Favorites of 2015: Stefanie Zaenker and Francis Beringer of Caustic Casanova

Favorites of 2015: Stefanie Zaenker and Francis Beringer of Caustic Casanova

Caustic Casanova is a loud, heavy rock trio from Washington, DC. The CC, as they are affectionately known by their fans, has been tearing up stages and studios alike with their unique brand of eclectic, “absurdly muscled uber-psyche” since their inception on the campus of The College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia in 2005.

The end product of these years of writing and recording through trial and tribulation is Caustic Casanova’s new album and Retro Futurist debut Breaks, once again produced by J. Robbins. Breaks features seven unconventional and melodic heavy rock songs, none quite like the other, and covers a vast sonic territory from dark, driving post-punk to psychedelic post-metal, from heavy doom blues to epic space rock and everything in between. Breaks was released on September 25, 2015.

New Noise recently caught up with CC’s Stefanie Zaenker and Francis Beringer to talk about the most epic records of 2015.

Stefanie Zaenker, Caustic Casanova

Tame Impala – Currents – Their previous effort ‘Lonerism’ was one of my favorite releases of 2012. ‘Currents’ builds on their psychedelic take on surf and glam pop and boldly incorporates heavy elements of funk and r&b. There are bouncy bass lines, soaring synths, reverbed, swirling vocals, steady and behind-the-beat drum breaks, and just generally chill vibes, man. Both ‘Currents’ and ‘Lonerism’ are perfect albums to skate down a path on a breezy summer day to.

Fight Amp – Constantly Off – I wish this record was longer because Fight Amp is constantly on with Constantly Off. There are urgent and vicious qualities to these songs, expertly crafted to slog you right in the face after a frighteningly tense build. I can’t get over the kick drum and slinky, noisy guitar moves on the fifth track “I Perceive Reptoids.”

Clutch – Psychic Warfare – Clutch is one of the most consistently competent modern rock bands on the planet, with one of the most ass-kickingly compelling front men on the planet. Despite my Agnostic tendencies, Fallon converts me to his church of electric light every time I watch or listen. Following on the heels of Earth Rocker this album includes fist pumpers like “X-Ray Visions,” and somehow manages not to lose momentum on slower songs like “Son of Virginia.”

Kylesa – Exausting Fire – One of my favorite heavy bands for years now, with Exhausting Fire Kylesa has branched out into musical territory they’ve been hinting at for their previous few releases. Easily their most ambitious album musically and vocally, they delve into goth, new wave, kraut, and extended psychedelia, all while retaining their characteristic slow and heavy, psychic fist-slamming sludge. I discover a new layer or guitar tone with every listen and that keeps me coming back for more.

Ecstatic Vision – Sonic Praise – Including everything from hand drums, eerie atmospherics, swirling psychedelia, jazzy saxophones, distorted guitars, kraut rock, tastefully screamy vocals, and a tight and propulsive rhythm section, Sonic Praise draws inspiration from just about every genre and every era of music. This is one of the most unique and promising releases of the year. I highly recommend this record for a solo road trip.

And So I Watch You From Afar – Heirs – This is a band I simply could not stop listening to once I discovered them. All technically gifted musicians with a clear vision for their memorable and inspiring sound, Heirs finds them building on the blocks of their previous releases and including more of their unique version of chant-style vocals. Their signature, upbeat, hit-you-in-the-gut mathy riffs are interspersed with epic moments of glimmering post-rock atmospherics all begging you to hold on a bit longer and just have a little hope.

mewithoutYou – Pale Horses Pale Horses is an outstanding synthesis of their previous works and a composite of everything they excel at: quiet moments of introspection, compelling swells of dynamics and glistening guitars, post-hardcore freak outs, and the indelible emotion of Aaron Weiss’s vocal delivery.

He Whose Ox Is Gored – The Camel The Lion The Child – My band had the pleasure of sharing the stage with ‘Ox’ in L.A. on our most recent tour. I was blown away by their emotional live performance and musicianship. They create beautiful and hauntingly heavy songs reminiscent of Isis, Neurosis, and Russian Circles. Mungo’s background vocals add a bewitching edge to the alternating atmospherics and propulsive grooves of their songs. Seemingly schooled by the ancient Sirens of Greece, turning your ears away from The Camel, The Lion, The Child is just not an option.

Avast – Mahalo – These young, tapping wizards from Wilmington, NC call themselves ‘beach sludge’ but they’re so much more than that. In just over three minutes the lead track “To The Best” manages to seamlessly incorporate elements of math, prog, speed metal, post rock, punk, surf, and more. This is easily one of the most innovative releases of the past few years.

Mutoid Man – Bleeder – I was instantly hooked by the first track “Bridgeburner.” Brodsky’s soaring and urgent vocals fit flawlessly between the jagged guitars and pummeling drums. Bleeder is the perfect blend of extreme musicianship, delightfully heavy, yet innovative riffs, and catchy hooks – an incalculable ball of mass and energy blazing down a train track at a speed always just a touch out of reach.

Francis Beringer, Caustic Casanova

Lightning Bolt – Fantasy Empire – The best rock album I’ve heard in years. Lightning Bolt’s magnum opus.  Hooky, heavy and maddeningly, powerfully weird in the way that only Lightning Bolt can be. They trimmed a bit of experimental fat off the edges, just enough to make it their heaviest and most direct record yet, but not too much so that they lose their wacky originality (the crazy reverbed-out vocals of a madman trying to escape the asylum are still ever present). They also went with a more traditional production approach here, which really helps their sound. It’s so much more intense and affecting for their angular music to have such a full, warm and punchy sound. The insane bass/drum duo from Providence rightfully claims their crown as the best noise rock band of all time with this one.

