Hot Lunch Premiere New Single “Haul of Meat”

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on June 8th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

hot lunch

Chances are you never thought ‘spatula of Satan’ was the kind of hook that you’d have stuck in your head. Well, Bay Area heavy skate rockers Hot Lunch will see their new single, Haul of Meat ship out July 16 via Who Can You Trust? Records, and in the span of 3:41, it just might have you rethinking your position on the matter. The single, which comes accompanied on its B-side by “Pot of Gold,” which is a title one might read in any number of ways depending on how clever one is feeling, marks Hot Lunch‘s first outing since 2015’s Slappy Sunday EP (review here) — issued by the now-defunct Scion A/V — and if you’re wondering what the four-piece have been doing with the time in between, uh, I don’t know. Probably hanging out. Skating. Maybe having jobs. You know, life stuff.

With the arrival of Haul of Meat, however, their return to activity comes caked in classic heavy fuzz, the warm and buzzing guitar of Aaron Nudelman holding ’70s-style sway over the shuffle-into-proto-thrash-into-CaptainBeyond-prog-at-the-last-minute groove of bassist Charlie Karr and drummer Rob Alper while vocalist Eric Shea spins the tale of skin-meets-sidewalk woe — hot lunch haul of meatthe perils of skateboarding providing the fodder for the lyrics, “Hit the ground/Quarter pound/Spatula of Satan,” etc. Obviously the vibe is lighthearted despite any and all scars accrued, and with a live sound and flourish of tambourine and the aforementioned out-of-nowhere turn to prog-circa’72 at the finish, there’s a residual sense of weirdness that only makes it an even better time. Shea ends with a multi-layered “Get behind me, Satan,” as if to underscore the purely West Coast vibe throughout. That sense of, “yeah man we’re just screwing around,” while also kicking serious ass in the process.

As for what Hot Lunch have planned after Haul of Meat, I haven’t the foggiest. New album? Maybe. They’re due, if you believe in “due.” Leading up to the release of the two-songer, they’ll be on the road in Europe, starting June 29 in Switzerland and hitting a good swath of shows over the course of the two weeks-plus following in Germany and Italy, finishing the Heavy Psych Sounds-presented run — more than a jaunt, less than a temporary residence, but definitely a tour — at the respected Stoned from the Underground fest in Germany alongside Nebula, Orchid, Sons of Otis, and of course many others. What comes next, we’ll have to wait and see.

And before I give you over to the stream, you should know that I’m not just running this so I can re-post the band’s quote about scabs turning into cheeseburgers for Satan. That rules, make no mistake, but so does the song.

Tour dates and that badass commentary follows the song on the player below, courtesy of the PR wire.

Please enjoy:

Taken from the HOT LUNCH – “Haul Of Meat / Pot Of Gold” 7-inch | WHO-35

Hot Lunch are not ambassadors of skateboarding. They are harbingers of hamburgers. “Haul of Meat” is a skatanic and cautionary canticle that rolls like an avalanche of high-voltage, overdriven fuzz across rumbling rhythms birthed by broken tectonic plates beneath Earthquake City. When asked to explain the caustic lyrics of this urethane-and-wood musing, the band replied, “You know when sometimes you slam so hard that your scabs become cheeseburgers for Satan and the tail of your deck turns into the devil’s spatula?” When further pressed to clarify, they added, “We have a holographic memory. Satan!”

Edition of 500 copies on black vinyl. Free ‘Sacrificial Blood’ sticker included with a limited number of copies! (Only 100 made… Choose your path, but do it wisely!)

hot lunch tour posterHOT LUNCH European Summer Tour 2018:
29.06.2018 CH Frauenfeld-Kaff
30.06.2018 DE Siegen-Vortex
01.07.2018 DE Augsburg-City Club
02.07.2018 DE Mannheim-7er
03.07.2018 DE Leipzig-So&So
04.07.2018 DE Berlin-Urban Spree
05.07.2018 DE Dresden-Chemiefabrik
06.07.2018 CH Olten-Coq D’ Or
07.07.2018 IT Bozen-Mountain Sessions
08.07.2018 IT Sabbioneta-Sabbio Summer Fest
09.07.2018 IT Zerobranco-Altroquando
10.07.2018 IT Torino-Blah Blah
11.07.2018 IT Bologna-Mikasa
12.07.2018 DE Stuttgart-Keller Klub
13.07.2018 CH St Gallen-Rumpeltum
14.07.2018 DE Stoned from the Underground – Festival

HOT LUNCH are
Eric Shea – Vocals
Aaron Nudelman – Guitars
Rob Alper – Drums
Charlie Karr – Bass

Hot Lunch on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds website

Hot Lunch Haul of Meat preorder at Who Can You Trust? Records

Who Can You Trust? Records on Bandcamp

Who Can You Trust? Records webstore

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Just in Case You Thought You Heard All the New Sleep, There’s More New Sleep

Posted in Bootleg Theater on June 8th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

sleep

So in case you didn’t feel the universe caving in on itself at the time, it’s now been nearly two months since Sleep released The Sciences (review here), their first album in 15 years and first since getting back together to play shows starting in 2009. Dropped with mere hours of notice beforehand, it was an event that for many will define the soundscape of 2018, not just for the sheer existence of the record as something that was rumored for so long and finally realized, but for the quality of the material itself, songs like “Sonic Titan,” “Antarcticans Thawed” and “Giza Butler” providing all the march to the riff-filled land Sleep‘s generations-spanning audience could hope for while at last giving representation to the band as they are today, both in the lineup of bassist/vocalist Al Cisneros, guitarist Matt Pike and drummer Jason Roeder, and in terms of their actual sound.

