Friday Full-Length: The Brought Low, Right on Time

Posted in Bootleg Theater on March 27th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

They took my neighbor out last night on a stretcher. Ambulance, lights flashing. It was dark over here by then — maybe 8:30PM — so the walls started turning red and blue like we were having a rave of plague anxiety. Older lady. Maybe she fell. She did seem to have bad knees. I don’t know.

That’s what all the pandemic sci-fi literature/pop culture gets wrong. The waiting for what’s coming by those not on the frontlines. The not knowing. There are things happening so fast around us — but locked in our houses, what are we trying to do? We’re trying to clean. We’re doing laundry. The Patient Mrs. and I are trying to keep The Pecan entertained, decently fed. We’re constantly reading the news, quoting statistics at each other, but we’re also just trying to get through another day. We’re asking whether we want the diner or pizza for takeout. I’m grinding coffee for the morning. She’s working. I’m writing reviews.

Life.

You never hear about that waiting, or the worry that’s hiding behind the day-to-day. Consider Cormac McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic The Road. How cheap that story seems. They don’t even know what happened to collapse society. It was just gone and okay fine so off we go. Are you kidding me? Nothing in life happens like that. It happens like this. People start dying in numbers we can’t even conceive, so you know what? We don’t conceive them. We see them, we tell ourselves, “that’s awful,” and we make cookies. Those who have to go to work, do.

My sister got laid off yesterday from her corporate gig of long-standing. Sucks, of course, but she’s healthy, experienced and frighteningly competent, so I’m not worried for her. If she doesn’t get rehired to this job, she’ll get another as soon as there are jobs to get. With three million unemployment claims last week, obviously she’s not alone. Your bosses and your bosses’ bosses do not care if you live or die. That’s not their job.The Brought Low Right on Time

We don’t know how many people will get COVID-19. We don’t know how well sheltering in place will work. Maybe by August we’ll all be dancing madly backwards at Psycho Las Vegas, breathing hot desert air through our unaffected lungs and headbanging through our reborn appreciation for being alive. It’s impossible to know what’s coming.

The Brought Low, above, are comfort music for me. Right on Time came out through Small Stone in 2006, and the NYC trio were on top of their game. 14 years later, these songs continue to smoke, and the band — massively underrated — put out one record after it and continue to do periodic shows after a few years away. This was their second and I don’t know if they’ll make a fourth album, but I love these songs and so wanted to close out the week with them, even if I didn’t include the usual critique-style blah blah blah.

I reserve the right to do another Friday Full-Length with Right on Time at some point under more normal circumstances — because not only do I love it, but I think it holds up on the merits of its songs, performance and aesthetic; “Dear Ohio,” “A Better Life,” “Vernon Jackson,” “Shake Down,” “Blues for Cubby,” all of it — it just didn’t seem to work this week.

Not that much did. The wheels came off around Wednesday and I was never really able to get it going again. I made it through the Quarterly Review, but shit, Enslaved announced their new album title this week and I wasn’t even able to get that posted. It’d take me like 20 minutes, max, to put that together, and nope. Just didn’t have it in me, didn’t have time. It has been a difficult, difficult week. I’m sleeping a lot. Even this morning, I slept until 5:30. Tried to get up earlier and couldn’t. And I’ve been sleeping when The Pecan takes a nap, which is like two hours in the afternoon.

Hard days. We go for runs in the morning, he and I, and that seems to help him even out. But he misses doing things, clearly. Gymnastics class, swimming class, daycare. Quarantine has been tough on him, and he’s really just too young to understand what any of it means, so all he knows is he can’t even go see grandma’s dogs and he doesn’t know why. I feel for him, and I feel for The Patient Mrs., who of course is the force keeping the entire household together, as always. She is the center around which my universe spins.

Be healthy. Be smart. Do what you can to enjoy your days, to enjoy each other. If you have someone, hold them. If you’re alone, reach out to someone else. Even if it’s texting, that contact makes a difference. Hell, drop me a line. I’m around. Be well.

Back next week. It’s front-to-back packed.

FRM.

