Total Coverage: Stoner Hands of Doom XII (Night Two)

Posted in Features on August 31st, 2012 by JJ Koczan

I’m not sure how long my laptop battery is going to last, or what I’m going to do when it dies, but the idea for tonight is to write as much as I can while I’m actually at the El ‘n’ Gee in New London for the second night of Stoner Hands of Doom XII. Tomorrow starts earlier, so I don’t know when else I’ll have time to write.

In other words, I basically said “Fuck it, I’ll do it live.”

What you see in the photo above is the view from the couch I’m sitting on in the corner of the bar area. There are no plugs in the walls save for one that’s otherwise occupied. Tonight’s lineup is seven bands, which is one more than yesterday. Connecticut natives When the Deadbolt Breaks are setting up their gear behind me on the stage, and they’ll be followed in turn by Wizard Eye from Philadelphia, Long Island’s own John Wilkes Booth, Massachusetts’ Faces of Bayon, CT’s Lord Fowl, Maryland doomers Revelation. Rhode Island upstarts Pilgrim will close out the night. They’re here already wandering around, as are the Wizard Eye dudes.

Gonna be a good time no matter what else goes down, I’ve got no doubt. It’s also fest organizer Rob Levey‘s birthday tonight, so to Rob, happy birthday from the couch.

Night two of SHoD XII gets underway in about an hour, give or take. I’ll hopefully have updates as we go along, added to this post.

When the Deadbolt Breaks

UPDATE 7:43PM: As ever, Connecticut natives When the Deadbolt Breaks dipped their audience in a distortion caked coating of the truly deranged. They’ve gotten a new bassist since I last saw them, guitarist/vocalist Aaron Lewis perpetually chasing a rhythm section that can keep pace with him, both in tempo and tone. And by “keep pace,” I mean play slow as fuck. Reportedly, the second platter of Deadbolt‘s forthcoming 2LP release is one 60-minute-long song. That’s probably a solid format for the band to work in, as Lewis‘ songs have always tended to wander into these sort of pits of ambient quicksand. When he spaces out thusly, the atmospherics are almost always hypnotic, such as 10 minutes ago, when John Wilkes Booth vocalist Kerry Merkle had to rouse me back to conscious before handing me a couple stickers. The crux of Deadbolt‘s approach though is playing those sections off the droning doom that follows and metering them with sections of mournful, Danzig-style clean singing. There still isn’t a subgenre designation for what they do, but maybe sooner or later someone will come up with something. In any case, with all the lights turned low and a projector going, they were a suitably menacing start to tonight’s diverse roster of acts.

Wizard Eye

UPDATE 8:41PM: Guitarist/vocalist Erik from Philly trio Wizard Eye looked the part of the wizard manning his theremin, his dreadlocks dragging on the floor of the stage behind him, impossibly long. Long like you think of roads as being long. The three-piece blended Weedeater sludge with Fu Manchu stonerisms, had some Sabbath in there of course, but did not short either on aggression. Erik does guest leads on the new Clamfight CD and he showed off a bit of that prowess as well, in between bursts of dual-vocals with bassist Dave while Scott slammed away behind. They’ve got a CD for sale that I’ll pick up before the night is through, I’ve no doubt. This despite the incense on the stage behind Erik, which has now made the front of the El ‘n’ Gee smell like a teenager’s bedroom. Part of the package, I guess, and if it’s to be a total sensory experience, I suppose I shouldn’t complain. They were — what’s the word again? — heavy. Some familiar elements, but put to good use, and the theremin went a long way in adding to the overall wash of noise. Stone and tone: It’s not exactly the new math when it comes to this kind of thing, but Wizard Eye did well with it. The balance of the vocal mics was a little off coming through the house, but I get the sense in a smaller room, they’d be absolutely crushing. Philly’s Kung Fu Necktie, perhaps, or some basement where the soundwaves have no place to go and no choice but to cleave your skull.

John Wilkes Booth

UPDATE 9:33PM: I’ve known these dudes for years. Played shows with them, seen them come into their own as a band. It’d been a while though, and in the interim, John Wilkes Booth — as bands will do — wrote a shitload of new material. Also, apparently at some point Kerry Merkle‘s megaphone had babies and grew an entire family of effects pedals for the vocalist. Well done, proud papa. It’s been over three years since they released their Sic Semper Tyrannis full-length (review here), so maybe they’re due for a new record as well. In any case, their crunching ’90s riffs — not quite stoner, not quite noise, but definitely heavy and skirting the line between the two — did not fail to satisfy, and Merkle‘s effects added complexity to what, admittedly, I used to enjoy the rawness of, without necessarily distracting from what bassist Harry, drummer Christian and subdued guitarist Jason were doing. Solid heavy rock band, as ever, and it’ll be interesting to hear how the vocal extras factor into a new recording. Actually, I guess I’d just like to hear a new recording, however the pedals may or may not play into it. These guys pretty obviously just do it because they love to do it, and that’s always welcome on any stage I happen to be in front of.

Faces of Bayon


UPDATE 10:25PM: If the next wave of stuff people decide to give a shit about was to be doom riffing mixed with old school death metal, I’d be happy to watch Massachusetts’ own Faces of Bayon lead the charge. Before the set even started, the charm was evident, as guitarist/vocalist Matt Smith asked the crowd in a low growl if they liked stoner doom. Later, after his amp cut out in the middle of one of the tracks from their Heart of the Fire LP — which, pros to the last, bassist Ron Miles and drummer Mike Brown kept going — Smith apologized to the crowd with a simple, “Sorry,” before resuming his tale of the fall of Lucifer in a low, throaty whisper. No substitute for that kind of charm, and to go with it, Faces of Bayon were crushingly heavy, Miles playing a six-string in the deathly tradition. I don’t think the winds of trend will ever blow in their favor, but I also don’t think they give a shit. They closed with a new song from an upcoming album which Smith said would be recorded this fall, and I guess someone needs to tell these dudes Labor Day’s on Monday so they can get on it. That last album got a huge response, so I’ll look forward to seeing how the next one comes out. If their closer was anything to go by, you can bet on slow, heavy and evil, with more than just a dash of stoner.

