For an artist, it must take a certain amount of fortitude and confidence to decide to ply your trade in the world of instrumental rock. The genre has long been infamous for being over-populated by under-baked efforts, which in turn has caused many to no longer even bother to give anything from it a fair shot. I’m leery of it myself, but keep checking in because I know something stellar will eventually rise atop the heap from time to time, like The Blue Sunshine Family Band.
Forget being impressive for a debut, BSFB’s first effort is impressive period. Whether it’s natural ability and/or endlessly honing their craft, the band already has a firm grasp on how to do, what they do. With six number-only tracks all clocking in around eight minutes, they are wildly successful at holding one’s interest straight through. Building off of a seasoned stoner foundation, the record pulls from a multitude of metallic resources to add color and variation the proceedings- The southern swagger of C.O.C., an endless supply of wicked guitar melodies via Thin Lizzy, and the propulsive, crunchy, doominess of Serpent Throne. On the “IV” and “VI” songs, you can add groove and speed into the mix as well. There’s more I could reference, but I’ll leave something for those reading this to discover.
Bottom line here folks, The Blue Sunshine Band, both the group and record are really, really excellent. When vocals would appear to actually hurt what you’re doing, you can be pretty damn sure you’re onto something. A definite “Best Of” come year end in a few weeks, and arguably the best instrumental offering for 2016 overall to boot.
Kozmik Artifactz Records – DD/Vinyl/CD – December 2nd!
A lot of times I don’t particularly like a band’s name. I like the name Child for these guys. They play unabashed, slow-burning, soulful blues. Blues is really the birthplace of rock, so to think of this Australian three piece as the child of the blues….yeah, that works for me. What I think totally doesn’t work is their biography, which is something I also often have problems with. I understand that it’s a PR person’s job to try to hit to all fields, to try to cross promote, though there’s also crossing a line that just doesn’t fit or feel right. In this case, it’s calling Child a mixture of doom and blues. There’s no doom to be found here. Zero. None. These guy have more in common with Jimi Hendrix, Free, Firebird and Gov’t Mule than they do Black Sabbath or Saint Vitus. Just tell it like it is – no seasoned listener or reviewer is going to listen to this album and think, “Oh wow, this is really doomy!!” I’ll admit that there are a couple heavier parts thrown in for variety, though that isn’t the focus, and it just doesn’t have the feel of doom. Heaviness and doom aren’t mutually inclusive. I know “doom” is hot right now, though it’s okay not to be a doom band in this day and age. Blueside is a great album for exactly what it is, though to connect it with doom is extremely misleading, and I’d never want to intentionally mislead whoever happens to read these reviews.
Child’s sound is primal, thick, fat and full. There’s a laid back, deep and ever-present groove to the five tracks on this album. The vocals of Mathias Northway are soaring and soulful, flying above his guitar’s classic blues licks and the rhythm section’s relentless roar. And man….can this dude rip it up on guitar when it’s time to solo – his leads are like liquid, super fluid and thoroughly expressive. Drummer Michael Lowe and bassist Danny Smith are equally impressive, providing a swinging backdrop for the songs. Each member of this trio really knows when to step up when it’s time to stand out, and more importantly, when to just stay in the pocket of the relentless groove.
The first track, “Nailed To The Ceiling”, starts out pretty mellow, emphasizing the strength of the vocals. It slowly building momentum before exploding into a bubbling climax of wah wah guitar and thick riffs. There’s some swirling organs in the background that reinforce the soulful side of the song. This track pretty much sets the pace and template for the album, and Child don’t really deviate from that formula, which is a good thing. Why fix it if it ain’t broken, right?? Sure, the second song, “It’s Cruel To Be Kind” brings the heavier guitar parts to the forefront early in the song, though it quickly breaks down into some clean, Hendrix inspired hooks before kicking the dirt back in for a killer chorus. What makes this track are the constant shifts in dynamics and intensity, which are really Child’s strong suit. While the songs are all well arranged, they’re relatively simple blues rock numbers, and they rely heavily on the band’s performances to breath life into them. They pick up the pace a bit at the end of this one, and cap things off with an extended fuzzed out jam.
“Blue Side Of The Collar” is the shortest track on the album, clocking in at around six minutes. As you’d probably expect by now, it starts off with laid back, with classic and clean blues licks, and builds up to a wall of distorted guitars on top of the throbbing, pulsing rhythm section. The vocals really shine on this one, especially in the way that the guitar plays off of and echoes their sentiments. “Dirty Woman” breaks the mold a bit by starting things off nice and heavy from the start, and has some really cool female backing vocals that make for a different feel. Child also punctuate some parts of the song with little organ breaks that add a lot also. It’s my favorite track on the album, because it rocks a bit harder than the others, and the intro riff that rears its head from time to time throughout the song doesn’t just sound like a standard from the established blues canon. Naturally, they break it down for a nice jam in the middle, with a sweet clean guitar solo that allows the rhythm section and the organ to shine through a bit more. This builds once again into a momentous crescendo of full throttle riffs and leads, ending in some spaced out effects that lead into the final track, “The Man.” This is the longest track, and by now, you should pretty much know what to expect. It’s a slow, swinging blues rock track with all the elements I’ve already listed numerous times, so I’ll spare you the repetition at this point. What I can say is that about three quarters of the way through the song, the drop the album’s heaviest riff followed by some of its most intense soloing. By the end of the track, all three of these dudes are just going nuts on their instruments, and it’s fine conclusion to the album.
If you’re a blues or classic rock aficionado, I don’t see why you wouldn’t love this album, and while I can see how this may not appeal at all to fans of extreme metal, there’s an intensity and immediacy to Blueside that could easily win over those who are more inclined to heavier fare. My one critique is that I’d like to see them break away from simple blues rock, and perhaps add in some more progressive elements or quirky songwriting, though that’s really a minor complaint. Child do what they do, and they do it very well. This is only their second album, so it’s going to be very interesting to see where they take things from here on in.
Well well well….it seems that Kayros have been around and flying under my radar for quite some time, as they formed ten years ago and have quite a few albums already under their belt. This is the first that I’ve heard of this Chilean four piece, and I have to say that I’m quite pleasantly surprised. All the elements of their complex sound are familiar, yet they combine them in unique and creative ways. There’s also a lot of slightly bizarre and off-kilter melodic choices in their riffs and chords with lend the songs a certain freshness as well. That’s good when you’re talking about “stoner rock”, which can often be extremely derivative and uninspired. The heavy Kyuss influence is pretty obligatory in when you’re working in this genre, though few bands fuse the classic desert rock sounds so seamlessly with the gonzo keyboards of space rock.
First off, this is one helluva headphone album – there’s just so much going on in the stereo field, especially with the keyboards. They’re not super present on every song, though when they stand out, they really steal the show. The vocals of Jose Ignacio Mora are in that eerie Ozzy vein, high pitched and with tons of echo. Mora doubles up with Sebastian Lara (who is also apparently responsible for the stellar keyboard work….) on the guitar duties, and together they create a down-tuned and totally blown out sound. The bass of Pancho Pavez seems a little low in the mix to me, though he seems to roughly follow the guitars when I can hear the bass lines. Leo Mantis handles drum duties, and his tom heavy beats have a sweet interplay between busier parts and more straightforward drum work. All and all, Kayros seems rock solid and well developed, though I’ll say straight away that I find the production and mix to be a little odd. There’s not a lot of low end, it’s tough to hear the bass and the kick drum, and the keyboards are always way, way on the top of the mix when they’re doing their thing. Granted, I like the keyboards, so I’m willing to concede the last bit, though the thin low end is a bit of a detraction for sure.
