Witch Mountain Self-Titled LP Due May 25

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 12th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

witch mountain photo whitey mcconnaughy

Call me crazy if you want — you’d have ample evidence to back you up, to be sure — but I think Witch Mountain are going to surprise a lot of people with this record. Hell, I saw the band with Uta Plotkin. I heard the utter mournful brilliance and emotional claustrophobia that was so resonant in 2014’s Mobile of Angels (review here). I know what they’re up against in getting new vocalist Kayla Dixon to take on that lead singer role. But you know, I’ve seen them with Dixon up front too. And I’ve listened to “Burn You Down,” which is the centerpiece of their new self-titled-as-a-statement self-titled LP — out May 25 on Svart Records — and if you’ve been saying to yourself there’s no way the band can pull it off without Plotkin, the arguments otherwise are quickly mounting.

Bottom line? Founding drummer Nathan Carson (also of Nanotear Booking) and founding guitarist Rob Wrong (now also of The Skull) aren’t dummies. By bringing in bassist Justin Brown (ex-Lamprey) and Dixon in 2015 and waiting until now to put a new album out, they’ve essentially given themselves the time to let Witch Mountain find its new shape, new personality as a group, and new confidence to move forward. Like I said, I think a lot of people are going to be surprised by just how well they’ve done all of those things with this record.

From the PR wire:

Witch Mountain Witch Mountain



Witch Mountain return from their three-plus-year hiatus with a refreshed line-up (new singer Kayla Dixon and bass player Justin Brown join band stalwarts Rob Wong and Nate Carson) and a new album: Witch Mountain (May 25, Svart Records).

“We’ve always been a patient band,” said founding member/drummer Nathan Carson. “Thanks to all of the touring Rob and I have done with Justin and Kayla over the last three years, we were able to make this album as a full-fledged, road-tested, family unit. Over twenty years, Witch Mountain has never peaked; each record and tour are better than the last. It was a tiny scene when we started, and even though it’s incredibly saturated now, [our] own unique twist on Northwestern doom has continued to set us apart. I can’t wait to share the latest and greatest album with our fans.”

Witch Mountain tracklist:
Mechanical World
Burn You Down

Witch Mountain pre-orders and the band’s North American tour dates will be announced soon


Witch Mountain, “Burn You Down”

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Six Dumb Questions with Akula

Posted in audiObelisk, Six Dumb Questions on March 9th, 2018 by JJ Koczan


Those familiar with the vocal work of Columbus, Ohio-based vocalist Jeff Martin will find his presence recognizable in everything but context when it comes to the newcomer five-piece Akula. Known of course for his work fronting (from behind the drums) the fuzz-laced heavy rocking Lo-Pan, Martin brings his soulful melodicism to Akula as part of a lineup that includes bassist Scott Hyatt, guitarists Sergei Parfenov and Chris Thompson (the latter now also of Lo-Pan) and drummer Ronnie Miller, and the group’s self-titled first full-length incorporates a swath of atmospheric textures derived from progressive metal as ’90s alternative, post-rock and more beyond.

The album, Akula was given a digital self-release by the band in January in somewhat quiet fashion almost testing the ground to gauge an initial reception that, sure enough, came back in a positive response to the sharp chugging turns of 12-minute closer “Predators,” the open-spaced rolling groove of “Force Me Open” (10:07) the weighted ambient pulsations of opener “A Pound of Flesh” (9:19) and the post-doomer crash of “Born of Fire”‘s (9:27) blend of sonic reach and earthen nod. These four extended tracks would be all Akula needed to make that strong first impression, and in terms of both memorable songwriting and a stylistic ambitiousness, the self-titled indeed sounds like only the beginning of where the band might go in terms of ground they explore and just the first demonstration of a nuance of craft set to grow even more across subsequent outings.

Whether Martin‘s voice is the draw or you happen upon Akula through some other means — frankly, the pop in Miller‘s snare, Hyatt‘s tone on the low end and the fluidity with which Thompson and Parfenov lead transitions between claustrophobic riffing and broad-spaced soundscapes all make valid arguments in the 41-minute LP’s favor — the clearly-intended-to-be-two-vinyl-sides offering is immersive from the outset and rich in both sprawl and impact. I would not at all be surprised to find a physical pressing or two in the works for later this year, but in the meantime, Martin was kind enough to take some time to discuss the origins of the band and how the record came together in writing and recording, and whether or not Akula should be considered a side-project. Some of those responses might surprise you.

Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

akula akula

Six Dumb Questions with Akula

Tell me about Akula getting together. What was the impetus behind starting the band, and how much did you guys know going into the project what you wanted it to sound like?

Akula started when Lo-Pan had some downtime. I was feeling an overabundance of creative energy and I thought jamming with some different people and different styles might be a good way to channel some of that. This was before Chris [Thompson, guitar] joined Lo-Pan. I knew who he was and had seen a few of his previous bands play. I had been listening to a lot of heavier psychedelic stuff in the vein of Yob, Neurosis, and even some Mastodon. I knew Chris could do pretty much anything from seeing him play. I contacted him and asked if he would be interested in getting some people together for a purely fun project. He was all for it. I told him what I was thinking in terms of style and he said he actually already had some part ideas he had been messing around with that might be a fit.