Avast – Mahalo – This is an EP, not a full record, but I had to include it. It’s really sad that this Wilmington, NC band broke up before anyone really got to know them and I implore them to reunite. Easily the catchiest record of the year in the world of heavy in my opinion. These guys have massive songwriting chops and the skills to execute any idea they want. Huge drop tuned riffage in the vein of Torche, galloping drums and cavernous bellows like Baroness, beautiful and cinematic guitar ideas that would be at home on an Explosions in the Sky record, anthemic gang choruses straight out of the Gainesville punk scene, and much more – this band does so many things well and crams them all into this short EP.

Mutoid Man – Bleeder – The debut EP from this band was so promising, I knew this was going to be one of the best albums of the year. It’s a brutal amalgam of hardcore punk, speed metal, sludge, and progressive rock, mostly assembled into brutal and short assaults of riffage and melody (the sole exception is the epic six minute title track). Ben Koller (best known for his work in Converge) is one of the best heavy drummers in the world, this may be the year’s most intense drum performance. The bass and guitar tones are fuzzy and warm in a way that is unusual for this kind of frenetic technical metal – it sounds so massive. It’s all held together by the fact that Steve Brodsky is one of the heavy music’s greatest songwriters, vocalists, and lyricists. He’s placing memorable lines and unforgettable vocal hooks all over this record – especially impressive considering how bizarre and unpredictable some of these songs are. This stacks right up there with Cave In’s Jupiteras one of Mr. Brodsky’s pinnacle achievements.

Elder – Lore – This is one of the best metal bands in the world right now, and this is the best metal record of the year. They do everything well – dense, layered, complex songwriting, immense vocal melodies and unbeatable old fashioned head banging riffs. They achieve a sense of catharsis with the vocals that rivals Pallbearer, and they can out-play just about anyone. Elder is the best of many worlds in metal, prog and psychedelic rock – and Lore is by far their greatest achievement.

Battles – La Di Da Di – There is no band like Battles – they have an innovative sound totally their own (a superlative thrown around too much, and I’m guilty as much as anyone, but in this case it’s actually true) and this is their instrumental masterpiece. La Di Da Di is a beautiful, hypnotic ocean of unusual sound that keeps coming at you with interesting ideas and unconventional songwriting. It’s a krautrock/prog/math rock/electronica/noise rock record without parallel – and sometimes it’s hard to even think of a precedent for some of these compositions. I love that it’s instrumental, for that reason it’s easily my favorite Battles record. The vocals were always my least favorite thing about this band. Also, John Stanier is just a phenomenal drummer and I could listen to his rhythmic bashing on this LP forever. I’ve heard complaints that this record drags at 50 minutes, but I don’t hear it at all. It’s a record to lose yourself within – I wish it was 100 minutes.

Screaming Females – Rose Mountain – Screaming Females’ best record to date. Fuller, sleeker production really served this band well – the riffs are dirtier, the vocals more intense. It helps that the songwriting is the best of the band’s career. Marissa Paternoster has been one of the best guitar players on earth for years – and now her vocals are starting to catch up with her six string pyrotechnics. The rhythm section remains rock solid and heavy as hell. This band should be playing arenas.

And So I Watch You From Afar – Heirs – The undisputed gods of a very specific sound, wholly unique to them – major key, anthemic math rock is the best I can do – strike again. Heirscontinues in the same vein as 2013’s All Hail Bright Futures – bright, expansive and catchy. Mostly instrumental, super joyful sounding energetic rock songs with crazy fretboard work and ever-shifting dynamics is one way to describe this record. Another might be traditional Celtic music played with heavy metal guitars by guys who love punk rock choruses and epic post rock textures. When they do decide to employ vocals, they go for huge hooks and big group harmonies. Some of the most uplifting rock music being made right now is on this record. Opener “Run Home” is my favorite song of the year.

Indian Handcrafts – Creeps – One of the best heavy bands in the world. Their second record is a pretty big departure from their first, which was one of the most fun and eccentric heavy rock albums of the last ten years. Creepsis heavier, darker and more epic in scope than the debut record, but it’s still bizarre and unpredictable and weird in that unmistakable Indian Handcrafts way.

Irata – Sweet Loris– Some of the best riffs of the year are on this record. Intense, chaotic, melodic – this band has a mammoth sound for a trio. They can shift on a dime with some dizzying prog metal mastery or they can lean into a repeating groove, giving certain passages or entire songs a trance-like effect. The only bands I can think of with a similar aesthetic are Tool, the Melvins, Soundgarden and maybe Elder (also on this list) – not bad company to be in.

Weedeater – Goliathan – The gods of sludge deliver again. They haven’t missed a beat with new drummer Travis Owen. A huge improvement over the lackluster Jason…The Dragon, this one is just more focused and ferocious and features many of the best riffs of Weedeater’s career (“Cain Enabler”, “Claw of the South”). I love the short and fast song “Bully”, as well as the lethargic, creepy country of “Battered and Fried.” The album is really well paced and flows really well track to track, something that is rare with many stoner metal records. I’m reaching a breaking point with stoner metal – so much of it is exactly the same, and none of it is ever as good as Weedeater. They are simpler, more terrifying, and employ a level of bass fuzz that occasionally borders on the unmusical – and I love them for it. They’ve distilled southern rock and Sabbath and Flipper and early Melvins into a truly terrifying brew and they continue perfecting their formula on Goliathan. I’ve listened to this as much as anything this year.

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