Leave a comment on this post and make sure your email is included in the box asking for it to win a vinyl copy of Black Space Riders‘ new album, D:REI. The giveaway will go until Friday, at which point I’ll pick a winner at random and notify that person via email. The record is 180g black double-vinyl and also includes the CD version of D:REI, which tops a full 78 minutes.
I like, whenever I’m able, to do giveaways. Free stuff is an automatic win, and in the case of Black Space Riders, all the better that someone gets acquainted with their far-ranging space metal. Their material has proven to be widely varied over the course of their two prior albums, and this one, which was released by the band in January, certainly follows suit, running a spectrum from driving riffs to ambient drones and always managing to keep a flow from song to song and a consistent level of intelligence throughout the varied atmospheres of their work.
The title D:REI, aside from hinting at the German word for “three,” stands for “Defiance,” “Ruins,” “Escape” and “Beyond” (presumably that’s a translation thing), the subheading under which each side of the 2LP arrives. Black Space Riders‘ ethic has to-date leaned toward the conceptual and narrative, and their third outing only pushes further, as you can hear on the Bandcamp player below.
Take a listen and leave a comment to enter into the giveaway. Good luck to all, and thanks for your continued support of this site. Black Space Riders‘ D:REIis available now as an independent release from the band with distribution from Cargo Records in their native Germany. More info at the links under the player.
I was talking (or at least typing) not too long ago with Lowrider bassist/vocalist Peder Bergstrand — not to drop the name, but it’s relevant — and he mentioned Mother Superior‘s 1996 debut, The Mothership Has Landed, as having been an especially pivotal album for him in his band’s earliest going. He was a teenager at the time. I think we all have those records, and if you’re passionate about music, then probably you can also recall an album or a song or an artist whose work seemed to hit you just in the right way at just the right time in your life. It’s part of what makes us who we are, and being a nerd for Swedish heavy in general, I was curious to delve into what might have been a piece of its history I’d previously missed.
Whatever it was The Patient Mrs. was ordering from Amazon a few weeks back, I don’t even remember, but I do remember the utter (lack of) smoothness with which I said, “Well maybe I’ll just pick up one or two things for myself too.” Nicely done, chief.
Mother Superior recorded The Mothership Has Landedin Gothenburg, and it’s one of two full-lengths they released in their time, the other being 1998′s The Mothership Movement. Danish label Freakophonic reportedly reissued The Mothership Has Landedon vinyl in 2004, but the CD was through Velodrome/SPV, and though it’s 44 minutes long, the album works well in linear form, with middle cuts “Too Bad (Freddie’s Song)” and “Down the Straight and Narrow” both topping six minutes, albeit with markedly different atmospheres. Vocalist David Berlin has a touch of Mick Jagger in his voice on “Breakin’ it Down” and slide-guitar-and-piano-infused closer “Reach Out” — but cuts like “Radically Cool” and “C’Mon” are fuzzier and fuller than any blatant classic rock worship, and whatever else it is, The Mothership Has Landedis heavy. Opening duo “Yeah Baby” and “Velocity City” work at a pretty fast clip, and the penultimate “Love Gone Bad” seems to bookend with the same idea, but even then, the guitars of Sölvi Blöndal and Per Ellverson keep a thicker tone and bassist Fredrik Cronsten and drummer Anders Stub swing more than much of the garage rock Sweden was producing at that time, whatever other influence they may have taken from it.
In that regard, it’s interesting to try to put Mother Superior‘s first outing in the context of its day. Spiritual Beggars had one album out by 1996 and would release their second, Another Way to Shine, that year, but nothing on it got quite as funky as “Keep on Movin’” does here. Stockholm’s The Hellacopters, who are basically unavoidable in any discussion of Scandinavian garage rock of any era, released their own debut, Supershitty to the Max!, in ’96 following a single the year prior. Sparzanza formed in 1996 but didn’t have their first album out until 2001, and of course by then, both Dozer and Lowrider had issued their respective first full-lengths in 2000. The Awesome Machine was a year earlier than that, in 1999, and Mustasch‘s The True Sound of New Westarrived a year later than Lowrider and Dozer‘s albums, in 2001. It’s hard to imagine that in 1996 there wasn’t also a huge contingent of Swedish heavy with its interest invested in the groundbreaking metal being crafted by the likes of At the Gates (their Slaughter of the Soul was 1995), Meshuggah (Destroy Erase Improve, 1995), In Flames (The Jester Race, 1996), Arch Enemy, and so on.
So while there was plenty of rock around, it’s easy to hear in listening to The Mothership Has Landedwhat might resonate with a burgeoning heavy riffer. The album flows like a classic rock record and for all its stomp and fuzz, it’s still clean enough to be accessible. Stub went on to drum in On Trial prior to their breakup in 2011 and in 2009 released a solo LP called The Silent Boatmanthat’s available to download for free from his website. The last Mother Superior offering seems to have been a Bad Afro Records 7″ called Brothers and Sistersin 1999 and then like so many others, seem to have just dissipated. Fair enough, but here we are almost two decades later and The Mothership Has Landedstill holds up, so I’m glad to have chased it down.
Probably the most notable thing about Sam Gopal‘s Escalatorwhen it was released in 1969 was that the band’s namesake percussionist substituted tabla for the standard rock drumkit. Not to take away from that, as it was an interesting turn for a London-based band even in that time of Eastern-influenced psychedelic rock becoming somewhat mainstreamed (Gopal himself was born in Malaysia), but if the group is something of a footnote today, it’s more because of vocalist/guitarist Ian Willis, who by the time he left Hawkwind to form Motörhead some six years later would adopt the universally-recognized moniker of Lemmy Kilmister.
Lemmy‘s involvement in Sam Gopal isn’t exactly a secret — prior to joining, he played guitar in Blackpool-based The Rockin’ Vickers from 1965-1967 and those seeking a sample of his work before and around Motörhead were afforded an easy opportunity with 2006′s Damage Casecompilation — but neither is it widely advertised, and when he finally decides that Planet Earth isn’t cool enough to hold him and departs this mortal coil, Escalator isn’t likely to be mentioned as part of his considerable list of landmark or otherwise influential works. Still, for devotees of proto-heavy rock and psychedelia, the album has much to offer in the moody wanderings of “Grass” and sweet, pre-”Planet Caravan” vibe of “Angry Faces.”
With fellow guitarist Roger D’Elia and bassist Phil Duke, Lemmy brings a nascent fuzz to “The Dark Lord,” which was included on that Damage Case compilation no doubt for its theme as much as the song itself, but the bulk of Escalatoris candlelit British psych, the subtly bass-driven “The Sky is Burning” having little time for the kind of raucous blues jamming Cream were doing at that point, “You’re Alone Now” aside, or even the swagger of Jimi Hendrix, for whom a young Lemmy famously roadied. Maybe Sam Gopal were a little behind the times, then, but if so, the distinction is moot since the album fits with its general era and precedes in both tone and execution the kind of heavy-rock-into-prog explosion that UFO, Uriah Heep, the second lineup of King Crimson and, indeed, Hawkwind were about to unleash on the UK rock scene as the likes of Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin made their way to megastardom behind Pink Floyd, who’d already been signed to a major label (EMI) for two years.
Hearing Escalatorthrough a filter of hindsight is inevitable, but the stoned-out push of “You’re Alone Now” seems prescient in asking, “Can you hear me on the wind?/Are you thinking of what might have been?” and as much as Lemmy‘s presence dominates even though the vocals are mostly given to a rudimentary melodic garage-type drawl fitting to the music, the songs have value beyond novelty for anyone who’d take them on as part of a larger exploration through the roots of heavy. Putting Sam Gopal next to earliest Vanilla Fudge doesn’t seem inappropriate when they get into Donovan‘s “Season of the Witch” and rough it up a bit, but the sleaze that’s inevitably brought to the already-sleazy Doors cover “Back Door Man” — a bonus track on the 2010 Esoteric Recordings reissue — helps to give Escalatora personality of its own, as much of that might be wrapped up in a reading of the album through the Lemmy context.
It was that Esoteric Recordings reissue that I wound up with, following a recommendation that I check the record out because, with or without “the Motörhead dude,” it’s quality psych. I’ve found that to be precisely the case, and found that I’m drawn to repeat listens of Escalatornot because of the personnel, but because of the songs they execute. If you’re not already familiar, give it some time to settle in.
About two weeks ago, I visited the “Not Just” Rock Expo outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and while I found some pretty killer stuff there, one thing I didn’t pick up was the 2007 Concrete Lo-Fi Records split CD between Queen Elephantine and Sons of Otis. The dude wanted $20 for it and that was more money than I had left to spend. I was bummed out about leaving it behind, and all the more so since I couldn’t find a copy on the interwebs once I got back home and tried looking. Seemed like I was going to have to let it go, at least for the time being, and maybe keep an eye on eBay or Amazon or hope to randomly run into it at Armageddon Shop somewhere down the line.
