Abrahma Announce May 24 Release for In Time for the Last Rays of Light

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 21st, 2019 by JJ Koczan

abrahma

As it happens, I wrote the bio for Abrahma‘s upcoming third album, In Time for the Last Rays of Light, which will be out May 24 through Small Stone Records everywhere else and Deadlight Entertainment in the band’s native France. So yes, I’ve heard it. It is a darker affair than either of Abrahma‘s other two albums, but still carries the weight and impact that so typified 2016’s Reflections in the Bowels of a Bird (review here). No question though that the context has shifted, and founding frontman Sébastien Bismuth talks about a bit of what that’s all about in the bio below, touching on inward and outward tumult of a kind that, hey, I get it. Like, a lot.

I’m going to try to get some coverage set up for this one, so I’ll say “more to come” and leave it at that. You’ll find the PR wire below, and the bio I wrote starts after the “–” in the second paragraph.

Dig:

abrahma in time for the last rays of light

ABRAHMA to release third album “In Time For The Last Rays Of Light” on May 24th through Small Stone Records

ABRAHMA’s third album “In Time for the Last Rays of Light” follows three tumultuous years of personal challenges and lineup changes. It is a chronicle of the ravages of coping with loss and mental illness, brought to bear with heavy and progressive songwriting, melodic catharsis and an impact that goes beyond the material itself.

— Produced and mixed at Orgone Studios by Jaime Gomez Arellano (Paradise Lost, Ghost, Candlemass), “In Time for the Last Rays of Light” follows 2015’s “Reflections in the Bowels of a Bird” and whether it is the stark chug and lumbering weight of “Eclipse of the Sane Pt. 1: Isolation Ghosts” or the furious blast-beating in the prior “Lucidly Adrift,” its songs produce a depth of atmosphere that speaks to the soul that birthed them. A split with the prior lineup of the band brought the Rouen, France-based founding vocalist/guitarist Sébastien Bismuth into contact with local outfit Splendor Solis, whose members would soon be folded into the new incarnation of ABRAHMA. After many false starts, the band hit the studio in July 2018 and set to work on what is unmistakably their greatest accomplishment to-date: an album that copes with the depression that birthed it and soars hopefully above while reminding that the darkness beneath is ever-present.

“People do not take mental illness seriously,” says Bismuth. “People suffering from depression generally feel rejected, and it is not only a feeling. People that never gone through it generally do not really understand how hard it can be to live every day with this weight on your shoulders, all those questions going through your head.” Spanning genres and decades of influence, from the Bowie-ism of “…Last Epistle” to the gothic unfolding of closer “There Bears the Fruit of Deceit,” “In Time for the Last Rays of Light” speaks with raw honesty and lush craft to its challenges and realizations. In keeping with the album’s theme, a portion of the merch proceeds from ABRAHMA’s next tours will go to help those suffering from mental illness. “I decided to use this album has a medication against this depression and maybe help other people in this situation,” Bismuth recounts. “Each song explains a different side of it: loss of confidence, other’s critical looks, the impression of not having a place in this world.”

With front and back covers by famed French artist Gustave Doré (1832-1883) and a greater expanse of sound than ABRAHMA has ever had before, “In Time for the Last Rays of Light” confronts its demons and offers a reminder that light exists in the first place. (Words by JJ Koczan for The Obelisk)

ABRAHMA “In Time For The Last Rays Of Light”
Out May 24th on Small Stone Records (world)
and Deadlight Entertainment (France)

TRACK LISTING :
1. Lost.Forever.
2. Lucidly Adrift
3. Eclipse of the Sane Pt.1: Isolation Ghosts
4. Dusk Contemplation…
5. …Last Epistle
6. Wander in Sedation
7. Eclipse of the Sane Pt. 2: Fiddler of the Bottle
8. There Bears the fruit of Deceit

Sébastien Bismuth – Vocals, Guitars
Florian Leguillon – Guitars, Vocals
Benoît Carel – Guitars, Synths & Effects
Romain Hauduc – Bass, Vocals
Baptiste Keriel – Drums, Vocals

www.abrahmamusic.net
www.facebook.com/ABRAHMAMUSIC
www.twitter.com/ABRAHMAMUSIC
http://www.smallstone.com
http://www.facebook.com/smallstonerecords
https://smallstone.bandcamp.com

Abrahma, In Time for the Last Rays of Light teaser

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Irata Announce Tower out May 24 on Small Stone; Title-Track Streaming; Touring in March

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 27th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

IRATA
As Irata stream the title-track of their upcoming album, Tower, they don’t seem to give away an awful lot about the record itself. After all, it’s only 2:45, but in context of the full LP, maybe they are sending a few signals after all. That runtime, for example, is already shorter than anything that appeared on 2015’s second album, Sweet Loris, and it introduces the fullness of tone with which they’re working as well as some of the basic influences driving them. It’s also the opener, so “Tower” is what Irata wanted to put forward on Tower, as well as what they thought they should name the album after. So it’s quick, but it does offer some information about the record.

