Days of Rona: Tony Reed of Mos Generator

Posted in Features on March 31st, 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

mos generator tony reed

Days of Rona: Tony Reed of Mos Generator (Port Orchard, Washington)

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?

I’m in a few bands and this is potentially and most likely going to force us to cancel or reschedule quite a few gigs including a short tour for Hot Spring Water and some festival gigs for Mos Generator and Big Scenic Nowhere. Everybody is scrambling to reschedule and that will make it difficult to get these postponed shows in anytime this year. Many bands and promoters have put down money for merch, flights, hotels, etc. and that money may or may not get lost because of all this. Let’s hope that we can at least get these costs back over time by the rescheduled shows or online sales.

Everybody seems to be in good health at this point. There are frequent check-ins by call or text.

What are the quarantine/isolation rules where you are?

Everything is closed but essentials.

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

The “stay home – stay safe” push has certainly turned our small town (Port Orchard, WA) into a ghost town and Seattle seems to be almost completely abandoned. On March 14th I played a show on the last night that music venues were allowed open in our town and because of these shut downs it’s possible that many venues won’t be able to make it through this and will be forced to [close permanently]. Some of these venues are places that have been on our gig circuit for years.

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

Personally I’m not effected very much as I work from home mixing and mastering records and 85 percent of my work is sent to me over the internet. The band is financially effected by the loss of revenue that helps keeps the machine rolling and in some weird way we are mentally effected by not being able to share our music to a live audience. That means a lot to us. Along with band issues, like everybody else, we are concerned with the health of our friends and loved ones.

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Quarterly Review: Slift, IIVII, Coogans Bluff, Rough Spells, Goblinsmoker, Homecoming, Lemurian Folk Songs, Ritual King, Sunflowers, Maya Mountains

Posted in Reviews on March 26th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

Thursday. Everyone doing well? Healthy? Kicking ass? Working from home? There seems to be a lot of that going around, at least among the lucky. New Jersey, where I live, is on lockdown with non-essential businesses shuttered, roads largely empty and all that. It can be grim and apocalyptic feeling, but I’m finding this Quarterly Review to be pretty therapeutic or at least helpfully distracting at a moment when I very much need something to be that. I hope that if you’re reading this, whether you’ve been following along or not, it’s done or can do the same for you if that’s what you need. I’ll leave it at that.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Slift, Ummon

slift ummon

The second album from French space/psych trio Slift is a 72-minute blowout echoshred epic — too aware not to be prog but too cosmic not to be space rock. Delivered through Stolen Body Records and Vicious Circle, Ummon is not only long, it speaks to a longer term. It’s not an album for this year, or for this decade, or for any other decade, for that matter. It’s for the ongoing fluid now. You want to lose yourself in the depths of buzz and dreamy synth? Yeah, you can do that. You want to dig into the underlying punk and maybe a bit of Elder influence in the vocal bark and lead guitar shimmer of “Thousand Helmets of Gold?” Well hell’s bells, do that. The mega-sprawling 2LP is a gorgeous blast of distortion, backed by jazzy, organic drum wud-dum-tap and the bass, oh, the bass; the stuff of low end sensory displacement. Amid swirls and casts of melodic light in “Dark Was Space, Cold Were the Stars,” Slift dilate universal energy and push beyond the noise wash reaches of “Son Dong’s Cavern” and through the final build, liftoff and roll of 13-minute closer “Lions, Tigers and Bears” with the deft touch of those dancing on prior conceptions. We’d be lucky to have Ummon as the shape of space rock to come.

Slift on Thee Facebooks

Stolen Body Records store

Vicious Circle Records store

 

IIVII, Grinding Teeth/Zero Sleep

Two LPs telling two different stories released at the same time, Grinding Teeth/Zero Sleep (on Consouling Sounds) brings Josh Graham‘s aural storytelling to new cinematic reaches. The composer, guitarist, synthesist, programmer, visual artist, etc., is joined along the way by the likes of Jo Quail, Ben Weinman (ex-The Dillinger Escape Plan), Dana Schecter (Insect Ark), Sarah Pendleton (ex-SubRosa) and Kim Thayil (Soundgarden) — among others — but across about 90 minutes of fluidity, Graham/IIVII soundtracks two narratives through alternatingly vast and crushing drone. The latter work is actually an adaptation from a short sci-fi film about, yes, humanity losing its ability to sleep — I feel you on that one — but the former, which tells a kind of meth-fueled story of love and death, brings due chaos and heft to go with its massive synthesized scope. Josh Graham wants to score your movie. You should let him. And you should pay him well. And you should let him design the poster. And you should pay him well for that too. End of story.

IIVII on Thee Facebooks

Consouling Sounds store

 

Coogans Bluff, Metronopolis

coogans bluff metronopolis

Following the initial sax-laden prog-rock burst and chase that is opener “Gadfly,” Berlin’s Coogans Bluff bring a ’70s pastoralia to “Sincerely Yours,” and that atmosphere ends up staying with Metronopolis — their fifth album — for the duration, no matter where else they might steer the sound. And they do steer the sound. Sax returns (as it will) in the jabbing “Zephyr,” a manic shred taking hold in the second half accompanied by no-less-manic bass, and “Creature of the Light” reimagines pop rock of the original vinyl era in the image of its own weirdness, undeniably rock but also something more. Organ-inclusive highlight “Soft Focus” doesn’t so much touch on psychedelics as dunk its head under their warm waters, and “The Turn I” brings an almost Beatlesian horn arrangement to fruition ahead of the closer “The Turn II.” But in that finale, and in “Hit and Run,” and way back in “Sincerely Yours,” Coogans Bluff hold that Southern-style in their back pocket as one of several of Metronopolis‘ recurring themes, and it becomes one more element among the many at their disposal.

Coogans Bluff on Thee Facebooks

Noisolution store

 

Rough Spells, Ruins at Midday

rough spells ruins at midday

An underlying current of social commentary comes coated in Rough Spells‘ mysticism on Ruins at Midday, the Toronto unit’s second LP. Recorded by Ian Blurton and presented by Fuzzed and Buzzed and DHU Records, the eight-track LP has, as the lyrics of “Chance Magic” say, “No bad intentions.” Indeed, it seems geared only toward eliciting your participation in its ceremony of classic groove, hooks and melodies, even the mellow “Die Before You Die” presenting an atmosphere that’s heavy but still melodic and accessible. “Grise Fiord” addresses Canada’s history of mistreating its native population, while “Pay Your Dues” pits guitar and vocal harmonics against each other in a shove of proto-metallic energy to rush momentum through side B and into the closing pair of the swaggering “Nothing Left” and the title-track, which is the longest single cut at five minutes, but still keeps its songwriting taut with no time to spare for indulgences. In this, and on several fronts, Ruins at Midday basks in multifaceted righteousness.

Rough Spells on Thee Facebooks

Fuzzed and Buzzed store

DHU Records store

 

Goblinsmoker, A Throne in Haze, A World Ablaze

goblinsmoker a throne in haze a world ablaze

Upside the head extreme sludgeoning! UK trio Goblinsmoker take on the more vicious and brutal end of sludge with the stench of death on A Throne in Haze, A World Ablaze (on Sludgelord Records), calling to mind the weedian punishment of Belzebong and others of their decrepit ilk. Offered as part two of a trilogy, A Throne in Haze, A World Ablaze is comprised of three tracks running a caustic 26 minutes thick enough such that even its faster parts feel slow, a churning volatility coming to the crash of “Smoked in Darkness” at the outset only to grow more menacing in the lurch of centerpiece “Let Them Rot” — which of course shifts into blastbeats later on — and falling apart into noise and echoing residual feedback after the last crashes of “The Forest Mourns” recede. Beautifully disgusting, the release reportedly furthers the story of the Toad King depicted on its cover and for which the band’s prior 2018 EP was named, and so be it. The lyrics, largely indecipherable in screams, are vague enough that if you’re not caught up, you’ll be fine. Except you won’t be fine. You’ll be dead. But it’ll be awesome.