About two weeks ago, Sleep offered something of another shocker — a new track called Leagues Beneath — through the ongoing Adult Swim Singles Program. A bit of symmetry there, since that’s how Sleep issued their first post-reunion studio recording in the 2014 single, The Clarity (review here), which was also a surprise when it came out, but 16 more new minutes of Sleep just the same. It doesn’t seem outlandish to imagine it was recorded during the same sessions as The Sciences — though I suppose Sleep could’ve gotten together at some point since the album was done and put it to tape; anything’s possible — and though its arrival might be seen as anticlimactic in comparison to the full-length LP, if you’re the type of person to complain about things like all that new music Sleep are putting out simply being too much to bear, you should probably sit down and take an honest look at your perspective on life. I’m just trying to help. I’m your friend out here.

Okay, so “Leagues Beneath” itself. 16:45 of hypnotic groove, pickled-liver tone and pointedly Iommic worship. Pretty much what you get on The Sciences, right down to the sense of PikeCisneros and Roeder playing together in a room riding the warbles from their speaker cabinets. It’s five minutes before Cisneros‘ vocals kick in, and when they do, it’s kind of a reminder that there are humans at work behind the proceedings at all, let alone a songwriting process. At 53 minutes, The Sciences is a pretty air-tight 2LP. It doesn’t overstay its welcome — would be a challenge — and at the same time, it offers a far-out glimpse at stonerized space as seen through the eyes of the band. “Leagues Beneath,” as its lumbering forward motion continues, is held together by its drums and seems to range even further. Including it would’ve pushed the album over 70 minutes long, and even Dopesmoker (discussed here) was only 63, so I get why they left it off. It has a flow of its own as it veers into pulled-string weirdness after 10 minutes in and swirls forward its multi-layered lead before hitting minute 12 and embarking from there on its drifting finish, and as much as the material on The Sciences is fluid one song into the next, “Leagues Beneath” stands on its own. In other words, it makes a fitting single.

When Sleep put out The Clarity, it was a little while before vinyl surfaced, so I have to wonder if they’ll do a physical pressing of Leagues Beneath at some point — this is me casting my vote for a live version of “Giza Butler” as a B-side unless there’s yet more unheard studio stuff sitting around; by the way, I don’t get a vote — but for now it’s available digitally through Adult Swim and streaming on the usual webular haunts, and I’ve included it for the purposes of instant gratification. I’m sure you’ve already heard it, but somehow I doubt a revisit is going to bring many complaints.

Dig:

Sleep, “Leagues Beneath”

Listen to a new song by metal behemoth Sleep, courtesy of Adult Swim Singles. Available now @ http://adultswim.com/singles.

Sleep on Thee Facebooks

Sleep on Twitter

Sleep website

Adult Swim Singles Series

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Owl Premiere New Cassingle Awaken Jupiterian

Posted in audiObelisk on June 1st, 2018 by JJ Koczan

OWL

Oakland traditionalists Owl (also stylized Ovvl) will release their third album sometime later this year, following for years after their sophomore outing, Screech. To lead into the new offering, the three Baechle brothers — Axell and K. on guitar/vocals, Clint on drums — and newcomer bassist Magic Spiegel send forth a new two-songer cassette single titled Awaken Jupiterian in reference to the tracks contained: “Awaken the Mountain” and “Jupiterean Ocean.” It’s only 11 minutes long, but with it, the band ask the pivotal question of what might have happened had heavy metal in the ’80s not become so commercialized, so overblown in its production, and had it been able to move forward from its roots in the decade prior and develop its sound without becoming so grandiose. Owl will play the Alehorn of Power festival on July 28, and one can hardly think of a more appropriate setting for them.

Their guitar work on “Awaken the Mountain” and their willingness to smash one part into the next would seem to be derived from the Mike Scalzi school of metallurgyowl awaken jupiterian, but there’s more to their gallop than simple imitation or musical conversation with the Lord Weird. That’s true on the almost completely instrumental “Jupiterean Ocean” as well as in “Awaken the Mountain,” as both cuts showcase an edge of progressive, thoughtful songwriting with a mind toward flow and capturing the spirit of metal’s post-formative years, its righteousness still in its ability to be a middle-finger to the mainstream while capturing an increasing portion of the sales market. In “Awaken the Mountain,” one might hear shades of Leeches of Lore‘s off-kilter winding, or (if you’re on the Eastern Seaboard) some of Valkyrie‘s dual-axe heroics, but Owl hold firm to a sonic persona of their own — dig that last section of “Jupiterean Ocean” — and as much as they seem to look back at what metal was and could have been, they don’t at all lose sight of the individualist expression that’s always been at the heart of the form. They are, in other words, their own band.

The cassingle, which one can only hope comes in a cardboard sleeve open on top and bottom, either shrinkwrapped or not, is available now and to herald the coming of their third long-player, on which “Awaken the Mountain” promises to feature — frankly I’m not sure how you’d get away with calling the album anything else, but the title hasn’t been announced yet — Owl will head out on their first full US tour in more than half a decade. The dates for that run follow the Awaken Jupiterian single itself, which I’m thrilled to be able to premiere via the player below.

Please dig in and enjoy:

Three and a half years since the release of the Screech LP, Oakland, California’s Owl returns to the scene with two brand new tracks on the archaic “cassingle” format! “Awaken The Mountain,” taken from a new album album which will be released later this year, is a prog metal epic, and cautionary tale of dwelling too close to volatile geologic formations! The B-side, “Jupiterian Ocean,” is a sweeping instrumental that glides into view on terrestrial winds, before plummeting into stoner caves and finally scaling staggering zeppelinesque heights!

ORDER THE CASSINGLE HERE
https://owlbrotherhood.bandcamp.com/album/awaken-jupiterian

Two LPs, eleven tours, and four bass players later, 2018 finds the band poised to reach a new plateau, with an epic new album on deck, and the first full US tour since 2012! Join the party this summer!

“OWL BE BACK” TOUR 2018
7.11 ALBANY, CA – Ivy Room
7.12 OJAI, CA – Ojai Deer Lodge
7.13 LOS ANGELES, CA – The Lexington
7.14 FLAGSTAFF, AZ – Flagstaff Brewing Co.
7.15 SANTA FE, NM – TBD
7.16 DALLAS, TX – Transit Bicycle Co.
7.17 LITTLE ROCK, AR – TBD
7.18 NASVILLE, TN – TBD
7.19 ASHEVILLE, NC – TBD
7.20 RICHMOND, VA – Chum
7.21 NEW YORK, NY – Cobra Club
7.22 WALLINGFORD, CT – Cherry Street Saloon
7.23 BURLINGTON, VT – Nectar’s
7.24 PHILADELPHIA, PA – TBD
7.25 PITTSBURGH, PA – Camp Clarke
7.26 DETROIT, MI – Outer Limits
7.27 MILWAUKEE, WI – Quarters
7.28 CHICAGO, IL – Reggie’s – ALEHORN OF POWER FEST
7.29 MADISON, WI – The Wisco
7.30 MINNEAPOLIS, MN – Memory Lanes
7.31 LINCOLN, NE – TBD
8.1 DENVER, CO – Squire Lounge
8.2 COLORADO SPRINGS, CO – Triple Nickel
8.3 SALT LAKE CITY, UT – Ridinghoods
8.4 RENO, NV – Shea’s Tavern
8.5 SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Bottom Of The Hill

Owl is:
Axell Baechle: Guitar, Vocals
K. Baechle: Guitar, Vocals
Clint Baechle: Drums
Magic Spiegel: Bass Guitar

Owl on Thee Facebooks

Owl on Bandcamp

Owl website

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Hot Lunch Announce European Tour; New Single Available to Preorder

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 30th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

hot lunch

Whatever else happens in 2018, I’m pretty sure I’ve just encountered the best usage of the phrase ‘cheeseburgers for satan’ that I’m going to find before December 31. Kudos then, to Bay Area skate rockers Hot Lunch, whose new single, Haul of Meat, is available to preorder now with a July 16 ship date from Who Can You Trust? Records and whose summer European tour is being presented by Heavy Psych Sounds. The run starts on June 29, and I assume they’ll have Haul of Meat with them on the road, its cautionary tale of, I guess, biting it, being spread far and wide as they make their way to the long-running Stoned from the Underground festival in Germany.

Release info and tour dates follow, both courtesy of the PR wire:

Heavy Psych Sounds Records & Booking is really stoked to announce the *** HOT LUNCH EUROPEAN SUMMER TOUR 2018 ***

Three years since their 2015 Slappy Sunday EP, Hot Lunch has returned from El Studio with a piping hot new single. Yes, “Haul of Meat” is another song inspired by skateboarding. But this isn’t a love letter. If you were expecting them to articulate how falling and getting back up is a metaphor for persistence, you’ve made a wrong turn. Go back. Rebate. And no, this is not one of those inspirational anthems about how pain is just “the feeling of fear leaving your body.” Upon close listen to “Haul Of Meat,” it sounds like the band is trying to warn you that your next case of road rash could wind up as Satan’s ground beef.

Ergo, the members of Hot Lunch are not ambassadors of skateboarding. They are harbingers of hamburgers. “Haul of Meat” is a skatanic and cautionary canticle that rolls like an avalanche of high-voltage, overdriven fuzz across rumbling rhythms birthed by broken tectonic plates beneath Earthquake City. When asked to explain the caustic lyrics of this urethane-and-wood musing, the band replied, “You know when sometimes you slam so hard that your scabs become cheeseburgers for Satan and the tail of your deck turns into the devil’s spatula?” When further pressed to clarify, they added, “We have a holographic memory. Satan!”

Edition of 500 copies on black vinyl. Free ‘Sacrificial Blood’ sticker included with a limited number of copies! (Only 100 made… Choose your path, but do it wisely!)

HOT LUNCH European Summer Tour 2018:
29.06.2018 CH Frauenfeld-Kaff
30.06.2018 DE Siegen-Vortex
01.07.2018 DE Augsburg-City Club
02.07.2018 DE Mannheim-7er
03.07.2018 DE Leipzig-So&So
04.07.2018 DE Berlin-Urban Spree
05.07.2018 DE Dresden-Chemiefabrik
06.07.2018 CH Olten-Coq D’ Or
07.07.2018 IT Bozen-Mountain Sessions
08.07.2018 IT Sabbioneta-Sabbio Summer Fest
09.07.2018 IT Zerobranco-Altroquando
10.07.2018 IT Torino-Blah Blah
11.07.2018 IT Bologna-Mikasa
12.07.2018 DE Stuttgart-Keller Klub
13.07.2018 CH St Gallen-Rumpeltum
14.07.2018 DE Stoned from the Underground – Festival

Hot Lunch is a punk ‘n’ roll band from the San Francisco/Oakland Bay Area that specializes in getting loud, getting weird and getting rad. The quartet’s unique blend of brown-acid skate-rock and wah-fuzz proto-metal was born in the bowels of skatanic rituals, biker beer busts and wizard staff meetings. With a head-bludgeoning sound that refuses to take sides (and showers), Hot Lunch are on a hell-bent mission to create the best party soundtrack in the history of all music. Their self-titled debut album was recorded by Tim Green at Louder Studios and is available on all formats by Who Can You Trust? Records (EU), Tee Pee Records and Burger Records (US).

HOT LUNCH are
Eric Shea – Vocals
Aaron Nudelman – Guitars
Rob Alper – Drums
Charlie Karr – Bass

https://www.facebook.com/HotLunchRocks/
https://www.facebook.com/HEAVYPSYCHSOUNDS
www.heavypsychsounds.com
whocanyoutrustrec.bandcamp.com
whocanyoutrustrec.bigcartel.com

Hot Lunch, “Pot of Gold”

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Friday Full-Length: Massive Gratitude and Some New Sleep for the Hell of It

Posted in Bootleg Theater on May 18th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I try to say thank you as often as I can on here. I really do. I’ve considered getting a ‘thanks for reading’ tattoo. Maybe for the 10th anniversary. Anyhow, this week, you’ve really saved my ass, and I don’t even know how to start showing my appreciation.

