Conan & Monolord Announce Co-Headlining European Tour

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 14th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Goodness gracious this is going to be heavy. If you live somewhere in Europe they’re not hitting or in the US and you’re jealous that Conan and Monolord won’t be co-headlining their way across your particular country this time around, don’t worry. I’m pretty sure wherever you’re at you’ll be able to hear them anyway. Just put your ear to the ground — not in a dirty or wet spot; nothing gross — and listen for the rumble. That’s them. Can’t miss it.

I don’t know who had the idea to pair up the UK riff destroyers with the Swedish masters of nod, but yeah, good work. You get a gold sticker. Conan, of course, are still out supporting early-2016’s Revengeance (review here), and this will mark their second European run of 2017 and follow a recent Obelisk-presented US stint that included a stop at Maryland Deathfest. For Monolord, they go heralding the arrival of their third album, newly completed and awaiting the publication of its release details. Presumably by the time October comes around, we’ll know when and how the record will be out even if we don’t yet.

You’ll note the included slots here at Desertfest Belgium 2017 in Antwerp and Keep it Low 2017 in Munich. I wouldn’t be surprised if another fest or two got added, time permitting. Poster and currently announced dates follow, as hoisted from the social medias:

conan monolord tour

Conan and Monolord – Co-Headline Fall 2017 European Tour

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

Poster by Error! Design

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

https://www.facebook.com/monolordsweden/
twitter.com/MonolordSweden
https://monolord.bandcamp.com/
http://www.ridingeasyrecs.com/

Conan, “Throne of Fire” live at Maryland Deathfest 2017

Monolord, Vænir (2015)

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The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 of 2017 So Far

Posted in Features on June 12th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk top-20-2017-so-far

The time has come to take a look at some of the best albums of 2017 so far. I hardly know where to start. In some ways, this list is harder to put together than the end-of-year one that comes out in December, because by then not only do you have the full year to draw on, but it’s easier to sort of put a narrative to the course of events of 12 months, whereas in this case, obviously, the story is half told. So I guess if the list feels incomplete, that might be part of why.

Even with just six months to work from, the list has become fairly immense. I’ve been keeping track of 2017 releases since about September of last year, and the amount of stuff that’s come through has been staggering. Every year brings good music, and the basic fact of the matter is that if you don’t think so it’s because you’re either unwilling to find it or unwilling to let yourself hear it, but 2017 has been a multi-tiered assault of sounds from all over the world, and it seems like whatever you might be into, the universe stands ready to accommodate.

There’s a lot to say about that — is the market flooded? — but it’s a topic for a different post. I’ll keep it short here and just say that as always, it’s an honor to be covering the stuff that I cover and that I deeply appreciate you taking the time to read. I hope if there’s a release you feel deeply passionate about that you don’t see on my list below that you’ll please let me know about it in the comments.

Also, please note that in order to qualify for this list, a record had to come out on or before June 9. That’s the cutoff.

Okay, here goes:

The Top 20 of 2017 So Far

elder reflections of a floating world

1. Elder, Reflections of a Floating World
2. All Them Witches, Sleeping Through the War
3. Samsara Blues Experiment, One with the Universe
4. Colour Haze, In Her Garden
5. Atavismo, Inerte
6. Sun Blood Stories, It Runs Around the Room with Us
7. Cloud Catcher, Trails of Kozmic Dust
8. Vokonis, The Sunken Djinn
9. The Obsessed, Sacred
10. Mothership, High Strangeness
11. Spaceslug, Time Travel Dilemma
12. Electric Moon, Stardust Rituals
13. Alunah, Solennial
14. Arc of Ascent, Realms of the Metaphysical
13. Rozamov, This Mortal Road
14. Siena Root, A Dream of Lasting Peace
15. PH, Eternal Hayden
16. Geezer, Psychoriffadelia
17. T.G. Olson, Foothills Before the Mountain
18. Telekinetic Yeti, Abominable
19. The Devil and the Almighty Blues, II
20. Lord, Blacklisted

Notes

If you keep up with this site at all, there probably aren’t a lot of surprises in there. These are all records that have been discussed at great length over the last six months, reviewed, streamed, analyzed, whathaveyou’d all the way. If you don’t believe me, search any of the names. Still, as far as my personal picks go and who I think has crafted something special over the last six months, this feels pretty representative to me. I managed to live for a full week with the list as you see it above, without making changes. That’s usually my standard.

And as always, it’s a combination of what I’ve listened to most and what I feel has had the greatest impact thus far into the year. Between the two, there was little doubt Elder would take the top spot. I’ve probably listened to the All Them Witches record more than anything else this year, including Elder’s Reflections of a Floating World, but the truth is the Massachusetts trio are working at a level of their own making in terms of their sonic progression, and that they’ve emerged as one of if not the most pivotal American underground heavy rock bands going. The situation was much the same when they put out Lore in 2015 and claimed that year’s top-album spot, but even since then their sound has expanded and they continue to demand ultimate respect.

As for the All Them Witches album — absolute stunner. The increased depth of their arrangements on Sleeping Through the War came at no expense of songwriting, resulting in ultra-memorable material that could either wash over you with melody or shove you out of your seat with the force of its rhythm, and that band continues to be a treasure. No other way to put it.

From there, we move into what I think are the four best heavy psych offerings of 2017 so far, with Samsara Blues Experiment, Colour Haze, Atavismo and Sun Blood Stories, in that order. Samsara Blues Experiment’s return has been a joy to witness and their first album in four years lived up to the occasion. Colour Haze expanded the palette from their last album with In Her Garden and proved as immersive as always. I’m still getting to know that record. Atavismo’s second full-length upped the progressive influences without losing fluidity or cohesion in songwriting, and Sun Blood Stories’ hypnotic shoegaze offered expansive thrills and a sense of varied, beautifully crafted exploration.

