Friday Full-Length: The Atomic Bitchwax, The Atomic Bitchwax

Posted in Bootleg Theater on September 21st, 2018 by JJ Koczan

The Atomic Bitchwax, The Atomic Bitchwax (1999)

I think it’s high time the ’90s era of heavy rock — the original run of stoner rock, that is — started to get tagged with the term classic. It’s been 20 years or more for most of it, after all. Think of bands like Monster Magnet, Kyuss, Acid King, Fu Manchu, Nebula, and so on, and to that list I would most definitely add New Jersey trio The Atomic Bitchwax. The band formed in 1993 but it would be six years before their self-titled debut came out on Tee Pee/MIA Records. It was kind of a side-project at first. Bassist/vocalist Chris Kosnik was at the time a member of Godspeed, who were signed to Atlantic during the same era that saw Core and a few others picked up in the wake of Monster Magnet‘s burgeoning wider success, and they made a run touring with Black Sabbath and appearing on the first Nativity in Black tribute to Sabbath with Bruce Dickinson sitting in on vocals. When Godspeed split, it was basically into The Atomic Bitchwax and Solace. Kosnik, guitarist Ed Mundell, also then of Monster Magnet, and drummer Keith Ackerman, who also played in and would later rejoin Solace for a stretch, set to work on their first record, and they came out with a scorcher.

The Atomic Bitchwax‘s The Atomic Bitchwax runs a deceptive 11 songs and 53 minutes. It’s deceptive because they trade back and forth between instrumentals like the opening “Stork Theme” — which also seems to nod at Sabbath with a beginning noise that reminds of “After Forever” — and “Crazed Fandango” and “Ain’t Nobody Gonna Hang Me in My Home,” “The Last of the V8 Interceptors” and 10-minute closer “The Formula” and hook-laden tracks like “Birth to the Earth,” “Hey Alright,” “Hope You Die,” “Gettin’ Old” and “Shit Kicker,” as well as their cover of Core‘s “Kiss the Sun,” which would be a staple in live sets for years to come. The two modes of working are interspersed throughout the tracklisting — they might most come together on the bluesier, throttled-back “Gettin’ Old” — and that helps the trio of Kosnik, Mundell and Ackerman keep the listener off-balance as they build a working momentum from front to back across the release. That, coupled with what has become a signature style of winding riffs, a decent amount of speed in their tempos, a couple samples at the start of “Last of the V8 Interceptors” and “Shit Kicker,” and the extra percussion in “Crazed Fandango” earlier, all give the record a sense of variety that, especially on first listen, can be hard to keep up with. The Atomic Bitchwax has for the most part been a band that dares its audience to hold their pace. On the self-titled, that true in terms of style as well as tempo.

Stoner band being stoner in the era of stoner? Yeah, maybe. But to my ears what makes The Atomic Bitchwax a classic album is the fact that the band are so tight and so loose at the same time. the atomic bitchwaxThat The Atomic Bitchwax could conjure the sharp, head-spinning turns of “Stork Theme” and still be fuzzed-out and have an overarching groove in the process. Or that they could be so locked in on “Hope You Die” with Kosnik‘s bass comes forward in the hook and still toss out the lyric “Total. Freedom.,” and have it sound utterly natural. It’s not effortless, but it’s not intended to be. They remain the kind of band who should have someone walking through the crowd collecting tips while they play — “Hey folks, these guys are working hard up there” — but for the frenetic changes in “Ain’t Nobody Gonna Hang Me in My Home” and the MC5-worthy gallop of “Shit Kicker,” nothing The Atomic Bitchwax do on their first full-length takes precedent over the song itself. Even the instrumentals each have a personality of their own. Hell, “Ain’t Nobody Gonna Hang Me in My Home” is the centerpiece. Those tracks are crucial the mission of the record overall, right down to the touch of psychedelia worked into the midsection of “The Formula” at the end of the album. They not only highlight the prowess of the band technically, but complement the songwriting of “Birth to the Earth” and “Hey Alright,” etc., making the band a richer listening experience the whole way through, giving flashes of punk immediacy here and there, but ultimately ending up with an unquestionable place in heavy rock and roll.

That a record could be so laid back as it punches you in the face. That’s The Atomic Bitchwax. Still, almost 20 years later.

And quite a 20 years it’s (nearly) been. The KosnikMundellAckerman lineup would follow the self-titled with II the next year, also on Tee Pee, and then have the Spit Blood EP on MeteorCity in 2002 before dissolving. Kosnik and Ackerman pressed forward by recruiting Core guitarist/vocalist Finn Ryan for the 2005 album, 3 (discussed here), and thereby embarking on a new era of the band. The Jack Endino-produced EP Boxriff followed — proud to say I did the liner notes for it — coupled with a live set recorded in Seattle, and after losing Ackerman on drums, Kosnik and Ryan welcomed Bob Pantella, also of Monster Magnet, on drums for 2008’s TAB4 (aka T4B), issued first by MeteorCity and then by Tee Pee, which The Atomic Bitchwax rejoined and on whose roster they remain. 2011 brought the all-instrumental, single-song LP, The Local Fuzz (review here), and with that out of their system and a resurgence as a touring act, 2015’s Gravitron (review here) and 2017’s Force Field (review here) marked not only a period of productivity, but a maturity of approach that somewhat ironically dipped back to the modus of their earliest work but made it tighter and even sharper in the delivery.

