Album Review: Bongzilla, Weedsconsin

Posted in Reviews on April 28th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

bongzilla weedsconsin

None crustier. None more stoned. That’s the reputation that precedes Bongzilla headed into Weedsconsin, their first album in 16 years. That’s the standard. And while the Madison, Wisconsin, trio of Michael “Muleboy” Makela (bass/vocals, formerly guitar/vocals), guitarist Jeff “Spanky” Schultz and drummer Michael John “Magma” Henry have no doubt been busy in the intervening years working as high-power lobbyists toward the ultimate goal of marijuana legalization on the federal level in the US — an argument they state efficiently if not clearly in Muleboy‘s rasp on “Free the Weed” — their return to more riff-led weedian proselytizing is notable on its own merits in addition to the influence the band has had largely in their absence on a generation of underground listeners and players who’ve come to prominence in the years since 2005’s Amerijuanican was issued through Relapse Records.

Weedsconsin finds the band aligned with Heavy Psych Sounds, and with production by the late John Hopkins, who passed away in Nov. 2020 following a heart attack, Bongzilla sound utterly unmistakable. Their closest sonic kin have always been Weedeater — they would seem to pay homage with a short interlude that opens side B called simply “The Weedeater” — but the six-song/43-minute run of this collection makes that North Carolinian outfit seem accessible by comparison. Of course, the album arrives some six years after Bongzilla returned to touring, so they’ve had plenty of time work work out material, but the truth is that in 95 percent of cases, the prospect of a new full-length from this band was going to be a no-doubter. What, Bongzilla were going to become math metal? Embrace their inner djent? They’re fucking Bongzilla. The biggest favor they might do their attendant listenership, new and old, is to sound like it, and that’s exactly what they do on Weedsconsin.

The album opens sharp and purposeful with “Sundae Driver.” It’s the shortest inclusion at about four and a half minutes, and it builds a massive wall of lumbering fuzz to set a high tonal standard for the rest of what follows. If the message is to reassure their audience that Bongzilla know what’s expected of them and are ready to deliver, the harsh-lung gutturalism of “Sundae Driver”‘s verse dispenses immediately with all doubt. Atop a chugging riff that opens into a rolling hook, Muleboy earns copious nodules in nothing-too-fancy lines that are made impressive through the excruciating-sounding execution. The great balance of Bongzilla has always been between the stoned and the brutal. “Sundae Driver” calls out both in deceptively clear fashion, and “Free the Weed” follows with a bigger central riff that holds its line out and lets Magma‘s hi-hat hold the procession together until the next round of lurch kicks in. It is pummeling and arguably the highlight of Weedsconsin for how its second half flows into its solo section with the bass and guitar taking their respective whims for a walk, but really, pick your poison. If it’s jams you’re looking for, the best is surely yet to come.

bongzilla

To wit, side A wraps with “Space Rock,” the first of two inclusions on Weedsconsin to top 10 minutes long. Time well spent. A first few minutes lull the listener into hypnotic nod before the full low end weight kicks in circa 2:30 and continues to cycle through until the big slowdown into the stoner softshoe riff about a minute later, all classic swagger as the bed for the verse, echoing and largely indecipherable. They pick up speed, subtly, but ultimately make their way back to the mellower movement and use that as the launch point for a jam that consumes the rest of the song leads the way out of side A, with the 35-second “The Weedeater” following its rumbling end with a slow drum beat, sample and maybe a keyboard of some sort or guitar playing some sparse notes. There’s a hard stop before the subsequent, 15-minute “Earth Bong/Smoked/Mags Bags” arrives, but the two pieces connect just the same, and the three stages of Weedsconsin‘s sprawling exercise in instrumentalist fuckall likewise flow into each other as they inevitably would.

