The Midnight Ghost Train Calling it Quits; Final Shows Announced

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 13th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

This was a special band. If you ever saw them live, you know what I’m talking about. The first time I saw them, I was drunk as a skunk in a Bayonne, New Jersey, firemen’s hall or VFW or whatever it was. They were playing with a buddy’s band called L.O.M.F., and they took the stage, did “John the Revelator,” and blew my addled mind. This had to be around 2008, because I’m pretty sure that’s where I picked up their The Johnny Boy EP (review here). Over the next several years, I’d come to find out that the raucous kicking of such ass was just kind of how it went for The Midnight Ghost Train. Standard procedure.

Fronted by the gravely-voiced Steve Moss, The Midnight Ghost Train would go on to tour the world and release four full-lengths: a 2009 self-titled debut (review here), 2012’s Buffalo (review here), 2015’s Cold was the Ground (review here) and 2017’s Cypress Ave. (review here). With Moss and drummer Brandon Burghart joined by a succession of bassists — Mike Boyne was the last of them and an excellent fit in the band — each record was a step forward from the last, and they never put out the same album twice. As much as their reputation rested on their live delivery, and rightly so for the madness that ensued on stage and the electrifying nature of Moss’ player-persona, they could always be counted on to showcase thoughtful creative progression in their songwriting as well.

I could go on, but the point is I’ve covered The Midnight Ghost Train for a decade. Saw them open for Truckfighters in Philly and stood close enough to the stage to get hit by Moss’ hair as he headbanged. Watched them through the door at Roadburn Festival because the room was too packed to get in. I never saw them give less than their everything on stage. Never. And while I’m glad they drop the hint that they might return at some point in the future, and while I wish them luck in whatever endeavors they might undertake, I hope they do take a few years’ break and come back stronger than ever, I’m even gladder I’ll get to see what seems to be their final performance at Maryland Doom Fest 2018 this June.

As they’d also been confirmed for Electric Funeral Fest III in Denver on June 29, I’m not entirely sure what’s happening there, but in the band’s farewell message, they list three shows, and MDDF is the last one. Here’s that note from the band, who will be missed:

the midnight ghost train

IMPORTANT MESSAGE TO ALL FANS:
It is with a heavy heart that we announce to you that The Midnight Ghost Train is hanging it up and saying goodbye. Our personal family lives have become more important to us than being on the road. We feel content and successful in what we have built in the past ten years, our amazing dedicated fan base being our greatest achievement. We respect our fans and our music, so we’ve decided it is time to say goodbye.

We will be finishing our career as The Midnight Ghost Train with three final shows. So if you want to see us perform one last time giving you every piece of our soul that’s left, here are your chances:

June 22-Topeka, KS @ J&Js Gallery
June 23- Newport, KY @ SGHR
With our final show being
June 24- @ The Maryland Doom Festival

Maybe we will come back some day down the road, and storm back to the stage better than ever, but at this time that plan is not in place for the distant future. Right now we want to focus on our family lives, and continue on with our other dreams and aspirations.

Once again, thank you to all of our devoted fans for helping us achieve our dreams. Every one of you holds a special place in our hearts. We hope that we have given you the same love that you have given us.

www.facebook.com/themidnightghosttrain
www.themidnightghosttrain.com
www.napalmrecords.com
www.facebook.com/napalmrecords

The Midnight Ghost Train, “Tonight” official video

Tags: , , , , , ,

Electric Funeral Fest III Lineup Announced; Speedwolf and Weedeater to Headline

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 9th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

I wanna go to this. Let me not mince words. I know it’s the week after Maryland Doom Fest and that for a dude who lives in Massachusetts and has a baby and is already planning on hitting the Netherlands, Germany and Las Vegas this spring and summer that’s an awful lot of travel, but man, Electric Funeral Fest III looks like an absolute blast. How could you look at a lineup with The Midnight Ghost Train, Amplified Heat and Cloud Catcher and not want to be there? And then after all that boogie you’ve got Primitive Man to flatten the earth so Weedeater have a nice clean surface to get absolutely filthy with their sludge? Come on.

Will I get to go? Yeah, probably not. But it’s nice to think about. Check out the poster and the full lineup from the PR wire and see if you don’t agree:

electric funeral fest iii poster

ELECTRIC FUNERAL FEST III To Take Place June 29th-30th In Denver; Initial Lineup Includes Headlining Appearances By Speedwolf And Weedeater + Tickets On Sale TODAY

The third edition of Dust Present’s ELECTRIC FUNERAL FEST will return to Denver, Colorado on June 29th-30th, 2018!

The annual South Broadway festival, known loosely as The Blowout on Broadway, will be grander than ever in its third iteration, expanding to include a third stage inside the Mutiny Information Cafe, a spot known city-wide for its welcoming atmosphere and promotion of DIY events of all types. Located across the street from Hi Dive and just a block north of 3 Kings Tavern – the two hosting venues of last year’s festival, and two Denver favorites – the Mutiny stage will be the first all-ages stage offered at ELECTRIC FUNERAL FEST and its central location will bolster the street festival environment cultivated over the last two years that’s become an integral part of the Electric Funeral’s attraction.

Friday June 29th will mark the one-night return of Denver speed metal legends Speedwolf as the group reunites for their first show in over four years with a headlining slot at 3 Kings. There may be no band in recent memory that’s achieved the cult status in Denver that Speedwolf has, and a raucous in-your-face performance inside 3 Kings will surely invoke wild memories (or forgotten ones) of infamous Speedwolf appearances of yore. Friday’s support spans from the soaring dual harmonies of 2017 MVPs Spirit Adrift, crushing Iowa doom trio Aseethe, the unmatched ’70s blues-boogie of Amplified Heat, Portland’s self-proclaimed street doom merchants R.I.P. and many more.

The top slot Saturday June 30th will see the aggressive stoner metal onslaught of Wilmington, North Carolina’s Weedeater. Driven by the gutteral growl and enthralling stage energy of bassist/vocalist “Dixie” Dave Collins, North Carolina’s manic sons are poised to lift the crowd a bit higher than usual. The meat of the day two lineup matches the versatility of day one, including the misanthropic punishment of Primitive Man, Duel’s high-flying proto-metal roar, the manic blues attack of The Midnight Ghost Train, Opoponax Records sleepers Grey Gallows and many more.

A full festival lineup will be released in the coming weeks.

ELECTRIC FUNERAL is Denver’s premiere heavy music festival, built as a bridge between one of North America’s most powerful and vibrant cities for heavy music and the legions of bands and fans who visit the Mile High City each year. ELECTRIC FUNERAL, an event run and produced by musicians, stands as the antithesis to corporate driven rock festivals. Founded as a beacon for the Denver scene, ELECTRIC FUNERAL FEST 2018 ramps the spotlight up a little brighter this year, showcasing over fifteen bands from Denver, including a few behemoths holding down headlining and top support slots.

Venues:
Hi Dive (21+), 3 Kings Tavern (21+), Mutiny Information Cafe (all ages)

Ticket Options:
$50 early-bird two-day pass (50 available)
$32 one-day pass
$60 two-day pass

Tickets available at: http://www.electricfuneralfestiii.eventbrite.com

Friday, June 29th:
Headliner: Speedwolf (reunion show)
Support: Spirit Adrift, Aseethe, R.I.P., Amplified Heat, Forming The Void, Love Gang, Urn, Smokey Mirror, Augur, Necropanther, Bandits, Green Druid, Keef Duster

Saturday, June 30th:
Headliner: Weedeater
Support: Primitive Man, The Midnight Ghost Train, Duel, Grey Gallows, Cloud Catcher, The Munsens, Loom, White Dog, Vexing, Wizzerd, Space in Time, Smolder & Burn, Alone, Still Valley

https://www.facebook.com/events/1976102246000271/
https://www.eventbrite.com/o/dust-presents-12848870878
http://www.facebook.com/dustpresents
http://instagram.com/dustpresents

Cloud Catcher, “The Whip” Live at Electric Funeral Fest 2017

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Obelisk Presents: THE TOP 30 ALBUMS OF 2017

Posted in Features on December 28th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

top-30-of-2017

Please note: This post is not culled in any way from the Year-End Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t yet contributed your favorites of 2017 to that, please do.

We’re almost at the finish line for 2017, and if I’m honest, it’s not a minute too soon. I think if one more record comes out this year my head is going to explode.

