GIVEAWAY: Win a Copy of Vestal Claret’s The Cult of Vestal Claret

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

Leave a comment on this post to be entered into a contest to win a CD of the new Vestal Claret full-length, The Cult of Vestal Claret, from Cruz del Sur. The album (discussed here) came out last week, and if you’re a fan of traditional doom, classic metal or any number of deviant behaviors, the latest work from the core duo of Phil Swanson (Hour of 13, etc.) and Simon Tuozzoli (King of Salem) — plus drummer Michael Petrucci (Curse the Son) — is one you’re going to want to check out. At very least with all the commitment that entering to win one for free requires, which is basically none.

You know the drill by now. If you want the disc, comment on this post and don’t forget to fill in your email address so I can get back to you and tell you you won. Goes without saying but I’ll say it anyway that your email doesn’t get shared with anybody because fuck that shady shit.

Here’s the full stream from Cruz del Sur‘s Bandcamp, followed by more info about the record. Don’t forget to enter!

The Cult of Vestal Claret introduces to the masses a name that thus far has been quite popular only amongst the die-hard fans of the doom metal scene. In fact, Swanson is well renowned for his work with HOUR OF 13 and SEAMOUNT. VESTAL CLARET’s pronounced BLACK SABBATH-inspiration together with Swanson’s signature doomy style perfectly blends with the band’s Traditional Heavy Metal’ influences, not to mention an accomplished drumming style, cutting guitars and catchy compositions. The morbid-themed lyrics walk hand in hand with the mesmerizing music: VESTAL CLARET celebrates the dark side of the human psyche, with abundant references to Occultism, Satanism and other disturbing imagery.

The compact disc edition includes newly recorded versions of four previously released tracks from the split with Ungod, and the long suite “Black Priest” (a different, re-recorded version from the one present on the split with Indian band ALBATROSS). The CD also contains two unreleased songs, a cover version of BLACK SABBATH’s “Who Are You?”, and an exclusive CD-only track titled “Great Goat God.” The vinyl LP includes two songs from the Ungod split, the two unreleased tracks, and an exclusive vinyl-only track titled “So Mote it Be.”

Track List:
CD
1. Never Say No
2. Three and Three Are Six
3. The Cult of the Vestal Claret
4. Great Goat God
5. The Demon and the Deceiver
6. Piece of Meat
7. Black Priest
8. Who Are You
9. The Stranger

VESTAL CLARET is:
Philip Swanson – Vocals
Simon Tuozzoli – Bass, Guitar, Organ, Additional Voice
(Drums by Michael Petrucci)

Contest ends Monday, May 19. Good luck!

Vestal Claret on Thee Facebooks

Cruz del Sur Music

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The Obelisk Questionnaire: Stavros Giannopoulos of The Atlas Moth

Posted in Questionnaire on May 13th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

With the coming release next month of their third full-length, The Old Believer on Profound Lore, Chicago triple-guitar five-piece The Atlas Moth have proven to be survivors where others have fallen by the wayside. Consistent in releases and touring since 2008’s Pray for Tides EP (review here), the band has evolved beyond post-metallic beginnings to craft a sound of their own while those who were their peers and their forebears have called it quits, from Isis to Minsk. Through 2009’s A Glorified Piece of Blue Sky, 2011’s An Ache for the Distance and the 2013 compilation release Master of Blunt Hits that brought together Pray for Tides and 2010’s The One amongst the Weed Fields covers EP, as well as some prime internet smartassery, The Atlas Moth and guitarist/vocalist Stavros Giannopoulos have earned a place in metal that crosses genre lines and gives stoners and headbangers grounds for mutual nod.

Just today, Profound Lore announced that The Atlas Moth and labelmates SubRosa will join Japan’s Boris for US tour dates this August. The Old Believer is set for release June 10.

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Stavros Giannopoulos

How did you come to do what you do?

A lot of hard work, persistence, and a general lack of interest in doing anything else whatsoever.

Describe your first musical memory.

My father dancing around the living room to Greek music.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

On tour with Gojira, our hometown Chicago show was on my 30th birthday with my entire family there for the first time to see us play.

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

Every time we meet adversity playing music.

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

Ultimate satisfaction.

How do you define success?

Finding happiness.

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

Lemonparty.org.

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

Master of Puppets.

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

The 2014-2015 Chicago Bulls season.

The Atlas Moth, Live in El Paso, TX, March 11, 2014

The Atlas Moth on Thee Facebooks

Profound Lore

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The Golden Grass Interview with Adam Kriney: To Places and Faces (Plus Album Stream!)

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

Press play above to stream the debut album from Brooklyn feelgood rockers The Golden Grass in its entirety. The self-titled offering (review here) releases Friday on Svart Records, and brings with it the promise of summer ahead. A traditional power trio with warm tones and inviting melodies, The Golden Grass meld psychedelic flourish and straightforward, classic structures and clear, modern production to craft a sound that’s immediately their own. Their debut 7″, One More Time b/w Tornado, was issued last year through Svart and Electric Assault Records, and served as initial notice of the friendly vibes coming through the still-weighted guitars and funked-out basslines, and the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Michael Rafalowich, drummer/vocalist Adam Kriney and bassist Joe Noval set to work on the album with the same engineering and mixing team of Andréa Zavareei and Jeff Berner, respectively, expanding initial ideas for the full-length that would wind up with “One More Time” as its centerpiece.

The phrase “wind up” denotes some measure of happenstance, and while Kriney recalls a series of fortunate coincidences that brought the band together back in 2012, the actual crafting of the five songs on the 37-minute debut is a much more considered process of writing and revising, refining pieces until they’re finally done and ready to be put to tape. A telling moment in the interview that follows here is when Kriney mentions the months The Golden Grass put into their material prior to playing out for the first time, working on getting everything nailed down just so before letting the public see it. If you want proof that the time was well spent, the clarity of ideas on the album and the fact that it’s out through Svart — whose roster ranges widely in sound while keeping a standard of quality that few can match — speak to the success of the band’s vision.

Rafalowich and Kriney sharing vocal duties and harmonizing over unpretentious, easy-rolling grooves, The Golden Grass‘ debut is as stylistically cohesive as it is memorable, each of the tracks making a standout impression one way or another, be it the initial strut of “Please Man,” the more psychedelically boogie-fied “Wheels” — an extended jam which comes complete with a drum solo — the catchy also-highway-song “Stuck on a Mountain,” unmitigated fun of closer “Sugar ‘n’ Spice” or the nostalgia-for-the-impossible of “One More Time.” The band are recent veterans of the Hudson Valley Psych Fest alongside White Hills and It’s Not Night: It’s Space, and will look to tour more in the months that follow the release, bringing a stage presence that doesn’t rely on its heaviness or aggression (there’s just about none of the latter and the former is by no means the basis of their sound) to make an impact, but instead on its positivity and upbeat approach. The Golden Grass are a stirring reminder both of how enjoyable classic rock and roll can be and how just because something’s a good time doesn’t necessarily mean it needs to be dumbed down or stripped of personality in the name of accessibility.

I could go on, but you can hear the album for yourself above. No doubt when 2014’s over, The Golden GrassThe Golden Grass will have been one of its best debuts. After the jump, Kriney talks about how it all came together and much more.

Please enjoy:

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Pet the Preacher Offer a Track-by-Track Look at The Cave and the Sunlight

Posted in Features on May 2nd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Released just last week, The Cave and the Sunlight is the Napalm Records debut from Copenhagen trio Pet the Preacher, and with it, the heavy rocking trio deliver a forceful take on the tenets of heavy rock and roll. Led by the riffs and vocals and Christian Hede Madsen, thickened by Torben Wæver Pedersen and given a foundation by Christian Von Larsen‘s drumming. It’s not a new combination of elements by any means, but the Danish outfit use it well over the course of the 50-minute runtime for The Cave and the Sunlight (review here), flowing smoothly through material alternately brooding and brash while giving listeners an impression of complexity to come and already at work within the material. Following up on their 2012 full-length debut, The Banjo, and 2013 EP, Papa Zen and Meet the Creature, it’s an engaging work driven by the overarching quality of its songwriting.