If you didn’t read the Elephant Tree live review yesterday or haven’t seen on the social medias, I’ve been in England this week with my wife, who along with another professor is leading a study abroad trip for some of her undergrad and graduate students. The three of us were staying in a house in Canterbury earlier this week, and overnight on Tuesday the place was robbed — or “burgled” as Constable Toby put it the next morning — while we slept in the bedrooms upstairs.

Well, first off, nobody got hurt. Nobody’s passport was taken. The baby didn’t even wake up. It could’ve been much worse.

Along with some other stuff, they took my laptop Big Red, camera, lenses and backpack, all of which was set up on the kitchen table so I could come downstairs early in the morning Wednesday and start to write. When the alarm went off at 5AM — a luxury for being away; usually it’s 4:30 these days — I found the door was wide open and the kitchen table had been cleaned off.

I lost stuff. Stuff can be replaced. Even my laptop and camera, which, as I’ve said, were by a wide margin the two nicest pieces of stuff I owned.

What really hurt was the years of writing on Big Red and my notes for The Obelisk. Upcoming releases, ongoing best of the year lists, Quarterly Review slots, and a calendar of upcoming premieres. Now I don’t even know what I’m reviewing on Monday. I know I’ve got commitments to host things into June and I just have no idea what they are. Online backups? Nope. Why would I need those? What, am I gonna get robbed?

Plus the years’ worth of past writings. A half decade or so of bios, press releases, my own personal stuff. That collection of Star Trek-themed poetry I was never going to finish. All that. And the music. The music on my desktop alone — new records from YOB, the Sleep album above, so many others I can’t even remember. I’ll get a new computer. But that other stuff I’ll never get back. It’s just gone.

Within hours, I couldn’t even hang my head. Scott Harrington, a friend at this point for more than a decade and the dude whose passion drives Salt of the Earth Records, sent a text and asked if he could set up a GoFundMe.

I’m not comfortable asking for money. I’m not comfortable handling money. But the fact of the matter is I’m a homemaker. I don’t work except to take care of the house and the baby and therefore I’m in a much different financial position than I was in when I purchased these things.

Scott set up a GoFundMe for $3,000, which would be enough to cover most of what I lost. It would get me a new laptop of some color — red, green, blue, banana yellow (?), whatever — a comparable camera and pay for part of the cost of a professional-grade lens like the one I had.

By the time it was Wednesday night here in the UK, as I was using a camera loaned to me by one of my wife’s students to take pictures and banging my head to Elephant Tree’s “Aphotic Blues” — maybe if I get a blue laptop I’ll name it ‘Aphotic Blue’ — the $3,000 goal was met and surpassed. Here’s where it’s at currently:

Over $4,000. More than a third beyond the original goal. I don’t even know what to say. It’s fucking insane. All of a sudden I’m looking at the Canon 5D Mark IV as a real possibility of something I can bring into my life. It’s something I never expected, and I’m absolutely floored and humbled and just given this incredible sense of warmth from the support I’ve received and all the kind words people have said about me, and this site, and everything. It’s been two days now. I still can’t get my head around it. Does not compute.

From the deepest part of me, thank you. The money’s gonna help, make no mistake, but the feeling of community, of belonging, and of being appreciated has been so incredibly validating that I’m astounded. Astounded and touched and, yeah, just made to feel like something I’ve done has mattered to somebody. It makes me want to be a better person, to be better at this, and it’s utterly renewed my faith in this project as a whole, which if I’m honest wasn’t exactly lagging but could only benefit from a kick in the pants.

So once again, thank you. The only thing I could think to do was close out the week by saying thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I’d put the notes here for what’s coming up next week, but again, I haven’t got a clue. I know at some point I was supposed to do something with Saturno Grooves and I think maybe review the new Graveyard (which, whoops, was on Big Red), and maybe a House of Broken Promises video premiere? I honestly don’t know. I’ll be seeing Colour Haze on Tuesday night, so will hope to have a review of that up Wednesday. I also travel back to the US on Wednesday, so might take Thursday off? I’m going to play it by ear a little bit and see what surfaces.

But in the meantime, thank you once again for your incredible support, whether you’ve made a donation or just shared the link, it’s huge for me. Genuinely life-changing. I will aspire to live up to the faith shown in me.

Oh, and I put a YouTube playlist with the new Sleep at the top of the post because if my gratitude was a new record, that’s the one it would be, and on the off-chance you haven’t heard it yet, you really should. I reserve the right to close out a week with a proper discussion of it again sometime probably years down the line. If you’d like to read the review of it, it’s here.

For not at all the last time, thank you. I promise something will be up Monday one way or the other.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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Skunk Working on New Album Strange Vibration

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 1st, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Oakland heavy rockers Skunk have announced progress toward a sophomore full-length to be titled Strange Vibration. The ’70s-influenced/modern-sounding dual-guitar five-piece made their debut last year with the hook-laden Doubleblind (review here), which brought together vibes from AC/DC and Black Sabbath for a catchy, straightforward and weighted rock brew. It’s a quick turnaround going into a foll0w-up, but I guess that’s just one more element taken from the heavy ’70s era. Those bands certainly didn’t waste any time banging out one record after the other — of course they had ridiculous contracts whipping them every step of the way, but that’s here or there — so why would Skunk? They’re hunkered down in a little place called Hyde Street StudiosJefferson Airplane recorded there. Kind of a big deal.

Here’s what the PR wire had to say about it:

skunk

SKUNK announces new album in the works!

SKUNK is pleased to announce that they have begun recording their second album, STRANGE VIBRATION, at San Francisco’s legendary Hyde Street Studios. STRANGE VIBRATION will follow their acclaimed debut album, DOUBLEBLIND (2017), which was self-released on cd, and on vinyl from Sweden’s Mothervan Records.

