Friday Full-Length: Kalas, Kalas

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 12th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

Kalas, Kalas (2006)

Kalas was a short-lived five-piece fronted by Matt Pike of High on Fire and Sleep. During their time together, which reportedly started in 2003, they released one full-length, self-titled, on Tee Pee Records. They did not tour extensively. I remember seeing them at SXSW 2006 in Austin, Texas, at a day party sponsored by Vice — at the time I had no idea what Vice was, but Witch were also playing, so I wasn’t missing it either way — and watching as Pike rushed through the crowd to get on stage because the band’s set was about to start. It was that kind of thing. Someone would tell me later that Kalas essentially came out of his desire to practice his vocals and expand his range for High on Fire — which the album Kalas most definitely does on songs like “Frozen Sun” and “Mother’s Tears” — but I think the appeal of the record goes further than that.

Consider that in 2006, Sleep were still broken up, seemingly permanently. With High on Fire, Pike released Blessed Black Wings in 2005 and would follow it up with Death is this Communion in 2007, indeed having greatly expanded his vocal range. Kalas‘ self-titled is not only a bridge between those two albums, but also a tie to the more purely stonerized riffing of Sleep — or at very least is less maniacally metal than High on Fire were at the time and have only grown to be more so. By stepping back and not playing guitar, Pike gave crucial ground to six-stringers Andy Christ (ex-Eldopa) and Paul Kott (ex-High Tone Son of a Bitch) and led the band, which also included bassist Brad Reynolds and drummer Scott Plumb, in a different way than he ever had before or than he has since. He only played guitar in Sleep, but in Kalas, he only sang (minus a solo on “Frozen Sun”), and that became a defining feature of the group and the album.

Honestly, that would probably be enough to pique interest, but the album continues to deliver quality in the performance of the entire band and the songwriting. It’s not as rampage-prone as High on Fire, but Kalas grooves fluidly across its nine tracks, and the lyrics tackle issues of addiction and the resulting effects on life in a more direct way than Pike ever had before. It became a vibe that, on subsequent releases, might’ve come to develop along a path separate from anything else Pike was involved in, but instead it kind of languished behind the booming popularity of High on Fire — who were in the midst of doing some of their best work to-date — and the reunion of Sleep, which began in 2009. The self-titled would be the only thing they ever put out. Copies still float around, and if you’re lucky you might be able to find one in a used rack somewhere, but it continues to surprise me how little mention Kalas get in the Matt Pike discography, since they were unlike anything he’d done before or would do again. And, again, the songs hold up even a decade later.

More pre-social media heavy seemingly given up to the ages, awaiting reissue. Hope you enjoy.

I lost a little weight recently and so have been digging out some old t-shirts from boxes in the basement in hopes that they might fit. I chose the Kalas record because apparently at some point I purchased a Kalas t-shirt with the album cover on it. Must have been at that SXSW show, though I couldn’t say for sure — it was a long decade ago and I never went to Austin that I didn’t spend the entire half-week bordering on blackout drunk. Or my 20s. Ha.

Anyway, I think I might wear that Kalas shirt to The Obelisk All-Dayer, which is only eight days away. It’s pretty new looking. I might’ve never worn it before.

If you don’t have your tickets yet for The Obelisk All-Dayer, which is Aug. 20 at Saint Vitus Bar, get them here: https://www.ticketfly.com/purchase/event/1067269

Next week the countdown to that show will continue. Look for exclusive and awesome stuff from Funeral HorseKing Buffalo and Heavy Temple, and maybe a special writeup for the afterparty as well, because I’m really stoked on bringing Walter Roadburn and Adam from The Golden Grass on board to DJ after Mars Red Sky plays. It’s going to be such an awesome day. Please come. Please show up.

Also next week, look out for a review and some kind of audio premiere for the new Second Grave album, Blacken the Sky. To be followed Tuesday (I think) by Wretch and Wednesday by Blues Funeral. There’s more for later in the week, I’m just not sure what it is yet. Doing the All-Dayer countdown has put me way behind on videos as well. Might take a day to get caught up. We’ll see how it goes.

I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Please get your The Obelisk All-Dayer tickets, and please check out the forum and radio stream.

The Obelisk All-Dayer

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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Neurosis Announce UK 30th Anniversary Shows

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 10th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

neurosis (Photo by John Sturdy)

Having been fortunate enough to witness two of Neurosis‘ 30th anniversary sets in-person at Roadburn 2016 earlier this year, I’ll say from personal experience that attendance should be considered mandatory for even the mildest fan of the band. They not only tackle the scope of their entire career — a seemingly impossible feat to blend the raw punk of their earliest work with the groundbreaking experimentalism that followed — they do so with all the on-stage force one could ask of Neurosis, who are among the most dynamic live bands in the world, regardless of genre. Somehow I doubt adding material from their forthcoming 11th studio LP, Fires Within Fires, is going to hurt.

Unless you don’t bring earplugs, that is.

The PR wire brings details of the two 30th anniversary shows that Neurosis will play in the UK this November. They’re also in Europe starting tomorrow. Words:

neurosis london shows

NEUROSIS Reveals Two Special UK Shows To Mark Their Thirty-Year Anniversary And Celebrate The Release Of Fires Within Fires

With NEUROSIS having marked their thirty-year milestone with three shows in San Francisco, two shows at the respected Roadburn Festival, and a Summer of touring across Europe on the horizon, the anticipation for something special in the UK is palpable. It therefore comes with great pleasure to announce two London shows in November this year with thrilling, and unexpected, special guests.

On Monday, November 7th, NEUROSIS shall be joined by Earth, and on Tuesday, November 8th, they will be joined by Discharge and Subhumans. These bands represent perfectly the cross-section of music which NEUROSIS as a collective deeply admire and relate to, which makes these two shows all the more important in this milestone year. Tickets go on sale today.

Prior to the UK shows, on September 23rd, NEUROSIS takes a dominant leap with their eleventh full-length, Fires Within Fires. Three decades in the making, and following 2012’s Honor Found In Decay, the album is a testament both to the history and future of Neurosis. In true Ouroborean style, Fires Within Fires gives due to its predecessors while progressing forward into the unfamiliar and formidable. Striking the band’s signature balance between light and dark, beauty and repulsion, dense sonic heaviness and reflective space. Fires Within Fires is succinct, raw and deeply soulful, an all-encompassing reminder that transfiguration in sound remains their most commanding and inimitable strength. Our first and only glimpse of the music on this record, prior to release date, is sampled in a new video which showcases the exquisite album artwork from the renowned Thomas Hooper.

The journey of their music has found the band relishing the unpredictable, embracing the unknown and exploring the possibility of where the music was capable of taking them. Going beyond the remarkable, NEUROSIS has become unforgettable. Fires Within Fires is the next powerful step towards a destination that has long been and continues to be the very heart of “becoming” for NEUROSIS.

Neurot Recordings will release Fires Within Fires on September 23rd worldwide. Preorders are now being taken via the Neurot webstore RIGHT HERE.

NEUROSIS Tour Dates:
8/10/2016 Brutal Assault Festival – Jaromer, CZ
8/11/2016 Festa Radio Onda D’Urto – Brescia, IT
8/12/2016 Rock Altitude Festival – Le Locle, CH w/ Tesa
8/13/2016 Oya Festival – Oslo, NO
8/14/2016 Arena – Vienna, AT w/ Ufomammut, Tesa
8/15/2016 UT Connewitz – Leipzig, DE w/ Tesa
8/16/2016 Gruenspan – Hamburg, DE w/ Tesa
8/17/2016 Patronaat – Haarlem, NL w/ Tesa
8/18/2016 Pukkelpop Festival – Hasselt, BE
8/19/2016 Substage – Karlsruhe, DE w/ Tesa
8/20/2016 Motocultor Festival – St. Nolff, FR
8/21/2016 Amplifest – Porto, PT w/ Tesa
11/07/2016 Koko – London, UK w/ Earth
11/08/2016 Koko – London, UK w/ Discharge, Subhumans

