Talking Book – Talking Book II (Koolarrow Records, 24 April 2020)
Good day, loyal readers. Hope you all are still doing well, trying your best to stay safe and sane.
Today I’ll be sharing something that very much falls outside the standard delineation of purpose for this website: not “metal,” nor “other heavy music,” and debatable whether this would even exactly qualify (under some of the more conservative definitions) as “music.”
Talking Book began nearly ten years ago when the owners of two record labels known for their diverse and eclectic international line-ups (Koolarrow Records‘ Billy Gould and Gigante Sound‘s Jared Blum) came together to collaborate on the album The Talking Book.
Somehow, that one must have escaped my attention when it was released back in 2011 — which is somewhat surprising, considering the fact that I literally signed up for Twitter in order to follow Mr. Gould back in like 2009 when rumors were running rampant about another of his musical projects possibly reuniting, and it was said that a certain bassist and founding member’s Twitter feed would be a reliable source of information about that.
Anyway, since at time the duo were joined by Gigante Sound co-conspirator Dominic Cramp, and many years later they finally got around to recording a follow-up — which Koolarrow released nearly three weeks ago.
Wailin Storms – One Foot in the Flesh Grave (Magic Bullet Records, 20 November 2015)
Wailin Storms – Rattle (Gilead Media, 15 May 2020)
Good afternoon! In case you were wondering, I don’t ALWAYS write about stuff months (or even years) later; it just usually seems to work out that way. But sometimes I actually do get the chance to share something with you while it’s still brand new!
Today let’s check out one of each: a fantastic album by North Carolina’s Wailin Storms that I really dug quite a bit when it came to my attention half a decade ago (and has been sadly gathering dust in my gargantuan to-do list ever since) plus one that the band will be putting out later this week!
Raphael Weinroth-Browne – Worlds Within (self-released, 24 January 2020)
Good afternoon! Hope everyone out there is doing their best to maintain a positive outlook on this gloomy mid-May Monday.
If not, perhaps it would help if you took a moment to listen to this album from earlier this year: you may remember Raphael Weinroth-Browne as the cello player who comprises one-third of Musk Ox and half of The Visit, both of whom we really enjoyed listening to when we had written about these groups’ previous output.
Well, Worlds Within is Mr. Weinroth-Browne‘s first solo full-length, and it nicely showcases the wide-ranging versatility his instrument (occasionally augmented by effects pedals) is capable of.
Forlesen – Hierophant Violent (Hypnotic Dirge Records, 18 April 2020)
Well, seems like it’s about time to check in on what’s happening with our northern neighbors at Hypnotic Dirge. Here’s a new record they came out with within the past month — and if their history of quality releases wasn’t enough to recommend checking it out, surely that gorgeous artwork (produced by Benjamin A. Vierling) will draw you right in.
It turns out Hierophant Violent is the debut offering from a new ensemble from the San Francisco Bay area, consisting of members who’ve worked in various other local groups — such as Botanist, Lotus Thief, and Kayo Dot.
Resent – Crosshairs (Dry Cough Records (UK) / Nerve Altar (US) / Rope or Guillotine (NL), 01 May 2020)
Things are looking pretty bleak right now — every day the news being reported sounds worse than the day before, and nobody can agree on how we can fix anything or when we’ll ever get back to a state resembling normalcy.
So with that in mind, perhaps you are looking for something cheery and uplifting to distract you and take your mind off the misery of your daily existence. If so, you’ve come to the wrong place, buddy.
Here is Crosshairs, debut LP by British Columbia’s Resent.
Kite – Irradiance (Argonauta Records, 27 March 2020)
Good afternoon! Here we go with another recommendation of a recent release for you to insert into your ear-holes.
There have been some pretty stellar albums so far in 2020, but with the state of the world being what it is, I’m afraid some of them might end up slipping through the cracks and escaping the notice of many listeners. And that would be a shame, so we’re going to continue doing what we can to seek out the good stuff and bring it to your attention.
Argonauta Records is apparently stuck in lockdown along with the rest of Italy right now, and so they have delayed shipping out anything from their store at the moment, but that shouldn’t stop you from checking out this record from Norwegian trio Kite!
Body Count – Carnivore (Century Media, 06 March 2020)
In these strange days of isolation and distancing, we’ve all had to make varying degrees of adjustments to our normal routines and how we do things in our daily lives. While it might not be as significant or essential as some other aspects, entertainment and keeping ourselves mentally occupied is still an important part of everyone’s hierarchy of needs, and how we manage to entertain ourselves has been drastically altered as well. No more movie theaters, no more live events, everything is either premiering on televisions or streaming online nowadays.
