Monday, April 30, 2012

Moonspell - Alpha Noir

I’m really surprised more people aren’t talking about this album. I don’t meaning raving and claiming it to be the second coming of Master of Puppets or whatever . . . just surprised that I’m not hearing Moonspell pop up in musical conversations more often. Okay then, allow me to turn the topic over to these doom-y, gloom-y, goth-y, super heavy (heavy with a cape) Portuguese rockers.

I have a couple of Moonspell records in my ever morphing collection of music, and though I like the bands past records, they never jump out as the albums that I feel compelled to propel me through the doldrums of every day. They’re good, they have their moments, they just don’t live up to what I guess I want them to be. That’s completely on me. I’m good with that. Those albums aren’t going anywhere, so in time, I may find the hidden brilliance in them as well. As I said, I like them, I just don’t currently love them.

Now, Alpha Noir finally hits every mark for what I ever perceived of this band (which means that the old school Moonspell-heads probably think it sucks . . . but they’re wrong). This album, released through Napalm Records, is all things heavy, and intricate, and nihilistic, and oppressive, and moody, and all the dark things that make me think that Moonspell is all about. Alpha Noir is a demonic groover that emits the faintest odor of brimstone as it spins on the player. A positively dark record that has me banging my head at my desk, behind the wheel, or pushing a shopping cart through the grocery store. Simply beastly.

Take your pick of songs . . . the lead track, “Axis Mundi”, for instance . . . it has a great and intense building intro that is a true harbinger of devastation to come. Huge tribal rhythms amidst a wash of feedback and thundering sound effects, and then a laser-like guitar riff that cuts through ¼ inch sheet metal like it was a sheet of velum. That’s the kind of stuff the fires me up! Follow this up a few seconds later with a one of the more powerful riffs on the album, all accompanied by a drummer who more than knows his way around a kit, and I’m in pure heaven. The tightness of that riff and the steadfast and straight forward drumming make the opening couple minutes of this song an exercise in power. Moonspell do a great job of mixing in a little ambient texture in the song, as well, by dropping in some subtle keyboard flourishes . . . and then there’s the middle/end break where the band completely drops out and we’re left listening to the creepy crooning voice of frontman and band mainstay, Fernando Ribeiro sing over a plaintively plinking piano passage. Fucking epic song that never gets old!

Check out the title track and its opening salvo of galloping guitar riffs, and then feel how you’re blown back a step or two when the band kicks in. What a wonderful treatment of mid tempo, palm muted riffing! Feel the song kick into overdrive as the double bass drums suddenly thunder their way onto the scene. And the textural washes of the keyboards and contrasting melodic guitar lines that weave throughout the chaotic flurries of sound. Just a well composed track that has enough changes and shifts to keep things constantly interesting and compelling. Searing guitar leads and Ribeiro’s trademark gothic croon sprinkle the last bits of seasoning that this song needs to make it a must listen!

“Opera Carne” is a blistering tune that features one of those melodic choruses that’s accompanied me in my early waking moments for the past week. It’s not one of those over the top melodies with a huge operatic choir or a big sing-along moment, but there’s something about the way Ribeiro growls the words “How our flesh burns . . . in mysterious ways” that it sticks in my head and I easily hum this ghastly tune. Musically speaking though, this one is brutally heavy! Great effects on the guitars opening the track and the production on the drums it superb . . . the drums sound like they’re set up in my office right next to me. Sharp, crisp, powerful!

Then onto my personal favorite on the album, “Love Is Blasphemy”. I can’t play this monster loud enough! It’s almost ridiculous how killer this song is . . . the opening musical intro with its rhythmic tom work and melodic guitar lines, creating a few moments of dark tension. Then Moonspell drop the fucking hammer. A guitar riff crafted by the hands of goblins in the darkest reaches of Mordor, cymbal crashes that invoke memories of Metallica at the moment when they were poised to rule the world, a guttural vocal utterance that spits venom in the faces of church leaders world-wide, and one of the most tastefully aggressive heavy metal songs one will hear for the rest of the year. Beautifully crafted, not up its own ass with too much progression, not too stripped down to be redundant . . . Moonspell get to the meat of the matter right off the bat and beat the listener senseless for just over four and half minutes.

The musicianship throughout Alpha Noir is top notch, but it’s not too show-y. Moonspell have chops, but thankfully, they don’t see the need to pummel us with technical glitz and just keep the music simple. This is, by far, the heaviest record I’ve heard all year and also the biggest surprise I’ve experienced. As I mentioned, I know some stuff about Moonspell, and I’ve just never been a monstrous fan. One of my first experiences with them was when I caught them live opening for Opeth a few years back, and they blew me away! The showmanship, the stage presence, the seemingly 7’ tall Fernando Ribeiro extending his arms and looking like some nightmarish vulture . . . it was enough to sear an impression in my mind’s eye for a lifetime and with Alpha Noir, the sound I always associated this live imagery with has been captured. Massively heavy music propelled by monstrous grooves full of heavily distorted guitars and insane drumming. Great record that I simply can’t listen to enough!


Sunday, April 29, 2012

Alestorm - Back Through Time

Alestorm's genre was listed as Scottish Pirate Metal. I am not kidding you. This is possibly the coolest, weirdest thing I have ever had the fortune to stumble upon. And the album cover of Back Through Time fits perfectly within the genre description. A bloodied skeleton warrior wielding a sword that's impaling a severed head, you really cannot get any cooler than that. Well, maybe add a bit more corpes and spookiness, but you get the idea.

Back Through Time starts with the sound of wind whistling through sails while gutteral voices shout admidst cannon sounds. No, I'm not joking, they really went that extra mile. The lyrical content continues the pirate theme, talking of traveling through time to fight vikings, causing shipwrecks, while taking heads and.....treasure, of course. Really? Is this a novelty act, or are these guys actually this seriously obsessed with pirates? Racer, are you trying to make me lighten up a bit by sending me this album? Yes, it's very funny that a band is literally parading around as modern day pirates, but it's not quite as funny when you realize that the entire....album...talks.....of...nothing....but...pirates. The joke wears thin by the middle of the album.

If you forget the slight immaturity for a minute, these lads are actually talented. I really liked the doubling done by the keyboards and the guitars. The drumming chugs along like a runaway train, or ship, I guess *rolls eyes*. There were also orchestral acompanyments, including trumpets, many other horns, flutes, and what sounded like bagpipes at one point. Well, they are Scottish, so, there you go. I liked it, it added a nice cultural point, you can tell the lads are proud of their background. Alestorm's sound combines the chugga-chugga of death metal, guitars pushing the limit of speeds with the flighty meideval sound of pagan metal. Lots of old fashioned Scottish folk music mixed in with the heavy metal and of course the yells of "YAAHH, TREASURE LADDIES!" Sad part is, I'm not joking, that's almost a direct lyric right there.

I eventually stopped listening to the lyrics because they were just getting silly after a while. Getting past the whole silliness, Alestorm is really a pioneer in their sound. Flawlessly combining speed metal with pagan metal while piling on shouted lyrics, it's different, a good different. Pirate-ness aside, I would listen to this band again, possibly while on a road trip so I can pretend I'm a pirate too. Why not? Goths and pirates could go together quite nicely I think.

 I walk around town looking like a teenage Adora BatBrat (just kidding, I wish I looked like her!) so I can't really be casting about judgement on looking weird, now can I? If Alestorm really follow through with this pirates thing and walk about in pantaloons and 1600 styled jackets, more power to them. Eh, cheers mates, may we all be freaky together!

--Gorgeous Nightmare

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Ojos De Brujo - Techarí

There I was - an American in Barcelona in the late 1970’s.  I paid for a small habitación off Las Ramblas.  The city was, and is, a dizzyingly strange merger of cultures.  The Romans conquered it and it is said to have been settled by the crew of one of the nine ships of Hercules and Jason and the Argonauts when they shipwrecked in search of the Golden Fleece.   The City has been run by the Christians, overrun by the Visigoths, conquered by the Muslim Moors, and tended by the French.  All that cultural clash has led to an interesting eclecticism in the architecture (just look at the Gaudi Cathedral) and in the City’s population.  Modern influences, Western European and American influences, mix with the old. 

As I walked up Las Ramblas  I was surrounded by birds in bird cages, vendors, artists, musicians, singers, acrobats and dancers, all performing simultaneously, The influences changed as I walked.  It was like the Doppler Effect of ambient sound - changing volume, timbre, tempo, style and pattern every few steps with a merger of two in the space between.  I wondered whether these amazing and seemingly disparate influences I heard - flamenco, pop, jazz, rock, gypsy, middle eastern and classical - could ever be melded together by a band of musicians to capture the feel of a modern Barcelona.