Lord Fowl


UPDATE 11:11PM: Double kudos to Connecticut’s Lord Fowl for not only rocking the house, but for rocking the house after the ultra-doom bestowed upon it by Faces of Bayon. I had wondered how the transition would go from Faces of Bayon‘s downer moodiness and morose heavy to Lord Fowl‘s upbeat arena-ready hooks, but the latter more than pulled it off. Their record, being the last one I reviewed before leaving to come up here on Thursday, was still pretty fresh in my head, but even those who didn’t know the songs were hooked by the time the four-piece were through album and set opener “Moon Queen” and its follow-up “Touch that Groove.” Another transition straight off the Moon Queen album that worked really well was “Streets of Evermore” into “Dirty Driving,” guitarist/vocalists Vechel Jaynes and Mike Pellegrino trading off lead spots in the process. I don’t know how much of the audience knew the songs going into the set, but Lord Fowl’s brand of rock is basically undeniable if you’ve ever had a ’70s chorus stuck in your head. They were unafraid to smile on stage, and everywhere they went, they made sure the crowd came with them. It was a lot of fun, and I still think there’s a lot more potential to them even than they showed tonight, though they showed plenty.

Revelation

UPDATE 12:17AM: Of the handful of times I’ve seen Maryland doom stalwarts Revelation, this was easily the best. If you want to think of this weekend as one huge tone-off, then John Brenner and Bert Hall are the dudes who sneak in just at the last minute totally unsuspecting and walk away with the prize. They didn’t play anything new — as Brenner said on stage, they don’t know the songs — but their set was tighter and more energetic than I’ve ever seen from them. They weren’t jumping around the stage by any means, not thrashing about, but they delivered all the same. Brenner’s Laney sounded gorgeous, Hall played a bass that had an axe built into the body — one assumes it’s in case he has to chop wood in the middle of the set — and drummer Steve Branagan held down both quiet and loud with ease. Like several of the acts tonight — When the Deadbolt BreaksJohn Wilkes Booth, Faces of Bayon — they’ve got new material in the works (as a recent audio stream will attest), but as the penultimate band of the night, they did well bridging a sizable gap in modus between Lord Fowl and Pilgrim still to come. The room has mostly cleared out and it’s getting late, but the people still here are glad to be, alternating between partying outside in the fenced patio area of the El ‘n’ Gee and just getting drunk(er) at the bar. Either way.

Pilgrim

UPDATE 1:14AM: That picture above of Pilgrim was taken before the show started. Much to the credit of the hot-as-hell Rhode Island trio, they were here the whole show, and didn’t leave so far as I know as so many who played did. Maybe they went and got a bite to eat or something like that — to be fair, I wasn’t keeping tabs on them all night. Before their set started, they asked specifically to play in the dark, and the request was granted, so I was doubly glad to have snapped a few shots outside of them on the couch outside on the sidewalk. They’re the first band to play this fest that everyone in the place went right to the front of the stage to see. I stood back, and I think doing so helped me to see what it is about them that has the hype rolling so hard. To share: They’re young, and they’re frighteningly cohesive. They play off familiar elements — slow riffs, emotional anguish — but do so with strong performances and an air of sincerity. If you wanted to paint a picture of an exciting young act in the genre, that picture would probably look a lot like Pilgrim, and whatever excitement they have around them, they do well to justify it with the promise they show both on stage and in their recorded work. They were a great cap for the night and had a tremendous response. No complaints from my end. The only x-factor is if they can keep it together, but pending that, they’re most definitely on the right track. If nothing else, they’ve proven they’re a band worth pulling for.

UPDATE 2:25AM: Blue moon indeed. It’s full and up there and hard to argue with, and I’m down by the shoreline of the Long Island Sound outside with the laptop and I’m tired but things have been far worse. The trip back from New London to here was uneventful, at least in comparison to the evening preceding. Tomorrow I’m going to have to figure out a way to see every band play and also provide myself with some basic kind of nutrition. There’s a grease truck in the public parking lot across the street from the El ‘n’ Gee. The last two nights in a row I’ve been tempted to get a cheeseburger for the ride and both times I’ve chickened out and just gotten a bottle of water. Maybe tomorrow will be my day.

Akris are slated to open the gig at noon. I doubt they’ll actually start on time, but that’s what’s slated to go down, so I’m going to try to be there before then. I’ll crash out in a couple minutes, but not just yet.

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Total Coverage: Stoner Hands of Doom XII (Night One)

Posted in Features on August 31st, 2012 by JJ Koczan

The ride to New London wasn’t bad. No real traffic or anything, but my stomach was tense with GPS jitters, riding up what seemed to me like the nether regions of I-95 in the state, deciduous trees hanging like a claustrophobic ceiling over the roadway. It was the first time I’d made the trip. I didn’t want to get lost, I didn’t want to delay. I expect by the time this weekend is out, I’ll be much more familiar with the route.

My soundtrack on the way there was the self-titled release from Ice Dragon side-project Tentacle, which was fitting, because like that band, everyone who played the opening night of SHoD XII tonight was from Massachusetts. Six bands. I’d have to check my official rulebook on the matter, but I think that might constitute a “takeover.” Fortunately, our Sox-worshiping overlords were benevolent and generous of riff.

On that subject, I don’t think I’ve ever been to a show in Connecticut that someone didn’t ask from the stage whether the audience were Yankees fans or Red Sox fans. As I stood and watched Rozamov‘s guitarist do so tonight, it dawned on me just how badly this state needs its own team. It wouldn’t be a problem anymore, though it was interesting to hear a few shouts of “Pirates!” from the back of the El ‘n’ Gee club, over in the bar area.

