Posted in Features on August 31st, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
I had been looking forward all week to talking to Monster Magnet‘s Dave Wyndorf for the simple reason that, of anyone you might talk to on any given day, chances are he’s the guy who’s going to have the most interesting story to tell and chances are he’s going to get to telling it with the least amount of bullshit possible. We last spoke in 2013 when Monster Magnet released Last Patrol (review here), what was at the time their strongest outing in more than a decade by my estimation, marked by a return to prominence of the band’s psychedelic and space rock influences. In short, they got weird again. And not a moment too soon.
Their prior outing, 2010’s Napalm Records debut, Mastermind (review here), certainly had its moments but ultimately came across as playing to formula both in songwriting and aesthetic. For a band who’d been so brazen earlier in their career on records like their classic 1991 debut, Spine of God, or even 1998’s fourth outing, Powertrip, which set the tone in one way or another for nearly everything Monster Magnet would do until Last Patrol arrived. Prior to that album, it seemed like a changing heavy rock climate had left them behind, and so it was even more encouraging when, instead of pressing ahead after Last Patrol and essentially working under a new formula, Wyndorf and his studio partner, guitarist Phil Caivano, got even weirder, reworking material from Last Patrol, tripping it further out and pushing even deeper into space on last year’s unexpected release, Milking the Stars (review here).
If Milking the Stars proved anything at all, it was that anyone who thought they knew what Monster Magnet were going to do next — fans, critics, whoever — were dead wrong, and the upcoming Cobras and Fire (out Oct. 9 on Napalm; review pending) follows that impulse even deeper. In concept, it does to Mastermind essentially what Milking the Stars did to Last Patrol; it reimagines the songs and gives them a new context. The difference is the songs from Mastermind had a much longer way to go to get to where they are on Cobras and Fire, which between the brand new sleazed-out opener “She Digs that Hole” and the Temptations-gone-Hawkwind cover “Ball of Confusion” makes even the most whacked-out jams on the last album seem tame.
Reworking cuts like “Time Machine” and “The Titan Who Cried Like a Baby” — now just “The Titan” — as instrumentals broadens the context further, but the strength of Cobras and Fire is as much about the quality of what’s there as what’s done with it. “When the Planes Fall from the Sky,” “Gods and Punks,” and “Hallucination Bomb” were strong tracks to start with — had good bones, you might say if they were a house you were interested in buying — but their stretched, twisted, morphed into new identities for themselves and the album as a whole, the headphone-worthiness of which bleeds from every minute of its hour run, right down to the Joe Barresi-assembled mashup, “I Live behind the Paradise Machine,” which rounds out on a boldly atmospheric note, sending Cobras and Fire out not with a bang, or with a whimper, but with the realization that there’s a whole world out there and as much as ever, something about it just doesn’t fit.
Wyndorf has a keen talent for phrasing, as anyone who’s ever read his lyrics can attest. In the interview that follows, he talks as much if not more about the conditions in which artists create today as about these songs or bringing Chris Kosnik in on bass for the live incarnation of the band with lead guitarist Garrett Sweeny, Wyndorf, Caivano, and drummer Bob Pantella, but I consider it all relevant to not just this record, but to where Monster Magnet are headed from here as they continue to move forward to their inevitable next full-length, next tour, etc. Basically, each ramble is a fucking treasure, and as much as you want to dig in, you can. In the end, if you can’t get down, it’s your loss.
Complete Q&A is 9,200-plus words. It follows after the jump. Enjoy.
Having a rough afternoon? Perhaps you’re dug deep into the usual post-weekend every-decision-I’ve-ever-made-is-wrong blues? Well, The Atomic Bitchwax are here for you. The winding NJ heavy rock power trio have a brand new video out for the track “No Way Man” from their 2015 album, Gravitron (review here), and if anything’s going to lift your spirits at all, it’s the Bitchwax. And by you, I mean me. And by “blues” I mean “it’s complicated.”
Nonetheless, what isn’t complicated is the kicking of ass that The Atomic Bitchwax deliver with from-the-word-go intensity on Gravitron, which is available now via Tee Pee Records. Inarguably their heaviest-sounding album, it shows off the chemistry that the lineup of bassist/vocalist Chris Kosnik, guitarist/vocalist Finn Ryan and drummer Bob Pantella have built up over the better part of the last decade both in the studio and on stages across — well, mostly across Europe, but a bit in the States as well.
To that end, the Bitchwax kick off a North American run this week — emphasis on North American; dates in Canada and all; no Mexico this time out — in support of Gravitron. I’m not sure if they ever went cross-country for 2011’s The Local Fuzz (review here), but they’ll be out on the West Coast and in-between this time, and I can speak even beyond my Garden State bias to say it’s well worth the effort to catch them if you can.
