Review & Video Premiere: Steak, No God to Save

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

steak-no-god-to-save

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

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

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

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

steak photo sam mellish

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

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

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

Steak, No God to Save (2017)

Steak on Bandcamp

Steak on Thee Facebooks

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Ripple Music website

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

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The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 of 2017 So Far

Posted in Features on June 12th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk top-20-2017-so-far

The time has come to take a look at some of the best albums of 2017 so far. I hardly know where to start. In some ways, this list is harder to put together than the end-of-year one that comes out in December, because by then not only do you have the full year to draw on, but it’s easier to sort of put a narrative to the course of events of 12 months, whereas in this case, obviously, the story is half told. So I guess if the list feels incomplete, that might be part of why.

Even with just six months to work from, the list has become fairly immense. I’ve been keeping track of 2017 releases since about September of last year, and the amount of stuff that’s come through has been staggering. Every year brings good music, and the basic fact of the matter is that if you don’t think so it’s because you’re either unwilling to find it or unwilling to let yourself hear it, but 2017 has been a multi-tiered assault of sounds from all over the world, and it seems like whatever you might be into, the universe stands ready to accommodate.

There’s a lot to say about that — is the market flooded? — but it’s a topic for a different post. I’ll keep it short here and just say that as always, it’s an honor to be covering the stuff that I cover and that I deeply appreciate you taking the time to read. I hope if there’s a release you feel deeply passionate about that you don’t see on my list below that you’ll please let me know about it in the comments.

Also, please note that in order to qualify for this list, a record had to come out on or before June 9. That’s the cutoff.

Okay, here goes:

The Top 20 of 2017 So Far

elder reflections of a floating world

1. Elder, Reflections of a Floating World
2. All Them Witches, Sleeping Through the War
3. Samsara Blues Experiment, One with the Universe
4. Colour Haze, In Her Garden
5. Atavismo, Inerte
6. Sun Blood Stories, It Runs Around the Room with Us
7. Cloud Catcher, Trails of Kozmic Dust
8. Vokonis, The Sunken Djinn
9. The Obsessed, Sacred
10. Mothership, High Strangeness
11. Spaceslug, Time Travel Dilemma
12. Electric Moon, Stardust Rituals
13. Alunah, Solennial
14. Arc of Ascent, Realms of the Metaphysical
13. Rozamov, This Mortal Road
14. Siena Root, A Dream of Lasting Peace
15. PH, Eternal Hayden
16. Geezer, Psychoriffadelia
17. T.G. Olson, Foothills Before the Mountain
18. Telekinetic Yeti, Abominable
19. The Devil and the Almighty Blues, II
20. Lord, Blacklisted

Notes

If you keep up with this site at all, there probably aren’t a lot of surprises in there. These are all records that have been discussed at great length over the last six months, reviewed, streamed, analyzed, whathaveyou’d all the way. If you don’t believe me, search any of the names. Still, as far as my personal picks go and who I think has crafted something special over the last six months, this feels pretty representative to me. I managed to live for a full week with the list as you see it above, without making changes. That’s usually my standard.

And as always, it’s a combination of what I’ve listened to most and what I feel has had the greatest impact thus far into the year. Between the two, there was little doubt Elder would take the top spot. I’ve probably listened to the All Them Witches record more than anything else this year, including Elder’s Reflections of a Floating World, but the truth is the Massachusetts trio are working at a level of their own making in terms of their sonic progression, and that they’ve emerged as one of if not the most pivotal American underground heavy rock bands going. The situation was much the same when they put out Lore in 2015 and claimed that year’s top-album spot, but even since then their sound has expanded and they continue to demand ultimate respect.

As for the All Them Witches album — absolute stunner. The increased depth of their arrangements on Sleeping Through the War came at no expense of songwriting, resulting in ultra-memorable material that could either wash over you with melody or shove you out of your seat with the force of its rhythm, and that band continues to be a treasure. No other way to put it.

From there, we move into what I think are the four best heavy psych offerings of 2017 so far, with Samsara Blues Experiment, Colour Haze, Atavismo and Sun Blood Stories, in that order. Samsara Blues Experiment’s return has been a joy to witness and their first album in four years lived up to the occasion. Colour Haze expanded the palette from their last album with In Her Garden and proved as immersive as always. I’m still getting to know that record. Atavismo’s second full-length upped the progressive influences without losing fluidity or cohesion in songwriting, and Sun Blood Stories’ hypnotic shoegaze offered expansive thrills and a sense of varied, beautifully crafted exploration.

A pair of exciting young bands thereafter in Colorado’s Cloud Catcher, whose boogie is right-on-right-on and whose development continues to hold much potential, and Vokonis, whose crushing riffs on The Sunken Djinn were met with an increased focus on structure and tightening of approach that maximized overall impact. The Obsessed’s unexpected return could only be called a triumphant one, and Mothership’s third long-player found them working in a richer sense of mood than previous outings, adding yet more character to what was still a blast of good-time rock and roll. They round out the top 10 in full command of who they are as players.

Granted, the next 10 releases are kind of all over the place, but I think that just shows the overarching quality of work being done across the board. From Spaceslug’s melodic stoner-psych to Electric Moon’s studio return — so, so, so good — to Alunah’s continued growth in nature-worshiping heavy and Arc of Ascent’s comebacker of rolling heavy riffs and metaphysical themes, there’s been so much to take in. I especially like the pairing of Rozamov and Siena Root as a sense of scope for 2017 so far; the former being so dark and crushing and the latter who lived up to calling their record A Dream of Lasting Peace. You want to know both ends of the spectrum? There they are.

PH’s Eternal Hayden gets a nod for its effective reset of the context of that band following the completion of their trilogy of albums, and Geezer’s Psychoriffadelia might have been something of a tossoff in the making, but the level at which the New York trio jams nonetheless assures it a spot here. Plus, a Nazareth cover. So duh.

I couldn’t help but include T.G. Olson’s Foothills Before the Mountain on the list as the Across Tundras frontman creeps closer to a full-band sound for his solo work, adding to his acoustic singer-songwriter foundations, and the crush of Telekinetic Yeti’s post-Sleep riffing evoked so many nods I thought they deserved one here as well. Placing The Devil and the Almighty Blues was difficult, but especially after seeing them live, I felt like I had a better idea of where they were coming from on II, so knew they belonged somewhere, even if it was tucked in at the end. And of course, Lord. Always killer, always experimenting, always chaotic. Never have grind and sludge sounded more cohesive together. They’re the band I wish Soilent Green had become, and yes, I mean that.

Honorable Mention

Let’s do another 10 releases, shall we?

21. Beastmaker, Inside the Skull
22. Arduini/Balich, Dawn of Ages
23. Brume, Rooster
24. John Garcia, The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues
25. Six Sigma, Tuxedo Brown
26. Demon Head, Thunder on the Fields
27. Summoner, Beyond the Realm of Light
28. Steak, No God to Save
29. Six Organs of Admittance, Burning the Threshold
30. Dool, Here Now There Then

And just to make the point, here are even more worthy of note in this space:

Elbrus, Elbrus
Cortez, The Depths Below
Ecstatic Vision, Raw Rock Fury
Child, Blueside (a December 2016 release, maybe, but I think the vinyl was this year, so whatever)
Pallbearer, Heartless
Spidergawd, IV
Green Meteor, Consumed by a Dying Sun
Loss, Horizonless

There are of course other names as well that come to mind. Like I said at the outset, it’s a crowded field: Hymn, Arbouretum, Green Meteor, REZN, Demon Head, Galley Beggar, Devil’s Witches, Orango, Heavy Traffic, Coltsblood, Mt. Mountain, Vokonis, Solstafir, High Plains, on and on.

Also worth highlighting several really, really quality live records that have surfaced so far this year. I didn’t really know where to place them among the other studio offerings, but they deserve note for sure:

Causa Sui, Live in Copenhagen
Death Alley, Live at Roadburn
My Sleeping Karma, Mela Ananda – Live
Enslaved, Roadburn Live

More to Come

Of course, we’re still just barely halfway through the year, so keep on the lookout for more to follow. If you didn’t see my massive 200+ albums to watch for list in January, it has many that have come out and many more still to surface, but here are a few highlight names as well that you’re going to want to keep an eye on in the months ahead:

Queens of the Stone Age
Radio Moscow
The Atomic Bitchwax
Kadavar
Ufomammut
The Midnight Ghost Train
Moon Rats
Clamfight
Egypt
the Melvins
Bison Machine
Seedy Jeezus
High on Fire
Monster Magnet

Thanks for Reading

Before I check out, I’d like to give special mention to Lo-Pan’s In Tensions EP as the best short release of the year thus far. Along with EPs from Godhunter, Kings Destroy, Solace and Shroud Eater, it has assured those seeking a quick fix are handed their ass in return for asking.

Well, that’s about where I’m at with it. As per usual, I’m sure there are things I forgot and/or left off here, because I’m human and whatnot, so please if you have something to add, feel free to do so in the comments so long as you can keep it cordial. No name calling. I’m sensitive and you’ll ruin my whole day. I mean that.

Thanks again for being a part of this and here’s to an excellent rest of 2017.

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Steak Sign to Ripple Music; No God to Save out in June

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 14th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Just off the PR wire comes word that London, UK, heavy rockers Steak have inked a deal with Ripple Music and will release their second album, No God to Save, this June through the label. The four-piece have, over the course of the last several years, become one of the most formidable presences in London’s crowded heavy rock sphere, establishing a firm hometown presence while embarking on wider European touring and appearing at fests like Keep it Low, Desertfest Athens, Reverence Valada, and so on.

They’re already booked at Desertfest London 2017 next month and Stoned from the Underground in Germany this July, and as they get set to follow-up 2014’s Napalm Records-delivered debut, Slab City (review here), I’d only expect more announcements to follow. I’ll do my best to keep pace.

In the meantime, here’s the official word:

steak

Steak – No God to Save – Ripple Music

Ripple Music is thrilled to welcome U.K. Stoner Rock Legends, Steak,to its roster of the best of the modern heavy bands.

Emerging from the depths of the murky London bars, this 4 piece have a love for underground rock n roll. Helping to shape a movement in underground music in the UK and Europe STEAK have forged themselves a new path. A riff laden, neck breaking force to be reckoned with on a mission to make rooms shake and heads roll.

Now, after releasing a series of EP’s and a debut Full length on Napalm Records, Steak joins forces with Ripple Music, one of the world’s leading purveyors of heavy psych, stoner and doom, to release “No God to Save” to a world-wide audience of heavy rockers. Expect “No God to Save” to be available around the world on limited vinyl, CD and digital come June 2017.

“Steak are back and we are honoured to be joining the Ripple family for what is our most badass record to date. This is heavy shit and we couldn’t imagine a better label to work with on it. See you on the road soon….”

Steak is:
Reece Tee
Chris Haley
James Cameron
Sammy Forway

https://steakmusic.bandcamp.com/
?https://www.facebook.com/steakuk/
https://www.facebook.com/theripplemusic/
http://www.ripple-music.com/
https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/

Steak, “Pisser,” Live at the Underworld, London, Oct. 10, 2016

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