Switchblade Jesus Premiere Butthole Surfers Cover “Who Was in My Room Last Night?”

Posted in audiObelisk on May 6th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

switchblade jesus (Photo by Troy Alan Garza)

If your eyes are on these words, then I’ll assume I don’t need to recount for you the legacy of pill-popping bizarro fuckall that surrounds Butthole Surfers. Though they flirted with commercial viability at one point in the ’90s — hey, didn’t we all — it was more like a rare aligning of planets than anything purposeful on the band’s part; like they and rock radio happened to be in the same dimension for five minutes. Their mission was more toward the avant noise of outsider punk and space rock, and they demonstrated to an entire generation of Lone Star denizens that it was okay to be strange, stranger and strangest. Switchblade Jesus, on the whole, aren’t so geared to weird, but they do justice to the drive of “Who Was in My Room Last Night?” which originally opened Butthole Surfers‘ 1993 major label debut, Independent Worm Saloon.

It’s an interesting and purposeful pick on the part of Switchblade Jesus, who grit up the original version of the song while keeping the central rhythm, playing up the forward push that added such a careening sense in the first place. The trio of guitarist/vocalist Eric Calvert, bassist Chris Black and drummer Jon Elizondo have shown, pretty much since Black came aboard — though I’ll allow that’s a narrative convenience; not like I was at Switchblade Jesus rehearsal to watch the shift take place — an affinity for noise rock that their prior self-titled debut (review here) didn’t have. When they featured on Ripple Music‘s The Second Coming of Heavy: Chapter 7 (review here) in 2017, it was there, and “Who Was in My Room Last Night?” seems to bring it all the more forward. Wow, almost like the band is progressing or something. Go figure.

In the enduring spirit of chaos, I’m happy to host the premiere of Switchblade Jesus‘ take on “Who Was in My Room Last Night?,” and if you’re wondering when the hell the Corpus Christi three-piece might get down to business and put out another record, they talk about it a little bit here.

Please enjoy:

Switchblade Jesus, “Who Was in My Room Last Night?” official track premiere

Switchblade Jesus on “Who Was in My Room Last Night”:

“Deciding to pull away from the norm as many of our music colleagues go the Sabbath/Zep covers we wanted to honor one of the best bands out of Texas and a song we all grew up with. This was recorded and mastered by us in our studio and honestly was a big learning experience in what goes into ‘gluing’ it all together, so we hope you guys dig this as much as we do.”

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Six Dumb Questions & Video Premiere: Switchblade Jesus

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Six Dumb Questions on December 19th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

switchblade jesus

I’ve had occasion to see Switchblade Jesus live twice now, and I can attest to the asskickery you’re about to see in the live video below. In particular, the Texans’ performance earlier this year at the Maryland Doom Fest (review here) stood out to me as bringing a new dynamic to their sound and showcasing the progression they’ve undertaken since the release half a decade ago of their self-titled debut (review here), an album that garnered pervasive hyperbole for its Southern metal groove and found them aligned to Bilocation Records and Ripple Music in succession, the latter of which also late last year issued The Second Coming of Heavy: Chapter 7 (review here), a split that Switchblade Jesus shared with Fuzz Evil, which was only fitting as the Arizonans hosted the Corpus Christi outfit at the 2016 Borderland Fuzz Fiesta (review here).

It’s been a wild and bumpy few years for Switchblade Jesus, as guitarist/vocalist Eric Calvert attests, with a series of lineup changes leaving Calvert and drummer Jon Elizondo in limbo for a time before finding bassist Chris Black to round out a trio incarnation of the former four-piece. As their set at Doom Fest showed and the video below affirms, the arrival of Black and the turn to a three-piece has presented a likewise shift in the band’s mindset. They struck me as having a particular edge of noise rock, a surprisingly angular take considering what they’d done in the studio at the time. Even their tracks for the 2017 split only captured part of the story. Their second album, when it arrives next year, has the potential to surprise a lot of people, and it sounds like they know it, too. All the better.

The clip is a multi-camera shoot recorded on Nov. 10 in the band’s hometown at a room called The NASA with a screen behind and some cool wall designs. All I know about it is what I see, but Switchblade Jesus seem plenty comfortable on its stage. Here’s the set they played:

– Scorched
– The Red Plains
– Behind the Monolith
– Death Hymns
– Wet Lungs
– Take Off/Return
– Blackened Sun
– Heavy is the Mountain
– Who Was in Your Room Last Night

Of those, exactly none come from the first album, which is telling in itself. “Wet Lungs” and “Heavy is the Mountain” were on The Second Coming of Heavy, but otherwise, take it as a sign of how ready Switchblade Jesus are to move forward with their sound, and enjoy the preview of their second album due to land in 2019. I’m thrilled to be able to host it.

Calvert talked about the changes in the band and more, so please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions under the video premiere below:

Switchblade Jesus, Live at NASA, Corpus Christi, TX, Nov. 10, 2018

Six Dumb Questions with Switchblade Jesus

Switchblade Jesus is five years removed from the first album and writing. In what ways do you feel the band has developed since the self-titled came out, and if it’s not too early to say, how does the new material represent that development?

It’s been a lot of growth and loss, for a bit we weren’t sure where we were going. I hate that it’s been five years, but for a moment we weren’t sure if we were going to continue, honestly, after Jason left. He was the last of the original lineup. Billy [Guerra] pretty much left three months after the Borderland Fuzz Fiesta and then Jason [Beers] followed at the end of the year, which Jon [Elizondo] and I fully supported. They wanted to focus on their family. We were in the process of writing the upcoming during then but it came to a halt in the studio because we couldn’t get the sound from that engineer that we felt captured us, so that let into some stress with everyone as well. So me and Jon sat in a limbo of sorts trying to figure out how we wanted to move forward, we almost went the Black Cobra route with me playing bass all fuzzed and distorted. We’ve tried out members before and weren’t sure if we wanted to deal with someone that wasn’t either on their game or just didn’t mesh well, ’cause dudes on the road can get to each other, so we had good hiatus (unannounced) and just wrote new stuff back and forth. During that time Jon and I recorded the split for Ripple, that was done at Ancient Sound with Chris Darlington who recorded the first album, three of the songs originally for the sophomore [LP] were used on that pressing.

After that was said and done we decided to keep rolling forward and started trying out bassists, one of the was Chris Black who is our current (and permanent). Chris has a lot of passion for black metal, early hardcore, post-metal and everything hateful, he’s also one of the best bassists in Texas let alone the southern hemisphere, so the addition of him brought something we’ve been wanting in Switchblade, a heavier, faster and more technical side of the spectrum. We reconfigured what we were doing when he joined to fit his playing style a little more as his basically a lead guitarist in a bassist’s body, which helps because I can drop out with a solo or just stop playing for depth and he keeps the train rolling. The first song we wrote with him was “Scorched,” which will start the new album off and the pace of where Switchblade Jesus is now. Also as a side note, when I saw Chris‘s Boba Fett tattoo and we discussed Neurosis I knew he was a perfect fit for us. I have no problem southern metal honestly, while I do like it, everyone and their mother is playing it and it’s hard to stand out, so this new material is more of leaving it all behind and carving your own path and not chasing someone’s coattails but setting them on fire.

You took part in Ripple’s The Second Coming of Heavy split series earlier this year. How much were those songs indicative of where the new album is headed?

That album is more of a bridge that will connect the two, uptempo songs like “Snakes and Lions” were the main focus but we still wanted to incorporate the heavy crushing feel of stuff like “Heavy is the Mountain,” so even though its a brutally fast paced album, the groove has never left. Something we wanted to make sure when we recorded “Wet Lungs” on that split plus another similar on this new one, we’re still that heavy groove laden obnoxiously loud band, just a lot angrier. Another focus on the split was to bring to light my vocals and see how well they sat with the people that like our music. I’m more of a Lemmy/Pike shouter than something soulful that was Pete on our first album, while I do sing at times the shouting felt more comfortable with the new music to convey the angst better, luckily it has gone over well and we’ve had a lot of good response to what I bring vocal-wise to the sound.

Do you know yet when or where the album will be recorded? What are you looking for in a studio sound? Any idea on a timeframe for the release?

We had a few setbacks but it’s in the final stages actually and being to be sent to Zach [Weeks] at GodCity to master it. During that hiatus Jon and I decided to build a studio and that’s where it was recorded, we where able to take our time and really focus on this new songs and get them really dialed in to the pace we liked. We wanted a harder, sharper sound than previous more of a modern feel than a vintage feel. We’re planning for early-mid next year.

I was fortunate enough to catch Switchblade Jesus at Maryland Doom Fest 2018 earlier this year. What was that experience like for you? How has the response to newer songs been live?

Maryland Doom Fest was one of our highlights this year, not just because what the event is but how welcomed we were there. It was our first time in that area and we’ve never met so music-focused people in our lives, we sold more merch and spoke to more people there than we did when we opened for Behemoth four days earlier. People on the East Coast bleed music and I love it. For me the best was able to bring Chris to that event as we’ve played together with his old band, so it was a new element for him. I had him do the merch while I packed his gear up and he was able to talk and just have a blast of a time. Also it was amazing to have people tell us they drove three-plus hours to an event because they wanted to catch us as it was our only set there. The East Coast made a lasting impression on us. The new songs seemed to have been received well, a few individuals at the Doom Fest said they were hoping to get some of the first album songs that day but really loved the new stuff and nothing negative was said so I take that as a plus. That seems to me the consensus from everyone which we love as it can be hard to grow and make sure you don’t leave your roots and original fans behind.

Texas of course has a massive history of heavy rock and roll across a wide swath of decades and bands. Who are some of your favorites to play with and for those of us not in the Lone Star State, what are the most essential names to know?

In Texas our favorites are always Hellfury, The Well, Destroyer of Light, Funeral Horse, Mothership, Doomstress, plus more than escape me at the moment. You need to get locked on Hellfury for sure, some of my best buds making some of the most angry sounds. We’re actually looking for more growth on that as well, we were booked for a fest earlier this year with Unsane, L7, Zeke and others and that’s where we’d like to focus on as well, not as many retro metal/rock sets but more progressive and modern so if anyone reading this books like that, hit us up.

You have a weekender booked for January. Any other touring plans or closing words you want to mention?

We’re planning to focus on central in 2019 to support the new release and would like to start in Colorado and do a nice tour around that area glancing a little on the East Coast as well, so if any readers would like to put their two cents in where to hit up we’re game. We’re just very fortunate to still have some kind of impact on this scene still and love all the support we’ve received. Thank you to Ripple Music, you for having us on this interview and all of the dudes that dig what we do, y’all are amazing.

