Review & Track Premiere: Young Hunter, Dayhiker

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on October 3rd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

young hunter dayhiker

[Click play above to stream ‘The Feast’ from Young Hunter’s Dayhiker. Album is out Oct. 13 on The Fear and the Void Recordings.]

Thus far in a career that spans more than half a decade back to 2011’s semi-blackened Children of a Hungry World EP and 2012’s Stone Tools (discussed here) debut full-length — though at this point the band might be more comfortable considering both as demos — the tenure of Young Hunter has been marked by standout songwriting, geographic and personnel shift, and unmitigated stylistic growth. One might think that a certain amount of circumstantial upheaval might result in a corresponding sonic chaos, but after triumphant 2013 three-songer Embers at the Foot of Dark Mountain (review here) was issued as a split tape with Ohioan, founding guitarist/vocalist Benjamin Blake moved himself and thereby the band from the Arizona desert to Portland, Oregon, and completely revamped the lineup around himself.

This new Pacific Northwestern incarnation of Young Hunter issued their of-sorts self-titled debut (review here) in 2016, and though it turned the group away from the rawness of impact that had in part served to highlight the sincere emotionalism driving Embers at the Foot of Dark Mountain, it also demonstrated just how distinct Young Hunter‘s sound had become up to that point — that Blake could essentially reform the band, and they’d still sound like Young Hunter. Of course, his own performance as guitarist/vocalist is no small factor in that, but as the third Young Hunter album, Dayhiker, surfaces through The Fear and the Void Recordings with the returned lineup of keyboardist/vocalist Sara Pinnell, guitarist Erik Wells, bassist Sam Dean and drummer Grant Pierce alongside Blake, the same holds true in the seven-song/39-minute new offering, even as the band as a whole continues to progress and refine the scope of its individualized style.

Dayhiker was recorded by The Fucking Champs‘ Tim Green (Comets on FireEarthless, Citay, etc.) at Louder Studios in Grass Valley, California (NorCal, about an hour out from Sacramento), over the course of five days, and one can hear in the swing and punctuation of Pierce‘s snare/hi-hat and the vocals from Pinnell and Blake, respectively, in the sharp rhythmic stops of “In the Shadow of the Serpent” and “Black Mass” that there is a heavier push in these tracks than on the preceding outing, which is something that suits Young Hunter well, giving the contemplation of cuts like “Entered Apprentice,” with its steady line of organ behind a bouncing bassline from Dean, dual vocal arrangement and ’80s metallic shuffle, a resonant force behind its thrust when called upon to do so, as behind the quick solo just passed the halfway mark. The aforementioned “In the Shadow of the Serpent” is the leadoff, and the acoustic plucking with which it starts sets an immediately folkish underpinning even as it’s met with thuds and crashes and a slow march that gradually introduces the elements at play — guitar, bass, drums, keys — before moving into its swinging verse, which is delivered with enough tempo to be insistent and urgent but not more than it necessarily wants to be.

young hunter

Pinnell takes the first lead vocal and she and Blake trade fluidly as the subsequent power-hooks of “The Feast,” “Entered Apprentice” and “Hunger” play out, coming together atop the rolling groove of “The Feast,” letting Blake hold sway on “Entered Apprentice” with some complement, and finishing side A in duet fashion on “Hunger,” which answers the consistent organ line of the song before it with more keys establishing the root notes of the melody in the central riff played by Blake and Wells and shoved forward by the rhythm section, Dean working in dynamic basslines circa the four-minute mark that only enhance the effectiveness of the guitars surrounding. Young Hunter, in short, have it all working, and sound more like themselves than they have yet.

That means heft, patience, songwriting, naturalism of performance, a focus on emotionality and sonic elements drawn from classic heavy rock and metal put to modern and progressive use. Their sound, as they move into side B of Dayhiker with the lead guitar embellishment of “Dark Age,” has never felt so much like a tapestry and has come to owe no less of its richness to the forests of the Pacific Northwest than to nighttime visions of the sands around Tucson. “Dark Age” once again brings Pinnell and Blake together on vocals atop a rolling but tense progression topped with airy guitars held together by Dean‘s bass and Pierce‘s steady snare, and though the pace picks up after halfway through its near-six-minute run, Young Hunter save the larger payoff for “Black Mass,” which follows.

Working in multiple stages, the nine-minute side B centerpiece and penultimate inclusion on Dayhiker is ambitious and memorable in kind, setting its hook instrumentally in the intro and unfolding quickly into its first verse, deftly peppering in a guitar solo for a bridge before the second, and exploring a social thematic in progressive texture with a graceful balance of keys throughout, cycling through a longer guitar lead before another verse crosses the midpoint and brings a refrain of the repeated line, “This is the face I wore before I was born” from Blake and Pinnell that leads to a full stop at 6:14, crashing back in with a more urgent thrust and cymbal wash to introduce the next movement — a fuller and more weighted, all-in shove that, with yet another engaging vocal melody overhead, will carry Dayhiker to and through its apex, ringing out amp and effects noise as an acoustic guitar line enters the slow fade almost in answer to “In the Shadow of the Serpent.”