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Quarterly Review: Ocean Chief, Barnabus, Helen Money, Elder Druid, Mindcrawler, Temple of Void, Lunar Swamp, Huge Molasses Tank Explodes, Emile, Saturno Grooves

Posted in Reviews on March 27th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

I’m not saying I backloaded the Quarterly Review or anything — because I didn’t — but maybe subconsciously I wanted to throw in a few releases here I had a pretty good idea I was gonna dig beforehand. Pretty much all of them, as it turned out. Not a thing I regret happening, though, again, neither was it something I did purposefully. Anyone see A Serious Man? In this instance, I’m happy to “accept the mystery” and move on.

Before we dive into the last day, of course I want to say thank you for reading if you have been. If you’ve followed along all week or this is the only post you’ve seen or you’re just here because I tagged your band in the post on Thee Facebooks, whatever it is, it is appreciated. Thank you. Especially given the global pandemic, your time and attention is highly valued.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Ocean Chief, Den Tredje Dagen

ocean chief den tredje dagen

The first Ocean Chief record in six years is nothing if not weighted enough to make up for anything like lost time. Also the long-running Swedish outfit’s debut on Argonauta Records, Den Tredje Dagen on CD/DL runs five songs and 59 minutes, and though it’s not without a sense of melody either instrumentally or vocally — certainly its guitars have plenty enough to evoke a sense of mournfulness at least — its primary impact still stems from the sheer heft of its tonality, and its tracks are of the sort that a given reviewer might be tempted to call “slabs.” They land accordingly, the longest of them positioned as the centerpiece “Dömd” seething with slower-Celtic Frost anxiety and the utter nastiness of its intent spread across 15-plus minutes of let-me-just-go-ahead-and-crush-that-for-you where “that” is everything and “no” isn’t taken for an answer. There’s respite in closer “Den Sista Resan” and the CD-bonus “Dimension 5,” but even these maintain an atmospheric severity consistent with what precedes them. One way or another, it is all fucking destroyed.

Ocean Chief on Thee Facebooks

Argonauta Records store

 

Barnabus, Beginning to Unwind

barnabus beginning to unwind

Come ye historians and classic heavy rockers. Come, reap what Rise Above Relics has sown. Though it’s hard sometimes not to think of the Rise Above Records imprint as label-honcho Lee Dorrian (ex-Cathedral, current With the Dead) picking out highlights from his own record collection — which is the stuff of legend — neither is that in any way a problem. Barnabus, who hailed and apparently on occasion still hail from the West Midlands in the UK, issued the Beginning to Unwind in 1972 as part of an original run that ended the next year. So it goes. Past its 10-minute jammy opener/longest track (immediate points) “America,” the new issue of Beginning to Unwind includes the LP, demos, live tracks, and no doubt assorted other odds and ends as well from Barnabus‘ brief time together. Songs like “The War Drags On” and “Resolute” are the stuff of ’70s-riff daydreams, while “Don’t Cry for Me My Lady” digs into proto-prog without losing its psych-folk inflection. I’m told the CD comes with a 44-page booklet, which only furthers the true archival standard of the release.

Barnabus on Thee Facebooks

Rise Above Relics store

 

Helen Money, Atomic

helen money atomic

To those for whom Helen Money is a familiar entity, the arrival of a new full-length release will no doubt only be greeted with joy. The ongoing project of experimental cellist Alison Chesley, though the work itself — issued through Thrill Jockey as a welcome follow-up to 2016’s Become Zero (review here) — is hardly joyful. Coping with the universality of grief and notions of grieving-together with family, Chesley brings forth minimalism and electronics-inclusive stylstic reach in kind across the pulsating “Nemesis,” the periodic distortion of her core instrument jarring when it hits. She takes on a harp for “Coppe” and the effect is cinematic in a way that seems to find answer on the later “One Year One Ring,” after which follows the has-drums “Marrow,” but wherever Chesley goes on Atomic‘s 47 minutes, the overlay of mourning is never far off.

Helen Money on Thee Facebooks

Thrill Jockey Records store

 

Elder Druid, Golgotha

elder druid golgotha

Belfast dual-guitar sludge five-piece Elder Druid return with seven tracks/39 minutes of ready punishment on their second album, Golgotha, answering the anger of 2017’s Carmina Satanae with densely-packed tones and grooves topped with near-universal harsh vocals (closer “Archmage” is the exception). What they’re playing doesn’t require an overdose of invention, with their focus is so much on hammering their riffs home, and certainly the interwoven leads of the title-track present some vision of intricacy for those who might demand it while also being punched in the face, and the transitional “Sentinel,” which follows,” brings some more doomly vibes ahead of “Vincere Vel Mori,” which revives the nod, “Dreadnought” has keys as well as a drum solo, and the penultimate “Paegan Dawn of Anubis” brings in an arrangement of backing vocals, so neither are they void of variety. At the feedback-soaked end of “Archmage,” Golgotha comes across genuine in its aggression and more sure of their approach than they were even just a couple years ago.

