New York Music Daily

No New Abnormal

Tag: black sabbath

The Goners Mash Up Garage Rock and Powerpop with Classic Heavy Riffage

The Goners play an individualistic brand of heavy rock that’s slinkier and more focused than most bands in the style. Unlike most heavy bands, their rhythm section – bassist Aaron Miller and drummer Aaron Smith – really swing (although Geezer Butler and Bill Ward swung like hell too). And the group don’t use a lot of guitar effects: just overdriven amps and some growly treble on the bass, and that’s pretty much it. Their latest album Good Mourning – streaming at Bandcamp – is a blend of doom metal, garage rock and more opaque indie sounds.

The first track, Are You Gone Yet is basically a garage rock tune souped up with some tasty chromatics and a sunbaked wah guitar solo. High Low and Never In Between is a chunky riff-rocking Sabbath homage, more or less, with a couple of pinwheeling, doublespeed guitar solos.

They go back to a garage rock stomp for World of Decay, then hit a gallop with Evil Is Not Enough, a twisted tale of hooking up with a groupie. After that, they take an unexpected and successful detour into loping southwestern gothic with Good Ol’ Death and return to swaying riff-rock with The Sickening, with a nasty, tremolo-picked guitar solo out.

The most bizarre song here is Down and Out, a mashup of the Ventures and early Iron Maiden, with a spacy interlude for trumpet. Likewise, the mashup of Stooges and crunchy Sabbath in You Better Run is pretty weird, up to the album’s best and most allusively menacing guitar solo. With its punchy changes and watery analog chorus-box solos, The Little Blue reminds of Da Capo-era Arthur Lee.

The band go back to a surreal mix of spaghetti western, surf rock and hints of Radio Birdman to close the album with Dead in the Saddle (Dead Moon). Some fans of heavier sounds are going to hear frontman/guitarist Nate Gone’s flat, off-key vocals and the lithe, supple grooves of this music and find it insubstantial. But leave your mind open and you just might get into this.

Summoner Put Out the Best Heavy Psychedelic Album of 2020

When Summoner recorded their set at the Day of Doom Festival at St. Vitus in Brooklyn last year, were they even planning on releasing it? Did they have any idea that it would turn out to be the best heavy psychedelic rock record of the year?

It’s been desperate times, desperate measures for most artists this year. There’s never been such a deluge of archival live recordings dumped on the web, since studios have been officially put on ice by the lockdowners. Some of those albums are dodgy, but a surprising number are top-shelf and Summoner’s Live at Day of Doom – streaming at Bandcamp – is the best of the bunch. It’s amazing how this band manage to sound so unhinged yet so tight.

No overdubs, no punching in to fix mistakes: they’re in their element, playing through St. Vitus’ magnificently loud (and now tragically silent) PA system to a pretty rapt crowd. What immediately hits you about their performance is the subtle touches. For example, the way frontman Chris Johnson’s bass slithers up into the highs over the fanged guitar riffage of the opening number, Skies of the Unknown. That’s foreshadowing. He’ll do that later, especially toward the end, when he isn’t playing with a gritty, growling tone…or detuning his E string for the slashingly Arabic-tinged Into the Abyss.

Even though Summoner don’t sound much like Iron Maiden or Black Sabbath, you can see they’ve built off those groups’ best ideas to make something completely new. Listen to how guitarists AJ Peters and Joe Richner play their twin leads with a powerglide sleekness on that opening number. They’ll do that again in the evil, slurry chords of The Interloper over drummer Scott Smith’s stampede.

Counterintuitively, the centerpiece of the show is not an upbeat number but a slow, epically spare, almost ten-minute take of Let the Light In. It’s closer to Nektar or Desert Flower than, say, Mastodon, lingering jangle and clang rising to crushing waves. The eerily glimmering tremolo-picking and surreal flanged contrast between Peters and Richner’s guitars will send your natural opiates through the roof.

The chromatics get more sinister in The Prophecy: Johnson’s melodic approach essentially gives the band three lead guitarists. Textures spiral and roar and scream throughout the anthemic, galloping Horns of War. The band wind up the set with Conjuring, their Children of the Grave, with seamonster bass piercing the surface and a tantalizing exchange of solos. Every band this good – and there are hundreds of them around the world – needs to make a live album like this.

