Posted in Whathaveyou on October 21st, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
I have a hard time reading the title of Backwoods Payback‘s new album, Fire Not Reason, at this point and not hearing it in my head in the voice of guitarist/vocalist Mike Cummings. He delivers the title-line in the song “Dirge,” for which the West Chester, Pennsylvania-based dirt rockers premiered a video here back in July — which you can also see below if you don’t feel like going to all the effort of clicking a link — which is one of the most striking inclusions on the nine-track offering, in part for the screams that show up later on, but even more for the breadth that Backwoods Payback cover in its sub-four-minute runtime while still keeping to a straightforward structure. I called it “dirt rock” basically because that’s what I’ve always called them, but the truth is way more complex, particularly as regards this outing.
They’ve set a Dec. 2 release date for Fire Not Reason, getting it in just before the music universe shuts down for the holiday season and everyone goes home to record who isn’t out playing a holiday tour. Half shuts down, maybe. Either way, it’ll go down as a 2016 release, and to mark its arrival, the trio — Cummings, bassist Jessica Baker and drummer Erik Larson (ex-Alabama Thunderpussy, many others) — will head north for weekender shows in Vermont and New Hampshire. Preorders are reportedly imminent as well, though through what outlet those will be has yet to be announced. Keep an eye out, I guess.
The band offered few words on the subject, but showed off the presumed cover art for the album, which shows the strip-it-to-the-core mentality from which they’re working at this point:
Dec 2nd 2016. fire not reason digital / cd / cassette
preorder info to follow
BACKWOODS PAYBACK: Jessica Baker – Bass Mike Cummings – Guitar/vocals Erik Larson – Drums
3 human beings rocking harder than you.
Backwoods Payback live: Dec 02 Showcase Lounge, Higher Ground South Burlington, VT Dec 03 Dover Brickhouse Dover, NH
Posted in Reviews on October 6th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
I’ll admit I’m a little surprised at the shape this Quarterly Review has taken. As I begin to look back on the year in terms of what records have been talked about over the span, I find it’s been particularly geared toward debut albums, both in and out of wrap-ups like this one. There’s less of that this time around, but what’s happened is some stuff that doesn’t fall into that category — releases like the first two here, for example — are getting covered here to allow space for the others. Let’s face it, nobody gives a shit what I have to say about Russian Circles anyhow, so whatever, but I’m happy to have this as a vehicle for discussing records I still think are worth discussing — the first two releases here, again for example — rather than letting them fall through the cracks with the glut of new bands coming along. Of course things evolve as you go on, but I wish I’d figured it out sooner. Let’s dive in.
Quarterly Review #31-40:
Russian Circles, Guidance
From the warm wash of guitar that begins “Asa” onward, and no matter how weighted, percussive and/or chug-fueled Russian Circles get from there, the Chicago trio seem to be offering solace on their latest outing, Guidance. Recorded by Kurt Ballou and released through Sargent House, the seven-track offering crosses heavy post-rock soundscapes given marked thickness and distinct intensity on “Vorel,” but the record as a whole never quite loses the serenity in “Asa” or the later “Overboard,” crushing as the subsequent “Calla” gets, and though the spaces they cast in closer “Lisboa” are wide and intimidating, their control of them is utterly complete. Six albums in, Russian Circles are simply masters of what they do. There’s really no other way to put it. They remain forward thinking in terms of investigating new ideas in their sound, but their core approach is set in the fluidity of these songs and they revise their aesthetic with a similar, natural patience to that with which they execute their material.
Following their 2014 RidingEasy Records debut, …Lurar ut dig på prärien (discussed here) – which, presumably met with some pronunciation trouble outside the band’s native Sweden – Salem’s Pot return with Pronounce This!, further refining their blend of psychedelic swirl, odd vibes and garage doom riffing. They remain heavily indoctrinated into the post-Uncle Acid school of buzz and groove, and aren’t afraid to scum it up on “Tranny Takes a Trip” or the slower-shifting first half of “Coal Mind,” but the second portion of that song and “So Gone, so Dead” take a more classically progressive bent that is both refreshing and a significant expansion on what Salem’s Pot have accomplished thus far into their tenure. Still weird, and one doubts that’ll change anytime soon – nor does it need to – but as Pronounce This! plays out, Salem’s Pot demonstrate an open-mindedness that seems to have been underlying their work all along and bring it forward in engaging fashion.
