Days of Rona: Nicholas Burks of War Cloud

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

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

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

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

war cloud nicholas burks (Photo by Bambi Guthrie Photography)

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

How are you dealing with this crisis as a band?

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

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

Have you had to rework plans at all?

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

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

How is everyone’s health so far?

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

What are the quarantine/isolation rules where you are?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Days of Rona: Gary Wendt of The Ghost Next Door

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

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

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

Thanks to all who participate. — JJ Koczan

gary wendt THE GHOST NEXT DOOR

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

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

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

No one in our camp is ill, thankfully.

What are the quarantine/isolation rules where you are?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not helpful at all.

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

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

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Quarterly Review: Slift, IIVII, Coogans Bluff, Rough Spells, Goblinsmoker, Homecoming, Lemurian Folk Songs, Ritual King, Sunflowers, Maya Mountains

Posted in Reviews on March 26th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

Thursday. Everyone doing well? Healthy? Kicking ass? Working from home? There seems to be a lot of that going around, at least among the lucky. New Jersey, where I live, is on lockdown with non-essential businesses shuttered, roads largely empty and all that. It can be grim and apocalyptic feeling, but I’m finding this Quarterly Review to be pretty therapeutic or at least helpfully distracting at a moment when I very much need something to be that. I hope that if you’re reading this, whether you’ve been following along or not, it’s done or can do the same for you if that’s what you need. I’ll leave it at that.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Slift, Ummon

slift ummon

The second album from French space/psych trio Slift is a 72-minute blowout echoshred epic — too aware not to be prog but too cosmic not to be space rock. Delivered through Stolen Body Records and Vicious Circle, Ummon is not only long, it speaks to a longer term. It’s not an album for this year, or for this decade, or for any other decade, for that matter. It’s for the ongoing fluid now. You want to lose yourself in the depths of buzz and dreamy synth? Yeah, you can do that. You want to dig into the underlying punk and maybe a bit of Elder influence in the vocal bark and lead guitar shimmer of “Thousand Helmets of Gold?” Well hell’s bells, do that. The mega-sprawling 2LP is a gorgeous blast of distortion, backed by jazzy, organic drum wud-dum-tap and the bass, oh, the bass; the stuff of low end sensory displacement. Amid swirls and casts of melodic light in “Dark Was Space, Cold Were the Stars,” Slift dilate universal energy and push beyond the noise wash reaches of “Son Dong’s Cavern” and through the final build, liftoff and roll of 13-minute closer “Lions, Tigers and Bears” with the deft touch of those dancing on prior conceptions. We’d be lucky to have Ummon as the shape of space rock to come.

Slift on Thee Facebooks

Stolen Body Records store

Vicious Circle Records store

 

IIVII, Grinding Teeth/Zero Sleep

Two LPs telling two different stories released at the same time, Grinding Teeth/Zero Sleep (on Consouling Sounds) brings Josh Graham‘s aural storytelling to new cinematic reaches. The composer, guitarist, synthesist, programmer, visual artist, etc., is joined along the way by the likes of Jo Quail, Ben Weinman (ex-The Dillinger Escape Plan), Dana Schecter (Insect Ark), Sarah Pendleton (ex-SubRosa) and Kim Thayil (Soundgarden) — among others — but across about 90 minutes of fluidity, Graham/IIVII soundtracks two narratives through alternatingly vast and crushing drone. The latter work is actually an adaptation from a short sci-fi film about, yes, humanity losing its ability to sleep — I feel you on that one — but the former, which tells a kind of meth-fueled story of love and death, brings due chaos and heft to go with its massive synthesized scope. Josh Graham wants to score your movie. You should let him. And you should pay him well. And you should let him design the poster. And you should pay him well for that too. End of story.

IIVII on Thee Facebooks

Consouling Sounds store

 

Coogans Bluff, Metronopolis

coogans bluff metronopolis

Following the initial sax-laden prog-rock burst and chase that is opener “Gadfly,” Berlin’s Coogans Bluff bring a ’70s pastoralia to “Sincerely Yours,” and that atmosphere ends up staying with Metronopolis — their fifth album — for the duration, no matter where else they might steer the sound. And they do steer the sound. Sax returns (as it will) in the jabbing “Zephyr,” a manic shred taking hold in the second half accompanied by no-less-manic bass, and “Creature of the Light” reimagines pop rock of the original vinyl era in the image of its own weirdness, undeniably rock but also something more. Organ-inclusive highlight “Soft Focus” doesn’t so much touch on psychedelics as dunk its head under their warm waters, and “The Turn I” brings an almost Beatlesian horn arrangement to fruition ahead of the closer “The Turn II.” But in that finale, and in “Hit and Run,” and way back in “Sincerely Yours,” Coogans Bluff hold that Southern-style in their back pocket as one of several of Metronopolis‘ recurring themes, and it becomes one more element among the many at their disposal.

