Review & Video Premiere: Backwoods Payback, Future Slum

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Reviews on August 15th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

backwoods payback future slum

[Click play above to view the premiere of Backwoods Payback’s ‘Generals.’ Their new album, Future Slum, is out now.]

Future Slum could hardly sound more sincere if Backwoods Payback had cut themselves open and bled it out. And, listening to the melodic, post-grunge ending of “It Ain’t Right” — an Alice in Chains reference, maybe? — I’m not entirely sure they didn’t. There are raging moments as the album begins at a sprint in “Pirate Smile” and “Generals” seems to lay hands on the listener only to shove them out of its way, and the later “Alone” offers tonal thickness and grooving lumber of a more seasoned pace. This while “Lines” finds the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Mike Cummings, bassist Jessica Baker and drummer Erik Larson locked into blood-boiling tension before skillfully cramming in one last chorus for the opening salvo that ends with the rolling “Whatever” bringing forth a hook that one might call “signature” before guest vocalist Mlny Parsonz of Royal Thunder hurls out a scream that reminds of the harsher edge Backwoods Payback stand ready to unleash at any given moment.

Rest assured, Cummings will answer soon enough in “Threes” at the end of side A as Larson gives his toms a torrential workover, and “Generals” wants nothing either in terms of aggro edge. To the notion of authenticity as a myth in terms of art or, really, anything — it’s a false standard at the very least — Future Slum is a challenge. It is so much the band’s own, and so much of it comes across as an arrival point in their ongoing growth, that in kind with the atmospheric spaces it covers in “Cinderella” and “Alone,” its punk, metal, grunge and heavy rock elements craft an identity that stands in the middle of a Venn diagram of genres while delivering a hard no to committing to any of them for more than the purposes of the single track being served. And as they make their way through the 10 songs/34 minutes of Future Slum, what ties their disparate ideas together — aside from Baker‘s basslines, which would probably be enough on their own — ends up being that flat-out refusal to play to style or be anything other than the band they’ve become.

This isn’t accidental, of course. Backwoods Payback have never been shy in terms of getting out and touring, and as they returned in trio form with 2016’s Fire Not Reason (review here) after a half-decade’s relative quiet — they had a 2012 live release (discussed here) and 2014’s In the Ditch EP (review here) filling that gap — following 2011’s Small Stone-delivered sophomore album, Momantha (review here), they maintained their commitment to pushing their sound forward on stage. Future Slum only benefits from this on a performance level, as CummingsBaker and Larson are tighter as a unit than they were even just two years ago, and one can hear it in the initial thrust of “Pirate Smile” as much as the dug-in emotionalism of the memorable “Big Enough,” a wistful highlight as much for its self-harmonizing as the instrumental build happening beneath, culminating in a wash and some quiet strum soon enough devoured by the opening riff of the penultimate “Alone.”

backwoods payback (Photo by Useless Rebel)

I used to call Backwoods Payback “dirt rock,” and there’s an aspect of that still applicable, but Future Slum makes easy tags a thing of the past, and as a fan, it’s all the more an exciting release for that. It’s been two full-lengths thus far, but since Cummings and Baker brought in Larson on drums, one can hear in the songs not that they’re playing against each other, but that all three members of the band are challenging each other to make the whole group stronger. And they do. Future Slum has three inclusions over four minutes long, and the band’s execution is accordingly teeth-grindingly tight, but as they continue to refine their processes and their delivery, their output makes it plain for anyone to hear that they’ve reached a new level in style and substance. Fortunately, in accord with this is a consistency of songwriting. Cummings‘ lyrics are spit poetry and the forward drive he, Baker and Larson are able to conjure amid dynamic turns of tempo and melody, is unmistakable. Fire Not Reason laid the foundation, and as a result of that, Future Slum is the strongest release they’ve ever had.

That’s true in terms of performance, craft and overall production sound, which remains thick where and when it needs to be while allowing the three-piece to still have a live feel and highlight nuances like the layered-in guitar effects in the second half of the opener or the timely shouts that punctuate the lines of “Generals.” Following the weighted nod of “Alone,” “Lucky” closes out as the longest cut at 4:57 and seems to find some middle ground in a Sabbathian central riff and steady initial pace, but true to form, it ups the tempo in a classically metallic turn — no less Sabbath, for that matter — that soon enough gives way to the slower chorus before landing in a chug that seems to disintegrate as it fades out, ending Future Slum with a bit of tension that one might even dare to think Backwoods Payback would answer with the start of their next album. Whether they do or don’t, and wherever they might go from here, the organic nature of their progression only makes Future Slum all the more of an accomplishment.

