Sweet Heat, Demo: To Crawl and Entice (Plus Full Stream)

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on November 4th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

swee-heat-demo-cover

[Click play above to stream Sweet Heat’s Sweet Heat Demo in full. They play with The Golden Grass and Pilgrim on Saturday at Dusk in Providence, RI, and will appear at Maryland Doom Fest 2017.]

The story of Sweet Heat begins in 2015 with the demise of Rhode Island-based doom traditionalists Balam. With some impressive local momentum behind them, Balam released their Days of Old (track premiere here) full-length early last year, and by the time 2016 rolled around, the band was done. Sort of. Vocalist Alexander Blackhound, guitarist Jonny Sage, bassist Nicholas Arruda and drummer Zigmond Coffey — four-fifths of Balam‘s lineup — were quick to regroup under the banner of Sweet Heat (also sometimes preceded by a “the”) and set to writing new material. And while one might be tempted to think of the new band simply as an extension of the old, the adoption of a different moniker is very clearly a purposeful move on their part.

They may be the same players, but the ground they’re exploring on Sweet Heat‘s four-song debut demo, aptly-titled Demo or Sweet Heat Demo, differs greatly from the darkened and moody tonality of the prior outfit. Of course, they’re just starting out, so where they might end up after these 18 minutes remains to be seen — they may well return to the dark side — but as a debut offering, Sweet Heat‘s first skillfully blends impulses out of classic heavy rock with a riffy foundation. There are some flashes of doom or at very least proto-metal on opener “Night Crawler,” but even as “The Enticer” digs into Sabbathian roll, Sage‘s guitar scorches in a manner altogether more rocking.

Likewise, “How it’s Done” seems to owe as much to Radio Moscow as Pentagram, and one can hear some residual Uncle Acid influence in the buzz and shuffle of “Night Crawler,” though Blackhound‘s vocals — his presence as a frontman was a major factor in Balam as well — assures the overall feel doesn’t come too close to anyone else. It’s a demo, of course, so basically Sweet Heat are showing off an initial batch of songs trying to encourage people to investigate further, be it at a show or their inevitable next release. But even that feeds into their aesthetic. In a day where a band doesn’t have to do anything more than slap a cover together and post it on Bandcamp, a demo easily becomes a “first EP,” but it’s telling that Sweet Heat embrace the rougher-feeling impression that even the word “demo” gives off. Cassette-ready.

sweet-heat-demo-back-cover

And the music follows suit (though actually the release is on CD). There is a noticeable shift in production and volume between “Night Crawler” and “The Enticer,” and though the feel remains live and energetic into “How it’s Done” (premiered here) and the eponymous closer “Sweet Heat,” the actual sound is cleaner. On an album that might be jarring, but here it just feeds into the notion that Sweet Heat are exploring a new style and coming together as songwriters in a new way. It is laced with attitude. In the swagger of “The Enticer” and “How it’s Done,” the foursome build on the swing of “Night Crawler” and as they close out with “Sweet Heat,” they do so with classically metallic defiance: fist-pumping, a pervasive self-othering, and chug. Righteous and crisply, efficiently executed.

As “Sweet Heat” moves into its chorus, “We are the ones that you fear/You don’t like us?/We don’t care/We are who we are,” the band not only once more reinforce the perspective of the Demo as a whole, but provide their first outing with its most landmark hook while showing an ability to fluidly turn from one side to another in their play between rock and metal. From Blackhound‘s convicted recitation through Coffey‘s cymbal work and Arruda holding the rhythm together under Sage‘s blazing multi-layered solo in the second half, Sweet Heat live little to wonder as to why the finale of their demo wound up being the song that took their name. I wouldn’t be surprised if, on whatever kind of offering comes next for them, the track didn’t show up again, though of course one never knows.

In any case, Sweet Heat‘s Demo more than lives up to the tasks before it in establishing the group as an entity separate from their past work together, giving listeners a glimpse of their ample chops in songwriting and performance delivery, and setting a foundation on which they can continue to build as they move forward. There isn’t much more one could ask of it on the whole than it delivers, but the punch Sweet Heat‘s first batch of material packs goes beyond “band starting out” and finds their potential all the more bolstered by the chemistry they so clearly and so rightly wanted to preserve.

Sweet Heat on Bandcamp

Sweet Heat website (coming soon)

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The Sweet Heat Premiere First Track “How it’s Done”

Posted in audiObelisk on August 12th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

the sweet heat (Photo by Logan Hill)

There’s a lot of info still unknown about The Sweet Heat‘s impending first release. When it’s out, for example. Also its title if it has one. If it’s a demo or an EP — for what it’s worth I’ve been going with “demo EP.” If it has cover art. And so on. These issues will sort themselves out one way or another as the band moves forward, but in the meantime we have the most important part: the music. Their first track to be made public is called “How it’s Done” and from its fading-in initial guitar line through its classic boogie-doom feel, it’s a burner all the way.

If The Sweet Heat look familiar, that’s reasonable. The four members of the band — vocalist Alexander Blackhound, guitarist Jonny Sage, bassist Nicholas Arruda and drummer Zigmond Coffey — were all in Balam together until last year. Balam released their final full-length, Days of Old (track premiere here), in early 2015, and throughout the year it became increasingly plain that not all was right with the five-piece, who wound up playing their last show in October as a release celebration for the album. It couldn’t have taken long after that for The Sweet Heat to take shape — their first and only show to-date was held in May in their native Rhode Island.

