Hard Rock Ascending

hard-rock-ascendingAnyone watching That Metal Show can be forgiven for thinking hard rock is dead. Eddie Trunk smooching the wrinkled asses of washed-up rockers is not a pretty sight, and their focus seems to be forever on side projects of former sidemen of former greats. I mean, the dudes gotta make a living, and I am drawn to the spectacle like moth to flame. I probably should check out the new Black Star Riders at some point. The frustrating thing is that there are a bunch of younger bands bringing a lot of new energy and life to to hard rock, who are almost completely ignored by the show, the mainstream press and music buyers. The other guys do occasionally give props to the likes of Witchcraft and Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats on the Pick of the Week segment (Trunk can’t be bothered with any new bands). Occult, doom and some psychedelic bands that lean toward indie rock are getting some attention, but there’s also some really strong hard rock bands. These hairy dudes may not make sexy copy in the gossip columns and blogs, and are probably not on a career path to fame and fortune, but they do really fucking love to play, and have put out some pretty great music recently. Continue reading

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Demon Eye – Tempora Infernalia (Soulseller)

Demon Eye -  Tempora Infernalia (2015, Soulseller)With the average time span between album releases being somewhere between three and four years these days, it’s kind of thrilling when a favorite new band follows up their debut with another album in just a year. You’d think it would make sense for more bands influenced by the 70s era of rock, when giants roamed the earth, dropping albums every year or less. Back then it was the strategy of labels big and small to regularly have fresh music to promote with each tour. It’s a different economic model now, which makes it such a treat when a band like Demon Eye can duplicate that kind of pace on a much smaller budget. Continue reading

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Arenna – Given To Emptiness (Nasoni)

Arenna - Given To Emptiness (2015)During the five year lapse between Colour Haze albums, Arenna emerged with their full-length debut at the perfect time with Beats Of Olarizu (2011). While it seemed they were simply hatched in perfection, with just the right fuzzy guitar tones, the Spanish heavy psych rockers had been kicking around honing their craft since at least 2005. While the vocals were clearly influenced by Kyuss’ John Garcia and Colour Haze was the most prominent band to expand on those desert rock tones with a Hendrixian flair, Arenna have carved their own niche.  In a musical world currently rich with all kinds of psychedelic music, some rooted in classic 60′s songwriting structures, others veering into progressive territories, Arenna are part of an alluring, underground European network who worship the riff, tone and texture, with vocals and hooks taking a backseat, if they’re even there at all. This includes My Sleeping Karma of Germany and Glowsun of France among others, who both also have albums coming out soon. Continue reading

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Roadrunner & Other Drivin’ Tunes

Roadrunner & Other Drivin' Tunes (Front)

An old acquaintance just asked for road trip music recommendations, and I thought I had posted this when I made the mix for a CD mix club I participated in 7-8 years ago. I guess I didn’t, so here it is! Some of the MP3s are included with PDF cover art and liner notes if you click on the first image. Or you can stream it all on Spotify below. Enjoy! Continue reading

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Monolord – Vænir (RidingEasy)

Monolord - Vænir (RidingEasy, 2015)It was only a year ago that Gothenburg, Sweden’s Monolord released their debut, Empress Rising. Putting out a second album in just a year could be some kind of record in the world of psychedelic doom. When some bands wait close to a decade between albums it’s a rare treat these days for that kind of band to have enough hustle to put out new music so soon, without really repeating themselves. Who knows if and when Sleep will ever do another album, so I’m glad we’ve got Monolord. They’ve got those nasty, heavy guitar tones down, while exploring varying psychedelic sounds to keep the songs diverse and memorable enough. On cuts like the 16:59 title track and the short atmospheric interlude, “The Cosmic Silence” that leads up to it, they’re clearly progressing, if incrementally. My favorite track is probably the forlorn “We Will Burn,” which kind of summarizes their past work and distills it into their best song yet. “Nuclear Death” plods and bludgeons with a weight that reminds me of Conan. Is it important that they tweak their sound? Not necessarily. Some imaginative songwriting and progressive arrangements can keep things interesting for quite a while. To be honest the masked vocals that blend into the scenery could use some improvement. A more ballsy, emotive delivery could help, though at this moment, the album is an excellent snapshot of a band primed for some spinecrushing live shows. It’ll be interesting to see if they keep experimenting with their sound like Electric Wizard and inevitably end up with some failures, or continue to mine these deliciously heavy, fuzzed out tones. Ultimately with Monolord, I feel my listening sessions are most productive when I take a break from analyzing and just surrender to the vibrations.

