Friday Full-Length: Monster Magnet, Superjudge

Posted in Bootleg Theater on December 14th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Monster Magnet, Superjudge (1993)

Lest we forget that as the West Coast was laying the groundwork for what would become the signature desert style over the next several years, back east, Monster Magnet were kissing the mouth of the scorpion with some of the finest drug rock ever created. Superjudge, released 25 years ago in 1993, was the New Jersey-based band’s second full-length, arriving behind Spine of God (discussed here; reissue review here), which saw its US release the previous year. That album is a classic and I’m not about to take anything away from it, or the Tab…25 EP (reissue review here; discussed here) that came out after, but Superjudge was a moment of several milestones and pivotal moves for the group, who by then were already working distinctly under the direction of frontman and principle songwriter Dave Wyndorf.

First, it was their debut outing for A&M Records, a major label. Their earliest non-demo releases came out through Glitterhouse in Europe and Caroline in the US, but signing to a major would not only bring them to a wider sphere of listeners, but turned attention to a heavy underground boom taking shape in Central Jersey at the time. Second, it was the band’s first album with Ed Mundell on lead guitar, which was a position he would hold until 2010. Mundell took the spot previously held by John McBain (also brilliant), and his arrival would help solidify Monster Magnet‘s burgeoning approach to songcraft and his playing became an essential facet in not only the absolutely molten feel of Superjudge tracks like “Dinosaur Vacume,” “Twin Earth,” “Superjudge” and the effects-soaked Hawkwind cover “Brainstorm,” but in the developing persona of the band on subsequent offerings Dopes to Infinity (discussed here) in 1995, Powertrip in 1998, God Says No in 2001, 2004’s Monolithic Baby!, 2007’s 4-Way Diablo and 2010’s Mastermind (review here). During this era, his presence in the group would be second only to that of Wyndorf in terms of defining who Monster Magnet were and what they were about.

In 1993, they were about freaking the fuck out. They broke out some sitar on closer “Black Balloon,” and backed by the rhythm section of bassist Joe Calandra and drummer Jon Kleiman, captured fuzzy forward drive on “Twin Earth” with a swing that even a quarter-century after the fact bleeds its swagger from the speakers. The power of Superjudge isn’t just in its atmosphere — though there’s plenty of that in the layers of effects and kitchen-sink instrumentation used — it’s in the band. With Spine of God, the record’s brilliant. Utterly brilliant. For the title-track alone, it should be taught in middle schools across the planet as to how you rock and roll in order to expand minds. What Superjudge did was to take that studio vibe and show how it could be sustainable, monster magnet superjudgeshow how it could be done on stage, and begin to solidify it as a developing creative process. As much of a haze seemed to surround the title-track, or the watery acoustics in “Cage Around the Sun,” which followed, with its percussion, Eastern inflection and sitar drone, there was a straightforward, structured undercurrent to the material. That was true on some of Spine of God as well, but Superjudge moved the balance ever so slightly. In its aforementioned cover of Hawkwind and take on Howlin’ Wolf-via-Cactus in “Evil,” it drew a line directly to ’70s vibes in a way that was an aberration for the era, and even in the subsequent blowout “Stadium” or the ultra-hairy “Face Down,” it demonstrated the songwriting modus that would become Monster Magnet‘s own all the more over time.

But Superjudge is more than a bridge from Spine of God to Dopes to Infinity, and its 11 tracks hold up brilliantly to the passage of time. The backbeat of “Brainstorm.” The swirl and cosmic declarations of “Elephant Bell.” The raw tonality of “Twin Earth.” Superjudge continues to read like a blueprint for how to do heavy psychedelia and make it rock. Like if The MC5 and The Stooges decided they wanted to go Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. Maybe the cover art tells the whole story. If you look at the background, it’s trippy and colorful and the logo and title are all “I’m gonna eat a mountain of pills,” but then you look at that picture of the band’s kinda-mascot, the Bullgod. He’s pissed. There’s an aggression there. It’s mean. Superjudge has that intense side to it. It’s not always what’s up front, because the record is still dynamic and it goes any number of places in its songs, but that clenched-teeth, ring-through-the-septum immediacy can’t be faked. It’s either in there or not, and one of the most powerful aspects of Superjudge is that at any given moment, it might absolutely explode in your face. I don’t care how laid back “Cyclops Revolution” sounds at the outset, it still caps with the line, “I’ve got mine, fuck you.”

That component in Monster Magnet would help them for years be wrongly classified as so many were as a metal band. True enough they were heavy — still are — but metal? Come on. Even Mastermind, which was about as big-of-tone as they’ve been interested in getting to-date, wasn’t really metal. On Superjudge, they’re a psychedelic heavy rock band. They’d move on from the lysergic elements over the course of Powertrip and God Says No, but in the change from Mastermind to 2013’s Last Patrol (review here), they brought back some of those weirdo impulses, and pushed them further in the screw-around-with-past-work of 2014 and 2015’s Milking the Stars (review here) and Cobras and Fire (review here) — redux versions of Last Patrol and Mastermind, respectively, that only emphasized Monster Magnet‘s ability and willingness to do whatever the hell they wanted at any given time. See also 2018’s Mindfucker (review here), which, in case you missed it, was called Mindfucker. Take that.

Aside from their hailing from my beloved Garden State and being the stewards of the Mid-Atlantic heavy underground in a way that New York — nifty though it is — was always too punk rock to be, Monster Magnet went a long way toward defining themselves on Superjudge, and it remains an album that shows just how on their own plane they were at the time. Fortunately, that is something that has continued to be the case throughout their career.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

Okay. We’re there. Next week my top 30 of the year goes up. Blamo. This weekend on Gimme Radio, ‘The Obelisk Show’ also has a kind-of-sort-of-some-of-the-best-of-2018 thing going. Really, that’s what it’s called. Monster Magnet are on it. You should listen. Sunday, 7PM Eastern. On the internet.

Also next week, a review of the Mansion album, which rules. I guess that’s the short version. Stay tuned for the long one. Also Deep Space Destructors, a couple snazzy video premieres, a bunch of news I need to catch up on, and all that good stuff.

Thanks for reading that 100-album Quarterly Review if you did. My desktop still has a bunch of records on it, but it was good to get through that stuff. Some of it had been waiting a while. I hope you found something you dug. I did.

I’d love to stick around and bum everyone out by bitching about whatever, but the truth is I’ve got a fucking ton of writing to do — a lineup announcement for Freak Valley that will have already been posted by the time this is and liner notes for the Elder PostWax release — so you’ll pardon me if I check out and get to it. I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Please don’t forget the forum and radio stream and merch and year-end poll.

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Finn Ryan Announces Departure from The Atomic Bitchwax

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 11th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

the atomic bitchwax

At the time, when Finn Ryan started playing guitar and singing in The Atomic Bitchwax alongside bassist/vocalist Chris Kosnik and then-drummer Keith Ackerman — since replaced by Bob Pantella — the question was how the New Jersey-based three-piece would ever recover from the departure of guitarist Ed Mundell. Ryan, who did not participate in the Bitchwax‘s Summer 2018 European tour and today announces his own departure from the band, would play on five studio albums — the bulk of their catalog — and form a dynamic with Kosnik and Pantella in the studio and on stage that was largely unmatched. With an intent to get and stay clean, Ryan will look ahead to new projects.

Now also serving as the rhythm section of Monster Magnet, Kosnik and Pantella recruited that band’s lead guitarist, Garrett Sweeney, to fill the third spot on the last tour, but no word on whether that’s a permanent situation. The Atomic Bitchwax are just one of the Tee Pee Records acts slated to take part in Desertfest NYC 2019 next May.

I helped Ryan put together this announcement and was humbled to be asked to do so:

finn ryan the atomic bitchwax

Guitarist Finn Ryan to Leave The Atomic Bitchwax

Guitarist/vocalist Finn Ryan of New Jersey-based heavy rockers has announced his departure from the band. Ryan, who also founded Core in 1996, joined The Atomic Bitchwax in 2005, revitalizing the band founded by bassist/vocalist Chris Kosnik after a split with original guitarist Ed Mundell.

Ryan’s first album with The Atomic Bitchwax was 2005’s 3, and he would go on to play with them through the Boxriff EP/live album, 2008’s T4B, 2011’s The Local Fuzz, 2015’s Gravitron and 2017’s Force Field. Following The Local Fuzz, the three-piece of Kosnik, Ryan and drummer Bob Pantella commenced an album cycle of busier touring in the US, Europe and beyond, and Gravitron took on a harder-hitting, ultra-tight sound because of it.

Ryan did not participate in the band’s latest European run in July/August, ceding guitar duties to Garrett Sweeney (also Monster Magnet). He elaborates on the decision:

“After the last tour we did in the States, I decided to enter rehab for my addiction issues. For a long time, I have struggled with anxiety and depression which led to unhealthy coping methods. My situation became so critical that I had to enter treatment and unfortunately miss a European tour.

“While in treatment, I came to understand my health is the most important thing in my life, and, consequently, I have decided to take a step back and stop performing with The Atomic Bitchwax.”

The interplay of Ryan not only on guitar but in sharing vocal duties with Kosnik helped redefine The Atomic Bitchwax’s dynamic as unmistakable along the Eastern Seaboard or elsewhere. In 2013, Kosnik joined Pantella as a member of Monster Magnet, but still, The Atomic Bitchwax kept to a busy schedule of recording and touring.

“I’ve had an amazing last 13 years with Bob and Chris — two incredibly talented musicians and really great people,” Ryan notes. “I’ve also had the pleasure of meeting tons of awesome fans, and fellow musicians who have kindly reached out to me to show their support.”

Signed to Tee Pee Records, The Atomic Bitchwax have been confirmed for the lineup of the inaugural Desertfest New York in 2019. No word on whether Sweeney or another player will step into the guitarist role.

As for Ryan, he says, “With this new outlook on life, I plan on moving forward with my music, and am currently working on some new projects and always have room to consider working with other touring musicians. Anyone interested in getting in touch with me, can hit me up on Instagram at @FinnFRyan, and/or finnfryan@gmail.com.”

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The Atomic Bitchwax, “Hippie Speedball” official video

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Quarterly Review: Blood of the Sun, Evoken, IAH, Asylum, Merlin, The Hazytones, Daily Thompson, Old Man Lizard, Tuskar, Space Coke

Posted in Reviews on December 11th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review

I had to think long and hard just now about what day it is. It’s Tuesday. — See how confident I was in saying that? A mask for insecurity, as always.

Anyway, the QR continues today with 10 more records and a pretty solid mix of whatnot. Some of this I’ve written about before here, but basically want to have another shot at the records themselves, so as we wind down 2018, it seems like the time to do that is now. As always, I hope you find something you dig. Seems pretty likely, frankly. If you go the entire 100 records with nothing but a “meh” to show for it, the problem isn’t likely to be the records. Not trying to insinuate anything, I’m just saying. 100 records is a lot. 10 records is a lot. And that’s what we’re doing today, so let’s get going.

Quarterly Review #61-70:

Blood of the Sun, Blood’s Thicker than Love

blood of the sun bloods thicker than love

Drummer Henry Vasquez (also Saint Vitus) returns to his ultra-Texan heavy rock roots with Blood of the Sun‘s first album in six years, Blood’s Thicker than Love (on Listenable). Driven by his own fervent rhythmic push, the six-song collection is given further classic heavy vibe through the prominent organ/keyboard work of Dave Gryder. Oh, and also the riffs from newcomer guitarists Wyatt Burton and Alex Johnson. Oh, and also bassist Roger “Kip” Yma‘s quick turns on bass. Oh, and also Sean Vargas‘ vocals. So yeah, pretty much the whole damn thing is classic uptempo heavy boogie, produced modern but making no mistake about where its heart lies. Vargas‘ voice has a pre-metal swagger that helps define tracks like “Livin’ for the Night” and the capper “Blood of the Road,” and while the follow-up to 2012’s Burning on the Wings of Desire (review here) is enough to make one wistful for the days when their contemporaries in Dixie Witch once also roamed the land, Blood of the Sun make classic rock their own and give it a vibrancy that’s nothing if not a show of love, regardless of how thick that may be.

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Listenable Records on Bandcamp

 

Evoken, Hypnagogia

evoken hypnogogia

Unremitting. Unrelenting. Unforgiving. Whatever else one might say about New Jersey death/doombringers Evoken, it better start with the prefix “un-.” The negativity runs through the 60 minutes of their latest work, Hypnagogia (on Profound Lore), and one would expect no less than the ultra-mournful crush of “To Feign Ebullience” or the buzzing, resonant disdain of “Valorous Consternation,” the string sounds playing such a large role in crafting both the melodies and the relentless nature of their lung-deflating atmosphere. They may only break into speedier sections on rare occasion, but there’s no way to listen to Hypnagogia and call it anything other than extreme metal. It’s so cast down and so grinding that it not only conveys mood but affects it. Evoken are masters of the form, of course, and while Hypnagogia is their first full-length since 2012’s Atra Mors (review here), their history spans more than a quarter-century and time seems only to have made their miseries plunge even deeper.

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Profound Lore Records website

 

IAH, II

iah ii

In part, the gift that Argentinian trio IAH give with their aptly-titled second outing, II — following their 2017 self-titled debut EP (review here) — is to allow their parts to flesh out naturally across the six-song/38-minute span, so that even as second cut “HH” turns to more weighted chug, that in turn evolves into something no less spacious than the drift brought to bear in the second half of the later “La Niña del Rayo,” which makes its way ultimately through similar interplay. This back and forth is exceptionally smooth throughout II, as the instrumental outfit blend heavy psychedelia and progressive metal with an unflinching cohesion of their songwriting. The longest inclusion is the penultimate “Pri” at 7:35, which caps with massive start-stops en route to closer “Sheut,” which serves as one last showcase of the cosmic doom dynamic burgeoning in the band’s sound, as much ready to depart the earth as leave impact craters on it.

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Asylum, 3-3-88

asylum 3-3-88

The band who a short time later would evolve into Unorthodox, Asylum have long stood as a testament to the enduring power of Maryland doom. 3-3-88 is the second official issue of their material Shadow Kingdom has stood behind, following 2008’s reissue of 1985’s The Earth is the Insane Asylum of the Universe (review here), and it’s no less a document of the classic metal that’s still very much the foundation of what Maryland doom is. From the Sabbathian opening of “World in Trouble” and the later “Psyche World” to the kind of feeling-out-the-riff happening in “Funk 69” and the concluding instrumental “Unorthodox,” there’s a rawness to the sound that suits it well in the spirit of Pentagram‘s First Daze Here, but even in barebones form, Asylum‘s doomly vibes brook no bullshit and weed out the feint of heart. Straightforward working-class doom grit stripped to its essentials. Hard to ask for anything more when you actually hear it.

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Shadow Kingdom Records website

 

Merlin, Dank Souls and Dark Weed: A Live Experience

merlin dank souls and dark weed

Kansas City doom rockers Merlin expanded to a six-piece early in 2018, and Dank Souls and Dark Weed: A Live Experience, as the title hints, captures this form of the band on stage. They’re playing a hometown gig at the Riot Room, and from the nodding groove that opens with “Abyss” from this year’s The Wizard (review here) to the extended reaches of a 19-minute take on “Tales of the Wasteland” that’s actually shorter than the studio version from 2016’s Electric Children (review here), the band explore reaches that are vast with a patience befitting their quickly-earned veteran status. The recording is remarkably clear and allows for the wash of “The Wizard Suite” to be discernible in its progressive rollout, and as they close with “Night Creep” from the 2016 LP, their energy comes through no less prevalent than the distortion driving it forward. The crowd are right to holler.

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The Hazytones, II: Monarchs of Oblivion

the hazytones ii monarchs of oblivion

Touching on garage-doom influences, Montreal three-piece The Hazytones effectively sleek into the groove of “The Great Illusion” on their second Ripple LP, II: Monarchs of Oblivion, finding a balance between swing, melody and heft that pushes beyond the seemingly-requisite Uncle Acid influence to a place that isn’t shy about working in crisp tones or unabashed vocal harmonies. The title-track is a two-parter, and touches on theatrics-sans-pretense in the first piece while dedicating the second to following a central riff well worthy of the attention they give it toward a galloping solo finish. Opener “Empty Space” sets a creper vibe, and by the time they’re down to finishing out with the “Hole in the Sky”-style riff of “The Hand that Feeds,” that sensibility is reaffirmed as an essential component of The Hazytones‘ aesthetic. Whether it’s the chugging “Hell” or the way-blown-out “The Beast,” they hold firm to that central purpose and work with it to effect a sound that one can hear becoming their own all the more.

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Daily Thompson, Thirsty

daily thompson thirsty

Three albums in, Dortmund’s Daily Thompson indeed sound Thirsty — or maybe it’s hungry, but either way, the Dortmund trio’s MIG Music offering captures a tight presentation based around nonetheless natural energy born of their time on tour, as the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Danny Zaremba, bassist Mercedes, and drummer Stefan Mengel touch on Spidergawd-style classic heavy rock strut with “Brown Mountain Lights” and make their way through the semi-acoustic drift of “Stone Rose” and toward the later roll of “River Haze” with a trail of hooks behind them. Songwriting is central to what they do, but while Thirsty isn’t a minor undertaking at a CD-era reminiscent 10 songs/53 minutes, the band offer a chemistry between them and a fullness of sound that allows them to play to different sides of their approach, be it the fuzz-blues of “Gone Child” or the final summation “Spit out the Crap” that seems to shove all the more to its cymbal-wash finish. The title Thirsty brings to mind connotations of need, but Daily Thompson sound like they’ve got it all taken care of.

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MIG Music website

 

Old Man Lizard, True Misery

old man lizard true misery

A strong enough current of noise rock runs beneath Old Man Lizard‘s True Misery (on Wasted State) that leadoff track “Shark Attack” is enough to remind of Akimbo‘s Jersey Shores, and in under two minutes, the subsequent “Snakes” ties that into crawling-paced doom riffery such that the lumbering “Tree of Te?ne?re?” opens like the gaping jaws of some deep-sea trench. From there it unfolds a bit more uptempo than one might initially think, but it shows how fluidly Old Man Lizard shift from one impulse to the other. Accordingly, True Misery plays out with familiar-enough tones put to deceptively subtle and unpredictable purposes, making one-two highlights of the eight-minute back-to-backers “Cursed Ocean, Relentless Sea” and “Misery is Miserable” — which says it all, really — ahead of the finale, well titled “Return to Earth.” A better band than people know, Old Man Lizard bring a progressive touch to what from many others would just be sludge riffing — a bit of Elder on that closer — and manage to do so without losing touch with the righteousness of their groove. True Misery takes a couple listens to sink in, but well earns those and more besides.

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Wasted State Records website

 

Tuskar, The Tide, Beneath, The Wall

tuskar the tide beneath the wall

Tuskar‘s second offering through Riff Rock Records arrives titled for its three songs, “The Tide,” “Beneath” and “The Wall,” and comprises three tracks of largesse-minded sludge, burying its shouted vocals beneath mountainous low end. The Tide, Beneath, The Wall sets itself up through noisy churn and a roll that’s somehow misanthropic at the same time it seems well geared to have an entire bar headbanging. Either way, the feedback-worship in “The Wall” — sure enough a massive thing to slam into — makes a fitting end to the 20-minute release that seems to run so much longer, as “The Tide” and “Beneath” each set forth a grueling sprawl of malevolence that touches on the chaos to come without ever fully giving away what’s in store for the finale. At the same time this assault is cast, there’s an atmosphere to the proceedings as well such that Tuskar aren’t simply bludgeoning for the sake of bludgeonry, but finding a place for themselves within that in order to develop their attack. They do that successfully here and sound well up to the inevitable task before them of a debut full-length.