Listeners can expect more of the same on STRANGE VIBRATION: old school riffs, gritty guitar, attention to song structure, and vocals that evoke comparisons to both Ozzy and Bon Scott. Hailing from Oakland California, these retro rockers aren’t looking to break new ground. Instead, they explore and celebrate the sounds and styles that that define early 70s rock, from the legends we all know and love to the obscure bands that have come to light in the internet age.

SKUNK is currently looking for a label to partner with in hopes of releasing STRANGE VIBRATION at the end of 2018 or early 2019.

Skunk is:
John McKelvy: vocals
Dmitri Mavra: Guitar
Erik Pearson: Guitar
Matt Knoth: Bass
Jordan Ruyle: Drums

https://www.facebook.com/SkunkHardRock/
https://heavyskunk.bandcamp.com/

Skunk, Doubleblind (2017)

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Sleep, The Sciences: The Pterodactyl Flies Again

Posted in Reviews on May 1st, 2018 by JJ Koczan

sleep the sciences

In their absence between 1998 and 2009, Sleep became the stuff of legend. The stoner metallers were unquestionably ahead of their time in 1993’s genre-defining Sleep’s Holy Mountain (reissue review here), but it was the 2003 release of Dopesmoker (discussed here) through Tee Pee Records that seemed to solidify them as objects of reverence. Previously issued through The Music Cartel in an edited form as Jerusalem (and before that, self-bootlegged by the band), the narrative behind the release of Sleep inking a deal with London Records only to take the money from their recording budget, blow it on weed, and then essentially turn in an album unreleasable to a mass market is well documented and has become one of the great tall tales of underground heavy.

This, coupled with the success bassist/vocalist Al Cisneros went on to find in the then-duo-now-trio Om and guitarist Matt Pike likewise achieved fronting the more aggressive High on Fire, only increased Sleep‘s profile, and when Cisneros and Pike reformed the band with NeurosisJason Roeder on drums and began playing shows again in 2009, the speculation of new studio material was immediate and nearly as deafening as the volume of the riffs emanating from the stage. Sleep had gone from a cult footnote in the Earache Records catalog to headlining festivals and tours, and with their unabashed worship of Black Sabbath, weedian mythologies and massive influence, they became a genuine guiding force for a new generation of bands and fans alike. The last decade of heavy simply would not be the same had they not reformed, and as their first studio full-length in 15 years, the six-track The Sciences is all the more a landmark in one of the genre’s most storied and pivotal careers.

Is there any way The Sciences isn’t the biggest heavy underground release of 2018? Look at the sheer circumstances of its arrival. On April 19, word was put out in morse code that the next day Sleep would release an album. Bam. There was no advance press, no track premieres through NPR or Rolling Stone or other major outlets with smirking treatises on the group’s importance, no months-long agony of trickled out information: the tracklisting in one press release, the artwork in another, a teaser video, etc. It simply wasn’t there and then it was. How many heavy bands could get away with that and expect any kind of response? Sleep dropped a record like Beyonce drops records, and it absolutely worked. Issued through Jack White‘s Third Man Records, The Sciences dominated the high holiday of stoner idolatry, and while any release of this magnitude is bound to have detractors as well as proponents, it’s a basic truth regardless that for many listeners, this year will be defined by Sleep‘s 53-minute march to the riff-filled land. Rightly so.

There are a host of higher-profile offerings still to come in the next several months, from groups like Graveyard (who return after a much shorter hiatus), ConanClutchAncestorsYOBAll Them Witches and so on, but none of them orany of the others as yet announced will show up after a 15-year absence, and none will be released with the same kind of break-the-internet anti-fanfare fanfare as The Sciences, which it should be noted isn’t the first studio output Sleep have had since their reformation. In 2014, they had the lone track The Clarity (review here) as part of the Adult Swim Singles Series, and though it’s been four years, that would prove to be a crucial lead-in for The Sciences in preparing the audience and laying the groundwork for the album’s overall sound. The single was recorded by Roeder‘s Neurosis bandmate Noah Landis, and the LP is likewise — cover design by former Neurosis visual specialist Josh Graham is another line between the bands — and the style is consistent between the two. The Sciences works because it does not try to pretend the last 20-25 years didn’t happen. It doesn’t try to rewrite Dopesmoker. It doesn’t try to rewrite Sleep’s Holy Mountain or their preceding 1991 debut, Volume One.

In “Marijuanaut’s Theme” and “Giza Butler,” it embraces the same weed-and-riff-worship/Tony Iommi-as-deity (anyone remember that t-shirt?) mythology that Dopesmoker was essential in creating — “Marijuanaut’s Theme” has “planet Iommia” and an “Iommosphere” in its lyrics while “Giza Butler” speaks of an “Iommic Pentacost,” and riffs and weed, well, are just about everywhere lyrics are — but The Sciences is an honest look at Sleep in 2018. They know who they are as a band, they’ve crafted this aesthetic on stage over the last nine years, and rather than ignoring Pike‘s work in High on Fire or Cisneros‘ in Om or even Roeder‘s in Neurosis, the offering to the holy trinity of riffs, weed, and Black Sabbath presents its addled adorations in tales of blown-out space travels, reborn Antarctic legions set free from icecap prisons (based on a true story, from what I’m told), and a homeless guy living under a bridge getting stoned (ditto).

All of this arrives amid groove that somehow remains inimitable despite the fact that an entire generation of bands has and continues on a daily basis to directly emulate it. The nod isn’t immediate, as the opening title-track is three minutes of layered amp noise and feedback in a filthy-sounding but appropriate beginning to what follows, a church organ at the end and volume swell cutting sharply to the sound of a bong being hit and then the first crash of “Marijuanaut’s Theme,” which quickly establishes the thickness of tone, the rhythm and the distinct patterning and melodic delivery in Cisneros‘ vocals that will remain consistent throughout The Sciences and tie its songs together despite variations in theme and tempo.

