Days of Rona: John Brookhouse of Worshipper

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

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

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

Thanks to all who participate. — JJ Koczan

worshipper john brookhouse

Days of Rona: John Brookhouse of Worshipper (Salem, Massachusetts)

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

We’re somewhat lucky in that we just did a tour with Weedeater that ended right about when everything got shut down, but NONE of the dates we did were cancelled (they were for Weedeater the day after we left). Toward the end there, it was a little stressful wondering if we should even be out there, seeing shows get cancelled left and right back home, but somehow our train kept a’rollin. So, we were able to do our shows and go home, unlike a lot of bands who just had to pack it up and go home.

Now that we’re back, I think we are all just trying to figure out what the hell is happening and how to adapt to this new reality. We really need to write a new record, and with all of this time on our hands, it seems like a great time to be creative… but, you know, it’s not just “free time.” I’m working from home (I design billboards, which, are more effective if people can leave their house) and am dealing with that adjustment. We’re dealing with something we’ve never dealt with before. Everyone is trying to figure out how to get by right now. It’s pretty stressful and not totally conducive to being creative, but, I did write one new tune so far, and I’ve played tons of guitar. We’re tossing some ideas around online. I pulled out my old lap steel and have been trying to actually learn some proper techniques and tunings with it. (I put up a couple one-minute Instagram vids of it.) It’s a diversion, mostly, but I’m hoping it will end up inspiring something for the next batch of tunes we do.

So far, we’ve only had one show on the horizon postponed (New England Stoner & Doom Fest 3). Beyond that, we have some stuff lined up in June that we are kind of waiting to see how things pan out for…

Health-wise, we’re all doing okay. When we left for the tour, I felt like I was fighting a cold, but managed to kick it by the second date. Bob and Jarvis had or contracted colds during the run. I can’t speak for them, but coming down with an illness on tour is bad enough, but getting sick during the early days of the shit hitting the fan with COVID had to be stressful. It was the kind of thing where you’d hear people cough or sniffle at clubs and you’d be on edge.

What are the quarantine/isolation rules where you are?

In Boston, pretty much everything is shut down and people are being told to stay home until April 7, but as we all know, it changes every day. I feel like it will end up being longer. I’m in Salem, and it’s weird how it seems like there are more people out walking than usual. Not necessarily being irresponsible with social distancing, but I definitely encounter more people walking around town now than I usually do, which is starting to stress me out a little, to be honest. We all need to get a little exercise and air right now, but, seriously, stay away from me.

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

It’s pretty heartbreaking to see the people and businesses immediately financially impacted by this. Especially music venues and my friends in the retail and service industries. I have seen a bunch of people rally and do online shows trying to raise money for the venues and places that have supported them, so in some ways, there are some great things happening now. Selfishly, I really miss just going record shopping and hitting Notch Brewing (my favorite local brewery) and not being afraid of getting within six feet of someone I see on the sidewalk. I think we all feel like there is just a giant gaping hole in our lives without being able to play shows or even just get together. BUT, we all need to do our part to slow the spread of this. Hopefully, we can all help get the scene back on its feet when we can get back to normal life, or whatever the new normal ends up being.

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

I don’t really think my situation, personally, is more unique than anyone else’s at the moment. I am doing okay, considering, and I really just want to try and help others or help shine a light on others who may need help right now. Worshipper just got to actually FINISH our tour, and we played to more people than any of our other tours, so we are thankful and lucky for that. So, we’re just going to regroup, write some songs, and try to help out our friends right now.

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

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The Atomic Bitchwax: Self-Titled 20th Anniversary Reissue Available

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

the atomic bitchwax with ed

Once upon a 20 years ago, a tiny baby power trio out of a well-populated New Jersey heavy rock scene came together and blew the doors off most of not all of their peers. It was The Atomic Bitchwax, who with the original lineup of bassist/vocalist Chris Kosnik, guitarist Ed Mundell and drummer Keith Ackerman, set in motion on their 1999 self-titled debut (discussed here) a whirlwind that continues unabated to this day. The faces have changed, but the mission remains largely true now to what it was then in terms of making heads spin with riffy acumen while forging an underlying groove that’s as much punk as classic rock, able to careen between pop and all-out thrust or even prog without a measure’s notice. They’ve got a new record in the can, by the way. Their first with Garrett Sweeny on guitar. It rules. It’ll be out this Spring.

Before then, you can grab the self-titled as a 20th anniversary LP reissue, and obviously you should. You already own the album? So what? You can’t possibly tell me you’re doing something better with that $18 than spending it to get The Bitchwax‘s The Bitchwax on clear purple vinyl.

