“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
Among the least regrettable purchases I’ve made this year is Toner Low, III — the Dutch trio’s heaviest and stonedest album yet. The three-piece occupy a region of low end that few can claim to know. Conan, Ufomammut sometimes, and that’s pretty much it. III is the firstnew Toner Low album since 2008′s II, and I was fortunate enough to be able to grab a CD copy at this year’s Roadburn. It’s been caving my skull in ever since.
It doesn’t happen very often, but every now and again I encounter a record for which the volume — whatever it might currently be — never seems like enough. Toner Low‘s IIIisn’t without its droning moments, harkening back to what the second album brought in terms of development from the more straightforwardly Sleep-derived 2006 self-titled debut, but one needs only to look at the bright, vivid, weedian imagery of the artwork (awash in secret, intricate hieroglyphs and containing the sound advice, “listen to Ween“) to get a beginning semblance of where the band is coming from. The four extended tracks — titled as “Phase Six” through “Phase Nine” — are no less stoned.
Mostly instrumental throughout their course, Toner Low nonetheless work in a few shouts on the opening “Phase Six” from guitarist Daan, before his voice like the rest of the universe gets swallowed in the seemingly unstoppable churn of low end. They keep a solid clip in the 10-minute opener (also the shortest track on III) but ride an ultra-slow lurch for most of the first half of “Phase Seven” before devolving the piece from its rumbling crash to minimal bass malevolence from Miranda and sporadic guitar notes while drummer Jack takes a break until just before the seven-minute mark, at which point he marches in the thick swirl of one of III‘s most righteous grooves, which they continue to push until well past 11 minutes in, at which point the swarming noise and effects take over and become abrasive at points, only to be drowned out by the re-emergent riff. Once again, like the rest of the universe.
Even at their slowest, most plodding point, Toner Low aren’t lacking movement, and that remains true in the subdued opening of “Phase Eight,” which begins with the guitar and drums before the bass returns to hint at some of the massiveness to come. Both Toner Low and II had their quiet moments, but here the trio uses the atmospheric take as the beginning point for an effective build, a wash of static gradually mounting with the rumble, airy guitar and steady drum beat, before at 3:45, the bass claims the lead position as the guitars wander off, and even Jack and Miranda come to an eventual halt before bringing the song to full impact just past five minutes into its total 13. The tonal brunt unveiled, the only thing left to build is the pace, and the trio sets to it almost immediately, winding up in a gear similar to that of the opener, but sounding more unhinged as the track shakes itself apart back to the initial guitar line and (relatively) peaceful feel.
Fall for it at your peril. Closer “Phase Nine” clocks in at 17:47 and is practically an album unto itself, with psychedelic effects, more of Miranda‘s ultra-low bass and the distinct impression that the only reason Toner Low didn’t decide to play this riff for an hour solid was they got bored and decided to get a snack instead. To call it Dopesmoker-worthy doesn’t feel like overstating it, though after the vibrations doled out by III‘s first three tracks, the last one might get lost on already-dazed listeners. If you need to break the record up into multiple sessions, it’s worth it. At 4:27, the band shifts into fuller motion, guitars spacing out over the consistent, hypnotic repetitions, and with a slowdown, drone-out and open-sounding section with vocals, they set the stage for a payoff riff that carries them past 12 minutes, at which point the songcommences its own destruction, pushed past whatever sonic event horizon, into a surprising final few minutes of piano that are the finishing point.
A simple rule for life is anytime you run into a Toner Low record, you should buy it. In the case of III — which is out through an allegiance between the band’s own Roadkill Rekordz, Kozmik Artifactz and Freebird Records — it was one I knew I wanted even before I heard the first note, and I continue to be astounded that the three-piece can both be that heavy and manage to make the songs move at all. One listen to their tones and it just seems like something so mammoth a human being shouldn’t be able to make it go. But they do, when they choose to, and IIIwinds up a listen that satisfies as much as it pummels. And that’s saying something, because this shit is seriously pummeling. Not to be missed.
The drunken heavy rock charm of Canyon Creep‘s 2001 full-length, Hijack the World, makes itself known almost immediately on the aptly-titled intro, “Intro.” Starting off with some dramatic sampled horns that may or may not have been recorded from a tv and may or may not have come from Flash Gordon, a voiceover soon comes on to set the stage:
“Once upon a time in a land called suburbia There lived a noble breed of men Men who spent their lives on a never-ending quest For honor, glory… and fine chicks.”
