Holy Grove Finish Work on New Album Holy Grove II

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 16th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Portland, Oregon, heavy rockers Holy Grove announce the completion of their second full-length. The four-piece of vocalist Andrea Vidal, guitarist Trent Jacobs, bassist Gregg Emley and drummer Eben Travis already toured the West Coast this year after announcing in January they’d signed to Ripple Music for the follow-up to their 2016 self-titled debut (review here), which was released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Like that record, the new one was tracked with Billy Anderson, but it’s immediately apparent Holy Grove aren’t looking to repeat themselves this time out.

In the update/announcement that follows here, Holy Grove talk about coming together as a band as a result of touring — that’s how it happens — and working out the material both on the road and in their rehearsal space. I look forward to hearing the record not just for its special guest appearance from a checkered-shoe doomer who gets to remain nameless, or for Anderson‘s production, but to hear where Holy Grove‘s songwriting has carried them in the wake of the self-titled being so well received and offering such a string of memorable tracks. Going by what I read in the update below, it seems like they’ve genuinely put the effort forward to make the best album possible at this time. If you can find an argument against that, I’d be interested to hear it. Except not really.

I’ll hope to have much more to come as we continue to move closer to the release, but for today, cheers to Holy Grove on finishing Holy Grove II and here’s to the anticipation of actually digging in.

Photos by Alyssa Herrman, an update from the band, and the album’s tracklisting all follow here:

holy grove 1 (Photo Alyssa Herrman)

We started tracking basically the day after we returned from our West Coast tour in April, and spent about four days tracking at Hallowed Halls in Portland. We then spent an additional couple of days tracking at Everything Hz. We really enjoyed being back in the studio. We felt prepared, focused and really excited about the new material, especially after playing the songs live nightly for a few weeks on tour. Billy (Anderson, engine-ear supreme) was fired up and invested and inspired us to push ourselves in getting the takes we wanted, and obviously crucial in getting the sounds we wanted on tape.

This time around we were able to demo the songs as a band in our practice space. We put a lot of effort into revising and massaging songs to get them to sound the way we heard them in our heads. Demoing allowed the four of us to work through all our ideas and make the necessary changes before heading into the studio, so we went in with a clear picture of what we hoped to achieve. The second biggest difference was being able to tour the record beforehand. Prior to Eben joining in June of 2017, we were rarely in a position where we could tour. In March we embarked on our first West Coast tour and spent the entire time becoming more comfortable with the songs, working out kinks and figuring out what was working and what wasn’t. Knowing the material and being able to hammer it out in a live setting allowed us to bottle that energy and bring it to the studio.

To us, the album to represents turning a page and crossing a threshold musically and emotionally that wasn’t available or apparent before. We’re a different band then we were when we made the first record and it was important to us to reflect that in the songs. We made it a point to listen to our gut during the entire writing and recording process, but still allowed the songs take on a life of their own and let them dictate where to go with them, if that makes sense… The songs are darker, more epic (there are five songs on this record but the overall runtime is longer than our first album, which had seven), and more emotionally reflective of what the band has been through in the last 3-4 years. Andrea’s vocals are more emotive and powerful and her lyrics darker and more personal. Trent immersed himself in his playing and has evolved immensely as a player. Eben and Gregg have become the rhythm section they both always wanted to be a part of. It’s a pretty exciting time for all of us, and we’re excited to see what the future holds.

Holy Grove II tracklisting:
Blade Born
Aurora
Valley of The Mystics
Solaris
Cosmos

Holy Grove is:
Andrea Vidal – Vocals
Trent Jacobs – Guitar
Gregg Emley – Bass
Eben Travis – Drums

https://www.facebook.com/holygroveband/
https://twitter.com/holygroveband
http://holygrove.bandcamp.com/
http://www.ripple-music.com
https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com
https://www.facebook.com/theripplemusic/

Holy Grove, Holy Grove (2016)

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Review & Track Premiere: Pushy, Hard Wish

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on June 19th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

pushy hard wish

[Click play above to stream the premiere of ‘Blacktop’ by Pushy. Their debut album, Hard Wish, ships in July from Who Can You Trust? Records and is available to preorder now.]

Classic heavy rock played with conviction, heart and an obvious appreciation for the finer things in life when it comes to riffs — there’s a lot to like immediately about Pushy‘s debut album, Hard Wish. Delivered like their prior split 12″ with Ragged Barracudas (review here) through Who Can You Trust? Records, the awaited release from the Portland, Oregon, outfit conjures a fuzzy vision of ’70s heavy that does more than just boogie, though of course there’s plenty of that as well. From earliest AC/DC to Thin Lizzy, to ZZ TOP, to King Crimson, to a sudden turn from stripped-down KISS strut into an atmospheric prog-out on “If I Cry,” it’s record that makes a point of going where and doing what it damn well pleases, and it even manages to include a wah-drenched revamp of their catchy original demo, “El Hongo” (discussed here) and its eight-track/40-minute run makes for an engaging, organic, live-sounding listen that makes the advice “take it easy” seem like time-honored wisdom.

