Thou to Release Heathen in June

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 14th, 2013 by JJ Koczan

You’d need a checklist like on the back of a G.I. Joe action figure to keep up with all the splits and EPs Louisiana sludgers Thou put out, but when it comes to actual full-lengths, they occur somewhat less frequently, and so the news of a 2013 release for Heathen — their fourth behind the also-single-word titles Summit (2010), Peasant (2008) and Tyrant (2007) — is welcome. The band put the album to tape at the Living Room Studio in Algiers, LA, and it’ll reportedly top 60 minutes, which if you’re keeping track, is a whole lot o’ sludge.

Adam from Gilead Media sent over confirmation of Thou’s progress in the label’s latest newsletter:

I spent January 5th-8th down in New Orleans hanging out with Thou while they finished up tracking for their new full-length album, Heathen.

It was great to get out of Wisconsin for a bit–particularly after 14 inches of snow in the last month and a half–and spend some time in a drastically different environment. Especially watching things come together on the new Thou record. Many thanks to the guys for hosting me while I was down there. Always a pleasure to spend some time with my favorite Louisiana folks.

Recording took place at The Living Room Studio in Algiers, LA, engineered by James Whitten. Heathen should be released on CD by Gilead Media in June, after James completes mixing and Adam Tucker at Signaturetone Recording gives it the ol’ mastering treatment. Vinyl should be ready around the same time, but we haven’t ironed out if the band will be releasing it themselves or not. I need to keep hammering away at Bryan to let me take care of it.

The album will ultimately clock in at around 60 minutes, their longest single piece of work to date.

I took some photos while I was in New Orleans. Whenever I travel I rarely take photos, which is a critical error since I have an awful memory. When I do take photos, it’s always random stuff like this. Check it:

Tags: , , , , ,

At a Glance: Down, Down IV Part One: The Purple EP

Posted in Reviews on September 19th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

Down IV Part One: The Purple EP is a pretty complex title for a band who, when they released their first album in 1995, couldn’t be bothered to say the entire phrase “New Orleans.” The project seems to be that over the next year, Down — the supergroup of (do I even need to list them?) Pepper Keenan (C.O.C.), Kirk Windstein (Crowbar), Jimmy Bower (EyeHateGod), Pat Bruders (Crowbar) and Phil Anselmo (Pantera) — will issue four EPs that will make up the whole of Down IV, which follows 2007’s Down III: Over the Under, an album that was watered down sound-wise and had stripped much of the edge off of the band’s songwriting. Anyone remember “Pillamyd?” I’m sorry I brought it up.

My appreciation for Down‘s recorded output has been on a decline since 2002’s Down II: A Bustle in Your Hedgerow, though I liked that album and still consider 1995’s Nola a masterpiece, if one I can’t really listen to anymore. I don’t begrudge the band their commercial success. All of them — even Bruders, who came aboard at some point after the last album as a replacement for Pantera‘s Rex Brown, now in Kill Devil Hill –have put in more than their share of roadtime. Hell, for Wiseblood alone, Pepper Keenan should be a millionaire. Down III, however, sucked. Plain and simple. Everything that worked about Down‘s prior output fell flat, and even the songs that were memorable, such as the nonsensical Dimebag Darrell paean “Three Suns and One Star,” were more memorable for being annoying than being good.

So when it comes to Down IV Part One: The Purple EP, I’d rather just write the band off and go my own way, them onward to wider audiences, me onward to… a wider ass, I guess. Whatever. The point is I’m annoyed at feeling obligated to even put on Down‘s six-track collection — which is full-length enough at 33 minutes — and annoyed at the thought of reviewing it. It’s not like my opinion on this record matters. No one’s going to read this and have their mind changed about Down. If you like the band and liked the last album, you’ll probably like the EP. If you didn’t, you won’t. Down‘s legacy, pedigree and commercial breadth doesn’t allow for much ambivalence. You’re either going to feel one way or another.

A chugging riff fades up slowly to begin opener “Levitation,” and already Down IV has more meat to its tonality than its predecessor, Keenan and Windstein working well together as they always do. Bower, a more than capable drummer, is in the pocket with Bruders, and all more or less goes according to plan as Anselmo counts in with a “one, two, three, go!” apparently unaware the song has already been on for two minutes. From there, he’s all over the verse and chorus, his unfortunately influential clean vocal mewling layered in with one or two ambient background screams and the toughguy spoken word he’s used since Pantera‘s heyday. And well, it just goes from there.

