Friday Full-Length: Cathedral, The Garden of Unearthly Delights

Posted in Bootleg Theater on February 14th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Cathedral, The Garden of Unearthly Delights (2005)

The various eras of Cathedral have their detractors and proponents, and if I’m perfectly honest, I don’t know where 2005’s The Garden of Unearthly Delights sits in terms of average fan esteem. And not to put too fine a point on it, but I also don’t really care. The record rules. It was the Coventry-based doomers’ eighth album, and also marked their first offering through Nuclear Blast after releasing 2002’s The VIIth Coming through Dream Catcher/Spitfire Records and spending the bulk of their career to that point on Earache Records, to which they signed ahead of their 1991 landmark debut, Forest of Equilibrium (discussed here; reissue review here).

Vocalist Lee Dorrian‘s ties to England’s formative years of grindcore in Napalm Death and Cathedral‘s transition from the harsher-edged doom of their own beginnings to and through the other end of stoner rock in LPs like 1996’s Supernatural Birth Machine andcathedral the garden of unearthly delights 1998’s Caravan Beyond Redemption and into the mature doom of 2001’s Endtyme and the aforementioned The VIIth Coming were already given considerations when it came to the band, and as they made their way onto Nuclear Blast for the first time, it seemed like they had a chance to refresh their sound with a collection of hyper-strong songs that not only reconciled the various sides of their approach, but celebrated them, giving the doom and the rock their due while looking through a progressive lens at what the band — who by then had already been together for some 16 years — might still accomplish. That’s exactly what The Garden of Unearthly Delights became.

Produced by Warren Riker, who’s probably more known for the work he was doing around that time with the likes of Crowbar and the resurgent Down, The Garden of Unearthly Delights highlighted the to-that-point-undervalued aspect of songwriting in the work of Dorrian and his fellow founder, guitarist Gaz Jennings, as well as bassist/flutist/mellotronist/synthesist Leo Smee and drummer Brian Dixon (lately to be found in The Skull). Its 10-track/70-minute run made it some 17 minutes longer than its predecessor, but it used that time wisely and purposefully, even if splitting up the near-27-minute multi-movement epic “The Garden” onto two vinyl sides of a double-LP version made for a somewhat awkward (and also, one has to admit, more digestible) presentation.

But even the preceding psych-doom quirk — singing kids, ’60s garage bounce, strings and all — of “Beneath a Funeral Sun,” the songs throughout The Garden of Unearthly Delights are unquestionably the focus of the record itself, rather than any particular stylistic concern. And the album is that much stronger for that. It’s as though Cathedral threw up their hands to some degree and said, “screw it, we don’t know what we’re supposed to sound like so let’s have fun,” and don’t tell anybody I said so — because what could be less doom than admitting to a good time — but The Garden of Unearthly Delights is an absolute blast. Sure, it opens grim with the intro “Dearth AD,” but that’s just the first minute, and then it’s off through the gruff riffing of “Tree of Life and Death,” dirty, rocking, brash — and fun.

So much fun. Crazy catchy. But not dumb. The arrangement is clever, the mix is golden and the performance is vital. “Tree of Life and Death” throws down a gauntlet that the historical narrative of “North Berwick Witch Trials” picks up with an even more earworming hook, and it seems like by the time the band are into “Upon Azrael’s Wings” and deceptively melodic “Corpsecycle,” sprinkling samples here and there amid chorus after memorable chorus, it kind of just feels like the band are showing off. And gloriously. I know the narrative of Cathedral is very much wrapped up in the deathly ways of the debut and all that, but seriously, I defy you to read this sentence, listen to “North Berwick Witch Trials” or “Corpsecycle” — your pick — and not nod along approvingly. I’ll tell you right now it won’t happen.

And the sound only expands as Cathedral move through the interlude “Fields of Zagara” through the speedy, careening “Oro the Manslayer” — boasting some highlight work from Jennings and Smee alike in a building instrumental section in the second half before shifting back to the verse and chorus — and into “Beneath a Funeral Sun,” the bizarre-seeming turns of which act as a preface to “The Garden,” which is a record-unto-itself smorgasbord of progressive doom construction.

The song clocks in at 26:59 and announces its arrival with a drum thud emerging from sparse but swelling noise, and subsequently tells a story of apocalyptic vision through nine parts, some of which have sub-movements. There are more strings, mellotron, guest vocals, acoustic stretches — and that’s the first two minutes — and an unabashed conceptual weirdness that almost 15 years after the fact still comes across as equal parts brazen and ambitious.

It’s a lot to take in — hence the comment above about digestibility of splitting it up — but even through it all, there’s a chorus, and as far off as the song goes, that chorus comes back in striking fashion in later reaches. It is gleeful in its weirdness, manifesting in every bit the spirit of the Dave Patchett full-poster foldout cover cathedral the garden of unearthly delights full posterart adorning the album in all its nuance and complexity. “Proga-Europa,” a minute-long semi-hidden track that emerges after a few minutes of silence to close out the record in boogie fashion, is about the only way they could have possibly backed it up.

It would be five years before Cathedral issued a follow-up to The Garden of Unearthly Delights in 2010’s The Guessing Game (review here), and that record shifted to incorporate many of the more progressive elements of “The Garden” into some of its own tracks, and pulled it off, but there seemed to be competing impulses at work. The next year, they marked 20 years since their debut with Anniversary (review here) on Dorrian‘s own Rise Above Records, and the same label would also stand behind Cathedral‘s final album, 2013’s The Last Spire (review here), which brought an end to the band’s arc by returning to the darkened grit of their earliest work but still retaining the lessons in craft the intervening years had taught. As ever, they did it on their own terms.

