Vessel of Light, Woodshed: Beyond the Cellar Door

Posted in Reviews on October 23rd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

vessel of light woodshed

With grisly tales to tell and equally grisly riffing to roll, Vessel of Light make their full-length debut through Argonauta Records with the chugging heft of Woodshed. The collaboration between Ancient VVisdom vocalist Nathan Opposition and guitarist Dan Lorenzo of Hades and formerly — perhaps more relevant in this case — the bluesier-rocking side-project The Cursed, first appeared with a 2017 self-titled EP (review here), and the 11 tracks and 41 LP-ready minutes of Woodshed very much build on the aesthetic principles that the short release laid out. Lorenzo brings a decidedly East Coast crunch to his guitar, reminding as he leads the way through the swing of second track “Part of My Plan” of Danzig‘s “Twist of Cain” while the later “Man’s Sin” finds a more aggressive push ahead of the doomly “Day of Rest,” and Opposition answers with vocals memorable in their melody and lyrics so creeper they should probably be reported.

It’s not so much ‘woodshed’ as it is ‘woodshed with a trap door underneath where you’ll find the bodies of all those missing women.’ I haven’t actually done a body count, but a hypothetical “she” meets a ghastly fate on more than one occasion in cuts like “Son of Man” and “Beyond the Cellar Door.” Indeed, following the rollout title-track introduction, Woodshed seems to follow a narrative course of love, maybe-betrayal and violence. Murder balladry is nothing new — dudes have been axing their significant others in art for as long as there’s been art — but Vessel of Light are resoundingly premeditated about it, and as the album finds resolution in the closing duo of “End it All” and the acoustic finale “Pray for a Cure,” the gothic edge brought to the proceedings through Opposition‘s vocals becomes only a part of the resentment-fueled plotline.

Malevolence abounds. Even in “Part of My Plan,” which is a classic I’m-on-drugs-rolling-out-having-a-good-time vibe, there’s an undercurrent of something darker, or maybe that’s just expectation after the EP. Either way, the lyrics tie together with references between songs to each other and by the time Vessel of Light are through “Part of My Plan” and “A Love So True” and into “Son of Man,” things have clearly taken a turn.

It doesn’t seem like a controversial position or a “hot take” to say one is against the taking of another human life. Again, Vessel of Light are hardly the first to make that aesthetic choice, but something about the darkness that surrounds Opposition‘s lyrics gives their violence a formidable presence throughout Woodshed. As “Son of Man” leads into the massive chugging lurch of “Watching the Fire,” the sense of going deeper into a twisted mindset is palpable, but while much of the material is slow in the tradition of the doom at its roots — TroubleType O Negative — monotony is held at bay through subtle shifts in volume and delivery.

“A Love So True” stretches out the guitar work and relies more on the drums to roll itself forward, while in following “Beyond the Cellar Door” — which is the longest track at 5:46 — “One Way Out” answers the layered vocals with not only another dual-melody there leading to vicious screaming, but layers of intertwined guitar as well, Lorenzo filling out the sonic space before Opposition recounts “Now it’s over/The deed is done/Homicide, suicide” in a harsh-throated rasp. Those aren’t the last screams, either. As the storyline moves through “Man’s Sin” and “Day of Rest” and the passion of the crime becomes so central to the thread uniting the songs, and that’s further realized in the album’s second half.

vessel of light

The turning point would seem to be “Beyond the Cellar Door,” which is a standout reminding of slowed-down Dirt-era Alice in Chains with a meatier chug and pervasively grim atmosphere offset by vocal harmonies ahead and after sampled screams and the guitar solo. “Beyond the Cellar Door” is resolved in chug ahead of the similarly-intentioned “One Way Out,” and that leads to the destructive apex of the album in “Man’s Sin,” “Day of Rest” and “End it All” ahead of the closer.

Momentum is a key factor there, and if you might accuse Vessel of Light of neglecting the details, it’s worth noting that the push through those three tracks — “Man’s Sin,” “Day of Rest” and “End it All” feels specifically geared to have the listener lose themselves in the dive. Even the song titles feel arranges so that one piece will carry into the next, and as “Beyond the Cellar Door” lumbers into that movement that consumes so much of side B, one might consider the arrangement of words “Man’s Sin” as opposed to the earlier “Son of Man” as indicative of the gear being shifted in Woodshed‘s second half. That is, it’s subtle, but something Lorenzo and Opposition do extremely well is build that momentum in songs that still never really get all that fast. It becomes a question of songwriting efficiency, and there’s plenty of that to go around from Vessel of Light, but neither do they lose the sense of mood that they’ve worked so hard to construct.

That is, they don’t just get to “Beyond the Cellar Door” and say, “okay here we go” and speed through the rest of the record. With the linearity of the story being told and the fact that the first-person speaker in the lyrics is descending into madness and dealing with the fallout of that, rather, it makes sense. Short sentences. Lots of stops. Build tension. Affect rhythm. Get it? Okay. The crawling finish in “End it All” accounts for itself in letting the audience know how the plot ends, but that leaves “Pray for a Cure” as a curious outlier in both sound and perspective. Its acoustic foundation is something of a turn given the rest of the full-bodied guitar tone surrounding — though that puts it right in Opposition‘s wheelhouse, given his work in Ancient VVisdom — but even more, are we in the moment where the protagonist is dying?

