Album Review: Early Moods, A Sinner’s Past

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

early moods a sinner's past

Part of what has been exciting about L.A. County classic doom metallers Early Moods over the last few years is the potential for how they might develop as a new generation’s spearhead in engaging the style. A Sinner’s Past is their second LP through RidingEasy Records behind 2022’s self-titled debut (review here) and their 2020 debut EP, Spellbound (review here), and it follows suit with their prior work in being in immediate conversation with the doom of yore. Somewhere, swimming a vault of Black Sabbath bootlegs like some doom-riffing Scrooge McDuck, Leif Edling is smiling. Candlemass have been a guiding presence for Early Moods since their outset, but as the five-piece of vocalist Alberto Alcaraz (also keys), guitarists Eddie Andrade and Oscar Hernandez (lead), bassist Elix Feliciano and drummer Chris Flores specifically tap “Samarithan” for the verses of “The Apparition,” even the command and confidence with which they’re doing so comes across as continued progression.

But across its CD-era-vibing 49-minute runtime and eight component tracks, A Sinner’s Past is about more than saluting genre heroes. Early Moods had already begun the process of internalizing root influences like the aforementioned Candlemass and various eras of Sabbath, and in the way the punchy bass and steady nod that begins opening cut “Last Hour” gives over right about halfway into its 5:41 to gallop, swing and shred, they not only foreshadow tempo shifts to come like that in the reaches of the eight-minute “Hell’s Odyssey,” penultimate to closer “Soul Sorcery” on side B, but offer a first look at the grim recesses in which their tones will dwell throughout and the expanded scope and intentions heard throughout in “Unhinged Spirit,” with its acoustic intro leading to a procession that lumbers until it careens, or the harsher vocal moments in “Blood Offerings” and “Walpurguise” calling out to the metal of the 1980s without ignoring the 40 years since.

Relative youth as compared to much of the current sphere of doom is still an advantage Early Moods enjoy, and A Sinner’s Past is still rife with the energy of a young band exploring their sound and style, but they also have a better idea of what they want in both of those than they did two years ago, and that comes through as well as “Blood Offerings” trades the Candlemassian poise for a more dug-in, Pentagram-style shove — at least until the screams come (get it? anybody? no? moving on.) — with all due grit and groove, and the title-track makes even the entry of Flores‘ speedy hi-hat at 4:09 as they transition from the initial plod and dudes-running-in-a-circle mosh through the circa-’75 Iommic solo section and into the chugging build-up to the faster culmination, another solo thrown in for good measure before they cap with the riff. That they would cover that kind of ground on their second album isn’t a huge surprise — they’ve proven at this point able to keep their collective head as songwriters through various changes of mood, tempo and melody within their doomly trajectory; they’re a good band and that’s a thing good bands can do when they want to — but that they’d do it with such clear purpose and still convey an overarching atmosphere through those changes is an aspect of A Sinner’s Past that’s demonstrative of their growth as a unit, and it’s not at all the only one.

early moods (Photo by Mike Wuthrich)

The production, helmed by Allen Falcon at Birdcage Studios in Pico Rivera, finds the more cavernous veneer of the first album traded for an in-your-face aural crunch that’s modern in the separation of the instruments but allows a sense of live performance to come through, whether it’s at the dirge pace of “The Apparition,” the midtempo nods of “Unhinged Spirit” and “Walpurguise” or the plod-into-swing of “Soul Sorcery.” While still resonant in their homage to the doom of eld, Early Moods are beginning to cast genre in their image, and the most vital moments of A Sinner’s Past are in the weight of a drag, the coursing tension of their faster movements, and how each plays off the other. They are becoming more dynamic — no doubt the not-minor amount of touring they’ve done in the last year-plus is a piece of this and will continue to be — and stronger for that.

That’s worth appreciating, to be sure, but if your experience of “Hell’s Odyssey” is more about the journey being undertaken and less about how skillfully it retains its impact amid the faster delivery early on — the answer for that, if you’re curious, is the same as nearly always: the bass — and moves into NWOBHM harmonized leads from Andrade and Hernandez before the latter launches into the solo in earnest, I don’t think you’re wrong. Part of the appeal of Early Moods as an emergent revamp of traditionalist doom is the familiar that’s to be found within the new, in aesthetic terms. I don’t think they’ve done their best work as a band yet, but A Sinner’s Past gives more than a few hints of where they’re headed, and the forward potential in their work is no less prevalent for what they’ve achieved in these songs.

You can overthink it if you want — clearly I’m a fan of that approach in any number of contexts — but the material is composed and executed in such a way that, if you want to nod out and let the groove carry you from “Last Hour” to “Soul Sorcery,” there’s nothing in that span that’s going to pull you out of the moment, and for that alone, A Sinner’s Past is a substantial offering. They’ve been on their way to headlining pretty much since the word go, and seem to be motivated toward those ends, toward making an impact on doom and influencing those who inevitably will follow in their wake, but whatever their future might or might not bring, the sense of an idea conceived and realized across A Sinner’s Past is palpable and so is the artistic growth within and around that. If it does turn out to be their most significant contribution to doom — if the band ended tomorrow and cut short all that potential and blah blah blah — you wouldn’t be able to listen to this record and say they didn’t give everything they had to it.

