The Sweet Heat Premiere First Track “How it’s Done”

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

the sweet heat (Photo by Logan Hill)

There’s a lot of info still unknown about The Sweet Heat‘s impending first release. When it’s out, for example. Also its title if it has one. If it’s a demo or an EP — for what it’s worth I’ve been going with “demo EP.” If it has cover art. And so on. These issues will sort themselves out one way or another as the band moves forward, but in the meantime we have the most important part: the music. Their first track to be made public is called “How it’s Done” and from its fading-in initial guitar line through its classic boogie-doom feel, it’s a burner all the way.

If The Sweet Heat look familiar, that’s reasonable. The four members of the band — vocalist Alexander Blackhound, guitarist Jonny Sage, bassist Nicholas Arruda and drummer Zigmond Coffey — were all in Balam together until last year. Balam released their final full-length, Days of Old (track premiere here), in early 2015, and throughout the year it became increasingly plain that not all was right with the five-piece, who wound up playing their last show in October as a release celebration for the album. It couldn’t have taken long after that for The Sweet Heat to take shape — their first and only show to-date was held in May in their native Rhode Island.

While closely linked in personnel, the two bands do have distinct sonic personalities, and that’s immediately apparent in the four tracks of The Sweet Heat‘s demo EP. Even the name of the band speaks to a bluesier, more ’70s feel, rather than the stricter adherence to doomly tenets that Balam offered, though there’s still plenty of early Pentagram in their sound. Nonetheless, The Sweet Heat thrive in this new context, finding a middle ground in a song like “Wrecking Ball” while “How it’s Done” plays one side more directly off the other, starting out with pure boogie rock before shifting smoothly into a more Sabbathian chug. The tones are right on, as is the groove, and with complement on the EP from the blown out “Shimpy Just Wants to Get Stoned” and the scorching guitar-and-hook-led “Jam Song,” The Sweet Heat‘s future seems dark in only the brightest way possible.

BlackhoundSageArruda and Coffey have very clearly taken some valuable lessons from their time in Balam and put them into The Sweet Heat — their songwriting already sounds experienced — but the new band is quick to establish itself as just that. I have the feeling these guys have more tricks up their sleeve sound-wise than they’re thus far letting on, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they really tripped out at some point in the future, but for now, they give a more than encouraging first showing that I only hope somebody presses to tape or 10″ sooner rather than later.

Get yourself introduced to The Sweet Heat with “How it’s Done” below, and enjoy:

The Sweet Heat on Bandcamp

Balam on Thee Facebooks

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Balam Announce Final Show

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 6th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

balam (Photo by Harry Gould Harvey IV)

Rhode Island doomers Balam will at long last mark the release of their Days of Old full-length with a gig Oct. 31 at Jimmy’s Saloon in Newport, RI. Sounds awesome, right? Doom on Halloween? Yeah, great. Only trouble is that it’s also the band’s last show. It’s been more than a year since Days of Old (track premiere here) was finished being mastered, and so it’s a positive that they’re finally making the whole thing public, but fitting with their thoroughly-doomed vibes that even their new album release show would be tempered by a downer spirit. They were a good band, and they’ll be missed.

Show details and last-one announcement follow, in case you should happen to find yourself in Newport on Halloween or somewhere nearby:

balam last show

ATTN: Only some may know this, but we will not be performing anymore after this gig! This may seem abrupt to a lot of you, but it has been something we have talked about for some time now and what better way to destroy something other than on Halloween?? We’d like to say this isn’t goodbye and we truly wish we had the time to make this band work, but we are moving on forward with new opportunities that lie ahead. Maybe when the time is right new material can be released, but it will be a very long time before anything like that could ever happen, and there wont be any gigs coming of it.

