Copenhagen heavy rock traditionalists Doublestone will make their debut on Ripple Music May 5 with the dually-titled Devil’s Own / Djævlen’s Egn. Their second album overall, it follows 2013’s Wingmakers (review here) and pursues a course of engaging, natural and spirited heavy ’10s vintage-ism, distinguished through its fluidity of rhythm, its organic feel, and of course by its two-language approach. Splitting its tracklisting in half between the acoustic-led “Devil’s Own” and the slower ’70s-chugging of “Djævlen’s Egn,” Doublestone bring structural and conceptual nuance to a record that — at least going by what I can glean from its English side A and translating the titles on side B — traffics in cultish thematics that should be familiar to those among the converted who’ve been exposed to the likes of Svartanatt or Demon Head in the post-Pentagram sphere of retro-minded doom rock.
There’s nothing wrong with that, of course — rock bands have been writing songs about the devil since before they were rock bands — and Devil’s Own / Djævlen’s Egn finds the Danish trio of guitarist/vocalist Bo Blond Daugaard, bassist/vocalist Kristian Blond Møller and drummer Michael James Bruun bringing a sense of persona to establish genre tenets throughout cuts like the six-minute “Man on the Hill,” which unfolds its lyrical narrative atop a blend of heavy psych and vinyl-ready guitar warmth, and the penultimate “Fuglene Kalder” (“birds call”), which moves into a call and response during its hook before a boogie rock guitar solo also gives Møller‘s bass a chance to shine, of which it takes full advantage. The scope of Devil’s Own / Djævlen’s Egn as a whole is in part defined by its linguistic swap at the halfway point, but no less so by the lack of pretense on display throughout its 37-minute span. Doublestone carve a niche for themselves within the style rather than make any grand claims about redefining it in their image, and their execution of these tracks lives up to that standard with an immersive flow and cohesive songcraft.
“Solen Sover” (“sun sleeps”) is the closer of Devil’s Own / Djævlen’s Egn, and its position as such reinforces much of what works — in English as well as in Danish — about the rest of the record before it. Beginning with a fluid low-end groove soon-enough topped with soulful guitar and complemented by an easy swing of ride cymbal as it leads to the first verse, it’s a classic rocker in form as well as presentation, with some vocal harmonies between Daugaard and Møller for good measure and a push in its second half to an uptempo apex that basks in a light touch of the psychedelic before rounding out with a raucous last turn through the hook.
In order to herald the album’s arrival, Doublestone have a live-in-studio video for “Solen Sover” that it’s my pleasure to premiere today. And in representing the record as a whole, the fact that it’s a live performance captured here also speaks volumes to the mission of the band, who minimize any sense of studio trickery in favor of an aesthetic as organisk as possible across the LP’s entire duration.
More PR wire info on Devil’s Own / Djævlen’s Egn follows the video below. Once again, it’s out May 5 on Ripple Music.
Doublestone, “Solen Sover” official video
Originally formed as a duo in 2011 in Copenhagen by long time friends Michael James Bruun and Bo Blond Daugaard, Doublestone later became the power-trio they are today with the arrival of Bo’s bass playing cousin, Kristian Blond Møller.
Following a brace of impressive releases in 2013 – Set The World Ablaze EP and their self-titled Doublestone – the “cult-boogie” trio joined forces with Mos Generator’s Tony Reed to record their first full-length, Wingmakers, in the basement of an old cheese factory in the heart of Copenhagen. Catapulting themselves onto the international stoner-rock scene Doublestone made sure to leave no rock unturned making an imposing foray into the realms of 70s-influenced hard rock, bewitching psychedelia and southern metal.
Now, in 2017 they are back and signed to one of the world’s leading specialists in Rock, Stoner, Doom and Heavy Psych; Ripple Music. Digging even deeper and going even further underground than ever before, their long awaited second album, Devils Own/Djævlens Egn, was produced and recorded by the band and Andreas Krohn at Wolf Ram Studios – a former World War II bunker – with Tony Reed on mastering duties.
Devil’s Own/Djævlens Egn is released worldwide on 5th May 2017 on vinyl, limited-edition/multi-colored vinyl, CD and digital via Ripple Music.
UK power trio Stubb will release their new single-song EP, Burning Moon, on April 29, marking the occasion of their appearance and performance of it at Desertfest London 2017. They’ll be at The Black Heart in Camden Town, a place of which one has fond memories, and joined by guests Ewan Duffus on keyboard and Thomas Mowforth and Zel Kaute on percussion. Listening to the freshly-mastered studio version of the 24-minute “Burning Moon,” it is duly expansive as to make a trio into a six-piece, with founding vocalist/guitarist Jack Dickinson leading bassist/vocalist Tom Hobson, who makes his debut here, and drummer Tom Fyfe, who came aboard for their late-2014 sophomore long-player, Cry of the Ocean (review here) and the subsequent 2015 The Theory of Light and Matter split with Mos Generator (discussed here), through movements either tied to memorable verses and choruses or floating free on a resounding psychedelic jam.