They’re out with Weedeater soon ahead of the new release, so check those dates and more info below:

Tee Pee Records Announces 20th Anniversary Reissue of The Atomic Bitchwax Self-Titled Debut

On Tour in March

New Studio Album Coming in May

New Jersey’s The Atomic Bitchwax are celebrating their 20th anniversary with the re-release of 1999’s self-titled classic. Newly remastered, these CDs and LPs (pressed on clear purple vinyl) are available through the Tee Pee webstore and at TAB shows throughout this year. Order it HERE.

The Atomic Bitchwax will hit the road this March on tour with Weedeater and The Goddamn Gallows. Find a complete last of dates below.

The band has recently wrapped up recording their new album, which is set for release at the end of May. Stay tuned more details.

THE ATOMIC BITCHWAX W/ Weedeater and The Goddamn Gallows
3/3: Baltimore, MD @ Metro Gallery
3/4: Brooklyn, NY @ Elsewhere
3/6: Philadelphia, PA @ Underground Arts
3/7: Boston, MA @ Sonia
3/9: Youngstown, OH @ Westside Bowl
3/10: Cleveland, OH @ Grog Shop
3/11: Detroit, MI @ The Sanctuary
3/12: Iowa City, IA @ Wildwood
3/13: Chicago, IL @ Reggie’s

http://www.theatomicbitchwax.com/
https://www.facebook.com/The-Atomic-Bitchwax-86002001659/
http://teepeerecords.com/
https://www.facebook.com/teepeerecords/

The Atomic Bitchwax, The Atomic Bitchwax (1999)

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High Tone Son of a Bitch Premiere “Wicked Threads” from New Compilation Lifecycles

Posted in audiObelisk on February 6th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

high tone son of a bitch

You know the origin story of High Tone Son of a Bitch, right? It’s complicated and full of ups, downs, love and loss and all that other deeply human-type stuff. A life story, as it were. The band revitalized circa last year and spent much of the ensuing return period getting their lineup situated and getting their feet under them in terms of stage presentation, but they had a wealth of material to draw from in that regard that went even further than what actually ever saw proper release. On March 20, Tee Pee Records — which also stood behind brothers Paul and Andrew Kott for Kalas‘ lone studio album — will issue Lifecycles: EPs of HTSOB, a new compilation of songs that span the original era of the band from 2002 through about 2005, preceding Andrew Kott‘s death in 2007.

High Tone Son of a Bitch have two four-trackers currently available. Their Better You Than Me originally came out on CD through Shifty Records in 2003 and though Velocipede was recorded in 2004 it didn’t actually see proper release until 2018 when they put it up on Bandcamp. Last June brought the new single Death of a New Day / Eye in the Sky (discussed here) that was the band’s first proper offering in 16 years and preceded a stop at the opening night of thehigh tone son of a bitch lifecycles eps of htsob inaugural Desertfest NYC (review here) at Saint Vitus Bar. I don’t know how much if any of that material will be included in Lifecycles when it comes out, but there was still plenty more of stuff recorded that apparently never made it to the public, and thus we have the arrival of “Wicked Threads.”

As to what the original plan for the song might have been, I couldn’t say, but with a militaristic snare and wistful guitar and mellotron lines at the outset, the song sets an immediately brooding spirit. Gritty vocals arrive in emotive fashion and give direction to the arrangement, which remains dramatic if not theatrical in such a way as to pull back from the central regret being expressed. The title refers — no, not to your new jeans — to part of a concept that encompasses the entirety of the three-song progression from which the track comes. It’s not as immediately aggressive as they were on stage when I saw them last Spring or as noise-rocking as some of their other material is, but “Wicked Threads” gives some sense of High Tone Son of a Bitch‘s atmospheric resonance and the general breadth of what they used to do. Part of the story, much like this release itself is a part of their overarching narrative.

When it comes to what they’ll do next, however, I’ve no idea. I don’t know if they’re actually signed to Tee Pee or if there’s a new album or another EP or something else brewing, or to what or where their tour plans might take them and when, but even as they look back with Lifecycles: EPs of HTSOB, they make it clear they’re beginning that cycle anew, and moving forward.

Again, the release is March 20. Some more background follows the track below.