I’ll grant that for a band of this scale — releasing music on Warner Bros., touring the world in large venues, etc. — to put forth anything as stoned-sounding as “Witchtripper” (on which Bruder‘s bass offers ultra-low rumble that’s legitimately killer) or anything even close enough to be vaguely compared to Pentagram as “The Curse is a Lie” can be, is admirable, but that’s not really enough to save the songs themselves, which sound written to type and, as “Open Coffins” shows, lack the punch that the beginning of “Levitation” seemed to promise. And though he’s actually made himself into a decently-stylized singer of reasonable range, Anselmo is also a cartoon character who sounds like he doesn’t know how to be anything else than this persona he’s created for himself over the last 20 years. Every time he opens his mouth, I just hear him telling VH-1 viewers to, “never underestimate the kid.”

“This Work is Timeless” is an overestimation from the start, if a decent riff, and closer “Misfortune Teller” (get it?!) locks in a solid groove and features a rougher vocal — not quite the screams of old, which were among metal’s most vicious — atop effective lumber in the guitar that Bower meets with heavy-thudding fills. They fade out on a chugging riff at about seven minutes in, and for the last 15 seconds of the track’s total 9:05 bring up a melody that’s perhaps a preview of things to come on the next installment of Down IV. Sounds like Down, anyway.

Objectively, Down IV Part One: The Purple EP is an improvement over Down III. On a basic songwriting level, the band seems to search out a niche between accessible doom-tinged Southern stoner riffs and commercial metal, and while there are at least 75 records I’ve heard this year that I’d put on before it, the fans who’ve stuck with them to this point will find it easy to continue to follow them onward to Part Two, whatever stylistic shifts or changes in mood it may hold. For me, even the best stretches are undercut by the ultra-gendered posturing, and already being mostly out of the fold (apparently not enough so to ignore the record altogether), I hear few reasons to return to it, comforting though the familiarity might otherwise prove. Somehow, I imagine the band will survive.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Live Review: Suplecs, Lo-Pan and The Brought Low in Brooklyn, 09.20.11

Posted in Reviews on September 21st, 2011 by JJ Koczan

The carton from which Lo-Pan frontman Jeff Martin is drinking in the candid picture above reads “Boxed Water is Better.” There’s a life lesson in there somewhere, but mark my words, I have no clue what it might be.

After bolting from a school obligation in Newark and stopping only to grab sushi takeout on my way to Brooklyn for the BrooklynVegan/The Obelisk-presented gig at Union Pool with The Brought Low, Lo-Pan and Suplecs. I was excited to see the bands and glad it had stopped raining from earlier in the day, but more than either of those, I was just in a hurry to get there.

Being involved in booking and promoting shows is nerve-wracking work, and to those who do it on a regular basis — and that includes Fred from BrooklynVegan, who invited me to be a part of the show out of the blue and the kindness of his heart — much respect. I can’t imagine being responsible for making people show up somewhere, trying to draw a crowd. I have a hard enough time getting my own ass off the couch, let alone anyone else’s.

That said, if e’er a rock bill in Brooklyn was going to do it, it was this one. With the two-day Small Stone Records showcase in Philadelphia this weekend featuring all three of these bands (and many others), I was thinking of the show as an unofficial warm-up, a kind of unofficial mini-showcase — but really, however you phrase it, it was a killer night. The Brought Low went on at 9:30, and if you looked back from there, you wasted your time.

I don’t know how many times I’ve said it at this point, but every time I see them affirms my opinion that The Brought Low are the best rock band in New York. They played a set that felt short, but pulled probably the night’s biggest crowd. The two faster cuts from their recent Coextinction Recordings EP, “Army of Soldiers” and “Black River” — on which bassist Bob Russell took lead vocals from guitarist Ben Smith — sounded great, and the material from last year’s Third Record was no less thrilling than when I heard it the last time I saw them in December. Nick Heller‘s drumming behind Smith‘s come-a-creepin’ guitar line on “My Favorite Waste of Time” gave me a newly-revitalized appreciation for that song.