Also, we haven’t put out much music since our self titled ep, but we sure do have a lot of it! We we’re supposed to put out an album in 2013 called ‘Days Of Old’, and it would have been relevant to come out then, but unfortunately we ran into so many complications with trying to release it, that it’s been buried into a hard drive that doesn’t get looked at. Not too long ago we put up two ‘new’ tracks from that album on the good ol’ bandcamp, but on October 31st we will finally be putting up all of Days Of Old!!!

It’s safe to say we are beyond grateful to have played an incredible amount of memorable shows, created long lasting relationships with people who have helped us get from A to B and guided us in the right direction and STILL are, but most of all we have had the greatest support from so many of you to let us do what we like doing best without going broke. It’s really hard to measure success, but we definitely succeeded far more than we knew we could. This band has led us down another path, diving deeper and deeper into our ideas as we grow as musicians.

With this being said, come fucking party with us at Jimmy’s Saloon Halloween night in support of this release and our LAST gig!! More details about the show will be up in the coming week…

Balam, Days of Old (2015)

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Maryland Doom Fest 1: Nagato Added; Final Schedule Announced

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 4th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

nagato (Photo by Rachel Ellen Morton)

It turns out Pull had to them-out (get it?) of the first-ever Maryland Doom Fest, but they’ve been replaced by reunited riffers Nagato, who got back together last year after a cessation of activity in 2012. Thick on vibe, they’ll add progressive atmospherics and gorgeous tone to the lineup of the fest, which takes place from June 26-28 at Cafe 611 in Frederick, Maryland. I’ve only been fortunate enough to see the four-piece once, at Stoner Hands of Doom XI in 2011 (review here), for which they also played on a Sunday, but that set left enough an impression that four years later I keep hoping I’ll hear some news about them putting out a record sooner or later.

They might get there. I know the members of Nagato are involved in a few other projects as well, so maybe their playing Maryland Doom Fest is enough for the moment. They’ve joined a killer lineup, for which the final schedule has just been announced.

And just so we have it all in one place, alphabetically, here’s the full lineup as of now (there are still a couple months to go, things can change) for the inaugural Maryland Doom Fest: Apostle of Solitude, Balam, Banned from H.E.L.L., Foehammer, Foghound, Into the Void, Iron Man, Lord, Mangog, Mind’s Eye, Nagato, Outside Truth, Primer Grey, Project Armageddon, Season of Arrows, Serpent Witch, Sixty Watt Shaman, Slaves B.C., Spirit Caravan, The Skull, Unorthodox, Valkyrie, Weed is Weed.

Poster by Audrey Mantel and running order follow, along with Nagato‘s return show last August:

md doom fest flyer

The Maryland Doom Fest 1

June 26 – 28, 2015
Cafe 611, Frederick, MD

A weekend of doom metal in its purest form.

The Skull 1225-130
Sixty Watt Shaman 1115-1210
Unorthodox 1005-11
Weed Is Weed 855-950
Into The Void 755-840
Banned From H.E.L.L. 655-740
Primer Grey 6-640

Spirit Caravan 1215-130
Apostle of Solitude 1105-1200
Outside Truth 1010-1050
Valkyrie 910-955
Project Armageddon 815-855
Foghound 720-8
Balam 630-705
Slaves B.C. 540-615
Season of Arrows 445-525

Iron Man 1045-1215
Foehammmer 945-1030
Lord 845-930
Mind’s Eye 745-830
Nagato 650-730
Serpent Witch 655-735
Mangog 6-640

Nagato, Live at Guido’s Speakeasy, Frederick, MD, Aug. 23, 2014

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The Skull, Spirit Caravan, Apostle of Solitude and More Confirmed for Maryland Doom Fest 2015

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 18th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

There isn’t much more to the Maryland Doom Fest 2015 at this point than a list of bands, dates and a place, but that’s really all you need. In true Maryland doom style, no bullshit, no one-at-a-time teasers, just “here’s this awesome thing” and you can either show up or suck. The inaugural edition of the Frederick-based fest will take place at Cafe 611 and bring together a killer assemblage of acts, headlined by The Skull and Spirit Caravan and also boasting Apostle of Solitude and War Injun-offshoot Outside Truth.

To that point, while Maryland itself is well represented — Spirit CaravanOutside TruthIron ManWeed is WeedFoghoundMind’s EyePull, Daydreams with Nightmares, etc. — the festival’s reach is immediately wider, not only pulling in Lord and Valkyrie (the latter of whom should have a new album out by then, on Relapse) from nearby Virginia, but reaching up the Eastern Seaboard to nab Rhode Island’s Balam and into the Midwest for The Skull and Apostle of Solitude, who together supplied some of 2014’s best doom in their latest albums.  What’s consistent throughout the lineup is the spirit of doom. There’s some variety around sludge, stoner, heavy rock and so on, but it’s a riffer’s delight front to back and it looks like it’ll be one worth traveling to see.

I’m not sure if more bands are being added, but presumably there will be a change here and there one way or another — June 26-28 is a long time away — and if I hear anything, I’ll let you know. In the meantime, here’s the poster and lineup for the first Maryland Doom Fest:

maryland doom fest 2015

The Skull
Spirit Caravan
Apostle of Solitude
Outside Truth
Iron Man
Weed is Weed
Project Armageddon
Mind’s Eye
Slaves BC
Season of Arrows
Daydreams with Nightmares

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Balam Premiere Title-Track of New Album Days of Old

Posted in audiObelisk on December 1st, 2014 by JJ Koczan


Rhode Island traditional doom firebands Balam are gearing up to release their full-length debut, Days of Old, early in 2015. In fact, they’ve been “gearing up” for a decent portion of this year. The first signs of Days of Old surfaced via their Bandcamp over the summer in the form of the track “With the Lost,” and as we push into cold, dark winter, their fuzzed-out, classic-styled doom seems all the more vital.

You ever want to frustrate the hell out of a band, put them in the time between recording and releasing an album. I don’t envy Balam this contingency-sorting stretch — though they’ve continued to play shows through it — but with a 2015 issue on the horizon, the double-guitar five-piece are ready to unveil another slab of Days of Old, and I’m only too happy to comply. The title-track, “Days of Old,” can be heard on the player below.

Balam recorded Days of Old with Trevor Vaughn, and mixed and mastered with him as well between March and April of this year. The seven-song outing is a vicious 45 minutes of full-breadth riffing and stripped-down, light-on-frills doom. Led by the guitars of Zach Wilding and Jonny Sage, the vocals of Alexander Blackhound take early command of the material as the first half of the album pushes toward the title cut, while bassist Nicholas Arruda plays off Wilding and Sage in Candlemassian form (his shining moment arriving in his leading the band through the 15-minute closer) and drummer Zigmond Coffey adds plod to the nod of their bleak but still engaging groove. Days of Old lacks nothing for atmosphere — each side is given an instrumental introduction of substance, and themes play out in the songs as well — but ultimately, it’s the directness of Balam‘s attack that makes their debut so impressive, as well as the thrust of their tonality and how smoothly they are able to find a niche within the dreary scope of their doom.

There’s much still to take shape before Balam release Days of Old in terms of things like the cover art, what label, and so on, but consider this glimpse at “Days of Old” — and at 11 minutes, it’s a considerable glimpse indeed — an early warning of what the band have in store for the New Year. Here’s hoping the details get sorted soon.

Please enjoy:

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

Balam will look to release Days of Old in 2015 through a yet-to-be-determined label. You can keep up with the band’s doings and latest news at the links.

