Category: metal

Live Footage: Finnish Bluegrass Act Steve ‘n’ Seagulls Covers AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck”

Steve ‘n’ Seagulls is a Finnish act, comprised of Irwin Remmel, Pukki Kaalinen, Puikkonen, Hermann and Wild Till Hiltunen that has received attention across Scandinavia and elsewhere for bluegrass-like renditions of well-known metal and hard rock songs, including this amazing cover of AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck,” which has amassed over 88 million streams on YouTube. Interestingly, much like Gangstagrass, Steve ‘n’ Seagulls make a vital connection between bluegrass and metal and hard rock, reminding listeners that they all essentially come from the same source. 

Advertisements

Throwback: Van Halen’s “Hot For Teacher”/Happy First Week of School

School officially started for kids across the New York City metropolitan area this week. And it’s been an annual tradition that I dedicate Van Halen’s classic “Hot For Teacher” to the countless, faithful, loving and dedicated educators out there.  I’m hoping that the first week goes to a great start — and that the rest of the school year be amazing for you and your students. 

New Audio: Permanent Records and RidingEasy Records Release a Groovy Blues-Tinged Pysch Rock Number off the Forthcoming Ninth Edition of Brown Acid Compilation

Permanent Records’ and RidingEasy Records’ collaboration on their continuing series of proto-metal and pre-stoner rock compilations have become a biannual feature throughout this site’s nine-plus year history. Each individual edition of the series is based around RidingEasy Records’ founder Daniel Hall’s and Permanent Records co-owner Lance Barresi’s extensive, painstaking research and curation — with Hall and Barresi spending a great deal of time tracking down songs’ creators, most often bands that haven’t written, played or recored together in 30 or 40 years, and then encouraging them to take part in the compilation process. As Permanent Records’ Barresi has explained in press notes for each of previous editions of the compilation, “All of (these songs) could’ve been hits given the right circumstances. But for one reason or another most of these songs fell flat and were forgotten. However, time has been kind in my opinion and I think these songs are as good now or better than they ever were.”

Having the original artists participate as much as possible in the compilation can give the artists and their songs, a real second chance at the attention and success that they missed. Plus, these songs can help fill in the gaps within the larger picture of what was going on in and around regional and national underground music scenes during the 60s and 70s. Continuing upon the critical and commercial success of its first eight editions of the Brown Acid compilation, RidingEasy Records and Permanent will be releasing Brown Acid: The Ninth Trip on Halloween. Naturally, the ninth edition finds Barressi and Hall managing to deep even digger into a very deep well of obscure material written and recorded during the 60s and 70s. The ninth edition of Brown Acid’s first single is Fiberglass Vegetables’ funky blues-tinged, psych rock strut “Pain,” a track that nods at Steppenwolf, The Animals, The 13th Floor Elevators and others, complete with an infectious, arena rock friendly hook. 

New Audio: Sheer Mag Returns with a Politically-Charged Power, Chord-Fueled Anthem

Philadelphia-based rock act Sheer Mag, comprised of Tina Halladay, Kyle Seely, Hart Seely, Matt Palmer and Ian Dystrka, quickly emerged with three self-released 7 inches and regular touring across the Northeastern DIY circuit. Ironically, the Philadelphia-based quintet stood apart because their sound was so warmly familiar: big riff-based power pop, 60s and 70s proto-metal and 70s arena rock but without the toxic and fucked up machismo. They received praise from Rolling Stone who named the band one of their “10 New Artists You Need To Know” in January 2015, played at Coachella the following year and made their national television debut on on Late Night with Seth Myers.

Building upon a rapidly growing national profile, the band released their critically applauded full-length debut, 2017’s Need to Feel Your Love. Further cementing their enormous riff-based sound, the album thematically found the band surveying the contemporary political landscape through the lens of history with the band figuratively transporting themselves back to the 1969 Stonewall Riots, denouncing redlining and gerrymandering practices that undermine the popular vote while paying homage to German, Anti-Nazi political activist Sophie Scholl. 

Sheer Mag’s highly-anticipated sophomore album A Distant Call is slated for a September 23, 2019 release through the band’s own label, Wilsuns RC, and while the album finds the band writing about surviving our hellish sociopolitical moment, the album’s politics are deeply personal. The album documents one of the most alienating periods of Tina Halladay’s life: She was laid off from a job and found herself broke and newly single. And her father, with whom she had a fraught and difficult relationship died, which left her with more heartache and wounds than what felt possible to heal. On another level, the album’s material makes an argument for socialism on an anecdotal level.