That was about as subdued as they got. The rest of their time was devoted to energetic, upbeat songs like “Blues for Cubby” off of 2006’s Right on Time, which was another highlight. They were probably the perfect way to kick off the show, and set a high bar for Lo-Pan, who I don’t even know how many times I’ve seen this year at this point (another to come Friday in Philly). Union Pool‘s sound suited them well as they ran through tracks from the instantly classic Salvador, released earlier this year.

Guitarist Brian Fristoe played probably the best and most engaged set I’ve seen from him — Lo-Pan‘s stage configuration puts the instruments out front and the aforementioned Jeff Martin in the rear, and Fristoe is usually pretty subdued compared to drummer Jesse Bartz and bassist Skot Thompson, seemingly preferring to let the fuzz and the riffs do the talking — but it didn’t wind up doing him any favors. Late in the set, he broke a string and the considerable momentum Lo-Pan had built coming off “Bird of Prey” took a substantial hit.

It didn’t stop them. Jokes were tossed back and forth in the break while Fristoe changed out the string, and Lo-Pan was tight enough that when they picked back up and closed out with “Generations,” I didn’t hear another word about the string. In talking to the band before and after they played, they said they were well rested, and they played like it. Comparing it to a few weeks back at Stoner Hands of Doom XI, they were pretty great then, but better last night. Clearly just a band at the top of their game making the most of their time on the road. It’s exciting to watch them.

And what to say about Suplecs? The New Orleans trio’s bassist Danny Nick mentioned from the stage that it was the band’s first time in Brooklyn since opening for Clutch and The Hidden Hand at L’Amour in 2004. Last time I saw them was right around then as well, at South by Southwest that year. So seven years and two albums later, they loaded onto the Union Pool stage and let loose with songs from across their discography. I missed the start, but came back in shortly thereafter in time for the anthemic punk chorus of “Stand Alone” from 2011’s Mad Oak Redux, which carried even more heft live, Nick and guitarist Durel Yates sharing vocal duties and driving the rhythms nailed down by the stellar drumming of Andrew Preen.

“White Devil” from 2001’s Sad Songs… Better Days made my night, plain and simple. And that Suplecs followed it up with their take on The Beatles “I Want You (She’s So Heavy),” which was included on the same album tacked to the more shuffling “Unstable” was even more righteous, but what was most striking about their performance wasn’t even how tight the band was — 15 years of a solid lineup will do that — but just how much diversity there is in their material.

Maybe it’s harder to hear on their records (though I would and have argued that their studio stuff has much to offer in terms of personality), but throughout the course of their time, it occurred to me just how many different roads Suplecs was taking the audience, from the hardcore punk of “Stand Alone” to the ultra-stonerly riffing of “White Devil” and “Dope Fu,” to the extended jams and solos they fused into the latter half of their set, to the off-the-cuff take on early Metallica — I think it was “Four Horsemen” — they threw into their finale. Yates, Nick and Preen made all these changes and shifts work, so that if you weren’t paying attention, you hardly even noticed the movement from one to the next.

On a night of impressive feats, that of Suplecs was as appropriate a finish as The Brought Low‘s was a start, and for that, and for the utterly transcendent fuzz of Lo-Pan in between (yeah, yeah, I know, I’m a nerd for Lo-Pan), the show was perfect. The crowd was filled with good people, Union Pool‘s sound is killer, and I even managed to make it back to my foggy river valley in New Jersey without running out of gas. I couldn’t possibly have asked more from the show than I got.

And for that, I owe Fred from BrooklynVegan thanks. I’m no promoter, and I don’t know squat about putting on shows, but Fred was cool enough to ask me if I wanted to be involved and it was hugely appreciated. Thanks too to everyone who came out and made it as special as it was. If I needed another reason to be stoked for Philly this weekend (I didn’t), this was it.

Extra pics after the jump, as always.

Read more »

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Suplecs Interview with Danny Nick: How to Build an Engine While the World’s on Fire

Posted in Features on April 1st, 2011 by JJ Koczan

It was a long road that finally brought New Orleans trio Suplecs to Small Stone Records and the 2011 release of their fourth album, Mad Oak Redoux. After putting out their debut, 2000’s Wrestlin’ with My Lady Friend, and second album, 2002’s Sad Songs… Better Days, Man’s Ruin Records collapsed. A negative experience that apparently continues to this day with This Dark Reign Recordings soured Suplecs‘ reissue of the latter, and although tours alongside Clutch helped get their name out to the stoner rock underground, they never were quite able to capitalize on it the way some other acts were.

