track list for ‘Man Is Myth – Early Demos’!

The track list will read as follows:

1. Battle In The Swamp ( Rehearsal room demo 2009 )
2. Satsumo ( Rehearsal room demo 2009 )
3. Krull ( Rehearsal room demo 2009 )
4. Satsumo ( Rehearsal room demo 2006 )
5. Gravity Chasm ( Studio demo 2012 )
6. Foehammer ( Studio demo 2012 )
7. Domed Iron Boss ( Studio demo 2012 )

‘Man Is Myth – Early Demos’ will be coming as a CD Digi Pack, Digital Download and LP Gatefold editions, and is now available for pre-order HERE!

In support and since CONAN have always excelled live, the band will be heavily hitting the road this Fall! Catch them live, when they will bring their wall of sound live on stage, with very special guests MONOLORD at the following dates:

07.10.17 NL – Nijmegen / Soulcrusher Festival
08.10.17 FR – Paris / Le Glazart
09.10.17 FR – Nantes / La Scene Michelet
10.10.17 FR – Bordeaux / Le Void
11.10.17 ES – Barcelona / Razz 3
12.10.17 ES – San Sebastian / Dabadaba
13.10.17 FR – Lyon / Jack Jack
14.10.17 FR – Audincourt / Le Molodo
15.10.17 BE – Antwerp / Desert fest
16.10.17 DK – Aarhus / Atlas
17.10.17 DE – Hamburg / Bambi Galore
18.10.17 DE – Berlin / Musik & Frieden
19.10.17 DE – Kassel / TBA
20.10.17 DE – Dresden / Morbus Maximus
21.10.17 DE – Munich / Keep It Low Festival
22.10.17 CZ – Prague/Brno / Kabinet Muz
23.10.17 AT – Vienna / Bas Bach
24.10.17 CH – Olten / Coq D’or
25.10.17 IT – Bologna / Freakout Club
26.10.17 IT – Milan / Bloom
27.10.17 CH – Lausanne / Le Romandie
28.10.17 DE – Siegen / Vortex

www.hailconan.com
www.facebook.com/conancavemanbattledoom
http://smarturl.it/ManIsMyth-NPR
www.napalmrecords.com

Conan, “Sea Lord”

Tags: , , , , ,

Monster Magnet, Spine of God & TAB: Quintessential

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

monster-magnet-spine-of-god

Simply put, Monster Magnet‘s 1991 debut, Spine of God, stands among the best heavy psych records ever made. It might be the single greatest achievement of sonic lysergism the East Coast has ever produced, and even if not, it’s superlative enough that, while it’s on, I can’t think of another to match it. It is an album that could be reissued every year and would still be worth buying, and it earns every bit of hyperbole that can be heaped upon it (and has; previously discussed here). Together with its space-rocking freakout companion-piece, the TAB EP (also often written as 25… Tab, Tab 25 and numerous other variations thereon; the band’s official discography lists it as you see in all-caps), it is a landmark that when originally released through Caroline and Glitterhouse Records helped set in motion not only the stoner rock scene in Monster Magnet‘s native New Jersey that continues to this day and has resulted in groups current and past like CoreSolaceThe Atomic BitchwaxSolarizedHalfway to GoneInfernal Overdrive, and so on.

A full 26 years after its initial release, Spine of God‘s nine original tracks and TAB‘s three still resonate their sleaze and druggy haze — Monster Magnet frontman/founder Dave Wyndorf has said since getting clean he never wrote a song while under the influence, but he’s also the guy who gave the world the line, “It’s a Satanic drug thing — you wouldn’t understand,” so there’s a grain of salt to be taken there — on the new Napalm Records reissue editions, pressed to vinyl and CD. Going by the artwork, general sound of the remasters and inclusion of the “Ozium (Demo)” and “Spine of God (Live)” bonus tracks on Spine of God and TAB, respectively, these are the same versions of the two outings that SPV/Steamhammer issued in 2006, but even that was 11 years ago at this point and, again, it would be hard to consider such a rate of refresher overkill given the quality of the albums themselves. More of a public service.

