Video Interview: Eric Calvert of Switchblade Jesus on Death Hymns and More

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Features on May 10th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

switchblade jesus

Corpus Christi, Texas, three-piece Switchblade Jesus released their second album, Death Hymns (discussed here), last Fall through Cursed Tongue Records. There’s a cassette release coming up, but really the thing to talk about here is the record itself, and that’s plenty. While it clocks in at a utterly-consumable 27 minutes, Death Hymns does so in the form of a high-order ripper, a broad departure from the Southern grooves proffered on their self-titled debut (review here). That record, which was first self-released in 2013, then picked up by Kozmik Artifactz in 2014 before Ripple Music snagged it for a release in 2015 as well, was nothing if not well received and well composed, but Death Hymns takes the expectation born of that outing and even the band’s 2017 appearance on Ripple‘s The Second Coming of Heavy split series (review here), and sets it alight in a fury of prog-noise riffs and sharp rhythmic turns.

Founding guitarist/vocalist Eric Calvert — joined in the band by drummer Jon Elizondo and bassist/vocalist Chris Black — cites the latter coming into the fold circa 2017 as a source for the uptick in aggression, and part of it might stem from paring down the lineup from a five-piece, a move that brought Calvert to more of a frontman role than he’d been in previously, despite actually sharing more writing duties now. Whatever did it, Death Hymns turned in a monstrous torrent of energy, still riff-based enough to catch on with heavy heads, but moved beyond the more blues/Southern heavy-derived fare that, as Calvert notes, there’s plenty of around these days.

I know you’ve heard Death Hymns and you don’t need me to tell you any of this and you probably interviewed Calvert last week and talked about all the changes the band went through in the seven-year divide between their first album and their second. You guys talk on the regular. I know that. For me, however, the turn of sound was all the more fascinating because it continued to be underscored by a quality of songwriting that made the tracks memorable as well as forceful. You can see it in the interview. Calvert mentions “Red Plains” and I’m like, “Oh yeah dude.” It’s the kind of LP that might garner that response spontaneously with its tracks.

And this is a pretty broad-reaching conversation, from hopes for future work to the best band ever to come out of Texas — I’m not spoiling it — all the way down to gear-nerding and learning home recording in the midst of the pandemic, thereby delaying recording by, say, a year or more. Calvert, who also makes pedals under the banner of Frost Giant Electronics, had plenty to say. Best kind of interview.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

Switchblade Jesus Interview with Eric Calvert, May 5, 2021

Death Hymns is out now on LP and CD and available through Cursed Tongue Records and Switchblade Jesus. Tapes coming soon, streaming below.

Switchblade Jesus, Death Hymns (2020)

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Switchblade Jesus website

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RippleFest Texas 2021 Announced for Aug. 7; Void Vator, Thunder Horse, Switchblade Jesus, Witchcryer, Holy Death Trio and Bone Church Confirmed

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 29th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

ripplefest texas 2021 banner crop

This is an in-person event. Feels weird even saying that, but also refreshing in a way. Set for Aug. 7 at the Texas Ski Ranch in New Braunfels — between San Antonio and Austin, if you’re looking to fly in — the upcoming RippleFest Texas 2021 purports to be the first in an ongoing annual series, and that’s a hell of a time to make a debut. Early, but I have no doubt they’ll get people out for it. Shit, I’d go.

The first lineup announcement — more to come, reportedly — brings Void VatorBone ChurchWitchcryerHoly Death TrioThunder Horse and Switchblade Jesus to the bill, and leaves plenty of room for speculation on others. Of course, Texas is awash in bands, now as ever. Would Mothership headline in a triumphant return? What about the more recent offshoot of that band and Destroyer of LightTemple of Love who premiered a Deep Purple cover here not so long ago? That’d be a cool first gig, even if they’re not signed to Ripple (yet).

Like I said, lots of room for speculation. One way or another, though, I know a party when I see one, and this looks like a party. Not sure I’d bring a swimsuit — pandemic beach body? that’s a hard pass — but I’d definitely bring earplugs enough to share.

Lick of My Spoon Productions, which is co-hosting, put up the announcement that follows. Tickets are available now:

ripplefest texas 2021 poster

FIRST LIST OF BANDS ANNOUNCED FOR THE 1ST ANNUAL RIPPLEFEST TEXAS!!!

Void Vator, Bone Church, Witchcryer, Holy Death Trio, Thunder Horse, and Switchblade Jesus!!!

This is only the first announcement and MANY more bands to be announced soon. Bring a swimsuit and swim on the beach at Texas Ski Ranch while listening to music from the hottest label in the business: Ripple Music!

Tickets are available through the link on the FB page. Tickets: www.outhousetickets.com/Event/m17387-Ripplefest_Texas

Get yours now as more bands will be announced because it WILL SELL OUT!

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

Thunder Horse, Chosen One (2021)

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The Obelisk Presents: THE BEST OF 2020

Posted in Features on December 31st, 2020 by JJ Koczan

london-news-etching-1854-newcastle-upon-tyne

[PLEASE NOTE: These are not the results of the year-end poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t contributed your list to the cause yet, please do so here.]

Invariably, the ultimate measure of 2020 will be in lives and livelihoods lost around the world. I have nothing to add to the discourse of the COVID-19 pandemic that others haven’t said in more articulate and precise language. Suffice it to note that 2020 was the year that the very concept of “unprecedented” itself became trite.

One does not have to look far to find positives amid the devastation. Creativity continues to flourish. Art cannot be killed. Even locked away from each other in quarantine, artists will continue to reach out, to collaborate, to fulfill the human need for expression that has driven the species since cave drawings and will no doubt be the ruins we leave behind us when we’re gone.

In underground music, it was simply overwhelming. And though I’ll admit it was hard at times to listen to music and divorce it from the larger context of what was happening in the world — it was there like a background buzz — this year reinforced how necessary music is, not only as an escape or a source of income for those who make/promote it, but as an integral component of life and community. Absences have been keenly felt.

I won’t try to sate you with platitudes, to say “things will get better.” Maybe they will, maybe they won’t. One year turning to the next does not fix broken systems and it does not cure raging plagues. It’s just a number. Arbitrary except as a convenient marker for things like this, births, deaths, and so on. Bookkeeping.

Before I turn you over to the lists: Please be kind in the comments if you choose to leave one. To me. To other people. To yourself. These lists are culled from my listening preference and what I consider of critical importance. But I’m one person. If there’s something you feel has been left out, say so. I ask you only to do so in a spirit of friendship rather than argument. Thank you in advance.

ukmedsnorx.com/zopiclone
ukmedsnorx.com/zolpidem

Okay:

The Top 50 Albums of 2020

#50-31

50. Sun Crow, Quest for Oblivion
49. Atramentus, Stygian
48. Arcadian Child, Protopsycho
47. Fuzz, III
46. Jointhugger, I Am No One
45. Dirt Woman, The Glass Cliff
44. Switchblade Jesus, Death Hymns
43. Foot, The Balance of Nature Shifted
42. Hymn, Breach Us
41. IAH, III
40. Lord Fowl, Glorious Babylon
39. Acid Mess, Sangre de Otros Mundos
38. 1000mods, Youth of Dissent
37. Deathwhite, Grave Image
36. Soldati, Doom Nacional
35. Cortez, Sell the Future
34. Kadavar, The Isolation Tapes
33. Black Rainbows, Cosmic Ritual Supertrip
32. Shadow Witch, Under the Shadow of a Witch
31. Insect Ark, The Vanishing

Notes: To say nothing of the honorable mentions that follow the rest of the list below, immediately we see the problem of so-many-albums-not-enough-space. People talk about a top 50 as ridiculous, like there’s no way you can like that much music. Bullshit. I agonized over how to fit Sun Crow on this list because their Quest for Oblivion felt like it deserved to be here. Ditto that for Arcadian Child. And the achievements of bands like Kadavar, 1000mods and Switchblade Jesus and Insect Ark in breaking the boundaries of their own aesthetics deserve every accolade they can get, and likewise those who progressed in their sound like Cortez, Shadow Witch, Lord Fowl, Hymn, Foot, Black Rainbows, Deathwhite and IAH. Add to that the debuts from Atramentus, Dirt Woman, Jointhugger, Acid Mess and Sergio Ch.’s Soldati, and you’ve got a batch of 20 records — some born of this year’s malaise, some working in spite of it — that vary in sound but are working to push their respective styles to new places one way or the other.

30. High Priestess, Casting the Circle

high priestess casting the circle

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed May 5.

There was no shortage of anticipation for what L.A. cultists High Priestess would do to follow their 2018 self-titled debut (review here), and the three-piece did not disappoint, instead gave a ritual mass that included the 17-minute concept piece “Invocation” alongside infectious and ethereal melodies like “The Hourglass.” And now that the circle’s been cast? Seems like they can do anything.

29. Polymoon, Caterpillars of Creation

Polymoon Caterpillars of Creation

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed Oct. 12.

High-powered cosmic metal from Finland pulling apart heavy psychedelia on an atomic level with an urgency that speaks of youth, progress and an ingrained need for exploration? Sign me up. A lot of bands on this list put out their first album this year. There are few for whom my hopes are as high as they are for Polymoon. If you haven’t yet heard Caterpillars of Creation, do.

28. Sons of Otis, Isolation

Sons of Otis Isolation

Released by Totem Cat Records. Reviewed Sept. 30.

Of the sundry horrors 2020 wrought, a new album from long-running Toronto three-piece Sons of Otis was an unexpected positive, and their ultra-spaced, murky riffs on their first studio album since 2012’s Seismic (review here, also here) launched like a slow-motion escape pod of righteous doom (s)tonality. There will never be another Sons of Otis. Be thankful for everything you get from them.

27. Lamp of the Universe, Dead Shrine

Lamp of the Universe Dead Shrine

Released by Projection Records. Reviewed May 25.

Organ, Mellotron, sitar, acoustic and electric guitars, various percussion elements, and of course the inimitable fragility in Craig Williamson‘s voice itself — the ingredients for Lamp of the Universe‘s Dead Shrine were familiar enough for those familiar with the one-man outfit running more than two decades, but the lush acid folk created remains a standout the world over. Dead Shrine was a much-needed gift of peace and meditation.

26. BleakHeart, Dream Griever

bleakheart dream griever

Released by Sailor Records. Reviewed Nov. 18.

The debut album from Colorado’s BleakHeart collected pieces united by melody and overarching atmosphere, positioned stylistically somewhere around heavygaze or heavy post-rock, but feeling less limited to genre bounds than some others working in a similar sphere. As a first outing, it brought a promise of things to come even as the depths of its mix seemed to swallow the listener entirely, equal parts serving claustrophobia and escapism.

25. Pale Divine, Consequence of Time

Pale Divine Consequence of Time

Released by Cruz Del Sur Music. Reviewed June 3.

There is not enough space here to properly commend Pale Divine founding guitarist/vocalist Greg Diener on how much he opened up the band by bringing in his and drummer Darin McCloskey‘s former Beelzefuzz bandmate Dana Ortt on shared guitar, vocal and songwriting duties. Completed by Ron “Fezz” McGinnis on bass/vocals, Pale Divine are a refreshed and ready powerhouse of American traditional doom.

24. Uncle Woe, Phantomescence

uncle woe phantomescence

Released by Packard Black Productions. Reviewed Oct. 21.

One is going to have to get used to the idea of Uncle Woe residing in the places between, I think. An inward-looking cosmic doom that’s likewise morose and reaching, opaque and translucent, Phantomescence could be almost troubling in its feeling of off-kilter expression. Yet that’s exactly what multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Rain Fice was going for. Thriving on contradiction, exploratory, and individualized. Start from doom, move outward.

23. REZN, Chaotic Divine

rezn chaotic divine

Released by Off the Record Label. Reviewed Oct. 15.

I don’t feel like I’m cool enough to offer any substantive comment on what Chicago’s REZN do, but their sax-laced heavy psychedelia comes across warm and is invitingly languid while still delivered with a sense of energy and purpose. It rolls and you want to roll with it, so you do. They were clearly hurt by not being able to tour this year, as were audiences for not seeing them. Call them neo-stoner metal or whatever you want, these songs deserve to be played live.

22. Ruff Majik, The Devil’s Cattle

ruff majik the devils cattle

Released by Mongrel Records. Reviewed Oct. 29.

A revamped lineup for South African desert-ish heavy rockers Ruff Majik brought producer Evert Snyman in as co-conspirator with frontman/principal songwriter Johni Holiday, and found the former trio working as a five-piece with a broader sound underscored by an electric sense of purpose and willingness to push themselves to places they hadn’t gone before. Their third record, it seemed as well to be a new beginning, and they met the challenge head-on.

21. Curse the Son, Excruciation

Curse The Son Excruciation

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed June 8.

The underheralded children of rolling fuzz riffage, Connecticut’s Curse the Son found new depths of emotion to bring to Excruciation — and I do mean “depths.” Dark times for dark times. Fueled by personal hardship, turmoil, motorcycle accidents and a pervasive sense of struggle, the LP was nonetheless a triumph of their songwriting and brought new melodic character to their established largesse of tone. Your loss if you missed it.

20. The Atomic Bitchwax, Scorpio

The Atomic Bitchwax Scorpio

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Aug. 26.

Business as usual in ferocious heavy/speed rock from The Atomic Bitchwax on Scorpio — and that was only reassuring since the band’s eighth full-length marked the first since the departure of guitarist/vocalist Finn Ryan and his replacing with Garrett Sweeny, a bandmate of founding bassist/vocalist Chris Kosnik and drummer Bob Pantella in Monster Magnet. They barely stopped to cool their heels and yet still managed to be catchy as hell. How do they do it? Jersey Magic.

19. Cinder Well, No Summer

cinder well no summer

Released by Free Dirt Records. Reviewed July 21.

Such pervasive melancholy could only be derived from Irish folk, and so it was on Cinder Well‘s No Summer, which managed to move between singer-songwriter minimalism from Amelia Baker and arrangements of deceptive and purposeful intricacy. Wherever it went, from traditional songs “Wandering Boy” and “The Cuckoo” to originals like “Fallen” and the nine-minute “Our Lady’s,” it was equal parts gorgeous and sad and resonant. It remains so, despite the fleeting season.

18. Pallbearer, Forgotten Days

pallbearer forgotten days

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Dec. 24.

Their fourth album and first since crossing the decade-mark since their inception, Pallbearer‘s Forgotten Days wasn’t just heavy, emotional or big-sounding; it was the most their-own of anything they’ve done. It felt exactly like the record they wanted it to be, and reconfirmed that the generation of listeners being introduced to doom by their music is going to be just fine if they follow the cues laid out for them here.

17. Slift, Ummon

slift ummon

Released by Stolen Body and Vicious Circle Records. Reviewed March 26.

Less a reinvention of space rock than a kick in its ass, Slift‘s Ummon pushed well past the line of manageability at 72 minutes and reveled in that. The French outfit were greeted as liberators when they released the album, and with the way the respect has been maintained in the months since they’ve given themselves a high standard to meet, but there’s only promise to be heard as you get lost in the nebular wash of this sprawling 2LP. They’ll have two more records out before this one’s fully digested.

16. My Dying Bride, The Ghost of Orion

my dying bride the ghost of orion

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Feb. 25.

The first album in half a decade from long-established UK death-doom forebears My Dying Bride found vocalist Aaron Stainthorpe coping with his daughter’s cancer diagnosis and translating that into the morose poetry for which the band is so well known and with which they’ve been so influential. My Dying Bride has never wanted for sincerity, but to call them affecting here would be underselling the quality of their craft and the heart they put into it. Follow-up EP is already out with extra non-album tracks.

15. Causa Sui, Szabodelico

causa sui Szabodelico

Released by El Paraiso Records. Reviewed Nov. 11.

Denmark’s Causa Sui may be on a mission to unite jazz and heavy psychedelia — and blessings on them for that — but the mellow jammy vibes they conjured on Szabodelico only emphasized how much it’s the character of what they do and the chemistry they’ve brought as bandmates that has allowed them to branch thusly in terms of aesthetic. It was the kind of album you wanted to put on again even before it was over, and its sweet instrumentals felt born to a greater timeline than a single year can encompass.

14. All Souls, Songs for the End of the World

All Souls Songs for the End of the World

Self-released. Reviewed Sept. 21.

I’m not a punk rocker, but All Souls make me wish I was. Their emotive and engaged heavy rock looks out as much as in on Songs for the End of the World — their second LP behind a 2018 self-titled debut (review here) — but it’s undeniably punk in its foundation, and what the four-piece of Antonio Aguilar and Meg Castellanos (both ex-Totimoshi), Erik Trammell (Black Elk) and Tony Tornay (Fatso Jetson) have put together builds on that in exciting, inventive and individualized ways, while staying nonetheless true to its roots.

13. Kind, Mental Nudge

kind mental nudge

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Oct. 20.

Five years after their debut album, Rocket Science (review here), Boston four-piece Kind return with Mental Nudge. And despite the different situations in which it finds the band’s members — bassist Tom Corino is now ex-Rozamov, drummer Matt Couto now ex-Elder — the group’s focus remains on carving memorable, mostly structured tracks out of ethereal heavy psychedelia, guitarist Darryl Shepard (Milligram, etc.) and vocalist Craig Riggs (RoadsawSasquatch, etc.) adding space and melody to the crunching, driving grooves.

12. Molassess, Through the Hollow

Molassess Through the Hollow

Released by Season of Mist. Featured Aug. 17.

Founded by vocalist Farida Lemouchi (ex-The Devil’s Blood) and guitarist Oeds Beydals (ex-Death Alley, also ex-The Devil’s Blood) and commissioned as a project for Roadburn Festival 2019 (review here), Molassess are inextricably tied to Lemouchi‘s groundbreaking former outfit and its tragic ending, but the musical branching out into darkened progressive textures on Through the Hollow isn’t to be understated. It was an album that pushed past the past, not overlooking it, but finding new ways of moving forward in life and sound.

11. Tony Reed, Funeral Suit

tony reed funeral suit

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Sept. 28.

While of course the Mos Generator frontman is no stranger to writing or recording on his own, Funeral Suit was Tony Reed‘s debut as a solo artist and it carried his progressive stamp in melody and arrangement. It was not just a guitarist playing acoustic instead of electric, and it was not a manifestation of self-indulgence. Whether it was reworking a Mos Generator song like “Lonely One Kenobi” or pursuing a new piece like the title-track or “Waterbirth,” Reed found balance between personal and audience, evoking traditional songsmithing even as he reminded listeners of his dual role as a producer.

10. Geezer, Groovy

Geezer Groovy

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed May 18.

Spectacular showing from Kingston kingpins Geezer with Groovy as their first offering for Heavy Psych Sounds. Led by guitarist/vocalist Pat Harrington, the three-piece brought material that flowed with the organic feel of jams despite being structured and catchy songs. In pieces like “Dead Soul Scroll” and “Drowning on Empty,” they melded stonerized groove with what felt like genuine emotional expression, and “Dig” and “Groovy” still managed to be a heavy fuzz-blues party. And they still had room at the end to jam out on “Slide Mountain” and “Black Owl.” It was nothing but a win, rising to the occasion on every level.

9. Big Scenic Nowhere, Vision Beyond Horizon

big scenic nowhere vision beyond horizon

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed Jan. 29.

So Bob Balch from Fu Manchu and Gary Arce from Yawning Man have a band. They get Tony Reed from Mos Generator on board. Mario Lalli from Yawning Man/Fatso Jetson comes and goes. Nick Oliveri comes and goes. Bill Stinson from Yawning Man plays drums. Alain Johannes sits in on vocals. Reed does a bunch of vocals; his kid does a track too. Per Wiberg from Spiritual Beggars, Opeth, Candlemass, etc., lends some keys. What do you call such a thing? Who cares? You call yourself lucky it exists. They called the record Vision Beyond Horizon. Can’t wait to find out what they call the next one.

8. Elder, Omens

elder omens

Released by Armageddon Shop and Stickman Records. Reviewed April 27.

Omens marked a new beginning for Elder as the band pushed deeper into the realm of progressive rock and beyond their weightier beginnings. The arrival of Georg Edert (also Gaffa Ghandi) on drums in place of Matt Couto shifted the band’s dynamic in a number of ways, providing not a swinging anchor for the rhythm section necessarily, but another avenue of prog fluidity. Bassist Jack Donovan brought a steady presence in the low end as guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo and guitarist/keyboardist Mike Risberg embarked on new melodic explorations while staying loyal to the band’s established penchant for sweeping changes. Omens may live up to its name as a sign of things to come, but either way, it was a strong display of the band’s will to pursue new ideas and methods.

7. Forming the Void, Reverie

forming the void reverie

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed April 15.

First words that come to mind here: “eminently listenable.” With seven tracks and 36 minutes, Reverie may not have taken up much of your afternoon… once. But by the time you gave it its proper respect and listened through three times in a row, the situation was somewhat different. The Lafayette, Louisiana, four-piece gracefully brought together structured songwriting with proggier leanings and were able to bring together rampaging hooks like “Trace the Omen” and “Manifest,” casting a sense of sonic hugeness without forgetting to add either melody or personality along with that. The band — who here welcomed bassist Thorn Letulle alongside guitarist/vocalist James Marshall, guitarist Shadi Omar Al-Khansa and drummer Thomas Colley — have worked quickly and evolved with a sense of urgency. Is Reverie the goal or another step on that path?

6. Grayceon, MOTHERS WEAVERS VULTURES

grayceon mothers weavers vultures

Released by Translation Loss Records. Reviewed Nov. 18.

Vocalist/cellist Jackie Perez Gratz (interview here), guitarist Max Doyle and drummer Zack Farwell comprise Grayceon, and with their fifth record, the band looks around thematically at environmental devastation through the lens of record-breaking California wildfires from their vantage point in the Bay Area. Even as the world shifted priorities (at least most of it did) to yet another global crisis in the COVID-19 pandemic, genre-melting-pot songs like “Diablo Wind,” “The Lucky Ones,” and “This Bed” reminded of the horrors humanity has wrought on its battered home, and still managed to find hope and serenity in “And Shine On” and “Rock Steady,” a closing duo that shifted to a more personal discussion of family and one’s hope for a better future for and by the next generation. 2020 had plenty of horror. At least we got a new Grayceon record out of it.

5. Brant Bjork, Brant Bjork

brant bjork brant bjork

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed April 28.

When Sho’Nuff asked Bruce Leroy “who’s the master?,” dude should’ve said Brant Bjork. It would’ve been a confusing end to Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon, but ultimately more accurate, as Brant Bjork‘s homegrown kung fu was unfuckwithable as ever on the album that shares his name. After two decades of solo releases in one form or another, Bjork is not just a pivotal figurehead for desert rock, he’s a defining presence, as well as one of its most treasured practitioners. Brant Bjork, the album, brought initial waves of funk in “Jungle in the Sound,” explored weedy worship in “Mary (You’re Such a Lady)” and toyed with religious dogma in offsetting that with “Jesus Was a Bluesman” while still tossing primo hooks in “Duke of Dynamite” and “Shitkickin’ Now” ahead of the more open “Stardust and Diamond Eyes” and the acoustic closer “Been So Long.” With Bjork recording all the instruments himself, a due feeling of intimacy resulted, and yet he still found a way to make it rock. How could it be otherwise?

4. Enslaved, Utgard

enslaved utgard

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Sept. 29.

Why do I feel the immediate need to defend this pick? I’m not sure. Norway’s Enslaved are an institution, not just of black metal, but of bringing an ideology of creative growth to that style that often willfully resists it. They are iconoclastic even unto their own work. Utgard was released as the band stood on the precipice of 30 years together and yet it stood as their most forward-looking offering yet, as co-founders Grutle Kjellson (bass/vocals) and Ivar Bjørnson (guitar/sometimes vocals), as well as longtime lead guitarist Arve “Ice Dale” Isdal backed up the change from 2017’s E (review here) that brought in new keyboardist/vocalist Hakon Vinje with the incorporation of drummer Iver Sandøy, who doubles as a vocalist (and triples as a producer). The “new blood” made all the difference on Utgard, allowing Enslaved to piece together new ranges of melody in their work and offset instrumental shifts into and out of krautrock-derived progressions. Simply the work of a band outdoing itself from a band who does so at nearly every opportunity.

3a. Colour Haze, We Are

colour haze we are

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten and Ripple Music. Reviewed Dec. 3, 2019.

Every year I allow myself one addendum pick, and this is it. We Are was on last year’s list because it was digitally released, but the vinyl came out this year and it received its North American release this year as well, so it seemed only right to acknowledge that. So here it is in its proper place.

3. All Them Witches, Nothing as the Ideal

All-Them-Witches-Nothing-as-the-Ideal

Released by New West Records. Reviewed Sept. 3.

This is a band controlling their own narrative. Instead of Nothing as the Ideal being ‘the one they made as a three-piece,’ the Nashville outfit decided to make it ‘the one they recorded at Abbey Road.’ Were they thinking of it on those terms? Yeah, likely not, but it goes to demonstrate all the same just how much of themselves All Them Witches put into what they do musically, since not only are they continuing to refine and define and undefine their approach, but they’re setting the terms on which they do it. Each of their records has been a response to the one prior, but that conversation has never been so direct as to make them predictable. So what are they chasing? Apparently nothing. I’m not entirely sure I buy that as a complete answer, but I am sure I love these songs and the experiments with tape loops and other sounds that fill these spaces. Whatever they do next — or even if nothing — their run has been incredible and exciting and one only hopes their influence continues to spread over the next however many years.

2. Elephant Tree, Habits

elephant tree habits

Released by Deathwish Inc.. Reviewed April 13.

There was a high standard set by Elephant Tree‘s 2016 self-titled debut (review here), but their second LP, Habits, surpassed even the loftiest of expectations. With vocals centered around harmonies from guitarist Jack Townley and bassist Peter Holland, the former trio completed by drummer Sam Hart brought in guitarist/keyboardist John Slattery (also sometimes vocals), and the resultant breadth gave the material on Habits spaciousness beyond even what the first album promised. Drifting, rolling, unflinchingly melodic and somehow present even in its own escapism, Habits was not just an early highlight for a rough 2020, but a comforting presence throughout, and the further one dug into tracks like “Sails,” “Exit the Soul,” “Faceless,” “Wasted” and the acoustic “The Fall Chorus,” the more there was to find — let alone “Bird,” which I’ll happily put against anything else one might propose for song of the year. As their former UK label crumbled, Habits emerged unscathed and Elephant Tree‘s future continues to shine with ever more hope for things to come. Being able to say that about anything feels like a relief.

2020 Album of the Year

1. Lowrider, Refractions

Lowrider Refractions

Released by Blues Funeral Recordings. Reviewed Jan. 24.

Twenty years ago, Sweden’s Lowrider put out what would become a heavy rock landmark in their 2000 debut, Ode to Io (reissue review here). A follow-up years in the making even after the band got back together to play Desertfest in London (review here) and Berlin in 2013, Refractions first saw limited release in 2019 as part of Blues Funeral‘s PostWax series (discussed here), but its proper arrival was in early 2020, and there was really no looking back after that. It wasn’t just the novelty of a new Lowrider album that made Refractions such a joy, but the manner in which the band went about its work. There was no pretending that 20 years didn’t happen. There was no attempt to recapture the bottled lightning that was the first record, and Lowrider did not sound like a band “making a comeback” rife with expectations and fan-service. Refractions acknowledged the legacy of Ode to Io, sure enough, but as a step toward adding to it in meaningful and engaging ways. The songs — “Red River,” “Ode to Ganymede,” “Sernanders Krog,” “Ol’ Mule Pepe,” “Sun Devil/M87” and the 11-minute finale “Pipe Rider” — were fashioned without pretense and came across as the organic output of a band with nothing to prove to anyone but themselves. They made it their own. In a wretched year, Lowrider shined.

The Top 50 Albums of 2020: Honorable Mention

Yeah, okay. There are a lot of these, so buckle in. Last year I just threw out a list of bands. This year I’m a little more organized, so here are bands and records alphabetically.

Across Tundras, LOESS ~ LÖSS
Across Tundras, The Last Days of a Silver Rush
Alain Johannes, Hum
Arboretum, Let it All In
Bell Witch & Aerial Ruin, Stygian Bough Vol. 1
Black Helium, The Wholly Other
Boris, No
Brimstone Coven, The Woes of a Mortal Earth
CB3, Aeons
Celestial Season, The Secret Teachings
Crippled Black Phoenix, Ellengæst
Cruthu, Athrú Crutha
Domo, Domonautas Vol. 2
DOOL, Summerland
Dopelord, Sign of the Devil
Dwaal, Gospel of the Vile
Elder Druid, Golgotha
Ellis Munk Ensemble, San Diego Sessions
Emma Ruth Rundle & Thou, May Our Chambers Be Full
EMBR, 1823
Familiars, All in Good Time
Forlesen, Hierophant Violent
Galactic Cross, Galactic Cross
The Heavy Eyes, Love Like Machines
Hum, Inlet
Human Impact, Human Impact
Humulus, The Deep
Jupiterian, Protosapien
Kariti, Covered Mirrors
Khan, Monsoons
Kingnomad, Sagan Om Ryden
King Witch, Body of Light
Kryptograf, Kryptograf
Light Pillars, Light Pillars
Lord Buffalo, Tohu Wa Bohu
Lord Loud, Timid Beast
Lotus Thief, Oresteia
Malsten, The Haunting of Silvåkra Mill
Mindcrawler, Lost Orbiter
Motorpsycho, The All is One
Mountain Tamer, Psychosis Ritual
Mr. Bison, Seaward
Mrs. Piss, Self-Surgery
Mugstar, GRAFT
Murcielago, Casualties
Oranssi Pazuzu, Mestarin Kynsi
Paradise Lost, Obsidian
Parahelio, Surge Evelia Surge
The Pilgrim, …From the Earth to the Sky and Back
Pretty Lightning, Jangle Bowls
Psychlona, Venus Skytrip
Puta Volcano, AMMA
Ritual King, Ritual King
River Cult, Chilling Effect
Rrrags, High Protein
Shores of Null, Beyond the Shores (On Death and Dying)
Sigiriya, Maiden – Mother – Crone
Six Organs of Admittance, Companion Rises
16, Dream Squasher
Slomosa, Slomosa
Somnus Throne, Somnus Throne
Steve Von Till, No Wilderness Deep Enough
Stone Machine Electric, The Inexplicable Vibrations of Frequencies Within the Cosmic Netherworld
Sumac, May You Be Held
Temple of the Fuzz Witch, Red Tide
Temple of Void, The World That Was
The Kings of Frog Island, VI
Tia Carrera, Tried and True
Turtle Skull, Monoliths
Uffe Lorenzen, Magisk Realisme
Ulcerate, Stare Into Death and Be Still
Vessel of Light, Last Ride
Vestal Claret, Vestal Claret
Vinnum Sabbathi, Of Dimensions and Theories
Wight, Spank the World
Wino, Forever Gone
Yatra, All is Lost
Yuri Gagarin, The Outskirts of Reality

By no means is that list exhaustive. And to look at stuff like Psychlona, Oranssi Pazuzu, Wight, Wino, Puta Volcano, Kingnomad, Ellis Munk Ensemble, Paradise Lost, Alain Johannes, Arbouretum, Uffe Lorenzen, Tia Carrera — on and on and on — I can definitely see where arguments are to be made for records that should’ve been in the list proper. I can only go with what feels right to me at the time.

