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Tomorrow’s Dream: 200+ of 2017’s Most Anticipated Releases

Posted in Features on January 23rd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

tomorrow's dream 2017

Looks like it’s going to be another busy 12 months ahead. It’s been a busy better-part-of-a-month already, so that stands to reason, but you should know that of the several years now that I’ve done these ‘Tomorrow’s Dream’ posts, this is the biggest one yet, with over 150 upcoming releases that — one hopes — will be out between today and the end of 2017.

Actually, at last count, the list tops 180. Do I really expect you to listen to all of them? Nope. Will I? Well, it would be nice. But what I’ve done is gone through and highlighted 35 picks and then built lists off that in order of likelihood of arrival. You’ll note the categories are ‘Gonna Happen and/or Likely Candidates,’ ‘Definitely Could Happen’ and ‘Would be Awfully Nice.’

Beyond that last one, anything else just seems like speculation — one might as well go “new Sabbath this year!” with zero info backing it up. The idea here is that no matter where a given band is placed, there has been some talk of a new release. In some cases, it’s been years, but I think they’re still worth keeping in mind.

Another caveat: You can expect additions to this list over the next week — probably album titles, band names people (fingers crossed) suggest in the comments, and so on — so it will grow. It always does. The idea is to build as complete a document as possible, not to get it all nailed down immediately, so please, if you have something to contribute and you’re able to do so in a non-prickish, “You didn’t include Band X and therefore don’t deserve to breathe the same air as me,” kind of way, please contribute.

Other than that, I think it’s pretty straightforward what’s going on here and I’ll explain the category parameters as we go, so by all means, let’s jump in.

— Tomorrow’s Dream 2017 —

Presented Alphabetically

1. Abrahma, TBA

Late last year, Paris heavy progressives Abrahma announced a new lineup and third full-length in progress. No reason to think it won’t come to fruition, and a follow-up to 2015’s Reflections in the Bowels of a Bird (review here) is an easy pick to look forward to. Even with the shift in personnel, it seems likely the band will continue their creative development, driven as they are by founding guitarist Seb Bismuth.

2. All Them Witches, Sleeping Through the War

all them witches sleeping through the warIf 2017 ended today, Sleeping Through the War would be my Album of the Year. Of course, there’s a lot of year to go, but for now, Nashville’s All Them Witches have set the standard with their second album for New West Records behind 2015’s Dying Surfer Meets His Maker (review here) and fourth overall outing. They’ve got videos up so far for “3-5-7” (posted here) and “Bruce Lee” (posted here). Both are most definitely worth your time. Out Feb. 24. Full review should be later this week.

3. Alunah, Solennial

Seems like UK forest riffers Alunah are on this list every year. Wishful thinking on my part. Nonetheless, their fourth LP and Svart Records debut, Solennial, is out March 17, and if the tease they gave already with the clip for “Fire of Thornborough Henge” (posted here) is anything to go from, its Chris Fielding-produced expanses might just be Alunah‘s most immersive yet.

4. Arbouretum, TBA

I asked the Baltimore folk fuzzers a while back on Thee Facebooks if they had a new record coming in 2017 and they said yes, so that’s what I’m going on here. The last Arbouretum album was 2013’s Coming out of the Fog (review here), and even with frontman Dave Heumann‘s 2015 solo outing, Here in the Deep (review here), factored in, you’d have to say they’re due. Keep an eye on Thrill Jockey for word and I’ll do the same.

5. Atavismo, Inerte

This is another one that already has a spot reserved for it on my Best-of-2017 year-end list. Spanish heavy psych rockers Atavismo up the progressive bliss level with their second full-length, Inerte, without losing the depth of style that made 2014’s Desintegración (review here) so utterly glorious. It probably won’t have the biggest marketing budget of 2017, but if you let Atavismo fly under your radar, you are 100 percent missing out on something special.

6. Bison Machine, TBA

In addition to the video for new track “Cloak and Bones” that premiered here, when Michigan raucousness-purveyors Bison Machine put out the dates for their fall 2016 tour, they included further hints of new material in progress. As much as I dug their earlier-2016 split with SLO and Wild Savages (review here) and 2015’s Hoarfrost (review here), that’s more than enough for me to include them on this list. Killer next-gen heavy rock.

7. Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, TBA

News of a follow-up to Brothers of the Sonic Cloth‘s 2015 Neurot Recordings self-titled debut (review here) came through in October, and it remains some of the best news I’ve heard about 2017 doings. Took them a while to get the first record out, so we’ll see what happens, but it kind of feels like looking forward to a comet about to smash into the planet and cause a mass extinction, and by that I mean awesome. Can’t get here soon enough.

8. Cloud Catcher, Trails of Kosmic Dust

cloud catcher trails of kosmic dustOkay, so maybe I jumped the gun and did a super-early review of Denver trio Cloud Catcher‘s second long-player and Totem Cat Records debut, Trails of Kosmic Dust, but hell, no regrets. Some albums require an early-warning system. Their 2015 debut, Enlightened Beyond Existence (discussed here), was a gem as well, but this is a band in the process of upping their game on every level, and the songwriting and momentum they hone isn’t to be missed.

9. Colour Haze, TBA

I’ve gotten some details on the upcoming full-length from Colour Haze. They do not include a title, artwork, audio, song titles or general direction. Less details, I guess, than word that the CD version of this answer to 2015’s To the Highest Gods We Know (review here) is set to come out next month, as ever, on Elektrohasch. That puts it out in time for Colour Haze‘s upcoming tour with My Sleeping Karma (announced here). Fingers crossed it happens. Colour Haze are perpetual top-albums candidates in my book.

10. Corrosion of Conformity, TBA

Signed to Nuclear Blast after being rejoined by guitarist/vocalist Pepper Keenan, North Carolina’s C.O.C. have been in the studio since last year. The lineup of Keenan, bassist/vocalist Mike Dean and guitarist Woody Weatherman and Reed Mullin on drums is the stuff of legend and last worked together on 2000’s America’s Volume Dealer, so no question this reunion makes for one of 2017’s most anticipated heavy rock records. They nailed the nostalgia factor on tour. Can they now add to their legacy?

11. Elder, TBA

I was incredibly fortunate about a month ago to visit progressive heavy rockers Elder at Sonelab in Easthampton, MA, during the recording process for their upcoming fourth album. I heard a couple of the tracks, and of course it was all raw form, but the movement forward from 2015’s Lore (review here) was palpable. That LP (on Stickman) brought them to a wider audience, and I expect no less from this one as well, since the farther out Elder go sound-wise, the deeper the level of connection with their listeners they seem to engage.

12. Electric Wizard, TBA

Could happen, could not happen. That’s how it goes. Announced for last Halloween. That date came and went. Word of trouble building their own studio surfaced somewhere along the line. That was the last I heard. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if it showed up tomorrow, if it showed up in 2018, or if the band broke up and never put it out. They’re Electric Wizard. Anything’s possible.

13. John Garcia, The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues

Out Jan. 28 on NapalmThe Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues (review here) is the first-ever acoustic album from former Kyuss frontman John Garcia, also of Unida, the reunited Slo BurnHermanoVista ChinoZun, etc. — basically the voice of desert rock. He does a couple Kyuss classics for good measure, but shines as well on the new/original tracks, and while it’s a piece for fans more than newcomers — that is, it helps if you know the original version of “Green Machine” — his presence remains as powerful as ever despite this new context.

