Quarterly Review: Spelljammer, The Black Heart Death Cult, Shogun, Nadja, Shroud of Vulture, Towards Atlantis Lights, ASTRAL CONstruct, TarLung, Wizzerd & Merlin, Seum

Posted in Reviews on July 8th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

the-obelisk-fall-2016-quarterly-review

We proceed onward, into this ever-growing swath of typos, lineup corrections made after posting, and riffs — more riffs! — that is the Quarterly Review. Today is Day Four and I’m feeling good. Not to say there isn’t some manner of exhaustion, but the music has been killer — today is particularly awesome — and that makes life much, much, much better as I’ve already said. I hope you’ve found one or two or 10 records so far that you’ve really dug. I know I’ve added a few to my best of 2021 list, including stuff right here. So yeah, we roll on.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Spelljammer, Abyssal Trip

spelljammer abyssal trip

To envision an expanse, and to crush it. Stockholm three-piece Spelljammer return five years after Ancient of Days (review here), with an all-the-more-massive second long-player through RidingEasy, turning their front-cover astronaut around to face the audience head on and offering 43 minutes/six tracks of encompassing largesse, topping 10 minutes in the title-track and “Silent Rift,” both on side B with the interlude “Peregrine” between them, after the three side A rollers, “Bellwether,” “Lake” and “Among the Holy” have tripped out outward and downward into an atmospheric plunge that is a joy to take feeling specifically geared as an invite to the converted. We are here, come worship with us. Also get crushed. Spelljammer records may not happen all the time, but you won’t be through “Bellwether” before you’re saying it was worth the wait.

Spelljammer on Facebook

RidingEasy Records website

 

The Black Heart Death Cult, Sonic Mantras

The Black Heart Death Cult Sonic Mantras

A deceptively graceful second LP from Melbourne’s The Black Heart Death Cult, Sonic Mantras pulls together an eight-song/45-minute run that unfolds bookended by “Goodbye Gatwick Blues” (8:59) and “Sonic Dhoom” (9:47) and in between ebbs and flows across shorter pieces that maximize their flow in whether shoegazing, heavygazing, blissing out, or whatever we’re calling it this week on “The Sun Inside” and “One Way Through,” or finding their way to a particularly deadened meadow on “Trees,” or tripping the light hypnotic on “Dark Waves” just ahead of the closer. “Cold Fields” churns urgently in its 2:28 but remains spacious, and everywhere The Black Heart Death Cult go, they remain liquefied in their sound, like a seemingly amorphous thing that nonetheless manages to hold its shape despite outside conditions. Whatever form they take, then, they are themselves, and Sonic Mantras emphasizes how yet-underappreciated they are in emerging from the ever-busy Aussie underground.

The Black Heart Death Cult on Facebook

Kozmik Artifactz store

 

Shogun, Tetra

Shogun Tetra

Tetra is the third long-player from Milwaukee’s Shogun, and in addition to the 10-minute “Delta,” which marries blues gargle with YOB slow-gallop before jamming out across its 10-minute span, it brings straight-shooter fuzz rockers like “Gravitas,” the someone-in-this-band-listened-to-Megadeth-in-the-’90s-and-that’s-okay beginnings of “Buddha’s Palm/Aviary” and likewise crunch of “Axiom” later, but also the quiet classic progressive rock of “Gone Forever,” and the more patient coming together of psychedelia and harder-hitting movement on closer “Maximum Ray.” Somewhat undercut by a not-raw-but-not-bursting-with-life production, pieces like “Buddha’s Palm/Aviary,” which gives over to a sweeter stretch of guitar in its second movement, and “Vertex/Universal Pain Center,” which in its back end brings around that YOB influence again and puts it to good use, are outwardly complex enough to put the lie to the evenhandedness of the recording. There’s more going on in Tetra than it first seems, and the more you listen, the more you find.

Shogun on Facebook

Shogun on Bandcamp

 

Nadja, Luminous Rot

Nadja Luminous Rot

Keeping up with Nadja has proven nigh on impossible over the better part of the last two decades, as the Berlin-by-way-of-Toronto duo have issued over 25 albums in 19 years, plus splits and live offerings and digital singles and oh my goodness I do believe I have the vapors that’s a lot of Nadja. For those of us who flit in and out like the dilletantes we ultimately are, Luminous Rot‘s aligning Aidan Baker and Leah Buckareff with Southern Lord makes it an easy landmark, but really most of what the six-cut/48-minute long-player does is offer a reminder of the vital experimentalism the lazy are missing in the first place. The consuming, swelling drone of “Cuts on Your Hands,” blown-out sub-industrialism of “Starres,” hook of the title-track and careful-what-you-wish-for anchor riff of “Fruiting Bodies” — these and the noisily churning closer “Dark Inclusions” are a fervent argument in Nadja‘s favor as being more than a sometimes-check-in kind of band, and for immediately digging into the 43-minute single-song album Seemannsgarn, which they released earlier this year. So much space and nothing to lose.