And while we’re talking about “catching them if you can,” the track “No Way Man” is a suitable challenge to anyone who’d try to keep up with The Atomic Bitchwax‘s frenetic pacing and blink-and-miss-it rhythmic turns. Tour dates follow the clip below, filmed edited by Shotwell Productions with further editing by The War Machine. Have fun:
The Atomic Bitchwax, “No Way Man” official video
THE ATOMIC BITCHWAX recently announced their upcoming U.S. headline tour, which kicks off Thursday, August 13th in Brooklyn, NY at The Shop. The tour will feature support from Mos Generator and Against The Grain. See below for a full listing of all currently confirmed tour dates.
THE ATOMIC BITCHWAX U.S. Tour Dates: 8/13 – Brooklyn, NY @ The Shop 8/14 – Philadelphia, PA @ Kung Fu Necktie 8/15 – Cambridge, MA @ Middle East 8/16 – Montreal, QC @ Foufounes Electriques 8/17 – Ottawa, ON @ Mavericks 8/18 – Sudbury, ON @ Townehouse 8/19 – Toronto, ON @ Bovine Sex Club 8/20 – Rochester, NY @ Montage Music Hall 8/21 – Pittsburgh, PA @ 31st Street Pub 8/22 – Dayton, OH @ RockStar Pro Arena 8/23 – Hamtramck, MI @ Smalls 8/24 – Chicago, IL @ Double Door 8/25 – Milwaukee, WI @ Cactus Club 8/26 – Kansas City, MO @ Riot Room 8/27 – Denver, CO @ Larimer Lounge 8/29 – Boise, ID @ Neurolux 9/1 – Seattle, WA @ Studio Seven 9/2 – Vancouver, BC @ Rickshaw 9/3 – Portland, OR @ Panic Room 9/4 – Oakland, CA @ Leos 9/5 – Los Angeles, CA @ Loaded 9/6 – Mesa, AZ @ Club Red 9/8 – Albuquerque, NM @ Sister Bar 9/9 – Dallas, TX @ Three Links Deep Ellum 9/10 – Austin, TX @ Red 7 9/11 – Houston, TX @ Rudyards 9/12 – New Orleans, LA @ Siberia 9/13 – Atlanta, GA @ Masquerade 9/15 – Raleigh, NC @ Pour House 9/16 – Richmond, VA @ Strange Matter 9/17 – Baltimore, MD @ Metro Gallery 9/18 – New York, NY @ Bowery Electric 9/19 – Providence, RI @ Firehouse 13
Posted in Whathaveyou on July 21st, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
When the planes fall from the sky, we’ll understand. Or probably not. Either way, as they approach a quarter-century from the release of their first album, New Jersey’s Monster Magnet continue to astound and confound. The latest project? A welcome revisioning of 2010’s Mastermind (review here) that follows suit behind what last year’s Milking the Stars (review here) did for 2013’s Last Patrol (review here) — except that the difference is Last Patrol was already freaked out to start with and Mastermind was about as straightforward hard rock as the band ever got before an also-welcome shift into weirdness. Cobras and Fire gives the majority of the tracks on Mastermind the lysergic kick they deserve, highlighting the universal quality of frontman/founder Dave Wyndorf‘s songwriting while reaffirming the righteousness of their current direction. I’m not going on record saying I’ve heard it or anything, but unofficially, it’s fucking awesome.
Fresh off the PR wire:
MONSTER MAGNET To Release Cobras and Fire (The Mastermind Redux) October 9th on Napalm Records
Dave Wyndorf and his henchmen seemingly had the time of their lives when they completely rearranged and boosted Last Patrol 2014 and christened it Milking the Stars: A Re-imagining of Last Patrol!
Now MONSTER MAGNET go back even further to 2010 and their Mastermind album. Even if you know the album inside and out you won`t be prepared in the slightest for the trip that is Cobras and Fire (The Mastermind Redux): just think of the beast Apocalypse Now turned into in its Redux form. Familiar elements drift by and are swallowed whole by thundering psych orgies – Wyndorf often focuses on a singular song fragment and turns it into his ride to total Nirvana. Go look for your daily dose of average rock elsewhere: this is the mindfuck of the year!
Frontman Dave Wyndorf on the new album:
I’m pleased to announce the release of Cobras And Fire: The Mastermind Redux. It’s a re-imagining of material from 2010’s Mastermind album as an alternative listening experience that I think stands on it’s own.