All this, of course, pales in comparison to the devastation Hurricane Katrina wrought on their hometown in August 2005. After retreating to Austin, Texas, for a time and still living out of a FEMA trailer upon his return, bassist/vocalist Danny Nick oversaw the release of the third Suplecs album, the Pepper Keenan-produced Powtin’ on the Outside, Pawty on the Inside through local Nola imprint Nocturnal Records that same year. This too would prove a less than satisfactory situation for the band, although obviously they had much bigger things on their mind at the time.

Following more personal trials, in 2008, they recorded their fourth album again through Nocturnal, but work, real life and other such considerations got in the way, and when Suplecs finally approached Small Stone about a deal the next year, label honcho Scott Hamilton sent them northward to Mad Oak Studios to re-record their latest batch of material with engineer Benny Grotto. The resulting and appropriately-titled Mad Oak Redoux (review here), is a crowning achievement for the simple fact that it finally got released. For a while there, it was looking kind of grim.

The songs on Mad Oak Redoux contain the sort of cathartic release one would have to expect. Tracks like “FEMA Man” deal with the aftermath of Katrina, while “Tried to Build an Engine” tackles some of the more human elements that can bring a person down. If nothing else, Mad Oak Redoux is a triumph for Suplecs on the level of the persistence it took to realize it. More importantly, though, it rocks.

Danny Nick — joined in Suplecs by guitarist/vocalist Durel Yates and drummer Andy Preen — took time out for a phoner before the band’s trip to this year’s South by Southwest in Austin. We discussed what they and what he personally had been through in the six years since the release of the third album, everything it took to get the new one out, the band’s Mardi Gras rock and roll drive-bys, signing to Small Stone, and much more.

Complete 4,800-word Q&A is after the jump. Please enjoy. Special thanks to Larry Stern for the photos from SXSW.

Read more »

Tags: , , ,

Live Review: Metalliance Tour in NYC, 03.25.11 (Including Photos)

Posted in Reviews on March 28th, 2011 by JJ Koczan

I don’t remember the last time I looked forward to a tour the way I looked forward to the Irving Plaza, NYC, stop of Metalliance. Usually, I’ll get down with a couple bands on a bill, maybe even three or four on a great night, but this lineup was insane. Helmet playing Meantime, Crowbar, Saint Vitus, Kylesa, Red Fang, Howl and The Atlas Moth. Even the bands I was ambivalent about seeing I wanted to see. It’s been a while since that was the case for a single show.

The difference, I suppose, is that Metalliance is essentially a traveling festival. That means shorter sets — 20 minutes each for The Atlas Moth, Howl and Red Fang, then gradually more for Kylesa, Vitus, Crowbar and Helmet — but still, the thought of seeing this many bands on one bill made the show an absolute must. It’s been on my calendar for months. Whatever else happens, Metalliance.

There was a meet and greet before doors and I was invited for that, so I went and chatted awkwardly for a couple minutes with the bands, mostly the dudes in Red Fang about bassist/vocalist Bryan Giles‘ recent interview, but also got my picture taken with Wino, which was cool despite the lengths at which I’ll protest about hating that kind of thing (both having my picture taken and my picture taken with dudes in bands). The conversation steadily fizzled and everyone, myself included, went about their business. I grabbed the first of the evening’s several $8 Guinnesses, made my way upstairs to stake out a spot. It’s Irving Plaza instinct. I’ve seen more shows from that balcony than I can remember to count.

It was early, though. The Atlas Moth didn’t go on for maybe another 20 minutes, and the place was still basically empty, so the beer went fast. When they took the stage, I went downstairs to take the first of the evening’s many, many photos, and check out their set. I had been served a digital promo of their Candlelight Records debut, A Glorified Piece of Blue Sky, when it came out, but it must have slipped through the cracks. They were post-metal, and apparently down one of their three guitarists, but not terrible. They said from the stage that they’ll have a new album out in the fall. Maybe I won’t have my head up my ass about it this time. No promises, but it could happen.

