Pentagram, Radio Moscow and Kings Destroy West Coast Tour, Pt. 6: Hawthorne Theatre, Portland, OR

Posted in Features, Reviews on February 24th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

02.24.14 — 12:07AM Pacific — Sun. night / Mon. morning — Hawthorne Theater, Portland, OR

“Everybody gets a trophy at the Hawthorne Theatre…” – JJ Koczan

Oh, Portland. Portland, baby. 15′s my limit on schnitzengruben. You are making a German spectacle of yourself. It would be real easy to get spoiled living in this town. Quite a night. Quite a show. Pentagram had an amp blow out or something and the crowd was still going nuts. Pressed up against a metal railing at the front of the stage, I was reminded of younger days, a straight-line bruise along the bottom of the rib cage from being up front at silly shows. This was a young audience. They were into it. You kids and your doom.

Everything was a little more dead on tonight, as expected. Getting past the first show seems to have allowed for a certain amount of tension to abate. The three touring bands were tighter — no small feat after last night — and the local openers, Mothers Whiskey and Sons of Huns, both drew and performed well. Sold out show. Again, one could get spoiled.

I’ll try and make it quick again since it’s midnight and I’ve got actual job work to do:

Mothers Whiskey


Was talking with Mothers Whiskey guitarist/vocalist Greg Powers before the show and he mentioned he’s an East Coast guy, from Maryland. I don’t know that I would necessarily have picked it out in his approach had he not said it, but he had some of that post-Sixty Watt Shaman burl, though tempered obviously by the pervasive mellow of his current surroundings. Thus, Mothers Whiskey were a solid bicoastal blend, unpretentious and laid back, but still with an insistent undertone. Pretty clear they’re figuring out their sound, but their dynamic was solid, particularly on closer “Scorpion Moon Burn,” which carried that Southern heavy influence across smoothly.

Sons of Huns


The first band I’ve seen on this tour in which no single member had a full beard. Nonetheless, a local trio who’ve made a splash with their recent Banishment Ritual release, Sons of Huns were clearly known to the crowd. It was an all-ages show, and they skewed young, which never hurts, but they made their chops plain enough to see, guitarist Pete Hughes busting out solos that I read as an opening volley soon enough to be returned by Radio Moscow while sharing vocal duties with bassist Shoki Tanabe, who switched to a fretless about halfway through the set. Drummer Ryan Northrop was the anchor, but nothing was really holding Sons of Huns back as they gave the yet-unnamed post-Millennial generation a reason to relish Kyuss-style riffing.

Kings Destroy

Since I was in the van this afternoon with them, I know the literal miles Kings Destroy came for this show, but they do little justice to how many miles more comfortable they seemed on stage. Guitarists Chris Skowronski and Carl Porcaro were shoving and kicking, almost daring each other to fuck up, while bassist Aaron Bumpus and drummer Rob Sefcik provided the foundation for their shenanigans and Steve Murphy turned his mic stand at one point into a harpoon and thrust it in the general direction of the crowd. They started a little early, so squeezed “Dusty Mummy” into a riff-heavy set that worked well after Sons of Huns, setting up a rock/doom back and forth that would continue into Radio Moscow and Pentagram. The vocals didn’t come across as clearly, but the new song, “Embers,” was tighter tonight as well.

Radio Moscow

Doesn’t matter how many nights this tour goes, I don’t imagine I’m going to get tired of watching Radio Moscow make killing it look so easy. Two new songs in the set tonight, “Death of a Queen” and another one, plus “Rancho Tehama Airport,” which is also pretty recent, and where last night dipped back to the self-titled for “Frustrating Sound,” and that was certainly welcome as far as I’m concerned, I am not in the slightest about to complain about getting to know a couple new cuts ahead of the arrival of their new album, Magical Dirt, which seems to be slated for a spring release. Whenever it comes, the twists and turns in “Death of a Queen” are sure to be a highlight, as they were both in Seattle and at the Hawthorne, where they were met with due appreciation and then some by the all-ages set, who had youthful vigor on their side, and the 21-and-overs, who were sloshed. Suddenly the show felt very sold out, very packed in. No arguments though.

Pentagram

Yeah, and then Pentagram went on. Even before they took the stage, the push of people toward the front was fairly ridiculous. Bobby Liebling got cheers even as he walked out from the green room on the side of the stage, standing on a balcony and pointing at the crowd, obviously thrilled to see him. The place went off. Set was the same as last night — my only complaint with it is no “Walk in Blue Light,” but you can’t have everything — opening with “Nightmare Gown” from Be Forewarned and going into “Review Your Choices” before letting loose with “Forever My Queen” after what seemed to be some technical difficulty and on from there. It was during the latter (they were inadvertently switched at El Corazon, come to think of it), that being up front became an untenable situation and I did what any self-respecting adult would do and fell backwards into the press to make my way through. At one point the strap of my bookbag with my laptop in it was hooked around some plastered girl’s arm who refused to give it up, but I was ready to pull her outside with me if necessary. Finally I shouted something about it actually being my bag and a light went on in her head and she let go. I was pretty well frazzled, but made my way to the back to watch more. True, it was the same deal as Seattle, but screw it. Every time you get to see Pentagram — with Victor Griffin on guitar especially — it’s the right way to go, though I’ll admit that when they got down to the encore of “Be Forewarned” into “Wartime,” I was listening from outside.

Loadout, well, didn’t go quite as smoothly as last night. There was a bit of waiting and when all the stuff was in the sprinter, it was established that we’d be hitting a bar called Chopsticks at the suggestion of some locals who were headed that way. Tomorrow is an off-day for the tour. Turns out the place was a Chinese restaurant in addition to a bar — they called it fast food but they were the best dumplings I’ve had since I moved out of New Jersey — and that the karaoke was going in full force. Chopsticks wasn’t as packed as the show, but it had a crowd, and they felt like dancing. It was 1:30AM by the time we got there and about 2:30AM by the time we left, and in between is a blur of irony-overload ’80s hits sung by an assortment pulled from the almost-entirely-white assemblage. One guy did “Aqualung,” and nailed it, but the rest was Tears for Fears, Michael Jackson and the like.

Many laughs, many drinks, some dim sum, and no one was quite as sloppy as they semi-apologized for being. I think on some level it’s weird for these dudes that I’m here and that I’m writing as I’m here, like an embed. I know they’ve seen some of what’s been posted, and it’s not that they’re being guarded — at one point tonight I rechristened the band “Kings Destroyed,” so if there were guards, they went on break and didn’t come back — but my concern is not harshing anyone’s good time by making them feel like they’re being watched.

Anyway. There was talk of a James Brown hot tub party when we got back to the motel by the airport where we’re staying, but it was to bed almost immediately. Steve gets his own room, Carl and I share (even at his worst so far, which might be right now, he’s nowhere near the worst snorer with whom I’ve shared a hotel room), Rob and Aaron, and C-Wolf and Jim Pitts. We’re all in a row on the 200 level of the Clarion with a noon checkout tomorrow and a drive to San Francisco to follow. It’s now four in the morning. Something tells me we won’t be getting an early start.

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Pentagram, Radio Moscow and Kings Destroy West Coast Tour, Pt. 5: Doin’ the Limbo

Posted in Features on February 23rd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

02.23.14 — 5:09PM Pacific — Sunday — Hawthorne Theatre, Portland, OR

“Whole lotta open space…” — Jim Pitts

Ride down from Seattle was pretty straightforward after a breakfast at the bar where the band couldn’t get served the other night on account of Aaron having forgot his ID. 13 Coins, near the airport. It was about two hours south on the I-205 (I think) with mountains and old growth evergreens around. Lots of grey, periodic rain, but the landscape is beautiful. Trees were impressive, traffic sparse. There’s wifi in the van, so as this was the shortest trip to be made over the course of the next six days, that will no doubt come in handy for passing the time. I still haven’t managed to find a book and/or a bookstore, though I hear there’s one near here that’s supposed to be where it’s at.

Ditto that for Portland as a whole, I suppose. Very colorful city for sitting under such a grey sky. I think the grocery store across the street from the Hawthorne was the brightest thing I’ve seen since last June. Easy to read the city as a creative space. I’m not sure how much more downtown it gets than where we are, but if this was it, there’s a cool vibe. To wit, the specials in the side bar/small-stage room here at the Hawthorne include the “Ian MacKaye,” which is Schilling Cider and orange juice, the “Neck Tattoo” and the “Earth Crisis.” There’s also a Modelo vending machine. Hard to gauge which is the symptom and which the underlying cause there, but then I’ve only been in town about 25 minutes.

Soundtrack on the way down was the self-titled The Meters record and then a double-disc collection of James Brown instrumentals. Horns and swing for days. I dig it. Pretty quiet in the van apart from what was the hardest working backing band in show business, but some laughs at references to Anchorman, Fast Times, Mystery Science Theater 3000, some other staples. Several running gags in the making, I think, and a few apparently held over from prior tours. Paul Stanley’s stage raps feature heavily, and rightly so. Portlandia references have been flowing freely as well, owing to the geography.

Radio Moscow were here a bit ago but seem to have moved on, probably to find food. We passed Pentagram on the highway, so they’re en route. In the spirit of last night, tonight’s also a five-band bill, with Sons of Huns and Mothers Whiskey opening. There’s a balcony that I’m thinking might be cool to try to get some pictures from if I can. Show’s almost sold out, so I don’t know how much space there will be to move around. Still, I expect good times and a little bit more of a relaxed mood as the tour sort of settles into itself. It’s a nice big stage, too, so the Mad Alchemy lights should be in their element. I’m looking forward to it.

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Pentagram, Radio Moscow and Kings Destroy West Coast Tour, Pt. 4: El Corazon, Seattle, WA

Posted in Features, Reviews on February 23rd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

02.23.14 — 12:47AM Pacific — Sat. Night — El Corazon, Seattle, WA

“High drama…” — Steve Murphy

I’m going to try to make this quick, because my laptop clock says 3:47AM and I can’t help but feel like that’s accurate. Tonight at El Corazon in Seattle. First night of the tour. Weather as advertised. Volume as advertised. Doom of many shapes. Place filled up as the night went on. A special cheers to the giant who decided it was fun to dig in elbows up front during Pentagram.

Tonight was a five-band bill. One of several that I know of on this run. Front to back and jetlagged, it was a hell of a way to start the tour. Good crowd though, unless you count the aforementioned giant. Which I do. In bruises.