International House of Mancakes – yup – is the follow-up to Bridesmaid’s 2013 long-player, Breakfast at Riffany’s, and like that album, it finds the Columbus, Ohio, instrumentalists with a penchant for inserting dudes’ names into well-known titles – see “Hungry Like Nick Wolf” and “Ronnin’ with the Devil” – but it also expands the lineup to the two-bass/two-drum four-piece of Scott Hyatt and Bob Brinkman (both bass) and Cory Barnt and Boehm (both drums). Topped off with KISS-meets-Village People art from W. Ralph Walters, there are shortages neither of snark nor low end, but buried underneath is a progressive songwriting sensibility that doesn’t come across as overly metal on cuts like “Ricky Thump” and doesn’t sacrifice impact or heft for the sake of self-indulgence. Opening with its longest track (immediate points) in “It’s Alectric (Boogie Woogie Woogie),” International House of Mancakes unfolds a heavy rock push that, while obviously driven in part by its sense of humor, earns serious consideration in these tracks for those willing to actually listen.
Too thick in its tones to be a completely vintage-style work, the sleazy vibes of Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell’s Keep it Greasy! (on Rise Above) are otherwise loyal to circa-1971 boogie and attitude, and whether it’s the rewind moment on opener “U Got Wot I Need” or proto-metallic bass thrust of the “Hawkline Monster” or the brash post-Lemmy push of “Tired ‘n’ Wired,” the album is a celebration of a moment when rock isn’t about being any of those things or anything else, but about having a good time, letting off some steam from a shit job or whatever it is, and trying your damnedest to get laid. Radio samples throughout tie the songs together, but even that carries an analog feel – because radio – and the good Admiral are clearly well versed in the fine art of kicking ass. Familiar in all the right ways with more than enough personality to make that just another part of the charm.
The invitation to completely immerse comes quickly on the 13-minute “Delusion Sound,” which opens Landing’s Third Sight (on El Paraiso), and from there, the Connecticut four-piece sway along a beautiful and melodic drift, easing their way along a full-sounding progression filled out with airy guitar and backing drones, moved forward patiently by its drum march and topped with echoed half-whispers. It’s a flat-out gorgeous initial impression to make, and the instrumental “Third Site” and “Facing South” follow it with a tinge of the experimentalism for which Landing are more known, the former led by guitar and the latter led by cinematic keyboard. To bookend, the 14-minute “Morning Sun” builds as it progresses and draws the various sides together while creating a rising soundscape of its own, every bit earning its name as the vocals emerge in the second half, part of a created wash that is nothing short of beautiful. One could say the same of Third Sight as a whole.
While they’ve spent the last few years kicking around the deeper recesses of Brooklyn’s heavy underground, Reign of Zaius mark their debut release with the 26-minute Planet Of… EP, bringing together seven tracks that show what their time and buildup of material has wrought. Opener “Hate Parade” reminds of earliest Kings Destroy, but on the whole, Reign of Zaius are rawer and more metal at their core, the five-piece delving into shuffle on “Out of Get Mine” and showing an affinity for classic horror in both “They Live” – which starts with a sample of Roddy Piper being all out of bubblegum – and “Farewell to Arms,” previously issued as a single in homage to Evil Dead. The charm of a “Dueling Banjos” reference at the start of “Deliver Me” leads to one of the catchier hooks on Planet Of…, and the shorter “Power Hitter” closes with a bass-heavy paean to smoking out that digs into punkish summation of where Reign of Zaius are coming from generally as they continue to be a band up for having a good time without taking themselves too seriously.