The band played Desertfest Berlin last weekend and their hometown release show for The Cave and the Sunlight was last night, May 1, at Beta2300 in Copenhagen. Busy times though these are for the three-piece as they continue to proliferate their brawny, nod-ready grooves to European audiences, Madsen found time over the last couple days to put together a track-by-track runthrough of the record and you can find it below.

Please enjoy:

The Cave and the Sunlight Track-by-Track by Christian Hede Madsen

1. The Cave

This song was actually a part of “Let Your Dragon Fly,” but what we wanted to do with this album was to cut the fat and only leave what was really essential, in the service of the good track. We liked the melody too much to cut it, so we made an intro out of it, and it works great. You are being eased into a feeling that sets the mood for the rest of the record: dark, bluesy, melancholic.

2. Let Your Dragon Fly

The first real banger on the album. One of the first songs we wrote. It has a rebellious feeling to it, and we like to start with this song. It is a good way to punch your audience in the face. Our producer and friend, Jacob Bredahl, screams in the end of this song too.

3. Kamikaze Knight

We wanted to put another “party-rock” song together with “Let Your Dragon Fly.” It is a live-favourite and even though the whole album is written from a pretty serious emotional standpoint, this song is mostly about a battle field and bloodrage.

4. Remains

This is a desperate, dark ballad. It is bluesy and slow-starting. It is about what is going on in the world today, and how it is about time that we talk about what to do with our situation regarding the environment, political corruption, over-population, self-indulgence and a sick focus on youth and superficial values. It is a song that comes from all the things I fear in this world and all the things that make me think. Because I am a part of it. Because I do NOT take a stand. It is a wake-up call for myself as well. “Remains” is about trying to become a better human being in the broadest sense of the term.

5. Fire Baby

This is a song about a forbidden love. About burning inside for something that is impossible and wrong. It is about doing bad things and keep on doing them, because you just can´t help it. I think we are repeating ourselves in life. We repeat mistakes, repeat relationships and love-stories and we can´t change these patterns until we realize this. That is the standpoint I wrote all the lyrics from.

6. Marching Earth, Pt. 1

This is the first part of a heavy two-piece. An instrumental that, like the intro, sets a mood for what’s to come.

7. Marching Earth, Pt. 2

A song about all that we do wrong with our earth today. It is almost like a classic tragedy: we destroy what we love, only to discover what we are doing when it is too late. We don’t deserve this earth anymore. It is sad.

8. The Pig & The Haunted

Like “Fire Baby,” it is a disturbed love-song. About how you perceive yourself when doing something you know is wrong, and can’t help it. It brings the pace up again, and is more of a classic rock song.

9. What Now

This is a heavy riff onslaught. The idea was just to keep on throwing riffs at the listener and then suddenly let it all dissolve into a dark hymn. The spoken word at the end is a poem I wrote from a sick person’s point of view. It is a mental patient trying to see things clearly. It all ends with a heavy, repetitive doom riff to underline the chaos.

10. I´m Not Gonna

An easy listening, heavy rock song. Written from the same emotional standpoint as the others, but with a more positive outlook. Lots of slide in this one. Love that little glass thing.

11. The Web

The grand finale. “The Web” is a very personal song, summing up the emotions I mentioned earlier: being caught in patterns (the web), knowing it and still not being able to change it. It is an epic, and my favourite on the album. We thought a lot about how to build up this album, and “The Web” is a natural ending. It leaves you wanting more in my opinion.

Hopefully it makes the listener go back to side A of the vinyl… oh, did I mention: LISTEN TO THIS ALBUM ON VINYL… It is made for it!

Pet the Preacher, The Cave and the Sunlight (2014)

Pet the Preacher on Thee Facebooks

Pet the Preacher at Napalm Records

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Fu Manchu Interview with Scott Hill: Evolution Machine Never Stops

Posted in Features on May 1st, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Long-running SoCal fuzz rockers Fu Manchu have embarked on a cross-country US tour (dates here) to herald the arrival this week of their first new studio album in five years, Gigantoid. Of course, the San Clemente-based four-piece have hardly been idle since 2009’s Signs of Infinite Power, acquiring much of their back catalog and reissuing and touring classic albums like 1997’s The Action is Go and 1996’s In Search Of through their own At the Dojo Records imprint over the last couple years, up to putting out vinyl of a collection of demos for 2001’s California Crossing and pressing their 1994 debut, No One Rides for Free (review here), in limited numbers earlier this year. They’ve never been still for too long, but it was definitely time for a new record.

And Gigantoid delivers in a big way what longtime fans crave from Fu Manchu. The zero-pretense fuzz from guitarists Scott Hill (also vocals) and Bob Balch is dead on and bassist Brad Davis and drummer Scott Reeder hold down fluid grooves whether it’s a punkish rush like “No Warning” or the steady roll of “The Last Question,” the extended sleepy jam that closes out. With production by Moab guitarist/vocalist Andrew Giacumakis (interview here), and partially inspired by their revisiting old material, Fu Manchu present a rawer sound than they have in some time, giving the material a natural feel that highlights the quality of songwriting in cuts like “Anxiety Reducer,” “Invaders on My Back” and “Radio Source Sagittarius” and just what it is about their patterns that makes these pieces so characteristic of the band’s work.

Fu Manchu are not an outfit prone to experimentation, but they’ve consistently grown their style from album to album, and Giacumakis makes a solid match for the production on Gigantoid in conveying the band’s ties to ’80s-era Californian punk and hardcore. Where Signs of Infinite Power and its 2007 predecessor, We Must Obey, seemed to be going for a larger, more encompassing feel, Gigantoid pushes back on that impulse toward largesse and shows a precision strike can have just as much impact on the listener. They are in their element throughout, and what’s more, they sound like they’re having a good time working on their own terms.

That’s the impression Hill gives in conversation as well, and while he hardly complains about working with Century Media the last couple times out, there’s a bit of relief in his voice when discussing being able to set his own timeline for a release and handle the practical ends of making an album available to the public, as much work as it is. They’ve gotten there now. Gigantoid is available and the band is just beginning its touring cycle — a whole different kind of work supporting the album. In the interview that follows, Hill discusses these processes as well as writing these songs, recording them with Giacumakis, handling their own release and their (tentative) plans for future tours and At the Dojo releases and reissues.

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

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Six Records Released Yesterday You’re Going to Want to Pick Up

Posted in Features on April 30th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

This kind of thing happens every now and again throughout the course of a year, where there just happens to be one day filled with killer releases. It’s convenient if periodically overwhelming, and even in this age of preorders and stuff just showing up in the mail — a somewhat disconnected process compared to going to a shop and asking at the counter if something is in yet, but again, convenient — a day like that can be special. I remember days like that going back a longer time than I care to admit, and yesterday was definitely one of them as well.

If you felt the North American continent rumble just a little bit, that was probably just the combined weight — applied one on the West Coast, one on the East — of Fu Manchu and Floor putting out records at the same time. What will no doubt be two of 2014’s best releases when the year is done both arrived on April 29, but they were hardly the end of the story. In case you missed any of it, here’s a convenient (there’s that word again), alphabetically-organized assemblage from which to organize yourself before payday:

1. Floor, Oblation

Released by Season of Mist. File picking up the first Floor record since 2004’s Dove as a no-brainer. The Miami trio of guitarist/vocalist Steve Brooks, guitarist Anthony Vialon (interview here) and drummer Henry Wilson have been kicking around doing stuff live since a little while after they released their 8CD Below and Beyond box set in 2009, but Oblation (review here) is the new album and spiritual successor to 2002’s landmark self-titled outing. Following that one up is no easy task and they know it, but I think history will serve Oblation well in the long run, songs like “Love Comes Crushing” and the eight-minute “Sign of Aeth” expanding the sludge-pop formula that made Floor‘s early work so vital without sacrificing the hooks that at this point have spanned more than a decade en route towards timelessness. Floor on Thee Facebooks.

Floor, Oblation (2014)

2. Fu Manchu, Gigantoid


Released by At the Dojo. The first new Fu Manchu self-release after two full-lengths on Century Media and a handful of reissues through their own imprint, Gigantoid brings a rawer sound from the widely influential SoCal fuzz stalwarts. They recorded with Moab guitarist Andrew Giacumakis, and while the album boasts some quintessential examples of what’s always made the Fu‘s songwriting so infectious — looking at you, “Anxiety Reducer” and “Radio Source Sagittarius” — their hardcore punk roots come through on “No Warning” and Gigantoid rounds out with an extended jam led by bassist Brad Davis on “Last Question” and filled out through a barrage of effects from guitarist Bob Balch. If I can get to it today I’ll have an interview up with guitarist/vocalist Scott Hill (otherwise tomorrow), and a review is forthcoming, but the short version is Gigantoid is one of the year’s best, no doubt. Fu Manchu on Thee Facebooks.

Fu Manchu, Selections from Gigantoid (2014)

3. Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus, Spirit Knife


Released by Small Stone. Swedish upstarts Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus offer engaging touches of heavy psychedelic blues and expanded-definition stoner rock on their third long-player and Small Stone debut, Spirit Knife (stream/video premiere here), working naturally in a classic heavy context without pretending the last 40 years never happened. The album is immersive and atmospheric, offering standout moments of righteousness in 10-minute opener “Fog by the Steep,” “Clang,” “Point Growth” and elsewhere, and provides a look at a unit with the potential to continue to expand their sound going forward. Seems like JIRM have thus far flown under North American radars for the most part, but Spirit Knife is worth the effort of tracking down, and by that I mean clicking “play” on the Bandcamp stream below to hear it for yourself. Give it some time to unfold and you won’t regret it. Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus on Thee Facebooks.

Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus, Spirit Knife (2014)

4. Revelation, Salvation’s Answer


Released by Shadow Kingdom. Perennially underappreciated Maryland doomers Revelation and Pittsburgh’s Shadow Kingdom Records are no strangers. The label has handled reissues of 1992’s Never Comes Silence, 1995’s …Yet So Far, and 2008’s Release, in addition to having the first release of 2009’s For the Sake of No One and 2012’s Inner Harbor. This time, the band and imprint partner up for a revisit of Revelation‘s 1991 debut, Salvation’s Answer, and while the look is overdue, it’s no less welcome for its late coming. Salvation’s Answer might sound raw 23 years after the fact, but its elemental sound remains deceptively atmospheric, and like much of Revelation‘s earlier output, it wears a deep-running melancholy on its sleeve and blends progressive guitar work with a strong foundation of metallic groove. Revelation on Thee Facebooks.

Revelation, Salvation’s Answer (1991/2014)

5. Salem’s Pot, …Lurar ut dig på prärien


Released by EasyRider Records. Mired in drug-derived riffing and classic horror/exploitation ambience, Swedish four-piece Salem’s Pot have plenty of scummer groove in common with Electric Wizard on their debut, …Lurar ut dig på prärien, but if worshiping at the altar of Sabbath and drawn-out fuzz was a crime, we’d all have been put to death years ago. Their reverential depravity comes through in the three extended tracks, “Creep Purple” (14:28), “Dr. Death” (9:52) and “Nothing Hill” (9:12), and the album unfolds in a haze of degenerate psychedelia. It’s crafted with vinyl in mind, but give me a CD to get lost in front-t0-back without having to worry about changing sides, because Salem’s Pot isn’t the kind of listen where you want to have anything whatsoever to do with consciousness. You could tag it derivative, but what isn’t? Familiar though it might be, it’s still worth a nod. Salem’s Pot on Thee Facebooks.

Salem’s Pot, “Nothing Hill” from …Lurar ut dig på prärien (2014)

6. Wovenhand, Refractory Obdurate


Released by Deathwish Inc. History has taught time and again not to be surprised when it comes to the David Eugene Edwards-led outfit Wovenhand, and their seventh offering and first for Deathwish Inc., Refractory Obdurate continues to expand beyond genre bounds, incorporating tonal weight into their signature brilliant arrangements so that songs like “Masonic Youth” (get it?) and “Hiss” pummel their payoffs as much as they enhance the atmospheres of “Salome,” “King David” and the joyously rumbling “Good Shepherd.” Wovenhand are a singular entity on stylistic terms, and Edwards‘ commanding presence burns through this material even at moments when he seems consumed by the full-breadth chaotic churning surrounding him in the mix. Refractory Obdurate – culling influences no less a patchwork than its cover art — is the work of genius, driven by faith and in perpetual development. Wovenhand on Thee Facebooks.

Wovenhand, Refractory Obdurate (2014)

That’s a pretty good day. If I left anything out or if you’ve already picked any of these up, I hope you’ll let me know in the comments. Thanks as always for reading.

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Floor Interview with Anthony Vialon: Gathered in the Glare

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

A little over four years ago, when Miami’s Floor reunited for a couple shows to coincide with the release of the 8CD box set, Below and Beyond, on Robotic Empire, I was fortunate enough to interview guitarist Anthony Vialon about the band’s getting back together for what seemed then to be a very limited run. Now, as they prepare to release their new album, Oblation (review here), next week on Season of Mist and embark a day later on a cross-country tour that will place them squarely on the other side of the line between a “reunion band” and a working one, it seemed only fitting to follow-up with Vialon about Floor‘s progress these last several years and how they got to where they are.

Because when they first booked three gigs back in 2010 in Florida and Georgia, the going impression — I think on the part of the band as much as fans — was that was it. Then the response they got was huge enough that it turned into a few more shows, and a tour, and then some more shows, and it kept rolling on until next thing you knew, they had been picked up by Season of Mist and streaming new material. It’s been a few years getting to this point, but for Floor – the trio of Vialon, guitarist/vocalist Steve Brooks (also of Torche) and drummer Henry Wilson (also of House of Lightning) — the progression seems to have been natural, one step taken at a time, building momentum as they might otherwise with a series of crushing bomb-string riffs.

Certainly that seems to be the method on Oblation. Set in the shadow of Floor‘s by-now-legend 2002 self-titled, what could’ve easily been a project doomed from the start — and not in the good way — has turned out to mark not only a successful return on the part of the band, but a creative evolution that gives a sense of where they left off and where they are now. Songs penned and constructed by Vialon, Wilson and Brooks like “Rocinante” and “War Party” call to mind the unabashed pop hooks of Floor‘s first run, while the eight-minute “Sign of Aeth” takes these elements to places they haven’t yet gone, so that Oblation isn’t nostalgic, but looking forward.

Doubtless a good part of Floor‘s legacy will remain linked to the self-titled, but in talking to Vialon yesterday, that only seemed like something for the trio to be proud of. Oblation releases in the EU and elsewhere tomorrow, April 25, and is out in North America next Tuesday, April 29. Floor begin their tour April 30 in Miami and will finish in Atlanta on June 1 (dates here). In the interview, Vialon discusses writing for the band again, the response the reunion has gotten these last few years, his affinity for Rush, and much more.

Enjoy the Q&A after the jump, and thanks for reading.

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The Obelisk Questionnaire: Mike Cummings of Backwoods Payback

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

My understanding is that if you’re in a heavy band and you’ve made your way through West Chester, Pennsylvania, on an East Coast tour, you’ve probably either stayed at Mike Cummings‘ house or played with his band, Backwoods Payback. As the frontman of the underappreciated and hard-driving foursome, Cummings presents an indomitable personality on stage and off, but is given to backing that up with a thoughtful approach in his lyrics as well as in writings apart from the band. A book of poetry, Confessions of a Lackluster Performer, was published in 2009, and aside from the self-deprecating title, it showed Cummings able to work in textures beyond those of his songcraft, though it seems to be that side of his creativity that most exerts itself. Backwoods Payback made their debut on Small Stone with 2011’s Momantha (review here) and subsequently issued a live EP in 2012 and a studio EP, In the Ditch (streamed here), earlier in 2014.