Here’s how it went down:

 

Ancient Warlocks

I know the deal is the tour and the touring bands, and I’m way down with that or I wouldn’t be here in the first place, but I was really glad I got to see Ancient Warlocks play. I also got to meet guitarist/vocalist Aaron Krause and guitarist Darren Chase and it was good for the soul. Their easy-rolling fuzz and trad-stoner grooving must have been a good match tonally for Mars Red Sky a few years back when they teamed up, but they were locked in and not at all out of place on the stage. When I asked Chase if they had any copies of their album to buy, he said they were sold out. It was easy to see why when they played.

Lesbian

They were a late add to the lineup, but a welcome one. Lesbian crossed genre lines fluidly and touched on black metal, doom and even some thrash with natural ease. They’re the kind of band that, if I lived in this town, I’d probably go see a lot, but as it is, this was the first time. Even after Ancient Warlocks loaded their gear off the stage, there was a considerable wall of amps, and I think an entire layer in that wall belonged to Lesbian. Hard to argue with the density of sound they were able to elicit from them, two guitars and bass running in gleeful aural excess. Bassist/vocalist Dorando Hodous said their last song — unless I’m mistaken about this — was about a “really horny dinosaur.” I didn’t catch the title, but it fucking ruled.

Kings Destroy

At this point, I feel comfortable saying I’ve seen Kings Destroy more than any band in the last three years. If that’s not true — and it is, by a mile — then it certainly will be by the end of this trip. Tonight was the first night of the tour, and it took them a song or two to click, but somewhere right around a new song called “Embers” that has, among other things, the most complex vocal melody I’ve heard from the band, they locked it in and were full-throttle the rest of the five-song set. “The Mountie” into “Casse-Tete” worked well to open, but once they slammed into “The Toe,” I think they made a lot of new friends. Leaving the rest of the band on stage, vocalist Steve Murphy hopped down into the crowd for closer “Blood of Recompense,” walking away when the song was over and handing the mic to a random guy in the crowd who, as he told his friends after putting it back on the stage, was tempted to make a dick joke, but decided against it.

Radio Moscow

Radio Moscow had the leg up. On the universe, it seemed, but at least on the other two touring acts, since they’d already had a couple gigs under their belt over the last few nights. It’s a crazy change in vibe to have the San Diego-based trio playing between Kings Destroy and Pentagram, but they hit into “I Just Don’t Know” from 2011′s Brain Cycles and the room, which by then was packed out, was theirs. They also brought the Mad Alchemy light show with them, though the oils were going for all the bands and I guess will be for the duration of the tour. Not going to complain, and it works especially well for Radio Moscow, who tossed in a new song full of intricate starts and stops that served as a reminder of how ridiculously tight the band’s rhythm section, bassist Anthony Meier and drummer Paul Marrone are, though it’s guitarist/vocalist Parker Griggs who takes the bulk of the solos, each one earned and soaked in wah.

Pentagram

I don’t care who you are or what you’ve seen, watching Pentagram play “Forever My Queen” is one of the great joys of doom. When I came back from dinner before the show started, I got to watch some of their soundcheck, so I knew “Be Forewarned” was coming — you might say I was forewarned — but “8″ from Last Rites and “Dying World” from the self-titled were cool to hear alongside staples like “Sign of the Wolf (Pentagram),” “All Your Sins” and “When the Screams Come.” While they were setting up their gear, someone in the crowd looked up and said, “Holy shit, it’s Victor Griffin!” and that about sums it up. His tone and Bobby Liebling‘s frontman presence are a rightfully legendary combo, and even though it was the first night of their tour as well, they sent the Seattle crowd into the evening well aware of who and what they had just seen. The current Pentagram lineup, with Griffin, Liebling, bassist Greg Turley and drummer Sean Saley already sounded like pros, but I’ll be really interested to see where they’re at by the time we roll into San Francisco.

We loaded out the gear from El Corazon about as fast as we could and on the way back out to the Red Roof Inn, I asked Jim Pitts to stop the van so I could jump out and take a picture of the Space Needle. No regrets. Tomorrow morning, 11AM, we head to Portland. It’s after 3:30AM now. I think everyone was a little more relaxed with the first show down. Myself included.

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Pentagram, Radio Moscow and Kings Destroy West Coast Tour, Pt. 3: The Hills Have Eyes

Posted in Features on February 22nd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

02.22.14 — 4:16PM Pacific — Saturday — El Corazon, Seattle, WA

“You could auction this moment…” — Chris Skowronski

Woke up at about seven this morning (on this time) and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I got up and went downstairs. Had some coffee and sat for a bit in the Red Roof Inn lounge, which was where the muffins probably would’ve been if there’d been any. Back upstairs to bed until after 11AM, shower, then waiting to come here, basically. Rewatched last week’s episode of True Detective and some of the long-since-jumped-the-shark second season of Twin Peaks while Carl and Chris warmed up their guitars by jamming first along to Carl’s iPad and then on some new riffs. I’m not coming into this trip with any great romantic ideal about life on tour. My impression is it’s a lot of waiting, a lot of driving, and then shows. Dudes are out getting drinks and I’m sitting at the venue listening to music and waiting. Rob and I miss our dogs. Load-in was 4PM. With seven people, it didn’t take long.

Jim Pitts is a fucking pro. He seems like a good-natured guy on first impression and he definitely came prepared: Hand sanitizer, Febreeze, baby oranges, work gloves. Dude has it together. I have no idea how the Kings Destroy dudes got in touch with him, but he’s stepped into a wrangler mode that he’s obviously comfortable with. The van’s pretty cushy, which is fortunate because there are some long drives coming up. The one from the hotel was not much to speak of in length, but a first look at Seattle was interesting. People knew what they were doing with building a town by the time they got out here. Cities in the Northeast, — Philly, Boston especially, New York too once you’re out of Manhattan’s grid — feel like they just kind of happened. I guess because they did. There’s a reason states out here have square borders and the East Coast is shaped like fuckall.

No sign yet of anyone from the Pentagram or Radio Moscow camps. It is early. There are a few other vans around outside, but I don’t know who’s who. Ancient Warlocks go on at eight. El Corazon looks like a cool room. Wider than it is long, which I like. Big stage. Spirit Caravan are coming through here and the flyer has a picture of Shrinebuilder on it. Had a laugh at that, but the space itself is right on. Blue floor in the bar, black in the stage area, and there’s a smaller side room. I think there’s a six-band bill in there tonight. Five in here, so that’s a total of 11 bands in two rooms. I was trying to buy a bar in Boston over the last several months but it fell through. I could run a place like this. No prospects for doing so (anymore) or funding to make it happen, but if I could end up with a space like this, I’d do it forever.

We’re staying again at the Red Roof Inn. Not sure if there will be room for luggage in the back of the van with the amps and such, but if we have to rent a trailer, tomorrow’s the day to find it out with a relatively short trip to Portland. I feel anxious for the first night of the tour, which is odd since I’m not actually playing.

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Pentagram, Radio Moscow and Kings Destroy West Coast Tour, Pt. 2: Take it Slow

Posted in Features on February 22nd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

02.21.14 — 11:30PM Pacific — Friday — Red Roof Inn, Seattle, WA

“On official review…” – Rob Sefcik

They say you find interesting things when you travel. I’ve found the neatest headache! Hit me about an hour into the flight and I immediately flashed back to Last Night Me, who, when he was packing his bags, couldn’t imagine any reason he might need the ibuprofen in his carry-on. What a jerk. Add your stereotypical screaming kid, some cramped quarters and flight attendants of all stripes and preoccupations bumping my shoulder on way by, and that’s basically the story of the flight. I put on the Young Hunter EP while we were landing and I was pretty sure it was going to crash the plane. At that point, I was ready.

I sat in a row with Carl and Steve from Kings Destroy, having met the band at the gate at JFK. Rob and Chris were a couple rows up and back, respectively, and Aaron was on the other side of the aisle from me. We were late taking off, but the sunset was expansive out the gate window, so you take the good with the bad. They’ve all gone off to a bar somewhere down the way. 13-something-or-other it’s called. I’ve turned on the AC and will shortly get myself some ice water and I dug out the ibuprofen and had a protein bar and I think that’ll do it for me. On their way out, Chris reminded me that “this is where the stories happen.” He’s not wrong, but something tells me I won’t be light on stories.

Carl had left his bag on the plane. The picture above was him after going back to get it. Spirits are high, laughs were had. Jim Pitts, who’s reportedly driving the van, was stuck in traffic and is due to arrive here at the Red Roof Inn shortly. I’m looking forward to meeting him. Steve informed he’s an oldschool hardcore dude. When I asked, “Who isn’t?” he rightly said, “You.” Touche. We took a shuttle over from the airport. I’ve seen no needles from space, no Robbie Cano. Tomorrow, I figure. Need to hit a bookstore as well. Forgot a book. Fucking amateur hour.

Back east, it’s coming up on three in the morning. I don’t know what the plan is for tomorrow, but then, I didn’t know what the plan was for tonight. I’m here though. I’ve never been in this city and I’m looking forward to seeing it by daylight, and I’m hardly out living it up, but at least I’m here. Feels like an accomplishment.

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Pentagram, Radio Moscow and Kings Destroy West Coast Tour, Pt. 1: Song for Eris

Posted in Features on February 21st, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

02.21.14 – 4:43PM Eastern – Friday – Gate B30, JFK International

“Your attention, please…” – Airport P.A.

I had never smelled anything so disgusting as Panda Express. Turned a corner and there it was, a punch of grease and ginger powder in the olfactory. Then I passed PizzaVino, which near as I can tell doesn’t actually serve wine. JFK looks like someone’s vision of a terrible Cold War post-nuclear-fallout future in progress. There is a man with a long grey goatee and one eye wandering lost. Pardon our appearance.

There’s a lot about this trip I don’t know yet. The bands I know: Pentagram, Radio Moscow, Kings Destroy, playing each night in that order. First show is tomorrow, Feb. 22 in Seattle, where we’re flying tonight. Lesbian and Ancient Warlocks are on the bill at El Corazon, which is good news because I’ve seen neither and I’d like to. After that Portland. After that, I’m not really sure. San Francisco, maybe. I could look it up, and probably will at some point. Transport, where we might stay on any given night, and so on. Much mystery.

Everyone in the airport looks like someone. Me too. I know I’m on the same flight as the Kings Destroy cats because it was the same reservation. Traffic was two hours-plus to get here from Jersey, and that’s not counting the four hours to get from Massachusetts to NJ last night. Quite a commute. I have no doubt it will be worth it when I land and whatever it is that’s supposed to be happening happens. The weather is shit until then and I think Lee Renaldo just walked past with an entourage. That would fill my New York quota probably for the rest of the year. A member of Sonic Youth: 300 points.