Early Moods, “A Sinner’s Past” official video

Early Moods, A Sinner’s Past (2024)

Early Moods

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Early Moods Announce Headlining US Tour; New Album Due in March

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 31st, 2024 by JJ Koczan

In addition to announcing this tour, Los Angeles doom metallers Early Moods have also specifically named the hometown date at Permanent Records Roadhouse as the release show for their impending sophomore full-length following-up their 2022 self-titled debut (review here), which was also on RidingEasy. An April 20-ish release, then? They wouldn’t be the only ones out there laying claim to Friday, April 19, but I’m more concerned with the what rather than the when of their next offering, since that’s invariably the part one would be hearing.

I’m not sure what I want from a second Early Moods full-length. I’d be cool if they had some radical jump in sound, like they did the first album, toured, and figured out what they wanted to be, or a continuation of the thread from the first. They were nothing if not purposeful there; I’m not sure what might lead them to some kind of redirect, let alone how they might actually pull that off. That is, I’ll take it as it comes, when it comes, and be glad I got the chance to hear it.

This won’t be the last tour they announce. I’m hoping they do Europe in the Fall and knock everyone on their ass:

[NOTE: I had the album release as April in the header and RidingEasy corrected me to say it would be March, so now it’s March. The release show is still April 20 as per the band. Fair enough.]

Early Moods tour

EARLY MOODS – Tour Announcement!

We’ll be hitting the road this March/April in support of our new album! Select dates with our friends in @morbikon Tickets are on sale now:

Sat 3/16 – Ojai, CA @ Deer Lodge
Sun 3/17 – Phoenix, AZ @ Yucca Tap
Mon 3/18 – Albuquerque, NM @ Sister Bar
Tue 3/19 – El Paso, TX @ Rosewood
Fri 3/22 – Houston, TX @ Hell’s Heroes
Tue 3/26 – Savannah, GA @ Wormhole*
Wed 3/27 – Wilmington, NC @ Reggies*
Thu 3/28 – Baltimore, MD @ Metro*
Fri 3/29 – Philadelphia, PA @ Kung Fu Necktie (early)
Sat 3/30 – Brooklyn, NY @ Saint Vitus*
Sun 3/31 – Boston, MA @ Middle East*
Tue 4/1 – Albany, NY @ Fuze Box*
Wed 4/03 – Youngstown, OH @ West Side Bowl*#
Thu 4/04 – Columbus, OH @ Ace Of Cups*
Fri 4/05 – Detroit, MI @ Sanctuary*
Sat 4/06 – Grand Rapids, MI @ Pyramid*
Sun 4/07 – Indianapolis, IN @ Black Circle (matinee)*
Mon 4/08 – Chicago, IL @ Live Wire*
Tue 4/09 – Cudahy, WI @ X-Ray Arcade*
Thu 4/11 – Lawrence, KS @ Bottleneck
Fri 4/12 – Denver, CO @ Hi-Dive
Sat 4/13 – Salt Lake City @ Aces High
Sat 4/20 – Los Angeles, CA @ Permanent Records
Fri 4/26 – Oxnard, CA @ Mrs. Olson’s

* = w/Morbikon
# = w/Conan + Psychic Trash

Tour Poster by @itsthefredwardz

Early Moods, Early Moods (2022)

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Album Review: Mondo Drag, Through the Hourglass

Posted in Reviews on October 19th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

mondo drag through the hourglass

Founding Mondo Drag keyboardist and vocalist John Gamiño titled the progressive heavy psych rockers’ fourth album, Through the Hourglass, in reference to the opening line of the theme for the long-running US soap opera Days of Our Lives. It is in honor of his mother, who reportedly passed away sometime in the tumultuous years since the San Francisco-based band released their last full-length, 2016’s The Occultation of Light (review here). In addition to being demographically relatable — I also watched that show with my mother as a kid; it was the ’80s and moms got to pick shows, especially when you were home sick from school (or just faking it) — it tells you something about Through the Hourglass in relation both to Mondo Drag‘s preceding work and to the style as a whole. It is built from a place of emotional sincerity.

It is also built nearly from the ground up. In addition to Gamiño and guitarists Nolan Girard and Jake Sheley, both also founding members making a return, the crisply-produced, organic-vibing six-song/39-minute RidingEasy Records long-player is the first Mondo Drag release since Conor Riley (current Birth, ex-Astra) joined on bass in 2018, and the first to feature drummer Jimmy Perez, who joined last year. Working with engineer Phil Becker (Pins of Light), who also mixed, they conjure graceful emanations of cosmic rock, set against a wistful backdrop from the outset of “Burning Daylight Pt. I,” which both introduces the album and moves in patient procession into a roll of heavy, organ-laced fuzz without losing the fluidity of when the riff first entered, a stately control of swing and tempo that sounds like nothing so much as a honed mastery of craft.

