Friday Full-Length: Valley of the Sun, The Sayings of the Seers

Posted in Bootleg Theater on March 23rd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Not that they haven’t done plenty since, but can you believe it’s coming up on seven years since Valley of the Sun released The Sayings of the Seers (review here)? The Ohio-based heavy rockers issued their second EP in June 2011, and at the time, it was impossible to know what it would signal. I remember getting the vinyl and being so enthralled by the potential. Did it sound like Slo Burn? Shit yeah, but that wasn’t about to stop me from singing along to “Hearts Aflame” or “Riding the Dunes,” and for a band who was so new, they seemed to have their sound so together, so dead on, that — I’ll be honest — I thought they were going to take over the US heavy underground.

In a way, they did. The signal that was impossible to see at the time was just how much The Sayings of the Seers indicated that a new generation of American heavy rockers was on the rise and would take hold of the greater rock consciousness throughout the course of this decade. Ripple Music had gotten rolling in 2010, and certainly a heavy rock label boom followed in the wake of their success — it’s ongoing — but that wouldn’t have happened without an explosion of bands, and Valley of the Sun, if they were concurrent, they were also more cohesive than most at the time. Though its only five tracks long, The Sayings of the Seers presented them as a band whose work was essentially ready to roll out. Like few others in the sphere of US heavy — names like fellow Ohioans Lo-Pan, Portland forerunners Red Fang, Texas’ Wo Fat and Mothership and maybe one or two from a then-nascent scene in San Diego — Valley of the Sun not only represented a generation of heavy rock coming to fruition in the post-Facebook age, but did so at the head of the wave. The next couple years 2012, 2013, and 2014, would see a massive increase in the number of riff-led acts from across the country. Valley of the Sun by no means invented heavy rock and roll, but they sure as shit knew what they were doing when they started to play it.

The evidence of that is as plain as riff on “Hearts Aflame”‘s face. The way that song starts out a rager and subtly builds from there to give a genuine crescendo feel at the end. With guitarist Ryan Ferrier‘s vocals so dead-on in their John Garcia-esque delivery, Valley of the Sun seemed to be speaking immediately to a swath of the converted that most didn’t even know existed. The Sayings of the Seers only got stronger with the momentum-building boogie of “Deep Light Burns,” which gave their future Fuzzorama Records label bosses Truckfighters a run for their money in terms of its energy and seemed to be daring the audience to keep up with it. Later on, “Aquarius” would provide a likewise charge at the outset of side B, but to get there, one first had to brave the hook that was centerpiece “Mariner’s Tale,” which remains seven years later the kind of song one might listen to and say, “Okay, well there’s no way in hell they could possibly come up with anything catchier than this,” and then you hear “Riding the Dunes” close out and have to just throw up your hands and admit defeat. In sound, in the crispness of their production, the clarity of their execution, the vibe born of their tones and the accomplishment of their songwriting, Valley of the Sun wanted for absolutely nothing. At the time, I said, “Provided Valley of the Sun can continue to hone this level of craft and grow into their own as a band, I see no reason they couldn’t stand with a select few others at the forefront of their generation of American heavy rockers.”

A bit of a hyperbolic prediction, I’ll admit — there are many other factors besides quality of work that come into play between one band “making it” and another not; how much they tour, their management choices, their PR, their label, who they play with, when and where, etc. — but it was true enough that there was nothing at that point to indicate Valley of the Sun didn’t have that kind of potential. They’ve only grown bolder throughout their two to-date Fuzzorama LPs, 2014’s Electric Talons of the Thunderhawk (review here) and 2016’s Volume Rock (review here), though lineup shuffles around Ferrier and drummer Aaron Boyer have been a steady issue. Their work may be slightly underappreciated as a result, but they’ve never doled out anything less than ultra-engaging, sharply-turned professional heavy rock. Looking back on it now, The Sayings of the Seers was nothing if not a righteous statement of this intent.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

I really, really wanted to sleep until six this morning. I didn’t. I had an announcement that I’d meant to write yesterday for the Freak Valley Festival — it’ll be posted here Monday — that I needed to bang out on European time, so it was a 4AM wakeup, which quite frankly is better than 2:30. After I did the writeup, futzed through some emails and stutter-started this post, falling asleep with my head on the kitchen table all the while, I went back to bed for a bit. Maybe an hour and a half or so. Something like that.

It really only matters because tonight I’m driving to Worcester to see Judas Priest and Saxon, and as I’ll be taking The Patient Mrs.’ car — mine is registered and starts now, but the brakes, not so much — I’d prefer not to fall asleep at the wheel and veer into the woods off the Masspike. It would be just my luck to completely total her car and survive to catch hell about it for the rest of my life.

