Friday, October 31, 2008

Patrick Droney – The Other Side

Life just isn’t fair.

When you’re a fifteen year old boy, you’re supposed to be out playing stick ball, sneaking off behind the bleachers with your high school honey, and playing some interactive video game with a kid of similar age in Belgium. When you’re fifteen, you’re not supposed to be releasing your first album of guitar oriented rock tunes. Nor are you supposed to be two years removed from being awarded the Robert Johnson Star Award for being the country’s most promising blues player. Someone forgot to tell Patrick Droney all of this.

In my hot little hands, I hold a copy of The Other Side. Not knowing anything about our young master Droney other than he was some blues protégée, I expected this album to be a straight up blues burner. But what I got was something so much more fascinating. The Other Side fits more comfortably alongside something from 3 Doors Down or label mates, Miggs, than your classic blues artists. However, with that being said, Droney can whip out the blues with the best of them. One part rocker, one part ballad, one part blues, throw in a touch of metal muscle and you have the album that made The Delta Mud Skipper peer over his copy of the Blues Review and take notice. That, my friends, should be enough for you to drop everything and track this sucker down! But please . . . continue reading. My feelings might get hurt if you don’t.

Patrick Droney does a wondrous job of putting together twelve tracks that are packed with melodic intrigue, all nicely wrapped around a variety of musical approaches. The first couple of tracks are attention grabbing rockers, “Need Me Now” being a fairly straight up rocker, while “Everything” is more slowed down with acoustic flourishes. The acoustic guitar rhythms for “Everything” compel me to sneak the occasional glance at my old acoustic. Both tunes just explode with melody at the choruses, making these tunes perfect residents to any rock radio station. And, to make the songs that much more intriguing, wait until your ears latch onto the guitar solos! C’mon . . . we’re talking about a fifteen year old guitar protégée. You didn’t think there’d be guitar solos? Technically sound and emotionally packed solos for both of these tracks, especially “Need Me Now,” which actually made me rewind the first time I heard it.

Droney takes the album in bit of a heavier direction with the “Alive,” “Bring You Back,” and “Save Me.” He darn near flirts with heavy metal as the intros to the songs burst with some ballsy distorted guitar work. But, the tunes never go to that dark place like the metal I generally call food. Patrick’s gift is all in the melody. Amazing, uplifting and soaring melodies comprise the choruses throughout the album. Oh . . . and before I go too far, let me make mention of his voice. I remember being fifteen and I couldn’t look my elders in the eye, let alone sing about love found, love lost. Patrick sings with the confidence of a man who’s been there and done that. Aged well beyond his years, our fine master Droney sells the good and bad times through his vocal work. Check out the vocal performance on “Alive” to see where I’m coming from. “Bring You Back” will have you bouncing in your seat with it’s up tempo groove. “Save Me” starts off as if it were meant to be on a Linkin Park disc before breaking down to give us Patrick’s voice suspended over the instruments. Another beautiful chorus on this one, folks.

The title track gives us a glimpse of some his blues-ier work as the tune kind of wisps along rather than bowl us over. “The Other Side” slowly levitates from the ground with a clean guitar laying down the rhythm and an organ subtly humming in the background. His voice chimes in with a soulful timber and that aforementioned age beyond his youth. The chorus erupts into a brilliant melody, all made more vibrant with the use of harmonized background vocals. The song climaxes with an understated, yet perfectly played guitar solo that is teeming with emotion. Watch out, Waveriders . . . there’s a new guitar hero on the horizon. And what he’s doing that’s gonna’ give him longevity is incorporating outstanding guitar work within the context of well written and memorable songs.

The last four tracks of The Other Side are more of that straight up blues style that I was initially expecting, but let’s face it, Patrick Droney has thrown curve balls this far into the album, what’s to say he’s not going to put his own fingerprint on this stuff as well? Exactly. Nothing. Yeah, the tunes have more of a blues feel, but there’s that undeniable Droney sound (yes . . . it’s official. Patrick Droney has his own sound.) Rather than being content in just playing the blues straight up, he’s mixing his own flavors into the brew and creating an intoxicating new taste. A little tinge of metal here and there, but mixed into a blues groove or rhythm, Droney’s shaking up a style that could use a new voice.

I’ve made a lot about Patrick Droney’s age, but let’s not make this album all about that. It’s really about the music and how damn good it is. What compounds the quality of the music is Mr. Droney’s age and that we’re conditioned in this society to think of art created by adolescents as quaint or novelty. The Other Side is a vibrant, youthfully exuberant disc of blues based rock from the perspective of a guy who, for all intents and purposes, loves to play music. From the soulful vocals, to the impassioned guitar playing, Patrick is on the cusp of doing some great things. Hopefully, he won’t become another rock ‘n roll casualty and get caught up in the nonsense of the business. I’ll be curious to see what the future holds and how he develops this sound further. I mean, c’mon . . . those melody’s are contagious, and the guitar work is out of this world. Leave it to our friends at Rock Ridge Music to land yet another fantastic artist. How do you guys keep doing it? - Pope JTE

Buy here: Other Side

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Attack! Attack! UK - S/T

Genres come and genres go, but true talent remains.

Back when I was DJ at KSPC FM, I always loved it when a band came along and found a way to breathe new life into a genre that had grown moribund and stale. In some ways Husker Du did this with punk. Jesus and the Mary Chain did it with post-punk doom and gloom. The Cult did it for psychedelic hard rock and now we have Attack! Attack! UK, forcing the corpse of pop/punk to suddenly convulse and draw a fresh breath.

Hailing from Wales, Attack! Attack! UK bring a fresh dose of enthusiasm, a lorry load of hooks and an entire factory's worth of Red Bull to the pop/punk world, keeping a keen eye towards the past and avoiding all the annoying contrivances of emo. In short, this is a rapid fire attack of punchy, high-NRG rock, just begging to take the world by storm. And judging by their touring schedule and concert mates they're playing with, it seems the boys are already well on the way to doing just that.

"Honesty," is a pounding blast of pure punky rock and roll energy, coming at you with all the ferocity of a speeding train. After a Green Day-esque stuttering opening riff, the song really takes off with the chorus which reaches some speed velocity yet to be clocked by mankind. The vocals are strong, devoid of the emo nasal whine, sailing over the pounding drums. This song is a pure punk pop rave up. I can already see the boys blasting through this tune, high on the stage, running around like raving hyenas with the crowd bouncing in a frenzy below. That's about as catchy and hooky as punk pop can get.

"You and Me," reveals another side of the band, with strong technical playing, unusual guitar tones emanating through the opening riff and a dead-on perfect, near reggae bass line. I don't know which song was actually written first, but damn, if this doesn't seem to be the work of a slightly more mature band. Just check out that downright beautifully sung vocal bridge before the chorus, which again shoots off the disc amongst it's own jet-fueled rage of youthful energy. These guys are so good, they can even make an old codger like me feel young enough to jump up and start pogoing on my desk, and believe me I haven't pogoed in a while. Ouch, wait a minute, Pope, call the chiropractor!