Well, that’s as good a segue as I’ve got, so let’s get to it. Here’s how it all went down:

Rozamov

In the end, I had no choice but to buy Boston rockers Rozamov‘s CD, because I couldn’t get it straight whether they were Rozamov (rhymes with “hose ’em off”) or Romazov (as in, “Rome is off, we’re not going”). Principally, they were young. Their first song had no shortage of post-High on Fire gallop, and the two-guitar four-piece only got more complex from there, adding some post-metal and sludge to the mix before rounding out with a song that, well, if it wasn’t “Blood From Zion,” it was darn close. The drummer looked bored, and yeah, they did inquire as to the crowd’s baseball allegiance, but they were young and figuring out what they want to do as a band, so I’m not about to rip into them for not being Sleep. They’re figuring it out. And their CDs were five bucks, so they were doing something right for sure.

Birch Hill Dam

Fact of the matter is I can’t even see this band’s name without thinking of the old Birch Hill nightclub in Jersey, which is bittersweet for all the shitty metal I watched there over the years. Speaking of metal, Birch Hill Dam‘s bassist (above) was most certainly that, with a Bonded by Blood shirt and five-string bass with those red strings that I keep hearing the kids talk about. To contrast, their guitarist wore a classic Unida shirt. I used to have the same one about 100 years and 100 pounds ago. His attire was more in line with the band’s sound for sure than the Exodus duds — nothing against the Bay Area thrashers. Birch Hill Dam released their slickly-produced Colossus album last year (video here), but live they sounded so much like Kyuss that I literally stood there and said, “Damn this sounds like Kyuss.” I’ll give them points for honesty in covering “Green Machine,” paying homage to the deserts of Fitchburg, Massachusetts. Whatever dude, I’ll take it, and singer Mike Nygard had his John Garcia working in full force. They had one false start, but were a pro job otherwise, complete with their album cover airbrushed onto screens in front of their amps. You know a band means business when they start in with that stuff.

Raw Radar War

I got to meet vocalist Jonah Jenkins before his band played and told him I vaguely remembered seeing Milligram at Solace guitarist Tommy Southard‘s wedding. He was as gracious about that as Raw Radar War was intense in their set, bringing out the kind of unfriendly, this-isn’t-a-joke-to-us pissed off fuckall that is a mark of their generation of hardcore and all but forgotten among the proverbial “kids these days.” Owning the stage in the process, Jenkins (who’s a bit of a New England legend) moved fluidly between cleaner shouts and Obituary-esque screams and the band behind him turned on a dime from D-beat sub-grind to chugging doom, but honestly, even the slow parts sounded fast, as intensely as they were played. Three bands and three Cottrell beers (a local ale the high alcohol content of which I was duly warned) in, I was feeling good about the prospects for the weekend. I didn’t drink any more than the three, but with three more bands still to go on the night, SHoD felt like it was really getting going, and Raw Radar War were a wake-up call of the kind of anger that dares you to match it, which of course, you can’t. I make no secret of the fact that I’m not a big hardcore guy, but I hadn’t heard Raw Radar War since their split with Deer Creek, and I was glad to encounter them again. Some shit just sounds mean.

Ichabod

The only other time I’d ever been to the El ‘n’ Gee was a show on a weekender tour with these Bostonian doomers. That was three years ago now, almost to the day. Ichabod were heralding the release of their still underrated 2012 full-length (review here), and the actual 2012 finds them a different band entirely, with second guitarist Jason Adam joining alongside founding six-stringer Dave Iverson and new vocalist John Fadden starting off the set with a quiet tension that soon paid off in a barrage of face-melting screams. Fadden, who had a persona to match his throat, cracked jokes from the stage, but Ichabod was deadly serious as they ran through material from their upcoming album, Dreamscapes from Dead Space.  “Huckleberry,” if I’ve got the title correct, was a highlight. They’ve always straddled various genre lines — stoner, doom, post-hardcore, post-metal — but as tight as they were, categories hardly figured into it as much as the crunch of tone and righteousness of riff. Bassist Greg Dellaria boasted the night’s only flying-V bass, and early into their set, one of the guitarists from Raw Radar War made his way to the front of the stage with five tallboy beers, because whatever else you can say about the city, Boston takes care of its own. That said, hopefully Ichabod get to do a few shows out of town once the new record drops. They deserve to be seen by as many people as possible.

Black Thai

Black Thai need to put an album out. The four-piece of guitarist/vocalist Jim Healey (We’re all Gonna Die), guitarist Scott O’Dowd (Cortez), intense bassist Cory Cocomazzi and drummer Jeremy Hemond (Roadsaw, Cortez) are too tight and too solid a band not to do it. So, uh, get on it, I guess. Hemond was the only drummer of the night to play on his own kit, setting up his Vistalites and high cymbals before they went on. Might as well, I guess, if you’re closing out the night in the last two bands and it’s not like anyone’s going on after you. I had a hard time believing it had been more than a year and a half since I saw Black Thai at Hank’s Saloon in Brooklyn, but the numbers don’t lie. On a stage roughly five times the size of that at Hank’s, the riff metal foursome tore through three of the songs from their Blood from on High EP (review here) and left room for a couple new songs as well, culminating in a progressively building churn of distorted crunch that made for a perfect ending to their set. Healey‘s vocals were a little rough — reportedly he was under the weather — but Black Thai is in Philly tonight and Boston tomorrow with Borracho, One Inch Giant and Fire Faithful. If you can see them at any point, it’s worth taking advantage of the opportunity. They’re even more in command of their sound now than they were when last our paths crossed, and with just Roadsaw to go, it seemed like the first night of SHoD was a success.

