The Golden Grass Announce European Tour Dates with Wedge

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 24th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

the golden grass

Brooklyn trio The Golden Grass are headed back to Europe this Spring and will tour in late March and throughout April in the company of German trad-rockers Wedge. Pretty good show, and they’re covering a decent swath of ground in Poland, Austria, Germany, Switzerland and Italy. Of course, The Golden Grass go supporting their 2018 third album, Absolutely (review here), and they also went to Europe last year, touring in the company of Heat. If nothing else, they know how to find a fit for bands to hit the road with.

The narrative of Absolutely was that it pulled back on some of the more meandering impulses of its predecessor, 2016’s Coming Back Again (review here), but The Golden Grass have a new EP in the works that they’ve posted a couple social media teasers for, and it seems that the boogie remains strong with their upbeat sound. Throw in some of the choicest harmonies in heavy — as they reliably do — and you’re good to go.

To Europe, in this case. I haven’t seen a release date kicked around for the EP, but wouldn’t it make an awful lot of sense if it came out before the tour? Or at least was available for them to sell on the road? Yeah, that seems reasonable to me too. More when I hear it.

Here’s the poster and info in the meantime:

WEDGE-THE GOLDEN GRASS online poster

The Golden Grass & Wedge March / April Tour

27.03. (PL) Torun Swa Swiaty
28.03. (PL) Warszawa Chmury
29.03. (PL) Krakow Alchemia
30.03. (PL) Poznan Pog Minoga
31.03. (PL) Wroclaw D.K. Luksus
01.04. (AT) Vienna 3Raum
02.04. (AT) Salzburg Rockhaus
03.04. (DE) Mannheim 7er Club
04.04. (DE) Höxter Toneburg
05.04. (DE) Chemnitz Die Zukunft
06.04. (DE) Berlin Zukunft/Ostkreuz
07.04. (DE) Leipzig Moertelwerk
08.04. (DE) TBA
09.04. (CZ) Bilina Moskva
10.04. (CZ) Brno Kabinet Muz
11.04. (AT) Innsbruck PMK
12.04. (IT) Bologna Freakout
13.04. (IT) Milano COX18
14.04. (CH) Martigny Caves du Manoir
15.04. TBA
16.04. TBA
17.04. TBA
18.04. (CH) Olten Coq d’Or
19.04. (DE) Münster Rare Guitar
20.04. (DE) Oldenburg MTS

http://www.facebook.com/thegoldengrass
http://www.twitter.com/TheeGoldenGrass
http://www.thegoldengrass.bandcamp.com
www.wedgeband.com
www.magnificentmusic.de
www.swampbooking.com
http://www.listenable.net
http://www.facebook.com/listenablerecs
http://www.twitter.com/Listenable

The Golden Grass, Absolutely (2018)

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Live Review: Yawning Man and Freedom Hawk in Brooklyn, NY, 01.17.19

Posted in Reviews on January 21st, 2019 by JJ Koczan

yawning man (Photo by JJ Koczan)

It’s not the most intuitive pairing, but it worked. By the time they hit Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn on Jan. 17, Yawning Man had already been on the road for more than two weeks. They’d started on Jan. 2 in Arizona and made their way gradually east and north, playing Philadelphia and Boston the two nights prior and accordingly probably well familiar by then with the stretches of I-95. That’s not a fun ride. Freedom Hawk had joined the party a few nights before that, in Asheville, North Carolina, taking over the support slot from Nick Oliveri‘s Mondo Generator, and the bi-coastal complement suited both bands well — Yawning Man with their deeply atmospheric approach and Freedom Hawk more given to a straightforward classic heavy rock songwriting modus. Perhaps an odd fit on paper, but it made way more sense on stage. Kudos to Tone Deaf Touring for the vision.

Both groups released albums last year. Yawning Man had The Revolt Against Tired Noises (review here) on Heavy Psych Sounds over the summer and Freedom Hawk plowed through their fifth LP, Beast Remains (review here), before that. It had been years and years since the last time I saw the Virginia Beach outfit, as bassist Mark Cave politely reminded me — he said the last time was Small Stone‘s 2011 showcase in Philly (review here), but actually it was Small Stone‘s 2012 showcase in Boston (review here), though to be honest, that night was fuzzy in more ways than one — and it’s been a tumultuous few years for them, losing guitarist Matt Cave and deciding to continue as a three-piece, only to see Mark, guitarist/vocalist T.R. Morton and drummer Lenny Hines bring in guitarist Brendan O’Neill in 2016, moving as well from Small Stone to Ripple following 2015’s Into Your Mind (review here).

Nonetheless, what’s remained true is the following: Freedom Hawk believe in the power of heavy rock and roll, and if you’re fortunate enough to spend a little time in their company, they might make you a believer too. As one would expect and hope, much of what they played came off of Beast Remains and Into Your Mind — songs like “Blood Red Sky,” “Darkness and the Light,” “Solid Gold,” “Waterfall,” “Radar,” “Lost in Space,” and “Danger,” which Morton introduced with the choice line, “I don’t know if you guys can handle this next song. It’s a little dangerous. It’s called ‘Danger.'” Charm always goes a long way in my book, but the band wanted nothing for delivery either. That shouldn’t be surprising, as they’ve toured consistently over the course of this decade, here and there in the US as well as abroad in Europe, where just last year they played Desertfest London and Berlin and more besides. They’re veterans as well of Roadburn, Morton wore a shirt he likely picked up when they played Freak Valley in Germany, and on the most basic level, they’ve been together for 14 years, so yeah, Freedom Hawk coming across like they know what they’re doing is well enough earned.

