Interview with John Garcia: An Emphasis on Creation

Posted in Features on August 8th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

In talking to John Garcia about his self-titled solo debut, the one thing that seemed to keep coming across was a central appreciation for the process of creation, the actual making of the album. It couldn’t have been easy to put together. Released by Napalm last month, John Garcia‘s John Garcia (review here) utilizes just one drummer, Tom Brayton, and of course just one singer, but a slew of guitarists and bassists, among them members of Garcia‘s own past outfits, including Slo Burn and Hermano, whose guitarist, Dave Angstrom, was also an essential part of the creative process. The songs come from decades of demos and penned-out pieces stuffed in a cardboard box in Garcia‘s closet, and after talking about a solo project for years, it’s fitting it should come together around material he’s lived with this whole time.

Likely I don’t need to rattle off the list of bands for which Garcia has served as frontman, but I will anyway because it’s fun: KyussSlo BurnUnidaHermano, as well as countless guest spots live and recorded. He was one of two Kyuss members whose tenure spanned the entire length of the band, and no less essential to crafting their influence on desert rock than was guitarist Josh Homme or fellow Kyuss songwriter Brant Bjork, with whom Garcia reunited for last year’s Vista Chino full-length outing, Peace (review here), which, like John Garcia, was recorded at Thunder Underground Studios in the California desert with producer Harper Hug. His voice is like an unmistakable signature — a gritty, stomach-tightened soul that bursts from a subdued croon at a syllable’s notice — but on the album, it’s as much about the songwriting itself as what Garcia is doing vocally, and both impress.

And with an assortment of players involved, John Garcia also manages to sound cohesive and fluid from front to back, opener “My Mind” starting the record with one of its grandest hooks and setting the stage for a progression varied but never derailed, even as the fast-rolling “All These Walls” gives way to acoustic closer “Her Bullets Energy,” which is distinguished by a guest appearance by The Doors guitarist Robby Krieger. For someone who’s long-since cast his legacy in stone with his vocal style and not his songwriting, it’s a particularly bold venture, but Garcia thrives on the new ground, and if his passion in realizing this material is anything to go by, a second solo outing may not be far off. He gives some hints in that regard as well.

For fans of Vista Chino, they’ll find that band on hold while Garcia and Bjork pursue their solo outfits and Mike Dean returns to C.O.C., who are also touring and have an album out. Garcia has put together a live group with whom he’ll tour much of the next year, including guitarist Ehren Groban of War Drum, and bassist Mike Pygmie and drummer Greg Saenz of desert-dwellers You Know Who. In the interview that follows, Garcia talks about transitioning out of Vista Chino and forming this new band, as well as assembling the songs and players for the record, his time in the studio and the prospect of touring a set spanning his illustrious career.

Full Q&A is after the jump. Please enjoy.

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John Garcia, John Garcia: The Time was Right

Posted in Reviews on July 7th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Over the last two-plus decades, John Garcia‘s voice has set the standard for the sound of the California desert. His work in genre-progenitors Kyuss speaks for itself — loudly, and with much fuzz — and subsequent outfits UnidaSlo BurnHermano and more guest appearances than one can count have kept his presence steady in the international underground he played an essential role in forging, and his first solo outing, John Garcia, arrives via Napalm Records following a run with the semi-Kyuss reunion outfit Vista Chino, which ultimately brought together Garcia and drummer Brant Bjork with guitarist Bruno Fevery and Corrosion of Conformity bassist Mike Dean to tour the world in support of their 2013 outing, Peace (review here), after a couple years prior on the road as Kyuss Lives!, that project born out of Garcia‘s own Garcia Plays Kyuss, which launched at the 2010 Roadburn festival. In some ways, the album John Garcia is an extension of Vista Chino, particularly in terms of Garcia‘s performance and in terms of the production. An 11-track/45-minute full-length, material was culled from years of Garcia‘s own tapes, freshly arranged by the singer with some input by Hermano guitarist Dave Angstrom, and brought to bear by producer Harper Hug at Thunder Underground, the same studio where Peace was recorded. However, since some of the source material for these songs is older, and because there are a variety of players appearing throughout, from The DoorsRobbie Krieger on acoustic-led closer “Her Bullets Energy” to Danko JonesAngstrom himself, Nick Oliveri and The Dwarves‘ Mark Diamond and Tom Brayton, there’s also no shortage of diversity in the sound.

That being the case, John Garcia ran a pretty hefty risk in the making of coming across disjointed, but the consistency in the production and of course the focus element of Garcia‘s voice tie tracks together neatly, the album opening with its biggest chorus in “My Mind,” a track that immediately casts the wide-open spaces in which the rest of the songs will take place. Those familiar with his work will hear shades of various Garcia-fronted bands throughout the album, from the Slo Burn-style rush of later cut “Saddleback” to the Vista Chino-esque bounce of “Rolling Stoned,” a cover of Canadian trio Black Mastiff which undercuts some of its laid-back vibe with the opening lyrical threat, “If you leave me, I will kill you.” Nonetheless, “Rolling Stoned” follows “My Mind” as part of a strong opening salvo that continues through “Flower” and “The Blvd” and “5,000 Miles” to proffer memorable hooks, compressed but warm tones and an engaging presence from Garcia, who departs from the post-lawsuit bitterness that comprised much of the thematic of the Vista Chino offering to tell more of a story, as on “The Blvd” or the following “5,000 Miles,” which resounds as a classic coming-home song set to a particularly effective riff, somewhat more open than the first four cuts, but still largely consistent in pace and quality. Truth be told, though the mood changes somewhat along the way, there really isn’t a point where John Garcia falls into clunker-ism. And neither should there be. This project was years in the making and even more years in the discussing, and with Garcia‘s experience in the studio and on stage, it’s perfectly reasonable to assume that if something wasn’t working toward the benefit of the album, it would be discarded. Over repeat listens, John Garcia begins to give that impression — not of being a confessional, exactly, in the way that some “solo albums” are, but of being carefully constructed selections chosen to represent this singer and his songwriting process.

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John Garcia Reveals Album Art and Release Dates for Solo Debut

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 2nd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

The PR wire doesn’t take long in confirming the release dates for former Kyuss, Slo Burn, Hermano, etc., and current Vista Chino and Unida frontman John Garcia‘s forthcoming solo debut. Napalm Records will have the disc out in Europe at the end of July and North America/Australia early in August, and along with that little calendar-worthy nugget, the cover for the album, which is self-titled, has also been revealed, with a touch of ram to go with the desert landscape. Looks pretty good from where I sit.

A Garcia solo-project is something that’s been sort of hinted and bandied about for probably over a decade. As early as 1998, a John Garcia solo track called “To Believe” appeared on the Welcome to MeteorCity compilation (discussed here) that served as that label’s introduction, and while obviously there’s nothing to say it would be at all representative of what might show up on the album John Garcia some 16 years later, it goes to show how long this idea has been in the works. Last I heard, Garcia was looking to tour the project as well, which opens up interesting prospects for who might show up in his solo band. Not sure on the level of involvement of The DoorsRobby Krieger, if he plays guitar on the whole album or just one song, but he hardly seems like a bad cat to have around.

Here’s how it is:

JOHN GARCIA Unveils Release Dates & Album Artwork From His Upcoming Solo Release!

Long seethed in the rumor mill of the stoner rock community, but now it’s official: On August 1st 2014 in USA/CAN & August 8th 2014 in Australia/New Zealand the highly expected solo album John Garcia by JOHN GARCIA (Ex-KYUSS, VISTA CHINO) is set to be released via Napalm Records. A few weeks ago the Desert Rock mastermind unveiled the news about his solo debut and also that the phenomenal musician Robby Krieger (THE DOORS) plays guitar on the album.

Release Dates:
Europe: 25.07
Australia/New Zealand: 01.08
USA/CAN 05.08

For More Info Visit:
https://www.facebook.com/JohnGarciaOfficial

John Garcia, “To Believe” (1998)

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The Obelisk Questionnaire: Brant Bjork

Posted in Questionnaire on January 6th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Brant Bjork is the godfather of desert rock. As drummer and co-songwriter in Kyuss, he anchored some of the thickest and most influential grooves the world has ever known. Landmark albums like 1992′s Blues for the Red Sun and 1994′s Welcome to Sky Valley are not only genre staples, but have become the measure by which the bulk of the desert-influenced heavy is measured. Ceaselessly creative, Bjork joined Fu Manchu, whose 1994 debut he co-produced, for their The Action is Go, Eatin’ Dust, King of the Road and California Crossing albums between 1997 and 2001, also putting out the cult hit Sounds of Liberation with the short-lived Ché trio in 2000 and in that same period embarking on a solo career that to-date has resulted in 10 albums, 1999′s debut, Jalamanta, setting the course with what would become a signature blend of funk, soul, punk and heavy rock.

Bjork joined former Kyuss bandmates John Garcia and Nick Oliveri in Kyuss Lives! in late 2010, and after a lawsuit and name change (more on that in this interview), Vista Chino emerged to release one of 2013′s best albums in the form of Peace (review here) on Napalm Records, the touring cycle for which will take the lineup of Bjork, Garcia, guitarist Bruno Fevery and bassist Mike Dean (also of C.O.C.) to Australia’s Big Day Out this month. A funk-influenced instrumental solo album, Jakoozi, was also mixed last summer and is expected for a 2014 release.

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Brant Bjork

How did you come to do what you do?

I was born with a genuine love of music. Growing up, discovering The Ramones and punk rock in general, gave me the courage to try playing music myself. It turned out I had some natural talent as well as a strong conviction to continue doing the thing I love most.

Describe your first musical memory.

When I was a little kid, I had this Fisher Price record player that my mom gave me, along with a stack of 45s. One day I went through the stack and picked one because of the attractive orange and yellow label. It was the Capitol Records label and it was a Beatles 45. It had “Help” on side 1 and “I’m Down” on the B-side. I put it on and John Lennon began to scream “help!” at me through the tiny little speaker. It scared the shit out of me. I didn’t know music could, would or even should sound like that.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

September 18, 1987. It was the first real concert outside of the desert I ever saw. The Ramones, in Los Angeles at the Hollywood Palladium, I was 14 years old. It was also Dee Dee Ramone’s birthday that night and to make things super rad, my first son, Swan, was born on September 18, 2010!

When was a time when a firmly held belief was tested?

I always had a firm belief that The Stooges, the MC5 and The Ramones were the most radical bands of their time and they were releasing the best and most influential records of their time as well. This belief was tested after I bought and listened to the release of Death’s record, For the Whole World to See… a record that was recorded in 1974 but shelved until its release in 2009. This record is so good; I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. It’s almost hard to imagine what might have happened to rock and roll music, or even music in general had this record came out and the band had evolved. Unbelievable.

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

For me, there is no destination for an artist. I would define artistic progression as a journey of experiencing your life as one of creativity. If you’re a genuine artist I think it simply leads to more art.

How do you define success?

To me, success is the result of looking at your current life situation and not having to wonder how the hell you got there.

What is something you have seen that you wish you hadn’t?