Coogans Bluff on Thee Facebooks

Noisolution store

 

Rough Spells, Ruins at Midday

rough spells ruins at midday

An underlying current of social commentary comes coated in Rough Spells‘ mysticism on Ruins at Midday, the Toronto unit’s second LP. Recorded by Ian Blurton and presented by Fuzzed and Buzzed and DHU Records, the eight-track LP has, as the lyrics of “Chance Magic” say, “No bad intentions.” Indeed, it seems geared only toward eliciting your participation in its ceremony of classic groove, hooks and melodies, even the mellow “Die Before You Die” presenting an atmosphere that’s heavy but still melodic and accessible. “Grise Fiord” addresses Canada’s history of mistreating its native population, while “Pay Your Dues” pits guitar and vocal harmonics against each other in a shove of proto-metallic energy to rush momentum through side B and into the closing pair of the swaggering “Nothing Left” and the title-track, which is the longest single cut at five minutes, but still keeps its songwriting taut with no time to spare for indulgences. In this, and on several fronts, Ruins at Midday basks in multifaceted righteousness.

Rough Spells on Thee Facebooks

Fuzzed and Buzzed store

DHU Records store

 

Goblinsmoker, A Throne in Haze, A World Ablaze

goblinsmoker a throne in haze a world ablaze

Upside the head extreme sludgeoning! UK trio Goblinsmoker take on the more vicious and brutal end of sludge with the stench of death on A Throne in Haze, A World Ablaze (on Sludgelord Records), calling to mind the weedian punishment of Belzebong and others of their decrepit ilk. Offered as part two of a trilogy, A Throne in Haze, A World Ablaze is comprised of three tracks running a caustic 26 minutes thick enough such that even its faster parts feel slow, a churning volatility coming to the crash of “Smoked in Darkness” at the outset only to grow more menacing in the lurch of centerpiece “Let Them Rot” — which of course shifts into blastbeats later on — and falling apart into noise and echoing residual feedback after the last crashes of “The Forest Mourns” recede. Beautifully disgusting, the release reportedly furthers the story of the Toad King depicted on its cover and for which the band’s prior 2018 EP was named, and so be it. The lyrics, largely indecipherable in screams, are vague enough that if you’re not caught up, you’ll be fine. Except you won’t be fine. You’ll be dead. But it’ll be awesome.

Goblinsmoker on Thee Facebooks

Sludgelord Records on Bandcamp

 

Homecoming, LP01

homecoming lp01

Progressive metal underpins French trio Homecoming‘s aptly-titled first record, LP01, with the guitars of second cut “Rivers of Crystal” leading the way through a meandering quiet part and subsequent rhythmic figure that reminds of later Opeth, though there’s still a strong heavy rock presence in their tones and grooves generally. It’s an interesting combination, and all the more so because I think part of what’s giving off such a metal vibe is the snare sound. You don’t normally think of a snare drum determining that kind of thing, but here we are. Certainly the vocal arrangements between gruff melodies, backing screams and growls, etc., the odd bit of blastbeating here and there, bring it all into line as well — LP01 is very much the kind of album that would title its six-minute instrumental centerpiece “Interlude” — but the intricacy in how the nine-minute “Return” develops and the harmonies that emerge early in closer “Five” tell the tale clearly of Homecoming‘s ambitions as they move forward from this already-ambitious debut.

Homecoming on Thee Facebooks

Homecoming on Bandcamp

 

Lemurian Folk Songs, Logos

lemurian folk songs logos

Tracked in the same sessions as the Budapest outfit’s 2019 album, Ima (review here), it should not come as a major surprise that the six-track/49-minute Logos from Lemurian Folk Songs follows a not entirely dissimilar course, bringing together dream-drift of tones and melodies with subtle but coherent rhythmic motion in a fashion not necessarily revolutionary for heavy psych, but certainly well done and engaging across its tracks. The tones of guitar and bass offer a warmth rivaled only by the echoing vocals on opener/longest cut (immediate points) “Logos,” and the shimmering “Sierra Tejada” and progressively building “Calcination” follow that pattern while adding a drift that is both of heavy psych and outside of it in terms of the character of how it’s played. None of the last three tracks is less than eight minutes long — closer “Firelake” tops nine in a mirror to “Logos” at the outset, but if that’s the band pushing further out I hear, then yes, I want to go along for that trip.

