Posts Tagged ‘Ethan Miller’

Howlin Rain

Howlin Rain has always made their bed with the prospect of bending staples of ‘70s rock radio to the whims of something wilder – a dial that’s more psychedelic and free. While they dash through territories left vacant by Steppenwolf, Crazy Horse, Humble Pie, and The Band, in a post-radio world where influences seep in through deep dives and algorithmic suggestion they’re picking at bits of the fringe like Fat, Mighty Baby or Josephus as well. They dress shades of unrestrained early ‘70s Dead in heavier boots, whiskeying up their acid runs with the grit of Southern Rock. Ahead of quite a few other contenders this year, Howlin’ Rain is leading the edge of Cosmic Americana – pure and easy as a Sunday bar-b-que on the surface, but with a glint of madness in their eyes. The band is equal parts block party and bike club bonfire and that’s what makes The Alligator Bride burn so bright.

Perhaps spurred on by another fire eater project from Miller in the form of Feral Ohms, the core of Howlin’ Rain hasn’t felt this ragged in years. The past two albums in particular sanded the rough edges that marked early Rain, focusing on the tender blues beneath the tumult, but with The Alligator Bride we see Miller and co. back to the business of distilling lightning into choogle. The record is propelled by the bass in a way that rock hasn’t tapped into since Grand Funk and The James Gang shuttered their stores. Buoyed by the groove, the record snakes through southern charms and country’s arms to find purchase on the banks of the Mississippi. It’s mud covered with a howling heart.

If Howlin Rain was conceived as the comedown, slow-simmer backing to Comets On Fire’s coin, then they’re working their way back towards the fire with this album. That melodic heart is kicking strong as ever and there’s rhythm in their blues – swingin’ in the ways that lead the Stones down to Alabama to find their own country soul. It’s what Howlin Rain does with that soul that takes their aesthetic from throwback to evolution though. There’s no shelter to give them because they’ve burnt down the barn and are eying the house. With The Alligator Bride the band have let the danger back into their sound and that flash of the knife is just what’s needed to draw blood.



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Ethan Miller – Inspirations for Alligator Bride

There are a lot of great artists I’ve had on the wishlist for Hidden Gems but Ethan Miller has been hovering near the top for some time now. The psych vet’s been holding down time in a rogue’s gallery of great bands over the past few decades – Comets on Fire, Heron Oblivion, Feral Ohms, and Howlin’ Rain. The latter is back with their first album in three years and its one of their best yet. I finally snagged Ethan to run down a pick for Hidden Gems but he’d done me one better. In this special edition of the feature, the songwriter rounds up some deep cuts that inspired the direction for the upcoming Alligator Bride and he delves into their influence on his own writing. As expected there are quite a few nuggets from the ‘70s rock canon but also as many surprises in the running as well. Check out the picks and a playlist from Ethan below.

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Feral Ohms

Not one second of Feral Ohms’ debut lets up. The trio doesn’t give the listener a minute to catch a breath, and thank the Norse gods of thunderous destruction for that. It’s an acid bath for the soul of the universe, stripping away layer after layer of tar long since calcified and crusted into the shape of society. It appears that Ethan Miller has returned to the his position as frenetic lightning rod for amp fired chaos and it’s damn good to have him back slinging scorch. The world needs this eponymous long player more than we could ever know. As mentioned here previously, Miller found solace away from the white ball of fury that burned bright in Comets On Fire, but began a creep back with Heron Oblivion last year. Feral Ohms asserts his permanence in the pantheon of psych.

The band’s been building a clutch of singles since around 2013, but it wasn’t until Castle Face prefaced the album with a live shot that they sprang into wider consciousness. All of the live cuts find their way onto the album as well as the majority of their singles, albeit re-recorded with a technical lineup that speaks to a top tier of heavy psych sound work (Eric Bauer, Phil Manley, Chris Woodhouse and JJ Golden). It’s very possible that repeated spins of the album could melt speakers into a twitching puddle of gelatinous matter. That’s not even hyperbole, I’m worried about your system. Baton shit down and buckle up. 2017 has proven that despite long lingering reports to the contrary, the guitar still has a place of vitality in music. Few other albums assert this as definitively as Feral Ohms.





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Feral Ohms – “Teenage God Born To Die”

Been excited for this one since the live LP dropped onto the Castle Face roster last year. Though Ethan Miller has been involved in a cadre of psychedelic endeavors over the years (Heron Oblivion, Howlin’ Rain) his legacy has always been the wild spark of Comets On Fire. Early Howlin’ Rain had flashes of scorched riffs, but they mellowed over the years into something that had less of Comets’ DNA and more debt to ’70s radio rock. Heron Oblivion lit up psych-folk last year with a set of acetylene tracks that smelled of the same brimstone fueling Miller’s amps of yore, but it’s Feral Ohms that have truly brought his catastrophic nature hurtling back. “Teenage God Born To Die” is a wild, feral lob into the chaotic soul of heavy rock. The song threatens to tear itself, any set of speakers lucky enough to shuttle it’s fury and every waking body within earshot to pieces. Miller has woken the beast that lurks in the psychedelic heart and it’s clearly hungry. This one’s going to be hard to beat in 2017. Sweatin’ with anticipation.


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Feral Ohms – “Love Damage”

Honestly, most any news of Ethan Miller’s involvement in a band is welcome and usually met with quality psych of some sort. Stepping away from the more seasoned and softened work he’d been pursuing with Howlin’ Rain and perhaps as an extension of his burnt, though somewhat psych-folk leaning work with Heron Oblivion, Miller has a new project on the rise that he’s introducing with a Castle Face live LP. Feral Ohms is comprised of Miller, Chris Johnson (Drunk Horse, Andy Human and the Reptoids) and Josh Haynes (of epic Olympia, WA rockers Nudity). The riffs on the live LP are ten feet tall, covered in fuzz and shot through with the unhinged spirit that made early Comets On Fire such a joy. Live is obviously a comfortable place for the trio but if this is just the first taste, I’m eager to see how they translate this to a proper record, which is in fact slated for release on Miller’s own Silver Current label in 2017. But first, melt as many faces as possible with the ten ton sumo gut punch of “Love Damage.”

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