I finally found that band in Ojos De Brujo, which in English means “Eyes Of The Sorcerer.”  The band now has several albums under its belt and is marketed in North America by Six Degree Records located in San Francisco, CA.  My first experience with Ojos De Brujo was their 2006 release entitled Techarí.  It consists of a CD with fourteen tracks (all en español) and a CD-ROM of four videos, photos of the making of the album, lyric translations in 15 languages and a booklet pdf of album illustrations.

Band vocalist Marina “la Canillas” Abad has a fascinating voice that ably handles an incredible variety of musical styles - sometimes within the same song.  Maxwell Wright handles male vocal duties and plays some percussion. Panko (yes, that is his full name) plays keyboards but also scratches like a NYC Club DJ at 1a.m. on a Saturday morning.  Ramon Gimenez and Paco Lomena are flamenco guitar masters.  Javi Martin plays bass.  Xavi Turull pounds on the cajón, tabla, congas and percussion. and Sergio Ramos assists on the cajón and plays drums.

It is incredibly difficult to characterize the sound of Ojos De Brujo.  It is crisp, clean, clear - an amalgam of influences and flamenco-tinged.  It all comes together to form a fascinating and entirely enjoyable aural experience. - much like the band’s hometown of Barcelona.  There are pop, jazz, rock, hip-hop, gypsy, middle eastern and classical influences, yet the music is thoroughly modern. 

Really, though, back in 1978 I did wonder whether such a mixture of cultural musical aesthetics could ever amalgamate and synthesize.  I realized that someday they would when I walked in and sat down at a table in a small steak restaurant/bar near the Barcelona bullring.  Along with the torero clothing, bull horns, capes, hats, swords, picas and other bullfighting memorabilia that covered the walls, was a small television.  The bar patrons’ eyes were transfixed on the TV.  As I looked up I heard, “Mamacita!, Mamacita!” and saw on the screen a small girl running across a field to Melissa Gilbert and Michael Landon.   A man’s voice melodically intoned over the scene.  “La casa de la pradera” - Little House On The Prairie.  Fusion had already started.

- Old School


Friday, April 27, 2012

Acephalix - Deathless Master

Acephalix' last full-length, Interminable Night, was my no. 7 album of last year, so I was excited to hear this one.

It's very similar to Black Breath's newest, in that there's a marriage of Entombed to New York City Hardcore-- the difference here is that Acephalix are much closer to Entombed than the NYHC-- they're boldly detuned, and overall slower than BB.

"Tomb of Our Fathers" is the first standout, with its groovy, Asphyx-like riffing and completely unintelligible lyrics... "Raw Life" is a lurching, undead-Golem of a riff/song, and highlights one of the qualities of this record-- it's just as rawly-produced as its predecessor-- you can hear absolutely every ambient sound during the recording, and (during the silences at least), it's pretty fucking cool; it underscores the heavier riffs once they start back up, and "Raw Life" clearly shows this effect.

"Blood of Desire" roars out of the gate, blastbeats at first then D-beats, then, with a Zeus/ Odin-like bellow, hits what is arguably the most "memorable" of the tunes here....

Short version: they're Entombed, got very fat and very pissed off-- can't move quickly at all, weighs 300 pounds (136 kilograms to my European brothers and sisters, 21 1/2 stone to my Irish homies) and would squash you without even thinking twice about it, though probably wheezing through the whole endeavor.

"In Arms of Nothing" intros with the same badass bass than Interminable Night started with....

Overall, there's a very slight change (I hesitate to say "evolution") from their previous record, and this consists in inching further down the death metal spectrum, ever-so-slightly away from the D-beat that characterized their previous record, Interminable Night. I can't say it's better or worse; just very slightly different.

To reuse a metaphor, it's death metal Coca-Cola. It's not new Coke, it's not diet Coke, and it's definitely not Cherry or Vanilla coke, what with their increased sweetness....

But how many Cokes have you drunk in your life so far? Hundreds to thousands, right? And they were all pretty good, yeah?

Deathless Master is your latest two-liter of D-beat-ish Death Metal.

If you love this very particular beverage, this is for you.



Acephalix myspace:

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Pussy - Invasion

Only a real friend will send you Pussy in the mail. Thankfully I have such a friend in Racer. He could have been greedy and kept the Pussy all for himself, but no, he let me have it. A month or so ago, Racer said he was going to concentrate his Ripple ramblings on his beloved but neglected Proto-Metal report. His reviews of bands like Toad, Jerusalem, Iron Claw, etc was a big factor for me getting involved with these clowns a few years ago. Jerusalem's album is a real favorite of mine and I was thrilled to find out that they gave birth to Pussy.

Jerusalem's self titled album was released in 1972 and produced by Ian Gillan. That's all it took for me to pick up a copy of Rockadrome's reissue of it. Thankfully the music was just as primitively heavy as I had hoped but I must have forgotten that the band later morphed into Pussy. So when this showed up I rushed straight to the stereo to get a taste of this Pussy. It did not disappoint. This is some fine, fine Pussy indeed! While not as heavy, Pussy's Invasion is a definite growth from Jerusalem and reminds me a lot of the band Hard Stuff, another band associated with Deep Purple. Bassist/vocalist Paul Dean was the main songwriter for both bands and there's a definite refinement in the material and the playing. He's joined by Jerusalem drummer Ray Sparrow. Guitar duties were originally handled by Bob Cooke who was later replaced by Brian Goff. Tracks 1- 10 were recorded for an album that was never released with Brian and the bonus tracks from their original single and outtakes are played by Bob. Both guitarists are nothing fancy, but solid British blues-rock players. Everything was produced by Ian Gillan, who also throws in some backing vocals and percussion.

70's rock freaks will definitely want to get ahold of this. There's tons of flange on all the instruments, bluesy guitar solos and plenty of mid-tempo heavy rocking beats. Plus, you gotta love a band called Pussy that wrote a risqué song like "Feline Woman." As George Clinton once said, "more power to the Pussy!"


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Freak Kitchen - Land of Freaks: new reissue

 Great news waveriders.  This amazing album, and the entire Freak Kitchen catalog, is being reissued by Lasers Edge.  Land of Freaks is released 5/22.  Dig it and this classic Penfold review.

“Hello everyone.  My name is Chef Penfold.  Welcome once again to ‘Cooking With Penfold’.  I’m very happy you could join me today.  Folks…wow, do we have a great show for you!  If this is the first time you’ve tuned in to the broadcast, allow me to fill you in on what you’ve missed.  At the beginning of last month, we here at ‘Cooking With Penfold’ decided to take a culinary trip around the world, bringing you my favorite recipes from thirty different countries.  Today we’ll be showing you how to make a fantastic casserole hailing from Sweden.  And to make today’s program extra special, I’ll be joined by a very special guest.  He is a true master of the culinary arts, and I am honored to cook beside him.  Without further ado, ladies and gentlemen I present to you the one…the only…Swedish Chef!”

“Hellu Cheff Penffuld, I'm gled tu be-a here-a. Bork Bork Bork!”
“Thank you Swedish Chef.  It truly is an honor to have you as a guest on my show.”
“Theenk nutheeng ooff it. I'm joost here-a tu help.”
“You’re too kind Chef, too kind.”
“Nunsense-a.  Su vhet ere-a ve-a gueeng tu be-a mekeeng tudey?”
“I’m glad you asked Chef.  Today, we are going to be making Janssons Frestelse, otherwise known as Jansson’s temptation.  It is a creamy potato and anchovy casserole, named after a famous Swedish opera singer, which is traditionally served around Christmas time but is eaten year round.”
“Oh guud! Thet is oone-a ooff my fefureetes! Bork Bork Bork!”
“Yes, it’s one of my favorites too!”

“All right, we’ve gathered all of the necessary ingredients.  Arrayed on my cooking table we have 1.2 kg (2½ lb) potatoes, 400 g (14 oz) onions, 375 g (13 oz) spice-cured anchovy filets, 600 ml (3 cups) heavy whipping cream, salt, white pepper, breadcrumbs, and butter.  Now the first step is to peel the potatoes and onions and then cut them into thin strips or slices.  Chef, if you’ll please peel and cut the potatoes I’ll take care of the onions.”
“Off cuoorse-a.”
“Great.  I’m finished slicing the onions.  Now I’m going to gently sauté them in a little butter, but I’m going to make sure not to brown them.  While I’m seeing to that, Chef would you please grease that ovenproof baking dish sitting over there?  Oh, you’re ahead of me I see.  You’re already covering the bottom with a layer of potatoes.  That’s fantastic!  Okay, I’m going to add half of my sautéed onions and half the anchovy filets.  There we go.  Let’s add another layer of potatoes, and then the rest of the onions and filets.  Beautiful!  One last layer of potatoes and the hard part is over. Now, I don’t want to tempt you too much Chef, but do you know what comes next?”
“Zee fletteneeng?”
“That’s right, the flattening of the surface.”
“Oh buy, ooh buy! Bork Bork Bork!”  The Swedish Chef flattens the surface with his customary gusto!
“All right Chef, thank you.  That’s flat enough.  We’re down to the last few steps here folks.  First, we add a few turns of pepper from the mill and just a little salt.  Next, we’re going to pour the cream on until we can almost see it through the potatoes.  That’s it.  Lastly, we’re going to put a few dabs of butter on top along with a sprinkling of breadcrumbs to add some nice texture.  Okay, all that’s left now is to put this dish in the oven where it will cook at four hundred seventy five degrees Fahrenheit for about an hour.”