Balam on Thee Facebooks

Balam on Bandcamp

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Live Review: Ichabod, Holly Hunt, Hollow Leg and Balam in Allston, MA, 03.25.14

Posted in Reviews on March 26th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

I have yet to see a show at O’Brien’s Pub in Allston and regret having shown up. At this point, that’s a pretty good track record, since I’ve far and away spent more time in that room than anywhere else since moving north last year. Last night was Holly Hunt and Hollow Leg on tour from Florida, joined by Newport, Rhode Island’s Balam and Boston’s own Ichabod for a persistently heavy but still varied four-band bill of doom and sludge. I’d had no coffee owing to a dentist appointment in the afternoon and have no problem admitting that I’m still reeling from being laid off last week from my last remaining income-providing job, but I was ready to see a show, and I got what I went for, Balam starting off with their well-honed take on doom.

Vocalist Alexander Carellas mentioned on stage that he and a couple others in the double-guitar five-piece were sick, but the band sounded no worse for the wear up to and including his own voice, which had also impressed when I saw them last summer with Olde Growth and Keefshovel (review here). They were starting off a week-long stint of shows around the Northeast — Boston, Providence, Portland, Burlington, Poughkeepsie, New Bedford, Providence again — and fresh from a gig at Dusk in Providence with Magic Circle, playing songs from an upcoming full-length for which the recording is reportedly in progress, so it wasn’t really a surprise they were tight, but it made for a solid start to the evening nonetheless, their riffs adding trad doom edge that the sludgier Hollow Leg would contradict almost immediately upon stepping on stage.

My desire to see Hollow Leg was twofold. First (spoiler alert) they’re good. Second, they seem to be in a state of transition. Their 2013 full-length, Abysmal (review here), followed in the muck-caked Southern sludgy footsteps of its predecessor, 2010’s Instinct, albeit with more of a focus on songwriting than the debut. Their 2014 single, “God-Eater,” on the other hand, came with word of seeking out a new direction “sonically, visually and lyrically,” so I was curious to find out how that played next to Hollow Leg‘s ultra-aggressive prior approach. Sure enough, “God-Eater” was pretty easy to pick out as the second song of their set, but it wasn’t necessarily incongruous with what surrounded.

Maybe hearing it once through in a set isn’t the best way to get a feel overall, but from what I heard, the new song worked well next to “8 Dead (in a Mobile Home)” from Abysmal, though I imagine the context of Hollow Leg‘s next studio output will make the shift more obvious. I look forward to finding out, and wasn’t sorry to hear their abusive crunch in the meantime, somewhat cleaner than Sourvein but definitely of that ilk. Last I saw them was before Abysmal was released, and they had a commanding presence then, but they got on stage and clicked immediately, which was only fitting for being five shows deep into the tour. The duo Holly Hunt, also from Florida and whom I hadn’t seen previously, would soon follow suit.

Holly Hunt also had new material from an EP called Prometheus that’s set to release next month as the follow-up to the Miami-based instrumental two-piece’s 2012 Year One full-length debut. They’re one of those bands that I’ve heard from several reliable sources that “you gotta see.” Sure enough, as heavy as their recorded stuff is, it does little justice to the volume emanating from guitarist Gavin Perry‘s dual Hiwatt heads or the distinct crash of Beatriz Monteavaro, who celebrated her birthday in lumbering style. Sound-wise, they are as elemental as you’re likely to hear — elephantine riffs cycled through in vicious nod, played very, very loud. On paper it’s a simple formula, standing in front it’s enough to shake your ribcage. At one point I heard a crackle and was convinced the O’Brien’s P.A. wasn’t long for this world, but fortunately it held out under the tonnage of tonal heft Holly Hunt supplied.

Given the unromantic duty of closing out a four-bander on a Tuesday night, two-guitar fivesome Ichabod answered Holly Hunt‘s demolition with their own brand thereof, frontman John Fadden shifting with intimidating ease between clean vocals and sit-tight-because-I-can-do-this-all-night screaming, lending the set a sense of drama to go with the alternately rocking and crushing riffs of Dave Iverson and Jason Adam, the steady and inventive bass of Greg Dallaria and the drums of Phil MacKay, which somehow prove to be the uniting force between the band’s space-rock push and their seething, malevolent sludge. Their psycho-delia was fluid through two new cuts from their upcoming LP, Merrimack, as well as favorites “Baba Yaga,” “Huckleberry” and “Hollow God” from 2012’s Dreamscapes from Dead Space, the latter of which closed out the evening on perhaps its angriest note — no small accomplishment considering the company Ichabod were keeping.

