Live Review: Ode to Doom with Leather Lung, Mother Iron Horse, Somnuri & Grandpa Jack, 09.18.19

Posted in Reviews on September 19th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Leather Lung (Photo by JJ Koczan)

The third anniversary celebration of NYC-based curated show series Ode to Doom was a special occasion. The bands knew it, the venue knew it, and the people who showed up knew it. Everyone who played had new material and was excited to share. Everyone said thanks. The vibe was chill from before the show even started, and even as heavy and as raucous as things got as the bluesy opening Grandpa Jack delivered gave way to the noisier likes of Somnuri, Mother Iron Horse and Leather Lung, it stayed chill for the duration. For being what Somnuri guitarist/vocalist Justin Sherrell referred to as, “a school night” — can’t argue with facts — it was also a welcome escape from midweek blues; all parties involved seemed happy to shed the uphill slump from their shoulders, or maybe that’s just me projecting.

One way or the other, it was the best argument I’ve encountered in a while for sitting in workday-evening traffic. The air was crisp but not bitingly cold. When I signed on three years ago to have The Obelisk be among the presenters for Ode to Doom, which is run with clear dedication by Claudia Crespo at Arlene’s Grocery with input from indomitable entrepreneur Vadim Dyadyuk of Made in Brooklyn Silkscreeners, who’s done merch for this site and will again — new colors coming for the holiday season, plus did I hear you asking for Obelisk sweatpants? no? well they’re happening anyway — part of the appeal for me was nostalgic. I remembered great times at Precious Metal in the basement at Lit Lounge and other Manhattan-based shows. I don’t think it’s a bad thing that it’s all moved to Brooklyn over the last generation and now is headed to Queens, but someone keeping the flame of a Manhattan underground alive felt like an idea well worth preserving. Turns out I was right.

Suitably enough given my recent move, the unstated theme for the evening was NY-meets-MA, with Brooklyn’s Grandpa Jack and Somnuri getting started and Salem, Mass, heavybringers Mother Iron Horse and Boston’s Leather Lung closing the night. If you don’t know Grandpa Jack — and I’ll admit I didn’t hear their self-titled debut LP last year; my loss — give it time. You will. The three-piece turned classic heavy rock shades of doomly purple with vintage tone emanating from the finger-picked guitar of Johnny Strom, who also shared vocal duties with drummer Matt C. White while Jared Schapker provided warm and engrossing low end to suit their blues-infused spirit. Their periodic dips into melody on vocals were welcome and hopefully telling of things to come, and the languid pace of their material brought to mind Radio Moscow played at two-thirds speed, with jammy intent. They were a more than welcome start to the proceedings.

I hadn’t seen Somnuri yet, but was excited to. having so thoroughly dug their late-2017 self-titled debut (discussed here) and subsequent split with fellow purveyors-o’-noise Godmaker (review here). They’ve got a new album mastered as of earlier this month and will cover “Dirt” on Magnetic Eye‘s upcoming Alice in Chains redux (presumably that’s what the cover they posted a snippet of on social media is for, unless they’re just going rogue with it, which might be fun too), and the aforementioned Sherrell, bassist Philippe Arman (also of Tower) and drummer Phil SanGiacomo both brought and demolished the evening’s crowd. The new material had more melody in a post-grunge, still-volatile kind of way that made me really excited to hear it in recorded form, but there was plenty of crushing going on as well, and as wheelhouses go, that’s a good one to be in. I’ll go out on a limb and say that barring disaster this won’t be the last time I see them play, but knowing that and knowing there’s a new record in the offing only made me enjoy their set more. Until next time.

There was time for a quick walk around the block between bands, which beat staring at the baby monitor on my phone — did it? — so I walked out of the venue for a minute to get some air, made it back well in time for Mother Iron Horse, who released their debut, The Lesser Key, in May and who seem primed to get picked up by some label or another if they haven’t yet. Their energy built on what Somnuri had been doing, but their sound was more rock-based, and the double-guitar riffing was complemented by right-on classic-style lead work and excursions into more uproarious stretches. Comprised of Adam Luca, Marco Medina, Devin Fields and Chris Kobialka, they made it easy to get into what they were doing in cuts like “Gehenna” and “Scepter of Ice” from the album, and as they’re on tour with Leather Lung — they’ll play Montclair, NJ’s The Meatlocker tonight, of course with Dutchguts — they started off that run in top form with what was still a good crowd who stuck around after Somnuri‘s set. Another band I’d never seen before, another one I’ll try to see again. That’s three for three on the night so far at Ode to Doom.

By contrast, I had seen Leather Lung before, but it was upwards of four years ago in Boston and they’ve got a new record out through Magnetic Eye called Lonesome, On’ry and Evil that produced the set-highlight “Miscreant,” which perfectly summarized the band’s approach rooted in mosh-ready riffs and massive aggro-sludge tones. Coming out to the familiar strains of Waylon Jennings, frontman Mike Vickers had apparently busted his arm and had it in a sling. He left the audience to guess how he’d done it, so insert here whatever pulled-a-ligament hyperbole you’d like to about him lifting the riffs of guitarist Zach and lumbering bass of Jesse — whose backing vocals also added a sense of extremity throughout the set. Set to the crash of drummer Ben, Leather Lung‘s willfully lunkheaded sludge metal was nothing short of a hit on a Wednesday night in Manhattan, which if that doesn’t sound like an accomplishment absolutely was one. Dudes up front lost their mind, and even standing in the back, beat as I was, the groove was palpable. And by “palpable” I mean shaking the floor. They’re going to kill at Descendants of Crom this weekend in Pittsburgh.