14. Goya, Harvester of Bongloads

Riffs, dude. Goya seem to have them to spare. The Arizona-based wizard doomers have set a pretty prolific clip for themselves at this point, with at least two short releases out in 2016, one a 7″ of Nirvana covers (review here), and the The Enemy EP (review here). Set for a March 3 release through their own Opoponax Records imprint, Harvester of Bongloads continues the march into the abyss that 2015’s Obelisk (review here) and 2013’s 777 set in motion, finding the band coming more into their own as well. Creative growth — and bongloads! The best of both worlds.

15. Ides of Gemini, TBA

Ides of Gemini are set to record their yet-untitled third album with Sanford Parker early this year, and it will also mark their debut on Rise Above Records upon its release. They’ve also got a new lineup around vocalist Sera Timms and guitarist J. Bennett, so as they look to move forward from 2014’s Old World New Wave (review here), one can’t help but wonder what to expect, but to be honest, not knowing is part of the appeal, especially from a band who so readily specialize in the ethereal.

16. Kind, TBA

Three-fourths of Kind feature elsewhere on this list. Bassist Tom Corino plays in Rozamov. Drummer Matt Couto is in Elder. Vocalist Craig Riggs is in Roadsaw. And for what it’s worth, guitarist Darryl Shepherd has a new band coming together called Test Meat. How likely does that make Kind to release a second LP in 2017? I don’t know, but their 2015 Ripple Music debut, Rocket Science (review here), deserves a follow-up, and I know they’ve demoed some new songs. If it happens, great. If it’s 2018, at least these dudes will be plenty busy besides.

17. Lo-Pan, In Tensions

lo-pan in tensionsYes, Lo-Pan‘s In Tensions (review here) has already been released — CD/LP with an artbook on Aqualamb. It’s out. Limited numbers. You can get it now. Why include it on a list of most anticipated releases? Because that’s how strongly I feel about your need to hear it. The fruit of a shortlived lineup with guitarist Adrian Zambrano, it distinguishes itself from everything they’ve done before in style while still keeping to the core righteousness that one hopes the Ohio outfit will continue to carry forward. It’s more than a stopgap between albums. Listen to it.

18. The Midnight Ghost Train, TBA

It seems to have been a rough ride for hard-boogie specialists The Midnight Ghost Train since their 2015 Napalm debut and third album overall, Cold was the Ground (review here). They’ve never taken it easy on the road or in terms of physicality on stage, and between injuries and who knows what else, their intensity at this point veers toward the directly confrontational. Nonetheless, they’ve been writing for album number four, may or may not have started the recording process, and I expect that confrontationalism to suit them well in their new material.

19. Monster Magnet, TBA

I have it on decent authority that NJ heavy psych innovators Monster Magnet were in the studio this past autumn. I’ve seen no concrete word of a new album in progress from Dave Wyndorf and company, and I wouldn’t necessarily expect to until it was time to start hyping the release, but after their two redux releases, 2015’s Cobras and Fire (review here) and 2014’s Milking the Stars (review here), their range feels broader than ever and I can’t wait to hear what they come up with next.

20. Mothership, High Strangeness

A pivotal moment for Mothership arrives with High Strangeness, and the heavy-touring, heavy-riffing Texas power trio seem to know it. Their third record on Ripple Music pushes into new avenues of expression and keeps the energy of 2014’s Mothership II (review here) and 2012’s Mothership (review here), but thus far into their career, it’s been about their potential and what they might accomplish going forward. 2017 might be the year for Mothership to declare a definitive place in the sphere of American heavy rock.

21. The Obsessed, Sacred

On Halloween 2016, founding The Obsessed guitarist/vocalist and doom icon Scott “Wino” Weinrich announced a new lineup for the band, with his former The Hidden Hand bandmate Bruce Falkinburg on bass/vocals, Sara Seraphim on guitar and Brian Costantino continuing on drums. A genuine surprise. Their first album since 1994, Sacred (due on Relapse) was tracked as the trio of WeinrichCostantino and bassist/vocalist Dave Sherman, but clearly they’ve moved into a new era already. Wouldn’t even guess what the future holds, but hopefully Sacred still comes out.

22. Orange Goblin, TBA

When it was announced that London’s Orange Goblin were picked up by Spinefarm as part of that label’s acquisition of Candlelight Records last Spring, the subheadline from the PR wire was “Working on Ninth Studio Album.” I haven’t heard much since then, but even as 2014’s Back from the Abyss (review here) pushed them deeper into metallic territory than ever before, their songs retained the character that’s made the band the institution they are. Always look forward to new Orange Goblin.

23. Pallbearer, Heartless

pallbearer heartlessDoomers, this is your whole year right here. I haven’t heard Pallbearer‘s third album, Heartless (out March 24 on Profound Lore), but I have to think even those who haven’t yet been won over by the Arkansas four-piece’s emotive, deep-running style have to be curious about what they’ve come up with this time around. I know I am. These guys have been making a mark on the genre since their 2012 debut, Sorrow and Extinction (review here), and there’s little doubt Heartless will continue that thread upon its arrival.

24. Radio Moscow, TBA

Fact: Radio Moscow stand among the best classic heavy rock live acts in the US. They’re the kind of band you can watch upwards of 15 gigs in a row — I’ve done it — and find them putting on a better show night after night, in defiance of science, logic and sobriety. Word of their signing to Century Media came just this past week and brought with it confirmation of a follow-up to 2014’s stellar Magical Dirt (review here), and for me to say hell yes, I’m absolutely on board, seems like the no-brainer to end all no-brainers. Can’t wait.

25. Roadsaw, TBA

Nearly six full years later, it’s only fair to call Boston scene godfathers Roadsaw due for a follow-up to their 2011 self-titled (review here). Granted, members have been busy in KindWhite Dynomite, and other projects, but still. Their upcoming outing finds them on Ripple Music after years under the banner of Small Stone Records, and though I haven’t seen a solid release date yet, my understanding is they hit Mad Oak Studio in Allston, MA, this past fall to track it, so seems likely for sooner or later. Sooner, preferably.

26. Rozamov, This Mortal Road

Speaking of albums by Boston bands a while in the making, This Mortal Road (out March 3 on Battleground Records and Dullest Records) is the debut full-length from Boston atmospheric extremists Rozamov. Haven’t heard it yet, but I got a taste of some of the material when I visited the band at New Alliance Audio in Aug. 2015, and the bleak expanses of what I heard seem primed to turn heads. I’m a fan of these guys, but in addition, they’ve found a niche for themselves sound-wise and I’m curious to hear how they bring it to fruition.

27. Samsara Blues Experiment, TBA

It’s been a pleasure over the last couple months to watch a resurgence of Berlin heavy psych trio Samsara Blues Experiment take shape, first with the announcement of a fourth album in October, then with subsequent confirmations for DesertfestRiff Ritual in Barcelona, and a South American tour. Reportedly due in Spring, which fits with the timing on shows, etc., the record will follow 2013’s righteous Waiting for the Flood (review here) and as much as I’m looking forward to hearing it, I’m kind of just glad to have these guys back.

