Heavy Temple Announce Tour Dates & Beer Collaboration

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 29th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

heavy temple

So I was like, “Hey Heavy Temple, you’re awesome, how about a recording update on that new album you announced a while back?” and Heavy Temple was pretty much like “Buzz off, weirdo. It’ll be done when it’s done.” Then they punched me — all three of them, in a kind coordinated yet not rehearsed-seeming motion — in the belly and I fell over and they laughed and went about their business making beer collaborations with Oliver Brewing Company, touring to SXSW where they’ll play with Conan and a bunch of others, and indeed getting ready to burn all in their path with the aforementioned long-player, whenever it might show up. It’s all detailed in my forthcoming 35,000-word tell-all, That Time I Got Bullied by Heavy Temple. It’ll be published through Knopf this Spring.

Actually, in my experience, the members of Heavy Temple are all very nice. There was no bullying involved, just me being a dork and being like, “Hey, it’s been 15 minutes, is your album done yet?” and High Priestess Nighthawk being like, “Hold your horses, nerd boy.” Fair enough.

It’s cool they’re playing the Decibel Metal and Beer Fest in Philly, and it’s cool they’re doing Grim Reefer in Baltimore, but it’s easy to imagine them really making an impression as well at SXSW and that’s only going to help them in the longer run. You can see the art for their American Red Ale below — it’s called “In the Court of the Bastard King” — and mark your calendar appropriately for the tour dates.

Have at it:

Austin, we’re coming for you! Playing with some old friends and in some new places this time. See ya soon!

We’re excited to be playing Day 2 of the Decibel Magazine Metal & Beer Fest!! In addition, Oliver Brewing Company will be making a special Heavy Temple beer for all of yous.

Final artwork for our beer collabo with Oliver Brewing Company !! “In The Court of the Bastard King” is appropriately an American red ale that ties in nicely with “Chassit” and it’s inspiration, “The Dark Tower”. Art by David Weston Gregory and appearing at the Decibel Magazine Metal & Beer Fest.

Heavy Temple Rides to SXSW
March 2019
03.12 Skylark Social Club Charlotte NC
03.13 JJ’s Chattanooga TN
03.14 Spiderhouse Austin TX Wicked Bad Presents SX Stoner Jam
03.15 The Lost Well Austin TX Northwest Hesh Fest & Austin Terror Fest Present…
03.16 Freetown Boom Boom Room Lafayette LA
03.17 Green Lantern Lexington KY

04.14 The Filmore Philadelphia PA Decibel Metal & Beer Fest
04.20 The Ottobar Baltimore MD Grim Reefer Fest

Heavy Temple is:
High Priestess Nighthawk (low end and vocal power)
Siren Tempest (rhythm)
Thunderhorse (6 string axe slinger)

https://www.facebook.com/HeavyTemple/
https://www.instagram.com/heavytemple
https://heavytemple.bandcamp.com
https://www.van-records.de/
https://tridroid.bandcamp.com/album/chassit

Heavy Temple, Chassit (2017)

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Backwoods Payback Touring in March

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 17th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

backwoods payback

It will have been a couple months by the time Backwoods Payback hit the road again on their next DIY tour, this one headed west and south through a cut of the Midwest en route to SXSW in Austin, Texas, where they’ll play on March 14 before hitting Houston and leaving the Lone Star State behind with a couple more shows to wrap up. The Pennsylvania/Virginia (Pennsylginia?) three-piece will continue to support last year’s right-on-right-on Future Slum (review here), which put them ahead of the curve on any kind of grunge revival happening in the heavy underground while keeping to the punk root — and, clearly, work ethic — that’s been present in their sound all along.

To that end, don’t think the use of Raymond Pettibon art in their latest tour poster is a mistake or a coincidence, let alone the Black Flag-esque logo. They’re clearly aware of the kind of road-sloggery they’re doing, and while one doubts they’re eating dogfood — pretty sure convenience store burritos are cheaper anyway; plus they’re too friendly not to get fed — their commitment to “in the van” is admirable. Admirable enough you should get out and see them, anyhow. And maybe buy a t-shirt or an LP. You know, support and all that stuff that everyone hashtags nowadays.

Hashtag blessed, hashtag PR wire:

backwoods payback march tour

Backwoods Payback March Tour

Backwoods Payback
March 2019
SXSW TOUR

Heading back out and hitting the spots we have been missing.

Week never ends up right? Don’t let that dull your knife!

Backwoods Payback March 2019:
7- sprout music West Chester PA
8- now that’s class Cleveland OH
9- melody inn Indianapolis IN
10- livewire Chicago IL
11- the blue room Dubuque IA
12- bottleneck Lawrence KS
13- Witts end Dallas TX
14- spider house Austin TX
15- rudyards Houston TX
16- boom boom room Lafayette LA
17- growlers Memphis TN
18- highlands tap Louisville KY

Tour event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/386403138780580/

BACKWOODS PAYBACK:
Jessica Baker – Bass
Mike Cummings – Guitar/vocals
Erik Larson – Drums

https://www.facebook.com/backwoodspayback/
https://backwoodspayback.bandcamp.com/

Backwoods Payback, Future Slum (2018)

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Thunderbird Divine, Magnasonic: Proof of Qualification

Posted in Reviews on January 3rd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Thunderbird Divine Magnasonic

Anything goes so long as it grooves. Such would seem to be the prevailing ethos on Thunderbird Divine‘s debut album, Magnasonic. The four-song/30-minute full-length arrives via Salt of the Earth Records only about a year and a half after the band’s formation, which speaks to both the experience of the players involved and the urgency of their creation. A four-piece culled from members of Philly stalwarts-until-they-weren’t Wizard Eye, who made a strong self-titled debut (review here) in 2015 before calling it quits, and Skeleton Hands, whose debut, Deadlines was issued in 2014. The story goes that Skeleton Hands bassist Adam Scott, guitarist Flynn Lawrence and drummer Mike Stuart lost their frontman, just as Wizard Eye‘s guitarist/vocalist Erik Caplan suddenly had a bunch of free time on his hands with that band’s dissolution, and the new group was formed, named for a track on Wizard Eye‘s record.