That’s closer “Night Hiker” ending the record with Pinnell holding sway on a last bit of forest folk that, were it not so gorgeously done, might be thought of as an epilogue. Keys join in subtly but only help the overall resonance as they have all along, and they and the gently swaying guitar back a farewell verse before cutting out and giving a few seconds of thoughtful silence before the track actually finishes. It’s a gorgeous and somewhat unexpected ending, but not by any means beyond the reach of Young Hunter at this stage, since if Dayhiker demonstrates anything, it’s that their maturity has brought them to a place where little would be. And they are mature enough at this point with the clear benefit of having worked together on the self-titled to make the most of the opportunity to craft something special here, which is exactly what they’ve done. What the ultimate impact of Dayhiker will be depends in no small part on the band — i.e., they need to tour, a lot — but no question that in style and substance they’ve reached a new echelon and only seem poised to continue to flourish.

Young Hunter, Dayhiker teaser promo

Young Hunter on Thee Facebooks

Young Hunter on Bandcamp

The Fear and the Void Recordings on Bandcamp

The Fear and the Void Recordings on Thee Facebooks

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Six Dumb Questions with Holy Grove

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on September 13th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

holy-grove-photo-by-Foto-Phortress

This coming weekend, Sept. 16, Portland, Oregon’s Holy Grove are set to appear at Epicenter Music Fest in San Francisco, California. In that endeavor, the soulful riff rollers join the considerable ranks of High on Fire, Big Business, Mos Generator and others (full lineup here), and after appearances at Psycho Las Vegas in 2016, making their debut run through Europe alongside Boston’s Gozu, and offering one of last year’s finest debuts in their Heavy Psych Sounds-released and Billy Anderson-helmed self-titled (review here), it would seem to be the finishing stamp on the cycle for their first outing as they get ready to move on toward the writing and recording of the second.

Anyone who’s heard cuts like “Nix” and “Holy Grove” doesn’t need me to say that’s good news. Topped off as it was by some of the most striking cover art Adam Burke has ever produced (which is saying something), Holy Grove‘s Holy Grove offered modern tones and classic groove in kind, vocalist Andrea Vidal establishing a commanding presence amid the righteous lead work of guitarist Trent Jacobs and the full low end push from bassist Gregg Emley. They’ve worked with a succession of drummers already since founder Craig Bradford recorded with them, and they just recently welcomed Eben Travis to the fold as at least the fourth in that line, hopefully settling the issue once and for all.

As we move into Fall and begin to look ahead toward some of 2018’s most anticipated releases, it’s only fair to include an impending sophomore outing from Holy Grove on that list. The level of bluesy stylistic cohesion and songwriting they brought to the driving, swinging “Huntress” and to the nodding, semi-metallic expanses of “Hanged Man” would demand no less. Just how will the four-piece, now including Travis as a (fingers crossed) permanent member, begin to move forward and expand their sound in the New Year? And will they hit the road again with the same fury they did behind the self-titled? Sounds to me like it’s time to check in with Vidal for a full update.

Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

epicenter-music-festival

Six Dumb Questions with Andrea Vidal of Holy Grove

We’re about 18 months out from the self-titled release at this point. Looking back on your first album, how do you feel about how the songs came out? What is your favorite thing about it and what is your favorite memory of the recording process?

I think overall, we’re pretty satisfied with how the songs are represented on the record. We knew going into the recording process that we wanted to create studio versions of the songs, and have the live versions be their own thing. To that end, I think we were successful. It served the purpose of introducing people outside of Portland to the songs. My favorite memory of the recording process was the day we finished mixing at Everything Hz (Billy‘s studio). We literally finished up mixing the last song, and then listened to the whole thing from beginning to end. It was definitely one of “those moments.”

What’s the status of new material? Do you have a recording plan yet and a ballpark release date? How have the new songs started to come together?

New material is progressing nicely. Even while we were down a drummer, the three of us continued to show up to practice to work on new material with the intent to have songs basically finished and ready to start working on as soon as we found a drummer. We played two new ones at our first show back which felt great. We have a few more nearing completion and a large backlog of riffs and ideas that we’ll start pouring over in the next few months to get a new record written and recorded by early next year.

Is there anything in particular you want the new songs to build on from the self-titled? Anything you want to change in the band’s sound or a new way to challenge yourself or the band as a whole? Something new you just want to try out in the studio, maybe?

I think the idea for the new batch of songs is to push ourselves to take the tunes to the next logical level. I wouldn’t say there is anything we want to change or reinvent particularly, but we do want to amplify everything that we did on the first record. More swing, more groove, more power, more riffs!

Tell me about bringing Eben Travis into the band. What was it about him that let you know he was right to take on the drummer position? What were you looking for in someone new?

We basically knew as soon as Eben started playing that he was “the one.” We really wanted someone who understood the feel of the tunes without us having to explain it, someone who hit the drums fucking hard, and was someone who we could welcome in to the band on a personal friendship type level… someone we could also be pals with, basically. Thankfully Eben was that guy. Dude is the total package.

You toured in the US and in Europe for the self-titled. How do you feel about the way the band has been received on the whole, in terms of the record and live? Can you sense a difference at shows between now and before the album came out?

We’re all pretty flattered and humbled by the response to the band and record. I think after we played Psycho Las Vegas in 2016 and got a positive response that we realized we had a chance to make a mark outside of Portland. Having the record out means that when we play people are familiar with the tunes a bit more, and Psycho was the first time I looked out and saw people in the crowd singing along, which was really a special moment for me personally.

You’ve got Epicenter fest Sept. 16. Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?

First and foremost, we can’t thank everybody enough for the support. It truly means the world to us. After we get back from Epicenter, we have a few local shows with The Obsessed, then the plan is to finish up writing the new record, get it recorded and hit the road. We’re in the early planning stages of getting a European tour planned for 2018, which is something we are all really looking forward to. More shows, more music!

Holy Grove, Holy Grove (2016)

Holy Grove on Thee Facebooks

Holy Grove on Bandcamp

Holy Grove at Heavy Psych Sounds

Heavy Psych Sounds on Thee Facebooks

Epicenter Music Festival 2017 event page

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Young Hunter Announce Dayhiker Out Oct. 13

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 13th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

young hunter

It’ll be about a year and a half turnaround from Portland, Oregon’s Young Hunter as they follow-up their 2016 self-titled full-length (review here) with Dayhiker on Oct. 13 through The Fear and the Void Recordings. The genre-spanning/genre/defying five-piece once more bring an exploratory sense to their work musically and thematically with the album’s seven tracks, embarking on a multi-textured heavy feel drawn together through the sincerity of the emotionalism behind it and the weight brought to bear tonally and, again, in terms of the theme.

I’ve only dug into the finished version once or twice at this point, but the growth this band has undertaken over their releases is as palpable as it is willful. They push themselves. They’re pushing themselves still. I hope to have more to come on this one, because I continue to think this band is something special.

They hit the road the night before the vinyl drops. Info came in via the PR wire:

young hunter dayhiker

Young Hunter release 3rd album ‘Dayhiker,’ making old sounds fresh and new again

At a time when humanity’s annihilation isn’t a far-flung concept, whether from devastating environmental forces or our culture’s seemingly masochistic need for self-destruction, music and communication often feel like the only hope for turning the tide. Remembering who we are, discovering why we’re here, and finding connection with each other is our only hope, even though the hour feels late.

Enter Young Hunter, a band that evolved from a one-man project churning out tribal, psychotropic desert-doom to a collective of five individuals drawing from across the spectrum of stadium power rock, desert grooves, epic post-metal, and the rose-colored depths of mid-eighties high school rock radio.

With third album, Dayhiker, Young Hunter complete their transformation into a force within the many-splintered world of 21st century heavy music. Musically, the album traces a path through the darkness, confusion, and illusion of our times, transmuting them into a fire to confront feelings of fear and meaninglessness in the face of an uncertain future.

Lyrically, vocalist/guitarist Benjamin Blake isn’t afraid to ask the big questions: Why are we here? What is human culture? What is its relationship to the natural world, and what critical pieces of human history have we forgotten? Young Hunter dives into these themes with a sonic palette that harnesses the duality of male/female co-lead vocals. Harmonies and call-and-response tradeoffs between Blake and keyboardist Sara Pinnell are omnipresent, helping convey a range of feelings and connections that make the darkness beautiful, the heaviness hopeful, and the sorrow both personal and universal.

Says Blake: “Heavy music is inherently cathartic. It’s a way for a room full of people to realize they’re not alone in their suffering, confusion, frustration, and anger. And it’s beautiful because there’s no emotion that’s too intense for it. On Dayhiker, that’s something we pushed ourselves to explore.”

Accessing and expanding the old-becomes-new-again cultural bent of artists like Sumerlands and Horisont and cinematic touchstones like Stranger Things and Stephen King’s IT, Young Hunter’s Dayhiker offers a more organic and primal strand in this increasingly attractive tapestry.

Written collectively and honed on the road, Dayhiker is Young Hunter’s first release on the Fear and the Void label. It was recorded over the course of 5 days with Tim Green (Melvins, Wolves in the Throne Room, Comets on Fire) at Louder Studios, his analog retreat in Grass Valley, CA.

Benjamin Blake – Vocals, Guitar
Sara Pinnell – Vocals, Keys
Erik Wells – Guitar
Sam Dean – Bass
Grant Pierce – Drums

Tracklisting
1. In the Shadow of the Serpent
2. The Feast
3. Entered Apprentice
4. Hunger
5. Dark Age
6. Black Mass
7. Night Hiker

Dayhiker will be released on October 13th on vinyl LP and digital via Bandcamp. Young Hunter’s tour in support of the new record takes place during October across the following dates:

10/12 – Eugene, OR – Old Nick’s
10/13 – Reno, NV – The Holland Project
10/14 – Santa Rosa, CA – Cooperage Brewing Company
10/15 – Oakland, CA – Feral
10/18 – Las Vegas, NV – The Griffin
10/19 – Flagstaff, AZ – Flagstaff Brewing Company
10/20 – Tucson, AZ – Club Congress
10/21 – Santa Fe, NM – Rufina Taproom
10/23 – Bisbee, AZ – The Quarry
10/25 – Los Angeles, CA – Lexington
10/26 – San Francisco, CA – SF Eagle
10/27 – Nevada City, CA – Cooper’s
10/28 – Bend, OR – M and J Tavern
10/29 – Portland, OR – Kenton Club

https://www.facebook.com/Young-Hunter-127424170682508/
https://younghunter.bandcamp.com/
https://thefearandthevoidrecordings.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/TheFearAndTheVoid/

Young Hunter, Dayhiker teaser promo

Young Hunter, Young Hunter (2016)

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Red Fang Announce West Coast Tour Dates with Bloodclot and Fireball Ministry

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 1st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

red fang

This weekend, Portland, OR, heavy rock forerunners Red Fang take part in Crucialfest in Salt Lake City and Bumbershoot in Seattle. One fest features Radio Moscow, SubRosa and Earthless, the other Weezer, Lorde and Haim. Such is the magic of Red Fang at this point in their career. They can pretty much play to whatever crowd you want to put in front of them. They’ve got newly announced West Coast dates as well supporting last year’s Only Ghosts (review here) on Relapse, and that’s before they head to Europe to share a bill with Mastodon and Russian Circles. Red Fang, if you didn’t know, are a big friggin’ deal.

The PR wire knows it, and so, we all know it:

red fang west coast tour

RED FANG Announce Headline West Coast Tour Dates

Portland rockers RED FANG have announced the California Ghost Rush headline tour in October. The tour commences October 17 in Eugene, OR and ends October 28 in Los Angeles, CA. Direct support will be provided by Bloodclot and Fireball Ministry on select dates. RED FANG is also set to perform this weekend at Crucial Fest in Salt Lake City, UT and Bumbershoot in Seattle, WA. Additionally, the band will provide direct support for Mastodon in the UK and Europe this Fall. All confirmed tour dates are listed below.

RED FANG’s latest album Only Ghosts is out now on CD/LP/Digital via Relapse Records. Physical packages and digital orders are available via Relapse.com HERE and Bandcamp HERE.

RED FANG Tour Dates:
Sep 02 Salt Lake City, UT Crucial Fest
Sep 03 Seattle, WA Bumbershoot

Oct 17 Eugene, OR HiFi Music Hall
Oct 19 Sacramento, CA Harlow’s *
Oct 20 Petaluma, CA Mystic Theatre *
Oct 21 San Francisco, CA Slim’s *
Oct 23 San Diego, CA Cashbah
Oct 25 Long Beach, CA Alex’s Bar ^
Oct 26 Phoenix, AZ Crescent Ballroom ^
Oct 27 Las Vegas, NV Beauty Bar ^
Oct 28 Los Angeles, CA Troubadour ^
* W/ Bloodclot
^ W/ Fireball Ministry

— All Dates Nov 13 – Dec 10 With Mastodon & Russian Circles —
Nov 13 Vienna, AT Arena
Nov 14 Herford, DE X
Nov 15 Brussels, BE AB
Nov 17 Amsterdam, NL Melkweg
Nov 19 Stockholm, SE Munchen Brewery
Nov 20 Olso, NO Sentrum Scene
Nov 22 Copenhagen, DK VEGA Main Hall
Nov 23 Leipzig, DE Haus Auensee
Nov 24 Prague, CZ Lucerna Music Bar
Nov 25 Munich, DE Tonhalle
Nov 27 Milan, IT Live Club
Nov 28 Zurich, CH Komplex
Nov 29 Paris, FR Elysee Montmarte
Nov 30 Luxembourg, LU Rockhal Club
Dec 02 Cardiff, UK Great Hall
Dec 04 Wolverhampton, UK Civic Hall
Dec 05 Nottingham, UK Rock City
Dec 06 Newcastle, UK Northumbria University
Dec 07 Glasgow, UK Barrowland
Dec 09 Manchester, UK Academy
Dec 10 London, UK Brixton Academy

www.redfang.net
www.facebook.com/redfangband
www.twitter.com/redfang
www.instagram.com/redfangband

Red Fang, “Cut it Short” official video

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Grigax, Life Eater: Bleak Meditations

Posted in Reviews on August 25th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

grigax life eater

Portland-based Grigax is the one-woman vehicle of Alyssa Mocere. Also a graphic designer/tattooist who has done art for Infiltrator, SummonerMatt Pike and others, Mocere released a two-songer demo under the Grigax moniker in 2015 and has aligned to Dullest Records and partnered with drummer/engineer Luis Hernandez for the debut full-length Life Eater — a 32-minute/seven-cut collection that finds poise within a tumult of influences from the sphere of post-rock, doom, black metal, folk, psychedelia and drone, finally resolving itself in the moment-of-clarity “Nascita,” a clean-sung after-grunge push of overdriven guitar and deceptively patient drumming. Two sub-two-minute atmospheric pieces, the intro “Bardo Thodol” and the centerpiece “Lutto,” set up a two-sided dynamic, but whether one makes their way through Life Eater in vinyl-style halves or in a single-stream front-to-back fashion, the scope with which Mocere undertakes her material as Grigax is expansive, at times frightening in its affect, and unflinchingly creative.

Whether that creativity shows itself in the eerie keys and backward sonics that commence with “Bardo Thodol” or the bass-led marching spaciousness that ensues on the subsequent “Circcolo,” the longest inclusion here at 8:53, it is a resolute position from which Mocere directs the material one way or another on a song-by-song basis. Life Eater was recorded over a period of two years, and frankly, it sounds like it. That’s not a dig on the album at all — but a note on the constructed feel of the songs that make it up, Mocere building “Circcolo” one layer at a time, or experimenting with different elements to see what most brings her intent toward realization or, better yet, uncovering what that intent might be as the harsh wash in “Splitting” is shaped, her melodic vocals over top keeping a thoroughly human presence to what might otherwise feel purposefully cold and uninviting.

