Monkey3 Announce Fall Touring and Fest Appearances

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 26th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

monkey3

It’s a big world out there, I know, and not everyone can be huge, but Monkey3 strike me as being particularly undervalued. With origins that stretch back to the pre-social media heavy rock of the turn of the century, the Swiss instrumentalist progressive heavy psych rockers have six albums to their name and have thereby amassed a catalog of persistently forward-thinking material that I’d gladly argue puts them in the conversation with acts like 35007 when it comes to bands who’ve helped paved the way for the European underground’s space-jam boom. They’re the kind of band who, if they broke up five years ago, would probably be a big deal if they were getting back together now. So why not cut out the middle-man and just appreciate them while they’re here?

They toured in Spring around the release of Sphere, their latest outing for Napalm Records, and they’ll do likewise this Fall on a tour presented by Sound of Liberation that includes not one, but two sets at Desertfest Belgium 2019 as well as stops along the way a numerous other festivals. Come to think of it, maybe I’m too America-centered in my thinking about them being underrated. I wonder what I’d find if I went to a Monkey3 show in Europe. Probably a good time, at very least.

Sound of Liberation announced the tour thusly:

monkey3 tour

Monkey3 – “Sphere Fall Tour 2019”

Guys, we are pleased to tell you today that the Swiss quartet monkey3 will hit the road again next October!

Still promoting their 6th album “Sphere” (released last Spring via Napalm Records), they will stop at Desertfest Belgium for 2 different shows!

18.10.19 Zürich / Bergmal Festival
20.10.19 Antwerp / Desertfest Antwerp
21.10.19 Hamburg / Molotow (Sky Bar)
22.10.19 Frankfurt am Main / Nachtleben
23.10.19 Strasbourg / La Maison Bleue
25.10.19 La Mezière (Rennes) / Samain Fest
26.10.19 Beaune / Les Ateliers du Cinema
28.10.19 Saarbrücken / Kleiner Klub (Garage)
29.10.19 Leipzig / Werk 2
30.10.19 Leifers / Jugend/Kulturzentrum Fly
31.10.19 Passau / Zauberberg
02.11.19 Münster / Golden Silence Festival (@ Skaters Palace)

MONKEY3 are:
Walter – drums
Kevin – bass
Boris – guitar
dB – keys

https://www.facebook.com/monkey3band/
http://www.napalmrecordsamerica.com/store/monkey3
http://label.napalmrecords.com/
https://www.facebook.com/napalmrecords

Monkey3, “Prism” official video

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Year of the Goat Post “Avaritia” Video; Novis Orbis Terrarum Ordinis out Sept. 6

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 16th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

How’s your Latin? Mine stinks. Sweden’s Year of the Goat seem to have a handle on the grammar though, and that’s fortunate as regards the cult rockers naming their new album Novis Orbis Terrarum Ordinis. The offering will be made with the backing of Napalm Records on Sept. 6, and preorders and a new video for the song “Avaritia” are both up right now. The tracklisting is duly ending-in-vowels (opener “Subortus” aside), and one imagines the release itself carries no shortage of ensuing drama as the line between what’s cult and what’s goth seems to be blurring generally. These guys haven’t had the same hype as some plying their trade in the dark arts, but they’ve got that aesthetic pretty much down, as the video shows. I guess some people on the internets said the art looks like something Batushka did? I’m gonna go with “yeah not really” on that one, at least going by my immediate search results for that band’s album covers.

Here’s info from the PR wire:

year of the goat Novis Orbis Terrarum Ordinis

Occult rock masters YEAR OF THE GOAT reveal album details, brand new video + kick off pre-order!

Novis Orbis Terrarum Ordinis coming this September on Napalm Records!

September 6th will see Swedish occult rock masters YEAR OF THE GOAT return with their brand new opus, Novis Orbis Terrarum Ordinis, on Napalm Records. Today the band is not only sharing the initial album details, spectacular album artwork, but also a brand new music video for the hard-hitting rock juggernaut Avaritia!

“Four years of neverending lust for creativity. For years of gluttony and decadence within our most sacred temple. For years of unspeakable boiling wrath. For years of greed filled wastefulness. Now, envy us in our moment of pride.” the band states.

