Posted in Features on December 1st, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Believe it or not, it’s that time again. Welcome to The Obelisk’s Top 20 of 2014 Readers Poll. Like last year, we’ll be using a point system to tabulate the results, wherein a 1-4 ranking is worth five points, 5-8 worth four, 9-12 worth three, 13-16 worth two and 17-20 worth one, as well as tabulating the raw votes — so rest assured that come New Year’s Day, we’re going to know what was the best album of 2014. Frankly, I can’t wait to find out.
With the Top 20 of 2013 Readers Poll there was never any mystery to it. The number one pick was number one from the first day and never looked back. This time, I feel like there are any number of potential top contenders that could vie for Album of the Year, and in a range of styles. I know I’ve been back and forth on what it should be for my own list — which will be along sometime later in the month — and I’ve got a nerd’s eagerness to find out how some of my own picks stack up to yours.
Thank you in advance to everyone who chooses to participate in this year’s Readers Poll. It’s always kind of nerve-wracking to ask people to type out their top choices, but it’s something that’s gotten bigger every time we’ve done it, and I hope 2014 follows that pattern as well. Any sharing of the link or reposting or anything of the kind is appreciated more than I can say.
Poll stays open until Jan. 1, 2015.
Let’s have some fun:
As always, the Readers Poll wouldn’t be possible without the diligent efforts of Slevin, whose coding talent is so far beyond my realm of understanding that I can only consider it magic. Please also know that your email address will not be used or kept, it’s simply a matter of verifying one-vote-per-address. All data is wiped clean after the poll is over. Thank you again for being a part of this.
What’s the most amazing part of The Last in Line? I don’t know. How about the fact that it hit just a year after Dio debuted with Holy Diver in 1983? How about the fact that side A has the title-track and side B closes with “Egypt (The Chains are On)” — two blueprints for what we think of today as epic metal? How about the whole goddamn thing? It’s all pretty amazing.
You have to figure Ronnie James Dio knew he had something special in the band behind him at this point. After releasing and touring on Holy Diver, to go back into the studio with guitarist Vivian Campbell (the two would later have a vicious falling out), bassist Jimmy Bain (who as I understand it had a vicious drug problem), drummer Vinny Appice (who, perhaps viciously, was never Bill Ward) and keyboardist Claude Schnell (who had a vicious mustache) and come out with these results, it boggles the mind. Aside from being not at all how the industry works today — they’d tour Holy Diver for at least 18 months if not two full years to pay label debt, and it wouldn’t be on Warner Bros. — just to have those two albums back-to-back as your debut and sophomore outings. Granted, by then Dio had already been in Elf, Rainbow and Black Sabbath, and he came to the band bearing his name with a bit of clout behind him, but still, wow. The power of this material, the rawness of “I Speed at Night,” the unabashed commercial play of “Mystery” and the irony-free grandeur of the aforementioned epics. It’s not a moment that could ever come again, and while there are many carrying on the legacy of this approach, I’ll gladly put The Last in Line up against anything that came after it in the last 30 years, including by Dio.
To that end, we all know how it worked out. This version of the Dio band had one more record in it — 1985’s Sacred Heart – and by the time they got around to 1987’s Dream Evil, it was Craig Goldy on guitar, Vivian Campbell to join Def Leppard several years later. Sacred Heart was a worthy third in the trilogy, but metal was changing by ’87, the ascent of MTV and glam well underway, and after 1990’s Lock up the Wolves, Dio would be back in Black Sabbath for 1992’s Dehumanizer before releasing Strange Highways in 1993 and arguably hitting his nadir with the Dio band in 1996’s Angry Machines. I’d argue that 2000’s Magica and the subsequent and final two Dio studio albums, 2002’s Killing the Dragon and 2004’s Master of the Moon, represented a strong return to form — particularly the last two after the concept record — but no question that part of the appeal was the “return” aspect, Dio and company playing both to his strengths as a singer and the expectations of an audience looking for the classic style. Still, it worked.
Not to bring down the room, but Dio‘s death in 2010 cut short both his reunion with Black Sabbath in Heaven and Hell and the chance for any further Dio studio output. There have been a couple live records, collections, and this year a tribute CD was released with I don’t even know who and does it even really matter on it, but as the legacy continues to be mined — and no doubt it will for a long while to come — the earliest Dio albums remain untouchable and unflinching in the face of passing years, carved in marble as much as they are cast in steel.
Yeah, I know I closed out with Rainbow like three weeks ago. What, it’s too much Dio? No such thing.
On Monday, I’ll have my top 30 of 2014 posted. Unless I run into some gotta-post-it-this-second news, which happened twice this week, it will likely be my only post of the day. After that, Tuesday maybe, depending on time, a countdown of the 10 best debuts of the year, and somewhere before 2015 hits, a list of the best EPs and singles. Time to get all this stuff out there. The music industry essentially takes off for the next two weeks, but I’m sure there will be fest updates and things of that sort to post on as well. Still, I want to use the time to wrap up the year and give this stuff the attention it deserves, because 2014 had a few genuine landmarks.
Also on Tuesday, look out for the year-end podcast. I know it’ll be at least three hours long. I might go four if I’m feeling inspired and have the time between travel and all that, but either way, it’ll include a lot of stuff on my best of list and probably more than that, but it will all kick ass, so stay tuned. I’ve got a terrible-in-terms-of-how-much-time-it’s-going-to-take-but-probably-the-way-to-go idea for what to do New Years Week as well, but more on that later.
Oh, and somewhere in there, I’m gonna try to review Slomatics too. Ha.
I hope you have a great and safe weekend as we move to and through the darkest days of the year. Please check out the radio stream and feel free to share all about your seasonal affective disorder with the forum. We’re all here for each other.