Please enjoy:

Paul Kott on “Wicked Threads”:

The Wicked Threads EP is a concept album that spans the past 12,000 years of human history in three songs. It examines the impact of the emergence of class systems, including believing in gods and the development of organized religions, priesthoods, rulers and ruled, and economic classes, has had. The song “Wicked Threads” is set in the modern era of late-stage capitalism, in the wake of thousands of years of these systems of control holding sway over humanity. It’s viewed through the lens of my experience growing up in a dead textile mill town called Lewiston, Maine. Many generations of the people of who live and die in these towns all across America and the world have a long history of being fucked over by wealthy elites. Many of these same people (not everyone, mind you), having been exploited, sucked dry, and ultimately abandoned, seem to fawn over and venerate those who are exploiting them, to adore them. There is almost a worship of the idea of a return to the days when the mills were running full steam and the bosses rang bells to tell them what to do and when. It’s like Stockholm Syndrome, to love your captors, love your abusers.

iTunes: https://music.apple.com/us/album/lifecycles-eps-of-htsob/1496428597?ls=1&app=itunes
Apple Music: https://music.apple.com/us/album/lifecycles-eps-of-htsob/1496428597?ls=1
Download: http://amazon.com/dp/B08469W2FX
Unlimited: http://music.amazon.com/albums/B08469W2FX

Originally formed by brothers Paul and Andrew Kott from the ashes of Oakland prog/doom sludge masters Cruevo, and preceding the Matt Pike-fronted Bay Area metal “supergroup” Kalas, High Tone Son of a Bitch (HTSOB) is a “supergroup” unto itself. Since its founding, HTSOB has pulled together members and collaborators from bands like Noothgrush, Kalas, Hammers of Misfortune, Men of Porn, Melvins, Hawkwind, Neurosis, High on Fire, Sleep, Necrot, The Skull, Worshipper and more. When Andrew Kott died unexpectedly in a tragic fall in 2007, HTSOB disbanded – seemingly forever.

Paul Kott revived the band – at the urging of his Latin Grammy-winning nephew Juan Herrera (Andrew’s step-son) – in 2019. Through lineup changes and regular collaborations that have included some of the most important underground musicians of the modern era, Paul has allowed his brother’s inspiration to live on, carrying the psychedelic hard rock and post-doom vision of HTSOB forward – all the while remaining uncompromisingly true to the musical roots the brothers established years ago.

High Tone Son of a Bitch transcends not only genre archetype but death itself, to weave an essential portrait of the dualistic nature of our lives. This retrospective of 4 EPs simultaneously speaks to the fragility and resilience of the human experience as it spans the years covering the formation of the band, its musical growth, the death of Andrew Kott (one of 2 co-founding brothers), and the path to a rebirth and new life in music and beyond by surviving brother Paul Kott.

High Tone Son of a Bitch on Thee Facebooks

High Tone Son of a Bitch on Bandcamp

Tee Pee Records website

Tee Pee Records on Thee Facebooks

Tee Pee Records on Bandcamp

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Sacri Monti Announce UK & European Tour Dates with More to Come

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

sacri monti

So I guess Sacri Monti just kind of live in Europe now? Don’t get me wrong, I get the appeal. But the ostensibly San Diego-based band have kept their focus when it comes to touring decidedly on the other side of the Atlantic, and they’ll be there for more than a month solid this Spring as they continue to support last year’s right-on Waiting Room for the Magic Hour (review here), so yeah, at some point don’t you legally establish residency? Have to wonder where taxes are cheaper.

There are dates to fill in and a new tour poster reportedly in the works, but with the tour freshly announced and no shortage of dates anyhow, this one seemed worth highlighting as it is. If the worst that happens is I follow-up with another post when a proper press release goes out, at least they earned it.

Here’s their post:

sacri monti euro uk tour 2020

Sacri Monti – Europe 2020

Tour dates for May and June still a few more dates TBA. Once all squared we will announce with new artwork.

EUROPE/UK 2020
30.04.20 NL Tilburg Cul De Sac
1.05.20 NL Nijmegen Sonic Whip Fest
3.05.20 UK London Desertfest
4.05.20 FRA Le Havre Mc Daid
5.05.20 FRA Paris l’International
6.05.20 BE Ghent Kinky Star
7.05.20 NL Utrecht Db’s
8.05.20 DE Gronigen Vera
9.05.20 DK Odense Fuzztival
13.05.20 DE Berlin Zukunft am Ostkreuz (Garage)
14.05.20 CZ Bílina Kafá?
15.05.20 DE Lohr am Main Umson und Dressen Festival
16.05.20 DE Siegen Vortex
17.05.20 DE Karlsruhe P8
19.05.20 ITA Zero Branco Treviso Altroquando
20.05.20 ITA Bolzano Sudwerk
22.05.20 DE Dresden GockelScream #3
23.05.20 DE Aschaffenburg Hannebambel
24.05.20 CH Martigny Caves Du Manoir
25.05.20 FRA Clermont Ferrand Chorus
26.05.20 FRA Montpellier The Black Sheep
27.05.20 ES Barcelona Upload Club
28.05.20 ES Madrid Sala Rockville
29.05.20 PT Porto Woodstock 69
1.06.20 ES San Sebastián Dabadaba
2.06.20 FRA Tolouse L’Usine à Musique
3.06.20 FRA Bordeaux astrodøme QG
4.06.20 FRA Nantes La Scene Michelet
5.06.20 UK Bristol The Crofters Rights
8.06.20 UK London Secret place
7.06.20 UK Liverpool kazimier stockroom