So what did we learn? I hadn’t planned on sticking around through the entirety of Leather Lung‘s set, as I’d been up since 4AM and knew I still had the drive back to my ancestral homestead ahead of me, but I did, and so did a lot of others who no doubt had trains, Ubers, hoverboards or Citibikes to catch. And I won’t take away from what Leather Lung were doing, but the vibe of the whole night was a big part of what kept me there. It felt like I had showed up to a party three years late and still been welcomed. That’s a rare thing.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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Live Review: Nebula, Sasquatch, Mirror Queen & Geezer in Brooklyn, 09.07.19

Posted in Reviews on September 9th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Nebula (Photo by JJ Koczan)

It had all the makings of a classic Saturday night at Saint Vitus Bar, including a few classics along the way from the bands playing. I was trying to remember the last time I saw either Nebula or Sasquatch, and I know that at least in the case of the former, it was well before the fabled Brooklyn venue opened in 2011 — they haven’t toured widely since, what, 2010, for the LP version of Heavy Psych (review here)? — and I think as regards Sasquatch, it might’ve been when they were supporting their second album, II (discussed here). That came out in 2006, so definitely a long time. Now that I think about it, it’s been a couple years since I last saw Geezer as well, and only Mirror Queen, who played Desertfest NYC (review here) this past April, can I say it hasn’t been an absurdly long time.

There were reportedly a bunch of relevant shows happening in Brooklyn at the same time, from The Budos Band to Siege, but whatever. I knew where I wanted to be, and I knew I wanted to be there early. I actually got to the Vitus in time to catch the end of Geezer‘s soundcheck, and it was a quick reminder of why I was so excited to see them again in the first place. The Kingston, NY, trio have new recordings currently in progress, and unless I’m missing something — as I said, it’s been a while — the bulk of what they played was new. They finished out with “Charley Reefer” from earlier 2019’s Spiral Fires EP (review here), but beyond that and maybe one or two others the riffs to which called out their origins, the point of it having been too damn long was underscored by how fresh Geezer‘s material was, rife with ride-this-groove slow-motion boogie and an engagingly jammy soul from guitarist Pat Harrington, bassist Richie Touseull and drummer Steve Markota. The first bottom line is they were on earlier than they probably should’ve been — hazards of a four-band bill and an 11PM curfew, I suppose — and they killed it just the same, the smoothness of their roll easing those there in time to see them into what was already working on being a great night.

Mirror Queen, long since an NYC staple whose current incarnation features — in addition to founding guitarist/vocalist Kenny Sehgal, also of Tee Pee Records fame — guitarist Morgan “Can’t Help but Boogie” McDaniel, who held down low-end for a time in The Golden Grass, alongside bassist James Corallo and drummer Jeremy O’Brien, also had a swath of new material to showcase. I don’t know their recording plans, but they’re embracing classic progressive heavy rock in a big way and by all appearances even more than they did on 2017’s Verdigris (review here), their most recent LP. They played one song from that in opener “Poignard” and the title-track from 2015’s Scaffolds of the Sky (review here) before launching into new songs “Inside an Icy Light,” “A Rider on the Rain” and “The Devil Seeks Control” and a take on “Stairway to the Stars” by Blue Öyster Cult that would not be the last set-closing cover of the night. As with Geezer before them, their new stuff only made me look forward to what the New Year might bring, and though they had some technical trouble with a persistent buzz and some crackling this-or-that, their bouncing rhythms seemed to make up for whatever time they lost sorting it all out. Kind of know what to expect from them at this point, but that does nothing to lessen the appeal, as far as I’m concerned.

I’ll admit there have been chances — not many, but at least two — for me to see Sasquatch in the last couple years, and for whatever reason I haven’t been able to make it work. Their lineup, with Roadsaw‘s Craig Riggs on drums/sometimes-vocals, guitarist/vocalist Keith Gibbs and bassist Jason “Cas” Casanova, was unstoppable. Front-to-back energy of the kind where you can tell each of the players is challenging the others to keep up. Around hyper-memorable songs like “More Than You’ll Ever Be,” “Rational Woman” and “Bringing Me Down” from 2017’s Maneuvers (review here) and the much-appreciated “Chemical Lady” from their 2004 self-titled debut and “New Disguise” from 2010’s III (review here), they seemed to have some new songs in tow as well — “It Lies Beyond the Bay,” if I’m reading the setlist right? — but either way, if you could get kicked in the ass by a breath of fresh air that somehow also kind of smells like motor oil, that would be like seeing Sasquatch live. Yes. It is an experience of mixed-metaphor hyperbole-worthy heavy rock and roll of the kind that makes you want to believe not only that we live in a gilded age for the genre, but that future generations of those with any clue whatsoever will some day come up to those who were there and ask what it was like to see that band in their day. And if you’re wondering, this most certainly was their day. New album next year? That’d be just fine by me.

Speaking of new albums, did I ever think Nebula would put out another record? I wouldn’t have called it impossible, but until they got back together for Desertfest in 2018 — credit where it’s due — I don’t think I’d have considered it overly likely. However, they gave 2019’s aptly-titled Holy Shit (review here) its fair outing, with “Messiah,” “Witching Hour,” the Luciferian “Man’s Best Friend,” “Let’s Get Lost” and “The Cry of a Tortured World” aired alongside classics like “Fall of Icarus,” “Aphrodite” — which opened; my god — and the ultra-languid-and-still-somehow-aggro “Anything from You” and “To the Center,” which only brought out the spirit of how much Nebula are a punk band even if one that’s been left out in the California sun to bake until, well, baked. Guitarist/vocalist Eddie Glass‘ return feels triumphant, and not just because the record rules, and he and bassist/backing vocalist Tom Davies and drummer Mike Amster — who seems to have become desert rock’s drummer of choice, as he’s also now joined Mondo Generator; his adaptable style and obvious power behind the kit make it hard to think of a band from out that way in which he wouldn’t mesh — brought out the tech they referred to only as Ranch from the stage to play second guitar, which only filled out the sound further.