Last time I was at this airport was at least eight years ago. I had a friend who was coming back from war. In uniform, the whole bit. He had a layover here at some absurd hour of the morning – maybe eight? We drive out here to see him. I was so hungover that as we were driving up I opened the door and puked out the side of the car. Then he poured shots of whiskey. At eight in the morning. He’s a lawyer now.

Flight’s at 6:35PM. Time to spare.

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Here’s a Conan Bio I Wrote

Posted in Features on February 20th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Every now and again I get asked to write a band bio. I’m happy to do it when I’m able, but  it always takes me an absurdly long time to get it completed. Still, when Conan comes calling, it’s either step up or face some kind of doomly ceremonial beheading, so I figured I’d better get on it. If nothing else, I was happy to have an excuse to put on their new album, Blood Eagle (review here), which will be out late this month/early next month on Napalm Records.

After a few rounds back and forth correcting my many uses of the literary device known as the “typo,” here’s how it came out:

CONAN, Blood Eagle bio

With monolithic tones and barbarian tales, Conan were born to destroy. The Northwestern UK trio of guitarist/vocalist Jon Paul Davis, bassist/vocalist Phil Coumbe and drummer Paul O’Neil began in 2006 with the Battle in the Swamp EP as their first outing in 2007, but it was 2010’s Horseback Battle Hammer EP that first caught the attention of the international underground, and the impression of Conan’s “caveman battle doom” was immediate. Songs like “Satsumo” and “Krull” showed that just because the band sounded big didn’t mean they couldn’t also write a song, and when their debut long-player, Monnos, followed in 2012 preceded by a 2011 split with Slomatics, the response was duly huge.

A slot at the Netherlands’ prestigious Roadburn festival in 2012 resulted in 2013’s Mount Wrath live album, and Conan continued to shake venue floors and cave in chest cavities wherever they played. Touring Europe, they shared the stage with Sleep in Norway and in 2013, Conan featured at Desertfest in London, laying waste to Camden’s famed Underworld club alongside Chicago’s Bongripper, with whom they also released a split EP, Conan’s contribution coming in the form of the sprawling, droned-out “Beheaded,” their longest song to date at over 17 minutes.

After tracking them using forensic experts and analysis of the footprints the band left stomping across the UK and Europe to support Monnos, including at the 2013 Damnation Festival, Napalm Records signed Conan for the release of their second album. Davis, in turn, set about building a temple. Working with the band’s longtime producer Chris Fielding, he constructed Skyhammer Studio, where,  as the house engineer, Fielding would helm 2014’s Blood Eagle for Napalm as both Conan’s and the studio’s reputation continued to grow.

To celebrate their return with their most accomplished blend yet of riff-largesse and memorable hooks, topped off as always by Tony Roberts artwork featuring their mascot “The Sentinel,” Conan set forth a full European tour for Spring 2014, including a return to Roadburn and appearances at Doom Over Leipzig, Droneburg Festival, Temples Festival, the St. Helena Doom Fest and France’s famed Hellfest. Their shows already the stuff of legend and the Blood Eagle songs being their most bludgeoning material, Conan’s conquering days have just begun.

Conan, “Foehammer” official video

Conan’s website

Conan on Thee Facebooks

Napalm Records

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The Obelisk Questionnaire: Dave Chandler of Saint Vitus

Posted in Questionnaire on February 17th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

In many ways, Dave Chandler and Saint Vitus are inseparable. You cannot have one without the other. Since founding the band as Tyrant in 1979, Chandler has been Vitus‘ principle songwriter and lyricist, presiding over some of American doom’s most essential works in albums like 1984′s Saint Vitus, 1986′s Born too Late and 1990′s V on SST and Hellhound Records. When Vitus were once again laid to rest after a 2003 reunion, Chandler formed Debris Inc. with Trouble‘s Ron Holzner on bass and a host of drummers, including Henry Vasquez, who’d later replace Armando Acosta in Vitus after they got together again in 2009 for a reunion that has, to date, stuck, resulting in tours around the world and their first studio outing since 1995′s Die Healing, the 2012 Season of Mist release Lillie: F-65 (review here), a tour de force of Vitus‘ trademark no-frills, no-letup doom that only served to demonstrate how many others in their wake have taken their influence but not managed to capture the same vibe — that’s not to say “magic” — that makes Saint Vitus wholly distinct in their approach.

In 2012, Vitus officially released the limited Marbles in the Moshpit, a former bootleg live album on vinyl, and they’ve worked with Scion A/V on two releases, 2012′s Live EP and a split single with The Casualties. A stage presence like none other, Chandler lives in New Orleans and reportedly has songs in progress for a follow-up to Lillie: F-65. As anyone who’s ever read his lyrics knows, he’s a master of word economy, and that’s as true as ever in his answers to The Obelisk Questionnaire.

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Dave Chandler

How did you come to do what you do?

I learned how to play music very young in grade school and it eventually progressed to rock and roll.

Describe your first musical memory.

Playing the coronet, small trumpet, in the grade school band.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

That would have to be when we headlined the second stage at Hellfest in 2009.

When was a time when a firmly held belief was tested?

When we stuck to our guns and played what we wanted during what we called “the punk rock wars” within the first two years when we were signed with SST. Eventually we gained the respect of the people that didn’t like us because we refused change.

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

That depends on oneself, but in can lead to a betterment of what you create.

How do you define success?

If you are happy with what you are doing, regardless of what it is, and you are happy with your life… you are successful.

What is something you have seen that you wish you hadn’t?

Dead bodies on the street.

Describe something you haven’t created yet that you’d like to create.

Our next album.

Something non-musical that you’re looking forward to?

The legalization of marijuana throughout the United States.

Saint Vitus on Thee Facebooks

Season of Mist

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The Obelisk Questionnaire: Ben Smith of The Brought Low

Posted in Questionnaire on February 10th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

If The Brought Low are on stage, you can safely bet that you’re going to have a good time. With thickened blues-via-punk grooves from bassist Bob Russell and drummer Nick Heller and a touch of twang in the vocal delivery of guitarist Ben Smith, the NYC trio’s songs present a character to heavy rock that no one else captures in quite the same way. At this point, experience is a factor. 2014 marks 15 years of The Brought Low, which formed in 1999 after the dissolution of Smith and Heller‘s prior outfit, the hardcore band Sweet Diesel. Their first, self-titled album was released on Tee Pee in 2001, and it would be half a decade before the follow-up, Right on Time, surfaced through Small Stone. Their aptly-titled 2010 Third Record (review here) was very much that, literally as well as figuratively in terms of expanding their range of influence and solidifying the progression of their first two outings. It delved further into blues and sad country, but still held firm to its rock and roll roots, ultra-memorable songs like “The Kelly Rose” and “Old Century” positioning The Brought Low as a band out of time even as they were utterly in their element being so.

Northeast regional shows have always been The Brought Low‘s trade, but they get out from time to time if the occasion suits, as SXSW has a couple times. Their latest release, an EP through Coextinction Recordings (stream here), arrived in 2011 and the band continues to work on their next full-length, while Smith and Heller step aside as well for periodic reunion gigs with Sweet Diesel.

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Benjamin Howard Smith

How did you come to do what you do?

I was very lucky to have been born into a big, artistic, musical family. My father wrote plays, my mother wrote novels, my sister sang in the church choir and my brothers played in rock bands. Playing music and being creative wasn’t an act of rebellion for me. It was something I was expected to do, like, “When are you going to learn how to play an instrument?” My brother taking me to see The Who movie The Kids Are Alright is what made me want to play guitar though it took a couple stops and starts before I really made the effort to learn how to play. A friend once said to me, “You love music so much you should really learn how to play,” which made a lot sense.

Describe your first musical memory.

When I was two years old my family did a house exchange and spent the summer in North London. Upstairs there was a record player and a stack of 45s including “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” by The Rolling Stones, or as I called it, “GET NO!,” which I made my siblings play over and over and over and over and over and over…

Describe your best musical memory to date.

As a musician? As a music fan? As a human being? So many. You know, the first thing that comes to mind is Christmas morning, 1980, coming down and seeing a row of records propped up on one corner, like diamonds, across the living room couch. It was The Clash, London Calling, and Ramones, Rocket To Russia, and probably something by Led Zeppelin and Rush as well. The smell of new records and getting a paper cut under your thumbnail opening them and looking at the packaging and reading the lyrics and discovering all this new music. It’s still one of the greatest joys in life and still happens to this day. Well, you know, the discovering new music part, not the diamond LP display. Though that would be awesome too.

When was a time when a firmly held belief was tested?

Nothing comes immediately to mind though I think all your beliefs should be tested and examined and questioned. Otherwise it’s not a belief; it’s just something you were taught and arbitrarily decided you agreed with. Or maybe that is belief. I’ve had lots of beliefs since I was born. Some of these beliefs I still follow to this day. Others I have examined and decided I no longer agreed with. I don’t know. What’s with the serious questions, man?!?! Shouldn’t we be talking about Les Pauls and Black Sabbath already?

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

Death. No, just kidding. For argument’s sake you could say AC/DC and Motörhead and plenty of folk and blues artists have had little use for it and it hasn’t seemed to hurt them any. By the same token, other musicians constantly evolve and change and push themselves. Both instincts can lead to great music. Also, if you play music for any amount of time you will, generally speaking, evolve and progress as a player. For myself, I am certainly a different person and musician than I was when I started out in bands.

How do you define success?

I’ve always felt as long as I could find someone who wants to put out my records, I have succeeded. I actually see some money now thanks to some of our songs being licensed to TV shows but in the end it’s a nominal amount and not enough to live on let alone support a family. I feel extremely blessed though for all the good fortune I’ve had as a musician. I have many talented friends who have not had the opportunities I have. Music has helped me see the country and even some other countries. Music is how I met my wife. Music is how I’ve made the majority of my friends over the last 20 years including some people whose records I used to buy. How cool is that? I have friends who are in more successful bands, some who actually make a living as a musician. Some of them are in bands with people they hate and are watching their children grow up on their iPads. I have always played in bands with my best friends and have had the joy of watching my daughter grow up first hand. Success is relative. Ultimately the success I’m most concerned with is the artistic achievement. Greatness is always the goal.

What is something you have seen that you wish you hadn’t?

Nothing. I’m glad I have seen everything I have, good and bad, beautiful and ugly. All of it is part of me and is something I have learned from or lived through, even if it was disturbing or upsetting. That said, I’m not a homicide detective or a combat soldier and the things I have seen in my life don’t compare to what people see who live in worlds where death and violence are a constant presence.

I will say, I lived in Manhattan on September 11th and stepped onto 5thAve., which looked down at the World Trade Center, moments after Tower One fell and I am glad I didn’t see that with my own two eyes. Also, I truly detest the sight of another human’s feces. So anytime I stepped into a bathroom and saw another person’s shit, I wish I hadn’t seen that.

