Monster Magnet, Spine of God & TAB: Quintessential

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

monster-magnet-spine-of-god

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

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

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

monster magnet tab

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

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

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

Monster Magnet, Spine of God (1991)

Monster Magnet, Tab (1991)

Monster Magnet website

Monster Magnet on Thee Facebooks

Monster Magnet on Instagram

Monster Magnet at Napalm Records website

Monster Magnet at Napalm Records webshop

Napalm Records on Thee Facebooks

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Here’s the Eulogy I Wrote for My Grandmother

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

Before I get to the actual text of this thing, I’d like to extend a special thanks to my mother for her kindness in allowing me to post what’s obviously something very personal for her as well as for me and my family as a whole.

I wouldn’t necessarily do so, but I’ve spoken about the recent passing of my grandmother at the age of 102 a few times here in the last couple weeks, and the passion and ferocity with which she lived her life is something from which I will continue to derive inspiration in how I conduct my own.

If you need a tie into music or what I do here, that’s it, and if you’re otherwise not interested, I’ll please just ask you to give me this one and wait for the next post, which I’m sure will follow shortly and be about riffs. Thanks for reading if you do and thanks for the indulgence either way.

florence peterson parsippany nj

Florence Peterson Eulogy Sept. 8, 2017

The very idea of trying to offer some summary of Florence Peterson’s life is laughable, even though through the simple act of laughing, we’d already have a lot of the work done. Most likely it would take at least three weeks to do her scope and history any justice whatsoever, and while it might be fun to try, we simply don’t have that kind of time.

Telling people your grandmother, your mother, your aunt, your great-grandmother, your sister – because Florence was of course all these things and many more — lived to be 102 elicits a very specific kind of sympathy. Call it the “good run” response. “She had a good run.”

Actually, she had the best run. And that’s precisely why we although we can be sad at her passing and we can miss the person she was and the inimitable presence she brought to our lives, we can only celebrate the way she lived, the personality that was hers and hers alone, and the stamp she left on all of us as her family.

Because while the numbers are staggering – born 1915 on the kitchen table in the shadow of one impending World War, married 1936 under the church stairs in the shadow of another, daughters born 1942 and 1947, moved from Bronx, NY, to Morris Plains, NJ, 1960, and so on – even sum total of her full one hundred and two years does precious little to indicate the breadth of Florence’s life. She lived an existence marked in every respect by the full spectrum of what it is to be a person. Joy, pain, love, despair. Florence’s life encompassed this range of extremes and found milestones between them that for most of us would be impossible to fathom.

Imagine living 41 of your 102 years as a widow. Imagine watching as your great-grandchildren are born and begin to take shape as people, the way your grandchildren and children did before them. From the devastation at the passing of her daughter Susan in 2004 to the smile on her face earlier this year when my wife Wendy told her we were naming our son after her husband – this life that tested the boundaries of what a life can be was a touchstone that seems utterly unscratchable. A diamond of a life.

Several years ago, I made it a point to sit down with Florence on that god awful living room furniture she got for such a bargain and talk to her about growing up in New York, to hear her stories about meeting Joe Peterson as a boy from the neighborhood, a couple blocks away that might as well have been an eternity between them, about getting married, her relationship with her brothers and the divide in the family there, her parents, career, and beyond.

There was so much to talk about, but what it always came back to for Florence was her family, and it’s that core emphasis that speaks to who she was as a person. Florence said what she wanted to say, did what she wanted to do. Right or wrong. She had days where she behaved like a complete child and simply did not care because that was how it was going to be. As she got older, it was, “I’m 70 so I can say what I want,” “I’m 85 so I can say what I want.” I’m 90, I can say what I want. One imagines she had said the same when she turned 23, and there was simply no point at which she didn’t just say whatever the hell she wanted to say.

And though there are at least as many instances throughout her life when this worked to her downfall as to her advantage – certainly advantage in her work as a secretary, substitute teacher, an underage sales clerk selling alcohol at Macy’s, or just as building a firebrand reputation among her friends and neighbors, doctors, and a succession of managers and cashiers at Shop-Rite on Rt. 10 & 202 on whom she was quick to pull a fast one with expired coupons – what stands out even more from Florence is the sheer ferocity with which she felt what she felt.

No one loved family like Florence loved family. It was like she was angry about it. Maddening love. A fierce love. And yes, sometimes that love could take a quick turn and call you stupid, or fat, or both, and she could be cruel as well as generous, but this was what made her human, and it was love that defined her.

It meant taking care of Pamela even long after Pamela was taking care of her. It meant being proud of every single one of Matt’s career accomplishments – her baby brother made good. It meant that, years after Susan died, Florence rewrote the story of their falling out in her mind and when prompted with what actually happened, refused outright to accept it as the truth. “You’re making that up,” she said. “No.” It meant her telling you to be careful going up the stairs to her second floor in the same tone of voice from the time you were five to the time you were 30. It meant worrying about “that Walker” or complaining that you never came to visit her even as you were right there with her, then and there, wanting to shout, “I’m here now! I’m actually sitting with you at this very moment! We’re visiting!”