The ending of that lead track — which hums into the drum start of the more upbeat “Burning Daylight Pt. II” — emerges from a quieter and spacious midsection, playing out as a not entirely separate song and not quite a direct connection either, but there’s no arguing with the flow there or in “Burning Daylight Pt. II.” A soft-swinging boogie finds its lightness in taps of ride cymbal in the floating keys before the vocals enter, a subtle twist to the rhythm revealing itself in a stop at 2:35 before the keyboard and guitar line up for synchronized soloing, playing with and around the same notes in an engaging weave, then taking turns, keys first, in solos before the instrumental culmination brings down “Burning Daylight Pt. II” to the silence from which the 11-minute “Passages” will rise, doing so gradually with a new age drone and space rock effects shimmer before its low-end buzz begins its cycles and the whole thing opens up after two minutes or so with stately Hammond holding the melody complemented by ascending steps of guitar.

Of course, that’s just the beginning, and even within Through the Hourglass, “Passages” is unto itself. It’s not quite a full album-style flow, but it’s not far off, and it is the resonant emotional core of the entire span. Acoustic and electric guitars, the latter maybe with eBow or some such, craft a realized melancholia, like Mondo Drag were the only ones to remember how much longing was poured into In the Court of the Crimson King, and has its heavier takeoff after five hypnotic minutes of build, drums shifting after a few measures to half-time with tom fills and a last crash as the scene is set: quiet guitar, lightest cymbal taps, piano.

mondo drag

A chugging guitar and pickup in the drums signals the shift that’s already taken place and a classic space rock push seems to be taking shape. Instead of a sprint, though, “Passages” sort of overflows into its apex, frothing with organ-topped slow, heavy roll, bluesy guitar soloing, hints of proto-doom in the rumble, hints of “Hotel California” in the keyboard solo. At eight and a half minutes, they’re jamming, but it’s a plotted course, with keys and guitars calling and responding until a touch of shred from the latter signals the end; acoustic guitar and keyboard sounds wrap the last minute-plus in quiet contemplation.

As an 11-minute song on a 39-minute album, “Passages” would be a focal point one way or the other, but it’s all the more crucial for being instrumental. On side B, “Through the Hourglass” (6:21), “Death in Spring” (6:10) and “Run” (6:55) seem to find a middle-ground approach that neither “Burning Daylight I” and “Burning Daylight II” nor “Passages” fostered, and with the structural clarity particularly of “Through the Hourglass” and “Death in Spring” — the latter is downright catchy, also sad — they might’ve ended up on side A for a lot of albums. But Mondo Drag clearly aren’t interested in holding back in terms of expanse, and the trilogy of six-minute cuts that comprises the second half of Through the Hourglass offers a richness of detail that meets the high standard they’ve established, here and elsewhere.

At the end of the first verse in “Through the Hourglass,” in the lyric about not recognizing himself in the mirror, there’s a second vocal layer that joins Gamiño, speaking as someone else speaking back to him, and it’s a single example among many of the consideration and depth of detail Mondo Drag bring to their fourth LP. The balance of the mix as “Through the Hourglass” unfolds its second half — keys and guitar not competing but working together through their own means; grandiosity without pomposity — is further argument in this regard, but who the hell wants to argue anyway? Departing the Hammond, “Death in Spring” has a Graveyard-ish stretch of guitar for its first 10 or so seconds but goes on to emphasize keyboard amid the memorable delivery of the title line in the chorus. “Death in Spring” carries its grief with more motion than one might think of for a dirge, but it might be one anyhow. After a Hypnos 69-ian sway into psych, keys reach out into quiet to finish and keys start again in that silence — with chimes — to begin “Run.”

Somewhere in the infinity of infinite universes, it’s an alternate 1975 and “Run” is a radio hit. Subsequent generations will wonder what about the horses running through the night as described, but it won’t really matter because sometimes old songs just have weird words and you go with it. There’s a big ending of keyboard-wash to come, and fair enough, but “Run” is even more about its vibe than its chorus. Trading off from a quiet verse, the melody in “Run” feels well placed at the end of the album; it is resilient as well as resonant, and not unhopeful, and they even work in a quick bit of strut before the closer resolves with long-held notes of choral keyboard, which is as fitting a way as any in its not-overblown, classy but still evocative. Through the Hourglass is a whole work, and though they don’t put out a record every year, one can trace across their catalog the trajectory Mondo Drag have taken to get to the accomplished and expressive position in which they find themselves.

Mondo Drag, Through the Hourglass (2023)

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Quarterly Review: Darsombra, Bottomless, The Death Wheelers, Caivano, Entropía, Ghorot, Moozoonsii, Death Wvrm, Mudness, The Space Huns

Posted in Reviews on October 5th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk winter quarterly review

Welcome to Thursday of the Fall 202 Quarterly Review. It’s been a good run so far. three days and 30 records, about to be four and 40. I’ve got enough on my desktop and there’s enough stuff coming out this month that I could probably do a second Fall QR in November, and maybe stave off needing to do a double-one in December as I had been planning in the back of my head. Whatever, I’ll figure it out.

I hope you’ve been able to find something you dig. I definitely have, but that’s how it generally goes. These things are always a lot of work, and somehow I seem to plan them on the busiest weeks — today we’re volunteering at the grade school book fair; I think I’ll dig out my old Slayer God Hates Us All shirt from 20 years ago and see if it still fits. Sadly, I think we all know how that experiment will work out.