Roughly concurrent, it’s a matter of some varying opinion which was recorded and released first — then you get into released first where, which is a whole different issue between various labels in the US and Europe — but it’s proper to take TAB and Spine of God together in any case, and one generally thinks of Spine of God as the band’s debut full-length following their 1990 self-titled EP, earlier demos, and the formative tape Love Monster (discussed here), reissued in 2001, as well as other odds-and-ends single-type releases. From the raw, swirling drums effects and dirt-coated fuzz of “Pill Shovel” onward, it is a launch point for an era of Monster Magnet for which much of their fanbase still pines — Wyndorf joined by guitarist John McBain, bassist Joe Calandra, drummer Jon Kleinman and Tim Cronin, who also played drums on “TAB” — and as the opener, it sets the band adrift on a sea of acid, that will solidify and reliquefy throughout the intense push of “Medicine” and the longer “Nod Scene” and “Black Mastermind,” both jammy freakouts marked by vague spoken word parts buried under scorching, layered leads from McBain and a wash of effects, the sounds of inhaled smoke and seemingly whatever else Wyndorf and company could think to throw into the mix.

monster magnet tab

A later cover of Grand Funk Railroad‘s “Sin’s a Good Man’s Brother” is indelibly made Monster Magnet‘s own, but it’s cuts like the subdued, late-’60s melancholia of “Zodiac Lung” and the addled, arrogant threat of the title-track of Spine of God that truly bring to light both the enduring appeal of the band’s rawness at this stage in their development and the accomplishment of songwriting that this record actually is. At over 50 minutes in its original edition (this one is longer, obviously, with the “Ozium” demo included), Spine of God is definitely of the CD era, and its immersion works very much in linear fashion, pushing through “Pill Shovel” and “Medicine” through “Nod Scene” and “Black Mastermind” en route to its moment of arrival in “Zodiac Lung” and “Spine of God” before a back-to-earth, aggressive aftermath of “Snake Dance” and the aforementioned Grand Funk cover lead the way into the closer “Ozium” and the final moment of glorious psych worship of that last cut’s hook. It’s not a minor trip, but another aspect of its execution that keeps Spine of God so relevant is the band’s immediate sense of reach and dynamic. To think of it even this many years later as a first full-length makes it all the more staggering, and it’s one of those rare releases that lives up to the cliché of hearing something new in it each time it’s put on. All the more justification for a reissue.

Though it’s not much shorter in topping 50 minutes, TAB is generally considered an EP, and fair enough, though one might argue that its 33-minute title-track is a long-player unto itself. A massive, swirl-and-churn space rock jam, it unfolds languid and broad over its time, with added percussion, cursing speech and other psychedelic weirdo elements one finds playing out across the likes of “Black Mastermind” and “Nod Scene” as well, and eventually devolves into a wash of stoned-out noise before the 13-minute “25/Longhair,” instrumental apart from what may or may not be some effected vocalizations and rawer in its sound, takes hold as the side B complement. The break between the two parts is clear and happens shortly after eight minutes in, but there’s just about no interrupting the flow at that point, and while “Lord 13” is clearer and more straightforward — and shorter at just over four minutes — it retains the vibe oozed forth by the preceding slabs and holds court as a buried treasure of this era of Monster Magnet still satisfying to those who dig in far enough to find it. It doesn’t have the same kind of thrust as “Medicine” or the fullness of attack of “Snake Dance,” but there’s an underlying tension in its rhythm that satisfying all the same, and with the live version of “Spine of God” tacked on, TAB ties directly to that album even further and emphasizes how well they fit together as one consuming work.

As a setup for what Monster Magnet would go on to do with 1993’s Superjudge and 1995’s Dopes to Infinity before the true takeoff of their commercial ascent with the singles-driven Powertrip in 1998 and God Says No in 2001, never mind the greater impact they had outside the band and the greater impact they continue to have in influencing now multiple generations of bands the world over, Spine of God and TAB are essential works of heavy psychedelia that still manage to excite when engaged despite being more or less burned into the consciousness of the style itself. Spine of God itself nigh on unparalleled, and with TAB in company, the picture it paints becomes even deeper and more complete. There should ultimately be little about either or both of them that needs to be said beyond that, and they should be considered required reading for newcomer listeners to the style and those who’ve perhaps followed Monster Magnet‘s more recent output without truly digging into their past, as well as anybody who’s ever wanted to have their mind blown out through their ears because, yeah, that will happen. It’s hard to overstate how pivotal they are and hard to recommend them vehemently enough.

Monster Magnet, Spine of God (1991)

Monster Magnet, Tab (1991)

Monster Magnet website

Monster Magnet on Thee Facebooks

Monster Magnet on Instagram

Monster Magnet at Napalm Records website

Monster Magnet at Napalm Records webshop

Napalm Records on Thee Facebooks

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Conan Announce New Drummer; European Tour Starts Oct. 7

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 13th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

By wonderful coincidence, I recently had occasion to see drummer Johnny King playing as part of the lineup of the Alan Averill-fronted outfit Dread Sovereign at Emerald Haze in Dublin (review here), so if you need confirmation, I’m happy to confirm: dude can bash the shit out of some drums. Not that you’d necessarily have to take my word for it as he’s announced as the new drummer for UK riffsmashers Conan — the fact alone that guitarist/vocalist Jon Davis and bassist/vocalist Chris Fielding are bringing him into the lineup of the band as the third in the trio speaks plenty to that in itself.