Describe something you haven’t created yet that you’d like to create.

A soul album. Like Stax, Muscle Shoals-style Southern soul. With horns and ballads and backup singers, the whole nine. And guitar solos. If I had infinite time and resources I’d be in about 10 different bands playing 10 different styles of music.

Something non-musical that you’re looking forward to?

All of it. The seasons, life, watching my daughter grow up, taking on new challenges. I am pretty cynical by nature and generally pessimistic about humanity but let’s be real, we all, all of us here in America and in the world where we can read stoner rock music blogs on our computers live lives of tremendous ease and good fortune. Life is good. Yes, we sometimes have personal struggles, financial, physical or otherwise, but really, compared to so many in the world, we have so much. I am very thankful for all the good fortune I have had in my life; having a great family, growing up in the greatest city in the world, having the best friends a guy could ever want. Whatever happens next, I’m down.

The Brought Low, Third Record (2011)

The Brought Low on Thee Facebooks

Small Stone Records

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Alcest Interview with Neige: Shelter by the Sea

Posted in Features on February 7th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

There’s a point at which an artist has to decide why and for whom he or she creates, and for French post-black metal innovators Alcest, that point seems to have been during the recording of their 2012 full-length, Les Voyages de l’Âme (review here). As guitarist, vocalist, keyboardist, founder and principle songwriter Stéphane “Neige” Paut recalls, it was during this time that he began to feel as though he was playing to routine, making music more to please his fans and to meet expectations than to answer the call of his own creativity. If there was any question where Neige might end up on that issue, certainly the band’s fourth album, Shelter (review here), puts them to rest.

Released through Prophecy Productions and recorded in Iceland by Birgir Jón Birgisson (Sigur Rós), Shelter maintains the emotional core that’s been at the center of Alcest‘s approach since their groundbreaking 2007 debut, Souvenirs d’un Autre Monde. What’s changed is the context in which that signature element arrives. Shelter dispatches with most (not all) of the band’s black metal influence, Neige and drummer Jean “Winterhalter” Deflandre opting instead to shift their focus to a dreamy, bright melodicism which has always been there in Alcest‘s sound, but has never come to the fore in the way it does now, post-intro album opener “Opale” working quickly to establish a new clean, clear tonal foundation that songs like “L’Éveil des Muses” and “Voix Sereines” build on with the band’s signature shoegazing adventurousness.

One could easily argue that adventurousness has never been more prominent in Alcest‘s approach than it is on Shelter, both in terms of departing from what they’d established as their “norm” to unknown aesthetic ground, and in more obvious factors like choosing an English word for the title and bringing Slowdive‘s Neil Halstead to sing lead on “Away,” one of the album’s most central melodic washes. I spoke to Neige about these things and more prior to Alcest beginning a European tour with Hexvessel that wraps up this week in support of Shelter. He was both conscious of the changes in his band’s sound and of Shelter‘s potential to alienate some of their following, but resigned in having to do what he had to do to keep the band going. As much as it was one, his choice clearly had been made.

Please find the Q&A enclosed after the jump, and enjoy:

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The Obelisk Questionnaire: Jon Davis of Conan

Posted in Questionnaire on February 3rd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

His hood up, his mouth stretched wide in a guttural shout that seems to shake his whole body, Conan guitarist/vocalist Jon Paul Davis gives the impression that there’s little of his being not being hurled from the stage at his audience. As the trio of Davis, bassist/vocalist Phil Coumbe and drummer Paul O’Neil, Conan make their debut on Napalm Records in 2014 with their second full-length, Blood Eagle (review here), an album that arrives as the payoff of a creative and popular ascent that began with 2010′s Horseback Battle Hammer EP (review here). Through that release, the subsequent 2011 split with Slomatics (review here), their 2012 debut long-player, Monnos (review here), and 2013′s Mount Wrath: Live at Roadburn 2012 and split with Bongripper, Conan have established a base of rumbling low end tone that few seem to be able to match. With thematics drawn from the fantasy conquests of Robert E. Howard, J. R. R. Tolkien and others, Conan‘s aesthetic has become focused on the big, the brutal and the badass. It is a near-perfect amalgam of theory and practice.

Before recording Blood Eagle, Davis built Skyhammer Studio, a professional, live-in facility adjacent to his home in Cheshire, UK, and hired engineer Chris Fielding — with whom he’d previously worked at Foel Studios in Wales — to take up residency. Already, Skyhammer has become a hub of the UK scene, with the likes of Serpent Venom, Coltsblood, Stubb and Greenhorn tracking there, and to complement, Davis has started a record label, Black Bow Records, putting out Conan‘s Horseback Battle Hammer and Monnos on tape as well as releases by Bast and a split between Fister and Norska.

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Jon Paul Davis

How did you come to do what you do?

I was 15 or 16 and had just started playing guitar (a cheap Spanish acoustic). I begged my parents for a guitar after they tried to get me into playing keyboard. I remember having a couple of lessons, a year or two later, and I wasn’t very good but one lunch time I told a friend of mine that I was going to play guitar on stage when I was older. Since then I have stopped and started being in various nondescript bands and then Conan happened and I get to do what my 16-year-old self promised himself back in 1992. I’ve just been been really driven to do this.

Describe your first musical memory.

Two early ones, not sure which is the first. Dancing to Shakin’ Stevens when I was three or four years old in a cafe and people were clapping, I was able to go up onto my tip toes the way he did. Another memory is of my Great Grandmother, who was brought up in Tipperary but brought up her side of our family in Kirkby (North of Liverpool), who used to sing a song like “Irish Eyes are Smiling” or “If You’re Irish Come into the Parlour” or something like that. We always used to have sing-alongs in our house whenever we had that half of my family over. It was awesome and I remember a real sense of belonging and “family” at that young age.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

A tough one. But I would say there was a few weeks when Horseback Battle Hammer was released when it suddenly became apparent that we had unknowingly created something that people we’re into. When Uge from Throne Records emailed me to say that he would put it out in vinyl it made me think, “Wow, we’re actually going to release something on a proper record label.” This sticks out for me because up until that point I had just played in bands as a hobby, and always wished I could get “signed” to a label… Those first stages of becoming aware of people noticing us was very intense, I’ll never forget it. There have been many since that I have already discussed before so I’ll leave them for another time.

When was a time when a firmly held belief was tested?

I always believe that losing loved ones should be an “occasion,” something you build up to and kind of prepare for. The world wouldn’t just take people away without warning. This has been challenged twice so far with the death of my Grandmother Harriet Fitzsimmons, and my oldest friend Ted Evans. My Grandmother died suddenly on her way to a friend’s house back in 1998 and I still miss her now. Last year, at the end of March I was watching my children playing on a trampoline in Spain when I got a phone call to say that my mate Ted had died. I couldn’t believe it. Ted was the same age as me and died suddenly of a heart attack. He was a great old friend and has left a huge hole in my heart. My Grandfather John Fitzsimmons (someone who I will always look up to as a great example of a hard working honest Liverpool man) died after a long illness and his passing was almost bearable because it had seemed that his time had come and we had all been able to prepare for it. I will always remember sleeping over in my Grandparents house in Norris Green, waking up the next day and being taken by my Nan on the bus to meet my Grandad. When I got a bit older I started going the game with my friends (Ted and a few others) but I would always meet my Grandad in the pub (The Top House in Walton) and I never thought those times would go so fast. Those moments that you never feel as they slip through your fingers. These losses have always made me realise that things aren’t going to last forever and you should enjoy everything you have. I never used to bother with this, I used to take things for granted, but not anymore.

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

I feel that progression leads to sharpness and you can never stop sharpening your blade. It can always be “sharper” no matter what you think of yourself. Progression often means diversification to some people. Take certain bands, as they progress they sometimes change from what made them them in the first place. I guess it is a process of taking what you have and making the most of it.

How do you define success?

I think bring successful is gaining what you want from a given situation. For me, being happy by doing something I enjoy makes me feel successful. It makes me feel like I am spending my time wisely. I once had a well paid job as HR Manager in a profitable business but I swapped that nine-to-five stuff for a recording studio, a record label and a touring band. I earn less in a monetary sense from these things than I did from the day job but I feel “successful” every day because I get to be at home with the kids at home time and I get to cook their meals every day, I can also tour much more easily. That is real success in my opinion, enjoying life while doing things you want and keeping those around you happy. If you apply this to being in a band some will say that successful bands are those on the biggest label doing the coolest tours. However, that situation might be beneficial financially but it does not necessarily make you happy — it might not keep your soul warm.

What is something you have seen that you wish you hadn’t?

I saw my Grandmother Harriet Fitzsimmons lying in hospital in the final minutes of life following a fatal heart attack. I was a young boy but I sat at her bedside with the rest of my family as she slipped away, talking to her, asking her not to go. She was a lovely woman and I was very attached to her, her memory brings a tear to my eye every single time without fail and I still remember chatting to her earlier that day and wished I had done so for longer. But after we heard of her heart attack I was taken to hospital by an Uncle and he wouldn’t talk to me or confirm what had happened and the first I saw of her was in bed, obviously slipping away. I held her hand and talked to her but seeing her die this way led to many years of anxiety attacks and mild depression. I decided to develop my own coping mechanisms rather than take medication, and now I am no longer affected in the same way but seeing my Nanna pass away in the manner that I did was obviously something my young mind couldn’t cope with.

Describe something you haven’t created yet that you’d like to create.

My wife and I are currently in the early stages of having an office built in the cellar of our house. I wish to create in this space a solid base for Skyhammer Studio and Black Bow Records. With this set up I hope to progress both of these businesses so I can help bands who are under the radar to get a great quality recording and, hopefully, they can get the same feelings I got back when Horseback Battle Hammer was released, should the recording be picked up by my own label or a different one. Additionally the studio is of such a high quality, and with the very talented Chris Fielding as resident producer, I hope it will continue to attract the high calibre of established bands that we have booked in so far. Chris and I can hopefully create a go-to studio for music recording in the UK.

Something non-musical that you’re looking forward to?

Three things:

1. I’m getting the stop lights fixed on the band’s tour bus tomorrow. I’ve been driving round for a month with no brake lights!!!!

2. On Saturday it is my daughter’s fourth birthday and I am really looking forward to seeing her at the centre of attention.