Because “End it All” sure comes across as pretty final, and “Pray for a Cure” is therefore an epilogue, and all the more so because it’s unplugged. I’m not at all against the track — expanding the sonic foundation isn’t going to hurt the band or the album at all — but that turn in perspective is somewhat jarring at the album’s end. That may well be intentional, as Vessel of Light offer little comfort throughout the record preceding either. What they do instead is set of a current of atmospheric dread; depression, anger and, yes, violence taking root in each track one way or another.

The disturbing parts are supposed to be disturbing, and Woodshed does nothing to desensitize the violence in a problematic way. The key takeaway from Vessel of Light‘s debut is that there’s life in the collaboration between Opposition and Lorenzo, and that the two work well together. Whether it’s a one-off or an ongoing project with a follow-up will remain to be seen, but with their first LP, they show the potential for a gruesome craft they can continue to make their own should they decide to do so.

Vessel of Light, “Son of Man” official video

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Argonauta Records website

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Monster Magnet Post “When the Hammer Comes Down Video; Announce 2019 European Tour

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 10th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

monster magnet (photo jeremy saffer)

Since Sept. 28, NJ’s Monster Magnet have been out on a US tour supporting their latest album, Mindfucker (review here). You can’t accuse them of not getting out. While their last couple records have seen the long-running stalwarts of heavy psych and rock mostly focus on Europe, their current run started out in Toronto as they quickly made their way to the West Coast and throughout this month, they’ll continue to work back eastward, finishing in Boston on Oct. 28. To follow-up, they’ve got a second run of Europe announced for January, and I can’t help but think either another US tour or a trip to Australia or South America (paging Abraxas) could be in the works thereafter. That is, they don’t seem like they’re done.

Which, as a fan, is only all the better. Mindfucker is their last outing in their contract for Napalm Records. I won’t claim to know the future of the band, but either they’re doing it up for a blowout or they’re showing other labels they’re interested in putting in the work of promoting what they do. Could go either way, I guess, but what it rounds out to in any case is the same: Go see Monster Magnet. I’d love to get to one of these shows and I don’t know that I will, but wherever you are, if that’s where they are, then that’s where you should be. Simple math.

They’ve got a video up for “When the Hammer Comes Down” from the record that’s kind of a lyric video, kind of a regular video, and true enough to Monster Magnet in that it has little interest in being classified along the same lines as everyone else. You’ll find that at the bottom of this post. I don’t have any PR wire info for the newly-announced tour, but you’ll find the dates for that and the one they’re on now below. Here goes:

monster magnet euro tour 2019

Monster Magnet Tour Dates

Current US tour remaining dates:
10/10: Seattle, WA @ El Corazon
10/12: San Francisco, CA @ Thee Parkside
10/13: Sacramento, CA @ Aftershock Festival*
10/15: Santa Ana, CA @ The Observatory
10/16: San Diego, CA @ Brick By Brick
10/17: Phoenix, AZ @ Rebel Lounge
10/19: San Antonio, TX @ Paper Tiger
10/20: Dallas, TX @ Canton Hall
10/21: Houston, TX @ White Oak (Upstairs)
10/23: Atlanta, GA @ Masquerade
10/24: Nashville, TN @ Basement East
10/26: Baltimore, MD @ Baltimore Soundstage
10/27: New York, NY @ Gramercy Theater
10/28: Boston, MA @ The Sinclair

2019 European tour:
12.01.2019 NOR, Trondheim Byscenen
13.01.2019 NOR, Oslo Parkteatret
14.01.2019 DEN, Aarhus VoxHall
16.01.2019 GER, Hamburg Grosse Freiheit 36
17.01.2019 GER, Berlin Huxleys Neue Welt
18.01.2019 GER, Osnabrück Rosenhof
19.01.2019 SUI, Zürich Dynamo
21.01.2019 GER, Krefeld FuFa
22.01.2019 GER, Leipzig Conne Island
23.01.2019 GER, Hannover Capitol
24.01.2019 LUX, Esch-sur-Alzette Kulturfabrik
26.01.2019 BEL, Kortrijk Concertzaal de Kreun
27.01.2019 BEL, Hasselt Muziekodroom
28.01.2019 BEL, Sint-Niklaas Concertzaal de Casino
29.01.2019 GBR, London Electric Brixton
31.01.2019 GER, Karlsruhe Substage
01.02.2019 NED, Eindhoven Effenaar
02.02.2019 FRA, Magny Le Hongre File7
03.02.2019 GER, Frankfurt Batschkapp
05.02.2019 AUT, Dornbirn Conrad Sohm
06.02.2019 HUN, Budapest Durer Kert
07.02.2019 CRO, Zagreb Culture Factory

MONSTER MAGNET line up:
Dave Wyndorf (vocals, guitar)
Garrett Sweeny (guitar)
Phil Caivano (guitar)
Chris Kosnik (bass)
Bob Pantella (drums)

http://zodiaclung.com
https://www.facebook.com/monstermagnet/
https://www.instagram.com/monstermagnetofficial/

Monster Magnet, “When it all Comes Down” lyric video

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Friday Full-Length: The Atomic Bitchwax, The Atomic Bitchwax