There are tempo shifts throughout — and maybe the coughing 10 minutes in signals a turn to “Mags Bags,” which puts the bass more forward before oozing out its central riff, more stoner than sludge if it even matters by then — but Bongzilla were right to put all this stuff into a single track and just roll it out, because by the time the drums and whatever percussion is included finishes out, they’ve well established they can do whatever the hell they want anyway and still come out on the other end red-eyed but otherwise unscathed. Slow stick-clicks later and the six-minute “Gummies” wraps with more mostly-instrumental plodding — there’s voice there, but it’s buried deep — as the band cap their first album in more than a decade and a half by getting willfully lost in the fog of their own making and inviting their listenership to do largely the same. That’s not to say they’re not following a plan throughout Weedsconsin, but the plan sounds like it was to get high and wander off, letting one heavy riff after the next lead where they will.

If you can think of a more fitting showing for Bongzilla to make than to return with a six-track album and jam out for more than half its runtime, I’d love to hear about it. The fact of the matter is Bongzilla after a quarter-century since their inception know what they’re about, and Weedsconsin is Bongzilla being Bongzilla. I don’t know what various hyperbole has been tossed the album’s way, but its central achievement is that it is Bongzilla. If you know the band, you know what they do, and this is what they do. If you’re new to the band, then consider Weedsconsin your representative start as you head deeper into their catalog. It’s not that they’re not trying anything new here, but the overarching context is so much the band’s own that it is simply inescapable. And that’s the point. You would ask no less of Bongzilla. That’s their standard, and they meet it dead-on, without flinching.

Bongzilla, Weedsconsin (2021)

Bongzilla on Thee Facebooks

Bongzilla on Instagram

Bongzilla on Bandcamp

Bongzilla website

Heavy Psych Sounds on Bandcamp

Heavy Psych Sounds website

Heavy Psych Sounds on Thee Facebooks

Gungeon Records on Bandcamp

Tags: , , , , , ,

Bongzilla Stream “Sundae Driver”; Weedsconsin Preorders Available

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 3rd, 2021 by JJ Koczan

Well, the cover art certainly gets the point across, and I don’t think Bongzilla were likely to be accused of subtlety anyhow. April 20 — of course — is the release date for Weedsconsin, and preorders are up not through Heavy Psych Sounds. The opening track, “Sundae Driver,” was previously available as a live-room jam, and can now be streamed in its studio version, which somehow feels even crustier. Stoned stays stoned.

You’re not going to listen to “Sundae Driver” and think it’s some other band, let’s put it that way. I’m kind of curious to hear “The Weedeater,” since there’s a decent chance it’s about the band Weedeater, but even if not, whatever. I’ll take it either way. New Bongzilla. Riffs and such.

From the PR wire:

bongzilla weedsconsin

BONGZILLA release new single “Sundae Driver”; ‘Weedsconsin’ out 4/20 and available to preorder on Heavy Psych Sounds!

Midwest’s sludge behemoths and all-time weed metal pioneers BONGZILLA unleash their brand new single “Sundae Driver” exclusively on Decibel Magazine today! The song is taken from their forthcoming fifth album ‘Weedsconsin’, due out April 20th and available to preorder now through Heavy Psych Sounds.

Featuring a three-piece lineup of all original members—bassist/vocalist Muleboy, guitarist Spanky and drummer Magma— “Sundae Driver” delivers the kind of hazy, heavy-as-hell doom that BONGZILLA earned their reputation peddling. The riffs on “Sundae Driver” are low and slow, sounding like they originate in a smoke-filled room; paired with a flattening rhythm section, the instruments create the ideal backdrop for Muleboy’s throat-shredding, smoke-destroyed vocals.

On the fringe of chaos, in the Year of the Pandemic, the Cannabeast has awoken. World pioneers of Weed Metal BONGZILLA return with their new full-length album, sixteen years after their last record ‘Amerijuanican’. Over the span of ‘Weedsconsin’ six tracks, Bongzilla delivers heavy doses of crushing stoner doom and psychedelic space rock that sets it apart from earlier material.