They dipped back to 2011’s Holding On (review here) late in the set for the ultra-catchy “Indian Summer” and gave representation to their 2009 self-titled (review here) and 2008 debut, Sunlight, which Ripple reissued in 2017, but new or old, their material’s central purpose has remained true in conveying the strength of their songwriting. O’Neill, who also fronts thrashers The Pestilence Choir, is way more metal than MortonCave or Hines, at least in outward appearance, but that adds a bit of edge to the otherwise smooth corners of Freedom Hawk‘s stage presence, and they were a blast to watch. It had been too long, clearly.

A good general rule for life is any time you can see Yawning Man, do it. When I last caught them, headlining at Borderland Fuzz Fiesta (review here) in Arizona in early 2016, they were practically a family band, with keys and additional guitar and so on. For this tour, the traveling three-piece was what’s become the modern core of the group: guitarist Gary Arce, bassist Mario Lalli and drummer Bill Stinson. And they’re masters of what they do. One could go on and on about Yawning Man‘s legacy as one of the principal architects of Californian desert rock — and I have, on multiple occasions — but what gets discussed far less is just how much they stand out even from so many of the groups they helped inspire. With Arce‘s signature tone ever at the center of their instrumental, wide-open approach, their atmosphere is immediately identifiable, and the character with which they bring their material to life is as vibrant as that material is subtle. Over the course of more than three decades, they’ve carved a niche for themselves that is theirs alone.

And I’m not saying Mario Lalli was there when they invented cool or anything, but he’s definitely the guy they had in mind for it. Switching between picking and fingering his bass in such a way as to add nuance to Arce‘s echoing lines or emphasize a sonic weight with a strummed chord, Lalli — who also fronts Fatso Jetson — was locked in immediately and incredible to watch as he held down the low end. Looking kind of gaunt in a lined hoodie and with a cap pulled down over his face, he was all-business save for jumping on mic quickly to thank the crowd for showing up, etc., but just unreal to watch him play, and as Stinson held together the molten vibes encompassing the room, Lalli and Arce showed off the inimitable chemistry that’s served as the root cause for the spread of their influence. Yeah, it was cold out, and yeah, it was a weeknight, and yeah, real life loomed outside the door like some kind of invisible babadook, but as they peppered The Revolt Against Tired Noises material with “Perpetual Oyster,” it was hard to think of them as anything other than a classic band living up to their reputation.

It was an early show and they were done by 11PM, which I don’t know if that’s a capitulation to how the neighborhood around the Vitus has gentrified over the last three-to-four years or what — there didn’t seem to be a dance party starting, which sometimes happens after rock gigs elsewhere — but with more than an hour’s ride back to Jersey afterward, I took anyway. I don’t get out as often as I used to, and it’s mostly anxiety-based. I get worried about seeing people, meeting people, not remembering names of people I’ve met once or twice, taking pictures, on and on, but this was a good show and it felt good to be there. I didn’t seem to be the only one who thought so.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

Read more »

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Kings Destroy Sign to Svart Records; Fantasma Nera Due March 8

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 14th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

kings destroy photo JC Carey

It was two years ago yesterday that Kings Destroy released their 2017 single-song EP, None More (review here), which I’m still proud to say was the first tape I played on my current Walkman. Nonetheless, as they move toward four years removed from their 2015’s self-titled (review here), the good news arrives that the anti-genre five-piece have signed to the anti-genre Svart Records to release what will be their fourth long-player, Fantasma Nera. Say it in your spookiest voice. A March 8 release has been set for the album, which was produced by David Bottrill, whose bona fides extend well beyond the parenthetical below, and on which the band challenge themselves in structure and sound as they’ve yet to do in the decade they’ve been together. They have never put out the same record twice, never been predictable, and if you think you have any idea what’s in store this time around, you’re wrong again. They will surprise you.

I’ve been telling people to listen to Kings Destroy for nine years. I’d do another nine easy. Ha.

Here’s the record info and ultra-badass cover art, courtesy of the PR wire:

kings destroy fantasma nera

KINGS DESTROY RELEASE FANTASMA NERA ON MARCH 8 VIA SVART RECORDS

10-TRACK RELEASE PRODUCED BY DAVID BOTTRILL (TOOL, KING CRIMSON)

King’s Destroy, Brooklyn’s atmospheric grunge doom unit release their fourth album, and first full-length in four years, Fantasma Nera on March 8 via Svart Records.

“We upended our usual approach in creating this album,” says guitarist Carl Porcaro. “We’d been playing together for so many years, and all of our previous albums were the result of us hashing out the ideas in rehearsal and learning to play the songs live prior to going into the studio. For Fantasma Nera we put the songs first and let the material dictate the means by which the album was created. Producer David Bottrill (Tool, King Crimson) helped us find new creative approaches, and this resulted in an album that doesn’t sound like anything else we’ve ever done.”

“We challenged ourselves to make the best album we could,” adds singer Stephen Murphy. “…and we left our guts on the table. When I finished the vocals on this album, I was mentally and physically broken from the effort. I did not sing again for two months after it was recorded. I owed that effort to my bandmates, and they did the same for me.”

Fantasma Nera tracklist:
The Nightbird
Fantasma Nera
Barbarossa
Unmake It
Dead Before
Yonkers Ceiling Collapse
Seven Billion Drones
You’re The Puppet
Bleed Down The sun
Stormy Times

Pre-orders will be announced soon, as well North American tour dates. The band recently confirmed a performance at Maryland Doom Fest on June 20.