Goblinsmoker on Thee Facebooks

Sludgelord Records on Bandcamp

 

Homecoming, LP01

homecoming lp01

Progressive metal underpins French trio Homecoming‘s aptly-titled first record, LP01, with the guitars of second cut “Rivers of Crystal” leading the way through a meandering quiet part and subsequent rhythmic figure that reminds of later Opeth, though there’s still a strong heavy rock presence in their tones and grooves generally. It’s an interesting combination, and all the more so because I think part of what’s giving off such a metal vibe is the snare sound. You don’t normally think of a snare drum determining that kind of thing, but here we are. Certainly the vocal arrangements between gruff melodies, backing screams and growls, etc., the odd bit of blastbeating here and there, bring it all into line as well — LP01 is very much the kind of album that would title its six-minute instrumental centerpiece “Interlude” — but the intricacy in how the nine-minute “Return” develops and the harmonies that emerge early in closer “Five” tell the tale clearly of Homecoming‘s ambitions as they move forward from this already-ambitious debut.

Homecoming on Thee Facebooks

Homecoming on Bandcamp

 

Lemurian Folk Songs, Logos

lemurian folk songs logos

Tracked in the same sessions as the Budapest outfit’s 2019 album, Ima (review here), it should not come as a major surprise that the six-track/49-minute Logos from Lemurian Folk Songs follows a not entirely dissimilar course, bringing together dream-drift of tones and melodies with subtle but coherent rhythmic motion in a fashion not necessarily revolutionary for heavy psych, but certainly well done and engaging across its tracks. The tones of guitar and bass offer a warmth rivaled only by the echoing vocals on opener/longest cut (immediate points) “Logos,” and the shimmering “Sierra Tejada” and progressively building “Calcination” follow that pattern while adding a drift that is both of heavy psych and outside of it in terms of the character of how it’s played. None of the last three tracks is less than eight minutes long — closer “Firelake” tops nine in a mirror to “Logos” at the outset, but if that’s the band pushing further out I hear, then yes, I want to go along for that trip.

Lemurian Folk Songs on Thee Facebooks

Para Hobo Records on Bandcamp

 

Ritual King, Ritual King

ritual king ritual king

Progressive heavy rockers Ritual King display a striking amount of grace and patience across their Ripple Music-issued self-titled long-player. Tapping modern influences like Elder and bringing their own sense of melodic nuance to the proceedings across a tightly-constructed seven songs and 42 minutes, the three-piece of vocalist/guitarist Jordan Leppitt, bassist Dan Godwin — whose tone is every bit worthy of gotta-hear-it classification — and drummer/backing vocalist Gareth Hodges string together linear movements in “Headspace” and “Dead Roads” that flow one into the next, return at unexpected moments or don’t, and follow a direction not so much to the next chorus but to the next statement the band want to make, whatever that might be. “Restrain” begins with a sweet proggy soundscape and unfolds two verses over a swaying riff, then is gone, where at the outset, “Valleys” offers grandeur the likes of which few bands would dare to embody on their third or fourth records, let alone their first. Easily one of 2020’s best debuts.

Ritual King on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

 

Sunflowers, Endless Voyage

sunflowers endless voyage

You know what? Never mind. You ain’t weird enough for this shit. Nobody’s weird enough for this shit. I have a hard time believing the two souls from Portugal who made it are weird enough for this shit. Think I’m wrong? Think you’re up for it and you’re gonna put on SunflowersEndless Voyage and be like, “oh yeah, turns out mega-extreme krautrock blasted into outer space was my wavelength all along?” Cool. Bandcamp player’s right there. Have at it. I dare you.

Sunflowers on Thee Facebooks

Stolen Body Records store

 

Maya Mountains, Era

maya mountains era

Italian heavy rockers Maya Mountains formed in 2005 and issued their debut album, Hash and Pornography, through Go Down Records in 2008. Era, which follows a narrative about the title-character whose name is given in lead cut “Enrique Dominguez,” who apparently travels through space after being lost in the desert — as one does — and on that basis alone is clearly a more complex offering than its predecessor. As to where Maya Mountains have been all the time in between records — here and there, in other bands, etc. But Era, at 10 tracks and 44 minutes, is the summation of five years of work on their part and its blend of scope and straight-ahead heavy riffing is welcome in its more heads-down moments like “Vibromatic” or in the purposefully weirder finale “El Toro” later on. Something like a second debut for the band after being away for so long, Era at very least marks the beginning of a new one for them, and one hopes it continues in perhaps more productive fashion than the last.

Maya Mountains on Thee Facebooks

Go Down Records store

 

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Quarterly Review: The Cult of Dom Keller, Grandpa Jack, Woven Man, Charivari, Human Impact, Dryland, Brass Owl, Battle City, Astral Bodies, Satyrus

Posted in Reviews on March 25th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

Ah, the Wednesday of a Quarterly Review. Always a special day in my mind. We hit and pass the halfway point today, and I like the fact that the marker is right in the middle of things, like that sign you pass in Pennsylvania on Rt. 80 that says, “this is the highest point east of the Mississippi,” or whatever it is. Just a kind of, “oh, by the way, in case you didn’t know, there’s this but you’re on your way somewhere else.” And so we are, en route to 50 reviews by Friday. Will we get there? Yeah, of course. I’ve done this like 100 times now, it’s not really in doubt. Sleeping, eating, living: these things are expendable. The Quarterly Review will get done. So let’s do it.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

The Cult of Dom Keller, Ascend!

the cult of dom keller ascend

They’re not going quietly, that’s for sure. Except for when they are, at least. The Cult of Dom Keller send their listeners — and, it would seem, themselves — into the howling ether on the exclamatory-titular Ascend!, their fifth LP. Issued through Cardinal Fuzz and Little Cloud records it brings a bevvy of freakouts in psych-o-slabs like “I Hear the Messiah” and the early-arriving “Hello Hanging Rope” and the building-in-thickness “The Blood Donor Wants His Blood Back,” and the foreboding buzz of “We’re All Fucked (Up),” peppering in effective ambient interludes ahead of what might be some resolution in the closing “Jam for the Sun.” Or maybe that’s just narrative I’m putting to it. Does it matter? Does anything matter? And what is matter? And what is energy? And is there a line between the two or are we all just playing pretend at existence like I-think-therefore-I-am might actually hold water in a universe bigger than our own pea-sized brains. Where do we go from here? Or maybe it’s just the going and not the where? Okay.

The Cult of Dom Keller on Thee Facebooks

Cardinal Fuzz on Bandcamp

Little Cloud Records on Bandcamp

 

Grandpa Jack, Trash Can Boogie

Grandpa Jack Trash Can Boogie

Brooklynite trio Grandpa Jack are working toward mastery of the thickened midtempo groove on their second EP, Trash Can Boogie. Led by guitarist/vocalist Johnny Strom with backing shouts from drummer Matt C. White and a suitable flow provided by bassist Jared Schapker, the band present a classic-tinged four tracks, showing some jammier psych range in the 7:47 second cut “Untold” but never straying too far from the next hook, as opener “Ride On, Right On” and the almost-proto-metal “Imitation” show. Finishing with “Curmudgeon,” Grandpa Jack ride a fine line between modern fuzz, ’90s melody and ’70s groove idolatry, and part of the fun is trying to figure out which side they’re on at any given point and which side they’ll want to ultimately end up on, or if they’ll decide at all. They have one LP under their collective belt already. I’d be surprised if their next one didn’t garner them more significant attention, let alone label backing, should they want it.

