Blizaro Premiere “Nemesis Pt. 4: Altered State” from Cornucopia della Morte

Posted in audiObelisk on February 23rd, 2016 by JJ Koczan


Rochester, New York-based trio Blizaro will release their new album, Cornucopia della Morte, on April 15 via I, Voidhanger Records. The nine-track/52-minute full-length was originally set to release in 2013. It is the sophomore outing from the three-piece led by guitarist/vocalist/keyboardist John Gallo, also of vastly-underappreciated doomers Orodruin, and it follows 2010’s City of the Living Nightmare full-length as well as a slew of shorter offerings, some of which were compiled in 2013’s 2CD Strange Doorways (review here), also on I, Voidhanger. If nothing else, the fact that its opener comes in four different parts should tell you that Blizaro‘s methods tend toward the grand. That’s been the case all along, but as their awaited second album, Cornucopia della Morte has the complicated task before it of working in both classical and progressive forms. Gallo, joined in the band by drummer Mike Waske (also of Orodruin) and bassist Mark Rapone, conjures a blend of essential doom metal and eerie cinematics in Blizaro that results in a sound familiar but distinct from its influences.

Those influences? Paul Chain is a big one. Goblin and Candlemass also make sweeping appearances in the sound, blizaro cornucopia della mortebut in the combination of elements, Blizaro are a unit unto themselves, and even as “Nemesis Pt. 4: Altered State” begins with a mixture of swirling and chugging, there remains a broader scope in the songwriting. It’s not entirely wrong to call it classic doom, or traditional doom, but to do so discounts the progressive side of Blizaro‘s take, whether that’s the transitional push that underlies the midsection guitar solo or the organ lines that emerge atop Rapone‘s bassline past the halfway point. A big slowdown gives Gallo plenty of room to work in overlaying different keyboard/organ sounds, and as Waske pushes the procession forward, “Nemesis Pt. 4: Altered State” builds to a dirge worthy of any number of grainy VHS funerals. I can’t speak to how it represents the entirety of Cornucopia della Morte, but on its own, it certainly captures the intersection of soundtracking and classic doom metal that are so pivotal to Blizaro‘s style.

And so it seems only a fitting place to start ahead of the album’s release in April. Please find the exclusive stream of “Nemesis Pt. 4: Altered State” below, followed by more info on the record from the PR wire, and enjoy:

John Gallo, the unsung American master of horror doom, is back with the long-awaited sophomore album by BLIZARO. No less adventurous than its predecessor (“City Of The Living Nightmare”, Razorback Rec. 2010) or the “Strange Doorways” collection of demos and rarities (I, Voidhanger Rec. 2013), “Cornucopia della Morte” is however more powerful, dynamic, focused and refined; a mature effort from talented musicians that worked in perfect harmony. Written and recorded in 2013, the album was then shelved to make room to Gallo’s uncontrollable bursts of creativity which lead to JOHN GALLOW, a solo project that debuted on I, Voidhanger Records in 2014 with the acclaimed doom masterpiece “Violet Dreams”.

Now that BLIZARO are writing new material, “Cornucopia della Morte” has been called back from its provisional grave and wrapped in an imaginative cover painting by Dan Bell which perfectly captures BLIZARO’s penchant for all things horror, doomy and weirdly dark. Driven by Gallo’s rip-roaring guitar-playing and slanted vocals, and by the formidable rhythm section of Mark Rapone (bass) and Mike Waske (drums), “Cornucopia della Morte” conjures up the ghosts of Goblin, Black Sabbath, Paul Chain, Pentagram and Candlemass at the crossroad of doom, prog, psych rock, heavy metal, and the Italian horror soundtracks from the 70’s. The album features 8 new BLIZARO songs, plus a shattering cover of “Voyage To Hell” which preserves the dark and menacing aura of the original by Paul Chain Violet Theatre.

1. Nemesis pt. 1 – Daughter Of The Scarab (6:55)
2. Nemesis pt. 2 – Citadel Of The Lunatic (5:14)
3. Nemesis pt. 3 – Interludio (1:50)
4. Nemesis pt. 4 – Altered State (5:15)
5. Giallo (7:26)
6. Frozen Awakening (7:58)
7. Voyage To Hell (3:14)
8. The Staircase (5:54)
9. Stygian Gate (8:21)

Total running time 52:07

Blizaro on Thee Facebooks

I, Voidhanger Records

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30 Before ’15: Records Not to Miss Before the New Year Hits

Posted in Features on July 8th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

Before I even start, let’s get one thing out of the way. I want a new Sleep album too. My not including them on this list isn’t due to the fact that I don’t think a new Sleep album is a good idea, but just because I haven’t seen anything about it being recorded or released in the next five-plus months. If it hits on Jan. 1, 2015, I’ll be the happiest Baby New Year you ever saw, but that’s a different list altogether.

Ditto that Om and High on Fire. The latter were writing as of May, and I know Om did some recording way back in January, but I’ve yet to see solid word of new records at all, let alone before the end of the year. Either or both or all three may happen, but until I see some hint of it, all I can go on is the info I can find.

Seriously though, how badass would it be if all three put out albums before the New Year? That excitement is kind of what this list is about. Some of these records I’ve heard, but most I haven’t, so it’s just basic speculation about what I think could be some of the best releases in the next couple months. You’ll note that while there are plenty of dates TBA, nothing listed arrives in November, so as 2014 winds down, there’s bound to be even more quality stuff than appears here.

In fact, I struggled to take things out to get it down to 30. And it still goes to 31! I figured no one would mind. They’re numbered, but the list is in alphabetical order.

If I left something out you’re dying to hear, please let me know in the comments.

