Black Tusk ( Savannah, GA)
The Savannah scene has produced so many great bands you’d be excused for thinking that sludge is in the water there, but there’s no excuse for overlooking BLACK TUSK. Comparisons of ‘Taste The Sin’ to bands BLACK TUSK considers brothers only tell part of the tale; the band’s sophomore release and first for Relapse Records rips into you with locomotive riffing and powerful percussion, creating a furious display that incorporates the fury of punk and the precision of thrash metal within a familiar Southern-fried landscape. If ‘Taste the Sin’ is wrong, you won’t want to be right!
“The single, substantive frill of Taste the Sin, the excellent Relapse debut album by Savannah, Ga., metal trio Black Tusk, comes as the final track begins. “Well, hell, World War II gave us the ball point pen,” says the actor Charles Tyner in a monologue excerpted from his hilarious role as the militant Uncle Victor in the 1971 film Harold and Maude. With tales of war and murder, and his well-decorated uniform, he brings the lugubrious teen Harold to some uncomfortable intersection of euphoria and orgasm. “I say get the krauts on the other side of the fence where they belong. Let’s get back to the kind of enemy worth killing.”
Black Tusk eventually interrupt Tyner’s talk, massive drums and turbid guitar slashing through the script like lightning bolts. But the passage is significant as a thematic statement and– by then, 34 minutes into these 37– a reminder of just how relentless and economical Taste the Sin has been. Jonathan Athon’s swollen bass tone and the band’s tendency to put it in the middle suggest fellow Southern metallurgists Weedeater, while the serrated vocals and mid-tempo dominance recall fellow Savannah lords Baroness. But Black Tusk’s particular alchemy of metal and hardcore elides the fancy tangents of both bands, swapping Baroness’ acoustic and hyper-technical alleyways and Weedeater’s smoked-skull drones for a deliberate, methodical mix of marches and sprints. Churning like hardcore and viscous like stoner metal, Taste the Sin is the rare crossover record that works to capitalize on the immediacy of its chosen genres and not to bend them into obscurity. It’s a power play.
The Harold and Maude sample provides a fitting cap for the album’s near-maniacal aggression, too. Pardon the binary, but this is primo dude metal– high on might, speed, and aggression, rather low on finesse or grace. The cover by Baroness’ John Baizley depicts a bare-breasted woman who wields snakes as weapons and flowers as amulets. Inside, the grizzly trio peers from behind another nude warrior, this time with battle wounds on her face and black tusks extending rather crudely from her jaw. Oh, and the album is entirely about fighting wars and killing enemies, driving cars and crashing them.
Presented as a conjoined pair of EPs, Taste the Sin comprises two distinct but unequivocally androgenic parts. The first six tracks praise guts and glory, each member passing around tales of epic conquests and last stands. “Way of Horse and Bow”, for instance, opens with a shriek of “Attack!” over drums, guitar and bass that bludgeon a simple rhythm and riff. “Hear my call/ Raise your swords/ Mount your steed/ Lord of lords,” goes the first verse. The back half, a four-track suite called “Double Clutchin'”, opens with a strong-as-steel instrumental, guitars lifting above the dense rhythm section like the hood ornament on a vintage sports car. It ends, of course, with a crash. “Fuck you! This is my final farewell,” goes one perfectly obstinate bit just before the accident. The intervening minutes are worth the disaster: Barreling ahead, pausing only long enough to lean into the curves, Black Tusk don’t reinvent the wheel, nor do they try. They just go hard, fast, and long enough until, at the end of “The Crash”, the wheel explodes. Black Tusk are left with nothing but their own defiance: “Ain’t goin’ slow!” they shout again and again. They’re not lying, either.”
Black Tusk – Taste the Sin – Pitchfork 7.6
Kyng (Los Angeles, CA)
KYNG the southern California hard rock trio, originated in January of 2008 in Los Angeles. Singer/songwriter Eddie Veliz bassist, Tony Castaneda and drummer Pepe Clarke Magana, after years of working off and on with each other on various projects, decided to propagate the idea of a band that would closer fulfill their musical desires. Within months of sessioning the three were sold on the chemistry and shortly after that went into the studio to record their debut album. The sound they realized was exactly what they had sought after, a unique and universally appealing combination of heavy and captivating concepts, channeling influences from black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin to the Foo Fighters and Queens of the Stone Age. “We wanted a band that could stand alongside anything in the scene, have the ability to crossover seamlessly and still bridge who we are.” KYNG’s versatile approach of a sweet devastation bleeds from an artistic drive toward a momentum described as “California Heavy”. Their evolution will undoubtedly blaze a trail that redefines what is expected and defines the giants they will become.
