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The latest release from SANDVEISS out of Quebec City, Québec is one of the best full albums I’ve heard lately. 70s influenced melodic hard rock with a grungy 90s feel, this solid set is for anyone who likes Spiritual Beggars, Kyng, Orange Goblin, and other 70s AOR influenced rock.
Recorded over a period of two years and released in late 2019, Saboteur would have made it into my favorite albums of 2019 had I found it sooner!
I honestly know very little about this band, this was a Bandcamp find that immediately found its way into my collection and has become a new favorite. Great songwriting, great vocals, great melodic riffs that get under your skin and haunt your dreams. Give it a spin!
Find SANDVEISS on the web
Off the top of my head, I can think of just a handful of singers whose raw skill and tangible passion can make my hair stand on end. Names you may know, like Chris Cornell, Layne Staley, Manyard James Keenan, and a name you may not, Holy Grove’s Andrea Vidal.
Hailing from Portland, Oregon, Holy Grove is a fuzzy, trippy, heavy duty rock and roll band in the doom/psych/stoner vein pioneered by Black Sabbath. Their amazing self-titled 2016 debut was re-released on Ripple Music in 2018, and their followup, Holy Grove II, made many “best of” lists for the same year.
Backed by riffmaster Trent Jacobs, powerhouse drummer Eben Travis and the amazing Gregg Emley on bass, Holy Grove’s thundering songs cover topics of witchcraft, fantasy and myth with a writer’s realism, taking you on a journey that leaves you feeling transformed when you return.
I was lucky enough to catch Holy Grove in Oakland on their recent west coast tour and got to see the sweaty intensity of this band’s rock and roll majesty firsthand. Singer Andrea Vidal was kind enough to answer some of my questions about her singing style, the band’s songwriting process, and what’s next for Holy Grove.
M: You’ve just wrapped up a west coast tour, how did that go? What were some highlights from the tour?
AV: Touring in general is always something we look forward to. For us, it doesn’t get much better than playing shows every night. We love meeting new people and playing with bands from other cities. Highlights include seeing old friends and family along the way, playing several new cities, including Oakland, which was easily our most favorite show of the tour.
Who drives the van when you guys are on the road? Do you write on the road?
We all swap out driving, but I really enjoy driving the van and usually jump at the chance. Growing up in Massachusetts, I love being able to see other parts of the country and drive through them. We don’t write on the road per se, but we do find plenty of inspiration for the new record as we travel and experience life.
Your lyrics are so powerful. They’re more like poetry than song lyrics. What are your sources for inspiration?
I like to take inspiration from all over. Sometimes it’s personal experiences, other times I might want to pay tribute to something that inspired me throughout the course of my life. Take Valley of the Mystics for example. I was inspired by Jim Henson‘s The Dark Crystal growing up, and felt that the tone of the film fit with the tone of the song. So I was able to write passionately on a topic that I was very close to.
Tell us a little bit about how you guys go about writing a song, what’s your collective songwriting process?
It’s a collaborative process for sure. It usually starts with a riff that Gregg and Trent build on. Once there are a few parts established, we focus on how to bring those parts together into one cohesive piece. Vocals are added once the song has been demoed and I’ve had the opportunity to spend time with it and it’s get to know the parts and get a feel for what I want to bring to it vocally/melodically.
How do you bring such passion to your performance?
We do our best to connect with the audience as much as possible — we’re there to entertain, but we’re also there to share the experience of music with the audience. Each of us have a deep connection to the music and hope to convey that from the stage. Plus it’s just more enjoyable and rewarding for us to leave it all on stage, as it were.
Tell me about how you got started singing.
I’ve been singing my whole life, but never professionally or with a band. Finally in 2012, I decided to reach out to the music community in Portland and see if anyone was interested in creating new music. I had never written a song, played in a band or performed on stage like I do now. It was the best decision I ever made.
I find it crazy that you guys found each other on Craigslist, considering the chemistry you obviously have. I guess stranger things have happened. How did you all come up with the name Holy Grove?
It was one of many names that we came up with but the only one that we all agreed on. It had a classic feel to it and seemed to conjure a specific feeling.
What is that wild feedback at the end of Nix? I was fascinated to see you on the floor manipulating some pedal to get that.
It’s Trent’s guitar through an MXR Delay pedal. I tried a few other pedals, but MXR makes the best sounding one. Trent uses it at different points in different songs, so it has more than just the one purpose.
How has being on Ripple Music helped move you guys forward?
They’ve been very supportive of our music and did a hell of a job on the release of our second album. We were able to get song and album premieres with national coverage which certainly helped to get the word out. They’re also great people! We’re grateful to have the opportunity to work with them and certainly appreciate all they’ve done for us!
What’s next for Holy Grove?
We’re currently in the middle of writing a new album, which is one of our favorite parts of being in band. Seeing what direction the songs will take, and watching it start to take shape. We’re currently planning some touring for later in the year. We’re also playing The Psycho Smokeout in L.A. in April, along with a bunch of great bands, including Weedeater, The Obsessed, Acid King and Cough (among many others).
Last question – favorite place to eat in Portland?
Wedgehead because not only do they have a killer menu and strong drinks, but they have the best pinball machines in PDX. Good luck, don’t suck!
Thanks so much for your time, it was great meeting you on tour and I can’t wait to hear your new stuff!
Whatever else happened this year, 2019 was another great year for heavy music. Maybe because of everything else that happened. At any rate, more good music came out than I had time to listen to, but the music that I did was often excellent. Some bands made quantum leaps with their music and simply leveled up everything, which was amazing to see and hear, in some cases live in person, and for that I am very thankful.
