Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Charity Auction of Rare Test Pressing of Heavy Ripples Double 7": Proceeds to Benefit Joplin Tornado Vicitms

Continuing with the company tradition of giving back to the community, Ripple Music will auction an extremely rare original test pressing of Heavy Ripples: vol 1, featuring Stone Axe, Sun Gods in Exile, Grifter and Mighty High, with proceeds going to benefit Joplin Tornado Victims.  The auction will take place on eBay at the Ripple store, starting Tuesday, May 31st, and run for 7 days only.

Only 5 of these test pressings exist, and this is the only one made available to the public.  You can jump into the auction, win a cool heavy rock collectible and benefit disaster relief at the Ripple Music Ebay Store.

The Heavy Ripples test press auction is the latest in a growing line of charity auctions that Ripple Music has created.  Previously, rare JPT Scare Band and Stone Axe test pressings were auctioned with proceeds going to Gulf Disaster and Japan Tsunami disaster relief agencies.  With the tragedy that recently unfolded in Joplin, Mo., Ripple founders John Rancik and Todd Severin thought the time was right to release another rare test pressing from their vault and raise money for a worthwhile effort.

Press raves about Heavy Ripples, vol. I:

"Ripple Music is back with a vinyl-only compilation and, as expected, keeps delivering quality products, not only in respect of their musical taste but also concerning the layout and packaging of the double 7" vinyl set. 'Heavy Ripples' is an excellent compilation which offers the possibility to discover some great unknown bands. The packaging is also high-quality because both records are hidden in a tasteful gatefold sleeve which includes a sweet inside illustration painted by Wayne "Braino" Bjerke." - Cosmic Lava
Stone Axe's “Nightwolf” is one of the bad ass of all bad ass songs, reminds me a bit of ZZ Top’s “Tush” mixed with early Judas Priest. Sun Gods in Exile’s  “Over My Broken Bones” and continues the great sound from their 2009 debut. Grifter gets two songs on this release, and both are punchy, upbeat, catchy and Grifter seems to be having a lot of fun.  Mighty High's “Hempophobic” is fast punchy and the guitars are tight with hints of a blues tune in between the bong hitting.This delicious slab of wax  first pressing is limited to 500 copies so don’t hesitate on ordering yours." -- the Soda Shop
"For fans of heavy classic rock and fans in general of unpretentious riffery, it’s a must-have!  Increasingly, Ripple are becoming a force to be reckoned with when it comes to purveying quality (and varied) rock and roll. A cool listen for converted heads and one that might even win over a few new recruits to the cause." -- The Obelisk


Blue Öyster Cult - On Your Feet Or On Your Knees

A band’s best music is not necessarily their most commercially successful.  Few bands have proven that adage better than Blue Öyster Cult.

There’s a long history to this ear-splitting, thunderous, arena rock group.  They started off life trying to be the American answer to Black Sabbath and for me, growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, they were. The band first hit the scene in New York under the name Soft White Underbelly, found a modicum of success and an interested major record label. Unfortunately, in 1969 their lead singer left during the recording of their first album and the label shelved the project.  The band continued to perform live as Soft White Underbelly until it received a bad review of a 1969 concert at Fillmore East.  Instead of letting the band slog through the critical review in order to find redemption their manager decided they should just rename the band.  For two long years the band changed names nearly every six months.  Then, in 1971, the band settled on Blue Öyster Cult which was based on their manager’s poem about a group of aliens who had assembled to secretly guide Earth's history.  Under the new name the band landed a recording contract with Columbia Records.

The band toiled in relative obscurity, sometimes even playing small venues as Soft White Underbelly, through 1975.  They had released a self-titled album in 1972 containing some of the hardest rocking hard rock of the day, that found a small loyal following, and followed it up with a 1973 release entitled Tyranny and Mutation that contained the first of many of the band’s collaborations with Patti Smith. In 1974 they released a third album, Secret Treaties, that earned them faint praise.  However, it was their constant touring that lured in a fan base.  Blue Öyster Cult live shows became legendary.

In 1975, the band released On Your Feet or On Your Knees, a live album that went gold.  It captured the essence of their live shows.  Here were band members Eric Bloom, Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser, Allen Lanier, and Joe and Albert Bouchard at their road-tested best  and earning their first taste of super stardom.   To this day I rank this effort as one of the best live albums ever produced.

The album cover sports an old ghostly stone gothic church in a murky fog fronted by a 1970’s black Cadillac stretch limousine. The back of the album has a photograph of hands in medieval gloves of an executioner holding a bible-like volume with the symbol of the band amongst the text.  The double album has two sleeves and the fold-out inside is festooned with a picture of an ornate gothic stage with a row of full stack Marshall amplifiers from stage right to stage left fronted by the band jumping into space playing electric guitars over the heads of their audiience.

The first disk starts with a live audience and a mysterious announcement to the gathered crowd - “On your feet or on your knees.  It is the amazing Blue Öyster Cult.” Then the band  immediately dives in to some of the hottest guitar rock leather band live performances of the decade.

The recording is comprised of three songs from each of the band’s first three studio albums and two cover songs. A dizzying array of guitar leads, pounding drums, electric bass and vocals permeate the rockers and ballads and leave the listener amped and asking for more.  "Subhuman," then "Harvester of Eyes," lead to “Hot Rails to Hell" followed by scorching versions of "The Red and the Black" and “Screaming Diz-Busters."  Then comes “Buck's Boogie," a veritable ear bleeding break the speed barrier bopper. A smooth arena rock ballad "(Then Came The) Last Days of May" slows the pace but only long enough for the band to reboot the sustain with “Cities on Flame," "ME 262," and the heart pounding "Before the Kiss (A Redcap)."  The album concludes with two cover songs - “I Ain’t Got You” (with modified lyrics) and the best version of “Born To Be Wild” you have ever heard.

Blue Öyster Cult’s greatest commercial success still was to come when On Your Feet Or On Your Knees was released.  Their biggest hit singles “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” and “Godzilla” did not chart until 1976 and 1977, respectively,and, to be honest, are watered down versions of the band’s music tuned to appeal to a wider audience.

Blue Öyster Cult is still around and occasionally records and tours under that name.  However, if you really want to experience the music like it was, when they produced cutting edge rock and roll and not AM hits for mass consumption, look for a small notice printed on the back of a local throwaway free press newspaper that says that Soft White Underbelly is playing at a small bar venue. Go.  You won’t be disappointed whether you have to watch on your feet or on your knees.

- Old School

Buy here: On Your Feet Or on Your Knees
buy here mp3: On Your Feet Or On Your Knees

Monday, May 30, 2011

Ripple News - Lost Rory Gallagher Studio Album from 1978 Finally Released

Rory Gallagher - Notes From San Francisco 2CD

~Two-Disc Set, Notes From San Francisco, Via Eagle Rock Entertainment ~

~Lavish Package Includes Never-Before-Released 1979 Concert!~
The story goes that Jimi Hendrix was once asked what it was like to be the greatest guitarist in the world, to which he replied, “I don’t know, go ask Rory Gallagher!”

Rory Gallagher (1948-1995) is simply one of the all-time guitar greats. Slash, The Edge, Brian May, Johnny Marr, Janick Gers, Ritchie Blackmore, Glenn Tipton and Vivian Campbell have all said it. Since practically inventing the Power Trio format in Taste (both Cream and Taste debuted in 1966), Gallagher’s music has stood the test of time and he’s as popular now as he ever was, his influence gargantuan.

The story of Rory’s lost San Francisco album actually starts in Japan. In November 1977, after a grueling six-month world tour, the band flew straight from their last show in Japan to San Francisco to begin working on a new album with famed American producer Elliot Mazer (who worked on Neil Young’s Harvest, Big Brother & The Holding Company’s Cheap Thrills and The Band’s The Last Waltz). Mazer recalls the sessions grew “tense,” as Gallagher thought the mixing process “too complicated.” By the end of January 1978, he had shelved the whole record and broke up his band of the past five years.

Fast forward to 2011 when Rory’s brother/manager Donal allowed his son Daniel to recover the album from the Gallagher archive and begin the process of mixing it with his engineer. Rory said in 1992 he hoped the album would surface one day but only if it were remixed. Bingo. Hearing this historic never-before-issued studio album from a key period of Gallagher’s career (the album that would have been released between Calling Card and Photo Finish) is the Holy Grail for Rory’s fans.

CD #2 is another fabulous discovery: a blistering live album taken from four December nights in 1979 at San Francisco’s The Old Waldorf. In the audience Van Morrison, on stage Rory Gallagher (guitar/vocals), Gerry McAvoy (bass) and Ted McKenna (drums). Daniel Gallagher chose to add the live side to highlight why Rory chose to shelve the studio album and reduce his band back down to a three-piece. Rory, after seeing The Sex Pistols at Winterland during final mixes for his own album, was struck by the stark drama and blunt primitivism of pure punk. “It was as close to Eddie Cochran as you’re going to get,'' he enthused. He had been saying that he wanted to get back to what he called “meat’n’potato rock’n’roll,” a stripped-back primal raw immediacy hearkening back to his Taste days.

A street has been named after him in Paris; a corner in Dublin; a statue in his Ballyshannon birthplace, where The International Rory Gallagher Tribute Festival is held. There’s a Rory Gallagher Place and Rory Gallagher Music Library in Cork. Annual tributes are held in Germany and Japan. The man has sold in excess of 20 million albums. Notes From San Francisco [MSRP $17.98] will be a worthy addition to his canon.

Track Listing:

1. Rue The Day
2. Persuasion
3. B Girl
4. Mississippi Sheiks
5. Wheels Within Wheels
6. Overnight Bag
7. Cruise On Out
8. Brute Force & Ignorance
9. Fuel To The Fire

10. Wheels Within Wheels (Alt version)
11. Cut A Dash
12. Out On The Tiles

1. Follow Me
2. Shinkicker
3. Off The Handle
4. Bought And Sold
5. I’m Leavin’
6. Tattoo’d Lady
7. Do You Read Me
8. Country Mile
9. Calling Card
10. Shadow Play
11. Bullfrog Blues
12. Sea Cruise 

Revenge of the Quick Ripple Bursts - Featuring King Giant, King Lizard, Foobar, and The Stone Foxes

Southern Darkness [Explicit]King Giant – Southern Darkness

Truthfully, this album could never be more aptly titled.  Southern Darkness.  That’s what it says and that’s what you get.  Perhaps in a moment of inspiration, they could have called it Southern Heavy Darkness or The Night of the Heavy Southern Darkness or such, because that’s the only word missing.  Heavy.  Damn Heavy.  Massive Gibson Clutch-esque riffs, rolling monstrous bottom end, thick, sludgy southern groove.  And dark.   All dark.  “Solace” is the kind of opening track that most bands could only dream of writing.  “Lady Whiskey” adds a dollop of sensitive guitar to the fray before the heaviness comes in like a storm drifting in off the Gulf.  “Mississippi River” floats in a morass of acoustic, countrified blues without ever losing it’s power, while “Machine Gun Mantra” is everything it’s title promises.  A deadly assault of neck-breaking riffs and chugging intensity.  For fans of Clutch.  Not to be missed.

King Lizard – Viva La Decadence

Viva La Decadence indeed.  If any of you out there felt that sleaze-mongers like Buckcherry played things just a little too G-rated and safe, have I got a band for you.   London’s King Lizard pick up where the Crue left off, stuff their briefs with a ton of man-meat and attitude, bathe the whole shebang in a “Fuck You” and a “I’m Gonna Fuck You,” attitude and roar out of the gate like a poisonous snake on the loose.  As you can tell by the album cover, subtlety ain’t in these cats’ vocabulary.  The title track is a flaming rage to post-Crue hedonism.  Better than Vince Neil vocals screaming over wailing guitars, big post-80’s riffs and a vat of bathtub meth velocity.  “Video Lover,” has got to be more perverse than a busload of groupies could handle.  Sex runs through the grooves of this song like blood runs through their veins.  Others like “Rain on You,” “Hell Yeah,” and “Taste the Hate,” load up with more than enough obscenity-spitting attitude to make up for any lack of subtlety.  Hair sleaze ain’t dead.  It just has a new name.  Hyper-adrenalized, big hair rape.  Rubbers not included.

Foobar – Grand Theft Audio

I fell in love with this the first instant I heard it.  Brutally, full of snot, gun-metal rock and roll.  Five songs that approach like thunder and leave like a hurricane . . . devastation in their wake.   Coming from Sweden, this ain’t stoner, it ain’t blues.  It’s rock and roll with a purpose.  A deliberate intention to unsettle the foundations of your house, your mind, and your ears.  Huge riffs with a bottom end that could bounce your goldfish clear outta their tank.  Or make them want to jump out and rock (if you could visualize a goldfish headbanging that is).    Hard driving, gunpowder metal with a stoner glaze on top.  Give me a full-length album and do it quickly.  This is some seriously great stuff.

Bears & BullsThe Stone Foxes – Bears & Bulls

Not since the Swamp sludge blues of Black Bone Child first graced the Ripple office have I heard a band who so effectively got it.  I mean really got it.  Slacked strung acoustic guitar blues force fed some modern rock flair and dropped kicking and screaming right into the Mississippi Delta.  This is ass-kickin’, foot-stompin’ backyard party blues that never forgets to rock the fuck out.  Just listen as opening acoustic-jam “Stomp” transforms into the blistering rock assault of “Patience.”  Crap!  Break out some Blackened Voodoo beer, toss the crawdads into the pot and fry up some hush puppies because I’m deep in the south and lovin’ every minute there.  Musical skill to turn from blues to rock to metal to indy on a dime.  A soulful singer who can belt it out like a house on fire.  Groove, baby groove.


Sunday, May 29, 2011

Off! - First Four Eps

 So today while going through the Ripple website I noticed that one of my favorite albums from last year was not reviewed.  “What no one wrote about Off!s First Four Eps album???“ After the shock wore Off! (pun intended), I decided I should write a little something about a big yet short album. Clocking in at under a mere 18 minutes, the 16 track collection of Eps makes you yearn for more.

There was always a question I asked myself. Though I do love Henry Rollins, I always wondered what would Black Flag of sounded like had Keith Morris never left the band?. Off! is the answer. Beginning with the first “Black Thoughts” you realize that Keith truly can’t be stopped. At the age of 55 it seems he never will. “Black Thoughts” sounds like a song Greg Gin would of wrote right after Nervous Breakdown had Keith never left Black Flag, one minute of in your face blistering punk rock furry with catchy lyrics.

Some other songs of note on the album are “Fuck People”, “Rat Trap” and “Darkness”. Although the entire album is a great listen for those who are ADD about music, love old school punk rock or just music in general.  “Fuck People” is by fair my favorite track on the album. Mostly cause I can feel the same way about today’s society.

If you are a fan of old school hardcore punk, this album is for you. If you are ADD about your music or you need a quick punk rock fix, this album is for you. If you are a fan of Black Flag or The Circle Jerks, this album is for you. Bottom line, Off!s First Four Eps is for you.  Check it out.