Kind of a mystery just where the time goes on Sydney rockers Transcendent Sea’s self-released 50-minute first album, Ballads of Drowning Men. Sure, straightforward cuts like “Over Easy” and “Mind Queen” are easily enough accounted for with their post-Orange Goblin burl and boozy, guttural delivery from vocalist Sean Bowden, but as the four-piece of Bowden, guitarist Mathew J. Allen, bassist Andrew Auglys and drummer Mark Mills get into the more extended “Throw Me a Line,” “Blood of a Lion” and closer “Way of the Wolf” – all over 10 minutes each – their moves become harder to track. They keep the hooks and the verses, but it’s not like they’re just tacking jams onto otherwise structured tracks, and even when “Way of the Wolf” goes wandering, Bowden keeps it grounded, and that effect is prevalent throughout in balancing Ballads of Drowning Men as a whole. It takes a few listens to get a handle on where Transcendent Sea are coming from in that regard, but their debut proves worth at least that minimal effort.
Brothers Rael and Ryan Andrews, both formerly of Lansing, Michigan, art rockers BerT, revive their heavy punk duo Red Teeth with the four-song Light Bender 7” on GTG Records. Both contribute vocals, and Ryan handles guitar and bass, while Rael is on drums and synth through the quick run of “Light Bender, Sound Bender,” “Tas Pappas,” “134mps” and “Elephant Graveyard,” the longest of which is the opener (immediate points) at 4:49. By the time they get down to “Elephant Graveyard,” one can hear some of the Melvinsian twist and crunch that often surfaced in BerT, but whether it’s the ‘90s-alt-vibes-meet-drum-madness of “134mps” or the almost rockabilly riffing of “Tas Pappas,” Red Teeth – whose last release was eight years ago – have no trouble establishing personality in these songs. Approach with an open mind and the weirdness that persists will be more satisfying, as each track seems to have a context entirely of its own.
One can hear the kind of spacious darkness and through-the-skin cold of New England winters in this new split EP from Connecticut crushers Sea of Bones and grinding New Hampshire compatriots Ramlord from Broken Limbs Recordings. What the two share most of all is an atmosphere of existential destitution, but there’s an underlying sense of the extreme that also ties together Sea of Bones’ “Hopelessness and Decay” (10:36) and Ramlord’s “Incarceration of Clairvoyance (Part III)” (10:10), the latter of which continues a series Ramlord started back in 2012 on a split with Cara Neir. Both acts are very much in their element in their brutality. For Sea of Bones, this is the second release they’ve had out this year behind the improvised and digital-only “Silent Transmissions” 27-minute single, which of course was anything but, and for Ramlord, it’s their first split in two years, but finds their gritty, filthy sound well intact from where they last left it. Nothing to complain about here, unless peace of mind is your thing, because you certainly won’t find any of that.
Philadelphia-based five-piece Holy Smoke formed in the early hours of 2015, and the exclamatory Holy Smoke! It’s a Demo! three-track EP is their debut release. Opening with its longest cut (immediate points) in “Rinse and Repeat,” it finds them blending psychedelic and heavy rock elements and conjuring marked fluidity between them. As the title indicates, it’s a demo, and what one hears throughout is the first material Holy Smoke thought enough of to put to tape, but on “Rinse and Repeat” and the subsequent “Blue Dreams” and “The Firm,” they bring the two sides together well in a way it’s easy to hope they continue to do as they move onto whatever comes next, pulling off “The Firm” particularly with marked swing and a sense of confidence that undercuts the notion of their being their first time out. They have growing to do, and by no means would I consider them established in style, but there’s a spark in the songs that could absolutely catch fire.
[Click play above to stream ‘Key and Bone’ from Heavy Temple’s debut album, Chassit, out on tape Nov. 19 via Tridroid Records with preorders starting Oct. 3.]