Some 11 years removed from their self-titled debut, they’ve risen to their own challenge and come together to create something special and truly theirs. It’s not dirt rock. It’s not stoner, or Southern rock, or doom or grunge or hardcore punk or whatever else. It’s Backwoods Payback. They’ve carved their sonic persona out of all of these things, and most of all, stayed true to themselves while embracing such a breadth of influence. In their faster and slower songs alike, one can hear the sense of immediacy, and it’s completely reasonable why. Backwoods Payback have been around, and they’re not dumb. This is a moment they’ve managed to capture, and there are parts of Future Slum that sound like they’re almost chasing after themselves before they get away. That’s not a negative at all. Rather, as it manifests here, it serves notice of the consciousness underlying their efforts, and they’re right. This is a watershed for them. Their urgency is nothing if not well placed.

Backwoods Payback, Future Slum (2018)

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Sons of Alpha Centauri Post “Solar Storm” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 13th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Sons of Alpha Centauri

So there’s this submarine. And it’s in a lake. And it’s huge. And the video starts out and there’s all this movement and driving and going through different scenes and where are we going I don’t know but it works really well with the riff so just roll with it and so on. Eventually, we get up to the lake. Maybe a pond? A relatively small-ish body of water. We get there and Sons of Alpha Centauri arrive and there’s no way they all came in the same car because there isn’t enough room for all their gear but whatever that’s not the point. All the while “Solar Storm” is playing and it’s got this crazy kind of tension to it and the band walk out to a spot by the water on what seems to be some pretty nice farmland.

It’s all in black and white until they start playing. And then like purple and orange lasers come out of their guitars and whatnot and start to hit the submarine like they’re rerouting power from the auxiliary systems to feed through the dilithium core — am I right? — and then the submarine shoots into space at what looks an awful lot like warp six. If I had to guess. And then the submarine careens through outer space like it’s the dude in 2001: A Space Odyssey for a while, it breaks through water and then the clip cuts back to the band, who pack up their gear — I still think it’s studio magic to think they fit two guitars, a bass, a full drum kit and themselves in that car, but maybe they’re Tetris pros — and split. The end.

Video of the year? Maybe.

“Solar Storm” comes from Sons of Alpha Centauri‘s new album, Continuum (review here), on H42 Records and Cobraside Distribution and it’s produced by Aaron Harris, who was in Isis when they were a band. Sons of Alpha Centauri recently shared stages with Yawning Man in the UK and have other stuff going on, but quite frankly I’ve delayed enough. You should just dig in here and enjoy:

Sons of Alpha Centauri, “Solar Storm” official video

The journey into instrumental progressive rockers SONS OF ALPHA CENTAURI’s new album “Continuum” progresses, as the video for “Solar Storm” lands today on all channels.
“Solar Storm is the cumulative blend of fast, slow, heavy, progressive styles of SOAC all encapsulated within a five minute adrenaline shot. Working with Simon Risbridger on this video was awesome as he completely understands our visual aesthetic and secluded introspective approach. We wanted the video to represent the different segments and styles within the track as part of the journey – it has been highly stylised with multiple references and subliminal messages. Embark the journey and embrace the storm!’ states SOAC bassist Nick Hannon.

The video starts a black and white fine art epic shot in and around the spiritual home of SOAC, Swale and the Isle of Sheppey and the story progresses into a cinematic visual feast of intergalactic travel through space and time. The introspective journey of ‘Solar Storm’ has been directed by long term collaborator Simon Risbridger who worked with Sons of Alpha Centauri on visuals including live performances with A Storm of Light.

SOAC IS
Marlon King – Guitars
Nick Hannon – Bass
Stevie B. – Drums
Blake – Textures

Sons of Alpha Centauri on Thee Facebooks

Sons of Alpha Centauri on Twitter

Sons of Alpha Centauri on Bandcamp

Sons of Alpha Centauri website

H42 Records website

Cobraside Distribution website

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Friday Full-Length: RPG, Full Time