Kings Destroy is Aaron Bumpus (bass), Stephen Murphy (vocals), Carl Porcaro (guitar), Rob Sefcik (drums) and Chris Skowronski (guitar).

https://www.facebook.com/KingsDestroy/
https://www.instagram.com/kingsdestroy_band/
http://www.kingsdestroy.com/
https://kingsdestroy.bandcamp.com/
www.svartrecords.com
www.facebook.com/svartrecords
www.twitter.com/svartrecords

Kings Destroy, None More (2017)

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Begotten, 2018 Demo EP: The Trichome’s Growth

Posted in Reviews on January 2nd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

begotten 2018 demo ep

New York riff-stompers Begotten began playing shows again a couple years ago, having been long defunct following the release of their lone, self-titled album in 2001. That record was remastered in 2018 with the addition of two previously unreleased tracks, “Nomad” and “Apache” (premiered here), and has held an auspicious place in heavy rock trivia for being the final release on Man’s Ruin Records before the storied label went under. The band followed suit soon enough after, spending the intervening years, as they tell it, with guitarist/vocalist Matt Anselmo being diagnosed with throat cancer, bassist/vocalist Amanda Topaz losing much of her ability to hear, and drummer Rob Sefcik joining anti-genre purveyors Kings Destroy. As to the impetus for a reunion, I couldn’t possibly say, but it’s resulted in the first new material from the band since their debut in the form of 2018 Demo EP, which brings forth six songs of nodder riffs and loose-feeling-but-nonetheless-heavy groove. The recording, helmed by Kol Marshall and Joe Kelly at Suburban Elvis Studios (also Eternal Black), was done over the course of two days, and sounds and feels live with an intent toward rawness and grit.

A demo, in other words. And it was unquestionably released in 2018, so that settles that. What I’d argue with as regards the title, however, is the “EP” portion of it. 2018 Demo EP, which slogs through a four-minute introduction with “Surrender to the Doom” before loosing the roller “WhiteOut” — which I’m just gonna guess isn’t about fixing typographical errors; think “Snowblind” in concept and sound — is 38 minutes long. That’s a full-length. While I’m sure Begotten have more material hanging around, their dirt-caked sludge has enough time in these songs to demonstrate its variety of composition and overarching flow, the dynamic in swapping vocals between Anselmo and Topaz, and the shifts between harsher, Bongzilla-style crust screaming, as on “WhiteOut” and the cleaner melodies of “Cold Earth,” “Levitator ADX” and “Apache,” which follow and each hover on either side of eight minutes long, thereby comprising the bulk of the offering, growing more immersive and more spacious as they play one into the next.

That in itself speaks to 2018 Demo EP as an album, and while I don’t want to get hung up haggling over the delineation — as, yes, I know, I do — the fact is that EPs and LPs are regarded on different levels. This is a demo, clearly marked, so that’s its own consideration as well, but especially as “WhiteOut” unfolds into “Cold Earth,” and especially with the instrumental intro “Surrender to the Doom” and its companion outro “Into the Trichome” at the end, 2018 Demo EP moves like an album. It has two sides — somewhat uneven in length with a split after “Cold Earth,” but still — and it seems to reach further as it plays through until the final deconstruction and ringout at its conclusion. Particularly with a production that’s so willfully raw and a live-seeming recording method, there’s nothing missing here to stop it from being a full-length demo. That said, the fact that Begotten call it a demo speaks to a desire on their part to refine what’s here or otherwise progress from it.

begotten

Not that it’s fair to compare something from 17 years earlier, but indeed, the self-titled had a cleaner sound, if like-minded in terms of the space captured. It’s hard to know their future intent, but if 2018 Demo EP is a precursor to a record to be made either with this material — you’ll note “Apache” already showed up on the first LP’s remaster — or other songs building off it, then this release only bodes well and shows the three-piece as ready to take on that task. What concerns me about that is the idea of this six-songer as an EP, as though a complete album would require more; either more songs or more runtime. It wouldn’t. If Begotten wanted to take the lessons from this demo and hit the studio to churn out the same songs in the same order, they’d have a tight, effective full-length. They have that now, just with a barebones, straightforward production that, by my estimate, doesn’t really hurt the songs as it is. In the post-Sleep largesse of “Levitator ADX,” one can hear hints of the psychedelic spaces the band are reaching for via the late wah of the guitar, and as a demo, that’s how it should be. That can certainly be expanded in a final version of a track, with layering, etc., but if Begotten are thinking a full-length needs to top 50 or even 40 minutes to be effective, all they need to do is listen to their own demo for proof to the contrary.

“Cold Earth,” “Levitator ADX” and “Apache” play out in order from shortest to longest, and as each one takes hold from the other, Begotten bring the listener deeper into a wide-open murk that still holds a foundation in the crunch of their tones. Sefcik is a grounding force for some of the jammier aspects, but well fluid enough in his style of play as to give Anselmo and Topaz room to explore riffs and melodies around that solid rhythm, and the upfront buzz of “Levitator ADX” and comparatively far-back riffing of “Apache” are indicative of the ability of the trio to shape their sound within the reaches of a mix. That only adds to the molten, classic stoner vibe so prevalent throughout 2018 Demo EP, and though the rest of what follows remains colored by the sludgy surge of “WhiteOut” early on, Begotten show that more than a decade and a half on from their debut, they have something to add to a New York heavy scene that’s cycled through a generation of followers in the time of their absence.