It does not take long in hearing it for one to realize Burning Moon is a special project for Stubb even after the marked aesthetic growth of Cry of the Ocean, and the continued collaboration with producer Chris Fielding (Alunah, Electric Wizard, Conan) at Skyhammer Studios ensures the sound is full and duly expansive throughout. Much as that album started subtly with the quiet unfolding of its two-part title-track, a soft bassline from Hobson begins the first minute of “Burning Moon,” though it will be the swell of Duffus‘ keys that make the most striking immediate impression. It’s not the first time Stubb have put keys to use in their material — Mos Generator‘s Tony Reed guested on Hammond for Cry of the Ocean‘s “Snake Eyes” and Duffus also played on the cover of “Little Wing” that was included as part of Magnetic Eye Records‘ The Best of James Marshall Hendrix tribute compilation (review here) — but they’ve never been more of a presence than they are on “Burning Moon.”
They give the track a stateliness that speaks to their continued inspiration from ’70s heavy and also puts the listener in a more patient mindset for what’s about to take place as the extended track unfurls. After about three minutes in, a sleek, subdued and decidedly Stubbian groove locks in — particularly encouraging to hear, as it’s a new rhythm section since the last record — and Dickinson begins the first verse, shifting easily into and out of a fuzzy, rolling hook that, after its second time through, shifts via a chugging transitional riff into a guitar solo that is the gateway to the jam that will consume the remaining 15 minutes or thereabouts of the piece. It is an immersive stretch beginning with a five-minute run at about the 10-minute mark, and they do come back to ground momentarily with Hobson and Dickinson joining forces for a few lines vocally, but soon enough another fuzzed-out lead hits and from there they shift into section of bass-key-and-percussion shuffle that builds toward the rolling call-and-response crescendo circa 20 minutes in.
Soon enough that crashes its way into a fade — Hobson‘s bass holding steady — and the organ line and drums build back into the song’s final push, more melodically resonant in the keys, bass and guitar, and more propulsive in Fyfe‘s drums as one might expect to close a work of such breadth. The finish itself is a series of hits that provide a progressive culmination and end suddenly, cold, as if to highlight the point that all of the preceding motion was not simple instrumental meandering but the outcome of a purposeful and directed approach. Indeed, Stubb have said the plan is for Burning Moon to become a series of between-album releases. Ambitious, but not impossible. If this turns out to merely be a first installment of some greater idea, the scope on offer will no doubt continue to widen, but as it stands, it’s the farthest to-date that Stubb have pushed their sound, and they do so in a manner both vibrant and individualized. Whether you call it an EP or a single, there’s no doubt it will stand among 2017’s best short releases.
Please enjoy the stream of “Burning Moon” below, followed by more info courtesy of the band:
Recorded Jan 2017 at Skyhammer Studios, England, by Chris Fielding. Music by Stubb Produced by Chris Fielding/Stubb
Stubb is: Jack Dickinson – Guitar/Vox Tom Hobson – Bass/Vox Tom Fyfe – Drums/percussion
Ewan Duffus – Keys
Burning Moon is part one of the Burning Moon Trilogy, a story about the end of the Earth. The idea is to release the other 2 parts in between albums.
This is the first track that we have released with Tom Hobson on bass//vox. Special guest Ewan Duffus is on keys. He played on our cover of “Little Wing” for the Best of James Marshal Hendrix compilation (MER).
We don’t have a label for this yet, so it will be available for download from our Bandcamp on the weekend of the April 29th (Desertfest London). What ever happens this will definitely be available on CD and Vinyl at some point in the future.
We’ll be playing the tune in full for the first time with Ewan, and we are very lucky to be joined by Thomas Mowforth of Limb and Zel Kaute of Vodun on percussion. Sat 29th April, The Black Heart, Desertfest London.
I was curious to know how long it’d been since the last time Devil to Pay premiered a video around here. The date? Feb. 7. So, almost two months ago. That was “Kobold in the Breadbasket” (posted here), and I know I’ve said this before — because I went back and looked at the post where I said it; ha — but when it comes to the Indianapolis four-piece, I’ve got no regrets whatsoever. They keep making them I’m glad to keep posting them. I wasn’t too into the cover art for their latest album for Ripple Music, 2016’s A Bend Through Space and Time (review here), but beyond that (and it certainly wasn’t a technique issue), Devil to Pay remain a band for whom I’ve got tremendous respect.
To wit, ace songwriters who hit the road on the regular and put out record after record of air-tight heavy rock and roll? Oh, and they’ve been doing it for 15 years. I ask you, what’s not to dig about that?
This time around, it’s “The Demons Come Home to Roost” premiering a new video. It’s the last track on A Bend Through Space and Time, so after the hooks of “On and On (In Your Mind),” the brooding sleek of the aforementioned “Kobold in the Breadbasket,” the thrust and sharp turns of “Recommended Daily Dosage” and the worthy homage of “Your Inner Lemmy,” the four-piece of guitarist/vocalist Steve Janiak, guitarist Rob Hough, bassist/backing vocalist Matt Stokes and drummer Chad Profigle dig into the seven-plus minutes of their finale. As a standout closer, “The Demons Come Home to Roost” has a bit of all of that going on, as well as a gallop all its own that starts early and arrives again late, the band smoothly nestling into a slower groove at around the halfway point only to finish at full boar with a crisp edge worthy of the craftsmanship on display throughout the album preceding.
Devil to Pay head out next month on a West Coast tour playing with some killer acts along the way — House of Broken Promises, Ripple labelmates Zed and Mothership, etc. — and you can find those dates under the video below, the weirdo combination of old movie and live footage of which already has me looking forward to the next one.
