Review & Album Premiere: 10,000 Years, II

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on June 22nd, 2021 by JJ Koczan

10000 years ii

[Click play above to stream ‘II’ by 10,000 Years in full. It’s out Friday June 25 on Interstellar Smoke Records, Ogorekords and Olde Magick Records.]

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The songs by and large are a little longer than on the EP, but the main difference is that they’re more tied around the central concept, expanding on a sci-fi storyline set up on the EP that finds the crew of a spaceship crashed on an alternate reality future Earth populated by ancient gods and, apparently, riders on mooseback. Or such as “The Mooseriders” would have one believe. So it goes. Tempo shifts mark another point of growth, and again, 10,000 Years tip their hand early in that regard, with the speedy opener “Descent” — obviously setting up a crash landing via frenetic riffage — giving way not to a subsequent blast of an all-out speed-riff assault as it seems to telegraph, but to a mellower opening for “Gargantuan Forest” and the more nod-paced fare that ensues. I don’t know at what point the lyrics came into the picture, but the songs don’t bend to the story so much as set a fitting backdrop for what plays out across the span, trading intensity back and forth in a way indicative of the burgeoning dynamic in the band’s sound even as they willfully revel in some more familiar stylistic tenets.

For my own version of posterity, and to go with the stream above, below is the story as they tell it, quoted from their Bandcamp page:

After narrowly escaping the confines of the strange planet and its surrounding dimension, the “Albatross” and its crew finally returns home to Earth. The re-entry is rough and the ship crashlands in a forest. The earth that greets them is vastly different from the one that they left.

When the ship travelled back to earth through the wormhole it created a rift in the space-time continuum which propelled them far into the future as well as allowing the Green King and other ancient gods from the other dimension to cross over to our dimension.

They have since taken control of not just the earth, but the entire solar system.

After various harrowing experiences and encounters, the truth finally dawns on the surviving members of the crew. They are indeed back on earth, but ten thousand years in the future from when they started their journey. And to make matters worse, they find evidence that the Green King have been known and worshipped by secret cults and societies on earth for millennia, since before what we today know as humankind even existed.

The surviving members of the crew come to the conclusion that the only way to set things right again is to repair the “Albatross” and take it back through the rift again in order to close it.

10000 years

The narrative brings depth to the proceedings but is by no means a crutch, and through the brash shove of “Spinosaurus” to the unmitigated good-time march that is “The Mooseriders” and into “Angel Eyes” with its ready lumber, 10,000 Years remain committed to their purpose both as storytellers and as songwriters. The latter track, at just four and a half minutes long, boasts a standout lead and a kind of jammier vibe, the rhythm and solo guitar layers working the band’s way into an instrumental finish that sounds as if it could easily go on longer than it does and, from a stage in a live setting, provide righteous hypnosis to the audience. In context, it sets up the transition to “March of the Ancient Queen,” “Prehuman Walls” and eight-minute closer “Dark Side of the Earth” on side B, and that is a worthy-enough cause in itself.

While the trio won’t quite touch the same level of brash as “Spinosaurus” again, there’s still plenty of damage to be done on II, and they set about it with glee on “March of the Ancient Queen,” an interplay of chug and crash early giving ground later to an almost psychedelic careening solo in one channel, then the other, then both, atop galloping drums, finishing clean despite all the dust they’ve kicked up behind them. They get more under their proverbial fingernails in “Prehuman Walls,” perhaps, the penultimate cut shorter in its procession but as low down into sludge as 10,000 Years go on this first album, at least until about three minutes in, when they pause before kicking into higher gear once again, if momentarily ahead of a giant Sleep-style slowdown finish.

That sets up “Dark Side of the Earth” as the finale, which enters patient with quiet guitar and unfolds with tragedy-tinged vocals in its early verses before a quiet break leads to a rousing, cacophonous end. II, and not just for its title, makes it easy to forget that it is a debut. So assured is it on an aesthetic level, and so complete in its purpose, that it emphasizes how schooled 10,000 Years are in what they’re doing. That is to say, they are not strangers to the music they’re making, but fans themselves, and so even as they bring forth this pummel that can make one feel bashed about the skull by the time “Dark Side of the Earth” has turned, an abiding sense of joy is resonant in their presentation. Ultimately, that is the greatest takeaway from II, and one could hardly ask anything else of it than to express the richness and vitality that inspired it in the first place. It does this and more.