Checking in at four tracks/28 minutes, I felt compelled to ask Heavy Temple whether their new release, Chassit, which is out in November on tape through Tridroid Records with other formats to follow, is a second EP or, in fact, their debut album. 28 minutes is short for a full-length — lest we forget that 30 years ago, Slayer pulled off Reign in Blood in that time — but part of the reason I thought I should ask was because of the flow the Philadelphia three-piece set up between their included tracks: “Key and Bone,” “Ursa Machina,” “Pink Glass” and “In the Court of the Bastard King.” The answer? An album, and I think that’s fair enough.
Since the release of their Ván Records self-titled EP (review here) in 2014 — the same year they formed — bassist/vocalist High Priestess Nighthawk has changed the band’s configuration entirely, and while bringing aboard drummer Siren Tempestas and guitarist Archbishop Barghest no doubt has affected the overall sound, lineup alone simply can’t account for the cohesion of aesthetic that has emerged in what they do. There’s legitimate growth here, and as Heavy Temple cast off some of the trappings of cult rock over time — others hold firm — what they’re finding is an individual presence and style between harder-edged fuzz, classic stoner swing, and more ethereal impulses. Principally though, their material hits with a firm sense of purpose on Chassit in a way that Heavy Temple had not yet found.
That’s not to trivialize the contributions of Tempestas — who rolls out a monster groove on “Ursa Machina” and is the foundation of the aforementioned swing, played with admirable vitality — or the tone of Barghest, which becomes a defining element here from the start of “Key and Bone” onward, rather to say that in the context of the first release, Chassit shows growth from Heavy Temple as a whole and not just because it’s different players making up the band.
It’s well worth noting that over the last couple years I’ve become a fan of their work, so that’s the perspective from which I’m writing — I invited them to play The Obelisk All-Dayer this past August because of that — but as much as the first EP turned heads in their direction, Chassit seems primed to take that a step further, and considering it as their debut full-length, the progression it establishes as already being in progress is both exciting for its future prospects and in its current execution, the shorter, catchier, punchier “Key and Bone” with its riotous thrust setting up the longer cuts that follow in “Ursa Machina,” a more patient push with stops culled from classic blues but hammered in feedback and spacious, leading to a fuzzed-out, you-are-here moment of arrival in the last two minutes, fluid and righteously heavy and full in its sound without any sense of being tentative about where it’s headed.
Confident. Assured. Powerful. These aren’t things one would necessarily expect from a band making their debut, or even one putting together a second EP to demonstrate their wares — and depending on what Heavy Temple does next, Chassit might indeed wind up being their second EP — but by the time they’re two verses into “Key and Bone,” it’s clear they’ve thrown the subgenre rulebook out the window and worked to become their own band.
This shift in approach only continues to suit them as “Ursa Machina” bleeds into the start of “Pink Glass.” As both tracks top eight minutes, they make up a significant portion of Chassit‘s total runtime, and it’s probably fair to call them the “meat” of the record, which is all the better for the blend of hooks and atmosphere they convey. Similar to the cut before, “Pink Glass” saves its largesse for the second half, but its beginning is perfectly paced in not rushing but still upbeat, with a catchy bounce in its chorus that sets up the latter portion, to which the transition begins at around the 3:30 mark as they work their way out of the last chorus.
Bass takes over complemented by sparse guitar, and for the next three and a half minutes, Heavy Temple show a quiet, patient side they haven’t yet displayed as they subtly build their way toward “Pink Glass”‘ explosive finish, an apex groove that builds its tempo smoothly as it arises and pays off the album as a whole as much as the song itself. Vocals return and soar in an ending chorus further marked out by an added layer of lead guitar — just a second or two of flash, but skillfully arranged — before the whole thing collapses into feedback and the start-stop beginning of “In the Court of the Bastard King.” Somewhat shorter at 6:03, the closer also pushes pretty far out, but in a different way, playing between an overarching thrust and hard-funk shuffle as it moves through its verses and layered chorus before departing the stomp in which it winds up via transitional tom work toward an ending wash of psychedelic noise.
