End of Hope Premiere “Arc of Movement”; Debut Album Cease and Destroy out Nov. 19

Posted in audiObelisk, Whathaveyou on October 21st, 2019 by JJ Koczan

end of hope

I’m neither qualified to comment on the vibrant history of stylized aggression that is New York hardcore nor inclined to pretend otherwise, but with members of Eternal Black and Reign of Zaius involved here, End of Hope once again show the relation between hardcore and tonally-heavier fare that goes back for as long as one might want to look. End of Hope‘s debut album is called Cease and Destroy and will be self-released on Nov. 19 as nine songs and 27 minutes varying in sonic intensity at any given moment, but united around a presentation that is clenched-fist tense and prone to violent outbursts, as, frankly, one would hope it would be either in the punkish sub-two-minute blast “What Was I Thinking?” or the more complex closer “Arc of Movement,” which resolves the album at a full sprint after the brief but spectacular plunder has concluded.

Heart’s everything for this kind of release and End of Hope‘s collective heart is clearly in it, so what the hell. Take a couple minutes and peruse the album info and dig into “Arc of Movement” below, then maybe you do the Bandcamp thing, then you go about the rest of your day. Alright? Alright.

Enjoy:

end of hope cease and destroy

End of Hope — featuring members of Kraut, St. Bastard, Reign of Zaius, and Eternal Black — release debut album, Cease & Destroy, on November 19, 2019

End of Hope — comprised of members from several well-known New York City acts including Kraut, St. Bastard, Reign of Zaius, and Eternal Black — will release their debut album, Cease & Destroy, on November 19th, 2019. The album will be for sale in both digital and CD formats via their Bandcamp page (endofhope.bandcamp.com) and available for streaming on Spotify, Apple Music, and other services. Cease & Destroy features nine songs in the band’s trademark Motörhead-meets-Black Flag style — a potent cocktail of high-volume speed rock and anthemic choruses.

The band consists of Davey Gunner of New York Hardcore legends Kraut on vocals, Dave Richman of the one-man sludge-and-doom project St. Bastard on drums, Davis Schlachter of Brooklyn’s ape-rock purveyors Reign of Zaius on bass, and Ken Wohlrob of Brooklyn doom heavyweights Eternal Black on guitar. They formed in 2018 and released a two-song EP, titled D E M O, in March of that year.

According to vocalist Davey Gunner, “I’m super excited about this album,” adding, “It’s probably the best lyrics I have written in years, particularly because of the meaning and motivation behind it all.”

Cease & Destroy was recorded at Suburban Elvis Studios in New York with production, mixing, and mastering duties being handled by Joe Kelly and Kol Marshall (Ministry, King Diamond, Mercyful Fate, Eternal Black, Begotten). “We knew that Joe and Kol were the guys who could capture the live sound of the band,” says guitarist Ken Wohlrob. “I had worked with them on all the Eternal Black albums, and it was key that we get across what people were hearing at the live shows. That attack, the wall of volume that is such an important part of what we do.”

In addition to the new album, End of Hope has also released a cover of Discharge’s classic song “Protest and Survive” as a digital-only single (available on Spotify, Apple Music, and other streaming services).
https://open.spotify.com/track/3JIt7OzzTfjlRNQsJiyT6G

Cease and Destroy track listing:
1. Hypocrisy
2. Last Night
3. Guilt Trip
4. The Hardest Thing
5. What Was I Thinking?
6. End of Hope
7. Excessive Fortune
8. The Deal
9. Arc of Movement

End of Hope is:
Davey Gunner: Vocals
Dave Richman: Drums
Davis Schlachter: Bass
Ken Wohlrob: Guitars

https://endofhope.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/endofhopenyc/
https://www.instagram.com/endofhopenyc/
https://open.spotify.com/artist/7pWGk80FILrxb2HMNRLFjD
https://soundcloud.com/endofhope

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White Hills Announce European Tour Dates & New Collaborations

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 17th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Let’s face it: Long after the floods and storms and famine and whatever else claim humanity, the sentient dolphins who inherent the earth will still be dedicating their best scholars to the task of trying to understand just what the hell level White Hills were working on. Most certainly, whatever it was — or, you know, is — it’s their own. In the best tradition of New York’s underground, they’ve long been an in-the-know-type band. The sort who might record and play shows with Martin Bisi and whose experimentalism extends through things like covering obscure ’80s synth tracks and scooting off to their kinda-adopted-home-base on the European circuit for a Fall tour that includes a slew of festivals psychedelic and otherwise.

White Hills thrive in this hard-to-get-a-handle-on aesthetic territory between genres, and as they’re in the studio putting together a new album that, you know, just has Jim Jarmusch on it — as one does — they’ll no doubt continue that thread of casting out mysteries for future aquatic-mammalian historians to try and unravel.

Good fucking luck.

From the PR wire:

WHITE HILLS Tour

New York’s acclaimed fuzz art-rock duo White Hills return to Europe

Having gathered a reputation as one of the most prolific and exciting live bands of their generation, White Hills are scheduled to descend upon mainland Europe this Autumn, playing for the very first time as a duo; with Ego Sensation on drums, electronics and vocals and Dave W on guitar and vocals.

On this tour the set will include new never-before-heard material which the band are currently working on (more on this below) as well as songs from the band’s vast catalogue including tracks from Glitter Glamour Atrocity, White Hills, H-p1, So You Are…So You’ll Be, Walks For Motorists and Stop Mute Defeat.

The tour includes several shows with collaborator and legendary NYC producer Martin Bisi (Sonic Youth, Swans, Foetus). Dave and Ego comment further on this collaboration. “We’re honored to have been able to work with Martin on three White Hills’ albums and the BC35 collaboration which brought together members of The Swans, Sonic Youth, Pop 1280, Foetus, Dresden Dolls and many other unique artists. BC Studios continues to be a vibrant breeding ground for New York noise and innovative music.” Bisi is curating The Transmission Festival in Ravenna, Italy which will feature several other NYC artists who appear on the BC35 Volume II compilation, which is released by the hosts of the festival, Bronson Recordings.

White Hills are currently in the studio working on a new album with Jeff Berner (Psychic TV) at Studio G in Brooklyn featuring a slew of unique collaborators including; Jim Jarmusch (Filmmaker & Musician), Yasmine Hamden (singer-songwriter who also appears in Jarmusch’s “Only Lovers Left Alive”), Simone Marie Butler (bassist with Primal Scream), Jim Coleman (Cop Shoot Cop) and Alex Macarte (GNOD).

White Hills – Buy The Ticket Take The Ride EU tour 2019 Dates:
14/11 CH Bern Spinnerei
15/11 ITA Busto Arsizio Circolo Gagarin (with Martin Bisi)
16/11 ITA Roma Roma Psych Fest
17/11 ITA Loreto Reasonanz (with Martin Bisi)
18/11 ITA Perugia T-Trane
19/11 ITA Torino BlahBlah
20/11 ITA Padova Nadir
21/11 ITA Ravenna Transmission Festival (with Martin Bisi)
22/11 ITA Ravenna Transmission Festival
23/11 AT Salzburg Dome of Rock Festival
24/11 DE Karlsruhe Alte Hackerei
25/11 DE Leipzig Nato
26/11 DE Berlin Urban Spree (with Martin Bisi)
27/11 SWE Malmo Plan B
28/11 SWE Gothenborg Musikenhus
29/11 DK Copenhagen BASEMENT
30/11 DE Munster Rare Guitar
1/12 NL Den Bosch W2 Poppodium
2/12 BE Bruxelles Mag 4 (with Martin Bisi)
3/12 FRA Paris Supersonic

http://whitehillsmusic.tumblr.com/
https://www.facebook.com/WHITE-HILLS-90476409450/
https://whitehills.bandcamp.com/

White Hills, “Putting on the Pressure”

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Quarterly Review: Monkey3, Asthma Castle, The Giraffes, Bask, Faerie Ring, Desert Sands, Cavalcade, Restless Spirit, Children of the Sün, Void King

Posted in Reviews on September 30th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

Call two friends and tell them to tell two friends to tell two friends, because the Quarterly Review has returned. This time around, it’s 50 records front to back for Fall 2019 and there are some big names and some smaller names and a whole lot of in between which is just how I like it. Between today and Friday, each day 10 album reviews will be posted in a single batch like this one, and although by Wednesday this always means I’m totally out of my mind, it’s always, always, always worth it to be able to write about so much cool stuff. So sit tight, because there’s a lot to get through and, as ever, time’s at a premium.

Thanks in advance for keeping up, and I hope you find something you dig.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Monkey3, Sphere

monkey3 sphere

It’s a full-on Keanu Reeves “whoa” when opening track “Spirals” kicks in on Monkey3‘s sixth album, Sphere (released by Napalm), and that’s by no means the last one on the cinematic six-tracker. The long-running Swiss mostly-instrumentalists have been consistently, persistently underappreciated throughout their career, but whether it’s the aural scope of guitar and keys in “Axis” or the swaps between intensity and sprawl in 14-minute closer “Ellipsis,” their latest work is consuming in its sense of triumph. Even the four-minute “Ida,” which seems at first like it’s barely going to be more than an interlude, finds a thread of majestic cosmic groove and rides it for the duration, while the proggy immersion of “Prism” and the harder drive of “Mass” — not to mention that shredding solo — make the middle of the record anything but a post-hypnosis dip. I won’t pretend to know if Sphere is the record that finally gets the Lausanne four-piece the respect they’ve already well deserved, but if it was, one could only say it was for good reason. Blends of heft, progressive craft, and breadth are rarely so resonant.

Monkey3 on Thee Facebooks

Napalm Records website

 

Asthma Castle, Mount Crushmore

Asthma Castle Mount Crushmore

When you call your record Mount Crushmore, you need to bring it, and much to their credit, Baltimorean sludge-rocking five-piece Asthma Castle do precisely that on their debut full-length. Issued through Hellmistress Records, the 37-minute/six-track outing is a wordplay-laced pummeler that shows as much persona in its riffing and massive groove as it does in titles like “The Incline of Western Civilization” and “The Book of Duderonomy.” Trades between early-Mastodonic twists and lumbering sludge crash add a frenetic and unpredictable feel to pieces like the title-track, while “Methlehem” trades its plod for dual-guitar antics punctuated by metallic double-kick, all the while the vocals trade back and forth between growls, shouts, cleaner shouts, the odd scream, etc., because basically if you can keep up with it, Asthma Castle wouldn’t be doing their job. One shudders to think of the amount of Natty Bo consumed during its making, but Mount Crushmore is a wild and cacophonous enough time to live up to the outright righteousness of its title. If I graded reviews, it would get a “Fuckin’ A+,” with emphasis on “fuckin’ a.”

Asthma Castle on Thee Facebooks

Hellmistress Records website

 

The Giraffes, Flower of the Cosmos

the giraffes flower of the cosmos

Some day the world will wake up and realize the rock and roll powerhouse it had in Brooklyn’s The Giraffes, but by then it’ll be too late. The apocalypse will have happened long ago, and it’ll be Burgess Meredith putting on a vinyl of Flower of the Cosmos in the New York Library as “FAKS” echoes out through the stacks of now-meaningless tomes and the dust of nuclear winter falls like snow outside the windows. The band’s tumultuous history is mirrored in the energy of their output, and yet to hear the melody and gentle fuzz at the outset of “Golden Door,” there’s something soothing about their work as well that, admittedly, “Raising Kids in the End Times” is gleeful in undercutting. Cute as well they pair that one with “Dorito Dreams” on this, their seventh record in a 20-plus-year run, which has now seen them find their footing, lose it, find it again, and in this record and songs like the masterfully frenetic “Fill up Glass” and the air-tight-tense “Like Hate” and “Romance,” weave a document every bit worthy of Mr. Meredith’s attention as he mourns for the potential of this godforsaken wasteland. Oh, what we’ll leave behind. Such pretty ruins.

The Giraffes website

The Giraffes on Bandcamp

 

Bask, III

bask iii

In the fine tradition of heavy rock as grown-up punk, North Carolina’s Bask bring progressive edge and rolling-Appalachian atmospherics to the underlying energy of III, their aptly-titled and Season of Mist-issued third album. Their foot is in any number of styles, from Baroness-style noodling to a hard twang that shows up throughout and features prominently on the penultimate “Noble Daughters II – The Bow,” but the great triumph of III, and really the reason it works at all, is because the band find cohesion in this swath of influences. They’re a band who obviously put thought into what they do, making it all the more appropriate to think of them as prog, but as “Three White Feet” and “New Dominion” show at the outset, they don’t serve any aesthetic master so much as the song itself. Closing with banjo and harmonies and a build of crash cymbal on “Maiden Mother Crone” nails the point home in a not-understated way, but at no point does III come across as hyper-theatrical so as to undercut the value of what Bask are doing. It’s a more patient album than it at first seems, but given time to breathe, III indeed comes to life.

Bask on Thee Facebooks

Season of Mist on Bandcamp

 

Faerie Ring, The Clearing

fairie ring the clearing

Listening to the weighty rollout of opening cut “Bite the Ash” on Faerie Ring‘s debut album, The Clearing (on King Volume Records), one is reminded of the energy that once-upon-a-time came out of Houston’s Venomous Maximus. There’s a similar feeling of dark energy surging through the riffs and echoing vocals, but the Evansville, Indiana, four-piece wind up on a different trip. Their take is more distinctly Sabbathian on “Lost Wind” and even the swinging “Heavy Trip” lives up to its stated purpose ahead of the chugging largesse of finisher “Heaven’s End.” They find brash ground on “The Ring” and the slower march of “Somnium,” but there’s metal beneath the lumbering and it comes out on “Miracle” in a way that the drums late in “Lost Wind” seem to hint toward on subsequent listens. It’s a mix of riff-led elements that should be readily familiar to many listeners, but the sheer size and clarity of presentation Faerie Ring make throughout The Clearing makes me think they’ll look to distinguish themselves going forward, and so their first record holds all the more potential for that.

Faerie Ring on Thee Facebooks

King Volume Records on Bandcamp

 

Desert Sands, The Ascent EP

Desert Sands The Ascent

Begun as the solo-project of London-based multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Mark Walker and presently a trio including Louis Kinder and Jonathan Walker as well, Desert Sands make their recorded debut through A Records with the three-song/half-hour The Ascent EP, a work of psychedelic existentialism that conveys its cosmic questioning even before the lyrics start, with an opening riff and rhythmic lurch to “Are You There” that seems to throw its central query into a void that either will or won’t answer. Does it? The hell should I know, but The Ascent proves duly transcendent in its pulsations as “Head Towards the Light” and 11:45 closer “Yahweh” — yeah, I guess we get there — bring drifting, languid enlightenment to these spiritual musings. The finale is, of course, a jam in excelsis and if drop-acid-find-god is the narrative we’re working with, then Desert Sands are off to a hell of a start as a project. Regardless of how one might ultimately come down (and it is, by my estimation at least, a comedown) on the question of human spirituality, there’s no denying the power and ethereal force of the kind of creativity on display in The Ascent. One will wait impatiently to see what comes next.

Desert Sands on Thee Facebooks

A Recordings on Thee Facebooks

 

Cavalcade, Sonic Euthanasia

Cavalcade Sonic Euthanasia

Say what you want about New Orleans or North Carolina or wherever the hell else, Midwestern sludge is another level of filth. To wit, the Carcass-style vocals that slice through the raw, dense riffing on “Aspirate on Aspirations” feel like the very embodiment of modern disillusion, and there’s some flourish of melodic guitar pluck there, but that only seems to give the ensuing crunch more impact, and likewise the far-back char of “Freezing in Fire” as it relates to the subsequent “Dead Idles,” as Cavalcade refute the trappings of genre in tempo while still seeming to burrow a hole for themselves in the skull of the converted. “Noose Tie” and “We Dig Our Own Graves” tell the story, but while the recording itself is barebones, Cavalcade aren’t now and never really have been so simple as to be a one-trick band. For more than a decade, they’ve provided a multifaceted and trickily complex downer extremity, and Sonic Euthanasia does this as well, bringing their sound to new places and new levels of abrasion along its punishing way. Easy listening? Shit. You see that eye on the cover? That’s the lizard people staring back at you. Have fun with that.

Cavalcade on Thee Facebooks

Cavalcade on Bandcamp

 

Restless Spirit, Lord of the New Depression

restless spirit lord of the new depression

Long Island chug-rockers Restless Spirit would seem to have been developing the material for their self-released debut album, Lord of the New Depression, over the last couple years on a series of short releases, but the songs still sound fresh and electrified in their vitality. If this was 1992 or ’93, they’d be signed already to RoadRacer Records and put on tour with Life of Agony, whose River Runs Red would seem to be a key influence in the vocals of the nine-track/39-minute offering, but even on their own, the metal-tinged five-piece seem to do just fine. Their tracks are atmospheric and aggressive and kind, and sincere in their roll, capturing the spirit of a band like Down with somewhat drawn-back chestbeating, “Dominion” aside. They seem to be challenging themselves to push outside those confines though in “Deep Fathom Hours,” the longest track at 7:35 with more complexity in the melody of the vocals and guitar, and that suits them remarkably well as they dig into this doomly take on LOA and Type O Negative and others from the early ’90s NYC underground — they seem to pass on Biohazard, which is fine — made legendary with the passage of time. As a gentleman of a certain age, I find it exceptionally easy to get on board.

Restless Spirit on Thee Facebooks

Restless Spirit on Bandcamp

 

Children of the Sün, Flowers

Children of the Sun Flowers

An eight-piece outfit based in Arvika, Sweden, which is far enough west to be closer to Oslo than Stockholm, Children of the Sün blend the classic heavy rock stylizations of MaidaVale, first-LP Blues Pills and others with a decidedly folkish bent. Including an intro, their The Sign Records debut album, Flowers, is eight track and 34 minutes interweaving organ and guitar, upbeat vibes and bluesier melodies, taking cues from choral-style vocals on “Emmy” in such a way as to remind of Church of the Cosmic Skull, though the aesthetic here is more hippie than cult. The singing on “Sunschild” soars in that fashion as well, epitomizing the lush melody found across Flowers as the keys, guitar, bass and drums work to match in energy and presence. For a highlight, I’d pick the more subdued title-track, which still has its sense of movement thanks to percussion deep in the mix but comes arguably closest to the flower-child folk Children of the Sün seem to be claiming for their own, though the subsequent closing duo of “Like a Sound” and “Beyond the Sun” aren’t far off either. They’re onto something. One hopes they continue to explore in such sünshiny fashion.