10,000 Years, “Gargantuan Forest” official video

10,000 Years on Facebook

10,000 Years on Instagram

10,000 Years on Bandcamp

Interstellar Smoke Records on Facebook

Interstellar Smoke Records store

Death Valley Records on Facebook

Ogorekords website

Olde Magick Records on Bandcamp

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Stream Review: Fatso Jetson & All Souls, ‘Virtual Volumes’

Posted in Reviews on June 21st, 2021 by JJ Koczan

fatso jetson all souls virtual volumes

Over the course of the last year-plus, there have been livestreams from practice spaces, concert halls, city parks, national parks, recreational vehicles, and of course, (mostly) empty venues. There have been one-offs and multi-day festivals. We’ve been up, we’ve been down, inside, out, all around. Multi-camera, shot-on-phone, sometimes both. All of it. I’m sure if you sat own and thought for a couple minutes you’d be able to come up with something no one had done yet, but it would take some effort.

It was kind of refreshing to tune into ‘Virtual Volumes’ this weekend and find it tossing off concerns of novelty. This was bands hitting it, period. Total Annihilation Studios was the setting, and Fatso Jetson and All Souls indeed hit it, one and then the other. The proceedings were filmed in March, as All Souls‘ guitarist/vocalist Tony Aguilar and bassist/vocalist Meg Castellanos recently discussed here, and with a minimum of personnel involved made even one fewer by the fact that the two outfits share drummer Tony Tornay.

Tornay has pulled precisely this double-duty on tour before, and it’s safe to assume he got a drink of water or something between sets, even if that required momentary mask removal. Hard times, folks.

And not to sound flip about it either, because over 600,000 people have died in this country alone and the plague’s still going on even amid vaccines and reopenings and all. Livestreams never took the place of shows and shame on you if you thought they might, but they have served dual noble purposes in letting audiences support and engage with artists and helping artists with new work promote that work and not completely lose momentum owing to a breakdown of the touring infrastructure. I’ve felt bad for a lot of people in the last 15 months, among them bands with really good records who can’t do a damn thing with them.

To wit, All Souls. Their ‘Virtual Volumes’ set — well shot with multiple cameras and cool projection effects on a white-sheet background and featuring sound worthy of the live album they’ll release hopefully any minute now — follows on the heels of their 2020 second album, Songs for the End of the World (review here), which just deserves more attention than it’s gotten. I don’t know how else to say it. I can slather on and on about the emotive weight of All Souls‘ songs, and certainly that’s resonant in the version of “You Just Can’t Win” they brought to the stream after the new song “Who Holds the Answer” — let alone fucking “Winds” — along with due tonal crunch. I can talk about the melodies, the craft, the nuance present even as they introduced new guitarist Matt Price (Behold! the Monolith), but the bottom line remains the same.

I don’t mind saying it bums me out to see bands do awesome things and not get a commensurate response. It’s part of why I’ve spent the last 12 and a half years doing this. Watching All Souls tear into “Sentimental Rehash” from the new album was just a reminder though of the fate of those who lie between styles. Too punk for rockers, too rock for punkers, too this and that.

Fuck that. They’re so good. People don’t know. How many bands are you gonna sit and watch play with masks on as a part of your Saturday and come out of it with no regrets? All Souls twisting around the leads of “Time Bomb” from the first record — 2018’s self-titled (review here) — almost frenetic but with Aguilar‘s voice cutting through that torrent in a melancholy, raw human presence. They well earn the fire and exploding lights at the finish. Psychedelic punk would be lucky if this was psychedelic punk.

Hilariously interspliced with some introductory vintage photos of Fatso Jetson? Three hotdogs in wrap-around rolls. And, those included, kind of told the story of the band over a couple minutes, from the raw desert trio of guitarist/vocalist Mario Lalli, bassist Larry Lalli and Tony Tornay on drums to the inclusion of Dino Lalli (now with a shaved head) on guitar, Vince Meghrouni on sax and so on, and eventually up to the moment, capping with shots of them tuning at Total Annihilation and masked outside. The video itself, mellow, black and white, Larry Lalli in a Karma to Burn shirt, unassuming. They opened with “Monoxide Dreams” from 2010’s Archaic Volumes (discussed here, review here), and held to that vibe throughout, running under half an hour like All Souls before them, but spending their time well.

As far as I can tell — for the Fatso Jetson catalog is a vast and many-storied thing — “Drifting off to Storybook Deth” was a new song, and it built to a lumbering psychedelic head with grace that came through fully in the studio setting, the two guitars intertwining, Dino closed eyes, in the zone, Mario‘s nose poking out of his bandana mask (soon pulled back up), vocals echoing, Larry and Tony holding it down up the middle. “Living All Over You” featured on the band’s stellar 2014 split with Herba Mate, Early Shapes (review here), and fit right in with the procession, subdued and melodic, and through “Long Deep Breaths,” the four-piece maintained the spirit of the thing. No lack of dynamic, you understand — even where not by blood, these guys are family — but weaving in gentler fashion through volume changes and sand-psych complexity.