A pair of exciting young bands thereafter in Colorado’s Cloud Catcher, whose boogie is right-on-right-on and whose development continues to hold much potential, and Vokonis, whose crushing riffs on The Sunken Djinn were met with an increased focus on structure and tightening of approach that maximized overall impact. The Obsessed’s unexpected return could only be called a triumphant one, and Mothership’s third long-player found them working in a richer sense of mood than previous outings, adding yet more character to what was still a blast of good-time rock and roll. They round out the top 10 in full command of who they are as players.

Granted, the next 10 releases are kind of all over the place, but I think that just shows the overarching quality of work being done across the board. From Spaceslug’s melodic stoner-psych to Electric Moon’s studio return — so, so, so good — to Alunah’s continued growth in nature-worshiping heavy and Arc of Ascent’s comebacker of rolling heavy riffs and metaphysical themes, there’s been so much to take in. I especially like the pairing of Rozamov and Siena Root as a sense of scope for 2017 so far; the former being so dark and crushing and the latter who lived up to calling their record A Dream of Lasting Peace. You want to know both ends of the spectrum? There they are.

PH’s Eternal Hayden gets a nod for its effective reset of the context of that band following the completion of their trilogy of albums, and Geezer’s Psychoriffadelia might have been something of a tossoff in the making, but the level at which the New York trio jams nonetheless assures it a spot here. Plus, a Nazareth cover. So duh.

I couldn’t help but include T.G. Olson’s Foothills Before the Mountain on the list as the Across Tundras frontman creeps closer to a full-band sound for his solo work, adding to his acoustic singer-songwriter foundations, and the crush of Telekinetic Yeti’s post-Sleep riffing evoked so many nods I thought they deserved one here as well. Placing The Devil and the Almighty Blues was difficult, but especially after seeing them live, I felt like I had a better idea of where they were coming from on II, so knew they belonged somewhere, even if it was tucked in at the end. And of course, Lord. Always killer, always experimenting, always chaotic. Never have grind and sludge sounded more cohesive together. They’re the band I wish Soilent Green had become, and yes, I mean that.

Honorable Mention

Let’s do another 10 releases, shall we?

21. Beastmaker, Inside the Skull
22. Arduini/Balich, Dawn of Ages
23. Brume, Rooster
24. John Garcia, The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues
25. Six Sigma, Tuxedo Brown
26. Demon Head, Thunder on the Fields
27. Summoner, Beyond the Realm of Light
28. Steak, No God to Save
29. Six Organs of Admittance, Burning the Threshold
30. Dool, Here Now There Then

And just to make the point, here are even more worthy of note in this space:

Elbrus, Elbrus
Cortez, The Depths Below
Ecstatic Vision, Raw Rock Fury
Child, Blueside (a December 2016 release, maybe, but I think the vinyl was this year, so whatever)
Pallbearer, Heartless
Spidergawd, IV
Green Meteor, Consumed by a Dying Sun
Loss, Horizonless

There are of course other names as well that come to mind. Like I said at the outset, it’s a crowded field: Hymn, Arbouretum, Green Meteor, REZN, Demon Head, Galley Beggar, Devil’s Witches, Orango, Heavy Traffic, Coltsblood, Mt. Mountain, Vokonis, Solstafir, High Plains, on and on.

Also worth highlighting several really, really quality live records that have surfaced so far this year. I didn’t really know where to place them among the other studio offerings, but they deserve note for sure:

Causa Sui, Live in Copenhagen
Death Alley, Live at Roadburn
My Sleeping Karma, Mela Ananda – Live
Enslaved, Roadburn Live

More to Come

Of course, we’re still just barely halfway through the year, so keep on the lookout for more to follow. If you didn’t see my massive 200+ albums to watch for list in January, it has many that have come out and many more still to surface, but here are a few highlight names as well that you’re going to want to keep an eye on in the months ahead:

Queens of the Stone Age
Radio Moscow
The Atomic Bitchwax
Kadavar
Ufomammut
The Midnight Ghost Train
Moon Rats
Clamfight
Egypt
the Melvins
Bison Machine
Seedy Jeezus
High on Fire
Monster Magnet

Thanks for Reading

Before I check out, I’d like to give special mention to Lo-Pan’s In Tensions EP as the best short release of the year thus far. Along with EPs from Godhunter, Kings Destroy, Solace and Shroud Eater, it has assured those seeking a quick fix are handed their ass in return for asking.

Well, that’s about where I’m at with it. As per usual, I’m sure there are things I forgot and/or left off here, because I’m human and whatnot, so please if you have something to add, feel free to do so in the comments so long as you can keep it cordial. No name calling. I’m sensitive and you’ll ruin my whole day. I mean that.

Thanks again for being a part of this and here’s to an excellent rest of 2017.

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The Midnight Ghost Train Premiere “Red Eyed Junkie Queen” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on June 2nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the midnight ghost train

I’m not even going to pretend like I haven’t heard it — wait until you get a load of the fucking tones The Midnight Ghost Train bring on Cypress Ave. Pure, dug-in weighted fuzz of the highest order. Guitarist/vocalist Steve Moss and bassist Mike Boyne bring a thickness and drummer Brandon Burghart makes it move, and together, the power trio offer not only a swap between moody, airy heavy blues and driving thrust like one can hear on “Red Eyed Junkie Queen” — premiering today in the new video below — but a more expansive aesthetic palette than ever, taking the go-go-go of 2015’s hands-up righteous Cold was the Ground (review here) and offering a multidirectional expansion of style, whether that’s in the grungy build of “The Watchers Nest,” the jangly meander of “Lemon Trees” or “The Boogie Down,” on which the band acts as a live funk backup for rapper Sonny Cheeba.

