Ghost:Hello Premiere “The Mouth of the Gift Horse”; The Sound of Color in Space out Sept. 20

Posted in audiObelisk on July 30th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

ghost hello (Photo by Tanner Young)

Ohio-based trio Ghost:Hello will self-release their impressive and far-reaching debut long-player, The Sound of Color in Space, on Sept. 20. Aside from the punctuation in the middle of the band’s name, the first hint that everything might not be what it seems comes in the winding weirdo keyboard — or I guess it could be a theremin — line of second cut “Fingerstache.” The prior intro “Alcubierre Metric” has kind of a post-rocky tonal wash feel to it, which works well, but after “Fingerstache” rolls out its guitar-less fuzz-punk groove, its last minute-plus settles into a different vibe, laid back and topped by the noted line. It fades out leaving the drums as the last element to go but has an almost hip-hop rhythm that, in some of the context of what follows throughout The Sound of Color in Space, is an initial showing of Ghost:Hello‘s willingness to reach outside heavy rock in terms of genre. “Perfect,” which follows, quickly affirms the strange-things-afoot suspicions raised, and in righteous fashion, with more bass-up-front nod-riffing and steady repetitions off the line, “I’m perfect in all ways,” that hypnotize ahead of the sucker-punch that is the screaming start of “The Mouth of the Gift Horse,” a noise rocker that makes room in its two minutes for some synth before wrapping with an unabashed mosh part. Because obviously.

Comprised of synthesist/thereminist Nina Smok, bassist William Jennings and drummer Joe KiddGhost:Hello top the otherwise instrumental synth/bass/drum bounce of “Bardo State” with samples-only before rhythmic chain backsghost hello the sound of color in space the play on Tom Waits in “Nemesis” and then comes “Burnout,” which, for a band with no guitar, how do you throw the ultimate wrench in the expectation of your listener? That’s right, with a guitar. Stick that solo in your brain, those who’ve traveled thus far into the seven of nine tracks on The Sound of Color in Space. The penultimate “Spit of Stars” revives the bassy-shove and punkish vibe with just a quick excursion into ambience and sampling for good measure, and “Poison Swan” caps as the longest cut at 5:35 with a totally atmospheric approach building on the worldmaking of “Alcubierre Metric” and getting “heavy” for just a bit but leaving its primary impression to the sparseness that seems to surround. It’s not intuitive as a headphone album in the way some more psychedelic or post-rock-style offerings are, but The Sound of Color in Space has details and turns that are worth focusing on, and if headphones enables that, it’s worth plugging in. And despite the inherent rawness of sound that comes with bass and drum and (mostly) no guitar, Ghost:Hello bring together a complex approach that is so joyously grotesque it makes it hard not to get on board.

I’ll be honest with you. Probably more honest than I need to be. I hear a lot of heavy rock-based bands. Not all of them by any stretch, but plenty. And as with any genre or style of anything — literature, music, art, film, cooking, whatever — there are a lot of commonalities between bands. So many riffs, so many white dudes, so much beer. When it gets exhausting, and I get to hear a band like Ghost:Hello, who have a clear will toward being forward-thinking and individualized with their sound and whose debut seems only to preface more oddities to come, I can’t help but feel refreshed. The Sound of Color in Space is definitely a first step, and I’d love to hear Ghost:Hello experiment further with arrangement, start banging on pots and pans, work in some dance beats alongside heavy-as-hell basslines, etc., but the point is that even in evoking such thoughts in the mind of their audience, they’re encouraging creativity in response to creativity, and that is what good art should do. So thanks. I needed that.

You won’t get the full context of the record from “The Mouth of the Gift Horse,” which is premiering here, but it’s a two-minute blast of bass-led, scream-topped noise rock fuckall, so, you know, you could do a lot worse.

Please enjoy:

Ghost:Hello is a synth-loving stoner rock family affair from northeast Ohio. Made up of a husband/wife duo and their cousin, the band members have been playing for decades. With extensive individual histories touring around the US and in Europe in other DIY groups, this project just feels like a natural continuation. Together as a family and as musicians, Ghost:Hello is now ready to take the rock n roll world by the horns.