A blowout finish was welcome in “Dream Homes” from 2016’s Idle Hands (review here) — quick but effective in rounding out with a reminder that punk’s the root beneath it all, whatever jazzy weirdness and quirk they might toss in along with it. There’s a quick minute of residual movement after the song ends — leftover rhythmic tension — and then the credits roll. Thanks for coming, drive safe.

I’ll spare you wax poetry about the persistence of human creativity in time of plague. You’ve heard it all in a million needless thinkpieces rendered with careful, hyper-literary eloquence. Blech. Give me rock and roll, please. I’ve seen Fatso Jetson. I’ve never seen All Souls, but I’d like to. This wasn’t a gig, but it was welcome, and it gave me another excuse to write about these bands and to watch them play, and I’m thankful for that. If livestreams are a marker of our times, one could do a lot fucking worse.

Fatso Jetson & All Souls, ‘Virtual Volumes’ teaser

All Souls on Facebook

All Souls on Twitter

All Souls on Instagram

All Souls on Bandcamp

All Souls website

Fatso Jetson on Facebook

Fatso Jetson on Twitter

Fatso Jetson on Instagram

Fatso Jetson website

Heavy Psych Sounds website

Heavy Psych Sounds on Facebook

Heavy Psych Sounds on Bandcamp

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Green Lung Announce New Album Black Harvest Available to Preorder; Out Oct. 22

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 21st, 2021 by JJ Koczan

If you, like me, have been waiting for news of the follow-up to Green Lung‘s 2019 debut, Woodland Rites (review here), pretty much since the needle stopped on that record, today’s the day. The Londoners will make release their second album and first for Svart Records, titled Black Harvest, later this year, and preorders are up as of today. The band has deluxe, signed vinyl and all that good stuff, and Svart has the CD and whatnot. It’s out Oct. 22.

Green Lung have tour dates currently booked that have already been rescheduled once or twice, but you’ll find those below, along with the album info, which comes courtesy of the label, along with the cover art by Richard Wells. Oh and there’s a streaming track too, because, you know.

I feel like it goes without saying I’m hoping to have more to come on this ahead of the release. I don’t think I’m cool enough to do a premiere at this point if I ever was — nothing against anyone, I know my place; that’s not something I say with bitterness — but I’ll probably ask anyhow. In any case, the sooner I hear it, the better.

Info follows:

green lung black harvest

Green Lung – Black Harvest

In four short years of existence, Green Lung have risen from the murk of the UK heavy underground to become a true cult band with a devoted following. Debut album Woodland Rites, released independently in early 2019, quickly garnered attention, resulting in a single being named ‘Track of the Week’ in the Guardian, plays on Daniel P. Carter’s Radio One Rock Show, a tour with fellow UK heavies Puppy and festival appearances across Europe.

This brought the band to the attention of the wider music industry, and after multiple offers from a variety of labels, the band decided to stay true to their roots and sign with the Finnish audio wizards at Svart Records, home to several of their doomy inspirations including Reverend Bizarre and Warning. Svart’s deluxe reissue of the album, and the preceding EP Free the Witch, sold out several pressings.

Two years later, the folk horror-obsessed fivesome have re-emerged from their mulchy catacombs armed with dozens of freshly-whittled riffs. Black Harvest, the sequel to Woodland Rites, is a more colourful reimagining of the band’s sound – Dawn of the Dead to green lung tourits predecessor’s Night of the Living Dead.

Recorded at Giant Wafer Studios in rural mid-Wales over the course of two weeks with longtime producer Wayne Adams (Petbrick, Big Lad), it’s a more expansive and textured record than anything the band have done before, boasting a cinematic quality and more attention to detail. All samples were sourced from the local countryside and from instruments found in the studio, including the haunting opening vocal of ‘The Harrowing’ which was recorded on a whim after the band broke into the local church (the organ can be heard creaking in the background). The album was recorded in late autumn, and the seasonal atmosphere seeped into the music, which is redolent of mists, falling leaves, and the crumbling glory of the Magnificent Seven cemeteries of London, the city the band call home.