That’s very much how I look at The Garden of Unearthly Delights as well: the output of a band refusing to compromise on what they wanted to be and what they wanted to do. Even aside from the basic appeal of its initial salvo or the breadth of its semi-title-track, the scope and craft the band showcase throughout what, again, was their eighth long-player — long after most groups would have settled into a pattern of repetition or at least a basic aesthetic formula; a “sound,” to be more kind — remains deeply admirable. It is a reminder that any creative work is only worth pursuing over a longer term if it continues to grow and fascinate the artist or artists behind it.

Plus, riffs.

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

Most of the week was a blur, but I guess that’s not necessarily bad? It was The Patient Mrs.’ birthday on Wednesday, so my family came over for dinner. We’re doing a bigger thing on Sunday with her mother and sister coming down from Connecticut to spend the day and my family will be over again and so on. It’ll be good times, hopefully somewhat low-key, but probably not. Whatever. We’ve done this kind of thing enough at this point with this crowd that it’s pretty standard operating procedure. That, in itself, is kind of nice.

Living in New Jersey, having moved back, is not without its complications. There are all kinds of things we want to do to update this house and make it more livable that we can’t because we’re not actually on the deed — because paperwork, and family, and money, and lawyers — but I don’t regret being here.

Today at 5PM Eastern is a new episode of The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio. You’ve already seen the playlist, but it’s all C.O.C. in honor of Reed Mullin and I talk a bit on there about his impact on the band’s sound. I don’t really have any insights to offer, dude was just a great drummer and brought a lot to the band, so I thought the music was worth celebrating in its various eras and incarnations. You could do a hell of a lot worse than listen to two hours of Corrosion of Conformity, as far as I’m concerned. Despite the circumstances, that’s pretty much a gift to any day.

Listen on their app or at http://gimmeradio.com.

And thanks.

Next week is about half-planned. I don’t know. Do you really care? It’s gonna be rock and roll. I’ve been reviewing a lot of psych records lately — kind of where my head is at, honestly — but I think I’m going to try to tackle the Dool album on Monday for a change of pace and to give myself a bit of a challenge. That’s a good record, so it’ll be fun too to write about, but something a little different from all the melting-brain, lysergic whatnot. In the spirit of Cathedral above, gotta keep it interesting.

There are announcements and streams and this and that booked too for Tuesday, Thursday, Friday. Wednesday’s open now but something will either come along or I’ll find something to put there. Maybe I’ll go see Torche and maybe not. I haven’t really decided, which means probably not, but it would be nice to get out. I didn’t go see Church of Misery this week. Just too much. Plus, is murder really all that cool? I remain torn when it comes to that band, but in any case, I’ve seen them plenty and I wasn’t hurting for stuff to write about.

I guess I’ll leave it there since The Pecan is up — it’s after 6:30, so that’s no surprise — and needs to be retrieved before he tears down the drywall in his bedroom. Because he might. Because he’s two. So yeah.

Great and safe weekend, whatever you’re up to. Please check out forum, radio and merch at MiBK. The ol’ FRM.

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My Dying Bride Post “Tired of Tears” Lyric Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on February 13th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

my dying bride

It seems strange to think of My Dying Bride — a band who’ve been around for 30 years as of 2020 — as prospects, but I really look at their new album, The Ghost of Orion, as one that is particularly rife with potential to be one of this year’s best doom records. And it’s not just excitement for an LP from a good band. It’s different. With their signing to Nuclear Blast, they’ve got a chance to capitalize on new focus and energy and reach different listeners than they otherwise might in a way that could turn new heads in their direction. I’m going to be interested in how it all plays out when The Ghost of Orion arrives on March 6.

“Tired of Tears” is the second bit of audio unveiled from the release behind the single “Your Broken Shore” (video posted here), and it comes in the form of a new lyric video, which highlights what seems to be the emotional core from which The Ghost of Orion stems, in the despair and horror felt by founding vocalist Aaron Stainthorpe in relation to his daughter — his only child, as he says below — having her life threatened by illness. It is this raw cosmic wrongness, the child passing before the parent, that “Tired of Tears” puts into poetry and a flowing song structure, and though it’s totally incongruous with the theme, the track itself is damn near a sing-along for its catchiness and the effectiveness which which Stainthorpe self-harmonizes atop the sorrowful riffs of his fellow founder, guitarist Andrew Craighan.

I have not yet heard the entirety of The Ghost of Orion, which means I probably won’t until it’s out, largely I expect because I’m not cool enough, but even if I have to wait for the CD as opposed to a link down the PR wire, the mastery on display here only makes me want to dig in more.

And not at all on a side note, I hope exploring this situation through lyrics at least brought Stainthorpe some strength or clarity or resolve, because it’s one thing to perform despair — and certainly My Dying Bride are no strangers to that — and another thing to live it to the kind of degree he talks about below.

Video follows:

My Dying Bride, “Tired of Tears” lyric video

The cold fingers of “The Ghost Of Orion” reach out for the world to wrap it in desperate misery, heavy melodies and hopeless misery: MY DYING BRIDE release their new album on March 6th via Nuclear Blast.

The track has a particularly special meaning for frontman Aaron Stainthorpe, as he explains:

“The track touches upon the most terrifying, stressful and harrowing period of my entire life – the near death of my only child. I have been down before but it never hurt like this. This was true darkness and I was not sure my mind could take it. My entire world looked like it was going to implode but I was determined to fight all the way. Tired of tears was exactly how I felt. They had been flowing freely from me for months and I was a shadow of my former self. It is sad that this will continue for many others. Innocent people. so very tired of tears.”