Under rainbow-hued lights, they demonstrated not only why it’s proper to think of them more than 20 years later as a classic band, but why Nebula are a band that underground heavy rock needs now, at a time when shut-the-fuck-up-and-chill seems to be in such short supply. Late in the set they included a version of “Out of Your Head” that made me want to go back and get to know 2003’s Atomic Ritual all over again, and the jammy “Sonic Titan” was more than welcome as well. I could’ve done with “Down the Highway,” but you can’t have everything. As it was, there was an event scheduled for after the show — a Smiths/Morrissey party or something like that — and so Nebula were scheduled to be done circa 10:45. They played for another 10 minutes and, in true punker fashion, threw in a cover of The Stooges‘ “Search and Destroy” to close the night, playing it with conviction enough that it felt like the song should’ve thanked them afterward. Righteous, it was. A righteous blowout.

Also classic? The traffic I hit heading back to Jersey. Midnight on a Saturday at the Lincoln Tunnel? Yeah, your trip’s gonna take twice as long as it otherwise might. Still, I got back to my ancestral homestead around 12:30 — the Morrissey party was probably in full swing — and crashed out in short order, ready to call the night a complete win as few could hope to be. Nebula and Sasquatch head west from here en route to Northwest Hesh Fest later this month and a capstone gig in San Francisco thereafter, but whether it’s now or next time, if you have the opportunity, take it. I can’t say it any simpler than that.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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Live Review: Orange Goblin & The Skull in Manhattan, 08.27.19

Posted in Reviews on August 28th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Orange Goblin (Photo by JJ Koczan)

A Twofer Tuesday special with Orange Goblin headlining and The Skull opening was enough to pull a good crowd to Gramercy Theatre on 23rd St. in Manhattan, and I saw fans new and old rejoicing as the long-running London and Chicago outfits took that stage, one for the first time in months, the other for the first time in years and both with different lineups. A triumph over adversity, or a “victory over horseshit,” as Orange Goblin‘s one-time tourmates in Scissorfight so indelicately put it? You might ask absent Orange Goblin drummer Chris Turner, whose visa got held up in all kinds of security red tape and couldn’t get into the country in time, forcing the band to bring in one Chad Walls (The Living Fields, ex-The Skull live, etc.) as a last-minute replacement. As frontman Ben Ward said from the stage: he, guitarist Joe Hoare and bassist Martyn Millard had gotten hooked up with Walls less than a week prior and they rehearsed together for the first time just the day before the show. Gramercy was the first of just six dates they’ll do in America, but basically, they’d sunk all the money for everyone’s travel, backline, documents, etc., that they had to make the run happen anyway they could. Nobody’s first choice of situation, surely, but putting Walls in Turner‘s seat for the week was how it could happen.

Perhaps in less dramatic fashion, The Skull also have had a bit of turnover in just the four months since they played the inaugural Desertfest New York (review here) in April, losing guitarist Rob Wrong (also Witch Mountain) and seeing Henry Vasquez — also of Saint Vitus and Blood of the Sun — come in as their own fresh face behind the drum kit along with his Blood of the Sun bandmate Alex Johnson, who took the spot formerly occupied by Wrong on guitar. Tumult, then, might have been the running theme for the evening. Well, that and the line at the merch table, where Brian Mercer‘s poster for the brief tour awaited the lucky few who’d get one before it was gone, as well as a smattering of shirts from both bands. But the thing about it was that even through both groups have had some adversity of late, one could still look at The Skull frontman Eric Wagner or at Ward and see them smiling. Both groups still tore it up. I don’t think either of them would claim it was the tightest set they ever played, but I’ll be damned if they didn’t both pull it off, one kicking ass into the next as the room packed out and the night wore on.

Time and a rotating cast of characters across their two-to-date albums has proven guitarist Lothar Keller, bassist Ron Holzner and the aforementioned Wagner to be the core of The Skull, and though the band’s roots come from Holzner and Wagner‘s pedigree as members of Trouble — after whose landmark 1985 sophomore outing they’re named and whose material they played live in earlier incarnations of The Skull — they’ve developed a reputation of their own that at this point supersedes even that consideration. That is, you don’t go to see The Skull because those dudes were in Trouble. You go see The Skull because of The Skull‘s own work across last year’s The Endless Road Tuns Dark (review here) and their 2014 debut, For Those Which are Asleep (review here). I’m not sure if even The Skull anticipated that would be the case when they started out, but for a band who began as a means of paying homage to the legacy of Trouble, they’ve made a not-insignificant impact of their own with their two LPs (both released by NY’s own Tee Pee Records) and a healthy amount of touring at home and abroad, even amid the shifts in personnel.

As such, it was songs like “A New Generation” and “The Endless Road Turns Dark,” “Until the Sun Turns Black” and “Send Judas Down” that the crowd was there to see more than anything out of Holzner and Wagner‘s shared history. With Johnson and Vasquez as the new guys and Keller a steady foundation on guitar, The Skull unleashed that slew of memorable choruses, finding Keller backing Wagner on vocals periodically while still tossing out choice solos and the rolling riffs that still seem so emblematic of Midwestern doom — like a flat Illinois skyline, one never quite knows where the horizon actually is. The speedier “The Longing” from the second record was a highlight, and the title-track of For Those Which are Asleep made a suitable finale to their time on stage, following in a one-two punch from “Send Judas Down” that emphasized The Skull‘s level of craft for the strength that it has turned out to be. As someone who’s watched The Skull play live here and there for the last seven years, their progression has been natural and fluid, and they always seem to find their anchor, despite the lineup turnover. Songwriting helps. And stage presence. And chemistry.