As always, I hope you enjoy:
Devil to Pay, “The Demons Come Home to Roost” official video
DEVIL TO PAY’S “DON’T GIVE AWAY THE WEST TOUR 2017” 4/13 – Indianapolis, IN – 5th Quarter Lounge w Mothership, Astral Mass 4/20 – Chicago, IL – Reggies w Blunt, Sacred Monster 4/21 – Omaha, NE – Lookout Lounge for Stormfest 2017 4/22 – Denver, CO – Bar Bar w Chieftian, Green Druid, Never Kenezzard 4/24 – Spokane, WA – The Pin w tba 4/25 – Seattle, WA – Tim’s Tavern w KLAW, Skypenis 4/26 – Portland, OR – High Water Mark w Sleer, Heavy Baang Staang, Skulldozer 4/28 – Sacramento, CA – On the Y w Crimson Eye, Zed 4/29 – San Francisco, CA – Neck of the Woods w Zed, Lowcaster 4/30 – West Hollywood, CA – Viper Room w House of Broken Promises, High Priestess 5/01 – Las Vegas, NV – Beauty Bar w Spiritual Shepherd, Plague Doctor 5/04 – Tempe, AZ – Yucca Tap Room w Malo De Dentro, Dead Canyon 5/05 – San Angelo, TX – The Deadhorse w tba 5/06 – Oklahoma City, OK – Blue Note Lounge w Crobone, Get Fired
Devil to Pay’s music video for “the Demons Come Home to Roost.” Live performance video filmed at: the 5th Quarter Lounge, Indianapolis, IN, Radio Radio, Indianapolis, IN, the Melody Inn, Indianapolis, IN, the Pond, Franklin, TN, the Nick, Birmingham, AL. From the album “A Bend Through Space and Time” on the Ripple Music label www.ripple-music.com
Recorded & Mixed by Mike Bridavsky at Russian Recording, Bloomington IN August 2015. Mastered by Mike Bridavsky at Russian Recording.
Devil to Pay is: Steve Janiak – guitars/vocals Matt Stokes – bass Chad Prifogle – drums Rob Hough – guitars
Posted in Reviews on March 29th, 2017 by JJ Koczan
Always a special moment in the Quarterly Review when we pass the halfway mark. That’s where today’s batch brings us, and in rocking style as well. You might say I’ve been taking it easy on myself with the selections this time out — albums there’s plenty to say on and generally good stuff — but the basic fact of the matter is even with 50 reviews in a week, this is still just a fraction of what’s out there and still just a fraction of what I’d cover if I had the time. I couldn’t in terms of my own sanity, but one could probably do 10 reviews a day every day of the year and still have room for more. I do the best I can. Picking and choosing is a part of that process. Let’s get to it.
Quarterly Review #21-30:
After the bold departure presented in 2014’s Shelter (review here) toward even-airier, more indie-hued fare, French post-black metal innovators Alcest make a no-less-bold return to their core sound – screams included, as they’re quick to show on “Eclosion” – with 2016’s Kodama (on Prophecy Productions). It’s a less progressive move, and for that distinct in Alcest’s discography, but one can’t argue with their execution of a track like “Je Suis d’Ailleurs” and the immediately recognizable melodic wash they craft, as resonant emotionally as it is heavy in its tone. Most of the six cuts seem contented to have (re-)found their place, but “Onyx” finishes out with just under four minutes of layered guitar droning, and so Alcest seem to tease that perhaps they’re not completely ready to settle the issue of their aesthetic just yet. One hopes that’s the case, and in the meantime, the reorientation that Kodama brings with it should no doubt please those longtime fans who bristled at the turn they made their last time out.
Galley Beggar’s fourth offering and second for Rise Above, Heathen Hymns, brings 42-minutes of the traditional acid folk one has come to expect from them over the last half-decade plus, no less graceful in its melodies, harmonies and weaving into and out of psychedelia, Eastern inflections on the sitar-laced “The Lake” and cleverly rhythmic in the post-rocking electric flourish of “Let No Man Steal Your Thyme.” Knowing what to expect, however, does nothing to diminish the joy of the listening experience. Rather, the return of Galley Beggar’s fluid string and/or more rock-based arrangements, memorable songcraft and gorgeous vocal treatments is welcome, and perhaps most of all on closer “My Return,” which draws their multiple sides together in a cohesive vision of futures past that only benefits from the maturity they’ve grown into. With poise as a defining feature as much as their British folk stylistic lineage, Galley Beggar remain a special outfit doing deeply individualized and satisfying work.
A steady foundation of low-end drone underpins songs like “Ignorance Makes Me High” and “Hidden Prettiness” on Pontiak’s Dialectic of Ignorance (released via Thrill Jockey), and though they move away from it somewhat in the more active freakout “Dirtbags,” the patience shown by the Virginian trio forms a key part of the album’s personality. To wit, they open with “Easy Does It,” essentially telling their listener their intention for what will ensue throughout the eight-track/46-minute offering. Brothers Jennings, Van and Lain Carney bring forth willful drift in that opener and across the percussive-but-still-shoegazing “Tomorrow is Forgetting,” finding an organ-laced folkadelic middle ground later in “Youth and Age” and punctuating the dreamy harmonized gorgeousness of “Herb is My Next Door Neighbor” with fervent tom runs and ping ride before closer “We’ve Fucked this Up” starts out amid blistering chaos only to smooth itself as it goes. Serene and somewhat moody to the same degree their last outing, 2014’s Innocence, was raw, Dialectic of Ignorance carries the feel of a personal journey undertaken, but is ultimately too warm in tone and melody not to welcome its audience to be a part of that as well.
Nearing the mark of their first decade together, Louisiana Southern heavy four-piece White Light Cemetery issue their second full-length, Careful What You Wish For, through Ripple Music and keep a steady focus on songcraft throughout. Heavy riffs, a bit of boogie on “Sky River” and the stomping “Better Days,” boozy Southern-isms on the directly countrified “On a Dime” and a cowbell-infused finish with “Bullet to Erase” – it’s only fair to say White Light Cemetery hit all the marks. The beery post-Deliverance execution of “Looking Out (For Number One)” will likely ring familiar to many who take it on, but that’s the idea, as vocalist/guitarist Shea Bearden, guitarist Ryan Robin, bassist Tara Miller and drummer Thomas Colley are clearly less concerned with reinventing rock in their own image than honoring the pantheon of those who’ve come before them in the style. Hard to argue with the ethic preached or the dual-guitar harmonies of “Quit Work, Make Music,” though the record as a whole seems awfully “workingman’s rock” for any such bohemian aspirations.
It’s been three years since next-gen Californian desert trio Fever Dog released their last album, Second Wind (review here), which was long on potential, big on songwriting and resonant in vibe. I’d been hoping for a third long-player in 2017, but even the arrival of new single Mainframe – which of course doesn’t preclude a subsequent album release – is fine by me, the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Danny Graham, bassist Nathan Wood and drummer/organist/synthesist/vocalist Joshua Adams digging into progressive vibes on the title-track and the subsequent, talkbox-inclusive “Let Me Out.” I don’t know if they’re planning to press a 7” – somebody call H42 Records! – but the cover art certainly justifies one if the songs themselves don’t (and they do), and the name-your-price download comes with the raw 19-minute classic heavy rock jam “Alpha Waves Medley Live at Club 5,” which emits buzz like it’s a bootleg from 1973. If Mainframe is the process of Fever Dog getting weirder, it bodes well. All the more reason one might keep their fingers crossed for a new full-length.
“If you see him it’s much too late/Close your eyes, girl, accept your fate.” So goes the title-track hook of Duel’s Witchbanger, the Austin-based rockers’ second album for Heavy Psych Sounds. Released on a quick turnaround from last year’s debut, Fears of the Dead (review here), the eight-track/34-minute swaggerfest delves into fantasy themes drawn from classic metal – hard not to look at six-minute closer “Tigers and Rainbows” and not think of Dio, at least thematically – but cuts like “Astro Gypsy” and “Heart of the Sun” in the record’s midsection build on the ‘70s loyalism of the first outing and find guitarist/vocalist Tom Frank, guitarist Jeff Henson, bassist/vocalist Shaun Avants and drummer JD Shadowz clear in their intentions in that regard. Though it takes a sizable grain of salt to get over that title, Duel’s heavy rock traditionalism comes complemented by efficient songwriting and a natural-sounding recording that’s neither completely retro nor totally modern but draws strength and fullness from both sides. A worthy and rousing follow-up.
Seven Nines and Tens, Set the Controls for the Heart of the Slums
If the dates are to be believed, the second full-length from Vancouver’s Seven Nines and Tens, cleverly-titled Set the Controls for the Heart of the Slums, has roots going back to 2014, when basic live tracks were recorded and subsequently built on for about two years. Indeed, the four-song offering – whose tracks “I Come from Downtown,” “Metropolis Noir / Rigs” and closer “Rave Up” have been presented in the meantime as singles and/or on early 2017’s Live at the Smilin’ Buddha Cabaret – has plenty of layers in its heavy post-rock wash, and it’s with depth and heft that guitarist/bassist/vocalist David Cotton and drummer Mario Nieva (the current incarnation of the band has a different lineup), make their prevailing impression, be it in the roll of 13-minute “Metropolis Noir / Rigs” or the loud/quiet trades of “Dope Simple,” which follows. With a focus on atmosphere over structure, Seven Nines and Tens offer a quick 32-minute immersion that feels less pretentious than purposeful and would seem to have been worth the time it took to construct.
With their third album, Nijmegen’s Automatic Sam bring together a straightforward and coherent collection of well-intentioned semi-psychedelic heavy rock. Their past works, 2011’s Texino and 2013’s Sonic Whip, have been conceptual or at least thematic pieces, and it may be that the 13-track/38-minute Arcs (on Goomah Music) is as well, but if so, it would seem to find that theme in a vision of post-grunge ‘90s alt rock, cleanly and clearly executed and vibrant in the performance of vocalist/guitarist Pieter Holkenborg, guitarist/vocalist Rense Slings, bassist/vocalist Erik Harbers and drummer/vocalist Lars Spijkervet, who open with the five-minute “Ukiyo” (their longest inclusion; immediate points) and then run through a varied swath of shorter pieces from the attitude-laden “City Lights” through the uptempo post-punk of “This is Not a Holiday” and the fuller push of “Parnassia.” Side B seems more flowing, with that song, “Tarantula,” a complementary reprise, the title-track and drifting acoustic closer “So Long in E Minor,” but Automatic Sam manage to hone a diverse approach across Arcs’ span while skillfully directing themselves around choppier waters.
Ambition may be the defining aspect of Not the End of the World. The 2016 self-released debut from Birmingham, Alabama’s The Next Appointed Hour willfully refuses easy categorization, basking in bright psychedelic space rock harmonies one minute and digging into folkish melancholia the next in a way that one is left with no other option but to call “progressive.” What ultimately makes songs like “Keeper’s Heart” and the ethereal pop of “Back to You back to Me” work is an underlying cure of songcraft, and whatever ground the six-piece cover on the 10-track outing, from the fuzzy rush of “Drone Riot” to the trippy shimmer of the penultimate “Red Flame,” that core is maintained, uniting the material and making Not the End of the World a work of scope rather than haphazard. It requires an open mind, but rewards open-mindedness with moments like the accordion on “Valley,” or the rhythmic drift of “Any Who but Here,” the nuance of which is no less gracefully held together than the overarching flow of the album as a whole.
Already sold out on preorders, the vinyl edition of Superior Venus from UK cosmic jammers Blown Out features two tracks – one per side – of space-wash heavy righteousness. “Impious Oppressor” and “Superior Venus” both top 15 minutes (and are accompanied by demo versions if you get the download), and proffer the kind of progressive improvisation-based flow that, indeed, might make one inclined to get an order in while the getting’s good. Blown Out, with members of Bong and Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs, have put out a slew of live and studio releases over the last three years, but as planets invariably revolve in cyclical patterns, so too does the regular frequency of their work become part of the expression itself. If you’re going to jam, do it all the time. On Superior Venus, Blown Out once more bring this ethic to life, and the resulting material spreads itself wide over its still relatively brief span. A short trip to orbit, perhaps, but well worth the undertaking.
Posted in Reviews on March 28th, 2017 by JJ Koczan
Feeling groovy heading into Day Two of the Spring 2017 Quarterly Review, and I hope you are as well. Today we dig into a pretty wide variety of whatnots, so make sure you’ve got your head with you as we go, because there are some twists and turns along the way. I mean it. Of all five days in this round, this one might be the most wild, so keep your wits intact. I’m doing my best to do the same, of course, but make no promises in that regard.
Quarterly Review #11-20:
Ulver, The Assassination of Julius Caesar
Norwegian post-everything specialists Ulver have reportedly called The Assassination of Julius Caesar (on House of Mythology) “their pop album,” and while the Nik Turner-inclusive freakout in second cut “Rolling Stone” (that may or may not be him on closer “Comign Home” as well) doesn’t quite fit that mold, the beats underscoring the earlier portion of that track, opener “Nemoralia” and the melodrama of “Southern Gothic” certainly qualify. Frontman/conceptual mastermind Kristoffer Rygg’s voice is oddly suited to this form – he carries emotionally weighted hooks like a melancholy George Michael on the electronically pulsating “Transverberation” and, like most works of pop, shows an obsession with the ephemeral in a slew of cultural references in “1969,” which in no way is likely to be mistaken for the Stooges song of the same name. While “So Falls the World” proves ridiculously catchy, “Coming Home” is about as close as Ulver actually come here to modern pop progression, and the Badalamenti-style low-end and key flourish in “1969” is a smooth touch, much of what’s happening in these eight tracks is still probably too complex to qualify as pop, but The Assassination of Julius Caesar is further proof that Ulver’s scope only grows more boundless as the years pass. The only limits they ever seem to know are the ones they leave behind.
Last year, Louisiana four-piece Forming the Void had the element of surprise working to their advantage when it came to the surprising progressive edge of their debut album, Skyward (review here). Now signed to Argonauta, the eight-song/55-minute follow-up, Relic, doesn’t need it. It finds Forming the Void once again working proggy nuance into big-riffed, spaciously vocalized fare on early cuts “After Earth” and “Endless Road,” but as the massive hook of “Biolazar” demonstrates, the process by which guitarist/vocalist James Marshall, guitarist Shadi Omar Al-Khansa, bassist Luke Baker and drummer Jordan Boyd meld their influences has become more cohesive and more their own. Accordingly, I’m not sure they need the 11-minute closing take on Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir,” since by then the point is made in the lumber/plunder of “Plumes” and in the more tripped-out “Unto the Smoke” just before, but as indulgences go, it’s a relatively easy one to make. They’re still growing, but doing so quickly, and already they’ve begun to find a niche for themselves between styles that one hopes they’ll continue to explore.
Though it keeps a wash of melodic keys in the background and its approach is resolutely laid back on the whole, “Beautiful Void” is nonetheless a major factor in the overall impression of Hidden Trails’ self-titled debut (on Elektrohasch), as its indie vibe and departure from the psychedelic prog of the first two cuts, “Lancelot” and “Mutations,” marks a major distinguishing factor between this outfit and Hypnos 69, in which the rhythm section of the Belgian trio played previously. “Ricky” goes on to meld acoustic singer-songwriterism and drones together, and “Hands Unfold” has a kind of jazzy bounce, the bassline of Dave Houtmeyers and drumming of Tom Vanlaer providing upbeat groove under Jo Neyskens’ bright guitar lead, but the anticipation of heavy psych/prog never quite leaves after the opening, and that doesn’t seem to be what the band wants to deliver. The sweetly harmonized acid folk of “Leaving Like That” is on a different wavelength, and likewise the alt-rock vibes of “Space Shuffle” and “Come and Play” and the grunge-chilled-out closer “Denser Diamond.” If there’s an issue with Hidden Trails, it’s one of the expectations I’m bringing to it as a listener and a fan of Houtmeyers’ and Vanlaer’s past work, but clearly it’s going to take me a little longer to get over the loss of their prior outfit. Maybe I’m just not ready to move on.
Naturalist vibes pervade immediately from this late-2016 self-titled Svvamp debut (on RidingEasy Records) in the bassline to “Serpent in the Sky,” and in some of the post-Blue Cheer heavy blues sensibility, the Swedish trio bring to mind some of what made early Dirty Streets so glorious. Part of the appeal of Svvamp’s Svvamp, however, is that among the lessons it’s learned from heavy ‘70s rock and from Kadavar‘s own self-titled is to keep it simple. “Fresh Cream” is a resonant blues jam… that lasts two and a half minutes. The bouncing, turning “Oh Girl?” Three. Even the longest of its cuts, the slide-infused “Time,” the subdued roller “Big Rest” and the Marshall Tucker-esque finale “Down by the River,” are under five. This allows the three-piece of Adam Johansson, Henrik Bjorklund and Erik Stahlgren to build significant momentum over the course of their 35-minute run, casting aside pretense in favor of aesthetic cohesion and an organic sensibility all the more impressive for it being their first record. Sweden has not lacked for boogie rock, but even the most relatively raucous moments here, as in the winding “Blue in the Face,” don’t seem overly concerned with what anyone else is up to, and that bodes remarkably well for Svvamp’s future output.
There are few songs ever written that require whoever’s playing them to “bring it” more than MC5’s “Kick out the Jams.” True, it’s been covered many, many times over, but few have done it well. Belgium’s Black Mirrors signal riotous intent by including it as one of the four tracks of their Napalm Records debut EP, Funky Queen, along with the originals “Funky Queen,” “The Mess” and “Canard Vengeur Masqué,” and amid the post-Blues Pills stomp of “The Mess,” the mega-hook of the opening title-track and the more spacious five-plus-minute closer, which works elements of heavy psych into its bluesy push late to welcome effect, “Kick out the Jams” indeed brings a moment of relative cacophony, even if there’s no actual threat of the band losing control behind the powerful vocals of Marcella di Troia. As a first showing, Funky Queen would seem to be a harbinger, but it’s also a purposeful and somewhat calculated sampling of Black Mirrors’ wares, and I wouldn’t expect it to be long before an album follows behind expanding on the ideas presented in these tracks.
No doubt that for some who’d take it on, any words beyond “members of Monarch!” will be superfluous, but Bordeaux three-piece Endless Floods, who do indeed feature bassist/vocalist Stéphane Miollan and drummer Benjamin Sablon from that band, as well as guitarist Simon Bedy, have more to offer than pedigree on their three-song sophomore full-length, II (on Dry Cough vinyl and Breathe Plastic cassette). To wit, 24-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Impasse” rumbles out raw but spacious sludge that, though without keys or a glut of effects, and marked by the buried-deep screaming of Miollan, holds a potent sense of atmosphere so that the two-minute interlude “Passage” doesn’t seem out of place leading into the 19-minute lumber of “Procession,” which breaks shortly before its halfway point to bass-led minimalism in setting up the final build of the record. Slow churning intensity and longform sludge working coherently alongside ambient sensibilities and some genuinely disturbing noise? Yeah, that’ll do nicely. Thanks.
Boasting four eight-plus-minute instrumentals, Couldn’t Handle… The Heavy Jam finds New Jersey trio Tarpit Boogie rife with classic style heavy rock chemistry, bassist John Eager running fills around the dense-toned riffing from guitarist George Pierro as drummer Chris Hawkins propels a surprising thrust on opener “FFF Heavy Jam.” I’ve been a fan of Pierro and Eager’s since we were bandmates a decade ago, so to hear them unfold “Chewbacca Jacket” from its tense opening to its righteously crashing finale is definitely welcome, but the 37-minute offering finds its true reasoning in the swing and shuffle of the eponymous “Tarpit Boogie,” which digs into the very challenge posed by the title – whether or not anyone taking on the album can handle its balance of sonic impact and exploratory feel – inclusive, in this case, of a drum solo that sets a foundation for a moment of Cactus-style rush ahead of a return to the song’s central progression to conclude. They round out with “1992 (Thank You Very Little),” Chevy Chase sample and all, bringing more crashing nod to a massive slowdown that makes it feel like the entire back half of the cut is one big rock finish. And so it is. A well-kept secret of Garden State heavy.
The self-released Dead Seeds, Barren Soil is Horseburner’s second full-length, and it arrived in 2016 from the four-piece some seven years after their 2009 debut, Dirt City. They’ve had a few shorter outings in between, demos and 2013’s Strange Giant EP, but the West Virginia four-piece of Adam Nohe, Chad Ridgway, Jack Thomas and Zach Kaufman seem to be shooting for a definitive statement of intent in the blend of heavy rock and modern, Baroness-style prog that emerges on opener “David” and finds its way into the galloping “Into Black Resolution,” the multi-tiered vocals of “A Newfound Purity” and even the more straight-ahead thrust of “The Soil’s Prayer.” Marked out by the quality of its guitar work and its clearly-plotted course, Dead Seeds, Barren Soil caps with “Eleleth,” which at just under eight minutes draws the heft and the complexity together for a gargantuan finish that does justice to the ground Horseburner just flattened as they left it behind.
Lafayette, Louisiana, five-piece Vermilion Whiskey telegraph participation in the New Wave of Dude Rock to the point of addressing their audience as “boy” in second cut “The Past is Dead,” and from the cartoon cleavage on the cover to the lack of irony between naming the record Spirit of Tradition and putting a song called “The Past is Dead” on it, they sell that well. The Kent Stump-mixed/Tony Reed-mastered six-tracker is the band’s second behind 2013’s 10 South, and basks in dudely, dudely dudeliness; Southern metal born more out of the Nola style than what, say, Wasted Theory are getting up to these days, but that would still fit on a bill with that Delaware outfit. If you think you’re dude enough for a song like “One Night,” hell, maybe you are. Saddle up. Listening to that and the chunky-style riff of closer “Loaded Up,” I feel like I might need hormone therapy to hit that level of may-yun, but yeah. Coherent, well written, tightly performed and heavy. Vermilion Whiskey might as well be hand-issuing dudes invitations to come drink with them, but they make a solid case for doing so.
If the cover art and a song title like “I Swear I’m Not My Thoughts” weren’t enough of a tip-off, there’s a strong undercurrent of the unsettled to Hex Inverter’s second long-player, Revision. The Pennsylvania-based experimentalists utilize a heaping dose of drones to fill out arrangements of keys, guitar and noise that would otherwise be pretty minimal, and vocals come and go in pro- and depressive fashion. Texture proves the key as they embark on the linear centerpiece “Something Else,” with a first verse arriving over a sweetened bassline after four minutes into the total 9:58, and the wash of noise in “Daphne” obscures an avant neo-jazz groove late, so while opener “Cannibal Eyes” basks in foreboding ambience prior to an emotionally-driven and explosive crunch-beat payoff, one never quite knows what to expect next on Revision. That, of course, is essential to the appeal. They find an edge of rock in the aforementioned “I Swear I’m Not My Thoughts,” but as the loops and synth angularity of closer “Fled (Deadverse Mix)” make plain, their intentions speak to something wider than even an umbrella genre.
Because I’m interested in these things, I looked up the driving time between Wapakoneta, Ohio, and Frederick, Maryland. That’s the trip that San Francisco heavy rockers The Watchers — who debuted on Ripple Music last year with their Sabbath Highway EP (review here) — will make on June 24 to take part in this year’s Maryland Doom Fest at Cafe 611. According to the robots that rule our existence, it’s about six hours and 45 minutes. Doable in a day but not insubstantial by any means. They’ll probably want to split after their set in Ohio the night before and get at least two or three hours of that down and finish the trip in the morning. Life of a touring band. They don’t need me to tell them that.
Maryland Doom Fest, incidentally, is the only gig The Watchers have booked on (or near, anyway) the East Coast, and immediately following it, they whip a 180 and head back to the Midwest for a show in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on June 26. Go go go.
Not a small amount of ground to cover, even with a day between, and before they do it, they’ll reportedly hit the studio to work on their first full-length, tentatively due in Sept., also on Ripple. Oh, and they have a new video as well.
The PR wire keeps us informed:
The Watchers hit the road in support of their critically-acclaimed debut EP on Ripple Music
S.F. Bay Area rock heavyweights, The Watchers, hit the road this summer in support of their debut Ripple Music release, their “Sabbath Highway”.
Starting this June, the “Sabbath Highway Tour” will see the band hitting the highways of the American heartland, crossing from their West Coast homes all the way to their pinnacle stop at The Maryland Doom Fest #3, where they’ll lay waste to waiting audiences along side such heavyweights as The Skull, Wo Fat, and Bang.
6/17 Nevada • Reno / Jub Jubs Thirst Parlor 6/18 Utah • SLC / The Urban Lounge 6/19 Colorado • Ft Collins / Surfside 7 6/20 Kansas • Lawrence / Replay Lounge 6/21 Illinois • Chicago / Reggies 6/22 Indiana • South Bend / Smiths Downtown 6/23 Ohio • Wapakoneta / Route 33 Rhythm & Brews 6/24 Maryland • Frederick / Cafe 611 (Maryland Doom Fest) 6/26 Oklahoma • Tulsa (TBA) 6/27 Texas • San Antonio / Limelight 6/28 Texas • Austin / The Lost Well 6/29 Texas • El Paso / Rock House 6/30 Arizona • Tempe / Yucca Tap Room
Before the Tour commences, The Watchers will enter the studio to record their next full length offering anticipated to be released by Ripple Music in Sept. 2017.
Finally, to rev up for the tour, The Watchers just released a new video from the “Sabbath Highway” EP, “Just A Needle.” Check it out and prepare for the Sabbath Highway!
Midwestern heavy rockers Moonbow return on April 21 with War Bear, their second album for Ripple Music. The band features drummer Steve Earle, also known for his work in Hermano, and bassist Ryan McAllister from Valley of the Sun, so if you’ve got any doubts about the level of groove to be presented, that should probably be enough to dispel them outright. Apparently John Garcia shows up this time around too, as he did on the band’s 2013 debut, The End of Time (review here), so, you know, rock and roll and continuity and whatnot.
Haven’t heard the record yet, but hope to sometime soon, despite the cartoon-tittyriffic cover art, which seems to have become a theme for the day. Enough already with that shit. The planet sucks enough.
