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

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

Solace & Solarized, Jersey Devils Split (1999)

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

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

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

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

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

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

As always, I hope you enjoy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monster Magnet, Spine of God (1991)

Monster Magnet, Tab (1991)

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

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

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

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

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

the atomic bitchwax tour

The Atomic Bitchwax to Launch North American Headlining Tour July 13

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Atomic Bitchwax, “No Way Man” official video

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Friday Full-Length: Halfway to Gone, Second Season

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

Halfway to Gone, Second Season (2002)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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Six Dumb Questions with Six Sigma

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on May 17th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

six sigma

One imagines that, to a band coming back after a 15-year absence, there are few words as gratifying as ‘Funded.’ New Jersey trio Six Sigma, who entered the fray of a busy post-Monster Magnet scene in Long Branch that already boasted names like Halfway to Gone, Solarized, Solace and The Atomic Bitchwax, among others, with 2000’s The Spirit is Gone EP, well surpassed their goal when it came to asking listeners to help them pick up the tab through preorders on pressing the long-awaited follow-up, Tuxedo Brown (review here). The album is out now and the PledgeMusic page currently reads it at 121 percent of its funding goal. That has to feel good, right?

As to what caused the delay in the first place? Guitarist/vocalist Doug Timms (ex-Drag Pack) is perhaps brutally honest when he attributes it to “stoner rock.” And as somebody who’s waited on bands to deliver various assets from tapes and CDs to mp3s, jpegs and YouTube embeds, I can attest that not much more needs to be said than that. I call it the “two weeks phenomenon,” as in, “Yeah, should be done in about two weeks,” as years go by. It is a real thing. The band comprised of Timms, bassist Scott Margolin and drummer Mappy, Six Sigma‘s case is obviously an extreme one, but they’re by no means the only ones and by no means is 15 years the longest stretch a band has gone between releases. To wit, The Obsessed.

Tuxedo Brown, however, has the added advantage of speaking directly to the three-piece’s initial run, since that’s when the bulk of it was recorded. Save for the extended psych jam “She Burn in Blues,” which is newer, songs like “Curb Feeler” and “Here’s Yer Stoner Anthem” successfully convey the tones and energy of turn-of-the-century heavy, but come across as fresh in their presentation thanks in no small part to the blend of old material and new. Topped off with a David Paul Seymour cover, the album is a successful return for a group who seem genuinely relieved to finally get it out, and who were kind enough to discuss the odd origin and timing of the release in the Q&A that follows here.

Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

six sigma tuxedo brown

Six Dumb Questions with Six Sigma

How many years has it actually been since these songs were written, and what made you finally decide now was the time to release them?

Mappy: Most of the songs were written in 2000-2001. We were still relatively young as a band at the time, having got together in 1999 and having just put out our first EP a few months earlier. We put this record out because we felt we had unfinished business. Bands like Atomic Bitchwax, Core, Halfway to Gone and so many others were part of our local NJ scene. The common thread in that music scene back in those days is that every band came to play 100 percent and everyone was just kick-ass musically. Being part of that, we would try to go toe to toe with each band on a musical level every night we played and this album put a bit of a light on that setting in time. It needed to come out if only for our own satisfaction and it was a great feeling to finally hear it after fixing the little things that bothered us for a decade and a half. I think this album is a testament to our dedication as a band and that we felt strongly about getting our music out there.

Scott Margolin: I suppose there are a lot of reasons why this is happening now, but a little history on the gap first. We had a record deal in place to put this all out in 2001 – these tracks were actually on our demo and were to be recorded as part of our new full-length record. Without going into drama detail, record company reneged – they are long gone and we are still here. Karma. I guess like we said on our last record, the spirit was gone at that time. We kept doing shows here and there until 2004 – very much enjoying playing as ever, however, we just plum ran out of energy to go back into the studio. Writing, rehearing and playing was far more fun anyhow.

Fast forward to the here and now… Doug had a project from his old band (Drag Pack) that was being put out digitally, and we collectively realized that: a) we didn’t have a digital release of our first record and b) we have Tuxedo Brown on 2” tape sitting in a closet, so why not dust it off and give it a proper release in the way we wanted? That was the initial spark that got us back rehearsing, creating and entertaining the idea of putting music out again. 2017 is such an unbelievable time to get your music heard and to be in total control of doing that. PledgeMusic provided us with an amazing platform which enabled us to setup preorders and fully-fund the record – we were able to offer formats that we probably never have been able to convince a record company to put out (180g vinyl, 8-track), merch for the first time and the ability to reach new fans. Digital distribution is such a trip nowadays in that your music takes on its own life form very quickly once it’s out.

Of course, who knows what it would have been like if we put it out in 2001, but that wasn’t meant to be. With all that said, this was exactly the right time to get it out.

What do you remember about recording the album? Is it strange to have it come out now when it has to be so far in hindsight for you as a band?

Doug Timms: I don’t really think it’s that strange at all. I guess a lot of people record something and then release it within the year, but it’s quite natural for me to procrastinate things for decades at a time. So, while this may seem unusually slow for other people, it’s just normal protocol for me. How can someone consider themselves stoner rock and NOT take 15-plus years to get something done?

M: I remember a sense of anxiousness as we didn’t have much time to knock this out and how cool Charlie [Schafer]’s (Word of Mouth Studios) full-analog recording setup was. We’ve been listening to it for years so it’s strange to think of it as new. It’s great being able to share it with people finally.

Who is the character of Tuxedo Brown and how does the record relate to him? Is there a story being told in the songs?

DT: It’s 1976; the album is a movie soundtrack and Tuxedo Brown is the star. He’s a streetwise scalawag, roaming the town with style and grace and a busted-up face. The songs are meant to work together to tell the story of Mr. Brown.

Tell me about writing “She Burn in Blues.” That song is such a standout on the album. Where did it come from?

DT: This was the one song entirely written and recorded in the past year. So, it’s very encouraging every time we hear people singling out that song. It gives us confidence that we can still make good music together. We came up with a great blues riff, I set my pedals loose, we smoked up a little too much, and then just recorded the jam – we filmed the entire thing as well – because, 2017. We ended up cutting a good 10 minutes off that jam for the album. The song describes what happens when Mother Nature is a jilted ex-lover, fed up with your shitty-ass ways, and decides to unleash her full vengeance upon you and your kind. She burns in blue, and you better run. 

M: My favorite song right now. Maybe because it’s new. It came together quickly (in like… we discussed what we were going to do, played it through two times, then recorded it) and it evolved in a lot of ways in that short amount of time. I’m psyched because someone commented it was Zeppelin-ish [it was me – ed.] and that was the exact vibe I was feeling when I started playing it. It’s a bit of a different sound for us and may hint at what the future of Six Sigma sounds like.

Will there be new Six Sigma material? If so, how do you see the band as having changed in the years since Tuxedo Brown started to come together?

DT: Definitely. We have one-to-two albums’ worth of material already written. Now it’s just a question of whether we can break our record and finish it in under 16 years. We could potentially drop the next album at the end of this year.

SM: In terms of how we have changed over the years, it’s always hard to judge for ourselves. We play to our own tastes and are more committed than ever to creating music to that end. Our influences remain the same, but we are definitely more united than ever on what our sound is. One other thing that changed is that nobody will help me carry my bass cab any longer!

Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?

SM: Just want to thank so many people for gently pushing us to do this along the way. Lots of gratitude to those that have supported us from so long ago and never forgot about us. We are very much looking forward to performing again soon – we expect to be playing live again this summer.

Six Sigma, Tuxedo Brown (2017)

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Evoken Reissue Embrace the Emptiness 2LP on Season of Mist

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 26th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

So there had to be some measure of self-awareness at work back in 1998 when New Jersey death-doomers Evoken titled their hour-long debut album Embrace the Emptiness, right? I’m not sure even the band could’ve known just quite how much that would become the ethic by which just about everything they did following would abide. I was fortunate enough in my time to play a couple shows alongside Evoken, and whatever room they were in, they never failed to cast a dark, ultra-bleak pall over the place. Just astoundingly heavy and astoundingly miserable in a way that sometimes gets lost in bands of their ilk in favor of theatrical melodrama. No way. Evoken were always onto a rawer vision of the form.

Season of Mist has Embrace the Emptiness as a 2LP up for ordering now. If you didn’t see the date above, this record turns 20 next year. If you’re unfamiliar, I’ve included a YouTube stream below. It kills.

From the PR wire:

evoken embrace the emptiness

EVOKEN reissue classic album ‘Embrace the Emptiness’

EVOKEN have announced the re-issue their much sought-after debut album ‘Embrace the Emptiness’ (1998) as a limited vinyl edition via Season of Mist. The album is available as a limited pressing of 666 hand-numbered copies on 180 gram black double vinyl. Pre-orders are available at the Season of Mist E-Shop.

EVOKEN’s debut album ‘Embrace The Emptiness’ is an underground doom metal classic. It’s seven tracks are absolutely crushing without sacrificing an ounce of melancholic and melodic beauty. ‘Embrace The Emptiness’ is the true essence of classic deathly Doom.

Track-list
Side A: Intro / Tragedy Eternal
Side B: Chime the Centuries’ End / Lost Kingdom of Darkness
Side C: Ascend into the Maelstrom / To Sleep Eternally
Side D: Curse the Sunrise

‘Embrace the Emptiness” Recording line-up
Vince Verkay (ex-FUNEREUS): drums
Nick Orlando (ex-FUNEBRARUM, ex-FUNEREUS): guitars
John Paradiso (GRIM LEGION): vocals, guitars
Steve Moran (ex-RIGOR SARDONICOUS): bass
Dario Derna (KROHM, ex-FUNEBRARUM, RITUAL CHAMBER, VETUS OBSCURUM): keyboards

https://www.facebook.com/evokenhell
https://shopusa.season-of-mist.com/catalogsearch/result/?q=evoken

Evoken, Embrace the Emptiness (1998)

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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)

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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

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