Monday, 30 September 2013

Sasquatch - IV (album review)

Cover artwork by Vladislav Ociacia.
A friend of a friend once saw a Sasquatch.  He was walking through a trail in the woods up north.  He felt the presence of ... something burning into the back of his neck.  It was an uncomfortable feeling, like being followed in a sinister funhouse.  He wheeled around quickly, but, as these things go, he saw nothing.  And then the odor struck him.  Pungent, musky odor washed over his immediate area like a fog bank, clouding his senses and choking him.  He fought for breath, but the aroma was so strong his body just said 'no'.  This friend of a friend said that the stench was like a chode that hadn't been washed in months and thrust boldly in the face.  A few moments later he came face to face with the great, shaggy beast.  A single moment after that the guy ran.  I'm writing from the north.  This is wild country, where beer, rain and flannel intermingle with the seemingly endless expanse of evergreen forest to forge a unique identity.  This is Sasquatch country.  Many a flannel-draped, hunting-cap donning beer drinking cryptid hunter has set off into the wild and returned with nothing.  The legend of the Sasquatch can fascinate the most practical-minded and enthrall the drunkest of men.  The reality of the Sasquatch can turn the stoutest of stomachs.  Somewhere in the middle we find Sasquatch, the band.

Fully embracing their namesake, Sasquatch keeps it muscular, fuzzy and pungent.  It's a lean sound on 'IV', but it's not without some girth.  This 'lean' sound may have to do with the surprisingly thin production of the record.  But looking past that, the album churns with riffs, hooks and crashing cymbals always simmering nicely, but never quite coming to a boil with a true standout track to serve as a jewel in the crown of the album.

That said, there are no duds on this thing.  Not one.  Each track stands on its own, propelled by the forceful and energetic vocal delivery of Keith Gibbs with no small measure of help from drummer Rick Ferrante who really shines through with track after track of just right percussion, "Money" being the strongest example of this.  But of course, a good drummer can't save an album with no riffs.  "The Message", "Smoke Signal", "Wolves At My Door" and "Me and You" all stand shoulder to shoulder with each other in terms of good, tough sounding riffs (with no small measure of girth), but as I said, we never reach that point on the record where one can truly be said to lose his or her shit.

Does it matter that the record never reaches its crescendo?  Not really, because if nothing else it's an enjoyable record from "The Message" to "Drawing Flies".  You see, I don't fall into that trap that most cryptid hunters do.  I'm not out in the woods hunting for the smoking gun, the "big proof", because I can see the evidence all around me.  I don't need a Sasquatch carcass because I've got the footprints over here and right over there.  Sasquatch leaves its share of giant foot prints with this album.  'IV' and its constituent tracks will most likely see a lot of airtime at Casa de Paranoia.

Sasquatch speaks the stoner tongue fluently.  'IV' embodies most of those elements which dragged me into the stoner rock pit in the first place: high energy, big riffs, crash heavy drums with plenty of propulsion, confident melodic vocals and of course, da fuzz.  From a label renowned for the high standard of its output, 'IV' does nothing to tarnish the legacy.  I walked into this party when Small Stone released Nightstalker's 'Dead Rock Commandos' and it's been one great release after another.  'IV' simply continues the tradition.  Make a plaster mold of this album and display it proudly in Scott Hamilton's museum of strange and fuzzy creatures.

Highlights include: "The Message" and "Smoke Signal".

Rating: 4/5

Total Run Time: 43:42

Keith Gibbs: guitar, vox
Rick Ferrante: drums, percussion
Jason Casanova: bass, filing, red tape

Guest vocals on "Smoke Signal" courtesy of Gaff.

From: Los Angeles, California

Genre: Stoner

Reminds me of: Gozu

Release Date: September 24, 2013

Sasquatch on facebook

Saturday, 28 September 2013

The Paranoid 30 (09/28/13)

Top 30 Albums
#). artist - album title
  1. NYMF - From the Dark
  2. Curse the Son - Psychache
  3. Spiral Shades - The Hypnosis Sessions (Demo)
  4. La Chinga - ST
  5. Brutus - Behind the Mountains
  6. Tombstone - Where the Dead Belong
  7. Werewolves in Siberia - The Rising
  8. Cult of Occult - Hic Est Domus Diaboli
  9. Tumbleweed Dealer - ST
  10. Church of Void - Winter is Coming EP
  11. Crowlord - Naked Chicks, Goats & Wolves
  12. Beelzefuzz - ST
  13. The Dirty Streets - Blades of Grass
  14. Blood Ceremony - The Eldritch Dark
  15. Goatess - ST
  16. Church of Void - Dead Rising
  17. Magister Templi - Lucifer Leviathan Logos
  18. Vista Chino - Peace
  19. Ice Dragon - Born a Heavy Morning
  20. Borracho - Oculus
  21. Sasquatch - IV***
  22. Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats - Mind Control
  23. The Heavy Company - Midwest Electric
  24. Peacemaker - Cult .45
  25. Spirits of the Dead - Rumours of a Presence
  26. Maniac Original Soundtrack - Rob
  27. Black Sabbath - 13
  28. Space Mushroom Fuzz - A Possible Paradox
  29. Wicked Inquisition - Silence Thereafter***
  30. Philip H. Anselmo & The Illegals - Walk Through Exits Only
*** New Album

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

The Paranoid 25 (09/25/13)

Top 25 Songs
#). Song Title (artist/album)
  1. Summoning the Not Living (Vidunder / ST)
  2. Kings of Koch (Snowchild / digital track)
  3. Lazy (Ape Skull / ST)
  4. Fear of the Doom (NYMF / From the Dark)
  5. Illuminati (Spiral Shades / Hypnosis Sessions)
  6. Follow the Rats (Peacemaker / Cult .45)
  7. Son of Crow (Crowlord / Naked Chicks, Goats & Wolves)
  8. Destruction (Werewolves in Siberia / The Rising)
  9. Dirty Ceiling (Tangerine Stoned / ST)
  10. Ancient Apocalypse (Mammoth Storm / ST Demo)
  11. Shadow of an Eagle (Desert Storm / Horizontal Life)
  12. Supersun (Mothersloth / Hazy Blur of Life)
  13. Immurement (Diesel King / The Grey Man EP)
  14. You're Mine (The Black Angels / Indigo Meadow)
  15. I'm Lost (Ice Dragon / Born a Heavy Morning)
  16. Ghost Rider Solar Plexus (Geezer / Gage EP)***
  17. The Places You Walk (Jex Thoth / Blood Moon Rise)
  18. No Tomorrow (Tombstone / Where the Dead Belong)
  19. Vow (Naam / Vow)***
  20. Methademic (Black Sabbath / 13)
  21. A Rush of Power (Age of Taurus / Desperate Souls of Tortured Times)
  22. Something Sweet (Black Wizard / Young Wisdom)
  23. Wheels of the World (Spirits of the Dead / Rumours of a Presence)***
  24. Proximity Anxiety (Pyres / Year of Light)
  25. Paranoia Conspiracy (Trouble / The Distortion Field)
*** New Song

Outgoing songs:
Know Your Animal (Goatess / ST)
Strongholds of Karak Varn (Church of Void / Winter Is Coming EP)
Kingmaker (Spiritual Beggars / Earth Blues)

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Rob - Maniac OST (album review)

Cover by Jeff Proctor.
Doom metal is the music of horror in tone, mood and evocation of feeling.  But on the big screen, horror filmmakers chose a different soundtrack.  For the score of his film, Franck Khalfoun, director of the 2012 re-make of Maniac, chose to hearken back to the days of the heavily synthesized drones of John Carpenter, who was setting the pace for horror composers everywhere at the time the original Maniac film came out, back in 1980.  Other recent films have gone down a similar route, the most notable and perhaps even the most successful that I've heard is the Jeremy Schmidt (of Black Mountain as Sinoia Caves) composed soundtrack to Panos Cosmatos's 2010 film Beyond the Black Rainbow.  Unfortunately there's no soundtrack album for that film (at least none that I know of, if I'm wrong about that let me know!), but there is one for Maniac, and you're going to read all about it here, if you'll indulge me.