With the evening-long assault of volume as a comparison point, Allston seemed especially quiet on my way out of the venue. Holly Hunt and Hollow Leg roll into Brooklyn tonight, March 26, to share a bill at St. Vitus with The Scimitar, Kings Destroy and Clamfight as a benefit show for Aaron Edge of Lumbar to help with medical bills in his continued fight with MS. Info on that gig is here, and no doubt it’ll be one for the ages. Me, I’ll take what I can get, and was glad I got to see these acts at all, let alone on a show that was so dead on, front to back. No complaints.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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Live Review: Olde Growth, Balam and Keefshovel in Somerville, 08.22.13

Posted in Reviews on August 23rd, 2013 by JJ Koczan

The woman tending the bar at P.A.’s Lounge in Somerville when I — accompanied by The Patient Mrs. in her second rare public appearance in a week (she had also come to Truckfighters in Brooklyn) — was quick to call it “thirsty Thursday” upon our arrival. I’m fairly certain that’s code for “buy a drink,” but I tip my hat to the marketing nonetheless. It was my first time at the bar, essentially a townie kind of place, but with a more than decent beer selection and a dimly lit stage on the open side of the room in what I suspect was at one point an adjacent business before they took the wall down. It was early yet. Shrew, about whom I won’t pretend to know the first thing, were slated to open the show, but had dropped off, leaving Keefshovel, Balam and Olde Growth on the bill, which was obviously plenty enough to get me out to it.

I was particularly interested to see Keefshovel after the Elder show last week, as the two bands share drummer Matt Couto‘s ear-ringing crash, though they set it to different contexts between them. A double-guitar four-piece, Keefshovel dug into straightforward, sludgy grooves. Guitars ran through Sovtek and Sunn to come out in thick, bowel-troubling tones that only gained mass when taken in kind with the bass, and though the riffs they played were steadily familiar, they were delivered with conviction enough to be the band’s own; screams and shouts from either side of the stage arising periodically, though they seemed to have plenty of longer instrumental stretches as well. I don’t know how long Keefshovel have been playing together, but they reportedly have a tape release in the works and they’ve playing out a few more times over the next month or so, so I doubt this first time seeing them will be the last they’re heard from, and that suits me. They seemed to be still feeling out where they wanted to be musically, but were on their way.

Imported from Rhode Island, Balam had no scruples about their doomly aesthetic. With a standalone singer in Alexander Carellas who seemed to be following the what-would-BobbyLiebling-do model of frontmanship (hopefully in everything other than his choices of narcotics), Balam started off in rocking form and at one point sounded enough like early-Soundgarden-via-Roadsaw as to make me wonder if Boston’s long-established rock scene was beginning to influence a subsequent generation of acts, but the five-piece turned gradually to more trad-doom material, to which Carellas‘ voice was perfectly suited in a classic metal kind of way, nodding at Pagan Altar and Witchfinder General and however many other NWOBHM obscurities while guitarists Zack Wilding and Jonathan Janis led a riffy charge that at times seemed to be culling a Cathedral influence into its churn of varying tempo downerisms. They were an easy band to dig.

One new song that went unnamed seemed particularly promising, but “Soul Scour” from their 2012 demo — which they had for sale on CD and tape at the merch table; I figured better to buy both to be safe and explained same to the sweet, ever-rolling eyes of The Patient Mrs. — provided a grim ending through an effective blend of stoner riffs and doomed plod, the groove anchored by bassist Nick Arruda and drummer Zigmond Coffey, culminating in a change to a faster progression for an amply energetic finish. The room hadn’t been packed by any means, but by the time Balam were about halfway through, there was a good crowd that had rolled in, and Olde Growth took stage after a break to play a set also comprised in good proportion of new material. Well, sort of.

