Year of the Cobra Announce West Coast Live Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 25th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

Think maybe we’ll get some new Year of the Cobra soon? That’d be cool. Their last record, 2019’s Ash and Dust (review here), was their best yet, and they went on tour in Europe to support its release through Prophecy Productions. The Seattle duo are no strangers to road work, but even if their thinking in that regard hasn’t changed, the world in which they’re operating has. Still, it’s more than welcome to see them getting once more into the fray even if I won’t actually get to see them perform. Hey, maybe you will. Or a couple other lucky Sacramento types. Who knows?

They’re calling it a mini-tour, which by their standard is fair enough, but one way or the other it’s select dates along the West Coast — a Seattle show at El Corazon tucked in amid a couple travel weekends — and maybe that’s an initial putting-out of feelers to see what the situation is in venues, with humans, and so on. Again, legit. One imagines that the last year-plus has left Year of the Cobra particularly antsy to play, since it’s kind of second nature to them — or was, anyhow. Whatever. Get your vaccine and go see bands and buy shirts and records and all that stuff. I hope these gigs go well and Year of the Cobra do more soon. If they wanna add a Parsippany, New Jersey, date anytime, I’ll book the Mt. Tabor Firehouse and invite a couple friends (note: I don’t really have friends). We can get Tabor Pizza and beers from Hoover’s.

Until then:

year of the cobra shows

We’ve all weathered the storm, now let’s party extra hard! We’ve missed you, come out to a show and say hi! More shows to announce soon!

8/13 – Bremerton, WA. – The Manette Saloon
8/20 – Nevada City, CA. – The Brick
8/21 – San Francisco, CA. Bottom of the Hill
8/22 – Sacramento, CA. – Holy Diver
8/27 – Seattle, WA. – El Corazon
9/10 – Bellingham, WA. – The Shakedown
9/11 – Portland, OR. – The High Water Mark

Year of the Cobra, Ash and Dust (2019)

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Friday Full-Length: Akimbo, Jersey Shores

Posted in Bootleg Theater on June 4th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

By the time Akimbo got around to releasing 2008’s Jersey Shores, their reputation preceded them among those who knew them at all. Shored up by a stretch of outings that included 2003’s Elephantine, 2004’s City of the Stars, 2006’s Forging Steel and Laying Stone and 2007’s Navigating the Bronze after their 2002 debut, Harshing Your Mellow, the Seattle-based noise trio had worked with Amalagate Records and tastemaking imprints like Seventh Rule Recordings and Alternative Tentacles before signing to Neurot Recordings for what would be a one-off and their sixth full-length. And though their work happened in quick succession to this point — Akimbo wanted little for intensity on any level throughout their time together; their ethic, ‘Live to Crush’ (see also: ‘eat beer, shit riffs’) would become the title of their final ode to fuckall in 2013 — their underpinning in hard punk was never so fleshed out as on this narrative six-track/46-minute offering.

The inspiration behind Jersey Shores was/is duly violent. In the beach town of Matawan, New Jersey, in early July 1916, there were a series of five shark attacks that, aside from inspiring Jaws and much modern pop culture fear of Great Whites, were the story of the summer along the Eastern Seaboard. As Akimbo put it in the memorable first line of the album, “Don’t forget the tides” — something you might say to somebody going out for a quick swim in the Atlantic, though subtly ominous as well. In that song, titled “Matawan,” it’s Charles Vansant, and he and subsequent victims Charles Bruder and Lester Stillwell, are duly memorialized in the tracks “Bruder Vansant” — fair enough to combine the Charleses — and “Lester Stillwell,” which round out side A.

In addition to the theme around which the material is based — side B pulls back from the direct storytelling with “Rogue,” the career-highlight-riff “Great White Bull” and the 12-minute closing title-track — what Jersey Shores does better than the vast majority of albums across various styles that try the same thing is to embody the ocean. Drummer Nat Damm‘s work is presented with due bombast in the Chris Evans production, and there’s that sense of the room that comes through in the best of West Coast noise when it’s organically delivered, and in the interplay between the basslines of Jon Weisnewski and the guitar of Aaron Walters, there’s a blend of bounce and drift that comes through in the meandering beginning of “Matawan” that serves as an atmospheric foundation for everything that follows. akimbo jersey shoresOf course there’s plenty of crush (they were living for it, remember) in that track and the sinister-sounding “Bruder Vansant” and the how-to-do-payoff-right 11-minute course of “Lester Stillwell,” not to mention the back half of the album, but the setting is the shore and the summertime, and Akimbo manage to keep hold of that throughout the entire procession of brash, weighted pummel that ensues.

“Lester Stillwell” might be the broadest reach Akimbo put forth during their time together, building from silence to low-end-led punk thrust to maddeningly tense chaos to gallop and ripper guitar soloing to its ultimate crashout and a mournful, minimalist stretch of bass and guitar in its last minute. On CD, the punch that follows with the onset of “Rogue” isn’t to be discounted, and it comes largely from Weisnewski‘s bass while the guitar freaks out in a way that’s somehow post-Soundgarden but not at all that thing at the same time. I honestly don’t even know why I’m making that comparison but it’s strong Kim Thayil in my head so I’m rolling with it. Either way, “Rogue” is suitably bruising, but in its mounting volume, one still finds the central rhythmic crux of Jersey Shores as established in “Matawan,” and as it caps with distorted lumber, the shift into the initial crashes and ultimate fuzz assault of “Great White Bull” is emblematic of the purposefulness Akimbo have been working with all along.

It is not a riff easily forgotten. “Great White Bull” thrashes in the water, offering grim crescendo for the record as a whole across just four minutes of maximum-go shove, ending with the line “Mercy has no home among the waves,” which is and feels very much like the conclusion of the narrative, even if the title-track is still to follow. Instrumental and built up like so much of Jersey Shores before it from a relatively subdued start — a comedown well earned after “Great White Bull” — “Jersey Shores” offers more choice guitar and bass work in its early going and quiet further in somewhat meandering, improv-feeling art-rock fashion before wiping the slate at 4:59 with a full-bodied kick of a lumbering riff, giving methodical answer to the album’s most chaotic moments en route to a finish of residual bass, and, at last, waves. The band will drift back before the 12 minutes are up, some quiet guitar for an epilogue, but the sense of being returned to a kind of natural order is palpable.

The level of achievement across Jersey Shores was and remains something distinct and aside from the majority of Akimbo‘s work. They had progressed in sound for sure leading up to it, but Jersey Shores was beyond the band’s stated ethic, and though they toured hard for it as they always did, it was somewhat telling that Live to Crush, when it came out in 2013 on Alternative Tentacles, did so as a posthumous release. That last statement from Akimbo stripped away the atmospheric focus of Jersey Shores, got back to the punk, as it were, whereas some of the melodic tendencies made their way into Weisnewski and Damm‘s new project, Sandrider, whose self-titled debut (review here), had shown up in 2011.

That first Sandrider, as well as 2013’s Godhead (review here) and 2018’s Armada (review here), was produced by Matt Bayles, who also helmed Live to CrushAkimbo‘s final show was in Aug. 2012, in Seattle, with Tad Doyle‘s Brothers of the Sonic Cloth supporting. That would’ve been a monstrous gig to see.

If you don’t know Jersey Shores, it might not be the most representative of Akimbo‘s LPs to dive into — City of the Stars or even Navigating the Bronze might be better places to start with the band — but this record was something special and it remains so 13 years after the fact.

As always, I hope you enjoy. Thanks for reading.

Oh hi.

Well, The Pecan is back to school as of yesterday after fracturing his tibia, what, three weeks ago? Four? I don’t know. Reality shifts so much every day. It’s been three and a half years of being blindsided every morning, trying to ride that wave to the best of my ability, and finding myself barely up to the task on my best days. Last night I slept pretty hard. So did he, from what I saw on the monitor in his room. Kid’s a good sleeper, but he has to basically collapse from fatigue before he stops moving at all.

Stressful week for The Patient Mrs., though she did turn in an article long in the making yesterday and she seemed to feel good about that. Posi-vibes in the house are welcome. Things have been tense really since before the Pecan’s leg — I seem to recall something about a fractured skull? — but the pouring-not-raining aspect of double-you-tee-effs gets to be draining after a while. I’ve been working on raising my voice less at the child. Mixed results. Sometimes he needs his full name said in a more commanding tone in order to snap his attention from the thing he’s trying to destroy, whatever it might be. Just surprising him with that snap is enough sometimes if you can follow quickly enough with a redirect.

He’s also a master of the redirect. He’ll ask you what something is 50 times — he doesn’t do the standard ‘wh’ questions, but will say, “That’s a…” and leave you to fill in the blank forever — in order to get out of going to take a rest or get a diaper or whatever it is he doesn’t want to do.

I love him desperately. Yesterday the intensity around here was significantly reduced by his spending a couple hours at pre-K. All the more since it was raining. He needed to go back no less than his going back was needed generally. And we got his school pictures, which are so amazing I can’t. Even. Just can’t. I screamed when I saw them and I’m still screaming, they’re so wonderful.

Tomorrow night, Sun Voyager are playing Rushing Duck Brewery in NY. Same place I saw them in September. If the weather holds, I’m going to go. They’ve got one of the cats from Ghost Funk Orchestra sitting in on second guitar and their new record is a banger, so yeah, I’m on board. I’ll take pictures and write a review. Just like old times. I think The Patient Mrs. might come as well. It’s not too far a trip. Some nice enjoyment-of-company beyond the evening-standard Star Trek viewing, though there’s precious little I’d trade that for, generally speaking.