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 10th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Some records are born and bred for shenanigans. Based out of Richmond, Virginia, the four-piece Southern heavy punkers RPG made their debut with 2004’s Full Time on Arclight Records, and with it they collected 13 tracks of straight-ahead anti-bullshit rowdiness, careening through boozy riffs and pub-fare vibes on their way to a seemingly inevitable crashout. Influences like The Stooges and MC5 go without saying, but their punk roots ran deeper than that. One imagines them at some point taking a stage alongside Zeke and absolutely leveling everything in their path, but RPG‘s Full Time isn’t just about speed, or a brash attitude. In two-minute cuts like “Clockin’ In” and the strutting “Crash Bam Boom” there are hooks that speak to a rock classicism that one finds manifest in bands like Roadsaw and The Brought Low. Come to think of it, how these guys didn’t wind up on Small Stone Records at the time is something of a mystery. Nothing against Arclight — they had some killer releases, including Amplified HeatCardinale and the first The Book of Knots record — but RPG would’ve been a more-than-decent fit as labelmates alongside the likes of Dixie Witch and The Glasspack, and it just never happened for whatever reason. Still, Full Time holds up remarkably well for the 14 years that have passed since its release, and whether it’s the opening shove of “Nazi Mindreader” or the unhinged workaday garage rock of “Untuck It,” the whole outing brims with an energy that’s almost too easy to read as a Friday-night tension blowoff; beers downed, riffs unleashed.

It’s the kind of party where, one way or another, somebody is losing their keys. Maybe they show up again, maybe they don’t. But screw it, that car was junk anyway, and when RPG kick into the start-stop tension of “Standstill Blues,” who’d want to go anywhere anyhow? Like all of the cuts surrounding on the 29-minute full-length — half-hour set put to tape; maybe a minute left to tune between songs if that’s your thing — “Standstill Blues” is short and sharp at about two and a half minutes. As it should, the shortest of the bunch, “Lose It” (1:27) — for which they also made a video — arrives as a burst of electroshock therapy next to the relative sprawl of the longest cut, “Paralyzed” (3:07), which takes a full 37 seconds before starting its first verse; an anomaly given much of what’s around it. Comprised of vocalist/guitarist Matt Conner, guitarist John Partin, drummer Mike Marunde and bassist Tony Brown (since replaced by Bunny Wells), the band hit the brakes a little bit on “Early ’72,” but “You Gotta Know” before it and “Ghetto Rose” after are ragers, the latter with a motor-ready tear-ass winding riff that’s here and gone before it even has time to show up on the radar gun. The rest of the record continues basically in form, somewhat malleable in tempo, but never veering from its rpg full timecentral purpose in the drunkard punkard, “Crash Bam Boom” capping with a blown-out insistence that’s a punch to the face even among its compatriot cuts, and “Can’t Get Any Sleep,” which boasts the line, “I cannot have the American dream/If I can’t get any sleep,” seems to say more than it even intends in terms of working class blues.

They cap with “20 Year Old Idiot,” which seems to compare whoever it’s about to an idiot 10 years their senior and judge them to be pretty much the same, and one last urge to motion in “Song of Evil,” as Conner‘s bullhorn-esque vocals and his scorching guitar lead seem to both be delivering the identical message — last call, folks. So be it. RPG have, by then, left the room with its ass thoroughly kicked — I imagine a basement venue somewhere in deep downtown Manhattan or, just maybe, The Continental with its shot specials and Bingo working the front door — and have made their point. Their rhythm and forward drive are straight out of classic punk, but their tones come from more of a heavy rock kind of place, like they grew up and decided to buy some better gear. Also to write songs. And whatever else Full Time does in leaving tire tracks across its listeners’ heads, it does have songs. The quality of RPG‘s material, of the guitar interplay between Conner and Partin, of not just the speed but the character of groove from Brown and Marunde, helps to keep it as relevant now as when it was released, if not more so, given the fact that, though a new audience generation has come up in the interim, that generation is now established in much the same way the prior one was by 2004 when RPG came along. I remember when Full Time first came out thinking it was a little more punk than I really wanted. I guess maybe I grew into it since then.

RPG put out long-players in 2008’s Worth the Weight and 2012’s High Loathsome, both of which had some longer songs — the opening track on the latter was over five minutes! — and a bit more of a stylistically dynamic approach, but that wasn’t really what Full Time was about. Full Time was and still is about getting in, smashing up the place, and getting back out again. There’s no pretense otherwise and there doesn’t need to be. It’s an exceptionally efficient delivery and for as much beer as the album seems to down, it’s remarkably clearheaded along its path. At least mostly. By their once-every-four-years pace, RPG are two years overdue for a fourth album and I’m not actually sure what their status is as their social medias hasn’t been updated since they celebrated their 15th anniversary with a Hardywood Park beer release in 2015 — the RPG IPA was a dark ale with 7 percent ABV that did pretty well in Beer Advocate — playing a show at the brewery in Richmond. If you were forcing me to guess what they’ve been up to since, I’d probably say, I don’t know, life? The kind of life that doesn’t require an update on Thee Facebooks?