And of course, shouting would be required, because defined as she was by her love for her family, Florence was equally defined by her stubborn refusal to get a hearing aid. Ever.

It is fitting that as we honor her life today and stop to reflect on who she was to each of us that we should be surrounded by photographs. Not just because they show a small selection of the milestones of Florence’s life, her bright, camera-ready smile, shows she’d been in, things she’d seen and the various trips she took with Joe Peterson, Ken, Helen, Susan and Bob, Dr. Huster, the Gelpkes, Pauline, Bonnie Smith and other friends and neighbors – St. Thomas, “Ittly,” Switzerland, and so on as she traveled across continents – but also because these photographs themselves are cherished memories.

The picture of Florence leaning over Joe Peterson in his red jacket, smiling wide as if inviting us all to laugh at his bowtie. Florence sitting on the fireplace at Matt’s house at the lake on that family Thanksgiving so many years ago. Even the yellowed newspaper clipping of the time she won the computer from The Daily Record. Not only do these photos evoke the events they depict, but they have become tangible artifacts no less representative of the love she shared with her family than the memories represented in them.

Take a tour of the house at 2 Sherwood Road – that place that was so much a part of her life when she, Joe Peterson, Susan and Pamela moved from the Bronx to the suburbs – and nearly every room has family photos in it. Walker and Emmett, Rob Jones, my sister Suze and I as children. Pamela and Susan as kids, growing up, and as adults with their families. Though she spent so many years living alone, there was almost no space in which she wasn’t surrounded by this love that she was so ready at a moment’s notice to almost violently defend if it came to it. Really. Woman might smack you if you messed with her family. Or her pictures. Or her Entenmann’s doughnuts.

And at holidays, family events, whatever it was, it was Florence with her disc-film camera, then her disposables. Always documenting. Her scrapbooks are tomes – dusty treasures in her living room of the memories she stewarded and was so right to preserve in that house. They became expressions of the love that fueled their making – that fueled her – and for the rest of us they serve as yet another reminder of how much the improbability of Florence Peterson goes so far beyond the meager 102 years she lived and what she did in that span of time.

There is so much to remember when we remember Florence, and when I think of my Gramma I can still hear her complaining about money or Suze’s furniture upstairs, or talking about the O.J. Simpson trial, or telling a story about a Sara Lee apple pie she “passed off” as her own. I can hear her particular Irish glee at mispronouncing “macacroni” in the context of a “macacroni and cheese” that consisted of elbow noodles, Hunt’s canned tomato sauce and shredded cheddar that was a holiday staple for decades and never failed to garner anything less than rave reviews.

I can see her sitting on her front porch with my mother, all around her busy with a detritus of personality – yard schlock, from pink flamingos to that mysterious penguin to even the light-up Santa Claus that never seemed to leave the front window of the great red room at 2 Sherwood Road, tucked away in the back of which are more memories, of board games, fires in the circular fireplace, wood paneling all around and the bar on the side. How cold it was there in the winter, but what a great place to be.

How much that space was a part of Florence and how much that house, with the tree in the front yard planted by Joe Peterson – always “Joe Peterson,” never “Joe,” though sometimes “Daddy” to my mother or Susan – became the center of her existence. What’s astounding to think is that Florence, who stopped driving no fewer than 15 years ago and with much fighting finally gave up that wonderful boat of a white Oldsmobile with AM-only radio and the bench seats — I remember hearing “How Much is that Doggy in the Window (Arf Arf)” and singing along to it with her at what must have been seven years old – spent her final years inside that house and still seemed to outlive us all. For so long and in so many ways, she was undulled by time – that diamond life as hard and clear as ever.

And so it will remain. Because the truth is that while Florence has passed on, it is our memories of her that we share today and every day in ways we can’t even articulate that she helped shape who we are that preserve her, even more than these photos. It’s not just about recalling the time when I was five and she got lost taking me home from Denville to Parsippany because she refused to listen to my directions, or the way she got so solemn and serious in talking about her coin collection as though it was a treasure of Doubloons unearthed from the bottom of the ocean, or the way she used to tell me how worried she was about my mother, how my mother was just like Joe Peterson and Susan had been more like her.

It’s not just about these things. It’s about the love we continue to feel for each other. It’s about the tribute we pay to Florence in our own growing families, and the parts of her we pass along to each other in passing along parts of ourselves. She was never perfect and I don’t think she’d have claimed to be if you’d been brave enough to ask – though she might argue with you just to have fun doing so – but today, it’s about how unbelievably, unrealistically lucky we were to have had Florence in our lives and how lucky we are to still carry the memories: the sound of her laughing, or cursing, or telling some raunchy story as she said whatever she wanted to say at whatever age she was. The sight of her in some silly hat going out to dinner. The American flags that she seemed so eager to adorn herself with in patriotic zeal.