Lemurian Folk Songs on Thee Facebooks

Para Hobo Records on Bandcamp

 

Ritual King, Ritual King

ritual king ritual king

Progressive heavy rockers Ritual King display a striking amount of grace and patience across their Ripple Music-issued self-titled long-player. Tapping modern influences like Elder and bringing their own sense of melodic nuance to the proceedings across a tightly-constructed seven songs and 42 minutes, the three-piece of vocalist/guitarist Jordan Leppitt, bassist Dan Godwin — whose tone is every bit worthy of gotta-hear-it classification — and drummer/backing vocalist Gareth Hodges string together linear movements in “Headspace” and “Dead Roads” that flow one into the next, return at unexpected moments or don’t, and follow a direction not so much to the next chorus but to the next statement the band want to make, whatever that might be. “Restrain” begins with a sweet proggy soundscape and unfolds two verses over a swaying riff, then is gone, where at the outset, “Valleys” offers grandeur the likes of which few bands would dare to embody on their third or fourth records, let alone their first. Easily one of 2020’s best debuts.

Ritual King on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

 

Sunflowers, Endless Voyage

sunflowers endless voyage

You know what? Never mind. You ain’t weird enough for this shit. Nobody’s weird enough for this shit. I have a hard time believing the two souls from Portugal who made it are weird enough for this shit. Think I’m wrong? Think you’re up for it and you’re gonna put on SunflowersEndless Voyage and be like, “oh yeah, turns out mega-extreme krautrock blasted into outer space was my wavelength all along?” Cool. Bandcamp player’s right there. Have at it. I dare you.

Sunflowers on Thee Facebooks

Stolen Body Records store

 

Maya Mountains, Era

maya mountains era

Italian heavy rockers Maya Mountains formed in 2005 and issued their debut album, Hash and Pornography, through Go Down Records in 2008. Era, which follows a narrative about the title-character whose name is given in lead cut “Enrique Dominguez,” who apparently travels through space after being lost in the desert — as one does — and on that basis alone is clearly a more complex offering than its predecessor. As to where Maya Mountains have been all the time in between records — here and there, in other bands, etc. But Era, at 10 tracks and 44 minutes, is the summation of five years of work on their part and its blend of scope and straight-ahead heavy riffing is welcome in its more heads-down moments like “Vibromatic” or in the purposefully weirder finale “El Toro” later on. Something like a second debut for the band after being away for so long, Era at very least marks the beginning of a new one for them, and one hopes it continues in perhaps more productive fashion than the last.

Maya Mountains on Thee Facebooks

Go Down Records store

 

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

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

quarterly review

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

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Khemmis, Doomed Heavy Metal

khemmis doomed heavy metal

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

Khemmis on Thee Facebooks

20 Buck Spin store

Nuclear Blast Records store

 

Mutant Flesh, Evil Eye

mutant flesh evil eye

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

Mutant Flesh on Thee Facebooks

Mutant Flesh on Bandcamp

 

War Cloud, Earhammer Sessions

war cloud earhammer sessions

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

War Cloud on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music website

 

Void of Sleep, Metaphora

Void of Sleep Metaphora

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

Void of Sleep on Thee Facebooks

Aural Music store

 

Pretty Lightning, Jangle Bowls

pretty lightning jangle bowls

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

Pretty Lightning on Thee Facebooks

Fuzz Club Records store

 

Rosy Finch, Scarlet

rosy finch scarlet

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

Rosy Finch on Thee Facebooks

Lay Bare Recordings store

 

Ghost Spawn, The Haunting Continuum

Ghost Spawn The Haunting Continuum

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

Ghost Spawn on Thee Facebooks

Ghost Spawn on Bandcamp

 

Agrabatti, Beyond the Sun

agrabatti beyond the sun

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

Agrabatti on Thee Facebooks

Agrabatti on Bandcamp

 

Dead Sacraments, Celestial Throne

Dead Sacraments Celestial Throne

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

Dead Sacraments on Thee Facebooks

Dead Sacraments on Bandcamp

 

Smokemaster, Smokemaster

smokemaster smokemaster

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

Smokemaster on Thee Facebooks

Tonzonen Records store

 

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Horseburner Postpone European Tour Plans

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 13th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

You don’t need me to tell you these are uncertain times, but kudos to West Virginia’s Horseburner for being smart enough to pull the plug on what would’ve been a nightmare trip to Europe instead of going over there and being thoroughly screwed without shows or money, etc., because that’s the kind of crap that breaks up good bands. So better they put off the tour than do it wrong.

And hey, if you want to take something positive from the story below — it is quite a story — at least it’s not just COVID-19 that’s their reason. Apparently whoever was booking their tour — they seem purposefully not to name said individual or entity — just didn’t do it. That’s a rough one. They were set to play Ripplefest Cologne with a bunch of other good bands and I assume like the rest of existence that’s up in the air now as to whether it’s even happening, but yeah. From how they tell the tale, it’s easy to see why they’re waiting. It’s the right call.

Here’s what they have to say:

HORSEBURNER

When this band started touring, our goal was to make it over to Europe within 5 years. We’ve been actively touring since 2011. If you know us, if you’ve followed us, you know some of the struggles we’ve had. Life gets in the way of keeping a band together. And the older you get, the more difficult it is. People’s goals change. Their ideals change. To be honest, I think most people would call us idiots for sinking as much of ourselves for so long into a band that is still touring and playing some empty rooms. The truth is we are total idiots who believe too much in what we’re doing to give up. But we’re lucky that we’ve found like minded idiots along the way, like Seth and Matt and and Rob and Scott and Mike and Chad, etc, who share this vision and tenacity. So even though we’ve had to postpone goals along the way, we’ve continually refused to give up. And because of that refusal to give up, we finally got our opportunity to take our music overseas this year.

We now have the unfortunate duty to announce that we will not be playing Ripple Fest in Cologne, Germany later this month. I really don’t want people to think we just easily threw in the towel, so here’s what we’ve gone up against in the past few months. Hope you’re ready to get a sneak peak into the struggles of a DIY band.

Due to a laundry list of reasons that are not in the slightest bit his fault, we found out Seth was not going to be able to go. This was heartbreaking because Seth has worked his tail off for this band, and he deserves to have all the amazing experiences a tour like this should bring. But as sad as we were, we are lucky to have excellent friends. Scott from Bridesmaid was going to fill in for the tour just as he has many times in the past. Then one day Scott called with some potential terrible news and suddenly we didn’t know if he could go either. Strike two. After a few weeks of back and forth, some fingers crossed, and lots of positive vibes, Scott called and said everything was a go. Only now, we had a different problem. We only had one show (Ripple Fest).

The person who was hired to book the tour… didn’t. We were scheduled to be overseas for nearly three weeks, hoping to play as many shows as possible. As amazing as it would be to simply go explore Europe, we were going to work, not vacation. So as of two weeks ago, we had one show. The smart thing to do would have been to cancel as soon as we found out there was no tour. But we had already bought plane tickets and we’re not smart. So Ripple and Blues Funeral rallied the troops, and we had an amazing crew of true brothers and sisters go into hyperdrive, and as of yesterday, we had nine shows. Are we the type of people who will fly to a separate continent to play a handful of shows that have not even been advertised with insane drives due to emergency routing? Truthfully, yes. Yes we are. But now on top of all of this, some European countries are now closing off their borders and encouraging people to avoid public gatherings. So the show that came together in Italy was going to be canceled. And it really looks like other countries are going to be following suit in the coming weeks. There are too many uncertainties and too much risk of shows getting canceled last minute, and we’d still be sunk for thousands and thousands of dollars for renting gear and a van for the tour. Or even worse, getting stuck quarantined in a foreign country and not able to get home, not able to get back to our families or our jobs after the tour, and any other awful situation you can imagine. So here we are.

I don’t think any of us have ever been this disappointed. But we’re doing what we always do, we’re looking to the future. This is not the end of the road, this is just one more obstacle we’re going to overcome. We’re going to reschedule this tour, and as soon as we have news, we’re going to share it with you.