Good for them, I suppose. Or hope. Either way, Full Time still holds up, and as always, I hope you enjoy.

Thanks for reading.

Rough week. Most of it was a blur, but a rough blur. The Patient Mrs., The Pecan, The Little Dog Dio and I left New Jersey yesterday afternoon to sit in traffic en route to Connecticut, and we won’t be back until at least probably Aug. 21. This coming week is Psycho Las Vegas and because the flight was booked super-early and I didn’t know we’d be staying in NJ basically the whole summer, I’m flying out of Boston. So we came here to stay for a couple days and then will head north in time for me to fly out on Thursday at like 6:40AM or whatever it is. Early. Not like I won’t be up, but still. That’s early for taking your shoes off at security and all that rigmarole.

Whatever. At the end of that process is Psycho Las Vegas, though I’ve no idea how to get from the airport to the hotel. I suck at that kind of thing. Planes land right on the strip now, right? “Uh, pilot? Please stop at the Hard Rock. Thanks.” Or maybe they have one of those buttons you push on the bus to request a stop. “Roll out the inflatable slide; this is where I get off.” I’ll sort it out. Or maybe I’ll get lost and wander off into the desert, never to be heard from again. If that happens, it’s been real.

Of course, with that massive festival ahead, that will dominate next week’s schedule, but there are news and videos and premieres and stuffs besides that need to get posted, so here’s a look at the subject-to-change-duh notes:

Mon.: Tour dates for Earth Ship & Rising presented by The Obelisk; Sons of Alpha Centauri video.
Tue.: Some review; Fuzz Forward video.
Wed.: Backwoods Payback video premiere/review; Son of the Morning video.
Thu: Spacetrucker album stream/review; Vision Éternel video.
Fri.: Psycho Las Vegas review
Sat.: Psycho Las Vegas review
Sun.: Psycho Las Vegas review
Mon.: Psycho Las Vegas review

Since I travel Monday, I’ll probably take Tuesday off if I can or use it to finish whatever I don’t of the review of Psycho Sunday. We’ll see. I’ll sort it all out. It’s my first time at Psycho, but hardly my first time covering a festival. I have no doubt it’ll be a good time and I’ll have plenty to say about it. Things like, “Vegas is a capitalist cesspool but golly I sure do like riffs and air conditioning!” Review over.

Well, it’s after six and the sun’s up, which means the baby will be soon as well, so I better punch out. I hope you have a great and safe weekend. If you’re going to Psycho, I’ll see you there — I’m the guy with the hippie pants and the cosmic backpack because I’m pushing 40 and just don’t care anymore about anything other than max comfort at any given time — and otherwise, I hope you enjoy the coverage if you get to check any of it out.

Thanks again for reading and please don’t forget the forum and radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

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Weed Demon Post “Sigil of the Black Moon” Video

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

weed demon

With their debut album, Astrological Passages (review here), Columbus, Ohio, four-piece Weed Demon step into one of the country’s most vicious sludge legacies. There are few phrases that strike fear into the heart of pharmaceuticals like “Ohio sludge,” and with good reason. From Fistula and Rue to Rebreather and Sofa King Killer, the Buckeye State has produced landmarks for the genre to rival anything that’s come out of New Orleans or any of the other US hotbeds on the West or East Coasts. Issued by the band in 2017 and pressed to vinyl by Electric Valley Records, Weed Demon‘s four-tracker LP bring in shades of modern riff tectonics à la groups like Monolord and rumbles with a tonal heft that seems to extended even to the high end of their guitar solos. Vocals have a tendency to roar accordingly.

“Sigil of the Black Moon,” for which the band has a new video out, is the second-longest song on Astrological Passages at 10:46 — only closer “Jettisoned” tops it, at 12:37 — and is a fervent, lumbering beast of a track. Shades of Goya‘s ultra-stonerism pervade, but with the harsher edge, there’s little question where Weed Demon‘s collective corrupt heart lies in terms of style. You’d call it brutal and not be wrong. The band appear in the video, playing through the song in front of what looks like a really nice rock wall in someone’s living room maybe. They’ve got some candles set up around them and it’s all well and good. Then there’s another part of the video, where it cuts to this guy and his lady and they’re like covered in dirt makeup and chocolate sauce or whatever it is and making out. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to sit here and judge anyone’s kink, it’s just not the kind of thing you usually see in a sludge clip.

All the better, I guess. It’s pretty hilarious though to watch the guy in the mirror putting on his makeup and think of the Primordial video earlier this year that was basically their frontman doing the same thing. Context goes a long way.

