Howling Giant, The Space Between Worlds: Wherein Lies the Frontier

Posted in Reviews on October 11th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

howling giant the space between worlds

The Space Between Worlds, the Blues Funeral Recordings debut full-length from Nashville three-piece Howling Giant, ticks all its boxes. It pays off the potential of their prior short releases. It solidifies their approach to songwriting and helps set their course for their ultimate defining of who they are as a band. It rocks. It showcases an awareness of the whole-album form separate from simply a collected bunch of songs. It is full, clear in its intention, and produced in such a way as to bolster the music without any sense of mismatch between band, song and the recording helmed in continuing collaboration with Kim Wheeler. And yet all of this does little to convey the achievement the Tennessee progressive heavy rockers are making throughout.

As they follow-up their three EPs — 2017’s Black Hole Space Wizard: Part 2 (review here), its 2016 predecessor, Black Hole Space Wizard: Part 1 (review here), and their recently-reissued 2015 self-titled — guitarist/vocalist Tom Polzine and drummer/vocalist Zach Wheeler welcome bassist/vocalist Sebastian Baltes to the lineup (Kevin “Big Business” Dempsey also contributes on bass) and conjure a sound that is an amalgam of modern influences, from the uptempo, Torche-style sludge-pop burst of the opening salvo in “Comet Rider” and “Nomad” as well as the presumed side B opener “Cybermancer and the Doomsday Express,” the Ancestors-style organ-laden heavy prog roll of “The River Guide” and the expansive “Everlight,” the Elephant Tree-esque harmonies in the acoustic/piano turn brought about with third track “Ghosts in the Well,” and the sheer scope of harmonies throughout, from the fuzzy forward sprint of centerpiece “Ice Castle” (which brings in Jason Shi of ASG for a guest vocal spot) to the massive trilogy that closes the record in “Everlight,” “The Orb” and “Stone Giant.” With Drew David Harakal II returning to add keys/synth as on all their past releases, Howling Giant unite their material under a conceptual sci-fi narrative of a multi-dimensional huntress chasing a dream-eating gateway destroyer through various worlds — or something — and thereby add even further willfulness to what they’re doing. Oh, and they also make it fun.

And that last one turns out to be pretty crucial, because Howling Giant sound like they’re absolutely having a blast as they careen through “Comet Rider” at the start and cut the tempo to bring up the hook of “Nomad,” and that positive feeling so much communicated through the melody of the vocals is infectious. With just an undertone of Elder‘s proggy fluidity, “Nomad” and “The River Guide” — with “Ghosts in the Well” between them — are able to still convey a sense of enjoying their creation, and that finds answer later as “The Orb” gleefully chug-gallops its way toward the finale with a mosh part that at the turn of the century one might’ve called a breakdown. It’s shenanigans, either way. Pure and simple. But it still adds depth to the spoken word and piano drift of “The River Guide” and the quiet contemplations of “Ghosts in the Well,” in such a way that it’s not simply about Howling Giant goofing off — though it’s partially about that, to be sure — but also about their being able to turn their passion for playing together into part of The Space Between Worlds‘ essential character. That level of revelry becomes one of the album’s grandest statements. It is a celebration.

howling giant (Photo by Casey Moore)

However, it’s not lost in celebration. Especially topped with thoughtful arrangements of vocals as it is, The Space Between Worlds is never so lost in its own good times that it forgets either the individual task at hand in a song or how that song feeds into the record’s larger statement and plot. Howling Giant set a balance for themselves in sound and presentation alike, and when they need to, as on “The River Guide,” they show patience, and when they blast off in “Comet Rider” or “Cybermancer and the Doomsday Express,” they do so with suitable fervency. In either case, it’s the song and it’s the album that remain at the center of what they’re doing. I don’t know if individual tracks were written with the concept directly in mind or the narrative was applied later with lyrics after the music was done, etc., but the front-to-back flow of The Space Between Worlds isn’t to be understated, especially in how it comes through with side B pushing through to new levels of execution.

After the raucous four-minute open with “Cybermancer and the Doomsday Express,” Howling Giant round out The Space Between Worlds with its three longest tracks: “Everlight” (7:57), “The Orb” (7:08) and “Stone Giant” (6:17). It’s not so much that any of them directly touches on new stylistic ground for the band. Strictly speaking, they’re a forward step from the last EP, but of the same aesthetic ilk. The context has changed, however, and Howling Giant thrive across these three songs as they haven’t yet done to-date. They are the most upfront communication of scope that the album presents, and all the more so because of how obviously purposeful their placement and their complementing each other is.

“Everlight” announces its arrival with organ, airy guitar and vocals, and builds gradually over its first two-plus minutes to a sweeping progression given a tempo boost after the three-minute mark, and while its structure is linear, it’s nonetheless memorable for its hooky melody and standout lead work, going quietly into the unassuming drum-led beginning of “The Orb,” which unfolds and teases its turn to triplet-chug before it actually gets there at 2:01, the chill-down-spine energy immediate and the band ready to ride that moment for a while before breaking back to more melodic fare and returning — as they should — for a suitable crescendo that serves double for song and album alike.

A soft piano comedown transitions into the drums starting “Stone Giant” and it’s clear Howling Giant aren’t done yet in terms of energy. Rather, they finish out by tying together the choruses of “Comet Rider” and “Cybermancer and the Doomsday Express” with some of the offering’s more progressive fare, and, as one would hope, leave it to a massive rolling groove to carry the record to its end in raucous but ultimately graceful fashion that only portends of things to come. A next chapter? Pt. 2? Maybe, if not in concept. One way or the other, the potential Howling Giant show for future growth shouldn’t undercut the value of this accomplishment. The Space Between Worlds stands high among 2019’s best debut albums, but also among its best albums, period, and shows the three-piece as ready to enter a new level of consideration as a force of forward-thinking heavy rock and roll.

Howling Giant, The Space Between Worlds (2019)

Howling Giant on Thee Facebooks

Howling Giant on Bandcamp

Howling Giant on Instagram

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Blues Funeral Recordings website

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Howling Giant Set Sept. 27 Release for The Space Between Worlds

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 1st, 2019 by JJ Koczan

With a title invoking no less than the void of the cosmos itself, The Space Between Worlds is the upcoming long-player from Nashville progressive heavy rockers Howling Giant. The nine-tracker will be their debut on Blues Funeral Recordings and marks the arrival of bassist/vocalist Sebastian Baltes alongside guitarist/vocalist Tom Polzine and drummer/vocalist Zach Wheeler, and it’s out Sept. 27. That and the artwork and the tracklisting are pretty much what’s known about the thing to this point, plus a couple guest spots, including one from ASG‘s Jason Shi. I wouldn’t expect a Howling Giant release to be lacking flair anyhow, but that’s bound not to hurt the centerpiece track.

Howling Giant make a return appearance this month at Psycho Las Vegas, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a Fall tour announcement either follows that or precedes it, as the October touring landscape begins to really take shape, and Howling Giant are building a solid reputation as a touring act. Doesn’t seem like momentum they’d want to undercut, especially with the occasion of a full-length to celebrate.

Here’s looking forward to all of it.

From their Bandcamp:

howling giant the space between worlds

Howling Giant – The Space Between Worlds – September 27

The Space Between Worlds is a concept album that follows the story of a huntress who travels the infinite metaphysical worlds brought into being by the dreams of humankind. In these realms, she encounters a dream eater which threatens to unravel the fabric of reality by devouring dreamers and destroying the dimensional gateways.

With the addition of new bassist Sebastian Baltes (son of longtime ACCEPT bassist Peter Baltes) to the band, the band has expanded their already impressive vocal harmony approach with the addition of a third voice. Friend of the band Drew Harakal adds extra sonic textures to the album with his organ and synth skills. And Jason Shi of ASG appears with a guest vocal cameo on the track Ice Castle.

Highlighting the band’s tremendous musical prowess and versatility, The Space Between Worlds is a warp trail of heavy rock and roll so weird it can only be called progressive, giving space to every sonic weapon in Howling Giant’s arsenal, and all bound by the album’s central concept and the members’ towering musicianship.

Engineered and mixed by Kim Wheeler
Mastered by Dave Shirk and Ryan Butler at Sonorous Mastering
Cover Art by Lindsey Camelio
Gatefold Art by Sue Davies

Releases September 27, 2019.

Tracklisting:
1. Comet Rider
2. Nomad
3. Ghosts in The Well
4. The River Guide
5. Ice Castle
6. Cybermancer and The Doomsday Express
7. Everlight
8. The Orb
9. Stone Giant

Howling Giant is:
Sebastian Baltes – Bass/Vocals
Tom Polzine – Guitar/Vocals
Zach Wheeler – Drums/Vocals

Additional Musicians:
Drew David Harakal II–Organ/Piano/Synths
Jason Shi – Additional Lead Vocals on track 5
Kevin “Big Business” Dempsey – Bass on tracks 1, 5, and 7

howlinggiant.bandcamp.com
www.facebook.com/howlinggiant/
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bluesfuneral.com

Howling Giant, Black Hole Space Wizard: Part 2 (2017)

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All Them Witches European Tour Starts April 11

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 8th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

all them witches (photo by JJ Koczan)

Having recently had occasion to see All Them Witches on stage in their trio incarnation (review here), I can only advise it. They’re pretty clearly feeling out the dynamic as a three-piece, but in so doing they’re able to bring a new sense of purpose to their jams, and to use space in their sound in a way they never have before. It’s interesting on a creative level and, even better, it kicks ass to see. I said when they had four members that each of them were necessary for what they were doing, and that was true. Their workaround seem to be in developing a new approach to how they function as a band, and it’s one that suits them, the rawer edge of guitar, bass, drums and vocals allowing them to dig into organic atmospheres as they never have before. I don’t know if they’ll stay that way or what will happen, but then it seems all the more reason to catch them now.

They play Desertfest in Berlin and London on this tour and numerous club shows, some of which are already sold out. Looks like a good tour, and it starts in just a couple days. Dig it:

all them witches europe tour 2019

All Them Witches – European Tour 2019

Thu 11 Apr Helsinki FINLAND – On the Rocks
Sat 13 Apr Oslo NORWAY – Rockefeller / John DEE / Sentrum Scene
Sun 14 Apr Stockholm SWEDEN – Debaser
Mon 15 Apr Copenhagen DENMARK – Hotel Cecil – SOLD OUT!
Wed 17 Apr Leffinge BELGIUM – Muziekclub De Zwerver
Thu 18 Apr Sint-Niklaas BELGIUM – Concertzaal De Casino
Fri 19 Apr Hasselt BELGIUM – Muziekodroom
Sat 20 Apr – Schinjndel NETHERLANDS – Paaspop
Mon 22 Apr Paris FRANCE – La Maroquinerie – SOLD OUT!
Wed 24 Apr Madrid SPAIN – SALA CARACOL MADRID
Thu 25 Apr Barcelona SPAIN – Razzmatazz
Fri 26 Apr Nimes FRANCE – Paloma / SMAC de Nîmes Métropole
Sat 27 Apr Milan ITALY – Bloom
Mon 29 Apr Vienna AUSTRIA – ARENA WIEN
Tue 30 Apr Prague CZ – Rock Café Prague
Wed 01 May Poznan POLAND _ Klub u Bazyla
Thu 02 May Warsaw POLAND – Klub Hydrozagadka
Fri 03 May Berlin GERMANY – DesertFest Berlin
Sat 04 May Nijmegen NETHERLANDS – Sonic Whip
Sun 05 May London UK – Desertfest London
Mon 06 May Brighton UK – The Haunt Brighton – SOLD OUT!
Wed 08 May Manchester UK – Band on the Wall – SOLD OUT!
Thu 09 May Cardiff UK – Clwb Ifor Bach – SOLD OUT!

http://allthemwitches.bandcamp.com/
http://www.facebook.com/allthemwitches
https://www.instagram.com/allthemwitchesband/
https://twitter.com/allthemwitches
http://www.allthemwitches.org/

All Them Witches, ATW (2018)

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GIVEAWAY: Win Tickets to All Them Witches’ March Tour

Posted in Features on February 28th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

all them witches

[To enter giveaway: Leave a comment on this post with the name of the city where you want to see the show. Make sure your email is in the form provided so I can contact you if you win.]

So here’s the deal: All Them Witches start a tour tomorrow of the Midwest and Eastern Seaboard, ranging as far as Minneapolis and Milwaukee, Burlington and Montreal, and Atlanta and Durham. It’s 23 days of total roadtime, as the now-trio continue to support last year’s ATW (review here). I’ve been given the chance to give away a pair of tickets to any of the shows on this tour — they’re all listed below, but obviously, as the tour starts March 1 — aka tomorrow — it’s gotta be done on the quick.

Thus, a rush. If you can go see All Them Witches sometime in the next three-plus weeks, just leave a comment on this post and let me know what city. If you win, I’ll email you and let you know. I’m going to pick a winner as soon as possible this weekend, but if you’re in Atlanta or Charlotte, North Carolina, it might be tricky. I’m not saying don’t enter, but I’m not saying cancel grandpa’s birthday on account of the surefire evening plans either.

Pretty simple deal, all told. Here are the tour dates:

All Them Witches w/ Plague Vendor:
Mar 1 – Atlanta, GA @ Terminal West
Mar 2 – Charlotte, NC @ Visulite Theatre
Mar 5 – Louisville, KY @ Zanzabar
Mar 6 – Indianapolis, IN @ Hi-Fi
Mar 7 – Chicago, IL @ Lincoln Hall
Mar 8 – Milwaukee, WI @ The Back Room at Colectivo Coffee
Mar 9 – Minneapolis, MN @ Fine Line Music Cafe
Mar 10 – Madison, WI @ High Noon
Mar 12 – Grand Rapids, MI @ The Stache
Mar 13 – Ferndale, MI @ Magic Bag
Mar 14 – Cleveland Heights, OH @ Grog Shop
Mar 15 – Buffalo, NY @ Mohawk Place
Mar 16 – Toronto, ON @ Opera House
Mar 17 – Montreal, QC @ L’Astral
Mar 19 – South Burlington, VT @ Showcase Lounge
Mar 20 – Cambridge, MA @ The Sinclair
Mar 21 – New York, NY @ Bowery Ballroom
Mar 22 – Philadelphia, PA @ First Unitarian Church
Mar 23 – Washington, DC @ Rock & Roll Hotel
Mar 24 – Durham, NC @ Motorco Music Hall

As ever, I keep no emails, I sell no emails. I have no interest in or knowledge of such things. The only reason I want your email address is to tell you if you win. Thanks for reading and for your support. Good luck to all who enter.

[To enter giveaway: Leave a comment on this post with the name of the city where you want to see the show. Make sure your email is in the form provided so I can contact you if you win.]

http://allthemwitches.bandcamp.com/
http://www.facebook.com/allthemwitches
https://www.instagram.com/allthemwitchesband/
https://twitter.com/allthemwitches
http://www.allthemwitches.org/

All Them Witches, ATW (2018)

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Howling Giant Remaster Self-Titled EP; Tour to SXSW and Beyond; Working on Debut Album

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 21st, 2019 by JJ Koczan

howling giant

I wrote a bio this past weekend for Howling Giant that, at least I hope, will be of some use as they move toward the completion and release of their debut full-length later this year. That’ll be nifty. In the meantime, to tide over we plebes, the Nashville trio are set to issue a remastered vinyl version of their 2015 self-titled debut four-song EP through Blues Funeral Recordings, and as the PR wire notes below, they’ll also take part in Ripple Music‘s upcoming successor to the The Second Coming of Heavy split series, called Turn to Stone, and Magnetic Eye‘s Alice in Chains homage, Dirt [Redux]. Do you wonder what song they’re doing? I do.

Because this is what happens when a band is so utterly restless, they’ll also head out on tour. Next month they’ll hit up the SX Stoner Jam along with the rest of the planet except for me because I’m not cool enough, and then in April it’s off to Psycho Smoke Out in L.A., which I’m also not cool enough for. Points to me for consistency and points to the band for not being able to sit still. Gotta go, gotta go.

I’ll hope to post that bio here sooner or later, but the PR wire sums up all their doings thusly:

HOWLING GIANT Announce Spring US Tour with Stops at SXSW Stoner Jam and Psycho Smokeout

Cosmic psych-metallers drop much-demanded vinyl EP and break in their new bassist on the road; full album due this summer.