Song wise, I’ll start off by saying that all the lyrics are in Spanish. I don’t speak Spanish, so I’m not sure what they’re singing about, though that’s not really a problem for me since the vocals are so atmospheric anyways. They just seem like another instrument adding a vital ingredient to an already rich the sonic soup. Over the course of eight songs, Kayros show their proficiency and deftness for the various elements that make for classic stoner songs: there’s the obligatory downtuned desert rock riffing, exotic hallucinatory melodies, harmonized guitars straight out of the first Truckfighters album, and of course the pulsing keyboards that would make Hawkwind proud to share the stage. Opening track “Hombre Piedra” is the standout for me, an eight plus minute odyssey through time and space. It starts off with some clean, sparkling guitar chords and bizarre bursts of synth, then one guitar drops a trance inducing riff. From there the song builds off some super cool modal melodies until both guitars groove on the riff and the vocals come in. Around the five-minute mark, they break down the song with some natural harmonics right out of the Soundgarden playbook. I love guitar harmonics. After that, there’s a full throttle, far out keyboard solo. Nasty!
“Crisis RH2” is a short and straightforward track that starts strong with the double axe attack riding a low-down riff for all its worth, and the vocals kick in soon afterwards. The keyboards are used sparingly on this track; there’s a cool phase shifted noise that really effectively accents the chorus, though I honestly can’t tell if it’s a keyboard or heavily effected guitar. “Gaza” starts off with one of those aforementioned quirky melodic ideas, like something Queens Of The Stone Age would utilize, though Kayros play it much more trippy. Eventually the intro evolves into a slower, more simplistic riff, like a Neanderthal driving a dump truck. The keyboards kick in on top, followed by the vocals. The chorus adds a bit more melody to the main riff, there’s some more cool guitar and keyboard solos, then the song ends in a slow, primal riff and fading feedback.
The instrumental “Ciudad Fantasma” begins with some synths inspired by the nearest pulsar, and gradually adds on layer after layer of psychedelic soundscape, effectively challenging the laws of physics for three minutes. “Circo Infierno” is another more straight up, guitar heavy track, though once again they use the keyboards to punctuate key points throughout. There’s some great guitar harmonies on this one, and some of the albums most intense riffing. “Hacia El Avismo” starts off spacey and slow, eventually builds up steam, then alternates between the two approaches. It’s definitely one of the more straight up space rock tracks, with the wind-like synth sweeps dominating the scenery. “Caminos Maginales” also starts off with slower, more evil sounding riffs, and somehow Kayros is able to morph into a swinging major key vocals, which reminds me a lot of some of the songs off the first Core record. They end things with the drum heavy closer “Isanidad”, which starts off in a flurry of tribal toms and adds in lava laced guitars and sinister keyboard melodies. I thought that they were going for an instrumental add first, though the vocals finally come in towards the end of the track.
Kayros definitely prove that they’re a veteran band on this release, juggling rugged individuality with the classic influences of the stoner rock canon. They have a real knack for layering sounds on top of one another, whether it’s guitars, vocals or keyboards, and this allows them to ride out each riff for all its worth through the processes of theme and variation. I really enjoy this album tremendously. It’s not perfect, but it’s visionary. Fans of bands like Los Natas, Gas Giant and Astrosoniq should really get on board with this one, I haven’t heard a record like this since the early days of the stoner rock explosion.
Band Line Up:
José Ignacio Mora – Guitar/Vox • Sebastian Larrea – Guitar • Leo Mantis – Drums • Pancho Pavez – Bass
Outlaw Nation Joint Interview: An Interview with PAT HARRINGTON from GEEZER
My good friend Matthew from Taste Nation thought it was time to do another joint interview. We thought who could we ask this time. The answer was pretty simple when we listened to GEEZER’s incredible new self-titled album.
This is an album that impressed Matthew and myself straight away. We were blown away by the different sound and dynamics that Geezer have included on their new album. We both agree that this is one of the best Stoner Rock albums of the year and we had to find out more about the making of the album.
I’m happy to say that the Diamond Geezer himself – The Electric Beard Of Doom aka Pat Harrington (Guitars/Vocals) has kindly agreed to do this interview. It’s always a blast catching up with Pat. I’ve had the pleasure to interview him previously and he’s always a great person to interview and this is no different. Well apart from doing a joint interview with Matthew.
Anyway. I’ve gone on long enough. Lets see what Pat has to say….
OOTS – Hi Pat. Thanks for doing this joint interview. Congrats on the new album. You already know my thoughts on this. How are things with you today.
Pat (PH):Excellent, thank you! Thanks especially for your great review! It actually took us rather off guard.
TN – A huge Congrats on this beast of an album. Bands would be jealous to release a “Best Of” album of this caliber. Super tight percussion that keeps the album progressing seamlessly, thunderous bass-lines that provide massive Groove that one’s head bobbing. The aforementioned allows for the fine (and diverse) guitar work to roam and offer the listener something fresh and new from start to finish……………Again, Congrats!!
PH: Thanks! Again, very kind words. It’s only been a week or so since it’s been released to the press, but we’re already pretty shocked about how well the album is being received. TN – After that diatribe, what was your recording process like? Was it spread out over days, weeks, months…….?
PH: It was a quick process actually. We did all the basics over the course of two days, then I took a couple of days to do some guitar overdubs at home. Vocals were recorded shortly after that. We’ve been basically finished since late March, so it’s great to FINALLY have the album see the light of day. Even though we still have to wait another month or so for it to be released publicly… sheesh!
OOTS – Did you do anything differently when recording this album compared to your other records. Was this an easy album to record for. PH: It was very easy. We recorded with our long time engineer/mixer, Matthew Cullen (who also recorded and mixed the new Shadow Witch album) and we did it at a friend’s studio, The Isokon in Woodstock, NY. It was the first time we recorded there and it was a fantastic experience, good vibes all around. Because of the way the studio is set up, we were able to get much more separation between all the instruments and therefore, we were able to manipulate them more freely.
This is also the first album to include Richie on bass. He is a completely different kind of player than Freddy (our original bass player) and our sound and approach to songwriting changed because of that. The other difference is, for really the first time, these songs were developed over the course of a year and were road tested pretty heavily, so we all had a solid grip on what we were going to do in the studio. Which is, with the exception of our first album, pretty unusual for us.
TN – Did you “test” the new tracks at live shows to ‘Gage’ people’s response?
PH: We did. We played more shows last year than we’d ever done before. We also focused on developing the new material so we were really able to figure out what worked, what didn’t, etc. With the exception of “Dust”, every song on the album had been played numerous times live. The bonus track on the CD, “Stoney Pony” is actually a re-working of our song “Pony”, which was on the first album. So that one’s been around for years.
OOTS – The album is being released on STB Records and Ripple Music. Perhaps two of the best independent record labels currently out there. Did you guys have offers from other labels. Or was their no hesitation in signing for anybody else.
PH: They”re both amazing labels to work with, so we didn’t even consider anyone else. I mean, Ripple has become a force of nature over the last few years and nobody does vinyl better than STB. In addition, everything we’ve done up to this point has been building up to this album. We wanted to make sure both labels were involved, so we can all enjoy it together.
OOTS – Can you give any details on the Vinyl release from STB Records. What kind of editions will be released and did you have any involvement with the final design. Or was this left down to Steve STB.
PH: As usual, the STB release will be complete with their now legendary Die Hard and OBI versions as well as a Standard and World Wide distro versions. We went a little long with this one so it’s actually going to be a 3 sided double album which will include a bonus track that won’t be available anywhere else. Josh Wilkinson from The Company Design did all the artwork and layout. Steve and I contributed to the ideas, but Josh took the lead in putting the package together.
In addition, and I’m letting the cat out of the bag here, the Die Hard version will include a separate live album which consists of one 33 minute instrumental (and mostly improvised) track called “A Flagrant Disregard For Happiness”.
This was recorded back in April at a venue called BSP here in Kingston at this years Hudson Valley Psych Fest. The show included It’s Not Night: It’s Space (who curates the show), Ecstatic Vision and Turco’s other project, Ultraam. Due to these circumstances, we wanted to do something different and Turco was the one who really set the thing in motion. As the ideas developed, he decided that he wanted to play baritone guitar for this, so we got our friend Dan Goodwin (who owns The Isokon) to sit behind the drums.