With Cobras And Fire I wanted to present these songs in a much stranger and dirtier atmosphere. Less “classic rock” and more…well, I’d guess I’d call it a deranged fusion of Garage-Psych, Fuzz Punk and Movie Soundtrack music. It’s almost completely re-recorded (with the bulk of the guitar and bass playing by co-producer Phil Caivano) and as in Milking The Stars I’ve added organ, piano, sitars and more to flesh out a completely new sound for these tunes. There’s also a Hawkwind/Pink Fairies inspired cover version of The Temptations 1969 classic “Ball Of Confusion” with background vocals by MONSTER MAGNET co-founder and Rib Eye Bros. frontman Tim Cronin. Plus an 8 minute, tripped out sonic adventure entitled “I Live Behind The Paradise Machine” specially created by mixer extraordinaire Evil Joe Barresi. Joe is at his best here, seamlessly integrating elements from several MAGNET songs into a new, stand alone composition.
All in all I call this the weirdest MONSTER MAGNET yet, and that’s a good thing! I hope you like it!
Cobras and Fire (The Mastermind Redux) Track Listing: 1. She Digs That Hole 2. Watch Me Fade 3. Mastermind ’69 4. Hallucination Bomb 5. Gods and Punks 6. The Titan 7. When The Planes Fall From the Sky 8. Ball of Confusion 9. Time Machine 10. I Live Behind the Paradise Machine Evil Joe Barresi’s Magnet Mash Vol.1
Posted in Features on July 6th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
If 2015 ended tomorrow, I think you’d still have to say it was a pretty good year for heavy rock. Doom veered into a swath extremes — its own subgenres emerging almost one by one in a growing splinter that nonetheless continues to draw water from its roots — while the neo-stoner ignition of the West Coast continued its boom of new acts proffering classic groove. The East reveled in a progressive vision just waiting to be picked up by others, and in Europe, the ’70s traditionalist movement spread ever wider, essentially defining a modern sound in organic sounding, sometimes-vintage elements. Whether you’re going for crushing, oppressive barbarism or cosmos-bound blissouts, it is, in short, a good time to be alive.
Of course, 2015 doesn’t end tomorrow, and there’s still a whole lot of year to come. About half, as it happens. So, as has been the tradition around here for the last half-decade — and seems to be the tradition in a growing number of outlets; not taking credit or claiming to have invented anything, just noting a proliferation — it’s time to count down the best records of the year so far. There have been more than a handful of gems, and since in December I’m planning on doing a top 30, we’ll mark half the year with a top 15. Seems only fair.
Please note that this isn’t purely a critical evaluation, but a personal list, and that what I’ve put on most is as crucial a factor in my ranking as how important I think a given record is. You know the drill by now. Let’s go:
Kiev three-piece Stoned Jesus have a varied stylistic history, and their third outing, The Harvest was ultimately a success in large part because of its complete refusal to be defined. Atop a foundation of quality songcraft, the trio proffered a sound that was not necessarily experimental in terms of anti-structure noise or effects onslaughts, but bold in each of its forays outward from its heavy rock underpinnings.
It has consistently taken me a while to get a hold on what Freedom Hawk are up to. The steady elements in their sound are held to so firmly that on the first couple listens, it seems to just be more of the same. But the more one digs in, the more there is to be found, and with Into Your Mind, the Virginia Beach trio overcome losing a member to create their most progressive outing to date, flourishes of psychedelia melding easily with their signature style of sunshiny riffing.
Five albums deep, Germany’s My Sleeping Karma are an act unto themselves. Their progress has been natural, fueled by a clear, varied sense of exploratory will, and the results on this year’s Moksha were nothing short of stunning. Branching out their arrangements might not be new to them, but the inclusion of horns, drones, percussion, etc., amid the central guitar, bass, keys and drums lent an almost orchestral feel to the flow between the tracks, and one can only hope they continue on their current path, because it is unquestionably the right one.
So much potential, so much vitality at the heart of this debut from Death Alley. The Amsterdam-based four-piece (interview here) stormed out of the gate with a ripper of a debut, and just when you seemed to have it all figured out, they hit the ignition on a 12-minute full-impulse space rock thrust, a guest vocal appearance from Farida Lemouchi (a former bandmate of Death Alley guitarist Oeds Beydals in The Devil’s Blood) adding both mystique and emotional resonance to what was already a stunning track. With all the riotousness preceding, Black Magick Boogieland readily lived up to its righteous title.
Midwestern-turned-West-Coast heavy psych rockers Mondo Drag may have taken their time in releasing their self-titled sophomore outing, which followed their 2010 debut, New Rituals (review here), and was recorded in 2012, but it’s easy to imagine that’s because they wanted the circumstances to be as special as the album itself, recorded with a fleeting five-piece lineup that included the one-time rhythm section of Radio Moscow who wound up leaving to further their then-nascent project, Blues Pills. Even without that lineup shift as a factor, the late ’60s vibe Mondo Drag brought out across the release proved eminently listenable and has held up on repeat visits.