Well, a couple days ago, Indy Shome from Queen Elephantine dropped a line and said he was sending a copy over. It showed up today and it’s been the perfect thing to get me through an overtired fuckoff of an afternoon. The split is comprised of three songs, two from Toronto stoner lords Sons of Otis and one from Queen Elephantine, totaling just under 44 minutes, and comes complete with Adrian Dexter artwork and vibe to spare. For Queen Elephantine, it’s one of their earlier releases, after they made their 2006 debut on a split with Elder, but before they released their first album, Surya, and for Sons of Otis, it arrived two years after their Small Stone debut, X, and two years before its follow-up, Exiled.
Sons of Otis go first, their “Tales of Otis” embarking on an eight-minute march that seems to slow time along with it. There’s little more to it than thud and vague riffing, but somehow it manages to be grooving anyway. There are no vocals on either of the Canadian band’s inclusions, and interestingly, both songs include drums, though only bassist Frank Sargent and guitarist Ken Baluke are listed as playing on it. Could be a loop, I guess. Both “Tales of Otis” and the subsequent “Oxazejam” are repetitive enough in their rhythms to have that be the case (and that’s not a knock on them), the latter also a slow-burning jam that keeps the smoked-out feel of “Tales of Otis” going as Baluke‘s guitar seems to sort of wisp into and out of lead progressions. They’ve always excelled that that kind of ultra-chilled semi-consciousness, and in the six years since this release, that hasn’t changed at all.
Unless I’m mistaken, Shome, who handles guitar and vocals in Queen Elephantine and is the only remaining member from this incarnation — the band having since parted ways with bassist Daniel Quinn, drummer Michael Isley and percussionist J. Alexander Buck — was based in New York at the time this split was issued. He gets around, be it to Providence, Rhode Island, or Hong Kong. In any case, the band’s 26-minute exploration “The Battle of Masscoit (The Weapon of the King of Gods)” is a fitting precursor to the types of jammed-out contemplative psychedelic experiments Shome has been leading even up to this year’s Scarab (review here), albeit somewhat less expansive in the sonic ingredients used and the overall atmosphere. The will to drone is there, however, and it serves Queen Elephantine well as the piece unfolds, molten and held together somewhat by the drums but by no means beholden to them.
Because the idea entertains me, I’ll use the phrase “ambient as fuck,” but let the point be that Sons of Otis and Queen Elephantine worked remarkably well side-by-side on this release, and both give ample opportunity to let your mind wander in their psychedelic and engrossing haze. I’m glad I got to hear it on disc, and I’ll look forward to future sonic escapes like the one it provided me today. Sometimes you just gotta check out for a while. May I suggest:
Queen Elephantine, “The Battle of Massacoit (The Weapon of the King of Gods)”
“What the hell are you going to do with those?” asked The Patient Mrs. when I got back to the car and showed her the two Black Sabbath 8-track tapes I’d bought at the annual “Not Just” Rock Expo outside of Philadelphia this past Friday afternoon. It was a fair question. My answer was somewhat less reasoned: “Set up an altar and worship them as gods, who fucking cares?”
My point, expressed with my usual eloquence, was that it wasn’t about listening to Heaven and Hell and Sabbath‘s 1970 self-titled debut — which I can do at this point on any number of physical media — but just about enjoying owning the albums on this format. And hell, if I wind up with an 8-track player someday, at least I’ll know what to put on first. Whether that came through or not, I was greeted with the usual rolled eyes and a, “Time to go.” Fair enough. We were already running late.
This was the 27th “Not Just” Rock Expo – it’s actually put together by the same dude who does the Second Saturday Record Show in Wayne, NJ, that I’ve enjoyed many times in the past — and it just happened to be in the right place at the right time. Held in Oaks, PA, which is northwest of Philly, this past Friday and Saturday, normally, it’d be well out of my geographic range at this point for a day trip, but The Patient Mrs. and I (also the little dog Dio) spent Thanksgiving in Maryland. Friday found us heading back north to see family in New Jersey, so the “Not Just” Rock Expo was more or less on the way, and that’s just how I sold The Patient Mrs. on the idea of making a stop.
The GPS took us what felt like halfway across PA, but we got there eventually and found the hangar-sized room where the expo was happening. Three long, two-sided rows of vendors were set up, and there was a good crowd there. I recognized a few faces from shows and such, and while it might not have been just rock, there certainly was enough of it. It seemed like almost every table, save perhaps that run by King Fowley of Deceased, had one or another kind of Beatles memorabilia on offer, but there were plenty of other ways to spend money as well. More money than I had, but I did alright. The first place I looked had Death‘s Individual Thought Patterns on tape for like two bucks, so I made that happen, and an original Alternative Tentacles pressing of Neurosis‘ Souls at Zerothat I’ve very much enjoyed revisiting despite a skip or two in “The Web,” as well as Death in 3s by Meatplow, which I picked up essentially because I recognized the name and thought it would be fun. So far that’s worked out.
Across the aisle was a vendor who had an entire section devoted solely to Repertoire Records reissues. Fuck me. But for the ones I already owned, I probably could’ve shelled out $300 on that stuff alone and walked out of the “Not Just” Rock Expo with a smile on my face. I didn’t. Money’s tight, and sooner or later I’d have to buy gas to get back up to Massachusetts, so I nabbed the digipak version of Atomic Rooster‘s In Hearing Ofand left it at that. By then, The Patient Mrs. had adjourned to the car, but I made my way through at what was apparently a leisurely place — when it was over, I seemed to have lost an extra hour in there somewhere — finding other odds and ends along the way like a Nuclear Blast edition of the first Count Raven CD, a full-jewel-case promo (imagine such a thing!) for Russian Circles‘ debut, Enter, and a cheap tape copy of Band of Gypsysthat made the rest of the ride to Jersey a little easier to take, despite traffic.
Toward the end of the last row, a guy who had some other decent stuff as well was selling a copy of the 2007 split between Sons of Otis and Queen Elephantine for $20. I wanted it. I was decently enough past my spending limit, however, so I offered the $13 in my hand, he said no, and I put the disc back. The one that got away. More the fool I, since I can’t seem to find the CD version online anywhere. That’ll show me not to recklessly shell out dollars.
It was a downer note to end on, but overall, I can’t really complain. I hadn’t even known the “Not Just” Rock Expo existed until reading a post about it Thanksgiving night on Thee Facebooks, so considering that and the tri-format haul, I’d say I did alright. They’ve already got the space booked for the 28th installment of the “Not Just” Rock Expo (their website is here), and if you happen to be in the area, it seems like a good way to make yourself late to wherever you might be headed next.
Queen Elephantine, “The Battle of Massacoit/The Weapon of the King of Gods”
There’s little question that Armageddon Shop makes its bones in the vinyl trade, and that’s cool. I’ve come to accept it at stores that what was for a time the format of record has in turn been replaced in prominence by the LPs that it originally took that position from. Turnabout. All good. Everything comes back around in time, or doesn’t, and I don’t mind craning my head to look at the spines on the wall of CDs in the basement store in Cambridge, my knees cracking as I crouch to see the shelves lower to the floor. It’s a reminder of the calisthenics I should be doing instead of buying albums in the first place.
My buying power is low at this point and I know it, but if you’ve been either to the Boston or Providence store, you know it’s not easy to walk out of there empty-handed. They’re gonna get you with one thing or another. This time around, it started for me with a used copy of Amorphis‘ lackluster 2011 outing, The Beginning of Times. Not an album I really cared to pick up, but for six bucks, I figured I could give it a home on the shelf and maybe find something in listening to it I missed initially. Next thing I know, here’s a copy of Zeke‘s second album, 1996′s Flat Trackerfor $4.99, and the 1999 He’s No Good to Me Deadfive-way split between Bongzilla, Grief, Negative Reaction, Sourvein and Subsanity for $11. That’s just over two dollars per band. How could I refuse?
The answer, of course, is I couldn’t. I was pleased to find later that I didn’t already own the split, which was released on Game Two Records, but even if I had, it would’ve been worth the asking price to revisit some early Sourvein – three of their five tracks here would show up the next year on their self-titled debut — and live Bongzilla cuts, along with Negative Reaction and Grief in immediate succession. That one-two punch would probably fill any sludge quota a given day might present — 15 decabongs — but with Subsanity in the center role, and Bongzilla and Sourvein following, you’re basically getting a 74-minute overdose. Easy listening it is not. The only one of these acts who wouldn’t go on to craft a significant legacy in the genre is Subsanity, whose third and final LP, Future is War, was also issued in ’99, but even they prove vicious in keeping with their company, all of whom are raw the way you think of oozing, scraped skin as being raw.