Yeah, shit gets pretty wild — and that’s not even to mention the brooding back end of Cypress Ave. with “Black Wave,” “The Echo” and “I Can’t Let You Go” — but that’s the idea as The Midnight Ghost Train willfully endeavor to take their sound places it’s never been before. “Red Eyed Junkie Queen” is the second song on the album behind opener the midnight ghost train cypress ave.“Tonight,” and is more in line with what their audience might expect of them, but even in its tense verses and in Moss‘ post-Tom Waits lyrical storytelling — see also “Break My Love” later on — they give a sense of the wider sonic berth the record will cast as it continues to unfold. Bolstered by a speedy tempo and a catchy hook that sets its place and its character both down and dirty, the track rushes through its four-minute runtime and helps continue the momentum set by the opener with a richness of groove that continues through the rest of the opening salvo in “Glenn’s Promise” and “Bury Me Deep.”

Bottom line, I suppose, is that “Red Eyed Junkie Queen” doesn’t necessarily speak for the whole of Cypress Ave., but neither is it intended to do so. The video takes us inside the studio with The Midnight Ghost Train as they record the album, tracking live and playing through the process by which these songs came together. One can only wonder if as they filmed it just how much the results of their efforts would stand apart from everything they’ve done before.

The Midnight Ghost Train release Cypress Ave. this July 28 via Napalm Records, and as they will, the band hit the road in August for a lengthy US tour. More info from the PR wire and live dates follow the clip below.

Please enjoy:

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

Pre-order “Cypress Ave.” now: http://smarturl.it/CypressAve-NPR

Out July 28!

THE MIDNIGHT GHOST TRAIN keeps rollin’ along, spewing exhaust along sandy desert roads, and filling lungs with dust: now with their fourth opus ‘Cypress Ave.’ this impulsive trifecta torch dark’n’dirty Southern Rock with a hefty portion of Sludge and Funk. Seared by the Sunflower State of Kansas, their organic and authentic sound lives in the musics throaty vocals, deep lyrics, melancholic melodies and forceful, shaky riffs. Roaring amps plow through eardrums as if they were earth, dry as a bone. Highlight: the fruity-fresh “The Boogie Down [feat. Sonny Cheeba]”. Honest, straight-forward and peppered with woefulness. An absolute must for blues-fans!

The Midnight Ghost Train live:
Aug 24 2017 The Grotto Ft Worth, TX
Aug 25 2017 Swan Dive Austin, TX
Aug 26 2017 Boom Boom Room Lafayette, LA
Aug 27 2017 Siberia New Orleans, LA
Aug 28 2017 TBA Jackson, MS
Aug 29 2017 TBA Hattiesburg, MS
Aug 30 2017 TBA Muscle Shoals, AL
Aug 31 2017 Handlebar Pensacola, FL
Sep 1 2017 Snug Harbor Charlotte, NC
Sep 2 2017 Masquerade w/ Camp Lo Atlanta, GA
Sep 3 2017 Banditos Richmond, VA
Sep 6 2017 TBA Baltimore, MD
Sep 7 2017 Atlas Brew Works Washington, D.C.
Sep 8 2017 Kung Fu Necktie Philadelphia, PA
Sep 9 2017 Gold Sounds Brooklyn, NY
Sep 10 2017 TBA Connecticut
Sep 11 2017 Firehouse 13 Providence, RI
Sep 12 2017 O’Brien’s Pub Boston, MA
Sep 13 2017 TBA Rochester, NY
Sep 14 2017 TBA Cleveland, OH
Sep 15 2017 Radio Radio Indianapolis, IN
Sep 16 2017 The Rockery Detroit, MI
Sep 17 2017 TBA Kalamazoo, MI
Sep 18 2017 Frequency Madison, WI
Sep 19 2017 Gasoline Green Bay, WI
Sep 20 2017 The Lift Dubuque, IA
Sep 21 2017 Reggie’s Music Joint Chicago, IL
Sep 22 2017 Green Lantern Lexington, KY
Sep 23 2017 Southgate House Revival Newport, KY
Sep 24 2017 TBA Nashville, TN
Sep 25 2017 TBA Charleston, SC
Sep 26 2017 TBA Raleigh, NC
Sep 27 2017 The Empty Bottle Charleston, WV
Sep 28 2017 The Buzzbin Shop Canton, OH
Sep 29 2017 Blind Bob’s Dayton, OH
Sep 30 2017 Descendants of Crom Fest Pittsburgh, PA

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

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The Midnight Ghost Train to Release Cypress Ave. July 28

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 15th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the-midnight-ghost-train

What’s in store for the new album from The Midnight Ghost Train? I don’t know, and considering the Kansas heavy rockers are headed into their fourth full-length, that’s a particularly comforting notion. Their last record, 2015’s Cold was the Ground (review here), was their Napalm Records debut, and they played to their strengths in unhinged-sounding, manic blues. With the forthcoming Cypress Ave., due July 28 also via Napalm, the trio promises stylistic experimentation like they’ve never had before, and I’m inclined to take their word for it.

I haven’t heard any of it yet, so I’m not speaking from experience in that or anything, but The Midnight Ghost Train have always been purposeful enough to know what’s up, so yeah, I’m looking forward to checking out what might be in store this time around.

The PR wire teases possibilities:

the-midnight-ghost-train-cypress-ave

THE MIDNIGHT GHOST TRAIN ANNOUNCE BRAND NEW ALBUM!

‘Cypress Ave.’ Coming July 2017 on Napalm Records!