That possibility notwithstanding, I’ll have a review up of that show on Monday. Monday’s also a pretty special occasion that I’ll be marking, so please keep an eye out for that. Here’s the rest of the notes for the week:

Mon.: Special post, Judas Priest review, Malady album stream/review.
Tue.: Baby Bones track premiere, Black Rainbows video.
Wed.: Sunnata review.
Thu.: T.G. Olson double-review.
Fri.: Soldat Hans review.

Those last three are basically me doing myself a favor pre-Quarterly Review, which is the following week, but they might get moved around. We’ll see.

You’re probably not, but if you’re wondering, eating disorder treatment continues and continues to suck. I’ve hit the point in this process of “getting healthy” where just about none of the clothes I’ve bought or acquired in the last two years fit me — a record label very kindly sent me a t-shirt this week that I’ll never be able to wear — and my favorite flannel — “the wizard flannel,” so dubbed because it’s huge like a wizard’s robe and when you wear it, its magical powers make the world seem less shitty — has gone missing. It’s probably in the basement where the clothes are kept [update: it was], somewhere among the mass of baby clothes and now-too-tight boxer shorts, but frankly, every time I go down there to look and get something to wear, I see the stack of shirts people sent me, from Year of the Cobra to Comacozer to Cosmic Fall, on and on and on, that can’t get around me anymore and it makes me want to veer into the woods off the side of the Masspike. So I try not to go downstairs. Not a sustainable plan, but fuck it. I’m a homemaker. If I wear the same t-shirt three days in a row, as I have with this Ancestors shirt I have on now, the only people who are going to be disappointed in me are myself and Donna Reed. Oh, and I’ve also stopped showering every day because I hate the sight of my own body in the bathroom mirror. “Getting healthy!”

That’s a fun one. Also fun is my anxiety about leaving the house — I’m nervous enough about going to Worcester tonight; Roadburn already has me terrified — and the generic platitudes I get about how much better I’m doing. Some level of some stupid fucking thing in my bloodwork is higher or lower than it used to be, isn’t that great? Who fucking cares? Do I live forever now? “Well, you were miserable at 150 pounds too.” No shit. I’d rather be miserable and have my fucking clothes fit me. I went out last summer and bought three pairs of hippie pants. Real hippie pants. Not that I could get them around my ass if I tried, but I don’t ever want to wear colors again. Let me just fucking do whatever I can do disappear and leave it at that. Like stay home and fall asleep typing and feel bad about not answering emails and Facebook messages fast enough.

So may fucking typos. I’m doing my best to catch them, but I know they’re getting through. It’s because I’m only half-conscious when I’m writing. Now you know.

Wow. Okay. Hard reboot? Delete everything past the notes for next week and start over? Nah fuck it. If you’re interested enough to keep reading this far into a 1,600-word post, you deserve nothing less than the truth about what a wretched wreck (“wrecktched?”) I am. So there it is. This week. And everyone tells me I’m getting better.

I hope you have a great and safe weekend. I wish I lived in New Jersey. I wish I had money enough to not have to worry about money. I wish I didn’t have to write down every fucking thing I eat in a day so it can be checked over like fourth grade math homework. I sucked at that too.

Thanks for reading. Please don’t forget to check out the forum and radio stream, and just to not end on a bummer note, please make sure you check back Monday for that special post. It’ll be the first post of the day and it’s a big one, so yeah, stay tuned. It’ll be fun. I mean it.

Until then, all the best.

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Apostle of Solitude Post “Ruination be Thy Name” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on March 23rd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Apostle of Solitude

If Apostle of Solitude wanted to just go ahead and make a clip for each of the non-intro/interlude tracks on their new album, From Gold to Ash (review here), I’d be cool with that. As long as I get to premiere one or two of them. Thus far in giving the record video interpretation, they’ve covered side A (if in reverse order) between their prior clip for the ultra-hooky “Keeping the Lighthouse” (posted here) and the new one below for post-intro opener “Ruination be Thy Name.” That leaves “My Heart is Leaving Here,” “Monochrome (Discontent)” and “Grey Farewell.” I say go for it. Those last couple tracks get pretty morose, but screw it, it’s doom. If you can’t handle being miserable, you’re in the wrong subgenre.

Unlike its darker companion piece inthe prior video, “Ruination be Thy Name” is pretty bright in its (visual) tone, comprised of manipulated green-screen performance footage edited together to the rhythm of the song itself. And it’s a considerable rhythm. Where later on, From Gold to Ash gets into some particularly heart-rending fare, both “Ruination be Thy Name” and “Keeping the Lighthouse” bask in more middle-ground tempos and some of the album’s most resonant hooks. Massive groove abounds, naturally, and “Ruination be Thy Name” seems to be built as much around its nodding riff as the repetitions of its title line. One way or another, it provides one of From Gold to Ash‘s most memorable impressions, and as the de facto leadoff cut, it emphasizes just how much the band has grown in the last several years.

