Friday Full-Length: Acid King, III

Posted in Bootleg Theater on November 17th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Acid King, III (2005)

And you’re welcome.

There are few joys in heavy rock as unfettered as a Lori S. riff. Some guitarists gallop. Some careen. Some cut steep angles. Some nod. And sometimes a Lori riff can sound like it’s being thrown down a flight of stairs in how it seems to tumble out of the speakers, but her perfect blend of tempo, timing, groove, construction, spaciousness, tone and the cyclical nature of her style gives her work in San Francisco’s Acid King an unparalleled molten feel. I won’t take anything away from her echoing vocals, Joey Osbourne‘s roll-ready drumming or what a succession of bassists from Peter Lucas to Dan Southwick to Brian Hill to Guy Pinhas to Rafa Martinez to Mark Lamb have brought to the group in terms of low end, but it is now and has always been the riffs that define Acid King, even dating back to their raw 1994 self-titled EP and 1995 debut album, Zoroaster.

That record would serve as the foundation on which in 1999 the band built a temple and named it Busse Woods (discussed here and here), which — as I seem to say every time I mention it at all — is one of the very best stoner rock albums of all time. It would be six years before the trio, which was then comprised of Lori, Pinhas (also known for his work in Goatsnake and The Obsessed) and Osbourne, issued a proper follow-up. No doubt the dissolution of Frank Kozik‘s by-now legendary imprint Man’s Ruin Records, which released Busse Woods and the subsequent 2001 split EP with Mystick Krewe of Clearlight, played into the delay, but in 2004, Small Stone Records reissued Busse Woods and in 2005, stepped in to offer III — Acid King‘s much-awaited and aptly-titled third full-length.

III was a Spring release, and I remember it seemed pretty close behind the Busse Woods reissue, which may have contributed to the impression that despite the stretch between the two (which seemed long at the time; ha) that the newer album was still operating in the shadow of its predecessor. Nonetheless, with years of hindsight to provide a looking-back lens now, III is an absolute masterwork of riffly meditation. From the fading-in fuzz that begins “2 Wheel Nation” and the unmitigated nod that follows through the patient execution of the singularly righteous “Heavy Load,” “Bad Vision” — which is precisely what I had in mind with the “down a flight of stairs” comment in the first paragraph above — the 12-minute centerpiece “War of the Mind,” the quicker “Into the Ground,” the hook reset of “On to Everafter” and the highlight drum wizardry in finale “Sunshine and Sorrow,” one would be hard-pressed to find a better way to spend 46 minutes of listening time when it comes to groove immersion. Across the entire span, Acid King demonstrate plainly the sheer unfuckwithability of their craft and the utter injustice that their name isn’t mentioned in the same breath as Sleep and Black Sabbath for their pivotal contributions to the form.

Yes, I mean that.

One would be remiss not to note the collaboration between the three-piece and producer Billy Anderson as essential to their overall sound. Anderson, who worked with the band on Zoroaster and Busse Woods as well before helming III, captures the depth of tone and character in Lori‘s guitar and seems to put it in just the right balance with the corresponding bass and drums. The effectiveness on “2 Wheel Nation” is immediate once the song starts — it’s a groove that leaves no one behind as it takes to the road on some souped-up space chopper — and with “Heavy Load” following, the launch salvo for III is unmistakable in its preached message of tonal supremacy, but neither is it void of atmosphere. The repetitions are hypnotic, and shortly, “Bad Vision” snaps the listener back to at least a semi-consciousness state, but while one generally thinks of Acid King as being straightforward in their intentions and sonic impression-making, it’s worth pointing out just how much room is being created by Lori‘s riffs, by the crash of Osbourne‘s cymbals and the thud of his toms, and by the plummeting bass tone with which Pinhas anchors the marching procession. This is reinforced as “War of the Mind” gives III its most gorgeous sprawl, setting itself in an open landscape that seems to stretch like some Western highway populated at dawn by mission-bound hippies in some lysergic American daydream. Even as the lyrics call outright for freedom, the instrumental fluidity behind them seems to find it and bring it wonderfully, glaringly to life.