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Riff Rock Records website

 

Space Coke, L’Appel du Vide

space coke lappel du vide

I just about never do this, but I’m gonna go ahead and make the call: Space Coke‘s L’Appel du Vide is going to get picked up for a vinyl release in 2019. I don’t know who, how or when, but it’s basically a lock. The Columbia, South Carolina, organ-laced four-piece play classic-as-now heavy rock with right-on songcraft and a hard-hitting presentation that’s begging for some label with ears to hear it and press it to the platter it deserves. Be it the molten unfolding of the title-track or the fuzz-swirl of “Thelemic Ritual” or the cosmic stretch of “Kali Ma,” they’re locked in to a degree that utterly defies the notion that this is their first record, and from the vocal-effects smash in “Lucid Dream” and the samples laid over-top of “Interlude,” there’s never really a sense of where Space Coke — extra kudos for the Cheech & Chong reference — might go next, and yet their sound is cohesive, directed, and well aware of exactly what it’s doing and what it wants to do. Never a guarantee of anything in this world, but with Space Coke‘s take on modern stoner sprawl, I’d be amazed if someone didn’t grab this in the New Year, if not before. Eyes peeled on the PR wire for the announcement.

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Green Dragon, Green Dragon: Strange Tales

Posted in Reviews on November 28th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

green dragon green dragon

You enter a fog-covered forest in Maplewood, New Jersey. You see something at your feet. Do you pick it up? You found a broadsword. Do you continue forward? You come to a clearing. An object is in the trees ahead. Do you cast a spell of seeing? Your spell reveals stairs to a basement. You walk down the stairs and hear scuzzball riffing and righteous grooves from a four-piece making their self-titled debut. You’ve encountered a Green Dragon. They’re selling cassette tapes. What do you do?

Released in an edition of 50 — five-zero — copies, the first long-player from Green Dragon arrives after six years of the band exploring their sound. Led by guitarist/vocalist Zack Kurland (Sweet Diesel) and featuring fellow founders Jennifer Klein on bass and Nathan Wilson on drums, the band started out in ultra-rough fashion culling together one-off tracks before putting out a split with Purple Knights (review here) and a proper demo (review here) in 2013. That demo, also self-titled, was followed by another self-titled 7″ (discussed here) in 2016, and each intermittent short release seemed to bring their approach to a new level of cohesion. Much the same applies to the self-titled full-length, which runs a quick 27 minutes through six songs, and finds the trio expanded to a four-piece with the addition of guitarist Ryan Lipynsky, known for his work in Unearthly Trance, The Howling Wind, Serpentine Path, among a host of others.

Notable as well when it comes to the band’s sound is the apparent inclusion of organ alongside the fuzzy blowout of Kurland and Lipynsky‘s guitars, which makes an impression particularly on the last two tracks, “Dark Rider” and “Dead Space,” both of which find room in their sub-five-minute runtimes to affect a jammy feel coinciding with strong hooks and an atmosphere of garage — or basement — doom and psych. That vibe starts early though, as opener “Eternal Pyre” unfurls an early Electric Wizard grit and raw plod, Kurland‘s vocals distorted in kind with the guitars and Klein‘s bass. But there again, the flourish of organ helps add a sense of melody to the proceedings, unless that’s a guitar effect; I’ve been fooled a couple times lately. It’s not as prevalent as it will be later, but during the bridges between verses, it punctuates the nod while lending all the more of a classically doomed sentiment and acting as a tie to the psychedelia that pervades to a greater degree elsewhere on the album.

The tape — presented in a well-earned green plastic — breaks down evenly with three songs per side, and as “Eternal Pyre” gives way to “Full Moon” and “Poison Finger” on side one, the pretense-free spirit of the songs finds Green Dragon hitting into an atmosphere that’s grim but still ultimately uptempo. A Sabbathian shuffle in the midsection of “Full Moon” leads to a Paranoid-esque slowdown as the drums thud out transitions between riff cycles and the keys seem to float overtop in the process of doing so. A suitably mournful lead sears for just a moment before the last lines come and go quickly and the semi-psych churn finishes out to let Klein‘s bass introduce “Poison Finger” as feedback swells behind. They roll their way into the first verse with a swing that calls to mind Uncle Acid‘s Mind Control as the vocals bury themselves (alive) in the mix to put the riff forward along with the bass, drums and keys.

green dragon

Again, a well-placed guitar solo arrives in the second half of the song, but the feel is jammier and the sense of balance Green Dragon strike between instrumental stretch and the fact that only one of the five songs on Green Dragon tops five minutes in length — fair enough that it would be side-two opener “IV,” at 5:25 — and that those stretches still reside within mostly straightforward structures isn’t to be understated. That is, they’re able to flesh out an idea or follow a sonic path in a way that satisfies the tenets of doomly repetition and psych jamming without sounding overly self-indulgent. That can be a difficult line to walk, and even for a debut that’s been a while in the making, is no small accomplishment. Call it hard psych, psych doom, garage doom, whatever. Any name you want to give it, Green Dragon‘s Green Dragon sees the band find their niche between styles and distinguish themselves through songwriting and the execution of a nuanced overarching aesthetic.

Rumbling synth launches side two, with a stark riff beginning “IV” with a bit more patience than the band has heretofore shown (or necessarily needed to show), and a mid-tempo roller groove emerges as they press forward into the instrumental cut, tapping Hendrix-via-AliceCooper swagger in a progression that picks up shortly before three minutes in and riding that central rhythm to the song’s finish, that line of synth drone present all the while as guitars, bass and keys intertwine over the steady foundation of the drums. Of course that same drone is the last piece to go, and “Dark Rider” starts at a creep with its first verse en route to the chorus with the song’s title-line, a standout for the record as a whole that seems to be the basis of the song and emphasizes the subtle shifts in approach Green Dragon have been making all the while.

Bass announces the run that caps “Dark Rider” and “Dead Space” finishes by essentially reversing the modus, with a speedier movement up front and a roll-credits slower tempo in the back half. One more opportunity for Green Dragon to make the point they’ve been making all along, which is in how formidable the depth of their approach has come to be over the course of the last six years. At 27 minutes, Green Dragon might just as well be considered an EP in some contexts, but in light of what they play, the seeming sans-frills nature of their craft — in fact, frills abound, they’re just not overblown — it only speaks further to the garage elements of their style that they’d keep it brief. It’s been more than half a decade in the making, but it’s hard to listen to the tape and say Green Dragon have in any way wasted their time. The material they present is tight and memorable while capturing a space in which they can continue to grow.

So what do you do in that basement? You get a tape. Obviously. Then when you go back outside a space-wizard turns you into a platypus. So it goes.

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Vessel of Light, Woodshed: Beyond the Cellar Door

Posted in Reviews on October 23rd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

vessel of light woodshed

With grisly tales to tell and equally grisly riffing to roll, Vessel of Light make their full-length debut through Argonauta Records with the chugging heft of Woodshed. The collaboration between Ancient VVisdom vocalist Nathan Opposition and guitarist Dan Lorenzo of Hades and formerly — perhaps more relevant in this case — the bluesier-rocking side-project The Cursed, first appeared with a 2017 self-titled EP (review here), and the 11 tracks and 41 LP-ready minutes of Woodshed very much build on the aesthetic principles that the short release laid out. Lorenzo brings a decidedly East Coast crunch to his guitar, reminding as he leads the way through the swing of second track “Part of My Plan” of Danzig‘s “Twist of Cain” while the later “Man’s Sin” finds a more aggressive push ahead of the doomly “Day of Rest,” and Opposition answers with vocals memorable in their melody and lyrics so creeper they should probably be reported.

It’s not so much ‘woodshed’ as it is ‘woodshed with a trap door underneath where you’ll find the bodies of all those missing women.’ I haven’t actually done a body count, but a hypothetical “she” meets a ghastly fate on more than one occasion in cuts like “Son of Man” and “Beyond the Cellar Door.” Indeed, following the rollout title-track introduction, Woodshed seems to follow a narrative course of love, maybe-betrayal and violence. Murder balladry is nothing new — dudes have been axing their significant others in art for as long as there’s been art — but Vessel of Light are resoundingly premeditated about it, and as the album finds resolution in the closing duo of “End it All” and the acoustic finale “Pray for a Cure,” the gothic edge brought to the proceedings through Opposition‘s vocals becomes only a part of the resentment-fueled plotline.

Malevolence abounds. Even in “Part of My Plan,” which is a classic I’m-on-drugs-rolling-out-having-a-good-time vibe, there’s an undercurrent of something darker, or maybe that’s just expectation after the EP. Either way, the lyrics tie together with references between songs to each other and by the time Vessel of Light are through “Part of My Plan” and “A Love So True” and into “Son of Man,” things have clearly taken a turn.

It doesn’t seem like a controversial position or a “hot take” to say one is against the taking of another human life. Again, Vessel of Light are hardly the first to make that aesthetic choice, but something about the darkness that surrounds Opposition‘s lyrics gives their violence a formidable presence throughout Woodshed. As “Son of Man” leads into the massive chugging lurch of “Watching the Fire,” the sense of going deeper into a twisted mindset is palpable, but while much of the material is slow in the tradition of the doom at its roots — TroubleType O Negative — monotony is held at bay through subtle shifts in volume and delivery.

“A Love So True” stretches out the guitar work and relies more on the drums to roll itself forward, while in following “Beyond the Cellar Door” — which is the longest track at 5:46 — “One Way Out” answers the layered vocals with not only another dual-melody there leading to vicious screaming, but layers of intertwined guitar as well, Lorenzo filling out the sonic space before Opposition recounts “Now it’s over/The deed is done/Homicide, suicide” in a harsh-throated rasp. Those aren’t the last screams, either. As the storyline moves through “Man’s Sin” and “Day of Rest” and the passion of the crime becomes so central to the thread uniting the songs, and that’s further realized in the album’s second half.

vessel of light

The turning point would seem to be “Beyond the Cellar Door,” which is a standout reminding of slowed-down Dirt-era Alice in Chains with a meatier chug and pervasively grim atmosphere offset by vocal harmonies ahead and after sampled screams and the guitar solo. “Beyond the Cellar Door” is resolved in chug ahead of the similarly-intentioned “One Way Out,” and that leads to the destructive apex of the album in “Man’s Sin,” “Day of Rest” and “End it All” ahead of the closer.

Momentum is a key factor there, and if you might accuse Vessel of Light of neglecting the details, it’s worth noting that the push through those three tracks — “Man’s Sin,” “Day of Rest” and “End it All” feels specifically geared to have the listener lose themselves in the dive. Even the song titles feel arranges so that one piece will carry into the next, and as “Beyond the Cellar Door” lumbers into that movement that consumes so much of side B, one might consider the arrangement of words “Man’s Sin” as opposed to the earlier “Son of Man” as indicative of the gear being shifted in Woodshed‘s second half. That is, it’s subtle, but something Lorenzo and Opposition do extremely well is build that momentum in songs that still never really get all that fast. It becomes a question of songwriting efficiency, and there’s plenty of that to go around from Vessel of Light, but neither do they lose the sense of mood that they’ve worked so hard to construct.

That is, they don’t just get to “Beyond the Cellar Door” and say, “okay here we go” and speed through the rest of the record. With the linearity of the story being told and the fact that the first-person speaker in the lyrics is descending into madness and dealing with the fallout of that, rather, it makes sense. Short sentences. Lots of stops. Build tension. Affect rhythm. Get it? Okay. The crawling finish in “End it All” accounts for itself in letting the audience know how the plot ends, but that leaves “Pray for a Cure” as a curious outlier in both sound and perspective. Its acoustic foundation is something of a turn given the rest of the full-bodied guitar tone surrounding — though that puts it right in Opposition‘s wheelhouse, given his work in Ancient VVisdom — but even more, are we in the moment where the protagonist is dying?

Because “End it All” sure comes across as pretty final, and “Pray for a Cure” is therefore an epilogue, and all the more so because it’s unplugged. I’m not at all against the track — expanding the sonic foundation isn’t going to hurt the band or the album at all — but that turn in perspective is somewhat jarring at the album’s end. That may well be intentional, as Vessel of Light offer little comfort throughout the record preceding either. What they do instead is set of a current of atmospheric dread; depression, anger and, yes, violence taking root in each track one way or another.

The disturbing parts are supposed to be disturbing, and Woodshed does nothing to desensitize the violence in a problematic way. The key takeaway from Vessel of Light‘s debut is that there’s life in the collaboration between Opposition and Lorenzo, and that the two work well together. Whether it’s a one-off or an ongoing project with a follow-up will remain to be seen, but with their first LP, they show the potential for a gruesome craft they can continue to make their own should they decide to do so.

Vessel of Light, “Son of Man” official video

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Argonauta Records website

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Monster Magnet Post “When the Hammer Comes Down Video; Announce 2019 European Tour

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 10th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

monster magnet (photo jeremy saffer)

Since Sept. 28, NJ’s Monster Magnet have been out on a US tour supporting their latest album, Mindfucker (review here). You can’t accuse them of not getting out. While their last couple records have seen the long-running stalwarts of heavy psych and rock mostly focus on Europe, their current run started out in Toronto as they quickly made their way to the West Coast and throughout this month, they’ll continue to work back eastward, finishing in Boston on Oct. 28. To follow-up, they’ve got a second run of Europe announced for January, and I can’t help but think either another US tour or a trip to Australia or South America (paging Abraxas) could be in the works thereafter. That is, they don’t seem like they’re done.

Which, as a fan, is only all the better. Mindfucker is their last outing in their contract for Napalm Records. I won’t claim to know the future of the band, but either they’re doing it up for a blowout or they’re showing other labels they’re interested in putting in the work of promoting what they do. Could go either way, I guess, but what it rounds out to in any case is the same: Go see Monster Magnet. I’d love to get to one of these shows and I don’t know that I will, but wherever you are, if that’s where they are, then that’s where you should be. Simple math.

They’ve got a video up for “When the Hammer Comes Down” from the record that’s kind of a lyric video, kind of a regular video, and true enough to Monster Magnet in that it has little interest in being classified along the same lines as everyone else. You’ll find that at the bottom of this post. I don’t have any PR wire info for the newly-announced tour, but you’ll find the dates for that and the one they’re on now below. Here goes:

monster magnet euro tour 2019

Monster Magnet Tour Dates

Current US tour remaining dates:
10/10: Seattle, WA @ El Corazon
10/12: San Francisco, CA @ Thee Parkside
10/13: Sacramento, CA @ Aftershock Festival*
10/15: Santa Ana, CA @ The Observatory
10/16: San Diego, CA @ Brick By Brick
10/17: Phoenix, AZ @ Rebel Lounge
10/19: San Antonio, TX @ Paper Tiger
10/20: Dallas, TX @ Canton Hall
10/21: Houston, TX @ White Oak (Upstairs)
10/23: Atlanta, GA @ Masquerade
10/24: Nashville, TN @ Basement East
10/26: Baltimore, MD @ Baltimore Soundstage
10/27: New York, NY @ Gramercy Theater
10/28: Boston, MA @ The Sinclair

2019 European tour:
12.01.2019 NOR, Trondheim Byscenen
13.01.2019 NOR, Oslo Parkteatret
14.01.2019 DEN, Aarhus VoxHall
16.01.2019 GER, Hamburg Grosse Freiheit 36
17.01.2019 GER, Berlin Huxleys Neue Welt
18.01.2019 GER, Osnabrück Rosenhof
19.01.2019 SUI, Zürich Dynamo
21.01.2019 GER, Krefeld FuFa
22.01.2019 GER, Leipzig Conne Island
23.01.2019 GER, Hannover Capitol
24.01.2019 LUX, Esch-sur-Alzette Kulturfabrik
26.01.2019 BEL, Kortrijk Concertzaal de Kreun
27.01.2019 BEL, Hasselt Muziekodroom
28.01.2019 BEL, Sint-Niklaas Concertzaal de Casino
29.01.2019 GBR, London Electric Brixton
31.01.2019 GER, Karlsruhe Substage
01.02.2019 NED, Eindhoven Effenaar
02.02.2019 FRA, Magny Le Hongre File7
03.02.2019 GER, Frankfurt Batschkapp
05.02.2019 AUT, Dornbirn Conrad Sohm
06.02.2019 HUN, Budapest Durer Kert
07.02.2019 CRO, Zagreb Culture Factory

MONSTER MAGNET line up:
Dave Wyndorf (vocals, guitar)
Garrett Sweeny (guitar)
Phil Caivano (guitar)
Chris Kosnik (bass)
Bob Pantella (drums)

http://zodiaclung.com
https://www.facebook.com/monstermagnet/
https://www.instagram.com/monstermagnetofficial/

Monster Magnet, “When it all Comes Down” lyric video

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Friday Full-Length: The Atomic Bitchwax, The Atomic Bitchwax

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

The Atomic Bitchwax, The Atomic Bitchwax (1999)

I think it’s high time the ’90s era of heavy rock — the original run of stoner rock, that is — started to get tagged with the term classic. It’s been 20 years or more for most of it, after all. Think of bands like Monster Magnet, Kyuss, Acid King, Fu Manchu, Nebula, and so on, and to that list I would most definitely add New Jersey trio The Atomic Bitchwax. The band formed in 1993 but it would be six years before their self-titled debut came out on Tee Pee/MIA Records. It was kind of a side-project at first. Bassist/vocalist Chris Kosnik was at the time a member of Godspeed, who were signed to Atlantic during the same era that saw Core and a few others picked up in the wake of Monster Magnet‘s burgeoning wider success, and they made a run touring with Black Sabbath and appearing on the first Nativity in Black tribute to Sabbath with Bruce Dickinson sitting in on vocals. When Godspeed split, it was basically into The Atomic Bitchwax and Solace. Kosnik, guitarist Ed Mundell, also then of Monster Magnet, and drummer Keith Ackerman, who also played in and would later rejoin Solace for a stretch, set to work on their first record, and they came out with a scorcher.

The Atomic Bitchwax‘s The Atomic Bitchwax runs a deceptive 11 songs and 53 minutes. It’s deceptive because they trade back and forth between instrumentals like the opening “Stork Theme” — which also seems to nod at Sabbath with a beginning noise that reminds of “After Forever” — and “Crazed Fandango” and “Ain’t Nobody Gonna Hang Me in My Home,” “The Last of the V8 Interceptors” and 10-minute closer “The Formula” and hook-laden tracks like “Birth to the Earth,” “Hey Alright,” “Hope You Die,” “Gettin’ Old” and “Shit Kicker,” as well as their cover of Core‘s “Kiss the Sun,” which would be a staple in live sets for years to come. The two modes of working are interspersed throughout the tracklisting — they might most come together on the bluesier, throttled-back “Gettin’ Old” — and that helps the trio of Kosnik, Mundell and Ackerman keep the listener off-balance as they build a working momentum from front to back across the release. That, coupled with what has become a signature style of winding riffs, a decent amount of speed in their tempos, a couple samples at the start of “Last of the V8 Interceptors” and “Shit Kicker,” and the extra percussion in “Crazed Fandango” earlier, all give the record a sense of variety that, especially on first listen, can be hard to keep up with. The Atomic Bitchwax has for the most part been a band that dares its audience to hold their pace. On the self-titled, that true in terms of style as well as tempo.

Stoner band being stoner in the era of stoner? Yeah, maybe. But to my ears what makes The Atomic Bitchwax a classic album is the fact that the band are so tight and so loose at the same time. the atomic bitchwaxThat The Atomic Bitchwax could conjure the sharp, head-spinning turns of “Stork Theme” and still be fuzzed-out and have an overarching groove in the process. Or that they could be so locked in on “Hope You Die” with Kosnik‘s bass comes forward in the hook and still toss out the lyric “Total. Freedom.,” and have it sound utterly natural. It’s not effortless, but it’s not intended to be. They remain the kind of band who should have someone walking through the crowd collecting tips while they play — “Hey folks, these guys are working hard up there” — but for the frenetic changes in “Ain’t Nobody Gonna Hang Me in My Home” and the MC5-worthy gallop of “Shit Kicker,” nothing The Atomic Bitchwax do on their first full-length takes precedent over the song itself. Even the instrumentals each have a personality of their own. Hell, “Ain’t Nobody Gonna Hang Me in My Home” is the centerpiece. Those tracks are crucial the mission of the record overall, right down to the touch of psychedelia worked into the midsection of “The Formula” at the end of the album. They not only highlight the prowess of the band technically, but complement the songwriting of “Birth to the Earth” and “Hey Alright,” etc., making the band a richer listening experience the whole way through, giving flashes of punk immediacy here and there, but ultimately ending up with an unquestionable place in heavy rock and roll.

That a record could be so laid back as it punches you in the face. That’s The Atomic Bitchwax. Still, almost 20 years later.

