Friday Full-Length: Anathema, Alternative 4

Posted in Bootleg Theater on June 28th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Anathema, Alternative 4 (1998)

 

When I was 18 years old and working at KB Toys store number #1051 at the intersection of Rt. 10 and 202 in Morris Plains, NJ, about a minute from where I’ll be living from now on, a coworker turned me onto Anathema‘s Alternative 4. I bought the CD on his say-so, put it on, heard the piano intro to “Shroud of False” and absolutely didn’t get it. Made no sense to my brain. I tossed the disc into the back of my 1988 Ford Bronco II and it stayed there probably for a few weeks until I finally decided to give it a real shot, and when I did, it was one of my first and most pivotal engagements with underground music, and something that helped set me listening-wise on the course I’m still on today. That coworker kind of turned out to be an asshole, but didn’t we all.

Alternative 4 was indeed Anathema‘s fourth album and the last they’d issue during their original run on Peaceville Records, which had nursed them through their death-doom beginnings from 1992’s The Crestfallen EP across their 1993 debut, Serenades, 1995’s The Silent Enigma and Pentecost III EP and 1996’s Eternity. The band, who will mark their 30th anniversary in 2020 no doubt with form of some celebration or other, already seemed to be in transition by their third album, but it was the 10-song/44-minute Alternative 4 that would push that over the top. Guitarist Vincent Cavanagh had taken over the vocalist role from Darren White following Pentecost III, and that change would prove crucial to their direction on the whole, incorporating elements of goth emotionalist drama and a heavy hand of Floydian progressivism to go with their depressive themes and bouts of still-metal intensity.

But they weren’t just metal anymore, and their use of space in the recording, their arrangements of keys, and most of all their patience, demonstrated that. “Shroud of False” was the outset of one of the most powerful salvos I’ve ever heard on a record, with “Fragile Dreams,” “Empty” and “Lost Control” behind it varying in intensity but united in their depressive expression. Themes of loss, betrayal, disillusionment came to a head in the third anathema alternative 4track: “Nothing left but to kill myself again ‘cos I’m so empty,” but the build to that moment across “Fragile Dreams” and “Empty” itself was gorgeous and troubling in kind, the hook of “Fragile Dreams” serving as a downer clarion as the then-four-piece of Vincent Cavanagh, his brother Danny Cavanagh (lead guitar, keys), Duncan Patterson (bass, keys) and Shaun Taylor-Steels (drums) pushed some of Alternative 4‘s most fervent delivery to the front in order to branch out from there. The violin on “Lost Control” seemed a nod to their own death-hued past as well as to compatriots My Dying Bride, and the thrust in “Re-Connect” was more chaotic than that of “Fragile Dreams,” and purposefully so, but frenetic in a way that evoked the chaos of mania it seemed intended to convey.

Piano returned to introduce “Inner Silence” at the outset of side B as Vincent proved in a single track the vocalist he would ultimately become on subsequent outings, and Danny answered right back with a winding and meditative guitar lead. No verses or choruses or such, but an arrangement that bordered on the orchestral in its wash — particularly given the production of the era — and a perfect lead-in for the darker and brooding low of the title-track, with its multi-movement immersion and play toward minimalism. It and “Regret,” which follows, were the two longest tracks on Alternative 4 at 6:18 and 7:58, respectively, and their pairing was no coincidence, and though “Regret” would pick up from “Alternative 4” with a memorable chorus and a more structured feel on the whole, there’s no question the change in atmosphere brought the listener even deeper into the record’s bleak emotional landscape — “Visions of love and hate/A collage behind my eyes/Remnants of dying laughter/Echoes of silent cries,” the hook. Organ added to the melody as the band traded between loud and quiet parts in the second half and came around to what for me always seemed like the apex of the album, though “Feel” both continued the thread of organ and had more of a crashing end, a kind of anti-doom doom, riding out on fading progression that seemed foreboding even though it was followed by the brief “Destiny,” with its guitar and toy piano and vocal harmonies, a kind of epilogue that ended the record with a sincere-feeling moment of contemplation, underscoring that the point of the whole thing all along was the emotion, and that the moments of bombast were there to serve that as much as the songs themselves.

Some music just hits you at the right time. This is one of those records for me, and A Fine Day to Exit (reissue review here), which they’d release in 2001 after 1999’s Judgement, is among my favorite albums of any era. I wasn’t ready for Judgement on such a quick turnaround, but A Fine Day to Exit and 2003’s A Natural Disaster, which would be their final album until 2010’s We’re Here Because We’re Here (discussed here), remain essential in my view. Alternative 4 may be somewhat dated in its production, but the songs themselves hold up more than 20 years later, and the emotion behind them still resonates though it’s a direction Anathema have long since left behind in favor of flirtations with more modern prog and a brighter perspective on the whole. Fair enough, I guess. That change would come about on We’re Here Because We’re Here and continue on 2012’s Weather Systems (review here) and 2014’s Distant Satellites before 2017’s The Optimist (review here) picked up the story of A Fine Day to Exit and added fresh perspective at the same time it allowed itself to engage more of a range of styles of craft.

Anathema have never stopped progression. Each record is something different from the one before it, the one after — and don’t get me started on Hindsight or Falling Deeper — but their vision always charts a path forward from where they’ve, and Alternative 4, from as troubled a place as it seems to come, was a special moment for them that only happened once. As a listener, it was for me as well.

As always, I hope you enjoy. Thanks for reading.