Ok, I'm back. My spine's been adjusted and I'm ready to rock with Attack! Attack! UK again. And just in time, because no matter how many discs I've just dislocated, I wouldn't want to miss "This is a Test." Beginning with a down right sludgy bass, this song explodes again in another frenetic burst of punchy energy, loaded with more hooks than you'd ever find in a coat hangar factory. Alternating gang vocals with the vocal verse lends a punch to the proceedings like a one-two combination to the gut, just getting my liver and kidney in motion with the raging rock. Another pure energy rocker. I can't imagine how the guys ever manage to play a whole set of this live. Three songs in and I'm already sweating like a pig!

But one thing that makes Attack! Attack! UK stand high, head and dislocating shoulders above the other punk pop bands out there isn't just their energy (that can be manufactured) it's their chops (which is pure talent.) Just listen to a track like "Say it to Me," with the angular, slashing guitar work, reminiscent of early Gang of Four and you can see the crew knows how to look past Blink 182 to find the true origins of punk pop rock energy. The boys also know how to fuse elements of britrock like Razorlight or Lost Prophets into their mix, breaking up the tone and timing of their riffs, adding flourishes of chiming guitars to fill out their sound. "From Now On," rings with big guitars a la The Verve. "Lights Out," follows suit, dropping the pace down just enough to dig right into the stuttering riff. Then, like always, the chorus just takes off. Damn, these guys know how to hook you with their choruses, it's like they inherited the "write a good chorus," gene from some unknown pop masters before them and just ramrodded it with their own high energy.

"Home Again," one of my favorite tracks on the disc, demonstrates all this perfectly, playing like a lost Gang of Four track, amped up on Red Bull and played back at twice it's recorded speed. An absolutely infectious track. Then, not to be outdone, the boys save their absolute piece de resistance, their punk epic, "Time is Up," for the last track on the album. Every up and coming band needs to study this song. Record it, paste it up on a chalk board, dissect it, because this is how you write a song that brims with energy, boils with passion, rages with speed, yet still finds room for dynamics, speed changes, dropped out guitars and another chorus that is guaranteed to drill straight into your frontal lobe like a hydrolic drill bit. All in two minutes and fifty seconds. There's no other way to put it, from the obtuse guitar stuttering to the monstrous big riffs, this song is a flash of pure punk pop perfection.

So, what do you think? Get the idea that I like this disc? Hell yeah, and to make that even more impressive, how's this little tidbit for ya. . . I can't stand emo. I say that only to illustrate how far away these guys are from what you might imagine pop punk to be. This is a blast of pure adrenaline, punked up and rocked up, with a suitable nod towards the post-punk monsters of the past and a massive head start on any pop punk bands of the present. This is just freaking good rock and roll. The energized kick in the ass that the whole pop punk genre was in desperate need of. And that's what Attack! Attack! UK do, they attack their music with abandon, with the raging intensity of a kamikaze pilot, blasting apart the stale genre in a massive explosion of hooks and melodies.

Now, Pope, get that chiropractor over here again. I think my lumbar just collided with my thoracic somewhere in my pelvis. And don't even ask me about my cervical. I think it's over there somewhere by the door. Oh what the fuck, just play the album again. Death by pogo never sounded so good.


Buy here: Attack! Attack! UK

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tuesday's Zen - Four Dead in Ohio

Ok, waveriders, we've got a new and special treat for you. To expand the musical horizons of what we know and love, and to add a decidedly British flavor to the music we ripple, we're starting a new feature courtesy of British music blogger extraordinarie Winston. Check him out at Winston's Zen to get the full flavor of all that this maniac culls from the U.K. music scene, but each Tuesday, we'll be running a featured Winston's Zen review, bringing you the word on a new, undiscovered, up-and-coming U.K. band that you need to keep your eyes open for. Called Tuesday's Zen, come back and check often to see what the Zenster discovers next.

To start things off from Winston, welcome to Four Dead in Ohio

In September 2007 Jakob and Captain Rick met Stuart and Doug in an East End kebab shop, discovered a shared passion for expansive rock 'n' roll and formed Four Dead In Ohio.

Named after lyrics taken from Neil Young’s Ohio, (a beatnik dirge to four students whose lives ended at the hands of the US National Guard at Kent State University in 1970), the band played it’s very first gig as support to the Ravonettes, and their breath-taking, custom-lit stage show impressed enough to score a repeat performance with the Danish legends as well as bookings alongside the likes of Ladytron and Cage The Elephant.

Based in London, and signed to new indie outfit Yoyo Acapulco, Four Dead In Ohio take the sound of their contemporary influences (see The Verve, Kings Of Leon, and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club) and bathe it in the psychedelic waters of 60’s heroes like Dylan and The Doors to create a deeply reverberating bluesy-rock, that has already attracted attention from Radio 1’s Steve Lamacq when their track Utah found it’s way onto his ‘In New Music We Trust’ slot. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if big things beckon for this lot.

Four Dead In Ohio release their brilliant debut single Jesus Won’t Dance in My High Heels as a digital download and limited edition double A-side with Southern Man on September 1st and the guys are currently playing sets all over the country. Winston’s Zen hopes to catch them at the Dublin Castle, Camden Town on August 26th. Check their MySpace for a date near YOU.

In the meantime check out the video for Slow Train Blues below and let me know what you think.

Back Soon,

Monday, October 27, 2008

Rumors Heard in MySpace, Episode 9

Well, here we are again, my friends. Sifting through the constant barrage of information that flutters across my screen, via the MySpace phenomenon, could seriously be a full time job. However, it doesn’t pay well enough. Hell, nothing these days is paying all that well. Have y’all been watching the stock market? Here’s a tip for all of the entrepreneurs out there, or anyone who’s 401k took a massive hit. The trampoline business. What you do is, take this typical backyard physical catastrophe waiting to happen, and lug it to every financial district that you can think of. Strategically position the trampoline under the windows of the CEO’s of these institutions and wait. These lug nuts who have driven the country’s economy into the shitter will eventually pitch themselves out the windows, right into the waiting elasticity of your trampoline. Sure, you could sit back and watch them plummet to their deaths, but wouldn’t it be more satisfying to get your hands on them after they’ve bounced safely back to terra firma? Just a random thought from your friendly neighborhood Pope. Enough of this gay banter . . . on with the report!

The Mule grabbed my attention a few weeks ago when it was announced that bassist Andy Hess left the band to engage in other life pursuits. He’s been replaced by one Jorgen Carlsson, who apparently brings a style of play that falls somewhere in between that of original bassist Allen Woody and the recently departed Hess. Personally, I’m pretty damned excited about this change. It’s not that I had anything against Hess, but I was used to Woody’s work. He had such a distinctive sound and approach to the instrument that Hess simply couldn’t match. So, the band developed a somewhat different sound because of it. Gov’t Mule has always been one of those bands that couldn’t be completely categorized as southern rock or jam rock or whatever, but Carlsson’s addition should bring the band closer to their original sound. Watch for them on tour starting on October 30th in Burlington, Vermont (rumored to be near a coat factory or something) and running through November as they make their way to the west coast. It also appears that they’ll be playing four gigs in New York City to ring in the New Year. If you haven’t caught Gov’t Mule live yet, do yourself the favor of doing it now. C’mon . . . Warren Haynes . . . Matt Abts . . . I could kick back and listen to those two play for hours by themselves. Phenomenal musicians!