Pre-order “The Ghost Of Orion” here:
https://nblast.de/TheGhostOfOrion

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Friday Full-Length: The Wounded Kings, Embrace of the Narrow House

Posted in Bootleg Theater on February 7th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

From the organ and obscure sample at the start of its three-part opening title-track, there was something different about The Wounded Kings‘ debut album, Embrace of the Narrow House. Arriving in July 2008 through Eichenwald Industries — I was never able to get a full CD copy of the original edition before the pressing sold out; still stings — the seven-track/41-minute initial offering took on atmospheres of cultism in a way that, especially for the time, could only be considered innovative, and embraced a multifaceted approach to the history of British doom that sought not to conform to expectation, but to remake genre boundaries to suit its own purposes. Based in Dartmoor in the UK, begun in 2004 and led by guitarist Steve Mills — who on the first record also played bass, drums and keys and also contributed lyrics and the music alongside the lyrics of vocalist, guitarist and bassist George Birch; they both produced and mixed, while John Macedo mastered — The Wounded Kings would issue five full-lengths total, but Embrace of the Narrow House kept a distinctive place within their catalog, even as they grew beyond it. They were, in the creation of the tonal murk of pieces like “The Hours” and the later “Master of Witches,” or in the attention to ambient detail in the intertwining organ lines of the penultimate interlude “Shroud of Divine Will,” well ahead of their time and what over the next couple years became the cult rock movement, though The Wounded Kings were never a cult rock band. Whatever else they may have been prior to their breakup in 2016, The Wounded Kings were doom, through and through.

Each side of Embrace of the Narrow House begins with its longest track (double points) in “Embrace of the Narrow House” (8:45) and “The Eighth House” (7:23), the second of which, like the opener, is a multi-part affair. In these two cuts, The Wounded Kings unveil a conceptualism that bleeds into the music itself, declaring in no uncertain terms some 12 years ago that they were a band formed with an expressive purpose, and not at all a let’s-get-in-the-studio-and-see-what-comes-out kind of project. Their aesthetic bears that out in the willful slog and ultra-patient unfolding of a song like “Melanthos,” which caps side A with a leading dirge riff and consuming wash of noise that builds over the course of its six minutes. Birch‘s vocals, more samples, and waves of guitar soloing weave together to create a swell in its second half, but it never lets go of its excruciatingly slow pace, never gives in to the adrenaline it seems to be The Wounded Kings Embrace of the Narrow Housecharging — a glorious moment of restraint that’s all the more rare on a first LP. The track and the first half of Embrace of the Narrow House cap with a gurgling kind of spoken incantation, but “The Eighth House,” which subdivides as ‘i: Transcendence of Agony, ii. Mistress of Beasts,’ is readily hypnotic and sets up a change of structure on the second half, with “Master of Witches” shorter than its side A counterpart “The Hours” and centered entirely around its main riff, and “Shroud of Divine Will” afterward to lead into the finale “The Private Labyrinth.” It is up to the closer to summarize and resolidify some of the preceding fog, and it does that to the extent Mills and Birch ask it to, but does not prove any more interested in dumbing down or capitulating to audience even as its basks in a so thoroughly doomed moodiness.

This was a balance that Embrace of the Narrow House walked better than most. The next couple years after its release would see the growth of a cult rock movement that the band occasionally got lumped into but were never really a part of. At the same time, their style of grueling riffs recalled some of Electric Wizard‘s most glorious slogs, but refused to have more in common with the Dorset kingpins than that. From the beginning, The Wounded Kings were on their own wavelength, dug into their own niche within the niche within the niche, and they would remain that way for the next eight years. As cultish heavy began to (re-)emerge circa 2010, The Wounded Kings issued their second full-length, The Shadow over Atlantis (review here) and a more or less concurrent split with Virginia’s CoughAn Introduction to the Black Arts (review here). Both releases found the band pushing themselves forward without regard for the tropes of genre taking shape around them. They touched on some of it, of course, but only what they needed to continue to do their own thing. The Cough split was particularly notable for being the first The Wounded Kings release with a full-band lineup around Mills and Birch, though the latter would soon depart and be replaced by Sharie Neyland on 2011’s In the Chapel of the Black Hand (review here). It was both a quick turnaround from Mills and an exciting time for the band, who seemed to have momentum on their side with a quickly building catalog and an already-apparent progressive drive to their sound, but they would continue to be plagued by lineup issues. Neyland, guitarist Alex Kearney and drummer Mike Heath stayed aboard between In the Chapel of the Black Hand and 2014’s Candlelight-released fourth album, Consolamentum (review here), but bassist Alex Eliadis was swapped in for Jim Willumsen, so even there there was some change happening.

Kearney moved to bass as Birch rejoined The Wounded Kings on their last album, 2016’s Visions in Bone (review here), which arrived even after they called it quits. At the time, they were already well undervalued for the distinctive qualities of their work, and that hasn’t much changed in the ensuing four years. As the response to Embrace of the Narrow House had been so fervent, it seemed like listeners had trouble keeping up — the slow churn of their tempos notwithstanding — with the shifts in personnel and sound across their various releases, and the band toured to some extent, having put together a full lineup to do so, but were never really a “road act” whose primary concern was building a listenership. They remained true to their own path in progressive, richly atmospheric and immersive doom. The rest be damned.