Sonically, the album’s material possesses a studio sheen while retaining the big riffs, even bigger hooks, grit and intensity that first caught the attention of the blogosphere, as you’ll hear on the album’s first single, “The Killer.” And it may arguably be the most ambitious and self-assured bit of material in the band’s growing catalog.”There are many killers out there,” Sheer Mag’s Tina Halladay says in press notes. “The Killer is a liar with a strange hold on the world. The Killer is a war criminal the corrupt of society have produced and protected. The Killer spends his life covering up atrocities and defending right-wing dictatorships. The Killer stifles accountability and truth. We want to know, when does The Killer die?”

I’ve written quite a bit about the Seattle, WA-based heavy metal quartet Thunderpussy over the past handful of years, and as you may recall the act quickly exploded into the national scene as a result of a string of critically applauded live shows and co-signs from Rolling Stone and Pearl Jam’Mike McCready. Building upon a rapidly growing profile, the band released their Mike McCready-produced self-titled debut through Stardog Records/Republic Records, and the album which featured the Led ZeppelinBlack Sabbath meets Joan Jett-like anthem “Speed Queen” and the bluesy “Velvet Noose,” further cemented the band’s reputation for crafting self-assured, arena friendly rock.

The strutting, AC/DC-like “Never Know” is the first bit of new material from the band since the release of their self-titled debut, and while centered around enormous hooks, a booze-fueled 12 bar blues and Molly Sides’ sultry vocals — and while continuing a run of arena friendly rock, the song which features a new drummer, also manages to possess a different energy and air; that of an ambitious band that wants to take over the entire world.

“‘Never Know’ was a labor of lust!” The band says in press notes. “We dove deep, got stuck and let it go. Turns out it came back to us with a new energy and a new drummer! This was our first experience recording in LA with a group of producers that blew us away. We feel like the sound is something we’d been searching for a while and ended up being there all along. You truly never know what will happen when you let something go. If it’s mean tot be, it always finds a way back!”

The band is currently touring this summer with Black Pistol Fire, Hollis Brown and Ramonda Hammer and the tour includes a stop at Brooklyn Bowl tonight. Check out the tour dates below.

 

Tour Dates 
8/9: Brooklyn, NY @ Brooklyn Bowl #
8/10: Philadelphia, PA @ Milkboy #
8/11: Baltimore, MD @ Metro Gallery #
8/13: Nashville, TN @ High Watt #
8/15: Indianapolis, IN @ Hi-Fi Indy #
8/16: Chicago, IL @ Reggie’s Rock Club #
8/17: Saint Paul, MN @ Turf Club #
8/19: Bozeman, MT @ The Eagles Ballroom #
8/20: Boise, ID @ Humpin’ Hannah’s #
9/30: Anaheim, CA @ Chain Reaction *
10/1: San Diego, CA @ House of Blues – Voodoo Room *
10/3: Las Vegas, NV @ The Bunkhouse Saloon *
10/4: Los Angeles, CA @ House of Machines *
10/5: San Francisco, CA @ The Midway San Francisco

# w/ Hollis Brown
*w/ Ramonda Hammer

New Audio: JOVM Mainstays Blackwater Holylight Release a Trippy Headbanger

The acclaimed Portland, OR-based heavy psych act Blackwater Holylight was formed by founding member Allison “Sunny” Faris (vocals, bass) after her previous band broke up, as a way to begin experimenting with what her own version of “heavy” should and could be both sonically and emotionally — while celebrating vulnerability in all of its form. In fact, the primary idea for the project was to have vulnerability be in the driver’s seat when it came to the creative process. Throughout most of her musical career, Faris was often the only female in many of her bands and she desperately wanted to see how it was to work exclusively with women. 

The band released their critically applauded self-titled full-length debut last year. And after extensive touring to support the album, the members of the JOVM mainstay act honed their sound and identity, with their live set being about the slow build, as their sound has evolved a bit 

The band released their critically applauded self-titled full-length debut last year and after extensive touring to support the album, they’ve honed their sound and identity — with their live set being about the slow build, as their sound has evolved a bit. In fact, as a heavy band they do something unique: their songs aren’t anchored to riffs, but rather riffs come in and go in rippling waves that surface throughout material that’s generally meditative and entrancing. But they also focus on building tension and intrigue throughout the song. 

Slated for an October 11, 2019 release through RidingEasy Records, Blackwater Holylight’s highly-anticipated sophomore album Veils of Winter finds the band with a different lineup — Faris (bass, vocals), Laura Hopkins (guitar/vocals) and Sarah McKenna (synths) along with the band’s newest members Mikayla Mayhew (guitar) Eliese Dorsay (drums). And perhaps a result of the new lineup, the band’s sound and writing process have changed quite a bit. “The process of this album was vastly different from our first record,” says Faris. “One, because we recorded it over the course of a few weeks, whereas the first record was over the course of about a year. And two, this album was a true collaboration between the five of us. Each of us had extremely equal parts in writing and producing, we all bounced ideas off each together, and we all had a say in what was going on during every part of the process.”