While closely linked in personnel, the two bands do have distinct sonic personalities, and that’s immediately apparent in the four tracks of The Sweet Heat‘s demo EP. Even the name of the band speaks to a bluesier, more ’70s feel, rather than the stricter adherence to doomly tenets that Balam offered, though there’s still plenty of early Pentagram in their sound. Nonetheless, The Sweet Heat thrive in this new context, finding a middle ground in a song like “Wrecking Ball” while “How it’s Done” plays one side more directly off the other, starting out with pure boogie rock before shifting smoothly into a more Sabbathian chug. The tones are right on, as is the groove, and with complement on the EP from the blown out “Shimpy Just Wants to Get Stoned” and the scorching guitar-and-hook-led “Jam Song,” The Sweet Heat‘s future seems dark in only the brightest way possible.

BlackhoundSageArruda and Coffey have very clearly taken some valuable lessons from their time in Balam and put them into The Sweet Heat — their songwriting already sounds experienced — but the new band is quick to establish itself as just that. I have the feeling these guys have more tricks up their sleeve sound-wise than they’re thus far letting on, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they really tripped out at some point in the future, but for now, they give a more than encouraging first showing that I only hope somebody presses to tape or 10″ sooner rather than later.

Get yourself introduced to The Sweet Heat with “How it’s Done” below, and enjoy:

The Sweet Heat on Bandcamp

Balam on Thee Facebooks

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Balam Announce Final Show

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 6th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

balam (Photo by Harry Gould Harvey IV)

Rhode Island doomers Balam will at long last mark the release of their Days of Old full-length with a gig Oct. 31 at Jimmy’s Saloon in Newport, RI. Sounds awesome, right? Doom on Halloween? Yeah, great. Only trouble is that it’s also the band’s last show. It’s been more than a year since Days of Old (track premiere here) was finished being mastered, and so it’s a positive that they’re finally making the whole thing public, but fitting with their thoroughly-doomed vibes that even their new album release show would be tempered by a downer spirit. They were a good band, and they’ll be missed.

Show details and last-one announcement follow, in case you should happen to find yourself in Newport on Halloween or somewhere nearby:

balam last show

ATTN: Only some may know this, but we will not be performing anymore after this gig! This may seem abrupt to a lot of you, but it has been something we have talked about for some time now and what better way to destroy something other than on Halloween?? We’d like to say this isn’t goodbye and we truly wish we had the time to make this band work, but we are moving on forward with new opportunities that lie ahead. Maybe when the time is right new material can be released, but it will be a very long time before anything like that could ever happen, and there wont be any gigs coming of it.

Also, we haven’t put out much music since our self titled ep, but we sure do have a lot of it! We we’re supposed to put out an album in 2013 called ‘Days Of Old’, and it would have been relevant to come out then, but unfortunately we ran into so many complications with trying to release it, that it’s been buried into a hard drive that doesn’t get looked at. Not too long ago we put up two ‘new’ tracks from that album on the good ol’ bandcamp, but on October 31st we will finally be putting up all of Days Of Old!!!

It’s safe to say we are beyond grateful to have played an incredible amount of memorable shows, created long lasting relationships with people who have helped us get from A to B and guided us in the right direction and STILL are, but most of all we have had the greatest support from so many of you to let us do what we like doing best without going broke. It’s really hard to measure success, but we definitely succeeded far more than we knew we could. This band has led us down another path, diving deeper and deeper into our ideas as we grow as musicians.

With this being said, come fucking party with us at Jimmy’s Saloon Halloween night in support of this release and our LAST gig!! More details about the show will be up in the coming week…

https://www.facebook.com/events/1466353447027603/
https://www.facebook.com/balamband
http://thybalam.bandcamp.com/
http://balam.bigcartel.com/

Balam, Days of Old (2015)

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Balam Premiere Title-Track of New Album Days of Old

Posted in audiObelisk on December 1st, 2014 by JJ Koczan

balam

Rhode Island traditional doom firebands Balam are gearing up to release their full-length debut, Days of Old, early in 2015. In fact, they’ve been “gearing up” for a decent portion of this year. The first signs of Days of Old surfaced via their Bandcamp over the summer in the form of the track “With the Lost,” and as we push into cold, dark winter, their fuzzed-out, classic-styled doom seems all the more vital.

You ever want to frustrate the hell out of a band, put them in the time between recording and releasing an album. I don’t envy Balam this contingency-sorting stretch — though they’ve continued to play shows through it — but with a 2015 issue on the horizon, the double-guitar five-piece are ready to unveil another slab of Days of Old, and I’m only too happy to comply. The title-track, “Days of Old,” can be heard on the player below.

Balam recorded Days of Old with Trevor Vaughn, and mixed and mastered with him as well between March and April of this year. The seven-song outing is a vicious 45 minutes of full-breadth riffing and stripped-down, light-on-frills doom. Led by the guitars of Zach Wilding and Jonny Sage, the vocals of Alexander Blackhound take early command of the material as the first half of the album pushes toward the title cut, while bassist Nicholas Arruda plays off Wilding and Sage in Candlemassian form (his shining moment arriving in his leading the band through the 15-minute closer) and drummer Zigmond Coffey adds plod to the nod of their bleak but still engaging groove. Days of Old lacks nothing for atmosphere — each side is given an instrumental introduction of substance, and themes play out in the songs as well — but ultimately, it’s the directness of Balam‘s attack that makes their debut so impressive, as well as the thrust of their tonality and how smoothly they are able to find a niche within the dreary scope of their doom.

There’s much still to take shape before Balam release Days of Old in terms of things like the cover art, what label, and so on, but consider this glimpse at “Days of Old” — and at 11 minutes, it’s a considerable glimpse indeed — an early warning of what the band have in store for the New Year. Here’s hoping the details get sorted soon.

Please enjoy:

Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!

Balam will look to release Days of Old in 2015 through a yet-to-be-determined label. You can keep up with the band’s doings and latest news at the links.

Balam on Thee Facebooks

Balam on Bandcamp

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