A gorgeous, shimmering and melodically resonant debut from the Dutch four-piece Cigale, their self-titled gracefully maintained tonal presence and warmth while also enacting a psychedelic sprawl and grooving serenity that acted like the landscape in which the songs took place. It was a rich, bright vibe, and an utter joy to behold, tracks like “Harvest Begun,” “Feel the Heat” and “Eyes Wide Shut” proving as memorable as they were inviting. Having two former members of the much-missed fuzz rock outfit Sungrazer may have initially turned some heads in their direction, but Cigale‘s first album proved they’re an outfit with their own personality, their own development to undertake, and already much to offer.
The awaited return of The Machine brought the band’s fifth album and a further-refined sense of maturity in their processes, as well as intrigue as to where they might be headed, two dual modes of open-ended jamming and more structured songwriting playing off each other in the extended “Chrysalis (J.A.M.)” and “Come to Light” and the more verse/chorus stylizations of “Dry End” and “Off Course.” To be perfectly honest, I doubt The Machine will ultimately pick one side over another, since if Offblast! proved anything it’s that they can easily handle either or both, but as they continue to grow, it’s encouraging to have their style establish itself as so multi-faceted.
First time I pressed play on Gravitron was a real “oh shit!” moment. The last release from NJ stalwarts The Atomic Bitchwax was 2011’s The Local Fuzz (review here), a single-song full-length instrumental riff onslaught that had its charm but was inherently divorced from the appeal of the band’s songwriting. Not only does Gravitron re-factor that in with songs like “Roseland,” “It’s Alright,” “Coming in Hot” and “Ice Age Hey Baby,” among others, but it hits with kick-in-the-ass production force and an all-out heaviness that 2008’s TAB4 showed the three-piece steering directly away from. Just a killer record. Utterly void of pretense. No bullshit. No need to rely on anything more than chemistry, and with the Bitchwax, that’s plenty.
7. Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth
Right now, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth are my band to beat for Debut of the Year, and I’m quite frankly not sure how anyone is going to be able to do it, so if list time comes in Dec. and you see Tad Doyle‘s trio marked out as such, know that it’s been that way in my head for some time. The three-piece of Doyle, bassist Peggy “Pegadeth” Tully and drummer Dave French arrived with a roar, and even when their self-titled let up sonically, the atmosphere remained viscerally heavy. Six years having passed since the release of their first demo (review here), I wasn’t sure there was ever going to be an album, but then to have Brothers of the Sonic Cloth show up and enact such thorough demolition only made it more impressive.
It can’t possibly be a surprise to have Luminiferous show up somewhere on this list. The seventh long-player by High on Fire had all the rage and bombast in “Slave the Hive” and “The Black Plot” that have become the band’s hallmarks over their 17 years together, but branched out progressively as well in songs like “The Cave” and “The Falconist,” the latter of which was brazenly catchy and about as emotionally direct as the band has ever gotten, their general modus being — and in that song too, just to a lesser extent — a metaphor-laced lyrical approach. That song was a triumph and so was the album as a whole; the second collaboration with producer Kurt Ballou building on the rampaging victories of 2012’s De Vermis Mysteriis (review here) while also showing growth on the part of one of modern metal’s most pivotal bands.
Hitting more or less concurrent with a vinyl release of their prior album, 2013’s A Time of Hunting (review here), Kings Destroy‘s Kings Destroy is not at all coincidentally titled. Over the course of now three full-lengths, the New York five-piece — about whom I feign no impartiality, let it be noted — have distinguished themselves with a sound neither noise, nor doom, nor heavy rock, but drawing on elements of all three when it suits their purposes with chemistry built from years of being in bands together of various stripes and in various genres. What stands the self-titled out from their past work, in part, is that it is the closest they’ve yet come to capturing their live sound in the studio, and accordingly, it’s a volatile kind of heavy that bends aesthetic to its will rather than capitulating to expectations of any sort. I don’t think they’re done growing by any stretch, but Kings Destroy feels like an arrival front-to-back.
This one was almost a sneak-attack. German heavy psych forerunners Colour Haze released To the Highest Gods We Know, their 11th full-length, in Dec. 2014 on CD (the vinyl was in 2015, which is what we’re counting in this instance), with very, very little fanfare of any sort. There was a track premiere here that came shortly after the album was announced, but I think it was officially out less than a month after its existence was made public, which for a band of Colour Haze‘s stature and influence was surprising. Less devoted to grandeur than 2012’s 2CD She Said (review here), it nonetheless pushed the band’s sound forward and found them experimenting in their studio, particularly on the string-quartet-inclusive finale title-track, which offset jams like “Überall” and the laid back highlight “Call” with a rhythmic oddness that was somehow still Colour Haze‘s own. I couldn’t help but wonder where it was leading, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t masterful in its own right.