I was also fortunate enough to see Conan back in 2015 with Rich Lewis on drums (review here), and that was no minor bit of metal he proffered in that role. One wonders what personality King will add as Conan move into 2018 with already-stated intentions toward a new album following up 2016’s Revengeance (review here), but no doubt that’s something that will be further hammered out on their upcoming European tour next month, which they’ll co-headline with Swedish three-piece Monolord.

Band announcement and tour dates follow:

conan johnny king

CONAN – NEW DRUMMER ANNOUNCEMENT

We are delighted to announce that Johnny King (Altar of Plagues / Malthusian / Dread Sovereign) has joined us as full time drummer. Rehearsals and writing have gone very well and we are very excited to enter into this new phase with Johnny in the band. He is someone we have been friends with for a while, we shared a stage with Johnny and his band several times since 2010.

Please give him a warm welcome.

CONAN & MONOLORD live dates:
07.10.17 NL – Nijmegen / Soulcrusher II – Doornroosje
08.10.17 FR – Paris / GLAZART
09.10.17 FR – Nantes / La Scène Michelet
10.10.17 FR – Bordeaux / VOID // BDX
11.10.17 ES – Barcelona / Razzmatazz 3
12.10.17 ES – San Sebastian / Dabadaba
13.10.17 FR – Lyon / Jack Jack
14.10.17 FR – Audincourt / Le Molodo
15.10.17 BE – Antwerp / Desertfest Antwerp 2017
16.10.17 DK – Aarhus / Atlas
17.10.17 DE – Hamburg / Bambi galore
18.10.17 DE – Berlin / Musik & Frieden
20.10.17 DE – Bischofswerda / Morbvs Maximvs
21.10.17 DE – Munich / Keep It Low Festival 2017
22.10.17 CZ – Prague/Brno / Kabinet MÚZ
23.10.17 AT – Vienna / DasBACH
24.10.17 CH – Olten / Coq d’Or
25.10.17 IT – Bologna / Freakout Club
26.10.17 IT – Milan / Bloom
27.10.17 CH – Winterthur / Gaswerk
28.10.17 DE – Siegen / The VORTEX

https://www.facebook.com/conancavemanbattledoom/
http://www.hailconan.com
napalmrecords.com
https://www.facebook.com/napalmrecords/

Conan, “Revengeance” lyric video

Tags: , , ,

Review & Track Premiere: Brant Bjork, Europe ’16

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on July 26th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

brant-bjork-europe-16

[Click play above to hear ‘Controllers Destroyed’ from Brant Bjork’s live album Europe ’16, out Sept. 22 via Napalm Records.]

One severely doubts it’s a coincidence that a Brant Bjork set would start with “Buddha Time (Everything Fine).” That laid back, instrumental, rolling desert groove speaks to an aspect of Europe ’16 that’s apparent before the needle even hits the wax of the Napalm Records release, and that’s the manner in which Bjork — whose career pedigree in as drummer/songwriter in Kyuss and Vista Chino, drummer in Fu Manchu, guitarist/vocalist in Ché and multi-instrumentalist, bandleader and songwriter in the various incarnations of his solo work from Brant Bjork to Brant Bjork and the OperatorsBrant Bjork and the Bros. and Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band has made him the undisputed godfather of desert rock — directly acknowledges the stoner side of who he is and what he does.

It’s right there on the cover of Europe ’16, which is the first official live album of Bjork‘s nearly-20-year solo career which began with 1999’s Jalamanta (discussed here; also here) on Man’s Ruin, a full-length that continues to resonate and inform his soulful, funk-infused delivery to-date, and while so many others of Bjork‘s ilk, geographical cohort and generation have tried to distance themselves from a “stoner” tag, he’s made it a part of his aesthetic. Some might say an essential part, and it’s become a defining piece of the ultra-laid back, groove-ready persona he showcases throughout Europe ’16, which captures 12 tracks and 85 minutes of Brant Bjork on the road last year with The Low Desert Punk Band supporting his two studio albums for Napalm: 2014’s Black Power Flower (review here) and 2016’s Tao of the Devil (review here) — both of which, it’s worth noting, were of a similar leafy theme in terms of their artwork.

Is it fair, then, to think of Europe ’16 as the third in a trilogy of offerings for NapalmBjork has said openly that Tao of the Devil was the final studio outing on his contract for the Austrian imprint, and if one presumes a three-album deal, then it’s quite possible Europe ’16 is the farewell piece. If so, it marks a righteous summary of what Bjork has accomplished as a songwriter and performer over the last few years, returning to solo output after a successful run with Vista Chino following much tumult around touring as Kyuss Lives! and the also-Napalm-backed issue of 2013’s Peace (review here) offering with that band.