Most of all, how fortunate we are to inherit her stewardship of memory, and the stewardship of remembering her, because while even those who never knew Florence have to admit she had “a good run,” it’s those of us who will never be the same without her – and will never forget her – who know exactly how wonderful, and terrifying, and beautiful, and sad, and gorgeously complete her life actually was.

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Vessel of Light Debut EP Coming Nov. 3 on Argonauta Records

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 21st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Much like yours truly, Hades guitarist Dan Lorenzo is a Jersey boy with roots in print media. Hell yes I remember when he got together with Overkill vocalist Bobby ‘Blitz’ Ellsworth, bassist Jon ‘Job the Raver’ Nardachone from Murder 1 and his own former Non-Fiction bandmate, drummer Mike Christi, to form The Cursed and release their lone full-length, Room Full of Sinners, 10 years ago. Are you kidding? Hell, I still have the Evil, in the Bag demo! I saw them play at the Highline Ballroom in Manhattan. It ruled. We’ve been in touch on and off for years and he’s always been a good dude and absolutely cordial — a pro through and through. That’s not something I’ll say about everybody.

As such, it’s cool to hear Lorenzo has a new project in the works, and doubly fascinating to learn it’s with Nathan Opposition of Ancient VVisdom. There’s no audio yet from Vessel of Light that’s been made public, but I feel like given the sonic histories of these two, their debut EP is among the least-predictable releases I can think of for the remainder of this year. It’s pretty wide open as to what the hell they might come up with together, but that’s cool by me. I’ll hope to get the chance to find out sometime ahead of the Nov. 3 issue date.

They’ve signed to Argonauta for the release, because that’s what you do, and the EP tracklisting and more background follow here, as per the PR wire:

vessel of light

We’re excited to announce we inked a deal with supergroup VESSEL OF LIGHT, formed by Dan Lorenzo (HADES, NON-FICTION, THE-CURSED) and Nathan Opposition (ANCIENT VVISDOM).

“For the last decade since I recorded The Cursed cd (with Bobby Blitz from Overkill)” Lorenzo said “I haven’t really felt the desire to jam music with anybody. I’ve had offers to join a few bands, but I’ve always considered myself more of a songwriter than a “real” musician. I never wanted to join somebody else’s band. A few months ago that all changed when I heard the songs “The Opposition” and “Deathlike” by the band Ancient VVISDOM.”

Nathan Opposition said: “Lorenzo and I became friends due to my inability to not be susceptible to flattery. Turns out he’s a really cool guy who writes awesome riffs too. Randomly one day I ask him about the band we are starting in joking fashion. I guess it was the right timing and the right person because we immediately agreed we should actually start a project. Before I knew it he was sending me CDs of riffs and I had lyrics flowing like a faucet.”

The track listing of songs recorded by the duo are:

Where My Garden Grows
Dead Flesh and Bone
Meant To Be
Descend Into Death
Vessel of Light
Living Dead To The World

On the record deal: “Although we conceded to the fact that signing to a label was improbable, I sent music to one of my former record labels and an Italian label I found that I thought was right for us: Argonauta Records. When Gero from Argonauta replied I knew it was the right call. The right label. Somebody who knew and respected my past and Nathan’s currency. I am so happy that thanks to Argonauta the world will soon hear the magic Nathan and I have captured with Vessel Of Light.”

VESSEL OF LIGHT debut ep will be released on CD/DD and available from November 3rd, 2017. A lyric video will be posted by the end of this month.

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

Ancient VVisdom, “The Opposition” official video

The Cursed, “Evil, in the Bag”

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Dutchguts and Chained to the Dead to Release Split CD Sept. 1

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 4th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

You probably won’t need me to tell you that viciousness is the order of the day on the forthcoming split between Dutchguts and Chained to the Dead. Set for issue on Sept. 1 via Horror Pain Gore Death, the release brings together some of harshest sounds my beloved Garden State of New Jersey has to offer, and both outfits have quick-as-you-please samplings of their wares on offer to prove the point below. Been a while since I heard anything out of Dutchguts, but their punker sludge remains tinged with groove and chaos in like measure, and Chained to the Dead, well, that’s some shit-raw death metal right there. Bonus points to them for having a dude named Joe Ott in the lineup who, about a million years ago used to play in a group called Ice Titan. Those guys were always a good time, I promise you. Those million years, it would seem, have done nothing to dull Mr. Ott‘s ferocity.

And so much the better. You can check out those tracks at the bottom of this post, and doing so will take a little over three minutes of your day, so you know, nothing to lose and all that. Art, info on the release, tracklisting and audio follow, courtesy of the PR wire.

Here’s to The Meatlocker:

dutchguts-chained-to-the-dead-split

DUTCHGUTS join forces with CHAINED TO THE DEAD for explosive “Split” CD release September 1st via Horror Pain Gore Death Productions

Horror Pain Gore Death Productions are set to release an explosive Split release between New Jersey act’s Dutchguts and Chained To The Dead, September 1st on CD and Digital formats. Below is the official description:

Horror Pain Gore Death Productions unearth a deadly split featuring two of New Jersey’s most vicious up and coming acts: Dutchguts and Chained To The Dead! First up on the chopping block is Dutchguts who hail from Montclair NJ and play Hardcore Punk/Sludge for fans of Black Sabbath, Bongzilla, Discharge, Motörhead and Sleep. Chained To The Dead reside from northern NJ and play Death Metal created from the ashes of 80’s VHS tapes… for fans of Asphyx, Blood Duster, Cannibal Corpse, Carcass, Cattle Decapitation, Demilich, Faith No More, Goatwhore, Gwar, Macabre, Pungent Stench and Suffocation.

TRACK LISTING:

Dutchguts
1. Bad Batch
2. Happy Trails To Hell
3. Snake Piss

Chained To The Dead
4. The Ballad Of The Melting Hobos
5. The Ones That Walk Away
6. Beast From The East

https://www.facebook.com/DUTCHGUTS/
https://dutchguts.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/chainedtothedead/
https://chainedtothedead.bandcamp.com/
http://www.horrorpaingoredeath.com
http://hpgd.bandcamp.com
http://www.facebook.com/horrorpaingoredeath
https://twitter.com/hpgd666

Dutchguts, “Bad Batch”

Chained to the Dead, “The Ones that Walk Away”

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Friday Full-Length: Solace & Solarized, Jersey Devils Split

Posted in Bootleg Theater on June 30th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Solace & Solarized, Jersey Devils Split (1999)

Hit the right store on the right day and you might still run into a copy of the 1999 Jersey Devils split between Solarized and Solace. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen one around somewhere in the last year, anyhow, and it’s one that if, you run into it, it’s well worth taking note. Both bands wreck it. Like they got invited to a fancy dinner party and smashed the china, cracked the stemware and made off with the good silver so they could pawn it and buy more amps to blow out. Like something out of an ’80s metal video except played by punk rockers who decided at some point to get heavy. Released through Freebird Records and MeteorCity, Jersey Devils combined an EP from each outfit — both based in my beloved Garden State — into one eight-track/45-minute CD, and managed to document a particular moment in the scene around the Central Jersey Shore area, from Asbury Park to Long Branch.

The same region, small, densely-packed, crowded in summer, intense in the peculiar way of the Northeastern US, but still very much a “beach town” atmosphere, had already launched the likes of CoreMonster Magnet and The Atomic Bitchwax, and unsurprisingly, the members of Solarized and Solace were a part of that sphere as well. Though their roots, as noted, came from punk, Solace guitarist Tommy Southard and bassist Rob Hultz (now also of Trouble) played in the prior outfit Godspeed in the mid-’90s — also in a ton of other bands — and Solarized followed a similar path, with guitarist Jim Hogan playing in Dirge before establishing himself in Daisycutter and, with drummer Reg Hogan as the second in a core duo surrounded by a revolving cast of bassists and guitarists including Lou Gorra of Halfway to Gone, eventually landing in the fuzzier aesthetic of later-’90s stoner rock.

Timing-wise, Jersey Devils could hardly have hit at a better moment. Both bands were still a bit off from making their full-length debut, so the split was as much an introduction as it was a showcase, and taking the first turn, Solarized brought out the four tracks of what they called the Eight Ways to Sunday EP, a sub-15-minute work on the rawer end of heavy rock and roll, fueled by a propulsive straightforwardness that spoke to Hogan‘s sonic origins despite its thicker tones. Song titles “Slide,” “Drifter,” “Crucible” and “Sugar Bag” likewise served notice of a lack of a sans-frills approach, more concerned with momentum and attitude in the immediate start of “Slide” and post-grunge thrust on “Drifter” than with fleshing these pieces out as much as even Solace would do during their portion of this release. It was a mean sound, but not without its groove or play on tempo, as “Slide” and “Crucible” took on a more mid-paced push and “Drifter” and the quick-turning 2:45 instrumental “Sugar Bag” offered a belted-out summary of where they came from and where they were headed, and the predilection for winding rhythms — something they held in common with The Atomic Bitchwax, whose first album also surfaced around this time — that would continue as they careened into their Neanderthal Speedway long-player on Frank Kozik‘s Man’s Ruin Records, which like many titles on that long-defunct imprint, remains woefully in need of a reissue.