Our favorite Icelandic group, Brain Police, had to put the kibosh on their latest European tour due to the massive financial crisis that has hit their homeland. From what I understand of the situation, the band had set aside a bunch of money to cover the cost of the tour, however, with the economy of Iceland also hitting the shitter, the money devaluated by almost half of its original worth. Talk about a pisser! See . . . it’s the actions of a few that fuck things up for everybody else. I wouldn’t be surprised if Brain Police were interested in that earlier trampoline idea. And I, for one, would be happy to help them cart the trampolines around. Hang in there, fellas . . . things will eventually turn around for the better.

Our favorite son of Tennessee has built himself a second MySpace page. Why is this important? Coz’ it’s Eric Hamilton, and if you still haven’t gone out and listened to this cat, brothers and sisters . . . I can only lead you to water. This second page features a bunch of tunes that never made it to any of his albums and show some rootsy stuff. One tune features a collaboration with Wesley Orbison, yeah . . . that Orbison, and another tune with John Carter Cash. The tune that put the biggest smile on my mug was “Courtin’ Courtney,” that happened to be a left over from the Keep the Change sessions. Do I bring up Eric Hamilton too much? I don’t care. I love his music. ‘nuff said.

There’s an album that hit the streets last month that I missed, well . . . last month. The important thing here is that I saw it in my rear view mirror, kicked my rig into reverse, and I’m telling y’all about it now. The drummer from Matchbox Twenty, Paul Doucette, put together and album with a bunch of friends and guest musicians, and released this sucker on the 16th of September. The album is called Milk the Bee, and in a lot of ways, has that Matchbox Twenty sound. Paul’s got a cool voice . . . real soulful, raspy, and real. And did you know . . . Paul Doucette is married to Moon Unit Zappa? He wraps a little social and political commentary in the tunes while keeping the music poppy and accessible. I like. I’m gonna’ go out and get it. You can hear a few of the tracks on the bands page.

Dimaension X has a new downloadable album ready for your hard drive. It’s called First iZ Lazt (The Daevellation Suite), and is featured on his page. I listened to bunch of it, and I there are some pretty cool musical moments going on in there. I particularly liked “Angelik Eolian Veldtbuffet.” Having just watched all seven seasons of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, and all five seasons of Angel, in running order, it seemed kind of fitting to have this montage greet me as I pushed play. Swing by Dave’s page, scroll down a bit and follow the links. He also incorporates the music of a bunch of other musicians that are somewhat eye brow raising. I enjoyed the experience.

It’s already all over the place in Europe, and it’s gonna’ be released stateside on the 28th of October. Yes . . . I speak of Vertebrae from Norway’s Enslaved. I was planning on telling y’all that the band had posted the album on their page in a streaming format so that you could experience the new disc prior to purchase. But, apparently, that was a temporary event, for I have since visited the page and there are only three tracks that you can listen to on their player. I don’t know . . . my appetite was whetted when I first heard the album was being recorded. After listening to the tunes, I’m a puddle of ooze. This sounds so good and I’ll be standing in line as Lou’s Records opens their doors on the 28th. I look at it in two ways, I get the album the day it’s released and I help the last of the independent record stores keep their doors open.

Also being released on the 28th of October is my new favorite band. You may have just read my review of their album Farmer’s Almanac, and yes, I raved and raved and raved, but it’s all true. East of the Wall are the next coming. I’ve already got my copy of the album, but I’m thinking that you all need to meet me at Lou’s on Tuesday morning. We can all have a CD buying freakout. It’ll be the Waveriders way of giving the f’d up economy a big middle finger!

News from the John Wesley camp was extremely interesting. For those who don’t remember, John Wesley is the touring guitarist for the prog rockin’ masters Porcupine Tree. Well, it seems that he and Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree/Blackfield) got together and worked on some guitar tracks for Steven’s upcoming solo album. A downloadable version of the album is rumored to be available in November. Also, in August, Mr. Wesley rejoined the rhythm section featured on John’s last album Shiver and rehearsed for a solo gig or two. During that time, John was putting pen to paper, pick to string, and working on songs for a new solo album. Time frame on that one is unknown, but stay tuned. The moment I know something, I’ll be sure to stand on my rooftop and shout it out to all whole listen.

Waveriders, be good to each other and don't forget to get out there and vote. Be there . . . November 4th. If you're not registered, do so. This countries financial crisis needs you! - Pope JTE

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A Sunday Conversation With Trettioariga Kriget

After thirty years of creating sonically lush and emotionally charged music, Trettioariga Kriget are preparing to release their first double live album to the world. Tearing himself from his busy schedule, bassist and lead spokesman for the band, Stefan Fredin made himself comfy on the Ripple interview couch and gave us the low down on the bands approach to songwriting, the new live album, and on stage mishaps.

When I was a kid, growing up in a house with Cat Stevens, Neil Diamond, Johnny Mathis, Perry Como, and Simon & Garfunkle, the first time I ever hear Kiss's "Detroit Rock City," it was a moment of musical epiphany. It was just so vicious, aggressive and mean. It changed the way I listened to music. I've had a few minor epiphany's since then, when you come across a band that just brings something new and revolutionary to your ears.

What have been your musical epiphany moments?

My defining musical moment without any comparance was hearing The Beatles "She loves you"...only 10 years oldat the time it was like suddenly discovering a new world full of colours and hope and joy....nothing was the same after that...And where would we all be today if The Beatles had not laid the foundations for pop/rock as we know it today...Of course later in the 60s there were some other mind opening albums showing that the boundaries of rock could and should be broken...The Doors 1st album, Disraeli Gears-Cream, Are You Experienced? - Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelins 1st album, Ummagumma - Pink Floyd and last but not least In the Court of the Crimson King - King Crimson . . another very important album for me was "Touch"..Touch was a very underrated American band..they only made one album....but what an album...a complete masterpiece!! Highly recommended.

Talk to us about the song-writing process for you. What comes first, the idea? A riff? The lyrics? How does it all fall into place?

Olle, who writes the lyrics, really prefers to have the music first....he thinks his lyrics rhythmically and formally becomes more stiff if he writes them first...but we work in both ways of our best songs in my opinion "Krigssång"...I was given the lyrics first when we made in making songs, as in all art, I don’t think there are any rules....For my composing....I think in the early days I tended to start with a riff more where nowadays I think I tend to start with a melody first....a verse or a refrain or a theme..something to build from....I also very often have the form of the song in my head very early...the form forus in TK is very important since we often work with extended instrumental sections....When I have some ideas I believe in I play them to Olle..often on acoustic guitar and I hum the melody....he then rejects or approves....he is a very hard but fair judge (smiles)....he then writes the lyrics and I in my turn go through them....then we take the song to the band for arranging....when we arrange and record backing tracks, it is always only me, Dag and Chris..the basic trio format.

When you write a piece of music, do you consciously write from the mind set of being different than what's out there now?

No...maybe in the beginning there could be this thought sometimes...but I think that looking too much at what’s going on out there can put restraints on least if you, like me, are quite a few years into your career...I would not deny though that subconsciously we all get affected by the music we hear every day....but the important thing in all musical making I think is to try and open yourself emotionally..which is not so easy really...because music is really so much an emotion driven art form.

Tell us about the first song you ever wrote?

The first song I wrote is called "Amassilations" and is actually the opening song on the first album we made Glorious War. Though the album was the first we recorded it was not released until 2004. Another later live version of the song with Swedish lyrics, "Perpsektiv", is included on our new live album War Years . . I am still rather proud of the song...especially the opening theme in 7/4 and the riff after the vocal section...

What piece of your music are you particularly proud of?

For sure the title track of our 2nd album Krigssång, the song "Röster från minus till plus" on our self titled debut album..."Night Flight" and "Gnistor" from Elden av år...The instrumentals "Andra sidan" and "Moln på marken" from the 3rd album Hej på er .. "Benke," "I krigets tid," and "I början och slutet" from our latest album I början och slutet...and not forgetting the 2nd song I ever wrote "Ur djupen" from our debut album which still always closes our shows...

In songwriting, how do you bring the song together? What do you look for in terms of complexity? Simplicity? Time changes?

I think the complexity versus simplicity always has to do with first basic musical idea you have and the form of the song.....if you have an idea for a longer extended piece with many instrumental sections it tends, of course, to be more complex..

The business of music is a brutal place. Changes in technology have made it easier than ever for bands to get their music out, but harder than ever to make a living? What are your plans to move the band forward? How do you stay motivated in this brutal business?

For us who have been in the business for since the 70s, although with some extended breaks, the new technology has only worked for our benefit....we can now connect directly to our fans through the Internet which was impossible in the 70s...I personally have a very liberal view of illegal opinion is that illegal downloading also helps to spread and create interest in a for sure have worked that way for us...our hardcore fans anyway buy our albums....because they know that for us, who are rooted in the 70s progressive movement, its the total package of both the music and the cover that gives you the whole experience...we always work very hard on the covers...I don’t know if the business is more brutal now than in the 70s...for us maybe it was more brutal then as we all had our living from the band then and had to tour extensively...where as now we all make our living from other careers/ fortunes..This means it is definitely more fun now....we only do theshows we like to do....we make records when we pressure from record labels or managers...since we now manage ourselves and release all our records through our own label "Krigssang" who in its turn licenses it to Mellotronen or other labels...

You have a new double live album about to be released. How did that project come about? Who was instrumental in making this thing come to life?

I got this idea a couple of years make a live album spanning our whole career making it actually a history of the band would also be our very first live album....the idea was then buried for a year or so because we were planning a the DVD would have taken 1-2 years in the making so we decided to postpone that instead....the reason is we want to start to work on a new studio album. Putting together a live album is obviously less time consuming that putting together a DVD..I am just home from mastering the album and it sounds great..To hear the band from the 2nd show ever through the years is quite emotional really for me..

Every band seems to have their "Spinal Tap" moments, and I'm sure that TK has their fair share as well. What was your best "Spinal Tap" moment?

I recall one episode, involving Dag, aren’t the drummers always the wild guy of all bands? show in Oslo beginning of the 80s..big venue. Right then at one point in the show Dag did stand on his drumstool for a minute or so..don’t ask me why ...this night he probably had one or two too many what happens?? He falls off his stool right through his drumkit....I recall seeing this like in slow motion thinking....this doesn’t happen (smiles) ...I can still see him lying helplessly there between the snare and kickdrum...

We, at The Ripple Effect, are constantly looking for new music. When we come to your town, what's the best record store to visit?

As it is probably the case everywhere else the best record shops in Stockholm have closed down...including the bestof the all the "Mellotronen" shop....but....the show still lives on the Internet and once every month at the melloclub.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Siena Root - Far From the Sun

Come with me, oh waverider, into Professor Racer's incredible, stupendous wayback machine. That's it over there, the one shaped like a road-worn blue and white VW bus, but trust me, that's all part of the ambiance of where we're going. Today, we're turning the dials way to the left, scooting right past the eighties all the way to the seventies. And just for the fun of it, let's give it a little extra turn and see where that lands us.

I'll tell you where, smack dab in the middle of the amazing world of Siena Root.

While most rock retro-ists/psych revisionists set their sights on the mid seventies to find inspiration for their muse, Siena Root bypass most of the post-Sabbath inspired proto-metal, turn on their lava lamps with gobs of green bubbling fluid and bring us right back to the dawn of the decade. Shades of the '60's still lingering through their beautiful, at times ferocious, always mesmerizing retro-psych rock.

Formed in 1997 in Sweden (of course, the Pope and Racer's decreed mecca of all great musicality. What is it about that place, is every male child given a guitar at birth?) and signed to the mind-bending Transubstans label, Siena Root lose themselves in the freaked out, heavied out world of modern heavy psych. And few bands can do it any better. Incorporating a hefty leaning towards early Zepplin, blending in a touch of first generation Purple, and not being afraid to lose themselves in the vast hippiness of the Jefferson Airplane or Jethro Tull, Siena Root have created an album of stunning musicianship, mind-expanding jams and fascinating tones and textures. This isn't a fuzzed out stoner take on the seventies, this is fully infused, bong loaded to the spilling point, expansive psychedelia, rooted with the muscular backbone of the best heavy rock of the era. In short, there is no way to describe this album with frequent use of the world groovy. So grab your bell-bottoms, your Birkenstocks, and come jump in the Ripple VW bus, cause we got Siena Root playing at full volume and this ride is about to become one amazing trip.

"Dreams of Tomorrow," starts us off, cowbell plunking into the opening hard rocking riff. Within seconds, you know you're in for something special. The riff, as simple as it is, still rocks with passion, and when the band zeroes into the groove, it becomes transcendent. There's just no other way to describe it. This is full-on, groove, heavy retro-rock and roll, so deeply enamored with its influences that you'd half expect to find Far From the Sun sitting comfortably amongst your stack of LP's, a big gatefold cover with large streak of resin in the crease from last nights joint rolling session. And that's about as big a compliment as I can give.

Sartex Faraj's lead vocals are laced with the soulful edge of a young Paul Rogers while KG West's lead fills sear through the disc like a laser show at the planetarium. This song is an immediate head bobber, subtly familiar in all the right places, yet new and fresh and infused with loving enthusiasm. And that's actually what Siena Root is all about. I refuse to call them seventies revisionists. In my mind, they're rock revitalists. Revitalizing the best of the past and adding their own flourishes from the present.