Roadsaw


So this is the part where the roof caves in and the crowd, sparse though it was by the end of the night, is crushed to death, myself included? Nah. Things ended no less smoothly than they’d ran all night. Thinking of prior shows, the last time I ran into the dudes from Roadsaw was at Desertfest in London. The El ‘n’ Gee wasn’t nearly so crowded as the Underworld had been, but the four-piece made the best of it anyway, Hemond making Popeye faces as he rounded out his double-duty on drums, Tim Catz holding together even the most ranging of jams which were surprise inclusions later into the set, guitarist Ian Ross leading those jams with both class and improvisational prowess, and vocalist Craig Riggs whirling his duct-taped microphone around him and running from one side of the stage to the other in his usual madman’s form. “Long in the Tooth,” “Thinking of Me” and “Weight in Gold” from the self-titled were highlights, but it was the later jams that really made it, as it’s not something you’d necessarily expect from Roadsaw at this point, who are so bolstered by the strength of their choruses and of their songwriting in general. Maybe they were just fucking around, but it was still cool. Ross killed it, and they showed by they’re the band to call if you’re looking for someone to close out a night of Massachusetts heavy. Riggs had forgotten the merch, so they didn’t have anything to sell (they laughed about it on stage), but whatever. It was good times anyway and Roadsaw did right by the fest closing out night one. It was apparently also the first time they’d ever played Connecticut in their 19 years as a band. Another notch in their belt.

It was nigh on one in the morning by the time I got back to where I’m staying, and I had a headlight out, so I was making the trip half-blind, which only made me gladder I’d limited my beer intake. Let’s see: Holiday weekend, out of state plates, one headlight. Uh, sir, I’m gonna have to ask you to step out of the car. No thanks. Today I’ll get that headlight replaced and I’ve got some work and other running around to do before I head back to the El ‘n’ Gee, but Stoner Hands of Doom XII is off to a cool start, and with When the Deadbolt Breaks, Wizard Eye, John Wilkes BoothFaces of BayonLord Fowl, Revelation and Pilgrim to come tonight, things are only going to get louder from here. I’ll take it.

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Total Coverage: Stoner Hands of Doom XII (Introduction)

Posted in Features on August 30th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

08/30/12 – Thursday – 3:14PM – Madison, CT

In about four hours, the twelfth edition of the Stoner Hands of Doom festival will kickoff at the El ‘n’ Gee club in New London, Connecticut. SHoD XII finds the fest moved north from its established home the last several years at Krug’s Place in Frederick, Maryland, and it has brought some of its Chesapeake-era veterans north to New England to mesh with the always-fertile scene here.

Between tonight and Sunday, my project is this: See and cover every single band at all four days of SHoD XII, leaving no one out.

I’m not even sure yet how I’m going to do it, but that’s my goal. Tonight I’ll test the waters of the process while enjoying the familiar likes of Black Thai and Roadsaw, a new lineup of Ichabod and bands I’ve never seen before in Raw Radar War, Birch Hill Dam and fest openers Rozamov. No matter how it works out, I know I’ll have a good time.

And until I need to leave, I’ll enjoy a few hours repose and charge batteries both literal and figurative. I left the office at 12:30PM and made better time up here than I thought I would, which gives me a little flex. Likely I’ll still want to get to the El ‘n’ Gee early and get the lay of the land — I’ve only ever been there once and it was a long time ago; I look forward to seeing if the stage is as high as I remember — but even so, a little time to catch my breath is a boon, as I don’t think there will be much of it, particularly as we get into the all-day extravaganzas of the Saturday and Sunday lineups.

I’ve been looking forward to this. I think it’s going to be a great weekend with a lot of awesome people, killer bands and just the right kind of vibe. If you can make it down, I hope you’ll say hi.

Welcome to The Obelisk’s coverage of SHoD XII.

For the complete lineup, check the fest’s website: http://cherylsweb.com/shod/

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Neige Will be Artist-in-Residence for Roadburn 2013; Black Bombaim, Asphyx, A Forest of Stars and Mourning Beloveth Join Lineup

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 30th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

The really crazy thing about it is there’s so much more to come from Roadburn 2013 as the fest starts to take shape. Already it’s been a wildly diverse lineup of bands added, and with the announcement today that Neige of French post-black metallers Alcest will be the artist-in-residence this year, performing with his band,

Neige Announced As Artist in Residence For Roadburn Festival 2013; Asphyx, A Forest of Stars, Mourning Beloveth and Goat among others confirmed  as well.

France’s Neige will be Artist in Residence at Roadburn Festival 2013, set for April 18 – 21 at the 013 venue in Tilburg, Holland.

French black metal has always been conceptually diverse, a leading force in pushing the boundaries of the genre. Whether it’s the experimental, nihilistic, buzzing approach of Deathspell Omega and Blut Aus Nord, or Alcest’s soaring, emotional meld of Slinty post rock, spidery, shimmery shoegaze, ambient sounscapes, and black metal fuzz, the French are definitely in the vanguard.

Not surprising then, given Roadburn’s penchant for honoring the innovators, that Alcest mastermind Neige is our Artist in Residence for Roadburn 2013.Neige will carry on a tradition that began at the Roadburn Festival in 2010 with Enslaved, followed by Circle in 2011 and Justin K Broadrick in 2012.

“I remember it was such an honour for us when Alcest was asked to play at the 2011 edition of Roadburn festival”, says Neige. “We only started doing shows a short time before so it was an important step in the band’s existence. For 2013, they offered me to be here again as artist in residence and to perform on all three days of the festival with three different bands: Lantlôs, Les Discrets and Alcest (playing Les Voyages de L’âme in its entirety).

“I feel so glad to get the recognition of such a respected event. It is once again a great honour and I would like to thank the festival’s team for their confidence. Roadburn is one of the best experimental music events in the world, with billings that please the lovers of these kinds of music year by year. I will for sure do my very best to do justice to this status by giving captivating performances together with my bandmates.”

We’re extremely pleased to announce that Asphyx will be playing a special set of their slowest death / doom (only throwing in a couple buzzing, diabolical tracks for good measure) at the Roadburn Festival 2013 on Saturday, April 20th.

By releasing 2012’s stunning Deathhammer (Century Media), the band is keeping traditional death metal as true, honest and thrilling as ever. However, especially for Roadburn Festival 2013, Asphyx will put emphasis on their most epic, crushing material, played with guts and balls, and which will guarantee pure doom/death rapture. Along the way, Asphyx’ undisputable influence on many bands that have shredded Roadburn stages will become apparent as well.

The British Empire’s Gentlemen’s Club of A Forest of Stars have been confirmed for Roadburn Festival 2013 on Saturday, April 20th at Het Patronaat in Tilburg, Holland.