As regards Solace, here’s some quick math: If Jersey Devils is 45 minutes long — and it is; 45 minutes flat — and Solarized take just less than 15 of those 45 for their four inclusions, that leaves Solace with more than two-thirds of the release for their own material. Balance? Fuck it. Not when you can include a live cover of James Gang‘s “Funk #49” at the end after three originals, the first two of which are longer than what the band before has done. Solace basically ate Jersey Devils alive, is what I’m trying to say. And in so doing, they characterized the brazenness that would become an essential facet of their personality as a group and gave a preview of both of their first two albums, with “Heavy Birth/2-Fisted” going on to appear as the finale of 2000’s Further and “Try” showing up again on 2003’s 13 (discussed here). I’ll never try to feign impartiality when it comes to their work — because make no mistake, I’m a fan — but through “Heavy Birth/2-Fisted,” “Dirt,” “Try” and the aforementioned “Funk #49,” Solace tore ass and had a party doing it. Even the quiet stretch of guitar led by Southard‘s psychedelic jamminess at the start of “Dirt” seemed like a precursor to a riot, and sure enough, it was. Vocalist Jason was on fire and drummer Kenny Lund (or is it Bill “Bixby” Belford here?) no less adaptable building the tension in the midsection of “Heavy Birth/2-Fisted” than to holding the ground beneath the solo at the end of “Dirt” or the all-out intensity of “Try”‘s explosive payoff.

Neither group would ultimately be defined as a whole by the work they did on Jersey Devils, but the split was pivotal in setting the course of both. Solarized would release Neanderthal Speedway also in ’99, roughly concurrent, and follow-up with their second record, Driven, in 2001 — their swansong to-date. They’d continue to play local shows for years and rotate their lineup around Jim and Reg to one degree or another, and the pair can now be found in the hardcore-punk-tinged Defiance Engine, whose latest single, “Capitol Hell,” came out in 2014. Solace, in the meantime, stomped through Further and 13 and a handful of shorter offerings before their 2010 masterstroke, A.D. (review here), preceded a period of hiatus. In 2015, they returned with drummer Tim Schoenleber and vocalist Justin Goins joining SouthardHultz and guitarist Justin Daniels, and earlier this year they released the cassingle Bird of Ill-Omen (review here) and were confirmed to take part in Magnetic Eye Records‘ Pink Floyd tribute compilation (info here), as well as Pittsburgh’s inaugural Descendants of Crom fest in September (info here) — all hopefully as a precursor to a new full-length somewhere down the line.

I’m not saying hold your breath, but hey, it could happen.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

After spending all of last week on the road — to Maryland, North Carolina, Maryland, New Jersey and Connecticut; East Coast tour! — The Patient Mrs., the impending Pecan, the Little Dog Dio and I got back home to Massachusetts this past Tuesday. We brought my mother north with us from NJ last Saturday and she’s been staying here since, helping us get ready for the baby in October. It’s been fantastic having her around, and we’re kind of laid back, which I think she’s appreciated at least in a nice-place-to-visit-but-if-I-lived-here-I’d-be-bored-out-of-my-fucking-mind kind of way, which is fair. Anyway, we rarely get quiet time together, so I’ve really enjoyed it. Got a lot done for the Pecan — changing table and pack and play (mostly) accomplished — so all the better. Tuesday I made a taco-flavored ground-chicken meatloaf as well, and that ruled.

Today — probably around the time this post goes live, actually — we’ll head back south to Connecticut again. My mother will likely be picked up by my sister and go home either tomorrow or Sunday, but The Patient Mrs. and I will stay at the beach probably at least until the middle of next week. I’ve packed enough underwear to get through Wednesday. After that, I either need to come home, do laundry, or buy more boxers. It being between semesters and my being unemployed, there isn’t really any call to be anywhere at any given moment, and for now, that’s been nice.

That trip south was harrowing at times, and I’ve been I think justifiably beat as a result, but a couple days back up here at home have been restorative. Watched some Star Trek: The Next Generation, tried a new-to-me local health food store that was pretty good, wrote, and, again, got a lot done for the Pecan. You should’ve seen me take the dresser out of The Patient Mrs. car by myself yesterday. Looked like a damned fool.

With all the back and forth though, I’ve decided to push the Quarterly Review back another week. That gives me next week to prepare and it’ll start on Monday, July 10. Do you care? Probably not. We’ll get there. My desktop is too crowded not to do it, so it’ll happen. In the meantime though, next week has filled up well, especially considering the holiday.

Here’s what’s in the notes, subject to change without notice:

Mon.: The Midnight Ghost Train review/lyric video premiere; video premiere from Hypertonus; new track from Thee Iron Hand.
Tue.: Radio Adds (for America!); Blackout video.
Wed.: Venomous Maximus review/track premiere; maybe a video premiere from Salem’s Bend.
Thu.: Six Dumb Questions with Demon Head; The Great Beyond video.
Fri.: Lowrider Ode to Io vinyl reissue review with a premiere of an exclusive side-by-side comparison mix to the original version (it’s gonna be cool).