28. Seedy Jeezus, TBA

Work finished earlier this month on Melbourne trio Seedy Jeezus‘ second full-length. As with their 2015 self-titled debut, the band brought Tony Reed of Mos Generator to Australia to produce, and after their blissed-out 2016 collaboration with Earthless guitarist Isaiah MitchellTranquonauts (review here), it’s hard not to wonder what experimentalist tendencies might show in the trio’s style this time out, and likewise difficult not to anticipate what guitarist Lex “Mr. Frumpy” Wattereus comes up with for the cover art.

29. Shroud Eater, Strike the Sun

Not to spoil the surprise, but Feb. 1 I’ll host a track premiere from Florida’s Shroud Eater that finds them working in a different context from everything we’ve heard from them to this point in their rightly-celebrated tenure. They also recently had a split out with Dead Hand, and their second long-player, Strike the Sun, will be their debut through STB Records. It’s been since 2011’s ThunderNoise (review here) that we last got a Shroud Eater album, so you bet your ass I’m dying to know what the last six years have wrought.

30. Sleep, TBA

If Sleep were any other band, they’d probably be in the “Would be Awfully Nice” category. But they’re Sleep, so even the thought of a new record is enough to put them here. The lords of all things coated in THC are reissuing their 2014 single, The Clarity (review here), on Southern Lord next month, but rumors have been swirling about a proper album, which of course would be their first since the now-legendary Dopesmoker. If it happens, it’ll automatically be a heavy underground landmark for 2017, but it’s one I’m going to have in my ears before I really believe it.

31. Stoned Jesus, TBA

Even as they tour playing their second album, 2012’s Seven Thunders Roar (review here), to mark its fifth anniversary and continued impact, Ukrainian trio Stoned Jesus are forging ahead with a fourth record behind 2015’s The Harvest (review here). The capital-‘q’ Question is whether or not looking back at Seven Thunders Roar and engaging that big-riffing side of their sound will have an impact on the new material, and if so, how it will meld with the push of The Harvest. Won’t speculate, but look forward to finding out.

32. Stubb, TBA

Since reveling in the soul of 2015’s Cry of the Ocean (review here) on Ripple, London trio Stubb have swapped out bassists, and they were in Skyhammer Studio this month recording a single that may be an extended psychedelic jam. I’ll take that happily, but I’m even more intrigued at the prospect of a third LP and what guitarist/vocalist Jack Dickinson, bassist/vocalist Tom Hobson and drummer Tom Fyfe might have in store as the band moves forward on multiple levels. Might be 2017, might not.

33. Sun Blood Stories, It Runs Around the Room with Us

sun blood stories it runs around the room with usIt Runs around the Room with Us seems to find peace in its resonant experimentalist drones, loops, open, subdued spaces, but there’s always some underlying sense of foreboding to its drift, as if Boise’s Sun Blood Stories could anticipate the moment before it happened. Toward the end of the follow-up to 2015’s Twilight Midnight Morning (review here), they execute the 90-second assault “Burn” and turn serenity to ash. Look for it in April and look for it again on my best of 2017 list in December.

34. Ufomammut, TBA

Any new offering from the Italian cosmic doom magnates is worth looking forward to, and while Ufomammut have left the 15-year mark behind, they’ve never stopped progressing in style and form. To wit, 2015’s Ecate (review here) was a stunner after 2012’s two-part LP, Oro (review here and review here), tightening the approach but assuring the vibe was no less expansive than ever. They started recording last summer, finished mixing in November, so I’m hoping for word of a release date soon.

35. Vokonis, The Sunken Djinn

Born out of Creedsmen Arise, whose 2015 demo, Temple (review here), offered formative thrills, Swedish trio Vokonis debuted with last year’s Olde One Ascending (review here) and proved there’s still life in post-Sleep riffing when it’s wielded properly. They signed to Ripple in November and confirmed the title of their sophomore effort as The Sunken Djinn, as well as a reissue for the first album, which will probably arrive first. I don’t know how that will affect the timing on this one, but keep an eye out anyway.

Gonna Happen and/or Likely Candidates

Obviously some of these are more likely than others. Some have solidified, announced release dates — Dopelord‘s out this month, Demon Head‘s out in April, etc. — and others come from social media posts of bands in studios and hints at upcoming releases and so on. A big tell is whether or not a band has an album title with their listing, but even some of those without have their new albums done, like Atala and Royal Thunder, so it’s not necessarily absolute.

Either way, while I’m spending your money, you might want to look into:

36. Against the Grain
37. Amenra
38. Atala
39. Attalla, Glacial Rule
40. Ayahuasca Dark Trip, II
41. Beastmaker
42. Beaten Back to Pure
43. Blackout
44. Bretus
45. Buried Feather, Mind of the Swarm
46. The Clamps
47. Cold Stares
48. Coltsblood, Ascending into the Shimmering Darkness
49. Come to Grief, The Worst of Times EP
50. Cortez
51. Cruthu, The Angle of Eternity
52. The Dead-End Alley Band, Storms
53. Dead Witches, Dead Witches
54. Dealer
55. Death Alley, Live at Roadburn
56. Demon Head, Thunder on the Fields
57. The Devil and the Almighty Blues, II
58. Devil Electric
59. Doctor Cyclops, Local Dogs
60. Dool, Here Now There Then
61. Dopelord, Children of the Haze
62. Doublestone, Devil’s Own/Djævlens Egn
63. Dread Sovereign, For Doom the Bell Tolls
64. Drive by Wire
65. Elbrus, Elbrus
66. Electric Age
67. Electric Moon, Stardust Rituals
68. Endless Floods, II
69. Five Horse Johnson
70. Forming the Void, Relic
71. Funeral Horse
72. Greenbeard
73. Green Desert Water
74. Greenleaf
75. Grifter / Suns of Thunder, Split
76. Hair of the Dog, This World Turns
77. Heavy Temple, Chassit
78. Here Lies Man, Here Lies Man
79. Hollow Leg, Murder EP
80. Holy Mount, The Drought
81. Hooded Menace
82. Horisont, About Time
83. Hymn, Perish
84. Lecherous Gaze
85. Magnet, Feel Your Fire
86. Mastodon
87. Merlin, The Wizard
88. Merchant
89. Mindkult, Lucifer’s Dream
90. Mirror Queen
91. Moonbow, War Bear
92. Mos Generator
93. The Moth
94. MotherSloth
95. Mouth, Vortex
96. My Sleeping Karma, Mela Ananda – Live
97. Orango
98. Papir
99. PH, Eternal Hayden
100. Psychedelic Witchcraft, Magick Rites and Spells
101. Royal Thunder
102. Saturn, Beyond Spectra
103. Season of Arrows, Give it to the Mountain
104. Siena Root
105. Six Organs of Admittance, Burning the Threshold
106. Six Sigma, Tuxedo Brown
107. Sólstafir
108. The Sonic Dawn, Into the Long Night
109. Spelljammer
110. Spidergawd, IV
111. Steak
112. Stinking Lizaveta, Journey to the Underworld
113. Sula Bassana, Organ Accumulator
114. Summoner
115. Sun Voyager, Sun Voyager
116. Sweat Lodge, Tokens for Hell EP
117. Thera Roya, Stone and Skin
118. Toke
119. Troubled Horse, Revelation on Repeat
120. VA, Brown Acid The Third Trip
121. Weedpecker
122. Youngblood Supercult, The Great American Death Rattle

Definitely Could Happen

Maybe a recording process is upcoming (Gozu, Cities of Mars, YOB), or a band is looking for a label (The Flying Eyes), or they’ve said new stuff is in the works but the circumstances of an actual release aren’t known (Arc of Ascent, Dead Meadow, High on Fire), or I’ve just seen rumors of their hitting the studio (Freedom Hawk, La Chinga, Ruby the Hatchet). We’ve entered the realm of the entirely possible but not 100 percent.