Waveriders, while we wait on the delicious casserole to finish baking, I want to tell you about something else from Sweden that is incredibly exciting.  This non-edible, non-perishable entity I am going to discuss is the band Freak Kitchen.  At this moment there are no ifs, ands, or buts about it.  Freak Kitchen has established itself as one of my all-time favorite bands, and they released one of my favorite albums of 2010 (it was originally released in October 2009, but I was unable to obtain a copy in the US until 2010).  That album’s name is Land of the Freaks.  Using what I like to think of as incontrovertible evidence, I’m going to emphatically explain why all music fans need to become familiar with this album and its intrinsic greatness.

Freak Kitchen is a trio.  No…scratch that.  Freak Kitchen is a power trio!  The band, brainchild of guitarist/lead vocalist Mattias “IA” Eklundh, has been in existence since the early 1990s.  Their debut album Appetizer came out in 1994.  After three additional albums the original trio disbanded, leaving Mr. Eklundh the task of finding two new bandmates.  Shortly thereafter a new trio was formed with the addition of bassist Christer Ortefors and drummer Bjorn Fryklundh.  Land of the Freaks is the group’s seventh overall album, and the third for version 2.0 of the band.  But enough of the history, let’s talk about what’s most important…the music!

Here is where it gets interesting.  Freak Kitchen is typically classified as a progressive metal band.  I am not going to argue with that.  What I am going to do is flesh out a couple of intricacies that make this particular progressive metal band unique.  First of all it is critical to note that the songs contain as many pop elements as progressive ones.  What does that mean?  Easy.  When you break down one of their songs you will find wacky time signatures, ridiculous playing, grand thematic changes, etc.  But here is the catch.  If you don’t concentrate on uncovering these elements, you won’t notice they exist thanks to the band’s pop sensibilities.  Nothing, no matter how flashy, disrupts the flow of a song.  That means unlike some other progressive metal bands I can name, there is never a moment of mid-song headbanging recalibration.

Second, also stemming from the pop sensibilities, the songs themselves never outstay their welcome.  The longest track on Land of the Freaks is five minutes and forty two seconds.  All of the others end before the five minute mark, most before four minutes.  I’m not trying to imply that epic-length songs are bad (I love quite a few of them myself), but I am saying that I like knowing I don’t have to specifically set aside a half hour to fully enjoy one song.  Third the contributions of Mattias Eklundh, both vocally and on guitar are spectacular, plain and simple.  To say that he is a gifted guitarist is an immeasurable understatement.  His tonality, technicality, timing, and musical IQ are second to none.  The fact that he is also a fantastic vocalist is icing on the cake.  His clean vocals are able to perfectly match the mood of the song whether it calls for all out aggression or heartfelt tenderness.  In a time where a lot of metal bands are choosing the growling option, it’s nice to know who I can turn to when I need a break.  So what about that album?

Land of the Freaks is terminally ill.  “God Save the Spleen”, the opening track, has been my go to neck snapper for well over a year now.  The monstrous guitar tone, devastating main riff, and bottomless groove cast a magic spell upon my person.  I-Can’t-Stop-Listening-To-This-Song!  But let’s not stop there.  Other top-shelf metal anthems on this album include the South-Asian flavored “Teargas Jazz”, the deceptive “Murder Groupie”, and the phenomenally amusing anti-fascist “Honey, You’re a Nazi”.  Feel like something different?  No problem.  Try the transformative “OK” which begins like a ballad before morphing into a rocker, or the straight up acoustic ditty “Do Not Disturb”.  Not good enough?  Fine.  How about “Hip Hip Hoorah”, a danceable metal song.  That’s right…danceable (don’t ask me to demonstrate; I promise you’ll be sorry you did).  What I’m trying to get across is that there is a chasm-wide variety of material on offer here.  No matter what you’re looking for, Land of the Freaks will fulfill your order.  Ooh, looks like our casserole is ready!

“Okay folks, it’s time to take our dish out of the oven.  Chef wait!  That baking dish is going to be HOT!”
“Ehh! I boorned my hunds!
“Chef!?  Are you all right Chef?”
“Oh dun't vurry ebuoot me-a, I'll be-a feene-a. Bork Bork Bork!”
“Thank goodness!  You had me worried with that whole blowing air on your hands thing you have going there.  Well folks, this dish will make six to eight servings.  I hope you enjoy Jannson’s temptation as much as I do.  Thanks again to my honored guest the Swedish Chef for helping me cook today.  Join us next time when we continue our culinary trip around the world, won’t you?  This is Chef Penfold saying goodbye for now.”


Buy here: Land of The Freaks

Black Earth - Pink Champagne

Pink Champagne [Explicit]

Black Earth.  Dwell on the words for a second.  Imagine it.  Inhale it.  Feel it in your hands.
Black.  Rich.  Pungent.  Dirty.  Fertile.  Moist.

Six words that best describe the uber talented shit kickin’ powerhouse three piece from Austin, Texas.  Ladies and gentlemen, I bring you Black Earth.

The essence of our existence is the earth itself.  Where all good things come from.  Under the sun.  Holding the water.  The earth.  Black loam.  The kind that gets under the nails and stains your cuticles. (cute testicals?).  In the same gritty vein as Americana rocker greats Leroy Justice and the Brought Low from New York City, and sparked with a renewed vigor, Black Earth come roaring back with their euphoric sophomore album “Pink Champagne” produced by Chris “Frenchie” Smith.

Make no mistake, they have “that sound”.  The sound that’s going to go big come hell or highwater.  You can hear it in the strength and depth of their song writing prowess and musicianship, the sheer power of their delivery and the interwoven, in each other’s pocket, synchronous gel jamability of their live show.  The chemistry is more than evident.  These guys would KILL live!  And they have a reputation for doing just that.  As their bio reads, “they demonstrate a lot of versatility.  They’re tenacious live and can perform at will”.  They’re apt to “go off the deep end into an improvisational tangent”.  According to legend, they once did a thirty minute set and only played three songs.  The crowd ate it up.  Singer/guitar player Jason Calise captures a potent vocal combination of Mark Lanegan from the Screaming Trees and Ian Astbury from The Cult.  Influential moments from the Rolling Stones, Sheepdogs, Seven Mary Three, Faces also leak into their sound like friends dropping by for a drink and a tickle. 

Their bio continues – “Lots of indie bands use titles so generic that their fans have no clue about the light and dark places in the heart that the songs emerge from.  Not so with Black Earth, who declared ‘Hell Yeah’ from the get go on their 2008 album ‘That’s Right, We’re Goin’ Balls Deep’—a collection that also included high energy fare like ‘Whatever Happened to Drinkin’ Whiskey and Kickin’ Ass?’.

Don’t sugar coat it boys.

“Continuing the theme of high hopes followed by shattered expectations, the three began work on Pink Champagne during some of the darkest, heaviest individual periods of their lives.  Yet amidst the darkness and personal crossroads, there’s also a feeling that there’s light at the end of the tunnel.  This record also shows a different side of the band.  ‘We've been through a lot of difficult times, member changes, you name it’ says bassist  Dave Rangel.  ‘The one thing that has kept us together is the fact that we persevere and our love for music. Through this perseverance, we've been able to create some of our greatest moments.  When the chips are down, we keep stepping up’.  Pink Champagne begins in and then emerges from a much darker place resulting in an emotionally compelling work”.

Ten songs in ten days.  Take no prisoners fellas.

The album kicks off with the twangy bluesy, somewhat countrified DEAR LADY LEAN.  It offers up a grass chewin’, tabacco spittin’ feel featuring the rich, raspy vocal work of Jason Calise.  The keys sweetly blend the instrumentation on this number.  To quote Gord Downie from The Tragically Hip, it conjures up images strollin’ down a corduroy dirt country road on a dusty hot summer’s day pondering where the next paycheck’s coming from and whether the power will still be on when you get home.