Seared by the Sunflower State of Kansas, THE MIDNIGHT GHOST TRAIN keeps rollin’ again – and they are about to return with their most diverse album to date!

The band’s fourth opus titled ‘Cypress Ave.’ is set to be released July 28th 2017 on Napalm Records, and will please both old and new fans alike. Never before has THE MIDNIGHT GHOST TRAIN shown this side of themselves. Their new album proves that they ‘re not just another rock band, they’re explorers, risk takers, and true artists. This is not a departure, but an expansion:

“It was time to challenge ourselves, and our fanbase, and do something completely different that hasn’t been done before in this genre“, says guitarist & vocalist Steve Moss. “No sense in doing the same thing over and over again, there is no growth in that. We want to learn, create, and leave our true artistic impression on the world.“ He continues: “Not one song on this album sounds the same. Each track has a completely different feel and unique quality to it. Something in this album for everyone in every genre of music out there. Exploring and challenging new grounds is what this album is about.“

Now THE MIDNIGHT GHOST TRAIN have unveiled the album artwork for ‘Cypress Ave.’, and the tracklist will read as follows:

1. Tonight
2. Red Eyed Junkie Queen
3. Glenn’s Promise
4. Bury Me Deep
5. The Watchers Nest
6. Break My Love
7. Lemon Trees
8. The Boogie Down [feat. Sonny Cheeba]
9. Black Wave
10. The Echo
11. I Can’t Let You Go [Bonus Track]

The band’s organic and authentic sound lives in the musics throaty vocals, deep lyrics, melancholy melodies and forceful, shaky riffs. Honest, straight-forward and peppered with woefulness.

‘Cypress Ave.’, coming July 28th on Napalm Records, is an absolute must for every blues- and rock fan. Be prepared, for the return of THE MIDNIGHT GHOST TRAIN with their most diverse and unique sounding album to date!

www.facebook.com/themidnightghosttrain
www.themidnightghosttrain.com
www.napalmrecords.com
www.facebook.com/napalmrecords

The Midnight Ghost Train, Live in Paris 2016

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Quarterly Review: Ulver, Forming the Void, Hidden Trails, Svvamp, Black Mirrors, Endless Floods, Tarpit Boogie, Horseburner, Vermilion Whiskey, Hex Inverter

Posted in Reviews on March 28th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

cropped-Charles-Meryon-Labside-Notre-Dame-1854

Feeling groovy heading into Day Two of the Spring 2017 Quarterly Review, and I hope you are as well. Today we dig into a pretty wide variety of whatnots, so make sure you’ve got your head with you as we go, because there are some twists and turns along the way. I mean it. Of all five days in this round, this one might be the most wild, so keep your wits intact. I’m doing my best to do the same, of course, but make no promises in that regard.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Ulver, The Assassination of Julius Caesar

ulver-the-assassination-of-julius-caesar

Norwegian post-everything specialists Ulver have reportedly called The Assassination of Julius Caesar (on House of Mythology) “their pop album,” and while the Nik Turner-inclusive freakout in second cut “Rolling Stone” (that may or may not be him on closer “Comign Home” as well) doesn’t quite fit that mold, the beats underscoring the earlier portion of that track, opener “Nemoralia” and the melodrama of “Southern Gothic” certainly qualify. Frontman/conceptual mastermind Kristoffer Rygg’s voice is oddly suited to this form – he carries emotionally weighted hooks like a melancholy George Michael on the electronically pulsating “Transverberation” and, like most works of pop, shows an obsession with the ephemeral in a slew of cultural references in “1969,” which in no way is likely to be mistaken for the Stooges song of the same name. While “So Falls the World” proves ridiculously catchy, “Coming Home” is about as close as Ulver actually come here to modern pop progression, and the Badalamenti-style low-end and key flourish in “1969” is a smooth touch, much of what’s happening in these eight tracks is still probably too complex to qualify as pop, but The Assassination of Julius Caesar is further proof that Ulver’s scope only grows more boundless as the years pass. The only limits they ever seem to know are the ones they leave behind.

Ulver on Twitter

House of Mythology website

 

Forming the Void, Relic

forming-the-void-relic

Last year, Louisiana four-piece Forming the Void had the element of surprise working to their advantage when it came to the surprising progressive edge of their debut album, Skyward (review here). Now signed to Argonauta, the eight-song/55-minute follow-up, Relic, doesn’t need it. It finds Forming the Void once again working proggy nuance into big-riffed, spaciously vocalized fare on early cuts “After Earth” and “Endless Road,” but as the massive hook of “Biolazar” demonstrates, the process by which guitarist/vocalist James Marshall, guitarist Shadi Omar Al-Khansa, bassist Luke Baker and drummer Jordan Boyd meld their influences has become more cohesive and more their own. Accordingly, I’m not sure they need the 11-minute closing take on Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir,” since by then the point is made in the lumber/plunder of “Plumes” and in the more tripped-out “Unto the Smoke” just before, but as indulgences go, it’s a relatively easy one to make. They’re still growing, but doing so quickly, and already they’ve begun to find a niche for themselves between styles that one hopes they’ll continue to explore.

