Hard rock

Midnight Maniac: “I Heard It In A Nightmare”

As time marches on, it’s so fascinating to notice which vintage words get assigned to which decades. For ’90s-early ’00s it’s “throwback. For ’60s-’70s it’s usually “retro”. But outside of “old school” one of our favorite labels is that most often tacked on to the 1980s, and that’s “flashback”. Which, especially for those awesomely-overproduced recordings of pop and rock, really does a great job of representing that in-your-face, cinematic, “you just had to be there” energy.Which brings us to Midnight Maniac. Made up of multi-instrumentalist-songwriters Jake Curtis Allard and Marshall Benson, this Austin duo has already dived headfirst into electronic-pop-laden hard rock. And sure, while they’ve certainly got the hair to match, the music alone sounds fresh out of an end-of-Cold War time capsule. And Midnight Maniac has big plans for 2024, so ahead of a full album and a nationwide tour, these two teamed up with Aerosmith/AC/DC collaborator Chris Athens to master their sweat-drenched debut single.Like a piece of sonic sleep paralysis, that’s just as impactful as it is brief, “I Heard It In A Nightmare” glistens from its first group vocals all the way through its final ass-kicking guitar chord. Whether you’re headbanging through your commute, or breaking out the brush microphone and air guitar at home, this debut single is a dark-yet-sparkling dream come true for processed hard rock hounds.

Sap: “Pickle Song”

There’s been a ton of new music trickling down the Live Music Capital’s trunk this summer, so fingers crossed that the laziness typically associated with these dog days doesn’t slow that flow down anytime soon. Because among that gradual deluge of easily-accessible inoffensive homegrown genres, there’s also some seriously thick high-octane shit oozing out of Austin as well. Say, for example, Sap a trio who extracts direct influence from the golden age of ’90s grunge for a viscous mix of pre-millennium alternative hard rock and modern sensibilities. These three crude dudes started sampling their sound with a string of studio singles back in February. Titles like “Kiss My Kitty Cat”, “Big Fat Macho Man”, and “Hairy Jerry” paired with tormented-yet-cartoonish pieces of artwork quickly clue you into the uncouth juvenility of Sap, but the Nirvana-esque sonics and concise, catchy structures assure you that these are in fact well-seasoned students of their favorite styles, with mad instrumental discipline and songwriting chops to boot. Well, tomorrow Sap’s standing solidifies with their debut studio album Lard Baby a real gooey bundle of revivalist grunge joy. The fellas celebrate with a release show next Friday at Hole in the Wall opening for Violent Vira and Max Diaz and today you can make like hungry grunge bugs on a sticky limb by lapping up the new Sap with Lard Baby‘s final lead single. Far from a sour slurp, “Pickle Song” goes down real easy thanks to a soft, xylophone-fueled buildup, but once the lid comes off out spills a sporadic, bloodthirsty sprint. Put simply? “Pickle Song” kicks ass.

Souls Extolled: “Just Dreams”

On behalf of KUTX, here’s a confession of sorts: we could lean a little more on the heavier stuff. And I’m not saying that just because I’m rocking the long, windmill-ready thrash hair right now. There really are some sensational prog metal (or at least hard rock-adjacent) songwriters sprinkled across Austin. Exhibit A: Souls Extolled. This three-piece exercises a regiment of all kinds of stuff; indie, alternative, grunge, ska, and punk have all been on the platter since the group’s inception in 2019. Souls Extolled plans on springing right into 2023 with their next full-length MMXXII or “twenty twenty two” phonetically. The record is set to drop on New Year’s Day 2023 and as such, Souls Extolled is expected at venues across the country over the next few weeks, with a tour kickoff 8PM tonight at The Mohawk (ahead of The Dead Coats at 9 and The Holy Death Trio at 10). Can’t convince your ear drums to bear the Atlas task of a full in-person set? No problem. Just stretch out into the aether with MMXXII‘s incandescent and honestly almost-operatic eleventh offering, “Just Dreams”.

Black Pistol Fire: “Bad Habit”

Despite being a lifelong city-slicker, as a native Texan there are certain phrases that tend to bring out my Southern drawl. And if I’m not watching my tongue, a phrase that always outs my accent is Black Pistol Fire…which is ironic considering the Austin-based duo originally comes out of Toronto. But between pair’s incontrovertible adoption of a dusty, Lone Star persona and a shared nationality that landed their last album, Look Alive a couple JUNO Nominations, Black Pistol Fire ignites the best of both worlds.

BPF also grinds the best bits of Delta blues, mid-century rock & roll, ’70s-era hard rock, and ’90s grunge then re-dispenses them as a refined, timeless and placeless powder. Today Black Pistol Fire loads up yet another round into their revolver of intense indie blues rock before embarking on a month-long U.S./Canada tour. The tour kicks off 8PM tonight at Emo’s alongside Denver trio Pink Fuzz and Black Pistol Fire brings the heat on that latest head banger, “Bad Habit”, no matter when or where you hear it.

Kyote Radio: “The Crown” (feat. Kyle Shutt)

This may be a no-brainer, but here at KUTX, we’ve always got radio on our mind. And we know we’re far from the only Texans where that’s the case. Take for example singer-guitarist Micah Paredes, who moved from Terlingua down here to Austin in 2007. After about a decade of finding his footing and exhausting the creative juices of a half-formed project, Paredes founded a three-piece in 2020 that takes its name from a long-gone pirate station back in Terlingua – Kyote Radio. Kyote Radio got together with Chris “Frenchie” Smith at The Bubble for their first LP, Real Crime, which dropped last August. And although their discography’s limited as of now, these fellas have already proven that they’ve got what it takes (and the abundance of effects pedals) to match frequencies with rock legends like Modest Mouse and Black Sabbath.

Today Kyote Radio dropped their heaviest single to date, thanks in no small part to The Sword lead guitarist Kyle Shutt. The solos are impeccable, the runtime doesn’t drag at all, and it gives us a glimpse at what life’ll be like once Kyote Radio reach the sandy, scorpion-riddled throne of hard rock royalty. So plug in, turn it up to 11, and windmill your way past Hump Day with “The Crown”!

KONZI: “Free Your Mind”

Indie, alt-rock, amplifiers and…apples? Yes, it’s all there for Austin quintet KONZI, who began harnessing their creative juices in early 2020 as COVID-19 triggered a global lockdown. And like countless other songwriters, the overwhelming precariousness that came with COVID convinced KONZI to pursue positivity through rock at all costs. That endearing energy is plenty evident on their upcoming self-titled debut and has already helped in the healing process following the loss of revered KONZI co-producer Daniel Sahad.

On top of the immeasurable talent and love that Sahad brought, this compelling record also received treatments from Charles Godfrey (who’s worked with Portugal. the Man and Yeah Yeah Yeahs) and The Bubble’s Chris “Frenchie” Smith. The ten daring tracks touch down in August, and today the band shares KONZI‘s second single, whose title evokes one of The Matrix‘s most beloved Morpheus-isms as well as Funkadelic’s 1970 sophomore LP. For lack of better terms, “Free Your Mind” is heavy as hell and quick to kick away any cynicism, so take it with your coffee and liberate yourself as best you can as we enter May and another work week.