These are tools very much in Orange Goblin‘s rather sprawling arsenal — more of an underground bunker, I guess — as well. And for what it’s worth, the context of this show made the professionalism of their set and the mere fact that they pulled it off all the more impressive. There was a hiccup or two as the band ran through 17 songs culled from their quarter-century-spanning catalog — Ward laughed on stage as he admitted he messed up during “Quincy the Pigboy” — but Orange Goblin still gave New York the show it came to see, even minus Turner. Coming out as ever to AC/DC‘s “It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock & Roll),” they tore into “Scorpionica” and “The Filthy and the Few” and “Sons of Salem” to rile the crowd before dipping back further for “Saruman’s Wish” and pitting newer stuff like the title-track of last year’s The Wolf Bites Back (review here) and “Renegade” against “The Fog” from 2012’s A Eulogy for the Damned (review here) or “The Devil’s Whip” off of 2014’s Back from the Abyss (review here). It was righteous enough to incite a mosh that Ward used to break the crowd in half for a kind wall of doom (as opposed to a wall of death) that seemed to go over well from where I stood, well out of its way.

Orange Goblin via social media have been dropping not at all subtle hints that these might be their last US shows, which is something Ward directly contradicted several times between songs: “We’ll be back, better, stronger, whatever.” It might be the simple fact that Turner didn’t get into the country motivating that — it’s not how I’d want to go out, if I was Orange Goblin — but for whatever it’s worth, it’s not at all like the band sounds done. Hell, the show Millard put on on bass alone would’ve been worth the trip into the city to see, never mind Hoare strutting around or Ward jumping off the stage to high-five the crowd, potentially to the peril of the audience’s shoulders. Even in hard circumstances, their command of their material was unflinching, and in the tightest of tight spots, Walls did nothing but hold his own alongside players who, unlike The Skull, haven’t seen a real lineup change in 15 years. Hoare had missed some dates years back, I think, but beyond that, the culture of Orange Goblin is and has been WardHoareMillard and Turner. Put it on your fucking t-shirt. For Walls to step into that as gracefully as he was able to do is a significant accomplishment.

I stuck around for the whole set because I knew “Cities of Frost” and “They Come Back” were in there later on, and was treated to a bonus cover of Motörhead‘s “No Class” as a reward. They rounded out with “Quincy the Pigboy” and “Red Tide Rising” before sending the Gramercy Theatre crowd staggering onto the sidewalk, an ambulance outside with its lights going I guess for somebody who hit it extra hard (hopefully nothing serious). Because it was that kind of night, I’d gotten parking directly across the street from the venue and was pleased to find I hadn’t missed a sign or a hydrant and my car was still there after the show ended at just about 11PM. I was back to my ancestral homestead before midnight, which was just fine with the alarm set for four hours later.

The tour they’re on will bring Orange Goblin through Muddy Roots Music Festival in Tennessee this week, as well as Chicago and other cities listed here. If you can go, you should. I don’t know if it’ll be their last time in the States or not. I don’t know anything. I interviewed Ward last year (didn’t get to post it because the audio didn’t come out) and he said they probably wouldn’t get over at all, so take that as a sign of how fortunate we are to get even the short stretch we’ve got. Either way, this is a band you should see. Not just for the influence they’ve had on their native scene in the UK, or because they’ve been around for a long time, but because they put on an absolute clinic in how to do rock and roll right. In a situation that would’ve undone lesser bands, they did nothing but shine. And destroy.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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Live Review: Neurosis, Bell Witch & Deafkids in Brooklyn, 08.11.19

Posted in Reviews on August 12th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Neurosis (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I’ve seen two shows now at Brooklyn Steel, and the other one was Sleep, so needless to say I’m developing something of a crush on the massive warehouse-space-turned-venue, from its nearby public parking to the balcony space where one might, if the band is loud enough, feel the floor shake just a little bit. Needless to say, at both shows I’ve seen there, that particular phenomenon has occurred.

Three-band touring bill on a Sunday night: Brazil’s Deafkids, Seattle duo Bell Witch and post-metal’s own lawgivers, Neurosis — originally from Oakland but now more spread out along the West Coast and inland — headlining. I was interested to see Deafkids, having missed them at Roadburn earlier in the year, and Bell Witch have yet to disappoint anytime I’ve caught a set, but it was the thought of Neurosis in that room that got me out from under my grandfather’s pine tree and into Brooklyn for the show, rocking out to Sunday evening NPR all the way.

It was a relatively early start for Deafkids, but the three-piece from São Paulo made the most of their time and then some. Their sound is broad and encompassing enough that you can basically hear whatever you want to in it. Punk, psychedelia, organic techno, prog brilliance and space-garage rawness, experimentalism and barebones anti-craft, heavy riffs and pounding rhythms, modern disaffection and futurist ethereality — it’s all there. And at the same time, it’s jazz. Deafkids are the shape of jazz to come. I hadn’t realized. To me it like peak-era Ministry and most-lysergic Monster Magnet got together and decided hooks were for the weak, but again, you could hear anything in what they were doing.