The opening chords of FACE DOWN IN THE GUTTER kick ass!  The freakin’ tone drips with so much texture and taste it would make Gordon Ramsey blush.  It transitions into a flat out rocker while the vocals take on a more condensed, urgent feel - a perfect fit.  Skins monger Jason Reece performs rhythmic gymnastics on the kit while Dave Rangel ‘s bass runs are lockstep.  A couple of timely fuzzed out reprieves in the middle and near the end paint a different perspective.  Calise opens up the throttle on his otherworldly tone towards the end - just fucking epic intonations on the solo.  Lots of way cool FX here too and he works the baby wah like he’s spankin’ a wayward bastard child.  This stubborn number just does not want to quit!

HER SONG – if this song was written for somebody’s wife or girlfriend then she must be a pretty special person.  It has a very delicate Pearl Jam-esque quality to the guitar sound and song structure.  Supported by a magnificent background Hammond wash, the song explodes in a Billy Duffy inspired burst in the middle and again at the end before it returns to its original introspective roots.  Once again, Jason Calise squeezes out an exquisite fuzzed out solo near the end dripping with thick, savoury overmodulated tone!  This puppy’s spewing chunks.  Up front backup vocals bring it home.

LIVIN’ AND LOVIN’ is a hard driving, raucous rocker with an intro. reminiscent of the opening of Rod Stewart’s “Stay With Me” - only on speed.  Eventually things settle back into a steady rock groove augmented by a fun, quirky bridge.  Total live show fist pumper.

MY PRIVATE HELL – the title speaks for itself and the distorted guitar drives the dark point home and then some.  This dark little ditty’s a no holds barred, straight up, no bullshit rocker featuring even grittier vocals with no shortage of cowbell, a sweet chorus and a raunchy, rippin’ solo that’s a perfectly imperfect fit (you read that right).  Things pick up toward the end as the pace morphs into a full on gallop.  The Brought Low salute.

NO WAY BACK assaults your earholes with classic Bad Company/BTO type power chords right off the top.  It’s a simple, catchy tune that will ignite crowds into a rousing round of the chorus at a live show.  A tried, tested and true head banger for those down front.

The title track PINK CHAMPAGNE is a sweet, complex acoustic number that really smacks of the Screaming Trees in terms of feel and tone, highlighted by some newly minted, prominent, lip smacking female background vocals.

SHE DON’T WANT IT – the Valient Thorr inspired rolling riff off the top has you grasping for your pint of the good stuff and raising it in a collective salute to this hard chugging, tongue-in-cheek rocker that hollers out a delectable chorus once again smacking of the mighty Brought Low. 
Who’s complaining?

SINGLE STITCH is a great example of Black Earth’s superior song writing talent.  Epic in the most pulchritudinous haunting way.  Sublime reverbed mouth harp sets up the laid back feel of the song.  About three quarters of the way through, the guitar chimes in with more outrageous , over-modulated fuzzed out tones on the solo.  Finger lickin’ good!

SOMETHING ABOUT YOU is the longest song on the album and that’s a good thing.  It’s a stunning piece of song writing.  Right from the peeling opening chords and subsequent gloriously refined fuzzed out tones.  Jason Reece works the kit like a blacksmith pounding out a heavy masterpiece with gorgeous fills.  The song is intensely percussive and he attacks the skins once again like a mad rhythmic magician.  There’s more than a scent of the mighty Brought Low on this number as well which is certainly a welcome influence.  I also detect a slight Ray Davies/Kinks thing goin’ on too.  The reprieve in the middle showcases some mouth watering, hollowed out voice work as the BE boys take us on an extended psychedelic magic carpet ride exploring distant sonic galaxies.  This song is VERY indicative of what they’re capable of pulling off live.  It moves to a full gallop about three quarters in, right through to a rowdy, fist frenzied finish.

“As the title Pink Champagne indicates, Black Earth has a lot to celebrate.  Successful tours of Europe and the U.S. have allowed them to share the stage with killer bands from both sides of the pond like Blue Cheer, Throw Rag, Burning Brides, The Meatmen, Supersuckers, Red Fang, Early Man, Atomic Bitchwax, Gogol Bordello, Jimmy Chamberlain Complex, Peter Pan Speedrock, Jingo De Lunch, Sasquatch, Dixie Witch, Young Heart Attack and Nashville Pussy.  Black Earth was also featured in Classic Rock Magazine's October Issue # 150 with their song “Face Down in the Gutter” added to the compilation ‘The First Cut is the Deepest”.

And so they raise a toast to you.

Black Earth is Jason “Ving” Calise on vocals and guitar, Dave Rangel on vocals and bass and Jason Reece on drums (also of “And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead”).


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Ripple Library - Vincebus Eruptum Magazine; Heady-Psych Music

Special treat for you waveriders.

We love Heavy Psych, Stoner, and Riff Rock around the Ripple.  How could we not with bands like Stone Axe, Poobah, JPT Scare Band, Mos Generator, and the rest of the crew on our roster.  And we also love the whole scene.  People making music and folks supporting the music with love, enthusiasm and abandon.  While there are lots of music sites to go to when you want to read about your favorite music, there's something cooler about a glossy printed magazine.  Particularly when it comes with a free CD introducing new sounds to your ears.

And that's Vincebus Eruptum.

Bill, from the Soda Shop, dropped issues 11 and 12 into my hands in the midst of a joint Soda Shop/Ripple Music vinyl buying frenzy.  3 stores, one day.  Chicago be damned!  So, after talking music all day, pulling out one cool piece of vinyl after another, what would a freak like me want to do the most?  That's right, break open the fridge and delve into a magazine to learn more. And that's what I did.

With the killer free "Acid Sounds Vol. 1" CD blaring from my speakers, Vincebus Eruptum #12 was my companion for an evening of acid, fuzz, stonerfied riff rock.  And what a blast it was.

First the magazine.  A little bit smaller than a comic book, with glossy page and cardstock cover, issue #12 opens with a perfect interview with Cathedral frontman and Rise Above Records mastermind, Lee Dorrian.  It perfectly captured that man's love of music, why he's still digging the record biz, and what he's attempting to do with Rise Above Records.  Mainly, release records he wants in his own collection.  From there, interviews with The Black Rainbows, Zippo, legendary Joe Hasselvander, Gentlemen's Pistols, The Freeks, Wight, and Grand Astoria fill the pages with stories of musical excess, fuzzy days and fuzzier chords, live shows and what not.   Add to that a stash of reviews of truly relevant stoner, psych, and riff rock reviews and we got a magazine of great reading.   It's one of those rare magazine to be read cover to cover.  I even checked out all the ads, looking for new bands from labels like Small Stone, Rise Above Records, Clearspot Distribution, Kozmic Artifactz, Black Widow Records, Blood Rock Records, Sulatron Records, Elektrohasch and Go Down Records.

Just as good was the soundtrack for the night, the free CD.  I didn't know many of these bands before I listened to the free comp, but I'm a fan of a bunch of them now.  As on any compilation, there's high and low points dependent upon your taste.  I didn't care as much for the noise punk psych of Core, the shoegaze fuzz of Vibravoid, or the droning instru-doom of Colt38, but freaked for the fuzz assault of That's All Folks, the mellow psych-jazzy/folky prog of The Freeks, and the retro-bluesy freak attack of Tectonic Break.   E.X.P. brings a downcast, doomier vibe, followed by Vic Du Monte's garage/punk blitz, Zippo's space rock excursion, and the Electric Moon's futuristic garage warfare.  Killer stuff, all of it really. 

Top all that off with gorgeous cover by Kabuto, a pint-sized gorgeous DSW poster,  and spacey, cool-looking psych themed layouts everywhere and it's one gorgeous project. 

So, if you're deep into exploration of the world of heavy psych, acid rock, stoner rock, space rock and good 'ol mind-numbing riff rock, you should check this little magazine out.  It's quality stuff, delving deep into the underground world.  And most importantly, it's clearly a project done with love.

It's one worth collecting and keeping.  I know I will.