Highlighting cuts from Black Power Flower like “Controllers Destroyed,” the aforementioned mindset-setting opener “Buddha Time (Everything Fine)” and the later “Stokely up Now,” and even more from Tao of the Devil in “Humble Pie,” “Stackt,” “The Gree Heen,” as well as the later and more extended jams “Dave’s War/Dave’s Peace” (based on “Dave’s War” from the record) and “Biker No. 2,” Europe ’16 finds Bjork, guitarist Bubba DuPree (formerly of Void), bassist Dave Dinsmore (Ché) and drummer Ryan Güt at the proverbial top of their game in terms of chemistry, and of all the times Bjork could have issued a live album over the last decade-plus, it’s easy to hear why now would be an obvious choice.

brant bjork photo kip dawkins

Joined by guest vocalist Sean Wheeler in the second half of the set, this incarnation of Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band saunter through pieces from Bjork‘s substantial catalog like “Low Desert Punk” and “Lazy Bones/Automatic Fantastic” from Jalamanta, “Freaks of Nature” from 2007’s Somera Sól and “Let the Truth be Known” from 2005’s Saved by Magic, and while live albums rarely exist that don’t make the performing act come out on the positive side — that is, nobody wants to put out a shitty-sounding show — neither does Europe ’16 shy away from the rawer side of the band’s presentation, especially as regards Wheeler‘s vocals in “Biker No. 2” and “Freaks of Nature” and the natural movement and flow of the group’s jams, which unfold beginnings and endings organically here, sounding unretouched and all the more engaging for that. Whether or not it’s the last in a series of three, Europe ’16 is a document of an era in Bjork‘s career that has not only seen a rise in his profile, but resulted in some of the most memorable material he’s ever written.

To wit, songs like “Stackt” and “Humble Pie” not only stand up to the landmark riff of “Automatic Fantastic,” but they underscore the progression that’s played out over time and a span of 11 LPs in Bjork‘s approach, and by embracing a jammier vibe later in the set in “Dave’s War/Dave’s Peace,” “Biker No. 2,” “Freaks of Nature,” “Low Desert Punk” and “Let the Truth be Known,” which includes a finale take on the Rolling Stones‘ “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” Europe ’16 sets an immersive trajectory that feels true to the live experience. Of course, there’s a big difference between watching a band onstage and soaking in an 85-minute live record, and the latter process is no minor undertaking, but even if one thinks of Europe ’16 as a fan piece, it more than earns its place in Bjork‘s catalog, and the poise with which the band handles its turns and the commanding presence of Bjork at the forefront speak to not only the well-earned maturity of his craft but a showmanship that a studio outing simply wouldn’t be able to bring into focus.

Not saying much in terms of stage banter throughout, the man himself gets on mic before the get-your-ass-stoned advising of “Let the Truth be Known” to thank Berlin specifically after several “dankeschön”s earlier on, and that brings to mind the relationship between desert rock and the EU heavy underground. There’s a bit of irony there, since the Palm Desert scene, as it was in the ’80s and early/mid ’90s and as its legacy has grown in the years since, is so much based on the Californian landscape and American suburban culture, but no question Bjork has become the key ambassador for that movement and for the unique creativity and sound those sands helped to foster.

He’ll head back abroad this fall (dates posted here) to mark the release of Europe ’16 and perhaps take a victory lap with The Low Desert Punk Band before moving on to other projects and ideas (or at least another outlet), but that stint, like this live album built from the last one, should only serve to reaffirm what Black Power Flower and Tao of the Devil continued to establish: that when it comes to desert rock, there’s only one Brant Bjork. Nobody else brings the same level of soul to their sound, the classic feel and the steadiness of vibe that he does, and on Europe ’16, some 17 years after first embarking on a solo career, he continues to show that in new and exciting ways.

Brant Bjork on Thee Facebooks

Brant Bjork website

Napalm Records website

Tags: , , , , , ,

Six Dumb Questions with The Midnight Ghost Train

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on July 19th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the midnight ghost train

There’s always been a certain restlessness in The Midnight Ghost Train. Definitely anyone who’s ever seen them play live would concur, but even beyond their gripping, kinetic performances, whether it was early lineup changes, moving from Buffalo, New York, to Topeka, Kansas, or touring as incessantly as they have for the better part of the last decade — they’ve been a band on “go” for about as long as they’ve been a band.