Posted in On Wax on December 19th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Austin-based Mark Deutrom and North Carolinians The Asound team up for a split 7″ released through Tsuguri Records, the imprint helmed by Asound bassist Jon Cox. One track from each outfit is included, Deutrom – who has a new band going called Bellringer (more on them to come) and has collaborated with no shortage of others but is probably best known for playing bass in the Melvins during their Stoner Witch era — tossing in a quick, punkish burst of an A-side in “Mini-Skirt,” while The Asound let their riffs breathe a little more on side B with “The Chief of Thieves,” a steady roll captured raw and suited to the 7″ form. Sound-wise, it’s not so different from their recent live split with Lenoir Swingers Club (review here), but the output is clear enough to indicate a studio recording, even if it’s one still punk enough to warrant the black and while cover art on the 7″ sleeve — a traditionalism well suited to both inclusions.
Deutrom reportedly recorded “Mini-Skirt” at the same time he tracked the jazzy solo offering Brief Sensuality and Western Violence (review here), and with Aaron Lack on drums, what might’ve been left off the record on account of not fitting sonically earns a distinctive place here via thickened shuffle and unceasing forward motion. Easy enough to be reminded of Butthole Surfers and the Melvins both, but “Mini-Skirt” makes its point in the unflinching, almost garage-sounding nature and in its quick-turning solo culmination. Where the record from whence it doesn’t come was a headier affair, “Mini-Skirt” is simple and decidedly anti-progressive, a sprint put to tape. It contrasts effectively with The Asound‘s “The Chief of Thieves,” which keeps to a slower pace, but the two find common ground in their rougher-edged production an in the density of their tones, the fervency of their crash and the efficiency with which they deal out their riffing.
Guitarist/vocalist Chad Wyrick leads the proceedings for The Asound, with Cox and drummer Michael Crump following the lurching groove set by the guitars more or less for the duration. It’s a riff worth basing a song around, and even the solo section in the second half seems to base its rhythm around that same movement, the vocals by then having dropped out to let the band get to the heart of the matter. No question the B-side is longer than the A, but in the context of what they’re doing, Wyrick‘s singing over the wailing distortion recalling some of Floor‘s appeal in combining doom and more accessible sonic forms, I don’t think I’d call “The Chief of Thieves” less productive than its companion, only going for — and, I’d argue, hitting the mark — on a different side of the same style. The Asound end after all that rolling on a quick-fading feedback that calls to mind the constraints of the format. That is, there’s nothing sonically to make me think that riff couldn’t have gone on another seven minutes or so.
But then it would be an entirely different kind of release — and Deutrom would probably need more than one song — so I’ll instead take the tight-packed grooves on the platter itself to stand as a visual metaphor for what “The Chief of Thieves” has to offer during playback. The 7″ is limited to 200 copies in green or black vinyl, and while it might be a stopgap for both parties concerned, it also asks next to no indulgence on the part of its audience and easily proves worth the time it takes to listen.
Posted in Whathaveyou on December 19th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Heavy rockers Bison Machine will release their debut album, Hoarfrost, in 2015 via Bilocation Records. The Detroit four-piece get down on some serious boogie, as the check-out-our-vinyl-master sample track “Cosmic Ark” — not to be confused with the Mos Generator song of the same name — showcases, shuffling Graveyard style to do a wild roundabout back to ’70s Detroit influences: Detroit to Örebro to Detroit. Their impending Spring 2015 tour, with dates yet to be unveiled, may or may not take them that far, but it’s a cool sound one way or another and Bison Machine seem towield it well.
The PR wire saw fit to provide the details and a bit of background on the band:
BISON MACHINE are signing with Bilocation Records
Detroit’s finest heavyrockers BISON MACHINE signed for a vinylrelease with Bilocation Records. Their album ‘Hoarfrost’ will be out during 2015 on limited high performance 180g vinyl.
“Conceived in a single family wigwam on the far eastern reaches of the city of Detroit, and thrust from the birth canal in a dusty basement in Hamtramck, Bison Machine giveth and Bison Machine taketh away.
No Prisoners; no one survives. Liveshows are things of wonderment. Volume, blues, saturation. That is the prevailing ethos. Hamtramck’s own rock spectacle, heavy and melodic. Things are broken, blood is spilled, clothes and loin cloths are rent from bodies, antler and hides are prevalent.
Picture a small child raised on the delta blues since birth, then force fed Zeppelin and Sabbath til they could no longer move, then beaten and whipped with Kyuss, Pentagram, Earthless, Dead Meadow, Willie and Waylon, Queens of the stone age and Thin Lizzy, until one day, the child rears its ugly bruised and mishapen head perched upon its grizzled, muscular, agromegalic body rippling with virility, shrugs of it’s chains, and runs down Jos Campau naked, riding a sabertooth tiger.
This is the music that poor soul would be singing.
…and no one survives.”
John deVries- guitar Breck Crandell- drums Tom Stec- vox Anthony Franchina- bass
Posted in Radio on December 19th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
I’ve been listening to The Obelisk Radio a lot this week, particularly while starting to put together my top albums of 2014 list, so it seemed only appropriate to get a new round of adds up to the server. As we come to the end of the year, there’s always a slowdown in terms of releases, but if I had to put a number to it, I’d call it a 10, maybe 20 percent drop at most. If it was running water and you were looking at it, you’d notice no difference. A flood is still a flood.
As such, 14 records joined the server today. Some are recently reviewed, some aren’t out yet, some have been out for a little bit. It’s a solid batch of stuff, and if you haven’t yet had enough of lists — more to come, believe me — it’s worth a look at the Playlist and Updates Page. The amount of stuff on there is staggering. It’s a wonder the radio stream manages to fit in so much Clutch at all.
Let’s get to it.