Anyway, busy times, good music, blah blah, let’s roll.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Darsombra, Dumesday Book

darsombra dumesday book

Forever touring and avant garde to their very marrow, ostensibly-Baltimorean duo DarsombraAnn Everton on keys, vocals, live visuals, and who the hell knows what else, Brian Daniloski on guitar, a living-room pedal board, and engineering at the band’s home studio — unveil Dumesday Book as a 75-minute collection not only of works like “Call the Doctor” (posted here) or “Call the Doctor” (posted here), which appear as remixes, but their first proper album of this troubled decade after 2019’s Transmission (review here) saw them reach so far out into the cosmic thread to harness their bizarre stretches of bleeps and boops, manipulated vocals, drones, noise and suitably distraught collage in “Everything is Canceled” — which they answer later with “Still Canceled,” because charm — but the reassurance here is in the continuation of Daniloski and Everton‘s audio adventures, and their commitment to what should probably at this point in space-time be classified as free jazz remains unflinching. Squares need not apply, and if you’re into stuff like structure, there’s some of that, but all Darsombra ever need to get gone is a direction in which to head — literally or figuratively — so why not pick them all?

Darsombra on Instagram

Darsombra on Bandcamp

Bottomless, The Banishing

bottomless the banishing

Cavernous in its echo and with a grit of tone that is the aural equivalent of the feeling of pull in your hand when you make a doom claw, The Banishing is the second full-length from Italian doom rockers Bottomless. Working as the trio of vocalist/guitarist Giorgio Trombino (ex-Elevators to the Grateful Sky, etc.), drummer David Lucido (Assumption, among a slew of others) and bassist Sara Bianchin — the latter also of Messa and recently replaced in Bottomless by Laura Nardelli (Ponte del Diavolo, etc.) — the band follow their 2021 self-titled debut (review here) with an eight-track collection that comes across as its own vision of garage doom. It’s not about progressive flourish or elaborate production, but about digging into the raw creeper groove of “Guardians of Silence” or the righteous post-Pentagram chug-and-nod of “Let Them Burn.” It is not solely intended as worship for what’s come before. Doom-of-eld, the NWOBHM, ’70s proto splurges all abound, but in the vocal and guitar melody of “By the Sword of the Archangel” and the dramatic rolling finish of “Dark Waters” after the acoustic-led interlude “Drawn Into Yesterday,” in the gruel of “Illusion Sun,” they channel these elements through themselves and come out with an album that, for as dark and grim as it would likely sound to more than 99 percent of the general human population, is pure heart.

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Dying Victims Productions website

The Death Wheelers, Chaos and the Art of Motorcycle Madness

The Death Wheelers Chaos and the Art of Motorcycle Madness

Look. I don’t know The Death Wheelers personally at all. We don’t hang out on weekends. But the sample-laced (“We wanna be free to ride our machines without being hassled by the Man — and we wanna get loaded!” etc.), motorcycle-themed Québecois instrumental outfit sound on their second LP, the 12-track/40-minute riff-pusher Chaos and the Art of Motorcycle Madness, like they’re onto something. And again, I don’t know these cats at all. I don’t know what they do for work, what their lives are like, any of it. But if The Death Wheelers want to get out and give this record the support it deserves, the place they need to be is Europe. Yeah, I know there was The Picturebooks, but they were clean-chrome and The Death Wheelers just cracked a smile and showed you the fly that got splattered on their front tooth while they were riding — sonically speaking. The dust boogie of “Lucifer’s Bend,” the duly stoned “Interquaalude” ahead of the capper duo of “Sissy Bar Strut (Nymphony 69)” and “Cycling for Satan Part II” and the blowout roll in “Ride into the Röt (Everything Lewder Than Everything Else)” — this is a band who should bypass America completely for touring and focus entirely on Europe. Because the US will come around, to be sure, but not for another three or four month-long Euro stints get the point across. I don’t know that that’ll happen or it won’t, but they sound ready.

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Caivano, Caivano

Caivano Caivano

The career arc of guitarist Phil Caivano — and of course he does other stuff as well, including vocals on his self-titled solo-project’s debut, Caivano, but some people seem to have been born to hold a guitar in their hands and he’s one of those; see also Bob Balch — is both longer and broader than his quarter-century as guitarist and songwriting contributor to Monster Magnet, but the NJ heavy rock stalwarts will nonetheless be the closest comparison point to these 10 tracks and 33 minutes, a kind of signature sleazy roll in “Talk to the Dead,” the time-to-get-off-your-ass push of “Come and Get Me” at the start or the punkier “Verge of Yesterday” — touch of Motörhead there seeming well earned — a cosmic ripper on a space backbeat in “Fun & Games,” but all of this is within a tonal and production context that’s consistent across the span, malleable in style, unshakable in structure. Closer “Face the Music” is the longest cut at 5:04 and is a drumless spacey experiment with vocals and a guitar figure wrapped around a central drone, and that adds yet more character to the proceedings. I’d wonder how long some of these songs or parts have been around or if Caivano is going to put a group together — could be interesting — and make a go of it apart from his ‘main band,’ but he’s long since established himself as an exceptional player, and listening to some of this material highlights contributions of style and substance to shaping Monster Magnet as well. Phil Caivano: songwriter.