Their first album, Trampled Sun, on REALID Records is set to hit the streets of the US and the World Wide Web September 27 while their first two singles, Falling Down and Trails in Veins, both mixed by Mike Watts (Adelita’s Way, Hopesfall, Quicksand, Brand New), are set to take over the airwaves and online channels mid July and will be available at iTunes July 26th. The digital deluxe of Trampled Sun will contain 15 tracks exemplifying the bands great range and how much music KYNG has to offer the planet earth.
The Los Angeles based trio, hailing from LA and parts of Mexico, is as unique in spirit as their sound. Reminiscent at times of the metal and hard rock of the late 1970’s in style and musical collection, with a presentation that is totally heavy, classic and modern-day all at once, they are sure to refresh the Active Rock and Metal landscapes of today and tomorrow. As drummer Pepe Clarke Magaña puts it, “I think we’re doing stuff, or a combination of stuff that has been done before, in a way it’s never been done before.” Their sound on Trampled Sun easily provokes the question, “Is that really just 3 dudes?” The pipes on Eddie Veliz reminiscent of Cornell is his early days, the thunder brought by Pepe Clarke Magaña on the drums and the rolling rhythms brought by bassist Tony Castañeda have KYNG meant for great things.
Completing dates with The Sword, KYNG is currently out with Black Stone Cherry and Pop Evil and plan on touring forever as the road is the life’s blood of any young hard rock band looking to take over the world. In the land of pigs, the butcher is KYNG.
Monstro (Atlanta , Ga)
Their self-titled debut album for Vagrant Records twists and turns through a psychedelic hard rock haze that’s as hypnotic as it is heavy. That heady combination is embodied on “Stallone” which glides from a guttural stomp into a resounding refrain, while “Concertina” rises and falls with a dark elegance, and album closer “April” blasts off on the fumes of a final ethereal hum. Four individual sonic personalities converge to make this music. There’s bassist Kyle Sanders [ex-Bloodsimple], drummer Bevan Davies [ex-Bloodsimple, Danzig], guitarist Juan Montoya [ex-Torche], and vocalist and guitarist Charlie Suarez, and they’re ready to take flight.
MonstrO came to life in early 2009. Post-Bloodsimple, Sanders had been itching to start a new band. He ran into Montoya at Torche’s final gig during The Melvins-hosted All Tomorrow’s Parties, and the two discussed jamming back in Atlanta. They linked up with Davies behind the kit and began playing for three or four hours at a time. The trio immediately started generating song ideas, but it wasn’t until Montoya contacted Suarez in 2010 that Monstro was truly born. The band members shared a desire to start fresh, and their collective fire had been lit.
“Everyone has been through this a few times, and we’re completely focused on leaving all of the bullshit behind,” declares Sanders. “We got straight to business once Charlie came in. It’s a different kind of chemistry than I’ve ever had. We can get into a room, and the ideas flow out. We didn’t waste a moment, and it worked like a band is supposed to work. We were brought together for the right reasons, and we knew where we wanted to end up.”
They wanted to end up with a sound that reminded them of their heroes without blatant imitation. What they arrived at was so much bigger. The quartet conjured a style that draws upon everything from ’60s psychedelica to shoegaze to heavy metal.
“The music has elements of everything we grew up with—Led Zeppelin, Peter Gabriel, Queen, Soundgarden, Jane’s Addiction, and Metallica,” says Montoya. “However, we don’t follow trends.”
Instead, MonstrO set a precedent of their own. Without any regard for the zeitgeist’s whims, the band entered an Atlanta studio with Alice In Chains vocalist William Duvall in the producer’s seat and, over the course of 14 days in 2011, they recorded the entire album. The sessions were split up into five-day periods so the band had ample time to reflect and tinker with each part.
Duvall proved the perfect producer for MonstrO. Sanders exclaims, “I’ve never seen anyone work in the studio with that kind of passion. He was the first one there and the last to leave. He was so involved and passionate, and his feelings spread throughout the band. He had a vision of where the songs should go, and he didn’t expect anything but perfection.”
That perfection caught the attention of Vagrant Records. The label saw the band three times—twice in Los Angeles and once in New York—and knew that there was something very special there. They partnered with MonstrO and set the wheels in motion for the release of this debut.
