King Witch Post Video for “Children of the Sea” Black Sabbath Cover

Posted in Bootleg Theater on April 14th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

king witch (Photo by Alan Swan)

There aren’t a lot of singers out there I’d be interested to hear take on a track originally vocalized by Ronnie James Dio, but Laura Donnelly of King Witch — whose voice contains enough power and classic metal righteousness at any given moment to reactivate the volcano under Castle Rock — is one of them. King Witch released their second album, Body of Light (review here), last year through Listenable Records, and thereby built upon the epic foundations laid forth on 2018’s Under the Mountain (review here), striking into purposefully grandiose territory with the brashness of true heavy metal. Some would call covering Dio-era Black Sabbath heresy on its face. What could possibly be more metal than that?

The results are admirable, as the video below demonstrates. Donnelly, guitarist/producer Jamie Gilchrist, bassist Rory Lee and drummer Lyle Brown begin by pulling Sabbath‘s Heaven and Hell off the LP shelf — I spy a copy of Alice in ChainsDirt on there as well; another all-time personal favorite — and then set to unfurling their own version of the track, nailing the deceptively speedy tempo that creates the tension ultimately paid off in the song’s final section. Hitting the notes as required, Donnelly puts her own spin on the delivery just the same, as one would hope, and comes across as trained, professional, and up to the significant task before her. Among the number of pandemic-era cover clips — can’t do shows, gotta do something, could do much worse than recording yourself playing music you like and sharing — King Witch stand out in production quality as well as sheer audacity.

Both are well worthy of respect. So, respect.

Enjoy:

King Witch, “Children of the Sea” official video

Black Sabbath’s Children of the Sea is the first track in King Witch’s forthcoming two part digital covers EP “Worship the Riffs” which was recorded in December 2020 during lockdown.

“We are all huge fans of Black Sabbath and this song is just so epic. It was a great way for us as a band to connect and have a bit of fun during lockdown. We very much hope we do it justice and we hope you enjoy it.”

Keep it heavy – Keep it loud!

Originally performed by Black Sabbath.
Composer/Author: Butler Terrence, Padavona Ronald, Iommi Anthony Frank, Ward W T.
Published by Essex Music International Inc, Niji Music

Produced, mixed & mastered by Jamie Gilchrist (https://www.facebook.com/namelesscitysound?)

Video creation & Artwork by Laura Donnelly (https://www.facebook.com/lauradonnellyart?)

King Witch are :
Laura Donnelly – Vocals
Jamie Gilchrist – Guitar
Rory Lee – Bass
Lyle Brown – Drums

King Witch, Body of Light (2021)

King Witch on Thee Facebooks

King Witch on Instagram

King Witch on Bandcamp

Listenable Records website

Listenable Records on Thee Facebooks

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Mars Red Sky Post “Hollow King” Official Live Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on November 3rd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

mars red sky (photo by Rob Maurice)

Bordeaux heavy psychedelic progressives Mars Red Sky recently announced a couple of weekenders in their native France, the first of which is set for this weekend. I have no idea if that’s still happening or how it might play out given the EU’s turn toward further lockdown measures following a cold-weather-and-everyone’s-apparently-tired-of-masks spike in COVID-19 cases. What I do know — and stop me if you’ve heard this one before — is I really, really miss going to shows. It’s been 10 months since I’ve been in a venue! That’s insane. Even at my most hermit-like, I don’t think I ever went this long.

Mars Red Sky did a couple live streams in June (review here), but they’re clearly hankering too. Not only can you tell from the fact that they’re bothering to book dates at all, let alone maybe even play them, but also their new video for “Hollow King” from 2019’s The Task Eternal (review here) is a recorded live performance of the song. They did it during soundcheck before playing a gig in Dijon last month. Close your eyes and visualize a time when that would be no big deal. Can you?

Bottom line: I love this song. I dug this record a lot and this band remains pretty frickin’ special. I hope to see them on stage again someday.

Enjoy the video:

Mars Red Sky, “Hollow King” official live video

Bordeaux-based psychedelic rockers MARS RED SKY unveil bold new live video “Hollow King” – recorded a few hours before their latest show in Dijon, France. The track is taken from their new album ‘The Task Eternal’, out on Mrs Red Sound and Listenable Records.

MARS RED SKY’s new live video “Hollow King” highlights the band’s unique sounding, propelled by a pachydermic rhythm section, ethereal vocals, enthralling riffs and meaningful lyrics. Video recorded live in La Vapeur, Dijon (France) by Sébastien from Faits-Divers. “Hollow king” is taken from the album “The task Eternal’ (2019), recorded and mixed by Benjamin Mandeau at Cryogene Studio, mastered by Pierre Etchandy.

MARS RED SKY live:
06.11.20 BESANÇON (25) La Rodia
07.11.20 CHALON-SUR-SAÔNE (71) Théâtre de Chalon-sur-Saône / LaPéniche (portes 18h30 – concert 19h)
08.11.20 BOURG-EN-BRESSE (01) La Tannerie (portes 17h – concert 17h30)
25.03.21 LYON (69) L’Épicerie Moderne / salle musiques actuelles
26.03.21 MULHOUSE (68) Noumatrouff avec Witchfinder
27.03.21 STRASBOURG (67) La Laiterie Artefact

MARS RED SKY are:
Julien Pras : guitar, vocals
Jimmy Kinast : bass, vocals
MatGaz : drums, vocals

Mars Red Sky, The Task Eternal (2019)

Mars Red Sky on Thee Facebooks

Mars Red Sky website

Listenable Records website

Listenable Records on Thee Facebooks

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Mars Red Sky Announce French Weekender Live Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 27th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

mars red sky (Photo by Rod Maurice)

Think there’s any chance at all the French government will let an American into the country by next March? I can think of worse ways to enter life as an emigrant refugee — if need be — than to kick around France and go see a couple socially-distant, seated Mars Red Sky shows. It’s not exactly a plan for survival in the doomsday-prepper sense, but let’s be honest, I wasn’t making it through doomsday anyhow.

While we’re being honest, Mars Red Sky doing three shows next month and three shows next March in France is nice and all, but I was really kind of hoping the Bordeaux three-piece were about to announce a new EP that was a half-hour long single-song epic of progressive heavy psychedelic melody. I’m glad they’re getting out — their live stream a few months back (review here) was certainly good fun — but these days one is trying to find anything to look forward to at all, and new Mars Red Sky is always something to look forward to. Maybe next year.

Said everyone, about everything.

If you need me, I’ll be investigating visa applications. Here’s the info on their shows, with links and whatnot:

mars red sky tour france

MARS RED SKY – France Shows

We are super excited to be able to announce this tour in France! The concerts will all be sitting but in beautiful rooms and with compliance with the health rules. And you can find our merch of course…

06.11.20 BESANÇON (25) La Rodia
Event: Mars red Sky à Besançon
Tickets: https://marsredsky.rocks/presales0611

07.11.20 CHALON-SUR-SAÔNE (71) Théâtre de Chalon-sur-Saône / LaPéniche (portes 18h30 – concert 19h)
Event: Mars Red Sky au Piccolo
Tickets: https://marsredsky.rocks/presales0711

08.11.20 BOURG-EN-BRESSE (01) La Tannerie (portes 17h – concert 17h30)
Event: Mars Red sky [Heavy psychédélique]
Tickets: https://marsredsky.rocks/presales0811

25.03.21 LYON (69) L’Épicerie Moderne / salle musiques actuelles
More info shortly!

26.03.21 MULHOUSE (68) Noumatrouff avec Witchfinder
More info shortly!

27.03.21 STRASBOURG (67) La Laiterie Artefact
Event: Mars Red Sky + Witchfinder • Strasbourg • La Laiterie
Tickets: https://marsredsky.rocks/presales2703

http://www.facebook.com/marsredskyband/
https://marsredsky.bigcartel.com/
http://www.marsredsky.net
http://www.listenable.net
http://www.facebook.com/listenablerecs

Mars Red Sky, “Crazy Hearth” official video

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King Witch Post “Return to Dust” Video; Live Shows Announced

Posted in Bootleg Theater on September 30th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

King Witch (photo by Alan Swan)

Shovels in the woods — never a good sign. I’ll take it though when it comes as part of a new King Witch video. As one has noted several times over at this point, 2020 feels particularly rough for good records that can’t get their due owing to a lack of live performances, and hell’s bells, that couldn’t possibly be truer of King Witch‘s second LP, Body of Light (review here). The thing happened to come out through Listenable Records on April 24, which was one of the busiest release dates of the year, and it ruled, but in addition to plenty of high-profile competition for the hard-earned cash and attention of the heavy underground listenership, it also happened to be in the middle of a friggin’ plague lockdown.

Let’s understate it for a change and call those circumstances “less than optimal.” So much metallic triumph throughout Body of Light and all anyone’s thinking about is how much groceries they need to buy in one trip so they can not leave the house for the next two weeks solid. Being in such a position has led bands to try all kinds of digitalia in order to self-promote. Streams, mostly, but also live and archival releases, all sorts of whatnot. Even just increased posting on social media, whatever shape that might take. Gotta work those algorithms. In the case of powerhouse vocalist Laura Donnelly, she went out to said woods with said shovel and a camera and made a video for the eight-minute epic-because-KingWitch-only-do-epic “Return to Dust” off of Body of Light, and you know what? It worked. Frankly, I’m just happy to have an excuse to put the record on again as a part of my day.

Live shows? Well, of course the list below should be taken with the now-usual caveats that everything depends on outbreaks and what public regulations are for the dates in question. As an American though, it’s hard to remember that everyone else on the planet seems to be handling the ol’ firelung so much better than my own country. I don’t know Scotland’s numbers, but I do know that if I were lucky enough to be in Edinburgh on Dec. 5, I’d get my ass to that show and hope for more in February.

