Live Review: Brant Bjork & Ecstatic Vision in New Jersey, 09.20.19

Posted in Reviews on September 21st, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Brant Bjork (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Good coffee at the Debonair Music Hall. Someone there clearly gives a crap about it. The menu advertises it as a custom blend, which can mean anything from they hand-pick the beans at the roaster to they pour two smaller cans of instant into one bigger can, but it came in a small French press and was served with a glass mug that perfectly contained the liquid when poured into it with nothing left to sit too long in its own grounds. Even the little bit of sludge that came through in the bottom of the mug tasted good. It was $3 a cup and worth every penny and then some.

I found this out while sitting upstairs and watching Added Color launch the three-band evening topped by Ecstatic Vision and Brant Bjork. They were more hard rock than heavy rock, and if you don’t think there’s a difference I’m going to guess you haven’t heard much hard rock lately. Just not my thing. They covered Rage Against the Machine‘s “Bulls on Parade” with the drummer and guitarist sharing vocal duties. They were tight, performed well, all the rest of it. Just not my thing. So I went up to the balcony, sat down, and ordered a coffee. No regrets on that.

It was release day for Ecstatic Vision‘s new album, For the Masses (review here), and they celebrated with a good amount of the new album live, including closer “Grasping the Void” and, reportedly for the first time, the especially-wild “Like a Freak.” Line of the night went to frontman Doug Sabolik — joined in the band by bassist Michael Field Connor, guitarist/saxophonist/flutist Kevin Nickles and drummer Ricky Kulp — who, before they ignited into one or the other of their riotous heavy space rock anthems of personal freedom, said, “I called Dave Wyndorf to try and get him to come to the show, but he never takes my calls.” That got a chuckle out of me, and it was backed by the kind of cosmic burst that called to mind Monster Magnet at their most Hawkwindian, as Sabolik switched back and forth between playing guitar and not, seeming to wind up and throw his buried-under-wash, semi-shouted lyrics at the crowd standing up front, who only increased in number while they played.

The new stuff? Killer. The tour had hit Brooklyn the night before with River Cult and It’s Not Night: It’s Space on the bill, and would head down to Ecstatic Vision‘s native Philly the following night, with Heavy Temple opening, but either way, this show was just about halfway through the 16-gig run, and Ecstatic Vision played like it. Smiling on stage, their energy was infectious, and with the flashing lights, Nickles swapping out his guitar for a sax or flute — and yes, he did kick his leg up Ian Anderson-style when the flute came out; how could he not? — and Sabolik‘s nigh-on-perfected Stooges-era-IggyPop-turned-acid-priest preach met by periodic megaphone harmonica or stepping down into the crowd to go over and stand on one of the chairs toward the back of the room, yeah, it was right on. Very much the kind of set an album like For the Masses deserved on the day it came out. It had been a while since I last saw them, but they were pure, righteous mania.

And though it’s a somewhat counterintuitive match on paper, Ecstatic Vision were also a great lead-in for their Heavy Psych Sounds labelmate Brant Bjork. Of course, the desert rock mainstay’s style is more laid back as it would almost have to be, but the vibe was nothing if not warm after Ecstatic Vision played — scorched, more like — so as Bjork and his Low Desert Punk Band came out and did a quick line check before hitting into “Swagger and Sway” and “Chocolatize” from last year’s Mankind Woman (review here), “Stokely up Now” from 2014’s Black Power Flower (review here) and the boogie-down “Humble Pie” from 2016’s Tao of the Devil (review here). With collaborator Bubba Dupree on guitar, secret-weapon Dave Dinsmore on bass and Ryan Güt on drums, it was the same lineup that featured on the Europe ’16 (review here) live record, and well, they had it nailed three years ago, so, what, they would have lost it? Hell no. Chemistry full-on, groove full-on, heavy full-on. If you ever needed a reason to visit Teaneck, New Jersey, on a surprisingly balmy Friday, watching Brant Bjork and his band jam out more than an hour of the finest in Low Dez-nod is about the best I could hope to come up with.

I can’t imagine Debonair Music Hall was as packed as either Brooklyn or Philly would’ve been, but shit. The chance to see Brant Bjork play at all is something special, let alone play in my beloved Garden State. And whether or not the building hit capacity, I don’t think anything was going to stop Brant Bjork from delivering his show. “Mankind Woman,” “The Greeheen,” “Controllers Destroyed” and the mellow jam “Somebody” that brought Dupree‘s vocals into the mix emphasized the crucial work Bjork has done over his last couple records, while a particularly dug-in take on “Let the Truth Be Known” from 2005’s Saved by Magic, and “Too Many Chiefs… Not Enough Indians,” “Low Desert Punk” and the set-finale “Automatic Fantastic” with its clarion riff prefaced by Dinsmore in the jammy “Lazy Bones” represented Bjork‘s recently-reissued ultra-essential 1999 solo debut, Jalamanta (review here; also discussed here), with due vitality. The classics, alive! By the time they were hitting into “Low Desert Punk,” they owned the room and did not relinquish that until Bjork gradually turned down his guitar feeding back as it rested in front of his cabinet on stage. I called it his Sunn O))) cover, because I’ve always been the clever sort, but the bit of residual noise was welcome either way. You take what you can get.

