Quarterly Review: Lamp of the Universe Meets Dr. Space, Inter Arma, Sunnata, The Sonic Dawn, Rifflord, Mothman and the Thunderbirds, The Lunar Effect, Danava, Moonlit, Doom Lab

Posted in Reviews on May 24th, 2024 by JJ Koczan


This is it. This one’s for all the marbles. Well, actually there are no marbles involved, but if you remember way back like two weeks ago when this started out, I told you the tale of a hubristic 40-something dickweed blogger who thought he could review 100 albums in 10 days, and assuming I make it through the below without having an aneurysm — because, hey, you never know — today I get to live that particular fairy tale.

If you’ve kept up, and I hope you have, thanks. If not, click here to see all the posts in this Quarterly Review. Either way, I appreciate your time.

Quarterly Review #91-100:

Lamp of the Universe Meets Dr. Space, Enters Your Somas

Lamp of the universe meets dr space Enter Your Somas

Who’s ready to get blasted out the airlock? New Zealand solo-outfit Lamp of the Universe, aka multi-instrumentalist Craig Williamson (also Dead Shrine, ex-Datura, etc.), and Portugal-residing synth master Dr. Space, aka Scott Heller of Øresund Space Collective, Black Moon Circle, and so on, come together to remind us all we’re nothing more than semi-sentient cosmic dust. Enters Your Somas is comprised of two extended pieces, “Enters Your Somas” (18:39) and “Infiltrates Your Mind” (19:07), and both resonate space/soul frequencies while each finds its own path. The title-track is more languid on average, where “Infiltrates Your Mind” reroutes auxiliary power to the percussive thrusters in its first half before drifting into drone communion and hearing a voice — vague, but definitely human speech — before surging back to its course via Williamson‘s drums, which play a large role in giving the material its shape. But with synthy sweeps from Heller, Mellotron and guitar coming and going, and a steady groove across both inclusions, Lamp of the Universe Meets Dr. Space offer galactic adventure limited only by where your imagination puts you while you listen.

Lamp of the Universe on Facebook

Dr. Space on Facebook

Sound Effect Records website

Inter Arma, New Heaven

inter arma new heaven

Richmond, Virginia’s Inter Arma had no small task before them in following 2019’s Sulphur English (review here), but from the tech-death boops and bops and twists of New Heaven‘s leadoff title-track through the gothic textures of “Gardens in the Dark,” self-aware without satire, slow-flowing and dramatic, this fifth full-length finds them continuing to expand their creative reach, and at this point, whatever genre you might want to cast them in, they stand out. To wit, the blackdeath onslaught of “Violet Seizures” that’s also space rock, backed in that by the subsequent “Desolation’s Harp” with its classically grandiose solo, or the post-doom lumber of “Concrete Cliffs” that calls out its expanse after the seven-minute drum-playthrough-fodder extremity of “The Children the Bombs Overlooked,” or the mournful march of “Endless Grey” and the acoustic-led Nick Cavey epilogue “Forest Service Road Blues.” Few bands embrace a full spectrum of metallic sounds without coming across as either disjointed or like they’re just mashing styles together for the hell of it. Inter Arma bleed purpose in every turn, and as they inch closer to their 20th year as a band, they are masters unto themselves of this form they’ve created.

Inter Arma on Facebook

Relapse Records website

Sunnata, Chasing Shadows

sunnata chasing shadows

The opening “Chimera” puts Chasing Shadows quickly into a ritualized mindset, all the more as Warsaw meditative doomers Sunnata lace it and a decent portion of their 11-track/62-minute fifth album with an arrangement of vocals from guitarists Szymon Ewertowski and Adrian Gadomski and bassist/synthesist Michal Dobrzanski as drummer/percussionist Robert Ruszczyk punctuates on snare as they head toward a culmination. Individual pieces have their own purposes, whether it’s the momentary float of “Torn” or the post-Alice in Chains harmonies offset by Twin Peaks-y creep in “Saviours Raft,” or the way “Hunger” gradually moves from light to dark with rolling immersion, or the dancier feel with which “Like Cogs in a Wheel” gives an instrumental finish. It’s not a minor undertaking and it’s not meant to be one, but mood and atmosphere do a lot of work in uniting the songs, and the low-in-the-mouth vocal melodies become a part of that as the record unfolds. Their range has never felt broader, but there’s a plot being followed as well, an idea behind each turn in “Wishbone” and the sprawl is justified by the dug-in worldmaking taking place across the whole-LP progression, darkly psychedelic and engrossing as it is.

Sunnata on Facebook

Sunnata on Bandcamp

The Sonic Dawn, Phantom

The Sonic Dawn Phantom

Among the most vital classic elements of The Sonic Dawn‘s style is their ability to take spacious ideas and encapsulate them with a pop efficiency that doesn’t feel dumbed down. That is to say, they’re not capitulating to fickle attention spans with short songs so much as they’re able to get in, say what they want to say with a given track, and get out. Phantom is their fifth album, and while the title may allude to a certain ghostliness coinciding with the melancholy vibe overarching through the bulk of its component material, the Copenhagen-based trio are mature enough at this stage to know what they’re about. And while Phantom has its urgent stretches in the early going of “Iron Bird” or the rousing “Think it Over,” the handclap-laced “Pan AM,” and the solo-topped apex of “Micro Cosmos in a Drop,” most of what they’re about here harnesses a mellower atmosphere. It doesn’t need to hurry, baby. Isn’t there enough rush in life with all these “21st Century Blues?” With no lack of movement throughout, some of The Sonic Dawn‘s finest stretches here are in low-key interpretations of funk (“Dreams of Change,” “Think it Over,” “Transatlantique,” etc.) or prog-boogie (“Scorpio,” “Nothing Can Live Here” before the noisier crescendo) drawn together by organ, subdued, thoughtful vocal melodies and craft to suit the organic production. This isn’t the first The Sonic Dawn LP to benefit from the band knowing who they are as a group, but golly it sure is stronger for that.