Embrace of the Narrow House was reissued in 2011 on vinyl through High Roller Records, on CD in 2012 through Eyes Like Snow and on tape in 2015 through Sarlacc Productions (that’s the version streaming above). Most if not all pressings are sold out.

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

I got a prescription for xanax, or at least some generic version thereof — I think it’s called Alakazam or something; as in, “Alakazam! You’re not anxious anymore!” like a birthday party magician — this week. It came in the mail on Wednesday and at The Patient Mrs.’ recommendation I took a whole one and it knocked me out. Quite literally, I fell asleep for three hours. Zonked. So maybe half a pill is enough. That’s what I did yesterday and it seemed about right. Enough to let me think one thought at a time for what feels like the first time in three months and not so much that I’m a zombie trying to chase a two-year-old like, “Hey man, could we stop playing in the oven please? Daddy’s trying to roast some cauliflower, duder.”

So, you know.

But no question in my mind that’s a good thing and needed. I take 40mg of Citalopram a day for depression as well and more often than not that does fine for me. Up days and down days, of course. I don’t anticipate the xanax will be an everyday thing long-term, but for a bit to even me out and in certain situations — like leaving the house; ha — it makes sense at this point.

Wednesday turned out to be a good day for me to be so obliterated as well as I’d spent most of Monday and Tuesday freaking out because I thought I’d forgotten a stream, that my notes were wrong. I knew the week had been full because I’d double-booked and moved something else to accommodate what was there, but then I somehow lost track of what that was, couldn’t remember on Monday morning when I should’ve been setting it up, and was losing my goddamn mind. I never did figure it out, but I got pitched the Seven Planets stream later on Monday, and with nothing else in that spot, I took it. Was there something I forgot? Was I never double-booked? I still don’t know.

What got moved was a premiere for Kungens Män, which’ll be up early, first thing on Monday. Tuesday, a Pale Mare premiere. Wednesday, Shadow Witch LP stream. Thursday, Sleepwulf track premiere. Friday, Sun Blood Stories video premiere. There’s no Gimme Radio show this week, but next Friday (Feb. 14) it moves to the new timeslot at Friday 5PM Eastern. I just turned in the playlist for that and it’s a two-hour tribute to Reed Mullin, so a full two hours of C.O.C. I’ll plug it again next week, but keep an eye out for it.

Also this past Wednesday I met up with Dylan Gonzalez from the Diary of Doom podcast and he interviewed me talking about this site and heavy music and whatnot. That was fun, and I was nervous about it, so the xanax helped, and so did the extra sleep, as the interview went past 9:30PM, well beyond my normal bedtime. Hell, by the time I got home and ate the pizza-place salad I’d picked up en route back for a late dinner, it was nearly 10. More often than not, that’s when I’d be getting up (For the first time; I’m well hydrated) to use the bathroom. Middle of the damn night.

But the interview was cool (I hope) and Dylan was kind to ask me to do it. He’s on Instagram @diaryofdoom and posts cool stuff.

This weekend I’ll be sorting out Weirdo Canyon Dispatch for Roadburn as well as hopefully getting my flights booked for Freak Valley. There’s some trouble booking international whatnot this year, I assume as a result of my country’s fascist lockdown, but either way, it’s hardly convenient, even when you discount the decay of ideology, ego cult, locking immigrants in cages (still happening, btw) and so on.

But The Pecan is getting up and it’s about time I started chasing him around the house the way I do and start the day properly (just after 6AM at writing time). I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Have fun, be kind, watch Star Trek: Picard so they keep making more of it, and thank you as always for reading.

FRM: Forum, Radio, merch at MiBK.

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Green Lung Sign to Svart Records for Next Album; Announce Headlining Tour & Reissues

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 4th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

green lung

Well I’ll be damned. Don’t get me wrong, Green Lung have been putting the pieces together business-wise — management, booking, etc. — while at the same time releasing what was the best debut of 2019 in the form of Woodland Rites (review here) on Kozmik Artifactz, also one of the best records of last year overall, but to get snagged by Svart so early in their career seems like all the more an endorsement for what they’ve done to this point. The Finnish imprint will stand behind reissues of Woodland Rites, as well as the preceding 2018 Free the Witch EP (review here), and maybe even the 2017 single, Green Man Rising (review here), I’m not sure.

Either way, kudos to the band. I don’t know where they’re at in terms of the trajectory for their next long-player, i.e., whether it’ll be this year, next year or what, but they made this happen through the quality of their work on every level and there’s no taking that away from them. Potential meets momentum. Their next album could be something really special.

Their social media post follows. Tour dates and all. They start at Desertfest London and include Esbjerg Fuzztival. Worth noting they’ve also been booked for Høstsabbat in Oslo this Fall, so they may well be back out then. Maybe with a new record?

Dig it:

green lung tour

GREEN LUNG – LABEL/TOUR ANNOUNCEMENT

We’re so excited to finally announce that we’ve signed with Svart Records for our next album, and also to reissue our discography so far. They’re the undisputed masters of releasing doom and occult rock, from Pentagram (official) and Reverend Bizarre to Hexvessel and Jess and the Ancient Ones, and it’s been especially great working with Mat McNerney, who really understands everything from an artist’s perspective.

We can’t wait to get WOODLAND RITES back on wax (preorder up soon!), and introduce these songs to new audiences on our first ever headline tour in May – especially alongside our favourite ghouls in Juniper Grave. Thanks so much for all the support so far, none of this would have happened without you. See you at the May Queen’s Parade!