Subsequent tracks — not that I’ve heard it or anything — are longer and touch on a variety of progressive elements classic and modern, metal and rock, but as an introduction to what’s coming, “Tower” ends up doing just fine. I’m saying I don’t think you’re gonna hear it and complain. Unless you stub your toe in that two-plus minutes or something. Or the egg salad has gone bad. Whatever.

Irata, to go with the news that Tower exists, has a song streaming, and will be released May 24 on Small Stone, also have a bundle of tour dates for March including a stop by SXSW for Small Stone‘s showcase — legendary fuzz and shenanigans — as well as the Stoner Jam that all the cool kids will be at. You should go to both. You’re awesome. They’ll let you in.

From the PR wire:

irata tower

IRATA: North Carolina Heavy Rock Unit Joins Small Stone Records For The Release Of Tower; Band To Play Small Stone SXSW Showcase + Additional Tour Dates Announced

Small Stone Records is pleased to welcome Greensboro, North Carolina-based heavy rock unit IRATA to their expanding roster of riff-heavy eminence. The band will release their Tower full length this May.

Issues the band of the union, “We are thrilled to be teaming up with a label that supports so many talented bands. We are happy to be a part of the Small Stone family.”

Since its 2007 genesis at the hands of founding members Jon Case (bass, vocals) and Jason Ward (drums, vocals), this Greensboro, North Carolina outfit has mutated restlessly, moving from its initial morphine-infused heavy fusion through math-y metal and finally to the soaring, technical heavy rock of its current approach. Over those dozen years, IRATA has made its presence known in metal and hard rock circles throughout the Southeast and beyond. Thanks to its growth from a trio with guitarist Cheryl Manner to a four-piece with the addition of guitarist Owen Burd, IRATA is evolving yet again.

With Burd’s talents on guitar, vocals, and trumpet added to what had already felt like a complete equation, IRATA is pushing itself to new vocal and instrumental heights. Accordingly, its upcoming LP Tower applies impressive musicianship and complex textures to increasingly approachable tunes that teeter between hard rock and prog-metal. It’s like the sports car version of Don Caballero.

Tower was recorded in vaunted hometown studio Legitimate Business and produced by All Them Witches guitarist Ben McLeod, with co-production by Legit Biz engineer and heavy metal mastermind Kris Hilbert. Flavors of Mastodon, Kylesa, Helms Alee and Sandrider mix with Smashing Pumpkins-reminiscent textures and clarion Perry Farrell-style vocals, creating a heavy palette that is both innovative and familiar.

Additional info on IRATA’s Tower, including preorders and teaser tracks, will be available in the coming weeks. In the meantime, IRATA will kick off a short stretch of live dates next month. Set to commence March 8th in Asheville, North Carolina and run through March 16th in New Orleans, Louisiana, The Rising Sun Tour includes a performance at Small Stone’s special SXSW showcase March 13th alongside their new labelmates Tia Carrera, Irata, La Chinga, Sundrifter, Dwellers, and The Cold Stares. See all confirmed dates below.

IRATA – Rising Sun Tour:
3/08/2019 Odditorium – Asheville, NC
3/09/2019 Maggie Meyers Irish Pub – Huntsville, AL
3/10/2019 Growlers – Memphis, TN
3/11/2019 Double Wide – Dallas, TX
3/12/2019 Over Flow Festival @ Super Happy Fun Land – Houston, TX
3/13/2019 Small Stone SXSW Showcase @ Lamberts – Austin, TX
3/14/2019 Spider House Stoner Jam – Austin, TX
3/15/2019 The Mix – San Antonio, TX
3/16/2019 Santos – New Orleans, LA

IRATA
Jon Case – bass, vocals
Jason Ward – drums, vocals, synth
Cheryl Manner – guitar
Owen Burd – guitar

http://www.facebook.com/iratabandofficial
https://iratalive.bandcamp.com/
https://www.iratalive.com/
http://www.smallstone.com
http://www.facebook.com/smallstonerecords
http://www.smallstone.bandcamp.com

Irata, Tower (2019)

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Sundrifter Post “Sons of Belial” Video; Playing SXSW and More

Posted in Bootleg Theater on January 28th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

sundrifter

For those who think desert rock has to come from a desert, let alone any specific desert, Boston’s Sundrifter would stand in ready contradiction to such geographic prejudice. The trio issued Visitations (review here), through Small Stone Records last year as their label debut and second album overall, and its atmosphere, combination of laid-back roll, weighted tones and melodies — read: fuzz, fuzz, fuzz — situate it well within the parameters of a desert style. Shit, they’ve got desert rock in Finland. You can’t tell me it can’t come from the East Coast.