I’ll start with my usual disclaimer that the idea of “best” is subjective and in my mind ridiculous, no one with a “best of” list could have listened to everything available even if the person were the critical yardstick by which all music is measured. What I present here is a list of my favorite albums that came out in 2019, the ones that got under my skin and got the most repeat listens and deserve to be celebrated and shared.
Without further ado, in almost no particular order, here are my favorite albums of 2019. Some you may know, some you are about to discover!
Rabbits by Brume
I’m not going to hesitate to call this a masterpiece. I don’t know the last time I heard an album that made me feel as much as this one does. Brume is one of the San Francisco Bay Area’s semi-secret treasures, an eclectic heavy rock trio that’s become a cornerstone of the local metal scene. And their latest release, Rabbits, is nothing less than a bold leap beyond their previous work. This is simply a fully realized emotional and sonic landscape that you experience as much as listen to. I highly encourage you to put this album on, lie back, and let it wash over you.
Fear Inoculum by Tool
I was too busy digesting this album when it came out to even post about it. Tool has been my favorite band since someone handed me their worn out copy of Undertow in the early 90s. To wait 13 years since 10,000 Days seems cruel and bound to subvert expectations, but the wait was worth it. What we got was not the fire of young Tool but the studied, evolved musicianship of mature Tool and a worthy entry into the canon of progressive rock. So masterfully produced it’s like melted butter for your ears. Fear Inoculum sounds like the natural progression from 10,000 Days with a little Lateralus thrown in.
Standout tracks: Pneuma, Fear Inoculum
Coven of the Snake by Arrowhead
Australia’s Arrowhead have released a banger that has all the confidence and swagger of a band that have shared the stage with Monster Magnet, Earthless, Acid King, and Sasquatch, to name a few. Fans of Black Sabbath, Corrosion of Conformity, Alice and Chains will dig this fuzzed out heavy record full of catchy grooves and riffs. One of my top listens for the year.
Standout tracks: Coven of the Snake, Root of Evil, March of the Reptiles
The Road by Acid Alice
Excellent fuzzy bluesy guitar rock from Mexico City! Sounding like a hybrid between Big Brother & the Holding Company, Black Sabbath, and the Doors, the very talented Acid Alice has knocked it out of the park with their debut album The Road. Put it on, put the top down and go for a ride!
Standout tracks: Destroy Me, Wolf, Broken Man
Flames Arise by Lowcaster
San Francisco’s Lowcaster have arisen from their own ashes to produce a complex and emotionally mature sophomore effort, Flames Arise. A quantum leap above their rollicking 2016 debut, Flames Arise is born from “two years of tragedy and loss”, according to the band. A guest visit from Susie McMullan of Brume helps send this one over the top.
Standout Tracks: Flames Bemoan the Tide, Shore up the Ashes
Forever, Never or Whenever by Devil to Pay
You can never have enough head-banging fuzzy guitar rock, and this groovy album is a gym favorite for me lately. Fans of Corrosion of Conformity and Mos Generator will dig the gritty grooves of Indianapolis’ Devil to Pay. Really digging this one.
Standout tracks: Heave Ho, The Devil’s Barking Up Your Tree, 37 Trillion
Supercluster by Salem’s Bend
This quirky eclectic electric trio from Los Angeles is out with a new full length, Supercluster. Give it time and let it grow on you, and you too will be infected with their brand of offbeat bluesy rock. There’s something special about Salem’s Bend that I can’t quite put my finger on, but nods to Frank Zappa and other odd influences are hinted at in their groovy sound. See them live if you can, they’re not to be missed.
Standout tracks: Spaceduster, Heavenly Manna, Show Me the Witch
Age of Aquarius by Villagers of Ioannina City
Self-described as ‘post-rock with a dose of Greek folk traditional music’, Villagers of Ioannina City have delivered a masterful opus of sweeping rock soundscapes that subtly incorporates elements of traditional Greek folk music into its heavy tales of gods and the grandeur of nature and history. If you like epic, majestic rock, give this a spin. Also, I love how the singer gives the word “aquarius” five syllables.
Standout tracks: Welcome, Age of Aquarius, Father Sun
Awakened From the Tomb by Witchers Creed
Was sad to see that this was a one-and-done by the darkly fun Witcher’s Creed, calling it quits in mid-2019 after releasing this solid full length on the heels of a few demos and a single. Awakened from the Tomb is an album steeped in the proto-metal tradition of 1970s Black Sabbath and Deep Purple, and it quickly grew on me to become one of my most played albums of the year.
Standout tracks: Witcher’s Creed, Depths of the Black Void, Larissa
Volume by Zed
Another band that leveled up this year is San Francisco Bay Area heavy hitters Zed, local favorites who are gaining international attention with their appearances at festivals like the Maryland Doom Fest and London’s Desertfest. Volume is their best work to date, oozing with the maturity of a hard working band running on all cylinders. All killer, no filler!
Standout tracks: The Other Kind, Chingus, Time and Space
Albums that came out this year that I thought were amazing but didn’t make it into my ‘can’t stop playing this’ criteria included Lana Del Rey‘s beautiful Norman Fucking Rockwell; When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? by Billie Eilish; and the surprisingly good The Answer is None by The Answer is None, 3 guys who met over the internet and made a melodic hard rock album that sounds like Alice in Chains met Van Halen: