Quarterly Review: A Storm of Light, Z/28, Forrest, 1476, Owl, Brass Hearse, Craneium & Black Willows, Magmakammer, Falun Gong, Max Tovstyi

Posted in Reviews on December 4th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review

Day Two of the Quarterly-Review-Mega-Super-Ultra-Year-End-Wrap-Up-Spectacular-Gnarly-Edition — name in progress — begins now. First day? Smooth. Wrote it over the weekend to get a jump on the week, cruised through a morning and into baby-naps, finished with time left over to still go and read the Star Trek novel I’m currently making my way through. Easy. Also peasy.

Today? Well, apparently I turned off my alarm in my sleep because I rolled over 40 minutes later and certainly didn’t remember it going off. Whoops. Not a great start, but there is a lot of cool stuff in this batch, so we’ll get through it, even if it’s awfully early in the week to be sleeping in. Ha.

Have a great day everybody. Here are 10 more records for the QRMSUYEWUSGE. Rolls right off the tongue.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

A Storm of Light, Anthroscene

A Storm of Light Anthroscene

“America the sick and crumbling/Liberty she’s weeping/The tired and poor are huddled and dying/As the wretched ones are touched aside.” The lines, from A Storm of Light‘s “Blackout” — the second cut from their fifth LP, Anthroscene (on Translation Loss) — lead to the inevitable question: “What the fuck is wrong with us?,” and thereby summarize the central sociopolitical framework of the record. A dystopian thematic suits the band’s aesthetic, and there’s certainly no shortage of material to work from between current events and future outlook. Guitarist/vocalist/keyboardist/graphic artist Josh Graham, bassist Domenic Seita and guitarist/keyboardist Dan Hawkins are five years removed from the band’s last outing, however, so their post-apocalyptic post-metal is welcome either way, and Anthroscene taps a Killing Joke influence and turns it to its dark and churning purposes over the course of its eight tracks/51 minutes, delving into harsh shouts on “Short Term Feedback” and capping with the resistance-filled “Rosebud,” which surges forth from ambience like the anti-facist/anti-capitalist critique that it is, ending with the lyric, “When you die, we will spit on your grave,” which could hardly be more appropriate.

A Storm of Light on Thee Facebooks

Translation Loss Records on Bandcamp

 

Z28, Nobody Rides for Free

Z28 Nobody Rides for Free

Massachusetts’ Z28 — also stylized as Z/28 and Z-28; I don’t think they care so long as you get the point they’re named after the Camaro — make their full-length debut with Nobody Rides for Free on Fuzzdoom Records, and with the occasional bit of organ on songs like “Touch of Evil” and “Angst III (I Don’t Want to Die),” they nonetheless give a raw take on heavy rock laced with that particularly Northeastern aggression. Guitarist Jeff Hayward (also organ), bassist/acoustic guitarist/engineer Jason Negro and drummer Breaux Silcio all contribute vocals to the outing, and yet the minute-long instrumental intro tells much of the story of what it’s about in terms of the chemistry between them. Impressive guitar solos are rampant throughout, and the rhythm section carries over a weighted groove through cuts like “Wandering” that’s fluid in tempo but still able to create an overarching flow between the tracks. I’ll give bonus points for the Black Sabbath nods in the multi-layered lead work toward the end of “Spirit Elk (Lord of the Hunt)” as well as the title “Keep on Rockin’ (In the Invisible World),” and Z28 have something to build on here in terms of songwriting and that chemistry. It’s raw-sounding, but that doesn’t necessarily hurt it.

Z28 on Thee Facebooks

Fuzzdoom Records on Bandcamp

 

Forrest, Kickball with Russians

forrest kickball with russians

Granted, Forrest telegraph some measure of quirk by naming their debut EP Kickball with Russians, but the four-piece from Lexington, Kentucky, still seem to be rolling along in a straightforward-enough manner on six-minute instrumental opener and longest track (immediate points) “(I Dream of) Kickball with Russians,” until the keyboards start in. That turn gives their EP an edge of the unexpected that continues to inform “DAN,” “Deew” and the closing “My Son Looks Just Like Me,” and “DAN” continues the thread with gang shouts popping up over its chugging progression and receding again after about two words to let the track get quiet and build back up. And is that a velociraptor at the start of “Deew?” Either way, that song’s Mr. Bungle-style angularity, a return of the keys and intermittent heavy nod work to underscore the willful weirdness that’s very much at play in the four-piece’s work, and the closer adds Ween-style effects work into the mix while still keeping a heavy presence in tone and lumber. They’ll get weirder with time, but this is a good start toward that goal.

Forrest on Thee Facebooks

Forrest on Bandcamp

 

1476, Our Season Draws Near

1476 our season draws near

Coastal melancholy and a pervasive sense of atmosphere seem to unite the varied tracks on 1476‘s 2017 Prophecy release, Our Season Draws Near, which otherwise draw across their span from goth rock, punk, doom and extreme metal, able to blur the line especially between punk and black metal on songs like “Ettins” while acoustics pervade “Solitude (Exterior)” en route to the Anathema-gone-char rasps of “Solitude (Interior)” a short time later. I know I’m late to the party on the Salem, MA, duo, and likewise late on this record, but from opener “Our Silver Age” to closer “Our Ice Age” to the “Solitude” pairing to “Winter of Winds” — finally: David Bowie fronts Joy Division — and “Winter of Wolves,” there’s so much of Our Season Draws Near that has a bigger-picture thought process behind its construction that its impact is multi-tiered. And it’s not just that they pit genres against each other in their sound, it’s that their sound brings them together toward something new and malleable to the purposes of their songwriting. Not to be missed, so this is me, not missing it. Even though I kind of missed it.

