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Monday, October 24, 2016

LP Review: Tao of the Devil - Brant Bjork

When I know Brother Brant is putting out a new disc I get a bit giddy, whether it’s instrumentally heavy (Jalamanta) or his 70s groove sound fused with an 80s new wave feel (the Operators/and the Bros) it’s pure ear candy to these hungry ears. Everything that BB has been a part of I’ve loved; be it the masters of fuzz, Fu Manchu, Desert rock pioneers Kyuss, or Vista Chino...and of course the list goes on. Bjork has released a ridiculous amount of albums since his debut solo album 17 years ago. And like with any band, I like some albums more than others. The last two BB albums in particular, though I still love them, have been my least favorite, mostly to do with some of the production and his vocals sounding a little different--a bit rougher--than earlier stuff. But with Tao of the Devil he’s back to form and filled with 70s hard rock venom.

Normally I don’t break down each song but we’re talking Brother Brant here and sometimes you’re not sure exactly what kind of groove you’re getting, and well...I just love BB enough to do that.

The Gree Heen - Right off the bat the album starts out pretty bluesy, the guitar and vocals preaching together in harmony, ultimately leading into full-on Sabbathy doom. There’s even the obligatory bouncy Sabbath breakdown half way through the song. BB was clearly channeling Iommi in this tune.

Humble Pie - We all know how BB digs the 70s rock, and he shares that love with us album after album, but this particular song is probably the most undeniably straight up dirty 70s hard rock that he’s given us. Blue Cheer meets James Gang meets Grandfunk Railroad and a dash of Big Brother & the Holding Company...yup, this one is raw and gritty.

Stackt - Heavy, heavy groove with some of that same guitar lead/vocal harmony thing going on. And as though Brant himself were on the drums, the cymbals are beaten mercilessly and the high hat open just like his days in the Fu. This is one of the songs that holds a bit more raw production on Brant’s voice, something he started doing on Gods and Goddesses and more so in Black Flower Power; it’s not horrible, and in this song I'd say it's even needed. But I do prefer that nice clean, overdubbed vocals on his earlier albums.

Luvin’ - This song screams old KISS...just wait until them vocals kick in and you’ll feel it too. Brant’s vocals are back to that overdubbed Frehley-esque sound that he’s blessed us with on so many of the other albums. The chorus reeks of straight up 70s rock and roll.

Biker No. 2 - What can I say but more groove rock, though I will admit this is the weakest link on the record for me.

Dave’s War - That bouncing Sabbath riffage with Brant doing his newer growl (reminds me a bit of Gene Simmons when he does it). This is an exceptionally catchy tune that’ll have you singing the chorus (and pre-chorus) while tapping your foot. Approaching the midway mark, the tune slows down into a spacey groove that holds the power to sway your head involuntarily.

Tao of the Devil - A brooding and tribal lazy jam that keeps the same tempo throughout. Evening Jam (bonus track)- A lengthy instrumental that starts out with some Hendrix-esque wah that ultimately erupts into a full-on head-boppin’ upbeat groove then drops into of a more slow bluesy pace, things progress, then drop down again into spacey and atmospheric followed by more progression once again...there’s plenty enough room for this roller coaster of tempo and moods within this 14-minute jam.

Because I purchased the limited fanboy vinyl box set I figured I’d say a few words about the goods that came in it. I paid $49 for the package and it was a steal for sure. A turntable mat, the album both on CD and gatefold clear vinyl, as well as a nice sized poster and bonus clear vinyl with re-recordings of Lazy Bones/Automatic Fantastic and Freaks of Nature (without the usual chorus), and it all came in a beautiful black box with the album cover artwork on the front. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about the re-recordings of these older songs but they sound killer. He could have snuck them on the regular disc, taking up half the room on the album but offered them as a bonus instead. I dig that.

Overall, Tao of the Devil is pure gold and consistent with what the man continues to bring: Organic rock with roots planted firmly in the 1970s. The only surprise here is how many solo albums BB has put out in the past 17 years. I can confidently say that if you’re any kind of fan of Brant Bjork at all then you’re going to be very pleased with Tao of the Devil.

~Chad Lutzke

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Year of the Cobra ...in the shadows below- STB Records Oct 28, 2016

Year of the Cobra indeed!

I first started hearing about the Fuzzed out Doom duo of Jon and Amy Tung Barrysmith last year through the grapevine of the Northwest music scene and they are a record labels wet dream, a good looking couple that write great songs tour heavily and are just damn nice people! All the high praise was backed up by a 10" vinyl release with Devil's Child and D.H.U records, the single White Wizard being one of my favorite songs released in 2016 was a great way to be introduced into Amy and Jon's heavy musical world, and In the Shadows Below blows the doors wide open, maybe they should change it to Years of the Cobra, cuz they're just getting started!  
I've had the pleasure of seeing YOTC live and Amy's playing through her "Bass Rig of Doom" is matched equally by Jon's superb heavy drumming skills and then topped off with her voice is something you must experience . I must also mention that 3 of my favorite N/W bands at the moment happen to have husband and wive teams in them, and 2 of them have female vocalists. Maybe I'm just tired of bearded dudes yelling at me?
If you go see them (which I'm sure you can cuz they like to be in the van), make sure your bowels aren't already shaky, cuz they'll be loose after.