Posted in Bootleg Theater on September 21st, 2018 by JJ Koczan

The Atomic Bitchwax, The Atomic Bitchwax (1999)

I think it’s high time the ’90s era of heavy rock — the original run of stoner rock, that is — started to get tagged with the term classic. It’s been 20 years or more for most of it, after all. Think of bands like Monster Magnet, Kyuss, Acid King, Fu Manchu, Nebula, and so on, and to that list I would most definitely add New Jersey trio The Atomic Bitchwax. The band formed in 1993 but it would be six years before their self-titled debut came out on Tee Pee/MIA Records. It was kind of a side-project at first. Bassist/vocalist Chris Kosnik was at the time a member of Godspeed, who were signed to Atlantic during the same era that saw Core and a few others picked up in the wake of Monster Magnet‘s burgeoning wider success, and they made a run touring with Black Sabbath and appearing on the first Nativity in Black tribute to Sabbath with Bruce Dickinson sitting in on vocals. When Godspeed split, it was basically into The Atomic Bitchwax and Solace. Kosnik, guitarist Ed Mundell, also then of Monster Magnet, and drummer Keith Ackerman, who also played in and would later rejoin Solace for a stretch, set to work on their first record, and they came out with a scorcher.

The Atomic Bitchwax‘s The Atomic Bitchwax runs a deceptive 11 songs and 53 minutes. It’s deceptive because they trade back and forth between instrumentals like the opening “Stork Theme” — which also seems to nod at Sabbath with a beginning noise that reminds of “After Forever” — and “Crazed Fandango” and “Ain’t Nobody Gonna Hang Me in My Home,” “The Last of the V8 Interceptors” and 10-minute closer “The Formula” and hook-laden tracks like “Birth to the Earth,” “Hey Alright,” “Hope You Die,” “Gettin’ Old” and “Shit Kicker,” as well as their cover of Core‘s “Kiss the Sun,” which would be a staple in live sets for years to come. The two modes of working are interspersed throughout the tracklisting — they might most come together on the bluesier, throttled-back “Gettin’ Old” — and that helps the trio of Kosnik, Mundell and Ackerman keep the listener off-balance as they build a working momentum from front to back across the release. That, coupled with what has become a signature style of winding riffs, a decent amount of speed in their tempos, a couple samples at the start of “Last of the V8 Interceptors” and “Shit Kicker,” and the extra percussion in “Crazed Fandango” earlier, all give the record a sense of variety that, especially on first listen, can be hard to keep up with. The Atomic Bitchwax has for the most part been a band that dares its audience to hold their pace. On the self-titled, that true in terms of style as well as tempo.

Stoner band being stoner in the era of stoner? Yeah, maybe. But to my ears what makes The Atomic Bitchwax a classic album is the fact that the band are so tight and so loose at the same time. the atomic bitchwaxThat The Atomic Bitchwax could conjure the sharp, head-spinning turns of “Stork Theme” and still be fuzzed-out and have an overarching groove in the process. Or that they could be so locked in on “Hope You Die” with Kosnik‘s bass comes forward in the hook and still toss out the lyric “Total. Freedom.,” and have it sound utterly natural. It’s not effortless, but it’s not intended to be. They remain the kind of band who should have someone walking through the crowd collecting tips while they play — “Hey folks, these guys are working hard up there” — but for the frenetic changes in “Ain’t Nobody Gonna Hang Me in My Home” and the MC5-worthy gallop of “Shit Kicker,” nothing The Atomic Bitchwax do on their first full-length takes precedent over the song itself. Even the instrumentals each have a personality of their own. Hell, “Ain’t Nobody Gonna Hang Me in My Home” is the centerpiece. Those tracks are crucial the mission of the record overall, right down to the touch of psychedelia worked into the midsection of “The Formula” at the end of the album. They not only highlight the prowess of the band technically, but complement the songwriting of “Birth to the Earth” and “Hey Alright,” etc., making the band a richer listening experience the whole way through, giving flashes of punk immediacy here and there, but ultimately ending up with an unquestionable place in heavy rock and roll.

That a record could be so laid back as it punches you in the face. That’s The Atomic Bitchwax. Still, almost 20 years later.

And quite a 20 years it’s (nearly) been. The KosnikMundellAckerman lineup would follow the self-titled with II the next year, also on Tee Pee, and then have the Spit Blood EP on MeteorCity in 2002 before dissolving. Kosnik and Ackerman pressed forward by recruiting Core guitarist/vocalist Finn Ryan for the 2005 album, 3 (discussed here), and thereby embarking on a new era of the band. The Jack Endino-produced EP Boxriff followed — proud to say I did the liner notes for it — coupled with a live set recorded in Seattle, and after losing Ackerman on drums, Kosnik and Ryan welcomed Bob Pantella, also of Monster Magnet, on drums for 2008’s TAB4 (aka T4B), issued first by MeteorCity and then by Tee Pee, which The Atomic Bitchwax rejoined and on whose roster they remain. 2011 brought the all-instrumental, single-song LP, The Local Fuzz (review here), and with that out of their system and a resurgence as a touring act, 2015’s Gravitron (review here) and 2017’s Force Field (review here) marked not only a period of productivity, but a maturity of approach that somewhat ironically dipped back to the modus of their earliest work but made it tighter and even sharper in the delivery.