STEVE VON TILL Tour Dates:
8/10/2016 007 – Prague, CZ
8/22/2016 Passos Manuel – Porto, PT @ Amplifest

http://www.neurosis.com
http://www.facebook.com/officialneurosis
https://neurotrecordings.merchtable.com
http://www.twitter.com/neurosisoakland
http://www.neurotrecordings.com
http://www.facebook.com/neurotrecordings

Neurosis, Fires Within Fires album teaser

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High on Fire Announce Fall Tour with Meshuggah

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 19th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

In addition to joining the fray at Psycho Las Vegas — and no doubt causing a large portion of it — High on Fire will tour this fall alongside metal innovators Meshuggah. The heavy thrash kingpins continue to support 2015’s Luminiferous (review here), released on eOne Heavy, and have already done US and Aus/NZ tours this year. You know, in addition to the many, many times they’ve been back and forth the country prior to 2016. I might’ve expected them to hit Europe this autumn, but it’s hard to argue with the company they’re keeping of late, and as we’ve seen develop, Europe’s becoming an increasingly crowded market.

From the PR wire:

high on fire

HIGH ON FIRE Joins Forces with Meshuggah for Fall North American Tour

World-renowned heavy metal power trio HIGH ON FIRE has announced a fall North American tour as direct support to Sweden’s Meshuggah. The titanic team-up will kick off on October 11 in Atlanta, GA, running through November 6 in Silver Spring, MD. Tickets will go on sale Friday, July 22.

Featuring vocalist and guitar hero Matt Pike, drummer Des Kensel and bassist Jeff Matz, HIGH ON FIRE continues to tour in support of its most recent album, Luminiferous.

HIGH ON FIRE tour dates:

August 27 Las Vegas, NV House of Blues (as part of Psycho Las Vegas w/ Blue Oyster Cult, Alice Cooper, etc.)
September 25 San Francisco, CA Stinky’s al Fresco

(w / Meshuggah)
October 11 Atlanta, GA Tabernacle
October 12 St. Louis, MO The Pageant
October 13 Nashville, TN Marathon Music Works
October 16 Houston, TX House of Blues
October 17 Dallas, TX House of Blues
October 19 Los Angeles, CA The Novo
October 24 Denver, CO Ogden Theatre
October 25 Lawrence, KS Liberty Hall
October 26 Minneapolis, MN Mill City Nights
October 28 Chicago, IL House of Blues
October 29 Detroit, MI The Majestic
October 30 Toronto, ON Phoenix Concert Theatre
October 31 Montreal, QC Metropolis
November 2 Boston, MA House of Blues
November 3 New York, NY PlayStation Theatre
November 4 Philadelphia, PA Trocadero Theatre
November 5 Sayreville, NJ Starland Ballroom
November 6 Silver Spring, MD The Fillmore

https://www.facebook.com/highonfire/
https://twitter.com/HighonFireBand

High on Fire, “Slave the Hive” official video

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Swamp Witch to Release The Slithering Bog Vinyl

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 14th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

swamp witch (Photo by EM Ramirez)-700

Lurkers of the world — unite! Californian doomers Swamp Witch celebrate the bleak and the misanthropic on their 2015 sophomore outing, The Slithering Bog, and as it happens that very same album has been confirmed for a vinyl release through Tribunal of the Axe later this month. It was originally issued on cassette by Transylvanian Tapes, but this will be the first LP edition and there are three colors. It’s been two years since the album was first recorded in San Francisco, so where the band might be on a follow-up could go either way, but for those who can’t get enough of that crawling feeling with their heavy, Swamp Witch should make you feel right at home, as much as anything ever does.

Preorders available now. To wit:

swamp witch the slithering bog-700

SWAMP WITCH: Punishing Doom Practitioners To Release The Slithering Bog Via Tribunal Of The Axe

SWAMP WITCH is the culmination of psychedelic substances, occult practices, and a collective interest in dark, strange, and ultimately hallucinogenic music originally devised with the sole intent to commit and record ritualistic extremities through heavy music only for the night of 9/9/09. In the aftermath, members found themselves pressed to continue the slow-burning drudgery sparked on that September ninth into the months that followed, leading to shows, recordings, band members towing themselves out of the smog from Central Valley, California and into Oakland (and Arcata, respectively) and finally, the vinyl release that recollects the original material of that evening: Gnosis.