On with the review,

Year of the Cobra ..in the shadows below:

I knew this album was going to be a treat when I heard the master himself Billy Anderson (Sleep, Melvins) was at the helm, and boy howdy...every track from start to finish is a lesson in how to play heavy but keeping the listener wanting more with catchy melodies and vision invoking lyrics.
Mr. Anderson does a great job of capturing Amy's sound on this and I won't deny having a raging Toner while listening, her use of effects and 2 bass rigs is in my opinion the only way to get an all around good sound with a bass/drum duo and Billy always gets killer drums sounds as well. Amy also just got endorsed by Caleb Barton of Bridge City Sound and you can here his amps on the album.
I don't like to break down each song with what I think (there's plenty of other sites that do). But I can tell you after the opening track you'll be locked in for the ride.
They're coming for us and that's a good thing!
1. Lion and the Unicorn
2. The Siege
3. Vision of three
4. Spider and the Fly
5. Persephone
6. White Wizard
7. Temple of Apollo
8. Electric Warrior
Release date October 28th on STB records (who always do a great job).  PRE-ORDER NOW! http://stbrecords.bigcartel.com/
11/12 – Seattle, WA Release Show w/Ancient Warlocks and Witch Ripper
11/27 – Bellingham, WA w/Castle and Mos Generator
11/28 – Olympia, WA w/Castle and Mos Generator
12/7 – Eugene, OR w/Red Cloud
12/8 – Sacramento, CA w/Mos Generator
12/9 – Arcata, CA w/Mos Generator
12/10 – Medford, OR w/Mos Generator
12/11 – Tacoma, WA w/Mos Generator
3/3/17 – Berlin, Germany
3/4/17 – Hell Over Hammaburg Festival, Germany

Monday, October 3, 2016

Clouds Taste Satanic-Dawn of the Satanic Age LP

The band name alone caught my attention a few years back and I've seen it pop up quite often, but to be honest I've never taken the time to check these Brooklyn heavy hitters out. Then the submission came in for Heavy Planet, so I jumped at it. And I'm super glad I did. I really really like "Dawn of the Satanic Age" and all 6 songs are right up my alley when it comes to heavy riffs. The production is nice and thick like the hedgehog's flesh sausage and kinda reminds me of a little slower Black Tusk (nothing wrong with that). 'We die we live' and 'Just another animal' are my 2 favorites at the moment and 'Demon Among The Stars' is a great way to wrap up the album. They've gotten some great accolades and a nod from Decibel in 2014 with their 1st release 'Sleep Beyond The Earth', "I guess I was late to the party"! and the great reviews are rolling in across the board. There's still limited edition vinyl so go get some while they last! I know I am!

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Album Review: Resonance by Kingsnake

This album is a road album.

Not in the way one normally thinks of a road album where you can drive through the countryside mindlessly while being entertained with what comes out of the speakers. No this is a road album and the machine driving is Philadelphia’s own Kingsnake and you are the one getting run over.

This gas guzzler doesn’t have heated seats or child safety locks and it sure as hell ain’t got a back-up camera because it just doesn’t do reverse. Kingsnake’s fourth album Resonance growls and rumbles like an eight cylinder big block while spitting shredded tires in plumes of burnout smoke.

I have long been a fan of Kingsnake and feel this latest album is their finest work to date.  This 43 minute journey starts with Dairy Of A Bad Man which certainly seems appropriate. The band fires up the engine and announce their intentions with an up tempo warning that gives way to the growling vocals of Bill Jenkins:    
Well lemme tell you I was raised by wolves, yeah that’s what all the people say
"He needs to mind his manners and read more books!” As they beg the creator that I would grow to be a civilized, pacified, well-dressed mess

The pedal gets expertly pushed by the rhythm section of Matt Farnan on drums and Matt Kahn on bass while the high octane guitar work of Brian Merritt brings the song to full bore. This is how you start a road trip right here people.

There are no sightseeing points of interest on this voyage as every song demands your full attention to the road and every gravelly turn brings a flavor all its own. The barroom brawl feel of Evening Blues gives way to the driving bass thump of Preachers Of Heresy. Right when you think you have it all figured out Miss Sorceress is in front of you and all you can do is grip the steering wheel tighter and hang on as it takes you through two separate gears of heavy goodness. The crushing second part of this one is Kingsnake at their best, ripping loose, barely holding the road and really not even giving a shit about it just knowing that they will make it through by the grace of the gods.