Lastly, we want to send our deepest gratitude to the folks who banded together over the last couple weeks and put together what should have been an amazing time. All our love to Buddy from Great Electric Quest and Mikaela from Loitsu Booking who did the bulk of the work the last couple weeks, Todd from Ripple and Jadd from Blues Funeral, Matt Bacon, Electric Avenue Music, Max from Plainride, Doza from Lightning Born, Tom from 20 Watt Tombstone, Nick from Stonecutters, and anyone else who tried to help us out. Lastly, to Howling Giant. Our plans for world domination will have to wait a few months, but we love you dudes and we’ll make this work eventually.

As always, we’ll see you on the road… in the US. Stay dirty.

Horseburner:
Adam Nohe – Drums/Vocals
Jack Thomas – Guitar/Vocals
Matt Strobel – Guitar
Seth Bostick – Bass

https://www.horseburner.com/
https://www.facebook.com/Horseburner/
https://horseburner.bandcamp.com/
https://www.instagram.com/horseburner/
https://www.facebook.com/theripplemusic/
https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/
http://www.ripple-music.com/

Horseburner, The Thief (2019)

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Ripple Music Announce 10-Year Anniversary Party in San Francisco

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 5th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

ripple music 10th anniversary party banner

10 years of Ripple Music is nothing to sneeze at. I could rattle off a list of albums they’ve issued over that time, but frankly, I think you’re probably already doing that in your head. Bands like Mos Generator, Mothership, Wo Fat, from Stubb to Salem’s Bend, Ape Machine to Zed, they’ve shown a rare consistency of mission and quality that’s helped establish them as the standard bearers of straight-ahead heavy.

They’ll do it up in grand fashion in San Francisco at Brick and Mortar for two nights on June 12 and 13. It’s the release show for the new Wino album, the original lineup of Mos Generator is reuniting to play Nomads, The Watchers are celebrating an upcoming live release, and Mothership and Wo Fat are both rolling in from Texas to headline the second night. That’s a goddamn party, is what it is. And of course there’s more, but if you’re not gonna be there, I wouldn’t want to make you sad by continuing on.

Here’s everything:

ripple music 10th anniversary party

A Decade of Doom: Ripple Music Ten Year Anniversary Party – June 12 & 13

Brick & Mortar Music Hall – 1710 Mission St, San Francisco, California

Ripple Music is celebrating a full Decade of some of the best Stoner, Doom and Heavy Psych on the planet and you’re invited! There’s so much going on here it’s hard to put it all into words, but how’s:

1) The reunion of the original Mos Generator to play their Ripple release “Nomads” in its entirety
2) Wino album release party for the legend’s new acoustic LP
3) The Watchers release party for their new Live recording, High and Live
4) Some of Ripple’s best and heaviest bands
5) Exclusive sneak peek of a clip from the upcoming animated full-length Planet of Doom movie, with a meet and greet with the creators
6) Entire event MC’d by Chasta from 107.7 The Bone!
7) Exclusive Ripple, Band, and Planet of Doom merch
8) Charity auctions of signed drumheads,
9) special VIP entry (only 10 per night) which includes attendance at sound check, 2 posters and exclusive merch, and tons more planned!

FREE Limited Edition 10- ear anniversary compilation CD given to every ticket holder at the door!

A once in a lifetime event.

Friday
Mos Generator (Nomads album in it’s entirety)
Wino (album release show)
Ape Machine
The Watchers (album release show)
Blackwulf
The Ghost Next Door

Saturday
Mothership (exclusive California Appearance)
Wo Fat (exclusive California Appearance)
ZED
Salem’s Bend
Lowcaster
Plainride (from Germany)

Both nights will feature the world-premiere clip from the upcoming, full length animated feature film Planet of Doom. Meet the creators.

TICKETS INCLUDING SPECIAL VIP PASSES AVAILABLE AT: https://www.ticketweb.com/event/a-decade-of-doom-ripple-brick-and-mortar-music-hall-tickets/10489655?pl=brickmortarshp

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

Mos Generator, Nomads (2012)

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Curse the Son Finish Work on Excruciation; Album out in June on Ripple Music

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 2nd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Hamden, Connecticut, tonal weightlifters Curse the Son aren’t kidding when they talk about branching out in terms of sound on their new album, Excruciation. Though the intervening years since 2016’s Isolator (review here) have seen them part ways with drummer Michael Petrucci, it’s clear that guitarist/vocalist Ron Vanacore and bassist/vocalist Brendan Keefe have solidified as a more dynamic team in terms of writing, with the latter picking up more duties in terms of joining creative vocal arrangements calling to mind Dirt-era Alice in Chains in call-and-response fashion, while Robert Ives, making his first appearance with the band, seems to immediately find his place holding the groove that has been at the core of the band since Vanacore founded it now some obscure number of years ago.

