Days of Rona: Nicholas Burks of War Cloud

Posted in Features on April 7th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

The statistics of COVID-19 change with every news cycle, and with growing numbers, stay-at-home isolation and a near-universal disruption to society on a global scale, it is ever more important to consider the human aspect of this coronavirus. Amid the sad surrealism of living through social distancing, quarantines and bans on gatherings of groups of any size, creative professionals — artists, musicians, promoters, club owners, techs, producers, and more — are seeing an effect like nothing witnessed in the last century, and as humanity as a whole deals with this calamity, some perspective on who, what, where, when and how we’re all getting through is a needed reminder of why we’re doing so in the first place.

Thus, Days of Rona, in some attempt to help document the state of things as they are now, both so help can be asked for and given where needed, and so that when this is over it can be remembered.

Thanks to all who participate. To read all the Days of Rona coverage, click here. — JJ Koczan

war cloud nicholas burks (Photo by Bambi Guthrie Photography)

Days of Rona: Nick Burks of War Cloud, Stonecutters & Cryptic Hymn (Ft. Wayne, Indiana)

How are you dealing with this crisis as a band?

Honestly, War Cloud has been staying really busy despite the pandemic. We have a new album coming out on May 22nd through Ripple Music. It’s been tricky to promote when the world has shut down. Plus, you see more and more bigger bands pushing back their releases indefinitely. Our logic is that we want to give everyone new music during this time. Who knows? It would make my day to hear someone get inspired by this new release, so why wait?

All the members of War Cloud live in different parts of the US so we have been checking in on each other. The quarantine has gotten us writing and recording songs. It’s a weird time to be creative but I guess there’s no “on/off” switch for inspiration. NO, we are not writing a song about the pandemic. I’ve been listening to a ton of Judas Priest. Their music always gets me stoked to kick some ass and I want War Cloud’s new music to honor the metal gods.

Have you had to rework plans at all?

It’s hard to say. War Cloud was supposed to tour this April and play the Hell’s Heroes pre-party, but that has been canceled unfortunately. We would love to play Hell’s Heroes pre-party 2021!

I was so stoked to play with Helstar at Hell’s Heroes. Their album, Nosferatu, is a guitar bible. Our appearance at Legions of Metal is currently being rescheduled. A lot of things are up in the air. We have a European tour in May through June but once again, it’s tough to predict when this will all be over. The entire world is suffering.

How is everyone’s health so far?

So far, everyone is in good health. Taking a ton of vitamins and drinking a lot of water. It’s kind of funny. Stonecutters ended their tour with Lich King and Toxic Ruin due to COVID-19. Our last show was Thursday, March 12th in Worcester, Massachusetts. Then we live streamed our show the next night from Sonic Titan Studios. Stonecutters are from Kentucky; Lich King is from Massachusetts; Toxic Ruin is from Wisconsin; so you had three bands from different states traveling the US together, and I think a lot of us were trying not to cough so no one would get nervous.

What are the quarantine/isolation rules where you are?

Currently, I live in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. The state of Indiana has all music venues, bars/restaurants, churches, and every other non-essential business closed. Gas is $1.57 per gallon. Grocery stores are insane. All the frozen pizzas, toilet paper, and canned goods are always out of stock.

How have you seen the virus affecting the community around you and in music?

It’s a weird vibe. If you go on a walk, the residents that normally wouldn’t talk to you, now will give you a wave and a smile, and maybe even start some small talk. I think it helps. The grocery store is a war zone. It seems like everyone is on edge and has a short temper. The pandemic has flipped the music community on its head. My death metal band, Cryptic Hymn, has had to cancel shows. War Cloud has had to cancel shows. Stonecutters has had to cancel shows. EVERY band has lost something in this. It can be a real downer when you spend January and February booking the entire year with your bands and then everything in the music world has been postponed or rescheduled.

What is the one thing you want people to know about your situation, either as a band, or personally, or anything?

I want to thank the people that work in grocery stores and hospitals the most. They are putting themselves out there everyday and a lot times it is thankless job. The music community is suffering. Everyone is suffering. Be excellent to each other, and when this is all over, let’s get back to the rock ‘n’ roll.

http://facebook.com/WarCloudisComing
http://warcloudiscoming.bandcamp.com/
http://warcloud.bigcartel.com/
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ripple-Music/369610860064
https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/
http://www.ripple-music.com/
https://stonecuttersmusic.bandcamp.com/music
https://cryptichymn.bandcamp.com/

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Days of Rona: Gary Wendt of The Ghost Next Door

Posted in Features on April 1st, 2020 by JJ Koczan

The statistics of COVID-19 change with every news cycle, and with growing numbers, stay-at-home isolation and a near-universal disruption to society on a global scale, it is ever more important to consider the human aspect of this coronavirus. Amid the sad surrealism of living through social distancing, quarantines and bans on gatherings of groups of any size, creative professionals — artists, musicians, promoters, club owners, techs, producers, and more — are seeing an effect like nothing witnessed in the last century, and as humanity as a whole deals with this calamity, some perspective on who, what, where, when and how we’re all getting through is a needed reminder of why we’re doing so in the first place.

Thus, Days of Rona, in some attempt to help document the state of things as they are now, both so help can be asked for and given where needed, and so that when this is over it can be remembered.

Thanks to all who participate. — JJ Koczan

gary wendt THE GHOST NEXT DOOR

Days of Rona: Gary Wendt of The Ghost Next Door (Oakland, California)

How are you dealing with this crisis as a band? Have you had to rework plans at all? How is everyone’s health so far?

Well, we are presently short a drummer so we haven’t been rehearsing anyways. We were also minus a bassist when this whole thing started. Fortunately, we found someone amidst the chaos. We are currently having her learn the tunes on her own and plan to get together one-on-one next week. We had just finished prepro demos for the new record, so I’m in the studio all by my lonesome tracking guitars for our follow-up.

No one in our camp is ill, thankfully.

What are the quarantine/isolation rules where you are?