The Obelisk Radio Adds for Dec. 19, 2014:
Mugstar & The Cosmic Dead, Split LP
Two sides, one song from each band, each a massive slab of a jam. Glasgow’s The Cosmic Dead and Liverpool’s Mugstar make a solid pairing, and by solid I definitely mean liquid, and by liquid I mean that’s what your brains will be by the time Mugstar‘s “Breathing Mirror” (18:42) and The Cosmic Dead‘s “Fukahyoocastulah” (25:51) are done. Instrumental in their entirety and jammed out on a subspace frequency that I only imagine they can already hear in the Delta Quadrant — and no doubt they’re wondering what the title of The Cosmic Dead‘s contribution means exactly — both cuts share an affinity for progressive heavy psych exploration, kosmiche and krautrock alike, but with a fresh take on the classic idea of we’re-gonna-get-in-a-room-and-this-is-what-happens that runs through, whether it’s in the drone midsection of “Breathing Mirror” after the jam has died down and before its resurgence, or the later reaches of “Fukayoocastulah,” which rest on the nigh-eternal bassline that’s steady enough to hold the course despite the various effects freakouts, slow swirls and experiments happening around it. About 45 minutes solid of primo heavy jamming? Sign me up. Mugstar’s website, on Bandcamp, The Cosmic Dead on Thee Faceboks, on Bandcamp.
Goya, Satan’s Fire
Eleven-minute opener “Malediction and Death” makes its primary impression in its consuming tonality — a harsh but encompassing low end that emerges out of the initial cavalcade of feedback starting the song. The first three minutes of “Malediction and Death” are noise before Phoenix’s Goya kick in their riff, drums and vocals, sounding as huge on the Satan’s Fire EP as on their preceding split with Wounded Giant (review here) but perhaps even more malevolent as they continue to find their place within wizard doom, marked out by the two-at-once solo shredding of guitarist/vocalist Jeff Owens, the lurching rhythm behind him and the swing of drummer Nick Lose, whose snare punctuates “Malediction and Death” like a life-preserver tossed into the abyss. Unsurprisingly, they end noisy. “Symbols” picks up with two minutes of sparse, atmospheric drumming, and the title-track (5:58) finishes with a tale of antichristianity, dropping out of life, and watching the world fall apart. Doom? Yes. Perhaps not as patient as “Malediction and Death,” “Satan’s Fire” itself offers suitable heat, and delivered through amps that likewise sound about ready to melt, provides a memorable impression even beyond its Oborn-style hook. Goya on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
Somewhere between classic doom and more aggressive, hardcore punk-derived noise, Oshkosh, Wisconsin, four-piece Attalla are the kind of band who could probably release nothing but 7″ singles for the next five years and still make a go of it. As it stands, their self-titled debut offers a stirring rawness in the dual guitars that reminds there’s more ways to make an impact tonally than just with volume or fuzz. Their roots are in punk, and that’s plain enough to hear in lead guitarist Cody Stieg‘s vocals on songs like “Light” and “Lust,” but “Haze” nestles into a stoner groove late that suits Attalla well, and the later “Veil” offers charged propulsion in the drums of Aaron Kunde, whose snare sound is tinny but fitting with the sans-frills stylings of Stieg, rhythm guitarist Brian Hinckley and bassist Bryan Kunde. Some variation in tempo throughout changes things up, but a particularly triumphant moment comes with the raw Slayer-esque foreboding (think slow Slayer) that begins “Doom,” a fitting closer to Attalla‘s Attalla with its subtly complex stylistic blend and relatively barebones presentation. I’m not sure where Attalla go from here in terms of developing their sound, but the debut offers reason enough to want to find out. Attalla on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
If you played me TarLung‘s TarLung debut full-length and told me the trio were from North Carolina, I’d undoubtedly believe you. In fact, they hail from Vienna, Austria, but just so happen to have the Southern sludge ideology nailed down on their first offering. Roots in Crowbar and Eyehategod and Sourvein can be heard throughout, big nod, harsh vocals, weighted plod. The guitars of Rotten and Phillipp “Five“ Seiler (the latter also vocals) brings in some of that Pepper Keenan-style Southern riffing, on “Last Breath” particularly, but the bulk of what they and drummer Marian Waibl get up to on these seven tracks is rawer and nastier, the album’s last three cuts — “Apeplanet,” “Black Forest” and “Space Caravan” — providing the best glimpse at TarLung‘s effective aesthetic interpretation. Tonally and methodologically sound, what remains for them to do is hone a more individualized approach, but particularly for a self-released first album, the crisp harshness they convey on the centerpiece “C2″ — a kind of maddening high pitch running throughout — satisfies when taken on its own level, and among the three-piece’s assets, their lack of pretense will no doubt serve them well moving forward. TarLung on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
Gangrened, We are Nothing
Proffering lurching, aggressive sludge over three tracks arranged longest to shortest, Finnish trio Gangrened conjure sweeping chaos on We are Nothing, blatantly contradicting the title of the release despite whatever riff-laden nihilism might be at work philosophically. Among the most telling moments on the release — which follows a split tape from the four piece of vocalist Ollijuhani Kujansivu, guitarist/bassist Andreas Österlund, guitarist Jon Imbernon and drummer Owe Inborr, who’ve since traded out their rhythm section — is the opening sample of “Them” in which a man in a Southern US accent rants in paranoid rage about helicopters flying over his property, indicative of some conspiracy or other. In both their influence and their execution, that fits Gangrened‘s overall portrayal well, but both the 12-minute opener “Lung Remover” and closing semi-Black Flag cover “Kontti” (translated “24 Pack” and a feedback-soaked, sludged-up play on “Six Pack”) are pissed off enough to warrant the attention they seem to be demanding in their noisy charge, snail-paced and malevolent as it is. Gangrened on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
As always, this is just a fraction of what was added to The Obelisk Radio today. If you get the chance to check any of this stuff out, I hope you dig it, and if you decide to launch the player, I hope whatever’s playing is awesome.
Posted in Whathaveyou on December 19th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
I can’t claim to have heard Rwake‘s demo, Xenoglossalgia: The Last Stage of Awareness – going by the etymology it would seem to be knowing what’s outside yourself, alien to you, or something like that — but if I had to sit and imagine what earliest Rwake might sound like, I’d have to guess it would be raw as hell. An included excerpt of “Colibos/So Fucking Tired” that’s about one-tenth the actual length of the track affirms the supposition. It’s nice to be validated every now and again, even if that means being flayed by Rwake in the process.
The Little Rock outfit’s demo will see a February release on Relapse. 2015 will make it four years since their last album, Rest (review here), so they’re probably due for something one way or another. Perhaps issuing Xenoglossalgia is a way to remind people that Rwake are still out there, lurking in the genre-blending shadows, ahead of a new full-length. I suppose that could go the other way too. I’d make a guess, but wouldn’t want to be accused of faking knowledge of things foreign to me.
Info and awesome-looking art off the PR wire:
RWAKE: Announce Official Release of First Ever Demo
Xenoglossalgia: The Last Stage of Awareness Set for February Release
Little Rock, AR infamous doom horde, Rwake, have announced the first ever official release of their highly sought after original demo Xenoglossalgia: The Last Stage of Awareness. Originally released in 1998 when the band were barely in their 20s, Xenoglossalgia is a document of the band discovering and experimenting with their sound. Glimmers of the deeply psychedelic sludge the band would become famous for are there, coupled with moments of Emperor influenced symphonic metal. Now, almost 20 years later, Rwake’s first official recordings have been fully remastered by Brad Boatright (Sleep, High On Fire, Integrity, etc) and made available for the first time ever outside of their hometown.
The album will be released on CD/LP/Digital on February 10th via Relapse Records in North America and February 9th in the UK/World and February 6th in Germany/Benelux. The limited edition LPs and CDs will come packaged in an insane 3D cover complete with 3D glasses. Physical pre-orders are availableHEREwith digital pre-orders availableHERE.
1. Intro 2. Stairwell 3. Or Die 4. Xenoglossalgia 5. Nagarachi 6. Interlude 7. Calibos/So Fucking Tired
Posted in Whathaveyou on December 18th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
There isn’t much more to the Maryland Doom Fest 2015 at this point than a list of bands, dates and a place, but that’s really all you need. In true Maryland doom style, no bullshit, no one-at-a-time teasers, just “here’s this awesome thing” and you can either show up or suck. The inaugural edition of the Frederick-based fest will take place at Cafe 611 and bring together a killer assemblage of acts, headlined by The Skull and Spirit Caravan and also boasting Apostle of Solitude and War Injun-offshoot Outside Truth.
To that point, while Maryland itself is well represented — Spirit Caravan, Outside Truth, Iron Man, Weed is Weed, Foghound, Mind’s Eye, Pull, Daydreams with Nightmares, etc. — the festival’s reach is immediately wider, not only pulling in Lord and Valkyrie (the latter of whom should have a new album out by then, on Relapse) from nearby Virginia, but reaching up the Eastern Seaboard to nab Rhode Island’s Balam and into the Midwest for The Skull and Apostle of Solitude, who together supplied some of 2014’s best doom in their latest albums. What’s consistent throughout the lineup is the spirit of doom. There’s some variety around sludge, stoner, heavy rock and so on, but it’s a riffer’s delight front to back and it looks like it’ll be one worth traveling to see.
I’m not sure if more bands are being added, but presumably there will be a change here and there one way or another — June 26-28 is a long time away — and if I hear anything, I’ll let you know. In the meantime, here’s the poster and lineup for the first Maryland Doom Fest:
The Skull Spirit Caravan Apostle of Solitude Outside Truth Unorthodox Iron Man Valkyrie Weed is Weed Balam Project Armageddon Foghound Pull Mind’s Eye Slaves BC Foehammer Season of Arrows Lord Daydreams with Nightmares
Posted in Whathaveyou on December 18th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
After delivering 2014 an elephantine boot to the ass with their much-anticipated reunion full-length, Oblation (review here), Floor are set to continue their run in 2015. The Miami trio will launch a European tour at Roadburn on April 9 and be joined by Minsk for shows in Germany, the Czech Republic, France, Austria, Belgium, Italy and a stop in London for Desertfest. It’s a stint that ends on April 25, which is just enough time to give guitarist/vocalist Steve Brooks a breather before Torche‘s own recently-announced European tour kicks off on May 2 in Leipzig, where Floor will have been less than a month earlier for the Doom over Leipzig festival.
A cruel schedule for Brooks, perhaps, but sure to be time well spent in Floor alongside guitarist Anthony Vialon and drummer Henry Wilson meeting the riffy demands of a hungry public. If you need a refresher, Oblation can be heard in full under the PR wire news below:
FLOOR announce European tour
Cult underground rock outfit FLOOR (Steve Brooks (also of TORCHE)- Guitar, Vocals, Anthony Vialon – Guitar, Henry Wilson – drums) have announced a European tour. The European tour, their first, sees them travel throughout a half dozen countries and play several European festivals, including Roadburn, Desert Fest London, Doom over Leipzig, and Solomacello Fest. Support on this tour comes from MINSK, and a full list of confirmed tour dates can be found below.
FLOOR are touring in support of ‘Oblation’, their first new album in over ten years. ‘Oblation’, which is available for purchase here, and for digital download here.
FLOOR Tour Dates: (All dates with MINSK) 4/9 Tilburg, Holland @ Roadburn (FLOOR ONLY) 4/10 Leipzig, Germany @ Doom Over Leipzig 4/11 Hamburg, Germany @ Hafenklang 4/12 Berlin, Germany @ Cassiopeia 4/13 Warsaw, Poland @ Hydrozagadka 4/14 Prague, Czech Rep @ 007 4/15 Innsbruck, Austria @ p.m.k. 4/16 München, Germany @ Feierwerk 4/17 Bologna, Italy @ Freakout 4/18 Milano, Italy @ Lo Fi Club, Solomacello Fest 4/20 Paris, France @ Espace B 4/21 Nantes, France @ La Scene Michelet 4/22 Lille, France @ La Peniche 4/23 Dortmund, Germany @ FZW 4/24 London, UK @ Desertfest 4/25 Antwerp, Belgium @ Kavka
It doesn’t take too long into “Lucifero,” the opening track of Danish doomers The Hyle‘s four-song Demo, to figure out where they’re coming from. Pressed in a limited edition of 150 tapes by Caligari Records — pro-printed thick-stock four-panel j-card, black and clear case, purple cassette with the print directly on it (rather than a label) — the release finds the somewhat mysterious three-piece nestled into the post-Electric Wizard frame of doom, starting out with quiet, spacious, foreboding guitar and opening quickly into a rolling groove topped with a winding smoke-trail of a lead. Echoing clean vocals provide further basis for the comparison throughout “Lucifero” and its side one companion, “Serpent King,” as well as side two’s “Spiritual Sacrifice” and “Children of the Divine,” but if it’s a sonic likeness noted, let that also stand as testament to The Hyle‘s ability to craft a hook, since “Lucifero” likewise serves significant notice in that regard.