There’s no coming all the way back this time, and having done so to such satisfying effect only one song prior, that makes the structure of “In the Court of the Bastard King” that much more engaging in how it ends the record. The underlying rhythm holds as the guitar freaks itself out and they do turn around to the central progression of the track in the last second or two, but by then the context has changed considerably, which is a further testament to their craft.
Part of the excitement of any impressive debut — or any impressive album at all, really — is imagining where the band’s creative growth might lead them in the years to come. To say as a fan already of their work that Heavy Temple exhibit significant potential to become something special on Chassit feels like underselling it, because to my ears, that moment is already happening here. Nonetheless, while they’ve set a high standard with these songs, I hear nothing in them to make me think Heavy Temple won’t keep growing and pushing forward from the elements presented here, and that their multifaceted but sonically consistent style will do anything other than continue to flourish. Here’s hoping.
Posted in Whathaveyou on September 6th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Whatever else you can say about Pittsburgh heavy rockers Carousel, they certainly had their adventures. The classically-styled outfit were brash, and their material brazenly took on ’70s stylization without going full-on vintage loyalist across their two albums, 2013’s Jeweler’s Daughter (review here) and last year’s 2113 (review here) — both on Tee Pee Records — and they came to represent a vision of classic heavy rock from the eastern half of the country that didn’t necessarily rely on the aggro approach of so many of the bands from the coast. Carousel were coming from their own place, soaked in booze and just a bit unhinged, but never veering from a quality songwriting that ultimately became their defining feature.
They call it quits after a somewhat tumultuous year. Last winter, they flipped their van in Wyoming on a West Coast stint. This Spring, they toured Europe alongside Elder with guitarist Alejandro Necochea (also of labelmates Worshipper) filling in for Matt Goldsborough (sometimes of Pentagram), playing Roadburn and Desertfest and many others besides. By that time, they’d already parted ways with drummer Jake Leger, who contributed to both albums, leaving just guitarist/vocalist Dave Wheeler and bassist Jim Wilson as original members as Justin Sherrell (ex-Blackout, Bezoar) took on the drums and John Dziuban (Sistered; who had initially joined on drums) became the guitarist. Like I said, tumultuous. Earlier this summer, Carousel canceled their scheduled appearance at Psycho Las Vegas for August, and a general lack of communication from the band ended with the announcement of their disbanding as Wheeler and Wilson plan to move forward in another band.
I was fortunate enough to see Carousel a year ago in Maryland (review here) and was struck by the vitality they brought to the classic rock form and the unabashed love they showed for the power of what a hook could do to an audience. Bottom line: Good band. They probably had more to offer than they got to.
Hello fans and friends… It’s difficult to make this post but the time has come for carousel to call it quits. It’s been a hell of a ride but frequent lineup changes and other unfortunate events have necessitated this decision. Thanks to anyone who supported us over the years. We’re still humbled by the fact that anyone gave a crap about us or our music and we’re truly grateful to our label Tee Pee Records for taking a chance on us. Jim and Dave will carry on with their other band Outsideinside. We leave you with a clip of Jeweler’s Daughter live in Bilbao, Spain from our last tour. Again, thank you from the bottom of our hearts. It’s been a dream come true.
I’m gonna need you to take my word for it on this one. Really. You don’t want to miss Heavy Temple as they kick off The Obelisk All-Dayer this Saturday at Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn. You just don’t. They start the show at 2:30PM, and whether or not you caught onto their first, self-titled EP (review here), it doesn’t even matter because their new stuff blows it out of the water. Bassist/vocalist High Priestess Nighthawk — who needs real names, anyway? — has assembled a lineup of righteous compatriots and as a hard-fuzz power trio, they’re absolutely scalding on stage. Heavy nod, psych flourish, rhythmic density, memorable hooks and the occasional soaring moment that is absolutely bound to leave an impression.