For the first (and possibly only) time at the request of this festival’s patrons A Forest of Stars will be performing their new album A Shadowplay for Yesterdays in its entirety, replete with the appropriate imagery, smoke, lighting and mirrors.

Mourning Beloveth, Ireland’s purveyors of death and doom for over 20 years, will be playing their classic second album, The Sullen Sulcus, in its entirety for the first time ever at Roadburn Festival 2013 on Thursday, April 18th.

“It is with pleasure we announce our participation in Roadburn 2013 and to mark the occasion we have decided to play, in full, our 2003 album The Sullen Sulcus”, says Mourning Beloveth’s Darren Moore, “We have spoken among ourselves over the years on doing a set dedicated to one album and now seems the perfect opportunity at a festival dedicated to the eclectic and underground movement in metal. This will coincide with the first official release of The Sullen Sulcus for the first time on vinyl with revised artwork. So bring your nightmares in red and enjoy our set, we may even have another surprise in store on the night.”

Looking for psych-spiced space jams? In search of a little something to expand your mind? Brothers and sisters, we are pleased to announce that Portugal’s Black Bombaim will be bringing their largely instrumental and experimental heaviness to Roadburn Festival 2013 on Thursday, April 18th at the 013 venue in Tilburg, Holland.

While there are plenty of loyal ‘burners who make the trek from the Iberian peninsula to the festival each spring, this is the first time in Roadburn history that a Portuguese band will be on the bill and we are very excited about it. Currently riding high on the release of their latest album Titans, featuring guests including Steve Mackay (Stooges), Isaiah Mitchell (Earthless / Howlin Rain) and Noel V. Harmonson (Comets on Fire),  Black Bombaim will whisk you away on a swirling, sun-kissed psychedelic trip. Prepare for lift off!

Black Bombaim, Blues Pills, Castle, Eternal Tapestry, Hills, Hour of 13, Jess and the Ancient Ones, Kadavar, The Ruins of Beverast, Pilgrim, Sigh and Teeth of the Sea have also been confirmed for Roadburn Festival 2013.Roadburn Festival 2013, including Electric Wizard’ s curated event, Godflesh playing Pure in its entirety for the first time ever and Die Kreuzen reunion among others, will run for four days from Thursday, April 18th to Sunday, April 21st, 2013 (the traditional Afterburner event) at the 013 venue in Tilburg, Holland.

Please visit www.roadburn.com for more info.

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Wino Wednesday: The Hidden Hand, “Slow Rain” From The Resurrection of Whiskey Foote

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

By the time they got around to releasing their swansong, 2007’s The Resurrection of Whiskey Foote, it was becoming clear all was not well within the band. They’d toured hard in the US and Europe for 2004’s Mother Teacher Destroyer and the ensuing Devoid of Colour limited EP, and having seen a couple drummers come and go and the straining relationship between guitarist/vocalist Scott “Wino” Weinrich and bassist/vocalist Bruce Falkinburg, the band simply dissolved after the release of their third record.

They broke up despite some considerable momentum in their favor. For the stylistic shifts it represented — more progressive than the album before it, more conceptual — it was nonetheless a killer record, with Weinrich‘s signature tone a distinct factor in carrying across the songs while both he and Falkinburg showed off how tight their vocal arrangements had become. It didn’t last — three albums in five years is more than a lot of bands get to do — but their work during their time together is worthy of consideration as more than just what Wino was doing before he started the Wino band and hooked up with Shrinebuilder. Underrated, I guess is what I’m saying, and I know I’ve said it before.

“Slow Rain” closed out The Resurrection of Whiskey Foote, and so would be the final song of The Hidden Hand‘s career. At 7:20, it’s also the longest track they ever wrote, and hearing it again now, it’s a shame they couldn’t have built on what they did here for another outing. So it goes. Good band, good album, good listen. I hope you enjoy it, and hope you have (or have had, given the time of day) a happy Wino Wednesday:

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Lord Fowl, Moon Queen: Hundred Years, Hundred More

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

You know what they say about the ladies in orbit. They really get around.

In the opening title-track of New Haven, Connecticut, foursome Lord Fowl’s Small Stone debut, Moon Queen, there appears the line, “I’m in love with a satellite lady.” Read that again: “I’m in love with a satellite lady.” If you’re wondering perhaps what the hell that could possibly mean, then you’ve taken the wrong approach to Moon Queen, and like a choose-your-adventure book, you need to turn around and start over. The dually-fronted outfit is comprised of guitarist/vocalists Vechel Jaynes and Mike Pellegrino, bassist/engineer Jon Conine and drummer Don Freeman, and like the line “I’m in love with a satellite lady,” there’s a lot about the record (their second overall behind the impressive 2008 release, Endless Dynamite) that doesn’t seem to make sense at first but ultimately requires being approached on its own level. You have to be willing to go along with it, and when you do, you’ll find the trip more than justified in that Moon Queen works in several thematic. Movement is one of them. Space is another. Issues of love, sex, masculinity all crop up throughout the 12 tracks/47 minutes of the album, and very often, one song bleeds directly into the next, as “Moon Queen” does into “Touch Your Groove,” the lyrics to which contain a clear reference to the titular character described in the opener. Because this progression continues throughout the lyrics to most of the songs – including the Iron and Wine cover “Woman King,” which starts the second half – the temptation is to think of Lord Fowl working in some kind of narrative arc, but if that’s so with the lyrics, the songs themselves and the music those lyrics rest over don’t immediately seem to have the same kind of feel. That is, when things make the turn from “Quicksand”’s relationship-as-paingiver lyric to the defiance against that in “SOS,” the music remains consistent behind it without the kind of changes in mood that would connote Moon Queen having been composed entirely as a concept record in the traditional narrative sense. Still, Jaynes and Pellegrino mention flying, breaking free, driving, running, moving and going – so motion in general, transience, is a prevalent, persistent theme. In that, the music does follow suit, because if Moon Queen does anything at all, it moves.

Shades of KISS and Mötley Crüe make themselves known in songs like “Moon Queen” and “Split,” but at its heart, Moon Queen is an American-style heavy rock record. Put to tape by Conine and mixed in the Small Stone tradition by Benny Grotto at Mad Oak Studios in Allston, MA, it’s right in line with the label’s growing next-gen roster, sharing some classic soul influence with Gozu and a laid back grooving thickness with Wo Fat without losing hold either of its own identity or the personality of Lord Fowl themselves, which doesn’t shy away either from ‘70s rock suggestiveness (“Touch Your Groove,” “Hollow Horn”) or a bygone element of craft in the songwriting. Their methods are retro and their presentation is modern, in other words. Moon Queen touches on psychedelia – it would almost have to – in closer “Pluto,” which revives the space theme of the opener and thus rounds out the album nicely, but that’s a far cry from the ‘80s speed anthem “Streets of Evermore,” which might be as close as Lord Fowl get to metal in its intro but holds both to the band’s penchant for melody and has a hook too strong to be anything but accessible. Songs are well within radio range if radio was in the range of them, and despite the emphasis on tying their individual pieces together lyrically, there’s nothing pretentious in the band’s approach whatsoever, “Moon Queen” starting off introducing upbeat, fuzzed-out heavy rock with engaging riffs and a start-stop chorus highlighting both vocalists. Conine’s bass is an asset, and in both “Moon Queen” and “Touch Your Groove,” Freeman’s drums fill muted space nicely – never showy, always in service to the song, adding a little stomp to the bridge and verse of “Touch Your Groove” than only enhances its already formidable swagger. Because you can’t write a song about sex without low end, Conine’s basslines toward the halfway point also provide ample potency, while the lines, “Don’t you come too soon/She’s the queen of the moon,” leave little to the imagination as to the topic of discussion.

And if I’m focusing heavily on lyrics throughout this review, let that be a testament to the impression left from Pellegrino and Jaynes’ vocals, which are confident both on their own and all the more effective when used in combination, as on “Touch Your Groove.” The handclap-ready snare beats of “Split” lead to a faster rush in the riffing of the chorus, but again, both singers prove essential in conveying the song’s atmosphere, which is both intricate, Conine joining Freeman in the verse and bridge where the guitars cut in and out, and righteous on the surface – much like the album itself. One fuzz guitar, then two begin “Mutate” before the vocals kick in, and it’s an immediate cut in tempo from the song preceding, but already with Moon Queen, Lord Fowl have shown they can pull off such changes, and so the more open feel in the guitars and echoing vocals are far from out of place. But for the opener, “Mutate” is the shortest track on the album, but there’s still room for a reverbed Southern rock solo under which Freeman tosses in some choice fills, and for the lyrics to turn the “gotta fly” from “Split” into the “float away” as they are here before flight is once again taken on “Streets of Evermore.” It’s hard to pick a single of the record’s many hooks to reign as the defining one, but “Streets of Evermore” makes an excellent case, an infectious chorus topping lead guitar and releasing the tension built during the verse near perfectly as the song keeps hold of the “riding,” “driving” ideas that play both into the sex of “Touch Your Groove” and the overarching ideas of movement all across the record. Whether it’s superlative will depend on the listener, but the song has an energy all its own and is a definite standout, meandering a bit in its ending section before finally coming apart altogether, crashing into amp noise to lead into the police dispatch transmission sampled at the beginning of “Dirty Driving.” The song, which has the lines “If you’d like to call a spade a spade/Then you better understand that a pig is a pig,” closes out side A with Moon Queen’s only overt treatment of race – it’s hard to hear through the hits at the beginning, but I’m pretty sure that cop is dropping slurs while talking about shotguns in Watts – but even that is put into the context of driving, of moving, perhaps an answer to “Ridin’ Dirty” as filtered through soulful classic rock. The falsetto backing vocals in the chorus make it, and the dual guitar lead in the song’s second half ties it together with “Streets of Evermore” and the more Thin Lizzy-style bop of “The Queen is Not Impressed” still to come.

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Spine of Overkill, by Chris “Woody High” MacDermott

Posted in Columns on August 29th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

Epic! No other word will do to describe the latest Spine of Overkill column by Woody High. Dude has outdone himself, speaking from both personal experience and critical expertise about the Big 4 before the Big 4. All metal, no marketing. Cheers to Woody and dig this if you dare:

The Big 4 (Before The Big 4)

The past few years there’s been all this hoopla about “the Big Four of Thrash Metal” and who’s in it, who’s not, who should be, etc. Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax and Megadeth are certainly the biggest four bands to have emerged out of the 1980s thrash heap and all of ’em put out big albums in 1986-‘87. Exodus and Overkill predate some of those bands and paid the price for being a little too early to the party, doing too many whippets and passing out before everyone showed up. Exciter never gets mentioned in the discussion even though their landmark debut Heavy Metal Maniac was recorded in 1982 and released in January ‘83.

But the road all these bands traveled on were paved by what I like to call “The Big 4 Before The Big 4” – Anvil, The Rods, Riot and Twisted Sister. These bands were all on the wrong continent to be part of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal but helped inspire the first wave of thrash and rabid metal mongers in search of faster and louder. If 1986 is looked at as the pinnacle of thrash, then 1982 can be seen as the peak of the underground street metal era.

Anvil

By now everyone’s seen the Anvil movie and there’s even been a bit of a backlash against them because they’re sort of popular. Whatever. The fact remains that their second album, Metal on Metal, came out in April 1982 and kicked major ass. I read about Anvil in the pages of my favorite zine, Kick*Ass, and knew right away I had to check this band out. Anvil took their Ted Nugent, Deep Purple and Motörhead influences and mixed them with potent Canadian beer to form a speedy new hybrid. Metal on Metal contains many classics like the anthemic title-track, “Mothra,” “666” and the killer instrumental “March of the Crabs.” I was thrilled by the dirty lyrics of “Jackhammer,” “Tease Me, Please Me,” “Tag Team,” “Heatsink,” and “Scenery.” The only song that I was not that into was “Stop Me,” sung by pretty boy rhythm guitarist Dave Allison. Back in 1982, you usually had to put up with one kinda wimpy song that you know the record company made them do to try and get on the radio. Lips‘ lead guitar playing is killer on the entire album. He combined a fancy Michael Schenker/Ritchie Blackmore Euro style with a full on gonzo Nugent malicious intent that’s quite impressive. Robb Reiner‘s drumming took inspiration from Carmine Appice and Tommy Aldridge but he was also smart enough to get hip to the swinging approach from Louis Bellson, an early double bass drummer in the jazz world. (Check out Bellson‘s classic drum solo piece “Skin Deep” if you don’t believe me.)

