Friday Full-Length: Orodruin, Epicurean Mass

Posted in Bootleg Theater on September 29th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Orodruin, Epicurean Mass (2003)

Next time you’re looking for an example of a band who really, really, really, really need to get another record out, keep Orodruin in mind. I’m talking about the kind of band who’d be doing the world a favor by putting out something new, and that’s the Rochester doomers all the way. Not saying I need something from them every six months or anything like that — like they’re about to turn into some Upstate New York Hawkwind or something — but it’s been over 14 years since their debut full-length, Epicurean Mass, came out via PsycheDOOMelic Records, and if you believe in the concept of “overdue,” then there’s just about no way a sophomore outing from Orodruin doesn’t qualify.

True, the band have had a number of short offerings out since then. 2004 brought a split with Reverend Bizarre as well as the compilation Claw Tower… and Other Tales of Terror that’s basically stood in ever since where a second full-length might’ve otherwise been, but that was basically it until they were selling a new demo at Days of the Doomed in 2011 and they had copies of the subsequent, limited-to-30-copies In Doom EP for sale when they played the Wisconsin-based fest in 2012 as well — as I recall it was in a paper sleeve; without looking I’m at least 90 percent sure mine is upstairs on the rack with the other sleeve purchases — but even that was half a decade ago now and throughout most of that stretch, news of a follow-up hasn’t gone much beyond “it’s in progress” or “we’re writing”-type updates. Nothing even close to a firm release date, label news, etc., and listening to the Epicurean Mass, that only adds to the void conjured by the classic-style doom of songs like “Burn the Witch” and “Melancholia.” With the mournful vocals of bassist Mike Puleo at the fore over the schooled-and-schooling riffs of guitarists Nick Tydelski and John Gallo, the latter also of Blizaro and his own admirably Paul Chain-esque solo work, backed by the lumbering drums of Mike WaskeEpicurean Mass has to stand among one of the most underrated US trad doom releases of all time.

Think about it this way. Orodruin formed in 1998 and issued Epicurean Mass in 2003. That puts them roughly concurrent to Indianapolis’ The Gates of Slumber, who formed in ’98 and put out their first record, The Awakening, in 2004. Think about the trajectory of the two bands. The Gates of Slumber spent years touring their collective ass off and released a total of five albums between ’04 and their swansong in 2011, and came to represent the head of a movement of traditionalist doom the influence of which is still spreading. Maybe you have to have seen Orodruin play live to get this sense, but there’s no way Orodruin couldn’t have been right there with the Midwesterners in profile and prestige. I think that comes through when you hear to the harmonies in “Peasants Lament” and “War Cry” — let alone the organ in the latter, which sets up the perfect preface for the final stretch of the eight-minute closing title-track — or the downer shuffle of “Pierced by Cruel Winds,” the rumble of “Unspeakable Truth” and the tempo shifts in “Melancholia.” In tone and presence, Orodruin were no less dynamic than The Gates of Slumber or anyone else working in the style at the time — hell, look at the legacy Reverend Bizarre have left behind in Europe; you can still see the ripples in new doom acts almost every week on release day. That’s not to take away from RevBiz or The Gates of Slumber at all. Those bands worked hard in the studio and on the road to earn the prestige they enjoyed during their respective time together. Nobody was sneaking their way to popularity there or getting away with a shortcut. I’m just saying the quality of Orodruin‘s craft, particularly on Epicurean Mass, meets that same quality standard, and in no small part because they never toured as much or as widely and haven’t to-date issued a follow-up LP, they never got to the same level of recognition for their work.

Is it too late? I don’t know. On July 5 of this year, Orodruin posted an update saying they would be tracking demos in August and September to kick around to labels and had picked out a studio to begin recording proper on their second album in December. Never say never in rock and roll. It could be that 2018 will finally bring a new Orodruin full-length and perhaps that will let them get some measure of the recognition they’ve long since deserved. Some 14 years — by then it will be 15 — after Epicurean Mass, one hesitates to offer a prediction either way, but if there’s hope of it coming together and actually happening, it’s hard to imagine labels like Shadow KingdomThe Church Within, or maybe even someone like Svart wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to stand behind the four-piece’s work. And as to what it might sound like? My guess is it would be doomed as hell. Frankly, it’s hard to think about the prospect and not get excited at what might come, but if it even happens, it’s probably a ways off, so yeah. Measured response. Cool your jets.