Like I said, busy week. There’s news and such and sundry as well. It’ll be good. Stick around. It’ll be good.

Please have a great and safe weekend. If you’re in the US and celebrating the July 4 holiday next Tuesday, don’t blow off your hand with fireworks. If you imbibe alcohol or anything else, do so carefully. Have fun. Have all the fun. But no casualties, please.

Thanks for reading, and don’t forget the forum and radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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Monster Magnet to Release New Album; Spine of God & Tab Reissues Due in Sept. 1

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 30th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

New Jersey legends Monster Magnet will issue a new album before the end of 2017 on Napalm Records. Their next full-length will follow two redux releases that reworked prior material — 2015’s Cobras and Fire (review here), which took on 2010’s Mastermind (review here) and 2014’s Milking the Stars (review here), which expanded on the impulses behind 2013’s triumphant return to weirdness, Last Patrol (review here) — and will be the band’s fifth and reportedly final offering through Napalm.

A release date, title, art, tracks, etc., for the new outing have all yet to be revealed, but hopefully that will be coming soon, and in the interim, Napalm has announced it will also put its stamp on the remasters of Spine of God and Tab that were originally put out during the band’s time on SPV. I recall when those came out they weren’t particularly well received, but I never had any complaints either way. Frankly, any opportunity to go out and buy another copy of Spine of God and I’m a happy man. I can think of few better uses for money than that.

The PR wire brings confirmation of the new record and info on the reissues, which are available to preorder now, vinyl and CD:

 

Monster Magnet release re-issues of “Tab” and “Spine Of God”

1989 marks the year of birth of New Jersey’s spacerock legends MONSTER MAGNET. Three years after their first EP on Glitterhouse, the band released their official debut album “Spine Of God” on Caroline Records, which became a full on genre classic literally in an instant. The original debut album “Tab” was recorded a year earlier then “Spine of God”, but only saw the light of day because of the overwhelming success of its actual successor. The drug hazed heavy sound of both releases helped in cementing MONSTER MAGNET’s reputation of being the only legit descendants of the likes of psychedelic and stoner rock Godfathers Hawkwind, Black Sabbath, and their electrifying punk siblings in MC5. Following those groundbreaking records, the band centered around charismatic master mind Dave Wyndorf went on to issue their first major label release “Superjudge”, followed by critically acclaimed albums “Dopes To Infinity” and “Powertrip”. That’s how MONSTER MAGNET transformed themselves into the Olympus of modern power rock and became legends themselves. The rest is history…

Napalm Records now proudly presents the re-issues of those legendary musical beginnings of this incredible band that no doubt can be considered the founding fathers of Stoner Rock. Both classic albums “Tab” and “Spine Of God” will be released on September 1 worldwide and can be pre-ordered HERE! The albums will be available on vinyl and CD!

MONSTER MAGNET will also release a brand new studio album later this year, so stay tuned for more info!

“Tab” track listing:
1 Tab
2 25
3 Longhair
4 Lord 13

“Spine Of God” track listing:
1 Pill Shovel
2 Medicine
3 Nod Scene
4 Black Mastermind
5 Zodiac Lung
6 Spine Of God
7 Snake Dance
8 Sin’s A Good Man’s Brother
9 Ozium
10 Ozium (Demo Version)

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

Monster Magnet, Spine of God (1991)

Monster Magnet, Tab (1991)

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The Atomic Bitchwax and Mirror Queen Touring the East Coast in July

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 28th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Current understanding is that both The Atomic Bitchwax and Mirror Queen will have new records out this Fall. Therefore it seems entirely likely the Tee Pee Records labelmates might bring some recent compositions out for road-testing on this upcoming East Coast tour, set to begin in Boston on July 13 — where they’ll be joined by fellow Tee Pee denizens Worshipper as well as Hey Zeus — and make its way north into Canada before swinging back through Pittsburgh and looping south once again.

Whether or not they’re playing new stuff, The Atomic Bitchwax‘s most recent outing, 2015’s Gravitron (review here), and Mirror Queen‘s recently-unveiled “Starliner” single (premiered here) are just about all the excuse a band might need to get out and stretch for a bit, if they need an excuse at all. Which, particularly in this case, they probably don’t, what with all the generally kicking ass and whatnot.