I never got to see Anvil at their peak in ‘82 or ‘83 when they were deafening everyone at L’Amours and in New Jersey clubs but I caught them a few years later in Rochester, NY. It was either 1987 or ‘88 when they played a club called Backstreets (the radio ads said, “Backstreets is HUUUUUUUUUGE!”) on a frigid, rainy, snowy night in the middle of the week. There was hardly anyone in the place. The guy who I had convinced to drive wanted to leave before they even played when he saw all the gear on stage. Back then, Lips would have three Fender Twin amps sitting on top of three extension cabinets. Bassist Ian Dickson had a pair of Ampeg SVT stacks and Dave had double Marshall stacks. Robb‘s drum kit was enormous with a giant anvil in between the bass drums. There was no way I was going to split so I had to promise I’d buy him a garbage plate from Nick Tahou‘s after the show to get him to stick around. I’d seen bands play to small crowds and it was obvious they weren’t into it. Anvil came out blasting at full volume and went completely nuts on stage like they were headlining a stadium. They really pulled out all the stops. When Lips busted out the vibrator for the solo on “Bondage” he stuck it in some girl’s drink to stir it up for her. I’m sure it must have improved the flavor greatly. Before playing the song “Mad Dog,” Lips pulled his bulldog onstage and showed the crowd the dog’s balls. Classy and classic.

Anvil – “March of the Crabs” and “666” Live in Japan 1983
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9tvaYnlk1X8

The Rods

The Rods traveled a similar path to Anvil. Hailing from upstate NY but making a name for themselves in the clubs of outer borough NYC and New Jersey, The Rods were another deafening live act. The Rods took inspiration from late ‘60s loud power trios like Cream, Hedrix, James Gang, Blue Cheer and sped it up. Playing Led Zep covers in Jersey dumps to underage drinkers requires desperate measures to get their attention. Their independently released debut Rock Hard came out in 1980 but was picked up and repackaged as The Rods in 1981 by Arista. The Rods were getting a lot of attention in the UK newspaper Sounds and toured over there with Iron Maiden. It didn’t hurt that guitarist David “Rock” Feinstein was the cousin of Ronnie James Dio and played with him in his pre-Rainbow band Elf.

By the time they got around to recording their second album Wild Dogs in 1982 it looked like they were going to be a really big band. Wild Dogs is a bombastic, belligerent collection of songs that belonged in the tape deck of every Trans Am in the Tri-State and beyond. Still does as far as I’m concerned. It doesn’t matter where I am but as long as it’s warm enough to have all the windows of my car rolled down I’m cranking “Too Hot to Stop” and I don’t give a fuck who doesn’t like it. The opening riff is one of the best that AC/DC didn’t write and the lyrics “I’m low down and dirty/I’m a nasty man” are great to yell at some uptight broad in the car next to you at the red light. And when you’re burning rubber and she’s choking on your smoke everyone knows that you are indeed “Too Hot to Stop.” Unless you’re pulling up to the liquor store, of course. Then it’s okay to stop. But when you get back in there are plenty more kickass jams to blast. There are so many great lyrics on Wild Dogs. “Rockin’ ‘n’ Rollin’ Again” has some of the best like, “Red hot women, snortin’ cocaine/Line ’em up I wanna hit ’em again!” The Rods love rock ‘n’ roll and love writing songs about rock ‘n’ roll like, “The Night Lives to Rock” and sleazy road-life-inspired, gonorrhea-drenched love songs like “Violation” (“I didn’t know she was only 17!”) and “No Sweet Talk, Honey.” Their attempt at getting on the radio was with a cover of a cover. Vanilla Fudge had a hit in the ‘60s with a slowed down version of “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” by The Supremes. The Rods’ version is shorter and a bit faster but didn’t give them a hit.

It is to my eternal regret that I have never once seen The Rods, one of my all-time favorite bands. They’re back in action again and put out a new album last year called Vengeance that was pretty good. I’m hoping they play New York someday and bring down those custom speaker cabinets that Rock and bassist Gary Bordonaro used to play through. The back cover of their Live album shows TWELVE cabinets on either side of Carl Canedy‘s giant, shiny double bass drum kit. Back in the pre-Dave Lombardo days, Carl was the only guy to rival Robb Reiner in the double bass wars. Phil Taylor was too Keith Moon-ish to compete with the accuracy of Carl and Robb. For those who don’t know, Carl plays drums on the first Manowar demo and produced a lot of bands for Combat Records including Overkill, Anthrax, Exciter and Possessed.

The Rods – “Power Lover” live in NY 1983

Riot

If ever a band deserved the two-hour Behind The Music treatment, it’s Brooklyn’s own Riot. Founding member Mark Reale started the band in 1975 and sadly passed away earlier this year. There’s a box set titled A Study in Frustration of swing-era band leader Fletcher Henderson. That same title could be used if they ever decide to make a movie about Riot. The new issue of Classic Rock Magazine has a great article about Riot‘s formation and career struggles through the 1980s that will tell you everything you need to know. If ever a band deserved more success it was them. Bands like Anvil and The Rods were ultimately too heavy and wild for an AC/DC mainstream hard rock crowd in 1982, but Riot could have gone the distance. 1981’s Fire Down Under is an undeniable classic. Heavy enough for a metal crowd, melodic enough for normal people and great playing for the musicianly types. Plus, singer Guy Speranza had a killer afro to rival Handsome Dick Manitoba or Don Brewer.

