Review & Video Premiere: Steak, No God to Save

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Reviews on August 15th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

steak-no-god-to-save

[Click play above to watch Steak’s new video for ‘Living Like a Rat.’ No God to Save is available now via Ripple Music.]

In the nearly three years that have passed since the London four-piece made their full-length debut, Steak‘s desert rock loyalism has taken them back and forth across the UK and continental Europe for tours and appearances at festivals like Keep it Low, Reverence Valada in Portugal, Desertfest Athens, Stoned from the Underground, of course Desertfest London — of which guitarist Reece Tee is a founder/organizer — and, most recently, Bloodstock. Even prior to the arrival of Slab City (review here) via Napalm Records, their 2012 Disastronaught (review here) and 2013 Corned Beef Colossus (review here) EPs were earning them a reputation for raucous fuzz, comic-style storytelling and a formidable, growing presence in London’s crowded heavy rock underground.

The inevitable follow-up, No God to Save, finds Steak signed to respected purveyor Ripple Music out of California, and while the foursome made a point to travel to that most golden of states’ desert to record their debut — a once-in-a-lifetime chance of which any band would be foolish not to take advantage for the memory and life experience alone, never mind the actual fuzz captured at Thunder Underground — this time they’ve stuck closer to home, putting together the 10-track/48-minute offering at Titan Studios in Watford, northwest of London, with producer Steve Sears (KrokodilGallowsDiesel King, etc.). That’s a significant change of approach in itself — not to mention geography — but with the vocals of Chris “Kippa” Haley at the forefront of forward-driving cuts like “Coke Dick” and “Living Like a Rat,” Steak reemerge on their second full-length with a deeply recognizable sound in tone and structure. They sound, in other words, like themselves.

And it comes through clearly in the songwriting that their time on stage over the last few years has helped them refine the definition of what “themselves” means. While it cut its teeth in tonal buzz and a generally straightforward build of momentum, Slab City was almost inextricably tethered to the post-Kyuss vibe it actively sought. No God to Save still showcases this influence in some of Tee‘s riffing on seven-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Overthrow” or the later “Creeper,” but when one examines the tracklisting as a whole, that becomes only one element at work across a much broader and ultimately richer presentation. Atop the solid foundation in the rhythm section of bassist James “Cam” Cameron and drummer Sammy ForwaySteak explore more spacious vibes beginning in “Overthrow” and throughout ensuing pieces like the bass-led “Clones,” “Mountain” and the penultimate “Wickerman.”

steak photo sam mellish

“Rough House” provides some rolling middle-ground in side B, as “King Lizard” does on side A, and instrumental closer “The Ebb” brings in acoustic atmospherics complemented by a sparse landscape of electric lead flourish and dramatic piano, cymbal hits and tom thud, and with the aforementioned thrust of “Coke Dick” and “Living Like a Rat,” there’s a firm sense of dynamics at work. But it’s the shift into this more multifaceted style that most distinguishes No God to Save from Slab City and Steak‘s prior short releases, and listening to the fluidity brought to bear as “Overthrow” shifts into “Coke Dick” and “Clones” moves through “King Lizard” en route to “Living Like a Rat,” No God to Save feels built with the intention to emphasize the variety between one piece and the next, even as the flow goes uninterrupted for the duration. If one takes “Mountain” as the leadoff for side B (also the longest track there; secondary points), Steak envision even wider expanses as “Rough House,” “Creeper,” “Wickerman” and “The Ebb” push further outward from what the first half of No God to Save already proves — namely that, while still earthy in their heft and tone, Steak are interested in expressing more than played-to-style desert rock.

That becomes the prevailing impression of No God to Save as the band groove and careen along their increasingly diverse path, and while one wonders how far they’d be willing to push that impulse before snapping back to dead-ahead riff-rocking à la “Living Like a Rat” as a focal point — they’ve jammed before, to be sure, but how psychedelic can Steak get? — the fact that they’re demonstrating multiple sides of their sonic personality establishes them as a more mature and complete unit. Add to that the sharp performances of TeeCameron and Forway, the commanding frontman-ism of Haley and the depth of mix given to the material by Sears‘ studio work, and No God to Save becomes more than just a check-in from a band who had an impressive debut a couple years back and positions them all the more as a group to be taken seriously when it comes to making an impact within and beyond their regional scene. All along, Steak have been a band with marked potential. Front to back, in its individual moments of detail and its increased range, No God to Save sees that begin to pay off.