Together with the top 50, this makes over 110 albums in the best of 2020. If you find yourself needing something to hang your hat on, be glad you’re alive to witness this much excellent music coming out.

Debut Album of the Year

Molassess, Through the Hollow

Molassess Through the Hollow

Other notable debuts (alphabetically):

Atramentus, Stygian
Bethmoora, Thresholds
BleakHeart, Dream Griever
Crystal Spiders, Molt
Dirt Woman, The Glass Cliff
Dwaal, Gospel of the Vile
Electric Feat, Electric Feat
Familiars, All in Good Time
Galactic Cross, Galactic Cross
Human Impact, Human Impact
Jointhugger, I Am No One
Light Pillars, Light Pillars
Love Gang, Dead Man’s Game
Malsten, The Haunting of Silvåkra Mill
Might, Might
Mindcrawler, Lost Orbiter
Mrs. Piss, Self-Surgery
Parahelio, Surge Evelia Surge
Polymoon, Caterpillars of Creation
Ritual King, Ritual King
SEA, Impermanence
Slomosa, Slomosa
Soldati, Doom Nacional
Somnus Throne, Somnus Throne
SpellBook, Magick & Mischief
Spirit Mother, Cadets
Temple of the Fuzz Witch, Red Tide
The Crooked Whispers, Satanic Melodies
White Dog, White Dog

Notes: I sparred with myself every step of the way here. The last couple years I’ve tried to give the top-debut spot to not just a new band, but a new presence. Green Lung, King Buffalo, etc. Molassess, with members from The Devil’s Blood, Death Alley and Astrosoniq, isn’t exactly that. So what do I do? Do I go with something newer like Polymoon, Dirt Woman, BleakHeart, SEA, White Dog or The Crooked Whispers, or something with more established players like Molassess, Soldati, or even Light Pillars?

In the end, what made the difference was not just how brilliant the songs on Molassess’ Through the Hollow, but how honestly the band confronted the legacy they were up against. The songs had a familiar haunting presence, but they were also moving ahead to somewhere new. It was that blend of old and new ideas, and the resonant feeling of emotional catharsis — as well as the sheer immersion that took place while listening — that ultimately made the decision. Turns out I just couldn’t escape it.

And why not a list? Because this feels woefully inadequate as it is. I reviewed over 250 records this year one way or another — and that’s a conservative estimate — but a lot gets lost in the shuffle and somehow it just seemed wrong this time around to call something the 13th best first record of the year. I wanted to highlight the special achievement that was the Molassess album, but really, all of these records kicked my ass one way or the other.

Short Release of the Year 2020

King Buffalo, Dead Star

King Buffalo Dead Star

Other notable EPs, Splits, Demos, etc.:

Big Scenic Nowhere, Lavender Blues
Coma Wall, Ursa Minor
Conan/Deadsmoke, Doom Sessions Vol. 1
Fu Manchu, Fu30 Pt. 1
Grandpa Jack, Trash Can Boogie
Howling Giant/Sergeant Thunderhoof, Masamune/Muramasa (split)
Oginalii, Pendulum
Kings Destroy, Floods
Lament Cityscape, The Old Wet
Limousine Beach, Stealin’ Wine +2
Merlock, That Which Speaks
Monte Luna, Mind Control Broadcast
Mos Generator/Di’Aul, Split
Pimmit Hills, Heathens & Prophets
Rito Verdugo, Post-Primatus
Rocky Mtn Roller, Rocky Mtn Roller
Spaceslug, Leftovers
10,000 Years, 10,000 Years
The White Swan, Nocturnal Transmission
Thunderbird Divine, The Hand of Man
Witchcraft, Black Metal

Notes: If you were wondering why King Buffalo’s Dead Star (review here) wasn’t on the big list, this is why. It was pitched to me as an EP and that’s how I’m classifying it. I’m taking the out. Is it an EP? Not really, but neither is it a full-length album, given its experimental nature and focus around its extended two-part title-track. Whatever it was, it was the best that-thing, and this is the category where such things go.

Again, tough choices after King Buffalo. Thunderbird Divine’s EP was wonderfully funk-blasted and woefully short (new album, please). The newly-issued Spaceslug EP branches out their sound in fascinating ways as a result of the lockdown. Witchcraft’s acoustic EP, Coma Wall’s EP and Big Scenic Nowhere’s EP all signaled good things to come, and Howling Giant’s split with Sergeant Thunderhoof was a highlight of the most recent Quarterly Review. There really isn’t a bummer on the list there, from the bitter psych of Oginalii to the industrial metal of Lament Cityscape, the unadulterated riffery of Merlock to the live-captured rawness of Monte Luna.

So again, why no list? Same answer. I want to highlight the progression King Buffalo made in their sound and leave room open elsewhere for things I missed. Please let me know what in the comments. Cordially.

Live Album of the Year 2020

Yawning Man, Live at Giant Rock

yawning man live at giant rock

Other notable live releases:

Ahab, Live Prey
Amenra, Mass VI Live
Arcadian Child, From Far, for the Wild (Live in Linz)
Author and Punisher, Live 2020 B.C.
Cherry Choke, Raising Salzburg Rockhouse
Dead Meadow, Live at Roadburn 2011
Dirty Streets, Rough and Tumble
Electric Moon, Live at Freak Valley Festival 2019
Kadavar, Studio Live Session Vol. 1
King Buffalo, Live at Freak Valley
Monte Luna, Mind Control Broadcast
Orange Goblin, Rough & Ready: Live and Loud
Øresund Space Collective, Sonic Rock Solstice 2019
Pelican, Live at the Grog Shop
SEA, Live at ONCE
Sumac, St Vitus 09/07/2018
Sun Blood Stories, (a)Live and Alone at Visual Arts Collective
Temple Fang, Live at Merleyn
YOB, Pickathon 2019 – Live From the Galaxy Barn

Notes: In this wretched year (mostly) void of live music, marked by canceled tours and festivals, the live album arguably played a more central role than it ever has, whether it was a band trying to keep momentum up following or leading into a studio release, taking advantage of the emergence of the Bandcamp Friday phenomenon or just trying to maintain some connection to their fans and the process of taking a stage. Or even playing in a room together. Or not a room. Anything. What was once a tossoff, maybe an afterthought companion piece became an essential worker of the listening experience.

You might accuse desert rock progenitors Yawning Man of playing to their base with Live at Giant Rock (featured here), and if so, fine. At no point in the last 50 years has that base more needed playing-to. And in the absence of shows, being able to hear (and watch, in the case of the accompanying video) Yawning Man go out to the landscape that spawned them and engage with their music was a beautiful moment of reconciliation. An exhale for the converted that didn’t fill one with empty promises of better tomorrows or tours to come, but served to remind what’s so worth preserving about the spirit of live music in the first place. The fact that anything can happen. A replaced note here, a tuning change there — these things can make not just an evening, but memories that go beyond shows, tours, to touch our lives.

There were a ton of live records this year. Some were benefits for worthy causes between saving venues, Black Lives Matter, voting rights organizations, and so on. And whether these were new performances from captured livestreams (Monte Luna, Kadavar) or older gigs that had been sitting around waiting for release at some point (Sumac, Dead Meadow), this, very much, was that point, and these live offerings kept burning a fire that felt at times very much in danger of being extinguished.

Looking Ahead to 2021

A list of bands. Some confirmed releases, some not. Here goes:

Dread Sovereign, Sasquatch, Year of Taurus, Apostle of Solitude, Weedpecker, Borracho, Love Gang, Jointhugger, Demon Head, Iron Man, Greenleaf, Samsara Blues Experiment, The Mammathus, Evert Snyman, Wo Fat, Conclave, Here Lies Man, Kabbalah, Komatsu, Hour of 13, Wedge, Amenra, La Chinga, Spidergawd, Wolves in the Throne Room, Vokonis, Freedom Hawk, Masters of Reality, ZOM, Eyehategod, Sanhedrin, Green Lung, The Mountain King, Albatross Overdrive, Elder, King Buffalo, Sunnata, Howling Giant, SAVER, Conan, Slomatics, Ruff Majik, Kind, Mos Generator, Yawning Sons, Lantlôs, Brant Bjork, Spiral Grave, Crystal Spiders, Lightning Born, Samavayo, Wovenhand, Merlock, Comet Control, The Age of Truth, Eight Bells, BlackWater Holylight, DVNE, Monte Luna.

Thank You

You’ve read enough, so I will do my best to keep this mercifully short. Thank you so much for reading — whether you still are or not — and thank you for being a part of the ongoing project that is The Obelisk. I cannot tell you how much it means to me to have such incredible support throughout not just this year, but all the years of the site’s existence. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Thank you most of all to The Patient Mrs. for her indulgence in letting me get this done. I’m am amazed forever.

More to come.

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The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal Playlist: Episode 47

Posted in Radio on November 27th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk show banner

It’s Thanksgiving here in the US as I write this post. The early morning thereof, to be more specific. There’s one voice break in this episode of The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal, and I cut it yesterday afternoon. I had just put The Pecan down for his afternoon nap and was in the process of getting dinner started (slow cooking) ahead of crashing out myself for about an hour.

The point of my telling you this? Maybe I wasn’t at my best.

Maybe I was a little harried, a little distracted, a little uh-oh-um. I did my best. I didn’t talk at all last time, so it seemed like a good idea at least to jump on and say thanks for listening and offer some setup for the second half of the show, which plays out in a succession of long, increasingly far-out cuts. But it’s not my best vocal work. Not gonna put it on my audition tape for KROQ.

Does KROQ still exist?

Anyway, I know it doesn’t matter, but still. Thank you for checking the show out if you do. For what it’s worth — plenty, to me — the playlist kicks ass.

If you tune in, I hope you enjoy. Thanks again.

The Obelisk Show airs 5PM Eastern today on the Gimme app or at http://gimmemetal.com

Full playlist:

The Obelisk Show – 11.27.20

Samsara Blues Experiment End of Forever End of Forever*
Onségen Ensemble Stellar Fear*
Sun Crow Quest for Oblivion Black it Out*
VT1
Lykantropi Kom ta mig ut Tales to Be Told*
Urtidsdjur Vandringssång Urtidsdjur*
Murcielago Blues for the Red Lobster Casualties*
Switchblade Jesus Red Plains Death Hymns*
DVNE Omega Severer Omega Severer*
Dark Buddha Rising Sunyaga Mathreyata*
Morpholith Monocarp Null Dimensions*
Tomorr The 1001 Windows Village Tomorr*
Phog Hillside Whole Horse Both Barrels*

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal airs every Friday 5PM Eastern, with replays Sunday at 7PM Eastern. Next new episode is Dec. 11 (subject to change). Thanks for listening if you do.

Gimme Metal website

The Obelisk on Thee Facebooks

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Switchblade Jesus & Sumokem LP Preorders Start This Week

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 27th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

I cannot imagine what it’s like to press a record right now, other than ‘pain in the ass.’ I mean, the vinyl resurgence has been going on long enough now that there are certainly more than the three people in the universe making it that there were like six years ago or whatever, but still, like everything else, it’s gotta be even more complicated in 2020, and there doesn’t seem to be any shortage of stuff coming out despite the fact that touring is barely happening anywhere in any context. I would think even normally-backed-up plants and manufacturers are abnormally backed up.

That doesn’t preclude preorders, though. Cursed Tongue Records has new LPs on the way from Sumokem — whose Prajnaparadha is already streaming in full — and Switchblade Jesus, who recently premiered the single “Red Plains” from their upcoming album, Death Hymns. Both are out Jan. 29 in that increasingly dim future known as 2021, and both are going live with preorders on Friday at 6PM CET, which is noon Eastern US.

Info came down the PR wire:

Switchblade Jesus Death Hymns preorder

sumokem prajnaparadha preorder

SUMOKEM – ‘PRAJNAPARADHA’ AND SWITCHBLADE JESUS – ‘DEATH HYMNS’ DOUBLE VINYL PRE-ORDER LAUNCHES THIS FRIDAY OCTOBER 30, 2020

Cursed Tongue Records is stoked to announce the launching one of this autumn’s most anticipated double vinyl pre-orders going down on October 30, 6PM CET (Central European Time) from their Big Cartel Store LINK HERE: http://cursedtonguerecords.bigcartel.com/products

With honor can we disclose the vinyl releases of ‘Prajnaparadha’ from Sumokem and ‘Death Hymns’ from Switchblade Jesus and with confidence state that this is truly two smashing albums that’s being offered up.

Both bands have outdone themselves and have definitively delivered some of their most creative, crushing, diverse and intriguing material to date. We are very proud to be presenting both vinyl releases and thank the bands for their trust in Cursed Tongue Records on bringing the HEAVY goods.

CTR-034: SUMOKEM (LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS) THIRD ALBUM ‘PRAJNAPARADHA’ VINYL RELEASE OUT JANUARY 29, 2021 [VINYL PRE-ORDER OCTOBER 30]

SUMOKEM hailing from the melting doom-hot-spot pot that is Little Rock, AR are back with their best and most focused effort to date. Their new album ‘Prajnaparadha’ (once again a concept album) comes almost three years after their last giant ‘The Guardian of Yosemite’ (released by Cursed Tongue Records on vinyl January 2018) and the time in between releases has been well spent mining their unique sound and style.

SUMOKEM’s third album ‘Prajnaparadha’ was released digitally on Bandcamp and all major streaming outlets on September 4, 2020. On January 29, 2021, the world sees the release of the album on, the optimal of all tangible formats, 180 grams vinyl via Cursed Tongue Records – Come take the journey with us and discover why SUMOKEM right now is one of the bands out there, doing what they do!

CTR-035: SWITCHBLADE JESUS (CORPUS CHRISTI, TEXAS) SOPHOMORE ALBUM ‘DEATH HYMNS’ VINYL RELEASE OUT JANUARY 29, 2021 [VINYL PRE-ORDER OCTOBER 30]

On ‘Death Hymns’ the Texan trio has turned every knob well passed 11, tuning down, speeding-up, getting noisy as fuck and more heavy than a convoy of lead-loaded lorries. Switchblade Jesus has decided to throw away the whisky-soaked, southern-blues stoner doom swagger that so gloriously served them well on their 2015 debut in favor of a way more aggressive, contemporary sludgy-thrash noise metal approach – and it freaking works. Not even a wee bit farfetched ‘Death Hymns’, sounds like the evil amalgamation of High On Fire, Kylesa and Black Sabbath with a few proggy and industrial elements tossed in the mix to create a deadly brew all of their own.

Switchblade Jesus’ second full-length album ‘Death Hymns’ releases digitally on Bandcamp and all major streaming outlets on November 20, 2020. On January 29, 2021, the world sees the release of the album on, the optimal of all tangible formats, 180 grams vinyl via Cursed Tongue Records – Prepare yourself for the heavy impact!

https://www.facebook.com/SUMOKEM/
https://www.instagram.com/sumokem/
https://sumokem.bandcamp.com/album/the-guardian-of-yosemite

https://www.facebook.com/SwitchbladeJesus
https://www.instagram.com/switchbladejesus/
http://switchbladejesus.bandcamp.com/
https://switchbladejesus.net/

http://cursedtonguerecords.bigcartel.com/
https://www.facebook.com/CursedTongueRecords/
https://www.instagram.com/cursedtongue/

Sumokem, Prajnaparadha (2020)

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Switchblade Jesus Premiere “Red Plains”; Death Hymns out Nov. 20

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 29th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

switchblade jesus

It’s been six years since Switchblade Jesus first issued their widely-lauded self-titled debut (review here). Good record, caught on with a lot of people, wound up released through Kozmik Artifactz and giving the band enough momentum to hook up with Fuzz Evil for a chapter in Ripple Music‘s split series, The Second Coming of Heavy (review here), in 2017. They’ve given hints at their direction in the years since. Certainly one would call the level of volume they displayed at Maryland Doom Fest 2018 (review here) anything but subtle, and a live video premiered here later that year contained new material from what then seemed like the far-off prospect of the trio’s second LP.