We talked about bass players and drummers and rhythm guitarists and invited some guys to meet up and discuss. It all went pretty smoothly. And stylistically, everyone seemed to understand what we were looking for. A darker, heavier psychedelic sound with melodic vocals. Longer format and prog shifts seemed like a natural thing for everyone. So we got to work.

Talk about that sound for a bit. The album has such a sense of space to it, everything sounds very open and atmospheric, but still heavy. Was there something in particular you were looking to capture in terms of mood on the album?

I think there was a nebulous direction we were all going, but it’s always a mystery how it will actually shake out when you start playing. We all come from various genres of heavy music but also a mix of other types of music as well. Atmospheric was definitely where I wanted it to go. Chris brings that off-time heavy lead mentality to the songs and that was new for me. It was a challenge for me to add vocals to that. I am used to having very standard time signatures which allows me to weave in and out as much as I want to. In that feel, I can really add to the swing of a song. I really love heavy music that swings. But with Akula it took me a bit of effort to learn where the swing was. It’s definitely there. But with the off-time parts, I wanted to make sure that my swing wasn’t too hindered by the guitar parts. It’s not always easy. But I do enjoy the challenge of incorporating my vocal and lyrical style into a heavier format.

How does Akula’s songwriting process work? How does a track like “Force Me Open” come together, and what does each member of the band bring to it? When did you begin writing for the record?

Usually it all starts with a part idea from either Chris or Sergei. Those two will get together and work out a sort of skeleton format for a song. Then Scott and Ronnie will jam with them to build the rest. Adding parts. Changing parts. Removing parts. This will all happen over the course of a few weeks. Maybe even a month or two. “Force Me Open” probably took five months or more to reach a record-ready state.  And some of that is just time delays. Chris joined Lo-Pan about a year after we started Akula. Before we even had a name for Akula, actually. So Lo-Pan’s schedule definitely has an effect on the Akula writing process when it comes to time allocation for myself and for Chris.

Also everyone else in the band has quite a bit going on as well. Scott, our bassist is in a few different bands, mainly Bridesmaid, but also occasionally Horseburner and Siouxplex. He also has a career and a wife. Ronnie, our drummer is in another band (Artillery Breath) and travels quite a bit. Sergei, our rhythm guitarist has a family and runs a business. It all just takes time. We began writing the first record from the very first jam sessions. But I think it took around a year before we had our first two songs completed. All before we even discussed a name for the band.

We didn’t even play a show until around the 18-month mark. That was important for us when we started out. We wanted everything to happen in its own good time. No shows until we felt it was all ready to be played out. No recording until we have an album worth of material we all liked. No rushing whatsoever. It’s done when it’s done. And in the meantime we just have fun playing music and hanging out together. That was the first thing I said to everyone when we first got together. Those were the marching orders. No stress. Just fun.

No hassles. It’s done when it’s done. And we have really seen that through. It really is like that. We don’t fight. We all get along and we have a blast together. We play the shows we want to play. We go the direction we all decide is best.

Tell me about recording. It’s just four tracks, but they’re four pretty significant tracks. Where was the album done, how long were you in the studio and as your first release, how do you feel the outcome represents the band at this stage?

Recording could not have been a better process for us. We recorded this record at Sonic Lounge here in Columbus, Ohio. It’s a really killer studio with some outstanding equipment and it’s all run by Joe Viers. Chris had worked with Joe multiple times in other projects like Sleepers Awake. I worked with Joe on the last Lo-Pan release (In Tensions), and Scott had worked with him in his band Bridesmaid. Joe was our first choice and for me our only choice really. He just gets music and he’s a fantastic collaborator. He becomes like another member of the band. He makes strong suggestions and will hold you accountable when he knows you can play a part better or if you’re out of tune. And even vocally, I have found Joe to be an invaluable resource for ideas on harmonies and execution. I can’t say enough good things about the guy.

We did the entire album and mixing over the course of two weekends at Sonic Lounge. It was a real blast to make this album. I think as a first effort it reflects the entire timeline of the band to this point. You can hear the maturation of the songs. Or at least I can. “Born of Fire” was our first completed song. “Force Me Open” was the second completed song. Even between those two songs, I think you can hear a quantum shift. It’s pretty rewarding to see that growth as a group.

Of course, you’ve done plenty of touring over the years in Lo-Pan, but how much will Akula play out? Will you guys tour to support the album? How much is the band a side-project for you or anyone else involved?

As far as playing out goes, I think Akula takes a very methodical approach to things. We love to play live but we want live shows to be an addition to our experience, and not just a maintaining of status quo. So we are selective about frequency and overall makeup of shows. We are discussing a summer run to support this release.

I would say when we first started out this was definitely a side-project for all of us. And as it’s progressed it has really become an important project for everyone. I don’t know that I would still classify Akula as my side-project. It’s just a different project with a different sound and its own process.

Any plans or closing words you want to mention?

Akula is currently in talks to sign with an indie label to release our self-titled in physical format including vinyl. More to follow on that. We are also continuing to write new material which we will start road testing soon. Our next show is April 6 at Spacebar in Columbus with Royal Thunder and Pinkish Black.

Akula, Akula (2018)

Akula on Thee Facebooks

Akula on Bandcamp

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IAH to Release Self-Titled Debut March 23 on Kozmik Artifactz

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 6th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

The self-titled debut EP (review here) from Argentinian heavy psych rockers IAH left enough of an impression on my first runthrough with it that I included it as one of the top short releases of 2017. And so it was. The jammy newcomers put forth an offering of marked character and sonic personality, and their chemistry was apparent from the very start. It was an easy record to dig into and get lost in, and held considerable promise for things to come from them. Immersive and hypnotic but as engaging so as not to let the listener get anymore lost than they necessarily wanted to be, it was a thrill and something of a surprise of a first release.

Apparently I wasn’t the only one taken by it, as Kozmik Artifactz will have it out on vinyl later this month. Details on the release follow here, but you pretty much know the drill by now: Limited numbers, vinyl mastering, Euro pressing, quality gatefold. Kozmik Artifactz doesn’t screw around when it comes to this kind of thing, and if you’ll note that the release is six tracks instead of the original four, it’s because the band issued two bonus cuts last June as a follow-up, and the LP version compiles them all together. Makes perfect sense.

From the PR wire:


IAH – IAH – Kozmik Artifactz

Introducing IAH and our first Kozmik release of 2018! We’ve been waiting patiently to be able to release this stunning debut. Hailing from Argentina, IAH are a cosmic force of interstellar proportions. From the opening of “Cabalgan los Cielos” to the epic climatic implossion of “Nuboj”, IAH is a voyage through sound that will leave you mesmerised.

Available as limited edition vinyl

Release Date: 23rd March 2018

– Plated & pressed on high performance vinyl at Pallas/Germany
– limited & coloured vinyl
– 300gsm gatefold cover
– special vinyl mastering

1. Cabalgan los cielos
2. Ouroboros
3. Stolas
4. Eclipsum
5. La piedra que sujeta el sol
6. Luboj

IAH are:
Mauricio Condon – Guitar
Juan Pablo Lucco Borlera – Bass
José Landin – Drums
Guillermo Scarpa – Visuals


IAH, IAH Bonus Tracks (2017)

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Friday Full-Length: 35007, 35007

Posted in Bootleg Theater on March 2nd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

I know it’s pronounced ‘Loose’ but somehow I just always think it’s more fun to call Dutch progressive heavy rockers 35007 by their numerical moniker. I say it, “Three-Five-Double-Oh-Seven” and it’s twice as enjoyable when I happen to be talking about their 1997 self-titled sophomore outing, which while representing very little of where the Eindhoven-based outfit’s progressive path would ultimately wind up being, nonetheless brazenly captured a truly special moment in their progression.

Change happens. Turn, turn, turn and all that. If, however, you were to listen to 35007 1994 debut, Especially for You, and their 2005 swansong, Phase V (discussed here), you’d be well excused for thinking it was the work of two different bands. That’s a cliche, to be sure, but it holds up in the case of 35007‘s 35007 (reissue review here), and doubly so because not only does progression take place with the album — as in, the band growing from one release to the next — but also within it. Starting out with relatively straightforward cuts like “Herd” and “Soul Machine” and “Short Sharp Left,” which of course had their progressive aspects deeply akin to the work of fellow Nederlanders Astrosoniq, 35007‘s self-titled — sometimes also called Into the Void We Travelled, and who could argue? — shifts with the space-chugging seven-minute “Undo” into a next stage of evolution, richly arranged and while not as psychedelic or as patient as they’d become on the subsequent Liquid LP in 2002 or Phase V after that, it was a big forward step in the weirdo quotient that would be telling of their overarching evolution even as they seemed to deconstruct it immediately by moving into the low-end driven “Big Bore,” though that song, while shorter and more intense, still turned to a section of samples before its come-unhinged second half, also marked by a multi-layer solo and an ultra-insistent, on-the-beat stoner groove. In other words, once it shows up, that weirdness shows up, it doesn’t completely go away.

Like many of their peers in the yes-this-shit-existed sphere of pre-social-media heavy, 35007 were considerably ahead of their time. Maybe a decade or so? In any case, the variety they brought to 35007, turning to the Zeppelin-under-the-sea acoustics of “Vein” after “Big Bore,” continues to speak to the adventurous spirit of their songcraft, which of course was a defining element in the arc of their tenure overall. 35007, taken front-to-back over its hour-long runtime, is a heady listen. It pivots from track to track and if one isn’t careful in hearing it, it’s almost too easy to get left behind in “Short Sharp Left” while the group — then comprised of vocalist Eeuwout Baart, guitarists Bertus Fridael and Mark Sponselee (the latter also synth), and drummer Jacco Van Rooy — moved through “Undo,” “Big Bore” and “Vein” toward the funky guitar-winding “66,” further distinguished by the bass beneath and the organ on top, the mix seeming to present itself in tiers via separation of instruments. It’s an effect strange enough that the only fair thing to call it is progressive, and again, had 35007 arrived in 2007 instead of 1997, I’d probably still say it was ahead of its time. Come to think of it, the more I listen, the less planet earth seems to be caught up to it now in general. It’s like slipstream rock.

