Purveyors of the Finest Stoner Rock/Doom/Psychedelic/Sludge Since 2008

Saturday, February 28, 2015

EP Review: 'A Penchant for Hell on Earth' by John Lancaster


Is there such a thing as intuition or are such occurrences simply a matter of coincidence?  John Lancaster’s latest solo offering, A Penchant for Hell on Earth had me pondering this conundrum upon receiving the EP in the mail a few days ago.  You see, just recently I had the urge to resurrect my “Flashback Friday” column where I highlight a band from yesteryear, and my inspiration for doing so was none other than Lancaster’s former band Chum.  So there I was rummaging through my music collection in search of Chum’s tragically underrated (or perhaps I should say unnoticed), 1996 debut album Dead to the World, having no idea that the band’s singer would be sending me a copy of his latest solo record within a matter of days.  Now that’s either some really spooky shit or its one hell of a coincidence.  Whichever it may be…cosmic, musical connection or just a simple concurrence of events…I’m excited to be sharing new material from John Lancaster in place of that previously planned nostalgia piece.  I think you’re gonna dig it.

Now there's a good chance that you've never heard of Chum, so to give you a little background, they were an early 90's West Virginia outfit that played down tuned, heavy grooves with a melodic, soulful croon (courtesy of Lancaster of course) laid right over the top.  To give you a musical mile marker of where they were coming from, I've often thought that Lo Pan must be big Chum fans.  On this solo effort, Lancaster doesn't stray too far from that same formula, layering massive guitars amidst an atmospheric backdrop, which can be heard immediately on the EP’s intro track wherein the singer lays the groundwork for a theme that carries throughout these six songs…“it’s a labor of love for someone."   

Fellow guitarist Mac Walker, also formerly of Chum, joins Lancaster on the galloping “Long Gone,” which is the first real example of the sonic landscape you’ll be traversing here with its bouncing rhythm, Patton-esque vocals, and haunting reminder that “before you know it, this life is long gone…forgotten.”  But it’s “Jerusalem Syndrome” where Lancaster and his supporting cast, rounded out by bassist Barry Smith and drummer Josh Adkins, marry their militaristic precision (think Godflesh) with utterly soulful vocal work (King’s X is an obvious influence) and showcase their bowel rumbling, yet remarkably melodic heaviness.  

“Penny Drops” features a bouncing groove that flows into an ethereal, spacey chorus and culminates with an intense breakdown that’ll have your head bouncing like its 1996.  And “Water Under the Burning Bridge” takes the momentum and runs with it, opening with palm muted, staccato guitar riffs and then building towards one of Lancaster’s more aggressive vocal outbursts to be heard on this collection.  The EP’s coda is a companion piece to its intro track, appropriately titled “A Penchant for Hell on Earth Pt. 2” and essentially combines every element described previously into a cohesive closer that features multiple time signatures while driving home what I believe to be the running theme of this EP, which is the fleetingness of time…“cut along the line, it’s all the same…bury it alive, it’s all the same.”  Nearly 20 years after the release of Chum’s Dead to the World, John Lancaster continues to create music that is devastatingly heavy in both sound and emotion and that’s no coincidence my friends.  You need to check this out.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Quick Hit: ATLAS


After teasing us with their 3-song demo in 2013, Atlas has created another mélange of doom-inspired heavy rock and winding groove on their latest self-titled 4-song EP. The EP starts off with a retro occultish vibe on "Devil's Delight" and meanders it's way to the neck-snapping power that is "Red Sage". This is a tremendous debut from this four-piece from Varmland County, Sweden. Although the next question would be, when do we see a full-length?

I must also add, that is some pretty rad album artwork.




Wednesday, February 25, 2015

New Band To Burn One To: Pauwels




Every now and again we like to throw you up a bit of a curve ball with the bands we’re introducing you to. While still keeping to our core aesthetic of keeping everything HEAVY, a slight side step away from the stoner/doom/sludge bands can be a needed booster, and today we’re bringing you a beast which in all parts excites, scares, confuses, and dazzles in equal measures, rotating in order part way through most songs. Today’s New Band To Burn One To is Strasbourg’s (France) Noise/Post-Rock troupe Pauwels, bursting your eardrums and snapping your neck.