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Entropía, Eclipses

Entropía Eclipses

Together for nearly a decade, richly informed by the progressive and space rock(s) of the 1970s, prone to headspinning feats of lead guitar like that in the back end of second cut “Dysania,” Entropía offer their second full-length in Eclipses, a five-track/40-minute excursion of organ-inclusive cosmic prog that reminds of Hypnos 69 in the warm serenity at the start of “Tarbes,” threatens the epic on seven-minute opener “Thesan” and delivers readily throughout; a work of scope that runs deep in the pairing of “Tarbes” and “Caleidoscopia” — both of which top nine minutes long — but it’s there that Entropía reveal the full spectrum of light they’re working with, whether it’s that tonal largesse that rears up in the latter or the jazzy kosmiche shove in the payoff of the former. And the drums come forward to start closer “Polaris,” which follows, as Entropía nestle into one more groovy submersion, finding heavy shuffle in the drums — hell yeah — and holding that tension until it’s time for the multi-tiered finish and only-necessary peaceful comedown. It’s inevitable that some records in a Quarterly Review get written about and I never listen to them again. I’ll be back to this one.

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Clostridium Records store

Ghorot, Wound

Ghorot Wound

God damn, Ghorot, leave some nasty for the rest of the class. The Boise, Idaho, three-piece — vocalist/bassist Carson Russell (also Ealdor Bealu), guitarist/vocalist Chad Remains (ex-Uzala) and drummer/vocalist Brandon Walker — launch their second LP, Wound, with the gloriously screamed, righteously-coated-in-filth, choking-on-mud extreme sludge they appropriately titled “Dredge.” And fuck if it doesn’t get meaner from there as Ghorot — working with esteemed producer Andy Patterson (The Otolith, etc.) and releasing through Lay Bare Recordings and King of the Monsters Records — take the measure of your days and issue summary judgment in the negative through the mellow-harshing bite of “In Asentia,” the least brutal part of which kind of sounds like High on Fire and the death/black metal in centerpiece “Corsican Leather.” All of which is only on side A. On side B, “Canyon Lands” imagines a heavy Western meditation — shades of Ealdor Bealu in the guitar — that retains its old-wizard vocal gurgle, and capper “Neanderskull” finally pushes the entire affair off of whatever high desert cliffside from which it’s been proclaiming all this uberdeath and into a waiting abyss of willfully knuckledragging blower deconstruction. The really scary shit is these guys’ll probably do another record after this one. Yikes.

Ghorot on Facebook

Lay Bare Recordings website

King of the Monsters Records website

Moozoonsii, Outward

Moozoonsii Outward

With the self-release of Outward, heavy progressive psych instrumentalists Moozoonsii complete a duology of pandemic-constructed outings that began with last year’s (of course) Inward, and to do so, the trio based in Nantes, France, continue to foster a methodology somewhere between metal and rock, finding ground in precision riffing in the 10-minute “Nova” or in the bumps and crashes after eight minutes into the 13-minute “Far Waste,” but they’re just as prone to jazzy skronk-outs like in the midsection solo of “Lugubris,” and the entire release is informed by the unfolding psychedelic meditationscape of “Stryge” at the start, so by no, no, no means at all are they doing one thing for the duration. “Toxic Lunar Vibration,” which splits the two noted extended tracks, brings the sides together as if to emphasize this point, not so much fitting those pointed angles together as delighting in the ways in which they do and don’t fit at certain times as part of their creative expression. Pairing that impulse with the kind of heavy-as-your-face-if-your-face-had-a-big-boulder-on-it fuzz in “Tauredunum” is a hell of a place to wind up. The unpredictable character of the material that surrounds only makes that ending sweeter and more satisfying.

Moozoonsii on Facebook

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Death Wvrm, Enter / The Endless

Death Wvrm enter

An initial two tracks from UK trio Death Wvrm, both instrumental, surfaced earlier this year, one in Spring around the time of their appearance at Desertfest London — quiet a coup for a seemingly nascent band; but listening to them I get it — and after. “Enter” was first, “The Endless” second, and the two of them tell a story unto themselves; narrative seeming to be part of the group’s mission from this point of outset, as each single comes with a few sentences of accompanying scene-setting. Certainly not going to complain about the story, and the band have some other surprises in store in these initial cuts, be it the bright, mid-period Beatles-y tone in the guitar for “The Endless” (it’s actually only about four and a half minutes) or the driving fuzz that takes hold after the snap of snare at 2:59, or the complementary layer of guitar in “Enter” that speaks to broader ambitions sound-wise almost immediately on the part of the band. “Enter” and “The Endless” both start quiet and get louder — the scorch in “Enter” isn’t to be discounted — but they do so in differing ways, and so while one listens to the first two cuts a band is putting out and expects growth in complexity and method, that’s actually just fine, because it’s exactly also what one is left wanting after the two songs are done: more. I’m not saying show up at their house or anything, but maybe give a follow on Bandcamp and keep an eye.

Death Wvrm on Instagram

Death Wvrm on Bandcamp

Mudness, Mudness

Mudness Mudness

Safe to assume some level of self-awareness on the part of Brazilian trio Mudness who, after unveiling their first single “R.I.P.” in 2020 make their self-titled full-length debut with seven songs of hard-burned wizard riffing, the plod of “Gone” (also an advance single, if not by three years) and guitarist Renan Casarin‘s Obornian moans underscoring the disaffected stoner idolatry. Joined by Fernando Dal Bó, whose bass work is crucial to the success of the entire release — can’t roll it if it ain’t heavy — and drummer Pedro Silvano, who adds malevolent swing to the slow march forward of “This End Body,” the centerpiece of the seven-song/35-minute long player. There’s an interlude, “Lamuria,” that could probably have shown up earlier, but one should keep in mind that the sense of onslaught between the likes of “Evil Roots” and “Yellow Imp” is part of the point, and likewise that they’re saving an extra layer of aural grime for “Final Breeze,” where they answer the more individual take of “This End Body” with a reach into melodicism and mark their appeal both in what they might bring to their sound moving forward and the planet-sucked-anyhow despondent crush of this collection. Putting it on the list for the best debuts of 2023. It’s not innovative, or trying to be, but that doesn’t stop it from accomplishing its aims in slow, mostly miserable stride.

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Mudness on Bandcamp

The Space Huns, Legends of the Ancient Tribes

The Space Huns Legends of the Ancient Tribes

I’m not generally one to tell you how to spend your money, but if you take a look over at The Space Huns‘ Bandcamp page (linked below), you’ll see that the Hungarian psych jammers’ entire digital discography is €3.50. Again, not trying to tell you how to live your life, but Legends of the Ancient Tribes, the Szeged-based trio’s new hour-long album, has a song on it called “Goats on a Discount Private Space Shuttle Voyage,” and from where I sit that entitles the three-piece of guitarist Csaba Szőke, bassist Tamás Tikvicki and drummer Mátyás Mozsár to that cash and perhaps more. I could just as easily note “Sgt. Taurus on Coke” at the start of the outing or “The Melancholic Stag Beetle Who Got Inspired by Corporate Motivational Coaches” — or the essential fact that in addition to the best song titles I’ve seen all year (again, and perhaps more), the jams are ace. Chemistry to spare, patience when it’s called for but malleable enough to boogie or nod and sound no less natural doing either, while keeping an exploratory if not improvisational — and it might be that too — character to the material. It’s not a minor undertaking at 59 minutes, but between the added charm of the track names and the grin-inducing nod of “Cosmic Cities of the Giant Snail Kingdom,” they make it easy.

The Space Huns on Facebook

The Space Huns on Bandcamp

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Mondo Drag Announce Fall West Coast Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 20th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

mondo drag

Mondo Drag‘s new LP, Through the Hourglass, is at the top of my review stack. No, not a literal stack. It used to be. Now it’s all on my laptop, it’s not a physical stack and yet somehow it’s bigger. Life don’t make no sense, not ever. Nonetheless, the species persists. I must really like being behind on shit.

Anyhow, the record just came out on Friday, so you know by the time I get there it won’t be the longest delay ever, but my next unbooked day is Oct. 11, so yeah, by the time I get there I’ll probably feel like a bit of a jerk for having let it go so long. If I can sneak it in, I will, but the good news is that even if I’m that late on catching it near the release, I’ll still be ahead of the West Coast tour that the Oakland-based heavy prog rockers will undertake in November. Minor victories. I take what I can get.

The good news here, aside from the fact that the album rules — oops, just had an opinion — is that Mondo Drag are getting out. I do not know that they’ll come east at all in support of Through the Hourglass, but the live activity is welcome, period. Before this past Friday, the last Mondo Drag record was in 2015. Maybe we can slow down a bit before we stick them on the road for six weeks at a time.

In fact, maybe we can slow down generally as well. Maybe it’s okay to be a couple weeks late with a review, or a month. Or 10 years. What, is the record gonna go stale? Not in a month, or I probably wouldn’t want to write about it in the first place. So yeah, I’ll fuggin’ get there when I get there. And Mondo Drag will get everywhere else when they get there. Deep breath is the FOMO killer.

Dates came off socials, which are part of the problem. Sadly also the solution, though they’ve never been used that way to my knowledge:

Mondo Drag tour

Through The Hourglass is out now!!!

So excited to release this album and take the songs out on the road.

Get a copy of the album from @easyriderrecord or pick one up at these shows

September 22 – Mill Valley, CA at @sweetwatermusichall
October 21 – Oakland, CA at @elismilehighclub w/ @deathchantnoise
November 3 – Nevada City at @ribaldbrewing
November 4 – Sacramento at @cafecolonial916
November 9 – Eugene, OR at @johnhenryseugene
November 10 – Vancouver BC at @greenautomusic
November 11 – Seattle, WA at @substation.seattle
November 12 – Portland at @the_high_water_mark

Mondo Drag, Through the Hourglass (2023)

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Blackwater Holylight Announce Month-Long European Headlining Tour; Iron Jinn to Support

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 30th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

Portland-based psych-turned-heavygaze outfit Blackwater Holylight will launch a month of European touring at Desertfest Belgium in the company of Amsterdam’s Iron Jinn. The band presented a comparatively grim thesis with 2021’s Silence/Motion (review here), taking the atmospheric penchant of their first two albums and, in part, using it as a means to explore the drear of its time, not that either the time or the drear are necessarily over.

