High on Fire Release “Fertile Green” off of De Vermis Mysteriis

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 29th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

Had to get this up here. Didn’t really have a choice in the matter. Pitchfork got the official premiere, but here’s the YouTube stream and PR wire whatnots to accompany:

World renowned hard rock band High on Fire will release its new studio album De Vermis Mysteriis on April 3 via eOne Music. Recorded in Salem, Massachusetts’ GodCity Studios with producer and Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou, the 10 song effort — touted as “direct, eye-opening and powerfully supernatural” — is the band’s sixth studio recording and the follow up to 2010’s Snakes for the Divine.

More info on the album here.

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Wino Wednesday: The Obsessed Documentary, 1994

Posted in Bootleg Theater on February 29th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

Happy Wino WednesdayThis has made the rounds online for a while now, but I thought that in light of how documentary-minded it’s getting around here lately (see here and here and here), I figured no time like the present to highlight the 1994 VHS documentary that Columbia Records put together ahead of their release of The Obsessed‘s The Church Within, which gave the record some context thanks to interview with the likes of Joe Lalli (Fugazi) and Lee Dorrian (Cathedral), among many others.

It’s something that you see all the time nowadays, from actual feature-length, professionally-done films to your basic camcorder webisodes taken in the studio and used by the label as promotional devices, but in 1994, The Obsessed Documentary ran 27 minutes and did much more than just hock the album. Rather, in that time, the already-cemented legacy of the band is explored and live and rehearsal footage is included as a bonus for fans.

Because it was uploaded to the YouTubes prior to that site’s lifting the band on clips over 10 minutes, it’s broken into three parts, all of which are included here, because, well, fuck it. If you’re gonna do something, do it right.

[UPDATE 03/22/12: Someone uploaded the whole thing in one stream, and in HD, so I went ahead and replaced the three players with this one.]

Happy Wino Wednesday:

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Aspen, Winds of Revenge: Debts Paid to Lilith

Posted in Reviews on February 29th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

Wrapped in a gorgeously-designed cardboard sleeve, Winds of Revenge, the debut outing from Portuguese instru-metallers Aspen is deceptively complex. There are moments of Melvins or High on Fire worship, but there’s a considerable doom lurch that’s balanced off of, and a bit of noise angularity as well. At five songs/28 minutes, it’s well within the EP realm, but there’s a flow between these tracks that could be read as that of a full-length. They’re on the border, either way, and that seems to suit the trio, who likewise skirt the line between stoner and heavier metals, the guitar of Tiago Pereira having more crunch than fuzz and a tendency toward the intense. He and drummer Cristiano Veloso founded Aspen in 2009 and bassist Vitor Oliveira joined ahead of Winds of Revenge’s late-2011 release on Lovers and Lollypops. The tracks they present sound natural, if formative, and their presentation has clearly been thought through – opener “Arashi” is a two-plus-minute introduction that sets up the low-movement doom to come in the EP’s last two tracks, while “Autopsy Headcrush” and “Winds of Revenge,” which follow, are shorter, paced quicker and significantly less centered on ambience. What that shows is that although Aspen have the capability to bruise, they’re not always going to do it. As a result, the cymbal washes and ringing notes of “Arashi” are all the more effective for how it leads into the pummel of “Autopsy Headcrush.”

It would earn points for its title alone, but “Autopsy Headcrush” also works well within the sphere of twisting modern heaviness. The central riff from Pereira’s guitar is winding and complex, but Veloso’s crash cymbal provides an overarching groove even as his snare beats a seemingly insatiable momentum going into the title-track. Vocals aren’t necessarily missing, but they’d fit easily enough over “Winds of Revenge” – a Matt Pike snarl perhaps, or something more shouted – which is decidedly more metal but ultimately doesn’t accomplish either the kick in the ass of “Autopsy Headcrush” or the sonic breadth of “Like Crows, They Drop,” which at 9:26 is the longest cut on Winds of Revenge and longer than the first three tracks put together. Veloso’s drums start out in war-march fashion on the toms, and Pereira soon follows on the guitar and Oliveira fills out on bass, leading to start-stop chugging – the bass drum is especially full and natural – that acts as a set up for a modified version of the bridge to Sleep’s “Dragonaut,” eventually cycling through again before moving onto more complex territory, and, by the time the song is three and a half minutes in, a more shuffling groove that’s still more aligned to stoner metal than the noise rock of “Autopsy Headcrush” or “Winds of Revenge.” The Sleep riff returns at around 4:30 and acts as a transition to more chugging that ultimately gives way to a huge slowdown and the EP’s darkest stretch, with underlying feedback providing a bed for sparse droning guitar and a slow-developing doom lurch.