“One of our favorite things about this album is that because it was so collaborative, we didn’t compartmentalize ourselves into one vibe.” She continues. “It’s heavy, psychedelic, pop, shoegaze, doom, grunge, melodic and more. The whole process was extremely organic and natural for us, we were just being ourselves.”

 “Motorcycle” Veils of Winter’s finds the band balancing fuzzy, power chords, gorgeous melodicism and a motorik groove to create a unique take on heavy music that’s one part doom metal, one part shoegaze that manages to reveal subtle nuances on multiple listeners while being headbang worthy. 

New Video: JOVM Mainstays King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard Release a Bonkers Visual for “Organ Farmer”

2017 saw the Melbourne, Australia-based psych rock septet and JOVM mainstays King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard release five albums — with each album managing to be in a completely different genre and style, all of which further cemented the band’s reputation for being both restlessly experimental and prolific.

Now, for a band that has managed to be as wildly productive and prolific as the Melbourne-based JOVM mainstays, not releasing new material last year was an extremely odd; however, during that same period, they were busy with a number of other things including — a relentless tour schedule that featured a headlining set at Desert Daze and three sold out-dates at Brooklyn Steel, the largest venue they’ve played in the States to date. The band also re-issued their first five albums on vinyl for the first time ever — and it created such a frenzied demand that the Flightless Records website crashed from the traffic.

Earlier this year, King Gizzard and The Wizard Lizard released their 14th album Fishing for Fishies earlier this year, and the album’s material found the band creating a sonic world in which the organic met the automated; where the rustic met the robotic; where the past and future collide in the beautiful present. But at the end of the day, the material was essentially boogie blues that strutted, shimmied and stomped through several different moods and terrains,. “We tried to make a blues record,” says frontman Stu Mackenzie. “A blues-boogie-shuffle-kinda-thing, but the songs kept fighting it – or maybe it was us fighting them. Ultimately though we let the songs guide us this time; we let them have their own personalities and forge their own path. Paths of light, paths of darkness. This is a collection of songs that went on wild journeys of transformation.”

2019 find site Aussie JOVM mainstays returning to the prolificacy that their fans and the blogosphere knows them for. In fact, the band’s 15th album, Infest The Rats’ Nest is slated for an August 16, 2019 release through ATO Records here in the States. While the members of the band have long enjoyed a fluid creative approach, the recording sessions for Infest The Rats’ Nest featured a pared down lineup featuring Stu McKenzie (vocals,. guitar, bass) Joey Walker (guitar, bass) and Michael Cavanaugh (drums). This stemmed from other commitments — including Cook Craig (guitar) and Ambrose Kenny-Smith (keys, harmonica) being busy with their side project The Murlocs; Lucas Skinner (drums) taking time off to spend time with his newborn; and Eric Moore (drums) being busy running their label Flightless Records. 

Naturally, the pared down set allows for much tighter arrangements and blistering velocity — and as a result, the new album’s material finds them scratching a long-held thrash metal itch. “In fourth grade there was an older kid who was into Rammstein” explains Stu of his early discovery of metal’s extremities. “I made friends with him and we put together a performance at our school assembly where we headbanged to ‘Du Hast’. I got whiplash, which I thought was pretty cool. That was my introduction to heavy metal, and soon Rammstein led to Metallica, Metallica led to Slayer, Slayer led to Kreator and Sodom. The German bands really kicked my ass and scared the hell out of me too. Later on, when I picked up a guitar I realized that shit was too hard to play, so I got into rock ‘n’ roll and garage. That was liberating.”

“Organ Farmer,” Infest The Rats’ Nest latest single is blistering, balls-to-the-walls thrash metal, complete with shrieking guitar solos, howled lyrics, thunderous drumming, and rapid fire tempo changes. And naturally, the track brings Kill Them All and Ride the Lightning-era Metallica to mind — in other words, the song which seethes with disgust and fury, is a straightforward headbanger. 

Directed by John Angus Stewart, the recently released video for “Organ Farmer” features the members of the band, shirtless with the words “Organ Farmer” and others scrawled on their skin. The first portion of the video sees them smashing a car up with hammers — but by the end, the zombie-like members of the band are moshing in a sweaty and packed basement. It’s an insane and intense visual for an equally insane and intense song. 

New Audio: the bird and the bee’s Jazz-like Take on Van Halen’s “Hot For Teacher”

Last month, I wrote about the Los Angeles-based indie pop act the bird and the bee — singer/songwriter Inara George and seven time Grammy Award-winning producer and multi-instrumentalist Greg Kurstin, who has worked with the likes of Sia, Adele, Beck, Kendrick Lamar, Foo Fighters and Paul McCartney — and as you may recall, the act can trace their origins to when the duo met while working on George’s 2005 solo debut All Rise. Bonding over a mutual love of 80s pop and rock, the duo decided to continue to work together in a jazz-influenced electro pop project.