While on tour last month, I battled some boredom by watching the Star Wars sequel, Attack of the Clones. Holy moly. Super bummer. George Lucas should be ashamed of himself. And I thought Return of the Jedi was bad.

Describe something you haven’t created yet that you’d like to create.

Even though I’m a musician and music is a part of my daily life, I find myself spending a lot of my time thinking about stories. About five years ago I started studying and practicing screenplay writing. I write a lot when I’m on tour… so much time on planes and buses, etc. I have a dream of creating and finishing a rad screenplay and having it picked up for a feature movie. I wouldn’t mind directing the movie as well but you know…. one dream at a time.

Something non-musical that you’re looking forward to?

A night without the kids and a nice romantic dinner with my wife at our favorite Italian restaurant in Santa Monica.

Vista Chino, “Sweet Remain” official video

Brant Bjork’s website

Vista Chino on Thee Facebooks

Napalm Records

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audiObelisk Transmission 033

Posted in Podcasts on December 24th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Click Here to Download

 

Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!

The end of any year always brings a barrage of best-ofs. Lists, radio shows, award ceremonies, and even podcasts. What no one tells you about any of them is there’s no fucking way they can ever be comprehensive. My Top 20 list? It was damn good and I worked really hard putting it together, but was I toiling under the delusion that it was going to be an accurate and complete representation of everything 2013 had on offer? Hell no. That’s why we have the Readers Poll, the Albums Unheard list (still to come) and all the rest of the wrap-up stuff.

So as you check out this happens-to-be-the-last-of-2013 podcast, please keep in mind that though it does feature a sampling of some of 2013′s most killer songs from some of its most killer albums, it’s not at all intended to be a total roundup of this year. It’s a part of it, and I’m cool with that if you are.

It’s Xmas Eve as I put this together, and it’s looking like this’ll be my only post for today, so I’ll take another opportunity to wish you a happy holiday if you’re celebrating. Please be safe and enjoy time with family, gift-giving, and of course, good music. I don’t know if grandma would really get down to some Phantom Glue, but seems like it’s worth a shot.

First Hour:
Clutch, “D.C. Sound Attack” from Earth Rocker (2013)
Monster Magnet, “Last Patrol,” from Last Patrol (2013)
Church of Misery, “Cranley Gardens (Dennis Andrew Nilsen)” from Thy Kingdom Scum (2013)
Phantom Glue, “Bow in the Dust” from A War of Light Cones (2013)
Pelican, “The Tundra” from Forever Becoming (2013)
Young Hunter, “Trail of Tears” from Embers at the Foot of Dark Mountain (2013)
All Them Witches, “The Death of Coyote Woman” from Lightning at Your Door (2013)
Black Thai, “Doors to Nowhere” from Season of Might (2013)
Gozu, “Charles Bronson Pinchot” from The Fury of a Patient Man (2013)
Geezer, “Ancient Song” from Gage EP (2013)
T.G. Olson, “Unsung Everyone” from Hell’s Half Acre (2013)

Second Hour:
Fuzz, “One” from Fuzz (2013)
Wooden Shjips, “Servants” from Back to Land (2013)
Fever Dog, “Lady Snowblood/Child of the Netherworlds,” from Lady Snowblood (2013)
Samsara Blues Experiment, “Brahmin’s Lament” from Waiting for the Flood (2013)
Vista Chino, “Planets 1 & 2” from Peace (2013)
Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, “Valley of the Dolls” from Mind Control (2013)
The Golden Grass, “One More Time” from One More Time b/w Tornado (2013)
Beelzefuzz, “Lonely Creatures” from Beelzefuzz (2013)

Total running time: 1:59:04

Thank you for listening.

Download audiObelisk Transmission 033

 

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The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 of 2013

Posted in Features on December 16th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Please note:  These are my picks, not the results of the Readers Poll, which is still going on. If you haven’t added your list yet, please do.

It’s always strange to think of something so utterly arbitrary as also being really, really difficult, but I think 2013 posed the biggest challenge yet in terms of getting together a final list of my favorite records. As ever, I had a post-it note on my office wall (when I moved, it moved with me) and I did my best to keep track of everything that resonated throughout the year. I wound up with over 40 picks and had to start putting them in order to whittle the list down.

I wound up with a top 20 that, even though it feels somewhat incomplete, I’ve found that I can at very least live with. That’s what I’ve done for the last week: Just lived with it. Even up to this morning, I was making changes, but in general, I think this gives some scope about what hit me hard in 2013. Of course, these are just my picks, and while things like my own critical appreciation factor in because that affects how I ultimately listen to a record, sometimes it just comes down to what was stuck in my head most often or what I kept putting on over and over.

That’s a simple formula to apply, but still, 2013 didn’t make it easy. Please note as you go through that there are some real gems in the honorable mentions. I thought about expanding the list to 30 this year, but the thought made my skull start to cave in, so I reconsidered.

Anyway, it only comes around once a year, so let’s do this thing. Thanks in advance for reading:

 

20. All Them Witches, Lightning at the Door

Self-released.

Traditionally, I’ve reserved #20 for a sentimental pick. An album that’s hard to place numerically because of some personal or emotional connection. This year wasn’t short on those, but when it came to it, I knew I couldn’t make this list without Lightning at the Door included, and since it was released just last month as the follow-up to the earlier-2013 Elektrohasch reissue of the Nashville, Tennessee, outfit’s 2012 debut, Our Mother Electricity (review here), I didn’t feel like I’ve had enough time with it to really put it anywhere else. It needed to be here, and so it is, and though I’ve listened to it plenty in the month since its release, I still feel like I’m getting to know Lightning at the Door, and exploring its open-spaced blues rocking grooves. All Them Witches are hands down one of the best bands I heard for the first time this year, and I’m looking forward to following their work as they continue to progress.

19. Queens of the Stone Age, …Like Clockwork

Released by Matador Records. Reviewed June 4.

For a while after I first heard …Like Clockwork and around the time I reviewed it, I sweated it pretty hard. By mid-June, I had it as one of the year’s best without a doubt in my mind. Then I put it away. I don’t know if I burnt myself out on it or what, but I still haven’t really gone back to it, and while the brilliance of cuts like “Kalopsia” and “Fairweather Friends” and “I Appear Missing” still stands out and puts Josh Homme‘s songwriting as some of the most accomplished I encountered in 2013, that hasn’t been enough to make me take it off the shelf. I doubt Queens of the Stone Age will cry about it as they tour arenas and get nominated for Grammy awards, but there it is. I wouldn’t have expected …Like Clockwork to be so low on the list, certainly not when I was listening to “My God is the Sun” six times in a row just to try and get my head around the chorus.

18. I are Droid, The Winter Ward

Released by Razzia Records. Reviewed Sept. 19.

Gorgeously produced and impeccably textured, The Winter Ward by Stockholm-based I are Droid aren’t generally the kind of thing I’d reach for, but the quality of the craft in songs like “Constrict Contract” and “Feathers and Dust” made it essential. Bits and pieces within harkened back to frontman Peder Bergstrand‘s tenure in Lowrider, but ultimately The Winter Ward emerged with a varied and rich personality all its own, and that became the basis for the appeal. As the weather has gotten colder and it’s gotten dark earlier, I’ve returned to The Winter Ward for repeat visits, and as much as I’ve got my fingers crossed for another Lowrider album in 2014, I hope I are Droid continue to run parallel, since the progressive take on alternative influences they managed to concoct was carried across with proportionate accessibility. It was as audience friendly and satisfying a listen as it was complex and ripe for active engagement.

17. Magic Circle, Magic Circle


Released by Armageddon Shop. Reviewed Feb. 18.

There was just nothing to argue about when it came to the self-titled debut from Massachusetts-based doomers Magic Circle, but what worked best about the album was that although the songs were strong on their own and seemed to have lurching hooks to spare, everything throughout fed into an overarching atmosphere that was denser than the straightforwardness of the structures might lead the listener to initially believe. It was a record worth going back to, worth getting lost in the nod of, and as the members are experienced players in a variety of New England acts from The Rival Mob to Doomriders, it should be interesting to find out what demons they may conjure in following-up Magic Circle, if they’ll continue down the path of deceptively subversive “traditionalism” or expand their sound into more progressive reaches. Either way they may choose, the material on their first outing showed an ability to craft an enigmatic, individualized sonic persona that never veered into cultish caricature.

16. Iron Man, South of the Earth

Released by Rise Above/Metal Blade Records. Reviewed Oct. 14.

If you’re into doom and you have a soul, I don’t know how you could not be rooting for Iron Man in 2013. Produced by Frank Marchand and the first full-length from the long-running Maryland doomers to feature vocalist Dee Calhoun and drummer Jason “Mot” Waldmann alongside guitarist/founder “Iron” Al Morris III (interview here) and longtime bassist Louis Strachan. The difference in South of the Earth was palpable even in comparison to 2009′s I Have Returned (review here). With more professional production, excellent performances all around in the lineup, memorable songs like “Hail to the Haze” and “The Worst and Longest Day,” and the considerable endorsement of a release through Rise Above/Metal Blade behind them, the four-piece sounded like the statesmen they are in the Maryland scene and showed themselves every bit worthy of inclusion in the discussion of America’s finest in traditional, Sabbathian doom. May they continue to get their due.

15. Sasquatch, IV


Released by Small Stone Records. Reviewed Sept. 16.

Whether it was what the lyrics were talking about or not, the message of “The Message” was clear: Never count out a catchy chorus. Now in operation for a decade, Sasquatch practice an arcane artistry with their songwriting. Void of pretense, heavy on boogie, they are as genuine a modern extension of classic heavy rock as you’re likely to find. The Los Angeles power trio outdid themselves with IV, veering boldly into psychedelia on “Smoke Signal” and honing their craft over various moods and themes on “Sweet Lady,” “Me and You” and “Eye of the Storm.” They remain one of American heavy rock’s key and consistently underestimated components, and the three years since the release of their third album, III (review here), seemed like an eternity once the quality grooves of “Money” and “Drawing Flies” got moving, the former an insistent rush and the latter open, dreamy and atmospheric, but both executed with precision and confidence born of Sasquatch‘s familiarity with the methods and means of kicking ass.

14. Black Pyramid, Adversarial

Released by Hydro-Phonic Records. Reviewed April 12.

It was hard to know what to expect from Black Pyramid‘s Adversarial, their first release with guitarist/vocalist Darryl Shepard at the fore with bassist Dave Gein and drummer/engineer Clay Neely, but the Massachusetts outfit flourished on tracks like “Swing the Scimitar,” incorporating a heavy jamming sensibility with marauding riffs and grooves carried over from the style of their first two albums. Adversarial took the band to Hellfest in France this past summer, where they shared a stage with Neurosis and Sleep, and whether it was the raging chorus of “Bleed Out” or the clarion guitar line of “Aphelion,” the band showed their war ensemble could not be stopped. Their future is uncertain with Neely having relocated and Gein having an impending move of his own, but if Adversarial is to stand as the final Black Pyramid outing, they will at very least have claimed enough heads in their time to line fence-posts for miles. Still, hopefully they can find some way to continue to make it work.