I finally got to see the band after wanting to since their debut about a year ago at Psycho Las Vegas (review here), and they took to the main stage there with according mastery of their sound and approach. The latest album put them on their first US headlining tour, and they’re headliners internationally now too, their outward growth in sound greeted with a corresponding uptick in listenership. Well met, and all that.

If you didn’t hear it, Iron Jinn‘s 2023 self-titled debut (review here) is a dark-prog smorgasbord, which makes this a good pairing. Plus, Iron Jinn will have just been out in September supporting Alain Johannes and doubling as his backing band, so they should be plenty warmed up.

Blackwater Holylight posted the dates as follows:

Blackwater Holylight tour


Cannot wait to return to so many countries and friends we’ve missed dearly. Please join us and @iron_jinn for a month a mayhem LETS GO!

@doomstarbookings and BWHL present CHAPEL OF ROSES TOUR:
20.10.23 Antwerpen (BE) – Trix / Desertfest
23.10.23 Paris (FR) – Supersonic
24.10.23 Nijmegen (NL) – Merleyn
25.10.23 Eindhoven (NL) – Stroomhuis
26.10.23 Bochum (DE) – Die Trompete
27.10.23 Dresden (DE) – Chemiefabrik / Heavy Psych Sounds Festival
28.10.23 Berlin (DE) – Urban Spree / Heavy Psych Sounds Festival
29.10.23 Malmö (SE) – Plan B
30.10.23 Gothenburg (SE) – Skeppet GBG
31.10.23 Stockholm (SE) – Bar Brooklyn
02.11.23 Helsinki (FI) – Kuudes Linja / Sonic Rites Fall Fest
03.11.23 Tallinn (EE) – Hungr
04.11.23 Riga (LV) – Vagonu Hall
05.11.23 Vilnius (LT) – Narauti
06.11.23 Warsaw (PL) – Chmury
07.11.23 Krakow (PL) – Zascianek
08.11.23 Prague (CZ) – Modra Vopice
09.11.23 Vienna (AT) – Arena
10.11.23 Budapest (HU) – Instant
11.11.23 Ljubljana (SI) – Channel Zero
13.11.23 Munich (DE) – Feierwerk
14.11.23 Zürich (CH) – Klub Komplex
15.11.23 Frankfurt (DE) – Nachtleben
16.11.23 Lille (FR) – La Bulle Café

* Ljubljana date has been changed to Channel Zero.

Blackwater Holylight, Silence/Motion (2021)

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Mondo Drag to Release Through the Hourglass Sept. 15; Title-Track Streaming

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 3rd, 2023 by JJ Koczan

mondo drag

Hard relate to founding Mondo Drag keyboardist and vocalist John Gamiño‘s experience with the soap opera Days of Our Lives. You may or may not be old enough to remember, but for those who maybe came up in the ’80s or the early ’90s, there were no TV age ratings and you pretty much watched what your parents put on. I remember being home from school or on summer break and watching Marlena be possessed by the devil on Days of Our Lives. It aired on NBC, might still, and for that summer and into the next school year, it was on in my house regularly. Like, a lot.

So I feel like maybe I get where he’s coming from with Through the Hourglass, the title of the upcoming Mondo Drag LP that’s their first outing since 2016’s The Occultation of Light (review here), which was half a lifetime and three universes ago. The band toured domestically and internationally for that release, and one hopes they’ll get back out again as they mark this awaited return.

They’re streaming the title-track now in its resonant classic psych-prog glory, and the record is available to order as per the PR wire below, which had the following to say:

mondo drag through the hourglass

MONDO DRAG – Through the Hourglass

Preorder & listen:

It’s been nearly eight years since the last Mondo Drag album came out. In that time, the Bay Area psych-prog band toured the US and Europe, performed at major festivals and—once again—reformed their rhythm section. But in the context of the band’s nearly two-decade existence, this period may have been the most fraught. Vocalist and keyboardist John Gamiño lost friends and family members. Meanwhile, humanity suffered the throes of a global pandemic.

“It was a dark chapter,” he recalls. “I was going through a lot of stuff personally—there’s been a lot of death, loss of family members, and grief. Plus, the band was inactive. It felt like time was slipping away from me. I felt like I was wasting my opportunities. I felt like I wasn’t participating in my story as much as I could have.”

This feeling of time slipping away is the prevailing theme on Mondo Drag’s new album, Through the Hourglass. “For me, Through the Hourglass really encompasses the quarantine/pandemic years,” Gamiño says. “But in a way that includes a couple of years before that for us, because the band was stagnant during that time. Living with that was really impactful on our daily lives. So, the album is reflective. It’s looking at time—past, present, future.”

Luckily, Mondo Drag emerged from this dour period reborn. Freshly energized by bassist Conor Riley (formerly of San Diego psych squad Astra, currently of Birth), who joined in 2018, and drummer Jimmy Perez, who joined in 2022, Gamiño and guitarists Jake Sheley and Nolan Girard have triumphed over the seemingly inexorable pull of time’s passage.

“Astra was the one contemporary band that we felt was on the same tip as us,” Gamiño says. “We saw the similarities and felt the same vibe. Conor moved to San Francisco in 2018 and heard we were looking for a bassist, so we got in touch. For us, it was like, ‘The synth player from Astra wants to play bass for us?’ We couldn’t think of anybody more perfect.”