At 6:39, “Marijuanaut’s Theme” is the shortest of the non-instrumental material — closer “The Botanist” is just a bit shorter and “The Sciences” itself, as the intro, is the shortest — but its position after the hypnotic feedback of the title-cut is pivotal in leading the way into the trio of “Sonic Titan,” “Antarcticans Thawed” and “Giza Butler,” all of which top 10 minutes and comprise the heart of the record, showcasing Pike‘s penchant for wild soloing has he layers across the right and left channels in Iommian tradition and the stoned serenity of Cisneros‘ vocals, which deliver “Sonic Titan”‘s only lines, “Look unto Zion though it can’t be seen/Man in the moon cannot help me see,” twice — and that’s it — after unfolding an entire narrative for “Marijuanaut’s Theme.”

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It’s worth noting that those lyrics have changed since a live-in-studio version of “Sonic Titan” appeared as a bonus track for the ’03 Dopesmoker release, and though he doesn’t really there, Cisneros plays the role of storyteller again in “Antarcticans Thawed” — which has also featured for years as part of live shows — and “Giza Butler,” crafting clever weed puns and twice referencing the “rifftree”; one imagines a sort of THC-laced yggdrasil dripping hash oil like maple sap. The characters in these songs — the Marijuanaut, the Antarcticans, and the guy living under the bridge on his “milk crate throne” who is presumably Giza Butler himself — make The Sciences a richer listening experience and deepen Sleep‘s overarching process of world-creation. Like any good science fiction, they’re setting the rules of their own universe, and it’s one of tonal depth and narrative arc alike. The Marijuanaut blasts to Planet Iommia; the Antarcticans board a skyship and sail off to parts unknown thereupon; Giza Butler smokes an ounce a day.

As much as Sleep are about what they’re about — see “riffs, weed and Black Sabbath” above; these may well be the sciences to which the title re(e)fers — there is a pervasive sense of craft in these tracks. They came together over a period of years and they sound like it. They are not haphazard or sloppy either in construction or execution, and even as “Sonic Titan” marches to its lyrics at about the halfway point and then riffs-out hypnotic before a madness of shredding soloing takes hold after 11 minutes into its total 12:26 and they cap with one of the record’s best nods, the plotted progression makes sense both on its own and leading into the opening riff of “Antarcticans Thawed.”

Spending its first two minutes on a linear build toward the first verse, “Antarcticans Thawed” again demonstrates the consciousness at work behind The Sciences, and as the longest inclusion at 14:23, the mid-paced plodder plays a special role in setting and maintaining the smoke-filled vibe. A somewhat more shouted vocal from Cisneros tops Pike‘s relatively languid central riff and the ride/crash work of Roeder, who has long not only done justice to the work of original Sleep drummer Chris Hakius, but also brought his own stamp to the material. He shines here, and if the album were to accomplish nothing else, it would still be worth making for getting the trio in this form on tape for more than just a single. As “Antarcticans Thawed” presses forth, it seems to get slower and slower until the Antarcticans sail off on the windship and Pike marks the occasion with a highlight solo. The central riff resumes and after a last verse, Roeder moves to a snare progression as the song gradually deconstructs itself in the guitar and bass, fading to silence ahead of the languid start of the 10-minute “Giza Butler,” which lasts for about the first two minutes before the chugging riff starts the verse and Cisneros begins his tale of the “shopping cart chariot” and the “rifftual commenc[ing] around the tree stump altar.”

There’s obviously humor at work here, but Sleep aren’t making fun so much as preaching to a converted who once took the advice “drop out of life with bong in hand” to heart. “Giza Butler” boasts the album’s standout lyric: “The pterodactyl flies again/Over emerald fields,” and a companion riff that makes it seem like a realistic possibility leading to the apparent summary of the entire point of view in the lines, “Marijuana is his light and his salvation/Harvest sustains the altitude within/Ends the rationing/Hocks the Ohaus Triple Beam,” as the central character gets rid of his scale and, seemingly, smokes the entire harvest. As “Giza Butler” stomps through its instrumental finish and lands after seven minutes into a highlight riff for the record as a whole, one might say Sleep are doing the same thing all throughout The Sciences. They’ve hocked the scale, gone all-in, and smoked the entire planet’s worth of weed in ritualistic fashion and in one sitting. The aforementioned leads and groove cap “Giza Butler” in an apex that could easily go another five or six minutes and not meet with any complaints, and residual noise gives way to the closing instrumental lumber of “The Botanist.”

A final nod to nod itself, it mellows out after a minute in and picks up with a relatively subdued solo — I saw someone on the social medias call it Matt Pike‘s “Maggot Brain”; not quite, but it’s choice work — before feedback seems to end and Roeder‘s drums restart at 4:16 to add an epilogue to the proceedings. The jam that ensues for the last two minutes of “The Botanist” is laced with noise and sounds improvised over that drum movement, and if it is off the cuff, all the better to leave on a moment of spontaneity on a full-length at least 15 years in the making. It shows that even after the distances traveled in these songs, there’s still a creative spark in Sleep. Who knows? Maybe they’ll do another record.

I won’t take away from the band’s past accomplishments. I refuse to. Sleep’s Holy Mountain is arguable as the greatest achievement in riff-led heavy outside of Black Sabbath‘s original lineup, and in both its legend and its over-the-top, barely-listenable course, Dopesmoker stands on a level of its own in power, concept, delivery and influence. However, The Sciences stands as the most sonically cohesive record Sleep have ever made. It’s the output of a band who know exactly what they want their material to do, how to make it do that thing and how to capture that process in the studio. It’s new Sleep, taking the lessons of the old and bringing them into a more modern context.

For a whole generation of their fanbase, The Sciences will serve as something like a new debut, and for older fans who were able to get into The Clarity or have seen them live since they got back together, it may or may not top what once was, but neither has it had 25 years of deification around it. Give it some time. The songs are memorable, the sound impressively weighted, and it’s got riffs, weed and Sabbath. There’s nothing more one could possibly ask of a Sleep record that The Sciences doesn’t bring to the table, and it’s an easy contender for album of the year. For many, it already was before they even listened.

