NORTHWEST STONER-METAL OUTFIT JOLLYMON RETURN WITH VOID WALKER, THEIR FIRST ALBUM IN EIGHTEEN YEARS
Pacific Northwest-based stoner-metal outfit Jollymon is set to self-release their fifth full-length, Void Walker, their first in eighteen years, on June 8, 2018.
Jollymon – comprised of frontman/principal songwriter Carey Rich (vocals, bass), Mark Blackburn (drums), and John Colgate (guitar, vocals) – originally formed in Eugene, Oregon, releasing their debut full-length, Sailing, in 1995 on Eugene’s Elemental Records. They followed up Sailing with 1997’s Nobody Knows Who You Are and 1998’s Stoned Nation Radio, both on Elemental Records. Then, in 2000 they released their fourth full-length, the self-titled album, on Battle Arena Records, before imploding shortly thereafter, walking away, with no plans to return.
That is until Rich, Blackburn, and Colgate began to talk, jam, and work on a batch of songs Rich had penned. The result is Void Walker, their triumphant return: a record that is more stoner-rock, less on the sludgy side, and leaning more towards metal than its grunge/hard-rock predecessors.
“Whereas the previous four records were more grungy rock songs, the material on Void Walker is more on the metal side. But, we managed to keep the space-rock element, and even turned it up,” comments Rich on the band’s shift of direction with Void Walker. “We see us going even more metal and more space-rock in the future.”
Another thing Rich notices about Void Walker compared to the band’s previous releases is that the album is, “clearer and better produced.”
He continues, “we’ve come full circle with our recording approach. The first and second albums had great studio gear with Grammy-nominated producer Drew Canulette running the show. However, the third was a lesser studio done on more of a budget. And, the fourth album, our self-titled one, was a home studio recording. Sure, it sounds good, but you can definitely hear the quality difference between it and Void Walker – or even our first two records, for that matter.”
He also points out that twenty years, with technology, will inevitably make a difference in a recording project, regardless of any other variables.
“This new gear of the future crushes,” he says with a smile, “and you can hear it. I mean, the first record was no joke, and Void Walker just has more muscles than it.”
Rich and Jollymon released control of the mixing process on Void Walker, allowing the engineer/producer to take the reigns, something they haven’t done prior.
“We let the producer, Stephan Hawkes, mix it. We had very little input in the mixing process, and that’s how we wanted it,” he says with confidence. “We did request a couple adjustments, but nothing significant.”
Opening with the album’s lead single, “Tsunami,” Void Walker wastes no time in reminding you (or alerting you) to what Jollymon is all about: punishing, yet melodic grooves with room to breath, the band can mesh metal, space jams, and groove-rock into a tight, hard-hitting package that is as loud as it is subduing. Longtime fans of Jollymon will instantly recognize the distinctive vocals of Rich, the band’s ability to reel you in with a tightly-woven rhythm section, and guitars that both slice and leave room to float around your cerebral senses.
After listening to Void Walker, longtime fans will not be let down, and newcomers to the Jollymon camp will wonder if the band was always this strong? And, if so, how they hadn’t heard of them prior?
While their previous four releases certainly can match Void Walker in intensity and energy, sonically and musically the band hasn’t sounded better, aging more-than-gracefully, seemingly honing their skills during hibernation and collecting themselves for a record that would have propelled them to national prominence over twenty years ago. But, like the saying goes, youth is wasted on the young; Jollymon is now older, wiser, stronger, and overall better, something a lot of bands can’t say, even those that take a break and return – oft-times losing their vigor and relying on previous fan favorites and nostalgia to excite a crowd. With Jollymon though, fans may still request the old fan favorites, but old and new fans alike will connect with Void Walker and find themselves a new favorite in the band’s catalog.