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Desertfest Berlin Update: Monkey3 Added and More

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 29th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

I included it with the Greenleaf review yesterday as well (because they were recently added to the increasingly kickass lineup), but wanted to put it here too, because, looky looky whose logo got put on the bottom of the Desertfest Berlin poster! Yeah, that’s right. It’s The Obelisk‘s. Don’t worry, I’ll try not to let it go to my head, even though it already has. I’ve gone mad with relevance.

Thanks to Sound of Liberation for making that happen. Here’s the poster and the latest from their camp, including the news that Swiss instrumentalist stalwarts Monkey3 will be playing:

Time’s flying now and we are all looking forward to celebrate with you the Desertfest Berlin from 19-21 April. Three days of rock with 30 bands/artists from 13 different countries.

The already outstanding line p was upgraded last week by the announcement of Switzerland’s psychedelic wizzards Monkey3.

We are honoured to announce the presence of Monkey3 at Desertfest Berlin! The Swiss quartet from Lausanne is very well known for being one of the most cosmic, ultra-psychedelic and hypnotic acts of the stoner scene… Get ready for those monkeys to whirl you up into a trance! It has been a long time since the band played in Berlin and we can’t wait to see and enjoy their performance!

Interested ticket buyers please hurry up:

We throw in the ring the last bunch of two-day tickets. There are less than 200 available! Get them here.
One day tickets for Friday or Saturday are here.

We’re also working on the details of the Saturday 21 April aftershow party… Stay tuned!!!


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Spine of Overkill by Chris “Woody High” MacDermott

Posted in Columns on February 28th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

There was never a doubt in my mind that when I wanted to have a column on ’80s rock and metal, Woody High was the one for the job. In his first edition of “Spine of Overkill,” the guitarist/vocalist of stonerly Brooklyn punkers Mighty High remembers his first encounters with Venom‘s pivotal first album, 1981’s Welcome to Hell.

There’s something about frigid weather that always makes me want to listen to Venom. The other night it was really fucking cold and as I waited for the subway on an elevated platform “One Thousand Days in Sodom” was the obvious iPod choice. Venom‘s debut album was released in December 1981 but I didn’t get it until about a year later. It was a frigid night in New York City when I first bought it and had taken the Metro North train in from New Rochelle to go record shopping. Back then I had a part time job making trophies for my high school science teacher. I would spend hours standing in his cramped, unheated garage screwing together these stupid awards given out to everyone on the JV football team or swim team. It was boring as shit but easy money to help fuel my budding metal fixation. I had been staring at the cover of Welcome to Hell for a few months in the bins at Bleecker Bob’s not sure if I was ready for Venom or not. After discovering Motörhead I kept looking for the heaviest, fastest shit I could get my resin-stained fingers on. A lot of people told me to stay away from them because of their alleged Satanism. One metal dude even told me that Venom sucked and couldn’t play as good as a punk rock band. Finally, I decided to take the plunge and risk $7.98 plus tax (my LP still has the price sticker on it). Back then that was a lot of money for an import LP and I had to work about two hours and 20 minutes to make that much. Fuck it, I had already gambled on Motörhead and won big time. Here was another three-piece band from England with bullet belts. How bad could it be?

Nothing could prepare me for the opening vomit blast of “Sons of Satan.” I thought I was hot shit because I had a couple Motörhead records, a Plasmatics record and even Damaged by Black Flag (got that one in a killer trade: gave some hippie kid the double live Genesis album and he gave me Damaged and Sabotage by Black Sabbath!). This was the fastest, noisiest shit I’d ever heard. It sounded like all my Motörhead, The Plasmatics and Black Flag records playing at the same time. I really didn’t know what to make of it. The next two songs “Welcome to Hell” and “Schizo” sounded a bit more like regular metal to me and soon my head was banging and my mother was yelling at me to turn it down. Every song on this album is a killer. I really couldn’t believe they had a song that was about how good angel dust was. I had yet to try it but this convinced me it was definitely something I should inquire about the next time I rode my bicycle into the Bronx to buy some weed. “Witching Hour,” “In League with Satan,” “Live Like an Angel (Die Like a Devil)” — so many hits! Then I also discovered that Venom, like Motörhead, put out lots of cool 7″ singles with killer songs not on the album like “In Nomine Satanas.” 

Back then Venom had a small but diverse crew of weirdos for fans. It seemed like more punks and goths liked them more than metalheads. Welcome to Hell sounds like crap, but if you were only into Priest, Maiden, Scorpions kind of metal it was totally unlistenable. They even got a big writeup in the punk ‘zine Forced Exposure way back when. All this changed when Black Metal came out and the production values were slightly improved. The sound of Welcome to Hell is so raw and some of the songs like “…Sodom” and “…Satanas” have an almost rockabilly slapback echo on the vocals. It wouldn’t surprise me if Cronos is a big Elvis fan. Maybe he told the engineer he wanted his voice to sound like the Big E’s “Mystery Train.” 

Obviously, this album inspired just about every thrash, black and death metal band that followed in its metal path but it’s still the best as far as I’m concerned. For my money, only HellHammer and Bathory really took this crudeness to the next lowest level of filth. Back on Black Records in the UK recently reissued Welcome to Hell, Black Metal and At War with Satan as double LPs with all the bonus tracks on heavy-duty vinyl. I’m sure they sound great, but the best way to experience the joys of Venom is outdoors in frigid weather on tape with a quart of beer. It also sounds great if you get to go to a party and no one notices that the Talking Heads tape is over and then you slip this one in. Get ready for some of the funnest 90 seconds you’ll ever have.

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Greenleaf, Nest of Vipers: A Taste of Poison

Posted in Reviews on February 28th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

Like a lot of bands, the story of Greenleaf’s now decade-plus tenure (their self-titled debut EP came out on Molten Universe in 2000) is one of a rotating lineup, but more than that, it’s the story of a rotating lineup of players who’ve helped define their country’s heavy rock scene for that decade and longer. The remaining founding members of the band, Tommi Holappa (guitar) and Bengt Bäcke (bass), trace their roots back to Dozer, in which Holappa played guitar and whose first two albums Bäcke produced as part of a discography that also includes Demon Cleaner’s transformative 2000 long-player, The Freeflight. Bäcke engineered the first several Greenleaf albums as well: 2001’s Revolution Rock, 2003’s Secret Alphabets and 2007’s Agents of Ahriman – but on their newest offering, Nest of Vipers (Small Stone), Bäcke takes a back seat in that regard, and Karl Daniel Lidén, who played drums on everything up to Agents of Ahriman and whose VAKA project released its Kappa Delta Phi debut in 2008, has taken over engineering duties for the instruments and the mixing, leaving the vocals to be self-recorded by vocalist Oskar Cedermalm. Cedermalm, who also appeared on Agents of Ahriman, is full-time bassist/vocalist in Truckfighters, and laid his parts to tape at that band’s Studio Bombshelter, which anyone who’s yet seen the recent Truckfighters documentary (review here) is bound to recognize the name of.

Meanwhile, Dozer bassist Johan Rockner has signed on to this latest incarnation of Greenleaf, playing second guitar alongside Holappa, and Olle Mårthans, who drummed on Dozer’s 2008 apparent-swansong – I keep hoping they’re not really done – Beyond Colossal, has taken that position as well. It’s a complex (super-) grouping that ultimately results in the following Nest of Vipers lineup:

Oskar Cedermalm: vocals/vocal recording (Truckfighters)
Tommi Holappa: guitar (Dozer)
Johan Rockner: guitar (Dozer)
Bengt Bäcke: bass (engineer for Dozer, Demon Cleaner, etc.)
Olle Mårthans: drums (Dozer)

And though he doesn’t actually play anything this time around, Lidén makes his presence felt in the sound of the album, which in terms of the mix and the open-air feeling of the instruments has a lot in common with Dozer’s Beyond Colossal and – especially in Mårthans’ drums – Lidén’s own VAKA project. The inherent heaviness of those sounds is a big shift in itself from how Greenleaf presented their material on Agents of Ahriman – which I’m more than happy to go on record as saying was one of my favorite albums of the last decade – but ultimately serves the songs well, as they benefit from Mårthans’ bombast and the overall grittier feel. Factor in guest appearances from Dozer guitarist/vocalist Fredrik Nordin and noted organist Per Wiberg (ex-Opeth/Spiritual Beggars) on the extended closing title-track – Wiberg also shows up on third cut, “Lilith” – and former Lowrider singer Peder Bergstrand (currently of I are Droid) on the later “Sunken Ships,” and the personnel becomes even more noteworthy for Nest of Vipers. Nonetheless, the album keeps continuity five years later with Agents of Ahriman (on which Bergstrand also guested) in its classic rock modernization, ultra-Swedish vibing and masterful songcraft, offering nine engaging tracks that vary in mood and groove and remain nonetheless impeccably structured. Unspeakably catchy when they want to be, but able to turn mood on a dime and maintain the flow, the only shame about Greenleaf in 2012 is that it took so long for Nest of Vipers to manifest.