The French instrumentalists are Jeremy Ledda, Bob K, Sebastien Pablo Hermann, Marlon Saquet, and Jovan Veljkovic, and together they make one hell of a noise, frenetically switching from guitar shredding to blissed out technical elements, through counteracting time signatures, flowing along a sound which never lets you settle nor rest for long on your laurels, before it’s removing your face once more.

The band have just released their second EP, Elina, sounding like Cloudkicker if he was brought up on the Noise bands of Melvins and Helmet, while still holding a desire to stray into post-rock wastelands, bringing the youthful Math-rock attitude along to boot. The important thing that Pauwels achieve is never straying far from the realms of making actual songs, their basic sound is instrumental music with chorus and verse, just perhaps not necessarily in the accepted normality of what is perceived as a “song”; but who the hell wants to be normal anyway?

Pauwels are one of those bands that you just can’t predict, not where their sound will take you, not what will come after the next chord change, or for what label to tag them under. The band are an exciting addition to an often underappreciated genre. Trust us, you will want to keep an eye on Pauwels.

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Monday, February 23, 2015

Video Premiere: Pale Horseman-"Conquistador"

Today we premiere the new video "Conquistador" from Chicago's sludge stalwart Pale Horseman. The song is from their highly-acclaimed second album "Mourn The Black Lotus".

The band continues to pummel audiences with their downtrodden heaviness and brutal industrial aura and has currently entered the studio to record their yet to be titled third installment to be released sometime in the fall of 2015. 

The album will consist of 5 songs running 45 minutes and will be the band's first release on vinyl.

Now in all it's ear-deafening apocalyptic glory, we give to you "Conquistador".


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Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Midnight Ghost Train: The Heavy Planet Interview


Earlier we shared our thoughts on what already promises to be one of the year's best releases from America's hardest-working band, Cold Was The Ground by The Midnight Ghost Train. Just two days shy of kicking off a European tour celebrating the album's release, we checked in with frontman Steve Moss. He shares what drives his writing, what drives his band, and what drives him crazy. He's also got plenty to say on why this new album is, somehow, even better than what Heavy Planet felt was 2012's best album.


Heavy Planet: I didn't think anything would top Buffalo. When you promised it would be better, I thought "He has to say that." But it's true. It's true with this album, it's fucking incredible. It's being released in less than in a month. Do you think fans are ready for Buffalo to become their second-favorite album?

Steve Moss: Fuck yeah. Oh God, yeah. We're always focused on just moving forward, pushing more and getting more out of things. We wanna keep pushing to the brink. We wanna get better and better on every album and I would hate to always be remembered for one record we did in 2012. I wanna keep pushing it forward and giving fans the next next new thing. We're changing. This record's a lot different than Buffalo, the next record will be even more different. We just wanna keep using different things to get people more interested in us and see that we're not one-trick ponies. It's heavier, it's faster, it's more fun to play. I think it's more fun to listen to... the new album's just bad-ass.

HP: Buffalo was my favorite record of 2012. I heard the new album in 2014, but I honestly don't see anything trumping this as my favorite of 2015.



SM: Thanks! Another big reason why we're ready to move on to the next album is because the musicianship is a lot better, but the bass is just phenomenal. Working with Mike (Boyne) just totally changed everything.

HP: I've seen him live with you and Brandon (Burghart), but I know he wasn't on Buffalo. How is it working with him as a band member? Not even as a bassist... how does that change the chemistry of you guys as a trio?

SM: It's completely changed. 180 degrees. He's really made the band whole. It shows on the album. He's just a monster on the album. We connect really well on stage. We wrote the whole album together, the three of us. Having him, having his input was a huge part on making this album sound different and better. He's a gigantic part of the progress this band has made. We're very thankful for finding him and being able to hone in with him. He's definitely the right fit, y'know? He believes in this like we do.

HP: He's jumpin' in with both feet just like you and Brandon. You can see it onstage. I thought his presence was perfect for you guys.



SM: He's awesome. We love working with him and it shows on the album. The craftsmanship on it has so much more to it, and a lot of it comes from his push. His technique is so much better. Brandon and I wrote all the basslines for Buffalo, and I don't even fuckin' know how to play bass, y'know? They were just simple. The basslines on this album are just so intricate and so beautiful. He really just plowed through on this album. We're happy with him, we'll keep him around.

HP: I think you should! You guys have toured with some of this stuff. I've heard the studio versions. How's it being received on the road?

