Interview & Track Premiere: Elephant Tree Talk About the Making of Habits and More

Posted in audiObelisk, Features on April 17th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

elephant tree with riley

[Click play above to stream the premiere of ‘Exit the Soul’ from Elephant Tree’s Habits. Album is out April 24 through Holy Roar Records and Deathwish Inc.]

I’ve been fortunate a few times now to see high school physical science homework help Working On Homework 100 capital punishment discursive essay expert resume writer calgary Elephant Tree play live, and never once have they not surpassed the prior gig. Each time has been better than the last. The clarity of their progression as a band can likewise be heard in their recordings. The latest of them, Find your professional http://ireon.ru/?do-movies-need-to-be-underlined-in-an-essay here! Get a book review / writing critique with your FREE editing sample. FIRM price. Satisfaction GUARANTEED. Habits (review here), is a sure-fire, no-question contender for the best heavy rock album of 2020, and though it was preceded just by their 2016 self-titled debut full-length (review here) and 2014’s Don’t wait for deadlines; place your order right now to get it delivered on time! If you are planning to get your Essay Writing By Students by dissertation Theia EP (review here), their evolution is to be ignored only at the non-listener’s loss. Emerging as they have from a hyper-crowded London and UK scene, with the advent of How To Write Paper For Publication - diversify the way you cope with your task with our appreciated service select the service, and our experienced scholars will Habits, they stand among the most essential underground heavy bands currently active. And yes, I mean that.

Just a few days ago I expounded at great (read: probably too much) length about the quality of their craft across the wide scope of Searching for a http://bcn.uprrp.edu/trash/?get-help-writing-a-dissertation-introduction? We are what you were looking for! Only expert academic writing assistance from professional writers is Habits, so I’ll spare you that. If you’re still reading this and haven’t just scrolled on to the Q&A, first, thanks, and second, I’ll just say that another aspect of who they are that comes across with  Many students decide to dig this services online because of their available benefits. They include guaranteed time savings, effective stress Habits more than ever is the closeness of bond between the now-four members of the band. It’s not just about the harmonies between guitarist/vocalist Steps In Writing A Dissertation writing service online in UK which provides relief from hectic and boring topics. Dedicate to university coursework help and custom services. Jack Townley and bassist/vocalist Get assistance in writing your dissertation from us. We offer College Essay Youll Be Dead In A Month services online. We have experts qualified in writing Peter Holland, or the hefty dose of synth  There are enough Art History Essays around the web. If you are wondering why you should choose our website to assist you in studying - click here! John Slattery brings in his first recording with the group, or the steady foundation of roll drummer  research proposal phd biology; US ABOUT order an place you time every and each services writing essay outstanding provide to strive and writing academic Sam Hart sets beneath the floating melodies. It’s the core relationship among the players upon which their performance chemistry is built. These guys laugh together. They’re becoming family as the best and steadiest bands do over time. You can see it when they clown around on stage. Just ask  The audience of professional and business documents plays a significant role in the style of a professional document. Successful http://beylikduzu-cicekci.com/?write-business-plan-templates adapt Pete what his favorite kind of bird is.

As that relationship extends to their work with producer/sometimes-bandmate  Can someone write a paper for Order Now’ tab on the top of the website and enter your Ieee Research Papers Formats requirements regarding Riley MacIntyre, it’s only fair that all five are included in this interview. If you haven’t found it yet, you’ll find the Q&A below.

Enjoy:

elephant tree habits

Interview with Elephant Tree: Habits Forming

Professional Essay Writing Service and Custom Essay Help from Top Essay Writers from My visit here. Avail Custom Essays writing and editing by the best Tell me about being in the studio this time vs. last time. What was different, other obviously than the songs, and what did you want to keep sound-wise from the self-titled?

We provide reliable Buy High School Essays with no plagiarism & on time delivery, our academic writers in UK produce best quality writing help at Riley: The biggest difference between the making of this album and the last was the amount of time we spent on it. With the self-titled we had a very short and specific period of time to finish it. I believe we recorded all the music in four days, and then spent another few weekends doing vocals, production and mixing. It was maybe 8-10 days total. Also, I had a very clear vision for that album in terms of how it should sound. So, although we did play around a bit in the studio, it was a relatively focused process of recording what we needed to make it sound the way we imagined.

By contrast, Habits took the better part of a year (not full time by any means, mind you), and we had almost no idea how we wanted it to sound when we started out. Although we still did all the main live recording inside of a week, the production ultimately became a protracted process of trial and error, exploration, discovery, mistakes and happy accidents. For better or worse, without a deadline we were able to let the album take shape over time, and to be guided by what we found to be working along the way.

In terms of changes to the sound, we knew we wouldn’t be messing with core elements of the band – we would certainly be keeping the heavy guitars and vocal harmonies – but I think everything else was more or less fair game. I don’t remember having any conversations about what we wanted to stay the same, but we did have some about what we wanted to add… namely, energy. Whereas the last record was deliberately raw, lethargic, and syrupy sounding, we wanted this one to have a slightly more focused energy and to feel more alive and exciting. We tried to achieve this with more top end on the guitars, the drums being a bit less smashed and drowned out, little production tricks, and lots and lots of SYNTHS!