1476 on Thee Facebooks

Prophecy Productions on Bandcamp

 

Owl, Nights in Distortion

owl nights in distortion

Joined on Nights in Distortion by bassist René Marquis as well as longtime drummer Patrick Schroeder, guitarist/vocalist/synthesist Christian Kolf (also Valborg) greatly expands his former solo-ish-project Owl with their second release of 2018 behind March’s Orion Fenix EP (review here), bringing together elements of post-metal churn with deeply atmospheric sensibilities, cuts like “Transparent Moment” churning as much as they are surprising with their underlying melody. A Type O Negative influence continues to be worked into their sometimes grueling context, but it’s hard to listen to the keyboard-laced “Inanna in Isolation” and hear Owl being anything other than who they’ve become, and their third album is the most distinct statement of that yet, airy lead guitars floating over a still-fervent, industrial-style chug amid vocals veering from barking shouts to quiet, low-register semi-spoken fare and cleaner singing. Nights in Distortion is the evolving work of a mastermind, captured in progress.

Owl on Thee Facebooks

Temple of Torturous website

 

Brass Hearse, Hollow on the Surface

Brass Hearse Hollow on the Surface

Synth-laden heavy horror garage dance rock could probably use a more succinct genre name, but while those in charge of such things sit and scratch their butts, Boston’s Brass Hearse carve out a niche unto themselves with their second EP, Hollow on the Surface. The five-track offering is in and out in 14 minutes but wants nothing for either a show of craft or arrangement, tapping into psych-folk in the strummy interlude “Dwellers in the Static Valley” after the hook-led “Death by Candlelight” and before the John Carpenter-style pulsations that underscore “The Thing from Another World.” Opener “Fading” is the only song to top four minutes and has a distinctly progressive take, but while it and the organ-ic closer “Headaches & Heartbreaks” has a theatricality to it, Brass Hearse are too cohesive to charge with being weird for weirdness’ sake, and their experimentation is presented in complete, engaging songs, rather than self-indulgent collections of parts mashed together. Would love to hear what they do over the course of a full-length.

Brass Hearse on Thee Facebooks

Playing Records on Bandcamp

 

Craneium & Black Willows, Split

Different missions from Finland’s Craneium and Switzerland’s Black Willows on their BloodRock Records split. Craneium nod through “Your Law” and mark their second inclusion, “Try, Fail, Repeat,” with a Sabbathian swing that only kicks up in tempo as it moves through its five minutes. Black Willows, on the other hand, present a single track in the 19-minute, noise-soaked post-everything “Bliss,” which trades back and forth between minimalism and crushing riffs en route to a consuming wash and long, long, long fadeout. Released in March, the outing showcases both bands well, but one is left wondering where the connection is between the two of them that they’d come together for a joint vinyl release. Either way, I won’t detract from what they do individually, whether it’s the catchiness of “Your Law” and the jam in its second half or “Bliss” with its frost-covered expanse of tonality, it’s just a marked leap from side A to side B. Maybe that was the idea all along, and if that’s the case, then one can only say they succeeded.

Craneium on Thee Facebooks

Black Willows on Thee Facebooks

BloodRock Records on Bandcamp

 

Magmakammer, Mind Tripper

magmakammer mindtripper

Following a 2015 self-titled debut EP, Oslo trio Magmakammer align with Kozmik Artifactz for their first long-player, Mindtripper, and so effect a garage doom sound that’s quickly relatable to Uncle Acid on songs like “Fat Saturn” and the chug-shuffling “Along the Crooked Roads.” Where they distinguish themselves from this core influence, though, is in the density of their tones, as opener “Druggernaut” and the rolling “Acid Times” prove thicker in their charge. Still, there’s no mistaking that swing and the blown-out sound of the vocals. Closer “Cosmic Dancers,” which is one of two tracks over seven minutes long, shows more dynamic in its loud/quiet tradeoffs, and resolves itself in a righteous nodder of a riff. It’s essentially in the same vein, but still displaying some emerging personality of Magmakammer‘s own that one hopes they continue to develop. And in the meantime, the foundation of craft and stylistic awareness they hone is still welcome, familiar or not.

Magmakammer on Thee Facebooks

Kozmik Artifactz webstore

 

Falun Gong, Figure 2

Falun Gong Figure 2

Mystique isn’t easy to come by in this Age of Access, but the anonymous London-dwelling duo Falun Gong have succeeded in piquing interest with their two-to-date singles, “Figure 1” (review here), and the eight-minute “Figure 2,” which like its predecessor is raw in the recording, sounds like it was performed live, and follows a trance-inducing course of riffing. The central groove is a slow march that makes its way through obscure voices delivered in buried fashion — the whole thing may or may not be mastered; somehow I’m thinking not, but I’ve been wrong before — through a self-aware drift that rounds out following a soulful culmination fitting the song’s lyrical theme, which would seem to be tied to the cover art about baptism in a river’s waters. There’s just something off-kilter about Falun Gong to this point, and while it’s still early going for them, they bring an eerie persona to their work that feels less performative than it so often does.

Falun Gong on Bandcamp

 

Max Tovstyi, Mesmerize

Max Tovstyi Mesmerize

Though he’s had a slew of live outings out with the Max Tovstyi Blues Band and the Max Tovstyi Blues Association, Mesmerize (LP on Nasoni) is the Ukrainian heavy blues rocker’s first solo studio outing since 2014. He’s credited with all the instruments on the 10- or 12-track offering save for a couple arrangement-flourish guest appearances, and he pulls in a classic spirit and full-band sound without any trouble on a moody piece like “World of Sin” or the bonus track “Show Me the Way,” which isn’t a Peter Frampton cover so far as I can tell but still has plenty of guitar scorch to go around. “From the Blues to the Funk” jams its way along its stated trajectory, and “Feel Like Dying Now” brings together organ and keys in a fashion far less dramatized than one might initially think. With a clean production, Tovstyi — also known for his work in The Heavy Crawls, Lucifer Rising, and others — carries through his sentimentality for blues rock’s past and finds himself well at home leading the pack of guest vocalists on “Make Up Your Mind,” which closes the album proper with a semi-country twang and sweet melody.