Switchblade Jesus & Full Evil, The Second Coming of Heavy: Chapter 7 (2017)

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Live Review: Maryland Doom Fest 2018 Night Two, 06.23.18

Posted in Features, Reviews on June 24th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

maryland doom fest 2018 night two poster

This scene is staggering. In terms of enclaves of hard and heavy, Maryland doom might be rivaled only by Floridian death metal and New York hardcore for longevity, and I’m pretty sure neither of those dates back to the early ’70s. Think about that. For almost as long as there’s been an idea of “heavy,” there’s been Maryland doom. And the number of lifers in bands and out boggles the mind. At best, I’m an interloper here, and I’d never claim otherwise. Every year or two or three, I’m lucky enough to come down for a fest or something like that, poke my head around and be humbled by the spirit that lives in this place. To actually be a part of it? I can’t imagine.

Maryland Doom Fest has taken on the responsibility not only of representing its native creatives, but in providing the scene a bridge to the outside world as well. The second day of Maryland Doom Fest 2018 did like day one and branched out in geography and sound, the scope of the festival increasing each year even as it maintains its ties to the place whose banner it flies. There’d be plenty of doom, but noise and heavy rock as well, metal both tangible and intangible, and more besides. You bet your ass it’s overwhelming. Maryland Doom Fest comes but once a year. Gotta make it count.

Another rainy day in Frederick set the gray-sky tone for a bill that would start out dark and work its way to the murkiest finish of all with Windhand headlining. Here’s how it happened:

Electropathic

Electropathic (Photo JJ Koczan)

As with Unorthodox last night, the new band fronted by Gary Isom, guitarist in Weed is Weed and former drummer in Spirit Caravan, Pentagram, Valkyrie and others, is a cross-generational affair. Along with drummer Ronnie Kalimon (formerly of Asylum, Unorthodox, etc.), Electropathic features young bassist/backing vocalist Zak Suleri and lead guitarist Eli Watson, both of Et Mors, and with Isom in the frontman role, they ran through a set of classic Maryland doom. Defined in no small part by their lack of pretense, they seemed to still be feeling out where they were ultimately headed as a band. They formed in the back half of last year by all appearances, so while none of them is a stranger to the stage, they’re in the process of developing their chemistry and sound. Likewise, Isom was still internalizing his position at the fore — even in Weed is Weed, he’s off to the side of the stage. He held it down though and their riffs resounded like a clarion to the converted still making their way in — time to go to church, school, whatever. Just time to go.

Molasses Barge

Molasses Barge (Photo JJ Koczan)

Hailing and hauling from Pittsburgh, Molasses Barge reaffirmed the connection between Steel City and Maryland doom that’s been there since the days of Dream Death‘s original run and probably even before that. The five-piece released their self-titled album in 2017 on Blackseed Records and had songs from that and new material in tow, which frontman Brian “Butch” Balich announced from the stage saying drummer Wayne Massey “calls this one ‘Tin Snake,'” or something thereabouts (hard to read the notes, sorry if I’ve got the title wrong). Balich is a formidable presence on his own, as he’s proven over the years in Penance, Argus and most recently Arduini/Balich, and in Molasses Barge he sets his powerful voice the task of cutting through the low end tone rollout from guitarists Justin Gizzi and Chuck Forsythe and bassist Amy Bianco that, presumably is what gives the band its name. Classic heavy riffs and a touch of metal underpinning, they were unsurprisingly met with welcome by the early crowd, and brought out Iron Man frontman Dee Calhoun to co-front a cover of that band’s “On the Mountain” to pay righteous homage to founding guitarist “Iron” Alfred Morris III, who passed away earlier this year.

Shadow Witch

Shadow Witch (Photo JJ Koczan)

I said as much to vocalist Earl Walker Lundy after their set, but I’ve always sensed something a little weird in Shadow Witch. Across the Kingston, New York, four-piece’s two albums to-date, last year’s Disciples of the Crow (review here) and 2016’s Sun Killer (discussed here), there’s been an edge of something standing them out from the pack. Having now seen them live, I feel like I have a better sense of what it is. In no small part, it’s Lundy himself. He carries across his vocals with utmost conviction and purpose, and backed by bassist David Pannullo, guitarist Jeremy Hall and drummer Doug Thompson, he ran his voice through a range of effects and performed barefoot — a bravery in itself considering the amount of spillage I’ve seen on that stage over the last two days — as free in is movement physically as his voice was to carry across the songs. They dwell in a between-genre space and remaining excitingly difficult to classify, but what matters is they carried their passion over to the audience, who met it with welcome. Good band. Better band than people know. Better band than I knew.

Doomstress

Doomstress (Photo JJ Koczan)

Speaking of bands I should’ve seen already, I went into Doomstress‘ set with the distinct impression that their recorded material to-date has yet to do them proper justice. They tour regularly on week and week-plus runs and had been on the road for four nights already en route to Cafe 611, so it seemed likely the Houston four-piece would be on top of their game. Not to toot my own horn, but I was right. They’re a better band than they’ve shown on either of their short releases. It’s a question of balance in their sound. Not just between tonal heft and aggression/attitude or the commanding stage presence of Doomstress Alexis on bass and vocals with guitarists Brandon Johnson and Matt Taylor and drummer Buddy Hachar (also of Greenbeard), or of between the classic and the modern, but between the actual instruments themselves. The live wash of tone suits them, with Alexis‘ vocals cutting through, where on their recordings thus far there’s more separation of instruments. It’s dirtier live, and for the high quality riffs they play, that dirt fits really well. Especially coupled with the fact that their performance was so tight, it was like they were daring the crowd to match their energy level.