Video and dates follow, as well as some comment from Donnelly via the PR wire.

Enjoy:

King Witch, “Return to Dust” official video

Critically acclaimed by the international press for their new album ‘Body of Light ‘ , King witch unveil today their new brand video ” Return to dust “

Laura Donnelly explains the making of this supernatural video: “I created the video during lockdown in our local forest and at home. I hope it conveys a sense of fragility whilst engulfed in heavy riffage. I think the colour and mood suits the song very well – helping to give a supernatural vibe. My neighbours however will totally think I’m a complete weirdo after hearing me almost drown in my bath several times and being caught in the woods digging a hole and burying myself. When Jamie first let me listen to the original ideas for ‘Return to Dust; I was immediately dropped into a Clint Eastwood/Ennio Morricone Spaghetti Western. The song however quickly changes to become something a lot darker. I had not long read the graphic novel Preacher and really liked the idea of mixing the supernatural with dusty desert tales. “Return to Dust” is basically about someone dying and crossing over to the other side. They are confused and frightened but the reality of the situation soon becomes clear, there is nothing to mourn. They know what they must do – return to dust.”

KING WITCH ’s ‘Body of Light’ was Recorded at Deep Storm Productions, produced and Mixed by Kevin Hare and Jamie Gilchrist and mastered by Tom Dring.

King Witch live:
5th DEC 2020 – EDINBURGH – LA BELLE ANGELE
4th FEB 2021 – EDINBURGH – THE HIVE
5th FEB 2021 – GLASGOW – IVORY BLACKS
6th FEB 2021- IPSWITCH – MUSIC ROOMS
7th FEB 2021 – BRADFORD – THE UNDERGROUND
12th FEB 2021 – SWANSEA – HANGER 18
13th FEB 2021 – LONDON – THE DEVONSHIRE ARMS
14th FEB 2021 – OXFORD – THE WHEATSHEAF

MORE TO BE CONFIRMED …

King Witch are :
Laura Donnelly – Vocals
Jamie Gilchrist – Guitar
Rory Lee – Bass
Lyle Brown – Drums

King Witch on Thee Facebooks

King Witch on Instagram

King Witch on Bandcamp

Listenable Records website

Listenable Records on Thee Facebooks

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Quarterly Review: Katatonia, Marmalade Knives, King Witch, Glass Parallels, Thems That Wait, Sojourner, Udyat, Bismarck, Gral Brothers, Astral Glide

Posted in Reviews on July 9th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

the-obelisk-qr-summer-2020

Welcome to the penultimate day of the Summer 2020 Quarterly Review. I can only speak for myself, but I know it’s been a crazy couple months on this end, and I imagine whatever end you’re on — unless and probably even if you have a lot of money — it’s been the same there as well. Yet, it was no problem compiling 50 records to review this week, so if there’s a lesson to be taken from it all, it would seem to be that art persists. We may still be painting on cave walls when it comes to the arc of human evolution, but at least that’s something.

Have a great day and listen to great music.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Katatonia, City Burials

katatonia city burials

Like their contemporaries in My Dying Bride and Paradise Lost, the latter-day period of work from Sweden’s Katatonia veers back toward some measure of direct heaviness, as City Burials showcases in cuts like “Rein,” “Heart Set to Divide” and “Behind the Blood,” but more than either of those others mentioned, the Stockholm outfit refuse to forsake the melody and progressivism they’ve undertaken with their sound in the name of doing so. By the time they get to “Untrodden” at the end of the album’s 50-minute/11-song run, they’ve run a gamut from dark electronica to progressive-styled doom and back again, and with the founding duo of guitarist Anders Nyström and vocalist Jonas Renkse at the helm of the songwriting, they are definitive in their approach and richly emotive; a melancholy that is as identifiable in their songs as it is in the bands working under their influence. Their first work in four years, City Burials is an assurance that Katatonia are in firm ownership and command of all aspects of their sound. As they approach their 30th year, they continue to move forward. That’s a special band.

Katatonia on Thee Facebooks

Peaceville Records website

 

Marmalade Knives, Amnesia

marmalade knives amnesia

Boasting production, mixing and percussion from The Golden GrassAdam Kriney, Marmalade Knives‘ debut album, Amnesia, is a delight of freaky-but-not-overblown heavy psychedelia. Oh, it’s headed far, far out, but as the opening narration and the later drones of second cut “Rivuleting” make plain, they might push, but they’re not trying to shove, if you know what I mean. The buzz in “Best-Laid Plans” doesn’t undercut the warmth of the improvised-seeming solo, and likewise, “Rebel Coryell” is a mellow drifter that caps side A with a graceful sense of wandering the soundscape of its own making. The vibe gets spacey on “Xayante,” and “Ez-Ra” touches on a funkier swing before seeming to evolve into light as one does, and the 10-minute “Astrology Domine” caps with noise and a jammed out feel that underscores the outbound mood of the proceedings as a whole. Some of the pieces feel like snippets cut from longer jams, and they may or may not be just that, but though it was recorded in three separate locations, Amnesia draws together well and flows easily, inviting the listener to do the same.

Marmalade Knives on Thee Facebooks

Electric Valley Records webstore

 

King Witch, Body of Light

king witch body of light

Edinburgh’s King Witch toe the line between classic metal and doom, but whatever you want to call them, just make sure you don’t leave out the word “epic.” The sweeping solo and soaring vocals on the opening title-track set the stage on their second LP, the hour-long Body of Light, and as much mastery as the band showed on their 2018 debut, Under the Mountain (review here), vocalist Laura Donnelly, guitarist Jamie Gilchrist, bassist Rory Lee and drummer Lyle Brown lay righteous waste to lofty expectations and bask in grandiosity on “Of Rock and Stone” and the linear-moving “Solstice I – She Burns,” the payoff of which is a high point of the album in its layered shred. Pieces like “Witches Mark” and “Order From Chaos” act as confirmation of their Euro-fest-ready fist-pumpery, and closer “Beyond the Black Gate” brings some atmosphere before its own headbang-worthy crescendo. Body of Light is a reminder of why you wanted to be metal in the first place.

King Witch on Thee Facebooks

Listenable Records on Bandcamp

 

Glass Parallels, Aisle of Light

Glass Parallels Aisle of Light

Eminently listenable and repeat-worthy, Glass Parallels‘ debut LP, Aisle of Light, nonetheless maintains an experimentalist flair. The solo-project of Justin Pinkerton (Golden Void, Futuropaco), covers a swath of ground from acid folk to psych-funk to soul vibes, at times bordering on shoegaze but seeming to find more expressive energy in centerpiece “Asphyxiate” and the airy capper “Blood and Battlegrounds” than any sonic portrayal of apathy would warrant. United by keys, pervasive guitar weirdness and Pinkerton‘s at-times-falsetto vocals, usually coated in reverb as they are, Aisle of Light brings deceptive depth for being a one-man production. Its production is spacious but still raw enough to give the drums an earthy sound as they anchor the synth-laden “March and April,” which is probably fortunate since otherwise the song would be liable to float off and not return. One way or another, the songs stand out too much to really be hypnotic, but they’re certainly fun to follow.

Glass Parallels on Thee Facebooks

Glass Parallels on Bandcamp

 

Thems That Wait, Stonework

thems that wait stonework

Stonework is the self-aware debut full-length from Portland, Maine, trio Thems That Wait, and it shoulders itself between clenched-teeth metallic aggression and heavier fuzz rock. They’re not the first to tread such ground and they know it, but “Sidekick” effectively captures Scissorfight-style groove, and “Kick Out” is brash enough in its 1:56 to cover an entire record’s worth of burl. Interludes “Digout” and “Vastcular” provide a moment to catch your breath, which is appreciated, but when what they come back with is the sure-fisted “Paragon” or a song like “Shitrograde,” it really is just a moment. They close with “Xmortis,” which seems to reference Evil Dead II in its lyrics, which is as good as anything else, but from “Sleepie Hollow” onward, guitarist/vocalist Craig Garland, bassist Mat Patterson and drummer Branden Clements find their place in the dudely swing-and-strike of riffs, crash and snarl, and they do so with a purely Northeastern attitude. This is the kind of show you might get kicked at.

Thems That Wait on Thee Facebooks

Thems That Wait on Bandcamp

 

Sojourner, Premonitions

sojourner premonitions

Complexity extends to all levels of Sojourner‘s third album and Napalm Records debut, Premonitions, in that not only does the band present eight tracks and 56 minutes of progressive and sprawling progressive black metal, varied in craft and given a folkish undercurrent by Chloe Bray‘s vocals and tin whistle, but also the sheer fact that the five-piece outfit made the album in at least five different countries. Recording remotely in Sweden, New Zealand, Scotland and Italy, they mixed/mastered in Norway, and though one cringes at the thought of the logistical nightmare that might’ve presented, Sojourner‘s resultant material is lush and encompassing, a tapestry of blackened sounds peppered with clean and harsh singing — Emilio Crespo handles the screams — keyboards, and intricate rhythms behind sprawling progressions of guitar. At the center of the record, “Talas” and “Fatal Frame” (the shortest song and the longest) make an especially effective pair one into the other, varied in their method but brought together by viciously heavy apexes. The greatest weight, though, might be reserved for closer “The Event Horizon,” which plods where it might otherwise charge and brings a due sense of largesse to the finale.

Sojourner on Thee Facebooks

Napalm Records website

 

Udyat, Oro

udyat oro

The order of the day is sprawl on Udyat‘s recorded-live sophomore LP, Oro, as the Argentinian outfit cast a wide berth over heavy rock and terrestrial psych, the 13-minute “Sangre de Oro” following shorter opener “Los Picos de Luz Eterna” (practically an intro at a bit over six minutes) with a gritty flourish to contrast the tonal warmth that returns with the melodic trance-induction at the start of “Los últimos.” That song — the centerpiece of the five-track outing — tops 15 minutes and makes its way into a swell of fuzz with according patience, proceeding through a second stage of lumbering plod before a stretch of noise wash leads pack to the stomp. The subsequent “Después de los Pasos, el Camino Muere” is more ferocious by its end and works in some similar ground, and closer “Nacimiento” seems to loose itself in a faster midsection before returning to its midtempo roll. Oro borders on cosmic doom with its psychedelic underpinnings and quiet stretches, but its movement feels ultimately more like walking than floating, if that makes any sense.

Udyat on Thee Facebooks

Udyat on Bandcamp

 

Bismarck, Oneiromancer

Bismarck Oneiromancer

To anyone who might suggest that extreme metal cannot also be forward-thinking, Bismarck submit the thoughtful bludgeon of Oneiromancer, a five-song/35-minute aesthetic blend that draws from doom, death, hardcore and sundry other metals, while keeping its identity in check through taut rhythm and atmospheric departures. Following the chants of opening intro “Tahaghghogh Resalat,” the Chris Fielding-produced follow-up to Bismarck‘s 2018 debut, Urkraft (review here), showcases an approach likewise pummeling and dynamic, weighted in ambience and thud alike. “Oneiromancer” itself starts with blastbeats and a plundering intensity before breaking into a more open midsection, but “The Seer” is absolutely massive. Despite being shorter than either the title-track or “Hara,” both of which top nine minutes, and closer “Khthon” underscores the blood-boiling tension cast throughout with one last consuming plod. Fucking raging. Fucking awesome. Pure sonic catharsis. Salvation through obliteration. If these are dreams being divined as the title hints, the mind is a limitless and terrifying place. Which, yes.

Bismarck on Thee Facebooks

Bismarck on Bandcamp

 

The Gral Brothers, Caravan East

gral brothers caravan east

I won’t say it’s seamless or intended to be, but as Albuquerque, New Mexico, two-piece The Gral Brothers make their initial move on Caravan East between cinematic Americana and industrial brood, samples of dialogue on “Cactus Man” and violin in the seven-minute soundscaper “In Die Pizzeria” seem to draw together both a wistfulness and a paranoia of the landlocked. Too odd to fall in line with the Morricone-worship of Cali’s Spindrift, “Crowbar” brings Spaghetti West and desert dub together with a confidence that makes it seem like a given pairing despite the outwardly eerie vibes and highly individualized take, and “Santa Sleeves” is beautiful to its last, even if the lone bell jingle is a bit much, while “Silva Lanes” pushes even further than did “Circuit City” into mechanized experimental noisemaking. They end with the birdsong-inclusive “Ode to Marge,” leaving one to wonder whether it’s sentiment or cynicism being expressed. Either way, it’s being expressed in a way not quite like anything else, which is an accomplishment all on its own.

The Gral Brothers on Thee Facebooks

Desert Records on Bandcamp

 

Astral Glide, Flamingo Graphics

astral glide flamingo graphics

When you’re at the show and the set ends, Flamingo Graphics is the CD you go buy at the merch table. It’s as simple as that. Recorded this past March over the course of two days, the debut album from Floridian foursome Astral Glide is raw to the point of being barebones, bootleg room-mic style, but the songwriting and straightforward purposes of the group shine through. They’re able to shift structures and mood enough to keep things from being too staid, but they’re never far off from the next heavy landing, as “Devastation” and the closer “Forever” show in their respective payoffs, that latter going all out with a scream at the end, answering back to the several others that show up periodically. While their greatest strength is in the mid-paced shove of rockers like “Space Machine” and “Scarlett” and the speedier “Workhorse,” there are hints of broader intentions on Flamingo Graphics, though they too are raw at this point. Very much a debut, but still one you pick up when the band finishes playing. You might not even wait until the end of the show. Meet them back at the table, and so on.

Astral Glide on Thee Facebooks

Astral Glide on Bandcamp

 

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Stream Review: Mars Red Sky Live From the Teleport for Europe & North America, 06.18.20

Posted in Reviews on June 19th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

mars red sky stream

It’s a curious kind of thing, the way watching a band play a live streaming show just kind of works itself into your day. I’d imagine that’s what it must be like for people who live in major urban centers when it comes to going out. I’ve never lived within half an hour of a venue, so rock and roll in a live context has always had an element of travel and a physical distance from the rest of my “life,” as it were. Music has rarely been so conveniently accessed for me. You just find a link — easy in this case, since Mars Red Sky emailed them out earlier in the day — and put it on and watch a band play live. I know it’s not necessarily new technology, though it’s a more widespread use for it, and if I’m wowed by it, that probably just means I’m old. Fine.