From the PR wire:
MOONBOW: BMX legend/Survivor star Matt Bischoff returns with Kentucky rockers for new album on Ripple Music | Stream title track, ‘War Bear’ now
War Bear is released on 21st April 2017 via Ripple Music
Kentucky-based rockers Moonbow began in 2011 when vocalist/BMX legend Matt Bischoff and Hank 3 guitarist Davey McElfresh met at McElfresh’s Covington apartment to outline the details of a new project. What started out as a simple partnership quickly gained momentum and turned into something considerably more when Steve Earle (Afghan Whigs, Hermano) stepped in on drums and former Valley Of The Sun bassist Ryan McAllister was invited to service the low end. After only a few weeks it was obvious that something pretty badass was happening and since setting off on that one-way track, Moonbow have become a serious force to be reckoned.
With their line-up complete they immediately got to work on their debut album, The End Of Time. Due to McElfresh’s constant touring and Bischoff’s stint on reality TV show Survivor: Caramoan, the album was eventually released in 2013 and immediately gained traction both at home and abroad, securing international distribution after a successful Kickstarter campaign. Giving a nod to countrified roots and arid desert jams, The End of Time not only featured some of the meatiest riffs to ever come out of Kentucky, but also guest vocals by the legend John Garcia. Informed by McElfresh’s fuzz-savvy guitar playing, Earle’s deft skin work, McAllister’s distorted Rickenbacker groove and Bischoff’s unique take on songwriting and storytelling, the album showcased a band that were only just getting started.
In 2015, the quartet went on to release an acoustic follow up entitled Volto del Demone and with new album War Bear – their first outing for the California-based record label Ripple Music – it’s safe to say that their time is most definitely upon us.
War Bear will be given an official worldwide release on 21st April 2017 via Ripple Music.
Track Listing: 1. War Bear 2. Sword In The Storm 3. Drinkin Alone 4. Bloodwash 5. Death Of Giants 6. Alone Eyes Roam 7. California King (Featuring John Garcia) 8. The Road 9. Son Of Moses 10. Toward The Sun
Moonbow: Matt Bischoff – Vocals David McElfresh – Guitars Ryan McAllister – Bass Steve Earle – Drums
As they’re prone to do, Portland, Oregon’s Ape Machine are gearing up to head out on a run of Spring tour dates, and as previously announced, they’ll be hooking up with Boston heavy rockers Gozu along the way. Well, before that happens, the four-piece will head out from the Pacific Northwest into Montana starting on March 31 to sneak in a quick six dates ahead of time. Part of the motivation for doing so might be to get as much stage experience with drummer Steve Hanford (also Poison Idea) before they and he together record the new and awaited Ape Machine long-player, which has been given the foreboding title Skull Under Boot, following the longer West Coast stretch.
Kind of curious to hear how that album plays out, given the title and Hanford‘s pedigree, though now that I look at the PR wire info below, I’m not 100 percent he’ll be playing on the record or if he’s in permanently as their drummer in addition to producing the record. One assumes we’ll hear more as they hit the studio next month, but take a look for yourself and see what you think:
The northwest riffmeisters, Ape Machine, will put the rubber to the asphalt in a can of sweat (aka the tour van) this April, embarking on a western US tour that includes dates with Boston’s Metal Blade affiliated rockers, Gozu. Changing up the lineup on this tour, Ape Machine will include Steve Hanford – AKA Thee Slayer Hippy (Poison Idea) – on drums. Steve will also be producing the band’s upcoming LP, Skull Under Boot, scheduled for recording immediately following the tour.
The name APE MACHINE is a nod to the days of reel-to-reel magnetic tape audio recording; a fitting moniker for the Portland heavy-hitting quartet as the band plays through vintage tube amplifiers and lays down its songs using exclusively throwback quality studio equipment. A true four-piece, the group has been called “a rock and roll band with a finger on the pulse of the 70’s and their asses firmly in the present” and “real heavy-psych for the iPhone generation” that delivers “true guts and glory rock and roll”.
Be sure to catch the exciting new lineups, sweat and vibrations of Ape Machine and Gozu as the bands shred the western territories.
Ape Machine: Friday March 31st – Kalispell, MT – Old School Records Saturday April 1st – Billings, MT – Railyard Sunday April 2nd – Denver, CO – Hi-Dive Monday April 3rd – Oklahoma City, OK – Blue Note Lounge Wednesday April 5th – Austin, TX – Lost Well Thursday April 6th – Dallas, TX – Three Links Friday April 7th – Houston, TX – Rudyard’s Saturday April 8th – San Antonio, TX – Faust Tavern Sunday April 9th – Corpus Christi, TX – Black Monk Tavern Monday April 10th – El Paso, TX – Lowbrow Palace Tuesday April 11th – Las Vegas, NV – Backstage Bar and Billiards
Ape Machine & Gozu: Wednesday April 12th – Los Angeles, CA – Viper Room Thursday April 13th – San Diego, CA – Soda Bar Friday April 14th – Santa Cruz, CA – Blue Lagoon Saturday April 15th – Sacramento, CA – Starlite Lounge Sunday April 16th – San Francisco, CA – Elbo Room Monday April 17th – Fresno, CA – TBA Tuesday April 18th – Bend, OR – Volcanic Theater Wednesday April 19th – Eugene, OR – Old Nick’s Pub Thursday April 20th – Portland, OR – Kenton Club Friday April 21st – Seattle, WA – Funhouse Saturday April 22nd – Bremerton, WA – Manette Saloon