The punishing, murky layers protruding from 2011’s Gnosis recordings drip with the trance-laden, drug-induced efforts of ’70s psychedelia compressed into the claustrophobic toil and painful repetition of ’90s sludge. This concept of Gnosis actually seems more akin to H. P. Lovecraft’s ideas of psychosis and derealization as the only thing the feeble human mind can experience when confronting truth (cosmicism), as opposed to gnosis in the classic, transcendental sense of the term. In other words, it’s fucked up.

While Gnosis was being released on cassette, and finally, vinyl, SWAMP WITCH had already begun preparing material for what was to become the six claustrophobic tracks that make up The Slithering Bog. To help achieve this, former drummer Dirk V took up second guitar duties and helped further emphasize the psychedelic undertones heard in Gnosis, while collaborator Adam T. took on drums. The end result of almost two years of writing proved worthy, as warped landscapes and fungal textures resting somewhere between dream-like and sleep paralysis culminated into The Slithering Bog recording of late 2014.

The decaying sounds of The Slithering Bog were captured during July 2014 at Earhammer Studios in Oakland, California by Greg Wilkinson (Brainoil, Annihilation Time, Noothgrush, et al) and mastered at Trakworx in San Francisco by Justin Weiss (Ludicra, Slough Feg, Cormorant, et al). Initially released on cassette last year via Transylvanian Tapes, the collection of nightmare rituals that made this release so necessary and bizarre has finally oozed its way onto vinyl on three color variants (black, purple haze and swamp green) thanks to Tribunal Of The Axe Records who will unleash the offering later this month.

For preorders visit THIS LOCATION.

The Slithering Bog Track Listing:
Side A:
1. Strange Cults
2. Marsh Of Delusion
Side B:
1. Slither Into The Circle
2. Bayou Tomb
3. Dead Root
4. Lost Symbols

http://www.facebook.com/CosmicSludge
http://www.transylvaniantapes.bandcamp.com/
http://www.tribunaloftheaxe.com
http://www.facebook.com/tribunaloftheaxe

Swamp Witch, “Strange Cults”

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Neurosis Reveal Fires Within Fires Album Art and Details

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 5th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

Neurosis release their 11th album, Fires Within Fires, on Sept. 23 via Neurot Recordings. Today, the cover art and tracklisting for the album has been revealed, showing the titles for six included tracks that one can only imagine must at least in part be pretty long, but the cover brings to mind older Neurosis records as well — thinking of The Word as Law and maybe Times of Grace — and they’ve been paying homage to their 30th anniversary all year, so it’s entirely possible that will have played into the songwriting as well, though if one can ever expect anything from Neurosis, it’s forward movement.

Hands down my most anticipated album for the rest of this year.

From the PR wire:

neurosis-fires-within-fires-1

NEUROSIS: MORE ALBUM DETAILS EMERGE AND ARTWORK IS REVEALED FOR THEIR ELEVENTH OPUS, FIRES WITHIN FIRES

Of all that humankind has inherited through our ancestry, no single language has transcended every age as powerfully as music. For thirty years, Neurosis have formed an unbreakable union, channelling that inheritance of sound with great command and authority. Showing their discontent with convention from the very beginning, Neurosis revealed what would become an instinct for transformation in sound and scope. Their sound has become interchangeable with vision of the conscious and unconscious, coexisting in an infinite audial spectrum. A vision that challenged not only the constraints of what listeners, and indeed the band themselves expected, but of themselves as beings. Going beyond the remarkable, Neurosis have become unforgettable.

The journey of their music has found the band relishing the unpredictable, embracing the unknown and exploring the possibility of where the music was capable of taking them. This year finds Neurosis taking a dominant leap with their eleventh full-length, Fires Within Fires. Three decades in the making, and following 2012’s Honor Found In Decay, the album is a testament both to the history and future of Neurosis. In true Ouroborean style, Fires Within Fires gives due to its predecessors while progressing forward into the unfamiliar and formidable. Striking the band’s signature balance between light and dark, beauty and repulsion, dense sonic heaviness and reflective space. Fires Within Fires is succinct, raw and deeply soulful, an all-encompassing reminder to all that transfiguration in sound remains their most commanding and inimitable strength.