And Zeke? Well, Zeke were the super-fast punk band it was cool to like if you were into slow music. They always had a bit of strut to them, as “Daytona” from Flat Trackerwill attest, and when they signed to Relapse to release 2004′s ‘Til the Living End, that just sealed their appeal. I remember seeing them at CMJ in NYC at some point around then and they had the fastest count-ins I’d ever heard, and then they actually played that fast. Flat Trackeris in and out in under 18 minutes and its 15 tracks are liable to leave you sucking wind as you try to keep up, but it’s also a lot of fun. Along with their 1994 debut, Super Sound Racing, Flat Tracker was reissued by Relapse, but the Scooch Pooch Records version has the original art, which is all the more killer for the fact that the lineup comes with each member of the band’s Mexican takeout order. Guitarist/vocalist Blind Marky Felchtone will have, “two chicken soft tacos, one bean burrito and a medium Coke.”
All discs considered, I still got out of Armageddon Shop on the cheap. There was more — and yes, I did flip through the vinyl section and drool at the assorted heavy ’70s and more modern wonders — but ultimately I resisted such devilish temptations and skipped out. I had my eye on a few other odds and ends on that wall though, so I have the feeling it won’t be too long before I’m back. Hope not, anyway.
Weymouth, Massachusetts, is about two minutes down the road from me. I could go out to the road, hang a louie, and be there in three traffic lights. Most of the time, this is knowledge that doesn’t really have any bearing on my day one way or another, but when I put on Nightstick‘s unearthed 2012 album, Rock + Roll Weymouth, and it’s hard not to be taken aback by my proximity to such fucked-up sonics. The local trio — four-piece if you count Padoinka the Clown, credited with “improvisational movement, interpretive dance” — released three LPs on Relapse between 1997 and 1999 and then came back last year on At War with False Noise with the twisted reveries of this work, which may or may not have been recorded circa 2000, but was never released at the time. At the beginning of September, they did a run of shows with Fistula, and it had been my intent to catch them in Allston or Providence (which are further away, but still pretty nearby) on that tour. When that didn’t happen owing mostly to job loss on my part and I happened to be in Providence the next week at Armageddon Shop, it seemed like the least I could do to pick up Rock + Roll Weymouthand get to know the band better.
At 43 minutes that runs a gamut from sludge rock to sample-laden guitar wankery, acoustic sweetness to drones to piano-topped bizarro shenanigans and on to the sludge the Melvins might’ve made if they hadn’t been called geniuses for two and a half decades, Rock + Roll Weymouthmakes little attempt to tie together, instead, as the second song title urges, the album lets its “Freak Flag Fly.” Actually, the complete name of that song, which is the longest at a smidgen under 11 minutes, is “(Let Your) Freak Flag Fly (featuring Kenny’s Cancellation Message).” That’s right, a rare double-parenthetical in the title. One might expect all kinds of resounding progressive indulgence as a result, but Nightstick don’t seem to have time for it. “Kenny’s Cancellation Message,” which is legitimately hilarious, is a sample of someone in another band or maybe a promoter more or less kicking Nightstick off a bill because of the potential for violence to erupt at the show from Nightstick‘s crowd and the band being generally unhinged. Probably a fair concern, though neither the pretty acoustic “Lila Claire Blues” — written by guitarist Cotie Cowgill for his daughter — nor the band’s closing cover of “Also Sprach Zarathustra (Theme from 2001)” does much to justify it.
That duty is left up to cuts like the gleefully strange opener, “Nightstick a.) ‘Call Me… Nightstick!’ b.) Outtro c.) Requiem,” which takes lo-fi garage sludge rumble from bassist Alex Smith (also vocals), feedback from Cowgill and punkishly intense drumming from Robert R. Williams (also formerly of Siege) and devolves initial push first into solo-topped chaos, then sample-infused plod, Smith‘s bass coming even more to the front while periodic bursts of gunfire and sirens gradually take over. Together with the following “(Let Your) Freak Flag Fly (Featuring Kenny’s Cancellation Message),” the first two cuts of Rock + Roll Weymouthcomprise nearly half of the runtime, but if you’re looking to make sense of the proceedings in a traditional fashion, you’re doing it wrong. Weird out. In the context of Nightstick‘s three prior outings, the subtitled tracks, unexpected covers (in the past they’ve done Funkadelic and Discharge, both of whose influence is also audible on the 2012 album) and the Star Wars homage, “Ode to Lord Vader a.) ‘The Circle is Now Complete’ b.) ‘Now… I am the Master’” are about in line with where Nightstick left off on 1999′s Death to Music; operating on a plane all their own.
I was bummed out to miss those gigs when I had the chance to see them, and I’m bummed out more now that I’ve had some time to spend with Rock + Roll Weymouth, but hopefully my path and Nightstick‘s will cross at some point soon. Probably at the grocery store, they’re so damn close, but maybe at a show too. In the meantime, continuing to decipher the aural hieroglyphs of the record seems like a worthy pursuit.
The way I understand it, there were 500 misprinted copies of the 1997 split 7″ between Lowrider and fellow Swedish heavy rockers Sparzanza. Nothing tragic, just labels that were on the wrong side — which probably would be tragic, so yeah. These reportedly sat in Lowrider bassist/vocalist PederBergstrand‘s house for years and years, doing nothing, until he finally threw them out. Then the band got back together! Timing is everything, my friends.
But for some demos, Lameneshma/Burnin’ Boots was basically the first release for both bands. Of course, Lowrider would go on to include the track on their 1999 split with Nebula as the first of their four cuts, but the song didn’t make it to their only full-length to date, Ode to Io (1998), and while since that album is one of the best Swedish heavy rock releases ever I can’t really question the decision — that is to say, Ode to Io worked out just fine — the song was a highlight of thatNebula split and even in the rougher form on the Sparzanza split is a maddeningly catchy desert rocker. “Lameneshma” is probably the best use of the “Thumb” riff since Kyuss did it.
And naturally, with the vocal effects and the turns the song makes instrumentally, Lowrider were building off that landmark progression more than just aping it. Considering how nascent that wave of Swedish heavy rock was at the time — Mother Superior had their first record out and Dozer and The Awesome Machine were starting to pick up, but otherwise you start getting into more garage stuff like The Hellacopters, who I always thought were working on a different plane, even then — that Lowrider would’ve taken the influence of desert rock and made it their own like they did is all the more impressive. I guess it shouldn’t be such a surprise their influence continues to spread.
As for Sparzanza, their “Burnin’ Boots” is rawer than one might expect who’s maybe encountered their more recent works like 2012′s Death is Certain, Life is Not or 2011′s Folie à Cinq (both released on Spinefarm), but though I’ve always put them in that same category of bands who started out playing stoner rock and then nestled into a more commercially viable European heavy rock burl — thinking of groups like Mustasch or what Dozer might’ve done after Call it Conspiracyhad Mastodon’s influence not crept in with such brilliant results — that’s not to take anything away from the band’s songwriting. It’s not as complex or fully toned as “Lameneshma,” but especially for a band who rode the stoner wave and continued long after its (alleged) crash — they’re currently touring — it’s a more than respectable glimpse at ideas they’d develop later.
Nothing’s ever really gone completely, but from what I hear, this is the last of the misprinted 7″s between the two bands, all the others having sat for so long before being tossed. Pressed on clear red vinyl and arriving in a plain red sleeve, it’s a piece of heavy rock history that I feel lucky to own. I know that probably sounds ridiculous to some ears, but it’s true. I’ve had Lowrider on the brain since they were announced as taking part in this year’s Desertfest with Dozer, and even as they pick up again and continue to play more shows, an early release like this is given a whole new context. Needless to say, Lameneshma/Burnin’ Boots will be kept in a cool, dry place and treasured for years to come.
A bit about me: While most children were out playing sports, making friends, scraping knees and engaging in the socialization now prescribed as essential for healthy personal development (whoops), I was collecting. Not surprisingly, this was a learned behavior, and one I picked up in no small part because, well, I was going to get dragged to antique stores either way, so there you go. I still collect CDs, books, and so on, but when I was a kid, it was action figures, video games, shot glasses, old lighters, pretty much anything I could hold in my oversized 10-year-old ogre paws.
My mother was a big influence on me in this way, and as a result of going from shop to shop to auction house and so on, I’ve got a pretty decent knowledge base of a whole host of random artifacts, from Stickley Furniture to Northwood glass. Hardly the most masculine of trivial pursuits for an already awkward boy child, but maybe the intent was to take traditional gender roles down a peg. Or maybe it was just, “Well, the world doesn’t have enough weirdos.” I don’t really know. When I was out this past weekend and stumbled on a couple Edison Records cylinders, I was plenty happy just to recognize what they were.