It was basically a one time thing and came out beautifully. It’s unlike anything we’ve ever done before and we’re extremely excited for people to hear it. Much more information about this will start to trickle out in the coming weeks.
TN – Pat, you’re one Hell of a Storyteller!! To quote you in ‘Superjam Maximus’, “We lay it down with the Thickness…..” I couldn’t agree more. A major component of the thickness, is the effective use of your trademark Raspy, Tom Waite’s like vocals and the subject matters you sing about keeps the listener engaged and 51+ minutes fly by. Do you have a set writing process? Do you write the music and then do the lyrics follow?
PH: Thank you! The vocals almost always come after the music. I consider myself a guitarist first, so my writing process is very centered around that perspective. Usually the mood of the song will dictate the melodies (if you can call them that) and lyrics. Many times lyrics will spring up from a single phrase or word association. Sometimes I don’t even know what the song is about until after it’s done. OOTS – Was this one of the hardest albums you ever written or recorded.
PH: Not at all. These songs were almost always born out of jams, we were all standing in the same room when we recorded them and we usually only had to do two or three takes to get them down. With the exception of a punch or two, “Sun Gods” was actually done in one take. That being said, we definitely put a lot of time and effort into developing these songs. By the time we got down to recording them, we pretty much knew them inside and out.
TN – The album crossovers and melds many genres from Space & neo-Psychedelia to guitar heavy, riff Rock. How would you classify the album’s sound? What your opinion of all the genre and sub-genres that exist and your thoughts on what defines an a song or album as Stoner Rock? Your thoughts on the use of the Stoner Rock designation which many describe your album as?
PH: Honestly, I don’t get too hung up on genre labels, it’s way too exhausting. I just dig heavy, trippy, groovy shit. It’s what I like, it’s what I’m good at and I’m too old to care at this point. As a band, every album has been different simply because we like to be creative and try different things. That’s what makes the whole thing fun. I will say, however, that early on in the song writing process, when it was clear that things were yet again going in a different direction, there was a moment where we took on the mantra of “Fuck it”. Let’s just do what we want.
OOTS – Was that an easy decision to make to release something different. Did you think you would alienate your fans with this new sound.
PH: Yes it was, but honestly, I don’t see it really as that different. To me it’s just an extension of ideas that we’ve touched on before. I still think of the band as a heavy blues band at our core. A lot of the bands I grew up on (Sabbath, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, etc…), they all changed as time went on. That is one of the things that is so exciting to me about the “Heavy Rock Underground”. No one is dictating to us who to be or what to do, nobody is harassing us for a “radio hit” (whatever that is).
As far as the labels go, they’ve never second guessed anything we’ve sent them. We’ve had the time and space to take a journey with our music, just like bands used to do back in the 60’s and early 70’s. As someone who’s had some varying success in the “mainstream”, I can tell you personally that there is nothing worse than trying to write a radio hit or writing music to fit a certain mold. I like to write different kinds of songs and let them stand on their own. The fact that so many people are responding positively to what we’re doing? That’s just validation that we’re on the right track.
TN – What contemporary Bands do you like? Do you have any guilty pleasures like Foo Fighters or Debbie Gibson that you would like to share with us? PH: I’m weird, I go through many musical phases. I tend to focus on a certain band or genre for extensive amounts of time, almost like I’m studying it. There was a time during ’08-’09 where I literally only listened to the Melvins for about a year. After that, I spent about 3 years listening to and learning how to play old school blues (Charley Patton, Son House, Blind Willie Johnson, etc.). Eventually these influences get incorporated into the way I play guitar and the way I think about music. Nowadays, especially because of my involvement with the Electric Beard Of Doom podcast, I listen to a lot of the heavy underground stuff. For me, it just feels like home (for now).
Some of the current bands that are inspiring to me are Wo Fat, King Buffalo, Egypt, Sinister Haze, Sons Of Otis, Acid King… I could go on and on and I know I’m forgetting some. The new Brant Bjork album is friggin outstanding! He’s a great example of someone who just does what he pleases and it all kicks ass. One of the coolest cats on the planet!
Guilty pleasures? I dunno… Like I said, I dig heavy, trippy shit. I did a stretch as a Deadhead back in the late 80’s/early 90’s. That was my backlash against metal, I guess. But, that is also where I learned how to improvise. I used to play along to live Dead albums all the time, just learning the fretboard. That stuff is still with me today. I’ve been on a big ZZ Top kick lately. The real early stuff… I know, shocker! OOTS – Pat you’re always busy with your excellent show – Electric Beard Of Doom. Is that a hard process for you to be involved with along with your commitment to Geezer.
PH: The Beard is a labor of love. I’m about to close out my 4th year doing it and it’s more popular than ever! For that, I am very grateful. It can get tough sometimes because there are only so many hours in a day. I’ve been known to take a few weeks, even months off at a time from doing the podcast. Many times this is because I’m busy with Geezer or other things. It’s all about balance and keeping it fresh and exciting. I still dig the creative process of making the show, but it can be very time consuming. As long as people keep listening, I’m gonna keep doing it.
OOTS – Do Richie and Turco have any other commitments outside of Geezer. Any other bands.
PH: Turco is involved in a few other projects. He has a band called Chron Turbine, which lately has become more of a one man kind of thing. He actually just released a tape through Peterwalkee Records called “II”, I highly recommend you check it out.
As I mentioned before, he is also involved in a project called Ultraam, which also includes Matthew Cullen (who by the way, did that crazy guitar solo at the end of “Sun Gods”). He’s an incredible guitar player and musician. Dan Goodwin is also involved. They do purely improvisational pieces that gravitate between kraut rock/free noise and any other number of genres depending on what day it is. They’re more of a collective than a band and are truly amazing to watch. Richie and I are both just banging away with Geezer at the moment.
TN – Will the Geezer be hitting the road on an extensive tour to support the album or have multiple, shorter outings? For selfish reason, will you be coming to Southern California to play??
PH: Extensive touring is not really in the cards for us for various reasons. That being said, we are really gunning for Europe in 2017. We’ve been working with Total Volume Booking on putting something together and hopefully we’ll hit some of the festivals next year. There is some talk about doing more stuff in the US, I guess we’ll see how things play out with the album. If there is enough of a demand, we’ll try and do as much as we can.
TN – Thanks again for your time and congrats on a Ripper of an Album. It will surely be on people’s End of the Year lists. Cheers!!
PH: Thanks so much for your interest in the band and your very kind words about the new album! You guys put together a very enjoyable interview.
OOTS – Yeah I concur with Matthew. It’s a brilliant album. I wish you every success with it.
PH: Steve, it’s always an honor and a privilege to talk to you. Thanks again!
Written by Steve Howe, Matthew Thomas and Pat Harrington
I want to thank Pat for taking the time to talking to both Matthew and myself. Thanks to Richard at Sheltered Life PR for arranging this interview.
Geezer will be released on CD/DD via Ripple Music and Vinyl via STB Records from November 18th 2016.
Outlaw Nation Joint Interview: ZED – Back From The Dead And Causing Trouble In Paradise
Matthew and myself had a great time doing our previous joint interview with SlowGreen Thing. We decided to do another one. We thought who should we contact. The answer was pretty simple. We both decided pretty quickly on San Jose Blues/Hard Rock/Stoner Rockers – ZED.
We are both huge fans of ZED and their blend of Hard Rock/Stoner Rock riffs. They have a new album coming out soon called – Trouble In Eden. For this album, they’ve teamed up with Powerhouse Record Label – Ripple Music – to release the album. Trouble In Eden is a stunning album on every level and it’s only going to enhance ZED’s already great reputation.
We wanted to find out what’s changed since their last album – Desperation Blues and why did they sign with Ripple Music. (Yeah, stupid question I know but I wanted to find out more).