If anything, this notion of Life Eater‘s material as something that came together one layer at a time — which I admit to some degree is narrative being read into what might’ve been a completely different writing method, but inevitably how it had to work at least in part at the studio, since Mocere handles multiple instruments in addition to vocals and can only be in so many places at once — adds to the aesthetic of the record itself, which is deeply imbued with a meditative sensibility. Whatever else its varied scope might encompass, it sounds like a ritual playing out in swells of volume and passion. What the meaning is of the exploration at work in the buzzing low-end progression of “Circcolo” and the post-heavy scathe of “Splitting” — or for that matter in “Iron Quill”‘s blend of Wolves in the Throne Room-style blackened devouring and harmonized vocals and the manipulated spiritualism of “Zeis,” on which Mocere takes position behind the kit as well to conjure a vibe born of Om‘s Advaitic Songs but ultimately given its own crux via squiggly guitar and her own far-back-as-far-out singing — remains largely unknowable just by listening, but that would appear to be at least part of the point.

As deep as Life Eater goes, it doesn’t share everything — all lyrics save for “Nascita,” for example, come from 1900’s Harlequinade by Henry Rightor — and feels no need to come right out and explain itself or its jumps from one genre to another. Like the most commanding of works, it simply is. It stands its ground and will let the interpretations shake out as they will amid the effectively droning fluidity of “Lutto” and the searing that follows on “Iron Quill,” each turn Grigax takes on presenting some measure of its own intent while feeding into the noted idea of the album as part of a single ritual being shaped, carved out like a totem for a one-person pagan anti-dogma to be left in the Cascadian woods somewhere outside Portland and confuse man-bun hikers as they pass it by. Obscure and evocative, haunting and not at all chaotic in the way one might expect, even unto the Jarboe-esque rhythmic breathing that starts “Nascita,” Life Eater is both raw in its sound and rich in expression, and even if its component parts didn’t unite as well as they do, the sheer diversity of its approach would make it one of 2017’s most impressive debuts.

Particularly with the adoption of an outside speaker for the lyrics to “Circcolo,” “Splitting,” “Iron Quill” and “Zeis,” Grigax would seem to be setting up a push-pull dynamic with the listener. On the one hand, each movement sounds and feels almost entirely personal, and yet a key component of their making — quite literally the words Mocere is saying — come from a source other than herself. Does that mean Life Eater is somehow tentative in its approach? Not necessarily, and positioning “Nascita” as the closer, with its forward-moving linear build and Neurosis-born “Stones from the Sky” moment in the guitar, feels especially significant in this regard; Mocere gives herself the opportunity to make the album’s final statement. I’d be interested to know when “Nascita” was composed in relation to the other material surrounding, as it’s almost too easy to interpret it as a sign of things to come from Grigax as an ongoing project and perhaps Mocere letting her audience know, at last, that there’s a core consciousness at work behind all the breadth, nuance and pummel of the tracks.

Indeed, it’s her voice as the last element we hear on “Nascita,” and after the guitars, drums and the rest fade out, she gives a melodic reinterpretation of the rhythm breathed through at the outside some seven minutes earlier. Again, it’s hard to know exactly just what that transformation is saying, but the fact that Life Eater engages on that level — leads one to ask the question at all, in other words — is a testament to the effectiveness of its artistry. In thinking of where Grigax might go from here, there’s setup for expansion of reach in any number of directions, whether it’s playing up the psychedelic aspects of “Circcolo” and “Zeis” or the to-a-crisp tonality of “Iron Quill,” or finding some single modus over time that draws from all of them. More important is the work Mocere and Hernandez have done in bringing Life Eater to fruition as it is, and the manner in which those efforts have succeeded in crafting something so much of its time and place and yet so isolated and severe. Regardless of how Grigax evolves, one expects it will evolve, and looks forward to discovering what wonders and horrors are unearthed in that process.

Grigax, Life Eater (2017)

Grigax, “Splitting” official video

Grigax on Bandcamp

Grigax on YouTube

Dullest Records on Thee Facebooks

Dullest Records on Bandcamp

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R.I.P. Premiere “Unmarked Grave”; New Album Street Reaper Due Oct. 13

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on August 24th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

rip

R.I.P. will release their second album, Street Reaper, Oct. 13 through RidingEasy Records. I’m still not entirely sure what the Portland, Oregon, four-piece’s self-imposed designation ‘street doom’ is fully intended to convey, but as with their 2016 debut, In the Wind (review here) — first issued by Totem Cat and subsequently picked up by RidingEasy — it would seem on the 10-track Street Reaper to have to do with the overarching level of grit the band brings to their material, evident likewise in tone and theme. Also it makes it okay that songs like “The Casket” and “The Dark” owe almost as much to Dead Kennedys as to Saint Vitus or Pentagram. Whatever you or they want to call it, it’s way over the top and, even though at least half the cuts directly reference death, is a blast of filthy, classic-style raw metallic pummel.

Make no mistake: by “blast,” yes, I mean party. Because whatever else might be going on in the street on which R.I.P. are proliferating their guttural doom, they’re also having a really good time doing it. That impulse may be the facet of their approach most tying them to the Portland underground that gave them birth, where otherwise they would seem bent on bringing a hint of darkness to the heavy rock sphere of Southern California — certainly the cover art of Street Reaper bears out that spirit. It’s a distinct notion and not something every band would be so brash as to attempt, but brashness seems to be a specialty for the foursome of vocalist Fuzz, guitarist Angel Martinez, bassist John Mullett and drummer Willie D., and from the opening “Unmarked Grave” onward, Street Reaper manifests that as much in its beat-you-over-the-head hooks as its noise-coated distortion. Riffs lead the way as they invariably would, but Fuzz answers the presence he brought to In the Wind with willful excess in “Street Reaper,” the slow-creep-int0-full-thrust “Shadows Folds” and the deeper echoes of “The Other Side,” stepping into a cassette-era theatricality that suits the rawer production almost surprisingly well, R.I.P. finding a place for ’80s and early ’90s nostalgia that’s not overblown would-be glam or retro-minded thrash, but would nonetheless fit well on a bill next to Slayer during their big-hair days, despite the obvious sonic discrepancies.

