Saturday, July 18, 2009

A Killer Four-Way

THE MISHAPS – “The Mishaps” LP/CD ’09 (Wallride, US) – Interesting, how I ended up crossing paths with THE MISHAPS. Sometime last summer, I was overjoyed to learn that North Carolina upstart metal gods Colossus would be playing at The Talking Head in downtown Baltimore. That was all I needed to hear and my buddy Andre’ and I were there at the door. Upon entering the club, we caught the last couple of songs by a band who’s name we didn’t catch. They struck me as pretty OK and I left it at that, as I was stoked to see the next band on the bill.

Flash forward to just this past May, when an ad appeared in the music local for Colossus playing, of all places, the Golden West CafĂ© in the Hampden section of Baltimore. I’d had no clue that this artsy little eatery in artsy little Hampden would offer metal shows, yet once again, myself and Dr. Dre’, this time with my 18 year old, Chris, showed up to get our faces melted. As we walked up to the door, we were greeted by an engaging dude who informed us that Colossus had experienced car trouble, were running late but would get there eventually. He went on to add that he’d set up the show as a benefit for a friend of their’s who’d been injured severely when attacked by a dog and that his band, THE MISHAPS, were playing as well as another, Pilgrim. I thought the guy looked vaguely familiar for some reason, yet chalked that up to having met so many people in the music scene over my 51 years.

The long and the short of it is that, after a decent set by Pilgrim and prior to a blistering one by Colossus, THE MISHAPS took the…er…floor (there is no stage, per se) and all the pieces fell into place. Once I saw the guy from the door up there with his band, I remembered…. This was the same bunch that opened for Colosssus the past year. And over the next 45 minutes, something became very obvious to me: THE MISHAPS are a very, very good band. Good enough, mind you, that in talking a little after their set, I asked ‘em for a copy of their newly-released album to review on the ‘Realm and here, dear readers, we are.

To begin with, and especially for a local band, this baby is a super-sweet package. What I’m holding in my hand is a VINYL RECORD which also comes with a CD of the same album included. It’s all housed in a jacket laced with beautiful artwork (made to look like a time-worn cover!) and an inner sleeve complete with lyrics that, for once, you can actually read! When laying the record down on my turntable mat & letting the stylus meet “Sun City,” the first thing that hits me is the warmth of the sound. Of course, as all of us old farts know, records just sound better. However, even on playing the CD behind this, “The Mishaps” immediately draws me in because of it’s warm, luscious production. Those analog days of the ‘70’s don’t seem so far away anymore. Musically, these guys…and a girl (Neal Page, Johnny Bungalow, Beth Harper, John Twining & Jason Wiggs) are not trying to be the next Mastodon or Dillinger Escape Plan. They’ve crammed 13 songs worth of blazing hard rock into just under 35 minutes. But don’t let that make you think this is any mindless romp through drunken party ditties. Far from it. In fact, if I was put under threat of being hung, drawn & quartered and ordered to describe THE MISHAPS, I’d say that someone took “Grande Rock”-era Hellacopters, stirred in Blue Oyster Cult around “Secret Treaties,” ladled in a dollop of Thin Lizzy for extra spice and then ran like hell.

The fact of the matter is, these guys (Ok, ok! And a girl! Sorry, Beth!) have put together an album that is chock full of killer songs and is fun to listen to repeatedly & at top-volume either in the comfort of your home or behind the wheel of that ’69 Camaro in your garage. The tunes are short (3-4 minute range) yet super-engaging, there are guitar solos and yet none that turn indulgent, the vocals have just enough of a punk overtone to drip personality and Beth’s keys add a layer of icing on the cake, much like Allen Lanier’s did in B.O.C. I could make this into a book by going song-by-song: the opening NWOBHM rifferama of “Sun City,” the brooding & serpentine guitars of “The Wheel Part I” and “The Wheel Part II” or the Lizzy-ish rabble-rouser “Lay’N Low.” But what’s the point? Any band who has both the smarts, humor and balls to follow something called “Prelude Of The Valkyrie” with “How The Mishaps Came To Conquer Rock And Roll” and have it rawk like mad is more than ok with me. Recommended!
Rawk Happens