Next week, a Robots of the Ancient World video premiere, a Witchcryer track, Delving review (I hope), plus videos for Rosy Finch, Cavern Deep and Or Anthony. Very multimedia around here these days. Ebbs and flows.

I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Gonna be hot in the Northeast and it’s already humid as crap out, so don’t forget to hydrate. Watch your head. All that stuff.

And before I go, special thanks to everybody who has picked up The Obelisk merch from the new round of printings by Made in Brooklyn. There’s another t-shirt on the way.


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Friday Full-Length: Alice in Chains, Dirt

Posted in Bootleg Theater on May 28th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

From the first “I” of “Them Bones” to the last “you” of “Would?,” Dirt is a once-in-a-generation album, and for the band who made it, a once-in-a-lifetime achievement. Released in 1992 through Columbia Records — stop and imagine that for a second — as part of great major label Seattle-underground mining project that became known as the grunge movement, Dirt was the second Alice in Chains full-length behind 1991’s Facelift (currently receiving a deluxe box set issue for its 30th anniversary, one expects no less for this next year), and like few releases of its era, continues to resonate a sense of the genuine darkness underlying its purposes. I can no more feign impartiality about this record than I could a member of my family; I’ve lived with it for 29 years. Dirt was the third CD I ever owned behind The Beatles‘ Past Masters Vol. 1 (which I found in a drawer) and Metallica‘s Master of Puppets, and even at 10 years old, I understood it was something special. I remember seeing the “Them Bones” video on Headbanger’s Ball. Hearing the songs on the radio. I saw Alice in Chains at Lollapalooza ’93 in Waterloo, NJ. This album was a defining feature of my pubescence.

The sound of Dirt was churning, heavy, deceptive in its rhythmic intricacy — Sean Kinney‘s drumming is among the most underrated in commercial heavy/hard rock; he should be discussed in the same breath as Danny Carey — and of course melodic, defined by the crucial vocal arrangements between guitarist Jerry Cantrell and frontman Layne Staley. With Mike Starr‘s bass beneath Cantrell‘s guitar — mixed low in early ’90s fashion but still subject to highlight moments like the beginning of “Rain When I Die” or the penultimate “Angry Chair” — and the by-now-classic-style heroics of the solos and riffs throughout, Dirt manages to be both a performance album highlighting the best its players could bring to the table at the time and a songwriting album, packed with the kind of tracks that most groups would be lucky to feature one of in a career, let alone on an album. The advent of Nirvana on rock radio may have spearheaded grunge, but it was the brooding, darker turns of Alice in Chains that gave the sound its credibility, as well as set in motion an influence spanning generations of low-in-the-mouth singers almost none of whom could come close to Staley‘s style or emotive reach.

Dirt is of its era in being a 57-minute-long CD. “Would?” appeared on the Singles soundtrack, and I don’t even know how many videos were ultimately made for its songs. “Would?” was one, and “Them Bones,” and “Rooster” and “Angry Chair.” “Rooster” would become something of a defining success for Alice in Chains — they still make t-shirts; I almost bought one this week — which is somewhat ironic since it was one of the pieces that most departed from the album’s unstatedalice in chains dirt theme of heroin addiction, specifically that which would ultimately claim Staley‘s life. A more purely Cantrell composition, and about his own father, its militaristic story was a lot less fraught to tell in a time when the US hadn’t just spent 20 years at war for nothing.

“Rooster” remains a good song, but it’s by no means the best on Dirt, and I’m sure we could — frankly, I’d love to — have a great time debating what is. The propulsive kick of “Them Bones” or “Dam That River” at the outset? The depressive “Rain When I Die” and pushing-toward-unplugged “Down in a Hole?” The seeming chaos of “Sickman” and the too-high-but-somehow-held-together “Junkhead”? The lines there — “Are you happy? I am, man/Content and fully aware/Money, status, nothing to me/’Cause your life’s empty and bare,” separating addicts not as outcasts but as “an elite race of our own,” the “our” there pivotal not only for what it said about the speaker in the song but for its implication toward the listener — still brutal. The brazenly suicidal “Dirt?” The rawer shove of “Godsmack?” And in the closing trilogy of “Hate to Feel,” “Angry Chair” and “Would?,” is there a flawless moment? How many mixtapes can you shove a single track onto? I damn near found out with “Hate to Feel.”

The nostalgia factor is, period. I can’t and won’t try to get away from it. I wonder how a younger listener — someone in their early 20s approaches Dirt, what they hear in it. I hear Gen-X’s heroin crisis for sure, and the loss of Staley in 2002 — a hard decade after this album’s release — and a lifetime of associations. I’ve lost friends and relatives to opiates, and I’ve said on multiple occasions that if not for the stabilizing force of having met my wife when I was 15, I’d have probably been right in there as well. And I don’t say it lightly. It’s a hard album to work out the separation between art and artist — its feel is so confessional lyrically — but as it should be, Dirt‘s abiding appeal is in its songs, whatever the context might be in which a given audience hears them.