I don’t break out Anathema all the time. Especially not this record. Especially not in summer. This week though, coming down H-A-R-D as I have been from Maryland Doom Fest, we got there. That change, where you go back to real life after the thing, I just haven’t been able to get there. A lot of processing. A lot of sort of distant daydreaming. A lot of trying to distract myself and failing pretty hard at it. I don’t know. I’m just not there. I haven’t been sleeping. Was up at 2:30 this morning, 12:30 the other night, 1AM another night. Yesterday I slept I think. Hard to remember outside of the overall pattern of fucking self-loathing and wishing I was someone else.

When people say nice things to me, a voice in my head immediately contradicts. They don’t know me. They have some idea of me that’s not true. I’d like to be that. But that’s not who I am. I know who I am. Fucking wretched. I am not a good person. I do not appreciate or deserve the things and people I have in my life. It goes on and on. I take pills for it. I’ve been microdosing psilocybin mushrooms every other day for the last couple weeks and that’s made those days easier. But still. I look at my son and know I’ll fail him. Every time someone says he looks like me, I want to die. I look at my wife and know I let her down. I don’t deserve what I have. At all.

So.

We’re in Connecticut this weekend, going back to Jersey on Sunday. I might go to the studio with Solace that day, as they were kind enough to invite me as they did nine years ago when they were finishing A.D., but it depends largely on timing. We’re also starting the Quarterly Review next week. I’ve slated it for six days, but there’s a bit of finagling to do, so whatever. I also need to do Postwax liner notes, send out interview questions to Tony Reed and The Mad Doctors (who are breaking up) and update a visa recommendation letter for Kadavar, so there’s some shit going on either way. Obviously this week I’ve been super-motivated to do anything other than bash my brain in with a fucking hammer.

Baggage claim. That’s mine. Least I can do is be honest about it.

Seriously, at Doom Fest, people said like the nicest shit to me. “Thanks for all you do,” and “How do you do it” and all that. You know how I do it? I’m fucking crazy, is how I do it. I’m compulsive in EVERYTHING. The same drive that used to have me getting drunk by myself at two in the morning? The same drive that punishes myself for, I don’t know, eating a meal? It’s the same fucking thing. It’s all part of my disgusting fucking brain. I’m 37 years old. I can’t even function. I can’t even chew gum like a human being. I’m supposed to raise a kid? I can feel myself poisoning everything around me.

Next week will be better. Will it? Yeah, it will. I’ll do the Quarterly Review and that’ll get me out of my head for a little bit, give me something to focus on. It’s just exhausting in the meantime.

I’m gonna pour myself another coffee and go watch the sunrise. Great, safe. Forum, radio, merch.

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Friday Full-Length: Katatonia, Last Fair Deal Gone Down

Posted in Bootleg Theater on December 15th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Katatonia, Last Fair Deal Gone Down (2001)

Primarily in my mind, 2001’s Last Fair Deal Gone Down is a winter album. Not at all Katatonia‘s first outing that one might think of as geared toward colder climes — their debut, after all, was 1993’s Dance of December Souls — but from the lachrymose unfolding of opener “Dispossession” and the weepy backing lines of e-bow guitar to Jonas Renkse‘s depressive vocal melodicism, the Stockholm group’s fifth long-player has always carried a chilly association. So of course it was released in May.

Issued via Peaceville Records, it’s not a record history looks back on with any particular favor, but it’s one I’d consider vastly underrated for the quality of its songs and atmosphere. More than a decade into their tenure around the core founding duo of Renkse and guitarist Anders Nyström at that point, Katatonia, like British cohorts Paradise Lost, Anathema and My Dying Bride — the so-called “Peaceville three,” of which one might think of Katatonia as the fourth but for the fact that they’re not from the UK — had cast off their earlier death/doom sound in favor of said focus on atmospheric approach. Last Fair Deal Gone Down, comprised of a CD-era swath of 11 songs spread over 50 minutes, marked the first time Nyström and Renkse joined forces with brothers Fredrik Norrman (guitar) and Mattias Norrman (bass), as well as drummer Daniel Liljekvist, and as a five-piece, they continued to flesh out the stylistic progression of 1999’s Tonight’s Decision, nestling into the unabashed emotionalism and hooks of songs like “We Must Bury You,” “Teargas,” “Tonight’s Music,” “The Future of Speech” and “Passing Bird” while referencing what was then modern alternative rock in a piece like “Sweet Nurse,” which carries echoes of Failure‘s “The Nurse Who Loved Me” from 1996’s Fantastic Planet and foreshadowing future delving into progressive doom on “I Transpire” and closer “Don’t Tell a Soul.” These pieces, as well as “Chrome” and the later “Clean Today,” arrive with a consistency of character thanks to a fluid and at times lush-sounding production, giving Last Fair Deal Gone Down a somewhat gentle touch despite being weighted in tone and at times strikingly aggressive, but it’s ultimately the songwriting that most stands the work out from Katatonia‘s vast discography and the output that their aforementioned peers were releasing at the turn of the century.

All formed roughly in the late ’80s and earliest ’90s, KatatoniaParadise LostAnathema and My Dying Bride helped greatly to establish what would become death/doom, but none of them would stay put entirely within that sphere. Paradise Lost went gothic and by 2001 were on their way toward trying their hand at radio-friendliness (because in 2001 that was a thing), and Anathema were in full-on depressive mode with A Fine Day to Exit, brooding and sad but not at all metal. My Dying Bride, who put out The Dreadful Hours the same year, arguably stayed closest to what one might think of as their core sound, but Katatonia‘s progression was particularly striking because rather than present its changes in flashes, it all carried such a sense of presentation. To listen to Last Fair Deal Gone Down, they’re clearly trying new things and working out ideas as they’d never done before, and yet the footing beneath them is so sure that there’s never any doubt they’ll pull it off in the end. And of course they do. There’s nothing angular about it. Nothing pokes you in the eye and says, “Hey, this is us doing something we haven’t done,” but the tracks are undeniably coming from a place beyond Tonight’s Decision or anything that preceded it. A strong focus on keyboard textures provide a hallmark of its era, but where others of their ilk clumsily made their way into the unknown, Katatonia on Last Fair Deal Gone Down move with a gracefulness that speaks not only to their maturity as artists, but to the idea of their having thoroughly worked on this material in fleshing it out to where they wanted it to be, refusing to make any album other than that which they wanted to make, and knowing how to realize their own vision in the actual recording process.

