Melvins, Working With God (Ipecac Recordings 2021)

The new album from the Melvins features the lineup from the early days and thirteen tracks of rarified rock weirdness/goodness.

When you speak aloud the name Melvins the response you get is either instant radical awareness or confusion. There isn’t a lot of middle ground. I saw them at the Louder Than Life festival a couple years ago. They got slotted on the far-flung stage (you know the one I am talking about if you’ve ever been to that festival) fairly early in the day and they tore it up on a short sharp set. Their performance was a highlight for me, clearly surpassing bands that came later in the bill. They play an indie, fuzzy grunge that comes at you from peculiar angles and hits you in unexpected places. There is no other band like them.

The line-up for Working With God is Buzz Osborne, Dale Crover, and Mike Dillard, taking the band back to its event horizon. The creative energy in the music is the whirlwind we have come to expect on Melvins releases, which now number in the uncountable range. The opening song is “I Fuck Around,” a Beach Boys parody. Nice. “Negative No No” comes next, and it is a fuzzy grunge fest. “Bouncing Rick” picks up the pace and franticness, handing the baton off to “Caddy Daddy” for a little drone. The first dose of absolute weirdness is “Brian, The Horse-Faced Goon.” And that is weird as in Mothers of Invention weird. Time for a smoke.

The themes are can be pretty accurately assessed from the song titles, and the sensibility is blowing off steam and not a lot of deep thought. It is pulsing hard-edged rock whipped up in endless variety and with boundless creativity. The back half doesn’t slow down at all, kicking off with “Boy Mike” and clipping into the delightful sentiment of “Fuck You.” There is the spacey “The Great Good Place” and “Hot Fish,” the longest song of the set that can be understood as a litany of frustration or as something else entirely. “Hund” is a B-12 shot to get you ready for the send-off, “Goodnight Sweet Heart,” which is either really funny or a total mindfuck, depending on where you are in your evening. Working With God is another raucous affair, and no mistake. Highly recommended.

The album is out now, so go scoop it up. Limited edition vinyl has sold out (at Bandcamp) but the regular is still available, and so are CDs and downloads.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://melvinsofficial.bandcamp.com/album/working-with-god

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/melvinsarmy

Website, https://melvins.veeps.com/

Label, http://ipecac.com/

Melvins, Working With God (Ipecac Recordings 2021)

Jakethehawk, Hinterlands (Ripple Music 2021)

Pittsburgh psychedelic metal band Jakethehawk deliver a new entry into their evolving canon of self-styled Appalachian Desert Rock with the trippy Hinterlands.

I saw Jakethehawk on a livestream sponsored by their record label a few weeks back. There were four bands on the bill and they were all great, but it is Jakethehawk that I remember most because their performance was fluid and expressive despite the claustrophobic nature of livestreams. I hadn’t heard them before and that preview got me excited for Hinterlands.

In 2018 the band released an EP, Year Of The Hawk, and a long-player, To Build A Fire. The music is a steady, cosmic, psychedelic effluence with hearty riffs, smooth vocals, and mesmerizing lead guitar breaks.

Hinterlands has six tracks, mostly in the six minute range. They tend to have gentle openings about half the time and languid movements into heavier lands. The other half have heavier gates with the mysticism on the inside. There is an ethereal ambience surrounding it all like a heavy mist, and sometimes the music and voice function like incantations, or even mantras, and they draw you all the way in to a place where the edges blur. The edges of everything blur.

The music is a brand of stoner rock you could say, and it is non-aggressive after that fashion, but it is not frivolous – the music has something important to show that comes through on every piece. The lead guitar is especially fervent, teed up as it is by the other instruments. I could pick as favorite any song on the album and be telling the truth, never regretting the declaration.

Hinterlands fulfilled my every expectation; it actually over-delivered. Highly recommended.

The album dropped today on Ripple Music, and you can pick it up at the label link below in digital, CD, or vinyl. For the previous albums, hit the first link for the band’s Bandcamp link.