That said, one of the most fascinating aspects of Sundrifter‘s Visitations, which earns a revisit with the band’s new video for opening track “Sons of Belial,” is the band’s defiance of their climate. I’m not just talking about miserable Boston weather — though people in the area do, at length, as though they’re continually surprised by it — but also the greater Northeastern tendency toward an intensity of delivery. Visitations has its moments of push, as in “Lightworker” or parts of “Targeted,” which follows on side A, but even these are carried out with a sense of melody and serenity behind them, and at their most forward-directed, Sundrifter owe far more to Queens of the Stone Age than even to their Beantown forebears in Roadsaw. Coupled with the sense of atmosphere manifest from guitarist/vocalist Craig Peura, bassist Paul Gaughran and drummer Patrick Queenan, that mellow-ish overarching vibe does much to enrich the listening experience overall. It’s not that they’re lacking energy, they’re just not using that energy to shout shit at you from a moving vehicle.

They’ve reportedly started writing new material, which is plenty nifty, but Sundrifter will head out of New England as well as 2019 gets underway, hitting up SXSW in Austin, Texas, this March to play Small Stone‘s return showcase, dubbed ‘The Finest in Fuzz,’ alongside Tia CarreraDwellersIrataLa Chinga and The Cold Stares. I have no doubt they’ll be made to feel duly welcome in that environment, even as they convey one so seemingly disparate from that which they left behind. More shows are reportedly to be added this Spring, so stay tuned.

And of course you can enjoy “Sons of Belial” on the player below, followed by more info from the PR wire.

Dig:

Sundrifter, “Sons of Belial” official video

“Sons Of Belial” [is] the latest video from New England-based desert rock trio SUNDRIFTER. The track comes by way of the band’s Visitations full-length released via Small Stone last fall.

Notes the band of the fittingly trippy performance clip, “The video for ‘Sons Of Belial’ was filmed at Futura Productions in Roslindale, Massachusetts. The space used to be an old Masonic Temple later converted into an orchestral recording studio. We have been fortunate enough to be able to use the space for tracking both our albums Visitations and Not Coming Back. The space has a certain feel and most importantly an incredible live sound for drums/ For the video, we wanted to glow the entire room red, similar to our live shows. The red glow can put us in a certain state of mind, and it creates an atmosphere which allows a complete experience for the audience. We strive to create imagery through song writing and set certain vibes for the listener and this video for ‘Sons Of Belial’ tries to capture that experience.”

In related news, SUNDRIFTER will play Small Stone’s special SXSW showcase this March alongside Tia Carrera, Irata, La Chinga, Dwellers, and The Cold Stares with additional live performances to be announced in the coming weeks.

SUNDRIFTER:
3/13/2019 Small Stone SXSW Showcase @ Lamberts – Austin, TX

Sundrifter, Visitations (2018)

Sundrifter on Thee Facebooks

Sundrifter on Bandcamp

Small Stone Records website

Small Stone Records on Thee Facebooks

Small Stone Records on Bandcamp

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Tia Carrera to Release Visitors / Early Purple March 22; Playing SXSW

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 23rd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

tia carrera

On March 13 at Lambert’s Downtown Barbecue, Austin’s own Tia Carrera will jam into oblivion as headliners of Small Stone Records‘ return SXSW showcase, topping a bill that includes The Cold StaresDwellersSundrifterLa Chinga and Irata. It’s been a while, but Small Stone showcases at SXSW are like a battle royale: Band vs. band. Volume vs. ears. Booze vs. liver. Those nights are the stuff of legend, and as the label girds its loins to revive the tradition, the hometown natives likewise make a return, this time with their first album since 2011’s Cosmic Priestess (review here). The off-the-cuff three-piece have brought in Dixie Witch bassist Curt Christenson, and Visitors / Early Purple will be out March 22, though preorders are up and you can stream the 16-minute side B cut — that’s “Early Purple” — right now. Of particular note is the fact that there isn’t a CD version being done; it’s vinyl and digital-only. Fascinating.

Info for the Small Stone showcase is here on Thee Facebooks, and info on the album follows:

tia carrera visitors early purple

Visitors / Early Purple by Tia Carrera

What can you say about Tia Carrera? Longevity, stamina, power, grace, sensuality, and telepathy? Don’t forget bone shakingly loud, always impressive and truly psychedelic.

Jason Morales (guitar) and Erik Conn (drums), each with a reputation in ATX for their shredness, are now pushing 20 years together as Tia Carrera with zero signs of slowing down. They’ve recruited longtime friend and legendary bass wizard, Curt Christenson (Dixie Witch/Crimson Devils) as a permanent member, in a move made a few years ago that has emboldened the band’s sound and dynamic, telepathic talent, and steadfast trajectory of heavy-psych-blues-bliss exploration.

The band is mysteriously and famously selective about what they officially release to the public. With every performance unique by the improvisation of their music, they’ve amassed quite a collection of recorded material, both live performances and private studio recordings.

Culled from the latter are the blistering plight of “Visitors” and muscle-car groove of “Early Purple,” both of which can be heard on Tia Carrera’s forthcoming release on Small Stone Records in Spring 2019.

Tia Carrera continue to gain new fans, influence their peers, ignite the legend worldwide, and are more respected and relevant than ever as veterans known to take their listeners on a journey of tripped-out and high energy proportions. It’s clear to anyone in earshot the band still loves what they do. And when they play, they’re loud enough that just about everyone is in earshot.

Releases March 22, 2019.

Tia Carrera is:
Jason Morales: guitar
Curt Christenson: bass

Recorded at the BBQ Shack, Austin, TX.
Mastered by Jerry Tubb at Terra Nova.
Artwork by Tim Kerr.
Layout by Alexander von Wieding.

http://www.smallstone.com
http://www.facebook.com/smallstonerecords
https://smallstone.bandcamp.com

Tia Carrera, Visitors / Early Purple (2019)

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Friday Full-Length: Dozer, Through the Eyes of Heathens

Posted in Bootleg Theater on January 18th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Part of the magic of listening to Dozer is being able to say, no matter which of their five albums you put on, that, yes, this was the moment when they came into their own. Even going back to their 2000 debut, In the Tail of a Comet (discussed here), as their sound was so highly influenced by the desert rock coming out of California, they inevitably brought their own spin to those established elements. 2005’s Through the Eyes of Heathens was their penultimate album ahead of 2008’s Beyond Colossal (discussed here), and it was their first release through Small Stone Records in the US, which became their home after moving from Man’s Ruin Records to their own Molten Universe imprint. They were, of course, an absolute monster of a band by then, and given the swath of early and later splits and singles they released and the touring they did, it’s easy to forget that only five years separate their first and fourth long-players. But that momentum can be heard as well across the 10 songs on Through the Eyes of Heathens, and it sounds utterly unstoppable.

From the very start of “Drawing Dead” through the memorable lead line in the slower-paced closer “Big Sky Theory,” Dozer assembled a work of impeccable songwriting and deep-rooted character. In the arc of their career, every record was another step forward, and just as 2001’s Madre de Dios built on the debut and 2003’s Call it Conspiracy (discussed here) built on that, so too did Through the Eyes of Heathens pick up from where its predecessor left off. Its sound was still rooted in a heavy rock feel, but Dozer were able to translate that into something more aggressive when they wanted — their sound had bite as well as lumber, and while a cut like “Born a Legend” could be traced back to their desert-minded beginnings in its basic structure, by the time it was finally executed, it was something else entirely. Working with the core trio of guitarist/vocalist Fredrik Nordin, guitarist Tommi Holappa (see also: Greenleaf), bassist Johan Rockner (now of Besvärjelsen), the band had parted with drummer Erik Bäckwall (also now in Besvärjelsen) after the third LP, and they brought in Karl Daniel Lidén to fill in behind the kit.