In addition, Cummings embarked on his first solo acoustic tour last fall (review here), and the release of his full-length solo debut, Get Low, is expected April 19.

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Michael Rudolph Cummings

How did you come to do what you do?

I’ve always written in some form or another, since as early as I can remember. Music just seemed to be the next extension of that. It just happened.

Describe your first musical memory.

I had a little portable record player in a blue canvas-colored suitcase. I’m sure there was one in most households with a kid my age (or maybe not, the more I think about it). The movie E.T. had just come out and my mom gave me the Neil Diamond “Heartlight” single. I played that for hours at a time, over and over.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

It changes all the time. Whenever I finish a recording or write a new song, that’s the high I’m always chasing. I just finished my first solo record. Listening back to the tape in the room and forgetting how we even made this thing that was being played back to me…that’s my best memory at the moment.

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

Every day something I believe in is tested.

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

I can’t even begin to try and imagine where it leads. I just follow it wherever it wants to take me.

How do you define success?

Doing the best I can at whatever it is that I am doing and knowing that I gave it all I had.

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

Everything I have seen makes me who I am today. Nothing… Some things are just harder to handle than others.

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

I have so much to do still, books to write, songs to sing, pictures to draw. It’s such a strange trip when it happens. I can’t sit and force it. It’s like a wave, and I have to ride it out when it comes.

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

Waking up tomorrow.

Michael Rudolph Cummings, “Ranch Song” from Get Low (2014)

Mike Cummings on Thee Facebooks

Mike Cummings on Bandcamp

Backwoods Payback on Thee Facebooks

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Roadburn 2014, Pt. 12 “Walk in the Blue Light”

Posted in Features on April 14th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

04.14.14 – 12:27 – Monday afternoon – Schiphol Airport Gate C9, Amsterdam

I stood for a couple seconds last night in the air outside the 013, trying to inhale it, thinking if I kept my wristband on maybe Roadburn could just keep going.

Someone told me yesterday that you project your negative energy, that people feed off it and respond to you based on it. That’s true in a sense, if New Agey, and I might quibble with the phrasing and put it up to unconscious cues of tone and body language more than energy, but the one is as valid a means of expressing the idea as another in the end – the point’s the same. Smile, stand up straight, like your mom told you.

That’s easier for me at Roadburn than just about any other place I’ve ever been. Words like “special,” “magical,” “vibe” get tossed around, but they’re pale shadows of the thing itself once you’ve managed to soak some of it in. A popular refrain for Roadburn 2014 was, “This one is special,” and it was to me too. The kindness and generosity shown to me by the Roadburn crew not only made me feel validated for the time I’ve put in covering the fest these last six years, but like I, as a person, mattered even in some small way. When I knew in my heart that I wasn’t going to be able to go, they reached out and not only made it happen, but brought me behind the scenes in a way I’ve never been before. There I sat in the office with Walter, Jurgen and Lee Shaman, putting together the fanzine with my tired eyes, talking about bands and who we saw the night before and so on. It seems greedy to hope I could have the good fortune to do it again, but I do.

First and foremost, thanks to Walter, Jurgen and Yvonne for bringing me in to even in some small way be a part of the Roadburn festival, editing that fanzine. My heart goes out in appreciation to Rianne, Sanne, Miranda, Brent, Gijs and the entire 013 crew, who were so welcoming and helping my clueless ass find where it should be, which printer to use, and how to operate Windows 7 in Dutch, which is a beautiful language that, six years later, still makes me happy every time I hear it spoken by a native.

In Lee Edwards of The Sleeping Shaman I felt like I found a kindred spirit, and not only his efforts for the ‘zine, but just the company was something I looked forward to each morning, swapping stories about shows, talking about reviewing and editing and the joys and trials of working with a staff of writers. I realized somewhere in the making of the third issue of the ‘zine that this could very well be the last time I ever do that. I hope it’s not, but there’s nothing guaranteed in life and I’m thankful for every opportunity I have. To Costin Chioreanu, Paul Verhagen, Walter (yes again), Adrien Begrand (who I wish I could’ve met), Kim Kelly, Paul Robertson, Saúl Do Caixão, Sarah Kitteringham and José Carlos Santos as well for their communication and the work they all put in. The Weirdo Canyon Dispatch was easily the best staff of writers I’ve ever had.

To my family for their continued and generous support, thank you. There are so few people who understand or give a shit about how much this means to me personally, especially this year, and it was incredible to just have it known.

Especially to The Patient Mrs. as well, who even when I lost my job said to me, and I quote, “I think you should still go to Roadburn.” I’m forever astounded at her tolerance, her acceptance of the wretched creature I am and her seemingly endless depth of understanding. She knew I needed this more than I did.

So many others. Stephen Flam, Mike Scheidt, Tom and Will from Rozamov, the Gozu dudes, the Hull dudes (how great it was to see those two bands back to back days and have tastes of home new and old), Vania, Désirée, Aris Tombul, Daan Toner Low, everyone I met and re-met over the course of the weekend who had heard of the site, as well as Claudio, Vanna, Susanne, Falk-Hagen, Iñaki, Christian and all the other familiar faces in the photo pit. I’m no photographer, but to even be around such talent is inspiring.

Anyone who read, liked, commented, posted, retweeted, or shared any part of this whole thing, consider yourself responsible. I am so grateful for every response, whatever it might be, and I am humbled endlessly by the support this site and I personally continue to receive as the years roll on. Thank you so much for being a part of it with me, for making it happen for me.

Each of the headers in this series with a quote comes from either song titles or lyrics. The references are as follows:

  • “…This heart of mine” is from the first verse of Fatso Jetson’s “Jet Black Boogie.”
  • “Descend to the place…” is from Young Hunter’s “Welcome to Nothing.”
  • “So much still lingers…” comes from Crowbar’s “All I Had I Gave.”
  • “Spirit of the Staircase” is the title of a track from Dwellers’ new album, Pagan Fruit. It was chosen in honor of the stairs up to the office at the 013.
  • “Death means just life” is taken from Candlemass’ classic “Solitude.”
  • “Clearing the path…” derives from the title of YOB’s next album, Clearing the Path to Ascend.
  • “I know where to go…” is from Gozu’s ultra-catchy “Jan-Michael Vincent.”
  • “Altar Made of Red Earth” is a song title from Beast in the Field’s 2013 album, The Sacred Above, The Sacred Below. Picked in honor of the red coffee cups in the 013 office.
  • “Walk in the Blue Light” is a Pentagram classic available on their First Daze Here collection.

All of the posts in this series can be found cataloged together under the tag Roadburn 2014 trip.

I keep thinking at some point the novelty will wear off, but it doesn’t. Six Roadburns later, I feel luckier to have been here than I ever have, and more fortunate and privileged than I ever have. It was an honor to stand in that building once again. I feel like these words don’t do justice to how much, deep in the core of what makes me me, this festival meant.

The plane that will take me first to Reykjavik and then home from there – named Hekla, which I can only assume is another volcano – just pulled up to the gate. It’s about two hours to Iceland and then another six and a half or seven to Boston from there, but I’m ready to go home, kiss my wife and sit down to dinner with her, crash out on the couch with the dog. Shower in my shower, sleep in my bed. It’s time.

I think I might have a job interview sometime either this week or early next. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Roadburn 2015 — April 9-12.

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Roadburn 2014 Day Four: The Afterburner

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

04.13.14 — 22:38 — Sunday night — Hotel Mercure, Tilburg

I own one really nice pair of socks. They’re black, a name brand, and I don’t know when I picked them up, but they breathe, they’re comfortable, and most of all, they fit my silly clown feet. As someone who doesn’t usually wear shoes that require socks let alone the socks themselves if he can help it, these socks are where it’s at. I took them out of my luggage on Friday and went to put them on and I was like, “What the hell am I doing? I’ve still got three more days here! I can’t waste the good socks!”