Forming the Void on Thee Facebooks

Argonauta Records website

 

Hidden Trails, Instant Momentary Bliss

hidden-trails-instant-momentary-bliss

Though it keeps a wash of melodic keys in the background and its approach is resolutely laid back on the whole, “Beautiful Void” is nonetheless a major factor in the overall impression of Hidden Trails’ self-titled debut (on Elektrohasch), as its indie vibe and departure from the psychedelic prog of the first two cuts, “Lancelot” and “Mutations,” marks a major distinguishing factor between this outfit and Hypnos 69, in which the rhythm section of the Belgian trio played previously. “Ricky” goes on to meld acoustic singer-songwriterism and drones together, and “Hands Unfold” has a kind of jazzy bounce, the bassline of Dave Houtmeyers and drumming of Tom Vanlaer providing upbeat groove under Jo Neyskens’ bright guitar lead, but the anticipation of heavy psych/prog never quite leaves after the opening, and that doesn’t seem to be what the band wants to deliver. The sweetly harmonized acid folk of “Leaving Like That” is on a different wavelength, and likewise the alt-rock vibes of “Space Shuffle” and “Come and Play” and the grunge-chilled-out closer “Denser Diamond.” If there’s an issue with Hidden Trails, it’s one of the expectations I’m bringing to it as a listener and a fan of Houtmeyers’ and Vanlaer’s past work, but clearly it’s going to take me a little longer to get over the loss of their prior outfit. Maybe I’m just not ready to move on.

Hidden Trails on Thee Facebooks

Elektrohasch Schallplatten website

 

Svvamp, Svvamp

svvamp-svvamp

Naturalist vibes pervade immediately from this late-2016 self-titled Svvamp debut (on RidingEasy Records) in the bassline to “Serpent in the Sky,” and in some of the post-Blue Cheer heavy blues sensibility, the Swedish trio bring to mind some of what made early Dirty Streets so glorious. Part of the appeal of Svvamp’s Svvamp, however, is that among the lessons it’s learned from heavy ‘70s rock and from Kadavar‘s own self-titled is to keep it simple. “Fresh Cream” is a resonant blues jam… that lasts two and a half minutes. The bouncing, turning “Oh Girl?” Three. Even the longest of its cuts, the slide-infused “Time,” the subdued roller “Big Rest” and the Marshall Tucker-esque finale “Down by the River,” are under five. This allows the three-piece of Adam Johansson, Henrik Bjorklund and Erik Stahlgren to build significant momentum over the course of their 35-minute run, casting aside pretense in favor of aesthetic cohesion and an organic sensibility all the more impressive for it being their first record. Sweden has not lacked for boogie rock, but even the most relatively raucous moments here, as in the winding “Blue in the Face,” don’t seem overly concerned with what anyone else is up to, and that bodes remarkably well for Svvamp’s future output.

Svvamp on Thee Facebooks

RidingEasy Records website

 

Black Mirrors, Funky Queen

black-mirrors-funky-queen

There are few songs ever written that require whoever’s playing them to “bring it” more than MC5’s “Kick out the Jams.” True, it’s been covered many, many times over, but few have done it well. Belgium’s Black Mirrors signal riotous intent by including it as one of the four tracks of their Napalm Records debut EP, Funky Queen, along with the originals “Funky Queen,” “The Mess” and “Canard Vengeur Masqué,” and amid the post-Blues Pills stomp of “The Mess,” the mega-hook of the opening title-track and the more spacious five-plus-minute closer, which works elements of heavy psych into its bluesy push late to welcome effect, “Kick out the Jams” indeed brings a moment of relative cacophony, even if there’s no actual threat of the band losing control behind the powerful vocals of Marcella di Troia. As a first showing, Funky Queen would seem to be a harbinger, but it’s also a purposeful and somewhat calculated sampling of Black Mirrors’ wares, and I wouldn’t expect it to be long before an album follows behind expanding on the ideas presented in these tracks.

Black Mirrors on Thee Facebooks

Black Mirrors at Napalm Records

 

Endless Floods, II

endless-floods-ii

No doubt that for some who’d take it on, any words beyond “members of Monarch!” will be superfluous, but Bordeaux three-piece Endless Floods, who do indeed feature bassist/vocalist Stéphane Miollan and drummer Benjamin Sablon from that band, as well as guitarist Simon Bedy, have more to offer than pedigree on their three-song sophomore full-length, II (on Dry Cough vinyl and Breathe Plastic cassette). To wit, 24-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Impasse” rumbles out raw but spacious sludge that, though without keys or a glut of effects, and marked by the buried-deep screaming of Miollan, holds a potent sense of atmosphere so that the two-minute interlude “Passage” doesn’t seem out of place leading into the 19-minute lumber of “Procession,” which breaks shortly before its halfway point to bass-led minimalism in setting up the final build of the record. Slow churning intensity and longform sludge working coherently alongside ambient sensibilities and some genuinely disturbing noise? Yeah, that’ll do nicely. Thanks.

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Tarpit Boogie, Couldn’t Handle… The Heavy Jam

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Boasting four eight-plus-minute instrumentals, Couldn’t Handle… The Heavy Jam finds New Jersey trio Tarpit Boogie rife with classic style heavy rock chemistry, bassist John Eager running fills around the dense-toned riffing from guitarist George Pierro as drummer Chris Hawkins propels a surprising thrust on opener “FFF Heavy Jam.” I’ve been a fan of Pierro and Eager’s since we were bandmates a decade ago, so to hear them unfold “Chewbacca Jacket” from its tense opening to its righteously crashing finale is definitely welcome, but the 37-minute offering finds its true reasoning in the swing and shuffle of the eponymous “Tarpit Boogie,” which digs into the very challenge posed by the title – whether or not anyone taking on the album can handle its balance of sonic impact and exploratory feel – inclusive, in this case, of a drum solo that sets a foundation for a moment of Cactus-style rush ahead of a return to the song’s central progression to conclude. They round out with “1992 (Thank You Very Little),” Chevy Chase sample and all, bringing more crashing nod to a massive slowdown that makes it feel like the entire back half of the cut is one big rock finish. And so it is. A well-kept secret of Garden State heavy.