Elder Druid on Thee Facebooks

Elder Druid on Bandcamp

 

Mindcrawler, Lost Orbiter

mindcrawler lost orbiter

I know the whole world seems like it’s in chaos right now — mostly because it is — but go ahead and quote me on this: a band does not come along in 2020 and put out a record like Lost Orbiter and not get picked up by some label if they choose to be. Among 2020’s most promising debuts, it is progressive without pretense, tonally rich and melodically engaging, marked out by a poise of songcraft that speaks to forward potential whether it’s in the coursing leads of “Drake’s Equation” or the final slowdown/speedup of “Trappist-1” that smoothly shifts into the sample at the start of closer “Dead Space.” Mindcrawler‘s first album — self-recorded, no less — is modern cosmic-heavy brought to bear in a way that strikes such a balance between the grounded and the psychedelic that it should not be ignored, even in the massively crowded international underground from which they’re emerging. And the key point there is they are emerging, and that as thoughtfully composed as the six tracks/29 minutes of Lost Orbiter are, they only represent the beginning stages of what Mindcrawler might accomplish. If there is justice left, someone will release it on vinyl.

Mindcrawler on Thee Facebook

Mindcrawler on Bandcamp

 

Temple of Void, The World That Was

Temple of Void The World that Was

Michigan doom-death five-piece Temple of Void have pushed steadily toward the latter end of that equation over their now-three full-lengths, and though The World That Was (their second offering through Shadow Kingdom) is still prone to its slower tempos and is includes the classical-guitar interlude “A Single Obulus,” that stands right before “Leave the Light Behind,” which is most certainly death metal. Not arguing with it, as to do so would surely only invite punishment. The extremity only adds to the character of Temple of Void‘s work overall, and as “Casket of Shame” seems to be at war with itself, so too is it seemingly at war with whatever manner of flesh its working so diligently to separate from the bone. Across a still-brief 37 minutes, The World That Was — which caps with its most-excellently-decayed nine-minute title-track — harnesses and realizes this grim vision, and Temple of Void declare in no uncertain terms that no matter how they might choose to tip the scale on the balance of their sound, they are its master.

Temple of Void on Thee Facebooks

Shadow Kingdom Records store

 

Lunar Swamp, Shamanic Owl

Lunar Swamp Shamanic Owl

Lunar Swamp have spawned as a blusier-directed offshoot of Italian doomers Bretus of which vocalist Mark Wolf, guitarist/bassist Machen and drummer S.M. Ghoul are members, and sure enough, their debut single “Shamanic Owl,” fosters this approach. As the band aren’t strangers to each other, it isn’t such a surprise that they’d be able to decide on a sound and make it happen their first time out but the seven-minute roller — also the leadoff their first EP, UnderMudBlues, which is due on CD in June — also finds time to work in a nod to the central riff of Sleep‘s “Dragonaut” along with its pointed worship of Black Sabbath, so neither do they seems strictly adherent to a blues foundation, despite the slide guitar that works its way in at the finish. How the rest of the EP might play out need not be a mystery — it’s out digitally now — but as far as an introduction goes, “Shamanic Owl” will find welcome among those seeking comfort in the genre-familiar.

Lunar Swamp on Thee Facebooks

Lunar Swamp on Bandcamp

 

Huge Molasses Tank Explodes, II

Huge Molasses Tank Explodes II

The nine-track/42-minute second LP, II, from Milano post-this-or-that five-piece Huge Molasses Tank Explodes certainly finds the band earning bonus points based on their moniker alone, but more than that, it is a work of reach and intricacy alike, finding the moment where New Wave emerged from out of krautrock’s fascination with synthesizer music and bring to that a psychedelic shimmer that is too vintage-feeling to be anything other than modern. It is laid back enough in its overarching affect that “The Run” feels dreamy, most especially in its guitar lines, but never is it entirely at rest, and both the centerpiece “No One” and the later “So Much to Lose” help continue the momentum that “The Run” manages so fluidly to build in a manner one might liken to space rock were the implication of strict adherence to stylistic guidelines so implicit in that categorization. They present this nuance with a natural-seeming sense of craft and in “High or Low,” a fuzzy tone that feels like only a welcome windfall. Those who can get their head around it should seek to do so, and kudos to Huge Molasses Tank Explodes for being more than just a clever name.