If I’m not much familiar with The Atlas Moth, I’m a little more directly “take it or leave it” on Howl. The Rhode Islanders don’t really do it for me musically, but even they put on a good show, and I heard from several showgoers over the course of the night how much they enjoyed their set. They were heavier than I recalled them being, but just tipped to the far side of the doom/metal equation, and watching them made me feel old. Think I’d be used to that by now.

Part of my “meh” factor for Howl‘s set might also have stemmed from anticipation for Red Fang. Having never seen them before and so thoroughly dorked out over their forthcoming Murder the Mountains Relapse debut (second full-length overall), I was more or less dying to see their set. They opened with a couple tracks from their self-titled, and hit the new single “Wires” before closing with “Prehistoric Dog.” I felt justified in my excitement by their performance, as they more or less ripped through the material — not in the sense of rushing it — just making it all sound meatier and meaner. They were the first of the night’s several killer acts.

As I mentioned, with Kylesa, the set-times began to lengthen, but even a half-hour of stuff from them seemed short. Bathed half in darkness by the projected art of their Spiral Shadow album, the dually-drummed five-piece were also much heavier than the production on their record might lead you to believe. “Running Red,” from 2009’s Static Tensions, was a particularly welcome inclusion, and though the vocals were high in the mix, everything still came through well enough.

With the double-guitar/double-vocals of Laura Pleasants and Philip Cope, it’s probably really easy for some of Kylesa‘s complexity to become a wash in a live setting (I’ve seen them before but not yet on this touring cycle owing to January’s ridiculous snowfall) depending on who’s working the sound. I think they got a decent treatment at Irving Plaza and was glad to get the chance to have “Don’t Look Back” from Spiral Shadow injected straight into my head from the amps as opposed to the CD. I also got a new appreciation for bassist Corey Barhorst, who I think is a much bigger part of what makes Kylesa so damn heavy than anyone gives him credit for, myself included. I know they tour like bastards, but I was glad to see them this time around, especially after enjoying the album so much.

What can I possibly say about Saint Vitus? I felt like life was doing me a personal favor by their reuniting at Roadburn 2009, and I’ve seen them twice now since then, and I feel the same way. “Dying Inside,” “Born too Late,” “Clear Windowpane” — they were all fucking fantastic. The only challenge I had was trying to decide which I was most into (I finally settled on “Dying Inside”), but the whole set was earth-shakingly heavy. I don’t know how Crowbar felt about having to follow them, let alone Helmet, but I know I certainly wouldn’t want to. They also played the new song “Blessed Night” from the impending whatever-they’ll-put-out, and it was even better in-person than on the YouberTubes clips of it I’ve seen.

I’ve done plenty of worshiping at the altar of Saint Vitus before, but it’s worth noting that even just in terms of the chemistry between the members of the band, they’ve got it down. Even since I saw this lineup — Scott “Wino” Weinrich, vocals; Dave Chandler, guitar; Mark Adams, bass; Henry Vasquez, drums — in Brooklyn late in 2009, their time on the road has made them tighter as a group, and the songs sounded all the more killer for it. Vasquez, who came aboard as a replacement for founding drummer Armando Acosta owing to the latter’s failing health (Acosta died last Thanksgiving), does an excellent job driving the material, and watching Adams, Chandler and Weinrich on stage is like calculating a geometrical proof to discover why the word “legendary” so often appears directly before the band’s name.

If they’d been the only band of the night, I still would have made the trip into the city for the show, but to then have Crowbar follow them was when things really got surreal at Metalliance. It’s like one of those “But wait — there’s more!” infomercials, except that instead of useless, easily-broken shit you get high-grade metal. Crowbar were in sludgy fashion, and the guitar sound, which I bemoaned after their set at the Championship Bar and Grill in Trenton this past December, was much improved coming through the Irving Plaza P.A. They ran through a smattering of the highlight cuts from their career, offering a post-“Planets Collide” mini-encore in the form of latest single “The Cemetery Angels,” from their first album in six years, Sever the Wicked Hand.