By now it’s more or less commonly accepted that Thomas Edison — inventor of the lightbulb, phonograph, etc. and hero of Fourth Grade Social Studies textbooks across his and my native New Jersey — was a prick and a thief. Bullying competitors into either leaving the East Coast, as he did with the founders of Hollywood, or putting others like Thomas Lambert out of business with a barrage of patent suits, Edison was ruthless in the tradition of any number of capitalist supervillains, the only difference was a question of scale. Whereothers in his era might’ve sent Pinkertons in to bust up a union, Edison seems not to have been above getting a goon squad to pound on some nerds. Probably the kind who went antiquing as kids. So it goes… allegedly.
To this day, in the dining room of mom’s place in Jersey, there resides in a china cabinet an Edison Standard Phonograph and a couple of “Gold Moulded Records” — cylinder records from around the turn of the 20th century, predating the flatter discs that would emerge as the dominant format (78s were so hip) in the 1910s. I bought the ones I saw the other day (of course) and brought them home for a bit of investigation. There are two different labels on top of the thick cardboard case around each black wax cylinder. One has had its catalog number fade away — good luck finding out what it is — and the other is written over. What was at one point “You Can’t Stop Me from Loving You” by Manuel Romain from 1909 is now labeled as “The Messenger Boy March,” which was recorded for Edison by the awesomely-monikeredImperial Marimba Band and released on Blue Amberol, which was a different production method and actually blue wax (limited numbers, dude), in 1917.
Because the record in that container is black, not blue, I think it’s probably the original and that the case was just used to store “The Messenger Boy March,” but without a working player, I don’t really have confirmation it’s that and not some other release. The outsides look good, but both of the records also have some cardboard residue on them from being in the cases for so long and at some point probably encountering some moisture, so I don’t even know if they’re playable. But screw it, they look good on top of the bookshelf in the living room.
Also in my pitiful round of Googling — being married to somebody who actually does research for a living is humbling in so many ways — I found a company called Vulcan in the UK who make new cylinders you can buy if you have an old phonograph to play them (their website is here). I’ve always thought that would be a cool idea for black metal bands with short songs who don’t find tapes “kvlt” or shitty-sounding enough. Probably won’t take off as a trend, but as someone who regularly hears about this or that “dead format,” be it cassettes, CDs or vinyl, I’d die laughing to get a single on an Edison cylinder to review. Just make sure to include a download card.
Imperial Marimba Band, “The Messenger Boy March” (1917)
Here’s the story of how I came into possession of over 250 audio and video bootlegs all at once:
A few weeks ago, when I could still consider myself gainfully employed and not go into some kind of simultaneous laugh-cry about it, I got an email from a dude who reads the site. Knowing I’d almost certainly post about it later, he asked pretty early on not to be named. He said he had a bunch of live stuff from Wino he was looking to get rid of, that he’d been a big CDR and DVDR trader for bootlegs over the years and had got together a good collection. Needless to say, my interest was piqued.
He wrote that he wanted it to go to “a good home.” I said I was happy to provide one and to send over his list. I’ve never traded boots, but I know that in the days when physical trading was a thing, you were your list. He sent it over and I read it in slow motion. As advertised, there was a ton of Wino, from The Obsessed playing in 1983 and Warhorse at their high school in 1978 up to Saint Vitus in New Orleans in 2009, with a healthy dose of Shine/Spirit Caravan and The Hidden Hand stuff in between, audio and video. I found a video of a show from TheHidden Hand that I went to at the Khyber Pass in Philly, Feb. 5, 2004. I’m pretty sure you can see my big goofy head in the shot.
But the Winory is just the start of it. From The Atomic Bitchwax live at Roadburn in 2003 to shows from Warning, Valkyrie and a slew of sets recorded at Emissions from the Monolith (there’s a lot of “Live in Youngstown, OH” in late May 2003 and 2004), there are gigs from Revelation, Solace, Blood Farmers, YOB, Buried at Sea, Goatsnake, Test-Site and Acid King, Iron Man and Paul Chain. I said to the guy that I’d take everything on the list, and that’s just what I did. For $100 to cover the cost of discs, sleeves and shipping, I got 266 discs, some with more than one show included on them.
Here’s the full list:
Live & Demo CDs
35007, Roadburn Festival 2003
Abdullah, Cleveland, OH 10/18/01
Acid King, Baltimore, MD 10/2/00
Acid King, San Francisco, CA 7/16/01
Acid Mothers Temple, Chicago, IL 10/20/02 (2 CDs)
Agony Bag, Piss Out Your Trash Demo
Asylum, Demos 1986-88 (3 CDs)
Asylum, Baltimore, MD 4/13/07
Atomic Bitchwax, New Jersey 9/10/99 Atomic Bitchwax, Roadburn Festival 2001
Atomic Bitchwax, Berlin, Germany 5/11/04
Atomic Bitchwax, Switzerland 5/6/05
Dax Riggs, The Skeletal Circus Derails – Demo
Dead Meadow, Peel Sessions 2002
Deadboy & The Elephantmen, Demos
Deadboy & The Elephantmen, 10/9/03 Lafayette, La
Debris Inc., Cincinnati, OH 5/27/04
The Dictators, Asbury Park, NJ 6/8/91
The Dictators, Philadelphia, PA 5/30/98
Fu Manchu, Sweden 6/18/99
Grand Magus, Demo + Live 3/30/02 London
Helmet, Compilation (Rare, B-Sides Etc.)
Helmet, Blacktop 2/28/91
Helmet, New Orleans, La 8/5/91
High Rise, NYC, New York 3/14/00
House Of Large Sizes, I.O.W.A. – Live
House Of Large Sizes, Iowa City, IA 8/11/90
House Of Large Sizes, Davenport, IA 2/9/91 (2 CDs)
House Of Large Sizes, Cedar Falls, IA 8/16/90
House Of Large Sizes, Cedar Falls, IA 2/16/91 (2 CDs)
Internal Void, Frederick, MD 6/13/98
Internal Void, Indianapolis, IN 6/19/04
Iron Boss, Baltimore, MD 12/31/02
Iron Man, Force (Pre Iron Man)
Iron Man, Frederick, MD 12/31/07
Iron Man, Cincinnati, OH 3/14/00
Kyuss, Black Jeweler (B-Sides Etc)
Kyuss, San Francisco, CA 11/12/94
Kyuss, Desert Heavies
Kyuss, Desert Storm
Kyuss, Live At Bizzare Fest
Kyuss, Mercurious Pools
Kyuss, Norfolk, VA 12/18/92
Kyuss, To Infinity And Beyond
Kyuss, “Sons Of Kyuss “”Demo”" 39 Mins.”
Kyuss, Muchas Gracias
Nebula, Sweden 6/15/00
Opeth, Chicago, IL 10/02
Orange Goblin, Osaka, Japan 6/11/99
Orange Goblin, Austin, TX 5/10/02
Orange Goblin, Cincinatti, OH 5/27/04
Pale Divine, Frederick, MD 6/13/98
Pale Divine, Wheaton, MD 6/18/99
Paul Chain, Rimini, Italy 4/10/82
Paul Chain, Milan, It 1/15/90 (2 CDs)
Saint Vitus, First Album Demos
Saint Vitus, Koln, Germany 3/12/95
Saint Vitus, Firburgo, Swi 3/17/89
Saint Vitus, Torino 12/02/90 + L.A. 1984 (2 CDs)
Saint Vitus, Brain Sabbath – Boot
Saint Vitus, Washington, D.C. – 4/2/86 (2 CDs)
Saint Vitus, (Tyrant) Rehearsal 1978
Saint Vitus, Torino, Italy (2 CDs) 3/29/89
Saint Vitus, Tilburg, Holland (2 CDs) 4/24/09
Shine, Washington, D.C.2/13/98
Shine, Hagerstown, MD 5/14/98
Shine, Powertime E.P. + 3 Live + 9/20/97
Shine, Dallas 5/21/98 + Interview
Shine, Live 1997
Shine, Wheaton, MD 12/31/98
Shine, Washington, D.C. 12/13/97 (2 CDs)
Shine, NYC, NY 8/15/98 (Cuts)
Shine, Wheaton, MD 12/31/97
Shine, Washington, D.C. 8/10/97 (Slight Glitches)
Shine, Washington, D.C. 10/29/98
Shine, Baltimore, MD 8/16/98
Shine, Frederick, MD 9/20/97
Shine, College Park, MD 8/21/98
Shine, Washington, D.C. 6/6/97
Sixty Watt Shaman, 6/26/99
Solstice, Demos 1992-93
Spirit Caravan, Long Branch, N.J. 7/8/99
Spirit Caravan, Chicago, IL 4/26/02
Spirit Caravan, San Francisco, CA 7/16/01 (Glitches)
Spirit Caravan, St. Louis, MO 4/23/02
Spirit Caravan, U.K. 12/1/01
Spirit Caravan, Philadelphia, PA 8/3/01
Spirit Caravan, Baltimore, MD 5/15/99
Spirit Caravan, Wheaton, MD 8/14/99 (39 Min)
Spirit Caravan, Baltimore, MD 7/27/00
Spirit Caravan, Maryland 5/18/01
Spirit Caravan, Baltimore, MD 5/4/02
Spirit Caravan, Chicago, IL 7/26/01
Spirit Caravan, Brooklyn, NY 5/2/02
Spirit Caravan, New York City, NY 1/16/00
Spirit Caravan, Old Bridge, NJ 1/21/01
Spirit Caravan, Long Branch, NJ 2/18/00
Spirit Caravan, Cambridge, MA 8/1/01
Spirit Caravan, Munich, Germany 9/14/99
Spirit Caravan, Denmark 9/22/00
Spirit Caravan, Baltimore, MD 5/3/99
Spirit Caravan, Baltimore, MD 7/22/00
Spirit Caravan, Baltimore, MD 10/02/00
Spirit Caravan, Wheaton, MD 12/31/98
Spirit Caravan, Wheaton, MD 1/12/00
Spirit Caravan, Toledo, OH 1/14/01
Spirit Caravan, Youngstown, OH 9/3/00
Spirit Caravan, Youngstown, OH 5/27/01
Spirit Caravan, Toledo, OH 4/27/02
Spirit Caravan, Washington, D.C. 10/4/00 (Gaps)
The Hidden Hand, Pittsburgh, PA 2/12/07
The Obsessed, History Of Vol. 1 (Doom Records)
The Obsessed, History Of Volume 2 (Doom Recs)
The Obsessed, Live At The Wax Museum (Doom Recs)
The Obsessed, Washington, D.C. 3/14/85
The Obsessed, 9 Song Demo
The Obsessed, Various ’80′s Live
The Obsessed, Tucson, AZ 7/31/92
The Obsessed, Tucson, AZ 10/15/92
The Obsessed, Columbia Studio Session
The Obsessed, FM Broadcast December 1992
The Obsessed, Stuttgart, Germany 12/28/92
The Obsessed, Carrboro, NC 4/19/94
Trouble, Stuttgart, Germany 1/2/93
Trouble, One For The Road
Trouble, Aurora, IL 5/4/02 (2 CDs)
Trouble, South Barrington, IL 5/18/02 (2 CDs)
Unida, Chico, CA 5/24/00
Unida, Vienna 11/5/00
Unida, Unreleased 2002
Unorthodox, Asylum Demos 12/15/90
Unorthodox, Frederick, MD 10/14/00
Unorthodox, Frederick, MD 12/31/07
Unorthodox, Baltimore, MD 4/14/07
Wino, Tilberg, Holland 4/26/09
Wino, Athens, Greece 10/12/10
Acid Mothers Temple, 4/22/07 Charlottesville, VA 80 Min Alabama Thunderpussy, 11/4/06 Richmond, VA 62 Min
Asylum, 6/26/88 College Park, MD 115 Min
Atomic Bitchwax, 1/12/99 New York City, NY 64 Min
Atomic Bitchwax, 7/8/05 Baltimore, MD 63 Min
Atomic Bitchwax, 11/23/05 Washington, D.C. 54 Min
Blood Farmers, 4/15/07 Baltimore, MD 57 Min
Brant Bjork & The Bros, 5/21/05 Washington, D.C. 78 Min
Buried at Sea, 5/29/04 Youngstown, OH 30 Min
Clearlight, 8/14/99 Wheaton, MD 49 Min
Dead Meadow, 6/16/06 Washington, D.C. 46 Min
Debris Inc. – 5/29/04 Youngstown, OH 45 Min
Delicious, 5/27/04 Youngstown, OH 33 Min
Dixie Witch, 5/27/06 Youngstown, OH 42 Min
Doomed Nation, Volume 1 2004 65 Min
Doomed Nation, Volume 2 2005 85 Min
Dragon Ass, 9/5/03 Baltimore, MD 38 Min
Earthride, 9/3/05 Frederick, MD 18 Min
Earthride, 11/23/05 Washington, D.C. 34 Min
Fu Manchu, 1/30/96 Los Angeles, CA 38 Min
Goatsnake – 5/24/99 – Eindhoven, Germany 55 Min
Grief, 5/27/06 Youngstown, OH 57 Min
High On Fire, 12/15/04 Richmond, VA 65 Min
Hounds Of Hasselvander, 3/14/08 Washington, D.C. 65 Min
Internal Void, 8/28/04 Washington, D.C. 60 Min
Internal Void, 3/4/05 Baltimore, MD 28 Min
Internal Void, 9/3/05 Frederick, MD 69 Min
Internal Void, 11/23/05 Washington, D.C. 48 Min
Internal Void / Kelly Carmichael, 12/10/05 Frederick, MD 101 Min
Iron Man, 12/31/99 Wheaton, MD 68 Min
Iron Man, 4/15/07 Baltimore, MD 57 Min
King Valley, 9/5/03 Baltimore, MD 31 Min
King Valley, 8/28/04 Washington, D.C. 32 Min
King Valley, 3/4/05 Baltimore, MD 39 Min
King Valley, 5/26/05 Youngstown, OH 27 Min
King Valley, 6/25/05 Newark, DE 36 Min
King Valley, 9/3/05 Frederick, MD 34 Min
King Valley, 2/3/06 Leesburg, VA 40 Min
Kramer, Wayne, 7/13/02 Baltimore, MD 70 Min
MC5 / DKT, 6/18/04 Washington, D.C. 81 Min
Nebula, 6/2/02 Baltimore, MD 50 Min
Nitroseed, 6/2/05 Washington, D.C. 39 Min
Ogre, 4/14/07 Baltimore, MD 46 Min
Ostinato, 5/26/04 Washington, D.C. 48 Min
Ostinato, 10/29/04 Washington, D.C. 40 Min
Pearls & Brass / The Amoeba Men, 1/29/06 Richmond, VA 80 Min
Penance, 4/14/07 Baltimore, MD 63 Min
Revelation I, 4/14/07 Baltimore, MD 63 Min
Revelation II, 4/15/07 Baltimore, MD 57 Min
Revelation, 3/14/08 Washington, D.C. 65 Min
Rwake, 5/29/04 Youngstown, OH 40 Min
Saint Vitus, 7/21/87 Albany, NY 53 Min
Saint Vitus, 1987 Indianapolis, IN 42 Min Saint Vitus, 1993 Florida 100 Min
Saint Vitus, 7/1/03 Chicago, IL 56 Min
Saint Vitus, 4/11/09 New Orleans, LA
Shine, 12/29/96 Columbus, OH 27 Min
Shine, 2/14/97 Baltimore, MD 31 Min
Shine, 4/12/97 Washington, D.C. 54 Min
Shine, 8/15/97 Wheaton, MD 75 Min
Shine, 10/18/97 Wheaton, MD 65 Min
Solace, 5/28/04 Youngstown, OH 51 Min
Solace, 7/3/04 Baltimore, MD 30 Min
Solace, 9/5/04 Youngstown, OH 44 Min
Spirit Caravan, 7/8/99 Long Branch, NJ 61 Min
Spirit Caravan, 7/10/99 Richmond, VA 55 Min
Spirit Caravan, 8/14/99 Wheaton, MD 84min
Spirit Caravan, 2/2/00 Richmond, VA 59 Min
Spirit Caravan, 2/14/00 Cleveland, OH 67 Min
Spirit Caravan, 4/15/00 Youngstown, OH 53 Min
Spirit Caravan, 7/22/00 Baltimore, MD 28 Min
Spirit Caravan, 12/12/00 Hungary 68 Min
Spirit Caravan, 2/9/01 Springfield, VA 42 Min
Spirit Caravan, 5/18/01 Baltimore, MD 70 Min
Spirit Caravan, 8/1/01 Cambridge, MA 65 Min
Spirit Caravan, 1/19/02 Baltimore, MD 50 Min
Spirit Caravan, 5/2/02 Philadelphia, PA 60 Min
Spirit Caravan, 5/4/02 Baltimore, MD 56 Min
Stinking Lizaveta, 5/29/04 Youngstown, OH 40 Min
Suzukiton, 12/15/04 Richmond, VA 35 Min
Suzukiton – 5/29/07 Charlottesville, VA 38 Min
Test Site, 9/5/04 Youngstown, OH 35 Min
Test-Site, 6/1/05 Washington, D.C. 39 Min
The Hidden Hand, 12/31/02 Baltimore, MD 37 Min
The Hidden Hand- 2/22/03 Washington, D.C. 48 Min
The Hidden Hand, 6/24/03 Baltimore, MD 47 Min
The Hidden Hand, 8/29/03 Washington, D.C. 63 Min
The Hidden Hand, 1/16/04 Baltimore, MD 50 Min
The Hidden Hand, 2/5/04 Philadelphia, PA 60 Min
The Hidden Hand, 2/10/04 Baltimore, MD 45 Min
The Hidden Hand, 2/12/04 Lancaster, PA 30 Min
The Hidden Hand, 2/13/04 Washington, D.C. 45 Min
The Hidden Hand, 5/25/04 Washington, D.C. 54 Min
The Hidden Hand, 5/26/04 Washington, D.C. 52 Min
The Hidden Hand, 5/29/04 Youngstown, OH 42 Min
The Hidden Hand, 10/28/04 Philadelphia, PA 56 Min
The Hidden Hand, 10/29/04 Washington, D.C. 67 Min
The Hidden Hand, 1/15/05 Washington, D.C. 52 Min
The Hidden Hand, 2/12/05 Gaithersburg, MD 45 Min
The Hidden Hand, 4/16/05 Washington, D.C. 51 Min
The Hidden Hand, 5/20/05 Hartford, CT 48 Min
The Hidden Hand, 6/25/05 Newark, DE 52 Min
The Hidden Hand, 7/2/05 Washington, D.C. 47 Min
The Hidden Hand, 12/29/06 Washington, D.C. 56 Min
The Hidden Hand, 2/9/07 St. Paul, MN 60 Min
The Hidden Hand, 5/13/07 London, England 60 Min
