Live Review: Corrosion of Conformity, Crowbar, Quaker City Night Hawks & Lo-Pan in NJ, 08.25.19

Posted in Reviews on August 26th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Corrosion of Conformity (Photo by JJ Koczan)

It seems unlikely to me, but apparently the last time I was at Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, New Jersey, was 2011? Not much has changed. They still have the big screen that comes down between bands to promote upcoming shows — a lot of pop-punk, some bigger metal, and DJ Pauly D will be there in December, just in case you forgot you were in NJ — and they still have the bars liberally strewn about the back and sides of the venue. I feel like I’ve spent significant time in that room in the past, but apparently not in the last eight years. It’s like I lived in a different state for most of that time or something. Huh.

Even the Old Bridge Militia — a name that sounds way more threatening than the reality of being dudes-who’ve-been-going-to-shows-since-probably-before-you-were-born-and-made-shirts-to-prove-it — came out for this one, and fair enough. It was the second to last night of Corrosion of Conformity‘s ‘A Quest to Believe: A Call to the Void’ Tour, an earlier leg of which already saw them on the road with Crowbar. Support this time for the two riffly titans was from Texas four-piece Quaker City Night Hawks and Columbus, Ohio’s own Lo-Pan, who’ve also been doing off-day shows with Crowbar such as that further north in Teaneck, NJ, on July 25 (review here), where they and Crowbar kicked off the tour early with a gig on their own at Debonair Music Hall.

The tour, which C.O.C. and Quaker City Night Hawks joined on July 26 in Poughkeepsie, NY, would wrap up the following evening in Providence, Rhode Island. Starland tapped local progressive rockers Elephant Talk to open, who were young — as in, actually young and no, it’s not just that 30-year-olds are starting to look like kids to me — and tight in kind, with a technical flourish to their play that was well met by the melodies of vocalist Ava Panza. I can’t really say they were my thing, but they held down that stage without question and their bassist’s periodic slaps added a bit of funk to the nuanced proceedings. They also threw in a drum solo, which, for a 20- or 25-minute set felt particularly bold. Kid earned it though, and also nailed it.

I interviewed Lo-Pan drummer Jesse Bartz before the show started (will post probably early next week or later this week; check back, it was a good talk), talking about the tour and a bit of how the different personalities in the band interact in life as well as on stage. I’ll say this, especially for having seen them just a month ago, I can’t remember the last time I caught a band who had their 1,000-yard stare working so hard on stage. Bartz was set up toward the front of the stage in a line with bassist Scott Thompson, vocalist Jeff Martin and guitarist Chris Thompson, and their set too would be short — six songs, all from earlier-2019’s Subtle (review here) — but they were so locked in that the time-to-hit-it feel was automatic.

No warm up, no getting their feet under them, nothing. Not playing, then playing; in that order. They looked and sounded like a band who’d been on the road for four weeks, in that they were doing their set, hell or high water, and that even if the power had gone out, I don’t think that would’ve stopped them. They were their own generators, and their output was as pro-shop as I’ve ever heard them sound in the last decade-plus. The material on Subtle was well suited to such a sharpened execution and it was enough to wonder which came first, the songs being so on point or the on point-ness of the band resulting in the songs.

A couple minutes maybe to breathe, but not much more than that before Quaker City Night Hawks took the Starland stage, playing classic-style Southern blues boogie, not afraid to throw in a little twang or a slow jam here and there amid all the soulful guitar and periodic three-part harmonies. I’d purposefully gone into their set not knowing much of their stuff, but they released the acronymically-titled QCNH in back in March and sounded fluid easing into the sleek groove of “Fox in the Henhouse” from that record, which closed their set and featured a jump-on appearance on stage from C.O.C.‘s Pepper Keenan. It being C.O.C. and Crowbar‘s crowd primarily, some of the more country aspects went over a few heads in the crowd, but I suspect Quaker City Night Hawks made a lot of new friends on this tour, bands and fans alike.

Central Jersey’s special brand of shitkickers was out in full force by the time Crowbar went on, and the mosh that ensued kept up for Corrosion of Conformity as well. Of the New Orleans sludge legends, I’ll note that this was the third time I’ve seen them this year, and if they were coming around again, I’d think long and hard about going. Inimitable frontman Kirk Windstein ignited a couple chants of the band’s name and between familiar inclusions like “Walk with Knowledge Wisely,” “All I Had (I Gave),” “Cemetery Angels” and “Planets Collide,” as well as “To Build a Mountain” — always a highlight — and “To Carry the Load,” the latter taken from 1998’s Odd Fellow’s Rest, which Windstein noted from stage that they rediscovered an affection for as a result of playing the album in full for its 20th anniversary last year.

Crowbar‘s legacy goes without saying, but with Tommy Buckley on drums, Matt Buckley on guitar and Shane Wesley on bass, it was a vital impression the whole band made, not just Windstein. You just can’t, can’t, can’t fuck with seeing Crowbar live. It’s like a natural event. Creature in its habitat and whatnot. Further, when Kirk Windstein, who’s been at the heart of the band for 30 years, tells the crowd he loves them, I believe it. I don’t think he’s selling a line, or just filling dead air. This wasn’t the most thoroughly attended show I’ve ever seen Crowbar play, and neither was Teaneck, but they still absolutely crushed as only they could. Working band, giving the people what they want. The story would be simple as that if it wasn’t so rarely done at their level.