Dates and portends of things to come, courtesy of the PR wire:

the atomic bitchwax tour

The Atomic Bitchwax to Launch North American Headlining Tour July 13

Legendary New Jersey Rock Band Featuring Monster Magnet Members Set to Light Up the East Coast; NYC’s Mirror Queen to Support

New Jersey super stoner rock band THE ATOMIC BITCHWAX will kick off a North American headlining tour run on July 13 in Boston, MA. Featuring core MONSTER MAGNET members Chris Kosnik (bass, vocals) and Bob Pantella (drums) alongside guitarist Finn Ryan, THE ATOMIC BITCHWAX (aka TAB) play music that combines 60’s psychedelic rock, and 70’s riff rock with modern day progressive rock influences. The Tee Pee Records-powered tour will run through July 23 and feature support from NYC space rockers and TAB label mates MIRROR QUEEN.

Since its formation in 1993, THE ATOMIC BITCHWAX has inspired hundreds of developing rock and metal bands, but no group of musicians has come close to matching TAB’s unique style of fun, frenetic and formidable rock and roll. Over the course of six full-length albums and multiple world tours, the band has perfected its unique style of NYC hard rock that High Times appropriately tagged, “thunder-boogie”. THE ATOMIC BITCHWAX is currently prepping the follow-up to its celebrated 2016 release, Gravitron. A fall release date is expected.

THE ATOMIC BITCHWAX w/ MIRROR QUEEN tour dates:
July 13 Boston, MA Great Scott
July 14 Montreal, QC Turbo Haus
July 15 Toronto, ON Hard Luck
July 16 Pittsburgh, PA Cattivo
July 18 Asheville, NC Mothlight
July 19 Atlanta, GA Star Bar
July 20 Richmond, VA Strange Matter
July 22 Philadelphia, PA Kung Fu Necktie
July 23 Brooklyn, NY Knitting Factory

A mainstay in the NYC hard rock scene, MIRROR QUEEN has shared the stage with heavyweight peers such as Earthless and The Shrine and toured Europe with legends such as Uli Jon Roth and UFO. The group’s driving music accelerates at the distinct point where NWOBHM and heavy Prog Rock intersect; a direct and definite delineation of an era when urgent metallic sound was the order of the day. MIRROR QUEEN’s as-yet-untitled new LP is expected to see release this October.

http://www.theatomicbitchwax.com/
https://www.facebook.com/The-Atomic-Bitchwax-86002001659/
https://www.facebook.com/mirrorqueennyc/
http://teepeerecords.com/

The Atomic Bitchwax, “No Way Man” official video

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Friday Full-Length: Halfway to Gone, Second Season

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

Halfway to Gone, Second Season (2002)

A full 15 years since Halfway to Gone put out Second Season? Just over, actually. The sophomore full-length from the New Jersey outfit arrived in March 2002 via Small Stone Records and found the trio a tighter, meaner unit than even their impressive debut, High Five (discussed here), had shown them to be the year before. It was a purposeful play toward accessibility and craftsmanship that, when balanced with the tonal and rhythmic drive of songs like opener “Great American Scumbag” and the later “Lone Star Breakout,” resulted in a special moment for Halfway to Gone and their burgeoning audience alike. Comprised at that point of bassist/vocalist Lou Gorra, guitarist Lee Stuart and drummer Kenny Wagner, the three-piece cut themselves a place within the crowded sphere of NJ’s heavy underground — brimming at that point with bands like SolaceThe Atomic BitchwaxSolarized, etc., etc. — and staked a claim over Southern-stylized heavy rock that no one in the Garden State has been able to topple in the years since. A decade and a half later, Second Season still kicks your ass.

It does so mostly via songwriting. “Great American Scumbag” is the quintessential leadoff and boasts one of the record’s best — if not actually its best — hooks, but cuts like “Already Gone,” which immediately follows, and the post-C.O.C. chug of “Thee Song (A Slight Return)” and especially the bouncing “Whiskey Train” push deeper into thickened Heartland boogie such that by the time the swampy heavy blues of “Outta Smokes” and “Brocktoon’s Wake” arrive — the former distinguished by a guest harp performance from Eric Oblander of Ohio-based Small Stone labelmates Five Horse Johnson — Halfway to Gone are right at home in the down-home, and their balance between high-octane heavy rock and these other elements remains fluid through a burst like “Escape from Earth” and the later mid-tempo nodder “Never Comin’ Home.”

All the while, the band keep no secrets, make no bones about where they’re coming from in their classic influences, and ask absolutely nothing of the listener except maybe an adult beverage to wet the whistle and a bit of rocking out, which Second Season fosters to a nigh-irresistible degree. From the early trippy jam “Black Coffy” through the complementary, penultimate acoustic/electric sleepy vibe-piece “Tryptophan,” the record earns its way to the concluding cover of The Marshall Tucker Band‘s “Can’t You See” that consumes its final five minutes, and which also appeared on Small Stone‘s original Sucking the ’70s compilation in 2002, the group boldly taking on vocal harmonies and a loyalism to the original that speaks to their genuine love for Southern heavy despite their Northern origins.