Dissertation On Bibliometric Analysis - Expert writers, exclusive services, instant delivery and other advantages can be found in our academy writing help Dissertations and Describe recording with Riley. What does he bring to Elephant Tree’s sound as a producer?

Sam: Riley brings us a pretty unique opportunity when it comes to recording. He usually works on music that’s totally different, if not the polar opposite, to ours, so being able to come at the tracks with fresh ears and ideas is a real boon. The process usually involves us heading into the studio with an idea and Riley really then has free reign to deconstruct and digest it before coming up with all these wired and wonderful suggestions. Sometimes that can mean the whole re-writing of a track and others it might just be an odd synth added here and there. Most of the time though is him taking the hodge podge of riffs we have and moulding them into a song that makes sense.

Obviously having John in the band is a change from the first album. How much of Habits was written when he joined? How do you feel about the way the keys and second guitar fit in this material and how has it changed the experience of playing live for you?

Sam: John was there from the start on Habits pretty much. I think we had maybe Bird and one other track written but nowhere near finished. We needed to take the Self Titled on the road and wanted to do it justice with the extra guitars and synth that you could hear on the album. The more John practiced with us, the more we ended up jamming, and then from there he just naturally became a part of the next album. The keys and extra guitars were there on the self titled release but perhaps slightly less focused. That was because we wanted to still be able to give a live performance that was true to the album that people would listen to at home in some respect. Having John with us now means we can explore those second guitar parts and add these synth flutters knowing that when it comes to playing live we can deliver. He’s really a key member in pushing the band forward now.

How did you land on the title Habits and what does it mean to you? – Jack: It was actually Pete who shouted the album name out when we were trying to think of a title that sums up the ideas behind the album. I wouldn’t want to explain exactly what it means to us because I think it could mean a lot of different things to everyone else. However, I will say that it does reflect different parts of our lives and the times we are living through in a very real sense.

What’s happening in “The Fall Chorus” lyrically, and how intentional was it to pair that with “Broken Nails” at the start and end of side B?

John: Lyrically, “The Fall Chorus” is about struggling on with life against the backdrop of what seems to be an increasingly hostile environment politically and economically. The verses and choruses operate as counterpoint to each other. The chorus offers up the idea of having personal hope and being saved (whatever that might mean to you personally). The verses counter that with a feeling of impending doom. The last verse slightly aims to offer comfort in knowing that it cannot last forever and that at some point in the future, I will die (along with all my hopes and fears). I find some comfort in that.

With regard to the pairing of both songs, I think thematically they are in a similar vein. There was a strong feeling that Broken Nails was going to close the album out relatively early on in the recording process. I think we tried out a few different arrangements for the tracks, but felt that it was nice to come out of Exit The Soul and into something completely different with The Fall Chorus when you flip to Side B.

Tell me about the development of “Bird,” how that came together instrumentally and lyrically. –

Jack: The initial sketch music for Bird came first followed by the first ideas for the lyrics about 10 minutes later! I’ve never really written an idea down like that. Musically it came from a folk place. I’d been listening to old watersons records and a lot of Lankum at that time. I’d also just had my daughter! All this you can hear. The lyrics reflect the happiness and worries that come with raising a child (the worry part is especially relevant now). I brought the demo to the gang and it all came together really easily. We started to play it live for a while before we took it into the studio, it changed a fair bit in terms of arrangement since then as most things do when we work it all out together! Once in the studio Sam helped with parts of lyrics that had holes, Pete brought the riffs in. Slootz Mcootz brought in his keys, synths and charm, and Riley brought the whole thing together with his massive (when warm) production!

One assumes, plague permitting, you’ll tour. Any plans or closing words you want to mention?

Pete: Definitely, when this has settled down and normality (or as close to normal as we can get) has returned to us, we hope to pick up where things have been put on hold. Play out the new tracks from the album people have gotten used to by then, and be the band people want and need. The messages we get from fans can really leave us feeling humbled, we forget how our music and lyrics can help people through tough times, so it truly keeps our glass half full.

And as far as touring goes, plans were being made to be on the road with another band that, coincidentally, have their album coming out the same day as us, so fingers crossed for that come September.

Elephant Tree, “Bird” official video

Elephant Tree, “Sails” official video

Elephant Tree on Thee Facebooks

Elephant Tree on Instagram

Elephant Tree website

Holy Roar Records website

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Album Review: Elephant Tree, Habits

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on April 13th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

elephant tree habits

To put the bottom line first: Elephant Tree‘s Habits is absolutely, unquestionably one of the best heavy rock releases of 2020. A top-five album, if not top-three, and such declaration is made with full awareness that half the year has not yet passed. Then a three-piece, the London-based heavy psychedelic rockers set a high standard with their 2016 self-titled debut full-length (review here), and Habits meets and surpasses the standard on every level. It is perhaps a less stark leap than the band made between their 2014 Theia EP (review here), but in following the course that Elephant Tree laid out, the eight tracks and 43 minutes of Habits expand the band’s scope on a multitude of levels.

This continuing evolution is palpable, whether it’s in the shared harmonies between guitarist Jack Townley and bassist Peter Holland, the inclusion of strings and more complex vocal arrangements on the acoustic “The Fall Chorus,” the welcoming of John Slattery on synth and guitar as he adds to the lushness of the melodies throughout, or the intricacies of rhythm that Sam Hart brings to the drums on a cut like “Bird,” or the earlier shifts between roll and chug of “Faceless.”

Habits finds Elephant Tree on every level a more progressive band, and the substance of their material is writ across each track in performance, arrangement, and purpose. This applies even unto the initially-ponderous intro “Wake.Repeat,” which is a 1:14-long drone that builds into the start of the true opener, “Sails,” but which ends up providing the basis of side A’s symmetry as a droning flourish rounds out “Exit the Soul,” the longest cut on the record at 7:20 and the finale of the first half, which gives way to side B’s own reflective property, as heard in the already-noted acoustics of “The Fall Chorus” that later find answer in album-closer “Broken Nails.”

The hidden message, as it were, sets up a duality between the ethereal and the natural, both seeming to correspond as a part of the entirety of Habits itself; the sound of the band serving as a duality unto itself between airy melody and weight of tone and groove. This conversation is the essence of Habits.

It is a subtlety and depth — conscious or not, whether correctly interpreted here or not — that is simply new ground for Elephant Tree as a band, and it’s brought out with the careful studio guidance of returning-producer/sometimes-bandmate Riley MacIntyre, whose familiarity with what Elephant Tree do and who they are is an essential component. It is crucial to note, however, that as much as the four-piece have grown over the last couple years both through adding Slattery to the lineup and substantial touring, they have maintained and pushed forward their propensity for memorable songcraft.

Elephant Tree

Thus, as much as “Sails” establishes the tonal and melodic foundations upon which “Faceless” and “Exit the Soul” build in succession, each piece makes an individual mark as well, and even the verses of “Faceless” seem to be a hook. The same is true of Habits‘ second half, as “The Fall Chorus” invites quiet sing-alongs as the lines, “So say we all/Saved from the shelf,” in the chorus offset the kind of minimalist verses also found in “Sails” and “Faceless.”

So too does “Bird” — which moves into an airy midsection jam before its chorus surges back and gives way to a faster, more twisting and winding progression that closes out — maintain its poise and undercurrent of purpose, and after coming to structural ground in the penultimate “Wasted,” the show of reach that is “Broken Nails” moves beyond even the rest of Habits in terms of overall scope, while holding fast to a rhythm in the vocal delivery of its verses that gives a sing-song feel, almost becoming at least in part the lullaby that “Bird” seems intended to be.

Front to back, Habits is gorgeous and resonant in kind, and the growth of melodies into harmonies and the broadening of the band’s sound with Slattery‘s keys — plain to hear on “Exit the Soul” as well as at the outset with “Sails,” and indeed across the rest of what surrounds — only makes their approach come through as more masterful. In crunching, riff-led moments like “Faceless” or even the consuming psychedelic finish of “Wasted” — where the largesse seems so much to be the focal point of their intention — Elephant Tree execute their songs with rare grace, perhaps most present in the quiet beginning stretch of “Broken Nails,” but never really gone.

And that closer, which on its own would situate the band among those bringing increasing progressive flourish to heavier styles, offers some of the slowest and most outwardly dense-feeling crash on Habits, while also pursuing the most atmospheric breadth, and as such, it could hardly be a more appropriate end, in its symmetry with “The Fall Chorus” and also in emphasizing the journey the band has undertaken from the relatively straightforward roll of “Sails” to the far-out place they find themselves at the end, with that lightly-strummed guitar leading them on the final fade. It is one last unabashedly beautiful moment on an album that is rife with them, and for all the potential that Elephant Tree‘s self-titled demonstrated, Habits moves beyond even what one might’ve hoped for in a follow-up.

This sounds like hyperbole, and it is, to be sure, but a work of such creative realization doesn’t happen along every day or every year, and what may seem like an extreme response is nonetheless earned in the material itself. These are not songs to visit and disregard. These are songs to live with. To listen to and be enveloped by. To learn and internalize and engage with over a course of time not defined by a release date, or the end of a year, or whenever. To hear the conversation Elephant Tree are having with their sound and their craft is to understand how special their work here genuinely is, and if the methods of Habits were to become a point of influence for other acts, it would only be an improvement to heavy music as a whole.

Recommended.

Elephant Tree, “Bird” official video

Elephant Tree, “Sails” official video

Elephant Tree on Thee Facebooks

Elephant Tree on Instagram

Elephant Tree website

Holy Roar Records website

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Wear Your Wounds Debut Album WYW out April 7

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 21st, 2016 by JJ Koczan

I don’t think a certain kind of breadth from Converge and its component members was ever really in doubt, but the scope continues to expand as frontman Jacob Bannon readies to debut his project Wear Your Wounds at Roadburn 2017 next April. You might recall Converge played two sets at the same fest this past April, one of them the classic Jane Doe in its entirety and the other a special set comprised of their slower, sludgier material from throughout the years. Both were intense highlights, and Bannon‘s Wear Your Wounds will hit Roadburn 2017 just after the first album, WYW, is released via his own Deathwish Inc. imprint. Bet your ass that timing is purposeful.

