Ape Vermin Announce Spring Tour Dates with Mean Green

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 9th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

ape vermin

Looks like a tour to me. North Carolina-based trio Ape Vermin are set to head out May 17 in the company of Mean Green for a run that will take them through Texas en route to the West Coast before they loop back through the Rocky Mountains and head home. Unlike a lot of the variably-sized lists of shows I might post on a given day, this one hits Wyoming, which is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen, and with some shows still to fill in, they’ll top it off with a gig in Asheville on June 12, having spent the better part of a month on the road. It’s the kind of stint where everyone’s either best friends afterward or they never speak to each other again. Here’s hoping for the former. You can help probably by giving them a place to sleep and maybe some food, should they be in your vicinity.

Ape Vermin released their Arctic Noise EP in 2021 and you can stream that below. Mean Green‘s self-titled debut arrived last year. Am I crazy for thinking a split wouldn’t be the worst idea here? Maybe it’s just the two logos together on the David Paul Seymour poster below, but either way, the thing is a thing and it’s happening.

Here’s the thing:

ape vermin tour

We’ll be embarking the Riders of the Damned tour with our brothers in Mean Green starting 5/17! Come witness this onslaught of absolute metal.

5/17 Spartanburg, S.C – Ground Zero
5/19 Tampa, FL – Brass Mug
5/21 New Orleans, LA – The Goat
5/22 Houston, TX – Black Magic Social Club
5/23 Dallas, TX – Haltom Theatre
5/24 San Antonio, TX – Paper Tiger
5/25 Laredo, TX – Cold Brew Rock Bar
5/26 Austin, TX – Valhalla
5/29 Tucson, AZ – The Rock
5/30 Phoenix, AZ – Blooze Bar
6/1 Richmond, CA – Baltic Kiss
6/2 Reno, NV – Alturus Bar
6/4 Salt Lake City, UT – International Bar
6/5 Casper, WY – The Gaslight Social
6/7 Ridgeway, CO – The Sherbino
6/8 Denver, CO – Hermans Hideaway
6/12 Asheville, N.C – The Odditorium

***More dates to be added***

Artwork by: David Paul Seymour


Ape Vermin, Arctic Noise (2021)

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Friday Full-Length: Corrosion of Conformity, Blind

Posted in Bootleg Theater on April 5th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

I heard “Dance of the Dead” on the radio this week — that’s right, FM radio; thanks WSOU — and it prompted this revisit. Corrosion of Conformity‘s Blind came out in 1991 on Relativity Records with a follow-up release in 1995 through Columbia during the Raleigh, North Carolina-based outfit’s major label era, and to this day, it occupies a singular place in their history and discography. Running a ’90s-style 52 minutes and 13 songs, it was the first time they worked with producer John Custer, who has helmed everything they’ve done since, the only album they’ve ever done as a five-piece, the first that featured guitarist Pepper Keenan, who after this record would take over as their primary singer, and to my knowledge the only studio release they’ve had without founding bassist/sometimes-vocalist Mike Dean in the lineup.

Dean would be back in the band in time for 1994’s Deliverance (discussed here) as part of the definitive lineup with Keenan and fellow founders Woody Weatherman (guitar) and Reed Mullin (drums; R.I.P. 2020), but for Blind, bass was handled by Phil Swisher, while Karl Agell served as standalone frontman. Those two would play together in Leadfoot afterward, and Agell currently sings for both Lie Heavy and Legions of Doom, the latter of which is the post-Eric Wagner offshoot of The Skull, but during their time in C.O.C., they were part of the transitional moment between the raw punk and hardcore that defined their first two LPs, 1984’s Eye for an Eye, 1985’s Animosity, as well as 1987’s Technocracy EP, etc., and the Southern heavy rock they would in no small part help to shape over the rest of the 1990s.

You should know this isn’t an album I can pretend to be impartial about, let alone the band or the fact that human objectivity is a myth to begin with. Blind was one of the first CDs I ever owned, having unceremoniously swiped my older sister’s copy along with Master of PuppetsRollins Band‘s WeightSuicidal Tendencies‘ The Art of RebellionAlice in Chains‘ Sap and a couple others at around 10 years old, probably sometime in 1992 if I had to guess. “Damned for All Time” and the aforementioned “Dance of the Dead” — the one-two punch of charged riffing and crunching groove that follows the creeper-feedback-into-march of the intro “These Shrouded Temples…” — were on just about every mixtape I made for probably the next three years, the metal band connecting the over-ear headphones of my off-brand Walkman from the Caldor on Rt. 10 pulling my disaffected pubescent sadboy hair out with every tiny adjustment. I remember plotzing through the neighborhood on long walks with nowhere to put myself, sitting by the pond down the road, doing what I’d already been warned was irreparable damage to my hearing.