Speaking of irony, for a band that was so long considered a side-project because of Mundell‘s involvement in both groups — he of course relocated to the West Coast earlier this decade and embarked on The Ultra Electric Mega Galactic — the last several years have found Kosnik playing bass in Monster Magnet in the rhythm section with Pantella. I don’t think anyone’s calling them a side-project at this point though. Classic, maybe. I certainly think so.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

We put the Little Dog Dio down on Monday. The pain from her bone cancer was becoming less and less manageable by the hour. We ended up giving her a percocet Monday morning and she ate nine string cheeses and some chicken after that and she got up to greet The Patient Mrs. when she and the baby got back from running an errand, but she was still clearly in agony, despite also being stoned out of her gourd.

I miss her. So much. I keep looking for her. Thinking about her in her places. The spots that were hers in the house. I’ve been telling Dio stories all week on Facebook. I have so many but I’ll probably do one more tomorrow and leave it there. It’s been hard.

We had a vet come and do it at the house. They do that now, apparently. I’ve had dogs my whole life and been a participant in two euthanasias prior to this one. Dio was different. Special. She woofed at the door when the vet came. She was healthy but for the cancer eating away at her. I figure we got robbed of at least two good years with her. I’d happily shave that time off my own lifespan if I could make a trade to get her back.

I brought her bed from the upstairs bedroom down to the kitchen and laid a sheet on it for her to be on while the vet administered the drugs. High dose of opiates, something else to knock her out, then the pink shit. Always the pink shit. The Patient Mrs. and I sat with her and cried — I’d spent the last four hours just petting her and telling her I loved her — and we were with her through the end. The vet was about to deliver the pink shit and I asked her to let me do it. She did. I did it. Me.

But you want to know the truth? The confession? I wouldn’t have done it on my own. The Patient Mrs. and I had talked it out and we both knew it was time, but even an hour before the vet came I was saying maybe we should call it off. And if she’d said okay, I would have. I wouldn’t have gone through with it. I’d have been selfish and kept my poor sweet Dio in pain just to have a couple more days with her. A little more time. I’m a terrible person.

I cried and cried and cried. When it was finally done, I wrapped her in the sheet and carried her out to the vet’s van, where a bag was waiting. She’ll be cremated and we’ll get her ashes back in the mail next week. I want to be buried with them when I go.

The rest of the last five days has been a blur of grief and baby feedings. I said goodnight to her pillow before I went to bed last night.

I have notes ready for next week front to back but I’m going to keep it to myself. It’s a cool week, busy, but I just don’t have it in me to run through it. Also, by way of a heads up, the next Quarterly Review begins Oct. 8. Nobody cares. I know.

If you get the chance though, I have a show debuting on www.gimmeradio.com this Sunday at 5PM Eastern. Prime time! It’s called “The Obelisk Show” and I host it and talk awkwardly about records and this and that. The Patient Mrs. and The Pecan both make a cameo. It turned out to be a lot of fun to put together and I promise it’s not sad. It’s free to sign up and there’s no subscription or anything, so if you get to check it out, I’d appreciate it. Here’s a poster they made.

jj gimme radio

That says it all, I guess. I’m just happy they spelled my name right. We’ll see if they let me do a second episode.

While you wait with bated breath for that to start, I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Hold your loved ones close, have fun, and please don’t forget to check out the forum and radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

 

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Friday Full-Length: Shovelhead, Red Sky Horizon

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 31st, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Shovelhead, Red Sky Horizon (2003)

Dig that vibe for just a minute, that’s all I ask. I know dipping back to a record like Red Sky Horizon isn’t exactly high-profile, but man, New Jersey’s Shovelhead could jam. They’d stand on stage at the Brighton Bar in Long Branch, all power-trio style and humble about-to-wreck-the-place swagger, and guitarist Jim LaPointe (also vocals) would unload these space-toned solos that stretched out as much as on, while bassist Sha Zaidi — usually chewing a toothpick, I guess because rockabilly — and drummer Mike Scott with his Vistalite kit set up on the small riser in back would hold down these righteous grooves. You can hear it in the mellow groove after the initial Motörheady thrust of third cut “Bottom,” or get a feel for some of LaPointe‘s power-trio-leading in the opening title-track, but the point is Shovelhead played with so much character, whether it was the take on mellow Sabbath that launched “The Weight” or in the Hendrixed-up instrumental take on “Amazing Grace” that closes out, fittingly enough, after the hard-driving chug of “Bastard.” On stage — usually on that stage — they were utterly at home. I had the pleasure of seeing Shovelhead on multiple occasions and even did shows with them, and it was always a bittersweet experience because I knew no matter how good a show it might otherwise be, Shovelhead were about to blow my band right out of the water.