Storytelling takes many different shapes and forms and they're all great.  There's the spoken word, there's writing and there's illustration.  You can take a photograph or a series of photographs to tell a story, you can even tell a story through interpretive dance.  Okay, let's say most forms of storytelling are great.  One of the most challenging ways to tell a story is through music.  For the most part however, the seemingly gargantuan job is broken down into a couple of easily digestible and incredibly easily understandable steps.  They are: theme and development.  Theme is a musical phrase which represents some thing, usually a character and development is all the ways in which the fickle hand of fate (that of the composer) screws with that character.  There's more to it than that, and almost always, composers are juggling several key themes which traditionally include a heroic theme, a love theme and a hopeful theme.  Add into this mix the element of live scoring a moving picture in the studio to match the images on screen and, whammo, you have all the ingredients on hand for a non-musical Tim Burton-esque jumbly disaster.  Fortunately, composer Rob (otherwise known as Raphaël Hamburger) like the sound of those Carpenter drones as well, because it helps to simplify things to an astonishing degree.

But Rob doesn't keep things as low key as and simplistic as Carpenter, Maniac's "Haunted" theme is a bustling metropolis of sounds moving at different paces, reflecting the urban environment in which the film is set, and matching the mechanical conveyances and synthetic canyons of the landscape for mood.  That's not to say that "Haunted", or any of the 14 other pieces of music on the soundtrack album are 'busy', it is actually quite spare, but over the course of the album's 31 minutes or so, that one basic key-driven theme roils in and out, creating a fugue of restless variation.  Typically, Rob uses a pair or trio of drones (Bass and  mid-range and sometimes treble) which is overlayed with a sequence of keys and DAT drums which alone have the freedom of movement.

The soundtrack works successfully on several levels.  Reflecting the urban setting is one, but the synthetic coldness of the music also works to reflect the psychopathic mind of the film's subject Frank Zito (played here by Elijah Wood).  It's a good thing too as much of the film is shot from his point-of-view.  Aside from those considerations, the soundtrack also works as a good piece of giallo film music and is a perfect mood setter for stalking wintry nights or writing intense scenes of villainy.  For fans of Carpenter, Sinoia Caves and Wendy Carlos's A Clockwork Orange soundtrack (of which the "Haunted" theme is a direct descendant), Maniac works on a purely musical level.  It also works on a storytelling level as, even without the aid of the accompanying visuals, we can hear Zito's descent into darker and deeper rings of hell, culminating in the sinister "Wedding Maze".  This effect can be achieved in many ways, drop a drone here or there to create feelings of isolation, get rid of the high end tones to convey shadowy and stony darkness.  This is the benefit of using multiple drones, it can create an emotional and tonal depth to the score not often found in the works of John Carpenter.  Where Carpenter would add a "stinger" to heighten terror at a given onscreen moment, Rob subtracts, downsizing his droning industry to achieve a similar, though not the same, effect.  Tension is the name of the game here and there's more than one way to play it, this is the fine art of storytelling.

Almost as an afterthought, the soundtrack album ends with a pair of notable tracks.  "Boum" is a minute long almost throw-away track that is a beautiful slice of AM radio gold, but the final track is called "Juno" and it's a bunch of dance/pop bollocks, but I just deleted it off my itunes when I picked this album up.  I almost forgot all about it in fact.  But this isn't music for dancers, unless they are dancers with the dead and those who like to throw in some horror music with their doom shouldn't miss out on this album.

Highlights include: "Haunted" and "Headache"

Rating: 3.5/5

1). Doll (1:46)
2). Haunted (3:40)
3). Double Trouble (1:02)
4). Bells (2:46)
5). Haunted Piano (1:35)
6). Headache (3:54)
7). Floor Light (1:09)
8). Haunted Sequence (3:11)
9). Slow Machine (1:23)
10). Floor (1:12)
11). Maze (1:38)
12). Headache City (1:57)
13). Wedding Maze (3:44)
14). Haunted [alternative version] (2:05)
15). Boum (2:05)
16). Juno (3:25)
Total Run Time: 31:54 (not inc. "Juno")

From: France

Genre: Electronic, Horror, Giallo, Drone

Reminds me of: BBC Radiophonic Workshop, Blizaro, Wendy Carlos, John Carpenter, Sinoia Caves, Werewolves in Siberia

Release Date: January 2, 2013


Monday, 23 September 2013

Vista Chino - Peace (album review)

We in the stoner rock and doom metal community have had it really good for the past couple years.  However, 2013 has not been without its share of difficulties from death to polemics.  Probably the most divisive debates of the year have been over the new Black Sabbath and Orchid albums.  Largely, supporters of one band don't seem to support the other and it's become a regular mods versus rockers type of atmosphere (kidding).  There's been no blood shed over this paradigm, none that I know of at least, and most of us can still be buds and clank beer bottles after the debate is over and move on with our lives until the next great debate swings along.  And then there was Vista Chino.  It's no surprise really that folks will have strong opinions about this band.  Vista Chino is after all the latter day equivalent, if not remnant of Kyuss who, after Black Sabbath, are probably the most seminal influence on the whole lot of this broad underground genre.  Some people don't like Vista Chino.  The reasons for this are numerous and somewhat obvious if not apparent in the music.  If you've ever heard former Kyuss guitarist Josh Homme wax eloquent on his former band you'll understand the philosophy that he believed that they all shared at the time the band was happening.  That it was in and of the moment, a rejection of all things unoriginal and something never to be revisited or duplicated.  But as if often the case in life, the man was speaking for himself and not for the group as he believed he was.  John Garcia and Brant Bjork, Kyuss vocalist and drummer respectively, decided that they were getting the old band back together.  Why?  Maybe it's a mid-life crisis thing. Who knows and does it really matter why anyway?  They began touring as Kyuss Lives! which gave birth to one of the uglier situations of the year prior when a lawsuit filed by Homme and former Kyuss bassist Scott Reeder prohibited the band from recording under the name and prompting the change to Vista Chino.  Had Homme been involved in what ultimately became the Vista Chino project, it's almost certain that there would be little to no debate over its musical merits.  As it stands, Homme's place in the line-up has been filled by Belgian guitarist Bruno Fevery (Arsenal), an unenviable task if there ever was one.  It's a bit like asking a guy off the street to replace Tony Iommi in Black Sabbath or Jimmy Page in Led Zeppelin.  Absolutely unheard of!  Sacrilege!!

But the legal prompting of the name-change may have been the best thing for this band and taking it as its own thing, the music, and yes the guitar parts as well, are actually quite outstanding even within a genre absolutely overflowing with talented and unique musicians who have picked up where Kyuss left off.  WIth a situation like that you'd think there'd be no room left for a band such as this left to explore, but you'd be wrong.

First off, new guy Fevery does his best Homme interpretation and actually pulls it off with a great measure of skill.  Instead of taking the feel of a Homme Kyuss riff and going from there, Fevery cranks the fuzz up to 11 and feels his way around, much in the same way as his predecessor, but he does it in his own way.  This should be fairly obvious.  "Of course he did it in his own way, how could he not do it in his own way?"  Well, I have, and I'm sure that you have, heard too many guitarists who try to sound like Homme.  Fevery doesn't try to sound like Homme.  What comes across is the sense that the new buck uses some of the same starting points while setting riff to tape.  It's a feel thing, not an intellectual thing.

Garcia, Bjork and (now departed) bassist Nick Oliveri are in fine, latter-day form.  It's interesting that Garcia sings in his clean Unida style rather than the gruff growl remembered from 'Blues for the Red Sun', which part of me was hoping he'd get back to, even though that was what initially turned me off of the band when I first heard the album some 15 years ago.  At the time, I thought Garcia's vocals detracted from the band and made the band sound amateurish.  Of course, once the taste was acquired, it certainly added to the atmosphere the band was always drowning in.  I was a stupid kid, what did I know?

As mentioned earlier, fans of the original band seem to be split on this album, but for those without a rooting interest or who liked Kyuss but wasn't married to them, ought to be pleasantly surprised by the potency of Vista Chino.  Many a sonic dreamscape is explored and there's a definite and familiar looseness to the development of the songs, sort of like taking all the rigid material out of the jelly of the songs so that they flow from one idea to the next like blobs while maintaining a loose outline.  The thing is most of the ideas which flow by are terrific, if not fully developed and mostly brand new.  Those same casual fans will probably groove along to "As You Wish", "Planets 1 & 2", "Dargona Dragona" and the first bit of the 13 minute album closing epic "Acidize ... The Gambling Moose" or actually, all of it.  Kyuss fan or not, these tracks should put a smile on your face, they are full of fire, fuzz and fury.  Many of these songs have a "Green Machine" feel to them, at least at first, but soon spin off into their own freaking orbits, man.

I would rate 'Peace' as one of the best "big-name" releases of the past couple years, it's more of a debut than a comeback and if you keep that in mind, the album should speak to you and tickle your fuzzy bone.

The band recently blew through my town and there's still time to catch them on the last leg of their North American tour.  They're going to be in Quebec City, Ottawa, New York, Philadelphia and Columbus over the next week, check the band's facebook for details.

Highlights include: "Dargona Dragona" and "As You Wish"

Rating: 4.5/5

1). Good Morning Wasteland (0:59)
2). Dargona Dragona (4:48)
3). Sweet Remain (3:11)
4). As You Wish (5:01)
5). Planets 1&2 (6:32)
6). Adara (4:40)
7). Mas Vino (1:26)
8). Dark and Lovely (6:15)
9). Barcelonian (3:31)
10). Acidize ... the Gambling Moose (13:01)
Bonus Tracks
11). Carnation (4:14)
12). Sunlight at Midnight (3:49)
Total Run Time: 57:22

John Garcia (Vocals)
Brant Bjork (Drums)
Bruno Fevery (Guitar)
Nick Oliveri (Bass on the 'Peace' record)

From: Palm Desert, California

Genre: Stoner, Psychedelic, Hard Rock

Reminds me of: What else?

Release Date: September 3, 2013

Vista Chino on facebook


OR HERE (digital)

Sunday, 22 September 2013

The Paranoid 30 (09/21/13)

Top 30 Albums
#). artist - album title
  1. Spiral Shades - The Hypnosis Sessions (Demo)
  2. Brutus - Behind the Mountains
  3. Tombstone - Where the Dead Belong
  4. Werewolves in Siberia - The Rising
  5. NYMF - From the Dark
  6. Cult of Occult - Hic Est Domus Diaboli
  7. Tumbleweed Dealer - ST
  8. Church of Void - Winter is Coming EP
  9. Crowlord - Naked Chicks, Goats & Wolves
  10. La Chinga - ST
  11. The Dirty Streets - Blades of Grass
  12. Curse the Son - Psychache
  13. Blood Ceremony - The Eldritch Dark
  14. Goatess - ST
  15. Magister Templi - Lucifer Leviathan Logos
  16. Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats - Mind Control
  17. Spirits of the Dead - Rumours of a Presence
  18. The Heavy Company - Midwest Electric
  19. Black Sabbath - 13
  20. Maniac Original Soundtrack - Rob
  21. Beelzefuzz - ST***
  22. Ice Dragon - Born a Heavy Morning
  23. Borracho - Oculus
  24. Vista Chino - Peace***
  25. Peacemaker - Cult .45
  26. Philip H. Anselmo & The Illegals - Walk Through Exits Only***
  27. Church of Void - Dead Rising***
  28. Victor Griffin's In~Graved - ST***
  29. Space Mushroom Fuzz - A Possible Paradox***
  30. Devil - Gather The Sinners
*** New Album

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Hour of Power 09/21/13 (playlist)

  1. The Chairman (Truckfighters / The Chairman EP) 2013
  2. Hacia el 6to Sol (DemonAuta / Caminando en la Luna EP) 2013
  3. Lament Code (Demon Lung / Pareidolia EP) 2012
  4. The Integrity (The Rising Sun Experience / Beyond the Oblivious Abyss) 2013
  5. Blood Like Cream (Red Fang / Whales and Leeches) 2013
  6. Dead Friends (Doomriders / Grand Blood) 2013
  7. Full Moon at Noon [live 09/14/13] (Goatess / ST) 2013
  8. Spider Stole the Weed (Curse the Son / Psychache) 2013
  9. Lotus Jam (Beelzefuzz / ST) 2013
  10. Dead Rising (Church of Void / Dead Rising) 2013
  11. Counterfeit God (Black Label Society / Stronger Than Death) 2000 'classic clip'

Friday, 20 September 2013

Space Mushroom Fuzz - A Possible Paradox (album review)




The name says it all, no false advertising here.  The New England duo embodies the spirit of all three things in equal abundance.  They play Space Rock with classic rock overtones, but their songs don't drift endlessly in the drone of the void, it's an earthy brand of space rock.  They fall from the beyond and land squarely in the dirt, tilling the soil weirdly.  The band isn't beholden to Lovecraftian themed lyrics, but the music they produced is so much more faithful to the mood and feel of some of the revered author's most hallowed tales than other Lovecraftian-themed bands that it becomes a near perfect launchpad from which to describe them in terms of sound.  It's as though the wandering muse of H.P. Lovecraft has taken up residence in the amps, cables and drumheads of Space Mushroom Fuzz, evoking the spitting image of the author's famous fungi, fungi which comes down to earth from Yuggoth and takes root in the ground.  We spend a lot of time down there, us listeners, beneath the surface of things, moling around, branching and spreading out.

'A Possible Paradox' is the band's fourth album since their debut in June 2012.

The album kicks off with a blast of fuzzy ascending riffs, driving drums and backwards recording, SMF main man Adam Abrams creates counterpoint with his distinctively robotic vocals.  The title track's kitchen-sink attack pummels before you even know what hit you.  The next track, "For a Lifetime" is classic Space Mushroom Fuzz, if such a label as classic can be applied to a project a year and a quarter old.  Of course, in those 15 or so months the band has released over three hours of music.  Many bands go full decades without offering so much.  A huge part of SMF's sound and appeal comes from the cold blue tones of the synthesizer and its juxtaposition to the warm red churning fury of the fuzz guitar.  Rarely has this modus operandi been more successful than on "For a Lifetime".  Each instrument vies for our attention over the course of the 'main part' of the song, but the synth never touches the boundaries of the extended guitar solos near the end of the track because the battle has been won.  The outcome is satisfying because SMF knows how to lead and direct the listener's attention with expert grace.  The ideas flow, chaotically on the surface but with their own inner logic that can only be felt but never understood, not by us.  It takes Abrams and John Belcastro (drums) to understand these inner workings.