Burgeoning maturity suits Steak well, and it’s worth pointing out that even as they learn the value of offsetting balls-out drive with more patient fare, they still deliver the material on No God to Save with a markedly energetic spirit. That too can be read as derived from their experience on various stages throughout the last couple years, but it’s certainly not something that was lacking before, and of the various aspects of their approach they’re carrying forward as they grow, no question it’s a helpful one to bring along for the ride. I will not claim to know where Steak are headed when it comes to their ongoing progression, but there’s an underlying sense of craft in No God to Save that bodes remarkably well for that journey, and as they reach new terrain in sound and substance, the core of who they are as songwriters becomes even stronger in its purposes. At this point, it’s hard to see them letting that go, and nor should they.

Steak, No God to Save (2017)

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The Obelisk Radio Adds: Boris, Sólstafir, Desert Suns & Chiefs, Elara, Fungus Hill

Posted in Radio on July 31st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk radio cavum

Some bigger releases going up to the playlist for The Obelisk Radio this time around, and that’s just fine by me. It’s five albums listed here, but there are a few others included as well that you can see listed on the updates page and it’s good stuff all the way around. It was all actually supposed to go up last week, but you know, life is chaos and all that. I hope as always that you manage to find something you enjoy, and if you haven’t heard some of this stuff as yet — I suspect you have, because you know what’s up and I’m perpetually behind on these things; more than just a week, on average — then all the better. Let’s dig in together.

The Obelisk Radio adds for July 31, 2017:

Boris, Dear

boris dear

If you were Boris and you were looking to celebrate a quarter-century of innovating heavy rock, noise, drone, J-pop, and genreless forays into bizarre sonic delights, how would you do it? If you said, “I’d release 69 heavy-as-hell minutes of rumbling tectonics and progressive scope making for one of the best albums of the year,” you’d seem to be on the money. The Japanese trio’s umpteenth full-length, Dear (on Sargent House in the US/EU and Daymare in Japan), begins with the appropriately-titled “D.O.W.N. – Domination of Waiting Noise,” setting forth a consuming six-minute onslaught of feedback and lumbering pummel before the SunnO)))-rivaling drone of “Deadsong” takes hold, shifting at its midpoint to a spaciousness all Boris‘ own. Then they chug out galloping riff triplets on “Absolutego” like it ain’t no thing. That’s Boris: the band who named themselves after a Melvins song and then utterly outdid their namesake on every creative level and have continued to do so throughout one of underground music’s most landmark tenures. Dear offers simultaneous melodic breadth and droning depth on its centerpiece duo of “Kagero” and “Biotope” after counteracting minimalist march with explosive crash on “Beyond,” but they’re still just getting started. The seven-minute “The Power” leads off the second of the two LPs and seems to stem upward from the same roots as YOB at their harshest, brutally feedbacking into the dronegaze of the shorter “Memento Mori” before the 12-minute “Dystopia – Vanishing Point” and the nine-minute title-track comprise a side D that’s nothing less than a triumphant lesson in how to meet your audience head-on right before you swallow them whole, setting its stage with keys and tribalist drums quickly before hypnotizing through five minutes of quiet stretch and bursting gloriously to life ahead of one last contrast of empty spaces and crushing tonality on “Dear” that gives way at last to the noise and feedback that’s always been so essential to their process. If Dear is a letter to Boris‘ fans, as they have said, it is also a willful embrace of the wide-open sensibilities that have made the last 25 years of their craft so uniquely their own. They can go anywhere stylistically and remain Boris precisely because they refuse to settle on a single idea that defines them.

Boris on Thee Facebooks

Boris at Sargent House’s website

 

Sólstafir, Berdreyminn

solstafir berdreyminn

Having now passed the 20-year mark since their founding in 1995, Iceland’s Sólstafir continue to reshape melancholy in their own image on their sixth album and third for Season of Mist, Berdreyminn. The Reykjavik-based four-piece keep the significant achievements of 2014’s Ótta (review here) close to the chest throughout the eight-track/57-minute offering, but songs like “Ísafold” have an upbeat push behind their emotional resonance, and even on a brooding piano piece like “Hvít Sæng,” the overarching sense of motion and the dynamic is maintained. The penultimate “Ambátt” — first of two eight-minute cuts in a finale duo — might be Berdreyminn‘s richest progressive achievement, with its lush opening vocal harmonies giving way to a patiently-delivered clinic on texture, build and payoff that borders on the orchestral. Of course, strings and horns to appear on the album, adding to already complex arrangements, but Sólstafir never lose their corresponding human center, and as “Bláfjall” closes with an intensity of thrust hinted at by the cymbal-crash wash of opener “Silfur-Refur” and the post-blackened push of “Nárós” but ultimately on its own level, they underline the realization and poise that is simply all their own. Berdreyminn is the sound of a band doing important work, and with it, Sólstafir only prove themselves more crucial on an aesthetic level, yet it might be their ability to somehow still feel in-progress that most defines what makes them so special. More than two decades on, they still come across like a group exploring their sound and finding new ways to develop their songwriting — which they are and which they do here. That in itself is an accomplishment worthy of every accolade they reap, and Berdreyminn lives up to that standard front to back across its engaging, encompassing span.

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Sólstafir at Season of Mist’s website

 

Desert Suns & Chiefs, The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter 5

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Ripple Music has made its The Second Coming of Heavy series of split LPs an essential showcase of the variety in underground rock. The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter 5 brings together San Diego heavy psych/blues rockers Desert Suns, who also reissued their debut long-player through Ripple in 2016 and followed it with the single “The Haunting” (review here) in conjunction with Ripple and HeviSike Records, and Phoenix, Arizona’s Chiefs, whose 2015 debut, Tomorrow’s Over (review here), arrived on vinyl via Battleground Records and whose five tracks included on side B here cast them among the best Ripple Music bands in the Southwest not currently signed to Ripple Music for their next album. More than some prior installments, The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter 5 finds its two featured purveyors complementing each other’s work excellently, as Desert Suns offer three seven-plus minute tracks running from the harmonica-inclusive “Night Train” and the rolling, long-fading “Solitude” with the push of “Heavy” in between and Chiefs — though their individual runtimes are shorter — holding straightforward heavy/desert rock methods at their core in unpretentious fashion across “The Rhino,” the standout “Baron to Chancellor,” “Low Tide,” “Caroline” and “My Last Stand,” nodding initially at ’90s noise rock à la Helmet in “The Rhino” but in the end keeping to their sandy, well-structured mission. As ever, The Second Coming of Heavy asks nothing more of its audience than a basic exploration of the groups included, and certainly both Desert Suns and Chiefs earn that. Whether one takes it on in the context of the prior chapters or as a standalone split release, it delivers a collection of cuts from two outfits with a shared core of quality songcraft and the underlying message that sometimes the straight-line route is the way to go. Right on, once again.

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Ripple Music website

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Elara, Deli Bal

elara deli bal

Both sides of Elara‘s PsyKa Records-released debut full-length, Deli Bal, are comprised of one shorter track on either side of eight minutes and one longer one, 12 and 17 minutes, respectively. Between that and the cover art, it should come as no surprise that heavy psychedelic drift is central to what the Stuttgart, Germany, trio of bassist/vocalist Daniel Wieland, guitarist/noisemaker Felix Schmidt and drummer Martin Wieland — who also stylize their name as the bracketed [Elara Sunstreak Band] — get up to in their first offering, but there’s an underlying progressive melodic sensibility as well, and Schmidt‘s guitar seems to have picked up a few lessons from My Sleeping Karma‘s minor-key solo mysticism, so one can hear a sound beginning to take shape early as the leadoff title-track gives way to “Amida,” which swaps back and forth between organ-laden krautrock meandering and fuller-fuzz thrust, and as “Quarantania” reinforces that classic vibe with a warm bass tone from Daniel. Whether you’re listening to the platter itself and switching sides or digitally or on CD, Deli Bal is clearly intended to be consumed as a whole work, and one can hear the vocal melody of “Harmonia” tying back to that in the opener as another example of the underlying structure with which it plays out, despite the broad feel of the songs themselves and the expanses they both intend and actually do cover. The LP has just the four tracks, but the digital version comes with the 9:42 bonus cut “Trimenon,” which builds around a core post-rocking guitar line to come to a fervent apex before receding again to let the listener go gently from Deli Bal‘s total 56-minute runtime; no minor undertaking, but effectively executed and a pleasure in its wandering mind and spirit.