If ever there was a band who seemed to be following a treasure map from humble origins to future psych-metal stardom, it’s Howling Giant. And 2019 is shaping up to be their biggest year yet.

First, the interplanetary riff-rockers will see their self-titled debut EP get an official release from Blues Funeral Recordings.

Featuring EC Comics-inspired artwork by Darren Merinuk and all tracks fully remastered by Dave Shirk (Mastodon, The Obsessed), the March 22nd release of this glorious slab on digital and wax marks the band’s first-ever vinyl offering, giving longtime supporters the chance (at last) to bring home a tangible piece of Howling Giant heaviness after watching them tear up yet another stage.

Available for pre-order at this location.

And speaking of tearing up stages, the band is just starting to gear up for a huge year on the road, with a clutch of dates in March leading straight into an almost month-long tour in April/May.

Featuring a string of shows with Indiana’s Archarus, the back-to-back tours include slots at the ever-popular South by Southwest Stoner Jam as well as the fest you’re guaranteed to forget (or you’re doing it wrong), the Psycho Smokeout (from the folks who bring you Psycho Las Vegas).

Full tour dates for Howling Giant Spring 2019 are:
3/12/19: Lafayette, LA – Freetown Boom Boom Room *
3/13/19: Houston, TX – Dan Electros *
3/14/19: Austin, TX – SXSW Stoner Jam (feat. Howling Giant, Riff Lord, Backwoods Payback, Duel, Heavy Temple, Mountain Tamer, Hazytones, ZED and more) *
3/15/19: Arlington, TX – Division Brewing *
3/16/19: Texarkana, AR – Broadway Sports Bar and Billiards *
4/12/19: Memphis, TN – Hi Tone
4/13/19: Little Rock, AR – Vino’s
4/15/19: Oklahoma City, OK – 89th st. OKC
4/16/19: San Antonio,TX – Lime Light
4/17/19: Albuquerque, NM – Sister Bar
4/19/19: San Diego, CA – The Salty Frog
4/20/19: Los Angeles, LA – Psycho Smokeout (feat. Elder, Monolord, Goya, R.I.P., Electric Citizen and more)
4/21/19: San Francisco, CA – Bottom of the Hill
4/23/19: Seattle, WA – Highline
4/24/19: Bend, OR – Third Street Pub
4/25/19: Portland, OR – Tonic
4/27/19: Salt Lake City, UT – Kilby Court
4/28/19: Denver, CO – Hi-Dive
5/01/19: Indianapolis, IN – Black Circle brewing
5/02/19: Chicago, IL – Reggies Music Room
5/03/19: Canton, OH – Buzzbin
5/04/19: Lexington, KY – Green Lantern
* Dates with Archarus

As if that wasn’t enough, Howling Giant are hard at work on their first-ever full-length album, which they’ll be sending to all ends of the cosmos later this summer in conjunction with, you guessed it, more touring.

Furthermore, the band are rumored to be one of the first bands tapped to appear on Ripple Music’s forthcoming Turn to Stone series of split releases, as well as having confirmed a coveted spot on Magnetic Eye Records’ next anxiously-awaited curated homage, Dirt [Redux].

Fortunately, there’s no such thing as too much Howling Giant in this world… or any other.

howlinggiant.bandcamp.com
twitter.com/howlinggiant
www.facebook.com/howlinggiant/
https://www.facebook.com/bluesfuneral/
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Howling Giant, Howling Giant EP (2015)

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All Them Witches Announce Lineup Change; Band to Continue as Trio

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 29th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Well, every All Them Witches record has been different from the one before it, and no matter what else happens, that’s bound to be the case with their next one as well. In an announcement posted over the weekend, the Nashville heavy-psych blues forerunners made public the departure of keyboardist Jonathan Draper. Draper was, of course, their second organist, taking the place of founding member Allan Van Cleave, who left the band prior to the recording of their latest album, ATW (review here). The stated intention is to carry on as the core three-piece, though if you have Rhodes and will travel, I wouldn’t not hit them up, since as bassist/vocalist Charles Michael Parks, Jr. says in the statement below, it’s an “indefinite” change. That hardly means forever.

Parks, guitarist Ben McLeod and drummer Robby Staebler certainly want for nothing as regards chemistry between them, so while that dynamic will inherently change without a fourth member, one expects they’ll come through. It might be an album or two getting settled, but the fact that they tour so hard invariably means that if there’s something to figure out musically or in terms of their presentation, they’ll have plenty of opportunity to do so. These guys have earned a good amount of trust in my book at this point.

Here’s what Parks had to say:

all them witches (Photo by Ryan Musick)

Hi there, time to talk about change!

Robby, Ben and I have been making music together for 6 years, and since then we have had an insane array of friends and family come and go through our musical life. We love all of them, we cherish all of them and their time, and talent. We want to celebrate the time we have spent together. Since our formation, the one goal I have had for this band is to be open, vulnerable, and willing to love and adapt to change as it presents itself.

That being said, we have decided to proceed in our musical experience as a 3 piece band, indefinitely. The power trio has been a huge part of rock tradition, and we are happy to join the ranks. I know this may be disappointing to some of you who have known us for awhile, and I fully understand the hesitation when the “known” becomes “unknown.” But what I want to say is, we love music, and there would be no reason for us to go on the road or endure what we endure if not for the transformative power of music. It is an ancient pull, and I don’t know exactly where it comes from, but we are knee deep and wading out.

Sincerely, thank you for supporting and trusting us. We have all rooted ourselves into the lives of each other, us to you, and in kind, you to us. There is no way to describe sharing the band/fan connection every night, but we are overjoyed to experience it with you.

-Parks ATW

http://allthemwitches.bandcamp.com/
http://www.facebook.com/allthemwitches
https://www.instagram.com/allthemwitchesband/
https://twitter.com/allthemwitches
http://www.allthemwitches.org/

All Them Witches, ATW (2018)

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All Them Witches, ATW: When the Process of Becoming Becomes the Process

Posted in Reviews on September 18th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

all them witches atw

It’s been a quick turnaround to get All Them Witches to their fifth album. Based in Nashville, Tennessee, the four-piece have barely held still since the release of their 2012 debut, Our Mother Electricity (review here), issuing what would become a landmark in their second album, 2013’s Lightning at the Door (review here), and then becoming a touring band, signing to New West Records and continuing to press forward to bigger rooms, longer tours and an ever-present slew of digital one-off EP — the latest of which, the Lost and Found EP (review here), arrived earlier this year — singles, live recordings, and so on. Following up 2015’s predominantly mellow and melancholy Dying Surfer Meets His Maker (review here), the band broke with their LP-per-year tradition and released their fourth full-length in last year’s Sleeping Through the War (review here). Though signature elements have been retained — the restless drumming of Robby Staebler, the bluesy jams led by guitarist Ben McLeod, the strong use of Rhodes piano and other keys, the creative basslines and increasingly confident vocals of Charles Michael Parks, Jr. — no two All Them Witches records have sounded alike, and Sleeping Through the War was again a departure.

Produced by Dave Cobb, it was an elaborate production involving background singers, guest instrumentation, and a broader scope than anything the band had yet produced. In their fifth long-player, the 56-minute ATW, they have offered a willful contradiction. McLeod takes the helm as producer — Grant Husselman recorded and Rob Schnapf mixed — and the eight resultant tracks are a distinct pivot toward a more stripped-down, naturalist approach. They eschew choral vibes in favor of the raw boogie of “Fishbelly 86 Onions,” launching the album with a couple telling seconds of show’s-about-to-start noise before kicking into the song itself. Indeed, most of what follows, from the winding turns of “1st vs. 2nd” into the dreamy and jammy reaches of the closing salvo “Harvest Feast,” “HTJC” and “Rob’s Dream,” feels built for the stage, whether it’s uptempo and relatively straightforward like “Half-Tongue” or the memorable and Western-slide-tinged second track “Workhorse,” All Them Witches still manage to cast a varied atmospheric impression while pulling the arrangements back to ground.

No doubt at least a portion of the credit — a fourth, maybe? — for that goes to new keyboardist Jonathan Draper, who here steps into the role formerly occupied by Allan Van Cleave. Those are not minor shoes to fill. In addition to having been a founding member, Van Cleave‘s Rhodes melodies added to the dreamy psychedelic stretches of All Them Witches‘ jams and made their blues all the more resonant. Even more to his credit, Draper lives up to the task, and from the wildman organ in “Fishbelly 86 Onions” and the subtle background tone of “Workhorse,” he makes his presence felt as an essential component alongside Parks, McLeod and Staebler in a fashion that makes the familiar aspect his own. The personality in his playing can be heard in “Half-Tongue” and the post-midsection sprawl of “Harvest Feast,” which tops 11 minutes and follows the moody highlight “Diamond” in order to lead into the back end of the record, and though there’s a sense of his integration still being in-process — that is, one gets the feeling that he’ll have even more to say in the arrangements next time around — he steps into a collection of tracks that stand on the strength of their songwriting and performance and plays a crucial role in letting them do just that.

all them witches

From everyone in the band, there’s a gleeful sense of defiance here. All Them Witches have always enjoyed contradiction — Lightning at the Door was heavy, so Dying Surfer Meets His Maker wasn’t, etc. — but ATW might be their most purposeful one to-date. It is the band reclaiming their identity. No coincidence McLeod is producer on it. After their more elaborate production to-date, they’re keeping it in-house, holding firm to the approach that’s gotten them to where they are and, through these songs, making a statement of what they want to be as a band and how they want their material to function. Granted, that’s an awful lot of narrative to read into it, and it’s not like they have a song called “We’re All Them Witches and You Can Kiss Our Collective Ass” or anything like that, but through the focus on their performance and the sheer will with which they execute “1st vs. 2nd,” “Diamond,” the experimental-feeling “HTJC” — which for much of its run is just Parks‘ vocals in folkish form backed by bass and a gradual, acoustic-laced build — it’s not a stretch to hear that All Them Witches, either consciously or not, are doing the work of regrounding themselves, reaffirming their methods and their desire to play not just in a certain style or styles, but however they want, whenever they want, wherever they want.

In the interest of full disclosure, I was hired to write the bio for the album and spoke to Parks as a part of that process about the songwriting and recording process. But even so, in listening, I keep going back to “Fishbelly 86 Onions.” It’s not like anything else the band brings to ATW, and inarguably their most active moment on the record. As the opener, it’s also an outlier, but in the howl leading into Draper‘s organ solo before the song hits the two-minute mark, there’s so much revelry in the spirit of the track that it’s almost like a breaking out. They’ve busted through whatever confines they were in and are running full sprint toward, what, themselves? I don’t know, but hearing Parks count from one to 20 as part of the lyrics, the fuzz in McLeod‘s guitar and the jazzy swing in Staebler‘s cymbals, there’s a torrential feeling of chaosmaking that’s just so much fun-as-a-statement that it affects everything that follows. The rim-ticks of “Workhorse,” the aggression at root in “1st vs. 2nd,” the storytelling in “Half-Tongue,” the progressive tension in “Diamond,” bluesy range of “Harvest Feast,” glorious wash in the payoff of “HTJC” and meld of psychedelia and classic heavy rocking starts and stops in “Rob’s Dream” — they all seem to draw from the plentiful energetic well of “Fishbelly 86 Onions,” and there’s enough left by the final moments of “Rob’s Dream” that All Them Witches jam their way through an upbeat payoff that finds all four members of the band at the height of their powers, still not overstated, but playing through with the deceptive class and chemistry that, as much as anything else, has become a hallmark of their sound.

Even unto its title, ATW is indicative of the intent on the part of the band to stake their claim on who they are. And it’s not even a full self-titled. It’s the acronym. Nothing extra, nothing more than it wants to be. Of course, they’re still a deeply nuanced band as they’ve always been, and there’s growth in their craft and in their performance, as there’s always been, but that’s all part of what makes All Them Witches who they are. I don’t know whether McLeod will produce their sixth offering or if they’ll once again look to someone outside themselves, if that record will expand on what’s here or draw even further back. One thing it’s never been safe to do is predict where All Them Witches will end up, because while they’ve never stopped moving forward, that “forward” is a path that seems likewise to veer in multiple directions at once. The passion that drives them is not only evident in ATW but key to the album’s overall success, and it’s refreshing to hear a band who, five records deep into their tenure, can sound both mature as a unit and like they’re still only beginning their exploration.

