The Well and Year of the Cobra Touring This Summer

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 1st, 2024 by JJ Koczan

So here’s what happened. All of a sudden, toward the end of last week or whenever it was, a bunch of cool bands started to announce they were touring with other cool bands. Package tours are a long-held tradition, especially for times when money’s tight in various spots around the world, and a decent way for acts to sometimes share road expenses as well as give club crowds more reason to leave the house. Whether it’s Greenleaf and Slomosa or Dopelord and Red Sun Atacama in Europe, Mars Red Sky and Howling Giant or — the subject at hand — Austin, Texas, trio The Well and Seattle duo Year of the Cobra; none of these sounds like anything other than a killer night in the making.

But for The Well and Year of the Cobra, there are a bunch of other shows both bands are playing in addition to those they’ll do together, with the former heading to Tennessee later in August for Muddy Roots and the latter with a few dates in the Pacific Northwest in early June, and so on. There wasn’t one general announcement for the tour that I found on socials, so I took the dates that were posted by each band, the Branca Studio art that accompanied, and I decided rather than try to parse out who’s where for one broader list, to just have them as they are.

The Well‘s dates are under the band’s name, and ditto that for Year of the Cobra, whose new album I think is recorded — another announcement to wait for — and will hopefully be out in the coming months. Both their latest LP and The Well‘s were in 2019, so if you said they’re due, fair enough. Do I honestly believe I needed to tell you about organizing two posts into this single one? No. But I did anyway, because that’s how it is when you’re neurotic. Now you know.

From social media as noted:

the well year of the cobra art



More dates to come; here’s a teaser with some killer artwork by the goat @branca_studio

7.19 – Tulsa, OK – Mercury Lounge
7.20 – OKC, OK – Blue Note Lounge
7.21 – KC, MO – recordBar
7.22 – Minneapolis, MN – 7th St. Entry (18+)
7.23 – Chicago, IL – The Empty Bottle*
7.24 – Youngstown, OH – Westside Bowl* (all ages)
7.25 – Albany, NY – Fuze Box*
7.26 – Providence, RI – Alchemy (all ages)
7.27 – Manchester, NH – Jewel Music Venue*
7.28 – NY, NY – The Bowery Electric*
7.29 – Philadelphia, PA – Kung Fu Necktie*
7.30 – Chapel Hill, NC – Local 506* (all ages)
8.4 – Dallas, TX – Ruins*
8.6 – Scottsdale, AZ – Pub Rock*
8.7 – LA, CA – Permanent Records*
8.8 – Long Beach, CA – Alex’s Bar*
8.9 – Sacramento, CA – Cafe Colonial*
8.10 – SF, CA – Kilowatt Bar*
8.31 – Cookeville, TN – Muddy Roots Festival
* – w/ Year of the Cobra


Yo! Excited to announce our US tour with @thewellband. More dates coming soon, but for now…we feast!!!

6.1 – Bellingham, WA – The Shakedown
6.2 – Vancouver, BC – The Cobalt Cabaret
6.9 – Portland, OR – Polaris Hall
7.20 – Libby, MT – Montvana Festival
7.23 – Chicago, IL – The Empty Bottle*
7.24 – Youngstown, OH – Westside Bowl* (all ages)
7.25 – Albany, NY – Fuze Box*
7.27 – Manchester, NH – Jewel Music Venue*
7.28 – NY, NY – The Bowery Electric*
7.29 – Philadelphia, PA – Kung Fu Necktie*
7.30 – Chapel Hill, NC – Local 506* (all ages)
8.2 – Lafayette, LA – Freetown Boom Boom Room*
8.4 – Dallas, TX – Ruins*
8.6 – Scottsdale, AZ – Pub Rock*
8.7 – LA, CA – Permanent Records*
8.8 – Long Beach, CA – Alex’s Bar*
8.9 – Sacramento, CA – Cafe Colonial*
8.10 – SF, CA – Kilowatt Bar*
8.11 – Santa Cruz – Moe’s Alley*
*w/The Well

The Well, Death and Consolation (2019)

Year of the Cobra, Ash and Dust (2019)

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Snail Announce Thou Art There Live Album Out March 15

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 28th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

This will be a thing I’ll enjoy owning. The Obelisk All-Dayer was an event I put together starting in 2015 for Aug. 20, 2016. It was held at the Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn. Heavy Temple and King Buffalo opened. Mars Red Sky headlined. Death Alley (now defunct), Kings Destroy and also-disbanded Ohio proggers EYE featured, and it was with a particular personal joy that Snail agreed to make the trek from their respective homes in Washington and Southern California to make their first East Coast appearance(s), playing Boston and Rhode Island as they made their way south to NYC.

I had been lucky enough to see Snail previously, on a 2010 trip to San Francisco (review here), where I also met the then-four-piece-now-trio for the first time, and I could gladly go on about how rad that was, but the bottom line is that even asking Snail to play was something I was doing as a fan of the band, and as they had released their stunning Feral (review here) LP in 2015, the timing couldn’t have been better.

It’s humbling to think it was special for them too. Most of all, I’m glad it happened and I’ll be glad to have this as a document of it. It’s digital-only for now, but I bet you could convince them to make some tapes if the downloads do well enough. We’ll see. Either way, I’m grateful it exists and for the kind thoughts the band express below.

Maybe 2026? I’ll think about it. For now, two tracks from Thou Art There are streaming below to mark the launch of preorders and the band’s 2021 LP, Fractal Altar (review here), is down there too in order to facilitate further digging.

So by all means, dig:

snail thou art there

It was early Spring of 2016, and Snail had just come off the long-awaited release of Feral, when they got an email from JJ Koczan of the heavy psych blog The Obelisk. JJ was putting together a festival called ‘The Obelisk All-Dayer’ and wanted to know if they would be into playing. Without a second thought they were on board; this was destined to be a gathering of the tribes that no one wanted to miss!

Fans and bands came from all over – as far away as France – to play and be a part of it. This was Snail’s first tour on the East Coast, and the welcome couldn’t have been warmer. After playing shows in Boston and Rhode Island, Snail arrived at the club, devoured the catered veggie tacos and began meeting fans that they had only interacted with online. Everyone was so genuinely nice and positive, the music was HEAVY, and the energy in the club and city was electric.

Snail was exhilarated being on stage and playing for what felt like their “people.” Having loosened up with previous shows, they was now firing on all cylinders and vibing off the crowd. Seeing JJ head-banging in the front when the riff dropped for set closer ‘Thou Art That’ was like attaining heavy-music realization and the entire room resonated together.

So if you were there, we hope this recording puts you right back to that day and lives up to the memory. And if you weren’t, this is a chance to check out what all the fuss was about.
Thou Art There.

1. Blood (Live) 06:49
2. Cleanliness (Live)
3. Smoke the Deathless (Live)
4. Confessions (Live) 03:06
5. Mustard Seed (Live)
6. Hippy Crack (Live)
7. Mental Models (Live)
8. Thou Art That (Live)

Front of house engineer – Jeff Filmer
Mixing and mastering – Matt Lynch

Cover photo – Adam Donnelly
Additional cover image – Jennifer Hendrix-Johnson
Cover design – Matt Lynch

Snail are:
Marty Dodson – drums
Mark Johnson – guitar, vocals
Matt Lynch – bass, organ, vocals

Snail, Thou Art There: Live at The Obelisk All-Dayer (2024)

Snail, Fractal Altar (2021)

Tags: , , , , , ,

Sorcia Announce April Tour Dates

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


Seattle sludge rockers Sorcia will hit the road in April to support their Desert Records-issued sophomore LP, Lost Season (review here), on a weekend-to-weekend stint around their appearance at Rocky Mountain Riff Fest in Kalispell, Montana, on April 20. Before they get there, of particular note is the Road to Riff Fest Showcase in Spokane on April 19, at which Sorcia will be joined by Mos Generator and Merlock, both also making their way to Kalispell the next day.

The regional run is certainly welcome news, and it follows a broader West Coast tour the trio undertook last summer around the time of Lost Season‘s July release. Still, Substation aside, it’s at least Sorcia‘s third escape from Seattle (cue a grunge-era Snake Plissken in the best movie the ’90s never made, and not a gritty reboot), and an occasion worth marking all the more with a revisit to the album, which you’ll find streaming below should you want to lose your head again in the lumber of “Entering the Eighth House,” which, yeah, you probably do.

Info from the PR wire:

Sorcia spring tour 2024 poster

Sorcia Spring Tour 2024


We are very excited to announce our Spring Tour 2024! We look forward to shaking walls around the NW with so many amazing bands as we make our trek to Rocky Mountain Riff Fest and back. More details to come, so mark your calendars and stay tuned!

4/18 – Ray’s Golden Lion | Richland, WA
4/19 – Road To Riff Fest Showcase | The District Bar | Spokane, WA
4/20 – Rocky Mountain Riff Fest | Eagles | Kalispell, MT
4/21 – Mikey’s Gyros | Moscow, ID
4/22 – Substation | Seattle, WA
4/26 – High Water Mark | Portland, OR
4/27 – McCoy’s Tavern | Olympia, WA

(Poster by Jessica Brasch)

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

Sorcia, Lost Season (2023)

Tags: , , , , ,

Sandrider Post “Aviary” Video; 7″ Out Now

Posted in Bootleg Theater on February 5th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

Sandrider Photo by John Malley

Look, just because I haven’t posted about it in the last 35 seconds doesn’t mean I didn’t have Sandrider‘s 2023 album, Enveletration (review here), on yesterday. So no, I’m not over it yet, and the fact that the Seattle trio of guitarist/vocalist Jon Weisnewski, bassist/vocalist Jesse Roberts and drummer Nat Damm posted up the Aviary/Baleen two-songer in December ahead of a 7″ pressing in January on Alternative Tentacles was like an end-of-year bonus for having made it through another 12 months of the 2020s. Like going around the Monopoly board except you pay $200 every time you pass Go because that’s real capitalism, the years, fleeting.

But yes, Sandrider made a video for “Aviary,” and it’s a hoot and I’m posting it. No, not just because the song dares to ask, “Where do I go when I sleep?,” but that’s of course part of it. Sandrider‘s post-hardcore-informed take on heavy has an energetic shove of its own and that’s readily on display in “Aviary,” which along with its aren’t-whales-creepy-yes-they-are complement “Baleen” was recorded at the same time as Enveletration — which is a boon in my head considering what they got out of that session, not at all their first with producer Matt Bayles who has helmed all their work to-date — and it definitely fits with where the band are at more than a decade on from when they got going following the end of Weisnewski and Damm‘s time in joyously aggro chaotic noisemakers Akimbo (who for a while were on Alternative Tentacles, because it all comes together), while offering something of its own apart from the way the songs on the LP interacted with each other. As I think I probably said in December, they’ll make great bonus tracks on the Enveletration reissue.

I did go ahead and buy the 7″ just now though. It was $16 after shipping and that’s not nothing, but I got paid to write a death metal band’s bio last week (super fun), so I’m treating myself. And having immediate access to the download isn’t the worst either. Maybe I’ll sneak them into the Quarterly Review (hopefully last week of this month) and get to talk about the single more. Or maybe they’ll do a video for “Baleen.” Oh, and if you watch the video, you’ll see big letters behind the band ‘B,’ ‘Y,’ and ‘C.’ I do not know what they stand for, and if it’s something obvious and dumb I do hope you’ll convey the information gently.

Or, perhaps in the spirit of “Aviary” itself, you’ll punch me in the face and knock the glass vase off the table on your way to flipping the chair just for the hell of it. I’ll take it as it comes, I guess.

E-n-j-o-y a life or wit free of toxic positivity:

Sandrider, “Aviary” official video


Extremely relevant to your immediate interests will be the hashtag thrilling news that we made a goddamn music video for our assured grammy winning hit “Aviary”.

This is a video for our brand new 7″ single on Alternative Tentacles records. Black vinyl still available so if you love small vinyls and flipping sides as much as we do, go get it.