At the same time, their material has followed a steady trajectory up to this point. From their 2008 The Johnny Boy EP (review here) through the subsequent ’09 self-titled long-play debut (review here), 2012’s Buffalo (review here) and their first outing for Napalm Records in 2015’s Cold was the Ground (review here), the power trio led by founding guitarist/vocalist Steve Moss have developed along a path blending supercharged heavy rock and roll with classic blues vibes and rhythms. With his distinct, gruff vocals as a hallmark of their approach, the propulsive, classy drum work of Brandon Burghart as a core to build from and the final piece added in bassist Mike BoyneThe Midnight Ghost Train became one of the most immediately identifiable bands in the US heavy underground. When you were listening to The Midnight Ghost Train, you knew who was on. Every time.

That’s still the case, but the scope of what that means has changed, and the restlessness that’s always been at play elsewhere seems to have extended itself to their creative process more now than ever before. To wit, their fourth full-length and second for Napalm is Cypress Ave. (review here), and while it largely holds firm to the underlying energy of the band and never feels staid, it also marks a special moment in that Moss and company seem more willing to take chances in the songwriting, to pull back on the aforementioned “go” in favor of a more diverse sonic take. Whether that’s showing itself in the drifting “Lemon Trees,” the funk-fortified “The Boogie Down” (with guest rapper Sonny Cheeba) or the acoustic “Break My Love,” it’s representative of a level of maturity previously unknown from The Midnight Ghost Train, and it makes Cypress Ave. their most fully realized and their boldest offering to-date.

It’s the kind of record that, if you thought you knew the band — as I did — can make you rethink your expectations. In the interview that follows, Moss talks about how some of the twists in the plot came about, how touring has shaped the group over the longer term of their time together, where Cypress Ave. actually is, and more. As I happen to know him to be a longtime Yankees fan, I couldn’t resist throwing in a question about baseball as well, and I thank him for the indulgence.

Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

the-midnight-ghost-train-cypress-ave

Six Dumb Questions with The Midnight Ghost Train

Talk to me about writing Cypress Ave. At what point coming off of Cold was the Ground did you know you wanted to do something different with The Midnight Ghost Train, and how did that come to fruition in the songwriting? Was it something conscious or something that you noticed later in the material? What was behind the shift in direction?

We have wanted to get out of doing the crazy fast heavy stuff way before Cold was the Ground. None of us actually enjoy listening to heavy music. It’s fun to play, but that’s really our only connection with music as heavy as we used to play. We could have very easily written another Cold was the Ground without even thinking twice. That’s why we have defaulted to such heavy music for our previous albums, it was really easy to write, and fun to play live, plus we had already built a following of people in the heavy music genre, so it just made sense to keep riding that wave and keep the fans we had. For this album we wanted to challenge ourselves artistically, and challenge our audience. We wanted to do something that felt right to us, and not necessarily what the following we have built wanted or expected. There was no reason for us to make the same album over and over again, especially since it didn’t feel right to us. So it was time to say goodbye and move on to something more challenging, and unexpected for our fans. Plus, we wanted to branch out to a wider fanbase than just the “stoner rock” fans. We never really felt like we fit in that group anyways so it just made sense to do something that was more us. Plus, the songs on this album are just a hell of a lot better than our previous stuff.

Tell me about Cypress Avenue itself. Where is it? What is it like? Set the scene for those of us who’ve never been there. What was behind the choice to name the album after it?

Cypress Ave. is a stop on the 6 train in the Bronx, it’s a small local neighborhood, no attractions or anything like that, just an area for the locals. My family is from Parkchester which is a few stops more uptown, so we would pass Cypress Ave. on our way up to Parkchester. Since this album is so different musically we decided to go a different route with the album photos, and the title than usual. All of our albums have had that Midwestern, Kansas, country, feel to them, which actually only one of us (our drummer) is from Kansas. So instead we decided to go more personal to mine and my family’s upbringing in the Bronx. Give people a look at where I’m actually from. So we wanted to keep with the Bronx theme throughout the album. Since Parkchester is kind of a lame album title, we basically just went through all the names of the subway stops in the Bronx, and Cypress Ave. was just the best sounding one. Plus, it reminded me of the Van Morrison song off of one of my favorite albums, Astral Weeks, (although it’s spelled differently).

The Midnight Ghost Train turns 10 next year and you’ve put in so much time on the road over the last decade. How do you think touring has shaped the band? How do you feel it has worked to develop the chemistry between you, Mike and Brandon?

Aigh god, that seems like a lot longer than it feels. Feels like we’re still just getting started. Touring has definitely been the most rewarding part to this band. Despite all the bullshit and hard times we have gone through, when we step on stage it makes it all worthwhile. We have always believed that the live show is the most important expression of who a band is, and we have worked tirelessly on always making our show better. What better way to learn about the stage that we love so much than touring as much as possible? Touring has definitely made us realize who we are as a band and what we feel is most important to the existence of TMGT. Getting on stage is the only piece that no matter what always feels like the right choice to make. Bands that don’t play a lot of shows can’t ever find their true musical selves. Plus, if you never do it how could you possibly be that good at it?

How did “The Boogie Down” come about?

Very simply, I love hip-hop, and our bass player and drummer love to play funk. So we decided to mix the two together. The riff that the bass player and drummer play in that song is what they have always done on stage when my amp or pedalboard breaks and I have to fix shit. They would just break out into a funk jam, then when I got back up and running I would chime in. It was always fun to do live, so we decided to record it. Sonny Cheeba (the artist on that track) is also a Bronx native. I grew up listening to his group Camp Lo. So it was awesome to get to work with him in the studio. We recorded the album in Athens, GA, and he happened to be living in Atlanta at the time we recorded, so it just worked out nicely. We let him do his thing, while we did ours, it was fun to mix the two styles, and challenging for us. Something new and fun to do. Why not?

What was your time in the studio like making the album? It seems like you specifically varied the guitar tone more throughout the songs this time around. How important was it for you for Cypress Ave. to show multiple sides of the band?

Oh yes, different sounds on all the instruments as well as vocally, was very important for this album. The tones and vocals we used for Cold was the Ground or Buffalo would not work for these songs. I used probably 30 different amps throughout this album, plus I added a Gibson 335 to my arsenal, which was my main guitar on this album, instead of the Les Pauls I [have] normally used. Our previous albums just had one tone through the entire album: HEAVY. This album is just so dynamic throughout the record, with so many different style songs. Not one song sounds the same, so we wanted to make sure that neither did the instruments.

You’ve got the US tour coming up in August and September. Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?

Oh yes, we will also be touring the USA in October as well. We’re in the works of putting together a European tour which will be from the end of January through March. So keep an eye out for tour dates, ‘cause we’re going everywhere. Might even be paying a visit to South America, if things pan out. Our album is available for preorder right now at our website www.themidnightghosttrain.com. Enjoy the new album, I know we do.

Bonus question (asked before the Major League Baseball All-Star break): Do you think the Yankees actually have a shot at the division? Boston’s been coming on strong. Is the NYY collapse of the last couple weeks the true face of the team or just a temporary injury setback? What do you think of Judge and Sanchez in the Home Run Derby?

Absolutely they still have a chance, they have been plagued with injuries lately which is inevitable but still costly when you lose guys like Castro, Bird, Holliday, Hicks, Warren, and Sabbathia (who was on a fantastic roll). Boston is making a big push, they have great starting pitching, but hopefully at the trade deadline we get rid of Chris Carter and get someone like Eric Hosmer at first base, and pick up one more locked starter, because we can’t rely on Tanaka’s inconsistency to bring us the entire way. I’m stoked to see what Judge and Sanchez do, I think they will be fine, and they are good enough hitters that the myth of screwing up their swing won’t affect them. Judge is going to be the Rookie of the year, AL MVP, and triple crown winner. He’s taking it all. I haven’t seen the city buzz on anyone since Derek Jeter breaking in. Loving it.

The Midnight Ghost Train, “The Watchers Nest” lyric video

The Midnight Ghost Train on Thee Facebooks

The Midnight Ghost Train website

The Midnight Ghost Train on Twitter

The Midnight Ghost Train on Instagram

Napalm Records website

Napalm Records on Thee Facebooks

Tags: , , , , ,

Brant Bjork Announces Europe ’16 Live Album & European Tour

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 3rd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

brant bjork

A Brant Bjork live record feels like a fairly obvious no-brainer. Am I wrong? Dude has been killing it the last few years (or decades, if you really want to put it in context) since putting together the Low Desert Punk Band and offering up the Black Power Flower (review here) and Tao of the Devil (review here) in 2014 and 2016, respectively, and anyone who’s seen him can tell you he absolutely owns every stage he steps on, so yeah, there’s just about no way a live album isn’t gonna work in this instance. It’s called Europe ’16, captures a set from Berlin, Germany, last year, and is out Sept. 22 via Napalm Records. Fair enough. Sold. Easy peasy.

To mark its arrival, Bjork and company — including steady guest vocalist Sean Wheeler — will head out on another European run this Fall. We kind of knew this was coming after he’d been confirmed for fests like Lake on Fire 2017 — which he’ll play next month as part of a shorter run of mostly-festival dates — Up in Smoke 2017 and Keep it Low 2017, but as always, confirmation is welcome, particularly alongside the news of the live release. He couldn’t stop piling up “fucking a” fodder if he tried.

From the social medias and the PR wire:

Brant Bjork – Europe ’16 & The Gree Heen Fall Tour

Welcome back the sweet scent of freedom. Breath in the greeheen! BRANT BJORK has come to revive your spirit: The Kyuss- and Fu Manchu legend has just announced his first live record ever!