Created by Scott Kelly, Steve Von Till, Jason Roeder, Noah Landis, and Dave Edwardson. The album features exquisite album artwork from the renowned Thomas Hooper and the stellar recording work of the group’s longstanding engineer Steve Albini. We are proud to reveal the artwork and track listing for the album below…

TRACK LIST
1. Bending Light
2. A Shadow Memory
3. Fire is the End Lesson
4. Broken Ground
5. Reach

Fires Within Fires is the next powerful step towards a destination that has long been and continues to be the very heart of “becoming” for Neurosis.

Neurot Recordings shall release the album on 23rd September worldwide, more information on pre-orders very soon. In the meantime, here’s where you can experience Neurosis live in the near future, including some newly added Steve Von Till shows…

NEUROSIS LIVE DATES:
10.08.2016 – CZ, Jaromer, Brutal Assault Festival (with Tesa)
11.08.2016 – IT, Brescia, Festa Radio Onda D’Urto (with Tesa)
12.08.2016 – CH, Le Locle, Rock Altitude Festival (with Tesa)
13.08.2016 – NO, Oslo, Oya Festival
14.08.2016 – AT, Vienna, Arena (with Tesa & Ufomammut)
15.08.2016 – GER, Leipzig, UT Connewitz (with Tesa)
16.08.2016 – GER, Hamburg, Gruenspan (with Tesa)
17.08.2016 – NL, Haarlem, Patronaat (with Tesa)
18.08.2016 – BE, Hasselt– Pukkelpop Festival
19.08.2016 – GER, Karlsruhe, Substage (with Tesa)
20.08.2016 – FR, St. Nolff – Motocultor Festival
21.08.2016 – PT, Porto – Amplifest (with Tesa)

STEVE VON TILL SOLO DATES:
10.08.2016 – CZ, Prague – 007
22.08.2016 – PT, Porto – Amplifest, Passos Manuel

http://www.neurosis.com
http://www.facebook.com/officialneurosis
http://www.twitter.com/neurosisoakland
http://www.neurotrecordings.com
http://www.facebook.com/neurotrecordings

Neurosis, “Times of Grace” Live at Roadburn 2016

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Neurosis Release Fires Within Fires Sept. 23

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 21st, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

Neurosis have set a Sept. 23 release date for their new album, Fires Within Fires, via their own Neurot Recordings. It’s fitting that, four years after issuing their last outing, Honor Found in Decay (review here), the occasion should also come at a time when the band are continuing to mark their 30th anniversary, as they did earlier this year with special sets in San Francisco and at Roadburn 2016 (reviews here and here). Fires Within Fires was once again recorded with the band’s longtime producer, Steve Albini at Electrical Audio Studio in Chicago.

Not much more info at this point beyond the title and release date — no art, tracks, audio, or other teasers at this point — but this is my most anticipated album for the remainder of 2016. The fall season is still taking shape, but everyone who knows Neurosis knows that each record is a landmark.

So says the PR wire:

neurosis (Photo by Scott Evans)

NEUROSIS Reveals Initial Information About Their Eleventh Album; Additional European Live Dates Revealed

As the key events of their thirty-year milestone unfold, NEUROSIS officially announces the name and release date of eleventh full length, Fires Within Fires.

The new album will be released worldwide on September 23rd via their own Neurot Recordings. The announcement of more specific details of Fires Within Fires is imminent, but in the meantime NEUROSIS announces a dozen new live performances across Europe in August, where they will be joined on select dates by Latvia’s fascinating experimental trio, Tesa.

NEUROSIS is in fine form following recent and rapturously received shows in San Francisco and Roadburn, celebrating their thirty-year anniversary. Stand by for further info on Fires Within Fires to be released in the weeks ahead.

NEUROSIS Live Dates:
8/10/2016 Brutal Assault Festival – Jaromer, CZ
8/11/2016 Festa Radio Onda D’Urto – Brescia, IT
8/12/2016 Rock Altitude Festival – Le Locle, CH w/ Tesa
8/13/2016 Oya Festival – Oslo, NO
8/14/2016 Arena – Vienna, AT w/ Ufomammut, Tesa
8/15/2016 UT Connewitz – Leipzig, DE w/ Tesa
8/16/2016 Gruenspan – Hamburg, DE w/ Tesa
8/17/2016 Patronaat – Haarlem, NL w/ Tesa
8/18/2016 Pukkelpop Festival – Hasselt, BE
8/19/2016 Substage – Karlsruhe, DE w/ Tesa
8/20/2016 Motocultor Festival – St. Nolff, FR
8/21/2016 Amplifest – Porto, PT w/ Tesa

http://www.neurosis.com
http://www.facebook.com/officialneurosis
http://www.twitter.com/neurosisoakland
http://www.neurotrecordings.com
http://www.facebook.com/neurotrecordings

Neurosis, “Stones from the Sky” Live at Roadburn 2016

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War Cloud Release New Single “Vulture City”

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 7th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

war cloud

I was all set to think of War Cloud‘s new single as their debut, but then — intrigue! A quick clickover to their BigCartel store reveals that not only is “Vulture City” not the Oakland, California, four-piece’s debut single, as posited in their initial communication, but they’ve already got an EP under their collective belt called Hurricane, with upward of five tracks on it. Entirely possible they’ve got a new lineup or something like that, and “Vulture City” is (obviously) my first exposure to the band, but just because it’s the only thing on their Bandcamp page doesn’t mean it’s the only thing they’ve put out. Life lessons all over the place.

First or no, “Vulture City” finds War Cloud digging into an encouraging dual-guitar blend of early thrash and heavy rock and roll, not necessarily out of place with the West Coast’s current riffy boom, but looking for a niche within it. I asked vocalist/guitarist Alex Wein for some comment on the track, and he confirmed that War Cloud will hit the studio again this summer and tour on the West Coast.

Info on “Vulture City,” words from him and the stream of the song itself follow here:

war cloud logo

Our latest track, Vulture City, now available here!

Recorded at Different Fur Studios, San Francisco, California. Mixed and mastered by Ron Graves.

Alex Wein on “Vulture City”

War Cloud received the opportunity to record at Different Fur Studios for Converse Rubber Tracks and we wrote Vulture City only days prior. We draw from all eras of rock, bringing Lizzy-like twin guitar leads, driving Motörhead rhythms, and bellowing Pentagram vocals. We are booked to record again in July at Louder studios for various upcoming projects and splits, which will be announced soon, as well as a west coast tour towards the end of Summer.

Alex Wein – Vocals/Guitar
Tony Campos – Guitar/Vocals
Sean Nishi – Bass/Vocals
Joaquin Ridgell – Drums/Vocals

https://www.facebook.com/warcloudiscoming/
https://www.instagram.com/WarCloudRock/
http://warcloud.bigcartel.com/
http://warcloudiscoming.bandcamp.com/track/vulture-city

War Cloud, “Vulture City”

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Mondo Drag, The Occultation of Light: Incendiary Procession

Posted in Reviews on February 11th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

mondo drag the occultation of light

Before we get to any question of whether Mondo Drag‘s third album, The Occultation of Light (also their second release on RidingEasy), is the band’s best work, or how it shows them progressing or any of this or that, the first thing to say about it is that it is easily their most accurate LP to-date. What the hell does that mean? Well, their 2009 debut, New Rituals (review here), had no shortage of neo-psych charm, but was formative and didn’t really portray the full breadth of what their sound has become. That’s not taking away from it; the band’s circumstances changed. Recorded in 2012, their 2015 sophomore outing, Mondo Drag (review here), was captured prior to a move from Davenport, Iowa, to Oakland, California, and featured a short-lived incarnation of the band which, by the time the record came out, already had traded its rhythm section for the current one with bassist Andrew O’Neil and drummer Ventura Garcia.

