Six Sigma, Tuxedo Brown: Long Time Coming

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

six sigma tuxedo brown

As part of the long-established New Jersey Shore region’s heavy rock underground centered around acts like Solace, The Atomic Bitchwax, Halfway to Gone and a slew of others in the post-Monster Magnet sphere playing gigs at the Brighton Bar in Long Branch when Jacko Monahan was handling the booking, the three-piece Six Sigma made their debut in 2000 with the full-length The Spirit is Gone. Founded by guitarist/vocalist Doug Timms (ex-Drag Pack), bassist Scott Margolin and drummer Mappy, they gigged regionally and never in my experience failed to deliver a good time. The story goes that in 2001, the three-piece entered Trax East in South River, NJ, to record a follow-up and that album, Tuxedo Brown — or, the full title, Six Sigma Presents… Tuxedo Brown — was never released until now.

What might cause a release to be delayed 16 years? I don’t know. Anything, I guess. Life? Jobs? Just want to tweak that last vocal track one more time? Again, could be anything. Point is, the seven-track Tuxedo Brown arrives in 2017 as a limited run of CDs and 180g vinyl (out in May) after more than a decade and a half on the shelf, and one can only imagine the deep sense of relief Six Sigma feel in finally getting it out to the public. At seven songs/28 minutes, it straddles the line between EP and LP, but given the context I’m inclined to call it a full-length — and if one wants to consider The Spirit is Gone a demo, it could even be the band’s debut. Math can be fun sometimes.

Rest assured, the production bears some of the marks of its era in the sound of the drums on “Here’s Yer Stoner Anthem” (not a complaint), but the grooves come easy, the vibe is unpretentious, and Tuxedo Brown plays out like a time capsule unearthed from the Man’s Ruin era just waiting to find a new generation of appreciators. With cuts like “Curb Feeler” and opener “Tuxedo Brown” proffering thick boogie and the later “She Burn in Blues” nestling into eight minutes of languid flow — remember: the record’s only 28 minutes long, so that’s a substantial portion of it — they just might get there. The prevailing vibe is ultimately like earlier Fu Manchu with an undercurrent of East Coast intensity, which one can hear on the aforementioned title-track and its complementary bookend, closer “Mean Streak.”

The two have in common that they’re under three minutes long, and the same goes for the garage-punkish “Scalawag” at 0:51 before the airy Zeppelin-fied Echoplex-ery of “She Burn in Blues” takes hold as the penultimate cut, but the fuzz of “Tuxedo Brown” is a cowbell-laced delight and “Mean Streak” reaffirms a deep love of wah that Timms shows in the layered leads of “Curb Feeler” earlier. That track, “Curb Feeler,” is one of three that follow “Tuxedo Brown” and at four minutes each give a feeling of being the meat of the album.

That might be true in the sense of “Here’s Yer Stoner Anthem,” “Curb Feeler” and the centerpiece “Black Sand Valley Cover-Up” being where TimmsMargolin and Mappy settle into the funk-fuzz that in some ways comes across as the foundation from which the moves into punkier or more psychedelic territory veer to one side or the other — they’re the center, in other words — but the truth is more complex, and elements of one side feed into the other as the inclusion of organ on “Curb Feeler” nods toward the trip-out to come or the shuffle of “Black Sand Valley Cover-Up” jabs its way into “Scalawag” with more wah-pedal stomp and what’s by now a classic lead-with-the-riff mentality.

Given the organic representation of the era in which it was written and tracked, Six Sigma‘s Tuxedo Brown highlights where heavy rock has been and indeed the essential core of the style that, 16 years after the fact, remains relevant. It could be argued that the cyclical nature of stylization means that the trio just happen to be striking at the right moment for their sound to come across as well as it does, but listening to “Here’s Yer Stoner Anthem,” “Curb Feeler” and “Black Sand Valley Cover-Up” as they give way to “Scalawag” and “She Burn in Blues,” I think it goes further than that. The lineage Six Sigma establish to a modernization of ’70s rock — most typically heard in the band’s absence by what became the “Small Stone sound” post-Man’s Ruin — speaks to what might’ve been had these guys gone on to become labelmates with the likes of Dixie WitchHalfway to Gone and, a few years later, Sasquatch.

Is it possible to be so right on time and late to the party? I don’t know, but that would seem to be the paradox of Tuxedo Brown, which winds up as both as it plays out its energetic course. I’m not sure how much Six Sigma circa 2017 did in terms of finalizing these songs for release — in addition to Trax East, recording is listed at Word of Mouth Studios in West Long Branch, NJ, and along with Eric Rachel (who also mastered), Chuck Schafer is credited with mixing — but they don’t by any means sound like they’ve been sitting untouched on a hard drive for the last half-decade-plus. That’s a credit to Six Sigma‘s songwriting as well as to whatever work they may have done in preparing Tuxedo Brown for its awaited issue, and while one is tempted as “Mean Streak” brings the record to its raucous finish to think of what the band might have in store as a follow-up, it’s essential to keep in mind the context of this release. 16 years’ context. How likely does that make a “next album” from Six Sigma, and what might something like that actually sound like as they move forward from these songs? One could only speculate.

They wouldn’t be the first to get going again after so prolonged an absence — Snail have done more since returning in 2009 than they did in their initial run during the early ’90s — and the exorcist purge of issuing Tuxedo Brown might prove a crucial first step for Six Sigma on their own march toward a resurgence, but that’s up in the air at this point. What matters right now is that after being such a long time coming, TimmsMargolin and Mappy have realized this album and clearly demonstrated that they did and still do have much to offer listeners who’d take them on. For relative newcomers to heavy rock, Tuxedo Brown offers a fresh taste of how things were done in the post-Kyuss early-aughts heavy rock movement, and for longer-term heads, it should and does just feel like coming home.

Six Sigma, Tuxedo Brown (2017)

Six Sigma on Thee Facebooks

Six Sigma on Bandcamp

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Solace, Bird of Ill Omen: What Rough Beast

Posted in Reviews on March 6th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

solace bird of ill omen electric funeral

When New Jersey bringers-of-chaos Solace released what was then their first album in seven years in their third full-length, A.D. (review here), I referred to it as the beginning of “a new era” for the band. Wishful thinking on my part as an admitted fan of their work. True, A.D., which was issued by Small Stone, had been in the making since 2003’s 13 (discussed here) came out on MeteorCity, and across their 2005 split with Greatdayforup and 2007 The Black Black EP, the band weren’t completely silent — quite the opposite, actually; they also toured Europe as well during this time — and A.D. was hands-down the best album of 2010, but it was much more an ending than a beginning.

To wit, they headlined in 2012 at Days of the Doomed II (review here) in Cudahy, Wisconsin, playing what would be considered their final show until guitarists Tommy Southard and Justin Daniels and bassist Rob Hultz showed up at 2015’s Vultures of Volume II (review here) in Maryland with new Solace members, vocalist/keyboardist Justin Goins and drummer Tim Schoenleber, in replacement of first-name-only singer Jason and drummer Kenny Lund. Even for Solace, who’d lived for years under the slogan “Die Drunk” and set their own standard for balancing unhinged sensibilities with some of the rawest heavy rock/metal performances one could hope to find in the US underground, it was unanticipated. By then, A.D. was already half a decade old. Southard had gone on to release outings with the malevolently, violently sludged supergroup The Disease ConceptHultz had joined doom legends Trouble in Chicago, and a Solace return didn’t seem the slightest bit likely.

Not gonna happen? Never gonna happen? Should’ve seen it coming all along.

The first studio offering from this still-fresh incarnation of Solace, who have been gigging periodically since that Vultures of Volume appearance, comes a somehow-fitting seven years after A.D., and is a limited-to-100-copies cassette single with just two tracks: the original “Bird of Ill Omen” and a cover of Black Sabbath‘s classic “Electric Funeral” from 1970’s metal-founding landmark Paranoid. Pressed through a newly-minted self-releasing Black Black Records and streaming nowhere, it has one song per side, inkjet-printed cover art, oldschool assembly in the spirit of Solace‘s punker roots, and a sound that, despite the personnel shifts, the prominent inclusion of Goins‘ keys alongside the guitars of Southard and Daniels and the passage of time between, remains indelibly the band’s own.

Production is rawer than was A.D., which even at its meanest was awash in careful layering and vigorous assembly, but they’re in there. It’s Solace. Now 17 years out from their 2000 debut, Further, 20 years removed from their first demo work, and even longer past their roots in Hultz and Southard‘s prior outfit, Godspeed — in which Schoenleber also played — Solace make the most unpretentious of returns, perhaps a bit testing the waters ahead of more work to come, or perhaps setting themselves up for another prolonged absence. If time has proven anything futile, it’s trying to predict what they might do next, but the fact that the tape exists at all speaks to a general desire toward activity, and Bird of Ill Omen b/w Electric Funeral finds them slamming home the notion of who they are as a band with characteristic intensity, volume, and unbridled rhythmic force. To be fair, I don’t think they could have it any other way if they wanted to, but clearly they don’t want to.

solace

Obviously, between the two inclusions, “Bird of Ill Omen” itself is the greater point of interest on the tape. That’s not to take away from the Sabbath cover — they do well reinterpreting the track in a manner that gives Goins further opportunity to make an impression on vocals and keys, and move from a mellow, brooding start to a more brash finish, keeping the core piece recognizable while putting their own stamp on it as much as anyone ever could — but in terms of telling the tale of who Solace are circa 2017, it’s “Bird of Ill Omen” doing that work on a songwriting level. It begins at a smooth, moody pace that finds picks up to a more traditionally-doomed bridge and chorus, the vocals adding to the build in progress as they make their way through lyrics that reference Yeats‘ “Second Coming” and marry it to further poetry in lines like, “Any you will know that a life is but the breadth of a stone’s throw/That a hanged man’s eye sees nothing in the dark of the belly of a starved crow.” Not exactly spare, but effectively proclaimed to enhance the atmosphere alongside the steady, forward push from Schoenleber and Hultz, and still giving room for peppered-in guitar leads.

Some backing screams add fervor to the hook and they shift into post-Sabbath shuffle with the organ forward in the mix ahead of dual-harmonized solos over low-end chug, and make their way back through another Southard lead and into final verse and chorus to finish out “Bird of Ill Omen” clean, true to structure, but right on the edge of sounding like it’s about to come apart at the seams and never actually doing so — the long-established specialty of Solace, who, make no mistake, are in complete control of the proceedings the entire time, on “Bird of Ill Omen” and in the noisy apex of “Electric Funeral” on the other side of the tape, which seems at its start to make an instrument of the analog hiss as it trades the verses between the left and right channels. It goes from whispers to full-on shouts and instrumental volume follows suit, but by the time they get louder in the second half, they’ve already made their mark on “Electric Funeral,” and they only highlight the point when they drop back down to the percussion-inclusive, more-“Planet Caravan” vibe once again for the final verse, ending with a slowed-down-but-full-volume last push to cap the tape.

Solace had already proved on stage that they would be able to keep going without Jason or Lund, and in the spirit of a classic demo tape, Bird of Ill Omen accomplishes the same for a studio incarnation of the band. Does that mean they’re going to set immediately to work on a follow-up long-player, that one is going to materialize before the end of 2017, or 2018, or 2019, and mark the beginning of an era in which they reap the acclaim they’ve long since been due? Hell if I know. They’re committed to contributing a track to Magnetic Eye Records‘ upcoming Pink Floyd tribute, The Wall [Redux], and they have a few shows laid out ahead of them, but for anyone to speculate long-term about what Solace might do, the simple fact that the band even exists at this point undercuts that completely. 20-plus years on from their launch, Solace are back with a new recording and they’ve found a way to move themselves forward as a group should choice and circumstance allow them to do so. For a two-song cassette to communicate that as clearly as does Bird of Ill Omen seems like plenty to ask. Let the rest happen as it will.

Solace, Live at Vultures of Volume II

Solace on Thee Facebooks

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The Obelisk Radio Adds: Evil Acidhead, Gypsy Sun Revival, Albinö Rhino, Monarch, and Vision Éternel

Posted in Radio on February 20th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk radio

My going motto for this site, which basically I repeat to myself like a mantra, is to do as much as I can when I can. Obviously that fluctuates, and I think that’s a good thing on many levels, but I’ve had more time recently to pay due attention to the goings on with The Obelisk Radio and I’m thankful for that. This is the second round of adds for this month, and in addition to the offerings highlighted below, another 30-plus releases have gone up to the server as of today, including some choice bootlegs from the likes of Lowrider, Brant Bjork, Vista Chino, Greenleaf, Acid King, Neurosis and Kyuss. I encourage you to check out the full list of adds here. It kicks a formidable amount of ass.

The Obelisk Radio adds for Feb. 20, 2017:

Evil Acidhead, In the Name of all that is Unholy

Evil-Acidhead-In-the-Name-of-all-that-is-Unholy

This 2015 reissue on Agitated Records of Evil Acidhead‘s In the Name of all that is Unholy becomes particularly relevant since 2017 marks 30 years since its original release. Offered as a cassette in 1987 by guitarist John McBain (Monster MagnetWellwater Conspiracy), it tops an hour and 17 minutes and crosses the first of its two LPs before it’s even finished with its four-part opener, and only then digs into the 23-minute “I Control the Moon.” A challenging listen front to back even three decades later, it holds to an experimentalist core of guitar effects, swirl, loops — which are near-maddening on side B’s “Part III: Possession” — and malevolent, droning abrasion. What’s stunning about it is if you said this was something McBain recorded a few months ago, there would be no choice but to call it forward-thinking. Imagine a record that 30 years later still offers a legitimate sense of being ahead of the day. Not that it never happens, but it’s certainly rare, and In the Name of all that is Unholy seems to willfully sidestep what we think of as reality in favor of its apparently timeless hellscapes. It’s far, far away from pleasant, but it sure as hell is impressive.

Evil Acidhead on Thee Facebooks

Agitated Records website

 

Gypsy Sun Revival, Gypsy Sun Revival

http://cdn.theobelisk.net/obelisk/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/gypsy-sun-revival-gypsy-sun-revival

Fort Worth trio Gypsy Sun Revival make their debut with this 2016 self-titled full-length and earn immediate notoriety for their blend of heavy psychedelic and straightforward rocker impulses as well as the fact that the vinyl version of the album sees release through ultra-respected purveyor Nasoni Records. One might recall the last time the Berlin-based label picked up a Texan band, it was Wo Fat, so it’s no minor endorsement of Gypsy Sun Revival‘s potential, and the three-piece of vocalist/bassist/organist Lee Ryan, guitarist/thereminist Will Weise and drummer Ben Harwood live up to it across the 46-minute seven-tracker, songs like “Cosmic Plains” finding a middle ground between sleek ’70s groove and modern thickness, setting up longer post-Zeppelin jams to come like “Idle Tides,” which, though fluid, rely less on effects wash to get their improvisational point across than the raw dynamic between the band itself. As a debut, Gypsy Sun Revival impresses for that, but even more for the level of immersion it enacts the further along it goes, so that when they get to languid instrumental closer “Radiance,” the band’s approach seems to be in full bloom when in fact they may only be beginning their forward creative journey.