Children of the Sün on Thee Facebooks

The Sign Records on Thee Facebooks

 

Void King, Barren Dominion

void king barren dominion

Having made their debut with 2016’s There is Nothing (discussed here), Indianapolis downtrodden heavy rock four-piece Void King come back for a second go with Barren Dominion (on Off the Record Label), a title of similar theme that finds them doom riffing through massive tonality on “Burnt at Both Ends,” asking what if Soundgarden played atmospheric doom rock on “Crippled Chameleon” — uh, it would be awesome? yup — and opening each side with its longest track (double immediate points) in a clearly intended vinyl structure hell bent on immersing the listener as much as possible in the lumber and weight the band emit. Frontman Jason Kindred adds extra burl to his already-plenty-dudely approach on “Crippled Chameleon” and closer “The Longest Winter,” the latter with some harmonies to mirror those of opener “A Lucid Omega,” and the band around him — bassist Chris Carroll, drummer Derek Felix and guitarist Tommy Miller — seem to have no trouble whatsoever in keeping up, there or anywhere else on the eight-song/46-minute outing. Topped with striking cover art from Diogo SoaresBarren Dominion is deceptively nuanced and full-sounding. Not at all empty.

Void King on Thee Facebooks

Off the Record Label BigCartel store

 

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Live Review: Ode to Doom with Leather Lung, Mother Iron Horse, Somnuri & Grandpa Jack, 09.18.19

Posted in Reviews on September 19th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Leather Lung (Photo by JJ Koczan)

The third anniversary celebration of NYC-based curated show series Ode to Doom was a special occasion. The bands knew it, the venue knew it, and the people who showed up knew it. Everyone who played had new material and was excited to share. Everyone said thanks. The vibe was chill from before the show even started, and even as heavy and as raucous as things got as the bluesy opening Grandpa Jack delivered gave way to the noisier likes of Somnuri, Mother Iron Horse and Leather Lung, it stayed chill for the duration. For being what Somnuri guitarist/vocalist Justin Sherrell referred to as, “a school night” — can’t argue with facts — it was also a welcome escape from midweek blues; all parties involved seemed happy to shed the uphill slump from their shoulders, or maybe that’s just me projecting.

One way or the other, it was the best argument I’ve encountered in a while for sitting in workday-evening traffic. The air was crisp but not bitingly cold. When I signed on three years ago to have The Obelisk be among the presenters for Ode to Doom, which is run with clear dedication by Claudia Crespo at Arlene’s Grocery with input from indomitable entrepreneur Vadim Dyadyuk of Made in Brooklyn Silkscreeners, who’s done merch for this site and will again — new colors coming for the holiday season, plus did I hear you asking for Obelisk sweatpants? no? well they’re happening anyway — part of the appeal for me was nostalgic. I remembered great times at Precious Metal in the basement at Lit Lounge and other Manhattan-based shows. I don’t think it’s a bad thing that it’s all moved to Brooklyn over the last generation and now is headed to Queens, but someone keeping the flame of a Manhattan underground alive felt like an idea well worth preserving. Turns out I was right.

Suitably enough given my recent move, the unstated theme for the evening was NY-meets-MA, with Brooklyn’s Grandpa Jack and Somnuri getting started and Salem, Mass, heavybringers Mother Iron Horse and Boston’s Leather Lung closing the night. If you don’t know Grandpa Jack — and I’ll admit I didn’t hear their self-titled debut LP last year; my loss — give it time. You will. The three-piece turned classic heavy rock shades of doomly purple with vintage tone emanating from the finger-picked guitar of Johnny Strom, who also shared vocal duties with drummer Matt C. White while Jared Schapker provided warm and engrossing low end to suit their blues-infused spirit. Their periodic dips into melody on vocals were welcome and hopefully telling of things to come, and the languid pace of their material brought to mind Radio Moscow played at two-thirds speed, with jammy intent. They were a more than welcome start to the proceedings.

I hadn’t seen Somnuri yet, but was excited to. having so thoroughly dug their late-2017 self-titled debut (discussed here) and subsequent split with fellow purveyors-o’-noise Godmaker (review here). They’ve got a new album mastered as of earlier this month and will cover “Dirt” on Magnetic Eye‘s upcoming Alice in Chains redux (presumably that’s what the cover they posted a snippet of on social media is for, unless they’re just going rogue with it, which might be fun too), and the aforementioned Sherrell, bassist Philippe Arman (also of Tower) and drummer Phil SanGiacomo both brought and demolished the evening’s crowd. The new material had more melody in a post-grunge, still-volatile kind of way that made me really excited to hear it in recorded form, but there was plenty of crushing going on as well, and as wheelhouses go, that’s a good one to be in. I’ll go out on a limb and say that barring disaster this won’t be the last time I see them play, but knowing that and knowing there’s a new record in the offing only made me enjoy their set more. Until next time.

There was time for a quick walk around the block between bands, which beat staring at the baby monitor on my phone — did it? — so I walked out of the venue for a minute to get some air, made it back well in time for Mother Iron Horse, who released their debut, The Lesser Key, in May and who seem primed to get picked up by some label or another if they haven’t yet. Their energy built on what Somnuri had been doing, but their sound was more rock-based, and the double-guitar riffing was complemented by right-on classic-style lead work and excursions into more uproarious stretches. Comprised of Adam Luca, Marco Medina, Devin Fields and Chris Kobialka, they made it easy to get into what they were doing in cuts like “Gehenna” and “Scepter of Ice” from the album, and as they’re on tour with Leather Lung — they’ll play Montclair, NJ’s The Meatlocker tonight, of course with Dutchguts — they started off that run in top form with what was still a good crowd who stuck around after Somnuri‘s set. Another band I’d never seen before, another one I’ll try to see again. That’s three for three on the night so far at Ode to Doom.

