Visitors Are Allowed One Kiss, the latest collection of hypnotic, ethereal blues from Clara Engel, took the cricket all the way back to this mystery of a girl we used to know, back when we were much younger than today. She was a mystery but she was also as seemingly innocent as they come. She had dark hair and ivory skin, and she loved kissing in the shadows. And she had the pointiest canines– bright white and near razor sharp– I’ve ever seen. Except on vampires.
One night I walked with her through a dark field at the edge of a swirling ocean of a crowd gathered for a music festival. She pulled me along by the hand as she looked for shadows in the night. And when she found the darkest shadows she could find under a massive oak at the farthest edge of the field, she pushed me up against the tree and looked up at me and smiled. Mysterious, innocent, seductive. Her bright white and near razor sharp canines shone in the darkness. She wrapped her arms around my neck and pulled her lips to my ear. “You know I’m a vampire. Right?”
And of course I’d had the thought. You couldn’t see those teeth and not have the thought. But the rational– or maybe the cynical– part of me knew it wasn’t true. That it couldn’t be true. But there was another part of me– the part of me that felt most alive in that moment, the part that wanted mystery and danger and seduction– that part thought maybe, just maybe, it was true. And maybe that part of me– as this mysterious, innocent girl with dark hair and ivory skin and pointy canines slid her lips from my ear to my neck and sank her teeth into my flesh– maybe that part of me even hoped it was true.
And that’s how Clara Engel’s latest feels. Mysterious, innocent, seductive, but with an underlying, almost spiritual menace. It reveals itself gradually, patiently, almost imperceptibly, and pulls you in slowly, wrapping its arms around you and whispering softly in your ear. “Demons are real.”
Visitors Are Allowed One Kiss is out now on cd via Paradigms Records here. Or you can grab it on cassette via Auditory Field Theory here.
And be sure to check out the Clara Engel Bandcamp site here.
I’d heard Motörhead as a young high school rock ‘n’ roller, but the first time I really heard Motörhead was one weekend night when I was hanging out with one of my best buds, Jerome (dubbed “Motorhead” from this particular night forward, a nickname he rocks to this day, over 25 years later, though it’s oft shortened to Motor– as in Uncle Motor, Papa Motor, etc.).
So Motor and I are in his faded yellow ’69 Mustang Fastback doing what small town Texas teens do on weekend nights, gathering in some random spot on the outskirts of town with our raging hormones and sixers of Busch and/or Milwaukee’s Best (the Beast!) for the best approximation of a party that we could rouse on any given occasion. On this particular night, before we head across the dark field toward the distant flicker of a campfire, Motor insists that we have to listen to this badass Motörhead song on the latest live album, Nö Sleep At All. “I mean really listen, Willie.” Then he pops the tape into his Radio Shack cassette deck and cranks up “Just ‘Cos You Got the Power”.
And I do as I’m told– I really listen. And it blows my mind.
First comes Lemmy introducing the song. Then the riff. Simple. Propulsive. Then a wailing, soaring guitar solo. Then Lemmy’s gravelly, iron-fisted voice. And those lyrics…
You might be a financial wizard, With a sack of loot, All I see is a slimy lizard, With an expensive suit, Go on and run your corporation, Go and kiss some ass, You might buy half of the nation, But you can’t buy class
…I mean, 16/17-year-old me was all in. Especially once Lemmy growls the chorus…
Just ‘Cos You Got The Power, That don’t mean you got the right
That’s right, motherfuckers.
I still can’t think of a better anthem for the powerlessness and estrangement and angst of youth. Even if you don’t dig the unmistakably heavy metalsound, you can still get behind the attitude– pure rock ‘n’ roll. Whether you’re a blue-haired skate punk, a floppy-haired Smiths fan, a stringy-haired metalhead, or anything in between, if you’ve ever felt disenfranchised, Lemmy is speaking directly to you. Hell, even if you’ve left rock behind for rap and the power of the likes of N.W.A, or if you’re a classic Texas shit-kickin’ country boy, the attitude still takes hold of you.
And that’s what Motörhead does– crosses genres and unites hearts and minds and rock ‘n’ roll souls. That’s the Lemmy legacy. That and some seriously badass songs.
man oh man, as the cricket’s old bones get slow, the years seem to be pickin’ up the hell out of the pace, and 2015 whipped by so fast it blew our antennae back. but we found plenty to perk ’em up again, and when we weren’t throwin’ horns to this year’s big, badass crop of metal torchbearers we were locatin’ a different kind of heavy in some crushing– and heart-crushing– drone and folk, not to mention a spooky-ass film score or two. what can we say– between drought and terror and donald trump, it’s been a heavy, spooky fuckin’ year.
below is a list of the albums that dug deepest into our psyche and spun most often from our speakers…
john carpenter ‘lost themes’ the master himself weighs in on the current synth-horror craze. with so many folks doing what they do based on what you did, why the hell not?
bad tattoo ‘another bad tattoo’ in honor of the best little rock ‘n’ roll-comedy-horror flick to never get made, bad tattoo returns to the list after their debut on last year’s favorites, bringing you their ac/dc meets the priest brand of down and dirty blooze.
tim foljahn ‘fucking love songs’ two years after his languid, haunted slice of americana, songs for an age of extinction, los grillos’s favorite twisted folk troubadour, tim foljahn, takes time out from his gig as a member of the orange is the new black bar band, sideboob, to deliver another stellar addition to his ever-impressive body of work.
shawn david mcmillen ‘on the clock with jj and mitch’ anyone who’s ever enjoyed a six organs of admittance record, or maybe one of steve gunn’s recent efforts, or anyone who’s prone to running out to pick up the latest reissue of some lost psych-folk/loner-folk/country-folk/whatever-the-fuck folk album, should run out and grab this one straight away.