Obviously we’ve got a while to go before April gets here, but the PR wire announced the album thusly:

wear-your-wounds-wyw

WEAR YOUR WOUNDS (SOLO PROJECT OF CONVERGE’S JACOB BANNON) ANNOUNCES DEBUT ALBUM & LIVE PERFORMANCE

WYW LP due out April 7th from Deathwish, See the live performance at this year’s Roadburn Festival

Wear Your Wounds is the product of years of lo-fi solo recordings by Converge founder Jacob Bannon. On this debut release, WYW (out April 7th on Deathwish), Bannon is joined by guest musicians Kurt Ballou (Converge), Mike McKenzie (The Red Chord, Stomach Earth, Unraveller), Chris Maggio (Sleigh Bells, Trap Them, Coliseum), and Sean Martin (Hatebreed, Cage, Kid Cudi, Twitching Tongues). Together they have created a powerful album that is unlike anything they have ever individually worked on. The album is comprised of ten emotionally heavy songs that call to the slower, more epic leanings of Converge, as well as Bannon’s previous work in Supermachiner. Wear Your Wounds brings to mind the dense multi-layered approach of Swans and early Pink Floyd, while being as vulnerable as influences Sparklehorse, Songs: Ohia, other like minded artists.

Wear Your Wounds will reveal itself in a live setting on April 22nd at Roadburn Festival in Tilburg, The Netherlands as part of John Dyer Baizley’s curation. Find more information about this special Roadburn performance here. Wear Your Wounds live will feature Bannon joined on stage by musicians Mike McKenzie, Chris Maggio, Adam McGrath (Cave In, Zozobra, Nomad Stones), and Sean Martin.

https://www.facebook.com/wearyourwounds/
https://deathwishinc.com/
http://www.roadburn.com/

Wear Your Wounds, “Adrift in You”

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The Top 15 of the First Half of 2014

Posted in Features on June 23rd, 2014 by JJ Koczan

It’s custom around here to do a Top 10 of the First Half of the Year, in advance of doing a Top 20 of the Year in December. The idea is that the later list will basically build on the earlier one. That’s never really how it works out — albums always drop off or appear unexpectedly depending on what gets listened to most, what gets reviewed late, etc. — but it always works out to be a good time anyway, and that’s really what it’s all about.

The difference this year is that instead of doing a Top 20 in December, I’m planning on expanding to a full Top 30, so to do a Top 10 of the stuff from January until now makes less sense. So here we are with a Top 15. A slightly longer list, but still the same basic idea as years past otherwise. These are albums I’m expecting will turn up again at the end of the year on the final Top 30, and though some will and some won’t and almost all of them will move around, there are more than a handful — particularly if we’re counting by fingers — of essential records released over the last six months recounted here.

If you missed something, I hope it’s something cool you get to check out, and if I missed something (as I inevitably did), I hope you’ll let me know in the comments. Please note that this is full albums only, no EPs, splits, singles or demos.

Enjoy:

 

15. Greenleaf, Trails and Passes

Released by Small Stone. Reviewed April 25.

I’ll freely admit I was more than a little thrown off by the change in approach on Greenleaf‘s fifth album. Where prior outings like 2012’s Nest of Vipers (review here) and 2007’s megatriumph Agents of Ahriman had been lush heavy rock affairs helmed by Dozer guitarist Tommi Holappa with a slew of guests on vocals, organ, etc., Trails and Passes dialed back the “extras” in favor of a more stripped down, stage-ready approach. Holappa‘s songwriting alone would likely be enough to have Greenleaf on this list one way or another, and Trails and Passes is one of the year’s best. The turn was just unexpected and I feel like I’m not caught up to it yet.

 

14. Druglord, Enter Venus

Released by STB Records. Reviewed Feb. 14.

Initially put out in a limited tape run in late 2013 (review here), the Enter Venus full-length from Richmond-based sludgers Druglord codified the noisy murk of their prior outings into one devastating wave of lurching riffage and echoing shouts. The Virginian three-piece recorded with Garrett Morris of Windhand and the STB vinyl topped off with artwork by W. Ralph Walters, making for a package both visually and sonically devastating, and though it’s short for an album at under a half-hour, the 12″ still earns the nod for the unmitigated heft its four songs carry. It’s one you can either dig or miss out, but Druglord show there’s more room for invention in sludge.

 

13. Wovenhand, Refractory Obdurate

Released by Deathwish Inc. Reviewed May 15.

There really isn’t much left to say when it comes to Wovenhand and their driving force, frontman David Eugene Edwards. Their first for Deathwish Inc., Refractory Obdurate is the latest document of one of this generation’s most accomplished songwriting progressions. It follows a brilliant record in 2012’s The Laughing Stalk (review here) and likely precedes one in whatever they decide to do next, and the enduring fascination on Edwards‘ part with tonal weight and groove continues to push Wovenhand into a creative territory that is without genre. Nobody else comes close.

 

12. Papir, IIII

Released by El Paraiso Records. Reviewed Jan. 24.