So, you know, life.

Dig it:

123. The Age of Truth
124. Ape Machine
125. Arc of Ascent
126. At Devil Dirt
127. Bantoriak
128. Bask
129. BCAD
130. BoneHawk
131. La Chinga
132. Chubby Thunderous Bad Kush Masters
133. Cities of Mars
134. Crypt Sermon
135. Dead Meadow
136. Death Alley (Studio LP)
137. Dee Calhoun
138. Destroyer of Light
139. Devil
140. Devil Worshipper
141. Duel
142. Dustrider
143. Egypt
144. Electric Moon
145. Elephant Tree
146. Farflung
147. The Flying Eyes
148. Freedom Hawk
149. Gozu
150. The Great Electric Quest
151. Green Meteor, Consumed by a Dying Sun
152. High on Fire
153. Horrendous
154. Insect Ark
155. In the Company of Serpents
156. Iron Monkey
157. Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus
158. The Judge
159. Killer Boogie
160. King Dead
161. The Kings of Frog Island
162. Lords of Beacon House, Recreational Sorcery
163. Mangoo
164. Mondo Drag
165. Monolord
166. Mountain God
167. The Munsens
168. Naxatras
169. Never Got Caught
170. Ommadon
171. Orchid
172. Ordos
173. Pilgrim
174. Poseidon
175. Purple Hill Witch
176. Ruby the Hatchet
177. Sasquatch
178. Satan’s Satyrs
179. Serpents of Secrecy
180. Shabda
181. Shooting Guns
182. Sleepy Sun
183. Slow Season
184. Snowy Dunes, Atlantis
185. Spectral Haze
186. The Sweet Heat
187. Switchblade Jesus
188. Superchief
189. Tÿburn
190. YOB
191. Zone Six

Would be Awfully Nice

This last category is basically as close as I’m willing to come to rampant speculation. Endless Boogie have hinted at new material, and Queens of the Stone Age have talked about hitting the studio for the last two years. There were rumors about Om, and though Kings Destroy just put out an EP, they have new songs as well, though I doubt we’ll hear them before the end of 2017. I’ll admit that Across Tundras, Fever Dog, Lord Fowl, Lowrider and Hour of 13 are just wishful thinking on my part. A boy can hope:

192. Across Tundras
193. Eggnogg
194. Elephant Tree
195. Endless Boogie
196. Fever Dog
197. Fu Manchu
198. Halfway to Gone
199. Hour of 13
200. Kadavar
201. Kings Destroy
202. Lord Fowl
203. Lowrider
204. Masters of Reality
205. Om
206. Orodruin
207. Queens of the Stone Age

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading. Whatever this year brings, I hope it’s been great so far for you and I hope it continues to be so as we proceed inexorably to 2018 and all the also-futuristic-sounding numbers thereafter. At least we know we’ll have plenty of good music to keep us company on that voyage.

As always, comments section is open if there’s anything I’ve left out. I’m happy to add, adjust, etc., as need be, so really, have at it, and thanks in advance.

All the best.

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Quarterly Review: King Hitter, Desert Storm, Sendelica, Drifter, Sula Bassana, Strange Here, Once-Ler, Waingro, Motorgoat, The Seduction

Posted in Reviews on March 30th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

I must be out of my damned mind. After wrapping up last year with a special feature comprising 50 reviews spread over five days, I’ve somehow decided that it’s not a bad way to do things. So here we are. It’s been three months, that’s a quarter of a year, so it seems only fair to have a Quarterly Review to catch up on some things that might otherwise have gone missed.

And that’s precisely what we’ll do. Between now and Friday, it’ll be 10 reviews per day, rounding up releases from the last couple months. Some are out now, some aren’t out yet, but it’s all recent one way or another. Like with the Last Licks 2014, I’ll be checking in each day as well. Should be fun to see how my mental status deteriorates over the course of the next few days, until my brains are little more than a stinky jelly dripping from out my ears on Friday. At least that’s how I remember it going last time.

So let’s go:

King Hitter, King Hitter

king hitter king hitter

A North Carolina five-piece fronted by vocalist Karl Agell, best known as the frontman of Corrosion of Conformity for their 1991 Blind album – he’s also currently reviving that album live on stage with drummer Reed Mullin in C.O.C. Blind – the new outfit King Hitter reunites the singer with his former Leadfoot bandmate, guitarist Scott Little, and they test the waters with a five-track self-titled EP delivered via Candlelight Records. Crisply-produced, songs like “King Hitter” and “Feel No Pain” hit hard and gruff with just a touch of Southern heavy rock flair. The power of Agell’s voice is undiminished, but production is maybe too evident at times, and when they get down to the chugging “Suicide (Is the Retirement Plan,” politics meet personal perspective in a way that strikes deeper than might’ve been intended. Little and fellow guitarist Mike Brown, bassist Chuck Manning and drummer Jon Chambliss turn in worthy performances, but Agell’s command captures a good deal of the attention on this satisfying showcase of a songwriting process getting underway.

King Hitter on Thee Facebooks

King Hitter at Candlelight’s Bandcamp

Desert Storm, Omniscient

desert storm omniscient

Because one invariably measures British anything in “waves,” we’ll put Oxford double-guitar five-some at the crest of the New Wave of British Burl. Omniscient is their third full-length behind 2013’s Horizontal Life and their 2010 debut, Forked Tongues (review here), and it arrives through Blindsight Records with all the brash Southern metal riffing and dudely bellow one might expect. Orange Goblin are an immediate name to drop in comparison to opener “Outlander,” but “Queen Reefer”’s quiet solo section adds breadth and the acoustic “Home,” the Clutchy “Night Bus Blues” and the stomping, subtle djentery of closer “Collapse of the Bison Lung” continue to reveal an extended palette. A richer listen than it might appear the first time through, Omniscient still revels in its heaviness on “Blue Snake Moan” and “Sway of the Tides,” etc., but changes like the tempo downshift in “Horizon” give fodder for repeat visits to Desert Storm’s howling third offering.