A bit of nostalgia? Yeah, probably, but I remain a Shovelhead fan even though their last record, the all-lowercase spitting oil, came out in 2007. That was their third outing, and by then, they were long since underrated, having made their debut as Shovelhead with a self-titled CD in 2001 following a name change from their original moniker The Lemmings, which I guess wasn’t stoner rock enough. Maybe? I don’t know what motivated the switch, but they had a disc out called The March of Provocation in ’98 that was pretty good as I recall and I seem to think there was at least one other, maybe an EP? It’s kind of fuzzy two decades later, but either way, they were part of the NJ shore-region cohort of post-Monster Magnet heavy rock and came up roughly around the same time as the likes of The Atomic BitchwaxSolaceHalfway to GoneLord SterlingSix SigmaCore, and so on, and while some of those bands would get picked up by labels large and small — Core were on AtlanticBitchwax and Solace on MeteorCityHalfway on Small Stone, etc. — Shovelhead went unsigned for the duration. Fair enough. I don’t think they had particularly huge ambitions for touring or anything like that, so it was just as easy for them to DIY their releases and play where and when they could and felt like doing so. They were a well-kept secret of that scene, and for me, Red Sky Horizon was the album that came closest to capturing what they were able to do live.

To some degree, second track “Crop Duster” is a defining groove in my mind for them. It’s got the speed-punker root in its shovelhead red sky horizonverses, and LaPointe‘s vocals echo out on top to make even that verse a hook before everything stops and he asks, “Do you know what you’re doing?” and “Do you know what you’re saying?” before they kick full-boar into winding power trio jamming. They mellow out before halfway through the track’s six minutes, but just before hitting the four-minute mark turn to a funky series of starts and stops with Zaidi filling out the space with low and as LaPointe busts out a solo and Scott‘s drums gradually build their way back to the verse and chorus to finish out, the last question, “Do you know where you’re going?” held out with a bluesy soul. Likewise, after the seven-minute nod-fest boogie of “The Weight,” the instrumental “Uncle Jesse” begins a salvo of four shorter tracks that includes “Moon Shine Blind” and “Bastard” ahead of “Amazing Grace,” and what might otherwise be a side B in the second half of the tracklisting winds up efficiently expanding on the adventurous vibe of “Red Sky Horizon,” “Crop Duster,” “Bottom” and “The Weight,” stripping down some of the psychedelic elements at play, but keeping that character in their tones and the classic heavy rock spirit of the instrumentals. And hey, fun fact: when I reviewed Red Sky Horizon for the paper in NJ I worked for at the time, I compared “Moon Shine Blind” to the main song from the movie O Brother Where Art Thou? and LaPointe was the first person ever to tell me I nailed it on getting his inspiration for the vocal melody right. That was at least 15 years ago now and I still feel good about it to this day.

Pair that next to the maddening tension of “Bastard” — the standout line: “Take all your bullshit, shove it up your ass” — and cap it off with “Amazing Grace” and you’ve got an eight-track/40-minute outing that’s thoughtful but natural sounding and traditionalist in its dynamic, but again, so filled with personality on the part of its players that it almost can’t help but be original. I used to stand in front of the stage at the Brighton, my seventh beer probably in my hand, and you could watch any individual member of Shovelhead at any point in their set and you had at least an 80 percent chance your jaw would drop from what they were playing. That sounds like hyperbole, but these guys were great, and I love this record, so while I know it’s not the biggest release ever and people might prefer something they already know or be hesitant to take on an out-of-print 15-year-old disc from a NJ heavy rock band who once upon a time were really cool, fuck it, it’s my site and I wanted to listen to Shovelhead. I don’t need any more reason than that.

As noted, spitting oil was their third and final album in 2007, so their social media presence is pretty much nil. What was their website would seem to be long gone. I couldn’t even find a MySpace page lingering. But if you’re into Red Sky Horizon, there’s no Bandcamp or anything, but all three of Shovelhead‘s full-lengths are available as downloads from CDBaby — as opposed to being available on CD from DownloadBaby — and there isn’t one of them that isn’t worth time and dime alike.

So dig in, and as always, I hope you enjoy.

For the first half-hour I was awake this morning, I thought it was Saturday. I came downstairs, turned on the coffee pot, was all set to start writing stuff for Monday posts in that casual, maybe-I’ll-just-read-about-baseball-for-a-while way of Saturday mornings, when I remembered I hadn’t even done the Shovelhead post yet. Missed a day there, guy. Might want to get on that. In my defense, I’ll note only that said “first half-hour” was the half-hour between 2:30 and 3AM.

Hard week. On Monday I think it was or maybe Sunday, I can’t even remember, we said goodbye to my family and headed north to Connecticut to come back to Massachusetts, pretty much to hunker down for the semester ahead. We moved the coffee pot, so that’s it. We’ve done plenty of back and forth, but where the Chemex goes is home and it’s back in MA now. I have no problem admitting I was sad to go. It was awesome to spend so much time in New Jersey this summer, to see my family, to have The Pecan get to know those cousins, his aunt and uncle, his grandmother, and have him meet assorted friends. I saw Slevin two days in a row this summer! That’s a special event in itself.

We’ll be back down there a couple times over the next few months — once in October for sure, then again for holidays, but in terms of the daily where-I’m-at, it’ll be back here in MA in the townhouse. The Patient Mrs. has a conference this weekend in Boston, so we’re headed there this morning early — it’s quarter to five now, so by “early” I mean in about two hours, maybe a little less — and I’ll be on baby duty. Should be interesting in a hotel room, but weather permitting, which always a gamble in Boston, I’ll take him out and we’ll go somewhere around town. Even if it’s Armageddon Shop or wherever. Just something to do rather than sit on ass and try to stop him from climbing on the furniture — it’s not so much the climbing I’m opposed to as the inevitable falling off that follows — while I try and fail to stare at my phone and be bored. “You old enough to have a conversation yet? No? Okay, let’s go for a walk somewhere.”