If you’re reading this — and thanks if you are — I’m going to assume you don’t need me to tell you to go see Brant Bjork when and if the opportunity should present itself. Aside from his legit-legendary pedigree as drummer for Kyuss and Fu Manchu, his founding and underrated work with Ché and the two decades he’s put into building a solo-ish catalog that’s made for more than a few highlights of desert rock as a whole, the set’s a party. There’s no substitute for a good time, and that’s a good time. So yes, go. And have a good time. Buy a shirt when it’s over and tell Bubba Dupree his lead tone is incredible, because it is.

Because it was Teaneck and that’s how North Jersey rolls, I was back at my ancestral homestead about half an hour after the show ended, give or take for a wrong turn or two on the way. Takes a while to get your bearings after something like that, I guess, which is a small price to pay for having “Automatic Fantastic” stuck in my head, I can only hope into perpetuity.

More pics after the jump. Thanks again for reading.

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Friday Full-Length: Earthless, Sonic Prayer Jam

Posted in Bootleg Theater on September 20th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Earthless, Sonic Prayer Jam (2005/2012)

 

You can’t really talk about Earthless without talking about the live experience — about watching Isaiah MitchellMike Eginton and Mario Rubalcaba wail on their songs and ride to the point of consumption what’s as close to genuinely classic heavy rock as anything you’ll ever find outside of 1973 regardless of any vintage posturing other acts might do. Sonic Prayer was their debut album in 2005, and Sonic Prayer Jam was the subsequent live 10″. Both were released by Gravity Records, and the latter was reissued in 2012 as a 54-minute beast they still basically call an EP — and I guess you can do that kind of thing when you’re Earthless and no one thinks twice about “Sonic Prayer Jam Part 1” being nearly 32 minutes long — and though 14 years later it might seem primitive in comparison to the band that Earthless would mature into being, there are more than a few key signifiers in the audio that remain the core of their approach. Mitchell‘s guitar weaves seamlessly between shred and effects-soaked sprawl. Eginton‘s bass provides the grounding element in its crucial repetitions from which the other players explore outer reaches. And Rubalcaba is not only in-pocket and on-swing, but he propels the proceedings outright. Like, kaboom.

It’s kind of funny how, given how much reverence and hyperbole has been tossed Earthless‘ way especially in recent years, you don’t really hear much about their beginnings. There isn’t much hype around the “origin story.” Rubalcaba was in Hot Snakes and Rocket from the CryptMitchell was in Lions of Judah, and Eginton was in a band called Electric Nazarene. Then they decided to form a band and were in Earthless together. Pretty straightforward, but I guess there’s an important narrative happening beneath that as well in the lack of narrative. Think of it this way: the way that story tells it, Earthless just happened. There was no great band meeting about “what are we going to sound like?” or anything like that. They plugged in, jammed, were able to follow where the songs were leading them and decided to stay there. I don’t know how accurate that is, but it certainly suits the righteous sonic spread the three-piece have conjured over the last decade and a half, and the influence they had on a San Diego-based band boom comprising a generation’s worth of players with an affinity for classic heavy rock that, at least in part, is an affinity for Earthless‘ affinity.

As for Sonic Prayer Jam, how you listen to it depends widely on format. If you get the 10″ — still possible on the secondary market — the set recorded at The Casbah earthless sonic prayer jamon Jan. 3, 2004, is edited. If you get the 12″, it’s edited differently. If you get the CD, which is also the 2012 reissue version, “Sonic Prayer Jam” itself is still split into two part, but the first runs the aforementioned 32 minutes and the “Sonic Prayer Jam Part 2” answers back at 16:55 before they close with “Cherry Red” at 5:31. I’m not sure I’m comfortable calling one definitive and the others not, but the more the merrier, really. Especially in hindsight, the raw, echoing, looping effects and exploratory vibe of Sonic Prayer Jam shows how right Earthless were even at that nascent point in their career, and while they weren’t by any means the first heavy band to offer longform jamming, or even the first American band of their generation to do so, there could be no denying the power of their delivery, whether it’s Rubalcaba punishing his snare as “Sonic Prayer Jam Part 1” noisily transitions into the subsequent second portion or the ultra-tight winding direction of “Cherry Red.” A lot of bands kill it right from the start, but Earthless were Earthless already in 2004 and Sonic Prayer Jam proves it. It was just a matter of everyone else figuring it out.