Further, right from the start of when “Great American Scumbag” first kicks in, Second Season has such a sense of space to its sound. Like the drunken King Kong/Sasquatch/Yeti/whatever it is on its cover art, the record is positively huge, and it retains that largesse whether a given track is loud or quiet, faster or slower, uniting the material and only enhancing the flow of the 43-minute entirety. Having recorded High Five with Charlie Schaefer at W.O.M. Studios, they returned and took a more active role in the production the second time around, and the results speak for themselves in the impact of “Already Gone” and the breadth of the fuzz in “Brocktoon’s Wake.” At its core, Second Season is a great collection of songs, but it’s also a full album, and it resonates on both levels in lasting and righteous fashion.

Two years later, Halfway to Gone would issue their third long-player, Halfway to Gone, with a more mature sound overall, production by Bob Pantella of Monster Magnet (and a slew of engineers), and cuts like “Slidin’ down the Razor,” “Turnpike” and “Couldn’t Even Find a Fight.” By then, Halfway to Gone had been through a couple different drummers — among them Wagner and Sixty Watt Shaman‘s Chuck Dukeheart (now of Fogound and Serpents of Secrecy) — before settling in with Stu‘s brother, Danny Gollin, behind the kit. Perhaps weary from a few years of hard living and considerable time spent on the road, the self-titled would be the final Halfway to Gone offering of their initial run. Stu and Danny launched the new outfit A Thousand Knives of Fire as a two-guitar four-piece with Taj Estrada on bass and Paul Wiegand playing opposite Stu. They released their debut, Last Train to Scornsville, in 2008, killed it at shows up and down the Eastern Seaboard, and faded out as members moved onto other projects and Halfway to Gone regrouped for periodic reunion gigs in Jersey.

Though they’ve continually threatened to issue a follow-up, and as of the last time I saw them — granted it was five years ago now (review here) — they certainly sounded like they had at least one more kickass record in them, the self-titled has remained the third and final Halfway to Gone album since its release in 2004. As noted, through all that time, no one has come to claim their crown, and I expect that if they did ever get it together to produce a fourth outing, they’d be able to pick up where they left off despite the intervening years. That would be my wish for them anyway, but as a fan, I’m hardly impartial in that regard.

Great record. Underrated band. As always, I hope you enjoy.

Was up a dastardly five minutes before the alarm this morning. I suppose that’s better than being awake at 4AM, which was how it went yesterday, but still kind of annoying, both for missing out on that extra unconscious time and for how tired I was by the time I went to bed last night. It being a four-day week didn’t stop this one from being long as hell. Two weeks left of work as of today. Two weeks, then I’m unemployed again.

My feelings on the issue are somewhat complicated. If I made any money whatsoever doing this site, they would not be. Somehow I don’t think Donald Trump’s I’m-gonna-back-out-of-the-Paris-Accord ass is going to be the one to implement universal basic income, however, so even here in liberal Massachusetts (though not where I live; fucking racist white yutzes, everywhere), I’m not going to hold out much hope on that one. Some you win, some you lose. Some lose the popular count by three million votes and still win.

If you’re wondering, the baby boy The Pecan whom The Patient Mrs. and I are in the process of bringing into this wretched, doomed-in-a-bad-way world is doing well, as is she. 20-plus weeks along and starting to show, feeling aches and whatnot, but holding up. He’s riding low at the moment, which had me thinking of “Lameneshma” last night before dinner. “Hmm, maybe a Swedish name…” and so on. Golly Lowrider kick ass.

Writing at the kitchen table this morning instead of my usual place on the couch is my way of pretending it’s already the weekend. It isn’t, and in about half an hour I’ll need to get my shit together and head to the office, where as I did for most of this week I will sit and watch the minutes go by until I can leave and be with The Patient Mrs. again. That’s all I want these days. Together time.

This weekend is busy — a wedding in CT, some back and forth to do on Sunday — but here’s what’s in the notes for next week, subject to change as always:

Mon.: Vokonis full album stream/review. Abrams video.
Tue.: Six Dumb Questions with Summoner. Conclave video.
Wed.: Second Coming of Heavy review. Heat video.
Thu.: Solstafir review, tentatively. Or maybe that new Tuber. We’ll see.
Fri.: Six Dumb Questions with Godhunter.

Yup, doubling up on Six Dumb Questions interviews. I’ve got a backlog of them at this point that I’ve been sending out to people and need to bring it up to speed. Trying to balance that and still not get too far behind on reviews, but I suck at balance, and I suck at keeping up with reviews anyway, so it’ll be what it is. I want to get the Godhunter one up either way, so yeah.

Whatever you’re up to over the next couple days, I hope it’s fun and that you enjoy and are safe and don’t get anymore messed up than you want to be, and that you please check out the forum and the radio stream as well.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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