It was interesting to compare the Saint Vitus and Crowbar sets in that the two long-running (admittedly Vitus longer running than Crowbar) acts have very different stage presences. Crowbar guitarist Kirk Windstein is clearly the star of the show. It’s his band all the way through, he’s the last of the founding members, the only songwriter and not to disparage the contributions of his band, because they sounded good, but you could probably have any number of musicians up there filling those roles. In terms of presence, Chandler is one of two very strong focal points in Saint Vitus, the other being Wino. Bassist Mark Adams, while a founding member of the band, is overshadowed personality-wise by the guitarist, and from the look of it this past Friday, that suits him just fine, but still, Saint Vitus — even apart from the aura their decades of influence carries with it — are more of a total band experience, where with Crowbar, it’s Windstein‘s gig and everyone knows it.

What that rounds out to, at least as regards Metalliance, is two unmistakable, diverging roads leading to a killer set. The place cleared out a lot after Crowbar with Helmet still to go, but those who stayed were ultimately rewarded for their effort. The truly unfortunate thing about Helmet is how their dissonance got bastardized in the later part of the ’90s by the nü-metal movement. That’s not to say their own burgeoning commerciality didn’t have a role to play, but the sound they became known for fostering wasn’t necessarily the way they actually played. As Meantime nears its 20th anniversary (originally released June 23, 1992) and Helmet has become a more melodically-centered band — the staccato riffing of guitarist/vocalist Page Hamilton taking a back seat — the songs themselves remains eerily relevant.

Hamilton is without a doubt the central figure, though, even more so than Windstein is to Crowbar. Though he’s had roughly the same band with him since 2006, Helmet is his band. All the same, their rendition of the Meantime album was welcomed by those who stuck around to see it, and an appropriate salvo to the evening’s unbelievable gait. When I left, it wasn’t yet 11PM, but I was already dead tired. Six hours of show will do that to you.

Feels redundant to even say it, but if Metalliance hasn’t hit where you are yet, you need to cancel whatever it is on your plate and go. As I noted previously, I took over 2,100 photos at the show, and most of them were crap. About 280 weren’t, and if you want a small sampling of that batch, click the “Read More” link below. Special thanks to Steve Seabury for making the night happen.

Read more »

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Crowbar: Quality Metalliance Footage From New Orleans

Posted in Bootleg Theater on March 23rd, 2011 by JJ Koczan

There’s a new Saint Vitus song posted in the forum already, so I figured I’d bring my nerding out for the impending Metalliance show in NYC this Friday to this side of things with a quality clip of Crowbar. Filmed last Saturday (March 19) at One Eyed Jacks in the band’s hometown of New Orleans, here’s Crowbar as part of the Metalliance:


Tags: , ,

The Long Reach of Crowbar’s Sever the Wicked Hand

Posted in Reviews on February 8th, 2011 by JJ Koczan

Released six years to the day from its predecessor, 2005’s Lifesblood for the Downtrodden, the latest album from Crowbar, dubbed Sever the Wicked Hand (E1 Music), finds the New Orleans sludge progenitors embarking on a full-circle turn of their own influence. With visual layout by Mike D. of Killswitch Engage, mixing and mastering by Zeuss (Shadows Fall, etc.), management by Hatebreed’s Jamey Jasta – with whom Crowbar guitarist/vocalist/central-figure Kirk Windstein also plays in Kingdom of Sorrow – and a take on their traditional sludgy sound that seems at times to favor the kind of heavy breakdowns that the subsequent generation of metallers made their name on, it could easily be said that Crowbar are now under the influence of those whom they most influenced. Listening to a song like “Liquid Sky and Cold Black Earth,” even acknowledging that the ultra-groovy breakdown is nothing new to the Windstein musical/riff-writing arsenal (he’s been doing it since the early ‘90s to great affect), on Sever the Wicked Hand, the approach is given a musical context it didn’t have even six years ago.

And why not? A lot’s happened in that time. The already-noted Kingdom of Sorrow has released two albums, and Down – the Southern metal supergroup in which Windstein joins C.O.C.’s Pepper Keenan on guitar – released their third album to huge acclaim and commercial success on the road. On perhaps a more personal note, Windstein’s sobriety is a topic of discussion lyrically on several of the Sever the Wicked Hand tracks – “Cleanse Me, Heal Me,” “As I Become One” and the title cut –and a song like the late-arriving ballad, “Echo an Eternity” seems to be not much more than your typical “rocker’s song about his kid,” if given the twist of being run through the typically Crowbar, slow-played, downtuned interpretation. That said, the lyrical appeal that runs throughout Sever the Wicked Hand, and indeed across Crowbar’s whole discography, is Windstein’s unflinching honesty. If what that brings out of his venerably guttural voice in 2011 is love for his child and his struggle to stay sober, I’m not about to fault him for that. I’d rather take what’s heartfelt than something born out of kowtowing to the expectations either of fans or critics.