SM: That's how we wrote the album, on the road. We would just come up with an idea, we'd play it live, see how it was received and change it accordingly. In the van at at night we'd be like "Eh, this kinda sucks. Let's try and do this tomorrow, something different." We like to road-test the songs. That's how we wrote Buffalo. On that Truckfighters tour you saw us on, we were playing the songs off Buffalo before it came out, before we recorded it. We like honing-in things live and then working it to the studio.

HP: You're not just doing this for you. This is you, this is your life... but at the same time, I know your last record was dedicated to your dad. You also lost a friend in John. Getting heavy on you, what would they say if they heard this new stuff?

SM: John would love it. John was a metalhead. He was into heavy music. Even though that's not what I really listen to, he was really into it. My dad was just so unbelievably proud of me. He's not into this kind of music, but he'd go to every show we'd play when we were in town. He was just proud of the hard work I was doing. I didn't really understand why he was so proud of me playing rock-n-roll. I dropped out of college, I used to be a teacher... I dropped out of college to play rock-n-roll. But he was so fucking proud of me all the time for this. He was always pushing me with the band. Telling me "You can't quit, you have to keep going." When things got really tough and I just wanted to throw in the towel, he had the words of inspiration to keep going and I didn't really understand why. He just saw that hard work and perseverance I had for this. My mom is the same way. She's exactly like my dad, just so supportive of me doing this. They're just really supportive and proud. We might not be making as much money as I would teaching, I might not be the quintessential star child, but what they saw in me is a thousand-times more hard work than I would have put into teaching or anything else. Just based on the love and passion I have for this. That was undeniable for them, just doing what I was meant to do. My whole family's really supportive and proud. Megan's the same way.

HP: She'd have to be!

SM: I'm so lucky to have that, the people that are there for me. Shit gets tough sometimes and gets really draining. To have them, it's really important.

HP: Bless your wife for letting you go on the road and for being cool with you pursuing this. You guys sound like you were born on the road. How do you keep up the energy to flatten everything night after night?

SM: It's all about the time we spend onstage. All the bullshit, all the hell we go through, the physical pain, the tiredness... It's all worth that hour, hour-and-a-half we're onstage. I have arthritis in my back, I have degenerate disc disease. Sometimes I get up before a show in so much fucking pain I can't even move, I can't even hold my guitar right. I get onstage and it goes away. I'm ready to do what we do. Maybe that's not the best thing for me, health-wise. But it wipes everything away, that time onstage. That's the reason we do this. We'll go through some really shitty times, it's really tough, we'll be really stressed out on tour. And then we'll be onstage and have this magic moment and I'll go over to Mike while we're playing and I'll just yell in his ear "This is what we do this for." He'll smile back. Those moments on stage keep pushing us to keep with it.



HP: You pull away from the mic and you guys are both just jamming. It's almost like the two of you are dancing. This'll sound strange, but it's intimate and awesome to watch the chemistry onstage. Brandon right behind you guys, you're all on the same page. I've never seen a live band like you guys...

SM: People ask me in interviews "You seem so crazy and intense onstage. Do you get all your anger our while you're onstage?" No. Nowhere near. I'm not angry at all, I'm happy as can be. That intensity you see onstage is love. All of us, that's the love of doing this. I can never be angry onstage, I love it. I love to perform.

HP: People who wouldn't know you as well, they're probably surprised when they meet you. They're probably stunned by your down-to-Earth, polite disposition. Your stage presence is just massive. I don't wanna call it a duality, but it's night and day for people who don't know you.

SM: I really feel for fans. You've seen us when it's just you and two other dudes. We'll still fuckin' push as hard as we can. I never wanna give the audience less than we should. I wouldn't wanna be treated shitty just because I'm not paying as much for certain service. We don't want people to be cheated. You came to see us play. Even if there aren't a thousand people there, you still deserve to see us play the way we should play. I never wanna disappoint anyone. I love performing, and those moments onstage, connecting with the fans... It's really important to give it our all. I wouldn't feel right if I didn't.

HP: When I saw you guys at Abbey Pub (Chicago), I think there were five of us in the audience. I compared it to the Truckfighters show at Ultra Lounge, which was just packed. You guys brought in people from the next room, they're walking in asking "Who are these guys?" They were blown away, buddies of mine at the show are saying "Holy shit, man."