They have a good excuse in that regard, given the work Dozer, Truckfighters and VAKA have done since 2007, and Nest of Vipers is quick to shake off any rust that might have accrued since the last outing. Opener “Jack Staff” is the first of three four-minute stunners, and followed by “Case of Fidelity” and the first of Wiberg’s appearances on “Lilith,” Greenleaf builds an immediate momentum of straightforward and hooky rock. Cedermalm turns in a banner performance vocally, showing a depth of arrangement and layering that speaks to his thinking of the band as more than just a side-project, and as he tops Holappa and Rockner’s riffing with harmonized verses and choruses, Nest of Vipers establishes its melodic core. Underneath (or perhaps cutting through), Mårthans enacts the same kind of ferocity he brought to his snare work on Beyond Colossal, which Lidén, a drummer himself, excellently captures. His fills and tom runs on both “Jack Staff” and “Case of Fidelity” are a huge factor in the excitement the songs build, and Bäcke’s bass adds a rich and warm thickness to the more open verses of the latter while also standing up to the guitars for the bridge. With the addition of Wiberg’s Hammond to “Lilith,” the song earns its place as third in the line, feeling like the grander culmination of Nest of Vipers’ first three tracks before the longer “Tree of Life” slows the album’s progression down and changes to a more psychedelic atmosphere. Mårthans again excels on “Lilith,” and his drums are prominent in the mix but not overbearing, and it feels like the guitars have rightly taken a step back to account for Wiberg, but the solo in the song’s back half shines through all the same before a final verse and chorus thunder it to its finish.

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Jucifer Announce Pre-Roadburn Shows

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 27th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

Leave it to a band like Jucifer to say, “Well, we’ve got four nights to kill, let’s tour!” The nomadic amp-wall duo quite literally live on the road, so that they’d be doing a couple dates leading up to their Roadburn appearance isn’t really a surprise, but they make a nice bonus for anyone who was heading out to see Orange Goblin and Grifter in Manchester or Black Sun is Glasgow.

The shows are presented by Future Noise and The Sleeping Shaman. Here are the dates, with the month after the day, for that extra European flavour:

Future Noise, in association with The Sleeping Shaman are proud to announce the now confirmed dates for the nomadic due Jucifer prior to playing Roadburn 2012 with special guests Bastard of the Skies.

The April tour dates are:
09/04 Stairway, Glasgow, Scotland w/ Black Sun
10/04 The Well, Leeds, England
11/04 Sound Control, Manchester, England w/ Orange Goblin & Grifter
13/04 La Zone, Liege, Belgium w/ Ultraphallus

We were hoping to have a southern date on the 12th, but due to being let down last minute, the date has been withdrawn until we get a confirmed replacement, so if anyone thinks they can help, please do contact Future Noise.

Future Noise will also be releasing a limited cassette of Nadir to coincide with the tour which will be available direct from the band, any leftover copies will then be available to purchase online, more news to follow soon.


Purple Knights are the Marrying Kind

Posted in Bootleg Theater on February 27th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

Purple Knights is a new lo-fi/ambient project from Zack Kurland and Ben Smith, both formerly and once again of NYC hardcore punkers Sweet Diesel. Smith one might also recognize from The Brought Low, but not likely if you’re going on nothing other than the sound of Purple Knights, which has little in common with either band and instead focuses on heavy psych and a kind of rudimentary-sounding exploration of effects and open-structuring.

The duo has six songs they’re getting ready to self-release (those inclined can follow them on Thee Facebooks here) that they may or may not follow up with a limited run of 7″s, and they’ve just put together the below video for the track “Husbands,” which features negative-shot woods-walking and a creepy kind of cat-mask thing that zooms in and out much like I imagine it will in my nightmares for the next week. Dig it:

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