A perpetual onslaught of cool music is, of course, nothing to complain about. It just seemed like every time I thought I had a handle on where the year was going, some other announcement came through and knocked me on my ass. What’s that? The Obsessed are putting out their first album in more than two decades? Oh and Monolord have a new one coming? Radio Moscow just signed to Century Media? Arc of Ascent are back? Samsara Blues Experiment are back? Causa Sui are putting out a live album and a studio album? Sasquatch are going to Europe and sneaking a record along with them? All of a sudden I’m out of breath feeling like I just ran a lap.

It’s been madness this year. Between an emergent neo-psych movement in the wake of King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard and others, and the ongoing and constant reshaping of doom and heavy rock from practitioners new and old, I don’t know how anyone could ever claim to keep up with any of it.

You know I do the best I can, so when you look through this list, please keep in mind that these are my picks and the result of applying my own standard, which if you’ve ever seen a list on this site before you probably already know is a combination of things like what I view as being important on a critical level and things like what kept me coming back as a listener. What were the year’s biggest releases and what couldn’t I get enough of? Sometimes those two things come together around one record and it’s beautiful. That’s usually your album of the year, or close to, anyhow.

No sense in delaying further. I hope if you haven’t heard some of this stuff you’ll give it a shot, and if you have something you felt strongly about it, you’ll let me know in the comments. Thanks in advance for keeping it civil, and of course for reading.

Here goes:

30. Geezer, Psychoriffadelia
geezer psychoriffadelia

Released by Kozmik Artifactz and STB Records. Reviewed May 16.

Coming off of what was their strongest album to-date in their 2016 self-titled (review here), New York heavy psych blues trio Geezer decided it was time to take the groove for a walk. And so they did. Psychoriffadelia is the result — a looser collection of jams and willfully unrefined heavy blues, reveling in the politically incorrect on “Dirty Penny” only after basking in the post-Monster Magnet hypnosis of “Red Hook” and the earlier roll of the more straightforward “Hair of the Dog” and “Stressknots.” Everything Geezer has done to this point has pushed their sound to new places. Psychoriffadelia is no exception.

29. Orango, The Mules of Nana

orango the mules of nana

Released by Stickman Records. Reviewed March 27.

More than a touch of twang on opener “Heartland” sets a tone of Americana-infusion for Orango‘s sixth LP, The Mules of Nana, but the 10-tracker is ultimately much more about harmony-laced classic heavy smoothness than playing to prairie-minded sensibilities, though roots spread wide through a natural, dirty blues just the same. However they get there, “Hazy Chain of Mountains,” the softshoe-ready funk of “Head on Down” and the peacefully progressive finish of “Ghost Rider” bring ’70s-style thrills in songwriting and their precise, gorgeous execution. Underrated record from an underappreciated band.

28. Radio Moscow, New Beginnings

radio moscow new beginnings

Released by Century Media. Reviewed Oct. 6.

Cali boogie kingpins and all-around marvelous frenetic bastards Radio Moscow were in top form on their Century Media debut, and if it was a new beginning they were searching for, they met it head on with a sound as classic and organic as ever. Arguably the most powerful power trio in their game, they tore through cuts like “No One Knows Where They’ve Been” and “Deceiver” while offering flourish in the trip-out “Woodrose Morning” and subdued blues-psych on the penultimate “Pick up the Pieces.” Very much to form, but cast of a form that still manages to outclass all challengers.

27. Spaceslug, Time Travel Dilemma

spaceslug time travel dilemma

Released by Southcave Records, BSFD Records and Oak Island Records. Reviewed Feb. 10.

And so here we have the first of what will no doubt be several records about which I’m going to say they should be higher on the list. Poland’s Spaceslug have emerged from the moist ground created by their own tonality and on their sophomore full-length, they proffered warm depth of fuzz and a corresponding melodic and psychedelic reach that was resonant even before they brought in ex-Sungrazer bassist Sander Haagmans for a guest spot on the title-track. It’s been out for 10 months and still delivers every time I put it on, which is often.

26. Mothership, High Strangeness

mothership high strangeness
Released by Ripple Music and Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed March 7.

Three albums into a tenure marked by hard-driving riffs, scorching solos and relentless road work, there’s little Texas trio Mothership need to do at this point to prove themselves to their audience. At the same time, High Strangeness brought considerable expansion to their range overall, whether it was the exploratory “Eternal Trip” or the semi-metallic insistence behind “Midnight Express,” while staying tied together with lyrical and instrumental hooks. High Strangeness set a new standard for Mothership, plain and simple, and easily surpassed the considerable accomplishments of their 2012 self-titled debut (review here) and 2014’s Mothership II (review here).

25. Eternal Black, Bleed the Days

eternal black bleed the days

Released by Obsidian Sky Records. Reviewed Aug. 1.

There was a lot about Eternal Black‘s Bleed the Days that chugged its way into the post-Wino oeuvre of US-style trad doom, but the gruff, lumbering and impeccably riffed outing was nonetheless one of 2017’s best debut full-lengths, and it was the songwriting that got it there. Already sounding sure in the vibe captured, cuts like the plodding brooder “Sea of Graves” and “Stained Eyes on a Setting Sun” showed potential in mood and atmosphere as much as sheer sonic heft — though of course there was plenty of that to go around as well. Doomers missed it at their peril.

24. Kadavar, Rough Times

kadavar rough times

Released by Nuclear Blast. Reviewed Sept. 6.

It kind of feels like a slight to have Berlin trio Kadavar appear anywhere outside of at least a top 10 on any kind of list whatsoever, ever, but that’s not my intention at all. Rather, their fourth album and third for Nuclear Blast found them at an important stage in their progression — past the novelty of the vintage feel in their early work, after having proven their songwriting could translate to a modern context, and embarking on a process of expanding their sound. Rough Times, which was as current as current could be, met that goal and beat it easily with a barrage of memorable choruses and a dark streak one could only consider suitable for our age.

23. Shroud Eater, Strike the Sun

shroud eater strike the sun

Released by STB Records. Reviewed June 28.

The biggest surprise about Shroud Eater‘s long-awaited sophomore long-player was also its most encouraging aspect — namely how it found the Miami trio bringing together various impulses shown on a number of shorter releases over the course of the six years since their debut, ThunderNoise (review here), came out in 2011, and still managed to utterly crush when it so chose. With a swath from sludge to drone and back again, this was no minor feat, and that the songs they brought to bear were so memorable at their heart as well makes me hope all the more it’s not 2023 before their third album arrives.

22. Enslaved, E

enslaved e

Released by Nuclear Blast. Reviewed Oct. 4.

What’s left to say about Norwegian progressive black metal innovators Enslaved 14 records into their career? Plenty as it turns out. The introduction of new keyboardist/vocalist Håkon Vinje in place of Herbrand Larsen brought a new twist on a signature element of Enslaved‘s approach. Vinje utterly owned his role, and his performance alongside guitarist Ivar Bjørnson, bassist/vocalist Grutle Kjellson, guitarist Arve “Ice Dale” Isdal and drummer Cato Bekkevold resulted in a fresh urgency that made the band’s sound even more potent and set their ongoing creative evolution on a new branch of its self-directed path.

21. Arc of Ascent, Realms of the Metaphysical

arc-of-ascent-realms-of-the-metaphysical

Released by Astral Projection and Clostridium Records. Reviewed April 6.

Some five years on from 2012’s The Higher Key (review here) and seven out from their debut, Circle of the Sun (review here), and with bassist/vocalist Craig Williamson firmly entrenched in his always excellent Lamp of the Universe psych-drone-folk solo-project, I wasn’t sure there would be another offering from New Zealand heavy psych-rock trio Arc of Ascent, but Realms of the Metaphysical took shape from an ether of riffs and echoes atop resilient underlying structures and revitalized the group with new drummer Mark McGeady in the lineup with Williamson and guitarist Matt Cole-Baker. Remains to be seen if this marks a priority shift for Williamson or it’s a one-off, but its arrival was welcome either way.

20. Causa Sui, Vibraciones Doradas

causa sui vibraciones doradas

Released by El Paraiso Records. Reviewed Oct. 20.