Perez, meanwhile, brings deep psych-prog knowledge and impeccable skill. “He’s an amazing drummer, and he allowed us to do what we’ve been trying to do,” Gamiño says. “Before he came along, it was like, ‘Where are the drummers who like psych and prog and can play dynamically?’ We ended up trying out metal drummers, but they couldn’t swing. Jimmy was the final piece of the puzzle.”

The result is a dazzling and often plaintive rumination on the hours, days, and years—not to mention experiences—that comprise a lifetime. Two-part opener “Burning Daylight” smolders with melancholy, offering a whirl of multi-colored and hallucinatory imagery. “It’s about the California wildfires and a feeling of helplessness,” Gamiño explains. “There’s a juxtaposition between the dark lyricism and upbeat music which is meant to imply a sort of delusional state—and choosing our own delusion to overcome the crushing despair of reality.”

Eleven-minute centerpiece “Passages” is a sprawling prog-rock adventure, festooned with lofty guitar melodies, sweeping organ flourishes and a delicately finger-picked outro. But the heaviest song, thematically speaking, might be the mournful and hypnotic “Death in Spring,” which borrows its title from the like-named Catalan novel.

“In the novel, people are placed inside opened trees and their mouths filled with cement before they die to prevent their souls from escaping,” Gamiño explains. “The song is about three people I knew who lost their lives to gun violence, addiction, and mental health. It’s my way of cementing their souls in song form.”

Mondo Drag fans might be surprised by this blend of hard reality with literary surrealism, but it’s a perfect example of how the last several years have impacted Mondo Drag—and Gamiño in particular. “On all of our previous albums, the lyrical content is more psychedelic and out there,” he acknowledges. “This is the most personal stuff I’ve ever done, so I’m definitely feeling vulnerable on this one.”

The title Through the Hourglass comes from the opening of the long-running soap opera Days of Our Lives. It’s less inspired by a predilection for daytime TV than Gamiño’s connection with his late mother, who passed during the time since the last album. “I used to watch Days of Our Lives with her everyday growing up,” he explains. “The song is kind of a reinterpretation of the theme song, although it’s different enough that probably no one will catch it. Now that I’m getting older, I like to put these little Easter eggs in the songs for myself and for archival purposes—for memories.”

Through the Hourglass was tracked at El Studio in San Francisco, with an additional ten days of recording at the band’s rehearsal space, which doubles as a hybrid analog-digital recording studio. The album was engineered and mixed by Phil Becker, drummer of space-punk mainstays Pins Of Light. “We’re still here,” Gamiño says. “We’ve been in the studio working on our craft and honing our skills. Now we’re re-emerging for the next stage of our life cycle.”

Mondo Drag, “Through the Hourglass”

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Wizard Rifle Change Name to Psychic Trash; Sign to RidingEasy Records

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 30th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

Usually a band changes its name maybe before their first record, maybe after if something isn’t working for them or if their sound and mission changes dramatically over time. But words like ‘usually’ are less applicable when it comes to quirk-bent Oregonian two-piece Wizard Rifle, who made their debut in 2012 and shall henceforth and forever be known as Psychic Trash.

Why the name change? Well, maybe they pushed Wizard Rifle as far as it could go. Pretty much anything that’s a reminder guns exist, in America at least, is a reminder of mass shootings, and maybe that’s part of it too. But Wizard Rifle‘s self-titled album came out in 2019 and their next one will be their first under the new banner as well as their first for RidingEasy Records, which has signed the rebooted duo.

I (finally) got to see Wizard Rifle in April (review here), and my primary takeaway from the experience was that the band are probably better than people know. They call the change an evolution below instead of a re-branding, and perhaps there’s a corresponding shift in sound and perhaps there isn’t, but who the hell knows? Maybe the name-change lets them catch people off-guard and blow a few more minds than they might otherwise. Psychic Trash‘s debut sounds pretty exciting. Another Wizard Rifle album seems like something that might make you feel like you already missed the boat on the band.

Nathan Carson of Nanotear Booking, which long served as Wizard Rifle‘s booking agency and will do likewise for Psychic Trash, posted the following:

psychic trash

Very excited to have PSYCHIC TRASH on the Nanotear roster. You can hear the first track from their new album on the Riding Easy Records mixtape dropping this Friday… in the meantime, please give them a like/add on FB & IG & TikTok.


From the basement to the main stage Max and Sam have been tearing their way through the American rock underground for 13 years dropping albums, touring relentlessly, and rubbing elbows on the festival circuit.

Now they have evolved into a wilder more raging project Psychic Trash.

In partnership with RidingEasy Records and Nanotear Booking (the team that brought you Monolord, Blackwater Holylight, and Early Moods), Psychic Trash is ready to unleash its self-titled debut later this year, and shower the earth with a rain of sonic debris, vocal harmonies, massive chords, rumbling drums, and epic vistas of sound.

Fans of Melvins, Lightning Bolt, Osees, Sonic Youth and more, take note! It’s time to dig in to Psychic Trash!

Wizard Rifle, Wizard Rifle (2019)

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