(By Leanne Ridgeway, Owner / Chief Editor, RiffRelevant.com)
Mos Generator‘s ‘Shadowlands‘ album released last month through France’s Listenable Records. Back in Fall 2017, I was given a sneak peek at the cover art and was rendered breathless by it. Immediately guessing the art was by Nightjar of Adam Burke with that digital peek, the waiting had begun. Months of waiting in fact, for both that painting to be seen and for ‘Shadowlands‘ to be heard.
Sometime in March, I received a promo copy of the finished Shadowlands album and had my first few listens. In the Spring, Mos Generator went on their ‘Road Rats Tour’ with Fu Manchu [See photos here] and performed live in NYC on May 12th. It was a phenomenal set to behold. I may be *slightly* biased as they are a favored band to me, but whether you have yet to see them live or have seen them 50 times, it’s an experience not to miss.
They’ve confirmed a whole slew of U.S. tour dates for the next few months, with a main stage appearance at HELLFEST, as well as other fests in the U.S. including a headline slot at DESCENDANTS OF CROM. A full list of new dates is at the bottom (updated as of today), with more dates to come.
Truth be told, my love for the Burke painting has nothing to do with my appreciation for the album or the band, it was happenstance. Once I saw the artwork, I sought out the painting before ever hearing a song off the Shadowlands record. Thankfully, these two creations are now entwined beautifully as full sensory works of art.
Both the painting and the album are a compelling vision of darkness and light, vehemently dragging your withered soul from the depths of whatever personal hell was created by real or imagined monsters, trudging a path through every cave of your defeated yet inexplicably hopeful imagination, and stomps you straight up until the soaring logic of your enlightened mind breaches a new horizon.
While the vast Mos Generator discography (over 40 releases to date) has been a staple part of my listening repertoire, Shadowlands hasn’t left regular rotation since March. It’s now mid-June and it’s still all I’d hoped it would be. It’s not nearly their heaviest album, with recent proof being the insanely fantastic ‘Lies Of Liberty‘ they unleashed on the world in 2017 – a primarily hardcore punk album that will wreck any attempts to pigeon-hole Mos Generator into one cage. Although in terms of mindset, Shadowlands may be one of their darkest records thus far.
Title track “Shadowlands” opens with a few playful seconds of Tony Reed‘s upbeat tones and then just rips out of the gate into a ferociously heavy and catchy onslaught of pure hard rock. There’s no real need to describe it further, but it does set the paradigm for most of the album. Tinged as always with heavy blues and classic rock influence throughout, with noticeably less prog roamings here than on earlier releases, it demonstrates the comfort level these three men have reached with each other as band mates and individual performers.
In the liner notes, Mr. Reed stated the second song “The Destroyer” has “an ‘Immigrant Song’ feel to it”, and that may be true but my initial reaction to the opening fret scrapes was to briefly reminisce on Soundgarden’s ‘Jesus Christ Pose‘. Beyond those first few seconds, it becomes pure Mos Gen sonic assault. The pace is relentless and incites a sense of danger.
Many articles focus on Tony Reed and his rather long list of instrumentation and songwriting capabilities. He is indeed an all-scale accomplished performer on his own. His artistry is also widely sought after behind the board at his HeavyHead Recording Company, for his savvy in bringing out the best in any recording, as well as (let’s be honest) helping a few bands sound ten times better than they are in reality. While that list of his skills has been repeatedly proven true and I could likely prattle on for days about the pristine sounds of his guitar playing, there are two other important human wonders within Mos Generator that deserve our attention.
Jono Garrett is a rhythmic basher of the utmost elegance. He’s almost surreal, you can nearly witness the ‘Possessed’ demon that seems to take over as he sits behind his drum kit. He seamlessly sneaks in a thousand complex, sweeping fills into each song. You’d think it would ignite flames across his entire kit. It’s phenomenally mesmerizing to watch him play and no one should live their life without witnessing it at least once.