Alice in Chains of course toured the universe supporting this record. They were headliners at the aforementioned Lollapalooza, along with Primus, and they deserved to be. In 1994, they released the Jar of Flies EP, which was the second mostly-acoustic short-form work they’d done behind earlier-1992’s Sap (discussed here), and though they’d return in 1995 with their self-titled third album (discussed here), and that’s not actually that long a break, it sure felt like forever waiting for that to show up at the time. That record pulled back on some of Dirt‘s sheer impact in favor of a more atmospheric approach, and was by all accounts mostly composed by Cantrell with him in a more forward position vocally owing to Staley‘s ongoing drug addiction, but was nonetheless both the grimmest work the band would ever do and still resolute in its craft. It was the end of the Staley era, and for a while, the band, who would eventually return in the mid-aughts before putting out Black Gives Way to Blue in 2009 with vocalist and rhythm guitarist William DuVall (also of Cantrell‘s solo group and Comes with the Fall) joining as the fourth member alongside Cantrell, Mike Inez (who had also played with Seattle legends Heart in the interim) and Kinney.

Reborn as a recording and touring act, Alice in Chains followed Black Gives Way to Blue with The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here in 2013 and 2018’s Rainier Fog (discussed here), the latter of which brought them to the point of having released as many albums without Staley as with him, and having developed a dynamic between Cantrell and DuVall that was more than mere reminiscence of things gone by, however obligated they might be (and rightly so, I wouldn’t say otherwise) to continue to perform Alice in Chains‘ ’90s work on stage. No getting away from the classics.

As always, I hope you enjoy. Thanks for reading. And of course I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Magnetic Eye Records‘ Dirt [Redux] compilation (review here), which came out late last year and featured artists from the heavy rock sphere taking on Dirt track for track. Well worth the headfirst dive.

New Gimme Radio show today. 5PM on their app. Thanks if you can listen.

I’ve been trying desperately all week to keep my email under 40 unread/needing response. It’s currently at 50, so you can tell how well it’s been going. A couple press releases need doing-something-with. A few responses just aren’t going out. I can’t do everything, and I hate not getting back to people — especially people taking the time to send music because they possibly give a crap what I might have to say about it — but I made the decision long ago that if it was writing or email, I need to be doing the thing that has people reaching out to me in the first place. But still, email, Facebook messages, Instagram messages. That stuff piles up and gets overwhelming. I’m fortunate for it, I know. I remember when nobody got in touch.

Of course, having a three year old with a broken leg did not make the week any easier. We’ve been doing stuff all the while though. Yesterday we went to the Turtle Back Zoo, which is a Northern New Jersey cultural institution as far as I’m concerned. I went there as a kid too, and it’s way nicer now. The Pecan and I rode the train a couple times, rode the carousel, he rode the pony twice. I pushed him in the stroller — which I’m too tall for, so I have to lean forward to push it without kicking the wheels; it’s a pain in the ass (and back) and I do not particularly care for the stroller on principle, though there is some appeal in having him strapped into a thing rather than running all over the place, and given the busted shin, it’s the best option I’ve got — and put him on my shoulders for a while. He’s clearly less uncomfortable than he was a week ago at this time, which was just fucking miserable, and just starting to put weight on the foot and walk a bit while holding hands. He’s not ready to traipse around the zoo yet, but he can go from the stairs to the couch in the living room with help. We’ll get there. He’s certainly enjoying the time off from school.

It’s a holiday on Monday but I’m posting anyhow because Memorial Day is jingoistic bullshit. Maybe doing a video premiere? I’m not sure. Haven’t heard back. If not that, I’ll probably do myself a favor and review the Monster Magnet covers record. The rest of the week is fairly well packed with stuff. It’ll be good. I’m also filling out the next Quarterly Review, which currently looks to be six days minimum. I’ve got a seventh in with a question mark. Hope to start that June 28 and just let it roll through the July 4 holiday, but that requires some scheduling with The Patient Mrs., because, well, writing about 10 records a day for a week gets time-consuming.

And video interviews coming up in the next couple weeks with Heavy Temple (that’s tomorrow; I wanted to review the album first) and All Souls. The latter I really just wanted to give their livestream another plug, anything to help out, but I haven’t talked to Tony Aguilar since the Totimoshi days, so I’m looking forward to it just the same. It’ll be him and Meg Castellanos together. I like doing couple interviews haha. It somehow reinforces my fantasy of starting a podcast with my wife. Not about music, necessarily. I think it would more likely be about politics/news, likely with a good dose of Star Trek.

Dream for another day.

Thanks for reading and I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Hydrate, watch your head, all that stuff.