13. Across Tundras, Electric Relics

Released by Electric Relics Records. Reviewed July 11.

Even the interlude “Seasick Serenade,” just over a minute and a half long, was haunting. Electric Relics marked the first full-length from Nashville’s Across Tundras to be released on their own label and the first since they issued Sage through Neurot in 2011 (review here), and as rolling and exploratory as its vibe was, songs like “Solar Ark,” “Pining for the Gravel Roads” and “Den of Poison Snakes” also represented a solidification of Across Tundras‘ sound, another step in their development that refined their blend of rural landscapes and heavy tones. Issued in April, it’s been an album that throughout the course of the year I’ve returned to time and again, and the more I’ve sat with it and the more comfortable it’s become, the more its songs have come to feel like home, which it’s easy to read as being their intent all along. Guitarist/vocalist Tanner Olson (read his questionnaire answers here), bassist/vocalist Mikey Allred and drummer Casey Perry hit on something special in these tracks, and one gets the sense their influence is just beginning to be felt.

12. Borracho, Oculus

Released by Strange Magic/No Balls/AM Records. Reviewed July 26.

Initially a digital self-release by the Washington, D.C. riff purveyors, Oculus just this month got a tri-color, tri-label and tri-continental vinyl issue, and the fanfare with which it arrived was well earned by the five songs contained on the two sides. Borracho‘s second album behind 2011′s Splitting Sky (review here) also marked a lineup shift in the band that saw them go from a four-piece to a trio, with guitarist Steve Fisher (interview here) stepping to the fore as vocalist in the new incarnation with Tim Martin on bass and Mario Trubiano on drums. The results in songs like “Know the Score” and closer “I’ve Come for it All” were in line stylistically with the straightforward approach they showed on their first offering, but tighter overall in their presentation, and Fisher‘s voice was a natural fit with the band’s stated ethic of “repetitive heavy grooves” — a neat summary, if perhaps underselling their appeal somewhat. Oculus showed both that the appeal of Splitting Sky was no fluke and that Borracho with four members or three was not a band to be taken lightly.

11. Ice Dragon, Born a Heavy Morning

Released by Navalorama Records. Reviewed Aug. 14.

Like the bulk of Ice Dragon‘s work to date, Born a Heavy Morning was put out first digitally, for free or pay-what-you-want download. A CD version would follow soon enough on Navalorama, with intricate packaging to match the album’s understated achievements, taking the Boston genre-crossers into and through heavy psychedelic atmospheres added to and played off in longer pieces like “The Past Plus the Future is Present” and the gorgeously ethereal “Square Triangle” by thematic slice-of-life set-pieces like “In Which a Man Daydreams about a Girl from His Youth” and “In Which a Man Ends His Workweek with a Great Carouse” that only enriched the listening experience and furthered Ice Dragon‘s experimental appeal. Ever-prolific, Born a Heavy Morning wasn’t the only Ice Dragon outing this year, physical or digital, but it stood in a place of its own within their constantly-expanding catalog and showcased a stylistic fearlessness that can only be an asset in their favor as they continue to chase down whatever the hell it is they’re after in their songs and make genuine originality sound so natural.

10. Devil to Pay, Fate is Your Muse

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed March 19.

It seemed like no matter where I turned in 2013, Devil to Pay‘s Fate is Your Muse was there. Not that it was the highest-profile release of the year or bolstered by some consciousness-invading viral campaign or anything, just that once the songs locked into my head, there was no removing them, and whether it was straightforward rockers like “This Train Won’t Stop,” “Savonarola” and “Tie One On,” the moodier “Black Black Heart” or the charm-soaked “Ten Lizardmen and One Pocketknife” — which might also be the best song title I came across this year — it was a pretty safe bet that something from the Indianapolis four-piece was going to make a showing on the mental jukebox if not in the actual player (it showed up plenty there as well). Devil to Pay‘s first album since 2009, first for Ripple and fourth overall, Fate is Your Muse was a grower listen whose appeal only deepened over the months after its release, the layered vocals of guitarist Steve Janiak (interview here) adaptable to the varying vibes of “Wearin’ You Down” and “Already Dead” and soulful in classic fashion. They’ve been underrated as a live act for some time, and Fate is Your Muse translated well their light-on-frills, heavy-on-riffs appeal to a studio setting.

9. Beast in the Field, The Sacred Above, the Sacred Below

Released by Saw Her Ghost Records. Reviewed May 30.

Such devastation. Even now, every time I put on Beast in the Field‘s The Sacred Above, the Sacred Below, it makes me want to hang my head and wonder at the horror of it all like Marlon Brando hiding out in a cave. If anything at all, there wasn’t much I heard in 2013 that hit harder than the Michigan duo’s fifth long-player, released on CD in March through Saw Her Ghost with vinyl reportedly on the way now. Toward the middle of the year, it got to the point where I wanted to go door to door and say to people, “Uh excuse me, but this is absurdly heavy and you should check it out.” I settled for streaming the album in full and it still feels like a compromise. I tried to interview the band, to no avail — sometimes instrumental acts just don’t want to talk about it — but what guitarist Jordan Pries and drummer Jamie Jahr were able to accomplish tonally, atmospherically and bombastically in expansive and overwhelmingly heavy cuts like the 22-minute “Oncoming Avalanche” or the noise-soaked riffing of “Hollow Horn” put The Sacred Above, the Sacred Below into a weight class that it had pretty much to itself this year. It’s a good thing they had no trouble filling that space. I still feel like I haven’t recommended the album enough and that more people need to be made aware of its existence.

8. Beelzefuzz, Beelzefuzz

Released by The Church Within Records. Reviewed Aug. 30.

When I finally listened to Beelzefuzz‘s self-titled debut, I was really, really glad I had seen the three-piece — its members based in Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania — play some of the material live. I don’t know if otherwise I’d have been able to distinguish between the progress elements of effects and looping and the live creation of layers and organ sounds through the guitar of Dana Ortt (interview here) and the simple humdrum of studio layering one finds all the time. I almost think for their next record they should track it live, just the three of them, and heavily advertise that fact to help get the point across that it’s actually just three players — Ortt, bassist Pug Kirby and drummer Darin McCloskey (also of Pale Divine) — creating the richness of sound on “All the Feeling Returns” and the eerie, gleefully weird progressive stomp on “Lonely Creatures.” The album became a morning go-to for me, and I don’t know how many times I’ve been through it at this point, but “Reborn” and “Hypnotize” and “Lotus Jam” continue to echo in my head even when it’s been a few days. That said, it’s rarely been a few days, because while I appreciate what the trio accomplish on their first record on an analytical level, the reason it is where it is on this list is because I can’t stop listening to the damn thing. Another one that more people should hear than have heard.

7. Samsara Blues Experiment, Waiting for the Flood

Released by World in Sound/Electric Magic Records. Reviewed Oct. 22.

One of the aspects of Samsara Blues Experiment‘s third offering that I most enjoyed was that it wasn’t the album I expected German four-piece to make. After their 2011 sophomore album, Revelation and Mystery (review here), shifted its focus away from the jam-minded heavy psychedelia of their 2009 debut, Long Distance Trip (review here), my thinking was that they would continue down that path and coalesce into a more straightforward brand of heavy rock. Instead, when the four extended tracks of Waiting for the Flood showed up with no shortage of swirl or sitar or open-ended expansion in their midst, it was a legitimate surprise. Repeat visits to “Shringara” and “Don’t Belong” show that actually it’s not so much that Samsara Blues Experiment turned around and were hell-bent on jamming out all the time, but that rather for their third, they took elements of what worked on their first two LPs and built lush movements on top of those ideas. As a happy bonus, this having grown more and more into their sound has helped push the band — guitarist/vocalist Christian Peters, guitarist Hans Eiselt, bassist Richard Behrens and drummer Thomas Vedder — into their own niche within the wider European heavy psych scene, and they’ve begun to emerge as one of its most enjoyable and consistent acts.

6. Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Mind Control

Released by Rise Above/Metal Blade Records. Reviewed April 8.

Kind of inevitable that there would be a lot of comparisons made between Mind Control and the preceding Uncle Acid album, Blood Lust. Certainly the newer outing — their third and first for Rise Above/Metal Blade – is more psychedelic, more tripped out and less obscure feeling than its predecessor. It didn’t have the same kind of crunch to the guitar tone, or the same kind of horror-film atmosphere or psychosexual foreboding, but the thing was, it wasn’t supposed to. The UK outfit continue to prod cult mentality even as their own cult grows, and as I see it, Mind Control made a lot of sense coming off Blood Lust in terms of the band not wanting to repeat the same ideas over again, but grow from them and expand their sound. Of course, with the strut at the end of opener “Mt. Abraxas,” they’ve set a high standard on their albums for leadoff tracks, but where Mind Control really made its impression was in the hypnosis of cuts like the Beatlesian “Follow the Leader,” the lysergic “Valley of the Dolls” or the maddening “Devil’s Work.” The deeper you went into side B, the more the band had you in their grasp. It was a different kind of accomplishment than the preceding effort — though “Mind Crawler” kept a lot of that vibe alive — and it showed Uncle Acid had more in their arsenal than VHS ambience and garage doom malevolence while keeping the infectiousness that helped Blood Lust make such an impression.

5. Lumbar, The First and Last Days of Unwelcome

Released by Southern Lord. Reviewed Dec. 3.

Of the ones reviewed, Lumbar‘s The First and Last Days of Unwelcome was the most recent inclusion on this list. Having worked with Lumbar multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Aaron Edge (interview here) in the past with his band Roareth releasing what would be their only album on The Maple Forum, this was a project to which I felt an immediate connection given the circumstances of its creation: Being written almost in its entirety and recorded in everything but vocals during a bedridden period following Edge‘s diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. The contributions of YOB/Vhöl frontman Mike Scheidt and Tad Doyle of TAD and Brothers of the Sonic Cloth were what got a lot of people’s attention for Lumbar‘s The First and Last Days of Unwelcome, but with the situation are the core of the seven tracks named “Day One” through “Day Seven,” what stood out to me even more than those performances was the utter lack of distance and the level of rawness in the album’s presentation. It puts you there. What you get with Lumbar is the direct translation of a range of emotions from hopeful to hopeless, angry, sad, beaten down and wanting answers, wanting more. There’s no shield from it, and as much in concept as in its execution, there’s no other word for it than “heavy.” The intensity Edge packed into just 24 minutes — and not all of it loud or over the top doomed or anything more than atmospherics — was unmatched by anything else I heard this year.

4. Vista Chino, Peace

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed July 30.

From just about any angle you want to view it, the situation that turned Kyuss Lives! into Vista Chino was unfortunate. However — and I know I’ve said this before — I really do believe that becoming Vista Chino, that furthering the distance from the Kyuss moniker, brand, legacy, and so on, was for the better of the band creatively. And not because the songs don’t stand up. I doubt it helped their draw much, but for vocalist John Garcia and drummer Brant Bjork (interview here), working as Vista Chino for the creation of Peace, and especially or Bjork working with guitarist Bruno Fevery for the first time in the writing process, it allowed them to step outside of what would’ve been insurmountable expectations for a “fifth Kyuss album” and create something honest, new, and ultimately, more true to the spirit of that now-legendary band. Let’s face it, you hear John Garcia, Brant Bjork and Nick Oliveri are working on a project together, you’re immediately comparing it to Kyuss anyway. At least with Vista Chino, they’ve given themselves the potential for growth beyond a preconceived idea of what Kyuss should sound like. Well what does Vista Chino sound like? It sounds like whatever the hell they want. On Peace, though many of the lyrics dealt with their legal battles over the Kyuss name, the vibe stayed true to a desert rock ethic of laid back heavy, and the round-out jam in “Acidize/The Gambling Moose” left Peace with the feeling that maybe that’s where they’ve ended up after all. Fingers crossed Mike Dean (of C.O.C. and the latest live incarnation of Vista Chino) winds up playing bass on the record, but other than that, wherever they want to go with it, as a fan, I’m happy to follow along.

3. Gozu, The Fury of a Patient Man

Released by Small Stone Records. Reviewed Jan. 24.

The second outing from Gozu on Small Stone, The Fury of a Patient Man tapped into so much of what made the Boston band’s 2010 Locust Season label debut (review here) work so right on and just did it better. Don’t get me wrong, I still dig on “Meat Charger,” but with tracks like “Snake Plissken,” “Bald Bull,” “Signed, Epstein’s Mom” (note: it was “signed, Epstein’s mother” on Welcome Back Kotter) and the thrashing “Charles Bronson Pinchot,” Gozu put forth a collection of some of 2013′s finest heavy rock and did so with not only their own soulful spin on the tropes of the genre, but a mature and varied approach that was no less comfortable giving High on Fire a run for their money than reveling in the grandiose chorus of “Ghost Wipe,” which was also one of the best hooks of the year, guitarist/vocalist Marc Gaffney (interview here) delivering lines in crisp, confident layers, perfectly mixed by Benny Grotto at Mad Oak Studios and cutting through the fray of his own and Doug Sherman‘s guitars, the bass of Paul Dallaire (who split duties with J. Canava; Joe Grotto has since taken over the position) and Barry Spillberg‘s drumming. What the future might hold for Gozu with the recent shift in lineup that replaced Spillberg with drummer Mike Hubbard (ex-Warhorse) and added third guitarist Jeff Fultz (Mellow Bravo) remains to be seen, but with European touring on the horizon for 2014 and appearances slated for Roadburn and Desertfest, the band seem to be looking only to expand their reach, and with the material from The Fury of a Patient Man as a foundation, they’ve got some major considerations acting in their favor. Another album from which I simply could not escape this year, and from which I didn’t want to.

2. Monster Magnet, Last Patrol

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Sept. 12.

Billed largely and at least in-part accurately as a return to the group’s psychedelic roots, Last Patrol was Monster Magnet‘s ninth full-length, their first in three years and their second for Napalm. The New Jersey outfit led by guitarist, vocalist, songwriter, founder and, in this case, co-producer Dave Wyndorf (interview here) did indeed delve into the space rock side of their sound more than they have in over a decade, and the effect that doing so had was like a great shaking-off of dust, as though the Bullgod in the John Sumrow cover art just woke up after a long slumber. Perhaps even more than tripping on the Donovan cover “Three Kingfishers” or on the more extended freakouts “Last Patrol” and “End of Time,” what really made Last Patrol such a complete experience was the depth of emotion. Wyndorf wasn’t just standing above an overproduced wall of distortion talking about how he’s the best lay in the galaxy or whatever — fun though that kind of stuff is and has been in the past — but songs like “I Live behind the Clouds,” “The Duke (of Supernature),” “Paradise” and “Stay Tuned” offered a humbler take, a spirit of melancholy that rested well alongside the unmitigated stomp of “Hallelujah” or the driving heavy rock of “Mindless Ones.” Even in its most riotous stretches, Last Patrol was a humbler affair, with a more honest vibe than their last four, maybe five albums. A Monster Magnet release would’ve been noteworthy no matter what it actually sounded like, because that’s the level of impact they’ve had on heavy psych and underground rock over the last two decades-plus. The difference with Last Patrol was that it was a refreshing change from what had started to sound like a formula going stale, and it was  just so damn good to have them be weird again.

1. Clutch, Earth Rocker

Released by Weathermaker Music. Reviewed Feb. 28.

Finally, an album that asked the question, “What it was I’m going to do I haven’t done?” I knew at the year’s halfway point that Clutch‘s Earth Rocker was going to be the one to beat, and that it wasn’t going to be easy for anyone else to top the Maryland kings of groove, who sounded so reinvigorated on songs like “Crucial Velocity,” “Book, Saddle and Go,” “Unto the Breach,” and “Cyborg Bette,” and on funkfied pushers like “D.C. Sound Attack!,” “The Wolfman Kindly Requests…” and “The Face.” They’d hardly been in hibernation since 2009′s Strange Cousins from the West, but four years was the longest they’d ever gone between albums, and it was past time for a new one. To have it arrive as such a boot to the ass just made it that much better, the band shifting away from some of the blues/jam influences that emerged over the course of 2005′s Robot Hive/Exodus and 2007′s From Beale Street to Oblivion — though those certainly showed up as well in the subdued “Gone Cold” and elsewhere — but thanks in no small part to the production of Machine, with whom the band last worked for 2004′s Blast Tyrant, Earth Rocker was huge where it wanted to be and that gave Clutch‘s faster, more active material all the more urgency, where although the songwriting was quality as always, Strange Cousins from the West languished a bit at a more relaxed pace. The difference made all the difference. Whether it was the hellhounds on your trail (what a pity!) in “D.C. Sound Attack!” or the Jazzmasters erupting from the bottom of the sea to take flight, Clutch‘s 10th album was brimming with live, vibrant, heavy on action and heavy on groove, and on a sheer song-by-song level, a classic in the making from a band who’ve already had a few. At very least, it’s a landmark in their discography, and though vocalist Neil Fallon (interview here), guitarist Tim Sult, bassist Dan Maines and drummer Jean-Paul Gaster always change from record, but it’s the unmistakable stamp they put on all their outings that have earned them such a loyal following, and that stamp is all over Earth Rocker. Front to back, it is a pure Clutch record, and while I’ll happily acknowledge that it’s an obvious pick for album of the year, I don’t see how I possibly could’ve chosen anything else. Like the best of the best, Earth Rocker will deliver for years to come.

The Next 10 and Honorable Mentions

I said at the outset I had 40 picks. The reality was more than that, but here’s the next 10 anyway:

21. Blaak Heat Shujaa, The Edge of an Era
22. The Freeks, Full On
23. Luder, Adelphophagia
24. The Flying Eyes, Lowlands
25. Black Skies, Circadian Meditations
26. At Devil Dirt, Plan B: Sin Revolucion No Hay Evolucion
27. Kadavar, Abra Kadavar
28. Naam, Vow
29. Mühr, Messiah
30. Uzala, Tales of Blood and Fire

Further honorable mention has to go to Pelican, Endless Boogie, Earthless, Phantom Glue, Goatess, Windhand, GongaToner Low, Jesu and Sandrider.

Two More Special Records

I’d be unforgivably remiss if I didn’t note the release in 2013 of two albums that wound up being incredibly special to me personally: I vs. the Glacier by Clamfight and A Time of Hunting by Kings Destroy. Since it came out on this site’s in-house label, I didn’t consider the Clamfight eligible for list consideration and while I didn’t help put it out, the Kings Destroy I also felt very, very close to — probably as close as I’ve felt to a record I didn’t actually perform on — so it didn’t seem fair on a critical level, but I consider both of these to be records that in a large part helped define my year, as well as being exceptional in and of themselves, and they needed very much to be singled out as such. These are people whom I feel whatever-the-godless-heathen-equivalent-of-blessed-is to know.

Before I end this post, I want to say thank you for reading, this, anything else you may have caught this year, whatever it might be. To say it means a lot to me personally is understating it, but it’s true all the same. I’m not quite done wrapping up the year — I’ll have a list of the best album covers, another for EPs and singles and demos, and of course the albums I didn’t hear — so please stay tuned over the next couple weeks, but it seemed only fair to show my appreciation now as well. Thank you.

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Live Review: Vista Chino, Black Pussy and Kings Destroy in Manhattan, 09.26.13

Posted in Reviews on September 27th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

I had a pretty set vision in my head of how the night was going to work. Having left Massachusetts the evening prior and spent the day at work like so, so many others, I left the office early to get into the city. Traffic was anticipated and delivered, but I still arrived at Bowery Ballroom in Manhattan well advance of doors opening for Vista Chino — the time limit on needing to put “formerly Kyuss Lives! after their name seems to be running its course now that they have an album, Peace (review here), out — Black Pussy and Kings Destroy. The plan was simple: Get up front and plant. Take pictures of the bands and then, a little while into Vista Chino‘s set, drop back, relax and enjoy the fuzz. I’m happy to report that more or less that’s exactly how it went.

No joke, it was Kings Destroy who sealed the deal on my hitting New York instead of Philadelphia to catch the tour. There was no Boston date, and if I’m already driving four hours south, what’s another two? But when Kings Destroy got added to the bill as openers, that made the decision much easier. I knew I’d manage to catch them somehow before they headed north next month, and I don’t regret doing so. Their set, as has been the case the last couple times I’ve seen them, emphasized just how far they’ve come in their sound, opening with “The Mountie” from the first album but nestling into its real groove with cuts like “The Toe,” “Blood of Recompense” — an early highlight of the show — and the always gleefully bizarre “Turul” from this year’s A Time of Hunting.

That’s nothing new. The change was the size of the stage they were playing on. Now, I know Kings Destroy has done runs through Europe, that they played the Getaway Rock festival in Sweden, that they’ve done Chaos in Tejas and others — not to mention the shows some of these guys have done in bands like Killing Time, etc. — I’m not shocked they can hold it down on a big stage. Hell, the stage at the St. Vitus bar is pretty sizable and they kill it there on a regular basis, but it was particularly awesome to watch Kings Destroy deliver a pro-grade and unbelievably heavy sampling of their material — Rob Sefcik‘s drums came across especially loud and were welcome, and I stood in front to the side of the stage by bassist Aaron Bumpus and guitarist Chris Skowronski with no regrets; Carl Porcaro‘s solos had no trouble cutting through – with vocalist Steve Murphy not making mention of the fact that he, Sefcik and Porcaro played with Kyuss at C.B.G.B. nearly two decades prior, working at the time under the banner of Mind’s Eye.

The changeover between Kings Destroy and Black Pussy was quick enough, though honestly it didn’t matter if the Portland, Oregon, five-piece took the stage and delivered the stoner rock equivalent of “Raining Blood,” there was no way their music was going to make a bigger impression than their name. I’m not sure how you get five guys to agree on calling a band something like Black Pussy, but okay. Never mind the fact that “pussy” is one of three words in the English language I wouldn’t say in front of my mother, the group says that they took “Black Pussy” from the working title of The Rolling Stones‘ “Brown Sugar,” and that they don’t condone any kind of racism or sexism or whatever else. All well and good dudes, but whether you condone it or not, you still called your band Black Pussy and here I am talking about it instead of your music, which was actually pretty cool in that ultra-groovy and relaxed heavy psych kind of way.