As it happened, Mars Red Sky‘s two Live From the Teleport streams — one first for Europe, then one for the Americas — fit neatly into my schedule. The Europe one happened during my kid’s naptime and the second, at 8PM local time, started just as the episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation my wife and I were watching was ending. I put on the Euro stream and found it opened by a couple of vintage commercials, which is fitting to the visual aesthetic the band have harnessed inmars red sky collaboration with director Seb Antoine, whose done videos and visuals for them going back some number of years and was involved in the direction here. Based in Bordeaux, where these shows took place, Mars Red Sky have always to some degree been conscious of the visual aspects of their presentation. Their artwork suits their records, their videos are creative, and these commercials were a fun way to lead into (and out of) the performance itself. The US stream had ones for Oldsmobile and Tang. They both had old video games.

Ostensibly supporting last year’s The Task Eternal (review here), the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Julien Pras, bassist/backing vocalist Jimmy Kinast and drummer Mathieu “Matgaz” Gazeau seemed comfortable on the stage and looked to have no trouble locking into a performance-mode despite the lack of a physical crowd in front of them. The trio were playing two distinct sets with two different setlists, each about an hour long, and they opened the European set with a new riff from a song currently in the works. After the US show, they mentioned it might end up as an EP, which would be in character for the band between full-lengths, but either way it was appreciated to get a preview of where they’re headed as they continue down their path of progressive heavy psychedelic rock.

I tried to read some intention behind their choices of songs, but they had taken requests on social media and of course I chimed in, campaigning for “Way to Rome” from their 2011 self-titled debut (review here), “Friendly Fire” from 2016’s third album, Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul) (review here), both of which were aired in the Americas stream, and several others. I don’t know if they were going for two distinct vibes from one set to the other, tailoring to region, or just taking requests — the fact is that Mars Red Sky have enough of a catalog between LPs and EPs that it’s not a challenge for them to fill about two hours of stage time. And they did so without repeating a song between one set and the other. Here are the setlists:

mars red sky tangEU:
New Riff (Slow)
Under the Hood
Collector
Crazy Hearth
Mindreader
Shot in Providence
Hovering Satellites
Up the Stairs

AM:
Reacts
Alien Grounds/Apex III
Friendly Fire w/ guest vocalist
Way to Rome
Strong Reflection
Hollow King
The Light Beyond

Finishing the first set with “Up the Stairs” worked better than I thought it would, and “Way to Rome” into “Strong Reflection” in the second set just about made my night, particularly with a bit of chugging flourish they added to the latter. For “Friendly Fire” they brought out a guest singer whose name was revealed in the live Q&A afterwards as Helen Ferguson, vocalist and bandmate of Pras‘ in Queen of the Meadow. In any case, she added another layer of melodic sweetness to Pras‘ own voice and as it was something they’d never done before, it seemed a particularly brave move to do so as a part of this stream. “Mindreader” was of course a heavy riff delight, and “Shot in Providence,” the latest single “Crazy Hearth,” “Reacts and “Hollow King” — the latter three all from The Task Eternal — were more than welcome. Seeing them play the most recent stuff was a big part of why I wanted to watch, since as they’ve grown more progressive in the construction of their songs, invariably their live renditions have had to follow suit. As much as their first record continues to hold a special place in my heart, they’ve only become a richer band with time.

There were audio problems after the first set, but the band found a marker board and wrote a thank you message on it, while also playing with a Simon — it had been a minute since I saw one. They came back live after the second set and in that Q&A revealed that the Americas stream had been taped. Not actually unreasonable, since it would’ve started at 2AM on French time, but it did change things. Was it still a live event. Are these streams that have started in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic ever? How is a live performance, taped live and aired as a live stream not live? Does it make a difference?

I don’t know. There isn’t really a ‘live culture’ around streaming yet to properly gauge an audience impression. From what I saw in the YouTube chat, people were grateful to the band for making the effort — and with professional sound and lights, visuals behind them, the commercials, and at least four cameras operating, it was an effort — and frankly, I was too.

The after-show session lasted about 10 minutes, which given that that was live and it was three on the morning for them, was plenty. Pras leaned forward on the couch, Kinast leaned back and snuggled his cat. Only Gazeau, who apparently doesn’t live in Bordeaux, didn’t take part; they disguised one of the camera operators and the reveal was pretty funny. I submitted the question as to how doing these sets compared to the experience of playing live shows, and Pras noted that with the sound, lighting and video crews, it wasn’t like mars red sky teleport posterthe space was totally empty, and that the drones and psychedelic noisemaking they did between songs — more prevalent in the second set than the first — was in part to ease the awkward silence where audience response would otherwise be. It was a prudent and effective move, and emblematic of the attention to detail Mars Red Sky bring to just about everything they do.

My understanding is downloads of the videos of these sets will be available to those who paid for them as part of their tickets, but it seems to me next time Bandcamp has a no-fee day, the band have audio well worth issuing as a special release. I don’t know that will happen, of course, but if they wanted to make it so, they’d certainly have a fan-piece to mark the occasion.