And as was the case earlier this year when I caught them in Boston, you’d be hard-pressed to come up with a better complement to close the night than Corrosion of Conformity playing after Crowbar. Though the long-running North Carolinian outfit are still ostensibly supporting 2018’s No Cross No Crown (review here), it’s worth noting that the set didn’t actually feature any songs from that record. Instead, it was heavy on Deliverance (discussed here) and Wiseblood (discussed here), with dips into America’s Volume Dealer for “13 Angels,” “Diablo Blvd.” and “Who’s Got the Fire” later on. Naturally, “Vote with a Bullet” from 1991’s Blind was aired — a song that, like the Old Bridge Militia, was made in a much, much different time than that in which we currently live — and “Stonebreaker” from 2005’s In the Arms of God got the crowd riled up early for a payoff that seemed to come with “The Door” from Wiseblood further into the set. “Albatross,” Born Again for the Last Time,” “Seven Days,” “King of the Rotten,” “Shake Like You,” “Wiseblood,” “My Grain” — these were the bulk of their time, and I’d like to think that’s because the band knows their regional audience has been with them for those decades. Maybe that’s just the idea for this leg of the tour.

I dug No Cross No Crown a lot, but I would, being a fan. It’s interesting to think they might already be moving past that album in favor of more familiar fare, considering that the more touring they do, the more they move beyond “reunion band” and into “working band” in their four-piece incarnation with Pepper Keenan alongside bassist/vocalist Mike Dean, guitarist/vocalist Woodroe Weatherman and drummer/vocalist John Green holding the spot for Reed Mullin. Still, I’d have to think some of the newer material, even if just a single, would make it into the set over the longer term, but the ‘A Quest to Believe: A Call to the Void’ Tour has newly announced a third leg, so maybe more of the No Cross No Crown stuff will pop back up for that. Could happen.

Somewhere right toward the end of Crowbar, I hit the wall h-a-r-d, and though I caught a second wind with about 10 minutes left, the ride home was far from my most graceful. I’d been up since 4AM, it was coming on midnight. No regrets though. Between seeing Crowbar and Lo-Pan on the front and back ends of the tour, getting to hear Quaker City Night Hawks for the first time and the ever-reliable righteousness of C.O.C., it was my little welcome-back-to-Jersey present to myself. Sure enough, it felt like home.

More pics after the jump if you’re interested. Either way, thanks for reading.

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Solace Premiere The Brink Album Teaser; Sign to Blues Funeral Recordings

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 29th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

The basic tracks are done (they posted the photo included here to celebrate), and New Jersey’s Solace are headed back into the studio in early August to mix. After that, mastering, then it’s on to Blues Funeral Recordings for release. It’s a fair enough signing on the part of the label, whose honcho, Jadd Shickler, once upon a turn-of-the-century worked with the band via his old imprint, MeteorCity. The reunion, as it were, will be centered around The Brink, which is Solace‘s first new album since 2010 and from which they’re sharing the first — obviously not final versions — audio in the teaser below. I had the pleasure of taking a couple of the pics included in the montage. That’s always nice.

I’m not going to say The Brink will definitely be out this year, because this is Solace and I know better, but even if it’s Dec. 31, I’ll take it. At this point I’m just happy to know it exists, it’s in the can awaiting finishing touches, and it’s got a home for a proper release.

That’s enough for today.

More to come as I hear it, and hopefully I hear it soon. Ha:

solace

From Blues Funeral: “In multiple decades of releasing music, Solace might just be the best band I’ve ever worked with, and probably the most under-appreciated. I nearly bankrupted my last label trying to shove their music down people’s throats, so having the chance to get back into severe debt behind one of the greatest metal bands of all time feels like coming home again. With Solace, you’re always on The Brink… of epic heaviness, drunken disaster, and probably financial ruin. There’s no place we’d rather be!”

Say Solace: “A few riffs from from forth coming album The Brink out later this year on Blues Funeral Recordings! 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….”

‘The Brink’ tracklisting:
1- Breaker Of The Way
2- Desert Coffin
3- Dead Sailors Dream
4- Waste People
5- The Light Is A Lie
6- Crushing Black
7- Bird Of Ill Omen (Remix)
8- Shallows Fade
9- The Brink
10- Until The Last Dog Is Hung
11- Dead Sailors Reprise

Solace live:
Sept. 20-22 Descendants of Crom Pittsburgh, PA
Sept. 29 Kung Fu Necktie Philly, PA w/ Backwoods Payback & Cavern

Solace is:
Tommy Southard – Guitar
Justin Daniels – Guitar
Justin Goins – Vocals
Mike Sica – Bass
Timmy Gitlan – Drums

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

Solace, The Brink teaser premiere

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Live Review: Crowbar, Lo-Pan and Dutchguts in New Jersey, 07.25.19

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

Crowbar (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Teaneck, huh? On a Thursday? Yeah, alright. I’ll waddle down and check that out. One night ahead of starting their tour with Corrosion of Conformity, New Orleans sludgemasters Crowbar and Ohio fuzzy soul-lifters Lo-Pan made a stop at Debonair Music Hall — the former Mexicali Blues — in the suburb of Teaneck, New Jersey, with local modern sludgers Dutchguts opening. It doesn’t feel like a stretch to me to say heavy shows don’t happen every day in North Jersey. And if you’re not up on geography, that’s because right on the other side of that bridge and/or tunnel is New York City, which is where shows do happen every day and are generally guaranteed to draw more people. Seeing a band like Crowbar — or even Lo-Pan, for whom this was their second Jersey show — without having to cross the Hudson River at rush hour? The very least I could do would be to show up. So I did that.