SM: You didn't know us then, right?

HP: No! I bought that ticket thinking I'd see Karma To Burn. They had to pull out and I thought "Well, fuck." The Truckfighters' merch guy was like "You gotta check out this band." God, I was leveled, and we all were. That's what brought you guys to Heavy Planet.

SM: And if my back was hurting that night, or all the other tour bullshit... If I let it affect us that night and we didn't give it our all, we would never have had that effect on you. That, to me, is a tragedy. We always make sure to give everything. You never know who's watching! We've made really amazing fans. We played Des Moines, Iowa for one person. That one person drove two hours to come see us. That was literally the only person there and we still did what we do. He bought all of our merch and loved us and he's always in touch with us. If we had been like "Yeah, there's one person here, let's take it easy," we wouldn't have been able to give him what he came for.

HP: And you made his night.

SM: Yeah. We have a duty. They come to see us or another band. They pay to get in, it's our job to give 'em our all every time.

HP: You never talk about Sabbath or Deep Purple or the heavy bands. It's Muddy Waters, it's gospel. Jesus, your dogs are named after Muddy Waters and Junior Wells. It's so cool to hear such a different take on inspiration and influence instead of Sabbath, Kyuss, St. Vitus...



SM: I haven't even heard St. Vitus. A lot of times at shows people will come to me and ask "Do you guys listen to Mastodon?" I'm like "Yeah, dude!" I have NO idea what the fuck they're talking about. I've never heard a Sleep record. But every show we play, there's a Sleep t-shirt. St. Vitus and... I don't know anything about them, I'm clueless. I don't wanna get wrapped into a discussion with people about it because I wouldn't know a thing.

HP: Part of that comes from people being into a label or genre, a tag that doesn't universally apply. But you guys transcend those labels...

SM: I'm just happy for people to love our music. I don't care what label they apply. If we're stoner-rock or metal or whatever. We just love to play. When we first started out, I just wanted us to be a straight-up blues band. We started touring and I wanted to give the crowd more, more, more. I wanted them to have the best show I could possibly give them. Organically and naturally, it became heavier and faster, more intense. I became more intense onstage. But everything we do is based off blues, it just has an overdrive pedal on it. We just play it really fast.

HP: And it sounds incredible. You guys have an energy that's unmatched and that's what people are starting to recognize.

SM: I completely respect metal and stoner-rock. I totally respect the people doing it. Anyone doing this and putting their heart into it, I really respect it. I don't wanna sound like I write that shit off. It's just not what I'm into, it's not what I listen to. But it's so much fun to play heavy. I've heard the Sky Valley record and I think it's cool. It's not like a Bible that other people make it out to be, for me. A Muddy Waters record is something I go to. Or jazz albums. I don't even know what they're doing on that kind o' stuff. I've listened and don't even know the guitar stuff they're doing. To me, the blues makes sense. Metal never makes sense to me. Those crazy, insane thrash solos that are a million miles a minute... I have no idea how to do that shit! I listen to the blues. BB King is a huge influence for me and for the way I solo. I like to use the space, I like to breathe, take breaths in solos, use dynamics and things like that. That's what sounds good to me and what fits with me. But I don't wanna sound like I don't respect all of them, though. Because I do.

HP: Any tour hijinks? You guys are on the road so much. Fans may not know about Fish Time and stealing from Wal-Mart...

SM: [laughs] We go to movies on our days off. I'm a movie addict. We're always super-busy. We do go fishing a lot, we bring our poles and tackle boxes on tour with us. On days off we'll fish and go to movies. On this U.S. tour we're about to do after the European tour, we've got tickets to a few baseball games. I'm a gigantic baseball fan. Just different cities... We'll have a day off in San Francisco, we're gonna go to a Giants game. We have a day off in Cincinnati, we'll go to a Reds game. Another in Minnesota.

HP: I'm a big Braves fan...

SM: We're goin' to a Braves game, yeah! It's kinda hard, though. In Europe, there's a lot to see there that we haven't. Our first tour, we went and saw a lot of stuff. But for the most part, we're so busy all the damn time, we don't have time for anything. This is gonna be Mike's third tour with us in Europe. He's played Paris each time and never even seen the Eiffel Tower. We go to the venue, we do what we do, we leave, we go to the next place. There's not a lot of sightseeing. But we try to keep sane, we watch movies.