Katatonia have put out five-arguably-six records since Last Fair Deal Gone Down, and as it was their fifth album, it’s fair to think of it at this point as being part of a middle-period for the band. Emotional dramas — sometimes, admittedly, melodramas — would continue to persist in their sound from 2003’s Viva Emptiness across 2006’s triumphant The Great Cold Distance, 2009’s Night is the New Day (discussed here), 2012’s Dead End Kings and last year’s The Fall of Hearts (review here), and there are trace elements across all their offerings that one can follow all the way back to 1993 if one is willing to embark on such a winding path, but most importantly, they’ve never failed to on some level push themselves forward from album to album, whether it’s a matter of tightening songwriting around a new lineup or finding new modes of expression for the melancholy that seems to have taken up permanent residence in their souls. Not to wish anyone ill, but long may it reign.

As we move toward the darkest days of the year, this one seemed all the more fitting. I hope you agree, and as always, I hope you enjoy. Thanks for reading and listening.

Rougher start to the week than finish, and little question I have The Patient Mrs. to thank for that. I was kind of a wreck on Monday and Tuesday and a redirect Tuesday night involving more cloud bread and leftover pesto helped situate me for the last couple days. I’ve been in therapy for two weeks now, going Monday mornings, and this week was hard. My therapist wants me to see my primary care doctor to get an electrolyte panel and and EKG done because I have an eating disorder and I guess the concern is I could be doing damage to my heart. Fair enough. That appointment is next Thursday. I don’t anticipate there being any problems, but one never knows. Sometimes life is interesting.

In the meantime, I didn’t stay there long, and that was on purpose, but in my daily weigh-ins, I hit 150 pounds for the first time this week. When I started this whole low-carb thing about two years ago right around this time, I was 330 pounds, which means I’ve lost upwards of 180. It is utter fucking madness to see those numbers typed out.

Oh, I’m also five years sober as of last week. I didn’t even remember the date had passed. I think it was the ninth? Might’ve been the fifth. I don’t know. Either way though, that was Dec. 2012 that I “took a weekend off” drinking.

The Pecan continues his now-seven-week-long process of becoming a human being. Lots of poop, lots of puke, lots of laundry to be done. Blah blah blah, knee deep in baby stuff. He’s cute. The Patient Mrs. likes him. I like him. The Little Dog Dio isn’t so sure, but she’ll get on board eventually.

This is usually the part where I’d post my notes for next week. Well, at some point I’m going to review the next part of The Second Coming of Heavy and at some point I’m going to put up my top albums of the year, but I’m not sure when all that’s going to happen yet, so I’m keeping it vague for the moment. I’ve got a premiere slated for Bible Black Tyrant next Thursday, new videos for King Witch and Black Space Riders early in the week, and if I can I’d like to review the new C.O.C. too, but that might be the week after. Up in the air.

So there you have it. Ups and downs. Music. Life.

From my daze and days of semi-conscious infant fatigue, I wish you all the best as ever. The Patient Mrs. mom is coming north this weekend to watch The Pecan for a couple hours so we can go see the new Star Wars and I’m looking forward to that, and I’m doing a radio interview on Sunday, but other than that, some reading and work on year-end list stuff shall persist. You’ll probably see it coming, but it’ll be January before I know it.

Have a great and safe weekend, and once again, thanks for reading. Please don’t forget to check out the forum and radio stream.

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Pentagram Update on Status of Bobby Liebling & Upcoming Shows

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 12th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

It happened a couple weeks ago that doom legends Pentagram wound up playing shows as a trio without their legendary frontman Bobby Liebling. For three East Coast gigs alongside Brant Bjork in Baltimore, New York and Boston, they performed as the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Victor Griffin, bassist Greg Turley and drummer “Minnesota” Pete Campbell, and now it looks like they’ll be taking that same show to Europe this summer as well. It doesn’t seem unreasonable to me to think of this as a revamped lineup of Death Row or even Place of Skulls, but having seen Griffin in both those outfits as well as in Liebling-fronted Pentagram, I know that the chance to see him singing those songs is worth taking advantage of while you can, because you don’t necessarily know when it’s coming around again.

In the meantime, questions loom about just what exactly Liebling‘s situation is. Of course, his history of opiate abuse is well-documented, and it doesn’t seem far-fetched to think the hospitalization and apparent arrest discussed below have something to do with that, but though reports have started to surface driving speculation that he assaulted his mother and was arrested for that, details have yet to really be confirmed of what his situation is in either the short or longer term, whether drugs are involved or not, and so forth. What I do know for sure is that after eight triumphant years of Liebling fronting Pentagram‘s resurgence, it’s a bummer to see something like this happen, and it goes without saying that on behalf of myself and this site, I wish all the best to GriffinTurley and Campbell going forward, and that whatever help Bobby Liebling needs, he gets.

Here’s their update and upcoming shows:

pentagram-photo-andrew-beardsworth

PENTAGRAM PRESS RELEASE

As was the case for the recently completed US shows, vocalist Bobby Liebling will not appear with Pentagram for previously booked European dates this summer.