Their material, especially their studio stuff, would become more plotted, but Earthless have remained keenly aware of what they bring to the stage in playing live, and they’ve done well to continue to represent that. Still, in highlighting an earlier moment for the band, Sonic Prayer Jam nonetheless offers more than academic value for the already-converted. Even if one didn’t know the band or what they were about, it’s the kind of thing you put on and someone says, “Who is this?” Rightly so. The whole point of Earthless even in their early going would seem to have been to blow minds. “Sonic Prayer Jam Part 1” finds them so dug into the proceedings that they barely manage to resurface before shifting into the next phase of the jam, and by tossing out a masterful wash of effects amid extended solos, punctuated with a nigh-on-manic sense of purpose in the drums and bass, Earthless put emphasis on the fact that it was the sheer level of their performance more than any grand stylistic statement that was going to distinguish them over the longer term, though admittedly, they’ve been widely influential in terms of style as well, as manifest in the number of other outfits who try to capture even a fraction of the vitality in Sonic Prayer Jam, some succeeding to a degree, but no one ultimately coming close to what Earthless do and did — as Sonic Prayer Jam shows — even in their formative years.

And yes, “Cherry Red” has vocals. Falsetto vocals, at that. It was legitimately a big deal when last year Earthless offered up Black Heaven (review here) and reshuffled their priorities to feature vocals and more straightforward songcraft, but it wasn’t exactly out of nowhere. And sure enough, Black Heaven had a complementary live outing in later 2018’s From the West (review here), in similar fashion to From the Ages (review here) being followed by a couple of limited live releases or 2007’s Rhythms from a Cosmic Sky being met by 2008’s landmark Live at Roadburn (discussed here), a watershed moment for the band and the growth of their international influence. That’s a set that those who were there continue to talk about. I’d imagine it’s much the same for anyone who happened to be at the Casbah and hung around to hear Mitchell wish the crowd a Happy New Year after the band wrapped up “Cherry Red.” Hell, I wasn’t even there and I’m talking about it, so yeah. Happy New Year.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

It’s my wedding anniversary this week. I’ve been married for 15 years and we’ve been together for 22. Asking The Patient Mrs. to marry me was hands down the best decision I ever made. Nothing else comes remotely close.

Up and down week, as most seem to be these days. Anxiety about the paperwork end of acquiring the ancestral homestead. The Patient Mrs. busy with the new job. The Pecan not really understanding where his mom is after she just had the summer off from teaching, and mad about it. He had a good day or two this week, one hard day and one medium day. We’ll see how today goes when he wakes up, I guess, but that’s kind of how it is at this point every day. We’ll see how it goes. I’m just trying to get through, honestly.

Tonight is Brant Bjork and Ecstatic Vision in Teaneck, NJ. Same place Crowbar and Lo-Pan played a bit ago. They hit Brooklyn last night with River Cult and It’s Not Night: It’s Space, and that would’ve been awesome to see, but no way was I going to be able to go to NYC two nights in a row after about three hours of sleep and hope to enjoy myself whatsoever. I don’t know much about whoever is opening the Jersey show, but whatever. I’ll put the baby to bed and then head out, and yes, see how it goes.

Review of that on Monday along with a full-album stream of the new Goatess and the new single from Witch Mountain, which isn’t a premiere but is exciting nonetheless. Maybe a Bison Machine stream on Tuesday and a Ramprasad track premiere, Wednesday, Cycles of the Damned do a bit of the extreme post-metal thing, and I think on Thursday I’m going to do myself a favor and review the Blackwater Holylight record. Friday I’ll put up an interview I did last week with Parker Griggs from Radio Moscow where we talk about his new band El Perro. That was pretty cool.

I don’t know if anyone listens to those or not, but I’ve been having fun posting them, so whatever.

It’s about 20 minutes before 6AM, so I think I’m gonna leave it there and maybe go crash for a minute. I was so dead on my feet by the time I was doing dishes after dinner last night. The Pecan had woken up and The Patient Mrs. had him yelling on the baby monitor. She went upstairs to his room to check on him and put him back down and I was unconscious by the time she got back. With another late night pending for tonight, every minute counts.

Thanks for reading and have a great and safe weekend. Forum, radio, merch.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

The Obelisk shirts & hoodies

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Psycho Smokeout 2.0 Set for April 18; Weedeater, Acid King & More Confirmed

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 20th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Hey Psycho Smokeout 2.0 — sick fuggin’ lineup. With one headliner still TBA next month Psycho Entertainment and RidingEasy Records pair up to present the likes of Weedeater, Acid King, The Obsessed, Cough, Mondo Drag, Heavy Temple, The Well, Holy Grove, Salem’s Bend, and on and on, all on one day — April 18, 2020. Considering there are 19 acts confirmed, let’s assume there will be multiple stages going. I don’t know what that’ll do to the schedule — certainly possible to alternate — but however it happens, it’s a badass assemblage and there’s more to come. Tickets are on sale now, because seriously, why the hell wait?

So yes. Why wait?

From the PR wire:

psycho smokeout 2.0

PSYCHO SMOKEOUT 2.0 To Take Place April 18th, 2020; Lineup Includes Weedeater, The Obsessed, Acid King, Cough, And More + Early Bird Tickets On Sale Now!