From the opening guitar riff of “Europe ’16”, recorded in Berlin, one can sense the buzz of classic rock electricity that transcends into new spheres. This is controlled madness between trippy and doomy, groovy and sludgy!

Set for release September 22nd on Napalm Records, BRANT BJORK has now revealed the cover artwork and track list of his first and highly anticipated live record.

The track list reads as follows and will surely make every low desert punk heart beat faster:

1. Buddha Time
2. Controllers Destroyed
3. Humble Pie
4. Stakt
5. The Gree Heen
6. Lazy Bones-Automatic Fantastic
7. Stokely Up Now
8. Dave’s War-Dave’s Peace
9. Biker No. 2
10. Freaks Of Nature
11. Low Desert Punk
12. Let The Truth Be Known-Jumpin’ Jack Flash

“This record is live. Live records are ugly and they should be. When a band plays live, they let their hair down. Live is all that really matters. There are those moments in life when everything is ok and these are the moments when you are doing exactly what your here on the planet to do. You’re right where you are supposed to be with no shame, no fear, no regret, no envy, no hatred and no apology. I always say this band brings a feeling. The feeling is always primary and the sound, secondary. At least to me. In the book of Tao, there is a passage…”naming is the origin of all particular things”. I use here the term ugly to refer to my naming of my particular relationship with my soundscape. my my my. Why the term ugly? Because its the opposite of pretty. As the popular saying goes, “It is what it is”. As for my music, my band and this live record, I prefer to say, “it is what it isn’t”.” – Brant Bjork on Europe ’16.

Brant Bjork Aug. tour:
Aug 04 Los Almiros Festival, Almyros, Greece
Aug 05 Lake on Fire Waldhausen, Austria
Aug 06 A38 Budapest, Hungary
Aug 08 Sommer in Altona Hamburg, Germany
Aug 09 Universum Stuttgart, Germany
Aug 10 Bad Bonn Düdingen, Switzerland
Aug 12 FESTIVAL AREA DE LANGE MUNTE Kortrijk, Belgium
Aug 14 Palp Festival Rocklette Martigny, Switzerland

Brant Bjork, The Gree Heen Fall 2017 tour:
26.09.17 Stockholm | Debaser Strand
27.09.17 Stavanger | Folken
28.09.17 Oslo | John Dee
29.09.17 Gothenbourg | Sticky Fingers
30.09.17 Copenhagen | KB 18
01.10.17 Hamburg | Logo
02.10.17 Leipzig | UT Connewitz
03.10.17 Bielefeld | Forum
04.10.17 Amsterdam | Melkweg
05.10.17 Eindhoven | Effenaar
06.10.17 Pratteln | Up In Smoke
07.10.17 Aschaffenburg | Colossal
08.10.17 Brussels | Botanique
09.10.17 Rennes | Ubu
11.10.17 Bilbao | Kafe Antzokia
12.10.17 Porto | Cave 45
13.10.17 Lisbon | RCA Club
14.10.17 Madrid | Caracol
15.10.17 Barcelona | Bikini
16.10.17 Marseille | Jas Rod
17.10.17 Torino | Blah Blah
18.10.17 Ravenna | Bronson
19.10.17 Zagreb | Vintage Industrial Bar
20.10.17 Wien | Arena ( with Stoned Jesus + Beastmaker )
21.10.17 Munich | Keep It Low

Poster by: Pol Abran

https://www.facebook.com/BrantBjorkOfficial/
www.brantbjork.com
http://label.napalmrecords.com/
https://www.facebook.com/Sound-of-Liberation-UG-183095098426785/

Brant Bjork, “The Gree Heen” official lyric video

Tags: , , , , ,

Review & Video Premiere: The Midnight Ghost Train, Cypress Ave.

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Reviews on July 3rd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the-midnight-ghost-train-cypress-ave

[Watch the premiere of the lyric video for The Midnight Ghost Train’s ‘The Watchers Nest’ by clicking play above. Cypress Ave. is out July 28 via Napalm Records. Impending tour dates here.]

As the first preliminary details began to surface about Cypress Ave., Topeka, Kansas, heavy blues rockers The Midnight Ghost Train put word out to their listeners to expect something different on this, their fourth album and second for Napalm Records. Their tone was almost a warning more even than a general ‘heads up,’ and for a band who’ve spent the last decade stomping their way across the US and subsequently Europe and whose reputation has always been for a brash, gruff, and full-charged vision of heavy, it struck me as a decidedly human, near-insecure move; for the first time, The Midnight Ghost Train let themselves show some concern for how their work might be received by the audience they worked so hard to build. Clearly it was a warning to take seriously, and it’s one to which Cypress Ave. lives up.