Links,

Bandcamp, https://jakethehawk.bandcamp.com/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/jakethehawkpgh/

Ripple, https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/album/hinterlands

Jakethehawk, Hinterlands (Ripple Music 2021)

Appalooza, The Holy of Holies (Ripple Music 2021)

French heavy stoner trio Appalooza tell stories of distress and decline in their latest long-player.

The band formed only a couple years ago in Brest, France, issuing their first album (self-titled) in 2018. That album has a grungy pulse to it, deterministically joining the informal revival of that bygone time. With many desert-scented colors whirled into the song writing, the album is very listenable.

The new music has a crisper presence. It is not as murky in the mix and has generally sharper edges. There is still strong, sometimes overpowering, grunge reflection throughout, and the desert feel runs deeper this time. According to the Bandcamp page, the band is Sylvain (vocals and guitar), Vincent (drum), and Tony (bass), with additional mystery contributions.

The first song on the album is “Storm,” and it has a muted opening after an initial distant ethereal vocal. I am repeating myself in my head, so let me lay it down here: this is a grunge album. The ghost of Layne Staley can be heard clearly in “Reincarnation,” perhaps the most direct Alice In Chains homage, although there are many. Nearly every track, in fact. The band does tell you this in the descriptive material on their social media pages, mentioning AIC specifically as an enduring influence. They mean it.

Looking back from the end of the set, there is more here than a retreading of popular 1990s genre music. Traditional music influences from the Mediterranean (and Middle East) add depth to the pressing guitars, and the song structures, especially on the second half of the album, stretch out to test and expand the borders of the band’s compositional universe. Living in their own space and telling their own stories, Appalooza brings a new perspective forward in the cloak of the venerable past. Recommended.

The Holy of Holies is out now. CDs, vinyl, and downloads can all be snapped up at Bandcamp.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://appalooza.bandcamp.com/album/the-holy-of-holies

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/Appalooza.OfficialPage/

Ripple Music, https://www.ripple-music.com/

Appalooza, The Holy of Holies (Ripple Music 2021)

Wedge, Like No Tomorrow (Heavy Psych Sounds Records 2021)

The cover art for the new Wedge album is a burning fire extinguisher. That is poetry and the perfect sign for the band’s third set.

Wedge first appeared in Berlin as is made up of Kiryk Drewinski (guitar, vocals), Holger Grosser (drums), and Dave Götz (bass, keys). They play a bluesy heavy psych that puts you in mind of bands like Kadaver, Blues Pills, a little bit like Lucifer maybe, and heavy on the jam. Every song eventually gets around to a solid slab of groove, and that is what cements Wedge in my mind. There were two albums before the new one, starting with the self-titled one in 2014, followed by Killing Tongue in 2018.

Rooted in 1970s rock sensibilities, the eight songs on Like No Tomorrow are a swim through nostalgia while the currents of modern fuzz undulate against you with variegated fervor. The music is absolutely solid while maintaining a relaxed DIY feel to it. There is some social commentary in the lyrics and you can make as little or as much of them as you like because it is the music that is going to be in the forefront of your mind when you listen.

The first song is “Computer,” and it starts with a jazzy vamp on the keys and a pulsing guitar riff. The vocals set me on an Atlanta Rhythm Section spiral is the best possible way. A couple of great bridges later there is the first guitar solo and you know you are in the right place. “Playing A Role” opts for the guitar up front and the thumping bass line lays the rail for a catchy tune that in another time could have been a big radio hit. Each song all the way through has its own perspective and identity.

There are a couple of tracks in the three minute range but most run four to five, breaking the music up nicely. The anchor piece is the nine minute “Soldier.” In the long form, Wedge keeps the ingenuity at full force and stretches out in a further exploration of themes and individuations. I am glad I took the trip. Wedge is going to be in my playlists from now on. Recommended.

Like No Tomorrow is out now, and the easiest buy in the US is the digital download at Bandcamp. Heavy Psych Sounds Records does have an on-line US shop (link below) and you can pick up vinyl there.

Band photo snagged from their Facebook page.

Links.

Website, https://www.wedgeband.com/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/wedgeband

Bandcamp, https://wedgeband.bandcamp.com/

Label, https://www.heavypsychsounds.com/shop-usa.htm

Wedge, Like No Tomorrow (Heavy Psych Sounds Records 2021)

Kabbalah, The Omen (Rebel Waves Records 2021)

Kabbalah are brewing a psychedelic elixir in their cauldron of dreams and it is called The Omen.

The trio from Pamplona, Spain creates music that is a fascinating amalgam of contemporary fuzzy doom matched to a seventies-era rock passed through a grungy sifting machine where unexpected elements latch on, including beautiful melodic vocals and eerie themes and harmonies. The band has released a few EPs, as well as the full-length album Spectral Ascent (2017), leading up to the new one, The Omen.

The album is described in the band’s press release in part as an “occult rock grimoire where sticky melodies, funerary riffs and haunting vocals come together.” All of these things are true. I can think of a couple of bands from the past that appear to be clear influences on Kabbalah, but I have never heard anything quite like the music they make so let’s set those other names aside.

Some of the songs have a sharper edge, like the opener “Stigmatized” with its gravelly guitars, and “The Ritual,” which comes across more directly serious and dramatic. Much of the music is very laid back and hypnotic, with clearer seventies-inspired guitar tones and lovely, lilting vocals, as in “The Night Comes Near.” The echoing whispers and urging rhythms in “Labyrinth” come back to you at night when you are falling asleep, and the closer, “Liturgy,” is convincingly summative. You can feel the living desert infused in the notes of this music, and you when you close your eyes as the album plays you come to know the spirit of the ceremony.

If you rotate this album into your listening queue your life will be better. Recommended.

The digital for The Omen is at Bandcamp, Rebel Waves Records (an imprint of Ripple Music) has the CD and vinyl, and you can get a cassette from Stoner Witch Records.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://kabbalahrock.bandcamp.com/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/Kabbalahrock

Ripple Store, https://ripplemusic.bigcartel.com/products

Stoner Witch Store, https://stonerwitchrecords.bigcartel.com/products

Kabbalah, The Omen (Rebel Waves Records 2021)

Cortez, Sell The Future review (Ripple Music 2020)

Album number three from Cortez is Sell The Future and it rides a heavy wave of riff-powered demolition.

From the Boston area, Cortez has been releasing music since their 2006 demo. They have had a couple of lineup changes over the years, as most bands do. For Sell the Future, earliest members Jay Furlo (bass) and Scott O’Dowd {Scotty Fuse} (guitar) are joined by long time players Matt Harrington (vocals) and Alasdair Swan (guitar). Alexei Rodriguez (drums) is newest, dating from 2017 (if The Metal Archives has it facts straight).

Harrington’s voice is powerful and fierce when he wants it to be and yet he can attenuate it for different emotions and effects. The compositions rely on solid grooves and big riffs, with well-placed and clever lead breaks adding nuance to the work. The rippling and surprising percussion bursts that you hear from Rodriguez in unexpected places are a fundamental building block to the unique sound of the band.

“No Escape” is a banger, and the perfect choice for an up-tempo lead off song. The title track is next and sets a serious tone with a purposeful riff up front then pushes on with a heavy swagger. The tempo gets a switch in advance of the lead break, which flays the carcass of reason. “Look At You” has a driving rhythm that just won’t let you turn away, and if you are not hooked on this album by the time the third song is over, I don’t know what to say to you. I cannot pick a single favorite, but I will point to the way the songs dissimilarities enhance the set as a whole – listening to the furiously paced “Vanishing Point” right after “Sharpen The Spear,” which has a more plaintive structure, puts you off balance in just the right way for the closer, “Beyond.” This album was worth the wait. Highly recommended.

Sell the Future is out now. Bandcamp is a good place to look for the digital, and there are couple vinyl variants there, too.

Band photo by Bruce Bettis.

Links.

Ripple Bandcamp, https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/album/sell-the-future

Cortez website, http://www.cortezboston.com/

Cortez Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/cortezboston/

Cortez Soundcloud, https://soundcloud.com/cortezboston

Cortez, Sell The Future review (Ripple Music 2020)

Crystal Spiders, Molt review (Ripple Music 2020)

Raleigh, North Carolina-based Crystal Spiders add a new entry in the Stoner Rock ledgers with their full-length debut, Molt.

The band is Brenna Leath and Tradd Yancey, bass/vocals and drums, respectively. They released a three-song demo last year, and Molt is the rapid follow up. Leath is also in the bands Lightning Born and The Hell No, creating music there and already finishing the principal writing on the next Crystal Spiders album after Molt. She is keeping the creative fires alive in this first year of the pandemic.

The new album has a straight-forward sound and a practical approach to Stoner Doom that sits atop a solid underlying heavy rock structure. There is occasional the lead work like near the end of “C.U.N. Hell” that complements the abiding rhythm, but it is those bass lines and the assertive percussion that gets the biggest notice. And the vocals, of course. Leath’s voice is clear and soulful and vaporous all at once, in the neighborhood of Jillian Taylor (Ruby The Hatchet) but a bit lower in register and huskier tone.

A couple of the songs stood out and stuck with me even among the field of excellent music the album creates. “The Call” is a rousing, pulsing rocker, with a piercing guitar upfront and a ponderous then menacing back end. The ethereal sounds and tones in “The Fog” were absolutely hypnotizing – I was so wrapped up in listening to it I didn’t even realize when the song ended and the album was done. The title track is a crackling burst of Punk energy and “Chronic Sick” is pure doom.

Molt is out now from Ripple Music at their Big Cartel store and through Bandcamp. I just finished listening to the new album again and I am already anticipating the next one. Recommended.

Band photo by Marissa Straw.

Links.

https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/album/molt

https://www.facebook.com/crystalspidersinmymind

https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/

Crystal Spiders, Molt review (Ripple Music 2020)

Tia Carrera, Tried and True review (Small Stone Records 2020)

Instrumental metal blues groove psychedelic masterminds Tia Carrera release another stream of altered consciousness with Tried and True.

Tia Carrera is a band best experienced live in the same way you want to hear Sleep or Earthless in person. The strong improvisational element to the performances make the experience more personal – it could very well be that what you are listening to was never played that way before and won’t ever be played just that way again. You can record it and listen to it later, but if you were there I bet you’ll hear that recording differently than people who listen to it and weren’t.

The Texas trio has been creating acid-soaked renderings for more than fifteen years. The current lineup includes founders Jason Morales and Erik Conn, joined by Curt Christenson who appears to be there to stay. The rumor is the band has a massive treasure trove of recorded material, both in-studio and live, that they have yet to release. They curate what goes public very carefully, only letting out small bits here and there. Any new release is big news, and with Tried and True they have broken off a big chunk instrumental wonderment for the eager public.

All the musical stylings on this album have an urgency and an explosive originality. You can hear the bass line and the drums clearly at all times alongside the guitar. Each part is distinct and at the same time fit together in a fierce synergy rivaled only by perhaps Frank Zappa at his most berserk. The music is very bluesy with an extra helping of chimerical phantasmagoria. There are five principal tracks, the anchor being the 14 minute title expansion that is, in the words of Poe, a dream within a dream. The CD has two bonus entries that together are more than 30 minutes so give that serious consideration – they are “Visitors” and “Early Purple,” previously released last year on vinyl. It is an experience.

Out tomorrow, Friday June 12, from Small Stone Records, drop Tried and True into your brain as soon as you can.You want as much Tia Carrera as you can get.

Links.

http://www.facebook.com/tiacarreraofficial

https://smallstone.bandcamp.com/album/tried-and-true

http://www.smallstone.com

http://www.facebook.com/smallstonerecords

Tia Carrera, Tried and True review (Small Stone Records 2020)