With the various glories already offered in 2017 on the Live in Copenhagen (review here) 3LP, one didn’t necessarily expect a new studio outing from Danish instrumental psych masters Causa Sui, but Vibraciones Doradas found them as vibrant as ever, bringing forth a surprising amount of tonal weight on songs like “El Fuego,” warm fuzz for the basking on opener “The Drop” and spaciousness on the closing title-track. Somewhat more straight-ahead in its rocking groove than 2016’s Return to Sky (review here), the five-track/38-minute long-player showed yet again why Causa Sui are always welcome and that any news of a new release from them, live, studio, whatever, is good news. This was the kind of record that could make your day if you let it.

19. Telekinetic Yeti, Abominable

telekinetic yeti abominable

Released by Sump Pump Records. Reviewed April 10.

The Iowa-based duo of guitarist/vocalist Alex Baumann and drummer Anthony Dreyer, operating as Telekinetic Yeti, released what I considered to be the debut of the year, both for the fullness of its tonality and the accomplishment in songcraft it already showed. Powered by cuts like its lumbering title-track and the gloriously fuzzed runner “Stoned and Feathered,” it could’ve been another band’s second or third record for the level of cohesion on display and the obvious awareness on the part of the band of what they wanted to do with their sound and the just-as-obvious result of their bringing it to life.

18. Cloud Catcher, Trails of Kozmic Dust

cloud catcher trails of kozmic dust

Released by Totem Cat Records. Reviewed Dec. 9, 2016.

While I admit I’m still not 100 percent certain on whether to spell “kozmic” in the title with a ‘k’ or with a ‘c’ on the end, that question did nothing ultimately to diminish enjoyment of Denver emergents Cloud Catcher‘s sophomore outing. Topped off by one of the best album covers of the year, the follow-up to their 2015 debut, Enlightened Beyond Existence (discussed here), took the progressive casting of that record to a place entirely more raw and rock-driven, willfully roughing up the edges even as it showed marked creative growth on a relatively quick turnaround. The must-hear bass tone of “Beyond the Electric Sun” and “Super Acid Magick” was icing on a cake of choice riffing and Hendrixian lead swirl, and the shuffle they elicited was enough to make even the most stubborn of asses (i.e. mine) think about moving.

17. Ruby the Hatchet, Planetary Space Child

ruby the hatchet planetary space child

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Aug. 29.

After the neo-garage manifestations of their 2015 sophomore outing, Valley of the Snake (review here), it was clear Philly psych rockers Ruby the Hatchet were a force when it came to songwriting. What was less obvious was what they’d do with that going forward. On Planetary Space Child, at least, the answer is they’ll take it to Freaktown. The melody-happy, organ-laced swirlmasters conjured presence kosmiche enough to justify the album’s title, and around the cast-in-moon-rock structures of the swinging “Pagan Ritual” and the playfully doomed “Symphony of the Night,” Ruby the Hatchet built a multifaceted weirdoist triumph the likes of which simply doesn’t come along every year, establishing themselves as more reliable and less predictable than ever: an absolute win.

16. Alunah, Solennial

alunah solennial

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed March 1.

It’s been the case more or less all along with UK forest rockers Alunah that their nature-minded material and heavy rolling grooves have had their haunting aspects, but with the production of Conan‘s Chris Fielding behind it, Solennial — their fourth LP and first on Svart — brought this to new levels entirely. The songs, memorable like footprints in the woods, are somewhat bittersweet in context now, since founding guitarist/vocalist Sophie Day announced in September she was leaving the band, but as the group will move forward led by guitarist Dave Day and recently acquired new singer Siân Greenaway, intrigue remains high at what the future might bring and the impact of Solennial is undiminished.

15. Mindkult, Lucifer’s Dream

mindkult-lucifers-dream

Released by Transcending Obscurity Records and Caligari Records.

Virginia-based doomgazing garage cult solo-project Mindkult has thus far managed to keep some of the mystique around its sole inhabitant, Fowst, which is admirable in a way. As the multi-instrmentalist, vocalist and producer this year answered the promise of last year’s Witch’s Oath (review here) debut, he did so around a swath of purposeful miseries, loose devil worship and other dark thematics, casting an atmospheric darkness matched head-on by the tonal murk of his riffs. Through this, however, the songwriting was no less memorable than on the first offering, and as the project moves forward, one can only hope that Fowst will continue to use that as the core aspect buried six feet under his other, formidable stylistic achievements. That certainly was how it worked out on Lucifer’s Dream.

14. Argus, From Fields of Fire

argus from fields of fire
Released by Cruz del Sur Music. Reviewed Sept. 1.

Behold ye perhaps the most underrated band in heavy metal. Regardless of subgenre, style, strata, whatever, it’s hard to listen to From Fields of Fire and think of Pittsburgh’s Argus as anything else. The five-piece’s fourth album continued to owe part of its sound to doom, but was much more encompassing than simply that, touching on aspects of classic metal with a command that left one wondering how they hadn’t yet been tapped to open for Judas Priest on that band’s next tour. Victory abounds on a per-song basis throughout the nine-tracker, and whether it was the emotional crux of “Hour of Longing” or the catchy fistpump righteousness of “Devils of Your Time” or the 11-minute progressive reach of “Infinite Lives/Infinite Doors,” Argus once again crafted a work nigh-unmatched in poise and class.

13. Uffe Lorenzen, Galmandsværk

Uffe-Lorenzen-Galmandsvaerk

Released by Bad Afro Records. Reviewed Nov. 6.

For the first outing ever to be issued under his real name, Denmark’s Uffe Lorenzen — aka Lorenzo Woodrose of garage-psych pioneers Baby Woodrose — danced between acid folk singer-songwriterisms like “Flippertøs” and more expansive jamming on “På Kanten Af Verden,” all the while retaining his distinct structural and arrangement sensibilities and creating a flowing vibe that was nothing less than a pure joy of classic-form psychedelia. The most serene and pastoral freakout one was likely to witness in 2017, easily, Galmandsværk resounded in the Mellotron-laced “Høj Som Et Højhus” and was no less at home in the acoustic spaciousness of the earlier “Remits Tyranni,” able to wander where it pleased and find steady ground in molten surroundings.

12. The Flying Eyes, Burning of the Season

the flying eyes burning of the season

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Oct. 11.

A welcome return from a viciously underappreciated band, The Flying EyesBurning of the Season marked the Baltimore four-piece’s first offering for Ripple Music and first since 2013’s Lowlands (review here), a four-year stretch during which the band kept busy touring Europe and South America, the latter also being where they recorded these songs with Gabriel Zander at Estudio Superfuzz in Brazil. The tonal depth resulting from that process was enough to make the collection a highlight, but it was the songs themselves that most stood out, benefiting from the band’s expanded reach and legitimate, hard-won maturity. Especially for a group who’ve done so much work on the road over their years — to be fair, the US has been pretty low priority in that regard — they remain a secret kept too well.

11. Bell Witch, Mirror Reaper

bell witch mirror reaper

Released by Profound Lore. Reviewed Dec. 27.

Doomed extremity simply unmatched in its scope. The song of the year for 2017. An accomplishment the likes of which is prone to happen maybe once or twice in a generation. None of this seems to really speak to the entirety of the achievement that is Bell Witch‘s Mirror Reaper — the single-song, 83-minute full-length issued by the Seattle duo like a challenge in the face of mortality itself. Beautiful, devastating and weighted like the grave, its sprawl utterly consumed the listener, and I firmly believe it will be years before its depths are fully processed. Some offerings are bigger than the year in which they’re released. Mirror Reaper would seem to function on a scale of its own, and though it could easily be read as a litmus test for audience punishment, the truth of the listening experience is both more emotionally complex and more fulfilling than simple hyperbole can capture.

10. Monolord, Rust

monolord rust

Released by RidingEasy Records. Reviewed Oct. 26.

The story all along with Gothenburg’s Monolord has been tone. Tone tone tone. Crush crush crush. Riffs riffs riffs. Nothing wrong with any of that, but their third album, Rust, proves once and for all that there’s more to the trio than “cool riffs bro” and post-Electric Wizard nod. Catchy cuts like “Dear Lucifer” and rolling opener “Where Death Meets the Sea” brought a sense of space leading to the later sprawl of “Forgotten Lands” and “At Niceae,” and the band settled into an individualized, lumbering psychedelia that moved forward from 2015’s Vænir (review here), not leaving behind the heft that earned them their reputation, but not at all being limited by it either in scope or overall approach. Three records in, Rust brought forth Monolord‘s greatest sonic expansion yet and gave rise to the feeling that their true potential was just starting to come to fruition. Also, crush crush crush. Cool riffs, bro.

9. Vokonis, The Sunken Djinn

vokonis-the-sunken-djinn

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed June 5.

The Sunken Djinn is Vokonis‘ second full-length in as many years, and in addition to serving as their Ripple debut where 2016’s Olde One Ascending (review here) landed via Ozium Records, it was a feast for hungry riff hounds. In defiance of its quick turnaround, it showed a firm evolution taking place within the upstart Swedish trio of guitarist/vocalist Simon Ohlsson, bassist/backing vocalist Jonte Johansson and drummer Emil Larsson, whose range overall was greater in tracks like “Rapturous” and the torrential “Blood Vortex” while nonetheless controlled in its delivery. Their Sleep-y origins still a factor sound-wise, Vokonis were able just the same to push themselves ahead into new sonic ground in fittingly lumbering fashion, and the character they brought to “The Sunken Djinn,” “Calling from the Core” and the noise-caked “Maelstroem” seemed to speak to a burgeoning sense of atmospheric focus taking hold as well. Still so much potential here.

8. Electric Moon, Stardust Rituals

electric moon stardust rituals

Released by Sulatron Records. Reviewed April 7.

Do I even need to remotely justify having Electric Moon‘s first studio album in six years on this list? Was it not just like a love-letter issued by the cosmos itself? What more explanation could possibly be necessary? Not that the German trio haven’t dropped copious, glorious live outings all the while, but to have Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt, “Komet Lulu” Neudeck and Marcus Schnitzler follow-up 2011’s The Doomsday Machine (review here) with four cuts culminating in the 22-minute sprawl of “(You Will) Live Forever Now” was high on the list of the year’s most satisfying psychedelic journeys. Constantly exploring, their methods always seem geared toward finding the molten essence of space rock itself, and though the songs on Stardust Rituals were a little more crafted than some of their straight-up improv jams, they nonetheless showed there are many avenues one might take to get to the heart of the sun.

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

sun-blood-stories-it-runs-around-the-room-with-us

Self-released. Reviewed May 1.

This one is personal, and by that I mean I love this fucking band. Similar to my experience with their 2015 sophomore outing, Twilight Midnight Morning (review here), the third record by Boise-based trio of Ben Kirby (vocals, guitar, synth, percussion), Amber Pollard (vocals, guitar, theremin, percussion) and Jon Fust (drums, keys, percussion, noise) was one that I simply could not put down. Even now, seeing the name of the record is all I need to have songs like “The Great Destroyer” and the immersive midsection in “Come Like Rain” and “Time Like Smoke” stuck in my head, let alone the ultra-brazen, searingly-pissed “Burn” noise assault that finished the album and in the span of 90 seconds turned all the psychedelic warmth and serenity on its face with a visceral anger completely unforeseen and jarring, turning it from a depth-laden execution of adventurous neo-psych and indie into a project of conceptual artistry with all the efficiency of the chemical reaction it sought to portray. If you missed it, your loss.

6. The Atomic Bitchwax, Force Field

the-atomic-bitchwax-force-field

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Dec. 7.

Songs like “Alaskan Thunder Fuck,” “Humble Brag” and “Earth Shaker (Which Doobie U Be?)” assured that the defining character of Force Field, the sixth album from New Jersey’s The Atomic Bitchwax, was pure scorch. That made the 12-cut outing a more than worthy follow-up for 2015’s  Gravitron (review here), which introduced this more speed-rock-minded, aggressive delivery from the tight-as-nails trio, and while they proved they could still lock in a slower groove on the organ-topped finisher “Liv a Little,” head-spinners like the instrumental “Fried, Dyed and Layin’ to the Side” and “Houndstooth” came across like the fruit of the band pushing themselves to the limits of their physical ability in terms of tempo, and their ride along the edge of that line brought thrills at every turn. And make no mistake, there were a lot of turns. Fortunately, bassist/vocalist Chris Kosnik, guitarist/vocalist Finn Ryan and drummer Bob Pantella seemingly had a corresponding hook in their pocket for each one of them. This band is a national treasure.

5. Atavismo, Inerte

atavismo inerte

Released by Temple of Torturous. Reviewed Feb. 21.

Warm, fuzzy tones, rhythmic shifts right out of classic progressive rock, melodic intricacy and periodic excursions into glorious psychedelic drift: I’m not sure what wasn’t to like about Inerte, Atavismo‘s second full-length behind 2014’s Desintegración (review here). Comprising five tracks of unmistakable flow and jam-laden fluidity, it was immersive with landmarks along the way to keep the listener from getting too lost, and whether or not one spoke Spanish, the three-piece of Jose “Poti” Moreno (ex-Viaje a 800Mind!), bassist/vocalist Mateo and drummer/vocalist Sandri Pow (also ex-Mind!) made it easy to follow along their purposefully meandering path, offering guidance no less skillful on the 11-minute fuzz-freaker “El Sueño” than the dream-toned linear build of “Belleza Cuatro.” There were very, very few albums I listened to more this year than this one, which is precisely why it is where it is on this list.

4. Samsara Blues Experiment, One with the Universe

samsara-blues-experiment-one-with-the-universe

Released by Electric Magic Records and Abraxas Records. Reviewed May 4.

Four years between records isn’t at all an unheard of stretch. It’s not the longest on this list by any means. But with Berlin heavy psych rockers Samsara Blues Experiment, it really seemed like the band was done, so to have them come back with such force on One with the Universe was, as I know I said at several points throughout the last 12 months, one of the year’s total highlights. Tracked by former bassist Richard Behrens, the group’s fourth album answered the extended-track spread of 2013’s Waiting for the Flood (review here) with a deeper sense of sonic variety, and while the 15-minute title-cut and opener “Vispassana” still had plenty of room for jamming out and even six-minute centerpiece “Glorious Daze” found room for some flourish of organ and sitar, guitarist/vocalist Christian Peters, drummer Thomas Vedder and bassist Hans Eiselt rightly featured the chemistry they’ve built as a trio live and brought to the songs a renewed sense of vigor, sounding — and hopefully being — truly inspired. Waiting for the Flood capped a period of marked productivity across several years. Fingers crossed One with the Universe begins that cycle anew.

3. Elder, Reflections of a Floating World

Elder-Reflections-of-a-Floating-World

Released by Armageddon Shop and Stickman Records. Reviewed May 23.

You just can’t consider Elder‘s Reflections of a Floating World outside the context of the progressive achievement that was their prior outing, 2015’s Lore (review here). Where the trio — based now between Massachusetts and Berlin, Germany — took their first two outings, 2008’s self-titled debut (discussed here) and 2011’s Dead Roots Stirring (review here), to find their sound, which they began to showcase on the 2012 Spires Burn/Release EP (review here), it was Lore that brought to fruition the potential that had always been waiting to be unleashed by the trio of guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo, bassist Jack Donovan and drummer Matt Couto, and Reflections of a Floating World had the daunting task of being the next further step from that landmark moment. To say the band rose to the occasion is perhaps to undersell the cohesion at work in consuming-but-cohesive pieces like opener “Sanctuary” or “Blind” or “Staving off the Truth,” which brought together clear-headed psychedelia around a wash that seemed to stem as much from rhythm as melody. As they’ve matured stylistically and become a major touring presence, Elder have made themselves perhaps the most pivotal American heavy rock act going, and Reflections of a Floating World brings them to the discovery of yet another apex while at the same time giving zero indication it will be the last one they find.

2. Colour Haze, In Her Garden

colour haze in her garden

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Reviewed March 9.

Of course, the bonus of writing about Colour Haze in just about any context is that you get to put Colour Haze on while you’re doing it, and in the case of the 12th LP from these Munich heavy psych forebears, that’s an even more appealing prospect. After stripping down some of the arrangement flourish with 2014’s To the Highest Gods We Know (review here), the 13-track/73-minute 2LP In Her Garden brought a revitalized sonic expansion, but as ever, it wasn’t just the horns or the strings or the blend of keys and acoustics that made In Her Garden the unbridled joy that it was and continues to be — it was the underlying performance from guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek, bassist Philipp Rasthofer and drummer Manfred Merwald that gave the album the stem on which its garden grew. That’s not to say Jan Faszbender‘s work on modular synth, Rhodes, and Hammond or the arrangements of strings, tuba, bass-clarinet and trombone throughout hurt anything, just that as Colour Haze have grown into incorporating these elements into their groundbreaking aesthetic, they haven’t left behind the organic chemistry and necessary live feel that has helped them influence a generation of followers over their more than 20-year career. One came through as much as the other on In Her Garden, and that balance gave the overarching warmth of their self-recorded tonality yet another level on which to engage their audience. I’ll be a sucker for Colour Haze for as long as I live, and I have absolutely no problem admitting to and owning that.