Their 2019 full-length, Metaprogramação — which Neurosis released through their own Neurot Recordings imprint — is likewise stylistically ranging, but live, the effect was brilliant, most especially in the drums, which not only held together the effects wash when they wanted to, but through repetition became part of the overarching churn as offered by the guitar and bass. They were not a super-happy-funtime experience, but they were engrossing, demanding and earning attention from front to back for a set that felt short when it was over.

I heard someone say afterward that Bell Witch were playing a single song from their new album, as in, post-Mirror Reaper (review here), but I don’t think that’s true. I’ve been wrong before, but from the gradual pickup to the way they rolled in linear fashion through their final crashes and receded, it seemed to be a piece culled from that 83-minute 2017 single-song outing — might’ve just been the first half of it; the “As Above” portion of the 2CD release — with drummer/vocalist Jesse Shreibman and bassist/vocalist Dylan Desmond dug into the mournful weight of that album’s spacious emotionalism. Crushing they were, either way, but I was kind of shaking my head when they were done, wondering if I had been incorrect the whole time about what I was hearing. But no, I wasn’t.

Should they actually be moving past Mirror Reaper, they’ve got their work cut out for them in following it, but one might’ve said the same when they put out Four Phantoms (review here) in 2015, and in fact many did, so there. The darkness they conjure is luscious even at its most minimal, and though they didn’t have Aerial Ruin‘s Erik Moggridge to add vocals as he does on the studio version of “Mirror Reaper,” or the time to play the thing in its rather considerable entirety, they delivered a set that was as open as it was claustrophobic, excruciating in its patience but still vital in expression. They had a hard task preceding Neurosis on a Sunday night in Brooklyn, but they more than admirably faced that challenge.

Neurosis opened with the title-track of 2001’s A Sun that Never Sets (discussed here), and I decided about halfway through the song that if they walked off the stage after it without saying a word to the crowd, it still would’ve been worth the drive from NJ. Nearly 35 years on from their inception, Neurosis are the best live band I’ve ever seen. Their shows are on a different wavelength entirely from most acts, and when you go see Neurosis, whether it is your first time or your umpteenth time, it is reasonable to go in with high expectations. I found myself with eyes closed, earplugs mostly out for “End of the Harvest,” from 1999’s Times of Grace, which was the penultimate inclusion in the set and as deep into their discography as they went, but it was “Bending Light” and “Reach” from 2016’s Fires Within Fires (review here) that wound up making the greatest impression on me.

Entirely possible it was a mood thing, or the circumstance of where I was standing, but I seemed to hear more nuance in the guitars of Steve Von Till and Scott Kelly, more psychedelia in how they wove in with Noah Landis‘ ultra-crucial keys and samples, and of course with the weight of bassist Dave Edwardson and the intricate drumming of Jason Roeder, the raw impact of their heaviest moments did indeed shake the floor of Brooklyn Steel‘s balcony. “At the Well” and “Given to the Rising,” “To the Wind” and “My Heart for Deliverance” were certainly more than welcome, but I decided I needed a visit with Fires Within Fires, from which “A Shadow Memory” was also aired, its blend of atmospheric guitar and swinging crunch further encouraging the refresher. Was that album Neurosis‘ way of blending the punk of their roots with a forward-looking psych churn? Did I know it at the time? Was there something I missed, so caught up in the fact of their 30th anniversary? I wonder now.

A bit of homework, maybe, but before Neurosis sent the Sunday night crowd packing, they finished out with “Stones from the Sky,” the closer of A Sun that Never Sets, which was, as ever, a behemoth in its execution. Roeder seemed to change up his drums at the end, opening up the beat just a little bit as the song descended into chaos, and the effect was to make the sudden cut to silence all the more stark. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Neurosis do an encore, but I stood around for a while anyway, hoping they might decide on a whim to come out and roll through “Locust Star” just for the hell of it. No dice, but no complaints either.

In the leadup to this show, I was thinking about the first time I saw Neurosis, at the Theatre of the Living Arts in Philadelphia in 2004. They didn’t really tour at the time, but they were heralding the release of the just-recently-reissued Neurosis & Jarboe collaboration, as well as that’s year’s The Eye of Every Storm (review here). It was the kind of night that changes your perspective on live music. Having had that experience 15 years ago and been fortunate enough to see Neurosis multiple times over since, as they’ve returned to the road more regularly, I had a pretty good sense of what I was going into at Brooklyn Steel. They still managed to exceed expectation. May they go forever doing precisely that.

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Magnetic Eye Records Announces Label Showcase with Horsehunter, Elephant Tree, Domkraft, Summoner & More

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 12th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Clearly, Magnetic Eye Records is not into half-measures. Any label can put together a tribute. When Magnetic Eye does it, it’s two sprawling collections of bands playing homage to landmark albums and artists’ greatest hits. Any label can put together a showcase. When Magnetic Eye does it, they fly in three international acts, from Australia, the UK and Sweden, to round out the bill. Do you have any idea how insane that is?

It’s quite insane.

They’ve got a Kickstarter up now, as they will, and as rewards for backers they’re letting you preorder which set you’d like to have the recorded version of, because of course they’re also recording the sets. Seriously?

To do otherwise would be a half-measure.

They’re calling it ‘The Day of Doom,’ and in addition to HorsehunterElephant Tree, and Domkraft, they’ll have SummonerLeather LungGhastly SoundHigh PriestCaustic Casanova and These Beasts on the bill. Nine bands at the Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn on Nov. 2.

Quite insane. Just enough to work:

magnetic eye showcase banner

MAGNETIC EYE RECORDS presents its first ever live label showcase at the legendary Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn this November 2nd!

Check out the Kickstarter to help us make the Day of Doom truly epic and get in on the exclusive live album releases from MER’s flagship bands.

Sure, it’s summer right now, but have you looked around? Seas are rising, animal populations are shrinking, Scott Stapp has a new album, dogs and cats are living together… it’s mass hysteria.

Not the types to fly in the face of impending Armageddon, Magnetic Eye thought we’d expedite the end times by officially declaring our own DAY OF DOOM on November 2nd of this year as the date of our first-ever live label showcase.

Where?

The Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn, New York. Where the hell else?

Who?

No less than nine crushing Magnetic Eye roster bands, headlined by our four flagship acts that have helped shape and define the core of the MER sound:

Summoner
Horsehunter
Domkraft
Elephant Tree

What does this mean for you?

Two things:

1. If you’re anywhere near the New York area (or even if you’re not), you’re going to want to make the pilgrimage to this show. With our biggest and heaviest acts flying in from all over the world, it’s probably no stretch to say we have no idea when or if this will ever happen again. Tickets will be on sale soon directly via the Saint Vitus Bar, and we’ll of course let you know where to get them.

2. Whether you can make this incredible convergence in person or not, you can share in the experience. Magnetic Eye will be recording the four headline bands at Day of Doom for an exclusive set of live album releases, and you can support helping get the bands here for the event and reserve your live records now by jumping on board the Kickstarter for the project at this location.

Look, we’d love to have all of you there with us. But we know it’s not possible for some to make the trip, and we understand. Hell, it wasn’t possible for most of us to attend Woodstock, but at least we have the soundtrack, right?

Check out our Kickstarter now to lock down your exclusive editions of Elephant Tree, Domkraft, Summoner and Horsehunter Live at the Day of Doom New York. It’s going to be absolutely unforgettable. And thanks to these records, you’ll always remember.

http://store.merhq.com
http://magneticeyerecords.com/
https://www.facebook.com/MagneticEyeRecords

Leather Lung, Lonesome, On’ry & Evil (2019)

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Weird Owl Premiere “Diamond Mist” Video; New Album Wet Telepathy Available to Preorder

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

The new Weird Owl full-length, Wet Telepathy, has been given a Sept. 20 release date through Little Cloud Records — preorders are up now, if you’re the think-ahead type — and I can hardly think of a better time than the end of summer for its shimmering orange psychedelic haze. As the nights begin to turn cool in respite from the humidity of the Northeast, to have Weird Owl belting out live-in-the-moment jams like “Phantom Physician,” “Death Necklace” and the garagedelic “Diamond Mist” — the video for which is premiering at the bottom of this post — will be nothing but welcome, as the Brooklynite outfit follow 2017’s Bubblegum Brainwaves (review here) with a likewise expanded-mind melodic wash, all “far out, man” and not a bummer in the bunch, even the 90-second organ stretch “Headless Horsemen” and the closer “Let Each Man Decompose (At His Own Speed),” which takes Help!-era Beatles — that tambourine is a tell — to dreamier places only after the more fully-fuzzed “Nailed to the Ceiling” has run your grunge childhood through a lysergic spin cycle. You put in white sheets. They came out tie-dye. So it goes.

That’s how these cats do, and they do it well and they’ve been doing it long enough at this point that their sense of space is immediate. Returning once again to the studio with Jeff Berner at Galuminum Foil means their adventure happens in familiar climes, and in some ways, Wet Telepathy feels like a strong, more song-minded sequel to Bubblegum Brainwaves, but as the maybe-sitar and definitely-keyboards of “P.U.M.P.” roll out crumbling mountain landscapes, it’s as much a fresh vibe as it is a classic one, and Weird Owl invite the listener to their wavelength at the same time they make a compelling case to undertake the journey. All I’m saying is that if you feel like maybe your blood just got awesome, it’s probably working.

Wet Telepathy is out Sept. 20. You’ll find the video for “Diamond Mist” below, but here’s art and info first, courtesy of the PR wire:

weird owl wet telepathy

Weird Owl – Wet Telepathy

New album out 9/20/19 on Little Cloud Records.

NYC psych rock veterans Weird Owl are set to release Wet Telepathy, their seventh studio album, on September 20, 2019 on Little Cloud Records. Taking off from the psychedelic yet concise songwriting established on 2017’s Bubblegum Brainwaves, this new album showcases the unpredictable and idiosyncratic nature of the band’s musical output. Songs about phantoms, psychic demons, bad trips and time travel all find a home in the off-kilter and slightly wobbly sci-fi universe created by Weird Owl. Wet Telepathy marks the fourth consecutive record on which the band has partnered with Jeffrey Berner (Psychic TV) in the role of engineer, mixer and producer. Together they have achieved a vision that is totally unlike any other band in the contemporary psych rock scene.

Preorder here: https://littlecloudrec.com/collections/frontpage/products/weird-owl-wet-telepathy-pre-order

Recorded, mixed and produced by Jeffrey Berner at Galuminum Foil, Brooklyn, NY.
Mastered by Scott Craggs at Old Colony Mastering.
Artwork by Killer Acid.

Since releasing their debut album in 2007, Weird Owl have firmly cemented their place in the international psychedelic underground. Championed by none other than legendary Brian Jonestown Massacre frontman Anton Newcombe (who released two of the band’s albums on his personal label). One of the band’s tunes, “White Hidden Fire”, has been viewed on YouTube over 2.6 million times at the time of writing. Weird Owl have performed at such renowned festivals as Austin Psych Fest, Eindhoven Psych Fest (Netherlands) and The Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia (UK).

https://weirdowl.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/Weird.owl.ny/
http://www.weirdowl.net/
https://soundcloud.com/weird-owl
https://www.facebook.com/littlecloudrecords
https://www.instagram.com/littlecloudrecords
https://littlecloudrec.com/

Weird Owl, “Diamond Mist” official video premiere

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Exit Interview: The Mad Doctors Call it Quits

Posted in Features on July 17th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

the mad doctors

Playing with and off conventions of punk, surf, heavy rock and more besides, New York trio The Mad Doctors have been a sort of gleeful anomaly. In the release info for what will serve as their final (as much as anything is final in rock and roll) release, the EP R.I.P., they use the word “weirdoid,” and I love that, because not only does it push “weirdo” to 11, but it has fun in the process, and from where I sit, that’s what the band have been about this whole time. They call it quits leaving behind a too-short discography of short releases, splits and the 2016 full-length, No Waves, Just Sharks (review here), and an aesthetic that seemed just to be finding its joy in the strange nuance of their songwriting, but their doing so hints that perhaps the point all along was the search, not the find. In any case, they were a good band. So it goes.

R.I.P. serves as vital emphasis on that point particularly; one more fuzz blowout from guitarist/vocalist Seth Applebaum, bassist Joshua Park and drummer Greg Hanson, who earlier this year also issued the Fuck Sean Hannity digital single, thereby earning a 1UP’s worth of charm points. I’ve done exit interviews before once or twice. A band breaking up can be a contentious thing, and as I’m not really into hearing dudes rag on each other or dig into “band drama,” it’s not something I always want to chase down, but with The Mad Doctors, that doesn’t seem to have been what did it. They just seem like they’re ready to move on. There are new projects in the works and they decided to put things to rest with the five songs on R.I.P. and some last shows. It’s hard not to respect that, and after a run that goes back to 2013’s Fuzz Tonic EP, they’ve well earned the victory lap. So here are the dates:

The Mad Doctors last shows:
Wed 7/17 – Brooklyn @ Windjammer
Thur 7/18 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Gooskies
Fri 7/19 – Ft. Wayne, IN @ The Brass Rail
Sa 7/20 – Detroit, MI @ Beaconsfield House
Su 7/21 – Chicago, IL @ Reed’s
Mon 7/22 – Cincinnati, OH @ The Hub
Tu 7/23 – Knoxville, TN @ Pilot Light
Wed 7/24 – Richmond, VA @ Cary St. Cafe
Th 7/25 – Harrisonburg, VA @ Lon Lon Ranch
Fri 7/26 – Washington, DC @ The Pie Shop
Sa 7/27 – Baltimore, MD @ Mercury Theater

I’ll say this about them: I never knew what a given offering from The Mad Doctors would offer — and that’s still true on R.I.P. — but I knew it would be a good time. I’m glad they had the awareness to pull the plug before it stopped being one.

Enjoy the interview and all the best to Applebaum, Park and Hanson on current and future projects:

The Mad Doctors – Exit Interview

Okay, so what happened? Why end The Mad Doctors?

Nothing happened, really. Creative projects just have ends. We were able to feel it coming and thought it was best to try to make the best of it and have some fun before we put it to bed. It’s better to have it end naturally rather than keep it going just for the hell of it. We had an amazing run – our adult lives are in many ways defined by it, we have made so many of our closest friends through it, we have seen so many places we otherwise wouldn’t have. And now it’s time to see where else the road goes.

When did you first start to feel like things with the band were drawing to a close? Obviously you’re still in it, but did it become the band you wanted it to be?

It has been about a year, maybe a little longer. It was mostly a lack of inspiration to write new material. It kind of felt like we had explored all the things we were excited about sonically that made sense with this band. Around this time, we had a few meetings to try to get the creative juices flowing again and see what we hadn’t tried (one of these attempts turned into “Aggro”) but most of the time, it ended with lukewarm tunes that just didn’t fit us. Sonic interests had changed, tastes had changed and we just felt like it was time to figure out a good way to put it to bed. So we came up with the idea of doing one more record and another tour to support it, a few goodbye shows and end on a high note.

Did you know as the new EP was coming together that this was it?

Yeah — we went into the recording process with the plan for it to be the last release. Thankfully we all still love each other and playing in the band is still a lot of fun so giving it some time wasn’t a problem at all but we have been sitting on the news and it’s exciting to be able to do it one more time.

You’ve toured, played fests, recorded albums, splits, the whole thing. What are you leaving undone?

Really, the only thing we wanted but haven’t done is tour internationally. It’s a bit of a bummer but we all have jobs and commitments to things locally so an international tour just wasn’t in the cards but we definitely wish it had! We had talked about Europe, Australia, Asia – we have had some good love from around the world – just good excuses to travel and see new places – which is always how we viewed touring in the first place. For another band, I suppose!

Best memory — live, in the studio, whatever. What specific moment will you look back on most fondly?

I mean, it’s impossible to pick one memory but when pressed, I definitely think one of the more magical moments was something that happened on a recent tour. We were playing a basement in Harrisonburg, VA that only had one light – a standing lamp that our friend (Jake from Illiterate Light) was whipping around, giving us a “light show.” Well, in the middle of one of the songs, he accidentally broke the bulb and we finished the song in darkness. Honestly, not the first time we have played in total darkness for one reason or another but after the song, we asked someone to turn another light on and we were told there wasn’t another light to turn on. So Jake turns on the flashlight on his phone and five or six more people in the front row take the cue and do the same so we finished the set by iPhone light and it was a moment that was totally awesome.

What lessons will you take from your time in The Mad Doctors as you move forward?

We learned all of the ropes in The Mad Doctors. Everything. How to book shows, how to book tours, how to not fight with band members, how to talk to each other, how to keep out of each others’ hair on the road, how to not take a bad show as a sign that your band totally sucks, how to embrace the moments of pure magic, how to maintain relationships in close quarters, how to play our instruments. It’s immense how much we have all taken from this band.

What’s next for you guys? Any new bands or projects in the works?

Always lots of stuff! Seth and Josh are doing Seth’s psychedelic soul band Ghost Funk Orchestra, who is doing quite well (and has a new LP coming out in August called ‘A Song For Paul’), Greg is in another garage punk band called Lumps, who is working on their second LP, Greg and Seth have a recording project called Power Children that’s like revved-up biker rock as well as their super-sometimes (like they play once a year) surf punk band The Fucktons, and Josh is always working on his solo drone/sludge project Sludge Judy (which Seth plays drums in). So – yeah, we’re definitely not done making music together in other forms and we’re all keeping active and happy with lots of music!

The projects:
https://ghostfunkorchestra.bandcamp.com/album/a-song-for-paul-2
https://soundcloud.com/ghostloadsound/power-children-night-time-is-the-fight-time
https://thefucktons.bandcamp.com/album/spring-cleaning
https://sludgejudy.bandcamp.com/

Seriously though, reunion tour in a year?

Who knows? Honestly, we’re not saying we’re never going to play again but this is the end of the band playing consistently, especially for the time being. Maybe we’ll have inspiration and write more songs and pick up the mantle again. But until then, we’re going to have a few more bangers and give our necks and heads a rest…

The Mad Doctors, “Shit Hawks at Blood Beach” official video

The Mad Doctors on Bandcamp

The Mad Doctors on Thee Facebooks

R.I.P. tape preorder

King Pizza Records website

King Pizza Records on Thee Facebooks

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Insect Ark Announce Lineup Change; Touring with Oranssi Pazuzu

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 15th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

INSECT ARK

I seem to recall Insect Ark went on tour a couple years ago with Aluk Todolo, and was out before that with Aidan Baker and has toured with Locrian as well, so with the news that the Brooklynite outfit will join Oranssi Pazuzu for an East Coast run this Fall comes further confirmation that Dana Schechter has good taste. Schechter is once again the lone figure as well as the spearhead of the project, having parted ways recently with Ashley Spungin following the release last year of the well received Marrow Hymns (discussed here). A follow-up to that record is in the works, and it should be interesting to hear how Schechter being on her own again affects the sound. She’s never had any trouble harnessing a dynamic between minimalist ambience and outright crush, so yeah. One expects she’ll be fine.

Tour dates follow. These will be good shows:

oranssi pazuzu insect ark tour

INSECT ARK: Instrumental Noise/Doom Project Confirms North American Live Takeover Supporting Oranssi Pazuzu

Instrumental noise/doom project INSECT ARK will support Finland’s Oranssi Pazuzu on a North American fall tour. The journey will begin on October 10th in Chicago, Illinois and run through October 19th in Atlanta, Georgia with additional INSECT ARK performances to be announced in the weeks to come. See confirmed dates below.

INSECT ARK w/ Oranssi Pazuzu:
10/10/2019 Reggies – Chicago, IL
10/11/2019 El Club – Detroit, MI
10/12/2019 Velvet Underground – Toronto, ON
10/13/2019 Le Ritz – Montreal, QC
10/14/2019 Sonia – Boston, MA
10/15/2019 Le Poisson Rouge – New York, NY
10/16/2019 Underground Arts – Philadelphia, PA
10/17/2019 Metro Gallery – Baltimore, MD
10/18/2019 Kings – Raleigh, NC (late show)
10/19/2019 529 – Atlanta, GA

Formed in late 2011 in New York City, INSECT ARK is the solo project of Dana Schechter (bass, lap steel guitar, synthesizers). An alluring fusion of horror-?lm soundtracks, psychedelic doom, and atmospheric noise, INSECT ARK’s intensely visual music weaves interludes of fragile beauty with crushing passages of swirling doom, spinning like a backwards fever dream.

A busy 2018 included the release of a full-length LP Marrow Hymns on Profound Lore Records, European and North American tours, a recording residency at modular synth mecca EMS Stockholm, and fest appearances at Roadburn, Basilica Soundscape, Northwest Terror Fest, and more. Now in Summer 2019, the composing of a new album is almost complete with heavy touring in fall 2019 and spring 2020 for the US and Europe scheduled.

From its inception, INSECT ARK has been about creating music that transports, both physically, and psychologically. Schechter made three solo INSECT ARK records (Collapsar 7″, Long Arms 10″, Portal/Well LP). In 2015, drummer/analog electronics builder Ashley Spungin joined the project, and together they made 2018’s Marrow Hymns and toured extensively as a duo/band.

As of July 2019, INSECT ARK returns to the primary model of Schechter working as a solo artist, with live and studio collaborations on a per-project basis. Bridging the gap between experimentation and song form, a heavy focus is on composition, but INSECT ARK is still very much a live experience, with emphasis on live instrumentation of bass, lap steel, drums and synths, using intricate live analog looping techniques to achieve a monster “wall of sound” with only one or two people on stage.

A mind-bending animated video piece accompanies live shows – also made by Schechter, who works as a video artist in the film business – completing the experience to envelop and crush the senses.

http://www.insectark.com
http://www.facebook.com/InsectArk
http://www.insectark.bandcamp.com
http://www.profoundlorerecords.com
http://www.facebook.com/profoundlorerecords
http://www.profoundlorerecords.bandcamp.com

Insect Ark, Marrow Hymns (2018)

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