Grandpa Jack on Thee Facebooks

Grandpa Jack on Bandcamp

 

Woven Man, Revelry (In Our Arms)

woven man revelry in our arms

There’s metal in the foundation of what Woven Man are doing on their 2019 debut, Revelry (In Our Arms). And there’s paganism. But they’re by no means “pagan metal” at least in the understood genre terms. The Welsh outfit — featuring guitarist Lee Roy Davies, formerly of Acrimony — cast out soundscapes in their vocal melodies and have no lack of tonal crunch at their disposal when they want it, but as eight-minute opener/longest track (immediate points) shows, they’re not going to be rigidly defined as one thing or another. One can hear C.O.C. in the riffs during their moments of sneer on “I am Mountain” or the centerpiece highlight “With Willow,” but they never quite embrace the shimmer outright Though they come right to the cusp of doing so on the subsequent “Makers Mark,” but closer “Of Land and Sky” revives a more aggressive push and sets them toward worshiping different idols. Psychedelic metal is a tough, nearly impossible, balance to pull off. I’m not entirely convinced it’s what Woven Man are going for on this first outing, but it’s where they might end up.

Woven Man on Thee Facebooks

Woven Man on Bandcamp

 

Charivari, Descent

charivari descent

Whether drifting mildly through the likes of drone-laden pieces “Down by the Water,” the CD-only title-track or “Alexandria” as they make their way toward the harsh bite at the end of the 11-minute closer “Scavengers of the Wind,” Bath, UK, heavy post-rockers Charivari hold a firm sense of presence and tonal fullness. They’re prone to a wash from leadoff “When Leviathan Dreams” onward, but it’s satisfying to course along with the four-piece for the duration of their journey. Rough spots? Oh, to be sure. “Aphotic” seethes with noisy force, and certainly the aforementioned ending is intended to jar, but that only makes a work like “Lotus Eater,” which ably balances Cure-esque initial lead lines with emergent distortion-crush, that much richer to behold. The moves they make are natural, unforced, and whether they’re trading back and forth in volume or fluidly, willfully losing themselves in a trance of effects, the organic and ethereal aspects of their sound never fail to come through in terms of melody even as a human presence is maintained on vocals. When “Down by the Water” hits its mark, it is positively encompassing. Headphones were built for this.

Charivari on Thee Facebooks

Worst Bassist Records on Bandcamp

 

Human Impact, Human Impact

human impact human impact

Bit of a supergroup here, at least in the underrated-New-York-art-noise sphere of things. Vocals and riffy crunch provided by the masterful Chris Spencer (formerly of Unsane), while Cop Shoot Cop‘s Jim Coleman adds much-welcome electronic flourish, Swans/Xiu Xiu bassist Chris Pravdica provides low end and the well-if-he-can-handle-drumming-for-Swans-he-can-handle-anything Phil Puleo (also Cop Shoot Cop) grounds the rhythm. Presented through Ipecac, the four-piece’s declarative self-titled debut arrives through Ipecac very much as a combination of the elements of which it is comprised, but the atmosphere brought to the proceedings by Coleman set against Spencer‘s guitar isn’t to be understated. The two challenge each other in “E605” and the off-to-drone “Consequences” and the results are to everyone’s benefit, despite the underlying theme of planetary desolation. Whoops on that one, but at least we get the roiling chaos and artful noise of “This Dead Sea” out of it, and that’s not nothing. Predictable? In parts, but so was climate change if anyone would’ve fucking listened.

Human Impact on Thee Facebooks

Ipecac Recordings store

 

Dryland, Dances with Waves

dryland dances with waves

The nautically-themed follow-up to Bellingham, Washington, progressive heavy/noise/post-hardcore rockers Dryland‘s 2017 self-titled debut album, the four-song Dances with Waves EP finds the thoughtful and melodic riffers working alongside producer/engineer Matt Bayles (Mastodon, Isis, etc.) on a recording that loses none of its edge for its deft changes of rhythm and shifts in vocals. There’s some influence from Elder maybe in terms of the guitar on “No Celestial Hope” and the finale “Between the Testaments,” but by the time the seven-minute capper is done, it’s full-on Pacific Northwest noise crunch, crashing its waves of riffs and stomp against the shore of your eardrums in demand of as much volume as you’ll give it. Between those two, “Exalted Mystics” moves unsuspectingly through its first half and seems to delve into semi-emo-if-emo-was-about-sailing-and-death theatrics in its second, while “The Sound a Sword Adores” distills the alternating drive and sway down to its barest form, a slowdown later setting up the madness soon to arrive in “Between the Testaments.”

Dryland on Thee Facebooks

Dryland on Bandcamp

 

Brass Owl, State of Mind

brass owl state of mind

Brass Owl foster on their self-released debut full-length, State of Mind, a brand of heavy rock that maintains a decidedly straightforward face while veering at the same time into influences from grunge, ’70s rock, the better end of ’80s metal and probably one or two current hard or heavy rock bands. You might catch a tinge of Five Horse Johnson-style blues on “No Filter – Stay Trendy” or the particularly barroom-ready “Jive Turkey,” which itself follows the funkier unfolding jam-into-shredfest of “The Legend of FUJIMO,” and the earlier “Hook, Line & Sinker” has trucker-rock all over it, but through it all, the defining aspect of the work is its absolute lack of pretense. These guys — there would seem to have been three when they recorded, there are two now; so it goes — aren’t trying to convince you of their intelligence, or their deep-running stylistic nuance. They’re not picking out riffs from obscure ’80s indie records or even ’70s private press LPs. They’re having a good time putting traditionalist-style rock songs together, messing around stylistically a bit, and they’ve got nine songs across 43 minutes ready to roll for anyone looking for that particular kind of company. If that’s you, great. If it ain’t, off you go to the next one.

Brass Owl website

Brass Owl on Bandcamp

 

Battle City, Press Start

Battle City Press Start

From even before you press play on Press Start, the 22-minute debut release from South Africa’s Battle City, the instrumental duo make their love of gaming readily apparent. Given that they went so far as to call one song “Ram Man” and that it seems just as likely as not that “Ignition” and “Ghost Dimension” are video game references as well, it’s notable that guitarist/bassist Stian “Lightning Fingers Van Tonder” Maritz and drummer Wayne “Thunder Flakes” Hendrikz didn’t succumb to the temptation of bringing any electronic sounds to the six-song offering. Even in “Ghost Dimension,” which is the closer and longest track by about three minutes, they keep it decidedly straightforward in terms of arrangements and resist any sort of chiptune elements, sticking purely to guitar, bass and drums. There’s a touch of the progressive to the leadoff title-track and to the soaring lead “Ignotion,” but Press Start does likewise in setting the band’s foundation in a steady course of heavy rock and metal, to the point that if you didn’t know they were gaming-inspired by looking at the cover art or the titles, there’d be little to indicate that’s where they were coming from. I wouldn’t count myself among them, but those clamoring for beeps and boops and other 8-bit nonsense will be surprised. For me, the riffs’ll do just fine, thanks.

Battle City on Thee Facebooks

Battle City on Bandcamp

 

Astral Bodies, Escape Death

Astral Bodies Escape Death

Spacious, varied and progressive without losing their heft either of tone or presence, Manchester, UK, trio Astral Bodies debut on Surviving Sounds with Escape Death, working mostly instrumentally — they do sneak some vocals into the penultimate “Pale Horse” — to affect an atmosphere of cosmic heavy that’s neither indebted to nor entirely separate from post-metal. Droning pieces like the introductory “Neptune,” or the joyous key-laced wash of the centerpiece “Orchidaeae,” or even “Pale Horse,” act as spacers between longer cuts, and they’re purposefully placed not to overdo symmetry so as to make Escape Death‘s deceptively-efficient 36-minute runtime predictable. It’s one more thing the three-piece do right, added to the sense of rawness that comes through in the guitar tone even as effects and synth seem to surround and provide a context that would be lush if it still weren’t essentially noise rock. Cosmic noise? The push of “Oumuamua” sure is, if anything might be. Classify it however you want — it’s fun when it’s difficult! — but it’s a striking record either way, and engages all the more as a first long-player.

Astral Bodies on Thee Facebooks

Surviving Sounds on Thee Facebooks

 

Satyrus, Rites

satyrus rites

Following its three-minute chanting intro, Satyrus let opener and longest track (immediate points) “Black Satyrus” unfold its cultish nod across an eight minutes that leads the way into the rest of their debut album, Rites, perhaps more suitably than the intro ever could. The building blocks that the Italian unit are working from are familiar enough — Black Sabbath, Saint Vitus, Electric Wizard, maybe even some Slayer in the faster soloing of second cut “Shovel” — but that doesn’t make the graveyard-dirt-covered fuzz of “Swirl” or the noisefest that ensues in “Stigma” or subsequent “Electric Funeral”-ist swing any less satisfying, or the dug-in chug of bookending nine-minute closer “Trailblazer.” Hell, if it’s a retread, at least they’re leaving footprints, and it’s not like Satyrus are trying to tell anyone they invented Tony Iommi‘s riff. It’s a mass by the converted for the converted. I’d ask nothing more of it than that and neither should you.

Satyrus on Thee Facebooks

Satyrus on Bandcamp

 

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Friday Full-Length: Lords of the North, Lords of the North

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

Lords of the North, Lords of the North (2008)

 

A proposal for a science experiment:

Some label — for hypothetical purposes let’s say it’s Cursed Tongue Records for the vinyl and Ripple Music for the CD, and maybe someone else does a limited tape version somewhere along the line too; I like King Volume, so let’s go with that — releases Lords of the North‘s self-titled debut. That’s it. That’s the experiment.

But here’s the thing. I’m not talking about a reissue. While I may have my fantasies about doing a curated series of reissues through this or that imprint — call me, RidingEasy! — I’m talking about putting out Lords of the North‘s Lords of the North with no mention whatsoever of the fact that the album originally came out in 2008. Sure, on the LP itself you’d probably need to mention when it was recorded or that the Seattle three-piece originally had it out on CD through their own not-really-a-label Tundra Music, but the theory I’m testing is that if you released this record today, 12 years on from its first arrival, it would still kill it.

Hell, put it on Bandcamp with a bare minimum of social media here-it-is-go-get-it-style promotion and I wouldn’t be surprised. The songs. The riffs. The grooves. It’s only 33 minutes long and six tracks, but it taps into the essential heart of what’s so appealing about heavy rock and roll. It has a classic groove and an atmosphere that’s rife for digging in, absolutely no pretense, and whether it’s the Zeppelin-style solo jam-out in the eight-minute “Beams of Light” or the mega-choruses of opener “Souls Come Rising,” the subsequent “Follow the Falcon” or the rougher-edged closing duo of “Loyal Legion” — the chug-verse-into-swing-hook of which is a highlight unto itself; if we’re picking tracks, this one might be the most likely to be stuck in your head for, say, somewhere in the neighborhood of 12 years — and the aptly-named knuckledragging finisher “The March.”

The influences are right there to be absorbed. Comprised of bassist/vocalist Pat Brian Kearney, guitarist Tony Tharp and drummer James Roche and recorded by the band with Chris Duryee, mixed by Phil Ek and mastered by Ed Brooks (cheers, Discogs), the band and record touched on familiar enough pieces from what was already a burgeoning heavy revival. Shades of High on Fire as distilled through The Sword‘s earliest riffing and the Melvins showed up in their work, so of Lords-of-the-North-self titledcourse there’s some Sabbath there too, but the prevailing theme of chilled-to-the-bone frozen wastes that comes through the artwork, the band’s moniker, the subjects of the songs themselves and even the name they picked for their not-really-a-label is all about being really, really, really cold, and that comes through in the tonality as a part of the record’s overarching personality as well.

Mostly it’s conveyed through largesse. Big riffs, big groove, big echo. It may have been their debut, but Lords of the North seem even now to have had no doubt about what they wanted to get across to their audience. There’s perfectly-timed boogie and enough variety in the jammier feel into which “Beams of Light” veers, first with its acoustic guitar and then its going-going-gone lead and the interlude “Steam Caves” that follows, not to mention the rougher-edged vocals that emerge in “Loyal Legion” and “The March,” to carry easily through the 33-minute run without the band coming close to overstaying their welcome. For its lack of pretense, the songwriting on display and the manner in which they put the album together — I wonder if a vinyl release would adjust the tracklisting so that “Beams of Light” and “Steam Caves” were on the same side, or if maybe “Loyal Legion” and “The March” would be split up so that each ended a half of the record to give it more symmetry, but those too are hypotheticals, and for the CD it was, it certainly worked — it was a collection that was has stood the test of time as a kind of refresher on how to make heavy rock sound simple and straightforward without losing sight of the need to find a sense of perspective within the genre.

Because that’s what Lords of the North were doing here. Yeah, it’s a bunch of songs put together to make a record, and that’s hardly a mystical process at this point in history — or, for that matter, in 2008 — but among the lessons the band might have take from what worked so well on their declarative self-titled is that they succeeded in crafting a vision to tie the material together, so that it wasn’t just songs, or just riffs, or crash, or stories about barbarian armies cresting the ice-covered hillside, it was all of it functioning together in order to create a striking and multi-tiered persona for the band and the album.

Would that persona have grown richer with time? I have no reason to think it wouldn’t, but of course, Lords of the North‘s debut was also their swansong. Their social media shows them in the studio in 2012 putting together a follow-up to the self-titled, and in 2014 they unveiled plans for a comic book to go with the album that resulted in some cool-looking panels in keeping with the cover art here — if I’m not mistaken, at some point in their history they worked with Mark Johnson from Snail, either before or after the album, I can’t remember which — though nothing came to fruition for whatever reason. One assumes the usual: life moves on, people move on, etc.

But I’ll stand by this album’s enduring quality and I honestly think that if it came out today — or with a proper promotional cycle befitting a new release — it would catch on in a way it never did during its time. Will that happen? Yeah, probably not. I don’t think labels are lining up yet to mine the late-aughts pre-social media “lost era” of heavy rock for the cause of scientific progress quite yet — there’s still so much of the ’90s to unearth first, underproduced as it all is — but when they get there, Lords of the North will be waiting. Until then, I’m happy to count myself in this record’s loyal legion.

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

What a fucking nightmare. Here’s the thing — am I talking about the ensuing noise and panic about coronavirus or am I talking about trying to feed my kid a peanut butter sandwich before he goes to kiddie-gymnastics class? See? You don’t even know which one it is.

Millions will die.

From the sandwich.

I don’t have any great observations about the pandemic to make that haven’t been said a thousand times by people more eloquent, so screw it. I’m tired. Don’t get sick. There. I said it.

I still don’t wash my hands with soap most of the time.

I still touch my mouth.

If I die of COVID-19, I want my grave to say, “It was biting his nails whut did him in.” Make sure you misspell “what” like that.

I’m so tired.

The Patient Mrs. took the The Pecan aka Dr. “NO!” out to that gymnastics class. That’s good for a few moments’ reprieve. There’s a new Lamp of the Universe album coming out in June. Whatever happens with Roadburn will happen. It will be what it is. Somehow I’m most anxious about that.

Next week is great. Not good. Great. Two more Dozer full album streams on Monday and Wednesday. Tuesday the new King Buffalo EP streams in full. Thursday is a review of Wednesday night’s Ode to Doom in Manhattan and a video premiere for Last Rizla from Greece. Friday is a Thunderbird Divine track premiere from their new EP. That’s right. Not fucking around. Great week.

Yesterday I had two bands tell their PR they wanted to do premieres with this site. That was the nicest thing that happened to me this week. Easily.