Elara on Thee Facebooks

PsyKA Records on Bandcamp

 

Fungus Hill, Creatures

fungus hill creatures

This early-2017 psychedelic curio from Umeå, Sweden’s Fungus Hill begins by asking “Are You Dead?” The just-under-nine-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) of the groovy outfit’s four-song, self-released, 28-minute debut Creatures EP doesn’t sound overly concerned with whether the answer is yes or no so much as enacting a serene flow by posing the question over a laid back bluesy vibe. Arrangement? Fluid. With dual vocals from guitarist Gustav Orvefors and percussionist Jenny Isaksson — the five-piece is completed by guitarist Erik Sköld, drummer Nils Mörtzell and bassist Tom Westerlund — Fungus Hill are able to bring variety as they turn to post-Ghost straightforward ’70s chorus-leaning in the first half of “Beware of Evil in the Sky,” prior to a midsection trip outward on subdued shimmy and deceptively complex melodicism. The flute (or keyboard flute sounds) of the jazzy “Evolution” brings Isaksson to the floor with a smoky, even-bluesier feel, and the guitar answers back with fuzzy lead flourish that only enhances the soul on display, while a seven-and-a-half-minute closing title-track delves deepest of all into thicker riffing, a “Na na na na” hook taking hold quickly just in case you weren’t sure it was going to be a highlight. It is. More tonally dense than most retro boogie — and less retro, for that matter — Fungus Hill‘s Creatures nonetheless has its traditionalist elements, but across its individual pieces each one points to a different side of the band’s personality, and from the Alan Watts sample at the beginning of “Are You Dead?” to when we meet the troll later in “Creatures,” each side of that personality utterly shines.

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Fungus Hill on Bandcamp

 

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Review & Track Premiere: The Judge, Tell it to the Judge

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on July 25th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the-judge-tell-it-to-the-judge

[Click play above to stream the premiere of ‘Strange Ways’ by The Judge. Tell it to the Judge is out Aug. 4 on Ripple Music.]

Illinois heavy rock traditionalists The Judge made their first offering through Ripple Music last year with a reissue of their initially-self-released late-2014 self-titled debut. That release was initially positioned as an EP, so one might think of Tell it to the Judge as the Granite City four-piece’s proper label debut, or their first for Ripple anyhow, but either way, what matters is the band has culled together a warm collection of nine tracks drawing influences from sources classic and modern in the spirit of heavy ’10s boogie. Tell it to the Judge is a little long at just under 45 minutes for something of its style — one tends to think of boogie rock LPs in the range of 36 to 38 minutes, and that can make a difference — but the still-young lineup of standalone vocalist Tyler Swope, guitarist Dylan Jarrett, bassist Kevin Jones and drummer Evan Anderson use that time to position themselves within a burgeoning wave of next-generation American heavy boogie.

Thinking of output from groups like Slow Season, labelmates Salem’s Bend and countless others in the expansive post-Radio Moscow/Earthless West Coast sphere, or fellow Midwesterners like the frenetically progressive Cloud Catcher and the biker-grooving Bison Machine — for either of whom The Judge‘s measured pace would make an excellent tour pairing — one finds Tell it to the Judge straightforward in its intent and less geared toward weirdo culture certainly than those freaking out along the Pacific. However, in so being, they’re putting focus on craft rather than style in a way that, particularly with Swope‘s easy melodic execution of highlight choruses like those of “Strange Ways” and “Go on Home,” as well as the verses of the penultimate “Darkest Daze,” brings to mind the earlier work of Nashville’s Dirty Streets in culling modern vibes from the likes of Blue CheerLed Zeppelin and maybe even a bit of Dio-era Sabbath (at least as regards the warning-you-against-evil-ladies perspective of “Go on Home”; see “Walk Away” for reference) thrown in for good measure.