The Age of Truth

The Age of Truth (Photo JJ Koczan)

Another band it was my first time seeing (that’s five in a row!), Philly four-piece The Age of Truth had been hanging out all weekend and getting down with some shenanigans the first night of Maryland Doom Fest, but when they got on stage, it was all business. Well, mostly business. One seems to recall vocalist Kevin McNamara saying something before they went on about taking his shirt off and rubbing his nipples on the microphone — it didn’t happen, though it might’ve been an interesting bit of performance art; “what do those nipples signify?” and so on — but with the start of the set, he, guitarist Mike DiDonato, bassist Bill Miller and drummer Scott Fressetto launched into the most noise-rocking set the festival has thus far featured. Their blend of heavy rock groove and crunching tones and riffs made their Kozmik Artifactz-delivered debut, Threshold (review here), an aggro joy, and their live interpretation of those songs as well as the new cut “Palace of Rain” was all the more engaging for the ferocity of its realization. The slow-rolling-int0-quicker-shuffle of “Caroline” was a highlight, but I won’t take anything away from the impact of “Honey Pot” or anything else either. With an injection of melody into the newer stuff, they left some intrigue as to where they might be headed — a proper tease of something to watch for. It’ll be worth keeping an eye out.

Switchblade Jesus

Switchblade Jesus (Photo JJ Koczan)

Before Switchblade Jesus took the Cafe 611 stage, I was asked by Borgo Pass drummer and all-around-excellent-human-being Joe Wood what they sounded like. The first two words that came out of my mouth were “Texas” and “riffs.” To be fair, that’s not by any means all the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Eric Calvert, bassist/vocalist Chris Black and drummer Jon Elizondo have to offer, but if you’ve never heard them before, it’s a start. They made an encouraging self-titled debut (review here) in 2013 and followed up last year with a contribution to Ripple Music‘s The Second Coming of Heavy split series (review here), which took the foundation of that initial offering and expanded it significantly, pulling back on some of the burl in favor of a more nuanced approach. Their set in Maryland? With Calvert and Black sharing vocal duties and Elizondo pounding away behind, they rose to the occasion. In front of the stage, the crowd headbanged and raised fists and dug in nearly as much as the band itself, whose set was flawless near as I could tell. I’ve seen them twice now, been impressed both times, and could only expect that trend to continue for the next round, whenever that might be.

Foghound

Foghound (Photo JJ Koczan)

The weekend’s emcee, Dave Benzotti, choked up in reading his intro to Foghound, which also served as a remembrance of those the Maryland doom scene has lost over the last year, including bassist Rev. Jim Forrester of Foghound (also Serpents of Secrecy, ex-Sixty Watt Shaman, etc.), and reasonably so given the tragedy of the circumstances of his passing. The inevitability of that loss working its way into the current chapter of Foghound‘s life as a band was thick as the Baltimore four-piece got going, but if they were working toward catharsis, they were doing so with volume and intensity as their means. Their third album, Awaken to Destroy,on which Forrester performs bass and new bassist Adam Heinzmann contributes vocals alongside those of drummer Chuck Dukeheart III and guitarists Dee Settar and Bob Sipes, is done and in the can, and they played material from it both during their own set — the title-track — and afterwards through the P.A., which went unnoticed by many by Dukeheart later explained was a way to get Forrester‘s playing heard even if people didn’t realize they were hearing it at the time. As they also played with a portrait of Forrester signed by many with messages of love (I didn’t have the courage), his presence and absence were both deeply felt by the room, but the music was a fitting tribute and a comfort alike.

Cavern

Cavern (Photo JJ Koczan)

Prog prog prog. Also, prog. It’s fun to watch a band who so delight in being bizarre or outside the norm, and while local instrumentalists Cavern were for sure the odd men out on the bill, that suited them remarkably well and I can only imagine it wasn’t the first time they’ve found themselves in that position. Drummer Stephen Schrock played a kit with his toms out flat before him while Zach Harkins ran his guitar through one of the most elaborate pedal boards I’ve seen this weekend and still had room on stage for a Moog to add atmosphere to the intricate and complex songs they played. Denizens of Grimoire Records, they were a perfectly timed departure. Following Foghound with another straight-up rock band would only be doing said band a disservice, but Cavern were coming from somewhere else completely, so there was no real comparing the two outfits. A jolt to the flow of the night that only served Cavern well, since with all their looped parts, woven-through noise and underlying groove, “jolt” seemed to be the whole idea. It would be all-go riffing from here on out, but whether one considers them on their own merits or in the context of the Maryland Doom Fest 2018 lineup, their efforts toward the bizarre were duly appreciated.

The Watchers

The Watchers (Photo JJ Koczan)

The second Ripple Music act on the bill to have made the trip from the Bay Area behind ZED, four-piece The Watchers delivered one of the most professional sets I’ve seen so far this weekend. I mean, The Obsessed were pro-shop, right? And so were ZED, since they’ve been mentioned, but The Watchers had it all down — from riffs to looks to delivery to vocalist Tim Narducci and guitarist Jeremy Epp working the crowd with natural showmanship while bassist Cornbread and drummer Carter Kennedy locked in groove after groove of rock-solid heavy rock, playing selections from this year’s Black Abyss (review here) as well as the preceding EP, Sabbath Highway (review here). They had a near-commercial level of catchiness, but since that’s not a thing that exists anymore, I’ll just note that as much clear effort as they put into their presentation, the accessibility of the songs came from the songs themselves and the quality of their construction. Were they up there selling it? Absolutely. And kicking ass while doing so, but if the material itself wasn’t so strong the whole thing would’ve fallen flat. The foundation of the entire show was the material itself, and accordingly that show was an utter joy to watch.