I have an aunt and she’s great but she’s always had pretty abrupt phone etiquette. She’ll call up and talk to you about things an aunt would need to call you about, like the latest death in the family or christmas, and regardless of how pleasant the chat ends up being she’ll end it with a single “Bye” and hangup that is so ruthless. Absolute savage when it comes to phone calls. As confronting as it can be I always respected her for being so efficient at murdering communication. Bye.

AVIARY/BALEEN was recorded by Matt Bayles (Mastodon, ISIS, The Sword) at Studio Litho & ExEx Audio October 2021.
Mixed by Matt Bayles at The Red Room March 2022.
Additional recording by Jeff McNulty at The Kill Room November 2021. Mastered by Ed Brooks at Resonant Mastering April 2022.
Paintings by Jesse Roberts.
Layout by Nat Damm.
Photos by Invisible Hour.

Nat Damm – drums
Jesse Roberts – bass, vocals
Jon Weisnewski – guitar, vocals

Sandrider, Aviary/Baleen (2024)

Sandrider, Enveletration (2023)

Sandrider on Facebook

Sandrider on Instagram

Sandrider on Bandcamp

Alternative Tentacles on Facebook

Alternative Tentacles on Instagram

Alternative Tentacles on TikTok

Alternative Tentacles website

Tags: , , , , ,

Bell Witch Announce Massive Eight-Week European Tour

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 22nd, 2024 by JJ Koczan

bell witch

This will be one of two times that at least some of these dates will be posted, as happens from time to time on a run that features more than one killer band with stuff to talk about, but to look at the spread of touring to be taken on by Seattle’s Bell Witch, I’ll just say that there are a lot of ways to say a band is tight, like they’re friends, chosen-family, etc., but making it publicly known that you’re willing to spend upwards of eight weeks in another human being’s close company, in any situation let alone crisscrossing Europe on tour, is a particularly resonant one.

Bell Witch found new grandiose lows in last year’s Future’s Shadow Part 1: The Clandestine Gate (review here), and now that I think about it, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to think that at some point on such a tour the inevitable follow-up might manifest. On the other hand maybe they’re just going to go and I don’t know anything, as usual. Flailing at guesses. Rampant speculation.

But it’s an event either way. Check it out:

Bell Witch full euro tour

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

Along the way we’ll be joined for stretches by friends old & new in FVNERALS, Knoll, Esoteric, Thantifaxath & The Keening. We’re excited to share the stage with bands who bring something truly unique & powerful to their music.

Tickets are on sale now from

We can’t wait to see new & familiar faces alike.

28 – Dresden, DE – Chemiefabrik *
29 – Bremen, DE – Lagerhaus *
30 – Copenhagen, DK – Alice CPH *
31 – Oslo, NO – Inferno Fest
1 – Göteborg, SE – Musikens Hus *
2 – Aarhus, DK – Radar *
4 – Oberhausen, DE – Ebertbad *
5 – Diksmuide, BE – 4AD *
6 – Brighton, UK – The Arch ^
7 – Bristol UK – Exchange ^
9 – Dublin, IE – Academy 2
10 – Limerick, IE – Dolan
12 – Glasgow, UK – Room 2 ^
13 – Manchester, UK – Rebellion ^
14 – Leeds, UK – Brudenell Social Club ^
15 – London, UK – The Dome ^ +
16 – Namur, BE – Belvedere
17 – Eindhoven, NL – Effenaar
19 – Tours, FR – Le Temps Machine
20 – Paris, FR – Petit Bain =
21 – Nantes, FR – Le Ferrailleur =
22 – Toulouse, FR – Le Rex =
23 – Portugalete, ES – Groove #
24 – Barroselas, PT – SWR Fest
26 – Madrid, ES – Nazca #
27 – Barcelona, ES – Sala Upload #
28 – Grenoble, FR – Le Ciel #
29 – Martigny, CH – Caves Du Manoir #
30 – Luzern, CH – Sedel #
2 – Wien, AT – Arena #
3 – Budapest, HU – A38 #
4 – Zagreb, HR – AKC Attack #
6 – Sofia, BG – Club Singles #
7 – Istanbul, TR – Babylon #
9 – Thessalonki, GR – Eightball Club #
10 – Athens, GR – Temple #
11 – Larissa, GR – Skyland #
13 – Caserta, IT – Lizard #
14 – Pescara, IT – Scumm #
15 – Ravenna, IT – Bronson #
16 – Treviso, IT – Altroquando #
17 – Linz, AT – STWST #
18 – Brno, CZ – Kabinet Muz #
^ with Knoll
+ with Esoteric
= with Thantifaxath
# with The Keening

Bell Witch is Bassist Dylan Desmond and Drummer Jesse Shreibman.

Bell Witch, Future’s Shadow Part 1: The Clandestine Gate (2023)

Tags: , , , , ,

Sandrider Stream New Single Aviary/Baleen; 7″ Due Next Month on Alternative Tentacles

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 11th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

I didn’t have to get any further than ‘recorded when they did Enveletration‘ to know I was on board for the new Sandrider single, and if you want the actual truth, I wasn’t much past seeing the band’s name in the subject of the email and the word ‘new’ before I understood I’d be spending a few bucks.

Sandrider released a top-tenner for me earlier this year in the aforementioned Enveletration (review here), and actually, if you’re up for something a little more extreme, Sandrider guitarist/vocalist Jon Weisnewski‘s counterintuitively-named-and-that’s-the-point solo unit Nuclear Dudes released a leaves-marks burner called Boss Blades (review here) that sounds half like the panicked side of my brain when I have to be around humans and half like it was just taking a break from scraping the highway to doom itself into your cortex.

Wrapping 2023 with two more Sandrider tracks suits me just fine. You might recognize parts of “Aviary” from songs that did make it to the record, and that’s kind of fun, and the drums in the middle just rule. “Baleen” is the more intense of the two and like a lot of Weisnewski‘s stuff this year I find it deeply relatable. Whales are fucking weird. And baleen, if you’ve ever seen the stuff, is creepy. I end up reading a lot of fact books about sea creatures these days. It’s a blue whale’s planet. We’re just fucking it up for them.

Anyway, the corresponding subject matter makes me wonder how long he’s been a parent, though I don’t actually know if dude has kids or not. Would be weird if I did. But on Enveletration, I’m pretty sure “Alia” is a daughter ode and I don’t know that it is but I really want the line in LP-closer “Grouper” to be about restless, angry fathers staring at their phones. Relevant to my current fucking moment, I tell you.

So yeah, seeing as I woke up last night with the realization that the singular is shenanigans would be shenanigan, and here’s Sandrider with some prime free range shenanigans, I’m calling it fate. The vinyl is in January, on Alternative Tentacles, which the PR wire reminds was once upon a time Akimbo‘s label.

Info and audio from Bandcamp:

Sandrider Aviary baleen

Just a handful of months after releasing their meteorically heavy LP Enveletration (Satanik Royalty Records), Seattle loud-rock trio SANDRIDER has teamed up with Alternative Tentacles to release a two-song 7” in January 2024. Engineered by Matt Bayles (SOUNDGARDEN, MASTODON, BOTCH) at Seattle’s Litho Studios during the Enveletration sessions, the two tracks “AVIARY” and “BALEEN” offer a concise snapshot of what Sandrider does best: pulling together lead-heavy riffs and cathartic wails into songs that are somehow fun and infectiously catchy while also being messy and relatable angry. Much like their Seattle grunge/punk-rock predecessors, their sound is paired seamlessly with modern hopelessness as much as it is crushing beers and reading Dune.

This cheeky duality of Sandrider is also captured perfectly in the subject matter of the EP’s two tracks: The explosive first track, “Aviary,” portrays the modern hellscape of social media as sinister, soulless mama bird, willfully vomiting disinformation into the eager mouths of enthusiastically consenting participants. “PLEASE MOTHER, FEED THEM YOUR BILE. DOUSE THE BABES WITH YOUR WHOLESOME RETCH,” vocalist/guitarist Jon Weisnewski wails over massive, frenetic riffs, rounded out by bassist Jesse Roberts’ warm low end and drummer Nat Damm’s ultra-hard, punch-like beats. The song concludes in a frenzy of danceable beats, with Weisnewski doing his best Painkiller-era Halford screams as he commands you to flood the whole damn thing – drown those who wish to destroy us. As pissed off as the song is, you’ll feel triumphant by the end anyway.

Side B’s “Baleen” on the other hand (while ironically the angrier-sounding song of the two), is about a lighter thought that keeps Weisnewski up at night: Do you ever think about how fucking weird whales are? They’re enormous floating creatures that can’t handle gravity, and they hang out in the deepest oceans. Yet they can’t breathe underwater, so they have to stay near the top and come up for air all the time. Seems inconvenient. And you’d think that the biggest mammal that ever lived would be a brutal carnivore, right? But no. They eat the tiniest creatures, through a bunch of hair in their mouths. What the fuck? Anyway, ponder on that while you bang your head along with Sandrider’s signature primal, hypnotizingly heavy riffs.

While the Aviary/Baleen 7” is Sandrider’s debut for Alternative Tentacles, Weisnewski and Damm have a long history with the label, having previously been signed to AT with their former band, AKIMBO. After forming Sandrider in 2007, the band released three full-length albums and a split with KINSKI via the now-defunct Seattle label Good To Die before signing to Satanik Royalty Records for the release of 2023’s Enveletration. The trio are thrilled that they get to release records with their local Seattle friends as well as the punk-rock legends in Alternative Tentacles.

Weisnewski comments:
“I’m so excited to work with Alternative Tentacles again. I have so much appreciation for Jello and the label finding and investing in artists that continually push expectations. They’re often unsafe, in that they champion artists over mainstream commercial appeal, and at the same time that consistency has built a fucking amazing legacy. Sandrider is just so humbled and appreciative that they would extend the offer to us. We’re over the moon about it.”

AVIARY/BALEEN was recorded by Matt Bayles (Mastodon, ISIS, The Sword) at Studio Litho & ExEx Audio October 2021.
Mixed by Matt Bayles at The Red Room March 2022.
Additional recording by Jeff McNulty at The Kill Room November 2021. Mastered by Ed Brooks at Resonant Mastering April 2022.
Paintings by Jesse Roberts.
Layout by Nat Damm.
Photos by Invisible Hour.

Nat Damm – drums
Jesse Roberts – bass, vocals
Jon Weisnewski – guitar, vocals

Sandrider, Aviary/Baleen (2024)

Tags: , , , , ,

Rain City Doom Fest Announces Lineup for Dec. 16

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 16th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

An all-dayer set for Saturday, Dec. 16, at El Corazon and Funhouse in Seattle, Washington, Rain City Doom Fest was announced late last week by the bands. There are eight of those, which is probably plenty, considering you’ve got Matt Pike bringing his Pike vs. the Automaton solo band through with direct support from Witch Ripper and Mos Generator. Un, Sorcia, Sun Crow, Grim Earth and Mother Root round out, and if you know all of those bands or you don’t — Sorcia in July put out a record called Lost Season (review here); Witch Ripper gleaned fervent hyperbole around their The Flight After the Fall (review here) this Spring; Sun Crow are working toward their next LP; the list goes on — but if I’ve earned any trust in the last 14 years, I hope maybe you’ll take my word for it when I say it’s a solid lineup between established and newer acts, and that I hope it continues to be a regular thing.

Because a homegrown heavy fest isn’t anything to sneeze at and it’s not easy to put together, learning many invariably crucial lessons the only way they can be learned: by doing the thing. I didn’t know it when I first posted the lineup, but Jessica Brasch of Sorcia books this one and it’s been going for three years. This is the first time it will be at two venues — I think — and it remains a killer bill.

Have at it:

Rain city doom fest

El Corazon & The Funhouse present:


2 stages, 8 bands. Showcasing some of the heaviest music in the PNW and beyond.