Thanks in advance for reading:


1. Alunah, TBA (Sept.)

Birmingham’s Alunah, like several others below, are a holdover from the Most Anticipated Albums list back at the start of the year. The difference between now and then is that, while its title still hasn’t been revealed so far as I know, their Napalm Records debut has been recorded, mixed and mastered, the latter by Tony Reed, the former by Greg Chandler of Esoteric, and given a September release date. Two years after Alunah made riffy doom sound easy on their sophomore outing, White Hoarhound (review here), I look forward to hearing how they’ve grown and shifted in their approach to warm-sounding tones and memorable hooks. They’ve set a pretty high standard for themselves. Alunah on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.

2. Apostle of Solitude, Of Woe and Wounds (Oct.)

These guys. I don’t mind telling you it was a thrill when Indianapolis doomers Apostle of Solitude were announced as having signed to Cruz del Sur to release their third album, Of Woe and Wounds, this fall. Their second outing, 2010’s Last Sunrise (review here), didn’t get the attention it deserved, but the handful of songs they’ve made public since have shown much promise, and as the first Apostle of Solitude full-length to feature guitarist/vocalist Steve Janiak (also Devil to Pay) in harmony with guitarist/vocalist Chuck Brown — the band is completed by bassist Dan Davidson and drummer Corey Webb — this is definitely going to make for a doomly autumn. Apostle of Solitude on Thee Facebooks, Cruz del Sur Music.

3. Blackwolfgoat, Drone Maintenance (Aug. 26)

Recorded late last year at Amps vs. Ohms in Boston, the third album from Maple Forum alum Blackwolfgoat — the prog-drone alter ego of guitarist Darryl Shepard (Milligram, Black Pyramid, The Scimitar, Roadsaw, etc.) — is the project’s most expansive outing yet, and it seems Shepard is moving more in a song-based direction, rather than some of the building loops of the past two offerings. Of course, there will be plenty of those as well, but watch out for some acoustic guitar, and deep-in-the-mix vocals, as they could easily hint of things to come. Or Darryl could turn it on its head and do a calypso record. Either way, I’m on board with no pretense of impartiality. Blackwolfgoat on Bandcamp, Small Stone’s Bandcamp.

4. Blues Pills, Blues Pills (Aug. 5)

The much-heralded Swedish/French/American psych-blues conglomeration Blues Pills will make their self-titled debut (short review here) next month, and while it’s probably going to be a bigger deal in Europe than in the States — at least until Nuclear Blast brings them over here for a tour, then the country is going to go apeshit for them — the songwriting and soulful execution of their tracks justifies the hype. There’s a bit of retro posturing to what they do, some Graveyard shuffle (it feels inevitable at this point with a ’70s-influenced band), but the grooves are easy to dig into and the potential is basically limitless for where they want to go. It’s scary to keep in mind, but this is just the beginning. Blues Pills on Thee Facebooks, Nuclear Blast.

5. Bongripper, Miserable (July 7)

You may notice something strange about the date above for a list of upcoming albums in that July 7 was yesterday. Well, Chicago’s Bongripper posted their new three-track full-length monster Miserable on their Bandcamp for stream and download ahead of the vinyl’s arrival, and it was just too righteous to leave out. Those seeking landmark riffing need look no further than the 19-minute centerpiece “Descent,” which meters out stomp enough that future “scientists” will study its footprint, and closer “Into Ruin” (28:25) is guaranteed to be the heaviest half-hour you’ll spend today. Miserable feels like a no-brainer, but maybe that’s just because Bongripper have such a propensity for pounding skulls into mush. Bongripper on Thee Facebooks, Miserable on Bandcamp.

6. Botanist, VI: Flora (Aug. 11)

I feel like I missed a couple numbers from San Francisco-based environmentalist black metal unit Botanist along the way, but they’ll nonetheless issue VI: Flora on The Flenser next month, furthering their marriage of destruction and beauty and insistent percussive expression. The spaces Botanist — a one-man project from Robert Martinelli — create feel ritualistic without the dramatic posturing that pervades much of the genre, and sound, somewhere between raging and mournful, is hypnotic. Whatever your expectation might be, Martinelli seems pleased to use it to their advantage, and ultimately, defy it. Post-human, hammered dulcimer-laden black metal. It would be harder for Botanist to not be unique. Botanist on Thee Facebooks, The Flenser.

7. Brant Bjork, TBA (TBA)

When Brant Bjork‘s next album might show up, I don’t know. I know he’s signed to Napalm, and I know the photo above was snapped as he finished some vocals before going on tour with his Low Desert Punk band that includes guitarist Bubba DuPree, bassist Dave Dinsmore and drummer Tony Tornay, but whether or not the album they made is the funk-inspired Jakoozi that’s been in the offing for a while, or another collection of songs, and if Napalm will get it out before the end of the year remain a mystery. I do find it interesting that for his first “solo” outing post-Vista Chino (that band being on hiatus), Bjork has assembled a new band to work with rather than record multiple instruments himself, but no matter who’s involved, when it’s Brant Bjork writing the songs, it’s gonna be high rock from the low desert. Can’t wait to dig into whatever comes. Brant Bjork on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.

8. Earth, Primitive and Deadly (Sept.)

The headline for Earth‘s new album is it’s the one where they experimented with vocalists. And hey, if you’re going to toy around with the idea, you might as well get Mark Lanegan involved. The former Screaming Trees frontman is one of several singers appearing on Primitive and Deadly, due in September on Southern Lord, and it would appear that Earth‘s sound — always evolving, always somehow changing — is about to take another considerable turn. Fortunately, the Seattle band, led by guitarist Dylan Carlson and now approaching their 25th year, have long since proven worthy of trusting with their own direction. Earth will never be huge, by the simple nature of what they do, but their influence resounds and the quality of their output is unmatched. Earth on Thee Facebooks, Southern Lord Recordings.

9. Electric Wizard, Time to Die (Sept.)

“Wake up baby/It’s time to die.” So goes the title-track hook of Electric Wizard‘s new album and Spinefarm Records debut, Time to Die. As ever, it’s simple, hateful, drenched-in-fuzz misanthropy, and Electric Wizard revel in it accordingly. Their witchcult continues to grow in their native UK and abroad, and while their last two records have divided some listeners, they’ve invariably gained more ground than they’ve lost. A legal dispute with Rise Above finds them on the new label, and if there’s even the slightest chance that change will bring them to the US for a tour, I’ll take it. Expect 66 minutes of glorious filth. Electric Wizard on Thee Facebooks, Spinefarm Records.

10. Fever Dog, Second Wind (TBA)

Palm Desert youngsters Fever Dog have been kicking around the last few years finding their sound in varying elements of heavy rock and psychedelic experimentation. Most recently, they impressed with the single “Iroquois” (review here) taken from their new album Second Wind, and in looking forward to the full-length, I’m eager to learn how their style has solidified and what sort of vibes they conjure over its course. They’ve shown plenty of propensity for jamming in their prior work, so hopefully there’s a bit of that on hand as well. I’ve said before they’re a trio of marked potential, and nothing I’ve yet heard has dissuaded me from that impression. Fever Dog on Thee Facebooks, Fever Dog on Bandcamp.

11. Goat, Commune (Sept. 23)

Somehow, a band from Sweden who dress up in tribal costumes (problematic) and play Afrobeat psychedelia became a very, very big deal. I couldn’t explain it if I wanted to, and I won’t try, but I know that when Sub Pop releases Goat‘s second album, Commune, it’s going to be to a flurry of hype and heaps of critical fawning. It would be tempting to call Goat a novelty act, but their 2012 debut, World Music (discussed here), showcased a legitimately creative musical approach to go with the visual aspects of their presentation, and I find the fact that I have no idea what to expect from Commune to be refreshing. Goat on Thee Facebooks, Sub Pop Records.

12. Grifter, The Return of the Bearded Brethren (Aug. 11)

UK heavy rockers Grifter will make a welcome resurgence on Ripple Music with The Return of the Bearded Brethren, an album that builds on the straightforward, catchy sounds of their 2011 self-titled label debut (review here) and takes their infectiousness to new places lyrically, such as exploring issues of aging via an ode to Princess Leia from Star Wars. That particular brand of humor and is writ large on Grifter‘s second Ripple outing, and the trio set to work refining their take without losing the engaging feel of their self-titled. It feels like a long three years since that record hit, and I’ll be glad to have a follow-up in-hand. Grifter on Thee Facebooks, Ripple Music.

13. Ice Dragon and Space Mushroom Fuzz, New Blue Horizon/A Peak into the Future (TBA)

Unclear at this point whether Boston outfits Ice Dragon and Space Mushroom Fuzz collaborated on New Blue Horizon/A Peak into the Future, or if it’s a split. Either way, the prolific acts make a sound pairing. Both are vehemently creative and exploratory, psychedelic and progressive each in their way, and if what’s presumably a single finds them working together, all the better, but even if not, new material from either is nothing to balk at, particularly when topped off by such gorgeous artwork. Neither act is ever long from putting something out, so to have them come together one way or another makes a weird brand of sense, which I’m relatively sure the songs will as well. Ice Dragon on Thee Facebooks, Space Mushroom Fuzz on Thee Facebooks.

14. Ides of Gemini, Old World New Wave (Sept. 16)

Ides of Gemini‘s 2012 Neurot Recordings debut, Constantinople (discussed here), established the three-piece as freely inhabiting either side of the imaginary line between ambience and heaviness, J. Bennett and Kelly Johnston providing sometimes minimal, sometimes consuming foundations for vocalist Sera Timms (ex-Black Math Horseman, also Black Mare) to cast ethereal melodies. What Old World New Wave will hold sound-wise, I don’t yet know, but Ides of Gemini‘s otherworldly resonance and ultra-patient approach makes it well worth finding out. Ides of Gemini on Thee Facebooks, Neurot Recordings.

15. John Gallow, Violet Dreams (Aug. 4)

Frontman of Blizaro and Orodruin guitarist John James Gallo adds a ‘w’ to his last name and steps out solo on the I, Voidhanger Records release, Violet Dreams, the title hinting at some of his on-his-sleeve affinity for Italian psych-doom master Paul Chain and Swedish legends Candlemass. Gallo‘s work in Blizaro has a tendency to lean toward the progressive and cinematic, but as John Gallow, the focus is more on classic doom riffing and darkened metallurgy. As one would expect, he’s well in his element on the hour-long album, and I hope he decides to call the next one Ancient Theatre. Also note the incredible artwork of Costin Chioreanu. John Gallo on Thee Facebooks, I, Voidhanger Records.

16. John Garcia, John Garcia (Aug. 5)

A long-discussed solo debut for the former Kyuss frontman following a stint alongside Brant Bjork in Vista Chino, John Garcia‘s John Garcia (review here) finds the singer right in his comfort zone, topping desert rock riffs with his trademark guttural vocals. To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure I’d trade a second Vista Chino outing for it if given the choice — that band seemed to be on course for a sound of its own, separate from Kyuss‘ legacy, and that struck me as worth pursuing — but these songs have a similar enough production style that it’s easy to think of the one as an offshoot of the other, and of course Garcia calls his shots well throughout. John Garcia on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.

17. King Buffalo, TBA (TBA)

Including King Buffalo here was pretty speculative on my part, but I dig the Rochester, NY, outfit and didn’t want to leave the prospect of their STB Records debut long-player out. It probably won’t land until 2015 — the future! — but their demo (review here) still gets regular plays around these parts, and I’m very much looking forward to catching them with similarly-minded Nashville blues rockers All Them Witches when they tour together next month. Whatever King Buffalo‘s recording/release plans might be, they’re definitely one to keep an eye on in the back half of this year. King Buffalo on Thee Facebooks, STB Records.

