Iron Monkey to Release 9-13 Oct. 20; Stream New Song “OmegaMangler”

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 15th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

iron-monkey-photo-ralph-barklam

Hey there sludge heads. Here’s the first new Iron Monkey song in 18 years. Kind of a big deal.

Today, the reformed trio from Nottingham — who aren’t quite singularly responsible for the proliferation of sludge in the UK but definitely have played a major and continuing role in that despite breaking up following the death of vocalist Johnny Morrow in 1999 — have unveiled their new single “OmegaMangler,” as well as the tracklisting and oh-so-familiar cover art for their upcoming album, 9-13, which will be released on Oct. 20 via Relapse Records. Mark your calendar, get your preorder. Do whatever you gotta do. Whatever side of the argument you’re on as regards this reunion, you at very least know you’re curious to hear that song.

So I won’t delay. It’s down there at the bottom of the post under the PR wire info. Hit it:

iron monkey 9-13

Cult UK doom/sludge outfit IRON MONKEY return with 9-13, their first new full-length in almost two decades. After disbanding in 1999 due to the death of their original singer J.P. Morrow, the group has reformed for phase two of their mission. Recorded in their hometown of Nottingham in Spring 2017 A.D. with producer Johnny A. Carter, 9-13 is 9 songs and 48 minutes of total nihilism. Now older, more cynical and more isolationist, IRON MONKEY are back to usurp the scene, then crush its skull. Without question, their most focused, aggressive and direct material to date, 9-13 is an all-out assault of violent hatred and nightmarish negativity. Recommended listening for fans of pain, suffering, and misanthropy.

9-13 is set for release on October 20th on CD/LP/Digital via Relapse Records. Physical packages and digital orders are available via Relapse.com HERE and all retail outlets HERE.

9-13 Tracklisting:
1. Crown of Electrodes
2. OmegaMangler
3. 9-13
4. Toadcrucifier – R.I.P.P.E.R.
5. Destroyer
6. Mortarhex
7. The Rope
8. Doomsday Impulse Multiplier
9. Moreland St. Hammervortex

IRON MONKEY was destroyed sometime in nineteen ninety nine.

Vocal terror J. P. Morrow died of a heart attack in June of Two Thousand and Two. Rest in noise.

The band reformed for no reason in the winter of Two Thousand and Sixteen with original members J. Rushby and S. Watson, with the addition of current Chaos UK drummer Brigga, forming the shape of an inverted black triangle of vitriol and phase two of operations.

IRON MONKEY do not care about your scene, bands or opinions… ELECTROCUTION, DOOM, OMEGA OMEGA OMEGA.

https://ironmonkey.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/IRONMONKEYBAND/
http://bit.ly/IronMonkey
http://www.relapse.com/
http://www.facebook.com/relapserecords

Iron Monkey, “OmegaMangler”

Tags: , , , , ,

Primitive Man to Release Caustic Oct. 6; New Song Streaming

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 11th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

No doubt that when the album arrives on Oct. 6, Caustic will be a well-chosen title on the part of Primitive Man. The Denver crushers-of-everything are giving a first taste of their second full-length for Relapse Records in a stream of opening cut “My Will,” which you can hear at the bottom of this post, and if it’s will they’re looking to show off, it’s a will toward utter destruction. From their 2013 debut, Scorn (review here), onward through a bevvy of splits and the 2015 Home is Where the Hatred Is EP (review here), Primitive Man have done naught but rain terror on those bold enough to take them on, and to expect anything less of Caustic seems like setting oneself up for a skull-cleaving. Especially if “My Will” is anything to go by.

The PR wire provides due warning and heed for the taking:

primitive man caustic

PRIMITIVE MAN Announces Upcoming Album Caustic Set For Release Via Relapse Records; New Song Streaming + Preorders Available

Denver-based nihilistic trio PRIMITIVE MAN returns with Caustic, their second full-length offering of soul-crushing, blackened doom and noise-ridden claustrophobia. Recorded and produced at Flatline Audio by Dave Otero (Cobalt, Cephalic Carnage, Cattle Decapitation et al), Caustic is twelve songs and over seventy-five minutes of bloodcurdling howls, abysmal tones, and dense, unsettling feedback spewing forth a cesspool of utter misery. With lyrical themes ranging from political corruption, personal struggle, and the crumbling social climate facing the world today, Caustic serves as a cataclysmic soundtrack for a world gone awry.

Listen to opening track, “My Will,” via YouTube HERE and Bandcamp plus all streaming services at THIS LOCATION.

Caustic is set for release on October 6th on CD, 2xLP, cassette, and digital formats via Relapse Records. Physical packages and digital orders are available via Relapse.com HERE and Bandcamp HERE.

Caustic Track Listing:
1. My Will
2. Victim
3. Caustic
4. Commerce
5. Tepid
6. Ash
7. Sterility
8. Sugar Hole
9. The Weight
10. Disfigured
11. Inevitable
12. Absolutes

PRIMITIVE MAN will play a pair of shows supporting Eyehategod later this week as well as Crucialfest at the end of the month with additional dates to be announced in the weeks to come.

PRIMITIVE MAN:
8/11/2017 The Marquis Theater – Denver, CO w/ Eyehategod
8/12/2017 The Launchpad – Albuquerque, NM w/ Eyehategod
8/31-9/03/2017 Crucialfest 7 – Salt Lake City, UT

PRIMITIVE MAN’s music matches its name: a savage, sparse mix of death metal, blackened noise, and doom. The three-piece was formed in February of 2012 by Ethan Lee McCarthy and Jonathan Campos (all current and former members of Vermin Womb, Withered, Clinging To The Trees Of A Forest Fire, Death Of Self, and Reproacher).

Despite their primeval, bludgeoning approach, PRIMITIVE MAN wouldn’t exist without their savage awareness of modern humanity: simultaneously old and new, atavistic and groundbreaking, PRIMITIVE MAN stands to redefine current conceptions of hope, faith, and metal music. Years of writing on tour and the addition of drummer Joe Linden sparked a black flame in PRIMITIVE MAN molding the band’s second full-length offering, Caustic set for release this fall via Relapse Records.

PRIMITIVE MAN:
Ethan Lee McCarthy – guitars, vocals
Jonathan Campos – bass
Joe Linden – drums

http://www.primitivemandoom.com
http://www.facebook.com/primitivemandoom
http://www.relapse.com
http://www.relapserecords.bandcamp.com
http://www.facebook.com/RelapseRecords
http://www.twitter.com/RelapseRecords

Primitive Man, “My Will”

Tags: , , , , ,

Friday Full-Length: High on Fire, Blessed Black Wings

Posted in Bootleg Theater on July 14th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

High on Fire, Blessed Black Wings (2005)

The fury. The gallop. The sheer onslaught. From the riotous launch of ‘Devilution’ onward, High on Fire‘s Blessed Black Wings, even when it draws back on tempo, absolutely refuses to relent. Released via Relapse in 2005 — which I’ll note was 12 years ago, only to emphasize the math — it was the third High on Fire full-length, and at that point it carried all the trappings of a masterpiece. It ranged in mood all the way from seething to raging, and where its predecessors, 1999’s High on Fire EP, 2000’s The Art of Self-Defense debut long-player and 2002’s follow-up, Surrounded by Thieves, found guitarist/vocalist Matt Pike on increasingly sure ground in exploring this new, tonally weighted take on thrash metal that brought some of the heft of his then-prior-now-concurrent outfit, Sleep, to bear amid the unrepentantly propulsive drumming of Des Kensel, it was Blessed Black Wings that really marked High on Fire‘s arrival. Production from Steve Albini and a one-time-only tenure from former Melvins bassist Joe Preston (also Thrones, early Earth, etc.) made it even more of a standout from their prior work, and amid the assault of “Devilution,” the signature gallop of “Cometh Down Hessian” and the I-still-can’t-keep-up-with-it “Silver Back,” the three-piece tossed in landmark hooks like the title-track, “Anointing of Seer” and “To Cross the Bridge.”