The Midnight Ghost Train debuted on Napalm with 2015’s Cold was the Ground (review here), a mature celebration of what’s made them who they are throughout their career going back through offerings like 2012’s Buffalo (review here), their formative 2009 self-titled debut (review here) and 2008’s The Johnny Boy EP (review here), sounding very much like the payoff moment for a stylistic growth shaped by time on the road as much as an expanded writing palette from band spearhead/guitarist/vocalist Steve Moss. That payoff moment might actually be on Cypress Ave., which outdoes its predecessor in scope, presentation, and its overall level of daring, foreshadowing stylistic turns in opener “Tonight” that range from the melancholia of “The Watchers Nest” and “Black Wave” to the acoustic-centered, unabashed Tom Waits-ery of album centerpiece “Break My Love,” through the jangly spaciousness of “Lemon Trees” and a collaboration with rapper Sonny Cheeba on “The Boogie Down.”

The latter, though admirably funky and an honest acknowledgement of the influence of the various strains of traditionally African American music that have played out in The Midnight Ghost Train‘s sound in their nine years together, from roots-blues to modern hip-hop, is nonetheless the widest “departure” from the rest of the material here, pulling away from the fuzz that serves to unite varied-in-mood cuts like “Red Eyed Junkie Queen” (video premiere here), “The Echo” and “Glenn’s Promise.” And no doubt it’ll be a sticking point for some listeners — because even the threat of rap-rock crossover proved enough to do that even before internet racism was a thing — but on the most basic level, it’s an attempt by Moss, bassist Mike Boyne and drummer Brandon Burghart to shake things up and offer something genuinely unexpected. That doesn’t mean it’s not a head-turning change from the pastoral strum of “Lemon Trees” before it or the tense but quiet “Black Wave” after, but it does mean that that’s very likely the whole point of its being in the first place.

the midnight ghost train

And those of the band’s followers looking for a studio-born manifestation of the riotousness they’ve long been noted as bringing to the stage will find the bursts of energy throughout “Tonight” and “The Watchers Nest,” “The Echo,” “Red Eyed Junkie Queen” and “Bury Me Deep” residing in comfortable-enough terrain, though even these bring forth a style from The Midnight Ghost Train more given to holding its tension than exploding forth from it, showing the band ultimately as more dynamic even within what one might think of as their core sound than they’ve ever been before. To wit, the opening salvo of “Tonight,” “Red Eyed Junkie Queen,” “Glenn’s Promise” and “Bury Me Deep,” which, while basking in some of the most satisfying guitar tone this side of circa-1995 Kyuss — sounds like hyperbole; isn’t — spends as much time gritting its teeth and seething as it does outwardly raging. There’s plenty of rock to be had on Cypress Ave. — plenty — but it’s in the nuance and the sonic caveats that The Midnight Ghost Train define the work they’re doing.

It’s fair to think of that as new ground for them almost as much as “The Boogie Down,” but the point is that even as the band bounces through different styles en route through side B of the 52-minute/11-track outing toward six-minute closer “I Can’t Let You Go,” on which Boyne‘s tone shines nearly as much as that of Moss amid memorable repetitions of the title-line, and a not-in-anymore-of-a-rush-than-it-needs-to-be rhythm given due swing by Burghart, the shifts in aesthetic and the expansion of who they are as a band throughout Cypress Ave. has grown naturally out of what they’ve done prior. Are they consciously making the decision to try new things? Most definitely, but even that is a manifestation of the impulses under which they’ve always functioned. They are, as they warned, delivering something different. In this context and in the sheer front-to-back listening experience, they’re a richer group. They benefit from the chemistry they’ve hard won on tour and succeed in crafting a narrative for who they are that goes beyond the bull-in-a-china-shop raucousness of their earlier outings.

Cypress Ave., like Buffalo before it, touches on a definitive sense of place — its cover art helps in this — but it finds The Midnight Ghost Train pushing a more exploratory sensibility that nonetheless draws strength from its tones, the underlying songcraft and structures with which the songs are executed, and the performances throughout of MossBoyne and Burghart, who’ve never sounded more complete and realized as a group than they do here. That’s not to take anything away from their prior work at all or the steps Moss as the band’s founder has taken along the way, including on Cold was the Ground, but as the band approach the decade mark in 2018, one has to acknowledge the bravery in such decided, willful progression. It turns out taking chances suits The Midnight Ghost Train, and one hopes they continue to do so as they move inexorably forward from Cypress Ave. to whatever their next destination may be.

The Midnight Ghost Train, “Red Eyed Junkie Queen” official video

The Midnight Ghost Train on Thee Facebooks

The Midnight Ghost Train website

The Midnight Ghost Train on Twitter

The Midnight Ghost Train on Instagram

Napalm Records website

Napalm Records on Thee Facebooks

Tags: , , , , ,