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Dust Mice Release Earth III Today

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 16th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

dust mice

Hit up the usual-suspect streaming outlets and you’ll be able to hear Earth III, the debut album from Seattle’s Dust Mice, out today. In addition to reimagining Black Sabbath‘s “Solitude” as a speedy Hawkwindian space jaunt, laced with sax and keys, the record runs a gamut of psychedelia, marked out by the stomp of opener “Choom Wagon” and the shake in “Hepatitis X” — dire of lyric and vital of groove — onward into the trippy ever-forward motion of “Desert Bus” and the drift-at-last “MTN Wizzards,” which caps. You’re gonna get knocked around a bit by some electromagnetic interference, but who the hell ever said visiting the cosmos would be a smooth ride the whole way through? The bumps and bruises garnered along the way five the eight-song offering all the more character to work from.

Space. Rock. Vibe. Rock.

Out today, you say? Don’t mind if I do.

Think of the PR wire preliminary data as a pre-flight checklist. Half-impulse. Take us out:

dust mice earth iii

Space rockers Dust Mice release eclectic new album Earth III

Earth III is the new album from Dust Mice, a 5-piece Space-Garage band from the Pacific Northwest. Analog synths, distorted saxophone and raw guitar combine with a driving rhythm section to deliver spaced out garage rock with influences from New Wave Sci-Fi, post-punk, and classic metal. Previous work includes 2 EPs and a digital single, which are all available (including bonus live tracks) on the Super Moon Fetus compilation.

Earth III is the band’s first full-length album and follows up on the themes introduced in their EP, Moon Fetus. The album was written while the band was actively gigging and the final form of many of the songs was worked out on-stage before tracking the album live. To get the layered, out of control sound Dust Mice hunkered down for a session of overdubs and extended jams. Those tracks were cut up and mixed throughout the album as sonic connective tissue, mimicking the chaotic sonic assault of a live Dust Mice show.

Lyrical themes explore tales of wizard cults (MTN Wizzards), suicidal androids (Eye Make You Eye), the existential burden of living on a generation starship (Hepatitis X), and the self-mythologizing failures of American Imperialism (Choom Wagon, Sky King). This all comes together in a cover of Black Sabbath’s Solitude, interpreted as a charging space-garage celebration of humanity’s ultimate failure. The only note of hope comes from Desert Bus, an ode to psychedelic introspection and opening yourself to the majesty of the universe.

EARTH III is available now on Bandcamp and all other digital platforms including Spotify Deezer and Apple Music.

Track Listing:
1. Choom Wagon
2. Eye Make You Eye
3. Hepatitis X
4. Solitude
5. Sky King
6. Crisis on Infinite Earths
7. Desert Bus
8. MTN Wizzards

Dust Mice:
Patrick Seick: Lead Vocals, Synth, Percussion
Robbie Houston: Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Backup Vocals
Nate Henry: Saxophone, Backup Vocals
Lewis Hunt: Bass, Acoustic Guitar, Backup Vocals
Zane Graham: Drums, Backup Vocals

Dust Mice, “Hepatitis X”

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Satanik Royalty Records: New Label Announced; Sandrider, Old Iron and More Signed

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 9th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

My social media feed the last couple days has been swamped with Satanik Royalty Records. Not complaining, just stating the fact, which emphasizes that the newcomer Seattle-based imprint is hitting the ground running. Further argument toward that is the fact that honcho Michael Freiburger has signed five acts out of the gate. Most notable to me is Sandrider, but Heiress and Old Iron and even Freiburger‘s own outfit DeathCAVE aren’t unknown names, and with Dark Meditation and Izthmi adding darker nuance, there’s more than just standard-heavy-label scope. I don’t know how many times a day I think, ‘well this’ll be interesting to see where it goes,’ but here’s another one.

And seriously, anyone cool enough to associate with Sandrider is alright by me.

PR wire has this, in case your social media hasn’t been similarly impacted:

satanik royalty records logo

SATANIK ROYALTY RECORDS: DeathCAVE Bassist/Vocalist Launches New Seattle-Based Label And Clothing Line; Releases From Heiress, Dark Meditation, Old Iron, And More Coming Soon!

Following years of thought, deliberation, preparation, and finally, wild anticipation, DeathCAVE bassist/vocalist Freiburger is pleased to announce the official launch of SATANIK ROYALTY RECORDS, a boutique record label and clothing line based in Seattle, Washington.

Established to help supply a louder voice to heavy music and artists within the Seattle underground as well as transgender and indigenous communities, Freiburger’s vision has been a longtime in the making. “I’ve always had a voice in the back of my head screaming, ‘I wish I had the money to make a real label,” begins Freiburger on his decision to start the imprint. “My passion started in the late ‘90s when I would throw shows at the Dog Mushers Hall and Eagles Lodge in Fairbanks, Alaska, where I grew up. Since moving to the ‘big city,’ I’ve been immersed in and fascinated by the Seattle music scene and have been booking and playing DIY shows, punk houses, and eventually booking major venues ever since.

“There are so many truly awesome bands everywhere that struggle to find labels to sign them,” he continues. “Major local record labels are either too big or too indie to take on new, less commercial artists. The handful of respected underground labels here in Seattle have unfortunately faded. That leaves a lot of great bands left without local representation.”