And quite a 20 years it’s (nearly) been. The KosnikMundellAckerman lineup would follow the self-titled with II the next year, also on Tee Pee, and then have the Spit Blood EP on MeteorCity in 2002 before dissolving. Kosnik and Ackerman pressed forward by recruiting Core guitarist/vocalist Finn Ryan for the 2005 album, 3 (discussed here), and thereby embarking on a new era of the band. The Jack Endino-produced EP Boxriff followed — proud to say I did the liner notes for it — coupled with a live set recorded in Seattle, and after losing Ackerman on drums, Kosnik and Ryan welcomed Bob Pantella, also of Monster Magnet, on drums for 2008’s TAB4 (aka T4B), issued first by MeteorCity and then by Tee Pee, which The Atomic Bitchwax rejoined and on whose roster they remain. 2011 brought the all-instrumental, single-song LP, The Local Fuzz (review here), and with that out of their system and a resurgence as a touring act, 2015’s Gravitron (review here) and 2017’s Force Field (review here) marked not only a period of productivity, but a maturity of approach that somewhat ironically dipped back to the modus of their earliest work but made it tighter and even sharper in the delivery.

Speaking of irony, for a band that was so long considered a side-project because of Mundell‘s involvement in both groups — he of course relocated to the West Coast earlier this decade and embarked on The Ultra Electric Mega Galactic — the last several years have found Kosnik playing bass in Monster Magnet in the rhythm section with Pantella. I don’t think anyone’s calling them a side-project at this point though. Classic, maybe. I certainly think so.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

We put the Little Dog Dio down on Monday. The pain from her bone cancer was becoming less and less manageable by the hour. We ended up giving her a percocet Monday morning and she ate nine string cheeses and some chicken after that and she got up to greet The Patient Mrs. when she and the baby got back from running an errand, but she was still clearly in agony, despite also being stoned out of her gourd.

I miss her. So much. I keep looking for her. Thinking about her in her places. The spots that were hers in the house. I’ve been telling Dio stories all week on Facebook. I have so many but I’ll probably do one more tomorrow and leave it there. It’s been hard.

We had a vet come and do it at the house. They do that now, apparently. I’ve had dogs my whole life and been a participant in two euthanasias prior to this one. Dio was different. Special. She woofed at the door when the vet came. She was healthy but for the cancer eating away at her. I figure we got robbed of at least two good years with her. I’d happily shave that time off my own lifespan if I could make a trade to get her back.

I brought her bed from the upstairs bedroom down to the kitchen and laid a sheet on it for her to be on while the vet administered the drugs. High dose of opiates, something else to knock her out, then the pink shit. Always the pink shit. The Patient Mrs. and I sat with her and cried — I’d spent the last four hours just petting her and telling her I loved her — and we were with her through the end. The vet was about to deliver the pink shit and I asked her to let me do it. She did. I did it. Me.

But you want to know the truth? The confession? I wouldn’t have done it on my own. The Patient Mrs. and I had talked it out and we both knew it was time, but even an hour before the vet came I was saying maybe we should call it off. And if she’d said okay, I would have. I wouldn’t have gone through with it. I’d have been selfish and kept my poor sweet Dio in pain just to have a couple more days with her. A little more time. I’m a terrible person.

I cried and cried and cried. When it was finally done, I wrapped her in the sheet and carried her out to the vet’s van, where a bag was waiting. She’ll be cremated and we’ll get her ashes back in the mail next week. I want to be buried with them when I go.

The rest of the last five days has been a blur of grief and baby feedings. I said goodnight to her pillow before I went to bed last night.

I have notes ready for next week front to back but I’m going to keep it to myself. It’s a cool week, busy, but I just don’t have it in me to run through it. Also, by way of a heads up, the next Quarterly Review begins Oct. 8. Nobody cares. I know.

If you get the chance though, I have a show debuting on www.gimmeradio.com this Sunday at 5PM Eastern. Prime time! It’s called “The Obelisk Show” and I host it and talk awkwardly about records and this and that. The Patient Mrs. and The Pecan both make a cameo. It turned out to be a lot of fun to put together and I promise it’s not sad. It’s free to sign up and there’s no subscription or anything, so if you get to check it out, I’d appreciate it. Here’s a poster they made.

jj gimme radio

That says it all, I guess. I’m just happy they spelled my name right. We’ll see if they let me do a second episode.

While you wait with bated breath for that to start, I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Hold your loved ones close, have fun, and please don’t forget to check out the forum and radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

 

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Friday Full-Length: Shovelhead, Red Sky Horizon

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 31st, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Shovelhead, Red Sky Horizon (2003)

Dig that vibe for just a minute, that’s all I ask. I know dipping back to a record like Red Sky Horizon isn’t exactly high-profile, but man, New Jersey’s Shovelhead could jam. They’d stand on stage at the Brighton Bar in Long Branch, all power-trio style and humble about-to-wreck-the-place swagger, and guitarist Jim LaPointe (also vocals) would unload these space-toned solos that stretched out as much as on, while bassist Sha Zaidi — usually chewing a toothpick, I guess because rockabilly — and drummer Mike Scott with his Vistalite kit set up on the small riser in back would hold down these righteous grooves. You can hear it in the mellow groove after the initial Motörheady thrust of third cut “Bottom,” or get a feel for some of LaPointe‘s power-trio-leading in the opening title-track, but the point is Shovelhead played with so much character, whether it was the take on mellow Sabbath that launched “The Weight” or in the Hendrixed-up instrumental take on “Amazing Grace” that closes out, fittingly enough, after the hard-driving chug of “Bastard.” On stage — usually on that stage — they were utterly at home. I had the pleasure of seeing Shovelhead on multiple occasions and even did shows with them, and it was always a bittersweet experience because I knew no matter how good a show it might otherwise be, Shovelhead were about to blow my band right out of the water.

A bit of nostalgia? Yeah, probably, but I remain a Shovelhead fan even though their last record, the all-lowercase spitting oil, came out in 2007. That was their third outing, and by then, they were long since underrated, having made their debut as Shovelhead with a self-titled CD in 2001 following a name change from their original moniker The Lemmings, which I guess wasn’t stoner rock enough. Maybe? I don’t know what motivated the switch, but they had a disc out called The March of Provocation in ’98 that was pretty good as I recall and I seem to think there was at least one other, maybe an EP? It’s kind of fuzzy two decades later, but either way, they were part of the NJ shore-region cohort of post-Monster Magnet heavy rock and came up roughly around the same time as the likes of The Atomic BitchwaxSolaceHalfway to GoneLord SterlingSix SigmaCore, and so on, and while some of those bands would get picked up by labels large and small — Core were on AtlanticBitchwax and Solace on MeteorCityHalfway on Small Stone, etc. — Shovelhead went unsigned for the duration. Fair enough. I don’t think they had particularly huge ambitions for touring or anything like that, so it was just as easy for them to DIY their releases and play where and when they could and felt like doing so. They were a well-kept secret of that scene, and for me, Red Sky Horizon was the album that came closest to capturing what they were able to do live.