Bringing in all sorts of unorthodox elements into their fuzz rock assault, this trio counterbalances stoner sludge with trip hop grooves. The group has never been afraid to experiment, and Ghost:Hello is completely a slave to their various muses; this leads to an elegant fusion of influences of bands like Type O Negative to Fatso Jetson by way of Queens of the Stone Age. The band has amassed an impressive social media following since its inception, even with a debut album still on the way. The upcoming record, Sound of Color in Space, has been engineered and produced by a friend through the company 8th Day Sound, who have worked with Slayer, Marilyn Manson, and Smashing Pumpkins.

Now as they double down for their first release, Ghost:Hello are set to take on bold new vistas. Having played around the Midwest since 2013, the local crowd is hungry for what they are about to deliver. DIY til death, these fuzz rockers are planning everything from shows in new places to an animated video to herald their new music. A band that’s no stranger to hard work, and who constantly push to innovate, Ghost:Hello are a breath of fresh air in a crowded scene!

Sound of Color in Space will be available in digital and CD formats September 20th, 2019.

Band Members:
Nina Skok — synthesizers, samples, and Theremin
William Jennings — bass
Joe Kidd — drums and percussion

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Review & Track Premiere: Pale Grey Lore, Eschatology

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on July 24th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Pale Grey Lore Eschatology

[Click play above to stream ‘Before the Fall’ from Pale Grey Lore’s Eschatology. Album is out Sept. 6 on Small Stone Records.]

In theology, eschatology refers to the ultimate fate of humanity, whether that’s the apocalypse or being one with the universe or whatever it might be in a given belief system. Ohio heavy rock four-piece Pale Grey Lore, whose Eschatology marks their debut on Small Stone Records and follows behind a well-received 2016 self-titled debut (review here), it’s a fairly grim picture of environmental destruction, capitalist ravaging and otherworldly semi-salvation, and it comes expressed in 10 tracks and 42 minutes of varied, atmospheric songcraft that roughs up the sound of the first album somewhat without losing the underlying structure that helped make those songs so memorable, so that from opener “Sunken Cities” onward, Pale Grey Lore establish a balance between spaciousness and hook-making, and whether that’s heard in the massive low-end roll of “Before the Fall” or the winding, Queens of the Stone Age-style “Greed Springs Eternal” just before it, the sense of poise comes through in overarching vocal melodies and harmonies between guitarists Michael Miller and Xander Roseberry as well as in the fluidity of groove from bassist Donovan Johnson and drummer Adam Miller.

Those who heard the first album will perhaps be most struck by the pervasiveness of mood throughout Eschatology, and that comes through whether a given song is fast or slow, loud or quiet, as Miller and Roseberry vary arrangements of acoustic and electric guitar and sundry effects, and even “Sunken Cities” begins with a minute and a half of ambient introduction before the bassline kicks in to lead into the first verse. But the mood suits Pale Grey Lore, and while it means that their hooks aren’t necessarily as immediate or as up-front as they were, the tradeoff for that is a richer listening experience on the whole, with a depth of tone and concept fleshing out the penchant for songwriting that serves as their foundation. In other words, Pale Grey Lore have become and are becoming a more complex band. This can only be a good thing.

“Sunken Cities” is a suitable plunge to set the tone for the rest of the record, and its mid-paced rollout (after the intro) makes an enticing contrast for the speedier, hookier “Greed Springs Eternal,” which as noted leads into the more lumbering “Before the Fall.” It’s telling that this salvo should be more focused on diversity of craft rather than “frontloading” all the rockers — which they certainly would have had plenty of material to do, with songs like “The Rift,” “Undermined” and “Silent Command” tucked safely away on side B — as it speaks not only to the narrative mission of Eschatology and the story being told, but also the band’s growth as a unit and more progressive priorities, as perhaps most shown on the closing title-track. Even cuts like “Regicide” and “Waiting for the Dawn,” which round out the first half of the album, do so with a marked distinction between them, as the former finds a grungier middle ground and is fleshed out in its verses by howling lead guitar before a second-half crash out and resounding final solo, and the latter caps side A with a quieter arrangement of fuzzy leads and combined acoustic and electric guitar as a bed for echoing vocals, a steady level of snare activity beneath wisely keeping a feeling of movement and grounding to the proceedings.

pale grey lore

By the time they get there, Pale Grey Lore have already shown their proggy intent, but “Waiting for the Dawn” highlights the point and, in a linear format — that is, a CD or DL not requiring the side flip of a vinyl — it’s less an interruption of momentum than a landmark ahead of the takeoff that follows with “The Rift,” as side B works quickly in the three-minute track to give its sense of momentum before slamming it headfirst into album highlight “Void-Cursed,” the arrival of which is marked with a wash of low-end with a solo cutting through and a more lumbering movement that’s soon enough met with resonant vocal harmonies leading to a march outward and, one assumes, a sonic payoff intended to convey the vastness of the void itself. So be it.