We also found out yesterday that The Little Dog Dio has bone cancer. The vet showed us the rather sizable tumor in her shoulder on the x-ray. We knew she wasn’t well — hence going to the vet — and she’s 12, so the possibility that it wasn’t something minor had occurred to us, but it still hit pretty hard. They did a bunch of blood tests to see if it’s in her organs [Update: it’s not.] and the vet gave us some pain meds for her in the meantime. We have a follow-up appointment next week, which looms large and ominous in my mind. He said the treatment was either amputate her leg — she’s 12; so no — or start her on radiation, which would make her miserable and really only help pain management anyway. Light on options. Heavy on grief.

In the meantime, she’s sleeping a lot. She’s lost five pounds in the last month, going from 37 to 32, which is the lowest I can recall her being as a full-grown dog. We’ve had her since she was nine weeks old. She’s the last of the Koczans. My heart breaks.

Monday is Labor Day but I’ll be posting. It’s a busy week because it’s the start of the semester and I’ll be slammed with babytime, so of course I’ve booked a ton of premieres. Here are the notes, with likely changes:

Mon.: Kelly Carmichael track premiere; P.H.O.B.O.S. track premiere.
Tue.: Druglord video premiere/review; Stone Titan track premiere.
Wed.: Stoned Jesus review/album stream.
Thu.: La Chinga review/album stream; LaGoon lyric video premiere.
Fri.: Fuzz Evil review/track premiere; Yung Druid video premiere.

The week is full. I don’t like to do more than one premiere a day, and there are two booked for four out of the five days next week. I know there are a lot of releases coming up, but that’s just silly. I may whittle down the amount of news so I can fit it all in and still, I don’t know, exist?, but we’ll see. To be perfectly honest, I’ve kind of pulled the wind out of my sails thinking about it.

It’s a busy weekend though, so I’m going to punch out and get to it. If you need me, I’ll be social media-available intermittently and otherwise around. One never really detaches these days, or if so, not for very long.

I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Thank you for reading, and please check out the forum and the radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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Evoken to Release Hypnagogia Nov. 9 on Profound Lore

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 30th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Fuck yes. I remember when New Jersey death-doomers Evoken got going again in the latter half of the aughts and I was fortunate enough to catch them live a few times being as we share a home state. They were awesome then. They were awesome when they put out Atra Mors (review here) on Profound Lore in 2012, and I have zero reason to think they’d be anything but awesome now. You want a herald for winter’s darkness late in the Fall? Here’s the first Evoken record in more than half a decade. It’s called Hypnagogia, it’s a concept record and it finds the band heading toward the quarter-century mark since they got their start in 1994. If you get to see Evoken — should you be so god damned lucky — do it.

The PR wire sounds the alarm and brings some background on the story being told. Art is by Adam Burke, because who else?

Doom:

evoken hypnogogia

EVOKEN: Legendary Death/Funeral Doom Legion To Release Hypnagogia Full-Length Via Profound Lore This November; Record Marks Band’s First Release In Six Years

Legendary death/funeral doom legion EVOKEN will unleash theirHypnagogia full-length November 9th via Profound Lore Records. Recorded, mixed and mastered at Sound Spa studios in New Jersey by Steven DeAcutis, the record comes swathed in the artwork of Adam Burke (Artificial Brain, Mos Generator, Hooded Menace) and marks the band’s first new output in six long years.

Known as one of the founding fathers of the American death/funeral doom metal scene, New Jersey’s EVOKEN have been a long-standing pillar over the band’s twenty-five-year pillage. The followup to their landmark Atra Mors full-length, Hypnagogia is a towering monolith that develops and redefines the band’s sound that will only strengthen their position within the death/doom metal hierarchy where EVOKEN have always reigned.

Hypnagogia is an expression of doom metal artistry where the listener will bear witness how EVOKEN can create a new and even more daring expression with a monument that will be recognized as a landmark. This tends to happen regardless with every EVOKEN release, but Hypnagogia sees the band expand their musical dynamics even more through the meticulous care and discrimination of the band’s song writing process, Hypnagogia being a listening experience through a multitude of varying yet flourishing emotions. Pushing both their penchant for grandiose melodicism and their trademark aura of pulverizing supreme unparalleled heaviness even more, it is the base of this repercussion that makes Hypnagogia one of the most intense, compelling, and soul crushing EVOKEN listening experiences yet; one of euphoria, desperation, and hopelessness. As drummer/lyricist Vince Verkay says, “As we do on every record. we definitely wanted to avoid repeating ourselves. We wanted to keep it EVOKEN of course, but go a little deeper with melody and arrangement and also try new things; to present the listener with an emotionally exhausting record.”

Hypnagogia also sees EVOKEN delve into their first concept album. Relays Verkay of the themes and lyrics surrounding the record, “Hypnagogia is based around World War I and its physiological impact on those who fought. It’s used metaphorically about events that impacted me the past three years, which I will keep to myself. But the story behind this World War I theme is based on a soldier who was so bitter about being lied to and is losing his life. He’s wounded in battle and decides to write a journal of his final hours, describing what he sees and what he feels as his life is slipping away. Feeling cheated, he makes a pact with a sadistic god that he can leave a part of his soul, which contains all of his suffering, within this journal. To feel some sort of vengeance, anyone who reads this journal releases that part of his soul and it attaches itself to the reader like a host. Each emotion being experienced as if they too where there. As the reader descends into a deep despair, they cannot handle this suffering, deciding to take their own life. Once gone, that part of their soul, containing all the misery is taken by the writer’s misery-laden soul and attaches itself to this journal again, increasing its powerful grip onto the next reader and each time its read with its power increasing.”