The album also soaks in new sonics beyond the ‘Black Sabbath meets Brian May’ blueprint of what went before. ‘The Harrowing’ takes the band’s tradition of instrumental opening tracks to dizzy new heights, like Atomic Rooster jamming with Boston, while ballad ‘Graveyard Sun’, based on the folklore around the ‘Highgate Vampire’, adds gothic synth lines that would give Type O Negative pangs of jealousy. That’s not to say the hooks n’ heaviness approach that made the band’s name isn’t here in abundance, as the Sabbath-meets-Purple chug and groove of revolutionary lead single ‘Leaders of the Blind’ and the Hammer Horror riff frenzy of ‘Upon the Altar’ prove. Closer ‘Born to a Dying World’ is unlike anything the band have written before; an endtimes ballad with an almost gospel feel, tying the band’s omnipresent nature themes to the Anthropocene.

Mastered by John Davis at Metropolis (Led Zeppelin, Royal Blood), Black Harvest comes packaged in stained glass artwork by renowned artist Richard Wells (Doctor Who, Dracula, Ben Wheatley’s In the Earth), and is available in gatefold vinyl and CD formats.

The Harrowing
Old Gods
Leaders Of The Blind
Reaper’s Scythe
Graveyard Sun
Black Harvest
Upon The Altar
You Bear The Mark
Born To A Dying World

Tom Templar – Vocals
Scott Masson – Guitar
Andrew Cave – Bass
Matt Wiseman – Drums
John Wright – Organ

Green Lung, Black Harvest (2021)

Green Lung, Woodland Rites (2019)

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Mienakunaru to Release Lost Bones of the Holy Butterfly on Echodelick Records

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 21st, 2021 by JJ Koczan

Well of course I looked up what Mienakunaru translates to in English. It’s Japanese for “become invisible.” Fair enough. Lost Bones of the Holy Butterfly, which is the album that the intercontinental project produced in 2020, however, will be a little bit more visible as Echodelick Records steps up to release it in the US in a red edition where the original, on Dronerock, was green. Whatever color and however invisible it might be, the record boasts two side-long guitar freakfests and is wildly consuming all the way through. Shit goes wild, kid. Jazz.

Note the inclusion of psych-drone veteran Mike Vest of Bong et al here. I’m not sure what the association between Vest and Echodelick is, but the guitarist’s Bandcamp page was also where one could find UK/European preorders the other day for the Lammping record, so there’s some deal worked out there for distribution, which is worth keeping an eye on. If Echodelick is going to end up bringing North American distro to more of Vest‘s releases, well, that’s a quick way to build a label catalog for sure.

Future’s in the future. Here’s this till that:

Mienakunaru Lost Bones of the Holy Butterfly

MIENAKUNARU – Lost Bones of the Holy Butterfly – Echodelick Records

Vinyl Release : August 2021

Mienakunaru ‘Lava Red US edition’ coming out on Echodelick Records later this summer. Originally released on Dronerock Records earlier this year to critical acclaim. Echodelick is doing a US reissue with an alternate cover. The first 75 orders will receive a Mienakunaru patch.

Mienakunaru is a power trio of psychedelic noise rock and space punk. Mienakunaru – Lost Bones Of The Holy Butterfly features Mike Vest of the bands Blown Out, Ozo, Lush Worker, Bong, Melting Hand and many more. With skills that most musicians only dream of, Mike Vest infuses this album with non-stop rock that is highly impressive. Junzo Suzuki of Tokyo, Japan is the second guitarist in this mind-blowing album. He is known for his role in many underground psychedelic rock bands and has collaborated with Snakes Don’t Belong In Alaska, 20 Guilders, Astro and has over 20 albums released under his name. These two cutting edge guitarists team up, along with Dave Sneddon (Gruel, Bad Ra), for a display of raw guitar power and battering drums that go way beyond the term ‘Heavy Psychedelia’. Be prepared for the rollercoaster of fast lead lines, dual solos, heavy stoner riffs, and more. Simply put, Mienakunaru lay waste to all lifeforms.

As Mike himself said in a recent interview; “I always wanted to make music with Junzo and Sned and it came together pretty easy. Everyone is good with production and being able to record well from home. The musicianship is top quality and it didn’t take long to all come together.”

Mienakunaru are:
Junzo Suzuki – Guitar
Mike Vest – Bass, Guitar and Mix
Dave Sneddon – Drums

Mienakunaru, Lost Bones of the Holy Butterfly (2020)

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Video Premiere: Rainbow Starlight, PĂłl Brennan & SeĂĄn Mulrooney, “Ón MhĂĄthair”

Posted in Bootleg Theater on June 21st, 2021 by JJ Koczan

rainbow starlight pol brennan sean mulrooney

Life takes you to unexpected places, and if you’re alive, that’s probably something you already know. I’ve been to Sligo, Ireland, where singer-songwriter Rainbow Starlight is situated, and it vibes like a place where magic might actually happen. I don’t just mean that it’s beautiful, though it is, but with its worn hills and long-stretched landscape, it’s easy to get lost in the thought of it being a place of old knowledge. If you were going to tie a Gaelic version of the Hail Mary into the pagan roots of Christianity as an exploration of reformed organic folk, as Starlight does here in the company of PĂłl Brennan and SeĂĄn Mulrooney, it might be the kind of spot where that would happen.

So it goes that the title “Ón MhĂĄthair” translates to English as “from the mother,” and the eight-minute unfurling of the track takes place indoors and out in the accompanying video. Mulrooney, also of Tau and the Drones of Praise, recently took part in the Roadburn Redux virtual fest, and had Brennan sit in with the band as a part of that. I don’t know when that was filmed in relation to this, but there’s plenty of Springtime mist and clouds as Starlight takes a deep breath, sees the world go from black and white to full color, and seems to try to bring the essence of the place — Knocknarea, as you can read below — into herself. If you want a magic vibe, there it is.

Patient natural drone, guitar, percussion, some flute for good measure, and everyone’s voices coming together around Rainbow Starlight‘s own, “Ón MhĂĄthair” is a subtly varied but all the more lush for that stretch of melody and ambience. I’ll readily admit my connection here is Tau — who I hear have finished recording their next album, by the by — but the piece as a whole is beautiful and engrossing and if you’re up for giving it a chance, I think you’ll find much the same.

More info on the release follows, courtesy of the PR wire.

Please enjoy:

Rainbow Starlight, PĂłl Brennan and SeĂĄn Mulrooney, “Ón MhĂĄthair” video premiere

Clannad’s PĂłl Brennan and SeĂĄn Mulrooney from Tau collaborate with singer-songwriter Rainbow Starlight to release a haunting new version of the ‘Hail Mary’ as Gaeilge.

Release Date: Summer Solstice, 21st June 2021

Inspired by the multi-faceted and complex spiritual traditions of Ireland, Sligo-based singer-songwriter, Rainbow Starlight has composed a powerful and ethereal melody for one of Ireland’s best loved ancient prayers, ‘SĂ© Do Bheatha a Mhuire’.

Starlight says “We have experienced many waves of imperial and religious conquest in Ireland and despite concerted efforts to remove the essence of the Feminine from the collective psyche, the spiritual connection of the Irish people to the nurturing energy of the Feminine has always endured. During pre-Christian times this was expressed as a deep appreciation for the cycles of nature and Irish Goddesses such as Brigit and Maebh. In our more recent history, it has manifested as a continued reverence for Mother Mary and St. Brigid.”

It is the enduring connection of the Irish people to the Feminine that Starlight wanted to represent with this song. Clannad’s PĂłl Brennan says “One of the reasons we have lost our way in the world today is because we have lost our connection to the Feminine.” SeĂĄn from Tau adds “Unless we restore our connection to nature and begin to truly honour the Feminine, our trail of destruction will continue to blaze.”

The trio were united by a shared wish for healing and harmony in the world, each bringing their unique musicality and essence to craft this stunning piece. Starlight says “This song calls to everyone on this island of Ireland and across the world to reclaim our essence as balanced humans, to stand strong and to walk together on this beautiful Earth with sovereignty of heart.”

‘Ón MhĂĄithair’ (‘From the Mother’) was recorded live in the Chapel of Ease, Dublin in December 2020 and shot on the sacred mountain of Knocknarea, Co. Sligo, where Queen Maebh’s Tomb lies on the summit. The video and song work beautifully together to bring forth the golden thread of the Feminine that runs through Ireland’s ancient past and present alike.

Rainbow Starlight on YouTube

Tau on Instagram

Tau and the Drones of Praise on Facebook

Tau and the Drones of Praise on Bandcamp

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Friday Full-Length: Amorphis, Am Universum

Posted in Bootleg Theater on June 18th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

I’m begging you, just listen to this record. Please. For me. For you. Just listen.

Am Universum, the fifth album by Finland’s Amorphis, turns 20 this year. It was released through Relapse Records on April 3, 2001, so the date’s already passed. As the follow-up to 1999’s Tuonela (discussed here), it found the band progressing further into traditional rock melodies tinged with Finnish folk elements and drives inherited from their journey through death metal. Vocalist Pasi Koskinen still throws in a couple growls if you listen for them, but from Santeri Kallio‘s keys to the guitar nuance from Eso Holopainen and Tomi Koivusaari that unfurls in opener “Alone,” there’s no question that by this point Amorphis had largely left such extremity behind.