The clip follows here, along with some PR wire background on its making and live dates.

Enjoy:

Weed Demon, “Sigil of the Black Moon” official video

WEED DEMON are pleased to reveal their new video for “Sigil Of The Black Moon”. The song is taken from the album Astrological Passages which is getting a fresh release on vinyl July 27th.

The band commented “We started working on the video for “Sigil” in August of last year. A handful of setbacks and numerous bowl packs later we finally got around to wrapping everything up. Seeing the final product was like a huge collective exhale for us. It’s no easy task to put together an almost 11 minute video. A huge thanks to Josh Richter for helping to keep the project moving forward. Keep it heavy. Keep it hazy.”

Weed Demon live:
Aug 10 The Green Lantern Lexington, KY
Aug 11 Urban Artifact Cincinnati, OH
Sep 13 The Spacebar Columbus, OH

Weed Demon is:
Jordan Holland – Bass, Vocals
Andy Center – Guitars, Vocals (backing)
Brian Buckley – Guitars, Vocals (backing)
Chris Windle – Drums

Weed Demon, Astrological Passages (2018)

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Insect Ark Post “Tarnish” Video; Touring East and West Coasts

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 8th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

insect ark (Photo by Rennie Elliot)

I was fortunate enough to watch a couple minutes of Insect Ark at Roadburn earlier this year from way, way in the back of the Cul de Sac venue in the Netherlands, and I ran into band founder/multi-instrumentalist Dana Schechter later on or the next day or whenever it was and told her, “Your band is fucking awesome.” Usually one tries to be reserved. I nonetheless stand by the statement.

Earlier this year, Schechter, who handles lap steel, bass, synth, etc., and drummer/synth noisemaker Ashley Spungin released the second Insect Ark album, Marrow Hymns, through Profound Lore. It’s the first collaboration between the two players under the Insect Ark banner — the first full-length, 2015’s Portal/Well (review here), was Schechter alone — and through the Earthly drone ramble of “In the Nest” to the practically-noise-rock “Skin Walker,” which follows and into the insect ark marrow hymnsminimalist, post-metallic reaches of “Slow Ray,” which has a proclivity for holding tension worthy of comparison to Neurosis, it’s an evocative, inspirational outing that refuses genre convention in favor of its own strength of creative will. With the ambient introduction of “Thelema” setting a foreboding tone and “Arp 9” following with an immediate burst of bass/drum angularity of groove, there’s as much atmospheric as there is tonal heft, but with the layered-in lap steel, an airy high end seems to float through the places vocals might otherwise go.

Marrow Hymns can be crushing, but listening to Spungin‘s tom work in “Sea Harps” and how it opens to a mid-level payoff in the cymbals before she and Schechter lock in a march beneath swells of guitar, it’s not overdone, amp-worshiping claustrophobia. And though it’s clearly progressive in the sense of having thought behind it, it’s not overly cerebral and staid as some post-metal has a tendency to be. It’s titled correctly. Marrow Hymns. It goes right to the bone and sings from what’s inside there. Some of it is gorgeous, some of it isn’t, but whatever it is, it’s honest, and as the drumless “Tarnish” moves into the patient and consuming highlight “Windless” and the drone-fight synth-barrage that is closer “Daath,” Insect Ark only seem to be plunging even deeper into that visceral, often lonely reality. Marrow Hymns is powerful. A living thing.

And all the more exciting because although they’ve been working together since 2015 it’s the first studio expression of Insect Ark as a duo. I wouldn’t at all expect them to make the same record twice, but it seems entirely likely that Marrow Hymns, for its many accomplishments, will also serve as a stepping-off point to the next stage in Insect Ark‘s ongoing progression. An outfit like this simply doesn’t stay still.

To a less figurative end of that, Insect Ark will be on tour this month and into September, hitting the West Coast first followed by the East. Dates follow the “Tarnish” video below, courtesy of the PR wire.

Please enjoy:

Insect Ark, “Tarnish” official video

New York/Portland instrumental duo, INSECT ARK, will bring their psalms to the live stage later this month on a North American tour en route to their performance at this year’s edition of Basilica Soundscape in Hudson, New York. The band will perform an all drone set August 11th in Salem, Oregon at Cemetary Soundscapes Fest before kicking of the first official leg of the tour with Belus August 15th in Olympia, Washington. The trek will run through August 19th in Los Angeles, California. The second leg of the trek begins August 29h in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and will find the band paired with Pandiscordian Necrogenesis through September 6th in Brooklyn, New York. See all confirmed dates below.