The deftness of the turn from “Void-Cursed” to the bouncing surf-punkishness of “Silent Command” isn’t to be understated, as it and the penultimate “Undermined,” which follow, seem to pick up where “The Rift” and “Greed Springs Eternal” left off, still changing their approach from track to track — the backing vocals on “Silent Command,” the Thin Lizzy-isms of “Undermined,” etc. — but keeping runtimes tighter and allowing more of a push to take hold. The fact that those changes occur next to songs like “Waiting for the Dawn” and “Sunken Cities” and “Void-Cursed” and indeed “Eschatology” itself put emphasis on how dynamic Pale Grey Lore‘s approach is becoming on the whole. With the title-track, the clear focus in on melody, but even then, there’s a thrust into noise and a final descent (ascent?) into cacophony that comes coupled with chant-sounding harmonized vocals — pretty sure there’s a screamed layer in there too — before the song itself finishes at just under four minutes and a bookending outro takes hold with echoes of the start of “Sunken Cities” and chimes courtesy of Roseberry leading the way into a more ethereal oblivion.

What the hell happens next? I don’t know, but I’m as curious to find out in terms of the storytelling as I am when it comes to the band itself, who seem to be signaling their readiness to enter a different level of consideration with these songs, and, more specifically, a readiness to tour. Eschatology is a record full of purpose, and the realization of not just a plotline, but a creative vision fleshed out across the work (one would guess) of multiple songwriters coming together toward a common end. It is simultaneously gorgeous and troubling, thoughtful in composition and impact-making in result. I do not know to what it might lead in terms of the band’s plans, but like “Sunken Cities” leads the way into the world they’re creating, so too does Eschatology feel much more like a beginning than an end of all things.

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Pale Grey Lore Set Sept. 6 Release for Eschatology on Small Stone Records

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 10th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

I was way into Pale Grey Lore‘s 2016 self-titled debut (review here) and bummed out hard on missing them at Maryland Doom Fest last month, but the news today is good in that the Columbus, Ohio, natives will release their second long-player, Eschatology — the theological study of death — through Small Stone Records on Sept. 6. They’ve got the opening track posted now, as is the label’s wont when preorders go live, and they’ve revealed the album details and themes. It’s not a pretty picture they paint, to be sure. Remember when a grim future run by villainous, impossibly-wealthy technological oligarchs was the stuff of science fiction? Well, prescience comes in many forms. Pale Grey Lore are indeed telling a story through these tracks, and I’ll look forward to hearing how it plays out as they make their way toward the title cut at the end, and where the balance of narrative and songwriting leads them.

The PR wire brings info and the song:

Pale Grey Lore Eschatology

PALE GREY LORE: Psychedelic Garage Doom Collective Joins Small Stone Recordings For The Release Of Eschatology September 6th; New Track Streaming + Preorders Available

Columbus, Ohio-based psychedelic garage doom collective PALE GREY LORE recently joined forces with Small Stone Recordings for the release of their second full-length Eschatology, set for release this September.

Blending elements of garage psych, space rock, post-punk, and stoner doom, PALE GREY LORE manifests focused, hook-driven, heavy, rock ‘n’ roll. Melodic vocals and subtle harmonies echo alongside the molten groove in the guitar, bass, and drums, taking a time-tested formula and proving it indeed to be timeless. Produced by the band’s own Xander Roseberry and Michael Miller, engineered and mixed by Andy Sartain, and mastered by Harold LaRue, with artwork and layout by Adam Eckley, Eschatology can be best described as heavy on the heavy, and fuzzy and trippy in all the right places.

“Eschatology tells the story of a depleted planet beset by vast inequality, ravaged by climate catastrophe, and poisoned by nuclear disaster,” relays the band of the record’s themes. “The masses are left to suffer and die while the wealthy techno-industrialists responsible for the destruction flee in luxury spacecraft that will become their tombs. The sheer magnitude of this planetary devastation summons cosmic beings whose presence warps reality itself, and the world is utterly transformed as the present collides with an ancient timeline. When the survivors finally emerge from their underground shelters, they discover that half the planet remains a post-apocalyptic wasteland while the other half has become lush and verdant. One hemisphere is strewn with melted reactors, crashed spacecraft, and bombed-out ruins; the other is an untamed wilderness, teeming with strange creatures, and dotted with ominous towering edifices that pulsate with eldritch power.”