So it goes, and “No Brakes” picks up as the first chapter of that quest — rife with unpretentious, ballsy riffing and a not-in-the-slightest serious mood. I managed to nab a copy of Hijack the World on the cheap thanks to All That is Heavy‘s ongoing series of $6.66 killer deals — along with records by Rite, Bongripper, Tweak Bird, Wellwater Conspiracy, Monkey3, Jason Simon, and so on — and with production by Billy Anderson and art by Italian collective Malleus in their early days, felt lucky to do so.
It tops 28 minutes and I suspect if it was going to change the planet it probably would’ve done so at some point in the last 12 years, but the San Francisco trio’s first and only studio outing tapped into a heavy riffing dudery that’s still prevalent today, guitarist/vocalist Tony Buhagiar keeping to a throaty delivery offset by some of the corresponding backing vocals of bassist Dave V. (who takes a lead spot on “Can’t Afford You”) and drummer Jerry Rivera. Songs are by and large short and straightforward, the longest being six-track and highlight “Black Bra” at 4:59, but extras like the gang shouts at the beginning of “I Got the Shakes” and the (surprisingly righteous) bluesy guitar interlude “Warm Beer” add to the no-frills appeal already present in the Northern California ode “Yreka,” which shows some of its date in lyrics bitching about guys in baggy pants, but winds up on the winning side of the argument anyway.
But the high point of the record is “Black Bra,” the unabashed dudeliness of which stands as symbolic of an era when “not being PC” meant more than an excuse for white people to post racist shit on Facebook. They’re doing it in the name of comedy, but there’s a narrative at work anyway and the cleverness of lines like, “Got stuck with a bad borracho/Started talkin’ shit and tryin’ to act all macho/He grabbed your ass and you decked el gacho/With a brick and I would’ve loved to watch you, yeah,” underscoring not only stoner rock’s ongoing penchant for interspersing Spanish lyrics (always fun), but a divide where charm and a familiar misogyny part ways. They’re on the right side of that argument too, and the brick has a lot to do with it, but more relevant, the song rocks and sets up the ending “Can’t Afford You,” “Yreka” and “Give Me Some,” all three of which are about scoring, on some level.
Canyon Creep can get filed maybe not under lost classics, but under decent records worth a look for those like me who may have missed them when they first came out. Another 10 or 15 years and all this stuff will get reissued by somebody or other. Buhagiar and Rivera play together in TucoRamirez,and at least according to the Canyon Creep Thee Facebooks, there’s a second Canyon Creep album being worked on that never came to fruition during the band’s first run, which ended in 2002 after Hijack the Worldcame out. Whether or not it ever comes together, the debut may be a blip on history’s radar, but it’s a blip with some cool riffing and beery grooves, and that’s enough for me to dig it.
Canyon Creep, “Warm Beer” & “Black Bra” from Hijack the World
I know this is going to sound strange looking at the stack of CDs above, but the truth is, I didn’t buy as much at Roadburn and Desertfest as I could have. For instance, this whole trip, I only picked up two pieces of vinyl — the new Electric Moon 10″ and the Yawning Man/Fatso Jetson split 12″ — and that’s it. I didn’t buy the Dread Sovereign 12″, limited as it was, and there were countless other pieces I could’ve grabbed and justified buying with the sheer fact that it was money I wasn’t spending on booze. I’m not going to go as far as calling it restrained, but it was nowhere near the most reckless I’ve ever been when it comes to spending cash on albums, even with the exchange rate taken into account.
Stuff like Winnebago Deal, Black Skies, Sparzanza and Endless Boogie (good thing I bought that, because indeed, they didn’t have it at the merch table) I’ve already talked about picking up at Sounds in Tilburg, and that was awesome. It came as a surprise though to find a full-on Svart Records table in the merch area when Roadburn itself started up. I guess it made sense, with Svart acts like Victor Griffin’sIn~Graved, Jess and the Ancient Ones and Seremonia playing the fest, but it was still cool to see and I appreciated the chance to buy CDs from the former two acts (the latter I’d already bought my last time at Armageddon Shop in Providence), since although I was sent digital promos for both, I’d rather save myself the trouble of hearing something like Jess and the Ancient Ones‘ Astral Sabbat or Hexvessel‘s Iron Marsh, liking it and then being pissed later and just cut out the middle-man, bite the bullet and buy the album without feeling like I then need to cover it. I got the High Priest of Saturn CD from that table too, and no regrets.