No minor change. Lidén had played in Greenleaf with Holappa as well as in Demon Cleaner, and was already by then well into honing his craft as a producer/engineer. On drums for Through the Eyes of Heathens, he added to the propulsion of songs like “From Fire Fell” and the underlying intensity of “The Roof, the River, the Revolver,” while holding together the airy groove in the volume-surge chorus of “Days of Future Past.dozer through the eyes of heathens” His approach to the riffs was to meet them head on, such that every turn of “Blood Undone” seems punctuated and “Man of Fire” seems to run at a clip trying to convey putting itself out. His work, alongside Holappa‘s leads and riff construction, Nordin‘s ultra-distinctive and ever-more-confident vocals, and Rockner‘s classic you-guys-just-go-ahead-and-have-fun-if-you-need-me-I’ll-be-here-being-the-foundation-of-these-songs style of bass, helped bring the pointed energy of Through the Eyes of Heathens to live, such that it wasn’t just heavy, or grooving, or loud, or whatever else. It was vibrant. On a sheer delivery level, Dozer evoked a sense of shove that spoke to the urgency of its own creation. Putting it on was like having Arnold Schwarzenegger hold out his robot hand and say, “Come with me if you want to live.”

And while, yes, definitely some of Through the Eyes of Heathens‘ highlight moments were found in its intense push, there was never a lack of atmosphere. Sure, flourish of piano, organ, percussion, etc., helped with that, but most of it was owed to the breadth of the guitar tones and to Nordin‘s ease of melody. His shouts in “Born a Legend,” and the standalone lines in “Until Man Exists No More” — which almost made the guest vocal spot on that track from Mastodon‘s Troy Sanders feel superfluous — made for an essential presence throughout, and as much reach as there was in the songs, Nordin‘s performance was one more standout factor tying the material together. One could say the same of Holappa‘s work on guitar. I already said it about Rockner on bass, and the same applied to Lidén‘s drums. It was everything in these songs. There was no “miss” anywhere on the album.

Which is what it came down to. It was the songs. There was a memorable line, or a riff, or just something about the way it was played, to go with every single track on Through the Eyes of Heathens. It’s a 44-minute record, so not short — though the standard has gotten shorter in intervening years with the vinyl resurgence and so on — but a cut like “Omega Glory” seemed to move from hook to hook to hook, and even in the eight-minute stretch of “Big Sky Theory” at the end or in the quieter verses of “Days of Future Past,” there was ultimately nothing spare about it.

There are arguments to be made for each of Dozer‘s full-lengths as being their best work. Through the Eyes of Heathens, for me at least, seems to summarize much of what made them so rich and hard-hitting as well as the individualized sensibility of their material. I won’t take away from anything they did before or after — their last offering, 2013’s Vultures (review here), was the compiled pre-production demos for this album — but I still find myself going back to Through the Eyes of Heathens not infrequently and it feels each time like not only does it still have something new to offer, that it’s not just nostalgia, but also that it stands up to the time since it first came out with an ease that makes almost a decade and a half seem like nothing at all. Maybe that is nostalgia in itself. Fine, and well earned. True front-to-back releases are rare. They don’t happen every year, contrary to what hyperbole and promospeak tell you. Through the Eyes of Heathens is a blueprint for how to make an album last longer than its runtime.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

I went last night and saw Yawning Man and Freedom Hawk in Brooklyn. First club show in a while. I get too anxious these days in crowds. Fests I can kind of get away with it, because usually I’m going back and forth from one thing to the next, taking pictures, writing notes, whatever it is, but just standing around at a gig waiting for a band to go on, I feel like I’m losing my mind. It was a good show though, even though The Drunkest Guy in the Room kind of accused me of being a CIA agent. I guess because I looked stiff and was standing in the back? I don’t know. I was just glad he didn’t stab me in the throat with a piece of the glass he subsequently broke. New Yorkers, such as there are any, delude themselves in thinking that a kind of charm.

The baby was up this morning by the time I was done writing about Dozer. 5:30 or thereabouts. Brutal. I got in a little after midnight from the show, which ended a bit before 11, and was up at 4. My alarm had been set for 6. Just up. So it goes. Got some writing done, grabbed the baby, read books — One Fish Two Fish, Hop on Pop, and whatnot — and had breakfast. Gave the baby a bath and put him down for a nap, which The Patient Mrs. rightly decided also to take.

I meanwhile did the voice tracks for Sunday’s episode of ‘The Obelisk Show’ on Gimme Radio, answered some email to the best of my limited ability, and settled in for this. We’ll see if I can finish by the time The Pecan awakes.

Seemed silly to post about it, but this week I put up the 11,000th post on this site. Not bad. They’re not all gold, but you know, it’s a pretty significant number anyway.

So Monday will be the Yawning Man/Freedom Hawk live review. Here’s what else I’ve got in the notes. There’s plenty:

MON 01/21 Yawning Man live review; Hollow Leg album stream.
TUE 01/22 The Sabbathian album stream.
WED 01/23 9Doorsopen track premiere; Benthic Realm video premiere.
THU 01/24 Thermic Boogie track premiere; Sundrifter video.
FRI 01/25 Swallow the Sun review.