Shelter in place. Social distancing. Leave home only for necessities. That sort of thing.

How have you seen the virus affecting the community around you and in music?

Folks on the street are a bit tense, it seems. On edge.

I have not witnessed any bad actors, thus far, however. Stood in my first line for the grocery store yesterday. That was kinda strange. It’s difficult to keep six feet apart from folks in those aisles, I tell ya!

In music, well, hopefully folks are practicing and/or writing at home. Now’s the time to create, my friends!

Obviously, no shows, no rehearsals. Some I know are in big enough bands to actually help raise money for specific causes. Robb (MH) has been using social media to raise funds for medical masks as well as using profits of merch sales to help out. Way ta go, dude!

What is the one thing you want people to know about your situation, either as a band, or personally, or anything?

My wife, Bekki and I had our very first virtual happy hour with our friends, Snake and Allison the other night. The three hours we spent together online, just flew by! Love those cats!

So far, I’ve been keeping super busy. I like being home with the wife and kitties. My company has tagged on an extra two weeks sick time for everyone, so, I’m in a good place, monetarily, for the time being. She’s working from home. Still, the looming recession is not something I’m taking lightly. Probably my number one concern, right there.

Everyone, stay calm, don’t hoard, keep a safe distance and please, don’t fear monger.

Not helpful at all.

Triple check those “facts” before you go haphazardly posting on Facebook too.

https://www.facebook.com/theghostnextdoor/
https://www.instagram.com/theghostnextdoorband/
http://theghostnextdoorband.com/
https://www.facebook.com/theripplemusic/
ripplemusic.bandcamp.com
http://www.ripple-music.com/

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Quarterly Review: Khemmis, Mutant Flesh, War Cloud, Void of Sleep, Pretty Lightning, Rosy Finch, Ghost Spawn, Agrabatti, Dead Sacraments, Smokemaster

Posted in Reviews on March 24th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

Alarm went off this morning at 3:45. Got up, flicked on the coffee pot, turned the heat on in the house, hit the bathroom and was back in bed in four minutes with an alarm set for 4:15. Didn’t really get back to sleep, but the half-hour of being still was a kind of pre-waking meditation that I appreciated just the same. Was dozing when the alarm went off the second time, but it’s day two of the Quarterly Review, so no time to doze. No time for anything, as is the nature of these blocks of writeups. They tend to be all-consuming while they’re going on. Could be worse. Let’s roll.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Khemmis, Doomed Heavy Metal

khemmis doomed heavy metal

Denver four-piece Khemmis have made themselves one of the most distinctive acts in metal, to say nothing of doom. With strong vocal harmonies out front backed by similarly-minded guitars, the band bring a sense of poise to doom that’s rare in the modern sphere, somewhat European in influence, but less outwardly adherent to the genre tenets of melancholy. They refuse to be Paradise Lost, in other words, and are all the more themselves for that. Their Doomed Heavy Metal EP (on 20 Buck Spin and Nuclear Blast) is a stopgap after 2018’s Desolation (review here) full-length, but at 38 minutes and six songs, it’s substantial nonetheless, headlined by the Dio cover “Rainbow in the Dark” — capably done with just a flair of Slough Feg — with a take on Lloyd Chandler‘s “A Conversation with Death” and “Empty Throne,” both rare-enough studio cuts, for backing, as well as three live cuts that cover their three-to-date albums. The growls on “Three Gates” are fun, but I’ll still take the Dio cover as the highlight. For a cobbled-together release, it feels at least like a bit of thoughtful fan-service, and really, a band could do worse than to serve their fans thoughtfully.

Khemmis on Thee Facebooks

20 Buck Spin store

Nuclear Blast Records store

 

Mutant Flesh, Evil Eye

mutant flesh evil eye

There are shades of doom metal’s origins underlying Mutant Flesh‘s first release, the eight-song/33-minute Evil Eye, but the Philly troupe are too gleeful in their weirdness ultimately to be paying full homage to the likes of Witchfinder General, and especially in a faster song like second cut “Meteoric” and the subsequent lead-guitar-flipout-and-vocal-soar title-track, they tap into the defiantly doomed vibe of earliest Saint Vitus. That’s true of the crawling “Euthanasia” as well, which crashes and nods as it approaches the six-minute mark as the longest inclusion here, but even the penultimate “Blight” brings that twisted-BlackFlag-noise-slowed-down spirit that lets you know there’s consciousness behind the chaos, and that while Mutant Flesh might seem to be all-the-way-gone, they’re really just getting started. Maybe their sound will even out over time, maybe it won’t, but for what it’s worth, they do ragged doom well from the opening “Leviathan (Lord of the Labyrinth)” onward, and feel right at home in the unhinged.

Mutant Flesh on Thee Facebooks

Mutant Flesh on Bandcamp

 

War Cloud, Earhammer Sessions

war cloud earhammer sessions

Having just shredded their way across Europe, War Cloud took their set into the Earhammer Studio with Greg Wilkinson at the helm in an attempt to capture the band in top form on their home turf. Did it work? The results on Earhammer Sessions (Ripple Music) don’t wait around for you to decide. They’re too busy kicking ass to take names, and if the resulting 29-minute burst is even half of what they brought to the stage on that tour, those must’ve been some goddamn shows. Songs like “White Lightning” and the snare-counted-in “Speed Demon” and “Striker” feel like they’re being given their due in the max-speed-NWOBHM-but-still-too-classy-to-be-thrash presentation, and honestly, this feels like War Cloud have found their method. If they don’t tour their next album and then hit the studio after and lay it down live, or at least as live as Earhammer Sessions is — one never knows as regards overdubs and isolation booths and all that — they’re doing themselves a disservice. War Cloud play metal. So what? So this.