Speaking of irony, for a band that was so long considered a side-project because of Mundell‘s involvement in both groups — he of course relocated to the West Coast earlier this decade and embarked on The Ultra Electric Mega Galactic — the last several years have found Kosnik playing bass in Monster Magnet in the rhythm section with Pantella. I don’t think anyone’s calling them a side-project at this point though. Classic, maybe. I certainly think so.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

We put the Little Dog Dio down on Monday. The pain from her bone cancer was becoming less and less manageable by the hour. We ended up giving her a percocet Monday morning and she ate nine string cheeses and some chicken after that and she got up to greet The Patient Mrs. when she and the baby got back from running an errand, but she was still clearly in agony, despite also being stoned out of her gourd.

I miss her. So much. I keep looking for her. Thinking about her in her places. The spots that were hers in the house. I’ve been telling Dio stories all week on Facebook. I have so many but I’ll probably do one more tomorrow and leave it there. It’s been hard.

We had a vet come and do it at the house. They do that now, apparently. I’ve had dogs my whole life and been a participant in two euthanasias prior to this one. Dio was different. Special. She woofed at the door when the vet came. She was healthy but for the cancer eating away at her. I figure we got robbed of at least two good years with her. I’d happily shave that time off my own lifespan if I could make a trade to get her back.

I brought her bed from the upstairs bedroom down to the kitchen and laid a sheet on it for her to be on while the vet administered the drugs. High dose of opiates, something else to knock her out, then the pink shit. Always the pink shit. The Patient Mrs. and I sat with her and cried — I’d spent the last four hours just petting her and telling her I loved her — and we were with her through the end. The vet was about to deliver the pink shit and I asked her to let me do it. She did. I did it. Me.

But you want to know the truth? The confession? I wouldn’t have done it on my own. The Patient Mrs. and I had talked it out and we both knew it was time, but even an hour before the vet came I was saying maybe we should call it off. And if she’d said okay, I would have. I wouldn’t have gone through with it. I’d have been selfish and kept my poor sweet Dio in pain just to have a couple more days with her. A little more time. I’m a terrible person.

I cried and cried and cried. When it was finally done, I wrapped her in the sheet and carried her out to the vet’s van, where a bag was waiting. She’ll be cremated and we’ll get her ashes back in the mail next week. I want to be buried with them when I go.

The rest of the last five days has been a blur of grief and baby feedings. I said goodnight to her pillow before I went to bed last night.

I have notes ready for next week front to back but I’m going to keep it to myself. It’s a cool week, busy, but I just don’t have it in me to run through it. Also, by way of a heads up, the next Quarterly Review begins Oct. 8. Nobody cares. I know.

If you get the chance though, I have a show debuting on www.gimmeradio.com this Sunday at 5PM Eastern. Prime time! It’s called “The Obelisk Show” and I host it and talk awkwardly about records and this and that. The Patient Mrs. and The Pecan both make a cameo. It turned out to be a lot of fun to put together and I promise it’s not sad. It’s free to sign up and there’s no subscription or anything, so if you get to check it out, I’d appreciate it. Here’s a poster they made.

jj gimme radio

That says it all, I guess. I’m just happy they spelled my name right. We’ll see if they let me do a second episode.

While you wait with bated breath for that to start, I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Hold your loved ones close, have fun, and please don’t forget to check out the forum and radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

 

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The Skull, The Endless Road Turns Dark: Remaining True

Posted in Reviews on September 12th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

The Skull The Endless Road Turns Dark

There has been a place reserved among 2018’s best doom albums for The Skull‘s The Endless Road Turns Dark since before its release on Tee Pee Records was even announced. Rumors of its coming swirled at the start of the year, and really since the Chicago-based five-piece issued their EP (review here) in 2016, it’s been a question of when not if they would have a follow-up to their 2014 debut, For Those Which are Asleep (review here). That record was a work of prime doomed grit, taking the lessons of classic Trouble on which the band was founded and pushing them into a thoroughly modern context, with former members of that band Eric Wagner (vocals) and Ron Holzner (bass) at the forefront alongside guitarist Lothar Keller (Sacred Dawn) and a rotating cast of others that has included members of PentagramCarousel and plenty more.

That the current recording incarnation of The Skull features guitarist Rob Wrong (also Witch Mountain) and drummer Brian Dixon (ex-Cathedral) only makes them all the more of a supergroup, but as For Those Which are Asleep demonstrated, the band is more than a showcase for “ex-members of” to run through the motions, and fortunately for all involved — particularly listeners — The Endless Road Turns Dark continues that thread. Wrong‘s lead guitar is a standout factor from the opening title-track — also the longest inclusion at 7:06 (immediate points) — onward, and Dixon‘s drumming brings a precision march and classic thud to the eight-track/43-minute proceedings, both its impact and the tones of WrongKeller and Holzner captured with a modern fullness as a result of the production by Sanford Parker, whose work here is no less a darkened joy to behold.

The balance of clarity and heft in “Ravenswood” alone is worth the price of admission, and it’s a combination of elements that works remarkably and surprisingly well, giving The Skull a sense of departure from the barebones, sometimes-lifeless production style of traditional doom that even further strengthens the material itself. Whether it’s the gradual unfolding in “Breathing Underwater” or the wistful sensibility in the sweeping layers of “All that Remains (Is True)” near the end of the record, The Endless Road Turns Dark more than earns the spot that’s been held for it by affirming The Skull as not only a band based around classic methods and noteworthy personnel, but a crucial creative force working on their own terms and developing a style apart from their pedigree.