Radical Reinventions and Faithful Facsimiles of Black Sabbath Classics

Why on earth would anyone want to hear an album of Black Sabbath covers? If you play heavy music, sure. The new Best of Black Sabbath [Redux] vinyl compilation – streaming at Bandcamp – underscores how imaginatively a good band can reinvent songs that half the world knows by heart more than it serves as a cautionary tale about musical hubris.

A handful of the covers here faithfully replicate the bludgeoning riffs, macabre chromatics and Middle Eastern allusions of the alltime foundational heavy metal band. Take Hippie Death Cult‘s Fairies Wear Boots. It’s perfect. Maybe a little extra drum roll, a little extra digital sustain on the guitars, but otherwise it could really be Sabbath. As anyone who spent their formative years learning this material will tell you, it’s deliriously fun to play. And beyond the fun this band are obviously having with it, what’s the point?

Likewise, Caustic Casanova‘s version of Wicked World is musically spot-on: they absolutely nail the long jam that quickly goes doublespeed, then quadruplespeed. The B-52s vocals are, um, original.

Other versions on the record are subtly altered. Leather Lung give Hole in the Sky a haphazard, wide-angle swing beat, screaming punk rock vocals and a hint of goofy tremolo on the big riffs. Summoner‘s lithely jagged take of A National Acrobat suggests that Tony Iommi might have been listening to P-Funk or Rare Earth before he came up with this one.

Sweet Leaf is what it is – Black Electric’s version sounds even more dense and stoned, and just as funny as the original. A great pickup group consisting of CKY’s Chad Ginsburg, Fireball Ministry guitarist James Rota and bassist Scott Reeder, and drummer Jess Margera do a no-BS take of N.I.B. with another funny moment: they put a talkbox on the bass as they fade it up.

But music that was game-changing at the time tends to reward those who dare change the game even more. Case in point: the version of The Wizard here is a revelation. Mooner completely remake it as heavy latin psychedelia with deliciously trebly bass, sultry vocals and a flute in place of Ozzy’s hyperventilating harmonica.

Similarly, Solace’s Electric Funeral has a bone-chilling, whispery, Doors/Frank Flight Band vibe fueled by tremolo organ and jangly guitar, although they can’t resist bringing in the heavy artillery here and there. Howling Giant‘s Lord of This World also has a little organ, smartly shifting textures and clever references to another Sabbath classic (which isn’t included on the album, maybe because it was covered, awfully, by Blondie).

Slowly developing their cover of Solitude out of minimalist cello-driven art-rock works hauntingly for Brume. Elephant Tree‘s decision to remake Paranoid as bizarrely atmospheric sludgecore also pays off heavily. Building their version of Sleeping Village around a hypnotically cantering, opiated groove turns out to be a big score for Saint Karloff.

Rwit is an unexpected and solid choice of cover tune; Rwake‘s practically ten-minute version has a bizarre contrast between expertly layered, understatedly menacing guitars and screamo vocals.

There are a couple of duds here. The idea to make Kristin Hersh-style dreampop out of Planet Caravan was brave, but it never rises above the level of generic. And Never Say Die is an awful song that sounds like Thin Lizzy and shouldn’t have made the cut.

The Vol. 4 Redux Compilation: Better Than the Black Sabbath Original?

The Vol. 4 album is where Black Sabbath started to go to hell. That was where Sabbath first ventured out of the doom metal they’d singlehandedly invented, toward a bludgeoning take on art-rock and FM radio-oriented heavy pop tunesmithing, with uneven results.

Maybe it was the demands of the record label, a new album every year becoming an impossible task as far as maintaining the insanely high creativity of their first three records. That job proved to be too much for just about every band from the radio-and-records era, so it’s probably not fair to fault the godfathers of heavy metal for dropping off the fourth time around.

So if you’re going to cover a Sabbath album, it makes sense to do this one.

Seriously – does anybody really want to hear somebody like Zakk Wylde put the bite on, and tap, and divebomb his way through a cartoon copy of the iconic first Sabbath record?