I said in my review that this is one of the year’s best records. Well, since I wrote that I’ve only heard more of the candidates, and I completely stand by the earlier statement. From Gold to Ash shows how much life there can be in so-called traditional doom when a band works so diligently to make those traditions their own. If you haven’t checked it out yet, you should. That’s about all there is to it.

Enjoy the clip below, followed by more info from the PR wire:

Apostle of Solitude, “Ruination be Thy Name” official video

U.S. Doom Giants APOSTLE OF SOLITUDE have released the official video for “Ruination Be Thy Name,” a track from new album From Gold to Ash.

Cruz Del Sur Music released From Gold to Ash February 23 on CD, vinyl LP, cassette, and digital formats.

Digital (album stream):

APOSTLE OF SOLITUDE will host an album release show this Friday, March 23 at Black Circle Brewing in Indianapolis, along with Desert Planet, Devil to Pay and Shroud of Vulture.

A U.S. summer tour is currently in the works, as well as another trip across the pond with the band’s confirmed appearance at the 2018 installment of DOOM OVER VIENNA festival.

Recorded in September 2017 at Russian Recording in Bloomington, IN with studio mastermind Mike Bridavsky, From Gold To Ash offers seven songs of ambitious, aching doom. Largely defined by the heartfelt and emotive dual vocals of Chuck Brown and Steve Janiak, From Gold To Ash covers a wide spectrum of heavy, from raging instrumentals to introspective guitar duos, monolithic doom riffs and reflective, melodic heartache. From Gold to Ash is also the first APOSTLE OF SOLITUDE album to feature bassist Mike Naish (Astral Mass, Shroud of Vulture).

Corey Webb – drums
Chuck Brown – guitars, vocals
Steve Janiak – guitars, vocals
Mike Naish – bass

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Scissorfight Premiere “Unfinished Business” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on March 22nd, 2018 by JJ Koczan


They’ve made it clear they ain’t leavin’. They’ve warned of the dangers of drinking downstream from where the beavers live. They’ve reminisced about how much better the ’70s were. They’ve even had the devil’s shingle — and I have no idea what that means nor desire to know. Now, with their new single, reactivated New Hampshire plunderers Scissorfight call out their “Unfinished Business.” As to what that business might be, it’s something of a mystery, because frontman Doug Aubin gets pretty growly sometimes, but if I had to guess, I’d say it probably involves riffs, beer, kicking ass and, I don’t know, more riffs? Dudes have plenty of riffs to go around.

“Unfinished Business” is one of several songs the Granite State Destroyers laid down at Converse Rubber Tracks‘ studio last year. “Devil’s Shingle” was another, and they’re Scissorfight - Unfinished Businessbeing put out one at a time in order to keep momentum up between the band’s holy-shit-Scissorfight-are-back 2016 return EP, Chaos County (review here), and their next full-length, which they’ll reportedly get to recording in May. That will mark the first new Scissorfight long-player in 12 years since 2006’s Jaggernaut — not to mention their first with Aubin on the mic and Rick Orcutt on drums alongside original members guitarist Jay Fortin and bassist Paul Jarvis. If the four-piece have shown anything about themselves in the last two-plus years that they’ve been around again, however, it’s that they haven’t forgotten how to kick ass. Their stomp remains incredibly, incredibly mean.

I’m not sure whether “Unfinished Business” will end up on the next Scissorfight record or not — that would make its own business unfinished — but its video is charming and raises some interesting points. Consider that when Scissorfight faded out circa ’06, the “hipster” thing was just really getting started. That generation was just beginning to turn over. Now, “those people” have been going to shows for over a decade — is it really fair to think of them as tourists at this point? They’re the ones buying shirts. Just something to keep in mind as you see the cartoon version of the band — adorable — chase down PBR-snagging fashionistas in a giant, antler-laden monster truck that should be well familiar to any longtime fan. Hell’s bells, maybe they just wanted to start a conversation.

Either way, bonus points for the use of the theme song to Welcome Back, Kotter. Gabe Kaplan. Boom-Boom Washington. Classic.

The single is out tomorrow, March 23. Enjoy the video below, followed by a few words from the band:

Scissorfight, “Unfinished Business” official video premiere

Scissorfight on “Unfinished Business”:

These singles we are releasing are kinda one-offs that we recorded at the Converse Rubber Tracks studio last year. Right now we are working out the songs for our next full-length which we go into the studio in May. The video idea has been thrown around for a long time and I finally had some time to pull it off.

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Familiars Premiere “As Our Distance Has Grown Further” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on March 21st, 2018 by JJ Koczan

familiars (Photograph by Thomas Van Der Zaag)

Toronto-based heavy psych rockers Familiars have newly released their new cumbersomely-titled two-songer, This Water that is Warm, I Will Soon Join, and if immersion is the idea, then they’re definitely comfortable working with the theme. Their tempos on “As Our Distance Has Grown Further” and the accompanying “The Gardiner’s Coming Down” are methodical, the second track a little faster than the first in a kind of fuzzy-garage stomp where “As Our Distance Has Grown Further” feels more about the roll and the reverbed-out vocals, a blend of tonal heft and melodic reach that feels born from similar impulses to Mars Red Sky but not at all aping what the Frenchmen have done on their own records.

This Water that is Warm, I Will Soon Join is by no means the first short release from the trio of Anton Babych, Jared MacIntyre and Kevin Vansteenkiste, and the hope on the part of the band is it will lead them into the process of making their first full-length this Spring. Certainly the janga-janga-janga riff of “As Our Distance Has Grown Further” and the punctuated-buzz-turned-post-QOTSA-thrust-turned-echoing-daydream of “The Gardiner’s Coming Down” would be an indicator they’re ready for the task. As both songs can be streamed now and downloaded name-your-price style at the bottom of this post, it only seems that Familiars are looking to be as readily accessible to their audience as possible, and given the professionalism of their presentation and the depths of their tones, I wouldn’t be surprised to find them picked up by this or that label before the album is out.

MacIntyre co-directed the new video for “As Our Distance Has Grown Further” and Vansteenkise did the Sergio Leone-inspired title-card, so the band’s definitely used to being hands on with their own output. The clip itself features a be-robbed wandering protagonist headed across some gloriously open spaces, only to find the band rocking out in a field — like you go. Alam directed the atmosphere of the video is a good match for the song in that it’s gorgeous, and I like the idea that we never find out who’s under the hood, as it were. We never see a face, a gender, anything, and the band is pretty careful to avoid saying one way or the other. I think that kind of thing is cool. It can be the band’s secret.

Look out for more news on Familiars — I hope, anyway — as they set to recording the aforementioned debut LP, and in the meantime, dig into the video for “As Our Distance Has Grown Further” below, followed by more info from the PR wire.


Familiars, “As Our Distance Has Grown Further” official video premiere

A wanderer gets lost in what it’s searching for.

“As Our Distance Has Grown Further” is the single off of the 7 inch “This Water That Is Warm, I Will Soon Join”.

7 inch available at:

We are recording our debut full length this spring.

Directors: Mashie Alam & Jared MacIntyre
Director Of Photography: Thomas Van Der Zaag
Colour & Effects: Nathan Winspear
Title card: Kevin Vansteenkiste

Familiars live:
Tuesday March 27th in London Ontario w/ Woodhawk
Wednesday March 28th in Hamilton Ontario w/ Woodhawk.

Familiars are Kevin Vansteenkiste, Anton Babych, & Jared MacIntyre

Familiars, This Water that is Warm, I Will Soon Join

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Earthless Post “Volt Rush” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on March 20th, 2018 by JJ Koczan


Just how West Coast is it? Well, it’s West Coast enough to feature a professional skateboarder jumping over garbage cans dressed as a pizza-themed superhero, if that answers your question. Which it should. Sorry, that shit just doesn’t happen in Philadelphia.

San Diego heavy psych ambassadors Earthless issued their new album, Black Heaven (review here), last week via Nuclear Blast, and somehow, the clip below for “Volt Rush” strikes me as something of a victory lap to mark the occasion. Unlike much of the record, the track is instrumental, but it’s also only two and a half minutes long and so still represents some of the overarching change of approach that’s become so much of the narrative of the record — Earthless daring to not bask in their 20-minute, epic-as-all-hell instrumental songcrat and instead offer verses, choruses, and a piece like “Volt Rush,” which is there and gone before you even really have time to notice it’s Mad Alchemy doing the psychedelic lighting for the band’s show in the clip. Which, incidentally, it is.

As for the narrative, it looks like a hell of a day for Volt Pizza Man, played by pro skater Taylor Smith, and whatever cool tricks happen along the way — though I’ll give both the band and director BB Bastidas credit for not just making it look like a sponsor-me skate demo — the story ends (spoiler ahead) with Smith getting tossed on his ass out back of the Casbah, which my understanding is where it’s at when it comes to San Diego venues. That’s what I’m told, anyhow.

“Volt Rush,” though, lives up to its name, and the quick push through it makes it just right for the average YouTube attention span. Earthless are of course on tour now in the US and will head overseas next month to feature at Roadburn 2018 as artists-in-residence and leaders — suitably enough — of what’s been dubbed the “San Diego takeover,’ with JoyHarsh TokeArcticPetyr and others taking part.

Dates follow the clip below, as per the PR wire:

Earthless, “Volt Rush” official video

Earthless, who are in the midst of a North American tour in support of their new album Black Heaven, debut their video for “Volt Rush.”

The video, which is set in Earthless’ hometown of San Diego, as well as neighboring Oceanside, was directed by skateboard/visual artist BB Bastidas and features the famed SoCal skateboarder T-Spliff (aka Taylor Smith).

“Stoked to present to you the very first Earthless video, directed by artist BB Bastidas,” said drummer Mario Rubalcaba. “We were stoked to work with BB on this as he knows our background as a band and our close roots with skateboarding. His art is amazing and he also has a keen natural eye for film. Having Taylor Smith, aka T-Spliff, in it just makes it even sweeter. He is somewhat of a mythical figure of a skater, an amazing talent but chooses to shred at his own discretion. Those who know, know. This was a blast to be a part of and we hope you enjoy this short high energy rocker that cruises around our hometown of San Diego, and local club, The Casbah.”

Black Heaven is the band’s first release to feature a majority of songs with vocals and is also the trio’s first time working with producer Dave Catching (Eagles of Death Metal). Rubalcaba explains the impact the Joshua Tree studio had on the outfit’s new music: “This album represents yet another branch on the ever growing and now adolescent Earthless tree. I spent a good amount of time just gazing at the stars at night while we were out recording in the desert of Joshua Tree. I think this somehow lent itself to the title and feel of the album on some songs. This LP has a touch more of our classic rock roots showing, just stuff we grew up on and it’s great to finally utilize Isaiah’s lyrical talent and soulful voice. As cliché as it sounds – Black Heaven should be played LOUD.”

Earthless tour dates:
March 20 Washington, DC Rock’n’Roll Hotel
March 21 Richmond, VA The Broadberry
March 22 Nashville, TN Mercy Lounge
March 23 St. Louis, MO Blueberry Hill
March 24 Chicago, IL Empty Bottle
March 25 Chicago, IL Empty Bottle
*All North American tour dates with Kikagaku Moyo and JJUUJJUU

April 3 Korkrijk, Belgium De Kreun
April 4 Bristol, UK The Fleece
April 5 Manchester, UK The Deaf Institute
April 6 London, UK Islington Assembly Hall
April 7 Paris, France Petit Bain
April 8 Frankfurt, Germany Zoom
April 10 Munich, Germany Feierwerk
April 11 Berlin, Germany Bi Nuu
April 12 Copenhagen, Denmark Pumpehuset
April 13 Oslo, Norway BLA
April 14 Gothenberg, Sweden Truckstop Alaska
April 16 Hamburg, Germany Molotow
April 19-21 Tilburg, Netherlands Roadburn 2018
*All European, non-Roadburn dates with Comet Control

June 1 Nelsonville, OH Nelsonville Music Festival
August 10 Moledo, Portugal Sonic Blast

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Friday Full-Length: Brant Bjork and the Bros., Somera Sól

Posted in Bootleg Theater on March 16th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Never mind what he’s brought to the genre in Kyuss, Fu Manchu, the early Desert Sessions or his brief time in Fatso Jetson, Brant Bjork‘s greatest contributions have been in his solo catalog. From his now-classic 1999 debut Jalamanta (discussed here) through 2016’s Tao of the Devil (review here), he’s developed an inimitable yet highly influential style that’s become synonymous with desert rock itself. I’ve called him the “godfather of desert groove” so many times at this point my brain hurts from it, but that’s what he is, and of all the former members of Kyuss, I don’t think any of them have done so much to set the course for the aesthetic as Bjork, whatever level of commercial success they may have attained.

There are a couple different ways to look at 2007’s Somera Sól. Bjork has both composed and performed albums entirely on his own and worked with a variety of other players over the course of the last 19 years. Somera Sól was his second and final outing with Brant Bjork and the Bros., and it reunited him with drummer Alfredo Hernandez — the two had previously worked together in the short-lived trio Ché — boasted guest appearances from Olive LalliSean Wheeler on “Freaks of Nature” and Mario Lalli and Vince Meghrouni of Fatso Jetson on funk-fortified closer “Blood in the Gallery” and the penultimate “Lion Wings,” respectively, featured bassist Dylan Roche and guitarist Cortez, production from Mathias Schneeberger, and took a more forward tack than much of what Bjork had overseen in the years prior. To wit, the previous outing with The Bros. behind him, 2005’s Saved by Magic, was a 2CD that, like nearly all 2CD releases, probably would’ve been better served being split up into an actual pair of albums, and while Somera Sól would be his final offering in that incarnation, his interest in playing in a band — the 2002 LP from Brant Bjork and the Operators hadn’t actually featured a full group of players, but after his run with the semi-Kyuss reunion Vista Chino in 2013, he’d form Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band — has always come and gone.

But one might look at Somera Sól as the capstone of this particular era of Bjork‘s “solo” career. The end of The Bros., and it’s a hell of a way to go out, with hooks like “Love is Revolution,” “Freaks of Nature,” “Shrine Communications” and so on. But at the same time, Somera Sól was also a distinct shift in sound for Bjork in general. Or at very least in presentation. I always have a hard time thinking of it outside the context of the immediately preceding 2007 release Tres Dias, which was essentially comprised of solo acoustic recordings of songs new and older — it opened with “Too Many Chiefs” from Jalamanta — and gave an intimate, folkish, sometimes protest-song manifestation to material that would wind up later the same year on Somera Sól like “Love is Revolution,” “Chinarosa” and “The Native Tongue,” making the two records complementary in a way despite a vastly different context of volume and arrangement. But not only was Somera Sól full-on in terms of the complete band (and then some) at work, it was also a marked shift in production method, and cleaner-sounding than anything Bjork had produced up to that point.

This gets to to the heart of where Somera Sól lies and what Somera Sól signifies in the Brant Bjork catalog. More than a complement for Tres Dias and more than the end of the Bros. era, it’s the record that brought the full maturity of Bjork‘s approach to light for the first time. It was clear-sounding, clean-sounding. Its tones still had that laid back spirit and some telltale fuzz — “The Native Tongue” walks by and waves — but the way those came through as part of the listening experience was more professionalized, reaching out to a broader audience than records like 2003’s Keep Your Cool or 2004’s Local Angel (discussed here) could have with their rougher sound. After 2008’s somewhat reactionary Punk Rock Guilt, which was comprised of earlier recordings, it’s a method Bjork would keep to on 2010’s Gods and Goddesses (review here), and when he returned to solo work following the stint with Kyuss Lives!/Vista Chino — whose 2013 album, Peace (review here), I’ll still argue is worthy of a follow-up, especially with C.O.C.‘s Mike Dean on bass — he formed the already-noted Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band and released 2014’s Black Power Flower (review here) as a predecessor to Tao of the Devil and last year’s Europe ’16 (review here) live offering. Looking back over the last 11 years of his output, Somera Sól seems to be the epicenter from which much of it emanates.

Even if it wasn’t such a choice display of songwriting or characteristic performance on the part of Bjork himself — has the dude ever sounded more like the dude than he does on “Ultimate Kickback” or “Love is Revolution?” — Somera Sól was/is a special moment in Brant Bjork‘s discography, and whether you picked up on his stuff before or after or if this is the first time you’ve ever heard anything he’s done as a solo artist, there’s no question it’s a standout moment and a defining statement of intent that continues to resonate in his work more than a decade later.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

So I went to another doctor last Friday. My two favorite lines from the entire experience? 1: “Well I don’t think you’re going to throw a clot.” Please. My life should be so interesting. 2: “You can put your undies back on.” I had no idea “undies” was a medical term. The EKG was normal, there’s no fluid around my lungs, she gave me a new pill for all the swelling that seems to be taking some of it down — I guess you’d mark it a win. Plus, she’s even further away than my regular primary care physician, so, bonus! I just love travel. Especially in Boston traffic. Best drivers.

I nonetheless spent a goodly portion of this week in a miserable daze. Seriously. Only reason I even knew today was Friday was because I had it in my notes that I needed to do this post. If I look at the calendar again and see it’s Wednesday or something I’m going to feel like a real ass.

You want to hear a nice story that’s not about me hating myself? Yesterday I took The Pecan to a record store. We were headed to the farm in Rhode Island to pick up some chicken — because you’re fucking right I drive an hour to buy chicken, and yes, I buy in bulk — and I wanted to pick up the new Judas Priest and Monster Magnet records, so I looked up where the nearest Newbury Comics — a New England institution no less than Samuel Adams, “local fahkin’ spoahts, khed” and yelling epithets at people out your car window as you pass by — was and hit the mall. I carried the baby in and perused the rock and metal sections for a while, grabbed the Priest, which was on sale. Turned out the Magnet doesn’t arrive until next week — you’d think I’d know that, right? — but I got that new Jimi Hendrix collection because, well, new Jimi Hendrix collection, and it was a good time. The baby was down for being carried around, as he has been of late to the point of screaming like fucking mad every time you put him in one of his 15 chairs, and I haven’t listened to the Hendrix yet — it’s on the agenda for today if I can ever stop putting the new Grayceon on repeat — but the first half of the Priest record rules and that’s good enough for me. It was a nice trip. Then The Pecan and I walked past Victoria’s Secret and I explained to him the importance of respecting your partner’s choices when it comes to “undies” and whatever else. The two middle-aged ladies walking for exercise in the mall were confused as hell as they went the other way by us as we walked, but they smiled anyway, because he’s a baby and that’s what people are biologically programmed to do.

So yeah, yesterday turned out alright. Also did some grocery shopping, which is pretty much standard at this point, though both buying and consuming food kind of disgusts me and there’s like this whole self-punishment aspect I’ve developed to this “refeeding” thing. I spent a lot of time this week wishing I had died when I was (apparently) starving myself. A lot. Oh well. Better luck next time. “I don’t think you’re going to throw a clot.”

As I’ve told everyone — doctors, therapist, nutritionist, my wife, even my father yesterday on the phone — if I was going to kill myself, I’d have done it by now.

The Patient Mrs. and The Pecan are off to town (to Boston, that is) today to be human beings for a while. I’m staying home, essentially to not. I have writing to do which in all likelihood I’ll blow off either to sleep or to read or to watch baseball — or all of them — while trying not to think about food or how swollen my legs still are or whatever. While I keep on keeping on, essentially, and keep listening to the new Grayceon, which fucking rules.

I’m also going to make nut butter in just a little bit. It’s about quarter to six in the morning as I write this. Hi. I’m out of my fucking mind. This time’s blend: Salted and unsalted peanuts, salted and unsalted cashews, salted macadamia nuts. Maybe some almonds if there’s room in the food processor. We’ll see. The race is on though because I expect any minute now to get the call to go upstairs and change the baby’s diaper.

Here’s what’s up for next week, subject to change blah blah blah:

Mon.: Maybe an Aeonian Sorrow review/premiere? Not sure.
Tue.: Mouth review/stream.
Wed.: Ruff Majik premiere.
Thu.: Rattlesnake premiere.
Fri.: Robespierre premiere.

There’s videos and news and such as well, I’m just not there yet on organization. I’ll figure it out. I have some other writing to do this weekend anyway — a new bio for Kings Destroy and a big announcement for Heavy Psych Sounds — so I’ll be on the laptop one way or another.

And if you’re wondering, the next Quarterly Review begins Monday, April 2.

Please have a great and safe weekend. Like I said, I’ll be around writing and likely on the social medias as well, so feel free to say hi. And please don’t forget to check out the forum and radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

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Calliope Post “Sea of Red” Video; Chapel Perilousout March 31

Posted in Bootleg Theater on March 16th, 2018 by JJ Koczan


I suppose it would be a real, real stretch to think of Milwaukee as just being very high desert, so we’ll skip that, but let’s say instead that when it comes to atmosphere, Calliope‘s Chapel Perilous — their third album behind a 2013 self-titled and 2014’s Orbis — there’s more than a bit of sand to contend with in terms of the sound of songs like the happy-to-drift “Creep No More” and, unsurprisingly, “The Dunes.” The new single, “Sea of Red,” takes a somewhat different approach, with a descending chorus that reminds of Snail‘s grunge-gone-heavy methodology while retaining its own flavor in terms of tone and pace.

One could probably spend all day pointing out neo-psych influences to songs like the building swirl of “Evil as You” or the percussive “Brujo,” but frankly I have neither the time nor the inclination. Instead, the Dead Meadow nuances of “Sands of July” and the oh-fuck-yes-more-of-this-please atmospheric wash of post-heavy instrumental closer “Little Smoke” do plenty to signify where Calliope are coming from and the winding, possibly-melting road they’re taking to get where they’re headed.

Over the course of their 10-track/40-minute runtime, the direction of that road changes a bit, but Calliope always seem to have a lysergic underpinning to their intentions, as the oddball droning breadth of the title-track shows, or the languid, semi-Western flow in the verses of the earlier “Carry Me Home.” With emphasis on the intertwining of organ and guitar — the one often laying the bed for the other, as on opener “Astral Hand” — Calliope are able to bring a sense of drama to their songwriting without having to veer too far from traditional verse/chorus structures. Except, of course, when they want to, as on the already noted “Little Smoke.”

If the vocals of Al Kraemer sound familiar by the time you get down to “Brujo,” it might be because he also fronts Moon Rats, whose 2017 debut, Highway Lord (review here), was such a garden of riffly delights. If not, now you know. So there.

Romanus Records has Chapel Perilous out on March 31. Check out the clip for “Sea of Red” below — spoiler alert: somebody gets stabbed — and please enjoy:

Calliope, “Sea of Red” official video

“Drown me in your sea of red”

The new LP, Chapel Perilous, out 3/31 on Romanus Records.

Calliope is a heavy psych rock band from Milwaukee, WI. Drawing influences from classic and modern alike, Calliope pushes fuzzed-out guitar licks and organ-driven grooves reminiscent of bands like The Black Angels, Dead Meadow, Deep Purple and Pink Floyd. Inspired by the cinematic themes of Sci-Fi, Westerns and Anime, Calliope creates a sound that’s wholly their own.

It all started when Al brought his vintage Farfisa combo organ over to Vic’s house back in 2010 for some casual, hazy attic noodling. Now two studio albums and countless gigs later, Calliope is about to embark on their third studio release; Chapel Perilous. Recorded in a remote cabin in the northwoods of Wisconsin, Chapel Perilous captures the sonic amalgamation of electric fuzz, droning organs, thundering drums, crushing bass and soulful vocals. Chapel Perilous will be available 3/31/18 via Romanus Records.

Al Kraemer: Vocals / Organ
Victor Buell IV: Guitar
Anthony Smith: Bass
Eric Gomoll: Drums

Calliope on Thee Facebooks

Calliope on Bandcamp

Romanus Records webstore

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Black Salvation Premiere Video for “Breathing Hands”

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

black salvation

The last time Relapse Records went ahead and signed a newcomer heavy psych band seemingly out of nowhere (but not actually out of nowhere because that’s not how this shit works. at all.) it was Philadelphia’s Ecstatic Vision, and given the kickassery that band has unleashed across their two to-date albums, I’d say it was a win all around. All the more reason to keep a close eye on German trio Black Salvation, who are also getting ready to release their debut full-length through Relapse. The album, called Uncertainty is Bliss, will be out on April 6 and they’re keeping a pretty tight lid on it, but I’ve been given the opportunity to premiere the new video for the goth-psych-vibing “Breathing Hands” and, well, I think by the time you’re 15 seconds or so into the song, you’re going to see why there wasn’t any way I was going to say no to the chance.

“Breathing Hands” opens with a draw you in strum of guitar tone and soon enough unveils a nodding hook and its rolling groove. The song is three and a half minutes long, the video has that creepy effect where they put mouths on hands, but the pull is just about irresistible all the same, and the immersion by the time they’re done is complete. This speaks to an efficiency of their approach that reveals itself even more on repeat listens, but even if you only make your way through once, they’re not exactly being obtuse about where they’re coming from: warm tones, languid vibes, some drama in the vocals, a catchy chorus, and enough stylistic nuance to make you wonder just how far out these cats might actually go over the course of a whole record.

Of course, we’ll find out on April 6 when Uncertainty is Bliss arrives, but especially for those in Europe, I wouldn’t at all be surprised if Black Salvation‘s name started popping up in lineup announcements for summer and/or fall festivals. They seem pretty ripe to catch on, and if “Breathing Hands is your first sampling of their wares, or if you caught wind of the prior-streamed single “In a Casket’s Ride,” which I’ve also included at the bottom of this post just for the hell of it, it really only seems to me that what’s been put out so far bodes remarkably well for the rest of what’s to come.

Here’s looking forward:

Black Salvation, “Breathing Hands” official video premiere

BLACK SALVATION — featuring Uno Bruniusson formerly of In Solitude and Grave Pleasures and currently of Death Alley — challenge sthe listener to open wide the doors of perception and slowly drift away amongst their transcendental compositions and deeply hypnotic tales of magic and mysticism. Across eight tracks and over forty minutes, BLACK SALVATION exquisitely blends hard rock, doom, and psychedelia into an intoxicating synthesis of rock ‘n’ roll alchemy. Uncertainty Is Bliss is surely one of the most captivating rock debuts in years.

BLACK SALVATION’s Uncertainty Is Bliss is due out April 6th on CD, LP, and digital formats via Relapse Records. Physical packages are available via HERE. The digital edition can be purchased at THIS LOCATION.

BLACK SALVATION has announced a headlining European tour in April around the album’s release. A full list of dates is available below.

4/03/2018 Ostpol – Dresden, DE
4/04/2018 Dots – Gottingen, DE
4/05/2018 Kurzbar – Mannheim, DE
4/06/2018 Neues Schauspiel – Leipzig, DE
4/07/2018 Schlachthof – Eisenach, DE
4/08/2018 TBA – Cologne, DE
4/10/2018 Hafenklang – Hamburg, DE
4/11/2018 Lygtens Kro – Copenhagen, DK
4/12/2018 Zukunft am Ostkreuz – Berlin, DE

Paul Schlesier – guitar, vocals
Birger Schwidop – bass
Uno Bruniusson – drums

Black Salvation, “In a Casket’s Ride”

Black Salvation on Thee Facebooks

Black Salvation on Twitter

Black Salvation on Bandcamp

Relapse Records website

Relapse Records on Bandcamp

Relapse Records on Thee Facebooks

Relapse Records on Twitter

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