Of course, the synthetic beast is never truly defeated.  It keeps rising over and over again like a polymorphous nightmare creature from the frozen wastes of the antarctic tundra.  This deathless horror rising imagery is particularly vivid on instrumental track "Forever Lifetime" as it doesn't take a terrific imagination to see the thing without a name screaming back to life in rising towers of malleable matter to do battle once more with the flame-throwing guitar, which is probably at its most pyrotechnic, pendulous, pungent and potent towards the end of this song.

"Sunshine of Your Dove" is more than just a punny title.  The bands shapes and molds time on this track like a wad of clay, creating tremendous drive and heaviness.  They take time and slow it down before finally launching back into outer space with closing track "Falling Upside Down", the fuzzy mushroom's work here seemingly done.  The planet has been infected.  I hear it on good authority that the tireless duo is already hard at work on album number five, tentatively titled 'Stealing Some Time'.  I think it might have been taken here from "Sunshine ...".  One simply marvels at the prolific outpouring of ideas.

While you're digging into this one, seek out 'When Time Trippers Collide', 'Something Weird's Going On', the "Trapped in the Past" single and the magnificent 'Man in the Shadow' (and its companion EP 'Marty's Original Escape').  All of these releases and 'A Possible Paradox' are available for free (or pay what you want) on bandcamp and available as inexpensive CDR's.  I highly recommend this band, the three hours you will spend investigating the mushroom field will be spent in the presence of catchy riffs, hauntingly robotic melodies and mind-bending soundscapes.  At the very least it may make for the most weird musical weekend of your brief life (before the fungus takes over body and soul completely).

Highlights include: "A Possible Paradox" and "For a Lifetime"

Rating: 4/5

Total Run Time: 35:36

Adam Abrams - Guitar, Bass, Vocals, Synth
John Belcastro - Drums

From: Boston, Massachusetts

Genre: Space Rock, Psychedelic

Reminds me of: Hawkwind, H.P. Lovecraft, John Carpenter's The Thing, The Fungi From Yuggoth

Release Date: August 27, 2013

Space Mushroom Fuzz facebook

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Church of Void - Dead Rising (album review)

The rise of Finnish doom quintet Church of Void has seemed nothing less than meteoric.  Blasting onto the Paranoid radar with their 'Winter Is Coming' EP in late January (see my review), it was clear to me that this band meant business, took no prisoners and were one to watch.  It turns out, by the time I'd caught wind of their self-released EP, they'd already been snatched up by local underground giants Svart Records.  But, as always, what may seem like an overnight sensation on the surface is actually the culmination of a long process of discovery, some of which has been made by the band, some of which has been made of the band by the world at large.  The world will do well to take notice of Church of Void.

Where the 'Winter Is Coming' EP is a direct, four song, saber-rattling cavalry charge, 'Dead Rising' is a broader look at the battle as a whole.  Scenes of valor, bravery and tragedy are juxtaposed by war room tones, poring over maps and strategies.  Some of the nervous tension and white knuckled fury of the EP is missing, but 'Dead Rising' documents the maturing process of a band that is finding its voice.  Much like the overarching story of the original Robert E. Howard stories of his iron-thewed barbarian Conan, Church of Void's story so far (short and incomplete though it may be) is one of aggression boiling into maturity.  The blades flash and the skulls split, but there's a decisiveness of action here.  Fast blazing dungeon escapes are met with equal measure by throne room contemplation.  Often, like a good, full story, those scenes appear within the same song (see "Son of a Witch").

As for "Winter Is Coming", the song itself has been re-recorded for the album in a brisker version, retaining much the same feel, while as touched upon earlier, it sounds like a more composed and controlled performance.  It's a worthy inclusion to the album anyway and no matter how many times I've heard it, it still stands out here as one of the album's best tracks.  And because of its inclusion, you can hear how it has been a kind of blueprint for the band with its slow chugging, driving rhythms and wailing emotive guitars (this 'blueprint' is seemingly followed on "Entity of Kalypso" for example).  The song is made all the more poignant at this point in time because, yes, winter really is coming and I still can't think of anything more gloomy, doomy or frightening than that.

From there the albums opens onto what may be the fledgling band's magnum opus, the title track, 'Dead Rising'.  The natural, deeper qualities of vocalist Magus Corvus's voice find full expression here and he delivers with a memorable verse / chorus performance.  All the while, the guitars of Georgios Funeral and Adolf Darkschneider remain consistent, not only on the song "Dead Rising" but throughout the entire album, scratching out quality riff after quality riff.  The guitars aren't downtuned in extremis nor are they distorted out of all recognition and they are given pride of place in the mix.  The whole set-up smacks of a band that gives a shit about their own musicianship and if there's one thing to take from the album, it's the professionalism of it all.  I said in the beginning that this band means business, and I meant it!

And what you end up with is a full album which provides a full listening experience, not a single note hammered over and over again.  Those kind of one dimensional albums can be a great listening experience too and great for when you're writing fiction and need a particular feel to write a particular scene.  'Dead Rising' has all the hallmarks of a classic album.  Dynamics, variation, a multi-faceted approach to mood and tempo while all kept within the parameters of an identifiable sound with a strong emphasis on the heavy.  It's a sound that's firmly rooted in traditional doom and is very much a Finnish sound.  Church of Void give you your money's worth.

Highlights include: "Winter Is Coming" and "Dead Rising"

Rating: 4/5

1). Tristess (2:53)
2). Son of a Witch (4:54)
3). Winter Is Coming (4:53)
4). Dead Rising (8:20)
5). Owls Are Listening (4:45)
6). The Magician (3:07)
7). Entity of Kalypso (6:12)
8). Little Child Lost (8:44)
Total Run Time: 43:45

Harley Warlock (Bass, backing vocals)
Byron Vortex (Drums)
Adolf Darkschneider (Lead Guitar)
Georgios Funeral (Rhythm Guitar)
Magus Corvus - Vocals

From: Jyväskylä, Finland

Genre: Traditional Doom

Reminds me of: Cardinals Folly, Cpt Kronos, Grave Siesta, The Wandering Midget

Release Date: August 30, 2013

Church of Void on facebook


OR HERE (digital)

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

The Paranoid 25 (09/18/13)

Top 25 Songs
#). Song Title (artist/album)
  1. Kings of Koch (Snowchild / digital track)
  2. Summoning the Not Living (Vidunder / ST)
  3. Know Your Animal (Goatess / ST)
  4. Follow the Rats (Peacemaker / Cult .45)
  5. Lazy (Ape Skull / ST)
  6. Son of Crow (Crowlord / Naked Chicks, Goats & Wolves)
  7. Fear of the Doom (NYMF / From the Dark)
  8. Destruction (Werewolves in Siberia / The Rising)
  9. Strongholds of Karak Varn (Church of Void / Winter Is Coming EP)
  10. Dirty Ceiling (Tangerine Stoned / ST)
  11. Immurement (Diesel King / The Grey Man EP)
  12. Illuminati (Spiral Shades / Hypnosis Sessions)***
  13. Ancient Apocalypse (Mammoth Storm / ST Demo)
  14. You're Mine (The Black Angels / Indigo Meadow)
  15. Methademic (Black Sabbath / 13)
  16. A Rush of Power (Age of Taurus / Desperate Souls of Tortured Times)
  17. Shadow of an Eagle (Desert Storm / Horizontal Life)
  18. No Tomorrow (Tombstone / Where the Dead Belong)
  19. Something Sweet (Black Wizard / Young Wisdom)
  20. I'm Lost (Ice Dragon / Born a Heavy Morning)***
  21. Supersun (Mothersloth / Hazy Blur of Life)
  22. Proximity Anxiety (Pyres / Year of Light)***
  23. Kingmaker (Spiritual Beggars / Earth Blues)
  24. The Places You Walk (Jex Thoth / Blood Moon Rise)
  25. Paranoia Conspiracy (Trouble / The Distortion Field)***
*** New Song

Outgoing songs:
That Woebegone (Ghold / Judas Ghoat)
Battle in the Swamp [live] (Conan / Mount Wrath)
Nineteen Ninety and a Half (Holy Mount / Aplic)
Satan's Got My Back (The Mangled Dead / single)

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Beelzefuzz - ST (album review)

Cover artwork by Brian Tutlo.
Beelzefuzz is the kind of band you can't help but root for.  Their relative success in the often infuriatinglly obscure-making field of doom metal has been organic as a brush fire, if not meteoric.  It seems to have been generated by gosh darn honest to goodness word of mouth spreading like a disease from one sick ear to another without all the usual hype or big-name comparisons.  Come to think of it, there really is no true comparison to the sound of Beelzefuzz.  Soundwise, Beelzefuzz are fierce individualists and they do their own thing.  Of course, the sounds they generate are not so out of left field that they can't find traction in the cold hearts and diseased minds of the doomed, it resonates in a familiar way like a swarm of buzzing insects in the brain.