Given the length of time they were inactive, I won’t feign prescience as to what they’ll do next, but a demo says they’re evolving. You do a demo before you make a record of one sort or another. If that’s where Begotten are headed, they’ve given themselves some crucial lessons to learn with 2018 Demo EP, and in more than just nomenclature. One only hopes that if and as these songs do lead to another outing, the band holds firm to the aspects of their approach that seem to have carried over so effectively from their debut: their range, their ability to fluidly shift between tempos and aggression levels, their penchant for leaving structure behind when it suits the song, and so on. Strange to think of a band that got their start 22 years ago as holding promise, but Begotten‘s 2018 Demo EP is so much less about retread and so much more about looking forward that one could hardly do otherwise.

Begotten, 2018 Demo EP

Begotten on Thee Facebooks

Begotten on Bandcamp

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Quarterly Review: A Storm of Light, Z/28, Forrest, 1476, Owl, Brass Hearse, Craneium & Black Willows, Magmakammer, Falun Gong, Max Tovstyi

Posted in Reviews on December 4th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review

Day Two of the Quarterly-Review-Mega-Super-Ultra-Year-End-Wrap-Up-Spectacular-Gnarly-Edition — name in progress — begins now. First day? Smooth. Wrote it over the weekend to get a jump on the week, cruised through a morning and into baby-naps, finished with time left over to still go and read the Star Trek novel I’m currently making my way through. Easy. Also peasy.

Today? Well, apparently I turned off my alarm in my sleep because I rolled over 40 minutes later and certainly didn’t remember it going off. Whoops. Not a great start, but there is a lot of cool stuff in this batch, so we’ll get through it, even if it’s awfully early in the week to be sleeping in. Ha.

Have a great day everybody. Here are 10 more records for the QRMSUYEWUSGE. Rolls right off the tongue.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

A Storm of Light, Anthroscene

A Storm of Light Anthroscene

“America the sick and crumbling/Liberty she’s weeping/The tired and poor are huddled and dying/As the wretched ones are touched aside.” The lines, from A Storm of Light‘s “Blackout” — the second cut from their fifth LP, Anthroscene (on Translation Loss) — lead to the inevitable question: “What the fuck is wrong with us?,” and thereby summarize the central sociopolitical framework of the record. A dystopian thematic suits the band’s aesthetic, and there’s certainly no shortage of material to work from between current events and future outlook. Guitarist/vocalist/keyboardist/graphic artist Josh Graham, bassist Domenic Seita and guitarist/keyboardist Dan Hawkins are five years removed from the band’s last outing, however, so their post-apocalyptic post-metal is welcome either way, and Anthroscene taps a Killing Joke influence and turns it to its dark and churning purposes over the course of its eight tracks/51 minutes, delving into harsh shouts on “Short Term Feedback” and capping with the resistance-filled “Rosebud,” which surges forth from ambience like the anti-facist/anti-capitalist critique that it is, ending with the lyric, “When you die, we will spit on your grave,” which could hardly be more appropriate.

A Storm of Light on Thee Facebooks

Translation Loss Records on Bandcamp

 

Z28, Nobody Rides for Free

Z28 Nobody Rides for Free

Massachusetts’ Z28 — also stylized as Z/28 and Z-28; I don’t think they care so long as you get the point they’re named after the Camaro — make their full-length debut with Nobody Rides for Free on Fuzzdoom Records, and with the occasional bit of organ on songs like “Touch of Evil” and “Angst III (I Don’t Want to Die),” they nonetheless give a raw take on heavy rock laced with that particularly Northeastern aggression. Guitarist Jeff Hayward (also organ), bassist/acoustic guitarist/engineer Jason Negro and drummer Breaux Silcio all contribute vocals to the outing, and yet the minute-long instrumental intro tells much of the story of what it’s about in terms of the chemistry between them. Impressive guitar solos are rampant throughout, and the rhythm section carries over a weighted groove through cuts like “Wandering” that’s fluid in tempo but still able to create an overarching flow between the tracks. I’ll give bonus points for the Black Sabbath nods in the multi-layered lead work toward the end of “Spirit Elk (Lord of the Hunt)” as well as the title “Keep on Rockin’ (In the Invisible World),” and Z28 have something to build on here in terms of songwriting and that chemistry. It’s raw-sounding, but that doesn’t necessarily hurt it.

Z28 on Thee Facebooks

Fuzzdoom Records on Bandcamp

 

Forrest, Kickball with Russians

forrest kickball with russians

Granted, Forrest telegraph some measure of quirk by naming their debut EP Kickball with Russians, but the four-piece from Lexington, Kentucky, still seem to be rolling along in a straightforward-enough manner on six-minute instrumental opener and longest track (immediate points) “(I Dream of) Kickball with Russians,” until the keyboards start in. That turn gives their EP an edge of the unexpected that continues to inform “DAN,” “Deew” and the closing “My Son Looks Just Like Me,” and “DAN” continues the thread with gang shouts popping up over its chugging progression and receding again after about two words to let the track get quiet and build back up. And is that a velociraptor at the start of “Deew?” Either way, that song’s Mr. Bungle-style angularity, a return of the keys and intermittent heavy nod work to underscore the willful weirdness that’s very much at play in the four-piece’s work, and the closer adds Ween-style effects work into the mix while still keeping a heavy presence in tone and lumber. They’ll get weirder with time, but this is a good start toward that goal.