Quick-working Danish jammers Papir made a strong impression with IIII early in the year, offering a progressive take on the style of heavy instrumental jamming that has flourished throughout Europe over the last half-decade or so. Immediately individualized, the Copenhagen three-piece carried across four intricately constructed pieces, most open with the 21-minute “III” but never lacking for twists and turns that were an utter joy to follow. A band that has already collaborated with the even-jammier Electric Moon and who’ve aligned themselves with Causa Sui‘s El Paraiso Records, they seem like a safe bet to continue to grow into reliable purveyors of high-quality instrumental heavy psychedelia.

 

11. Ogre, The Last Neanderthal

Released by Minotauro Records. Reviewed March 10.

Its arrival was heralded by the righteousness of a Lego video for “Nine Princes in Amber,” though even that was little preparation for the classic doomery that would take place on the return long-player from Portland, Maine’s Ogre. The trio of guitarist Ross Markonish, bassist/vocalist Ed Cunningham and drummer Will Broadbent broke up in 2009, got back together in 2012, and with their fourth album, they made it clear they still had plenty to offer those who worship trad-style riffing, Sabbathy grooves and the kind of hooks that stay with you for days. The Last Neanderthal had plenty of those, and “Warpath,” the aforementioned “Nine Princes in Amber,” “Bad Trip” and “Son of Sisyphus” tapped into what makes the best of doom so ready for repeat listens.

 

10. Floor, Oblation

Released by Season of Mist. Reviewed April 22.

Another reunited trio, Floor had it tough coming into their first album in a decade, Oblation. The legacy of their 2002 self-titled would loom large over anything they put out, and guitarist/vocalist Steve Brooks had since gained a huge following as the spearhead of Torche, but four years after they started playing shows again, Floor met the challenge head-on with Oblation‘s 14 tracks, showing a natural progression from where they left off so long ago without seeming like they were trying to recapture a past that inevitably would prove irretrievable. Instead, they’ve set themselves on a course for continuing to develop as a band, and though Torche have a new album expected out this summer on Relapse and doubtless that will take some time and focus away from Floor, hopefully they keep pursuing that growth.

 

9. Mos Generator, Electric Mountain Majesty

Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed March 14.

I’ll claim no impartiality when it comes to Port Orchard, Washington, heavy rock purveyors Mos Generator or the craftsmanship of guitarist/vocalist Tony Reed, but if half the point of a list like this is to nerd out over albums you dig (and I’ll gladly argue that it is), then Electric Mountain Majesty is right where it should be. Reed, bassist Scooter Haslip and drummer Shawn Johnson are clockwork-reliable when it comes to putting out high-grade material, and their second record since getting going again after Reed‘s few years in Stone Axe pushed beyond the considerable accomplishments of 2012’s Nomads (review here) and brought their sound to new and at times surprisingly doomed places while still keeping their core in a love of classic heavy rock songwriting. From where I sit, new Mos Gen is never one to pass up.

 

8. Blood Farmers, Headless Eyes

Self-released. Reviewed March 24.

Not that I didn’t expect a new Blood Farmers release to be cool, but Headless Eyes was still a surprise when it arrived earlier in 2014. Who was to say what the New York trio would concoct after a 19-year studio absence? Of course, what they came out with was dead-on horror-loving doomly plod, cuts like the instrumental “Night of the Sorcerers” and the deceptively catchy “Headless Eyes” not only worthy of Blood Farmers‘ substantial legacy but building on it. Void of pretense, Headless Eyes resonated with a brooding atmosphere capped by the surprising closer, “The Road Leads to Nowhere,” a cover of the theme from The Last House on the Left and positioned the three-piece of vocalist Eli Brown, guitarist/bassist David Szulkin and drummer Tad LĂ©ger among the fore of traditional doom’s practitioners.

 

7. The Golden Grass, The Golden Grass

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed March 25.

After seeing them live late last year (review here), digging their 456th Div. tape (review here) and putting their debut single on the best short releases of 2013 list, I had little doubt that their self-titled debut full-length would deliver a satisfying listen. Sure enough, the five-tracks of the quality-over-quantity release did precisely that, the Brooklyn three-piece harnessing unashamed positive vibes to mesh with a burgeoning psychedelic feel, catchy hooks and classic-style road songs serving as a reminder of the good times that rock and roll both provides and complements. Now that summer is here, I expect to revisit The Golden Grass plenty of time over these sunny, hot months, since it would seem the year has finally caught up with the band’s warmth and day-long spirit. The Golden Grass are reportedly headed to Europe later this year, so more to come on them for sure.

 

6. Ararat, Cabalgata Hacia la Luz

Released by Oui Oui Records. Reviewed April 4.

Every time I think I’m out, Cabalgata Hacia la Luz pulls me back in. The third full-length from Argentina trio Ararat seems to hit me with a different song each week. This week, it’s the six-minute “El Hijo de Ignacio,” with the insistent, punkish drums from Alfredo Felitte, backing noise and later keyboard eeriness from Tito Fargo and the low bass rumble of Sergio Chotsourian (ex-Los Natas), whose vocals seem to hover over the rest of the mix as though piped in from someplace else entirely. The whole album had a hypnotic effect that pulled the listener away from how diverse it actually was, moving into and out of heavy psych atmospherics with expert smoothness, but the more attention you paid, the more rewarding the experience became, as Ararat defied any expectations that might have come from their 2012 sophomore outing, II (review here), and boldly pushed toward new avenues of progression.