Well, here we are, and here comes Death Hymns. The album in question runs an unfuckwithably tight 27 minutes and boasts a head-crunching blend of sludge and noise riffs that feels culled from Remission-and-nothing-else-except-maybe-also-Lifesblood Mastodon and maybe some pre-nü-metal Helmet thrown in, and still keeps some level of atmosphere through its centerpiece/side B leadoff title-track and momentary breathers like those in “Behind the Monolith” or at the end of “Forgotten,” the latter of which is topped with a blistered J. Robert Oppenheimer quoting the Bhagavad Gita. That popular sample is backed by “Behemoth,” which runs a heavy-thrashy two-point-five minutes and, indeed, kind of sounds like it’s in the process of becoming death, the destroyer of worlds.

I’ll hope to have more on it before it’s out, but to put it bluntly, Death Hymns is a fucking beast. Its noisy aspects might catch you off guard if all you know of Switchblade Jesus is the self-titled, but give it a chance and you will not regret letting it thoroughly pummel you.

Cursed Tongue Records has the release, and it’s out Nov. 20. Info follows from the PR wire:

switchblade jesus death hymns

SLUDGY NOISE METAL TRIO SWITCHBLADE JESUS SIGN TO CURSED TONGUE RECORDS FOR A GLOBAL VINYL RELEASE OF NEW ALBUM ‘DEATH HYMNS’ NOVEMBER 20, 2020.

Cursed Tongue Records is very happy to announce the signing of Corpus Christ, TX based heavy, sludge noise metal trio Switchblade Jesus and look forward to release their new album entitled ‘Death Hymns’ on premium vinyl. We have been following this band for quite some years, and like many of you, have been pondering when the world would see (hear) new from the terrifyingly terrific Texans.

Still vividly remembering the tight riffage and infectious grooves of ‘Bastard Son’ that so generously kicked the listener in the groin on Switchblade Jesus’s 2015 self-titled monster album. It was with much anticipation and sweating anxiety that we received the band’s newest album submission a few months back. We were blown away and after a handful of listens left hearing-obliterated, soul-depraved, head kicked-in, bone-pulverized and face-melted – but boy, oh boy was it a blissful listen and a welcoming return.

On ‘Death Hymns’ the Texan trio has turned every knob well passed 11, tuning down, speeding-up, getting noisy as fuck and more heavy than a convoy of lead-loaded lorries. Switchblade Jesus has decided to throw away the whisky-soaked, southern-blues stoner doom swagger that so gloriously served them well on their 2015 debut in favor of a way more aggressive, contemporary sludgy-thrash noise metal approach – and it freaking works. Not even a wee bit farfetched ‘Death Hymns’, sounds like the evil amalgamation of High On Fire, Kylesa and Black Sabbath with a few proggy and industrial elements tossed in the mix to create a deadly brew all of their own.

We are convinced that ‘Death Hymns’ will light up the heavy underground with an energy-packed set of high-potent metal tracks. An album meaty enough to saturate the most beef-craving metal head; dystopic and evil enough to appeal to the darkened soul of most Satan-worshipping heavy-heads; psychedelic and varied enough to keep longtime fans reminiscing about how great guitarist Eric Calvert is at churning out one infectious riff after the other. We super excited for all of you to hear it when the Texans open the floodgates upon us in November for the full ‘Death Hymns’ ordeal.

Luckily, you will not have to wait that long as the first single Red Plains will air via one of the heavy underground’s preferred musical outlets soon.

Switchblade Jesus’ second full-length album ‘Death Hymns’ releases digitally on Bandcamp and all major streaming outlets on November 20, 2020. Same day sees the release of the album on, the optimal of all tangible formats, 180 grams vinyl via Cursed Tongue Records – Prepare yourself for the heavy impact!

Side A:
Scorched
Red Plains
Behind the Monolith

Side B:
Death Hymns
Forgotten
Behemoth
The Blackened Sun

Switchblade Jesus is:
Eric Calvert – Vocals/Guitars
Chris Black – Bass
Jonathon Elizondo – Drums/Percussion/Synth

https://www.facebook.com/SwitchbladeJesus
https://www.instagram.com/switchbladejesus/
http://switchbladejesus.bandcamp.com/
https://switchbladejesus.net/
http://cursedtonguerecords.bigcartel.com/
https://www.facebook.com/CursedTongueRecords/
https://www.instagram.com/cursedtongue/

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Switchblade Jesus Premiere Butthole Surfers Cover “Who Was in My Room Last Night?”

Posted in audiObelisk on May 6th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

switchblade jesus (Photo by Troy Alan Garza)

If your eyes are on these words, then I’ll assume I don’t need to recount for you the legacy of pill-popping bizarro fuckall that surrounds Butthole Surfers. Though they flirted with commercial viability at one point in the ’90s — hey, didn’t we all — it was more like a rare aligning of planets than anything purposeful on the band’s part; like they and rock radio happened to be in the same dimension for five minutes. Their mission was more toward the avant noise of outsider punk and space rock, and they demonstrated to an entire generation of Lone Star denizens that it was okay to be strange, stranger and strangest. Switchblade Jesus, on the whole, aren’t so geared to weird, but they do justice to the drive of “Who Was in My Room Last Night?” which originally opened Butthole Surfers‘ 1993 major label debut, Independent Worm Saloon.

It’s an interesting and purposeful pick on the part of Switchblade Jesus, who grit up the original version of the song while keeping the central rhythm, playing up the forward push that added such a careening sense in the first place. The trio of guitarist/vocalist Eric Calvert, bassist Chris Black and drummer Jon Elizondo have shown, pretty much since Black came aboard — though I’ll allow that’s a narrative convenience; not like I was at Switchblade Jesus rehearsal to watch the shift take place — an affinity for noise rock that their prior self-titled debut (review here) didn’t have. When they featured on Ripple Music‘s The Second Coming of Heavy: Chapter 7 (review here) in 2017, it was there, and “Who Was in My Room Last Night?” seems to bring it all the more forward. Wow, almost like the band is progressing or something. Go figure.

In the enduring spirit of chaos, I’m happy to host the premiere of Switchblade Jesus‘ take on “Who Was in My Room Last Night?,” and if you’re wondering when the hell the Corpus Christi three-piece might get down to business and put out another record, they talk about it a little bit here.

Please enjoy:

Switchblade Jesus, “Who Was in My Room Last Night?” official track premiere

Switchblade Jesus on “Who Was in My Room Last Night”:

“Deciding to pull away from the norm as many of our music colleagues go the Sabbath/Zep covers we wanted to honor one of the best bands out of Texas and a song we all grew up with. This was recorded and mastered by us in our studio and honestly was a big learning experience in what goes into ‘gluing’ it all together, so we hope you guys dig this as much as we do.”

Switchblade Jesus on Thee Facebooks

Switchblade Jesus on Bandcamp

Switchblade Jesus on Instagram

Switchblade Jesus on Twitter

Ripple Music on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music website

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Six Dumb Questions & Video Premiere: Switchblade Jesus

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Six Dumb Questions on December 19th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

switchblade jesus

I’ve had occasion to see Switchblade Jesus live twice now, and I can attest to the asskickery you’re about to see in the live video below. In particular, the Texans’ performance earlier this year at the Maryland Doom Fest (review here) stood out to me as bringing a new dynamic to their sound and showcasing the progression they’ve undertaken since the release half a decade ago of their self-titled debut (review here), an album that garnered pervasive hyperbole for its Southern metal groove and found them aligned to Bilocation Records and Ripple Music in succession, the latter of which also late last year issued The Second Coming of Heavy: Chapter 7 (review here), a split that Switchblade Jesus shared with Fuzz Evil, which was only fitting as the Arizonans hosted the Corpus Christi outfit at the 2016 Borderland Fuzz Fiesta (review here).

It’s been a wild and bumpy few years for Switchblade Jesus, as guitarist/vocalist Eric Calvert attests, with a series of lineup changes leaving Calvert and drummer Jon Elizondo in limbo for a time before finding bassist Chris Black to round out a trio incarnation of the former four-piece. As their set at Doom Fest showed and the video below affirms, the arrival of Black and the turn to a three-piece has presented a likewise shift in the band’s mindset. They struck me as having a particular edge of noise rock, a surprisingly angular take considering what they’d done in the studio at the time. Even their tracks for the 2017 split only captured part of the story. Their second album, when it arrives next year, has the potential to surprise a lot of people, and it sounds like they know it, too. All the better.

The clip is a multi-camera shoot recorded on Nov. 10 in the band’s hometown at a room called The NASA with a screen behind and some cool wall designs. All I know about it is what I see, but Switchblade Jesus seem plenty comfortable on its stage. Here’s the set they played:

– Scorched
– The Red Plains
– Behind the Monolith
– Death Hymns
– Wet Lungs
– Take Off/Return
– Blackened Sun
– Heavy is the Mountain
– Who Was in Your Room Last Night

Of those, exactly none come from the first album, which is telling in itself. “Wet Lungs” and “Heavy is the Mountain” were on The Second Coming of Heavy, but otherwise, take it as a sign of how ready Switchblade Jesus are to move forward with their sound, and enjoy the preview of their second album due to land in 2019. I’m thrilled to be able to host it.

Calvert talked about the changes in the band and more, so please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions under the video premiere below:

Switchblade Jesus, Live at NASA, Corpus Christi, TX, Nov. 10, 2018

Six Dumb Questions with Switchblade Jesus

Switchblade Jesus is five years removed from the first album and writing. In what ways do you feel the band has developed since the self-titled came out, and if it’s not too early to say, how does the new material represent that development?

It’s been a lot of growth and loss, for a bit we weren’t sure where we were going. I hate that it’s been five years, but for a moment we weren’t sure if we were going to continue, honestly, after Jason left. He was the last of the original lineup. Billy [Guerra] pretty much left three months after the Borderland Fuzz Fiesta and then Jason [Beers] followed at the end of the year, which Jon [Elizondo] and I fully supported. They wanted to focus on their family. We were in the process of writing the upcoming during then but it came to a halt in the studio because we couldn’t get the sound from that engineer that we felt captured us, so that let into some stress with everyone as well. So me and Jon sat in a limbo of sorts trying to figure out how we wanted to move forward, we almost went the Black Cobra route with me playing bass all fuzzed and distorted. We’ve tried out members before and weren’t sure if we wanted to deal with someone that wasn’t either on their game or just didn’t mesh well, ’cause dudes on the road can get to each other, so we had good hiatus (unannounced) and just wrote new stuff back and forth. During that time Jon and I recorded the split for Ripple, that was done at Ancient Sound with Chris Darlington who recorded the first album, three of the songs originally for the sophomore [LP] were used on that pressing.

After that was said and done we decided to keep rolling forward and started trying out bassists, one of the was Chris Black who is our current (and permanent). Chris has a lot of passion for black metal, early hardcore, post-metal and everything hateful, he’s also one of the best bassists in Texas let alone the southern hemisphere, so the addition of him brought something we’ve been wanting in Switchblade, a heavier, faster and more technical side of the spectrum. We reconfigured what we were doing when he joined to fit his playing style a little more as his basically a lead guitarist in a bassist’s body, which helps because I can drop out with a solo or just stop playing for depth and he keeps the train rolling. The first song we wrote with him was “Scorched,” which will start the new album off and the pace of where Switchblade Jesus is now. Also as a side note, when I saw Chris‘s Boba Fett tattoo and we discussed Neurosis I knew he was a perfect fit for us. I have no problem southern metal honestly, while I do like it, everyone and their mother is playing it and it’s hard to stand out, so this new material is more of leaving it all behind and carving your own path and not chasing someone’s coattails but setting them on fire.

You took part in Ripple’s The Second Coming of Heavy split series earlier this year. How much were those songs indicative of where the new album is headed?

That album is more of a bridge that will connect the two, uptempo songs like “Snakes and Lions” were the main focus but we still wanted to incorporate the heavy crushing feel of stuff like “Heavy is the Mountain,” so even though its a brutally fast paced album, the groove has never left. Something we wanted to make sure when we recorded “Wet Lungs” on that split plus another similar on this new one, we’re still that heavy groove laden obnoxiously loud band, just a lot angrier. Another focus on the split was to bring to light my vocals and see how well they sat with the people that like our music. I’m more of a Lemmy/Pike shouter than something soulful that was Pete on our first album, while I do sing at times the shouting felt more comfortable with the new music to convey the angst better, luckily it has gone over well and we’ve had a lot of good response to what I bring vocal-wise to the sound.

Do you know yet when or where the album will be recorded? What are you looking for in a studio sound? Any idea on a timeframe for the release?

We had a few setbacks but it’s in the final stages actually and being to be sent to Zach [Weeks] at GodCity to master it. During that hiatus Jon and I decided to build a studio and that’s where it was recorded, we where able to take our time and really focus on this new songs and get them really dialed in to the pace we liked. We wanted a harder, sharper sound than previous more of a modern feel than a vintage feel. We’re planning for early-mid next year.

I was fortunate enough to catch Switchblade Jesus at Maryland Doom Fest 2018 earlier this year. What was that experience like for you? How has the response to newer songs been live?

Maryland Doom Fest was one of our highlights this year, not just because what the event is but how welcomed we were there. It was our first time in that area and we’ve never met so music-focused people in our lives, we sold more merch and spoke to more people there than we did when we opened for Behemoth four days earlier. People on the East Coast bleed music and I love it. For me the best was able to bring Chris to that event as we’ve played together with his old band, so it was a new element for him. I had him do the merch while I packed his gear up and he was able to talk and just have a blast of a time. Also it was amazing to have people tell us they drove three-plus hours to an event because they wanted to catch us as it was our only set there. The East Coast made a lasting impression on us. The new songs seemed to have been received well, a few individuals at the Doom Fest said they were hoping to get some of the first album songs that day but really loved the new stuff and nothing negative was said so I take that as a plus. That seems to me the consensus from everyone which we love as it can be hard to grow and make sure you don’t leave your roots and original fans behind.

Texas of course has a massive history of heavy rock and roll across a wide swath of decades and bands. Who are some of your favorites to play with and for those of us not in the Lone Star State, what are the most essential names to know?

In Texas our favorites are always Hellfury, The Well, Destroyer of Light, Funeral Horse, Mothership, Doomstress, plus more than escape me at the moment. You need to get locked on Hellfury for sure, some of my best buds making some of the most angry sounds. We’re actually looking for more growth on that as well, we were booked for a fest earlier this year with Unsane, L7, Zeke and others and that’s where we’d like to focus on as well, not as many retro metal/rock sets but more progressive and modern so if anyone reading this books like that, hit us up.

You have a weekender booked for January. Any other touring plans or closing words you want to mention?

We’re planning to focus on central in 2019 to support the new release and would like to start in Colorado and do a nice tour around that area glancing a little on the East Coast as well, so if any readers would like to put their two cents in where to hit up we’re game. We’re just very fortunate to still have some kind of impact on this scene still and love all the support we’ve received. Thank you to Ripple Music, you for having us on this interview and all of the dudes that dig what we do, y’all are amazing.

Switchblade Jesus & Full Evil, The Second Coming of Heavy: Chapter 7 (2017)

Switchblade Jesus on Thee Facebooks

Switchblade Jesus on Bandcamp

Switchblade Jesus on Instagram

Switchblade Jesus on Twitter

Ripple Music on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music website

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