Eschatology will be released on CD, limited LP, and digital formats on September 6th. In advance of its release, PALE GREY LORE is pleased to unveil the record’s opening track “Sunken Cities.”

Issues the band, “‘Sunken Cities’ creates tension by moving from eerie, cavernous spaciousness to tight, claustrophobic riffing and back again. The cinematic intro was based on an improvisation we developed after the rest of the song had come together. It provided us an opportunity to expand our sound in a more prog-rock direction, which is one of many influences we wanted to explore on this new record. Our goal was to experiment and evolve our sound without straying too far from the core aesthetic that animated our self-titled debut. We think we were able to achieve that balance well.”

For Eschatology preorders and to sample “Sunken Cities,” visit the Small Stone Bandcamp page at THIS LOCATION.

Eschatology Track Listing:
1. Sunken Cities
2. Greed Springs Eternal
3. Before The Fall
4. Regicide
5. Waiting For The Dawn
6. The Rift
7. Void-Cursed
8. Silent Command
9. Undermined
10. Eschatology

PALE GREY LORE:
Michael Miller – lead/backing vocals, six-string electric/acoustic guitars, theremin, mellotron
Xander Roseberry – backing vocals, six-string/twelve-string electric/acoustic guitars, theremin, chimes
Donovan Johnson – bass
Adam Miller – drums, auxiliary percussion

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Pale Grey Lore, “Sunken Cities”

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Valley of the Sun, Old Gods: What Faith Brings

Posted in Reviews on May 21st, 2019 by JJ Koczan

valley of the sun old gods

They nailed it. Absolutely. That’s as simple as I can say it. Cincinnati, Ohio-based heavy rockers Valley of the Sun bring new character and dimension to their core approach in fuzzy riffs and classic desert-style groove, and with their third album, Old Gods (on Fuzzorama), the four-piece answer both the potential of their earliest work and the development that took place over their first two LPs. Led by the founding duo of guitarist/vocalist Ryan Ferrier and drummer Aaron Boyer, with Josh Pilot on guitar and Chris Sweeney handling bass and keys, the band present 11 tracks in a sharp-turning 41 minutes, tying together around a theme of greater instrumental variety and songcraft executed with airtight efficiency and purpose. In following up 2016’s Volume Rock (review here) and 2014’s Electric Talons of the Thunderhawk (review here), Valley of the Sun sound like a band who know when to take their time — closer “Dreams of Sands,” for example — and when to tear-ass through the speakers, as on the sub-tw0-minute scorcher “Firewalker.”

That maturity and self-realization very much suit their basic sound, which has always been professional at its foundation, going back to their first two EPs, 2011’s The Sayings of the Seers (review here, discussed here) and the prior year’s Two Thousand Ten, but has never quite had the reach it does on Old Gods. The album is quick to showcase that with the mellow guitar intro to the opening title-track, but it comes out all the more in the series of interludes peppered through the tracklisting. Named on-theme to the title of the record itself, “Gaia Creates,” “Shiva Destroys” and “Buddha Transcends” do an incredible amount of work in terms of diversifying and bolstering the surrounding material, taking the mid-paced nod and catchy rush of “Old Gods” and the subsequent post-QOTSA careener “All We Are” and lending depth and a more complete-album feel, despite the variety between them, with “Gaia Creates” dipping into sunny folk acoustics, “Shiva Destroys” a suitable percussion interplay, and “Buddha Transcends” an effective delve into meditative minimalism.