Forrest on Thee Facebooks

Forrest on Bandcamp

 

1476, Our Season Draws Near

1476 our season draws near

Coastal melancholy and a pervasive sense of atmosphere seem to unite the varied tracks on 1476‘s 2017 Prophecy release, Our Season Draws Near, which otherwise draw across their span from goth rock, punk, doom and extreme metal, able to blur the line especially between punk and black metal on songs like “Ettins” while acoustics pervade “Solitude (Exterior)” en route to the Anathema-gone-char rasps of “Solitude (Interior)” a short time later. I know I’m late to the party on the Salem, MA, duo, and likewise late on this record, but from opener “Our Silver Age” to closer “Our Ice Age” to the “Solitude” pairing to “Winter of Winds” — finally: David Bowie fronts Joy Division — and “Winter of Wolves,” there’s so much of Our Season Draws Near that has a bigger-picture thought process behind its construction that its impact is multi-tiered. And it’s not just that they pit genres against each other in their sound, it’s that their sound brings them together toward something new and malleable to the purposes of their songwriting. Not to be missed, so this is me, not missing it. Even though I kind of missed it.

1476 on Thee Facebooks

Prophecy Productions on Bandcamp

 

Owl, Nights in Distortion

owl nights in distortion

Joined on Nights in Distortion by bassist René Marquis as well as longtime drummer Patrick Schroeder, guitarist/vocalist/synthesist Christian Kolf (also Valborg) greatly expands his former solo-ish-project Owl with their second release of 2018 behind March’s Orion Fenix EP (review here), bringing together elements of post-metal churn with deeply atmospheric sensibilities, cuts like “Transparent Moment” churning as much as they are surprising with their underlying melody. A Type O Negative influence continues to be worked into their sometimes grueling context, but it’s hard to listen to the keyboard-laced “Inanna in Isolation” and hear Owl being anything other than who they’ve become, and their third album is the most distinct statement of that yet, airy lead guitars floating over a still-fervent, industrial-style chug amid vocals veering from barking shouts to quiet, low-register semi-spoken fare and cleaner singing. Nights in Distortion is the evolving work of a mastermind, captured in progress.

Owl on Thee Facebooks

Temple of Torturous website

 

Brass Hearse, Hollow on the Surface

Brass Hearse Hollow on the Surface

Synth-laden heavy horror garage dance rock could probably use a more succinct genre name, but while those in charge of such things sit and scratch their butts, Boston’s Brass Hearse carve out a niche unto themselves with their second EP, Hollow on the Surface. The five-track offering is in and out in 14 minutes but wants nothing for either a show of craft or arrangement, tapping into psych-folk in the strummy interlude “Dwellers in the Static Valley” after the hook-led “Death by Candlelight” and before the John Carpenter-style pulsations that underscore “The Thing from Another World.” Opener “Fading” is the only song to top four minutes and has a distinctly progressive take, but while it and the organ-ic closer “Headaches & Heartbreaks” has a theatricality to it, Brass Hearse are too cohesive to charge with being weird for weirdness’ sake, and their experimentation is presented in complete, engaging songs, rather than self-indulgent collections of parts mashed together. Would love to hear what they do over the course of a full-length.

Brass Hearse on Thee Facebooks

Playing Records on Bandcamp

 

Craneium & Black Willows, Split

Different missions from Finland’s Craneium and Switzerland’s Black Willows on their BloodRock Records split. Craneium nod through “Your Law” and mark their second inclusion, “Try, Fail, Repeat,” with a Sabbathian swing that only kicks up in tempo as it moves through its five minutes. Black Willows, on the other hand, present a single track in the 19-minute, noise-soaked post-everything “Bliss,” which trades back and forth between minimalism and crushing riffs en route to a consuming wash and long, long, long fadeout. Released in March, the outing showcases both bands well, but one is left wondering where the connection is between the two of them that they’d come together for a joint vinyl release. Either way, I won’t detract from what they do individually, whether it’s the catchiness of “Your Law” and the jam in its second half or “Bliss” with its frost-covered expanse of tonality, it’s just a marked leap from side A to side B. Maybe that was the idea all along, and if that’s the case, then one can only say they succeeded.

Craneium on Thee Facebooks

Black Willows on Thee Facebooks

BloodRock Records on Bandcamp

 

Magmakammer, Mind Tripper

magmakammer mindtripper

Following a 2015 self-titled debut EP, Oslo trio Magmakammer align with Kozmik Artifactz for their first long-player, Mindtripper, and so effect a garage doom sound that’s quickly relatable to Uncle Acid on songs like “Fat Saturn” and the chug-shuffling “Along the Crooked Roads.” Where they distinguish themselves from this core influence, though, is in the density of their tones, as opener “Druggernaut” and the rolling “Acid Times” prove thicker in their charge. Still, there’s no mistaking that swing and the blown-out sound of the vocals. Closer “Cosmic Dancers,” which is one of two tracks over seven minutes long, shows more dynamic in its loud/quiet tradeoffs, and resolves itself in a righteous nodder of a riff. It’s essentially in the same vein, but still displaying some emerging personality of Magmakammer‘s own that one hopes they continue to develop. And in the meantime, the foundation of craft and stylistic awareness they hone is still welcome, familiar or not.

Magmakammer on Thee Facebooks

Kozmik Artifactz webstore

 

Falun Gong, Figure 2

Falun Gong Figure 2

Mystique isn’t easy to come by in this Age of Access, but the anonymous London-dwelling duo Falun Gong have succeeded in piquing interest with their two-to-date singles, “Figure 1” (review here), and the eight-minute “Figure 2,” which like its predecessor is raw in the recording, sounds like it was performed live, and follows a trance-inducing course of riffing. The central groove is a slow march that makes its way through obscure voices delivered in buried fashion — the whole thing may or may not be mastered; somehow I’m thinking not, but I’ve been wrong before — through a self-aware drift that rounds out following a soulful culmination fitting the song’s lyrical theme, which would seem to be tied to the cover art about baptism in a river’s waters. There’s just something off-kilter about Falun Gong to this point, and while it’s still early going for them, they bring an eerie persona to their work that feels less performative than it so often does.

Falun Gong on Bandcamp

 

Max Tovstyi, Mesmerize

Max Tovstyi Mesmerize

Though he’s had a slew of live outings out with the Max Tovstyi Blues Band and the Max Tovstyi Blues Association, Mesmerize (LP on Nasoni) is the Ukrainian heavy blues rocker’s first solo studio outing since 2014. He’s credited with all the instruments on the 10- or 12-track offering save for a couple arrangement-flourish guest appearances, and he pulls in a classic spirit and full-band sound without any trouble on a moody piece like “World of Sin” or the bonus track “Show Me the Way,” which isn’t a Peter Frampton cover so far as I can tell but still has plenty of guitar scorch to go around. “From the Blues to the Funk” jams its way along its stated trajectory, and “Feel Like Dying Now” brings together organ and keys in a fashion far less dramatized than one might initially think. With a clean production, Tovstyi — also known for his work in The Heavy Crawls, Lucifer Rising, and others — carries through his sentimentality for blues rock’s past and finds himself well at home leading the pack of guest vocalists on “Make Up Your Mind,” which closes the album proper with a semi-country twang and sweet melody.

Max Tovstyi on Thee Facebooks

Nasoni Records website

 

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Desertfest NYC 2019 First Lineup Announcement: Windhand, Elder, Monolord, The Skull, The Atomic Bitchwax, Danava, Mirror Queen, Worshipper and Dommengang to Play

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 27th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

DESERTFEST NYC 2019 BANNER

I’m not trying to toot my own horn here or anything, but I’ve been posting about Desertfest lineups pretty much since the whole thing started. And to me, this already looks like a Desertfest. The first lineup announcement for Desertfest NYC 2019 has been made, and the inaugural New York incarnation of the festival brand in partnership with Sound of Liberation and Tee Pee Records seems to represent multiple sides well. Windhand and their new Relapse labelmates Monolord are given prominent showing, as are Elder — because, let’s face it, if you’re running the first-ever Desertfest on US soil and you don’t get Elder to play, you’re fucking up — and Tee Pee Records is well represented with the likes of The Skull, The Atomic Bitchwax, Danava, Mirror Queen and Worshipper.

Rounding out the bill are L.A.’s Dommengang, who would seem to be the odd band out, but one listen to their Love Jail album that Thrill Jockey put out and you’ll see it’s no mystery why they’re here. I wouldn’t be surprised if they wound up touring east with another West Coast band — Danava come immediately to mind — but of course nothing to that effect has been announced and I’m just speculating.

Point is it’s already a solid bill and in addition to the bands, we now know that the venues involved will be the Saint Vitus Bar and The Well. I’ll have more on the lineup and whatnot as soon as I see it, but early bird tickets are on sale now at the long link below.

Dig it:

DESERTFEST NYC 2019 POSTER

FIRST ACTS ANNOUNCED FOR DF NYC + EARLY-BIRDS NOW ON SALE! We are stoked to welcome Windhand, Elder, Monolord, The Skull, The Atomic Bitchwax, DANAVA, Mirror Queen, Worshipper & Dommengang to the first edition of Desertfest New York – Taking place at Saint Vitus Bar on Friday 26th April and The Well on Saturday 27th April + Sunday 28th April.

A limited amount of 3-day early-bird passes are available for $65 via the below link – https://www.ticketweb.com/event/desertfest-nyc-2019-the-well-tickets/8942735?pl=thewell&fbclid=IwAR28zNtuppWWRVoi3vCXRkeGIg4wOD4FShfPgjbIPDGiOGPDOzbL2vj_UWE

Artwork by the wildly talented Mercerrock (Brian Mercer Design)

https://facebook.com/Desertfestnyc/
http://www.desertfest.nyc/

Monolord, Rust (2017)

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The Obelisk Presents: Ode to Doom in Manhattan on Nov. 24 with Heavy Temple, Fox 45, Nine Layers Deep and Sabba

Posted in The Obelisk Presents on November 19th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

ode to doom nov 24 lineup

My general tack in talking about gender on this site is not to. I try not to post album art that has shitty objectification of women on it, and if I think something is outwardly misogynist, I’ll say so one way or another, but I cringe when I see male writers and PR people and labels using tags like “female-fronted,” etc., and I usually try to mention it as little as humanly possible. I don’t know if the method is politically sound or what — I’d have to talk to my theorist wife about it, and she’s sleeping at the moment — but the way I see it something can’t be normalized while still being made exotic. That is, when a band has three or four dudes in it, one doesn’t call them “male-fronted.” Women in bands is a thing that happens. The proportions as relates to the general population are ridiculous — see: shitty misogyny, above — but I try not to position lady-inclusion in my writing as something abnormal, because it isn’t something abnormal and it shouldn’t be treated that way. I don’t expect or want or think I deserve kudos for that, and fuck you heartily if you think I’m saying this to be self-righteous.

I’ve been sort of loosely involved in presenting Ode to Doom at Arlene’s Grocery in NYC for a little over two years. I signed on initially because I liked the idea of someone still putting on underground heavy shows in Manhattan where so much of that business seems to have migrated to Brooklyn during the course of the last decade-plus. Claudia Crespo, who is the promoter behind the series, is well beyond admirable for her dedication to the cause, and the events she has curated have highlighted some of the finest in heavy that the Eastern Seaboard has to offer, from groups like Geezer to Tarpit Boogie to Eternal Black and Shadow Witch and on and on. It’s awesome, to be blunt, and the next one is a special lineup along the lines alluded-to above, so yeah, it seemed well worth an extra plug to me.