A new Star Trek book came out. It’s TOS, kind of meh, but fine. I feel like a lot of those are just trying to recombine episodes from different episodes, throw in an alien threat, maybe retcon some dumb shit they did on tv in 1967 and make Kirk the hero over the course of 200-plus pages and you’re set. I’d love to write one of those books. I’d love to write any book. I just keep writing news posts.

I was supposed to interview Chris Goss yesterday for the Desertfest London programme. Well, the interview didn’t happen and this morning I got an email they’re pulling the plug on the programme, I assume for financial considerations. This is life right now. New realities, none of them remotely believable.

The new Forming the Void record is so good I want to shit a brick.

That’s all I’ve got.

Great and safe weekend. Don’t get the fucking plague. I’m gonna go count the minutes until dinner and read about Spock and the Andorian from that one episode of The Animated Series where Spock goes back in time and sees himself as a kid. Curiously no Michael Burnham there. Funny how that goes.

Blah blah blah.

Love always,
JJ Koczan

PS: FRM.

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Review & Full Album Premiere: Sorcia, Sorcia

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on March 10th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

sorcia sorcia

[Click play above to stream Sorcia’s self-titled debut in full. Album is out this Friday, March 13.]

Sorcia unveil a host of influences in their self-titled debut and just the same manage to declare who they are as artists. To be sure, they’re children of the 1990s, either demographically or spiritually. In the AliceinChains-via-AcidBath clean vocals of guitarist Neal De Atley, who complements with harsh, sludgy grunts and is met head on by bassist Jessica Brasch, whose low end rumble makes a highlight of the overdose tale “Nowhere But Up,” second of the seven tracks on the 45-minute offering after “In the Head” sets a stomp-laden tone as the leadoff.

Production by West Coast noise figurehead Tad Doyle (of TAD, Hog Molly and Brothers of the Sonic Cloth) assures that De Atley, Brasch and drummer Bryson Marcey come through with as much density and the impact is only heightened through a Jack Endino (producer for Nebula, Nirvana, Windhand, High on Fire, etc.) mastering job, but if Sorcia are keeping such esteemed company on their first album, it only underscores the awareness the Seattle trio have of their own intent as a project.

To be sure, the three-part turns of “Nowhere But Up,” which goes from its quieter lumbering verses to a louder part and then chugs into a faster chorus, are clear delineations that mark Sorcia as a first album, at least so far as one imagines them as being lines so clearly drawn here that will inevitably blur in the band’s future work, but but the clarity with which Sorcia present their material, both early on in “In the Head” and “Nowhere But Up” and in the also-circa-five-minutes-long “Coffin Nails” and “Sunburn” that follow on side A, as well as the longer stretches of side B’s nine-minute “Stars Collide,” and the two seven-minute cuts that follow, “Stoned Believer” and “Repression,” which continue to flesh out the gritty-but-not-totally-raw atmosphere of the proceedings as a whole. Even the stark A/B divide, with four tracks on the first and three on the second, feels purposeful on the part of the band.

And yes, that’s a strength. Perhaps more subtle than Brasch‘s bass tone in terms of what comes across when one puts on the digital version of the album and lets it run through, but one that will carry through multiple formats of an eventual physical release — LP, tape, even CD; certainly the Mike Hawkins cover art works for all of them. But from the Electric Wizard-esque opening riff of “In the Head” onward, the signaling being done across Sorcia‘s Sorcia is of a vision of sludge rock that neither wants to be trapped by the confines of genre nor completely separate from them.

The lead cut swings through its guttural hook en route to its eventual slowdown/speed-up finish and shift into “Nowhere But Up,” which brings in Brasch on vocals in the shouty, chugging chorus — somewhere between a shuffle, a chug, and being punched in the face — and there is a sense of flow to the proceedings, but the brashness of the faster parts speaks to some influence from earlier, not-afraid-to-be-called-stoner High on Fire, and as the subsequent “Coffin Nails” makes the album’s first of two mentions of a blood red sky with a second to follow later in “Stars Collide,” it also finds De Atley and Brasch coming together more fluidly on vocals.

sorcia

A call and response verse led off by the bassist singing met by the guitarist’s shouts would seem like a direct portend of things to come as regards further developing the dynamic and sense of arrangement Sorcia already bring to this first offering. The Goatsnake-ian figure that caps “Coffin Nails” serves as reminder that it and “Nowhere But Up” were both included on Sorcia‘s 2019 demo and so might have been earlier compositions, but to put a narrative to the album that places the first four tracks as being written first and the last three longer, more complex pieces later feels too convenient, even with a record as up front about its purposes as Sorcia is. It is, however, the kind of thing one might ask the band in an interview.

Whenever it was put together, “Sunburn” is both the centerpiece and a plod-laden highlight, holding to a mid-tempo push for most of its duration but picking up near the end and giving something of a streamlined impression with De Atley at the fore on vocals. The fact that Sorcia are so willing to change up their approach vocally speaks not only to multiple contributions to songwriting, but only more potential, and as “Stars Collide” offers a surprising bit of drift and Brasch takes her turn invoking the blood red sky lyrically, the emergent thud seems to hit even harder for the quiet spaciousness that it offsets.

They shift smoothly back and forth and find a roll to lock in as “Stars Collide” moves into its second half and opens to its solo, and a final slowdown brings back the crashing central riff delivered with a stage-style energy that resonates into the speedy beginning of the penultimate “Stoned Believer,” brazen in its speed with De Atley‘s throaty vocal grit moving into a cleaner approach effectively in mid-verse. A quieter stretch in the middle-third brings about an echoing guitar solo with Marcey driving a return to the full thrust in the last 90 seconds or so of the song and still finding room to shift back into the slower part before they’re done.

It’s a choice bit of songwriting that answers a question or two about room for complexity amid Sorcia‘s sludge, much like the track before it, and with a direct lead into the finale of “Repression,” the album finds its fluidity at just the right time, with “Repression” shoving toward an inevitable big finish that comes and is not overblown but gets the point across enough to justify rounding out with rumbling feedback. As it will no doubt be the first impression the band makes on a number of listeners, Sorcia functions very much as a first album should. It brings forward the basic foundations upon which the three-piece set about their aesthetic construction, and it showcases the potential for progression and several of the sonic avenues they might pursue going forward.

Prospective aspects aside, the meld of influences they play toward, whether native to their own Pacific Northwestern home or not, can already heard being consciously brought into their own context via craft, performance and the nascent De Atley/Brasch vocal dynamic. Being concrete-slab heavy doesn’t hurt either, and Sorcia most definitely is that.

Sorcia on Thee Facebooks

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Sorcia on Bandcamp

Sorcia website

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Sorcia to Release Self-Titled Debut March 13; Streaming “Nowhere But Up”

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 19th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

sorcia

A bit of the ol’ sludge-nasty coming from Seattle-ish three-piece Sorcia on their self-titled debut. Recorded by none less than Tad Frickin’ Doyle with mastering by Jack Goshdarn Endino and set to issue March 13 through the former’s Incineration Ceremony label, it’s a seven-track outing that word of which comes accompanied by the teaser cut “Nowhere But Up.” It’s easy enough to imagine in listening that the title speaks regarding the perspective of the album as a whole, but one doesn’t necessarily want to speculate based on one song, even if that song is a shouty roller with a sound that, if you cut it, would bleed mud.

More to follow on this one? Oh most definitely. I already signed on to stream the whole thing on March 10. Keep an eye/ear out for it.

PR wire news and tour dates below:

sorcia sorcia

Seattle’s SORCIA Reveal Debut Self-Titled Album Coming March 13th via Incineration Ceremony Records!

SORCIA hails from the Snoqualmie Valley in the Eastern outskirts of Seattle, Washington. After solidifying their lineup in 2018, SORCIA hit the ground running, releasing a two-song demo in January 2019. Combining blues-laden groovy riffs into the raw heaviness of doom metal with the added dynamic of dual vocals, they deliver their own method of Pacific Northwest heavy stoner sludge metal.