ARGUS – “Argus” CD ’09 (Shadow Kingdom, US) – I have to admit, when I first heard band name ARGUS, my immediate reaction was “Wishbone Ash.” Of course, Argus Panoptes was the hundred-eyed giant from Greek mythology, so I certainly realize that Andy Powell & Co. didn’t coin the word. It had it’s origins a few years before 1972. And yet, being 51 years old, coming up in “the day” and having that record emblazoned on my mind as one of the finest ever lain to wax, well, the thought does cross this ol’ geezer’s mind. At the same time, I knew that ARGUS’ pedigree included that of former Penance vocalist Butch Balich, so I figured the letters d-o-o-m would be spelled out somewhere in this Scrabble game. What I didn’t expect was quite how good this album would be.

Opening with “Devils, Devils,” the listener is immediately greeted by an ornate, ascending melodic harmony guitar lead by Jason Mucio and Mike Wisniewski. It actually calls to mind a heavier, more metalized feel for the early works of, yes, Andy Powell & Ted Turner. Already I’m in love and the song proper has not even started. When it does, I’m ready to call my lawyer, head over to the court house and file divorce papers as I wanna move in with this baby. (Just kidding, Jenn, in fact I’ll even act like I know you if we go to an ARGUS show together…inside joke). The point is, after that stately intro, ARGUS explodes into a titanic bombardment of riffs that just keeps unfolding. Balich’s commanding voice announces himself as a “phantom & demeanor” as Andy Ramage (bass) & Kevin Latchaw (drums) supply a thunderous bottom while Wisniewski & Mucio continue to unload the riff machine. Multiple scalding solos fly in from every direction as well as layers of those wondrous harmony leads I love so much. And the cool thing? We’re only 5:40 (the second-shortest song here!) into 54:15 of pure metal nirvana.

See, that’s the thing. While, yes, there are elements of “doom” to the proceedings, periods deliberate and slow, ARGUS is first and foremost a METAL band. In truth, rather than names like Vitus, you’re a lot more in the ballpark if you start thinking Slough Feg or Solstice . Throughout the lengths of opuses like “Bending Time” (7:09), “From Darkness…Light” (7:04) and “The Damnation Of John Faustus” (8:15), ARGUS manage to perfectly balance the art of intricate songwriting with the staying power of catchy riffs, emotional vocals courtesy of Balich and dual lead guitar work that will rivet 6-string aficionados of any age. The band even find a way to make a 5-minute instrumental (“The Effigy Is Real”) captivating and cap it all off with “The Outsider.” This 10 ½ minute monster not only raises the bar even further musically, but includes a devastating spoken-word section by Balich, based on the original story by H.P. Lovecraft.

You know, it takes some stones to give your band a name like ARGUS, which for a long-time music fan like me has become such an iconic reference. But with their debut album, this Pennsylvania band has created an icon all their own. The Eyes...And Ears Have It
NOTE: Since the recording of this album, Mike Wisniewski has been replaced on guitar by Erik Johnson, a previous member of the band.

THE BEAUTIFUL MOTHERS – “Chikara” LP/CD ’09 (Tsurumi, US) – It was back in 2005 that a review of THE BEAUTIFUL MOTHERS’ “Half American Serviceman” appeared on the site. Having learned that The Pooch is a man to take seriously when it comes to “da rawk,” I was more than happy to take his cue in contacting these guys back then & was glad I did. After all, any time an album grabs you by the throat with it’s raw-assed rock & roll, it’s worth the effort and I played that sucker relentlessly. Time passed, though, and while I continued to blast “HAS” over the years, I pretty much figured TBM (Ray’s on an abbreviation kick) had…er…moved on to grandmotherhood…or something. Anyway, a month back & here’s a review on the Dogsite again, extolling the virtues of this new “Chikara.” I flew to the keyboard and there arose quite a clatter as I pounded out a babbling email to bassist Joey Lazerhead. Next thing I knew, this package was in front of me. Interestingly, “Chikara” is put together in a similar style as The Mishaps debut: that is to say, a vinyl LP housed in a gorgeous jacket and completed by a CD version of the album as well. While I understand the costliness of doing this, it’s something that speaks volumes to be about bands, on this grassroots level, going way beyond the call of duty to produce a top-shelf product for their fans.