Sleep, “Giza Butler”

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Quarterly Review: Eagle Twin, Wight, Sundrifter, Holy Mushroom, Iron and Stone, Black Capricorn, Owl Maker, Troll, Malditos, The Freak Folk of Mangrovia

Posted in Reviews on April 5th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Quarterly-Review-Spring-2018

I’m pretty sure this Quarterly Review — life eater that it is — is going to wind up being six days long. That means next Monday look for sixth installment, another batch of 10 records, which were not hard to come by among everything that’s come in lately for review. I do my best to keep up, often to little avail — some random act’s Bandcamp page starts trending and all of a sudden they’re the best band ever, which hey, they’re probably not and that’s okay too. Anyhowzer, I’m trying is the point. Hopefully another 10 records added into this Quarterly Review underscores that notion.

More coffee. More albums. Let’s rock.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Eagle Twin, The Thundering Heard (Songs of Hoof and Horn)

eagle twin the thundering heard songs of hoof and horn

Consuming tones, throat-sung blues, a wash of lumbering doom – yes, it’s quite a first three minutes on Eagle Twin’s The Thundering Heard (Songs of Hoof and Horn). Released by Southern Lord, it’s the Salt Lake City duo’s first outing since 2012’s The Feather Tipped the Serpent’s Scale (discussed here), which arrived three years after their 2009 debut, The Unkindness of Crows (review here). Once again, the four-song outing finds guitarist/vocalist Gentry Densley and drummer Tyler Smith exploring the natural order and the natural world the 11-minute “Quanah un Rama” and the 14-minute “Antlers of Lightning” bookend “Elk Wolfv Hymn” (8:22) and album highlight “Heavy Hood” (7:21), creating an ever-more immersive and grit-laden flow across the album’s span. It’s hard to know if Densley and Smith are the hunters or the hunted here, but the tones are massive enough to make YOB blush, the rhythms are hypnotic and the use they’re both put to is still unlike anything else out there, ending after the chaos and assault of low end on “Antlers of Lightning” with a moment of contemplative guitar lead, as if to remind us of our solitary place in imagining ourselves at the top of the food chain.

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Southern Lord Recordings website

 

Wight, Fusion Rock Invasion

wight fusion rock invasion

One wonders what it might’ve been like to see Wight on the 2015 tour on which the Bilocation Records-issued vinyl-only Fusion Rock Invasion: Live Over Europe was captured. Still a year out from releasing their third album, Love is Not Only What You Know (review here), the former trio had already become a four-piece with guitarist/vocalist/keyboardist René Hofmann, bassist Peter-Philipp Schierhorn and drummer Thomas Kurek bringing in percussionist Steffen Kirchpfening and already undertaken the funkier aesthetic turn that LP would represent coming off of 2012’s Through the Woods into Deep Water (review here). At least I’d think it would be something of a surprise as the band hit into “Helicopter Mama” and “The Muse & the Mule” and “Kelele,” which comprise side A of Fusion Rock Invasion, but by all appearances listening to the crowd response between songs, they seem into it. Who could argue? Wight’s groove in those songs as well as the older “Master of Nuggets” and Love is Not Only What You Know finale “The Love for Life Leads to Reincarnation” on side B, are infectious in their grooves and the soul put into them is genuine and unmistakable. One more reason I wouldn’t have minded being there, I suppose.

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Wight at Bilocation Records

 

Sundrifer, Visitations

sundrifter visitations

Name your bet someone picks up Sundrifter’s Visitations for a proper release. The Boston three-piece of vocalist/guitarist Craig Peura, bassist Paul Gaughran and drummer Patrick Queenan impress in performance, aesthetic and craft across the nine songs and 48 minute of their for-now-self-released debut long-player, and whether it’s Queenan dipping into blastbeats on “Targeted” or Gaughran’s rumble on the Soundgarden-gone-doom “Fire in the Sky” or the fuzz that leads the charge on the Queens of the Stone Age-style “Hammerburn,” Peura doing a decent Josh Homme along the way, each member proves to add something to a whole greater than the sum of its parts and that is able to take familiar elements and use them to hone an individualized atmosphere. In the wake of melodically engaged Boston acts like Gozu, Sundrifter would seem to be a focused newcomer with a solidified mindset of who they are as a group. That said, I wouldn’t be surprised either if they kept growing their sound. Something about the psychedelic distance in “Fire in the Sky” and “I Want to Leave,” says there’s forward movement yet to be had.

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Sundrifter on Bandcamp

 

Holy Mushroom, Moon

holy mushroom moon

Serenity and presence. There’s no shortage of either on the second Holy Mushroom full-length, Moon. Incorporating the prior-issued digital single “Éufrates,” the five-track/43-minute excursion is rife with natural-toned psychedelic resonance, marked out by organ/piano working alongside the guitar (see “Birdwax Blues”), as well as guest contributions of double bass and saxophone, and other sundry moments of depth-creating flourish. Their trance-effect is palpable, and Moon is an easy album to get lost in, especially as the Spanish three-piece make their way through 12:35 centerpiece “The Preacher,” moving from a dreamy opening line of guitar into funk-laden heft that only pushes forward with Hendrixian abandon through a massive jam before rounding out sweetly with vocals over background organ and sweetly-strummed guitar. “Éufrates” would seem to start the same way, but varies the structure in more of a back and forth format before closer “Grand Finale in the Blind Desert” brings both Holy Mushroom’s most patient execution and their most vibrant jam (sax included), essentially building from the one into the other to end the album in energetic fashion. To say it works for them would be underselling it.