Comprised of guitarist/vocalist Adam Burke (formerly of Fellwoods), who’s also responsible for the paintings on the front and back of the LP, as well as having done art for this site and a universe of others, Crag Dweller‘s Travis Clow, Neal Munson of Billions and Billions and Ron Wesley of Hosmanek, the four-piece set an easygoing vibe from the very first crashes and shuffling grooves of opener “Fanny’s,” and while they might careen from one influence to the next and offer a bit of zleaze (yup, spelled with two ‘z’s) here and there, it’s all in good fun and Hard Wish succeeds in casting its own identity from the varied elements that make it up, whether that’s the gallop of “Nasty Bag” or the arena-rock grandiosity in the beginning of “If I Cry.”

And there’s a flow at work. Wrapping up side A after “Fanny’s” and second cut “Nasty Bag,” with its nyah-nyah-nyah opening and street-rocking swing, “Blacktop” offers a first glimpse of Pushy‘s progressive side, digging back to the first King Crimson record like it ain’t no thing and pairing that with a proto-burl riff that in most hands would be repelled from the prior stretch like magnets refusing to touch but is absolutely made to work here. By the time they’re rushing through delivering the title-line, Pushy have expanded the context of “Blacktop” an album’s worth, and the fuzzy nod that emerges from there and turns back to the central riff is pure gravy. Only then does “If I Cry” build on the prog edge of “Blacktop” with its own relatively patient beginning and midsection break, the guitars leading the way through about a minute of instrumental exploration that gives way to silence before a volume-swelling solo emerges to wind the way back to the central rhythm, which gets topped with its own victory-lap of a lead before they noodle their way to the end. From that somewhat hypnotic finish, “El Hongo” eases its way in to start off side B with room for a bit of its own psychedelic meandering amid a landmark-feeling hook that’s a standout from the album as a whole.

Pushy 2018

The boogie is writ large over the secondary leadoff, but at five minutes, it’s not necessarily a mirror of “Fanny’s” at the start of the record, which had a shorter clocktime and more straightforward structure without the midsection departure that some of the longer songs make. In that regard, “If I Cry” is something of a foreshadow for the 10-minute closer “Lay of the Land” that follows “El Hongo,” “Lonesome Entry,” and “I’ll Be Gentle,” the latter two of which are also of the shorter variety. No doubt that vinyl considerations came into play when putting together the tracklisting with four songs per side, getting the runtimes close, and so on, but it’s worth pointing out that it works exceedingly well in terms of the front-to-back, with “Fanny’s” setting the tone literally and figuratively while smoothing the way into “Nasty Bag” and the three tracks that follow before “Lonesome Entry,” which is the shortest of the bunch at 2:27, ignites a speedy Cactus-style brashness with Burke‘s vocals hitting a higher register to match the more frenetic pacing of the verses.

Naturally, those are offset by more midpaced transitional sections and though it’s the shortest inclusion at 2:27, Pushy still squeeze in those tempo shifts before the before the cold ending brings on “I’ll Be Gentle” brings forth more boogie vibes and hooks in both its verse and chorus. There’s a tongue-in-cheek aspect to the lyrics — if I’m not mistaken there’s a reference to a “velvet hand” — but the classic feel of the songwriting and the live-style vibe of the recording come through just the same as on “Lonesome Entry” and really everything else before it. And it’s fitting that the two shorter cuts should give way to “Lay of the Land” at the end of the record, which not only makes the most of its two guitars but brings the rhythm section as well to some of its finest moments.

It’s an unenviable task to summarize what Hard Wish has thus far brought forth in its scope of formative heavy, but most if it appears within the more extended finale, from the patient and progressive opening to the subdued verses and the greater build and release that happens later on. Some parts seem to be begging for organ accompaniment, but I guess one has to leave some ground to cover on a sophomore outing, and as their debut, Hard Wish basks in its inspirations without falling into boogie rock cliché — except where it wants to, as on “I’ll Be Gentle” — and sets up a balance of straight-ahead and more exploratory movements to be toyed with from here on out. It’s a sound that, should Pushy be interested in such things, they can keep growing and expanding, since as we know the realm of classic heavy rock is by no means relegated to the past, and the chemistry between players on display throughout Hard Wish is of the sort that can’t be faked, least of all in such a stage-born-sounding context. From a Pacific Northwest so bent on partying, Pushy bring just a touch of class to the proceedings and remind that not all good times need to be overblown to be memorable.