They’re clearly still in the process of sorting out the various elements that will ultimately solidify as their own sound, but the youthful excitement they bring to side A cuts like opener “Empty Halls,” “From the Mountain” and “Changing World” gives them an edge in terms of their songwriting, as do the righteous solos of Jarrett and the blue-eyed soul of Swope, whose verses in the 6:51 centerpiece “Islands” are no less essential to conveying the ’70s-meets-now vibe than the punctuation of Anderson‘s snare — the drums sound fantastic throughout; a boon to the organic feel of the recording overall along with Jones‘ bass. The latter is of particular note in “Islands” and the also-extended “High Flyin’,” shining through in the more languid roll from beneath Jarrett‘s leads.

the judge

It’s a proven formula, and one would be remiss to leave out the clear affect European acts like Graveyard and Kadavar have had on this movement as a whole — one could argue even the title Tell it to the Judge is modeled on something like Abra Kadavar, though that German trio were hardly the first to put the name of their band in the name of their second record — but the fluidity The Judge bring to these tracks, their ease in moving between varied tempos and undercurrent of developing chemistry on the whole lend a sense of personality to the material from which it very much benefits.

Again, they’re growing, and searching out their place within the genre aesthetic, but hearing that in the upbeat stomp of “From the Mountain,” the impressively-controlled thrust of “Changing World” and the shuffling finale “Parade of Sin,” which returns from the gone-further-out blues ranging of “High Flyin'” to earthier ground, only makes Tell it to the Judge a more engaging listen. They’re inviting their audience to be a direct witness to their evolution, already in progress. And with the initial sweep of “Empty Halls,” the flow in unfolding “Islands” and the sincerely unpretentious nod of “Go on Home” — which makes up for in catchiness what its woman-done-me-wrong lyric lacks in being politically correct — they make it a simple invitation to accept.

Like many of their up-and-coming cohorts, The Judge showcase potential over staid or studied realization, but there’s already stylistic nuance to be heard in shifting tones throughout “Darkest Daze”‘s light psych-blues flourish and the swing of “Strange Ways,” and that stands as one of the most encouraging factors when one considers Tell it to the Judge‘s place in the modern sphere. They have and will continue to have their work cut out for them in cutting out a niche for their work, but while Anderson and Jarrett trace The Judge‘s founding back to 2009/2010, they still come across in these tracks like a new band, and that is something they should embrace for the vitality it implies in their delivery, which make no mistake, is very much there. Whether that will be what defines their course as a group remains to be seen, and as a result, Tell it to the Judge is all the more fun as a front-to-back classic-minded listening experience.

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The Judge on Bandcamp

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Salem’s Bend Hit the Parking Lot and Premiere “Cold Hand” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on July 12th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

salem's bend

Imagine you roll into a parking lot and find Los Angeles trio Salem’s Bend jamming out in front of their van, surrounded by cameras filming their new video. What do you say? Do you leave your car, rock out for a while, and then go about your business? Maybe do your shopping or whatever it is you came to do, like nothing’s happening? That would be the New York solution, but I don’t know how it goes in L.A., if it would be the same or what. I like to think I’d park, walk over, check it out for a bit, maybe take a picture on my phone, nod, give a cool-cat thumbs up and be on my way. I’m sure the reality would be excruciatingly awkward. In any case, pretty friggin’ awesome idea to put some guerrilla filmmaking to work for the song “Cold Hand,” which is the first new material Salem’s Bend have shown off since Ripple Music released their self-titled debut (review here) last year.