War Cloud on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music website

 

Void of Sleep, Metaphora

Void of Sleep Metaphora

Void of Sleep return after half a decade with the prog-doom stylings of their third album, Metaphora (Aural Music), which stretches dramatically through songs like “Iron Mouth” (11:00), preceded by the intro “The Famine Years” and the shorter “Unfair Judgements,” preceded by the intro “Waves of Discomfort,” and still somehow manage not to sound out of place tapping into their inner Soilwork in the growled verses/clean choruses of “Master Abuser.” They get harsh a bit as well on “Tides of the Mourning,” which uses its 10:30 to summarize the bulk of the proceedings and close out the record after “Modern Man,” but that song has more of a scope and feels looser structurally for that. Still, that shift is only one of several throughout Metaphora, which follows the Italian five-piece’s 2015 LP, New World Order (discussed here), and wherever Void of Sleep are headed at any given moment, they head there with a duly controlled presence. Clearly their last five years have not been wasted.

Void of Sleep on Thee Facebooks

Aural Music store

 

Pretty Lightning, Jangle Bowls

pretty lightning jangle bowls

As yet, Germany’s Pretty Lightning remain a well kept secret of fuzz-psych-blues nuance, digging out their own niche-in-a-niche-in-a-niche microgenre with a natural and inadvertent-feeling sense of just writing the songs they want to write. Jangle Bowls, which puts its catchy, semi-garage title-track early in the proceedings, is the duo’s second offering through Fuzz Club Records behind 2017’s The Rhythm of Ooze (review here), and seem to present a mission statement in opener “Swamp Ritual” before bringing a due sense of excursion to “Boogie at the Shrine” — damn that’s a smooth groove — and reviving the movement in “RaRaRa,” which follows. Closer “Shovel Blues” is a highlight for how it drifts into oblivion, but the underlying tightness of craft in “123 Eternity” and “Hum” is an appeal as well, so it’s a tradeoff. But it’s one I’ll be glad to make across multiple repeat visits to Jangle Bowls while wondering how long this particular secret can actually be kept.

Pretty Lightning on Thee Facebooks

Fuzz Club Records store

 

Rosy Finch, Scarlet

rosy finch scarlet

The painted-blood-red cover of Rosy Finch‘s second album, Scarlet (on Lay Bare Recordings), and horror-cinema-esque design isn’t a coincidence in terms of atmosphere, but the Spanish trio bring a more aggressive feel to the nine-track outing overall than they did to their 2016 debut, Witchboro (review here), with additional crunch in the guitar of Mireia Porto (also vocals and bass) and bassist Elena Garcia, and a forward kick drum from Lluís Mas that hammers home the impact of a cruncher like “Ruby” and even seems to ground the more melodic “Alizarina,” which follows, let alone the crushing opener/longest track (immediate points) “Oxblood” or its headspinning closing companion “Dark Cherry,” after which follows the particularly intense hidden cut “Lady Bug,” also not to be missed. Anger suits Rosy Finch, it seems, and the band bring a physicality to the songs on Scarlet that only reinforces the sonic push.

Rosy Finch on Thee Facebooks

Lay Bare Recordings store

 

Ghost Spawn, The Haunting Continuum

Ghost Spawn The Haunting Continuum

Brutal, gurgling doom-of-death pervades The Haunting Continuum from Denver one-man-unit Ghost Spawn, and while the guitar late in “Escaping the Mortal Flesh” seems momentarily to offer some hope of salvation, rest assured, it doesn’t last, and the squibbly central riff returns with its extremity to prove once more that only death is real. Multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Kevin Berstler is the lone culprit behind the project’s first full-length and second release overall (also second this year, so he would seem to work quickly), and across 43 minutes that only grow more grueling as they proceed through the centerpiece title-track and into “The Terrors that Plague Nightly” and the desolate incantations of “Exiled to the Realm of Eternal Rot,” there are some hints of cleaner grunts that have made their way through — a kind of repeated “hup” vocalization — but this too is swallowed in the miasma of cave-echo guitar, drums-from-out-of-the-abyss, and raw-as-peeled-flesh production. Can’t get behind that? Probably you and 99.9 percent of the rest of humanity. For us slugs, though, it’s just about right.

Ghost Spawn on Thee Facebooks

Ghost Spawn on Bandcamp

 

Agrabatti, Beyond the Sun

agrabatti beyond the sun

It’s kosmiche thrust and watery vibes when Agrabatti go Beyond the Sun. What’s there upon arrival? Nothing less than a boogie down with Hawkwind at the helm of a spacey spaced-out space rocking chopper that you shouldn’t even be able to hear the revving engine of in space and yet somehow you can. Also synth, pulsating riffs and psych-as-all-golly-gosh awakenings. Formed in 2009 by Chad Davis — then just out of U.S. Christmas, already at that point known for his work in Hour of 13 and a swath of other projects across multiple genres — and with songs begun to come together at that time only to be shelved ahead of recording this year, Beyond the Sun sat seemingly in some unreachable strata of anomalous subspace, for 11 years before being rediscovered from its time-loop like Kelsey Grammer in that one episode of TNG, and gorgeously spread across the quadrant in its five-cut run, with its cover of the aforementioned Hawkwind‘s “Born to Go” so much at home among its companions it feels like, baby, it’s already gone. Do you need sunglasses in the void? Shit yeah you do.

Agrabatti on Thee Facebooks

Agrabatti on Bandcamp

 

Dead Sacraments, Celestial Throne

Dead Sacraments Celestial Throne

Four sprawling doom epics comprise the 2019 debut album — and apparently debut release — from Illinois four-piece Dead Sacraments, who themselves are comprised from three former members of atmospheric sludgers Angel Eyes, who finished their run in 2011 but released the posthumous Things Have Learnt to Walk That Ought to Crawl (review here). Those are guitarist Brendan Burchell, bassist Nader Cheboub and drummer Ryan Croson, and together with apparently-self-harmonizing vocalist/guitarist Mark Mazurek, they cast a doom built on largesse in tone and scope alike, given an air of classic-metal grandiosity but filtered through a psych-doom modernity that feels aware of what the likes of Pallbearer and Khemmis have done for the genre. Nonetheless, as a first record, Celestial Throne shines its darkness brightly across its no-song-under-nine-minutes-long lumber, and affirms the righteousness of doom with a genuine sense of reach at its disposal.