To elaborate, Bobby called on April 17 saying he had been admitted to the hospital. He called again on April 19, this time after being transferred to a Maryland detention facility.

He’s now awaiting a preliminary hearing at which time it will be determined if a follow-up on any alleged charges are necessary. An update will be published when information is available. The band will be fulfilling all currently booked appearances with 36-year mainstay guitarist Victor Griffin performing all vocals.

A PERSONAL NOTE FROM THE BAND

The outpouring of support on our recent US dates was outstanding! Your energy was matched ten-fold and encouraged us to carry on and deliver what many have called, even by skeptics, some of the best Pentagram performances they’ve seen. Thank you!

We have the best fans in the world and if not for you, the legacy of this band would have died long ago. We won’t let you down now. The music lives on and as we move forward, we reiterate the lyrics of “Curious Volume”: “In this venture death waits in the shadows, but in survival the volume won’t die!”

Sincerely,
Victor, Greg, & Pete

VICTOR GRIFFIN STATEMENT 05/11/17

As I sit here reading the Pentagram headlines and wondering what to say…

I can only thank you for such an overwhelming level of support under the circumstances. It’s been 36 years of dealing with more drama than you can probably imagine. The ‘Last Days Here’ documentary was only a glimpse. Constantly squandered opportunities led me to quit Pentagram on several occasions, only to eventually give benefit of the doubt and rejoin. With this latest incident, and not to pronounce guilt before trial, the pinnacle of that era has been reached.

I also personally apologize for any less than straight forward and possibly confusing updates posted on the Pentagram site.

Greg, Pete, and I are excited about carrying on with a greater enthusiasm than was even possible before. Regardless of how we do that beyond the currently booked summer dates, and under what name…our appreciation for your support is inexpressible.

We hope to see you on the road…Godspeed!

P.S. For those of you who may believe in prayer…Bobby is a man who needs all he can get.

PENTAGRAM UPCOMING LIVE DATES
May 15 Kocaeli Sabanc? Culture Center Kocaeli, Turkey
Jun 18 HELLFEST Clisson, France
Jul 12 Patronaat Haarlem, Netherlands
Jul 14 Arena Wien Bezirk-Landstrasse, Austria
Aug 17 Hard Rock Hotel Las Vegas, NV

http://www.PentagramOfficial.com
https://www.facebook.com/pentagramusa
http://www.peaceville.com/store

Pentagram, Live in Cambridge, MA 04.23.17

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Quarterly Review: Crowbar, Katatonia, Ethereal Riffian, Dot Legacy, Salem’s Bend, Thonian Horde, Second Sun, Ten Ton Slug, Komatsu, The Blue Sunshine Family Band

Posted in Reviews on December 29th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk winter quarterly review

We continue with day four of the Quarterly Review. This batch is numbers 31-40 of the total 60, not that the numbers really mean anything. I know it’s list season — believe me, I know — but there’s no actual ranking going on. It’s just basically so I can keep track and remember what day it is. That’s not to say this is done off the cuff. Actually, there’s an embarrassing amount of planning behind these things. Months. And when I start actually getting the posts ready and realize I’ve slated the same record on two different days — something that’s happened no fewer than three times so far, needing each time to be corrected — it’s a clear demonstration of the value of my planning. Ha. Anyway, we press on. Together. Into the thick of it. Thanks for reading.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Crowbar, The Serpent Only Lies

crowbar the serpent only lies

More than 25 years and 11 albums into a landmark career that helped prove the existence of the hairy beast known as “sludge metal,” Crowbar don’t owe anyone anything, and since returning to activity with 2011’s Sever the Wicked Hand (review here) and 2014’s Symmetry in Black, they’ve played like it. Their third post-resurgence outing is The Serpent Only Lies (on eOne Heavy), and though it works largely to form – that is, Crowbar are going to sound like Crowbar: low, slow, seeming to lurch even when dug into fits of gallop on “I am the Storm” or the early going of “The Enemy Beside You” – one still finds progression especially in the vocal approach of frontman and founder Kirk Windstein, who self-harmonizes effectively on the title-track’s standout hook as well as the later pair “On Holy Ground” and “Song of the Dunes,” the latter also resoundingly spacious in a way that offsets much of The Serpent Only Lies’ head-down intensity. This might be flourish or a companion to the core Crowbar sound that remains intact throughout, but the truth is it’s not like it needs to be there – Crowbar’s audience would still go to the shows even if the band stopped growing – but it’s entirely to the credit of the New Orleans legends that more than a quarter-century later they continue to progress. I guess that’s how Crowbar gets to be Crowbar.

Crowbar on Thee Facebooks

eOne Heavy on Thee Facebooks

 

Katatonia, The Fall of Hearts

katatonia the fall of hearts

Depending on what you count as a full-length, The Fall of Hearts (on Peaceville) is either the 10th or 11th studio record from Sweden’s Katatonia. It follows 2013’s acoustic Dethroned and Uncrowned, which reenvisioned 2012’s Dead End Kings and brings forth over an hour of new material from founding duo Jonas Renkse (vocals/guitar/etc.) and Anders “Blakkheim” Nyström (guitar/backing vocals), as well as Niklas Sandin (bass) and Daniel Moilanen (drums), who, working with engineer Karl Daniel Lidén (ex-Greenleaf, Demon Cleaner), continue to proffer resonant melancholy in abundance. As a band, Katatonia have had a number of different phases over the years, from their deathly beginnings through the later moves into melody, but as it stands on songs like “Decima,” with its acoustic and mellotron arrangement, and the seven-minute “Serac,” which plays back and forth between serene and some of The Fall of Hearts’ most intense thrust, they remain among heavy metal’s most recognizable acts. There is no one else who sounds like them, and they sound not quite like anyone else. This collection might be more about gradual steps forward than radical shifts in approach, but Katatonia have found a way to preach to their converted and keep growing at the same time, and that’s to be commended.

Katatonia on Thee Facebooks

Peaceville Records website

 

Ethereal Riffian, I am Deathless

ethereal riffian i am deathless

Issued via Robustfellow in a range of physical editions from an oversized CD digipak to cassette bundles, the two-song I. AM. Deathless EP from yet-underrated Ukrainian progressive ritualists Ethereal Riffian warrants the ceremony with which it arrives. Its two tracks, “Drum of the Deathless” (6:19) and “Sword of the Deathless” (9:57) closed and opened, respectively, the prior 2016 live outing, Youniversal Voice (review here), and in their studio form they bring to bear a vision of psychedelic metal given to atmospheric breadth that comes at the expense neither of purpose nor impact. The opener proves the more immediate of the pair, but as “Sword of the Deathless” plays out, it finds prog-metal swirl amid low-end starts and stops intertwined layers of multi-channel spoken word, acoustic and electric guitar and percussive tension, so that as it heads into its payoff and melodic finish, the resolution is both satisfying and something of a relief from the cacophony preceding. Forward-thinking and of marked substance, I. AM. Deathless offers a quick glimpse at the band’s scope and invites listeners to dive deep therein.

Ethereal Riffian on Thee Facebooks

Robustfellow Productions on Bandcamp

 

Dot Legacy, To the Others

dot legacy to the others

There isn’t much that’s off-limits to Parisian heavy rockers Dot Legacy. To wit, the near-rap-rock mania of opener “Horizon” from their second LP, To the Others (on Setalight Records), and the laid-back psych-lounge vibes that follow on “Grey Cardinal,” only to be swept away in crashes and chants later, leading to the driving desert punkery of “211.” Three songs, three distinct feels, and Dot Legacy only get weirder from there as they toy with fuzzed momentum on “5314” and “Dakota” before the dreamy post-rock meandering of “The Twelve,” the prog-pop of “Story of Fame” and piano-laden psych-drama of closer “Pioneer.” In 35 minutes, the four-piece cover more ground than most bands do in their whole careers, but that becomes even more admirable in that they manage not to just be all over the place, but to provide a consistent quality of songwriting to complement all that quirk. Add to that the attention to detail in vocal harmonies and arrangements, and as they follow-up their 2014 self-titled debut (review here), they reveal a clear sense of a master plan at work under all the brashness and genre-hopping.

Dot Legacy on Thee Facebooks

Setalight Records website

 

Salem’s Bend, Salem’s Bend

salem's bend self-titled

Self-released by the Los Angeles trio in late-2015 and picked up for a vinyl issue through Ripple Music, the self-titled debut from Salem’s Bend leaves little wonder as to why with its classic sensibility and the vibe proliferated by the natural-toned nod of a song like “Silverstruck.” Though still prone to a bit of Hendrix-style shred when it comes to lead guitar, the three-piece of Bobby (guitar/vocals), Kevin (bass) and Zach (drums) depart from some of the post-Radio Moscow all-thrust boogie in favor of more laid back fair and on that cut and the later “Sun and Mist,” which hits into a satisfying apex in its second half without feeling overcooked, as well as the six-minute finale “A Tip of Salem,” which nods through its initial movement before bursting out toward the end. In a crowded SoCal scene, just about anything Salem’s Bend can do to stand apart will serve them, and the fluidity they hone across these seven tracks sets them up to do just that.

Salem’s Bend on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

 

Thonian Horde, Thonian Horde

thonian horde self-titled

Given the personnel involved, the black ‘n’ roll extremity of Thonian Horde’s self-titled debut full-length will no doubt come as a surprise to listeners. Formed in Boonsboro, Maryland, by bassist/vocalist Ron “Fezz” McGinnis (Pale Divine, Admiral Browning, etc.), guitarists Darren “Dirty” Waters (Weed is Weed) and Dan “D-Mize” Mize (Faith in Jane), and drummer Tyler “The Beast” Lee (Weed is Weed), one might expect high-order Frederick-style post-The Obsessed doom. Thonian Horde have more in common with Immortal on their centerpiece track “Darkest Nights Shadow,” and even as the closing “Psychonaut” finds a rock groove in its chorus, it does so with the hooky edge of Satyricon more than any of the members’ other outfits. No doubt that’s the point: doing something different. Indeed, the nine-tracker is a refreshing aesthetic reboot for the scene from whence it comes, holding fast to their region’s crucial lack of pretense even as they brazenly walk their own path – left-hand, of course.

Thonian Horde on Thee Facebooks

Thonian Horde on Bandcamp

 

Second Sun, Tachyonregenerator

second sun tachyonregenerator

I don’t know about you, but I missed out on Hopp/Förtvivlan, which was the 2015 debut full-length from Swedish rockers Second Sun, so to have Gaphals provide gentle encouragement to check it out by getting behind the two-songer single Tachyonregenerator is most welcome. Both cuts included – “Tachyonregenerator” and “Tror Faktiskt På Dig” – bask in classic vibe without being overly showy when it comes to retroism, and are marked out by the inclusion of organ amid the natural-sounding guitar, drums and bass, the vocals presented in Swedish across both pieces. It’s a quick eight-minutes perfect for the 7” pressing it’s been given, but again, makes enough of an impression that one is inclined toward further investigation, and given that, I can’t call it anything other than a success. I’ll go ahead and chalk up one more quality Swedish act to keep track of, because Second Sun offer tight-knit progressive leanings in a crisp package on Tachyonregenerator, and even if I’m late to the party, I’m glad I got to hear it.