Pike Vs The Automaton
Witch Ripper
Mos Generator
Sun Crow
Grim Earth
Mother Root

Saturday, Dec. 16

Doors @ 6pm | Show @ 7pm
$20 ADV | $25 DOS | 21+

(#127903#)️ on sale Friday 10/13 at 9am

Poster: Brian Kim

Event page:

Sorcia, Lost Season (2023)

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Friday Full-Length: Ancient Warlocks, Ancient Warlocks

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 25th, 2023 by JJ Koczan


This album turns a decade old this Fall, but the truth is I’ve been wanting to revisit it for like two years, so whatever on album anniversaries. But Seattle heavy rockers Ancient Warlocks released their self-titled debut (review here) in Nov. 2013 — issuing first through Lay Bare Recordings and then in 2014 on STB Records, the latter of which made them labelmates to the likes of Spelljammer, Curse the Son, Druglord and Geezer, and Ancient Warlocks had some elements in common with those and others in the ouevre. Like Curse the Son, they had an obviously-sought fuzz delivering choice riffs. Like Geezer they had swing and jammy groove. Like Druglord they weren’t afraid of bring cast in their genre. But because they were young, they could be from Seattle and not have to play grunge, and Ancient Warlocks most represented a boom in Pacific Northwestern heavy rock that was taking place from about 2010-2014 — as much as it ever stopped — and brought a generational shift of bands picking up in the wake of acts like Red Fang or Earthless (not that the latter are PNW, just very influential), and they did it with style.

With the lineup of lead guitarist/vocalist Aaron Krause, guitarist Darren Chase, bassist Anthony “Oni” Timm and drummer Steve Jones, Ancient Warlocks had made their presence felt with their 2011 7″, Into the Night b/w Super Wizard (review here), which was pressed following their first demo in 2010, “Killer’s Moon.” They had a split with Mos Generator — as every up and coming heavy rock act from the state of Washington should at some point or other — and with their own Jones at the helm to engineer, mix and master at Big Sound in Seattle, they unfurled eight songs in a tight 33 minutes on their self-titled with no pretense, unforced good times, dynamic shifts in mood and approach, and fuzz. Oh, the fuzz.

It was a record you knew was going to be good going in that turned out, yes, to indeed be good. Ancient Warlocks weren’t a stylistic revelation, but they did manage to pull ideas from the bluesier end of the aesthetic spectrum and work that into some of the guitar and vocals, and “Lion Storm” swings with a looseness and underlying drive that reminds me now of North Carolina’s Caltrop. It was easy then to peg them as a straightforward band, and that’s what they were. Verses, choruses. Guitars, bass, drums, vocals. The latter, from Krause, were not entirely untreated, effects-wise, and on a song like the ultra-Queens of the Stone Age-circa-1998 “Sweet’s Too Slow,” that helps enhance some of the garage-y looseness that complements the fuzz established at the outset with “Into the Night” — that first single being placed to open side A while “Super Wizard” starts side B; “Killer’s Moon” resurfaces here as well, with its shuffling procession and thick boogie putting emphasis on live energy. As regards vocals, the thicker Fu Manchu-style riffing of “Cactus Wine” comes accompanied by a melody later that showed the potential for growth in arrangement and delivery, but Krause wasn’t coming out of the gate here trying to Ancient Warlocks Ancient Warlockssound like James LaBrie, and it wouldn’t have worked if he was.

Being rockers suited Ancient Warlocks well. “Super Wizard” followed the drums into a rawer shove with a bit of feedback before the verse kicks in. At the end of side B, the finale “Sorcerer’s Magician” is the longest cut at 5:27, but “Super Wizard” is the shortest at 3:09 and it’s a burner, with rhythmic shove like Sasquatch, lyrics that know they’re dopey, and a casual feel to its sound overall, not looking to make trouble, but doing so, and with charm. The subsequent “White Dwarf” has an immediate push as well and brings that momentum to a riff structure that feels somehow like it’s working off Elder circa Dead Roots Stirring (remember, this was 2013), but does so without departing structurally from what Ancient Warlocks have been doing up to that point. It’s a stylistic niche that’s become something of a microgenre in the last few years. Proto-heavy prog? I don’t know.