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://teepeerecords.bandcamp.com/

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

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Worshipper Announce West Coast Touring with Horseburner & Zed

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 29th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

worshipper (Photo by Tim Bugbee)

Boston heavy rockers Worshipper will head out in November to the West Coast for a tour alongside West Virginia’s Horseburner. The bands go as ambassadors for some of the more progressive lineage of East Coast heavy, and they’ll meet up with the formidable likes of Zed and Holy Grove while making their way south more or less along the Pacific Coast, so all the better. Worshipper issued their second album, Light in the Wire (review here), this Spring via Tee Pee Records and toured in Europe already to herald its arrival, going over with Tee Pee Records labelmates The Skull and making a stop at Desertfest Berlin. They also played the inaugural Desertfest New York at the end of April, so yeah, pretty big year for these cats, who earn every bit of acclaim they get, even when it’s my own hyperbole-laden praise.

They’re sneaking in two East Coast dates with Horseburner as well before the two groups point their wagons west, and one’s at Ralph’s in Worcester, MA, and one’s at The Well in Brooklyn, where they played for Desertfest. See them wherever and whenever you can.

Here you go:

WORSHIPPER POSTER title=

WORSHIPPER – TOUR ALERT

We will be hitting the West coast again soon with our good buddies Horseburner and (sometimes) ZED. (Plus a couple bonus East coast dates!) STOKED.
————-
WORSHIPPER / HORSEBURNER
DESCEND ON THE WEST 2019

Sat, Nov 9 – Substation, Seattle, WA
Sun, Nov 10 – High Water Mark, Portland, OR (w/ Holy Grove)
Mon, Nov 11 – Luckey’s Club, Eugene, OR
Wed, Nov 13 – Elbo Room Jack London, Oakland, CA (w/ ZED)
Thurs, Nov 14 – Count’s Vamp’d, Las Vegas, NV (w/ Zed)
Fri, Nov 15 – The Lexington, Los Angeles, CA (w/ Zed & Goliathan)
Sat, November 16 – Pour House, Oceanside, CA (w/ Zed)

ADDITIONAL EAST COAST SHOWS w/ HORSEBURNER & Godmaker:
Thu, Oct 10 – Ralph’s Diner, Worcester, MA (w/ the Turbos)
Fri, Oct 11 – The Well, Brooklyn, NY

Worshipper features Alejandro Necochea (lead guitar / synth), John Brookhouse (vocals / guitar), Dave Jarvis (drums) and Bob Maloney (vocals, bass).

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, 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)

Sacri Monti on Thee Facebooks

Sacri Monti on Instagram

Sacri Monti webstore

Sacri Monti on Soundcloud

Tee Pee Records website

Tee Pee Records on Thee Facebooks

Tee Pee Records on Bandcamp

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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.

Tia Carrera on Thee Facebooks

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.

Inter Arma on Thee Facebooks

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.

Volcano on Instagram

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.

Wet Cactus on Thee Facebooks

Wet Cactus on Bandcamp

 

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.

Duskwood on Thee Facebooks

Duskwood on Bandcamp

 

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.

Lykantropi on Thee Facebooks

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.

Kavod on Thee Facebooks

Kavod on Bandcamp

 

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.

Onioroshi on Thee Facebooks

Onioroshi on Bandcamp

 

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.

Et Mors on Thee Facebooks

Et Mors on Bandcamp

 

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.

Skånska Mord on Thee Facebooks

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.

Torche on Thee Facebooks

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.

Spillage on Thee Facebooks

Qumran Records on Thee Facebooks

 

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.

Pharlee on Thee Facebooks

Tee Pee Records website

 

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.

Dali’s Llama on Thee Facebooks

Dali’s Llama on Bandcamp

 

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.

Speedealer on Thee Facebooks

Speedealer webstore

 

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.’

Mt. Echo on Thee Facebooks

Mt. Echo on Bandcamp

 

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.

Monocluster on Thee Facebooks

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.

Picaporters on Thee Facebooks

Picaporters on Bandcamp

 

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.

Beaten by Hippies on Thee Facebooks

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.

Luna Sol on Thee Facebooks

Slush Fund Recordings webstore

 

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