Nadja on Facebook

Southern Lord Recordings website

 

Shroud of Vulture, Upon a Throne of Jackals

shroud of vulture upon a throne of jackals

Welcome to punishment as a primary consideration. Indianapolis death-doom four-piece hold back the truly crawling fare until “Perverted Reflection,” which is track three of the total seven on their debut full-length, Upon a Throne of Jackals, but by then the extremity has already shown its unrepentant face across the buried-alive “Final Spasms of the Drowned” and the oldschool death metal of “The Altar.” Centerpiece “Invert Every Throne” calls to mind Conan in its nod, but Shroud of Vulture are more about rawness than sheer largesse in tone, and their prone-to-blasting style gives them an edge there and in “Halo of Tarnished Light,” which follows. The closing pair of “Concealing Rabid Laughter” and “Stone Coffin of Existence” both top seven minutes and offset grueling tension with grueling release, but it’s the stench of decay that so much defines Upon a Throne of Jackals, as though somebody rebuilt Sunlight Studio brick for brick in Hoosier Country. Compelling and filthy in kind.

Shroud of Vulture on Facebook

Wise Blood Records website

Transylvanian Tapes on Bandcamp

 

Towards Atlantis Lights, When the Ashes Devoured the Sun

Towards Atlantis Lights When the Ashes Devoured the Sun

Ultra-grueling, dramatic death-doom tragedies permeate the second full-length, When the Ashes Devoured the Sun, from UK-based four-piece Towards Atlantis Lights, with vocalist/keyboardist Kostas Panagiotou and guitarist Ivan Zara at the heart of the compositions while bassist Riccardo Veronese and drummer Ivano Olivieri assure the impact that coincides with the cavernous procession matches in scope. The follow-up to 2018’s Dust of Aeons (review here), this six-track collection fosters classicism and modern apocalyptic vibes alike, and whether raging or morose, its dirge atmosphere remains firm and uncompromised. Heavy lumber for heavy hearts. The kind of doom that doesn’t look up. That doesn’t mean it’s not massive in scope — it is, even more than the first record — just that nearly everything it sees is downward. If there’s hope, it is a vague thing, lost to periphery. So be it.

Towards Atlantis Lights on Facebook

Kostas Panagiotou on Bandcamp

 

ASTRAL CONstruct, Tales of Cosmic Journeys

ASTRAL CONstruct Tales of Cosmic Journeys

It has been said on multiple occasions that “space is the place.” The curiously-capitalized Colorado outfit ASTRAL CONstruct would seem to live by this ethic on their debut album, Tales of Cosmic Journeys, unfurling as they do eight flowing progressions of instrumental slow-CGI-of-the-planets pieces that are more plotted in their course than jams, but feel built from jams just the same. Raw in its production and mix, and mastered by Kent Stump of Wo Fat, there’s enough atmosphere to let the lead guitar breathe, certainly, and to sustain life in general even on “Jettisoned Adrift in the Space Debris,” and the image evoked by “Hand Against the Solar Winds” feels particularly inspired given that song’s languid roll. The record starts and ends in cryogenic sleep, and if upon waking we’re transported to another place and another time, who knows what wonders we might see along the way. ASTRAL CONstruct‘s exploration would seem to be just beginning here, but their “Cosmos Perspective” is engaging just the same.

ASTRAL CONstruct on Instagram

ASTRAL CONstruct on Bandcamp

 

TarLung, Architect

TarLung Architect

Vienna-based sludgedrivers TarLung were last heard from with 2017’s Beyond the Black Pyramid (discussed here), and Architect continues the progression laid out there in melding vocal extremity and heavy-but-not-too-heavy-to-move riffing. It might seem like a fine line to draw, and it is, and that only makes songs like “Widow’s Bane” and “Horses of Plague” all the more nuanced as their deathly growls and severe atmospheres mesh with what in another context might just be stoner rock groove. Carcass circa the criminally undervalued Swansong, Six Feet Under. TarLung manage to find a place in stoner sludge that isn’t just Bongzilla worship, or Bongripper worship, or Bong worship. I’m not sure it’s worship at all, frankly, and I like that about it as the closing title-track slow-moshes my brain into goo.

TarLung on Facebook

TarLung on Bandcamp

 

Wizzerd & Merlin, Turned to Stone Chapter III

ripple music turned to stone chapter iii wizzerd vs merlin

Somewhere in the great mystical expanse between Kalispell, Montana, and Kansas City, Missouri, two practicioners of the riffly dark arts meet on a field of battle. Wizzerd come packing the 19-minute acoustic-into-heavy-prog-into-sitar-laced-jam-out “We Are,” as if to encompass that declaration in all its scope, while Merlin answer back with the organ-led “Merlin’s Bizarre Adventure” (21:51), all chug and lumber until it’s time for weirdo progressive fusion reggae and an ensuing Purple-tinged psych expansion. Who wins? I don’t know. Ripple Music in releasing it in the first place, I guess. Continuing the label’s influential split series(es), Turned to Stone Chapter III pushes well over the top in the purposes of both acts involved, and in that, it’s maybe less of a battle than two purveyors joining forces to weave some kind of Meteo down on the heads of all who might take them on. If you’ve think you’ve got the gift, they seem only too ready to test that out.