Dead Sacraments on Thee Facebooks

Dead Sacraments on Bandcamp

 

Smokemaster, Smokemaster

smokemaster smokemaster

The languid and trippy spirit in opener “Solar Flares” is something of a misdirect on the part of organ-laced, Cologne-based heavy rockers Smokemaster, who go on to boogie down through songs like “Trippin’ Blues” before jamming out classic heavy blues-style on “Ear of the Universe.” I’m not saying they don’t have their psychedelic aspects, but there’s plenty of movement behind what they do as well, and the setup they give with the first two cuts is effective in throwing off the first-time listener’s expectation. A pastoral instrumental “Sunrise in the Canyon” leads off side B after, and comes backed by “Astronaut of Love” (yup, a lovestronaut) and “Astral Traveller,” which find an engaging midpoint between the ground and the great beyond, synth and keys pushing outward in the finale even as the bass and drums keep it tethered to a central groove. It’s a formula that’s worked many times over the last half-century, but it works here too, and Smokemaster‘s Smokemaster makes a right-on introduction to the German newcomers.

Smokemaster on Thee Facebooks

Tonzonen Records store

 

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Quarterly Review: Total Fucking Destruction, Humulus, The River, Phantom Hound, Chang, The Dhaze, Lost Psychonaut, Liquido di Morte, Black Burned Blimp, Crimson Oak

Posted in Reviews on March 23rd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

I’ve got a fresh cup of coffee and 50 records that need to be reviewed, so it must be time for… constant distractions! Oh, no, wait, sorry. It must be time for the Quarterly Review. Yeah, there it is. I know there’s a global-pandemic-sized elephant in the room as a backdrop for the Spring 2020 Quarterly Review, but it seems to me that’s all the more reason to proceed as much as possible. Not to feign normality like people aren’t suffering physically, emotionally, and/or financially, but to give those for whom music is a comfort an opportunity to find more of that comfort and, frankly, to do the same for myself. I’ve said many times I need this more than you do, and I do.

So, you know the drill. 10 records a day, Monday to Friday through this week, 50 when we’re done. As Christopher Pike says, let’s hit it.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Total Fucking Destruction, …To Be Alive at the End of the World

Total Fucking Destruction To Be Alive at the End of the World

The long-running experimentalist grind trio Total Fucking Destruction remain a sonic presence unto themselves. Their strikingly apropos fifth LP, …To Be Alive at the End of the World, begins with the five-minute psychedelic wash of its unrepentantly pretty, somewhat mournful title-track and ends with a performance-art take on “The Star Spangled Banner” that shifts into eight or so minutes of drone and minimalist noise before reemerging in manipulated form, vocalist/drummer Richard Hoak (also the odd bit of flute and ocarina), bassist/vocalist Ryan Moll and guitarist Pingdum filling the between space with the blasts and jangles of “A Demonstration of Power,” the maddening twists of “Attack of the Supervirus 1138” and other mini-bursts of unbridled aggression like “Stone Bomb,” “Doctor Butcher” and the outright conceptual genius of “Yelling at Velcro,” which, indeed, is just 20 or so seconds of yelling ahead of the arrival of the closer. In an alternate future, Total Fucking Destruction‘s work will be added to the Library of Congress. In this future, we’re boned.

Total Fucking Destruction on Thee Facebooks

Translation Loss Records store

 

Humulus, The Deep

humulus the deep

For the six-song/51-minute The Deep, Italian three-piece Humulus somewhat depart the beer-rocking ways of 2017’s second LP, Reverently Heading into Nowhere (review here). Sure, the riff of “Gone Again” is pure Kyuss idolatry (not a complaint), and “Devil’s Peak (We Eventually Eluded Death)” brims with drunkard’s swagger, but factor in the wonderfully executed linear build that takes place across the eight-minute “Hajra,” the mellow emotionalism of the penultimate acoustic track “Lunar Queen,” and the two extended psychedelic bookends in opener “Into the Heart of the Volcano Sun” (14:48) and closer “Sanctuary III – The Deep” (14:59), and the narrative becomes decidedly more complex than just “they drink and play riffs.” These elements have been in Humulus‘ sound all along, but it’s plain to hear the band have actively worked to push themselves forward in scope, and the range suits them, the closer particularly filled with a theatricality that would seem to speak to further storytelling to come on subsequent releases. So be it. They called the album The Deep and have dived in accordingly.

Humulus on Thee Facebooks

Kozmik Artifactz website

 

The River, Vessels into White Tides

The River Vessels into White Tides

An atmosphere of melancholy is quickly established on The River‘s third LP, Vessels into White Tides (on Nine Records), and for being the London four-piece’s first album 10 years, it takes place in a sense of unrushed melody, the band rolling out a morose feel born of but not directly aping the likes of My Dying Bride and Paradise Lost as the vocals of guitarist Jenny Newton (also strings, percussion) — joined in the band by guitarist Christian Leitch, bassist Stephen Morrissey and drummer Jason Ludwig — make their presence felt soon in opener “Vessels,” which unfolds gracefully with a crash and rumble fading into the beginning of the subsequent “Into White” (15:01) with the four-minute string-laced “Open” and the 9:44 shifting-into-intensity “Passing” preceding closer “Tides,” which is duly rolling in its progression and offers a sweet bit of release, if wistful, from some of the more grueling moments before it, capping not with a distorted blowout, but with layers of strings reinforcing the folkish underpinning that’s been there all along, in even the most tonally or emotionally weighted stretches.

The River on Thee Facebooks

Nine Records store

 

Phantom Hound, Mountain Pass

Phantom Hound Mountain Pass

Mountain Pass, which begins with “The Northern Face,” ends with “The Southern Face” and along the way treks through its on-theme title-track and the speedier “You Don’t Know Death,” catchy “Thunder I Am” and fairly-enough bluesy “Devil Blues,” has its foundations in oldschool metal and punk, but is a decidedly rock-based offering. It’s the debut from Oakland’s Phantom Hound, and its eight component tracks make no attempt to mask their origins or coat their material in unnecessary pretense — they are what they are; the album is what it is. The three-piece dip into acoustics on the instrumental “Grace of an Angel,” which shifts with a cymbal wash into the lead guitar at the outset of the eight-minute title-track — the stomp of which is perhaps more evocative of the mountain than the passing, but still works — but even this isn’t so far removed from the straightforward purposes of “Irons in the Fire,” which stakes its claim to dead-ahead metal and rock, barely stopping along the way to ask what else you could possibly need.

Phantom Hound on Thee Facebooks

Phantom Hound on Bandcamp

 

Chang, Superlocomotodrive

chang superlocomotodrive

Munich-based trio Chang, with clear, modern production behind them, present their debut EP release with the 29-minute Superlocomotodrive, and though it’s short, one is left wondering what else they might need to consider it an album. What’s missing? You’ve got the let’s-jam-outta-here in the six-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Mescalin,” and plenty of gruff riffing to back that up in “Old Rusty Car” and the later title-track, with a bit of Oliveri-era Queens of the Stone Age edge in the latter to boot, plus some psychedelic lead work in “Sterne,” some particularly German quirk in “Bottle Beach” and a massive buildup in tension in the finale “Bombs Whisper” that seems to arrive at its moment of payoff only to instead cut to silence and purposefully leave the listener hanging — an especially bold move for a first release. Yeah, it’s under half an hour long, but so what? The heavy rock terrain Chang are working in is familiar enough — right down to the less-than-P.C. lyrics of “Old Rusty Car” — but there’s no sense that Superlocomotodrive wants to be something it isn’t. It’s heavy rock celebrating heavy rock.

Chang on Thee Facebooks

Chang on Bandcamp

 

The Dhaze, Deaf Dumb Blind

the dhaze deaf dumb blind

Though the grunge influence in the vocals of guitarist Simone Pennucci speak to more of a hard-rocking kind of sound, the basis of The Dhaze‘s sprawl across their ambitious 53-minute Sound Effect Records debut album, Deaf Dumb Blind, is more in line with progressive metal and heavy psychedelia. Bassist Vincenzo La Tegola backs Pennucci on vocals and locks in fluid mid-tempo grooves with drummer Lorenzo Manna, and makes a highlight of the low end in “Death Walks with Me” ahead of the titular trilogy, presented in the order of “Deaf,” “Blind” and “Dumb,” which flow together as one piece thanks in no small part to the synth work added by La Tegola and Pennucci together. Obviously comfortable in longer-form stretches like “Death Walks with Me” or the earlier “Neurosis,” both of which top nine minutes, the Napoli trio bring a fervent sense of variety to their work while leaving themselves open to future growth in terms of sound and playing with the balance between elements they establish here.

The Dhaze on Thee Facebooks

Sound Effect Records store

 

Lost Psychonaut, Lost Psychonaut

Lost Psychonaut Lost Psychonaut

Hailing — because metal bands hail, to be sure — from the Pittsburgh area, newcomers Lost Psychonaut boast in their ranks two former members of sludgers Vulture in guitarist/vocalist Justin Erb and bassist
Garrett Twardesky, who, together with drummer Tristan Triggs, run through a debut LP made up of five tracks that skirt the line between groove metal and heavy rock, tapping-like-flowing-kegs influences from the likes of ’90s-era C.O.C. and others such burl-laced groovers. Tales of day-to-day struggles make a fitting enough backdrop to the riff-led proceedings, which commence with the prior-issued single “My Time” and roll-groove their way into a duo of longer cuts at the end in “Restitution Day” (8:46) and “On a Down” (7:44). Frankly, any mention of the word “Down” at all in a song that feels so outwardly “buried in smoke” can hardly be coincidental, but that nod is well earned. With a couple years behind them, they know what they’re going for in this initial batch of songs, and the clearheaded nature of their approach only gives their songwriting more of a sense of command. There’s growth to be undertaken, but nothing to say they can’t get there.

Lost Psychonaut on Thee Facebooks

Lost Psychonaut on Bandcamp

 

Liquido di Morte, IIII

liquido di morte iiii

I suppose you could, if so inclined, live up to Liquido di Morte‘s slogan, “We play music to take drugs to,” but you’d be shorting yourself on the experience of a lucid listen to their third long-player IIII. Issued in limited handmade packaging by the band, the Milan instrumentalists offer a stylistic take across the late-2019 five-tracker that stands somewhere between heavy post-rock and post-metal, but in that incorporates no shortage of thoughtful psychedelic meditations and even some kraut and space rock vibes. The primary impact is atmospheric, but there’s diversity in their approach such that the centerpiece “Tramonto Nucleare” begins cosmic, or maybe cataclysmic, and ends with an almost serene roll into the floating guitar at the outset of the subsequent “Rebus (6,5),” which is the longest inclusion at 13:40 and an encompassing, hypnotic srpawl that, whether you take drugs or not, seems destined to commune with expanded or expanding minds. The front-to-back journey ends with “The Fattening,” a cinematic run of synth after which a slaughter feels almost inevitable, even if it arrives as silence.

Liquido di Morte on Thee Facebooks

Liquido di Morte on Bandcamp

 

Black Burned Blimp, Crash Overdrive

Black Burned Blimp Crash Overdrive

Bonus points to Netherlands four-piece Black Burned Blimp for including song titles like “What Doesn’t Kill You, Makes You Weirder” and “The Good, the Bad and the Fucking Horrific” and, at the start of “Desert Wizard,” the sample from Trailer Park Boys wherein Mr. Lahey declares, “I am the liquor” on their debut LP, Crash Overdrive. Native to a heavy rock legacy that includes acts like 13eaver, 35007, Astrosoniq and Celestial Season, among many others, the band hint toward melodic complexity while remaining focused on raw energy in their songwriting, such that even the drumless, harmonized and minute-long “Flock” seems to seethe with unstated tension for “Robo Erectus,” which follows, to pay off. It does, though perhaps with less of a tempo kick than one might expect — certainly less than the careening “The Good, the Bad and the Fucking Horrific” a few tracks later — but somehow, no matter what speed they’re actually playing, Black Burned Blimp seem to make it sound fast. Vitality will do that.

Black Burned Blimp on Thee Facebooks

Black Burned Blimp on Bandcamp

 

Crimson Oak, Crimson Oak

crimson oak crimson oak

Though their arrival comes amid a German heavy rock underground that’s nothing if not well populated, Fulda-based five-piece Crimson Oak present with their self-titled debut long-player a stylistic take that’s both modern and genuine sounding, finding solid ground in well-crafted songs drawing more from ’90s-era heavy and punk in “Danger Time,” which follows the contemplative “Of My Youth,” the bulk of what surrounds expressing a similar level of self-awareness, up to and including the nine-minute side B opener “Brother of Sleep,” which sets psychedelic guitar against some of the album’s biggest riffs (and melodies). There’s middle ground to be had in cuts like “Displace” and “Sunset Embrace” still to come and “Fulda Gap” earlier, but Crimson Oak seem to touch that middle ground mostly en route to whichever end of the spectrum next piques their interest. At seven songs and 42 minutes, it’s not an insubstantial LP, but they hold their own with confidence and a poise that speaks to the fact that some of this material showed up on prior EPs. That experience with it shows but does not hold the band or songs back.

Crimson Oak on Thee Facebooks

Crimson Oak on Bandcamp

 

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War Cloud to Release Earhammer Sessions May 22; Premiere “Vulture City”

Posted in audiObelisk, Whathaveyou on February 26th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

war cloud

Guess what — War Cloud have a new anything coming out and it’s gonna be a banger. Well of course it is. It’s War Cloud. They don’t do otherwise. War Cloud ain’t about to get all prog on you now, no worries. War Cloud bring classic metal and birth-era heavy rock together with enough energy to make you question whatever science it is that said in the first place that alcohol was a depressant. They seem to still be coming down both from 2019’s State of Shock (review here) and from the stretch of European touring they did to support it, even as they look forward to heading abroad once more.

Ah-ha! That brings us to Earhammer Sessions. Sure, the Oakland four-piece have a busy couplewar cloud earhammer sessions months ahead, doing a Texas run and a bit of Midwestern this-and-that around their slot at the Legions of Metal Festival in Chicago, but even as they land in Germany to begin a tour there — they dip into Denmark, but otherwise it’s all-Deutschland — they’ll be celebrating the release of Earhammer Sessions, which was recorded in Cali, but features the band playing the same set they did last time they were in Europe, bringing it to life in the studio as they did on stage, with Greg Wilkinson recording and mixing. Because hell’s bells, if you’re doing a thing, do it right.

May 22 is the release date for Earhammer Sessions, and like State of Shock before it, it’ll be out through Ripple Music. If you find “Vulture City,” the new incarnation of which is premiering below, to be familiar, it originally appeared on War Cloud‘s 2017 self-titled debut (review here), and its origins go back even further than that to when it was issued as a single in 2016. Four years later, they sound accordingly comfortable in using it to kick ass.

Enjoy:

WAR CLOUD ‘Earhammer Sessions’ Out May 22nd on Ripple Music

Oakland hard rock revelers WAR CLOUD announce the release of their thunderous live album ‘Earhammer Sessions’ this May on Ripple Music. The band unveil all details, as well as the dates of their upcoming world tour.

Preorders:
US: https://ripplemusic.bigcartel.com/product/war-cloud-the-earhammer-sessions
Everywhere: https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/album/the-earhammer-sessions

Says frontman Alex Wein: “We wanted to capture the live energy of our set and it was a no brainer to record with Oakland’s Earhammer Studios. The recordings capture the evolution of the band and how we have progressed as a group. What you hear is the setlist we performed every night of our most recent European tour. It’s a raw, honest, take no prisoners vibe that the band exudes. We chose Earhammer Studios because it has recorded bands that we are fans of (Saviours, Lecherous Gaze, Necrot) and it’s the epitome of the Oakland metal sound. Greg Wilkinson (engineer/mixer) understood our vision and helped recreate the live set. The Earhammer Sessions were mastered by Alan Douches (Motörhead, High On Fire, Gwar)”.

WAR CLOUD also recently unveiled a hectic video for the song “Give’r”, which you can watch at this location. The song is taken from the ‘Earhammer Sessions’ live album, and was first released on 2017’s self-titled debut ‘War Cloud’.

TRACK LISTING:
1. Vulture City
2. Give’r
3. Chopper Wired
4. White Lightning
5. Divide and Conquer
6. Tomahawk
7. Speed Demon
8. Striker

WAR CLOUD will be touring extensively this spring in support of their last album ‘State Of Shock’, released on September 2019 through Ripple Music:

A Fast Ride Through Texas
17/04/20 Houston. Secret Group (Hell’s Heroes Pre-Party)
18/04/20 San Antonio. Faust Tavern
19/04/20 Dallas. Wits End
20/04/20 Austin. Lost Well (Dankfest)

Wings of Steel Tour
United States
13/05/20 Oklahoma City, OK. Blue Note
14/05/20 Lawrence, KS. Replay Lounge
15/05/20 Chicago, IL. Reggie’s (Legions of Metal Festival)
16/05/20 Milwaukee, WS. Cactus Club
17/05/20 Ft. Wayne, IN. Brass Rail
18/05/20 Louisville, KY. Highland Taproom
Europe
22/05/20 Herten, DE. Kustom Kulture Forever
23/05/20 Roskilde, DK. Gimle
26/05/20 Cologne, DE. Museum
27/05/20 Dresden, DE. Ostpol
28/05/20 Berlin, DE. Toast Hawaii
29/05/20 Erfurt, DE. Cafe Tikolor
30/05/20 Munster, DE. Rare Guitar
31/05/20 Leipzig, DE. Black Label
4/06/20 Copenhagen, DK. Byhaven Pumpehuset
5/06/20 Hagen, DE. Kultopia
6/06/20 Kaiserslautern, DE. Irish House

WAR CLOUD:
Alex Wein – Vocals/Guitar
Nick Burks – Guitar
Joaquin Ridgell – Drums
Taylor Roach – Bass

War Cloud, State of Shock (2019)

War Cloud, “Give’r” official video

War Cloud on Thee Facebooks

War Cloud on Bandcamp

War Cloud BigCartel store

Ripple Music on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

Ripple Music website

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High Tone Son of a Bitch Premiere “Wicked Threads” from New Compilation Lifecycles

Posted in audiObelisk on February 6th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

high tone son of a bitch

You know the origin story of High Tone Son of a Bitch, right? It’s complicated and full of ups, downs, love and loss and all that other deeply human-type stuff. A life story, as it were. The band revitalized circa last year and spent much of the ensuing return period getting their lineup situated and getting their feet under them in terms of stage presentation, but they had a wealth of material to draw from in that regard that went even further than what actually ever saw proper release. On March 20, Tee Pee Records — which also stood behind brothers Paul and Andrew Kott for Kalas‘ lone studio album — will issue Lifecycles: EPs of HTSOB, a new compilation of songs that span the original era of the band from 2002 through about 2005, preceding Andrew Kott‘s death in 2007.

High Tone Son of a Bitch have two four-trackers currently available. Their Better You Than Me originally came out on CD through Shifty Records in 2003 and though Velocipede was recorded in 2004 it didn’t actually see proper release until 2018 when they put it up on Bandcamp. Last June brought the new single Death of a New Day / Eye in the Sky (discussed here) that was the band’s first proper offering in 16 years and preceded a stop at the opening night of thehigh tone son of a bitch lifecycles eps of htsob inaugural Desertfest NYC (review here) at Saint Vitus Bar. I don’t know how much if any of that material will be included in Lifecycles when it comes out, but there was still plenty more of stuff recorded that apparently never made it to the public, and thus we have the arrival of “Wicked Threads.”

As to what the original plan for the song might have been, I couldn’t say, but with a militaristic snare and wistful guitar and mellotron lines at the outset, the song sets an immediately brooding spirit. Gritty vocals arrive in emotive fashion and give direction to the arrangement, which remains dramatic if not theatrical in such a way as to pull back from the central regret being expressed. The title refers — no, not to your new jeans — to part of a concept that encompasses the entirety of the three-song progression from which the track comes. It’s not as immediately aggressive as they were on stage when I saw them last Spring or as noise-rocking as some of their other material is, but “Wicked Threads” gives some sense of High Tone Son of a Bitch‘s atmospheric resonance and the general breadth of what they used to do. Part of the story, much like this release itself is a part of their overarching narrative.

When it comes to what they’ll do next, however, I’ve no idea. I don’t know if they’re actually signed to Tee Pee or if there’s a new album or another EP or something else brewing, or to what or where their tour plans might take them and when, but even as they look back with Lifecycles: EPs of HTSOB, they make it clear they’re beginning that cycle anew, and moving forward.

Again, the release is March 20. Some more background follows the track below.

Please enjoy:

Paul Kott on “Wicked Threads”:

The Wicked Threads EP is a concept album that spans the past 12,000 years of human history in three songs. It examines the impact of the emergence of class systems, including believing in gods and the development of organized religions, priesthoods, rulers and ruled, and economic classes, has had. The song “Wicked Threads” is set in the modern era of late-stage capitalism, in the wake of thousands of years of these systems of control holding sway over humanity. It’s viewed through the lens of my experience growing up in a dead textile mill town called Lewiston, Maine. Many generations of the people of who live and die in these towns all across America and the world have a long history of being fucked over by wealthy elites. Many of these same people (not everyone, mind you), having been exploited, sucked dry, and ultimately abandoned, seem to fawn over and venerate those who are exploiting them, to adore them. There is almost a worship of the idea of a return to the days when the mills were running full steam and the bosses rang bells to tell them what to do and when. It’s like Stockholm Syndrome, to love your captors, love your abusers.

iTunes: https://music.apple.com/us/album/lifecycles-eps-of-htsob/1496428597?ls=1&app=itunes
Apple Music: https://music.apple.com/us/album/lifecycles-eps-of-htsob/1496428597?ls=1
Download: http://amazon.com/dp/B08469W2FX
Unlimited: http://music.amazon.com/albums/B08469W2FX

Originally formed by brothers Paul and Andrew Kott from the ashes of Oakland prog/doom sludge masters Cruevo, and preceding the Matt Pike-fronted Bay Area metal “supergroup” Kalas, High Tone Son of a Bitch (HTSOB) is a “supergroup” unto itself. Since its founding, HTSOB has pulled together members and collaborators from bands like Noothgrush, Kalas, Hammers of Misfortune, Men of Porn, Melvins, Hawkwind, Neurosis, High on Fire, Sleep, Necrot, The Skull, Worshipper and more. When Andrew Kott died unexpectedly in a tragic fall in 2007, HTSOB disbanded – seemingly forever.

Paul Kott revived the band – at the urging of his Latin Grammy-winning nephew Juan Herrera (Andrew’s step-son) – in 2019. Through lineup changes and regular collaborations that have included some of the most important underground musicians of the modern era, Paul has allowed his brother’s inspiration to live on, carrying the psychedelic hard rock and post-doom vision of HTSOB forward – all the while remaining uncompromisingly true to the musical roots the brothers established years ago.