3. Conan touring starts in March and I just cannot express how much I want to get back playing live again.

Conan, “Gravity Chasm” Live at Desertfest London 2013

Conan on Thee Facebooks

Napalm Records

Skyhammer Studio

Black Bow Records

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The Obelisk Questionnaire: Rafa Martinez of Black Cobra

Posted in Questionnaire on January 27th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

The first time I saw Black Cobra was in a Manhattan basement club called Lit Lounge at a show I put together in 2005, and it was a genuine “Oh shit” moment. The duo of guitarist/vocalist Jason Landrian (ex-Cavity) and drummer Rafa Martinez (who was also still part-time bassist for Acid King at that point) were among the rawest and meanest heavy bands I’d ever come across. Later that year, I’d catch them in a shoe museum in Los Angeles with Torche and to this day it remains one of the heaviest shows I can (barely) remember. Their debut album, Bestial, was released on At a Loss in 2006, and the band relocated from the East Coast to San Francisco, though really, for several years they were nomadic, never seeming to stay too long off the road between tours, hand-delivering punishment to an increasingly devout audience. Southern Lord picked them up for 2007′s Feather and Stone full-length, and their run continued at a gallop as fierce as their own thrashing riffs. 2009′s Chronomega followed and 2011′s Invernal (review here) brought a conceptual edge to their approach, taking the Polar explorations of British researcher Ernest Shackleton to dark and monstrous places, thematically and sonically.

They remain a force on the road, having just completed a week-long West Coast run with Weedeater after having made a stop in Miami to share the stage with Holly Hunt and Shroud Eater in December and another right after the New Year to play Brooklyn’s St. Vitus bar with Throaat and Blackout.

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Rafa Martinez

How did you come to do what you do?

I’m assuming you mean playing music. Growing up I copied everything my older brother did so when he picked up a guitar I followed right behind. He introduced me to metal and punk music. We had a couple bands together but he slowly stopped and it became my life.

Describe your first musical memory.

When I was three I remember learning how to use a turntable with Michael Jackson’s Thriller.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

Sharing the stage with Sleep and Neurosis at Hellfest this last summer was very memorable.

When was a time when a firmly held belief was tested?

Once we were about to go onstage and the stage manager told us our set was being cut by 15 minutes. I told him that we would do no such thing and that his un-American censorship would be protested by our fans and that they would more than likely do things to him. We did our full set and as the crowd cheered for more, the stage manager obliged to their supplicant cries.

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

Evolution.

How do you define success?

Feeling good about what you do never compromising your ideals. Getting free pizza once in a while is nice too.

What is something you have seen that you wish you hadn’t?

Seeing that sorry-ass excuse of existence,  waste of space,  fetid effluvia emitting piece of gonorrhea the world knows as Creed winning a Grammy for Best Rock Performance in 2001. I know it was a slow year and all but there’s no logical reason for something like that to happen.  But then again George W. Bush got elected twice so we’re all slowly getting used to events like these that make absolutely no sense.

Describe something you haven’t created yet that you’d like to create.

Free energy.

Something non-musical that you’re looking forward to?

I heard a rumor that both Police Academy and Footloose are being remade at the moment. Looking forward the their premieres.

Black Cobra, “The Crimson Blade” official video

Black Cobra on Thee Facebooks

Southern Lord Recordings

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The Obelisk Questionnaire: Nick DiSalvo of Elder

Posted in Questionnaire on January 20th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Massachusetts trio Elder made their debut in a split with Queen Elephantine in 2006 and have since gone on to establish one of the more forceful approaches in the next generation of American heavy rock, melding heavy psychedelic influences amid deeply weighted cycles of riffing. Comprised of the trio of guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo, bassist Jack Donovan and drummer Matt Couto, Elder‘s debut, a 2008 self-titled, found them embarking on a creative discovery of their sound, already plenty engaging with a strong nod to the stonerisms of Sleep, but it was with 2011′s Dead Roots Stirring (review here) that the three-piece made good on the potential they showed their first time out. Both albums were released through MeteorCity, and in 2012, a two-song EP followed via Armageddon Shop called Spires Burn/Release (streamed here) that pushed their sonic individualism even further and resulted in their most distinguished songwriting yet.

Touring in the Eastern and Midwestern US followed in 2012, and in 2013, Elder joined forces with Pet the Preacher for a run of European dates that included the Roadburn festival — the LP version of their set is due soon, but it’s available now to download. After spending much of the summer continuing to write their third album and playing local shows, the band went on hiatus in August so that DiSalvo would be able to spend an academic year abroad, teaching English in Essen, Germany, from where Elder will pick up in April to join the lineups for Desertfest in Berlin and in London.

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Nick DiSalvo

How did you come to do what you do?

I discovered punk rock and started developing my own taste in music when I was about 11 or 12. My brother can take most of the credit for that. I was electrified by the music, the energy, I think it resonated with me in my own youthful exuberance. Of course I wanted to emulate my new idols as every child does, so I got a drum set and a guitar as soon as I had the money and started learning to play. I think there’s not a huge gap between any of the offshoots from rock n’ roll and it was a matter of time before I was introduced to doom and stoner rock. The rest is history.

Describe your first musical memory.

I only have a collective memory of my first musical experiences, the chronology is rather foggy… My childhood best friend and I used to hang out all of the time and write short songs and record them on a four-track recorder I got for Christmas one year. Our “band” probably recorded at least 150 songs, sadly only a few dozen ever made it to the cassette-dubber. Perhaps that sort of “quantity-over-quality” mentality played a role in me adapting quite the opposite attitude nowadays, attempting to compose long, epic songs.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

This is a real toss-up. The first thing that comes to mind is Elder’s Roadburn appearance last April during our first European tour. I had visited Roadburn twice in the past and always viewed the festival as a landmark event (Emissions from the Monolith was, alas, before my time) for the scene, so being able to play was a real honor. The room was packed to the walls and brimming with energy; that was my only gig thus far which really seemed to be as long as the blink of an eye, that’s how adrenaline-filled it was for me.

When was a time when a firmly held belief was tested?

Ambivalence has been a major theme of my life ever since I’ve been old enough to think for myself. I can’t think of any firmly held beliefs which aren’t subject to constant criticism and consideration within my own mind.

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

In my ideal world, progression leads to the full realization of the artist’s potential, the discovery of the “true” artistic self. What that means in less pretentious (musical) terms is finding “one’s own sound.” I guess for me, progression means both artistic development and a honing of one’s craft to best express ideas.

How do you define success?

I suppose success is the feeling of having accomplished your goals, and so that really depends on the goals you’ve set for yourself. I think that the perception of success gets twisted over time, however. The goals I set for myself musically years ago have all long since been met; I used to daydream about having my own record, and then I could die happy! Now with every step forward there’s something new to daydream about. I guess that’s one of those American values that have, for better or for worse, been instilled in me, always try to keep moving forward, climbing the ladder, etc. Success should be when you’ve reached happiness.

What is something you have seen that you wish you hadn’t?

Does it sound too clichéd to say that every experience is an enrichment of the character in some way? No, in all seriousness, I think I’ve been fortunate in life and haven’t witnessed anything I would wish to un-see, except for a few unsavory internet videos.

Describe something you haven’t created yet that you’d like to create.

I can’t wait to get into the studio and start recording the next Elder album. It’s still being written but is inching ever closer to completion. For me, this band, which started off as a free-time project between friends, has really become my baby and the outlet for all of my own creative expression. We’ve been working on the full-length successor to Dead Roots Stirring for many years now and bringing it into physical existence will be an enormous weight off of all of our shoulders.

Something non-musical that you’re looking forward to?

I’m living abroad at the moment and am very much looking forward to returning to my friends and loved ones. Other than that, most of the joy in my life is derived from playing and enjoying music, so I can’t comment further!

Elder, Live at Roadburn 2013

Elder on Thee Facebooks

Elder’s Live at Roadburn at Burning World Records

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Tomorrow’s Dream: 42 of 2014′s Most Anticipated Albums

Posted in Features on January 13th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Getting ready to type this list is like standing on the precipice of a canyon. Maybe that’s a little dramatic, but you get the idea. Last year was an all-out assault of music. I couldn’t have heard it all even if I’d wanted to, and while it’ll probably be June before I feel like I’m sufficiently caught up on 2013, the new-car-smelling rush of 2014 is already underway.

And the only thing to do is press on — though I’ve tried on several occasions, I can’t seem to stop time and review everything that I’m fortunate enough to encounter — and that means glancing ahead to what’s coming in 2014. I know I said so before, but once again, Happy New Year.

One of my favorite things to do is to look forward to a new album. I consider it a sign of the endurance of the human spirit not only that new creative works are being completed and distributed at such a constant rate, but that we can still anticipate the resonance of those works upon their arrival. I don’t mind telling you this is the largest of any such list I’ve ever written for this site. Even as I start it, I’m finding more to add, and I’m sure when it’s done it won’t be complete. So it goes.

There’s more to say, but I’ve delayed enough. We’ll go alphabetically, which is only unfortunate because it puts YOB last. Thanks in advance for reading.

 

1. Acid King, TBA

We start the same place we started in 2013, with Acid King. The San Francisco giants have sworn up and down they’ll have a new record out this year, and while I’ve yet to see any solid word of its coming manifest, I remain hopeful that it happens. Of course, that was also pretty much the case going into 2013, but they toured Europe last fall and even came out to the East Coast for a show and played some new material (review here), so if it’s to be that III finally gets a follow-up some nine years later, it’s worth keeping an eye out ahead of time. Acid King on Thee Facebooks.

 

2. Alcest, Shelter

To be released this coming week on Prophecy Productions, the fourth Alcest full-length, Shelter (review here), is billed as a major sonic turn away from the France-based outfit’s black metal influences toward brighter sonic fare. It is that, but the nostalgic melodies and crucial emotionality that has always been the root of Alcest’s sound remains intact. It will be interesting to see what the response is upon its release, but Shelter is an early point of fascination for 2014. Alcest on Thee Facebooks.

 

3. All Them Witches, TBA


I’m not sure what they’re doing in the studio, if it’s a single, an EP or a full-length album, but this past weekend, on Jan. 11, Nashville heavy psych rockers All Them Witches posted the above picture with the simple tagline “Recording.” Fair enough. It seems soon for them to have another LP after 2013′s excellent Lightning at the Door (discussed here), but that album seemed to arrive soon after 2012′s Our Mother Electricity (reissued by Elektrohasch in 2013; review here), so who knows? It’ll be fun to find out either way. All Them Witches on Bandcamp.

 

4. Alunah, TBA

UK doomers Alunah will make their debut on Napalm Records with yet-untitled third album. With wider distribution at their disposal than that received by their 2012 outing, White Hoarhound (review here), I wouldn’t be surprised to see Alunah really leave a mark on 2014, but more fascinating to me than how many people get to hear it is how the band — who’ve swapped out bassists since their last outing — will follow-up the tremendously memorable songs on White Hoarhound. No doubt they can do it, it’s just hard not to be impatient. Alunah on Thee Facebooks.