The Burning World Records table at Roadburn also had a few necessities, among them the Mount Wrath live set from Conan — their 2012 Roadburn appearance in the Stage01 room that was so frickin’ loud I feel like I can still hear it — and I also grabbed a disc from The Angelic Process called Coma Waeringthat I’d later learn was a reissue of a full-length from 2006 and not in fact a follow-up to 2007′s Weighing Souls with Sand, which I remember digging a lot when it came out on Profound Lore, and a copy of Slomatics‘ A Hocht, which Burning World released last year but which I hadn’t gotten to hear. Right on the other side of the same room was the Exile on Mainstream table, which was selling Toner Low‘s IIIand from which I also bought the first Tlön album, having remembered digging the second one after getting it from the same source last year.
It’s worth pointing out that neither of those records is actually on the Exile on Mainstream label, but they were selling them nonetheless and I relished the chance to pick them up, along with the self-titled Johnson Noise, which it turns out I already own, and a copy of Electric Moon‘s The Doomsday Machine, of which I’d later buy a double from the band’s table. Admittedly, when Electric Moon showed up, I got impulsive. My instinct was to buy everything they had, and I didn’t go that far, but in addition to a second The Doomsday Machine, I also got the Electric Moon, D-Tune EP, the aforementioned 10″ You Can See the Sound of… and one of guitarist Sula Bassana‘s solo albums, as well as Vibravoid‘s Gravity Zero on Sulatron Records. There was more and I’d have got it, but frankly I didn’t want to embarrass myself.
From bands, well, I got two tapes from The Cosmic Dead – Live at the Noteand Inner Sanctum – in addition to a CD of Orbiting Salvation, both Kadavar discs from their table, the digibook version of Les Discrets‘ Ariettes Oubliées… (review here) after seeing them so thoroughly bring that material to life on stage at Het Patronaat, Black Magician‘s Nature is the Devil’s Church, The Midnight Ghost Train‘s Buffalo, and the Within Time album byKoiramato, which I’d soon understand was being sold by Mr. Peter Hayden because it’s a full-length of complementary textures for MPH‘s Born a Tripsophomore outing. I set up the CD to go at the same time as the Born a TripBandcamp stream and sure enough, even the changes lined up. It was excellent. I’ve never gotten something like that just right before — see Neurosis‘ Times of Grace and Tribes of Neurot‘s Graceand me with my fingers on two very out-of-sync play buttons — so it was exciting on multiple levels.
Aside from a free Van Records compilation, that would be it from Roadburn, and though I tried and failed to hit up a couple stores I’d been to previously in London — goneski — I still did alright at Desertfest and at the pre-show, picking up albums from Enos and 1000mods from the night before the fest-proper began, and filling out the weekend with that already-noted Yawning Man/Fatso Jetson split vinyl, a CD by Black Moth that I haven’t had the chance to hear yet but am very much looking forward to based on the couple minutes of their set that I saw, and Center of Gravity by Croatian heavy riffers Center, which I was given to hopefully review. I haven’t gotten there yet — I’m back a week now and I haven’t even gotten caught up on email, though I’m working on it — but maybe one of these days. The record’s pretty cool, in any case.
A lot of the stuff I’ve not yet had the chance to check out, but the good part about an actual CD is I don’t get pissed off about the real estate on my desktop it’s taking up and delete the folder. Can’t say the same for, well, nearly every digital promo I get these days. The last couple years have definitely seen a decline for the compact disc — more than ever in 2013 were the vinyl-only releases featured — but I still did alright, and hopefully I’ll continue to do alright until CDs go the way of those other dead formats, LPs and tapes. And by that I mean get a retro comeback. I’ve got no shortage to listen to in the meantime.
Not that it’s not something I do on the regular anyway, but there’s something even more satisfying about going record shopping when The Patient Mrs. isn’t around. I guess it’s the illusion that I’m getting away with something, though basically, it’s that: an illusion. But a couple weekends ago, as I was headed down to Philly to catch Been Obscene share a Kung Fu Necktie bill with Borracho, SuperVoid and Clamfight (review here), she was gone for a few days and I took it upon myself to make a stop off at Vintage Vinyl in Fords to pick up a few odds and ends.
If ever there was a justification for the Garden State Parkway — which is among the most overpopulated, miserable, thin-laned highways I’ve ever driven on (and I’ve driven on California’s 101, the Masspike into Boston and I-95 all up and down the Eastern Seaboard) — it’s Vintage Vinyl. Exit 130 if you’re going southbound, as I was, it’s a destination-type shop; one worth traveling to even if you’re not necessarily driving somewhere else. Jersey has a scant few remaining, but Vintage Vinyl is the one most geared toward the heavier end of the spectrum. The metal CD section is the first thing you see after getting in the door. Awesome.
Most of what I grabbed this time through was stuff I’d reviewed by wanted a physical copy of. I’ve ranted enough about how much it annoys me to make these purchases — I suppose if someone had to be the last one to place any value whatsoever on my time, it was bound to be me — so I’ll spare that, but I was still glad to nab recent outings from Samothrace, Troubled Horse, Darkthrone, Orange Goblin and SardoniS. I’d wanted to get Royal Thunder‘s CVIand finally give it the listen I’ve felt it really deserved since I saw the band in Manhattan in February — even though their guitarist spit beer on the crowd — but decided to roll with the preceding 2010 self-titled instead.
That’s an old impulse. I remember being upwards of 10 years old, hearing a band’s song on the radio, and then buying the album before to hear where they came from. I don’t know if I’m the only one who does it, but it’s something I’ve always done. It’s a two-sided deal, because I do get to listen to the origins of a band, or at least the relative origins, but don’t get the material I want to hear. Why, when I was obviously buying a stack of discs, was I limiting myself to just one Royal Thunder CD when I could’ve easily solved the problem by getting both? I don’t know. Old habits die hard.
Fortunately, the self-titled is pretty awesome in its own right, though I think the pick of the haul might have to be Beast in the Field‘s 2009 sophomore outing, Lechuguilla. The Michigan instrumentalists hadn’t quite yet adopted the Satan-loving aesthetic of their two subsequent albums to date, 2010′s World Endingand 2011′s Lucifer, Bearer of Light, but the work itself is no less malevolent. Broken into six tracks, the 37-minute long-player is essentially one extended piece, building a huge tension throughout the first several tracks before finally landing at full impact with “Lake OF Blue Giants” and carrying a vicious lumber through the remaining two extended cuts, “Castrovalva” and “The Emperor’s Throne Room.” I got turned on to these guys last summer when I was out their way en route to Days of the Doomed II, and I have yet to regret getting ahold of one of their albums. I’ve got them all now, so they’re four for four in my book, and hopefully Lucifer, Bearer of Lighthas a follow-up soon.
I’d heard Mirror of Deception‘s previous outing, 2006′s Shards, and so was glad to pick up 2010′s The Smouldering Fireon the cheap with the bonus disc, and something I’ve been meaning to get as long as I’ve been meaning to get to Vintage Vinyl was My Sleeping Karma‘s last album, Soma. The purchase was bittersweet (it’s the first of their albums I’ve not been given a physical promo to review), but I was comforted by the opportunity to hear the two bonus tracks in the digipak version. First is “Interlude by Sheyk rAleph,” performed by the long-tenured German sitarist/psychedelic soundscaper Ralph Nebl, who uses Sheyk rAleph as a stage name, and second is “Glow 11,” a remix credited to Holzner & Kaleun that brings electronic beats into the melting pot of My Sleeping Karma‘s heavy psych meditations. What’s really interesting about it is neither would’ve been out of place had they been included as part of the album proper, which I guess shows just how expansive the band’s palette has become.
Of course, the subsequent gig at Kung Fu Necktie was the highlight of the night, but a bit of record shopping beforehand certainly took the bite out of the trip, there and back afterwards. And The Patient Mrs. was kind enough to not even mention it later, letting me keep my delusions of sneakiness, so really it was an all-around win however you might want to look at it.