Here is a tip: there are many ways to get this album such as an itunes digital download, a digital download from the official Off! Website or the vinyl box set. I recommend getting the box set since it comes with a free digital download…money well spent. 


Buy here: http://www.offofficial.com/

A Burst of EP's - Featuring After Oblivion and the Great Sabatini

After Oblivion - Vultures

This three song promo found it’s way onto my hard drive and into my heart just the other day.

That band is the technical death metal band After Oblivion.  These dudes are based out of Tuzla, Bosnia & Herzegovina…try and say that three times fast. I am a fan of all things metal…especially good death metal. That being said, I am very skeptical of new death bands. It seems as though nothing has hit my tastes buds and made me want more. After Oblivion is a different story.

Their new Ep, Vultures is everything an up and comer in the death scene needs to be. Fast and thrashy yet not relying heavily on meaningless guitar solos. Their singer Adnan has an epic approach to his vocal stylings, which are very reminiscent of Death singer, Chuck Schuldiner. Almost as if he has risen from the dead. Could Adnan be the long lost love child of Chuck Schuldiner…possibly conceived during a late 90’s tour of Bosnia??  Maybe. The band itself reminds me of a 90’s tech death band. Again, you can hear their influences from the band, Death

The lead off track to Vultures is a song called “Septic Mind“. A very cool song that starts off with a very epic thrashy intro. Which leads into Adnan’s screeching vocals. Thrashy breakdowns and an awesome guitar solo make this one a keeper. I could see this band opening up for Amon Amarth or maybe even The Faceless.

Hopefully soon we will be graced with new full length album soon from the boys in After Oblivion. My musical taste buds cannot wait.


Listen to the album here: http://www.myspace.com/afteroblivion

The Great Sabatini 7"-- By the Power of Greyskull

A 3-song EP/ 7" (though essentially 2, since middle track "Helter Skeletor" is a minute instrumental), Montreal's The Great Sabatini and their self-titled 7" are a Lo-Pan-ish mix of rock with doom and stoner features.

They get big lyric points for so many diverse references in three songs (Rafael Sabatini, Vincent Lugosi/ Charles Manson, Jon Heder, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe), even though the lyrics are screamed into incoherence-- and the music is just as cheeky and surprisingly innovative: "Napoleon Sodomite" pounds along with a nice detuned-yet-nimble single-minded riff and "Trap Sequence" use a cool sequence of octaves to make things more heavy (rather than the ubiquitous power/fifth chord) and, even though it's instrumental is the best and most interesting track on here, eventually speeding up and into oblivion.

Kudos for writing catchy yet short doom songs. They get in and out cleanly and well.

Also there's banjo.

Nothing terribly unique, but fun stuff. Makes me wanna hear a full-length from these guys; if they can hold their penchant for being cute down to a dull roar (letting it enhance their music and not define it), should be very cool.

Saturday, May 28, 2011


Since becoming a part of the Ripple Clan I have been given twenty six (give or take one or two) artists to listen to and I have only reviewed eight (this is the ninth). No, it isn't slack of me, the others just didn't click. Priory didn't click with me either. It snapped. So loudly my hermit crab hid in its shell. So loudly that there was a noise complaint put in by the neighbours. So loudly the stray cat that insists on sleeping on my car and getting it's foot prints everywhere didn't show up for a week. So loudly... Well, you get the picture.

This is Priory's debut full length release and it is self titled earlier they released an EP titled Cold Hands. They describe themselves as indie-pop/electronic-folk and are based in Oregon. They consist of four members- Brandon Johnson (vocals, bass) Kyle Deiker (acoustic guitar, keys, bells, falsetto), Rich Preinesberger (drums) and Greg Harpel (lead guitae, bells, keys) Priory is released in June this year.

The songs on the album are catchy, electronic, acoustic, brilliantly written and sung perfectly. It is important to note that despite their catchy, pop appearance some of the songs tackle some quite dark subjects.

“Worthy Dreams” is the first song on the album and it is mirrored with the last song. “smearD yhtroW” is the reverse of the first and it is an interesting way to tie things off. It sounds quite electric and is a happy, cheery way to start us off.

It is then followed with the clean, acoustic “Kings of Troy” being about a man who's girlfriend is constantly sought after by other men.

“Lady of Late” goes back into the more electronic sounds. It has catchy lyrics that are quite heavy.
“I was born, with a heart of stone
Till you came along, and you broke my throne
Now, Here I stand with your hand in mine
Still a humble man till the end of time”

“Don't look in my face, said the girl with a scar”
However, it is paired with really, really good music.

Following the electronic “Coal Mine”, “Red Sun” and the acoustic “Searching” and “Devil vs Heater” is “Cold Hands.” A song about two lovers dying in a car accident together.
“I was by your side when your hands went cold
When your hands went cold
You were by my side when my eyes went closed”

“Wait” has lighter content compared to the other songs on the album and it is accompanied by a mixture of acoustic and electronic sounds.
“I think I'm falling in love again,
I think I'm falling out of love again”

“White Coats” a predominately acoustic song follows, then the reverse song, “smaerD yhtroW”.

Priory is a pretty fun album music wise as it is varied, interesting and well composed. The lyrics add a darker meaning that you sometimes have to listen a few times to really get. Over all, very good.


Friday, May 27, 2011

USX - The Valley Path


The Valley Path is your local bar's alt-country band, in the aftermath of some tragedy, jamming,  having just discovered both pot and Black Sabbath.

US Christmas (USX) are Allison Krause gone stoner/dark psychedelic rock. Discerning minds might have already postulated this, seeing their logo, aka the "deer ouroboros."

It's one song, 39 minutes long. Like Sleep's Dopesmoker. Or Roareth's Acts I-VI.

Not a true 39-minute epic, like Roareth, not a great 5-minute song the band was too stoned to stop playing, like Dopesmoker--  it's more of a 39-minute remix of a single.

There's surprisingly little hyperbole, though, to the above metaphors-- there's all sorts of "non-metal" instruments, which totally work, there's a violin/fiddle in there, a female singer who tends to just double/harmonize with lead singer/guitarist Nate's vocals... listening to it late at night in the dark is intensely soothing, as different instruments come and go, and it remains nearly silent for stretches of a minute or so at a time....

Sounds like it could've been improvised...? Are USX the laziest jam band in the world? I dig it.

The Valley Path transmits a feeling of isolation, of a dimly-hopeful solitude, like nothing's around you now but something good might be coming-- like looking out to see at night, with a CB radio you hope with come back with someone's voice on it....

Great? Definitely not. But definitely very good.

USX Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/USX.APPALACHIA

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Ghost - Opus Eponymous

These days you gotta have a gimmick. And Ghost, a new band from Sweden, has a lot of them. They wear robes, pope hats and face paint (even the drummer when they play live). Their lyrics are Satanic but sound like they picked up most of their occult knowledge from King Diamond interviews. There are rumors that under the costumes there are well known musicians from other metal bands. They’ve also received negative attention because there’s already a long-running Japanese band with the same band name. All of this has resulted in strong opinions in the metal world about this band. Some say it’s all hype, others say Ghost are the best new band in years. Like most cases where opinions are so polarized there’s a bit of truth on both sides.

Whoever is in the band or not, Ghost’s debut album Opus Eponymous is a nice change of pace in the heavy music world. Most underground bands are either working the doom Black Sabbath angle or are part of the speed/thrash/grind brigade. Ghost’s sound is about 60% Blue Oyster Cult (especially Agents Of Fortune), 20% Mercyful Fate and 20% other ingredients (mainly 70’s Priest/Scorps/UFO and Angelwitch).