That’s why the new vinyl compilation Vol. 4 Redux – streaming at Bandcamp – is worth owning if metal or heavy psychedelia is your thing. it’s better than the original. Ten different bands take turns, some of them completely reinventing these songs, others just adding their own inspired and often amusing touches. Interestingly, pretty much all the vocalists seem to be shooting for Ozzy impersonations, and pretty much every band’s drummer rises to the challenge of nailing the great, underrated Bill Ward’s nimbly swinging attack.

Wheels of Confusion, by Thou  begins as brittle death metal that warms up with the long fuzztone jam at the end. Tomorrow’s Dream, by the Obsessed, is both fuzzier and more haphazard than the original – and closer to the way Sabbath would play it live. On one hand, the sonics of Vol. 4 are luscious: on the other hand, it’s more dense and, let’s admit it, slickly produced than the first three records.

The track that no band in their right mind would want to have to cover, obviously, is Changes. Yet High Reeper defy the odds, reinventing it as gritty doom metal: no keyboards on this one. FX, the dissociative free jazz-scape, gets a wry, quote-filled riff-fest of a remake by Sleep guitar icon Matt Pike.

The closest thing to the original here is Spirit Adrift‘s inspired, straight-up cover of Supernaut, complete with space-bubble sonics before the last verse. Green Lung‘s version of Snowblind takes the original to the next level, thanks to John Wright’s smoky roto organ and guitarist Tom Templar’s lighter, twin lead-fueled touch.

Whores blend sludgy menace and loopy whippit guitar in a slow, tarpit take of Cornucopia: let’s face it, the original was little more than a hodgepodge of riffs. The big surprise here is Mos Generator mastermind Tony Reed’s starkly elegant, baroquely orchestral version of Laguna Sunrise.

Haunt‘s St. Vitus Dance, for what it’s worth, gets a machinegunning attack that sounds a lot like Molly Hatchet. After all this, the macabre chromatics, funereal gallop and surgically unhinged guitars of Zakk Sabbath‘s Under the Sun is a surprisingly serious and mighty payoff.

Ride the Highway to Hell with the Death Wheelers

The Death Wheelers play heavy psychedelic rock instrumental soundtracks to imaginary sleazy biker flicks. They like gritty, gear-grinding bass, heavy drums and guitar textures that shift from sandpaper distortion to blue-flame Lynchian twang, Their new album Divine Filth – streaming at Bandcamp – is the heaviest one yet.

They open with a swooshy, crunchy title theme that’s over in less than two minutes, slide guitar hovering over Max Tremblay’s chainsaw downtuned bass and Richard Turcotte’s drums. Ditchfinder General is an epic mashup of a twisted ba-BUMP theme as early Sabbath would have done it, along with the Stooges’ TV Eye, thrash metal and spaghetti western textures.

Suicycle Tendencies is a heavy biker theme: imagine Agent Orange covering a Davie Allan & the Arrows tune, with an outro by Sabbath. The title track is a gritty battle theme where the whole gang unites against the enemy, throttles rumbling at full volume beneath Ed Desaulniers and Hugo Bertacci’s shreddy wah guitars.

Lobotomobile, a creepy spiderwalking horror surf tune, is the album’s most gleefully phantasmagorical track. Corps Morts starts off like a heavier Radio Birdman, decays to grim sludge and then rises from the lagoon. Murder Machines – Biker Mortis, true to its title, is part horror film theme, part evilly strutting Harley chopper rock.

The voiceover that kicks off Motorgasm – Canal Pleasures Pt. 1 is pretty priceless: the song. part Isaac Hayes psychedelic funk, part crunchy stoner riff-rock, is just as tongue-in-cheek. Chopped Back to Life is a 70s stoner boogie repurposed as crispy all-terrain vehicle music.

Road Rite shifts between hardcore punk and a strutting, vaguely Stonesy tune. The group close the record with Nitrus, a pummeling horror surf number, like Strange But Surf with distortion and a chunkier rhythm section. It’s the band’s best album so far and one of the most entertainingly cinematic releases of the year.

Slashing, Anthemic, Melodic Metal From Rising Steel

French band Rising Steel play ferociously melodic, shapeshifting mid-80s style European metal. The obvious influence is Iron Maiden. Like that foundational NWOBHM band, these guys typically take a symphonic approach beyond any kind of simple verse/chorus patterns or blues progressions. They like big crushing hooks, their guitar solos have fangs, and nobody in the band wastes notes. Their album Fight Them All is streaming at Spotify.