I’ll admit it’s been years since I actively engaged with it, but it’s always been there. The sinewy delivery of Agell in the chorus of “Mine Are the Eyes of God,” or the swaggering riff in “Painted Smiling Face,” the MTV-ready Corrosion of Conformity Blindhooks and a sound that was in conversation with a classic heavy rock I’d yet to encounter; it was all new for me at that point, and I won’t say it’s the dragon of heavy I’ve been chasing all along for the last three-plus decades, but it spoke to me in a way that ‘regular’ rock and roll didn’t and helped me find my path into heavier and more metallic listening. Put simply, it changed my life.

Hearing it now, Blind is striking in its political theme. Even aside from “Vote with a Bullet,” which brought Keenan to lead vocals for the first time and is still a staple of C.O.C. live sets, its declarations of intended violence landing in something of a different context than when it first came out, cuts like the anti-white-supremacist “White Noise,” the envisioning a new world in “Great Purification” and more general anti-authority lines like “If the system had one neck/You know I’d gladly break it” in “Dance of the Dead,” and so on, land with a disaffection to coincide with the conversant-with-metal thrust behind the shred in “Painted Smiling Face,” and do so with a directness that one rarely if ever encounters in heavy rock now. It wasn’t the first or last time C.O.C. talked about social issues — lest we forget that the 2018 return LP from the KeenanDean, Weatherman and Mullin lineup was called No Cross No Crown (review here), or, you know, that the band’s name is Corrosion of Conformity — but while the language used and rhetoric have changed in the last 30 years, Blind taps American-style anti-governmentalism in a way that, coming off the Reagan years and as George Bush took the country to war in the Middle East in a preface to decades of moral and fiscal bankrupting, still resonates from its place in time.

Obviously, these weren’t cues I was picking up at 11 years old, but I understood wanting to break out, to not be told what to do, and internalized a lot of that from these songs, especially the singles. What I didn’t appreciate at the time was the connection via riffing to Black Sabbath in the starts and stops of “Buried” or the brooding, slower-rolling finale “Echoes in the Well” before the bookending outro “…Remain,” but that’s all over Blind in a way that not much I would’ve heard on the radio at the time would have captured. The idea of ‘heavy rock’ as something separate from metal didn’t really exist in the commercial sphere, but it’s inarguably here, and with the backdrop of what Corrosion of Conformity would accomplish in Deliverance, 1996’s Wiseblood (discussed here) and 2000’s more smoothly produced and undervalued America’s Volume Dealer, it feels both like the sore thumb standing out of their catalog and the root from which they grew into the band they wanted to be.

As noted, Agell is now in Lie Heavy and Legions of Doom, both of which one might consider actively active. Meanwhile, C.O.C. were last year beginning the process of putting together their next LP to follow No Cross No Crown, with DeanKeenan and Weatherman collaborating with Galactic drummer Stanton Moore, who’d previously appeared on 2005’s In the Arms of God. I don’t know if that’ll be out this year, next year, or ever, but here’s hoping. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy, and thanks for reading.

I don’t have much time here. It’s coming on eight in the morning and The Patient Mrs. and The Pecan will soon be finished playing games on the iPad and ready to start a morning that, whatever shape it takes, will require direct participation from me. Off-laptop, in other words.

This week was my daughter’s spring break from school. It started last Friday ahead of Easter, and she goes back Monday unless we decide to abscond to Pittsburgh to watch the solar eclipse. Depends on the weather, partially. It hasn’t been the easiest of weeks — it rained and was cold and miserable from Monday through yesterday morning — but she had a half-day camp thing and ice skating lessons to keep her busy. But stuck-in-the-house, tv-off boredom might be a piece of why there’s been an uptick in attitude and more punches thrown. The other day I ended up carrying her screaming and kicking from the rink after she unloaded on The Patient Mrs. for trying to stop her from skating through the next lesson taking place on the ice. I held her down to get her skates off because I didn’t think she was in control enough to stop herself from hurting either of us. It was an especially shitty moment to be alive.

I got hit last night too, for missing a button combo in Super Mario RPG and some other infraction I can’t remember. It’s a lot of “you can’t tell me what to do” and “you have to do what I say” from her as she, I guess, works on figuring out her place in the world. It has not been pleasant, but neither was the week unipolar in awfulness. We snuggled and watched Bluey yesterday evening as The Patient Mrs. was out at dinner with a friend. Last weekend we went to Connecticut with family to color eggs. She had a nice Easter, kept it together well at brunch, and we beat Link’s Awakening on the Switch. The lows are low, but the lows aren’t everything, is what I’m saying.

We’ll see how today goes. As regards the arguments, the opposition, the way I think of it is like this: It’s never everything, but it could be anything, and it’s almost always something. I just remembered that the other thing I got hit for last night was that I didn’t anticipate she’d want the Chromecast (which hadn’t been used in a year before The Patient Mrs. and I moved it to our bedroom) to watch the “Dad Baby” episode of Bluey, which isn’t on Disney-Plus. So yeah. I’ll be honest and say I’ve had a hard time looking forward to the last couple days. Another mantra, “things will not always be as they are now.”