The Los Angeles indie pop duo’s debut EP Again and Again and Again and Again was released in late 2006. They quickly followed that up with their self-titled full-length debut in early 2007 — and with their earliest releases George and Kurstin quickly developed a reputation for bringing a breezy elegance to their work, which finds them putting their own idiosyncratic twist on time-bending indie pop.

Although serving as the long-awaited follow up to 2015’s Recreational Love, the bird and the bee’s fifth album, Interpreting the Masters, Vol. 2: A Tribute to Van Halen actually closely follows 2010’s critically applauded Interpreting the Masters, Vol. 1: A Tribute to Hall & Oates. And while Van Halen‘s most anthemic and beloved work may initially seem like an unlikely vessel for the Los Angeles-based duo’s sound and approach, George and Kurstin are both lifelong fans of David Lee Roth-era Van Halen. Back in 2007, George caught her first-ever Van Halen show — and it was the first tour to feature David Lee Roth as the band’s frontman since 1985. George was so charmed by Roth’s presence, that after that show, she approached Kurstin about writing a song for Roth. The end result was the swooning serenade “Diamond Dave,” which appeared on their 2008 sophomore album Ray Guns Are Not Just the Future. “We asked him to be in the video, but instead he signed a picture and gave me the yellow top hat he’d worn at the show I saw, which I thought was very sweet,” George says in press notes. “When we were trying to figure out who to cover for the second volume of Interpreting the Masters, we were both a little bit like, ‘Oh my god, can we really do it?’ But then we just went for it.”

Slated for an August 2, 2019 release through No Expectations/Release Me Records, the duo’s fifth album features an impressive backing band of guest musicians including Justin Meldal Johnsen (bass), who has worked with Beck and Nine Inch Nails; Joey Waronker (drums), who has worked with R.E.M and Elliott Smith; and Omar Hakim (drums), who has worked with the David Bowieand Miles Davis assisting the duo in making familiar David Lee Roth-era Van Halen anthems completely their own, imbuing even the most over-the-top tracks with a slinky intimacy.

Interestingly, for Kurstin, an accomplished jazz pianist, who once studied with Jaki Byard, a pianist that once played in Charles Mingus‘ band, one of the greatest challenges he had translating Eddie Van Halen’s virtuoso guitar work into piano arrangements that kept some of the spirit and vibe of the original. “I know there’s a jazz influence with the Van Halen brothers, so I tried to channel some of the things that I felt might’ve influenced Eddie,” Kurstin notes. “In a way ‘Eruption’ is almost like a piece of classical music, so I mostly treated it that way as I interpreted it for piano,” he adds, referring to the iconic instrumental guitar solo from Van Halen’s self-titled debut. 

While creating arrangements around Eddie Van Halen’s guitar work will reveal the duo’s ingenuity and playfulness as interpreters and arrangers paired with a deeply nuanced reading of the material, which is influenced by their deep and profound emotional connection to the band.“I remember being 10-years-old and seeing their videos and feeling both excited and totally terrified—I responded to them in this very visceral way,” George says in press notes. Kurstin, who also is a lifelong fan, actually got a chance to work with Eddie Van Halen in the early 80s when the Grammy Award-winning producer and multi-instrumentalist was a 12 year-old member of Dweezil Zappa’s band. “I got to hang out with him in the studio and go backstage when Van Halen played The Forum, which was a really big moment for my younger self,” Kurstin recalls.

The album’s two singles found the members of the bird and the bee taking on Van Halen’s “Panama” and “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love.” The duo turned “Panama” from a power chord-based arena rock anthem into a sultry club banger, centered around shimmering and arpeggiated synths, bright blasts of twinkling piano and cowbell, a wobbling Bootsy Collins-like bass line and George’s sensual vocal delivery. Their cover of”Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” was a slinky and shimmering New Wave-like take that recalled New Order and It’s Blitz-era Yeah Yeah Yeahs while imbued with a feverish quality.  The album’s third latest single finds the band taking on “Hot For Teacher,” the last official single that band released with their original lineup.  Featuring drummer Omar Hakim, who has worked with David Bowie, Sting, Daft Punk, Weather Report, Madonna, Kate Bush and others and a spoken word cameo from Beck, the bird and the bee deliver a swinging bop jazz-inspired take that actually pulls, tugs and teases out the jazziness of the original — particularly within Eddie Van Halen’s dexterous guitar solo-ing. Interestingly, much like Easy Star All-Stars take on Dark Side of the Moon, the bird and the bee version of “Hot For Teacher” isn’t a purely straightforward cover — rather, it’s a subtle and mischievous modernization that retains the spirit and intent of the song in a thoughtful and loving way.