Goatsnake didn’t have it easy going into their third album. It had been 15 years since their sophomore outing, Flower of Disease, 11 since their last EP, and five since they first started playing shows again. Expectations? Through the roof. Among heavy rock heads, a new Goatsnake was like seeing the mountaintop. I mean, a big fucking deal and then some. Then the record hits, and there’s just about no way it can live up to the anticipation, but god damn if Goatsnake not only finally put out a third album, but one that was better than I think anyone could’ve hoped for. Hearing Pete Stahl with however many backup singers he had on “Another River to Cross” et. al. was like finding an animal in its native habitat, and between his soul, Greg Anderson‘s riffs, bassist Scott Renner‘s low end rumble and drummer Greg Rogers‘ roll, Black Age Blues won almost immediately and then spent the rest of its 47 minutes throwing itself a victory party. “Elevated Man,” “House of the Moon,” “Jimi’s Gone,” “Grandpa Jones,” almost on a per-track basis, Goatsnake added to the reasons they’ve been so heralded despite a decade-plus’ absence from the studio.
On the level of achievement alone, Elder‘s Lore will be the album of the year for many, and there are times (such as right now) when I listen to it and question whether or not it isn’t also my pick for that honor, but wherever it falls on whatever list, far more important is what the Massachusetts/Rhode Island/New York trio manage to accomplish across their third LP’s formidable five-track/59-minute span, songs like “Compendium” and “Deadweight” bridging a rarely approached gap between heavy and progressive rocks while maintaining a flow consistent with the psychedelic vibing of 2011’s Dead Roots Stirring (review here) but grown outward in another aesthetic direction and no sooner setting foot on the ground than seeming to master it in a flurry of blinding turns, sprawling soundscapes and clarity of mind that found perhaps its greatest expression in the centerpiece title-track, the 15-minute “Lore” itself, which I’ve no doubt will stand among if not atop the best songs of 2015 when the year is over and encapsulates the ambition and the corresponding breadth of Elder‘s songwriting, the trio of guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo, bassist Jack Donovan, and drummer Matt Couto rising as one of the East Coast’s most pivotal acts, with a sound completely their own.
1. Acid King, Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere
I use the word “molten” pretty regularly to describe an album or song that seems to just ooze its way out of the speakers or shift seamlessly between its songs, but Acid King set an entirely new standard for the term with Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere. Their first outing for Svart and their first release in a decade, its 55 minutes were a riff-rolling nirvana of lurching fuzz and tonal excellence, the guitar of Lori S. at the fore accompanied by Mark Lamb‘s bass and Joey Osbourne‘s drums, the swing of which propelled a highlight track like “Coming down from Outer Space” right back into it, while elsewhere on the record, “Silent Pictures,” “Red River” and “Infinite Skies” torched stoner conventions into a new space-biker rock, culminating in the heavy psych of “Center of Everywhere,” which seemed to emanate from the place it was describing, at once empty and full. More than just a welcome return after a long dearth of releases, Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere found Acid King progressed even beyond where they were with 2005’s III, though more than anything else, what makes it my top pick for the year so far is the fact that I can’t seem to walk away from it for too long before going back, and ultimately, that’s what it all comes down to with his kind of thing. I’ve yet to find a standard to which these songs don’t live up.
A few others worth noting. The Sun Blood Stories album (streamed here) continues to resonate. Also Monolord, Valkyrie, Lamp of the Universe, Garden of Worm, Wo Fat‘s live record, The Midnight Ghost Train‘s Cold was the Ground and Ufomammut‘s Ecate. The Black Rainbows was a joy, as was Spidergawd‘s second LP, and while I still feel like I haven’t given it its due, the Sumac won many over and should get a mention. Steve Von Till‘s solo outing and the latest from Enslaved are worth seeking out as well for anyone who hasn’t heard them yet.
More to Come:
The year’s only half over, which is kind of a scary thought but true nonetheless. Watch out in the coming months for new stuff from Bloodcow, All Them Witches, Clutch, Graveyard, Zun, Sacri Monti (if that one’s not already out), Snail, Uncle Acid, and Kind. The new Kadavar is a sure-fire top tenner, and between that, the potential for a new Neurosis album and stuff like Magnetic Eye Records‘ Electric Ladyland [Redux], there’s no way the book is written on the best of 2015.
So stay tuned.
And if I’ve still got your attention, thanks for reading.
I guess after closing out last week with Truckfighters, my head got to thinking about heavy rock from that same year and that same era in general. A decade isn’t an inconsiderable amount of time, but to look at it in terms of records come and gone, it’s been a quick jump from 2005 to 2015, though one could easily argue that the entire shape of the heavy underground in the US and Europe, has changed. This shift has been generational, no doubt about it — Gen X moving out, the Millennials coming up — but when I think of a band like The Atomic Bitchwax, who formed in 1999 and are still going strong, the fact that they’ve managed to cross that divide where so many didn’t make it to the other side only increases their appeal in my mind. They have, at least to this point, stood the test of time.
No need to lie, The Atomic Bitchwax weren’t hurting for “appeal in my mind” anyway. As I was discovering heavy rock and roll, finding new bands and checking out all these incredible sounds from all around the world, the Long Branch, New Jersey, trio very quickly became hometown heroes. Their roots trace back to the more metallic Godspeed, in which bassist/vocalist Chris Kosnik played, and Monster Magnet, in which founding lead guitarist Ed Mundell cut his teeth. Alongside Kosnik and then-drummer Keith Ackerman, 3 was a pivotal, turning-point moment for the band in that it was their first to bring aboard guitarist Finn Ryan, formerly of NJ rockers Core — whose two outings, Revival (1996) and The Hustle is On (1999), remain gems well worth searching out — who would not only bring a different style of play to the band’s winding riffs, but would add his vocals to Kosnik‘s changing the dynamic of the band both on stage and on record.
The songs on 3, up to and including the Deep Purple cover “Maybe I’m a Leo,” were the band’s first to capitalize on that new dynamic, but they’d continue to progress from there on 2008’s TAB4, 2011’s riff-fest instrumental The Local Fuzz (review here) and this year’s excellent Gravitron (review here), drummer Bob Pantella (also Monster Magnet) coming aboard in replacement of Ackerman in time for TAB4 and continuing in that position through to the current day, his fluid grooves and crisp style adding both swing and a grounding effect on the head-turning riffs of Kosnik and Ryan, who have long since mastered the kind of turns that “Going Guido” here presents while keeping the memorable songwriting at their core that one finds on 3‘s “The Destroyer,” “You Oughta Know,” “You Can’t Win,” “If I Had a Gun” and “The Passenger,” the latter of which seems to directly address Mundell‘s departure from the band in the line from the chorus, “I fill the space with fuzz.”
3 for sure offers plenty of that. As much as The Atomic Bitchwax are an underrated band now — though they’ve started to get their due with increased touring in Europe after re-signing to Tee Pee — this record remains something of a hidden treasure of their songwriting, and as it’s 10 years old this year, it seemed all the more worth a revisit. I hope you enjoy.
Gonna make this very quick because I’m already missing hangout time with my niece and nephew to put this together, and that’s a limited resource. This weekend in the US is the 4th of July holiday. Today was a much-appreciated day off work. I felt like sleeping in alone was well worth all the troublesome colonialism in my country’s history. Or at least that whole Tea Party thing. The actual one with tea, not the one with the shitheads upset about having a black dude for president. Nothing justifies that.
Anyway. Thanks to all who checked in this week and caught any part of the Quarterly Review. I hope you found something in there you dug. I did. 50 reviews and I got one comment off it on here. I had to laugh.
Next week, reviews of Kadavar, Anathema‘s three vinyl reissues and whatever else I can come up with. I wish I could say the Quarterly Review completely caught me up on reviews, but yeah. Also a Fuzz Evil premiere in the works and more to come. It will be busy. It will not be as busy as this week. I will like that about it. Ha.
Alright. I hope you have a great and safe weekend, whether you’re someplace celebrating or not. See you back here Monday for more good times, and please check out the forum and the radio stream.
Posted in Reviews on June 18th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Lest the tonally-minded New Jersey four-piece be accused of not living up to the title of what might rightly — and might wrongly, so don’t quote me — be considered their debut LP, Nostalgia, the CD version of the release contains no fewer than six bonus tracks, culled from a June 2012 session dubbed Camp Fuzz. Those cuts add another 19 minutes to Nostalgia‘s otherwise manageable 45, which isn’t enough to push the limits of the format, but is enough that, if you’re going to take on the full 63-minute Nostalgia/Camp Fuzz listening experience, it’s worth being aware of the commitment one is making.
Taken on their own, the nine songs of Nostalgia proper find Eternal Fuzz exploring melodically resonant ground somewhere between post-rock and more densely-packed sludge, guitar and bass grit meeting with melodic vocals that at times, as on “Deep Fuzz Nebula,” recall a slower-paced Floor, the oddly credited lineup of Joe (general council), Kyle (recycling officer), Mike (party planning commissioner) and Luke (archivist) working in harmonized or near-harmonized vocal layers atop large-sounding roll, what might otherwise be a harsh sound if it played to screamy expectations proving oddly soothing — a lullaby of low end and melodic push, or at least it seems on the surface, since if one digs deeper into the crooning of the standout “Sea Change,” the lyrics, “Anyone with half a brain can see we’re fucked” and the repeated “can see we’re fucked,” are plain enough to the ear, and with the titular pun potentially referencing environmental impacts of climate change, the associations are anything but soothing. So be it.
The marriage of opposites there and elsewhere throughout Nostalgia only serves to enhance the listening experience overall, the band careening through lumber and plod on opener “Closer (Slugnaut) Fleet,” the aforementioned “Deep Fuzz Nebula” and subsequent, chug-happy “Closer Beings,” but subtly working off a punkish edge on the following “Terraessence,” a version of which also appeared on Camp Fuzz, which was previously released digitally. Album-finale “Thrash the Snakepipe,” which seems to pull together space-stoner and skater themes lyrically, also appeared in a prior incarnation on Camp Fuzz, and if the jump in recording quality between the Nostalgia versions and the preceding ones is anything to go by, the development in Eternal Fuzz‘s sound has been significant over the last several years. “Terraessence” cuts down the runtime and ups the energy level, a steady, upbeat rumble giving way to quiet as it passes the midpoint and then igniting a slower rollout as it moves toward the finish and bleed into “Sea Change,” the structure of which is likewise linear and the rhythm of which holds firm to the momentum the band have thus far built.
That momentum is considerable, especially taking into account the snail’s-pace tempos at which they seem comfortable despite, at times on “Closer (Slugnaut) Fleet,” sounding like they’re struggling against an impulse to move faster, and it continues into the loud/quiet trades of “Moody Hum,” which on the first couple listens might easily get lost behind “Sea Change,” but in the end earns the attention its airy guitar squibblies seem to be demanding. Together with “Astral Tractor Beam,” which follows, “Moody Hum” brings about a somewhat different look from the band, who because the vocals are so singularly melodic in their approach — a later-Isis style adding post-metal vibes throughout — at first come across as unipolar, but are actually working to offer a variety of moods.
“Atomic Beauty,” at 6:10, is the longest cut since “Closer Beings” (which is the longest on the album proper at 6:15) and builds tension over its first 90 seconds before unfolding its full tonal breadth, and cuts out at the halfway mark to cycle through again, this time from minimalism to the roll over a quicker span, ending in feedback to make room for “Thrash the Snakepipe,” a return to faster pacing and and Floored vibes, the almost poppy sound Eternal Fuzz elicit in the central verse riff underscoring the smoothness with which they’ve been able all along to pull together their stylistic blend. “Thrash the Snakepipe” is a charming finish, but hardly the end, with the entirety of Camp Fuzz (minus the original versions of “Terraessence” and “Thrash the Snakepipe”) still to follow, beginning with the three-minute, the opening stick clicks of which signal the shift to a live-in-studio feel that is maintained all throughout “Thok’Nor” and the ensuing tracks, which on average are shorter than their Nostalgia counterparts preceding, but carry a similar focus on tone and melody, “Mike Conover” dooming out more than the 2:09 “Aglow and Rampant” but closer “Earth/II-IV The Road” being arguably the most progressive of the bunch.
Camp Fuzz, with the two not-included-on-disc tracks, is available from the band as a name-your-price download, but being tossed on the disc in its entirety adds to the titular feel of Nostalgia and highlights the notion that the album is that much more special to the band with those cuts on there. It having been six years since they got their start in 2009 with the “Closer Beings” single and four since they issued their encouraging [Demo] (review here) in 2011, it makes sense that Eternal Fuzz would want to put as much as they had into the finished product here because who knows when, or if, they’ll get the chance to do this all again. On that level, it’s entirely possible Nostalgia takes its name from the band’s future vision of it as from any backward-looking they might be doing in the now, and while time invariably brings scrutiny to any creative work, especially by those who made it, I don’t hear anything in these songs that wouldn’t be worth remembering fondly.
Posted in Whathaveyou on June 12th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Some shows are a no-brainer, and if NJ riff-winders The Atomic Bitchwax are coming through your town with Mos Generator and/or Against the Grain on the bill, that’s pretty much a night you can mark off on your calendar. They’re out supporting their 2015 LP, Gravitron (review here), on Tee Pee Records, and this will be their most extensive run through the US in some time, after celebrating the new album’s release overseas in Europe.