HP: You guys ever wanna strangle each other?

SM: Oh, fuck yeah! All the time. I can be a real asshole, I can be really pushy. I always want things to go perfect, to do well, everyone to be pushing as hard as possible. I can be a workaholic and be a real asshole to people.

HP: Which is hard to believe.

SM: I'll be the first to admit it. At the same time, it's things we need and I just don't know how to voice things the correct way. We're all on the same mission and believe in the same thing. We're all trying to get to the same spot, we're fighting for it. We're in a battle. We've got a long way to go, though. It's a long way to the top if you wanna rock-n-roll, y'know? [laughs] We've got a lot more we wanna do. We don't wanna be just an underground band forever. We wanna spread our music to as many people as possible.

HP: My dad's nearly 61 and retired, a big Allman Brothers fan. I played some of your stuff for him and he digs it. If you can get his ear, you guys can get anyone.

SM: The absolute best thing we can hear at a show is someone who comes up to us and says "I'm not into this music at all. My boyfriend drags me to these shows and I hate this kind of music. But you guys fuckin' rule." That's the greatest thing we can hear. People who aren't into heavy music fall in love with what we're doing because they can see the difference, the intensity on the stage... We wanna affect as many as people as possible. I don't wanna just have the stoner rock fans like our music. I want everyone to fuckin' listen to our music! I wanna put an artistic impression on as many people as we can. We're not just tryin' to do one certain thing. I think this record is completely different than Buffalo and the next album's gonna be even more different. I mean, I wanna come out with a fuckin' JAZZ album. We don't wanna have just one thing. A lot bands nowadays, especially in this style of music, every album is the exact same thing. We play with a lot of bands on tour and it seems so regurgitated, the exact same thing everyone else is doing. We're trying to do something different, do things a different way.

HP: You guys are doing a damn-fine job of it.

SM: We're just regular dudes, doing what we do. We're so appreciative of fans. We struggle so Goddamn hard, but it'll pay off in the end. That's what I keep telling myself. And when we do get to that point where we experience more success, we'll know how to handle it. We've been there, we know how to work our asses off. But there are so many fads. We're just trying to keep evolving. I'm sure we'll get to a plateau at some point, but then we'll just have to push again. I can't stand still, I gotta keep evolving, I gotta keep working, I gotta keep doing it.

HP: Cold Was The Ground is more aggressive, the musicianship is better. I thought Buffalo captured you guys live in a great way. And now I'm like "No, THIS. This is it."

SM: We're just gonna keep workin' our asses off until we can be more successful. I feel we deserve it. We work ridiculously hard and we kick ass live, our new album kicks ass. We've earned it. We've fought tooth-and-nail for every single bit of it. We'll keep at it. We ain't stoppin'!

Pre-order the new album HERE.

Cold Was The Ground release dates:

2-28-15 - GSA / EUR / AUS
3-2-15 - UK / NO / FR / DK / IT
3-4-15 - SE / ESP
3-10-15 - USA / CAN



LP Review: The Midnight Ghost Train - "Cold Was The Ground"


August 1st, 2013 marked a turning point in how I approach expectation. A year prior, I had declared The Midnight Ghost Train's Buffalo to be the greatest thing since burnt cheese. I'd met and gotten to know the band, shifting between roles of writer and fan, filled with warmth from the belief that I didn't have to listen to anything else; I'd heard the gospel. Frontman Steve Moss had promised new material would see some light this evening, but my only hope was to hear Buffalo played straight-through, fattened up with extended, jammy passages.

"And I will be true to my love... if my love will be true to me," a bellow from the stage announced. What immediately followed flattened the crowd and damn-near toppled Reggie's Music Joint under the weight of itself, shaken to its brick foundation. I hadn't heard this. I hadn't heard anything like it, in fact. The Canfield offered more than The Midnight Ghost Train's heaviest brand of its own trademark. It offered an introduction to Mike Boyne, the band's new bassist. It offered more focused, proficient musicianship than the band had ever delivered. And it offered a finger wag, suggesting I should never believe this band has any intention of resting on its accolades.