You can’t say the track doesn’t earn it. At more than nine minutes, it’s a substantial work in terms of runtime, but even more than thatsalem's bend war cloud kook tour poster, the chemistry it demonstrates between the lineup of guitarist/vocalist Bobby Parker, bassist/vocalist Kevin Schofield and drummer Zach Huling proves beyond worthy of the showcase. And make no mistake — Salem’s Bend are playing the song live in the clip. Parker set up mics to get a pro-sounding recording and was wholly successful in that, but this is an actual, amplified performance of “Cold Hand,” not just a studio version laid over captured footage. They bring their own lighting and do well to set the mood, and as they push into the fuzzed-out blues jam that starts toward the middle of the track, they make it plain that they’re ready to begin exploring a whole new league of spaciousness from what they brought to their first album. Right on, right on, gentlemen. Preach.

Salem’s Bend hit the road starting July 12 — egads, that’s tonight! — for a West Coast tour alongside Ripple labelmates War Cloud and fellow upstarts Kook, and “Cold Hand” that begins with a gig presented by Vegas Rock Revolution and also features former tourmates The Rare Breed. You can find all the dates for the 12-date run under the video below, as well as some comment from Parker on making the video, recording the song, and the shorter companion track “Winter Sunn” that’s still to be unveiled.

Check it out and enjoy:

Salem’s Bend, “Cold Hand” official video

Before we start to work on the second album, we wanted to get a couple new songs out. “Cold Hand” is a song that we jammed out together, and we have been playing it live for the past several months. It’s fun to play, as it has a lot of improvisational parts that we feel out as a band, so its never quite the same twice. Because of that, we figured we’d record the song live to try to capture that essence. Kevin is a great director/cinematographer and has some killer film gear so we figured why not film it as well!

We enlisted the help of my dad, Lee Parker, who is a great director and cinematographer and has been in the film business doing every kind of job for a long time, and also my friend Herman Ming, who is also a great director, cameraman, and filmmaker himself. They did the mobile camera work for us and helped us set everything up. We chose a parking garage for our location so that we could get a massive reverbed-out sound, especially for the drums. I set up the mics to capture all our instruments and vocals, and then mixed and mastered in my home studio. It’s a raw performance with mistakes here and there, but I think we captured our live sound well and gives one small view into our show for those who haven’t been able to see us live yet. Zach and Kevin nailed their parts and sounded excellent.

Since Cold Hand is such a long song, we figured we counter that with a faster and shorter track for the B-side “Winter Sunn.” We wrote this one really quickly together in the studio and recorded it the next week at the same time we recorded Cold Hand, in the parking garage. We’re happy with the way it turned out and think its a good counterpoint to the more epic A-side.

We’re heading out on another summer tour of the Western US, covering some new ground and new states this time. The first half (minus a few dates on our own) will be with the awesome Bay Area band War Cloud, who just recently joined the Ripple family! And the second half will be with the amazing San Jose rippers KOOK, who we played with last year on tour and are excited to play with again! Kicking off the tour in Vegas on July 12th with our Ripple road brothers The Rare Breed for a rad show setup by Vegas Rock Revolution.

List of dates is as follows:
July 12th – Las Vegas, NV @ Backstage Bar and Billiards w/ The Rare Breed
July 13th – Tempe, AZ @ Yucca Tap Room
July 14th – Los Angeles, CA @ The Lexington w/ War Cloud
July 15th – Atascadero, CA @ Camozzi’s Saloon w/ War Cloud
July 16th – San Jose, CA @ The Ritz w/ War Cloud and Kook
July 17th – Sacramento, CA @ Blue Lamp w/ War Cloud
July 18th – San Francisco, CA @ DNA Lounge w/ War Cloud
July 19th – Eugene, OR @ Old Nick’s Pub w/ KOOK
July 20th – Portland, OR @ Highwater Mark w/ KOOK
July 21st – Seattle, WA @ Lucky Liquor w/ KOOK
July 22nd – Kennewick, WA @ Eagles Lodge 2485 w/ KOOK
July 23rd – Boise, ID @ The Shredder w/ KOOK
July 24th – Reno, NV @ Jub Jub’s w/ KOOK

Salem’s Bend is:
Bobby Parker – Guitar and Vocals
Kevin Schofield – Bass and vocals
Zach Huling – Drums

Salem’s Bend on Thee Facebooks

Salem’s Bend on Bandcamp

Ripple Music website

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

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The Judge to Release Tell it to the Judge Aug. 8; New Song Posted

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 10th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the judge

Midwestern heavy rockers The Judge issued their self-titled debut last year as their first offering through Ripple Music, and next month, they follow it up with Tell it to the Judge. Set for a release Aug. 8 with charm-laden stoner-toon cover art of the band in front of, yes, a judge, the album reveals its first public audio with the track “Empty Halls,” which you can stream now at the bottom of this post. It’s the opening cut from the record, so fitting enough to be the first impression — it would be anyway, in other words — and no doubt there will be more to come over the next month as the band and label gear up for its proper arrival.

The PR wire brought album info and more:

the judge tell it to the judge

THE JUDGE to release new album on Ripple Music

Tell It To The Judge by The Judge is released on 8th August 2017 on Ripple Music

Originally formed in 2010 by long-time friends Dylan Jarrett and Evan Anderson, The Judge is a hard rock quartet of impeccable vintage, formed in the fittingly named stronghold of Granite City, Illinois.

After the band’s initial incarnation as Unfallen – with Jarrett on guitar and Anderson on drums – the duo quickly became a trio for a period, touring music venues across the St. Louis area with new member Kevin Jones taking up bass and vocal duties. Increasingly influenced by the Britannic rock majesty of groups such as Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, and with it that unshakeable ‘band of brothers’ mentality’, in 2013 the trio finally discovered the missing piece of a puzzle with the addition of their very own enigmatic front man, Tyler Swope.

As a criminally young quartet happily graduating from the riffs of old, Jarrett and Anderson started to uncover a new wave of hard rock acts occupying radio waves and record store shelves. Music by the likes of Graveyard and Kadavar helped inspire The Judge to develop their own special breed of slow burning psychedelia and sonic stew of traditional classic rock’n’roll and heavy backroom blues, the results of which can be heard on their brand-new studio album Tell It To The Judge, which follows on from the release of last year’s acclaimed self-titled debut and first for Ripple Music.

Tell It To The Judge by The Judge is released on 8th August 2017 on Ripple Music.

Track Listing:
1. Empty Halls
2. From the Mountain
3. Strange Ways
4. Changing World
5. Islands
6. Go On Home
7. High Flyin’
8. Darkest Daze
9. Parade of Sin

The Judge:
Dylan Jarrett – Guitar
Evan Anderson – Drums
Kevin Jones – Bass
Tyler Swope – Vocals

https://www.facebook.com/thejudgeband/
https://thejudge.bandcamp.com/
http://www.ripple-music.com/
https://www.facebook.com/Ripple-Music-369610860064/

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The Necromancers Premiere “Black Marble House” Video; Servants of the Salem Girl Due Aug. 18 on Ripple Music

Posted in Bootleg Theater on June 13th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the-necromancers-photo-maya-c

French four-piece The Necromancers have set an Aug. 18 release for their debut album, Servants of the Salem Girl, via respected purveyor Ripple Music, and even if it’s about witches, they manage to avoid many of the trappings of modern cult rock. To wit, they sound like neither the garage doom of Uncle Acid nor the retrofied boogie of Graveyard — and when it comes to what we’ve come to associate with cult rock, those are two considerable monoliths to avoid (even though Graveyard are just about in no way a cult rock band). The track “Black Marble House,” for which you can see a new video premiering below, is my first exposure to the Poitiers-based outfit, and it finds their sound modern, heavy, fuzzy and deceptively straightforward given their purported lyrical thematic.

One might be tempted to call that incongruity were it not for the obvious core of songwriting on display beneath the crisp production of “Black Marble House,” which allows The Necromancers to immediately take the track where they please, adding a gruff edge of aggression to the hook as they shove through the five-plus minutes over which they tell this portion of a story that, presumably, takes place over the course of the album as a whole. August is a ways off, and I haven’t heard the entirety of Servants of the Salem Girl as yet — and that’s not me being coy; I actually haven’t heard it — but as an introduction to what The Necromancers might proffer at least in part sonically throughout, “Black Marble House” piques interest and at very least gives those who’d take it on a chorus to have stuck in their head until more info and/or audio arrives.