 

5. Blackwolfgoat, Drone Maintenance

I was fortunate enough to be invited down to Amps vs. Ohms in Boston when Blackwolfgoat (aka Darryl Shepard, also of Black Pyramid, The Scimitar, ex-Hackman, Roadsaw, etc. and a new project I don’t think I’m allowed to talk about yet) was tracking the follow-up to 2011′s Dronolith, which was released on this site’s in-house label, The Maple Forum. Raw tracks can sometimes prove to tell little about the finished product of an album, but each piece on Drone Maintenance that I heard had a distinct atmosphere, and “Cyclopean Utopia” was heavy enough on its own to warrant inclusion here. Rumor also has it that Black Pyramid offshoot The Scimitar will release a studio debut this year. Blackwolfgoat on Bandcamp.

 

6. Causa Sui, Live at Freak Valley

Holding the promise of over 90 minutes of live-recorded material from the 2013 Freak Valley festival in Germany, Causa Sui‘s Live at Freak Valley will see release through the band’s own El Paraiso Records and should provide further insight as a companion piece to their 2013 studio full-length, Euporie Tide. As that album boasted such an engaging live and progressive feel, successfully meshing desert and krautrock influences, I’d expect no less from the live outing, which though they’ve put out studio jams before — their three-volume 2008-2009 Summer Sessions is a joy worthy of the season — is their first official concert recording. El Paraiso Records website.

 

7. Conan, Blood Eagle

Six devastating tracks that both continue Conan‘s sonic dominance and usher in a new era for the band. Not only is their second full-length, Blood Eagle, their debut on Napalm Records, but it’s also the first Conan LP to be recorded at Skyhammer Studios, which was built and is owned by guitarist/vocalist Jon Davis. Producer Chris Fielding worked with the band previously on 2012′s Monnos (review here) and 2010′s Horseback Battle Hammer EP (review here), and Blood Eagle benefits from that now familiar collaboration, bridging the gap between the faster, catchy sides of Monnos and the complementing ultra-plod of its longer tracks. Album opener “Crown of Talons” also ranks among the heaviest things they’ve ever done, and “Foehammer” takes it’s name from Gandalf’s sword, Glamdring, so I don’t know what more you could ever ask of a full-length than that. Conan on Thee Facebooks.

 

8. Eggnogg, You’re all Invited

With the addition of bassist Corey Dozier to the rhythm section with drummer Jason Prushko, Brooklynite doom-funk stompers Eggnogg have been able to move vocalist Bill O’Sullivan to guitar from bass, giving Justin Karol a chance to act all the more as a lead player. How this new four-piece dynamic might play out on You’re all Invited — or even if Dozier played on it — remains to be seen, but from what I’ve caught live, it’s turned them into a thicker, fuller-sounding band, and on new material and old, Eggnogg are coming into their own. They’re still a better band than they know, and one hopes they can get some road time in as well as release the LP to continue to refine their approach. Eggnogg on Thee Facebooks.

 

9. Elder, Live at Roadburn 2013

Granted it’s been available through Burning World Records digitally since last November, but Elder‘s Live at Roadburn 2013 is set for physical issue early this year through the label, and having stood in front of the stage to witness the set myself at Het Patronaat in Tilburg and then seen the line running outside the venue and down the block, I can tell you it’s a beast. Put it on vinyl with cover art by Adrian Dexter and maybe a photo or two by yours truly and you’ve got a good way to get a preview for what their sets at the two Desertfests might hold this year. Elder on Thee Facebooks.

 

10. 40 Watt Sun, TBA

Speaking of Roadburn, emotive UK doomers 40 Watt Sun are set to make a return appearance at the fabled fest in the Netherlands, and the word was they’d do so with material from the follow-up to their 2011 Metal Blade debut, The Inside Room (review here), which established the band, led by guitarist/vocalist Patrick Walker (Warning), as a deeply affecting act with a rich sonic texture. No word of an exact release date for the sophomore effort yet, but one expects it will receive no shortage of fanfare prior to and upon its arrival. 40 Watt Sun on Thee Facebooks.

 

11. The Golden Grass, TBA

Brooklyn trio The Golden GrassOne More Time b/w Tornado debut single was one of the best short releases of 2013, and the sunshiny classic heavy rockers will look to follow it with a first long-player this year. Recording is completed — the tracking was helmed by Andréa Zavareei, who also did the 7″ — and so is mixing, done by Jeff Berner (Naam, etc.), so with mastering in progress, hopefully it’s not too long before The Golden Grass can offer a right-on cure for wintry blues. It will be interesting to hear how they sustain and work within their positive vibes over the course of a complete LP. The Golden Grass on Thee Facebooks.

 

12. Greenleaf, Trails and Passes

Trails and Passes will be Greenleaf‘s first outing since 2003′s Secret Alphabets not to be fronted by Oskar Cedermalm (also of Truckfighters) and also finds the Swedish unit both with a new drummer (hello, Sebastian Olsson) and down from two guitars to one. It was five years between their third album, 2007′s Agents of Ahriman and 2012′s Nest of Vipers (review here), so with a quicker turnaround and a stripped-down songwriting approach that seems geared more toward a live-sounding heavy rock presentation, Greenleaf could easily be positioning themselves as a full(er)-time touring act. The more the merrier. Greenleaf on Thee Facebooks.

 

13. Grifter, The Return of the Bearded Brethren

UK power trio Grifter surprised some with the quality of songwriting on their 2011 self-titled debut (review here), the lacking pretense of which was in proportion to its classic heavy rock influence, but The Return of the Bearded Brethren, which is set to release on Ripple Music, won’t have the advantage of sneaking up. If they’re throwing down a gauntlet, the confrontational pose of the shirtless tattooed beardo on their LP cover would seem to indicate it’s a considerable one indeed, but I wouldn’t be shocked if Grifter made following up on their self-titled sound as easy as they made infectious hooks sound the last time out. Grifter on Thee Facebooks.

 

14. Hull, TBA

Down from a five-piece to a foursome after having lost one of their three guitars since the release of 2011′s stellar second LP, Beyond the Lightless Sky (review here), 2014 marks an interesting point for singular Brooklyn post-thrashers Hull. With a Roadburn appearance slated and a limited vinyl reissue of their 2007 Viking Funeral debut EP in hand, they’ll look to bring their conceptual songwriting into a new presentational arc, and while that’s a fascinating prospect, I’m also looking forward to their new album because it promises to be heavy as fuck whenever it happens to arrive, hopefully by the end of the year. Hull on Thee Facebooks.

 

15. Lowrider, TBA

Were this list numbered in anticipatory rather than alphabetical order, Lowrider would be much closer to the top than lucky number 13. The Swedish four-piece will be recording their first outing since 2000′s genre-landmark Ode to Io this year after reuniting on stage at Desertfest 2013 — they’ll return to London next month with Dozer — and while I don’t know if it’ll be out by the time 2014 is done, I do know that the sheer prospect of a new Lowrider makes this year much better than it would be otherwise. I already invited myself to Sweden for an in-studio. More to come. Lowrider on Thee Facebooks.

 

16. The Machine, TBA

A couple weeks back, Dutch heavy psych rockers The Machine — whose split with now-defunct countrymen Sungrazer (review here) was my favorite short release last year — held a poll on their Thee Facebooks page to name their upcoming fifth album, which will follow 2012′s Calmer than You Are (review here) on Elektrohasch. My suggestion? Come to Light. It has the advantage of sounding psychedelic with an undertone of enlightenment to speak to the band’s continuing progression and it keeps with the prior album in being a reference to The Big Lebowski. No word on whether or not they’ll use it, but I’ve got my fingers crossed. The Machine’s website.

 

17. Mars Red Sky, TBA

Currently in the mixing stage, the second Mars Red Sky long-player will arrive on the heels of 2013′s Be My Guide EP (review here) and the Bordeaux fuzz trio’s self-titled 2011 debut (review here) and a host of tours and festival appearances. While their plans to record in the California desert reportedly didn’t pan out, the trio put much of the album to tape over the course of a week in Brazil following dates in South America, so it should boast plenty of sunshine either way. The album is due for release in April — a pro-shot live video of the new song “Satellites” was recently unveiled — and Mars Red Sky will also play at Hellfest in their native France in June. Mars Red Sky on Bandcamp.

 

18. Mos Generator, Electric Mountain Majesty

The Washington trio’s first album for Listenable Records and their second since picking back up after several years of inactivity while guitarist/vocalist Tony Reed concentrated on Stone Axe, Electric Mountain Majesty is done and mastered as of Jan. 5. Recorded by Reed himself, it will follow a pair of live outings in 2013 (reviews here and here) and 2012′s infectious return, Nomads (review here). I am fully prepared to have these songs stuck in my head for most of 2014, so bring it on. A March release has been floated, which would come ahead of an appearance at Freak Valley in late May. Mos Generator on Thee Facebooks.

 

19. Mr. Peter Hayden, Archdimension Now

Triumphantly creative Finnish cosmic doomers Mr. Peter Hayden will complete a trilogy with Archdimension Now that began with 2010′s Faster than Speed (review here) and 2012′s single-song 68-minute LP, Born a Trip (review here). Crushing tones and a formidable scope don’t seem like unreasonable expectations, though what really interests me is how the Satakunta five-piece will expand on the sound of their last album, which still seems to reveal something new each time I put it on. Their new single “We Fly High,” was streamed here recently and bodes well. Mr. Peter Hayden on Bandcamp.

 

20. Pallbearer, TBA

Pallbearer have toured hard since their 2012 debut, Sorrow and Extinction (review here), hit a nerve with doomers across the globe, and the four-piece from Arkansas are set to begin recording their next LP (presumably) for Profound Lore in February. If that puts a release for sometime in late Spring/early Summer, I would imagine it will come coupled with no shortage of live dates, since the band seems most at home on tour. Should be intriguing to have a document of how all that stage time has manifested in solidifying and adding confidence to their approach, and this is another one preceded by much anticipation. Pallbearer on Thee Facebooks.

 

21. Papir, IIII

It would seem I have some purchases to make in order to catch up with Danish heavy psych jammers Papir. Aside from their recent collaboration with Electric Moon, the upcoming IIII will sure enough be their fourth album. Available now to preorder through El Paraiso Records, it is a vinyl-ready 47 minutes of smoothly shifting transitions between lush atmospherics and driving fuzz-heavy rock, ready to stand in line with progressive European instrumentalists like 35007, My Sleeping Karma and indeed their label honchos, Causa Sui. I had caught wind of 2013′s III previously, but deeper back catalog investigation is definitely warranted. Papir on Thee Facebooks.

