Quarterly Review: Ecstatic Vision, Norska, Bison, Valborg, Obelyskkh, Earth Electric, Olde, Deaf Radio, Saturndust, Birnam Wood

Posted in Reviews on July 14th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-summer-2017

It turns out that, yes indeed, I will be able to add another day to the Quarterly Review this coming Monday. Stoked on that. Means I’ll be trying to cram another 10 reviews into this coming weekend, but that’s not exactly a hardship as I see it, and the stuff I have picked out for it is, frankly, as much of a bonus for me as it could possibly be for anyone else, so yeah, look out for that. In the meantime, we wrap the Monday-to-Friday span of 50 records today with another swath of what’s basically me doing favors for my ears, and I hope as always for yours as well. Let’s dig in.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Ecstatic Vision, Raw Rock Fury

ecstatic-vision-raw-rock-fury

Hard touring and a blistering debut in 2015’s Sonic Praise (review here) quickly positioned Ecstatic Vision at the forefront of a Philadelphia-based mini-boom in heavy psych (see also: Ruby the Hatchet, Meddlesome Meddlesome Meddlsome Bells, and so on), and their Relapse-issued follow-up, Raw Rock Fury, only delves further into unmitigated cosmic swirl and space-rocking crotchal thrust. The now-foursome keep a steady ground in percussion and low end even as guitar, sax, synth and echoing vocals seem to push ever more far-out, and across the record’s four tracks – variously broken up across two sides – the band continue to stake out their claim on the righteously psychedelic, be it in the all-go momentum building of “You Got it (Or You Don’t)” or the more drifting opening movement of closer “Twinkling Eye.” Shit is trippy, son. With the echoing-from-the-depths shouts of Doug Sabolik cutting through, there’s still an edge of Eastern Seaboard intensity to Ecstatic Vision, but that only seems to make Raw Rock Fury live up to its title all the more. Still lots of potential here, but it’ll be their third record that tells the tale of whether they can truly conquer space itself.

Ecstatic Vision on Thee Facebooks

Ecstatic Vision at Relapse Records website

 

Norska, Too Many Winters

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Issued through Brutal Panda, Too Many Winters is the second full-length from Portland five-piece Norska, and its six tracks/48 minutes would seem to pick up where Rwake left off in presenting a progressive vision of what might be called post-sludge. Following an engaging 2011 self-titled debut, songs like the title-track and “This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” churn and careen through Sourvein-style abrasion, vaguely Neurosis-style nod and, in the case of the latter or closer “Fire Patience Backbone,” soundscaping minimalism that, in the finale, is bookended by some of the record’s most intense push following opener “Samhain” and the subsequent “Eostre.” That salvo starts Too Many Winters with a deceptive amount of thrust, but even there atmosphere is central as it is to the outing as a whole, and a penultimate interlude in the 2:22 “Wave of Regrets” does well to underscore the point before the fading-in initial onslaught of “Fire Patience Backbone.” Having Aaron Rieseberg of YOB in the lineup with Jim Lowder, Dustin Rieseberg, Rob Shaffer and Jason Oswald no doubt draws eyes their way, but Norska’s sonic persona is distinct, immersive and individualized enough to stand on its own well beyond that pedigree.

Norska on Thee Facebooks

Norska at Brutal Panda Records website

 

Bison, You are Not the Ocean You are the Patient

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Think about the two choices. You are Not the Ocean You are the Patient. Isn’t it the difference between something acting – i.e., an object – and something acted upon – i.e., a subject? As British Columbian heavy rockers Bison return after half a decade via Pelagic Records, their fourth album seems to find them trying to push beyond genre lines into a broader scope. “Until the Earth is Empty,” “Drunkard,” “Anti War” and “Raiigin” still have plenty of thrust, but the mood here is darker even than 2012’s Lovelessness found the four-piece, and “Tantrum” and closer “The Water Becomes Fire” bring out a more methodical take. It’s been 10 years since Bison issued their debut Earthbound EP and signed to Metal Blade for 2008’s Quiet Earth, and the pre-Red Fang party-ready heavy rock of those early works is long gone – one smiles to remember “These are My Dress Clothes” in the context of noise-rocking centerpiece “Kenopsia” here, the title of which refers to the emptiness of a formerly occupied space – but if the choice Bison are making is to place themselves on one side or the other of the subject/object divide, they prove to be way more ocean than patient in these songs.

Bison on Thee Facebooks

Bison at Pelagic Records website

 

Valborg, Endstrand

valborg-endstrand

With its churning, swirling waves of cosmic death, one almost expects Valborg’s Endstrand (on Lupus Lounge/Prophecy Productions) to be more self-indulgent than it is, but one of the German trio’s greatest assets across the 13-track/44-minute span of their sixth album is its immediacy. The longest song, “Stossfront,” doesn’t touch five minutes, and from the 2:14 opener “Jagen” onward, Valborg reenvision punk rock as a monstrous, consuming beast on songs like “Blut am Eisen,” “Beerdigungsmaschine,” “Alter,” “Atompetze” and closer “Exodus,” all the while meting put punishment after punishment of memorable post-industrial riffing on “Orbitalwaffe,” the crashing “Ave Maria” and the noise-soaked penultimate “Strahlung,” foreboding creeper atmospherics on “Bunkerluft” and “Geisterwürde,” and landmark, perfectly-paced chug on “Plasmabrand.” Extreme in its intent and impact, Endstrand brings rare clarity to an anti-genre vision of brutality as an art form, and at any given moment, its militaristic threat feels real, sincere and like an appropriate and righteous comment on the terrors of our age. Fucking a.

Valborg on Thee Facebooks

Valborg at Prophecy Productions website

 

Obelyskkh, The Providence

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Probably fair to call the current status of German post-doomers Obelyskkh in flux following the departure of guitarist Stuart West, but the band has said they’ll keep going and their fourth album, The Providence (on Exile on Mainstream) finds them capping one stage of their tenure with a decidedly forward-looking perspective. Its six-song/56-minute run borders on unmanageable, but that’s clearly the intent, and an air of proggy weirdness infects The Providence from the midsection of its opening title-track onward as the band – West, guitarist/vocalist Woitek Broslowski, bassist Seb Fischer and drummer Steve Paradise – tackle King Crimson rhythmic nuance en route to an effects-swirling vision of Lovecraftian doomadelia and massive roll. Cuts like “Raving Ones” and 13-minute side B leadoff “NYX” play out with a similarly deceptive multifaceted vibe, and by the time the penultimate “Aeons of Iconoclasm” bursts outward from its first half’s spacious minimalism into all-out High on Fire thrust ahead of the distortion-soaked churn of closer “Marzanna” – which ends, appropriately, with laughter topping residual effects noise – Obelyskkh make it abundantly clear anything goes. The most impressive aspect of The Providence is that Obelyskkh manage to control all this crunching chaos, and one hopes that as they continue forward, they’ll hold firm to that underlying consciousness.