All Them Witches, “Diamond” official video

All Them Witches on Thee Facebooks

All Them Witches on Bandcamp

All Them Witches on Instagram

New West Records website

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Here’s the Bio I Wrote for All Them Witches’ ATW

Posted in Features on August 1st, 2018 by JJ Koczan

all them witches

A couple months back, I had the distinct pleasure of being asked to write the bio for the next All Them Witches album. Titled simply ATW, it’s a marked shift in approach from the preceding Sleeping Through the War (review here) not only in that it marks the introduction of Jonathan Draper on keys, but also in terms of overall production. Helmed by guitarist Ben McLeod, it’s the first time the Nashville four-piece have recorded themselves for a full-length offering. It pulls back on some of its predecessor’s more elaborate, “produced” feel and instead captures the natural interplay between the four members of the band. In short, it’s a more live-sounding, stage-ready album. And obviously I jumped at the chance to write the bio for it.

ATW is out Sept. 28 on New West Records. You can stream the opening track “Fishbelly 86 Onions” at the bottom of this post, and thanks for reading:

all them witches atw

All Them Witches – ATW

By most bands’ fifth LP, the sound is pretty set. Parameters established. Refinement dissipated in favor of formulaic execution of what’s worked in the past. Fair enough. All Them Witches take a harder route.

In 2017, the Nashville four-piece offered what might’ve otherwise become their own template in their fourth album, Sleeping Through The War. Their second for New West Records following 2015’s mellow-vibing Dying Surfer Meets His Maker, Sleeping brought larger production value to dug-in heavy psych blues jamming with oversight from producer Dave Cobb (Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson).

After exploring new ground on 2013’s Lightning At The Door and 2012’s Our Mother Electricity as well as Dying Surfer, with Sleeping the band had arrived at something new, something sprawling, and grander-feeling than anything before it.

So naturally, in a year’s time they’ve thrown that all to the Appalachian wind, turned the process completely on its head and reversed paths: recording in a cabin in Kingston Springs, about 20 miles outside of Nashville on I-40, with guitarist Ben McLeod at the helm. Take that, expectation.

The result, mixed by Rob Schnapf (Beck, Elliott Smith, Kurt Vile), is the most intimate, human-sounding album All Them Witches have ever recorded and another redefinition of the band. Introducing keyboardist/percussionist Jonathan Draper to the fold with McLeod, bassist/vocalist Charles Michael Parks, Jr., and drummer/graphic artist Robby Staebler, the new eponymous record isn’t self-titled by mistake. It’s the band confirming and continuing to develop their approach, in the shuffle of “Fishbelly 86 Onions,” the organ-laced groove of “Half-Tongue,” the tense build of “HJTC” and the fluid jam in closer “Rob’s Dream.”

It’s a reaction to being a “bigger” band. To playing bigger shows, bigger tours, etc. From the sustained consonants in Parks’ vocals to McLeod’s commanding slide in “Workhorse” and drifting melancholy at the outset of “Harvest Feast,” All Them Witches is there laying claim to the essential facets of their identity. And the urgency of these tracks – fast pushers and sleepy jams alike – is among their greatest strengths.

It’s a rawer delivery, as stage-ready as the band itself, and as ever, it captures All Them Witches in this moment. Is it who they’ll be tomorrow? Who the hell knows? Check back in and we’ll all find out together. That’s the whole idea.

TRACKLIST:
Fishbelly 86 Onions
Workhorse
1st vs. 2nd
Half-Tongue
Diamond
Harvest Feast
HJTC
Rob’s Dream

All Them Witches is:
Charles Michael Parks, Jr
Ben McLeod
Robby Staebler
Jonathan Draper

http://allthemwitches.bandcamp.com/
http://www.facebook.com/allthemwitches
https://www.instagram.com/allthemwitchesband/
https://twitter.com/allthemwitches
http://www.allthemwitches.org/

All Them Witches, ATW (2018)

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