Behold! PSYCHO SMOKEOUT 2.0 will make its annual descent upon Los Angeles’ multi-level Catch One Riff Compound April 18th, 2020!

Brought to you by Psycho Entertainment and RidingEasy Records, this year’s day-long puffathon features performances from nearly two-dozen artists including North Caroline stoner metal goliaths Weedeater, Maryland doom icons The Obsessed, California stoner rock veterans Acid King, and Virginia sludge bringers Cough, with the final headliner to be unveiled later this fall. Spread across three stages, the glassy-eyed gala will include a massive vendor market and more surprises to be announced in the weeks to come.

Early bird tickets for PSYCHO SMOKEOUT 2.0 go on sale Thursday September 19th. The limited early bird tickets are a cool $39 plus fees and are expected to sellout within 48 hours of being announced. The next tier will be $49 plus fees. The final tier will be $59 plus fees. Don’t sleep on this!

Nab your tickets today at THIS LOCATION.

PSYCHO SMOKEOUT 2.0 is a 420 friendly, 18 and over event.

Psycho Entertainment & RidingEasy Records Presents:
PSYCHO SMOKEOUT 2.0
April 18th, 2020
Catch One Riff Compound
Los Angeles, California

Lineup (in alphabetical order):
Acid King
Casket Raider
Cough
Deathchant
Great Electric Quest
Heavy Temple
Holy Grove
India Tigers In Texas
Leather Lung
Mondo Drag
Mother Iron Horse
Mountain Tamer
Pale Mare
Salem’s Bend
The Munsens
The Obsessed
The Well
Vaelmyst
Weedeater

http://www.vivapsycho.com/
http://www.ridingeasyrecs.com

Holy Grove, II (2018)

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Cortége Announce Fall Tour Dates Supporting New Album Capricorn

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 20th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

cortege

Austin-based Western-style heavy post-rockers Cortége are gearing up for the slated Sept. 27 release date of their new album, Capricorn, and after the record comes out, they’ll embark on the ‘Fall Capricorn Tour ’19,’ the naming for which I guess is pretty straightforward. Because I was curious — and ignorant, can’t forget that — I actually had to look up when the zodiac sign of Capricorn runs from and to. If you’re curious, it’s Dec. 22-Jan. 20. Okay. The tour, on the other hand, is from Oct. 12-Nov. 3. That makes it part-Libra, mostly-Scorpio. Does this matter? Probably not, but it’s kind of fun.

Anyway, I’ve kind of dug into the record at this point and it’s moody as you’d expect, but has the vibe down pat. They’ve been streaming a track that you can hear below, and yeah, it’s just the right kind of bum-out.

Here’s word from the PR wire:

cortege tour

Post-Western Doom/Drone Duo Cortége Announce ‘Capricorn Fall Tour 19’

Post-Western Doom/Drone Duo Cortége will embark on the ‘Capricorn Fall 19 Tour’ in October. Tour dates are below.

Exploring the wide dynamic between the two players,Capricorn is a monster work and the most musically varied recording to date. Although keeping the traditional instrumental theme throughout, the album explores the story of a misguided and waylaid explorer of space and his experiences in a foreign world. Complete with a fully illustrated comic book insert to help listeners along in the story and an accompanying music video directed by Lake Travis Film Festival founder and director Kat Albert, the record takes the band’s deepest influences to a wide and poignant actualization.

Now with their first international dates booked and an sprawling East Coast tour scheduled in support of Capricorn for the late Fall, the band readies themselves to cover more ground than ever before.

The vinyl LP version of Capricorn features beautiful transparent white vinyl, and includes a comic book by Dan Marschner detailing the story and concept of the album via gorgeous illustrations inspired by sci-fi pop art of decades past.

10/12 Austin, TX Skull Mechanix
10/13 Tulsa, OK Whittier Bar
10/15 St. Louis, MO Foam
10/16 Chicago, IL The Owl
10/17 Detroit, MI PJ’s Lager House
10/18 Toronto, ON Grand Gaerrand (w/ The Well)
10/19 Ottawa, ON Avant-Garde Bar
10/20 Montreal, ON Katacombes (w/ The Well)
10/22 Boston, MA O’Brien’s Pub
10/23 Wallingford, CT Cherry Street Station
10/24 Philadelphia, PA Century
10/25 New York, NY Gussy’s Bar
10/26 Frederick, MD Guido’s Speakeasy
10/27 Washington, D.C. Velvet Lounge
10/29 Raleigh, NC Slim’s Downtown
10/30 Columbia, SC Curiosity Coffee
10/31 Jacksonville, FL Jack Rabbits
11/1 Tallahassee, FL The Bark
11/2 New Orleans, LA Banks St Bar
11/3 Lafayette, LA Freetown Boom Boom Room

Cortége will release debut album Capricorn on September 27 on CD and vinyl LP. Members Mike Swarbick and Adrian Voorhies (ex-Canyon of the Skull, ex-Humut Tabal) create a listening experience that is at once heavy, experimental, and utterly cinematic, a primary feature thereof the captivate tones of tubular bells, as well as Roland string synthesizer, Moog Taurus synthesizer, and waterphone.