So, what do you get when you actually play “Chikara?” The answer is: your ass kicked! While the truth of the matter is that the 13 tracks here are culled from 5 different sessions from different places & times, the master Jack Endino has drawn them all together into one sizzling work of power trio pummel. From “Cold Sweat” (one of 4 tracks from the “Hikikomori” demo CD) straight through to “Sheltered” (from “The Seattle Garage Session”) the songs flow seamlessly. Eric Balaban lets loose cannonades of haggard, saw-toothed riffing & Rob Wheeler (drums) & Lazerhead (bass) join in a living, breathing lock-step to deliver the mail like a pick-axe to the forehead. For those who think Shinedown kicks it pretty hard, beware. But, for anyone who loves nasty-ass loud & vicious rawk that sounds not only like it’s being played in the same room but inside your cranium, order now. A Beautiful Racket

DRUDKH – “Microcosmos” CD ’09 (Season Of Mist, Ukraine) – If you’ve read this site over the last year or so, you’ll know I’m a Johnny-come-lately to this Ukrainian band. The first exposure I had to them was their 2006 release, “Songs Of Grief And Solitude.” Apparently a departure for them, that one took me with it’s pastoral acoustic vision, often drawing to mind, in very sharp relief, the season of autumn: crackling fires and trees awash with earthen colours. “Microcosmos” begins in that same season with “Days That Passed” and yet quickly moves into the harshness of winter, as the music shifts to black metal, complete with scathing vo-kills and frantic albeit melodic guitar solos throughout lengthy songs. Still, like the real experience of winter, there are times when the bleak ice storms give way and these can be found here in the mellow sections of numbers like “Decadence” and “Ars Poetica.” “Microcosmos,” like this groups other discs (for instance their previous one, ‘07’s “Estrangement”) is an album that needs to be heard in one sitting, as it’s more of a thematic piece rather than a collection of songs. In short, I’m pleased with it for two reasons: 1) It’s release on Season Of Mist will get this somewhat obscure band’s material into more hands and 2) it’s also DRUDKH’s best work so far.
You Need A New DRUDKH

Monday, July 13, 2009

The COLOSSUS will crush Baltimore...Tomorrow night!

Anyone in the Baltimore area who digs completely ripping traditional metal in the Mercyful Fate/Bible Of The Devil/Maiden mold, complete with absolutely raging and I mean RAGING, ripping lead guitar work with generous dollops of killer harmony leads, you need to be at the Golden West Cafe tomorrow night (Tuesday July 14) to see North Carolina's COLOSSUS. This band issued one of the greatest debut metal albums in my experience as a listener with "...And The Rift Of The Pan-Dimensional Undergods" and is now on the cusp of releasing a massive new EP. I've seen these guys once live last year and they completely destroyed. Please show these guys that Baltimore is not as lame as it often appears to be (for instance, Bible Of The Devil playing to 2 (two!!!) people one night a few years ago after having played to several hundred in Boston the night before. The Golden West Cafe is in the Hamden section of Baltimore near 36th St. and Falls Road. Show should start around 9:00 PM or after. I believe there is at least one opening band. If you want to hear a sample of what COLOSSUS is like, check out their myspace site at:

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Grand Halls 28

TOTTY – “Totty” (Our First, 1976) – Whoa! I’m sitting here, finishing up a sandwich and a bottle of spring water and trying to figure out my work schedule for this Thursday afternoon when my eyes fall upon the first TOTTY LP on my shelf. You have to understand one thing: A couple years ago I sold nearly all my vinyl. You know, needed to make room, have it all on disc anyway and yet…there were about 40 records I could not bear to part with this was one of them and the tragedy is, I have not posted anything about it on this version of The Realm. TOTTY is massive ‘70’s hard rock that sounds like a combination of Nitzinger, Grand Funk and Winterhawk! Seriously wailing power-trio guitar jamming here that will knock your socks into next week, this one stands head and shoulders with all the big names, then flattens ‘em. Yeah, man, you’ll see carrion off to the side of the road with names like Cain, Ram Jam, Cactus and the like, crows picking at their carcasses as these guys stand astride ‘em with Gibsons & Marshalls held high. Cuts like “T-Town Teasers” and “Wicked Truth” are ultra-catchy kickers, but stuff like “Crack In The Cosmic Egg” and the godly 8 ½ minute “Somebody Help Me” simply defy description as guitarist/vocalist extraordinaire Dennis Totty takes us on a scenic tour through lead guitar heaven. If I did my all-time Top Ten right now, this would be right there. Plus, how many LP’s have one song called “Love Down By One Share (Love Song To A Whore)” and another one called “Take Me Away Jesus?”!!!!! It’s a fact that some Midwest rock stations would not play this record because they said it was too religious and that some religious stations wouldn’t play it because they said it was too satanic! How wild is that. This is an expensive one to try to find (beware of bootlegs, “real” is the only way to go) but get up, go to work and dig one up. Hey, lunch is over, let's go!!! One Hot TOTTY