Gypsy Sun Revival on Thee Facebooks

Nasoni Records website

 

Albinö Rhino, Upholder Live at Ääniwalli, Helsinki 17.12.2016

Albinö-Rhino-Upholder-Live

I’m pretty sure all those umlauts are going to crash the radio stream every single time this gets played, but a 41-minute digital live version — offered as a name-your-price download, no less — of Albinö Rhino‘s heavy psych epic “Upholder” recorded this past December in their native Helsinki is too good to pass up. The Finnish trio issued the studio edition of the three-so-far-part piece late in 2016 under the simple title Upholder (review here), and Upholder Live at Ääniwalli, Helsinki 17.12.2016 comprises a 41-minute single-track rendering of the first two parts brought together with onstage energy and a fitting showcase of the song’s longform jamming path. Led by Kimmo Tyni‘s guitar work — no less recalling early Natas via Sungrazer and Sleep here than in the studio recording — and gruff vocals, the live incarnation also benefits from the deep patience in Ville Harju‘s bass and Viljami Väre‘s drumming, as heard under Tyni‘s moog solo circa 14 minutes in. It’s soon for a revisit of Upholder itself, but as well as getting additional mileage out of the piece, Albinö Rhino bring a different flavor to the live execution of it to this digital-only outing, and if it catches more ears as a 41-minute single song as opposed to being broken up over two sides, there’s no way that’s going to hurt them. Either way you get it, its soul, heft and molten vibe resonate.

Albinö Rhino on Thee Facebooks

Albinö Rhino on Bandcamp

 

Monarch, Two Isles

monarch-two-isles

Not to be understated is the sense of poise that pervades Two Isles, the debut full-length from Encinitas, California, psychedelic progressives Monarch. Delivered via Causa Sui‘s imprint El Paraiso Records — the gorgeous art treatment is consistent with their hallmark style — and produced by Brian Ellis (AstraPsicomagia, etc.), it locks into classically winding turns or melodic flourish with equal ease on side A pieces like the opening title-track and “Assent,” proffering scope but not necessarily pretense. Call it prog in the new West Coast tradition if you must, “Dancers of the Sun” and the more insistent staccato of “Sedna’s Fervor” are dead on either way, and the five-piece of guitarist/vocalist Dominic Denholm, guitarists Nate Burns and Thomas Dibenedetto (see also Joy and Sacri Monti), bassist Matt Weiss and drummer Andrew Ware save their finest showcase for the just-under-10-minute finale “Shady Maiden,” summarizing their liquefied proceedings in more than able fashion, reaching ahead of themselves as the style warrants, and once more proving what might be hypnotic were it not such an active, exciting listen.

Monarch on Thee Facebooks

Monarch at El Paraiso Records

 

Vision Éternel, Echoes from Forgotten Hearts

vision-eternel-echoes-from-forgotten-hearts

Echoes from Forgotten Hearts is the latest EP from Montréal-based solo artist Alexandre Julien, who operates under the banner of Vision Éternel, and it comprises seven brief individual tracks numbered in French as “Pièce No. Un,” “Pièce No. Deux,” etc., of wistful guitar lines and serene dronescapes. The balance that a “Pièce No. Deux” is able to strike by sounding so broad and wide open and yet only being 1:47 is striking, and it makes the release flow together all the more as a work on a single emotional thematic, and while it all only winds up being 14 minutes in total, Julien is able to bring that thematic to life in that time with depth and grace, so that when the relative sprawl of the 3:45 closer “Pièce No. Sept,” takes hold, one only wishes it would go on further. Note this is one of several Vision Éternel offerings joining the playlist this week, and Julien has a boxed set in progress collecting a number of his outings to be released sometime later this year, including, I believe, this one, which originally came out in 2015. Hopefully it’s not long before he follows it with new material.

Vision Éternel on Thee Facebooks

Vision Éternel on Bandcamp

 

Thank you as always for reading and listening.

To see everything that joined the playlist today, please visit The Obelisk Radio.

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The Atomic Bitchwax Announce South American Tour

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 16th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the atomic bitchwax

Whatever else you can say about long-running New Jersey heavy rockers The Atomic Bitchwax — great band, nice guys, one of the most powerful power trios in heavy rock, tight-as-hell live act, going on 20 years since their first record and they’re still probably held back by their name, etc. — you can’t say they haven’t busted their collective ass supporting their most recent album. Rightly so. 2015’s Gravitron (review here) was well worth supporting. They’ve done several videos and even more, they’ve hit the road as hard as I’ve ever seen them across the US and Europe to deliver the songs to the masses, and it looks like the thread will continue in 2017 as they announce this five-night run in Brazil, Argentina and Chile.

To my knowledge, this is the first trip to South America for bassist/vocalist Chris Kosnik, guitarist/vocalist Finn Ryan and drummer Bob Pantella, but the timing couldn’t be better, with the boom in heavy rock and roll happening in cities like Sao Paolo, Buenos Aires and Santiago. I’ll be interested to see who winds up playing some of these shows with them, but either way, the more people who see The Atomic Bitchwax, the better.

Venado Records, which is presenting the tour along with Abraxas Events, Farma and Red House, announced it as follows:

the atomic bitchwax south america

Well friends, the second initial bomb this year is this!! We are super happy and proud to announce:

The Atomic Bitchwax South American Tour 2017!

Here comes the super stoner rock to all Argentina, Brazil and Chile!

The legendary band formed in 1999, currently composed of Bob Pantella (Monster Magnet) on drums, Chris Kosnik (also of monster magnet) on bass and Finn Ryan on guitar, with 6 Records in their career (The last of them in 2015, gravitron, found them sounding fresher than ever) will be in South America for the following dates:

April
Wednesday 04/05 – SAO PAULO BR
Thursday 04/06 – córdoba ar
Friday 04/07 – Neuquen ar
Saturday 04/08 – Buenos Aires ar
Sunday 04/09 – Santiago ch

Next week all the info, tickets and others!! Share friends!