18. Kings Destroy, Kings Destroy (TBA)

Love these guys, love this band. I make no bones about it. Their third record, self-titled and produced as the last two were by Sanford Parker, is as close as they’ve yet come to capturing their live sound, and while they’ve yet to nail down an exact release date, they have a couple very cool tours in the works for this fall, including dates next month with Eric Wagner‘s Blackfinger, that will make a fitting lead-in to their best outing yet. I’ve heard this and had the chance to see some of the material live, and they’ve outdone themselves again, which, considering the esteem in which I continue to hold their 2013 sophomore full-length, A Time of Hunting, is really saying something. Kings Destroy on Thee Facebooks, War Crime Recordings.

19. The Kings of Frog Island, V (Fall)

Easily one of the LPs I’m most eager to hear over the next few months, and specifically on vinyl. The Kings of Frog Island have shown themselves to be so dedicated to the format that their early-2013 album, IV (review here), was presented as two bundled sides even digitally. They recently gave a taste of what their fifth album will in-part hold via a video for “Sunburn” and I’m told more jamminess ensues elsewhere to complement that track’s easygoing flow and platter-ready hook. All the better. The Kings of Frog Island on Thee Facebooks, The Kings of Frog Island on YouTube.

20. Lonely Kamel, Shit City (Sept. 9)

I’d be lying if I said part of my immediate interest in Oslo heavy rockers Lonely Kamel‘s fourth record wasn’t due to the cheeky title, but it’s been three years since the Napalm Records four-piece released their last album, Dust (track stream here), and as they’ve put in plenty of road-time, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to go into this time around with elevated anticipation. I’m not sure you could get away with calling an album Shit City unless you meant business. Got my fingers crossed that’s precisely the case with Lonely Kamel. Lonely Kamel on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.

21. Lo-Pan, Colossus (Oct. 7)

Fucking a. Doing the research for this list was the first I’d seen the Jason Alexander Byers cover art for Lo-Pan‘s fourth album, Colossus, or its Oct. 7 Small Stone release date. I haven’t heard the tracks yet — they recorded in Brooklyn back in March, and while I got 2012’s Salvador (review here) pretty early, the Columbus four-piece seem to be keeping a tighter lid on the follow-up — and I can’t help but feel like that’s my loss. Judging by what I’ve heard of the material live, Lo-Pan have dug further into their individual brand of riff-led soulful heavy, and I’ve got a high wager that a few months from now, Lo-Pan‘s latest will make an appearance on another list. More to come. Lo-Pan on Thee Facebooks, Small Stone Records.

22. Novembers Doom, Bled White (July 15)

One of doom’s most fascinating and largely ignored progressions is that of Chicago melancholists Novembers Doom, who, when they started out 25 years ago, did so largely as a death metal band, and then moved on to pioneer an American interpretation of what’s commonly thought of as European doom, until, over their last several records, as they’ve started to move back to a more extreme, double-kick-drummed style. Bled White, on The End Records, continues along this path, but especially in the cleaner vocals of frontman Paul Kuhr there remain shades of the morose emotionality that typified what’s now become their mid-period doom idolatry. Unheralded, Novembers Doom keep exploring deeper, darker terrain. Novembers Doom on Thee Facebooks, The End Records.

23. Pallbearer, Foundations of Burden (Aug. 19)

Foundations of Burden is unquestionably among the second half of 2014’s most anticipated albums. Arkansas-based doom four-piece Pallbearer will mark its release with extensive European and North American tours, and where their 2012 Profound Lore debut, Sorrow and Extinction (review here), came out and caught listeners off-guard with its unabashed emotional core, their sophomore outing finds them positioned at the forefront of American doom. Already the hype machine is rolling out the red carpet for the Billy Anderson-produced Foundations of Burden, but no one can say these guys haven’t put their work in, and the record is indeed one to look forward to. Pallbearer on Thee Facebooks, Profound Lore Records.

24. The Skull, TBA (TBA)

For The Skull to put out an album of original material is a unique challenge. Their earlier-2014 first single (stream/review here) found them standing up to it on the new song “Sometime Yesterday Mourning,” but at least half the point of the band since its inception has been to pay homage to legendary doomers Trouble, from whence vocalist Eric Wagner, bassist Ron Holzner and drummer Jeff “Oly” Olson come. For their Tee Pee Records debut full-length — yet untitled and hopefully out before 2015 — it’ll be most interesting to see how guitarists Matt Goldsborough (ex-Pentagram) and Lothar Keller (Sacred Dawn) rise to the occasion of building off some of doom metal’s most celebrated tones. Fingers crossed on this one. The Skull on Thee Facebooks, Tee Pee Records.

25. Snail, Feral (TBA)

Nothing has been formally announced yet, but on Small Stone Records‘ website, they list Snail‘s Feral among their upcoming releases. It would make a suitable pairing, the West Coast riffers having previously worked with MeteorCity on their 2009 post-reunion outing, Blood (review here), prior to independently releasing 2012’s Terminus (review here), and Small Stone seems like a good home for their fourth overall record and return to form as a trio, which was their original incarnation before their original dissolution circa 1994. How they expand on the heavier crunch of Terminus remains even more a point of fascination, and surely their cult following will be glad to find out. I know I will. Snail on Thee Facebooks, Small Stone Records.

26. Steak, Slab City (Sept. 9)

After two strong EPs in 2012’s Disastronaught (review here) and 2013’s best-title-ever-boasting Corned Beef Colossus (review here), it’s time for London stoner rockers Steak to step up their game for their Napalm Records debut full-length. The four-piece headed to the Californian desert to record Slab City, and so it’s fair to think some of that atmosphere may have worked its way into the material. Would be an awfully long way to go, otherwise. In either case, Steak have showcased considerable songwriting chops already, now it’s just a matter of sustaining it for a full album’s runtime and keeping enough variety in their approach. I have no doubt they’re ready for this next step. Steak on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.