Huge Molasses Tank Explodes on Thee Facebooks

Retro Vox Records on Bandcamp

 

Emile, The Black Spider/Det Kollektive Selvmord

Emile The Black Spider Det Kollektive Selvmord

Set to release through Heavy Psych Sounds on the same day as the new album from his main outfit The Sonic Dawn, The Black Spider/Det Kollective Selvmord is the debut solo album from Copenhagen-based singer-songwriter and guitarist Emile Bureau, who has adopted his first name as his moniker of choice. Fair enough for the naturalism and intended intimacy of the 11-track/39-minute outing, which indeed splits itself between portions in English and in Danish, sounding likewise able to bring together sweet melodies in both. Edges of distortion in “Bundlos” and some percussion in the second half’s title-track give a semblance of arrangement to the LP, but at the core is Emile himself, his vocals and guitar, and that’s clearly the purpose behind it. Where The Sonic Dawn often boast a celebratory feel, The Black Spider/Det Kollective Selvmord is almost entirely subdued, and its expressive sensibility comes through regardless of language.

Emile on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds store

 

Saturno Grooves, Cosmic Echoes

saturno grooves cosmic echoes

Sonic restlessness! “Fire Dome” begins with a riffy rush, “Forever Zero” vibes out on low end and classic swing, the title-track feels like an Endless Boogie jam got lost in the solar system, “Celestial Tunnel” is all-thrust until it isn’t at all, “Blind Faith” is an acoustic interlude, and “Dark Matter” is a punk song. Because god damn, of course it is. It is little short of a miracle Saturno Grooves make their second album, Cosmic Echoes as remarkably cohesive as it is, yet through it all they hold fast to class and purpose alike, and from its spacious outset to its bursting finish, there isn’t a minute of Cosmic Echoes that feels like happenstance, even though they’re obviously following one impulse after the next in terms of style. Heavy (mostly) instrumentalism that works actively not to be contained. Out among the echoes, Saturno Grooves might just be finding their own wavelength.

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LSDR Records store

 

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

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

quarterly review

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

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Slift, Ummon

slift ummon

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

Slift on Thee Facebooks

Stolen Body Records store

Vicious Circle Records store

 

IIVII, Grinding Teeth/Zero Sleep

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

IIVII on Thee Facebooks

Consouling Sounds store

 

Coogans Bluff, Metronopolis

coogans bluff metronopolis

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

Coogans Bluff on Thee Facebooks

Noisolution store

 

Rough Spells, Ruins at Midday

rough spells ruins at midday

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

Rough Spells on Thee Facebooks

Fuzzed and Buzzed store

DHU Records store

 

Goblinsmoker, A Throne in Haze, A World Ablaze

goblinsmoker a throne in haze a world ablaze

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

Goblinsmoker on Thee Facebooks

Sludgelord Records on Bandcamp

 

Homecoming, LP01

homecoming lp01

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

Homecoming on Thee Facebooks

Homecoming on Bandcamp

 

Lemurian Folk Songs, Logos

lemurian folk songs logos

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

Lemurian Folk Songs on Thee Facebooks

Para Hobo Records on Bandcamp

 

Ritual King, Ritual King

ritual king ritual king

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

Ritual King on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

 

Sunflowers, Endless Voyage

sunflowers endless voyage

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

Sunflowers on Thee Facebooks

Stolen Body Records store

 

Maya Mountains, Era

maya mountains era

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

Maya Mountains on Thee Facebooks

Go Down Records store

 

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Paradise Lost Post “Fall From Grace” Video; Obsidian Preorders Start

Posted in Bootleg Theater on March 25th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

paradise lost

I’m curious how closely the promotional plan from Nuclear Blast for Paradise Lost‘s new album, Obsidian — which is out May 15 — will follow the pattern of the latest record from My Dying Bride that came out earlier this month. There are, of course, additional factors at play now that weren’t at the beginning of the year as they were rolling out the first of that band’s singles — blah blah blah pandemic — but starting with a narrative-style video and the launch of preorders is on point so far, and likewise the choice of a powerful lead single. In this instance, that’s “Fall From Grace,” for which the video is streamable below, followed, as happens, by the preorder link.