Second Sun on Thee Facebooks

Gaphals Records website

 

Ten Ton Slug, Brutal Gluttonous Beast

ten ton slug brutal gluttonous beast

Some pretty clear self-awareness demonstrated in Ten Ton Slug’s self-released debut EP, Brutal Gluttonous Beast. The Galway, Ireland, five-piece had a prior live-recorded two-tracker, but these four songs mark their first studio outing, and as they draw together massive sludge riffing and more extreme, death metal-style growls, there’s precious little one might say to more accurately describe a track like “Trollhunter” – the opener and longest on the release (immediate points) – than that it lives up to the title, its second-half slowdown lurch prefacing a similar move in “Bloodburns” before the more rampaging “Subterranean” and noise-soaked burl of “Unit” take hold. Intense and vicious, but not necessarily unhinged, Brutal Gluttonous Beast finds Ten Ton Slug sounding remarkably sure in their approach, and one will await the news of their traveling to England to record with Chris Fielding at Skyhammer, since that seems to be the kind of presentation for which the tonal onslaught here is begging.

Ten Ton Slug on Thee Facebooks

Ten Ton Slug on Bandcamp

 

Komatsu, Recipe for Murder One

komatsu recipe for murder one

A half-decade after releasing their self-titled EP (review here), Eindhoven heavy/noise rockers Komatsu reemerge on Argonauta Records with the follow-up full-length, Recipe for Murder One. Boasting a guest appearance from Nick Oliveri on the suitably tumultuous “Lockdown,” the album leaves little to wonder what’s in that recipe in the darker-desert vibe of “So How’s About Billy” and “There Must be Something in Your Water,” which teases airy serenity in its first half only to go full-throttle for the second, but as the bass-driven lumber of the title-track and subtle melodic expansion of “The Sea is Calm Today” show, Komatsu haven’t wasted the last five years, instead constructing their own take on sonic density and sludge impulses that seems to hit with formidable impact regardless of tempo or tension level, both of which prove to be fluid elements at the four-piece’s disposal. They get the point across quickly in the stomp of “The Long Way Home,” but find suitable resolution in the nod of closer “Breathe,” rounding out a debut of significant character and depth with one last surprise in ambience it’s only fair to call progressive.

Komatsu on Thee Facebooks

Argonauta Records website

 

The Blue Sunshine Family Band, The Blue Sunshine Family Band

the blue sunshine family band self-titled

A double-guitar instrumental four-piece from Santa Rosa, California, The Blue Sunshine Family Band make their debut with a six-song/51-minute self-titled. Tracks presented as Roman numerals “I” through “VI,” though whether or not they’re actually the first six pieces the band has written, I couldn’t say. Either way, the impression immediately draws from “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” – that great king of nod riffs – and first-name-only guitarists Billy and Kevin, bassist Matt and drummer Quinten build outward from there, dipping below the eight-minute mark only on “V” (7:14) as they unfurl solid grooves and tonal heft, seeming to leave room for vocals either consciously or not. The converted will find engagement and immersion in the crash and swinging turn of “IV,” as well as the David Paul Seymour cover art, and if The Blue Sunshine Family Band is the sound of this foursome getting their feet under them, they manage to accomplish that preliminary feat and then some in these tracks.

The Blue Sunshine Family Band on Thee Facebooks

The Blue Sunshine Family Band on Bandcamp

 

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Katatonia Announce Spring 2017 North American Headlining Tour

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 5th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

Been a long time since I last saw Swedish masters of melancholy Katatonia, and I have to say I wouldn’t mind catching a gig at Irving Plaza in NYC in April to see them close out a North American headlining run in support of earlier 2016’s The Fall of Hearts. The intervening months will tell if I actually get there — one struggles with the four-hour drive to New York these days — but it’s a formidable month-plus Katatonia will spend on the road either way, so wherever you might be throughout the continent, from Edmonton to Charlotte, they seem to be looking to cover all, or at least most, of their bases this time around. Like they say below, it’s been three and a half years since the last time they were over here. I guess that makes them about due.

Also 10 years in 2017 since The Great Cold Distance, which they’ll reissue deluxe-style in January. This year marked 15 since Last Fair Deal Gone Down, if you needed further evidence of time in flight. Bizarre.

Copious info and dates from the PR wire:

katatonia

KATATONIA ANNOUNCE “FALLEN HEARTS OF NORTH AMERICA 2017” HEADLINE TOUR

Katatonia, the Swedish purveyors of dark progressive rock/metal, have announced they will be heading out on a headline tour of North America in March and April 2017 to support the release of their latest studio album The Fall of Hearts.

Founding Katatonia member and guitarist Anders Nyström comments, “We did three North American tours in support for Dead End Kings and it’s been three-and-a-half years since the last one when we toured with Cult of Luna, so having already embraced the new cycle of The Fall of Hearts over here, we are eager to once again cross the Atlantic to continue from where we left off and to reap what we planted over there.”

Vocalist Jonas Renkse introduces the bands they have chosen to join them on the tour, saying, “We are very excited to finally announce our headline tour in North America for The Fall of Hearts. Also invited for this run are post-rock titans Caspian and young, promising act Uncured. Come out and celebrate the downfall of hearts (and everything else) with us.”

