Friday Full-Length: 1000mods, Super Van Vacation

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


At the time Greek heavy rockers 1000mods released their debut album, it would’ve been difficult to understand what it was working to engage. Listen to songs like “7 Flies” or “El Rollito” and “Set You Free.” Listen to “Alice in Navy” and “Johny’s.” Then listen again. Then listen to the five crucial longer pieces: opener “Road to Burn,” “Vidage,” “Track Me,” and the closing duo of “Abell 1835” and the title-cut. Then listen again. On its surface, Super Van Vacation (review here) is a kickass rock record. But as we move inexorably nearer to the end of this decade, I can’t help but think of the impact this record has had.

Super Van Vacation was issued as 10 songs and an overwhelming 65 minutes by Kozmik Artifactz and CTS Productions, and its influences speak for themselves — a strong dose of Kyuss and Fu Manchu, a little bit of Colour Haze thrown into the start of “Track Me,” some earlier Dozer and Lowrider to go around — but more than seven years on from its release, think about the generation of heavy rock that’s come forward. This decade has seen an entirely new league of bands from around Europe and the world at large. It has been a generational shift, fostered in no small part by social media (and yes, I include Bandcamp in that), and as the genre has found a new audience, that audience has proven more receptive to acts from just about everywhere. Not that Greece doesn’t have a history of heavy rock and roll — there’s been Greek psych for as long as there’s been psych, and plenty of Greek metal and rock as well — and Greece has one of the strongest histories of folk music to be found anywhere in Europe. But in thinking specifically about heavy rock, about international desert rock, especially at the start of this decade, Greece could hardly hold a candle to, say, Sweden, or Germany, or the UK when it came to the overall vibrancy of its riff-loving underground. 1000mods seem to have represented a moment of change taking place.

What I mean to say is that Super Van Vacation worked on different terms than a lot of what was happening at the time, and by manifesting inspiration from acts abroad, it entered a conversation that was immediately international in its scope. This wouldn’t have mattered if the quality of the material was lacking, but digging into “Vidage” or “Abell 1835” or the ultra-groove of “El Rollito” — which seems to have been titled for precisely what its rhythm was doing vis a vis roll; it’s more than the little one its name might suggest — 1000mods showed that not only was this new generation happening at that moment, but that it was capable of introducing the burgeoning audience for heavy rock with a grade of craft worthy of what had come before it. Almost inevitably, then, bassist/vocalist Dani G., guitarists Giannis S.and George T., and drummer Labros G. became torchbearers of the Greek underground, which over the next few years would undergo a renaissance of its own, and they’ve lived up to that position with touring and subsequent releases. I won’t say they put Greece on the heavy rock map, because nobody’s ever “first” at anything if you dig deep enough and it would just be too convenient a narrative, but they were the right band from the right place at the right time, and that in itself is a significant accomplishment, before you even get down to hearing any of the songs.

Furthering this multinational engagement was the fact that Super Van Vacation was recorded by Billy Anderson, whose legacy as a producer is unmatched in heavy with a CV 1000mods super van vacationthat includes classic records for Sleep, Neurosis, Acid King and the Melvins, among many, many others. Given the geographical disparity — Anderson on the US West Coast, 1000mods in Chiliomodi, about an hour and a half (depending on traffic) west of Athens — the choice could only have been purposeful, and that too speaks to a conscious decision on the band’s part to broaden their reach. Super Van Vacation wasn’t just about being Chiliomodi’s own Truckfighters. It was about bringing 1000mods to the attention of an multinational heavy underground that, as it turned out, was ready and waiting to receive them. Right record, right time. The fact that they tour their asses off in the years following didn’t hurt them either, certainly. But a Greek band with an American producer and a German label pressing their debut album as a 2LP? This is not a group of minor ambition, and Super Van Vacation realized their goals of positioning them as more than just a local or national act while also showing their potential staying power on that grander stage.

Again, this wouldn’t have been possible at all if the songs weren’t there. But thinking about its double-vinyl structure now, the way it functioned so that sides A, B and C all feature a track north of eight minutes long — “Road to Burn,” “Vidage” and “Track Me,” respectively — and the way the album culminated with “Abell 1835” and “Super Van Vacation,” it’s all the more masterful a construction. I won’t take away from the tightness of the songwriting on the shorter tracks and particularly in the album’s earlier going with “7 Flies,” “El Rollito” and “Set You Free,” but with the longer tracks spaced out as they were, 1000mods were never too far from offering their listeners a real chance at immersion into what they were doing, and they had the tonal depth, the hooks and, in reserve, the spaciousness to make sure they got there. It was almost deceptively multifaceted.