Given that, one might therefore expect some measure of continuity between the outfits — and there is, if you strain hard enough to hear it — but Thunderbird Divine surpasses both of its progenitor acts in scope and execution alike. Magnasonic‘s tracks are treated to a depth of arrangement and a fluidity of rhythm that are entirely their own, and while there’s some root in the sludge that infused the sound of both Wizard Eye and Skeleton Hands, the prevailing vibe is more rock-based, languid and cosmic, drawing a line in “Qualified” (premiered here), “‘Til Shiloh,” “Bummer Bridge” and “The Devil’s Hatband” to the ’90s era of post-grunge stoner-psych, as bands like Monster Magnet came into their own on the East Coast while Nebula smoked acid fire way out West. Thunderbird Divine have plenty of crunch to go with their roll, but an instinct toward adventurous arrangements of keys, theremin, vocals and who-the-hell-knows-what-else serves them well throughout and adds a level of unpredictability to their sound that fits remarkably well alongside their more straightforward aspects, and with a loose swing in Stuart‘s drums as the foundation, Magnasonic builds itself outward as a showcase not only of how far Thunderbird Divine have come in such a short time, but how much potential there is for them to continue to move forward.

It is no simple feat to blend the familiar with material so decidedly given to reach, but Thunderbird Divine find a niche for themselves and make their sound as organic as it is spacious. Whether it’s the drop to open weirdness in “Qualified,” or the move from the hard-hitting start of “‘Til Shiloh,” with its dual vocals both working in shouts, to a tripped-out build and scorching solo and weirdo echoes and more fist-raising cosmic triumph at the finish, or the ultra-swing of “Bummer Bridge” as the shortest cut at just over five minutes before “The Devil’s Hatband” nearly goes to 11 (minutes) in its linear stretch and massive finish, Magnasonic finds itself in these pockets of a universe of its own making, and though a human presence is maintained in straightforward songwriting elements — hooks, verses, those leads — the band slips with ease into otherworldly sounds that one imagines will only becomes more prevalent as they move forward. Or maybe one hopes that, at least, while listening to the drift at the outset of “The Devil’s Hatband” that leads to the woozy key-topped blues en route to a hypnotic roll that’s so smoothly done as to be emblematic of the hey-everybody-we’re-all-gonna-get-laid-back spirit throughout.

Thunderbird Divine (Photo by Dante Torrieri)

Even in that last burst, though, there are elements grounding Magnasonic, and that’s not to say the band are boring or overly straightforward — because they’re neither — just that they’re clearheaded about where they want their experimentation to take them. The course is set early in “Qualified” for far-funked-out and they go willingly toward that heavy spatial anomaly with gang vocals in tow, floating like a ribbon of star-stuff undulating through dimensions like, “hey, no big deal y’all.” And groove. It’s the kind of cool that always seemed so untouchable, out there of a level of its own, some secret happening in some secret place, except this time everyone’s invited and if you bring a figurative or literal kitchen sink along to bang on, they’ll probably let you jam. The start-stop organ on “Bummer Bridge,” giving it a Southern rock feel if we’re talking the southern end of the galaxy, helps capture that welcoming vibe, and then things take off with the theremin spitting freaky poison, and yeah, it’s a party. Quit your job and make it happen. Paint places you’ve never heard of. Invent shit. Transcend physical reality and become waves of distortion. Whatever you want to do, it’s all there.

Debut album? Hell’s bells. Yeah, it is. And a short one at that, though I wouldn’t ask more of Magnasonic than it gives. It should be of particular note out there among all that ether just how much it’s evident Thunderbird Divine are pushing themselves toward these broad ends. Caplan‘s vocals are cleaner and more soulful than they’ve ever been, and he, and ScottLawrence and Stuart step into these songs with an immediate command of their direction and intent that speaks to their prior experience and works somewhat in contrast to Thunderbird Divine as a “new” band, even if it is a new collaboration between the trio and Caplan. But thinking of it as their debut, yes, there is more to do. More to explore. More reaches to discover, more groove, more hooks, more shred, more nuance to be had, and the fine-edged sonic details of Magnasonic seem as much a herald of future manifestations of the let’s-try-this impulse as they are righteous in the now. One listens to Magnasonic and looks forward to what Thunderbird Divine might become even as they establish themselves in a present moment.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the off-album tracks. To introduce Magnasonic and the band as a whole, three pieces — “Quaalude Thunder” (posted here), “Madras Blue” (posted here) and “Djinn au Jus” (posted here) — were issued in videos as a precursor to the album, to introduce its general mood and vibe. There’s a fair amount of sonic variety between them, and between them and Magnasonic itself, which is more cohesive, but one has to wonder if Thunderbird Divine will work to bring those different sides together over time, and if their next outing might have more of those one-off experiments included on it, maybe as interludes between the tracks, or pieces of more structured songs themselves. Maybe Thunderbird Divine will go that way and maybe they won’t, but what’s important is that their work on Magnasonic sets them up to become essentially anything they want to be. If they want to solidify around more of a heavy rock mindset, those roots are here, and if they want to float off into lysergic oblivion, that’s here too. What one hopes though is that they commit to neither end of their spectrum and continue to grow on all fronts while maintaining the strengths of craft they demonstrate in these songs. Because those are significant and not to be ignored.