Incidentally and maybe less surprising given their 30-plus-year history, it wasn’t Crowbar‘s first North Jersey show. They played a place called Obsessions in Randolph circa ’93 that’s long since gone, which I remember not becauseDutchguts (Photo by JJ Koczan) I was there — I was 12 — but from graffiti on the wall in the tiny room that was their “backstage” area. Whether or not they returned to the area between the two gigs, I couldn’t say.

They’d headline the early night, with Lo-Pan playing the middle of the three slots and Dutchguts kicking off the proceedings at 7:45PM sharp. The Debonair Music Hall at that point could not be accused of being overly populated, but there were several in the crowd who very clearly knew the four-piece, likely from the DIY scene they’ve built up around the Meatlocker basement venue in Montclair — though as I recall, someone in the band was local enough to me to know the bar Hoover’s on Rt. 53 when the subject came up years ago. Their take on sludge is more brash and less metal than Crowbar‘s, and it had clearly been a while since I last saw them. Like the better part of a decade, since I seemed to remember them as kids. Their roots were the same — big Eyehategod influence, some Converge, some other dark hardcore punk, plenty of tonal heft, and so on — but their delivery was 10 years wiser, more experienced and vicious.

Dutchguts will open for Eyehategod in Jersey City in September and that feels about right in terms of fit. Though their most recent outing is a 2017 split with Chained to the Dead (discussed here), they’ve done a fair amount of touring, including last month, and have something of a reputation that precedes them. I thought they were cool. After 10 years though, it might be time to put out an album if you’re ever going to. I’ll admit a 7″-only attitude is pretty punk, but still. A compilation, maybe?

How I found out about this show in the first place was hearing it from the guys in Lo-Pan last month before their set at Maryland Doom Fest 2019 (review here), and frankly, even with Crowbar on top of the bill, I was thinking of it as “the Lo-Pan show” in my head. This site is presenting their upcoming Fall European tour with Steak and Elephant Tree (dates here), and I knew from their Maryland set that they’d be playing mostly if not entirely material from their new album, Subtle (review here), which came out through Aqualamb in May. That indeed Lo-Pan (Photo by JJ Koczan)was the case, and though there was no “Ten Days” this time, having “Everything Burns,” “Law & the Swarm” and “Khan!” in the setlist gave Subtle its due, along with the near-mandatory “Ascension Day,” “Savage Heart” and “Sage.” I’ll be curious to hear how the set changes when they come back through Jersey (further south) with Crowbar and C.O.C. in just about one month.

About that: this was pretty much a warm-up show for them, as well as for Crowbar. The tour with C.O.C. headlining starts in Poughkeepsie at The Chance, and I guess they had occasion to make the show happen — picking up a bus in the Meadowlands, perhaps? — and it was a way to give them a leg-up on getting into the groove of the next month to come. Hey, I’ll take it however it comes, but the first night of a tour is always a specious time to see a band. They’re getting their feet under them. They’re tired from a long day of travel. They’re looking ahead to the weeks to come. They’ve not yet developed every tour’s inevitable thousand-yard-stare, locked-in, almost-traumatized sense of I-live-23-hours-to-play-for-one that they will have, say, after five or so nights of gigs in a row. Lo-Pan held it down, and so did Crowbar, but mostly that means that when they circle back, they’ll be that much more on fire.

Nonetheless, one appreciates seeing bands like this the way one appreciates the breaking of a humid Jersey heatwave. Pro-shop, get-on-stage-and-go professionalism is a marker of who a band are as players and a unit and Crowbar are unmistakable even besides that. Guitarist/vocalist Kirk Windstein thanked the crowd, including specifically a kid up front who couldn’t have been more than 10 if he was that — thereby, one assumes, making a fan for life — and they tore into their set with all the lumbering ferocity one could expect. This was my second time seeing them after catching the earlier legCrowbar (Photo by JJ Koczan) of their tour with C.O.C. in Boston (review here), and whether it was that sold-out date or this Thursday night in Teaneck, Crowbar played their show regardless. It was great to see and of course they killed it, opening with “All I Had I Gave” and rolling “Lasting Dose” into “To Build a Mountain” early on.

It was mostly the same set from February, which is fair enough, but with “Conquering” included ahead of “Planets Collide” and “Like Broken Glass,” so I’ll go ahead and mark that a win if you don’t mind. A “pit” broke out of kids having fun during “To Build a Mountain” — that riff’ll do it — and the vibe on the whole was intimate, friendly and l-o-u-d. I wouldn’t have asked for anything more than that, if I’d felt entitled to ask in the first place.

The tour-proper will be a sight to see, with Quaker City Night Hawks and Corrosion of Conformity alongside Crowbar and Lo-Pan. This show, in addition to being my first-not-last time at Debonair Music Hall unless a piano falls on my head between now and the next one, gave me something to look forward to for August, served to remind of the strength of the local NJ underground, and took less than 35 minutes to drive home from when it was over, which was still on the relatively early end. I kind of felt like they were doing me a favor all the way around.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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Solace Complete Recording; Confirm Tracklisting for New Album The Brink (Broken Bodies & Suffering Spirits)

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 28th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

This is the second post I’ve made where it says Solace have finished recording their new album. Here’s the first. Sue me. Last time around, it was basic tracks that were done. This time, all the overdubs, vocals, solos, etc. are finished and the record, which might be called The Brink, or might be called The Brink (Broken Bodies and Suffering Spirits), or might be called Broken Bodies and Suffering Spirits, is ready to move onto the mixing stage. They’re slated to go back into the studio in March — if I’m in NJ when they go, I hope to be there for at least part of it — and work on that, but if you think that after nine years since they dropped the most excellent 2010’s offering, A.D. (review here), I’m going to be making any guesses as to how or when or what their new record is going to sound or look like when it’s done, you’re missing out on one of the great joys of Solace, which is their unpredictable, whirlwind nature.

This is also the second post where I’m including a tracklisting put up by the band for the album. This one has 11 songs where the last one had 10, and the difference is in a track called “Shallows Fade.” Could be nothing more than an interlude recorded when the overdubs were being done, or it could be an entirely new song they decided they couldn’t leave out. Again, you never really know, and that’s why it works.

Solace play New England Stoner & Doom Fest II in Connecticut this May. Here’s their update from the social medias:

solace

It’s official: 11 new tunes are finished. Just some minor tweaking and mixing and the new Solace album “The Brink” (Broken Bodies and Suffering Spirits) will be on its way to the masses!

It’s the last time we will be recording at this place. As of March first Trax East is officially sold and new owners are coming in and taking over. Been recording here since around 1991. It’s an end of an era…. gotta figure out how and where we will finish this new SOLACE record now….

1- Breaker Of The Way
2- Desert Coffin
3- Dead Sailors Dream
4- Waste People
5- The Light Is A Lie
6- Crushing Black
7- Bird Of Ill Omen (Remix)
8- Shallows Fade
9- The Brink
10- Until The Last Dog Is Hung
11- Dead Sailors Reprise

Hang in there and stay tuned!

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

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The Atomic Bitchwax Welcome Garrett Sweeny on Guitar; Announce Tour Dates with Black Label Society and Conan

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 30th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Since guitarist Finn Ryan made official his departure from New Jersey stalwarts The Atomic Bitchwax — who in 2019 mark 20 years since the release of their 1999 self-titled debut (discussed here) — it’s been kind of assumed that the position would be filled by Garrett Sweeny, but hey, I’m a stickler for making things official, and the band has done just that. Sweeny joins founding bassist/vocalist Chris Kosnik and drummer Bob Pantella, and is now the third member of the band to also play in Monster Magnet, where he’s held down lead guitar for the better part of a decade.

This lineup of The Atomic Bitchwax toured in Europe last year — there’s a full-set video from Desertfest London 2018 at the bottom of this post — and though KosnikPantella and Sweeny all now have another band together, it will be interesting to see how things shake out in the Bitchwax proper. They’ll do a run of dates in April and May with Black Label Society and Conan that will mark their first US touring with Sweeny on guitar, and I’d expect more touring to follow as they continue to hammer out their new dynamic.

Quick welcome announcement and tour dates follow:

the atomic bitchwax

Hell yeah!!!Friends and fans please join us in welcoming Garrett Sweeny of Monster Magnet taking over lead guitar duties for Bitchwax this year!!

Great guy, awesome player! But you knew that already…. Welcome aboard G!!!!

The Atomic Bitchwax with Black Label Society and Conan:
April 24 — Denver, Colo. @ The Oriental Theater
April 25 — Denver, Colo. @ The Oriental Theater
April 27 — Dallas, Texas @ Canton Hall
April 28 — Dallas, Texas @ Canton Hall
April 30 — Chicago, Ill. @ Concord Music Hall
May 01 — Chicago, Ill. @ Concord Music Hall
May 04 — Jacksonville, Fla. @ Welcome To Rockville
May 06 — New York, N.Y. @ The Bowery Ballroom
May 07 — New York, N.Y. @ The Bowery Ballroom
May 11 — Rockingham, N.C. @ Epicenter
May 14 — Toronto, Ontario @ Opera House
May 15 — Toronto, Ontario @ Opera House
May 17 — Columbus, Ohio @ Sonic Temple
May 18 — Clarksville, Tenn. @ O’Connors
May 22 — Los Angeles, Calif. @ El Rey Theatre
May 23 — Los Angeles, Calif. @ El Rey Theatre

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

The Atomic Bitchwax, Live at the Black Heart, Desertfest London 2018

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Friday Full-Length: Monster Magnet, Superjudge

Posted in Bootleg Theater on December 14th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Monster Magnet, Superjudge (1993)

Lest we forget that as the West Coast was laying the groundwork for what would become the signature desert style over the next several years, back east, Monster Magnet were kissing the mouth of the scorpion with some of the finest drug rock ever created. Superjudge, released 25 years ago in 1993, was the New Jersey-based band’s second full-length, arriving behind Spine of God (discussed here; reissue review here), which saw its US release the previous year. That album is a classic and I’m not about to take anything away from it, or the Tab…25 EP (reissue review here; discussed here) that came out after, but Superjudge was a moment of several milestones and pivotal moves for the group, who by then were already working distinctly under the direction of frontman and principle songwriter Dave Wyndorf.