And that is actually something that can be said of the whole disc. When the crew break out the sitar for "Waiting for the Sun," and drop into a massive Jefferson Airplane vibe, you can feel so much joy in their playing that you can almost see them smiling through the speakers. They've got me smiling right now just thinking about it. Rooted with a full production that just breathes warmth into every nook and cranny, the band is clearly in love with what they're doing, finding terrific joy in playing, which makes the album just as joyful to listen to. Just listen for that full-on Purple organ breakdown 2/3's of the way, slashing back to the sitar, breaking down to a solo guitar playing the main riff, then the full band coming back in and locking into their groove. Joy, baby, pure freaking joy.

"Time Will Tell," brings on a more muscular riff, perhaps a lost page from a Free album. Soaring lead guitars tears through the opening before the Purple organ comes crashing back in, adding texture to the riff, filling it out. An acrid smoke billows out of the Ripple VW bus's rear windows as the road veers in and out of view, lost in a haze of powerful psychedelia. As with most tracks, the crew never hesitate to change their timing on a dime, dropping down into slower passages or launching into a new, mightier riff. The entire album has an undeniable free form feeling to it, space created to allow lots of hallucinogenic jamming, but never at the expense of structure. In fact, one of the most amazing things about this disc is that most songs clock in at under six minutes, yet feel as expansive as the universe. You'd swear they were ten minutes each. With all the jamming, all the circular melodies and cosmic explorations, the boys never lose sight of that all important foundation, keeping the songs locked firmly in the here and now without ever becoming self-indulgent or a mockery. Simply beautiful craft.

"Almost There," begins with a stuttering riff leading to a full-on rocking bridge before the chorus literally rises from the disc to inhabit some time and space beyond definition. A place of swirling, soaring hippiness, before the whole thing drops on the head of a pin, breaking down into a mid-tempo swinging blues beat. Unexpected twists and turns like this greet you at any moment on this disc, each riff melding perfectly with the next in ways you'd never expect possible, and certainly not capable in the hands of a lesser band. Groovy, baby.

I could go on and on, but I'll spare you. Suffice it to say, Far From the Sun probably spent more time in my CD player before actually getting reviewed than any other disc I can remember. In short, I just didn't want to actually finish listening to this baby, didn't want to write the review and be forced to move the disc from the player back into the Ripple Library. I just didn't want it to end. And I still don't. You can't make me stop listening to this baby, you just can't!

So if you don't hear from me for a while, oh waveriders, look out for me on the freeway somewhere. There you'll find me, behind the wheel of the bus, driving from town to town, grooving out to Far From the Sun, spreading the word on this masterful work of blissed out, rocking, bong shot of psychedelia. Maybe soon, me and the bus will head into your town. And we can listen together. Now that'd be groovy!


Buy here: Far From The Sun home of Transubstans Records and source to purchase Siena Root

Buy here: Buy the CD

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Tubes - The Completion Backwards Prinicple

When I first heard that Fee Waybill, the charismatic, definitively wacky lead singer of the Tubes was going to be a guest on our very own Ripple Radio Show, I was giddier than a troop of girl scouts in a cotton candy factory. I mean this was Fee Waybill. The Fee Waybill. . . Johnny Bugger. . . Dr. Strangekiss. . . Quay Lewd. . . here on our very own show (you can hear it live October 29th 8-10 pm Pacific Ripple time, available for free download after than just by hitting that cute little blogtalkradio button you see over there to the right).

You see I'd grown up a long time fan of the Tubes. Yes, waveriders, I was a White Punk On Dope living in Mondo Bondage just trying to figure out What Do I Want From Life. In fact I can say unquestioningly, that the Tubes breakthrough album, The Completion Backward Principle, along with Eddie and the Tide's Do it For You, were the defining albums of that glorious summer of 1982, the year between freshman and sophomore years in college. No matter where we went that summer, draggin' down to the beach in Santa Cruz, jolting up to river raft in Sacramento or just drunk off our keisters in by our own backyard swimming pools, the rallying cry of "I'm not going to fry your burgers," was always right there with us.

And what an album it was. Fresh and weird and quirky and rock, full on rock that even my friends who refused to admit that they liked new wave could still get into. Now, with the Tubes radio show coming up, I decided to take advantage and break the Completion Backward Prinicple back out and give it another spin in the Ripple CD player, and you know what, it still sounds just as good today.

Having started out as arch satirists of popular culture with an outrageous stage show that bordered on soft-core pornography, by 1981, theTubes were a band in crisis. Despite having launched a few now-classic cult singles (the above mentioned "White Punks on Dope," "Mondo Bondage," and "What Do You Want From Life?") the band weren't selling any albums. After the poor sales of their Todd Rundgren produced Remote Control, the band was dropped by their long-time label A&M. Now signed to Capital, the Tubes needed to make a splash. And boy did they.

Bringing smooth rock producer David Foster and working with some studio musicians like Steve Lukather may seem like desperate act by a band just begging to sell-out, but actually, it was an act of genius. Foster added a polished sheen to The Tubes consistently whacked out rock, funneling the sound more fully in the burgeoning new wave sound, producing a mini-classic of rock satire, new wave kicks, soulful grooves, wrapped up in a mock-corporate sensibility all packed with enough insanity and muscle to pull the whole thing off.

Certainly, "Talk to Ya Later," is one of the classic tracks of 1981. Kicking off with an instantly recognizable stuttering guitar riff slashing through the driving bass, Fee jumps in with his tale of the girl he found at a club who came home with him for a night of fun and never left, leading us to the classic line "It's been six months/she hasn't shut up once." This has to be one of the ultimate break-up songs, full of spit and venom as he screams, "Get out/I'm telling you now." On a personal note, I once had a "girlfriend" like that (you know who I'm talking about Pope!) and when I finally reached my limit and screeched for her to "Get out!" I swear, Fee's voice was ringing in my brain, guiding me along. For that alone, Fee, I owe you more than I can ever repay!

While "Talk to Ya Later," was certainly the best cut to be released as a single, it's by no means the only good track on the album. The funky oriental-toned food/sex innuendo extravaganza of "Sushi Girl," and the odd-take on reconnecting with an old flame power ballad "Amnesia," lead flawlessly into unadulterated anger-filled tirade of "Mr. Hate." Starting off with a retro-swing, neo-193o's vibe, complete with finger snaps, the real intention of the song follows when Fee wails "You said my mom is dead, my sister too/You say I killed them but it's just not true." From there the tune never lets up, driven by a thumping bass and the twisted lyrics trapped inside the mind of a sociopathic killer. Few tunes capture the power of this rumbling hatefest, leading up to the frenzied break and shouted tirade "I'm not going to fry your burgers . . . You'll never take me alive." When the songs pounds back into the chorus, this is about as mean and nasty as the Tubes ever got.

What follows next then, is about as absurd, goofy and perfect as the Tubes ever got. "Attack of the 50 Foot Woman," is a B-rated sci-fi extravaganza played over a funk bass and synth fills. When they parked the car down at Three Mile Point and the reactor flares, you know you're in for a treat. A fifty foot woman in a five foot dress. Fee sings it as straight up as any song he's done, selling the absurdity of the premise all the way through the lounge jazz break, right back into the funky verse. And no description of this song could ever be complete without mention of one of the truest lines ever sung in rock and roll. "She left me there/though I tried and tired/a fifty foot woman's never satisfied."

Got a feeling for the album yet? Satirical absurdity all perfectly played through a velvety smooth new wave gloss. Throughout, each band member's performance is outstanding, whether it's the ever present bass of Rick Anderson, the perfectly placed keyboard fll of Vince Welnick or Michael Cotten, the power of Bill Spooner and Roger Sterns guitar riffs, the incessant beating of Praire Prince on drums and then again, there's Fee, who's vocals are perfect, raging with emotion and raw energy when he digs into a rocker like "Power Tools," or shimmering with a gentle gloss on ballads like "Don't Want to Wait Anymore." And through it all, with their tongues planted firmly in their cheeks, the Tubes always manage to bring an unexpected Tubes-esque twist, like the swirling rush of synths on "Think About Me," or the scatter guitar and gang vocals on "A Matter of Pride."

In the end, The Completion Backwards Principle resurrected the Tubes career, entering the Top 40, introducing them to a whole new generation of fans and setting the stage for their biggest single "She's a Beauty." But more than that, the Principle finds a band firing on all cylinders, mixing their history of wild antics with a new found embrace of the then raging new wave movement. The result is an album of near-perfect, impeccable pop. And the perfect soundtrack for the summer of 1982, 2002 or 2012. It doesn't matter. Just bring on the summer and let the rest fall into place.


buy here: The Completion Backward Principle

Talk to Ya Later

Amnesia/Mr. Hate

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

East of the Wall – Farmer’s Almanac

I’d like to open this review by stating that this is my new favorite album. I’ve listened to a lot of music in my short time on God’s green earth, and I can’t remember being this compelled by one singular album. I don’t know if it’s going to be my favorite album of all time. Hell, my favorites seem to change with the seasons, and I honestly don’t particularly care about that. I’m living in the moment, and in this moment Farmer’s Almanac is my favorite album. What’s so good about it, you ask? Freaking everything!

Most people get turned off by music because the vocals do something to ruin the feel of the tunes. Well . . . for those people, you won’t have to worry about that here. There are no vocals. Farmer’s Almanac is a purely instrumental outing, and for the first time that I can remember, I’m not looking for a singer. I’m completely content reveling in the splendor of the waves of music crashing against my ear drums. On the first spinning of this disc, I remember thinking, “Damn. We have something here.” By the fifth or sixth listen, I wanted to write my own lyrics and lay down my own vocals to this thing. Not because the music needs it . . . God no! I just wanted to be a part of the creative process! I want to contribute to the majesty of Farmer’s Almanac. Fear not, Waveriders . . . I won’t do anything to disrupt the vibe of the album. I’ll just sit here and write beautiful words that will inspire you, the reader, to click the link at the end of the review to further explore the sounds of East of the Wall.

The album opens with “Meat Pendulum,” which has a mixture of acoustic guitars and heavily distorted bass, spending a good minute or so reminding me of Deliverance/Damnation era Opeth, before the tune explodes into off kilter dissonant guitar riffs and a monstrous double bass drum flurry. This tune is pretty straight forward in the way of hammering away at the senses to grab the listener’s undivided attention. I personally dig how the band changes up the rhythms without changing the riff . . . it kind of shows that progressive slant that keeps the hard edged music interesting, especially since there are no vocals to key into.

The tune ends abruptly and the next song, “Winter Breath,” kicks in, sounding almost as if the first song never really ended. But there’s no denying that these are two completely different songs as the guitars suddenly go with a clean tone, embracing the winter feel of the title. Note the bass work, specifically as Brett Bamberger uses some unorthodox techniques in the muting of the strings. This is what I’m talking about. Unique twists to the way music is normally performed. Always keeping the listener interested in the music. It’s almost as if the musicians are having a conversation through their instruments. Also, note the change of tone once again from the guitar tandem of Matt Lupo and Kevin Conway. The song goes from full on alt-rock to jazz. And that’s not it! The whole band gets into the action shortly after the jazz break with some tight ass start-stop work, and then goes off on another seemingly random tangent. So wonderfully fucking brilliant!

The Red Neck Wookie from Lakeside once told me that the only bass player who should have a bass with more than four strings is the dude from Dream Theater. Trust me folks, I’ll have him eating his words and running to cower behind Han Solo after he hears this. “Switchblade Knife” is a bass playing clinic. Hell! For that matter, it’s a guitar player’s clinic as well. So many different moods and tones flow through the context of the tune and it’s all embellished by the musical prowess of these fine lads. Now would be a good time to mention the work of drummer Mike Somers. The dude does an amazing job of keeping these three virtuosos together and making sure the tunes don’t fly apart on their own accord. He kind of acts as a tether grounding these guys and keeping them from flying into the sun. The end of this tune features some serious low end. I think I need to replace the speakers in the Popemobile again. This tune did a serious number to them!

Amazing guitar work is featured throughout Farmer’s Almanac, but check out “Clowning Achievement” at the 2:24 mark and get spellbound! After the initial mind blowing solo, the second guitar comes in, laden down with effects the like I’ve never heard and take me to another realm. Seriously . . . I can’t get enough of this! So many rich sounds swirling around my head. So much emotion and passion with every struck string. And, as if “Clowning Achievement” wasn’t enough, East of the Wall break down every barrier with “Unwanted Guest (I)” and throw in a little trumpet to compliment the jazzed out bass lines and guitar work.

Apparently, bassist Brett Bamberger and drummer Mike Somers were in a band together called Postman Syndrome prior to forming East of the Wall. Now . . . I don’t know squat about Postman Syndrome, but if they were anything like East of the Wall, I’m tracking down everything they’ve done and spinning it insane–like. I can’t recall ever being so moved by a piece of music like this before. Remember, I can get pretty jaded about music, so having something that intrigues me to this level of fascination is unprecedented. Farmer’s Almanac has already received some preferential treatment by taking up permanent residence in the Popemobile, for whatever good it does me. I still have to get those speakers replaced to truly enjoy the splendor of this album to its fullest potential. Folks, it ain’t hype if it’s true. Check these cats out . . . you won’t be sorry! -- Pope JTE

This is actually a clip from Biclops (band prior to East of the Wall) and should give you the general feel of what these cat's are up to.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Proto-metal Report - Dschinn - S/T

It wasn't just the Brits and the Americans who were waving the flag of change as the heavier vibe of proto-metal began to rear its ugly head in the til-then-glorious-world of psychedelic rock. Never ones to be left out, yet fully determined to do things their own Teutonic way, bands from Germany latched on to the new, heavier, darker vibe, added in their own mix of influences and proceeded to blow several minds apart at the medulla oblongata.

Krautrock, defined by a move away from standard song structure and wild experimentation, all anchored by an immovable motorik 4/4 beat, took the concepts of proto-metal and rocketed it off into outer space, flying on cosmic bouts of jamming and the precocious use of synthesizers with bands like Neu!, Can and Amon Dull II. While the genre of Krautrock is a separate, wholly worthwhile monster to explore, for the sake of the proto-metal report, we're most interested in those German bands that took the psychedelic exploratory vibe of the Krautrock movement and fused it to an immensely heavy Sabbath inspired bottom end.