Two sides to that, of course. Like everything.

Next week is slammed front-to-back and I’m already behind on news, so whatever. I’ll do my best to write as much as I can and that’s that. I hope you have a great and safe weekend, whatever you’re up to. If you get to see the eclipse, don’t look at it. Otherwise, hydrate, move your body a bit, watch your head, and I’ll be back on Monday with more of whatever you call this at this point.


The Obelisk Collective on Facebook

The Obelisk Radio

The Obelisk merch


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Weedeater to Tour East Coast in April/May

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 28th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

Highlighted their headlining spot at this year’s Grim Reefer Fest in Baltimore and the Rocks Off Concert Cruise boat show they’ll do in NYC — or at least on the river — the upcoming Weedeater East Coast US tour also sees the North Carolinian sludge stalwarts re-teaming with Midwestern riff-chargers Telekinetic Yeti and picking up Heavy Temple, Left Lane Cruiser and Restless Spirit each for a few dates along the way. The former two, Heavy Temple and Left Lane Cruiser, have new records en route to release and Restless Spirit just put out their third LP this past Fall, so if you go, expect to hit the merch table. Probably a good policy, anyhow.

With steady touring a couple times a year and a now nine-year stretch without a studio full-length, am I crazy for thinking maybe a Weedeater live album wouldn’t be the worst idea? Yeah, they’re raw live, but they’re raw on-record too, and at least they’d have something new for the aforementioned merch table. It’s not like they suck. If they sucked, I’d get it.

In any case, the tour precedes stops later in May at Mutants of the Monster (Mutants Fest), which is in Arkansas, and Modified Ghost Festival, which is in Vancouver two days later. That should be a fun bit of continent crossing during that day between. As ever, safe travels to Weedeater, and a special thanks to the PR wire for the weed puns and the sneaky Cathedral reference in the tour announcement below:

weedeater tour square

WEEDEATER Announce US Tour

Get tickets: https://tonedeaftouring.com/weedeater

Roll up a fat one, because Weedeater are ready to ride another rip-roaring high. The sludge-stoned tar heels are chasing the dragon up and down the East Coast this spring. Along the way, they’ll be throwing wizard fights aboard the Rocks Off Concert Cruise and chunking $20 peanuts at Grim Reefer Fest.

Joining as main support on all 15 days of this excellent adventure are the Iowa stoners in Telekinetic Yeti. Purveyors of fifth dimensional riffs Heavy Temple will open the first leg. Next up are bonafide blues rockers Left Lane Cruiser, followed by badass doomsayers Restless Spirit.

Get tickets: http://tonedeaftouring.com/weedeater

Tour dates
04/16 Charlotte, NC @ Snug Harbor*
04/17 Richmond, VA @ Cobra Cabana*
04/18 York, PA @ Skid Row Garage*
04/19 Youngstown, OH @ West Side Bowl
04/20 Asheville, NC @ Eulogy
04/23 New York, NY @ Rocks Off Concert Cruise
04/24 Portland, ME @ Geno’s Rock Club#
04/25 Manchester, NH @ Jewel#
04/26 Newark, NJ @ QXT’s#
04/27 Baltimore, MD @ Otto Bar – Grim Reefer Fest#
04/29 Chesapeake, VA @ Riffhouse^
05/01 Panama City Beach, FL @ Mosey’s^
05/02 Cape Coral, FL @ Nice Guys’^
05/03 Tampa, FL @ Crowbar^
05/04 Augusta, GA @ Grantski Records^
* Heavy Temple
# Left Lane Cruiser
^ Restless Spirit

Weedeater’s bong will stay locked and loaded long after this tour goes up in smoke. Later in May, the band will bring plenty of god luck and good speed to this year’s Mutants Fest, as well as the seventh coming of Modified Ghosts Festival. More dates coming soon!

Additional Dates
May 17 Little Rock, AR @ Argenta Theater as part of Mutants Fest 2024
May 19 Vancouver, BC as part of Modified Ghost Festival VII

Dixie Dave: Bass, vocals
Shep: Guitar, vocals
Ramzi Ateyeh: Drums



Weedeater, Goliathan (2015)

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Quarterly Review: Monkey3, The Quill, Nebula Drag, LLNN & Sugar Horse, Fuzzter, Cold in Berlin, The Mountain King, Witchorious, Skull Servant, Lord Velvet

Posted in Reviews on February 29th, 2024 by JJ Koczan


Day four of five puts the end of this Quarterly Review in sight, as will inevitably happen. We passed the halfway point yesterday and by the time today’s done it’s the home stretch. I hope you’ve had a good week. It’s been a lot — and in terms of the general work level of the day, today’s my busiest day; I’ve got Hungarian class later and homework to do for that, and two announcements to write in addition to this, one for today one for tomorrow, and I need to set up the back end of another announcement for Friday if I can. The good news is that my daughter seems to be over the explosive-vomit-time stomach bug that had her out of school on Monday. The better news is I’ve yet to get that.