Earthride

Earthride (Photo JJ Koczan)

I actually went back and looked up the last time I saw Earthride. It was at Days of the Doomed in 2012 (review here). I also recalled seeing them in Brooklyn in 2011 sharing the stage with When the Deadbolt Breaks, which was a noteworthy coincidence since that band’s guitarist/vocalist, Aaron Lewis, happened to be playing bass in Earthride, having joined just prior to the Maryland band’s just-ended tour with The Skull. Still, six years (and eight days) of not seeing Earthride? Far too fucking long. Dave Sherman, who’d been hanging out all weekend, took the stage in celebration of the welcome-home party that their set was, and with Lewis, guitarist Greg Ball and drummer Eric Little behind him, he held court for what was an absolute highlight of the fest as a whole. I’d been thinking of them as headliners the whole day, and while they didn’t play last, there was definitely a main-event feel going into their set, which started out with “Earthride,” boasted the new single “Witch Gun” (discussed here), the title-track to 2010’s Something Wicked (review here) and capped with “Fighting the Devils Inside You” from 2005’s sophomore LP, Vampire Circus (discussed here). Sherman held the audience and never relinquished his grasp on their attention, and the crowd was as switched on as I’d seen the whole fest. Like I said, they weren’t the headliners in name, but really, they kind of were. And rightly so.

Castle

Castle (Photo JJ Koczan)

Man, I want to hear Castle‘s new album. So bad. The core duo of bassist/vocalist Elizabeth Blackwell and guitarist/vocalist Mat Davis will issue that long-player through a yet-to-be-announced label, but they’re a touring band at their core. They get out. In talking to Davis after their set, he called their current stint a “quick one.” To put that in perspective, it’s a cross-country tour with 12 dates. I’m assuming what he meant was that it was nothing like the weeks-long voyages that will invariably follow the new full-length’s release, and I guess that’s fair, but 12 dates isn’t nothing either. Last time I saw Castle was Maryland Doom Fest 2016 (review here) as they were marking the release of that year’s Welcome to the Graveyard (review here), and though I knew it was coming, I was still blindsided by their intensity. Thrash, doom, classic metal, heavy groove and delighted pummel. Think of them as extreme traditional metal. They bring a classic sound to bear in their material — a number of classic sounds, actually — but have a ferocity to their execution of that which sets them apart from anything that might be considered “retro.” Coupled with the willful eeriness of their atmospheres and cultish themes, they can be all over the place, but that only makes them harder to pin down, and thus, all the more a thrill to watch. As the penultimate act of the evening, they were a last-minute kick in the ass before things got as far out as they would go, and though it had been a long day by then, Castle revived the spirit even as they seemed to herald its demise.

Windhand

Windhand (Photo JJ Koczan)
Windhand were the night’s headliner. They could’ve slinked in late, hid themselves backstage, got on, done their set, collected whatever there was to collect afterward and been on their way. Instead, the Richmond, Virginia, four-piece, who are arguably the most successful East Coast doom band of their generation and whose influence only continues to spread — trying to come up with another name and can’t; if you have one, I’d love to talk it out — hung around all day. They were back and forth through the venue, watching bands, meeting people, this and that. They had the option to take part or not to take part and they took part. And for a group at their level, on Relapse, having toured the world, etc., that’s not nothing. When they finally got on stage and got going, their fog-drenched riffs were as overwhelming as I remembered, and even though they’ve pared down from a five-piece, there was no discernible gap in volume from vocalist Dorthia Cottrell, guitarist Garrett Morris, bassist Parker Chandler and drummer Ryan Wolfe, who produced a soulful, lurching onslaught the likes of which Maryland Doom Fest had not yet known. Their new album, Eternal Return, was announced in April and will be released by Relapse as the follow-up to 2015’s Grief’s Infernal Flower (review here). No doubt it’s one of the most anticipated doom records for the rest of 2018 and whenever it rears its head will be yet another grueling landmark in a catalog that, at this point, teems with them while also constantly showcasing Windhand‘s progression. It was late, but in front of the stage was a press of humanity, and Windhand justified the urgency with a wash of volume and low end that was on a level all its own. A headlining slot well earned.

It’s almost 1PM on Sunday as I wrap this up and I still need to sort photos, shower and change clothes before I head out from Sparks to Frederick, so I’ll turn you over quickly to the pics after the jump and just say thanks for reading.

Because really, thanks for reading. More tomorrow, if you can believe it.

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The Obelisk Presents: Heavy Mash 2018, Oct. 13 in Arlington, TX

Posted in The Obelisk Presents on June 20th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

heavy mash 2018 poster

After being fortunate enough to have been asked last year, there was no way I wasn’t going to be up for having The Obelisk on board to present Heavy Mash 2018. The second edition of the Arlington, Texas-based festival will take place on Oct. 13 and feature a full day and a full lineup of all-killer heavy rock, doom, psych and whatnot, with Austin-dwellers Duel as the headliners on the heels of their 2017 sophomore album, Witchbanger (review here). In fact, when fest organizer Mark Kitchens — also of Stone Machine Electric — brought up the issue recently, my only question was whether the awesome frog from last year’s poster would make a return. To the benefit of all humanity, you can see clearly above that it has.

Duel sit atop the lineup with Californian imports Great Electric Quest and Dallas’ Mountain of Smoke, whose second album, Gods of Biomechanics, will be out July 7 and is an absolute crusher. As it turns out, Great Electric Quest are the only non-Texas band on the bill, as amid the roster of DoomstressStone Machine ElectricSwitchblade JesusOrthodox FuzzGypsy Sun RevivalWitchcryer and Dead Hawke, there isn’t one group that doesn’t call the Lone Star State home. I guess that’s what happens when the place you’re from is awash in creativity and, uh, huge. Just ask California.