Granted it’s cliché as heckdarnshoot to compare these two acts either sonically or in terms of their respective career trajectories, but now that they’re once again labelmates — Paradise Lost signed to Nuclear Blast for their 2017 album, Medusa (review here), following a long stint on Century Media — it’s hard to avoid since at least one assumes it’s the same teams working behind the scenes on promoting them. My emails come from the same parties, anyhow. Paradise Lost are nothing not a proven commodity, as even the reception to their last offering proved, so maybe that’s me being interested in how the industry works these days — if what comes next is a lyric video, it’ll be on target — but as we’ve all learned to one degree or another in the last month-plus, plans can change in ways not previously anticipated. Still, even on a label with the reach of Nuclear BlastObsidian will obviously be a priority.

If the cinematic feel of “Fall From Grace” is anything to go by, that’s how it’s being treated. More to come, I’m sure.

Enjoy:

Paradise Lost, “Fall From Grace” official video

PARADISE LOST RELEASE NEW SINGLE & VIDEO FOR “FALL FROM GRACE” + START PRE-ORDER FOR “OBSIDIAN” (MAY 15TH)

The book has been closed but the story is not over: PARADISE LOST sharpen their pens and add another chapter to their dark, glooming history of death doom and gothic metal. In difficult times, the British legend from Halifax is the drug that numbs the pain , the lover that takes away the sorrows, the story that craves to be told.

“Obsidian”, the new album from PARADISE LOST, will be released on May,15th.

You can order “Obsidian” now in various formats here:
https://nblast.de/ParadiseLostObsidian

Nick Holmes states: “As a global crisis, it goes without saying Covid 19 has affected everyone and everything, including every aspect of the music industry. As a result, our record label Nuclear Blast offered us the chance to postpone the launch of our latest album ‘Obsidian’ to a less volatile time later in the year.

Taking this into consideration, and the fact the live music circuit is currently in lockdown, we think it’s unnecessary to postpone the release as we think our fans wouldn’t want to wait. Music can be enjoyed in practically any environment, so therefore we are going ahead with the same release date 15.5.20, and we sincerely hope our new album helps to lift your spirits, and is a beacon of light in the dark during these uncertain times! Thanks for your continuous support through the years and see you on the road!”

Paradise Lost website

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Paradise Lost at Nuclear Blast website

Nuclear Blast on Thee Facebooks

Nuclear Blast on Instagram

Nuclear Blast webstore

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

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

quarterly review

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

Quarterly Review #21-30:

The Cult of Dom Keller, Ascend!

the cult of dom keller ascend

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

The Cult of Dom Keller on Thee Facebooks

Cardinal Fuzz on Bandcamp

Little Cloud Records on Bandcamp

 

Grandpa Jack, Trash Can Boogie

Grandpa Jack Trash Can Boogie

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

Grandpa Jack on Thee Facebooks

Grandpa Jack on Bandcamp

 

Woven Man, Revelry (In Our Arms)

woven man revelry in our arms

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

Woven Man on Thee Facebooks

Woven Man on Bandcamp

 

Charivari, Descent

charivari descent

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

Charivari on Thee Facebooks

Worst Bassist Records on Bandcamp

 

Human Impact, Human Impact

human impact human impact

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

Human Impact on Thee Facebooks

Ipecac Recordings store

 

Dryland, Dances with Waves

dryland dances with waves

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

Dryland on Thee Facebooks

Dryland on Bandcamp

 

Brass Owl, State of Mind

brass owl state of mind

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

Brass Owl website

Brass Owl on Bandcamp

 

Battle City, Press Start

Battle City Press Start

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

Battle City on Thee Facebooks

Battle City on Bandcamp

 

Astral Bodies, Escape Death

Astral Bodies Escape Death

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

Astral Bodies on Thee Facebooks

Surviving Sounds on Thee Facebooks

 

Satyrus, Rites

satyrus rites

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

Satyrus on Thee Facebooks

Satyrus on Bandcamp

 

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Copper Feast Records Announces Hidden Noise Wildfire Benefit Compilation out Friday

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

In case you’ve forgotten how the world works, reality isn’t polite enough to wait for one global crisis to end before the next one begins, and though the media cycle spotlight worldwide may have moved on to brighter, shinier travesties, the fallout from Australia’s wildfires earlier this year is still being felt and will be for many years to come. Ecosystem damage like that doesn’t disappear in a day. Particularly when humans are involved. We suck at that stuff. Good destroyers, bad rebuilders.