The Fallen Hearts of North America 2017 Dates:
Thu/Mar-16 Washington, DC 9:30 Club
Fri/Mar-17 Cleveland, OH Agora
Sat/Mar-18 Pittsburgh, PA Mr. Smalls
Sun/Mar-19 Charlotte, NC The Underground
Tue/Mar-21 St. Petersburg, FL State Theatre
Thu/Mar-23 New Orleans, LA Republic
Fri/Mar-24 Houston, TX Scout Bar
Sat/Mar-25 Austin, TX Grizzly Hall
Sun/Mar-26 Dallas, TX Gas Monkey Bar & Grill
Tue/Mar-28 Mesa, AZ Club Red
Wed/Mar-29 Los Angeles, CA El Rey Theatre
Fri/Mar-31 Pomona, CA The Glass House
Sat/Apr-01 San Francisco CA Slim’s
Mon/Apr-03 Portland, OR Hawthorne Theatre
Tue/Apr-04 Seattle, WA Studio Seven
Wed/Apr-05 Vancouver, BC Venue
Fri/Apr-07 Calgary, AB The Gateway
Sat/Apr-08 Edmonton, AB Starlite Room
Mon/Apr-10 Salt Lake City, UT The Complex
Tue/Apr-11 Denver, CO Summit Music Hall
Wed/Apr-12 Lincoln, NE Bourbon Theatre
Fri/Apr-14 Minneapolis Fine Line
Sat/Apr-15 Chicago, IL Metro
Sun/Apr-16 Detroit, MI Majestic Theater
Mon/Apr-17 Toronto, ON The Opera House
Wed/Apr-19 Montreal, QC Club Soda
Thu/Apr-20 Philadelphia, PA The TLA
Fri/Apr-21 New York, NY Irving Plaza

Formed back in 1991 and hailed as one of the leaders of the death-doom genre along My Dying Bride, Paradise Lost and Anathema, Sweden’s Katatonia have spent the last 25 years ever-changing and evolving to become the much loved purveyors of dark progressive rock/metal we know today.

Their latest studio album The Fall OF Hearts, the official follow-up to 2012’s acclaimed Dead End Kings was recorded at Stockholm’s Studio Gröndahl & Tri-lamb Studio, and was self-produced by Anders Nyström & Jonas Renkse. Mixing and mastering duties were carried out by Jens Bogren (Opeth, Ihsahn, Devin Townsend) at Fascination Street Studios, with Karl Daniel Lidén (Switchblade, The Ocean, Greenleaf) brought in as engineer. It is the first record to feature new drummer Daniel ’Mojjo’ Moilanen and guitarist Roger Öjersson (Tiamat).

A new, two-disc tour edition of The Fall of Hearts is due for release on March 17, 2017 through Peaceville, the new version will feature live tracks taken from the band’s show and the band’s show in the Ancient Theater in Plovdiv Bulgaria in September 2016.

January 20, 2017 also sees the release of a limited edition tenth anniversary version of their class album The Great Cold Distance. This new, four-disc deluxe hardback 40 page, book edition of the album. It will include three bonus discs featuring B-sides and bonus songs, a new 5.1 remix of the album by Bruce Soord (Wisdom Of Crowds) and a live album of Katatonia playing the The Great Cold Distance in its entirety with the renowned Plovdiv Philharmonic Orchestra in Bulgaria, performed in September 2016. The design of this essential tenth anniversary edition has once again been taken care of by long time collaborator Travis Smith. pre-order here and here.

https://www.facebook.com/katatonia/
http://www.katatonia.com/
https://twitter.com/KatatoniaBand
https://www.instagram.com/katatoniaband/
peaceville.com

Kataonia, “Shifts” official video

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Darkthrone to Release Arctic Thunder Oct. 14

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 11th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

darkthrone

Never known for being shy about stating their intentions, Darkthrone — presumably it was Fenriz, though it could’ve been Nocturno Culto as well — posted on their Thee Facebooks account that the origin of the name of their new record, Arctic Thunder, comes from a Norwegian metal band in the ’80s and early ’90s. They had this to say about it:

“To continue messages about the new album, it seems anything we do is frantically discussed. If we decide to eat some sandwiches, I am sure that 75% will be FOR and 25 against. A listening taste from the new album will appear SOON, but Now I would like to play you the band that inspired our album title ARCTIC THUNDER. I first met the people behind this band and Red Harvest in 1990 so I never saw this gig myself. They sound like a very classy heavy metal act, and this song is also a bit prog-y and epic. The vocalist struggles a bit at first but soon it is all DELIGHTFUL to my ears.”

Gotta love the bit in there about “frantic discussion” as well. They posted a video from the band that you can find on their Thee Facebooks page if you’re interested in chasing it down. Arctic Thunder is the follow-up to 2013’s The Underground Resistance (review here), features vocals solely from Nocturno Culto, and will be out Oct. 14 on Peaceville Records.

The PR wire brings artwork and info:

darkthrone arctic thunder

Darkthrone to release new album “Arctic Thunder” this October on Peaceville

“Arctic Thunder” due out October 14; cover art revealed

Norwegian duo, Darkthrone, has announced its new album, Arctic Thunder, to be released on October 14 via Peaceville. Arctic Thunder marks the band’s first new studio material since 2013’s triumphant The Underground Resistance, its most successful release in recent years.

An eclectic mix of free-spirited ’80s fueled blackened heavy metal, all executed in Darkthrone’s trademark raw and organic style, Arctic Thunder was recorded and produced by the band themselves, with the sessions conducted at Darkthrone’s old rehearsal unit, “The Bomb Shelter,” which was originally used during 1988-1990. Mastering is once again handled by Jack Control at Enormous Door.