The COVID-19 pandemic quite literally changed the face of music. Without a functioning live scene, bands of all genres have been forced to get creative just to sustain. For Freiburger, there seemed no better time than now to introduce SATANIK ROYALTY RECORDS. “It hurts my heart to know such amazing bands are struggling to find someone to put faith in them.”

With that in mind, Freiburger curated an eclectic roster of Seattle’s best kept secrets including Heiress (hardcore sludge), Dark Meditation (gritty black ‘n’ roll), Old Iron (psychedelic sludge), Sandrider (grunge), Izthmi (atmospheric/progressive black metal), and of course, Freiburger’s own DeathCAVE (doom/sludge), all scheduled to release material in the coming months via the label.

SATANIK ROYALTY RECORDS will offer physical product as well as streaming and online distribution, limited runs and collector’s items as well as a clothing line and art in collaboration with prominent and respected artists throughout the scene. For Freiburger, extending SATANIK ROYALTY’s proverbial tentacles to the art community seemed like a logical pairing.

“I have always loved three things: music and then designing band merch and tattoos. Since I was a kid, I’ve been obsessed with those things and now that I’m an old kid, I wanted to be able to do it on a much more impactful scale. This label is about the art and amplifying the voice of it. Not only music but the visual artists behind all that bad ass imagery.”

Sandrider, Armada (2018)

Satanik Royalty Records promo

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Sorcia Sign to Desert Records; Death by Design EP Coming Soon

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 8th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

Following the release in 2020 of their self-titled debut (review here), Seattle, Washington, three-piece Sorcia have signed on to release their next EP, Death by Design, through Desert Records. Near as I can tell, the forthcoming — no exact date, but figure summer-ish — outing will comprise two tracks. First is a 16-minute title-cut to be recorded by none other than Tad Doyle, and the second is a CD-only bonus live tune, which, as a fan generally of the all-but-forgotten compact disc format, I can appreciate. I mean seriously, CDs use lasers! Lasers! That’s some Back to the Future shit right there.

If you caught the album last year, you already know Sorcia can handle longer-form work, as they demonstrated in the nine-minute “Stars Collide,” so to find them pushing that impulse either as a general direction or a one-off — you’re never really sure when it comes to EPs — feels natural either way. And note too in the comment from Desert Records the apparent intention of owner Brad Frye (also Red Mesa) to build a network of tour stops through geographic spread of the label’s roster. Of course, touring is a hypothetical at the moment, but by sourcing a local knowledge base through its own the catalog of offerings, there’s really no limit to how far the imprint’s routing might end up going. Except, you know, the planet.

Word from Frye and from the band follow here:


SORCIA – Death by Design – Desert Records

“The ink is dry, Sorcia has signed to Desert Records for the release of an EP called ‘Death By Design’ releasing this summer, exact release date TBD. Once I heard their S/T debut album, I knew this was the perfect band for Desert Records, with their mix of styles that range from sludge to doom to blues to grunge to stoner metal. This will be a special release showcasing a 16-minute-long song, plus an acoustic version of ‘Dusty’. Part of the Desert Records touring routes, Sorica helps to complete the Seattle stop. Once venues open back up, you will see Sorica and all Desert Records bands and artists on the road supporting each other across cities and big towns in the US.” -Brad Frye, Desert Records

“We are very pleased to announce that we have joined forces with Desert Records for the release of our forthcoming EP ‘Death By Design’,” says Sorcia. “The creation of this EP was a huge step out of our comfort zone, and it explores some of the farthest depths of our collective creativity. The title track ‘Death By Design’ is an epic journey that delves into the most primitive concepts of human existence and death.”

“The mighty Tad Doyle will be at the helm once again for the recording of this opus as well as the talented Mike Hawkins on board again for the artwork. The CD will include an exclusive bonus track, a smokey, stripped-down acoustic version of the self-reflective song ‘Dusty’. For the recording of this song, we had the pleasure of working with Jessica’s own brother Matt Bos. These songs each had their unique challenges, but they inspired us to push our limits and move beyond the walls of our boundaries.”

Album artwork, preorder info, and release date coming soon.

In the meantime, check out their first album on Bandcamp:

Neal De Atley – Guitar, Vocals
Jessica Brasch – Bass, Vocals
Bryson Marcey – Drums

Sorcia, Sorcia (2020)

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Sun Crow Sign to Ripple Music; Quest for Oblivion out July 2

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 26th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

sun crow

Yeah, this is the kind of thing that should be happening. Sun Crow last year offered up an admirably original take on the tenets of heavy rock with their debut, Quest for Oblivion (review here), and they’ve been accordingly picked up by Ripple Music to release that album and presumably whatever they do next. The record is still fresh, having come out in November, and you can hear it below if you didn’t, but they’re featuring the song “Collapse” ahead of the physical pressing with the Ripple logo on board — this news was enough to get me to pick up the “pandemic edition” of the self-released CD; as of this post there are now six left — and of course they’ll do vinyl and whatnot as well. That’s a significant 2LP.