The geographic theme at play only makes Heavy Mash 2018 more special, since Texas’ heavy underground is nothing if not worth highlighting, and no doubt at least some of the acts will have shared stages in the past, making it all the more of a party at Division Brewing, which once again will host the event and seems to just be asking for trouble in so doing. So much riffs. So much beer. I hope they have a good mop for afterward.

Get your ass to Texas:

The Obelisk Presents: Heavy Mash 2018

Oct 13 at 1 PM

Division Brewing
506 E Main St, Arlington, Texas 76010

After last year’s successful event, we are pleased to announce this year’s Heavy Mash! Once again, our great friend Wade hosts this event at Division Brewing in Arlington, TX on October 13th, 2018.

Nothing but heavy music and great beer! Here is this year’s line-up:

DUEL – 11pm
Great Electric Quest – 10pm
Mountain of Smoke – 9pm
Doomstress – 8pm
Stone Machine Electric – 7pm
Switchblade Jesus – 6pm
Orthodox Fuzz – 5pm
Witchcryer – 4pm
Gypsy Sun Revival – 3pm
DEAD HAWKE – 2pm

Duel, Witchbanger (2017)

Heavy Mash 2018 event page

Heavy Mash on Thee Facebooks

Division Brewing website

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Switchblade Jesus & Fuzz Evil, The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter Seven: Mountains and Cupids

Posted in Reviews on December 20th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

switchblade jesus fuzz evil second coming of heavy chapter seven

Ripple Music‘s ongoing series of split releases, The Second Coming of Heavy, has become an essential documentary project on the state of (mostly American) heavy rock and roll. Though cumbersomely and — arguably — historically inaccurately named, in pairing acts together on vinyl like Geezer and Borracho (review here), Supervoid and Red Desert (review here), Kingnomad and BoneHawk (review here), Red Mesa and Blue Snaggletooth (review here), Chiefs and Desert Suns (discussed here), and Kayleth and Favequaid (review pending), the label has not only given its own acts a chance to shine in a special showcase, but expanded its reach and broadened its audience base while furthering the development of a straightforward heavy rock aesthetic that has helped define not only the imprint’s path, but that of many acts as well working under their influence.

For The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter Seven, Texas and Arizona trios Switchblade Jesus and Fuzz Evil are added to this esteemed cadre of groups, each one bringing new material to mark the occasion. In the case of Switchblade Jesus, who released their self-titled debut (review here) in 2013, only to have it snagged first in 2014 for vinyl release via Bilocation Records and then a reissue by Ripple in 2015, it’s been somewhat longer than it might seem since they had anything out and they’ve been through enough changes to prove it. For Fuzz Evil, the Sierra Vista, AZ, three-piece made their own self-titled debut (review here) through Battleground Records in the second half of 2016, the turnaround is somewhat quicker, but they too have had a lineup change, bringing in Orgo Martinez, who is at least their third drummer in the last three years.

Those shifts notwithstanding, what is even more remarkable about The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter Seven, and indeed about the series as a whole, is the diversity of sound between the two groups, both of whom function without question under the umbrella category of “heavy rock.” With three cuts from Switchblade Jesus and four from Fuzz Evil, each band gets about 20 minutes to showcase their wares on a vinyl side, and though the samplings are quick, the point of sonic variety is underscored.

It’s not that they don’t fit together — quite the opposite; they make a surprisingly complementary pair — but that they represent starkly different interpretations of what “heavy” is and does. In “Snakes and Lions,” “Wet Lungs” and the highlight chorus and chug of “Heavy is the Mountain,” Switchblade Jesus present a dudely, burly vision of riff-led semi-metallic vibing, with guitarist Eric Calvert taking over the role of vocalist and proffering an approach very much in the spirit of Orange Goblin‘s Ben Ward.

With bassist Chris Black and drummer Jon Elizondo, what was once a five-piece is now a power trio, and their sound is duly crisp as “Snakes and Lions” (5:17) leans into the forward momentum it will build over the course of its first minute. “Snakes and Lions” is ultimately Switchblade Jesus‘ most straight-ahead inclusion, and “Wet Lungs,” which is the longest track on The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter Seven at 9:42, begins with samples of, among other things, The Louvin Brothers‘ “Satan is Real,” takes a more patient and rolling route, riding its riff comfortably while relying less on its hook than its immediate predecessor.

switchblade jesus fuzz evil

That leaves “Heavy is the Mountain” (7:38) as the proverbial just-right bowl of riffly porridge, which is just what it turns out to be. Taking the slick, well-paced nod of “Wet Lungs” and giving it just a bit of the energy “Snakes and Lions” brought to bear, as well as the most memorable chorus of the release as a whole — the title-line shouted upward from the mix amid suitable largesse for the subject matter — it’s enough to make one anticipate a future outing from Switchblade Jesus in this incarnation on its own, never mind the album-style flow the band conjures across just these three tracks and the fluidity with which they nestle into that groove.

The Rudell brothers — Wayne (vocals/guitar) and Joseph (bass/vocals/graphics) — who, again, aren’t that far removed from their debut album, continue forward in the spirit of that release across their four tracks, beginning with the post-Songs for the Deaf push of “Better off Alone,” which gives “Heavy is the Mountain” a run for its money in terms of the strength of its hook while also completely revamping the direction of the release overall, pulling away from whiskey-drenched dudery and more toward traditionalist desert fuzz.