Pushy on Thee Facebooks

Pushy on Instagram

Pushy on Bandcamp

Who Can You Trust? Records on Thee Facebooks

Who Can You Trust? Records website

Who Can You Trust? Records on Bandcamp

Pushy LP preorders from Who Can You Trust? Records

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Mirrors for Psychic Warfare to Support Godflesh; New Album in the Works

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 4th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

I was fortunate enough to catch Mirrors for Psychic Warfare live once, and the blend of elements from Scott Kelly‘s guitar and Sanford Parker‘s noisemaking mystery desk of, one assumes, a laptop, various manipulators, samplers, synth, etc., was like a physical presence in the room. One that put a hand right on your solar plexus and applied a steady pressure, with ebbs and flows, to be sure, but a pressure that, if you weren’t careful, could move you a step back. Their self-titled debut (review here) came out in 2016 via Neurot Recordings, and they have a follow-up said to be due this Fall. I for one think that would be just nifty.

They’ll also support Godflesh twice this summer, playing in Chicago and New York with the legendary industrial innovators. Talk about knowing your audience.

The PR wire puts it like this:

godflesh poster

MIRRORS FOR PSYCHIC WARFARE: Scott Kelly/Sanford Parker Collaboration To Play Two Special US Shows With Godflesh; New Record Due This Fall Via Neurot

MIRRORS FOR PSYCHIC WARFARE, the collaboration between Neurosis’ Scott Kelly and Buried At Sea’s Sanford Parker, will play two very special shows this August supporting industrial titans Godflesh! Set to take place in Chicago and New York City respectively, the August 24th appearance includes additional support from Harm’s Way and Ledge while the August 25th show features additional support from Tombs and Body Stuff. Tickets go on sale this Friday. The two performances come in advance of MIRRORS FOR PSYCHIC WARFARE’s next chapter of sonic anxiety set for release this fall via Neurot Records. Further details will be revealed in the coming weeks.

MIRRORS FOR PSYCHIC WARFARE w Godflesh:
8/24/2018 Metro, Chicago – IL w/ Harm’s Way, Ledge
8/25/2018 Gramercy Theatre – New York, NY w/ Tombs, Body Stuff

MIRRORS FOR PSYCHIC WARFARE released their self-titled debut via Neurot in 2016. A audio manifestation of insomnia, complete with the tossing, turning, and perennial dread that comes with facing a new day, the five songs that comprise Mirrors For Psychic Warfare lurch and pulsate across a sullen, desolate landscape with an almost curious obsessiveness.

https://www.facebook.com/mirrorsforpsychicwarfare
http://www.mirrorsforpsychicwarfare.bandcamp.com
http://www.neurotrecordings.com
http://www.facebook.com/neurotrecordings

Mirrors for Psychic Warfare, Mirrors for Psychic Warfare (2016)

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Pushy Debut Album Hard Wish Available to Preorder

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 31st, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Pushy 2018

With a July 16 ship date, preorders are up for the awaited full-length debut from Portland, Oregon, classic heavy rockers Pushy. Dubbed Hard Wish in apparent homage to just how much I’d like my seven-month-old son to take his morning nap right now, the album follows a 2016 split with Germany’s Ragged Barracudas (review here), as well as an earlier 2015 two-songer, If I Cried, named in apparent — and prescient! — homage to that same seven-month-old’s question that if he just screams for 45 solid minutes, will it be enough to make me go upstairs and end his apparent torture. In answer: no.

Anyhoozle, I’ve been waiting for Pushy‘s debut since I heard their demo (discussed here) in 2014, and the group sound like they’ve got their boogie in fine working order on the first public audio to come from Hard Wish, which is second track “Nasty Bag,” which you’ll find streaming at the bottom of this post, along with the preorder link preceded by a snazzy bio.

From the PR wire:

pushy hard wish

Pushy – Hard Wish

Have you ever watched the 1977 video of Ram Jam playing “Black Betty” in somebody’s front yard and asked yourself, “Why don’t we have bands who party like that anymore?” And after the very first time you witnessed a young bellbottomed James Gang set up their gear in the Mexicali desert and riff through “Laguna Salada” during the opening credits to the 1971 film Zachariah, did you ask yourself, “Are there even any bands this good today?” Or what about that time you laid virgin eyes upon the gatefold to ZZ Top’s Tres Hombres and took in a panoramic photograph that could only be described as a taqueria orgy? Did you ask, “Why can’t a newer style band make me feel this special?”