Mos Generator will be on the tour from Sept. 1-18, and Against the Grain seem to be on the whole run. Dates follow as hoisted from the Bitchwax‘s Thee Facebooks page:
ITS ON!!!!!! THE ATOMIC BITCHWAX w/ MOS GENERATOR AGAINST THE GRAIN
NORTH AMERICAN SUMMER TOUR 2015
New Jersey’s legendary, riff-centric power trio THE ATOMIC BITCHWAX (aka TAB) returns with gargantuan riffs and jaw-dropping psych sonics on its sixth full length LP,Gravitron. Now featuring TWO members of MONSTER MAGNET – bassist/vocalist Chris Kosnik and drummer Bob Pantella – alongside shred-tastic gunslinger Finn Ryan, the band has perfected its unique style of NYC hard rock that High Times appropriately tabbed, “thunder-boogie.”
On Gravitron, THE ATOMIC BITCHWAX’s Rush-like riff mazes and carpal-tunnel-inducing riffs are on full display; every note bleeds with urgency. There’s far too much exuberant energy on the record to lazily tag this as “Stoner Rock”; this is high-octane, ’70s-based hard rock infused with stabs of psychedelia and landslides of Tommy Bolin-inspired guitar heroics ! Gravitron is an A-level masterclass in bad ass Rock’N’ Roll and cements the THE ATOMIC BITCHWAX as an undeniable force in today’s heavy music landscape.
8/13/2015 Brooklyn NY The Shop 8/14/2015 Philadelphia PA Kung Fu Necktie 8/15/2015 Cambridge MA Middle East 8/16/2015 Montreal QC Foufounes Electriques 8/17/2015 Ottawa ON Mavericks 8/18/2015 Sudbury ON Townhouse 8/19/2015 Toronto ON Bovine 8/20/2015 Rochester NY Montage 8/21/2015 Pittsburgh PA 31st St pub 8/22/2015 Dayton OH Rock Star Arena 8/23/2015 Detroit MI Smalls 8/24/2015 Chicago IL Double Door 8/25/2015 Milwaukee WI Metal Grill 8/26/2015 Kansas City MO Riot Room 8/27/2015 Denver CO Larimer Lounge 8/29/2015 Boise ID Neurolux 9/1/2015 Seattle WA Studio Seven 9/2/2015 Vancouver BC Rickshaw 9/3/2015 Portland OR Panic Room 9/4/2015 Oakland CA Leos 9/5/2015 Los Angeles CA Loaded 9/6/2015 Phoenix AZ Club Red 9/8/2015 Albuquerque NM Launchpad 9/9/2015 Dallas TX Three Links 9/10/2015 Austin TX Red 7 9/11/2015 Houston TX Rudyards 9/12/2015 New Orleans LA Siberia 9/13/2015 Atlanta GA Masquerade 9/16/2015 Richmond VA Strange Matter 9/17/2015 Baltimore MD Metro Gallery 9/18/2015 New York NY Bowery Electric
Posted in Whathaveyou on April 21st, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
New Jersey-based heavy psychedelic four-piece Eternal Fuzz are getting ready to release their sophomore full-length. Titled Nostalgia and officially listed as “coming soon” by the band, the record is reportedly due out in a couple weeks, though exactly what form it will take — LP, CD, CS, DL, some other two-letter combinations I can’t think of — is as yet unclear. Nonetheless, Nostalgia will be the follow-up to a self-titled debut Eternal Fuzz put out in 2012, which also had a cover of time-lapse star photography, and a demo released in 2011 (review here) that showed marked promise for their brand of heavy groove, and yes, fuzz.
So far, two new songs have been released off Nostalgia — “Closer (Slugnaut) Fleet” and “Astral Tractor Beam” — both of which showcase a fullness of sound and clarity of approach that seem an immediate step forward for the band from where they were with the self-titled, less melodically assured and tapping partially into a Baroness-style of heavy to some degree. With its slow march and multi-layered vocals, “Closer (Slugnaut) Fleet” still has some of that modern progressive edge, but seems to bend it to suit a slower, more rolling purpose. They toy some with pacing, but the central feel is patient and engrossing, and that suits Eternal Fuzz well in name and concept.
“Astral Tractor Beam” works in similar form, its big-riff focus reminiscent almost of Snail, but it ties to “Closer (Slugnaut) Fleet” by its melodic awareness and the fluidity of its loud/quiet tradeoffs. Both songs bode remarkably well for the album to come, whenever it does. Nostalgia was recorded in Fall 2014 with the lineup of Joe, Kyle, Mike and Luke, and you can hear both of the new tracks from it below, hopefully with more to follow:
“Nostalgia” will be available in roughly two weeks! In the meantime, hope you enjoy one more teaser-track up on bandcamp… Astral Tractor Beam