Anyhoo, there are those who do what they can, and among them stand organizations like WIRES and the Australian Red Cross, who are the beneficiaries of Copper Feast Records‘ new compilation out March 27, titled Hidden Noise. Australia’s one-of-a-kind environment and wildlife can’t be replaced, or cloned by futures usses, and the planet needs that ecosystem and those animals now. And not to mention the cost to humanity too in lost homes, livelihoods and lives. If a comp with killer tracks by killer bands gets any dollars — Australian or otherwise — to those causes, then that’s only a good thing.

So here’s the info:

various artists hidden noise

Copper Feast Records – ‘Hidden Noise’ Charity Compilation

The world is on fire. Australia is on fire. Things will not get better until things change.

In late 2019 and early 2020, Australia was ravaged by bushfires which have destroyed vast expanses of its unique natural environment, pushing some species to the verge of extinction and causing the loss of many lives, livelihoods and homes. As our way of giving back, 100% of the profits from ‘Hidden Noise’ will be going to charity.

50% will be going to WIRES (www.wires.org.au)
50% will be going to The Australian Red Cross (www.redcross.org.au)

‘Hidden Noise’, a compilation from Copper Feast Records, showcases unreleased tracks from some of the best ‘hidden’ psych rock and stoner rock bands that Australia has to offer. In addition, a small number of previously released tracks from even more amazing bands completes the compilation.

Some of the artists that have contributed brand new songs include Planet of the 8s, Turtle Skull and The Black Heart Death Cult. We also have new mixes of existing tracks from the likes of Sleeping Giant and Narla.

The compilation title ‘Hidden Noise’ takes on a variety of different meanings in relation to this project. These are all Australian bands that are massively deserving of a greater following than they currently receive. Their music may be somewhat hidden for now, but I urge you to explore them all further. Albums, singles and even demos can be found on each band’s own Bandcamp page with links provided below.

‘Hidden Noise’ also references how at-risk persons and families have found their voice lost when requiring assistance before and after the bushfire crisis affecting the country. This is in addition to the vast number of wildlife voices that go unheard at this time as humans exploit their habitats causing their destruction.

Last but not least, the compilation title is in reference to the media obstruction and government inaction all over the world regarding climate change and the crisis affecting not only Australia, but every country in the world as a result of this.

We need change. Please enjoy the music and be a part of it.

narlamusic.bandcamp.com
theroyalartillery.bandcamp.com
planetofthe8s.bandcamp.com
turtleskullmusic.bandcamp.com
sonsofzoku.bandcamp.com
theblackheartdeathcult.bandcamp.com
cosmosmelbourne.bandcamp.com
numidia.bandcamp.com/releases
motemelbourne.bandcamp.com
theivoryelephant.bandcamp.com
footmelb.bandcamp.com
droiddoom.bandcamp.com
paulholden.bandcamp.com
sleepinggiantband.bandcamp.com

Thank you to all the artists above for their contribution and support to this project. Thank you to Carl Saff for ensuring such a broad-ranging sound compiled into one record sounds cohesive. Thank you to you, the listener, for your support.

https://copperfeastrecords.bigcartel.com/
https://www.facebook.com/CopperFeastRecords/
https://copperfeastrecords.bandcamp.com/

Foot, The Balance of Nature Shifted (2020)

Sleeping Giant, Sleeping Giant (2019)

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Agrabatti Sign to Interstellar Smoke Records for Beyond the Sun Release

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 24th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

In what might be called delightful happenstance if it actually were and I wasn’t just that behind on stuff, the just-reviewed San Francisco one-man space rock outfit Agrabatti have signed to Interstellar Smoke Records to release the debut album, Beyond the Sun, sometime between now and ever. When might that be? I don’t know, but let’s face it: the band formed in 2009 and it’s taking 11 years for the arrival of a first record. You can probably wait a little bit longer for it to show up on vinyl.