Which brings us to Dschinn.

Far too straight ahead to comfortably fit with in Krautrock, Dschinn nevertheless explore their deeply heavy groove unlike many other proto-metal bands of the period. Featuring soaring, out of the stratosphere soloing without ever losing the basic metalesque riff, Dschinn crafted one glorious album of groovy German heavy hippy rock before fading away into oblivion. But what an album it is.

Listing to Dschinn, you can certainly get the feeling for where bands like Colour Haze and Dead Man draw their influence. Mining a fertile field most similar to their own countrymen, The Scorpions on their Lonesome Crow disc, Dschinn is a slab of molten Sabbath inspired psychedelic bluesy, neo-folky blistering rock. Peter Lorenz's lead vocals most closely resemble a young Lemmy if he'd only just learned English and gargled daily but forgot to spit, featuring that same warble of trying to wrap his throat around the English words that can be heard in Klause Meine's vocals on the earliest Scorps records. Each track roars or purrs off this disc, streaming off Bernd "Capo" Capito's lead guitar, Silvio Verfürth's rolling, looping bass, and Uli Mund's explosive, Ward-esque drumming.

While Lonesmome Crow is without a doubt the best starting place for the uninitiated to understand these guys, Dschinn is a much more straight ahead rock album than the Scorpions first disc. It also manages to avoid all the fey neo-psychedelic folkiness that can bring down the velocity of Lonesome Crow. "Freedom," probably the closest thing these guys would've had to a single, undulates out on a fantastic swooping bass line, and pounding drum before latching onto the wah'ed out riff. Imagine Colour Haze doing what they do now, but back in 1972 and you'll get the feeling. Not quite as heavy as Sabbath, this song still packs raw power, riding across that amazing warbling vocal. "Fortune" follows suit, but downtuned and heavier, mining that deeper vein in the main riff, before dropping down into quasi- psychedelia. Picking up for the chorus, leads fills fly out fast and furious, the bass picking up steam like an out of control locomotive.

"I'm in Love," one of my favorite tracks, blasts off with an ascending, circular bass riff, Mund going freaking bananas on the drums around, behind and on top of the riff. "Train" roughs up the sound, adding a wailing harmonica over the sludgy doom riff, a la Sabbath's "Wizard." Trust me, this song never loses it's groove, bopping in and out of its doom riff and scorching guitar and harmonica leads. As Lorenz wails out "Let's make tomorrow brighter/if your heart's in the right place/right now," it also illustrates another difference between Dschinn and other proto-metal bands, a definitive lack of the doom-drenched angst that heralded the crash of the sixties. Here the boys are still hippies at heart, just wailing away meaner and harder than any standard AM pop band.

"Let's Get Together," rides this hippy-vibe over a long polyrhythmic intro jumping straight into the hard-edged guitar parts. "Smile of the Devil," is a somber, brooding number, tracking into the album's highlight, "I Wanna Know," featuring Lorenz's vocals warbling away like never before and the boys locking down on a downright mean, funky-ass riff. This song represents all that is classic about proto-metal, fierce in it's intensity, meandering in it's scope. Listening to this and you can definitely see where Colour Haze and Dead Man found part of their muse.

"Are Your Ready," is another straight ahead rocker, leading to a freaked out, proto-metaled out, ballsy remake of the Yardbird's "For Your Love." A definite treat to behold.

Fans of proto-metal will not want to miss this lost classic. And to sweeten the pot even more, the CD reissue by Second Battle (if you can find it) tacks on an additional 8 early Dschinn rockers from before the boys recorded the Dschinn album and 3 outtakes from the Dschinn album itself. A benevloent bevy of blistering batteram rock and roll. Not to be missed.


Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Sunday Conversation with Miggs

Smack dab in the middle of their U.S. tour for the immensly popular album, Unraveled, Miggs lead and hep cat Don Miggs broke away from his band duties and shared a few minutes with us on our comfy couch of questions. Here's what Don has to say about the art on songwriting.

When I was a kid, growing up in a house with Cat Stevens, Neil Diamond, Johnny Mathis, Perry Como, and Simon & Garfunkle, the first time I ever hear Kiss's "Detroit Rock City," it was a moment of musical epiphany. It was just so vicious, aggressive and mean. It changed the way I listened to music. I've had a few minor epiphany's since then, when you come across a band that just brings something new and revolutionary to your ears.

What have been your musical epiphany moments?

KISS played a part in my development, too! My uncle was a big fan so I naturally found myself there, too. I had several (epiphanies) along the way. There are some CD’s that I put on and couldn’t take off like U2’s Auchtung Baby, and they helped set a direction for my writing. That U2 record taught me about real emotion in songs and the power to set the mood and bring people somewhere. Counting CrowsAugust and Everything after for it’s lyrical content. Afghan WhigsGentleman for it’s raw power. It hit me so hard that I was disturbed at first. It had to grow on me. Of course, all the standard answers from The Beatles on up, but I love so much music, it happened again and again, and it’s why I’m so driven to write myself.

Talk to us about the song-writing process for you. What comes first, the idea? A riff? The lyrics? How does it all fall into place?
Ah, if it were easy and so predictable there would be more Beatles, no? I mean, you can definitely refine the process and create songs, but I think the truly timeless ones fall out of the air and into your lap somehow.
When I write, it’s never the same way. One line will come to me and it’ll snowball or not. Or, a riff hits me, or I sit down and it all just comes out. It’s an amazing thing to tap into and I feel lucky that it ever happen to me at all.

In songwriting, how do you bring the song together? What do you look for in terms of complexity? Simplicity? Time changes?

I try to leave all of that thinking out of it at this point. I spent a good deal of time learning the rules so I could break them. I think you have to know it all so you can not think about it. I love Coheed and Cambria as much as I do R.E.M., and they are opposites regarding complexity / simplicity. The best time changes don’t feel forced. We love doing them, especially in a “pop music” format, but we try to make it subtle.

It’s funny because we had people trying out to be the drummer last year and they didn’t realize all of the little time changes were there and some good drummers couldn’t make the cut because of it. But, I tend to try to say things simply and play them in a way that people don’t feel like you’re showing off.

What makes a great song?

Well, if I really knew this answer I’d have written 1,000 of them, but I think what makes a timeless song is all about the “Big 5.” A great song only needs 3 of the 5, but the really timeless ones have 4 or all 5. And, they are: The head, the heart, the stomach, the crotch, the feet.

What piece of your music are you particularly proud of?

Really, I’m only not proud of about 3 songs we’ve released and several moments on other tracks. Having said that, I have not written my favorite song of mine yet. Almost, but not quite.

When you write a piece of music, do you consciously write from the mind set of being different than what's out there now?

Nope. I just write and let it be what it’s going to be. Maybe after that, I’ll make some changes to have it lean one way or the other, but I gave up trying to write a hit or a “Rocker,” or whatever after our Insomnia album. Now, I write because it’s what I do and I hope other people are attracted to it.