Is is possible for a band to be so widely hailed and still be underrated? III, which in addition to being concurrent to the reissue of the album before it also arrived at a just-pre-social-media moment of generational shift, would argue yes. Though they toured steadily between, brought together their first two outings in 2006 as their The Early Years compilation, and oversaw reissues of both III and Busse Woods in the interim, a decade passed before Acid King released their fourth long-player in 2015. Aligned to Svart Records and comprised of Lori, Osbourne and Lamb, the triumphantly chanting Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere (review here) brimmed with classic Acid King method and personality. With production by Anderson as well as Toshi Kasai, it found the band at their most world-conjuring to-date and marked a surge of international touring and general activity that continues to this day as Lori has revamped Acid King‘s lineup to bring back Martinez (who’s spent years on the road at this point as the drummer for the raging Black Cobra) on bass and new drummer Bil Bowman, replacing Osbourne in the band for the first time and leaving herself as the sole remaining founding member.

The inevitable shift in dynamic there could potentially mean a significant change in Acid King‘s overall chemistry, but with the band having taken six years between Busse Woods and III and 10 between III and Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere, I’m not inclined to predict when their next LP will show up, what shape it will ultimately take, or who will be involved in its making. What matters is that as Acid King approach their 25th anniversary since getting together in 1993, they’ve perhaps never been so ripe for appreciation, and while their catalog over those years isn’t about to challenge Hawkwind in terms of its sheer numbers, each of their albums remains a landmark accomplishment at a level few bands could ever hope to reach.

As always, I hope you enjoy, and thanks for reading.

Yeah, closing out with Acid King is pretty much me doing myself a favor. After a week of being literally shit on, I kind of feel like I earned it as much as I ever consider myself as having “earned” anything. Either way, I decided pretty early on this week that III would do the job and it’s been a pleasure to dig into it over the last few days, go a little deeper in listening than I sometimes do with this stuff. I woke up early this morning to come downstairs and get started. Alarm went off at 4AM. My idea of a good time.

The Pecan continues to grow. Predictably, he’s become a baby of many names, among them “Rocketass” for his propensity to wait until I’ve got his diaper off to unleash fecal torrents. The Patient Mrs. and I gave him a bath last weekend in the kitchen sink and he also pissed on my Vitamix that I use to make the protein shakes that are now what I eat for dinner roughly six nights a week, so yeah. Took me a couple days to forgive that in theory, but the reality of the situation is I don’t even care anymore. He’s yet to produce anything that can’t be wiped off or put through the wash, etc.

I’m sure we’ll get there. I’m just saying we’re not there yet. In the meantime, lack of sleep? Diaper changing? Trying to get him to take a bottle? Whatever. These are good days. Fatigue is a small price to pay for that.

He’s three weeks old now, and The Patient Mrs. continues to be wonderful as a mother. Never a doubt she would be, but to actually see it manifest as reality is humbling and only further underscores how fortunate I am to exist in her presence, pretty much ever, let alone on the ongoing basis of our relationship, marriage and so on. Stupid lucky. The Pecan has been a little fussy the last couple days — Wonder Weeks says he’s on the verge of a sensory breakthrough, which should be fascinating — and she’s been running point all the way. I’ve cooked and cleaned and done that stuff, but to see her momming it up is fantastic. I love her so much I want to bash my brains in.

Next week is Thanksgiving here in the US — a holiday with a troubled historical foundation but probably my favorite in terms of how it brings loved ones together in a spirit of shared appreciation for each other. We’re getting together with my family and The Patient Mrs.’ family in Connecticut for dinner. I’m already anxious about being around that much food — hi, I have an eating disorder — but even if I end up bringing the blender and the protein powder south for the day, I think it’ll be a good time. I’m looking forward to it.

Not sure how it will affect the timing of posts, but here’s what’s in the notes for next week anyway, subject of course to change without notice:

Mon.: Snowy Dunes album review; Borracho announcement/track premiere.
Tue.: Low Orbit track premiere/review; Pillars video premiere.
Wed.: SubRosa Subdued track premiere. Fuck yes.
Thu.: Maybe a podcast? Don’t expect much, if anything.
Fri.: Maybe Frank Sabbath review. Depends where I’m at post-holiday.

There you have it, and there you have it.

I’ve started to put together the next Quarterly Review already for the end of next month/the beginning of January, as well as the best-of lists, so keep an eye out for all that stuff as we move into December, and we’ll have the best albums poll up as well come Dec. 1. Be ready. I want to make it the best one yet, and last year’s is going to be tough to top.