“I play and sing better than I ever have,” admits Rich. “I am amazed at the sound quality on this record with the vocals. The vocals have never sounded better. Stephan captured the vocals perfectly, utilizing the space and effects we use live, and really nailing it on the recording. Mark has always been a beast on the drums, and he is showing no signs of slowing down. John has kept up with playing music over the years and has refined and furthered his chops. He’s always had a great voice, though. However, with me, I could pull off the old songs, but I always struggled with it. Now, I’m not struggling with it anymore. Also, musically, I’ll agree, the band is even stronger now than before. It’s those years of seasoning. As for the lyrics, that is us just ‘growing up.’ They are different, less raunchy, and just more lyrical in general. I’m very proud of where we’re at now, and I would have never imagined this twenty years ago. Or, even a few years ago. I am quite excited for the new phase of Jollymon and the new record.”
Rich explains that the album is entitled Void Walker because it “is what Jollymon’s name should be,” he says with a laugh. “Before life began, before even the cosmos took shape, there was light – and there was void. Both were unfettered by the confines of time and space, swelled across all existence in the form of a boundless sea of sound. So, Void Walker is a kind of symbol of what our sound is. It’s hard to describe, because it’s really left up to the imagination, which has been more of what we are: less wordy, forced lyrics, but simple imaginative shorelines with an epic soundtrack to back whatever is said.”
Matching the tones of the songs, flowing like a novel, with the music fitting the storyline, lyrics have always played a big part with Jollymon, more so now than ever. Covering topics of humility, empathy, fantasy, love, introspection, freedom, positivity, and just bettering yourself overall, Rich takes time to explain some of the album’s more abstract lyrics.
“One of my favorite lyrics on the album is a line from ‘Tsunami,’ in which I sing, ‘Your soul is fine, even though you war and parasite. This is not to punish you for crimes or for all the sins of human kind.’ This comes during the mellow, melodic bridge in a pretty heavy song. It’s about a celestial maintenance spaceship that travels about completing orders to ‘clean’ or ‘maintenance’ planets. This particular job is on earth; the spaceship can cause mass natural destruction and/or kill off any living thing, or any specific species, in any particular way. These lyrics are part of the song where the ship is explaining to earthlings that they’ve done nothing wrong, that this is just a scheduled job and not to worry, it should be over quick.”
“We are here to set you free, our friends are in the gallery. As you can see, their heads are on display. Death by three is destiny, the warrior, warlock, and the priest. We have no enemy. They’ve all been slain!” sings Rich in “A Good Day.”
“This is about three fantasy/D&D-style characters having an open-door policy to anyone that wants to challenge them in an arena battle to the death. They are undefeated and this is their song, explains Rich.
Another lyric that jumps out at the listener is a line in “Sky Burial,” in which Rich sings, “When it’s finally over now, I promise you I never lied. I’m afraid that what I say will probably make you cry. In a moment I’ll be crossing to the other side, hold my hand and close my eyes. Now, say goodbye.”
“This song can be about any story in any time about any person. It can be an everyday man or the Ork on the battlefield. It’s basically a choose your own adventure song, which might make you cry.”
The end result is a record that came out bigger and fatter than the band ever imagined. Surprisingly, whereas previous Jollymon records were more labored and the band spent more time in the studio on them, Void Walker was tracked in just four days. “And not full days,” laughs Rich. “It was crazy.”
Of the album’s outcome, Rich says, “The whole thing is solid front to back, and there is a nice flow from beginning to end. Really, the whole thing is a highlight for myself and the band. It has some dark feeling tones, while still pushing a positive, upbeat vibe. I am very proud of that.”
Rich says Jollymon “vanished on a high note, never thought to be seen again,” but after spending some time with the new album, he feels the band hasn’t missed a beat.
“What is surreal is that the connections we previously made still give us the time of day,” he says, still in shock. “And, most of the crowd is still there, hungry for the old stuff, as well as the new stuff. The new stuff has really gotten us great feedback live, so I can’t wait to unleash this record into the world. Plus, and this is the most surreal part of the experience for me, the new fans – they keep trickling in. We’re getting shows at high-profile venues right out of the gate, too. I never expected this. I never expected any of this, so I feel very lucky, and am very excited about Jollymon’s future.”
The nine-track collection of groove-driven, melodic stoner-metal that is Void Walker should continue to make Jollymon – the band and the fans – proud.