Subject to change something something blah blah.

It’s a lot of cool stuff, and it means I won’t just be spending this weekend filing my secret undercover CIA report about the vape-quotient at the Yawning Man show and instead will have plenty of writing to keep me busy. Seriously, what the hell would the CIA be doing at the Vitus Bar? I would love to know what the reason would be. Why would they be there? What’s the operation? Testing the effects of the sustained awesomeness of Mario Lalli’s bass-playing on the fragile human psyche?

Again, I was glad to not be stabbed.

Or slashed.

Alright, I’m gonna punch out so I can go read reviews of the first episode of Star Trek: Discovery season two before I actually watch it so I can sound smart when I make “observations” about canon connections to The Patient Mrs. Don’t tell her.

Have a great and safe weekend. Forum, radio, merch.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

The Obelisk shirts & hoodies

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Here’s the Bio I Wrote for Iota’s Tales Reissue

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 18th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

It was just a couple months ago that I was last heaping retrospective praise on Iota‘s Tales full-length, which was originally released by Small Stone Records in 2008. Needless to say, then, that when the label came around and asked if I had anything to say about a vinyl reissue in the works, I mashed my forehead into my keyboard until a bunch of nonsensical fanboyism could be deciphered by a trained team of baboons, syllable by syllable. Something like that. It may have been orangutans.

The important factor, more even than the fact that this is a “Thing I Wrote” post, which are always a little jolt to my fragile-manchild ego, is that said LP edition of Tales will be out on March 15. In my head, this will play out to massive fanfare and the discovery of a kickass band with untold potential being discovered by a new generation of fans, leading to a reunion, a vital new album and a tour on — why not? — a comfortable bus, maybe shared with Monster Magnet or someone like that. Sounds good? Sounds good to me.

Maybe that’s how it goes. Maybe if you tell two friends and they tell two friends and they tell two friends we’ll all invent the internet. I don’t know. But it’s been 11 years and Tales is still due more acknowledgement than it’s gotten.

Here’s the bio I wrote as circled back through the PR wire with the release info:

iota tales 2019

IOTA: Small Stone Recordings To Release Tales Full-Length From Cult Stoner Metal Collective On Limited-Edition Vinyl This March; Preorders Available

When IOTA’s Tales was first released more than a decade ago, it immediately heralded a change in the scope of heavy rock ‘n’ roll. From the hard punch of its opening duo “New Mantis” and “We Are The Yithians,” it departed into three extended cuts that drew together already-classic elements of weighted riffs with a doors-thrown-open sense of space and jammed into scorched-solo psychedelic oblivion. With Joey Toscano, who’d go on to form Dwellers, on guitar and vocals, the suitably wizardly Oz on bass, and recording engineer Andy Patterson, who soon enough would join SubRosa, IOTA raised a monolith of singular intent and showed throughout Tales a potential that was entirely their own.

The Salt Lake City trio had been around for over five years by then, having formed in 2002 and released two demos before the album as they earned local praise and found themselves supporting the likes of Brant Bjork, High On Fire, Black Cobra, Eternal Elysium, The Sword, and others. And that’s all well and good, but it would be Tales that defined them, whether it was “The Sleeping Heathen” started off at a sprint on its ten-minute run, “Opiate Blues” sure enough finding room for some harp alongside its dirt-covered riffs and foresight-laden heavy blues pulsations, or the massive sprawl of the twenty-two-minute “Dimensional Orbiter” that dream-jammed its way toward the outer reaches of cosmic sensation. Tantric, broad, and a gorgeous showcase of a dynamic ready to storm the earth, it helped earn Iota a cult following that persists over ten years later.

And along with anyone else who might be fortunate to stumble upon it, that cult, quite frankly, deserves to have Tales on vinyl. This is the first official LP release of the album, so call it a reissue or don’t. It doesn’t matter. Music this good exists out of time, and whether IOTA’s Tales is new to a listener or a well-kept secret regarded as a classic unto itself, it still sounds as far-reaching as it did when the band unfurled it the first time around. It wasn’t to be missed then. It’s not to be missed now [words by JJ Koczan].

Small Stone Recordings will release IOTA’s Tales full-length on vinyl for the first time ever on March 15th. Limited to 500 units in a clear with black swirl color combination, Tales was remastered for vinyl by Chris Goosman at Baseline Audio in Ann Arbor, Michican with the original running order of the album slightly altered to fit on the LP format.

For preorders and to stream Tales in its entirety go to THIS LOCATION.