It wasn’t long before white dudes in the crowd were doing Dave-Chappelle-as-Rick-James voice saying the band’s name between songs, and the whole thing was both a bum-out and a distraction from their material, which again, was quality: Thick guitar and bass filled out with analog synth and Korg swirl, pusher-manned by classic rock attitude-soaked vocals and drums that were both theatrical and precise. As a privileged white guy whose only experience with cultural discrimination has been getting called fatass by, well, everyone ever, it was easy enough for me to look past the racial element and get lost in the dense fog of immersive nod, but the simple fact that it was there to be looked past seemed needless. I’m not going to pretend it’s cool just because they played well. Saying you’re not racist doesn’t undo racism, and if you need to go out on a limb and put it out there that, “we’re not racist,” maybe a harder look is needed at the reasoning pushing you to do that. If you want to say I don’t get it, fine. They were a better band than their shitbird moniker. I didn’t have cash on hand to buy a record, but I would have picked one up if I had.

Brant Bjork produced their forthcoming second album, Less Info More Mojo, so that they’d wind up on the road with Vista Chino made sense — certainly their first album, last year’s  On Blonde, which was dedicated to Bjork, owed him a sonic debt as well — but the night belonged to the headliner. I saw Kyuss Lives! twice during their run with that name, in New Jersey and in Philadelphia, but with the new songs from Peace and Mike Dean of Corrosion of Conformity on bass in place of Nick Oliveri standing opposite on the stage from guitarist Bruno Fevery, the appeal of Vista Chino was fresh despite the added appeal of seeing the four-piece play Kyuss songs as well. I won’t discount the value of hearing John Garcia sing “Gardenia” and “Thumb” and “Freedom Run” live, especially as someone who never got to see Kyuss during their original run, but I was just as happy to hear him absolutely nail “Sweet Remain” from Peace and make a home in the laid back groove of “Adara,” which opened their set leading into “One Inch Man” from Kyuss‘ 1995 swansong, …And the Circus Leaves Town.

Presumably, the hope is that as Vista Chino continues to develop as a new band apart from Kyuss and Kyuss Lives!, they’ll work more original material into shows. As of now, there’s only so much they have to put into a 90-minute set. The ratio was six Vista Chino to 10 Kyuss songs, but the division was equitable, bouncing back and forth initially only to deliver a one-two-three of classics to finish with “Thumb,” “Green Machine” and “Freedom Run” before coming back out for an encore that included the new song “Planets 1 & 2,” on which Bjork shared vocals with Garcia as he does on the album. Frankly, new or old, it all rocked. The frontman made one mention of the lawsuit from former bandmates Josh Homme and Scott Reeder that forced him and Bjork to give up the Kyuss name last year, working it into the lyrics of “Supa Scoopa and Mighty Scoop,” but other than that, it was encouraging to see Vista Chino pairing their own work with the Kyuss songs and having Mike Dean on bass takes them to a whole new level.

I won’t say anything against Scott Reeder or Nick Oliveri. Not a fucking chance. They are tremendous bassists and hugely influential songwriters. I know it’s easy and fun for fans to pick sides in that kind of thing, but that’s not what I’m about. I like music. So to watch Mike Dean live in those parts — not just play them like a recital, but to crawl inside the new and the old material and actually make it his own — was vividly exciting, and it made Vista Chino that much more of its own entity. He owned “Hurricane.” And he made the shuffle in “Dark and Lovely” positively irresistible, Garcia‘s voice cutting through front and center of the Bowery‘s P.A. while Fevery‘s guitar seemed to fluctuate in prominence but ultimately settled in nicely. Bjork, who said recently in an interview here that Dean was his favorite rock bassist, was clearly enjoying sharing the rhythm section with him, and the swing the two concocted felt righteous and invigorated. I shudder to think what those guys and Fevery would/will be able to come up with when it comes time to jam on new material for a follow-up to Peace.

“Planets 1 & 2″ fit well in the encore with a medley of “Whitewater” into “Odyssey” from Kyuss‘ genre-defining Welcome to Sky Valley and at the end of the set, Garcia offered a heartfelt applause for the crowd who stayed till the end. It had dwindled some as they pushed past midnight — nothing like a late Thursday to turn Friday into an utter blur — but for me, however long and far they go and however many times I’m fortunate enough to see these guys play, I don’t want to miss any of it.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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Vista Chino Interview with Brant Bjork: Peace and Progress

Posted in Features on September 5th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

I’m going to go on a limb here and say that while it wasn’t their first choice and something that was brought about through a lawsuit from former bandmates, the name change that turned Kyuss Lives! into Vista Chino was a good thing. My reasoning is simple. Kyuss is a set entity. It’s in stone. It’s done. It’s been done for over 15 years now. There’s a legacy born out of the California desert that’s influenced thousands upon thousands of bands, and without Kyuss, that just doesn’t happen. They were an integral part of setting forth a movement in heavy rock that continues to this day.

The difference is they were and Vista Chino are. Even if vocalist John Garcia, bassist Nick Oliveri, guitarist Bruno Fevery and drummer Brant Bjork — who toured and wrote songs together as Kyuss Lives! – had been able to continue using that or just the straight-up Kyuss name, they’d be setting themselves up to fail, because even if original guitarist Josh Homme – who along with former bassist Scott Reeder brought the lawsuit that was settled with the moniker switch– had returned to the fold and they’d worked with the same lineup that resulted in 1992′s Blues for the Red Sun, it never would’ve been the same. It may have been conflict that birthed it, but with the Napalm Records release this week of Peace (review here) as the first Vista Chino studio album, Garcia, Bjork and Fevery (Oliveri having left after recording his bass parts) are moving forward in a way Kyuss wouldn’t have been able to do.

It’s a question of freedom, ultimately, and where any output under the Kyuss banner would’ve resulted in an endless stream of comparisons set to the impossible standard of a decade and a half of lionization, Vista Chino are free to progress, both on a career level and creatively. Peace finds Bjork taking lead vocals on “Planets 1 & 2,” something that never happened in Kyuss (though certainly it’s happened plenty since), and works off a different, new instrumental chemistry and playing style from Fevery. The record isn’t about capturing something that used to exist and doesn’t anymore, and at its heart, that’s why it succeeds. I’m not sure Peace would’ve worked as a Kyuss album, but for Vista Chino, it stands not only as an excellent debut but a potential-filled sign of things to come. It makes the listener look forward to what could be and not back to what was.

So while it may have been plenty ugly getting to this point and of course no one knows what days ahead might bring, Peace establishes Vista Chino as a band with both a past and a future. In the interview that follows here, Brant Bjork discusses some of those prospects, particularly as relates to bringing in bassist Mike Dean from C.O.C. to fill the position vacated by Oliveri and held for a brief stretch by Billy Cordell, and also creating music for the first time alongside Fevery, the legal tribulations that made Vista Chino who they are, his relationship to Vista Chino as opposed to Kyuss, when he knew that Kyuss Lives! would result in new material, the group’s plans after the US tour they’ll soon start and much more. As he spoke, I could hear a desert wind come through the line in the background.

Complete Q&A is after the jump. Please enjoy.

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Vista Chino’s Peace is out Now

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 3rd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

With North American tour dates kicking off this week and a European run to follow, Vista Chino today mark the release of their debut album, Peace, on Napalm Records. Even if you start the clock at Garcia Plays Kyuss performing live at Roadburn in 2010, this has been years in the making, and whatever tumult they’ve had as that group became Kyuss Lives! and subsequently Vista Chino, once the record’s out, it’s out. Peace (review here) arrives with no shortage of drama behind it, but at least it arrived. Gotta get my hands on the bonus tracks with the deluxe edition. Figure even if it’s just jams or whatever (and I don’t know that it is or isn’t), that’s still worth a couple extra bucks.

The PR wire makes it official:

VISTA CHINO’s Peace Available Today on Napalm Records

VISTA CHINO the band formed by John Garcia and Brant Bjork that continues the legacy of Kyuss, right where it left off are weeks away from the release of their album Peace. Peace has been released today via Napalm Records. The artwork for the album was created by the renowned California art collective The Date Farmers.

Drummer Brant Bjork commented on the release:

“It’s been a long, heavy road to Peace… but we made it. This was an important record for us. Its exactly what we intended to do. Its an honest rock record…desert style. Peace is here now and Its time to go out on the road in north america and celebrate. If you’re scared and you’re a hater…..stay home and snivel. If you’re down and love is your style…meet us at the VC show and we’ll rock some old Kyuss classics and some Peace.”

VISTA CHINO will embark on a North American headline tour in support of Peace. Support on the tour will come from the Portland Oregon rock outfit known as Black Pussy. The tour kicks off this Friday September 6th in Calgary, Alberta and runs through September 28th in Columbus, Ohio.

Rising from the desert sands that birthed Kyuss Lives, VISTA CHINO’s sound is instantly familiar. With the trademark soulful vocals of John Garcia, the songwriting and production of Brant Bjork (drums) and the fuzz-laden riffage of imported guitarist Bruno Fevery, VISTA CHINO’s debut is one of the year’s most anticipated heavy rock albums. A new band born of a storied past, right now it’s about these players playing these songs.

VISTA CHINO North American Tour:
9/6: Calgary, AB @ Flames Central
9/7: Edmonton, AB @ Starlite Ballroom
9/9: Vancouver, BC @ Commodore Ballroom
9/10: Seattle, WA @ El Corazon
9/11: Portland, OR @ Hawthorne Theater
9/12: San Francisco, CA @ Slims
9/13: Los Angeles, CA @ Echoplex
9/14: Anaheim, CA @ House of Blues
9/16: Denver, CO @ Summit Music Hall
9/18: Minneapolis, MN @ Fine Line Music Café
9/19: Chicago, IL @ Metro
9/20: Pontiac, MI @ Crofoot Ballroom
9/21: Toronto, ON @ Phoenix Concert Theater
9/23: Montreal, QC @ Corona Theater
9/24: Quebec, QC @ Dagobert
9/25: Ottawa, ON @ Ritual Night Club
9/26: New York, NY @ Bowery Ballroom
9/27: Philadelphia, PA @ Underground Arts
9/28: Columbus, OH @ Alrosa Villa

VISTA CHINO European Dates:
10/18: Turku, Finland @ Klubi
10/19: Jyvaskyla, Finland @ Lustakko
10/20: Helsinki, Finland @ Nosturi
10/22: Stockholm, Sweden @ Debaser Strand
10/23: Gothenburg, Sweden @ Tragarn
10/24: Oslo, Norway @ Rockefeller
10/25: Copenhagen, Denmark @ Loppen
10/27: Osnarbruck, Germany @ Rosenhof
10/28: Hamburg, Germany @ Docks
10/30: Manchester, United Kingdom @ Ritz
10/31: Birmingham, United Kingdom @ Institute
11/1: Bristol, United Kingdom @ O2 Academy
11/2: London, United Kingdom @ Roundhouse
11/4: Glasgow, Scotland @ Garage
11/5 Nottingham, United Kingdom @ Rock Ctiy
11/6: Newcastle, United Kingdom @ O2 Academy
11/8: Erfurt, Germany @ HSD
11/10: Berlin, Germany @ Huxleys
11/11: Dresden, Germany @ Alter Schlachthof
11/14: Salzburg, Austria @ Rockhouse
11/15: Preatteln, Switzerland @ Z7
11/16: Milan, Italy @ Live Club
11/18: Augusburg, Germany @ Kantine
11/19: Frankfurt, Germany @ Batschkapp
11/20: Koln, Germany @ Live Music Hall
11/22: Tourhout, Belgium @ De Mast
11/23: Eindhoven, Netherlands @ Kolokgebouw Speedfest

For More Info Visit:
https://www.facebook.com/VistaChinoMusic
http://www.vistachinomusic.com
http://www.napalmrecords.com

Vista Chino, “Planets 1 & 2″ from Peace (2013)

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audiObelisk Transmission 029

Posted in Podcasts on August 27th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Click Here to Download

 

Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!

Been a while, right? Tell me about it. Although I love, love having The Obelisk Radio streaming 24 hours a day, seven days a week, I’ve been wanting to bring back podcasting for a while now. I always thought it was fun, it just got to be time consuming and to be perfectly honest, the response over time took something of a shit.

Well, the idea here is to start with a clean slate. Anyone who’s listened to audiObelisk podcasts before will notice this one doesn’t have a title. There’s no theme running throughout — though I wanted to keep it focused on new stuff as much as possible — and though others ranged upwards of four hours long, this one clocks in at just under two. I gave myself some pretty specific limits and wanted to start off as basic and foundational as possible. I haven’t done this in a long time, and it seemed only appropriate to treat it like a new beginning.

Something else I’m keeping simple is the intro, so with that said, I hope like hell you download at the link above or stream it on the player and enjoy the selections. Here’s the rundown of what’s included:

First Hour:

Mystery Ship, “Paleodaze” from EP II (2013)
Carousel, “On My Way” from Jeweler’s Daughter (2013)
Ice Dragon, “The Deeper You Go” from Born a Heavy Morning (2013)
Black Mare, “Tearer” from Field of the Host (2013)
Beast in the Field, “Hollow Horn” from The Sacred Above, The Sacred Below (2013)
11 Paranoias, “Reaper’s Ruin” from Superunnatural (2013)
Vàli, “Gjemt Under Grener” from Skoglandskap (2013)
Beelzefuzz, “Lonely Creatures” from Beelzefuzz (2013)
Dozer, “The Blood is Cold” fromVultures (2013)
Toby Wrecker, “Belle” from Sounds of Jura (2013)
Shroud Eater, “Sudden Plague” from Dead Ends (2013)
Luder, “Ask the Sky” from Adelphophagia (2013)
Eggnogg, “The Once-ler” from Louis (2012)

Second Hour:

Colour Haze, “Grace” from She Said (2012)
Borracho, “Know the Score” from Oculus (2013)
The Flying Eyes, “Raise Hell” from Split with Golden Animals (2013)
Demon Lung, “Heathen Child” from The Hundredth Name (2013)
Vista Chino, “As You Wish” from Peace (2013)
Across Tundras, “Pining for the Gravel Roads” from Electric Relics (2013)
Black Pyramid, “Aphelion” from Adversarial (2013)
Church of Misery, “Cranley Gardens (Dennis Andrew Nilsen)” from Thy Kingdom Scum (2013)

Total running time: 1:57:54

Thanks for listening.

Download audiObelisk Transmission 029

 

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15 Before ’14: Records Not to Miss Before the New Year Hits

Posted in Features on August 7th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

If you’re anything like me — and let’s just hope for your sake you’re not — then you’re sitting in front of your laptop staring at a calendar telling you it’s August wondering what the hell happened to June and July. Last time I turned around, it was barely summer, and now it’s starting to get cold at night.

We’re well past the halfway mark on 2013, and I know for some the year’s best picks are already set in mind, but there’s a ton of cool releases still to come before 2014 hits, and I figured now’s as good a time as any for a rundown of a few picks that seem to be sure to arrive prior to December 31. As much as anything’s ever “sure,” anyway. Subject to change, and all that.

With the gracious suggestions/assistance of those checking in on the forum (see that thread for many more picks) taken into consideration, here are 15 suggestions to be on a lookout for starting in September. Some of these I’ve heard, some I haven’t, but take it as a sampling of what I’m looking forward to, if nothing else.

And because I know nothing says “I know how to have a good time” like a list in order of release date, here goes nothing:

Vista Chino, Peace (Sept. 3)

It took me a couple listens to come around to Vista Chino‘s Peace (review here), but once I got to that point, there was no turning back. The much-anticipated Napalm Records debut from the four-piece birthed out of Kyuss Lives!, Peace ultimately moves forward as much as it looks back, and though much of the lyrics center around the lawsuit that forced Kyuss Lives! to change their name, the songs themselves do arrive at a certain place of acceptance by the end of the record, so that in the end it lives up to its title. Some won’t be able to make the leap over their expectations for what an album with Brant Bjork, John Garcia and Nick Oliveri on it should sound like, but most importantly, Vista Chino are pressing on and I hope this isn’t the last record they make together, even if Oliveri is already out of the band’s touring lineup.

Larman Clamor, Alligator Heart (Sept. 10)

The solo-outfit of graphic artist Alexander von Wieding, Larman Clamor has been pumping out quality swamp boogie for the last two years at a more than prolific clip. Last year, von Wieding made his debut on Small Stone with Frogs (review here), and while the forthcoming Alligator Heart (out through the same label) strips the approach down somewhat — as you can hear on the single “Banshee w’Me” — the murkedelic blues spirit remains supreme at the center of the project’s approach. Larman Clamor has flown relatively under the radar so far into its run, but showing a little bit of a poppier side on Alligator Heart‘s tracks might gain it some more attention. Von Wieding‘s songwriting continues to be worth the price of admission to the bizarre carnival he creates.

Windhand, Soma (Sept. 17)

Richmond-based cult sludgers Windhand made their debut on Relapse earlier this year on a split release with Cough — with whom they share a bassist and a hometown — and will follow that next month with Soma, their second LP behind their 2012 self-titled debut full-length. The band have only gotten darker and meaner since adding Cough‘s Parker Chandler on bass, and with that split heralding its coming, Soma should arrive with a fittingly devastating impact. Windhand have also put in no shortage of time on the road, and even as the new one comes out, they’ll be embroiled in a coast-to-coast US tour, so keep an eye out — and that goes for Europe too. I wouldn’t be surprised if a full tour with Inter Arma got announced around their joint Roadburn appearances next spring.

Sasquatch, IV (Sept. 24)

Sasquatch bloody Sasquatch. If you’ve got a face, these dudes’ll rock it right off. With IV (Small Stone) their first full-length since 2010′s III (review here), L.A. trio Sasquatch very casually offer a reminder that those who talk about how rock and roll needs to be “saved” don’t have a clue what’s really up, that rock and roll never went anywhere and that its awesomeness continues unabated. Need testimony? Check out the track stream for “The Message.” Classic grooves, class-y showoff solos, catchy tunes and later in the album even a foray into psychedelic jamming — let there be no doubt that Sasquatch have nailed down right where they want to be sound-wise and are ready to make the most of the good times they’re rolling out as they continue to lay their own railroad, grand and funky as it is. Soundgarden wishes they had this kind of edge.

Iron Man, South of the Earth (Sept. 30)

You’d pretty much have to be a jerk not to feel good about the fact that long-running, long-underappreciated Maryland doom stalwarts Iron Man are getting their due in the form of a Rise Above Records release for their new album, South of the Earth. I know that’s not the most impartial statement in the world, but seriously, who deserves Lee Dorrian-endorsed doom cred more than Iron Man? The names are few and far between. South of the Earth already had me on the hook for being their first full-length with frontman Dee Calhoun on board alongside guitarist “Iron” Al Morris III, bassist Louis Strachan and drummer Jason “Mot” Waldmann, but with the hopefully increased profile of issue on Rise Above, who knows what could be in store for them once it’s out?

Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight, Underground EP (Sept.)

Trippy Wicked caught me off guard last year with the heavier and more metal side that showed up on their Going Home long-player (review here), but this time I’m ready. I’ve readjusted my expectations for what the UK trio might unleash on the new Underground EP — set phasers to who-the-hell-knows — and after the quick mastery of the metallurgical arts they showed the last time out, I’m happy to follow wherever their creative whims might take them. I know this is a list of albums and technically an EP isn’t a full album, but screw it, I dig these guys and am fascinated enough by their progression that it’s worth including even the smaller release here. If the art for Underground (due out through Superhot Records) is anything to go by — and I don’t yet know that it is — we could be in for a pretty wild ride.

Earthless, From the Ages (Oct. 8)

San Diego instrumentalists Earthless are looking to make an epic return on From the Ages (Tee Pee Records), which is their first studio full-length in six years. Though they’ve had a steady stream of live releases, limited splits and the like, and guitarist Isaiah Mitchell released a debut album with the heavy psych outfit Golden Void last year, nothing’s quite the same as Earthless‘ righteous jams and extended progressions. Look out for the 31-minute title-track (one of four on the album; more info here) as Earthless step into the limelight and reap the momentum they’ve built through steady years of touring and critical acclaim. From the Ages might just prove one for the ages.

Monster Magnet, Last Patrol (Oct. 15)

My only question when it comes to Monster Magnet‘s second album for Napalm Records — touted by frontman Dave Wyndorf as a return to their psychedelic beginnings — is how literally we’re supposed to take the title Last Patrol and if indeed this is going to be the final go for the long-running and hugely influential New Jersey outfit. If so, they draw their circle as complete as they possibly could, and whether it’s “The Duke (of Supernature),” which has received nearly 23,000 plays since being premiered here on July 23, or the driving churn of “End of Time,” Monster Magnet tap into the spirit that propelled 1995′s Dopes to Infinity and readjust the balance of their influence in a way fans have been clamoring for for years now. The more I hear it, the more I need to hear it.

Pelican, Forever Becoming (Oct. 15)

A new Pelican album is an interesting enough proposition at this point — it’s been four years since the Chicago instrumental outfit released What We all Come to Need (review here) — but Forever Becoming (Southern Lord) has an added level of intrigue for being Pelican‘s first album without guitarist Laurent Schroeder-Lebec. Stepping in to fill the second guitar spot is Dallas Thomas of The Swan King, and it should be interesting to hear how the band’s approach has shifted after almost half a decade and what Thomas brings to the well-established chemistry between bassist Bryan Herweg, drummer Larry Herweg and guitarist Trevor de Brauw. If the first track is anything to go by, Pelican still sounds like Pelican, and I’m not going to complain about that.

Corrections House, Last City Zero (Oct. 29)

Probably the bigger surprise would’ve been if the super-type group Corrections House didn’t make their full-length debut on Neurot, but still, word was welcome when it came down a couple weeks back that the conjoined efforts of Scott Kelly (Neurosis), Mike IX Williams (EyeHateGod), Bruce Lamont (Yakuza) and Sanford Parker (Buried at Sea, Minsk and the guy you want to record your album) were resulting in an actual album to follow up on their initial single and tour earlier this year. Whether the entirety of the record works in the kind of industrial, post-Godflesh noise crunch they brought to the stage on that tour (review here), we’ll just have to wait and see. But I’m damn interested to find out.

Red Fang, Whales and Leeches (Oct.)

Those who heard Red Fang‘s 2011 boot-to-the-ass second album, Murder the Mountains (review here), will probably find Whales and Leeches (named for a track off their 2008 self-titled debut) a reasonable follow-up. The Portland forerunners’ second offering through Relapse finds bassist/vocalist Aaron Beam even more front and center with clean vocals, and ultra-catchy songs like “Blood Like Cream” and “No Hope” seem to pick up right where Red Fang left off last time, offsetting Beam‘s poppier style with guitarist/vocalist Bryan Giles‘ throaty grit . Watch out for much more to come on this one. Between the record itself and their formidable road ethic, you’re probably going to be hearing a lot about it.

The Melvins, Tres Cabrones (Nov. 5)

If you were to ask me how many records the Melvins have out in 2013, I’d go, “Uh… I dunno… six?” and the mere fact that that doesn’t seem like a ridiculous answer should be indicative of the frankly absurd pace at which the long-enduring Washington outfit add to their already insurmountable catalog. What makes Tres Cabrones (Ipecac) different? Reportedly, it’s a semi-reunion of the band’s 1983 lineup — as close as they were willing to get, was how Buzz Osbourne put it in the press release — that finds Dale Crover playing bass to make room for drummer Mike Dillard. The Melvins released the collection Mangled Demos from 1983 in 2005, but Tres Cabrones will be entirely new material. You never know quite where the Melvins are headed next, and if anyone could find a way to go forward even as they go backward, it’d be them.

Sandrider, Godhead (Date TBA)


So in case you couldn’t tell by the “TBA” above, this one’s a bit of wishful thinking on my part. I don’t actually know that Sandrider (members of Akimbo and The Ruby Doe) will issue a follow-up to their 2011 self-titled Good to Die Records debut (review here) before the end of 2013, but golly, I hope they do. The band said on July 11 via their Thee Facebooks that they’d finished mastering the album, titled Godhead, for a Fall release, so I guess we’ll just have to wait and see once it’s pressed and ready to go. The sooner the better, since that first record was a smoker and nothing says “autumn” like some noise crunch bombast. At least that’s what I have embroidered on my doilies…

Snail, Feral (TBA)

Not sure on the release date for West Coast riffers Snail‘s fourth album and third since reactivating in 2009 with Blood, but the recording’s reportedly done, so hopefully it’s not too long before they get it out. The band recently announced the departure of guitarist Eric Clausen, so they’re down to the original trio of guitarist/vocalist Mark Johnson, bassist Matt Lynch and drummer Marty Dodson, and how that will affect their sound on the follow-up to last year’s metallized self-release, Terminus (review here), remains to be seen, but if there’s any chance Snail might be able to get more road time in support of Feral, whenever it arrives, than no doubt it will have been worth the tumult in the meantime. And even if not, the album’s still one to watch for.

The Wounded Kings, Consolamentum (TBA)

Another one with no exact date, but according to producer Chris Fielding, it’ll be out before 2013′s over. Either way, when it lands, Consolamentum will serve as the Candlelight Records debut. It’s their fourth outing overall, and the second to be produced by Fielding and to feature frontwoman Sharie Neyland, whose work on 2011′s In the Chapel of the Black Hand (review here) made that album one of the year’s most satisfyingly bizarre and dreary doom offerings. Along with founding guitarist Steve Mills, Neyland returns for Consolamentum and whether it hits in 2013 or 2014, look for the band to progress from the last time out. Mills (interview here) is a relentlessly forward-thinking songwriter and his penchant for creating atmospheric and crushingly dark sonic spaces is not to be underestimated.

Whew. These things always take so much longer than I think they’re going to when I start writing names on Post-It notes.

Of course, this is just a sampling of what’s to come over the next few months. Borracho‘s new one is supposed to get a vinyl release, and A Storm of Light have a new record, plus I heard rumors of new Slough Feg (they have a new single that would seem to back that up) and a much-awaited Brothers of the Sonic Cloth full-length coming before the end of the year — I also, right now, quite literally this second, just got news of a new Diesto on Eolian Empire — so please don’t assume that if it’s not here it’s never coming or whatever. There’s so much out there, I always feel like I’m leaving out something big and/or awesome.

Thanks for reading.

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Vista Chino, Peace: The Desert was Our Home

Posted in Reviews on July 30th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Vista Chino has been a curious proposition from the start. As far as reunions go, I think even the members of Vista Chino would have to admit the circumstances that have led to their studio full-length debut, Peace (Napalm Records) have been convoluted and probably far less than ideal. What began as a Kyuss revitalization in the form of the John Garcia-fronted Garcia Plays Kyuss at the 2010 Roadburn festival and gradually morphed into tours with former Kyuss bassist Nick Oliveri (also Queens of the Stone Age, Mondo Generator) and drummer Brant Bjork (also Brant Bjork and the Bros., Che) with guitarist Bruno Fevery under the moniker Kyuss Lives!, Vista Chino wound up becoming Vista Chino as a result of a lawsuit that had former Kyuss guitarist Joshua Homme (who went on to bone fide rock stardom in Queens of the Stone Age) and bassist Scott Reeder as its plaintiffs. In this context, it’s just as easy to read the album title Peace as a desperate plea as a relieved exhale. Perhaps it’s both. Whatever the case, this multi-tiered clusterfuck born out of the original reunion spearheaded by Garcia, initially on his own with members of European acts (including the Belgian-born Fevery), has led to new band Vista Chino Garcia, Fevery, Oliveri (who plays on the album but has been replaced live by C.O.C. bassist Mike Dean) and Bjork — making their first record as the inheritors of the Kyuss legacy, which presented in the massive influence of the three studio albums after their 1991 Wretch debut — Blues for the Red Sun (1992), Welcome to Sky Valley (officially a self-titled; 1994), and the ominously-titled …And the Circus Leaves Town (1995) — is indisputably the largest in the genre of desert rock. This is no small challenge, but whatever else Peace is able to accomplish over the course of its 49 minutes and 10 tracks split just about evenly time-wise to allow for vinyl sides, it maintains an element of consciousness throughout of the context in which it arrives. Then it sidesteps it and rocks out with abandon.

However a Kyuss reunion might’ve played out in a perfect world, Vista Chino, who recorded Peace at Thunder Underground in Palm Springs, handled the task before them the only way they could; they wrote a collection of honest songs that didn’t outwardly try to recapture what Kyuss was in its heyday, but invariably showed flashes of that owing to the involvement of Bjork, Garcia and Oliveri and the effect that being in Kyuss has had on their lives, better and worse. Perhaps most pivotal to the album’s ultimate success, nobody throughout Vista Chino‘s debut is doing an impression either of Homme‘s tone or his songwriting methodology. If anything, the name change brought on by legal mandate has allowed the group to begin the establishment of a new musical identity, and though Fevery‘s tone is rife with desert-styled fuzz, his manner of play particularly in the leads here and his handling of the riffs throughout is his own. Maybe that new identity wasn’t what Vista Chino were looking to do when they started out as Kyuss Lives!, but it’s where they ended up all the same. The closest Vista Chino comes to directly referencing Kyuss on Peace is probably in the central riff of “Planets 1 & 2,” which seems to be nodding at “Green Machine” from Blues for the Red Sun — but even there, the band finds personality of its own as Bjork steps in to share vocal duties with Garcia, something that, though he contributed to the songwriting all along while he was in Kyuss (he left prior to the last album), he never did before. Likewise, songs like “As You Wish” and the sweetly open-spaced “Barcelonian” showcase a laid back heft that, though Kyuss touched on at times and one could easily argue had a hand in pioneering, is more mature in its presentation and sense of purpose than the members of Vista Chino could’ve been at a younger age. The inevitable tradeoff is that it’s not new anymore and that Vista Chino inherently cannot instantly show up and invent desert rock the way Kyuss is often credited with doing (of course the reality is more complex than the narrative; see also “Black Sabbath invented heavy metal”). It’s already been done.

How do you, in putting tracks together, ignore that and proceed to make a record? I don’t know. And I don’t know what the division of songwriting labor on Peace was between Bjork, Garcia, Fevery and Oliveri, how much of the album was written separately as opposed to together in a rehearsal space or in the studio, but at some point, these players stopped looking back at what Kyuss was able to spearhead and started looking forward at what Vista Chino might be able to do to make a mark on the form. That could be something as simple as the jam from which the shuffle of the later “Dark and Lovely” resulted, maybe. What matters is, it happened, and however a given listener might feel about the circumstances by which Vista Chino became Vista Chino, it’s to the ultimate benefit of Peace that they did. To call these Kyuss songs would be to set a standard in the mind of anyone hearing them with a clue as to who Kyuss was that they invariably couldn’t meet. Peace probably wouldn’t work as a fifth Kyuss outing. As the first Vista Chino, it not only affirms the relevance in the craft and performance of the band, but it gives them a starting point from which they can expand on subsequent outings should they choose to do so, free of the restraints that an idea of “what Kyuss should sound like” might otherwise place on them. Had Garcia, Fevery, Oliveri and Bjork started out under the new name, it wouldn’t even be a matter of discussion. It’s fascinating to think of that as the feedback intro “Good Morning Wasteland” gives way to the driving “Dargona Dragona,” which is Peace‘s first impression on the listener. An album that only gets stronger and more complex as it plays out, “Dargona Dragona” provides Peace a mostly straightforward beginning, Fevery, Oliveri and Bjork starting out instrumentally before Garcia joins on vocals. When he does, his voice is more blown-out sounding than anywhere else on the record, presented with a kind of compression that cuts through the otherwise natural-sounding tones for the “ooh-ahh” chorus and seems high in the mix as a result. Though on the subsequent “Sweet Remain,” he pushes his range to what seems like as high and as guttural as it will go, on “Dargona Dragona,” the vocals are almost abrasive, even as the swirl and richness of fuzz the rest of the band creates is just beginning to establish itself.

That can, for the first several listens, be off-putting — or at very least, off-throwing; which may well have been Vista Chino‘s intent — but it’s easy enough to get used to, and both the verses and chorus are memorable enough that the quality of track outshines any puzzling aspects of its presentation. The aforementioned “Sweet Remain” follows with Bjork setting the beat on drums as Fevery joins with a layered riff and winding lead while Oliveri rumbles with characteristic and creative fills underneath and Garcia recounts through the chorus lyrics what reads like a direct reference to the band’s legal struggles — “And they lost their souls/When they lost their way/Yeah, we fight to the bone/But the spirit remains” (or thereabouts). After work in Slo Burn, Unida, Hermano and guest spots on countless other bands’ albums across the world, John Garcia sounds perhaps most at home in these songs as he has since Kyuss‘ initial run (though I’ll gladly champion his performances in the other acts noted as well). On “Sweet Remain,” he bleeds, and after a bouncing, gleefully insistent instrumental stretch, returns to ask, “And I wonder/Who’s fooling who/And I wonder/Who’s fooling you.” If nothing else, we glean that the sundry dramas surrounding the band are present on the minds of Vista Chino, and it was arguably much the same on Queens of the Stone Age‘s …Like Clockwork (review here) when it was released earlier this year. So be it. Following, “As You Wish” sticks to a similar lyrical thematic — the opening lines “Rise from ash/The phoenix comes” — but resides in a less hurried instrumental sphere, the bass prominent amid buzzsaw guitar and Bjork‘s drumming, which is subtly creative and periodically the glue holding the jams of Peace together. On a general level, “As You Wish” is more indicative of the spirit of Peace overall, laid back, heavy, ultra-grooved and jammed-feeling but given to moments of propulsive riffing, topped with Garcia’s inimitable vocals. Most immediate, it makes a fitting lead-in for “Planets 1 & 2,” which not only is one of the most enjoyable tracks on Peace but also, for Bjork taking the fore vocally, one of the stretches in which Vista Chino most carves out its own personality, separate from the legacy of Kyuss.

Read more »

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Vista Chino Announce North American Tour Dates; Mike Dean Playing Bass

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 9th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Aside from the regular-type awesomeness that Vista Chino are going on tour in support of the upcoming full-length debut, Peace, the news below gets an added level of intrigue because the band will be joined for the US run by Mike Dean of C.O.C. on bass. Of course, C.O.C. are currently working on a new album as well, so how that scheduling will play in with him splitting time on the road with Vista Chino remains to be seen.

For now though, the good news is they’re touring. The bad news is there’s no Boston show and they hit New York and Philly the week of my wedding anniversary. Peace is due out Sept. 3 on Napalm. Dig it:

VISTA CHINO Announce North American Tour Dates

New Album Peace Available September 3rd in North America via Napalm Records

VISTA CHINO the band formed by John Garcia and Brant Bjork (formerly of Kyuss) are gearing up for the release Peace. The album will be released September 3rd in North America via Napalm Records. The artwork for the album was created by the renowned California art collective – The Date Farmers.

Following their much heralded debut North American performance as VISTA CHINO at the “Orion Music and More Festival”, the band have confirmed a North American headline tour in support of Peace. Support on the tour will come from the Portland Oregon rock outfit known as Black Pussy.The tour kicks off September 6th in Calgary, Alberta and runs through September 28th in Columbus, Ohio.

Drummer Brant Bjork cannot wait to showcase the new music for the fans:

“VISTA CHINO is super excited to bring the fresh VC rock to the American fans. We’ll be rocking songs from our new Vista Chino record “Peace” along with some Kyuss classics and the legendary Mike Dean from COC will be bringing the electric bass…so, be there or be square.”

The band debuted the “Dargona, Dragona” on their Facebook Page. When visiting the page, clicking the “like” button will enable the audio.

Rising from the desert sands that birthed Kyuss Lives, VISTA CHINO’s sound is instantly familiar. With the trademark soulful vocals of John Garcia, the songwriting and production of Brant Bjork (drums) and the fuzz-laden riffage of imported guitarist Bruno Fevery, VISTA CHINO’s debut is one of the year’s most anticipated heavy rock albums. A new band born of a storied past, right now it’s about these players playing these songs.

VISTA CHINO North American Tour:
9/6: Calgary, AB @ Flames Central
9/7: Edmonton, AB @ Starlite Ballroom
9/9: Vancouver, BC @ Commodore Ballroom
9/10: Seattle, WA @ El Corazon
9/11: Portland, OR @ Hawthorne Theater
9/12: San Francisco, CA @ Slims
9/13: Los Angeles, CA @ Echoplex
9/14: Anaheim, CA @ House of Blues
9/16: Denver, CO @ Summit Music Hall
9/18: Minneapolis, MN @ Fine Line Music Café
9/19: Chicago, IL @ Metro
9/20: Pontiac, MI @ Crofoot Ballroom
9/21: Toronto, ON @ Phoenix Concert Theater
9/23: Montreal, QC @ Corona Theater
9/24: Quebec, QC @ Dagobert
9/25: Ottawa, ON @ Ritual Night Club
9/26: New York, NY @ Bowery Ballroom
9/27: Philadelphia, PA @ Underground Arts
9/28: Columbus, OH @ Alrosa Villa

VISTA CHINO European Dates:
7/25: Tienen, Belgium @ Suikerrock
7/26: Feldkirch, Austria @ Poolbar Festival
7/29: Vienna, Austria @ Rock Im Wald Festival
7/31: Pinarella di Cervia, Italy @ Arena
8/3: Lierpop, Holland @ Rock Planet
8/7: Munich, Germany @ Backstage (Free & Easy Festival)
8/8: Geneva, Switzerland @ Usine
8/9: Puttlingen, Germany @ Rocco del Schlako
8/10: Eschwege, Germany @ Open Flair Festival

Vista Chino, “Dargona Dragona”

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Vista Chino Album Title, Artwork Unveiled

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 6th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Well, if Vista Chino (the former Kyuss Lives!) are going for a desert vibe in their artwork, it’s easy enough to imagine the cover of their forthcoming full-length debut, Peace, painted on the side of a chipped-away wall, so yeah, I guess they got there. The band are playing Metallica‘s Orion Festival this weekend in Detroit, and have announced some European dates, but the title and the art are the big news for the day, and presumably there’s more news to come before the release on Napalm Records.

So says the PR wire:

VISTA CHINO Announce Album Title, Unveil Artwork

First North American Performance This Weekend at “Orion Festival”

VISTA CHINO the band formed by John Garcia and Brant Bjork (formerly of Kyuss) have finished work on their new album. Today the band has unveiled the album title as well as the cover art for the record. The album is titled Peace and the artwork for the album was created by the renowned California art collective – The Date Farmers.

Drummer Brant Bjork commented about working with The Date Farmers:

“The Date Farmers are native to the desert where we are from. It is an honor to work together with such prolific artists!”

VISTA CHINO’s first North American performance will take place this Sunday June 9th at the “Orion Festival” in Detroit, MI curated by Metallica. VISTA CHINO will appear on the “Frantic Stage”. A full North American tour will be announced shortly

Recently the band debuted the “Dargona, Dragona” on their Facebook Page. When visiting the page, clicking the “like” button will enable the audio.

Rising from the desert sands that birthed Kyuss Lives, VISTA CHINO’s sound is instantly familiar. With the trademark soulful vocals of John Garcia, the songwriting and production of Brant Bjork (drums) and the fuzz-laden riffage of imported guitarist Bruno Fevery, VISTA CHINO’s debut is one of the year’s most anticipated heavy rock albums. A new band born of a storied past, right now it’s about these players playing these songs.

VISTA CHINO Live:
6/9: Detroit, MI @ Orion Festival
7/25: Tienen, Belgium @ Suikerrock
7/26: Feldkirch, Austria @ Poolbar Festival
7/29: Vienna, Austria @ Rock Im Wald Festival
7/31: Pinarella di Cervia, Italy @ Arena
8/3: Lierpop, Holland @ Rock Planet
8/7: Munich, Germany @ Backstage (Free & Easy Festival)
8/8: Geneva, Switzerland @ Usine
8/9: Puttlingen, Germany @ Rocco del Schlako
8/10: Eschwege, Germany @ Open Flair Festival

For More Info Visit:
https://www.facebook.com/VistaChinoMusic
http://www.vistachinomusic.com
http://www.napalmrecords.com

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Vista Chino Sign to Napalm Records; New Song Posted

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 23rd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

We all knew it was coming, but Vista Chino, formerly Kyuss Lives! have officially announced that they’ve signed with Napalm Records and will release a new album this fall. The first taste of that record is posted now on their Thee Facebooks page in a studio version of “Dargona Dragona,” previously available as a live clip.

Vista Chino is John Garcia, Brant Bjork, and Bruno Fevery. Curious not to see Nick Oliveri listed in the lineup, but that’s probably a different press release entirely. Behold:

VISTA CHINO Sign to Napalm Records

VISTA CHINO the band formed by John Garcia and Brant Bjork (formerly of Kyuss) have inked a deal with Napalm Records. The album is set for an early fall release. More details, including album title, artwork and track listing will be revealed in the coming weeks.

Vocalist John Garcia said the following:

“Kyuss Lives is now VISTA CHINO!…it feels great just to write that….and to say it out loud, feels even better. Now that our relationship with Napalm Records is official; it’s time to forget about the past year, move forward, and execute our original plan, which was to make kick ass music and tour the world!

Drummer Brant Bjork added:

“We look forward to working with Napalm Records and we anticipate great support in rolling out the VISTA CHINO rock.”

Thomas Caser, Head Of A&R at Napalm Records commented on the signing:

It’s with great pride we announce the signing of VISTA CHINO. After all the band has been through they are ready to rock! We at Napalm Records are thrilled to work with such talented artists and look forward to a long-lasting cooperation!

Today Napalm Records and VISTA CHINO are excited to debut the first song from VISTA CHINO’s highly anticipated first full length album. The song entitled “Dargona, Dragona” is available as an exclusive stream on the VISTA CHINO Facebook Page. When visiting the facebook page, clicking the “like” button will enable the audio.

Rising from the desert sands that birthed Kyuss Lives, VISTA CHINO’s sound is instantly familiar. With the trademark soulful vocals of John Garcia, the songwriting and production of Brant Bjork (drums) and the fuzz-laden riffage of imported guitarist Bruno Fevery, VISTA CHINO’s debut is one of the year’s most anticipated heavy rock albums. A new band born of a storied past, right now it’s about these players playing these songs.

VISTA CHINO’s first North American performance will take place at this year’s “Orion Festival” in Detroit, MI curated by Metallica. VISTA CHINO will play on Sunday June 9th on the “Frantic Stage”. A full North American tour will be announced shortly.

VISTA CHINO Live:
6/9: Detroit, MI @ Orion Festival
7/25: Tienen, Belgium @ Suikerrock
7/26: Feldkirch, Austria @ Poolbar Festival
7/29: Vienna, Austria @ Rock Im Wald Festival
7/31: Pinarella di Cervia, Italy @ Arena
8/3: Lierpop, Holland @ Rock Planet
8/7: Munich, Germany @ Backstage (Free & Easy Festival)
8/8: Geneva, Switzerland @ Usine
8/9: Puttlingen, Germany @ Rocco del Schlako
8/10: Eschwege, Germany @ Open Flair Festival

For More Info Visit:
https://www.facebook.com/VistaChinoMusic
http://www.vistachinomusic.com
http://www.napalmrecords.com

Vista Chino, “Dargona Dragona” Live in Sydney, Feb. 27, 2013

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