 

5. Conan, Blood Eagle

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Jan. 22.

Who’s heavier than Conan? The superlative UK trio have spent the two years since the release of their full-length debut, Monnos (review here), solidifying their dominance, and their first album for Napalm Records plays out like a victory lap over the skulls of lesser riffs. Opening with the near-10-minute lumber of “Crown of Talons,” Blood Eagle solidified the two-sidedness of Monnos into a back-breaking doom assault, and their pummel remains unparalleled as they continue to grow as players and songwriters. This year has also seen producer Chris Fielding join the band on bass, and as badass as Blood Eagle is — one would rarely think of a song called “Gravity Chasm” as being so aptly-named — I can’t help but look forward to hearing what Conan do from here and how they continue to refine one of doom’s most bludgeoning approaches.

 

4. Dwellers, Pagan Fruit

Released by Small Stone. Reviewed May 22.

It’s the songs. I really, really dug Dwellers‘ 2012 debut, Good Morning Harakiri (review here) as well, and I won’t say a bad word about that album, but Pagan Fruit is in a different class altogether. And you know, it’s not just the songs. It’s how the songs play next to each other, the mood they create, and the hooks that Dwellers bring to the table with so much stylistic poise, calling the bluffs of any number of heavy psych blues rockers on “Totem Crawler,” or “Creature Comfort,” or “Son of Raven” or “Spirit of the Staircase.” The Salt Lake City-based trio of guitarist/vocalist Joey Toscano, bassist Dave Jones and drummer Zach Hatsis brought new levels of cohesion to their sound throughout Pagan Fruit and it remains an album that I have yet to get enough of hearing, one that seems to offer more each time I put it on and let my mind drift to its patient, open spaces.

 

3. Fu Manchu, Gigantoid

Released by At the Dojo Records. Reviewed May 14.

From here on out, on any given day, any one of these is my album of the year. What a thrill it was to put on Fu Manchu‘s first album in five years, Gigantoid, and have it roll out such a tight-knit collection of heavy rolling excellence. The West Coast stoner riff gods of gnarl stripped down their production inspired in part by a reissue campaign of their earlier work on their own At the Dojo Records label, and the punkish feel suited them better than even they likely could’ve expected. With its opening four-song punch, the no-frills shot of “No Warning” and the closeout jam at the end of “The Last Question,” Gigantoid felt like more than one could’ve reasonably asked from a Fu Manchu long-player 20 years on from their debut, but the vitality they showed in its tracks, paired with the efficiency with which the songs were executed, showcased a timeless, perpetual appeal. They know what they’re doing and how they want to do it, and just because there was no doubt going into Gigantoid doesn’t make the end product any less of a payoff.

 

2. Mars Red Sky, Stranded in Arcadia

Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed on March 11.

I’ve gone on at some length about what I find so appealing in the second full-length from Bordeaux trio Mars Red Sky, so even putting aside the deft hand with which they incorporated further heavy psych soundscapes into their songwriting, let me just focus on how memorable Stranded in Arcadia actually is. That was true as well of Mars Red Sky‘s 2011 self-titled debut (review here), but these songs are more ambitious, from the eight-minute opener “The Light Beyond” to the gorgeous melody-wash in the chorus of “Join the Race” and the stomp in the de facto closer “Seen a Ghost” before the leadout/refrain “Beyond the Light” calls all the way back to the first track. The development of Mars Red Sky‘s take isn’t necessarily such a surprise — the debut had its psychedelic, jammy feel as well — but the fact that the trio of guitarist/vocalist Julien Pras, bassist/vocalist Jimmy Kinast and drummer Matgaz managed to elicit such development while remaining true to the warm tones and humble, unpretentious vibe of the debut only makes Stranded in Arcadia more remarkable. I wouldn’t stop listening to it if I could.

 

1. Wo Fat, The Conjuring

Released by Small Stone. Reviewed June 18.

It wasn’t easy to hold off on reviewing the fifth album from the Texas power trio for as long as I did, but I thought the record was too good to jump the gun on, and so yeah, it’s a pretty recent writeup, but I feel comfortable putting The Conjuring at number one here because I’ve actually had a while to live with these songs. Or maybe “live in” them would be a better way to say it, since the dense wall of fuzz and jammed-out distortion Wo Fat create across this record is basically thick enough to take up residence. Recently back from a European tour, Wo Fat hit the road supporting their finest work to date, and as the lineup of guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump, bassist Tim Wilson and drummer/backing vocalist Michael Walter are more or less self-sustaining in their own Crystal Clear Sound studio in Dallas, there’s no reason they can’t just keep developing along the path they are. The Conjuring boasts their best jams yet but also holds firm to the already-planted-in-your-consciousness hooks that Wo Fat have long since established a penchant for, and one could just as easily put the band at the fore of traditional heavy rock riffing as of American heavy psych jammers. Any way you look at them, they’re at the top of their class.

Quick honorable mention goes to Radio Moscow, The Wounded Kings, 1000mods (review forthcoming), Eyehategod, Abramis Brama, Truckfighters, Valley of the Sun, the live Causa Sui record and Alcest. Been a hell of a year so far, and I’m already putting together a list of anticipated records for the next six months, so there’s much more to follow.