They keep lineup information minimal, but Demo was recorded, mixed and mastered by Jens Dandanell and Caligari has seen fit to keep true to its overarching atmosphere with the tape, the inside liner of which is dedicated to a murky, almost black metal-style photo by Rasmus Leo that complements the All is Visual cover of the release itself. The music is similarly cohesive. It may or may not be The Hyle‘s first release, but Demo sounds like the work of a band who knows what they want out of their sound, “Serpent King” branching out further vocally than “Lucifero” and helping distinguish the band from their central point of influence even as they continue to weave a torrent of low end punctuated by classically swinging drums with an otherworldly psychedelic vibe. “Serpent King” fades out long on a guitar solo to close out side one of the tape, a moment’s respite consumed by droning before “Spiritual Sacrifice” and “Children of the Divine” take hold.
A more fervent stomp provides the resounding impression of “Spiritual Sacrifice,” at least initially until the slow unfolding hypnosis takes hold, pushing farther out into darkened psychedelics and an obscure morass of deep tonality. By then, The Hyle‘s nod is locked in, and they do nothing to interrupt it as side two plays out, though they clearly save their nastiest riffing for last. “Children of the Divine” is meaner in tone than its predecessors, if consistent in its overall approach, its abyssal drear and spaciousness marked by a particularly memorable riff and groove-riding vocals, laid back in their delivery, but showing a burgeoning personality that could easily develop over time, layers arriving in a languid call-and-response chorus that coincide with some later guitar harmonics to speak to a stronger sense of arrangement and performance to come as The Hyle move past Demo. As a first release, though, these four songs are confident in their presentation of aesthetic and likewise assured in their craftsmanship. For many listeners, elements will ring familiar, but it’s in the flashes of individuality throughout Demo that The Hyle‘s real potential is unveiled.
Posted in Features on December 18th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
I knew already when I moved to the Boston area that Darryl Shepard was an exceedingly good guy. We’d been in touch for years at that point and I’d helped press up the CD run of Blackwolfgoat‘s second album, Dronolith, plus been a fan of his work in that one-man outfit as well as past bands like Milligram, Roadsaw, and so on. What I didn’t know was how universally respected he is. It’s not a celebrity thing, and part of that I’ll attribute to his own down-to-earth sensibility, but whether it’s people showing up to watch him play, peers in other bands, musicians he plays with or just people he knows from having been around the city’s rock underground for as long as he has, there’s a deep-running appreciation for who he is and what he does. The only person I’ve ever heard talk shit about Darryl, is Darryl, and even he’s doing it for laughs.
He’s had a busy 2014, between releasing albums with The Scimitar and Blackwolfgoat, recording Kind‘s first demo, playing shows and so on, and it seems only fitting to wrap up “The Year in Darryl” (not literally in him, in a Martin Short/Inner Space kind of way, but at very least in his work) by giving a rundown of the things he’s done over the last 12 months. Here goes:
Blackwolfgoat, Drone Maintenance
After Dronolith, I knew I probably wouldn’t get to review Drone Maintenance, Shepard‘s third outing under the Blackwolfgoat moniker (released by Small Stone) since I was still pretty close to it, only one record removed from direct-ish involvement in its making, but don’t think for one second that’s a statement about the quality of Drone Maintenance itself. To be honest, the third record blows the second one out of the water. In cuts like “Sunfall,” “White Hole” and the relatively brief “Night Heat,” his tendency toward songwriting comes out, and structures begin to show themselves amid tracks that are varied in mood and feel while still largely instrumental — he vocalizes bleak, feedback-laden closer “Cyclopean Utopia” in a vaguely black metal kind of way — and tied together by three spoken interludes that foster Drone Maintenance‘s underlying concept: The drone is broken, and Shepard is the repair man sent to fix it, as portrayed in Alexander von Wieding‘s cover art. Though the plotline works out otherwise, Shepard fixes the drone in wonderfully progressive fashion, an experimental feel pervading the material that — miraculously, given the context — avoid pretense even at its most ambient moments. I was lucky to be invited to the studio while it was being recorded, and could tell then that Darryl had something special on his hands and that the first two Blackwolfgoat releases were just scratching the surface of what he was looking to accomplish with the project. To hear the finished product after the release party at O’Brien’s in Allston was to see that realization affirmed. Blackwolfgoat on Thee Facebooks, Small Stone Records.
The Scimitar, Doomsayer
Though it was released on gorgeous clear/bone vinyl by Hydro-Phonic Records (also digipak CDR and a name-your-price download from the band’s Bandcamp), it seemed for a minute there that The Scimitar was over before Doomsayer could get started, having been effectively derailed when bassist Dave Gein moved to the West Coast, his last show with the band coming at The Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 (review here) in early May. This supposition was, in a word, mistaken. True to their slaughterhouse doom sound, the trio of Shepard, Gein and drummer Brian Banfield wouldn’t be so easily ended. Doomsayer‘s seven tracks earned their centerpiece Motörhead cover, both continuing the warrior mentality Shepard fostered when he stepped into the guitarist/vocalist role alongside Gein in Black Pyramid for 2013’s Adversarial (review here) and branching out to distinct triumphs on songs like “Void Traveler” and “World Unreal,” finding a balance between the catchy and the brutal that, even on their first outing, The Scimitar made their own. Gein being on the opposite side of the country may have made weekly practice unlikely, but The Scimitar played both Northeastern shows to support the release with a stand-in bassist and, earlier this month, traveled out west for a weekender in California with the album’s lineup. It would seem they’re hardly done, and all the better for the chance to get more of both the raw explosiveness of “Babylon” and the exploratory heavy of Doomsayer instrumental closer “Crucifer” as The Scimitar continues to come into their sound. The Scimitar on Thee Facebooks, Hydro-Phonic Records.
I’ve been fortunate this year to see Kind play twice (reviews here and here), and both times have been markedly different. The roots of the project go back (I’m pretty sure) to late last year, when Shepard and Elder drummer Matt Couto began to jam with an intent toward not much more than that. Bassist Tom Corino of Rozamov was brought in to handle low end and vocalist Craig Riggs of Roadsaw rounded out the four-piece, whose style still finds its basis in those wide-spaced jams. They’ve recorded a demo, with Benny Grotto at Mad Oak, from which the 10-minute “Hordeolum” has surfaced, showcasing both their heavy psych and more forward-driving tendencies, the balance they find and seem to gleefully upset between the two. I hear a full-length is in the works for a summer release via a respected American outlet who, since it hasn’t been announced yet, shall remain nameless, but until that happens, Kind will continue to hone their live sound regionally, opening for Karma to Burn next month at Geno’s in Portland, Maine. Not sure if it will ever be anyone’s main project — Elder, Roadsaw, Rozamov and Shepard‘s bevvy of other bands make for some significant commitments — but Kind have quickly found a stylistic niche for themselves and I’m interested to find out what they do with it on their debut. Kind on Thee Facebooks.
There are many for whom three active bands would be enough projects, but in the middle part of 2014, Darryl also found time to release a slew of accumulated recordings from over the years, all as name-your-price downloads via Bandcamp. Each recording — most were demos, but a Milligram radio appearance (review here) was also included — was given a different solid color as a cover, and a total of six have made their way out to date, including a completely solo acoustic album (with vocals) recorded by Andrew Schneider in 1998, the aforementioned Milligram performance, some Roadsaw demos also from ’98 (first streamed here), the final three songs tracked by instrumental outfit Hackman, early ’90s demos from Deslok and various collected four-track demo/experiments from the early ’00s on which some of the roots of Blackwolfgoat can be heard. These weren’t put out for any kind of profile, just made available for anyone who might want to explore them, but in both the stylistic variety and the performance value Shepard brings to each project, there’s much to dig into. Perhaps most impressive of all is that, though they cover a considerable swath of ground, they’re still just a fraction of Shepard‘s total output. Hopefully he has more tapes/hard drives in a closet somewhere and the series can continue, or maybe even get added to with newer material over time. Just a thought. Darryl Shepard on Bandcamp.
Well, despite Gein living in California and drummer Clay Neely living in Georgia while Shepard continues to reside in Massachusetts, Black Pyramid will once again spring to life in 2015. They’re already confirmed for Desertfest in London and Berlin alongside Lo-Pan, and from what I hear, they’ll have a new 7″ on Hydro-Phonic to mark the occasion. There’s a mysterious Soundcloud demo called “Donor Kebab” by an outfit named Iron Malden, and who knows what that portends. As noted, Kind will also continue to play shows ahead of their full-length debut release, tentatively set for the summer, and one imagines Darryl will continue to keep busy otherwise gigging and recording as he always seems to do, his work ethic as admirable as the results it produces.
Posted in Whathaveyou on December 18th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Consider my day made. I’ve been waiting for word of the new Acid King record, and here it is. Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere is the title, and the release date is April 14. The band will do digital release directly and Svart has the CD and LP on lockdown. I don’t know what more you need to hear to get stoked. I can’t wait to hear what they’ve come up with after so long. More nerdly glee to follow.
Fresh off the PR wire:
ACID KING RELEASE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE, CENTER OF EVERYWHERE ON APRIL 14
Acid King, pioneers of the San Francisco doom scene and one of the genre’s first bands to be helmed by a woman, return from their self-imposed 10-year recording hiatus on April 14 with the release of Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere.
“We had several songs in the works over the years that we spent most of our time touring Europe but in between working our day jobs, we didn’t put the effort into recording,” explained singer/guitar player Lori S. “I really wanted to accelerate the process and get new music out. It’s time. This music that we’ve been playing for so long, that was initially obscure and underground, seemed to grow over these past 10 years and the timing was right to release this now!”
Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere was recorded at both Sharkbite and Tiny Telephone Studios in San Francisco, mixed at Different Fur Studios and produced by Acid King and Billy Anderson. The digital release will be released independently via Acid King while physical copies, both CD and vinyl, will be available via Svart Records.
Acid King bubbled up from San Francisco in 1993 through a fog of revved up riffs, thunderous drums, and a hypnotic vocal howl. They unleashed three EPs and three full-length albums, starting with Zoroaster in 1995, the 1999 full-length Busse Woods, and their most recent release, Acid King III, coming in 2005. Their seismic chemistry transfixed audiences everywhere from high-profile festivals such as Hellfest and Roadburn to now iconic shows alongside peers such as Sleep and Mystick Krewe of Clearlight.
The band recently confirmed their participation in Desertfest, April 24 to 26 in the UK. North American tour dates will be announced soon.
Posted in Whathaveyou on December 18th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Nearly two weeks after opening for Sleep in their native Melbourne, doomly four-piece Horsehunter have inked a deal to release their four-track debut full-length, Caged in Flesh, on Magnetic Eye Records. The Aussie band self-released the album at the end of September and have been garnering acclaim for it since, as they’ll no doubt continue to do in 2015 owing to the massive tones, throaty shouts and lumbering vibe of songs like “Stoned to Death,” which you can hear and download below following a premiere from Decibel. Its 16-minute course is no small undertaking, but they pay it off with hypnotic, bleak psychedelia that only makes the underlying rumble seem like more of a threat.
More to come, I’m sure. In the meantime, the PR wire has this:
MAGNETIC EYE RECORDS Announce Signing of Doom Quartet HORSEHUNTER | New Album out March 2015
Magnetic Eye Records is thrilled to announce the signing of Horsehunter; one of the Southern Hemisphere’s heaviest and most eagerly anticipated doom exports of 2015.
The news crowns a remarkable year for the band and one that has seen them share stages with the likes of High On Fire, Conan and Windhand, and harvest fans from all four corners of the globe through a growing, almost cult-like stir of online worship. In fact news of their signing might come as little revelation to those already baptised and burnt by the fire of Caged In Flesh, the Australian quartet’s impressive self-released debut album.
“After one listen we recognized it for what it is. It’s a masterpiece,” explains MER owner Mike Vitali. “Hands down it’s one of the most exciting albums of 2015 and we’re looking forward to making sure the double gatefold vinyl is above and beyond visually stunning.”
Canned, scrapped, rewritten and rerecorded numerous times by the band over an obsessive two-year period, the darkly lyrical and brutally heavy compositions of Caged In Flesh embody Horsehunter’s perverse and maniacal precision as a band. A testament in four parts to the psychedelic power and glory of Shrinebuilder, Neurosis and Sleep, the latter of whom join Horsehunter this month as part of a sold-out show at the Corner Hotel in Melbourne, Australia.
To celebrate the official worldwide release of Caged In Flesh on 10th March 2015, Magnetic Eye Records and Horsehunter are honoured to bring you the sixteen-minute opus ‘Stoned To Death’, available asa free download.
Oh, hey. I get it. “George ‘Dubya’ Kush.” Presumably that’s the reefer that gets you so fucked up that you can barely speak and you have terrible judgment and you let your supervillain of a vice president usurp executive authority while he goes around shooting friends in the face and sanctioning torture, for like a decade. Good times. Seriously might be the most effective anti-drug commercial that’s never been made.
Nashville’s All Them Witches are never too far off from the next surprise, whether it’s a tour announcement or, in the case of “George ‘Dubya’ Kush,” a new jam. The digital single closes out a busy year for the four-piece — bassist/vocalist Michael Parks, Jr., guitarist Ben McLeod, Fender Rhodes specialist Allan Van Cleave and drummer Robby Staebler — who’ll start off 2015 by traveling to Ohio to play with Mount Carmel and Electric Citizen, following the earlier-2014 release of their Effervescent EP (review here) and the physical pressing of their second full-length, Lightning at the Door (review here), as well as several tours and an inaugural trip to the West Coast, from which a host of live recordings have surfaced via their Bandcamp.
“George ‘Dubya’ Kush” probably has more in common with Effervescent than the album: It’s an improv-sounding jam seemingly recorded live to a four-track tape, capturing the band in their element, sounding natural and fluid for its seven-minute duration. There’s a bit of reggae in the bass and drums, and the guitar feeds into that, but they keep it plenty psychedelic as well and later on, Parks starts feeding out lines from “The Death of Coyote Woman” from Lightning at the Door, so the vibe is hardly stilted one way or another, despite the overall relaxed feel one might expect from a jam with such a titular pun working on its behalf.
Check it out below and enjoy. All Them Witches‘ early 2015 tour dates follow:
All Them Witches, “George ‘Dubya’ Kush”
All Them Witches shows:
Jan 02 The Woodward Theater Cincinnati, OH w/ Electric Citizen & Mount Carmel Feb 04 Ace of Cups Columbus, OH Feb 05 Mercury Lounge New York, NY Feb 06 The Middle East Upstairs Cambridge, MA Feb 07 The Haunt Ithaca, NY Feb 08 Bug Jar Rochester, NY Feb 10 Pike Room at the Crofoot Pontiac, MI Feb 11 The Hi-Fi (formerly Do317 Lounge) Indianapolis, IN Feb 12 The Empty Bottle Chicago, IL Feb 13 7th Street Entry Minneapolis, MN Feb 14 Catcus Club Milwaukee, WI Feb 15 Rozz Tox Rock Island, IL Mar 05 New Mountain Avl – Sol Bar Asheville, NC
Posted in audiObelisk on December 17th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Every year at Roadburn, there are a couple bands — guaranteed, without fail — whose sets you want to watch but don’t get to. Maybe you’re somewhere else seeing a once-in-a-lifetime show or reunion or one-time-only thing or maybe you just get the schedule wrong and miss it. This batch of Roadburn 2014 audio streams has the three bands I most regret not seeing at this year’s fest: Freedom Hawk, Inter Arma (pictured above), and Aqua Nebula Oscillator. I wouldn’t have minded catching Anciients, Hark, Glitter Wizard or The Old Wind either, but those three stung particularly hard.
In the case of Inter Arma, their single-song 2014 full-length, The Cavern, has made a considerable splash on the Readers Poll so far, and like their fellow Virginians, Freedom Hawk, they were a band whose schedule just didn’t match my own. At least I can hear what I missed out on, thanks to Marcel van de Vondervoort and his crew, who’ve returned again with another diligently gathered round of primo live recordings. As we move closer to 2015 and the next incarnation of the festival — Roadburn 2015 has a few lineup announcements left, but it seems to be by and large set — all the better to cap off the year that was by tying up such loose ends.
Check out the streams on the players below, snagged from the Dutch website Vpro 3voor12:
Anciients – Roadburn 2014
Aqua Nebula Oscillator – Roadburn 2014
Freedom Hawk – Roadburn 2014
Glitter Wizard – Roadburn 2014
Graves at Sea – Roadburn 2014
Hark – Roadburn 2014
Inter Arma – Roadburn 2014
The Old Wind – Roadburn 2014
Thanks as always to Walter and the Roadburn crew for permission to host the streams. For the other batches of audio from Roadburn 2014 — there’s some stuff worth digging for — click here, here, here and/or here, and to read the coverage from this year’s fest, click here.
Posted in Reviews on December 17th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
The copper minerals from which Gold & Silver‘s two-song debut EP takes its name, Azurite and Malachite, are blue and green, respectively. But for the shimmering tones present on the tracks themselves, I’d almost be tempted to say it’s a long way around to expressing the ideas of color while avoiding the Baroness trap of actually naming records after colors, but both “Azurite” and “Malachite” seem to take a feel as crystalline in their structure as the Andrea Santos cover hints toward, fleshing out progressively over two extended runtimes and creating a sometimes heavy but almost universally spacious and apparently more concerned with that feel that persists for the 26-minute duration. Even the name of the project, Gold & Silver, relates both to colors and to minerals. The Boston duo of guitarist/drummer/keyboardist Nick DiSalvo, also of Elder, and guitarist Mike Risberg have released Azurite and Malachite on limited vinyl (250 copies, tri-color platter, etc.) through Totem Cat Records, and apart from a prior rehearsal demo, it’s the first output from the band, and the feel throughout is suitably exploratory. But that’s the point. Gold & Silver began as Risberg and DiSalvo writing for acoustic guitar, and if “Azurite” (15:42) and “Malachite” (10:08) were constructed the same way, then they maintain that jam-based sensibility, despite being at least directionally plotted and recorded in layers (unless DiSalvo has concocted a way to play guitar and a full drum kit at the same time; live, Gold & Silver brings in Elder‘s Jack Donovan on bass and John DiSalvo on drums), while fostering clean tonality and a linear feel. They are two distinct pieces, each with its own movements, but consistent in mood and atmosphere and entirely instrumental, the breathy guitar notes and at-the-ready leads saying whatever it is that might ultimately need to be said.
Elder comparisons are inevitable — particularly so for Gold & Silver being DiSalvo‘s first public step outside that band since they got going — so I’ll resign myself to them. Around halfway though “Azurite,” there’s a stop, quick turn, and launch into a heavier push, and in the structure of that, Azurite and Malachite has some commonality with DiSalvo‘s main outfit. As heavy psych influences and some more weighted tones show up later into “Azurite” and “Malachite” gets started on a quieter feel before building into a memorable triumph of a movement, there’s some of that spirit as well, but Gold & Silver retain a personality of their own because of the contributions of Risberg‘s guitar — there’s bass as well, though I’m not sure which of them actually plays it — as well as the overarching progressive vibe throughout. “Azurite” mounts a tense second half on quick-turning rhythms, made jazzy by an overarching lead and some feedback cascading over, and even when it opens up, it does so to a jabbing kind of payoff, guitar and bass bouncing off the sides of the wall of whatever corridor the drums are leading them down toward their crashing finish. It’s not barraging one part after another in the vein of soulless modern prog technicality, but neither is “Azurite” — nor “Malachite,” for that matter — entirely a heavy psychedelic jam. Gold & Silver find a resonant space somewhere between the two sides, and while one gets the sense that should the project continue to move forward Azurite and Malachite could seem formative in comparison to subsequent outings, there’s also clearly a consciousness at work behind both the construction of the material and the style in which it’s presented. As a preliminary exploration, the EP satisfies, and for those familiar with what’s become a signature rhythmic patterning for DiSalvo‘s playing through Elder, it provides a different context in which to experience that as he continues to branch out and progress in his writing.
But there’s also a burgeoning individuality at work within Gold & Silver. The contemplative opening of “Malachite” demonstrates it well, with the wistful lead lines that emerge over an already intricate intro, playing into the subtle build already underway in the guitar, bass and drums. About three minutes in, the drums shift and the central guitar figure arrives that will mark out the song from its predecessor, a sweet sort of noodling that furthers Azurite and Malachite‘s bridge between psych and prog. They build around this riff until shortly before eight minutes in, when the track starts to blow out — think the ending of Neurosis‘ “Stones from the Sky” — and cuts to silence, a drone gradually fading in and swelling to audibility just before wisping out to end the release. That final section, in the two minutes between where the distorted apex of “Malachite” checks out and where the drone takes hold, belongs entirely to Gold & Silver, and if it’s a last minute show of experimentalism on the part of the duo, it’s one that bodes well for their growth as a band. While Azurite and Malachite represents just a first stage in that process, it also makes for an engaging listen both in its concept and execution, and winds up a heartening debut that speaks — without any words, mind you — of good things to come. And while much of DiSalvo‘s 2015 seems set to be consumed by the impending release of his main outfit’s third album and their ascending profile, the word he does here with Risberg isn’t to be ignored.
Posted in Whathaveyou on December 17th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
UK trio Cherry Choke will release their third album, Raising the Waters, in January on Elektrohasch. The heavy garage rocking three-piece were last heard from with 2011’s A Night in the Arms of Venus (review here), which refined the classically-minded push and Who-style heavy of their 2009 self-titled debut (review here) to an even more natural vibe. To have them return four years later with a new record after a period of relative inactivity on their part — Cherry Choke played ThElectriCool festival this fall, and guitarist/vocalist Mat Bethancourt (ex-Josiah, ex-The Kings of Frog Island)designed the cover for the new Colour Haze record, so it hasn’t been complete stillness — I wouldn’t speculate what they might be up to this time around, but that just makes the anticipation more fun until the album’s release next month.
Cherry Choke will join Radio Moscow and the aforementioned Colour Haze for part of the Up in Smoke V tour in March. Their dates, plus the art and tracklisting for Raising the Waters, follow:
Elektrohasch 167 Cherry Choke – Raising The Waters CD & LP
Soon the new Cherry Choke will be released. Produced in the Colour Haze Studio you can look forward to maybe the best record Mat Bethancourt (Josiah, The Beginning, Kings Of Frog island, Dexter Jones Circus Orchestra….) made in his long career so far…
The new Cherry Choke 10 track album “Raising The Waters” out on Elektrohasch Records January 2015 featuring the tracks:
1. Rage On 2. Mindbreaker 3. Black Annis 4. Used To Call You Friend 5. Hypnotize Me 6. Where The Sun Rises 7. 6ix & 7even 8. My Mind To Lose 9. Discarded Hearts 10. Where The Sun Sets
Cherry Choke on Up In Smoke Tour w/ Colour Haze + Radio Moscow
01.03.2015 UK, London, The Garage 02.03.2015 FR, Paris, Le Divan du Monde 03.03.2015 BEL, Brussels, Magasin 4 04.03.2015 GER, Hamburg, Markthalle 05.03.2015 GER, Berlin, SO36 06.03.2015 A, Vienna, Arena 07.03.2015 A, Salzburg, Rockhouse