To some degree, second track “Crop Duster” is a defining groove in my mind for them. It’s got the speed-punker root in its shovelhead red sky horizonverses, and LaPointe‘s vocals echo out on top to make even that verse a hook before everything stops and he asks, “Do you know what you’re doing?” and “Do you know what you’re saying?” before they kick full-boar into winding power trio jamming. They mellow out before halfway through the track’s six minutes, but just before hitting the four-minute mark turn to a funky series of starts and stops with Zaidi filling out the space with low and as LaPointe busts out a solo and Scott‘s drums gradually build their way back to the verse and chorus to finish out, the last question, “Do you know where you’re going?” held out with a bluesy soul. Likewise, after the seven-minute nod-fest boogie of “The Weight,” the instrumental “Uncle Jesse” begins a salvo of four shorter tracks that includes “Moon Shine Blind” and “Bastard” ahead of “Amazing Grace,” and what might otherwise be a side B in the second half of the tracklisting winds up efficiently expanding on the adventurous vibe of “Red Sky Horizon,” “Crop Duster,” “Bottom” and “The Weight,” stripping down some of the psychedelic elements at play, but keeping that character in their tones and the classic heavy rock spirit of the instrumentals. And hey, fun fact: when I reviewed Red Sky Horizon for the paper in NJ I worked for at the time, I compared “Moon Shine Blind” to the main song from the movie O Brother Where Art Thou? and LaPointe was the first person ever to tell me I nailed it on getting his inspiration for the vocal melody right. That was at least 15 years ago now and I still feel good about it to this day.

Pair that next to the maddening tension of “Bastard” — the standout line: “Take all your bullshit, shove it up your ass” — and cap it off with “Amazing Grace” and you’ve got an eight-track/40-minute outing that’s thoughtful but natural sounding and traditionalist in its dynamic, but again, so filled with personality on the part of its players that it almost can’t help but be original. I used to stand in front of the stage at the Brighton, my seventh beer probably in my hand, and you could watch any individual member of Shovelhead at any point in their set and you had at least an 80 percent chance your jaw would drop from what they were playing. That sounds like hyperbole, but these guys were great, and I love this record, so while I know it’s not the biggest release ever and people might prefer something they already know or be hesitant to take on an out-of-print 15-year-old disc from a NJ heavy rock band who once upon a time were really cool, fuck it, it’s my site and I wanted to listen to Shovelhead. I don’t need any more reason than that.

As noted, spitting oil was their third and final album in 2007, so their social media presence is pretty much nil. What was their website would seem to be long gone. I couldn’t even find a MySpace page lingering. But if you’re into Red Sky Horizon, there’s no Bandcamp or anything, but all three of Shovelhead‘s full-lengths are available as downloads from CDBaby — as opposed to being available on CD from DownloadBaby — and there isn’t one of them that isn’t worth time and dime alike.

So dig in, and as always, I hope you enjoy.

For the first half-hour I was awake this morning, I thought it was Saturday. I came downstairs, turned on the coffee pot, was all set to start writing stuff for Monday posts in that casual, maybe-I’ll-just-read-about-baseball-for-a-while way of Saturday mornings, when I remembered I hadn’t even done the Shovelhead post yet. Missed a day there, guy. Might want to get on that. In my defense, I’ll note only that said “first half-hour” was the half-hour between 2:30 and 3AM.

Hard week. On Monday I think it was or maybe Sunday, I can’t even remember, we said goodbye to my family and headed north to Connecticut to come back to Massachusetts, pretty much to hunker down for the semester ahead. We moved the coffee pot, so that’s it. We’ve done plenty of back and forth, but where the Chemex goes is home and it’s back in MA now. I have no problem admitting I was sad to go. It was awesome to spend so much time in New Jersey this summer, to see my family, to have The Pecan get to know those cousins, his aunt and uncle, his grandmother, and have him meet assorted friends. I saw Slevin two days in a row this summer! That’s a special event in itself.

We’ll be back down there a couple times over the next few months — once in October for sure, then again for holidays, but in terms of the daily where-I’m-at, it’ll be back here in MA in the townhouse. The Patient Mrs. has a conference this weekend in Boston, so we’re headed there this morning early — it’s quarter to five now, so by “early” I mean in about two hours, maybe a little less — and I’ll be on baby duty. Should be interesting in a hotel room, but weather permitting, which always a gamble in Boston, I’ll take him out and we’ll go somewhere around town. Even if it’s Armageddon Shop or wherever. Just something to do rather than sit on ass and try to stop him from climbing on the furniture — it’s not so much the climbing I’m opposed to as the inevitable falling off that follows — while I try and fail to stare at my phone and be bored. “You old enough to have a conversation yet? No? Okay, let’s go for a walk somewhere.”

We also found out yesterday that The Little Dog Dio has bone cancer. The vet showed us the rather sizable tumor in her shoulder on the x-ray. We knew she wasn’t well — hence going to the vet — and she’s 12, so the possibility that it wasn’t something minor had occurred to us, but it still hit pretty hard. They did a bunch of blood tests to see if it’s in her organs [Update: it’s not.] and the vet gave us some pain meds for her in the meantime. We have a follow-up appointment next week, which looms large and ominous in my mind. He said the treatment was either amputate her leg — she’s 12; so no — or start her on radiation, which would make her miserable and really only help pain management anyway. Light on options. Heavy on grief.

In the meantime, she’s sleeping a lot. She’s lost five pounds in the last month, going from 37 to 32, which is the lowest I can recall her being as a full-grown dog. We’ve had her since she was nine weeks old. She’s the last of the Koczans. My heart breaks.

Monday is Labor Day but I’ll be posting. It’s a busy week because it’s the start of the semester and I’ll be slammed with babytime, so of course I’ve booked a ton of premieres. Here are the notes, with likely changes:

Mon.: Kelly Carmichael track premiere; P.H.O.B.O.S. track premiere.
Tue.: Druglord video premiere/review; Stone Titan track premiere.
Wed.: Stoned Jesus review/album stream.
Thu.: La Chinga review/album stream; LaGoon lyric video premiere.
Fri.: Fuzz Evil review/track premiere; Yung Druid video premiere.

The week is full. I don’t like to do more than one premiere a day, and there are two booked for four out of the five days next week. I know there are a lot of releases coming up, but that’s just silly. I may whittle down the amount of news so I can fit it all in and still, I don’t know, exist?, but we’ll see. To be perfectly honest, I’ve kind of pulled the wind out of my sails thinking about it.

It’s a busy weekend though, so I’m going to punch out and get to it. If you need me, I’ll be social media-available intermittently and otherwise around. One never really detaches these days, or if so, not for very long.

I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Thank you for reading, and please check out the forum and the radio stream.

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