Wagner especially seems to have found his voice here in a new way. He’s fluid and comfortable in a mid-range melody atop cello (I think) in “All that Remains (Is True)” and works in layers of higher and lower register in the potent hook of “The Longing,” which also featured on EP, in a way that sounds confident and thoughtful. “The Endless Road Turns Dark” itself might have his most forward higher-register vocals in its chorus, but certainly there are other spots throughout — “Ravenswood,” for example — and they’re handled easily via layering amid clearly delivered lyrics that are memorable and true to the aesthetic of the band without seeming forced. On a sheer performance level, it’s a definitive step forward from The Skull‘s debut and a challenge to anyone who might think they know what to expect from him or the group as a whole.

the skull

One might say the same of a song like “From Myself Depart,” which toys with structure across its six-minute run by opening with a quiet, bass-led verse before a swaying riff kicks in and, following another trade between this verse and chorus, launches into a two-minute lead section that includes a kick into speedier tempo before the chorus and a last quiet verse close out in succession. Verse-chorus-verse-chorus-solo-chorus-end, it ain’t, and it arrives at a pivotal moment leading off side B after “The Longing” and the deceptively spacious highlight “Breathing Underwater” round out the album’s first half in top form, doing the work of expanding the sound without really departing the central tonal context of the rest of The Endless Road Turns Dark — fucking with the formula, essentially. But doing it well, and doing it in the right spot to add further personality to what surrounds.

Not that there’s any lack of character to the record as it plays out. In the push of “Ravenswood” and the chugging “As the Sun Draws Near” — it’s hard to pick the best hook on the album and I won’t try, but this one is close if it’s not “The Longing,” which has the sneaky added benefit of prior familiarity — The Skull offer a reprieve from the slower fare in “Breathing Underwater,” the title-track and “All that Remains (Is True),” alternating between longer and shorter songs en route to the finale “Thy Will be Done,” the title of which is referenced in the lyrics of the opener, which breaks from its grueling rollout at 3:45 in order to move, albeit temporarily, into a faster section that bookends the album with a reprise of the verse and chorus from the title-track.

The sense of completion that brings to The Endless Road Turns Dark isn’t to be understated. With a dead stop before the return, the ending of the record — which actually comes in the form of a massive, nodding slowdown and long ringout, but bear with me — feels somewhat separate from the rest of “Thy Will be Done,” and one expects it’s supposed to. It not only ties together the opener and the closer directly, but it gives a full-album context to everything else between them, and as much as the individual pieces make their presence felt, that quick resurgence in the finale proves they’re part of something greater. And so, of course, they are.

There wasn’t really any doubt coming into The Endless Road Turns Dark that The Skull would deliver a quality offering — hence that whole holding a place thing — but with the work they’ve put in on tour and the lineup they’ve assembled, their sophomore full-length exceeds even the lofty expectations placed upon it. For Those Which are Asleep may have established The Skull as a unit separate from Trouble, but The Endless Road Turns Dark is where they forge a history of their own that, if we’re lucky, they’ll continue to build upon. It is nothing less than the work of masters.

The Skull, “Ravenswood” official lyric video

The Skull, “The Endless Road Turns Dark” official lyric video

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The Skull Post “Ravenswood” Lyric Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 6th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

the skull

Because of their origins and their moniker, one tends to think of The Skull as being a post-Trouble band, right? It’s bassist Ron Holzner and vocalist Eric Wagner, both ex-members of that legendary Chicago outfit, with guitarist Lothar Keller at the band’s core. They started out playing Trouble covers, and until they released their 2014 debut, For Those Which are Asleep (review here), that’s how they were mostly known. But with Witch Mountain‘s Rob Wrong on guitar and ex-Cathedral drummer Brian Dixon in the lineup, isn’t it only fair to call them a supergroup as they head toward the Sept. 7 release of their second full-length, The Endless Road Turns Dark?

After all, these aren’t exactly minor players who’ve come aboard,The Skull The Endless Road Turns Dark and while I don’t know the splits of who did what in the writing process — “This song is 83 percent Holzner!” and so on — it’s hard to imagine Wrong wouldn’t have a hand in writing leads. He’s so god damned good at them, it would be a wasted resource to not have him write his own parts. And Dixon rolled out grooves for one of modern doom’s formative acts. He’s well acquainted with working around a crucial riff. Listening to the two tracks they’ve so far released from sophomore record — by astounding coincidence, the first two that appear on the album — aside from the sheer impact of the Sanford Parker production, it’s striking just how much personality there is in the songs. The Skull weren’t exactly lacking character on the first record, but it’s clear their time on tour domestically and internationally has brought them together in a new way.

Preorders are up for the album now through Tee Pee Records, and you’ll find that link under the “Ravenswood” video below, along with the clip for the title-track, which I’ve included here because I didn’t get the chance to post it before because I’m terrible at everything and blah blah blah self-loathing.

Info from the PR wire follows as well.

Please enjoy:

The Skull, “Ravenswood” official lyric video

The Skull, featuring vocalist Eric Wagner and bassist Ron Holzner, formerly of metal legends Trouble, has completed work on its highly anticipated sophomore album. Titled, The Endless Road Turns Dark, the LP was recorded in Chicago’s Decade Music Studios with engineer Sanford Parker (Yob, Tombs) and builds on the foundation laid by The Skull’s debut album, For Those Which Are Asleep, a recording that landed at or near the top of a host of 2014 year-end best of lists. The Endless Road Turns Dark will be released on September 7 via Tee Pee Records.

“‘Ravenswood’ is one of my favorite lyrics on the new album, The Endless Road Turns Dark,” Wagner enthuses. “This reminds me of where I truly am in life and all that I had to go through to get here.”