The Canfield, as a song, stands as the midpoint of Cold Was The Ground, The Midnight Ghost Train's gritty, aggressive studio follow-up to Buffalo. But this album is hardly a collection of songs. In fact, it's less an album than a vengeful campaign draped in fuzz and strewn with vigorous bass threads, serpentine guitar routes, and the skin thumpings of a Navajo. The album puts its predecessor in an abrupt, dusty cloud via augmented songwriting and musicianship. Thick with coiled tension and peppered with jarring bursts of release, Cold Was The Ground is just the latest stop on this band's weathered, hand-wrought pilgrimage toward greatness.

The steady, hovering fuzz of Along The Chasm clashes with greasy bayou subversion, introducing the relentless Gladstone. Sticky, tasty, unforgiving... take your pick. Tempos shift nearly as much as blame, harnessing and later releasing an energy that absolutely cannot be contained. And when BC Trucker cakes sod and threads through a wheat field, it evolves into the band's best advertisement of newfound chemistry. The riffs are too hot to chew on and the dust hasn't a moment to settle.

The album's continuity is incredible, easing between tracks that could number anywhere from one to eleven. Arvonia breathes a spacey springboard before knocking down walls and punching through the ceiling. The buzz of southern payback spins the tale of an everyman simply pushed too far, unfurling toward One Last Shelter's collapse into a faded, soiled recliner. But of course, we're jolted from our stupor after guitars stutter, ever the deceptive element from a band bringing surprises seemingly out of nowhere.

An all-out stoner fuzz fest hardly defines all that is Straight To The North, a downshift slowing toward a gaping-mouth stop. The pauses amid the stop/start dynamics effectively and repeatedly captivate us, building trepidation and dancing among the thick, lurid embrace of interwoven drums and bass. Licks are driven like nails into knotted trees, but the album's rock triumph has yet to reach any pinnacle.  The quick, unhinged No. 227 gets lost in blind consequence and lyrics take a step forward beneath the torrid clip of calculated disregard. A familiar riff returns full-circle, as if to suggest we can't simply speed away to escape unpleasant truths.

A sobering reflection on The Little Sparrow is harrowing for as gently as it's delivered. The pensive poetry chronicles submission to what the road has inflicted. What was once promising and cathartic has nearly squashed one man's previously undaunted spirit. Luckily, the band has reserved its finest return to monstrous, matted stoner-blues for the closing tandem of Twin Souls and Mantis. The former's steady push toward fate can't mask the brilliance of Moss's distant guitar, which is here as superb as it's ever been. Death-rattle assertions funnel into a flurry of fuzz, broken by an unmatched solo. Mantis threads and uncorks, pointing fingers to expose the imps. Timbers swing, promising the ultimate collapse as licks blast in every direction. Stomping into a stagger, staggering into swirls, this coup has exorcised all demons.

Cold Was The Ground finds America's greatest live band again pushing their studio sound to its furthest and its fastest. There's nothing left on the table but stains from sweat's salt and brothers' blood. The Midnight Ghost Train rip out their heart and steam through any expectation of a letdown by honing their chops without smoothing the edges. Blisters, back pain, scar tissue... You can hear all of those. What you won't hear is anyone denying this is one of 2015's best releases.

Pre-order here.





Thursday, February 19, 2015

LP Review: 'Arch Stanton' by Karma to Burn

Karma to Burn comes full circle on their blistering, new record, Arch Stanton. The mountain boys from Appalachia returned from the City of Angels and revived their whiskey-soaked riff carnival. In a day of instant gratification and lessening attention spans, Karma to Burn continues to buck the trend and do whatever the hell they want to do. Back in 1993, the industry experts told them they needed a vocalist to compete in the market. They didn't. And over 20 years later, they still don’t.

I thoroughly enjoyed their last two releases on Napalm Records (Appalachian Incantation and V), especially the raw, bluesy cameo by John Garcia (Kyuss, Unida, Hermano, Vista Chino) on “Two Times.” But fans of Karma to Burn don’t come back for the guest vocalists. They thrive on the band’s driving, filthy mid-tempo riffing that should be playing in the 8-track of every 1973 Mustang.

The tracks on Arch Stanton are numbered and one can only guess as to the significance. The distorted bombast of “23” might be my favorite. But then again, all the tracks will have you nodding your head. The production is beautifully simple and in your face, austere and powerful.


Karma to Burn serves up a heavy diet of meat and potatoes and I want another helping.