A shifting definition of normality makes me less inclined to speculate as to what live music will look like on the other side of this current pandemic, in Europe, North and South America, or anywhere else. As it stands, however, seeing a group like Mars Red Sky playing their songs, even in the setting of being on my couch after a long day and just before going to bed, is more than welcome. It’s not only a reminder of what’s missing from these incredibly and increasingly strange days, but a new form of creative expression taking shape while we watch. That in itself is a reason to be thankful.

Mars Red Sky, The Task Eternal (2019)

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Mars Red Sky Post “Crazy Hearth” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on May 6th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

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If the planet were operating in the manner which we as humans thought it might be just a few short months, ago, French progressive heavy psychedelic rockers Mars Red Sky would be heading to North America this month for a tour supporting 2019’s The Task Eternal (review here) that would have begun May 28 in Chicago and run through Monolith on the Mesa (which has been pushed back to September) and finished in Vancouver, British Columbia, on June 7. It was to be presented by this site, among others. Well, of course it’s not happening — how could it?

To be sure, that’s a bummer, but if you look at the video for “Crazy Hearth,” which the Bordeaux three-piece filmed prior to the pandemic with director Seb Antoine — he did their 2016 “Alien Grounds” short film (posted here) and has worked with them on other clips too — it ends up being a pretty striking reminder not just of what we all miss at this point, which is being together, but inevitably of what we’re staying apart now to preserve.

In the video we see the band — guitarist/vocalist Julien Pras, bassist/sometimes vocalist Jimmy Kinast and drummer Mat Gazeau — making their way to a meetup in the woods. Gazeau goes by canoe, and there’s hiking and cool drone shots of the band playing spliced in, and in the end, everyone gets together and they leave in the canoe after building the titular hearth. It has enough heart and is certainly earthy enough to earn the wordplay of the song’s name, but given the context in which the video arrives, it’s hard not to appreciate the simple togetherness and the obvious bond the trio display, while they’re playing and while they’re not.

That’s why we’re quarantined. Because at some point, we want to be able to go back to that without risking harm to one another, and this seems to be the road that gets us there. It’s easy math to do and a hard way to live, but that’s what it’s all about.

Mars Red Sky, “Crazy Hearth” official video

“We got in touch again with Seb Antoine, the best film director ever, to shoot our ***NEW VIDEO CLIP for CRAZY HEARTH*** before the Covid mess. We are particularly proud of this one and really hope you’ll will like it as much as we enjoyed making it.”

From the new album ‘The Task Eternal’ out September 27th 2019 on Listenable Records.

Directed By Seb Antoine
Assistant : Sophie Labruyere
Special Thanks to Mr Gazeau for the Canoe

Recorded and mixed by Benjamin Mandeau at Cryogene Studio, mastered by Pierre Etchandy.

Mars Red Sky, The Task Eternal (2019)

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Days of Rona: Mars Red Sky

Posted in Features on April 23rd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

The statistics of COVID-19 change with every news cycle, and with growing numbers, stay-at-home isolation and a near-universal disruption to society on a global scale, it is ever more important to consider the human aspect of this coronavirus. Amid the sad surrealism of living through social distancing, quarantines and bans on gatherings of groups of any size, creative professionals — artists, musicians, promoters, club owners, techs, producers, and more — are seeing an effect like nothing witnessed in the last century, and as humanity as a whole deals with this calamity, some perspective on who, what, where, when and how we’re all getting through is a needed reminder of why we’re doing so in the first place.

Thus, Days of Rona, in some attempt to help document the state of things as they are now, both so help can be asked for and given where needed, and so that when this is over it can be remembered.

Thanks to all who participate. To read all the Days of Rona coverage, click here. — JJ Koczan

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Days of Rona: Julien Pras, Jimmy Kinast and Mat Gazeau of Mars Red Sky (Bordeaux, France)

How are you dealing with this crisis as a band? Have you had to rework plans at all? How is everyone’s health so far?

Mat: First of all, everybody is in good health so far. We were on tour till mid march and were heading to the next city when we got a phone call from the venue saying we can drive straight home as all the public manifestations were canceled, so we did.

Jimmy: We had to postpone a lot of club shows and we’re trying to reschedule summer festivals as well for 2021. The most complicated thing is that nobody can say today how long it will take before we’re authorized to organise shows again, pretty scary…

Julien: We’ll try to get together and practice again as soon as we’re free to do so!

What are the quarantine/isolation rules where you are?

Mat: We must stay at home. Still we can go out to work (if you cannot work from home), to buy food, to make a minimum of physical exercises, plus some other things… For these things we need a paper we fill ourselves saying what we do.

Jimmy: The government said on April 13th that they will gradually open some stores, let people go back to their work and children go to school starting May 11th but bars and restaurants will stay closed for months…

How have you seen the virus affecting the community around you and in music?

Mat: It’s obvious as most of the bands/musicians around us rely on live shows to exist and to grow. Personally I live it as being temporarily unemployed for operational reasons.

However, I spend lot of time working on my instrument, I’m lucky enough to have a cabin in the woods where I can play drums and work on different exercises.

Also, I’m improvising myself as a teacher with my 11 years old son in the morning, we keep doing sport with my girlfriend on a weekly basis, and i have more time to read books.