The Skull, which also features longtime Cathedral drummer Brian Dixon, guitarist Lothar Keller (Sacred Dawn), and guitarist Rob Wrong (Witch Mountain), creates classic Sabbathian doom with a psych-tinged metal vision. The respected group’s impending album, The Endless Road Turns Dark, benefits greatly from the pedigree and experience of the band’s members and pushes authentic, old-school metal to heavier and more foreboding places, fueled by burly riffing, metallic groove and a crushing punch. Ethereal and wonderfully moody with a heart of heavy metal beating at its center, the record delivers definitive doom metal full of powerful builds and mesmerizing dynamic range. More than a mere throwback, The Endless Road Turns Dark is the work of a band that respects their fans, understands their own history, and still has their ears open to the current doom metal landscape. A wicked exercise in heavy metal majesty, The Endless Road Turns Dark plays like a natural extension of the musicians exemplary work during their 20-plus years with Trouble and cements The Skull as modern day doom metal royalty.

Track listing:

1.) The Endless Road Turns Dark
2.) Ravenswood
3.) Breathing Underwater
4.) The Longing
5.) From Myself Depart
6.) As the Sun Draws Near
7.) All That Remains (Is True)
8.) Thy Will Be Done

Pre-order The Endless Road Turns Dark at this location.

The Skull, “The Endless Road Turns Dark” official lyric video

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Quarterly Review: Worshipper, Dopethrone, The Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices, Omen Stones, Capra, Universo Rojo, Sergeant Thunderhoof, Fire Down Below, Stone Deaf, Cracked Machine

Posted in Reviews on July 20th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-CALIFORNIA-LANDSCAPE-Julian-Rix-1851-1903

Well, we made it to the end of another Quarterly Review. One more batch and then it’s off to planning the next one for late September/early October. I hope you have found something this week that you’ve really dug. I have. A few, to be honest. Not everything is going to stick with every listener, of course, and that includes me, but for as much as putting this one together has been, there’s been some really good, year-end-list-type stuff included. At least as far as my own list goes. I sincerely hope you agree.

So let’s do this last one, then go sleep for a couple hours. Alright? Here we go:

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Worshipper, Mirage Daze

worshipper mirage daze

I don’t know if Worshipper knew they’d be embarking on their first West Coast tour in Summer 2018 when they hit Mad Oak Studios in Oct. 2016 to record the four cover tracks for their Mirage Daze EP on Tee Pee Records, but it certainly worked out in the Boston four-piece’s favor. Following-up their 2016 debut, Shadow Hymns (review here), Worshipper present four cover tracks in Uriah Heep’s “Easy Livin’,” The Oath’s “Night Child,” Pink Floyd’s “Julia Dream” and The Who’s “Heaven and Hell,” and while I’m a little sad that “Heaven and Hell” isn’t the Black Sabbath song, which I think they’d nail if they tried it, and I’m glad to have a studio version of their take on Floyd’s “Julia Dream,” which from the first time I saw them live was always a pleasure to watch live, I think the highlight of Mirage Daze might be “Night Child.” I never bought that The Oath record, and Worshipper’s take on its lead single is about the best argument I’ve seen for doing so. It may or may not be a stopgap issued to coincide with the tour, but Mirage Daze is a welcome arrival anyway. It’s a fan piece? Well, I’m a fan, so right on.

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Tee Pee Records website

 

Dopethrone, Transcanadian Anger

dopethrone transcanadian anger

Montreal scumsludgers Dopethrone return with Transcanadian Anger, an eight-track blister-fest of crunch riffing and misanthropic vibes. Delivered through Totem Cat Records, the 36-minute Weedeater-gone-bad-drugs sludge assault seems to invite superlatives front to back, even in the slamming instrumental “Killdozer” – a tribute to the band? – and the swinging penultimate cut “Kingbilly Kush.” Elsewhere, opener “Planet Meth,” “Snort Dagger,” “Tweak Jabber” and “Scuzzgasm” celebrate addiction and violence unto oneself and others, making a spectacle of decay set to voluminous sludge riffs and abrasive vocals. This is Dopethrone’s aesthetic territory, and they’ve done well over the last decade to make it their own. As they answer 2015’s full-length, Hochelaga (review here), and the next year’s 1312 EP with yet another filth-caked collection, they seem all the more in their own league of aural and narcotic self-punishment. They could be straightedge vegans for all I know, but they sure sound high as fuck, and I guess that’s the point. So, well done.

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The Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices, BooCheeMish

the mystery of the bulgarian voices boocheemish

Lisa Gerrard of Dead Can Dance would seem to be trying to solve The Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices, a choral group from Bulgaria who, seemingly until teaming with Gerrard for the Prophecy Productions release BooCheeMish was known by the French name Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares. Whatever you call them, their history dates back nearly seven decades and their harmonies are utterly timeless. BooCheeMish is comprised of gorgeous folk renditions for 45 minutes of world-building perfection. Percussion of various sorts provides backing and on pieces like “Rano Ranila” they speed through at a pace and arrangement that’s head-spinning, while the later “Zableyalo Agne” finds them joined by flute for a nigh-religious experience and the subsequent “Tropanitsa” has a bounce worthy of any good times one might to envision from its evocative pulse. One can’t help but feel a bit of the cultural voyeur in taking it on – as well as feeling totally outclassed in reviewing it – but these songs were clearly meant to be enjoyed, and as their ambassadors, The Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices genuinely serve a public best interest.