But for jammier closer “Flighty Woman,” which reaches over the six-minute mark, Fuzz Evil‘s inclusions are shorter and more upfront in their structures, though still plenty weighted as “Better off Alone” gives way to the bass at the start of “Graves and Cupids.” Some talkbox/wah makes an appearance in Wayne‘s lead as they head toward the midsection and surfaces again in the second half, standing the track out even more than its chorus already did owing to the confidence in its vocal delivery and the flourish of soul emergent there.

Comprising the last 10-plus minutes of the outing between them, “If You Know” and “Flighty Woman” round out with a due focus on songcraft, calling to mind the sense of individually-focused tracks that one found on their self-titled as well — each piece standing out on its own rather than feeding as directly into an overarching whole as, say, Switchblade Jesus do on side A here. That disparity of style is no less a distinction for Switchblade Jesus and Fuzz Evil than the burl vs. the fuzz, but as the insistent rhythm of “If You Know” shifts into the thickened boogie of “Flighty Woman,” Wayne‘s vocals echoing out just a bit in a trippier fashion before the jam really takes hold and Fuzz Evil go exploring, there’s little to argue that either tack doesn’t produce success here.

As has been the case all along with The Second Coming of Heavy, this latest chapter serves this essential function in demonstrating just how far heavy rock and roll has come and the many forms it can take and still find a path to righteousness. With two separate takes, Switchblade Jesus and Fuzz Evil both resound with potential in their songwriting and in the execution of their material, and one is only left hoping it won’t be long before either is heard from again. The mission is accomplished and the mission, no doubt, will continue. Right on.

Switchblade Jesus & Fuzz Evil, The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter Seven (2017)

Switchblade Jesus on Thee Facebooks

Switchblade Jesus on Twitter

Switchblade Jesus on Bandcamp

Fuzz Evil on Thee Facebooks

Fuzz Evil on YouTube

Fuzz Evil on Bandcamp

Ripple Music on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music website

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Fuzz Evil and Switchblade Jesus Team up for The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter Seven

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

This news came in and I realized that somewhere in there I missed a chapter of Ripple Music‘s ongoing The Second Coming of Heavy series of splits. I’ve done my best to cover all of them — been late on almost every one, but still, I’ve gotten there eventually — but when I saw word that Chapter Seven was set to feature Fuzz Evil and Switchblade Jesus my joy at the prospect of some quality rock and roll was tempered by the question nagging at the back of my mind: Hey wait a second, what happened to Chapter Six?

I don’t have the promo for it in my email, which is kind of a bummer, but I’ll assume I did at one point or another or that it got lost in the transition between laptops from the one I called Ol’ Dusty to the one I use now, Big Red. In any case, if I can, I might try to sneak that Kayleth and Favequaid shared offering in at some point while also doing my best to cover Switchblade Jesus and Fuzz Evil, whose installment is set to arrive on Dec. 8, of course on Ripple.

The PR wire has it like this:

the second coming of heavy chapter 7

Switchblade Jesus / Fuzz Evil “Chapter 7: The Second Coming of Heavy” out on December 8 via Ripple Music

Ripple Music sets December 8th, 2017 as official release date for Switchblade Jesus / Fuzz Evil “Chapter 7: The Second Coming of Heavy” split!

Formed in 2014, Fuzz Evil is a chug-heavy 3 Piece that tames the fuzziest guitar and bass tones on the planet and wields them to blast a monolithic speaker-ripping fuzzapocaplyse for your ears and soul. Raw and dirty in “Stooges-like” fashion with soaring soulful vocals. Fuzz Evil released their first single, “Glitterbones” on a 7” split with the California trio Chiefs on Battleground records in 2014. In 2016 they followed up the single with a full self-titled debut release on Battleground records. In the past few year they have gone through a few line-up changes.. The current line-up is Orgo Martinez on drums, Wayne Rudell on guitar and vocals, and his brother Joey Rudell on bass and vocals.

From the depths of Texas, Switchblade Jesus returns with a heaviness and deep grooves that succeed their previous recordings. Mixing southwestern boogie, desert-worn blues, retro-metal assault and fierce rocking into a sound that screams Texas–at times sanguine and starkly beautiful, at others full of damn sexy groove and assaulting violence can only describe the music of Texan power rocking, fuzzed out stoner blues trio, Switchblade Jesus.

Consisting of Eric Calvert (Vox/Guitar) Jon Elizondo (Drums) and new comer Chris Black (bass) to the fold to create a new chapter in Switchblade Jesus, more Doom and Gloom but no lack of the groove that the Texan’s brought in the beginning.

https://www.facebook.com/theripplemusic/
http://www.ripple-music.com

Kayleth & Favequaid, The Second Coming of Heavy Chapter Six (2017)

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Maryland Doom Fest 2018 Announces Full Lineup with The Obsessed, Windhand, Weedeater, Earthride and Many More

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 1st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Invariably there will be some change between now and next June, and there’s the tradition of the pre-show to consider the night before, but right out of the gate, Maryland Doom Fest 2018 impresses with its scope of heavy rock and doom, cross-country reach and loyalty to its core mission. With The Obsessed, Windhand and Weedeater set to headline, the fourth edition of the fest curated by JB Matson and Mark Cruikshank will welcome return appearances from the likes of Castle, Earthride, Thousand Vision Mist and Foghound, while reaching out to bring first-timers from afar like Texas’ Doomstress and Duel and Switchblade Jesus, Kansas rockers The Midnight Ghost Train, Connecticut’s Curse the Son, New York’s Geezer, and — I believe traveling the farthest — Disenchanter, from Portland, Oregon.