venomous maximus ‘firewalker’ houston’s harbingers of headbanging, venomous maximus, rock some no bullshit, in the red metal that maximizes the shit out of the band’s venom. play it loud.
mark lanegan ‘houston (publishing demos 2002) it’s folky and dusty and weathered and beaten and uplifting and meditative. and it is, like all things lanegan, superfly fucking badass.
ram ‘svbversvm’ equal parts leather-clad NWOBHM and dark-robed, face-painted occult metal, svbversvm rocks the fuck out as much as it hates the letter “u”, and even when the band switches the pace from double-kick overdrive to mid-tempo gallop, it never switches off the metal-tude.
will johnson ‘swan city vampires’ one of the cricket’s favorite troubadours, will johnson, a seemingly restless creative spirit who always has something new on the horizon, doesn’t let the dust settle on his long-time band centro-matic’s final goodbye before picking up where their last album left off with his latest solo album, ‘swan city vampires’. neither as spare as much of johnson’s previous solo work nor as bar-band rocking as centro-matic– yet noisy in its own way with touches of dark, swirling sonics– this one strikes a balance between the two. it’s a damned fine album and a helluva way to announce will johnson’s solo career as his primary band now that centro-matic has bid the rock ‘n’ roll world a fond farewell.
black wing ‘…is doomed’ from the guy behind the doomy, bleak, post-punk-itude of have a nice life comes something a little more electronic but no less beautifully bleak.
odd hope ‘brave and olde’ can’t stop spinning the gbv-isms of this unshakably catchy debut single from a dude named tim tinderholt who goes by the moniker odd hope. here’s to hoping his old tascam has enough left in it to lay down a long player.
pigs ‘wronger’ a shredding, grinding rager of a record that does well by the legacy of grillos favorite unsane– which makes a helluva lot of sense given that unsane bassist dave curran straps on the guitar for pigs records.
sofy major ‘waste’ everything is big here, from the pummel of the drums to the rumble of the bass to the distorted vocal yowl (or david yow(l), if you’re into shitty puns– and the grillos loves a good shitty pun). but for all of the racket, the songs are all, like with the best of the noise-rockin’ bands (hammerhead, barkmarket, jesus lizard, aforementioned unsane, you get the picture), fuckin’ catchy as hell.
funeral horse ‘divinity for the wicked’ from the funeral horse bandcamp site: “we like getting stoned and playing our music very fucking loud.” this houston band has a riff-heavy metal attack but enough psychedelic flourishes to do texas weird-ass rock pioneers like the butthole surfers proud.
witchskull ‘the vast electric dark’ holy fuck, this band of australian rockers knows its way around some seriously hard-charging heavy fucking metal. i can’t stop cranking this one up until the windows rattle and the speakers threaten to blow. if you dig on kyuss or high on fire or the like, this’ll be your new favorite jam.
andrew weathers & the real life rock & roll band i stumbled in a bit late to the andrew weathers party with the recent single ‘omaha b/w the reason young people use drugs’ and, man, am i glad i finally made it. this is experimental, ethereal stuff that spans genres but often lives in the cricket’s much-loved world of droning, country-folk soundscapes.
magic circle ‘journey blind’ like fellow grillos year end listers ram, venomous maximus, and witchskull, magic circle are part of the cream of this year’s doom and classic metal cranking crop, and their latest slab of riffs is a hook filled, headbanging bit of kick ass metal.
high aura’d & mike shiflet ‘awake’ simultaneously blissful and terrifying, this is some dense, distortion-filled drone for dark days, moonless nights, and the shadows lurking in the corners of your headspace.
crypt sermon ‘out of the garden’ crypt sermon’s debut delivers straight up epic doom metal of the highest order. light ’em up and go.
enjoy the tunes and support the bands buy grabbing copies of the things you dig.
have a rockin’ good new year. see you on the other side.
It’s been awhile since the cricket checked in with the good folks at Cloud Chapel Records, responsible for some of our favorite pop confections over the last few years– man, that Bonifrate album is genius– so we were mighty pleased when their latest release, the self-titled debut from Ivy Walker, showed up at our door. A lo-fi collection of sound collages that range from spectral sonics to playful sampling to whimsical soundscapes, the album has a vein of nostalgia running through it that’s somehow both soothing and slightly unsettling. Like returning to a place of escape from your childhood– an old playground, a fort, a tree house– only to find it decayed and overgrown with moss and vines and weeds, there’s a comfort to be found in these songs, but it doesn’t come without ghosts.
Ivy Walker is out now via Cloud Chapel Records. Check it out here.
Last time los grillos checked in on Sweden’s Ram, we were throwin’ our cricket horns up for Under Command, a split album with fellow Swedish metal fiends Portrait where the bands trade hits on each others’ tracks in addition to knocking out a couple of originals and covers of classics from Exciter and Kiss. Ram’s original “Savage Machine” was just that, and their cover of Kiss’s “Creatures of the Night” almost got me to drop the needle on my old Kiss albums. (Almost– then Gene Simmons, the Duke of Douchebaggery, popped into my head and I couldn’t do it.)
Now Ram’s back with a new long player, and it picks up where “Savage Machine” left off with a rabid intensity. Equal parts leather-clad NWOBHM and dark-robed, face-painted occult metal, new album Svbversvm loves to rock the fuck out as much as it hates the letter “u”, and even when the band switches the pace from double-kick overdrive to mid-tempo gallop, it never switches off the metal-tude. With a tight-riffed attack led by a vocal charge that has just the right amount of snarl in its soar, Ram hits the sweet spot between King Diamond and Dio, and anyone who’s ever hoisted a few in honor of those two towering metal infernos will find more than enough reason to crack one open and crank up Svbversvm.
Svbversvm is out now via Metal Blade Records. Check it out here.