“Gaia Creates” is the longest of them at 2:16, and yet the effect they have on the songs around them is palpable, perhaps nowhere more than in “Dim Vision,” which sits as the only cut in between “Gaia Creates” and “Shiva Destroys.” It’s as much a quintessential Valley of the Sun track as one could ask for, even more than the opening duo of “Old Gods” and “All We Are,” but with the lead-in and lead-out, it’s given a special focus that seems to highlight its execution. On paper, it’s nothing overly fancy — basically an instance of what the band at their best have been all along — but “Dim Vision” is emblematic just the same of the progression they’ve undertaken over the course of the last nine years in the studio and on tour. Like the aforementioned “Firewalker,” it’s a song that sounds like it was made to be played live, and to have these tracks appear in such proximity to each other feels purposeful as well, with side A moving smoothly through a course that would be deceptive in its complexity if it didn’t just lay it all out there and still manage to ease the listener through its changes, whether it’s the kick in tempo between “Old Gods” and “All We Are,” or the head-spinning shifts from “Gaia Creates” to “Dim Vision” to “Shiva Destroys” to “Firewalker.”

valley of the sun

It’s worth noting as well how quickly those changes take place. The last four tracks on side A don’t add up to the total runtime of the first two. It would be an easy place for the band to lose control of Old Gods‘ flow, but they never do. Instead, they bring “Firewalker” to a crisp finish and mirror the beginning of the album with “Into the Abyss” on side B, which also begins with a stretch of mellow guitar, runs a moderate pace and gives an immersive, rolling progression for the listener to dive into, made all the more so by a laid back vocal from Ferrier, who only moments ago, was in full-on belt-out mode for “Firewalker.” Especially listening in a linear format (CD or DL), it’s not at all the first striking shift on Old Gods, but it’s another one Valley of the Sun make sound much easier than it actually is.

Fuzz comes to the fore in the relatively brief but effective “Faith is for Suckers,” a hooky, cowbell-infused desert riffer with a driving volume tradeoff, and “Buddha Transcends” resets the mood to quiet ahead of “Means the Same” and “Dreams of Sands” at the finish. With “Into the Abyss” and “Dreams of Sands” — the latter of which is perfectly placed as a memorable closer — as six-plus-minute bookends for side B, “Faith is for Suckers,” “Buddha Transcends” and “Means the Same” play out in a kind of parabolic fashion, both in energy and runtime; longer-to-shorter-to-shortest, and back up, though “Faith is for Suckers” and “Means the Same” surround the centerpiece interlude with arguably a more active spirit than “Into the Abyss” and “Dreams of Sands.” But if that’s the case, it’s only because the longer pieces are more ambitious in their scope, and “Dreams of Sands” not only serves as payoff for side B, but for the record as whole, rewarding the risks taken on side A and the structural turn of side B with a scope of its own that, as analogy for the entirety of Old Gods pushes beyond what Valley of the Sun have done in the past, ending on a long fade as if to return the listener to wherever they might’ve been before the quiet beginning of the title-track first cropped up.

Old Gods brings Valley of the Sun‘s take to a new level, pushing aside preconceptions of who the band are by using its theme to tie the material together instrumentally and structurally, and leaving one to wonder where they might go from here, whether it’s in integrating the acoustics and percussion of the interludes to their songwriting — would be fair enough ground to cover — or continuing to progress in some other, unexpected way. Perhaps most telling of all, listening to Old Gods, one feels less concerned about what shape the inevitable ‘new gods’ might take than the achievements brought to bear here. This is what Valley of the Sun have been moving toward for the last nine years. This realization. For now, it seems most crucial to understand that and appreciate the work on its own merits. Where it might lead is a concern for another day, but if you’re worried about it, have a little faith.

Valley of the Sun, Old Gods (2019)

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Ancient VVisdom Announce New Album Mundus Due This Fall; “Human Extinction” Video Posted

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 14th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Ohio cultists Ancient VVisdom were holed up earlier this year in Mercinary Studios putting together what will be their follow-up to 2017’s 33, which was their label debut on Argonauta Records that also saw release through DHU Records and Magic Bullet Records. In the two years since, AVV frontman Nathan Opposition has made a go of it alongside Dan Lorenzo of Hades in the band Vessel of Light, and that also-righteous cause taken up a bit of time that otherwise might’ve gone toward Ancient VVisdom‘s dark and disturbing psychedelic mindfuckery, but the announcement that the band will return with a new album through Argonauta bodes well (bodes grim?) as a sign of things to come.

The album is called Mundus, and they’ve got a new video for the track “Human Extinction.” The album is due out in Fall, and the announcement of it is fresh off the PR wire:

ancient vvisdom

ANCIENT VVISDOM return with brand new album this Fall on Argonauta Records; + premiere first single ‘Human Extinction’!

A dark, enlightening foresight into the future of humankind dictated by singer/songwriter Nathan Opposition. Ancient VVisdom was founded in Austin, TX in late 2009 with the order consisting of Nathan Opposition (ex-integrity drummer 2005-2010), Justin “Ribs” Mason (iron age bassist) on second acoustic guitar, and Nathan’s brother, Michael Jochum (ex-integrity guitarist 2003-2010) on electric guitar. This Fall, Ancient VVisdom will finally return with a brand new album on Argonauta Records!

To shorten your wait, the band is already sharing with us a first track, Human Extinction. Just exclusively premiered on Revolver Magazine, you can now watch Ancient VVisdom brand new video HERE!

Band mastermind Nathan Opposition comments: “Our new album is titled Mundus. We put our heart and soul into this. This album speaks volumes both sonically and philosophically.

Engineered by Noah Buchanan, mastered by Arthur Rizk, artwork by Karmazid and music by Ancient VVisdom, we had quite the amazing team of talented individuals who helped shape what is now our favorite AVV album to date! Thank you all very much for your help.

The world we live in is so fucked up and there is so much to write about, its sad for me to see how many artist these days have the amps and the platform but nothing to say. The lyrics on Mundus have something very powerful to say. The music, the message, the vision and the voice. I hope in years to come the music community can come together, be enlightened, and take a stance against the hypocrisy, the bigotry, the hate, the injustices of our modern society. We all have a voice now lets band together and use it to change the world. Extinction is the rule, survival is the exception.“

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Lo-Pan, Subtle: Everything Burns

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

lo-pan subtle

It’s kind of hard to believe, but it’s been nearly five years since Lo-Pan last released an album. The Columbus, Ohio, heavy rockers issued Colossus (review here) through Small Stone in Fall 2014, and subsequently dove headfirst into a succession of years of touring and tumult. About a month after Colossus, they announced guitarist Adrian Zambrano (Brujas del Sol) taking over for Brian Fristoe; touring followed in the familiar ground of the US and on the then-uncovered territory of Europe throughout 2015. Talk began of a new record and the band hit the studio even as more touring ensued in 2016, and then Zambrano left and Chris Thompson joined, making his debut appearance in 2017 at The Blackout Cookout 7 in Kent, Ohio. The material that Lo-Pan recorded with Zambrano, meanwhile, was released in early 2017 as the In Tensions EP (review here) and would be that year’s best short release.

Again, Lo-Pan went on tour, the four-piece of Thompson, vocalist Jeff Martin, bassist Scott Thompson and drummer Jesse Bartz running hard in 2017 only to step back last year and write and record what would become Subtle with their new lineup. Like In Tensions, the band’s fifth full-length releases through Aqualamb Records, and it arrives as they once again make ready to hit the road hard and tour at home and abroad before the end of 2019. Their commitment to what they do is admirable. In the midst of chaos and clashing personalities, Lo-Pan emerge to put forth 11 tracks/47 minutes of cohesive and few-frills songcraft. The songs, rooted in riffs and compositions by Thompson and/or Thompson (who are not related), feel as though they’ve had everything extraneous chipped away, leaving the essential components of expression.

That’s not to say Subtle is raw — far from it. With production by James Brown (GhostNine Inch Nails) in New York, the band have arguably never sounded so melodically accomplished. That’s mostly evident in Martin‘s stellar and soulful vocal performance, but it’s there in the guitar and bass as well, and even Bartz‘s crash seems to have a tunefulness about it. At the same time, structurally, songs like the opener “Ten Days,” “Ascension Day” and the later and suitably rolling “A Thousand Miles” channel powerful verses and strong hooks to a sense of urgency that Colossus brought to the fore but that’s smoothed out here in its tone and less outwardly aggressive in its overall affect. Of course, “Bring Me a War” still has its edge of confrontationalism, and likewise the early highlight “Savage Heart” and closer “The Law and the Swarm,” but the guitar tone is warmer, and that makes a difference.

The balance between these various sides and impulses, as well as the dynamic range in the massive crash of “Everything Burns” and the quieter midsection build of the penultimate “Butcher’s Bill” — I’ve always been a sucker for those moments when Lo-Pan hit the brakes on tempo — helps the band add a feeling of scope to Subtle, and as a bid for one of the best albums of 2019, it’s a blend of songwriting and performance that stands them out among would-be peers in heavy rock and roll. Though it’s anything but, Subtle is the output of a band who have mastered their approach and who still see fit to push themselves to new ground. Whether it’s the relentless shove of songs like “Sage” or the chug-into-happytime-chorus centerpiece “Old News” or even the more brooding “Khan!,” Lo-Pan stand triumphant in this material, and though it sounds hard-won, that only seems to make the victory sweeter.

lo-pan

It’s easy enough to read Subtle as a touring album in cuts like “Ten Days,” “Ascension Day,” “A Thousand Miles,” “Butcher’s Bill” “Sage” and “Bring Me a War,” on one level or another, as well as the cover art that seems to draw the eye to the desert sunset like moving down a highway laced with rows of shark teeth, but if Lo-Pan are chronicling the last few years of changes in the band and in their own lives at least in some degree within this material, then fair enough. Whether or not that’s the case, I don’t know (the finished vinyl and art-book editions include a lyric sheet), but if it is, then even in the slower “Butcher’s Bill,” they don’t sound anymore bogged down than is intended by the song itself. The album is not a minor undertaking at 47 minutes, but it’s not meant to be a minor undertaking. Even with its general lack of indulgence — as a guitarist, Thompson doesn’t take particularly sprawling solos, and Martin keeps layering to a relative minimum, saving harmonies for “The Law and the Swarm” and double-tracking for emphasis elsewhere — Subtle wants nothing for substance.

I’ll readily cop to being a fan of the band live and on record. Does it matter? I don’t know. I doubt it. As I understand it, the thing about Lo-Pan in how they function as a band is that they’re all very different people. I can’t speak to how often they hang out on weekends when they’re not touring, but in terms of the group itself, they’re able to channel that friction or that personality-clash into something special. Lo-Pan have been and remain one of America’s best heavy rock bands for the last decade-plus. Their second album, Sasquanaut (review here) — first released in 2009, then picked up by Small Stone in 2010 — and their third album, 2011’s Salvador (review here), were formative but pivotal works that helped establish the methods that Colossus and In Tensions and Subtle have refined and built on. They write and perform with soul that bleeds through every riff, bassline, drum hit and soaring vocal, and despite the ups and downs the last few years have wrought for them, Subtle stands tall and clean, having conquered a mountain of bullshit.

So yes, one of 2019’s best heavy rock albums. Fine. What seems more important is that Subtle finds Lo-Pan having come through so much without being derailed from what they do — “Ten days inside/Won’t break my stride,” Martin intones on the opener — and their central process remains vital even after being so tested leading up to this record. This is a band worth appreciating while they’re there to appreciate and the immediacy of these songs begs a likewise fervent response. Get into it.

Lo-Pan, “Ten Days” official video

Lo-Pan on Thee Facebooks

Lo-Pan on Bandcamp

Aqualamb Records on Bandcamp

Aqualamb on Thee Facebooks

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Blackout Cookout 10 Confirms Full Lineup; It’s Pretty Insane

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 3rd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

the blackout cookout 10 art

Congrats to Ohio’s The Blackout Cookout on making it to their Xth edition. That’s 10, in case you were wondering. Doing anything for 10 years in a row these days is pretty admirable. And I’m not just saying that because this site also started in 2009, but because it’s true, and whether it’s something that’s a passion project like putting on this festival — because I imagine nobody’s yet gotten rich off basically hosting an annual barbecue with friends and other cool bands — or just staying at the same job, a decade is a long time. Most people get high and wander off somewhere long before that mark is reached.

Blackout Cookout X however has a badass celebratory lineup, with Inter Arma and Big Business in headlining spots for its two-day run, and Ohio-based regular-types like Bridesmaid and Lo-Pan and the reactivated Rebreather slated to appear. Look out for Caustic CasanovaBrujas del SolAlbum and of course KENmode as well. Bottom line is it’ll be a good time, and it’s a party, and I guarantee there will be people there who’ve been to all 10 Blackout Cookouts, but if you’ve never been before and you show up and, like, don’t know where the bathroom is or something, I bet they wouldn’t be a dick about it. They’d just be like, “Yeah, it’s over there” and point you on your way. People helping people. The stuff of life.

Here’s the full lineup, as seen on the social medias:

the blackout cookout 10 poster

The Blackout Cookout 10 – Sept. 6 & 7

Westside Bowl
2617 Mahoning Avenue, Youngstown, Ohio 44509

The Blackout Cookout is an annual celebration of heavy music, friends and BBQ at Westside Bowl in Youngstown, Ohio.