First, it was their debut outing for A&M Records, a major label. Their earliest non-demo releases came out through Glitterhouse in Europe and Caroline in the US, but signing to a major would not only bring them to a wider sphere of listeners, but turned attention to a heavy underground boom taking shape in Central Jersey at the time. Second, it was the band’s first album with Ed Mundell on lead guitar, which was a position he would hold until 2010. Mundell took the spot previously held by John McBain (also brilliant), and his arrival would help solidify Monster Magnet‘s burgeoning approach to songcraft and his playing became an essential facet in not only the absolutely molten feel of Superjudge tracks like “Dinosaur Vacume,” “Twin Earth,” “Superjudge” and the effects-soaked Hawkwind cover “Brainstorm,” but in the developing persona of the band on subsequent offerings Dopes to Infinity (discussed here) in 1995, Powertrip in 1998, God Says No in 2001, 2004’s Monolithic Baby!, 2007’s 4-Way Diablo and 2010’s Mastermind (review here). During this era, his presence in the group would be second only to that of Wyndorf in terms of defining who Monster Magnet were and what they were about.

In 1993, they were about freaking the fuck out. They broke out some sitar on closer “Black Balloon,” and backed by the rhythm section of bassist Joe Calandra and drummer Jon Kleiman, captured fuzzy forward drive on “Twin Earth” with a swing that even a quarter-century after the fact bleeds its swagger from the speakers. The power of Superjudge isn’t just in its atmosphere — though there’s plenty of that in the layers of effects and kitchen-sink instrumentation used — it’s in the band. With Spine of God, the record’s brilliant. Utterly brilliant. For the title-track alone, it should be taught in middle schools across the planet as to how you rock and roll in order to expand minds. What Superjudge did was to take that studio vibe and show how it could be sustainable, monster magnet superjudgeshow how it could be done on stage, and begin to solidify it as a developing creative process. As much of a haze seemed to surround the title-track, or the watery acoustics in “Cage Around the Sun,” which followed, with its percussion, Eastern inflection and sitar drone, there was a straightforward, structured undercurrent to the material. That was true on some of Spine of God as well, but Superjudge moved the balance ever so slightly. In its aforementioned cover of Hawkwind and take on Howlin’ Wolf-via-Cactus in “Evil,” it drew a line directly to ’70s vibes in a way that was an aberration for the era, and even in the subsequent blowout “Stadium” or the ultra-hairy “Face Down,” it demonstrated the songwriting modus that would become Monster Magnet‘s own all the more over time.

But Superjudge is more than a bridge from Spine of God to Dopes to Infinity, and its 11 tracks hold up brilliantly to the passage of time. The backbeat of “Brainstorm.” The swirl and cosmic declarations of “Elephant Bell.” The raw tonality of “Twin Earth.” Superjudge continues to read like a blueprint for how to do heavy psychedelia and make it rock. Like if The MC5 and The Stooges decided they wanted to go Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. Maybe the cover art tells the whole story. If you look at the background, it’s trippy and colorful and the logo and title are all “I’m gonna eat a mountain of pills,” but then you look at that picture of the band’s kinda-mascot, the Bullgod. He’s pissed. There’s an aggression there. It’s mean. Superjudge has that intense side to it. It’s not always what’s up front, because the record is still dynamic and it goes any number of places in its songs, but that clenched-teeth, ring-through-the-septum immediacy can’t be faked. It’s either in there or not, and one of the most powerful aspects of Superjudge is that at any given moment, it might absolutely explode in your face. I don’t care how laid back “Cyclops Revolution” sounds at the outset, it still caps with the line, “I’ve got mine, fuck you.”

That component in Monster Magnet would help them for years be wrongly classified as so many were as a metal band. True enough they were heavy — still are — but metal? Come on. Even Mastermind, which was about as big-of-tone as they’ve been interested in getting to-date, wasn’t really metal. On Superjudge, they’re a psychedelic heavy rock band. They’d move on from the lysergic elements over the course of Powertrip and God Says No, but in the change from Mastermind to 2013’s Last Patrol (review here), they brought back some of those weirdo impulses, and pushed them further in the screw-around-with-past-work of 2014 and 2015’s Milking the Stars (review here) and Cobras and Fire (review here) — redux versions of Last Patrol and Mastermind, respectively, that only emphasized Monster Magnet‘s ability and willingness to do whatever the hell they wanted at any given time. See also 2018’s Mindfucker (review here), which, in case you missed it, was called Mindfucker. Take that.

Aside from their hailing from my beloved Garden State and being the stewards of the Mid-Atlantic heavy underground in a way that New York — nifty though it is — was always too punk rock to be, Monster Magnet went a long way toward defining themselves on Superjudge, and it remains an album that shows just how on their own plane they were at the time. Fortunately, that is something that has continued to be the case throughout their career.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

Okay. We’re there. Next week my top 30 of the year goes up. Blamo. This weekend on Gimme Radio, ‘The Obelisk Show’ also has a kind-of-sort-of-some-of-the-best-of-2018 thing going. Really, that’s what it’s called. Monster Magnet are on it. You should listen. Sunday, 7PM Eastern. On the internet.