High Tone Son of a Bitch transcends not only genre archetype but death itself, to weave an essential portrait of the dualistic nature of our lives. This retrospective of 4 EPs simultaneously speaks to the fragility and resilience of the human experience as it spans the years covering the formation of the band, its musical growth, the death of Andrew Kott (one of 2 co-founding brothers), and the path to a rebirth and new life in music and beyond by surviving brother Paul Kott.

High Tone Son of a Bitch on Thee Facebooks

High Tone Son of a Bitch on Bandcamp

Tee Pee Records website

Tee Pee Records on Thee Facebooks

Tee Pee Records on Bandcamp

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Azar Sign to DHU Records; Chorus of Woes Vinyl Coming Soon

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 6th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

azar

DHU Records continues its threads of international pickups into 2020 with Azar from Oakland, California. Formed around the duo of vocalist Jasmin Moosavi and guitarist/bassist/synthesist/producer Simon Milliman, the band self-released their debut EP, Chorus of Woes, last May, and they join the increasingly packed schedule of those putting out limited vinyl through DHU sometime this year. I don’t have an exact release date on that, by the way, when the platter will arrive, but neither Spring nor Summer seem out of the question, and in the meantime, as I hadn’t heard the band before, it seemed only right to dig into Chorus of Woes via their Bandcamp. You can hear it through those same means at the bottom of this post.

Signing announcement from the label follows here, courtesy of the PR wire:

azar chorus of woes

New signing to DHU Records: AZAR

Happy new year to one and all from DHU Records!

Let’s start off 2020 with a new signing to the DHU roster:

DHU Records is excited to announce the signing of Oakland, CA Rockers AZAR!

“Fronted and constructed by female vocalist Jasmin Moosavi, Jasmin has cultivated her own unique brand of upbeat psychedelic rock to form the band AZAR.

AZAR has released its first EP “Chorus of Woes” which contains four biographical songs, traversing the experience of heartbreak to finding love again.”

Upon first hearing of AZAR through fellow Oakland rockers Psychic Hit, the debut EP Chorus of Woes immediately struck a chord with DHU. A little different and maybe a little less heavy than you’re used to from DHU but the charismatic tunes enhanced and perfected by the powerful vocals of Jasmin Moosavi make Chorus of Woes an outstanding debut EP that is undeniably catchy and sure to have your blood pumping uncontrollably!

DHU Records will release Chorus of Woes (DHU046) on Limited Edition 7″ vinyl very soon, more details to follow…

Side A:
A1. Weathered
A2. Chorus of Woes
Side B:
B1. Devil in Disguise
B2. Can’t Get Enough

Azar is:
Jasmin Moosavi: Vocals
Simon Milliman: Guitars, Bass, & Synth
Nick Kostenborder: Drums & Percussion
Jacob Mauro: Drums & Percussion
Brook Cram: Drums & Percussion

https://www.facebook.com/aazarband/
https://azarband.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/DHURecords/
https://www.instagram.com/dhu_records/
https://darkhedonisticunionrecords.bandcamp.com/
darkhedonisticunionrecords.bigcartel.com/

Azar, Chorus of Woes EP (2019)

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War Cloud Premiere “Giver” Video Filmed on European Tour

Posted in Bootleg Theater on November 22nd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

war cloud

Oakland’s War Cloud released their second album, State of Shock (review here), earlier this year on Ripple Music, and as you might guess from the photo above, it was a ripper. The Bay Area four-piece tapped into harder-edged NWOBHM dual-axe chicanery and brought their sound to a new, tighter place than it was at even on their 2017 self-titled debut (review here), upping the irons and still holding enough underlying boogie-readiness so that the overall vibe was fun rather than overly stately. Nothing wrong with that if it’s your thing, but a bit of Oakland grit in their sound certainly feels genuine enough and is true to the history of where they’re coming from as well. It was, simply put, an easy record to dig. If you heard it, you already know this.

If you didn’t hear it — go ahead and slap the back your hand for me (not really; “we don’t hit,” as I constantly remind The Pecan) — it’s streaming in full at the bottom of this post. The band’s new video, however, is for the track “Giver,” and “Giver” isn’t on State of Shock. It’s on War Cloud. Might seem odd that they’d go back and make a clip for a song from the prior album, but consider it’s a new recording, and a live recording done on their European tour, and that the footage in the video also comes from that same tour — the recording was done in Germany, the video shot in Italy, so it’s a bit of multinational conglomerate — and it all starts to make a little more sense. By the time you actually get to watch the thing and witness the sheer righteousness on display, it seems downright logical.

Now then, I won’t keep you from it, except to say that when the band comments below about hearing the progression and shift in sound from the original version on the first record and this one, I tend to agree. They’re a meaner, sharper group on the whole, and clearly that suits their songs new and old. Makes a pretty good argument for showing up to catch them live. Go figure.

Enjoy:

War Cloud, “Giver” official video premiere:

War Cloud on “Giver” video:

It was recorded in a 300 year old barn about an hour outside Cologne, Germany. The recording is live so it only took time to set up, we ran through the song about three or four times. The stage footage was shot at Moto Guzzi Motoraduno in Lecco, Italy and Officine Sonore, in Vercelli, Italy.

We decided to revisit this song because it’s fun to play it faster than it was on the first album, my vocals are more developed and in line with the second album’s sound, the solos are different because we have a different guitarist and it’s a total crowd pleaser!

The new album was received with hails and horns! We only had 2 singles out while we were over there because the record didn’t drop until the last day of tour, but folks were still calling them out by name! We were playing lots of songs no one has ever heard before like “Tomahawk,” “White Lightning,” and “Means of Your Defeat,” and could instantly tell it would be a hit by the crowd’s response. Pits formed, beer was spilled, horns were raised. It was a blast and we can’t wait to get back to Europe!

WAR CLOUD:
Alex Wein – Vocals/Guitar
Nick Burks – Guitar
Joaquin Ridgell – Drums
Taylor Roach – Bass

War Cloud, State of Shock (2019)

War Cloud on Thee Facebooks

War Cloud on Bandcamp

War Cloud BigCartel store

Ripple Music on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

Ripple Music website

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