ZED have kindly agreed to this interview with Matthew and myself. So here goes…
OOTS – Outlaws Of The Sun
TN – Taste Nation
OOTS – Hi guys. Thanks for doing this interview. How are things with you today. So what can people expect from your new album.
Things are going great, thanks! We are excited and gearing up for the release of our new album “Trouble In Eden” on August 26th through Ripple Music! I think that when people hear this album, whether they are familiar with us or not, they will really latch on to the big grooves, which is our signature. We approached this record with two things in mind, big grooves and solid song structures. Those familiar with our previous albums will see a noticeable growth in musicianship as well. We spent a year banging the songs around and working out the kinks and it shows! It was a year of blood, sweat, tears, laughter and fights!!
TN – Congrats on a tremendous album in ‘Trouble in Eden!’ This is a beast from start to finish. What was your approach in writing this album? Was it the same or different from your previous two releases?
The writing process for this one was a little bit different because we as a band are always so riff-driven or riff-focused, playing from the gut, which in itself isn’t a bad thing, but we have a pattern with our writing where we would slap riffs together and call it a song. What we started doing with our previous album, which really came into fruition on this album was approaching a song from BOTH a gut/feel perspective and a cerebral perspective where we still find and ride the big grooving riffs but we piece them together and arrange them in a more thoughtful way to hopefully create a better song experience.
TN – I may be biased because I’m a huge fan of the band, but it seems you guys pay attention to the details. Ranging from the interplay of the double guitars, heavy bass lines and drums that keeps the album moving at it’s fast tempo, ‘Trouble in Eden’ will no doubt raise your status in the world of heavy rock!! With the millions of Genres & Sub-Genres out there, how would you classify your music?
Good question! The funny thing about our music is that when we first started out in ’07, the listeners who really got and understood us were the people in the Stoner Rock scene, who have opened their arms and accepted us above and beyond any other genre or scene. However, when you hear us, it’s apparent we are not your textbook stoner rock band. We are influenced by the big classic rock bands heavily as well, but we also incorporate other styles as well as more contemporary influences. Our stated purpose when we started out was to write what we felt were just great rock songs, and not worry about genres or labels. The only concern was asking ourselves what does the song call for and does it make the song better, even if it’s a cliché. Song is king with us.
OOTS – What did you differently when recording Trouble In Eden compared to your last album Desperation Blues.
When we did Desperation Blues we recorded it all at once in one studio. This time around we got the opportunity to go down to Southern California and record all the drum tracks in the home studio of Eric Kretz, the drummer from Stone Temple Pilots, who has an incredible drum tracking studio on his property. We got to spend about 4 days at his compound working with him and his engineer to make the drums sound HUGE! That was an amazing experience being there and even just hanging out with Eric and hearing some amazing stories about the music industry. Then we brought the tracks back home and finished the rest with our producer/engineer Tim Narducci who did an amazing job on this one as well as Desperation Blues.
OOTS – Did you learn any difficult lessons when recording your last album that you didn’t want to repeat with the new album.
Whenever you go in to record an album, there will always be new things that crop up and challenge you in some way, and they are usually things that are completely unexpected, while the things you anticipated as being difficult, you end up just blazing through. Due to a medical emergency that hit our producer, we had to wait about a month between doing drums and recording the rest of the instruments, so the challenge was making sure we played the songs correctly as they were a month before, because sometimes songs are like living, evolving things that continue to change even after you record them! Just doing our due diligence was probably the biggest thing.
TN – Did everyone start playing and singing in the womb or start a little later in life?
I wish I started earlier!! I think we all started playing music seriously in our teens, and it just grew from there. I had piano lessons as a kid but was never really into it. When I was about 12 I saw Back to the Future and suddenly wanted to be Marty McFly with a red strat and I was saving up my money to get one, but then I discovered Iron Maiden and was immediately fascinated with Steve Harris as a bass player and decided to go to bass! I haven’t stopped since!
Matthew with his ZED collection
TN – Title Track ‘Trouble in Eden’ & ‘High Indeed’ stand out to me as both are superbly written both musically and lyrically? They both seem to have a similar theme? Where/How/Who is Eden?
Glad you picked up on it. The album as a whole has something of a running theme, which the album and song title, Trouble in Eden, represents. That being that this world, which was once Eden, a place of paradise, is in serious trouble, at the hands of humankind. Whether it be the ecological disasters that have happened and will happen because of humanity’s abuse of land and resources, the manmade plagues of war and poverty driven by people hungry for power, or our own internal struggles and battles we fight daily. Just look around and see there IS trouble in Eden. And we wanted the cover art to convey the same thing, which is why we chose a representation of the Hindu goddess Kali, who in her duality is the goddess of destruction as well as a gentle mother, and in her hands are things that represent life and death, good and evil.
OOTS – The album is being released by the fine folks over at Ripple Music. How did you hook up with them.
Funny story! The first guy to ever write a review of us was Bill Goodman, The Evil Engineer, who gave our first album its very first review back in 2010. He had told me about Ripple Music and how we should hook up with them way back in the day, but for whatever reason, I never followed up on it. Apparently, he had also told them about us, but they didn’t follow up on it either. Fast forward 5 years and our album Desperation Blues has been out for awhile and I start looking at online record distributors and see Heavy Ripples, which is Ripple Music’s independent distribution vehicle.
So I reach out to them about our album and we make an agreement, so when I send it to them, Todd Severin, who is the label owner, listens to our album and luckily dug it enough to make his partner, Pope, listen to it and finally after Pope listened to it, he dug it too. Then they came out to a show we played in their area and said they wanted to work with us! We were stoked! So then a few weeks later, we signed a deal, and then had to start busting our asses because we had no new songs written, and a record to deliver in a year! We were a little late, but hopefully worth the wait!
TN – How is the local music scene in your hometown of San Jose?
The scene in SJ I’d say is recuperating. Back in the late 90’s and early 00’s it was a really vibrant and thriving scene, but the city ordinances as well as both the gentrification and influx of tech workers who are just not rock oriented, caused the closure of some key venues. So from then until the last couple of years, it was very hard for local bands to find an audience, however I feel that has really begun to change over the past couple of years with a renewed interest in live music and live rock for that matter, San Jose is definitely on the way up again. I’m very optimistic!
TN – You guys are touring The West Coast in support of the album. I look forward to seeing you guys play Los Angeles at The Viper Room. What can we expect with a live ZED show?
ZED live shows are usually pretty energetic. We try to bring the energy AND the volume to the stage and really punch the audience in the gut sonically! We also have a lot of fun with it!
TN – Will there be a bigger tour that hits other parts of America?
Yes that will be in spring or summer 2017 once we’ve marketed the album a little bit.
OOTS – I’ll add in another touring question. Will you guys be coming over to Europe soon as you have quite a few fans over in Europe.
Absolutely! We are planning to come over summer 2017 to try to hit the festivals and do some touring city to city! We love Europe and the rock fans there are amazing!
TN – Who did your album artwork? It’s pretty amazing!
I usually do all the artwork for the band myself, but this time I wanted some outside input and an outside perspective on our vision, so we collaborated with a good friend of our named Kiren Bagchee of Kiren In Digital Studios. We basically told him our ideas and the vibe we wanted and he hit it out of the park! His work is beautiful and organic and he has a great eye. We are totally stoked on what he did for us.
TN – Thank you for your time. To the readers in Los Angeles/Orange County come party with me October 20th when ZED plays The Viper Room!!
Thanks Matt! We Cant wait to see you all and party!! Its gonna be a rager! Thank you for supporting underground music!!
OOTS – Well guys thanks for doing this joint interview with Matthew and myself. Best of luck with the new album. It’s a great album. Before you go, do you have anything to say to your fans.
First, thank you Steve for being a longtime advocate for us heavy rock bands in the underground. We appreciate all you do!! Secondly, thanks to everyone over the years who has taken the time to listen to, purchase merch or see the band live! The friendship, feedback and good vibes you give us really make it worthwhile, especially when to going gets tough!! We hope to see you guys soon!