Desert Storm on Thee Facebooks

Desert Storm at Blindsight Records’ Bandcamp

Sendelica, Anima Mundi

sendelica anima mundi

Welsh space rockers Sendelica feel out some pretty peaceful vibes on songs like “The Pillar of Delhi,” “Azoic” or the sweet-washing closer “The Hedge Witch” from their self-released cosmos-tripper Anima Mundi, but there’s no shortage of spaced-out push either in songs like the 12-minute jam “Master Benjamin Warned Young Albert Not to Step on the Uninsulated Air” and electronic-pulsing “Baalbek Stones.” An experimental spirit underlies each of the eight included instrumental cuts, elements like sax, synth, keyboards, theremin, flute and various effects intertwining throughout Anima Muni’s 54-minute sprawl. Quiet moments like “Azoic” work well, but I won’t take away from the buzzsaw tone or swing behind “The Breyr, the Taeogion and the Caethion” either. The truly fortunate aspect of Sendelica’s latest is that it flows between its individual pieces, putting the listener in a position of open-minded experience while working around and through various psychedelic impulses, carefully woven and balanced in the mix, but vibrant and exciting and loose-feeling just the same.

Sendelica on Thee Facebooks

Sendeica on Bandcamp

Drifter, Violent at Altitude

drifter violent at altitude

Of the 13 songs on Melbourne trio Drifter’s Desert Highways debut LP, Violent at Altitude, only four reach past the three-minute mark, and even most of those play off a fuzz-punk intensity, shades of Melvins weirdness and Nick Oliveri heavy punker charge showing up in cuts like “Cool Breeze” or the raw, open “Another Life.” Closer “So Long” is given another look from Drifter’s 2013 debut EP, Head (review here), which it also capped, but the feel across Violent at Altitude is that guitarist/vocalist Dan King, bassist/vocalist Troy Dawson and drummer/vocalist Dave Payne is exploring the place where grunge and punk met on pieces like “Bi Polar,” the relatively spacey “Devil Digger” and quick-blasting 1:45 rush of “Russian Roulette,” their tones mean and their attack primal in its overall affect in a way that belies the stylistic nuance at work throughout. You can listen on an analytical level or you can be steamrolled by “Drugs.” Your call. Either way, Drifter are gonna tear it up in accordance with the altitude they’ve apparently hit.

Drifter on Thee Facebooks

Drifter at Desert Highways’ Bandcamp

Sula Bassana, Live at Roadburn 2014

sula bassana live at roadburn 2014

Sula Bassana’s performance at Roadburn 2014 was their first as a full band. The experimental psychedelic project of guitarist Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt (see also Electric Moon, Krautzone, Zone Six, Weltraumstaunen, etc.) came to life with his Electric Moon bandmates Komet Lulu on bass and Marcus Schnitzler on drums, as well as Zone Six’s Rainer Neeff on guitar, and the four jams of the live recording Live at Roadburn 2014 tell the tale brilliantly. Schmidt, who is quite simply among the foremost heavy psych jammers in the world, leads the four-piece through cascading movements, immersive and clear on record as they were in person, rich with a sense of improvised creation even if based on prior parts. Anything went, as the 18-minute “Dark Days” showcases here, with synth and guitar and heavy bass intertwining to a brilliant cosmic whole, Schnitzler’s drums holding the proceedings together wonderfully. Short at 50 minutes, it’s every bit as switched on as one might expect in a studio album from these players, blurring yet another line as they expand psych-rock consciousness.

Sula Bassana on Thee Facebooks

Live at Roadburn 2014 at Sulatron Records

Strange Here, II

strange here ii

To listen to opener “Still Alone” from Strange Here’s Minotauro Records raw second LP, II, one might expect that Alexander Scardavian (ex-Paul Chain) and Domenico “Dom” Lotito (ex-Hand of God) are presenting some loosely-swung classic doom, shades of Candlemass and Death SS filtered through heavy riffing and Scardavian’s gruff vocals, but that’s barely half the story. More is told by putting eight-minute tracks “Born to Lose” and “Black, Grey and White” next to each other, as they appear here. Following the opening duo of “Still Alone” and the echoing “Kiss of Worms,” the two longer cuts unveil a sound alternately diving into morose doomed march and spacious psychedelic flourish. That blend continues as the marching “Acid Rain” gives way to the acoustic/drone interplay of “Only If…”and comes to a head on closer “Shiftless,” a contrast of back-and-forth impulses played off each other throughout the 47-minute offering. There’s work to do bringing the sides together should Strange Here choose to go that route, though the lines drawn between make it that much easier to catch the listener off guard, which II just might.

Strange Here on Thee Facebooks

Strange Here at Minotauro Records’ Bandcamp

Once-Ler, Once-Ler

once-ler once-ler

Marked out by the jazzy noodling of “The Douche Bag Guru” and the funky bassline on “Drift,” the new self-titled EP from Dayton, Ohio, four-piece Once-Ler dates back a decade in some of its material, the track “Law Dog” having appeared on the band’s 2005 full-length, Entropy. It’s an unassuming rumble, sort of humbly produced for a garage-heavy feel, but the clarity of purpose in centerpiece “Swing the Leg”’s crashing progression is plain enough to hear, and opener “The Victim” is the longest cut at 6:43, earning immediate points. A prog-metal undertone in that track sets up some expectation that the EP veers quickly away from with “Drift,” but guitarist Burns, bassist Deininger, vocalist Reif and drummer Minarcek make a solid case despite the rough sonic edges in the recording. At 25 minutes, Once-Ler’s Once-Ler is enough to give an impression of where the band is headed and a demo-style look at what their progressive heavy rock has to offer.

Once-Ler on Thee Facebooks

Once-Ler on Bandcamp

Waingro, Waingro

waingro waingro

Pummel, pummel, pummel. Vancouver trio Waingro debut at full-sprint with their 11-track/31-minute self-titled, which wastes little time shaking hands and goes immediately for the jugular on “Firebird.” About 10 seconds in, and the ride is underway with little letup to come as Waingro shove heavy tones along at breakneck speed on cuts like “Tailwind,” “Force Fed” and “Bathed in Tongues.” A remarkable sense of control lies beneath, the trio blending hardcore punk, heavy tones and modern metal twists fluidly as interludes like “Matador,” “St. Regis” and “Arboria” add complexity of method and “Rekall,” “Ride” and most especially side B cappers “Black Dawn” and “True North” brazenly craft something of Waingro’s own from familiar components. This album is self-released, but particularly if Waingro are able to tour at any length, it’s hard to imagine some imprint wouldn’t want to stand behind their brash but engaging thrust, professional already in its assured sensibility and rhythmic impact. The real question is whether they’ll wait around for anyone to notice or push ahead with the momentum they build here.

Waingro on Thee Facebooks

Waingro on Bandcamp

Motorgoat, The Iron Hoof of Oppression

motorgoat the iron hoof of oppression

There’s little room left for frills amid the sludge-punk sneer of Motorgoat’s The Iron Hoof of Oppression, which makes no bones about its affinity for booze, metal and fuckall on songs like “Satanic Slacker,” which boasts the lines, “Trippin’ balls is total bliss/He don’t know what day it is,” and so on. Obviously there’s a humor element to “Revenge of the Towndrunk” and “No Pants – No Problems,” but the German four-piece have a sincere vibe as well as they recount loser tales in a viciously-toned punk-metal spirit, less tune-in-drop-out than tune-out-drop-tune, but it turns out heavy either way. Cohesive in spite of its stated penchant for chaos, The Iron Hoof of Oppression offers partytime disaffection that’s so prevalent it might as well be post-modern. After the world has ended, there’s nothing left to do but dance, and Motorgoat seem (mal)content to let their own hooves stomp the floor. An album that gets better when you read the lyrics. Don’t be fooled by how dumb they seem to be calling themselves.