Thunderbird Divine on Thee Facebooks

Thunderbird Divine on Instagram

Salt of the Earth Records on Thee Facebooks

Salt of the Earth Records website

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Horehound, Holocene: To Breathe

Posted in Reviews on December 26th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

horehound holocene

Pittsburgh four-piece Horehound worked quickly after forming to turn around their impressive 2016 self-titled debut (review here), which was first released through Blackseed Records and picked up shortly thereafter by Hellmistress Records. In the intervening two years, they’ve worked toward becoming forerunners of Pittsburgh heavy, and their second long-player, Holocene, would seem to do nothing to slow their momentum in that regard. Fronted by the multifaceted vocals of Shy Kennedy — also of Blackseed Records and Pittsburgh’s Descendants of Crom fest — with Brendan Parrish on guitar, Nick Kopco on bass and JD Dauer on drums, Horehound undertake significant development in the six-track (well, six and a quick hidden bonus cut, anyway) and 45-minute long-player, and aligned with Doom Stew Records, they seem to signal their embarking on a different level of their approach even with the Brian Mercer album art.

Their songcraft is in the process of becoming no less textured, and while influences blend from the likes of Paradise LostYear of the CobraCandlemass (looking at you, “Sloth”) and traditionalist American doom, there is a grit to the production that keep the album earthbound no matter how far it might reach in terms of melody or atmosphere. It’s worth noting that at this point, Horehound have been a band for about three years, and Holocene is their second full-length in less time than than it takes some bands to get together a debut EP, so the fact of their motivation is writ large in their growing body of output, but it’s in their songwriting as well. One can hear a more dynamic presence taking shape in “Dier’s Dirge,” with its hook, “What we’ve become, can’t be undone/What we’ve destroyed, can’t be undone,” delivered patiently by Kennedy atop Parrish‘s severe riffing. That grim outlook is manifest in leadoff and longest track (immediate points) “The Kind,” which begins with a wistful minute-plus stretch of acoustic guitar and seems to work in movements to introduce various elements from the album, be it the somber mood, the melo-sludge push, Kennedy‘s play between growls and clean-sung lines, or the song’s what-if-ElectricWizard-got-clean capstone solo.

“The Kind” is very much a closer made opener, with the acoustic intro serving largely as the difference in runtime between it and subsequent pieces, and as its feedback ending fades out into the starting crashes of “Dier’s Dirge” — which, as it happens is the second-longest cut at 7:50 — Holocene clearly enters another phase. If we’re picking highlights, I’ll take “Dier’s Dirge” for the already-noted chorus, which is a standout in the departure of the vocals from the melodic patterning of the guitar, but neither is the accomplishment of “The Kind” to be undersold as a standout work. But there’s clearly a shift in momentum with “Dier’s Dirge” picks up and leads into the rest of the album, and as the faster, shorter-at-6:17 “L’Appel du Vide” completes side A, that momentum only gets more fervent as pushed by the ultra-solid rhythm section of Dauer and Kopco, the latter of whom brings a tonal weight to the rolling crash of the drums that proves crucial in conveying the sludgier aspects of what Horehound do.

horehound (Photo by Shannon Kenyon)

Those too are prefaced in “The Kind,” of course, but as Holocene pans out, it builds on the parameters set forth in the opener, such that the spacious moments in the beginning of “L’Appel du Vide” set up what follows as a surge of energy, and the compression effects on the vocals add a monstrous feel to the track that the also-sub-seven-minutes “Sloth” picks up as it starts side B. That kind of multi-level structure to the album is further emblematic of the progression they’ve made overall, but also of the changing in their thinking of how an LP should function. Whether you’re listening on a linear format — CD/DL — or one requiring a side switch — LP/CS — there are considerations made such that a flow is maintained front-to-back as well as in individual parts. As the melancholy apex of “Sloth” carries over to the long-held notes of the guitar at the end, giving way to feedback, there’s not interruption of what the band has thus far worked hard to build. And yet the personality of the album is changing.

A bluesy edge makes its way into the beginning verses of “Anastatica,” and trades of volume are effectively made as the track rolls into its chorus of “ooh”s and fluid, languid chorus. But the song, which takes its name from the Rose of Jericho, or the “resurrection plant,” follows suit in a subtle shift from “Sloth” before it in eschewing harsher vocals and so, while it benefits from the tension that at any moment it might become more aggressive, it ultimately shows a willingness on the part of Horehound to do what best serves the whims of their craft — an impulse that will only help them as they continue to move forward, no matter what those whims might dictate as regards screams or anything else. “Sloth” hints at harmonies in its midsection, and closer “Highball” follows suit in terms of casting off the more abrasive growling as it finds Parrish leading the way into the song’s second half with a guitar meander topped with layers of vocal melody for an effect somewhere between Sabbath and Type O Negative that nonetheless carries an air as well of heavy post-rock while building smoothly to a bigger finish.

