Sacri Monti, Waiting Room for the Magic Hour: Beautiful Demons

Posted in Reviews on July 19th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

sacri monti waiting room for the magic hour

It’s been a sneakily long four years since San Diego’s Sacri Monti loosed their 2015 self-titled debut (review here) through Tee Pee Records, and perhaps it’s because they’ve toured steadily — going to Europe at least twice and doing regular stints on the West Coast, etc. — that it doesn’t seem so long. The five-piece also took part in 2017’s Burnout three-way split with Harsh Toke and JOY (review here), so they’ve hardly been absent, but Waiting Room for the Magic Hour telegraphs a sense of anticipation with its title, and the eight-song/45-minute outing lives up to that with organ-soaked classic-style heavy rock that draws away from some of the boogie for which their hometown has become so known as the returning lineup of guitarists Brenden Dellar (also vocals) and Dylan Donovan, bassist Anthony Meier (also of Radio Moscow), organist Evan Wenskay and drummer Thomas Dibenedetto delve deeper into proggy-rocky explorations in cuts like “Fear and Fire,” “Starlight,” “Gone from Grace” and the brief penultimate instrumental “Wading in Malcesine.”

The last of those is more of an interlude — its title referring to a lakeside village in northern Italy that one assumes was a stop on some tour or other or at least an escapist fantasy — but still brings Sacri Monti to a place the first album didn’t dare to go with its post-rock guitar drift and Wenskay‘s synth giving the sub-three-minute proceedings an otherworldly feel. That seems to arrive light-years beyond where they start out with the five-minute opening title-track, which keeps to a more straightforward style that, particularly with the vocal patterning, is bound to remind some listeners of where Earthless were on their own last full-length — also earliest Witchcraft — but still keeps its own identity instrumentally as well and sets up moments like the jabbing surge at the end of side A’s “Starlight,” with organ and guitar winding together in an exciting crescendo that touches on Thin Lizzy and rises out of a more straight-ahead hook, itself led into by the instrumental, guitar-driven interlude/shorter piece “Armistice,” to which side B’s aforementioned “Wading in Malcesine” is something of a mirror.

Flow is essential to a work like this and Sacri Monti make it sound easy. Waiting Room for the Magic Hour, though it can seem rhythmically anxious at times as it shifts through its more progressive stretches, but it’s not without its trail markers as it goes farther out, and the place it winds up in closer “You Beautiful Demon” is a genuine surprise: an acoustic and pedal steel near-twang that still derives from Led Zeppelin, but does so in a way that still serves as a ready example of Sacri Monti‘s drive toward individualism. Amidst all the shuffle and ’70s worship of their crowded scene, Sacri Monti are finding a way to both fit in and distinguish themselves in these songs. They’re establishing a richer, less-bound personality to their songwriting that feels comfortable encompassing psychedelia as much as earthy folk-blues strum — back to back, no less — and most importantly, they’re pulling it off.

sacri monti waiting room for the magic hour back cover

Elements in “Fear and Fire” — the longest inclusion at 9:14 — and “Starlight” or even the more patiently melodic side B opener “Affirmation” will seem familiar to those with an affinity either for classic progressive rock or its modern heavy revisionists, but the fluidity of Sacri Monti‘s craft here and the lack of pretense they bring to their instrumentalism, their tonal warmth and overarching groove, help to give Waiting Room for the Magic Hour a distinguishing presence, and the take-it-as-a-whole feel of the album front to back feels not necessarily like a conceptual piece mandating it be experienced in a certain way, but an invitation issued to the listener to come in and sit down for a while and enjoy finding the places where the band end up. Songs like “Starlight,” “Affirmation,” “Gone from Grace” and even “You Beautiful Demon” — let alone the title-track — seem to speak to ideas beyond the bare physical world, and fair enough, but Sacri Monti succeed in carrying their audience along this sometimes-complex path without getting anymore lost along the way than they want to be. That’s the difference between Waiting Room for the Magic Hour being as engaging as it is and a flat mess, which it is not.

Indeed, even the name of the record seems to invite speculation as to meaning. What’s the magic hour? Where’s the waiting room? Beginning with stick clicks and a suitably live feel, the title-track would seem to hint that the show is the magic hour, and the waiting room might be the rest of life — the opening line, “Orange haze fall down on me again,” supports this — and given the place-name in “Wading in Malcesine” speaks to reflections on touring as well, but that’s a simplistic narrative to put to it and what feels more important about Waiting Room for the Magic Hour is the places the record takes Sacri Monti‘s sound, rather than the story behind it, and whether it’s the intricacies of “Armistice” and “Starlight” or the direct way the organ at the end of “Affirmation” seems to lead to the opening guitar line of “Gone from Grace,” there’s a natural vibe that ties the material here together and gives the listener all the more to dig into on repeat visits, putting emphasis on the raw dynamic not just between the two guitars or the instruments and the vocals, but the guitar and bass, the bass and keys, the guitar and keys, the drums and everything, and so on.

Though it often winds up being the guitar in the lead, Waiting Room for the Magic Hour stands on the shoulders of each member’s performance and is even more an accomplishment for what those performances produce. In a vast legion of sun-coated West Coast boogie, it builds something of its own from that foundation and highlights a potential that even the self-titled could only touch on in a tentative way. These songs feel more confident and more realized, and if they’re as much a show of potential as of their own manifestation — that is, if Sacri Monti continue to progress from what they achieve here — even if it takes them another four years to put out a follow-up, that LP will be well worth the wait. These cats could’ve played dumb and written a probably-cool-anyway record of capable ’70s-style heavy rock. They very clearly aimed higher, and they very clearly nailed it.