Tales Track Listing:
Side A:
1. New Mantis
2. The Sleeping Heathen
3. Opiate Blues
Side B:
4. Dimensional Orbiter
5. We Are The Yithians

IOTA is:
Joey Toscano – guitars, vocals
Oz – bass
Andy Patterson – drums

http://www.smallstone.com
http://www.facebook.com/smallstonerecords
http://www.smallstone.bandcamp.com

Iota, Tales (2008/2019)

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Review & Full Album Premiere: La Chinga, Beyond the Sky

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on September 6th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

la chinga beyond the sky

[Click play above to stream La Chinga’s Beyond the Sky in its entirety. Album is out Sept. 7 on Small Stone Records.]

It’s tempting to say that if your van’s not rockin’, don’t bother knockin’ on La Chinga‘s second album for Small Stone and third overall, Beyond the Sky, but the truth is that just about everybody is invited to come dig on what the Vancouver, B.C., buds have put together this time out. It’s a collection of 11 tracks topping 45 minutes that makes the most out of big, unabashed hooks and a classic party-rocking sensibility, from the opening “Woo!” in “Nothin’ That I Can’t Do” into the ’70s-styled “Wings of Fire” and the proto-metal-turns-stoner-mellow-solo-jam “Mama Boogie,” which may or may not be a sequel to “Boogie Children” from their 2013 self-titled debut (discussed here) and which you’d best believe brings back its chorus at the end, it brims with energy well beyond what might qualify as “electric” and sounds in true Small Stone fashion not like it’s mining its influences for parts to reorder and recreate in vintageist loyalty, but instead like it’s engaging with the legends and rockers of yore — Nazareth, AC/DC, Judas Priest, and a host of others among them — to hone a modern interpretation of what they did those generations ago.

The result is an ass-shaking good time that plays itself out high on professionalism and void of pretense as the everybody-sings three-piece of guitarist Ben Yardley, bassist Carl Spackler and drummer Jason Solyom make their way through the opening salvo of the aforementioned three cuts and into the mid-paced “Black River,” no less catchy but with a shift in vocals that marks a transition into the next stage of the release. Their 2016 Small Stone debut, Freewheelin’ (review here), worked in much the same aesthetic territory, but where Beyond the Sky distinguishes itself is in its songwriting. “Mama Boogie,” with that midsection jam-out, is the longest inclusion at 5:35, and the Southern-styled centerpiece “Keep on Rollin'” is the only other cut that tops five minutes, but even those feel taut in their construction, like they’ve been hammered out — not flat, or dry in their delivery at all, but worked on, ironed free of their inefficiencies, and built with a genuine will to engage their audience as they otherwise might on stage, “Nothin’ That I Can’t Do” a signal that festivities have begun that feels hand-made to start a live set.

Lyrics like “Hey mama/Hey mama boogie!” from that song and “Freedom, alright” from “Keep on Rollin’,” as well as some of the declarations in what would seem to be the self-descriptive “H.O.W. (Are You Ready?” — the acronym standing for “Hell on Wheels,” which if you’re into Fu Manchu is no big deal — and the closer “Warlords” might require a grain of salt, but while La Chinga are most certainly all about having fun, they’re not so tongue-in-cheek that they either lose sight of the importance of the songs’ structure or that they feel insincere in their delivery. To be clear, Beyond the Sky is a blast. On point in its pro-shoppery, boozy in all the right ways but not so tipsy that Yardley can’t bust out a succession of blinding solos, and never out of line with the central mission, it nonetheless carries just an undercurrent of danger as the listener makes their way through the front-to-back, if only for the “how can they keep this up?” factor. They do keep it up, though.

la chinga

Side B cuts like “Killer Wizard” and “Death Rider” and “Feel it in My Bones” would be filler on many records — and many records of this ilk; vinyl-ready but more CD length and linear-feeling in its flow — but La Chinga allow for no dip in quality as “Killer Wizard” builds its chorus around choice riffing, “Death Rider” elicits a groove so righteous they just as easily could’ve named it “Papa Boogie” to correspond with “Mama” earlier, and “Feel it in My Bones” proffers yet another masterful hook en route to the closing duo. There are changes in mood throughout, but never a turn from the band’s central purpose of craft, and the spirit of the material they bring to bear throughout Beyond the Sky is as much about the high level of its execution as the who’s-up-for-a-cocktail vibe. For an offering that sounds so studio-made — that is, crisp in the production of Jeremy Koch at Warehouse Studio in Vancouver, and with such an overarching clarity of sound — the vitality that SpacklerYardley and Solyom bring to the proceedings is no less infectious than the choruses they seem to have in such endless supply.