 

22. Pilgrim, TBA

Just before they left to tour Europe with Windhand, Providence, Rhode Island, doomers Pilgrim recorded their sophomore full-length at Moonlight Mile Recording in scenic Jersey City, NJ. After the huge response garnered — and, I should say, earned — by their 2012 debut, Misery Wizard, the band jumped from Alan Averill of Primordial‘s Metal Blade imprint, Poison Tongue Records, to Metal Blade proper for the new one, which along with Pallbearer, 40 Watt Sun, Serpent Venom and The Wounded Kings (and no doubt others) makes a prospect for a thoroughly doomed 2014. So be it. Pilgrim on Thee Facebooks.

 

23. Radio Moscow, TBA

As I type these words, heavy rockers Radio Moscow are mixing their yet-untitled fourth album (fifth if you count 2012′s 3 & 3 Quarters, which was comprised of early unreleased material) at Big Fish Recording in Encinitas, CA. Details on the release are sketchy at best at this point, and by that I mean nil, but at least there’s progress being made, and since it’s still January, it seems entirely likely the album will surface one way or another in the next 11 months, barring disaster. The bombastic blues jammers led by Parker Griggs toured Europe last fall and rumor is there’s a run in the works for the US at the end of February into March. Radio Moscow on Thee Facebooks.

 

24. Sigiriya, Darkness Died Today

What’s not to like about a new Sigiriya album? The UK four-piece premiered “Tribe of the Old Oak” from Darkness Died Today here last month, and in addition to the considerable pipes of new vocalist Matt Williams, the track showcased a somewhat moodier psychedelic vibe from the band, who continue to distance themselves from Acrimony, of which bassist Paul Bidmead, guitarist Stuart O’Hara and drummer Darren Ivey were members, while also exploring new avenues from those of Sigiriya‘s debut, 2011′s Return to Earth (review here). I haven’t heard the whole thing yet, but they set a high standard last time. Sigiriya on Thee Facebooks.

 

25. Sixty Watt Shaman, TBA

Reason to Live, was released by Spitfire Records (remember them?) in… wait for it… 2002. Some 12 years ago. Now, these dudes have been kicking around in other bands since Sixty Watt Shaman sort of melted away in the manner that underrated bands often unfortunately do, but with the announcement of their appearances this year at Desertfest (info here) in April and The Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 in May (info here) came word of a new studio release. EP or LP unknown at present. As killer as Reason to Live was, it just doesn’t seem fair to expect Sixty Watt Shaman to be the same band they were more than a decade ago. As such, I don’t know what’s coming, but I’m keen to find out. Sixty Watt Shaman on Thee Facebooks.

 

26. Skraeckoedlan, Gigantos

The 2011 debut from upstart Swedish heavy-hitters Skraeckoedlan, titled Äppelträdet (review here), was recorded by Oskar Cedermalm of Truckfighters and had much of that band’s fuzzy compression in blend with their own Mastodon-ic plod. It was a combination that worked so well I thought for sure the young outfit would return to Studio Bombshelter for their next outing, but no dice. As a result, I’m not sure what to expect from Gigantos, but I dug what I heard in a recent live video from them, so we’ll see how it turns out when the LP is done and I’m not about to judge either way until then. Skraeckoedlan on Thee Facebooks.

 

27. The Skull, TBA

I have no interest in downplaying any of the original members of Trouble‘s contributions to that legendary Chicago doom band (nor the work they’re doing now or those contributing to it), but there can be no question that Eric Wagner‘s voice is a signature element, and right now, that’s something The Skull has over the outfit from whence they sprang. Add to that Ron Holzner‘s bass and Jeff “Oly” Olson‘s drums and you’re well on your way to some foundational heavy. Among the best signs is that The Skull were recording with Billy Anderson (Sleep, the Melvins, Acid King, etc.), who obviously knows his shit and is likely to capture their sound as it should be: Completely doomed. Also keep an eye out for Wagner‘s side-project, Blackfinger, who have an LP coming. The Skull on Thee Facebooks.

 

28. Sleep, TBA

This would be the mother of them all, I guess. A new Sleep album. In addition to hinting at new studio outings by his own three-piece Om and Matt Pike‘s High on Fire, bassist/vocalist Al Cisneros let it slip casual-style in an interview somewhere that Sleep were working on new material, thus snapping my Thee Facebooks feed in half. Fair enough. Working on material doesn’t mean we’ll see a record this year, or at all, but obviously if there’s a chance a new album might happen (I’ve been nerding out about the idea for a while; see here and here), it would be proof of justice in the universe. Seems an obvious thing that Billy Anderson would record this as well, and all the better. Can the Sons of Sabbath prove there’s life after Dopesmoker? For now, only the Antarcticans know. Sleep’s website.

 

29. Slough Feg, Digital Resistance

Slated for release through Metal Blade — they’re taking preorders — what if I’m not mistaken is the 32nd Slough Feg LP is due on Feb. 18. As much as I’m looking forward to the release of the record itself, having very, very much enjoyed 2010′s The Animal Spirits (review here), I’m even more interested to see if I finally get up the gumption to interview guitarist/vocalist Mike Scalzi. Something about a dude who doubles as a philosophy professor and who’s been putting out records in his band since I was nine and long before anyone gave a shit I’ve always found intimidating. We’ll see if I’m up to it this year. @Slough_Feg.

 

30. Snail, Feral

Last summer, West Coast riffers Snail announced the departure of guitarist Eric Clausen, which means that their fourth outing, Feral, will be their first as the trio of guitarist/vocalist Mark Johnson, bassist Matt Lynch and drummer Marty Dodson since their 1993 self-titled debut full-length (reissue review here). Should be interesting to see how the shift to their original lineup changes the tenor of Feral as opposed to their two albums with Clausen, 2009′s comebacker Blood (review here) and 2012′s Terminus (review here), but as the first audio from the record begins to surface, Snail‘s sound seems to still very much have its core intact. Terminus brought in something of a rawer heavy metal influence coming off the languid, dreamy Blood, but as they’ve been back together now for going on half a decade, no doubt a few more twists are in store. Snail on Thee Facebooks.

 

31. Steak, TBA

Quickly emerging at the fore of London’s enviable up and coming heavy rock scene — and, in the case of guitarist Reece Tee, helping shape it as one of the architects of DesertfestSteak are set to debut this year on Napalm Records with what will be their first full-length following two EPs, 2012′s Disastronaught (review here) and 2013′s Corned Beef Colossus (review here). They’ve put in time on tour — they’ll play in Spain with Monster Magnet and in London with Lowrider and Dozer in February — and seem to be ready to take the next step in releasing an album, and after the conceptual elements of both EPs, I’m eager to see where the next chapter of their story goes. Steak on Bandcamp.

 

32. Stubb, TBA

Tracking is to begin a few weeks from now for Stubb‘s second album at Jon Davis of Conan‘s Skyhammer Studios. After the release of their 2013 single, Under a Spell (review here), and the departure of drummer Chris West, guitarist/vocalist Jack Dickinson and bassist/vocalist Peter Holland acquired Tom Fyfe to fill the position, and subsequently found a label home on Ripple Music. It’ll be a different Stubb than they were on their 2012 self-titled debut (review here), but the fuzz runs strong in them however the changes might manifest in the finished product from the studio, and I can’t even think of “Under a Spell” without hearing the chorus in my head, so yeah, I’m on board. Stubb on Thee Facebooks.

 

33. SunnO))) & Ulver,Terrestrials

A collaboration between drone lords SunnO))) and Norwegian post-black metal progenitors Ulver probably isn’t the kind of thing that’s going to make you crush a beer can on your forehead and call your bros to come over and check it out (actually, I don’t know what kind of music does that, but it probably sucks), but Terrestrials has the potential to be one of 2014′s most unique releases all the same. After Ulver‘s delving into orchestral minimalism on 2013′s Messe I-IX, it’s really anyone’s best guess what this will sound like when it comes out on Feb. 4. SunnO))) explored some cinematic ground with 2009′s Monoliths and Dimensions (review here), but still, to speculate seems like setting myself up to be a fool later. Southern Lord Recordings website.

 

34. Tombs, Savage Gold

For their third album for Relapse, Brooklyn three-turned-four-piece Tombs headed south to Florida to record with Hate Eternal‘s Erik Rutan. If vague Thee Facebook posts are anything to go by, the resulting LP is 57:18 and titled Savage Gold. I’m not sure when it’ll be out, but as the follow-up to 2011′s widely and loudly lauded Path of Totality, whatever it’s called and whenever the new Tombs shows up, chances are it’s going to receive as much extremity as it doles out. Tombs on Thee Facebooks.

 

35. Triptykon, Melana Chasmata

Heirs to the black, shiny and probably spiky throne of Celtic Frost, ultra-dark metallers Triptykon will answer 2010′s Eparistera Daimones (review here) with Melana Chasmata, which though it’s somewhat easier to type is no doubt even more gleefully excruciating a listen. As with the debut, they’ll mark the release with an appearance at Roadburn (info here). No audio has surfaced yet, but with a release date set for April 24, that can’t be too far off. Will Tom G. Warrior push Triptykon further away from their Celtic Frost lineage? I don’t know, but if there’s beauty in darkness, he’s the one to find it. Triptykon on Thee Facebooks.

 

36. Truckfighters, Universe

Feb. 4 is the stated release date for Universe (review here), the fourth album from Örebro fuzzdudes Truckfighters. The Swedish three-piece explore ground that at the same time is more emotionally complex than their last outing, 2009′s Mania (review here), and also more straightforward in the songwriting, resulting in a collection of tracks not necessarily as upbeat as some of what they’ve done in the past, but ultimately working toward a different kind of realization. No doubt hard touring will follow throughout the rest of this year, so if you want to catch Truckfighters, you’re likely to get your chance. Truckfighters on Thee Facebooks.

 

37. Valley of the Sun, Electric Talons of the Thunderhawk

Like Truckfighters, Midwestern heavy rockers Valley of the Sun will issue their new album, the somewhat cumbersomely-titled Electric Talons of the Thunderhawk on Fuzzorama Records, and the two acts are slated to tour together in Europe from Feb. 8 through March 14 ahead of Valley of the Sun‘s April 1 release date. If you contributed to their crowdfunding campaign, you might already have a copy of Electric Talons of the Thunderhawk on vinyl, but either way, the official release is worthy of note, particularly for as much growth as the full-length (their debut) shows from 2011′s already-impressive The Sayings of the Seers (review here). Valley of the Sun on Thee Facebooks.

 

38. Weedeater, TBA

Not certain how to tell you this, but I’m not sure we’re going to see a new Weedeater album this year. Between the North Carolina sludgers’ busy tour schedule and Season of Mist reissuing their other four albums, it seems like an awful lot for Weedeater to then also write and record a follow-up to 2011′s Jason… the Dragon (review here). I’m not saying it can’t be done — hell, for all I know they’ve finished writing and the studio is booked — but if a new Weedeater arrives, although it was mentioned with their West Coast tour dates that start this week, right now it seems like it would be later in 2014 or maybe early 2015 by the time it gets here. Hey, I could be wrong. I’d prefer it that way. Weedeater on Thee Facebooks.

 

39. Wolves in the Throne Room, TBA

They put out BBC Session 2011 Anno Domini last year as a kind of holdover release, but last month brought news of new songs for 2014, which would be Wolves in the Throne Room‘s first since Celestial Lineage in 2011. They toured their heaviest yet that record, so a bit of a break wasn’t necessarily out of order, but for an act who inspire the kind of loyalty that Wolves in the Throne Room do, three years can be a long time. Not much by way of specifics on the new release, whether it’s a full-length or not, when they might record, where, or when it might surface, but we know they’ve got new material, and that’s a step. Wolves in the Throne Room’s website.

 

40. The Wounded Kings, Consolamentum

Due Feb. 24 on Candlelight, Consolamentum is the fourth long-player in the tumultuous career of British progressive doomers The Wounded Kings, who despite a seemingly endless series of lineup shifts have managed to release their four albums in a span of six years. With guitarist/founder Steve Mills at the core and the eerie but powerful vocals of Sharie Neyland over top, The Wounded Kings have tapped into a doom quick to separate itself from the pack, and Consolamentum conjures some of their most oppressive atmospherics yet, with expansive cuts like “Gnosis” and “The Silence” fed into by ambient passages and interludes. The Wounded Kings on Thee Facebooks.

 

41. Yawning Man, Gravity is Good for You

Desert legends Yawning Man released a split with Fatso Jetson in 2013 — only appropriate, since the two acts share Mario Lalli — but Gravity is Good for You, like whatever Acid King might have in store, is a holdover from last year’s list. Guitarist Gary Arce of the long-running and hugely influential instrumental jammers has reportedly been in the studio with Lalli and Third Ear Experience drummer Erik Mouness (video surfaced), but there’s yet to be concrete word on when Gravity is Good for You, reportedly a double album and the band’s follow-up to 2010′s Nomadic Pursuits (review here), might be finished. Got my fingers crossed it’s this year. Yawning Man on Thee Facebooks.

 

42. YOB, TBA

Feels like a terribly long way to go only to get to one of the albums I’m most looking forward to hearing, but the alphabet works in mysterious ways sometimes. On Jan. 7, Eugene, Oregon, überdoomers YOB posted the following on their Thee Facebooks: “Had an amazing YOB practice. The new songs are fully in focus. 2 mega DOOM bludgeoners, one “faster” song, and the most beautiful arrangement we’ve ever written to close. 4 songs, 55 minutes.” Last I heard, they were to begin recording for their seventh (man, time flies) LP this week with a release in the months to follow, and since YOB haven’t put out an album since 2004 that I didn’t pick it as my Album of the Year, you can bet your ass I’m looking forward to what they do next. Particularly that part about “the most beautiful arrangement we’ve ever written.” Sold. YOB on Thee Facebooks.

Others to keep an eye on, some mentioned above, some not:

Ararat, III (Another 2013 holdover)
The Atlas Moth, The Old Believer (Out in June)
Brant Bjork, Jakoozi
Blackfinger, Blackfinger
Godhunter, City of Dust
Ice Dragon (Some older releases are being physically pressed and new stuff is never far off)
King Buffalo (Their demo ruled)
King Dead (First audio just surfacing, but holds promise)
Lo-Pan (Been a while in the making at this point, hopefully 2014)
Pet the Preacher, The Cave and the Sunlight
The Proselyte (EP coming on Gypsyblood Records)
Rainbows are Free, Waves ahead of the Ocean
Saint Vitus (Began writing last Fall)
Salem’s Pot, Lurar ut dig på prärien
The Scimitar (Debut from Black Pyramid offshoot)
Seedy Jeezus (Recording in Australia now with Tony Reed)
Serpent Venom, Of Things Seen and Unseen
Spirit Caravan (Nothing announced but you never know)
Various Artists, Songs of Townes Van Zandt Pt. II
Wino & Conny Ochs (Maybe, maybe not)
The Wisdoom, Hypothalamus
Wo Fat (New album recorded)

I’m quite positive that the first thing to happen after this is posted is that someone will chime in with something I forgot. At least I hope that’s what happens. As large as this list has turned out to be (much, much larger than I thought it would be when I started taking notes for it), there’s no way it could cover everything, and I hope if there’s an upcoming release in particular that you’re looking forward to, you’ll please let me know in the comments.

Thank you so much for reading and for all of your support. Here’s to an amazing 2014.

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Extolling Ignorance: The Top 10 Albums I Didn’t Hear in 2013

Posted in Features on January 6th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Some of these, I just don’t have an excuse. Others, I have an excuse but it’s pretty lame. The basic fact of the matter is that the recently-departed 2013 brought an onslaught of gotta-hear-it-gotta-get-it records and I don’t care if it’s your full-time job and you actually get paid to do it, there’s no way you heard it all. I know I certainly didn’t.

I’m only one dude. I sit in front of this keyboard more or less all day, Monday to Friday each week, and I think the volume of output from this site and the fact that it’s just me (Hi, my name is JJ) putting it out speak for themselves. Maybe they don’t and that’s why I feel compelled to say it. Whatever.

Point is I do the best I can, but whether it’s my general and increasingly visceral disdain for digital promos or not being cool enough to be on somebody’s radar — or hell, even just the time factor, as in “there’s only so much of it” — some probably-killer stuff just slipped through the cracks. This list is me apologizing for not being everywhere at once and for having a limited record-buying budget. Again, I do the best I can.

List is alphabetical because it’s not like I can really rank them. Here goes:

1. Carcass, Surgical Steel

Man, Carcass kick ass. I know their early stuff is grind gospel, but even their last two records, 1993′s Heartwork and 1996′s Swansong, are fantastic. Why the hell wouldn’t I want to get on board with a new Carcass album? I don’t know. I guess I didn’t want to download it, like it a lot, put time into reviewing it and then go out and have to buy it like a punk. Easier not to listen, so that’s what I did. Carcass on Thee Facebooks.

2. Carlton Melton, Always Even


When Carlton Melton got added to Roadburn 2014, I took a sampling of their wares and it sounded like really interesting stuff. Synth-driven kraut-psych with a touch of West Coast spaceout gets a hearty “right on” in my book. Mostly a budget concern as to why I didn’t dig further. I could’ve YouTube’d it, but that’s no way to get to know an album if you’re actually interested in listening to music. Carlton Melton’s website.

3. Causa Sui, Euporie Tide

I was actually given this as an Xmas present after having it on my Amazon wishlist and it’s fucking fantastic. Really, really, really good. I imagine at some point I’ll probably put together a Buried Treasure post that more or less touts the virtues of Euporie Tide‘s desert tones and progressive explorations, but I didn’t get there before the end of 2013, so here it is anyway. But seriously, wow. El Paraiso Records on Thee Facebooks.

4. Deafheaven, Sunbather

There was so much hype around Deafheaven‘s Sunbather that I was just completely turned off. Not much more to it than that. I probably could’ve chased down a promo download if I’d been so inclined, but what’s the point? The whole world’s already up its ass, I’d rather spend my limited-as-hell time not adding my voice to a chorus of hyperbole. Maybe it’s really cool. Okay. Deafheaven on Bandcamp.

5. Fuzz, Fuzz

In a bizarre twist, turns out I have heard Fuzz‘s Fuzz, the self-titled heavy psych debut from indie darling Ty Segall. It’s the reason I wound up ending last week with the Witch self-titled, because I think the two albums work in a very similar fashion. Cool release either way, something like a dirtier Radio Moscow. I probably won’t review it at this point, but it’s on my shopping list for next time I happen to have two cents to my name. Ty Segall on Thee Facebooks.

6. Ghost, Infestissumam

The single most misspelled title in the Readers Poll. My feeling on Ghost at this point is as follows: “Yeah, so?” You’re a costumed pop-cult act with insanely catchy songs and a massive promotional machine behind you. So what? I wound up ambivalent about the first Ghost album and I guess when it came to this there wasn’t anything Ghost was going to deliver that I couldn’t get in a more substantive package from Uncle Acid. Ghost’s website.

7. Grayceon, Pearl and the End of Days

If there’s anything on this list that I’m actually pissed off at myself for not having heard, it’s probably Grayceon‘s Pearl and the End of Days. Technically it’s an EP and this is a list of albums, but either way, I wound up loving their 2011 full-length, All We Destroy (unabashed fawning here), so I can only consider missing the subsequent release the result of some deep-seated character flaw on my part. It came out in February! I had all year! What a jerk.

8. Mammatus, Heady Mental

Didn’t even know this one existed until Spiritual Pajamas put it out in November. Nobody told me, and I guess it had been a while since I last checked in on the Santa Cruz County space jammers to see about a follow-up to 2007′s The Coast Explodes. Still hope to hear Heady Mental at some point. The sooner the better, since it’s another band whose work I’ve legitimately enjoyed in the past. Mammatus on Thee Faceboooks.

9. Purson, The Circle and the Blue Door

No question Rise Above puts out some of the best underground heavy the world over. Not an issue that’s up for debate at this point, and they’ve found a decent niche to mine through with cult rock that seems to resonate with their audience. All well and good. I guess when it came to Purson, everything was just a little too perfect, just a little too aligned for me to be interested. Maybe I’ll stumble on it at some point and regret having passed it up initially. Purson on Thee Facebooks.

10. True Widow, Circumambulation

Circumambulation is the same story as a lot of these. I had promo mp3s and they just sat there. If I’ve got people in Japan and Australia who are willing to mail me a CD or LP out of their own pocket, I have a hard time arguing with myself as to why I should bother with others who don’t care enough about my opinion to send the work they want to have evaluated. If I’ve missed out on good music in the process, well, I’m still alive,which is more than I can say for the fucking music industry. True Widow on Bandcamp.

There we have it. If there’s a takeaway from all of this downer cynicism, it’s how unbearably lucky we are to live in an age where (one) I could immediately access the music on any one of these albums if I really wanted to or immediately shell out for hard copies if I had the funds. I know I really missed out on some of these, but it’s also worth pointing out just how many incredible albums are out there that I could let some of these pass and still live with myself.

This is the last of the 2013 wrap-ups, so thanks for checking it all out.

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