When bassist/vocalist Stephen LoVerme announced onstage a song or two in that he and drummer Ryan Berry‘s next project would be an album of Neil Young covers, he got a chuckle from the audience. Then they played three in a row, including a thickened punk-noise take on “Heart of Gold.” Berry confirmed afterwards as well that yes, that’s really their plan. In the time since their 2010 self-titled got picked up for issue via MeteorCity in 2011 (review here), the two have clearly grown melodically, which the subsequent Owl EP (radio add here) — initially released on tape as the Tour EP 2012 — as well as LoVerme‘s increased comfort in singing clean live demonstrates, but to take on Neil Young for what will reportedly be a mix of deep cuts and hits is a bold move for them. No word on what the timing or plan for the release is, but it’s a fascinating prospect that will no doubt turn the head of anyone who heard the self-titled and thought all there was to them was low-end crush, High on Fire influence and songs about Lord of the Rings. Maybe that’s the idea.

That’s not to say that even the rawest moments of that self-titled don’t have an enduring appeal. They certainly do. But there’s a creative progression underway with Olde Growth that was palpable even in the darkness at P.A.’s Lounge and as interesting as a record of Neil Young covers is in terms of seeing the band as being willing to take risks in the name of doing what they want to do as artists, I’ll be even more interested to hear how doing that affects their next batch of original material, whenever that might surface — what kinds of atmospheres they might discover and how the already-dynamic chemistry between LoVerme and Berry might continue to develop. At this point, they’re already a better band than people know. Closing out with “Tears of Blood,” Olde Growth gave a last-minute reminder of their ability to craft a potent hook as well as bludgeon with noisy bass riffs and drum crash — Berry‘s fills seeming especially cathartic — and while they still clearly feel they have growing to do, I take their lack of compromise as a sign of an overarching awareness of where they want to be and how they want to get there. It had been a rough couple days. They were encouraging to watch.

People seemed to be hanging out afterwards to take fuller advantage of the opportunity to quench their Thursday thirst. All the better for them. I had to work in the morning, so The Patient Mrs. and I headed out after a few quick goodnights to make the drive back to the South Shore for some high grade crashing out. No regrets on any front.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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Doommantia Bash Benefit for Ed Barnard Scheduled for Oct. 13; War Injun, Against Nature, When the Deadbolt Breaks and More Confirmed

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 19th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

If you haven’t yet, head over to Doommantia and donate some cash to help Ed Barnard, the owner of that site, get back on his feet. Anyone who’s ever spoken to him, myself included, will tell you Ed‘s a great dude, and a huge supporter of this weird underground community, and it’s times like this that the community needs to come together for one of its own.

Back at the end of July, Ed suffered a heart attack and as a result of not being able to pay the ensuing nightmarish medical bills, is homeless and living in a tent. It’s pretty bleak times, and as an admirer of Ed‘s work and his dedication, I encourage you to please, please take a couple seconds and throw a couple bucks his way. I didn’t realize it at the time, but he’s apparently also giving away Wizardrone CDs to anyone who donates $20 or more.

But seriously, don’t do it for the free CD. Do it because this is a small community as compared to the outside world, and if we don’t take care of each other when we need to, we suck just as much as everyone else.

On Oct. 13, at Lallo’s in Knoxville, Maryland, they’ll be throwing a Doommantia Bash to help out Ed‘s cause. Bands are still being confirmed, but so far on the bill are War Injun, Against Nature, When the Deadbolt Breaks, Fire Faithful, Foghound, Ghutt, Akris, and Balam, with more to come.

You can keep up with the show’s lineup at the Thee Facebooks event page, and don’t forget to donate to Ed through Doommantia’s Paypal link.

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