Words by Steve Howe, Matthew Thomas and ZED
Thanks to ZED for taking the time out to talking to us. Trouble In Eden will be available to buy on CD/DD/Vinyl from Ripple Music on August 26th 2016.
Outlaw Nation – Joint Interview – An Interview with MR OZO from TRUCKFIGHTERS
Truckfighters are a band that need no introduction. They’ve been playing their own blend of Fuzz/Desert/Stoner Rock to the masses for over 15 years now. Countless tours have seen them labelled as one of the best live acts around within the Desert/Stoner Rock scene.
With album number five around the corner – Originally titled V. The Truckfighters juggernaut shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon. The new album builds on the sounds created on Universe with the sounds of their previous albums making a welcome return. Though it’s still a different kind of sound that will only enhance their reputation further.
For this interview I’ve teamed up with Matthew over at Taste Nation to do a joint interview with Oskar aka MR OZO where we discussed their new album, touring plans and Fuzzorama Records.
So sit back and ENJOY THE FUZZ!!!!
OOTS – Outlaws Of The Sun
TN – Taste Nation
OOTS – Hi Oskar. Thanks for doing this joint interview between Matthew and myself. Hope things are well with you all in the Truckfighters camp.
Yes, everything is amazing actually. Every time you finished a new album and just sit and wait for the album to be released is awesome… We don’t sit that much just relaxing, but you know what I mean. The hard work finishing an album is always a very, very hard work, not only time wise, but it takes a lot of energy from your mind as well.
TN – Congratulations on reaching the your 5th ‘V’ album milestone and your “Unholy Union” with Los Angeles based Century Media. Would you like to share the catalyst of partnering with Century Media? With the label in my backyard, Steve can agree that I’m a bit obsessed and curious on why you chose Century Media solely based on their roster of bands who bring more fake blood and face paint than Fuzz.
Haha, yes, you could look at Century Media as a label who releases a lot of heavy stuff and Truckfighters are without no doubt one of the softer acts. Well, we got interest from Nuclear blast, Napalm and Century… All are three good labels, but in the end we trusted our instinct, it seemed like Century Media where the most inspiring label and the label that where most eager to work with us and understand our potential haha 😉
OOTS – Yeah V is a stunning album. You’ve been busy with releasing your Live Album and releasing V in quick succession. In regards to the Live album. How has the response been to that record. Our reviewer – Bruno loved the hell out of it. And I did as well. Why did you choose that London gig to release as your first Live album. Will you be open to releasing more live albums in the future.
Ohh, two questions in one 😛 Well, first of all, thank you so much for the kind words, we couldn’t agree more… I personally spent extremely much time just to get everything the way I wanted and as good as possible, I spent alone approx 4 months with the bass and vocals, full time! I almost lost my mind, but I can’t simple just leave something that doesn’t feel like it’s spot on.
We’ve been a bit lazy recording our shows live with a proper multitrack thing for the past (well, all years) years… London always has been a really good place for us, so we decided to record it… We had ideas to maybe get equipment on the road and record more than one show so we could choose the best gigs, but we did only one recording… no rooms for errors haha 😛 We will probably do it sometime in the future as well, but we need to release at least a few more albums so we can play some new songs 😉
TN – Want to share your approach in making this album compared to previous releases? With your ever growing fan base, was/is there more pressure to satisfy your loyal fan base while appealing & attracting to new fans. A fine line most bands never have a chance to experience. Is it a good problem to have or do you even think about such things?
This might sound weird and arrogant, but that’s the least thing I am… but when I’m in the state of creating music the only thing I care about is that I must love it… I mean you can’t do art or music if you’re not true to your passion and what you’re heart tells you to create/do. My main goal is to do something that I’m satisfied with… But what a great life we have, when a lot of people like it! We couldn’t continue doing what we do if it wasn’t for you fans of course, so thanks 😀
OOTS – V has quite a different sound compared to Universe. Some fans have commented recently they want you to return to your earlier FUZZ based sounds. Did you notice those comments from your fans yourselves. Would you ever go back to the fuller Desert/Fuzz sound you created on your earlier albums.
We never look back, we never want to do a copy of ourselves… But if we do an album that is more fuzzy and might sound familiar to our old works it won’t be because we’re looking back and trying to re-create this sound. We intentionally always change something in the recording and sound shaping process. Change drums, mics, the way we want the finish product to sound like… anything that makes it more interesting and “new” to us as well.
TN – ‘V’ seems to be a bit of a Sea Change for the band particularly from your prior 2014 release ‘Universe’. The Fuzz Pedals are at 11!! Bass-lines are heavier and the vocals muted from start to finish. (Also See Pennsylvania’s Nothing) It appears you traded in riffs for heavier hooks and grooves and clean vocals for fuzzy, muted making it a 4th instrument and also making this one of your heaviest releases.
hmm, is it… It’s hard for us to see that this almost is so much different than Universe. For it it feels like a natural evolvement… But I can agree that it somehow seems heavier, but in the same time a bit mellower perhaps? I wonder how next album will be? 😛
TN – Admittedly, it took me a few extra listens of ‘V’ to wrap my pedestrian brain around it. I’m glad I did I’m finding this to be my favourite release to date. It’s somewhat refreshing to hear a new album from a band of your calibre and not have it over-produced. Was that your intention going in the studio. Did you plan to make a more gritty, heavier album or let things flow more organically??
yeah, we had maybe one idea before we started recording and that was that we wanted it to sound a bit more aggressive, gritty and heavier in the sound… other from that we just created what ever song that came to our mind at the point. But you’re totally right, it’s probably a more in your face album, but without feeling over produced or over limited, we still want it to sound very natural in some ways.
OOTS – It seems that Fuzzorama Records have been going from strength to strength recently. Congratulations on your recent success. Originally you just distributed your own albums. When did you decide to release other artists on your label.
Actually we did a compilation with a lot of other bands as record number two, called The ultimate fuzz-collection. We decided even before we started the label that this is not just going to be a demo band creating a label just to release their own shitty stuff haha… Our intention with Fuzzorama where to do it as a real label and become a really good label. Now when I can compare with a label like Century Media I’m proud to say that Fuzzorama is probably the best smaller independent label there is.. We worked really hard for many, many years… We got some of the best distro deals in the business and we’re constantly trying to improve and never settle with “just” releasing stuff.
OOTS – Was it a hard decision to release another band on your label. Or did you need to expand more.
No, it was a must to become a “real” label in order to become a label that could land good distro deals and so on.. It’s not enough releasing an album every 2 or 3 year… + we think it’s so much fun running our own label
OOTS – Do you have a set of rules and ideals when signing a band to your label.
No not really, we sign bands we like, that’s it. The only rule that might apply is that we don’t wanna sign bands that sound the exact same, they should differ a bit in sound, but still be rock of course 😉
OOTS – Apart from your own album being released soon, Do you have any other releases being released soon. I’ve heard that you maybe releasing Asteroid’s long awaited new album.
Yes, that’s actually true, the new Asteroid album “III” will be released this fall, 11th of Nov in EU and 9th of Dec in US, six years have past since the previous album so it’s a long awaited album for sure… seems like the buzz around the band only grew bigger when they where away… Maybe that’s the effect a break have on great bands 😛 We will of course send you their album for review etc, don’t worry… starting next week 😉
TN – What would you like to share with the new Truckfighters fans here in The States about the band and new album? For those living outside Sweden and want to avoid international shipping, is this where Century Media’s role comes into play? Help expand your footprint in America?
Yes you can order the album directly through Century Media from the states and in that way get cheaper shipping of course. BUT our fuzzoramastore ships worldwide, and we use fixed shipping so only one rate no matter how much you order, so if you order more than one item I reckon the shipping is too bad + we have two vinyl colours strictly limited to our shop, as Century Media also have… so in the end you might be forced to order from both 😛 Or see us live, even better 😉
OOTS – Truckfighters have a phenomenal live reputation on stage. I’ve seen you guys multiple times in concert and you always impress the hell out of me. It looks you’ll be busy again promoting the new album. What can people expect from the new tours. And is it becoming harder for you as a band to keep doing all the energetic performances your band is known for.
Sure you’re always trying to improve, not only the scenic part of the live shows but also the sound and the way we perform, of course it’s getting harder the older you get but we’re also one of those bands that realised very early in our career that you need to look after yourself and your body in order to last for a long time. None of us been into drugs and to party (that much at least). We’ve always been interested in keeping us in shape and these days that is even more important, I usually exercise 5-6 times a week and feel stronger and more focused than ever. + the music gets more interesting to play and also demands more of us. But I think you need to challenge yourself all the time in order to keep doing what you do and to keep in being interesting for the audience 😉
OOTS/TN – Well guys thanks for doing this interview. All the best with V and future tours. Hopefully we will see you in concert on both sides of the Atlantic soon. Matthew in the USA and Steve in the UK.
Yes, hope to see you to guys, let me know when we’re close by and we’ll put you on the list, maybe we can have a chat as well. Thanks for the support in the band and the label 😉
Words by Steve Howe, Matthew Thomas and MR OZO
Thanks to Oskar aka MR OZO for taking the time out to talking to Matthew and myself. V will be out available to buy on CD/DD/Vinyl from Fuzzorama Records and Century Media Records – US.
Outlaws Nation Joint Interview: An Interview with YEAR OF THE COBRA
Year Of The Cobra are about to release their colossal debut album …In The Shadows Below. The band which is comprised of married Drum and Bass riffsters – Amy Tung-Barrysmith (Bassist/Vox) and Jon Barrysmith (Drums) have created a delicately played and loud as hell debut album. It’s an album that strikes the perfect balance between heavy Doom sounds with a pounding Sludgy/Stoner based groove.
Year Of The Cobra have been making a name for themselves over the last 18 months or so. They already have a fearsome live reputation and have already released a split single with Mos Generator. Signed to ace record label STB Records who will be releasing their debut album on October 29th 2016, Year Of The Cobra are going to become one of your favourite bands.
I asked my good pal Matthew Thomas over at Taste Nation LLC if he wanted to do one of our joint interviews that we’ve been doing recently. He agreed and this is the result as Year Of The Cobra have agreed to do another Outlaws Nation Joint Interview…..
OOTS/TN – Hi Amy, Jon. Thanks for doing this joint interview. Congrats on the new album. How are things with you both today.
YOTC – We’re doing great! Thank you. Excited about the album release. It’s been a busy week for sure!
OOTS – Can you tell our readers how the band came together. Or why you decided to form the band.
YOTC – We met on Halloween 2007 at a club called the King King in LA. We were playing in separate bands at the time and didn’t really talk much at that show. It wasn’t until the second or third show we played together before we became friends. We actually didn’t start writing music together until 2014, after moving to Seattle. We didn’t really know anyone in the music scene at the time, so we just started writing songs. Luckily, we both wanted to write the same style of music. For the most part, it was easy.
OOTS – Why did you choose the name Year Of The Cobra for your band. Any specific meaning.
YOTC – It took quite a while to find the right name. We had long lists that covered many pieces of paper before we decided on Year of the Cobra. It was actually supposed to be a temporary name, but it stuck and we’re glad it did.
TN – We are here to talk about your new album. What was your recording process like? Was it spread out over days, weeks, months…….?
YOTC – We booked 10 days with Billy Anderson to track everything. Billy did a few mixes for us remotely after tracking, but we went back for the final mixes to make sure it was exactly what we wanted. All in all, it took about 3 months from the initial tracking to the final masters. The recording process itself was amazing. The studio, Hallowed Halls, was magnificent and working with Billy was life altering. He’s a genius. We consider him a third member of our band now.
OOTS – How did you manage to hook-up with the legend that is Billy Anderson to Produce the album. Especially for your debut album. What was it like working with Billy. Did he provide any helpful advice when you were recording the new album.
YOTC – Billy was at the top of our list for many reasons. He was the first and only one we reach out to and he really liked the EP. The first time he came to watch us play, we were scared shitless, to say the least. After working with him, we’re still scared shitless, haha, but we’re all good friends now and we have the utmost respect for him. His ear, his ideas, his knowledge, is beyond anything we’ve seen or experienced before. He just knew exactly what we were going for, without ever having to tell him. It was amazing.
TN – What does Billy bring to the Year Of The Cobra sound.
YOTC – One of the first things Billy said to us when we first met him was that he knew how to make it sound big, without making it sound like we added a ton of tracks, and that’s exactly what he did. Billy brought a bin full of pedals that we tried in every configuration until we found the exact tone. We’re sure no one noticed, but right after the recording, Amy’s pedal board got much larger.
TN – Did you “test” the new tracks at live shows to see what people’s response to the new material.
YOTC – Absolutely. We always test out songs live first. It’s one thing to play it in the studio, but you won’t know how it works until you see how a crowd reacts.
OOTS – The album is being released on STB Records. Perhaps one of the best independent record labels currently out there. Did you guys have offers from other labels. Or was their no hesitation in signing for anybody else.
YOTC – STB was actually the only label we contacted directly. Jon sent an email when we released the EP to say that we were a brand new band and that we wanted to be on Steve’s (STB) radar. Steve wrote back the next day and said that he liked our debut EP, and in his own words said, “you are definitely on my radar”. From there, we started some cool and casual conversations via email and bonded over our punk and hardcore roots and our DIY ideals. Within that week, we signed with STB. The STB Family is real. We’re so stoked to be a part of this movement. It’s home.
OOTS – Did you have any involvement with the final design of the Vinyls or Cassettes. Or was this left down to Steve STB.
YOTC – We definitely had involvement. Steve wouldn’t have it any other way. Before we even recorded, right when first signed with Steve, he was chatting with us separately just to figure out who we were as people and our take on the band. It’s important to him to make sure the band is represented properly, not in the image that he wants, but in the image that the band wants. He’s the real deal, all heart.
TN – The album crossovers and melds many genres from Doom, Stoner, Psych, and Sludge. How would you classify the album’s sound? Your thoughts on the use of the Doom/Stoner Rock designation which many describe your album as?
YOTC – The album does have many crossovers. We intended it to be slightly diverse, to shake things up a bit. Our main shared background is hardcore punk, but as individuals, our musical tastes span the spectrum which helps when we’re writing music. We’re willing to move in whatever direction the song takes us.
TN – What contemporary Bands do you like? Do you have any guilty pleasures that you would like to share with us?
YOTC – That’s a good one….. I don’t think anyone should have a “guilty pleasure”. Music is music, you like what you like. Don’t give a shit what people think and don’t be ashamed. We could go on forever about current bands we love. We play out a lot and have toured quite a bit this past year and are always in awe of the talent that we’re surrounded by, not to mention the cool people we meet.
TN – Will you be hitting the road on an extensive tour to support the album or have multiple, shorter outings? For my own selfish reason, will you be coming to Southern California to play??
YOTC – We have some short tours planned in the near future. A west coast tour the end of this year (2016) with Mos Generator and Castle, and Europe in March and again in April/May. So far, no plans to play LA, but it is on our list. We’ll definitely do a full US tour for summer of 2017 again like we did this year.
OOTS – How hard is it for you to tour and perform with Year Of The Cobra especially with your young family. Are your kids proud and happy of their “Rockstar Parents”.
YOTC – Our family is always our first concern, but to have a happy family, we both feel it is important for us to focus on things that fulfil us as well. We’re just both lucky (and unlucky) that we want to do the same thing. We believe it’s important for us to show our kids that we’re willing to work hard on something that we believe in and hopefully, they find the same drive in whatever fulfils them.
TN – You’ve only been going as a band for about 20 months or so. Has is it surprised you the responses you’ve received for your music from the Doom/Stoner Metal community. Looking back then did you ever think you would be releasing your debut album.
YOTC – We started the band because we just wanted to play music we both loved and somehow, we found a crowd that happens to like it too. Whatever happens, we will always write and play music. Hopefully, it will be music that resonates with others as much as it does with us.
OOTS – Who designed the awesome artwork for the album. How much input did you have into the final design of the artwork.
YOTC – The artwork for the album was designed by our good friend, Esther Heckman. She is one of the most amazing artists we have ever met. She doesn’t normally do album art, but we sent her one song off the album as inspiration (Electric Warrior) and gave her no direction. Everything after that was her own creation.
OOTS – For a Drum/Bass Duo. You have quite a loud sound compared to other Drum/Bass duos. How do you create this sound. Do you use an advanced setup or basic setup when recording and playing live.
YOTC – It was important for us to sound big because being a duo is very limiting. Amy’s setup is very fluid. She can find a setup that works for the moment, but is constantly on the lookout for something that can help advance it. Splitting the bass tones was a no brainer, but finding the right amp/cabinet and pedal combination was much harder. It is always in flux.
OOTS/TN – We both wish you every success with it. As it’s a fantastic album that will no doubt receive a ton of praise when it’s fully released. Do you have anything to say to your fans before we go.
YOTC – We just want to thank everyone. We’re so appreciative of the response we’ve received so far. We have put so much heart into this project, it’s nice to see that other people like it as well. Many thanks to you, Steve and Matthew, for the killer review and for doing this interview.
Words by Steve Howe, Matthew Thomas and Year Of The Cobra
Thanks to Amy and Jon for taking the time out talking to Matthew and myself. …In The Shadows Below will be available to buy on Cassette/CD/DD/Vinyl via STB Records from October 29th 2016.
I’ve probably waxed poetic quite a few times about how I am a sucker for any art that juxtaposes the angelic and the menacing. I don’t know where I picked up that phrase. I’ve been using it a good twenty years. I suspect that I read it somewhere, in the writings of some wordy philosopher or obscure literary critic, and where ever it came from, it resonated, so I adopted it in a vain, youthful attempt to sound clever and “deep”.
It’s also entirely possible that I actually did come up with it. I could probably even concoct some bogus origin story for how I first used it, but the truth is that I really don’t remember. Besides, that’s one of the things that I love about life, the unsolvable mysteries, the things that we’ll have no way of actually knowing. The juxtaposition of the angelic and the menacing: that’s my personal mystery.
My point in bringing up my own private overused cliché is that it’s the perfect description of The Fifth Alliance’s bleak yet beautiful masterpiece, Death Poems.
I have a few steadfast convictions about art: firstly, that the artist should ultimately be the slave of their own imagination, that it’s their job to also enslave their audience within that same imaginative vision. That’s definitely my own idea. I wrote that and I live that. But the truly great art, it goes beyond mere imagination. It always explores the reconciliation of opposites.
That’s definitely not my own idea, it’s the idea of Samuel Coleridge, my favorite poet, and perhaps the most metal poet of all time, as Iron Maiden’s “Rhyme Of The Ancient Mariner” would seem to suggest. Thankfully, this isn’t a review of Powerslave, because aside from the aforementioned song, I will trash that album for its mediocrity, and you will all be filled with righteous indignation and probably never read one of my reviews again. So I’m going to cease with my second rate aesthetic theories and write about The Fifth Alliance.
They’re a five piece from The Netherlands. They have a dense, thick sound, though if you hadn’t told me, I wouldn’t have realized that they had two guitarists, as the music is actually pretty minimalist. This is a good thing. Their songs are more about adopting an atmosphere, delving into intense dynamic shifts, and exploring a theme until it reaches its culmination, its climax, its apex. The first song, “Your Abyss”, is the perfect example of this approach. It clocks in at more than eleven minutes, and it never feels like it has overstayed it’s welcome. I’ll run the risk of stating the completely obvious: when you write longer songs, you can’t bore your listeners. You need to inspire intimacy. You need to either incorporate enough change and variation, or if you choose the path of repetition, you’d better hope that you’ve come up with something that bears repeating. This is especially important with a lot of sludge/doom bands that write longer songs and rely more on their overall sound and atmosphere, bands that punish their listeners into submission rather than solely tickling them with catchy hooks.
The Fifth Alliance uses the typical weapons in the modern sludge/doom arsenal: riffs of molten molasses weaved together with moments of stunning beauty and ambiance, all accompanied by a rock solid rhythm section and a potent female screamer. The vocals shift between her throaty, emotional shrieks and shimmering clean, melodic sections. They mix up the tempos well by unleashing faster, black metal inspired passages. The kinetic drums and rapid fire guitars are jarring and unexpected, and they jolt the listener out of any lulls or boredom that the slower sections can induce.
This is a strong album from a band that has a lot to offer within these four songs and thirty-five minutes. Fans of Ocean, Salome, Monarch, Bloody Panda, and Thou should rejoice in this release. I’ll be curiously awaiting how their career plays out….
Release Date: November 11th, 2016. Label: Fuzzorama Records. Format: Vinyl/CD/DD
Asteroid’s appropriately titled third album, III, is pretty badass. It’s been awhile since these Swedes put out an album, six years to be exact. Hey that’s cool. They’ve matured, like a finely aged cheese, and so has their sound. They don’t actually sound all that cheesy, unless you’re burned out on the whole retro psych thang. I for one welcome our new aging stoner overlords.
There’s a lot of things to like about this record. Firstly, for me, it’s definitely a breath of fresh air. Despite the fact that it’s being released by Fuzzorama Records, it’s not an outright fuzz-fest. Sure, it’s got those warm and fuzzy moments, but there’s also a lot of cleanliness (which is supposedly next to godliness) and texture going on throughout. It’s thoughtful and dynamic. Secondly, it explores many of the influences that are acknowledged by many stoner and psych bands, but they’re kind of fringe elements. You’re not going to hear a lot of Kyuss worship on this one, and I’m cosmically kosher with that, because it’s 2016 and Kyuss worship is more played out than our current election cycle.
Let’s take the opener, “Pale Moon”, for starters. It’s my obvious jumping off point because it’s the lead track, though my real point is that it’s a total Pink Floyd homage, with a thumping, trance-inducing bass line and watery slide guitar reminiscent of Gilmore’s finer moments. Asteroid aren’t reinventing the wheel by any means – this is basically a toned down take on the Floyd classic, “One Of These Days” with some soulful singing at the end. Similarly, the second track, “Last Days”, reminds me a bit of Uriah Heep, a band that most retro aficionados will frequently name check though rarely emulate. If you’re legit into the Heep, I’m into you, dig?? They start to throw in some faintly fuzzy, vaguely doom-ish riffs on this one, so I feel like they’re hitting a bit to all fields. The lyrics also take a turn towards the dark and morbid, which is sure to please more metallic minded devotees.
This is a short album, it’s 7 songs in 36 minutes, so let’s just go track by track, shall we?? “Til Dawn” reminds me a bit of their fellow Swedish rockers, Graveyard. It’s a bit more of an upbeat and straightforward song, which totally works after the previous two tracks. It strikes a nice balance. Next we’re treated to “Wolf And Snake”, which isn’t just a catchy title. There’s a brilliant initial interplay between the ringing clean chords and the increasingly crunchy Wino inspired riffs. From there, the tempo picks up, and Asteroid launch into full fuzz mode with one of those licks that makes me think, “wait…. didn’t I hear this exact riff come out of Sweden 15 years ago???” Yet they can get away with that generic part in my book, because it’s the exception, not the rule. At this point in their career, Asteroid are far from a one riff wonder, so it shouldn’t come as any surprise that they bring the tempo way down and doom-y before ending with quiet, melancholy guitars.
“Silver And Gold” is a slow burning ballad dedicated to Lucifer, Patron Saint Of All Things Heavy. Eh, a bit cliché, for sure, and I’m going to digress for a bit. No one seems to realize that equating the name “Lucifer” with the devil isn’t an accurate analogy. The term means “Lightbringer”, as most of you probably know. So how is The Devil, The Prince of Darkness also the proverbial “Lightbringer”??? He’s not, people! The word “Lucifer” is used twice in The Bible – once to refer to Venus, The Morning Star, which was used as a metaphor for the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar. In the second instance, the moniker “Lucifer” is used to refer to the savior Jesus Christ, “The Lightbringer.” This obviously makes more sense when you actually stop to think about it.
We have the illustrious Saint Augustine to blame for this debacle. Augustine wasn’t always super with it, perhaps because he was a booze guzzling hedonist before God Almighty began having close, personal conversations with him. He wasn’t able to grasp the subtlety of the phrase “Lucifer, how far thou art fallen” in relation to Venus and Nebuchadnezzar, and thus thought “Fallen??? Must be Satan!!!” Somehow that stuck with early Christians, because Augustine was some big time saint and therefore regarded as a wise dude and hip to these mythological musings. As usual, I’m digressing, though all of you budding Satanists should really read Satan: A Biography, by Henry Ansgar Kelly before you start writing lyrics about The Devil or one of his dubious monikers. And I know what some of you are thinking, “Don’t you write lyrics about Lucifer, Andy??” Yes, I do, though I clearly understand both the cliché and the cognitive dissonance involved in such an undertaking. Also, I routinely have alcohol induced interactions with all forms of entities, Augustine be damned. When God talks to me, he says definitely don’t drink domestic, so who is the fucking wise one now??
Lastly and most relevantly, let’s face it – many of you are total suckers for this kind of pseudo-Satanic bullshit, so I like to throw it out there in various forms because people eat it up despite their lack of context. In our next review, perhaps I’ll manage to tie in how Ronnie James Dio, despite all of his obvious accomplishments as a vocalist, did not actually invent “throwing the horns”, and what those actual origins, meaning, and symbolism are. These little tidbits of esoteric knowledge are always a fun topic at parties, and the main reason why I will always have a date every Friday night who will most likely find me obnoxious well before midnight arrives and I turn into a pumpkin. Or a gremlin. Or something to that effect. It doesn’t matter anymore. This review has now officially gone totally off the rails. I’m okay with that, but let’s reign it back in, shall we??
The next song, “Them Calling”, once again intertwines blown out fuzz with clean, trippy tones, though this time around there’s more of a tense intimacy. These transitions are both more adept and abrupt, illustrating a striking disparity and a heated reconciliation. It’s like the sonic equivalent of make up sex, when the couple just aren’t sure if frustrated love or repressed hatred are the current predominant emotions they’re expressing through their lustful act of carnal knowledge. Do I mean coitus? Yes, I like it too, Mr. Lebowski. The pace picks up into a bluesy groove, culminating in a catchy yet creepy chorus. The final track, “Mr. Strange” starts up with a rolling drum beat, and slowly adds layers of increasingly harmonic guitars before stripping things down for the soulful vocals to take the lead during the soaring verses. When the main riff returns, it’s accompanied by a layer of haunting vocal chants. This is my favorite vocal performance of the album. The song really illustrates one of the things that Asteroid pull off so well on this album – they never let anything get old or stale, there’s this constant sense of theme and variation that’s reflected in both the crafty arrangements and the constantly shifting tonalities.
I don’t often give glowing endorsements, and I’m trying not to make an exception, because this isn’t going to be for everyone. It’s not the heaviest thing ever, that’s not what they’re going for so you’re not going to find it here. And despite their evident mastery of the style and the fresh air they breathe into it, this is still “stoner rock”, complete with all its limitations. Like I mentioned earlier, they’re not treading any new ground, rather they’re retracing the footsteps of past masters, so if you’re looking for the next big innovative, forward thinking rock album, look elsewhere. If you are looking for a cool collection of seven songs that drift through various retro psych stylings with ease and grace, then hop on the Asteroid express folks…. it’s one helluva ride.
Words by Andy “Dingleberry” Beresky
*Andy Beresky’s favorite comic is the “Lucifer” series, which he reads religiously.
In the last review I wrote, I essentially defended a band’s decision to name themselves something silly and/or generic. I’m not going to do that here. I’m going to break character here a bit, because this part isn’t exactly a review, it’s friendly advice: change your fucking name. Immediately, while you’re not branded with it yet. This is your opportunity to do so with the minimum of consequences. It’s not only a stupid name, it not only lacks any descriptive quality to reference the band’s sound, it’s not only completely ubiquitous to the point of rendering any Google search to find any info on your band completely pointless, there are also other, more established bands named The Balls….for some odd reason. One is some self-proclaimed old guys playing instrumental biker prog surf rock, whatever that is, and they’ve been around awhile. One of them is from Worcester Mass, pretty close to home for me, and they’re some kind of juvenile sex joke punk band, for which the name is actually fitting. My 2 cents – let them have it, you’re better off without it. You’re risking the potential to be confused with, lumped in with, or even sued by one of these existing acts. See the bands Middian And Husky for details on that last bit….
With that out of the way, I can take off my asshole hat, and dawn my reviewer hat. As indicated above, I had a bit of a hard time tracking down any actual information on The Balls, though I believe that they’re a power trio from Melbourne Australia. I have no idea who is in the band, or who plays what. They sound like a meat and potatoes rock band coming from the old school stoner rock tradition, with the post-Kyuss style of vocals, down-tuned guitars, and a big rhythm section. The singer reminds me a bit of the guy from Dozer. I’m not a huge fan of that style of vocals, though I tolerate them because they’re also ubiquitous when it comes to this style. That being said, the vocals on this debut album are The Balls strongest suit.
The album kicks things off with “4th Of July”, a ripping riff-fest with some dark, heavy vibes racing through the melodies. It’s got a propulsive groove that’s set in motion by a bass intro before the guitar goes full throttle. We’re talking about that kind of up-tempo biker rock that Orange Goblin so effectively harnessed with their breakthrough album, The Big Black. In my mind, this is the territory where these guys are at their best. Throughout the course of the album, they definitely try a few different approaches stylistically. The second tune, “Not A Word”, is a bit more mid-tempo, though it retains the dark melodic senses and highlights the soaring vocals. They lose me a bit with the third song, “Runaway”, as it’s a bit more plodding during the verses and a bit more buttrock in the chorus. It’s a partying, AC/DC kind of tune that reminds me of the first Bad Wizard album, bare-bones, bluesy and mean, though I for one miss the darker overtones.
Things slow down and get a bit more atmospheric and slow with “I Forget”, which showcases a bit of the singer’s range and versatility in the lower registers as he croons through the first portion of the tune. They follow that up with another slow burning ballad, “Tragedy”, which once again features some most triumphant vocals in the chorus and a decent yet minimalistic guitar solo, one of the album’s few, and an addictive, groove-laced ending. They bring things back to the quicker tempos with the last songs, a one-two punch of “The Easy Truth”, which is easily the album’s heaviest (and shortest) track, and then “Alibi”, the album’s longest track. “The Easy Truth” is my easily favorite track on the album, as the guitar work is the most distinctive and original, the singing is really over the top in that blown out, shredding your vocal chords kind of way, and the arrangements aren’t predictable. It covers a lot of ground for such a short tune. “Alibi” is pretty much in the same vein as “4th Of July” stylistically, although more drawn out and dramatic in the spacious ending.
This is a solid debut from an up and coming band that has a lot going for them. It’s obvious that they’re a newer band trying to figure out what works for them, and I’d personally like to hear a bit more fretboard pyrotechnics from the guitar department. Adding a second lead guitarist could be a smart move, adding oomph to the overall sound while allowing for some more fiery, energetic solos and clever arrangements. That’s just me though, as what they’re doing now is working well enough to expand upon. If you’re into any of the bands that I’ve name dropped throughout the review, do yourself a solid and give these guys a listen.
Reviewed By Andy “Dylan Thomas” Beresky
Editor – Taste Nation LLC