Max Tovstyi on Thee Facebooks

Nasoni Records website

 

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Desertfest NYC 2019 First Lineup Announcement: Windhand, Elder, Monolord, The Skull, The Atomic Bitchwax, Danava, Mirror Queen, Worshipper and Dommengang to Play

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 27th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

DESERTFEST NYC 2019 BANNER

I’m not trying to toot my own horn here or anything, but I’ve been posting about Desertfest lineups pretty much since the whole thing started. And to me, this already looks like a Desertfest. The first lineup announcement for Desertfest NYC 2019 has been made, and the inaugural New York incarnation of the festival brand in partnership with Sound of Liberation and Tee Pee Records seems to represent multiple sides well. Windhand and their new Relapse labelmates Monolord are given prominent showing, as are Elder — because, let’s face it, if you’re running the first-ever Desertfest on US soil and you don’t get Elder to play, you’re fucking up — and Tee Pee Records is well represented with the likes of The Skull, The Atomic Bitchwax, Danava, Mirror Queen and Worshipper.

Rounding out the bill are L.A.’s Dommengang, who would seem to be the odd band out, but one listen to their Love Jail album that Thrill Jockey put out and you’ll see it’s no mystery why they’re here. I wouldn’t be surprised if they wound up touring east with another West Coast band — Danava come immediately to mind — but of course nothing to that effect has been announced and I’m just speculating.

Point is it’s already a solid bill and in addition to the bands, we now know that the venues involved will be the Saint Vitus Bar and The Well. I’ll have more on the lineup and whatnot as soon as I see it, but early bird tickets are on sale now at the long link below.

Dig it:

DESERTFEST NYC 2019 POSTER

FIRST ACTS ANNOUNCED FOR DF NYC + EARLY-BIRDS NOW ON SALE! We are stoked to welcome Windhand, Elder, Monolord, The Skull, The Atomic Bitchwax, DANAVA, Mirror Queen, Worshipper & Dommengang to the first edition of Desertfest New York – Taking place at Saint Vitus Bar on Friday 26th April and The Well on Saturday 27th April + Sunday 28th April.

A limited amount of 3-day early-bird passes are available for $65 via the below link – https://www.ticketweb.com/event/desertfest-nyc-2019-the-well-tickets/8942735?pl=thewell&fbclid=IwAR28zNtuppWWRVoi3vCXRkeGIg4wOD4FShfPgjbIPDGiOGPDOzbL2vj_UWE

Artwork by the wildly talented Mercerrock (Brian Mercer Design)

https://facebook.com/Desertfestnyc/
http://www.desertfest.nyc/

Monolord, Rust (2017)

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The Obelisk Presents: Ode to Doom in Manhattan on Nov. 24 with Heavy Temple, Fox 45, Nine Layers Deep and Sabba

Posted in The Obelisk Presents on November 19th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

ode to doom nov 24 lineup

My general tack in talking about gender on this site is not to. I try not to post album art that has shitty objectification of women on it, and if I think something is outwardly misogynist, I’ll say so one way or another, but I cringe when I see male writers and PR people and labels using tags like “female-fronted,” etc., and I usually try to mention it as little as humanly possible. I don’t know if the method is politically sound or what — I’d have to talk to my theorist wife about it, and she’s sleeping at the moment — but the way I see it something can’t be normalized while still being made exotic. That is, when a band has three or four dudes in it, one doesn’t call them “male-fronted.” Women in bands is a thing that happens. The proportions as relates to the general population are ridiculous — see: shitty misogyny, above — but I try not to position lady-inclusion in my writing as something abnormal, because it isn’t something abnormal and it shouldn’t be treated that way. I don’t expect or want or think I deserve kudos for that, and fuck you heartily if you think I’m saying this to be self-righteous.

I’ve been sort of loosely involved in presenting Ode to Doom at Arlene’s Grocery in NYC for a little over two years. I signed on initially because I liked the idea of someone still putting on underground heavy shows in Manhattan where so much of that business seems to have migrated to Brooklyn during the course of the last decade-plus. Claudia Crespo, who is the promoter behind the series, is well beyond admirable for her dedication to the cause, and the events she has curated have highlighted some of the finest in heavy that the Eastern Seaboard has to offer, from groups like Geezer to Tarpit Boogie to Eternal Black and Shadow Witch and on and on. It’s awesome, to be blunt, and the next one is a special lineup along the lines alluded-to above, so yeah, it seemed well worth an extra plug to me.

I know this week is Thanksgiving and that people will be recovering this week from the holiday, but if you, like me, have found spiritual restoration in riff form, I’ve no doubt you’ll find it again Saturday night at Arlene’s with Heavy Temple, Fox 45, Nine Layers Deep and Sabba on a reasonably early bill.

Dig the info:

ode to doom nov 24 poster

Next up, an all female-fronted Ode to Doom, with #Sabba, Nine Layers Deep, Fox 45, and Heavy Temple @ Arlene’s Grocery!!! Save the date, November 24th!! Doors open at 6:30, show kicks off at 7!! Flyer by Ritual Design!

Sabba at 7
Nine Layers Deep at 8
Fox 45 at 9
Heavy Temple at 10

Claudia Crespo on Nov. 24 Ode to Doom:

I’ve been doing Ode for a little over two years now and this one coming up on the 24th has been marinating in my mind for some time now, really about a year. I find the growing number of women in the metal scene (particularly in the Doom Community) only getting larger, stronger, and more in your face (which is a great thing). With groups like The Doom Hag, it was only a matter a time when I felt a show like the one coming up was wanted or maybe even a little needed. I’m super proud and stoked to support that.