Full tour dates are as follows:
02.05 London – Desertfest
07.05 Hamburg – Bambi Galore
08.05 Esbjerg – Fuzztival
09.05 Nijmegen – De Onderbroek
22.05 TBC *
23.05 Milton Keynes – Craufurd Arms *
24.05 Nottingham – Chameleon *
25.05 Bradford – Al’s Juke Bar *
26.05 TBC *
27.05 Newcastle – Trillians *
28.05 Sheffield – Corporation *
29.05 Bristol – Exchange *
30.05 Cardiff – Clwb Ifor Bach *
07.06 Leeds – Stonebaked Festival
* with Juniper Grave

Already announced:
22 February – The Bread Shed, Manchester, UK w/Church of the Cosmic Skull
19-22 March – Hammerfest XII, Great Yarmouth, UK
28 March – Riffolution Festival, Manchester, UK
6 August – Bloodstock Festival, Derbyshire, UK

GREEN LUNG is:
Tom Templar – Vocals
Scott Masson – Guitar
Andrew Cave – Bass
Matt Wiseman – Drums
John Wright – Organ

https://www.facebook.com/greenlungband
https://www.instagram.com/greenlungband/
http://www.greenlung.co.uk/
https://greenlung.bandcamp.com/
www.svartrecords.com
www.facebook.com/svartrecords

Green Lung, Woodland Rites (2019)

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Review & Full Album Premiere: OZO, Saturn

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on February 4th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

ozo saturn

[Click play above to stream Saturn by OZO in its entirely. Release is Feb. 7 on Riot Season Records. Preorders here.]

It seems fitting that OZO should make their debut roughly concurrent to scientists unveiling the highest resolution to-date images of the surface of the sun. The Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK, three-piece are ostensibly led by guitarist/bassist Mike Vest, known for his drone plunge in BONG and the spacey reach of Blown Out, among a slew of others. Joining Vest for the five-track debut album, Saturn (on Riot Season Records), are Ballpeen‘s Graham Thompson on drums/mixing/mastering, and alto saxophonist Karl D’Silva (a bandmate of Vest‘s in Drunk in Hell), and together, the trio burn through improvisational pieces of varied tenure but largely united purpose, as though someone flipped a switch and said, “okay, go,” and off they went. Entirely instrumental, the record wails through most of its 38-minute run, Thompson‘s drums not so much holding progressions to the ground as propelling them up from the surface into the airless ether, as heard on the shorter “Side Way,” just three-plus minutes, but a jazzy vibe that urges listeners to pick their favorite Coltrane for a comparison (Alice!) and roll with the heady, dug-in spirit. They are gone and gone and gone.

Would be almost unfair to call it self-indulgent, since that’s the idea. The exploratory go-ness of these pieces, especially as a first offering of any sort from OZO, are a clarion to free-fusion tweakers and anyone anywhere slightly out of phase with their surroundings, the just-don’t-fit feel comes through resonant through “Lifeship” at the outset and again in the resilient echoes and avant drum expressions of closer “Centuries.” Of course, an obvious focal point for the LP are its two broadest jams, “Saturn” (12:47) and “Nuclear Fuel” (11:06), which together comprise the majority of Saturn‘s runtime. While “Lifeship” and “Slide Way” burn out cosmic and “Centuries” harnesses an emergent wash of noise alongside its noteworthy rhythmic freakery, it is the drift and shove of “Saturn” and the encompassing howl of “Nuclear Fuel” that ultimately define the album, appearing in succession as they do after “Lifeship” as though OZO were aware of the challenge being issued to their audience — a sort of dare-you-to-keep-up mentality that seems as much a repellent for squares as a clarion to the lysergic converted. Come get down, come get obliterated. Fair.

The nature of extreme music is to seek not just a specialized listenership, but a that-much-deeper connection therewith on account of the rareness of the bond. One suspects that with OZO, those who can match wits with the band’s interstellar scorch will line up to do so again and again, which is fortunate since there’s already a second record in the works, titled Pluto. Walking through Saturn‘s fire unscathed is no easy feat, of course, but in addition to Vest loyalists, the jazzy appeal of these tracks should open as many minds to what OZO are doing as it might close. One way or the other, they’re doing it, and the resultant response feels like a secondary consideration at best.

the sun

That is, none of this material comes across as having been written with an audience in mind. I don’t say that as a dig against it, since I don’t think that’s what OZO wanted to do in the first place, and they stay true to their mission throughout. It just means they’re working on a different level and toward different ends. To go further, none of this material comes across as having been “written” at all. More like it was found, or perhaps pieced together out of elements floating in the air around the room where the instruments were set up. The inherent value of Saturn comes in capturing an expressive moment, the urgency of what’s being done and the traditionalism of free jazz as a forward-reaching reaction against form.

VestD’Silva and Thompson sound like people who find the conventional boring. Maybe that’s true and maybe it isn’t, but it’s the portrait they paint in the burning oranges and reds and yellows of Saturn, a sense of heat duly depicted on the album’s cover. However off-the-cuff it may be — I don’t know if it’s entirely improvised or if there were overdubs after the fact or what — the feeling of spontaneity in that moment is what’s most being sought, and it’s what’s most prevalent throughout the five pieces that comprise the album. The songs leave no room for compromise. The commitment to outward-directed freakery is unflinching, and for many if not most who take them on, OZO will simply prove too much. Like a machine burning overload. That, too, is a purposeful intent on the part of the band. They’re willful in abandoning normality for the swirling chaos that consumes “Nuclear Fuel” in its later reaches, and the dream-sequence distortion of “Centuries” that wraps up is high order psychedelic noir that is just as likely to melt minds as expand them.