Sacri Monti, Waiting Room for the Magic Hour (2019)

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Quarterly Review: Tia Carrera, Inter Arma, Volcano, Wet Cactus, Duskwood, Lykantropi, Kavod, Onioroshi, Et Mors, Skånska Mord

Posted in Reviews on July 4th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review

Day four. I should’ve known we’d hit a snag at some point in the week, but it happened yesterday afternoon when Windows decided I desperately needed some update or other and then crapped the bed in the middle of said update. I wound up taking my laptop to a repair guy down the road in the afternoon, who said the hard drive needed to be wiped and have a full reinstall. Pretty brutal. He was going to back up what was there and get on it, said I could pick it up today. We’ll see how that goes, I guess. Also, happy Fourth, if America’s your thing. Let’s dive in.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Tia Carrera, Visitors / Early Purple

tia carrera visitors early purple

They had a single out between (review here), but the two-song LP Visitors / Early Purple is Tia Carrera‘s first album since 2011’s Cosmic Priestess (review here). The Austin, Texas, three-piece — which now includes bassist Curt Christianson of Dixie Witch alongside guitarist Jason Morales and drummer Erik Conn — haven’t missed a beat in terms of creating heavy psychedelic sprawl, and as the side-consuming “Visitors” (18:32) and “Early Purple” (16:28) play out, it’s with a true jammed sensibility; that feeling that sooner or later the wheels are going to come off. They don’t, at least not really, but the danger always makes it more exciting, and Morales‘ tone has been much missed. In the intervening years, the social media generation has come up to revere Earthless for doing much of what Tia Carrera do, but there’s always room for more jams as far as I’m concerned, and it’s refreshing to have Tia Carrera back to let people know what they’ve been missing. Here’s hoping it’s not another eight years.

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Small Stone Records on Bandcamp

 

Inter Arma, Sulphur English

inter arma sulphur english

I can’t help but think Inter Arma‘s Sulphur English is the album Morbid Angel should have made after Covenant. And yes, that applies to the harmonies and organ of “Stillness” as well. The fourth full-length (third for Relapse) from the Richmond, Virginia, outfit is a beastly, severe and soulful 66-minute stretch of consuming, beyond-genre extremity. It punishes with purpose and scope, and its sense of brutality comes accompanied by a willful construction of atmosphere. Longer pieces like “The Atavist’s Meridian” and the closing title-track lend a feeling of drama, but at no point does Sulphur English feel like a put-on, and as Inter Arma continue their push beyond the even-then-inventive sludge of their beginnings, they’ve become something truly groundbreaking in metal, doing work that can only be called essential to push forward into new ground and seeming to swallow the universe whole in the meantime. It’s the kind of record that one can only hope becomes influential, both in its purpose toward individualism and its sheer physical impact.

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Relapse Records website

 

Volcano, The Island

volcano the island

So you’ve got Harsh Toke‘s Gabe Messer on keys and vocals and JOY guitarist/Pharlee drummer Zach Oakley on guitar, and bassist Billy Ellsworth (also of Loom) and Matt Oakley on drums, plus it seems whoever else happened to be around the studio that day — and in San Diego, that could be any number of players — making up Volcano, whose debut, The Island (on Tee Pee) melds Afrobeat funk-rock with the band’s hometown penchant for boogie. The songs are catchy — “10,000 Screamin’ Souls,” “Naked Prey,” “Skewered,” “No Evil, Know Demon”; hooks abound — but there’s a feeling of kind of an unthinking portrayal of “the islander” as a savage that I can’t quite get past. There’s inherently an element of cultural appropriation to rock and roll anyway, but even more here, it seems. They make it a party, to be sure, but there’s a political side to what Afrobeat was originally about that goes unacknowledged here. They might get there, they might not. They’ve got the groove down on their first record, and that’s not nothing.

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Tee Pee Records website

 

Wet Cactus, Dust, Hunger and Gloom

wet cactus dust hunger and gloom

Sometimes you just miss one, and I’ll admit that Wet CactusDust, Hunger and Gloom got by me. It likely would’ve been in the Quarterly Review a year ago had I not been robbed last Spring, but either way, the Spanish outfit’s second long-player is a fuzz rocker’s delight, a welcoming and raucous vibe persisting through “Full Moon Over My Head,” which is the second cut of the total five and the only one of the bunch under seven minutes long. They bring desert-jammy vibes to the songs surrounding, setting an open tone with “So Long” at the outset that the centerpiece “Aquelarre” fleshes out even further instrumentally ahead of the penultimate title-track’s classic build and payoff and the earth-toned nine-minute finale “Sleepy Trip,” which is nothing if not self-aware in its title as it moves toward the driving crescendo of the record. All throughout, the mood is as warm as the distortion, and Wet Cactus do right by staying true to the roots of desert rock. It’s not every record I’d want to review a year after the fact; think of it that way.

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Duskwood, The Long Dark

duskwood the long dark

A follow-up EP to Duskwood‘s 2016 debut long-player, Desert Queen, the four-track The Long Dark is a solid showcase of their progression as songwriters and in the capital-‘d’ Desertscene style that has come to epitomize much of the UK heavy rock underground, taking loyalism to the likes of Kyuss and topping it off with the energy of modern London-based practitioners Steak. The four-piece roll out a right-on fuzzy groove in “Mars Rover” after opening with “Space Craft” and show more of a melodic penchant in “Crook and Flail” before tying it all together with “Nomad” at the finish. They warn on their Bandcamp page this is ‘Part 1,’ so it may not be all that long before they resurface. Fair enough as they’ve clearly found their footing in terms of style and songwriting here, and at that point the best thing to do is keep growing. As it stands, The Long Dark probably isn’t going to kick off any stylistic revolution, but there’s something to be said for the band’s ability to execute their material in conversation with what else is out there at the moment.

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Lykantropi, Spirituosa

Lykantropi-Spirituosa

Sweet tones and harmonies and a classic, sun-coated progressivism persist on Lykantropi‘s second album, Spirituosa (on Lightning Records), basking in melodic flow across nine songs and 43 minutes that begin with the rockers “Wild Flowers” and “Vestigia” and soon move into the well-paired “Darkness” and “Sunrise” as the richer character of the LP unfolds. “Songbird” makes itself a highlight with its more laid back take, and the title-track follows with enough swing to fill whatever quota you’ve got, while “Queen of Night” goes full ’70s boogie and “Seven Blue” imagines Tull and Fleetwood Mac vibes — Flutewood Mac! — and closer and longest track “Sällsamma Natt” underscores the efficiency of songwriting that’s been at play all the while amidst all that immersive gorgeousness and lush melodicism. They include a bit of push in the capper, and well they should, but go out with a swagger that playfully counteracts the folkish humility of the proceedings. Will fly under many radars. Shouldn’t.

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Lightning Records website

 

Kavod, Wheel of Time

kavod wheel of time

As Italian trio Kavod shift from opener “Samsara” into “Absolution” on their debut EP, Wheel of Time, the vocals become a kind of chant for the verse that would seem to speak to the meditative intention of the release on the whole. They will again on the more patient closer “Mahatma” too, and fair enough as the band seem to be trying to find a place for themselves in the post-Om or Zaum sphere of spiritual exploration through volume, blending that aesthetic with a more straight-ahead songwriting methodology as manifest in “Samsara” particularly. They have the tones right on as they begin this inward and outward journey, and it will be interesting to hear in subsequent work if they grow to work in longer, possibly-slower forms or push their mantras forward at the rate they do here, but as it stands, they take a reverent, astral viewpoint with their sound and feel dug in on that plane of existence. It suits them.

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Onioroshi, Beyond These Mountains

onioroshi beyond these mountains

Onioroshi flow smoothly from atmospheric post-sludge to more thrusting heavy rock and they take their time doing it, too. With their debut album, Beyond These Mountains, the Italian heavy proggers present four tracks the shortest of which, “Locusta,” runs 10:54. Bookending are “Devilgrater” (14:17) and “Eternal Snake (Mantra)” (20:30) and the penultimate “Socrate” checks in at 12:29, so yes, the trio have plenty of chances to flesh out their ideas as and explore as they will. Their style leans toward post-rock by the end of “Devilgrater,” but never quite loses its sense of impact amid the ambience, and it’s not until “Socrate” that they go full-on drone, setting a cinematic feel that acts as a lead-in for the initial build of the closer which leads to an apex wash and a more patient finish than one might expect given the trip to get there. Beyond These Mountains is particularly enticing because it’s outwardly familiar but nuanced enough to still strike an individual note. It’s easy to picture Onioroshi winding up on Argonauta or some other suitably adventurous imprint.

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Et Mors, Lux in Morte

et mors lux in morte

Whoever in Maryland/D.C. then-four-piece Et Mors decided to record their Lux in Morte EP in their practice space had the right idea. The morose death-doom three-songer takes cues from USBM in the haunting rawness of “Incendium Ater,” and even though the 19-minute “House of Nexus” comes through somewhat clearer — it was recorded to tape at Shenandoah University — it remains infected by the filth and grit of the opener. Actually, “infected” might be the word all around here, as the mold-sludge of closer “Acid Bender” creeps along at an exposed-flesh, feedback-drenched lurch, scathing as much in intent as execution, playing like a death metal record at half-speed and that much harsher because they so clearly know what they’re doing. If you think it matters that they mixed stuff from two different sessions, you’re way off base on the sound overall here. It’s patch-worthy decay metal, through and through. Concerns of audio fidelity need not apply.

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Skånska Mord, Blues from the Tombs

skanska mord blues from the tombs

When Sweden’s Skånska Mord are singing about the deep freeze in album opener “Snow” on the Transubstans-released Blues from the Tombs, I believe it. It’s been seven years since Small Stone issued their Paths to Charon LP (review here), and the new record finds them more fully dug into a classic rocker’s take on hard-blues, rolling with Iommic riffs and a mature take on what earliest Spiritual Beggars were able to capture in terms of a modern-retro sound. “Snow” and “Simon Says” set an expectation for hooks that the more meandering “Edge of Doom” pulls away from, while “The Never Ending Greed” brings out the blues harp over an abbreviated two minutes and leads into a more expansive side B with “Blinded by the Light” giving way to the wah-bassed “Sun,” the barroom blueser “Death Valley Blues” and the returning nod of closer “The Coming of the Second Wave,” stood out by its interwoven layers of soloing and hypnosis before its final cut. It’s been a while, but they’ve still got it.

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Transubstans Records website

 

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Quarterly Review: Torche, Spillage, Pharlee, Dali’s Llama, Speedealer, Mt. Echo, Monocluster, Picaporters, Beaten by Hippies, Luna Sol

Posted in Reviews on July 3rd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review

We meet again. The Summer 2019 Quarterly Review. It’s four in the morning and I’m getting ready to start the day. I haven’t even managed to pour myself coffee yet, which even as I type it out feels like a crime against humanity, such as it is. I’ll get there though.

Wednesday in the Quarterly Review marks the halfway point of the week, and as we’ll hit 30 reviews at the end, it’s half of the total 60 as well, so yeah. Feeling alright so far. As always, good music helps. I’ve added a couple things for consideration to my ongoing best-of-the-year list for December, so that’s something. And I think I’ll probably be doing so again today, so let’s get to it.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Torche, Admission

torche admission

15 years later and Torche‘s sound is still expanding. To that point, it’s never sounded quite as expansive as it does on Admission, their fifth album and second for Relapse behind 2015’s Restarter (review here). There are still plenty of straight-ahead heavy riffs on cuts like “Reminder” or “Slide” or the bomb-tone-laden “Infierno,” but in the title-track, in “Times Missing,” the closer “Changes Come,” “Slide” and even the 1:30-long “What Was,” there’s a sense of spaciousness and float to the guitars to contrast all that crunch, and it effectively takes the place of some of the manic feel of their earlier work. It’s consistent with the brightness of their melodies in songs like “Extremes of Consciousness” and the early pusher “Submission,” and it adds to their style rather than takes away, building on the mid-paced feel of the last album in such a way as to demonstrate the band’s continued growth long after they’d be well within their rights to rest on their laurels. Sharp, consistent in its level of songwriting, mature and engaging across its 36-minute entirety, Admission is everything one might ask of Torche‘s fifth album.

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Relapse Records website

 

Spillage, Blood of Angels

spillage blood of angels

If you, like me, believe doom to be the guardian style of classic heavy metal — you could also argue power metal there, but that’s why it’s an argument — Chicago’s Spillage might be the band to help make your case. With their own Ronnie James Dio in Elvin Rodriguez (not a comparison I make lightly) and a connection to the Trouble family tree via founding guitarist Tony Spillman, who also played in Earthen Grave, the band unfurl trad-metal poise throughout their 53-minute second album, Blood of Angels, hitting touchstones like Sabbath, Priest, and indeed Trouble on a chugger like “Free Man,” a liberal dose of organ on “Rough Grooved Surface” adding to the classic feel — Rainbow, maybe? — and even the grandiose ballad “Voice of Reason” that appears before the closing Sabbath cover “Dirty Women” staying loyal to the cause. I can’t and won’t fault them for that, as in both their originals and in the cover, their hearts are obviously in it all the way and the sound is right on, the sleek swing in the second half of “Evil Doers” punctuated by squealing guitar just as it should be. Mark it a win for the forces of metal, maybe less so for the angels.