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Prophecy Productions website

 

Omen Stones, Omen Stones

omen stones omen stones

Virginia duo Omen Stones have no online presence as yet. No songs streaming. No cheeky logos-on-photos social media posts that new bands do when they’re sitting on their hands waiting to get material out there. What they – and by “they,” I mean guitarist/vocalist Tommy Hamilton of Druglord and drummer Erik Larson of Backwoods Payback, The Might Could, Alabama Thunderpussy, etc. – have is a four-song self-titled EP collecting about 13 minutes of material in demo fashion, bringing forth the Southern-shuffle-gets-weird-then-explodes opener “Secrete” as a first impression of a deceptive approach. You think it’s all good and then you get punched. Go figure. “Secrete” is also the longest track (immediate points) at 4:06, and the forward charge and harsher vocal of “Fertile Blight” follows, catchy as it is mean, and more indicative of what’s to follow in the maddening tension of “Sympathy Scars” and the fuckall sludgepunk of “Purity Tones.” Immediately against-trend, Omen StonesOmen Stones is a bird of prey unto itself. Hopefully at some point soon they make it publicly available.

Druglord on Bandcamp

Erik Larson on Bandcamp

 

Capra, Unholy Gallows

Capra Unholy Gallows

Taking influence from hardcore punk, post-hardcore and sludge, Lafayette, Louisiana’s Capra seem to fit in a Midwestern style of semi-metallic aggression that has flourished in the wake of the likes of The National Acrobat and Coliseum. The foursome’s Unholy Gallows single follows their also-two-song self-titled 2016 EP, and finds Tyler Harper (also of the recently-defunct The Midnight Ghost Train), Jeremy Randazzo, Ben Paramore and Lee Hooper aligned in their purposes of riff-led bludgeoning. Unholy Gallows is two songs/six minutes long – not by any means an afternoon commitment in terms of listening – but its furies are unveiled in far less time than that, and both “Red Guillotine” and “Hot Lips” waste no time in doling out their beatings. A sense of heft stems from tonal thickness, but they make it move to a propulsive degree, and aside from a quick feedback intro to “Red Guillotine,” there’s no letup; even as “Hot Lips” slows the pace some initially, it maintains geared toward foreshadowing the next fist to fly.

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Universo Rojo, Impermanencia

Universo Rojo Impermanencia

Sprawl, sprawl, sprawl. Into space. Universo Rojo’s excellent four-track debut album, Impermanencia, makes you want to speak slowly enough to feel the words vibrate out of your mouth. The Chilean four-piece offer lengthy, jam-based excursions that echo out their feel across vast reaches of effects, progressive rhythm and melody-making unfurling all the while beneath an overarching swirl of effects, guitars and synth running atop the mix like competing currents of water. Opener “¿A Dónde Ir?” (8:13) gives way to the flute-laden krautrockism of “Visión Planetaria de los Tiempos” (8:40) as vocalist/guitarist/clarinetist Ferro Vargas-Larraguibel, drummer Naim Chamás, bassist Cristóbal Montenegro and synthesis Francisco Arellano conjure such molten possibilities. Though it’s just 34 minutes, Impermanencia is nonetheless expansive, with the 9:36 “Cinco (La Quinta Dimensión)” finding a place between drift and psych-jazz undulations while closer “Inmaterialización del Sentimiento Cósmico” (7:32) lets out a full-impulse burst of energy that’s blinding if you know just where to look. Not to be missed.

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Sergeant Thunderhoof, Terra Solus

sergeant thunderhoof terra solus

Kudos to Bath, UK, four-piece Sergeant Thunderhoof on starting off their sophomore long-player, Terra Solus, with the album’s longest track in “Another Plane.” And likewise for the blend of psychedelia and burl that unfolds. In taking on the follow-up to their 2015 debut, Ride of the Hoof, they offer eight cuts and 51 minutes of spacious riffing charged with just an undercurrent of English boozer burl, Elephant Tree and Steak meeting head on for a raucous session of who knows what. “B Oscillation” taps nod and particularly satisfying fuzzy warmth in its lead section, while even a would-be bruiser like the subsequent “Diesel Breath” has a trip-out included. There is time for such things as every track but the penultimate and relatively minimalist soundscaper “Half a Man” tops six minutes, but Sergeant Thunderhoof make a much richer impression overall than their moniker might lead one to believe, and close out in particularly resonant fashion with “Om Shaantih,” emphasizing the breadth and post-rock elements that help make Terra Solus so engaging from the outset.

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Fire Down Below, Hymn of the Cosmic Man

fire down below hymn of the cosmic man

The adaptation of Kyuss’ “Thumb” riff for Fire Down Below’s “Ignition/Space Cruiser” after the “Red Giant” intro on their second album, Hymn of the Cosmic Man (on Ripple), is nothing short of a clarion to the converted. The Belgian unit’s mission would seem to be to find that place on the horizon where the desert ground and space itself seem to meet and become one, and as side A closer “The Cosmic Pilgrim” turns from its initial crunch into more patient and drifting psych, they’d seem to get there. Atsmophere is certainly central to the record, as the aforementioned “Red Giant” and its side B counterpart “Nebula” demonstrate, never mind the other five tracks, and even as “Saviour of Man” runs through its janga-janga stoner-riffed hook there’s a flourish of effects to create a balance between the earthbound and the interstellar. Side B’s “Ascension” and especially 11-minute album-closer/highlight “Adrift in a Sea of Stars” seem to find the balance the four-piece is shooting for all along, and just before the nine-minute mark when the thick, fuzzed-out riff emerges from the jammy lead, the entire impetus for their journey seems to be laid bare. Well done.