Cortége is:
Mike Swarbrick – Bass Guitar, Synthesizers, Percussion & Tape Delay
Adrian Voorhies (ex Canyon of the Skull, ex Humut Tabal) – Drums

cortege.bandcamp.com/
facebook.com/cortegeatx/
instagram.com/cortegeatx/

Cortége, Capricorn (2019)

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Black Electric Debut Album Due on Vinyl Nov. 17; Streaming Now

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 20th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

black electric

So, maybe it’s not a surprise that Black Electric are releasing their debut album on CD and LP through Magnetic Eye Records this Nov., and less so when you consider that Mike Vitali, who handles multiple instruments as well as vocals on the offering — which the band put out digitally last month — is also the honcho behind the label. At that point, why go anywhere else?

Vitali has a live incarnation of the band playing shows now — two are booked for this weekend in Albany, New York, for example — and reportedly there’s already more new stuff in the works, so I’ll be curious to know which version of the band ultimately wins out, or if one does at all and there isn’t just a live version and a studio version going forward. That’d be kind of interesting too. Don’t see a lot of that kind of thing these days.

Did you catch the part where I said the album’s been out for a month? Cool, because I wouldn’t want you to miss it streaming at the bottom of the post. I know how easy it is to get to the links and begone. Here’s info from the PR wire before you get there:

Black Electric Black Electric

BLACK ELECTRIC Strips Rock Down to its Essence on Self-Titled Debut

Albany heavy blues rockers BLACK ELECTRIC have emerged with a stripped-down, hook-centric debut that’s as catchy as it is understated.

The creation of multi-instrumentalist Mike Vitali, Black Electric’s music has a bit in common with his previous bands, but draws far more from the intersection of traditional blues and early 70s dive bar rock ‘n roll.

With boundary-pushng and heavily distorted past projects like Ajna Chakra, Ironweed and Greatdayforup to his credit, Vitali spent several years building taste-maker independent label Magnetic Eye Records, which (of course) inevitably demanded much of the attention he’d once devoted to music.

So, in 2018, when he returned some of his energy to writing and playing, it was with a new shift in perspective. Vitali explains:

“Growing up next door to longtime Billy Joel drummer Liberty DeVitto and getting to know him, I learned that, at the end of the day, music is really all about the song. My other bands were always about everyone sharing the creative input and writing process each step of the way, but with Black Electric, I wanted to create material that’s singularly-focused on delivering the songs and hooks as concisely as possible.”

Re-emerging as a musician after years on the business side of rock has produced a new energy and passion for playing and performing that are evident on the Black Electric debut album.

With a full band assembled in the wake of completing the album with noted Saratoga engineer/producer David Tyo, Vitali and his cohorts have already undertaken their first live outings, with more to come and work already commencing on the band’s next studio release.

Upcoming Black Electric shows:
Sat Sept. 21 at Lark Fest, Albany, NY
Sun Sept. 22 at Pauly’s Hotel, Albany, NY (with High Reeper)

Black Electric is available now digitally on all streaming and download outlets including their Bandcamp, with physical formats forthcoming from Magnetic Eye Records.

Produced and engineered by David Tyo at Tyo Mixes
Mike Vitali – Vocals, Guitar, Bass Guitar, Electric Piano
David Tyo – Drums, Percussion and Vocals
Mike Langone – Vocals track 5 ‘Fade Along’

Black Electric live is Mike Vitali / Mike Langone / George Lipscom / Zack Cohen / Stew Overocker

https://www.facebook.com/BlackElectric666/
https://theblackelectric.bandcamp.com
http://store.merhq.com
http://magneticeyerecords.com/
https://www.facebook.com/MagneticEyeRecords

Black Electric, Black Electric (2019)

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Mars Red Sky, The Task Eternal: On Proving Grounds

Posted in Reviews on September 20th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

mars red sky the task eternal

The approach of Bordeaux, France’s Mars Red Sky continues to grow richer on their fourth long-player, The Task Eternal. Also their third outing for Listenable Records, it comprises an eight-track/49-minute run that digs into many of what have become the trio’s signature elements — fragile melodies, tonal heft, nod and march, etc. — while playing toward a wider atmospheric breadth than even 2016’s Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul) (review here) could offer. As ever, the new album was led into by an EP, in this case the short self-release Collector (discussed here) earlier this year, and what was the title-track there shows up early here as well, following opener and longest cut (immediate points) “The Proving Grounds” on side A. Whatever patterns it has followed along the way, Mars Red Sky‘s progression has been steady from release to release, with perhaps the most major jump being from the sweet melodies and hooky bounce of their 2011 self-titled debut (review here) to the second album, 2014’s Stranded in Arcadia (review here), which even with a 2012 split with Year of No Light (discussed here) and 2013’s Be My Guide EP (review here) between them was the point when the band signaled the proggier intent that their subsequent outings have allowed to flourish in their songwriting.

Notable that it was around that same time that the lineup solidified with Matieu “Matgaz” Gazeau on drums alongside founding guitarist/vocalist Julien Pras and bassist/sometimes vocalist Jimmy Kinast, since as they moved through Stranded in Arcadia, 2016’s Providence EP (review here), Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul), 2017’s Myramyd EP (discussed here) and Collector — touring all the while — their chemistry has only become more palpable. That rings true throughout The Task Eternal as well as the band provides their listenership with much to dig into in laid back tempos, some surprisingly aggro lyrics on “The Proving Grounds” and an expansive vision of heavy psychedelia that sees them toying with even their own conventions of songcraft as the paired tracks “Recast” and “Reacts” play one into the next with the latter using the former as a launch point for a plotted instrumental jam that winds up longer than the song that birthed it.

Largesse of tone is nothing new for Mars Red Sky, and as ever, they bring a warmth to the guitar and bass that is engaging to the point of hypnosis as the opener shifts from its initial roll into a section of shimmering guitar-led drift as it oozes into the second half. The stop and return of the marching bassline is sudden and wants to be, but Pras tops it with obscure vocal lines that become part of the melodic wash and the effect is gorgeous as “The Proving Grounds” — you might recall Apex III began with the intro “Alien Grounds,” so clearly the band are conscious of their starting points — fades to silence ahead of the rumble at the outset of “Collector.” At 4:13, “Collector” is shorter even than the closing acoustic outro “A Far Cry” — the band essentially swapping the method of putting the longest track last and the lead-in track first; it works much to the album’s advantage — and something of a return to earth structurally after the relative sprawl of “The Proving Grounds,” still working in deeply mixed layers but doing so around a central chorus and never departing too far from it. That ends up all the more appreciable as “Recast” begins with a quiet sway ahead of unveiling its howling wah over the slow, graceful movement that is unfurled.

mars red sky

Subtle angularity and subtler speed in the riff adds presence and urgency to the verse, but the overarching vibe is still soothing as “Recast” heads in linear fashion toward its chugging crescendo — Gazeau giving nods toward extreme metal in the drums — before the same riff returns at the start of “Reacts,” and becomes the foundation on which that instrumental exploration is built. It’s fitting that “Reacts” should be so utterly entrancing, as it’s tucked at the end of side A, but as it lumbers toward and through its halfway point, it pulls back on the residual energy leftover from “Recast” and instead moves into a sleepy roll, which Pras eventually meets with a solo followed by a section of ethereal vocals (thinking at 5:00, or maybe I’m just hearing things) that quiets down again and rebuilds, ending with a short section of noise as the first half of the album is complete.

One has to consider the possibility that The Task Eternal, the title itself, is referring to the ongoing evolution of the band, and that the task in question is their process of chasing down whatever vision of sound they’re ultimately trying to represent at any given time. A roving target, perhaps. It seems only fair, then, that they’d put “Soldier On” before “A Far Cry” at the album’s conclusion, but before they get there, “Crazy Hearth” and “Hollow King” give something of an effect like “Collector” in their relative return to ground after the float of “Reacts.” Sure, “Hollow King” has plenty of spread in the guitar of its second half and sweeping final chorus, but that comes complemented with a solidified rhythm and that chorus stands among the most memorable throughout The Task Eternal. Particularly following “Crazy Hearth,” it’s a chance for Mars Red Sky to emphasize their well-honed ability to create spaciousness within set sonic and structural ideas.

They reserve a final showcase of swing for “Soldier On,” which also featured on Collector in two versions, and shift into the second half with a quiet stretch before reviving the shove onward toward the last chorus and delivery of the title lines, a theme of persistence emerging between “Soldier On” and “The Proving Grounds” upon which “A Far Cry” allows a moment to reflect with its acoustic and electric lines and emergent effects, smoothly building to a wash so that even after most of it cuts out, there’s still enough left to carry The Task Eternal to its serene conclusion. From the intricacy of its layers to the nuance in how it’s actually put together in terms of where the tracks are and how they play off each other, Mars Red Sky‘s latest is a triumph in what’s becoming a tradition thereof. As they resume the chase next time, it may only be another step along the way, but as only a mature band can, Mars Red Sky know their strengths and how to bring them to light in ways that are as exciting as they are individualized. I’ll readily admit to being a fan, but simply put, they are something special. If you don’t hear that in The Task Eternal, it’s your loss.

Mars Red Sky, The Task Eternal (2019)

Mars Red Sky on Thee Facebooks

Mars Red Sky website

Listenable Records website

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Live Review: Ode to Doom with Leather Lung, Mother Iron Horse, Somnuri & Grandpa Jack, 09.18.19

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

Leather Lung (Photo by JJ Koczan)

The third anniversary celebration of NYC-based curated show series Ode to Doom was a special occasion. The bands knew it, the venue knew it, and the people who showed up knew it. Everyone who played had new material and was excited to share. Everyone said thanks. The vibe was chill from before the show even started, and even as heavy and as raucous as things got as the bluesy opening Grandpa Jack delivered gave way to the noisier likes of Somnuri, Mother Iron Horse and Leather Lung, it stayed chill for the duration. For being what Somnuri guitarist/vocalist Justin Sherrell referred to as, “a school night” — can’t argue with facts — it was also a welcome escape from midweek blues; all parties involved seemed happy to shed the uphill slump from their shoulders, or maybe that’s just me projecting.

One way or the other, it was the best argument I’ve encountered in a while for sitting in workday-evening traffic. The air was crisp but not bitingly cold. When I signed on three years ago to have The Obelisk be among the presenters for Ode to Doom, which is run with clear dedication by Claudia Crespo at Arlene’s Grocery with input from indomitable entrepreneur Vadim Dyadyuk of Made in Brooklyn Silkscreeners, who’s done merch for this site and will again — new colors coming for the holiday season, plus did I hear you asking for Obelisk sweatpants? no? well they’re happening anyway — part of the appeal for me was nostalgic. I remembered great times at Precious Metal in the basement at Lit Lounge and other Manhattan-based shows. I don’t think it’s a bad thing that it’s all moved to Brooklyn over the last generation and now is headed to Queens, but someone keeping the flame of a Manhattan underground alive felt like an idea well worth preserving. Turns out I was right.

Suitably enough given my recent move, the unstated theme for the evening was NY-meets-MA, with Brooklyn’s Grandpa Jack and Somnuri getting started and Salem, Mass, heavybringers Mother Iron Horse and Boston’s Leather Lung closing the night. If you don’t know Grandpa Jack — and I’ll admit I didn’t hear their self-titled debut LP last year; my loss — give it time. You will. The three-piece turned classic heavy rock shades of doomly purple with vintage tone emanating from the finger-picked guitar of Johnny Strom, who also shared vocal duties with drummer Matt C. White while Jared Schapker provided warm and engrossing low end to suit their blues-infused spirit. Their periodic dips into melody on vocals were welcome and hopefully telling of things to come, and the languid pace of their material brought to mind Radio Moscow played at two-thirds speed, with jammy intent. They were a more than welcome start to the proceedings.

I hadn’t seen Somnuri yet, but was excited to. having so thoroughly dug their late-2017 self-titled debut (discussed here) and subsequent split with fellow purveyors-o’-noise Godmaker (review here). They’ve got a new album mastered as of earlier this month and will cover “Dirt” on Magnetic Eye‘s upcoming Alice in Chains redux (presumably that’s what the cover they posted a snippet of on social media is for, unless they’re just going rogue with it, which might be fun too), and the aforementioned Sherrell, bassist Philippe Arman (also of Tower) and drummer Phil SanGiacomo both brought and demolished the evening’s crowd. The new material had more melody in a post-grunge, still-volatile kind of way that made me really excited to hear it in recorded form, but there was plenty of crushing going on as well, and as wheelhouses go, that’s a good one to be in. I’ll go out on a limb and say that barring disaster this won’t be the last time I see them play, but knowing that and knowing there’s a new record in the offing only made me enjoy their set more. Until next time.

There was time for a quick walk around the block between bands, which beat staring at the baby monitor on my phone — did it? — so I walked out of the venue for a minute to get some air, made it back well in time for Mother Iron Horse, who released their debut, The Lesser Key, in May and who seem primed to get picked up by some label or another if they haven’t yet. Their energy built on what Somnuri had been doing, but their sound was more rock-based, and the double-guitar riffing was complemented by right-on classic-style lead work and excursions into more uproarious stretches. Comprised of Adam Luca, Marco Medina, Devin Fields and Chris Kobialka, they made it easy to get into what they were doing in cuts like “Gehenna” and “Scepter of Ice” from the album, and as they’re on tour with Leather Lung — they’ll play Montclair, NJ’s The Meatlocker tonight, of course with Dutchguts — they started off that run in top form with what was still a good crowd who stuck around after Somnuri‘s set. Another band I’d never seen before, another one I’ll try to see again. That’s three for three on the night so far at Ode to Doom.

By contrast, I had seen Leather Lung before, but it was upwards of four years ago in Boston and they’ve got a new record out through Magnetic Eye called Lonesome, On’ry and Evil that produced the set-highlight “Miscreant,” which perfectly summarized the band’s approach rooted in mosh-ready riffs and massive aggro-sludge tones. Coming out to the familiar strains of Waylon Jennings, frontman Mike Vickers had apparently busted his arm and had it in a sling. He left the audience to guess how he’d done it, so insert here whatever pulled-a-ligament hyperbole you’d like to about him lifting the riffs of guitarist Zach and lumbering bass of Jesse — whose backing vocals also added a sense of extremity throughout the set. Set to the crash of drummer Ben, Leather Lung‘s willfully lunkheaded sludge metal was nothing short of a hit on a Wednesday night in Manhattan, which if that doesn’t sound like an accomplishment absolutely was one. Dudes up front lost their mind, and even standing in the back, beat as I was, the groove was palpable. And by “palpable” I mean shaking the floor. They’re going to kill at Descendants of Crom this weekend in Pittsburgh.

So what did we learn? I hadn’t planned on sticking around through the entirety of Leather Lung‘s set, as I’d been up since 4AM and knew I still had the drive back to my ancestral homestead ahead of me, but I did, and so did a lot of others who no doubt had trains, Ubers, hoverboards or Citibikes to catch. And I won’t take away from what Leather Lung were doing, but the vibe of the whole night was a big part of what kept me there. It felt like I had showed up to a party three years late and still been welcomed. That’s a rare thing.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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Streaming: Acid King Interview with Lori S. for Busse Woods 20th Anniversary

Posted in audiObelisk, Features on September 19th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

acid king

Beginning tomorrow night at Northwest Hesh Fest in Portland, Oregon, heavy rock heroes Acid King will head out on a full-US tour celebrating the 20th anniversary of their now-classic 1999 full-length, Busse Woods (discussed here). Originally issued through Frank Kozik‘s Man’s Ruin Records imprint and subsequently by Small Stone in 2004 and on vinyl by Kreation Records in 2007, Busse Woods has been newly re-released by RidingEasy Records in honor of its 20 years. And rightly so, frankly. As I pointlessly fight the urge to wax poetic about its haze-drenched riffs and ultra-languid but ultra-heavy groove, I think it’s nonetheless fair to call Busse Woods one of the most pivotal heavy rock albums of all time. And yes, I mean all time. Your ’60s groundbreakers, your ’70s biker rockers, your ’80s doomers, your ’90s stoners, whatever the fuck happened in the aughts and your ’10s revivalists. Put Acid King up next to any of them and they’ll more than hold their own. You want to put Busse Woods out there again for a new generation to enjoy? That’s only making the world a better place.

They’ll play the record in its staggeringly righteous entirety on the tour as they did earlier this year in Europe, and when I spoke to Lori about it a couple weeks ago, she was in the process of getting ready to go. The lone remaining founder of the band, she’s joined by longtime/sometimes bassist Rafa Martinez (also drummer for Black Cobra) and drummer Bil Bowman, though when Busse Woods came out it was Brian Hill (gone before he even got his picture in the CD liner) on bass and Joey Osbourne on drums, the latter of whom would last until 2017. In the interview, she speaks about players coming and going, recording back when with Billy Anderson and releasing through Man’s Ruin, as well as the general state of what heavy rock was at the time, as well as being surprised initially by Busse Woods‘ staying power in the new digital age of stat-ready listenership. That is, it wasn’t until she saw the number of times “Silent Circle” had been streamed that she knew how big the song actually was for the band.

And I did bring it up in the conversation — because how could I not? — but 10 years ago, I did an interview with Lori as well about the 10th anniversary of Busse Woods in which she talked about the recording process, Billy Anderson‘s relationship drama, and much more besides. She goes track-by-track through the record in that piece. It’s pretty cool, even a decade after the fact (and another decade after that fact too, I guess).

The advantage of this interview? You finally get to hear the proper pronunciation of “Busse.” Even if you think you know it, you know you want confirmation.

So I won’t keep you from it.

Please enjoy:

Interview with Lori S. of Acid King

 

ACID KING ‘BUSSE WOODS’ 20TH ANNIVERSARY TOUR 2019:
09/20 Portland, OR @ Star Theater – Hesh Fest *
09/21 Seattle, WA @ Highline *
09/23 Denver, CO @ Marquis Theater *
09/24 Omaha, NE @ Slowdown *
09/25 Chicago, IL @ Reggies *
09/26 Indianapolis, IN @ Black Circle *
09/27 Cleveland, OH @ Grog Shop *
09/28 Buffalo, NY @ Mohawk Place *
09/29 Boston, MA @ Sonia *
09/30 New York, NY @ Knitting Factory *
10/01 Philadelphia, PA @ Johnny Brenda’s *
10/02 Richmond, VA @ Richmond Music Hall *
10/03 Raleigh, NC @ Kings *
10/04 Asheville, NC @ Mothlight *
10/05 Atlanta, GA @ The 529 *
10/06 New Orleans, LA @ One Eye Jack’s *
10/07 Dallas, TX @ Gas Monkey *
10/09 Albuquerque, NM @ Sister *
10/10 Mesa, AZ @ Club Red *
10/11 Los Angeles, CA @ Satellite *
10/12 San Francisco, CA @ Chapel *
* w/ Wizard Rifle, Warish

Acid King is:
Lori S. – Guitar & Vocals
Rafa Martinez – Bass
Bil Bowman – Drums

Acid King, Busse Woods (1999)

Acid King on Thee Facebooks

Acid King on Instagram

Acid King website

RidingEasy Records on Thee Facebooks

RidingEasy Records website

Nanotear Booking website

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