As they make their way through, “Killer’s Moon” locks into the aforementioned boogie, and “Sorcerer’s Magician” ups the doom factor by announcing itself with a riff that’s slow-Slayer, but slower, before breaking to near-silence and putting the vocals over an open-spaced verse peppered with bluesy guitar licks, the use of silence and empty space calling back to ’90s Clutch, maybe, and that self-titled, but as with the rest of this self-titled, Ancient Warlocks made these parts and these themes their own, showed themselves to be a multifaceted band interested in growing, and laying out a range of contexts for their craft. That is, while consistent largely in tone and in possession of an abiding organic feel, Ancient Warlocks — the album — is not the work of a band doing the same thing over and over. They’re trying new ideas, laying out a swath of options for future exploration, establishing the ground that their next, oh, four or five records would no doubt continue to develop.

Sadly that turned out not to be the case, however. Ancient Warlocks released their second long-player, appropriately titled II (review here), in June 2016, and by that time, Krause and Timm were already out of the band despite appearing on the record. The band continued with Chris Mathews Jr. on vocals and lead guitar and Stu Laswell on bass. The Live LP followed quickly behind the sophomore album, and already in announcing the new lineup, Ancient Warlocks were talking about making a third studio offering. Didn’t happen. They seem last to have been doing shows in late 2017, which is how it goes sometimes, and Ancient Warlocks were a band whose potential never really got to see realization. They had two cool records, seemed like they were moving forward, then nothing. When you look out into the abyss of bands who did and could’ve written more cool riffs in their time and didn’t, does the abyss stare back?

Almost certainly. And Ancient Warlocks may a decade later be a footnote in that generational turnover moment in heavy rock, but that doesn’t diminish the quality of what they did here or on the second record, and like the best of heavy fried heavy (think of it like chicken fried chicken), the work holds up regardless of the passage of years. So yeah, the anniversary doesn’t matter after all.

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

‘Fun week’ is a week wherein there’s no camp and The Patient Mrs. and The Pecan and I do fun stuff and hang out before school starts and so on you get the idea. We went to the Natural History Museum. We went to see family in Connecticut. I bought Halloween jack-o-lantern Peeps. The fun never stops.

Having been in Portugal two or three weeks ago and experienced that, this week has been a bit of the opposite, and I find myself flailing for the balance between the two sides that commonly exists. Because The Obelisk gets the shaft, no doubt about it. What, I’m gonna give up time with my family that I’ll never get back to run a blog about music for no money and also that takes a whole lot of time? Of course not, but I do it.

We had a Dio dance party this week, though, and that was pretty rad. The house was lagging on Wednesday and it kind of picked up the room as The Last in Line is wont to do. Beyond that, we’ve been swimming at a pool at relatives’ house — my sister’s husband’s mother and father’s house; they made the mistake of an open invite — reading lots of books and trying to deal with nerves about starting kindergarten. Like she’s not going to go, immediately catch a cold, and have to stay home for three days.

Though I say that and I have to acknowledge that maybe there’s a bit of wishful thinking in there, and that along with the adjustments my wife is making to a new semester at a job she finds increasingly dissatisfying and demeaning, and that my kid is making to starting kindergarten and being out of the house more than she has in her life, I’ll be making an adjustment after five-plus years to being on my own for a longer portion of my day than I’m used to. Empty nester.

Next week, an Acid Magus premiere on Monday, an Aiwass premiere on Wednesday, a The Silver Linings premiere on Friday, and I have stuff I want to write about to fill those other open days. Might try to review Slomatics one day and Domkraft the other, which would be a fun pairing in my nerd brain for their new albums since the bands are coming off that split they did last year that was so wonderful. We’ll see if I get there.

I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Have fun, watch your head, get your back to school shopping done, shoe measuring and all that crap. The sun’s coming up so I’m calling it quits. My absolute best to you and yours.


The Obelisk Collective on Facebook

The Obelisk Radio

The Obelisk merch

Tags: , , , , ,