Likewise, “Mother Road” — the longest track on Street Reaper at 5:56 — seems to take the rip street reapercentral riff of Mötley Crüe‘s “Looks that Kill” and cake it in Motörheady dust such as to make it that much harder to place in one era or another, and closer “Die in Vain” taps First Daze Here-style Pentagrammery and brings in organ foreshadowed on “The Other Side” before it as a primary aspect, adding distinction and positioning its open verses and building choruses as all the more the band’s own. A well-placed guitar-led interlude “The Cross” follows the ultra-nasty “Brimstone” as R.I.P. move deeper into side B, and winds up emphasizing the point of just how atmospheric Street Reaper has been all along. I wouldn’t call much of what R.I.P. do subtle, but in terms of ambience, their songs successfully convey notions of mood and purpose without giving losing an apparent focus on simplicity of structure. Indeed, that simplicity is a part of their aesthetic, and well wielded through the thickened push of “The Casket” or “The Other Side” as well as “The Casket,” on which one half expects Fuzz to remind his audience in the opening lines that, “Saint Vitus was a young man…” in his best Scott Reagers. He doesn’t though, and as much as one might trace the band’s roots to one act or another when it comes to the elements at play at a given moment, what’s undeniable about Street Reaper as a whole is that R.I.P. are engaging the work of building their own identity in these tracks, and just because they’ve named it — the already-noted “street doom” branding — doesn’t mean they can’t and aren’t using it as a basis for creative progression.

And that progression — unless I’ve read the album completely wrong — costs R.I.P. nothing in terms of their party-ready spirit, which sees development here as well as a part of their overarching personality. They hit the road to support In the Wind along the West Coast and I’d expect no less when it comes to Street Reaper, and these songs would seem to be tailored to a stage presentation, ready to be captured in some grainy-style video to further demonstrate their allegiance to the smoke-weed-and-chew-boulders heavy metal and doom of yore. Worth keeping an eye out, because like death on a skateboard, R.I.P. are as inevitable as they are inebriated.

Below, you’ll find the premiere of “Unmarked Grave,” followed by some comment from Fuzz about the track and more info from the PR wire. Once again, Street Reaper is out Oct. 13 via RidingEasy Records.

Please enjoy:

R.I.P., “Unmarked Grave” official premiere

Fuzz on “Unmarked Grave”:

“The seed of the song ‘Unmarked Grave’ was planted in my brain when we were on a tour stop in New Orleans and went through one of the city’s few in-ground burial cemeteries. The high water table in the swamp there makes it difficult to keep corpses interred, and the grounds were strewn with bone fragments and rotten human debris that had floated up through the dirt and the mud. What was once a man with hopes and dreams was now nothing but refuse broken to pieces and strewn about with some litter and trash. The disquietude these bodies were subject to stuck with me, and were on my mind when we wrote that track. I hope some of the despondency and humiliation of that situation come through to the listener, and that your grave offers you a more peaceful sojourn than it did to the souls that brought this song into being.”

When R.I.P. came crawling out of the sewers of Portland, OR last year, their grimy, sleazy Street Doom was already a fully formed monstrosity that quickly infected the minds of everyone it encountered. Now, borne from the band’s declining state of mental health and increasing focus on songwriting, Street Reaper is an even more unhinged and menacing album than their 2016 debut In The Wind.

Borrowing equally from 80s Rick Rubin productions and Murder Dog magazine aesthetics, Street Reaper is a streamlined yet brutally raw manifesto of heavy metal ferocity hearkening to the era when both metal and hip hop were reviled as the work of street thugs intent on destroying America’s youth. Throughout, Angel Martinez’s guitar and John Mullett’s bass are inextricably interlocked, sounding like a massive sonic steamroller, while drummer Willie D keeps the beat solid and simple for the most powerful impact. And, the band’s extensive touring and excessive virgin sacrifices have clearly endued singer Fuzz with evermore agile vocal chords to drive it all home with extreme precision.

Street Reaper will be available on LP, CD and download on October 13th, 2017 via RidingEasy Records.

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Friday Full-Length: YOB, The Great Cessation

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 11th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

YOB, The Great Cessation (2009)

From their 2002 12th Records debut, Elaborations of Carbon, onward, each YOB album has established its own personality, but I don’t think there’s any question 2009’s The Great Cessation (review here) is the angriest of the seven offered to-date. Released as the first of two outings for Profound Lore Records — the other, Atma (review here), followed in 2011 — it marked the return of the groundbreaking Eugene, Oregon, cosmic doomers, who had split after the release of what was then their pinnacle achievement, The Unreal Never Lived (discussed here), was released in 2005.

The story behind that stretch of time has been told and retold, but the tumult plays directly into The Great Cessation‘s atmosphere and five tracks. Guitarist/vocalist Mike Scheidt continued to work with Metal Blade Records, who had put out The Unreal Never Lived and the preceding 2004 full-length, The Illusion of Motion, as he formed the new project Middian and released a debut album therefrom in 2007 titled Age EternalMiddian, who went so far as to tour to support that record — something that YOB was really only starting to do when they called it quits in ’06 — wound up getting sued by an unsigned Wisconsin-based outfit called Midian who had trademarked the name and apparently decided the world wasn’t big enough for more than one band to use it despite the different spelling, and that basically brought the project to an end. Age Eternal, which invariably had some commonalities with YOB‘s work, languished, and though there was a brief time where Middian had changed their name to Age Eternal and it looked like they might press forward, by 2008, Scheidt had reformed YOB with drummer Travis Foster and new bassist Aaron Rieseberg, and work had begun on The Great Cessation, which somewhat ironically given its title, was nothing if not a new beginning for them as a group.

It was also, apparently, the receiving vessel for all the frustration that was born of this troubled time. While Catharsis had cut its teeth in a formative, slow-motion psychedelic doom, The Illusion of Motion made its mark with the perennially satisfying roll of “Ball of Molten Lead,” and The Unreal Never Lived found a place to dwell between sonic spiritualism and crushing heft, The Great Cessation was fueled by a rawer impulse. Produced by Sanford Parker, its sound was crisp and full, but the impact was near-immediate with opening track “Burning the Altar,” and what unfolded from then on would only become more scathing until arriving at its final resolution in the closing 20-minute title cut. To wit, the lurch forward that begins “Burning the Altar,” as YOB seem to reel back and attempt to smother the listener with the weight of the opening riff, or the explosive and caustic turns of the subsequent “The Lie that is Sin,” which crashes and rumbles and seethes even in its quietest stretches, finding Scheidt switching between cleaner vocals and harsh screams amid a final linear build that doesn’t so much offer payoff as it tightens until it can go no further and collapses on itself. “Burning the Altar,” which even eight years later commands nothing less than maximum volume at all times, had something of an instrumental hook, but YOB would pull the rug out from under it with “The Lie that is Sin,” and “Silence of Heaven” and “Breathing from the Shallows” only continued the descent into the darkest territory YOB had pursued up to that time, and maybe the darkest they’ve ever pursued, period.

Among those, particularly “Silence of Heaven.” Don’t get me wrong, “The Lie that is Sin” has just as much crunch as soar, and “Breathing from the Shallows” is second to none in terms of both growl and the critique of lines like “Where are you going with your greed” and “Ambition like cancer,” but if there’s a single representation on The Great Cessation of the raw anger running through the band at the time, it’s the centerpiece. It barely has lyrics, and seems to dedicate the energy that would otherwise go into crafting them into tearing its own flesh off. Furious and, for that, a little sad when taken in relation to the spiritualism or at least metaphysical searching Scheidt and YOB have put at the center of the band’s aesthetic all along, it feels right to call it a moment of pure catharsis despite having nothing to do with that album of the same name. Even when one goes back and listens to “Burning the Altar” or “The Lie that is Sin” before it, the rage of “Silence of Heaven” seems to radiate in all directions, affecting the songs before it as well as those after.

And yet, when The Great Cessation arrives at the quiet opening guitar line of its 20-minute closing title-track, isn’t there some sense of resolution? Isn’t that YOB willing itself — themselves — to press forward from that very anger and get back to the things that truly matter, court costs, legalese and other concerns be damned? In the tradition of “Catharsis,” “The Illusion of Motion” and “The Unreal Never Lived” — each an extended closing title-cut for the record on which it appeared — “The Great Cessation” provided YOB a landing point for the expression of The Great Cessation as a whole, but in its more melodic and serene atmosphere, that landing point also serves to answer “Silence of Heaven”‘s clenched fist with a release of tension. An exhale. Sure, the second half moves into some growling and lumbering riffs, and Rieseberg‘s bass is a thickening presence as always amid Foster‘s popping snare that does so much across the album’s 62 minutes to hold it all together, and the song devolves into noise as it makes its way out, but in comparison, even that seems reassuring compared to the blisters raised earlier. After such chaos, even the final howls of Scheidt‘s guitar — almost like a siren as the bass and drums fade out — are a sign of YOB leaving that anger behind. Purged.

They would indeed keep moving forward. The Great Cessation was my album of the year in 2009 (also the first year this site was up), and Atma followed suit in 2011, but YOB would hit their to-date transcendental peak with 2014’s Clearing the Path to Ascend (review here). Also their debut on Neurot Recordings, it was a record — yes, the top one released that year — that looked inward as much as outward, to the self and the universe surrounding, and in addition to being YOB‘s most sonically progressive songwriting, it seems in hindsight to have taken the will to put its emotions brazenly at the forefront from The Great Cessation, and thereby wind up in a much different place in terms of representing YOB as people and as a group.

I’ve said on multiple occasions that YOB are the best band of their generation, and I stand by that assessment completely. They’re said to have a follow-up to Clearing the Path to Ascend in the works, which I imagine was delayed somewhat owing to recent health issues on Scheidt‘s part (he had surgery multiple times over but seems to be doing well, which is fortunate; all the best to him of course), and seems a likely candidate for most anticipated LP of 2018. Whenever it arrives, rest assured, it will be welcome. In the interim and despite its representing such a dark period of renewal for the band, I hope you enjoy revisiting The Great Cessation.

Thanks for reading and listening.

Kind of a weird week around here, I guess. I had company in town into Tuesday morning, so Monday was kind of a blur, yet in terms of response, it was easily the biggest day for posts. The rest of the week was pretty quiet, relatively speaking, including some stuff that I was hoping would catch more eyes. I recognize not everything is going to reach as many people as Uncle Acid reissuing their first record, but still. A few killer premieres — Blaak Heat, Old Man Wizard, The Quill — and reviews — Paradise Lost, Mindkult — that are well worth a look if you get there. If not, thanks at least for reading this sentence.