The Sonic Dawn on Facebook

Heavy Psych Sounds website

Rifflord, 39 Serpent Power

RIFFLORD 39 Serpent Power

It’s not until the hook of second cut “Ohm Ripper” hits that Rifflord let go of the tension built up through the opening semi-title-track “Serpent Power,” which in its thickened thrashy charge feels like a specific callout to High on Fire but as I understand it is just about doing hard drugs. Fair enough. The South Dakota-based five-piece of bassist/vocalist Wyatt Bronc Bartlett, guitarists Samuel Hayes and Dustin Vano, keyboardist Tory Jean Stoddard and drummer Douglas Jennings Barrett will echo that intensity later in “Church Keys” and “Tumbleweed,” but that’s still only one place the 38-minute eight-track LP goes, and whether it’s the vocals calling out through the largesse and breadth of “Blessed Life” or the ensuing crush that follows in “LM308,” the addled Alice in Chains swagger in the lumber of “Grim Creeper” or the righteously catchy bombast of “Hoof,” they reach further than they ever have in terms of sound and remain coherent despite the inherently chaotic nature of their purported theme, the sheer heft of the tonality wielded and the fact that 39 Serpent Power has apparently been waiting some number of years to see release. Worth the wait? Shit, I’m surprised the album didn’t put itself out, it sounds so ready to go.

Rifflord on Facebook

Ripple Music website

Mothman and the Thunderbirds, Portal Hopper

Mothman and the Thunderbirds Portal Hopper

At the core of Mothman and the Thunderbirds is multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Alex Parkinson, and on the band’s second album, Portal Hopper, he’s not completely on his own — Egor Lappo programmed the drums, mixed, and plays a guitar solo on “Fractals,” Joe Sobieski guests on vocals for a couple tracks, Sam Parkinson donates a pair of solos to the cause — but it’s still very much his telling of the charmingly meandering sci-fi/fantasy plot taking place across the 12 included progressive metal mini-epics, which he presents with an energy and clarity of purpose that for sure graduated from Devin Townsend‘s school of making a song with 40 layers sound immediate but pulls as well from psychedelia and pop-punk vocals for an all the more emphatic scope. This backdrop lets “Fractals” get funky or “Escape From Flatwoods” hold its metallic chicanery with its soaring melody while “Squonk Kingdom” is duly over-the-top in its second-half chase soon enough fleshed out by “So Long (Portal Hopper)” ahead of the lightly-plucked finale “Attic.” The specificity of influence throughout Portal Hopper can be striking as clean/harsh vocals blend, etc., but given the narrative and the relative brevity of the songs complementing the whims explored within them, there’s no lack of character in the album’s oft-careening 38-minute course.

Mothman and the Thunderbirds on Instagram

Mothman and the Thunderbirds on Bandcamp

The Lunar Effect, Sounds of Green and Blue

The Lunar Effect Sounds of Green & Blue

Given its pro-shop nature in production and performance, the ability of The Lunar Effect to grasp a heavy blues sound as part of what they do while avoiding either the trap of hyper-dudely navelgazing or cultural appropriation — no minor feat — and the fluidity of one piece into the next across the 40-minute LP’s two sides, I’m a little surprised not to have been sick of the band’s second album, Sounds of Green and Blue before I put it on. Maybe since it’s on Svart everyone just assumed it’s Finnish experimentalist drone? Maybe everybody’s burnt out on a seemingly endless stream of bands from London’s underground? I don’t know, but by the time The Lunar Effect make their way to the piano-laden centerpiece “Middle of the End” — expanding on the unhurried mood of “In Grey,” preceding the heavy blues return of “Pulling Daisies” at the start of side B that mirrors album opener “Ocean Queen” and explodes into a roll that feels like it was made to be the best thing you play at your DJ night — that confusion is a defining aspect of the listening experience. “Fear Before the Fall” picks on Beethoven, for crying out loud. High class and low groove. Believe me, I know there’s a lot of good stuff out already in 2024, but what the hell more could you want? Where is everybody?

The Lunar Effect on Facebook

Svart Records website

Danava, Live

danava live

Even if I were generally inclined to do so — read: I’m not — it would be hard to begrudge Portland heavy rock institution Danava wanting to do a live record after their 2023’s Nothing But Nothing (review here) found them in such raucous form. But the aptly-titled Live is more than just a post-studio-LP check-in to remind you they kick ass on stage, as side A’s space, classic, boogie, heavy rocking “Introduction/Spinning Temple” and “Maudie Shook” were recorded in 2008, while the four cuts on side B — “Shoot Straight with a Crooked Gun,” “Nothing but Nothing,” “Longdance,” “Let the Good Times Kill” and “Last Goodbye” — came from the European tour undertaken in Fall 2023 to support Nothing But Nothing. Is the underlying message that Danava are still rad 15 years later? Maybe. That certainly comes through by the time the solo in “Shoot Straight with a Crooked Gun” hits, but that also feels like reading too much into it. Maybe it’s just about representing different sides of who Danava are, and if so, fine. Then or now, psych or proto-thrashing, they lay waste.

Danava on Instagram

Heavy Psych Sounds website

Moonlit, Be Not Afraid

moonlit be not afraid

A free three-songer from Varese, Italy’s Moonlit, Be Not Afraid welcomes the listener to “Death to the World” with (presumably sampled) chanting before unfurling a loose, somewhat morose-feeling nighttime-desert psych sway before “Fort Rachiffe” howls tonally across its own four minutes in more heavy post-rock style, still languid in tempo but encompassing in its wash and the amp-hum-and-percussion blend on the shorter “Le Conseguenze Della Libertà” (1:57) gives yet another look, albeit briefly. In about 11 minutes, Moonlit — whose last studio offering was 2021’s So Bless Us Now (review here) — never quite occupy the same space twice, and despite the compact presentation, the range from mid-period-QOTSA-gone-shoegaze (plus chanting! don’t forget the chanting!) to the hypnotic Isis-doing-space-push that follows with the closer as a but-wait-there’s-more/not-just-an-afterthought epilogue is palpable. I don’t know when or how Be Not Afraid was recorded, whether it’s portentous of anything other than itself or what, but there’s a lot happening under its surface, and while you can’t beat the price, don’t be surprised if you end up throwing a couple bucks Moonlit‘s way anyhow.

Moonlit on Instagram

Moonlit on Bandcamp

Doom Lab, Northern Lights

Doom Lab Northern Lights

Much of Northern Lights is instrumental, but whether or not Leo Scheben is barking out the endtimes storyline of “Darkhammer” — stylized all-caps in the tracklisting — or “Night Terrors,” or just digging into a 24-second progression of lo-fi riffing of “Paranoid Isolation” and the Casio-type beats that back his guitar there and across the project’s 16-track latest offering, the reminder Doom Lab give is that the need to create takes many forms. From the winding scales of “Locrian’s Run” to “Twisted Logic” with its plotted solo lines, pieces are often just that — pieces of what might otherwise be a fleshed-out song — and Doom Lab‘s experimentalism feels paramount in terms of aural priorities. Impulse in excelsis. It might be for the best that the back-to-back pair “Nice ‘n’ Curvy” and “Let ’em Bounce” are both instrumental, but as madcap as Scheben is, he’s able to bring Northern Lights to a close with resonant homage in its title-track, and cuts like “Too Much Sauce on New Year’s Eve” and “Dark Matter” are emblematic of his open-minded approach overall, working in different styles sometimes united most by their rawness and uncompromising persona. This is number 100 of 100 records covered in this Quarterly Review, and nothing included up to now sounds like Doom Lab. A total win for radical individualism.