INSECT ARK released their Marrow Hymns full-length early this year via Profound Lore. An alluring fusion of horror-film soundtracks, psychedelic doom, and atmospheric noise, INSECT ARK’s intensely visual music weaves interludes of fragile beauty with crushing passages of swirling doom, spinning like a backwards fever dream.

INSECT ARK:
8/11/2018 Cemetary Soundscapes Fest @ The Burial Grounds – Salem, OR (drone set)
w/ Belus:
8/15/2018 Cryptatropa – Olympia, WA w/ Eye of Nix, Vouna
8/16/2018 Highline – Seattle, WA w/ Eye of Nix, Forest of Grey
8/17/2018 High Water Mark – Portland, OR w/ Jason W. Walton, Dark Numbers
8/18/2018 Golden Bull – Oakland, CA w/ Ails, Apprentice Destroyer
8/19/2018 The Resident – Los Angeles, CA w/ Graf Orlock, Toke
w/ Pandiscordian Necrogenesis:
8/29/2018 Kung Fu Necktie – Philadelphia, PA w/ Dopethrone, Crud, Hellrad
8/30/2018 Atlas Brew Works – Wash DC w/ Crowhurst, The Holy Circle
8/31/2018 Full Pint Wild Side – Pittsburgh, PA
9/01/2018 Intersection Fest 2018 – Toronto, CA (free/all ages)
9/03/2018 Casa Del Popolo – Montreal, CA w/ Echo Beach
9/04/2018 Paulys Hotel – Albany, NY w/ Foisy-Hardiman
9/05/2018 Obrien – Boston, MA w/ Sea, Greylock
9/06/2018 Saint Vitus – Brooklyn, NY w/ Queen Elephantine
9/14-16/2018 Basilica Soundscape Festival 2018 – Hudson, NY *INSECT ARK only

Residing on opposite coasts, the two halves of the INSECT ARK whole – comprised of Dana Schechter (bass, lap steel guitar, synthesizers) and Ashley Spungin (drums, synthesisers) – converged to record the album with engineer Ethan Donaldson at Mozart St Studios in Brooklyn, New York over the course of eighteen months.

Insect Ark, Marrow Hymns (2018)

Insect Ark website

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Profound Lore Records website

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Profound Lore Records on Bandcamp

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Windhand Post “Grey Garden” Video; Eternal Return out Oct. 5

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 7th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Windhand_ photo by Sally Patti

It seemed doubtful that Virginia’s Windhand would’ve been lying when they said their upcoming album, Eternal Return, was taking them in a different direction, mostly because, why would they? Still, it’s awfully nice to have an example to go from as we head closer to the record’s Oct. 5 release through Relapse Records. And so, with the creepy-image-barrage of the “Grey Garden” video that some site way cooler than this one premiered last week, we get that example. Immediately, it’s the best vocal performance I’ve heard from Dorthia Cottrell. Hands down. She sounds amazing. And behind her, guitarist Garrett Morris, bassist Parker Chandler and drummer Ryan Wolfe unfurl a vision of psychedelic grunge-doom, putting new meaning to the words “produced by Jack Endino” even than those that applied to their last full-length, 2015’s Grief’s Infernal Flower (review here), which the venerable producer also helmed.

The doom-via-grungegaze suits the Richmond four-piece. And “Grey Garden” seems to hold onto the thick low end tonality that’s been crucial to Windhand‘s approach since their first record. But this doesn’t sound like Electric Wizard. Really at all. And that’s a big difference, since even though Windhand had come into their own, they still had that nod at their foundation, and while I wouldn’t necessarily expect “Grey Garden” to represent the entirety of Eternal Return given past variety in their songwriting, it’s telling that it’s the first track they’re breaking out from the album and letting the public hear. They very obviously are trying something new here, and they very obviously want their audience to be prepared for it. Listening to the drift in the midsection and the reemergence of the more weighted tone that follows beneath the scorching, swirling lead, the potential seems to be there for the band to really make a stylistic mark on the greater sphere of doom itself.

I’d recommend you listen twice to really let the hook sink in, to hear the depth in Wolfe‘s snare, to get a handle on the arrival in murk, the departure from it, and the return. I was looking forward to Eternal Return already. My expectations are even higher now.

PR wire info and tour dates follow the video below.

Please enjoy:

Windhand, “Grey Garden” official video

Eternal Return is a complete life-to-death journey. As unplanned things go, it’s an observation of as well as a reflection on life’s ups and downs, joys and sorrows, beginnings and ends. Between the band’s 2015, highly acclaimed Grief’s Infernal Flower, and 2018’s Eternal Return, WINDHAND welcomed new life, survived lineup changes, and mourned unexpected death. The songs and song ordering are the direct result of those experiences. Where “Halcyon” is assured in its opening, the closing track “Feather” is its funeral march.