The willfully kosmiche “Powertruth” and the patient foreshadow of “Locker 21″‘s 15-minute multi-stage unfolding would seem to be the answer to the question of into which particular void 35007 were travelling. A fun exercise in this age of digital listening? Stop “Locker 21” somewhere between 12 and 14 minutes in, go back and put on “Soul Machine.” It’s unreal how far the band brings their audience across the self-titled’s span, and while there are shared aspects of sonic progressivism between them, the album’s closer finds the band moving into a dimension of their own making, in which they’d continue to dwell during the rest of their time together. The raucous finish given in the “21” section of the track, for which the vocals rejoin the fray, caps with a wash of noise that might just be the blastoff, fading into the distance like a rocket moving beyond the range of human eyes as it heads out of the atmosphere. Rest assured, things only got stranger from there for 35007.

But again, what makes their self-titled so rare is how apparent — admittedly, in hindsight — the change in the band is throughout the album. They’d lose Baart on vocals and press forward as an instrumental unit, but even beyond that, the turns of sound they make in these nine cuts are nothing short of incredible when one considers that the album as a whole still ties together as much as they want it to. It would be five years before they’d move onto their next triumph with Liquid, but even Phase V can only really be considered the realization of what began on 35007 because it was the last record they made. Had they kept going, who knows what distances and vast reaches of sound the band might have covered in their next phase and beyond.

As always, I hope you enjoy. Cheers to Remco Zwakenberg on Thee Facebooks for the pick.

Woke up with the alarm at 3:30AM. I’d been up four times before that. Once as a result of the baby crying, the rest just up. I haven’t been sleeping for a few weeks now. I crash out by 8:30 and am up again every 90 minutes or so. It’s been pretty brutal. This morning though, I could’ve gotten up at 2AM but decided to get back in bed and give myself the extra time even though I knew it would be limited. Yesterday I made the opposite decision. I can’t vouch for which way tomorrow will go.

I’m sore all over. My body is so bloated from retaining water that even my face is swollen. This eating disorder treatment. I don’t know. I don’t feel healthy. I don’t feel “better.” It hurts to walk or sit or lie down, I’ve gotten so huge in such a short amount of time that I’m embarrassed to look at myself in the mirror — seriously, I didn’t shower this morning so I wouldn’t have to see my own body [note: I eventually showered] — and I’m just fucking miserable. I got a couple very nice notes and comments last week, and thanks for those if you were someone who sent one. Hugely appreciated. I have a really hard time believing any of this is going to get better, though and that I’m not just damaging myself in some other, substantially less satisfying manner.

Don’t get me wrong — I’ve enjoyed making my own granola and grinding my own nut butters and roasting cauliflower and I’ve had a few dinners in the past month and a half that would absolutely knock your socks off — but has it been worth it? Hell no. My nutritionist keeps talking about all this extra energy I must have now. Yeah, fucking super. Extra energy so I can not sleep. Extra energy to feel like shit with. And you want to make the case that eating is healthier than not eating? Well, no shit. But let me ask you this: if I have three well balanced meals a day and well-timed snacks in between designed in food-as-fuel manner to keep me going throughout my day rather than deny myself that and subsist on protein shakes and coffee, do I get to live forever? Can I be 102 like my grandmother was and have no idea who any of my relatives are and accuse my child of robbing me and my home health-aid worker of beating me and try to escape my own house every chance I get because I’ve got dementia and I’m confused and I think I’m being kept prisoner? Can I fling open the windows and yell “help! help!” until someone calls the cops? Is that the long satisfying life that refeeding is going to get me? Can I grow through middle age and ruin my son’s perspective on the world around him with my cynical, depressive bullshit? Can I make it so my wife feels like she has to walk on eggshells around me because she doesn’t know what’s going to set me off on a spiral of self-loathing? Can I continue to burden my family financially and emotionally? Can I continue to disappoint myself in terms of my own work writing, both in quantity and quality? Can I continue to have hundreds of creative ideas and no means, time, money or strength of will or character to bring them to fruition? Can I live just long enough to get some fucking cancer that should’ve been cured 50 fucking years ago and have that kill me? Are these the kinds of things I’m buying myself with this process? More of this? Because I’ll be honest with you: you can fucking keep all of it. I’d rather do the universe around me the favor of dying skinny than keep going through this, my failure on every level wafting from me like an aura — the very core of my being.

I’ve been fat my whole life. Fat. Not big. Not large. Fat. My whole life. Dangerously fat. The Russian endocrinologist I went to couple years back entered it into his computer as “morbidely obese” and got mad when I corrected his spelling. But that’s what I’ve been. Dangerously fat. Risk of heart attack, all kinds of cancers, diabetes — all that shit fat people get. Why can’t I live on the other end of it? Why? Why can’t I be dangerously skinny instead? I’m dehydrated? My kidney function is all screwed up? I’m at risk of “sudden death?” Well so is everybody all the time. And you know what? I’d rather be fucking dead than going the way I’m going now. I was tired and cold? So fucking what? I put on a hoodie and some warm socks and went to bed early. I slept better before. I felt better before. At least I had some fucking control. Now I eat a half-cup of almonds and I feel like I’m going to lose it. This is what I’m keeping myself alive for? More of this? More of my legs being so swollen I’ve got cankles? More doctors? More meds? More driving all over the fucking place to be told that what I’ve done to my body was wrong like I didn’t fucking deserve every second of deterioration I got? Crock of shit. Keep it. What a waste of my fucking time.

I’m in New Jersey next week from Sunday through Thursday. Going home for a few days. I’m anxious about it. I don’t want to be seen. Not by friends, family, anybody really. I feel like I could send The Patient Mrs. and the baby and everyone would get what they wanted out of the trip anyway and I could just stay home and curl up on the couch by myself and not talk to people. Not have to explain anything. Not ruin anyone’s day by just being there.

Fuck it.

Here’s the schedule for posts:

Mon.: Freedom Hawk track premiere; Eldhamn video premiere; shit ton of news.
Tue.: The Golden Grass track premiere; Argus video; another shit ton of news.
Wed.: Rongeur track premiere; MaidaVale video.
Thu.: Black Royal track premiere; Dollar Llama video.
Fri.: Hashteroid track premiere; Six Dumb Questions with Akula.

There. Let me just say I’m not fishing for comments or support or anything like that with the above. I’m not. This is my outlet. It’s all I’ve got. If I’m going to say this anywhere, this is where I need to say it and it’s the only space I have in my life where I can do that. If you think it’s bullshit, I sincerely apologize. Trust me, I thought long and hard about this before I clicked “publish.” But this is where I’m at right now and frankly it’s more important to me to express myself honestly and be true to my own headspace than it is for me to be like, “Haha riffs bro!” and pretend everything’s cool on all fronts while my skull feels like it’s going to collapse on itself. I’m doing the fucking best I can to hold it together. This is part of that. If you can’t get on board, or you don’t give a fuck, or you think it’s whiny bullshit, then congratulations on your well-adjusted disposition. I hope it continues to serve you throughout your long, deeply satisfying life. And yes, I mean that sincerely.

Alright. I gotta go empty the dishwasher. Please have a great and safe weekend. And please check out the forum and the radio stream. They both need love.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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Review & Track Premiere: BlackWater HolyLight, BlackWater HolyLight

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on February 28th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

blackwater holylight blackwater holylight

[Click play above to stream ‘Wave of Conscience’ from BlackWater HolyLight’s self-titled debut. Album is out April 6 via RidingEasy Records and available to preorder here.]

With headphone-ready psychedelic immersion, dreamscape melodicism and an approach to pop hooks so completely unafraid it’s enough to make you forget you were wondering just what the hell their moniker is all about, Portland, Oregon’s Blackwater Holylight (also stylized as BlackWater HolyLight make their self-titled debut via respected West Coast purveyor RidingEasy Records. I’ll say flat out that it’s one of the best heavy psych debut albums you’ll hear in 2018, and perhaps the finest melding of indie and heavy-fuzz impulses on a first record since Witch‘s Witch in 2006.

At least perhaps for those at some geographical remove from the crowded Portland underground, BlackWater HolyLight might strike as having come out of the blue, but with vocalist/bassist Allison Faris as the apparent driving force behind the project with crucial contributions from her bandmates guitarist/vocalist Laura Hopkins (oh the fuzz, oh the harmonies!), drummer Cat Hoch (oh the echoing crash cymbal) and synth player Sarah Mckenna (oh the fuzz-bolstering progressive flourish), they hardly sound like a “new band” at all, instead having a clarity of intent that’s almost ironic even as it underpins the tonal murk and haze of “Slow Hole,” the longest cut on BlackWater HolyLight at 6:56 and a a stonerly highlight that seems to get high and wander off from some of the more lucid (relatively speaking) fare surrounding, whether it’s the key-heavy-into-riff-heavy brook-no-refusal groove of “Sunshine” before it or the drum-led bounce of “Carry Her” after, which delves into post-Queens of the Stone Age guitar-plunge antics before fuller fuzz takes hold and the four-minute song becomes a drifting horror show — that cuts back to its verse just before staring the last minute as though the whole thing never happened which, really, who the hell knows at that point. You could convince me either way.

It would seem to be Faris‘ band across these eight tracks and 41 minutes, and fair enough for that, but as the guitar and drums roll open the harmoony-topped intro to opener “Willow,” the real story of BlacKWater HolyLight still awaits telling. Faris‘ bass creates a tension in the midsection of the song, but the second half that follows, the payoff is as much driven by the underlying key work of Mckenna as Faris‘ creative fills or the echo-drenched solo from Hopkins. Ending with some swirl, tape loop noise and laughter, immediately, “Willow” sets a multifaceted dynamic for the band to follow, and follow it they do throughout the subsequent seven tracks, bending the balance of their sound to one side or another to suit their whims and those of their already-so-cogent songcraft.

Second track “Wave of Conscience,” bringing its verse/chorus approach to the forefront along with organ an guitar interplay and one of the record’s most memorable hooks, serves as a pointed highlight and an easy source point for the Witch comparison above, though when it comes right to it, BlackWater HolyLight bring more to the proceedings in terms of melody, and when they hit into a nod-nod-nod slowdown after about two and a half minutes in, the affect is all their own, gradually picking up speed again to lead into the subtle low end beginning of “Babies,” which has a kind of playfully spooky New Wave sensibility in its pointed snare hits and chorus keyboard declinations, still complemented by a deep-running fuzz in Hopkins‘. “Babies” is both toying with femininity in heavy rock and critical, but like its predecessor, wildly catchy and even more fun. No surprise then that with the subsequent “Paranoia,” the mood shifts to more brooding shoe-haze, a linear build that plays out over the course of an efficient four minutes and closes out side A with due wash of tonal reverie and residual keyboard notes.

blackwater holylight

Though it seems to establish such a wide breadth, “Sunshine” sill doesn’t reach the five-minute mark, an early guitar ringout foreshadowing the highlight riffing to come while the keyboard, bass and drums seem to bounce along through the first two verses as though blissfully unaware of what lurks around the corner. Soon enough that darker guitar returns and at 2:17 into its 4:51, the track turns itself over to this wall of fuzz, which unveils a standout riff for both the track and for BlackWater Holylight as a whole; the kind of riff of which Acid King would be proud. They cycle through again and end, naturally, on that riff, fading away to let slow stick clicks from Hoch begin the low-end roll and rumble of “Slow Hole,” which is singularly hypnotic compared to its surroundings.

Even as far out as closer “Jizz Witch” seems to unfold in its languid meandering, it’s got nothing on “Slow Hole,” the bass fuzz of which consumes outright while the quiet melodies echo through in a fashion that would make Mars Red Sky jealous. The ending is sudden and with an uptempo — again, almost New Wave — beat, “Carry Her” is clearly meant to snap the listener back at least nearer to reality. I’m not sure it does, even as harsher guitar feedback becomes such a key component of its hook alongside the keys/organ. A dose of purposeful weirdness echoes some of the playful aspect of “Babies,” but there’s a creepy undertone here as well, as a slowdown in the second half bridge seems like it’s about to derail the song entirely heading toward the final minute.

To BlackWater HolyLight‘s credit, it doesn’t, and they return to the verse and chorus as suddenly as they got there the first time around, fading amp noise leading into the subdued beginning of “Jizz Witch,” which one assumes is sending up modern cult rock not a minute too soon. Either way, like the bulk of the album before it, the closer is a molten and groove-heavy bit of immersive heavy psychedelia, holding a sense of structure at its core while sounding neither shy about wandering away from that nor too formulaic in the moments it does so. As a debut, the coherence of its vision is all the more impressive, and the four-piece leave no doubt that they entered into the process of songwriting with an idea in mind of what they wanted to do as a band — a mission, in other words. Though one easily could, I’ll stop short of calling that mission accomplished and instead simply hope that this is just the point of its beginning.

BlackWater HolyLight on Instagram

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Estuary Blacks to Release Self-Titled Debut on Kozmik Artifactz

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 22nd, 2018 by JJ Koczan


Something of a gem here in the recently-released self-titled debut offering from Welsh heavy psychedelic progressives Estuary Blacks. The members of the three-piece have ties going back years and that shows itself in album tracks like the 10-minute “Trawlers” and the rolling groove of the subsequent “Fat Jason,” but perhaps most of all in the balance of heft and serenity they’re able to maintain throughout the six cuts on the whole, setting up a ranging sound that never seems to lose track of itself anymore than it wants to while giving a persistent, wandering vibe.

Kozmik Artifactz will have the record out as a CD and LP later this year, but the band released it on Bandcamp last week, and you can stream it in full below. Take the time to do so and I can only imagine you’ll find your day improved.



Welsh psych-rockers Estuary Blacks sign with Kozmik for debut Vinyl release!

Having formerly worked with these Welsh rockers on their previous project, Bomb the Sun, we were super excited to offer Estuary Blacks a deal to release their stunning debut on vinyl via Kozmik Artifactz. Their debut has been gaining rave reviews, and rightly so, this is an incredibly deep and intensely atmospheric record which you are sure to dig!

Hailing from The Gower Peninsula, South Wales, Estuary Blacks are a 3 piece band who play progressive, dynamic, heavy psych. For fans of Kyuss, Mogwai, GY!BE and Elder. Recorded in the depths of West Wales in 2017, their debut album is equally gentle and soothing as it is powerful and heavy.

Containing former members of Bomb The Sun and Tabularasa, Estuary Blacks have been quietly going about their business since 2014, and have been playing music together in various outfits since 1998. After releasing a well received 2 track E.P. in 2016 they have now released their self-titled debut album on Bandcamp. German label Kozmik Artifactz will release the album on vinyl and CD later this year.

“Having worked with Kozmik Artifactz with the Bomb The Sun record a number of years ago we were keen work with them again. Our band is a real labour of love and we know that the guys at Kozmik have the same attitude to their work – plus they did one hell of a job on the BTS vinyl! Hopefully people dig it as much as we do. We haven’t played outside of Wales yet so we’re hoping to get out and play some shows around the UK and Europe if the opportunity arises. After 2 years of writing and recording this record we’re happy to finally get it out there for people to listen to.”


Estuary Blacks, Estuary Blacks (2018)

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Six Dumb Questions with All Souls

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on February 21st, 2018 by JJ Koczan

all souls photo Memo Villasenor

There is an entire league of brutally underrated crafters of heavy rock and roll whose greatest misfortune, perhaps, was being active before the ascendancy of social media made ‘word of mouth’ as simple as cutting and pasting a link to a news feed, and it is to this number that Tony Aguilar belongs. Together with Meg Castellanos, Aguilar stood at the helm of the raw, bold and deeply individualized outfit Totimoshi for more than a decade before their 2011 outing, Avenger (review here), served as their final triumph and swansong, and after a few years of exploring flamenco and folk influences together in Alma Sangre as well as tour managing for the likes of Sleep and the Melvins, the urge to reestablish a footing in heavy music asserted itself, and All Souls began to take shape.

Of course, no story is ever quite that simple, but as All Souls issued their self-titled debut (review here) on Feb. 9 through Sunyata Records and quickly took off on a UK tour alongside Fatso Jetson, that footing sure seems to have been found. Comprised of Aguilar on guitar/vocals, Castellanos on bass/vocals, Erik Trammell of Black Elk on guitar and backing vocals, and Tony Tornay, also of Fatso Jetson, on drums, All Souls offer nine songs of varied moods but universal impact on the self-titled, reminding of the strength that was in Aguilar and Castellanos‘ songwriting process during the Totimoshi days but building outward as well and covering new ground thanks to the contributions of Trammell and Tornay to the mix. A production job by Toshi Kasai blends weighted crunch with fluid layering on songs like “Money Man” and “Sadist/Servant,” the latter of which trades between open stretches of melancholia and some of the record’s most forceful percussive impact, making the entire experience more engaging, cohesive and sincere.

I’ve already reviewed the album, so I’ll spare you any further blah blah blah about how I think it’s worth your time and the effort of an active listen and just get to the interview. As All Souls just wrapped that tour with Fatso Jetson — Tornay pulling double-duty at his kit — it seemed like the perfect opportunity to get the story behind the band’s origins, how they came together after the slow dissolution of Totimoshi, and where they might be headed after this initial collection. Fresh from the road, Aguilar was kind enough to accommodate.

Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

all souls all souls

Six Dumb Questions with All Souls

Tell me about getting All Souls together. How did Erik Trammell and Tony Tornay get involved? Was there a specific impetus behind forming a new rock-style project, and when it came to it, what was behind the decision to not simply bring back Totimoshi? What are the differences between the two bands for you?

The rock music community is a small world, especially if you’re in a touring band. All the members of All Souls have been friends for years. Before the forming of our band, Meg and I had known Erik Trammell and Tony Tornay for probably 20 years. We met Erik back in the ’90s when he was in the band Wadsworth. Later his band Black Elk used to play shows with Totimoshi. Meg and I met Tony Tornay back in the ’90s as well when Fatso Jetson opened for Kyuss at Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco.

When Meg and I moved to L.A., I got a job working for the Melvins, which turned into working for Neurosis and Sleep, which led to me being on road for nine months out of the year. I really believe that cost me Totimoshi. Being absent is not good for a band. Eventually, Chris Fugitt, the drummer in Totimoshi ended up moving back to Kansas City because of a job offer. Totimoshi tried to continue with new drummers but it just didn’t feel right. After Totimoshi ended, Meg and I started an acoustic band called Alma Sangre that incorporates Spanish guitar with flamenco dance. It was sort of a venture into a completely different type of songwriting and singing (I sing in Spanish with sort of a Chavela Vargas-type of delivery).

As that went on I got the itch to be in a rock band again, which eventually led me to starting a band called Last Days of Ancient Sunlight with my friend Ferdie [Cudia] from the band 400 Blows. We were a band for about a year and a half — even recorded a full length that never came out because of in-fighting. All this time, Tony Tornay and I would see each other occasionally and throw around the idea of starting a band. We even jammed a few times. About the time Last Days broke up Erik Trammell moved back to Los Angeles from Austin. I had set Erik up with a friend of mine that rented a room to him. Erik and I talked one day and the idea of writing together came up. Which is how All Souls basically started. Erik Trammell and I sitting in my spare room — him playing guitar and me mostly singing. Over the course of a few weeks we came up with the bare structure for three songs which I sent to Tony Tornay. Tony liked it; then TornayErik and I talked and decided on Meg for bass because we liked her playing and felt a female vocal would add something special. That’s how All Souls was born.

Personally, the difference between All Souls and Totimoshi is All Souls is way more developed. It’s 10 times the visual, 10 times the feel and strength of Totimoshi. It’s literally the band I always dreamed of being in. It is also more art by committee that Totimoshi ever was. I tended to be a bit of a dictator in Totimoshi. With All Souls, the I has turned into we. We all write, we all write well, we all trust. All Souls involved.

When were the songs for the self-titled written, and were they written with any specific goals in mind? Was there something in particular you wanted the album to express?

Before the band ever played together we sat at a table and discussed how we were going to proceed. This was Tony Tornay‘s idea and I still think back with fondness to that evening. We drank wine and discussed music… more importantly we discussed what we wanted All Souls to be. From what I remember we wanted female/male energy (no overly macho bullshit). We wanted the songs to decide the length of the song — not some ridiculous formula. We wanted dark music that illuminates, and we wanted deep complex melody. We talked about bands that we loved, but that’s a secret. Over the course of about a year we made this all come to fruition.

Tell me about being back in the studio with Toshi Kasai. How long were you there? What was the recording process like? You worked with him of course with Totimoshi, but how was it different this time and what did he bring to the table as a producer? What was it about him that let you know he was the guy for the job?