But if I’m scatterbrained generally and sort of flailing, well, as I was recently told after I did a video interview and followed up with the artist to apologize for my terribleness at it, at least it’s honest. I am who I am, and I think that there are places where people go and things people do that sometimes I have a hard time with. Like leaving the house. And parenting. And interviewing bands, I guess. Needing to plow through 10 reviews today and tomorrow should be a good exercise in focusing energy, even if that isn’t necessarily getting the homework done faster. And yeah, it’s weird to be in your 40s and think about homework. Everything’s weird in your 40s.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Monkey3, Welcome to the Machine

monkey3 welcome to the machine

What are Monkey3 circa 2024 if not a name you can trust? The Swiss instrumental four-piece are now more than 20 years removed from their 2003 self-titled debut, and Welcome to the Machine — their seventh album and fourth release on Napalm Records (three studio, one live) — brings five new songs across 46 minutes of stately progressive heavy craft, with the lead cut “Ignition” working into an early gallop before cutting to ambience presumably as a manifestation of hitting escape velocity and leaving the planetary atmosphere, and trading from there between longer (10-plus-minute) and shorter (six- and seven-minute) pieces that are able to hit with a surprising impact when they so choose. Second track “Collision” comes to crush in a way that even 2019’s Sphere (review here) didn’t, and to go with its methodical groove, heavy post-rock airiness and layered-in acoustic guitar, “Kali Yuga” (10:01) is tethered by a thud of drums that feels no less the point of the thing than the mood-aura in the largesse that surrounds. Putting “Rackman” (7:13, with hints of voice or keyboard that sounds like it), which ends furiously, and notably cinematic closer “Collapse” (12:51) together on side B is a distinct immersion, and the latter places Monkey3 in a prog-metal context that defies stylistic expectation even as it lives up to the promise of the band’s oeuvre. Seven records and more than two decades on, and Monkey3 are still evolving. This is a special band, and in a Europe currently awash in heavy instrumentalism of varying degrees of psychedelia, it’s hard to think of Monkey3 as anything other than aesthetic pioneers.

Monkey3 on Facebook

Napalm Records website

The Quill, Wheel of Illusion

the quill wheel of illusion

With its Sabbath-born chug and bluesy initial groove opening to NWOBHM grandeur at the solo, the opening title-track is quick to reassure that Sweden’s The Quill are themselves on Wheel of Illusion, even if the corresponding classic metal elements there a standout from the more traditional rock of “Elephant Head” with its tambourine, or the doomier roll in “Sweet Mass Confusion,” also pointedly Sabbathian and thus well within the wheelhouse of guitarist Christian Carlsson, vocalist Magnus Ekwall, bassist Roger Nilsson and drummer Jolle Atlagic. While most of Wheel of Illusion is charged in its delivery, the still-upbeat “Rainmaker” feels like a shift in atmosphere after the leadoff and “We Burn,” and atmospherics come more into focus as the drums thud and the strings echo out in layers as “Hawks and Hounds” builds to its ending. While “The Last Thing” works keyboard into its all-go transition into nodding capper “Wild Mustang,” it’s the way the closer seems to encapsulate the album as a whole and the perspective brought to heavy rock’s founding tenets that make The Quill such reliable purveyors, and Wheel of Illusion comes across like special attention was given to the arrangements and the tightness of the songwriting. If you can’t appreciate kickass rock and roll, keep moving. Otherwise, whether it’s your first time hearing The Quill or you go back through all 10 of their albums, they make it a pleasure to get on board.

The Quill on Facebook

Metalville Records website

Nebula Drag, Western Death

Nebula Drag Western Death

Equal parts brash and disillusioned, Nebula Drag‘s Dec. 2023 LP, Western Death, is a ripper whether you’re dug into side ‘Western’ or side ‘Death.’ The first half of the psych-leaning-but-more-about-chemistry-than-effects San Diego trio’s third album offers the kind of declarative statement one might hope, with particular scorch in the guitar of Corey Quintana, sway and ride in Stephen Varns‘ drums and Garrett Gallagher‘s Sabbathian penchant for working around the riffs. The choruses of “Sleazy Tapestry,” “Kneecap,” “Side by Side,” “Tell No One” and the closing title-track speak directly to the listener, with the last of them resolved, “Look inside/See the signs/Take what you can,” and “Side by Side” a call to group action, “We don’t care how it gets done/Helpless is the one,” but there’s storytelling here too as “Tell No One” turns the sold-your-soul-to-play-music trope and turns it on its head by (in the narrative, anyhow) keeping the secret. Pairing these ideas with Nebula Drag‘s raw-but-not-sloppy heavy grunge, able to grunge-crunch on “Tell No One” even as the vocals take on more melodic breadth, and willing to let it burn as “Western Death” departs its deceptively angular riffing to cap the 34-minute LP with the noisy finish it has by then well earned.