I won’t take away from that album either — it was among my favorites of last year — but as the eight tracks of The Occultation of Light were recorded last year, by Phil Manley (Trans Am, Wooden Shjips), as they were recorded live to tape, and as they were tracked just after the band got off tour, their current lineup of Garcia, O’Neal, guitarists Jake Sheley and Nolan Girard (also synth) and keyboardist/vocalist John Gamino intact, there can be little question that the band’s third offering is their most accurate portrayal yet of where they actually are in their growth, their songwriting and their collective performance.

I won’t say that makes it like a debut, since they’re definitely benefiting here from the several years this lineup has played together and the experience from the two prior LPs, but for what it’s worth, they seem to be in a good place, and their sound is fresh even as it plays off classic ideas throughout the winding opener “Initiation” and the transprogrified “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath”-style roll of “Out of Sight.” More even than the self-titled, vintage progressive rock plays a role in Mondo Drag‘s sound here, whether that comes in the twists, underlying shuffle and key solo of the opener or the synth flourish in the subsequent track and the organ/drum lead-in for “Rising Omen,” which should be a highlight for anyone who has missed underrated King Crimson disciples Hypnos 69 as it unfurls a groove languid enough to make it totally natural when Gamino enters for the first verse and half the song is already over.

As much about atmosphere as its later energetic uptick, “Rising Omen” builds as it goes, but remains patient enough so that the immediacy of Garcia‘s bouncing snare at the start of “Incendiary Procession” is a direct contradiction, and one clearly enacted on purpose. Met by keys/synth for a lead in the first half and a noteworthy stretch of chases and stops in the second, it’s an instrumental finish to The Occultation of Light‘s first half that shows diversity in songwriting for exactly how plotted it is in comparison to the cut preceding, which seemed intended as more of a showcase for the band’s psychedelic side and foundation in a natural writing process.

mondo drag (Photo by Catalina Havlena)

That side will come up again throughout “The Eye” and “In Your Head (Part I & II)” and the near-eight-minute “Dying Light” on side B before “Ride the Sky” (not a Lucifer’s Friend cover) wraps the album, but what’s even more striking about The Occultation of Light‘s back end is how fluidly one piece transitions into the next. Particularly among the first three tracks — “Dying Light” ends cold and “Ride the Sky” picks up from there; not lacking flow, but not shifting immediately one into the other — there are no discernible seams. Also instrumental save for some Hawkwindy spoken word later on, “The Eye” starts with “Moonchild”-style minimalism and from there looses a rich, not-at-all-haphazard psychedelic push, organ and guitar intertwining late en route to the crashing start of “In Your Head (Part I & II),” which starts intense but mellows presumably as it shifts between its two component parts (there’s a stop beat and then all is chill), allowing space for some ethereal verses as it moves toward the end, which “Dying Light” meets quickly with a tense measure of amp noise before exploding into its full vibrancy.

The longest track included at 7:52, it’s also rife with movement throughout, shifting smoothly between its parts early on, riding a choice bassline as it moves toward its middle and building to a full-on prog freakout by about five minutes in, only to end on a line of guitars, keys, bass and drums, the band hitting into a swing riff and bringing it to a quick end before “Ride the Sky” takes hold. Probably not fair to call the shorter piece an afterthought, as its boogieing blend of organ and guitar helps reground The Occultation of Light in its final moments, but it’s obviously not at all geared toward the same kind of expanse as the rest of the side before it.

This too is clearly a purposeful move on the band’s part, since as they’re giving listeners this most accurate glimpse at who they are sonically, that persona they establish here is nothing if not cognizant of the choices it’s making. While it’s only hitting a year after their preceding album, The Occultation of Light is a long time coming from Mondo Drag, and while it builds on what they’ve done before and particularly the progressive stylizations were taking hold with the self-titled, it also finds a core part of their identity in that process of moving forward. It feels like an arrival, but I wouldn’t bet on the band staying put for too long, creatively-speaking.

Mondo Drag, The Occultation of Light (2016)

Mondo Drag on Thee Facebooks

RidingEasy Records

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