Dangerous? To a point, maybe. I don’t know if OZO are ever at risk of really falling apart here, and if they did, it would be easy enough for it to become all part of the non-plan, but as they move through the liquefied abrasion of “Lifeship” into the title-track, the feeling of something unhinged and vital is palpable. Credit for that should and must go to Thompson, who instead of trying to harness some cohesion and structure from out of all this churning brew becomes part of the freakery, no less exploratory than D’Silva‘s channel-spanning horn echoes or Vest‘s effects-laced guitar. As noted, OZO are already working on their next full-length, which one can only imagine will continue their through-the-temple-into-the-brain plunge, and however the two works may ultimately relate, their debut burns with an intensity worthy of standing alone as it inherently does in sound and style. Saturn presents a vision of psychedelic and space rocking extremity rarely honed to such a degree, and its vibrancy borders on blinding, which is all the better for OZO to catch you off-guard with their next hairpin turn. Hu-mans beware.

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Desert Storm Premiere “Black Bile” Video from New Album Omens

Posted in Bootleg Theater on February 3rd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

desert storm

Just last night at the Waterloo Music Bar in Blackpool, UK sludge metallers Desert Storm wrapped up a tour with veterans of the form Raging Speedhorn that began on Jan. 25, and with their new video for “Black Bile,” they bring word of a follow-up to their 2018 third album, Sentinels (review here). The new LP is called Omens and will be out May 1 through respected Britriff purveyor APF Records.

They’ll celebrate, naturally, with more shows. They play Desertfest London that weekend — it wasn’t on their list of tour dates I think because the fest hasn’t announced its day-splits yet, but since they’re booked elsewhere for May 1 and 2, I surmised they’d be in London on the third; apologies if I’m in error — and they’ll also headline the first night of Southwest Heavyfest 2020 with Sail and a bunch of bands with markedly-less-readable logos. There’s also a European tour in May and June (dates below) and a Fall tour of Europe in the works and they won’t by any means be the first for the Oxford five-piece, who appeared at Keep it Low in Munich this past October and have brought their hard-burl riffing hither and yon for over a decade at this point. You’ll note I called Raging Speedhorn veterans in the paragraph above. Four LPs and going on 13 years deep into their tenure, one can only say the same about Desert Storm themselves. They’ve been around.

Omens was recorded by Steve Watkins at Woodworm Studios, who also did some work on Sentinels, specifically on that album’s opener “Journey’s End.” One can hear some of the same tonal sensibility emerge in “Black Bile” in the new video, and though Desert Storm aren’t strangers to incorporating melodic vocals alongside the more gruff approach of Matthew Ryan, they bring that to a different place in the new track, more fluid with the rest of what surrounds and naturally integrated into the songwriting. That bodes well for Omens as a whole, but they’ve ever been a band to just do one thing straight across the entirety of a release, so it’s a wait-and-see kind of thing for how it’ll all play out.

May 1 it is.

As for the video: Cinematic in its photography, directed by Josh Horwood. It’s plague beaks and ominous running through the woods, being taken over by evil, murder, and so on. You know how it goes. Apparently this kind of thing just happens all the time in the UK. Good thing they have the NHS.

Enjoy the clip:

Desert Storm, “Black Bile” official video premiere

Elliot Cole on “Black Bile”:

“Black Bile lyrically is based around the idea of the black plague. In the video the plague doctor is also represented as a grim reaper / Freddy Kruegger type menace…haunting the sick in their dreams. Musically the song is one of the heaviest, yet most progressive songs we have written.”

Taken from the album Omens, released by APF Records 1st May 2020.

Order the album from:
https://desertstorm.bandcamp.com/
https://apfrecords.co.uk/shop

Recorded & mixed by Steve ‘Geezer’ Watkins at Woodworm Studios between August – December 2019.
Mastered January 2020 by Tim Turan @ Turan Audio.

Video by Josh Horwood

Desert Storm have been making a name for themselves since they formed in late 2007. From the beginning the band have worked hard…with 3 albums and relentless touring of the UK & Europe with the likes of Karma To Burn, Nashville Pussy, Peter Pan Speedrock, Honky and Hang The Bastard as well as support slots to the likes of Orange Goblin, Red Fang, American Head Charge, Weedeater, Crowbar, Mondo Generator, The Atomic Bitchwax and festival appearances at Bloodstock Festival, Hammerfest, Hard Rock Hell, Giants of Rock, The Bulldog Bash, Desertfest (UK/DE) & Roadkill Festival.

In early 2018 Desert Storm released their fourth album, Sentinels, on APF Records and spent much of the next two years playing live in support of it – including tours with Karma To Burn, Boss Keloid and Raging Speedhorn and support slots to Corrosion of Conformity, Skindred and Komatsu.

The quintet entered the studio again in late 2019 and return on 1st May 2020 with their fifth album, Omens. To celebrate the release they play at Desertfest London before heading out on a European tour with UK dates to follow in November.

desert storm tour

Desert Storm release shows:
MAY 1 Firehouse, Southampton, UK w/ The Earl of Mars, Under, Grand Mal
MAY 2 Southwest Heavyfest 2020 The Cobblestones, Bridgwater, UK
MAY 3 Desertfest London, London, UK

Desert Storm is:
Matthew Ryan – Vocals
Ryan Cole – Guitar
Chris White – Guitar / Bass / Keyboards / Backing Vocals
Elliot Cole – Drums
Chris Benoist – Bass

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Cegvera Announce The Sixth Glare out March 6; New Video Posted

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 30th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Cegvera (Photo by Guli)

It actually hasn’t been that long since I listened to one track off a forthcoming record from a band whose last work I dug a lot and immediately had to chase down the rest of the album because the tones hit me so hard. But if you discount that other instance, like on Tuesday, it’s been a good long while. Bristol, UK-based now-duo Cegvera bring expert-level thickness to the proceedings on their upcoming long-player, The Sixth Glare, and the video streaming below for “Red Swarm Beyond” is exactly what got me hooked, as it happens. I guess as far as the idea of a ‘teaser’ goes, whether it’s a whole track (as this is) or not, that’s basically the ideal.

Cegvera‘s last outing was 2019’s Live at Palíndromo (review here) on which some of this material also appeared. All the more reason to hit their Bandcamp.

The PR wire takes it from there:

Cegvera The Sixth Glare

Cegvera ‘The Sixth Glare’ (Stolen Body)

Dark psychedelia, mesmerising doomy soundscapes, obscured and enlightening riffs are just few components of what to expect from Cegvera’s new record ‘The Sixth Glare’. The album will be released on March 6th by Stolen Body Records (LP/CD/DL) and LSDR (CD).

Following on from their now sold out split release with Vinnum Sabbathi ‘The Good Earth Is Dying’ in 2018, Cegvera have become a two piece – Gerardo Arias (guitar) and Matt Neicho (drums). The bass duties have been taken on by Gerardo splitting the guitar between guitar and bass amps. A sound that needs to be seen to be believed. ‘The Sixth Glare’ represents the first full-length album that Cegvera has to offer as a duo. Recorded and mixed by Joe Clayton at No Studios (Manchester, UK) and mastered by KB at Testa studio (León, Gto. México).

‘The Sixth Glare’ is a reference to the environmental crisis that we are living through today and the anthropogenic extinction events that are referred by world-renowned scientists as ‘the Sixth Mass Extinction’.

The Sixth Glare stands as a conversation that needs to take place. The world is in danger of killing itself. You will find this subject embodied from the smallest scratch of the artwork (Hellbound Graphics, México) to the last second of the final track. The scene is actually set as precursor to Vinnum Sabbathi’s upcoming album ‘Of Dimensions and Theories’ (also to be released this year via SBR) which Gerardo plays drums on.

If it is well true that our planet is facing great biodiversity loss generated by human activity, this record tries to look at these phenomena in a broader context and offers a merely informative in-depth review of the factors that are mindlessly dragging our planet towards decay in modern times. This not only means that humans are depriving other species from their natural environments but they are also threatening their own existence by doing irreversible damage to the biosphere. Similarly, another factor of great importance, the overuse of antibiotics is inducing and facilitating the emergence of abnormal resistance traits in pathogenic microorganisms. At present, antibiotic-resistant diseases also represent and will remain a major threat to the human species.

It should also be said that Gerardo Arias has just become a doctor in Biology and had first hand knowledge on the subject matter.

Tracklist:
Side A (Antibiotic resistance – stages of a disease):
1. Infection (Entrance of the pathogen)
2. Incubation (period between infection and the first apparent symptoms)
3. Prodromal (period between first symptom and the full development of the disease)
4. Convalescence (period of recovery)

Side B (The Sixth Glare)
5. The Great Blackout (Environmental effects of nuclear war)
6. After the Thaw (Thawing of the permafrost)
7. The Sixth Glare (Climate change – Global Warming)
8. Red Swarm Beyond (Wildfires – Bushfires)

Cegvera is:
Gerardo Arias (guitar, bass)
Matt Neicho (drums)

https://www.facebook.com/cegueraUK
https://cegvera.bandcamp.com/
https://stolenbodyrecords.co.uk/
https://www.facebook.com/stolenbodyrecords/
https://www.instagram.com/stolenbodyrecords/

Cegvera, “Red Swarm Beyond” official video

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Friday Full-Length: Spooky Tooth, The Last Puff

Posted in Bootleg Theater on January 24th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Spooky Tooth, The Last Puff (1970)

It’s no coincidence that the fourth Spooky Tooth album, The Last Puff, is billed as ‘Spooky Tooth Featuring Mike Harrison,’ as their frontman absolutely tears it up across the seven-track/33-minute long-player first released in 1970 on Island Records. I don’t know if Spooky Tooth were ever a household name in terms of hits, but either Harrison and guitarist Luthor Grosvenor (who also played in Mott the Hoople) led one incarnation or another of the band between 1967 and 2009, and even their initial run from ’67-’74 is longer than some groups of the birth-of-heavy era managed to last. There were lineup changes even during that time though, and The Last Puff brought together GrosvenorHarrison and drummer Mike Kellie with The Grease Band, who were best known for backing Joe Cocker at Woodstock in 1969. No minor shakes, and certainly the arrangements on The Last Puff‘s tracks play that out as well.

Those were guitarist Henry McCullough (later of Wings), bassist Alan Spenner (who played with a ton of people from Roxy Music to David Coverdale) and pianist/keyboardist Chris Stainton (whose CV boasts lines with The Who, Marianne Faithfull and Ringo Starr, among others), and what they bring to The Last Puff in vibe is not to be understated. In the pedal-steel and organ-meets-piano rollout of “Nobody There at All” (co-written by Mike Post, who later penned the theme to Law & Order) and especially in their six-and-a-half-minute righteously lumbering take on The Beatles‘ “I am the Walrus,” which is the opener and longest inclusion on the LP (immediate points), this incarnation of Spooky Tooth make their mark in a soulful vision of the blues rock of the era, standing out in terms of tone, Harrison‘s believable soul, and in the organicSpooky Tooth The Last Puff sound of what surrounds him as he “features,” which includes background singers on “I am the Walrus” and the subsequent “The Wrong Time,” on which Harrison summons his inner Robert Plant in likewise believable form. The hook in that second track is a landmark unto itself, and its nodding, funky central verse riff feels like a blueprint on which an entire sprawl of heavy rock would be constructed in the years following by the likes of Humble Pie and, oh, the next three generations. More laid back and less dirt-encrusted than Blue Cheer, not as stately as Cream always seemed to want to be, The Last Puff found a place of its own in what was already a crowded sphere of emerging heavy rock and roll.