Meg, Erik, and myself had all worked with Toshi Kasai prior to All Souls. Tony Tornay listened to his work and agreed that Toshi was the guy. We are all friends with him, know and love him and respect his vision as a producer. Toshi has a very specific way of recording and mixing that we love. Personally, I feel that because we have worked so much together — we understand and trust each other. We recorded with Toshi in three different sessions. The goal was to write three songs, rehearse the shit out of the three songs, record the three songs, then move on to the next three. Over the course of about a year all nine songs were recorded at Toshi‘s Sound of Sirens Studio.

Is it any different working with Meg in All Souls as opposed to Totimoshi or in Alma Sangre? Not looking to pry, but how do you view the interaction between the personal relationship and the creative one? How interrelated are they?

Meg and I have been in a relationship for 27 years. That is 27 years of dreaming, writing, traveling and working together, and I don’t see us slowing down. We understand each other very well as people and as artists. That dynamic plays very similarly in each artistic endeavor that we have been a part of but I do feel that All Souls is our first real and true collaboration with other people. I feel like for the most part Totimoshi and Alma Sangre was basically Meg and I doing most of the major work and allowing input from other people that were involved. All Souls is a real and true circle of collaboration. Not only do we all write, but we all work on the forward movement of the band. I’ve never really been in a band until now that literally has every member of the band networking, setting up shows, tours, and dealing with PR. Namely, the business side of things. Before All Souls it seemed that it was always up to Meg and myself. It is truly a great thing to see, but I’m not surprised — we all sat at the table and drew this thing up. That is the strength of this project.

How was touring the UK with Fatso Jetson? How did Tony handle pulling double-duty on drums, and how much road Eme do you ulEmately think All Souls will do in the US and abroad?

The tour was amazing. There is nothing like playing and touring with not only friends but a band you consider a true inspiration. Tony Tornay was powerhouse on this tour — and he did it while fighting the flu!! He’s part man, part machine. We were well received everywhere we went, we got to see some incredible towns and meet some great people. One of the most amazing things we saw was people traveling from great distances to come see the show, some flying in from other countries. Some fans came to multiple shows. I think I can speak for all the members when I say we are hoping to tour as much as humanly possible. What better thing is there in life?

Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?

Our first album is done and we are already writing for the next. All Souls forever!

All Souls on Thee Facebooks

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All Souls website

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High Reeper Premiere “Chrome Hammer” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on February 14th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

high reeper

High Reeper mark their first release on Heavy Psych Sounds March 16. Their self-titled debut (review here) was given a sneaky self-release last year, but if you by any chance were feeling crazy and wanted to get a preview of what’s to come with the Heavy Psych Sounds version of the offering, it wouldn’t take anything more than checking out the five-piece’s previous video for “Die Slow” (posted here) and the one below for “Chrome Hammer,” because it just so happens that’s the one-two punch that starts off the album.

And a considerable punch it is. The Philly outfit made it clear with the record the first time around that they weren’t screwing around, and yeah, that very much continues to be the case. Even before they get to the drum-sol0-laden eponymous “High Reeper” or the later riff-worship of “Weed and Speed” and “Black Leather (Chose Us),” which would straddle the line between doom, classic metal and heavy rock were it not so busy using its legs to meter out the rhythmic stomp driving all of it, “Die Slow” and “Chrome Hammer” together set up the “Why’s it gotta be NWOBHM or thrash?” central question High Reeper is asking, backing up its argument with a firm reminder that, indeed, Black Sabbath still kicks everyone’s ass.

You can see their classic-minded aesthetic on display in the clip for “Chrome Hammer” below, which I’m thrilled to be able to premiere today. You’ll note the citrus hue of the amplification through which the guitars and bass come, and the occasional upside-down shot here and there as well. All good fun, and plenty of heavy boogie to go with it, so by all means, dive in.

Some comment from the band and PR wire info follows.

Please enjoy:

High Reeper, “Chrome Hammer” official video premiere

High Reeper on “Chrome Hammer”:

When we wrote Chrome Hammer we just had the title as the idea for the song and then we filled in the lyrics and music around the title. When we decided to make the video we wanted something that didn’t relate to the song in a literal way but still captured the idea and then feeling of not just the song but also the band. We gave the director (Dan Dome) free reign to do whatever he wanted and we feel like he fucking nailed it.

High Reeper’s self titled debut is an unapologetic punch to the face for fans of early ‘70s proto-metal. The sound and smell of leather, weed, boozing, gambling and death permeate the record from start to finish. Nine tracks that run from uptempo straight ahead rock, to slowed down, heavy, early doom. With a rhythm section throwing down grooves that are deeper than the darkest abyss and guitars big enough to put a hole in your chest, the record’s finale hits just as hard as its opening track. Vocals that soar above the guitars with laser like precision, while delivering a direct hit to your soul.

Produced, engineered and mixed by bass player Shane Trimble at TTR studios in Philadelphia and at his home studio Delwood sound in Delaware. The production is laced with old school elements while still maintaining the focus of a modern release.


High Reeper is:
Pat Daly
Zach Thomas
Andrew Price
Napz Mosley
Shane Trimble

High Reeper on Thee Facebooks

High Reeper on Bandcamp

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Heavy Psych Sounds website

Heavy Psych Sounds on Bandcamp

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