Further Hypnagogia info, including teaser tracks and preorders, will be unveiled in the weeks to come.

Hypnagogia Track Listing:
1. The Fear After
2. Valorous Consternation
3. Schadenfreude
4. Too Feign Ebullience
5. Hypnagogia
6. Ceremony Of Bleeding
7. Hypnopompic
8. The Weald Of Perished Men

EVOKEN on Hypnagogia:
John Paradiso – vocals/guitar
Chris Molinari – guitar
Dave Wagner – bass
Don Zaros – keyboards
Vince Verkay – drums

https://www.facebook.com/evokenhell
http://www.profoundlorerecords.com
http://www.facebook.com/profoundlorerecords
http://www.profoundlorerecords.bandcamp.com
https://www.instagram.com/profoundlorerecords

Evoken, Atra Mors (2012)

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Monster Magnet Getting Ready to Mindfuck North America

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 20th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

monster magnet (photo jeremy saffer)

I really want to see Monster Magnet on this tour. Not just out of appreciation for their latest album, the gleefully-titled Mindfucker (review here) or of what they’ve done before, but because I think this tour — this one, with the dates below — is a special moment for the band. Yeah, it kind of looks like a standard major market North American run. Couple dates in Canada, shows spread across both US coasts, a stop at Aftershock Festival in Sacramento. Fair enough. But Monster Magnet‘s last US run was cut short when the band’s frontman, Dave Wyndorf, caught the flu, and though they’ve been to Europe a bunch of times, including just last month to make headlining stops at the Desertfests, a full American stint is rarer.

And with the lineup around Wyndorf of guitarists Garrett Sweeny and Phil Caivano, bassist Chris Kosnik and drummer Bob Pantella (the latter two both also of The Atomic Bitchwax), it just seems all the more like now’s the time to show up. So I’m going to do my best to absolutely do that.

Oh, and if you need another argument in favor, Electric Citizen are supporting. So right on.

Info from the PR wire:

monster magnet tour poster

MONSTER MAGNET Announces North American Tour

March of 2018 saw the release of the latest MONSTER MAGNET masterpiece “Mindfucker” (Order and Stream The Album) on Napalm Records. Following three exclusive Northeastern US shows, the band headed across the pond for a European headline tour. Now they are ready to return to North America for a full headline tour this Fall.

The band will hit the road in North America on September 28th in Toronto, ON. The tour will run through October 28th in Boston, MA. Support on the tour will come from Electric Citizen and Dark Sky Choir. A complete list of dates can be found below.

A message from MM frontman Dave Wyndorf:

“Can’t wait to hit North America with the MINDFUCKER tour! Warning: This is REAL ROCK music, made loud to be played loud! A Monster Magnet show is a face melting celebration of electric madness made all the better and fueled to peak intensity by the attendance of excitable human beings. Hope you’re part of that equation! See you soon!

Monster Magnet:
9/28: Toronto, ON @ Lee’s Palace
9/29: Pontiac, MI @ The Emerald Theatre
9/30: Louisville, KY @ Louder Than Life Festival*
10/2: Chicago, IL @ Bottom Lounge
10/3: Minneapolis, MN @ Cabooze
10/5: Denver, CO @ The Bluebird Theater
10/6: Salt Lake City, UT @ Urban Lounge
10/8: Portland, OR @ Hawthorne Theater
10/9: Vancouver, BC @ Commodore Ballroom
10/10: Seattle, WA @ El Corazon
10/12: San Francisco, CA @ Thee Parkside
10/13: Sacramento, CA @ Aftershock Festival*
10/15: Santa Ana, CA @ The Observatory
10/16: San Diego, CA @ Brick By Brick
10/17: Phoenix, AZ @ Rebel Lounge
10/19: San Antonio, TX @ Paper Tiger
10/20: Dallas, TX @ Canton Hall
10/21: Houston, TX @ White Oak (Upstairs)
10/23: Atlanta, GA @ Masquerade
10/24: Nashville, TN @ Basement East
10/26: Baltimore, MD @ Baltimore Soundstage
10/27: New York, NY @ Gramercy Theater
10/28: Boston, MA @ The Sinclair

*Festival Appearance

MONSTER MAGNET line up:
Dave Wyndorf (vocals, guitar)
Garrett Sweeny (guitar)
Phil Caivano (guitar)
Chris Kosnik (bass)
Bob Pantella (drums)

http://zodiaclung.com
https://www.facebook.com/monstermagnet/
https://www.instagram.com/monstermagnetofficial/

Monster Magnet, “Mindfucker” official video

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Solace Finish Recording New Album Broken Bodies & Suffering Spirits

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 11th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

solace

Someone needs to sign Solace immediately. I’ll brook no delay in hearing their new album, tentatively titled Broken Bodies and Suffering Spirits. Eight years is long enough. The long-running New Jersey outfit teased the possibility of a new record in 2017 with the cassingle Bird of Ill-Omen (review here), which marked the studio debut of the new lineup of the band with drummer Tim Schoenleber and vocalist Justin Goins alongside guitarist Justin Daniels and founders Tommy Southard (guitar) and Rob Hultz (bass), and aside from proving that the band still existed, that tape kicked total ass, so yeah, get that album out as soon as humanly possible. Right from the master to the press to my greedy hands, please.