I know this week is Thanksgiving and that people will be recovering this week from the holiday, but if you, like me, have found spiritual restoration in riff form, I’ve no doubt you’ll find it again Saturday night at Arlene’s with Heavy Temple, Fox 45, Nine Layers Deep and Sabba on a reasonably early bill.

Dig the info:

ode to doom nov 24 poster

Next up, an all female-fronted Ode to Doom, with #Sabba, Nine Layers Deep, Fox 45, and Heavy Temple @ Arlene’s Grocery!!! Save the date, November 24th!! Doors open at 6:30, show kicks off at 7!! Flyer by Ritual Design!

Sabba at 7
Nine Layers Deep at 8
Fox 45 at 9
Heavy Temple at 10

Claudia Crespo on Nov. 24 Ode to Doom:

I’ve been doing Ode for a little over two years now and this one coming up on the 24th has been marinating in my mind for some time now, really about a year. I find the growing number of women in the metal scene (particularly in the Doom Community) only getting larger, stronger, and more in your face (which is a great thing). With groups like The Doom Hag, it was only a matter a time when I felt a show like the one coming up was wanted or maybe even a little needed. I’m super proud and stoked to support that.

Ode to Doom Nov. 24 event page

Ode to Doom on Thee Facebooks

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Friday Full-Length: The Book of Knots, Traineater

Posted in Bootleg Theater on November 16th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

The Book of Knots, Traineater (2007)

Traineater is something of the lost The Book of Knots record, which is counterintuitive because I’m pretty sure it was the one with widest initial distribution. But their 2004 debut, Book of Knots, is still available to stream via Arclight Records, and their 2011 third LP, Garden of Fainting Stars (review here), is diligently hosted for digital listening via Ipecac Recordings‘ Bandcamp page. Traineater, the middle outing from the kinda-New-York-based troupe, is only listenable as a YouTube playlist, and while physical copies are still available in some places, it never had nearly the profile it deserved. Though to be fair, I’m not sure it possibly could.

I’ll be blunt and say flat out I love this record. I’ve lived with it for 11 years and it still manages to both deliver something new each time and to make an impact in the listening experience. The Book of Knots was comprised of the four-piece of vocalist/violinist Carla Kihlstedt (Sleepytime Gorilla Museum), guitarist Joel Hamilton (Battle of Mice, noted producer at Studio G in Brooklyn), bassist Tony Maimone (Pere Ubu) and the book of knots traineaterdrummer/vocalist Matthias Bossi (Sleepytime Gorilla Museum), and each of their three albums carried a loose concept behind it. Sea, land and air. The self-titled told stories of the ocean, Traineater was in homage to post-industrial Rust Belt decline, and Garden of Fainting Stars explored Cold War-era piloting and the space race. Particularly on the latter two outings, the core four-piece was joined by a slew of guests, and as Traineater opens with “View from the Watertower,” also its longest track at 5:51 (immediate points), their impact can be felt immediately as Carla Bozulich (Evangelista) takes the lead vocal to top the album’s explosive launch.

The track devolves into eerie noise and manic poetry as Bozulich builds a maddening tension that, at 3:50, bursts out again on a slow instrumental march that’s every bit what post-metal could’ve become at its best. The album that follows is wildly experimental — each of its 14 tracks offers something different, as well as mostly different personnel; if there’s any crime to it, it’s that Kihlstedt doesn’t get more lead vocal opportunities, as she’s a fucking genius — and after Bossi takes on ol’-time radio compression to narrate the quick bounce of “Hands of Production,” Traineater gives its first demonstration of her utter brilliance with its title-track. Broken down mills, factory decline, worn down people, and a kind of wounded heart populate Traineater, and though there’s some element of condescension as Tom Waits gives a gravelly voice to the nonetheless catchy-as-hell “Pray,” which follows in succession, the raw soul on display in “Traineater” itself might only be matched by Kihlstedt‘s vocal/violin — yes, she does both at the same time; I’ve seen it live — on the later “Salina,” which is the first of a two-stage apex of the album in its second half.

Spoken word is introduced as an element in “View from the Watertower” to some degree, but as The Book of Knots welcome more and more guests — Jon Langford of The Mekons, Waits, Aaron Lazar of The Giraffes, Trey Spruance of Secret Chiefs 3 and Mr. Bungle (etc.), Norman Westberg (who’d go on to play in Swans), Mike Watt and a slew of others credited on the back cover: Alice Lee, Rick Moody, Wu Fei, Zeena Parkins, Brian Wolf, Allen Willner, Matt Welsh, Kathleen Brennan, John Davis, Doug Henderson, and Megan Reilly — on vocals and various instruments, some homemade, human speaking voice becomes an all the more essential element in the album’s varied personality on cuts like “Pedro to Cleveland,” the seething and malevolent “Red Apple Boy,” parts of “Midnight,” “Boomtown” and “Hewitt-Smithson,” which appears just ahead of the two minutes of noise in “Walker Percy Evans High School” that close out.

It is an album as dense as its list of personnel, but not inaccessible, and the showcase of voice is a big part of that. Kihlstedt‘s presence in “Traineater,” “Where’d Mom Go?” and “Salina” isn’t to be understated as a factor tying the material together, but whether it’s the selection of obscure verses to the traditional “The Ballad of John Henry” that start Traineater‘s second half, ending poignantly with the title character telling his son he must be a steel-driving man, which in the context of the record is only thereby perpetuating the decline of human-labor industrialization, or the somewhat departures from the concept in “Red Apple Boy” — more a treatise on the underlying threat of suburbia — and “Boomtown,” which carries through the theme, but from a British Isles perspective, each cut brings characters and stories to life such that it’s not artists sitting back in a New York studio talking about the Midwest, but more of an effort to engage a collective spirit. Issues of social class remain, but that too is a crucial part of the American story.