Doom Lab on YouTube

Doom Lab on Bandcamp

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Inter Arma Releasing New Heaven April 26; Title-Track Streaming

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 7th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

 inter arma (photo by Jonah Livingston)

There isn’t a doubt in my mind you’ve seen the below announcement, or at least the gist thereof, around by this point. I was fully embroiled in the Quarterly Review when word came through of Richmond, Virginia’s Inter Arma setting an April 26 release for their awaited new album, titled New Heaven and led off by its discordant and deathly not the least for its cohesiveness title-track, which is streaming now. I’m playing catchup, I guess, but as this is a record I’ll probably write about at some point, I want the info here. Is it weird that I’ve started to think of this kind of thing as archival? I guess spending the last 15 years going back to chase down old links will do that.

I’m sure there’s a story behind “Forest Service Road Blues” and one could only call “The Children the Bombs Overlooked” relevant, what with the US’ ongoing material and moral support for genocide in the Middle East, but as a first impression, “New Heaven” finds Inter Arma stately at the center of the seven-and-a-half-minute tumultuous progression. The band made their 2019 release, Sulphur English (review here), a statement of intent in terms of extremity and atmosphere, and discuss below how the last several years have factored into their work this time around.

Here’s how the PR wire put it, along with the preorder link and the single for good measure. As noted, they were confirmed to play the album in full at Roadburn in the Netherlands even before the title was officially announced:

inter arma new heaven





New Heaven, Inter Arma’s anticipated new album, is a compelling testament to perseverance, top to bottom. Its thicket of ever-dense layers of doom, death, and black metal occasionally let bits of light slip in, fleeting reminders to keep going amid the tumult. The record marks a sharp turn for Inter Arma, showcasing some of the most extreme and angular songwriting the band has ever laid bare. Known for their cinematic take on sludgy, extremely cavernous and borderline psychedelic Metal, the Richmond band broadens their dynamics by seesawing between piledriving momentum and swirling oblivion. New Heaven crushes and conquers, and illustrates what Inter Arma can truly be.

Take the title track— which premieres today— with its hair-raising lead riff stemming from drummer/songwriter TJ Childers’ challenge to himself to write a nonsensically dissonant part that he ended up loving. Meanwhile, vocalist Mike Paparo’s enraptured earsplitting bellows bludgeon above an impossibly complicated web of riffs and rhythms. From the get go, New Heaven and the opening title track eschews any restraint; Inter Arma is completely unchained.

Though New Heaven is indeed another triumph for the band, it is not a triumphant album, meant to offer some glib or naïve assurance that everything will be fine.

They call it the ‘Inter Arma Curse’: for nearly two decades, the band has emerged as one of the most inspired and fearless acts in or around American metal. They’ve also endured an endless parade of complications, hurdles, and slights: visa problems in Russia, stolen passports in Europe, unexpected member turmoil in their ranks, accidents and near death experiences, and a pervasive paradoxical sense that they have either been too metal or not metal enough. It’s been forever Sisyphean, except that Inter Arma has sporadically crested the hill to make a series of visionary albums.

As New Heaven started to take shape, the curse roared to life. Worldwide pandemic that squashed tours and writing sessions aside, Inter Arma churned through four bassists before finding salvation in Joel Moore, a guitar-and-engineering whiz who had never before played bass in a band. With the addition of Moore, drummer T.J. Childers admits that New Heaven features some of the kind of music Inter Arma could have never executed. Listen for the uncanny keyboards wedged between Paparo and the band, for the ways Steven Russell and Trey Dalton coil and collide with Moore, for Childers’ way of slipping some Southern soul into what borders on truly brutal prog. Paparo’s keen and empathetic lyrics explore arduous facets of the human experience, from innocent victims of war, to addiction, and social apathy. New Heaven is a record about enduring brambles and curses and lasting long enough to make something profound, honest, and even affirming about it all every now and again..

Childers comments, “New Heaven is the culmination of four years worth of adversity ranging from near death experiences, multiple member changes and of course a global pandemic. It marks a new chapter for us musically as we feel we’ve taken our songwriting to places we’ve never explored before. We’re excited to have come out of the madness relatively unscathed and feel as though we’ve created something completely unique that will stand apart in the sometimes homogenous extreme music community.” Guitarist Trey Dalton continues, “This record, maybe more than our previous efforts, more fully represents what we’re trying to accomplish. It’s still very much us – you know, music made by dudes coming from disparate musical backgrounds and perspectives, but with a more collective and defined sense of purpose. Clarity in direction, maybe. Your mileage may vary, but we like it a lot, and we hope you do too.”

Catch Inter Arma at this year’s Roadburn Festival on April 18th performing New Heaven in its entirety. Pre-order New Heaven here: https://orcd.co/interarma-newheaven
or direct from Relapse Records here: https://www.relapse.com/pages/inter-arma-new-heaven
and look for more news from Inter Arma to surface in the near future.

New Heaven, track listing:
1. New Heaven
2. Violet Seizures
3. Desolation’s Harp
4. Endless Grey
5. Gardens in the Dark
6. The Children the Bombs Overlooked
7. Concrete Cliffs
8. Forest Service Road Blues

Inter Arma is:
T.J. Childers – Drums, Percussion, guitars, lap steel, piano, noise
Trey Dalton – Guitar, synthesizers, mellotron, vocals
Joel Moore – Bass, synthesizers, tape loops, samples, and noise
Mike Paparo – Vocals
Steven Russell – Guitars



Inter Arma, New Heaven (2024)

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The Keening to Tour Europe With Bell Witch

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 23rd, 2024 by JJ Koczan

the keening (Photo by Angela H. Brown)

I said when the Bell Witch European dates went up yesterday that I’d be posting about the tour again, and The Keening are why. The Portland-based dark atmospheric troupe led by Rebecca Vernon, formerly of SubRosa, will support the Seattle death-doom two-piece for three-plus weeks of road time, and as it’s their first trip overseas, it seemed prudent to mark the occasion.