In Connecticut today, New Jersey tomorrow and back to Massachusetts on Sunday, so it’s going to be a busy weekend, but I have already and will continue to see family as a part of that process, so I’m looking forward to it. Some pretty cool stuff in store for next week though. Might do a surprise poll if I can bother Slevin to help me put it together over the next day or two, so keep an eye out for that, but there’s plenty besides even if that doesn’t shake out.

Here are the notes, subject to change as always:

Mon.: Blues Funeral track premiere/album review; news on End Hip End It, Attalla and more.
Tue.: Steak video premiere/overdue album review; maybe that poll.
Wed.: Red Mountains track premiere/review; Six Dumb Questions with Cortez.
Thu.: Sundrifter track premiere.
Fri.: Stinkeye review.

These posts have gotten longer and longer lately — writing about YOB is a sure way for me to not at all cure that — but here’s a nice moment to leave you with before I sign off for the weekend:

While waiting to go to a haircut appointment late yesterday afternoon, The Patient Mrs. and I sat outside at a cafe here in CT which we frequent when we’re here. The place was getting ready to close up but there were a couple people sitting at the outside tables and they weren’t chasing anyone away or anything. They just kind of leave them there. The sun was shining and we sat there looking at a clothing rack outside the little for-middle-aged-ladies boutique next door at a black and white shirt with a rose on it and a bird or something and I started cracking wise about buying it and being goth with its wide neck and wearing it when I get hangry and sad before meals. “Aww, what’s the matter, pookie? Did your eating disorder make you goth? Did you have to put on your sad goth shirt because of it?”

My wife, about two months away from giving birth to what will be our first and only child, laughing loud enough so that the people at other tables looked over to see what was going on. My favorite sound in the world. Her amazing laugh. Her wonderful face. I had to stop for a minute to realize how lucky I am to be where I am in my life. I’m 35 years old, unemployed, just waiting to take up the stay-at-home-dad mantle, but it was such an incredible feeling of warmth and beauty in her laugh that I damn near wept behind my sunglasses. How lucky I am. How stupidly, stupidly unworthy I am of the last 19-plus years with her. How much I’m looking forward to the terrific and terrifying adventures ahead and to facing them together. It was such a simple thing, and that moment didn’t last — had to go get that haircut, after all — but if I lived for a thousand years, I’d hope to never forget it.

Thanks again for reading, and have a great and safe weekend. Please check out the forum and radio stream.

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Menin Announce Lord of Pain EP Due Sept. 15

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 20th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

menin

The impression made by the blown-out tone of Menin‘s Lord of Pain is immediate, resonant and righteous. Taking themes from sci-fi across its included tracks — one of which is instrumental and another a vinyl-exclusive bonus — the Doom Stew Records offering is out Sept. 15 and is the first EP release from the doubly-drummed (you can hear it on “Logrus”) Portland, Oregon, four-piece. Caked in distorted filth to match their bass-driven heft, Menin stomp their way through the title-track en route to the longer and ultimately more atmospheric “Logrus” before rolling out an effective linear build across “Mercer.”

All told, it’s a quick 22 minutes-plus that feels formative in its construction but carries forth a raw ambience to go with its nastiest stretches. It just so happens that the bonus track, “Entheogen,” is streaming at the bottom of this post, if you’d like to get introduced.

From the PR wire:

menin lord of pain

Menin EP – Lord of Pain Sept 15th

Portland, Oregon’s favorite science fiction stoner doom outfit Menin is proud to announce its allegiance with San Francisco’s Doom Stew Records to release the EP Lord of Pain on CD and 12″ vinyl September 15th.

Menin’s power has rarely been glimpsed outside of the Pacific Northwest until now. Two drummers, downtuned guitar, and towering bass bring about an involuntary slow-headbang with interlocking polyrhythmic riffs. The unhinged vocals of guitarist Chris Gray serve to further disorient and disturb the listener.

Lord of Pain launches Menin’s unrelenting heaviness into the farthest corners of the universe for all but the deafest of heshers to behold. Each track explores the power and wrath of creator/destroyer gods from works of science fiction and fantasy. Lord of Pain’s title track is named for the Shrike from Dan Simmons’s Hyperion Cantos: a 10-foot-tall, four-armed, time-traveling monster made of knives. Fellow science fiction fan and riff warrior Matt Stikker provides a horrifying illustration for the cover art, as he has done for the likes of Lord Dying, Drouth, and WVRM, among others.

Lord of Pain will be available on CD, digital download, and vinyl September 15th through Doom Stew Records. The 12″ vinyl also contains the previously-unavailable single Entheogen, an anthem to the sweet leaf.

Artist: Menin
Album: Lord of Pain
Label: Doom Stew Records
Release date: September 15th, 2017

Tracklist:
1. Lord of Pain (5:45)
2. Logrus (9:58)
3. Mercer (7:14)
4. Entheogen (5:52) (vinyl-only)

Menin is:
Chris Gray – Vocals / Guitar
Ken Neff – Bass
Devin Nowlin – Drums
Peter Schaller – Drums

http://facebook.com/meninpdx
https://www.menin666.com
https://menin.bandcamp.com
https://www.doomstew.com
https://www.facebook.com/doomstewrecords/

Menin, “Entheogen”

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