Motor Goat on Thee Facebooks

Motor Goat on Bandcamp

The Seduction, You Catch Fire

the seduction you catch fire

The tell? The tell is the scream just before North Carolina foursome The Seduction move into the bouncing bridge on “Volga,” which launches their Mechanical Pig Records debut, You Catch Fire. From there, it’s pretty easy to hear the metallic vibe beneath their stoner-punk aesthetic. It comes up again in the breakdown for the later “Hell on Two Wheels,” but it’s there anyway, adding an aggressive edge to the record, which at 53 minutes has plenty of room for the breadth of the rocking highlight centerpiece “Flavor of the Weak” or the depth-charge of the penultimate “Starmageddon” – a few more screams there amid spit-out hardcore shouts – but it’s the meld of these with the party-pit vibe of “Daughter of a Holy Man” and “Irish Flu” that makes You Catch Fire effective in taking cues from some of the West Coast’s heavy methods – some Red Fang, some Queens of the Stone Age — and presenting them with a definitively East Coast punch.

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The Seduction on Bandcamp

 

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Roadburn 2014 Day Two: “Death Means Just Life”

Posted in Features, Reviews on April 11th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

04.12.14 — 01:04 — Friday night/Saturday morning — Hotel Mercure, Tilburg

I must be doing a piss-poor job of not looking beat to hell, because several people asked me throughout the course of the afternoon and night how much I’d slept. Just enough, in combination with coffee, to stay standing. I wasn’t so clever with my answer at the time.

Today’s pacing was completely different from yesterday. When you’re here, you tend to be your own curator — I’m going to see this at the expense of that, I want to catch this band, so I will be here at this time. People pull their schedules out constantly, myself included. It’s important to stay on top of this stuff. Minutes matter at Roadburn.

For me, it was slower. At one point in the evening, I had to sort of stop and remind myself that I didn’t have to rush off somewhere, I could stay put and watch a little longer. That was the case right from the start with French classic prog tale-tellers Magma, who opened Mikael Åkerfeldt of Opeth‘s curated day on the Main Stage. The early portion of the Main Stage bill — three out of the total five bands, all playing at least 70 minutes, and in the case of MagmaClaudio Simonetti’s Goblin and Opeth themselves, a full 90 — was heavy on prog. That had me at something of a disadvantage when it came to giving acts like Magma, Comus and Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin their due reverence, but I made the most of exposing my brain to things it hasn’t encountered 30 times already and saw some acts on other stages as well. There’s always someplace to be if you want to be there. Or you can go to the bar.

Magma‘s tales of future space in made up language set the bar pretty high for texture. Later on, Goblin would inject a little funk and some heavier rock into what they were doing, but with Magma, it was more about expansive and psychedelic jazz, though thinking of their set in the context of Mikael Åkerfeldt picking the lineup, it was easy to see why they were there — Opeth had clearly taken some of their influence. Likewise that for Comus and Goblin. In the Green Room, where I hadn’t been yet, Lenny Kaye and Harsh Toke were getting ready to jam, and I don’t know what it was, but something told me I wanted to be there.

A fellow Jersey boy, Rutgers grad and former publisher of a ‘zine called Obelisk — if only I could play guitar — Lenny Kaye is probably best known for playing in the Patti Smith Group, but he’s here as well celebrating the Nuggets compilation he put together in 1972 that featured the likes of Nazz, 13th Floor Elevators, The Electric Prunes, etc. Paired with San Diego’s Harsh Toke, who are newcomers to the Tee Pee Records roster, Kaye fronted one of the best live heavy psych jams I’ve ever seen. No bullshit. With a steady refrain of “Harsh Toke makes good smoke” from Kaye on mic and improvised-seeming lyrics amid a terrifyingly immersive swirl from his guitar and the two in Harsh Toke — all the while, bass and drums holding down a battery of killer grooves — it had every dynamic you could possibly ask of a close-your-eyes-and-nod jam. I spent the rest of the day telling people how incredible it was and getting blank stares, no doubt because Lenny Kaye & Harsh Toke were on in the Green Room at the same time The Body were on at Het Patronaat, but wow. I had planned to be there for a few minutes and didn’t leave until they were done, an extended cover of Them‘s 1964 hit, “Gloria,” which Kaye referred to as the “national anthem of garage rock.” They jammed on that too.

I had to laugh when, as he introduced the band, Kaye stopped to ask the bassist and drummer of Harsh Toke their names, but however familiar they may or may not have been, I felt like I was seeing something special. They ended a little early, so I got back to the Main Stage in time for the start of Comus, who also played Roadburn back in 2010 at the since-closed Midi Theatre around the block from the 013. They were today largely as I remembered them from then: Mostly seated and playing their cult forest prog, cuts like “Song to Comus” from 1971’s First Utterance once again showcasing an inspiration point for Åkerfeldt. I bought that Comus record four years ago and have listened to it since, but still would hardly call myself an expert, and they had a good crowd going until it was time to head over to Het Patronaat for a second set from Corrections House after yesterday’s. I’d hear about it later, but they brought out YOB guitarist/vocalist Mike Scheidt, who’s been spotted here and there around the fest ahead of YOB‘s two sets tomorrow and Sunday. If you want to make a supergroup more super, that’s a good way to do it.

The day I almost consider split in half, and the 90-minute set from Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin was the dividing point. People were so tight in the Main Stage room you couldn’t get in the door. Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin isn’t to be mistaken for the Goblin that toured in the US — the keyboardist has taken on members of his more metallized outfit Daemonia and made his own version of Goblin from them, while the classic Italian cine-proggers continue on in his absence. It’s confusing until you think of how often it happens. Then it’s just silly. Either way, Simonetti led his band through renditions of the themes to Zombi and Dawn of the Dead in addition to their eponymous song, all the while the audience nodded along. It was maybe a bit much at an hour and a half, but I may have been the only one who thought so. The dancing dude next to me was definitely on board, as most in attendance seemed to be, the Daemonia players injecting a bit of funk and hard rock into Goblin‘s classic scores.

Here’s where I had my moment when I decided to both have and eat my cake. Germany’s Sula Bassana were slated to go on at 21:40 at Het Patronaat. Simple enough. Candlemass were going on at 21:45. It was a very small window between the start of the two sets but I managed to squeeze my ass through it and caught the start of both. Obviously I saw more of Candlemass than Sula Bassana — which actually seemed to be Electric Moon plus another guitarist alongside Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt, bassist Komet Lulu and drummer Marcus Schnitzler, but I considered it an achievement all the same. Schmidt got on mic to say it was their first time playing as a full band and then was off to his synths and guitar to lead his outfit through expansive psych jams. I wasn’t there long, but I was glad to have been there at all.