The Obsessed, 1993 Fort Worth, TX 27 Min
The Obsessed, 4/18/94 Hampton, VA 36 Min
The Obsessed, 4/19/94 Carrboro, NC 40 Min
The Obsessed – Documentary 27 Min
Trephine, 12/11/04 Baltimore, MD 28 Min
Unorthodox, 6/19/04 Tradesmen Party 22 Min
Unorthodox, 7/31/04 Washington, D.C. 44 Min
Unorthodox – 9/4/04 Youngstown, OH 48 Min
Unorthodox, 4/14/07 Baltimore, MD 74 Min
Valkyrie, 3/4/05 Baltimore, MD 39 Min
Valkyrie, 11/4/06 Richmond, VA 37 Min
Valkyrie, 3/9/07 Richmond, VA 41 Min
Valkyrie, 4/14/07 Baltimore, MD 37 Min
Valkyrie, 5/29/07 Charlottesville, VA 37 Min
Warning, 4/16/05 Goppingen, Germany 64 Min
Wino, 1/28/09 Washington, D.C. 25 Min
Wino, 2/7/09, Washington, D.C. 57 Min
Witchcraft, 5/28/05 Youngstown, OH 66 Min
Witchcraft, 11/11/06 Washington, D.C. 45 Min
Wooly Mammoth, 6/16/06 Washington, D.C. 36 Min
Wooly Mammoth, 10/29/04 Washington, D.C.41 Min
Wooly Mammoth, 12/29/06 Washington, D.C. 36 Min
Wretched, 8/28/04 Washington, D.C. 30 Min
Wretched, 9/4/04 Youngstown, OH 24 Min
Wretched, 4/15/07 Baltimore, MD 42 Min
YOB, 5/20/05 Hartford, CT 45 Min
Warhorse, 1978 Rockville, MD 28 Min
The Obsessed, 3/80 Rockville, MD 106 Min (2 DVDs)
The Obsessed, 7/3/82 Washington, D.C. 74 Min (2 DVDs)
The Obsessed, 11/83 Kensington, MD 45 Min
The Obsessed, 2/11/84 New York City, NY 35 Min
The Obsessed, 6/16/84 Long March, PA 40 Min
The Obsessed, 4/17/94 Washington, D.C. 45 Min
Shine, 9/29/96 Wheaton, MD 45 Min
The Hidden Hand, 5/25/03 Youngstown, OH (Bass Heavy)
I’ve taken to calling it The Megabox.
It’s been here more than a week now and I’ve barely scratched the surface of what it contains. A Spirit Caravan show here, some Acid King there. At that rate, it’ll probably be years before I get through everything — if I ever do — and I have no idea how to organize it, because it can’t stay in the Megabox forever, but screw it, there was no way I was going to let an opportunity to own such a collection pass me by, even if it is CDRs in sleeves. Someone poured their heart into getting all of this. I was flattered even to be asked if I wanted it.
Yeah, some of it is available on YouTube or whatever blog or forum group, but considering I spent less than 50 cents for each of these shows and especially considering the human element in the media and the passion that clearly went into putting the collection together, I’m still ready to call it the bargain of the year.
Nebula, “All the Way” Live at the Ottobar, Baltimore, MD, 06.02.02
The chorus of the eponymous opener of Weed is Weed‘s self-released Blunt Force Trauma full-length debut sums up the band’s mentality neatly. It goes:
Weed is weed So plant the seed Oh yes indeed.
If there was ever any doubt about what weed is, let it be answered: Weed is most definitely weed. Weed is Weed culls together some of Maryland’s favorite sons of doom, fronted by Dave Sherman of Earthride himself with his former Spirit Caravan bandmate Gary Isom on lead guitar. Jason Fisher plays guitar, Darren Waters plays bass — though Mark Ammen (Unorthodox, Pentagram) and Johnny Kotsioukis (Wretched) both also play on the album, and Rob “Cougin” Brannigan (Wretched) plays drums. As you’d have to expect, the songs on Blunt Force Trauma are stoner rock to the end of each leaf, led by the riffs and Sherman‘s inimitable growl, but there’s a rough edge to the production that gives each piece a rawer feel, whether it’s the low-end boogie of “Low to No” or the later percussion/bass-driven “Goin’ Down to Harlem.”
So far as I can tell, the only track that has no mention of reefer is the sixth cut, “Eat Pussy,” which charmingly gets a PG-rated reworking as the unlisted bonus track “Eat Cookies” — “Eat them cookies when you come home from work/Eat them cookies don’t you be no jerk,” and so on, with an “Oooh, snickerdoodle” thrown in for good measure. This kind of tongue-in-cheek shenanigans is to be found all over Blunt Force Trauma– the album’s name itself turned into a pun thanks to the pot leaf on the cover — but between the mega-chug of the riffs, Sherman‘s vicious vocals, which harness some of his roughest growls to date, and Isom‘s how-did-this-dude-wind-up-playing-drums lead work, there’s more to be had throughout than inside jokes about pot. Though of course there are plenty of those as well.
Prior to that aforementioned bonus cut, the album proper rounds out with its title-track, which is plenty raucous enough even before the six minutes of noise and feedback round out its full 10:49 stretch, but if you’ve not yet climbed into Weed is Weed‘s smoke-filled van, you’re probably gonna have to get your fix somewhere else anyway. More downer crash and heavy THC-addled dirt ensue, which has more or less been the course of the album, though not without some sense of changing things up in terms of tempo if not overall method. It’s a what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of affair. They didn’t call is Weed is Something Else, did they?
Certainly not. As the group has been together since 2005 in one shape or another and since Blunt Force Trauma just came out this year, I won’t dare speculate on the timing of a follow-up, but whether you look at Weed is Weed as a sidebar to Sherman‘s work in Earthride or as a bunch of dudes from Maryland who’ve probably known each other for ages getting together to riff out and have a good time, the band makes no pretense about being anything more than just that. You might have to work to get a copy (and by “work” I mean send them a message on Thee Facebooks), but for those who can’t get enough of the grittier side of Maryland doom, Weed is Weed will be as welcome as cookies after work.
Had I been there longer than two days, I probably would’ve visited more shops than I did, but as it was, two weeks ago, The Patient Mrs. and I escaped to Montreal for a couple days and as is my habit in places I’ve never been before, I decided to do some CD shopping. I asked and was immediately given many helpful pointers on Thee Facebooks, and that was excellent, but again, with limited time, limited funds and a limited ability on my part to be like, “No honey I don’t want to go take a walk by the river I want to go sift through musty record stores,” I picked the two that showed the most immediate promise: Cheap Thrills on Metcalfe St. and Soundcentral on Rue Coloniale.
Cheap Thrills was first since it was closer to where I was staying. Located on the second floor of its building — an older structure surrounded by taller, newer ones, it looks a little bit like something out of a time warp — getting there required a walk up a staircase that was warped almost to the point of psychedelia but proved to be worth the risk. A table of used paperbacks outside the door provided greeting and inside, a varied selection of vinyl and CDs and more books (half the store was dedicated to books, half to music) awaited perusal. The LPs looked like the way to go, but I wasn’t looking to pick up vinyl and so, finding nothing in metal, waded through the retro section hoping for Chicken Shack or some other heavy ’70s obscurity.
There were a couple that piqued my interest, but nothing so much so that I actually bought it. Tapes were behind the counter and I looked at some of them as well, but well, it was early, I was only halfway through my coffee and barely awake. It wasn’t until I found the cheapo bin — three discs for $5 — that I started to really feel inspired. Going for some local flavor, I grabbed the 2007 Blackhorse full-length from native dronegazers Aun, and was dumbfounded when I stumbled on a copy of the 1999 outing from Floridian sludgers Cavity, Supercollider. Not only was it that album, but the original Man’s Ruin pressing. Yeah, I already owned it, but it seemed like an issue of principle. No way I could leave it there. I didn’t wind up hitting that three for $5 special, but between those and some books The Patient Mrs. picked up, I felt like I did reasonably well.