When Guy decided to cut his ‘fro and quit the band, they came up with a winner in his replacement Rhett Forrester. Rhett had poofy blonde hair, a lot of charisma and a great bluesy voice. The album Restless Breed is another classic. Some purists say Fire Down Under is better but I’ve always put them on equal footing. The only drawback Riot really had was their goofy half-man/half-seal mascot and some people never took them seriously because of the album covers. Their loss. Restless Breed has some of the heaviest songs they ever did like “Hard Lovin’ Man” (not the Deep Purple song), “CIA,” “Violent Crimes,” and “Loanshark.” Backing up Rhett was the powerhouse rhythm section of bassist Kip Lemming and drummer Sandy Slavin and the excellent guitar team of Mark Reale and Rick Ventura. The title-track is a moody slow burn that should have become an afternoon drive time anthem alongside Blackfoot‘s “Highway Song.” If you ever need a song to go riding off into the sunset with, this is it. “Loved by You” could have easily won over Van Halen fans but David Lee Roth always maintained a “no blonde singer” policy for his opening acts. If you had a girlfriend in 1982, she probably would have liked “Over to You” (not the Black Sabbath song), “Showdown” and “Dream Away.” Riot‘s attempt at getting on the radio with a cover of “When I was Young” by The Animals could have worked in getting some older classic rock fans to check them out. Both Guy and Rhett died way too young and under tragic circumstances. It’s sad that Mark‘s passing has made more people aware of Riot‘s classic albums but it would be even sadder if they were totally ignored.

Riot – “Restless Breed” live

Twisted Sister

Rounding out this class of 1982 is Long Island’s own Twisted Fuckin’ Sister. Everybody’s aware of their huge MTV video hits but hardcore metal freaks like me still cling to their early singles, EPs and live tapes. By 1982, Twisted Sister had created a huge following in the NY/NJ/CT area by blasting out a couple sets a night four or five times a week. The drinking age was 18 and fake IDs were very easy to get. When underage girls are at a show that guarantees a ton of guys are going to be there trying to get in their pants. Twisted Sister were loved by blue collar suburban metalheads but looked at as a joke by the industry and hipsters in NYC. They couldn’t get a record deal and rarely ever played in Manhattan. They’d rent out the Palladium and sell it out but would get no media attention. Other bar bands like The Good Rats or Zebra had big followings but Twisted Sister crowds were the rowdiest. They’d rile everyone up with smokin’ versions of “Draw the Line” by Aerosmith, “Sin City” by AC/DC and “Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll” by Rainbow before pulling out their originals. As a kid I heard their name all the time on the local rock radio stations concert listings and seen some of the older burnouts in school wearing their shirts. In early 1982 I saw them play live on a tv show and they totally blew my mind. I stayed up late to watch a show hosted by Flo & Eddie from The Turtles but I was a big fan of their work with Frank Zappa. They introduced this bunch of freaks that all looked like Alice Cooper (who I’ve always been a huge fan of) and then they blasted into “Under the Blade.” You can bet when they finally released their debut album, also called Under the Blade, I picked it up the day it came out.

In recent years, Twisted Sister has been acknowledging their early days more often and have answered some demands from fans. One of them was to finally re-release Under the Blade as it originally came out (they remixed it at some point in the ‘80s and Atlantic reissued it) alongside the Ruff Kuts EP. Last year they did just that and packaged it with an unbelievable DVD from their set at the Reading Festival right after they recorded the album. They also put out an incredible DVD of a full show from earlier that summer right before they took off for England to go into the studio with Pete Way of UFO as producer. “What You Don’t Know (Sure Can Hurt You)” is one of the best opening fuck-you songs of all time. Very Alice Cooper influenced, it tells lays it down that if you’re not into this then you’re lame and get the fuck out. Twisted Sister often get compared to KISS and there are a lot of similarities, but they always had more in common with Alice‘s blend of anthemic hard rock and theatrics. “Shoot ’em Down” and “Bad Boys (of Rock ‘n’ Roll)” are classic Bon Scott-era influenced AC/DC songs and “Sin After Sin” is a great Judas Priest song mixed with “1969” by The Stooges.” “Tear It Loose” is pure Motörhead and “Day of the Rocker” is a great Rose Tattoo tribute. “Run For Your Life” and “Destroyer” are so fuckin heavy but the title track is the real highlight of the album. So creepy and heavy at the same time. If you can’t headbang to this song then you must have been born without a neck. I was lucky enough to catch Twisted Sister a few times in their pre-fame club daze and they remain one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen. If you don’t believe me, there’s plenty of evidence out there to confirm it. A friend of mine’s been hooking me up with some vintage live tapes the past few years. Anyone who wants to check ’em out, get in touch and I’ll be glad to hook you up.

Twisted Sister – “Under The Blade” live 1982

I recently turned 45 years old, which means I’ve been listening to these records for 30 years. Jesus, that’s a long fucking time. Each year some new aches and pains seem to come out of nowhere but I can accurately pinpoint the beginning of my hearing loss.

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Graveyard Reveal Tracklisting for Lights Out

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

Could Graveyard‘s Lights Out be a late contender for album of the year? They’ve got their work cut out for them, issuing a follow-up to 2011’s excellent Hisingen Blues (review here), but I’m stoked to think they’re making a jump from a four-year break between records to a one-year span, especially since they toured between. It’ll be interesting to see how this one turns out.

The PR wire has it:

Swedish demigods of classic rock GRAVEYARD would like to announce the following track listing to their third studio album, Lights Out, due out in Europe on October 26th and in North America on November 6th:

01 – An Industry Of Murder
02 – Slow Motion Countdown
03 – Seven Seven
04 – The Suits, The Law & The Uniform
05 – Endless Night
06 – Hard Time Lovin’
07 – Goliath
08 – Fool In The End
09 – 20/20 (Tunnel Vision)

The band will soon be shooting a video for the track “Goliath.”  “It’s gonna be quite a show,” they pledge.

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