The Keening‘s debut album, Little Bird (review here), came out last Fall through Relapse, and while it’s of course not Vernon‘s first time traveling internationally for shows, it is that for the group she’s assembled around her to bring this material to life on stage, and given the breadth and heart poured into that record, it’s a set I’d like to see. Having Bell Witch on after to turn your melancholy into an abyssal misery is just a bonus.

Oh, and The Keening were also confirmed for Roadburn today playing Little Bird in full. So there’s that, too.

From social media:

bell witch tour

We are beyond thrilled to join Bell Witch on three and a half weeks of their seven-week European tour this April and May.

I’m a longtime fan of Bell Witch, ever since my previous roommate Christian Creek shared their 2011 demo and first album “Longing” with me in 2012 or so. I thought they were one of the most authentic bands I’d ever heard, and seeing them live in Seattle soon after cemented that impression. I was intimidated by the sheer dark power they wielded on stage. Their pain seemed too immense for the room. They were making music to survive. It’s been amazing to see Bell Witch grow and expand over the years into one of the most influential doom bands to grace the metal scene.

From Bell Witch: “In March we embark on an 8 week odyssey across Europe. From the frostbitten North to the Hellenic land of myths in the South, the Emerald Isle to the Balkan states we’re playing many cities for the first time ever…

Along the way we’ll be joined for stretches by friends old & new in FVNERALS, Knoll, Esoteric, Thantifaxath & The Keening. We’re excited to share the stage with bands who bring something truly unique & powerful to their music. Tickets are on sale now at the link in our bio. We can’t wait to see new & familiar faces alike.”

The dates The Keening plays with Bell Witch are below, and the link to tickets is: https://www.bellwitchdoom.net/live

23 – Portugalete, ES – Groove #
26 – Madrid, ES – Nazca #
27 – Barcelona, ES – Sala Upload #
28 – Grenoble, FR – Le Ciel #
29 – Martigny, CH – Caves Du Manoir #
30 – Luzern, CH – Sedel #
2 – Wien, AT – Arena #
3 – Budapest, HU – A38 #
4 – Zagreb, HR – AKC Attack #
6 – Sofia, BG – Clu
7 – Istanbul, TR – Babylon #
9 – Thessalonki, GR – Eightball Club #
10 – Athens, GR – Temple #
11 – Larissa, GR – Skyland #
13 – Caserta, IT – Lizard #
14 – Pescara, IT – Scumm #
15 – Ravenna, IT – Bronson #
16 – Treviso, IT – Altroquando #
17 – Linz, AT – STWST #
18 – Brno, CZ – Kabinet Muz #

Thank you and hope to see you at one of the shows.



The Keening, Little Bird (2023)

The Keening, “Little Bird” official video

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Author & Punisher Announce 20th Anniversary Touring

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 11th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

Tickets go out tomorrow for the first round of 20th anniversary touring to be undertaken by Author and Punisher, which will bring the San Diego-based industrial doom outfit — Tristan Shone on midi machines/vocals, Doug Sabolick on guitar — to the East Coast starting at the end of next month in the company of Morne and Glassing.

I haven’t caught Author & Punisher live since the release of Krüller (review here) in 2022, and this is something I’d very much like to correct before Shone does another record, which would presumably happen not before the end of this year, but even that means March 3 at Saint Vitus Bar might be my last shot at doing so. I suck at everything, life most of all, but golly I’d like to see that show. Fingers crossed I can, you know, bring myself to leave the house.

Congratulations to Shone though on 20 years of Author and Punisher. I’ve been writing about music for about that long (including pre-Obelisk), and it’s not a minor amount of time to dedicate yourself to something that the vast majority of the world will never be able to understand.

From the PR wire:





AUTHOR & PUNISHER celebrates 20 years of industrial mastery in 2024! A&P kicks off the landmark anniversary year with a North America headline tour throughout late February & March performing songs throughout his entire catalog. Special support provided by Morne & Glassing.

Tickets are on sale Friday, January 12 at 10am EST.

TRISTAN SHONE Comments on 20 Years of AUTHOR & PUNISHER:

“Author & Punisher started as myself playing guitar with a drum machine in 2004 as a move towards being more efficient as one person; I’d had enough of band complexities slowing things down. Throughout the years I opened the flood gates and through my experience at art school I began experimenting with what industrial doom and drone metal really could be. Fast forward 20 years, I feel as though A&P has become part of my psyche… when I walk down the street with headphones listening to tracks I’m developing, my right hand is cycling through beats and I’m visualizing how I can meld the mechanical and the atonal; it has become second nature. In thinking back, I’ve had some great on stage experiences, but equally valuable were the experiences… the weird ones where someone goes out of their way to take you somewhere to eat or see something that is off the charts. I have no doubt that A&P will continue as a creative vessel for many years to come.

To celebrate 20 years, we’re starting things off with a Winter 2024 Northeast USA/CAN tour with Morne and Glassing hitting some spots we missed in the last couple years and pounding some spots that we thought needed a little more. This is our first tour since June 2023, so we hope to see you all out there.”

w/ Morne and Glassing

Feb 23 Cambridge, MA Sonia
Feb 24 Quebec City, QC Cabaret Foufones
Feb 25 Toronto, ON Garrison
Feb 27 Detroit, MI Sanctuary
Feb 28 Chicago, IL Reggies
Feb 29 Indianapolis, IN Black Circle
Mar 01 Columbus, OH Ace of Cups
Mar 02 Bensalem, PA Broken Goblet
Mar 03 Brooklyn, NY Saint Vitus

Stay tuned for AUTHOR & PUNISHER announcements through 2024!



Author & Punisher, Krüller (2022)

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Album Review: The Keening, Little Bird

Posted in Reviews on November 6th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

The Keening Little Bird

It’s been nearly half a decade, but I’m not sure I’m completely over SubRosa breaking up yet. That pioneering post-metallic Salt Lake City outfit, fronted by Rebecca Vernon who founded The Keening after as a solo-project, released their final LP in 2016’s For This We Fought the Battle of Ages (review here), which was encompassing with a clarity of vision and purpose that pushed even further into the atmospheric textures wrought across 2013’s More Constant Than the Gods (review here), defining a sound that could be dead-minimal or unspeakably heavy, was undeniably Americana, and carried emotional presence and outward purpose in its lyrics and delivery across the board. They announced they were done in 2019. I may never get over it. But I kind of understand a bit more. The Keening‘s debut album, the six-song/51-minute Little Bird — on Relapse — puts some distance between Vernon and a doom underground it’s easy to imagine one might’ve been burnt out on if these were the songs looking to be expressed and one felt obligated to a specific tonal assault.

The other four former members of SubRosa have continued on with The Otolith — their debut album, Folium Limina (review here), surfaced last year via Blues Funeral — and begun a new progression off of some of their former outfit’s heavier aspects. If one wants to relate The Keening to SubRosa — as apparently (this) one does — then Vernon is drawing more from the melancholia and the curtain of ambient sadness of that band’s style, and with a modus that’s still very much hers, offering them recontextualized through varying arrangements of acoustic guitar as on the opener “Autumn,” goth church organ on “Eden,” strings and piano throughout, wisps of violin coming and going, and layers of voices alongside Vernon, who worked with producer Billy Anderson (SleepNeurosis, Acid King, etc.) and Nathan Carson (drummer for Witch Mountain and now the live incarnation of The Keening; also founder of Nanotear Booking) on the recording in Dec. 2020, following the project’s instrumental piano debut earlier that year on Blues Funeral‘s Women of Doom (review here).

So The Keening isn’t interested in being SubRosa, clearly. What takes shape gradually over the course of Little Bird has more in common with SubRosa‘s Subdued: Live at Roadburn 2016 (review here) semi-acoustic reworkings of their material, but is unmistakably heavier in stretches of “Autumn,” “Eden,” the penultimate “The Hunter II” and in the culmination of extended closer “The Truth” — it’s 17:30, but the almost operatic crescendo is voice as much as instrument (also voice-as-instrument) as part of a wash with guitar, bass, drums, strings, maybe some horns, I don’t even know, circa 13 minutes, and it makes its way out gradually there with room for birdsong and a kinda-sorta-secret track of what might be a harp but was definitely made with elven magic in any case — while remaining true to the structural patterns of Vernon‘s craft, poetic in the lyrics and in the instrumental progressions alike, and evocative of doom in some of its tempos certainly, but so much more intent on texture than impact.

The space in the mix, where it isn’t purposefully left open, is filled with mournful melodies and Vernon‘s voice aligning itself with Appalachian folk as well as modern post-heavy with just that ever-present undercurrent of spit-punk, dynamic arrangements and a style that has all the more forward potential for its malleability, but that doesn’t pull pieces of itself in and out for no reason. That church organ on “Eden” and the heavier roll that ensues as Vernon leads the chorus with the repeated line “Eden is receding” before it drops to keys ahead of the three-minute mark, specifically goth as the strings return and the song realigns for its big push — it would be as weighted as The Keening get but for “The Hunter II” mirroring on side B — but the harmonies after four minutes are even more affecting, and they carry to the end of that movement before a meditation of piano and quietest voice cap the song.

the keening (Photo by Angela H. Brown)

But just as one example drawn from the six inclusions, “Eden” is woven. It’s not haphazard or forced in its changes, and even its last shift to the soft ending is made gently, with silence as a place gone to and returned from. With the flowing violins and echoing layers of vocals, to call Little Bird graceful feels superfluous, but it is anyhow, and no less so as the title-track sweeps through a miniature version of its longer build before resetting in a wistful piano piece for which I’d love to see a lyric sheet, and making its way into a wash that’s preface to “The Truth” (which I guess is side C of the vinyl, or left off it), a kind of centerpiece at nine minutes, but more intimate than sprawling, despite that blossom at the finish.

This hint-at-what’s-coming modus applies to “The Hunter I” and “The Hunter II” as well, with the former flashing an edge of distortion in its early choruses while holding back its own payoff to a kind of droning nod before transitioning into “The Hunter II” with a tension of electric guitar that gives over to soothing folkish Mellotron (or -ish sounds) for an initially drumless two minutes, reimagining ’60s crossover folk until about three and a half minutes into the total of just less than five, Little Bird gets its “Stones From the Sky” moment of dense riffing, complemented by violin, layered in vocals, Vernon returning with the line, “I can’t wait until I die so I won’t see you again,” repeated. Richly progressive folk-informed heavy post-rock and a sick burn to boot. That ending is a surprise, and not the first, but its push leaves little room for argument, and by the time you’re there in listening, you’re long since either on board for the go or not. At that point, Vernon can do basically whatever she wants.

Enter “The Truth.” Beginning with standalone piano, “The Truth” unfurls its troubled landscape in its own time, and keeps a chorus based around, “So I ask you baby/Did the truth set you free?” (with changes in who’s being freed), at its core for this first movement before growing quiet at about five minutes and setting forth on its outbound path through the apex and into a staring-at-the-mountains silence. Perhaps a great asset for The Keening and Vernon as she moves forward with the band will be how pointedly heavy metal Little Bird isn’t, how genuinely moving it is, and how the album might appeal to listeners beyond the heavy underground’s subculture. But that’s a concern beyond the album itself, which repositions Vernon on new ground to explore while retaining the strength of songwriting and performance that made this project so anticipated in the first place.

The Keening, Little Bird (2023)

The Keening, “Little Bird” official video

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-(16)- Sign to Heavy Psych Sounds Booking; Touring Europe in 2024

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 24th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

You might remember that long-running Cali sludgecore aggressors -(16)- played the Heavy Psych Sounds Fest in San Francisco and Los Angeles in 2022. The Italian label, festival organizer and booking company has now sent word that it will handle booking for the band as they look toward a round of 2024 European touring. I’ll be in Europe next summer, reportedly. Maybe I’ll go see them in Budapest if they get there.

Fair enough. What’s here today is barely news compared to, say, announcing that tour, but the basic truth here is I want to listen to 16. That’s absolutely, 100 percent why this post is here complete with 16‘s longform bio (you’ll note it’s in the present tense as it goes through their later albums on Relapse; no, I didn’t write it). And I feel no need to hide the fact that I just want to hear a thing. 30 years on from their first album, 16 are not only still a pissed-off powerhouse, but they’re both heavier and broader in sound. Last year’s Into Dust (review here) is the stuff of misery-obliterating catharsis, and I don’t know about you, but I’d go for a bit of that this morning, afternoon, whatever time it is where you are.

Needing a copy edit aside — look woh’s talking — the band’s bio does well in telling the tumultuous story of this tumultuous sound and the shape it’s taken over the better part of the last 15 years since the band returned with 2009’s Bridges to Burn, which I can’t believe I haven’t had yet as a Friday Full-Length. On the list it goes. Into Dust‘s pummel is doing ever so nicely in the meantime. “The Floor Wins.”

Use your anger to smash your anger. What’s left? Who are you without it?

From the PR wire:

16 heavy psych sounds

*** -16- *** The sludge metal legends are now part of the Heavy Psych Sounds booking roster

We are so stoked to announce that the sludge metal riffers -16- are now part of the Heavy Psych Sounds booking roster !!!