The band offered some insight on the song and how it plays into the full record, which you’ll find under the player here along with the credits and other whatnot.

Please enjoy:

The Necromancers, “Black Marble House” official video

The Necromancers on “Black Marble House”:

“‘Black Marble House’ is the first song we recorded as a demo, and when we shot the video (which tells a witch hunt that goes wrong for the Witchfinder), we mostly wanted to release something that could illustrate the whole album we were working on, Servants of the Salem Girl. The ‘Salem Girl’ is a presence who haunts all our songs, taking different names, symbolising different things, but always floating around. It was important to us to have something not just based on the lyrics of ‘Black Marble House.'”

Taken from THE NECROMANCERS’ debut album ‘Servants Of The Salem Girl” out on Ripple Music on August 18th.’

Directed and edited by Tom Cornière-David.
Filmed by Pauline Foeillet.
Starring : Marie Besiat, Antoine Alonso, Hugo Pravia, Andolin Vermillet & The Necromancers.

The Necromancers are:
Rob – Lead Guitar
Tom – Lead Vocals & Guitar
Simon – Bass Guitar
Ben – Drums

The Necromancers on Thee Facebooks

The Necromancers on YouTube

Ripple Music website

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

Ripple Music on Thee Facebooks

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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.

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War Cloud Sign to Ripple Music; Debut Album Due in Sept.

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 9th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Oakland heavy rockers War Cloud released their Vulture City digital single (discussed here) last Spring, and though it was only one song and a four-minute sampling of their wares, it was pretty easy to tell that dudes were headed somewhere. Classic in form, modern in execution and geared by a raucous, semi-metallized urgency, the track was a telling forecast of a band who, one way or the other, was going to be on the move. Sure enough, the four-piece, which features Wild Eyes bassist Carson Binx, have signed to Ripple Music for the release of their debut album this September.

Info on the record is minimal at this point, but September is three months away and I suspect things like artwork, tracklisting, audio previews, tour dates, video, etc., are all impending. Keep an eye out, because listening back to “Vulture City” now — as you can at the bottom of this post — War Cloud don’t sound any less loaded with potential than they did a year ago.

From the PR wire:

war cloud

Bay Area Heavy Rockers, War Cloud, Sign to Ripple Music for New Album and Tour

Ripple Music is thrilled to welcome San Francisco Bay Area heavy rockers, War Cloud, to it’s roster of the best of the modern heavy bands.
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Erupting in 2014, out of Oakland, California, War Cloud has been on a steady path of shredding Northern Californian ear drums. Founded by Alex Wein (vocals, guitars), who moved from Baltimore MD and wasted no time in recruiting area musicians after firmly planting his amps in the Bay Area. Looking to create an aural ash cloud of volcanic rock, Alex solidified this four- man crew with two Bay Area natives Joaquin Ridgell (drums) and Tony Campos (guitar), and secured the low end with Toronto transplant Carson Binx on bass.

War Cloud is a young band but far from wide-eyed innocents. Their musical history drenched in molten riffs across the timeline of heavy metal, the name alone originates from a Wicked Lady song of the same title. With roots encompassing Tony’s tenure in San Francisco’s heavy thrash tinged Hell Fire, Carson’s melding of hard rock rhythm and old-school groove on bass, and Joaquin pounding his drums as if possessed by the ghost of John Bonham himself. War Cloud has created a new flavor of heavy rock music for those enjoying past meals served up by the likes of Pentagram, UFO, Deep Purple, and Black Sabbath.

War Cloud’s debut album — their first for Bay Area based heavy rock leader — Ripple Music will hit the streets this September in vinyl, CD and digital formats. Available world-wide via all digital platforms, world-wide physical distribution and the Ripple Music webstore.

War Cloud is:
Alex Wein – Vocals/Guitar
Tony Campos – Guitar
Carson Binx – Bass
Joaquin Ridgell – Drums

https://www.facebook.com/warcloudiscoming/
https://warcloudiscoming.bandcamp.com/releases
http://www.warcloud.bigcartel.com/
www.ripple-music.com
https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com
https://www.facebook.com/theripplemusic/

War Cloud, “Vulture City”

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