1. All Them Witches, Sleeping Through the War

all them witches sleeping through the war

Released by New West Records. Reviewed Jan. 27.

It was clear early on that Nashville four-piece All Them Witches were contending hard for Album of the Year with Sleeping Through the War, their fourth long-player and second for New West following the mellow vibes of 2015’s Dying Surfer Meets His Maker (review here). What finally sealed it? The songs. Working with producer Dave Cobb, the each-member-essential lineup of bassist/vocalist Michael Parks, Jr., guitarist Ben McLeod, key-specialist Allan van Cleave (Rhodes, Mellotron, piano, organ, etc.) and drummer/graphic artist Robby Staebler solidified their approach in exciting new ways on early cuts like the grunge-crunching “Don’t Bring Me Coffee” and the shuffling “Bruce Lee,” which hit in succession following the fluid lead-in of opener “Bulls,” an introduction of the organic psychedelia and heavy blues that the loose-swinging of “3-5-7″‘s nigh-on-gospel chorus and subsequent, almost maddeningly catchy “Am I Going Up?” would continue to push outward, thereby setting a linear course into a consciousness-capturing side B with “Alabaster” and the jammier “Cowboy Kirk” and “Internet” playing between melodic nuance and mindful, go-with-it drift. The unflinching strength of the material was matched perhaps only by the understatement of its delivery, which was the more staggering considering how easily the arrangements of background vocals on “Am I Going Up?” or  “3-5-7” could have come through as overblown or self-indulgent, and by the time they got down to the light weirdo-bluesy stomp of “Internet” — the key lyric and hook being, “Guess I’ll go live on the internet” — there was no doubting the genuine nature of the realization Sleeping Through the War represented for All Them Witches. Coupling that feeling of achievement with the sheer repeatability of the listening experience itself left no doubt that 2017 belonged to these tracks and the marvelous way the band wove between them, and that whatever other sounds All Them Witches may go on to explore and whatever else they may accomplish as a result, Sleeping Through the War was a truly special moment in their evolution that, as with the best of offerings in any year, will continue to resonate long after the calendar page has turned.

The Next 20

You know, I used to feel like once you got past a top 20, the numbers were arbitrary. Then I felt that way about the top 30. This year, I think I agonized more about what to include in numbers 31-50 than I did between 30 and the album of the year. Put that in your “go figure” file while you chew on these picks:

31. Cities of Mars, Temporal Rifts
32. The Midnight Ghost Train, Cypress Ave.
33. Snowy Dunes, Atlantis
34. Rozamov, This Mortal Road
35. PH, Eternal Hayden
36. Sasquatch, Maneuvers
37. Young Hunter, Dayhiker
38. The Devil and the Almighty Blues, II
39. Ufomammut, 8
40. John Garcia, The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues
41. Paradise Lost, Medusa
42. Beastmaker, Inside the Skull
43. Arduini / Balich, Dawn of Ages
44. Primitive Man, Caustic
45. Motorpsycho, The Tower
46. Arbouretum, Song of the Rose
47. Hymn, Perish
48. Youngblood Supercult, The Great American Death Rattle
49. Pallbearer, Heartless
50. Dool, Here Now There Then

There’s so, so much good stuff here. So much. The Cities of Mars debut was a treasure and the only reason it wasn’t on my top debuts list was because I haven’t had the chance to go back in and put it on. The Young Hunter record? Some of their best work yet. Hell, that Arduini / Balich album alone! Then you’ve got huge releases by Pallbearer, Ufomammut, Paradise Lost, Primitive Man, on and on. Like I said at the outset, one more album and my head was gonna explode this year. Way too much to ever hope to keep up with. One thing though I felt like I really wanted to emphasize including was Dool. They’re in the last spot, but make no mistake, in atmosphere and songwriting that album was something really special and loaded with potential. It’s not there because it came in last. It’s there to highlight the point of how much it should be on this list.

What’s that? More records? Okay…

Honorable Mentions

In case you also weren’t completely overwhelmed this year, maybe another batch of records will do the trick. Here’s some presented alphabetically:

Anathema, The Optimist
Blackfinger, When Colors Fade Away
Child, Blueside
Cortez, The Depths Below
Demon Eye, Prophecies and Lies
Elbrus, Elbrus
Electric Wizard, Wizard Bloody Wizard
Ecstatic Vision, Raw Rock Fury
Five Horse Johnson, Jake Leg Boogie
Mirror Queen, Verdigris
The Obsessed, Sacred
T.G. Olson, Foothills Before the Mountain
Outsideinside, Sniff a Hot Rock
Queens of the Stone Age, Villains
Siena Root, A Dream of Lasting Peace
Six Organs of Admittance, Burning the Threshold
Steak, No God to Save
Summoner, Beyond the Realm of Light
Valborg, Endstrand
With the Dead, Love from With the Dead

Plus: Abronia, Lewis and the Strange Magics, Iron Monkey, Band of Spice, Puta Volcano, Galley Beggar, Heavy Traffic, Coltsblood, REZN, Green Meteor, Demon Head, Lord, Grigax, The Raynbow, Carpet, Norska, Les Lekin, Slow, Ixion, and I’m sure more that I’ll add as the names continue to pop into my head.

I did this back in June as well, but I also want to draw attention to a swath of quality live albums that came out this year. The top pick should be no surprise if you’ve been hanging around the site of late:

Live Albums:
1. SubRosa, Subdued Live at Roadburn
2. Causa Sui, Live in Copenhagen
3. Slomatics, Futurians Live at Roadburn
4. My Sleeping Karma, Mela Ananda – Live
5. Wight, Fusion Rock Invasion
5. Death Alley, Live at Roadburn

Thank You

It’s been a hell of a year, obviously. Musically and otherwise. As always, I cannot possibly come close to thanking you enough for your incredible and ongoing support of The Obelisk, of what this site is, what it’s become over its nearly nine-year run, what it will continue to become going forward from here. It is astounding to me and deeply humbling that you would possibly take time out of your busy day and your busy life to check out what’s going on here, and words fail me continually when it comes to feeling like I can properly convey my appreciation for that. Thank you for reading. Thank you for reading. Thank you for reading. Tattoo it on my forehead.

Thank you to The Patient Mrs. for understanding how much I need to be doing this, to Slevin for keeping the site running on the technical end, to Behrang Alavi for taking over hosting earlier this year, to my family for their ongoing support, to The Pecan for sleeping late some mornings and giving me time to write, and to everyone who ever shared a link on social media or made a comment on a post or anything like that. To long-time readers and to newcomers alike — thank you so much. This year has seen a fair share of ups and downs, but the support this site gets sustains me in ways I never expected it could, and that would be impossible without you. Please know how crucial that is to me.

Well, that should do it. I know there are probably disagreements about where things landed on the list, what was included, what was left out, etc., as there always are. All comments are of course welcome — only thing I’d ask is you please keep it civil and respectful of the opinions of others. Otherwise, have at it. Please.

And one more time, thank you for reading.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

audiObelisk Transmission 064

Posted in Podcasts on December 26th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

audiobelisk transmission 064

So this is something I’ve never done before. I’m not exactly what you’d call an early adopter when it comes to new technology, but this weekend I finally signed up for Spotify and decided to give a shot at putting together a year-end playlist through that rather than doing the standard podcast. Aside from a kind of ongoing latent concern about essentially giving away downloads of music that doesn’t belong to me via the old mp3 files — no one’s ever said anything and I always figured it was okay since songs were bundled together as one file — this just seemed more useful in allowing people to explore different artists, albums, etc. If you disagree, I’m sorry.

I can’t say I won’t ever go back to the other way, or that I’ll actively enjoy having a Spotify account enough to keep it, and so on, but it’s something new to try, so I’m giving it a shot. The playlist turned out to be nine hours and 12 minutes long, and once I got going, I couldn’t really resist making it 65 tracks, what with it being the 64th podcast and all. One to grow on.

As always, I hope you enjoy. Thanks for listening:

Track details:

• Artist, Track, Album, Runtime
• Elder, Sanctuary, Reflections of a Floating World, 00:11:13
• All Them Witches, Am I Going Up?, Sleeping Through the War, 00:05:33
• Lo-Pan, Pathfinder, In Tensions, 00:06:22
• MOON RATS, Heroic Dose, Highway Lord, 00:04:27
• Bees Made Honey in the Vein Tree, Medicine, Medicine, 00:06:38
• Mindkult, Lucifer’s Dream, Lucifer’s Dream, 00:09:06
• Brume, Reckon, Rooster, 00:09:12
• Riff Fist, King Tide, King Tide, 00:11:20
• Monolord, Dear Lucifer, Rust, 00:08:41
• Hymn, Serpent, Perish, 00:07:32
• Vinnum Sabbathi, Gravity Waves, Gravity Works, 00:08:26
• Electric Wizard, Wicked Caresses, Wizard Bloody Wizard, 00:06:43
• Ruby the Hatchet, Symphony of the Night, Planetary Space Child, 00:07:08
• Telekinetic Yeti, Colossus, Abominable, 00:08:56
• Bong Wish, My Luv, Bong Wish, 00:02:31
• Radio Moscow, New Skin, New Beginnings, 00:03:02
• Cloud Catcher, Celestial Empress, Trails of Kozmic Dust, 00:05:41
• The Atomic Bitchwax, Humble Brag, Force Field, 00:02:52
• Sasquatch, Just Couldn’t Stand the Weather, Maneuvers, 00:06:27
• Kadavar, Die Baby Die, Rough Times, 00:04:18
• Cities of Mars, Children of the Red Sea, Temporal Rifts, 00:08:27
• Argus, You Are the Curse, From Fields of Fire, 00:06:23
• Comacozer, Hylonomus, Kalos Eidos Skopeo, 00:13:43
• Samsara Blues Experiment, One with the Universe, One with the Universe, 00:15:02
• Orango, Heirs, The Mules of Nana, 00:04:46
• Siena Root, Tales of Independence, A Dream of Lasting Peace, 00:03:39
• Demon Head, Older Now, Thunder on the Fields, 00:04:17
• Sun Blood Stories, Great Destroyer, It Runs Around the Room with Us, 00:06:11
• Spaceslug, Time Travel Dilemma, Time Travel Dilemma, 00:10:07
• Arc of Ascent, Hexagram, Realms of the Metaphysical, 00:07:34
• Causa Sui, Seven Hills, Vibraciones Doradas, 00:07:24
• Alunah, Fire of Thornborough Henge, Solennial, 00:05:32
• Vokonis, Calling From The Core, The Sunken Djinn, 00:06:03
• Enslaved, Sacred Horse, E, 00:08:12
• Dvne, Edenfall, Asheran, 00:07:04
• The Midnight Ghost Train, Break My Love, Cypress Ave., 00:03:33
• The Obsessed, It’s Only Money, Sacred, 00:02:35
• Mothership, Crown of Lies, High Strangeness, 00:05:41
• Geezer, Red Hook, Psychoriffadelia, 00:06:02
• Uffe Lorenzen, Flippertøs, Galmandsværk, 00:02:46
• Youngblood Supercult, Master of None, The Great American Death Rattle, 00:04:01
• Beastmaker, Nature of the Damned, Inside the Skull, 00:03:26
• Pallbearer, I Saw the End, Heartless, 00:06:21
• Paradise Lost, Blood and Chaos, Medusa, 00:03:51
• Rozamov, Wind Scorpion, This Mortal Road, 00:08:49
• Eternal Black, Sea of Graves, Bleed the Days, 00:06:33
• Demon Eye, Politic Divine, Prophecies and Lies, 00:03:40
• Snowy Dunes, Ritual of Voices, Atlantis, 00:07:17
• The Devil and the Almighty Blues, Low, II, 00:08:49
• Abronia, Glass Butte Retribution, Obsidian Visions / Shadowed Lands, 00:06:09
• John Garcia, Kylie, The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues, 00:04:58
• Tuna de Tierra, Raise of the Lights, Tuna de Tierra, 00:07:09
• Colour Haze, Lotus, In Her Garden, 00:07:05
• IAH, Stolas, IAH, 00:08:39
• Fungus Hill, Are You Dead, Creatures, 00:08:54
• Atavismo, El Sueño, Inerte, 00:11:18
• Tuber, Noman, Out of the Blue, 00:08:14
• Spidergawd, What You Have Become, Spidergawd IV, 00:03:44
• Puta Volcano, Bird, Harmony of Spheres, 00:05:07
• Ufomammut, Core, 8, 00:05:15
• Kings Destroy, None More, None More, 00:14:03
• PH, Looking Back at Mr. Peter Hayden, Eternal Hayden, 00:16:44
• Mt. Mountain, Dust, Dust, 00:17:15
• Electric Moon, Live Forever Now (You Will), Stardust Rituals, 00:22:41
• Bell Witch, Mirror Reaper, Mirror Reaper, 01:23:15

If you want to follow me on Spotify, apparently that’s something you can do here.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Six Dumb Questions with The Midnight Ghost Train

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on July 19th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the midnight ghost train

There’s always been a certain restlessness in The Midnight Ghost Train. Definitely anyone who’s ever seen them play live would concur, but even beyond their gripping, kinetic performances, whether it was early lineup changes, moving from Buffalo, New York, to Topeka, Kansas, or touring as incessantly as they have for the better part of the last decade — they’ve been a band on “go” for about as long as they’ve been a band.

At the same time, their material has followed a steady trajectory up to this point. From their 2008 The Johnny Boy EP (review here) through the subsequent ’09 self-titled long-play debut (review here), 2012’s Buffalo (review here) and their first outing for Napalm Records in 2015’s Cold was the Ground (review here), the power trio led by founding guitarist/vocalist Steve Moss have developed along a path blending supercharged heavy rock and roll with classic blues vibes and rhythms. With his distinct, gruff vocals as a hallmark of their approach, the propulsive, classy drum work of Brandon Burghart as a core to build from and the final piece added in bassist Mike BoyneThe Midnight Ghost Train became one of the most immediately identifiable bands in the US heavy underground. When you were listening to The Midnight Ghost Train, you knew who was on. Every time.

That’s still the case, but the scope of what that means has changed, and the restlessness that’s always been at play elsewhere seems to have extended itself to their creative process more now than ever before. To wit, their fourth full-length and second for Napalm is Cypress Ave. (review here), and while it largely holds firm to the underlying energy of the band and never feels staid, it also marks a special moment in that Moss and company seem more willing to take chances in the songwriting, to pull back on the aforementioned “go” in favor of a more diverse sonic take. Whether that’s showing itself in the drifting “Lemon Trees,” the funk-fortified “The Boogie Down” (with guest rapper Sonny Cheeba) or the acoustic “Break My Love,” it’s representative of a level of maturity previously unknown from The Midnight Ghost Train, and it makes Cypress Ave. their most fully realized and their boldest offering to-date.

It’s the kind of record that, if you thought you knew the band — as I did — can make you rethink your expectations. In the interview that follows, Moss talks about how some of the twists in the plot came about, how touring has shaped the group over the longer term of their time together, where Cypress Ave. actually is, and more. As I happen to know him to be a longtime Yankees fan, I couldn’t resist throwing in a question about baseball as well, and I thank him for the indulgence.

Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

the-midnight-ghost-train-cypress-ave

Six Dumb Questions with The Midnight Ghost Train

Talk to me about writing Cypress Ave. At what point coming off of Cold was the Ground did you know you wanted to do something different with The Midnight Ghost Train, and how did that come to fruition in the songwriting? Was it something conscious or something that you noticed later in the material? What was behind the shift in direction?

We have wanted to get out of doing the crazy fast heavy stuff way before Cold was the Ground. None of us actually enjoy listening to heavy music. It’s fun to play, but that’s really our only connection with music as heavy as we used to play. We could have very easily written another Cold was the Ground without even thinking twice. That’s why we have defaulted to such heavy music for our previous albums, it was really easy to write, and fun to play live, plus we had already built a following of people in the heavy music genre, so it just made sense to keep riding that wave and keep the fans we had. For this album we wanted to challenge ourselves artistically, and challenge our audience. We wanted to do something that felt right to us, and not necessarily what the following we have built wanted or expected. There was no reason for us to make the same album over and over again, especially since it didn’t feel right to us. So it was time to say goodbye and move on to something more challenging, and unexpected for our fans. Plus, we wanted to branch out to a wider fanbase than just the “stoner rock” fans. We never really felt like we fit in that group anyways so it just made sense to do something that was more us. Plus, the songs on this album are just a hell of a lot better than our previous stuff.

Tell me about Cypress Avenue itself. Where is it? What is it like? Set the scene for those of us who’ve never been there. What was behind the choice to name the album after it?

Cypress Ave. is a stop on the 6 train in the Bronx, it’s a small local neighborhood, no attractions or anything like that, just an area for the locals. My family is from Parkchester which is a few stops more uptown, so we would pass Cypress Ave. on our way up to Parkchester. Since this album is so different musically we decided to go a different route with the album photos, and the title than usual. All of our albums have had that Midwestern, Kansas, country, feel to them, which actually only one of us (our drummer) is from Kansas. So instead we decided to go more personal to mine and my family’s upbringing in the Bronx. Give people a look at where I’m actually from. So we wanted to keep with the Bronx theme throughout the album. Since Parkchester is kind of a lame album title, we basically just went through all the names of the subway stops in the Bronx, and Cypress Ave. was just the best sounding one. Plus, it reminded me of the Van Morrison song off of one of my favorite albums, Astral Weeks, (although it’s spelled differently).

The Midnight Ghost Train turns 10 next year and you’ve put in so much time on the road over the last decade. How do you think touring has shaped the band? How do you feel it has worked to develop the chemistry between you, Mike and Brandon?

Aigh god, that seems like a lot longer than it feels. Feels like we’re still just getting started. Touring has definitely been the most rewarding part to this band. Despite all the bullshit and hard times we have gone through, when we step on stage it makes it all worthwhile. We have always believed that the live show is the most important expression of who a band is, and we have worked tirelessly on always making our show better. What better way to learn about the stage that we love so much than touring as much as possible? Touring has definitely made us realize who we are as a band and what we feel is most important to the existence of TMGT. Getting on stage is the only piece that no matter what always feels like the right choice to make. Bands that don’t play a lot of shows can’t ever find their true musical selves. Plus, if you never do it how could you possibly be that good at it?

How did “The Boogie Down” come about?

Very simply, I love hip-hop, and our bass player and drummer love to play funk. So we decided to mix the two together. The riff that the bass player and drummer play in that song is what they have always done on stage when my amp or pedalboard breaks and I have to fix shit. They would just break out into a funk jam, then when I got back up and running I would chime in. It was always fun to do live, so we decided to record it. Sonny Cheeba (the artist on that track) is also a Bronx native. I grew up listening to his group Camp Lo. So it was awesome to get to work with him in the studio. We recorded the album in Athens, GA, and he happened to be living in Atlanta at the time we recorded, so it just worked out nicely. We let him do his thing, while we did ours, it was fun to mix the two styles, and challenging for us. Something new and fun to do. Why not?

What was your time in the studio like making the album? It seems like you specifically varied the guitar tone more throughout the songs this time around. How important was it for you for Cypress Ave. to show multiple sides of the band?

Oh yes, different sounds on all the instruments as well as vocally, was very important for this album. The tones and vocals we used for Cold was the Ground or Buffalo would not work for these songs. I used probably 30 different amps throughout this album, plus I added a Gibson 335 to my arsenal, which was my main guitar on this album, instead of the Les Pauls I [have] normally used. Our previous albums just had one tone through the entire album: HEAVY. This album is just so dynamic throughout the record, with so many different style songs. Not one song sounds the same, so we wanted to make sure that neither did the instruments.

You’ve got the US tour coming up in August and September. Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?

Oh yes, we will also be touring the USA in October as well. We’re in the works of putting together a European tour which will be from the end of January through March. So keep an eye out for tour dates, ‘cause we’re going everywhere. Might even be paying a visit to South America, if things pan out. Our album is available for preorder right now at our website www.themidnightghosttrain.com. Enjoy the new album, I know we do.

Bonus question (asked before the Major League Baseball All-Star break): Do you think the Yankees actually have a shot at the division? Boston’s been coming on strong. Is the NYY collapse of the last couple weeks the true face of the team or just a temporary injury setback? What do you think of Judge and Sanchez in the Home Run Derby?

Absolutely they still have a chance, they have been plagued with injuries lately which is inevitable but still costly when you lose guys like Castro, Bird, Holliday, Hicks, Warren, and Sabbathia (who was on a fantastic roll). Boston is making a big push, they have great starting pitching, but hopefully at the trade deadline we get rid of Chris Carter and get someone like Eric Hosmer at first base, and pick up one more locked starter, because we can’t rely on Tanaka’s inconsistency to bring us the entire way. I’m stoked to see what Judge and Sanchez do, I think they will be fine, and they are good enough hitters that the myth of screwing up their swing won’t affect them. Judge is going to be the Rookie of the year, AL MVP, and triple crown winner. He’s taking it all. I haven’t seen the city buzz on anyone since Derek Jeter breaking in. Loving it.

The Midnight Ghost Train, “The Watchers Nest” lyric video

The Midnight Ghost Train on Thee Facebooks

The Midnight Ghost Train website

The Midnight Ghost Train on Twitter

The Midnight Ghost Train on Instagram

Napalm Records website

Napalm Records on Thee Facebooks

Tags: , , , , ,

Review & Video Premiere: The Midnight Ghost Train, Cypress Ave.

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Reviews on July 3rd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the-midnight-ghost-train-cypress-ave

[Watch the premiere of the lyric video for The Midnight Ghost Train’s ‘The Watchers Nest’ by clicking play above. Cypress Ave. is out July 28 via Napalm Records. Impending tour dates here.]

As the first preliminary details began to surface about Cypress Ave., Topeka, Kansas, heavy blues rockers The Midnight Ghost Train put word out to their listeners to expect something different on this, their fourth album and second for Napalm Records. Their tone was almost a warning more even than a general ‘heads up,’ and for a band who’ve spent the last decade stomping their way across the US and subsequently Europe and whose reputation has always been for a brash, gruff, and full-charged vision of heavy, it struck me as a decidedly human, near-insecure move; for the first time, The Midnight Ghost Train let themselves show some concern for how their work might be received by the audience they worked so hard to build. Clearly it was a warning to take seriously, and it’s one to which Cypress Ave. lives up.

The Midnight Ghost Train debuted on Napalm with 2015’s Cold was the Ground (review here), a mature celebration of what’s made them who they are throughout their career going back through offerings like 2012’s Buffalo (review here), their formative 2009 self-titled debut (review here) and 2008’s The Johnny Boy EP (review here), sounding very much like the payoff moment for a stylistic growth shaped by time on the road as much as an expanded writing palette from band spearhead/guitarist/vocalist Steve Moss. That payoff moment might actually be on Cypress Ave., which outdoes its predecessor in scope, presentation, and its overall level of daring, foreshadowing stylistic turns in opener “Tonight” that range from the melancholia of “The Watchers Nest” and “Black Wave” to the acoustic-centered, unabashed Tom Waits-ery of album centerpiece “Break My Love,” through the jangly spaciousness of “Lemon Trees” and a collaboration with rapper Sonny Cheeba on “The Boogie Down.”

The latter, though admirably funky and an honest acknowledgement of the influence of the various strains of traditionally African American music that have played out in The Midnight Ghost Train‘s sound in their nine years together, from roots-blues to modern hip-hop, is nonetheless the widest “departure” from the rest of the material here, pulling away from the fuzz that serves to unite varied-in-mood cuts like “Red Eyed Junkie Queen” (video premiere here), “The Echo” and “Glenn’s Promise.” And no doubt it’ll be a sticking point for some listeners — because even the threat of rap-rock crossover proved enough to do that even before internet racism was a thing — but on the most basic level, it’s an attempt by Moss, bassist Mike Boyne and drummer Brandon Burghart to shake things up and offer something genuinely unexpected. That doesn’t mean it’s not a head-turning change from the pastoral strum of “Lemon Trees” before it or the tense but quiet “Black Wave” after, but it does mean that that’s very likely the whole point of its being in the first place.

the midnight ghost train

And those of the band’s followers looking for a studio-born manifestation of the riotousness they’ve long been noted as bringing to the stage will find the bursts of energy throughout “Tonight” and “The Watchers Nest,” “The Echo,” “Red Eyed Junkie Queen” and “Bury Me Deep” residing in comfortable-enough terrain, though even these bring forth a style from The Midnight Ghost Train more given to holding its tension than exploding forth from it, showing the band ultimately as more dynamic even within what one might think of as their core sound than they’ve ever been before. To wit, the opening salvo of “Tonight,” “Red Eyed Junkie Queen,” “Glenn’s Promise” and “Bury Me Deep,” which, while basking in some of the most satisfying guitar tone this side of circa-1995 Kyuss — sounds like hyperbole; isn’t — spends as much time gritting its teeth and seething as it does outwardly raging. There’s plenty of rock to be had on Cypress Ave. — plenty — but it’s in the nuance and the sonic caveats that The Midnight Ghost Train define the work they’re doing.

It’s fair to think of that as new ground for them almost as much as “The Boogie Down,” but the point is that even as the band bounces through different styles en route through side B of the 52-minute/11-track outing toward six-minute closer “I Can’t Let You Go,” on which Boyne‘s tone shines nearly as much as that of Moss amid memorable repetitions of the title-line, and a not-in-anymore-of-a-rush-than-it-needs-to-be rhythm given due swing by Burghart, the shifts in aesthetic and the expansion of who they are as a band throughout Cypress Ave. has grown naturally out of what they’ve done prior. Are they consciously making the decision to try new things? Most definitely, but even that is a manifestation of the impulses under which they’ve always functioned. They are, as they warned, delivering something different. In this context and in the sheer front-to-back listening experience, they’re a richer group. They benefit from the chemistry they’ve hard won on tour and succeed in crafting a narrative for who they are that goes beyond the bull-in-a-china-shop raucousness of their earlier outings.

Cypress Ave., like Buffalo before it, touches on a definitive sense of place — its cover art helps in this — but it finds The Midnight Ghost Train pushing a more exploratory sensibility that nonetheless draws strength from its tones, the underlying songcraft and structures with which the songs are executed, and the performances throughout of MossBoyne and Burghart, who’ve never sounded more complete and realized as a group than they do here. That’s not to take anything away from their prior work at all or the steps Moss as the band’s founder has taken along the way, including on Cold was the Ground, but as the band approach the decade mark in 2018, one has to acknowledge the bravery in such decided, willful progression. It turns out taking chances suits The Midnight Ghost Train, and one hopes they continue to do so as they move inexorably forward from Cypress Ave. to whatever their next destination may be.

The Midnight Ghost Train, “Red Eyed Junkie Queen” official video

The Midnight Ghost Train on Thee Facebooks

The Midnight Ghost Train website

The Midnight Ghost Train on Twitter

The Midnight Ghost Train on Instagram

Napalm Records website

Napalm Records on Thee Facebooks

Tags: , , , , ,

The Midnight Ghost Train Premiere “Red Eyed Junkie Queen” Video

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

the midnight ghost train

I’m not even going to pretend like I haven’t heard it — wait until you get a load of the fucking tones The Midnight Ghost Train bring on Cypress Ave. Pure, dug-in weighted fuzz of the highest order. Guitarist/vocalist Steve Moss and bassist Mike Boyne bring a thickness and drummer Brandon Burghart makes it move, and together, the power trio offer not only a swap between moody, airy heavy blues and driving thrust like one can hear on “Red Eyed Junkie Queen” — premiering today in the new video below — but a more expansive aesthetic palette than ever, taking the go-go-go of 2015’s hands-up righteous Cold was the Ground (review here) and offering a multidirectional expansion of style, whether that’s in the grungy build of “The Watchers Nest,” the jangly meander of “Lemon Trees” or “The Boogie Down,” on which the band acts as a live funk backup for rapper Sonny Cheeba.

Yeah, shit gets pretty wild — and that’s not even to mention the brooding back end of Cypress Ave. with “Black Wave,” “The Echo” and “I Can’t Let You Go” — but that’s the idea as The Midnight Ghost Train willfully endeavor to take their sound places it’s never been before. “Red Eyed Junkie Queen” is the second song on the album behind opener the midnight ghost train cypress ave.“Tonight,” and is more in line with what their audience might expect of them, but even in its tense verses and in Moss‘ post-Tom Waits lyrical storytelling — see also “Break My Love” later on — they give a sense of the wider sonic berth the record will cast as it continues to unfold. Bolstered by a speedy tempo and a catchy hook that sets its place and its character both down and dirty, the track rushes through its four-minute runtime and helps continue the momentum set by the opener with a richness of groove that continues through the rest of the opening salvo in “Glenn’s Promise” and “Bury Me Deep.”

Bottom line, I suppose, is that “Red Eyed Junkie Queen” doesn’t necessarily speak for the whole of Cypress Ave., but neither is it intended to do so. The video takes us inside the studio with The Midnight Ghost Train as they record the album, tracking live and playing through the process by which these songs came together. One can only wonder if as they filmed it just how much the results of their efforts would stand apart from everything they’ve done before.

The Midnight Ghost Train release Cypress Ave. this July 28 via Napalm Records, and as they will, the band hit the road in August for a lengthy US tour. More info from the PR wire and live dates follow the clip below.

Please enjoy:

The Midnight Ghost Train, “Red Eyed Junkie Queen” official video

Pre-order “Cypress Ave.” now: http://smarturl.it/CypressAve-NPR

Out July 28!

THE MIDNIGHT GHOST TRAIN keeps rollin’ along, spewing exhaust along sandy desert roads, and filling lungs with dust: now with their fourth opus ‘Cypress Ave.’ this impulsive trifecta torch dark’n’dirty Southern Rock with a hefty portion of Sludge and Funk. Seared by the Sunflower State of Kansas, their organic and authentic sound lives in the musics throaty vocals, deep lyrics, melancholic melodies and forceful, shaky riffs. Roaring amps plow through eardrums as if they were earth, dry as a bone. Highlight: the fruity-fresh “The Boogie Down [feat. Sonny Cheeba]”. Honest, straight-forward and peppered with woefulness. An absolute must for blues-fans!

The Midnight Ghost Train live:
Aug 24 2017 The Grotto Ft Worth, TX
Aug 25 2017 Swan Dive Austin, TX
Aug 26 2017 Boom Boom Room Lafayette, LA
Aug 27 2017 Siberia New Orleans, LA
Aug 28 2017 TBA Jackson, MS
Aug 29 2017 TBA Hattiesburg, MS
Aug 30 2017 TBA Muscle Shoals, AL
Aug 31 2017 Handlebar Pensacola, FL
Sep 1 2017 Snug Harbor Charlotte, NC
Sep 2 2017 Masquerade w/ Camp Lo Atlanta, GA
Sep 3 2017 Banditos Richmond, VA
Sep 6 2017 TBA Baltimore, MD
Sep 7 2017 Atlas Brew Works Washington, D.C.
Sep 8 2017 Kung Fu Necktie Philadelphia, PA
Sep 9 2017 Gold Sounds Brooklyn, NY
Sep 10 2017 TBA Connecticut
Sep 11 2017 Firehouse 13 Providence, RI
Sep 12 2017 O’Brien’s Pub Boston, MA
Sep 13 2017 TBA Rochester, NY
Sep 14 2017 TBA Cleveland, OH
Sep 15 2017 Radio Radio Indianapolis, IN
Sep 16 2017 The Rockery Detroit, MI
Sep 17 2017 TBA Kalamazoo, MI
Sep 18 2017 Frequency Madison, WI
Sep 19 2017 Gasoline Green Bay, WI
Sep 20 2017 The Lift Dubuque, IA
Sep 21 2017 Reggie’s Music Joint Chicago, IL
Sep 22 2017 Green Lantern Lexington, KY
Sep 23 2017 Southgate House Revival Newport, KY
Sep 24 2017 TBA Nashville, TN
Sep 25 2017 TBA Charleston, SC
Sep 26 2017 TBA Raleigh, NC
Sep 27 2017 The Empty Bottle Charleston, WV
Sep 28 2017 The Buzzbin Shop Canton, OH
Sep 29 2017 Blind Bob’s Dayton, OH
Sep 30 2017 Descendants of Crom Fest Pittsburgh, PA

The Midnight Ghost Train on Thee Facebooks

The Midnight Ghost Train website

The Midnight Ghost Train on Twitter

The Midnight Ghost Train on Instagram

Napalm Records website

Napalm Records on Thee Facebooks

Tags: , , , , ,