Blessed Black Wings, with its dark Arik Roper cover and the clarity of purpose resting malevolently beneath the superficial violence of the chugging “The Face of Oblivion” and the later shred in its eponymous cut, was the moment when High on Fire stepped outside of Sleep‘s formidable stoner rock shadow and into something of their own. I won’t take away from either The Art of Self-Defense or Surrounded by Thieves — the latter was my introduction to the band; I remember being mesmerized by the pervasive filth of it, and it still holds a special place in my hearth among their discography — but it would take the greater sphere of metal a couple years to catch up to what PikeKensel and Preston were doing in these tracks. Relentless touring definitely helped. High on Fire hit the road with no less drive than they put into the memorable attack of “Cometh Down Hessian,” and it was on the stage, with Pike standing straight up and beating the crowd over the head with riff after riff after riff and solo after solo after solo while Kensel — barely visible behind the sheer size of the kit he was playing — thundered away on head-spinning tom and cymbal runs, his fills utterly essential to each turn in High on Fire‘s most bombastic stretches. If Blessed Black Wings proved their mettle as songwriters, it was the ensuing touring that really seemed to signal the force they were in the process of becoming and would continue to morph into as they solidified their lineup with speed-demon bassist Jeff Matz (Zeke) taking the place of Preston ahead of the release of 2007’s ultra-triumphant Death is this Communion (discussed here).

That record, produced by Jack Endino, I count as High on Fire‘s actual masterpiece, but there’s no question it couldn’t have happened without the course that Blessed Black Wings set before it and the work the band put in to support that outing. In that way, Blessed Black Wings was not only a standout in its own right, based on the strength of its material and of the performances it captured, but also as a necessary step in the progression of the band. Of course, following Death is this Communion, they’d go on to sign with eOne Music, through which their next three albums — 2010’s Snakes for the Divine (review here), 2012’s De Vermis Mysteriis (review here) and 2015’s Luminiferous (review here) — would see release, each one taking on a more directly metallic approach as Greg Fidelman and then Kurt Ballou (Converge) took the production reins, the latter managing to bring out some of the most vicious sounds of their career to-date as they moved past their 15th year together.

Word on the street is High on Fire will have a new album out before the end of 2017. I’ve yet to hear anything concrete in terms of a release date, and if it was going to happen sometime before November — which it likely would in order to squeeze in before the music industry at large takes a hike for the winter — one would expect an announcement probably in the next month or so, unless it won’t be out until next February or something like that. In any case, High on Fire have continued to keep up a fervent touring schedule, and as they’ve slid into headliner status and hit the road with the likes of Crowbar and Meshuggah, their willingness to bring up and coming acts like Windhand and Pallbearer has been an encouraging sign of support for those operating in their rather considerable wake. If in fact a new record is on the way, that’s only going to be welcome news as far as I’m concerned.

In the meantime, as always, I hope you enjoy.

On Wednesday, my plan was to not leave the house. I had it all worked out. A couple chores to do, but otherwise it would be the kind of relaxing experience one can only dream of when gainfully employed. And it worked out. I got up early, did Obelisk stuff, Quarterly Review, etc., and had coffee and breakfast and so on, and by lunchtime, was ready to basically hang around. I watched the Castlevania cartoon on Netflix — major flashbacks of Vampire Hunter D, but the nods to the game were fun — watched the All-Star game from the night before with The Patient Mrs., had pesto, peppered egg whites and super-garlicky cloud bread for dinner (my god it was good), and spent the evening getting toward the end of season two of Star Trek: The Next Generation. More or less the ideal do-almost-nothing day.

Yesterday, I also didn’t leave the house. It was not planned, just cold and raining off and on. I did laundry and dishes and made dinner — kale sauteed in butter and oil with fresh chicken sausage, red pepper, garlic (less for The Patient Mrs. and extra on the side for me; barely cooked), fresh-grated parmesan over top — and we spent another quiet night, but yeah, was less planned and after two days in a row of not going farther than the mailbox, I’m a little antsy going into the weekend.

I guess the fortunate part about that is the packed nature of the next few days. In a little bit, we head to Connecticut. Two-plus hours driving. Drop the dog off, an errand or two, then to the movies in North Haven at 2PM to see War for the Planet of the Apes — I’m a big Planet of the Apes nerd and way down with the reboot series, minus James Franco in the first one. After an early-ish dinner (fingers crossed for a grilled salmon caesar salad from the Shoreline Diner, who have the best one in the area, though I’d also make myself a peanut butter protein shake, save the $15 and be fine provided I can sort the timing), I drive another two-plus hours to New Jersey to crash for the night with a friend in Jersey City. That’s ahead of seeing family tomorrow and doing baby prep stuff and some other whatnot. Goal is to pick out a stroller and a car seat system. Did you know that when you have a kid sometimes you have to take it out of the house???

That’s assuming you manage to get out yourself, naturally.

Tomorrow night, back up to CT after dinner with my family, to reconvene with The Patient Mrs. and spend Sunday at the beach, writing, watching baseball and so on. She has a friend coming north from NYC for the day, so I don’t expect we’ll actually hang out much, but frankly I find just being in her presence redeeming. Sunday night, she heads back to MA to teach the summer program she’s doing for the next couple weeks on Monday, but I’m staying in CT to have Steve and maybe Carl from Kings Destroy up to hang out Monday afternoon. Very much looking forward to that, as they are most excellent human beings. I’ll float the idea of getting an early dinner with them circa 5:30 or 6PM at a local pub and then, because I won’t have a car (The Patient Mrs. having taken ours back to MA the evening prior), Steve will drop me off at the station in New Haven, I’ll catch a circa-7:30/8PM train to Providence, where The Patient Mrs. will pick me up and I’ll be back home to crash out Monday night, get up early on Tuesday, write and probably not leave the house. Ha.

So yeah, kind of a marathon the next few days, but that’s good. Like all the travel we did a couple weeks ago with the Maryland, North Carolina, Maryland, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Massachusetts back and forth, this has a certain feeling of trying to cram in as much as possible before the arrival of The Pecan in October, but I’m cool with that. There’s a lot to do.

Like more for the Quarterly Review as well. Special thanks to Boston’s Rozamov for letting me push back a track premiere a day to accommodate a sixth batch of reviews for this coming Monday. It’s hugely appreciated. Here’s what’s in the notes for the week, all subject to change of course:

Mon.: Quarterly Review Day 6; Cities of Mars track premiere.
Tue.: Rozamov track premiere; Godhunter video; Wasted Theory announcement.
Wed.: Six Dumb Questions with The Midnight Ghost Train.
Thu.: A side-by-side review of Lowrider’s deluxe Ode to Io LP with the original vinyl.
Fri.: Gonna play it by ear unless something comes in, but might review the new Egypt or Youngblood Supercult.

That’s the latest. I’m living well post-employment; got some meds and feel a little bit like I have my head back generally. Money is already tight and will only get tighter over the next couple months, but my mother and sister have been a huge help with baby stuff — you should see the bins of hand-me-downs — and we’re getting there. The Patient Mrs. astounds as always, and I feel so lucky to be able to spend extra time with her this summer, even if it’s just the two of us falling asleep on the couch in the evening. She is the absolute center around which the rest of my life spins. Looking forward to trying my hand at stay-at-home dadness when the time comes.

Like Nick Cave said on the second Grinderman record: “When my baby come.”

Please have a great and safe weekend, and please check out the forum and radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

Tags: , , , , ,

Quarterly Review: Ecstatic Vision, Norska, Bison, Valborg, Obelyskkh, Earth Electric, Olde, Deaf Radio, Saturndust, Birnam Wood

Posted in Reviews on July 14th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-summer-2017

It turns out that, yes indeed, I will be able to add another day to the Quarterly Review this coming Monday. Stoked on that. Means I’ll be trying to cram another 10 reviews into this coming weekend, but that’s not exactly a hardship as I see it, and the stuff I have picked out for it is, frankly, as much of a bonus for me as it could possibly be for anyone else, so yeah, look out for that. In the meantime, we wrap the Monday-to-Friday span of 50 records today with another swath of what’s basically me doing favors for my ears, and I hope as always for yours as well. Let’s dig in.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Ecstatic Vision, Raw Rock Fury

ecstatic-vision-raw-rock-fury

Hard touring and a blistering debut in 2015’s Sonic Praise (review here) quickly positioned Ecstatic Vision at the forefront of a Philadelphia-based mini-boom in heavy psych (see also: Ruby the Hatchet, Meddlesome Meddlesome Meddlsome Bells, and so on), and their Relapse-issued follow-up, Raw Rock Fury, only delves further into unmitigated cosmic swirl and space-rocking crotchal thrust. The now-foursome keep a steady ground in percussion and low end even as guitar, sax, synth and echoing vocals seem to push ever more far-out, and across the record’s four tracks – variously broken up across two sides – the band continue to stake out their claim on the righteously psychedelic, be it in the all-go momentum building of “You Got it (Or You Don’t)” or the more drifting opening movement of closer “Twinkling Eye.” Shit is trippy, son. With the echoing-from-the-depths shouts of Doug Sabolik cutting through, there’s still an edge of Eastern Seaboard intensity to Ecstatic Vision, but that only seems to make Raw Rock Fury live up to its title all the more. Still lots of potential here, but it’ll be their third record that tells the tale of whether they can truly conquer space itself.