Also next week, a review of the Mansion album, which rules. I guess that’s the short version. Stay tuned for the long one. Also Deep Space Destructors, a couple snazzy video premieres, a bunch of news I need to catch up on, and all that good stuff.

Thanks for reading that 100-album Quarterly Review if you did. My desktop still has a bunch of records on it, but it was good to get through that stuff. Some of it had been waiting a while. I hope you found something you dug. I did.

I’d love to stick around and bum everyone out by bitching about whatever, but the truth is I’ve got a fucking ton of writing to do — a lineup announcement for Freak Valley that will have already been posted by the time this is and liner notes for the Elder PostWax release — so you’ll pardon me if I check out and get to it. I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Please don’t forget the forum and radio stream and merch and year-end poll.

The Obelisk Forum

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Finn Ryan Announces Departure from The Atomic Bitchwax

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

the atomic bitchwax

At the time, when Finn Ryan started playing guitar and singing in The Atomic Bitchwax alongside bassist/vocalist Chris Kosnik and then-drummer Keith Ackerman — since replaced by Bob Pantella — the question was how the New Jersey-based three-piece would ever recover from the departure of guitarist Ed Mundell. Ryan, who did not participate in the Bitchwax‘s Summer 2018 European tour and today announces his own departure from the band, would play on five studio albums — the bulk of their catalog — and form a dynamic with Kosnik and Pantella in the studio and on stage that was largely unmatched. With an intent to get and stay clean, Ryan will look ahead to new projects.

Now also serving as the rhythm section of Monster Magnet, Kosnik and Pantella recruited that band’s lead guitarist, Garrett Sweeney, to fill the third spot on the last tour, but no word on whether that’s a permanent situation. The Atomic Bitchwax are just one of the Tee Pee Records acts slated to take part in Desertfest NYC 2019 next May.

I helped Ryan put together this announcement and was humbled to be asked to do so:

finn ryan the atomic bitchwax

Guitarist Finn Ryan to Leave The Atomic Bitchwax

Guitarist/vocalist Finn Ryan of New Jersey-based heavy rockers has announced his departure from the band. Ryan, who also founded Core in 1996, joined The Atomic Bitchwax in 2005, revitalizing the band founded by bassist/vocalist Chris Kosnik after a split with original guitarist Ed Mundell.

Ryan’s first album with The Atomic Bitchwax was 2005’s 3, and he would go on to play with them through the Boxriff EP/live album, 2008’s T4B, 2011’s The Local Fuzz, 2015’s Gravitron and 2017’s Force Field. Following The Local Fuzz, the three-piece of Kosnik, Ryan and drummer Bob Pantella commenced an album cycle of busier touring in the US, Europe and beyond, and Gravitron took on a harder-hitting, ultra-tight sound because of it.

Ryan did not participate in the band’s latest European run in July/August, ceding guitar duties to Garrett Sweeney (also Monster Magnet). He elaborates on the decision:

“After the last tour we did in the States, I decided to enter rehab for my addiction issues. For a long time, I have struggled with anxiety and depression which led to unhealthy coping methods. My situation became so critical that I had to enter treatment and unfortunately miss a European tour.

“While in treatment, I came to understand my health is the most important thing in my life, and, consequently, I have decided to take a step back and stop performing with The Atomic Bitchwax.”

The interplay of Ryan not only on guitar but in sharing vocal duties with Kosnik helped redefine The Atomic Bitchwax’s dynamic as unmistakable along the Eastern Seaboard or elsewhere. In 2013, Kosnik joined Pantella as a member of Monster Magnet, but still, The Atomic Bitchwax kept to a busy schedule of recording and touring.

“I’ve had an amazing last 13 years with Bob and Chris — two incredibly talented musicians and really great people,” Ryan notes. “I’ve also had the pleasure of meeting tons of awesome fans, and fellow musicians who have kindly reached out to me to show their support.”

Signed to Tee Pee Records, The Atomic Bitchwax have been confirmed for the lineup of the inaugural Desertfest New York in 2019. No word on whether Sweeney or another player will step into the guitarist role.

As for Ryan, he says, “With this new outlook on life, I plan on moving forward with my music, and am currently working on some new projects and always have room to consider working with other touring musicians. Anyone interested in getting in touch with me, can hit me up on Instagram at @FinnFRyan, and/or finnfryan@gmail.com.”

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The Atomic Bitchwax, “Hippie Speedball” official video

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Quarterly Review: Blood of the Sun, Evoken, IAH, Asylum, Merlin, The Hazytones, Daily Thompson, Old Man Lizard, Tuskar, Space Coke

Posted in Reviews on December 11th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review

I had to think long and hard just now about what day it is. It’s Tuesday. — See how confident I was in saying that? A mask for insecurity, as always.

Anyway, the QR continues today with 10 more records and a pretty solid mix of whatnot. Some of this I’ve written about before here, but basically want to have another shot at the records themselves, so as we wind down 2018, it seems like the time to do that is now. As always, I hope you find something you dig. Seems pretty likely, frankly. If you go the entire 100 records with nothing but a “meh” to show for it, the problem isn’t likely to be the records. Not trying to insinuate anything, I’m just saying. 100 records is a lot. 10 records is a lot. And that’s what we’re doing today, so let’s get going.

Quarterly Review #61-70:

Blood of the Sun, Blood’s Thicker than Love

blood of the sun bloods thicker than love

Drummer Henry Vasquez (also Saint Vitus) returns to his ultra-Texan heavy rock roots with Blood of the Sun‘s first album in six years, Blood’s Thicker than Love (on Listenable). Driven by his own fervent rhythmic push, the six-song collection is given further classic heavy vibe through the prominent organ/keyboard work of Dave Gryder. Oh, and also the riffs from newcomer guitarists Wyatt Burton and Alex Johnson. Oh, and also bassist Roger “Kip” Yma‘s quick turns on bass. Oh, and also Sean Vargas‘ vocals. So yeah, pretty much the whole damn thing is classic uptempo heavy boogie, produced modern but making no mistake about where its heart lies. Vargas‘ voice has a pre-metal swagger that helps define tracks like “Livin’ for the Night” and the capper “Blood of the Road,” and while the follow-up to 2012’s Burning on the Wings of Desire (review here) is enough to make one wistful for the days when their contemporaries in Dixie Witch once also roamed the land, Blood of the Sun make classic rock their own and give it a vibrancy that’s nothing if not a show of love, regardless of how thick that may be.

Blood of the Sun on Thee Facebooks

Listenable Records on Bandcamp

 

Evoken, Hypnagogia

evoken hypnogogia

Unremitting. Unrelenting. Unforgiving. Whatever else one might say about New Jersey death/doombringers Evoken, it better start with the prefix “un-.” The negativity runs through the 60 minutes of their latest work, Hypnagogia (on Profound Lore), and one would expect no less than the ultra-mournful crush of “To Feign Ebullience” or the buzzing, resonant disdain of “Valorous Consternation,” the string sounds playing such a large role in crafting both the melodies and the relentless nature of their lung-deflating atmosphere. They may only break into speedier sections on rare occasion, but there’s no way to listen to Hypnagogia and call it anything other than extreme metal. It’s so cast down and so grinding that it not only conveys mood but affects it. Evoken are masters of the form, of course, and while Hypnagogia is their first full-length since 2012’s Atra Mors (review here), their history spans more than a quarter-century and time seems only to have made their miseries plunge even deeper.

Evoken on Thee Facebooks

Profound Lore Records website

 

IAH, II

iah ii

In part, the gift that Argentinian trio IAH give with their aptly-titled second outing, II — following their 2017 self-titled debut EP (review here) — is to allow their parts to flesh out naturally across the six-song/38-minute span, so that even as second cut “HH” turns to more weighted chug, that in turn evolves into something no less spacious than the drift brought to bear in the second half of the later “La Niña del Rayo,” which makes its way ultimately through similar interplay. This back and forth is exceptionally smooth throughout II, as the instrumental outfit blend heavy psychedelia and progressive metal with an unflinching cohesion of their songwriting. The longest inclusion is the penultimate “Pri” at 7:35, which caps with massive start-stops en route to closer “Sheut,” which serves as one last showcase of the cosmic doom dynamic burgeoning in the band’s sound, as much ready to depart the earth as leave impact craters on it.

IAH on Thee Facebooks

IAH on Bandcamp

 

Asylum, 3-3-88

asylum 3-3-88

The band who a short time later would evolve into Unorthodox, Asylum have long stood as a testament to the enduring power of Maryland doom. 3-3-88 is the second official issue of their material Shadow Kingdom has stood behind, following 2008’s reissue of 1985’s The Earth is the Insane Asylum of the Universe (review here), and it’s no less a document of the classic metal that’s still very much the foundation of what Maryland doom is. From the Sabbathian opening of “World in Trouble” and the later “Psyche World” to the kind of feeling-out-the-riff happening in “Funk 69” and the concluding instrumental “Unorthodox,” there’s a rawness to the sound that suits it well in the spirit of Pentagram‘s First Daze Here, but even in barebones form, Asylum‘s doomly vibes brook no bullshit and weed out the feint of heart. Straightforward working-class doom grit stripped to its essentials. Hard to ask for anything more when you actually hear it.

Unorthodox on Thee Facebooks

Shadow Kingdom Records website

 

Merlin, Dank Souls and Dark Weed: A Live Experience

merlin dank souls and dark weed

Kansas City doom rockers Merlin expanded to a six-piece early in 2018, and Dank Souls and Dark Weed: A Live Experience, as the title hints, captures this form of the band on stage. They’re playing a hometown gig at the Riot Room, and from the nodding groove that opens with “Abyss” from this year’s The Wizard (review here) to the extended reaches of a 19-minute take on “Tales of the Wasteland” that’s actually shorter than the studio version from 2016’s Electric Children (review here), the band explore reaches that are vast with a patience befitting their quickly-earned veteran status. The recording is remarkably clear and allows for the wash of “The Wizard Suite” to be discernible in its progressive rollout, and as they close with “Night Creep” from the 2016 LP, their energy comes through no less prevalent than the distortion driving it forward. The crowd are right to holler.