The funeral organ instrumental “Deus Culpa” starts the album off on a somber tone before being taken over by the fast “Con Clavi Con Dio.” The verses are fast and sinister but the chorus is very melodic and would probably get some commercial radio play if it wasn’t praising Lucifer. The single “Ritual” really sounds like if BOC time traveled from 1976 to 1984 to steal some riffs from Mercyful Fate’s “A Dangerous Meeting” to use in “Don’t Fear The Reaper.”

“Elizabeth” is full on Mercyful Fate “Melissa” worship, down to the Herman Rarebell/Les Binks metal oompah beat. The vocalist (no names credited in the liner notes) bears a resemblance to Buck Dharma and occasionally drifts into Queen Rhinestone territory but doesn’t resort to screeching for vengeance. The presence of keyboards add some nice texture and are rarely overbearing. The guitars sound like they might even be in standard tuning and have crunch but not full on metal distortion. “Stand By Him” is another strongly BOC influenced moody song with a Thin Lizzy-ish guitar solo (“Thunder and Lighning?”) in the middle.

“Prime Mover” has some nice bass fills and good Stained Class style chugga-chugga riffs. Album closing “Genesis” brings the keyboards to the front and sounds more like The Alan Parsons Project than Genesis and has an acoustic guitar interlude. Back in the 70’s rock radio stations used to love songs like these as background music while reading the local concert calendar. Get your local paper and try it out yourself.

Despite the hype I really like this album. The Satanic lyrics and costumes are a little corny but the music is solid.


Buy here: Opus Eponymous



Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Pigeon John - Dragon Slayer

Another heavy gust of wind viciously tore at my clothing, and there was a strong possibility that the ominous darkness on the horizon was a suffocating sandstorm that would shortly overtake my position.  Indecision, the arch nemesis of all brave adventurers, had suddenly fallen on me like a ton of bricks.  I was standing a few steps away from my vehicle staring at a massive door which had been built directly into the side of a mountain.  I knew that what I sought would be behind the door.  All I had to do now was muster up the courage to enter the dwelling and complete my quest.

I took a deep breath and put one foot in front of the other…but on second thought, I could just come back some other time.  Yeah, that’s the ticket!  I could come back when it was more convenient.  Now that I thought about it, I did have to run some important errands back in town today.  Those movies needed to be returned by this evening, and I think I forgot to pick up my mail.  It’s not like this mountain was going anywhere.  Mountains don’t move for crying out loud!  They’re stationary.  That’s why they’re called mountains!

Unfortunately my inner dialogue/deliberation must have taken considerably more time to conclude than I imagined, because the sandstorm was right on top of me when I came to my senses.  Now I was left with no choice.  I could not drive anywhere in the sandstorm, so I had to seek shelter behind the door in the mountain.  Curses!  It took a determined effort to pull the massive door open to the point where I could slip inside.  The howling of the storm was truly demonic.  Pulling the door shut completely muffled the noise and left an eerie silence in its place.

“Oh hello there sir.  I say, it sounds like quite the storm outside doesn’t it?”

Terrified, I whipped around to face the mysterious, heavily accented voice and came face to face with an imposing dragon.  I say face to face, but actually, the dragon was about ten meters away reclining on an extremely large couch in a vertical humanoid manner, wearing a red smoking jacket, and sipping from what appeared to be a porcelain tea cup.  It was reading from a large book that was lying open in its lap.

“Oh my…I can’t…You’re…!!”
“Yes, yes, yes.  Let’s just skip the formalities shall we.  I’m the dragon that you didn’t actually believe existed.  You must be that Penfold fellow I heard about on the radio come to slay me, hmmm?  Don’t bother responding to that.  The truth is written all over your face.  And close your mouth.  That awestruck look you humans have is quite unbecoming.”
“Look Mr. Dragon…or sir…or whatever it is you wish to be called.  Please don’t kill me.   I’m rather fond of life at the moment.”
“Well now.  The way I see it, your continued existence depends entirely on you.”
“Look Penfold; you don’t mind if I call you Penfold do you?  I feel like I’ve known you for eons.  You are just the latest in a long, long…long line of humans who have come to shuffle me from this mortal coil.”
“What happened to the others?”
The dragon raised his tea cup and pointed its pinkie claw at a rather large pile of bones off in the corner of the room.
“Oh.  I see.  I take it you’re drinking their blood from that cup?”
“Good heavens no!  This is my daily cup of Earl Grey.  I always take it when I sit down to read.  But back to my point.  I’m rather tired of you adventurers.  So here is what I propose.  I’ll let you live if you go back from whence you came and tell everyone that you slew me, the dragon.”
“You’re kidding?  No one will believe me!”
“Oh yes they will.  I’ll give you one of my scales along with some of my collected artifacts as evidence.  You’ll be a hero!  And I’ll finally be left in peace.  What do you say?”
“Can I have a minute to think it over?”
“Okay then.  I’ll do it!”

Waveriders.  Allow me to introduce you to Pigeon John.  He is an utterly charming individual who will greet you like an old friend upon your first introduction.  You may not know him now, but trust me.  After you listen to some of his music he’ll become that long lost relative whom you’ll never lose track of again.  Sure, there might be times when you don’t pay close attention to his goings on, but sooner or later a voice in the back of your head will cry out, demanding to reestablish contact.  With that in mind it’s a very good thing that Pigeon John’s latest album, Dragon Slayer, has hit the market.

Quite a few years back, I was properly introduced to Pigeon John when he opened for one of my favorite hip hop groups, Blackalicious.  His performance was stupendously entertaining!  At the end of the show I approached his merch table where he was peddling his wares.  I shook his hand, exclaimed how awesome his show had been, and asked if I could buy a copy of four of the five CDs that he was selling.  Essentially, I wanted to buy everything he had ever done in one fell swoop (only lack of funds stopped me)!  The years have since come and gone waveriders, but my appreciation for PJ’s music has never wavered.

Taking that into account, it is with great remorse that I must relate I was not initially blown away by Dragon Slayer.  It had been four years since PJ’s last album, Pigeon John and the Summertime Pool Party.  During the lead up to the release of Dragon Slayer, I built up significant expectations as to what this new album would sound like.  Those expectations were shattered upon my very first listen.  PJ, like a lot of great artists, decided to take his music in an exciting new direction (much more singing, less rapping).  Unfortunately for me, it took about two weeks for my stubborn nature to accept this fact.  Once I let go of my expectations however, Dragon Slayer quickly became essential daily listening.  In fact, this may be my overall favorite PJ album ever!

So what makes this album so likable?  Dragon Slayer is a feel good, wonderful ride from beginning to end.  Unlike some other hip hop albums that come to mind, it is chock full of material perfectly relatable to the everyman.  As a matter of fact, that is a strong part of the appeal of Pigeon John’s music.  He is himself an everyman, just like you and me.  His concerns often match up very closely with our own.  A perfect example is the song “Buttersoft Seats” in which he worries about making enough money to adequately support his family.  Tell me.  Has your significant other/domestic partner ever left you a list of things to accomplish while they were away from home?  Take a listen to “To Do List” and have a laugh at PJ’s expense.

One of the other aspects I hang my hat on when recommending PJ is how soberingly honest his songs can get.  The tale spun in “Davey Rockit” of a boy stubbornly pursuing his dreams in the face of great personal adversity is beautiful, touching, and bittersweet.  “Rock Bottom Again” recounts the artist’s battle with substance abuse.  But hold on a second.  It’s not all doom and gloom here.  Dragon Slayer has plenty of happiness and cheer to spread far and wide.  The album opens with the electro-thump rave up “The Bomb”.  Later on one finds the highly energized “Hey You” (reminds me of early Arctic Monkeys musically), and the swaggerific “So Gangster”.  And the last track, “Ben Vereen”?  Ridiculous!