The answer to all these questions lives and pulses within the four musicians who comprise the Portland, Oregon based hard rock quartet, Pushy. If your ears have yet to be seduced by the God-hammered choogle of Pushy, it’s not too late for you. Their debut album Hard Wish has been captured in the band’s natural element and then released into the wild by the good people of Who Can You Trust? Records – a label that knows how and where to mine the rich ore of timeless rock ‘n’ roll. If the hot buttered distortion of the opening song “Fanny’s” (with its saucy boogie and howling guitar leads) doesn’t put an electric strut in your butt, there’s a pretty good chance that rock ‘n’ roll may be none of your business.

John Fogerty once sang that the people on the river are happy to give. But if you listen closely to the hard and heavy stomp of “Nasty Bag,” it sounds like the people on the river are waiting to kill you. Pushy have the power of rock surging through their veins and sometimes this power channels stories and spirits to help move you into parallel dimensions. Take “El Hongo” for instance – between Ron Wesley coaxing a gold top Les Paul to scream and wail through a tweed Victoria Bassman, and Adam Burke crooning for us to take it easy and close our eyes, there could never exist a reason why we would ever want to not keep on chooglin’. And when Travis Clow and Neal Munson kick off the album’s bookend jam “Lay of the Land” with their callused hands working a well-oiled rhythm section, you can almost smell the grease burning on the gears as the bass and drums pump out a loose and juicy groove that’s just begging for the guitars to rain riffs like there’s a storm in hell and we’re all invited to hang out and drink their beer.”

-Eric Shea (Hot Lunch/Sweet Chariot)

Pushy is: Travis, Ron, Adam, Neal

https://www.facebook.com/SOPUSHY/
https://www.instagram.com/pushyrockgroup/
https://pushy.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Who-Can-You-Trust-Records/187406787966906
whocanyoutrustrec.wordpress.com
whocanyoutrustrec.bandcamp.com
https://whocanyoutrustrec.bigcartel.com/product/pushy-hard-wish-lp-pre-order

Pushy, “Nasty Bag”

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Witch Mountain, Witch Mountain: Burning and Rebuilding

Posted in Reviews on May 16th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Witch-Mountain-Witch-Mountain

Let’s be honest: Losing a singer like the singer Witch Mountain lost is a worse fate than a band should have to endure. In 2014, following three each-better-than-the-last records in 2011’s South of Salem (review here), 2012’s Cauldron of the Wild (review here) and 2014’s gorgeous and sad Mobile of Angels (review here), frontwoman Uta Plotkin left the Portland, Oregon, doomers, and for a minute there, it looked like it might be the end. At least from the outside. But Witch Mountain existed before Plotkin — founding guitarist Rob Wrong and drummer Nathan Carson released the band’s debut, Come the Mountain (discussed here), in 2001 — and it would continue to exist after.

In a matter of months, the band was reformed in early 2015 with Wrong (who now also plays in The Skull), Carson, bassist Justin Brown (formerly of underrated trio Lamprey) and new vocalist Kayla Dixon, a transplant from Ohio with a background in the more straightforward metal outfit Demons Within, but whose voice was powerful enough to make one believe in fate. Tours with EnslavedThe SkullSaint Vitus and others followed, and in releasing their fifth album overall, first with the new lineup and first on Svart in North America as well as Europe, Witch Mountain‘s naming their latest LP Witch Mountain feels like a declaration in and of itself.

Or perhaps a victory lap, because what they came through and the manner in which they did is not to be understated. And the five-track/35-minute collection that’s resulted from three years of work on stage and an obviously thoughtful songwriting process is less about meeting the expectations of their audience than about making a definitive statement of who they are. Witch Mountain‘s Witch Mountain did not happen by accident.

From the first slogging riff and on-the-bell ride hits of opener “Midnight,” that’s readily apparent, and Dixon is about two lines into the first verse before she gives a first glimpse at the throat-ripper of a scream that seems a constant threat to be unleashed amidst her soulful melodic delivery. As a showcase of range and arrangement for her, the opener also boasts a choice solo from Wrong and gives Brown a chance to establish himself as indispensable on the low end. Witch Mountain has been through a succession of bassists but as the march of “Midnight” slams to starts and stops under Dixon‘s soaring voice, he proves an excellent fit with Wrong and Carson, and when they roll into a scream-laced hook in the second half of the track, the bass is all the more essential in setting the groundwork for that turn and the shift into the memorable Spirit cover “Mechanical World.”