By contrast, I had seen Leather Lung before, but it was upwards of four years ago in Boston and they’ve got a new record out through Magnetic Eye called Lonesome, On’ry and Evil that produced the set-highlight “Miscreant,” which perfectly summarized the band’s approach rooted in mosh-ready riffs and massive aggro-sludge tones. Coming out to the familiar strains of Waylon Jennings, frontman Mike Vickers had apparently busted his arm and had it in a sling. He left the audience to guess how he’d done it, so insert here whatever pulled-a-ligament hyperbole you’d like to about him lifting the riffs of guitarist Zach and lumbering bass of Jesse — whose backing vocals also added a sense of extremity throughout the set. Set to the crash of drummer Ben, Leather Lung‘s willfully lunkheaded sludge metal was nothing short of a hit on a Wednesday night in Manhattan, which if that doesn’t sound like an accomplishment absolutely was one. Dudes up front lost their mind, and even standing in the back, beat as I was, the groove was palpable. And by “palpable” I mean shaking the floor. They’re going to kill at Descendants of Crom this weekend in Pittsburgh.

So what did we learn? I hadn’t planned on sticking around through the entirety of Leather Lung‘s set, as I’d been up since 4AM and knew I still had the drive back to my ancestral homestead ahead of me, but I did, and so did a lot of others who no doubt had trains, Ubers, hoverboards or Citibikes to catch. And I won’t take away from what Leather Lung were doing, but the vibe of the whole night was a big part of what kept me there. It felt like I had showed up to a party three years late and still been welcomed. That’s a rare thing.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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Live Review: Nebula, Sasquatch, Mirror Queen & Geezer in Brooklyn, 09.07.19

Posted in Reviews on September 9th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Nebula (Photo by JJ Koczan)

It had all the makings of a classic Saturday night at Saint Vitus Bar, including a few classics along the way from the bands playing. I was trying to remember the last time I saw either Nebula or Sasquatch, and I know that at least in the case of the former, it was well before the fabled Brooklyn venue opened in 2011 — they haven’t toured widely since, what, 2010, for the LP version of Heavy Psych (review here)? — and I think as regards Sasquatch, it might’ve been when they were supporting their second album, II (discussed here). That came out in 2006, so definitely a long time. Now that I think about it, it’s been a couple years since I last saw Geezer as well, and only Mirror Queen, who played Desertfest NYC (review here) this past April, can I say it hasn’t been an absurdly long time.

There were reportedly a bunch of relevant shows happening in Brooklyn at the same time, from The Budos Band to Siege, but whatever. I knew where I wanted to be, and I knew I wanted to be there early. I actually got to the Vitus in time to catch the end of Geezer‘s soundcheck, and it was a quick reminder of why I was so excited to see them again in the first place. The Kingston, NY, trio have new recordings currently in progress, and unless I’m missing something — as I said, it’s been a while — the bulk of what they played was new. They finished out with “Charley Reefer” from earlier 2019’s Spiral Fires EP (review here), but beyond that and maybe one or two others the riffs to which called out their origins, the point of it having been too damn long was underscored by how fresh Geezer‘s material was, rife with ride-this-groove slow-motion boogie and an engagingly jammy soul from guitarist Pat Harrington, bassist Richie Touseull and drummer Steve Markota. The first bottom line is they were on earlier than they probably should’ve been — hazards of a four-band bill and an 11PM curfew, I suppose — and they killed it just the same, the smoothness of their roll easing those there in time to see them into what was already working on being a great night.

Mirror Queen, long since an NYC staple whose current incarnation features — in addition to founding guitarist/vocalist Kenny Sehgal, also of Tee Pee Records fame — guitarist Morgan “Can’t Help but Boogie” McDaniel, who held down low-end for a time in The Golden Grass, alongside bassist James Corallo and drummer Jeremy O’Brien, also had a swath of new material to showcase. I don’t know their recording plans, but they’re embracing classic progressive heavy rock in a big way and by all appearances even more than they did on 2017’s Verdigris (review here), their most recent LP. They played one song from that in opener “Poignard” and the title-track from 2015’s Scaffolds of the Sky (review here) before launching into new songs “Inside an Icy Light,” “A Rider on the Rain” and “The Devil Seeks Control” and a take on “Stairway to the Stars” by Blue Öyster Cult that would not be the last set-closing cover of the night. As with Geezer before them, their new stuff only made me look forward to what the New Year might bring, and though they had some technical trouble with a persistent buzz and some crackling this-or-that, their bouncing rhythms seemed to make up for whatever time they lost sorting it all out. Kind of know what to expect from them at this point, but that does nothing to lessen the appeal, as far as I’m concerned.

I’ll admit there have been chances — not many, but at least two — for me to see Sasquatch in the last couple years, and for whatever reason I haven’t been able to make it work. Their lineup, with Roadsaw‘s Craig Riggs on drums/sometimes-vocals, guitarist/vocalist Keith Gibbs and bassist Jason “Cas” Casanova, was unstoppable. Front-to-back energy of the kind where you can tell each of the players is challenging the others to keep up. Around hyper-memorable songs like “More Than You’ll Ever Be,” “Rational Woman” and “Bringing Me Down” from 2017’s Maneuvers (review here) and the much-appreciated “Chemical Lady” from their 2004 self-titled debut and “New Disguise” from 2010’s III (review here), they seemed to have some new songs in tow as well — “It Lies Beyond the Bay,” if I’m reading the setlist right? — but either way, if you could get kicked in the ass by a breath of fresh air that somehow also kind of smells like motor oil, that would be like seeing Sasquatch live. Yes. It is an experience of mixed-metaphor hyperbole-worthy heavy rock and roll of the kind that makes you want to believe not only that we live in a gilded age for the genre, but that future generations of those with any clue whatsoever will some day come up to those who were there and ask what it was like to see that band in their day. And if you’re wondering, this most certainly was their day. New album next year? That’d be just fine by me.

Speaking of new albums, did I ever think Nebula would put out another record? I wouldn’t have called it impossible, but until they got back together for Desertfest in 2018 — credit where it’s due — I don’t think I’d have considered it overly likely. However, they gave 2019’s aptly-titled Holy Shit (review here) its fair outing, with “Messiah,” “Witching Hour,” the Luciferian “Man’s Best Friend,” “Let’s Get Lost” and “The Cry of a Tortured World” aired alongside classics like “Fall of Icarus,” “Aphrodite” — which opened; my god — and the ultra-languid-and-still-somehow-aggro “Anything from You” and “To the Center,” which only brought out the spirit of how much Nebula are a punk band even if one that’s been left out in the California sun to bake until, well, baked. Guitarist/vocalist Eddie Glass‘ return feels triumphant, and not just because the record rules, and he and bassist/backing vocalist Tom Davies and drummer Mike Amster — who seems to have become desert rock’s drummer of choice, as he’s also now joined Mondo Generator; his adaptable style and obvious power behind the kit make it hard to think of a band from out that way in which he wouldn’t mesh — brought out the tech they referred to only as Ranch from the stage to play second guitar, which only filled out the sound further.