And in the meantime, one of the most righteous aspects of Epicurean Mass is that its decay is as ripe today as it was when it first came out, so if you’ve never heard it or if you’re revisiting after a while, I most definitely hope you enjoy its doomly processions.

Thanks as always for reading.

Oy, this week.

Though it started out exceedingly pleasant as The Patient Mrs. and I continued a long weekend in Vermont to celebrate our anniversary, I’ll say I’m not at all sorry to see it come to an end. The site, as you may or may not have noticed, shit the bed on Tuesday. The deal was basically that HostGator, the company I’ve used for the last however many years to host it, decided that it took up too much processor power and shut it down, more or less holding it hostage until I either did some shit that wasn’t going to actually fix anything and was going to take up a bunch of time or — and something tells me this was actually what they were going for — gave them more money to move to a dedicated server.

Well fuck that, and fuck them. With the generosity of Behrang Alavi of Samavayo, who it just so happens offered a while ago to host the site, we’re now in the process of making a switch. The site’s back up (you’re reading it, so yeah), and Behrang and Slevin have been working hard all week to make the transition happen while I’ve sat and fretted to no fucking end and tried to keep up with the writing end of things in no small part to stop myself from going insane. Minimally effective. We were back live yesterday. Two days’ downtime. On the grand scheme that’s nothing, but still kind of excruciating for me personally in a way I’m not sure I can properly express.

Came back from Vermont on Wednesday because The Patient Mrs. had work, kind of feeling like we were getting away with something by sneaking that trip in before the baby comes. Getting closer to the Oct. 15 due date. Just a couple weeks now. All’s well on that front. The Patient Mrs. remains aglow despite some well-earned discomfort, and all the ultrasounds and midwife visits show The Pecan as healthy and basically just waiting to show up and start kicking ass. We’re stoked.

As I noted last week was our wedding anniversary, this week — yesterday, actually — was the anniversary of when The Patient Mrs. and I first got together. 20 years ago. In 1997. Unbelievable. She is so much a part of my life. Like, all of it. And I feel like we’re just about to start this whole new adventure. It’s an amazing time and it’s going to be really challenging and really exciting and all of these things. But we’re doing it together, is the thing. I’m so lucky. 20 years. I was 15.

Having just come back from Vermont the day before, we didn’t really do much to celebrate. She went to work and I plowed away catching up on Obelisk stuff at home, but I grilled her some chicken and a garlic-infused burger for myself (also made a garlic/truffle aioli to go on top of that, which was amazing) and sauteed some baby kale and we sat down to dinner together and then watched baseball on the couch for a while before crashing out, so not by any means an unpleasant evening. This weekend we’re in Connecticut to see her family and my family and then back to MA on Sunday for The Patient Mrs.’ baby shower with her coworkers. I’m told I have to go. Seems debatable to me at best.

Next week, we wrap the Quarterly Review on Monday and there’s more to come besides. Here’s what’s in my notes now, subject to change as always and as this week certainly has been:

Mon.: Quarterly Review Day 6; Tronald video; Freak Valley 2018 announcement.
Tue.: Young Hunter track premiere/review; Asteroid video premiere.
Wed.: Enslaved review; Aux track premiere.
Thu.: Black Mare review; Rancho Bizarro video.
Fri.: Radio Moscow review.

Those reviews and some more slated for the week after is stuff I’m trying to get in before The Pecan shows up, but we’ll see how it goes. We’re close enough now to the due date that it could basically be anytime, so if it happens that’s obviously going to affect my ability to get reviews done as slated at least in the immediate for a few days, right? Can’t really be like, “Hey baby, I know you’re in labor but this Radio Moscow album ain’t gonna write itself up! Also what’s the hospital wifi?” So yeah. Please know I’ll do what I can when I can. Same as always.

I hope you have a great and safe weekend, whatever you’re up to. I appreciate you taking the time to read, and I think you for your patience with the downtime this week. Hopefully that’s over with at this point, but in any case, yeah, thanks. And special thanks to Slevin and Behrang as well.

Have fun. Be safe. Thanks for reading. Back Monday. Forum and Radio.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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Six Dumb Questions with Alunah

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on November 1st, 2012 by JJ Koczan

It comes and goes from the ether of the mental jukebox, but the chorus of the title-track to Alunah‘s White Hoarhound is never far off. Its resonant melody, rich tones and ethereal subject matter stand the band’s PsycheDOOMelic label debut — second album overall behind 2010’s Call of Avernus — in line with rich traditions within British rock, from late ’60s psychedelic pop to thunderous modern doom and massively fuzzed riffing. White Hoarhound (review here) and Call of Avernus (review here) are both strikingly cohesive outings from a still relatively nascent four-piece, but the newer record sets itself apart in an atmosphere and thematic geared toward pre-Christian nature-worship and particularly the rich pagan history of the British Isles.

Songs like “The Offering,” “Belial’s Fjord,” and “Chester Midsummer Watch Parade” hone in on these ideas — as, I suppose, do the title-cut, opener “Demeter’s Grief” and the closing duo of “Oak Ritual I” and “Oak Ritual II” — but more to the point in terms of listening to the album, they do so with a clear-headed musicality, subtle psychedelic essence and gorgeous songwriting. Guitarist/vocalist Sophie Day (more often shortened just to Soph), fellow guitarist Dave Day, bassist Gaz Imber and drummer Jake Mason execute a tonal thickness that’s second to few whose entire schtick isn’t tonal thickness, but do so without sacrificing choruses that are memorable for more than just being heavy. As much as the riff of “Demeter’s Grief” launches the album in lumbering form, and as much as Imber‘s bass earns high marks across the board, it’s the songs themselves that stand out. Even the acoustic-led “Oak Ritual I” — on which Tony Reed, who mixed and mastered the Greg Chandler production, donates guest organ — leaves a lasting impression.

As Soph says herself on “Oak Ritual II,” “The connection to the earth feels electric this time.” Alunah have set themselves a path with White Hoarhound, and should they choose to walk it and develop their sound from what they present on these seven tracks, there’s little to limit whatever their contribution might become. It’s a special moment for the band, and given that, I wanted to hit the band up to get some idea of what went into making the songs and the album, their origins and plans going forward.

Soph was kind enough to accommodate. For those in the UK, Alunah are playing Nov. 10 at The Gas Works in Bradford and Nov. 16 in Birmingham at Asylum Birmingham with Gentlemens Pistols. More info on that at the links below. Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

1. Tell me about writing White Hoarhound. How and when did the songs start to come together? What was the first song you wrote for the album and how did it come about?

We gigged and toured Call of Avernus for quite a while, and all of our practices were taken up with us playing the songs off Avernus so we were itching to start coming up with new ideas. We probably started seriously thinking about the second album around the beginning of 2011. The first song we wrote was “Chester Midsummer Watch Parade,” we had a strong idea of how we wanted the album to sound and “CMWP” embodied that perfectly. Dave wrote the riff for it and it was just perfectly dark and moody whilst at the same time being uplifting and groovy. We’re not a dark, depressing band by any means but we do have that side to us, and “CMWP” captures that side to us whilst at the same time celebrating the Midsummer in typical Alunah style. As soon as we wrote it we started playing it live — the rest of the songs didn’t get a live airing until the middle of 2012.

2. In terms of putting the record together and structuring the songs one into the next, was “Oak Ritual II” always going to be the album closer? Did that song come first or the acoustic part before it?

Once we finished the songs it was a tossup between “Belial’s Fjord” or “Oak Ritual II” for the album closer and I think we made a good choice. “Oak Ritual” originally sounded quite different, and we only titled it in the studio. We moved the structure of the song around quite a lot, Dave and I had a jam at home and came up with the idea for “Oak Ritual I.” We went to rehearsal and played it to Gaz and Jake, from there we based the final “Oak Ritual II” on it so they kind of fed off each other in terms of which came first. The final “Oak Ritual I” wasn’t developed until we recorded it — the most of what you hear on the recording is Dave jamming on the acoustic. Same with all the backing vocals, they were las- minute studio additions, I’m so glad we did them too.

3. What is your lyric-writing process like? The lyrics on White Hoarhound seem to be coming from a quiet kind of place — they’re not really angry, sometimes sad, but still really thoughtful. Are there any rituals you have for writing the lyrics to get in the right mindset?

That’s a really nice summary of what I also feel about the lyrics. I don’t get into a ritual at all, with Avernus I remember sitting down and thinking “right, I’m going to write some lyrics,” but with Hoarhound I didn’t. The only song I really remember sitting down and writing was “Demeter’s Grief.” I’d been reading about the harvest, and the mythology attached to them, it fascinated me so I wrote that song. The rest of the songs kind of found me. I know that sounds pretentious but they did. I can’t remember ever sitting down and preparing myself to write them. I’m lucky to live amongst beautiful countryside, and I’m never short of inspiration. “White Hoarhound” was written from random thoughts which came into my head on a Welsh headland at a time when I found out my dad had lung cancer. “White Hoarhound” (normally spelt “horehound”) is actually a root the monks used to treat lung conditions with, and the headland I was standing on was where it was grown. I won’t go into massive detail on the others as I like listeners to attach their own meanings to them. I will say that this year has been a difficult one for my family, and the songs were born from a very sad and thoughtful period — they were my means of escaping into a different world. On a lighter note, I did watch a programme about flamingos and wrote a song about them… unfortunately for everyone, the rest of the band rejected it — that could have been a cracking song hahahaha!

4. Did you actually get to see the Chester Midsummer Watch? I caught some of it on YouTube and it seemed pretty psychedelic in that medieval kind of way — perfect for Alunah. That song seems to be in a tradition of British rock songwriting. Reminds me of a late ‘60s or early ‘70s psych record. Was there something in particular about the parade that inspired it?

I’m actually planning on going to see it next year — they also have a Winter Watch Parade which is smaller but has some of the characters from the Midsummer Watch Parade. The parade didn’t actually inspire the song, I’m not sure what did if I’m honest — we were just jamming and the riff came out of that. The lyrics, like the parade are celebrating the midsummer and I’m definitely interested in England’s medieval and also pagan culture. The song had a different name originally but when I read about the parade I changed the name in tribute. The parade was actually started in the 1100s and was banned for a period as it had dancing naked young boys as part of the parade — inappropriate even back then! It only recently came back to Chester and I think it’s just a beautiful, lively celebration of the Midsummer, complete with giants, jesters, dragons, devils and beasts. Thousands of people visit Chester to watch it, I’m not sure they all understand what it’s about but they all join in with the celebrations and it looks amazing, I can’t wait to visit next year.

5. How long were you in the studio recording? Did you do the album all in one shot or space it out? The tones are very warm and natural in the guitar and bass. Was there something specific about recording for White Hoarhound that you wanted to do differently from Call of Avernus?

We were in the studio recording for just five days, spaced out over weekends. We really wanted to capture the live tones on this record, we were close with Avernus but I think Greg (Chandler – who recorded it) nailed it with Hoarhound. We recorded AND mixed Avernus in four days. This time we spent more time recording and could work with our amps more to get the right sound. The other thing we did differently was to have someone else mix the record, Greg recorded and mixed Avernus, James Plotkin mastered it. This time Greg recorded, and Tony Reed mixed and mastered. Like us, Tony thrives on that ‘70s sound, so it was cool to have that meeting of different styles. He brought out the tones superbly, and we were especially pleased with the bass sound — so heavy!

6. You’re playing in November with Gentlemans Pistols and Desert Storm. Any other shows coming up, plans for the New Year you want to mention or closing words?

Yeah that’ll be an awesome gig on the 16th, we’re also in Bradford in November on the 10th with our mates Gods of Hellfire, Arkham Witch and Arke. We’ve got some big plans for 2013 which are being talked about at the moment — at least one big tour, possibly another and some other cool news which we’re discussing. Hahaha sorry to be so annoyingly vague but until they’re firm plans we don’t want to jinx things. Keep checking www.alunah.co.uk or www.facebook.com/alunah.doom for updates and thanks so much for everyone’s support in 2012.

Alunah on Bandcamp

PsycheDOOMelic Records

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UK Special — Alunah, White Hoarhound: Call of the Forest

Posted in Reviews on September 24th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

Alunah’s rise has been marked and impressive these last several years. The four-piece hail from Birmingham – a pretty good place to be from if you’re into the heavy – and their latest offering is White Hoarhound. The album is their debut for new label PsycheDOOMelic and their second full-length overall behind 2010’s impressive Call of Avernus debut (review here), a split with Queen Elephantine (review here) in 2009 and 2008’s preceding Fall to Earth EP, and the central difference between it and everything the band has done to this point is a clarity of mindset. With White Hoarhound’s seven tracks/47 minutes, what’s most apparent in listening is that Alunah have a much clearer idea than they’ve ever had before of who and what they are as a band. The guitars of Sophie Day and Dave Day are thick, viscous and forward in the mix alongside Gaz Imber’s bass, and Jake Mason’s drums beat out straightforward motion in line with the riffs. They are rarely showy as a band, but these songs deliver quality heaviness, a few standout choruses, and a solidified aesthetic rooted in pagan-style nature-worshiping lyrics. Sophie’s vocals are a defining element, and where in the past I’ve likened her voice to Lori S., that’s never been less true than it is on White Hoarhound. Some similarities remain, but as Sophie begins to come into her own as a singer, she necessarily leaves that and other such influences behind her. One still gets the sense in listening to their second album that Alunah are continuing to develop as a unit, but there are plenty of instances throughout the sophomore LP that show that potential beginning to pay off, both in terms of songwriting, as on the title-cut, and in terms of performance, as on the harmonized acoustic guitar/organ penultimate track, “Oak Ritual I.” The production of Greg Chandler (who also helmed Call of Avernus) and a mixing/mastering job from the increasingly ubiquitous Tony Reed finds the album moody but crisp, and with a darker atmosphere around them than last time out, the doom in Alunah’s sound has never come across better than it does here.

As on the debut, that doom comes tempered with a fuzz rock mentality that ties these tracks closely to the riffs on which they’re founded. Alunah would hardly be the first band to be driven by the progressions of their guitars, but it sets up a singularity of approach that plays out across much of White Hoarhound. I don’t necessarily think it’s a detriment to the album, however, since the mood is varied along the way and the unit don’t tie themselves to just one structure. That is, not every verse sounds the same, not every riff sounds the same, not every song winds up in the same place. So while it’s the riffs being followed, the destination changes. They touch on psychedelia here and there, as in the very intro of the album on opener “Demeter’s Grief,” but on the whole, it’s a doomier kind of sound than last time out, thicker, with Gaz’s bass right up front playing off Sophie and Dave’s guitars. No complaints there. The grooves are weighted but not drudging, and “Demeter’s Grief” does a solid job in setting up the listener for what’s to come throughout the album, shifting smoothly between a slower verse and more upbeat chorus, catchy and memorable with semi-mystical lyrics that serve as a distinguishing factor throughout the whole of White Hoarhound, including on the title-track, which follows and features the best of the album’s choruses. Sophie layers and backs herself on vocals, and the song’s musical bounce and vocal cadence comes across not unlike that of Mars Red Sky’s “Strong Reflection,” the heft in the guitars and bass once more not weighing the song down in the slightest. Alunah move into an effective start-stop groove in the second half, playing up the swagger for a brief break before cutting to a section of noise and skillfully bringing back the verse with a gong hit and revitalized purpose. Rightly, they end with the chorus, and shift directly into Mason’s drum intro for “Belial’s Fjord,” which at 8:03 is the longest track on the album, closer “Oak Ritual II” having a longer runtime but ending earlier.

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Wino Wednesday: Wino Guests on Guitar for Wall of Sleep, 2005

Posted in Bootleg Theater on June 6th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

Happy Wino WednesdayIt’s been a really long time since the last time Wino Wednesday was a guest spot track. Since January, actually (unless you count Probot), and that was live, not studio. To help make up for lost time, I thought we’d hear from Hungarian traditional doomers Wall of Sleep, who had Scott “Wino” Weinrich contribute a guitar track on the song “From the Bottom of These Days” from their 2005 outing, Sun Faced Apostles.

Though I more or less permanently mix up Wall of Sleep (who are named for a Sabbath song) with Well of Souls (who are named for a Candlemass song), “From the Bottom of These Days” is nothing if not a standout track, Wino making his presence felt early with a ripping lead to set up the vocal line from Gábor Holdampf (also formerly of Mood) in the verse. The band’s second album, Sun Faced Apostles was released by PsycheDOOMelic, and Wall of Sleep have two records since then, the latest being 2010’s When Mountains Roar on Nail Records.

So while you contemplate playing four albums’ worth of catch-up with Hungary’s trad doom scene, check out “From the Bottom of These Days” below, and as always, have a happy Wino Wednesday:

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Alunah Ink Deal with Big Bad Mother’s House Booking

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 16th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

Feels like three days ago after that Monster Magnet review, but you might recall earlier this afternoon when I put up that Dopefight video I rattled off a list of badass British bands. Well, I left off Alunah from that list, not because they don’t rule, but because I wanted to take a second to single out the four-piece and say congratulations on signing a deal with the Big Bad Mother’s House booking agency. Hopefully this means Alunah will hit the road prior to the release (and after too, I suppose) of their next album, but until then, I’m looking forward to their set at the Desertfest in London.

Here’s the news, swiped from the band’s website:

We’re very pleased to announce that this week we have signed with Bristol-based Big Bad Mother’s House music talent booking agency.

The agency is home to Riotgod (Monster Magnet members Bob Pantella and Jim Baglino), the Argentinian sludge rockers Banda de la Muerte, Venezualan heavy lords Cultura Tres and many more.

Alunah will be playing the International Powerhouse of Doom Festival on April 5 at Scruffy Murphys, Birmingham, with both Banda de la Muerte and Cultura Tres. Other bands on the bill include Stone Axe, Stubb and Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight.

Both Alunah and Cultura Tres will also be hitting DesertFest in April.

To contact Big Bad Mother’s House regarding an Alunah booking please email: info@bigbadmothershouse.com, call (UK) +44 1179390432 or +44 07505775703 or visit: http://www.bigbadmothershouse.com.

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Negative Reaction Interview with Ken-E Bones: Frequencies From Among the Trobbits

Posted in Features on December 8th, 2011 by JJ Koczan

Down in the valley where I live, we have a saying. Okay, it’s only me that has the saying, but still. It goes like this: “You’ve got seven billion people in this world, but there’s only one Ken-E Bones.” And it’s true. More than almost anyone I’ve ever met, the man is unique unto himself. His persona, his unremitting will and his oddball sense of humor are neither for this world nor of it — and as a friend and someone who (at least I think) has some grip on what he thinks of “this world,” I mean that in the best way possible.

He’ll argue the point (and he does in the interview that follows), but Bones is Negative Reaction. You simply can’t have one without the other. The guitarist/vocalist founded the band at the tender age of 18, and more than 20 years later, he’s a legend of East Coast sludge. As much as names like Grief and Buzzov*en have become synonymous with the growth of the genre, so too has Negative Reaction been pivotal in its spread, and unlike those and many others, they’ve never seen a lick of cred for it either.

Negative Reaction‘s latest full-length is Frequencies From Montauk, and the album does a lot of work in bringing Bones‘ personality to the recordings. Most notable to anyone familiar perhaps with their 1996 Endofyourerror debut or 2003’s Everything You Need for Galactic Battle Adventures, the new record plays up the more stoner rock side of Bones‘ influence. He sings clean for the most part, and the focus on the riff is plain to hear in “Angels and Demons” and “Shattered Reflection.”

That shift in approach isn’t entirely unexpected. Over the band’s last two outings, Under the Ancient Penalty (2006) and Tales From the Insomniac (2008), a tide of less screaming has slowly crept into the vocal methodology, and though Bones is quick to make it known that nothing is scripted as regards Negative Reaction compositions, a clear, natural progression is evident amidst the base of New York hardcore that shows up in the centerpiece “Thicker than Blood.”

Taken in combination with the reintroduction of sci-fi and particularly Star Wars-based elements in the lyrics, that was more than enough for me to want to ring up Bones for a phoner. In the interview below, he talks about the changes the band has undergone in the last few years, both stylistically and in terms of personnel — longtime drummer John “Ol’ Mac” MacDonald left, only to be replaced by Joe Wood of Long Island mainstays Borgo Pass and Bones‘ own Mynok side-project, and former bassist Damon Limpy returned to the fold for  Frequencies From Montauk — the development of the band as a whole, his variety of influence, and much more.

Among the many things Bones is — and like all of us, he is many things — he is uncompromisingly honest, and I hope that comes through more than anything else in the Q&A, which you’ll find after the jump below. Please enjoy.

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Negative Reaction, Frequencies From Montauk: Time and Space Bend on Long Island

Posted in Reviews on November 9th, 2011 by JJ Koczan

There is a physical difference that coincides with the sonic one between singing and screaming. They come from different places in the throat and the diaphragm, use different muscles, hurt differently, and when a vocalist switches from one technique to the other, no matter how natural it sounds, there’s a conscious decision (or at least a physical act, the way moving your left arm is still a conscious decision without the thought being put into it, “Move left arm now”) being undertaken. I bring it up because although the last couple Negative Reaction records – 2006’s Under the Ancient Penalty and 2008’s Tales From the Insomniac – have seen guitarist/vocalist Ken-E Bones experiment increasingly with cleaner singing, there nonetheless must have been a point at which he made the choice to make the technique the crux of what’s used on their latest PsycheDOOMelic outing, Frequencies From Montauk. Bones’ vocals have always been a distinguishing – and often divisive – factor in Negative Reaction’s music. The only remaining founding member of the band, the Long Island, New York, native is joined on Frequencies From Montauk by longtime drummer John “Old” MacDonald and former/once-again bassist Damon Limpy, and though both players in the rhythm section make their presences felt, Negative Reaction is Ken-E Bones’ show and the material follows his direction.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve known Bones personally and have considered him a friend for a decade at this point, if not longer. We have a formative collaboration together and speak regularly about a range of topics both personal and/or related to music. Before I knew him as closely as I now do, however, I was a fan of the band, so when it comes to reviewing, I feel comfortable being honest in my appraisal of Negative Reaction’s work, and if at the end of writing this review I’m not ready to stand behind it as having the appropriate critical distance, I won’t post it. Simple as that.

That said, anyone who hasn’t kept up with Negative Reaction in their post-Game Two Records era (2003 and on) will be immediately surprised by the tone of Frequencies From Montauk, which is more heavy riff rock than based on the abrasive sludge of their past. Bones’ guitar comes through with Orange-hued distortion, and Limpy’s bass, while clean toned and not as prevalent as it might otherwise be in the mix, is a major signifier nonetheless that although they’ve maintained some of their New York hardcore edge, they’re simply a different band than that which put out the debut endofyourerror in 1996. The shift in sound on these 11 tracks (plus a bonus) isn’t outlandish as compares especially to Tales From the Insomniac, but the difference is that record felt transitional and Frequencies From Montauk comes off more assured of its place. Cuts like opener “Day After Yesterday,” the upbeat “Shattered Reflection” and the penultimate “Angels & Demons” are more straightforward stoner rock than either sludge or doom, Bones’ riffing prevalent and the songs less musically depressive than some of the other material in the band’s recent history. A start-stop toward the end of “Shattered Reflection” (an album highlight) in which each player sounds off on his instrument, is downright playful.

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Six Dumb Questions with Wizard’s Beard

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on September 21st, 2011 by JJ Koczan

Of all the records I’ve encountered thus far into 2011, Wizard’s Beard‘s Pure Filth might be the most aptly named. It’s more of a mission statement for the Leeds four-piece, and they live up to it every bit of the way. The outfit’s first full-length, initially self-released, was picked up for wider issue through the respectable PsycheDOOMelic Records.

That in itself is a worthy endorsement for the ethic of Wizard’s Beard, but their extreme sludge earns respect on its own the whole way across Pure Filth. They don’t veer from their approach in any significant way, instead challenging the listener with a nastiness of sound that few approach, as if to find out just how much you can take before you give into their assault. Their songs don’t swagger so much as they stab.

With a follow-up to Pure Filth already recorded — no word on whether it’s called Riffy Fuckall in keeping with the “doing what they say and saying what they do” idea of the debut — the time seemed right to learn more about Wizard’s Beard‘s origins, plans, and European tour where they sold seats in their van to anyone who wanted to join them on the road. Guitarist Craig Jackson was kind enough to field the interview.

Wizard’s Beard is Jackson alongside vocalist Chris Hardy, bassist/backing vocalist Neil Travers and drummer Dan Clarke. Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

1.Tell me about how the band got together. Where did the name Pure Filth come from for the record, and how did you wind up signing to PsycheDOOMelic?

Well, me and Trav used to be in another band together, and when we called it a day the two of us decided we wanted to stick together and start something new. We both had the same idea to do something slower and dirtier than before…. so that’s exactly what we did.

We shouted around for a drummer and Dan was quick to offer his services.

Then all we needed was vocals. I’d been a huge fan of Agent of the Morai when they were around and I knew Chris hadn’t been doing anything since then. I got a fairly enthusiastic response when I asked him to join us… I think he’d been getting withdrawal symptoms from being a lunatic with a microphone!

Pure Filth came about simply because that’s what we set out to do. Make slow horrible filthy music. We have no intention of bringing in any beautiful melodies or wanky guitar solos. We’re here to play big fat dirty riffs, that’s it.

The PsycheDOOMelic thing came out of the blue to be honest. We were putting the album out ourselves so I’d been shouting about it all over the forums and wherever I could, and putting the track “Paint the Skies” up everywhere. When it had been out for about four days, [Hegedus] Mark from PsycheDOOMelic got in touch to ask if he could stock it. When he found out we’d released it ourselves he asked if we’d consider releasing it through PsycheDOOMelic, and that was that!

2. How did the writing process for the album go, and how was the time in the studio? When were the songs written? How long were you in the studio?

I already had all the songs written for the album with exception of “The Albatross.” They’d been written for a while and were just waiting to be used. “Albatross,” was differently based and came about when we just started jamming in the rehearsal room. As we were jamming the main riff I started coming up with small variants on it in my head and start to work out an idea for the structure. I went home and finalised it all and we went back in and put it together. It turned out to be my favourite song on the album too. We recorded demos for each of the songs beforehand and passed them to Chris and he wrote his lyrics away from rehearsals. When Trav was doing his backing vocals in the studio he was learning them there and then.

We were only in the studio for two days on this one so we had to blast through it. Out of 48 hours in the weekend, we were in the studio for 26. It was fairly intense but we all picked our poison to help us through (whisky, beer, cigarettes, pot noodles… cake!). Ross [Halden] at Ghost Town put some serious time and effort in to help us get it done, he’s a major part in how that recording turned out.

3. I thought I read you have a follow-up already written? How does it compare to the first album?

Not only is it written, but it is now officially recorded. Just with Fragment Mastering getting finished off now! It’s due for release around March 2012, more details to follow in October with an announcement regarding who’s releasing it, too.

It’s quite a bit darker than the last. It runs around 50 minutes too, so it’s a good chunk longer than the other, despite only having one track more. We had it around the hour mark but cut a song in the studio, as it just didn’t sit right at the time. The album flows a lot better as it is. I’d say it’s a hell of a lot heavier than Pure Filth too.

First two days in the studio we’re a living hell, but I reckon that’s added to the mood, ha ha! The album is called Four Tired Undertakers, keep your ear to the ground for more info.

4. Tell me about the upcoming tour of Europe. You’re bringing people along with you in the van? Is this just some evil trick to get them to work your merch table?

Ha ha! Well it was more out of necessity, but in the end it’s shaping up pretty damn good. Essentially, we had to hire a van for the European leg of the tour. The van and driver is £100 a day. Now I’m not sure if you realise how much money we make doing this, but it’s somewhere in the region of nothing and less than nothing! So the £700 was a lot to us, on top of petrol and ferry fees… So, we figured, three extra seats, who wants to chip in and come on holiday with a set of idiots like us! Turned out Matt [Faragher] from Tree of Sores, Sam [Read] from Foetal Juice and our good friend and regular cameraman Jez (we may have to supervise any camera related goings on while on this adventure!). So we’ve got a good bunch.

Matt has offered to man the merch table for us though. I think it’s mainly so he can sell Tree of Sores merch!

5. Do you know yet when and where you’ll record the next album, and when it’ll be out?

With regards to the release, we can’t really reveal anything at the moment, but details should come out in October and it will be released early next year (sorry, I can’t be more specific right now).

As for where, that was never in doubt. We went back to Ghost Town Studios to record again. We recorded with Ross last time and we couldn’t ask for anymore. He went out of his way for us last time and his knowledge is second to none. He’s always coming up with ideas to try and help us improve what we’re already doing and he just seems to get what we’re trying to do. It’s now with Fragment Mastering to get to be finished off. There’s never any problems with Fragment, always quick too.

We genuinely can’t wait to get this one out there. There won’t be quite as quick a turnaround after this album, we’ll be taking more time to tour on it and just play a lot more gigs and enjoy being a live band! Recording two albums in the space of seven months is not as much fun as it sounds!

6. Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?

Well we’ve got quite a few gigs lined up besides the tour, including supporting Ufomammut who are without a doubt one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen, so that really is a pleasure.

I’d just like to thank everyone who’s bought any merch or being to see us live, we really do appreciate the support and we’ve had a lot of it.
The doom/sludge scene over here at the moment is thriving and there’s so many good bands about. Undersmile are a band you’ve really got to check out, they have such a unique and creepy sound! Our friends in Wiht and Tree of Sores need to be given a listen too. Then there’s all the other quality bands on these shores like Slabdragger, Conan, Dopefight, Dead Existence, Wet Nuns and of course the amazing Palehorse. We’re playing ‘Kin Hell Fest in Leeds in November and the lineup is ridiculous (Ingested, Astrohenge, Khuda, The Afternoon Gentlemen, Diascorium, Foetal Juice, The Atrocity Exhibit and more!), for those of you over here, get down! Filth Fest in October too is just a monstrous day of sludge/doom and whatever other filth is going on.

We’ve so much to look forward to and we hope to see as many of you as possible when we’re out and about.

Wizard’s Beard on Thee Facebooks

PsycheDOOMelic Records

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