It's not often that a truly original voice emerges from the  realm of traditional doom metal, it's pretty much an oxy moron, but Beelzefuzz emerges a new and totally unexpected monster from the swamp.  You expected a moss man, didn't you?  It's clear straight off that Beelzefuzz is a visionary band, from the album cover concept / band logo that had been floating around pretty much since the band's inception to the way they went about introducing themselves with those few scattered bandcamp demos on stream.  That all said, the band was not born fully formed from the forehead of Zeus and there are traditional sounds on tap here, they're just not the kind of sounds one might have seen coming.  Early 80's metal soaring vocals and melodies in the style of Ronnie James Dio with some touches of Mark II Deep Purple, all draped in the cloak of Maryland Doom.  And if we're talking cloaks or drapery, Beelzefuzz doesn't wear the kind of over-long leather duster so fashionable in film since the release of The Matrix, but a sensible denim vest of short compositions that pack as much bite as they do bark.

The opening pair of songs, "Reborn" and "Lotus Jam" maul this particular listener with slavering delight and drag me along the rough ground in the fetal position.  There's energy galore, but there's also a strong singular vision (as is true of all Beelzefuzz songs) and also heart.  From there, the next pair of tracks hit on slightly more soulful territory and I'm reminded of the idea behind the casting of a particular film.  John Carpenter met "Rowdy" Roddy Piper at a Wrestlemania event and said that the reason he cast Piper as the lead in They Live is because he had more life in him than any Hollywood actor.  That kind of gets right down to the heart of this genre I love so much called Doom and is especially apparent when it comes to Beelzefuzz.

"Hypnotise" is a good place to start for those not familiar with the band, those who like their doom heavy and traditional.  It may be the most accessible song to those who know and love Maryland Doom and it's like.  What sets the song apart is its touches of true darkness, when the organ kicks in the music becomes horror in a jugular vein.  These dark and spooky castle vibes make their presence felt here and there on the album, but never dominate so much that they spoil the party or become a kind of farce.  It's more hinted at that there are ghosts on this album, which creates the thrill of horror, than these spooky sounds popping out from under every loose hanging curtain in the house until the listener becomes desensitized to them.  If these haunted and spooky vibes ever find full voice on the album however, it's on the Frankenstein waltz of the sublime "Lonely Creatures".  But mostly, Beelzefuzz trucks with a different kind of darkness, seemingly playing up their own band name for instance in the opening buzz-filled moments of "Lotus Jam".

'Beelzefuzz' will be making the rounds of the year-end lists, there's no doubt about it.  One of the biggest reasons for this is when the 36 minutes or so of the album are up and the haunting coda of "Light That Binds" finally fades out, it sticks with you.  'Beelzefuzz' demands immediate repeat plays and it bears them well.  Beelzefuzz have something of a Cooger and Dark personality with dark carnival vibes found in the swaying rhythms and carousel tempos found on the album.  Hints of something sinister lurking around every corner, behind the counter of every booth and hidden beneath every pair of concealing sunglasses.  It's a nice place to visit, pay the dime and take the ride, I'm positive you'll be glad you did.

Highlights include: "Lonely Creatures" and "Lotus Jam"

Rating: 5/5

1). Reborn (3:11)
2). Lotus Jam (3:42)
3). All the Feeling Returns (4:47)
4). Sirens Song (3:35)
5). Hypnotise (7:09)
6). Lonely Creatures (5:38)
7). Lunar Blanco (4:39)
8). Light That Binds (3:57)
Total Run Time: 36:34

Darin McCloskey- Drums
Pug Kirby - Bass
Dana Ortt - Guitar/Vocals

From: Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania

Genre: Traditional Doom

Reminds me of: Deep Purple, Dio, Iron Man, Something Wicked This Way Comes (Ray Bradbury), Spiral Shades, Stone Magnum, Vinum Sabbatum

Release Date: August 9, 2013

Beelzefuzz on facebook


OR HERE (digital)

Monday, 16 September 2013

Curse the Son - Psychache (album review)

I'm a fool for soaring harmonies and the pendulous arc of the swinging doom riff.  Therefore, I'm an absolute drooling moron for 'Psychache', the second album from Hamden, Connecticut trio Curse the Son.  Would you laugh, point fingers and spit at me if I were to admit that I didn't like their 2011 debut 'Klonopain' when I heard it on bandcamp oh so many months ago and so slept on 'Psychache' for the better part of a year?  Yeah, I would too in your position.  Maybe I didn't listen to 'Klonopain' closely enough, maybe I wasn't ready for it, maybe 'Psychache' is just that much of a step forward for the band,  I don't know.  Either way, I'm here now and I'm ready to make amends, if you'll let me.  Better to be fashionably late than to never arrive at all, am I right?

The album grumbles to angry life on "Goodbye Henry Anslinger", named for a prominent campaigner against marijuana during the 1930's.  Those soaring harmonies and pendulous riffs I mentioned in the introduction?  Curse the Son waste no time stuffing them down your eager gullet.  It's a stunning example of building up a furious head of steam during the chorus with vocals then gearing down with an ever deepening descending downtuned riff.  The whiplash effect will have you flipping ass over head through the windshield.  Your pulped and shattered body lying in the middle of the road had better be ready for the next assault because it comes quickly and when it does, it's a doozy.

Bludgeoning and belligerent, "Spider Stole the Weed" begins life as a corpse-dragging uphill march of awesomeness over sand dunes but morphs suddenly before your very ears into a screw-turning, odd-meter pile-driver of even more awesomeness about half way in.  The first couple times I listened to this album, I did so in an off-hand way, not listening too terribly closely, but letting the feel of it sink in.  Each time "Spider Stole the Weed" came to an end, I found myself asking how many songs had just passed expecting three or four to have gone by.  Nope, just two.

From here, Curse the Son really start to come into their own as the mind-bending riff attack of Ron Vanacore takes over completely.  It's this ability to turn a riff on its head from one moment to the next where Curse the Son gets the bulk of their charm.  Actually, Vanacore can't take all the credit here because the tempo-changing guitar antics would be nothing without the sympathetic ear of drummer Michael Petrucci pitching in full bore.  The interplay between these two is the cosmic matter that legends are molded from.  Title track "Psychache" and "Spider Stole the Weed" are excellent examples of this complex and oh so beautiful interplay at work (listen on the player below [come on do it {I dares ya}]).  "Somatizator" turns in another sparklingly filthy riff and vocal performance.  This time the harmonization come in at a lower register to create a moody, demon haunted feeling which lingers and helps transition well into album closer "The Negative Ion".  Easily the darkest of the six tracks on 'Psychache', it starts off with the midnight blue tones of a Geezer Butler like bass line courtesy the man they call Cheech.  The song then opens up into some of the slowest, corpsey-draggiest and most epic moments on the album all leading up to an eerie understated finish.

So now I've heard it.  Don't ask me why it took so long to find out for myself how amazing this band really is.  One thing's for sure, 'Psychache' is a winner from top to bottom.  For the longest time this album was streaming only as the band tried to find a label to help with physical releases, but it has been available to download from bandcamp since late July, which seems to have knocked this album prominently back onto the collective radar screens of my fellow reviewers.  It's because of them, and this album's appearance at #14 on the most recent Doom Chart that this album sprang to my attention.  Once heard, it could no longer be ignored or denied.  'Psychache' is still available at "pay-what-you-want" prices (minimum = $0), so don't miss out on what is clearly one of the best doom albums of the year so far.

Highlights include: "Spider Stole the Weed" and "Goodbye Henry Anslinger".

Rating: 4.5/5

Total Run Time: 31:14

Ron Vanacore-Guitars&Vocals
Michael Petrucci-Drums
From: Hamden, Connecticut

Genre: Doom

Reminds me of: Diesel King, Pilgrim

Release Date: (available to download since) July 23, 2013

Curse the Son on facebook

Saturday, 14 September 2013

The Paranoid 30 (09/14/13)

Top 30 Albums
#). artist - album title
  1. Brutus - Behind the Mountains
  2. Tombstone - Where the Dead Belong
  3. Werewolves in Siberia - The Rising
  4. Spiral Shades - The Hypnosis Sessions (Demo)
  5. Cult of Occult - Hic Est Domus Diaboli
  6. Tumbleweed Dealer - ST
  7. NYMF - From the Dark
  8. Church of Void - Winter is Coming EP
  9. Blood Ceremony - The Eldritch Dark
  10. Goatess - ST
  11. Magister Templi - Lucifer Leviathan Logos
  12. Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats - Mind Control
  13. Spirits of the Dead - Rumours of a Presence
  14. Crowlord - Naked Chicks, Goats & Wolves
  15. Black Sabbath - 13
  16. Devil - Gather The Sinners
  17. Pyres - Year of Sleep
  18. Motordrone - ST
  19. Church of Misery - Thy Kingdom Scum
  20. La Chinga - ST
  21. The Dirty Streets - Blades of Grass***
  22. Curse the Son - Psychache***
  23. The Heavy Company - Midwest Electric
  24. Maniac Original Soundtrack - Rob***
  25. Scorpion Child - ST
  26. Ice Dragon - Born a Heavy Morning
  27. Alice in Chains - The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here
  28. The Black Angels - Indigo Meadow
  29. Weedpecker - ST***
  30. Stone Magnum - From Time ... To Eternity
*** New Album

Hour of Power 09/14/13 (playlist)

  1. The Hunter (Black Rainbows / Holy Moon EP) 2013
  2. Black Core (NYMF / From the Dark) 2013
  3. Voices (Alice in Chains / The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here) 2013
  4. Monkey City (General / Where Are Your Gods Now) 2012
  5. Truckfighters 'The Chairman' EP Teaser 2013
  6. This Train Won't Stop [live @ The Vogue 08/11/13] (Devil To Pay / Fate Is Your Muse) 2013
  7. The Mangled Dead [live @ Radio Downstairs 08/30/13] 2013
  8. Death is Another Word ... (Earthen Grave / ST) 2013
  9. The End of Time (Moonbow / The End of Time) 2013
  10. Blades of Grass (The Dirty Streets / Blades of Grass) 2013
  11. Cloud 9 (Motordrone / ST) 2013
  12. Never Liked You (Luder / Adelphophagia) 2013
  13. The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret (Queens of the Stone Age / Rated R) 2000 'classic clip'

Friday, 13 September 2013

DIrty Streets - Blades of Grass (album review)

I posted a rant last night subtitled "What is wrong with radio".  The Dirty Streets are yet another perfect example of what is wrong with radio.  Their absence from its tinny airwaves practically defines the argument.  This Memphis based outfit cuts three minute hard rock songs like a trio of restless pharmacists and yes, the pills they create are habit forming.  Don't be surprised if they rattle in your pocket.

On their latest full-length, 'Blades of Grass', The Dirty Streets light their riffs in the aquamarine tints of bluegrass.  Twanging hints of it sway in the powerful breeze of most of the eleven tracks on the album.  It's a throwback kind of sound, or more accurately, one that never dies.  What isn't highlighted by a folky corn pone accent is draped in the silky smooth ghost of Sam & Dave, Booker T & the MG's or even the JB's.  This is rock n roll, soul was just another name for it and a particular style in the mid 1960's.  You don't hear too many great blue eyed soul bands these days, but The Dirty Streets hold their own with the likes of The Small Faces.  This comparison is apt in the soulful crooning of both "No Need To Rest" and its immediate follow-up, the country / quasi-mystic "Movements #2" and especially on mod / soul / psych head nodder "Truth".

That all said, what comes across, loudly and clearly is that this is a band that has done it's homework.  A band that loves doing homework, matter of fact.  A band that doesn't limit itself to one genre or one era of musical exploration.  The heavy-handed guitar picking spirit of Leadbelly stops by for a drink, Sam Cooke and Otis Redding come around to shoot the shit.  Iggy, The Stooges, the MC5 and the Flamin' Groovies return from the liquor store with a couple extra goodies scored in the parking.  Hell, even Spencer Davis and Stevie Winwood drop by occasionally at the apartment these guys share with contemporaries The Heavy Eyes on their way to a Black Keys show.  Above all else however is the presence of the riff in all its sunbursted glory.

The basis of Dirty Streets music is the funky, groovy riff and on that front, this band is one of the best in the business.  All the country twanging folky soulfulness that floats about is so much dressing around the big heavy riff.  There are too many great ones on 'Blades of Grass' to mention, just understand that this album is a riff-o-rama from beginning to end.  No surprise there for those who are familiar with their previous album, 'Movements' (I still haven't heard their first album 'Portrait of a Man', but I'll just go right ahead and assume it's equally riff-tacular).  The title track is a good place to start when looking for a first song to check out, its follow-up "Keep an Eye Out" is no backwards step in quality either.  If this band steps backward it's only to build up a head of steam to strut five steps forward.

Collectively, 'Blades of Grass' is a strutting journey around their hometown, absorbing along the way the rich musical heritage of Soulsville, USA.  After last night's rant, it's nice to follow up with a review of an album that will restore your faith in music and its continuing possibilities.  It's no easy feat to take something old and make it feel exciting, fresh and new all over again.  This is a stunning album.  Recommended for all.

Highlights include: "Blades of Grass" and "Truth"

Rating: 4.5/5

1). Stay Thirsty (3:28)
2). Talk (3:49)
3). No Need To Rest (3:24)
4). Movements #2 (3:06)
5). Try Harder (3:37)
6). Blades of Grass (3:44)
7). Keep an Eye Out (3:17)
8). Heart of the Sky (3:52)
9). Truth (4:35)
10). Twice (2:45)
11). I Believe I Found Myself (3:26)
Total Run Time: 38:57

From: Memphis, Tennessee

Genre: Rock, Soul, Blues, Psychedelic

Reminds me of: Ape Skull, Black Crowes, Five Horse Johnson, The Heavy Eyes, Small Faces

Release Date: July 9, 2013

The Dirty Streets on facebook


Thursday, 12 September 2013

Why I Doom part 1: What is wrong with radio.

I know how it all works: money.  The roots of all things evil and vile, that dangerous non-substance whose sole footing in reality exists as a collection of worthless paper and coins in our pockets that is neither a good nor a commodity in and of itself but can purchase a human being, if you know what stones to overturn.  It's no more real than the ideas inside your head and yet its presence upon our everyday reality is all-encompassing, even smothering.  It controls what we eat, how we live and even, what we hear on the radio.  Money is given to radio stations around the world for a promise.  A promise to play.  Any thought that the musical "hits" of the world become so of their own volition due to artistic or even popular merit are as accurate and useful as a free election in Nazi Germany.  It is from this fountainhead of the most unnatural of processes that the mainstream is force fed.

And the view above ground is nearly as bad as it could be.  I won't suggest that the current climate of mainstream modern rock radio is as bad as it was between the years 1986-1989, but it's not far off at this point.  There are glimmers and sparks of good music here and there, but are they rays of hope or dying embers?  Evidence points to the latter as most of the decent songs played on my hometown station, 99.3 The Fox, are by aging and waning artists whose peak periods mostly came just before or after I was in high school (that was a long time ago folks!).  Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Queens of the Stone Age & Nine Inch Nails among the most notable.  A small handful of others play heavy, fuzzy rock & roll and are mostly influenced by the Black Keys:  Monster Truck, The Sheepdogs and one or two others whom I can't even name due to lack of identification over the airwaves.

At a glance, this seems like a good pool to draw from.  But the reality is these bands are played intermittently between blocks of five or ten pop songs that simply can not be considered rock n roll.  There's one song out right now (okay I'll google it): "Afraid" by some shitty band called The Neighbourhood.  The lyrics read
"You’re too mean, I don’t like you, fuck you anywayYou make me wanna scream at the top of my lungsIt hurts but I won’t fight youYou suck anywayYou make me wanna die".  
I'm sorry but that's just not rock n roll.  "You make me want to die" is just not a rock n roll response to a given negative situation.  "You make me want to  ... Pick up a sledgehammer" or "You make me want to ... step on the old distortion pedal and play at 11" would be appropriate.  But to roll over and die?  That's not rock n roll.  This and a whole legion of others are clearly pop songs and they dominate rock radio not by brute force and command of presence, but by a naggy insistence brought on by a nauseous amount of repeat plays, which has been brought to you by the letter B for blood money.

Okay, that's a bit strong but the current state of modern rock radio recalls clearly in my mind the days when Robert Palmer, Tears For Fears & The Call ruled the airwaves.  Luckily, I had young uncles.  I wasn't naieve enough to think that this was the best of what guitar oriented music had to offer.  It wasn't often that I got to hear a Judas Priest or Metallica record but that I knew they were around cleared the cobwebs of my mind from ... The Simple Minds.  Even in those days though there were glimmers of hope.  Faith No More & Living Colour had some good songs on the radio in the latter stages of the decade.  But really, when "Cult of Personality" is the best of what the mainstream has to offer rock n roll, it's time to clear the leaves from the creative gutter.

Enter those bands listed above, who mixed Punk Rock with Black Sabbath, Neil Young with Metallica and who otherwise turned rock music on its head.  Sadly, the mainstream legacy they left in their wake is all but irrelevant (Stone Temple Pilots has a new single out with the singer from Linkin Park, want to hear it?), and these bands are left to work their own depleted soil to this day.  But these bands did not spring fully formed out of a vacuum.  The (under)groundwork had been laid by such forgotten 1980's heroes as The Meat Puppets, Husker Du, Mudhoney, The Melvins, Black Flag, Fugazi, The Screaming Trees and any number of all-time greats who never truly got their due.

Which brings us elliptically to the present day, because there is a stirring beneath the surface.  I can see it, hear it, feel it, taste it and touch it.  You can too, reader.  That's why we're here.  Just when what is offered on mainstream radio seems as bad as it could possibly get, the discerning head for the cellar and latch 'er up.  Below ground, heavy guitar based music has rarely been tougher, bolder, more heartfelt or generally better.

It begs the question: can lightning strike twice?  The answer is yes, but in which spot?  Above ground the pundits and punters alike have 'known about' stoner rock for a long time now and for a long time it was considered "the next big thing".  Well, a decade and a half later everybody's still wondering when exactly that "next" time will be.  And what roll doth the internet play?  What roll the blogs to play in this drama of the ears?  We (the bloggers) are pretty much powerless, voiceless and toothless because we don't have the money to promote the bands that deserve and even need to be heard.  We do what we can and it always feels to me that when I've introduced somebody, just one person to a band, that I've done enough.  I've done my job.  That's what it's all about.  But there's always a lingering sense that I'm preaching to the already converted.  You never know, there's always somebody new stumbling accidentally through the cellar doors where bands like Witchcraft, Devil to Pay, The Heavy Eyes, From Beyond, Snake Thursday, Red Desert, At Devil Dirt or any number of Small Stone Records bands (just off the top of my head of "radio worthy" bands) capture them until the hostage becomes a Patty Hearst type figure and supports the cause wholeheartedly.  That's my story anyway.

But, we're not talking about one or two people who tumble down an open cellar door.  We're talking about the big time, big exposure and big airplay.  Why?  I can hear a couple of you murmuring angrily out there about not wanting to lose 'your' band to the mainstream and how it would never be the same again if your cherished underground band breaks through.  How they won't be 'yours' anymore.  Well you, my friend, are a snob, and worse, you would deny a favored musician a degree of financial independence that would ensure him or her that much needed commodity that is always in short supply but more precious than air: time.

I don't know what's going to happen.  If I had to guess, I'd say that things will probably continue much as they are now, until they get even worse that is.  I'm not sure when or even if the breaking point will come when enough (probably high school age or younger) rockers will say enough is enough and they NEED to hear the heavy, NOW.  This moment cannot come soon enough, but when it does, I suspect it won't be what we're hoping for.

In the brandy sipping circles of rock n roll intellectualism, it is considered that the genre goes through (roughly) 13 year cycles beginning in 1951 with the release of Ike Turner's barnstorming "Rocket 88" single which led to the first cycle spanning the years 1951-63 inclusive and is best represented by Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Cliff Richard in the UK.  Then the British Invasion happened, The Beatles changed the sound of music forever and led rock n roll down the garden path of psychedelia which stateside morphed into a near nightmare at the hands of The Doors among others.  This wave eventually lost steam however as the free love generation went the way of disease-addled sleaze of stadium rock and overblown progressive navel-gazing.  Then the next cycle started.  Punk rock dropped an atom bomb on the whole-LP-side long suites and elaborate stage set-ups (costumes and props) of prog with its short blasts of three chord fury.  But, as seems to always be the case, the punk ethic mutated in the hands of mainstream acceptance into new wave and a more in-your-face brand of pop star such as Madonna.  Enter Nirvana and the fourth cycle of rock n roll.  Grunge did away with the synthesizers and canned drum machine and got back to angry levels of distortion and the angst of Generation X that had very little to do with interesting or unique hair styles.  Take it from one who was there, with all that hairspray gone, it was a breath of fresh air.  It didn't last however as grunge paved the way for Nu Metal and I'll be damned if it wasn't time for the next cycle before you knew it.  Only, this one didn't come.  Not really.

I always considered the fifth cycle of rock music to have begun with the release of The Strokes 'Is This It' album back in 2001.  'Garage rock' as it was dubbed by the media then grabbed the rock n roll listener by the throats with The White Stripes, The Hives and Jet, among others following in the New York rockers' wake in quick succession.  The ride didn't last long.  It seemed people were developing shorter and shorter attention spans.  Hell, even the bands themselves seemed to be as well.  It didn't take long, not long at all before bands like the Kings of Leon doffed their exciting, heavy and southern rock approach for a castrated, testosterone depleted and decidedly non-dangerous brand of dentist office soundtrack 'rock'.  And we remain in this phase today to a greater or lesser extent.