27. Stubb, Cry of the Ocean (TBA)

It is with simple, unabashed warm feelings that I look forward to hearing Cry of the Ocean, the second long-player and Ripple Music debut from UK riffers Stubb. They’ve traded out drummers since 2012’s self-titled (review here), bringing aboard Tom Fyfe with guitarist/vocalist Jack Dickinson and bassist/vocalist Peter Holland, but I’m excited to hear what changes and shifts in sound Cry of the Ocean might have in store to match its provocative title. Goes without saying the photo above isn’t the final artwork, but instead Tony Reed‘s mastering sheet from back in May when he worked on the tracks. No solid release date yet, but hopefully soon. Stubb on Thee Facebooks, Ripple Music.

28. Torche, TBA (TBA)

Torche‘s new album and Relapse Records debut was originally slated for the end of the summer. Given that no official word has come out about a title or anything like that and the members of the band have been busy with other projects, it seems unlikely as of now that they’ll hit that target, but after something of a break so frontman Steve Brooks could focus on the resurgent trio Floor, Torche are in fact getting going again, beginning with their first tour of Australia this fall. Maybe their LP will be out by the time they go and maybe it won’t, but word on the street is that whenever the thing arrives, it’s gonna be heavy, which I have no problem believing. Torche on Thee Facebooks, Relapse Records.

29. The Well, Monomyth (Late Summer)

I’ve been waiting since the March announcement that Austin trio The Well signed with RidingEasy Records for further word of their debut full-length, Monomyth (pretty sure that’s not the cover above), but thus far to no avail. Their 2012 single, Seven (review here), was a repeat-listen thriller, and anticipation abounds for what sort of psychedelic garage riffing they’ll conjure up for the album itself. It’s been a couple months at this point, and maybe it’ll be 2015 before Monomyth gets out, but screw it, a boy can hope. The Well on Thee Facebooks, RidingEasy Records.

30. Witch Mountain, Mobile of Angels (Sept.)

Please note: The original cover art with this post was not final and has been replaced with the above band photo.

Portland, Oregon’s Witch Mountain have spent much of the two years following their 2012 third LP, Cauldron of the Wild (review here) on tour in the US and abroad, playing fests, headlining, supporting, but generally putting in a lot of time. As such, Mobile of Angels, which will be out on Svart in Europe and Profound Lore in North America, comes as the end product of a considerable touring cycle. Has all that gigging worn Witch Mountain into the ground, or will they rise above it with metal-loving doom-blues supremacy? They’ve got a vinyl-ready 38 minutes on tap for September and if they’ve ever been in a position to make their case, it’s now. Watch out for the killer sway in “Can’t Settle,” the title of which seems a fitting theme for the band. Witch Mountain on Thee Facebooks, Profound Lore Records.

31. YOB, Clearing the Path to Ascend (Sept. 2)

Yet again — as was the case back in January — alphabetical order forces me to end with YOB, whose seventh full-length and Neurot debut might just be my most anticipated of all on this list. The recently-unveiled Orion Landau cover speaks to a brooding sentiment, and from the one time I was fortunate enough to hear it to-date, the four-track album from the Eugene, Oregon, natives corresponds to its visual side in being a more aggressive push than was 2011’s Atma (review here), but also more exploratory and contemplative in its approach. Now statesmen in American doom and the forebears of a cosmic-minded sound, YOB stand ready to showcase a creative progression that has yet to find its end point. YOB on Thee Facebooks, Neurot Recordings.

Other Notable Mentions

Just a couple of these I’d be remiss if I didn’t note. Some were carried over from earlier this year, others just come up along the way. Not sure on all the release dates, but these are worth keeping an ear out for:

Acid King — Were listed in January, but their record has a Feb. 2015 release date.

Bright Curse — Second album recorded at Skyhammer Studios.

Brothers of the Sonic Cloth — My understanding is the album is done and they’re waiting to secure a label. Seems like a good occasion for Southern Lord to step forward, if not Profound Lore or Neurot.

Eggnogg — Not sure if it’s their full-length, You’re all Invited, or something else that’s coming, but whatever. More stoner-funk riffing needs to be had.

40 Watt Sun — There was some word of this early in the year, but nothing since.

Godflesh — Their first in 15 years, A World Lit Only by Fire, will be out Oct. 7. A fuckup not including them on the list proper.

It’s Not Night: It’s Space — Eagerly awaiting the Small Stone debut from this instrumental outfit, but it might be next year.

Karma to Burn — New album, Arch Stanton, out in August. I emailed for a review promo and never heard back. Always a great feeling.

Larman Clamor — Solo-project from Alexander von Wieding has a new one in the can, but I’m not sure on the release schedule.

Lowrider — They’re working on it, but don’t hold your breath to have it out by December.

The Machine — Kind of a slow year for Elektrohasch, but the new one from these Dutch fuzzers would be a nice way end up.

NachtmystiumCentury Media releases their final album, The World We Left Behind, on Aug. 5.

Orange Goblin — Seriously debated putting them on the list, since I know they’ve recorded, but they seem to be promoting a recent reissue of 2007’s Healing through Fire and their upcoming European tour with Saint Vitus rather than their new album, so unless news comes out about it like this week from Candlelight, I wouldn’t expect it until early in 2015.

Pink Floyd — Believe it when I see it, but I honestly couldn’t care less either way if I tried.

Ruby the Hatchet — Their full-length Tee Pee debut is due sometime in the next couple months.

Sun Voyager — Upstate NY youngsters had hinted at new recordings.

Again, if I forgot anything — and I’m sure I did — please let me know in the comments.

Thanks for reading.

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Blizaro, Strange Doorways: Leading to Stranger Places

Posted in Reviews on June 16th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

Spanning years and creative spaces in kind, Blizaro‘s Strange Doorways is a consuming document of doom that one might be tempted to call “traditional” but for the force and individuality put into its presentation. A 2CD out through Italian imprint I, Voidhanger Records, it encompasses four separate Blizaro releases from 2012 back to the band’s beginnings in 2006 and is from the very first note and really even before that a work of deep, abiding passion. Cover art by Costin Chioreanu adds to the otherworldly bleakness of the extended offering, and laudatory liner notes from John Brenner of Revelation/Against Nature for the accomplishments of Blizaro spearhead John James Gallo — also of Orodruin — set a tone of appreciation that serves as the reasoning for the compilation in the first place. That is, Strange Doorways — which pulls together 2012’s Black Majicians demo, 2009’s The Old Wizard of Winter demo, 2008’s Blue Tape demo and 2006’s Horror Rock demo, two on each disc accompanied by other bonus tracks, three on the first disc and five on the second — is clearly not a piece for the uninitiated. For Blizaro, it’s not where you start. That might be the 2010 full-length, City of the Living Nightmare, but at just a hair under two and a half hours, Strange Doorways is for those who genuinely want to lose themselves within Blizaro‘s doomscape, which back to its origins the better part of a decade ago retains a cinematic mood and sense of synth-fueled drama that distinguishes the band both from Gallo‘s work in Orodruin and from the glut of traditional doom worldwide.

To put names to it, the most constant influences Gallo — who’s joined in Blizaro these days by his Orodruin bandmate Mike Waske on drums and bassist Mark Rapone while he handles guitar, synth, vocals and more than that on some of these recordings — seems to be under are those of Paul ChainReverend Bizarre, Goblin and Candlemass. Not bad places to start, and since Strange Doorways begins with the most recent material, we hear Gallo‘s vision at its most cohesive, pulling together a Leif Edling-style chorus on “Voyage Beyond Space” and adjusting his vocal approach accordingly after the cavernous metal of “Slave of Chaos” earlier on or the mournful lead work on the instrumental closer “Projections,” which follows. Synth and organ come more into focus on The Old Wizard of Winter, but the mood and overarching purpose is consistent, even as “White Frijid Mass” eases its way past the seven-minute mark and church organ meets with swirling, windy effects. This release, which Gallo says in his extensive song-by-song liner notes, was originally composed as a holiday gift to his family, but after being pleased with the results, he decided to make it public. It is the most atmospheric stretch of Strange Doorways, and knowing the circumstances of its creation — one night, lots of synth, little guitar — it’s easy to read a touch of the Xmas album in “Sulumucca” or “Shadow Walk,” though any such perceivable whimsy comes tempered with an atmospheric darkness fed into by the surrounding material, the artwork and the rhythms themselves, which retain a mournful, doomly pace. Gallo does not wassail, it would seem.

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Blizaro to Release Strange Doorways 2CD Compilation

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 13th, 2013 by JJ Koczan

If it seems strange that a band with one full-length out would have enough material backlogged for a double-CD compilation, take that strangeness as indicative of the kind of weirdo horror doom Blizaro traffic. The Rochester, NY, trio — which features two-thirds of Orodruin in guitarist/vocalist John James Gallo and drummer Mike Waske, who are joined by bassist Mark Rapone — will mark a decade of existence with Strange Doorways, which is set for “coming soon”-type release through I, Voidhanger Records. News off the PR wire also makes mention of a follow-up to Blizaro‘s 2010 full-length, City of the Living Nightmare, expected in 2014 on Razorback Records.

Blizaro also self-released a long-player in 2012’s Blak Majicians that will be included on Strange Doorways. Here’s the announcement off the PR wire:

Out in October via I, Voidhanger Records: BLIZARO “Strange Doorways” 2-CD Anthology

Known mainly as the founder of superb doomsters ORODRUIN and now-defunct black metallers CRUCIFIST, singer/guitarist John Gallo has many alter egos and exciting musical incarnations, though BLIZARO is certainly the most adventurous and unpredictable of all.

BLIZARO’s songs are like dark portals leading to mysterious and macabre dimensions populated by mutants, ghosts, ghouls, and other unearthly presences. Like the Crypt Keeper from the infamous Tales From The Crypts comics, John Gallo tells us their stories of horror and madness using his own peculiar doom rock language, assisted by the unquestionable talents of Mike Waske (drums) and Mark Rapone (bass).

Musically, the band shortens the distances between the American way of doom and the school of Paul Chain and Black Hole, at the same time combining the so called “dark sound” and the heavy-psych/prog rock styles of the Seventies with the frightening synth-driven soundtracks composed by Goblin and Fabio Frizzi for Italian horror movies like Suspiria and The Beyond.

Next Autumn/Winter BLIZARO are going to release their highly-anticipated sophomore album, “Cornucopia della Morte” on CD, once again under the banner of the excellent horror metal label Razorback Records. A vinyl version shall follow next year on I, Voidhanger Records, but first we will celebrate BLIZARO’s first decade of life by releasing a monumental 2-CD anthology that will offer a complete pan on the band’s doom eccentricities.

Aptly titled “Strange Doorways” and wrapped in the stunning, visionary artwork conceived by Costin Chioreanu, the box-set will feature all the BLIZARO demo recordings: “Horror Rock” (2006), “Blue Tape” (2008, with a cameo from Peter Vicar of Reverend Bizarre fame!), an expanded version of “The Old Wizard Of Winter” (2009), and the amazing “Blak Majicians” album (2012). Plus lots of rare, unreleased and never-heard-before tracks directly from John Gallo’s vaults.

The 2-CD release will come with a luxurious 20-page full-colour booklet featuring extra artwork by Costin Chioreanu (who has drawn new covers for each demo!), rare band photos, plentiful liner notes by John Brenner of REVELATION, and track-by-track commentaries provided by John Gallo himself!

Blizaro, “Strange Doorways”

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Six Dumb Questions with Chowder

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on July 24th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

Maryland trio Chowder are one band whose pedigree and lineage give you absolutely no context for what they sound like. Some bands, you know what you’re getting just by who they hang out with, but when you consider that guitarist Josh Hart cut his teeth playing in early incarnations of Revelation and Unorthodox — both names of formidable contribution to Maryland’s doom scene — and that he’s currently a member of Earthride, well, that kind of sets you up to think doom, or at very least some derivation thereof. On their long-in-arriving debut full-length, Passion Rift, Chowder defy almost every expectation you could put on them while still also using guitars.

The album, released by I, Voidhanger Records, is entirely instrumental and blindingly varied musically, bouncing hardcore rhythms off wild off-time changes and the kind of progressive technicalities that only true fans of Rush seem to be able to make gospel. There are elements of heavy riffing to be found here and there, but not enough to really ally the band to one genre or another. They never rest that long, and even ambient pieces like “Mazuku” or the opening “Mysterioid” have more to them than they might at first seem to, with Hart adding layers of synth, mellotron and even theremin to the mix of effects and drones.

Comprised of Hart alongside bassist Doug Williams (also cello) and drummer Chad Rush, Chowder began in 1992. It wasn’t until 2006 that the band released a demo through Revelation guitarist/vocalist John Brenner‘s Bland Hand Records, and Passion Rift has been another six years coming beyond that, so when it came time for listening to the album (streaming a couple tracks here), I had plenty of questions about how it was made, when and what were the band’s motivations.

As you can see in the following Six Dumb Questions, Hart had plenty of answers. Please enjoy:

1. Take me through the history of the band. It seems like Chowder was always in the background while other projects were the main focus. How has working with Chad changed over the years? Did you always know you wanted to keep the band instrumental?

Chad and I started writing music together while I was still in Revelation, back in 1992 I guess. A mutual friend thought we might be on the same page and it clicked pretty early. We wrote a few songs around that time but just sort of always considered it a sort of side-project as I was busy playing bass with Revelation and then Unorthodox soon after. In 1994 we managed to get into a studio and record four of the tunes we’d been screwing around with over those couple of years under the name Spectre that I clipped from my favorite Revelation song. Our friend Rich Newberger sang on three of those songs and his brother Steve played bass. It was pretty exciting to hear that stuff recorded because it was so weird for the time period. I don’t think many people we played it for really knew what to make of it then. That lineup kind of fizzled out and Chad and I continued to write a ton of music after I split with Unorthodox. It was one of those periods when you’re just spilling over with ideas, like every time I picked up my guitar I was writing a keeper riff or something. Sadly, we could never flesh out a lineup to play live and just kind of floundered over the years.

Back then I thought we wanted a singer as well and that was really tough because I was super-picky and there weren’t many people around that really fit what I expected. So we just hammered away as a three piece, Chad, myself and Joe Ruthvin on bass who left to form Earthride with [Dave] Sherman and Eric Little. It was always easy to write with Chad though, we both had a somewhat eclectic tastes so nothing was ever really a contention idea-wise. I’d bring something to the table and we’d both get really excited about it and try out best to form it into something unique. I remember laughing our asses off at some weird riff that just seemed so ridiculous but by the time we’d evolved it into a song it felt really, really cool and fresh. That was even before we started to implement synths and other post-rock effects. Chad‘s talent for irrational timing was really exceptional and allowed me to just go with whatever crazy thing came up. As far as being instrumental goes, like I said that wasn’t the plan but I was always into that kind of thing from the early math rock bands like Buzzard and King Sour to the obvious Rush and ‘70s prog tracks where the bands just busted loose for a song or two.

I think the thing that made me say, “Screw it, we don’t even need a singer,” was this Asylum tape I used to just play constantly that was a whole 45-minute side of songs without vocals. That was my favorite thing out of all the Maryland “doom” bands and it was funny because when I started playing with Unorthodox, Dale [Flood] and I used to joke about him not singing anymore and just going that route. By 2006, when John Brenner and I were booking the Doom or be Doomed fest in Baltimore and the idea of Chowder playing was on the table, I was comfortable with the idea of just playing the music and started to write with more self-indulgence and less conventional structure. I felt the addition of all the synths and mellotrons could keep things interesting enough that some kind of vocal wouldn’t be missed. Ultimately, I really don’t have anything to say to these people listening that they haven’t heard 1,000 times before anyway. I know as I get older I get kind of burned out on hearing the screaming guy wailing at me about his inner tumoils and emotions or whatever book he/she just read.

2. When was the material on Passion Rift written? What’s the writing process like?

The album is all over the place. “Mazuku,” “Salt Creep,” “The Innsmouth Look” and “Head Full of Rats” all go back to the ‘90s. The rest of it was written for the album between 2007-2008. I think it’s a good mix and some of our best material. I purposely kept it off the 2007 EP we did with Bland Hand Records to save for a full-length if it ever happened. I’ll usually bring riffs or whole songs to the other guys and we build on it from there. Sometimes I’ll have specific ideas about what the drums or bass do, but mostly it’s very loose and we just sort of design the song together based on a rough outline I’ve come up with. Playing with guys who really know their chops is a huge comfort when coming up with ideas. We developed a kind of language over time to communicate ideas back and forth. Like, “Try one of those sizzle drop, slap runs” and Doug would know what I was referring to. Most of the descriptions aren’t really words though and are just sounds. DUN DUN DUN dee doo DUN dddeeeeiin!!

3. One thing the album seems to do is balance different styles. The songs have a lot from prog, more than a bit of hardcore and some doom in them. When you started putting together the demo in 2006, how clear of an idea did you have of what you wanted to do stylistically? When you’re writing when does something start to take shape as a Chowder song?

I know that no matter what I write that these guys can play it and they’re up for trying it out which is the beauty of this band in my eyes. There’s never been a conversation about what we should sound like or, “is this new song really us?” I know we’re not breaking any new ground here but the idea has always been to just write what sounds good, what feels right. The demo was actually recorded in 1997. John Brenner released it for download on his Bland Hand Records label around 2006. No, it’s never been clear. I’m so heavily influenced and have been by so many different kinds of music and bands that it’s nearly impossible to write within a style on purpose, if that makes any sense. Like if you were to tell me to write a straight doom metal song, I would have trouble. Same goes for anything else, punk, hardcore, rock. Everything seems to channel through some screwy filter and come out all twisted up. If I’m writing, it’s a Chowder song. If I start playing something on the guitar and it sounds like it could be a potential Earthride riff, for example, I usually have to change some element about it to make it fit. Music loses its power when it tries too hard to capture a certain vibe or sound. If you can easily stuff my band into a genre then I’m probably not living up to my full potential as a musician.