Nebula Drag on Facebook

Desert Records store

LLNN & Sugar Horse, The Horror bw Sleep Paralysis Demon

LLNN Sugar Horse The Horror Sleep Paralysis Demon

Brought together for a round of tour dates that took place earlier this month, Pelagic Records labelmates LLNN (from Copenhagen) and Sugar Horse (from Bristol, UK) each get one track on a 7″ side for a showcase. Both use it toward obliterating ends. LLNN, who are one of the heaviest bands I’ve ever seen live and I’m incredibly grateful for having seen them live, dig into neo-industrial churn on “The Horror,” with stabbing synth later in the procession that underscores the point and less reliance on tonal onslaught than the foreboding violence of the atmosphere they create. In response, Sugar Horse manage to hold back their screams and lurching full-bore bludgeonry for nearly the first minute of “Sleep Paralysis Demon” and even after digging into it dare a return to cleaner singing, admirable in their restraint and more effectively tense for it when they push into caustic sludge churn and extremity, space in the guitar keeping it firmly in the post-metal sphere even as they aim their intent at rawer flesh. All told, the platter is nine of probably and hopefully-for-your-sake the most brutal minutes you might experience today, and thus can only be said to accomplish what it set out to do as the end product sounds like two studios would’ve needed rebuilding afterward.

LLNN on Facebook

Sugar Horse on Facebook

Pelagic Records website

Fuzzter, Pandemonium

fuzzter pandemonium

Fuzzter aren’t necessarily noisy in terms of playing noise rock on Pandemonium, but from the first cymbal crashes after the Oppenheimer sample at the start of “Extinción,” the Peruvian outfit engage an uptempo heavy psych thrust that, though directed, retains a chaotic aspect through the band’s willingness to be sound if not actually be reckless, to gang shout before the guitars drift off in “Thanatos,” to be unafraid of being eaten by their own swirl in “Caja de Pandora” or to chug with a thrashy intensity at the start of closer “Tercer Ojo,” doom out massive in the song’s middle, and float through jazzy minimalism at the finish. But even in that, there are flashes, bursts that emphasize the unpredictability of the songs, which is an asset throughout what’s listed as the Lima trio’s third EP but clocks in at 36 minutes with the instrumental “Purgatorio,” which starts off like it might be an interlude but grows more furious as its five minutes play out, tucked into its center. If it’s a short release, it is substantial. If it’s an album, it’s substantial despite a not unreasonable runtime. Ultimately, whatever they call it is secondary to the space-metal reach and the momentum fostered across its span, which just might carry you with it whether or not you thought you were ready to go.

Fuzzter on Facebook

Fuzzter on Instagram

Cold in Berlin, The Body is the Wound

cold in berlin the body is the wound

The listed representation of dreams in “Dream One” adds to the concrete severity of Cold in Berlin‘s dark, keyboard-laced post-metallic sound, but London-based four-piece temper that impact with the post-punk ambience around the shove of the later “Found Out” on their The Body is the Wound 19-minute four-songer, and build on the goth-ish sway even as “Spotlight” fosters a heavier, more doomed mindset behind vocalist Maya, whose verses in “When Did You See Her Last” are complemented by dramatic lines of keyboard and who can’t help but soar even as the overarching direction is down, down, down into either the subconscious referenced in “Dream One” or some other abyss probably of the listener’s own making. Five years and one actual-plague after their fourth full-length, 2019’s Rituals of Surrender, bordering on 15 since the band got their start, they cast resonance in mood as well as impact (the latter bolstered by Wayne Adams‘ production), and are dynamic in style as well as volume, with each piece on The Body is the Wound working toward its own ends while the EP’s entirety flows with the strength of its performances. They’re in multiple worlds, and it works.

Cold in Berlin on Facebook

Cold in Berlin website

The Mountain King, Apostasyn

the mountain king apostasyn

With the expansive songwriting of multi-instrumentalist/sometimes-vocalist Eric McQueen at its core, The Mountain King issue Apostasyn as possibly their 10th full-length in 10 years and harness a majestic, progressive doom metal that doesn’t skimp either on the doom or the metal, whether that takes the form of the Type O Negative-style keys in “The White Noise From God’s Radio” or the tremolo guitar in the apex of closer “Axolotl Messiah.” The title-track is a standout for more than just being 15 minutes long, with its death-doom crux and shifts between minimal and maximal volumes, and the opening “Dødo” just before fosters immersion after its maybe-banging-on-stuff-maybe-it’s-programmed intro, with a hard chug answered in melody by guest singer Julia Gusso, who joins McQueen and the returning Frank Grimbarth (also guitar) on vocals, while Robert Bished adds synth to McQueen‘s own. Through the personnel changes and in each piece’s individual procession, The Mountain King are patient, waiting in the dark for you to join them. They’ll probably just keep basking in all that misery until you get there, no worries. Oh, and I’ll note that the download version of Apostasyn comes with instrumental versions of the four tracks, in case you’d really like to lose yourself in ruminating.

The Mountain King on Facebook

The Mountain King on Bandcamp

Witchorious, Witchorious


The self-titled debut from Parisian doomers Witchorious is distinguished by its moments of sludgier aggression — the burly barks in “Monster” at the outset, and so on — but the chorus of “Catharsis” that rises from the march of the verse offers a more melodic vision, and the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Antoine Auclair, bassist/vocalist Lucie Gaget and drummer Paul Gaget, continue to play to multiple sides of a modern metal and doom blend, while “The Witch” adds vastness and roll to its creeper-riff foundation. The guitar-piece “Amnesia” serves as an interlude ahead of “Watch Me Die” as Witchorious dig into the second half of the album, and as hard has that song comes to hit — plenty — the character of the band is correspondingly deepened by the breadth of “To the Grave,” which follows before the bonus track “Why” nod-dirges the album’s last hook. There’s clarity in the craft throughout, and Witchorious seem aware of themselves in stylistic terms if not necessarily writing to style, and noteworthy as it is for being their first record, I look forward to hearing how they refine and sharpen the methods laid out in these songs. The already-apparent command with which they direct the course here isn’t to be ignored.

Witchorious on Facebook

Argonauta Records website

Skull Servant, Traditional Black Magicks II

skull servant traditional black magicks ii

Though their penchant for cult positioning and exploitation-horror imagery might lead expectations elsewhere, North Carolinian trio Skull Servant present a raw, sludge-rocking take on their second LP, Traditional Black Magicks II, with bassist Noah Terrell and guitarist Calvin Bauer reportedly swapping vocal duties per song across the five tracks while drummer Ryland Dreibelbis gives fluidity to the current of distortion threaded into “Absinthe Dreams,” which is instrumental on the album but newly released as a standalone single with vocals. I don’t know if the wrong version got uploaded or what — Bauer ends up credited with vocals that aren’t there — but fair enough. A meaner, punkier stonerism shows itself as “Poison the Unwell” hints at facets of post-hardcore and “Pergamos,” the two shortest pieces placed in front of the strutting “Lucifer’s Reefer” and between that cut and the Goatsnake-via-Sabbath riffing of “Satan’s Broomstick.” So it could be that Skull Servant, who released the six-song outing on Halloween 2023, are still sorting through where they want to be sound-wise, or it could be they don’t give a fuck about genre convention and are gonna do whatever they please going forward. I won’t predict and I’m not sure either answer is wrong.

Skull Servant on Facebook

Skull Servant on Bandcamp

Lord Velvet, Astral Lady

lord velvet astral lady

Notice of arrival is served as Lord Velvet dig into classic vibes and modern heft on their late 2023 debut EP, Astral Lady, to such a degree that I actually just checked their social media to see if they’d been signed yet before I started writing about them. Could happen, and probably will if they want it to, considering the weight of low end and the flowing, it’s-a-vibe-man vibe, plus shred, in “Lament of Io” and the way they make that lumber boogie through (most of) “Snakebite Fever.” Appearing in succession, “Night Terrors” and “From the Deep” channel stoned Iommic revelry amid their dynamic-in-tempo doomed intent, and while “Black Beam of Gemini” rounds out with a shove, Lord Velvet retain the tonal presence on the other end of that quick, quiet break, ready to go when needed for the crescendo. They’re not reinventing stoner rock and probably shouldn’t be trying to on this first EP, but they feel like they’re engaging with some of the newer styles being proffered by Magnetic Eye or sometimes Ripple Music, and if they end up there or elsewhere before they get around to making a full-length, don’t be surprised. If they plan to tour, so much the better for everybody.

Lord Velvet on Facebook

Lord Velvet website

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Lie Heavy Premiere “Burn to the Moon” Video; Album Preorder Available

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Whathaveyou on January 30th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

lie heavy

Lie Heavy will issue their debut album, Burn to the Moon, through Heavy Psych Sounds on April 19. The well-pedigreed North Carolinian outfit comprised of guitarist Graham Fry (ex-Confessor), vocalist Karl Agell (The Skull/Legions of Doom, Patriarchs in Black, Leadfoot, Blind-era Corrosion of Conformity), drummer Jeff “JD” Dennis (Hank Sinatra and the Backsliders) and bassist TR Gwynne self-released the 12-song bangerfest last year and will now see it issued through Europe’s foremost heavy purveyor in its first physical editions.