The band will tour Europe in July/August 2024 !!


SoCal sludge stalwarts -(16)- are among the most consistent and most underrated purveyors of the heavy riff. The band was formed in Santa Ana, Ca. by Bobby Ferry (guitar), Cris Jerue (vocals), and Jason Corley (drums) in 1991, and was later joined by bassist Tony Baumeister in 1993. The band’s debut 7″, Doorprize, was recorded at the end of 1991, and was shortly followed by their first full-length album, Curves That Kick (released in 1993 on legendary artist Pushead’s label Bacteria Sour). Working with Pushead enabled the band to have the album released in Japan and gave them the opportunity to tour Japan, which happened in the summer of 1994. Soon after, the band performed select live dates with Slayer, the Melvins, Unsane, and Jawbreaker. -(16)-‘s follow-up record Drop Out was released by Pessimiser/Theologian records in 1996 to critical acclaim, which the band followed with a series of local and semi-local performances.

Jason Corley was ejected from the band at the end of 1994, and was replaced by Andy Hassler. Phil Vera was also added as a second guitarist. The band released Blaze of Incompetence in 1997 (again on Pessimiser/Theologian), and completed a US tour with Grief in 1998. Andy Hassler was fired shortly after the tour. R.D. Davies replaced Andy, but he overdosed on heroin 6 months later and was replaced by Mark Sanger. The band’s next album, Zoloft Smile, was recorded in 1999/2000, but wasn’t released until 2002 via At A Loss Recordings. By the time the album was actually released, Bobby and Tony had both quit the band. The rest of the guys carried on, while Phil Vera remained as the band’s lone guitar player. Phil then took over vocal duties in 2003 after Cris was forced to go to rehab for alcohol and drug dependency. -(16)- toured the US and Japan as a three-piece (Phil, Mark, and Rafa) before calling it quits in 2004.

The band couldn’t fight its love for heavy music, though, and reunited in 2007 with a lineup consisting of Bobby, Cris, Jason, and Tony. -(16)- subsequently inked a record deal with renowned label Relapse Records and released their Relapse debut Bridges to Burn in Jan. 2009. The band parted ways with Jason Corley yet again (notice a pattern?), and recruited Mateo Pinkerton (ex Buzzov-en, Crom) as their new drummer. In early 2012 they released the album Deep Cuts from Dark Clouds via Relapse to widespread critical acclaim. Deep Cuts was followed by an eastern US with labelmates Tombs and still more lineup changes: in 2013 Dion Thurman joined as the band’s new drummer, and Barney Firks entered the ranks on bass. In support of Bridges to Burn and Deep Cuts, -(16)- have toured Europe twice, even appearing at major festivals such as Hellfest in France and Roadburn in The Netherlands. Additionally, the band has performed at US festivals Day of the Shred and Southwest Terror Fest and has shared the stage with a wide range of artists, from Neurosis, Nails, Indian, and Inter Arma to Noothgrush, Graves at Sea, ASG, and dozens of others.

In 2016, -(16)- return with their 7th full-length album Lifespan Of A Moth, the band’s heaviest, darkest, and most complex material to date! Self-produced by the band and recorded with Jeff Forrest (Cattle Decapitation, The Locust) at Doubletime Recording Studio in San Diego, CA, Lifespan Of A Moth saw the band sounding uglier, rawer and more visceral than ever. Down-tuned feedback-driven riffs and bludgeoning rhythms violently clash with vocalist Chris Jerue’s distorted, tortured howls across eight tracks of -(16)-‘s signature blend of hardcore punk, thrash and sludge. Lifespan Of A Moth is the sound of a band that has spent 25 years wallowing in addiction and anguish, and will leave you feeling crushed and confronted by the negativity of existence. Despite constant lineup changes and internal turmoil, -(16)- have persevered.

Fast forward to 2020 and -(16)- return with their new album, Dream Squasher. A testament to the power of loss, every moment of Dream Squasher casts the now San Diego based band into new, deeper depths. “A conscious effort was made to inject positivity into the lyrical themes,” guitarist and lead vocalist Bobby Ferry explains. “The best we could come up with is loving your dog so much, you’d end up killing yourself if the dog dies.”

The tragic, violent intent in this expression won’t be lost on listeners either; at any given moment of Dream Squasher, -(16)-‘s bouldering guitars crash into one another, set atop equally pulverizing bass and drums. Thunderous riffs express equal parts melancholy and fury. For the first time in the band’s 29-year career, Dream Squasher sees Bobby Ferry stepping forward and taking the helm on lead vocals, rounding out the band with both monumental moments of singing and pained screams of pure vitriol. From standout tracks like “Candy in Spanish”, to bruisers like “Agora (Killed by a Mountain Lion)” and the mountainous melodies of “Sadlands”, Dream Squasher proves to be -(16)-‘s return to form – where riffs dominate and anger reigns supreme.

Now in 2022, -(16)- return with their heaviest and most devastating record to date, Into Dust. The new album, a collection of cautionary tales of survival and redemption, is set to an amalgamation of sludge, punk, metal, hardcore, and stoner riffs, that could only be built through 30 years of commitment to their dark sonic craft, which -(16)- continues to improve upon. From the frantic opening of “Misfortune Teller” to the undeniable pounding and swagger of “Scrape the Rocks”, Into Dust lives up to its name, as -(16)- beat the listener into submission through the lowest of ends and the sour, palpable malaise prevalent throughout the album’s dozen tracks.

“There’s a story arc in the lyrics that start with an eviction notice served amid the ruins of Hurricane Irma in the Florida Keys, to running aground metaphorically and drowning in midlife, bearing witness to the modern suffering of hunger and poverty on the Mexico California border,” guitarist and vocalist Bobby Ferry says. The negativity persists on tracks aptly titled “Null and Eternal Void”, and the dizzying, pill-induced “The Floor Wins”. Elsewhere, “Born on a Bar Stool” sends the listener off with a sobering album closer; ending on a foggy and rainy jazz-tinged San Francisco night, with an anti-drinking drinking song, proclaiming “Raise your glass all things pass”.