4. When in the recording process for Passion Rift were the samples, keyboards, mellotrons, theremin added? How much of that stuff comes from experimenting in the studio and how much is thought out beforehand?

Most of those things were recorded after the basic guitar, bass and drum tracks. There are a few parts in the there that were recorded with me on synth with the bass and drums at the same time though. Any part like that was written and rehearsed long before we booked recording time. The track “Mysterioid” was written almost entirely in studio with only the main synth notes worked out before. It and “Mazuku” were both intended to be production pieces only so we had some room to mess around with them in there. Adding a bunch of different things, getting out of hand with it. Everything else is written. Anything you hear in the other songs was worked out ahead of time at home and at rehearsal. We were very lucky to meet Jim Rezek through our engineer Mike Potter. Jim has the nicest vintage synthesizer and keyboard collection I’ve ever seen and was entirely open to the idea of us coming to his house and recording some tracks on his equipment.

5. What are some of the differences for you between playing guitar in Chowder and playing bass in Earthride? Are there things the two bands have in common, or is it a totally different experience?

Laziness. In Earthride, I’m able to lay back a good bit and stay in the pocket with Eric, which was something I missed while playing all this wacko, technical music for so long. I can just live out my Geezer Butler fantasy while relaxing up there and groove to the massive heaviness. With Chowder something is coming down the pipe at all times. A chord or key change, a solo, something to trigger on the pedals. It requires a shitload of concentration and I’m going to go so far as to say it isn’t much fun. When we’re playing that material live and we nail it, it’s very rewarding but I’m not so sure it’s worth the panic attack I’m about to have about every 30 seconds attempting it. I totally get why bands like Rush and Genesis simmered down on that shit over the years. It wasn’t just for the sake of selling records! And those guys are WAY better at that stuff than we’ll ever be. I gained a hell of a lot more respect for what bands like that accomplish in a live setting trying to be fancy like them. Ultimately, it’s two different experiences, both rewarding though. I have loved playing other people’s music because each one taught me something new that I’ve taken with me and implemented in writing my own songs or how to behave (or not). Joining Earthride was almost a no brainer anyway because I went to high school with those guys. We’ve been friends a long, long time. Hell, Eric and I were in our first band together with Kelly Carmichael from Internal Void back in 1985. So it feels like home. Chowder feels like a draconian P.O.W. camp in Siberia…only less smiling.

6. What’s next for Chowder? Will you guys do shows, and would you be able to recreate all those layers of keys and effects in a live setting?

Well, things are a little weird these days for us. Chad moved to the West Coast a couple years ago and seems to be happy doing what he’s doing out there. I have however started rehearsing and writing some material with Ronnie Kalimon from Asylum/Unorthodox/Internal Void and things are going nicely. Doug has expressed interest so I’m hoping he’ll be available to join us soon and we can start moving forward. I’m not sure what will actually come out of it. My desire would be to play some shows, maybe a fest or two and most importantly record something new. I’d pretty much given up on anything happening at all as it was a true struggle to get this record onto a label and released and then with Chad moving it was looking pretty grim. Anything at all is a bonus. Everything we’ve recorded is done so in a way that it can be reproduced live aside from the obvious production tracks. There are parts on “Passion Rift” and “Custody” where the guitar drops out and I take over on the keyboards which we were also doing live. Anything that plays concurrent with the guitar is done by Doug on the Taurus pedals or triggered by me on Roland PK-5 midi pedals from an E-MU Vintage Keys synth. It’s a nightmare, let me tell you. I look like a fat, dancing idiot up there trying to nail all that stuff at the right times. During our last few shows I would be thinking, “Never again, never again,” but somehow we always ended up there doing it again. Must be the loads of girls that come out to see us.

Chowder on Thee Facebooks

I, Voidhanger Records

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audiObelisk: Chowder Stream “Insidious” and “Custody” from Passion Rift Full-Length Debut

Posted in audiObelisk on July 5th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

In listening to the long-in-the-making Passion Rift debut full-length from Frederick, Maryland, prog/doom instru-metallers Chowder (please note, that’s about as loose a genre designation as you can get), it was exceedingly hard to come up with one song that summarized the rest of the record. So, with the kind permission of guitarist Joshua Hart (also formerly of Unorthodox and Revelation and currently handling bass in Earthride), we’ll stream two.

We begin with “Insidious,” mostly because it appears first on the tracklist, but also because it’s shorter and starts with the sample of Fry from Futurama talking about his all-Rush mixtape. That Rush nod is apt, as Chowder soon embark on a surprisingly technical and intricate progressive instrumentalism. Thickened up with doom’s tonality, Passion Rift nonetheless makes no sacrifice of clarity, as bassist Doug Williams (also electric cello) and drummer Chad Rush join Hart, who also handles 12-string, mellotron, synth and theremin throughout the album.

“Custody” is longer and by its nature more spacious, but still not as far into ambience as Chowder go on tracks like “Mazuku” and “Mysterioid.” Beginning with a sample from what I’m pretty sure is the 1982 Conan: The Barbarian movie, the track gives some idea as to the band’s overall scope, setting prog complexity against hardcore rhythms and still coming across memorably in the process. As widely varied as Passion Rift is, it’s also remarkably cohesive, residing in a similar sphere as fellow Marylanders Admiral Browning, but perhaps even more given to its technical side.

Check out “Insidious” and “Custody” on the player below and please enjoy:

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

Chowder‘s Passion Rift is the follow-up to 2007’s self-titled EP and is available now through I, Voidhanger Records. For more info on the band and to read John Brenner from Revelation/Against Nature‘s bio, check out the label’s artist page. Special thanks to Hart for letting me host these tracks.

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