It’s a killer assemblage, and I think the three headliners do a lot in summarizing the whole idea behind the fest in the first place: The Obsessed are among the founders of what we think of as “Maryland doom.” Windhand are the forerunners of the modern scene. And Weedeater bring a riotous sludge party like no one else on the planet. What more could you possibly ask of three bands in terms of expressing what Maryland Doom Fest 2018 is all about?

I’ll have updates as I see them, but in the meantime, mark your calendars for June 22, 23, and 24 at Cafe 611 in Frederick, MD, and I’ll do the same, because this looks absolutely awesome.

Dig it:

maryland doom fest 2018 poster

Maryand Doom Fest 2018

A 3 day weekend of Doom in its purest form.

June 22, 23, and 24

Cafe 611 Restaurant
611 North Market Street
Frederick, MD 21701

Full lineup:
The Obsessed, Windhand, Weedeater, Castle, Unorthodox, Duel, The Watchers, Zed, Switchblade Jesus, The Midnight Ghost Train, Lightning Born, Earthride, Geezer, Disenchanter, Bedowyn, Cavern, Doomstress, Caustic Casanova, Hawkeyes, Curse the Son, Las Cruces, Horseburner, Shadow Witch, Foghound, Witchhelm, Book of Wyrms, Thousand Vision Mist, Molasses Barge, Backwoods Payback, Bailjack, Electropathic, Gateway to Hell

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-maryland-doom-fest-2018-tickets-39468562533
https://www.facebook.com/MdDoomFest/
https://www.themarylanddoomfest.com/

The Obsessed, Live at Maryland Doom Fest 2016

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End Hip End It: Acid King, Elder, Dead Meadow, Josefus & Many More to Play

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

I’m not gonna discount the notion of seeing the likes of Josefus sharing the stage with The Well and Doomstress, or of watching the almighty Acid King roll out their riffly triumphs next to Dead MeadowElderMothership and a megaslew of others, but I think the fact that if you buy a ticket for the second day of End Hip End It you get two slices of pizza speaks volumes to the vibe the Spring, Texas-based festival is going for, and that’s a vibe with which I think just about anybody can get down.

The lineup is varied from Funeral Horse and Switchblade Jesus to King Buffalo and Stone Machine Electric, but there’s a heaping representation of the fertile Texan underground here, and that’s likewise respectable. My understanding is they’ve run into some branding issues — I guess repeating any word in your fest name in Texas is verboten because you’re making fun of SXSW? seems to me SXSW could stand to be taken down a peg or two, but couldn’t we all? — and might rename the event for 2018, but whatever you call it, it looks like a good time to me.

Lineup, other info and ticket link follow:

end-hip-end-it-2017

END HIP END IT MUSIC FESTIVAL

OCT 21 – OLD TOWN SPRING, TEXAS

DAY 1 will feature 25 bands in Old Town Spring, Texas. Preservation Park will have three stages of music as well as many interactive art projects thanks to the Generators Playground.

Stage 1
Dead meadow 12:00 – 1:00
The Bright Light Social Hour 10:40 – 11:20
Golden Dawn Arkestra 9:20 – 10:00
Bayonne 8:00 – 8:40
The deer 6:40 – 7:20
AMERICAN SHARKS 5:20 – 6:00
ROSE ETTE 4:00 – 4:40
VANILLA WHALE 3:00 – 3:40
pyreship 2:00 – 2:30
JODY SEABODY & THE WHIRLS 1:00 – 1:30

Stage 2
Acid King 11:20 – 12:00
ELDER 10:00 – 10:40
MOTHERSHIP 8:40 – 9:20
king buffalo 7:20 – 8:00
eagle claw 6:00 – 6:40
greenbeard 4:40 – 5:20
funeral horse 3:30 – 4:00
SWITCHBLADE JESUS 2:30 – 3:00
WARLUNG 1:30 – 2:00

Stage 3
John Evans Band 8:20 – 9:00
Flower Graves 7:10 – 7:50
The Cuckoos 6:10 – 6:50
Ancient Cat Society 5:10 – 5:50
The Mammoths 4:10 – 4:50
Mantra Love 3:10 – 3:50
Howard & the Nosebleeds 2:10 – 2:40

OCT 22 – WALTER’S DOWNTOWN
SUNDAY at Walter’s Downtown there will be two stages with 13 bands on rotation. Ticket purchasers will receive two drink tickets and two pizza slices!

the well
L.A. Witch
doomstress
amplified heat
space villains*
white dog
josefus
crypt trip
stone machine electric
only beast
concrete heat
daze
shallow

KIP Passes get you…
Entry to both days
backstage access
FREE T-shirt on Saturday
access to hammock hangout
one extra beer on Sunday

At End Hip End It you will find a tightly tucked 20 acre plot of land filled with green grass, craft breweries, interactive art projects, live music, beer tasting events, auctions for charities, Light shows, food trucks, VIP access, local vendors, and more. Interactive art projects will be hosted by Bao Pham of the Generators Playground.

https://www.facebook.com/HoustonPsychFest/
https://www.facebook.com/events/444285199249564/
http://www.endhipendit.com/
http://www.endhipendit.com/tickets
https://www.instagram.com/end_hip_end_it/
http://www.twitter.com/endhipendit

Acid King, Live at Electric Funeral Fest, June 17, 2017

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