For more background, you can go to:

Grand Halls 27

COLLOSEUM II – “Wardance” – (RCA, 1977) – When you hear the name Gary Moore, chances are you think of his more recent forays into the blues (which have gotten a tad repetition, in my opinion) or his days in and out of the Thin Lizzy line-up. That’s really natural because they’re the aspects of the brilliant Irish guitarist’s career that have been the most publicized. Even his solo rock years, involving such cool records as “Victims Of The Future” were rated much higher across the pond than on these shores. Even less in the “ink” is the short period during which Gary delivered his best guitar work and was part of one of the most musically devastating units of all-time. COLLOSEUM II was a true band of virtuosos who recorded 3 LP’s in the late ‘70’s. The style was a mindboggling amalgamation of jazz fusion, metal and progressive elements, similar (but, at times, even better than) more known outfits like Return To Forever and Mahavishnu Orchestra. The highpoint of COLLOSEUM II’s short life-span was the awesome 1977 record, “Wardance,” featuring the line-up of Gary Moore – guitar & vocals, John Mole – bass, Jon Hiseman – drums and Don Airey – keys (the latter being someone who would cross paths with Moore…er…more than once in his career). In short, the album is one that should be owned by, yes, any music fan! If you can imagine the tightest bunch of rock players ever assembled attacking brilliantly-written jazzy-yet-heavy & intricate compositions, you’ve got it. Songs like “Wardance,” “Put It This Way” and “Star Maiden / Mysterioso / Quasar” are killer musicianship beyond anything! Not “metal” in the strictest sense, but any metaller (or anyone else!) with an open mind will be blown away by “Wardance.” 10/10 War Furor

NOTE: Also recommended is COLOSSEUM’s “Electric Savage” LP, of similar style, just not quite as crazy-good. Not so focused is the band’s prior LP, “Strange New Flesh,” nowhere near as intense, making it a “for collectors only” item. If you check out COLLOSEUM II and like what you hear and, for whatever reason, have been living on another planet and have never heard it, investigate RETURN TO FOREVER – “Romantic Warrior.” It features Al DiMeola on guitar and is more godly stuff in the same vein.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Mugging In Detroit

THE MUGGS – “On With The Show” CD ’08 (Private, US) – Damn it, I shoulda paid attention! I knew Mrs. Bernard was right! Mrs. Bernard was my 5th grade teacher. She is no longer with us, God rest her soul, as I heard of her demise a few years ago in a local news article about the soup company she (post teaching career) and her son had run. She was a hard-ass, she screamed & yelled and scared the living shit out of every one of us piss-ass 5th graders but damn if she wasn’t right. If there was something she said 1000 times, it was “Pay attention!” “PAY ATTENTION!!!” But did I? No. Last year, a guy I should listen to, a guy who knows music told me his favourite disc of the year was “On With The Show” by THE MUGGS. This was not just some fluke who came & went but a dude who’s listening was known to include ’70’s hard rock hierarchy like Marcus, Target, Poobah, etc. But I basically blew him off! Why? Who friggin’ knows, maybe I thought the band name was silly, but I should know better than that, right? Anyway, all the sudden not long ago, an email shows up in the ol’ Realm-box saying “THE MUGGS have added you as a friend on Myspace.” Hmm…wasn’t that the band…yeah, yeah…and I jotted ‘em a note. Sure enough a few days later, this piece of plastic by Detroit’s self-proclaimed “ugliest band in the world” came sliding into my mailbox and…well, let’s just say it hasn’t left the player since.