Ecstatic Vision on Thee Facebooks

Ecstatic Vision at Relapse Records website

 

Norska, Too Many Winters

norska-too-many-winters

Issued through Brutal Panda, Too Many Winters is the second full-length from Portland five-piece Norska, and its six tracks/48 minutes would seem to pick up where Rwake left off in presenting a progressive vision of what might be called post-sludge. Following an engaging 2011 self-titled debut, songs like the title-track and “This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” churn and careen through Sourvein-style abrasion, vaguely Neurosis-style nod and, in the case of the latter or closer “Fire Patience Backbone,” soundscaping minimalism that, in the finale, is bookended by some of the record’s most intense push following opener “Samhain” and the subsequent “Eostre.” That salvo starts Too Many Winters with a deceptive amount of thrust, but even there atmosphere is central as it is to the outing as a whole, and a penultimate interlude in the 2:22 “Wave of Regrets” does well to underscore the point before the fading-in initial onslaught of “Fire Patience Backbone.” Having Aaron Rieseberg of YOB in the lineup with Jim Lowder, Dustin Rieseberg, Rob Shaffer and Jason Oswald no doubt draws eyes their way, but Norska’s sonic persona is distinct, immersive and individualized enough to stand on its own well beyond that pedigree.

Norska on Thee Facebooks

Norska at Brutal Panda Records website

 

Bison, You are Not the Ocean You are the Patient

bison-you-are-not-the-ocean-you-are-the-patient

Think about the two choices. You are Not the Ocean You are the Patient. Isn’t it the difference between something acting – i.e., an object – and something acted upon – i.e., a subject? As British Columbian heavy rockers Bison return after half a decade via Pelagic Records, their fourth album seems to find them trying to push beyond genre lines into a broader scope. “Until the Earth is Empty,” “Drunkard,” “Anti War” and “Raiigin” still have plenty of thrust, but the mood here is darker even than 2012’s Lovelessness found the four-piece, and “Tantrum” and closer “The Water Becomes Fire” bring out a more methodical take. It’s been 10 years since Bison issued their debut Earthbound EP and signed to Metal Blade for 2008’s Quiet Earth, and the pre-Red Fang party-ready heavy rock of those early works is long gone – one smiles to remember “These are My Dress Clothes” in the context of noise-rocking centerpiece “Kenopsia” here, the title of which refers to the emptiness of a formerly occupied space – but if the choice Bison are making is to place themselves on one side or the other of the subject/object divide, they prove to be way more ocean than patient in these songs.

Bison on Thee Facebooks

Bison at Pelagic Records website

 

Valborg, Endstrand

valborg-endstrand

With its churning, swirling waves of cosmic death, one almost expects Valborg’s Endstrand (on Lupus Lounge/Prophecy Productions) to be more self-indulgent than it is, but one of the German trio’s greatest assets across the 13-track/44-minute span of their sixth album is its immediacy. The longest song, “Stossfront,” doesn’t touch five minutes, and from the 2:14 opener “Jagen” onward, Valborg reenvision punk rock as a monstrous, consuming beast on songs like “Blut am Eisen,” “Beerdigungsmaschine,” “Alter,” “Atompetze” and closer “Exodus,” all the while meting put punishment after punishment of memorable post-industrial riffing on “Orbitalwaffe,” the crashing “Ave Maria” and the noise-soaked penultimate “Strahlung,” foreboding creeper atmospherics on “Bunkerluft” and “Geisterwürde,” and landmark, perfectly-paced chug on “Plasmabrand.” Extreme in its intent and impact, Endstrand brings rare clarity to an anti-genre vision of brutality as an art form, and at any given moment, its militaristic threat feels real, sincere and like an appropriate and righteous comment on the terrors of our age. Fucking a.

Valborg on Thee Facebooks

Valborg at Prophecy Productions website

 

Obelyskkh, The Providence

obelyskkh-the-providence

Probably fair to call the current status of German post-doomers Obelyskkh in flux following the departure of guitarist Stuart West, but the band has said they’ll keep going and their fourth album, The Providence (on Exile on Mainstream) finds them capping one stage of their tenure with a decidedly forward-looking perspective. Its six-song/56-minute run borders on unmanageable, but that’s clearly the intent, and an air of proggy weirdness infects The Providence from the midsection of its opening title-track onward as the band – West, guitarist/vocalist Woitek Broslowski, bassist Seb Fischer and drummer Steve Paradise – tackle King Crimson rhythmic nuance en route to an effects-swirling vision of Lovecraftian doomadelia and massive roll. Cuts like “Raving Ones” and 13-minute side B leadoff “NYX” play out with a similarly deceptive multifaceted vibe, and by the time the penultimate “Aeons of Iconoclasm” bursts outward from its first half’s spacious minimalism into all-out High on Fire thrust ahead of the distortion-soaked churn of closer “Marzanna” – which ends, appropriately, with laughter topping residual effects noise – Obelyskkh make it abundantly clear anything goes. The most impressive aspect of The Providence is that Obelyskkh manage to control all this crunching chaos, and one hopes that as they continue forward, they’ll hold firm to that underlying consciousness.

Obelyskkh on Thee Facebooks

Exile on Mainstream Records website

 

Earth Electric, Vol. 1: Solar

earth-electric-vol-1-solar

Former Mayhem/Aura Noir guitarist Rune “Blasphemer” Ericksen leads breadth-minded Portuguese four-piece Earth Electric, and their devil-in-the-details Season of Mist debut, Vol. 1: Solar, runs a prog-metal gamut across a tightly-woven nine tracks and 35 minutes, Ericksen’s vocals and those of Carmen Susana Simões (Moonspell, ex-Ava Inferi) intertwine fluidly at the forefront of sharply angular riffing and rhythmic turns from bassist Alexandre Ribeiro and drummer Ricardo Martins. The organ-laced push of “Meditate Meditate” and “Solar” and the keyboard flourish of “Earthrise” (contributed by Dan Knight) draw as much from classic rock as metal, but the brew Earth Electric crafts from them is potent and very much the band’s own. “The Great Vast” and the shorter “Set Sail (Towards the Sun)” set up a direct flow into the title cut, and as one returns to Earth Electric for repeat listens, the actual scope of the album and the potential for how the band might continue to develop are likewise expansive, despite its many pulls into torrents of head-down riffing. Almost intimidating in its refusal to bow to genre.

Earth Electric on Thee Facebooks

Earth Electric at Season of Mist website

 

Olde, Temple

olde-temple

After debuting in 2014 with I (review here), Toronto’s Olde return via STB Records with Temple, proffering sludge-via-doom vibes and a center of weighted tonality around which the rest of their aesthetic would seem to be built, vocalist Doug McLarty’s throaty growls alternately cutting through and buried by the riffs of guitarists Greg Dawson (also production) and Chris “Hippy” Hughes, the bass of Cory McCallum and the rolling crashes of drummer Ryan Aubin (also of Sons of Otis) on tightly constructed pieces like “Now I See You” and the tempo-shifting “Centrifugal Disaster,” which reminds by its finish that sometimes all you need is nod. Olde have more to offer than just that, of course, as the plodding spaciousness of “The Ghost Narrative” and the lumbering “Maelstrom” demonstrate, but even in the turns between crush and more open spaces of the centerpiece title-track and the drifting post-heavy rock of closer “Castaway,” the underlying focus is on capital-‘h’ Heavy, and Olde wield it as only experts can.

Olde on Thee Facebooks

STB Records webstore

 

Deaf Radio, Alarm

deaf radio alarm

Based in Athens and self-releasing their debut album, Alarm, in multiple vinyl editions, the four-piece of Panos Gklinos, Dimitris Sakellariou, Antonis Mantakas and George Diathesopoulos – collectively known as Deaf Radio – make no bones about operating in the post-Queens of the Stone Age/Them Crooked Vultures sphere of heavy rock. To their credit, the songwriting throughout “Aggravation,” “Vultures and Killers” and the careening “Revolving Doors” lives up to that standard, and though even the later “Oceanic Feeling” seems to be informed by the methods of Josh Homme, there’s a melodic identity there that belongs more to Deaf Radio as well, and keeping Alarm in mind as their first long-player, it’s that identity that one hopes the band will continue to develop. Rounding out side B with the howling guitar and Rated R fuzz of the six-minute “…And We Just Pressed the Alarm Button,” Deaf Radio build to a suitable payoff for the nine-track outing and affirm the aesthetic foundation they’ve laid for themselves.

Deaf Radio on Thee Facebooks

Deaf Radio on Bandcamp

 

Saturndust, RLC

saturndust rlc

The further you go into Saturndust’s 58-minute second LP RLC, the more there is to find. At any given moment, the São Paulo, Brazil-based outfit can be playing to impulses ranging from proggy space rock, righteously doomed tonal heft, aggressive blackened thrust or spacious post-sludge – in one song. Over longform cuts like “Negative-Parallel Dimensional,” “RLC,” “Time Lapse of Existence” and closer “Saturn 12.C,” the trio cast a wide-enough swath to be not quite genreless but genuinely multi-tiered and not necessarily as disjointed as one might expect in their feel, and though when they want to, they roll out massive, lumbering riffs, that’s only one tool in a full arsenal at their apparent disposal. What tie RLC together are the sure hands of guitarist/vocalist Felipe Dalam, bassist Guilherme Cabral and drummer Douglas Oliveira guiding it, so that when the galloping-triplet chug of “Time Lapse of Existence” hits, it works as much in contrast to the synth-loaded “Titan” preceding as in conjunction with it. Rather than summarize, “Saturn 12.C” pushes far out on a wash of Dalam’s keyboards before a wide-stomping apex, seeming to take Saturndust to their farthest point beyond the stratosphere yet. Safe travels and many happy returns.

Saturndust on Thee Facebooks

Saturndust on Bandcamp

 

Birnam Wood, Triumph of Death

birnam wood triumph of death

Massachusetts doomers Birnam Wood have two prior EPs under their collective belt in 2015’s Warlord and a 2014 self-titled, but the two-songer single Triumph of Death (kudos on the Hellhammer reference) is my first exposure to their blend of modern progressive metal melody and traditional doom. They roll out both in able fashion on the single’s uptempo opening title-track and follow with the BlackSabbath-“Black-Sabbath” sparse notemaking early in their own “Birnam Wood.” All told, Triumph of Death is only a little over nine minutes long, but it makes for an encouraging sampling of Birnam Wood’s wares all the same, and as Dylan Edwards, Adam McGrath, Shaun Anzalone and Matt Wagner shift into faster swing circa the eponymous tune’s solo-topped midpoint, they do so with a genuine sense of homage that does little to take away from the sense of individuality they’ve brought to the style even in this brief context. They call it stoner metal, and there’s something to that, but if we’re going on relative balance, Triumph of Death is more doom-stoner than stoner-doom, and it revels within that niche-within-a-niche-within-a-niche sensibility.

Birnam Wood on Thee Facebooks

Birnam Wood on Bandcamp

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 of 2017 So Far

Posted in Features on June 12th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk top-20-2017-so-far

The time has come to take a look at some of the best albums of 2017 so far. I hardly know where to start. In some ways, this list is harder to put together than the end-of-year one that comes out in December, because by then not only do you have the full year to draw on, but it’s easier to sort of put a narrative to the course of events of 12 months, whereas in this case, obviously, the story is half told. So I guess if the list feels incomplete, that might be part of why.

Even with just six months to work from, the list has become fairly immense. I’ve been keeping track of 2017 releases since about September of last year, and the amount of stuff that’s come through has been staggering. Every year brings good music, and the basic fact of the matter is that if you don’t think so it’s because you’re either unwilling to find it or unwilling to let yourself hear it, but 2017 has been a multi-tiered assault of sounds from all over the world, and it seems like whatever you might be into, the universe stands ready to accommodate.

There’s a lot to say about that — is the market flooded? — but it’s a topic for a different post. I’ll keep it short here and just say that as always, it’s an honor to be covering the stuff that I cover and that I deeply appreciate you taking the time to read. I hope if there’s a release you feel deeply passionate about that you don’t see on my list below that you’ll please let me know about it in the comments.

Also, please note that in order to qualify for this list, a record had to come out on or before June 9. That’s the cutoff.

Okay, here goes:

The Top 20 of 2017 So Far

elder reflections of a floating world

1. Elder, Reflections of a Floating World
2. All Them Witches, Sleeping Through the War
3. Samsara Blues Experiment, One with the Universe
4. Colour Haze, In Her Garden
5. Atavismo, Inerte
6. Sun Blood Stories, It Runs Around the Room with Us
7. Cloud Catcher, Trails of Kozmic Dust
8. Vokonis, The Sunken Djinn
9. The Obsessed, Sacred
10. Mothership, High Strangeness
11. Spaceslug, Time Travel Dilemma
12. Electric Moon, Stardust Rituals
13. Alunah, Solennial
14. Arc of Ascent, Realms of the Metaphysical
13. Rozamov, This Mortal Road
14. Siena Root, A Dream of Lasting Peace
15. PH, Eternal Hayden
16. Geezer, Psychoriffadelia
17. T.G. Olson, Foothills Before the Mountain
18. Telekinetic Yeti, Abominable
19. The Devil and the Almighty Blues, II
20. Lord, Blacklisted

Notes

If you keep up with this site at all, there probably aren’t a lot of surprises in there. These are all records that have been discussed at great length over the last six months, reviewed, streamed, analyzed, whathaveyou’d all the way. If you don’t believe me, search any of the names. Still, as far as my personal picks go and who I think has crafted something special over the last six months, this feels pretty representative to me. I managed to live for a full week with the list as you see it above, without making changes. That’s usually my standard.

And as always, it’s a combination of what I’ve listened to most and what I feel has had the greatest impact thus far into the year. Between the two, there was little doubt Elder would take the top spot. I’ve probably listened to the All Them Witches record more than anything else this year, including Elder’s Reflections of a Floating World, but the truth is the Massachusetts trio are working at a level of their own making in terms of their sonic progression, and that they’ve emerged as one of if not the most pivotal American underground heavy rock bands going. The situation was much the same when they put out Lore in 2015 and claimed that year’s top-album spot, but even since then their sound has expanded and they continue to demand ultimate respect.

As for the All Them Witches album — absolute stunner. The increased depth of their arrangements on Sleeping Through the War came at no expense of songwriting, resulting in ultra-memorable material that could either wash over you with melody or shove you out of your seat with the force of its rhythm, and that band continues to be a treasure. No other way to put it.

From there, we move into what I think are the four best heavy psych offerings of 2017 so far, with Samsara Blues Experiment, Colour Haze, Atavismo and Sun Blood Stories, in that order. Samsara Blues Experiment’s return has been a joy to witness and their first album in four years lived up to the occasion. Colour Haze expanded the palette from their last album with In Her Garden and proved as immersive as always. I’m still getting to know that record. Atavismo’s second full-length upped the progressive influences without losing fluidity or cohesion in songwriting, and Sun Blood Stories’ hypnotic shoegaze offered expansive thrills and a sense of varied, beautifully crafted exploration.

A pair of exciting young bands thereafter in Colorado’s Cloud Catcher, whose boogie is right-on-right-on and whose development continues to hold much potential, and Vokonis, whose crushing riffs on The Sunken Djinn were met with an increased focus on structure and tightening of approach that maximized overall impact. The Obsessed’s unexpected return could only be called a triumphant one, and Mothership’s third long-player found them working in a richer sense of mood than previous outings, adding yet more character to what was still a blast of good-time rock and roll. They round out the top 10 in full command of who they are as players.

Granted, the next 10 releases are kind of all over the place, but I think that just shows the overarching quality of work being done across the board. From Spaceslug’s melodic stoner-psych to Electric Moon’s studio return — so, so, so good — to Alunah’s continued growth in nature-worshiping heavy and Arc of Ascent’s comebacker of rolling heavy riffs and metaphysical themes, there’s been so much to take in. I especially like the pairing of Rozamov and Siena Root as a sense of scope for 2017 so far; the former being so dark and crushing and the latter who lived up to calling their record A Dream of Lasting Peace. You want to know both ends of the spectrum? There they are.

PH’s Eternal Hayden gets a nod for its effective reset of the context of that band following the completion of their trilogy of albums, and Geezer’s Psychoriffadelia might have been something of a tossoff in the making, but the level at which the New York trio jams nonetheless assures it a spot here. Plus, a Nazareth cover. So duh.

I couldn’t help but include T.G. Olson’s Foothills Before the Mountain on the list as the Across Tundras frontman creeps closer to a full-band sound for his solo work, adding to his acoustic singer-songwriter foundations, and the crush of Telekinetic Yeti’s post-Sleep riffing evoked so many nods I thought they deserved one here as well. Placing The Devil and the Almighty Blues was difficult, but especially after seeing them live, I felt like I had a better idea of where they were coming from on II, so knew they belonged somewhere, even if it was tucked in at the end. And of course, Lord. Always killer, always experimenting, always chaotic. Never have grind and sludge sounded more cohesive together. They’re the band I wish Soilent Green had become, and yes, I mean that.

Honorable Mention

Let’s do another 10 releases, shall we?

21. Beastmaker, Inside the Skull
22. Arduini/Balich, Dawn of Ages
23. Brume, Rooster
24. John Garcia, The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues
25. Six Sigma, Tuxedo Brown
26. Demon Head, Thunder on the Fields
27. Summoner, Beyond the Realm of Light
28. Steak, No God to Save
29. Six Organs of Admittance, Burning the Threshold
30. Dool, Here Now There Then

And just to make the point, here are even more worthy of note in this space:

Elbrus, Elbrus
Cortez, The Depths Below
Ecstatic Vision, Raw Rock Fury
Child, Blueside (a December 2016 release, maybe, but I think the vinyl was this year, so whatever)
Pallbearer, Heartless
Spidergawd, IV
Green Meteor, Consumed by a Dying Sun
Loss, Horizonless

There are of course other names as well that come to mind. Like I said at the outset, it’s a crowded field: Hymn, Arbouretum, Green Meteor, REZN, Demon Head, Galley Beggar, Devil’s Witches, Orango, Heavy Traffic, Coltsblood, Mt. Mountain, Vokonis, Solstafir, High Plains, on and on.

Also worth highlighting several really, really quality live records that have surfaced so far this year. I didn’t really know where to place them among the other studio offerings, but they deserve note for sure:

Causa Sui, Live in Copenhagen
Death Alley, Live at Roadburn
My Sleeping Karma, Mela Ananda – Live
Enslaved, Roadburn Live

More to Come

Of course, we’re still just barely halfway through the year, so keep on the lookout for more to follow. If you didn’t see my massive 200+ albums to watch for list in January, it has many that have come out and many more still to surface, but here are a few highlight names as well that you’re going to want to keep an eye on in the months ahead:

Queens of the Stone Age
Radio Moscow
The Atomic Bitchwax
Kadavar
Ufomammut
The Midnight Ghost Train
Moon Rats
Clamfight
Egypt
the Melvins
Bison Machine
Seedy Jeezus
High on Fire
Monster Magnet

Thanks for Reading

Before I check out, I’d like to give special mention to Lo-Pan’s In Tensions EP as the best short release of the year thus far. Along with EPs from Godhunter, Kings Destroy, Solace and Shroud Eater, it has assured those seeking a quick fix are handed their ass in return for asking.

Well, that’s about where I’m at with it. As per usual, I’m sure there are things I forgot and/or left off here, because I’m human and whatnot, so please if you have something to add, feel free to do so in the comments so long as you can keep it cordial. No name calling. I’m sensitive and you’ll ruin my whole day. I mean that.

Thanks again for being a part of this and here’s to an excellent rest of 2017.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Friday Full-Length: Neurosis, A Sun that Never Sets

Posted in Bootleg Theater on May 26th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Neurosis, A Sun that Never Sets (2001)

It is arguable that A Sun that Never Sets represents the moment when Neurosis most defined the course of what would come to be called post-metal. In fact, I’ve argued it several times. It’s not a hard argument to make, and if you’ve ever heard the album, which was released by Relapse Records in 2001 as the seventh outing from the Oakland-based outfit, you very likely already know where I’m going with this. It’s the riff. That riff. Neurosis end A Sun that Never Sets with “Stones from the Sky,” and to this day, every post-metal record I encounter in one way or another — often in directly ripping it off — tries to capture that moment where the sweeping final riff of the album devolves and deconstructs into a genuine cacophony of noise before cutting out like a transmission from another world has just been shut down. I’m not going to take anything away — at all — ever — from the work Neurosis did on albums like 1992’s Souls at Zero, 1993’s Enemy of the Sun, 1996’s primal Through Silver in Blood or the sprawling chaos of 1999’s Times of Grace. Neurosis‘ output has always been and still is marked and defined by a forward creative development — it continued after this record as well — but to consider A Sun that Never Sets anything less than a landmark in that process is to simply miss the point.

The difference? Patience. A sense of brooding in the title-track. The flow of arrangements in “The Tide” and “From the Hill” early on. Comprised of guitarist/vocalists Scott Kelly and Steve Von Till, bassist/vocalist Dave Edwardson, keyboardist/sampler Noah Landis and drummer Jason Roeder, Neurosis were no strangers to intensity. Going back to their earliest hardcore punk output on 1988’s Pain of Mind debut or 1990’s The Word as Law, it was an essential ingredient, and it has remained one even as they passed their 30th anniversary, but listening to songs like “Crawl Back In” and the tribalist “From Where its Roots Run,” A Sun that Never Sets brimmed with a tension that even Times of Grace had only begun to explore, and while it would ultimately be in “Stones from the Sky” that that tension found its (merciful) release, the lurch of pieces like “Watchfire” or the earlier “From the Hill” seemed nearly orchestral in its swell and cascade, providing the listener with a progressive course of ups and downs that stretched across a masterfully executed, deeply textured 68 minutes that served as one of the best and most pivotal albums of its decade — all the more an accomplishment for being released in the first year of it. From the drum march that begins the title-track to the noise experiments in intro “Erode” and the penultimate interlude “Resound,” A Sun that Never Sets turned volume into ritual, and it remains singular in its dynamic, both within the Neurosis catalog and in the wider sphere of heavy music as a whole. As many as have tried to imitate it — and who could argue with trying? — none have found results that come close to touching its power, presence or vision.

And of course, for Neurosis, it was another step along the way. They’d soon enough develop Neurot Recordings as an outlet for their own material, solo works, and other artists admired by the band, today resulting in one of the underground’s most respected imprints. 2003 brought the Neurosis & Jarboe collaboration and 2004 pushed further into atmospheric soulfulness with The Eye of Every Storm — and if you don’t know what I mean by “soulful,” revisit “A Season in the Sky” — and saw the band all but absent from touring before 2007’s Given to the Rising reintroduced a more aggressive feel and stark trades in volume. Density of intent persisted through the vast scope of 2012’s Honor Found in Decay (review here), and as they looked back on 30 years together with special live sets and a return to prominence as a touring act, last year’s Fires Within Fires (review here) continued to forge new creative ground even as it embraced some of their rawest and most seething output since their earliest days. Through these changes and the ongoing evolution of Neurosis as a project, they have always remained committed to a natural progression, and taken in succession, their albums tell a story of that progression across a span of decades in one of heavy music’s richest and most individualized histories.

Neurosis don’t exist in a vacuum, and with releases as essential as A Sun that Never Sets, the temptation is often to see them that way — which is to say it’s not the only record that helped shape post-metal — but there’s no question they stand among the most important groups of their generation, and as an audience we’re all the more fortunate that their contributions are as ongoing as they are distinctive.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

This coming Monday is the Memorial Day holiday here in the States. It is an unfortunate cause for celebration, what with the perpetual war generally and the ensuing jingoism and unthinking patriotism that always seems to accompany the day — even the baseball teams wear camo; it’s a downer — but a day off is a day off, and at this point I’ll take it.

I took today off as well and The Patient Mrs., the impending Pecan, the little dog Dio and I all came down to Connecticut last night to spend an extra day at the beach. Four day weekend? Shit yeah, son. That’s the way life should always be.

After some debate on the matter at the office this week, my final day of work is June 16. As you might imagine, my feelings on this are somewhat conflicted. Happy to not be working anymore; worried about the prospects of no income, excited, curious and a bit terrified at the notion of being a stay-at-home dad come October. Wondering if something comes next or if I’m leaving the workforce for good at 35. Kind of a scary thought.

I’ve been giving serious thought of late to taking a few classes and setting up an office as some kind of nutrition counselor, trying to help people frame how they think about food and how it interacts with their life. Since I’ve lost (just over) 170 pounds in the last year and a half, I’ve gotten many questions from people about how I did it, how I feel, how they might go about losing weight, and so on, and I think from just hearing out their stories to helping plan a week of meals, that’s something from which I might derive professional satisfaction. Plus, I’d be working for myself, which is basically the only way I would want to work at all at this point. Done with offices. Done with other people. Done with the culture of professionalism. If I can’t have my dog around when I’m working, then that’s work I don’t want to be doing.

We’ll see how that goes. I get these ideas. Pipe dreams 95 percent of the time. Plus I’ve been on anti-depressants now for about three weeks, so if I was ever going to have a I’m-gonna-change-my-life-type notion, I need to recognize that this is probably the time it would happen. Ambition as symptom of chemical change. “My brains are going into my feet,” and so on.

As regards business, here’s what’s in the notes for next week, subject to change as always:

MON: Demon Head review & Drug Honkey video.
TUE: Witchthroat Serpent track premiere & Arbouretum video.
WED: Six Dumb Questions with Abrams.
THU: Second Coming of Heavy review.
FRI: Anathema review.

Kind of a quiet week thus far, with the holiday and whatnot, but I expect things will pick up toward the end and there may be some shuffling as per usual. That Anathema review is set in stone though. The Second Coming of Heavy one I’ve already moved a few times, so that should probably get done as well. I don’t know. It’ll come together. Not worried about it.

Traditionally one barbecues for Memorial Day, and I expect my feed on Thee Facebooks this weekend will be full of showoff pictures of various smoked/smoking meat products, beers, and so on. That’s cool. Whatever you’re up to, I hope it’s a great time. Be safe and have fun. Listen to good music, because that makes good days even better.

Thanks for reading and please take some time to check out the forum and radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

Tags: , , , , , ,

Friday Full-Length: Amorphis, Tuonela

Posted in Bootleg Theater on April 28th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Amorphis, Tuonela (1999)

I’m not even gonna feign impartiality on this one. I love this album, and that’s why we’re ending the week with it. Finland’s Amorphis released Tuonela in 1999 on Relapse Records. It was their fourth full-length, and like the preceding 1996 outing, Elegy — which was a landmark in a discography that continues to grow — it stepped away from the deathly beginnings of their earliest works in 1992’s debut LP, The Karelian Isthmus, 1993’s Privilege of Evil EP and 1994’s sophomore outing, Tales from the Thousand Lakes, which for many is the standard by which the rest of their catalog is measured. Many, but not me. I love Tuonela like I’ve loved few records in my life. It’s my ultimate springtime album, and as we move this coming week into May, I can’t help but return to it once again to pay seasonal homage.

The last decade or so — really since 2006’s Eclipse; we’ll get there — has found Amorphis settled into a blend of nuanced folk-informed progressive rock and death metal, and while in large part the model they’ve been following has been based on Elegy, from where I sit, Tuonela hit the stylistic meld better. It doesn’t go as far into melodic heavy rock as either of the two subsequent albums, 2001’s also-stellar Am Universum and 2003’s somewhat meandering Far from the Sun — the highlight of which was an acoustic bonus track of the title-cut — but Tuonela songs like opener “The Way,” “Divinity,” “Morning Star,” wistful-but-still-rocking closer “Summer’s End” and the one-into-the-next pair of “Tuonela” and “Greed” at the heart of the offering are absolute standouts in their energy and execution, driven by memorable songwriting and what was then a course of progression that proceeded across everything Amorphis released. If inclined, one could chart Amorphis‘ growth from one record into the following with little trouble; from their raw beginnings, they became a band of wide melodic range and progressive mentality. The classic heavy rock organ added to “Morning Star” and “Shining” for example, or the nuanced push of the riff to “Nightfall” and the later choppy swirl of “Withered” — all of these feed into a linear, very-much-of-the-CD-era 46-minute flow that, for me, distinguishes Tuonela not only as a collection of great songs, but also a fluid and complete work best appreciated in its front-to-back entirety.

I’m not sure I can emphasize how much of an impact Tuonela had on me personally when I first heard it. I was recently asked by Sander van den Driesche of the site Echoes and Dust to list three of the records that most affected me, and I put Tuonela on that list. A teenager at the time, I’d never heard anything like “Greed” — so heavy, so extreme with its death growls, and yet still psychedelic, traditional in its songwriting, and, perhaps most pivotal, it had that sitar. That sitar. It was the moment at which the Beatles fan and the headbanger in me reconciled, found the middle ground between them, and wanted to explore it further. I won’t take anything away from what Amorphis — at the time comprised of vocalist Pasi Koskinen, guitarists Esa Holopainen (lead) and Tomi Koivusaari (rhythm, also sitar), bassist Olli-Pekka Laine and drummer Pekka Kasari, plus keys from Santeri Kallio — accomplished on cuts like “Rusty Moon,” with the guest flute from Sakari Kukko, whose sax also adds to “Nightfall” and the title-track earlier, or on the moody “Summer’s End” at the finish, but I still get chills when I hear “Greed” in spring. At this point, I don’t even remember where that association comes from. I just know the season has arrived when it’s time to put on Amorphis. And so it is.

Amorphis had a dramatic shift alluded to above that led to 2006’s Eclipse, which marked the end of the tenure of Pasi Koskinen — who was also in heavy rockers Mannhai and can currently be found in extremists Ajattara, whose new album, Lupaus, is out next month on Svart Records — as they brought in new frontman Tomi Joutsen in 2004. Joutsen has been with them ever since, and his arrival would seem to have coincided with a decision on the part of HolopainenKoivusaari and company to develop along the clearer path of melodic and progressive death metal. In revisiting Tuonela, I also took the opportunity to dig into — and purchase the tour edition of — the latest Amorphis full-length, 2015’s Under the Red Cloud (they’re currently on Nuclear Blast and have been since Far from the Sun), and after 2013’s Circle, 2011’s The Beginning of Times, 2009’s Skyforger and 2007’s Silent Waters, plus a steady stream of compilations, EPs, splits and live albums, they’ve pretty much nailed it. They just finished a US tour with fellow Finns Swallow the Sun. I wish I’d gone to see them. It’s been more than a decade since I caught their show at B.B. King’s in New York, when Joutsen was new to the lineup. It was a Sunday. I’d flown back from SXSW in Texas the same day. They opened with “Greed.” It was glorious.

Truth is, I could go on. About this band, about this record. I haven’t written much about them on this site in years past, but they’re a group who’ve greatly influenced the direction of my musical taste and for that I’ll always be happy to return to Tuonela as we move out of the winter dread and into the time of new life that invariably follows.

As ever, I hope you enjoy.

jj and falk-hagen at roadburn 2017 (photo jens wassmuth)While we’re reminiscing, the photo of me just to the right here was taken last weekend by Jens Wassmuth at this year’s Roadburn Festival in Tilburg, the Netherlands. If you missed the coverage of the fest, it’s all here and thanks if you did get to check any of it out or if you decide to do so.

Now, if you’re someone who’s followed this site for any amount of time you’ll know I’m loathe to post pictures of myself. It simply doesn’t happen. I could tell you the exact last time I did it, but I don’t want to, because that’s how much I don’t like to see pics of me around this place. I’ll take all the album covers in the world (preferably those sans cartoon tits) before a shot of my ugly mug. Just how it goes.

I’m on the left there, watching Warning on the Main Stage, and you can also see the esteemed Falk-Hagen Bernshausen on the right. The reason I’ve put this picture here is because of the t-shirt I’m wearing. He didn’t know it at the time, but Jens captured a special moment for me in taking this shot. I wore that Brant Bjork and the Bros. shirt on my honeymoon in 2005 to Rome, and there are all kinds of proto-selfies of The Patient Mrs. and I to prove it.

As time passed, the shirt no longer fit me and I basically haven’t been able to wear it since until recently. It was one of several special shirts — an Anathema shirt for A Fine Day to Exit that I’ve had since college, a Neurosis shirt for The Eye of Every Storm that I bought at their 2004 Philly show that never fit me until now — that I brought with me to Roadburn this year, sort of as a personal landmark.

I’ve struggled with weight issues my entire life and I expect I’ll continue to for as long as I live. Even putting it in those terms undersells my past and current history of body dysmorphia, disordered eating, persistent self-loathing, and so on. However, since Dec. 2015, I’ve lost 168 pounds (as of this morning’s weigh-in) — more than half my body weight when I started out — and bringing these shirts to Roadburn was my small way of celebrating that effort with myself.

It’s not the kind of allowance I often let myself make. I’ve no doubt that at some point I’ll gain every single one of the pounds I’ve lost back, which is why I get sad when people say things like, “You look awesome now,” or get uncomfortable when someone wants to talk about it, but wearing these shirts was a rare kind of celebration for me, and I’m honored to have that moment captured by someone so talented and kind as Jens, even if he was just responding to Andy from Clamfight on Thee Facebooks being a smartass and saying someone should take my picture in the photo pit. So thanks to Jens for that. That’s what’s up with that picture.

Crazy times this week, getting back to work and back into the swing of life in general post-Roadburn. Still a lot to catch up on at work, which if I’m 100 percent honest, I’m somewhat less motivated toward since finding out the job ends in June. As a temp/contract worker, I’ve basically been on a year-long job interview. Bummer to know that, in the end, I flubbed it. So it goes.

Still, one presses on with tasks at hand. Speaking of, here’s what’s in my notes for around these parts next week, subject to change as always:

Mon.: Sun Blood Stories review, Soldati video premiere & big announcement from Bison Machine.
Tue.: L.M.I. review/track premiere, new-ish Ides of Gemini video and Lords of Beacon House announcement.
Wed.: Blackout review/track premiere, maybe a video premiere for The Riven.
Thu.: Samsara Blues Experiment review.
Fri.: Six Dumb Questions and album stream of the new From Oceans to Autumn.

Busy enough, I think. I’ve gotten a few kind comments on bringing back the Six Dumb Questions features, and I think I’m going to continue that at least for the time being, so look out for more in the weeks and months ahead.

I’ve also started slating releases for the next Quarterly Review, which will be in June. It’ll be here before you (or I) know it, to be sure.

In the meantime, I’d like to wrap up this week by saying thank you again for reading. Last weekend being Roadburn, this is a special time of year for me and if you’ve been a part of it at all, I cannot properly express how deeply I appreciate that. Thank you. There are days where I feel like I have nothing else to offer but this. Really. So to have you be involved is humbling in a way that I find continually dumbfounding and humbling.

Much love. All the love.

Have a great and safe weekend, and please check out the forum and the radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

Tags: , , , , ,

The Obsessed Interview with Scott “Wino” Weinrich: Declaring the Sacred

Posted in Features on April 19th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obsessed Photo-Susie-Costantino

Of all the events that might’ve taken place in doom this decade, I don’t know if The Obsessed putting out a record was the least likely, but it had to be somewhere on the list. And the road that brought the legendary Maryland-doom-agenda-setters to the point of releasing their Relapse Records debut, Sacred (review here), is suitably winding. Never mind the fact that it’s been 23 years since the last time the unit founded and fronted by Scott “Wino” Weinrich (Saint VitusSpirit CaravanThe Hidden HandPremonition 13Shrinebuilder, etc.) offered up what most probably figured was their final studio outing, 1994’s The Church Within — it’s been half a decade since this reunion got underway, beginning with a set in the Netherlands at Roadburn 2012 (review here).

In the years since, The Obsessed has receded and come to the fore again. Weinrich was still fronting Saint Vitus at the time in support of that band’s reunion offering, Lillie: F-65 (review here), and though that tenure would end unceremoniously following a well-publicized drug arrest in Norway late in 2014, it was the three-piece Spirit Caravan that he went back to first, reunited with bassist Dave Sherman, also of Earthride and Weed is Weed and eventually bringing on board Brian Costantino in place of original drummer Gary IsomSpirit Caravan toured and threatened a new record, but before they could get there, they announced early last year that Spirit Caravan was now The Obsessed and they’d be continuing under the moniker Wino first put to use in 1980.

Fair enough. More tumult followed after this three-piece hit the studio with Frank “The Punisher” Marchand to track what they’d come to call Sacred, with Wino and Sherman parting ways and The Obsessed reforming for a short time as a double-guitar four-piece featuring former The Hidden Hand bassist/vocalist Bruce Falkinburg before once more paring back to a trio of WeinrichCostantino and bassist Reid Raley, also of Arkansas post-sludgers RwakeThe Obsessed had done gigs all along with Raley in the lineup, including Maryland Deathfest, but in bringing him on board full-time, the band seems to have settled the issue as much as these things are ever settled, and though the chaos surrounding Sacred is palpable, the album itself is treated fitting to its title.

That is to say, while the process by which it came about and its aftermath have been anything but, the actual record and the songs that comprise Sacred are fluid, unconfused, progressive, and most of all — heavy. Fast or slow, light or dark, they bear the hallmarks of Weinrich‘s songwriting style, and whether they’re playing toward bluesy convention or bridging the how-is-this-still-so-wide-when-we-know-all-doomers-are-grown-up-punks gap of doom and punk, The Obsessed circa 2017 are living up to and pushing forward one of the genre’s most storied and influential legacies. Whatever the future might hold for the band, Sacred pays for its unlikeliness in the sheer quality of its craft and execution, and when this year is over, there’s no question it will stand as a landmark for even more than the simple fact that it exists — though that’s not to take away from that either, because the fact that it exists remains pretty fucking impressive.

The Obsessed are on tour now in the US with Karma to BurnFatso Jetson and Lo-Pan. Dates are posted here.

I had the first slot of a press day to speak with Weinrich about making the album… and a terrible connection. There was a lot lost of our conversation to the digital ether of crackles, pops, fadeouts. We got disconnected twice. Still, I did my best to recover what I could of the interview and it turned out to be plenty.

You’ll find the results below, with my thanks for reading.

THE OBSESSED PHOTO SUSIE COSTANTINO

The Obsessed Interview with Scott “Wino” Weinrich

Take me through the decision to move from Spirit Caravan to The Obsessed. How did that come about and what went into that for you?

Spirit Caravan was with Dave Sherman and then we had a succession of drummers. Where I met the current drummer for The Obsessed, Brian Costantino, was actually many years ago. He was a friend of the band when The Obsessed was together back in the ‘70s and ‘80s and he and I had not seen each other for quite a while, so we put Spirit Caravan back together we had Ed Gulli playing drums…

So Brian came around and I didn’t realize in the time that we had been apart that he had played the drums. He came around for rehearsal and Brian sat down behind the kit and we had a little jam and that’s kind of what started the whole thing rolling because the wheels are coming off the wagon a little bit with Spirit Caravan and Eddie didn’t want to tour and there’s some other issues and so I just looked prior and so BrIan was pretty much never in Spirit Caravan. Now Sherman’s on the record, but some other things happened and we trying to move ahead without him. So basically when I met Brian I realized after our first couple of camps that Brian grew up on The Obsessed. It was his favorite band and in the years we had been apart from each other, he had become quite a successful drummer and he was tired of what he was doing which was kind of like cover stuff and playing with some local bands.

He had basically just retired from playing and then I came along and gave him a call one evening and was like man do you want to reform The Obsessed and he said, “Yeah let’s do this.” You know, it’s the kind of chemistry that really reinspired me. It’s exactly what I needed. I realize that the songs, the old type of songs for me seemed to be timeless and I just started right away and we really kicked it off. It really was about a chemistry thing between me and Brian and there was this confusion after that with the [lineup, and] I decided to try a little experiment so I called [Bruce Falkinburg] to the basement and he goes “yes,” and then my fiancée came and we decided to put [the band together as a four-piece].

Well, everything was pretty groovy at first, but a touring commitment and came up and there was some wavering and I had been assured that everything was going to be cool but it became obvious to me that it really is all about commitment and I understand but not everybody is just willing to leave their job and just play musical instruments. So I’ve got  nothing for admiration of everybody but reality [was that] Bruce had to be replaced and Reid Raley was actually our first choice but he’s eight hours away from where we rehearse and for some reason I just forgot what a rogue one he was. Anyway we brought him in and we’ve had a couple weeks and man the chemistry is just extremely focused now. We’re back in a three-piece with Reid, and man, it’s really on. I feel completely energized.

You had played with Reid before in The Obsessed though as well. He was at Maryland Deathfest with you, right?

Yeah, Reid is a very personable guy and while I was touring with Vitus, Reid saw I was having some issues with Guy, who played on The Church Within and was a member of The Obsessed for some years. Guy had some immigration issues but didn’t really tell us and so he booked the Maryland Deathfest kind of knowing that he wasn’t going to be able make it. So it was kind of weird, but Reid told me “whatever you need if you need me to play bass for you to help you out, I will,” so I said at that point in time, “Yeah, why don’t you do that?” So me and Reid have some good history.

Is it a little strange? Sacred is the first Obsessed album in 20-odd years and it’s such a different band.

The only thing different is the bass player. We were a three-piece when we recorded Sacred. The nucleus of The Obsessed is me and Brian and I think the addition of Reid is nothing but good. And I’m very proud of the record. We’re already playing seven songs off the record, and we play the material live and I’m super-proud of that record. I think it’s great. I not just saying it because it’s my record but I think it’s the best sounding record I’ve ever done. I’m completely inspired. We’re ready to take these songs out on the road. I mean it’s been a long time, but you know, but it seems the time has never been right in the past and it seems like everything is lining up pretty good now.

Why do you think that is?

I think it’s because A) the music is top notch and B) In my opinion I think that I also must say that in my opinion, Frank Kozik and his label Man’s Ruin was pretty crucial in kind of opening up the door to hard rock and stoner rock or whatever, and he also opened up the power of the internet. I mean, come on, back when The Obsessed was starting to take off we did a video for “Streetside” and if you got on Bevis and Butt-Head, that was a venue. If it didn’t pass the Bevis and Butt-Head test you were done (laughs). I remember “Streetside” hit Bevis and Butt-Head and one of them said, “Ah they look old,” and that was it. But now you’ve got YouTube. The label. We’re on a very strong label. The label did really, really well and I feel honored to be on Relapse, and there’s a mutual respect thing and I think it’s just good now. I can’t say I fully understand why. I just know this is the time.

Talk to me about the Obsessed now as opposed to 20 years ago? How is it different for you? Has it felt like a crazy last couple of years after the whole situation with Vitus, playing with Conny Ochs, doing the solo stuff. Does going back to The Obsessed feel like going home for you?

It felt like going home for me and you have to understand that between me and Brian, Brian grew up with The Obsessed. It was his favorite band. It was Obsessed for all these years, so that has been like his main focus and when we reconnected I was truly flabbergasted that he’s an astounding drummer and it we haven’t seen each other in how many years?

It’s actually really mind blowing in a really, really good way. So we’ve got this amazing chemistry, lived together, we’re like a hardcore team and it finally feels right. The Church Within was cool, but with Greg and Guy, it’s touring, but when I started the reunion stuff, the one-offs, it just didn’t feel right. I’ve kind of felt in way as if I was been going through the motions. I’m really feeling good about stuff, like the chemistry between me and Brian and Reid. I’m pretty excited. I made a pretty important lifestyle changes to embrace this wave.

Can you talk about that?

Obviously, anybody who knows my past knows I had a very long period of sobriety in this reunion and after the separation and I lost the ability to see my kids and then we got separated for three or four years, i was pretty torn up and I fell back in my old ways but I’ve got to tell you, I was depressed and I did what I had to do. Had to get up out of bed in the morning and do what I had to do.

Right around that time was when Vitus was heavy touring, the brand new Vitus record, I did the Adrift record, I did the Shrinebuilder record, I did the Premonition 13 record. So basically I did what I had to do to be able to get on with my life and my career. So after a while, I must say, with Saint Vitus, to get into that stuff and to get into that mode and do that stuff, I had to be pretty loaded. I mean, it was like a requirement for me. The music is so primitive and so primal, especially playing live I had to really get into that state of mind to do it and that state of mind to me and in those days meant about 20 beers and half a fifth of liquor and as much shit as I could cram up my nose, but you know, that was the singing in Saint Vitus so things were a bit different.

Nobody can live that way forever. It caught up to me in Norway and I did get deported and that was kind of a bummer for me. I didn’t end up taking any charges, but it’s still kind of a bummer now I have to pay out the ass for visas and I have this ban from the Schengen countries, which is sort of like the EU, for five years, so I’ve already had three of that. So basically you pay the price. So I had to grab the reigns and I did. Now you know I’m back on the bandwagon, back in my head, living a sober lifestyle.

How has it been working in The Obsessed in that mode?

It’s fantastic, I just feel like all my focus and energy is in the right place, everything is where I feel it need to be. I’ve always been interested in alternative spirituality, if you will. I’ve never been into any organized religion or the denominational trip, but I consider myself to be pretty bright. I always want to learn and I always need to learn but I think that I try to awaken to the situation of the reality.

My personal spirituality has always been one of my main focuses and I’m just continuing my research, as I put it, and I’m just focusing on playing it right and I’m not one to blow my own horn but I do think I’m playing at the top of my game right now and I think that we have an absolute killer chemistry between the three of us and I thought, “man, this all I’m doing.” I’m playing the acoustic guitar here and there, wherever the listening party is, and at some point, I will do something else with Conny because I love Conny and we [need another record and tour] but right now The Obsessed is all I want to do. It’s where my focus is right now.

Can you tell me about going from touring a reunion band with The Obsessed as opposed to taking it on as a creative project again? You did that big tour last year with Karma to Burn, but how has it been moving from a reunion, to a working band, to a creative project?

I think it’s been refreshing and rewarding, actually because we get to go on tour. We were with Dave and there were some issues there. I mean listen, Dave’s loyalty and his heart never in question, he’s a great guy, so basically I don’t want to insult him and put him down in any way. He’s a great guy. I feel now that the record is coming out and it’s an incredibly strong record, it’s getting amazing reviews so far and I’m very happy.

We’ve already got three new songs we’re working on and we’re going to go back in the studio with our same guy from Sacred, Frank Marchand. We have three songs now. Hopefully by the end of the tour we have another two, and we’ll be halfway to another record. Whether we can have it finished, I doubt it, but we can at least get a couple in the can. So I feel completely energized, reinspired, and we’re getting it on, man. This is what we do, 24/seven. This is what I enjoy doing. When I’m in the studio, that is my perfect embodiment, that is when I am the most happy, and so yes, I’m just looking ahead.

Can you talk a little more about your time in the studio for this record? Working with Frank?

Frank is an amazing guy. He had to set up a little unconventionally, his room where he recorded wasn’t a control room. It was an open area. He likes to listen loud. He likes to mix loud but I’m telling you it was an orgy of vintage equipment. He’s got at least 10 [stacks] of different size and variety, mixed models.

What about the diversity on the album? It covers a lot of ground.

…For example, “Stranger Things,” when Reid was listening to the record, he goes, “ok, that song really put the ‘what the fuck?’ nail in the coffin.” That song threw him for a loop. It’s not that he disliked that song, but he just thought it was really, really different. That song was an acoustic song. I woke up one morning like, “fuck, what am I trying to even put it in a box like that? Why am I trying to make the specifics,” because The Obsessed has always been about diversity. We cut our teeth in the early days playing with punk rock bands. We can play super-fast, and we also like really slow stuff. A good example is the fact that of course I’m a diehard Black Sabbath fan but I’m also – I love Joy Division. I love The Stooges, The Dictators.

One of my favorite records is Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing by Discharge. So our tastes and our influences were always very diverse but we grew up in an era where it was all about energy. It was all about passion with the punk rock thing and also with the hard rock we listened to. I think that’s what’s really – always – you are a product of your influences, obviously just the same depending on your youth and childhood and really how wounded you are (laughs) in the rest of your life. It’s the same kind of theory.

I think the diversity is what makes it interesting because if I listen to a record where every song sounds the same even though it might be a good record, but every song sounds the same! I’m happy to bring a little diversity to it. I’m happy to people to kind of be like, “woah! This is weird or interesting.” I just think it makes it more interesting and it’s actually very natural, the way it came out.

It’s a pretty personal record. Especially the song for my kids, that’s a very personal song. But man, hey, my life is an open book and my theory or my philosophy if you will is, man, it’s all about passion, but it’s all about the power of the song. The song might need a guitar solo. It’s really about the power of the song.

The same way when you listen to the radio or you’re in a bar and an old song comes back again, one of your favorite songs from whenever it was, it has a way of invoking those good memories. Bringing back a feeling or maybe even remember the day when you listened to that song when you had memorable events like that. It’s really about the power of the song and it’s about the passion.

I really believe that I was given a gift in this earthly trip and I believe that it’s sort of my duty or job to carry the torch man, and to enrich other people’s lives and mine as well. It’s more rewarding having someone say, “hey, your music touched me in a way that was special,” or maybe even, “your music saved my life.” I’ve heard that before. To me that’s way more rewarding than a bag of gold on the table.

What’s next? The tour in May and then back in the studio. Then what?

The tour in April/May and then we will be in the studio recording some new material. Then we are going to be going to the UK including Scotland and Ireland. Then we’re going to be going to South America and Australia. By that time, man, it should be time to go back to Europe. We plan on touring pretty hard for the next couple of years. And also, in between then we’ll be writing another record.

When do you think you’ll squeeze in Conny Ochs?

Me and Conny have been talking and when there’s a break in the action, a break in The Obsessed action, for whatever reason that might be, then Conny said he’d like to come out and play the US and more than likely we’ll do a short tour out here.

One last thing, off topic. There was talk a while ago about a project with Nick Oliveri. What happened with that?

Actually it was me, Nick and Joey [Castillo], but Joey was really busy at the time. He was on retainer with Scott Weiland at the time and even though we tried to put it together he was just too busy. Joey‘s had a little run up, he’s I mean some bad luck, but we might revisit that. But right now I’m focusing on The Obsessed. They’re both amazing people and amazing players and it was something that like, it came up, we wanted to do it but Joey was pretty busy. In the future.

The Obsessed, “Sacred” official video

The Obsessed on Thee Facebooks

Sacred at Relapse Records

The Obsessed on Bandcamp

Relapse Records website

Relapse Records on Bandcamp

Relapse Records on Thee Facebooks

Relapse Records on Twitter

Tags: , , , , ,