It’s been twenty-five years since Boris was formed, taking their name from a Melvins song, they have since released a multifarious catalog of music. From the onset, they have run the gamut of ambient, drone, doom, noise, psych, punk, sludge, and shoegaze along with everything else in between, and no one has been able to pull that off as effortlessly as Boris has. They weave their multi-genre magic seamlessly and to great effect on every release. Takeshi Ohtani, Wata, and Atsuo Mizuno have been together since the formation of the band and the chemistry they have still bonds well to this day.
Opener ‘D.O.W.N. – Domination of Waiting Noise’ sets the pace with a powerful and impactful intro of controlled noise with enchanting vocals. ‘Deadsong’ continues along the same path with an electronic drone number that showcases whispered vocals among haunting screams and howls. ‘Absolutego’ may be considered the most accessible song on the record, as it follows a more traditional song structure. You can find the official video for ‘Absolutego’ on YouTube as well.
‘Beyond’ is a highlight of the record as it takes the listener on a roller-coaster tempo ride while vocally, they hit every mark perfectly. ‘Beyond’ segues into ‘Kagero’ where Boris showcases their noise/experimental/dreampop skills with efficacy. Shoegaze-like vocals are featured on ‘Biotope’ with dreamwave and noise components.
Boris brings the doom with ‘The Power’ and ‘Memento Mori.’ Both tracks would irrefutably fit perfectly on any respectable doom record. ‘The Power’ is an instrumental piece that recalls elements of Electric Wizard and Trouble. The vocal tone on ‘Memento Mori’ is damn near perfect to go along with the funeral doom musical melee going on behind it. Certain elements of the song reminiscent of the gloriously classic Italian doom era.
This brings us to ‘Dystopia Vanishing Point.’ To say this has song of the year potential is an understatement. Clocking in at almost twelve minutes, this one will be hard to beat. The song intro is reminiscent of a great soundtrack record. Chino Moreno-like vocals kick in to go along with the slowed down shoegaze vibe followed by an amazing guitar solo that runs the final five-minute leg of the song. The album bookends nicely with “Dear” which hearkens back to the slowed down drone feedback style we heard on ‘D.O.W.N. Domination of Waiting Noise.’
Boris are still going strong after all these years, continually looking for ways to challenge themselves with experimentation. Dear, like most of their albums, is about motion and magnitude. It is without a doubt a spiritual journey and despite the variety of genres explored, it’s still dexterous in its delivery. Thankfully Boris never seems comfortable staying fixated on one single style or genre. They continue to change and explore the dimensions of sound. I think by now it goes without saying that this will undoubtedly make my end of the year top ten list.
I’d never heard of OHHMS prior to Taste Nation owner Matthew Thomas fast-tracking a copy of their debut album into my grubby little hands one fateful afternoon. He told me it was one of the better releases he’d heard this year, and I’d tend to agree. It’s quite ambitious and unique for a debut, though it’s worth noting that the band already has two EP’s under their belt. This Kent UK four piece formed in 2014 and has been going strong since, as evidenced by the remarkable collection of sounds that they’ve managed to mangle together on The Fool. They market themselves as a “doom” band, though once again, don’t believe the hype. They’ve got some doomy parts, and there’s a whole mess of other styles thrown into the proverbial blender as well. I know that doom is hip and all with the kids these days, though it may befit OHHMS to come up with a stylistic description that’s more in line with their complex sound.
I’m often critical of occultism in music, as it’s usually mindless and shallow, just kind of tucked into the fold for coolness’s sake and little else, or adopted for image and/or artistic purposes. In metal circles, the appropriation of the occult is usually poorly understood. Take Ronnie Jame Dio for example. I’m not one to speak ill of the dead, and the influence of his life and music are undeniable, but let’s get real here. The dude did not “invent” throwing the horns. I’ve heard this from many metalheads, and it shows a real lack of understanding. Firstly, Coven did it well before him, and Dio openly admitted that he didn’t think that he was the first to use it, contending instead that he had popularized it. Secondly, it goes back to a Thelemic tradition (among other traditions as well), the usage of the Hand Of Glory in ritual magic, which was often the severed hand of a dead person, with the fingers set in that posture. Thirdly, it actually bothers me when I see a room full of people throwing the horns, as I’m usually pretty certain that not one of them even understands the most basic Satanic symbolism of the gesture: it denies the Three (the Holy Trinity) and affirms the Two (figure that part out for yourself). It’s had other meanings and usages in other cultures, though that’s a book unto itself and I’ve gone on enough of a tangent for today.
The point I was attempting to make was that metal’s ongoing flirtation with the occult is a largely superficial one that rarely leads to any real relationship. OHHMS have actually done a pretty stellar job of incorporating a magical concept into their music, namely the Tarot. After the brief acoustic intro, appropriately titled “Shuffle, Cut and Reveal”, the next five songs are all named after a card from the Tarot deck. The Fool itself is of course the most complicated of the Tarot trump cards, as evidenced by Aleister Crowley’s treatise of the subject in The Book Of Thoth. While the other trump cards get a page or two explanation of their meaning and symbolism, Crowley devotes a full chapter, 24 pages to The Fool. Once again, I’m not going to get into it here, read the book. No more tangents! What’s impressive is that OHHMS turn each of the cards in their spread into a political allegory, which is a damned clever concept if I do say so myself. There’s a definite punk/hardcore element to the band’s lyrics and overall energy, an existential angst and ardent challenge in the face of societal norms, and that buffers out the sterility often found in technical/progressive metal. OHHMS’ progressive strengths lie more in their ability to transcend genre than to dazzle us with mere technique.
I mentioned earlier that I really don’t think that they’re doing themselves any favors by marketing themselves as a doom band. I guess it’s as good a starting point as any, and gives some description of their music, as they have some pretty slow, vicious riffs at times. It’s just that there’s so much going on within the course of one song: from slow, lush, ambient sections, to floating shoegaze influenced transcendental passages, to parts culled right from the post-metal playbook, to more harsh, chaotic, abrasive sections. I like a band that covers a lot of ground, that makes me feel like I’m taking a voyage when I listen to their songs or albums. Well, with OHHMS, it’s the whole freakin’ Iliad and Odyssey. They exemplify this little pet concept of mine; no matter where a song starts, there’s no telling where it’s going to end up, or where OHHMS will switch gears, varying the tempo, dynamics, or overall vibe of a song. There’s no better place that they illustrate this approach than on the albums 22 minute epic closer, “The Hierophant.”
The six songs, counting the aforementioned intro, clock in at just around an hour, and you’d better believe that extended tracks like “The Hanged Man” and “The Hierophant” gives these sonic adventurers plenty of room to explore the outer and inner depths of their musical psyches. Even witin the context of the album’s shorter songs, “The Magician”, “The World” and “The Lovers”, they find plenty of room to meander and experiment. None of the songs sound all that much alike – it’s obvious that it’s the same band playing, though the sonic writing, textures and riffs vary widely and show vast differences from song to song. “The Lovers” in particular stands out, with its more mellow tone of longing and desire, punctuated by the usage of female vocals and the same immediacy that accompanies all the other tracks. “The World” is the shortest track and perhaps the most punk influenced, still finds plenty of time to wander into different stylistic realms.
Speaking of influences, I usually like to name drop some bands in that department, though that’s going to be pretty tough in this case. Sections remind me of Unearthly Trance’s unholy union of doom, black metal, and hardcore, though even that comparison falls well short when you factor in the just all the ground OHHMS trample over within the full campaign of the album. It’s worth noting that I also would consider Unearthly Trance a band that deals with occult themes in a very deep and meaningful manner, so maybe I’m not that far off after all. Regardless of what you want to call it, this is one of the better debuts that I’ve heard in recent years, just really next level shit, and it’s one of the best albums I’ve heard so far in 2017. There ability to craft a concept album that has such a far reaching scope and yet distills the essential ethos of their music in form, lyric and aesthetic is an astounding accomplishment for such a young band. Take that for what you will, and run with it. I already can’t wait to see what these cats come up with next….
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.
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.