Evoking a musically, sinister reality that surrounds us in this world with the majestic sound by YEAR OF THE GOAT, the occult rock collective adds a fire to the chaos with the band’s third studio album. In these times of global upheaval, the band’s upcoming record will celebrate your sins “[…] and rejoice in the perverseness of evil”, but one is definitely clear: The YEAR OF THE GOAT is now! Novis Orbis Terrarum Ordinis showcases YEAR OF THE GOAT’s roots in the darker sounds of the 60’s and 70’s, while they have never sounded so bracing before. Captivating tracks such as the just released Avaritia indulge in the finest occult rock full of blackened heart`s blood and elegiac melody lines that will haunt your dreams!

Watch the brand new video for Avaritia HERE!

Novis Orbis Terrarum Ordinis Tracklisting:
1. Subortus
2. Acedia
3. Luxuria
4. Ira
5. Superbia
6. Gula
7. Avaritia
8. Invidia
9. Subicio

Coming September 6th 2019 with Napalm Records and available as LP, CD and digital formats, the pre-order has just started at THIS LOCATION!

YEAR OF THE GOAT is:
Thomas Sabbathi – vocals, guitar
Jonas Mattsson – guitar
Linus Lundgren – guitar
Daniel Melo – drums
Joona Hassinen – bass
Pope – mellotron, vocals

www.facebook.com/yearofthegoat
www.napalmrecords.com

Year of the Goat, “Avaritia” official video

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The Obelisk Presents: Greenleaf Go to Australia This Fall

Posted in The Obelisk Presents on June 14th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

GREENLEAF

This one makes me happy. Australia’s Your Mate Bookings is bringing Greenleaf all the way from Sweden to do a nine-day tour Down Under and this humble site is among the presenters for the run. I’ve been lucky enough to have The Obelisk present some killer shows and tours at this point, but Greenleaf going to Australia? And doing so on the heels of last year’s Hear the Rivers (review here)? Yeah, that’s something special. And if you read the album’s title in that sentence just now and didn’t hear the chorus of the title-track in your head, I’m going to guess you haven’t yet properly dug into the record itself, which I can only heartily suggest you do at the next available moment. Now works. I’ll wait.

The ascension of Greenleaf this decade has been remarkable. From being a Dozer side-project to a full-time band, to a full-time touring band, they’ve lived up to and surpassed what I think most people expected of them, establishing a solidified lineup and embarking on a creative growth that has helped push heavy blues as a whole forward in Europe’s underground. Even as someone who’s never seen their current incarnation, their reputation precedes them, and as they continue to push ahead stylistically and in their chemistry and dynamic, I’m flat-out honored to be involved in presenting this tour in the small way I am, seeing them expand their geographic reach as well.

Tickets are on sale Monday. Go to the show if you can.

Here are the dates:

greenleaf aus tour

GREENLEAF – AUSTRALIAN HEAR THE RIVERS TOUR 2019

Supported by Jack Harlon & The Dead Crows

Thursday 31/10 Bendigo Hotel Collingwood VIC
Friday 1/11 @Altar Hobart TAS
Saturday 2/11 Northcote Social Club Northcote VIC
Sunday 3/11 Enigma Bar Adelaide SA
Wednesday 6/11 Heritage Hotel Bulli NSW
Thursday 7/11 Transit Bar Canberra ACT
Friday 8/11 The Vanguard Newtown NSW
Saturday 9/11 Crowbar Brisbane Fortitude Valley QLD
Sunday 10/11 Vinnies Dive Gold Coast QLD

Presented by YOUR MATE Bookings Get On The Stage The Bong Shop and The Obelisk

Tickets will be on sale Monday 17/6 through:
https://www.eventbrite.com/
https://www.moshtix.com.au/v2/
https://www.oztix.com.au/

Greenleaf, “Good Ol’ Goat” official video

Greenleaf, “The Rivers Lullaby” lyric video

Greenleaf on Thee Facebooks

Greenleaf on Instagram

Greenleaf at Napalm Records

Napalm Records website

Napalm Records on Thee Facebooks

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Conan Announce Fall European Tour with Un & Sixes

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 5th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

conan

Conan have already hit the road hard this year, mostly the US where they’ve shared stages with Black Label Society, The Atomic Bitchwax and I don’t know how many others along the way. They’ll continue that thread starting in about two weeks at the Maryland Doom Fest — where I’m looking forward to seeing them — and they’ll do a run of headlining shows with Witchkiss after that, and now they’re announcing a headlining run with Un and Sixes for Europe this Fall that will begin at Desertfest Belgium on Oct. 20 and run through mid-November as they tear ass across the continent for the better part of a month.

My only question is whether they’ll have a new album out by the time that tour hits. You’ll recall at the start of the year they talked about a new release in 2019. I’ve no idea when they would have had time to record such a thing, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t yet or won’t after this next tour. I don’t know. Maybe their plans have changed. I hear plans do that sometimes.

Either way, the more eardrum decimation, the merrier, so here are the dates:

conan euro fall 2019

CONAN – !!!EUROPEAN TOUR ANNOUNCEMENT!!!!

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER SHOWS.

We are delighted to head out into the mainland with two of the USA’s finest and heaviest bands.

Un and Sixes join us for what will be a very heavy run of shows…..

Conan Live:
June 23 Frederick, MD – Maryland Doom Fest
June 27 Portland, ME – Geno’s ^
June 28 Montreal, QC – Turbo Haus ^
June 30 Cleveland, OH – Now That’s Class ^
July 01 Columbus, OH – Ace of Cups ^
July 02 Indianapolis, IN – Black Circle ^
July 05 Omaha, NE – Slowdown
July 06 Rapid City, SD – Haycamp Brewery
^ = w/Witchkiss

Conan Fall Tour w/ Un & Sixes:
20.10 Desertfest Antwerpen, Antwerpen, BE
21.10 Magasin 4, Brussels, BE
22.10 Schlachthof, Wiesbaden, DE
23.10 Junkyard, Dortmund, DE
24.10 Funbureau, Hamburg, DE
25.10 Alte Meierei, Kiel, DE
26.10 1000 Fryd, Aalborg, DK
27.10 Truckstop Alaska, Gotenborg, SE
28.10 Vega, Copenhague, DK
29.10 Zukunft Am Ostkreuz, Berlin, DE
31.10 Gazwerk, Winterthur, CH
01.11 Bad Bonn, Dudingen, CH
02.11 Heavy Psych Sounds Fest, Innbruck, AT
03.11 Legend Club, Milano, IT
04.11 Gala Hala, Ljubjlana, SL
05.11 Cluc Mocvara, Zagreb, HR
06.11 Arena, Vienna, AT
07.11 Durer kert, Budapest, HU
08.11 Kulturak, Bratislava, SK
09.11 Kabinet Muz, Brno, CZ
10.11 Soulstone Gathering Festival, Kravow, PL
11.11 Chemiefabrik, Dresden, DE
12.11 Underdogs, Praha, CZ
14.11 Baroeg, Rotterdam, NL
15.11 Gibus, Paris, FR

Lineup:
Jon Davis – vocals, guitar (2006-present)
Chris Fielding – bass (2013-present)
Johnny King – drums (2017-present)

http://www.hailconan.com/
https://www.facebook.com/hailconan/
https://www.instagram.com/hailconan/
https://conan-conan.bandcamp.com/
https://twitter.com/hailconan
http://label.napalmrecords.com/

Conan, “Volt Thrower” official video

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Conan Add More Dates to North American Tour

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 13th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

conan

UK trio Conan have been chipping away at the West Coast since the latter part of last month, and they’ll wrap up that run at SXSW ahead of heading out once more in April, this time in the company of The Atomic Bitchwax and Black Label Society for a tour that will end in May. THEN they’ll be back in the US AGAIN in June to play more dates around their stop headlining at Maryland Doom Fest 2019. That is a significant amount of touring and, unless they’ve opened up a US headquarters and I didn’t know about it — could happen — a significant amount of travel across the Atlantic to do it.

All of this is set to precede the arrival of their next studio album, which, if it was going to be out this Spring would most likely already have seen its release date announced. Maybe summer? Maybe fall? I don’t know, but Conan are for sure keeping busy as they head toward the release, which of course one looks forward to in that special way that one anticipates Conan records like a boot to the skull. Which is to say, yes, very much.

From the social medias:

conan updated poster

CONAN – NEW US DATES

Check out our dates during April / May / June / July…….

See you in the pit (or to one side with your arms folded, nodding your head).

CONAN Live:
March 12: Taos, NM @ Taos Mesa Brewery Mothership
March 13: El Paso, TX @ Rockhouse
March 15: Austin, TX SXSW @ Lost Well

Apr 24 Denver, CO – Oriental Theater #*
Apr 25 Denver, CO – Oriental Theater #*
Apr 27 Dallas, TX – Canton Hall #*
Apr 28 Dallas, TX – Canton Hall #*
Apr 30 Chicago, IL – Concord Music Hall #*
May 01 Chicago, IL – Concord Music Hall #*
May 02 Lexington, KY – Cosmic Charlie’s *
May 03 Chattanooga, TN – The Signal #*
May 04 Asheville, NC – Odditorium *
May 06 New York, NY – Bowery Ballroom #*
May 07 New York, NY – Bowery Ballroom #*
May 08 Hampton Beach, NH – Hampton Beach Casino #*
May 12 Richmond, VA – The National #*
May 13 Baltimore, MD – Ram’s Head Live #*
May 14 Toronto, ON – Opera House #*
May 15 Toronto, ON – Opera House #*
May 22 Los Angeles, CA – El Rey Theater #*
May 23 Los Angeles, CA – El Rey Theater #*
# = w/Black Label Society
* = w/Atomic Bitchwax

June 23 Frederick, MD – Maryland Doom Fest
June 27 Portland, ME – Geno’s ^
June 28 Montreal, QC – Turbo Haus ^
June 30 Cleveland, OH – Now That’s Class ^
July 01 Columbus, OH – Ace of Cups ^
July 02 Indianapolis, IN – Black Circle ^
July 05 Omaha, NE – Slowdown
July 06 Rapid City, SD – Haycamp Brewery
^ = w/Witchkiss

Lineup:
Jon Davis – vocals, guitar (2006-present)
Chris Fielding – bass (2013-present)
Johnny King – drums (2017-present)

http://www.hailconan.com/
https://www.facebook.com/hailconan/
https://www.instagram.com/hailconan/
https://conan-conan.bandcamp.com/
https://twitter.com/hailconan
http://label.napalmrecords.com/

Conan, “Volt Thrower” official video

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Candlemass, The Door to Doom: Welcome Company

Posted in Reviews on February 22nd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

candlemass the door to doom

It’s not that having Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath do a guest spot on guitar with Candlemass isn’t a big deal. And the solo he donates to “Astorolus (The Great Octopus)” is true to form in its multiple layers and ensuing doomly vibe. He’s Tony Iommi, and if his presence turns heads to The Door to Doom, which is Candlemass‘ 12th studio full-length and second for Napalm Records, then all the better. But as the Swedish epic doom progenitors return with their first LP since 2012’s Psalms for the Dead (review here) — though they’ve also had live outings out since and two EPs in last year’s House of Doom (discussed here) and 2016’s Death Thy Lover (review here) — the focus on that one guitar solo takes away from the real lead of the record when it comes to narrative, which is the return of vocalist Johan Längquist to the fold.

Since the band’s reunion from the abyss of hiatus 14 years ago with their self-titled eighth album, they’ve worked with three frontmen. On that outing was Messiah Marcolin, a frontman’s frontman, whose voice helped propel Candlemass to their legendary status in the late ’80s. He didn’t last. By the time the follow-up came around, it was Robert Lowe of Solitude Aeturnus in the singer role, fronting the hurried-but-righteous King of the Grey Islands in 2007 and 2009’s Death Magic Doom (review here), which was positioned at the time as the band’s last album.

It wasn’t. Lowe split circa 2012 and on Death Thy Lover it was journeyman vocalist Mats Levén — who’d been in the running for the job when Lowe came aboard in the first place — taking on the role. However — and that’s a big “however” — Candlemass in celebration of the 25th anniversary of their debut album, Epicus Doomicus Metallicus, reunited with Längquist for a one-off show playing the LP in full at Roadburn in the Netherlands. The set was later released on vinyl through Svart as Epicus Doomicus Metallicus: Live at Roadburn 2011 (review here). I was there. It was a glorious show, with Lowe starting out on some newer stuff and then Längquist arriving to take over, and no disrespect to Lowe — whose voice is of Dio-esque caliber; not a compliment I hand out lightly — but Längquist was such a perfect fit with the rest of the band that the obvious question even as they were playing was, “Why the hell isn’t this guy in this band?”

Well, with The Door to Doom, he is. Steering Candlemass, as always, is Leif Edling. The band’s founding bassist and principle songwriter, he’s responsible over the course of more than 30 years for some of doom’s most resilient landmarks. He’s the reason they’ve survived so much tumult as regards frontmen, and his craft is on high display here, from opener “Splendor Demon Majesty” through the final lumber of “The Omega Circle.” And the story of The Door to Doom, even more than the 60 seconds dominated by Iommi, is the reunion between Längquist and Edling.

That’s not to take away from the contributions of guitarists Mats “Mappe” Björkman (rhythm) and Lars “Lasse” Johansson (lead) or drummer Jan Lindh — all of whom have been in the band at least three decades for as much as there’s been a band to be in — but the performance Längquist gives atop the grand riffing of “Under the Ocean” or the quiet and moody “Bridge of the Blind,” which provides a comedown moment coming out of the appropriately massive “Astorolus (The Great Octopus),” is nothing if not the standout it’s intended to be, and Edling‘s songwriting also seems to rise to the occasion, be that in the catchy side B launch “Death’s Wheel” or “Splendor Demon Majesty” at the outset or “House of Doom,” repurposed here (and re-recorded, obviously) from the EP of the same name to serve as the penultimate, organ-topped nodder ahead of “The Omega Circle,” which rounds out.

candlemass (photo Anders Palsson)

And not for nothing, but the solos Johansson adds to “House of Doom,” “Death’s Wheel” and the particularly Dehumanizer-esque “Black Trinity” go toe-to-toe with that on “Astorolus (The Great Octopus),” and I know there’s only one Tony Iommi, but there’s only one Candlemass as well, and they’re absolutely on fire in these tracks. The Door to Doom sounds revitalized and fully charged, and even as the cover art ties it directly to Epicus Doomicus Metallicus with its iconic impaled devil-skull design, the band seems only ready to move forward.

They’re not trying to recapture 1986 — and they don’t need to. They’re relishing their position as overlords of what doom has become in their wake. They take their time through the quiet intros to “Under the Ocean” or “The Omega Circle,” knowing their own strength in setting a mood for the epic riffing to come, and when that closer hits, it’s about not even about Edling or Längquist, but about the entire band. There’s a reason why the cliché is “firing on all cylinders,” and The Door to Doom gives a fervent example of what that sounds like. It has the poise and stately feel of Candlemass‘ experience and long-since-attained maturity of approach, but even as it taps into classic styles, dipping to acoustic in the midsection of “The Omega Circle” to mirror “Bridge of the Blind” at the end of side A in summary of the album as a whole, its overarching feel is refreshed and refreshing in kind. No question that when 2019 is done, The Door to Doom will stand among its finest doom albums.

The danger, of course, is that it’s Candlemass‘ last. That’s always the danger with Candlemass, and sometimes it happens. It’s worth nothing that the break between full-lengths between Psalms for the Dead and The Door to Doom, at seven years, is longer than when they “broke up” after 1999’s From the 13th Sun and didn’t put out another LP until Candlemass in 2005. Change has long been a factor for the band, but that’s all the more reason to enjoy the triumph that is The Door to Doom — because it might not last. It might be a one-off with Längquist, and it might be more than half a decade before they put out another record, if they do at all. Something about the idea of “coming full circle” and reuniting with their first singer seems very much in Edling‘s wheelhouse in bringing the band to close.

Listening to these songs, one only hopes that’s not how it plays out, and Candlemass continue to explore the doomed reaches with their original frontman, adding an essential and unexpected chapter to their story that they’ve given such a righteous beginning here. Recommended.

Candlemass, The Door to Doom (2019)

Candlemass on Thee Facebooks

Candlemass on Instagram

Candlemass website

Napalm Records website

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Monkey3: New Album Sphere Available to Preorder

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 4th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

monkey3

It was announced this past Fall that Swiss progressive heavy instrumentalists Monkey3 would hit the road with Samsara Blues Experiment this March, and now we know a little bit more about why. Their new album, Sphere, is set to release April 12 through Napalm Records and is up for preorder now. For a band who are more than 15 years removed from their debut album, they continue to be something of a well kept secret of Europe’s heavy underground — at least to those outside of it — but their last full-length, 2016’s Astra Symmetry (review here), was easily their most progressive outing yet, and they followed it with the 2017 Live at Freak Valley offering, so between that and the ample touring they’ve done all the while, they head into Sphere with some solid momentum behind them. One hopes they continue to build on their litany of accomplishments over the better part of this decade.

The PR wire brought album details and the preorder link:

monkey3 sphere

MONKEY3 To Release New Album “Sphere” April 12th via Napalm Records

Pre-Orders Available Now

Heavy Psych-Rock from Outer Space
Your Mind-Blowing Trip to the Universe

Instrumental rockers MONKEY3 have buckled up for their next interstellar journey. After the success of the 2016 album “Astra Symmetry,” the Swiss four piece continues its cosmic journey of space rock, psychedelic, stoner and progressive on their 6th full length studio album “Sphere”.

MONKEY3 describes the new album:
“Spiraling out of a majestic landscape & its untamed environment, ‘Sphere’ stands for an abstract interpretation of nature’s phenomenons, their geometric patterns, and colorful elements.

The backbone of MONKEY3’s new album is a solid axis around which revolves a multitude of distinct atmospheres – like a wild journey along a winding road – sometimes brutal, sometimes sublime. Here the instrumental roots of the band refract in a prismatic soundscape where each musical beam finds its own space; and yet at the same time they all come together to weave a massive wall of sound. Moreover a feminine & graceful touch enhances the overall artwork, allowing the audience to travel through a wide panel – from the depths of Death Valley to the magnitude of Mount Ida – like a cosmic trip through a meditative canal. And whatever this opus might be, “Sphere” could be reminiscent of an ellipsis in which one omits part of what is being said in order for the listener to fill in the blanks with one’s own imagination, and make it its own.”

Today, MONKEY3 unveils the album cover and the tracklist.

Pre Order “Sphere” HERE!

Tracklist:
1. Spirals
2. Axis
3. Prism
4. Mass (feat. Bumblefoot)
5. Ida
6. Ellipsis

“Sphere” will be available in the following formats:
-4 Page Digipack
-2LP Gatefold
-LP Deluxe Box, including Double-LP Gatefold + 1 LP Bonus LP Gatefold + Slipmat
-Digital Album

In March, MONKEY3 will hit the road together with Samsara Blues Experiment:
w/ Samsara Blues Experiment
29.03.19 DE – Cologne / Helios 37
30.03.19 BE – Antwerp / Zappa
31.03.19 NL – Nijmegen / Doornroosje
01.04.19 FR – Paris / Petit Bain
03.04.19 FR – Toulouse / Rex
05.04.19 DE – Stuttgart / JH Hallschlag
06.04.19 DE – Jena / F-Haus
07.04.19 DE – Dresden / Beatpol
08.04.19 DE – Munich / Feierwerk
09.04.19 CH – Zuerich / Rote Fabrik
10.04.19 AT – Vienna / Arena
11.04.19 CH- Budapest / A38
12.04.19 AT – Salzburg / Rockhouse
13.04.19 DE – Aschaffenburg / Colos-Saal

30.04.19 CH – Pratteln / Z7 Konzertfabrik
10.05.19 FR – Guéret / Metal Culture(s) Festival
02.08.19 FR – Monestier-de-Clermont / Stade Régis Perrin
03.08.19 FR – Saint-Maurice-de-Gourdans / Sylak Open Air
10.08.19 DE – Balve / German Kultrock Festival

MONKEY3 are:
Walter – drums
Kevin – bass
Boris – guitar
dB – keys

https://www.facebook.com/monkey3band/
http://www.napalmrecordsamerica.com/store/monkey3
http://label.napalmrecords.com/
https://www.facebook.com/napalmrecords

Monkey3, Live at Freak Valley (2017)

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John Garcia and the Band of Gold, John Garcia and the Band of Gold: Kentucky and Beyond

Posted in Reviews on January 8th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

john garcia and the band of gold self titled

The 2014 self-titled solo debut from John Garcia (review here) was at least 15 years in the making. He followed it in 2017 with the mostly acoustic The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues (review here), and with the self-titled LP from John Garcia and the Band of Gold, he completes a cycle of three records in five years that he has already hinted will mark his last run. That in itself gives the 11-song/40-minute John Garcia and the Band of Gold a different context, but it’s also worth noting that as he’s made his way through these offerings — the latest of which would presumably complete a three-album deal with Napalm Records — he’s also presented a different side of himself each time out. True, the first and third LPs share plenty of aesthetic commonalities, but Garcia stepping into more of a bandleader role with The Band of Gold behind him comprised of guitarist Ehren Groban (War Drum), bassist Mike Pygmie (Mondo GeneratorYou Know Who) and drummer Greg Saenz (The DwarvesYou Know Who) is a distinguishing factor.

Much has been made as well of the involvement of producer Chris Goss, the frontman of Masters of Reality who once upon a time helmed the Kyuss recordings that would help solidify desert rock in the mid-’90s. That’s not a minor consideration, and if there’s an effect of Goss‘ contributions here — which, as I understand it, came after the basic tracks were recorded — perhaps it can be heard in the extra heft of a track like the rushing “Popcorn (Hit Me When You Can)” or the low-end push behind Garcia‘s crooning in the quieter parts of second cut “Jim’s Whiskers” earlier on. That’s speculation, but even the association between the two parties should be a draw for fans, who might also note the similarity in cover art between John Garcia and the Band of Gold and Vista Chino‘s 2013 outing, Peace (review here; discussed here), both done in a graffiti-on-concrete style. If there’s an intended relationship between those two LPs, I don’t know, but in addition to having appeared on The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues as “Give Me 250ml,” “Kentucky II” would seem to be a sequel in title to “Kentucky” from Hermano‘s 2007 full-length, …Into the Exam Room. One way or another, there is plenty throughout John Garcia and the Band of Gold for longtime fans to dig into.

“Kentucky II” is one of three songs shared between the last album and this one, actually, with “Kylie,” on that showing up as the penultimate “Cheyletiella” on this and “The Hollingsworth Session” revamped in fully-plugged fashion as “Don’t Even Think About It.” There’s something to be said for the continuity tying the two releases together, but highlights of John Garcia and the Band of Gold like “My Everything” and “Lillianna” are both new and help comprise the central impression of the tracklist as a whole, which is fresh in performance and cognizant of the desert it’s inhabiting, whether it’s through the introductory spaciousness that rolls out in “Space Vato” before that 2:44 instrumental kicks into higher gear and moves quickly into the bouncing groove of “Jim’s Whiskers,” or “Softer Side,” which finds Garcia singing quietly over a wide landscape of psychedelic guitar somewhat reminiscent of his work alongside Yawning Man‘s Gary Arce in Zun.

john garcia and the band of gold

His voice — naturally a central feature on an album that bears his name — has always been well suited to that ultra-laid back vibe, but neither can one take away from the power in his delivery of “My Everything” or the successful middle ground built up in “Chicken Delight,” a sense of tension coming to a head that the swinging “Kentucky II” pays off in its righteous and familiar shuffle. “Popcorn (Hit Me When You Can)” arguably provides the hardest thrust of John Garcia and the Band of Gold, but “Apache Junction,” which immediately follows, is both the heaviest and the most intriguing as regards arrangement, with guitars echoing out late after slamming out a central riff that’s replete with sonic detailing, bass chugging away beneath effects-laced background vocal layers between lyric lines, and the balance of the mix such that Garcia‘s voice is given an opportunity to cut through the tonal presence surrounding, something that he’s been doing in oft-imitated fashion for over two decades. Unsurprisingly, he nails it.

So will John Garcia and the Band of Gold really be his last record? Yeah, probably not. Even if it’s his last “solo” album for some time, he’s proven restless enough in the past that it’s easy to think maybe he’d work again with Dave Angstrom in Hermano or follow-up on the several reunion gigs Slo Burn did in 2017 with more there. Of the litany of projects he’s been involved in throughout his career, new material would be welcome from just about any of them — which isn’t to mention the perpetually-unfinished business with Unida, a band once stifled by contract woes from releasing what would’ve been their breakthrough album. If John Garcia is going to run out the thread on tour for this release and call it a career, though, what a career to call it. It probably doesn’t help pay the mortgage, but the guy’s legitimately a legend who’s influence has thus far spanned two generations, and John Garcia and the Band of Gold finds him in top form, arguably in better control of his craft than he was when Vista Chino made Peace for the intervening years of writing, touring and singing.

If it’s how he wants to go out, he certainly doesn’t owe anyone anything. But the question, ultimately, is a distraction, and a negative one if it takes anything away from appreciating John Garcia and the Band of Gold on its own level. Among the most crucial statements Garcia makes with the third LP under his name comes from that change in identity. He’s still searching. He’s still trying to find just that right place to inhabit that’s not only his own, but as much about the future as about his storied past. If fronting John Garcia and the Band of Gold is what lets him do that, fine. It worked for his one-time bandmate Brant Bjork for a while when he led Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band, also on Napalm Records. And if John Garcia and the Band of Gold does make that happen, it’s even less likely this self-titled will be their last outing. But, just like how at any second his voice might punch the listener upside the head with belted-out desert grit, his future is wholly unpredictable.

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