If you’re still reading, you’re great. Thank you.

Have an excellent, safe weekend, and please check out the forum and radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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Review & Video Premiere: Mangoo, The Heat

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

mangoo the heat

[Click play above to check out the premiere of Mangoo’s official video for ‘Relief.’ Their third album, The Heat, is out Dec. 8 on Small Stone Records.]

Heat is a catalyst. When you heat something up, its molecules move faster, become more active. Aside from frogs in slow-boiling pots of water, when someone touches something hot, they’re going to react, and one can’t help but wonder if that’s not what Turku, Finland-based heavy rockers Mangoo had in mind for their third album, The Heat. Something that would provoke a response. Something to get the blood moving. A reason for heads to bang and asses to shake. It would be hard to argue they didn’t get there on The Heat, which comprises a nearly-unmanageable 11 tracks/53 minutes of pro-shop song construction, crisply recorded and sharply delivered, heavy rock and roll.

Following two years after a split with UK space-metallers Enos (review here) and half a decade after their Small Stone debut, 2012’s Neverland (review here), the long-player marks the returning lineup of vocalist/guitarist Richard “Pickles” Dahllund, guitarist/backing vocalist Mathias “Mattarn” Åkerlund, bassist/backing vocalist Igor del Toro, drummer/backing vocalist Teemu Pulkkinen and keyboardist/backing vocalist/noisemaker/engineer Niklas Björklund as veterans of the form early, fleshing out melodic arrangements with a fullness of keys and fuzz tone that’s nether overbaked nor underweight. Pickles holds command as a frontman for almost the entire duration, relinquishing forward position only on the Spanish-language “Tiembla” to del Toro, who takes on lead vocals, and behind him, the band conjures grooving largesse on the title-track, resonant, Euro-radio-worthy hooks on cuts like opener “Relief” and the subsequent “Get Away,” and a fervent charge on “Deification” that offsets the semi-twang of “Beyond the Sky” and the psychedelic garage jangle of “Monolith.”

If that sounds a little broad as regards the general spectrum, it is, and that stylistic restlessness is a theme Mangoo — whose moniker seems truly unfortunate until one learns to pronounce it properly as “man-go” — continue from Neverland. Five years later, however, they are more mature as a group and as people, and whether it’s the rolling bassline that underscores the patient, harmony-topped fluidity in the second half of “Beyond the Sky” or the later solo in the angular boogie of “Stumbling Man,” which straightens out to a particularly satisfying hook near its finish, the vibe here is cohesive front to back and Mangoo never seem to leave an element out of its proper place.

mangoo

One might debate whether in the vinyl-minded late-’10s, The Heat really needs to be 2LP length, or at very least to border thereupon, but with such a chunk of time between their last offering (which also was not short) and this one, a glut of material makes some sense in context, and ultimately it does not hold Mangoo back from effectively stating their point. As to what that might be, one should look again at the subtle diversity of craft on display throughout the tracks. The production by Björklund — on which everyone else receives a co-credit — is a unifying factor to such a degree that on a superficial level, The Heat might seem to take a singular approach, but the truth is Mangoo adopt a range of approaches across these cuts, from the spacious and progressive heft of “One Day,” on which the guitars drift wide during the open verses only to resolidify around a massive and dramatic chorus, to the tense chugging, percussive nuance and slightly-jammed feel that hits in the penultimate “Grey Belly,” building to an apex that, even as it follows what would’ve seemed to be the culmination of the album in its titular cut, justifies its presence.

Feeling a bit more like an indulgence is the actual closer, which is a take on Eddie Murphy‘s 1985 single “Party all the Time,” which, while yes, it has a hook that borders on so catchy it’s infuriating, doesn’t necessarily fit with the rest of The Heat‘s modus, despite the ’80s-esque airbrushed look of the Alexander von Wieding cover art. The sense one gets is that it’s Mangoo signaling their audience that they don’t take themselves too seriously, that they’re having a good time, or that maybe they’re prone as most groups are to the occasional inside joke, but after 10 solid original pieces of Dozer-worthy songwriting and borderline flawless studio execution from the metallic vibe of “Tiembla” to the theatrical spread conjured in “The Heat” itself, to turn that all on its head right as they cross the finish line almost takes away from the impact of the original pieces preceding.

That said, Mangoo are certainly entitled to enjoy themselves in the recording/studio process, and while “Party all the Time” might’ve been better left as an off-LP single or something like that, even more than 30 years on from its first release, it remains a furiously dug-in earworm and Mangoo do well to make it their own in terms of overall sound. Of course, the definition of “their own” has never sounded quite so fluid for the five-piece as it does here either, since they careen with such apparent ease between one side of their increasingly complex sonic persona and the next. Maybe in that spirit, there’s room for just about everything in the triumphant spacet-time reaches born of “Beyond the Sky” or “One Day,” including that last bit of partying. Fair enough. You win this round, Mangoo.

Mangoo, The Heat (2017)

Mangoo website

Mangoo on Thee Facebooks

Small Stone website

Small Stone Records on Thee Facebooks

The Heat at Small Stone Bandcamp

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Långfinger Premiere Video for “Say Jupiter”

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

langfinger

We’re more than a year out now from the release of Långfinger‘s third album and Small Stone Records debut, Crossyears (review here), and the Swedish trio continue to provide the offering worthy support. Last month, they wrapped yet another round of touring that took them through Germany, Belgium and the Czech Republic, and they’ve got a brand new video premiering today for “Say Jupiter,” the second cut from the record.

I don’t know who in Långfinger‘s world owns a restaurant and decided to give the three-piece access to the kitchen for the purposes of the Anders Bryngel-directed clip, but the results are pretty hilarious. As anyone who’s ever made one can tell you, a good meal is as much about preparation as it is about the taste of the outcome, and whether they’re in the kitchen rocking out or in the front of the house getting the royal treatment from the waitstaff — also played by them — bassist/vocalist Victor Crusner, guitarist/backing vocalist Kalle Lilja and drummer/backing vocalist Jesper Pihl seem to be having a great time putting it altogether. Whatever dinner turns out to be, it’s apparently a pretty transcendent experience. Must’ve had a lot of garlic.

God damn, I love garlic.

What were we talking about? Oh right, Långfinger. Well, the way I see it, the only question is whether or not the “Say Jupiter” video — which is the band’s second time working with Bryngel after their clip for “Fox Confessor” (premiered here) — is the band’s way of bidding farewell to Crossyears as they move ahead toward their fourth album. They’ve reportedly been at work on their next outing and even played some new material live on the aforementioned Fall tour, so it seems to me there’s a chance 2018 could bring that record to life at one point or another. Will be worth keeping an eye on for sure.

And in the meantime, the partnership between the band and Bryngel yields charm-laden dividends once again here with “Say Jupiter,” so check out the video below, followed by more info from the PR wire, and please enjoy:

Långfinger, “Say Jupiter” official video premiere

From Långfinger’s third full length album “Crossyears”, released September 30th, 2016 on Small Stone Records.

Directed, produced and edited by Anders Bryngel.

Långfinger:
Kalle Lilja – Guitars & backing vocals
Victor Crusner – Bass, keys & lead vocals
Jesper Pihl – Drums & backing vocals

Långfinger, from the fertile rock ‘n’ roll city of Gothenburg, have been playing together since they were in their early teens, and their third album, called ‘Crossyears’, is both the thrilling culmination of their collective endeavour, and a rumination on it – on how Time has shaped them and brought them to this point. Within its hard-hitting grooves, the interlocking of Långfinger’s three disparate characters – Kalle, the unflappable, precision axeman; Jesper, the athletic sticksman battering out physical revenge on his kit; and Victor, the intense, exploratory spirit, bridging thundering bass and howling exorcism – is a magical proposition.

Långfinger, Crossyears (2016)

Långfinger on Thee Facebooks

Långfinger website

Långfinger on Instagram

Långfinger on Twitter

Crossyears at Small Stone Bandcamp

Small Stone on Thee Facebooks

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Mangoo Announce New Album The Heat out Dec. 8; New Song Posted

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

Finnish heavy rockers Mangoo will sneak in their new album, The Heat, via Small Stone Records just before the end of the year. With a release date of Dec. 8, and preorders up now, the Turku-based fuzzers are streaming the opening track “Relief” now, and as you can hear in its stylistic blend, Mangoo take elements old and new and put them together with a penchant for hooks and groove that’s both straightforward and subtly their own. Perhaps most curiously of all, the record — for which I helped revise the bio below; which isn’t to say “here’s a bio I wrote,” because I didn’t write the original — caps with a cover of Eddie Murphy‘s “Party all the Time,” which if you don’t immediately recognize based on the title alone, almost certainly the hook will be familiar as it worms itself into the frontal cortex of your brain, there to reside permanently.

“My girl wants to party all the time, party all the time, PARTY ALL THE TIME…” and so on.

Info comes back around through the PR wire:

mangoo the heat

MANGOO: Finnish Fuzz Rockers To Release The Heat Full-Length Via Small Stone This December; New Track Streaming

You think you’re ready for The Heat, but you’re not. Catchy hooks and sweet vocal harmonies are nothing new for Finnish rockers MANGOO. On the Turku-based outfit’s third full-length, they come backed by a wall of thick, fuzz-fueled guitars and hard-hitting drums with an added sprinkling of analog synth sounds. Combined they result in a sound truly the band’s own – someplace between grunge, classic heavy rock, and a progressive psychedelic spaciousness that refuses any and all boundaries of style between rock and metal and beyond.

MANGOO — pronounced “man go” — have been busting out the fuzz since 2005 when they released their untitled debut EP. Countless beers, shows, and drummers later in 2009 the first full-length, Neolithic, was released on 7:45 Records. With a firm lineup of guitarist/vocalist Pickles, guitarist Mattarn, bassist Igor, drummer Teemu, and keyboardist/noisemaker Nicke, they engage new expanses as they follow-up their 2012 Small Stone debut, Neverland, with the eleven songs of The Heat.

Mega-choruses like “Get Away” and “Grey Belly” provide landmarks while MANGOO brings psychedelic heft to “Beyond The Sky” and the title-track, which, at seven minutes, seems to draw together everything the album that shares its name has to offer – except perhaps in the closing cover of Eddie Murphy’s 1985 single “Party All The Time.” Not that they needed to remind listeners to stay on their toes because you never know what’s coming when MANGOO emerges from the studio, but suffice it to say the track remains an earworm for the ages.

All told, MANGOO’s The Heat is fifty-three minutes of masterful heavy rock and roll of inimitable personality and unmistakable songcraft. It is a welcome return after half a decade from a band who have obviously not been wasting their time in terms of growth and forward progression, and a surefire highlight for any underground heads lucky enough to take it on.

Heat will see release via Small Stone on December 8th, 2017. Preorders are currently available at THIS LOCATION where you can also sample opening track, “Relief.”

Heat Track Listing:
1. Relief
2. Get Away
3. Beyond the Sky
4. Monolith
5. One Day
6. Deification
7. Tiembla
8. Stumbling Man
9. The Heat
10. Grey Belly
11. Party All the Time

http://www.mangooloid.com
http://www.facebook.com/Mangooband
http://www.smallstone.com
http://www.facebook.com/smallstonerecords
https://smallstone.bandcamp.com/album/the-heat

Mangoo, The Heat (2017)

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Långfinger Announce Fall 2017 European Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 17th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

langfinger (Photo by Bengt Persson)

Swedish classic-style heavy rockers Långfinger have announced a new round of European touring for this September and October. The Gothenburg three-piece will head out for a run through Germany, Belgium, and the Czech Republic beginning Sept. 28 as they continue to support their 2016 offering, Crossyears (review here), released by Small Stone in the US in conjunction with Cargo Records in Europe.

Though they’re still young, Långfinger are fast becoming veterans of Europe’s heavy rock underground. With Crossyears as their third album behind 2010’s Skygrounds and 2012’s Slow Rivers, the band have more and more refined their sense of songcraft to make their tracks organic, memorable and engaging in their blend of ’70s roots and modern impulses. Earlier this year, they hit the road alongside labelmates Captain Crimson to represent two of Sweden’s strongest upstart presences in next-generation riffage.

Dates for the upcoming autumnal run and more info follow here, courtesy of the PR wire:

langfinger tour poster

Långfinger Autumn Tour
28/9 Kiel (DE) – Schaubude
29/9 Oldenburg (DE) – MTS LP’s & CD’s
30/9 La Louviere (BE) – La Taverne du Theatre
1/10 Rodewisch (DE) – Ars Vitae
2/10 Prague (CZ) – Fatal Club
3/10 Pod?brady (CZ) – Boss Bar
4/10 Kolin (CZ) – Bar Pod Hodinama
6/10 Weimar (DE) – Kasseturm
7/10 Lubbeneu (DE) – Kulturhof

Poster design by: Thomas V. Jäger from Monolord.

Långfinger, from the fertile rock ‘n’ roll city of Gothenburg, are masters of the art. They’ve been playing together since they were in their early teens, and their third album, called ‘Crossyears’, is both the thrilling culmination of their collective endeavour, and a rumination on it – on how Time has shaped them and brought them to this point. Within its hard-hitting grooves, the interlocking of Långfinger’s three disparate characters – Kalle, the unflappable, precision axeman; Jesper, the athletic sticksman battering out physical revenge on his kit; and Victor, the intense, exploratory spirit, bridging thundering bass and howling exorcism – is a magical proposition.

Långfinger:
Kalle Lilja – Guitars & backing vocals
Victor Crusner – Bass, keys & lead vocals
Jesper Pihl – Drums & backing vocals

https://smallstone.bandcamp.com/album/crossyears
https://www.facebook.com/Langfingerofficial/
http://langfinger.net/

Långfinger, Crossyears (2016)

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Snail Post “Thou Art That” Live Video from The Obelisk All-Dayer

Posted in Bootleg Theater on July 24th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

snail photo adam donnelly

I really think Snail should release their set from last year’s The Obelisk All-Dayer. I’ve never started any kind of online petition, and I’m not usually one to go fishing for comments — because I live in terror that I wouldn’t get any — but yeah, you can check out the video of their 10-minute epic roller “Thou Art That” from the show and if you agree with me that the whole set should see at least a digital release or a limited tape or something, please leave a comment on this post. I’m not saying if we hit a certain number of comments they’ll put something out, but it certainly can’t hurt to try. Right?

“Thou Art That” was a highlight of 2015’s Feral (review here), which came out on Small Stone and was the perfect occasion for the trio of guitarist/vocalist Mark Johnson, bassist Matt Lynch and drummer Marty Dodson to hit the East Coast for the first time in their 20-years-plus history. They absolutely killed it at the show, with what seemed to me to be the night’s biggest crowd, and though I’d seen them on a rare tour years before in San Francisco (review here), this was obviously something special. I was lucky they could make the trip to play.

This isn’t the first live video they’ve posted from the All-Dayer either though. They had one for the title-track of 2009’s Blood (review here) that came out at the beginning of the year as well, so “Thou Art That” — shot by David Strayer with board-recorded audio by Jaime Traba and additional production from Matt Lynch — is the second time they’ve teased the prospect of doing something with that material. I already offered to write the liner notes for a tape or any other kind of release. Come on, guys. This one needs to happen.

I’ve been kicking around ideas for a second The Obelisk All-Dayer for the better part of the last year. Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn was on board last I checked, but I’m not sure if it’s something I want to do again, especially with a baby on the way. We’ll see. If you have an opinion on the matter, I’d love to hear it.

Oh, and if you see some schmo down in the front rocking out at the end of “Thou Art That,” well clearly that’s just somebody who very, very much enjoyed the set. Ha.

Dig it:

Snail, “Thou Art That” Live at The Obelisk All-Dayer

The almighty SNAIL playing live at The Obelisk All Dayer in Brooklyn NYC 8-20-2016.

Video: David Strayer
Audio: Jaime Traba
Production: Matt Lynch

Snail, Feral (2015)

Snail on Thee Facebooks

Snail website

Snail at Small Stone Records

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Abrahma to Record New Album this Fall

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 5th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Prog-tinged Parisian heavy rockers Abrahma have announced their intention to enter the studio this fall to record their third full-length. It’ll be in October with the release itself following in 2018. Their last outing, 2015’s Reflections in the Bowels of a Bird (review here), offered a significantly expanded sonic palette from its likewise-cumbersomely-titled 2012 predecessor, Through the Dusty Paths of Our Lives (review here), and the four-piece will no doubt look to move forward this time out as well.

So that’s this October. Last time we heard from the band was last October, as it happens, and at that point guitarist/vocalist/keyboardist Sebastien Bismuth and guitarist Nicolas Heller, were welcoming bassist Guillaume Theoden and drummer Sacha Viken to the Abrahma lineup and setting to work on the record, the tentative name for which was given as In Time for the Last Rays of Light. In the update that follows here, Bismuth doesn’t use that name or any other, so it may well be that they’ve opted for something else or a final decision has yet to be made in that regard.

Still, progress is progress, and it’s good to know work has continued on the outing, whatever it winds up being called when it’s done. Here’s what Bismuth had to say on the subject:

abrahma

ABRAHMA will enter ORGONE STUDIOS in October with Jaime Gomez Arellano (Paradise Lost, Cathedral, Ghost, Pallbearer,..) to record our third album.

This new album will go a little bit far away from what we’ve done before. We have added many influences we were scared to add on our previous works. We’ll have been through difficult times those last years and we have chosen to use music to heal our wounds…

The result needed to enlarge our influences and the addition of Sacha Viken and Guillaume Theoden made it all really natural. We can’t wait to share those new songs with you!

www.abrahmamusic.net
www.facebook.com/ABRAHMAMUSIC
www.twitter.com/ABRAHMAMUSIC
www.smallstone.com

Abrahma, “Witchdoctor Woman” (Nazareth cover)

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Friday Full-Length: Halfway to Gone, Second Season

Posted in Bootleg Theater on June 2nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Halfway to Gone, Second Season (2002)

A full 15 years since Halfway to Gone put out Second Season? Just over, actually. The sophomore full-length from the New Jersey outfit arrived in March 2002 via Small Stone Records and found the trio a tighter, meaner unit than even their impressive debut, High Five (discussed here), had shown them to be the year before. It was a purposeful play toward accessibility and craftsmanship that, when balanced with the tonal and rhythmic drive of songs like opener “Great American Scumbag” and the later “Lone Star Breakout,” resulted in a special moment for Halfway to Gone and their burgeoning audience alike. Comprised at that point of bassist/vocalist Lou Gorra, guitarist Lee Stuart and drummer Kenny Wagner, the three-piece cut themselves a place within the crowded sphere of NJ’s heavy underground — brimming at that point with bands like SolaceThe Atomic BitchwaxSolarized, etc., etc. — and staked a claim over Southern-stylized heavy rock that no one in the Garden State has been able to topple in the years since. A decade and a half later, Second Season still kicks your ass.

It does so mostly via songwriting. “Great American Scumbag” is the quintessential leadoff and boasts one of the record’s best — if not actually its best — hooks, but cuts like “Already Gone,” which immediately follows, and the post-C.O.C. chug of “Thee Song (A Slight Return)” and especially the bouncing “Whiskey Train” push deeper into thickened Heartland boogie such that by the time the swampy heavy blues of “Outta Smokes” and “Brocktoon’s Wake” arrive — the former distinguished by a guest harp performance from Eric Oblander of Ohio-based Small Stone labelmates Five Horse Johnson — Halfway to Gone are right at home in the down-home, and their balance between high-octane heavy rock and these other elements remains fluid through a burst like “Escape from Earth” and the later mid-tempo nodder “Never Comin’ Home.”

All the while, the band keep no secrets, make no bones about where they’re coming from in their classic influences, and ask absolutely nothing of the listener except maybe an adult beverage to wet the whistle and a bit of rocking out, which Second Season fosters to a nigh-irresistible degree. From the early trippy jam “Black Coffy” through the complementary, penultimate acoustic/electric sleepy vibe-piece “Tryptophan,” the record earns its way to the concluding cover of The Marshall Tucker Band‘s “Can’t You See” that consumes its final five minutes, and which also appeared on Small Stone‘s original Sucking the ’70s compilation in 2002, the group boldly taking on vocal harmonies and a loyalism to the original that speaks to their genuine love for Southern heavy despite their Northern origins.

Further, right from the start of when “Great American Scumbag” first kicks in, Second Season has such a sense of space to its sound. Like the drunken King Kong/Sasquatch/Yeti/whatever it is on its cover art, the record is positively huge, and it retains that largesse whether a given track is loud or quiet, faster or slower, uniting the material and only enhancing the flow of the 43-minute entirety. Having recorded High Five with Charlie Schaefer at W.O.M. Studios, they returned and took a more active role in the production the second time around, and the results speak for themselves in the impact of “Already Gone” and the breadth of the fuzz in “Brocktoon’s Wake.” At its core, Second Season is a great collection of songs, but it’s also a full album, and it resonates on both levels in lasting and righteous fashion.

Two years later, Halfway to Gone would issue their third long-player, Halfway to Gone, with a more mature sound overall, production by Bob Pantella of Monster Magnet (and a slew of engineers), and cuts like “Slidin’ down the Razor,” “Turnpike” and “Couldn’t Even Find a Fight.” By then, Halfway to Gone had been through a couple different drummers — among them Wagner and Sixty Watt Shaman‘s Chuck Dukeheart (now of Fogound and Serpents of Secrecy) — before settling in with Stu‘s brother, Danny Gollin, behind the kit. Perhaps weary from a few years of hard living and considerable time spent on the road, the self-titled would be the final Halfway to Gone offering of their initial run. Stu and Danny launched the new outfit A Thousand Knives of Fire as a two-guitar four-piece with Taj Estrada on bass and Paul Wiegand playing opposite Stu. They released their debut, Last Train to Scornsville, in 2008, killed it at shows up and down the Eastern Seaboard, and faded out as members moved onto other projects and Halfway to Gone regrouped for periodic reunion gigs in Jersey.

Though they’ve continually threatened to issue a follow-up, and as of the last time I saw them — granted it was five years ago now (review here) — they certainly sounded like they had at least one more kickass record in them, the self-titled has remained the third and final Halfway to Gone album since its release in 2004. As noted, through all that time, no one has come to claim their crown, and I expect that if they did ever get it together to produce a fourth outing, they’d be able to pick up where they left off despite the intervening years. That would be my wish for them anyway, but as a fan, I’m hardly impartial in that regard.

Great record. Underrated band. As always, I hope you enjoy.

Was up a dastardly five minutes before the alarm this morning. I suppose that’s better than being awake at 4AM, which was how it went yesterday, but still kind of annoying, both for missing out on that extra unconscious time and for how tired I was by the time I went to bed last night. It being a four-day week didn’t stop this one from being long as hell. Two weeks left of work as of today. Two weeks, then I’m unemployed again.

My feelings on the issue are somewhat complicated. If I made any money whatsoever doing this site, they would not be. Somehow I don’t think Donald Trump’s I’m-gonna-back-out-of-the-Paris-Accord ass is going to be the one to implement universal basic income, however, so even here in liberal Massachusetts (though not where I live; fucking racist white yutzes, everywhere), I’m not going to hold out much hope on that one. Some you win, some you lose. Some lose the popular count by three million votes and still win.

If you’re wondering, the baby boy The Pecan whom The Patient Mrs. and I are in the process of bringing into this wretched, doomed-in-a-bad-way world is doing well, as is she. 20-plus weeks along and starting to show, feeling aches and whatnot, but holding up. He’s riding low at the moment, which had me thinking of “Lameneshma” last night before dinner. “Hmm, maybe a Swedish name…” and so on. Golly Lowrider kick ass.

Writing at the kitchen table this morning instead of my usual place on the couch is my way of pretending it’s already the weekend. It isn’t, and in about half an hour I’ll need to get my shit together and head to the office, where as I did for most of this week I will sit and watch the minutes go by until I can leave and be with The Patient Mrs. again. That’s all I want these days. Together time.

This weekend is busy — a wedding in CT, some back and forth to do on Sunday — but here’s what’s in the notes for next week, subject to change as always:

Mon.: Vokonis full album stream/review. Abrams video.
Tue.: Six Dumb Questions with Summoner. Conclave video.
Wed.: Second Coming of Heavy review. Heat video.
Thu.: Solstafir review, tentatively. Or maybe that new Tuber. We’ll see.
Fri.: Six Dumb Questions with Godhunter.

Yup, doubling up on Six Dumb Questions interviews. I’ve got a backlog of them at this point that I’ve been sending out to people and need to bring it up to speed. Trying to balance that and still not get too far behind on reviews, but I suck at balance, and I suck at keeping up with reviews anyway, so it’ll be what it is. I want to get the Godhunter one up either way, so yeah.

Whatever you’re up to over the next couple days, I hope it’s fun and that you enjoy and are safe and don’t get anymore messed up than you want to be, and that you please check out the forum and the radio stream as well.

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