Thursday's Triple Threat: Top Dead Celebrity, Geezer, Witchrider



Top Dead CelebrityHigh Horse

The latest record from Salt Lake City’s Top Dead Celebrity is a ferocious beast, spewing out screeched hardcore vocals over a landscape of stoner/bluesy/punk songs, each one as effortlessly catchy as the last.

Opening with the bluesy riffs of ‘Ghost’, it’s not long before the guys kick start their assault on the senses with their own brand of rock, grabbing your head an shaking it until breaking point as the track continues to grow through levels of stoner, punk, with hints of a pop sensibility to boot. Top Dead Celebrity are a band to keep you guessing as to their next move, and they generally tend to creap up on you from behind with a blunt knife. A track such as ‘Runaway’ perfectly sums this aesthetic up by blending an aggressive six-minute song through practically every genre of music you’d care to endeavour without losing its identity as a rock song.

The rest of the record follows through similar channels of snarled aggression and catchy hooks, before the band throw a curveball with the spookily whispered ‘Pull The Knife’ carrying a Mark Lanegan Band style of musicianship, which proves a needed rest bite before the fuzzed guitar riffs of ‘The Closing’ throw the bricks back in your face, and the assault continues.

It’s going to be hard pushed to find a record with as many memorable hooks and choruses as this all year, and putting that alongside its brutality, the album is a benchmark to beat. With High Horse, these Utahans have ultimately created a great rock and roll record.

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GeezerGage

You know when a sound hits you, and it entwines itself around your very essence, matching its shape and flow with the contours of your body, a bluesy smoke-filled, whiskey flowing, primal sound which pauses your day for its duration? Geezer have created such a sound on their latest EP Gage, and it has the power to leave us transfixed, trembling in front of the speaker.

As the opening psychedelic blues riffs of ‘Ancient Song’ gently sway into your consciousness, you’re already drifting away on a smoke cloud of heavy blues jams, at peace, until frontman Pat Harrington’s vocals tear through you like a rusty cut-throat knife, wielding a sound of ancient wisdom and damning context. The musicianship of all the band is an impressive collective, soaked deeply in a Memphis vibe that can’t be faked.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that Gage was simply a gentle blues record as ‘Thorny’ delicately tickles your ears, but Geezer are a heavy blues band, and they bring the HEAVY when the phenomenal ‘Ghost Rider Solar Plexus’ kicks in with destructive fuzzy guitar riffs to melt the coldest of faces, blasting you through six-and-a-half minutes of sonic blues brutality.

The epitomised track on this EP, ‘Tales of Murder and Unkindness’, is a lengthy example of the range of musicianship that Geezer has to offer, steeped largely in a 1960/70’s hard psychedelic rock phase, with underlying blues riffs, and added stoner jams. Gage is a record which is heavy, not necessarily heavy in the sense of loud angry noises, but in its truest sense; deep layers of passion, soul, and grooves to make your soul shiver.

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WitchriderUnmountable Stairs

With softly sung vocals masking over the top of driving stoner rock, it’s no real wonder that these Austrians are compared to QOTSA at almost every opportunity, and with the sound and promise that the later band had originally sparked, it’s as much of a compliment that Witchrider deserve.

Having signed with Fuzzorama earlier in 2014, their debut full-length Unmountable Stairs is greeted with much anticipation, of which the band carries with ease from the start. The band play a brand of fuzzy alt-rock that fits in with the hardcore troupe, as well as the poppier sensibilities of the genre. ‘OCD’ kicks things off with driving lo-fi riffs that yell out teenage angst, showing that these newcomers have something to say amongst their contemporaries. No matter how “pop” the sound becomes, theres always an underlying stoner riff and guitar lick waiting to burst out and remind you of just what the band truly have to offer (just listen to the climax of ‘Black’ for evidence).

Witchrider show that with fuzz music, you don’t necessarily have to be the loudest, or the most cut-throat, to excel: ‘SB’ is a soft grungy song that carries pounding drums throughout without needing to yell at you to grab your attention, while the title track is a space rock track Monster Magnet would stick on repeat. The Austrians can glide easily through many different genres with ease, making the record an exciting listen as there are no safety zones to fall into.

What Witchrider carry with them, forgetting all of their tags of alt-rock or mentions of pop and QOTSA, is potential. With their knack for being great songwriters, their preference for things on the stoner/fuzz side of the scale means that the band have the ability to take themselves onto truly great things. It all started with Unmountable Stairs.

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