Well, today I wore the good socks. The occasion was as fitting as any: the Roadburn 2014 Afterburner, a stripped down, laid back incarnation of Roadburn proper that closes out each year. Three stages. For me the big difference was in how I decided to approach the schedule. Apart from needing to be at the Main Stage in time to take pictures, I didn’t worry about getting up front, or getting somewhere 25 minutes beforehand. I let myself be a little freer to roam around. I don’t have up-close shots of everything I saw, but it was good to experience the fest like I think a lot of people do, just wandering back and forth between the rooms, enjoying the music in one, going back to the last, going back to the next and so on. In any case, I’ve no regrets.

After finishing the final issue of the Weirdo Canyon Dispatch, the day began with a moving tribute to former The Devil’s Blood guitarist, the late Selim Lemouchi from players who knew him, including his sister and ex-The Devil’s Blood frontwoman Farida Lemouchi, billed as Selim Lemouchi’s Enemies and playing the 2014 Earth Air Spirit Water Fire album from Lemouchi‘s post-The Devil’s Blood project, Selim Lemouchi and His Enemies. There were 10 people on stage — two drummers, four guitars, bass, two keyboards, and Farida Lemouchi on vocals, honoring her brother by playing his songs. It was a powerful experience to be sure, in part because of the otherworldly feel of the music, but even more just on the emotional level of those involved, still clearly grieving the loss.

It felt somewhat voyeuristic to be taking photos in front of the stage. I’d never flatter myself into thinking that being in the photo pit, particularly on a stage so high, effects the performance one way or another, I just mean that these were people in mourning. His sister especially. I cannot and would not imagine that loss, and to have it so soon after, when all people still just have nothing more than dogma and hollow epithets to offer for the sense of injustice you feel. In a way it was the heaviest set of the weekend, but it was also beautiful, the band playing to images of Selim projected behind the songs with which he was moving on from The Devil’s Blood and into unknown sonic territory. I’ve heard from several natives how much he’s missed, And you could tell watching the players on stage that Lemouchi was well loved, even by his Enemies.

There was what felt like a moment of exhale when they were done, a picture of Lemouchi left on the projector screen on the empty stage, and in the Green Room, extreme Swiss duo Bölzer went on seemingly with the intent to blast their way through the reverent spirit with a filth-caked maelstrom. To be fair, they would’ve blasted through any kind of atmosphere; hardly seemed like a personal thing. It was kind of a jump from one end of the spectrum to the other, and they were a standout on and otherwise psych-heavy Green Room lineup of Aqua Nebula Oscillator, who opened, The Papermoon Sessions, New Keepers of the Water Towers, Harsh Toke and Lumerians. Coming out of the Main Stage room still wowed by the raw human spirit of what I’d just seen, my head wasn’t in it for Bölzer, but I was in a clear minority. Not only was the Green Room full, but the hallway outside was full too. Couldn’t get near them.

That would be a kind of running theme soon enough, but Avatarium were next on the Main Stage. The Stockholm natives released their self-titled debut last fall on Nuclear Blast, and are notable also for boasting Candlemass bassist and principle songwriter Leif Edling in their lineup, but Edling was absent owing to illness so Avatarium played with a fill-in and treated the crowd to their progressive melodic metal, vocalist Jennie-Ann Smith borrowing cadences from Ronnie James Dio (a better source than most) and leading the five-piece into a set that sounded ready for any number of summer festivals over here. A little clean for my personal tastes, but well performed by the band, who were not long in distinguishing themselves from Candlemass. Pretty much immediate, actually.

Papermoon, the collaboration between Electric Moon and Papir, was happening in the Green Room, and I caught some of that while simultaneously wishing I had been in two places at once to see more of the Sula Bassana set the other night as well as Papir on their own, but every Roadburn requires hard choices. The Papermoon Sessions (review here) debut full-length from the combined unit was a jammer’s joy, and if what I caught of them tonight was anything to go by, it’s worth hoping they do another. YOB were getting ready to go on the Main Stage playing three out of the four cuts on their new album, Clearing the Path to Ascend as well as others from the back catalog, and particularly after watching them nail The Great Cessation yesterday, it wasn’t something I could stand the thought of missing.

I debated even typing this, because it sounds like hyperbole, but it’s honest in terms of how I feel about them so I’m going with it. YOB are a once-in-a-generation band. Every generation you get a few landmark acts who not only distinguish themselves from their peers and become influential, but who take the creative lessons of their forebears to a genuinely new place. Sleep did it. Neurosis did it. YOB are doing it. I can’t think of another act from the US who’ve left such a mark in the last decade of heavy. Tonight, guitarist/vocalist Mike Scheidt, bassist Aaron Rieseberg and drummer Travis Foster greeted a crowd as much theirs as any they’re likely to encounter and treated them to essentially the next step in their ongoing progression, taking the lessons of 2011’s Atma (review here) and breaking their own rules with a languid, psychedelic opener and a classic rock finish the sprawl of which is worthy of the entire vinyl side it will no doubt receive upon its release.

Every Roadburn I allow myself to watch one band from the side of the stage. This year it was YOB, and not for the first time. Each of the new songs stood out for a different reason, whether it was the hook of the one that opened their set (track three on the album if I’ve got the order right), the maddening churn of Foster‘s drums leading the way through what I was later told is called “Nothing to Win,” or the patient unfolding of the album opener, played third, which brims with tension and meets a payoff no less rich. They backed the new material with “Adrift in the Ocean” and the title-track from Atma before closing out with “Quantum Mystic” from 2005’s classic-to-be, The Unreal Never Lived, which they also performed in full at Roadburn 2012 — that set, like the Candlemass Epicus Doomicus Metallicus set, is out on vinyl now — and giving everyone a moment to let their brains reconstitute. Two nights of YOB in a row. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t wish there was a third to be had.

Now. Triptykon would be starting their headlining set soon on the Main Stage, but Carlton Melton and Øresund Space Collective keyboardist/all-around aces human being Scott “Dr. Space” Heller were doing a collaborative jam at Cul de Sac that had been on for a couple minutes. I shot over to catch some of that hoping maybe for a place where I could see the band. No dice on that, but I stood in the back for a couple minutes and closed my eyes and grooved out to the ultracosmic vibes. I don’t know if it was all recorded, but Roadburn could do a series of releases just of the jams this year, between this one, Lenny Kaye and Harsh Toke, Niklas Barker and Reine Fiske, Oeds BeydalsPapermoon and so on. Maybe not the best marketing move. I’ve never had much of a nose for business.

Back in the reaches of the 013, the Tom G. Warrior-fronted Triptykon made ready to once again darken the skies of Planet Roadburn, now celebrating their new release, Melana Chasmata, as they celebrated their debut, Eparistera Daimones, by playing their first live performance at the Warrior-curated Roadburn 2010 event, “Only Death is Real.” Three cuts from Warrior‘s prior band, Celtic Frost, were aired — “Messiah” and “Circle of the Tyrants” — but with a brand new record and as the new band moves further away from the old, it only makes sense the focus would be on Triptykon. Joined on stage by guitarist/vocalist V. Santura, bassist Vanja Šlajh and drummer Norman Lonhard, Warrior (né Fischer) was statesmanlike and seething in kind, and while I’m sure they’d already gotten rid of plenty of copies of Melana Chasmata, set-opener “Black Snow,” “Tree of Suffocating Souls,” and “Altar of Deceit” made a compelling argument toward purchase. As release parties go, it was formidable.

About halfway into their set, San Diego’s Harsh Toke – whose jam with Lenny Kaye on Friday has already become a Roadburn 2014 landmark in my mind — hit it in the Green Room, and I decided a little more of the ol’ back and forth was warranted to see them play their own material. I think they made a lot of friends this weekend, and not just by passing out beer cans from the stage (though that never hurts). Their heavy push was right on with or without the psych legend accompanying, and when it came time for me to do so, I decided they were how I wanted to end the night. I stood for a few minutes inside, then a few minutes in the doorway, then I went back to the Main Stage, then back to the Green Room, then upstairs, then back down, then around the foyer of the 013, then back to the doorway of the Green Room, and that was when I got that sinking, nagging feeling that I couldn’t avoid it anymore and my Roadburn was over. Time to leave.

I have many, many people to thank and it’s hit the point where I’m starting to nod off, so I’ll save that for the travel tomorrow, but as an initial blanket statement that I hope provides some warmth: Thank you. So much.

More pics after the jump.

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Roadburn 2014, Pt. 10: Altar Made of Red Earth

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

04.13.14 — 13:25 — Sunday afternoon — The 013, Tilburg

Got to watch a minute or two of Triptykon’s soundcheck. No surprise they were a churning barrage of devastating buzz, but strange to see them on stage with lights on. Can’t imagine it’ll be that way later on when they headline the Roadburn 2014 Afterburner.

Today’s a more laid back atmosphere. Fewer stages going, but it’s still a sold-out crowd and plenty to see. Shaman Lee and I came in this morning to finish out the last issue of the Weirdo Canyon Dispatch. The PDF is here if you’d like to give it a look. I wrote an essay to finish it basically nerding out on how killer the vibe of the fest has been all weekend, and Adrien Begrand did the review of yesterday with Paul Verhagen’s photos. Simple fact is I’m sorry to see it end.

How do you make a ‘zine at the Roadburn festival? With a garbage-can full of coffee cups.

The work is done now, issues are folded, and all that really remains is to wait for the Afterburner to start. Walter and Jurgen were in the office before with Lee and I, the four of us sitting and talking about music and the festival, just kind of laid back before the craziness of the day takes hold. It’s things like that that I most enjoy remembering. Bands are great, and I’ve seen a few here I’d consider friends, but it’s the moments that stay with you more than this or that set. This weekend has had a few for the ages.

I’m proud of the work done on the Weirdo Canyon Dispatch, and I’ve taken a few copies to go home with and I’ll look forward to having them on my shelf somewhere I can walk by and see them and be reminded of this place, the space we got to work in, the coffee, voices up from the loading dock below, the hum of soundchecks, the heat from the sunlight coming through the windows — Jurgen: “It’s always warm in here, isn’t it?,” Lee: “That’s why it’s the CEO’s office” — the ridiculous printer and all of it. I’ll have the ‘zines to keep me connected. A souvenir of the silly thing we were able and fortunate enough to do this weekend.

Things are pretty quiet in the office. I should probably get out of here.

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Roadburn 2014 Day Three: “I Know Where to Go…”

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

04.13.14 — 07:28 — Sunday morning — Hotel Mercure, Tilburg

Morning in Tilburg. Got back to the hotel last night and tried to get writing immediately but kept falling asleep at the keyboard. I’d wake up a couple seconds later and find a string of semi-colons a line long. It’s been a while since that happened. It finally came to the point where I semi-consciously reasoned that I’d be better off sleeping than having it take seven times as long to write because I couldn’t stay awake. I guess we’ll see how the reasoning works out.

Roadburn 2014 Day Three started for me more or less immediately after I closed the lid of my laptop in the afternoon. It was a day of kickass bands, noble intentions, and in my case, dragging ass. Some tough decisions. Will it be Indian or Old Man Gloom, Loop or -(16)-? Mansion or Horisont? A lot depended on my energy level at any given second, and a telling moment was when during YOB I was upstairs on the balcony of the Main Stage room and I opened the package of a protein bar only to have it be broken and two-thirds of it fall out of the wrapper onto the floor. Oh, I was a sad little monkey. I went and got myself dinner and said it was going to be okay. And it was, but for a second there the god damn world was about to end.

Better news is that all the bands I saw yesterday completely destroyed. In very different ways, to be sure. I watched more full sets than in the prior two days, bands like Noothgrush, Gozu, YOB, and Old Man Gloom offering thrills to the dedicated many who stuck around for the duration. When Noothgrush came out to open the Main Stage, vocalist Dino Sommese — in addition to referring to his band as “DIY punk; kinda angry, kinda slow” and backing up his punker perspective by talking some shit on corporate sponsorship — set about unleashing some of the nastiest screams I’ve heard the whole festival. Real, crusty, sludge. It wasn’t “post-” anything. It was visceral.

They’re a West Coast band, were gone for a while and came back a couple years ago. 11Paranoias were on at Het Patronaat, but Noothgrush set the tone for the day in both their unbridled riff-led filth and the fact that it compelled me to stay where I was for just about the whole time. Admittedly, I did poke my head into the Green Room to check out the beginning of Monster Truck – stoner rock; good for the soul — but from there I basically sat tight until Gozu were going on in the Green Room. For them, Roadburn 2014 is the start of a European tour that’ll go until they hit Desertfest in a couple weeks, and for me, it was a pleasure to watch them kill it so hard in that space.

Because that’s the thing about Roadburn. Well, one of the things. You can see a band 100 times, then see them at Roadburn and know it’s different. I’ve had that happen in years past and it was the same with Gozu. Every band is on top of their game and from the lights to the sound to the projections behind, the 013 crew is so professional that it all looks and sounds great. I could not tell you how many times I’ve seen those dudes — Marc Gaffney, Douglas Allen Sherman, Joe Grotto and Mike Hubbard – play a song like “Meat Charger” from 2010’s Locust Season (review here). I suppose it’s less with this lineup, but still, no matter how many more times I catch Gozu at places in Boston, I will have seen them at Roadburn and know that means something.

I had a moment with Gozu similar to watching Hull the other day, and I realized that it was being happy for hometown guys making good at Roadburn, and that’s the first time I’ve really thought of Boston as being my hometown as well as New York (or New Jersey, but in the Netherlands, you just say New York). One more reason the 2014 fest is special to me. Getting to see YOB twice — and getting to hear their forthcoming album, Clearing the Path to Ascend, didn’t hurt either. It’s their third time here, and each time, the Eugene, Oregon, trio have played two sets, which is efficient if nothing else. Yesterday was The Great Cessation in full. Seems redundant to say it was fantastic, or at least needless, but YOB on the Main Stage at Roadburn. If there’s ever a band who ever fit in a place, it’s them and there. What a pleasure to watch.

The Great Cessation I would count as the angriest of YOB‘s record, and especially in the context of hearing the new record a couple hours before, it’s material and a method of writing they’ve progressed beyond. Anger is still a factor, but The Great Cessation is so rife with disappointment, with frustration and rage. Of course that only made the songs more vicious. I was genuinely surprised when I walked out from the balcony to go back downstairs and closer to the front that it was still day outside. If anything was ever going to darken the sky, it would have to be “Silence of Heaven.” I look forward to seeing them again today and to becoming acquainted with their new songs. The second track on Clearing the Path to Ascend has some of the most furious drums I’ve ever heard from Travis Foster. We’re talking Through Silver in Blood-level. Can’t wait to see that live.

There was a bit of a break before Old Man Gloom went on. I thought I’d check out Carlton Melton instead, but they’re doing a jam with Dr. Space today and I started remembering the good times I had with Seminar II: The Holy Rites of Primitivism Regressionism and stuck it out in the Main Stage room. I haven’t listened to much Old Man Gloom since, and probably should’ve picked up their 2012 return outing, No, but for funds. They were fairly incredible and, as I thought just about no one would be able to do, managed to follow YOB. That shouldn’t be such a surprise with the all-star lineup of guitarist/vocalist Aaron Turner (Isis), guitarist/vocalist Nate Newton (Converge), bassist/vocalist Caleb Schofield (Cave In) and Santos Montano (Zozobra), but at one point I had to stop and say to myself, “So this is probably what it was like to see Neurosis 15 years ago.” Not a bad response for a band to evoke. “To Carry the Flame” from No was a particular highlight, and had me wondering if Roadburn might see an Isis reunion maybe in 2015 or sometime in the future beyond.

Part of the appeal of seeing Old Man Gloom was that I’ve never seen them before and may or may not ever get to see them again. That’s what kept me there the whole time. With Finland’s Mansion, the situation was similar. Their 2013 We Shall Live EP (review here) intrigued with its cultish leanings and semi-psychedelic churn and the new single Congregation Hymns Vol. 1 has only furthered interest. Dressed all in black, in turtlenecks save for their bassist, who had a button-down (heathen!), Mansion projected religious righteousness well, and that’s cool since it’s part of their aesthetic, but it was really the songs I was there for. Vocalist Alma Mansion had a calm intensity that came to bursts of energy in the title-track from the EP, the band behind her following suit in both atmosphere and presence. I think a lot of people were getting ready for Loop to hit the Main Stage, but the Green Room was still pretty full as Mansion got going, and they delivered something I’ve seen no one else here have on offer. Chalk their new single on my list of records I wish I’d bought.

To be fair, Loop are touring the US this coming week — especially after seeing them play here, I can’t help but think that’s the wrong choice, and not because of the band– but to see them headline at Roadburn, particularly after their reunion came about following Loop guitarist/vocalist Robert Hampson sitting in with Godflesh last year, seemed fitting. I won’t profess to be an expert on Loop‘s records, Heaven’s End and A Gilded Eternity are certainly top quality psych-gaze and were decades ahead of their time, but they’re not something I put on every day or every week, so for me it was more about just watching the band and seeing Loop for what they brought to the show. They seemed aware of the gravity of the situation, but handled themselves expertly and where Old Man Gloom had been about bombast and urgency, Loop were a more patient, gradual vibe. It worked well, but I was about ready to close out the night and so headed over to Het Patronaat for the first time of the day to catch Los Angeles noise rockers -(16)-.

I caught wind of Zoloft Smile around the time it was released, and the sludgy outfit’s return over the last several years has only furthered appreciation. They were West Coast hardcore intense, but with thicker tones right on the edge where noise rolls into sludge. Fast. Mean. Loud. Perfect for Het Patronaat‘s relatively compact stage, incredible volume and otherworldly vibe, the stained glass church windows, woodwork, all of it covered in -(16)-‘s spilled guts. They were a steamroller from word one, vocalist Cris Jerue bounding from one side of the stage to the next while founding guitarist Bobby Ferry and the relatively recently-added rhythm section of bassist Barney Firks and drummer Dion Thurman did likewise. Their energy was infectious, and brought fitting symmetry to the crust with which Noothgrush had started my day.

That bookend in mind, I decided it was time to call it a night and headed back to the hotel, exhausted by grinning. Today is the Afterburner, which cuts the number of stage from five to three, and while it’s supposed to be the laid back finish to Roadburn similar to how the Hard Rock Hideout on Wednesday eased attendees into the festival mindset, I’ve got no real letup in terms of bands I want to see, from Selim Lemouchi’s Enemies honoring the fallen The Devil’s Blood guitarist to YOB again and Triptykon. Plus a fanzine to put together. Much to do this last day here. I better get to it.

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Roadburn 2014, Pt. 8: “Clearing the Path…”

Posted in Features on April 12th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

04.12.14 — 14:02 — Saturday afternoon — Hotel Mercure, Tilburg

Seems like a groggy start this afternoon in Weirdo Canyon, things mostly quiet. I expect a lot of people hit it pretty hard yesterday, and as the final day of Roadburn 2014 that has all five stages going, looking at the schedule of what’s coming up, I can’t even argue with wanting to sleep late. Me, I’ve been up since 07:30. Rolled over and the tiny engine that runs my likewise tiny brain started put-putting and before I knew it, I was conscious. That’s about three hours of sleep. Whoops.

I won’t lie and say it was a pretty process, but we got the third issue of the Weirdo Canyon Dispatch done well in time. Shaman Lee hadn’t slept much more than I had, but Paul Robertson’s review and Paul Verhagen’s once again stunning photos came in early and that helped. The PDF is here, which obviously I recommend checking out whether you’re in Tilburg or not. It’s been absurdly satisfying putting this together as both a passion project and a print publication. Since it’s not something I’ll be able to do for work anymore, as I did until a couple weeks ago, and as I’ve been kind of leaning on the preparations for this ‘zine in the wake of that, I will miss it when it wraps up tomorrow even more than I thought I would. These have been good mornings and have made the festival all the more special for me. Again, I’m lucky.

The rush was on double this morning as well because there was a listening session for YOB’s new album, which according to Neurot postcard flyers strewn about the festival is called Clearing the Path to Ascend. It was played through a P.A. — not quite the same as popping in the headphones and closing your eyes — so I won’t say much about it other than I damn near wept. Even hearing the last song playing back in my head now has me choked up. Fucking beautiful.

YOB plays later before Old Man Gloom and Loop on the Main Stage, doing The Great Cessation in full. That’s something I doubt very much I’ll regret watching.

I’m sore, I’m tired, and I miss my wife, but being here I wouldn’t trade for the world. I had resigned myself to missing Roadburn this year and was even sadder than I want to say at the thought. It’s been a rough couple months and I feel like this is the only way to get my head back to where it needs to be, back to what it is that matters to me and to what makes me feel human and alive. I don’t know if that makes any sense and I’m not sure I care if it does or not. Just so, so glad to be where I am right now.

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Roadburn 2014 Day Two: “Death Means Just Life”

Posted in Features, Reviews on April 11th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

04.12.14 — 01:04 — Friday night/Saturday morning — Hotel Mercure, Tilburg

I must be doing a piss-poor job of not looking beat to hell, because several people asked me throughout the course of the afternoon and night how much I’d slept. Just enough, in combination with coffee, to stay standing. I wasn’t so clever with my answer at the time.

Today’s pacing was completely different from yesterday. When you’re here, you tend to be your own curator — I’m going to see this at the expense of that, I want to catch this band, so I will be here at this time. People pull their schedules out constantly, myself included. It’s important to stay on top of this stuff. Minutes matter at Roadburn.

For me, it was slower. At one point in the evening, I had to sort of stop and remind myself that I didn’t have to rush off somewhere, I could stay put and watch a little longer. That was the case right from the start with French classic prog tale-tellers Magma, who opened Mikael Åkerfeldt of Opeth‘s curated day on the Main Stage. The early portion of the Main Stage bill — three out of the total five bands, all playing at least 70 minutes, and in the case of MagmaClaudio Simonetti’s Goblin and Opeth themselves, a full 90 — was heavy on prog. That had me at something of a disadvantage when it came to giving acts like Magma, Comus and Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin their due reverence, but I made the most of exposing my brain to things it hasn’t encountered 30 times already and saw some acts on other stages as well. There’s always someplace to be if you want to be there. Or you can go to the bar.

Magma‘s tales of future space in made up language set the bar pretty high for texture. Later on, Goblin would inject a little funk and some heavier rock into what they were doing, but with Magma, it was more about expansive and psychedelic jazz, though thinking of their set in the context of Mikael Åkerfeldt picking the lineup, it was easy to see why they were there — Opeth had clearly taken some of their influence. Likewise that for Comus and Goblin. In the Green Room, where I hadn’t been yet, Lenny Kaye and Harsh Toke were getting ready to jam, and I don’t know what it was, but something told me I wanted to be there.

A fellow Jersey boy, Rutgers grad and former publisher of a ‘zine called Obelisk — if only I could play guitar — Lenny Kaye is probably best known for playing in the Patti Smith Group, but he’s here as well celebrating the Nuggets compilation he put together in 1972 that featured the likes of Nazz, 13th Floor Elevators, The Electric Prunes, etc. Paired with San Diego’s Harsh Toke, who are newcomers to the Tee Pee Records roster, Kaye fronted one of the best live heavy psych jams I’ve ever seen. No bullshit. With a steady refrain of “Harsh Toke makes good smoke” from Kaye on mic and improvised-seeming lyrics amid a terrifyingly immersive swirl from his guitar and the two in Harsh Toke – all the while, bass and drums holding down a battery of killer grooves — it had every dynamic you could possibly ask of a close-your-eyes-and-nod jam. I spent the rest of the day telling people how incredible it was and getting blank stares, no doubt because Lenny Kaye & Harsh Toke were on in the Green Room at the same time The Body were on at Het Patronaat, but wow. I had planned to be there for a few minutes and didn’t leave until they were done, an extended cover of Them‘s 1964 hit, “Gloria,” which Kaye referred to as the “national anthem of garage rock.” They jammed on that too.