Obelyskkh on Thee Facebooks

Exile on Mainstream Records website

 

Earth Electric, Vol. 1: Solar

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Former Mayhem/Aura Noir guitarist Rune “Blasphemer” Ericksen leads breadth-minded Portuguese four-piece Earth Electric, and their devil-in-the-details Season of Mist debut, Vol. 1: Solar, runs a prog-metal gamut across a tightly-woven nine tracks and 35 minutes, Ericksen’s vocals and those of Carmen Susana Simões (Moonspell, ex-Ava Inferi) intertwine fluidly at the forefront of sharply angular riffing and rhythmic turns from bassist Alexandre Ribeiro and drummer Ricardo Martins. The organ-laced push of “Meditate Meditate” and “Solar” and the keyboard flourish of “Earthrise” (contributed by Dan Knight) draw as much from classic rock as metal, but the brew Earth Electric crafts from them is potent and very much the band’s own. “The Great Vast” and the shorter “Set Sail (Towards the Sun)” set up a direct flow into the title cut, and as one returns to Earth Electric for repeat listens, the actual scope of the album and the potential for how the band might continue to develop are likewise expansive, despite its many pulls into torrents of head-down riffing. Almost intimidating in its refusal to bow to genre.

Earth Electric on Thee Facebooks

Earth Electric at Season of Mist website

 

Olde, Temple

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After debuting in 2014 with I (review here), Toronto’s Olde return via STB Records with Temple, proffering sludge-via-doom vibes and a center of weighted tonality around which the rest of their aesthetic would seem to be built, vocalist Doug McLarty’s throaty growls alternately cutting through and buried by the riffs of guitarists Greg Dawson (also production) and Chris “Hippy” Hughes, the bass of Cory McCallum and the rolling crashes of drummer Ryan Aubin (also of Sons of Otis) on tightly constructed pieces like “Now I See You” and the tempo-shifting “Centrifugal Disaster,” which reminds by its finish that sometimes all you need is nod. Olde have more to offer than just that, of course, as the plodding spaciousness of “The Ghost Narrative” and the lumbering “Maelstrom” demonstrate, but even in the turns between crush and more open spaces of the centerpiece title-track and the drifting post-heavy rock of closer “Castaway,” the underlying focus is on capital-‘h’ Heavy, and Olde wield it as only experts can.

Olde on Thee Facebooks

STB Records webstore

 

Deaf Radio, Alarm

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Based in Athens and self-releasing their debut album, Alarm, in multiple vinyl editions, the four-piece of Panos Gklinos, Dimitris Sakellariou, Antonis Mantakas and George Diathesopoulos – collectively known as Deaf Radio – make no bones about operating in the post-Queens of the Stone Age/Them Crooked Vultures sphere of heavy rock. To their credit, the songwriting throughout “Aggravation,” “Vultures and Killers” and the careening “Revolving Doors” lives up to that standard, and though even the later “Oceanic Feeling” seems to be informed by the methods of Josh Homme, there’s a melodic identity there that belongs more to Deaf Radio as well, and keeping Alarm in mind as their first long-player, it’s that identity that one hopes the band will continue to develop. Rounding out side B with the howling guitar and Rated R fuzz of the six-minute “…And We Just Pressed the Alarm Button,” Deaf Radio build to a suitable payoff for the nine-track outing and affirm the aesthetic foundation they’ve laid for themselves.

Deaf Radio on Thee Facebooks

Deaf Radio on Bandcamp

 

Saturndust, RLC

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The further you go into Saturndust’s 58-minute second LP RLC, the more there is to find. At any given moment, the São Paulo, Brazil-based outfit can be playing to impulses ranging from proggy space rock, righteously doomed tonal heft, aggressive blackened thrust or spacious post-sludge – in one song. Over longform cuts like “Negative-Parallel Dimensional,” “RLC,” “Time Lapse of Existence” and closer “Saturn 12.C,” the trio cast a wide-enough swath to be not quite genreless but genuinely multi-tiered and not necessarily as disjointed as one might expect in their feel, and though when they want to, they roll out massive, lumbering riffs, that’s only one tool in a full arsenal at their apparent disposal. What tie RLC together are the sure hands of guitarist/vocalist Felipe Dalam, bassist Guilherme Cabral and drummer Douglas Oliveira guiding it, so that when the galloping-triplet chug of “Time Lapse of Existence” hits, it works as much in contrast to the synth-loaded “Titan” preceding as in conjunction with it. Rather than summarize, “Saturn 12.C” pushes far out on a wash of Dalam’s keyboards before a wide-stomping apex, seeming to take Saturndust to their farthest point beyond the stratosphere yet. Safe travels and many happy returns.

Saturndust on Thee Facebooks

Saturndust on Bandcamp

 

Birnam Wood, Triumph of Death

birnam wood triumph of death

Massachusetts doomers Birnam Wood have two prior EPs under their collective belt in 2015’s Warlord and a 2014 self-titled, but the two-songer single Triumph of Death (kudos on the Hellhammer reference) is my first exposure to their blend of modern progressive metal melody and traditional doom. They roll out both in able fashion on the single’s uptempo opening title-track and follow with the BlackSabbath-“Black-Sabbath” sparse notemaking early in their own “Birnam Wood.” All told, Triumph of Death is only a little over nine minutes long, but it makes for an encouraging sampling of Birnam Wood’s wares all the same, and as Dylan Edwards, Adam McGrath, Shaun Anzalone and Matt Wagner shift into faster swing circa the eponymous tune’s solo-topped midpoint, they do so with a genuine sense of homage that does little to take away from the sense of individuality they’ve brought to the style even in this brief context. They call it stoner metal, and there’s something to that, but if we’re going on relative balance, Triumph of Death is more doom-stoner than stoner-doom, and it revels within that niche-within-a-niche-within-a-niche sensibility.