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Stone Deaf, Royal Burnout

stone deaf royal burnout

Denver, Colorado’s Stone Deaf present a sans-frills desert rock vibe across the eight tightly structured tracks of their sophomore album, Royal Burnout (on Black Bow Records). Specifically, the compressed crunch in the guitar tone and some of the start-stop bounce riffing in cuts like “Room #240” and “Monochrome” seem to be drawn from the Songs for the Deaf methodology, and some of the vocals on opener “Spitshine” (video premiere here) remind of Queens of the Stone Age as well, but Stone Deaf – whose moniker, then, would be well sourced – have a deeper root in punk rock that underscores the “Go with the Flow” thrust of “Deathwish 62” as well as the chugging verses of “Boozy Spool” immediately preceding. It’s a sound that benefits greatly from the sharpness of its delivery and the craft Stone Deaf bring to it, and even when they seem to loosen up a bit on the midpaced pre-finale “That Lefty Request,” there’s a fervent sense of a plan unfolding. That plan would seem to be a success.

Stone Deaf on Thee Facebooks

Black Bow Records webstore

 

Cracked Machine, I, Cosmonaut

cracked machine i cosmonaut

Originally released last year, Cracked Machine’s debut, I, Cosmonaut, finds vinyl issue through PsyKA Records and earns it well with six tracks/45 minutes of mostly-instrumentalist and progressive space-psych. One assumes there’s a narrative thread at work across the span, as guitarist Bill Denton, bassist Chris Sutton, keyboardist/vocalist Clive Noyes and drummer Blazej Gradziel weave their way through “Twin Sons Rising” and “New Vostok” at the outset into the easy flow of “Baikonur Cosmodrome,” the harder-hitting title-track, the fuzzy declaration of “Svetlana” and the patiently executed 10-minute closer “Transorbital,” Denton’s guitar singing all the while. These places and, maybe, characters would seem to weave together to tell the story in impressions largely open to interpretation and correspondingly open in terms of their creativity, sounding spontaneous and maybe live-recorded if not entirely improvised, instead working to a plan for where each inclusion should go or end up. As Cracked Machine’s first album, it’s an ambitious work that does far more than get the band’s feet wet. It takes them out of the atmosphere and embarks on a journey beyond that one hopes is just beginning.

Cracked Machine on Thee Facebooks

Cracked Machine at PsyKA Records webstore

 

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Worshipper and Old Man Wizard West Coast Tour Starts July 19

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 11th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

In just over a week’s time, Boston heavy rockers Worshipper will head west to join San Diego progressive weirdos Old Man Wizard on a tour of the West Coast. The stint begins July 19 and goes till Aug. 4 and finds both acts supporting new releases. For Old Man Wizard, it’s their second long-player, Blame it all on Sorcery, which they released in May, and for Worshipper, it’s a new covers EP, Mirage Daze, which they issued in June. Both offerings are streaming in their entirety at the bottom of this post, so, you know, dig in and make an afternoon of it. If you had other plans, they can wait.

Not to sidetrack or anything, but one of the things I’ve found most interesting/disconcerting since my laptop got ripped off in May has been rediscovering albums that were on my desktop waiting for review that disappeared with that computer. Both Old Man Wizard and Worshipper‘s new releases were right there in that bunch. Sucks. Don’t get me wrong, the situation turned out toward the positive with the new computer and camera and all, but yeah. Things like this are still kind of a bummer to find. “Why didn’t I write about that? Oh yeah…” and so on.

Don’t want to bring the room down so I’ll end by saying it’s awesome to see Worshipper make their way to the Pacific. They’re such outliers when it comes to East Coast heavy in that their approach, at least thus far, is heavy without necessarily the same kind of aggression one so often gets, especially in the Northeast. I’d think they’d be welcome out there where it’s a little more chill, generally speaking.

Hope the run goes well all around:

worshipper old man wizard tour

Worshipper & Old Man Wizard West Coast tour:

Thurs 7/19 – COSTA MESA, CA – Tiki Bar – $10ADV / 21+
Fri 7/20 – SAN DIEGO, CA – Til Two Club – $8ADV/$10DOS/ 21+
Sat 7/21 – OCEANSIDE, CA – Oceanside Sports Bar – 21+
Sun 7/22 – LOS ANGELES, CA – Five Star Bar – 21+
Tues 7/24 – SAN JOSE, CA – The Caravan Lounge – 21+
Wed 7/25 – SACRAMENTO, CA – Blue Lamp – $10ADV/ 21+
Thurs 7/26 – OAKLAND, CA – Golden Bull
Fri 7/27 – GRANTS PASS, OR – The Haul – $10ADV/ 21+
Sat 7/28 – PORTLAND, OR – Tonic Lounge – $7ADV / $10 DOS / 21+ *
Sun 7/29 – SEATTLE, WA – Funhouse – $10 ADV / $12 DOS / 21+
Tues 7/31 – BOISE, ID – The Shredder – $8 ADV / ALL AGES
Wed 8/1 – SALT LAKE CITY, UT – Club X
Thurs 8/2 – DENVER, CO – Streets of London Pub – $5 ADV / 21+
Fri 8/3 – ALBUQUERQUE, NM – Moonlight Lounge – $5 ADV / 21+
Sat 8/4 – TEMPE, AZ – Time Out Lounge – 21+

Old Man Wizard is:
Francis Roberts – Guitar, Vocals
Kris Calabio – Drums, Backing Vocals
Andre Beller – Bass Guitar, Backing Vocals

Worshipper is:
Alejandro Necochea (guitar)
John Brookhouse (vocals / guitar)
Dave Jarvis (drums)
Bob Maloney (vocals, bass)

https://www.facebook.com/Old.Man.Wizard/
http://twitter.com/oldmanwizard
https://www.instagram.com/oldmanwizard/
http://oldmanwizard.com/

https://www.facebook.com/worshipperband/
https://www.instagram/worshipperband
https://www.twitter.com/worshipperband
https://worshipper.bandcamp.com/
http://teepeerecords.com

Worshipper, Mirage Daze (2018)

Old Man Wizard, Blame it all on Sorcery (2018)

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Big Kizz Premiere Video for “Long Distance Call”; Music is Magic out May 18

Posted in Bootleg Theater on May 9th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

big kizz

A lot of Big Kizz‘s Tee Pee Records debut LP, Music is Magic, is kind of a party. From the goofy recitations of the album’s name that serve as the 19-second intro/title-track to the hooked-laced surf-garage vibes of “I Want My Girl,” to the post-punk fuzz r-a-w-ness of “Lose My Love” and the ultra-Stooges incantations of “Gave up Tears Ago” and “High” (the latter more in the vein of the self-titled, so right on) and the noisy Bikini Kill cover “Rebel Girl,” there’s an underlying current of energy running through the material. Hell, even “I Hate R’n’R” — the lyrics for which are jaded brilliance — is uptempo. And while I won’t say it’s void of energy, because it’s not, there’s one exception to the rule; one standout cut that defies how the rest of its surroundings work on the 11-song/31-minute full-length. It’s the centerpiece and it’s called “Long Distance Call.”

Think of Music is Magic as a night of drinking in a crowded bar. It’s loud with music playing and the volume of conversations rising to match, and you’ve been downing whatever for however long. Then there’s that moment where everything seems to slow down around you. I’m not talking about the room-spinnies — that’s a whole different kind of night — but maybe you see someone or you hear somebody say even just a word thatbig kizz music is magic puts you in a different place from where you were 30 seconds ago. You stay there for a little bit, dwell on it for, again, however long, and then snap to consciousness, jump back into whatever your friends are talking about, and the night resumes the boozy course on which it was originally set. That’s what “Long Distance Call” is to Music is Magic. It’s that moment of clarity, realization, or maybe just quiet. Whatever it is, it’s there, then gone. There goes your heart again.

The bluesy vocal performance from guitarist Pontus Westman has to be specifically pointed out. If he couldn’t carry it, the song would fall completely flat, and it absolutely doesn’t. As much as the word around Big Kizz‘s 2017 debut EP, Eye on You (review here), had to do with the participation in Big Kizz of former Graveyard drummer Axel Sjöberg and John Hoyles of Spiders and formerly of Witchcraft — the latter of whom might be out of the band at this point and replaced by Johannes Conquist? it’s not exactly clear — it’s Westman who pulls “Long Distance Call” together, and over the course of the ultra-catchy “I Want My Girl,” the Örebro-meets-Detroit “Baby Boy” and the German-language closer “Legalt,” he proves to be a significant forward presence alongside his bandmates in the power trio.

I tend to say this when I think it applies, but if “Long Distance Call” is the first you’re hearing of Music is Magic be aware that its wistful melancholy and romantic hopelessness don’t speak for the album as a whole. In fact, if the point hasn’t been made yet, the song is basically one of a kind from Big Kizz thus far. All the more reason to dig it.

Music is Magic is out May 18 on Tee Pee Records and available now to preorder. The band has an awesome quote under the video below, so make sure you check that out and then hit up the links and so on.

Please enjoy:

Big Kizz, “Long Distance Call” official video premiere

Big Kizz on “Long Distance Call”:

For your sake, dear listener, we really hope you’ve been in love? At least once. That way, it’s much easier for you to relate this this heartbreaking ballad. The feeling we’re trying to evoke here is one which most of you are all to familiar with. Your beliefs about true love have become kind of jaded, even though you know yourself enough to know that you’re gonna fall helplessly in love again, when you get the right glare from across the room. You’re a sucker for love and you know it. And you also know that there’s a chance that one of the parties involved might fuck it up even though it seems promising. And you were just getting comfortable in your new apartment, you got buddies and have an easy life that you don’t really wanna fuck with too much. But it’s love that’s at stake here. And there’s also the issue of trusting someone else with something as fragile as your heart (for poetic reasons we assume that this is the location of your clusterfuck of emotions). But it’s love. Love has got a hold of you. You poor sucker. Enjoy the ride!

Big Kizz is:
drummer Axel Sjöberg (ex-Graveyard)
bassist John Hoyles (Spiders, ex-Witchcraft)
vocalist/guitarist Pontus Westman (Lady Banana)
bassist Johannes Cronquist

Big Kizz on Thee Facebooks

Big Kizz on Instagram

Big Kizz preorder at Tee Pee Records

Tee Pee Records on Thee Facebooks

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Worshipper Set June 1 Release for Mirage Daze Covers EP

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 8th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

worshipper

First discussed here almost exactly one year ago, the new Worshipper covers EP, Mirage Daze, is set to arrive via Tee Pee Records on June 1. Preorders are up now for what’s the first new music to come from Worshipper since the Boston four-piece made their debut with 2016’s Shadow Hymns (review here), and even though the songs aren’t orginals, it’s a good opportunity to hear some development in the band’s studio persona and their performances on the whole, as well as get a look at some of their direct influences. If nothing else, having a studio version of their take on Pink Floyd‘s “Julia Dream,” which has been a staple of live shows more or less since their outset, is worth the cheap-as-hell price of admission.