I haven’t heard the full record yet, I’m sad to say, but what I’ve had the chance to dig into finds Curse the Son a richer, more complex band who haven’t at all let go of the heft in their sound. Look out for “Worry Garden” and “Novembre.”

Vanacore was kind enough to give some comment on finishing work on the album below. It’s out in June on Ripple Music:

curse the son

Ron Vanacore on Excruciation:

“The past few years have certainly been extremely difficult for our band. Between what appeared to be endless drummer changes, individual tragedies, and of course, Brendan‘s very serious motorcycle accident… We had been put to the test.

I am proud to say that we rose above all of that to create what is possibly our heaviest and certainly our most diverse and creative record to date.

The record is titled Excruciation and offers a glimpse into our lives (particularly Brendan’s) from November 2017-2018.

I wrote songs, Brendan wrote songs and we also collaborated on a few. Brendan sings lead on a song as well as playing some lead guitar!

Recording began at Dirt Floor studios in August 2019. We completed mixing in January 2020. We chose to really utilize everything the studio had to offer us as well as giving Eric Lichter a much larger role as producer. We really wanted to push the envelope and boundaries of the genre.

The record will be released in early June on Ripple Music. (Vinyl, CD, Digital) followed by as many shows as we can play!”

Curse the Son are:
Ron Vanacore – Guitars & Vocals
Brendan Keefe – Bass & Vocals
Robert Ives – Drums

https://www.facebook.com/cursetheson/
https://cursetheson.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/theripplemusic/
ripplemusic.bandcamp.com
http://www.ripple-music.com/

Curse the Son, Isolator (2016)

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Cities of Mars Announce April/May European Touring

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 28th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

cities of mars

It’s a pretty simple story with this one so I’ll try to keep it simple accordingly. Good band puts out good record, then a little while later, goes on a tour to support it. Taa-daa! That’s what it really comes down to. The band in this case are Cities of Mars from the creative hotbed that is Gothenburg, Sweden. The record was 2019’s The Horologist (review here), which served double-duty as their label debut for Ripple Music. And the tour — which is by no means their first — is an upcoming 13-day run through Sweden, Denmark, Germany, France, Belgium and Norway that they’ll undertake to spread their sci-fi gospel of time-travel, cosmonaut idolatry and secrets held by the Martian underground.

See? Simple story.

Just not maybe in terms of the actual story.

Always dig seeing what these guys are up to, and if you need a refresher on The Horologist, well, there just happens to be a Bandcamp stream at the bottom of this post. How about that?

Poster rules:

cities of mars 2020 tour

Cities of Mars Spring 2020 tour!

By some stunning art of Potsdam, Germany-based artist Simon Schürmann (Instagram @boarddecor) comes tour artwork for Swedish sci-fi-doomers Cities of Mars who will be back on the road again in April 2020. For the fifth time, the riff-heavy stories of the KGB cosmonaut Nadia and ancient, solar system-spanning conspiracies of old will be delivered on stages all over Europe. A few familiar hunting grounds will be covered, as well as a few new cities and venues.

With the critically acclaimed albums The Horologist (Ripple Music) and Temporal Rifts (Argonauta Records) released and live skills honed on 70+ gigs all over the EU and UK, this tour will be thirteen days of heaviness!

April 22 Plan B, Malmö Sweden
April 23 Lygtens Kro, Copenhagen Denmark
April 24 Hafermarkt, Flensburg Germany
April 25 Archiv, Potsdam Germany
April 26 Le Grillen, Colmar France (w DOOL)
April 27 Rock’n Eat, Lyon France
April 28 Mondo Bizarro, Rennes France
April 29 (still uncertain venue) Lille France
April 30 Den Drummer, Ghent Belgium
May 1st MTS Records, Oldenburg Germany
May 2 Dimman Musikfest, Helsingborg Sweden (w Dirt Forge)
May 8 Revolver, Oslo, Norway
May 9 Dirty Deeds, Gothenburg Sweden

CITIES OF MARS:
Danne Palm – Bass, Vocals
Christoffer Norén – Guitar, Vocals
Johan Küchler – Drums, Vocals

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

Cities of Mars, The Horologist (2019)

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