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Holy Mushroom on Bandcamp

 

Iron and Stone, Petrichor

iron and stone petrichor

A debut long-player of no-pretense, no-nonsense sludge-infused doom, Petrichor (on Backbite Records) shows German five-piece Iron and Stone as ready to follow where the riff will lead them. The late 2017 album is a solidly-delivered 10 tracks and 43 minutes that strikes mostly in monochrome intent, save perhaps for the acoustic “Interlude” near the midpoint. Their 2015 EP, Old Man’s Doom (review here), was similarly upfront in its purposes, but carrying across a full-length – especially a debut – is a different beast from a shorter outing. Their heavier push on “Monolith” is welcome and the break-then-chug of “Deserts” does plenty to satisfy, but Petrichor might require a couple concerted listens to really sink in on its audience, though as I’ve said time and again, if you can’t handle repetition, you can’t handle doom. Iron and Stone effectively balance traditional doom and rawer sludge groove, playing fluidly to whichever suits their purposes at a given moment.

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Backbite Records webstore

 

Black Capricorn, Omega

black capricorn omega

Sardinian doom cult Black Capricorn push well beyond the limits of the manageable with their 95-minute fourth album, Omega (released Nov. 2017 on Stone Stallion Rex), and that’s clearly the idea. The three-piece of bassist Virginia, drummer Rakela and guitarist/vocalist Kjxu offer grim ambience and tempos that sound slow regardless of their actual speed. That said, the 17-minute “Antartide” is an accomplishment as regards crawl. After a sweetly melancholic opening of guitar, it lurches and lumbers out its miserable heft until a return to that intro bookends. Even shorter tracks like “Flower of Revelation” or “Stars of Orion” hold firm to the tenet of plod, and though the results are obviously a lot to take in, the idea that it should be a slog seems all the more appropriate to Black Capricorn’s style. The band, which hits the decade mark in 2018, churn out one last bit of wretchedness in the nine-minute closing title-track before giving way to an acoustic finish, as if to remind that Omega’s sorrows are conveyed as much through atmosphere as actual sonic heft.

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Stone Stallion Rex website

 

Owl Maker, Paths of the Slain

owl maker paths of the slain

Guitarist/vocalist Simon Tuozzoli, also of malevolent doomers Vestal Claret, leads the new trio Owl Maker, and in the company of bassist Jessie May and drummer Chris Anderson, he embarks on a heavy rock push of six tracks with the debut EP, Paths of the Slain, still holding to some elements of metal, whether it’s the double-kick in opener “Ride with Aileen” or the backing vocals and guitar solo of the subsequent “99.” Songwriting is clearheaded across the EP’s 23 minutes, and in terms of first impressions, “Mashiara” shows a focus on melody that retains a metallic poise without losing its riff-driven edge. The balance shifts throughout “Freya’s Chariot” and the all-go “Witches,” the latter of which touches on black metal in its first half before turning on a dime to mid-paced heavy rock, and closer “Lady Stoneheart” nods in its back end to NWOBHM gallop, as Owl Maker seem to tip their audience to the fact that they’re just getting started on their exploration of the many interpretations of heavy.

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Owl Maker on Bandcamp

 

Troll, Troll

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When one considers the multiple connotations of the word, Portland’s Troll are definitely going more for “lives under a bridge” than “meddling in elections” when it comes to their sound. Their self-titled debut EP, issued in 2017 before being picked up by respected purveyor Shadow Kingdom Records for a 2018 CD/tape release, is a highlight offering of classic-style doom worthy of Orodruin and Pilgrim comparisons and headlined by the vocal performance of John, who carries songs like opener “The Summoning” and the later, more swinging “Infinite Death” in a manner impressive in both frontman presence and melodic range. His work is only bolstered by the riffs of guitarist Lou and the consistent groove held together by bassist Wayne and drummer Ryan, whose drive in centerpiece “An Eternal Haunting” is neither overdone nor incongruous with the wall its tempo hits, and who meld shuffle and plod on closer “Savage Thunder” with naturalist ease. Potential abounds, and they reportedly already have new material in the works, so all the better.

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Shadow Kingdom Records website

 

Malditos, II

malditos ii
Some bands, you just have to accept the fact that they’re on a different wavelength and that’s all there is to it. Magma. Master Musicians of Bukkake. Circle. Enter Oakland, California’s Malditos, whose sophomore outing, II: La Réve, arrives via Svart Records. From bizarre psychedelic chants to ritualized repetitions that seems to be daring you to play them backwards on your turntable, the spiritual freakout to songs like “Azadeh” and the penultimate “Momen” is palpable. Reach out and touch it and it will ripple like water in front of you. A sense of space is filled with elements alternatingly horrifying and engrossing, and after they make their way through “Le Passage” and centerpiece “Disparu” and wind up in the title-track to close out, the journey to the final wash of noise gives the distinct impression that for neither the listener nor the band is there any coming back. High order head trippery. Will simply be too much for some, will gloriously expand the minds of others.

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Svart Records webstore

 

The Freak Folk of Mangrovia, Sonic Meditations: Live @ Palach

the freak folk of mangrovia sonic meditations live at palach

I don’t know how much improvisation is a factor in the sound of The Freak Folk of Mangrovia, but the Croation collective bring an ultra-organic presence to their perhaps-debut release, Sonic Meditations: Live @ Palach. The group, which seems also to have gone under the names Marko Mushan & the Mangrovian Orchestra and The Free Folk of Mangrovia, was opening for Acid Mothers Temple that night, and Sonic Meditations mostly breaks down into parts – “Sonic Meditation I,” “II,” “III” and “IV” – before the band closes out with “’Mangrovian Summer,” all the while with The Freak Folk of Mangrovia making their way through progressive dreamscapes, dripping with effects and spacious enough to house an entire Mangrovian village, however big that might be. It is otherworldly and jazzy and moves with such fluidity that the entire “Sonic Meditation” becomes one overarching piece, complemented by the closing “Mangrovian Summer,” which ebbs and flows through louder, more active jamming before capping in a wash of noise.

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