Solace have been playing shows and mostly making appearances at various fests in the Northeast region since returning to the stage in 2015, but whatever it winds up being called ultimately, their fourth long-player will be the first since 2010’s brilliant A.D. (review here), which came out via Small Stone some seven years after its predecessor, 2003’s 13 (discussed here), which itself was preceded by their 2000 debut, Further. I don’t know how much they’ll play out in support of this upcoming collection, but Solace remain badass on a level few could hope to attain let alone hold onto for any amount of time. Whatever happens in terms of live performances, the point is new Solace. New fucking Solace. Shit, I don’t even care if it’s mixed. Just plug it into my ears as loudly as possible.

Tracklisting and whatnot follow. The album was recorded at Trax East in South River, NJ:

solace studio setup

Intense couple of days tracking the new SOLACE record.

Tentative title “Broken Bodies & Suffering Spirits”

10 songs tracked.

1-Breaker of the way.
2-Crushing black.
3-Waste people.
4-The light is a lie.
5-The Dead sailors dream.
6-Husk of darkness.
7-Desert Coffin.
8-Bird of ill omen.
9-Until the last Dog is hung.
10-Dead sailors Reprise.

Can’t wait to finish. More dates to follow! We will keep you posted!

Expect some healthy doses of Heavy 70’s Riff Rock, NWOBHM Riffing, Drunken Sea Shanties, Weighty DOOM, and a smidge of 90’s Noise. You’ve been warned…..

https://www.facebook.com/SolaceBand/

Solace, “The Crushing Black” snippet

Solace, A.D. (2010)

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Vessel of Light Announce Woodshed Album Details

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 8th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

vessel of light

Last month when Vessel of Light announced the title of their Argonauta Records debut full-length as Woodshed, I, in full internet-snark mode, cast my bet that there was some murder going on in that backyard. You know what? Called it. If nothing else, Nathan Opposition likes working on a theme.

Vessel of Light, of course, is the Ohio-based Opposition (see also Ancient VVisdom) teaming up with New Jersey guitarist Dan Lorenzo (see also Hades, The Cursed), and they issued their self-titled debut EP (review here) through Argonauta last year, setting an initial tone of drugs, killing and psychosis that it seems the forthcoming long-player is only too happy to follow-up.

Vessel of Light‘s Woodshed is out Sept. 21.

From the PR wire:

vessel of light woodshed

VESSEL OF LIGHT reveal new album details

US Doom Metallers VESSEL OF LIGHT (featuring Nathan Opposition of ANCIENT VVISDOM and Dan Lorenzo of HADES) reveal cover artwork and track-list of their highly anticipated album “Woodshed”.

About the album concept, Nathan says: “Woodshed is a twisted plot involving a torturer and his numerous victims, his devious plan to kill in the name of God, and the mental breakdown that follows. The consequences of murderous actions that tell a tale of ritualistic sacrifice, homicide/ suicide, offerings to “the holy Lord”, and the truth behind the lies of reality. The content is dark and cold. A drugged out murder spree by a man haunted by the voices of the dead.”

By commenting this new album, Dan Lorenzo said: “Woodshed is a title that has intrigued me for a while now. I consider myself a songwriter more than a true musician. I know serious musicians will say they are ‘woodshedding’ or practicing a lot. In the winter when it’s cold out in New Jersey, I definitely pick up a guitar more than I do in the summer..not to ‘practice’, but to write new music. The woodshed in American culture has traditionally been a place where someone goes to work on something often secretly. In the old days it might be where a parent goes to give their child a beating. Sometimes the woodshed could be used to hide nefarious things that nobody is supposed to find out about. Nathan took this concept and created lyrical genius. It’s fucking dark as hell man.”

VESSEL OF LIGHT teamed-up with renowned Italian artist Marco Castagnetto (www.zenpunkart.com) to give their visions a proper form by realizing a stunning cover artwork.

VESSEL OF LIGHT “Woodshed” will be released on CD/LP/DD by ARGONAUTA Records and available from September 21st, 2018.

More details and preorder info available soon.

TRACK-LIST:
1) Woodshed
2) Part of My Plan
3) A Love So True
4) Son of Man
5) Watching The Fire
6) Beyond The Cellar Door
7) One Way Out
8) Man’s Sin
9) Day of Rest
10) End It All
11) Pray For A Cure

Nathan Opposition Vocals, drums, lyrics, melodies, keyboard
Dan Lorenzo Guitar, bass, music, backing vox on Part Of My Plan
Michael Jochum guitar solo One Way Out

https://www.facebook.com/vesseloflightband
www.instagram.com/VesselOfLightMusic
www.argonautarecords.com
https://www.facebook.com/ArgonautaRecords/
https://twitter.com/ArgonautaRex

Vessel of Light, “Son of Man” official video

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