Vincebus Eruptum is distributed in the USA by The Soda Shop
and world wide by Vincebus Eruptum.  European orders through Big Cartel

"Acid Sounds Vol.1" exclusive CD compilation:
  • 01 - CORE "Mood Disorder"
1996 - unreleased track from the "Revival" sessions - produced by Billy Anderson - Billy Anderson on lead vocals, Finn Ryan on drums, Timmy Ryan on guitar, Carmine Pernini on bass)
  • 02 - OJM "Har(d)ucks"
2011 - unreleased track based on an old unreleased track ("Heavy" sessions) plus new vocals by David Martin
  • 03 - THAT'S ALL FOLKS "Hypnotic Pulse"
2010 - track only published on the 300 ltd. 7" split between T.A.F. and ANUSEYE - Nasoni Records - Claudio Colaianni on guitar and vocals, Michele Rossiello on bass guitar and percussions, Max Marzocca on Drums, Angelo Pantaleo on keyboards and manual effects midi sampler
  • 04 - THE FREEKS "Vitamin-D"
2011 - new unreleased track - Kenny Cunningham on piano and synth, Isaiah Mitchell on guitar leads and mandolin, Marco Forster on backing vocals, Ruben Romano on vocals, guitar, bass, drums and percussion
  • 05 - TECTONIC BREAK "Maria"
2000 - unreleased track by this HALF MAN/SKANSKA MORD side project - Patric Carlsson on bass, Janne Bengtsson on vocals and harmonica, Mattias Nilsson on guitar, Peter Johansson on drums
  • 06 - E.X.P. "DNA connect just like a kids tumble"
2003 - unreleased track from the never issued second album - mixed by Gary Ramon - LC  on bass, NC on guitars, JB on vocals, FB on drums
  • 07 - VIC DU MONTE'S PERSONA NON GRATA "Man On A Mission"
2011 - unreleased track from the "Barons & Bankers" sessions - Written & Performed by Vic du Monte’s Persona Non Grata, produced by James Childs at Stujo in Los Angeles March 2011
  • 08 - VIBRAVOID "Photosynthesis In Darkness"
2011 - not yet released track (due to release on "Gravity Zero" - 25th of February 2012 by Sulatron Records) - Written & Performed by Vibravoid
  • 09 - COLT.38 "Amplesso in DOm"
2011 - unreleased track performed by C.C and E.R.
  • 10 - ZIPPO "Night Jam #2"
2008 -unreleased track from the "The Road To Knowledge" sessions - registered by Andrea di Giambattista and Francesco di Florio at Twelve Studio (Tocco da Casauria, Pescara ITALY) , mastered by John Golden at Golden Mastering Studio (Ventura, California USA) - Davide Straccione on vocals, Alessandro Sergente on guitar, Silvio Spina on guitar, Tonino Bosco on bass and Federico Sergente on drums
  • 11 - ELECTRIC MOON "Trip Trip Trip"
2011 - track only published on the 500 ltd. 12" split between ELECTRIC MOON and GLOWSUN - Sulatron Records - Written & Performed by Electric Moon

Ripple Tech - Tweaker Travel Speakers - The Best Little Noise on the Planet

Tweakers SPKR-R1-BK 3.4W Pull-n-Play Speakers, Black

Different column today, but I wanna share something pretty darn cool.

If you're like me and travel quite a bit and listen to a lot of music, you probably know that really small/compact portable speakers are a dicey affair.  I've gone through at least 10 different makes/models over the last couple of years.  They all promise big sound and lightweight, but in the end have all been pieces of crap.  It's just nearly impossible to find something incredibly small that has worthwhile sound quality.  If they sound decent, then they take up way too much space in my over-stuffed luggage or computer bag.   And if they sound decent, they probably cost an arm, leg, kidney and unborn child.

I realize big sound will never come from a tiny speaker, but still, I keep hoping.  Something to plug into my iPhone or laptop.  Anything that is ridiculously small, lightweight, sounds good, and doesn't cost me a fortune.

I finally found it.

Now, it takes a lot to get me excited about a pair of travel speakers.  But here they are.  Grandmax Tweakers SPKR-RI-BK, 3.4 W Pull-n-Play Speakers are my newest baby.


First, the product design is killer and amazingly well thought out.  The speakers are tiny, I mean tiny.  Maybe 1 and 1/2 inches tall and wide, dome-shaped marvels.  They stack together with a magnetic connection and squeeze into a little pouch that takes up no more than 4 x 2 inches of bag space.  Item weight is said to be one pound, but it feels lighter to me.  That's it!  Yeah, I've seen smaller single speaker units, but not double speakers.  Not for real stereo sound separation.  Not a bad start, but the engineering gets better from there.

Each speaker twists open and pops up to reveal an acoustic chamber that creates the bass. Sure, it's not stoner metal-vibrate-the-walls-and-set-off-car-alarm bass, but its good enough, and surprisingly rich for these little guys.

I bought these on a whim before a big trip.  I knew I need some real sound to write some reviews, listen to Ripple submissions, and check out some Master tapes for upcoming Ripple Music releases.    The pair cost me $40 at the airport and you can find them cheaper at Amazon.

Sure, they won't replace your home stereo, and don't go expecting too much from a pair of speakers that can fit into the palm of your hand.  But these are definitely the best speakers I've come across in my travels for the size, weight, and money.  Count me a fan.

No batteries are needed (a huge plus for me).  The speakers charge through my laptop, and --coolest of all-- they charge and connect through built-in, retractable charge/audio cables.  Man, that's cool!  Eliminates most of the packing needed to get stereo sound.  There's one cable included to connect the speakers to each other, that's it, and I wouldn't even need to use it if I wasn't charging.  They're that clever.

So the design is cool, but what's really important is the sound.  Is it better than my built in computer speakers?   Hell yes!  Granted,  my computer speakers are totally crappy, but the frequency-tuned amplifier in these little Tweakers delivers really clear sound, handles high volumes without distorting (too much), delivers enough bass for me to review stoner submissions on the road, and the stereo provides real separation and fullness.  I'm listening to the Vincebus Eruptum "Acid Sounds Vol. 1" CD as I write this and it sounds badass.

So, if you hit the road as often as I do, laptop and iPhone in hand, and you want to hear music.  And if space, weight, and volume in the suitcase are as important to you as they are to me.  Check these babies out.

And let me know what you think.


Stonehaven – Concerning Old-Strife And Man-Banes


Hailing from the Midwest, (I’ve seen that they are from Kansas and Kansas City, and there is a Kansas City, Kansas, so both could be right), we have Stonehaven.  They’ve come through Seattle a couple of times in the past year but unfortunately I did not catch their live shows, but I will rectify that in short order the next time they come through town, because this is the good stuff.  The Midwest is not known as a stronghold of black metal, but these guys certainly own what they do.

This is as grim and frosty a release as any Norwegian black metallers could put out.  Upon first listen I was positive this band had to be from Europe, so yay America for putting out some of the classic sounding stuff.  And actually, classic sounding isn’t entirely true; because Stonehaven do mix it up a bit.  I hear some slight nods to straight up death metal in their music, and they are also not so tied into the tremolo picking drone that a lot of black metal bands fall into.  That drone stuff can be very good when it is done well, but in my humble opinion very few bands actually do it well, so you can wind up listening to a nine minute track that bores you to tears.  These guys avoid that by mixing up tempos, mixing up progressions, etc, and as I said above, it’s really good stuff.

Album opener “Suffering The Swine Array” pulls no punches and just starts things off right at full speed.  There are no classical or operatic type openings with this band, just good old fashioned black metal coming right at you.  This leads right into “Death Fetter” which has some spots that have a death metal feel to them in terms of tempo and the playing.  I think my favorite track on the album is the fourth, “Addressing The Scorn Pole”.  It alternates between straight up black metal time signatures and a waltz time, almost folk metal feel, and the transitions are done really well.  I have to say that the songwriting is one of the big strengths of this band.  Every track on this release is well written.  Nothing on this album sounds out of place or extraneous.  It all fits, it all sounds good together, and makes my black metal heart feel good.

I have to talk for a minute about the album cover.  It was designed by one of the band members to represent an actual event in Norwegian history from the late 10th century.  King Olaf apparently wanted his subjects to convert to Christianity and was very adamant about it, to the point that when a particular pagan priest refused to convert, he wanted to make an example of the guy.  So King Olaf and his henchmen tortured this priest publicly and the culmination was forcing the priest to eat a live snake.  While I don’t condone the forced Christianity, I always love the zeal of the Norwegians and the other Scandinavian folks who brought us the Vikings and so much great mythology.

There are a total of 8 songs on this release and they are all top notch black metal.  Do yourself a favor, check out this album, check these guys out live if they come through your town, and just dig the black metal goodness that is Stonehaven.

  - ODIN

Monday, April 23, 2012

MOS GENERATOR 10th Anniversary Re-Issue Test Pressing to be Auctioned Off for Wounded Warrior Project Charity

Continuing with the company tradition of giving back to the community, Ripple Music will auction an extremely Rare Original Test Pressing of the Mos Generator 10th Anniversary vinyl, with proceeds going to the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP). With the mission to honor and empower Wounded Warriors, WWP is the hand extended to encourage warriors as they adjust to their new normal and achieve new triumphs. Offering a variety of programs and services, WWP is equipped to serve warriors with every type of injury – from the physical to the invisible wounds of war.

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 the guys who throw their lives on the line every day so that we can have the liberties that we do at the same time. To do so, just visit us at the Ripple Music Ebay Store! The auction will start on Monday, April 23rd and end on Monday, April 30th.

The Mos Generator test press auction is the latest in a growing line of charity auctions that Ripple Music has created.  Previously, rare JPT Scare Band, Stone Axe, and the Heavy Ripples test pressings were auctioned with proceeds going to Gulf Disaster, Japan Tsunami and the Joplin Tornado disaster relief agencies.  With the sacrifices made by the men and women of the U.S. armed forces, 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.

Donations can be made to the charity outside of this auction by visiting

Press raves about Mos Generator 10th Anniversary Edition:

"Frontman/guitarist Tony Reed continued to assert himself as one of the underrated guitar heroes of the past couple of decades." -- New York Music Daily

"Reed wears his influences on his sleeve not only in terms of what he plays but in the way he engineers his records – every instrument comes through CRYSTAL clear, there are no fancy studio frills or tricks, or the “wall of guitars” effect that is found on so much music deemed ‘heavy’ of late. To be sure, everyone in this band is playing loud and note-perfect through very cool old gear (the cover gives you a handy rundown of what they use!), but it’s the sheer energy and talent that has gone into writing the music that makes this record heavy."  --  The Sleeping Shaman

"Of all the second-wave Sabbath types, these guys were and remain by far the most original, with tricky prog tempos, tunefully sludgy Tony Iommi-style lo-register riffage and a sense of humor to rival their sense of purpose. If metal is your thing and you slept on this stuff when it first came out – and a lot of people did, this was before myspace, let alone youtube – now’s a good time to rediscover them."  --  Lucid Culture

Hypno5e - Acid Mist Tomorrow

A couple of years ago, this little art-y metal band from France called Hypno5e came along with an album entitled Des Deux L’une Est L’autre, that in the most complex manner ever, floored me. This album devastated my reality and all that I thought I knew about heavy music. It was an intense listen that scrambled the brains with its complicated time signatures and dramatic musical shifts.  An epiphany, of sorts.

Please welcome in the band’s long-awaited follow up album, Acid Mist Tomorrow. In a word . . . holy . . . yeah, that’s pretty much me sitting with my headphones on, spinning this disc over and over and over again, and with every subsequent spinning thinking to myself, ‘ This can’t be possible.’ My reality has, once again, be turned inside out, flipped upside down, positive made negative, cats and dogs living together, dark into light . . .

The last album from Hypno5e was a bludgeoning, highly involved listen. Basically, I felt one had to think too much while listening to it and was often left exhausted afterwards. At times, it had a jarring effect from song to song. Not a bad thing, necessarily, just noting how it was an album that could intimidate. Acid Mist Tomorrow has a far better fluidity to it. The songs are much more seamless, even as the band goes from the mellowed out, acoustic and soft passages into the heavily distorted walls of cacophony. Everything is executed with, if it were even possible, greater precision, and then tempered with an even softer touch. A contrast of tones.

The open forty seconds or so of the first song (also the title track) is enough for anyone to know that this album has the makings of something far beyond what we’ve come to know and love from this band. A subtle clean toned guitar with a somewhat tranquil and distorted sound bite of nature hauntingly humming away in the background starts the song. The production of this short bit is perfect, captured in what sounds like mono . . . giving the sounds an old transistor radio vibe . . . before the heavily distorted guitar chugs away at a mighty riff,  and then, BAM! The song goes to stereo, hitting us with this incredible sonic weight . . . and yet, the band gets this great stuttering effect to play for a second as the song is just about to take off, and this little effect, tiny and almost insignificant to most, adds all of this juice and gusto to introduce this song. Without that effect, sure, the song would be fine, but with it . . . added intensity and breaking of tension that makes the listener more vested in what’s going on. The rest of the song roils and tumbles all over itself, highlighting the musicianship of the band and the performer’s insane abilities to start and stop in a fraction of a second. Hypno5e bludgeons with the hardest of them, but the trait that separates these guys from the masses of hyper-intense, metal-core, math-core, progressive neophytes is their ability to bring everything crashing down to the most mesmerizingly melodic and mellow passages. Absolutely beautiful and brilliant moments of tranquility and serenity before they kick the music back into high gear.

The album is essentially five songs in length, however, three of those songs are multi-part passages. One of those multi-part tracks that requires multiple listens for sheer brilliance alone is “Gehenne (I – III)”. Part I is an almost tribal, throbbing and mesmerizing tune with lyrics that sound as if they’re being sung in Spanish rather than France. I could be completely wrong about that . . . the Romantic languages have a tendency to throw me from time to time. Suddenly, as if from out of nowhere, Part II kicks in and we are beaten senseless with the blastbeat that time forgot, and these manic harmonics mixed into the ferocious guitar riffs . . . and then these bizarre string sweeps that raise the hairs on the back of the neck . . . and then, almost as suddenly as when all hell broke loose, the music winds down, the tempo slows a bit, the noise abates, and Hypno5e serenade us with their elegant voices, harmonized just so. Part III picks up there the chaotic frenzy of Part II left off, and almost immediately drops into a chilled out passage that almost sounds like its being led by a mandolin. The remainder of the song is a topsy-turvy affair and ends with us listeners sitting back in our chairs with an audible sigh.

Hypno5e push their music further and further with every release, hell . . . practically with every song. They’re progressive in so many different aspects . . . with their virtuosic abilities, then with their conscious effort to shelve an idea if they’ve already used it, then again with the sonic exploration of heavy and light music, then with their use of samples to further a story along . . . these guys are fucking genius! Smarter than all of us combined! Acid Mist Tomorrow is an early favorite for my Best of 2012 list. I can’t stop listening to the album, probably because they add so many new wrinkles to their style, most notably the mellow melodic portions. These elements tug on the heart strings and are packed with so much raw emotion that I can’t help but go back again and again. This one is a stunner!


Sound&Shape - Hourglass

Sorry.  I ran out of superlatives for Sound&Shape a long time ago.

I ran out of ways to describe their incredibly complex yet infinitely melodic and listenable brand of progressive modern rock.  I've ran out of new words to sum up the passion and energy and flows like a roaring river through their songs.  I've searched for bands to compare them to, always kind of drifting back towards Mars Volta.  But here's the thing.  I don't like Mars Volta.  But I dig Sound&Shape, through their first two EP's and now into their full length, Hourglass.

Strangely enough, (in my mind) Sound&Shape first came to me by way of the cool, UK punk label, Engineer Records, and Sound&Shape's release, the killer The Love Electric.  They've also been embraced by the punk community, with a profile up on  But they're not punk.  Maybe in D.I.Y. ethic, and energy that has found them playing hundreds of shows.  But trust me, they're not punk.

Musicianship reigns supreme here.  Each song is a mini-epic, all glued together by undeniable melodies and phenomenal playing. Complex arrangements that dip and dive between time changes and an altering landscape of riffs.  Each member of this three-piece is a master of their instrument, blending each part into a unified whole that somehow never sounds messy, cluttered or up it's own ass.  The key to this is the songwriting which never loses site of the fact that melody and tunefullness are as--if not more important-- that musical dexterity.  Songs like "No Time to Explain" and "Everybody Leaves" explode from my stereo speakers with aggressive abandon, and in lesser hands could drift off into masturbatory territory.  But now with these guys. The song structures are so tight (while still leaving ample room for exploration,), and the melodies are so sweet that these songs could be on any radio station that's willing to push the boundaries

 "Wolves in the Forest" delves in gentler territory while being no less ferocious.  "Whispering Boy" ups the intensity with it's driving beat and fast and gentle tempo changes.  "Hourglass" is a rampaging journey through realms of conflicting intensities.  Heavy riffing alternating with sunsets of gentler passages, and all wrapped up in melodies smooth enough to hook me instantly.  Then finally, on "Signals" I finally latch upon the band that Sound&Shape most remind me of.  Minus the quirk, and with a big added touch of progressive exploration and good old rock, I hear a refined and updated XTC here.  But really, Sound&Shape are beyond compare.

Just another example of mind-bending, melodic alt rock from the boys.  In truth, I would've expected nothing less.  Now, I just have to find new superlatives before they release their next album.


Feuerzeug - Dead Wahines and Tsunamis

 Dead Wahines and Tsunamis

Mark my words.

When future music historians look back at the the career of Swiss sci-fi-toned stoner, heavy rockers, Feuerzeug, they're gonna to look at the album Dead Wahines and Tsumanis as the crux point of their career.

Feuerzeug (swiss for the lighter) blew me away with their hyper-charged stoner debut Drive Fast and Crash which I likened to "a herd of a thousand brontosaurs rampaging in your living room."  As best I can tell, the whole stoner community got right in line behind these guys, digging the urgency they laid into their riffing, the Motorhead-speed and power, the sci-fi twinges in their guitar tone and vibe.  And to be honest, the boys could've gotten away with simply making Drive Faster and Crash Harder, and no one would've complained.

But they didn't.

I don't know if Dead Wahines and Tsunamis is a concept album or not, but the grandness of their scope and vision is readily apparent in song titles like "Cyclops Will Be Beheaded" "Lieuplorodon VS Giant Orthocone," and Magma, Lava, and Burned Karma."   Nothing that made Drive Fast and Crash so immediate is missing from this new album, but so much has been added.

If there was one drawback to Drive Fast, it was that the relentless pace and systematic pounding of the riffing made for a rather single-minded listen.  It would seem that the boys recognized that, or just felt the natural progression to stretch out more, push the boundaries, play with styles.  Create something new.

And they've done just that.  Yes, Feuerzeug is on the border of actually becoming a brutally heavy, stoner prog band.  And if the musical development that is so apparent on Dead Wahines continues, I expect the next album by these Swiss madmen will be one of the more amazing albums of the decades.

But back to Dead Wahines.  "Cyclops Will Be Beheaded" starts things off straight in the Drive Fast and Crash vein.  Hyper-intense riffing with that now familiar futuristic-fuzz tone to the guitar whips out in a frenzy of meth-adled acrid smoke.  Pounding, and I mean pounding.  No one pounds out the riffs like Feuezeug.  It's something about the way the guiar, the bass and the drums all attack the song with the same ferocity and timing.  It's a thing of power, that's for sure. No languid stoner riff-groove here.  Ferocity is the key. "Cyclops" winds through it's 4 minutes with a multitude of riff changes, sideways assaults and full-frontal attacks, and includes a truly memorable chorus that's about as sing-along as stoner metal gets.  All of which crashes dead on into "Landkreuzer" another nitro-blast of sci-fi fuzzed riff-abundance.  Touches of Monster Magnet in a bloody fistfight with Motorhead reign supreme here.  Raw power and froth at the mouth intensity is the order of the game.

All of which is great, but without a change in dynamics, I'd venture to say the album would wear a bit thin on me after a couple of listens.   And Feuerzeug know this, as "Landkreuzer" ends with a tasty bit of fuzzed blitzing, "Evel Knievel Had Kissed the Devil" percolates out next.  No matter what images that title might conjure in my head, the song was nothing like I expected.  Riding a scratchy, near-acoustic guitar riff, the band joins in gingerly, gently, creating something that is almost jazzy in its spartan beauty.  The rage and power kick back in at around the 30 second mark, but the riffing is different; more spacious, more room to breathe.  Then . . .what is that?  A funk scratch guitar?   A soulful bass run?   A jazzy break?  Holy crap!  This is exactly what the album needed.  A refreshing change in dynamic that doesn't ignore the rage and explosive energy when it ramps up, but knows how to slow down.  Toss in a searing, fuzzed out guitar solo and this is the most unique song I've ever heard from the boys.  The song builds and falls and rises and crests all the way to the finish.

Where "I'll Scratch Until I Bleed a Flood" picks up, with its terrifying riff cutting through the silence like a scythe.  But again, we got something new and totally cool going on here.  Staying away from their all out assault and power, the boys play with the balance of restraint and bludgeoning.  Time changes.  Muted moments of silence.  Riff mutations.  It's all here with a vocal line that reminds me of The Automatic Automatic of all bands.  Cool stuff.

"Nitroghostcar" jumps back into the Drive Fast and Crash blitzkreig vein, which is awesome after the change-up of the last two songs.  And just as the title suggests, this is a pedal to the medal, tires smoking drag-race of riffing, a cool twisting guitar solo, and  . . what's that?  A keyboard center fill?  I can't really tell, but it's a nice new texture.  "Fusion Van" reimagines Fu Manchu in style and big retro-70's riffing, which blends right into the masterful two part stoner/prog epic "Cruising the Desert."  Part 1 races ahead in a mostly straight forward Kyuss attack until the very end, when the pace slows and the acoustic come out which blends right into the sweeping, majestic neo-psychedelic (think Dead Man) Part 2.   Like a hot wind blowing across the desert floor, the song floats on the breeze of those acoustics, undulating and drifting in a very prog like passage, until the heat builds back up about 1:13 in.  Mountains of heavy guitar descend like a darkened, storm-cloud filled sky, laying down thunder and the rare crash of lightning.  A very cool passage and great change up for the album.

"Release the Kraken" takes this new neo-prog direction even farther, traveling through it's 9:48 of  heaviness like some demented sci-fi/mythological short story.   Probably the most ambitious song I've ever heard from the Swiss men.  Walls of fuzz eventually give away to a muted passage of crushing doom-laden riffery and sludge-paced malevolence.

That's enough song-by-song to get a taste of what awaits you.  In the end, I still think that Feuerzeug sometimes tends a bit towards a bludgeoning sameness with some of their riffing, but underneath that, there's something really cool going on here.  Dead Wahines and Tsunamis sounds like the work of a group that is deciding to collectively stretch themselves out of their comfort zone, and doing it with great success.   For that reason, this sounds like a crux album to me.  A moment of transition as the band break from the constraints of their past and move into the limitless possibilities of the future.

With that in mind, I fully expect their next album to be a stoner/psych/prog masterpiece of epic proportions.

Mark my works.


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Dark Earth - The Book of Faces

If you like faster Sabbath-rock that hails from the realm of Acid King and Sleep, then Dark Earth is something you'd dig.  The demo is on The Book of Faces.  Check out the link below.

The first and self-titled track reminded me of Orange Goblin.  Right on.  'Evil King' is a fast and driving slap-in-the-face of a track - kinda thrashy, even.  And, to close a sweet demo, '42012' blasts off into the outer rims of the Riff Galaxy, leaving me to soar into head space.

In true northern Cali fashion, they navigate the Riff well.  I look forward to future realeases from the band.

If you're in the area, check 'em out live at Johnny V's Bar in San Jose on Tuesday, April 24th.

 Don't be an unaware square.  Listen to Dark Earth.


A Sunday Conversation with Michael Wertz; Artist, Illustrator and Album Cover/Concert Poster Design, Radio Personality, Musician, Man for all Seasons

My name is Michael Wertz, and I am an Illustrator, and a Bay Area native. I've been making illustrations and screenprints since 1995. My work has been recognized by Communication Arts, American Illustration, and the Society of Illustrators (LA). I have developed work for Camelbak, The DeYoung Museum, The Oakland Museum, and the SFMOMA. My most recent kids book, "Dog Dreams", can be found in bookstores nationwide. You can visit my work at

How did you first get involved in album covers and concert posters?

I like to think that music played a huge part in my character when i was growing up. When I discovered "new" music in the early 80's (punk/new wave/weird electronic noise), my life changed for the better. I wanted to be a part of this world somehow, and becoming an illustrator allowed me to do this (since becoming a musician wasn't really in my blood). My first big "break" in the music scene
was meeting Jonathan Segel outside of a club in Berkeley, where he was playing with my friends in Big City Orchestra. I let him know that I was a huge Camper Van Beethoven fan,a s well as a fan of his solo music, and that if he ever needed screenprinting, I was his guy. I've been producing album art and posters for the CVB/Cracker family ever since!

What's your latest project?

I've been working with the kind folks at the Oakland Museum, a place that is very dear to my heart. On April 27 at 5 pm, I will be be doing a screenprinting demo in their galleries to promote their 1968 show:

In addition (later that same evening), I'll be signing and selling these Oakland Museum-inspired prints in the gift shop.

How would you describe your style?

My current favorite thing is flat color, but I've been known to dabble in texture as well. I guess my current style is "graphic", as opposed to painterly.

What's your art background?

I kept sketchbooks all the way through high school, but didn't really take it seriously until I graduated from UCSC in 1990. I moved to San Francisco and finally went to art school in 1993. I've been making art nonstop ever since. My family is filled with arty types: my older brother and sister are both graphic designers.

How do you get your concepts for the album art?  Band input?   Listen to the music and get inspired?

We actually keep quite a bit of vinyl in the house, so I'll pull out some of my favorite covers to get inspired. (The Poor-No Graphics Albums for Ralph Records come to mind). Gary Panter was the fellow that made me want to make graphics for albums!

How about ideas for concert posters, same?

A little of both. I keep several bookshelves full of inspiring books (full of inspiring images). I've got a book of Russian Posters from the 1920's that I refer to quite often. Sometimes the band will come up with an image that they'd like to see on the poster, but in most instances I'll come up with an idea and
present it to the band for approval. Usually they just like what I come up with, which works great for everyone!

In terms of music, what do you listen to?

I'll listen to everything (except classic rock, nu-country, or complaint rock, though there are exceptions). I'm most into funk, electronic music, 60's easy listening pop, psych garage rock, rap, disco, noise, nu-wave, punk, and post-punk. At the very moment, I'm listening to "Kinshasha One Two" by DRC music, which was organized and put together by Damon Albarn of Blur and the Gorillaz.

I understand that you're a musician also.  Do we have any projects to look forward to from you?

Well, I've never really considered myself a musician, but I like to make noise from time to time. At the very moment, I'm most focused on making imagery for musicians, so there isn't a lot of time to make my own music. As far as the stuff I've made in the past few years, it's usually related to the Immersion Composition Society, which is a thing my friend Steven helped to create. Here's the link for that:

And I also understand that you feed your love of music as a radio DJ.  How's that going?

My hus-ben Andy & I met in 1989 doing college radio at KZSC in Santa Cruz, and we do aonce-a-month radio show at Laney College's 9th Floor Radio called The Argyll Adventure Tree. It's fun. It's a chance to share some of the weird vinyl from the 50's we collect, as well as other gems we find at Amoeba and online. We usually pick a theme and just run with it. Occasionally we'll have guest dj's
come and share their collections (Racer X from the Ripple Effect!), and other times we'll collaborate with dAS and Ninah from 9thUB Radio to do a four-hour show called the Ubgyll Ubventure TrUb. It's fun.

You can listen, download and subscribe to the podcasts here:

What other projects besides album/poster art do you work on?

I belong to a secret society called The Elsewhere Philatelic Society. We are urban explorers and stamp collectors. We collect stamps from places that you can't travel to. However, you can send and receive mail from there. We believe the United States Post Office to be a sacred institution, and that it must (and will) be liberated from the clutches of the dirty thieving politicians so there.

Our most recent thing is a "game" for the SFMOMA that you can go & play. To learn more:

What's the next project due to come off your table?

I'm working on some more designs for Hostelling International. I have a book project I'm collaborating on with David Lowery from Camper Van Beethoven. I'm making maps and stamps for the EPS. I have a few kids' book projects that are in development ... and I have a project I can't tell you about right now.

Anything else you'd like to say to our waveriders? 

Thanks for the interview! I would like to say that Racer X is a TOTAL MENSCH! My eyeballs would like to thank him profusely.


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Grimes - Visions

Exceptional experimental musicians make me ecstatic. Every so often there comes a wave of really good music and an argument can be made the most recent occurrence came on January 31, 2012. Two of my favorite albums of the year, Gotye’s Making Mirrors and Lana Del Rey’s Born to Die, were released on the same day.

You can argue its pure coincidence, but I think not. The old proverb “all good things come in threes” comes to mind when discussing this auspicious occurrence and Grimes latest album Visions, which was also released on January 31, 2012, proves my point. This dream pop damsel first came to my attention when she toured with one of my favorite singers Lykke Li last year. Recently, my awesome friend Amy reintroduced Grimes to me and I couldn’t be happier.

Last year while I was composing an article about Record Store Day I came across my first unique Grimes memorabilia and introduction to this amazing artist. For those unaware, like the recent resurgence of vinyl, cassettes have become the latest and coolest boutique items music collectors can purchase. Lately, many underground artists have self-released their EPs on cassette tapes to give locals a fun throwback feel with their music listening experience. Believe me the whole nostalgia thing really resonates with yours truly. As a result I became exposed to many new artists because of this cassette phenomenon, especially when I visited Vacation Vinyl in Silver Lake for the first time. During that first visit I discovered Grimes debut Geidi Primes on cassette and was immediately intrigued by the cover.

Shortly thereafter, Grimes started touring with Lykke Li and Grimes was now on my radar. However, searching for her music (physically) proved challenging. Even though I still purchase music (YES, I REALLY DO BUY ALL MY OWN MUSIC) I refused to order online and waited to purchase her music at a record store. Luckily, Amy made me a mix CD to hold me over until I was able to find Grimes.  As luck would have it, by the time I actually found her debut CD Geidi Primes I managed to purchase her entire catalog including Halfaxa and the recently released Visions, which is why I’m writing this review.

Visions delivers a diverse, yet distinctive avant-garde album comprised with unmistakable hook-heavy songs that transcend genres. Grimes greets her audience with an astonishing repertoire that it’s hard to believe the range she possesses. Some songs are perfect for the dance floor while others feel out of this world with a nod to 80s pop music. If you enjoy artists like Lykke Li, Crystal Castles, and the Cocteau Twins, Grimes is a must listen!

“Infinite Love Without Fulfillment” opens Visions and packs a wallop with weaving witch house and electropop sounds mashed up. From the beginning, listeners are pleasantly exposed to Grimes’ vocal experimentation with her infectious melodies.

 “Genesis” is an absolutely addictive track that transports your body and mind to a whole new level. The layered vocals on this track truly enhance this delightful dreamscape visionary song. “Genesis” is arguably the best song of 2012 and easily one of the year’s Top 10 songs. Listening to this song, it’s easy to understand why Grimes is so mesmerizing.

Considering how much I enjoyed Cliff Martinez’s Drive soundtrack and The Social Network soundtrack by Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor, “Oblivion” seems like an obvious choice for a song to enjoy. The slick synth structured beats are so infectious it’s hard not to fall in love with this song.

Like I said, the range for this bedroom belladonna is unbelievable. Imagine Nine Inch Nails with robotic backing vocals and you would get Grimes’ “Eight.” The eerily excellent electronic “Circumambient” conjures crazy imagery perfect for strobe lights. One of the highlights on Visions is when Grimes demonstrates her octave range a la Minnie Riperton (“Lovin’ You”) around the 2:44 mark. Wow, she has an amazing pair of pipes. Even something more accessible like “Vowels = Space and Time” feels perfect for the club. Grimes loves it all.

The absurdly awesome bassline on “Be a Body” really recharges this song halfway through and makes it a must “dance to” track. The Crystal Castles sounding “Colour of Moonlight (Antiochus)” featuring Doldrums follows. The soothing "Symphonia IX (My Wait Is U)" is a beautiful flowing dark dream while the ever enticing “Nightmusic” featuring Majical Cloudz possesses rich, remarkable rhythms. Two delicious dream pop tracks, “Skin” and “Know the Way” finish Visions.

Grimes showcases the odd world we all live in with each of her albums. Whether utilizing computer generated genres, grimewave, industrial, dream pop, new age, etc., Grimes retains an ever expanding repertoire of influences that permeates through her ingenious music.

--Mr Brownstone

Jason Serious - Undercover Folk

Folk music is just that - the music of common folk.  The life of the vagabond, wanderer, hobo, itinerant farm worker, equipped with an old acoustic guitar, travelling the country, seeking temporary work, telling it like it is - that is the origin of folk music.  It is simply about folks’ daily lives and concerns.  It is the music of the downtrodden and has historically gained popularity during difficult times.

Slavery and the Civil War brought folk to the forefront with popular tunes like Down By The Riverside and We Shall Overcome.  It experienced a resurgence in the 1930’s during the dust bowl and Great Depression giving birth to such artists as Woody Guthrie.  It also started to compartmentalize.  Bill Monroe’s music slowly became a separate genre - bluegrass - although it started as folk.

In the 1960’s folk again became music for the masses with its protests of injustice and reflections on the human condition.  Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, Judy Collins, The Band, The Grateful Dead, The Byrds, CSN&Y, Poco, The Flying Burrito Brothers, and a legion of others resurrected the folk music of the past and wrote new songs that modernized it to appeal to a much more urban audience.  They also used it as a medium for political action as a focus for populist unity with power to influence government and politics.

The Country has been at war for over 10 years.  The middle class has lost its jobs and homes.  Monied interests buy their influence in Washington, D.C. and State Capitols and seek to control what the rest of us see, hear and do. It is no small wonder that folk music is again experiencing a resurgence. 

Jason Serious’ latest album, Undercover Folk, consists of ten tunes that bring folk music into the 21st Century.  Serious is an amazingly talented songwriter.  Like Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, and the stellar folk talents that came before him, Serious can write a song that moves the listener in time and place.  He can evoke passion - from hope to hopelessness, from injustice to anger, from desire to love.   However. his is not protest music. It is music of, about and for the common man.

Instrumental accompaniment is simple and traditional, yet eloquent and elegant. Guitar, violin, drums, horns, piano, banjo and violin all are sparingly applied.  The album also takes folk in an unexpected direction merely by Serious’ choice of sidemen to play with him.  The country-folk tinge is actually played primarily by Europeans.  It makes the music that much more inclusive and, quite frankly, beautiful.

Songs like Met Jack Kerouac combine an old time shuffle with amazingly fun lyrics and a wonderful Dixieland feel. Purple Eyes, with its interesting harmonies, tells an engrossing story of loss, anxiety and life. On A Tide is as close to a protest song as Serious gets and, really, it requires extrapolation to see it as such.  The album ends with Buckets of Gin, a slow drunk shuffle. It is the folk song equivalent of a late night Tom Waits ballad.

The album is like putting on an old coat.  It is comfortable and warm with wear showing around the edges.  Each time you put your hand in a pocket you pull out something familiar and you are excited by the rediscovery. Although the jacket may not be fashionable right now, it once was and will be again,  Undercover Folk will give you a chance to search your pockets and your soul.

- Old School

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