Dauer tosses in choice cymbal work like it’s nothing as Kopco holds steady on low end and Kennedy brings an ethereality to the final moments on vocals, having said just about all there is to say in the last lines: “You can’t see me/You don’t know me/Yet I know you/You are weak, untrue.” “Highball” caps at just under seven minutes, which is right about standard for Horehound, and a hidden bonus track reverses the screamed portion of the chorus to “Dier’s Dirge” to close out. So technically, there are screams on side B one way or the other. Fair enough. There are those who decry the use of harsh vocal styles outright. I’m not one of them. But it’s interesting that Holocene would divide its sides along such lines, and given the obvious thought put into songwriting and the album’s presentation overall, that doesn’t seem like an accident. As to what it might say about the direction and creative development under way, I wouldn’t guess. The fact of the matter is that as fast as Horehound have worked, they’re still a relatively new band. Holocene is a crucial moment for them in establishing who they want to be in terms of sound and form.

Horehound, “L’Appel du Vide” official video

Horehound, Holocene (2018)

Horehound on Thee Facebooks

Horehound on Bandcamp

Horehound on Twitter

Blackseed Records on Thee Facebooks

Blackseed Records website

Doom Stew Records on Thee Facebooks

Doom Stew Records website

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Thunderbird Divine Premiere “Qualified”; Magnasonic Preorders Available

Posted in audiObelisk on December 13th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Thunderbird Divine (Photo by Dante Torrieri)

Philadelphia’s Thunderbird Divine make a much-anticipated debut on Jan. 11 with Magnasonic through Salt of the Earth Records. All along the way since the band came into being in 2017, they’ve released material in drips and drabs, a rehearsal clip here, a video there. Songs like “Quaalude Thunder” (posted here), “Madras Blue” (posted here) and “Djinn au Jus” (posted here) have made their way to public ears and eyes, but every cut that’s come out so far has one thing in common: it’s not on the record. Less than a month to go before the release date and Thunderbird Divine haven’t put so much as a riff out there for mass consumption that features on Magnasonic.

You know where this is going.

Enter “Qualified.” The seven-point-five-minute opener of Magnasonic in all its funk-riffed, swaggering, oh-wait-did-we-just-get-to-outer-space-and-was-that-Thunderbird Divine Magnasonica-piano-oh-okay-I-guess-the-riff-is-back-wow-that-was-awesome glory. A song that sets its rhythm early and holds its welcome late, “Qualified” boasts a hook begging for a barroom singalong as guitarist/vocalist/etc.-ist Erik Caplan (ex-Wizard Eye) leads the nod with Skeleton Hands veterans Adam Scott (bass), Flynn Lawrence (guitar, more etc.) and Mike Stuart (drums) further the take-your-favorite-muscle-car-and-stick-it-in-orbit vibe. Think new-classic stoner riffage — Monster Magnet shortly before the commercial boom — and you might have the right timeframe, but Thunderbird Divine are for sure telling the squares to get their hats regardless of the decade to which you want to draw parallels. And “Qualified” is one of four slabs on the half-hour stack, so, you know, more to come, chief.

I’ll get a proper, way-too-wordy-but-probably-less-hyphenated review up sometime after the New Year, but I’m honor’d to host the first Thunderbird Divine track to actually come from Magnasonic, which you’ll find on the player below, followed by a few words from Caplan and the preorder link to get your copy of the album.

Please enjoy:

Thunderbird Divine, “Qualified” official premiere

Erik Caplan on “Qualified”:

“Qualified” is the first song we wrote together. The repeated riff in the beginning and at the chorus is based on something I found compelling during my home practice sessions before I joined the band. When I showed it to the other guys, we agreed it could be the basis of something cool. That riff set the stage for the rest of the song.

As an early collaboration, we were still feeling each other out as a band during the writing process, and, in particular, it was the first opportunity for Flynn (Lawrence, guitar) and I to figure out how our guitar sounds would mesh. Since neither of us had worked with another guitarist in a long time, it fortuitously happened that our styles were complementary. Flynn is an extremely accurate, concise player with a passion for riffs and a somewhat metallic tone, whereas I’m basically a fuzzy, guitar-soloing mess, so we don’t step on each other’s toes. You can hear him nailing down some massive chord sounds while I play a wonky fuzz melody in various parts of the song. Mike (Stuart, drums) and Adam (Scott, bass) have a very natural interplay after having played together for several years.

The basic structure came together fairly quickly, but, as with most collaborations, the devil was in the details, especially when it came to recording. We were ambitious. For example, the psychedelic section in the middle is usually a theremin and bass-feedback freakout in the live arena, but we wanted to do something with more class and refinement on the studio recording. We layered electric sitar, piano, theremin, water drum and other oddities on top of the usual band arrangement. We wanted it loose and trippy, but not random and sloppy, with interesting layers of sound to bear repeated plays and reveal more of itself to the listener each time.

The entire song was given that level of attention, with synth drones and percussion throughout. It’s truly a testament to the skills of Ted (Richardson, engineer, TedAudio) and Charles (Newman, mixing engineer, Cottage Sounds Unlimited) for cleanly tracking and mixing so many layers of sound together in such a cohesive way.

Vocally, this is a departure from my past efforts in that I used a clearer sound with less grime. It was different and a little daunting, but I was ready to try something new, so I just went for it. It’s a pretty clean take – the main vocal is single-tracked to keep it sounding natural. You’ll hear some lovely backing vocals from Brittany Marie (Mike’s partner) and Avy (my ex-wife) in the pre-chorus, with equally lovely gang vocals from our Mike, Andy Martin (Clamfight) and Kermit Lyman III (Sheena and Thee Nosebleeds) on the choruses.

The lyrical concept comes from Jamaican street slang. This kind of slang is ever-changing, and there was a recent time where folks referred to anything bad-ass or really excellent as “qualified.” It could apply to anything from mangoes to movies to beautiful women, and I thought it was an evocative way to write our own version of something like ZZ Top’s “Nationwide.” I would never claim to be as cool as the little band from Texas, but we did our thing with it. I’m proud of the result.

Philly’s psychedelic space hippy enclave, Thunderbird Divine, has set an official domestic release date of January 11, 2019 for its debut album, Magnasonic, with Salt of the Earth Records (https://www.saltoftheearthrecords.com/). The offering, a 30-plus-minute exploration of riffs and psychedelia, features custom art design by the band’s bassist, Adam Scott.

Produced by the band and recorded at both Ted Richardson at TedAudio in Philadelphia (www.facebook.com/TedAudio) and Charles Newman (who also mixed the album) at Cottage Sounds Unlimited in Brooklyn (https://www.facebook.com/cottagesounds/), Magnasonic shows the quartet, which coalesced in March of 2017, is not willing to be pigeonholed as a strictly stoner/doom rock band. Featuring Scott on bass and guitars, Flynn Lawrence on guitars and additional instrumentation, Mike Stuart on drums and percussion and Erik Caplan on guitars and various instruments,Thunderbird Divine went for an unexpectedly broad tonal variety with Magnasonic.

Preorder at: https://saltoftheearthrecords.com/product/295609

Thunderbird Divine on Thee Facebooks

Thunderbird Divine on Instagram

Salt of the Earth Records on Thee Facebooks

Salt of the Earth Records website

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Quarterly Review: Earthless, Satan’s Satyrs, Mantar, Child, T.G. Olson, Canyon, Circle of the Sun, Mythic Sunship, Svarta Stugan, Bast

Posted in Reviews on December 6th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review

There isn’t enough coffee in the universe, but I’ve got mine and I’m ready to burn the living crap out of my tongue if that’s what it takes to get through. We’ve arrived at Day 4 of the Quarterly Review, and though we’re less than halfway to the 100-album goal set by some maniac sitting at his kitchen table with a now-burnt tongue, there’s been an awful lot of good stuff so far. More even than I thought going into it, and I slate this stuff.

That said, today’s list is pretty killer. A lot of these bands will be more familiar than maybe has been the case or will be on some of the other days of this Quarterly Review. It just kind of worked out that way as I was putting it together. But hey, a few bigger bands here, a few “debut EP” demos there. It’s all good fun.

So let’s go.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Earthless, From the West

earthless from the west

Bonus points to whatever clever cat correctly decided that Earthless‘ 2018 studio album, Black Heaven (review here), needed a companion live record. With artwork mimicking a Led Zeppelin bootleg of the same name, From the West arrives through Silver Current and Nuclear Blast capturing the most powerful of power trios earlier this year in San Francisco, and it’s like the fire emoji came to life. With Mike Eginton‘s bass as the anchor and Mario Rubalcaba‘s drums as the driving force, guitarist Isaiah Mitchell starts ripping holes in the fabric of spacetime with “Black Heaven” and doesn’t stop until 64 minutes later as “Acid Crusher” dissolves into noise. Of course “Gifted by the Wind” from the latest LP is a highlight, and suitably enough, they cover Zeppelin‘s “Communication Breakdown,” but I’m not sure anything tops the extended take on “Uluru Rock” from 2013’s From the Ages (review here) — and yes, I mean that. Of course they pair it with the 1:48 surge of “Volt Rush,” because they’re Earthless, and brilliant is what they do. Every set they play should be recorded for posterity.

Earthless website

Silver Current Records on Bandcamp

Earthless at Nuclear Blast webstore

 

Satan’s Satyrs, The Lucky Ones

satans satyrs the lucky ones

Encased in cover art that begs the Spinal Tap question, “what’s wrong with being sexy?” and the response that Fran Drescher gave it, Virginia classic heavy rockers Satan’s Satyrs return with their fourth full-length, The Lucky Ones (on RidingEasy and Bad Omen), which also marks their first record as a four-piece with guitarist Nate Towle (Wicked Inquisition) joining the returning lineup of bassist/vocalist Clayton Burgess, guitarist Jared Nettnin and drummer Stephen Fairfield, who, between the fact that Burgess founded the band and played in Electric Wizard, and all the lead guitar antics from Nettnin and Towle, might be the unsung hero of the band. His performance is not lost in the recording by Windhand‘s Garrett Morris or Burgess‘ own hefty mix, and as one would expect, Satan’s Satyrs continue to deliver deceptively refined ’70s-heavy vibes caked in cult biker horror aesthetics. Some songs hit more than others, but Satan’s Satyrs‘ dust-kicking approach continues to win converts.

Satan’s Satyrs on Thee Facebooks

RidingEasy Records on Bandcamp

Bad Omen Records on Bandcamp

 

Mantar, The Modern Art of Setting Ablaze

mantar the modern art of setting ablaze

One generally thinks of Hamburg duo Mantar as having all the subtlety of a bone saw caught on video, and yet, in listening to “Seek + Forget” from their third album, The Modern Art of Setting Ablaze (on Nuclear Blast), there are some elements that seem to be reaching out on the part of the band. Guitarist Hanno‘s vocals are more enunciated and discernible, there is a short break from the all-out blackened-sludge-punk assault that’s been their trade since their start in 2012, and “Obey the Obscene” even has an organ. Still, the bulk of the 12-track/48-minute follow-up to 2016’s Ode to the Flame (review here) is given to extremity of purpose and execution, and in pieces like the churning “Anti Eternia” and the particularly-punked “Teeth of the Sea,” they work to refine their always-present threat of violence. Closer “The Funeral” brings back some of the quiet moodiness of intro “The Knowing” and underscores the point of sonic expansion. I hope next time they use a string section.

Mantar on Thee Facebooks

Nuclear Blast website

 

Child, I

child i

It took me a few minutes to get to the heart of what my problem with Child‘s I EP is. Really, I was sitting and listening to “Age Has Left Me Behind” — the first of the three included tracks on the 20-ish-minute 12″ — and I had to ask myself, “Why is this annoying me?” The answer? Because it’s not an album. That’s it. It’s not enough. Kudos to the Melbourne, Australia, heavy blues trio on having that be the biggest concern with their latest release — it follows 2016’s righteously-grooved Blueside (review here) — and kudos to them as well for their cover of Spirit‘s “The Other Song,” but of course it’s the 10-minute jam “Going Down Swinging” on side B that’s the immersive highlight of I, as Child‘s balance of softshoe-boogie and expansive mellow-psych is second to none in their subgenre. It’s not an album, and that’s kind of sad, but as a tide-ya-over until the next long-player arrives, I still does the trick nice and easy. And not to get greedy, but I’d take a II (or would it be You?) whenever they get around to it.

Child on Thee Facebooks

Kozmik Artifactz website

 

T.G. Olson, Wasatch Valley Lady & The Man from Table Mountain

tg olson wasatch valley lady and the man from table mountain

Across Tundras frontman T.G. Olson, who by now has well lapped that band’s output with his solo catalog, would seem to have sat down with his guitar sometime in the last week and put two songs to tape. The resulting 10-minute offering is Wasatch Valley Lady & The Man from Table Mountain, its component title-tracks stripping down some of the more elaborate arrangements he’s explored of late — his latest full-length, Riding Roughshod (review pending; it’s hard to keep up), came out in October — to expose the barebones construction at root in his Rocky Mountain country folk style. “Wasatch Valley Lady” and “The Man from Table Mountain” make an engaging couple, and while Olson has a host of videos on YouTube that are similarly just him and his acoustic, something about the audio-only recordings feel like a voice out of time reaching for human connection. The first seems to have a natural fade, and the second a more prominent rhythm showcased in harder strum, but both are sweet melodies evocative as ever of open landscapes and wistful experience.

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T.G. Olson/Across Tundras on Bandcamp

 

Canyon, Mk II

canyon mk ii

The Deep Purple-referential Mk II title of Canyon‘s second EP, also the follow-up to their 2017 debut LP, Radiant Light, refers to the lineup change that’s seen Dean Welsh move to drums so that he and guitarist Peter Stanko can welcome bassist/vocalist Fred Frederick to the fold. The three included songs, the hooky “Mine Your Heart,” expansively fuzzed “Morphine Dreams” and bouncing “Roam” make a hell of a first offering from the reconstituted trio, who capture classic heavy naturalism in a chemistry between players that’s mirrored in the songwriting itself. Canyon‘s 2016 self-titled debut EP (review here) held marked promise, and even after the full-length, that promise would seem to be coming to fruition here. Their tones and craft are both right on, and there’s still some gelling to do between the three of them, but they leave no doubt with Mk II that this incarnation of Canyon can get there. And, if they keep up like this, get there quickly.

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Canyon on Bandcamp

 

Circle of the Sun, Jams of Inner Perception

Circle of the Sun Jams of Inner Perception

One man jams! Psych-jam seekers will recognize Daniel Sax as the drummer for Berlin-based trio Cosmic Fall. Circle of the Sun is a solo-project from Sax and Jams of Inner Perception collects six tracks for 39 minutes of adventuring on his own. Sax sets his own backbeat and layers bass and “effectsbass” for a full-lineup feel amid the instrumental creations, and those looking to be hypnotized by the space-rocking jams will be. Flat out. Sax is no stranger to jamming, and as one soaks in “Jamming in Paradise” or its nine-minute predecessor “Liquid Sand,” there’s little mistaking his intention. Curious timing that Circle of the Sun would take shape following a lineup change in Cosmic Fall — perhaps it was put together in the interim? — but whether Jams of Inner Perception is a one-off of the beginning of a new avenue for Sax, its turn to blues noodling on “Desert Sun,” thick-toned “Moongroove” and fuzzy roll on “Acid Dream” demonstrate there are plenty of outer realms still to explore.

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Circle of the Sun on Bandcamp

 

Mythic Sunship, Another Shape of Psychedelic Music

Mythic Sunship Another Shape of Psychedelic Music

The simplest way to put it is that Mythic Sunship‘s Another Shape of Psychedelic Music lives up to the lofty ambitions of its title. The Danish band is comprised of guitarists Kasper Stougaard Andersen and Emil Thorenfeldt, bassist Rasmus ‘Cleaver’ Christensen, drummer Frederik Denning and saxophonist Søren Skov, and with Causa Sui‘s Jonas Munk — who also produced the album — sitting in on the extended “Backyard Voodoo” (17:41) and “Out There” (13:53) as well as overseeing the release through El Paraiso, the band indeed makes there way into the far out reaches where jazz and psychedelia meet. It’s not about pretentiously saying they’re doing something that’s never been done. You’ll note it’s “another shape” and not a “new shape” or the “shape to come.” But immersion happens quickly on opener “Resolution” (14:23), and even quicker cuts like “Last Exit,” “Way Ahead” and “Elevation” carry the compelling spirit of forward-thinking creativity through their dynamic course, and if Mythic Sunship aren’t the shape of psychedelic music to come, it’s in no small part because there are so few out there who could hope to match what they do.

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El Paraiso Records website

 

Svarta Stugan, Islands / Öar

svarta stugan islands oar

Islands / Öar — the second word being the Swedish translation of the first — is the 40-minute debut full-length from Gothenburg atmospheric heavy post-rock instrumentalists Svarta Stugan, who demonstrate in influence from Hex-era Earth on the opener “Islands III” but go on in subsequent tracks to pull together a sound distinct in its cinematic feel and moody execution. Five out of the seven component tracks are “Islands” pieces, which are presented out of order with “Islands IV” missing and “Islands Unknown” perhaps in its place, and the respective side A/B finales “Inner Space” and “Prospects Quatsi” standing apart. Both bring to bear a style ultimately consistent with the melancholy so rife throughout Islands / Öar as a whole, but they’re obviously intended as outliers, and so they seem to be. The LP release follows a couple shorter outings, issued over the past six-plus years, and it’s clear from the depths and range on display here in the build-to-crescendo of “Inner Space” alone that Svarta Stugan haven’t misspent their time in their progression to this point.

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Svarta Stugan on Bandcamp

 

Bast, Nanoångström

bast nanoangstrom

Largesse of scope and largesse of tone work in tandem on Bast‘s Nanoångström full-length on Black Bow, as they bring together aspects of post-metallic churn and more extreme metal methods to hone a style highly individualized, highly weighted and as much cosmic as it is crushing. Through six tracks and 57 minutes, the London trio (plus two guest spots from Chris Naughton of Winterfylleth) careen and crash and set an atmosphere of chaos without actually being chaotic, their progressive craft working to tie the songs together into a larger impression of the work as a consuming entirety. It’s the kind of record you pick up and still hear new things in by the time they put out their next one. Production from Chris Fielding at Skyhammer Studio only helps creates the heights and depths of their dynamic, and whether they’re rolling out the severity of closer “The Ghosts Which Haunt the Space Between the Stars” or laying out the soundscape of “The Beckoning Void,” Bast shape the tenets of genre to suit their needs rather than try to work within the barriers of any particular style. Nanoångström is all the more complex and satisfying for their efforts in that regard.

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Black Bow Records webstore

 

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Heavy Temple Announce New Album for 2019

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 28th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

I admit, when I started this post and reached out to Heavy Temple, my basic going idea was, ‘I haven’t written about Heavy Temple in a while and Heavy Temple kick ass.’ That’s what I was going on. For those who don’t keep up on their well-maintained social media presence, they’ve been steadily destroying ears and the brains between them over the course of this year at happenings like Muddy RootsDescendants of CromDays of DarknessShadow WoodsRPM Fest — as well as Ode to Doom in Manhattan this past weekend — and dates alongside the formidable likes of Ecstatic VisionMothershipWitch Mountain and Corrosion of Conformity. They’ve spent most of this year playing out between touring and wisely-chosen fests, and their following has only grown more cult-like and loyal as a result.

Right on. The news that came back when I hit up one High Priestess Nighthawk was better than I could’ve hoped in that Heavy Temple will be recording this winter for a new full-length to follow-up on 2016’s righteous Chassit (review here) debut LP. It’ll be their first record with Thunderhorse on guitar as they bring their hard fuzz stylizations to new degrees of intensity. You can see that even in the reinterpreted older material played live in the clip below, filmed at Underground Arts in their native Philadelphia on a bill they shared with YOB and Bell Witch. Because fucking a.

Which brings me back to my original point: Heavy Temple kick ass. Their new record? It’ll probably kick ass too.

Here’s a quick update from the band about it:

heavy temple

Heavy Temple – New Album Recording & Gigs

We’ll be heading to the basement this winter to record our new album (more details to come). Will Spectre’s Red Water Recording captures some of Philly’s finest (Outer Heaven, Witching, Narcos Family Band, Moros, Black Urn) and we’re excited to get started. We have five songs planned for this record, including some interludes that we’ll be writing throughout the sessions.

This album is true to the Heavy Temple sound, but noticeably different in that this will be the third recorded line up. We’re really hitting our stride with this one and even though we’ve been playing some of the new material live, we look forward to being able to get it out to the folks that haven’t been able to make it to a show.

We have one more appearance this year, at December Doomsday with Weedeater and Unearthly Trance in Baltimore. We have two shows in April at the Philly Decibel Metal & Beer Fest, and back in Baltimore for Haze Mage’s annual 4/20 jammer, aptly named Grim Reefer fest, with Ruby the Hatchet. Additionally we’d love to get further west next year, as well as across the pond! Keep your eyes peeled and your ears to the ground. We’re comin’ to getchoo. XO

Heavy Temple is:
High Priestess Nighthawk (low end and vocal power)
Siren Tempest (rhythm)
Thunderhorse (6 string axe slinger)

https://www.facebook.com/HeavyTemple/
https://www.instagram.com/heavytemple
https://heavytemple.bandcamp.com
https://www.van-records.de/
https://tridroid.bandcamp.com/album/chassit

Heavy Temple, Live at Underground Arts, Philadelphia, PA, June 29, 2018

Heavy Temple, Chassit (2017)

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Review & Full Album Stream: Pale Divine, Pale Divine

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on November 21st, 2018 by JJ Koczan

PALE DIVINE S/T

[Click play above to stream Pale Divine’s self-titled album in full. It’s out Nov. 23 on Shadow Kingdom Records.]

The level of coincidence is somewhat astounding. Pennsylvania’s Pale Divine are well past the 20-year mark since forming in 1995. By now the stuff of Chesapeake regional legend, their first demo arrived in 1997 (was also reissued in 2008). Their fourth and otherwise most recent album, Painted Windows Black (review here), was released early in 2012, and a short time after it came out, founding drummer Darin McCloskey and guitarist/vocalist Greg Diener recruited Ron “Fezz” McGinnis to play bass. McGinnis, who’s known for his work in the mostly-instrumental Admiral Browning, as well as Bailjack, the more extreme Thonian Horde and a host of others, was not a minor pickup. In stage presence, tone and complement to Diener‘s vocals, McGinnis was a personality shift for the band that was far more significant than the phrase, “he’s their eighth bassist,” would lead one to believe.

Now, as Pale Divine make a definitive statement by issuing their fifth LP, an eight-track/46-minute self-titled, through Shadow Kingdom Records, the situation is oddly similar. Always a trio save for one stint around the time of their third album, 2007’s Cemetery Earth, Pale Divine‘s Pale Divine lands, gorgeous in tone and as downtrodden in spirit as it is righteous in its traditionalism, as heard on cuts like opener “Spinning Wheel” and the extended blues-informed pieces “So Low” and “Shades of Blue,” just as the trio welcomes Dana Ortt of Beelzefuzz — in which Diener and McCloskey both play, the latter as a founding member, the former as a pickup for their second record — on guitar. A self-titled has a tendency to be a clear signal on the part of a band saying “this is who we are.” And tracks like the rocking “Bleeding Soul” and the penultimate “Silver Tongues,” which has a bounce worthy of the band’s one-time contemporaries in Spirit Caravan, live up to that. But the timing. Pale Divine put out their fourth album and made a considerable change in their dynamic, and now with their fifth album they’ve done the same thing.

Does that make Pale Divine moot? In a word: no. The songs are the key. In the fullness of the record’s emotional heft and across-the-board sonic execution, the way it slides into classic doom because it is that very same classic doom, nodding at Trouble on “Chemical Decline” before just nodding, period, in the early going of the subsequent “So Low” — which in its second half also features a very long guitar solo, making it easy to remember on a linguistic level too — it’s still a process of Pale Divine defining who they are in a specific point in time. From the early signal of a changed mindset with McGinnis joining Diener on vocals for the Pentagram-informed apex of “Spinning Wheel” to the Sabbathian chug, compressed lead tone and sleek groove of “Curse the Shadows” of the also-dual-voiced “Curse the Shadows,” which dates back at least five years to a demo from 2013Pale Divine emphasize the outside-of-time nature of trad doom even as they put their own stamp on the classic style with the force of Diener‘s vocals, the understated but always locked-in drumming of McCloskey and the flash in McGinnis‘ basslines — as heard in the later gallop on that same “Curse the Shadows” — as well as the fluidity of their songwriting.

pale divine

Pieces like “So Low,” which sources its lyrical depression from within and without, or “Bleeding Soul,” with its uptempo hook in the line, “A bleeding soul will find no rest,” or the initial showoff rumble of low end in “Shades of Blue” and the instantly familiar chorus there that follows as the eight-minute track unfolds, are resonant in their downer spirit and stately in their delivery. But one of the accusations often leveled at traditional doom is that it’s staid and dry in its delivery and that applies even less to Pale Divine than it ever has to Pale Divine‘s work before. With the flourish of Southern-style and progressive acoustic/electric guitar layers on closer “Ship of Fools” and the smoothness of their rhythmic and tempo shifts as shown in “Chemical Decline” and “So Low,” as well as Diener‘s vocal delivery across the release and what McGinnis brings in periodic complement to that, there’s nothing but a genuine soulfulness to Pale Divine‘s Pale Divine, and it’s not just boozy self-defeat, though there’s a bit of that also. “Silver Tongues,” “Shades of Blue,” “Spinning Wheel” have, to go with the subtle changes in approach between them, a sense of looking beyond oneself. Not like there isn’t plenty of doom to behold if you have the eyes to see it. Clearly Pale Divine do.

Okay, but then what? What’s the resolution? Well, one could argue there’s hope along with a resigned sensibility in the interwoven soloing on “Ship of Fools,” and positioned as that is at the end of the album — doesn’t seem unreasonable to think that a band who seem well set to hit the quarter-century mark would make a purposeful choice on a closer — with a long fadeout that caps the LP as a whole, it carries a kind of “keep marching” message. You trod on, because what else is there? Fair enough, but it seems on the whole that Pale Divine is less directly about examination and critique than it is the simple act of conveying the experience of living it. Consider the lyrics of “So Low,” with Diener seeming to recount on the page his own lack of inspiration and pervasive depression, the distancing of the self from one’s own existence. Maybe there’s an element of catharsis in the expression, but the songs don’t go so far as to portray that, nor could they, since if it’s there, it’s an after-effect. The point is that what Pale Divine are doing is, to an extent, what they’ve always done in bringing to life the tenets of classic American doom metal while retaining the central identity of who they are as individual players and as a group.

For that, Pale Divine could hardly be more relevant, regardless of the fact that the lineup has changed since it was recorded. Their dynamic may indeed shift with Ortt as a member alongside DienerMcCloskey and McGinnis, but that’s a question for live shows and however many years down the road when and if there’s another album, because who the hell knows what might happen now and then. Pale Divine‘s self-titled earns the name by being a sincere representation of who the band is in its moment, and while moments are inherently fleeting, the poise and maturity of their craft and the passion so rife in their delivery are essential components of what makes them who they are, who they’ve become over their years together. That’s always been in flux and it still will be, but in context, Pale Divine reminds of that too, and so all the more stands as the epitome of their persona.

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Pale Divine website

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Shadow Kingdom Records website

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