I don’t know if I’d say that’s the greatest accomplishment of Beyond the Sky — take your pick between that and the songwriting itself — but it’s certainly a noteworthy aspect of the listening experience and it serves La Chinga well throughout. In their harmonies, standout guitar work and sunshiny vibe, their energy comes through even the quieter or slower stretches of the songs, and it’s not so much a push as in something being inflicted on the listener as it’s an invitation. Hey, we’re out back and we have some beers — come hang. Whether an individual gets down with what the band are tossing out is of course up to them — nothing is universal — but La Chinga make a strong case for themselves in these tracks, and offer a reminder that a band doesn’t need a ton of experimentalism or heady prog to entice an audience; they just need to make it sound like they’re where it’s at.

And from their ass-shaking grooves to their stories about wizards and warlords and death riders and Mama Boogie herself — all things one might find painted on the side of a van that either is or isn’t rockin’ when you come knockin’ — La Chinga most definitely do that. They’ve been kicking around for six years now and have steadily made a name for themselves since the self-titled and have only continued to refine their approach since then. It’s easy to hear songs like “Black River” and “Death Rider” and the DeepPurple-minus-organ drive of “Warlords” at the end and pine for some mystical bygone age of heavy rock and roll, when “men were men” and the west was wild and jeans were tight and blah blah blah. Bullshit. Fact of the matter is La Chinga aren’t happening 45 years ago. They’re happening right now, and the lessons they’ve learned may be from a formative era but what they’re doing with them is as much of this moment as anything else belonging to this bizarre, bizarre time. It’s a challenge to think we might be in a heavy rock heyday. La Chinga make it a little easier.

La Chinga, “Wings of Fire” official video

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La Chinga on Bandcamp

Small Stone Records website

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Sundrifter Sign to Small Stone Records; Visitations Reissue Due Oct. 19

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 4th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

sundrifter

Boston space-grunge trio Sundrifter have inked a deal with Small Stone Records and will issue their debut album, Visitations (review here), through the label on CD and LP Oct. 19 — an increasingly packed release date that will also see records arrive from Brujas del Sol, Castle, Black Lotus and Moab, probably among others, as well as the tickets on sale for Roadburn 2019. How then does a band like Sundrifter stand out? See that part in the first sentence where it says “space-grunge?” Ain’t nobody playing it quite like Sundrifter are playing it. They released Visitations on their own earlier this year and Small Stone has the leadoff track, “Sons of Belial,” streaming now, and if you didn’t dig into it yet, you probably should. It’ll answer any other questions you might have.

Oh hey, and it turns out I wrote the bio below. Wonders never cease.

Here it is as it appears on the label’s Bandcamp page:

sundrifter visitations

Sundrifter – Visitations – Small Stone

Born out of a Boston rock underground teeming with history and riffs alike, Sundrifter capture the essence of tonal weight with their Small Stone debut, Visitations. Their second album overall behind 2016’s Not Coming Back, the nine-track long-player harnesses spaciousness and heft alike and soars with melodic vibrancy in a way most acts simply can’t balance. Shades of Soundgarden and Queens of the Stone Age appear, but they’re just shades, and Sundrifter’s vision of heavy is their own, someplace between grunge, doom, psychedelia and classic heavy rock.

Sundrifter is comprised of guitarist/vocalist Craig Puera, bassist Paul Gaughran and drummer Patrick Queenan, and Visitations was engineered, mixed and mastered by Dan Schwartz at Futura Productions in Roslindale, Massachusetts. The space the record captures isn’t of the Hawkwind, pulsating rhythm variety, but instead one that oozes with planetary motion, one that rolls along a chaotic cosmic path, not at all afraid to smash one asteroid off another before crashing to the surface, which, as we all know, is how life began in the first place.

Releases October 19, 2018.

Tracklist:
1. Sons Of Belial
2. Death March
3. Lightworker
4. Targeted
5. Till You Come Down
6. Hammerburn
7. Sky Peoples Son
8. Fire In the Sky
9. I Want To Leave

Sundrifter is:
Craig Peura: guitars & vocals
Patrick Queenan: drums & percussion
Paul Gaughran: bass

http://www.facebook.com/sundriftermusic
http://www.twitter.com/sun_drifter1
http://www.sundrifterband.com/
https://sundrifter.bandcamp.com/
http://www.smallstone.com
http://www.facebook.com/smallstonerecords
https://smallstone.bandcamp.com

Sundrifter, Visitations (2018)

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