Part of the reason I ask you to take my word for it is that the teaser below doesn’t actually give much of a taste of their upcoming next release, Chassit. The Philly three-piece will have a tape out via Tridroid by November, and presumably some more audio will precede before then, but the bit of noise and feedback proffered by Nighthawk, guitarist Arch Bishop Barghest and Siren Tempestas — who leads the march kicking into the track “Ursa” shortly hereafter — is the first audio to come from Heavy Temple since the self-titled and at very least it lets you know the kind of filthy tonality they’re getting down with these days. Way down.
Rest assured, there will be more to come on Chassit as we get closer to and through the release of the tape, but in the meantime, catch Heavy Temple this Saturday at The Obelisk All-Dayer with Mars Red Sky, Death Alley, Snail, Kings Destroy, EYE, Funeral Horse and King Buffalo. If you haven’t gotten tickets yet, get them here.
Posted in Reviews on August 2nd, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Three years after offering up their self-titled debut (review here), Maryland-area progressive doomers Beelzefuzz return with a second album. But what a three years it’s been. First, the former trio added guitarist Greg Diener (Pale Divine) as a fourth member, then they broke up, partially reformed under the name Righteous Bloom, and then finally decided to re-adopt the name Beelzefuzz as they headed into making the sophomore outing that would eventually become The Righteous Bloom, out this month on Restricted Release in the US and The Church Within in Europe. Founding members Dana Ortt (guitar/vocals; also Dark Music Theory) and Darin McCloskey (drums; also Pale Divine) are once again joined by Diener on lead guitar/backing vocals, and while it’s his first record with the band, these 11 tracks/47 minutes also mark the introduction of bassist Bert Hall, perhaps best known for his work in Revelation and Against Nature, but a perennial figure in Maryland doom, now also a member of Mangog.
Hall makes an impression early in opener “Nazzriff,” as does Diener, and helps the band build on the rather considerable accomplishments of the first offering while finding a tonality truer to their live presentation than their prior studio work had been and maintaining the subtle classic rock nuance and progressive doom that have become Beelzefuzz‘s hallmark, be it in “Nazzriff” — named after the band Nazareth — or the more shuffling “The Soulless,” which follows. After all the tumult the last few years have brought, The Righteous Bloom‘s level of cohesion is even more impressive, and their second LP establishes Beelzefuzz as one of the most immediately recognizable sounds in doom.
Greatly bolstering their distinction, as has been the case all along, is Ortt‘s guitar tone. Easily mistaken for flourish of organ, his guitar is as much of a sonic signature as Beelzefuzz have, and that’s plenty, but as a later cut like rolling album highlight “Nebulous” or the earlier “Rat Poison Parfait” showcase, his vocal presence has also become more confident and his range has increased from where it was in 2013. I won’t take away anything from Beelzefuzz‘s Beelzefuzz — I loved that record and still do — but The Righteous Bloom steps forward in bold-but-subtle ways and makes its progression felt in service to the songs.
Whether it’s a chorus-driven bouncer like “Hardluck Melody” — an older song if I’m right — or the yes-it’s-actually-a-waltz “Eternal Waltz,” or the atmospheric “Sanctum and Solace” that arrives after the title-track, the band’s execution of this material makes plain the fact that their priority is in the songs, and all four members of Beelzefuzz work toward the same goals throughout, be it the boogie-doom of centerpiece “Within Trance,” on which Hall particularly shines from under the guitar line, or the penultimate “Dying on the Vine.” I’ll admit to some skepticism when I heard Beelzefuzz added a second guitarist. Diener has long since proven he’s a fantastic player in Pale Divine, so that wasn’t really in question, but establishing a dual-guitar dynamic seemed like it might take away from what Ortt‘s tone did by standing alone. Rather, it adds to it, literally and figuratively. Diener brings tonal depth in a more natural way and his lead work throughout is stellar, perhaps nowhere more so than on the epilogue closer “Peace Mind” where he classes up Skynyrdisms to round out a quick three-minute track that sounds like it could’ve gone on for another 11.
As one would hope, the title-cut proves to be something special. Beelzefuzz hit the seven-minute mark once on the debut, and “The Righteous Bloom” comes close at 6:57, but moreover, it offers one of the record’s most memorable shuffles alongside quick rhythmic changes that play up both the bizarro ambience of the guitar and wizardly conjuring of Ortt‘s vocals, and highlights how far the band has come in the last couple years, pushing into unpretentious prog that’s as intricate as it is heavy, lush in its melody but still commanding in vibe. It emphasizes the balance that Beelzefuzz seem to perpetually strike so well. You’d call them laid back as quickly as you’d call them downtrodden, classic and forward-thinking in kind, yet not at all incongruous.
They were already a standout from the Maryland doom set, which very often prides itself on riffy originalism, but The Righteous Bloom brings their stylistic achievement to a new level entirely, and it does so without sacrificing the songwriting that, like McCloskey‘s drumming, has been the reliable foundation on which the band is built. In the speedier chug of “The Soulless,” or the nod of “Within Trance,” or the creeper insistence of “Dying on the Vine,” and in each of the inclusions here, Beelzefuzz always seem to be showing a look just slightly different, but The Righteous Bloom ties together via tone, groove and overall high quality of performance and satisfies so as to completely justify the anticipation leading to its release. We’d be lucky if it was taken up as an influence by other acts, and going forward, it seems only fair to consider Beelzefuzz among the most essential outfits going in East Coast doom. There’s no one else quite like them.
“Dirge” is the first audio to be made public from Backwoods Payback‘s upcoming third album, Fire Not Reason. I’m not sure when the record is being released, but the timing coincides with what’s sure to be a landmark weekender the Pennsylvania/Virginia trio have coming up with Scissorfight and Gozu over the next couple nights, playing Brooklyn and Philly together after Backwoods also journey through the wilds of Wallingford, CT, to meet up with Buzzard Canyon and others at Cherry St. Station tonight. Either way, I’ll take what I can get when it comes to this band, and I think “Dirge” does a good job of showing why.
Like a lot of Fire Not Reason, which whenever it arrives will be half a decade removed from Backwoods Payback‘s last outing, 2011’s Momantha (review here), it offers an unexpected twist in method that, along with its kind of unassuming central melody, brings an air of the extreme to the proceedings. Some parts are more fire than reason, you might say. They’re not always tossing in screams throughout the record, but there are pieces that feel so honest and true to who and what the band is that every whim they follow seems to have a purpose in reinforcing that.
I hope to have more on Fire Not Reason and Backwoods Payback — now comprised of guitarist/vocalist Mike Cummings, bassist Jessica Baker and drummer Erik Larson (ex-Alabama Thunderpussy) — as we get closer to the release date. Stay tuned.
Backwoods Payback, “Dirge” official video
From the 2016 Album, Fire Not Reason
Starting Line-Up: Jessica Baker, Mike Cummings, Erik Larson
Shot & Directed by John Keefer & Chris Johnson, Edited by Chris Johnson. A 51 DEEP production.
Backwoods Payback live: -Thurs 7/28 w/ Buzzard Canyon, Dirt Wizard, & Pussywolf @ Cherry Street Station Wallingford, CT -Fri 7/29 w/ Scissorfight, Gozu & Black Black Black @ Lucky 13 Brooklyn, NY (tickets) -Sat 7/30 w/ Scissorfight, Gozu & Worth @ Kung Fu Necktie Philadelphia, PA (tickets)
[Click play above to stream ‘Burn Out’ from The Company Corvette’s Never Enough. Album is out Aug. 5 on The Company Records.]
The Company Corvette don’t quite reinvent themselves on their third album, but they wind up pretty close to it by the time they’re done. It was five years ago that the trio of bassist/vocalist Ross Pritchett, guitarist Alexei Korolev and drummer Peter Hurd released their second album, End of the Summers (review here), and at the risk of being honest, it didn’t do it for me. I had seen the band live by then and found them engaging enough, but the record didn’t have the same effect. For the seven-track/38-minute Never Enough, the three-piece hit Gradwell House in New Jersey to work with engineer/mixer Matt Weber, and the resulting material, from the farty bass wah on “Devilwitch” to the spaced-out multi-layered solos of the ultra-stonerized “Burn Out,” showcase a fully developed sonic persona.
At times abrasive, The Company Corvette almost bring to mind a thicker-grooving take on Acid Bath‘s underlying sludge fuckall, and whether they’re messing with faster tempos on “The Stuff” or dug into all-out “Snowblind” nod on opener “Foot in Mouth,” they keep a sense of attitude central to the proceedings, Pritchett‘s vocals moving into harsher territory but even when clean holding onto a (purposefully) dazed drawl, calling to mind Thurston Moore at the start of closer “Pigeon.” Released once again through the band’s own The Company Records, Never Enough realizes the potential their earlier work showed and brings it to life with a sense of grunged-up heft that becomes its defining element. They’re an act who has clearly put work into sounding like they couldn’t give a shit.
To look at it on the surface, I don’t suppose much has changed since End of the Summers. Sure, Never Enough is a little shorter at 38 minutes (as opposed to 42), but both records end with an extended track, The Company Corvette are still very much a riff-based band, and there’s a consistent sense of dark humor — one can see it in the willfully grotesque album cover by Drew Elliott as well — that runs a thread between both releases. The development, then, is deeper. It’s in the songwriting, in the presentation, in the production and in the attitude, and all of these things come together to make Never Enough stronger from the rolling start of “Foot in Mouth” onward. They seem to wink at early Electric Wizard in “Devilwitch,” but it’s very much a wink, and hard to know if it’s influence or cynical parody — a question that makes the listening experience even more satisfying.
Either way, that added sense of misanthropic stoner-sludge informs the perspective of the tracks around it, and enhances the tuned-in-dropped-out atmosphere of the record as a whole. Feedback helps, of course. “Sick” starts off with a solo layered over its central riff and is somewhat shorter but rawer and more upfront in its groove, Hurd‘s kick drum punctuating as the solid foundation of an almost hypnotic sway, that solo returning after what may or may not be the chorus as Pritchett delivers indecipherable lines about who knows what in a blown-out drawl that’s no less suited to the faster thrust of “Sick” than to the slowed-down plod of album-centerpiece “Stomach,” which follows in garage doom fashion and nods its way through one of Never Enough‘s most memorable hooks across a five-minute duration.
In some ways, “Burn Out” might be thought of as a continuation of some of the same impulses as “Stomach” for its tempo and general crunchiness, but in addition to being longer at 6:38, “Burn Out” also toys more with dynamics, playing back and forth with verses and jams throughout, Pritchett‘s bass playing more of a role in holding together the groove as Korolev spaces out the guitar, adding semi-psych flourish to the proceedings in a manner both classic and weedian. The solo section that comes apart over the bassline at the end and leads directly into the quicker-swinging “The Stuff” in particular is not to be missed. And “The Stuff” is well placed too as the penultimate cut. Between “Burn Out” and “Pigeon,” it’s the shortest track on the record and keeps momentum forward where it might otherwise be too easy to get lost — more evidence for how the band has grown since their last time out.
Breaking at its halfway point, it chugs out a slowdown that serves as a bed for Korolev‘s lead and finishes in feedback and fading hum to let the languid fluidity of “Pigeon” close Never Enough by essentially summarizing what has worked about the record all along, loose vibe, easy flow, for-the-converted groove and all. It’s not a flashy finish in the sense of some grandiose payoff for everything that’s come before it, but they ride out the last riff effectively (with soloing) and in that represent well the barebones, dudes-in-a-room feel conjured so effectively on the prior tracks. As to what The Company Corvette might do next, with five years between records and obviously a fair amount of progression done in that time, I wouldn’t speculate whether Never Enough is the start of a surge of activity or an intermittent check-in, but stylistic leap they’ve made in these tracks should not be understated.