The bluesy lyrics and vibe are an excellent fit for Witch Mountain‘s style of doom, Wrong adding subtle flourish around the central riff as Dixon again showcases her breadth as a vocalist, the song moving into manic thrust from its verse just for a minute before running into an even slower, minimal stretch of open, vocal-led atmospherics. If one thinks of “Midnight” as an introductory statement, and “Mechanical World” as helping to set the tone and range for the album as a whole, then the seven-minute side A closer “Burn You Down” is where Witch Mountain really seem to dig into the proceedings.

witch mountain photo whitey mcconnaughy

Dixon is nigh-omnipresent save for solo spots but not overbearing in the mix, and the drums and bass behind do well in setting up a build just past the midpoint where layers of backing choral vocals push her forward to set up a section of vitriolic screams and growls and spiteful lyrics. Wrong likewise tears into another echoing solo as Brown and Carson plod away behind, and “Burn You Down” lumbers to its finish and comes apart to silence at the close of the record’s first half.

As much as the narrative of Witch Mountain is invariably going to be based around the band pressing forward after what would have been the undoing of many acts — and not unreasonably so; that’s the story here and not a minor accomplishment — the truth is that happened three years ago and what’s even more striking is the movement and command within these songs. “Burn You Down,” inarguably the angriest track on the record, still keeps its sense of control as it shifts from one part to the next, and its motion is consuming.

There’s less time for swapping out vibes, but 2:23 acoustic-based side B opener “Hellfire” finds Dixon backed by a simple guitar line and cymbal washes, some piano, as she becomes an entire gospel choir and backs her own central lyric with professional-level ease. There’s a pause as if to say, “Okay, you just let that sink in,” and then the far-back guitar of howl of 14-minute closer “Nighthawk” arrives, complemented by a drum build and bass rhythm that slams into the fullness of its slow push. The band trades back and forth in volume and Dixon drawls out early verses and at the three-minute mark gorgeously matches notes with the start of a short solo from Wrong before the next verse.

A linear build is underway subtly, and the Dixon choral layers reemerge as the band approaches five-minutes in and pick up the tempo ahead of another open stretch and highlight vocal performance, self-harmonies and all. At about 8:20, the guitar takes the fore again and leads the transition into a section of tom fills, chugging riffs and growls and screams working in unison. There’s a break from the onslaught about two minutes later as the guitar seems to nod at fellow Oregonians and former tourmates YOB, but the churn fades back in and soon enough they’re back to destruction-mode. The final break is just after 12 minutes in and sets up a crescendo of spoken and sung vocals, full-on riffing and dirge march behind until the last wash of cymbal and fading feedback signals the end.

I’ve said as much before, but it bears repeating: They did it. They pulled it off. There’s no question in listening to Witch Mountain‘s Witch Mountain that the band is aware of who they are and what they want to be, but as much as one might argue the album is a reset, it’s not at all a step backward. They’ve set themselves on a new course that holds over elements of who they were before and will allow them to continue to progress as an outfit, and while for sure there will be some who doubt, once or twice through the album is enough to vaporize any question whatsoever. The statement is made. This is Witch Mountain. Long live.

Witch Mountain on Thee Facebooks

Witch Mountain on Bandcamp

Svart Records website

Svart Records on Thee Facebooks

Svart Records on Twitter

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R.I.P. Announce Headlining Tour Starting this Month

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 2nd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

rip

Portland, Oregon’s R.I.P. play as support tonight in their hometown on the last of three dates for some little band you may have heard of called Electric Wizard. Not a bad gig to get by any means. The four-piece released their second album, Street Reaper (review here) last Fall, and in addition to the gigs with Electric Wizard, they’ve got a headlining run coming up beginning May 31 that will take them all the way out to the East Coast before they turn back around and hit up Electric Funeral Fest III in Denver alongside an impressive host of compatriots. One expects by then they’ll either be totally sick of each other or absolutely on fire when it comes time to play. Probably some combination of the two.

The PR wire has all the info you need:

rip tour poster

R.I.P tour West Coast with Electric Wizard this week, announce summer headlining dates

Portland Street Doom band’s Street Reaper album out now on RidingEasy

Portland, OR ‘Street Doom’ quartet R.I.P. announce their first full U.S. headlining tour to kick off on May 31st. Please see complete dates below.

R.I.P.’s sophomore album Street Reaper is available to hear and share via YouTube and Bandcamp.

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

Borrowing equally from 80s Rick Rubin productions and Murder Dog magazine aesthetics, Street Reaper is a streamlined, yet brutally raw manifesto of heavy metal ferocity hearkening to the era when both metal and hip hop were reviled as the work of street thugs intent on destroying America’s youth.

Throughout, Angel Martinez’s guitar and John Mullett’s bass are inextricably interlocked, sounding like a massive sonic steamroller, while drummer Willie D keeps the beat solid and simple for the most powerful impact. And, the band’s extensive touring and excessive virgin sacrifices have clearly endued singer Fuzz with evermore agile vocal chords to drive it all home with extreme precision.

Operating on the belief that doom is not tied to a tuning or a time signature, but rather a raw and terrified feeling, R.I.P. eschews well trodden fantasy and mysticism tropes of the genre and focuses on conveying the horror and chaos inherent in the everyday reality of the human mind. With several years of touring under their heavily studded belt, R.I.P. has distinguished themselves from the interchangeable hordes of bands trying to play heavy metal by crafting an aesthetic and a sound all their own, focusing on the things that make metal heavy rather than adhering to the formulaic confines of a particular sub-genre.

Street Reaper opens with the knockout punch of “Unmarked Grave” and the rest is just sheer bludgeoning for bludgeoning’s sake as the album echoes the grimy vibe of legends like Saint Vitus, Pentagram and Motorhead, with the no b.s. aesthetic of the early Metal Massacre compilations.

Street Reaper is available on LP, CD and download as of October 13th, 2017 via RidingEasy Records.

R.I.P. LIVE:
05/31 San Francisco, CA @ Elbo Room
06/01 Reno, NV @ The Hideout
06/02 Las Vegas, NV @ Double Down
06/03 San Diego, CA @ Tower Bar
06/04 Long Beach, CA @ Blacklight
06/05 Flagstaff, AZ @ Green Room
06/06 Phoenix, AZ @ Tempe Tavern
06/07 Tucson, AZ @ Loudhouse
06/08 El Paso, TX @ Cigar Bar
06/09 Austin, TX @ Lost Well
06/10 San Antonio, TX @ The Mix
06/11 Houston, TX @ Rudyard’s
06/12 New Orleans, LA @ Poor Boys
06/14 Richmond, VA @ Strange Matter
06/15 Washington, DC @ TBA
06/16 Baltimore, MD @ Metro Gallery
06/18 Philadelphia, PA @ Kung Fu Necktie
06/19 New York, NY @ Saint Vitus
06/20 Boston, MA @ O’Briens
06/21 Brattleboro, VT @ TBA
06/22 Pittsburgh, PA @ Rock Room
06/23 Canton, OH @ The Buzz Bin
06/25 Dayton, OH @ Forces House
06/26 Chicago, IL @ Cobra Lounge
06/27 St. Louis, MO @ Fubar
06/28 Kansas City, MO @ Riot Room
06/29 Denver, CO @ Electric Funeral III
06/30 Salt Lake City, UT @ The Beehive

facebook.com/R.I.P.P.D.X
instagram.com/R.I.P.P.D.X
braveinthegrave.bandcamp.com
ridingeasyrecords.com

R.I.P., Street Reaper (2017)

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Mane of the Cur, Retreat of the Glaciers: Time Uncovered

Posted in Reviews on April 12th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Mane of the Cur Retreat of the Glaciers

Somewhere along the line, Portland, Oregon’s Mane of the Cur decided to open their debut full-length, Retreat of the Glaciers, with its eight-minute instrumental title-track. It would be hyperbole to say this made all the difference in the general impression the vinyl-ready eight-song/45-minute record makes, but it certainly goes a long way in establishing a progressive context for even the most straightforward of the material that follows. It was the bold choice, and the right one. “Retreat of the Glaciers” wouldn’t have worked anywhere else, and while its side-B-opening counterpart “9 Lives” — also the longest inclusion at 8:49 — unveils Melynda Marie Amann‘s vocals within its first 30 seconds, the fact that almost 20 percent of the album’s runtime is gone before she arrives on second track “Uncovering Time” gives all the more of a landmark feel to that arrival.

Comprised of Amann, guitarist Shawn Mentzer, bassist Cory DeCaire, keyboardist/cover artist Nate Baisch and drummer Blaine Burnham, Mane of the Cur have roots in the Portland heavy underground going back even beyond the band’s founding in 2012 — their last release was 2015’s Three of Cups EP (review here) — and accordingly, while Retreat of the Glaciers feels like a debut in the potential it shows and some of the turns it makes especially later in its going, the more pervasive sense is that this is an experienced band making conscious decisions about how they want to be perceived in terms of style and songwriting.

The opening title-track — so close at 8:40 to earning those immediate points for also being the longest song — plays a big role in that, and while it’s the kind of dogwhistle that a given listener might not even perceive consciously, more consumed perhaps by the languidly rolling groove, the inclusion of flute (or flute sounds) and the classic rocking, almost pastoral guitar triumph that emerges near the halfway point and carries through to a return of heavier riffing and an eventual keyboard-led finish, the message comes through clearly one way or the other.

Retreat of the Glaciers was recorded and mixed by Eric Leavell at Husk Recording and mastered by Justin Weis at Trakworx Studio, and its presentation is clear but not necessarily unnatural. There are moments, as on “1,000 Years,” when some of the forward-pushing riffing calls to mind fellow Portlanders Young Hunter, but the spirit behind what Mane of the Cur are exploring is different and their sound is their own. Amann, absent entirely from the opener, ends up playing a significant role in standing out the individuality of the band. Her vocals are melodic and soulful, and whether it’s a straightforward verse/chorus rocker like second track “Uncovering Time,” which launches right away into its first lyrics, or “9 Lives,” which reminds of the spaciousness Ancestors brought to their brilliant In Dreams and Time LP, or the harmonies put atop the penultimate “1 Bullet,” which holds forth a more thoroughly doomed progression and pace until its chugging payoff in bridge in the final third, where a solo might otherwise be, she holds a commanding presence within complex material, providing an element to ground the listening experience without sacrificing any of the underlying complexity of the arrangements between the keys and guitar, the guitar and the guitar, the bass and drums, the drums and keys, etc.

mane of the cur logo

While crisply presented, these intertwinings all come together to form the complete picture Mane of the Cur seem to want to evoke with Retreat of the Glaciers: something classic in style, modern in presentation, and forward-thinking in its construction. That they ultimately reach those individual goals while also creating a full-album flow between the eight individual tracks and two intended vinyl sides is what makes their debut a success. That and the fact that it rocks, anyway. But it also rocks while feeling like a complete idea — which is to say, there doesn’t seem to be a missing element from the listening experience. Perhaps Mane of the Cur have realized the aesthetic that Three of Cups and the preceding Wild Hunt EP were moving toward. If so, Retreat of the Glaciers is all the more a victory for them.

That’s not to say there isn’t still room for growth in their sound, however. It’s been six years since the band got their start and while it took them a while to solidify their lineup, it’s still been three since Three of Cups surfaced. I wouldn’t call Retreat of the Glaciers, even with the accomplishment that is “Reefer Magnus (Lonely Mountain)” or the closing Sabbath-gone-noodling boogie of “White Beard” to its credit, the be-all-end-all of Mane of the Cur‘s potential. Rather, it provides the group a basis from which to expand their sound going forward. Nothing new for debut albums, except perhaps that despite their consistent use of traditional structures, the foundation on which Mane of the Cur have to build feels particularly broad. And I go back again to the decision to open with that instrumental. It’s the kind of brazen, and frankly, brave, thing that most bands toss around in the studio as a joke when they’re putting together the track order and then go with something hookier or more structured.

The signal one gets from Mane of the Cur, both there and across the album as a whole, is that while they definitely have an interest in traditional rock songwriting and structure, they’re not necessarily looking to be limited by them, and that thoughtfulness is what earns them the “progressive” tag in terms of style. It was a while waiting for Retreat of the Glaciers — could’ve been longer; it wasn’t enough time to, say, earn a crappy line about the pace being “glacial” — and I don’t know how long it will be before the band presents a follow-up or what form that might ultimately take, but perhaps the clearest signal they send throughout these eight songs is their desire to step forward creatively, to grow tighter in their dynamic and more sure of who they are as a unit. The key, as for so many progressive heavy rockers, will be staving off and/or finding a balance with self-indulgence, but Mane of the Cur seem to have made an encouraging opening statement in that regard as well.

Mane of the Cur, Retreat of the Glaciers (2018)

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Review & Track Premiere: Shrine of the Serpent, Entropic Disillusion

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on April 11th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

shrine of the serpent entropic disillusion

[Click play above to stream ‘Rending the Psychic Void’ by Shrine of the Serpent. Entropic Disillusion is out April 23 on Memento Mori.]

If death-doom’ had boxes, Shrine of the Serpent would put a big ol’ check mark next to just about each one. The band, founded by Portland-based guitarist/vocalist Todd Janeczek (also Aldebaran, Roanoke, etc.) took shape out of the prior, sludgier outfit Tenspeed Warlock, and Shrine of the Serpent‘s debut full-length, Entropic Disillusion (on Memento Mori), follows a 2015 self-titled EP and a 2016 split with Black Urn and shows an unmistakable turn toward the darkness. At nearly an hour long and marked by grueling atmospheres like a scar across the face, overwhelming waves of filthy distortion, and the general sense of being coated in a brew that’s equal parts filth and misery, its seven tracks, like any semi-responsible hunter, consume in its entirety, leaving no part of the listener to waste away.

By its very nature, the extremity of lumber brought to bear by Janeczek, former Uzala and Graves at Sea drummer Chuck Watkins and bassist/guitarist Adam DePrez (ex-Sod Hauler, etc.) seems to seek to overwhelm, the ambience as crushing as the riffs themselves, and no doubt that for some listeners, they simply will. Entropic Disillusion, reveling in the muck of “Hope’s Aspersion,” the chugging penultimate cut “Epoch of Annihilation,” and the earlier malevolently-conveyed solitude of “Hailing the Enshrined,” is not at all an easy listen. If it was, the band would have just about completely failed in their mission, which pretty clearly is to steamroll the hearts and minds of those who’d dare take them on. Sounds like hyperbole? It is. That’s the point. Entropic Disillusion, even unto the fact that its intro, “Descend into Dusk,” runs six minutes long before giving way to “Hailing the Enshrined,” is meant to be a work of extremity. It’s supposed to provoke a strong response, to pull one out from behind their mental blockade, and to toss them down a well of ultra-depressive thud.

That’s the thing, right? To celebrate the darkness, rather than be repelled by it? Or maybe to celebrate defying that sense of repulsion to embrace it? Either way, the result is a viciousness of purposeness that Shrine of the Serpent meet head on. Not nearly so lush as some in the style on songs like “Hope’s Aspersion,” with the aforementioned six-minute intro and materia generally so slow, there would almost have to be an emergent atmosphere, though it’s worth noting that even the intro — which one on paper might expect to be piano or something of the like, is stood-out by its foundation-crumbling riff. Bookended on either side by quieter guitar, “Descend into Dusk” indeed lurches forth, leading the listener down the spiraling path that bleeds into the soft opening of “Hailing the Enshrined.” This, like some of the other titles, like the band’s moniker and the name of the record, seems like it might be more derived from death metal, but even at their fastest, Shrine of the Serpent remain decidedly doomed in their pacing. “Hailing the Enshrined” unfurls itself patiently but bursts to full-boar tonality at 2:37 into its 9:47, and flows into an ever-noisier cacophony of pummel before once again dropping out the heavier push and ending on quiet guitar.

shrine of the serpent

The subsequent “Hope’s Aspersion,” though it’s 10 minutes long, immediately establishes its central march and holds to it for most of the first five minutes while also teasing the speedier progression still to come in the second half, in trades back and forth between faster and slower parts, ending with what’s arguably the most brutal stretch on Entropic Disillusion before the weeping guitar of centerpiece “Desecrated Tomb” takes hold, its full, not-to-be-understated heft kicking in before the first minute is out. Something of a roller, it reminds a bit of some of YOB‘s slowest crawls, but of course the stylistic context is different, and Janeczek‘s overwhelming distortion once again holds the day. Watkins‘ drums are effective in punctuating the roll and holding the proceedings together, and DePrez, whether he’s harmonizing on guitar or adding low end, fills out a sound that manifests a mood of disaffection and disdain universally without chestbeating or trying to tout its own righteousness. The only way it goes is down.

That is to say, if you’re looking for that sign of light that many of the bleakest records offer, Shrine of the Serpent aren’t giving. The 4:34 interlude “Returning” is a channel-swapping drone pulsation — I’ve had to stop it a couple times because it feels like pressure in the ears — met with spoken whispers, vague and echoing over other emergent noise. Affecting in terms of its brooding sensibility, it’s further reinforcement of the grim atmosphere that pervades throughout and cedes ground to “Epoch of Annihilation,” which calls back to the more uptempo stretches of “Hope’s Aspersion” eventually, but cakes itself in mud before getting there. It’s linear, forward build in terms of pace, and as the song is instrumental except perhaps from some vague and possibly imagined chants, the movement is all the more at the center. Shrine of the Serpent execute it well and cap with a wash of noise, a slowdown and, for the last 90 seconds of so, a quiet moment (there’s the piano!) that resonates even as it fades into the crash at the start of closer “Rending the Psychic Void.”

Second in length only to “Hope’s Aspersion” at 10:07, the finale of Entropic Disillusion underscores and summarizes much of the purpose of the records as a whole, which is geared toward the wretched and the vicious in intent. Unlike “Epoch of Annihilation,” there’s no surge waiting to happen, and instead, after plodding and growling their way through the first half of the song, the second turns to a long guitar lead that in turn shifts into a final verse and the noise that actually closes out. The rhythm holds together underneath for the most part, but after a few crashes the drums and bass drop out and guitar feedback is the last sound before it, too, fades out. As Janeczek has been arguably working toward this release for a decade since he got started with Tenspeed Warlock, it must be somewhat cathartic to see it realized. Another result of that time, however, is that Entropic Disillusion is also resoundingly sure in its approach, all the more so as a “debut,” and if this is the begging of an exploration of the darkened recesses, Shrine of the Serpent show themselves here of being more than capable of leading the way down.

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