And while I don’t know if anything will ever top seeing Candlemass perform 1986’s Epicus Doomicus Metallicus at Roadburn 2011 with original vocalist Johan Längqvist singing — a set that’s since been released on oh-if-I-had-the-money vinyl — the band sounded awfully vibrant for a group who’s been threatening retirement for the last half-decade. In addition to having Per Wiberg on keys — Wiberg also played the Afterburner last year with Spiritual Beggars and is a former member of Opeth — as they ran through the whole of 1988’s Ancient Dreams, the Swedish doom legends also brought out Primordial/Dread Sovereign frontman Alan “Nemtheanga” Averill to add his flair and stage presence to “Incarnation of Evil.” It seemed an odd fit for his triumph-prone vocal style, but completely worked, and for the rest of their set, Candlemass had Mats Levén of Therion on vocals, who’s also worked with Candlemass founder/bassist Leif Edling in Krux and Abstrakt Algebra. Levén also did well with the parts that once belonged to Messiah Marcolin, though it was Edling himself, wine glass in hand, who took center stage to deliver the album-closing “Epistle No. 81,” a spoken poem in Swedish that came through the 013 Main Stage P.A. to the rhythm of claps from the audience. Very cool moment.

For an encore, they broke out “Bewitched” — some clever band is going to come along and cover both the track and its accompanying video, which if you’ve never seen it is one of the finest ever produced by humanity — and Epicus Doomicus Metallicus opener “Solitude,” which was enough to send a chill up my spine. I fucking love that song, and Levén nailed it, though he like every vocalist I’ve seen with Candlemass, including Längqvist who originally recorded it, stepped back from the high notes in the chorus on the album version. When they were done, it was just a matter of waiting the 45-minute break for Opeth, which I tried to do by watching some of Papir in Stage01 through the doorway. My thinking was the room would be full so at least I’d be able to hear it and see some of the stage, but the fact was that when I got there, the doorway was full too. No place to stand even outside the room. Some you win, some you lose.

It would’ve been nice to stay and see Opeth round out their set with “Deliverance” and “Blackwater Park,” but even before they went on, I was getting that get-back-to-the-hotel-and-get-typing itch, so I stuck around for “The Devil’s Orchard” from 2011’s Heritage, “Ghost of Perdition” from 2005’s Ghost Reveries — which Åkerfeldt, with his expected stage-banter charm, referred to as “an old nugget”; something Lenny Kaye had said about “Gloria” earlier in the day — and the start of “White Cluster,” the closer of 1999’s Still Life, before making my way out. It’s been more than a few years since the last time I saw Opeth, but it was already after midnight and I knew what I had ahead of me.

Tomorrow closes out the fest proper with the first of YOB‘s two sets and Loop‘s headlining slot on the Main Stage, so with morning work on the next issue of the fanzine ahead, I’ll just say thanks for reading and there are more pics after the jump if you’re interested.

Read more »

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Roadburn 2014 Lineup: Sula Bassana, Aqua Nebula Oscillator, Scorpion Child and The Cult of Dom Keller Added

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 4th, 2013 by JJ Koczan

With Loop as the headliner, Mikael Akerfeldt as the curator and previously announced performances from The Heads, Conan, Freedom Hawk, True Widow, Gozu, Windhand, Inter Arma and more, Roadburn continues to inspire. Today four more acts (unless, like last week, I’ve missed a shit-ton of other news, though I think I got it) have been announced. Sula Bassana, Aqua Nebula Oscillator and The Cult of Dom Keller are sure to add to the already super-trippy side of the bill, while Scorpion Child preach a gospel of classic riffing and bluesy swagger.

Here are the announcements, courtesy of Roadburn:

During recent editions of the Roadburn Festival, Dave Schmidt aka Sula Bassana graced the stage with Electric Moon to explore an unknown distant psych galaxy through hallucinatory spacerock. We at Roadburn HQ are drawn to his mesmerizing music like a swarm of tripped-out moths to a flame. Whether he is jamming with Weltraumstaunen, Liquid Visions, Krautzone, Sudstern 44, Zone Six, Interkosmos or Electric Moon, there is simply no one who can channel the krautrock vibe like Schmidt.

Dave and his myriad bands are well-known for their fantastic far out live performances, but Sula Bassana shows have been a rare occurrence indeed, never mind performances with a full band under his solo moniker. As you can imagine, we are elated to announce that Dave Schmidt has agreed to play Roadburn Festival 2014 exclusively as Sula Bassana on Saturday, April 12th in Het Patronaat in Tilburg, The Netherlands.

Backed by a full band – Komet Lulu (bass), Marcus Schnitzler (The Spacelords, Electric Moon / drums), Rainer Neeff (The Pancakes, Zone Six, Krautzone / guitar) – Sula Bassana (guitar / synthesizers) will propel us through hyperspace, taking us on an utterly absorbing and surreal journey into the captivating and colorful sounds of the cosmos.

Vintage proto-metal lovers rejoice! Scorpion Child, hailing from Austin, Texas, will bring their killer heavy rock to Roadburn Festival 2014 on Friday, April 11th at Het Patronaat in Tilburg, The Netherlands. With their blues and krautrock-influenced heavy psych rock, the band fits right in with the likes of Graveyard, Kadavar and Witchcraft, while adding their own twist to the good times, good vibes and catchy hooks found on the great records of the 1970s.

When it comes to straight up, kickass hardrock, Scorpion Child delivers! Do yourself a favor and don’t miss ‘em at Roadburn 2014.

We at Roadburn HQ have become obsessed with The Cult of Dom Keller‘s druggy bliss lately, as the Nothingham (UK) four piece channels the lysergic spirits of 13th Floor Elevators, Stooges, Black Sabbath, Spaceman 3 and Acid Mothers Temple into full blown, third-eye transcendentalism.

You can almost hear the trippy, kaleidoscopic flashbacks through hazy clouds of obscurity, flashing strobes and glowing smoke through the band’s chemical feast of fuzzy, psychedelic madness, part shimmering feedback explorations, swamp-infested blues bastardizations, and part mind expanding stoner rock manipulations.

The Cult of Dom Keller will document our delirious, collective hallucinations by gathering on Thursday, April 10th at the 013 venue in Tilburg, The Netherlands, and the band’s captivating, tranced out sounds will definitely echo through the deepest valleys of your mind.

It was only a matter of time until French droned out psych-space wranglers Aqua Nebula Oscillator found their way to Roadburn Festival.

The band’s super charged, heady collision between extended Hawkwind freakouts and the raw, metallic swagger of the Stooges is a perfect fit, and we’re excited to announce that Aqua Nebula Oscillator will appear at the 2014?s Afterburner on Sunday, April 13th at the 013 venue in Tilburg, The Netherlands.

The Cult of Dom Keller, The Cult of Dom Keller (2013)

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Electric Moon, Live 2012 One & Two: Digging Deeper Underground

Posted in Reviews on January 4th, 2013 by JJ Koczan

German psychedelic jammers Electric Moon have issued two live recordings from 2012, aptly dubbed Live 2012 One and Live 2012 Two. Each of the separately-issued jewel case CDRs (limited to 150 copies each) comes with artwork by bassist Komet Lulu and finds release through guitarist Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt‘s Sulatron Records imprint. The songs — six on Live 2012 One and four on Live 2012 Two — are named only for their runtime, and only the last track on each disc is under 10 minutes, while others range from 10:43 to 29:04. The implication is that the band, already prolific in terms of having multiple releases per year for the last few years, will add to the series as they go on, keeping and solidifying their penchant for limited live releases into a cohesive level of self-sustaining output.