Wizzerd on Facebook

Merlin on Facebook

Ripple Music website

 

Seum, Winterized

Seum Winterized

“Life Grinder” begins with a sample: “I don’t know if you need all that bass,” and the answer, “Oh, you need all that bass.” That’s already after “Sea Sick Six” has revealed the Montreal-based trio’s sans-guitar extremist sludge roll, and the three-piece seem only too happy to keep up the theme. Vocals are harsh, biting, grating, purposeful in their fuckall, and the whole 28-minute affair of Winterized is cathartic aural violence, except perhaps the interllude “666,” which is a quiet moment between “Broken Bones” and “Black Snail Volcano,” which finally seems to just explode in its outright aggression, nod notwithstanding. A slowed down Ramones cover — reinventing “Pet Sematary” as “Red Sematary” — has a layer of spoken chanting vocals layered in and closes out, but the skin has been peeled so far back by then and Seum have doused so much salt onto the wounds that even Bongzilla might cringe. The low-end-only approach only makes it more punishing and more punk rock at the same time. Fucking mean.

Seum on Facebook

Seum on Bandcamp

 

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Album Review: Bongzilla, Weedsconsin

Posted in Reviews on April 28th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

bongzilla weedsconsin

None crustier. None more stoned. That’s the reputation that precedes Bongzilla headed into Weedsconsin, their first album in 16 years. That’s the standard. And while the Madison, Wisconsin, trio of Michael “Muleboy” Makela (bass/vocals, formerly guitar/vocals), guitarist Jeff “Spanky” Schultz and drummer Michael John “Magma” Henry have no doubt been busy in the intervening years working as high-power lobbyists toward the ultimate goal of marijuana legalization on the federal level in the US — an argument they state efficiently if not clearly in Muleboy‘s rasp on “Free the Weed” — their return to more riff-led weedian proselytizing is notable on its own merits in addition to the influence the band has had largely in their absence on a generation of underground listeners and players who’ve come to prominence in the years since 2005’s Amerijuanican was issued through Relapse Records.

Weedsconsin finds the band aligned with Heavy Psych Sounds, and with production by the late John Hopkins, who passed away in Nov. 2020 following a heart attack, Bongzilla sound utterly unmistakable. Their closest sonic kin have always been Weedeater — they would seem to pay homage with a short interlude that opens side B called simply “The Weedeater” — but the six-song/43-minute run of this collection makes that North Carolinian outfit seem accessible by comparison. Of course, the album arrives some six years after Bongzilla returned to touring, so they’ve had plenty of time work work out material, but the truth is that in 95 percent of cases, the prospect of a new full-length from this band was going to be a no-doubter. What, Bongzilla were going to become math metal? Embrace their inner djent? They’re fucking Bongzilla. The biggest favor they might do their attendant listenership, new and old, is to sound like it, and that’s exactly what they do on Weedsconsin.

The album opens sharp and purposeful with “Sundae Driver.” It’s the shortest inclusion at about four and a half minutes, and it builds a massive wall of lumbering fuzz to set a high tonal standard for the rest of what follows. If the message is to reassure their audience that Bongzilla know what’s expected of them and are ready to deliver, the harsh-lung gutturalism of “Sundae Driver”‘s verse dispenses immediately with all doubt. Atop a chugging riff that opens into a rolling hook, Muleboy earns copious nodules in nothing-too-fancy lines that are made impressive through the excruciating-sounding execution. The great balance of Bongzilla has always been between the stoned and the brutal. “Sundae Driver” calls out both in deceptively clear fashion, and “Free the Weed” follows with a bigger central riff that holds its line out and lets Magma‘s hi-hat hold the procession together until the next round of lurch kicks in. It is pummeling and arguably the highlight of Weedsconsin for how its second half flows into its solo section with the bass and guitar taking their respective whims for a walk, but really, pick your poison. If it’s jams you’re looking for, the best is surely yet to come.

bongzilla

To wit, side A wraps with “Space Rock,” the first of two inclusions on Weedsconsin to top 10 minutes long. Time well spent. A first few minutes lull the listener into hypnotic nod before the full low end weight kicks in circa 2:30 and continues to cycle through until the big slowdown into the stoner softshoe riff about a minute later, all classic swagger as the bed for the verse, echoing and largely indecipherable. They pick up speed, subtly, but ultimately make their way back to the mellower movement and use that as the launch point for a jam that consumes the rest of the song leads the way out of side A, with the 35-second “The Weedeater” following its rumbling end with a slow drum beat, sample and maybe a keyboard of some sort or guitar playing some sparse notes. There’s a hard stop before the subsequent, 15-minute “Earth Bong/Smoked/Mags Bags” arrives, but the two pieces connect just the same, and the three stages of Weedsconsin‘s sprawling exercise in instrumentalist fuckall likewise flow into each other as they inevitably would.

There are tempo shifts throughout — and maybe the coughing 10 minutes in signals a turn to “Mags Bags,” which puts the bass more forward before oozing out its central riff, more stoner than sludge if it even matters by then — but Bongzilla were right to put all this stuff into a single track and just roll it out, because by the time the drums and whatever percussion is included finishes out, they’ve well established they can do whatever the hell they want anyway and still come out on the other end red-eyed but otherwise unscathed. Slow stick-clicks later and the six-minute “Gummies” wraps with more mostly-instrumental plodding — there’s voice there, but it’s buried deep — as the band cap their first album in more than a decade and a half by getting willfully lost in the fog of their own making and inviting their listenership to do largely the same. That’s not to say they’re not following a plan throughout Weedsconsin, but the plan sounds like it was to get high and wander off, letting one heavy riff after the next lead where they will.

If you can think of a more fitting showing for Bongzilla to make than to return with a six-track album and jam out for more than half its runtime, I’d love to hear about it. The fact of the matter is Bongzilla after a quarter-century since their inception know what they’re about, and Weedsconsin is Bongzilla being Bongzilla. I don’t know what various hyperbole has been tossed the album’s way, but its central achievement is that it is Bongzilla. If you know the band, you know what they do, and this is what they do. If you’re new to the band, then consider Weedsconsin your representative start as you head deeper into their catalog. It’s not that they’re not trying anything new here, but the overarching context is so much the band’s own that it is simply inescapable. And that’s the point. You would ask no less of Bongzilla. That’s their standard, and they meet it dead-on, without flinching.

Bongzilla, Weedsconsin (2021)

Bongzilla on Thee Facebooks

Bongzilla on Instagram

Bongzilla on Bandcamp

Bongzilla website

Heavy Psych Sounds on Bandcamp

Heavy Psych Sounds website

Heavy Psych Sounds on Thee Facebooks

Gungeon Records on Bandcamp

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Bongzilla Stream “Sundae Driver”; Weedsconsin Preorders Available

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 3rd, 2021 by JJ Koczan

Well, the cover art certainly gets the point across, and I don’t think Bongzilla were likely to be accused of subtlety anyhow. April 20 — of course — is the release date for Weedsconsin, and preorders are up not through Heavy Psych Sounds. The opening track, “Sundae Driver,” was previously available as a live-room jam, and can now be streamed in its studio version, which somehow feels even crustier. Stoned stays stoned.

You’re not going to listen to “Sundae Driver” and think it’s some other band, let’s put it that way. I’m kind of curious to hear “The Weedeater,” since there’s a decent chance it’s about the band Weedeater, but even if not, whatever. I’ll take it either way. New Bongzilla. Riffs and such.

From the PR wire:

bongzilla weedsconsin

BONGZILLA release new single “Sundae Driver”; ‘Weedsconsin’ out 4/20 and available to preorder on Heavy Psych Sounds!

Midwest’s sludge behemoths and all-time weed metal pioneers BONGZILLA unleash their brand new single “Sundae Driver” exclusively on Decibel Magazine today! The song is taken from their forthcoming fifth album ‘Weedsconsin’, due out April 20th and available to preorder now through Heavy Psych Sounds.

Featuring a three-piece lineup of all original members—bassist/vocalist Muleboy, guitarist Spanky and drummer Magma— “Sundae Driver” delivers the kind of hazy, heavy-as-hell doom that BONGZILLA earned their reputation peddling. The riffs on “Sundae Driver” are low and slow, sounding like they originate in a smoke-filled room; paired with a flattening rhythm section, the instruments create the ideal backdrop for Muleboy’s throat-shredding, smoke-destroyed vocals.

On the fringe of chaos, in the Year of the Pandemic, the Cannabeast has awoken. World pioneers of Weed Metal BONGZILLA return with their new full-length album, sixteen years after their last record ‘Amerijuanican’. Over the span of ‘Weedsconsin’ six tracks, Bongzilla delivers heavy doses of crushing stoner doom and psychedelic space rock that sets it apart from earlier material.

This record travels down a path of heavy riffs, mind-expanding jams, sonic tones, and stomping beats in the band’s first release as a thunderous three piece, with Muleboy moving from guitar to bass. Approaching these songs as a three-piece has created more space musically and allowed the band to showcase their musicianship in a different way, resulting in a sound that is very heavy, along the lines of ‘Gateway’ tone-wise, but sonically clearer.

‘Weedsconsin’ was written by Muleboy (bass, vocals), Spanky (guitar), and Magma (drums) and recorded and mixed by the late John Hopkins at Future Apple Tree Studios in Rock Island, Illinois in October 2020. It was mastered by Carl Saff at Saff Mastering in Chicago, Illinois, with an artwork design by Eli Quinn. It will be released on April 20th, 2021 on various limited edition vinyls, black vinyl, CD and digital.

BONGZILLA New album ‘Weedsconsin’
Out April 20th on Heavy Psych Sounds
PREORDER: https://www.heavypsychsounds.com/shop.htm#HPS160

TRACKLIST:
1. Sundae Driver
2. Free the Weed
3. Space Rock
4. The Weedeater
5. Earth Bong, Smoked, Mags Bags
6. Gummies

Bongzilla are:
Mule Boy – Bass / Vocals
Spanky – Guitar
Magma – Drums

https://www.facebook.com/Bongzilla/
https://www.instagram.com/bongzillaband
https://bongzilla.bandcamp.com/
https://bongzilla666.com/
heavypsychsoundsrecords.bandcamp.com
www.heavypsychsounds.com
https://www.facebook.com/HEAVYPSYCHSOUNDS/

Bongzilla, “Sundae Driver”

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Bongzilla Sign to Heavy Psych Sounds

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 21st, 2021 by JJ Koczan

Wisconsin weedian institution Bongzilla have signed to Heavy Psych Sounds to release their awaited Weedsconsin LP. If that feels somewhat momentous, I think that’s justified. Though Bongzilla have been reunited for over a half-decade at this point, they haven’t had a new studio album since Relapse put out Amerijuanican in 2005. Some 16 years between records is not insignificant. To those wondering what Bongzilla might sound like circa 2021 — my guess is they fucking sound like Bongzilla. Weed, sludge, supreme.

Weedsconsin was recorded by John Hopkins, also known for his front-of-house work for SleepUncle AcidHigh on Fire and scores of others, who passed away just weeks after finishing the sessions. The band has overseen numerous reissues and other works through their own Crash Assailant Records and the ever-righteous Totem Cat Records, but in signing to Heavy Psych Sounds, they not only herald the new album, but link up with European booking as well, which — should touring ever become a thing again — will surely see them once again hitting the international market. The more the merrier.

The PR wire makes it official:

Bongzilla-signing

Bongzilla – Weedsconsin

We’re incredibly stoked and honored to announce that Cannabeasts BONGZILLA are now members of the HPS family !!

The Wisconsin Doom-Sludge legends singed to HPS Records for the new album called “WEEDSCONSIN” – 16 years since their last record !!!

BONGZILLA is also now part of the Heavy Psych Sounds Booking roster for Europe !!

We are ready to bring the band all over the best spots on our territory !!

NEW ALBUM PRESALE + FIRST TRACK PREMIERE and more surprises STARTS:
FEBRUARY 2nd at 16.00 CET

Mule Boy Quote: “I’m high! I’m Heavy Psyched on the Sounds! I’m Heavy Psyched on signing to HPS! Weedsconsin coming very soon! The Cannabeast has awoken! Stay Safe! Stay High!”

Bongzilla are:
Mule Boy – Bass / Vocals
Spanky – Guitar
Magma – Drums

https://www.facebook.com/Bongzilla/
https://www.instagram.com/bongzillaband
https://bongzilla.bandcamp.com/
https://bongzilla666.com/
heavypsychsoundsrecords.bandcamp.com
www.heavypsychsounds.com
https://www.facebook.com/HEAVYPSYCHSOUNDS/

Bongzilla, “Sundae Driver” live rehearsal

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20 Watt Tombstone Premiere “Midnight Train to Memphis” Year of the Jackalope

Posted in audiObelisk on January 14th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

20 Watt Tombstone Year of the Jackalope

I don’t know what day it is so don’t ask me, but on Jan. 22, Wisconsin burl-rocking duo 20 Watt Tombstone — not to be confused with 40 Watt Sun, Sixty Watt Shaman and/or whoever might dare to shine so brightly as 80 or 100 watts — will release their new two-songer covers EP, Year of the Jackalope. Is a jackalope a totally ridiculous made-up hybrid rabbit/antelope creature the mere mention of which might cause one to roll eyes or think of Bob Saget on old episodes of America’s Funniest Home Videos in the early ’90s? Yes. But one might easily say the same of the beast that was 2020, when these tracks were recorded, so fair’s fair. “Such is life,” as someone once told me.

Now then. The two-piece’s two-songer finds guitarist/vocalist Tom Jordan and drummer Mitch Ostrowski aligning themselves swiftly with that which is whiskey-soaked and riff-driven, a Southern heavy touch typifying the seven-minute stretch of the outing’s two covers, one of ZZ Top‘s “Just Got Paid” and one of country artist Chris Stapleton‘s “Midnight Train to Memphis.” Not quite new ground for the pair, who offered heavy blues stylings on their 2016 split with Left Lane Cruiser and debuted in 2014 20 watt tombstone year of the jackalopewith Wisco Disco, which boasted no shortage of slide-fueled weighted twang in “Pa Shot Ma” and the toying-with-country-convention “Shitty Girlfriend.” But while they’re in familiar-enough-for-them stylistic territory, they nonetheless accomplish the task before them with a satisfying heft and a rawer vibe that makes “Just Got Paid” and “Midnight Train to Memphis” sound all the more like songs 20 Watt Tombstone enjoy jamming on together and decided to put to tape and roll out to let people already following them know they still exist in a world without shows and maybe win a few new ears in the process. Pretense need not apply.

Such intention brooks little argument and neither does Ostrowski and Jordan‘s delivery of the songs, which despite their Upper Midwest origins in Wausau, sells the roll well in the song by Stapleton, who apparently one time dared to say that Black lives matter — a seemingly bold move for a country artist. Admittedly, I don’t know how ZZ Top feel on the subject. I’d almost be afraid to ask. So it goes.

Whatever 20 Watt Tombstone‘s plans were for last year and whatever they might be going into this year, let’s assume they’ve been fairly well jackaloped, but the EP is seven minutes of listening to a band play songs they dig and whatever the circumstances that made it happen, that’s never something to complain about. You can hear “Midnight Train to Mmphis” from Year of the Jackalope below, followed by copious PR wire info on the band.

Please enjoy:

On the A-side of this record comes a feel-good rocker – the working man’s rock of ZZ Top with their underrated “Just Got Paid”. The effortless slide guitar licks carry the perfect level of twang – while everything has undoubtedly been recorded live as 20 Watt Tombstone’s previous releases, they’ve cleaned up their act and it all sounds much crisper. Mitch Ostrowski’s drumming is no slack either, as he bangs down hard on his kit in perfect synchronicity.

The flipside of the record, however, takes a darker turn; here has a thundering version of “Midnight Train to Memphis” by Chris Stapleton. The name may not mean much outside of Southern rock and Americana circles, but his influence as a songwriter reaches widely into pop, country, and rock n’ roll. As such it’s only fitting to pay tribute to a man who has done so much for music. And tribute is paid – there is a wonderful gritty tone from the voice of the tower that is Tom Jordan, as he stretches out the chorus lines detailing a prisoner’s life.

And that’s all, folks. A small teaser of 20 Watt Tombstone’s heaviness, more focused on the blues side than the death side this time. If it is indeed the Year of the Jackalope and its scary face, then it is with a mixture of trepidation and excitement that we await for further material to emerge. Long live Wisco Disco!

20 Watt Tombstone on Thee Facebooks

20 Watt Tombstone on Instagram

20 Watt Tombstone on Bandcamp

20 Watt Tombstone website

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Bongzilla Post Lyrics for New Album Currently Being Recorded

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 3rd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

It does not matter your perspective on politics or social issues. Even if you’re someone who stays out of that particular fray, keeps your head down to the best of your ability and just tries to get through one day and into the next, there’s no question that doing so this year and in this moment is harder and more stressful than it was, say, in 2019 at this time. That’s as blanket a statement as I can make, and whether or not you believe in math, the numbers bear that out. “Everybody had a hard year,” said John Lennon.

Fine. You see where this is going. Wisconsin weed-sludge institution Bongzilla are currently in the studio recording their next LP — reportedly a double-album, maybe and hopefully called Weedsconsin — and their first in some terrifying amount of years and they’ve posted the lyrics for it. And much as one might seek and/or find some measure of momentary escape in smoke or edibles or whatever it is the kids do these days with their super-weed, I find too I’m able to put a modicum of distance between myself and the day’s anxious air just by reading the lyrics to “Sundae Driver” or “Earth Bong” or, indeed, “Weedsconsin.” The band posted the full markerboard on social media and have a couple quick studio updates to coincide. I’ve gathered and posted them below, in case they might also help you roll out your own brief escapism. Or whatever.

Incidentally, legal weed is on the ballot in my beloved home state of NJ today, and as someone who was arrested at the age of 18 for possession, I happily voted in favor. I doubt I’d be able to afford any at this point in my life, but it’s nice to think some other kids might not get screwed over by cops in that specific fashion, however else they still might.

Free the weed, and so on:

bongzilla lyrics

BONGZILLA STUDIO UPDATES:

Oct. 27 – Back in the studio! Home for the next week is Future Apple Tree Studios in Rock Island IL. Thank you to Jason Parris for loaning us the furnaces and 74 Slingerland kit for this session. Gt120mv and a od120. Full length coming soon brothers and sisters.

Oct. 30 – Vocals are done!! On to Spanky’s Geetar over dabs!!

Bongzilla are:
Mike “Muleboy” Makela – Guitar/Vocals
Jeff “Spanky” Schultz – Guitar
Cooter Brown – Bass
Mike “Magma” Henry – Drums

https://www.facebook.com/Bongzilla/
https://www.instagram.com/bongzillaband
https://bongzilla.bandcamp.com/
https://bongzilla666.com/
https://crawlspacebooking.com/

Bongzilla, “Sundae Driver” live rehearsal

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Days of Rona: Sam Wallman of Ahab’s Ghost & Shogun

Posted in Features on May 18th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

The ongoing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, the varied responses of publics and governments worldwide, and the disruption to lives and livelihoods has reached a scale that is unprecedented. Whatever the month or the month after or the future itself brings, more than one generation will bear the mark of having lived through this time, and art, artists, and those who provide the support system to help uphold them have all been affected.

In continuing the Days of Rona feature, it remains pivotal to give a varied human perspective on these events and these responses. It is important to remind ourselves that whether someone is devastated or untouched, sick or well, we are all thinking, feeling people with lives we want to live again, whatever renewed shape they might take from this point onward. We all have to embrace a new normal. What will that be and how will we get there?

Thanks to all who participate. To read all the Days of Rona coverage, click here. — JJ Koczan

sam wallman ahab's ghost shogun

Days of Rona: Sam Wallman of Ahab’s Ghost (Milwaukee, Wisconsin)

How have you been you dealing with this crisis as a band? As an individual? What effect has it had on your plans or creative processes?

Things are weird for sure. I was in the middle of a job change when COVID hit, so that made for an interesting month where I didn’t do a whole lot, but I was worried whether I would have a job at the end or not. Fortunately enough, I’ve started my new job and it seems to be steady for the time being. For both Shogun and Ahab’s Ghost things have definitely slowed down quite a bit. Both bands took about a month off when Wisconsin was under Safer at Home with more strict restrictions. For Shogun, this year’s focus was trying play as much as possible in support of the record we released this last Friday. With COVID we were forced to pivot and change our strategy — the focus needed to change to writing and recording new material, learning covers, and playing live sets on social media. It can be difficult because it’s hard to always be creative or be in the mood to be creative, but we have enough small projects to work on that even if we aren’t feeling inspired we can move on and still be productive. For Ahab’s Ghost we are just now starting up again, Joe (the bassist/singer) and I laid down a couple new ideas for a new song last week. An independent radio station reached out to us to be a part of a live set series they are doing. As of now it sounds like we will prerecord a set and then they will have a live broadcast later on. I engineered two of the Shogun and Ahab’s Ghost’s records and run a project studio with some DSLR’s, so thankfully it’s been easy to change emphasis because we have access to the tools. The process remains for the most part the same, but the overarching landscape has definitely changed and its ambiguous as to what the future looks like.

How do you feel about the public response to the outbreak where you are? From the government response to the people around you, what have you seen and heard from others?

I think the state of Wisconsin has done for the most part a pretty good job on social distancing , but I am little worried that we are opening up too quickly. I think the economic implications are pretty profound and it seems like we are in uncharted territory, so I understand that concern. However, humanity seems to have a pattern of wanting short term validation even though delayed gratification can lead to better results, so we’ll see! I think there’s a lot of (warranted) fear because of uncertainty in the world today. Everyone seems frustrated but I think that’s sort of unavoidable. I think the best we can do is stay involved and try to lend a helping hand when we can.

What do you think of how the music community specifically has responded? How do you feel during this time? Are you inspired? Discouraged? Bored? Any and all of it?

I think they have responded to the best of their ability. I’m most worried about people who earn a living on live music, whether it’s musicians, venue owners, or bartenders. One of the best venues in Milwaukee (shout out to the Cactus Club!) was bought just before all this hit. Everyone seemed to be very excited because the new owner kicks ass, and the venue was thinking about switching to an all ages venue (a unique phenomena in the beer capitol of the world). I really hope they are able to make it, but I imagine their story is similar to many other local venues. I personally feel invigorated and motivated to make and create — but I want to recognize that I am very fortunate not to have to worry about healthcare, lost job/wages, and all of the other concerns going around. I’ve been writing some new Shogun songs, and then working on a full length album for a side-project named Call Me Sparkles that I’m slowly forming right now. I am lucky because I play multiple instruments and run a project studio so I can come up with a rough copy of a song and have the guitar, drums, bass, keys, vocals, etc all fleshed out pretty quickly.

What is the one thing you want people to know about your situation, either as a band, or personally, or anything? What is your new normal? What have you learned from this experience, about yourself, your band, or anything?

We are all doing fine. Please buy music, donate, or merch from larger bands who are consistently touring acts if you are able to. Their lives have been more or less on hold since this started, whereas bands like us still have a day job to make ends meet. Our new normal is just taking it week by week until we can play live shows and sort of return to some normalcy. I really want to emphasize the need for rational thought, love, compassion, and grace in such trying times, and that we cannot let fear, anxiety, anger, and the torch mob influence our actions.

http://www.facebook.com/ahabsghost
https://ahabsghostband.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/shogunwiband/
https://shogunwi.bandcamp.com/

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Twin Wizard Premiere “Ghost Train Haze” Video; Debut LP Glacial Gods Out Today

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

twin wizard video

Say hello to Twin Wizard. The Illinois/Wisconsin duo brings together guitarist/vocalist Brad Van of long-undervalued rockers Droids Attack with drummer Anthony Dreyer, whose prior outfit, Telekinetic Yeti, flamed out hard — and, frankly, ugly — after a quick ascent following their debut album, but will nonetheless continue in some form or other, obviously without Dreyer involved. Twin Wizard, meanwhile, release their debut album, Glacial Gods, today (!), and will follow up with vinyl and CD availability on April 13. Preorders are up now direct from the band, and as the 35-minute seven-tracker culls together riff after pummeling, massively-fuzzed riff, locking in classic and humongous stoner metal grooves, a preorder seems well justified, particularly given the LP’s limited numbers (150 total).