Percussion and a more ranging vibe, jaw harp, more singers and all, bring “Something to Say” to a hypnotic place in its second half as the presumed end of side A, but “Nobody There at All” is a return to ground on side B, introducing a stretch of four shorter tracks that round out the album neatly without losing the open spirit of the preceding three. With piano up front and vocals deeper in the mix, “Down River” spends its early going in a build that seems to come to a gradual fruition before it’s done, but still doesn’t touch the five-minute mark; the only shame of it is that it fades out just as Kellie seems to really start wailing on his drums. I’m sure that tape exists in some closet of Island Records somewhere. The closing duo is a bluesy take on Elton John‘s “Son of Your Father” that fades neatly into the instrumental title-track, which is the shortest piece at just three and a half minutes and, being instrumental, doesn’t feature Harrison at all, but follows suit with the spirit of the rest of the record just the same, with an interplay of piano and keys and a bounding groove.

You can read the band’s narrative and discography in the usual spots on the internet, the Wikipedias, Discogses, and artist websites, but what you want to know is that after 1970, Grosvenor left Spooky Tooth. They were broken up for a couple years and came back in 1973 with the titled-in-such-a-manner-as-to-get-your-band-canceled-today You Broke My Heart So I Busted Your Jaw and the same year’s Witness. Founding keyboardist/vocalist Gary Wright led the band through 1974’s Mirror and that would be their last release until 1999’s Cross Purpose, which brought GrosvenorKellie and Harrison back into the group with bassist Greg Ridley. As noted, they’d continue to play live with Kellie and Harrison in the band in spurts for about the next decade, then split. Kellie passed away in 2017 and Harrison in 2018, while Grosvenor, performing under the pseudonym Ariel Bender, did reunion dates with Mott the Hoople.

Bands either last or they don’t, and while the members of Spooky Tooth went on to do interesting things as players and as a group, it’s probably their earliest run — 1968’s It’s All About, 1969’s Spooky Two and Ceremony, and The Last Puff — that’s best known. They’re hardly in an exclusive category there, or really with their sound, but even if there seem to be an infinite number of bands who were rocking out in like fashion at the time, look around you. Not much has changed in that regard.

That said, I’ll admit that my first experience with The Last Puff happened just last week. I’m by no means an expert on the band’s history or what they accomplished, but while I was at Ode to Doom in Manhattan last Wednesday, the “I am the Walrus” cover came on the P.A. in between the bands, and being the Beatles fan that I am — you know Charles Manson was crazy because it’s obvious all their songs were written just to speak only to me — it immediately caught my ear to the degree that I asked the sound guy who was doing the song. In my didn’t-already-know-it defense I’ll say just that he also had to go check who it was. My tolerance for Beatles covers is low, low, low, so that was enough to make me check out the rest of The Last Puff, and I have absolutely zero regret at having done so.

As always, I hope you don’t either.

Thanks for reading.

Holy crap, I’m behind. On like, everything. Mostly news. With news and reviews, I’ve got Monday and Tuesday fully booked already and Wednesday more than halfway there. If I see one more relevant press release today, I’m gonna cry.

That’d be business as usual to some degree but for all the other stuff. The next Freak Valley lineup announcement needs doing this weekend (I’m not sure when it’s actually going out), plus a bio for the recently-recorded The Atomic Bitchwax LP — it’s their first in 15 years with a new guitarist, so much to talk about — as well as another bio to edit and a Gimme Radio playlist for the show that’ll air next Friday.

Perfect time to be incredibly, incredibly distracted, right? Totally. The good news is that while I was writing the above portion of this post, I took my emails down from about 220 to under 60. The bad news is there are only so minutes in the day and those were minutes I didn’t spend writing this sentence or whichever one about being super-productive I’d have written in its place.

As ever: some you win, some you lose.

I had a minor surgery on my left leg at the start of the month. It’s 8:18AM now and the right leg is being done at 10. So there you go. That to some degree is probably a source of distraction — it’s not a big deal on medical terms, but it sure did hurt like hell last time and I was laid up for a few days after; if it’s any indicator, it puts in question my going to see Warhorse next week — but that doesn’t change the fact that there’s shit to be done.

By the way, I just stopped writing to put up the Uncle Woe post and wound up falling down a Facebook hole reading about how they’re closing the Middle East in Boston. This morning has been brutal.

Alright, the kid’s long since up and with The Patient Mrs., so let me wrap up. I was kind of hoping writing now would turn my head around, but turns out my head is spinning and requires more than mere typing can give. Like coffee.

Next week: Deathwhite, Big Scenic Nowhere and Galactic Cross reviews. A Devil to Pay video premiere, and an album stream from The Spacelords. Not in that order. You’ll dig it. It’s a good week.

And side note, Wednesday has filled up while I’ve been sitting here with the laptop open.

Super.

Did I mention holy crap I’m behind?

Great and safe weekend. Be kind to someone. Maybe yourself.

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