The title, of course, is a phonetic play on Metallica‘s Garage Days covers EP, which was also a bargain when it came out.

From the PR wire:

worshipper mirage daze

Worshipper to Release New EP, ‘Mirage Daze’, June 1

Boston Rock Band Updates Uriah Heep, The Oath, Pink Floyd and The Who on Cover Collection

Boston hard rock band Worshipper will release a collection of cover songs titled Mirage Daze on June 1 via Tee Pee Records. The four song EP, a boisterous bash through songs by Uriah Heep (“Easy Livin”), The Oath (“Night Child”), Pink Floyd (“Julia Dream”) and The Who (“Heaven and Hell”), sees the award-winning quartet put its shredtastic spin on some of its personal favorite rock songs a la Metallica’s The $5.98 E.P.: Garage Days Re-Revisited.

Mirage Daze is the first new music issued by Worshipper since the release of its critically-acclaimed debut LP, Shadow Hymns, which dropped in summer 2016. Shadow Hymns was hailed as “a highly melodic tightrope between heavy metal, stoner rock and pop” by Decibel and as one of the best hard rock releases of the year by Magnet. Recorded just prior to the debut, Mirage Daze will serve as an electric bridge between Shadow Hymns and Worshipper’s impending sophomore LP, scheduled to be recorded this June at God City Studios in Salem, MA with Chris Johnson (Deafheaven, Summoner).

“Only once in a young bands’ life comes the time to release a debut album. For us this translated to some waiting around in the fall of 2016. With time on our hands before tour dates in support of LP #1 we parked the van and loaded gear into the new Mad Oak Studios, set up and recorded a handful of covers we had been kicking around,” comments guitarist Alejandro Necochea. “The idea was to make something quickly without the typical laboring that goes into making records – for fun. It’s our version of ‘Garage Days,’ Miraze Daze…get it? The covers are an obvious cross-section of the music on which we all agree; some classics and one on the newer side, band-favs The Oath. It’s recorded live, clams and all with just a couple overdubs here and there (a 12-string on Julia and some deep synth wows).”

Track listing:
1.) Easy Livin’ (Uriah Heep)
2.) Night Child (The Oath)
3.) Julia Dream (Pink Floyd)
4.) Heaven and Hell (The Who)

Pre-order Mirage Daze at this location.

In addition to Necochea, Worshipper features John Brookhouse (vocals / guitar), Dave Jarvis (drums) and Bob Maloney (vocals, bass).

https://www.facebook.com/worshipperband/
https://www.instagram/worshipperband
https://www.twitter.com/worshipperband
https://worshipper.bandcamp.com/
http://teepeerecords.com

Worshipper, “Darkness” official video

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The Skull Announce Tour Dates with Earthride and Hyborian

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 7th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

the skull

Doom on. I’m not sure much more than that really needs to be said about The Skull announcing a run of headlining tour dates with Maryland’s finest, Earthride, as direct support. Chicago doom meets Maryland doom. Needless to say, it’s going to be pretty gosh darn doomed.

The Skull release their new album, The Endless Road Turns Dark, this Fall on Tee Pee, and if you’re not looking forward to that, I’ve got nothing for you. The timeline on Earthride‘s next full-length is a little more vague, but with their recent Witch Gun single came word that was in the works as well. Hyborian, meanwhile, recently issued their first album through Season of Mist.

The PR wire has those dates:

the skull tour poster

The Skull Announces U.S. Headlining Tour Dates

Doom Metal Legends Complete Work on New Album ‘The Endless Road Turns Dark’

The Skull, featuring vocalist Eric Wagner and bassist Ron Holzner, formerly of metal legends Trouble, has completed work on its highly anticipated sophomore album. Titled, The Endless Road Turns Dark, the LP was recorded in Chicago’s Decade Music Studios with engineer Sanford Parker (Yob, Tombs) and builds on the foundation laid by The Skull’s debut album, For Those Which Are Asleep, a recording that landed at or near the top of a host of 2014 year-end best of lists. A fall release date via Tee Pee Records is projected for the new LP.

To celebrate the completion of the new album, The Skull, which also features longtime Cathedral drummer Brian Dixon, guitarist Lothar Keller (Sacred Dawn), and guitarist Rob Wrong (Witch Mountain) has announced a U.S. headlining tour that will launch on June 2 in in Chicago where the band will headline the third annual Doomed & Stoned Fest. The 12 city jaunt will run through June 15 in Lombard, IL. On the spring tour, The Skull will be joined by guest drummer Henry Vasquez of Saint Vitus who will fill in for Dixon. Opening acts will include Earthride and Hyborian.

The just-announced itinerary is as follows:

THE SKULL tour dates:
June 2 Chicago, IL Reggie’s (as part of Doomed & Stoned Fest)
June 3 Minneapolis, MN Studio B @ Skyway Theatre
June 5 Bozeman, MT Zebra Lounge
June 7 Seattle, WA Highline
June 8 Bellingham, WA Shakedown
June 9 Portland, OR Star Theatre
June 10 Sacramento, CA Blue Lamp
June 11 Santa Cruz, CA Atrium @ Catalyst
June 12 San Francisco, CA Elbo Room
June 13 Los Angeles, CA Resident
June 14 Las Vegas, NV Count’s Vamp’d
June 15 San Diego, CA Soda Bar

https://www.facebook.com/troubletheskull/
https://twitter.com/theskullusa
http://theskullusa.com/
https://teepeerecords.com/

The Skull, For Those Which are Asleep (2014)

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