With themes based around hate, contempt, and the inner mind and soul, and with the notable presence of Nocturno Culto on vocal duties across all songs for the first time in recent years, Arctic Thunder retains a grim atmosphere throughout the album’s eight tracks.

Stay tuned for more information on Darkthrone and Arctic Thunder, out this fall on Peaceville.

https://www.facebook.com/Darkthrone-101075189934422/
http://www.darkthrone.no/
http://peaceville.com/bands/2194/

Darkthrone, “Lesser Men”

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Pentagram Post Video for “Curious Volume”

Posted in Bootleg Theater on July 18th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

pentagram

It’s more than a little amazing to think that Pentagram are 45 years into their career. 45 years! Of course, vocalist Bobby Liebling is the sole remaining original member and they’ve had a near-Hawkwindian amount of lineup changes at this point, but still, for even the name to last that long is impressive, let alone the fact that in 2016, they’re probably bigger than they’ve ever been. Recent controversies aside — and whether or not they should be put aside is a matter for internet thinkpieces to sort out — the band’s reach has only expanded over the last several years, and the release of Curious Volume (review here) in 2015 confirmed them as one of the most pivotal American doom acts on the circuit.

That they’ve never had a music video before this new one for the title-track is more trivia than landmark — as I recall it also took Saint Vitus a long time to get their first video out — but certainly noteworthy in any case. “Curious Volume” would seem to live up to the occasion by emphasizing Pentagram as they are today rather than who they were four-plus decades ago. Shot on their Spring European tour, which included a stop at Roadburn 2016, where they slayed, the video finds Pentagram compiles and manipulates performance footage, bringing the vibrancy of their stage show to bear in a well-edited four-minute package delivered in advance of their appearance next month at Psycho Las Vegas.

Check it out below, followed by some comment from Liebling via the PR wire:

Pentagram, “Curious Volume” official video

45 years into its career, Pentagram is ecstatic to announce its first ever promotional video for the title track from the acclaimed album Curious Volume.

The video for “Curious Volume” was produced by David Hall (Uneasysleeper.com), known for his work with The Melvins, Pig Destroyer, Phillip H. Anselmo and the Illegals, Venom, Brutal Truth, Ken Mode and more, with the live footage shot on tour March – April 2016 by Jerry Moore, Chris Navarro, Joe Shuerger and Dan Lively.

Pentagram frontman Bobby Liebling said of the video: “We wanted our first ever video to, in-a-way, be a connection to the past as well as the present. The song can be interpreted as a personal and collective journey that we’ve been on for close to half a decade. It’s a trip that’s both physical and mental and I feel that Dave’s end result illustrates that for us and everyone. The video stands as both an escape and an introduction to us as artists and people. You can feel the rigors and rewards of tour life through the visuals. We love the stardust and psychedelics as well as the raw rock-n-roll energy felt throughout the song and video alike. We hope you connect with it like we do.”

Pentagram is:
Bobby Liebling – vocals
Victor Griffin – guitar
Greg Turley – bass
Pete Campbell – drums

Pentagram website

Pentagram on Thee Facebooks

Pentagram at Peaceville Records

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Pentagram Touring West Coast this Month

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 3rd, 2016 by JJ Koczan

pentagram

Doom legends Pentagram continue pro-level touring in support of their 2015 album, Curious Volume (review here). They’re recently returned from Europe, which brought an appearance at Roadburn 2016, and before that was SXSW. Still to come this year are Psycho Las Vegas — they also headlined Psycho California last year — and a return trip to Europe that will include a stop at Up in Smoke 2016 in Switzerland, among other appearances sure to be announced. I don’t know if 2016 is Pentagram‘s busiest year in their 45-ish year history, but it sure feels like it. They’re giving an entirely new meaning to “Relentless.”

Before they get to Psycho and back to the EU, they’re sneaking in a West Coast run later this month, looping down from Seattle and eventually back into SoCal and heading north again from there. Dates and info follow, courtesy of the PR wire:

pentagram tour dates

PENTAGRAM ANNOUNCES HEADLINING MAY TOUR DATES

New album “Curious Volume” out now on Peaceville

Legendary U.S. heavy/doom metal band, Pentagram, has announced a batch of headlining May U.S. tour dates in support of its latest album Curious Volume, which released last summer on Peaceville Records. A full list of confirmed shows can be seen below.

Featuring 11 classic heavy metal compositions with catchy hooks from core band members Victor Griffin, Greg Turley, and Bobby Liebling (Pete Campbell on the drums completes the band’s line-up), Curious Volume was recorded with Swedish producer Mattias Nilsson at studios located in Maryland and Virginia. Additional recording took place in Tennessee with Grammy-nominated producer Travis Wyrick, who also produced Pentagram’s previous album, Last Rites. The album’s cover artwork was provided courtesy of Richard Schouten.

Pentagram on tour:
5/17 – Seattle, WA @ Studio Seven
5/18 – Portland, OR @ Dante’s
5/19 – Boise, ID @ Neurolux
5/20 – Salt Lake City, UT @ The State Room
5/21 – Denver, CO @ Marquis Theater
5/23 – Phoenix, AZ @ Nile Theater
5/24 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Echo
5/25 – San Diego, CA @ Brick By Brick
5/26 – Santa Ana, CA @ Observatory
5/27 – San Francisco, CA @ DNA Lounge
5/28 – San Jose, CA @ The Ritz

Pentagram is:
Bobby Liebling – vocals
Victor Griffin – guitar
Greg Turley – bass
Pete Campbell – drums

http://www.PentagramOfficial.com
https://www.facebook.com/pentagramusa
http://www.peaceville.com/store

Pentagram, “Walk Alone”

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