WINDHAND wrote Eternal Return all throughout the winter. Out of the sessions, “Halcyon,” “Grey Garden,” “Red Cloud,” and the monstrous “Eyeshine” emerged as the heaviest tracks, while “Pilgrim’s Rest,” “Diablerie,” and “Feather” embodied the more reflective side of WINDHAND. The juxtaposition of heavy, psychedelic and pensive is less like Black Sabbath or Sleep and more like Soundgarden or Veruca Salt. But the name-drops aren’t absolute so much as signals of WINDHAND’s ability to stretch beyond genre confines.

Eternal Return represents a new era for the group, a chrysalis moment that takes them to new and unforeseen heights. Boosted by Garrett Morris’ consistently cool riffs-forged at the crossroads of Iommi’s otherworldly import and Kurt Cobain’s spontaneous precocity-powered by Ryan Wolfe and Parker Chandler’s groove-laden rhythms, and propelled by Dorthia Cottrell’s smoky yet wistful vocals, WINDHAND’s new album is a two-step jump for Richmond’s finest purveyors of the psycho-actively heavy. Adorned by Arik Roper’s (Sleep, High on Fire) impressive cover art, Eternal Return not only looks the part of WINDHAND’s artistic growth but sounds the part.

WINDHAND brought Jack Endino back into the fold. Together, they spent two weeks recording at Soundhouse Recording in Seattle. Described as “smooth” and “intense,” the sessions with the famed producer were just what WINDHAND wanted. Endino also understood the group’s artistic progression, chiefly the admiration of and blending in late ’80s/early ’90s grunge. Out of it all, WINDHAND continued to refactor and refine their vision of heavy. A new era of psychedelic heaviness is upon us with WINDHAND’s genre-blurring Eternal Return. Sweet, fuzzed-out oblivion has never been closer…

WINDHAND LIVE DATES:
10/08: Atlanta, GA – The Earl #
10/09: New Orleans, LA – Gasa Gasa #
10/10: Houston TX – White Oak Music Hall #
10/11: Dallas, TX – Club Dada #
10/12: Austin, TX – Barracuda #
10/14: Albuquerque, NM – Sister #
10/15: Phoenix, AZ – Valley Bar #
10/16: Los Angeles, CA – El Rey Theatre #
10/17: Oakland, CA – Starline Social Club #
10/19: Portland, OR – Aladdin Theatre #
10/20: Vancouver, BC – Venue #
10/21: Seattle, WA – Neumos #
10/23: Denver, CO – Larimer Lounge #
10/24: Kansas City, MO – The Riot Room #
11/01: Philadelphia, PA – Underground Arts #
11/02: Brooklyn, NY – Elsewhere #
11/03: Boston, MA – Brighton Music Hall #
11/04: Montreal, QC – Le Belmont #
11/05: Toronto, ON – The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern #
11/07: Chicago, IL – Subterranean #
11/08: Minneapolis, MN – Fine Line Music Cafe #
11/09: Milwaukee, WI – Cactus Club #
11/10: Indianapolis, IN – The Hi-Fi #
11/11: Nashville, TN – The Basement East #
11/12: Louisville, KY – Zanzabar #
11/13: Columbus, OH – Ace of Cups #
11/15: Richmond, VA – The Broadberry #
# – w/ Satan’s Satyrs

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The Skull Post “Ravenswood” Lyric Video

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

the skull

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

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

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

Info from the PR wire follows as well.

Please enjoy:

The Skull, “Ravenswood” official lyric video

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

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

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

Track listing:

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

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

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

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Review & Video Premiere: The Crazy Left Experience, Death, Destruction & Magic

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

the crazy left experience death destruction and magic

[Click play above to view the premiere of The Crazy Left Experience’s ‘Magic’ video, with footage from Georges Méliès’ 1902 film, Le Voyage dans la Lune. The Crazy Left Experience’s Death, Destruction and Magic is out now on Adamsonia Records.]

Instrumental trio The Crazy Left Experience have been jamming for roughly five years. Their first three outings are ‘sessions’ releases — 2014’s The Big Bang Sessions (In The Beginning), 2015’s Garage Sessions and early 2016’s Uranus Sessions — but from that point on, the Lisbon-based outfit began to dip into psychedelic conceptualism, working their exploratory approach around a central theme, story or idea. This led to a burst of creativity in 2016 with three more albums: Welcome to the AI, Maya’s Magic Pill and Bill’s 108th Space Odyssey (review here), as drummer/guitarist Rui Inácio, guitarist/noisemaker Luís Abrantes and bassist/flutist Tiago Machado delved into the tale of early US governmental lysergic experiments.

Trippy adventures followed, and the band’s new record, Death, Destruction and Magic — pressed to vinyl through Germany’s Adansonia Records — would seem to keep up the theme. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it is comprised of three tracks — titled “Death,” “Destruction” and “Magic” — with a digital bonus cut in “AND (A Song for Rosa),” and like much of the band’s work, it is centered around the conversation happening between the instruments. There is no shortage of drift in “Magic” and “Destruction” has low end worthy of its name, while “Death” seems to howl more in celebration than mourning, but what unites the three distinct pieces is an overarching naturalism that makes all the material as real as it is ethereal.

One aspect of their sound The Crazy Left Experience bring to bear in especially vivid fashion is minimalism. They’d hardly be the first outfit with ebbs and flows in heavy psych jams, but in the second half of “Death” and in the ultra-subdued stretch of “Magic,” where watery effects-laden guitar ascends and descends over steady drum patterning, the space purposefully left open is crucial as well as the space being filled with sound. They come together and in kind with the fluid movement between more and less active parts, help form the dynamic with which The Crazy Left Experience execute their material. The album was, true to form, recorded live, and while there may be parts of it that are inherently off-the-cuff, caught-on-tape-type of happenings, there does seem to be an overarching plot.

Even in the meandering spaciousness of “AND (A Song for Rosa),” one finds a plot being followed or at least some sense of linear direction, rather than a jam simply unfolding as it will. That’s not to say that song or any of the other three before it — which run eight, 15 and nine minutes, respectively, for a total of 32; utterly manageable — sound forced. Far from it. Just that at the very least, someone among Inácio, Abrantes and Machado came into the recording process with some idea of where they wanted the songs to go. That’s more the case here than it was their last time out, but whether it’s indicative of some larger shift in approach and as to the consciousness of that, I wouldn’t speculate. Organic as it is, their sound only benefits from the sense of purpose it’s give here.

For some in the style, their mission is to present the very heart of the creative process — to capture the moment when the spark of songcraft begins. That singular “aha!” moment when it all clicks together. It’s a difficult thing to do and an admirable goal, but it doesn’t seem to be what The Crazy Left Experience are about. Their output on Death, Destruction and Magic is thrilling in the mellow vibe that persists even in “Destruction”‘s actively grooving midsection thanks to the brightness of its tonality and the patience of its execution, and it’s more about telling its story than getting lost in its own making.

the crazy left experience

That is, The Crazy Left Experience use the foundation they have in exploratory psych in order to convey a message or idea in their material. They direct the evocation their songs are making, even just with one-word titles. What does “Death” say about death? How does “magic” feel like magic, and what does magic feel like? As “Destruction” passes its 10th minute, it delves into a melodic drone that builds in the guitar but ultimately holds sway as the drums never return. Are we in the midst of an aftermath there? Was it war? You get the idea. The point is that Death, Destruction and Magic allows its audience to fill in the answers as they will, and to make their own judgment about what they think the band is telling them.

This level of atmospheric engagement is rare, and the guide the band grant on their Bandcamp page for it reads like something out of Dungeons and Dragons:

You’ve just escaped from the lava tunnel.
A pack of razor-clawed creatures are trying
to get you before the lizard men do.
These are moves you’ve never seen before.
A fire-breathing dragon carries you toward the castle.

The choice is simple…

Maybe that’s the thing — it’s all a game. If so, that does nothing to invalidate the expression happening in these passages, nor the obvious heart poured into their making. The Crazy Left Experience have their share of nebulous elements at play, whether it’s the rolling end section of “Magic” or the airy fuzz tone in “Death,” but what brings the band together is still the solid underlying connection they have between each other while playing. The live performance. It’s the reason they’re able to tell the stories they’re telling with their sound, and the reason they see so continually to be able and willing to push themselves forward.

Death, Destruction and Magic isn’t shy in tackling “big ideas,” but the language it uses seems built exclusively for that purpose, and the outward trajectory of the record as a whole should resonate with any and all of mind open enough to let it. They’ve worked quickly to get to their seventh full-length, but The Crazy Left Experience come across like veterans just the same when it comes to the chemistry and confidence with which they ply their liquefied wares.

The Crazy Left Experience, Death, Destruction and Magic

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