Birnam Wood on Thee Facebooks

Birnam Wood on Bandcamp

 

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Bison to Release You are Not the Ocean You are the Patient this Summer

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 10th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

bison

Five years after their third full-length, Lovelessness, Vancouver, British Columbia’s Bison return on Pelagic Records with the cumbersomely-named fourth outing, You are Not the Ocean You are the Patient. The band mark a decade since their first EP this year as well — their debut album, Quiet Earth, was released by Metal Blade in 2008, and Dark Ages (review here) followed in 2010 — so it’s a prolonged absence from which they return even when one factors in the 2014 One Thousand Needles two-songer. As to how that might’ve affected their sound one way or the other, the new album seems to be… gray? I don’t know. We’ll see, I suppose.

Preorders are up and they have a teaser posted now for You are Not the Ocean You are the Patient that doesn’t tell much more than the artwork, but if you want to set a mood, it seems to do that well enough. Check it out:

bison-you-are-not-the-ocean-you-are-the-patient

BISON: Vancouver Metal Veterans To Release You Are Not The Ocean You Are The Patient Full-Length Via Pelagic Records; Teaser Posted, Preorders Available + Tour Dates Announced

Vancouver metal veterans BISON are making a devastating return with their brand-new album, You Are Not The Ocean You Are The Patient.

Set for release in Europe on June 23rd followed by a North American release on July 7th, the crushing new offering follows the band’s 2014-issued 1000 Needles EP and serves as their first full-length to include bassist Shane Clark, former lead guitarist of 3 Inches Of Blood, who joined the band following their Lovelessness full-length (2012, Metal Blade).

“It was important that the songs fit together to tell a bit of a story,” relays guitarist and vocalist James Farwell, “a story of a new life and escaping the city, while still being tethered to it. Life is a constant fight, and though I have taken the fight to a more natural and beautiful place, that struggle persists. This is an album of daily living. It is for everyone.”

BISON’s You Are Not The Ocean You Are The Patient was captured in the band’s hometown with long time friend Jesse Gander at Rain City Recorders. “I wanted to also steep myself in music that was not necessarily heavy in the obvious sense,” Farwell continues, “so I was listening to lots of blues while writing the album: Peter Green, Muddy Waters, and Howlin’ Wolf. There was also lots of instrumental rock music playing on my long commutes to Vancouver for work and rehearsals.”

“The new songs still sound like ‘us,’ whatever that means,” vocalist Dan And adds, “but we aren’t concerned with shying away from whatever influences creep up. The older we get and the longer we play together, the less we give a shit about trying to sound like anything in particular.”

You Are Not The Ocean You Are The Patient will be available on CD, vinyl and digital formats. For CD preorders point your browser to THIS LOCATION. For vinyl, go HERE. For US orders go to THIS LOCATION.

You Are Not The Ocean You Are The Patient Track Listing:
1. Until The Earth Is Empty
2. Anti War
3. Drunkard
4. Kenopsia
5. Tantrum
6. Raiigin
7. Water Becomes Fire

BISON will embark upon a short run of Canadian dates next month with additional live incursions to be announced in the coming weeks.

BISON:
6/09/2017 The Palomino – Calgary, AB
6/10/2017 The Capitol – Saskatoon, SK
6/11/2017 The Windsor Hotel – Winnipeg, MB
6/12/2017 The Exchange – Regina, SK
6/13/2017 The Vat – Red Deer, AB
6/14/2017 Brixx – Edmonton, AB
6/16/2017 The Rickshaw – Vancouver, BC

You are not the ocean. You do not orchestrate a beautiful cacophony of life and death, struggle and destruction, creation and dependence. You are not the sole reason for the existence of nation of creatures to live and abide by your stark and simple rules. You are not married to the moon. You do not allow the constellations to be moon. You do not allow the constellations to be your map. You do not destroy cities and drown your map. You do not destroy cities and drown their citizens. You do not embrace land’s golden their citizens. You do not embrace land’s golden hem as your child, with calm and tenderness. You do not crash and spray craggy shores with fury and passion. You are not unstoppable. You are not powerful. You are not necessary.

You are the patient. You are controlled. You are cared for. You are maintained with medicines and examinations. You are met with cold hands and protocol. Your most with cold hands and protocol. Your most intimate self is put on a form. You are questioned about pains and thoughts. You are dependent on those with knowledge. You are helpless. You are tired and bed ridden. You do no harm and you do not help. You are monitored and caged. You are kept away from others. You are contaminated. You are sick. You are keeping yourself sick. You do not know how to recover. You do not want to recover. You do not know what recovery is.

http://www.facebook.com/bisonbc
http://www.pelagic-records.com
http://www.facebook.com/pelagicrecords

Bison, You are Not the Ocean You are the Patient album teaser

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The Obelisk Radio Adds: Tia Carrera, Humulus, King Buffalo, Telekinetic Yeti, High Plains

Posted in Radio on April 10th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk radio cavum

You may or may not be overly concerned to find out, but we’re still running on the backup server for The Obelisk Radio while the data is transferred to the new hard drive. Judging by the number of listeners at any given point, you’re not. The numbers are still pretty good. Nonetheless, I cannot express the depth of my appreciation to Slevin for sorting out this mess. I had no idea when I hit him up on a Sunday to be like, “Uh, the stream is down” that it would be a project requiring more than a month of his valuable time. Dude is a godsend. I should send him a cheese basket.

Instead, he gets a zip file with the following releases to add to that temporary stream (they’ll go on the new server as well when that’s operational). Because I am a shitty friend, and because cheese baskets are expensive as hell. Let’s do this.