My magical track-my-movements-and-tell-me-where-to-go robot (aka my phone) didn’t work above the border, so finding Soundcentral was something of a challenge, but it worked out in the end. I knew I was in the right place when, as I started to check out the bins by the door, the dude behind the counter took one look at my Vitus shirt and told me the sludgy, doomy, stoner stuff was in the back. Off I went. Sure enough, up a couple stairs – Soundcentral is deceptively spacious, but creatively laid out, and again, there are books in back (also VHS tapes) — and around the hardcore section, there was a pretty wide variety of heavy styles, used and new, neatly enough organized and running a full gamut of subgenres.
Montreal has a history of diverse metal, from Cryptopsy to The Great Sabatini, but I knew from the modicum of research I did beforehand that Soundcentral was the official distro point for local trio Dopethrone, and having bought their two prior offerings at Roadburn 2012, I knew I didn’t want to leave without picking up a physical copy of the third.The aptly-titled IIIwas readily on hand, so I snagged that, and have been delighting in its Bongzilla-style stone-sludge ever since. For further Montreal-atry, I got Hell in Montreal by Mister Bones, who are from — wait for it — Montreal, and veering from the local stuff, was glad to find a CD copy of Egypt‘s 2013 return outing, Become the Sun(review here), and the 2012 debut, Wild Beyond Belief!, by Virginian outfit Satan’s Satyrs.
Those four probably would’ve been enough to send me out of Soundcentral confident I’d come out on the winning end, but my interest was also piqued by a self-titled outing in a sleeve by a band called Gruel. Normally, I wouldn’t shell out the cash for something in a sleeve — at a show, maybe — just as a moral standpoint, but already being out of my element in an unfamiliar city, I went with my gut and picked it up. The UK band released it in 2009 and played their last show in 2011, it was limited to 500 copies and it’s got a vicious threatening ambience to its sludge, something like Thou but with the additional off-puttingness of being an hour’s worth of material broken into four tracks that are slabs of 15 minutes apiece. Vinyl sides, in other words. On CD they make for a formidable challenge.
Knowing nothing about that, I got it basically just for the fun of taking a chance on it and on my way out, was given a copy of Coloniale, an also-limited 2010 3.5″ CDR from local and affiliated instrumentalists Squalor. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to play it when the time came — those tiny CDs can be trouble — but it wound up working fine in my laptop, and Squalor‘s garage-sounding noise-rock hit with suitable bombast. There are just three tracks on it, sort of like the compact disc version of a 7″ with one song on one side and two shorter ones on the other, but though the sound was raw the band kept my attention anyway, middle cut “Dos de Mayo” holding a line somewhere between psychedelia and caustic punk. They’ve reportedly got a new one in the works, so that’s something to keep an eye out for.
By the time I was done in Soundcentral, the afternoon was starting to wear on. Plans to hit the contemporary art museum proved ambitious and were tossed in favor of a nap. Poutine dinner and a semi-comatose walk by the aforementioned river followed, and in the morning, The Patient Mrs. and I started the long drive back down south. We’d talked about hitting Montreal for about a decade before we finally got to do it — we’ve stopped a few times over the years because of the sheer distracting gorgeousness of the Adirondacks — but if I make it back anytime soon, at least I’ll know where to get my shopping in.
By the time I was on Route 80 headed back east, I had assembled one of my finest record-shopping hauls to date. I said at the time it was no coincidence I was making a stopover in Toledo on my way out to Days of the Doomed III. Hitting Ramalama Records I regarded as an imperative. Flat, Black and Circular in Lansing, Michigan, was another, and adding Kalamazoo’s Green Light Records to the return voyage after the fest was like a bonus round of flipping through stacks that made the long ride to follow that much closer to tolerable.
All told, it was four separate hauls that made it back in the one full stack above. I haven’t had the chance yet to listen to everything — it last year’s acquisitions are anything to go by, it’s going to take a while — but I’ve had the full pile on my desk for the better part of two weeks now and it’s been a blast to make my way through, one album to the next to the next and so on.
Since I had so much fun buying this stuff, I thought I’d take an opportunity to nerd out and give a rundown of what I ended up with, where and how. Some of this has been reviewed, some not so much, but from Acid Witch to Whaler, it all seemed relevant one way or another. Screw it, I just like talking about buying albums.
As always, click any picture to enlarge. Let’s do this thing:
Ramalama Records — Toledo, OH
My basic plan for Ramalama was to pick up new albums and recent releases. More new stuff than used. Their used section is actually pretty good, for rock and metal both, but I had some CDs I wanted to buy of stuff that had been given to me digitally for review — have I mentioned yet today how much I think that’s horseshit? — and I knew doing it while supporting a place like Ramalama would take some of the sting out. Grabbing the Uncle Acid (review here) and Church of Misery (review here) was kind of a given, and along with the new Kylesa – I’ve been wanting to give a revisit since it was reviewed — and Anciients‘ Heart of Oak, which I meant to review so hard but was never able to make it happen, I picked up both of the Spitting Firelive albums by High on Fire — which could’ve been one CD so easily it’s almost funny and makes me wonder if there’s some contractual reasoning behind splitting them up — Circleby Amorphis (for whom I’m forever a nerd), and Voivod‘s Target Earth, which seems to be proving a point in how forward the guitars are though I’m not sure what that point might be. Out of the used section, I also managed to find two bootlegs: Demos 84 & 85from Celtic Frost, which I’m pretty sure is just a crappy rip of Morbid Taleswith some early live tracks added, and Clutch, Live 2002 Tour, which seemed like it was all one show until “A Shogun Named Marcus” came on, was twice as loud, and at least six years before 2002. Still cool to get live versions of “Cattle Car” and “Walpole Man” (here listed as “Warpole”), which were reworked into different songs by the time Blast Tyrantcame out, as well as a live version of the Jethro Tull cover “Cross Eyed Mary.” No complaints.
Flat, Black and Circular — Lansing, MI
The Heads’ 1995 debut, Relaxing With…might have been the find of the whole trip. It was released in a limited run 18 years ago (since reissued), but most importantly, the record itself fucking smokes. Killer heavy psych/space rock that even sounds ahead of its time for how it sounds dated. You can’t really see it in the pic above, but at the bottom of the mini-stack is a tin-box version of Dragging Down the Enforcerby Eyehategod offshoot Outlaw Order. I never bought it when it came out and figured if I was ever going to get a copy, this would be the one to get. The Stone Age ComplicationsEP by Queens of the Stone Age and Also Risingby SubArachnoid Space felt like good finds, and I grabbed another Amorphis just in case I wanted to listen on the way home, Iron Monkey and Slough Feg just because I didn’t have them yet and for a heavy ’70s fix, the self-titled Granicus and the second Warhorse album, Red Sea. Hoping for a funk fix, I snagged Fireby Ohio Players, and it’s decent but skirts a line with disco that takes away some of the weight in the rhythm section. Needless to say, I have a copy of Rootsby Curtis Mayfield currently on order and am anxiously attending its arrival. Flat, Black and Circular has yet to disappoint in the three or four times I’ve been fortunate enough to peruse its wares, and it was another one I was looking forward to hitting up. There’s always some treasure waiting.
Days of the Doomed III — Cudahy, WI
It might not look like so much, but the thing about it was that a lot of the bands playing the Days of the Doomed fest, I already had their stuff. I had hoped Beelzefuzz would have copies on hand of their forthcoming debut long-player, but no such luck. Still, I managed to do pretty well with what was available. Getting a copy of 2013′s Somnium Excessum directly from Dream Death was an experience that only underscored how lucky I felt to see the band live — they’d only had the vinyl at Roadburn when I asked bassist Rich Freund — and the reissue of The Gates of Slumber‘s 2004 debut, The Awakening, fell easily under the must-buy category. I also happened into a Thirst for Misery demo from Michigan classic metal/heavy rockers The Swill that stood out even before I put it on for its cover photo of a hoodie-wearing stormtrooper hoisting a can of PBR, and was glad to be given a copy of Sleestak‘s new Book of Hours EP, which I’ll be reviewing at some point in the coming weeks. Put those together with the gorgeous layout of Whaler‘s Deep Six and The Gates of Slumber‘s Scion-sponsored Stormcrow EP (which was free), and it was two days’ worth in quantity and quality. That Whaler record is a killer.
Green Light Music and Video — Kalamazoo, MI
The trip out of Wisconsin began sometime around 8:30AM. It was Sunday, and I had 700-plus miles to drive, but how many times a year do I get to pass through Kalamazoo? Right, once. So a stop seemed warranted, and when I walked into Green Light Music and Video and they were playing Queens of the Stone Age‘s Rated R, I knew I was in the right place. They had some choice vinyl and a few snazzy looking turntables, the kind of promo posters I didn’t know record labels still made, and a slew of old stickers — Roadsaw, Core, etc. — that let me know their affiliation to heavy rock was nothing new. An Acid Witch reissue, some Uriah Heep and Nick Cave were decent enough to happen upon — the Uriah Heep especially — and since it was on Man’s Ruin, I got Laced Candyby The Gaza Strippers, though it turned out to be a double. My favorite of the bunch, however, was Live at Colonia Dignidad by Finland’s Opium Warlords. I bought it because the description on the back cover promised a host of contradictions, including, “A celebration of psychosexual isolation” and “Quality time for a suicidal inner-space astrodoomonaut.” Turns out Opium Warlords is a solo-project for Sami “Albert Witchfinder” Hynninen (ex-Reverend Bizarre), and in what I can only assume is deliberate contrast to the whites and pinks of the album art, the music itself is experimental drone-doom, at times vicious and near-unlistenable, at other times minimal and atmospheric. It didn’t make for great driving music, but I dug it anyway, and Green Light made a fitting epilogue to a weekend of CD-buying excess I don’t anticipate being able to match for some time.
Ye olde Googlymaps lists the drive from Wisconsin to my humble river valley at a little over 15 hours with the stop-off in Michigan. I won’t say these records were much comfort to me when I lost over an hour sitting at a dead stop for bridge construction before getting 100 miles eastbound into Pennsylvania, but if anything was going to aid so helpless a situation, they probably would’ve done it.
I thought I had a pretty good grip on what Sleaze were doing. Their 2012 album — the full title of which translates A Glass of What Reminds Me of Lovesick Potions– starts off with some single-voice chanting and then moves into heavy-rock-via-punk grooves, thick bass adding a cool weight to the subsequent tracks. Again, I thought I had a grip. Then they kicked into surf rock, and then they kicked into full-on psychedelic reggae, and well, my alleged grip was gone.
The Taipei-based five-piece more or less throw the stylistic playbook out the window, and in terms of A Glass of What Reminds Me of Lovesick Potions, the results are near-universally awesome. I was given a copy of the record by NYC-based videographer Frank Huang with the caveat that a lot of people he’d passed Sleaze onto hadn’t really gotten where they were coming from. It would be easy to not, since even as they move through a course of heavy rock and hardcore punk, they throw in intricate, sub-math guitars en route to garage metal bombast, varying on an almost part-by-part basis between heavy genres and somehow emerging on the other end of the album’s 40 minutes not only unscathed, but smiling. Bluesy, wah-caked solos abound — there are a few stretches here that are full-on stoner metal, but Sleaze are no more fully adherent to that aesthetic than any other — but more than it’s anything else, principally, this music is exciting. Exciting, adventurous, viciously creative, the longest track — maybe called “A Dream in a Dream in a Dream” — pushing past an eight minutes more diverse than most bands’ entire careers and yet still cohesively flowing from one moment to the next.
And yeah, the reggae. A male/female duet tops Caribbean-style grooving and delay guitar on the title-track, later adding extra percussion and sax to what’s already made for a holy-crap-did-they-just-do-that kind of turn. Most of the songs are short, with eight out of the total 11 under four minutes, so as experimental as the feel is throughout, Sleaze never get too lost in indulging a single idea, instead moving from one to the next with both efficiency and passing ADD-style interest. This results in some of A Glass of What Reminds Me of Lovesick Potions‘ most satisfying bursts, the two-minute “Chair” and subsequent “Delusional Gain Fictional Loss” trading punkish rush against mid-range stonerly fuzz and winding up finding middle-ground between the two in layered early-Iommi leads. The 31-second “Joe” is basically just a riff cycled through a couple times, but even that has a larger purpose in the overarching scope of the album, seeming to resurface later on “Demon World,” suitably transformed.
Tossing in a bit of heavy ’70s blues rock swagger to finish out, Sleaze — whose name also appears as Sleaze ???? — emerge from the album as champions of the changeup. Their sound is so all-over-the-place that A Glass of What Reminds Me of Lovesick Potionscan’t help but wind up cohesive for the mere fact that the CD can go front to back without making your player explode. Toss in a gorgeous foldout poster and deliver it all with plenty of we-just-pushed-you-off-a-cliff youthful vigor, and I may have little to no idea what Sleaze are talking about at any point, but I’ve got enough context to realize I’m getting my ass kicked by it. They’re a band I could very easily see making friends among seen-it-all-heard-it-all heads down for experimental heavy, but whatever angle you’re coming from, they’re definitely worth a look.
Sleaze, A Glass of What Reminds Me of Lovesick Potions (2012)
So, funny story. Early last month, I picked up a copy of Michigan heavier-than-what-you-think-of-as-really-heavy duo Beast in the Field‘s second album, 2009′s Lechuguilla, with a few other assorted goodies, and as I’m wont to do, put up a post about it. In that post, I said I hoped it wouldn’t be too long before Beast in the Field had a follow-up out to their fourth album, 2011′s Lucifer, Bearer ofLight.
You can see where this is going. Turns out that just weeks before, Beast in the Field had released The Sacred Above, the Sacred Below on Saw Her Ghost Records. If I had taken two seconds and hit up the band’s Thee Facebooks page, I would’ve probably seen that the record was out and been able to include that information, but actually, I remember putting that first post together and barely being able to keep my eyes open, so yeah. Sometimes what seems like it would’ve been really easy in hindsight is super-fucking-difficult at the time.
Needless to say, an order was promptly placed for The Sacred Above, the Sacred Below– like, the same day — and I’ve been having my brains bashed in by its 71 minutes of tectonic crush ever since. Guitarist Jordan Pries and drummer Jamie Jahr seem to have transitioned out of the Satanic themes that drove their last outing into a more nature-minded sphere, though the music itself on the album’s nine tracks shows little of the Americana influence that one might expect as a result. No more than one could read into it before, anyway.
Rather, The Sacred Above, the Sacred Belowcontinues Beast in the Field‘s aural dominance in a manner so astoundingly fucking heavy that whatever ideas they want to put to it, I’m on board. Specifically this time, the artwork and song titles like, “Great Watcher of the Sky,” “Wakan Tanka” and “The Great Spirit of Light” abound with a Native American sensibility, as only the briefest moments of respite peak through the duo’s onslaught. Seriously, Jahr‘s snare drum is heavier sounding than most bands, and whether it’s on a shorter track like “Wakan Tanka” (5:24) or the propulsive subsequent basher “There Once Were Mountains of Ice,” Beast in the Field retain their brutal sensibility all the way to and through the 22:19 album apex of “Oncoming Avalanche.”
It’s nothing if not aptly named, enacting a massive build with hypnotic riff repetition and pounding kick drum at its center while Jahr and Pries march forward subtly toward a satisfyingly planetary crumbling. They could’ve put “Oncoming Avalanche” out as an EP easily, but here, it’s part of an overwhelming mash of riff punishment, seeing the chaos of the earlier “Hollow Horn” and the frenetic sway of “Altar Made of Red Earth” come to fruition across a vast plain of threatening chugging that gets torn apart to feedback as the guitars move out ahead of the drums backed by what sounds like and may or may not be a tower of amplifiers, pushing enough air out of the low end as they hit their noisy apex (after the slowdown; we’re talking 17-minutes in) to make the 12-minute title-track that follows seem like an afterthought.
Take that as an indication of the sort of largesse Beast in the Field are working with — that as “The Sacred Above, the Sacred Below” gets underway with Pries‘ guitar playing a riff that in most contexts would still bend knees the wrong way, the 11:15 that ensue, a bluesy lead fleshing out the midsection, feel like epilogue. If it seems like I’m overemphasizing how unbelievably fucking heavy The Sacred Above, the Sacred Belowis, it’s for the simple reason that I think more people should know who Beast in the Field are than currently do. No question the album is long at 71 minutes — the 9:14 “Covered by Clouds, Eaten by Snakes” follows the title cut — but it works in the band’s favor at least on the CD version to let the listener get lost in the pummel only to be jarred out of it here and there by what’s essentially more pummel from a different angle.
Complete with liner notes putting a narrative thread to the course of the tracks, The Sacred Above, the Sacred Belowis one of the most satisfying listens I’ve had this year, and I couldn’t have been gladder to have been alerted to its existence. I try to make outright recommendations sparingly, as little as possible, but with the Dead Man atmospherics of “Covered by Clouds Eaten by Snakes” and all the bludgeoning severity preceding, Beast in the Field more than earn it: Recommended.
Beast in the Field, “Hollow Horn,” “Altar Made of Red Earth” & “Wakan Tanka” Live, Sept. 30, 2012