Among the critiques I’ve heard of Sever the Wicked Hand is that, “it’s awfully fast,” and indeed, upon hearing advance-leaked cut “The Cemetery Angels,” I thought the same thing, even as that song breaks into one of the slowest riffs on the album for its second half. Tracks like “Liquid Sky and Cold Black Earth” and closer “Symbiosis” offer plenty of the languid pacing Crowbar is known for, and I’ll go further to say it’s a myth that Crowbar only plays slow. Some of their greatest early-career triumphs – songs like “All I Had I Gave” from 1993’s self-titled and “Waiting in Silence” from the 1991 Obedience Thru Suffering debut – relied on the juxtaposition between fast and slow parts, and that holds true for the Sever the Wicked Hand material as well. Windstein at this point knows what works in Crowbar, and he makes good use of their solidified sonic pastiche on “Protectors of the Shrine” and centerpiece “As I Become One,” which breaks into a melodic guitar interplay between Windstein and fellow six-stringer Matt Brunson that helps break the intensity Sever the Wicked Hand’s first half and set up the 3:45 ambient interlude “A Farewell to Misery” – itself a launch point for the record’s back end.

Read more »

Tags: , , ,

What to Look Forward to in 2011, Pt. 1: The Sure Bets

Posted in Features on January 17th, 2011 by JJ Koczan

I’d have done a 2011 list earlier, but honestly, after the massiveness that was the top 20 countdown, I needed a break from all the list-type stuff. Next thing I knew, January was more than halfway over and no predictions had yet been made about what some of the best things to come would be. Just shameful.

This is just going to be a two-parter, and I’m keeping it to five albums on each list for a total of 10 records to look forward to in 2011. If that’s not enough for you, well, stay tuned, because I’m sure there’s going to be plenty more than 10 reviews posted this year. Hell, I think there already have been, so there you go.

The reason these are “the sure bets” is because I’ve already heard them and know they rule. Let’s get to it:

Lo-Pan, Salvador: The Ohio four-piece’s Small Stone label debut full-length has “classic” written all over it. I heard some rough mixes back in December and I’ve heard some less-rough mixes now, and I honestly haven’t felt this way about a straightforward stoner rock record since I heard the first Sasquatch album in 2004. The songwriting is brilliant, the performances masterful and the production stellar. You’re gonna shit when you hear “Chichen Itza” and “Deciduous.”

Crowbar, Sever the Wicked Hand: It’s kind of funny, but Crowbar influenced a whole younger generation of bands and on Sever the Wicked Hand, it sounds like that younger generation has re-influenced Crowbar, or at least reminded them of what they do best. Some of the material on Sever the Wicked Hand is a little fast, but there are some real quality tracks, and at this point it’s been so long I’m just glad they have a new record out.

Earth, Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light I: Part one in a series of two new works by Earth , Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light I (review here) brings cello accompaniment to Dylan Carlson‘s trademark drone guitar, filling out the sound with a subtle and melodic lushness it’s never before had. Earth are never going to be for everyone, but their latest should delight longtime fans and catch a couple newcomers as well.

Weedeater, Jason… the Dragon: Sludge meets swampy Southern blues on the latest record from the North Carolinian outfit which, like Earth, will be released via Southern Lord in March. Their sound is as nasty as ever, but there’s evidence of stylistic branching out in songs like “Homecoming” and “Palms of Opium,” and it’s exciting to hear the band trying new things, especially when they work. Full review is here.

Six Organs of Admittance, Asleep on the Floodplain: I’ve been a nerd for this Ben Chasny solo project for a number of years now, and on his new record, which is due out on Drag City on Feb. 22, the Comets on Fire guitarist does away with some of the psychedelic and/or droning aspects of the last couple albums in favor of a return to acoustic solo-songwriter material. Translation: He’s right in his element. More to come.

Tomorrow we’ll do Pt. 2, which will be full of pure speculation, and thus a lot of fun.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,