The bottom line is this.  Pigeon John has created an album that will appeal to anyone with open ears and a keen mind.  Get this album now.  You’ll love it!


Buy here:  Dragon Slayer
Buy here mp3: Dragon Slayer

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Chicago Blues A Living History - The (R)evolution Continues


Robert Johnson tapped out a Delta blues sound on harmonica and acoustic parlour guitar.  The sound caught on and made its way north up the Mississippi until it reached urban Chicago.  There, musicians were plugging in and turning on.  Rural electrification in the South was not yet complete but, in urban Chicago, the city was alive with light day and night.  With electricity came microphones for harmonicas and vocals and electric guitars, bass, pianos and organs. Thus, when the Delta Blues met electricity in Chicago a sub-genre of blues was created - Chicago Electric Blues.  This synergistic sound was, and is, full of power and emotion  It is the mother of all rock ‘n roll that came about thereafter.  The Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton worshipped it.  Led Zeppelin stole it.  Jimi Hendrix was inspired by it and the Grateful Dead tried to recreate it.

Back in 2009 Raisin’ Music released  a Grammy-nominated twenty-two track compendium of early Chicago Blues interpreted by Billy Boy Arnold, John Primer, Billy Branch, Lurrie Bell and Carlos Johnson. The album traced the history of the early Chicago blues.

These guys are the real thing. 

Arnold learned to play the blues harp from John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson, started making blues records in 1952, and played with a young Bo Diddley,  He was all but forgotten by the mid-1960’s although he continued to play. 

Primer learned to play slide guitar from Sammy Lawhorn, a Muddy Waters’ sideman.  He played with Willie Dixon’s Chicago Blues All-Stars and then with the Muddy Waters Band until Muddy Waters’ death. Thereafter, he joined Magic Slim and embarked on a solo career.

Branch was the blues harp player for the Chicago Blues All-Stars and played with guitarist Lurrie Bell in his band, The Sons of the Blues.  Later he formed a band with Carlos Johnson on guitar  Branch is well-known for creating the "Blues in Schools" program that has been endorsed by the Blues Foundation.

Bell is the father of blues harpist Carey Bell.  His guitar chops are direct from his time playing with legends Eddy Clearwater, Big Walter Horton and Eddie Taylor In the 1970’s he was with  Koko Taylor's Blues Machine before joining The Sons of the Blues.

Johnson is a left-handed guitarist who plays the instrument upside down..He is known for his aggressive blues sound which is probably why Billy Branch added him to The Sons of the Blues.

This 2009 Raisin’ Music release only told part of the story of the Chicago blues.  A second installment has been created,   Chicago Blues: A Living History - “The (R)evolution Continues.” The two CD set is to be released on June 7, 2011.  This one is a must have for any student of Chicago Blues roots music. The packaging is glorious.  It includes a wonderful explanatory pamphlet that contains a meticulous history of the music.  In addition, the disks are full of amazing surprise performances. 

Buddy Guy appears on “First Time I Met The Blues.”  Guy is a pioneer of the Chicago Blues sound, was named by Rolling Stone as one of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time” and is considered the bridge between the blues and rock and roll. Hendrix said that “Heaven is lying at Buddy Guy’s feet while listening to him play guitar.” Clapton said "Buddy Guy was to me what Elvis was for others."

James Cotton shows up trading blues harp riffs with Branch on “Rocket 88” a song that gave Ike Turner his start in rock ‘n roll.  Cotton was taught to play harp by “Sonny Boy” Williamson and is probably best known for his work with the James Cotton Blues Band.

Blues guitarist and vocalist Magic Slim appears on “Keep a Drivin’.” with John Primer.  This is the first time the two have played together since the demise of Slim’s band “Magic Slim and the Teardrops,” 13 years ago after winning the W.C. Handy Award as “Blues Band Of The Year.”

Hot electric blues axist Ronnie Baker Brooks, the son of Chicago blues legend Lonnie Brooks, guest on his father’s song “Don’t  Take Advantage Of Me” and plays his own tune “Make These Blues Survive.”

Powerhouse blues vocalist Zora Young, a relative of Muddy Waters knowm as “The Princess Of The Blues,” belts out Sunnyland Slim’s classic “Be Careful How You Vote.” Young was one of Sunnyland Slim’s students and she can be heard singing on numerous recordings with him, Junior Wells, Bobby Rush, Buddy Guy, Albert King, B.B. King, Willie Dixon and Hubert Sumlin.

This compilation is not just stellar performances; it is a history lesson. The tracks and the album packaging tell the story of the beginning of rock ‘n roll.  You can hear exactly what inspired, and continues to inspire, rock musicians. While you listen you can follow the Chicago Blues timeline in the cover notes.

It is fitting that the set ends with a bonus track, Muddy Waters’ “The Blues Had A Baby (and the Named It Rock and Roll).”  That seems to be the entire point of this sequel - Chicago Blues A Living History - “The (R)evolution Continues.” . 

- Old School

Monday, May 23, 2011

Neil Diamond – The Bang Years 1966-1968

Deep Purple knew.  Quentin Tarantino and Urge Overkill knew.   UB40 knew.  Even Killdozer and H.I.M. knew.  Neil Diamond was one helluva songwriter.

With Neil’s recent introduction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I’d heard lots of people talking smack about whether or not Neil deserved to be in the same class as Buddy Holly and Eddie Cochrane.  They'd rail on about Neil's schmaltzy later years and Barbara Streisand duets.  "That ain't rock!" they'd say.

Let’s set the record straight, shall we?

First, I gotta reveal my bias here.  I grew up listening to Neil Diamond.  Along with Cat Stevens, Simon and Garfunkel, Gordon Lightfoot, and the Hair Soundtrack, Neil Diamond’s Hot August Night was one of the essential albums in my parents’ record collection.  I remember night after night, television off, my parents and I sitting in the den, just spinning albums.  Losing ourselves in the music.  Probably, my happiest memories of childhood.  And it was on Hot August Night, during “Holly Holy” that I heard my mother say, amazement in her eyes, “just listen to his voice here.  Amazing.”  And it was.  At that moment, Neil reached down into the most guttural reaches of his vocal chords and pulled out notes as if his life depended on it.   That moment taught me to listen to music in an entirely new way and eventually led to the Ripple existing today.  I’ll argue with anyone, till the next rapture comes, that Hot August Night remains one of the great live albums of all time, capturing an artist at the peak of his powers.

Sure, I haven’t listened to anything he’s done since the late 70’s, but none of that should diminish the value of his early work.  And for anybody who wants to discover it, this compilation of the Bang Years is the place to start. 

Starting off as a young and starving songwriter, Neil Diamond parlayed a string of gut-wrenching failures into a contract with Bang Records where he proceeded to release one classic song after another.  And not just pop songs, but rockabilly rockers with enough adrenaline to make even the most diehard rock fan proud.   It’s easy to talk about the hits.  “Kentucky Woman,” rocks with a leisurely swagger, Neil’s acoustic setting the pace.  It’s easy to see what Deep Purple found here.  The verses are perfect, the inherent riff was just begging to be made thicker and harder.  “I’m a Believer” remains one of the catchiest pop songs of the sixties, whether it’s Neil’s version or The Monkees.  Both have their strengths, with Neil’s being so pure swingin’ sixties lounge it’s simply classic.  With it’s big organ sond, Neil’s version definitely set the template for the Smashmouth remake, but I’ll take Neil’s anyday.

“Solitary Man,” may be a bit unknown to those who aren’t Diamond fans, but it’s always been one of my favorites of his.  His first hit, Neil explores roads of melancholy amongst his strumming guitar.  Horn blasts hide in the chorus without ever becoming obtrusive or taking away the pain in Neil’s words.  “Cherry, Cherry” is a rocking, hand-clapping, knee-slapping classic that Rolling Stone has hailed as one of the “greatest 3-chord songs of all time.”  I ain’t gonna argue it.  With its “She got the way to move me” backing vocals, unrelenting guitar beat, and Neil’s fine vocals it perfectly encapsulates the swingin’ sixties.  “Girl, You’ll be a Woman Soon,” is infinitely better here than the Pulp Fiction version, with it’s flamenco styled guitar and impassioned plea for love.

There’s other hits here you know, like “Red Red Wine” (which actually doesn’t hold up that well for me) but the biggest revelation are the Diamond rockers I hadn’t heard before.  Best of these is “Thank the Lord for the Night Time.”  Anybody who thinks Neil didn’t know how to rock needs to hear this rockabilly pulsating classic.  Big guitar twang, Neil’s strumming fiercely, pulsing bass, and a faint gospel feeling to partying like hell at night.  Put this up there with Eddie Cochrane.  It fits.

“You Got Me,” rides a simply wailing harmonica, massively bottom-ended piano sound, and unrelenting beat to pop/gospel/rockabilly heaven.  I dare you to listen to this baby and not snap your fingers in time.

At 23 songs, the collection is a bit dense, but it’s certainly complete.  As expected, some songs don’t work as well as you’d like.  Neil’s version of “La Bamba” probably shouldn't have been recorded.  Just didn’t need a Jewish kid from Brooklyn singing a Spanish rocker.  Not a big fan of his cover of Paul Simon’s “Red Rubber Ball” either.  But other covers like “Monday Monday” work beautifully and anybody who thinks that Neil doesn’t have any soul really needs to hear his tear-the-roof-off-the-sucka version of “New Orleans.”

And then it’s fitting that this collection ends with “Shilo” a song that may not be familiar to anyone but Diamond fans.  Somewhere lost in that incredible melody and Neil’s best vocal performance are the words about a young child lost in the loneliness of a painful childhood, (“dreaming each dream on your own)” seeking solace from the pain with his imaginary friend.  It’s a song of remarkable emptiness and desolation.  A song that spoke volumes to me, lost in my room, alone, hiding from the demons outside.  I’d play “Shilo” over and over from the Hot August Night album, wishing that I had an imaginary friend like Shilo who could understand me and what I was going through.   I can’t explain how much that song spoke to that frightened, lonely little boy.

And it still does.


Buy here mp3: The Bang Years

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Fantastic Fen Inteview from This is Rock Magazine

Hi Doug, this is Francisco from This Is Rock Magazine Spain. First of all, I must congratulate you for Trails Out Of Gloom. Given that the album was released some months ago, do you already have a perspective of what has it meant to your career?

Thanks, Francisco. Trails Out Of Gloom is Fen's fourth album, but it's our first to get much critical attention. For many listeners it's the first they've heard of us, and they think we must be a new band, when actually we've been around for well over a decade. In that way, Trails Out Of Gloom is a new beginning for us. The album title could be significant in the sense that we have spent many years milling about in dark obscurity, and now we have finally come into the light of the media's narrow gaze. Ah, the wonder of marketing!

- Given that this is your first interview to our magazine, it would be great if you could tell us about Fen's origins. How did you and Sam Levin meet, and what did you want to achieve?

Sam and I met back in 1998, in a little pot-smoking mountain town called Nelson. We were teenagers at the time, and we started Fen after a single jam, where we droned a riff in 5/4 for about 45 minutes. We both played guitar, we both worshiped Tool and GnR, and we were driven to create our own dark and complex sound. The union came without hesitation.

- How would you describe Fen's sound?

The current sound is plaintive and brooding. Heavy and light. Subject to change.

- 'Trails Out Of Gloom'... the thing is that, although definitively dark sounding, the new album has many acoustic passages that, somehow, enlightens the compositions, taking them out of the gloom that surrounds your previous works... Has this acoustic side of the album been in the composition from the beginning of the writing sessions?

Most of the songs on Trails Out Of Gloom began on classical guitar, and the original plan was to make an acoustic album. During moments of weakness though, I strayed from that initial plan and experimented with bits of distortion here and there, and once I'd heard those distorted layers, I couldn't do without them. My roots are in heavy music, and that primal pull was too strong to resist. The final recording ended up being an amalgamation of the two textures, heavy and light. I always loved those classical-sounding Metallica intro's, but I wanted them to carry on for longer, and I wanted them to develop more slowly, rather than cutting straight to the thrashing. In a way, Trails Out Of Gloom helps bridge that transition for me.
- Fen's lineup has gone through several changes throughout these years, though yourself and Sam have always been the band's core...Do you think that these changes brought new elements into the band's sound?

Everyone we've played with have been exceptional musicians who can't help but bring something new to the sound. At the same time, our approach to songwriting has changed with each recording. This combination of variables has resulted in a big gap between the chaos of our first album, Surgical Transfusion of Molting Sensory Reflections, and the measured progressions of Trails.

- Given the band's sound evolution... Have you got an idea of how will Fen sound in a couple of albums time?

We've been working on new material, and from a guitar perspective, it's heavier and proggier than Trails. Sam's been writing high energy rock/metal-type riffage. Also, for the first time since our 2003 album, Heron Leg, we're bringing bass and drums into the writing process much earlier. For anyone who's only heard Trails, the next album may be a shock.

- 'Trails Out Of Gloom' is an album that requires several listenings to be fully appreciated, and is a perfect example of what a "grower" is.  Does the good music always need an extra effort in order to get into it?

It's a fine balance in songwriting, offering enough yum-yums in the first few listens to keep people coming back, but reserving the more exquisite treats for subsequent listens. I can't say that I know how it's done. The music for Trails took a long time to write - about three years. Perhaps that slow evolution into being can account for its "grower" status.

- For 'Trails Out Of Gloom' you have signed with Ripple Music. How was this contract forged? Do you plan to re-release your former albums with Ripple, so they could reach a wider audience?

I had contacted The Ripple Effect Blog a couple years ago, asking them to review our latest album at the time, Congenital Fixation. They came back with a killer review, then they requested an interview, and eventually they told us they were starting a label and wanted us to sign on. Their hard work and enthusiasm has helped us reach a lot of new listeners. And yes, we'll be re-releasing Congenital Fixation under the Ripple flag later this year.

- Remembering the fast and energetic entrance of 'Cockroach Eyelids' from the previous 'Congenital Fixation', I can do nothing else but wonder how you have taken that energy and embellished it with layers of emotional playing. Even the guitar parts seems to be more melodic. Is 'Trails Out Of Gloom' Fen's more intimate work?

With Congenital Fixation, Sam wrote the guitar parts and I wrote the vocals and the songs came together collaboratively. But with Trails, Sam was occupied with school and health issues, so I took up the guitar end as well. There's no doubt that he's a superior  player, and I did everything I could to keep the standard high with my more limited skills, which included layering and different textures and a lot of attention to arrangement. As you've mentioned, the result was pretty different. I guess the intimacy of Trails can be attributed in part to the acoustic root of the songs, but also to the fact that I was working on it alone.

- Your voice has been truly improved all along these years, and it feels like you feel much more confident with your singing style... Do you agree with that?

Thanks for your kind words, Francisco. I'm always trying to improve my skills as a vocalist. That's what keeps me going - the thought that the best is yet to come. But as much as my skills might have improved, I think it might be that I've come closer to finding a musical landscape that allows my voice to explore its full range. If I was suddenly thrown into any number of bands that go strictly with power chords and driving beats, half my lines would disappear. I'd be a vocal cripple.

- It has been recorded a video for 'Miracle'... Why did you choose that song? What can you tell us about this video?

The guys at our label thought 'Miracle' was the strongest tune on the album, and when making a video on a tight budget, shorter is better, so it was an easy choice. The video features two marionettes in a miniature landscape constructed of rocks and sticks and brambles and whatever else we could grab from nearby parks and beaches. In this set, arranged on a 4ft by 6ft plywood board, the two puppets play out a story of decayed love. We made the video with the help of Mind of a Snail Puppet Co and a handful of friends. You can watch it on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YP4zO07MF3I

- Given the fact that 'Trails Out Of Gloom' was published more than half a year ago... Do you think that this is time to think about Fen's future plans?

Our biggest goal right now is getting our live sound up to snuff. To do that, we plan on making some short tours through western Canada over the next year, and expanding the periphery of our local shows. That, plus writing and recording a new album should keep us busy.

- Can you tell us something about the gigs that you played for 'Trails Out Of Gloom'? How would you describe a Fen gig?

We're still getting comfortable in the live setting. I don't think we've found what we are yet, live. Right now we're slowly adding new elements to the show to see how we can create a more Fen environment while we're up there. We've got a show tonight and we're going to try out some sound effects between songs. We've been wanting to incorporate some kind of visuals as well, but haven't found a way to begin yet. For us, the music comes first, and the entertainment aspect is a faraway second, so it will develop more slowly.

- Well, I Think it's all by now, Doug. Thanks a lot for your time, and wish you all the best. Have you got anything to say to your Spanish fans?

Gracias! We're honoured to have you as listeners. To stay in touch with Fen, join our email list at www.fenmusic.ca or "like" us at www.facebook.com/fenmusic. We have many more albums ahead of us.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Matt Lowell- Swan Lake EP

In music, there are the good artists who are creative and make great music that people can really enjoy.

Then there are the brilliant artists who are amazing, talented and people fall in love with. Matt Lowell is brilliant. (Apologies for the propaganda I am about to spew at you)

Swan Lake is a well formed EP by Matt Lowell a New York based artist and he is apparently quite well known. Graduating from Berklee College of Music, releasing other EP's, touring, performing- he has really gotten around.

“Swan Lake” opens this brilliant EP with beautiful vocals and guitar. His voice is smooth and perfectly in tune and just really really good to listen to not to mention how sensational he is on guitar.
“Will you go now?
Will you hunt me down?”

 “Turret and Castanets” is faster paced and more rock than the opening song. It starts with electric guitar and drums but has a string accompaniment further into the song that is clever and accentuates  and compliments what he is already doing.

“South Bend” goes back to the acoustic sounds to flatter the sad lyrics of this song-
“You know you will stay here till the end
See me off, see me off past the south bend”

The pace picks up again with “S.O.S Angeles” with great catchy lyrics and the high standard of music Matt Lowell just seems to pump out...
“I'm doomed if I do,
Damned if I don't”

“Sage and Manzanita” is slower in pace and has delightful and clean music which accompanies the sad, slow lyrics-
“This may be too tough to handle
This may be too tough to take
This may be my own hearts mistake
But I am bound to break”

“Youth and Innocence” has more raw acoustic guitar and ties off Swan Lake beautifully.

I really think this is an awesome, awesome EP. Smooth, uplifting, calming (Takes on from stabbing a page out of sheer frustration to nailing the drawing, all in 22 minutes) all over amazing.

- Koala

Buy here: Swan Lake

Friday, May 20, 2011

Winter - Into Darkness


WINTER: long-lost B-sides of Hellhammer doing technically-inept Cream covers in half time, "Spoonful," or "Blue Condition," maybe--

Gather 'round cenobites, my hierophants, my lovers of the living rumbling sonicity, seekers of the divine resonance, spelunkers of the lower frequencies...

I have songs to be heard as ley lines, as tea leaves-- these words the hand that scatters them in your cup--

Here begins your travelogue, with I, your guide, your seer, Beatrice H. Virgil-- lovely to meet you.

So begins the listening, stylus digs in vinyl, forehead on the floor, by the woofer, ears to the ground-- facedown, gazing into vibration:

Aaaaand... dissonant monody! Into Darkness is a very dense sound--bass and guitar and frequent tom use (nearly as much as the snare-- really think about that) give the whole album a homogeneous, "single" sound, like Sunn O))) or Earth, but somehow with more instruments seemingly involved-- this weakening of shape, a mass of low frequencies and infrasounding....

First track, "Oppression Freedom/ Oppression," a six-minute instrumental, at 3:15 starts the first of many bent simple power chords-- layered into, clutched at, beseeching --like a moan, or a bleat-- there's howling overdubbed leads in the background--

"Servants of the Warsmen" and the album's first syllable of "RISE" announces the departure of the instrumental before it-- at 2:02 starts a solo like nails on a chalkboard, and at 2:15 we get the "Ooooh!" that could not be more like Tom G. Warrior--

One highlight, "Goden," is mostly a phased/ flanged minor riff, a snare that hits between tom-rolling tribalisms, punctuates the undulating sonic weight... at 4:00 that upbent note with static keyboards, the single tom drum pounds-- could this really be more simple?

"Power and Might" begins as they do, so slow it's nearly backwards, but then D-beats off (hee) into the distance; Celtic Frosty, showing Winter's punk roots; this instrumental segues into the Motorhead-ish...

..."Destiny," track 5, which at 7:25 crashes into D beats again, with solo crashing toms: the emperor with burgeoning visions of His Return (from Elba...?); track 6, "Eternal Frost," with his hand-of-doomy main riff....

The vocals are clear and high in the mix-- they might be mono/bi-syllabic grunt collections, but you can understand them fine... their tone and most lyrical content like some ousted savage powerful ruler, Genghis Khan or Sauron, bitterly chewing words of his brooding reminiscences-- a dethroned emperor? Ha.

haarp plays numbers like this-- riffs with no tonal center: they wander and revolve in their eccentric orbits: I dare you to hum the home key of these....

Final track "Into Darkness," a slow lurching patient rhythm, like a death metal breakdown section though even slower, at 3:50 finds the bass becoming very slightly dissonant, like he's moving one finger slightly too far up or down, one way or the other-- and this making an impressively heavy effect, like the song is gaining so much mass it's too dense to move and is coming doooooown, falling into its own orbit --it happens again at 5:50-- and at 6:30 a sudden "raked violin" sound scared yours truly shitless....

Winter's tunes are not "low energy," but "no energy"; live, they look like they're delivering a speech about tax expenditures during the previous fiscal year-- not to say, oddly, that they look bored: they don't.

Aaaaaand: just like Hank Mobley wrote most of his best licks in queer/strange-ass distant keys like F# or Dd, just like Hank Mobley played swirling licks on the tenor that sounded easy but were finger-manglers when you yourself picked up the horn, just like Hank Mobley, when living, was famous only among the fellow musicians who knew his subtle secret, his quiet rebelling genius--

--Winter were (in this, an oldy reissue from the ancient 90s) doing some still-subtle stuff with those guitars:


The six strings are waaaaaaay down in the mix: strangely they're least obvious, but still PRESENT as fuck, with a rare use of some stompbox phaser/ flanger,  lending the sound cool dissonant instability-- like it could shake apart at any time....

Tuned all the way down to A (eventual home of Yob and Salome): rarely pedal-toning the open chord (like the main riff in "Am I Evil?" or Anthrax' "One World"); their "Goden" doesn't do it at all until over five minutes in....

This might be serialism metal-- no real riffs in the classic sense of an ostinado, no real key centers, like they're loathe to hit the same power chord twice... difficult to even find the tuning they're using, because they so rarely use the open chord -- you know this is SUPER rare in metal, especially doom-- we live to hit the "BONG" chord, to fire up that open C# or B or A or Ab, to just let it sing, to let it hang out...

There's a lot of patience in these riffs, even more than their tempi might suggest-- the know they've got that open A to "BONG" and they're stingy with its sheer power... but we love it when it shows up, don't we, bitches?

The riffs are nearly all chromatic-- inching by inch, stepping by step-- so there's more room to move, more freedom of expression (very punk, p'raps) in that many more notes "fit" the song than with minor and major riffs--Mr. minor mode is more ambiguous, since with more tones, more sounds available, they're more potentially off-putting-- your ears are all "Me no know where we're going and me scared!"

Winter rarely speed, but musically speaking, they establish early on that Into Darkness can go literally anywhere at anytime-- like how a horror movie's different from any other kind, e.g., Director David Fincher's saying Se7en, with the finding of the Goopster's head, let you know this was not a crime movie, not a mystery, but a HORROR movie--

And had been the whole time.

All the members of Winter have punk backgrounds, but this isn't punk doom-- it's doom in the most basic sense, with a minimalist, fuck-it, do-we-have-to-know-how-to-really-play-our-instruments punk ethic.

Vincenzo Galilei, Galileo's dad, said:
"...in setting to music a sonnet... or other poem in which occurs a line saying, for example: 'Bitter heart and savage, and cruel will,' ...many sevenths, fourths, seconds and major sixths [were] sung between the parts and by means of these, have made a rough, harsh, and unpleasant sound in the ears of the listeners."
"Goden"'s main riff is a grind between two chords right next to each other (a second). One of "Goden"'s lyrics is this:

Hear the piercing cries, of the fourth horsemen in the wind.
Galileo's pop Vinni was right. And this about 400 years ago. He saw Winter coming, baby. He laid out there, Nostradamus-style, the rules of earth shaking tunage.

He knew music. He knew music was/is animal bones splayed suggestively, letting you know what's what and what what will be... like birds on wires as notes on staves.

Words about music like Into Darkness are not criticism, not commentary: they're translation! Interpretation!

Is that unnecessary? You bet 'tis, clyde. You with the ears should just listen, but there are words --like these-- to get  you to listen... like Zen training, like Shikan-taza... words to remove sickness caused by words
Music students train to portray and project the "color" of a melody's phrasing, how to change it, de-saturate it, warm it up-- what is Winter's color?

"In [Asian] music, for instance, a particular mode or even a particular pitch may become associated with a specific sentiment or humour as well as with connotative concepts such as winter, night, and blackness."*
Winter are two fifth chords grinding beside to each other, moving back and forth. Sonic tectonics: Pangaea-cum-Gondwanaland and Laurasia via the first and second frets.
Boring? Yes-- potentially very.

But we don't listen to doom for change, we listen for its very lack of it: heaviness, mass, sheer density from inviolable, inevitable, and immovable objects... making sound.

Like approaching Winter.


Buy here: Into Darkness / Eternal Frost

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Live Ones - Yer Quite Welcome

I unearthed my battered copy of Tapping The Source by the Lazy Cowgirls recently and then the very next day this new LP by Brooklyn’s Live Ones shows up. Before even hearing a note of the Live Ones, I knew the similarities were pretty obvious. Both albums have black and white no frills covers and contain high energy punk influenced rock & roll. Yer Quite Welcome’s album cover is an action shot of the band playing at NYC’s notorious dirtbag rock bar the Ding Dong Lounge. I can tell because the Ding Dong has an awesome Motorhead poster for a show they played at the Calderone Theater on Long Island in 1983. The Rods and Virgin Steele opened (legend has it V.Steele got booed off the stage). The poster’s covered up by their logo but is there for you to drool over on the back cover.

Yer Quite Welcome really reminds me of my old favorite Cowgirls album but also of Australian maniacs like Cosmic Psychos or even the Hard-Ons. Album opener “Disowned” gives you everything you need to know about this band - fast, pissed off punk (but not hardcore) played by 3 gruel dudes old enough to know better but too tired to care. Other side one highlights includes “Lifeline,” which starts off with an almost Blackfoot feel before veering into Rolling Stones territory and the Johnny Thunders “So Alone” influenced song “Haunted.” They even have a song called “We’ll Take You Higher” that sounds like something the Brought Low would write but, unfortunately, there’s no mention of weeed in the lyrics.

Side 2 has a great song called “Writing’s On The Wall” that is vintage 1974 Kiss. “We’re The Ones” jumps ahead a few years to 1977 and brings to mind the Dead Boys classic “Caught With The Meat In Your Mouth.” “Get Up & Move” is a nice autobiographical number that mentions that they got their start at the Charleston, one of Brooklyn’s dumpiest bars to play in, as well as getting shut down by the cops in Greenpoint. These are all topics near and dear to my heart.

You can’t go wrong with this one. It’s brought to you by Drug Front Records, a new label run New York’s #1 Joe Lynn Turner fan Dean Rispler. But don’t hold that against him. Dean’s worked with some fine bands like the Candy Snatchers and Bad Wizard and is foolish enough with his money to release this on LP and CD. If you like it raw, loud and snotty check out the Live Ones.


Listen and Buy here: The Live Ones

Drug Front Records

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Fen to Open for Steven Wilson and Blackfield as They Launch Their North American Tour

 Blackfield are starting their North American tour today in support of their new album, Welcome To My DNA and the Ripple will be there.  Ripple artist, Fen, has been chosen to open for Blackfield for their Vancouver date.  Come to the show and look up Pope and Racer and have some Ripple fun.

  Blackfield logo
North American Tour Starts Today
Get Free Music Plus A Special Foursquare Deal On The New Album  

Blackfield Photo

Blackfield, the acclaimed collaboration between Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree) and Israeli artist Aviv Geffen, launch their North American tour today in Washington, DC.  The three week trek sees the band hit the US, Canada and Mexico with special guests Anathema on the first nine dates.

Their 3rd studio album, Welcome To My DNA, was released in April on Kscope and has garnered amazing accolades around the world where magazines such as Rocksound called it "Blackfield's finest hour" and Dave DiMartino at Yahoo Music says "Arty, melodic, adventurous, and significantly catchy throughout, Welcome To My DNA is a nifty and sophisticated rock album"

To celebrate the start of the tour, the music television network Fuse.tv is giving away a free download of "Glass House" at http://fuse.tv/music/free-music.html?artist_id=532

Another special promotion starting today is via Foursquare.  When fans arrive at each date of the tour and check in on Foursquare, they'll get a discount code for the album from The Omega Order. Fans can find the code redemption instructions under the "tips" section of the venue called "Blackfield with special guests Anathema".

"Welcome To My DNA"
Blackfield Cover

18th Washington, DC  
19th Philadelphia, PA, Theater of the Living Arts  
20th New York, NY, Irving Plaza  
21st Boston, MA, Royale Boston  
23rd Montreal, QC, Le National  
24th The Opera House Toronto 
25th Cleveland, OH, House of Blues  
26th Detroit, MA, St Andrew's Hall  
27th Chicago, IL, Park West  
30th Vancouver, BC, Rickshaw Theatre   
31st Seattle, WA, Studio Seven  

1st Portland, OR, Aladdin Theater  
3rd San Francisco, CA, Slim's  
4th Los Angeles, CA, El Rey Theatre  
6th Mexico City, MEX, Metropolitan Theater  
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