I like where this is going.

Where is it going? Well, it’s going toward a catalog of live Electric Moon discs issued by the band on their own terms. Their music, their recordings, their label, their art. Even more, it’s going toward the very heart of what the trio of Schmidt, Lulu and drummer Michael Orloff are searching for musically. Where one segment of European heavy rock seems bent on capturing retro vibes of the early ’70s and another hints at a commercial vision of melodic heavy metal, Electric Moon are after something different altogether, their often-improvised jams reaching toward the very foundations of songwriting. Electric Moon on Live 2012 One and Live 2012 Two are stripping heavy psychedelia down to its essential core of three players on a stage, a massive range of effects and an ever-expanding sense of open space.

On the back of both discs, along with trippy fractals and the tracklisting, is the bold-letter message, “Underground will never die! Fuck the system!” That’s just about the most aggressive thing Electric Moon have to say with either of the releases — the band is instrumental and their music never approaching caustic in its explorations — both of which top 72 minutes long. That does make for a lot of material to dig into for followers of the band or anyone who might be so bold as to take them on for the first time, but the idea here is to be lost in the music, and once you are, it really doesn’t matter how long it goes for. On Live 2012 Two, which was recorded at the 2012 Rockt Den See Festival, Lulu leads the charge on “18:06” with a running bassline while Schmidt trips out psychedelic swirling and Orloff keeps a fast tempo on drums while also changing up his fills and cymbal hits to match the changes. Even for those who haven’t had a studio primer for Electric Moon or who might be new listeners, most of what they do no matter how it’s recorded is live, and both of these albums capture their vibe excellently, sounding full in the low end and rich across the spectrum.

The highlight of Live 2012 Two is “29:04,” third of the four included jams, which starts off quiet and bursts to life as it embarks on a massive cosmic sprawl, Schmidt noodling echoed tones into oblivion while the rhythm section holds it together across what could’ve easily accounted for a full-album flow on its own. By seven minutes in, it’s huge, but the tide recedes and rises again, and it’s perhaps the best showing of the trio’s chemistry here — no coincidence it’s also the longest; Electric Moon have since their inception been given to developing ideas over their more extended pieces. Live 2012 One, recorded at Zytanien Festival, is longer overall at over 78 minutes, but its six tracks have a shorter average runtime and so might come off as the more varied of the two, but understand, we’re still talking about gradually unfolding builds and lengthy repetitions. Even thought closer “7:07” feels more plotted in its progression than a lot of what precedes it on Live 2012 One, it’s not exactly like Electric Moon are breaking out the hit radio singles.

And it’s for that reason largely that I consider them an “extreme” band. They’re not extreme in the heavy metal sense of depicting graphic violence lyrically or blastbeating their audience to a pulp, but there’s no perceptible effort either at meeting anyone halfway or sacrificing any aspect of their creative process to crowd capitulation. Perhaps it’s a very specific extremity, of psychedelic or space rock, but it’s an extremity all the same of those genres, and Electric Moon seem only more comfortable with their format over time. Because of that almost as much as because of the interplay between guitar, bass and drums, Live 2012 One and Live 2012 Two fill a specific niche for anyone who might look at the laid back end of European heavy psych and wonder what it would be to take the jammed songwriting basis to its limits. If it’s those limits that Electric Moon are searching for, they haven’t found them yet, and the more immersive their material gets, the more I hope they keep looking.

Electric Moon on Thee Facebooks

Sulatron Records

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Sula Bassana, Dark Days: Arriving to Find the Journey

Posted in Reviews on July 9th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

A glimpse at the enviable discography of prolific German psychedelonaut Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt will result in a lifetime’s worth of albums, live releases and jamming lysergic sprawl. Both on his own under the Sula Bassana moniker and with bands like Liquid Visions, Südstern 44, Zone Six and most recently Electric Moon, Schmidt has overseen the creation of an entire scene’s worth of output, sustaining leads carving out a niche almost entirely his own within European heavy psych rock. His latest solo outing to be released through his own Sulatron Records is called Dark Days, and on it, Schmidt plays guitar, bass, drums, synth, organ, performs what little vocals there are and, on all but two of the tracks which feature live drumming (by Pablo Carneval, also formerly of Electric Moon), he programs the drum machine. Thus Dark Days is a solo record in the truest sense of being the realization of one person’s vision, but as one expects from Schmidt by now, the material is richly textured and a wash of melodic light is crafted from a swirl of effects and synth. As on Sula Bassana’s past works, elements of electronica work their way into some of the material here, even apart from the drum machine, so that 16:47 closer “Arriving Nowhere” borders at times on some blend of psychedelia and trip-hop (I’d call it “dub,” but wouldn’t want to use the term incorrectly). The six tracks of Dark Days were recorded between 2007-2012, and are noted in the liner notes as having been inspired by the artwork from Electric Moon bassist Komet Lulu, which in turn was inspired by Sula Bassana’s music. The painting that adorns the cover, inside liner, and back of the CD is gorgeous, intricate and naturally toned, but there isn’t much dark about the music of the record itself. With some parts obviously improvised (the layers of guitar in the midsection of “Surrealistic Journey” come to mind), Schmidt works comfortably in psychedelic expanse both familiar to him and exciting for its spontaneity.

I have nothing to support this claim save for my best interpretation of the music and Dark Days’ overall flow, but the tracks seem to be following a narrative course. Perhaps less surprisingly, it’s a trip. We begin “Underground,” and then comes the shorter burst of “Departure,” followed by the ranging 20 minutes of “Surrealistic Journey,” the delving movements of “Dark Days” and “Bright Nights,” and then, at the end, we’re finally “Arriving Nowhere.” It’s hard to imagine Sula Bassana set out in 2007 to begin recording a narrative concept record, but maybe as Dark Days began to take shape, he saw how well the songs worked to express these ideas. In that, he wasn’t wrong. “Surrealistic Journey” does nothing if it doesn’t live up to its name. As someone who’s gleefully followed Electric Moon’s progression so far into the upper reaches of space rock improvisation, the jazzy synth ascendency that comes 15 minutes into “Surrealistic Journey” is a magic touch out of some Doors outtake, and one almost immediately greeted by the guitar. Such subtle moments are sprinkled throughout Dark Days, and though it’s easy for the album – which tops 71 minutes and features only of its six tracks that’s under nine (that being “Departure” at 6:04) – to overwhelm the listener, with this kind of thing, that’s half the point. What you discover and rediscover along the way during subsequent listens is what makes a project like Sula Bassana so successful. As the swirls beginning “Departure” suddenly become topped by one of the record’s most straightforward guitar progressions, it’s easy to hear what it was in Hawkwind that so turned on Monster Magnet. Schmidt is operating in that kind of ultra-exploratory realm, and that he’s able to put something so cohesive together on his own (it’s pretty obvious from the outset this isn’t his first time doing so) while still maintaining the hypnotic looseness the more jam-minded corner of the genre demands is a testament both to his experience and the potency of his output. But for the skill and thought put into the craft, I’d be tempted to call it a miracle.

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