The Obelisk Radio Adds for April 10, 2017:

Tia Carrera, Laid Back (Frontside Rock ‘n’ Roll)

tia-carrera-laid-back-front-side-rock-and-roll

It’s been a hot minute since last we heard from Austin, Texas, three-piece instrumentalists Tia Carrera. The last offering the heavy psych jammers had out with a 2013 vinyl edition (review here) of their 2011 full-length, Cosmic Priestess (review here). So upwards of six years, if you want to go by the original release date of what was their second album for Small Stone Records. They reportedly have a new one coming this Fall, so one might think of the nine-and-half-minute single “Laid Back (Frontside Rock ‘n’ Roll),” which was recorded live this past January with the lineup of guitarist Jason Morales, bassist Curt Christiansen and drummer Erik Conn, as a lead-in for that. True, Tia Carrera haven’t been completely absent — they played Psycho Las Vegas in 2016 and one sees their name on various SXSW bills each year — but either way, it’s a welcome studio return from a band who were ahead of the post-Earthless curve that has swelled further out West, and who, despite a kind of raw, garage-style recording here, nonetheless showcase the chemistry and fluidity that separated them from the pack to start with. As the title promises, the jam is laid back, rife with swirling guitar, winding basslines and drumming that, while propulsive doesn’t take away from the languid overarching vibe. They’ve made the song a name-your-price download, so all the better should you be inclined to dig in. And you should be.

Tia Carrera on Thee Facebooks

Small Stone Records website

 

Humulus,Reverently Heading into Nowhere

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With nodding groove, fuzzed tonality and, for good measure, flourish of psychedelia, Brescia, Italy, trio Humulus may be working amid familiar elements on their second long-player, Reverently Heading into Nowhere (on Taxi Driver and Oak Island Records), but the results are impeccably constructed. The album, which follows their 2015 Electric Warlrus EP (review here) and 2012 self-titled debut, offers six tracks that carefully balance atmosphere and heft, cuts like “Catskull” digging into classic desert rock sensibilities via the modern European approach of a band like 1000mods while longer pieces like opener “Distant Deeps or Skies,” “Anachronaut” and the 11-minute finale “Rama Kushna” save room for increasingly expansive jamming, the latter the most spacious of all with floating guitar over a satisfyingly warm bass in its midsection leading to an instrumental apex that, while predictable, is no less engaging for that upon its arrival. Even shorter pieces like “The Gold Rush” and “The Great Hunt” find a balance between rolling rhythm and broader psychedelic consciousness, and when guitarist/vocalist Andrea Van Cleef, bassist Giorgio Bonacorsi and drummer Massimiliano Boventi lock into a slowdown, as at the end of “The Great Hunt” or in the Snail-esque “Anachronaut” earlier, the effect is duly massive to fit with the rhinoceros on the album’s cover. Their reverence is palpable, and throughout the 43-minute outing, Humulus make it plain that wherever they’re actually heading, they welcome their audience to come along for the trip.

Humulus on Thee Facebooks

Taxi Driver Records webstore

Oak Island Records on Thee Facebooks

 

King Buffalo, Live at Wicked Squid Studios (6.16.16)

king-buffalo-live-at-wicked-squid-studios

It’s nothing more or less than a live set, but as King Buffalo have already wrapped a round of US touring and were recently announced as support for Stickman Records labelmates Elder on their next European run, it seems only fair to grab the name-your-price Live at Wicked Squid Studios (6.16.16) while the grabbing’s good and consider the four-track/29-minute release a document of their chemistry as a live band as they marked the release of their debut album, Orion (review here), last summer. Not everything they play comes from that record — “New Time” was featured on their 2015 STB Records split with Lé Betre (review here) — but in their tone, breadth and expanse, they represent the full-length all the same. The psychedelic wash of “New Time” leads the way out of opener “Orion” and into a one-two medley of “Kerosene / Goliath Pt. 2,” and they finish by setting the controls for the heart of a nine-minute rendition of “Drinking from the River Rising,” which also closed Orion and proves no less immersive in this setting than it did on the studio offering. I’ve made no secret of the potential that I think resides in the Rochester, NY, three-piece, and as they move further into becoming a touring band, they’re only doing the work of bringing that potential to life. It may be that at some point we’ll look back on Live at Wicked Squid Studios as a kind of primitive beginning — I don’t want to predict where they’ll go or how their sound will continue to develop — but even so, it’s fortunate that we’ll have it to look back on at all.

King Buffalo on Thee Facebooks

Stickman Records website

 

Telekinetic Yeti, Abominable

telekinetic yeti abominable

This shit is like catnip for riff-hounds. Iowan two-piece Telekinetic Yetstoner-march their way into the hearts and minds of the converted and onto the list of 2017’s best debuts with Abominable (on Sump Pump Records), a clean eight-track/41-minute long-player marked out by its tonal thickness and shifts between using it for Sleep-style roll and fuzzier fare, perhaps most directly and efficiently summarized on the single “Stoned and Feathered,” but in fluid proportion throughout cuts like the lumbering “Lightbearer” and the neo-stoner-delic chug of “Beneath the Black Sun” as well. Comprised just of guitarist/vocalist Alex Baumann and drummer Anthony Dreyer — though I’ll be damned if somebody isn’t playing bass on “Electronaut” — Telekinetic Yeti seem to burst out of the gate with a solid idea of who their audience is and what their audience wants, and to their credit, they deliver just that and have been met with a flurry of hyperbole for their efforts. I can’t really argue with the heft or cohesion of the material on Abominable, and the willingness on the part of Baumann and Dreyer to inject some atmospheric depth into the aptly-named nine-minute tour de force “Colossus” and closer “Himalayan Hymn” bodes well for their chances of leaving a mark over the longer term, even if there’s growing to be done before they get there. Still, as their first time out, Telekinetic Yeti‘s Abominable signals a righteousness of intent and wholly succeeds in capturing the attention it plainly seeks. The next few years will write their story, but if these guys take this show on the road, they could indeed turn into a monster.

Telekinetic Yeti on Thee Facebooks

Sump Pump Records on Bandcamp

 

High Plains, Cinderland

high plains cinderland

The story goes that Cinderland was recorded in Wyoming in a refurbished schoolhouse by the duo of ambient multi-instrumentalist Scott Morgan and classical cellist Mark Bridges — working together under the moniker High Plains — and composed very much with that high-altitude, utterly empty landscape in mind. Represented in a pervasive minimalism that makes every swell of volume on “The Dusk Pines” stand out and shifts between piano, cello, guitar, drone and electronics cinematic in their drama like the soundtrack to one of those foreboding Westerns where nobody talks because they’re afraid that if the earth hears them speak it will open up and swallow them whole — which it might — it is an immersive, resolutely melancholy execution across nine tracks and 36 minutes that is likewise stark and beautiful. “A White Truck” and “Hypoxia” carry some nuance of the paranoid, but there’s resolution in “Blood that Ran the Rapids” and “Song for a Last Night” that, like the high desert itself, teems with life while giving the impression of being a void for the lack of human presence. Mood-affecting in its atmospherics, Cinderland draws the listener into this world that is both gorgeous and threatening, and fits itself to the narrative that birthed it with resonance and depth. One hopes it is not a one-off collaboration between the Canadian Morgan and Wisconsin-based Bridges and that wherever their next trip together takes them — go to New Mexico! — they’re able to likewise capture the setting in such evocative fashion.

High Plains on Thee Facebooks

Kranky Records on Bandcamp

 

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Quarterly Review: Alcest, Galley Beggar, Pontiak, White Light Cemetery, Fever Dog, Duel, Seven Nines and Tens, Automatic Sam, The Next Appointed Hour, Blown Out

Posted in Reviews on March 29th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

cropped-Charles-Meryon-Labside-Notre-Dame-1854

Always a special moment in the Quarterly Review when we pass the halfway mark. That’s where today’s batch brings us, and in rocking style as well. You might say I’ve been taking it easy on myself with the selections this time out — albums there’s plenty to say on and generally good stuff — but the basic fact of the matter is even with 50 reviews in a week, this is still just a fraction of what’s out there and still just a fraction of what I’d cover if I had the time. I couldn’t in terms of my own sanity, but one could probably do 10 reviews a day every day of the year and still have room for more. I do the best I can. Picking and choosing is a part of that process. Let’s get to it.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Alcest, Kodama

alcest kodama

After the bold departure presented in 2014’s Shelter (review here) toward even-airier, more indie-hued fare, French post-black metal innovators Alcest make a no-less-bold return to their core sound – screams included, as they’re quick to show on “Eclosion” – with 2016’s Kodama (on Prophecy Productions). It’s a less progressive move, and for that distinct in Alcest’s discography, but one can’t argue with their execution of a track like “Je Suis d’Ailleurs” and the immediately recognizable melodic wash they craft, as resonant emotionally as it is heavy in its tone. Most of the six cuts seem contented to have (re-)found their place, but “Onyx” finishes out with just under four minutes of layered guitar droning, and so Alcest seem to tease that perhaps they’re not completely ready to settle the issue of their aesthetic just yet. One hopes that’s the case, and in the meantime, the reorientation that Kodama brings with it should no doubt please those longtime fans who bristled at the turn they made their last time out.

Alcest on Thee Facebooks

Prophecy Productions on Bandcamp

 

Galley Beggar, Heathen Hymns

galley-beggar-heathen-hymns

Galley Beggar’s fourth offering and second for Rise Above, Heathen Hymns, brings 42-minutes of the traditional acid folk one has come to expect from them over the last half-decade plus, no less graceful in its melodies, harmonies and weaving into and out of psychedelia, Eastern inflections on the sitar-laced “The Lake” and cleverly rhythmic in the post-rocking electric flourish of “Let No Man Steal Your Thyme.” Knowing what to expect, however, does nothing to diminish the joy of the listening experience. Rather, the return of Galley Beggar’s fluid string and/or more rock-based arrangements, memorable songcraft and gorgeous vocal treatments is welcome, and perhaps most of all on closer “My Return,” which draws their multiple sides together in a cohesive vision of futures past that only benefits from the maturity they’ve grown into. With poise as a defining feature as much as their British folk stylistic lineage, Galley Beggar remain a special outfit doing deeply individualized and satisfying work.

Galley Beggar on Thee Facebooks

Rise Above Records website

 

Pontiak, Dialectic of Ignorance

pontiak-dialectic-of-ignorance

A steady foundation of low-end drone underpins songs like “Ignorance Makes Me High” and “Hidden Prettiness” on Pontiak’s Dialectic of Ignorance (released via Thrill Jockey), and though they move away from it somewhat in the more active freakout “Dirtbags,” the patience shown by the Virginian trio forms a key part of the album’s personality. To wit, they open with “Easy Does It,” essentially telling their listener their intention for what will ensue throughout the eight-track/46-minute offering. Brothers Jennings, Van and Lain Carney bring forth willful drift in that opener and across the percussive-but-still-shoegazing “Tomorrow is Forgetting,” finding an organ-laced folkadelic middle ground later in “Youth and Age” and punctuating the dreamy harmonized gorgeousness of “Herb is My Next Door Neighbor” with fervent tom runs and ping ride before closer “We’ve Fucked this Up” starts out amid blistering chaos only to smooth itself as it goes. Serene and somewhat moody to the same degree their last outing, 2014’s Innocence, was raw, Dialectic of Ignorance carries the feel of a personal journey undertaken, but is ultimately too warm in tone and melody not to welcome its audience to be a part of that as well.

Pontiak on Thee Facebooks

Pontiak at Thrill Jockey Records

 

White Light Cemetery, Careful What You Wish For

white-light-cemetery-careful-what-you-wish-for

Nearing the mark of their first decade together, Louisiana Southern heavy four-piece White Light Cemetery issue their second full-length, Careful What You Wish For, through Ripple Music and keep a steady focus on songcraft throughout. Heavy riffs, a bit of boogie on “Sky River” and the stomping “Better Days,” boozy Southern-isms on the directly countrified “On a Dime” and a cowbell-infused finish with “Bullet to Erase” – it’s only fair to say White Light Cemetery hit all the marks. The beery post-Deliverance execution of “Looking Out (For Number One)” will likely ring familiar to many who take it on, but that’s the idea, as vocalist/guitarist Shea Bearden, guitarist Ryan Robin, bassist Tara Miller and drummer Thomas Colley are clearly less concerned with reinventing rock in their own image than honoring the pantheon of those who’ve come before them in the style. Hard to argue with the ethic preached or the dual-guitar harmonies of “Quit Work, Make Music,” though the record as a whole seems awfully “workingman’s rock” for any such bohemian aspirations.

White Light Cemetery on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

 

Fever Dog, Mainframe

fever dog mainframe

It’s been three years since next-gen Californian desert trio Fever Dog released their last album, Second Wind (review here), which was long on potential, big on songwriting and resonant in vibe. I’d been hoping for a third long-player in 2017, but even the arrival of new single Mainframe – which of course doesn’t preclude a subsequent album release – is fine by me, the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Danny Graham, bassist Nathan Wood and drummer/organist/synthesist/vocalist Joshua Adams digging into progressive vibes on the title-track and the subsequent, talkbox-inclusive “Let Me Out.” I don’t know if they’re planning to press a 7” – somebody call H42 Records! – but the cover art certainly justifies one if the songs themselves don’t (and they do), and the name-your-price download comes with the raw 19-minute classic heavy rock jam “Alpha Waves Medley Live at Club 5,” which emits buzz like it’s a bootleg from 1973. If Mainframe is the process of Fever Dog getting weirder, it bodes well. All the more reason one might keep their fingers crossed for a new full-length.

Fever Dog on Thee Facebooks

Fever Dog on Bandcamp

 

Duel, Witchbanger

duel witchbanger

“If you see him it’s much too late/Close your eyes, girl, accept your fate.” So goes the title-track hook of Duel’s Witchbanger, the Austin-based rockers’ second album for Heavy Psych Sounds. Released on a quick turnaround from last year’s debut, Fears of the Dead (review here), the eight-track/34-minute swaggerfest delves into fantasy themes drawn from classic metal – hard not to look at six-minute closer “Tigers and Rainbows” and not think of Dio, at least thematically – but cuts like “Astro Gypsy” and “Heart of the Sun” in the record’s midsection build on the ‘70s loyalism of the first outing and find guitarist/vocalist Tom Frank, guitarist Jeff Henson, bassist/vocalist Shaun Avants and drummer JD Shadowz clear in their intentions in that regard. Though it takes a sizable grain of salt to get over that title, Duel’s heavy rock traditionalism comes complemented by efficient songwriting and a natural-sounding recording that’s neither completely retro nor totally modern but draws strength and fullness from both sides. A worthy and rousing follow-up.

Duel on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds website

 

Seven Nines and Tens, Set the Controls for the Heart of the Slums

seven-nines-and-tens-set-the-controls-for-the-heart-of-the-slums

If the dates are to be believed, the second full-length from Vancouver’s Seven Nines and Tens, cleverly-titled Set the Controls for the Heart of the Slums, has roots going back to 2014, when basic live tracks were recorded and subsequently built on for about two years. Indeed, the four-song offering – whose tracks “I Come from Downtown,” “Metropolis Noir / Rigs” and closer “Rave Up” have been presented in the meantime as singles and/or on early 2017’s Live at the Smilin’ Buddha Cabaret – has plenty of layers in its heavy post-rock wash, and it’s with depth and heft that guitarist/bassist/vocalist David Cotton and drummer Mario Nieva (the current incarnation of the band has a different lineup), make their prevailing impression, be it in the roll of 13-minute “Metropolis Noir / Rigs” or the loud/quiet trades of “Dope Simple,” which follows. With a focus on atmosphere over structure, Seven Nines and Tens offer a quick 32-minute immersion that feels less pretentious than purposeful and would seem to have been worth the time it took to construct.

Seven Nines and Tens on Thee Facebooks

Seven Nines and Tens website

 

Automatic Sam, Arcs

automatic sam arcs

With their third album, Nijmegen’s Automatic Sam bring together a straightforward and coherent collection of well-intentioned semi-psychedelic heavy rock. Their past works, 2011’s Texino and 2013’s Sonic Whip, have been conceptual or at least thematic pieces, and it may be that the 13-track/38-minute Arcs (on Goomah Music) is as well, but if so, it would seem to find that theme in a vision of post-grunge ‘90s alt rock, cleanly and clearly executed and vibrant in the performance of vocalist/guitarist Pieter Holkenborg, guitarist/vocalist Rense Slings, bassist/vocalist Erik Harbers and drummer/vocalist Lars Spijkervet, who open with the five-minute “Ukiyo” (their longest inclusion; immediate points) and then run through a varied swath of shorter pieces from the attitude-laden “City Lights” through the uptempo post-punk of “This is Not a Holiday” and the fuller push of “Parnassia.” Side B seems more flowing, with that song, “Tarantula,” a complementary reprise, the title-track and drifting acoustic closer “So Long in E Minor,” but Automatic Sam manage to hone a diverse approach across Arcs’ span while skillfully directing themselves around choppier waters.

Automatic Sam on Thee Facebooks

Automatic Sam at Goomah Music

 

The Next Appointed Hour, Not the End of the World

the-next-appointed-hour-not-the-end-of-the-world

Ambition may be the defining aspect of Not the End of the World. The 2016 self-released debut from Birmingham, Alabama’s The Next Appointed Hour willfully refuses easy categorization, basking in bright psychedelic space rock harmonies one minute and digging into folkish melancholia the next in a way that one is left with no other option but to call “progressive.” What ultimately makes songs like “Keeper’s Heart” and the ethereal pop of “Back to You back to Me” work is an underlying cure of songcraft, and whatever ground the six-piece cover on the 10-track outing, from the fuzzy rush of “Drone Riot” to the trippy shimmer of the penultimate “Red Flame,” that core is maintained, uniting the material and making Not the End of the World a work of scope rather than haphazard. It requires an open mind, but rewards open-mindedness with moments like the accordion on “Valley,” or the rhythmic drift of “Any Who but Here,” the nuance of which is no less gracefully held together than the overarching flow of the album as a whole.

The Next Appointed Hour on Thee Facebooks

The Next Appointed Hour on Bandcamp

 

Blown Out, Superior Venus

blown out superior venus

Already sold out on preorders, the vinyl edition of Superior Venus from UK cosmic jammers Blown Out features two tracks – one per side – of space-wash heavy righteousness. “Impious Oppressor” and “Superior Venus” both top 15 minutes (and are accompanied by demo versions if you get the download), and proffer the kind of progressive improvisation-based flow that, indeed, might make one inclined to get an order in while the getting’s good. Blown Out, with members of Bong and Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs, have put out a slew of live and studio releases over the last three years, but as planets invariably revolve in cyclical patterns, so too does the regular frequency of their work become part of the expression itself. If you’re going to jam, do it all the time. On Superior Venus, Blown Out once more bring this ethic to life, and the resulting material spreads itself wide over its still relatively brief span. A short trip to orbit, perhaps, but well worth the undertaking.

Blown Out on Thee Facebooks

Riot Season Records on Bandcamp

 

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La Chinga Post “Gone Gypsy” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 11th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

la-chinga-gone-gypsy

Hell-raising Vancouver heavy rockers La Chinga released their second album, Freewheelin’ (review here) earlier this year on Small Stone just in time to head abroad for a European tour. No doubt that was good times, since good times seem to be the band’s specialty — classic brash-duder songcraft given a modern booze-ready execution, unabashed in its affection for a drive-ready hook and an appeal to the songcraft sucker in all of us. Only fair they should take that show on the road, since that seems to be where it was made for in the first place.

You can see that ethic coming to life, plus a bit of other imagery, in their new video for “Gone Gypsy.” Something of a road-song in itself, “Gone Gypsy” speaks to the restlessness that lies beneath the drive to get out and do a show in a different city every night, and accordingly, the video is a party. Out in a field. With fire. And booze. And vans. And tiny motorcycles. Shirts optional. You get the picture. And I mean that, because as the song itself plays toward classic ideas and ideals, so too does the video — with its kind of inexplicable NSFW splash screen below — work off a well established lifestyle ethic. I don’t know how often La Chinga go party in fields, but they certainly look like they’re having a good time doing it here, and as noted, good times are the whole idea.

Enjoy:

La Chinga, “Gone Gypsy” official video

Vancouver-based riff rock unit LA CHINGA has just issued a new video from their Freewheelin’ full-length released earlier this year through Small Stone Records.

Offers the band on the video, “Three shaggy haired men lost in the valley on a Summer’s day are picked up by a roaming band of strange of Boogie van neer’do’wells and are taken to the secret backwoods compound where the booze, bikes, broads, and Rock begin to flow in ridiculous amounts! As the sun sets the heat begins to rise…and so does the electric riffage! And then the deranged mayhem ensues! Warning! Not for the faint of heart! Pregnant women! Small children! Those with a delicate condition are warned to not watch this high rollin’ low brow goin’ freak fest! The living word in the flesh is presented here on the silver screen! Righteous and loose! Free and easy! Three men unbound, unchained and the pulchritudinous women who love them! LA CHINGA! In ‘Gone Gypsy’.”

Recorded and produced by drummer Jay Solyom in his home studio with the tracks “K. I .W.” and “Right On” captured by Eric Neilson and mastered by Chris Goosman (Acid King, Dixie Witch, Solace, Sasquatch et al), the ten-track Freewheelin’ is available through Small Stone Recordings on CD, digitally and limited vinyl with orders available at THIS LOCATION.

Produced and directed by Brian Johnson of Stampede Breakfast Productions.

Carl Spackler: Bass, Vocals
Ben Yardley: Guitars, Vocals
Jason Solyom: Drums

La Chinga on Thee Facebooks

La Chinga at Small Stone Records

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La Chinga Premiere “Right On” from New Album Freewheelin’

Posted in audiObelisk on February 12th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

la chinga

Though the vinyl is very nearly sold out on preorders alone, we’re still more than a month out from the actual March 25 release date for La Chinga‘s second album. You might recall that Freewheelin’ was reviewed and streamed here just after the New Year hit as a special preview, but the closer we get to the record’s arrival, it seems only fair to highlight some of what’s working so well throughout.

In some ways, the cover says it all. Contributed by Jason Cruz, the artwork for Freewheelin’ is as rife with classic ideas as the album itself. You get the trio — bassist/vocalist Carl Spackler, guitarist/backing vocalist Ben Yardley (also theremin, mandolin and lead vocals la chinga freewheelinon “Faded Angel”) and drummer/engineer Jason Solyom — rocking out in a muscle car in space. I’ll be damned if that’s not exactly what these songs sound like. Written with a strong sense of structure, the tracks leave pretense to the earthlings and take off for boozy good times and unshakably resolve to kick ass. And so they do. Like many who’ve swaggered through the hallowed halls of Small Stone Records, La Chinga don’t couch their appreciation for ’70s heavy in retro production or hyperstylized vintage-isms. They remind across the span of Freewheelin’ that rock’s glory days aren’t some bygone nostalgia fodder, but they’re happening right now, probably in some bar, probably at unreasonable volumes. If that doesn’t scream “muscle car in outer space,” I don’t know what does.

La Chinga head to Europe next month to support the impending issue of Freewheelin’. It’s not their first trip over — they toured supporting their 2013 self-titled (discussed here) as well — but it’s worth noting they go on an especially vital collection of songs this time around. To that end, you can stream the premiere of the track “Right On” below.

The penultimate cut on the album, it follows a zig-zag through the righteous sections of rock and roll history — AC/DC hooks and brazen swing abound — and is every bit the soundtrack to the age in which one might wish one lived. Good luck getting the chorus out of your head before the album shows up in March.

Tour dates under the player. Enjoy:

la chinga tour

La Chinga Freewheelin’ across Europe March Tour, 2016
11 March – Barcelona (Rocksound)
12 March – Azkoitia (Matadero)
13 March – Gorliz (Xurrut)
14 March – Donostia (Dabadaba)
15 March – Madrid (Fun House)
16 March – Gijón (Casino Acapulco)
17 March – Cangas de Morrazo (Sala Son)
18 March – Lugo (Club Clavicémbalo)
19 March – Santiago de Compostela (Sala Moon)
20 March – Porto (Porto Rio)
21 March – Estepona (King Creole)
22 March – Orihuela (La Gramola)
23 March – Zaragoza (La Ley Seca)
24 March – Bordeaux (Le Void, ex L’Héretic)
25 March – Montpellier (Black Sheep)

La Chinga on Thee Facebooks

La Chinga Tour Event Page

La Chinga at Small Stone Records

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Black Wizard Premiere “Vivian Girls” from New Waste

Posted in audiObelisk on January 28th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

black wizard (Photo by Milton Stille)

Brash Vancouver rockers Black Wizard make their debut on Listenable Records Feb. 12 with their third album, New Waste. It is not to be confused with the old waste.

If there’s any resonant doubt that modern heavy rock is the inheritor of the methods and boozy intentions of classic metal, the dual guitar antics Black Wizard proffer throughout New Waste tracks like “Revival,” “Harsh Time,” “Eliminator,” “The Priest” and “Final Ripper” should lay them thoroughly to rest. While basking in the hazy light of an increasingly prevalent (particularly in the Pacific Northwest) post-Red Fang neo-dude party vibe, the four-piece of guitarist/vocalist Adam Grant, guitarist Danny Stokes, bassist Evan Joel and drummer Eugene Parkomenko also pay due homage to Thin LizzyIron Maiden‘s gallop and Judas Priest‘s fist-pump-ready groove. Their tones and upbeat style find breadth in the inclusion of organ on the slower “Laughing and Lost” and the Spanish guitar ending of “Vivian Girls,” the plus-sized riffing of “Unnecessary Evil,” but they never go too far from that metallic underpinning, tying the album together as a unified whole even as individual songs stand out across its span.

The band made their self-titled debut in 2010 and followed that with the self-released Young Wisdom LP in 2013, so that they’d have a solid sense of where they want to be aesthetically makes sense — the album is not raw anymore in style than in substance — and an abiding lack of pretense throughout lends even familiar motor-riffing elements a cblack wizard new wasteertain charm. I doubt Black Wizard would tell you they’re reinventing the wheel so much as using it to head out to the proverbial highway. After a raging one-two punch in “Revival” and “Harsh Time,” “Laughing and Lost” delves more into classic rock balladry, but “Vivian Girls” blends impulses well en route to the centerpiece “Eliminator,” which rides forth in catchy course while reinforcing the brain-cell destruction and the momentum of the album alike. The subsequent “Unnecessary Evil” cuts the tempo smoothly to set the table for a side B interlude and brief respite in “Waiting For” prior to “The Priest” — guess we know who we’re waiting for — and the latter track picks up where “Harsh Time” left off, it and “Final Ripper” providing a bookend to New Waste as a closing salvo that seems to mirror the opening one.

A central difference, though, is that the final pair of tracks, “The Priest” and “Final Ripper,” are shorter than were “Revival” — the longest song on the album at 6:39 as well as the opener (immediate points) — and “Harsh Time,” and that speaks to the momentum that Black Wizard build up as they run through this material. Listenable is doing a vinyl release as well, but New Waste feels structured as a front-to-back, linear listen too, and as it moves along, it continues to gain in its overarching thrust as well as its scope until the band brings it back around to finish with a tighter incarnation of where they started. Easy to imagine them bleary-eyed, coming to at its conclusion from blackout-induced lost time, but I think there’s more consciousness at work in New Waste than they might want the listener to believe. A record so fluid doesn’t just happen, and whether they’re willing to admit it or not, these guys know what they’re doing.

I have the pleasure today of hosting “Vivian Girls” as a track premiere. Please find it below, along with some more background on the band, and enjoy:

BLACK WIZARD: New Waste Full-Length To See Release Through Listenable Records Next Month

BLACK WIZARD was forged in 2009 by four high school friends. Founding members Adam Grant and Eugene Parkomenko were both working underwhelming construction jobs at the time, passing the days to the sounds of Thin Lizzy, Deep Purple, Witch, and Electric Wizard. Heavily motivated by the thick, weight sounds of bands like Bison and 3 Inches Of Blood monopolizing the scene at the time, “The Wiz” was born. Having followed a true DIY aesthetic, the band has released two full length LPs along with a 7″ single independently and sold over five thousand copies worldwide.

More recently BLACK WIZARD has kept busy touring Canada and the United States and spent last Fall on a month-long trek through Europe. Having shared stages with the likes of Sleep, Uncle Acid, Corrosion Of Conformity, The Shrine, Atomic Bitchwax, Weedeater, Saviours, Anciients and so many more, the band shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. No one is safe.

Black Wizard on Thee Facebooks

Black Wizard on Bandcamp

Black Wizard preorders at Listenable Records

Listenable Records on Thee Facebooks

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La Chinga Announce European Tour and Debut CD Reissue

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 12th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

la chinga

It’s barely been a full week since Vancouver trio La Chinga unveiled the full-brunt rock and roll of their sophomore outing, Freewheelin (review here), and already news comes through not only of a plus-bonus-tracks reissue for their 2013 self-titled debut, but also of a European tour in support of the new record. This won’t be the band’s first time abroad, either. Not a bad way to start off a New Year.

The La Chinga reissue is due on March 11 from Red Sun Records, which by astounding coincidence is the day the tour begins in Spain. Freewheelin’ will be out on March 20 via Small Stone.

For more, we turn to the PR wire:

la chinga european tour

Red Sun Records re-issue of LA CHINGA debut album

It’s a great pleasure and honour to release Canadian superpower trio LA CHINGA’s debut album! The re-issue will be a limited edition CD with 3 bonus tracks.

The band self released their debut back in 2013 but the CD’s soon flew making it impossible to find the album in that format anymore. 3 years later it will finally be more easy to grab your hands around it.

The re-issue will be released next March 11th. The band’s second Spanish tour begins the same day in Barcelona and the album will be available on the tour!

One of our favourite debut of the last years, and certainly one that we felt in love with since the first listening. Hard rock with lots of space rock, boogie and grooves! If you dig the 70’s hard rock you dig LA CHINGA!

Tracklist:
1. Early Grave
2. Snake Eyes
3. The Wheel
4. Catty
5. To Let Silver
6. Boogie Children
7. Country Mile
8. La Chinga
9. When I Get free
10. The Universe Is Mine
bonus tracks
11. The Reaper
12. Freedom Machine
13. Precious & Grace

** La Chinga ** Freewheelin’ across Europe March Tour | 2016 **
11 March – Barcelona (Rocksound)
12 March – tbc
13 March – Gorliz (Xurrut)
14 March – Donostia (Dabadaba)
15 March – Madrid (Fun House)
16 March – Gijón (Casino Acapulco)
17 March – Cangas de Morrazo (Sala Son)
18 March – Lugo (Club Clavicémbalo)
19 March – Santiago de Compostela (Sala Moon)
20 March – León (El Gran Café)
21 March – Estepona (King Creole)
22 March – Orihuela (La Gramola)
23 March – Zaragoza (La Ley Seca)
24 March – Bordeaux (Le Void)

https://lachinga.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/La-Chinga-389979744359207/
www.redsunbarcelona.com/
www.facebook.com/RedSunBarcelona
https://smallstone.bandcamp.com/album/freewheelin

La Chinga, La Chinga (2013)

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