The business of music is a brutal place. Changes in technology have made it easier than ever for bands to get their music out, but harder than ever to make a living? What are your plans to move the band forward? How do you stay motivated in this brutal business?

We’re musicians. It’s what we do. You can’t think about how brutal it is. Being a stock broker is brutal. Getting up at 4 am to drive a garbage truck is brutal. We all do it every day. It’s still better than any other job out there, to me. Thankfully, we are able to make a living at it outside of traditional ways. We are signed to a good label, we have a great team around us, and people come to shows and buy the music. Our plan is to bring music to people and they will decide if we should have a career or not. It’s been working so far.

Describe to us the ideal (realistic) record label and how you'd work with them, and they with you.

We’re in a pretty good place right now with Rock Ridge. We license the album to the label and we own it. And, jointly, we promote it. That’s what we like and what we’ll do for the next one, too, with whomever we decide to sign with. We want a partnership. The label doesn’t have all the control any longer for artists like Miggs who can afford to do a lot of the legwork themselves.

Now that you've been on tour for awhile, I'm sure you've had some of those "Spinal Tap" moments. Share with us a couple of your favorite or more humorous moments.

Man, the road is its own animal and it’s so hard to truly relate unless you’re there. It’s like not really being alive for 23 hours and then so alive you’re jumping out of your skin for one hour each day!! LOL

We just played somewhere where most of the crowd was so drunk that it was like watching a movie! It was outdoors and the audience was on dirt/sand. These three people started doing dirt angels – like a snow angel, but in dirt – the two girls had no business being in the skirts they were in, laying on the floor spread eagle. And, probably had no idea they were on the floor! And then, another fine patron started stripping for us. And we got mooned. My first mooning on stage. This was the same woman who took her shorts and bra off inside of 20 minutes before we started. I think she was sweating . . .

We, at The Ripple Effect, are constantly looking for new music. When we come to your town, what's the best record store to visit?

We don’t really have a town!!! LOL! We visit a record store in every city. One, to be sure they have Miggs in stock, and two, because I’m addicted to CD’s. My iPod is just short of 19,000 songs and counting. I can tell you I love a few (stores): In Arizona, I love Rockzone Records, In L.A. or S.F., I love Amoeba, in Florida, I love Vinyl Fever . . . the list goes on!

Don, as always, thanks for your time. Any parting words for the Waveriders?

Be good to yourselves and kind to others, like is too freaking short.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Book of Black Earth – Horoskopus

I think that I have a Prosthetic ear. No . . . not some phony flesh colored piece of rubber adhered to the side of my head. I mean, I think I have an ear for the brutal brand of metal that Prosthetic Records puts out. Up to this point, I’ve reviewed Byzantine, Hollow Corp., Skeletonwitch, Century and a handful of other bone crunching bands, and I keep finding the music appealing to no end. So, let’s cue up the latest disc to scorch the finish from my desk and give it a spin. It’s an album from a Seattle quintet called Book of Black Earth, and they’ve presented an album that is a feast for the ears and a hearty knock on the noggin. The album is called Horoskopus. Listen if you dare.

As is the case with most of the material coming from the Prosthetic label, Book of Black Earth is extreme metal with a touch of musical virtuosity. Dense walls of sound build the core of the songs and those walls are constantly chiseled away by swirling guitar and keyboard passages, and metalized riffs to perk up the ears of the most jaded of old school thrasher. Lyrically, Horoskopus deals with organized religions, specifically Christianity, and the inevitable end of days in darkened overtones. Repeated references to the blackening of the sun and the religious right being blatant liars, gives this listener a good idea of where these cats sit come Judgment Day.

From the opening instrumental epic of “2160,” you can easily get the sense that something big and important is about to go “Ka-Thud” in our laps. Guitars grind away at a nice mid tempo pace while the high hat crashes in time. The entire tune patiently builds up itself, drum upon drum, riff upon riff, until the last sustained notes burst into “Death of the Sun.” That aforementioned wall of sound practically blots out the sun on its own, but ultimately, guitars break though the din with classic old school speed metal riffs. There’s just enough mid tone to those guitars to shed a ray of light, no matter how thin it is, to the darkened bombast of the rest of the instruments. Note the riff towards the end of the tune as the sustained guitars return to build that much needed tension before bursting into a classic head bobbin’ groove. Dynamics, baby!

Speaking of dynamics, "Horoskripture" features a great deal of texture and mood to the all out brutality of the rhythm section. Ambient keyboards hover in the background as the guitars crush coal into diamond. The vocals, in typical death metal fashion, spit venom at the religious right, all while the band lay down punishment upon punishment. The howls of torment around the 3:00 mark convey that something special necessary to convince me that these guys mean what they say. But, more importantly, the band takes this crazy left hand turn with less than a minute in the song. The keyboards reappear, taking a more predominant role, creating an eerie Middle Eastern vibe, and then the guitars slide back into the mix and lay down a phenomenal groove riff that will undoubtedly get a crowd moving in a counter clockwise direction. Great power to this tune!

Book of Black Earth simply master the art of heaviness with “Cult of Dagon.” This tune is downright creepy, what with its clean toned guitars and ambient textures cutting through the plodding dirge. Agonized vocals pour from mouth of guitarist/vocalist TJ Cowgill, as he belts out the empowering lines of, “There is no God like the will of my own.” Take what you’d like from it. Personally, I think it’s some pretty powerful shit. Eventually, the tune picks up the tempo and the intensity as everything kind of just opens up. More space for the individual instruments to breath, more dynamic performances from the musicians. “Cult of Dagon” is as epic as metal gets.

Mixing sheer brutal riffage with melodic passages of guitar work, “Funeral of Peace” shows more of that dynamic songwriting that Book of Black Earth do so damn well. “The Darkest Age” is a double bass drum, riff heavy frenzy that shows that oh-so-perfect touch of technical know-how to add key points of interest. Musically speaking, “From Heaven” gets damn near melodic as the lyrics draw comparisons to the church’s worship of Christ to the ancient Egyptian worship of the sun. “The Great Year” continues with that lyrical concept and just runs with it. These concepts are nothing new for anyone who’s studied world religions with an open mind, but imagine thrusting these beliefs in the face of a Christian gathering. These lads would be drawn and quartered, tarred and feathered, and burned at the stake . . . all at the same time.

Unrelenting, unapologetic, unabashed, and unfettered, Book of Black Earth practically hand deliver one of the most impressive extreme metal albums to bludgeon my ears. Again, hat’s off to Prosthetic Records for finding yet another multi faceted extreme metal band. Book of Black Earth are outrageously heavy, extremely intelligent, technically gifted, and have the uncanny ability to use the right amount of melody to create a wondrous palette of sound. Horoskopus is the bands second full length album (first with Prosthetic,) which intrigues the hell out of me. What does the future hold for these guys? Yeah, I know . . . only time will tell. But damn! What a way to kick things off! Fortunately, I don’t have a plastic appendage hanging from the side of my head, and I can truly enjoy this album with the ears that I’ve been given.

-- Pope JTE

Buy here: Horoskopus

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