Posted in Features on October 21st, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
10.21.14 — 3:21PM — Tuesday afternoon — East Bridgewater, MA
“Guess you ain’t driving!!!!” — Steve Murphy
Pesto dribbled down my beard from the hot soppressata, salami and fresh mozz sandwich I made myself for lunch. I drank today-fresh homemade iced tea out of the fridge and had pistachio-laden unsalted mixed nuts on the side while listening to the new Stubb album for the first time. The little dog Dio curled up on the doormat in a rare spot of New England autumn sunshine. I don’t think of the next two weeks as a hardship, but if you’re about to leave the place you live for any stretch of time, you might as well enjoy yourself before you go.
The tour starts on Thursday in Chicago. For the most part, it’s the same lineup as this past Spring — I’ll be traveling with Kings Destroy while they tour with Pentagram and Radio Moscow — only this time it’s reunited proto-metallers Bang as well. Blood Ceremony will play the Halloween show in Burlington and the NYC show on Nov. 1, and there’s an off-day on Sunday for which KD has a gig booked in Lansing, Michigan, with Beast in the Field and Hordes and Cruthu. It will be a good time and still a doable drive to Cleveland the next day. There’s a lot I’m looking forward to seeing, never having been to Chicago or Minneapolis, Grand Rapids or Pittsburgh, and a lot of familiar terrain for me as well. That will be a big change from earlier this year, and I’ve spent some time the last few days wondering if the rounded tops of the Appalachians will hold the same visual appeal as the pointed Rockies did in February, considering I grew up between them.
I’ll find out and let you know when I know. I leave here in three hours or so to head to New York. I’ll be crashing with KD vocalist Steve Murphy tonight, then tomorrow we pick up Jim Pitts, who’s driving once again — it was thought I’d do some road-time as well and may yet, but there’s something stupid with the rental company and my insurance that needs ironing out because they want to charge extra or some shit; I fucking hate paperwork — and the rest of the band and start the drive west. I expect a lot of Route 80 in the next 36 hours, but consider myself fortunate to have been asked along again by the band and am looking forward to watching them play each night on this run.
No, I haven’t packed yet. I haven’t even showered yet, if you want to know the truth, and I still need to charge the camera battery so I have it ready to go, but what the hell. If it happened on time, it wouldn’t be rock and roll.
Here is the full routing for the tour. If you’re planning to hit one of these shows, please say hi. I’ll hope to see you out there.
10/23 Chicago, Il Reggies*
10/24 Minneapolis, MN Mill City Nights*
10/25 Grand Rapids, MI Pyramid Scheme*
10/26 Lansing, MI, Ave Cafe^
10/27 Cleveland, OH , House of Blues*
10/28 Pittsburgh, PA, Mr Smalls*
10/29 Baltimore, MD, Soundstage Baltimore*
10/30 Phildelphia, PA, Johnnie Brendas*
10/31 Burlington, VT, Arts Riot#
11/1 NYC, Gramercy Theater#
11/2 Providence, RI, The Met*
* w Pentagram, Radio Moscow, Bang
^ w Beast in the Field, Cruthu, Hordes
# w Pentagram, Blood Ceremony, Bang
Posted in Features on October 7th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
If you’re looking forward to the Nov. 4 release of Apostle of Solitude‘s new album, Of Woe and Wounds(it’s out on Halloween in Europe), here you go. If you enter now by leaving a comment on this post, you can win a copy of the CD before it’s out. I know it’s doom and all, but it’s okay to be stoked.
Of Woe and Wounds is the third full-length from the Indianapolis four-piece, first for Cruz del Sur Music, and their first album with guitarist/vocalist Steve Janiak (also of Devil to Pay) and bassist Dan Davidson in the lineup alongside guitarist/vocalist Chuck Brown and drummer Corey Webb. The difference is palpable throughout, Janiak taking lead vocals on “Lamentations of a Broken Man” and harmonizing with Brown on cuts like “Die Vicar Die” and the eight-minute “Luna,” which, in an effort to let you have more of an idea what you’re going to win in this giveaway, you can stream on the player below:
Here’s some info on Of Woe and Wounds, courtesy of Cruz del Sur:
The album was recorded by Mike Bridavsky at Russian Recording in Bloomington, Indiana (USA) in May 2014, and is the first album featuring new members Steve Janiak and Dan Davidson. The addition of Davidson and Janiak has opened the classic Apostle of Solitude sound to new depths, vocal dynamics, and dimensions. Cover artwork for the album is by David Csicsely.
“Of Woe and Wounds” will be AoS third full length studio album after their 2008 release “Sincerest Misery” and “The Last Sunrise” (2010) and will be released in compact disc, vinyl and digital in October 31 (Europe) and November 4 (North America) on Cruz del Sur Music.
*Leave a comment on this post to enter. Winner is chosen one week from today. Please make sure to include your email address in the comment form so I can contact you if you win.
Posted in Features on September 18th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
I promise you, I didn’t time this second Vinyl Week giveaway to the Scottish independence vote. I’m not that coordinated. Edinburgh’s Of Spire and Throne released their James Plotkin-mastered Toll of the Wound EP earlier this year on New York’s Broken Limbs Recordings on LP, CD and tape (available here), and if you enter now by leaving a comment on this post, you can win the release on all three formats. You get everything shown in the pic above, including BOTH editions of the 12″ vinyl, red and black. It’s a huge prize and I’m maddeningly jealous of whoever is going to win it.
Toll of the Wound is Of Spire and Throne‘s third EP, the trio presenting three extended tracks of slow motion sludge bludgeoning over a brutal half-hour course that, for most bands, would probably qualify as a full-length. They keep a strong sense of atmosphere in their material, guitarist/vocalist Ali Lauder, bassist Matthew Davies and drummer/key specialist Graham Stewart pushing low and slow throughout “Legacy,” “Tower of Glass” and “Cascading Shard,” each ensuing rumble seeming to shake more than the last as they lumber and growl their way through, upping the pace every now and again as a payoff but still keeping to an extremity of a crawl and thud.
If you don’t believe me, take a listen:
Toll of the Wound on 140g black or red vinyl in a gatefold sleeve with full-size insert and sticker. Comes with a PVC outer sleeve. CD with 4 page booklet in a remus spine CD gatefold with shrinkwrap. Red printed cassette with inlay. Comes with download code.
Vinyl x 300 (100 red, 200 black) CD x 500 Cassette x 100
*Leave a comment on this post to enter. Winner is chosen one week from today. Please make sure to include your email address in the comment form so I can contact you if you win.
Posted in Features on September 16th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
PLEASE NOTE: This contest is now closed. Thanks to all who entered.
You know the drill. Leave a comment on this post to enter for your chance to win the gorgeous slab of wax shown above, signed by the band themselves. Geezer‘s Gage was released this past weekend by STB Records and, true to form, they went quick. The NYC trio self-released the EP last year, but STB presents its first physical pressing in a gorgeous orange/red vinyl swirl limited to 125 copies with full-size art by Alexander von Wieding and a couple photos on back by yours truly. That’s the “Not So Standard” edition (the OBI strip version was delayed at the press; “Die Hard” edition has one copy left as of this post), and it lives up to its name.
I’m extremely grateful to the trio for offering up this signed copy of the EP, and all the more for its limited numbers. I’ll have a review up in the coming weeks, so stay tuned for more, but the short version is you don’t want to miss your chance to own a copy, especially at the price here, which is nothing.
Not So Standard Edition – Limited to 125 Pieces Vinyl – Orange and Oxblood mixture configuration
The not so standard edition boasts a beautiful configuration of two colors form the inner part of the cover art. Orange and dark reds. The swirl created by this mixture is bar none and really compliments the cover art and labels. Comes in a high quality hand numbered reverse board jacket
Artwork and design by – Alexander von Wieding Layout by – Justin @Justinedgedesigns (instagram) Label Design – Niklas Olsson (Spelljammer)
*Leave a comment on this post to enter. Winner is chosen one week from today. Please make sure to include your email address in the comment form so I can contact you if you win.
For more than five years now, Berlin-based guitarist/vocalist Christian Peters has been working ceaselessly to bring his band Samsara Blues Experiment to the forefront of heavy psychedelic consciousness. From touring the West Coast of the US before they even had an album released to graphic design work to founding his own label, Electric Magic Records in order to bolster other acts — having an outlet for a collection of solo recordings released under the name Soulitude didn’t hurt either — to playing fests like Roadburn, the Desertfests, Freak Valley and many more, as well as touring, SBE has taken the harder road of getting their name out. At the same time, Peters has been at the fore of Samsara Blues Experiment‘s creative development since the start, their three albums — 2013’s Waiting for the Flood(review here), 2011’s Revelation and Mystery(review here) and 2009’s Long Distance Trip(review here) — showcasing a fluid psychedelia both creatively open and propelled by rich tonality. On both levels, the work of Peters and his bandmates has begun to pay off.
When I sent him the Questionnaire to fill out, Peters was on a well-earned vacation — no computer — but back to the grind, he wasted no time in sending back his answers, which I think you’ll enjoy reading:
The Obelisk Questionnaire: Christian Peters
How did you come to do what you do?
I started playing guitar at the age of 10. My father, more or less, forced me to learn an instrument at that time, so you can imagine how “happy” I was back then with playing Folk and Classical guitar. Every day at least one half-hour was my torment as a kid, really. I didn’t touch my guitar for one year when I was around 15 or 16, but then got finally addicted to music and so started to teach myself E-Guitar and all (or most of) the other instruments I play today.
Describe your first musical memory.
Singing tradional German Folk songs in the car with my Mom and Dad, all together. I may have been around 4 or 5 years old.
Describe your best musical memory to date.
First rehearsal with my first band, back in 1999. First professional recording, later then. Releasing a first LP record with Terraplane in 2007. Playing in San Francisco with SBE in 2009. Well, there seem to be plenty of good memories, but these are the best up to date.
When was a time when a firmly held belief was tested?
All the time, somehow.
Where do you feel artistic progression leads?
Happiness perhaps? For instance I am seldomly really happy with recordings. But then sometimes I am not even sure if there´s much progression left for me, haha. Then I sometimes feel like being trapped in that certain picture, even if the frame seems pretty wide.
How do you define success?
Being happy with what I do.
What is something you have seen that you wish you hadn’t?
All the things I´ve seen make me who I am, not all was pretty. I have seen sickness, poverty, lethargy, loneliness and death and more. It´s what most of us see in their fair share — some more, some less, some earlier and some later. Life isn´t always pretty, so let´s deal with it and write some songs about it to ease the pain. That´s how I try to get along.
Describe something you haven’t created yet that you’d like to create.
Much better albums. So let´s progress!
Something non-musical that you’re looking forward to?
NFL season 2014 and of course my next meal ;-).
Samsara Blues Experiment, “Shringara” Live in Athens, May 2014
Posted in Features on August 22nd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Right now, you’re probably saying to yourself, “Wait, what? These people are going to be on Earth‘s next record?” I don’t know. I doubt it. This is a wishlist. It goes like this:
Earth release their new album, Primitive and Deadly, Sept. 2 on Southern Lord Recordings (preorders are here). I’ll have a review up in the next week or two, but if you’ve ever listened to the massively-influential Seattle mainstays, you know they’ve been instrumental for the bulk of their run to date. For the first time, the new album brings in guest vocalists — the venerable Mark Lanegan (ex-Screaming Trees, etc.) and Rabia Shaheen Qazi (Rose Windows) — on a few choice selections. The results, as you’d expect and as you’ve probably heard by now, are stellar.
I had the record on just now and was daydreaming about what a new avenue Earth – founding guitarist Dylan Carlson, longtime drummer Adrienne Davies and bassist Bill Herzog – have opened for themselves. Of course, if time has proved anything, it’s that Earth work best following their own creative whims and drives, but it wasn’t long before I had a handful of voices I thought would work really well if they wanted to continue pursuing a partially vocalized approach.
Should you have a name to add, please feel free to leave a comment. Here’s who I came up with:
1. Ann Wilson
Okay, so maybe I’m breaking out the big guns right way, but how badass would Ann Fucking Wilson sound on an Earth track? Then and now, her voice is so powerful, moving and I just think she’d nail any part given to her and bring the spaciousness in Earth‘s signature drone-rock approach to an operatic level. I know she’s done most of her work in more traditional structures — Heart could be pretty out there, but still — but you can’t tell me she wouldn’t absolutely kill it in collaboration with her fellow Seattle-ites. Plus you might convince her to break out some flute, and that’s a bonus.
2. Marianne Faithfull
I admit this one’s kind of a reach, but one-time Rolling Stones collaborator Marianne Faithfull shares one thing in common with Earth‘s sound, and it’s a lasting resonance. Faithfull‘s voice can be so uplifting or so, so sad, and either side that she brought to Earth, it would work. It really would. It sounds really crazy, but I’m telling you straight up, it would absolutely work and be amazing, and you’d call me up or text me or whatever and like, “Dude, you were right, this is killer,” and then we’d get together and high-five about it, which would also be awesome.
3. Mark Lanegan
But wait, doesn’t Mark Lanegan already sing on Primitive and Deadly? Yeah, he does. It’s fucking great. They should do it again sometime.
4. Sera Timms
The former Black Math Horseman and current Ides of Gemini vocalist seems to carry an ethereal sensibility with her wherever she goes. Certainly that was the case on Field of the Host (review here), the 2013 debut outing from her solo-project Black Mare, and I’d say it holds up on Ides of Gemini‘s new one, Old World/New Wave (review here) as well. Timms does a lot of fascinating work with echoing effects and layering, and has a lot of experience in open structures and droning sounds, so even aside from the otherworldly folkishness of her approach, she seems like a natural fit.
5. Dylan Carlson
Stay with me on this. Yeah, he sang on 1996’s Pentastar: In the Style of Demons, but after almost 20 years of going the other way, Earth have switched it up and decided to incorporate singers. As the founder of the band, doesn’t Dylan Carlson deserve a say? I think he’s more than earned it, and I don’t even care if he doesn’t want to sing. Let him do a spoken word retelling of his grocery list, it doesn’t matter. It just seems to me that if this is something Earth are going to pursue for any amount of time going forward, it’s as worthwhile for them to look inward as outward in challenging themselves.
Earth‘s Primitive and Deadlyis out Sept. 2 on Southern Lord, and they’ll begin a US tour with King Dude two days later (dates here). More info at the links.
Posted in Features on August 8th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
In talking to John Garcia about his self-titled solo debut, the one thing that seemed to keep coming across was a central appreciation for the process of creation, the actual making of the album. It couldn’t have been easy to put together. Released by Napalm last month, John Garcia‘s John Garcia(review here) utilizes just one drummer, Tom Brayton, and of course just one singer, but a slew of guitarists and bassists, among them members of Garcia‘s own past outfits, including Slo Burn and Hermano, whose guitarist, Dave Angstrom, was also an essential part of the creative process. The songs come from decades of demos and penned-out pieces stuffed in a cardboard box in Garcia‘s closet, and after talking about a solo project for years, it’s fitting it should come together around material he’s lived with this whole time.
Likely I don’t need to rattle off the list of bands for which Garcia has served as frontman, but I will anyway because it’s fun: Kyuss, Slo Burn, Unida, Hermano, as well as countless guest spots live and recorded. He was one of two Kyuss members whose tenure spanned the entire length of the band, and no less essential to crafting their influence on desert rock than was guitarist Josh Homme or fellow Kyuss songwriter Brant Bjork, with whom Garcia reunited for last year’s Vista Chino full-length outing, Peace(review here), which, like John Garcia, was recorded at Thunder Underground Studios in the California desert with producer Harper Hug. His voice is like an unmistakable signature — a gritty, stomach-tightened soul that bursts from a subdued croon at a syllable’s notice — but on the album, it’s as much about the songwriting itself as what Garcia is doing vocally, and both impress.
And with an assortment of players involved, John Garciaalso manages to sound cohesive and fluid from front to back, opener “My Mind” starting the record with one of its grandest hooks and setting the stage for a progression varied but never derailed, even as the fast-rolling “All These Walls” gives way to acoustic closer “Her Bullets Energy,” which is distinguished by a guest appearance by The Doors guitarist Robby Krieger. For someone who’s long-since cast his legacy in stone with his vocal style and not his songwriting, it’s a particularly bold venture, but Garcia thrives on the new ground, and if his passion in realizing this material is anything to go by, a second solo outing may not be far off. He gives some hints in that regard as well.
For fans of Vista Chino, they’ll find that band on hold while Garcia and Bjork pursue their solo outfits and Mike Dean returns to C.O.C., who are also touring and have an album out. Garcia has put together a live group with whom he’ll tour much of the next year, including guitarist Ehren Groban of War Drum, and bassist Mike Pygmie and drummer Greg Saenz of desert-dwellers You Know Who. In the interview that follows, Garcia talks about transitioning out of Vista Chino and forming this new band, as well as assembling the songs and players for the record, his time in the studio and the prospect of touring a set spanning his illustrious career.
A quarter century after solidifying their legacy as one of the foremost arbiters of crust with 1985’s Arise! and 1987’s Monolith full-lengths, as well as 1983’s clarion No Sanctuary, the raw, pummeling and thoughtfully raging force that was Amebix did what seemed for a long time to be unimaginable: They put out another album. Bringing together founding brothers Rob “The Baron Rockin Von Aphid” and Christian “Stig” Miller with drummer Roy Mayorga (ex-Soulfly, Ozzy Osbourne, etc.) , 2011’s Sonic Mass(review here) was above all unexpected. A metallic turn from Amebix‘s original era that had been heralded somewhat by the 2010 ReduxEP that reworked three older selections, Sonic Masscaught Amebix devotees off guard, but found the band’s lack of compromise and willful self-direction more than intact. Over 30 years on from their first demo, they still refused stagnation.
Rob Miller is known outside of music for his quality craftsmanship and classic sword-making for a company he founded during Amebix‘s long absence called Castle Keep. Based out of the Isle of Skye in the north of Scotland, Miller took time out this winter to reflect on his work.
The Obelisk Questionnaire: Rob Miller
How did you come to do what you do?
In 1991 I arrived on Skye after a motorcycle accident in Bath, Somerset. At that point in my life I was once again without a home and at the end of a bad relationship. The accident broke my arm and trashed my bike, I was left with nothing but the tattered clothes I stood up in.
I decided that, as I could not return to work in the night shift job I had, I would head to Scotland to see my folks after many years without much contact. Skye was very different, a harsh and brutal landscape in winter yet also wide open and free. I moved up a few weeks later, bike and belongings in a van and started out by working in Hotels as a waiter and kitchen staff to bring money in.
Out of the blue a cheque appeared from my insurance, compensation for the accident. I had learnt to make the best of opportunity when it arises and decided to look into something I had always had a fascination with, swords. This was before the internet so I started by writing to antiquarian bookshops looking for books and manuals on Arms and armour, meanwhile buying a few rudimentary tools and beginning the process of learning how to be a smith. It took some time and a lot of mistakes, 23 years later I am established as one of the better Sword makers worldwide. By no means the best, but accomplished to a degree of which I am quite proud.
Describe your first musical memory.
Radio at my grandparents’, “Lilly the Pink” was the song. I was growing up in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s so became tuned in to glam rock, T-Rex, some stuff like Joe Cocker, The Move, Procul Harum. The music you hear at an early age tends to go deeper than a lot subsequently.
Describe your best musical memory to date.
Personally, playing the [Great American Music Hall] in San Francisco. The whole place was heaving, alive and electric, band and audience totally in sync with one another.
Live, (coff) Manowar in Bristol circa 1983. Mercyful Fate had dropped off the tour and the crowds simply did not come. They played in front of maybe 200 people in a 5,000-capacity Hall, and gave it everything they had. I learnt a lot that night about people who really believe in what they do and the shallow world.
When was a time when a firmly held belief was tested?
The past two years have seen most of my personal beliefs tested to breaking point. I have believed in the basic goodness of most people and that has been proved wrong too close to home.
However, I think we can get trapped in other people’s dramas and feed the lie, sometimes you need to step aside and let the river flow by. I have learned how to start again many times. ;)
Where do you feel artistic progression leads?
Hopefully to a perennial body of work. In one form or another, there is a compulsion in the artist to strive, and a constant dissatisfaction with the work. This is what keeps us going. The work itself must become the very highest expression of yourself. The medium is not important.
How do you define success?
Inner calm, confidence. The conquest of Fear and doubt.
What is something you have seen that you wish you hadn’t?
Pineapple Express and another couple of dozen stupid fucking Hollywood movies that have effectively wasted precious hours of this life.
Describe something you haven’t created yet that you’d like to create.
I would like to create one truly great song, indisputably great on every level, something that would affect actual change in the listener. There are only a few dozen instances that exist, that is true Art.
Something non-musical that you’re looking forward to?
Here on Skye it is wintertime. The land dies and we lose touch with nature, we forget the signs and signals, the internal language of the Spring. I look forward to that. Here, we have five months of winter. When it is through there is a very real feeling of having been reborn once more. The cycle begins again. Life is neither good nor bad. Life just is.
Amebix, Live at the Great American Music Hall, San Francisco, CA, 2009
Posted in Features on July 10th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Any discussion of 2014 highlights is incomplete without Conan‘s Blood Eagle. Their second full-length and Napalm Records debut (review here), it cemented the UK trio’s place among the planet’s heaviest bands and solidified the songwriting that their 2012 debut, Monnos(review here) and preceding 2010 Horseback Battle Hammer(review here) and 2007 Battle in the SwampEPs first announced to an audience who’ve been only too willing to be crushed by it since. Cuts like “Crown of Talons,” “Gravity Chasm” and the galloping “Foehammer” once again demonstrate that there’s more to Conan than ungodly tones, abyss-born shouts and chest-shaking thud — they’re also a growing, progressing band.
This year, part of that progression has led to bassist/vocalist Phil Coumbe leaving the band and being replaced by Chris Fielding, also the producer who’s helmed Conan‘s recordings for the last four years. Fielding, now transplanted from Foel Studios to Conan guitarist/vocalist Jon Davis‘ own Skyhammer Studio, is a natural fit, and European touring, as well as stops at Roadburn (review here) and Hellfest have brought to bear the reality that Conan – Davis, Fielding and drummer Paul O’Neil – haven’t missed a step and that their lumbering riffs are as cleaving as ever. They move forward with unmatched pummel, and the sheer force of their material has rightfully won them acclaim worldwide from riff-worshiping masses humbled by their hoods-up assault.
We spoke just before their appearance at Hellfest in France, and Davis — who in addition to owning Skyhammer also founded the label Black Bow Records in 2013 — had much to say about running his own imprint and studio in addition to the band. In the interview that follows, he talks about upcoming releases, his itch to start writing again for Conan, the founding steps being taken for a side-project called Overthrone, how he prefers to write without bassists present, long tour drives, the prospect of going to Australia for the first time (they’re booked for a tour in September), reissuing material on Black Bow and more.
Even as I put this interview together, they’ve announced being confirmed for Amplifest in Portugal this October, as well as supporting High on Fire for some of their upcoming European shows, so much continues to take shape for Conan in the wake of Blood Eagle. No surprise. When an object as massive as Conan‘s sound builds up any amount of momentum, there’s rarely hope of slowing it down.
The complete, 5,200-word Q&A is after the jump. Please enjoy:
Posted in Features on July 8th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Before I even start, let’s get one thing out of the way. I want a new Sleep album too. My not including them on this list isn’t due to the fact that I don’t think a new Sleep album is a good idea, but just because I haven’t seen anything about it being recorded or released in the next five-plus months. If it hits on Jan. 1, 2015, I’ll be the happiest Baby New Year you ever saw, but that’s a different list altogether.
Ditto that Om and High on Fire. The latter were writing as of May, and I know Om did some recording way back in January, but I’ve yet to see solid word of new records at all, let alone before the end of the year. Either or both or all three may happen, but until I see some hint of it, all I can go on is the info I can find.
Seriously though, how badass would it be if all three put out albums before the New Year? That excitement is kind of what this list is about. Some of these records I’ve heard, but most I haven’t, so it’s just basic speculation about what I think could be some of the best releases in the next couple months. You’ll note that while there are plenty of dates TBA, nothing listed arrives in November, so as 2014 winds down, there’s bound to be even more quality stuff than appears here.
In fact, I struggled to take things out to get it down to 30. And it still goes to 31! I figured no one would mind. They’re numbered, but the list is in alphabetical order.
If I left something out you’re dying to hear, please let me know in the comments.
Thanks in advance for reading:
1. Alunah, TBA (Sept.)
Birmingham’s Alunah, like several others below, are a holdover from the Most Anticipated Albums list back at the start of the year. The difference between now and then is that, while its title still hasn’t been revealed so far as I know, their Napalm Records debut has been recorded, mixed and mastered, the latter by Tony Reed, the former by Greg Chandler of Esoteric, and given a September release date. Two years after Alunah made riffy doom sound easy on their sophomore outing, White Hoarhound (review here), I look forward to hearing how they’ve grown and shifted in their approach to warm-sounding tones and memorable hooks. They’ve set a pretty high standard for themselves. Alunah on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.
2. Apostle of Solitude, Of Woe and Wounds (Oct.)
These guys. I don’t mind telling you it was a thrill when Indianapolis doomers Apostle of Solitude were announced as having signed to Cruz del Sur to release their third album, Of Woe and Wounds, this fall. Their second outing, 2010’s Last Sunrise (review here), didn’t get the attention it deserved, but the handful of songs they’ve made public since have shown much promise, and as the first Apostle of Solitude full-length to feature guitarist/vocalist Steve Janiak (also Devil to Pay) in harmony with guitarist/vocalist Chuck Brown — the band is completed by bassist Dan Davidson and drummer Corey Webb — this is definitely going to make for a doomly autumn. Apostle of Solitude on Thee Facebooks, Cruz del Sur Music.
3. Blackwolfgoat, Drone Maintenance (Aug. 26)
Recorded late last year at Amps vs. Ohms in Boston, the third album from Maple Forum alum Blackwolfgoat — the prog-drone alter ego of guitarist Darryl Shepard (Milligram, Black Pyramid, The Scimitar, Roadsaw, etc.) — is the project’s most expansive outing yet, and it seems Shepard is moving more in a song-based direction, rather than some of the building loops of the past two offerings. Of course, there will be plenty of those as well, but watch out for some acoustic guitar, and deep-in-the-mix vocals, as they could easily hint of things to come. Or Darryl could turn it on its head and do a calypso record. Either way, I’m on board with no pretense of impartiality. Blackwolfgoat on Bandcamp, Small Stone’s Bandcamp.
4. Blues Pills, Blues Pills (Aug. 5)
The much-heralded Swedish/French/American psych-blues conglomeration Blues Pills will make their self-titled debut (short review here) next month, and while it’s probably going to be a bigger deal in Europe than in the States — at least until Nuclear Blast brings them over here for a tour, then the country is going to go apeshit for them — the songwriting and soulful execution of their tracks justifies the hype. There’s a bit of retro posturing to what they do, some Graveyard shuffle (it feels inevitable at this point with a ’70s-influenced band), but the grooves are easy to dig into and the potential is basically limitless for where they want to go. It’s scary to keep in mind, but this is just the beginning. Blues Pills on Thee Facebooks, Nuclear Blast.
5. Bongripper, Miserable (July 7)
You may notice something strange about the date above for a list of upcoming albums in that July 7 was yesterday. Well, Chicago’s Bongripper posted their new three-track full-length monster Miserable on their Bandcamp for stream and download ahead of the vinyl’s arrival, and it was just too righteous to leave out. Those seeking landmark riffing need look no further than the 19-minute centerpiece “Descent,” which meters out stomp enough that future “scientists” will study its footprint, and closer “Into Ruin” (28:25) is guaranteed to be the heaviest half-hour you’ll spend today. Miserable feels like a no-brainer, but maybe that’s just because Bongripper have such a propensity for pounding skulls into mush. Bongripper on Thee Facebooks, Miserable on Bandcamp.
6. Botanist, VI: Flora (Aug. 11)
I feel like I missed a couple numbers from San Francisco-based environmentalist black metal unit Botanist along the way, but they’ll nonetheless issue VI: Flora on The Flenser next month, furthering their marriage of destruction and beauty and insistent percussive expression. The spaces Botanist — a one-man project from Robert Martinelli — create feel ritualistic without the dramatic posturing that pervades much of the genre, and sound, somewhere between raging and mournful, is hypnotic. Whatever your expectation might be, Martinelli seems pleased to use it to their advantage, and ultimately, defy it. Post-human, hammered dulcimer-laden black metal. It would be harder for Botanist to not be unique. Botanist on Thee Facebooks, The Flenser.
7. Brant Bjork, TBA (TBA)
When Brant Bjork‘s next album might show up, I don’t know. I know he’s signed to Napalm, and I know the photo above was snapped as he finished some vocals before going on tour with his Low Desert Punk band that includes guitarist Bubba DuPree, bassist Dave Dinsmore and drummer Tony Tornay, but whether or not the album they made is the funk-inspired Jakoozi that’s been in the offing for a while, or another collection of songs, and if Napalm will get it out before the end of the year remain a mystery. I do find it interesting that for his first “solo” outing post-Vista Chino (that band being on hiatus), Bjork has assembled a new band to work with rather than record multiple instruments himself, but no matter who’s involved, when it’s Brant Bjork writing the songs, it’s gonna be high rock from the low desert. Can’t wait to dig into whatever comes. Brant Bjork on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.
8. Earth, Primitive and Deadly (Sept.)
The headline for Earth‘s new album is it’s the one where they experimented with vocalists. And hey, if you’re going to toy around with the idea, you might as well get Mark Lanegan involved. The former Screaming Trees frontman is one of several singers appearing on Primitive and Deadly, due in September on Southern Lord, and it would appear that Earth‘s sound — always evolving, always somehow changing — is about to take another considerable turn. Fortunately, the Seattle band, led by guitarist Dylan Carlson and now approaching their 25th year, have long since proven worthy of trusting with their own direction. Earth will never be huge, by the simple nature of what they do, but their influence resounds and the quality of their output is unmatched. Earth on Thee Facebooks, Southern Lord Recordings.
9. Electric Wizard, Time to Die (Sept.)
“Wake up baby/It’s time to die.” So goes the title-track hook of Electric Wizard‘s new album and Spinefarm Records debut, Time to Die. As ever, it’s simple, hateful, drenched-in-fuzz misanthropy, and Electric Wizard revel in it accordingly. Their witchcult continues to grow in their native UK and abroad, and while their last two records have divided some listeners, they’ve invariably gained more ground than they’ve lost. A legal dispute with Rise Above finds them on the new label, and if there’s even the slightest chance that change will bring them to the US for a tour, I’ll take it. Expect 66 minutes of glorious filth. Electric Wizard on Thee Facebooks, Spinefarm Records.
10. Fever Dog, Second Wind (TBA)
Palm Desert youngsters Fever Dog have been kicking around the last few years finding their sound in varying elements of heavy rock and psychedelic experimentation. Most recently, they impressed with the single “Iroquois” (review here) taken from their new album Second Wind, and in looking forward to the full-length, I’m eager to learn how their style has solidified and what sort of vibes they conjure over its course. They’ve shown plenty of propensity for jamming in their prior work, so hopefully there’s a bit of that on hand as well. I’ve said before they’re a trio of marked potential, and nothing I’ve yet heard has dissuaded me from that impression. Fever Dog on Thee Facebooks, Fever Dog on Bandcamp.
11. Goat, Commune (Sept. 23)
Somehow, a band from Sweden who dress up in tribal costumes (problematic) and play Afrobeat psychedelia became a very, very big deal. I couldn’t explain it if I wanted to, and I won’t try, but I know that when Sub Pop releases Goat‘s second album, Commune, it’s going to be to a flurry of hype and heaps of critical fawning. It would be tempting to call Goat a novelty act, but their 2012 debut, World Music (discussed here), showcased a legitimately creative musical approach to go with the visual aspects of their presentation, and I find the fact that I have no idea what to expect from Commune to be refreshing. Goat on Thee Facebooks, Sub Pop Records.
12. Grifter, The Return of the Bearded Brethren (Aug. 11)
UK heavy rockers Grifter will make a welcome resurgence on Ripple Music with The Return of the Bearded Brethren, an album that builds on the straightforward, catchy sounds of their 2011 self-titled label debut (review here) and takes their infectiousness to new places lyrically, such as exploring issues of aging via an ode to Princess Leia from Star Wars. That particular brand of humor and is writ large on Grifter‘s second Ripple outing, and the trio set to work refining their take without losing the engaging feel of their self-titled. It feels like a long three years since that record hit, and I’ll be glad to have a follow-up in-hand. Grifter on Thee Facebooks, Ripple Music.
13. Ice Dragon and Space Mushroom Fuzz, New Blue Horizon/A Peak into the Future (TBA)
Unclear at this point whether Boston outfits Ice Dragon and Space Mushroom Fuzz collaborated on New Blue Horizon/A Peak into the Future, or if it’s a split. Either way, the prolific acts make a sound pairing. Both are vehemently creative and exploratory, psychedelic and progressive each in their way, and if what’s presumably a single finds them working together, all the better, but even if not, new material from either is nothing to balk at, particularly when topped off by such gorgeous artwork. Neither act is ever long from putting something out, so to have them come together one way or another makes a weird brand of sense, which I’m relatively sure the songs will as well. Ice Dragon on Thee Facebooks, Space Mushroom Fuzz on Thee Facebooks.
14. Ides of Gemini, Old World New Wave (Sept. 16)
Ides of Gemini‘s 2012 Neurot Recordings debut, Constantinople (discussed here), established the three-piece as freely inhabiting either side of the imaginary line between ambience and heaviness, J. Bennett and Kelly Johnston providing sometimes minimal, sometimes consuming foundations for vocalist Sera Timms (ex-Black Math Horseman, also Black Mare) to cast ethereal melodies. What Old World New Wave will hold sound-wise, I don’t yet know, but Ides of Gemini‘s otherworldly resonance and ultra-patient approach makes it well worth finding out. Ides of Gemini on Thee Facebooks, Neurot Recordings.
15. John Gallow, Violet Dreams (Aug. 4)
Frontman of Blizaro and Orodruin guitarist John James Gallo adds a ‘w’ to his last name and steps out solo on the I, Voidhanger Records release, Violet Dreams, the title hinting at some of his on-his-sleeve affinity for Italian psych-doom master Paul Chain and Swedish legends Candlemass. Gallo‘s work in Blizaro has a tendency to lean toward the progressive and cinematic, but as John Gallow, the focus is more on classic doom riffing and darkened metallurgy. As one would expect, he’s well in his element on the hour-long album, and I hope he decides to call the next one Ancient Theatre. Also note the incredible artwork of Costin Chioreanu. John Gallo on Thee Facebooks, I, Voidhanger Records.
16. John Garcia, John Garcia (Aug. 5)
A long-discussed solo debut for the former Kyuss frontman following a stint alongside Brant Bjork in Vista Chino, John Garcia‘s John Garcia (review here) finds the singer right in his comfort zone, topping desert rock riffs with his trademark guttural vocals. To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure I’d trade a second Vista Chino outing for it if given the choice — that band seemed to be on course for a sound of its own, separate from Kyuss‘ legacy, and that struck me as worth pursuing — but these songs have a similar enough production style that it’s easy to think of the one as an offshoot of the other, and of course Garcia calls his shots well throughout. John Garcia on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.
17. King Buffalo, TBA (TBA)
Including King Buffalo here was pretty speculative on my part, but I dig the Rochester, NY, outfit and didn’t want to leave the prospect of their STB Records debut long-player out. It probably won’t land until 2015 — the future! — but their demo (review here) still gets regular plays around these parts, and I’m very much looking forward to catching them with similarly-minded Nashville blues rockers All Them Witches when they tour together next month. Whatever King Buffalo‘s recording/release plans might be, they’re definitely one to keep an eye on in the back half of this year. King Buffalo on Thee Facebooks, STB Records.
18. Kings Destroy, Kings Destroy (TBA)
Love these guys, love this band. I make no bones about it. Their third record, self-titled and produced as the last two were by Sanford Parker, is as close as they’ve yet come to capturing their live sound, and while they’ve yet to nail down an exact release date, they have a couple very cool tours in the works for this fall, including dates next month with Eric Wagner‘s Blackfinger, that will make a fitting lead-in to their best outing yet. I’ve heard this and had the chance to see some of the material live, and they’ve outdone themselves again, which, considering the esteem in which I continue to hold their 2013 sophomore full-length, A Time of Hunting, is really saying something. Kings Destroy on Thee Facebooks, War Crime Recordings.
19. The Kings of Frog Island, V (Fall)
Easily one of the LPs I’m most eager to hear over the next few months, and specifically on vinyl. The Kings of Frog Island have shown themselves to be so dedicated to the format that their early-2013 album, IV (review here), was presented as two bundled sides even digitally. They recently gave a taste of what their fifth album will in-part hold via a video for “Sunburn” and I’m told more jamminess ensues elsewhere to complement that track’s easygoing flow and platter-ready hook. All the better. The Kings of Frog Island on Thee Facebooks, The Kings of Frog Island on YouTube.
20. Lonely Kamel, Shit City (Sept. 9)
I’d be lying if I said part of my immediate interest in Oslo heavy rockers Lonely Kamel‘s fourth record wasn’t due to the cheeky title, but it’s been three years since the Napalm Records four-piece released their last album, Dust (track stream here), and as they’ve put in plenty of road-time, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to go into this time around with elevated anticipation. I’m not sure you could get away with calling an album Shit City unless you meant business. Got my fingers crossed that’s precisely the case with Lonely Kamel. Lonely Kamel on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.
21. Lo-Pan, Colossus (Oct. 7)
Fucking a. Doing the research for this list was the first I’d seen the Jason Alexander Byers cover art for Lo-Pan‘s fourth album, Colossus, or its Oct. 7 Small Stone release date. I haven’t heard the tracks yet — they recorded in Brooklyn back in March, and while I got 2012’s Salvador (review here) pretty early, the Columbus four-piece seem to be keeping a tighter lid on the follow-up — and I can’t help but feel like that’s my loss. Judging by what I’ve heard of the material live, Lo-Pan have dug further into their individual brand of riff-led soulful heavy, and I’ve got a high wager that a few months from now, Lo-Pan‘s latest will make an appearance on another list. More to come. Lo-Pan on Thee Facebooks, Small Stone Records.
22. Novembers Doom, Bled White (July 15)
One of doom’s most fascinating and largely ignored progressions is that of Chicago melancholists Novembers Doom, who, when they started out 25 years ago, did so largely as a death metal band, and then moved on to pioneer an American interpretation of what’s commonly thought of as European doom, until, over their last several records, as they’ve started to move back to a more extreme, double-kick-drummed style. Bled White, on The End Records, continues along this path, but especially in the cleaner vocals of frontman Paul Kuhr there remain shades of the morose emotionality that typified what’s now become their mid-period doom idolatry. Unheralded, Novembers Doom keep exploring deeper, darker terrain. Novembers Doom on Thee Facebooks, The End Records.
23. Pallbearer, Foundations of Burden (Aug. 19)
Foundations of Burden is unquestionably among the second half of 2014’s most anticipated albums. Arkansas-based doom four-piece Pallbearer will mark its release with extensive European and North American tours, and where their 2012 Profound Lore debut, Sorrow and Extinction (review here), came out and caught listeners off-guard with its unabashed emotional core, their sophomore outing finds them positioned at the forefront of American doom. Already the hype machine is rolling out the red carpet for the Billy Anderson-produced Foundations of Burden, but no one can say these guys haven’t put their work in, and the record is indeed one to look forward to. Pallbearer on Thee Facebooks, Profound Lore Records.
24. The Skull, TBA (TBA)
For The Skull to put out an album of original material is a unique challenge. Their earlier-2014 first single (stream/review here) found them standing up to it on the new song “Sometime Yesterday Mourning,” but at least half the point of the band since its inception has been to pay homage to legendary doomers Trouble, from whence vocalist Eric Wagner, bassist Ron Holzner and drummer Jeff “Oly” Olson come. For their Tee Pee Records debut full-length — yet untitled and hopefully out before 2015 — it’ll be most interesting to see how guitarists Matt Goldsborough (ex-Pentagram) and Lothar Keller (Sacred Dawn) rise to the occasion of building off some of doom metal’s most celebrated tones. Fingers crossed on this one. The Skull on Thee Facebooks, Tee Pee Records.
25. Snail, Feral (TBA)
Nothing has been formally announced yet, but on Small Stone Records‘ website, they list Snail‘s Feral among their upcoming releases. It would make a suitable pairing, the West Coast riffers having previously worked with MeteorCity on their 2009 post-reunion outing, Blood (review here), prior to independently releasing 2012’s Terminus (review here), and Small Stone seems like a good home for their fourth overall record and return to form as a trio, which was their original incarnation before their original dissolution circa 1994. How they expand on the heavier crunch of Terminus remains even more a point of fascination, and surely their cult following will be glad to find out. I know I will. Snail on Thee Facebooks, Small Stone Records.
26. Steak, Slab City (Sept. 9)
After two strong EPs in 2012’s Disastronaught (review here) and 2013’s best-title-ever-boasting Corned Beef Colossus (review here), it’s time for London stoner rockers Steak to step up their game for their Napalm Records debut full-length. The four-piece headed to the Californian desert to record Slab City, and so it’s fair to think some of that atmosphere may have worked its way into the material. Would be an awfully long way to go, otherwise. In either case, Steak have showcased considerable songwriting chops already, now it’s just a matter of sustaining it for a full album’s runtime and keeping enough variety in their approach. I have no doubt they’re ready for this next step. Steak on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.
27. Stubb, Cry of the Ocean (TBA)
It is with simple, unabashed warm feelings that I look forward to hearing Cry of the Ocean, the second long-player and Ripple Music debut from UK riffers Stubb. They’ve traded out drummers since 2012’s self-titled (review here), bringing aboard Tom Fyfe with guitarist/vocalist Jack Dickinson and bassist/vocalist Peter Holland, but I’m excited to hear what changes and shifts in sound Cry of the Ocean might have in store to match its provocative title. Goes without saying the photo above isn’t the final artwork, but instead Tony Reed‘s mastering sheet from back in May when he worked on the tracks. No solid release date yet, but hopefully soon. Stubb on Thee Facebooks, Ripple Music.
28. Torche, TBA (TBA)
Torche‘s new album and Relapse Records debut was originally slated for the end of the summer. Given that no official word has come out about a title or anything like that and the members of the band have been busy with other projects, it seems unlikely as of now that they’ll hit that target, but after something of a break so frontman Steve Brooks could focus on the resurgent trio Floor, Torche are in fact getting going again, beginning with their first tour of Australia this fall. Maybe their LP will be out by the time they go and maybe it won’t, but word on the street is that whenever the thing arrives, it’s gonna be heavy, which I have no problem believing. Torche on Thee Facebooks, Relapse Records.
29. The Well, Monomyth (Late Summer)
I’ve been waiting since the March announcement that Austin trio The Well signed with RidingEasy Records for further word of their debut full-length, Monomyth (pretty sure that’s not the cover above), but thus far to no avail. Their 2012 single, Seven (review here), was a repeat-listen thriller, and anticipation abounds for what sort of psychedelic garage riffing they’ll conjure up for the album itself. It’s been a couple months at this point, and maybe it’ll be 2015 before Monomyth gets out, but screw it, a boy can hope. The Well on Thee Facebooks, RidingEasy Records.
30. Witch Mountain, Mobile of Angels (Sept.)
Please note: The original cover art with this post was not final and has been replaced with the above band photo.
Portland, Oregon’s Witch Mountain have spent much of the two years following their 2012 third LP, Cauldron of the Wild (review here) on tour in the US and abroad, playing fests, headlining, supporting, but generally putting in a lot of time. As such, Mobile of Angels, which will be out on Svart in Europe and Profound Lore in North America, comes as the end product of a considerable touring cycle. Has all that gigging worn Witch Mountain into the ground, or will they rise above it with metal-loving doom-blues supremacy? They’ve got a vinyl-ready 38 minutes on tap for September and if they’ve ever been in a position to make their case, it’s now. Watch out for the killer sway in “Can’t Settle,” the title of which seems a fitting theme for the band. Witch Mountain on Thee Facebooks, Profound Lore Records.
31. YOB, Clearing the Path to Ascend (Sept. 2)
Yet again — as was the case back in January — alphabetical order forces me to end with YOB, whose seventh full-length and Neurot debut might just be my most anticipated of all on this list. The recently-unveiled Orion Landau cover speaks to a brooding sentiment, and from the one time I was fortunate enough to hear it to-date, the four-track album from the Eugene, Oregon, natives corresponds to its visual side in being a more aggressive push than was 2012’s Atma (review here), but also more exploratory and contemplative in its approach. Now statesmen in American doom and the forebears of a cosmic-minded sound, YOB stand ready to showcase a creative progression that has yet to find its end point. YOB on Thee Facebooks, Neurot Recordings.
Other Notable Mentions
Just a couple of these I’d be remiss if I didn’t note. Some were carried over from earlier this year, others just come up along the way. Not sure on all the release dates, but these are worth keeping an ear out for:
Acid King — Were listed in January, but their record has a Feb. 2015 release date.
Bright Curse — Second album recorded at Skyhammer Studios.
Brothers of the Sonic Cloth — My understanding is the album is done and they’re waiting to secure a label. Seems like a good occasion for Southern Lord to step forward, if not Profound Lore or Neurot.
Eggnogg — Not sure if it’s their full-length, You’re all Invited, or something else that’s coming, but whatever. More stoner-funk riffing needs to be had.
40 Watt Sun — There was some word of this early in the year, but nothing since.
Godflesh — Their first in 15 years, A World Lit Only by Fire, will be out Oct. 7. A fuckup not including them on the list proper.
It’s Not Night: It’s Space — Eagerly awaiting the Small Stone debut from this instrumental outfit, but it might be next year.
Karma to Burn — New album, Arch Stanton, out in August. I emailed for a review promo and never heard back. Always a great feeling.
Larman Clamor — Solo-project from Alexander von Wieding has a new one in the can, but I’m not sure on the release schedule.
Lowrider — They’re working on it, but don’t hold your breath to have it out by December.
The Machine — Kind of a slow year for Elektrohasch, but the new one from these Dutch fuzzers would be a nice way end up.
Nachtmystium — Century Media releases their final album, The World We Left Behind, on Aug. 5.
Orange Goblin — Seriously debated putting them on the list, since I know they’ve recorded, but they seem to be promoting a recent reissue of 2007’s Healing through Fire and their upcoming European tour with Saint Vitus rather than their new album, so unless news comes out about it like this week from Candlelight, I wouldn’t expect it until early in 2015.
Pink Floyd – Believe it when I see it, but I honestly couldn’t care less either way if I tried.
Ruby the Hatchet — Their full-length Tee Pee debut is due sometime in the next couple months.
Sun Voyager — Upstate NY youngsters had hinted at new recordings.
Again, if I forgot anything — and I’m sure I did — please let me know in the comments.
Posted in Features on June 24th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Next Tuesday, July 1, is the release date for Corrosion of Conformity‘s aptly-titled ninth album, IX, which also serves as the band’s second full-length through Candlelight Records since their reboot with the trio lineup of bassist/vocalist Mike Dean, guitarist Woody Weatherman and drummer/vocalist Reed Mullin, following on the heels of their 2012 self-titled (review here) and subsequent, Scion A/V-sponsored Megalodon EP. The latter, which was also released in 2012, seemed to solidify many of the ideas of the former, and helped to affirm the grooves and the varied approach that C.O.C., now 30 years on from their first album, Eye for an Eye, would present. IX(short review here), is consistent in progressing this roughness of sound and steady, rolling feel, but as cuts like “Denmark Vesey” and “Tarquinius Superbus” show, C.O.C. never completely let go of their roots in hardcore punk. Knowing that at any point they could immediately take off at top speed adds an element of danger to the proceedings, and Dean, Weatherman and Mullin sound only too happy to revel in it.
The latter track, which appears deep into IX‘s side B sandwiched between the high-grade Southern heavy rock of “The Hanged Man” and “Who You Need to Blame,” is particularly interesting for how directly it plays one side off the other, its five-and-a-half-minute runtime split between raging forward motion and righteous nod. It serves to summarize what C.O.C. have done best since coming back as a trio, which is to foster an approach simple enough in its elements but based around a quality of songwriting that speaks to the band’s legacy both in albums like 1985’s Animosityand 1996’s Wisebloodwhile still forming something new from them. In both their style and how they’re developing within it, Corrosion of Conformity circa 2014 are geared toward a natural sound and focused on capturing a live feel in their recordings. As an album, IXnot only succeeds in this, but shows the band sounding more comfortable and confident in their approach as well.
We were on a bit of a rough line in terms of connection, but in the interview that follows, Dean discusses how they’ve arrived where they are, including their longtime collaboration with producer John Custer, with whom Dean worked on this album as an audio engineer, the progression they’ve undertaken since the self-titled was put together, touring, and how finalizing material in the studio as it’s being recorded can help give a record a sense of spontaneity. Also discussed at the end is Dean‘s time in Kyuss-offshoot Vista Chino and what the future might hold there. After some drama with the booking, Corrosion of Conformity will head to Australia this summer, and they have plans in the works for a West Coast tour this fall and will no doubt continue to support IXfor the foreseeable future, keeping their momentum going at a clip to match their speediest riffing.
Posted in Features on June 23rd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
It’s custom around here to do a Top 10 of the First Half of the Year, in advance of doing a Top 20 of the Year in December. The idea is that the later list will basically build on the earlier one. That’s never really how it works out — albums always drop off or appear unexpectedly depending on what gets listened to most, what gets reviewed late, etc. — but it always works out to be a good time anyway, and that’s really what it’s all about.
The difference this year is that instead of doing a Top 20 in December, I’m planning on expanding to a full Top 30, so to do a Top 10 of the stuff from January until now makes less sense. So here we are with a Top 15. A slightly longer list, but still the same basic idea as years past otherwise. These are albums I’m expecting will turn up again at the end of the year on the final Top 30, and though some will and some won’t and almost all of them will move around, there are more than a handful — particularly if we’re counting by fingers — of essential records released over the last six months recounted here.
If you missed something, I hope it’s something cool you get to check out, and if I missed something (as I inevitably did), I hope you’ll let me know in the comments. Please note that this is full albums only, no EPs, splits, singles or demos.
I’ll freely admit I was more than a little thrown off by the change in approach on Greenleaf‘s fifth album. Where prior outings like 2012’s Nest of Vipers(review here) and 2007’s megatriumph Agents of Ahrimanhad been lush heavy rock affairs helmed by Dozer guitarist Tommi Holappa with a slew of guests on vocals, organ, etc., Trails and Passesdialed back the “extras” in favor of a more stripped down, stage-ready approach. Holappa‘s songwriting alone would likely be enough to have Greenleaf on this list one way or another, and Trails and Passesis one of the year’s best. The turn was just unexpected and I feel like I’m not caught up to it yet.
Initially put out in a limited tape run in late 2013 (review here), the Enter Venus full-length from Richmond-based sludgers Druglord codified the noisy murk of their prior outings into one devastating wave of lurching riffage and echoing shouts. The Virginian three-piece recorded with Garrett Morris of Windhand and the STB vinyl topped off with artwork by W. Ralph Walters, making for a package both visually and sonically devastating, and though it’s short for an album at under a half-hour, the 12″ still earns the nod for the unmitigated heft its four songs carry. It’s one you can either dig or miss out, but Druglord show there’s more room for invention in sludge.
There really isn’t much left to say when it comes to Wovenhand and their driving force, frontman David Eugene Edwards. Their first for Deathwish Inc., Refractory Obdurate is the latest document of one of this generation’s most accomplished songwriting progressions. It follows a brilliant record in 2012’s The Laughing Stalk (review here) and likely precedes one in whatever they decide to do next, and the enduring fascination on Edwards‘ part with tonal weight and groove continues to push Wovenhand into a creative territory that is without genre. Nobody else comes close.
Quick-working Danish jammers Papir made a strong impression with IIII early in the year, offering a progressive take on the style of heavy instrumental jamming that has flourished throughout Europe over the last half-decade or so. Immediately individualized, the Copenhagen three-piece carried across four intricately constructed pieces, most open with the 21-minute “III” but never lacking for twists and turns that were an utter joy to follow. A band that has already collaborated with the even-jammier Electric Moon and who’ve aligned themselves with Causa Sui‘s El Paraiso Records, they seem like a safe bet to continue to grow into reliable purveyors of high-quality instrumental heavy psychedelia.
Its arrival was heralded by the righteousness of a Lego video for “Nine Princes in Amber,” though even that was little preparation for the classic doomery that would take place on the return long-player from Portland, Maine’s Ogre. The trio of guitarist Ross Markonish, bassist/vocalist Ed Cunningham and drummer Will Broadbent broke up in 2009, got back together in 2012, and with their fourth album, they made it clear they still had plenty to offer those who worship trad-style riffing, Sabbathy grooves and the kind of hooks that stay with you for days. The Last Neanderthalhad plenty of those, and “Warpath,” the aforementioned “Nine Princes in Amber,” “Bad Trip” and “Son of Sisyphus” tapped into what makes the best of doom so ready for repeat listens.
Another reunited trio, Floor had it tough coming into their first album in a decade, Oblation. The legacy of their 2002 self-titled would loom large over anything they put out, and guitarist/vocalist Steve Brooks had since gained a huge following as the spearhead of Torche, but four years after they started playing shows again, Floor met the challenge head-on with Oblation‘s 14 tracks, showing a natural progression from where they left off so long ago without seeming like they were trying to recapture a past that inevitably would prove irretrievable. Instead, they’ve set themselves on a course for continuing to develop as a band, and though Torche have a new album expected out this summer on Relapse and doubtless that will take some time and focus away from Floor, hopefully they keep pursuing that growth.
I’ll claim no impartiality when it comes to Port Orchard, Washington, heavy rock purveyors Mos Generator or the craftsmanship of guitarist/vocalist Tony Reed, but if half the point of a list like this is to nerd out over albums you dig (and I’ll gladly argue that it is), then Electric Mountain Majestyis right where it should be. Reed, bassist Scooter Haslip and drummer Shawn Johnson are clockwork-reliable when it comes to putting out high-grade material, and their second record since getting going again after Reed‘s few years in Stone Axe pushed beyond the considerable accomplishments of 2012’s Nomads(review here) and brought their sound to new and at times surprisingly doomed places while still keeping their core in a love of classic heavy rock songwriting. From where I sit, new Mos Gen is never one to pass up.
Not that I didn’t expect a new Blood Farmers release to be cool, but Headless Eyes was still a surprise when it arrived earlier in 2014. Who was to say what the New York trio would concoct after a 19-year studio absence? Of course, what they came out with was dead-on horror-loving doomly plod, cuts like the instrumental “Night of the Sorcerers” and the deceptively catchy “Headless Eyes” not only worthy of Blood Farmers‘ substantial legacy but building on it. Void of pretense, Headless Eyesresonated with a brooding atmosphere capped by the surprising closer, “The Road Leads to Nowhere,” a cover of the theme from The Last House on the Left and positioned the three-piece of vocalist Eli Brown, guitarist/bassist David Szulkin and drummer Tad Léger among the fore of traditional doom’s practitioners.
After seeing them live late last year (review here), digging their 456th Div. tape (review here) and putting their debut single on the best short releases of 2013 list, I had little doubt that their self-titled debut full-length would deliver a satisfying listen. Sure enough, the five-tracks of the quality-over-quantity release did precisely that, the Brooklyn three-piece harnessing unashamed positive vibes to mesh with a burgeoning psychedelic feel, catchy hooks and classic-style road songs serving as a reminder of the good times that rock and roll both provides and complements. Now that summer is here, I expect to revisit The Golden Grassplenty of time over these sunny, hot months, since it would seem the year has finally caught up with the band’s warmth and day-long spirit. The Golden Grass are reportedly headed to Europe later this year, so more to come on them for sure.
Every time I think I’m out, Cabalgata Hacia la Luz pulls me back in. The third full-length from Argentina trio Ararat seems to hit me with a different song each week. This week, it’s the six-minute “El Hijo de Ignacio,” with the insistent, punkish drums from Alfredo Felitte, backing noise and later keyboard eeriness from Tito Fargo and the low bass rumble of Sergio Chotsourian (ex-Los Natas), whose vocals seem to hover over the rest of the mix as though piped in from someplace else entirely. The whole album had a hypnotic effect that pulled the listener away from how diverse it actually was, moving into and out of heavy psych atmospherics with expert smoothness, but the more attention you paid, the more rewarding the experience became, as Ararat defied any expectations that might have come from their 2012 sophomore outing, II(review here), and boldly pushed toward new avenues of progression.
Who’s heavier than Conan? The superlative UK trio have spent the two years since the release of their full-length debut, Monnos (review here), solidifying their dominance, and their first album for Napalm Records plays out like a victory lap over the skulls of lesser riffs. Opening with the near-10-minute lumber of “Crown of Talons,” Blood Eagle solidified the two-sidedness of Monnos into a back-breaking doom assault, and their pummel remains unparalleled as they continue to grow as players and songwriters. This year has also seen producer Chris Fielding join the band on bass, and as badass as Blood Eagleis — one would rarely think of a song called “Gravity Chasm” as being so aptly-named — I can’t help but look forward to hearing what Conan do from here and how they continue to refine one of doom’s most bludgeoning approaches.
It’s the songs. I really, really dug Dwellers‘ 2012 debut, Good Morning Harakiri (review here) as well, and I won’t say a bad word about that album, but Pagan Fruit is in a different class altogether. And you know, it’s not just the songs. It’s how the songs play next to each other, the mood they create, and the hooks that Dwellers bring to the table with so much stylistic poise, calling the bluffs of any number of heavy psych blues rockers on “Totem Crawler,” or “Creature Comfort,” or “Son of Raven” or “Spirit of the Staircase.” The Salt Lake City-based trio of guitarist/vocalist Joey Toscano, bassist Dave Jones and drummer Zach Hatsis brought new levels of cohesion to their sound throughout Pagan Fruitand it remains an album that I have yet to get enough of hearing, one that seems to offer more each time I put it on and let my mind drift to its patient, open spaces.
From here on out, on any given day, any one of these is my album of the year. What a thrill it was to put on Fu Manchu‘s first album in five years, Gigantoid, and have it roll out such a tight-knit collection of heavy rolling excellence. The West Coast stoner riff gods of gnarl stripped down their production inspired in part by a reissue campaign of their earlier work on their own At the Dojo Records label, and the punkish feel suited them better than even they likely could’ve expected. With its opening four-song punch, the no-frills shot of “No Warning” and the closeout jam at the end of “The Last Question,” Gigantoid felt like more than one could’ve reasonably asked from a Fu Manchu long-player 20 years on from their debut, but the vitality they showed in its tracks, paired with the efficiency with which the songs were executed, showcased a timeless, perpetual appeal. They know what they’re doing and how they want to do it, and just because there was no doubt going into Gigantoiddoesn’t make the end product any less of a payoff.
I’ve gone on at some length about what I find so appealing in the second full-length from Bordeaux trio Mars Red Sky, so even putting aside the deft hand with which they incorporated further heavy psych soundscapes into their songwriting, let me just focus on how memorable Stranded in Arcadia actually is. That was true as well of Mars Red Sky‘s 2011 self-titled debut (review here), but these songs are more ambitious, from the eight-minute opener “The Light Beyond” to the gorgeous melody-wash in the chorus of “Join the Race” and the stomp in the de facto closer “Seen a Ghost” before the leadout/refrain “Beyond the Light” calls all the way back to the first track. The development of Mars Red Sky‘s take isn’t necessarily such a surprise — the debut had its psychedelic, jammy feel as well — but the fact that the trio of guitarist/vocalist Julien Pras, bassist/vocalist Jimmy Kinast and drummer Matgaz managed to elicit such development while remaining true to the warm tones and humble, unpretentious vibe of the debut only makes Stranded in Arcadiamore remarkable. I wouldn’t stop listening to it if I could.
It wasn’t easy to hold off on reviewing the fifth album from the Texas power trio for as long as I did, but I thought the record was too good to jump the gun on, and so yeah, it’s a pretty recent writeup, but I feel comfortable putting The Conjuring at number one here because I’ve actually had a while to live with these songs. Or maybe “live in” them would be a better way to say it, since the dense wall of fuzz and jammed-out distortion Wo Fat create across this record is basically thick enough to take up residence. Recently back from a European tour, Wo Fat hit the road supporting their finest work to date, and as the lineup of guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump, bassist Tim Wilson and drummer/backing vocalist Michael Walter are more or less self-sustaining in their own Crystal Clear Sound studio in Dallas, there’s no reason they can’t just keep developing along the path they are. The Conjuringboasts their best jams yet but also holds firm to the already-planted-in-your-consciousness hooks that Wo Fat have long since established a penchant for, and one could just as easily put the band at the fore of traditional heavy rock riffing as of American heavy psych jammers. Any way you look at them, they’re at the top of their class.
Quick honorable mention goes to Radio Moscow, The Wounded Kings, 1000mods (review forthcoming), Eyehategod, Abramis Brama, Truckfighters, Valley of the Sun, the live Causa Sui record and Alcest. Been a hell of a year so far, and I’m already putting together a list of anticipated records for the next six months, so there’s much more to follow.
Posted in Features on June 12th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Six months ago, nearly to the day, I posted my Top 20 of 2013. Maybe I remember it so well because it took so damn long to put together. Well, now it’s time to basically look back and tear my own picks a new one. To see who’s stood up six months after the fact and which albums have been forgotten.
You know the drill. This is always an enjoyable, if somewhat humbling experience, but if a fierce numerical inventory is what needs to be made, then I’m on board. Here’s how it shakes out:
20. All Them Witches, Lightning at the Door
If I was putting this list together today, this would be a top 10 album. It was pretty recently released when I first did the top 20, but the more I’ve gotten to know it, the more I’ve dug it.
19. Queens of the Stone Age, …Like Clockwork
I went back and revisited this a couple weeks back, as I’ll probably do once or twice a year into perpetuity, but yeah, I’m still way more inclined to reach for an earlier Queens of the Stone Age album.
18. I are Droid, The Winter Ward
Spent a lot of time with I are Droid‘s second outing this long winter, has held up well. A clean, full, professional sound and excellent songwriting. Poppy at times, but that’s the idea.
17. Magic Circle, Magic Circle
This was some of 2013’s best doom. I haven’t gone back to the album a million times, but I do keep trying to track down a Magic Circle gig to see them live again. Hoping for new stuff from them soon.
16. Iron Man, South of the Earth
I felt like when Iron Man got signed to Rise Above, it was a victory for every underrated doom band ever. At very least all the ones floating around in Maryland. This deserved to be on the list.
15. Sasquatch, IV
So good. Sasquatch write hooks so catchy it’s supernatural. IVwas a vision of what hard rock should’ve become after grunge died out in the ’90s. Haven’t gone back to it every day, but it remains a killer record.
14. Black Pyramid, Adversarial
This was going to be in my top 20 one way or another. With the breakup of the band owing to members leaving the Boston area, it’s become kind of a sad swansong in my mind, though the songs still make their victory plain to hear.
13. Across Tundras, Electric Relics
Every now and again, I check Tanner Olson‘s Bandcamp page to see if he’s put out anything new. He’s due at this point, but this Across Tundras record has enough staying power to hold me over either way. “Gravel Roads,” man.
12. Borracho, Oculus
I feel like I listened to this record so much I know it front to back, so I don’t even need to put it on. I just press play in my brain and the songs start. Riffs riffs riffs. Borracho proved they could thrive as a three-piece and Oculusblew their first one out of the water.
11. Ice Dragon, Born a Heavy Morning
Fucking hell, I wish Ice Dragon played shows. They’ve got four new CD reissues out since Born a Heavy Morning that haunt my dreams. If I had any money, I’d be telling them to shut up and take it from me.
10. Devil to Pay, Fate is Your Muse
It was a long album, but a good one. I was happy I could fit this into the top 10, and I still am. Charm goes a long way, and Devil to Pay have plenty.
9. Beast in the Field, The Sacred Above, the Sacred Below
I played this in the car the other day and The Patient Mrs. goes, “Can we listen to something less… abrasive?” It seemed to me she immediately understood the appeal of Beast in the Field. This record continues to crush everything in its path.
8. Beelzefuzz, Beelzefuzz
Kind of a similar deal to Borracho. Truth be told, at this point, I’m just glad to even talk about Beelzefuzz‘s self-titled. Seriously. I saw it on the other list and was like, “Yay!” One of the most inventive and individual albums I heard last year. Can’t wait to find out how they follow it.
7. Samsara Blues Experiment, Waiting for the Flood
I had kind of put this one down for a while, but I recently picked it back up and have been listening again. Excellent heavy psych. Put Samsara Blues Experiment in another class of bands as far as I’m concerned.
6. Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Mind Control
Probably haven’t listened to it all the way through since I made the Top 20 in December. Some of its hooks continue to resonate though, and I hope Uncle Acid continue to get weirder and more spaced out.
5. Lumbar, The First and Last Days of Unwelcome
I remember making the list and then pushing everything back by one to fit this in the top five. One of those one-time-only records that you’re going to hear people talk about a decade from now, myself included.
4. Vista Chino, Peace
No regrets for having this on the list, but there are records behind it in number that I’ve listened to more since. I hope at some point they do a second one, and I hope Mike Dean plays bass on it.
3. Gozu, The Fury of a Patient Man
Absolutely, yes. I haven’t seen any single band play as much as Gozu since I moved to Massachusetts about a year ago, and I am 100 percent okay with that. These dudes kill it, and these songs have only become tighter and more lethal on stage. Whatever they do next, it’s going to be very, very heavy.
2. Monster Magnet, Last Patrol
Hasn’t quite had the staying power I thought it would, to be honest. I have the vinyl but never got it on CD and I’m sure I would listen to it more often if I had that version. The LP is killer, but there are like two songs per side and that’s an awful lot of flipping for an album that just demands you chill the fuck out and let it take over your mind.
1. Clutch, Earth Rocker
Pretty satisfying to know that if I had to make a Top 20 of 2013 today, this would still be my number one pick. It felt glaringly obvious to me — it was the top of the Readers Poll as well — but some things you just can’t ignore. Clutch added a few classics to their catalog with Earth Rocker, and it felt like even the record’s B-grade material was top notch.
The Top 20 last year actually went to 30 — I think this year I’ll probably cut out the middle-man and just do a Top 30 — but here were the other 10 picks:
21. Blaak Heat Shujaa, The Edge of an Era
22. The Freeks, Full On
23. Luder, Adelphophagia
24. The Flying Eyes, Lowlands
25. Black Skies, Circadian Meditations
26. At Devil Dirt, Plan B: Sin Revolucion No Hay Evolucion
27. Kadavar, Abra Kadavar
28. Naam, Vow
29. Mühr, Messiah
30. Uzala, Tales of Blood and Fire
Most of those look about right. If I was making the list now, I’d put Mühr and Naam in the Top 20, in place of Queens of the Stone Age and I don’t know what else, and just seeing the name of the album there now makes me want to put on that Luder. I still feel like I don’t know the Uzala as well as I’d like to, and I bought that on CD and tape when I saw them last fall.
There you have it. Seems like the original list actually held up better than I expected, so right on. Overall it was a fairly stellar year for new music, though I doubt I’ll be saying anything different in another six months when the end of 2014 rolls around.
Anything you forgot about or anything that dropped off from your favorites last year? I’d love to hear about it in the comments. Thanks for reading.
Posted in Features on June 5th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
From 1PM-3PM today, I’ll be a guest on Diane’s Kamikaze Fun Machine on New Jersey’s venerable institution of the weird, 91.1 WFMU. If you’re in the area, you can tune in directly, but you can listen from anywhere in the world at http://wfmu.org
I am thrilled beyond belief and very, very excited to do this. I don’t get invited to take part in things like this very often, and I’ve picked some killer tracks — a lot of new stuff, and almost all within the last few years — to mark the occasion. If you haven’t heard any of the new Godflesh yet, I’m bringing that along, and a lot of fuzz and heavy psych stuff too. Lots of heavy psych, actually. I kind of went on a tear selecting tracks.
But there’s some brutality too. I’m carting along two full CD’s worth, which is more than we’ll be able to fit for a two-hour show probably by double, but I thought it would be good to have stuff to choose from. I’m crazy stoked, honored to have been asked to go there at all and I really, really hope you’ll be able to check it out.
Again, WFMU streams live online at http://wfmu.org, and all of Diane‘s playlists are available on her show’s page, which I would highly encourage you check out and basically use as a blueprint for stuff you should dig on. FMU has been doing support-worthy freeform radio since long before I knew what absurdity was, so if you’re someplace in the world where you can’t listen via radio, it’s definitely worth your time to listen, whether you do so when I’m on or not.
There’s a running comments page with the live-updated playlist (also a pronunciation guide for my last name in case you’ve ever wondered), so if you get the chance, please say hi. I can’t wait to get on the air!
Posted in Features on June 3rd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
About a day after we spoke over the phone last week for this interview, I got a text from All Them Witches drummer Robby Staebler that read as follows:
Robby. Atw. Important point. As individual players we are more concerned and focused on our own playing. We are not focused on what the others are playing. We all do what we want. It’s why it works.
Talking to him, one could hear a core belief from Staebler in what the band is doing, both in how they approach writing and putting together material like that found on their excellent late-2013 sophomore full-length, Lightning at the Door (discussed here), and in how they’re handling the practical end of being in a band whose success seems to be burgeoning more each day. Their debut album, Our Mother Electricity(review here), was initially self-released in 2012, but was picked up for release by Elektrohasch Schallplatten in 2013 — they are the first American band the label has worked with — and since then and on through Lightning at the Door, the four-piece of Staebler, bassist/vocalist Michael Parks, Jr., guitarist Ben McLeod and keyboardist Allan Van Cleave have received the kind of response that most bands dream of. Label offers, tours, praise domestic and international from fans and critics alike. All Them Witches are onto something special sound-wise, and they know it.
In May, the band made their way to the West Coast for an appearance at the Scion Rock Fest in Pomona, California, and several other shows around it. It was their first time there and yet Staebler reports talking to fans who drove upwards of seven hours to see them. For a group as relatively new as All Them Witches are — formed early in 2012 — to have that kind of loyalty only underscores the deep impact their material, particularly Lightning at the Door, seems to have had on those who’ve encountered it. Later this year they’ll head to Europe, also for the first time, and on a tour booked by Sound of Liberation, they’ll hit Desertfest Belgium in Antwerp, which runs from Oct. 10-12, and theKeep it Low festival in Munich on Oct. 18, as well as play other shows around those. This along with more touring in the US will form the bulk of the rest of their 2014, but as Staebler hints, there’s new studio material in the works as well that may see release as an EP before the New Year hits.
The short version is All Them Witches have a lot going on at the moment, and it all seems to be building a forward momentum for both their prominence in the underground, their reputation as a live act, and a band whose stylistic nuance of bluesy twang, sonic pastoralia and heavy riffs distinguishes them from nearly everyone else around them. Tracks like “Charles William” and “The Death of Coyote Woman” from Lightning at the Doornot only affirmed the potential All Them Witches showcased on Our Mother Electricity, but demonstrated a cohesive aesthetic already taken shape from players whose confidence in each other bled through each and every dynamic turn they made. And there were plenty of them. Lightning at the Doorremains one of the best albums I heard last year, and Staebler makes it plain that the band considers it a landmark as well.
In the interview that follows, Staebler discusses that album and putting material together with Parks, McLeod and Van Cleave, while remaining geographically separate — a certified arborist, he lives and works in Ohio, while the rest of the band is in Nashville — his feelings on the response they’ve gotten since Elektrohasch released Our Mother Electricity, playing on the West Coast, thoughts on heading to Europe and much more. As confident as he is in what he and the band are doing, he never comes across as arrogant or crass about it, rather sounding like someone driven by his passion and eager to discover where that might lead. I’m curious as well.