Jimmy: I’m very lucky because I have a house and a garden, I spend a lot of time gardening and taking care of my chickens too…

Julien: Some artists in all fields are embracing the concept of digital communication to a extent that seems questionable.. Saying it’s a bad thing would be bogus, we even made a Beatles cover video with my sweetie, but it’s quite a pressure just to witness this endless stream of content washing over… Now I’m also fortunate enough to have a little home studio where I can stay busy mixing stuff, sketching out song ideas or riffs, fiddling with effect pedals.. And reading quite a lot too, switching from newspapers to fiction depending on my degree of anxiety.. Though so far we’ve managed to stay relatively serene in the household, considering the situation. We’re blessed with good health and a positive attitude… and a cat.

What is the one thing you want people to know about your situation, either as a band, or personally, or anything?

Mat: I try to keep in mind that even if the situation is extremely bad, we still have a roof, we have food (too much), and it’s not war!! These words have been used by our president which, to me, is a zealous, over-reacting message given to the population. Besides, that word was unnecessary and out of context, nobody is shooting at us, no bombs are falling from the sky, we don’t have to run out from our country, we just have to stay at home!

I am not undermining the situation, I find it sad and serious but I often see on social networks people complaining because they cannot go out and they get bored. It’s quite egocentric!

Much more horrible things are happening right now in Syria (for info: Bordeaux to Damas, Syria, is almost the same distance as LA to NYC), many countries in Africa don’t have enough food and people there die from famine and multiple diseases, but in our egocentric occidental state of mind, we just don’t give a fuck as none of this happened to us (yet).

Furthermore, what strikes me is that our medias can show an incredible ability to inform and react when a situation feels so close to home, when it knocks at our door, when it feels tangible. Horrible, similar and worst, issues are killing humans everyday already, be it famine, multiple diseases… but this happens so far away that we kind of see it in a passive way, we know it is there, we kind of mention it here and there in the news, say it is sad, then move on to our lives thinking “ok, that’s the fate of these places”, it is lived and accepted as THEIR fate, like WE are lucky and untouchable. Today, we realize that we can be affected and touched by similar issues, so we start panicking, all of a sudden we feel vulnerable, and we don’t like it, so we wanna feel heard, looked at, and taken care of, we cannot accept it as fate anymore, it takes another turn, now solutions have to be found quickly, it reached too close to home.

That is selfish to me, even more, it is dangerous behavior. It shows our capacity to willfully ignore the impact of big important issues when they are not literally touching us, regardless of the fact that they are in fact touching us, but indirectly, in a more passive way.

Take pollution for example, it kills at a bigger rate than the Covid-19, but we do not see it, it is not as tangible and fast, so we don’t react, we keep living and consuming in a blissfully unaware, irresponsible way, making us responsible for the death of thousands if not millions of people. If we can react now, if our government can take measures now, what prevented them from taking some measures many years ago to protect the planet? What prevented us from adopting a responsible behavior?

Where was daily front cover on every media? We are all guilty. We are responsible for destroying our planet, killing species, reducing their living environment and causing migration of species and humans. Bringing them closer leads to merging germs that shouldn’t meet in their natural environment and causes diseases to appear. Our behavior contributes to unbalancing the way nature works, and thus bringing war, famine and diseases all over the world. It is high time we open our eyes and see that the marching death band has been walking alongside us for a long time. What we finally accept to see now is nothing but a consequence of this biggest worldwide issue, it is a warning and we will face many more of these. If we are able to accept adapting our behavior now for the greater good, I hope we’ll be able to keep doing it once the quarantine is over.

Julien: May I add, it’s not exactly the first time the West has an epiphany, the crisis in 2008 for example. And a growing number of us are seeing the flaws and the limits of an aggressive liberal economy, the way it affects our lives in so many ways. Not to mention the ongoing ecological crisis that a lot of us are now aware of.
But we sure hope that it won’t be back to “business as usual” this time, that our governments will come up with at least a couple of progressive actions, and not just temporary ones… And that “exceptional measures” likely to come up and jeopardize our civil rights won’t apply forever!

Jimmy: There are some interesting things in that covid crisis. Speaking about civil rights for example: it’s really impressive how the population in Europe is ready to give away a lot of their freedom (lockdown, tracking, checking etc…). The whole population is supporting our leaders and scientists over here. We entrust them with saving the same amount of lives as during a famine or due to pollution within a very short span of time. Hope we can be that brave and involved if the big one hits because of global environmental issues. These last days in France a lot of producers and farmers had to organise a new way to distribute their goods and we can see a real change because more and more people are looking for local products and short-cut « the Big Market ». No plane for a few months is also very good news for the environment and seeing all these wild animals all over our cities makes some people think.

That crisis might be a chance for us because facts / science proved that going back to « normal » with economic growth as a main goal for a few is a suicide for all. We need to stop these « has-been » people because environmental questions can only be fixed if we connect them to worldwide social issues.

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