Having already by then toured through Europe and the UK, 1000mods released their second long-player, Vultures (review here), in 2014 and followed that with Repeated Exposure To… (review here) in 2016, the latter through their own label, Ouga Booga and the Mighty Oug Recordings — a name that, while cumbersome, speaks to their taking what’s been done before and making it their own; the reference being to Kyuss “Supa Scoopa and Mighty Scoop” — which also oversaw a reissue of Super Van Vacation that same year. The debut was also previously reissued on vinyl through CTS in 2014, and has sold through multiple pressings. Rightfully so, frankly, as clearly it’s a record to which time has been kind and for which the context has only become richer over the course of the years since it first arrived.

1000mods toured ridiculously hard for Repeated Exposure To…, but if one takes a every-two-or-three-years pace for them and new material, they’d be due for a full-length sometime probably later in 2019. We’ll see if we get there, but either way, it’s worth considering how far they’ve come since their start in 2006 and how much they’ve contributed to the sphere of modern European heavy rock. Seems to be plenty at this point, and there’s no indication they’re stopping anytime soon.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

Thanks for reading.

I was pleased with the response to the Top 30 of 2018 list that went up yesterday, which if I’m honest is probably a first. Usually I break my ass putting those things together — keeping track of records in a list all year, fretting for weeks about the order, spending days on the actual writing and the inevitably adjusting the list even after it’s published — and then the first thing I see is someone being like, “Hey you stupid bastard you didn’t include Band X.” I got one comment about a lack of Latin American releases included. Okay. And people have picked out individual things that didn’t get make it for one reason or another — some of which I’ve added to honorable mentions — but by and large the tone has been civil. That’s all I could really ask.

But that’s been nice. So thank you for that.

Next week is Xmas. I’ve been dreading it, honestly. The Patient Mrs., The Pecan and I will spend Xmas Eve here in MA, watching Die Hard and Die Hard 2 at home in our traditional Xmas Eve fashion. Then Xmas Day we head south to Connecticut for family dinner, and then the next day it’s on to New Jersey, where we’ll stay the remainder of winter break until her Spring semester starts — I guess that’s three-plus weeks until about Jan. 17 or so. I’m trying to set up getting a tattoo in that time — it’ll be my first — and beyond that, looking forward to being back there, but I feel like Xmas is the hurdle I have to jump to make it happen. Least favorite holiday? Maybe. There’s some stiff competition there.

For whatever it’s worth, I hope you make the most of yours and enjoy it as much as possible.

Because of holiday and travel, posts will be somewhat sporadic, but I’m hoping to get at least something up every day except perhaps Xmas Day itself since I anticipate being busy with Pecan whatnot and travel. I’ve got a bunch of news catchup happening Monday, and nothing slated for Tuesday, though I’m sure something will come along, but Wednesday is the next review. It’s Horehound. Next week reviews are Horehound, T.G. Olson and Øresund Space Collective. Happy Xmas to me.

But yeah, I hope the holiday anxiety isn’t too much for you as it will invariably consume the entirety of my being pretty much from now until early January.

I have some other writing to do this weekend — a bio for a vinyl release, an update to the PostWax liner notes that I turned in last weekend — so I’ll be around. If we don’t talk before, though, have a good holiday and get through it the best you can. Tell your family you love them. That’s what matters. And if you can, listen to some decent music. The rest is extraneous bullshit.

Gonna punch out for a bit as I expect The Pecan up momentarily. Quick plug that if you haven’t yet, please add your list to the Year-End Poll, and if you can’t remember what came out this year, there are more than 100 records talked about in my own list, so that might be a place to start.

Thanks again for reading and have a great and safe weekend. Forum, radio and merch.

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1000mods, Super Van Vacation: The World Turns Orange

Posted in Reviews on September 13th, 2011 by JJ Koczan

Fuzz abounds on the Billy Anderson-produced full-length debut by Greek trad stoner rockers 1000mods. The Chiliomodi four-piece made a splash late in 2009 with the well-riffed Liquid Sleep 7”, and they follow much the same course on the 10-track Super Van Vacation, nodding at desert rock while keeping a looseness in the material that speaks to a love of jamming. Released by SuiSound/Catch the Soap Productions, Super Van Vacation is long at 65 minutes, but mostly immersive, and 1000mods do well within the rigid parameters of genre they’ve set for themselves, launching the album with the nod-fodder groove of “Road to Burn” (a call-out to Roadburn, perhaps?), one of several extended cuts reaching well over the eight-minute mark. The Orange-amped guitars of Giannis and George are expectedly thick and lay down solid riffs throughout for drummer Labros and bassist/vocalist Dani to follow. Their choice of producer couldn’t have been better, as Anderson is among those who set the standard for recording this kind of music in the first place in his work with the Melvins, Sleep, Acid King and Weedeater (among others), and sure enough, the balance of sounds on Super Van Vacation is near perfect. Tones are dialed in thick and full, and Dani’s vocals cut through well but never dominate the guitars, which are clearly intended as the focus.

The groove of “Road to Burn” – or at least the delivery of the chorus – reminds a bit of Alabama Thunderpussy’s “6 Shooter” from 2000’s Constellation, and that’s one of several moments on Super Van Vacation where 1000mods make their influences explicitly known. Fourth track “Set You Free” seems to find its roots in a combination of Dozer and Astrosoniq, and the ringing guitar notes in the more subdued parts of “Vidage” seem to be calling out to the same sandy gods as did those of Elvis Deluxe’s “Take it Slow” from their stellar 2011 album, Favourite State of Mind. That’s doubtless coincidental and the result of a common Kyuss/Josh Homme influence in both bands, but worthy of note anyway, as it speaks to how much of Super Van Vacation is going to be immediately familiar to experienced heavy rock listeners. Ultimately, it works to 1000mods’ benefit, as it makes them seem like fans of the music they’re playing, and I’ll take nothing away from Dani’s bass runs, which are pushed to the fore of the mix in the second half of “Vidage” before the guitar solo kicks in. They’re a genre band, definitely, playing largely off the characteristics that have emerged over the past several years of stoner rock revivalism in Europe – the emphasis on jamming one finds in the second half of Super Van Vacation only speaks further to that – but damned if they don’t do it well on these tracks and earn their place at the head of the Greek stoner scene along with the stalwart likes of Nightstalker, who themselves lifted a great deal from Monster Magnet along the way.

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Brotherhood of Sleep, Dark as Light: Heralding an Eternal Dawn

Posted in Reviews on March 7th, 2011 by JJ Koczan

Part of the expanding and unabashedly stoner-fied Greek scene, Athens trio Brotherhood of Sleep – who are not to be confused with Down’s moniker for their fans, “The Brotherhood of Eternal Sleep” – follow a 2009 self-titled with their second LP, Dark as Light (Catch the Soap Productions). The album, entirely instrumental, is comprised of four massive slabs of Orange-hued, mostly-fuzzed, riff-led heavy psych, semi-progressive in its sometimes-displayed angularity, and not given to the extensive jamming of some of the European psychedelic scene. Each of the four pieces, “Afterlife Unearthed,” “Naze,” “Aranian Gates” and “Dark as Light,” has a plotted construction, somewhere it’s on the way to being, and that greatly helps keep the listener hooked as Dark as Light progresses. Liner notes as heady as the music the three-piece concocts help to guide a narrative that plays out in the music but aren’t essential to the listening experience. As all of the songs top 11 minutes, there’s plenty of room for the audience to make up their own mind concerning themes and storyline.

There’s an element of Om-style spirituality in some of what Brotherhood of Sleep do within the time and volume shifts of “Afterlife Unearthed” and the subsequent material on Dark as Light, but ultimately the band probably has more in common with the likes of a vocal-less Sungrazer or their peers among the next generation’s Colour Haze-inspired ilk. As the title suggests, there’s a lot of playing off the contradicting dark and light atmospheres, perhaps mostly on “Naze,” which tops 14 minutes as the longest track on the album and begins slow, led by bassist Danis A. Throughout both that song and the record as a whole, though, the standout performance is by drummer Serafim G., whose bright, popping snare is like a call to attention across “Afterlife Unearthed,” and whose fills make all the difference selling the material. There are a couple points where I wish he’d open up a groove and really lock in with the riffs, settle into the song instead of seem so busy (8:17 into “Naze,” if you want a specific example), as he does late into the closer, but by and large he’s a good demonstration of the difference a drummer can really make in a band, as without his stylized play anchoring the rhythm section, Dark as Light would inevitably fall flat.

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