I swear, just this last news post, then I’m checking out for the week.

Congrats to the band and cheers as ever to the label. Ripple‘s on a tear if you haven’t noticed.

From the PR wire:

sun crow quest for oblivion

Seattle doom blues merchants SUN CROW sign to Ripple Music for worldwide debut album release; stream first single “Collapse” now!

Seattle-based up and coming stoner rock foursome SUN CROW just signed to Ripple Music for the worldwide release of their debut full-length ‘Quest for Oblivion’ on July 2nd, 2021. Plunge your ears in their tar-thick new single “Collapse” now.

SUN CROW is a heavy rock band out of Seattle. Their debut release ‘Quest for Oblivion’ clocks in at a monolithic 70 minutes in a Northwest haze of thick Sabbathian riff and groove. Through their loud and bleak existential doom rock, the quartet channel sounds recalling early proto metal and warps them into a contemporary and heavy metallic, dark psyche experience.

Says the band about this new collaboration: “We are stoked to be working with Ripple Music to bring heavy tales to the furthest shores. It’s a pleasure to be a part of the Ripple Family, and an honor to count ourselves among these talented sound makers we’ve admired for a long time. From the first call it seemed like an uncanny connection, and that we’d found a home of like-minds on a corner of this rock we ride on hurtling through space. Collapse is the opening call to Quest for Oblivion, a heavy reflection of memories surfacing from our journeys out of the past headlong into an unknown. The louder we turn it up, the deeper into the night it echoes. »

Working from a time-slip in the tight and gritty live spaces of the Pacific Northwest, guitarist Ben Nechanicky and drummer Keith Hastreiter exploit years of making music together along with the thundering bass of Brian Steel and expressive vocal style of Todd Lucas to create heavy rock obliterations untethered to conventional delivery. Rain-soaked doom blues, moss-covered stoner rock, grey sky heavy psych, whatever they call it, SUN CROW calls the old spirits of high volume heavy rock into close quarters and paints the ceiling and walls with magnets, wood, and glass. Their debut album ‘Quest For Oblivion’ will be issued on July 2nd, 2021 on CD, limited edition vinyl and digital through Ripple Music.

SUN CROW Debut album ‘Quest for Oblivion’
Out July 2nd, 2021 on Ripple Music

1. Collapse
2. Black It Out
3. End Over End
4. Fell Across The Sky
5. Fear
6. Nothing Behind
7. Hypersonic
7. Titans

First self-released in November 2020 through Bandcamp, SUN CROW’s debut ‘Quest for Oblivion’ was well received and highly regarded by the heavy underground. The album topped the Doom Charts in November and December 2020, landing itself on many best of and year-end lists, and it continues to make waves. The band joined the Ripple Music family in early 2021 to create a heavy partnership that will see wide distribution of their molten debut, and future smoldering releases.

Guitar — Ben Nechanicky
Drums — Keith Hastreiter
Bass — Brian Steel
Vocals — Todd Lucas

Sun Crow, Quest for Oblivion (2020)

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The Obelisk Questionnaire: Amy Tung Barrysmith

Posted in Questionnaire on March 1st, 2021 by JJ Koczan

year of the cobra

The Obelisk Questionnaire is a series of open questions intended to give the answerer an opportunity to explore these ideas and stories from their life as deeply as they choose. Answers can be short or long, and that reveals something in itself, but the most important factor is honesty.

Based on the Proust Questionnaire, the goal over time is to show a diverse range of perspectives as those who take part bring their own points of view to answering the same questions. To see all The Obelisk Questionnaire posts, click here.

Thank you for reading and thanks to all who participate.

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Amy Tung Barrysmith of Year of the Cobra

How do you define what you do and how did you come to do it?

I live life through feelings. My memories aren’t necessarily pictures in my head of what happened, or words that I remember people saying, but of what I felt at that moment. This is one of the reasons I am so bad at remembering faces and names. I just remember the feeling the club had, what the air felt like, what the room smelled like, what the faces made me feel like, what the drinks tasted like. I guess music makes sense to me because it’s all about feeling things and I define what I do as sharing what I’m feeling inside with others, if that makes sense. Communicating in the best way I can. I’ve never been much of a talker. My older sister was really good at that, so I let her do all of the talking when I was a kid (and even as an adult). I tend to gravitate toward people who talk a lot, so I don’t have to, but I find expression and communication with music to be easy. I feel like I understand what it’s saying and am able to convey it so others can understand too

Describe your first musical memory.