As noted, “Salina” is the first of a two-part apex to the work as a whole. The second piece of that is the chugging “Third Generation Pink Slip.” Fronted — and very much fronted — by Lazar, it begins with the lines, “This town’s so done/The writing’s on the wall/The more the union makes demands/The more the union falls,” and continues through with a scathing, gnashing performance that’s bitter enough to earn its concluding image: “Three generations on a Friday night spend their last paychecks, alright,” which arrives around a reprise of dutiful workaday whistling brought in during an earlier break. In combination with the violin-laced, hair-stand-on-end surge in the second half of “Salina,” it’s The Book of Knots at both their most outwardly heavy and arguably the book of knots traineater back covertheir most visionary, answering back the intensity of “View from the Watertower” with a righteous summation of Traineater‘s style and message alike, and it every bit earns the subsequent epitaph of “Hewitt-Smithson” and “Walker Percy Evans High School” that follows. At that point there’s not much left to say.

They played one show for Traineater, in New York at some theater downtown — was it Gramercy? It was one of them — and I was there. It was their first show, and BozulichLazar, and a ton of others showed up for the occasion. Incredible. There was one gig at The Knitting Factory in Brooklyn for Garden of Fainting Stars the review of which is linked above, and there may have been one more in the years since, but I’m not sure on that. I may have blocked it out of my memory because I was so upset I couldn’t be there, if it did happen. Either way, the quartet of KihlstedtBossiMaimone and Hamilton have moved onto different projects. Last I heard Kihlstedt and Bossi were on Cape Cod, being brilliant under sundry guises. Hamilton was nominated for a Grammy for production work a few years back, and in addition to owning Studio GMaimone plays in the instrumental post-rock outfit No Grave Like the Sea and others. He recorded and mixed their debut album, Estelle, in 2016.

I won’t, but I could go on about Traineater, and frankly, I don’t care if you’ve never heard The Book of Knots or what. Sometimes I close out a week with a record just for myself, and this is one of those occasions. I won’t take away from either of their other releases, but this is an album so underrated that it feels like a crime against humanity. Approach with an open mind.

As always, I hope you enjoy, and thanks for reading.

I stood outside for a minute last night in the parking lot of the stretch of townhouses where we live in Massachusetts last night in my shorts and my sandals and let the lazy snowflakes fall on my head. I don’t know what this winter’s going to be like up here — one feels permanently traumatized by capital-‘w’ Winter 2014 — but I enjoyed that moment and as it’s quarter to five in the morning now, I’m looking forward to when The Pecan wakes up and sees the two inches or so of snow that fell after he went to bed last night. I expect he’ll squeak in response. He’s been doing that a lot this week. He’s amazing.

We came back north from Jersey on Tuesday, I think. Yeah, Tuesday. Stole an extra 24 hours in the Mid-Atlantic owing to the end of World War I. I’ll take it however it comes. Spent most of the week beat to hell, as expected, and down, down, down in that narcissistic mire of fucking depressive horror. Awful. You feel like shit about everything and it just bleeds off you. I’m 37 years old and I fucking hate myself like I did when I was 12. Do you have any idea how sad that shit is a quarter-century later? A big part of me is like, “dude get over it” and then I just sit there and fucking chastise myself for existing and draining the life out of everyone around me — which up here is really only The Patient Mrs. and The Pecan. You think a one-year-old doesn’t deserve better than to hang around with my sad ass? Pathetic.

There’s a lot of shit that’s happened to me in the last two-plus years that I’m just not over. At all. At all. It’s personal, but it’s always there. You go through some things that change who you are on a fundamental level. You get scars, and they look different over time, but they don’t leave you.

Speaking of permanence — and yet radically shifting the subject — I’m thinking of getting a tattoo. Not going to say of what yet, and no, it has nothing to do with the baby, but yeah, I’ve got a design from Sean “Skillit” McEleny that’s headed toward finalization that I’m looking to get on the inside of my forearm. Haven’t quite decided right or left, but either way, it’s something I want visible.

The Pecan is waking up. I can hear him thumping around upstairs even with the new Spidergawd record playing — which rules, by the way — and maybe he’ll go back out and maybe not. Either way, time’s a crunch. Here’s what’s up for next week, subject to change:

Mon.:  New Light Choir full stream/review; Samavayo video premiere-ish; Bell Witch video.
Tue.: Pale Divine full stream/review; Fauna Timbre video premiere.
Wed.: Foghound full stream/review.
Thu.: Huata full stream/review.
Fri.: Maybe an Orango full stream/review? Otherwise Rotor review.

Packed. Next week is Thanksgiving in the US, and if you’re celebrating, all my best. We’ll be back down in New Jersey for it to see and host family. Very much looking forward to that, and you’ll note that the end of next week is pretty Euro-centric as a result. You know I overthink this stuff.

Alright, I should get going. Two quick plugs:

1. Hoodies and longsleeve shirts are up now at Dropout Merch: https://dropoutmerch.com/the-obelisk.

2. This Sunday at 7PM Eastern is a new episode of ‘The Obelisk Show’ on Gimme Radio: https://gimmeradio.com/

If you didn’t see over on Instagram, I bought a new microphone to use for the latter. Sounds pretty good but for the doofus talking into it. Ha.

Please have a great and safe weekend, and if I don’t say so again between now and then, an excellent Thanksgiving, and a productive start to the brutality that is the holiday season. Have fun. Back Monday.

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