Under rainbow-hued lights, they demonstrated not only why it’s proper to think of them more than 20 years later as a classic band, but why Nebula are a band that underground heavy rock needs now, at a time when shut-the-fuck-up-and-chill seems to be in such short supply. Late in the set they included a version of “Out of Your Head” that made me want to go back and get to know 2003’s Atomic Ritual all over again, and the jammy “Sonic Titan” was more than welcome as well. I could’ve done with “Down the Highway,” but you can’t have everything. As it was, there was an event scheduled for after the show — a Smiths/Morrissey party or something like that — and so Nebula were scheduled to be done circa 10:45. They played for another 10 minutes and, in true punker fashion, threw in a cover of The Stooges‘ “Search and Destroy” to close the night, playing it with conviction enough that it felt like the song should’ve thanked them afterward. Righteous, it was. A righteous blowout.

Also classic? The traffic I hit heading back to Jersey. Midnight on a Saturday at the Lincoln Tunnel? Yeah, your trip’s gonna take twice as long as it otherwise might. Still, I got back to my ancestral homestead around 12:30 — the Morrissey party was probably in full swing — and crashed out in short order, ready to call the night a complete win as few could hope to be. Nebula and Sasquatch head west from here en route to Northwest Hesh Fest later this month and a capstone gig in San Francisco thereafter, but whether it’s now or next time, if you have the opportunity, take it. I can’t say it any simpler than that.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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Live Review: Orange Goblin & The Skull in Manhattan, 08.27.19

Posted in Reviews on August 28th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Orange Goblin (Photo by JJ Koczan)

A Twofer Tuesday special with Orange Goblin headlining and The Skull opening was enough to pull a good crowd to Gramercy Theatre on 23rd St. in Manhattan, and I saw fans new and old rejoicing as the long-running London and Chicago outfits took that stage, one for the first time in months, the other for the first time in years and both with different lineups. A triumph over adversity, or a “victory over horseshit,” as Orange Goblin‘s one-time tourmates in Scissorfight so indelicately put it? You might ask absent Orange Goblin drummer Chris Turner, whose visa got held up in all kinds of security red tape and couldn’t get into the country in time, forcing the band to bring in one Chad Walls (The Living Fields, ex-The Skull live, etc.) as a last-minute replacement. As frontman Ben Ward said from the stage: he, guitarist Joe Hoare and bassist Martyn Millard had gotten hooked up with Walls less than a week prior and they rehearsed together for the first time just the day before the show. Gramercy was the first of just six dates they’ll do in America, but basically, they’d sunk all the money for everyone’s travel, backline, documents, etc., that they had to make the run happen anyway they could. Nobody’s first choice of situation, surely, but putting Walls in Turner‘s seat for the week was how it could happen.

Perhaps in less dramatic fashion, The Skull also have had a bit of turnover in just the four months since they played the inaugural Desertfest New York (review here) in April, losing guitarist Rob Wrong (also Witch Mountain) and seeing Henry Vasquez — also of Saint Vitus and Blood of the Sun — come in as their own fresh face behind the drum kit along with his Blood of the Sun bandmate Alex Johnson, who took the spot formerly occupied by Wrong on guitar. Tumult, then, might have been the running theme for the evening. Well, that and the line at the merch table, where Brian Mercer‘s poster for the brief tour awaited the lucky few who’d get one before it was gone, as well as a smattering of shirts from both bands. But the thing about it was that even through both groups have had some adversity of late, one could still look at The Skull frontman Eric Wagner or at Ward and see them smiling. Both groups still tore it up. I don’t think either of them would claim it was the tightest set they ever played, but I’ll be damned if they didn’t both pull it off, one kicking ass into the next as the room packed out and the night wore on.

Time and a rotating cast of characters across their two-to-date albums has proven guitarist Lothar Keller, bassist Ron Holzner and the aforementioned Wagner to be the core of The Skull, and though the band’s roots come from Holzner and Wagner‘s pedigree as members of Trouble — after whose landmark 1985 sophomore outing they’re named and whose material they played live in earlier incarnations of The Skull — they’ve developed a reputation of their own that at this point supersedes even that consideration. That is, you don’t go to see The Skull because those dudes were in Trouble. You go see The Skull because of The Skull‘s own work across last year’s The Endless Road Tuns Dark (review here) and their 2014 debut, For Those Which are Asleep (review here). I’m not sure if even The Skull anticipated that would be the case when they started out, but for a band who began as a means of paying homage to the legacy of Trouble, they’ve made a not-insignificant impact of their own with their two LPs (both released by NY’s own Tee Pee Records) and a healthy amount of touring at home and abroad, even amid the shifts in personnel.

As such, it was songs like “A New Generation” and “The Endless Road Turns Dark,” “Until the Sun Turns Black” and “Send Judas Down” that the crowd was there to see more than anything out of Holzner and Wagner‘s shared history. With Johnson and Vasquez as the new guys and Keller a steady foundation on guitar, The Skull unleashed that slew of memorable choruses, finding Keller backing Wagner on vocals periodically while still tossing out choice solos and the rolling riffs that still seem so emblematic of Midwestern doom — like a flat Illinois skyline, one never quite knows where the horizon actually is. The speedier “The Longing” from the second record was a highlight, and the title-track of For Those Which are Asleep made a suitable finale to their time on stage, following in a one-two punch from “Send Judas Down” that emphasized The Skull‘s level of craft for the strength that it has turned out to be. As someone who’s watched The Skull play live here and there for the last seven years, their progression has been natural and fluid, and they always seem to find their anchor, despite the lineup turnover. Songwriting helps. And stage presence. And chemistry.

These are tools very much in Orange Goblin‘s rather sprawling arsenal — more of an underground bunker, I guess — as well. And for what it’s worth, the context of this show made the professionalism of their set and the mere fact that they pulled it off all the more impressive. There was a hiccup or two as the band ran through 17 songs culled from their quarter-century-spanning catalog — Ward laughed on stage as he admitted he messed up during “Quincy the Pigboy” — but Orange Goblin still gave New York the show it came to see, even minus Turner. Coming out as ever to AC/DC‘s “It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock & Roll),” they tore into “Scorpionica” and “The Filthy and the Few” and “Sons of Salem” to rile the crowd before dipping back further for “Saruman’s Wish” and pitting newer stuff like the title-track of last year’s The Wolf Bites Back (review here) and “Renegade” against “The Fog” from 2012’s A Eulogy for the Damned (review here) or “The Devil’s Whip” off of 2014’s Back from the Abyss (review here). It was righteous enough to incite a mosh that Ward used to break the crowd in half for a kind wall of doom (as opposed to a wall of death) that seemed to go over well from where I stood, well out of its way.

Orange Goblin via social media have been dropping not at all subtle hints that these might be their last US shows, which is something Ward directly contradicted several times between songs: “We’ll be back, better, stronger, whatever.” It might be the simple fact that Turner didn’t get into the country motivating that — it’s not how I’d want to go out, if I was Orange Goblin — but for whatever it’s worth, it’s not at all like the band sounds done. Hell, the show Millard put on on bass alone would’ve been worth the trip into the city to see, never mind Hoare strutting around or Ward jumping off the stage to high-five the crowd, potentially to the peril of the audience’s shoulders. Even in hard circumstances, their command of their material was unflinching, and in the tightest of tight spots, Walls did nothing but hold his own alongside players who, unlike The Skull, haven’t seen a real lineup change in 15 years. Hoare had missed some dates years back, I think, but beyond that, the culture of Orange Goblin is and has been WardHoareMillard and Turner. Put it on your fucking t-shirt. For Walls to step into that as gracefully as he was able to do is a significant accomplishment.

I stuck around for the whole set because I knew “Cities of Frost” and “They Come Back” were in there later on, and was treated to a bonus cover of Motörhead‘s “No Class” as a reward. They rounded out with “Quincy the Pigboy” and “Red Tide Rising” before sending the Gramercy Theatre crowd staggering onto the sidewalk, an ambulance outside with its lights going I guess for somebody who hit it extra hard (hopefully nothing serious). Because it was that kind of night, I’d gotten parking directly across the street from the venue and was pleased to find I hadn’t missed a sign or a hydrant and my car was still there after the show ended at just about 11PM. I was back to my ancestral homestead before midnight, which was just fine with the alarm set for four hours later.

The tour they’re on will bring Orange Goblin through Muddy Roots Music Festival in Tennessee this week, as well as Chicago and other cities listed here. If you can go, you should. I don’t know if it’ll be their last time in the States or not. I don’t know anything. I interviewed Ward last year (didn’t get to post it because the audio didn’t come out) and he said they probably wouldn’t get over at all, so take that as a sign of how fortunate we are to get even the short stretch we’ve got. Either way, this is a band you should see. Not just for the influence they’ve had on their native scene in the UK, or because they’ve been around for a long time, but because they put on an absolute clinic in how to do rock and roll right. In a situation that would’ve undone lesser bands, they did nothing but shine. And destroy.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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Live Review: Neurosis, Bell Witch & Deafkids in Brooklyn, 08.11.19

Posted in Reviews on August 12th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Neurosis (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I’ve seen two shows now at Brooklyn Steel, and the other one was Sleep, so needless to say I’m developing something of a crush on the massive warehouse-space-turned-venue, from its nearby public parking to the balcony space where one might, if the band is loud enough, feel the floor shake just a little bit. Needless to say, at both shows I’ve seen there, that particular phenomenon has occurred.

Three-band touring bill on a Sunday night: Brazil’s Deafkids, Seattle duo Bell Witch and post-metal’s own lawgivers, Neurosis — originally from Oakland but now more spread out along the West Coast and inland — headlining. I was interested to see Deafkids, having missed them at Roadburn earlier in the year, and Bell Witch have yet to disappoint anytime I’ve caught a set, but it was the thought of Neurosis in that room that got me out from under my grandfather’s pine tree and into Brooklyn for the show, rocking out to Sunday evening NPR all the way.

It was a relatively early start for Deafkids, but the three-piece from São Paulo made the most of their time and then some. Their sound is broad and encompassing enough that you can basically hear whatever you want to in it. Punk, psychedelia, organic techno, prog brilliance and space-garage rawness, experimentalism and barebones anti-craft, heavy riffs and pounding rhythms, modern disaffection and futurist ethereality — it’s all there. And at the same time, it’s jazz. Deafkids are the shape of jazz to come. I hadn’t realized. To me it like peak-era Ministry and most-lysergic Monster Magnet got together and decided hooks were for the weak, but again, you could hear anything in what they were doing.

Their 2019 full-length, Metaprogramação — which Neurosis released through their own Neurot Recordings imprint — is likewise stylistically ranging, but live, the effect was brilliant, most especially in the drums, which not only held together the effects wash when they wanted to, but through repetition became part of the overarching churn as offered by the guitar and bass. They were not a super-happy-funtime experience, but they were engrossing, demanding and earning attention from front to back for a set that felt short when it was over.

I heard someone say afterward that Bell Witch were playing a single song from their new album, as in, post-Mirror Reaper (review here), but I don’t think that’s true. I’ve been wrong before, but from the gradual pickup to the way they rolled in linear fashion through their final crashes and receded, it seemed to be a piece culled from that 83-minute 2017 single-song outing — might’ve just been the first half of it; the “As Above” portion of the 2CD release — with drummer/vocalist Jesse Shreibman and bassist/vocalist Dylan Desmond dug into the mournful weight of that album’s spacious emotionalism. Crushing they were, either way, but I was kind of shaking my head when they were done, wondering if I had been incorrect the whole time about what I was hearing. But no, I wasn’t.