This record travels down a path of heavy riffs, mind-expanding jams, sonic tones, and stomping beats in the band’s first release as a thunderous three piece, with Muleboy moving from guitar to bass. Approaching these songs as a three-piece has created more space musically and allowed the band to showcase their musicianship in a different way, resulting in a sound that is very heavy, along the lines of ‘Gateway’ tone-wise, but sonically clearer.

‘Weedsconsin’ was written by Muleboy (bass, vocals), Spanky (guitar), and Magma (drums) and recorded and mixed by the late John Hopkins at Future Apple Tree Studios in Rock Island, Illinois in October 2020. It was mastered by Carl Saff at Saff Mastering in Chicago, Illinois, with an artwork design by Eli Quinn. It will be released on April 20th, 2021 on various limited edition vinyls, black vinyl, CD and digital.

BONGZILLA New album ‘Weedsconsin’
Out April 20th on Heavy Psych Sounds
PREORDER: https://www.heavypsychsounds.com/shop.htm#HPS160

TRACKLIST:
1. Sundae Driver
2. Free the Weed
3. Space Rock
4. The Weedeater
5. Earth Bong, Smoked, Mags Bags
6. Gummies

Bongzilla are:
Mule Boy – Bass / Vocals
Spanky – Guitar
Magma – Drums

https://www.facebook.com/Bongzilla/
https://www.instagram.com/bongzillaband
https://bongzilla.bandcamp.com/
https://bongzilla666.com/
heavypsychsoundsrecords.bandcamp.com
www.heavypsychsounds.com
https://www.facebook.com/HEAVYPSYCHSOUNDS/

Bongzilla, “Sundae Driver”

Tags: , , , , ,

Bongzilla Sign to Heavy Psych Sounds

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

Wisconsin weedian institution Bongzilla have signed to Heavy Psych Sounds to release their awaited Weedsconsin LP. If that feels somewhat momentous, I think that’s justified. Though Bongzilla have been reunited for over a half-decade at this point, they haven’t had a new studio album since Relapse put out Amerijuanican in 2005. Some 16 years between records is not insignificant. To those wondering what Bongzilla might sound like circa 2021 — my guess is they fucking sound like Bongzilla. Weed, sludge, supreme.

Weedsconsin was recorded by John Hopkins, also known for his front-of-house work for SleepUncle AcidHigh on Fire and scores of others, who passed away just weeks after finishing the sessions. The band has overseen numerous reissues and other works through their own Crash Assailant Records and the ever-righteous Totem Cat Records, but in signing to Heavy Psych Sounds, they not only herald the new album, but link up with European booking as well, which — should touring ever become a thing again — will surely see them once again hitting the international market. The more the merrier.

The PR wire makes it official:

Bongzilla-signing

Bongzilla – Weedsconsin

We’re incredibly stoked and honored to announce that Cannabeasts BONGZILLA are now members of the HPS family !!

The Wisconsin Doom-Sludge legends singed to HPS Records for the new album called “WEEDSCONSIN” – 16 years since their last record !!!

BONGZILLA is also now part of the Heavy Psych Sounds Booking roster for Europe !!

We are ready to bring the band all over the best spots on our territory !!

NEW ALBUM PRESALE + FIRST TRACK PREMIERE and more surprises STARTS:
FEBRUARY 2nd at 16.00 CET

Mule Boy Quote: “I’m high! I’m Heavy Psyched on the Sounds! I’m Heavy Psyched on signing to HPS! Weedsconsin coming very soon! The Cannabeast has awoken! Stay Safe! Stay High!”

Bongzilla are:
Mule Boy – Bass / Vocals
Spanky – Guitar
Magma – Drums

https://www.facebook.com/Bongzilla/
https://www.instagram.com/bongzillaband
https://bongzilla.bandcamp.com/
https://bongzilla666.com/
heavypsychsoundsrecords.bandcamp.com
www.heavypsychsounds.com
https://www.facebook.com/HEAVYPSYCHSOUNDS/

Bongzilla, “Sundae Driver” live rehearsal

Tags: , , , , ,