An interesting passage-of-time aspect to how Lie Heavy are presented, since around lie heavy burn to the moonthe time Agell was were in Leadfoot (you’ll know it’s them because they drink for free) there was little talk of “throwbacks to another era” or this kind of dudely, straight-hitting sound as primal, with the implication of course that more complex ideas have come along since. That happens to be true. You can’t deny that heavy music has developed in the last two decades and that Lie Heavy are intentional in sticking to their guns updating their own versions of ‘the classics’ while themselves being cast with a classic sound.

This is a good thing, distinguishing among generations. You and I will live to see the first generation who made rock and roll die out. It is uncharted territory for the art form, and the narratives of the history of heavy will be made not by those who were there when the first riff was strummed but those who look back after and decide what was ‘classic’ or otherwise worthwhile in terms of influence. If Lie Heavy are a voice from the past stylistically, fine — heavy’s all about speaking to its own beginnings — but let’s also keep in mind that two decades (-plus) will has happened to Agell and company as well, and Lie Heavy are a stronger, fresher band for that.

Their video for “Burn to the Moon” — not a terrible-sounding idea — premieres below to coincide with the opening of preorders for the album from Heavy Psych Sounds. Info below comes from the PR wire.

Please enjoy:

Lie Heavy, “Burn to the Moon” video premiere

US heavy rock supergroup LIE HEAVY: Debut album “Burn To The Moon” out April 19th on Heavy Psych Sounds

Raleigh, North Carolina’s Lie Heavy is one of the few, true throwbacks to another era. They feature the vocals of Karl Agell, best known for Corrosion of Conformity’s BLiND album and Leadfoot. Heavy, heavy-ass blues that would have fit on the Man’s Ruin label back in the 90s, around the time that Orange Goblin was making waves. This is primal stuff: not quite Stoner, not quite Metal, and not quite giving a shit.

1. Nothing To Steal
2. In The Shadow
3. Burn To The Moon
4. Drag The World
5. The Long March
6. Lie Heavy
7. When The Universe Cries
8. Chunkadelic
0. Pontius Pilate
10. Unbeliever
11. Diabolik
12. End the World

Karl Agell – Lead Vocals
Jeff JD Dennis – Drums & Percussions / Vocals
TR Gwynne – Bass / Vocals / Acoustic Guitar
Graham Fry – Guitars / Vocals

Lie Heavy, Burn to the Moon (2023)

Lie Heavy on Facebook

Lie Heavy on Bandcamp

Heavy Psych Sounds on Facebook

Heavy Psych Sounds on Instagram

Heavy Psych Sounds on Bandcamp

Heavy Psych Sounds website

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Kabbalah and Crystal Spiders Announce Co-Headlining European Tour

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 14th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

At the end of last month when the lineups were announced for Ripplefest Germany in Berlin and Köln, we found out that North Carolina’s Crystal Spiders would be making the trip abroad, and since they were going forth on their first performances in Europe, it didn’t seem unreasonable to think they’d at least make a short stint of it.

Indeed they’ll do precisely that, co-headlining on a run alongside Spanish heavy cult rockers Kabbalah, who’ll do 10 shows while Crystal Spiders accompany for seven of them, including the two nights at Ripplefest. Kabbalah reissued their 2017 debut, Spectral Ascent, through Ripple earlier this year, and in 2022 took part in Spinda Records‘ mega-compilation Grados. Minutos. Segundos. (review here), following on from their 2021 second album, The Omen (review here), which came out through Ripple imprint Rebel Waves.

As of last month, Crystal Spiders had six songs written for the follow-up to 2021’s Morieris (review here), and when that’s done, it will be their third record overall, and one assumes it’ll show up sometime in 2024. But new material on the road could certainly happen, and that’s always fun.

The PR wire sent the dates as part of an ongoing glut of Ripple-based news this week:


Occult doom rock trio KABBALAH announces co-headlining European tour with US heavy rockers CRYSTAL SPIDERS this fall!

Spanish occult doom rockers KABBALAH and US heavy rockers CRYSTAL SPIDERS are set to embark on their co-headlining European tour this fall, including appearances at Ripplefest in Berlin and Cologne.

After a remarked performance at Motocultor Festival this summer and opening slots for The Obsessed and Lucifer in Spain, all-female trio Kabbalah are back on the European roads to grace heavy and occult rock fans with their dark and magnetic spells. On this special occasion, they will be joined by their Ripple Music labelmates and fast-rising heavy rockers Crystal Spiders and will both appear at Ripplefest in Berlin and Cologne.

23.11.23 FR – Paris – L’International*
24.11.23 DE – Mannheim – 7er Club*
25.11.23 DE – Berlin – Ripplefest
27.11.23 AT – Linz – Kapu
29.11.23 DE – Jena – Rosenkeller
30.11.23 DE – Gottingen – Vinyl-Reservat
01.12.23 BE – Diest – Hell
02.12.23 DE – Cologne – Ripplefest
04.12.23 FR – Chambery – Brin de Zinc*
05.12.23 FR – Toulouse – Mécanique des Fluides*
*Kabbalah only




Kabbalah, “Night Comes Near” official video

Crystal Spiders, “Septix” official video

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Firelight Recordings Launches With Debut Album From The Magpie

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 5th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

You can put ‘Running a label’ high on the list of thankless jobs, which I think is why there’s so often a direct reason when someone does so. In the case of Firelight Recordings, the someone is Erik Sugg, whom one might recall from his time in Demon Eye and Lightning Born. His new band is The Magpie, and The Magpie‘s self-titled debut album will be the first release on Firelight Recordings. Kinda nice when things come together like that. In corporatespeak, they call that synergy. First single? Yeah that’s out. Also the whole record is streaming, so stick that in your marketing rollout.

These days, an artist issuing their own work on their own imprint isn’t always news, but I’ll argue that Sugg partnering with players from Crystal Spiders, Double Negative, etc., and making a record with Mike Dean (C.O.C., Lightning Born, and this orbit generally) wants nothing for relevance here, especially if Sugg is going to look at signing outside projects to Firelight, which may or may not be the case or is yet undetermined, I have no idea. But I do get asked once or twice in the average week for label recommendations, so having another name in my back pocket to float is nearly always welcome. Certainly so in this case.

From the PR wire:

Firelight Records logo on black

Firelight Recordings: A New Home for Incredible, Heavy Rock, Psychedelia, and Experimental Darkness

Erik Sugg, (ex- Demon Eye, Lightning Born) is thrilled to announce Firelight Recordings. This new label brought to you from North Carolina, USA explores heavy rock, psychedelia, dark folk, and other sonic offerings of the ambient underground is just now ramping up. If those genre terms are relevant to you, Firelight Recordings is your next destination for new and upcoming great, original heavy music. Please, read on!

Our Firelight Recordings journey begins with Sugg’s latest project, “The Magpie,” dropping on Friday, September 8, 2023. The band’s Mike Dean-produced, self-titled album blends elements of heavy metal, post hardcore, noise, and vintage psychedelia in ten electrifying tracks. The band has Erik joining up with iconic punk artist, Brian Walsby (Snake Nation, Double Negative) and Mike Deloatch (Crystal Spiders.) Get a taste by checking out The Magpie lyric video for “Juice Glass” now, or streaming the full album via Hear Now. You can also listen to the full glory of the album on the Magpie Bandcamp and purchase a download, order a CD, or better yet a vinyl pre-order with an instant complimentary download. Vinyl copies are expected in early December and are limited to 100 copies. If you dig what you hear, please follow The Magpie and Firelight Recordings on social media, and stay tuned for all of their unforgettable musical developments.

Produced and Engineered by Mike Dean (Corrosion of Conformity) and Mastered by Pete Weiss at Jade Crow Music. Album Art courtesy of Kristen Walsby.

The Magpie is:
Erik Sugg: Guitar and vocals
Brian Walsby: Drums and percussion
Mike Deloatch: Bass and vocals


The Magpie, “Juice Glass” lyric video

The Magpie, The Magpie (2023)

Firelight Records announcement

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The Obelisk Questionnaire: Jeff “JD” Dennis of Lie Heavy

Posted in Questionnaire on July 31st, 2023 by JJ Koczan

Jeff JD Dennis of Lie Heavy

The Obelisk Questionnaire is a series of open questions intended to give the answerer an opportunity to explore these ideas and stories from their life as deeply as they choose. Answers can be short or long, and that reveals something in itself, but the most important factor is honesty.

Based on the Proust Questionnaire, the goal over time is to show a diverse range of perspectives as those who take part bring their own points of view to answering the same questions. To see all The Obelisk Questionnaire posts, click here.

Thank you for reading and thanks to all who participate.

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Jeff “JD” Dennis of Lie Heavy

How do you define what you do and how did you come to do it?

I create music w/ other people. I use my musical instincts and drums as a vehicle to do that.

Describe your first musical memory.

My Mom spinning records on our console stereo.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

Signing my first record deal. Recording that first record & touring to support it.

When was a time when a firmly held belief was tested?

Becoming aware of the true nature of organized religion changed my whole worldview & understanding of what it means to be a good human. And, how that can be accomplished without the presence of religion in my life.

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

Artistic progression leads to a sense of accomplishment. And, a realization that there’s so much farther you can go.

How do you define success?

In younger years success meant something different than it does now. Now, success just means accomplishing a goal.

What is something you have seen that you wish you hadn’t?

The death of my Mom because of cancer.

Describe something you haven’t created yet that you’d like to create.

I would like to create a drum-centric piece of music utilizing loops of live tracks in different time signatures.

What do you believe is the most essential function of art?

To push boundaries and make people think.

Something non-musical that you’re looking forward to?

I always look forward to my next fly fishing trip.


Lie Heavy, “Lie Heavy”

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