And then of course there’s still social media, which is pretty much the only way anyone can be social right now, and between the anxiety and the frustration of being cooped up inside, you can tell things are getting a little nutty out there. One place where this is plenty evident is on Twitter, which lately has been featuring that guy from Tr**t desperately shouting from the void of irrelevance at anyone who will give him or his one-hit-blunder band any amount of attention. As much as I hate playing into this charade by giving it any press, I have to admit it has been pretty amusing to watch. Especially about two weeks ago when it blossomed into a pseudo-feud with the Original Gangster himself, Ice-T:
Anyway, while we’re on the subject of media and entertainment and such, that seems like an ideal segue into a look at what Body Count, Ice‘s hardcore/crossover/thrash band of the past three decades, has been up to lately. Specifically, why don’t we go listen to brand-new album Carnivore, their seventh overall and the first since 2017’s Bloodlust…
Wrekmeister Harmonies – We Love to Look at the Carnage (Thrill Jockey Records, 21 February 2020)
Hello there, readers. It’s been a little while since we’ve been in touch, I know. That sucks — and it makes very little logical sense. We’re coming up on the conclusion of a second full month of work-from-home quarantine, and with nearly two extra hours per day that formerly would have been spent driving to and from work (and with nowhere else to go, aside from the rare shopping trip for pandemic essentials such as bird food and wine) it seems like I should have plenty of time to spend listening to music and subsequently writing about it for all you fine folks out there. But as bizarre as it sounds, even when there’s nothing else to do, it sometimes feels like there’s less spare time than there used to be. Even though I can literally roll out of bed and throw on a random t-shirt en route to my desk chair a mere three feet away — well, to be honest, it’s probably more of a mental and emotional thing than an actual shortage of available time. Because things are so stressful now, and uncertain and confusing and scary and depressing.
However, a lack of engagement with hobbies or things that bring you enjoyment, due to a lack of motivation due to a general feeling of malaise, often has a tendency to continue spiraling further into deeper levels of depression. I know this very well from plenty of experience. And I am determined not to let this turn into another months-long mental health hiatus. So here is an album I’d like to share with you all today. I hope you enjoy it and I hope however dismal your day might be currently, that this may bring some amount of light into it. Please feel free to react in the comments section below or via any of the various Valley of Steel social media outlets linked either on the far right or the bottom of this page. Thanks, and stay safe out there!
[Mr. Smalls Theatre, Pittsburgh PA, 10 March 2013 – photo by Valley of Steel]
Today is the Day – No Good to Anyone (29 February 2020)
Just like this article from Monday, here is another album that had been released at the end of February, by an artist who subsequently headed out on a major tour to promote said album, only to end up with numerous scheduled dates canceled mid-trip and being unexpectedly forced to return home.
The artist we will be discussing today is none other than Today is the Day, the highly experimental trio that for decades has featured founder/guitarist/vocalist Steve Austin and a pair of constantly revolving doors for his supporting cast. This new record No Good to Anyone is the band’s eleventh full-length release, and the first since 2014’s Animal Mother.
Hello again from the unofficial VOS WFH substation. Things are starting to settle down around here, at least to some small degree. At least, we’re all doing the best we can to adapt to this new reality of staying cooped indoors and never interacting with anyone except via a computer or other electronic device. To be honest, aside from no longer driving to and from work each day, that description isn’t all that far from how things have always been for me.
But anyway, disruptions to the day job modus operandi have really wrecked my publishing schedule, especially with large chunks of each day now spent on conference calls and in Skype meetings. But it’s time we get back into doing what we love best around here: talking about music we’ve enjoyed hearing lately and that you also may enjoy hearing.
First up is cinematic doom duo Insect Ark. Since the last time we checked in with them, founder/composer/bassist/slide-guitarist Dana Schechter (who has added collaborating with Swans to an already impressive resume that included work with Wrekmeister Harmonies, Gnaw, and others) has now been joined by new drummer Andy Patterson (who coincidentally had been looking for a new gig following the dissolution of his former band SubRosa right around the same time this group’s drummer had moved on).
And then more recently, Insect Ark‘s third album The Vanishing had just been released and the twosome had just headed out on a scheduled tour of Europe and the UK throughout the month of March, when the whole world suddenly went to hell (leaving the band with numerous cancelled dates and scrambling to find their way back to the USA). So, without any further ado…