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Horseburner, Dead Seeds, Barren Soil

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The self-released Dead Seeds, Barren Soil is Horseburner’s second full-length, and it arrived in 2016 from the four-piece some seven years after their 2009 debut, Dirt City. They’ve had a few shorter outings in between, demos and 2013’s Strange Giant EP, but the West Virginia four-piece of Adam Nohe, Chad Ridgway, Jack Thomas and Zach Kaufman seem to be shooting for a definitive statement of intent in the blend of heavy rock and modern, Baroness-style prog that emerges on opener “David” and finds its way into the galloping “Into Black Resolution,” the multi-tiered vocals of “A Newfound Purity” and even the more straight-ahead thrust of “The Soil’s Prayer.” Marked out by the quality of its guitar work and its clearly-plotted course, Dead Seeds, Barren Soil caps with “Eleleth,” which at just under eight minutes draws the heft and the complexity together for a gargantuan finish that does justice to the ground Horseburner just flattened as they left it behind.

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Vermilion Whiskey, Spirit of Tradition

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Lafayette, Louisiana, five-piece Vermilion Whiskey telegraph participation in the New Wave of Dude Rock to the point of addressing their audience as “boy” in second cut “The Past is Dead,” and from the cartoon cleavage on the cover to the lack of irony between naming the record Spirit of Tradition and putting a song called “The Past is Dead” on it, they sell that well. The Kent Stump-mixed/Tony Reed-mastered six-tracker is the band’s second behind 2013’s 10 South, and basks in dudely, dudely dudeliness; Southern metal born more out of the Nola style than what, say, Wasted Theory are getting up to these days, but that would still fit on a bill with that Delaware outfit. If you think you’re dude enough for a song like “One Night,” hell, maybe you are. Saddle up. Listening to that and the chunky-style riff of closer “Loaded Up,” I feel like I might need hormone therapy to hit that level of may-yun, but yeah. Coherent, well written, tightly performed and heavy. Vermilion Whiskey might as well be hand-issuing dudes invitations to come drink with them, but they make a solid case for doing so.

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Hex Inverter, Revision

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If the cover art and a song title like “I Swear I’m Not My Thoughts” weren’t enough of a tip-off, there’s a strong undercurrent of the unsettled to Hex Inverter’s second long-player, Revision. The Pennsylvania-based experimentalists utilize a heaping dose of drones to fill out arrangements of keys, guitar and noise that would otherwise be pretty minimal, and vocals come and go in pro- and depressive fashion. Texture proves the key as they embark on the linear centerpiece “Something Else,” with a first verse arriving over a sweetened bassline after four minutes into the total 9:58, and the wash of noise in “Daphne” obscures an avant neo-jazz groove late, so while opener “Cannibal Eyes” basks in foreboding ambience prior to an emotionally-driven and explosive crunch-beat payoff, one never quite knows what to expect next on Revision. That, of course, is essential to the appeal. They find an edge of rock in the aforementioned “I Swear I’m Not My Thoughts,” but as the loops and synth angularity of closer “Fled (Deadverse Mix)” make plain, their intentions speak to something wider than even an umbrella genre.

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Black Mirrors Post “Funky Queen” Video; Debut EP out Now

Posted in Bootleg Theater on March 6th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

The lesson of Black Mirrors new video for the title cut from their debut EP, Funky Queen, is much the same as was the lesson of the lyric video they posted last month for the same song: it’s catchy as hell. Not much more to say about it than that, really. The EP is out now via Napalm Records in its four-song entirety and while I haven’t heard it in full yet — it’s slated for the Quarterly Review at the end of the month, so I’ll get there soon — the push behind it seems geared toward bringing the band to wider acclaim. The two videos are a part of that, of course, but even more pivotal would seem to be the tour that Black Mirrors head out on later in March supporting Sweden’s Horisont.

Though they’re veterans of Desertfest Belgium, it’s not exactly like Black Mirrors have been slogging it out for years on the road at this point — remember, Funky Queen isn’t just their debut on Napalm; it’s their first release, period — so touring alongside a more experienced outfit like Horisont will be a way for them to test the waters both in terms of their own experience, how they work as a road band, and give them a crash course in how to engage an audience night after night. It’s an oldschool way to go about it, which is fitting enough to the band’s classic heavy rock sound, but if it’s something you really want to get done, I’m not sure there’s any other way to go. You’ll note that the list of tour dates below ends with a couple headlining gigs. I doubt very much that if all goes according to plan they’ll be Black Mirrors‘ last.

But that’s getting ahead of events unfolding. In the meantime, the “Funky Queen” video plays off simple visuals and silhouetted performance footage to highlight the song itself, which stands up to such scrutiny. I’m looking forward to getting to know the other three tracks on the EP better, and to seeing how the response to Black Mirrors continues to take shape as more people hear Funky Queen and the band moves on after this tour toward the next one very likely already being planned.

PR wire info follows the clip below.

Please enjoy:

Black Mirrors, “Funky Queen” official video

BLACK MIRRORS RELEASE NEW VIDEO

Debut EP ‘Funky Queen’ March 3rd 2017 on Napalm Records!

If Janis Joplin, Jack White, Anouk, Nirvana and Queens Of The Stone Age ever had the chance to breed, BLACK MIRRORS would have been their favorite creation. This jewel is Belgium’s answer to pretty much every rock band out there: BLACK MIRRORS, fronted by the charismatic vocalist Marcella Di Troia, manage to gather an endless amount of influences which have been ruling the rock n’ roll universe for decades, and combine them into BLACK MIRRORS’ very own and special sound. It’s been only a matter of time for their first debut EP, ‘Funky Queen’, to finally see the light of day on March 3rd 2017 via Napalm Records!

Now the band unveiled a brand new video for the EP-title track ‘Funky Queen’, and this one is a keeper! Filmed and edited by Van’s Ography, get some taste of BLACK MIRRORS’ upcoming EP and watch the ‘Funky Queen’ right HERE.

Says the band:
“We hare happy to share with your our very first official video clip for «Funky Queen»! We had a blast making this video as it was crazy funny to play with our own shadows haha! We hope you’ll like it as much as we do!”

Funky Queen – the debut EP by BLACK MIRRORS coming March 3rd 2017.

BLACK MIRRORS live:
w/ Horisont
16.03.17 DE – Hamburg / Logo
17.03.17 DE – Siegen / Vortex
18.03.17 DE – Dusseldorf / Pitcher
19.03.17 NL – Helmond / Cacaofabriek
20.03.17 NL – Nijmegen / Merleyn
21.03.17 BE – Liège / La Zone
23.03.17 DE – Munich / Backstage
24.03.17 IT – Fontaneto D’Agogna / Phenomenon
25.03.17 CH – Pratteln / Z7
26.03.17 AT – Vienna / Das Bach
27.03.17 AT – Salzburg / Rockhouse
28.03.17 DE – Mörlenbach-Weiher / Live Music Hall
29.03.17 DE – Lichtenfels / Paunchy Cats
30.03.17 DE – Berlin / Privatclub
31.03.17 DK – Randers / Von Hatten
01.04.17 DK – Copenhagen / Huset

BLACK MIRRORS Headline Shows:
02.03.2017 BE – Brussels / Botanique
06.04.2017 BE – Antwerp / Trix

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My Sleeping Karma, Mela Ananda – Live: Blissful Gathering

Posted in Reviews on March 3rd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

my-sleeping-karma-mela-anada-live

It’s now been about 11 years since Bavarian heavy psych outfit My Sleeping Karma made their self-titled debut on Elektrohasch Schallplatten. One can recall getting that album from the label, with its mostly-white cover, its Eastern inflections, and what would turn out to be a nascent version of their approach that subsequently incorporated themes from Hinduism and Buddhism, drop the idea of vocals entirely, and greatly expand the sonic palette overall while remaining vigilantly consistent in its flow. From 2008’s Satya (review here) onward, My Sleeping Karma have become a considerable presence in the European underground because they’ve proven themselves able to foster their sound into something and progressive and individualized without letting that core groove slip away. Their growth can be charted across 2010’s Tri (review here), 2012’s Soma (review here) — which found them releasing through Napalm Records for the first time — and 2015’s Moksha (review here), which pushed them beyond limitations of genre in a way both natural and driven by an underlying consciousness.

But even that happened while My Sleeping Karma sounded like My Sleeping Karma, and as they’ve come into their own over their years, they’ve begun to have an influence on other acts around them, particularly the psych-jam sphere — though to my ears much of what they do has always carried over as more meticulous in tone and structure, however based in jams it might initially be. As such, a live album is probably overdue, and the arrival of Mela Ananda – Live via Napalm is most welcome in how it provides a glimpse of what the experience might be like of watching them play — sadly and more than a bit to my shame, I’ve never had the chance to do so — and how it spans their catalog to highlight their evolution. Unsurprisingly, it flows like mad.

Accompanied in its digipak form by a bonus DVD of the band’s Rockpalast performance, Mela Ananda – Live rightly keeps Moksha in focus. The cover art by Sebastian Jerke alludes to that album as well with a return of the horn-throwing Ganesha that appeared on its front, though the position of that character on a stage with a band before a crowd of freaks and aliens also speaks directly to the idea of performance and the title here, which reportedly translates to “a gathering of bliss.” Fair enough for the four-piece of guitarist Seppi, bassist Matte, drummer Steffen and keyboardist Norman, who’ve made spiritualism and the exploration thereof through music central to My Sleeping Karma since they first set out on their path, but Mela Ananda – Live also gives the band a showcase to let their audience realize how steady their output has been over the last decade-plus.

my sleeping karma

I don’t know if it’s comprised of one recorded evening-with or multiple gigs, but the 10-song/69-minute offering would seem to find them at the top of their game — at least to-date. As Moksha opener “Prithvi” begins here, they construct a momentum that carries through the set with a fluidity that’s striking in how akin it is to their studio work. Because their tones have always been so smooth, and have only grown more so over time, it wouldn’t seem unreasonable to think they’d have a harsher edge in a live setting, but though “23 Enigma” from the self-titled — here listed as “Enigma 42” — builds to a weightier thrust as closer “Hymn 72” from the same record also will at the end of the show, both it and “Glow 11” — which follows and appeared on the self-titled as well as Soma  demonstrate the patience that has emerged in My Sleeping Karma‘s aesthetic.

Their delivery is energetic and all the more able to hold the crowd rapt for that, but they don’t lose sight of the immersive aspects of what they do either; the entrancing way in which the bass sets the foundation for the guitar and keys in the memorable “Ephedra,” or how Tri opener “Brahama” so gracefully unfolds its peaks and valleys. “Vayu” and “Akasha” represent Moksha well back to back, and the turns that follow into “Brahama,” “Psilocybe” (from Soma) and the penultimate “Tamas” (from Tri) bask in the molten naturalism that has become, in many ways, the defining hallmark of My Sleeping Karma around which their evolution has taken place.

Granted, this probably shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who’s followed them for a stretch of time, but being their first live recording, it’s a new context in which to hear their songs interact with each other. Even “Hymn 72,” which follows the band thanking the audience (off-mic) and seemingly coming back out for an encore, doesn’t feel out of place with its more hurried, straightforward push. My Sleeping Karma may have developed considerably since the self-titled was released, but while Moksha and Soma were more progressive in their outward impression and that seems to be the direction they’ll keep moving, there’s further emphasis in Mela Ananda – Live of just how essential their beginning was in making that happen.

They’ve proven over the last 10 years to be one of Europe’s most forward-thinking heavy psych bands, and gained plenty of due acclaim as a result, so even if one wants to level the live-album-as-fan-piece accusation at this release, it seems to me to be well earned on their part both in celebration of what they’ve accomplished to this point and as a representation of how they view their own material, which only deepens the understanding of the listener in kind. One doesn’t necessarily want to venture a solid guess at what might come next from them, but if Mela Ananda – Live makes anything plain, it’s how signature My Sleeping Karma‘s sound is, and how committed they are to evolving it with sincerity, atmosphere and a continuing sense of adventure.

My Sleeping Karma, Mela Ananda – Live album trailer

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Here’s a Bio I Wrote for Brant Bjork

Posted in Features on March 2nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

At this point in what might be generously called my ‘career,’ I’ve written biographies for the likes of Neurosis, Electric Citizen, Kings Destroy, Gary Arce of Yawning Man, Alunah, Mondo Drag, Conan, Egypt, Lo-Pan, Wo Fat, Alexander von Wieding, and countless others when one considers things like festival announcements and press releases and other such and sundries I’ve put together. It’s extra work, but I enjoy it. For one thing, it’s nice to be thought of and asked. For another, it’s a chance to cross an editorial boundary and directly help an artist tell their own story, as opposed to trying to stand back and analyze it from as much distance as possible, as one might with a standard review. What does this person want to say about who and where they are creatively, and how can I bring that out in words?

I’ve posted numerous bios I’ve written here before, but it was a singular honor to be asked to compose a biography for Brant Bjork ahead of what looks to be a busy 2017 for him, between his Desert Generator fest (info here), recently-announced US tour (dates here), and the inevitable further activity that will surface as he continues to support last year’s excellent Tao of the Devil (review here) on Napalm Records. The chance to explore what might be desert rock’s most pivotal singular legacy — really, when you look at his raw discography, it’s staggering — was an opportunity to be relished, and having turned it over and gotten approval for a finished draft, I thought I’d share it with you.

A moment of self-indulgence on my part, probably, but I thank you as always for the allowance and for reading. If you have any thoughts on it, any and all comments are welcome.

It starts after the picture:

brant bjork

Brant Bjork Bio 2017

With Tao of the Devil, Brant Bjork reconfirms his position as the Godfather of Desert Groove. Across sprawling jams and classic rockers, the multi-instrumentalist frontman celebrates the other, the self and the Californian landscape he calls home, following 2014’s Black Power Flower – his first album for Napalm Records – with an even more resounding execution of memorable songcraft and inimitable, heavy vibe. In the company of The Low Desert Punk Band, he brings to bear the fruits of one of rock and roll’s most storied careers and, as he always does, pushes forward in ongoing, seemingly unstoppable growth.

Brant Bjork has spent over a quarter-century at the epicenter of Californian desert rock. From cutting his teeth alongside Fatso Jetson’s Mario Lalli in hardcore punkers De-Con to drumming and composing on Kyuss’ landmark early albums, to propelling the seminal fuzz of Fu Manchu from 1994-2001 while producing other bands, putting together offshoot projects like Ché, embarking on his solo career as a singer, guitarist and bandleader, founding his own record label and more, his history is a winding narrative of relentless, unflinching creativity.

For someone so outwardly laid back, he’s never really taken a break. And while Bjork has shown different sides of himself on albums like his funk-laden 1999 solo debut, Jalamanta, the mellow Local Angel (2004), 2007’s mostly-acoustic Tres Dias, and heavier rockers Somera Sól (2007), Gods & Goddesses (2010) and the two most recent outings with The Low Desert Punk Band, he’s maintained a natural representation of himself in his material, whether that’s coming across in the Thin Lizzy-isms of the faux-full-band 2002 release Brant Bjork and the Operators (actually just Bjork playing mostly by himself) or the weedy, in-the-jam-room spirit of “Dave’s War” from Tao of the Devil. When you’re listening to Brant Bjork, you know it, because there’s no one else who sounds quite like him.

That fact and years of hard touring have positioned Brant Bjork as an ambassador for the Southern California desert and the musical movement birthed there in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. As underground interest has surged in recent years, Bjork has been a pivotal figurehead, realigning with his former Kyuss bandmate John Garcia to drum and write in Kyuss Lives!/Vista Chino, celebrating and building on that legacy while giving a new generation of fans the chance to see it happen in real-time.

Having told his story in films like Kate McCabe’s Sabbia (2006) and the documentaries Such Hawks Such Hounds (2008) and Lo Sound Desert (2015), he’s represented desert rock at home and abroad with no less honesty than that which he poured into the music helping to create it. The same impulse led to the founding of his Desert Generator in 2016, an annual festival held in Pioneertown, CA, with an international reach capturing the intimacy and timeless aura of the desert culture, including music, a van show in conjunction with Rolling Heavy magazine, the Stoned & Dusted pre-show in the wilderness, and an evolution that looks to continue into the foreseeable future.

Bjork’s work, with any project, has always had a rebellious sensibility. He’s always walked his own path. But more, his career through Kyuss, Fu Manchu, Ché, Vista Chino, and his crucial solo work has been about freedom through rock and roll, attained by the truest representation of the person and the place as art. This, along with a whole lot of groove, is what has helped Brant Bjork define desert rock as a worldwide phenomenon, and whatever comes next, it is what will continue to make him its most indispensable practitioner.

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