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Early 2015 Post-Punk Rundown

early-2015-postpunk-rundown

I had a slow start in covering everything I wanted this year, due to being preoccupied with life shit. These post-punk albums didn’t get full reviews, but definitely deserve some attention before we move forward to more anticipated releases this year. Most can be heard on this Spotify playlist. Continue reading

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Ruby The Hatchet – Valley Of The Snake (Tee Pee)

Ruby The Hatchet - Valley Of The Snake (Tee Pee, 2015)I got this from Bandcamp back in February, and has been a heavy presence on my 2015 playlist ever since. The actual CD came in the mail just yesterday and reminded me that I hadn’t properly written about it yet.  I really hate to lead off “female fronted.” Yes, I did write a feature focusing on bands lead by women back in 2012, and I did so simply because they were great bands that mostly were not getting enough attention and respect at the time. Since then, many of the bands have grown in stature and popularity. But I wouldn’t say the selling point should be solely because they’re lead by women. It’s just as stupid as saying, “hey, you’re a dude, I bet you’d like this band cuz they’re lead by a dude.” A lot of the better heavy psych bands lately do feature women, like Purson, Blood Ceremony, Jess & the Ancient Ones, Mansion and The Oath, but gender is not the key factor to their greatness. Ruby The Hatchet’s Jillian Taylor is an accomplished singer, and her abilities have matured since their 2012 debut Ouroboros.  Harmonies provided sometimes from drummer Owen Stewart, other times multi-tracked with herself, bring to mind Fleetwood Mac along the lines with Royal Thunder. However their biggest influence of late sounds like the garage psych of Britain’s Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats, to the point where “Vast Acid” might be a direct tribute.  It might be hard to tell from the muddy sound and the hair in their faces, but there are no women in that band. Continue reading

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Torche – Restarter (Relapse)

Torche - Restarter (Relapse, 2015)Steve Brook’s love affair with heavy fuzz and E-bombs goes way back to 1992 when he formed Floor. He formed Torche in 2004, and had solidified a bona fide cult following by their second album, Meanderthal (2008). Harmonicraft (2012) took a more precise and overtly melodic approach with extra-abbreviated song lengths. It raised some eyebrows, with some comparing it to Baroness‘ foray into indie rock. I loved it. It was still heavy as hell, and the procession of hooky songs seemed to gain momentum as if it were winding up to start up a cyclone, Tasmanian Devil style. Continue reading

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The Lucid Dream – The Lucid Dream (Holy Are You? Recordings)

The Lucid Dream - The Lucid Dream (Holy How Are You?, 2015)While there’s no shortage of bands practicing feedback-drenched psych rock, The Lucid Dream have been perfecting their own distinct recipe since their first EP in 2010 involving ingredients like garage noir, shoegaze, German kosmische/space rock, pre and post-NYC no-wave noise, and the pop melodicism that links early Echo & the Bunnymen with The Stone Roses. The result is a pretty badass, cohesive modern psych noir sound that I imagine catching fire with a pretty big audience. That it hasn’t yet is probably due to the massive number of bands dabbling in the sub-genre lately, and the fact that their small label (Holy Are You? Recordings) has only so much reach and marketing muscle. Continue reading

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Wand – Golem (In The Red)

Wand - Golem (In The Red, 2015)Just a few months ago, I was unaware of a band called Wand. Then I belatedly discovered their debut album Ganglion Reef on Drag City imprint God?, which made the #10 slot of my favorite psych albums of last year. Now there’s two albums, with the latest even more impressive than the debut, and they just blew my face off live last night. Instant favorite garage psych band!

There’s no shortage of psychedelic bands these days, and while extremely promising, it was unclear how Wand would stack up with other favorites based on their debut. It was fairly eclectic, ranging from super melodic, 60′s style psych pop of “Broken Candle” to more spastic, loose garage rock, and some pretty impressive guitar chops from leader Cory Hanson. It was a really excellent start, but not completely mind blowing. But just seven months later, the band re-emerges fully formed and full of swagger with Golem. They apparently had been listening to some Electric Wizard and wanted there to be no mistaking them from some of the more twee sounding bands in the genre. It’s not just that it’s  so much heavier as much as the songwriting is so confident and captivating, and showing off a new, elevated level of musicianship. Mind blown. Continue reading

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