They open at a machinegunning pace with Mystic Voices, veering back and forth between Motorhead and Maiden, with what sounds like a recurrent Bloodrock reference: these guys obviously know their source material. Frontman Emmanuelson delivers the requisite Viking operatics over the two-guitar attack of Mat Heavy Jones and Tony Steel and the surprisingly lithe rhythm section of bassist Flo Dust and drummer Steel Zard.

The album’s title track has bleak, crunchy chromatic guitars over a catchy, relentlessly galloping pulse. Steel Hammer could be British oi punk legends the UK Subs with more menacing chords, at least until they take the song halfspeed, and then out with a classic Maiden-ish charge.

They slow things down for a little while with Blackheart, but don’t hold back on the doomy chromatics. The stampede continues with Savage and segues with a swirl into the icily macabre Gloomy World, a surreal mashup of Maiden, Sabbath and piledriver postrock.

Malefice has a straightforward vintage Metallica drive, while Metal Nation is the album’s thrashiest number, and also one of its angriest ones, a furious call for unity against repression.

It’s surprising how few bands have ever done a song called Pussy: count Rising Steel among the few and the proud. Turns out that they don’t even use the word in this unexpectedly lighthearted party anthem.

They go back to thrashy punkmetal with Led By Judas and wind up the album on more of a Metallica style note with the steady, rampaging Master Control. Darkly anthemic heavy music doesn’t get much more memorable than this in 2020.

Blackwater Holylight: Gothic Rock Without the Cliches

Oregon band Blackwater Holylight‘s debut album was a surreal yet surprisingly effective mashup of the Cure and Black Sabbath, which makes more sense than it might seem, considering that there’s nothing more gothic than Sabbath. The all-female group’s latest release, Veils of Winter – streaming at Bandcamp – is a deeper plunge into doom metal, with occasional detours toward psychedelia and dreampop.

Bassist/frontwoman Allison “Sunny” Faris’ distant, girl-down-the-well vocals float above guitarist Mikayla Mayhew’s slow, minor-key fuzztone grimness in the album’s opening track, Seeping Secrets: they pick it up at the end, Electric Funeral style. There’s a ba-bump noir cabaret tune at the heart of the steady, more darkwave-ish Motorcycle, descending in the opposite direction.

Spiders comes across as a goth Television: the eerie quasar keys before drummer Cat Hoch’s stomp kicks in are a neat touch. Icy 80s chorus-box sonics mingle with menacing metal in The Protector, bringing to mind shapeshifting New York rockers Castle Black. Daylight is anything but, Faris’ subtle chromatics descending from the relentless, hypnotically orchestrated crush.

Death Realms has an early Lush-like grey-ocean dreampop density, while the distantly Indian-tinged Lullaby is part envelopingly opiated Black Angels and part late Beatles. The album’s final cut, Moonlit, has unexpected echoes of the Grateful Dead, a possible indication that there’s even more psychedelia in the future for a band who take a lot of well-worn ideas and make something fresh and new out of them.

Tuneful, Fearlessly Original Heavy Stoner Riffage From Fuzz Evil

Today’s Halloween album is High on You, by Fuzz Evil, which is streaming at Bandcamp. While there’s some fuzztone in the band’s guitars and plenty of post-Sabbath evil in the music, they’re more diverse than those elements would suggest.

The opening track is Get It Together: if Nirvana had a thing for stoner boogie (and could play their instruments a little better, and had a keyboard) they would have sounded like this. You Can Take Her Away is a lot faster and riffier, Sabbath at doublespeed maybe. Finally we get a deliciously allusive guitar solo from frontman Wayne Rudell while bassist Joey Rudell’s lines rise toward the peak of the wave at the end.

Ribbons and Kills is a savage, slow, crushingly cynical kiss-off anthem. There are creepy, watery effects on the vocals, a vein-slashing pickslide behind the walls of distortion: “You’re daddy’s little girl,” is the mantra.

If You Know could be slow Nirvana with more confident guitar, stronger vocals, a slow-burning, Sabbath-inspired rhythm section and a deliciously icy, macabre Blue Oyster Cult-ish guitar solo.

Pushed along by drummer Orgo Martinez, The Strut is more of a stomp,  minor-key Sabbath riffs over an emphatic pulse. When the toxic waves of reverb guitar overflow the container, the payoff is sweet.

The album’s title track envelops you with its slow, echoey, ominous sonics over Martinez’s crushing, sparse beats, building to a a rhythmically twisted Rubik’s Cube. The final cut is Are You In Or Out, strobe guitars building to a steady, emphatic burn. If you’re into heavy psych, don’t sleep on this.

Heavy Psych Trio River Cult Make a Twisted Live EP

Heavy psychedelic trio River Cult spun off of an excellent, similarly loud and underrated Brooklyn postrock band, Eidetic Seeing. Their debut ep got the thumbs up here; their latest one, Live at WFMU is up as a name-your-price download at Bandcamp. More bands should be making live albums – if you’re paying for studio time, it’s infinitely cheaper, and you can capture what the band really sounds like. Do it right and it’s the best advertising you could have. They’re bringing their cinematic, unhinged, doomy sounds to the Cobra Club in Bushwick on May 27 at 11 PM; cover is $10.

They open the album’s first number, Likelihood of Confusion with a syncopated sway and then straighten it out, drummer Tav Palumbo’s nimble flurries under guitarist/frontman Sean Forlenza’s sunbaked blues riffage in tandem with bassist Anthony Mendolia. “Sobriety! In the breeze,” Forlenza sneers. “I can’t get by…it just gets boring.” But this doesn’t, through a Stoogoid wah solo, a bit of finger, then an echoing pulsar interlude that Palumbo eventually crashes the band out of.

They segue out of that epic into the even longer, practically ten-minute Temps Perdu, stomping their way through what could be the early Dream Syndicate playing Sir Lord Baltimore. Mendolia goes up the scale as Forlenza holds his notes, bends the walls, shivers and then descends toward a mournful abyss as the rhythm slows and then falls away.

The longest, most twistedly picturesque and final cut is Shadow Out of Time. Forlenza plays echoey slide over a dirgy sway, then all of a sudden they pick up steam and they’re into Daydream Nation-era Sonic Youth with offcenter bass/guitar harmonies. And then into galloping post-Sabbath: “It gets hard to breathe when you know you just wanna be dead,” Forlenza snarls. The studio version collapses into its own grave; the slow lights-on-lights-off outro here is even better and just as creepy. On the floor, headphones on, you know the drill. Is that just ash or is there something in there?

A Sophomore Album from Darkly Excellent Garage-Psych Sisters Good English

Darkly bristling, fearlessly individualistic all-female Ohio power trio Good English – guitarist Elizabeth, bassist Celia and drummer Leslie Rasmussen – are a blend of improbable but very good influences.

Good English’s self-titled sophomore album is streaming at Bandcamp. It opens with Carolina, a mashup of cantering fuzztone garage psych, surf rock, Black Sabbath and maybe Pat Benatar before she got all goofy. The tensely pulsing Girl comes across as the bastard child of the Detroit Cobras and the early Boomtown Rats. On the Run, with its minor keys and three-part harmonies, sounds like Pins covering the Go Go’s.

Awash in reverb and a hailstorm of cymbals, the murderously slinky Wanderer brings to mind a more stripped-down Desert Flower. Wicked Eyes starts out like the band might go in a lame corporate “R&B” direction but then veers toward Sabbath and then dark garage. The catchy Cold Winds swings along with four-on-the-floor drums and fuzztone bass, while Lion’s Kiss has the feel of a female-fronted, noisy Steve Wynn outtake from the early zeros.

The Fire Walk starts off much the same and then goes in an even more ominous direction, a surreal, twisted late-night party scenario. The album’s punkest track, Atheist is a slap upside the head of mindless belief. Battle Scar opens with a gentle unease and then hits a riff-rock stomp; the album winds up with Line of Fire, an uneasy ballad following a similar path upward out of uneasy jangle and resonance to a murky roar. This is music for people who like to carry a flask, probably own a turntable and lots of vinyl and live for hot nights in cramped little venues packed with like-minded revelers trying to keep it together until the real estate bubble finally bursts.