Should they actually be moving past Mirror Reaper, they’ve got their work cut out for them in following it, but one might’ve said the same when they put out Four Phantoms (review here) in 2015, and in fact many did, so there. The darkness they conjure is luscious even at its most minimal, and though they didn’t have Aerial Ruin‘s Erik Moggridge to add vocals as he does on the studio version of “Mirror Reaper,” or the time to play the thing in its rather considerable entirety, they delivered a set that was as open as it was claustrophobic, excruciating in its patience but still vital in expression. They had a hard task preceding Neurosis on a Sunday night in Brooklyn, but they more than admirably faced that challenge.

Neurosis opened with the title-track of 2001’s A Sun that Never Sets (discussed here), and I decided about halfway through the song that if they walked off the stage after it without saying a word to the crowd, it still would’ve been worth the drive from NJ. Nearly 35 years on from their inception, Neurosis are the best live band I’ve ever seen. Their shows are on a different wavelength entirely from most acts, and when you go see Neurosis, whether it is your first time or your umpteenth time, it is reasonable to go in with high expectations. I found myself with eyes closed, earplugs mostly out for “End of the Harvest,” from 1999’s Times of Grace, which was the penultimate inclusion in the set and as deep into their discography as they went, but it was “Bending Light” and “Reach” from 2016’s Fires Within Fires (review here) that wound up making the greatest impression on me.

Entirely possible it was a mood thing, or the circumstance of where I was standing, but I seemed to hear more nuance in the guitars of Steve Von Till and Scott Kelly, more psychedelia in how they wove in with Noah Landis‘ ultra-crucial keys and samples, and of course with the weight of bassist Dave Edwardson and the intricate drumming of Jason Roeder, the raw impact of their heaviest moments did indeed shake the floor of Brooklyn Steel‘s balcony. “At the Well” and “Given to the Rising,” “To the Wind” and “My Heart for Deliverance” were certainly more than welcome, but I decided I needed a visit with Fires Within Fires, from which “A Shadow Memory” was also aired, its blend of atmospheric guitar and swinging crunch further encouraging the refresher. Was that album Neurosis‘ way of blending the punk of their roots with a forward-looking psych churn? Did I know it at the time? Was there something I missed, so caught up in the fact of their 30th anniversary? I wonder now.

A bit of homework, maybe, but before Neurosis sent the Sunday night crowd packing, they finished out with “Stones from the Sky,” the closer of A Sun that Never Sets, which was, as ever, a behemoth in its execution. Roeder seemed to change up his drums at the end, opening up the beat just a little bit as the song descended into chaos, and the effect was to make the sudden cut to silence all the more stark. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Neurosis do an encore, but I stood around for a while anyway, hoping they might decide on a whim to come out and roll through “Locust Star” just for the hell of it. No dice, but no complaints either.

In the leadup to this show, I was thinking about the first time I saw Neurosis, at the Theatre of the Living Arts in Philadelphia in 2004. They didn’t really tour at the time, but they were heralding the release of the just-recently-reissued Neurosis & Jarboe collaboration, as well as that’s year’s The Eye of Every Storm (review here). It was the kind of night that changes your perspective on live music. Having had that experience 15 years ago and been fortunate enough to see Neurosis multiple times over since, as they’ve returned to the road more regularly, I had a pretty good sense of what I was going into at Brooklyn Steel. They still managed to exceed expectation. May they go forever doing precisely that.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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Magnetic Eye Records Announces Label Showcase with Horsehunter, Elephant Tree, Domkraft, Summoner & More

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 12th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Clearly, Magnetic Eye Records is not into half-measures. Any label can put together a tribute. When Magnetic Eye does it, it’s two sprawling collections of bands playing homage to landmark albums and artists’ greatest hits. Any label can put together a showcase. When Magnetic Eye does it, they fly in three international acts, from Australia, the UK and Sweden, to round out the bill. Do you have any idea how insane that is?

It’s quite insane.

They’ve got a Kickstarter up now, as they will, and as rewards for backers they’re letting you preorder which set you’d like to have the recorded version of, because of course they’re also recording the sets. Seriously?

To do otherwise would be a half-measure.

They’re calling it ‘The Day of Doom,’ and in addition to HorsehunterElephant Tree, and Domkraft, they’ll have SummonerLeather LungGhastly SoundHigh PriestCaustic Casanova and These Beasts on the bill. Nine bands at the Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn on Nov. 2.

Quite insane. Just enough to work:

magnetic eye showcase banner

MAGNETIC EYE RECORDS presents its first ever live label showcase at the legendary Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn this November 2nd!

Check out the Kickstarter to help us make the Day of Doom truly epic and get in on the exclusive live album releases from MER’s flagship bands.

Sure, it’s summer right now, but have you looked around? Seas are rising, animal populations are shrinking, Scott Stapp has a new album, dogs and cats are living together… it’s mass hysteria.

Not the types to fly in the face of impending Armageddon, Magnetic Eye thought we’d expedite the end times by officially declaring our own DAY OF DOOM on November 2nd of this year as the date of our first-ever live label showcase.

Where?

The Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn, New York. Where the hell else?

Who?

No less than nine crushing Magnetic Eye roster bands, headlined by our four flagship acts that have helped shape and define the core of the MER sound:

Summoner
Horsehunter
Domkraft
Elephant Tree

What does this mean for you?

Two things:

1. If you’re anywhere near the New York area (or even if you’re not), you’re going to want to make the pilgrimage to this show. With our biggest and heaviest acts flying in from all over the world, it’s probably no stretch to say we have no idea when or if this will ever happen again. Tickets will be on sale soon directly via the Saint Vitus Bar, and we’ll of course let you know where to get them.

2. Whether you can make this incredible convergence in person or not, you can share in the experience. Magnetic Eye will be recording the four headline bands at Day of Doom for an exclusive set of live album releases, and you can support helping get the bands here for the event and reserve your live records now by jumping on board the Kickstarter for the project at this location.

Look, we’d love to have all of you there with us. But we know it’s not possible for some to make the trip, and we understand. Hell, it wasn’t possible for most of us to attend Woodstock, but at least we have the soundtrack, right?

Check out our Kickstarter now to lock down your exclusive editions of Elephant Tree, Domkraft, Summoner and Horsehunter Live at the Day of Doom New York. It’s going to be absolutely unforgettable. And thanks to these records, you’ll always remember.

http://store.merhq.com
http://magneticeyerecords.com/
https://www.facebook.com/MagneticEyeRecords

Leather Lung, Lonesome, On’ry & Evil (2019)

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