Kirk Windstein – Dream in Motion (eOne Heavy / Entertainment One, 24 January 2020)
Exactly twenty-five years and eleven months ago, on the 24th of March 1994, the sixth episode of the fourth season of Beavis and Butthead aired on MTV. That was the first exposure — for myself, and I suspect for many others who were teenagers at that time — to the music of Crowbar, as that episode included a portion of the New Orleanian sludge innovators’ “All I Had (I Gave)” video. (For the record, yes I do have a fairly good memory, but no I did not know all of those details off the top of my head; thank you to Wikipedia.)
Anyway, that day marked a pivotal moment in my music fandom. What I heard on that show prompted me to pick up a copy of the band’s self-titled 1993 album, and their blending of sheer heaviness with absolute raw emotion had me hooked for life. That combination is what has set the band apart from most of their peers and imitators over the years. And now after nearly a dozen albums with Crowbar (in addition to participating in a handful of other people’s projects over the past three decades) the founder, vocalist and guitarist Kirk Windstein, has released a solo record — eschewing some of the heaviness this time around, but retaining every bit of the passion and intensity.
I can still vividly remember the first time I heard Graveyard: it was “Ain’t Fit to Live Here,” the opening song from their 2011 album Hisingen Blues. High-energy electric country-blues with great wailing vocals, that could have fit seamlessly on side A of Led Zeppelin III (an album which, front to back, was unquestionably and irrefutably the finest output of Zeppelin‘s repertoire — please feel free to comment below if you disagree and I’ll gladly tell you how wrong you are), the song instantly hooked me and still hasn’t let go to this day.
After buying that CD shortly afterwards, the rest of the songs (like the title track and Uncomfortably Numb) pushed the Swedish retro-rock troupe onto my list of my favorite 2011 releases. And the following year, the promise of a Graveyard material was so appealing that we had pre-ordered Lights Out as soon as it was released.
Now, that one (the band’s third overall) came out to somewhat mixed reviews, and although the basic style and quality of performance were very similar to what had come before, I have to admit that there really didn’t seem to be the same “wow” factor, standout tracks that would stick in your head for days or weeks after hearing them. While it wasn’t a bad album by any measure, it didn’t quite pull me in for repeated listens nearly as many times as its predecessor had done. And the next thing I knew, the band had split up or gone on indefinite hiatus or something — which I remember feeling disappointment after learning, because it seemed like they had so much unrealized potential.
As an aside, I never even realized until just recently when this new record was announced, that they had actually put out a fourth one prior to disbanding. Somehow that news had completely escaped my attention and I’ll want to be sure to go check that out soon — but first, their big comeback album will be out tomorrow, so let’s talk about Peace!
River Cult – Halcyon Daze (Magnetic Eye Records / Blackseed Records / Nasoni Records, 09 February 2018)
In the grand tradition of classic power trios like Mountain or Cream, infused with the loud and fuzzy psychedelics of Blue Cheer, Brooklyn’s River Cult ought to be bursting onto radar screens all over the place with their first LP Halcyon Daze. Only five tracks long but with a running time around forty-two minutes, the record came out earlier this year via a handful of labels in New York, Pittsburgh, and Germany — but if it has somehow managed to elude your attention thus far, our job today is to fix that!
Opeth – Sorceress (Moderbolaget Records / distributed by Nuclear Blast, 30 September 2016)
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Abbey Road. “The White Album.” Widely considered to be hugely influential milestones in the history of recorded music. And yet the group responsible for these masterpieces began its career with mindless bubblegum-pop: stuff like “Love, love me do / You know I love you / I’ll always be true / So please love me do,” “She loves you, yeah yeah yeah / She loves you, yeah yeah yeah / She loves you, yeah yeah yeah yeah,” and “I wanna hold your hand / I wanna hold your hand / I wanna hold your hand / I wanna hold your hand.”
Certainly that’s a pretty extreme example, but the point here is that when a band experiences a seismic styistic shift, it isn’t always catastrophic, and can even be a positive thing. Naturally, when this occurs it can sometimes be unnerving to fans of the artist’s earlier work (and of course there have been plenty of moments where such a move did turn out to be a major misstep), but it never ceases to confound me, how often and how passionately hatred is spewed in the direction of Opeth for having developed a different sound over their quarter-century-plus career. This group of Swedes receives just as many nasty comments (particularly if the band is ever mentioned in the context of a metal festival or anything to do with metal music) for NOT making the same album over and over, as Six Feet Under does for essentially the exact opposite transgression.
The transition from death metal to progressive death metal occurred very early in this band’s existence, and it was the latter guise that caught most fans’ attention, gaining the ensemble a huge following. But throughout the course of a dozen full-length albums, gradually the elements of “death” had dropped away, and ultimately “metal” as well, landing Opeth squarely in the realm of “progressive” music, and leaving many earlier devotees feeling shortchanged. Nevertheless, in this reviewer’s opinion the band’s latest effort, last September’s Sorceress stands up quite well — when one judges it on its own merits, rather than attempting a side-by-side comparison with Still Life or Blackwater Park. And with that in mind, let’s jump right in.