Sean Booth is a purely natural talent on bass. After talking with him a bit, I discovered he’s never had a single music lesson – it’s all him, learned with only his own ears and hands. I don’t know about you, but that certain musical ability has always fascinated me. When I first heard “Catspaw” off 2016’s Abyssinia release, the bass line floored me. To this day, I get chills when I hear the solo feature before the second verse. Mr. Booth is a driving force in this band and has reduced my lungs to rattling gasp satchels during their live sets. He’s ridiculous.
Now I could try to go on and on, describing every nuance of every song, but I can’t dissect music to tell you what you should listen for in note 137 of track eight, or what effects were used in recording (Mr. Reed uses no guitar effects pedals, that I do know). I listen purely for my enjoyment and can only describe how music makes me feel or envision when I hear it. When I’m inspired by a certain release, I may be compelled to share why it did so with whomever reads my stream of consciousness tirade about it. Color me compelled.
After endless play-throughs of Shadowlands, “The Wild & Gentle Dogs” has affected me more than the rest. The soft acoustic and soothing vocal entrance gives way to a rising build that, in my opinion, should be a film soundtrack. It invites an imagined story through a sensual auditory arrangement of slow burning tension. Three individuals in their separate plot stories maneuvering closer and faster, until they surround and discover each other exists. The balancing of multiple progressions intensifies almost into a chase scene that brings you to the edge of your neural cliff, waiting for an explosion of eye-searing light. It’s a magnetic, perfect ending to Shadowlands.
Mos Generator is an established, recognized name within the heavy underground, with Shadowlands they have taken a firmly balanced leap above the panorama. The above ground recognition this album is bringing the trio is earned from years of tremendous effort and more than well deserved.
Shadows can’t exist without light. “Shine, shine, the light of good works shine.”
Get a copy of Shadowlands at one of these locations:
- Mos Generator’s ‘HeavyHead Superstore’ [here]
- Listenable Records webstore [here] or Bandcamp [here],
- Buy it direct from the band at a show. Here’s tour dates for that opportunity:
Jun 16 – Bremerton WA – Hi-Fi Lounge
Jun 22 – Clisson, France – HELLFEST Open Air (Main Stage)
Aug 09 – Fort Worth TX – Lola’s
Aug 10 – Oklahoma City OK – Blue Note
Aug 11 – Omaha NE – Stoned Meadow of Doom
Aug 17 – Anchorage AK – Koot‘s
Aug 18 – Wasilla AK – Triple J
U.S. & Canada Tour 2018
- –Sep 21 – Port Angeles, WA @ Little Devils Lunchbox (w/ Teepee Creeper)
- –Sep 22 – Bremerton, WA @ Bremerton Raceway
- –Sep 23 – Bellingham, WA @ The Shakedown (w/ Mount Saturn)
- –Sep 24 – Calgary AB, CAN @ The Palomino (w/ Pelican Death Squad)
- –Sep 25 – Winnipeg, MB, CAN @ The Dog Pound
- –Sep 27 – Toronto, ON, CAN @ Coalition (w/ Castle)
- –Sep 28 – Ottawa, ON, CAN @ House of Targ (w/ Castle)
- –Sep 29 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Cattivo’s – DESCENDANTS OF CROM
- –Oct 01 – Rochester, NY @ Bugjar (w/Toke)
- –Oct 02 – Albany, NY @ Pauly’s Hotel (w/Toke, Shadow Witch)
- –Oct 03 – Niagara Falls, NY @ Soliday’s
- –Oct 04 – Detroit, MI @ The Sanctuary (w/ Against The Grain, War Cloud)
- –Oct 05 – Indianapolis, IN @ Doomed & Stoned Fest
- -Oct 06 – Chicago, IL @ Reggie’s (w/ War Cloud)
- -Oct 07 – Kansas City, MO @ Riot Room
- -Oct 09 – Denver CO – Streets of London (w/ MF Ruckus)
- -Oct 11 – Sacramento, CA @ Press Club (w/ Lord Ellis)
- –Oct 12 – Arcata, CA @ The Alibi (w/ Lord Ellis)
- -Oct 13 – Portland, OR @ High Water Mark (w/ Holy Grove, Pushy)
Check out Mos Generator photos from their May 12th show in New York, then go grab ‘Shadowlands‘.