– 16 – is:
Bobby Ferry: Guitar, Vocals
Alex Shuster: Lead Guitar
Barney Firks: Bass
Dion Thurman: Drums




-(16)-, “Lane Splitter” official video

-(16)-, “Scrape the Rocks” official video

-(16)-, “Misfortune Teller” official video

16, Into Dust (2022)

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Author & Punisher Post “Maiden Star” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 12th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

Author & Punisher (Photo by Chad Kelco)

With the ever-present caveat that I know nothing about anything basically as a general condition of existence, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to think that the video streaming below for “Maiden Star” from Author & Punisher‘s 2022 LP, Krüller (review here), is perhaps an unofficial drawdown to the cycle for the album from whence it comes. And that maybe after embarking on statistically-significant tours in the US and Europe for the better part of the last 18 months, vocalist/synthesist/machinist Tristan Shone and guitarist Doug Sabolick (also of Philly freak rock forerunners Ecstatic Vision) might begin the however-long process of moving toward the next outing. Writing, in other words. And because we’re talking about Author & Punisher, perhaps also building.

I didn’t see Author & Punisher supporting Krüller, and looking at having now apparently missed my chance, I’ll count it as a character flaw on my part. To say the album still resonates almost feels like an insult by proposing the idea that it wouldn’t, but in terms of ‘holding up,’ I had it on spontaneously in the car the other day and its dystopia is no less sprawling than it was emerging from covid winter last February. And I’ve seen a bunch of videos from sundry locales in likewise sundry countries, and with Shone running midi through his homemade drone machines — which I couldn’t decide whether or not to capitalize; are they a proper noun, I wonder? — and Sabolick alongside conveying organic distortion through lumbering riffs and emphasizing the depth of character in the material and the traditions of industrial metal that are in-part a launch point for Author & Punisher generally. Not like they didn’t come to New York. I just missed it. Turns out sucking at life kind of sucks sometimes. Go figure.

Homage is paid to the live experience from the band’s point of view in the James Rexroad-directed — if you were a good band from the Pacific Northwest there would be at least a 79 percent chance he took your awesome promo photos — clip for “Maiden Star.” We see Shone and Sabolick traveling, hurry-up-and-waiting and, of course, playing on stage which is the point of the rest in the first place, burning through a steady supply of ‘these machines kill fascists’ shirts all the while. They’ll be back out at some point, if potentially with a different set.

In addition to the video, the PR wire brings word that Shone‘s Drone Machines manufacturing concern — which definitely gets capitalized — is in NYC doing cool shit, which isn’t necessarily directly relevant to “Maiden Star,” but you can see below what’s detailed in a photo by that absolute non-Machiavellian prince of a human being, Dante Torrieri, speaking of people who do cool shit.


Author & Punisher, “Maiden Star” official video




Industrial mastermind AUTHOR & PUNISHER shares the official “Maiden Star” music video from the 2022 release full-length Krüller! Watch the full video on A&P’s YouTube Channel HERE.

“Maiden Star” video was shot during AUTHOR & PUNISHER’s 2023 June European tour by James Rexroad who joined A&P across the northern EU territories and edited by Augie Arredondo.

AUTHOR & PUNISHER comments on the video:

“”Every time I watch this video it hits me…it’s a beautiful music scene and it really makes me so thankful that I get to do what I do. Thanks to James Rexroad for coming along and capturing the community, the energy and the power of heavy music in our lives. Shout out to my bandmate Doug Sabolick, John Cota (sound engineer) and Augie Arredondo for editing the damn thing. From the fjords of Norway, the wood fired saunas of Helsinki and Tallinn, to the beer halls of Bochum, with friends new and old, this one goes out to the fans who support underground music. The community is strong. We love you.”

Additionally, AUTHOR & PUNISHER and his intrepid gear company DRONE MACHINES announce a partnership with visionary multi-discipline artist ARCA designing and building machines for her live work Mutant;Destrudo at Park Avenue Armory in NYC now through October 15!

AUTHOR & PUNISHER comments on Arca:

Drone Machines (Photo by Dante Torrieri)“There aren’t many artists out there as innovative and groundbreaking as Arca. Her style of production and visual design is visceral, dark, and bleak; yet always intriguing and exciting. She’s produced amazing solo works as well as music for Bjork, Kanye West, and FKA Twigs to name a few. When she asked me to build her some machines I immediately jumped on it. We’ve worked on this now for the past 8 months with Alejandra and her creative team focusing on building some industrial controllers that would interact with her DJ setup and allow her to make broader, more physical strokes with levers, sliders, and large knobs. There are five machines in total: one Fader, two Throttles, and two Platters that are all rack mounted above her DJ setup with the table suspended from the ceiling by chains. The aesthetic of Drone Machines (the small gear company birthed from Author & Punisher) is raw and industrial, with heavy machine components. Functionally, there is MIDI, USB, DSP Audio output, and CV/Gate; they are completely open source. Many thanks and shout outs to the team at Drone Machines working with me who helped on this project as well as the other devices we are making: Adam Reed-Erickson (mechanical engineer), Jason Begin (sound designer, producer, composer), and Hanri Thayyil (software engineer).”

Author & Punisher, Krüller (2022)

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Friday Full-Length: Amorphis, Chapters

Posted in Bootleg Theater on September 22nd, 2023 by JJ Koczan

Twenty years ago, Relapse Records had a distro booth at the Palladium in Worcester for the New England Metal and Hardcore Festival. Coincidentally, the fest was held last weekend in roughly the same spot (it’s outdoors now). Fair enough. Relapse‘s booth was inside, as were both stages in what was apparently 2003. I was walking through from the larger downstairs area to the upstairs stage — I don’t remember whom I was seeing just then, but I know I definitely saw Stampin’ Ground up there one time, and I’m pretty sure Brand New Sin played up there at one point — and passed by the large banner and the table that had vinyl and CDs (more of the latter then) arranged in boxes with some flat on the table for display.

AmorphisChapters was one of those out. A CD and DVD with music videos — that was a big deal then — it was released in 2003 to some murmurings about an anniversary. I dug the band a lot, had seen them in Worcester a few years earlier, and it caught my eye, but it was like $20 and I know for a fact didn’t have $20 in 2003. I don’t have $20 now. And I don’t think they were taking cards at merch tables two decades ago, so I left it on the table and went about my business in the mildewy upstairs of the Palladium.

I’d return to Relapse distros many times over the subsequent years at various events — not to mention their record store, glorious as that was, in Philadelphia — and never saw another copy of Chapters in-person, there or anywhere else. It went out of print quickly, all parties seeming to silently agree that it was for the best, and languished on my Amazon wishlist basically since. I won’t say I was on some Odyssean quest to find it, scouring the earth in its many nooks and hithers and yons, but it became something of a regret of the early century in my head that I didn’t manage to make that purchase. That I let that one go.

Found it the other day on Discogs. Six bucks, plus six bucks shipping. It’s in great shape.