Castle – Welcome to the Graveyard (Ván Records, 15 July 2016)
Good afternoon, all you fine people visiting the Valley. Things have gotten a little bit hectic around here recently — I’ll never understand what it is that makes people want to go on vacation in the summertime when it’s so gross and hot and humid outside. Given the choice, I’d rather sit in an air-conditioned office all day, and save days off for later when I really don’t feel like going. Not that much writing happens while I’m at work anyhow, I’m plenty busy enough doing my actual job, but I usually at least can spend the day listening to stuff, and jotting down some little notes that I can turn into a full article or review later. But sometimes lately I haven’t had much chance to even think, let alone formulate coherent sentences.
But as always, there’s tons of stuff happening in the music world, new releases to tell you about, older stuff that you may have missed but really deserves your attention, tours kicking off that just might be coming through your city. And this will be a blend of all of those things: one band whose new album comes out next month, and who started a tour (that will last pretty much all summer long!) just last week; another band who released an excellent album two years ago but somehow we never got around to sharing it with you, and who will be joining the first band for a handful of those shows in a few weeks. So keep on reading, you’ll hear some great music, and the full set of dates for each band will be listed down below in the comments …
High Fighter – The Goat Ritual (self-released, 28 October 2014)
High Fighter – Scars & Crosses (Svart Records, 10 June 2016)
Zirakzigil – World Builder (Prosthetic Records, 10 June 2016)
Hey folks, how are you? Thanks for stopping by. Are you ready for another dose of good stuff to listen to? I hope so, because once again I’ve got some here to share with you today.
Both of the bands we’ll be discussing today will have an album released on Friday: High Fighter from Hamburg, Germany, will see their first full-length put out by Svart Records, which we’ll talk about in addition to that band’s debut EP that was self-released a while back; Zirakzigil from Portland, Oregon, also have their first LP forthcoming, one which was originally released by the band last year but is now being repackaged (and etched onto vinyl for the first time) by Prosthetic Records.
Ruby the Hatchet – Ouroboros (RUR Records, 29 April 2016)
Mars Red Sky – Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul) (Listenable Records, 20 May 2016)
Good afternoon. Today I’d like to talk to you about two different bands who each fall under the general umbrella of “psychedelic/stoner rock.” Both have new releases out (recently, or within the next two days), and both will be hitting the road (separately) playing various shows and festivals across the USA over the next few months. First I’ll introduce you to those recent releases, and then head down a little further to the comments section where I’ll share the scheduled tour dates!
Barren Heir – Tired Turns (self-released, 03 May 2016)
Stone Machine Electric – Sollicitus es Veritatem (self-released, 17 May 2016)
Hey people! Happy Cuatro de Mayo! I’ve got another pair of albums to share with you today, and I won’t waste any of your time getting to the part where we talk about them. Both are brand new (the first one came out yesterday, the second can be pre-ordered now and will be released in two weeks), both are self-released and self-promoted, and both are absolutely deserving of your attention. Oh, and each of them happens to be just five tracks long, but by serving up songs that average between nine and twelve minutes, both of these bands have quite considerately ensured that you get your money’s worth!
Cormorant – Earth Diver (self-released, 08 April 2014)
Well, sleep-walking my way to the bus this morning really felt like a reality check. Tuesday mornings are generally pretty tough anyway, but following a week and a half of vacation, it just makes it that much harder. To be clear, I’ve been back to work and back to “the real world” for several days now, but today I’m really feeling like “Oh yeah, I forgot how much going to work sucks, I could really use a vacation.”
Speaking of which, how was my vacation? It was nice, thanks for asking. I’ve learned that they don’t call Florida “The Sunshine State” for nothing, everything is way too bright there, and it was some god-awful temperature (well above 80° every single day — in the middle of March!!) and the humidity was nearly unbearable. But on the plus side, I did see all sorts of fascinating nature and wildlife — especially birds. There were birds everywhere, fancy exotic kinds I’d never seen outside of a zoo or even some I’d never seen anywhere. For example, the little guy pictured below, who I encountered in a mangrove swamp while hiking through a place called Bailey Tract on Sanibel Island.
The Second Coming of Heavy, Chapter One – Geezer / Borracho (Ripple Music, 26 July 2015)
The Second Coming of Heavy, Chapter Two – Supervoid / Red Desert (Ripple Music, 27 February 2016)
“Now it’s time for YOUR Classic Rock” says the title at the top of Ripple Music‘s website, and the slogan is fitting: since its formation back in 2010, the label has made a name for itself as one of the premier sources for stoner rock and metal, psychedelic rock, and all things fuzz-laden. We’ve talked about some of their releases in the past, for example here and also here, but more generally, the label has come to be known for putting out music of consistent quality, within the circles of those styles. And now (starting last summer), they have begun a brand-new series of 12″ splits called The Second Coming of Heavy, which so far has featured some pretty serious heavy hitters, with plenty more on the way. Today we’re going to take a look at the first two of these, Chapter One which came out nearly eight months ago, and Chapter Two which hit the streets at the end of February.