Merlin on Thee Facebooks

Merlin on Bandcamp

 

The Hazytones, II: Monarchs of Oblivion

the hazytones ii monarchs of oblivion

Touching on garage-doom influences, Montreal three-piece The Hazytones effectively sleek into the groove of “The Great Illusion” on their second Ripple LP, II: Monarchs of Oblivion, finding a balance between swing, melody and heft that pushes beyond the seemingly-requisite Uncle Acid influence to a place that isn’t shy about working in crisp tones or unabashed vocal harmonies. The title-track is a two-parter, and touches on theatrics-sans-pretense in the first piece while dedicating the second to following a central riff well worthy of the attention they give it toward a galloping solo finish. Opener “Empty Space” sets a creper vibe, and by the time they’re down to finishing out with the “Hole in the Sky”-style riff of “The Hand that Feeds,” that sensibility is reaffirmed as an essential component of The Hazytones‘ aesthetic. Whether it’s the chugging “Hell” or the way-blown-out “The Beast,” they hold firm to that central purpose and work with it to effect a sound that one can hear becoming their own all the more.

The Hazytones on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

 

Daily Thompson, Thirsty

daily thompson thirsty

Three albums in, Dortmund’s Daily Thompson indeed sound Thirsty — or maybe it’s hungry, but either way, the Dortmund trio’s MIG Music offering captures a tight presentation based around nonetheless natural energy born of their time on tour, as the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Danny Zaremba, bassist Mercedes, and drummer Stefan Mengel touch on Spidergawd-style classic heavy rock strut with “Brown Mountain Lights” and make their way through the semi-acoustic drift of “Stone Rose” and toward the later roll of “River Haze” with a trail of hooks behind them. Songwriting is central to what they do, but while Thirsty isn’t a minor undertaking at a CD-era reminiscent 10 songs/53 minutes, the band offer a chemistry between them and a fullness of sound that allows them to play to different sides of their approach, be it the fuzz-blues of “Gone Child” or the final summation “Spit out the Crap” that seems to shove all the more to its cymbal-wash finish. The title Thirsty brings to mind connotations of need, but Daily Thompson sound like they’ve got it all taken care of.

Daily Thompson on Thee Facebooks

MIG Music website

 

Old Man Lizard, True Misery

old man lizard true misery

A strong enough current of noise rock runs beneath Old Man Lizard‘s True Misery (on Wasted State) that leadoff track “Shark Attack” is enough to remind of Akimbo‘s Jersey Shores, and in under two minutes, the subsequent “Snakes” ties that into crawling-paced doom riffery such that the lumbering “Tree of Te?ne?re?” opens like the gaping jaws of some deep-sea trench. From there it unfolds a bit more uptempo than one might initially think, but it shows how fluidly Old Man Lizard shift from one impulse to the other. Accordingly, True Misery plays out with familiar-enough tones put to deceptively subtle and unpredictable purposes, making one-two highlights of the eight-minute back-to-backers “Cursed Ocean, Relentless Sea” and “Misery is Miserable” — which says it all, really — ahead of the finale, well titled “Return to Earth.” A better band than people know, Old Man Lizard bring a progressive touch to what from many others would just be sludge riffing — a bit of Elder on that closer — and manage to do so without losing touch with the righteousness of their groove. True Misery takes a couple listens to sink in, but well earns those and more besides.

Old Man Lizard on Thee Facebooks

Wasted State Records website

 

Tuskar, The Tide, Beneath, The Wall

tuskar the tide beneath the wall

Tuskar‘s second offering through Riff Rock Records arrives titled for its three songs, “The Tide,” “Beneath” and “The Wall,” and comprises three tracks of largesse-minded sludge, burying its shouted vocals beneath mountainous low end. The Tide, Beneath, The Wall sets itself up through noisy churn and a roll that’s somehow misanthropic at the same time it seems well geared to have an entire bar headbanging. Either way, the feedback-worship in “The Wall” — sure enough a massive thing to slam into — makes a fitting end to the 20-minute release that seems to run so much longer, as “The Tide” and “Beneath” each set forth a grueling sprawl of malevolence that touches on the chaos to come without ever fully giving away what’s in store for the finale. At the same time this assault is cast, there’s an atmosphere to the proceedings as well such that Tuskar aren’t simply bludgeoning for the sake of bludgeonry, but finding a place for themselves within that in order to develop their attack. They do that successfully here and sound well up to the inevitable task before them of a debut full-length.

Tuskar on Thee Facebooks

Riff Rock Records website

 

Space Coke, L’Appel du Vide

space coke lappel du vide

I just about never do this, but I’m gonna go ahead and make the call: Space Coke‘s L’Appel du Vide is going to get picked up for a vinyl release in 2019. I don’t know who, how or when, but it’s basically a lock. The Columbia, South Carolina, organ-laced four-piece play classic-as-now heavy rock with right-on songcraft and a hard-hitting presentation that’s begging for some label with ears to hear it and press it to the platter it deserves. Be it the molten unfolding of the title-track or the fuzz-swirl of “Thelemic Ritual” or the cosmic stretch of “Kali Ma,” they’re locked in to a degree that utterly defies the notion that this is their first record, and from the vocal-effects smash in “Lucid Dream” and the samples laid over-top of “Interlude,” there’s never really a sense of where Space Coke — extra kudos for the Cheech & Chong reference — might go next, and yet their sound is cohesive, directed, and well aware of exactly what it’s doing and what it wants to do. Never a guarantee of anything in this world, but with Space Coke‘s take on modern stoner sprawl, I’d be amazed if someone didn’t grab this in the New Year, if not before. Eyes peeled on the PR wire for the announcement.

Space Coke on Thee Facebooks

Space Coke on Bandcamp

 

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