They did so organically, but boldly, over the course of their prior outings — 1992’s The Karelian Isthmus, coupled with the 1993 Privilege of Evil EP, 1994’s pivotal Tales From the Thousand Lakes, 1996’s even-more-pivotal Elegy, ’97’s My Kantele EP and the aforementioned Tuonela — their sense of progression never faltered, and it by no means stopped with Am Universum either. But, 10 years out from their first demo, Am Universum‘s 10-song/50-minute run marked a special moment in what was becoming the band’s signature blend of elements, and I don’t know that they’ve to-date ever written a stronger collection of tracks. Some songs are memorable. Once you get these into your head, they’re unforgettable.

Am Universum is a riding-a-bike album. Once you put it on, it’s like you never left. Multi-stage choruses in run rampant throughout, and as “Alone” introduces tones, melodies, the richness in Niclas EtelĂ€vuori‘s bass (he had replaced Olli-Pekka Laine, who’d soon come back) and the push of Pekka Kasari‘s drums (again, Jan Rechberger would return to the band in short order), the spectrum of colors offered only grows across cuts like “Goddess (of the Sad Man),” “The Night is Over” and “Shatters Within,” the band bringing structural variety along with a range of expression and an overarching flow that continues as the record progresses through the hard-riffed/well-organed “Crimson Wave,” “Drifting Memories” — one of several tracks to feature echo-lacedAmorphis Am Universum saxophone, but one on which it’s particularly well used — into the victory lap of “Forever More,” the gorgeous, melancholic semi-acoustic standout of “Veil of Sin,” and the closing duo, “Captured State,” which returns to some of the heavier hookmaking of the early cuts, and “Grieve Stricken Heart,” which is the first song since “Alone” to top six minutes and a beyond effective summation of the record’s many strengths in craft and aesthetic.

It’s hard with Amorphis — even harder than spelling “isthmus” — because especially up to this point in their career, every album really was an era. They had gone from raw death metal to the innovative use of instrumentation and themes from Finnish folk music, basing songs on the Kalevala, and so on, and they did so largely at a time before the internet really spread into people’s lives. So listeners lived with these albums in a different way. Even Relapse wasn’t the metal-major, whatever that means, it is now circa 1994 — indeed records like those Amorphis produced helped make them one. But the point is there are loyalists to each of those offerings listed above, and in that regard, Am Universum doesn’t get nearly enough credit for what the band managed to accomplish across its span.

Please. Just listen to it. I wouldn’t ask you if I didn’t think it was something you should hear.

On its face, it’s kind of unassuming. Two six-minute tracks bookending a bunch of others around four and five minutes long, pretty consistent, and the art? 20 years later and I’m still not sure what’s going on there, but I can tell you that its muted colors don’t come close to representing either the vast soundscape or the emotional breadth that comes across in the listening experience. In context it makes sense. This was, ostensibly, a metal band putting out a melodic heavy prog rock record. There had to be a certain amount of, “what the hell do we do with this?” going on, because especially coming out of death metal, and especially walking the sonic path that Amorphis were across genres, almost defining them as they went — folk metal is still a thing — it had never happened before. Am Universum pushed across boundaries and challenged the band to become something almost entirely different than they were when they started, and even crazier, pulled it off. I never have, but I’d love to talk to Matt Jacobson from Relapse about this album, if only to say thanks for taking the chance on putting it out.

Amorphis, true to their name, would continue to change. In 2003/2004, they offered Far From the Sun, as their first outing for Nuclear Blast, which stripped their songwriting down further into melodic heavy rock and would prove to be Koskinen‘s last album with the band; he has gone on to contribute to a number of outfits, among them Mannhai, Shape of Despair, Ajattara and so on. His replacement, Tomi Joutsen (also Hallatar and a bunch of others), made a distinguished first impression on 2006’s Eclipse (I saw them at BB King’s in Manhattan on that tour; it was the day I got back from SXSW that year; I was tired, they were great) and has gone on to be a reliable frontman presence for the group across the better part of two decades’ worth of releases, the band ultimately finding a line between melody and harder hitting fare that is no less their own for the influence it’s had over European metal in general.

In 2021, the band released Live at Helsinki Ice Hall, and Holopainen has a solo-ish album out under the moniker Silver Lake by Esa Holopainen on which he collaborates with different singers, so there’s plenty more to dig into after this. Amorphis‘ latest studio outing was 2018’s Queen of Time (review here), which demonstrated just how much the band’s sound has come to encompass over their now 30 years, and how distinctive their work is across the greater sphere of heavy music, metal or otherwise.

Please, just listen.

Thanks for reading. As always, I hope you enjoy.

Man, nobody’s gonna give a shit. I know it. Amorphis is one of those bands I write about because I love them and no one cares. Amorphis, Anathema, Swallow the Sun, etc. I’ve got a whole list. Let the record show I did it for me anyway, despite the begging aspect. That’s mostly me trying to convince Mike H. and a few others it’ll make their day better.

Lot going on this weekend, but somewhere in there I’m going to find time to review the Fatso Jetson/All Souls stream. I think that might be the last livestream review I do, at least of pandemic-era stuff. Shows are starting up again this Fall, it’s looking like, and barring disaster, it’ll be possible to see bands in-person rather than onscreen. I don’t think livestreams are going to completely disappear, so I’m not gonna say I’ll never do another one, period, but for now, unless something really amazing comes up — more ‘Live in the Mojave Desert’ etc. — I feel like maybe this is a good one to go out on.

Weird week. The Pecan is out of the boot post-legbreak, and that’s good. He’s still favoring the leg a bit, but it’s only been a few weeks. He’s running again, so that’s good, and I took him to the playground down the way yesterday and he played hard like a three year old who hasn’t been to the playground in the better part of a month, so that was good to see. He saw the moon while he was on the swings and got all excited: “It’s a crescent moon!” If I could live a thousand years, I’d hope never to forget it.

But the week is over, which is good, I think. No school next week, which is going to be a crunch. Summer break, huh? Okay. Camp starts after the July 4 holiday, so that’s about two and a half weeks he’s home. There you go. If you’re wondering, that’s why I didn’t answer your email. I’ll be lucky if I have time to shower twice.

I made Facebook group for The Obelisk this week. It’s here if you want to check it out:

So far it’s a lot of people introducing themselves and their projects, but that’s to be expected, I think. And the whole point of the thing is to share music, so that’s reasonable. You could argue I did the same thing by starting it in the first place.

So yes, needless to say I’ll be phasing out this blog in the next couple weeks to focus on The Obelisk as a purely social media-based entity.

No. Of course not. Not that I’m so attached to WordPress — though apparently I am — but I’ve yet to find a social media interface that holds a candle to AOL 3.0. Or maybe I’m just nostalgic. I can still hear my 28k baud modem screeching in my head, about to get knocked offline when someone picks up the phone. Charged by the minute. Madness.

What a time to be alive.

But that’s enough whatnot. I plug along. I did some good reading this week, nothing too challenging, but it feels good for the brain. I hope you’re well and stay that way. Have fun, be safe, watch your head, hydrate. Gotta hydrate. So important.

No Gimme show today, but next week’s is the first part of a two-parter Neurosis deep-dive. It’s gonna be awesome.


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Solar Haze Premiere “The Solar Age” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on June 18th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

solar haze

Los Angeles-based trio Solar Haze release their new EP, The Solar Age, on July 16 through Metal Assault Records. I’ll be blunt: it’s a good time. They’re too far south to be a part of the whole Pacific Northwest party-rock thing in Portland, but they’re definitely all the way up for throwing down. Not as psyched out or malevolent as Mountain Tamer — whose sticker makes a cameo on a shovelhead in the video premiering below — but with a tonal crunch in the guitars of Stephen Falla and Ross Cowan that lets you understand where the two outfits would be friends. The Solar Age runs three tracks and 17 minutes and nine of those are dedicated to “Terror of the Deep,” which closes out. Side A, if you’re thinking of it as a 10″, brings the title-track and “Fortress Will Fall.” Both are a blast.

The title-track opens and arrives with immediately respectable chicanery. There’s fuzz being kicked around, but it’s also kind of hard to ignore that the central riff comes across like Slayer played at about 80 percent speed — if you have a moment, please let me tell solar haze the solar ageyou sometime about my concept cover band, Slowyer — which they liken to an Iron Maiden influence and I’m not inclined to argue. It’s a current of metal one way or the other, but the chug in the chorus brings to mind early aughts Small Stone Records-style drunken fuckall, and the energy that runs throughout is infectious. The song itself is about five minutes long, pushed forward with due force thanks to Ryan Michael Falla‘s drumming, and shifts into a more winding section to set up its guitar solo in the second half, but is never too far from the hook. That’s a fitting setup for “Fortress Will Fall,” which is even more straightforward, punkish in spirit and insistence. Again, they’re having fun so you’re having fun. And if you’re like me and you’re the kind of person who says things like, “Not really a big fan of fun,” give it a shot anyway. It’s important to try new things.

Of course, the proceedings slam headfirst into a bigtime tempo slowdown for “Terror of the Deep.” What, you thought Solar Haze were gonna write a nine-minute track about a monster under the ocean and not doom out the riff? Please. The methodical chug and aggro vocal reminds of earliest Sleep and also C.O.C. and a bunch of other raw mid-’90s stonerized punk, but there’s room for some psych in there, and the trio take advantage, mellowing the end and adding a sense of space earlier on as well, not to flesh it out needlessly, but to hint at their willingness to let complexity blossom in their sound over time. In following up their 2019 self-titled debut LP and last year’s “Burn the Light” single, they give a resonant sample of who they are as a group to anyone who might be looking to get on board. They make it easy to do so.

All the more with the video for “The Solar Age.” Note the Necronomicon making an appearance. Always nice to see. There’s beers, jams, sunshine. Loosen up for a couple minutes and enjoy yourself.

Some comment from the band follows below:

Solar Haze, “The Solar Age” video premiere

Solar Haze on “The Solar Age”:

We’re excited to release our first music video to coincide with the pre-order launch of our upcoming EP, The Solar Age. First impressions are everything and we couldn’t be happier with how this video captures the spirit and energy of Solar Haze.

This video channels the perfect blend of Iron Maiden / Red Fang with some Evil-Dead-inspired horror, ultimately creating an experience that blends heavy riffs with heavier humor. Thank you for checking out our music and we look forward to playing this song for you live!”

The official release date for The Solar Age EP is slated for July 16, 2021 on Metal Assault Records.

The Solar Age track listing:
1. The Solar Age (4:57)
2. Fortress Will Fall (3:50)
3. Terror Of The Deep (9:00)
Total Runtime: 17:47

In celebration of their new release, SOLAR HAZE will perform at “Blunt Force Trauma Fest,” a virtual mini festival experience presented by Ebony Jeanette PR & Metal Assault Records streaming July 16th via More information about the Blunt Force Trauma Fest can be found via Facebook:

Guitar/Vocals/Bass Guitar: Stephen Falla
Guitar: Ross Cowan
Drums/Percussion: Ryan Michael Falla

Solar Haze on Facebook

Solar Haze on Instagram

Solar Haze on Bandcamp

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Metal Assault Records on Instagram

Metal Assault Records on Bandcamp

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Lammping to Release Flashjacks Aug./Sept. on Echodelick Records

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 18th, 2021 by JJ Koczan


Pulling drive-bys on empty rooms, making tapes outta rekkids, watching the bottom fall out and going on anyway — Lammping‘s new album Flashjacks has enough cool-ass flow to well earn the arrogance it takes to call a song “The Funkiest” and release it to public ears. You start off with an Om ride cymbal in “Intercessor,” but like so much of the 33-minute long-player, it becomes a plaything in Lammping‘s hands. A fuzzy shimmer of nostalgia peppers the straightforward songs with aesthetic, samples and effects adding to the memorable melodies and hooks, hooks, hooks of the thing. Oh, it’s so right on. You gotta understand. You just have to.

Maybe you caught onto the band’s 2020 LP Bad Boys of Comedy (review here). Or maybe it was 2021’s New Jaws EP (review here) that did it. Or maybe it hasn’t happened yet. Point is, listen to this shit and let it click because if you let it it will and then everybody’s life gets better.

DL is out Aug. 27. I’ve got an album stream booked for Aug. 19. That’s right. I dig this so much I locked down an album stream two months in advance. Not taking any goddamn chances.

Preorders and such from the PR wire:


LAMMPING – Flashjacks – Echodelick Records

Digital Release : August 27th, 2021 / Vinyl Release : September 17th, 2021

Toronto psych band Lammping’s sophomore album Flashjacks is coming out digitally August 27th, getting a vinyl release through Echodelick Records on September 17th.

Presale Begins June 25th. Edition of 300. Oxblood/Black swirl. First 75 orders receive a Lammping patch.

USA orders

UK/EU orders

After their critically acclaimed debut LP release on Nasoni Records in July 2020, the band got to working on a new collection of songs, further expanding the sonic possibilities of heavy music. The foundation of the sound remains rooted in Jay Anderson’s heavy drumming and Mikhail Galkin’s melodic riffs, but with the addition of samples, drum machines and a variety of instrumentation, the upcoming LP’s sonic palate is just as indebted to Stereolab, De La Soul and Kraftwerk as it is to Black Sabbath, Blue Cheer and Sleep.

Thematically, the record is about a general sense of urban paranoia, exploring themes of social division, gentrification, memory and spirituality against that backdrop. It is also an ode of sorts, to Toronto, and the good and the bad of the city’s history and fabric.

Flashjacks attempts to eschew cliched stoner and psych-rock tropes and to forge a new path in heavy psychedelia. From the Madlib-esque crunch of the drums on Lammping to the sample-laden Other Shoe, the album bends unwritten rules of the genre, while building on the foundation of well crafted, melodic songs.

Lammping, “Lammping”

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