My first musical memory is of me practicing on this really old piano in my parent’s bedroom in Memphis, TN. I started playing when I was four (I asked, so it wasn’t forced on me) and I remember practicing at night. It was always dark outside, and I would sit at this piano and play and play. I remember writing a song for an elementary school music competition. I was in the 1st grade. I wrote a song, had to write it on manuscript paper (my mom helped with that, although she’s not musical at all, so I’m sure it was a big struggle), and we recorded it on a cassette tape which we then submitted. My older sister won first place, and I got honorable mention. The other memory I have of that room and that piano is practicing this Sonatina by Clementi. For some reason, the song was really scary to me. I think it’s because I was by myself and the room was dark and I have always been a bit of a chicken when it comes to the dark, but I have taught that song to some of my students and I still have that feeling of being scared when I hear it. It takes me right back to that room and the dark.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

This is a hard question to answer, narrowing it down to one memory. There are so many, and I seem to remember the more terrifying ones best, lol. I think one of the best memories was our first tour to Europe. We were just a fledgling band and we were surprised we got any attention at all. We were invited to play Hell over Hammaburg in 2017. We hadn’t toured Europe yet and weren’t sure what the response would be, so we only booked one week. We figured, if we failed, we wouldn’t be out too much money. Our goal was only to break even. The tour ended up being a success and when we played Hell over Hammaburg Fest at the Markthalle (we played the little room), it was packed!! There were people spilling out of the room for the whole set and they had their fists in the air chanting to our songs. It was the most amazing experience. It was the first time I had ever played to an audience like that. I remember I kept looking at Jon to make sure he was seeing what I was seeing.

When was a time when a firmly held belief was tested?

I would probably have to say the past four years which includes the Trump presidential era (which hopefully we won’t revisit in 2024), Covid and its antimaskers, BLM movement (the fact that we have to keep reminding people that Black Lives Matter to me is disappointing, it should be known), all of the protests everywhere (Hong Kong, Burma, Russia, US, to name a few), the Uigher situation in China, antivaxxers, climate change disbelievers, Poland’s anti-abortion laws, the unapologetic rise in antisemitism and white supremacy, the list goes on and on. I’m disappointed in humanity at the moment. I’m really disappointed with the American people, with our government, with our inability to have empathy toward other people, with our inability to see through the propaganda. I thought we were better than this, I firmly believed we were better than this, but we are not. I am in despair because I don’t know what I can do about it, what I can do to help make things better.

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

Artistic progression can lead anywhere! That’s the beauty of art. There are no boundaries. When I was in the 5th grade, we had a substitute teacher who put up a puzzle on the board. It had nine dots that formed a square (3×3) and our job was to connect all of the dots using only four lines, without lifting up your pencil. No one figured it out, but when he showed us the answer, it really blew my mind. You have to move out of the 3×3 box to do it. I often think about that question when I am working on new ideas, whether it’s within music or not. I think the best artists out there, the ones that really move us, think outside of these boxes. They are the ones that progress art to places we haven’t been before, opening doors for other artists to follow and explore and expand some more.

How do you define success?

I define success as finding happiness and stability. For me, they go hand in hand. If my life is stable, personally and financially, then I am happy. My marriage to Jon is amazing. We work well together in all aspects of life. We have arguments, but they’re pretty far and few between. We have similar interests and enjoying doing them together. We are very lucky. We also have stable jobs that we enjoy. We don’t make much money, but we are careful in what we spend and how we spend it. Our kids seem to be happy and healthy, despite our touring schedule. We have been able to make our passion something more than just a side hobby. If we can keep this up, be it with music, or opening a business, or whatever other endeavor we decide to do in the future, I think we will be successful.

What is something you have seen that you wish you hadn’t?

The Exorcist. Really, that movie scared the crap out of me, and I watched it when I was really young. That movie, and the Omen (which I also watched at a young age) probably has a lot of do with why I was/am scared of the dark.

Describe something you haven’t created yet that you’d like to create.

I’ve always wanted to write a symphony. It was a goal of mine since I was young. I tried starting one in middle school, but never finished. I wanted to go to Julliard and be a composer and conductor, but life got in the way and I took another path. I don’t think it’s too late, though. I still dream about going back to school to study classical music. Once my kids are off to college and out of the house, then I will consider it!

What do you believe is the most essential function of art?

I think the most essential function of art is to offer a form of expression for yourself and for others. I’m often telling my students when they’re performing these classical pieces on the piano, their goal is to make the audience laugh with them, or cry with them, or feel sadness, or happiness, depending on what the song dictates. You have to make them feel something by expressing it through your fingers and your body. We go to museums, concerts, shows, art exhibits, movies, because we want to feel something other than what we normally feel through our daily lives; to get away from the stress of life, anxiety of work, etc. Art gives everyone a way to express themselves, whether they’re the artist or not.

Something non-musical that you’re looking forward to?

Spending time with my family. I am looking forward to more snowboarding trips with my family, more long walks to the beach, more time camping, more time chilling on the sofa and watching movies, more time cooking and eating yummy food, more time hanging with friends.

Year of the Cobra, Ash and Dust (2019)

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