MonstrO introduces the band on a grand scale. “Stallone” buzzes with an intense thunderous guitar just before exploding into a massive chorus. It packs a serious punch just like its namesake did.
“We didn’t even think we were going to keep that title,” laughs Sanders. “It was based on Rocky at first, but it became more about the struggle of life and coming out on top. It’s something we all go through, and there’s a classic vibe to the song.”
Montoya adds, “It’s balls-to-the-wall and intense, and it just hits you.”
Sonically, the album covers a diverse spectrum. “Anchors Up!” charges at full-speed with an abrasive guitar gallop, while “Concertina” embraces listeners with its lulling and lilting swell. Duvall even adds a backup harmony on “Concertina” that wraps around Suarez’s voice seamlessly.
“I wanted to make something mystical but thumping,” reveals Montoya. “I’m big into movie soundtracks from A Clockwork Orange to Amadeus, and that ambiance is an influence. I’m always listening for something hidden that creates the mood. Charlie and William came up with this awesome harmony, and it gels nicely.”
Everything culminates on “April”, the album’s final dreamscape. Sanders adds, “It’s the most dreamy, psychedelic song. People take their own meaning from it. It’s deep, and it seals up the thoughts and feelings of the album.”
Like all of the great records before it, this one is based on feeling. That feeling will spread as soon as listeners dive into the whole thing. Montoya concludes, “Music is something that’s great for the soul, and it’s the most beautiful thing in the world. You can always find new worlds with music. Hopefully, our songs will create a universe in your head.”
Sanders echoes that sentiment. “This record gets spacey, dreamy, and tripped-out, and then it gets straight-up heavy. We’ve all been through tons of struggles, especially being in this damn business. If this music can help anybody overcome any struggles and get through the day-to-day grind everybody goes through, that’d be incredible. Hopefully, it can be some kind of escape. I want people to walk away from it happy and feeling completed in some way.”
After this trip with MonstrO, you may never be the same. -Rick Florino, May 2011
Burn The Boats (Houston, TX)
Rising from under the waves…..
The end of February 2008 was the first time that Stevie (vocals), Floyd (bass/backing vox), and Charles (guitar) first got together in a small, dirty room at Francisco Studios that once served as a storage closet. That first meeting would produce a song, and would set the tone for the band as these three would comprise the core of the band that was to become Burn the Boats.
Both Stevie and Floyd were veterans of the local Houston scene, having played in several bands most notably, and respectively, The Scourge, and Morgue City. Stevie and Floyd had met up a couple of times prior to Charles joining, but admittedly, not much progress had been made in those early meetings. Once the three were together, the song ideas came rather easily, with Stevie sitting in on drums until a permanent drummer could be added.
Word of mouth led a friend of a friend named Derek to try out for the open slot in June of 2008, and he nailed all 4 tunes that had been written up to that point. Derek was a multi-instrumentalist that played in several bands, including an AC/DC tribute band named Brian’s Johnson. During Derek’s time in the band, BtB shared the stage with such national acts as DevilDriver, In this Moment, Opeth, High on Fire, and Baroness. However, as a result of Derek’s obligations to the other bands, his time in the Boats was limited and he left in early April 2010.
The drum throne wasn’t empty for long as Brandon came in at the end of April 2010, and put his stamp on all the songs in that first practice. With Brandon in tow, the Boats set about to play shows that helped to showcase their blend of new and old school influences infused with a dose of melody. As BtB played more shows, the consensus was that their sound was unlike the majority of bands playing out regularly. With the emphasis being more on songwriting than just a bunch of complex riffs thrown together, the songs have more of a natural flow that will keep the listener engaged.
The New Year found the Boats opening for The Sword, and winning over a slew of new fans. However that momentum was short lived as the curse of Spinal Tap reared it’s ugly head, and yet another drummer change was to come. Brandon returned to school full time and no longer had the time to devote to playing in a band. A temporary drummer was found to fulfill a previously scheduled obligation in early April of 2011, however, the search continued for a fourth permanent oarsman. That search has now ended at the end of October, as Brandon has rejoined the fold.
BtB is garnering internet radio airplay with the songs Release the Kraken, and Lost at Sea. Both songs are getting rave reviews from listeners, stateside and across Europe. Hoping to ride the waves of momentum that the airplay is stirring, BtB will release a Kraken 7″ single by year’s end, and will hopefully follow that up by releasing a full length album.