Since the package came in — it’s in a jewel case and just brims with turn-of-the-century thickness in its plastic; the guilt-free excesses of a world that didn’t understand how mad it had gone — I’ve been through it a couple times and I’ve tried to place it as well in the band’s history. The thing is, if Chapters was supposed to be an anniversary thing, it was off. Begun as a cavernous death metal act informed by their native Finnish folklore and eventually, by then, progressed into a melodic heavy/hard rock act with plenty enough of that metal left over to give them some edge, Amorphis marked their 10th anniversary in 2000, and their first long-player, The Karelian Isthmus, came out in 1992.

Plus — and here’s the one that’s had my eyebrow up lo these many years — Amorphis released their Story – 10th Anniversary comp in 2000, so if Chapters was somehow intended to complement that, which doesn’t amorphis chaptersseem unreasonable on its face given the two titles, the fact that it came three years later is puzzling (I’d thought it was earlier). DVDs had ‘chapters.’ Was that why they called it that? Rest assured, I continue to have no idea.

On the most basic level, it could just have been contract fulfillment, I guess. In 2003, Amorphis released Far From the Sun (highlighted by the bonus acoustic version of its title-track) as their first non-Relapse offering, through Nuclear Blast. Certainly possible they owed their former label a release and the CD/DVD was where they landed. However they go there, the audio disc is packed. In addition to the bonus tracks “Too Much to See,” a highlight of the special edition of 2001’s Am Universum (discussed here) and “Northern Lights” from the recordings of 1999’s Tuonela (discussed here), it’s got a whopping 17 songs total, culled from the band’s first decade of releases.

And in addition to any revisit to this era of Amorphis‘ catalog (and other eras as well) bringing renewed appreciation for the complexity of their arrangements, from flutes and instrumentation that helped them become credited as early practitioners of folk metal — which they never really were, but they influenced the mindset with their lyrics culled from the Kalevala, the national poem of Finland, and some of their transposed-onto-death-metal groove — the layeres melodies of the vocals as heard on Chapters resonate with depth. As they would. At this point in their history, Amorphis were fronted by Pasi Koskinen (also Ajattara, ex-Mannhai), who took over on lead vocals for 1996’s Elegy and helped make that one of the band’s most crucial landmarks. As frontman through the aforementioned Far From the Sun, Koskinen‘s contributions aren’t to be understated and the malleability of his voice to work from harsh to clean played a large role in the band’s overarching progression. He set the model that Amorphis would follow with subsequent singer Tomi Joutsen, who is about to enter his 20th year with them and is their longest-tenured vocalist.

But whether one listens to Chapters or Story, or just to the albums themselves, that progression is the narrative. It’s just presented differently, and something I appreciate about Chapters as opposed to Story is that our presents Amorphis‘ growth in reverse order such that the then-newest material, which was the Am Universum and Tuonela stuff, is up front, and the listener can trace back from there, through Tales From the Thousand Lakes, not all the way to 1991’s Disment of Soul demo, but at least to the raw first record that was built out therefrom.

And while it’s true their sound has settled from the radical shifts it presented in the decade covered by Chapters (and the earlier compilation), they continue to grow. Now signed to Nuclear Blast offshoot Atomic Fire, they oversaw a series of catalog reissues last year and put out their 14th studio LP, Halo (review here), and undertaking an ongoing full touring cycle to support. Just yesterday they released a live video for “Wrong Direction” from an upcoming third live record, Queen of Time (Live at Tavastia 2021), out on Oct. 13. They have a Fall tour in Europe lined up (of course), were in Japan earlier this month, toured the States last year, tour Finland in December and already have fests lined up for 2024, including Summer Breeze in Brazil next April. So yes, very much active.

I usually say when I write about Amorphis that they’re one of a few acts I write about to zero response, and I suspect that this being a silly contract-fulfillment comp from 20 years ago that I once passed up won’t help that. But you should know that I bought this CD with money from Obelisk merch and that I appreciate the support that let that happen.

Thank you for that, and thank you for reading. As always, I hope you enjoy.

Week was proceeding. Monday and Tuesday were recovery from Desertfest New York last weekend. Then it was just digging into the rest and getting through. Yesterday the first of what I expect will be a lifetime’s supply of emails from The Pecan’s school came in, this one from the principal asking what the hell we can possibly do with this kid who puts her fist in other kids’ faces, hits the aide in the classroom and, on Wednesday, bit her teacher. That one took the wind out of our sails a bit. She’s doing all her academic work, which is a thing upon which one might hang some kind of hat, but everything else is hard. Very much a challenge.

I told the principal I didn’t have an easy answer but reminded him as well that before the year we had a whole series of meetings on how to handle her and this was why and that the plan we agreed to at those meetings, the first of which was before last school year even ended, has yet to be put into place. We have another meeting next Friday. I expect it will be a conversation.

But it sucks to see my kid having the hard time that I think we knew she was going to have even as we parent-denial’ed ourselves into some hope otherwise. If I sound defeatist about it, I am. We have muddled through camps (until we couldn’t) and various other activities like soccer and tae kwon do, and pretty much anytime she’s somewhere with other kids her age and there’s an adult in charge, especially if she’s there more than once for longer than, say, 40 minutes, it’s going to be a problem. That’s based on past history.

But now, instead of having her own paraprofessional in class to help her stay on task and resist urges toward physical violence — biting a pregnant lady is never a good look, regardless of one’s grade level — she’s flailing, feels like a failure, and has entered a negative cycle of feeling ashamed at her behavior, scared of her surroundings and like she needs to lash out when basically any demand is put on her. I cannot properly emphasize how much the school has dropped the ball here, nor how disappointed I am in their having done so. These are legal questions and obligations.

She’s there today. Her teacher was out yesterday — one might want a day off, yes — and I don’t know what the score is today yet and won’t until we pick her up, so I exist in a nebulous zone of cluelessness, which rest assured is a big change for me. We’ve started taking her upstairs, no warning, when she hits us. It gets her to stop hitting and does nothing, apparently, to prevent the next one. Yesterday she started behavioral talk therapy in hopes of learning some strategies to cope with her brain being apparently on fire all the time, which, yes, rest assured again, is a perspective on existence I blame myself for teaching her.

Oh, and we’re getting the dog groomed like right now as I’m writing. And I taught her to spin for a treat in like three minutes the other night. And she hasn’t had an accident in the house in like two weeks. She’s a good little dog, this Tilly. Surprisingly so.

Have a great and safe weekend. Watch your head, hydrate, enjoy the emergent Fall if it’s Fall where you are. Try not to bite any pregnant ladies on your way to next Monday.


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