SORCIA entered Witch Ape Studio with Tad Doyle (Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, TAD) in June of 2019, to begin recording their debut full-length album; and completing the album with Jack Endino (High On Fire, Windhand, Nirvana) at the mastering helm.

So says SORCIA regarding their new album:
“Tad Doyle was an absolute pleasure to work with and did an incredible job capturing the essence of our sound. He gave us confidence and had a true understanding of our vision that was key in the bringing that vision to life. and it exceeded all our expectations. Having the legendary Jack Endino at the mastering helm was a complete honor and he did a fantastic job putting on the final touch. The creation of this album has been a long time coming and we are very proud and excited to finally share it. It is our tribute to the genre that inspired us and it embodies the sound we love.”

The debut full-length album ‘Sorcia’ will be available on March 13th, from Incineration Ceremony Recordings. With stunning cover art from Mike Hawkins, the new album will be released on CD, digital download, and streaming on most major outlets. Pre-order available soon…

Incineration Ceremony Recordings founder Tad Doyle had this to say:
“Sorcia is focused and has a vision of what they want to convey in their music which comes across with depth and power.”

‘Sorcia’ Tracklist:
01. In The Head
02. Nowhere But Up
03. Coffin Nails
04. Sunburn
05. Stars Collide
06. Stoned Believer
07. Repression

SORCIA Upcoming Live Dates:
Feb. 20 – Seattle, WA @ Chop Suey
Feb. 28 – Port Angeles, WA @ Little Devils Lunchbox
Mar. 06 – Portland, OR @ High Water Mark (Adv. Album Release)
Mar. 07 – Seattle, WA @ Slims Last Chance Saloon (Adv. Album Release)
Apr. 02 – Tacoma, WA @ The Plaid Pig
Apr. 03 – Duvall, WA @ Twin Dragon
Apr. 04 – Portland, OR @ Bunk
Apr. 14 – Seattle, WA @ Substation
May 20 – Seattle, WA @ Screwdriver Bar
Jun. 12 – Olympia, WA @ Cryptatropa

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

https://www.facebook.com/SorciaBand/
https://www.instagram.com/sorciaband/
sorcia.bandcamp.com
https://sorciaband.com/
https://www.facebook.com/Incinerationceremony/
https://www.instagram.com/incineration.ceremony/
https://incineration-ceremony.bandcamp.com/
https://www.taddoyle.com/incineration-ceremony-recordings/

Sorcia, Sorcia (2020)

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Friday Full-Length: Snail, Blood

Posted in Bootleg Theater on January 31st, 2020 by JJ Koczan

snail blood

At the core of the album, the lessons of Snail‘s Blood (review here) are relatively straightforward: rhythm and melody. The mostly languid grooves and the overlaid stoner drift from the originally-Seattle-based then-four-piece came across as revelatory in 2009, but their roots of course went back much further in that Blood was the first Snail record in 16 years. That time differential, and the fact that most the 11 songs on the 57-minute offering dated back that far — only opener “Mental Models,” “Underwater” and “Via/Penny Dreadful” don’t appear on Snail‘s The ’93-’94 Blood Demos collection released in 2012 (the band talk about their demo process here) — are important for understanding where the album was coming from at the time of its release. Indeed, 16 years before 2009 was 1993, and that was when Snail issued their self-titled debut (review here), following the next year with the All Channels are Open EP (review here) before the trio of guitarist/vocalist Mark Johnson, bassist Matt Lynch and drummer Marty Dodson called it quits, leaving the demos for what would’ve been Blood at the time unrealized.

When they came back and finally recorded the album proper, JohnsonLynch and Dodson recruited second guitarist Eric Clausen, who fleshed out the riffs and leads fluidly, meshing well with the founding members. Really though, the overarching atmosphere of Blood is so laid back that, even 11 years after its release, it still feels like all are welcome. True, Blood‘s just-under-an-hour runtime feels honest to its CD-era origins and borders on unmanageable by today’s standards, but they use the vast majority of that time well, setting up immersive tonality and an underlying psych-grunge atmosphere that permeates “Relief” and the speedier, hookier second track “Sleep” — originally “Sleepshit” on the demos — as well as the later push of “Cleanliness” and the nonetheless-airy “Not for Me” which appears ahead of the predominantly-mellow-but-still-volatile eight-minute closer “Blacklight,” itself a testament to Snail‘s ability to change up their songwriting approach while staying united by tone and general sonic resonance, the use of effects and so on. Even now, the depth of mix Blood conjures draws the listener in, and the strength of the underlying structures in place — the verses and choruses to songs like “Underwater” or the especially-blissed “Relief” — gave Snail the ground on which to build this towering sound. The initial surge and chug of “Mental Models,” following a quick intro, is righteous, but doesn’t by any means tell the whole story of the album. It really does require the time it takes to flesh out.

And the patience of Snail‘s tempos when they’re not meting out punkish rush is especially noteworthy. Dodson sets a march in “Mental Models” and a push in “Sleep” and a crash and thud and shuffle in “Underwater” and a pull-back, in-pocket riff-surfing progression in “Committed” that could easily serve as a clinic in heavy rock drumming, and while Johnson‘s vocals and riffs, Clausen‘s leads and Lynch‘s oh-hell-yes bass tone are of course no less crucial, the drums are somewhat understated but accomplished in their versatility and able to find just what the song most needs at any given time, whether it’s the rim hits in “Cleanliness” like a ticking clock counting down to the next explosion of soloing and Johnson repeatedly urging “get high! get high!” or the masterful roll in “Via/Penny Dreadful” and “Screen” that becomes a defining element of Blood as a whole. With the shifts in tempo and style, it’s the tone and songwriting that bring cohesion, and Snail‘s consistency in that regard is at a high level from front to back, and they use that diversity in their approach as an asset in shifts like those between the nodder “Blood” and the more upbeat “Cleanliness,” which on vinyl would probably be side C of a 2LP version that, frankly, feels like it’s ripe for some label to get behind.

Blood appeared during an era of rebirth for MeteorCity after original owners Jadd Shickler (now of Blues Funeral Recordings) and Aaron Emmel sold it, Stonerrock.com and the All That is Heavy webstore to Dan Beland and Melanie Streko (now of Hellmistress Records). Along with Snail, releases from Let the Night RoarLeeches of LoreHumo del CairoFreedom Hawk — not to mention the first Elder record — helped reestablish the label’s presence in the heavy underground, so in that regard, Blood was all the more a good fit for the label, given that it was essentially a rebirth for the band as well.

It’s worth noting in listening to Johnson‘s wailing on “Screen” just how dated Blood doesn’t sound. To give some context to revisiting the album, I went back and listened again to the self-titled as well as The ’93-’94 Blood Demos and it’s kind of astonishing how much the songs hadn’t changed when one considers the modern feel of Blood as a whole. The production is more fleshed out, certainly clearer, etc., but the underlying method is largely intact. Its grunge-era origins aren’t forgotten — Seattle? yup. early ’90s? yup. — but the band succeeded in drawing a line to the past while representing a forward potential as well, and one that, thankfully, they’d go on to realize on subsequent offerings.

By the time Clausen left the band in 2013, they had already put out the follow-up CD, Terminus (review here), and they signed to Small Stone for Feral (review here) in 2015, which subsequently saw them come to the East Coast for the first time in 2016 to play The Obelisk All-Dayer in Brooklyn and other shows around that, as well as do Psycho Las Vegas and more besides. They’ve never been a heavily touring band whether a four-piece or trio, but they bring a chemistry to the stage just the same that, from my own experience as a fan of their work, adds another layer of enjoyment to the proceedings. Some bands work together. Snail come across more like a family, eyes rolling at each other and all.

They reportedly have a new album in the works — they’re recording — that will see release this year, and that’s only good news as far as I’m concerned. Feral was their best work to-date, and five years after that and some 27 years after their debut, it’ll be exciting to hear where they take what has become their signature style. You can dig on Snail or don’t, but if you don’t, you’re missing out.

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

New episode of The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio today. 1PM. It’s moving to 5PM and will be on every week at that time with new episodes every other week. That’s starts Valentine’s Day. Because love.

Next week is totally full. I can’t talk about some of it yet, but holy shit it’s gonna be awesome. Cool streams, cool announcements. Couple good reviews thrown in. Really, stay tuned.

The week after already has reviews and premieres booked too. And the Monday and Wednesday after that. And shit is happening today like Elder announcing their record and Candlemass announcing an EP. What’s a boy to do about trying to keep up? Even if I had a staff of 20 writers they’d look at my notes and tell me to kiss my ass.

Oh my poor notes.

I went to the doctor this morning, got a flu shot. I needed to update my prescriptions since I ran out of refills from my primary care doctor in Massachusetts, and hell, Boston’s a long way to go for pills. There was a whole hullabaloo with switching insurance plans. I take 40mg of Citalopram a day for depression, and I have off and on for the better part of a decade. At this point it’s been at least the last three years? Something like that. When I think about it I find it amazing I still manage to be such a miserable bastard on the regular. Nothing like overachieving.

There was a lag of about 10 days between running out of one supply of pills though and convincing our insurance to give us the month we were still owed — I’d be totally lost without The Patient Mrs.; imagine a human being, but like, actually competent; she’s like a higher lifeform — and in that time, if I’m totally honest, I could feel it. The first couple days were fine, but there’s a kind of severity that emerges in my framing of myself and what’s around me. I can feel it. It’s hard to explain, but I know when it’s there. They call it a weight — that’s a whole different issue for me, of course — and that’s fair, but it’s like if your blood got more viscous.

I also mentioned the doc some trouble I’ve been having with anxiety, and contrary to my being anxious about mentioning it — dude knows my history; he was my doctor when we lived in NJ previously and treats most of my family — and I thought maybe it was time to do something about it. The way I’ve seen it manifest is big-time reticence to go to shows at unknown venues. I’ve been to Saint Vitus Bar a few times, and Ode to Doom at Arlene’s Grocery in Manhattan, but social anxiety and the thought of being in a new place and a strange place, even at a gig, right now already I can feel the hair on my arms stand on end. I’ve missed several good gigs. I didn’t go see Om in New York.

So yeah. Try something out to help. We’ll see how it goes.

Maybe I’ll be a little easier to live with.

I am going out tomorrow though. It’s Warhorse at Saint Vitus Bar with Yatra and Green Dragon. I’ve never seen Green Dragon and I like their recorded stuff a lot, so that’s a bonus, and I know Yatra and Warhorse will destroy. I expect it to be crowded. Hydration, as ever, will be key. As will earplugs.

Review of that on Monday.

The Pecan started preschool this week, which I’ll note mostly for self-posterity — I might happen upon this post years from now writing about Snail and appreciate seeing the memory; to that end, I was also reminded of feeding him off my finger when he was super-little. He’ll go Wednesday and Thursday to a place about 10 minutes from my ancestral homestead for four hours each day. He apparently got frustrated and tried to bite another kid (or two, ugh) on his first day, but he sat at the table for lunch, which he never does with me. You take the bad with the good. Some you win, some you lose.

Alright, this post has already gone on longer than I’ve intended. I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Have fun, be kind. Please don’t forget The Obelisk Show is on at 1PM Eastern (which is coming right up). Thanks if you check it out.

FRM: Forum, Radio, Merch at MiBK.

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Quarterly Review: Mos Generator, Psychic Lemon, Planet of Zeus, Brass Hearse, Mother Turtle, The Legendary Flower Punk, Slow, OKO, Vug, Ultracombo

Posted in Reviews on January 6th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

I’d like to hope y’all know the drill by now. It’s the Quarterly Review. We do it (roughly) every quarter. The idea is 10 reviews per day for a Monday to Friday span, running 50 total. I sometimes do more. Sometimes not. Kind of depends on the barrage and how poorly I’ve been doing in general with keeping up on stuff. This time is ‘just’ 50, so there you go. You’ll see some bigger names this week and some stuff that’s come my way of late that I’ve been digging and wanting to check out. It’s a lot of rock, which I like, and a few things I’m writing about basically as a favor to myself because, you know, self-care and all that.

But staring down the barrel of 50 reviews over the next few days has me as apprehensive and how-the-hell-is-this-gonna-happen as ever, so I think I’ll just get to it and jump in. No time to waste.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Mos Generator, Exiles

mos generator exiles

Worth it just for the Sabbath cover? Most definitely. As Mos Generator take on “Air Dance” from Never Say Die as part of the Glory or Death Records LP compilation release, Exiles, they blend the proggy swagger of later-’70s Iommi leads with the baseline acoustic guitar fluidity that makes those final Ozzy-era records so appealing in hindsight. It’s just one of the six reasons to take on Exiles however. The A side comprises three outtakes from 2018’s Shadowlands (review here), and guitarist/vocalist Tony Reed‘s Big Scenic Nowhere bandmate Bob Balch sits in on “Battah,” while a duly manic reworking of Van Halen‘s “Light up the Sky,” the Black Sabbath track and a live version of Rush‘s “Anthem” from 2016 make up side B. It’s a quick listen and it’s Mos Generator. It may be a stopgap on the way to whatever they’re doing next, but if you think about it, so is everything, and that’s no reason not to jump in either for the covers or the originals, both of which are up to the band’s own high standard of output.

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Psychic Lemon, Freak Mammal

psychic lemon freak mammal

The distorted wails of Andy Briston‘s guitar echo out of Freak Mammal — the five-track/46-minute third LP from London’s Psychic Lemon — like a clarion to the lysergic converted. A call to prayer for those worshiping the nebulous void, not so much kept to earth by Andy Hibberd‘s bass and Martin Law‘s drums as given a solidified course toward the infinite far out. Of course centerpiece “Afrotropic Bomb” digs into some Ethiopian groove — that particular shuffling mania — and I won’t take away from the lower buzz of “Free Electron Collective” or the tense hi-hat cutting through all that tonal wash or the ultra-spaced blowout that caps six-minute finale “White Light,” but give me the self-aware mellower jaunt that is the 13-minute second track “Seeds of Tranquility” any day, following opener “Dark Matter” as it does with what would be a blissful drift but for the exciting rhythmic work taking place beneath the peaceful guitar, and the later synthesized voices providing a choral melody that seems all the more playfully grandiose, befitting the notion of Freak Mammal as a ceremony or at very least some kind of lost ritual. Someday they’ll dig up the right pyramid and call the aliens back. Until then, Psychic Lemon let us imagine what might happen after they return.

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Drone Rock Records website

 

Planet of Zeus, Faith in Physics

PLANET OF ZEUS FAITH IN PHYSICS

There’s a context of social commentary to Planet of ZeusFaith in Physics that makes one wonder if perhaps the title doesn’t refer to gravity in terms of what-goes-up-must-come-down as it might apply to class hierarchy. The mighty, ready to fall, and so on. Songs like the post-Clutch fuzz roller “Man vs. God” and “Revolution Cookbook” (video premiere here) would seem to support that idea, but one way or the other, as the later “Let Them Burn” digs into a hook that reminds of Killing Joke and the dense bass of eight-minute closer “King of the Circus” provides due atmospheric madness for our times, there’s a sense of grander statement happening across the album. The Athens-based outfit make a centerpiece of the starts and stops in “All These Happy People” and remind that whatever the message, the medium remains top quality heavy rock and roll songcraft, which is something they’ve become all the more reliable to deliver. The more pointed perspective than they showed on 2016’s Loyal to the Pack suits them, but it’s the nuance of electronics and arrangements of vocals and guitar on cuts like “The Great Liar” that carry them through here. If you believe in gravity, Planet of Zeus have plenty on offer.

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Heavy Psych Sounds website

 

Brass Hearse, Oneiric Afterlife

brass hearse oneiric afterlife

Experimentalist keyboard-laced psychedelic goth your thing? Well, of course it is. You’re in luck then as Brass Hearse — an offshoot of once madly prolific Boston outfit Ice Dragon — unveil three new songs (plus an intro) with the Oneiric Afterlife and in 10 minutes work to unravel about 30 years of genre convention while still tying their material to memorable hooks. “Bleed Neon,” “Indigo Dust” and “Only Forever” seem simple on the surface, and none of them touch four minutes long, let alone “A Gesture to Make a Stop,” the 26-second introduction, but their refusal of stylistic constraint is as palpable as it is admirable, with a blend of folk guitar and dark-dance-party keys and percussive insistence on “Bleed Neon” and a ’60s Halloweeny rock organ line in “Only Forever” that’s complemented by low-end fuzz and a chorus that would rightly embarrass Ghost if they heard it. In comparison, “Indigo Dust” is serene in its presentation, but even there is a depth of arrangement of keys, guitar, bass and drums, and the skill tying it all together as a cohesive sound is not to be understated. A quick listen with a lot to unpack, it’s not going to be everyone’s thing, but those who get it will be hit hard and rightly so.

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Mother Turtle, Three Sides to Every Story

mother turtle three sides to every story

The first of three tracks on Greek progwinders Mother Turtle‘s fourth LP, Three Sides to Every Story, “Zigu Zigu,” would seem to cap with a message of congratulations: “You’ve listened to three musicians indulging themselves with some kind of weird instrumental music.” It then goes on to question its own instrumentalism, because it has the words presently being spoken, continuing in this manner until a long fadeout of guitar leads to the funky start of the 15-minute-long “Notwatch.” Good fun, in other words. Mother Turtle maybe aren’t so weird as they think they are, but they are duly adventurous and obviously joyful in their undertaking, bringing chants in over drifting guitar and synth swirl in “Notwatch” before building to a crescendo of rock guitar and organ, ultimately dominated by a solo as it would almost have to be, before intertwining piano lines in 16:46 closer “A Christmas Postcard from Kim” lead to further shenanigans, vocal experimentation, plays on metal, holiday shimmer, and a fade into the close. At 38 minutes, Three Sides to Every Story doesn’t at all overstay its welcome, but neither is it an exercise looking for audience engagement in the traditional sense. Rather, it resonates its glee through its offbeat sensibility and thus works on its own level to craft a hook. One can’t help but smile while listening to the fun being had.

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Sound Effect Records website

 

The Legendary Flower Punk, Wabi Wu

The Legendary Flower Punk Wabi Wu

It is something to consider, perhaps as you dive into the nine-minute “Prince Mojito” on The Legendary Flower Punk‘s Wabi Wu, that the band started as a psych-folk solo-project. Currently working as a core trio plus a range of guests, the Russian troupe make their debut on Tonzonen with the brazenly prog seven-tracker, totaling just a 44-minute run but with a range that would seem to be much broader. Alternately jazzy and synth-laden, technically intricate but never overly showy, pieces like the bass-led “Azulejo” and the penultimate “Trance Fusion På Ryska” present a meeting of the minds with founding guitarist Kamille Sharapodinov at the center of most compositions, he and bassist Mike Lopakov and drummer Nick Kunavin digging into nothing’s-off-limits textures from fusion onward through New Wave and dub. The abiding rule followed seems to be whatever moves the band about a given track is what they roll with, and though The Legendary Flower Punk has evolved well beyond its origins, there’s still a bit of flower and still a bit of punk amid all the legends being made. Good luck keeping up with it.

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Tonzonen Records website

 

Slow, VI – Dantalion

Slow VI Dantalion

With the follow-up to 2018’s V – Oceans (review here), Belgian duo Slow rattle off another 78 minutes of utterly consuming, crushing, atmospheric and melancholic funeral doom like it’s absolutely nothing. Well, not like it’s nothing — more like it’s a weight on their very soul — but even so. Issued through Aural Music, VI – Dantlion brings the two-piece of guitarist/vocalist/drummer Déhà and bassist/lyricist Lore B. once again into the grueling, megalithic churn of self-inflicted riff-punishment that’s so encompassing, so dark, so deep and so dramatic it almost can’t help but also be beautiful. To wit, second track “Lueur” is a 17-minute downward journey into ambient brutalism, yet as it moves toward the midsection one can still hear melodic elements of keyboard and orchestral sounds peaking through. There is letup in the lush finale “Elégie,” but to get there, you have to make your way through “Incendiaire,” which is possibly the most extreme movement of the seven inclusions. Though frankly, after a while, you’re buried so far down by Slow‘s glorious miseries that it’s hard to tell. The world needs this band. They are what humanity would sound like if it was ever honest with itself.

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OKO, Haze

oko haze

Adelaide, Australia, newcomers OKO present their debut EP in the form of Haze, a 14:44 single-song outing that sees the instrumental three-piece of guitarist Nick Nancarrow, bassist Tyson Ruch and drummer Ash Matthews tap into organic heavy psych vibes while working cross-planet with Justin Pizzoferrato (known for his work with Elder, among others) on the mix and master. The resulting one-tracker has a clarity in its drum sound and clean feel that one suspects might speak of more progressive intentions on the part of OKO in the longer term, but as they are here they have a sense of tonal warmth that serves them well across the unpretentious span of “Haze” itself, the winding riff inevitably bringing to mind some of Colour Haze‘s jammier work but still managing to find its own direction. I hear no reason OKO can’t do the same, regardless of the influences they’re working under in terms of sound. Further, the longform modus suits them, and while future work will inherently develop some variety in general approach, the natural exploration they undertake on this first outing easily holds attention for its span and is fluid enough that, had they wanted, they could have pushed it further.

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Vug, Onyx

vug onyx

Vug are not the first European heavy rock band to blend vintage methods with modern production. They’re not the first band to take classic swagger and drum urgency and meld it with a pervasive sense of vocal soul. I’m not sure I’d tell them that though, because frankly, they’re doing pretty well with it. At its strongest, their Tonzonen-released sophomore outing, Onyx, recalls Thin Lizzy via, yes, Graveyard, but there’s enough clarity of intention behind the work to make it plain they know where they’re coming from. Such was the case as well with their 2018 self-titled debut (review here), and though they’ve had some lineup turnover since that first offering, the self-produced four-piece bring a character to their material on songs like “Tired Of” and the penultimate boogier “Inferno” before closing with the acoustic “Todbringer” — a mirror of side A’s “On My Own” — that they carry the classic-style 39-minute long-player off without a hitch, seeming to prep the heavy ’10s for a journey into a new decade.

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Noisolution webstore

 

Ultracombo, Season 1

Ultracombo Season 1

As the title hints, the Season 1 EP is the debut from Italy’s Ultracombo, and with it, the five-piece of vocalist Alessio Guarda, guitarists Alberto Biasin and Giordano Tasson, bassist Giordano Pajarin and drummer Flavio Gola work quickly to build the forward momentum that brings them front-to-back through the 23-minute five-track release. “Flusso” and opener “The King” feel particularly drawn from an earlier Truckfighters influence, but Guarda‘s vocals are a distinguishing factor amidst all that ensuing fuzz and straight-ahead drive, and in “Sparatutto” and the closer “Il Momento in Cui Non Penso,” they seem to strip their approach to its most basic aspects and bring together the tonal thickness and melodicism that’s been at root in their sound overall. The subtlety, such as it is, is to be found in their songwriting, which results in tracks that transcend language barriers through sheer catchiness. That bodes better for them on subsequent outings better than a wall o’ fuzz ever could, though of course that doesn’t hurt them either, especially their first time out.

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