Thanks as always for reading.

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Wovenhand, Refractory Obdurate: Sit Down and Eat

Posted in Reviews on May 15th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

Whatever genre tag one might want to saddle Wovenhand with, I’ve yet to come across one that doesn’t leave some integral facet of their sound uncovered. Like the cover art of their latest outing and first for Deathwish Inc. (their alliance with Glitterhouse Records continues outside North America), Refractory Obdurate, their aesthetic is a patchwork. Always in progress, it draws from world music influences, from folk, from indie (whatever that means), and increasingly over the last several albums, 2012’s The Laughing Stalk (review here) and 2010’s The Threshingfloor (semi-review here) particularly, from heavier-toned rock, but they are not a band to be pinned down to one modus or another, and that’s as true on Refractory Obdurate as it has been all along. Driven by the songwriting of guitarist, vocalist, founder and oft-perceived figurehead David Eugene Edwards (formerly of 16 Horsepower) and featuring guitarist Charles Edward French, bassist Neil Keener, percussionist Ordy Garrison and organist Jeff Linsenmaier, the 10 songs/43 minutes of Refractory Obdurate have some sonic carryover from The Laughing Stalk, but as ever for Wovenhand, there’s progression as well. They are immediately recognizable. There’s no one who sounds like Wovenhand both because of Edwards‘ vocal style and because of the fluidity of the band’s arrangements. All but Keener appeared on the last album, so there’s some consistency of approach in the bright, joyous rush of “Good Shepherd” or the brooding spaciousness of the later “Obdurate Obscura,” but more than last time, what stands out here is the feverishness of the builds and payoffs in the material’s structure. That is, to bring a song to an apex isn’t really anything new for the band, but in “Masonic Youth” (get it?), “The Refractory,” “Salome,” the bass-fueled “Field of Hedon,” and the penultimate “Hiss,” which provides the climax for Refractory Obdurate as a whole as well, the tension is more of a focal point than it’s ever been in Wovenhand‘s approach. At this point, they’ve also gotten heavy enough to allow for that.

I’ve said before that I have trouble thinking or speaking about Wovenhand in anything other than hyperbole. Refractory Obdurate provokes that response as well since Edwards and his companions emerge from it no less a singular sonic entity than they went in. They are unique, and as that’s an absolute term, Refractory Obdurate is bound to cause a strong reaction. As a fan, I looked forward to the release, and listening to it, was pleased to discover no dilution in the quality of songwriting, whether it’s more bombastic material like “Masonic Youth,” the culmination of which is punkish in its intensity, or “King David,” which holds firm to the acoustic strum around which its rumble builds, Edwards‘ vocals echoing in an impeccable mix. It is a long way sonically from Wovenhand’s 2002 self-titled debut, but traced over the course of their albums, which have been released on even years since with the Blush Music score arriving in 2003, Refractory Obdurate is a next logical installment in the development of their take. One wouldn’t expect them to repeat themselves, and they don’t, but neither is Refractory Obdurate turning the feel of The Laughing Stalk completely on its head. As a whole, its vibe reads darker because the art is darker and the songs are by and large heavier, but it’s a step, not a jump from one to the other, and their sound remains utterly distinct, opener “Corsicana Clip” hinting as the higher acoustics give way to lower-toned electric guitar in the chorus at some of the relative pummel to come. An essential component running a thread through all of Wovenhand‘s work is Edwards‘ faith, and his penchant for turning dogma into deeply personal portraits remains firm in “Good Shepherd,” “The Refractory,” “Salome,” “Field of Hedon,” and the other cuts included, coloring lyrical perspective even in moments without direct reference and making the overarching feel all the more individual. Many of the album’s loudest moments are also its most fervent testimonials, and emotional and spiritual weight play as much if not more of a role than anything coming from the guitar on “Hiss.”

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Six Records Released Yesterday You’re Going to Want to Pick Up

Posted in Features on April 30th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

This kind of thing happens every now and again throughout the course of a year, where there just happens to be one day filled with killer releases. It’s convenient if periodically overwhelming, and even in this age of preorders and stuff just showing up in the mail — a somewhat disconnected process compared to going to a shop and asking at the counter if something is in yet, but again, convenient — a day like that can be special. I remember days like that going back a longer time than I care to admit, and yesterday was definitely one of them as well.

If you felt the North American continent rumble just a little bit, that was probably just the combined weight — applied one on the West Coast, one on the East — of Fu Manchu and Floor putting out records at the same time. What will no doubt be two of 2014’s best releases when the year is done both arrived on April 29, but they were hardly the end of the story. In case you missed any of it, here’s a convenient (there’s that word again), alphabetically-organized assemblage from which to organize yourself before payday:

1. Floor, Oblation

Released by Season of Mist. File picking up the first Floor record since 2004’s Dove as a no-brainer. The Miami trio of guitarist/vocalist Steve Brooks, guitarist Anthony Vialon (interview here) and drummer Henry Wilson have been kicking around doing stuff live since a little while after they released their 8CD Below and Beyond box set in 2009, but Oblation (review here) is the new album and spiritual successor to 2002’s landmark self-titled outing. Following that one up is no easy task and they know it, but I think history will serve Oblation well in the long run, songs like “Love Comes Crushing” and the eight-minute “Sign of Aeth” expanding the sludge-pop formula that made Floor‘s early work so vital without sacrificing the hooks that at this point have spanned more than a decade en route towards timelessness. Floor on Thee Facebooks.