Though if you feel some urgency in that regard, I respect that, and to be honest, I get it. I know it was just reviewed in a batch with nine other records, but Chad Davis — whose pedigree is full of almost embarrassingly awesome projects at this point — absolutely nails a traditionalist ’70s-style space rock vibe, and the album is awesome. It was a highlight of my day, frankly, so if I get to talk about it again now, well, that’s a win as far as I’m concerned. Probably won’t be the last time, either.

Here’s hoping for a follow-up in sometime less than a decade:

agrabatti beyond the sun

It is with great pleasure that I announce Interstellar Smoke Records has formed a cosmic allegiance with Agrabatti. To say I am delighted is beyond the fact! ISR have an amazing track record of releases and their commitment to the underground music movement is beyond unparalleled!!

The debut recording “Beyond the Sun” will be released in the form of a “Dark Nebula” vinyl edition that is black in lime green wax and limited to 250 units with poster. All killer galactic visuals created by the legendary ZZ Corpse!! Release date to be announced once pressing info has been received.

I am grateful to Jack and ISR for believing in the music enough to offer their services to support the sound and ideals of Agrabatti, and to bring this project forth from the cosmic dust it was formed from some 11 years ago.

Stay tuned in, turned on and STAY COSMIC!

Chad Davis

https://facebook.com/agrabatti/
https://agrabatti.bandcamp.com/
https://interstellarsmokerecords.bigcartel.com/

Agrabatti, Beyond the Sun (2020)

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Lord Buffalo Post “Dog Head” Official Live Video; Tohu Wa Bohu Out This Week

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

lord buffalo

I’ve had occasion more than once now to say I dig Lord Buffalo‘s second album, Tohu Wa Bohu, which is released this week through Blues Funeral Recordings, and hey, here’s one more before the thing actually comes out. It’s fitting the Austin, Texas, four-piece’s dug-in heavy Americana ethic that the video they’d make and put out closest to the record’s arrival is live, and that it’s performed somewhat differently from what’s actually on said record, and that it’s for a deep cut, down on side B rather than something frontloaded onto side A like some outfits do. It is, then, an invitation to dig further.

In the live version of “Dog Head,” some more of the All Them Witches vocal influence comes through, but that violin is sweet and sad and it seems to carry its own melody for the voice to play soulfully off of in full-on earlier-Woven Hand fashion, all the while a swell of tone and rhythm builds up around it and seems to consume the entire thing by the time it’s done. There’s no piano, as there is in the studio incarnation of “Dog Head,” and there’s a part of me that misses that crash of the keys here, but you can only be in so many places playing so many instruments at one time, and Lord Buffalo have clearly positioned themselves well. It works, is all I’m saying.

And guess what? I dig the album. It’s out Friday.

Enjoy the video:

Lord Buffalo, “Dog Head” official video

Live version of “Dog Head” by Lord Buffalo. Performed at Breathing Rhythm Studio, August 3rd, 2019. Recorded and mixed by Steve Boaz. Filmed and edited by Brian Blackwood.

Studio version of Dog Head appears on the album “Tohu Wa Bohu” Available March 27th, 2020 from Blues Funeral Recordings.

Austin, TX dark rock / post-Americana band Lord Buffalo will release its new LP, ‘Tohu Wa Bohu’, on March 27 via Blues Funeral Recordings. Recorded in Lockhart, TX with producer Danny Reisch (Chelsea Wolfe, Okkervil River) and mastered by Dave Shirk (Mastodon, Sun Ra), the album is the follow-up to the folk-psych group’s 2017 self-titled full length.

“Dog Head” is a song from our new LP, ‘Tohu Wa Bohu’, and while the album version begins as a dark, downtempo piano creeper, we’d been doing the song live with an extended intro of bowed guitar and violin,” says vocalist / guitarist Daniel Jesse Pruitt. “Lord Buffalo songs often come out a little different every night, and we wanted to capture a little of that with this live-in-studio version of ‘Dog Head’. ‘Dog Head’ begins with a drone of bowed guitar and violin and the holds to the low road until the switch gets flipped and fuzzed-out guitar breaks in to end the piece with an exclamation point. The end gets chaotic, the song comes off the tracks a bit, but the heaviness feels redemptive, a release from the previous dirge.”

Lord Buffalo are:
G.J. Hellman
P.J. Patterson
Yamal Said
D.J. Pruitt

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Lord Buffalo on Instagram

Lord Buffalo on Bandcamp

Lord Buffalo website

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Blues Funeral Recordings website

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