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Pharlee, Pharlee

pharlee pharlee

San Diego strikes again with Pharlee‘s self-titled debut on Tee Pee Records, a 29-minute boogie rock shove that’s marked out by the significant pipes of Macarena Rivera up front, the shuffling snare work of Zach Oakley (also guitar in JOY and Volcano) and the organ work of Garret Lekas throughout, winding around and accentuating the riffs of Justin “Figgy” Figueroa and the air-push bass of Dylan Donovan. It’s a proven formula by now, but Pharlee‘s Pharlee is like the band who comes on stage in the middle of the festival and surprises everyone and reminds them why they’re there in the first place. The energy of “Darkest Hour” is infectious, and the bluesier take on Freddie King‘s “Going Down” highlights a stoner shred in Figueroa‘s guitar that fits superbly ahead of the fuzz freakout, all-go closer “Sunward,” and whatever stylistic elements (and personnel, for that matter) might be consistent with their hometown’s well-populated underground, Pharlee take that radness and make it their own.

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Dali’s Llama, Mercury Sea

dalis llama mercury sea

Long-running desert rockers Dali’s Llama return with Mercury Sea, their first release since 2017’s The Blossom EP (review here) and their first full-length since 2016’s Dying in the Sun (review here), sounding reinvigorated in rockers like opener “Weary” and the subsequent grunge-vibing “Choking on the Same,” “When Ember Laughs” and the garage-style “She’s Not Here.” Persistently underappreciated, their albums always have a distinct feel, and Mercury Sea is no different, finding a place for itself between the laid-back desert blues and punkier fare on a cut like “Someday, Someday,” even delving into psychedelic folk for a while in the 6:54 longest track “Goblin Fruit,” and a bit of lead guitar scorch bringing it all together on closer “All My Fault,” highlighting the theme of love that’s been playing out all the while. The sincerity behind that and everything Dali’s Llama does is palpable as ever in these 11 tracks, an more than 25 years on from their inception, they continue to deliver memorable songs in wholly unpretentious fashion. That’s just what they do.

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Speedealer, Blue Days Black Nights

speedealer blue days black nights

Speedealer ride again! And just about at top speed, too. The Dallas, Texas, outfit were last heard from circa 2003, and their turnabout is marked with the self-release of Blue Days Black Nights, a fury-driven 10-tracker that takes the best of their heavy-rock-via-punk delivery and beefs up tones to suit another decade and a half’s worth of hard living and accumulated disaffection. The Dallas four-piece blaze through songs like “Never Knew,” the hardcore-punk “Losing My Shit,” the more metallic “Nothing Left to Say,” and the careening aggro-swagger of “Rheumatism,” but there’s still some variety to be had throughout, as highlight “Sold Out,” “War Nicht Genung” and “Shut Up” find the band no less effective working at a somewhat scaled-back pace. However fast they’re going, though the attitude remains much the same, and it’s “fuck you fuck this” fuckall all the way. Those familiar with their past work would expect no less, and time has clearly not repaired the chip on Speedealer‘s shoulder. Their anger is our gain.

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Mt. Echo, Cirrus

mt echo cirrus

Based in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, the instrumentalist four-piece Mt. Echo present a somewhat noisier take on Russian Circles-style heavy post-rock with their nine-song/46-minute debut, Cirrus. Not at all shy about incorporating a noise rock riff or a more weighted groove, the dual-guitar outfit nonetheless spend significant time patiently engaged in the work of atmosphere-building, so that their material develops a genuine ebb and flow as songs tie one into the next to give the entire affair a whole-album feel. It is their first outing, but all the more striking for that in terms of how much of a grip they seem to have on their approach and what they want to be doing in a song like “Lighthouse at the End of Time” with airy lead and chugging rhythm guitars intertwining and meeting head-on for post-YOB crashes and an eventual turn into a harder-pushing progression. Ambience comes (mostly) to the fore in the seven-minute “Monsters and the Men Who Made Them,” but wherever they go on Cirrus, Mt. Echo bring that atmospheric density along with them. The proverbial ‘band to watch.’

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Monocluster, Ocean

Monocluster Ocean

Over the course of five longform tracks on Ocean, Germany’s Monocluster build fluidly on the accomplishments of their 2015 self-titled debut (review here), greatly expanding on the heft and general reach of their sound while, as opener “Ocean in Our Bones” demonstrates, still holding onto the ability to affect a killer hook when they need one. Ocean is not a minor undertaking at 56 minutes, but it dedicates its time to constructing a world in cuts like “Leviathan” and “A Place Beyond,” the giant wall of fuzzed low end becoming the backdrop for the three-part story being told that ends with the 11:43 “Home” standing alone, as graceful and progressive as it is brash and noisy — a mirror in that regard to the nine-minute centerpiece “Guns and Greed” and a fitting summation of Ocean‘s course. They keep this up for very long and people are going to start to notice. The album is a marked step forward from where Monocluster were a few years ago, and sets up the expectation of continued growth their next time out while keeping a focus on the essential elements of songwriting as well. If we’re looking for highlights, I’d pick “Leviathan,” but honestly, it’s anyone’s game.

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Monocluster on Bandcamp

 

Picaporters, XXIII

picaporters xxiii

The third full-length from Argentine trio Picaporters marks another level of achievement for them as a band. XXIII arrives three years after El Horror Oculto (review here) and is unquestionably their broadest-cast spectrum to-date. The album comes bookended by eight-minute opener “La Soga de los Muertos” and “M.I.,” an 18-minute finale jam that would give a Deep Purple live record reason to blush. Soulful guitar stretches out over a vast rhythmic landscape, and all this after “Jinetes del Universo” motorpunks out and “Vencida” pulls together Floydian melo-prog, “Numero 5” precedes the closer with acoustic interplay and the early “Despertar” offers a little bit of everything and a lot of what-the-hell-just-happened. These guys started out on solid footing with their 2013 debut, Elefantes (review here), but neither that nor El Horror Oculto really hinted at the scope they’d make sound so natural throughout XXIII, which is the kind of record that leaves you no choice but to call it progressive.

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Beaten by Hippies, Beaten by Hippies

beaten by hippies beaten by hippies

As their moniker hints, there’s some edge of danger to Belgium’s Beaten by Hippies‘ self-titled debut (on Polderrecords), but the album ultimately resolves itself more toward songwriting and hooks in the spirit of a meaner-sounding Queens of the Stone Age in songs like “Space Tail” and “More is More,” finding common ground with the energy of Truckfighters though never quite delving so far into fuzzy tones. That’s not at all to the band’s detriment — rather, it helps the four-piece begin to cast their identity as they do in this material, whether that’s happening in the volatile sudden volume trades in “Dust” or the mission statement “Rock ‘n’ Roll,” which feels geared a bit to the anthemic but would probably work just as well in whatever pub they happen to be terrorizing on a given evening. Their delivery skirts the line between heavy and hard rock as only that vaguely commercially viable European-style can, but the songs are right there waiting to take the stage at whatever festival is this weekend and blow the roof — or the sky, I guess, if it’s outdoors — off the place.

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Polderrecords website

 

Luna Sol, Below the Deep

luna sol below the deep

Guitarist/vocalist Dave Angstrom may be best known in heavy rock circles for his work alongside John Garcia in Hermano, but in leading the four-piece Luna Sol through their 12-song/50-minute sophomore outing, Below the Deep (on Slush Fund Recordings), he proves a capable frontman as well as songwriter. Sharing vocal duties with bassist Shannon Fahnestock while David Burke handles guitar and Justin Baier drums, Angstrom is a steady presence at the fore through the well-constructed ’90s-flavored heavy rock of “Below the Deep” and “Along the Road” early, the later “Garden of the Gods” playing toward a more complex arrangement after the strutting “The Dying Conglomerate” paints a suitably grim State of the Union and ahead of the fuzz-rich ending in “Home,” which keeps its melodic purpose even as it crashes out to its languid finish. Whether it’s the charged “Man’s Worth Killin'” or the winding fuzz of “Mammoth Cave,” one can definitely hear some Hermano at work, but Luna Sol distinguish themselves just the same.

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Slush Fund Recordings webstore

 

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Friday Full-Length: Graveyard, Graveyard

Posted in Bootleg Theater on May 24th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Even though it came out three years later, Graveyard‘s 2007 self-titled debut was the album that showed retro heavy didn’t just belong to Witchcraft. Yeah, I know that’s an easy narrative and there were other bands out there at the time digging into the heavy ’70s sound for inspiration, but frankly, not at this level, and even Graveyard‘s fellow Swedes had begun by then to pull away from the proto-doom rock of their first outing by ’07. The two groups were further linked by a common lineage in Norrsken, with guitarist/vocalist Joakim Nilsson and then-bassist Rikard Edlund having played in that outfit alongside Witchcraft‘s Magnus Pelander from 1996-2000 and produced several demos and singles as well as appearing on the tributes Bastards Will Pay: A Tribute to Trouble (discussed here) and Blue Explosion: A Tribute to Blue Cheer (discussed here) in 1999. But not only were Graveyard on the earlier end of Sweden and greater Europe’s retroist movement, and not only did they play a significant role in putting it into motion, but they showed there was more to it than Pentagram worship.

I’ll readily admit that the first time I saw them, in 2010 at Roadburn Festival (review here), I didn’t get it. I’d heard the self-titled, then three years old after coming out in the States on Tee Pee and in Europe on Transubstans. They were too cool-looking for me. Everything just seemed too perfect, it felt like a put-on for cool kids that just didn’t sit nearly as well with me as falafel I went outside and ate instead of watching them through the open doorway of the old Green Room at the 013 in Tilburg. I was wrong, of course. Not that Graveyard weren’t fashion-conscious in a way that even Witchcraft would never be and that Germany’s Kadavar would raise to yet another level, but I just got a mistaken impression. It was the end of a long weekend. I was tired. So it goes. Those more clued in to what Nilsson, Edlund, drummer Axel Sjöberg, guitarist Jonatan Ramm and guitarist/vocalist/keyboardist Truls Mörck were creating in terms of vibe dug it plenty. The problem, in short, was me. As ever.

By then, Graveyard were already due for a follow-up to Graveyard that wouldn’t arrive for another two years. That long stretch between a first album and a second one would crush a lesser band graveyard self titledlooking to capture some audience share, but with Graveyard, it seemed only to let the nine-song/39-minute long-player — crafted with a focus on vinyl, which was rare in 2007 — simmer as a burgeoning social media word-of-mouth spread its legend. Graveyard became a thing you knew if you were in the know, and their boogie blues rock was perfectly suited for building a cult following. Capping with the mega-hook of “Satan’s Finest,” the album was a clarion to the converted that wasn’t to be missed, and whether it was the shuffle in Sjöberg‘s snare on “Thin Line” or the swapping out of lead vocals for side A closer “Blue Soul” and side B’s “As the Years Pass by the Hours Bend” and the bass/percussion arrangement in the penultimate “Right is Wrong” that seemed so distant from the rush that began the album on “Evil Ways,” there was so much to dig about what Graveyard were doing that even if you got sucked in by the vintage-style production of the whole outing, you were still only getting part of the story. It was at least as much about the band’s songwriting and performance, if not more so, than the aesthetic they so purposefully donned to present it.

“Evil Ways” and “Satan’s Finest” — the start and the finish — were powerful enough in themselves, and managed to embrace cliché enough to be fun while other tracks took a more emotionalist direction that, in hindsight, foreshadowed some of Graveyard‘s and particularly Nilsson‘s delving into soul-driven fare on subsequent offerings. But the self-titled’s more raucous moments, on the short side B leadoff “Submarine Blues” or the bouncing-down-stairs rhythm of “Lost in Confusion,” as well as the fluidity in “Blue Soul,” were a new branch of heavy rock springing up right in front of the listener, and they were received accordingly. I don’t think it’s a hard argument to make that Graveyard became one of the most essential heavy rock bands of this decade in the wake of this debut, and what they’ve gone on to accomplish in the years since — signing to Nuclear Blast to finally release the landmark sophomore full-length Hisingen Blues (review here) in 2011, followed on a quick turnaround by 2012’s Lights Out (review here), touring the universe and then releasing 2015’s more mature Innocence and Decadence (review here) and 2018’s Peace (review here) — is matched by an elite few who might still be considered underground acts.

When Graveyard announced they were calling it quits in 2016, it seemed fair enough. After four records, they’d never hit a snag, and as they’d taken on a more modern production sound and toured hard for about half a decade, it was understandable they might have burnt themselves out. The breakup didn’t take, and when they got back together, with Oskar Bergenheim on drums in place of Sjöberg (since of Big Kizz) and Mörck back in the band on bass instead of guitar, with Ramm and Nilsson as the remaining founders, the revamped rhythm section changed the character of the band. That was evident on Peace, though the songwriting was consistent and arguably the broadest it had ever been. I don’t know what the future holds for Graveyard, except perhaps more touring — they announced last week they’ll be on the road with Clutch in Europe for a quick run this December — and headlining festival gigs if they want them, but listening back to their self-titled, it’s astounding how vital and assured this band was of what they were doing.

There are no shortage of acts out there who aim toward and eventually capture some sense of individuality. Who you put on and immediately know what you’re listening to. Graveyard would prove identifiable by the time the three and a half minutes of “Evil Ways” were done and wherever they’ve gone in terms of their sound, they’ve never lost that. While of course the context of their career since helps, I don’t think you can really look at their debut as anything other than a pivotal moment for this generation of heavy rock.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

Gonna keep this quick if I can. A plug:

Today at 1PM Eastern is The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio. It’s the first time it’s airing in its new timeslot. I hope you get the chance to listen, and if you do, I hope you dig it. Please, if you can check it out, I’d very much appreciate it. I should be in the Gimme chat for it as well if you want to say hi.

Then later on tonight, The Patient Mrs., The Pecan and I are flying to Ireland. It’s been a hell of a week. We loaded and brought a truckload of stuff — including CDs, the packing of which was a task both mentally and physically — to the house in New Jersey where we’ll be living by the end of this summer, on Tuesday. We were there for Wednesday hanging out with family and whatnot, then came back north yesterday to Massachusetts so The Patient Mrs. could go to a farewell work party, and today we have a bunch of running around to do and packing to go on this trip, which is one of the last things she has going for Bridgewater State University: a study-abroad excursion to Ireland with another professor and 15 students. I’m going basically so she doesn’t have to be away from the baby for two weeks, though it means flying on a red-eye with an 19-month-old, stuffing him onto a bus multiple times and sleeping in the same room with him, which we haven’t done in a little over a year. It’s going to be… interesting. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about all of it.

Fortunately, we’re bringing his headphones. He has a little pair of blue wireless over-ears that The Patient Mrs. bought on Amazon. I loaded a micro-SD with the Beatles catalog and it’s an immediate calm-down for him. He can be in the midst of an absolute shit-fit and you put the headphones on him and it snaps him out of it. It’s astounding. Dude loves it. I just have to make sure he doesn’t get to “Revolution 9.” I don’t think children should be exposed to such horrors.

The plan though is to stop in and visit Slomatics though while we’re in Belfast, so I’m looking forward to that, and I may hit a record shop somewhere along the way. We’ll see. I don’t really know. I haven’t even looked at shows as compared to our itinerary or anything, mostly because I have no idea what our itinerary is. I’m really just along for the ride and the child-care on this one.

Because I love flying so much.

But it’s Ireland until June 6, then back to MA, then down to Jersey to see Solace with a bunch of other badass bands on June 8, then back to MA June 13 for more dental work — the saga continues! — then south to NJ, then further south for Maryland Doom Fest, then up to CT for a bit to cover babysitting my niece and nephew, and somewhere in there maybe we’re going to redo the kitchen in NJ before we actually move in? Oh yeah, and the place in Massachusetts goes on the market today, so if this place sells we’ll have to be out by some appointed closing date, then actually sort finances with buying the house in NJ and do that, finish packing — ugh, vinyl — and actually move. It’s a ton of shit, and completely overwhelming. That’s what it is.

All you can do is keep your head down and keep working.

But putting my head down, I notice on the baby monitor that The Pecan is up. Coming on 6AM, so that’s fair. Gonna go grab him and start the day. Laundry to do and whatnot.

Have a great and safe weekend. Forum, radio, merch at Dropout.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

The Obelisk shirts & hoodies

 

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Here’s the Bio I Wrote for Worshipper’s Light in the Wire

Posted in Features on May 17th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Today marks the release date of Worshipper‘s second album, Light in the Wire (review here). Out on Tee Pee Records, it lands immediately following the return of the Boston four-piece from a European tour alongside labelmates The Skull that included stops at Desertfest in London and Berlin to follow-up on both bands’ appearance at the inaugural Desertfest NYC a few weeks back (review here).

The release will be celebrated tonight in Cambridge, MA, with a live in-store performance at Newbury Comics in Harvard Square. The retail outlet also has an exclusive color vinyl edition available that looks just lovely in the pictures that I’ve seen. I was fortunate enough to be asked when they were putting the promo package together to write the bio for the album, and I did so happily.

For the occasion of the release, here’s that bio I wrote, as it appears currently on their Bandcamp page:

worshipper light in the wire

Worshipper – Light in the Wire bio

Whatever frame you want to give it, Worshipper’s story is one of growth. What started four years ago with a couple digital singles has blossomed — yes, blossomed — into an expansive and individualized sound that’s like nothing else in heavy rock and roll. With patient and graceful songwriting, and thoughtful, detailed arrangements, the Boston-based four-piece bring something new to the hordes of those building altars to the capital ‘r’ Riff. Their second album, Light in the Wire, presents a progressive vision that’s not just about “oh hey we threw a keyboard on some guitar,” but instead bleeds into every melody, every smoothly-delivered rhythmic change, and every performance captured on the recording.

Worshipper’s first album, Shadow Hymns, came out in 2016 on Tee Pee, and they followed it with the 2017 covers EP Mirage Daze, a four-song jaunt exploring influences like Pink Floyd, The Who, Uriah Heep and doom rockers The Oath. That release gave new context to Shadow Hymns, and it informs Light in the Wire as well, though with the new LP, Worshipper are most recognizable as themselves.

Led by would-be-reluctant-were-it-not-for-all-that-pesky-stage-presence frontman John Brookhouse (guitar/vocals/synth), with Alejandro Necochea on lead guitar/synth, Bob Maloney on bass and backing vocals and Dave Jarvis on drums, Worshipper recorded Light in the Wire with Chris Johnson (also of Deafheaven, Summoner, etc.) at GodCity Studios and The Electric Bunker. Their intention to capture a sonic narrative has resulted in a fluidity tying the two sides of the album together even as individual pieces stand out with a sheen of classic heavy metal, rock, psychedelia and prog. At the center, always, is the crafting of the songs themselves, so that each verse isn’t simply a placeholder for the next hook, but a statement unto itself, and each solo drips soul rather than devolving into a needless showcase of wankery.

Light in the Wire not only sees Worshipper grow as songwriters and performers, but it expands the palette they’re working with to do that. A stage-born chemistry pervades their musical conversation, but even more, the confidence with which they take on darkness and light, weight and drift, brings into focus how faithworthy their sound has become. They may push farther still, but hearing Light in the Wire leaves no question of their realization.

-JJ Koczan

https://www.facebook.com/worshipperband/
https://www.instagram/worshipperband
https://worshipper.bandcamp.com/
http://teepeerecords.com

Worshipper, Light in the Wire (2019)

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Sacri Monti Confirm July 5 Release for Waiting Room for the Magic Hour; Title-Track Posted

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 17th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

SACRI MONTI

I’m sitting across the kitchen table from The Patient Mrs. just now and she’s telling me about some dude she’s acquainted with in some tertiary way who has a condition whereby he passes something like six kidney stones a month. That sounds fucking awful. What doesn’t sound awful is new Sacri Monti. That sounds like organ-laced West Coast heavy boogie groovy goodness. Much preferable.

The band’s second full-length for Tee Pee Records is called Waiting Room for the Magic Hour, as previously noted, and they’ll tour Europe soon after the July 5 release. We knew that too. But the song they’re streaming — the title-track — is enough to earn its own post, and with the re-confirmed album info and tracklisting, well, yeah, I’m more than happy to reiterate a few known factoids in service to the greater good of this stuff. Album preorders are up now from Tee Pee.

Therefore, dig:

sacri monti waiting room for the magic hour

Sacri Monti to Release Sophomore LP, ‘Waiting Room for the Magic Hour’, July 5

California Heavy Psych Band Featuring Members of JOY, Monarch and Radio Moscow Expands Its Already Kaleidoscopic Sound on Electric New Album

San Diego psychedelic heavy rock champions Sacri Monti return with a vengeance on their sophomore LP ‘Waiting Room for the Magic Hour’. Recorded at Audio Design (Earthless) with producer Jordan Andreen (Joy, Arctic), ‘Waiting Room for the Magic Hour’ sees Sacri Monti firing on all cylinders, somersaulting between the spontaneous and the musically calculated. Blues rock, prog rock, proto metal, fusion; it’s all masterfully represented, as brash as it is beautiful. ‘Waiting Room for the Magic Hour’ will see a July 5 release via Tee Pee Records.

On ‘Waiting Room for the Magic Hour’, heaps of fuzzed vocals, waves of keyboards, boogie rhythms, and sick, spiraling leads merge with focus, energy and drive to send Sacri Monti soaring to a next level, riff-filled land. Proggy space rock jams erupt as melodies segue in and out, while vocals drift over the top, seemingly lost in the instrumental sea. Sacri Monti come fully charged and ready to party, adding a new twist on heavy psych while delivering the soundtrack to an endless summer with ‘Waiting Room for the Magic Hour’.

A first listen to what ‘Waiting Room for the Magic Hour’ holds in store can be heard now as Sacri Monti has released the title track to the upcoming LP. Hear it now at this location.

Track listing:

1.) Waiting Room for the Magic Hour
2.) Fear and Fire
3.) Armistice
4.) Starlight
5.) Affirmation
6.) Gone from Grace
7.) Wading in Malcesine
8.) You Beautiful Demon

Pre-order ‘Waiting Room for the Magic Hour’ at this location.

16/07 UK Brighton Hope & Ruin
18/07 UK London The Black Heart
19/07 BE zottegem kaffee maboel/klsjr kllktv
20/07 DE Zentrum Zinsholz Eastfilly Fest
21/07 DE Munich Import Export
22/07 AT Wien Viper Room
25/07 ITA Lecco La Bottega d’estate c/o Lido di Casletta
26/07 ITA Sezzadio(Alessandria) Cascina Bellaria
27/07 ITA Moos in Passeier,Südtirol Crystal Mountain Festival
28/07 ITA Padova Curtarock
31/07 FRA Paris Supersonic
01/08 DE Köln MTC
02/08 DE Beelen Krach am Bach Open Air
04/08 DE Aschaffenburg – secret show
07/08 DE Berlin Zukunft
08/08 CZ Louny TBA
09/08 DE Sizendorf Void Festival
10/08 PT Moledo Sonic Blast Moledo Festival
11/08 FRA Picardie Celebration Days Festival

Sacri Monti is:
Brenden Dellar -Guitar
Dylan Donovan- Guitar
Anthony Meier- Bass
Evan Wenskay- Organ, Synth
Thomas Dibenedetto- Drums

https://www.facebook.com/sacrimontiband/
https://www.instagram.com/sacri_monti_band/
https://sacrimonti.bigcartel.com/
https://soundcloud.com/sacri-monti
teepeerecords.com
https://www.facebook.com/teepeerecords/
https://twitter.com/teepeerecords
https://teepeerecords.bandcamp.com/

Sacri Monti, “Waiting Room for the Magic Hour”

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Sacri Monti Announce European Tour; Waiting Room for the Magic Hour out July 5

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 1st, 2019 by JJ Koczan

SACRI MONTI
San Diego bringers-of-vibe Sacri Monti announced their new album, Waiting Room for the Magic Hour a couple months ago and noted a July 5 release for it when they put up the cover art (below; it’s the one that doesn’t say “Euro Tour”), but I haven’t seen much advance hype up to this point. I’m sure as soon as I post this something will come out to make that statement totally irrelevant — that’s usually how my timing goes — but either way, with their taking part in the 2017 Burnout three-way split with Harsh Toke and JOY (review here), having played Roadburn as part of the San Diego Takeover last year, and having impressed with their 2015 self-titled debut (review here), I’d think there’d be some decent anticipation to tap into for the new one. I’m looking forward to it, I guess is the bottom line.

They were previously announced for SonicBlast Moledo 2019 and Krach am Bach, but they’ve got a full round of tour dates up now that you can check out below, and it includes a bunch of other fests as well and club shows. They’ll be at The Black Heart in London. That place is always a good time.

Looks like a good run. Dig it:

Behold our European your dates for the Summer

16/07 UK Brighton Hope & Ruin
18/07 UK London The Black Heart
19/07 BE zottegem kaffee maboel/klsjr kllktv
20/07 DE Zentrum Zinsholz Eastfilly Fest
21/07 DE Munich Import Export
22/07 AT Wien Viper Room
25/07 ITA Lecco La Bottega d’estate c/o Lido di Casletta
26/07 ITA Sezzadio(Alessandria) Cascina Bellaria
27/07 ITA Moos in Passeier,Südtirol Crystal Mountain Festival
28/07 ITA Padova Curtarock
31/07 FRA Paris Supersonic
01/08 DE Köln MTC
02/08 DE Beelen Krach am Bach Open Air
04/08 DE Aschaffenburg – secret show
07/08 DE Berlin Zukunft
08/08 CZ Louny TBA
09/08 DE Sizendorf Void Festival
10/08 PT Moledo Sonic Blast Moledo Festival
11/08 FRA Picardie Celebration Days Festival

Sacri Monti is:
Brenden Dellar -Guitar
Dylan Donovan- Guitar
Anthony Meier- Bass
Evan Wenskay- Organ, Synth
Thomas Dibenedetto- Drums

https://www.facebook.com/sacrimontiband/
https://www.instagram.com/sacri_monti_band/
https://sacrimonti.bigcartel.com/
https://soundcloud.com/sacri-monti
teepeerecords.com
https://www.facebook.com/teepeerecords/
https://twitter.com/teepeerecords
https://teepeerecords.bandcamp.com/

Sacri Monti, “Sleeping for Years”

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Sun Voyager Cover Budgie; Playing Deserfest NYC This Weekend & More

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 25th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

sun voyager

If a new Sun Voyager track covering Budgie with a digital release through Tee Pee isn’t enough to make your day, well, jeez, you must be having either a really good a really shitty day. For what it’s worth, I hope it’s the former, and as the New York trio continue to step into the shoes emptied by NYC’s bygone psych scene of the aughts — everyone either moved to Philly or grew up, I guess; priced right out of the neighborhood, either way — their homage to the classics of the form comes through with due sincerity and shuffle. They’ll be at the inaugural Desertfest New York this weekend — hey! me too! — and will make their way westward in June for Electric Funeral Fest in Denver and some tour dates thereafter, then Descendants of Crom III in September. They’re a good band, and they’re only getting better. Seems like people are starting to catch on.

The alliance with Tee Pee is particularly interesting. Have to wonder if that might mean anything going forward as the band will look to follow-up their 2018 debut LP, Seismic Vibes (review here). We’ll see, I guess.

They sent the following down the PR wire:

sun voyager crash course in brain surgery

It’s been just over a year since our album came out and to say we’ve been busy would be an understatement. We’re thrilled to share our cover of Budgie’s 1971 classic, “Crash Course in Brain Surgery” with you today, which is now streaming everywhere thanks to the mighty Tee Pee Records.

Budgie was part of an era of heavy rock that inspired us from the beginning. Their influence is virtually everywhere in metal and they don’t get nearly enough recognition for that. We hope you enjoy our take.

Please stream, share, add to playlists, etc, etc
Amazon: https://amzn.to/2PoAL9X
Spotify: https://spoti.fi/2PnnBtV
iTunes: https://apple.co/2PoAmUZ

We also have a limited run of dugouts available on our bandcamp that come with a free download of the song.
https://sun-voyager.bandcamp.com/album/crash-course-in-brain-surgery

We will be performing the song on the road this spring and hope to see many of you out there.

4/25 – Philadelphia, PA – Kung Fu Necktie w/ Here Lies Man, Narcos Family Band
4/28 – Brooklyn, NY – Desertfest NYC w/ Elder, Monolord, ASG, Ruby The Hatchet, Fatso Jetson, Mick’s Jaguar, Duel, Green Milk from the Planet Orange (Tickets available here)
5/3 – Utica, NY – Nail Creek Pub w/ Here Lies Man
6/15 – Denver, CO – Electric Funeral Fest w/ Torche, Dead Meadow, Tombs, Call of the Void, Fotocrime, Gozu, Un, The Lion’s Daughter, Bummer, The Munsens, Chrome Waves, Trapped within Burning Machinery, Teeth, Casket Huffer, Horseneck, Thra, Yatra, Dizz Brew, Red Mesa
6/16 – Wichita, KS – Kirby’s Beer Store w/ Snowchild, Easy Killer
6/17 – Kansas City, MO – Riot Room w/ Kyle Shutt (of the Sword), Keef Mountain, Stoner Grower
6/18 – St. Louis, MO – The Sinkhole w/ Spacetrucker, Cyanides
6/19 – Chicago, IL – LiveWire Lounge w/ Dead Feathers, Diagonal
6/20 – Indianapolis, IN – State Street Pub w/ Hemperor
6/21 – Detroit, MI – Outer Limits Lounge w/ Eroders, Werewolf Jones
6/22 – Cleveland, OH – Now That’s Class w/ Contra, Earth Chief
9/21 – Pittsburgh, PA – Descendants of Crom III

More merch available here: https://sun-voyager.bandcamp.com/merch
There are only 2 gold copies of Seismic Vibes left so get those quick!

www.facebook.com/sunvoyagerband
http://www.twitter.com/sunvoyager_rock
http://www.instagram.com/sunvoyager
http://www.sunvoyagerband.com/
https://sun-voyager.bandcamp.com/track/trip
https://soundcloud.com/sunvoyager/trip/
http://www.kingpizzarecords.com/
https://www.facebook.com/kingpizzarecs/
https://kingpizzarecords.bandcamp.com/

Sun Voyager, “Crash Course in Brain Surgery”

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