I’m not just talking about riffs. I’m talking about riffs for the soul. “Ghost Train Haze,” which opens the album, is literally and figuratively only the beginning. “Sky Burial,” “Smoke Wizard,” the seven-and-a-half-minute centerpiece “Cult of Yeti” — these songs evoke the dare-you-to-climb-it tower of amplification in the video for the lead cut, and as the admirably bearded Dreyer pounds away at his kit and Van runs his guitar through bass and six-string tones alike, he also burls up his vocal approach, touching on the melodies that one suspects will emerge more over time and the band’s subsequent work while in the interim laying claim to a gruff, early-Cisneros feel that’s perfectly suited to the fuzz, keeps just an edge of punk, and fits well alongside the punctuation of the drums.

Twin Wizard Glacial GodsWith guitar effects/drone transitions between the tracks, a sense of atmosphere is created and manipulated, setting a world in which the songs take place, the riffs seeming to emerge from this ether one after the other. Still, as “Cult of Yeti” devolves gloriously into a noisy morass, undoing the structural clarity presented in “Ghost Train Haze” and the hookier “Smoke Wizard,” it is all the more hypnotic for its longer dronal excursion. It makes no attempt to return once it’s gone — a choice that’s hard to argue with once “Ghostwriter” crashes in, its balance of chug and gallop seeming to straighten out what “Sky Burial” so purposefully made cyclical in the rhythm, while keeping the song itself short at under four minutes long in order to provide an intro of manipulated and particularly doomy bells for “Apothecary.”

Only appropriate, though given the Sabbath and Sleep familiarity of some of the riffs, perhaps they should’ve titled “Apothecary” something related to ghostwriting as well. The righteous dig-in is obviously willful — it ain’t like Twin Wizard are trying to tell you they invented the riff to “Black Sabbath” or to “Dragonaut” — and even the ending nod to “War Pigs” is a dogwhistle to the doomed converted, which only brings to emphasis how much fun Glacial Gods is on the whole. Large credit for that has to go to Dreyer, who would seem to have imported some of the band’s mission from his prior tonally-minded two-piece, but even as “Cult of Yeti” rounds out the album as the second in a seven-song tracklisting to include the word “yeti” in the title — one hopes they keep the theme; like the many faces of the blues different artists have crafted over the last century-plus — it is also given an intro, this time of a stretch of looped guitar that slams into a brief but severe single-riff instrumental finish that, well, certainly gets its point across. The point is that it’s awesome. Message received and understood.

Two hopes for Twin Wizard. One, they do more. Two, they tour. That’s all there is to it. Given the quality of the work they do here and the pedigree Dreyer and Van bring, it’s hard to imagine some label won’t pick them up should they want to go that route, but whether they do or not, Glacial Gods is loaded with forward potential that only shows the project as being worth pursuing in a real, dedicated way. The video for “Ghost Train Haze,” which captures the band playing to and then as — wait for it — a sasquatch, is a blast and though I wouldn’t want to be standing in front of the stage as Van tosses his half-full beer onto the floor, it is a show I’d want to see. And one that, given what they do on the record, I’ll hope to see sooner than later.

Enjoy “Ghost Train Haze” below:

Twin Wizard, “Ghost Train Haze” official video premiere

Twin Wizard is proud to make their debut with their first single from their record entitled “Glacial Gods”. Here is the debut music video for the song “Ghost Train Haze”.

Twin Wizard is a two piece band consisting of Anthony Dreyer previously of Telekinetic Yeti and Brad Van of Droids Attack. Glacial Gods was recorded and mixed at Flat Black Studios by Luke Tweedy. Mastering by Carl Saff. Video produced by Natalie Hinckley of Hinckley Productions.

Track listing for Glacial Gods
1. Ghost Train Haze
2. Sky Burial
3. Smoke Wizard
4. Cult of Yeti
5. Ghostwriter
6. Apothecary
7. Electric Yeti

Digital release Friday 3/13. Vinyl & CD 4/13.

Pre-order the record on vinyl/cd at https://twinwizard.bigcartel.com/

Twin Wizard are:
Anthony Dreyer – Drums
Brad Van – Guitar/Vocals

Twin Wizard on Thee Facebooks

Twin Wizard on Bandcamp

Twin Wizard webstore

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