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

The Atomic Bitchwax, Live at Saint Vitus Bar, Dec. 16, 2016

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Friday Full-Length: Solace, 13

Posted in Bootleg Theater on November 25th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

Solace, 13 (2003)

None more Jersey. With the not-always-underlying current of hardcore punk in their sound, their ‘Die Drunk’ mantra, the sheer force of their delivery, and the absolute dogshit luck that has plagued them since their inception, Solace are about as Garden State as Garden State gets. Born of the same Red Bank/Long Branch-area heavy scene (oh, I do remember some shows at the Brighton Bar… vaguely) that ignited the likes of Monster Magnet, Core, Drag PackThe Atomic Bitchwax, The Ribeye Brothers, Halfway to Gone, Daisycutter, Solarized, Lord Sterling, on and on, Solace started life as Godspeed and like Core, were picked up by Atlantic Records, for whom they’d release one album. Guitarist Tommy Southard and bassist Rob Hultz — the latter now also in doom legends Trouble — recruited singly-named, massively-talented and no-you-can’t-see-my-lyrics vocalist Jason and ran through a slew of drummers during the period of their 1998 self-titled EP and subsequent split with Solarized, which led into their 2000 debut, Further. Released by MeteorCity, that was an album ahead of its time, and it would be another three years before Solace were able to make the follow-up that would ultimately embody the tumult that has in large part always defined them: 2003’s 13.

Southard, Hultz, Jason and no fewer than four drummers — John Proveaux, Keith Ackerman, Bill “Bixby” Belford and Matt Gunvordahl — combined across, sure enough, 13 songs to make a record of near impossible cohesion. The kind of album one puts on, listens through, hears cuts like “King Alcohol,” “Common Cause” (with its Wino guest appearance from before that was a thing people did), the opening classic/modern meld of “Loving Sickness/Burning Fuel,” the raw aggression of “In the Oven,” the swinging Pentagram cover “Forever My Queen” (again, from long before everyone had their own version), the languid initial roll of “Try,” the conquering individualized blend that surfaces in “Rice Burner,” and so on, feels like they have a good understanding of, then gets through the end of bonus track “Shit Kisser” and is in a the-hell-did-I-just-witness daze for the rest of the day. Like few before or since, Solace have been able to bend chaos to their will. Part of that is personality — if you’re fortunate enough to know Tommy, it makes more sense — but part of it also originates in an inimitable complexity of songwriting that still comes through clear in its intent toward kicking ass, and with its punker roots, is never in danger of losing its way in a wash of pretentious technicality. Metal, punk, classic heavy and more all seemed to be in Solace‘s wheelhouse on 13, and over the course of the unmanageable, CD-era hour-plus runtime, Solace pivoted between them and drew them together in a ferocious, vibrant attack that no one, in Jersey or out, has been able to match, on stage or in studio. Sorry. No one.

True to form, it would be seven years before 13 got its own follow-up. They released two EPs, Hammerhead and The Black Black, in 2004 and 2007, respectively, with the lineup solidified around SouthardHultzJason, guitarist Justin Daniels and drummer Kenny Lund, but it still wasn’t until 2010 that their third full-length, A.D. (review here), arrived as their ultimate, and to-date final, triumph. No doubt it’ll be featured in this space at some point as well, but it was my pick for Album of the Year that year, and I stand by that entirely. At the time, it seemed Solace were back and ready to roll. I talked about it as the beginning of a new era for the band. Well, in 2012 they broke up, so there you go. They played what was to be their last show headlining at Days of the Doomed II (review here) in Cudahy, Wisconsin, and then were done until a semi-reunion brought SouthardDaniels and Hultz together with drummer Tim Schoenleber and vocalist/keyboardist Justin Goins for an appearance at 2015’s Vultures of Volume II (review here) in Maryland, playing on the bill directly under their one-time compatriots in Spirit Caravan, on their own reunion.

As to what the future holds, I wouldn’t dare to predict. The new incarnation of the band were in the studio as recently as this summer and fall working on new material, though to what end, I don’t know. Chaos remains a factor never far from the center of what they do, but I’ll note that we are coming up on seven years since A.D. in 2017, which would match the span between that and 13 before it.

Whether it’s new to you or old, I hope you enjoy 13. I’ve been a fan of the band for a long time, played shows with them, seen them more times than I could or would like to count and still pronounce their name “sol-ah-chay” in the spirit of Puny Human frontman Jim Starace (R.I.P., four years this month), but I can still hear new things in this album, and my sincere wish is that you do as well.

Thanks for reading.

Had to be something from New Jersey to close out this week, since I’m down here visiting family for the Thanksgiving holiday. I don’t get to see my people that often, at least not en masse, and as I’ve gotten older and as the physical distance has settled in over the past few years since The Patient Mrs. and I moved north, I’ve come to miss them dearly. My nephews are growing up and I don’t get to be a part of it in the way I otherwise would. It makes me sad, and it makes me appreciate the chances I do get to be with them all the more. They’re eight (going on nine, he’d want me to note) and six now. The years fly.

If you’re in the States, I hope you had a great Thanksgiving, however you marked the day. Like a lot of stuff about this country, it has a pretty fucked origin, what with all that genocide of the land’s native people and culture — ongoing; look at DAPL — but at least it’s become a holiday less about cashing in and more about sitting down to a meal with loved ones, whatever rampant consumerism might happen the day after. It’s a little easier for me to take that than the holidays about selling greeting cards or candy or whatever else. Anyway, hope you enjoyed yours as I enjoyed mine.

Tonight, we head back north, The Patient Mrs. and I. Exhausting, but worth it in order to wake up at home tomorrow in our own bed. I will make myself an entire pot of coffee, as is my wont, and drink it leisurely as I begin to put stuff together for next week and play the Final Fantasy V remake on my cheapie tablet. Here are my current notes for what’s coming up:

Mon: Comacozer LP review and Year of the Cobra video premiere.
Tue: Akris review and Chubby Thunderous Bad Kush Masters video premiere.
Wed: Megaritual LP review and Black Moon Circle video.
Thu: The 2016 Readers Poll goes live. Yup, it’s Dec. 1 already. Also Backwoods Payback review.
Fri: Right now it’s a Child review, though that might shift depending on what else comes through.

Some of that still needs to be organized, but it’s a basic running plan anyhow. It’s a start. Whatever it winds up being, I appreciate you taking the time to read.

Please have a great and safe (holiday) weekend, and please check out the forum and the radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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Six Sigma Unveil Preorders and Cover Art for Tuxedo Brown

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 25th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

It’s pretty rare an album can legitimately claim to be 15 years in the making, but Six Sigma‘s Tuxedo Brown is now available to preorder after beginning its life in 2001. The New Jersey-based heavy rockers issued their The Spirit is Gone debut LP at the turn of the century and apparently set about immediate work on the follow-up, only to be stymied by years and who knows what else. With the record evidently done and ready to roll with new mixes, a new bonus track, a variety of bundles and newly-unveiled artwork by David Paul Seymour — of which there’s more you can see at the band’s Thee Facebooks page, linked below — it would seem that drought is coming to an end.

Given the span of years from start to finish, it should be interesting to hear how new and old blend together when Tuxedo Brown is actually released. With the hope of more to come, here’s the info currently available:

six-sigma-tuxedo-brown

Six Sigma – Tuxedo Brown

Double Update!! http://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/six-sigma

First – The name of our new Album: Six Sigma presents… Tuxedo Brown.

Second – We are pleased as punch to announce our new artwork created by the legendary David Paul Seymour. David has worked with some of our favorites including Clutch, The Sword, Graveyard, Kadavar and Truckfighters and we are stoked of his interest to join us for the ride. This artwork will adorn our music in all forms (digital, CD, Vinyl, 8-track). In addition, expect to see Tuxedo Brown smack dab on our posters, shirts and wherever else we can put him.

Who exactly is Tuxedo Brown? Stay tuned….

15 years in the making, Six Sigma’s brand new album is available to pre-order on PledgeMusic now.

Back in 2001, Six Sigma went to the studio to record a brand new album. But it was never released…

Now, for the first time ever, they are releasing this album to the world and you can pre-order it now on PledgeMusic.

The album will be available on download and signed CD or LP, alongside a host of exclusives – from attending the recording of the album to signed lyrics and eating Q with the Sigmas. PLUS, it will feature special newly-recorded bonus track and complete remixes completed this year.

From now until the album release date, Six Sigma will keep you updated with the album’s progress, bonus content and other news from their world through the ‘AccessPass’ section here once you have placed your order.

Pre-order now, and get an instant download of the newest single.

Get involved and be a part of this special journey!

Six Sigma is:
Doug Timms – Vox/Guitar
Scott Margolin – Bass
Mappy – Drums

http://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/six-sigma
https://sixsigma.bandcamp.com/releases
https://www.facebook.com/sixsigmaband/

Six Sigma, The Spirit is Gone (2000)

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Friday Full-Length: Core, Revival

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 28th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

Core, Revival (1996)

Released some 20 years ago, Core‘s debut, Revival, is one of a whole league of records from its time and its place begging for a reissue. The mid-’90s were a strange time. I mean it. In the era of Clinton deregulation and corporate largesse, the music industry thrived, and it was the pre-filesharing peak of the CD era, but at the same time, there was almost no direction. The shadowy music-tastemaking illuminati — which at that point consisted of major labels, radio stations and print media, with some emerging online presence — had decided grunge was over after Kurt Cobain killed himself. It wasn’t, but whatever. Point is, there was no booming “Seattle scene” to take its place. In a way, one never came. But one positive turn that came out of the post-grunge music industry was that major labels, for a time, were willing to take a chance on rock bands. Nobody really knew why Nirvana took off — their biggest single was unintelligible; it defies the logic of pop — so there was a sense of, “Well, maybe this‘ll work too.” It’s how Kyuss got signed to Elektra. It’s how Monster Magnet got picked up by A&M. And it’s how A&R guy (and fellow WSOU alum) Jon Nardachone was able to get away with bringing New Jersey’s Core to sit alongside Clutch on Atlantic Records. Maybe stoner rock was the next great commercial movement?

It makes sense when one considers a style with attitude and weight in tone, and listening to Core‘s Revival — at 10 tracks and an hour long, plus 13 minutes of noise tacked onto the end of closer “Face” — they make a strong case for fuzz riffing as the answer for where to go next. The Long Branch trio of guitarist/vocalist Finn Ryan — now of The Atomic Bitchwax — bassist Carmine Pernini and drummer Tim Ryan worked with Billy Anderson on the album’s production and were probably at that point very much operating in Monster Magnet‘s shadow, as much of their scene would continue to do for the better part of the next decade. One can hear that influence in some of the spaced-out elements of opener “Way Down” — to say nothing of the “woo!” — or in the languid oozing of the 10-minute “Earth,” but Revival has as much crunch as it does cosmos, as the Alice in Chains-style melodies of “Cleargod,” the slower-nodding “Mosquito Song” and “Black Sand” showcased, and there were even a couple radio singles to be found in “Shift,” “Liquid” and “Kiss the Sun,” the latter of which remains a staple of The Atomic Bitchwax‘s live show. Topping an hour, Core had plenty of time to be multifaceted, and they were — here sounding like an East Coast answer to Fu Manchu or a precursor to Nebula, and there opening wide to the massive roll of “Sawdust” or “Face” itself, which remains a prescient blend of psychedelia, heavy fuzz and doom that was all the more a fresh blend two decades ago.

As it played out, stoner rock was not the next great commercial movement. Monster Magnet had a few significant hits, and Clutch got some airplay, but after a while, rap-rock and nü-metal took hold of the commercial sphere, labels became more inclined to acquire independent imprints than independent bands, and stoner rock became heavy rock, splintering into countless subgenres as it spread through a worldwide underground that only continues to flourish, never having really received a great major push. Maybe the timing was wrong. Maybe the marketing was wrong — 20 years ago, “stoner” was still a dirty word in the US. Maybe the line between grunge and those early stoner records — Acid King‘s Zoroaster, the stuff the Melvins were doing, Fu Manchu‘s No One Rides for Free, not to mention NJ acts like Godspeed (who were a little more metal but would spawn both Solace and The Atomic Bitchwax from their ranks) and Daisycutter (who had Tim Cronin and Ed Mundell in the lineup along with Jim and Reg Hogan, who went on to form Solarized) — was too thin and people wanted a radical shift rather than an evolution. There are any number of ways to look at this era. Like I said, it was a strange time. Bands were doing pivotal work, Core included — their 1999 follow-up, The Hustle is On, further solidified their trippy roll and was released by M.I.A./Tee Pee — and smaller labels like Man’s RuinTee PeeBong Load, and so on, were having an impact that still resonates, so while platinum records and massive airplay weren’t necessarily in the cards, one can only look at what heavy rock became and is still becoming and call it a success. As a representative of its epoch and a clarion to future development, Core‘s Revival is a shining document waiting for rediscovery.

Please note: Because the entire album isn’t on YouTube, I’ve had to make due with what’s available. The playlist above does not have “Way Down” included, but Revival is available used on the cheap via a variety of purveyors digital and physical, and you’re resourceful, so I figured it was better than nothing and those who wanted to dig deeper would be free to do so.

Either way, I hope you enjoy.

Closing out the week with Core was a pick by a reader named Alex who checked in via comment to another post, so never let it be said I don’t take requests. Actually, he had a whole list from which I may pluck others. When was the last time you seriously considered the Celestial Season catalog in context? Exactly.

I don’t even know what kind of week this was, quick or not. I was trucking I suppose until Wednesday. Left work early to go to a doctor’s appointment up north, up by where I used to work before I got the Hasbro gig this summer, and decided to go visit my old office to say hi to the people there, who were never the problem. It was like 3PM by the time we left, and The Patient Mrs. and I wound up sitting in traffic for two life-sucking hours to get home. Reminded me of how much I hated making that drive every day. Really, by the time I got off I-95, I was cursing at people. Just awful.

Since then, absolutely dead on my feet. Just demolished. Wednesday night? Wreck. Yesterday, same. Today, I’m the kind of tired where I feel like I can’t even hold my head up without actually using a hand to help support it. I want to crumple into a pile of skin and sleep until I feel human again. Or at least as close to it as I ever get.

Today I’m working a little late as well, which I expect will be a different kind of torturous, but kind of needs to happen to make up the time. Need money, is the bottom line. Holidays are coming, I’ve taken a lot of days off for a dude who’s only worked at a place for like four months, so yeah. I’ll be at my desk if you need me. At least until it’s time to go pick the dog up at doggy daycare, which she started this week and to our pleasant surprise did not explode from the change in her routine. Hate leaving the dog home alone and she can’t come with me to this office, so there you have it.

Here’s what’s in the notes for next week:

Mon: Full stream/review of the Krobak record, an announcement about a certain festival in Maryland and a video premiere from Dead Witches.
Tue: Review of the Seedy Jeezus & Isaiah Mitchell collaboration, plus the new 11Paranoias video.
Wed: Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard review.
Thu: Ten East review, because it hasn’t quite been desert-y enough around here lately yet.
Fri: Full EP stream from Balam-offshoot The Sweet Heat.

I’ll fill out with other stuff and there’s news to come, of course, but that’s at least what’s going to be reviewed as of now throughout the week. Could move around. It looked totally different yesterday morning than yesterday afternoon, so always fluid to some degree.

Anything else? How are you? I hope you’re good. Think this post is long enough?

I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Please enjoy. Drink good coffee, eat good food, be with people you love, rock and roll, and please check out the forum and the radio stream. Thank you for reading.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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Friday Full-Length: Monster Magnet, Dopes to Infinity

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 26th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

Monster Magnet, Dopes to Infinity (1995)

Have you looked to your orb lately? Of all the warning systems ever designed by humanity, orb-based is probably the most crucially overlooked. Nonetheless, Dopes to Infinity, Monster Magnet‘s third album, is 21 years old. In its and the band’s home state of New Jersey, it could drink legally, though something about cuts like “Dopes to Infinity,” “Negasonic Teenage Warhead,” “Third Alternative,” “Blow ’em Off” and “King of Mars” makes me suspect the record wouldn’t have waited until now to imbibe. Even more than two decades later, Dopes to Infinity is still way more the snotty 14-year-old kid in a way-too-big leather jacket in the woods with a bottle of his dad’s Whatever teasing anyone in the vicinity who sips and is surprised at the taste. I was fortunate enough to see the band perform this album live — though the songs weren’t in the same order, as I recall — in Brooklyn in 2012 with Naam and Quest for Fire on the bill, either of whom could easily be considered an acolyte on some level, and nearly five years after that, the resonant impression remains that this was the moment where the band’s early freakout impulses really began to meet with a more straightforward hard rock style that the band would develop to wider commercial success. Don’t get me wrong, their 1991 Spine of God debut should be considered among the finest East Coast psychedelic records ever tracked — we’re talking Velvet Underground-style pedestal-putting, in a perfect world — but even as “All Friends and Kingdom Come” tripped out, it also kept a sense of hook, and in the years to come, it was that impulse which more fully took hold.

What’s fortunate about that is that Monster Magnet — then Dave Wyndorf on vocals, guitar, bass, percussion, theremin, production, etc., Ed Mundell on guitar and bass, Joe Calandra on guitar and bass, and Jon Kleiman on drums and bass — had the songwriting chops to make landmark choruses seem like tossoffs, like something thrown together over the course of an afternoon. And maybe they were, I don’t know. The point is that although Monster Magnet would eventually become a much different band and be a much different band for a long time on 1998’s Powertrip, 2001’s God Says No and 2004’s Monolithic Baby!, Dopes to Infinity catches a crucial transitional moment in action coming off Spine of God and its 1993 follow-up, Superjudge, also essential. Of course, after 2010’s Mastermind (review here), the band — Wyndorf as the last original member still present — made a stylistic pivot back toward a more psychedelic vibe with 2013’s Last Patrol (review here) and would continue to develop their rediscovered weirdo impulses over the course of two revisionist works, 2014’s Milking the Stars (review here) and 2015’s Cobras and Fire (review here), revisiting Last Patrol and Mastermind, respectively. But even as they made that sonic shift, Dopes to Infinity could easily be said to be the model being followed more even than the two records before it, precisely because of that memorable songcraft one hears coming to the fore on “I Control, I Fly” and the brilliant lyrical proclamations of “King of Mars.”

Monster Magnet toured Europe this Spring “celebrating the A&M years” — A&M Records having released their work between 1993-2001 — and that’s fair enough, but as relevant as Dopes to Infinity still is, Monster Magnet keep moving forward even when looking back on older material. I don’t know what they’ll do at this point other than to say it’s a safe bet they won’t be touring the US anytime soon, but one hopes their progression will continue going into their next record. And I hope they keep getting weirder. We’ll see when we get there.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

Total comedown this week from the first-ever The Obelisk All-Dayer (wrap here) at Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn last Saturday. A return to real life that found me working at about 30 percent consciousness until, well, I’ll be generous and say Wednesday. Plenty of good music to help me keep my head up, but yeah. The week dragged and was a drag.

One more time, thank you if you came out to the Vitus Bar for making the day so special. The day had its ups and downs, but in the end it was exactly the vibe I was hoping to capture. I hope I remember it for as long as I can remember anything.

As I write this it’s early Friday morning and the sun is just rising. I can still hear nighttime crickets. It’s nearly 6AM now; I’ve been up since about four. I’ve been going to bed early at night and getting up early to write reviews and posts like this on weekdays, and it’s helped me keep sane during the work week and try to balance job things and Obelisk things in a way that might otherwise prevent my head from exploding. Doesn’t do much for my ability to get to shows generally — I’m 34 years old and can’t wait for that midlife crisis to kick in so I can start going out again to non-fest gigs — but I’m doing what I can to write as much as possible. That’s what matters to me.

The Patient Mrs. is going south to Connecticut this weekend. I am not. Aside from the fact that it’s August and that’s not exactly my idea of beach weather — I recognize this does not apply to the rest of humanity — I think a quiet Saturday in the air conditioning will go a long way toward continued recovery from last weekend and this week. Plus there’s laundry to do. It just seemed like the way to go. So yeah, I’ll be around. I’m sure by Saturday night/Sunday morning I’ll be so bored out of my head I won’t know what to do with myself. That’s the hope, anyway.

Next week, look out for a full stream and review of the Swans-related record from Quin Galavis that’s noisy and folky and bizarre in a lot of the right ways, as well as a review/video premiere (a rare one-two combo) of the new Monkey3 album, a review of the new and apparently final The Wounded Kings full-length, and a whole lot more. I’m also hoping to nail down my travel plans to Norway next month for Høstsabbat, and will keep you posted on how that goes.

In the meantime, thank you for reading. Please have a great and safe weekend and please check out the forum and the radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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