I had to laugh when, as he introduced the band, Kaye stopped to ask the bassist and drummer of Harsh Toke their names, but however familiar they may or may not have been, I felt like I was seeing something special. They ended a little early, so I got back to the Main Stage in time for the start of Comus, who also played Roadburn back in 2010 at the since-closed Midi Theatre around the block from the 013. They were today largely as I remembered them from then: Mostly seated and playing their cult forest prog, cuts like “Song to Comus” from 1971’s First Utterance once again showcasing an inspiration point for Åkerfeldt. I bought that Comus record four years ago and have listened to it since, but still would hardly call myself an expert, and they had a good crowd going until it was time to head over to Het Patronaat for a second set from Corrections House after yesterday’s. I’d hear about it later, but they brought out YOB guitarist/vocalist Mike Scheidt, who’s been spotted here and there around the fest ahead of YOB‘s two sets tomorrow and Sunday. If you want to make a supergroup more super, that’s a good way to do it.

The day I almost consider split in half, and the 90-minute set from Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin was the dividing point. People were so tight in the Main Stage room you couldn’t get in the door. Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin isn’t to be mistaken for the Goblin that toured in the US — the keyboardist has taken on members of his more metallized outfit Daemonia and made his own version of Goblin from them, while the classic Italian cine-proggers continue on in his absence. It’s confusing until you think of how often it happens. Then it’s just silly. Either way, Simonetti led his band through renditions of the themes to Zombi and Dawn of the Dead in addition to their eponymous song, all the while the audience nodded along. It was maybe a bit much at an hour and a half, but I may have been the only one who thought so. The dancing dude next to me was definitely on board, as most in attendance seemed to be, the Daemonia players injecting a bit of funk and hard rock into Goblin‘s classic scores.

Here’s where I had my moment when I decided to both have and eat my cake. Germany’s Sula Bassana were slated to go on at 21:40 at Het Patronaat. Simple enough. Candlemass were going on at 21:45. It was a very small window between the start of the two sets but I managed to squeeze my ass through it and caught the start of both. Obviously I saw more of Candlemass than Sula Bassana — which actually seemed to be Electric Moon plus another guitarist alongside Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt, bassist Komet Lulu and drummer Marcus Schnitzler, but I considered it an achievement all the same. Schmidt got on mic to say it was their first time playing as a full band and then was off to his synths and guitar to lead his outfit through expansive psych jams. I wasn’t there long, but I was glad to have been there at all.

And while I don’t know if anything will ever top seeing Candlemass perform 1986’s Epicus Doomicus Metallicus at Roadburn 2011 with original vocalist Johan Längqvist singing — a set that’s since been released on oh-if-I-had-the-money vinyl — the band sounded awfully vibrant for a group who’s been threatening retirement for the last half-decade. In addition to having Per Wiberg on keys — Wiberg also played the Afterburner last year with Spiritual Beggars and is a former member of Opeth – as they ran through the whole of 1988’s Ancient Dreams, the Swedish doom legends also brought out Primordial/Dread Sovereign frontman Alan “Nemtheanga” Averill to add his flair and stage presence to “Incarnation of Evil.” It seemed an odd fit for his triumph-prone vocal style, but completely worked, and for the rest of their set, Candlemass had Mats Levén of Therion on vocals, who’s also worked with Candlemass founder/bassist Leif Edling in Krux and Abstrakt Algebra. Levén also did well with the parts that once belonged to Messiah Marcolin, though it was Edling himself, wine glass in hand, who took center stage to deliver the album-closing “Epistle No. 81,” a spoken poem in Swedish that came through the 013 Main Stage P.A. to the rhythm of claps from the audience. Very cool moment.

For an encore, they broke out “Bewitched” — some clever band is going to come along and cover both the track and its accompanying video, which if you’ve never seen it is one of the finest ever produced by humanity — and Epicus Doomicus Metallicus opener “Solitude,” which was enough to send a chill up my spine. I fucking love that song, and Levén nailed it, though he like every vocalist I’ve seen with Candlemass, including Längqvist who originally recorded it, stepped back from the high notes in the chorus on the album version. When they were done, it was just a matter of waiting the 45-minute break for Opeth, which I tried to do by watching some of Papir in Stage01 through the doorway. My thinking was the room would be full so at least I’d be able to hear it and see some of the stage, but the fact was that when I got there, the doorway was full too. No place to stand even outside the room. Some you win, some you lose.

It would’ve been nice to stay and see Opeth round out their set with “Deliverance” and “Blackwater Park,” but even before they went on, I was getting that get-back-to-the-hotel-and-get-typing itch, so I stuck around for “The Devil’s Orchard” from 2011’s Heritage, “Ghost of Perdition” from 2005’s Ghost Reveries – which Åkerfeldt, with his expected stage-banter charm, referred to as “an old nugget”; something Lenny Kaye had said about “Gloria” earlier in the day — and the start of “White Cluster,” the closer of 1999’s Still Life, before making my way out. It’s been more than a few years since the last time I saw Opeth, but it was already after midnight and I knew what I had ahead of me.

Tomorrow closes out the fest proper with the first of YOB‘s two sets and Loop‘s headlining slot on the Main Stage, so with morning work on the next issue of the fanzine ahead, I’ll just say thanks for reading and there are more pics after the jump if you’re interested.

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Roadburn 2014, Pt. 6: “Spirit of the Staircase”

Posted in Features on April 11th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

04.11.14 — 12:13 — Friday afternoon — 013 venue, Tilburg

A bit of a later start this morning for fanzine work. I didn’t mind sleeping the extra hour after all of yesterday’s running around and I’m sure I’ll mind it even less tomorrow. I had zero eyes for copy editing but did the best I could with it. “It’s a fanzine” has become a sort of go-to line for not being too nitpicky. If something’s screwed up, well, that’s only more authentic.

The issues are coming out of the printer now, and downstairs in the venue, Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin have been soundchecking, the place sort of generally buzzing with activity, voices from the street below of bands loading in merch and gear, a hum of cyclical bass coming up through the concrete floor.

If you want to check out the PDF of the second issue, it’s available here. I’m honored to be outclassed by Kim Kelly’s review and Paul Verhagen’s photography.

Speaking of Paul, whose face was well familiar from the last couple years when I was introduced yesterday, he’s got photos displayed outside as well as in the venue itself. There are shots billboard-size on the outer wall of the parking deck next door to the 013, and that and the Roadburn banners around town only underscore the support this fest gets from the city of Tilburg. Particularly coming from the States, where something like this would struggle every step of the way and have to fight to even get a permit to exist, it’s amazing to see that. Was talking to a fellow East Coaster yesterday (look at me, not dropping names) who concurred: the culture just doesn’t exist for it there. You might be able to get away with it in San Francisco or something like that, but then everyone’s car will get busted into — say hello to my new stereotype about San Francisco; everybody gets robbed — and that’s no good either.

There’s a networking meeting over at the Cul de Sac going on now that I should probably be at, should’ve probably been at last year, but things ran behind compared to yesterday, so we’ll see if I get there before it’s done. Yesterday before the show proper started I ran back to the hotel. Didn’t quite get to sleep but at least laid down for a while and I think that made a difference. Not sure how the timing will work today, but you have to take your rest when you can when you’re here because there’s so much to see. No shortage today, certainly. A lot I’ve never encountered before, so all the better.

Exhausted but feeling good. It’s warm in Tilburg and the trees are green. You always forget the difference something like that can make.

 

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