As the second biggest city in New Jersey, Jersey City has always had an underdog complex. Dwarfed in size by New York City to the east, and in rock and roll relevance by Asbury Park to the south, it’s home to a supportive tight-knit culture and community of musicians and artists that play, create, draw and act twice as hard to stand out. It’s from this setting that Black Wail emerged from in 2014.
As the drummer of buzz band Thomas Francis Takes His Chances, Michael Tarlazzi had long appreciated bassist Susan Lutin’s fluid and aggressive bass playing. A veteran of a band that had signed to a major label, Susan’s chops and presence stood out in Jersey City. Yet even as he played in that band, Tarlazzi harbored dreams of fronting his own band, recording home demos where he sang and played all the instruments. The songs he wrote were different than anything else happening musically in Jersey City, a unique blend of 70’s hard rock, psychedelia, punk rock and metal. After his other band imploded, he decided to make his dream a reality. Susan was the only person he considered to play bass, and Black Wail was born. With Tarlazzi on vocals and guitar and Lutin on bass, the groundwork was laid to bring his demos to life. They were joined by a second guitarist, a drummer and keyboardist Bram Teitelman, who’d toured with Mastodon and Clutch in stoner rockers Murder 1, and the lineup was fleshed out.
Black Wail, or “JC’s supergroup,” as a local promoter dubbed them, began playing out in mid-2014. Drawing from 70s influences including Thin Lizzy, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple, the band’s Jersey roots are also on display. One can hear Monster Magnet’s lysergic stoner rock, the campy punk energy of Misfits and the guitar heroics of Zakk Wylde among their psychedelia, doom and hooky hard rock. The band, rounded out by drummer Ed Chaurreun in 2015, quickly found themselves gracing venues including Brooklyn’s Saint Vitus Bar and the Gramercy Theater in New York, sharing the stage with acts as diverse as Rye Coalition, Radio Moscow, Michael Monroe and Bangladeafy.
Described by one reviewer as music that’s “played in a bar that has a strip club neighboring it on one side, a pot dispensary on the other and not so secret hallways that lead to both,” the band’s second EP, All You Can Eat, was released in 2016. And while it was recorded by Tarlazzi, Grammy-winning producer John Seymour (Bouncing Souls, Alice in Chains) mixed the EP. When it came time to record the follow-up, this time, the band went back to Seymour, and the result is Chromium Homes.
The result is the most focused and best-sounding of Black Wail’s short career. “They,” a staple of the band’s set, is captured on record for the first time. The title track, referring to poisonous waste from abandoned industrial sites in Jersey City, is an upbeat song with Allmann Brothers-esque progressions. “Thee Ghost” is equal parts Megadeth and Pink Floyd, highlighted by ethereal three-part harmonies and a tempo change midway through. There’s also a doomy version of The Beatles “Norwegian Wood” on the EP. In short, Chromium Homes shows Black Wail’s growth and establishes them as a band that should be taken seriously.