I could do a lot of things right now, and I’ll touch on several of them. I could begin by saying the intro to opening cut “Motown Blues” sounds like something off Cactus’ ’71 masterpiece “One Way Or Another.” I could continue by saying that when the band kicks in on this song, the results are right up there with anything ever plastered by Day-McCarty-Bogert-&-Appice. Of course, I could touch on the fact that the guitar solo in this number alone has elevated Danny Methric to godlike status in my eyes already. I might add that the next song, “Slow Curve” is even better. Grand Funk? Never heard of ‘em! Rockkicks? Who? James Gang? Joe Who, who was their guitarist? This shit’ll make you start asking those kind of questions, that’s the kind of ass it kicks. I could do a lot more things but the only one that I should do is take you by the hand, help you get your credit card out & direct you to the sites below. And we haven’t even gotten to the middle-eastern guitar intro to the title song, sliding into the prime Status Quo boogie to follow, the tear-your-heart-out-gorgeous lament of “Curbside Constellation Blues” or the seething, paint-scraping “Never Know Why.” The real point is that everywhere they touch on this disc, Methric, Tony DeNardo (Rhodes bass) & Matt Rost (drums) serve up a mega-watt dollup of bluesed-out, raw and heavy RAWK that will pin your eyelids back, make your eardrums history, rip the soul from your gut and ask questions later. Listen closely, my friends: Had this record been issued in 1972, it could have been in that year’s Top 10. In 1972!!! If your record collection includes Stepson, Diamond Reo (not the country band, asswipe!) or early ZZ Top, this will sidle up nicely alongside each. If it doesn’t, it will instantly become the best disc you own. The choice is your’s to act, so don't let me say it again... PAY ATTENTION!

ATOMIC WORKERS – “Third Disaster” CD ’09 (Nasoni, Ita) – “Third Disaster?” Hmmm...I wasn’t even aware that these guys had one disaster, let alone 2 and much less 3 until I received this disc in the mail courtesy of my buddy Mass at Black Widow Records. And, to be perfectly honest, this one here is not what I’d call a disaster anyway. With the bio I read referencing a lot of words like “psych,” “freak-out,” etc. I was a little surprised by the directness of the first cut, “Secret Way To The Valley.” With mid-paced Sabbath-y chords borne on a “Sabbath, Bloody…” production style, there’s a serious metal quotient here, with vocals that kinda remind me of Scott Hill with an Italian accent. The title cut then continues things in a similar style until a minute or so from the end of it’s 6-odd minutes when the electronic gurgling (present in small part in the opener) makes itself a little more known and a spacey feel creeps in. From that point on, these workers begin to ply a wider path. “You” starts aggressively yet contains, yes, a several minute psych guitar freak-out that will have you donning your tie-dies & lighting some patchouli. “Here’s Where I Belong” could be a lost early Traffic cut, with it’s jazzy vibe & “Home” will bring you all the backward-tracked fun of a cross between a deep “Electric Ladyland” jam and Country Joe. That’s not to say that A.W. forget how to rock after the first couple cuts, though, as “Lost Pleasure” rips with a verve almost up there with the ol’ Stooges. In all, “Third Disaster” is a worthy record to check out for those who like to derail from the “norm” and it makes me want to explore their back-catalog. A Decent Work-Out

ANTONIUS REX – “Per Viam” CD ’09 (Black Widow, Ita) – Anyone who ever read my old printed fanzine, CHAOS (ok, let’s see…what else was it called? Hmm…METAL MAELSTROM, ENLIGHTENED CHAOS, CHAOS REALM…) will know of my love of Italy’s Paul Chain. Now I know what you’re thinking: Ray is now admitting to having an extra-marital affair with some Italian guy. No, that’s not it. I’m perfectly happy with my wife, I’m not swinging both ways, none of that. No, what I mean is that I have always really dug the dark, textural music of Mr. Chain and his ability to bring the most bone-shattering doom metal as well as ambient analog keys…and sometimes both at the same time. Well, that’s the vibe that this new offering from ANTONIUS REX brought me. In actuality, this music has it’s genesis much farther back than Mr. Chain, as A.R. main man Antonio Bartoccetti had his origins with Jacula in 1969. He was joined by Doris Norton (Fiamma Della Spirito) (who is also his wife) and the 2 went on, after 2 Jacula releases, to form ANTONIUS REX. Antonio & Doris (with others in tow) have produced 4 or 5 releases under the A.R. name and ol’ dummy Ray has chosen to ignore them until lately. Whether or not I’m a jackass for this negligence or just overworked & overly tired is debatable. The real question, however, is that if you like music that is dark, dense and would make most death metal fans (of which I’m one) run screaming to their mommies, why are you listening to me babble and not ordering this scary circular sliver from Black Widow right now. I could sit here and have verbal diarrhea about the blackened fields of bizarre keys, the otherworldly vox of Doris or Bartoccetti’s Iommi-like sludge riffs & seemingly endless solos. But that would be silly, wouldn’t it? If you’re not afraid, let your fingers do the walking. Seven Screaming Diz-Busters

Sunday, July 5, 2009

One Bad-Assed Victrola

PHONOGRAPH – “OKNO” CD ’09 (BNS Sessions, US) – I’ve gotta admit, I liked New York’s PHONOGRAPH before I first even heard their music a few years ago. See, me being the old-school lad that I am, just the mere mention of the word “phonograph,” with all it’s vinyl record connotations had me hopeful about this crowd. I was thinking what a shame it would be, if I finally got their debut disc and found it to be shit, with such a great moniker. Part of my mind was set to rest assured by the label it came out on, Arclight, an imprint that seldom takes a mis-step. And, so I was more than impressed by the bands eponymous 2007 effort, a sparkling dose of that not only brought together the plaintive stylings of Tom Petty but also the more experimental leanings of Wilco taken a bit further.

With “OKNO,” PHONOGRAPH shows that they’re not the kinda cats fearin’ a sophomore slump. If anything, they’ve put out a 2nd full lengther (they also issued the “Hiawatha Talking Machine” EP in fall ’07) that steps forward with great confidence. PHONOGRAPH impresses on many fronts with this new album. The band (fronted by Matthew Welsh – vocals, guitars, keys) fuses together right from the beginning, and sound like a crew of wily vets rather than young whipper-snappers who first committed sound to disc 2 years ago. Listen to the opener “You/Me.” Overdriven guitar lines frame the cut like a jagged painting on the wall of a country farmhouse, with young Petty-like vocals dancing over a rhythm that could’ve been authored by Mark Mothersbaugh. That’s only the beginning, though. Adding Grace Potter’s vocals on the simmering fire of “Wellwisher” gives the cut ethereal chills & warm comfort in equal measure. The deep country of “Are You Gonna” speaks of a maturity and grace that belies these fellows’ years and “Mountain Tops” hoe-down romp laced with gurgling synths and choral voices is a work of brilliance. From every turn (including inviting guests like Potter, David Amram & The New York Orchestra), this band has taken their debut album and done it one better on “OKNO.” With that in mind, Realm readers who are glad to try something new and exciting, fire up your PHONOGRAPH. Ok Yes!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Come and Be Healed! THE CHURCH at Ram's Head

THE CHURCH – Ram’s Head Onstage – Annapolis, MD 06/30/09 – I could go one of two ways here. I could take the first approach and act like I know what the hell I’m talking about when it comes to THE CHURCH. I could say I know all about these guys, act like I’ve been a fan for years, know all their shit and sound like the big-man writer I sometimes think I am. Or I could tell the truth. Let’s opt for the latter and get this show on the road, shall we?

Australia’s THE CHURCH was one of those bands I heard of for years but never really “heard,” if you know what I mean. I saw their records, I noticed magazine articles and I was aware of people talking about ‘em. For some reason, however, I never checked ‘em out. Why? I have no fucking idea. Maybe I thought they were Bible beaters. Maybe I confused them with Lords Of The New Church? Maybe I thought they were relatives of METAL CHURCH and, hell, those guys only had one good album. At any rate, I had my first real musical brush with these cats by way of Celtic rock faves, Seven Nations. I’d bought their “Big Dog” disc and after a perusing of the tray card, noticed that one of the songs was a cover of “Under The Milky Way” by…you guessed it, THE CHURCH. I made a mental note to check out something by them, really digging the song as though I did but you know what happens with shit like that, right? You end up with other things going on, the toilet clogs up, you go to work 100 times, you watch a few ball games, get 40 more CD’s and forget the whole damn thing. Then one day a few months back I’m at Value Village (a thrift store in Baltimore) and thumbing thru a shoebox of CD’s, I see one called “Priest = Aura” by…yup…THE CHURCH. Ok, 2 bucks, I can do that. I take the disc home, play it and it’s pretty damn cool! Kinda spacey rock, sometimes harder than others, with a decidedly atmospheric edge, thoughtful yet insistent vocals, perceptive lyrics and some real interesting layered guitar. Hmm…I’m likin’ it. I make a mental note to grab some more of their stuff and the next thing you know, bowling chum Rick & Roll tells me he’s got an extra ticket for a show at Ram’s Head in Annapolis…THE CHURCH! Yeah, I’ll definitely check that out and in the couple weeks before, I pick up the band’s latest disc, “Untitled # 23.” I listen to this one and really begin to dig these guys more. Flowing together into a long suite of songs, this is rock that’s loaded with atmosphere, at times subtle and yet very powerful. And such interesting guitarwork. Two guys who work together and yet are playing completely separate things, letting them fold together as one full, rich sound.