Friday Sept. 6
INTER ARMA
Brain Tentacles
Homewrecker
ALBUM
Bridesmaid
Something Is Waiting
Caustic Casanova
Wallcreeper
DAGGRS
Modem

Saturday Sept. 7
Big Business
KEN mode
Lo-Pan
Rebreather
Fully Consumed
Microwaves
Brujas del Sol
Goosed
Persistent Aggressor
Matter of Planets
Lake Lake
Black Spirit Crown
Cheap Heat

Poster by Chris Smith.

https://www.facebook.com/events/324565261529821/
https://www.facebook.com/theblackoutcookout/

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Relaxer Announce Japanese Tour Dates; “The Endless Slope” Streaming

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 1st, 2019 by JJ Koczan

To mark the occasion of their Japanese tour, Ohio four-piece Relaxer will issue a new split with Boris (yup, Boris), Crypt City and Lisa Bella Donna (of Buckeye proggers EYE). That’s some considerable company to keep, and Relaxer keep it well with the track “The Endless Slope” that they’re streaming now. It’s down there, bottom of the post, as usual, and well worth the couple minutes of a quick listen for its classic rock vibe and overlaid melodic modernity. I wouldn’t call it progressive, but neither are they pretending to be dumb, and I like that.

The split they’ll have with them on tour, and I assume whatever’s left when that’s done will be for sale on the ol’ interweebs there, so keep an eye out. I think it you listen you’ll find it’s easy enough to get on board. I did.

Have at you:

relaxer

Relaxer is headed to Japan to tour with Boris. Making music for the sake or art or commerce is a multi-dimensional, engrossing prospect. It requires time, tenacity and emotion conjured from conscious and subconscious wellsprings.

At some point in their vibrant evolution, Relaxer’s sound began to take a mysterious shape, and members of the group tapped into new areas of their triune brain, setting free their once captive reptilian complex. In the interest of allowing their lizard group think to reap cognitive and aural havok, Relaxer are putting the finishing touches on a split with storied Japanese underground metal heroes Boris.

Invigorated the change in direction – from “passive progressive” and cinematic to atom-smashing, Middle Earth-borne, stoned-out frenzy — the agile, amplifier worshiping Ohio headbangers join their split-mates on an EarthQuaker Devices sponsored tour of Japan in May 2019.

Previously, Relaxer released their seven-song Unreal/Cities LP, which was recorded by engineer Ben Vehorn (Strand of Oaks), in 2016. The collection of psychedelic rippers featured contributions from Steve Clements (Six Parts Seven, Royal Bangs), and was followed by a run of west coast tour dates, including a performance at The Reverberation Appreciation Society’s (members of The Black Angels and friends) sixth LEVITATION music festival in Austin, Texas.

Unreal/Cities was preceeded by the band’s debut LP, 2014’s Lasers, which was engineered by Chris Koltay (Akron/Family, Electric Six, Tyvek) and mastered by Heba Kadry (Slowdive, YOB, Bjork), and a split 7” with Cloud Nothings released via Mind’s Eye/Square Records on Record Store Day 2013.

Relaxer is comprised of vocalist/guitarist Joe Scott, guitarist Jamie Stillman, bassist Corey Haren, and drummer Brad Thorla who previously performed with a variety of celebrated underground acts including The Party of Helicopters, Harriet The Spy, White Pines, Teeth of the Hydra, Sofa King Killer, Drummer (with Pat Carney of The Black Keys), etc.

DATES
5/26 Tokyo Shindaita FEVER
5/27 Nagoya APOLLO BASE
5/28 Osaka CONPASS
5/29 Hiroshima CLUB QUATTRO
5/30 Fukuoka INSA

OPEN/START (5/26) – 17:00/17:30
OPEN/START (for the other dates) – 18:00/18:30

TICKETS
Ticket Pia http://w.pia.jp/t/eqd2019/
ePlus https://eplus.jp/eqd/
Lawson Ticket https://l-tike.com/earthquakerdevices

Relaxer is:
Corey Haren: Bass
Joseph Scott: Vocals/Guitar
Jamie Stillman: Guitar
Bradley Thorla: Drums

http://www.facebook.com/RelaxerSystem
http://www.instagram.com/relaxerband
https://relaxersystem.bandcamp.com/
http://www.relaxerband.com/

Relaxer, “The Endless Slope”

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