Ode to Doom Nov. 24 event page

Ode to Doom on Thee Facebooks

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Friday Full-Length: The Book of Knots, Traineater

Posted in Bootleg Theater on November 16th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

The Book of Knots, Traineater (2007)

Traineater is something of the lost The Book of Knots record, which is counterintuitive because I’m pretty sure it was the one with widest initial distribution. But their 2004 debut, Book of Knots, is still available to stream via Arclight Records, and their 2011 third LP, Garden of Fainting Stars (review here), is diligently hosted for digital listening via Ipecac Recordings‘ Bandcamp page. Traineater, the middle outing from the kinda-New-York-based troupe, is only listenable as a YouTube playlist, and while physical copies are still available in some places, it never had nearly the profile it deserved. Though to be fair, I’m not sure it possibly could.

I’ll be blunt and say flat out I love this record. I’ve lived with it for 11 years and it still manages to both deliver something new each time and to make an impact in the listening experience. The Book of Knots was comprised of the four-piece of vocalist/violinist Carla Kihlstedt (Sleepytime Gorilla Museum), guitarist Joel Hamilton (Battle of Mice, noted producer at Studio G in Brooklyn), bassist Tony Maimone (Pere Ubu) and the book of knots traineaterdrummer/vocalist Matthias Bossi (Sleepytime Gorilla Museum), and each of their three albums carried a loose concept behind it. Sea, land and air. The self-titled told stories of the ocean, Traineater was in homage to post-industrial Rust Belt decline, and Garden of Fainting Stars explored Cold War-era piloting and the space race. Particularly on the latter two outings, the core four-piece was joined by a slew of guests, and as Traineater opens with “View from the Watertower,” also its longest track at 5:51 (immediate points), their impact can be felt immediately as Carla Bozulich (Evangelista) takes the lead vocal to top the album’s explosive launch.

The track devolves into eerie noise and manic poetry as Bozulich builds a maddening tension that, at 3:50, bursts out again on a slow instrumental march that’s every bit what post-metal could’ve become at its best. The album that follows is wildly experimental — each of its 14 tracks offers something different, as well as mostly different personnel; if there’s any crime to it, it’s that Kihlstedt doesn’t get more lead vocal opportunities, as she’s a fucking genius — and after Bossi takes on ol’-time radio compression to narrate the quick bounce of “Hands of Production,” Traineater gives its first demonstration of her utter brilliance with its title-track. Broken down mills, factory decline, worn down people, and a kind of wounded heart populate Traineater, and though there’s some element of condescension as Tom Waits gives a gravelly voice to the nonetheless catchy-as-hell “Pray,” which follows in succession, the raw soul on display in “Traineater” itself might only be matched by Kihlstedt‘s vocal/violin — yes, she does both at the same time; I’ve seen it live — on the later “Salina,” which is the first of a two-stage apex of the album in its second half.

Spoken word is introduced as an element in “View from the Watertower” to some degree, but as The Book of Knots welcome more and more guests — Jon Langford of The Mekons, Waits, Aaron Lazar of The Giraffes, Trey Spruance of Secret Chiefs 3 and Mr. Bungle (etc.), Norman Westberg (who’d go on to play in Swans), Mike Watt and a slew of others credited on the back cover: Alice Lee, Rick Moody, Wu Fei, Zeena Parkins, Brian Wolf, Allen Willner, Matt Welsh, Kathleen Brennan, John Davis, Doug Henderson, and Megan Reilly — on vocals and various instruments, some homemade, human speaking voice becomes an all the more essential element in the album’s varied personality on cuts like “Pedro to Cleveland,” the seething and malevolent “Red Apple Boy,” parts of “Midnight,” “Boomtown” and “Hewitt-Smithson,” which appears just ahead of the two minutes of noise in “Walker Percy Evans High School” that close out.

It is an album as dense as its list of personnel, but not inaccessible, and the showcase of voice is a big part of that. Kihlstedt‘s presence in “Traineater,” “Where’d Mom Go?” and “Salina” isn’t to be understated as a factor tying the material together, but whether it’s the selection of obscure verses to the traditional “The Ballad of John Henry” that start Traineater‘s second half, ending poignantly with the title character telling his son he must be a steel-driving man, which in the context of the record is only thereby perpetuating the decline of human-labor industrialization, or the somewhat departures from the concept in “Red Apple Boy” — more a treatise on the underlying threat of suburbia — and “Boomtown,” which carries through the theme, but from a British Isles perspective, each cut brings characters and stories to life such that it’s not artists sitting back in a New York studio talking about the Midwest, but more of an effort to engage a collective spirit. Issues of social class remain, but that too is a crucial part of the American story.

As noted, “Salina” is the first of a two-part apex to the work as a whole. The second piece of that is the chugging “Third Generation Pink Slip.” Fronted — and very much fronted — by Lazar, it begins with the lines, “This town’s so done/The writing’s on the wall/The more the union makes demands/The more the union falls,” and continues through with a scathing, gnashing performance that’s bitter enough to earn its concluding image: “Three generations on a Friday night spend their last paychecks, alright,” which arrives around a reprise of dutiful workaday whistling brought in during an earlier break. In combination with the violin-laced, hair-stand-on-end surge in the second half of “Salina,” it’s The Book of Knots at both their most outwardly heavy and arguably the book of knots traineater back covertheir most visionary, answering back the intensity of “View from the Watertower” with a righteous summation of Traineater‘s style and message alike, and it every bit earns the subsequent epitaph of “Hewitt-Smithson” and “Walker Percy Evans High School” that follows. At that point there’s not much left to say.

They played one show for Traineater, in New York at some theater downtown — was it Gramercy? It was one of them — and I was there. It was their first show, and BozulichLazar, and a ton of others showed up for the occasion. Incredible. There was one gig at The Knitting Factory in Brooklyn for Garden of Fainting Stars the review of which is linked above, and there may have been one more in the years since, but I’m not sure on that. I may have blocked it out of my memory because I was so upset I couldn’t be there, if it did happen. Either way, the quartet of KihlstedtBossiMaimone and Hamilton have moved onto different projects. Last I heard Kihlstedt and Bossi were on Cape Cod, being brilliant under sundry guises. Hamilton was nominated for a Grammy for production work a few years back, and in addition to owning Studio GMaimone plays in the instrumental post-rock outfit No Grave Like the Sea and others. He recorded and mixed their debut album, Estelle, in 2016.

I won’t, but I could go on about Traineater, and frankly, I don’t care if you’ve never heard The Book of Knots or what. Sometimes I close out a week with a record just for myself, and this is one of those occasions. I won’t take away from either of their other releases, but this is an album so underrated that it feels like a crime against humanity. Approach with an open mind.

As always, I hope you enjoy, and thanks for reading.

I stood outside for a minute last night in the parking lot of the stretch of townhouses where we live in Massachusetts last night in my shorts and my sandals and let the lazy snowflakes fall on my head. I don’t know what this winter’s going to be like up here — one feels permanently traumatized by capital-‘w’ Winter 2014 — but I enjoyed that moment and as it’s quarter to five in the morning now, I’m looking forward to when The Pecan wakes up and sees the two inches or so of snow that fell after he went to bed last night. I expect he’ll squeak in response. He’s been doing that a lot this week. He’s amazing.

We came back north from Jersey on Tuesday, I think. Yeah, Tuesday. Stole an extra 24 hours in the Mid-Atlantic owing to the end of World War I. I’ll take it however it comes. Spent most of the week beat to hell, as expected, and down, down, down in that narcissistic mire of fucking depressive horror. Awful. You feel like shit about everything and it just bleeds off you. I’m 37 years old and I fucking hate myself like I did when I was 12. Do you have any idea how sad that shit is a quarter-century later? A big part of me is like, “dude get over it” and then I just sit there and fucking chastise myself for existing and draining the life out of everyone around me — which up here is really only The Patient Mrs. and The Pecan. You think a one-year-old doesn’t deserve better than to hang around with my sad ass? Pathetic.

There’s a lot of shit that’s happened to me in the last two-plus years that I’m just not over. At all. At all. It’s personal, but it’s always there. You go through some things that change who you are on a fundamental level. You get scars, and they look different over time, but they don’t leave you.

Speaking of permanence — and yet radically shifting the subject — I’m thinking of getting a tattoo. Not going to say of what yet, and no, it has nothing to do with the baby, but yeah, I’ve got a design from Sean “Skillit” McEleny that’s headed toward finalization that I’m looking to get on the inside of my forearm. Haven’t quite decided right or left, but either way, it’s something I want visible.

The Pecan is waking up. I can hear him thumping around upstairs even with the new Spidergawd record playing — which rules, by the way — and maybe he’ll go back out and maybe not. Either way, time’s a crunch. Here’s what’s up for next week, subject to change:

Mon.:  New Light Choir full stream/review; Samavayo video premiere-ish; Bell Witch video.
Tue.: Pale Divine full stream/review; Fauna Timbre video premiere.
Wed.: Foghound full stream/review.
Thu.: Huata full stream/review.
Fri.: Maybe an Orango full stream/review? Otherwise Rotor review.

Packed. Next week is Thanksgiving in the US, and if you’re celebrating, all my best. We’ll be back down in New Jersey for it to see and host family. Very much looking forward to that, and you’ll note that the end of next week is pretty Euro-centric as a result. You know I overthink this stuff.

Alright, I should get going. Two quick plugs:

1. Hoodies and longsleeve shirts are up now at Dropout Merch: https://dropoutmerch.com/the-obelisk.

2. This Sunday at 7PM Eastern is a new episode of ‘The Obelisk Show’ on Gimme Radio: https://gimmeradio.com/

If you didn’t see over on Instagram, I bought a new microphone to use for the latter. Sounds pretty good but for the doofus talking into it. Ha.

Please have a great and safe weekend, and if I don’t say so again between now and then, an excellent Thanksgiving, and a productive start to the brutality that is the holiday season. Have fun. Back Monday.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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Desertfest NYC Announced for April 2019

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 15th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Well, here we are. Rumors have been kicking around for years about a Desertfest brand extension happening in the US, and the question of where has finally been answered. Seems to me it could’ve just as easily been the West Coast, but as the Desertfest crew are partnering with Tee Pee Records to make it happen, it could really only be Brooklyn. I can’t wait to find out what venues will be involved. The fest is set for April 2019 with the lineup still to be announced.

With the advent of Desertfest NYC 2019, New York joins the ranks of London, Berlin, Antwerp and Athens in playing host to a Desertfest. It’s no minor honor, and it says a lot about not only how this festival has grown into one of the premier event brands in underground heavy, but also how the American underground itself has come up over the course of this decade. No way a Desertfest NYC happens in 2013. Now? It only seems to make perfect sense.

So who will play? What will the interaction be like between Desertfest NYC and the flagship fests a couple weeks later in London and Berlin? Can I go? Can I get a photo pass? How does this economic boon compare to Amazon going to Long Island City for one of its new headquarters? All of these questions will be answered in time, and of course more are waiting to be asked.

For now, it exists. That’s enough to give me a rare moment of patriotic pride.

Here’s the announcement:

Desertfest nyc

DESERTFEST NEW YORK IS HERE

Europe’s leading stoner rock, doom, sludge and psych festival adds another city to its books with the very first U.S. weekender, taking place April 26th-28th 2019 in Brooklyn, New York.
Line-up, venues and tickets revealed next Friday 23rd Nov 10am EST/3pm GMT

Tee Pee Records | Desertfest London | DesertFest Berlin | Desertfest Belgium

https://facebook.com/Desertfestnyc/
http://www.desertfest.nyc/

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Godmaker & Somnuri, Split LP: Excerpts and Edges

Posted in Reviews on November 13th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

godmaker somnuri split

Madness ensues. Some splits seem like a nightmare to set up. Bands are on opposite sides of the planet, have disparate sounds, there are different labels involved, all this extra whatnot before anyone actually gets to the process of writing songs. I’d imagine Godmaker and Somnuri getting together for a split LP released through The Company was easier. Like sending a text: “So, split?” “Sure.” Followed by the booking of studio time. The two bands, both of whom are based in Brooklyn, tap into a progressive take on New York’s long-established concrete-crunch noise rock, and both bands showcase considerable forward-forward-forward aesthetic ambition in their two included songs on this 30-minute offering. But even more than whatever commonalities exist in terms of geography, sound and intent, these dudes know each other. They’re not strangers assembled together haphazardly.

Check the lineups. Godmaker is guitarist/vocalists Pete Ross (ex-Cleanteeth) and Carmine Laietta (ex-Hull), bassist/keyboardist/vocalist Andrew Archey (Fashion Week) and drummer Jon Lane (ex-Bröhammer), and their 13-minute “An Excerpt” features guest vocals from Kurt Applegate (Family). Meantime, Somnuri are guitarist/vocalist Justin Sherrell (ex-Bezoar, Blackout), bassist Drew Mack (ex-Hull) and drummer Phil SanGiacomo (ex-Family). If you took everyone’s bands and put them all on a bill together you could have a festival at the Saint Vitus Bar. Granted you’d have to get a couple reunions going, but I think the point stands; it isn’t exactly anyone’s first time at the dance. And frankly, both Godmaker and Somnuri sound like it.

Godmaker released their self-titled debut (review here) in 2014, and Somnuri had their own (review here) last year, but regardless of the timing, the two bands both inhabit the modern sphere of New York noise, informed not only by the likes of Unsane, but by sludge and post-metal, by sundry other genres and experiences. The result is a sense of atmosphere to complement the aggressive push in both acts that remains coherent from one to the next, and as Godmaker‘s cover of Portishead‘s “Over” gives way to Somnuri‘s “Over and Out,” the ties there seem to extend beyond the title similarities.

So okay, they fit well together. Fair enough. Actually makes a lot of sense they’d get together for a joint release. As for the madness noted at the outset, that’s really more down to the audio itself. The chief impression I carried out of Godmaker‘s self-titled four years ago was one of scathe. It was skin-peelingly abrasive, but their “An Excerpt” hones a more patient delivery, unfolding with a buzzing tension beneath a steady guitar line and nonetheless enacting a fluidity around this darker theme. Recorded and mixed by Tom Tierney at Spaceman Sound, when it kicks in with a full-toned nod at about 90 seconds, barking vocals over top for a first verse that soon shifts into a chorus that reminds of Meatjack taking on the Melvins — that’s pretty specific, so I’m going to guess it’s sonic coincidence — it makes a return to the verse and the chorus for a second runthrough before shifting into the more complex aspects of its structure, introducing cleaner vocals amid screams and a chugging instrumental surge that gives way to winding triumph and, right about at the halfway mark, a falling apart of the proceedings entirely.

They crash out to near-silence with quiet bass and guitar setting the stage for the build back up — one can’t help but be reminded of Hull‘s layered-vocal victories here — as they shove toward and through the apex and set themselves on the final outward march that consumes the last two minutes, dedicating the final of them to sustained crashes and noise. After that, I’d question the necessity of the Portishead cover, but it’s listed as a “bonus track,” and I guess if you’ve got the space on the record, use it. They bring a beefed-up arrangement to “Over,” which appeared on Portishead‘s 1997 self-titled full-length, and include samples and a current of foreboding that comes through the cleaner vocals early and the later screams the accompany. It’s a welcome enough touch and shows a breadth of influence on the part of Godmaker, which is no doubt part of the reason it’s there, but “An Excerpt” is the highlight without question.

Somnuri answer back with two originals of their own in “Over and Out” and “Edge of the Forest,” neither of which hits the runtime of Godmaker‘s “An Excerpt,” but both of which find the trio building on the promise of their first record and bringing together a dynamic that benefits from the chemistry burgeoning among the players. Sherrell, who drummed in Bezoar and plays bass in Blackout, seems to be the kind of player who can handle just about any task he might take on in a band. Vocallly he’s in easy command in switching between clean and harsh lines, and his tone and that of Mack are both righteously thick without being indistinguishable from each other — Jeff Berner recorded at Studio G, while SanGiacomo mixed. “Over and Out” moves in its second half to a tight chug and weaves a lead line overhead to give a tonal contrast, and concludes with a full-brunt crush that’s absolutely punishing.

“Edge of the Forest” is longer by nearly three full minutes at 7:21, and uses some of that time to set up a more patient buildup à la Godmaker earlier with the crash-in happening right around the two-minute mark with far-back clean vocals reminding of the last Akimbo (yes, I know: wrong coast, but they were writing about New Jersey, so eat me) before the slow roars and screams drop in the midsection to atmospheric guitar leading not to a build, but a sudden slam forward that is propelled by the drums through a fierce but still controlled crescendo given vicious screams before a final return to the chug that first enveloped after that midsection quiet part gives a last-minute sense of symmetry and the piece ends on a notably progressive assault. The temptation with a split is to think of the bands involved in competition with each other, and maybe that’s what’s happening with Godmaker and Somnuri here, but the fact of the matter is both offer an intricacy of style that adds depth to their raw and sometimes angular heaviness. They work better together than they do as adversaries, in other words, and the aim in this split seems not to be to find them pitted against each other, but acting in unison toward their shared goal of conveying some of the best aspects on New York’s modern noise movement. It’s a thoughtful madness.

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Somnuri on Instagram

Somnuri on Bandcamp

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Friday Full-Length: Type O Negative, October Rust

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 26th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Type O Negative, October Rust (1996)

I hereby claim this album in the name of doom. Do I have any right or authority to do that? Nope, but it’s out there now and there’s no going back.

It’s not such a stretch anyway. Type O Negative released October Rust on Roadrunner Records in 1996 as the follow-up to 1993’s Bloody Kisses, an album that at least in the New York market produced successful radio singles in songs like “Christian Woman” and “Black No. 1.” Seems unfathomable now, but a quarter-century ago, that kind of thing happened, and I remember it distinctly because I was a 12-year-old boy calling Q104.3 incessantly to request them. The station even let me on the air a couple times in recorded intros to the songs on their nightly top-five countdown or whatever it was. They said I sounded good. Pubescent-me was stoked in a way that still makes me smile.

I was in high school when October Rust came out and the album hit me as few have. It was a bridge between my Beatles fandom and the appreciation for heavy metal I couldn’t help but develop as the wake of grunge found my weirdo-dork-ass looking for something angrier to relate to. By the time October Rust was released as the Brooklyn band’s fourth overall full-length, they weren’t as aggro as they had been on, say, “Kill All the White People,” but songs like “Love You to Death,” the woefully catchy “Green Man” and “Red Water (Christmas Mourning)” were lush in a way that was enticing, their arrangements thoughtful, sweeping and commanding while still remaining heavy in tone and presence. The bass fuzz from Peter Steele at the start of “Be My Druidess” remains a swaggering showcase of unmatched tone: “Here it is, fools. Good luck trying to top it.” And if anyone has, I’m not sure who it would be. Where Bloody Kisses, 1992’s The Origin of the Feces and 1991’s Slow Deep and Hard were all pretty raw in their basic sound, October Rust didn’t shy away from being over-the-top in its production any more than it did in the sexual mischief of “My Girlfriend’s Girlfriend,” “Be My Druidess” and “Wolf Moon (Including Zoanthropic Paranoia),” etc. The album’s 15-track — three of which are gags; I always thought the phrasing in track two of “We’d like to thank you for picking up our latest recording of October Rust” was a little odd, as though there’d been some earlier recording of it — and 72-minute runtime is daunting but never monotonous, the songwriting of Steele and his ever-malleable low register vocals complemented by the guitar/voice work of Kenny Hickey, the drums of Johnny Kelly and the keyboard/backing vocals of Josh Silver, who remains the unsung hero of the band in songs like “Love You to Death,” “Red Water (Christmas Mourning),” “Die with Me,” on and on.

But as to what makes October Rust doom, the arguments are myriad and largely pointless. Yes, Type O Negative play slow. Yes, they tune low. Yes, they’re clearly influenced by Black Sabbath as well as the aforementioned Beatles — they covered “Paranoid” by the former and “Day Tripper” by the latter, daringly bringing their own take to both — and like a lot of releases that were outliers while still being considered under the general umbrella of “metal” at their time, October Rust is never overly aggressive. Closer “Haunted” stretches just past the 10-minute mark and is among the most atmospheric songs they ever composed, and though the earlier stretch in “Be My Druidess,” the dance-y single “My Girlfriend’s Girlfriend” and their cover of Neil Young‘s “Cinnamon Girl” are uptempo, the crux of the album, especially in the context of what was then happening in the band’s echelon of heavy music — certainly Kyuss were on a major label and Black Sabbath were about to reunite with Ozzy, but there was nobody really bringing goth theatricality and doom together in the way Type O did — remains more about composition than aggression. They were a standout. More than two decades on from this album’s release, they still are.

Does it matter? Not really. The language of subgenre didn’t really exist at the time in the way it does now — the internet, social media, blah blah — btype o negative october rustut the bottom line is any angle you take it from, October Rust plows through whatever critique you might want to apply.

Much of the focus on it remains on songs like “Love You to Death,” “Be My Druidess,” “My Girlfriend’s Girlfriend” and “Cinnamon Girl,” but for me, the greatest impact comes between the latter two in that list, with the three-song punch of “Die with Me,” “Burnt Flowers Fallen” and “In Praise of Bacchus,” each of which shows a character, emotionality and craft that’s simply in a league of its own. I still can’t enter a European airport without hearing Steele‘s verse, “Hey KLM, AT&T/The UK post-system/Do you still love me” play in the mental jukebox from “Die with Me,” and the hooks of “Burnt Flowers Fallen” were deceptively simple and surrounded by guitar and bass brimming with tonal vitality pushed forward by drums (or was it drum machine?) at a pace that filled the gap between the slower and faster material around it. And “In Praise of Bacchus?” It stands as one of the best songs Type O Negative ever wrote, and they wrote a few good ones along the way. That 21-minute stretch has come to define for me everything that works best about October Rust in melody and the poise of execution that makes the record so enduringly special. It was never just about the hits.

They come back on after “Haunted” to let Steele say with typical performed self-deprecation, “I hope it wasn’t too disappointing…” and while an afterthought, that little bookend with the untitled second track after the white noise goof of “Bad Ground” winds up tying October Rust together with a sense of completion that shows that as far into the wash as they go at the end of what’s essentially the album’s grand finale — if one suddenly cut off; cold endings abound — they never lose sight of their overall purpose. I don’t know if it would be right to call October Rust mature given the pervasive sense of multi-tiered chicanery at work, but it was a huge step forward in their approach and aesthetic even from where they’d been three years before and a rare instance in which a band took commercial viability not as a cue to water down their output to reach as many people as possible, but to expand their sonic palette and create something richer on the whole.

They would answer October Rust in 1998 with the After Dark video and 1999’s World Coming Down, which chronicled Steele‘s cocaine addiction in “White Slavery” at the outset and made a running theme of it from there on. 2003’s subsequent Life is Killing Me was a triumph, casting off the residuals of goth in favor of a well-claimed sound and songwriting process that was entirely their own, and 2007’s Dead Again offered an actually-mature Type O Negative in songs like “The Profit of Doom,” “September Sun” and “Tripping a Blind Man” while seeing Hickey come to the fore on vocals more often in complement to Steele with a riffier approach overall. Steele of course passed away April 14, 2010 — I was in a depot in the UK waiting to take a ferry to the Netherlands for my second Roadburn Festival when I heard; all flights were canceled owing to the volcano Eyjafjallajökull — and Hickey and Kelly (the latter of whom also joined Danzig) went on to form Seventh Void which eventually begat Silvertomb, who toured last month with fellow Brooklynite Roadrunner vets Life of Agony ahead of a presumed eventual album release.

Being as seasonal as it is, I felt the need to get this one in before October ends. Doom or not, it’s a record that feels like home to me. As always, I hope you enjoy.

Yesterday was The Pecan’s first birthday. One year. He spent most of the day refusing to nap, but had a little bit of brownie before the bedtime ritual — we put toys/books away, change diaper, brush teeth, sing “C is for Cookie” and then say goodnight — and we sang to him like you do. The real parties were last weekend in New Jersey and this weekend in Connecticut, so it was kind of just a little thing on this end. We gave him a pillow shaped like a grilled cheese sandwich and a clacker out of a toy instrument pack we bought last weekend. He seemed to dig both and demolished the brownie, so there you go.

Thanks to any and everyone who has yet checked out The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio. That’s been a lot of fun to put together thus far and I’m going to keep it going for as long as they let me.

And thanks to any and everyone who’s bought a shirt from Dropout Merch so far. I’ve been talking about getting another design or two together, so I’ll hope to have more news on that front soon.

Next week, there are premieres coming from Frozen Planet….1969CraneiumHoly Grove and Empress as well as a review of the new album from Castle, but I might go hit a show this weekend, so that would bump the schedule of other stuff and you’ll pardon me if I don’t do full notes as a result of that. I got invited and sometimes it’s nice to go someplace when you’re invited.

I’ll leave it there since this post is already longer than I intended and it’s past 5AM. I pushed my alarm from 2:30 to 3AM all week and it did me much good. Going to keep that up for a while and see if I can get away with it and still make it through the day.

Okay. Thanks for reading and please have a great and safe weekend. Don’t forget to check out the forum and radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

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Rattlesnake Announce Time is Come EP; Stream Title-Track

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 16th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

rattlesnake

Brooklyn’s Rattlesnake get pretty raw on their new EP, Time is Come, as you can hear in the title-track streaming at the bottom of this post. The song itself starts off with howling guitar and a chugging bassline, but opens up soon to a full-on strut riff with swinging drums behind leading to bluesy verses and a brash chorus. Given the Southern heavy ’70s aesthetic, the barebones production value reminds of a soundboard bootleg of some lost live show you’d buy on tape at the flea market — the setlist typed out on the Maxell cover with a typewriter — but it still showcases what’s paramount in the track itself, which is the melodic vocals of guitarist JP Gilbert, bassist Don Berger and drummer Adam Kriney. The interweaving lines and harmonies are elements carried over from the band’s 2017 mission-statement debut EP, Outlaw Boogie (review here), as well as from their earlier-2018 single Dirt in My Eyes/Picture Perfect (discussed here), as well as from Kriney‘s other current outfit, The Golden Grass. It works in context here as well.

The new release is pressed to CD-R with the tracks from the prior two EPs included, and Rattlesnake have shows booked in Brooklyn and Philly this month, as the PR wire informs:

rattlesnake time is come

RATTLESNAKE “Time Is Come” EP

In For The Kill Records is proud to announce the release of “Time Is Come”, the 3rd EP released by Brooklyn based heavy rockers RATTLESNAKE! Incorporating elements of Southern Rock, Proto-Metal, Progressive Rock, and a classic American 70’s hard boogie strut, the power trio harnesses an earnest and honest energy that soars with harmonious vocals and glides through dexterous musical passages evoking the timeless dusty echoes of their musical forefathers! This three song EP emits a warm analogue feel, capturing the group laying down their contemporary vision, without referencing modernity or the slickness of over-produced digital gloss; it’s real, rough and raw! Featuring two original cuts, the EP also shows their American boogie take on the ROSE TATTOO classic “Rock ‘N’ Roll Outlaw”!

Released in an edition of 100 pro-printed CD-Rs, the EP also features 5 bonus tracks comprising their 2 earlier EPs, which includes the 3 song “Outlaw Boogie” cassette (2017) and the 2 songs from their recently issued “Dirt In My Eyes”/”Picture Perfect” 7” (2018). Highly recommended for fans of BLACKFOOT, THE OUTLAWS, POINT BLANK, MOLLY HATCHET, WISHBONE ASH & HYDRA!

Upcoming RATTLESNAKE performances:
Thur Oct 25 at Coney Island Baby/NY/NY w/ Mick’s Jaguar + Black Magic Flower Power (https://www.facebook.com/events/1977317558992360/)

Sat Oct 27 at Ortleibs/Philadelphia/PA w/ Green Meteor (https://www.facebook.com/events/2173828045985012/)

Rattlesnake is:
Adam Kriney – drums/lead & backing vocals
JP Gilbert – guitar/lead & backing vocals
Don Berger – bass guitar/backing vocals

https://www.facebook.com/RattlesnakeBoogie69
https://rattlesnakeboogie69.bandcamp.com
https://www.facebook.com/InForTheKillRecords
http://inforthekillrecords.bigcartel.com

Rattlesnake, “Time is Come”

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