Floor, Oblation (2014)

2. Fu Manchu, Gigantoid


Released by At the Dojo. The first new Fu Manchu self-release after two full-lengths on Century Media and a handful of reissues through their own imprint, Gigantoid brings a rawer sound from the widely influential SoCal fuzz stalwarts. They recorded with Moab guitarist Andrew Giacumakis, and while the album boasts some quintessential examples of what’s always made the Fu‘s songwriting so infectious — looking at you, “Anxiety Reducer” and “Radio Source Sagittarius” — their hardcore punk roots come through on “No Warning” and Gigantoid rounds out with an extended jam led by bassist Brad Davis on “Last Question” and filled out through a barrage of effects from guitarist Bob Balch. If I can get to it today I’ll have an interview up with guitarist/vocalist Scott Hill (otherwise tomorrow), and a review is forthcoming, but the short version is Gigantoid is one of the year’s best, no doubt. Fu Manchu on Thee Facebooks.

Fu Manchu, Selections from Gigantoid (2014)

3. Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus, Spirit Knife


Released by Small Stone. Swedish upstarts Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus offer engaging touches of heavy psychedelic blues and expanded-definition stoner rock on their third long-player and Small Stone debut, Spirit Knife (stream/video premiere here), working naturally in a classic heavy context without pretending the last 40 years never happened. The album is immersive and atmospheric, offering standout moments of righteousness in 10-minute opener “Fog by the Steep,” “Clang,” “Point Growth” and elsewhere, and provides a look at a unit with the potential to continue to expand their sound going forward. Seems like JIRM have thus far flown under North American radars for the most part, but Spirit Knife is worth the effort of tracking down, and by that I mean clicking “play” on the Bandcamp stream below to hear it for yourself. Give it some time to unfold and you won’t regret it. Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus on Thee Facebooks.

Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus, Spirit Knife (2014)

4. Revelation, Salvation’s Answer


Released by Shadow Kingdom. Perennially underappreciated Maryland doomers Revelation and Pittsburgh’s Shadow Kingdom Records are no strangers. The label has handled reissues of 1992’s Never Comes Silence, 1995’s …Yet So Far, and 2008’s Release, in addition to having the first release of 2009’s For the Sake of No One and 2012’s Inner Harbor. This time, the band and imprint partner up for a revisit of Revelation‘s 1991 debut, Salvation’s Answer, and while the look is overdue, it’s no less welcome for its late coming. Salvation’s Answer might sound raw 23 years after the fact, but its elemental sound remains deceptively atmospheric, and like much of Revelation‘s earlier output, it wears a deep-running melancholy on its sleeve and blends progressive guitar work with a strong foundation of metallic groove. Revelation on Thee Facebooks.

Revelation, Salvation’s Answer (1991/2014)

5. Salem’s Pot, …Lurar ut dig pĂĄ prärien


Released by EasyRider Records. Mired in drug-derived riffing and classic horror/exploitation ambience, Swedish four-piece Salem’s Pot have plenty of scummer groove in common with Electric Wizard on their debut, …Lurar ut dig pĂĄ prärien, but if worshiping at the altar of Sabbath and drawn-out fuzz was a crime, we’d all have been put to death years ago. Their reverential depravity comes through in the three extended tracks, “Creep Purple” (14:28), “Dr. Death” (9:52) and “Nothing Hill” (9:12), and the album unfolds in a haze of degenerate psychedelia. It’s crafted with vinyl in mind, but give me a CD to get lost in front-t0-back without having to worry about changing sides, because Salem’s Pot isn’t the kind of listen where you want to have anything whatsoever to do with consciousness. You could tag it derivative, but what isn’t? Familiar though it might be, it’s still worth a nod. Salem’s Pot on Thee Facebooks.

Salem’s Pot, “Nothing Hill” from …Lurar ut dig pĂĄ prärien (2014)

6. Wovenhand, Refractory Obdurate


Released by Deathwish Inc. History has taught time and again not to be surprised when it comes to the David Eugene Edwards-led outfit Wovenhand, and their seventh offering and first for Deathwish Inc., Refractory Obdurate continues to expand beyond genre bounds, incorporating tonal weight into their signature brilliant arrangements so that songs like “Masonic Youth” (get it?) and “Hiss” pummel their payoffs as much as they enhance the atmospheres of “Salome,” “King David” and the joyously rumbling “Good Shepherd.” Wovenhand are a singular entity on stylistic terms, and Edwards‘ commanding presence burns through this material even at moments when he seems consumed by the full-breadth chaotic churning surrounding him in the mix. Refractory Obdurate — culling influences no less a patchwork than its cover art — is the work of genius, driven by faith and in perpetual development. Wovenhand on Thee Facebooks.

Wovenhand, Refractory Obdurate (2014)

That’s a pretty good day. If I left anything out or if you’ve already picked any of these up, I hope you’ll let me know in the comments. Thanks as always for reading.

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