Anyway, it's about time for another cycle.  Strictly speaking the sixth cycle won't happen until 2016, but if the fifth cycle started when I believe it did, that accelerates the timeline slightly.  We're about due.  When I listen to what's on commercial radio I'd say we're about due.  And of course, I'm rooting for the stoners!  As a lifelong "heavy guitar-oriented" music fan, I can't tell you how excited I was to discover the stoned and doomed underground early last year.  I hadn't listened to anything recorded after the early 1970's for a good five years before embarking on my voyage of discovery.  I can't tell you how excited I was, but I try to every single time I post something here.  But are the stoners the inheritors of the earth?  My gut and my pessimism say no.  What the hell does it matter that a band like Vista Chino already has over 150,000 likes on facebook when I'm not hearing them and the successive wave of bands behind them on the radio?  That's nearly three times as many as The Sheepdogs and Monster Truck combined and I hear them on the radio all the time (although not often enough because those two, unlike most bands on the radio these days are actually good).

So what will it take for the stoners to break through?  Money.

I don't have it and you don't have it, but somehow it still speaks volumes all around us.  Somebody turn down the damn radio will you?

I suspect that if and when Stoner Rock finally does hog the spotlight it won't be what you or I was hoping for.  Mostly likely it will be pre-fabricated bands that nobody has ever heard of, new bands that come from out of nowhere, cobbled together and put together by labels to produce a manufactured sound.  The labels will pass around Truckfighters albums at meetings, dissecting them and analyzing them at length, trying thickly to understand what it is that makes them probably the best band in the world and how they can tap into that fuzz tone like vampires.  Most likely it would have to be that way because the bands that we cherish down here in the dirt will not be willing to play along with the pre-scripted outrages and marketing blitzes that go along with the whole game.  "Mr. Dango found OD'd in Hotel Room, Revived Moments Later" will scream the headline.  The byline will read "I was hangin' with Jimi, why'd you wake me up?"  One.  Big.  Predictable.  Nightmare.

But you know what?  The stuff I'm hearing on the radio nowadays sucks and somebody needs to do something about it.  Don't you think?

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

The Paranoid 25 (09/11/13)

Top 25 Songs
#). Song Title (artist/album)
  1. Know Your Animal (Goatess / ST)
  2. Kings of Koch (Snowchild / digital track)
  3. Follow the Rats (Peacemaker / Cult .45)
  4. Summoning the Not Living (Vidunder / ST)
  5. That Woebegone (Ghold / Judas Ghoat)
  6. Son of Crow (Crowlord / Naked Chicks, Goats & Wolves)
  7. Lazy (Ape Skull / ST)
  8. Strongholds of Karak Varn (Church of Void / Winter Is Coming EP)
  9. You're Mine (The Black Angels / Indigo Meadow)
  10. Methademic (Black Sabbath / 13)***
  11. Fear of the Doom (NYMF / From the Dark)***
  12. A Rush of Power (Age of Taurus / Desperate Souls of Tortured Times)
  13. Battle in the Swamp [live] (Conan / Mount Wrath)
  14. Shadow of an Eagle (Desert Storm / Horizontal Life)
  15. Destruction (Werewolves in Siberia / The Rising)***
  16. No Tomorrow (Tombstone / Where the Dead Belong)
  17. Immurement (Diesel King / The Grey Man EP)
  18. Dirty Ceiling (Tangerine Stoned / ST)
  19. Ancient Apocalypse (Mammoth Storm / ST Demo)***
  20. Something Sweet (Black Wizard / Young Wisdom)***
  21. Nineteen Ninety and a Half (Holy Mount / Aplic)
  22. Satan's Got My Back (The Mangled Dead / single)
  23. Kingmaker (Spiritual Beggars / Earth Blues)
  24. Supersun (Mothersloth / Hazy Blur of Life)***
  25. The Places You Walk (Jex Thoth / Blood Moon Rise)***
*** New Song

Outgoing songs:
The Witches Remains (Brutus / Behind the Mountains)
Ten Lizardmen & One Pocketknife (Devil to Pay / Fate Is Your Muse)
Brother Bishop [Gary Heidnik] (Church of Misery / Thy Kingdom Scum)
Brother Death (Zodiac / ST)
Tempest (Shroud Eater / Dead Ends EP)
Pretty Done (Alice in Chains / The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here)
To Hell We Ride (Albino Python / The Doomed and the Damned)

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Luder - Adelphophagia (album review)

Luder is really a strange beast, one of the stranger entries in the Small Stone label's roster of bands.  In many ways it's a monster, though not terrible to behold.  The songs are far too long to be considered pop, and the songs are too poppy to be considered heavy psych, the band occupies a little pocket of reality all their own.  It's a place of brightness and gloom, a place where opposites attract and like forces repel.

Dream-like melodies glide on swaying rhythms.  'Adelphophagia' features an expansive sound full of darkening blue skies after sunset.  There's a camera zoom quality in effect at times, zoom in, zoom out.  When Luder zooms in, low hanging clouds roll in creating pressure and feelings of calustrophobia and a foreshortening of the world.  Possibilities have ends and even skies have limits, limits which can be halved at a moment's notice.  Zoom out to reveal a reversal of the effect.  It seems the 'camera' is operated by drummer Eric Miller, here, who provides much of the point / counterpoint while the rest of the band plays on, it's up to him to provide commentary and close-up shots or gorgeous landscapes depending on the tempo and urgency of his playing.  The world of Luder is one of being wrapped in warm blankets and tossed off a bridge into ice cold water, unable to escape, locked into a groove, trapped in sound.

The zoom effect is also effected in the middle sections of the longer numbers of 'Adelphophagia'.  Three of the nine tracks in total reach for or exceed the nine minute mark.  Like true sound junkies, Luder won't rest until every nook and cranny of a composition is exploited to its limit and they give you your money's worth with over an hour of music to explore.  Album opener "Never Liked You" is the shortest cut at 4:27 which may give you an idea of what this album is made of: darkly inviting vocals courtesy of Sue Lott, a minimalist approach to structure while wringing out every last drop of inspiration from a tune.  It's not a bad way to go about it and leads to some truly inspired improvisational moment, such as on "Ask the Sky" and "".

Much of what Luder does is understated.  "Dirge" provides a strong example of this.  Just as the song is reaching a peak in the chorus and shit is about to bust loose, the drums begin to drop out and the updraft of this parachute opening effect creates a huge rush (though, an understated one).

An excellent way to get to know what Luder is all about is to listen to their take on David Bowie's "I'm Afraid of Americans".  Where Bowie's original was robotic and industrial, Luder's cover version is wispy and ethereal, not quite a man/machine dichotomy, but machine/spirit seems to fit the bill nicely.  'Adelphophagia' is full of ghosts, perhaps the ghosts of those titular brothers who have been eaten, ghosts who cry out not for revenge or rest, but exclaim with the joy of discovery.  Luder tells us that the world beyond is not always a scary place, although it can be.  That there is a serenity in letting go of control and letting the current pull you along.  There's no clearer statement of this than on the song that closes out the album, "Remember What I Said".  Turn off you mind, relax and float while listening to Luder.  They all float while listening to Luder.

And remember ...


Highlights include: "Never Liked You" and "Remember What I Said".

Rating: 3.5/5

Total Run Time: 1:02:33

Sue Lott: bass and vox
Eric Miller: drums and percussion
Phil Dürr: guitar and leads
Scott Hamilton: guitar and effects
From: Detroit, Michigan

Genre: Alt. Rock, Psychedelic

Reminds me of: Garbage, Jex Thoth, Mellow Bravo

Release Date: October 8, 2013

Luder on facebook
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