And so, there I am at Ram’s Head on June 30, right up front and face to face with an opening band who’s name I never heard and who, unfortunately struck me as very flat. These guys had a style that, occasionally hit me as CHURCH-light and yet, a couple times oddly swerved into a ‘60’s British Invasion style that was a bit jarring with the rest. Add to it that they had precious little personality onstage and I was more than ready for them to take their leave & bring the headliners on. Not that I was completely sure what to expect. Again, I ain’t gonna lie…I’m a complete newcomer to THE CHURCH and barely was familiar with ‘em on record, much less in the live format.

I have to say, what came when this band took the stage was a very, very pleasant surprise. For beginners, the minute bassist/lead vocalist Steve Kilbey came on and began laying down the business on his bass, I knew these guys rocked harder than I’d expected. Right off the bat, and throughout the set, Kilbey played like a monster, finger-picking his bass in super-organic style and holding court onstage with a demeanor as confident, at-ease and friendly as Johnny Cash & Lemmy at a midnight poker game. I liked Kilbey a lot, right away. He is a rocker, through and through and yet one who doesn’t mind letting his emotions come through in his lyrics and vocal delivery. Reminded me of the late, great Phil Lynott in that regard. Drummer Tim Powles impressed me also. Not just laying down a rhythm, Powles also laced the songs with a nice bevy of fills but went the distance by adding in other percussive flair, playing his snare with a tambourine at one point, for instance. Then I had to focus on guitarists Marty Wilson-Piper and Peter Koppes. The former reminded me visually of a guy I may have sat next to at a Dead show many years back, stringy grey hair & gigantic beard. The latter struck me as a much thinner Brad Garrett with curly hair. Interesting to eyeball these cats, but far more so to listen. Wilson-Piper would be blasting out jagged chords on his Fender Mustang, all the while Koppes was painting layers of sinewy leads on a white Strat and it all made perfect sense. Even cooler were the times that Wilson-Piper and Kilbey would take turns trading the guitar, bass & acoustic guitar and Koppes whipped out his brand new baritone guitar (an instrument I've been wanting to hear live) to summon forth some truly haunting tones.

Like I said, I am not gonna lie. I have not been a life-long fan of THE CHURCH. Hell, up until a few months ago, I barely knew who the hell they were. But picking up those couple discs over the past few months got me interested. Then seeing them weave a helluva tapestry of truly progressive and deeply powerful guitar-driven magic at The Ram’s Head a couple nights ago, I’m joining the congregation!

(Steve Kilbey photo by Susan Bacerra)

CD Sale At The Realm!

Hey all! I wanted to give you all a chance to partake in some recent housecleaning I'm doing here at the 'Realm. Sometimes when I sit down and go through the Empori-Realm, I find that I have a lot of stuff that falls into a few categories: 1) Really good things that I end up with multiple copies of . 2) Things that just don't float my boat but might float your's. 3) Things that I think flat-out suck but that you may not. With this in mind and to keep myself from drowning in circular pieces of audio plastic while waiting for the next massive onslaught of recorded wonder to come piling into these quarters, I've made a decision. That is to prepare a list of goodies I'm willing to part with and offer them to you, the good reader, for a paltry price. Therefore, if you'd like to see my list of wares, simply drop me an email at: and I'll shoot you off the list. Don't be shy.

Again, that's: