ROADBURN 2015 DAY ONE: My Good Shepherd

Posted in Features, Reviews on April 9th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

roadburn 2015 day one (Photo by JJ Koczan)

04.09.15 — 23.37 — Thurs. Night — Hotel

Some good Roadburn‘ll cure what ails you. Especially if what ails you — it’s what ails all of us, really — is the fact that the rest of your life isn’t Roadburn. Today was my busiest day, and it felt like it. A lot of back and forth. My dogs, such as they are, are barking. It was an early start and a late-enough finish, though it’s worth noting that the finish could’ve been even later. Solstafir (Photo by JJ Koczan)One has to find balance in these things. It’s a four-day fest. This was day one.

I sat on the backside of the photo-pit barrier before Sólstafir went on. They were opening the fest at 15.00, the same time Bell Witch were taking the stage at Het Patronaat — Roadburn means hard choices, always. I sat there, early, alone, tilted my head back and closed my eyes, took a breath in through my nose and let it out through my mouth. My last quiet moment, you see. I let it go, and a short time later, the Icelandic outfit took the stage, performing a live soundtrack to the 1984 film, also Icelandic, Hrafninn Flýgur (translated: When the Raven Flies). It would be my first time seeing them perform, and my first time seeing the movie, so I was probably at a significant disadvantage to some in the crowd, but essentially I was glad to Solstafir (Photo by JJ Koczan)be seeing the band at all, and knowing they’ve got a regular set scheduled for tomorrow, I went in with a pretty open mind. Whatever they were going to do, I was happy to be watching Sólstafir play. Not the most impartial of attitudes, but I dig the band.

Interestingly, a lot of what they did to accompany the movie, was rework their material as instrumental or atmospheric rock. Parts from last year’s Ótta (review here), the back end of the title-track — a landmark for the album if there ever was one — was distinct as the film went on, subtitles in English at the bottom of the big screen behind the band, who were spread out in a manner almost orchestral on the Main Stage. Maybe not surprising, but their sound fit pretty well with images of revenge-seeking Viking-types on horseback, distant mountains, stone weapons and the like. I’m still not entirely sure what was going on, but even to catch Sólstafir playing parts of their songs, I was glad to see it, and it Salem's Pot (Photo by JJ Koczan)made me look forward to their regular set. They took a bow when they were done, after the credits had rolled, and it seemed like they earned it. Over in the Green Room — the middle-size space, smaller than the 013‘s Main Stage or Het Patronaat, bigger than 013‘s Stage01 or the back of Cul de Sac where the stage is (got all that?) — Salem’s Pot were setting up for a buffet of riffs soon to unfold.

Swing, swing, swing. Swing like madmen, and they dressed the part too, all in masks, one in a dress and fishnets, like a troop of droogs gone stoner cult. The Swedish five-piece released their …Lurar ut dig på prärien debut LP (discussed here) last year on RidingEasy Records, and they had a new song for the Roadburn crowd as well as stuff from the album, which was more than solid in that heavy but kind of familiar way, but took on a different character live. Even apart from the theatrics, I guess so much on …Lurar ut dig på prärien was down to the rhythm, but on stage, the songs had different off-kilter melodies in the guitars, the dual vocals worked more dynamically, and the synth and effects swirl was a major factor in how it all came together. “Creep Purple” and “Nothing Hill” were Floor (Photo by JJ Koczan)rolling-groove highlights, and the shorter “Ego Trip,” released as the A-side of a 7″ last fall, was right on as well. I hate to think I had dismissed them, but in presence and performance, Salem’s Pot exceeded my expectations and not only had swing, swing, swing working in their favor, but a more complex approach overall than I saw coming.

A pleasant surprise, then, even though I kind of knew what they’d get up to. In the next room, the Main Stage was being set up for Floor. Now, I’ve seen Floor a few times at this point, and even since they put out their long-awaited studio comebacker Oblation (review here) about a year ago, and my general rule for Roadburn is that the bands I’ve already seen get low priority. Lower, anyway. The difference with Floor was that I’d been hearing all along about how excited people were to see them. I’m not 100 percent, but I think that until this tour, the trio of guitarist Anthony Vialon, drummer Henry Wilson (also of House of Lightning) and guitarist/vocalist Steve Brooks (also of Torche) had yet to play Europe since getting back together half a decade ago. That would make them, if nothing else, due.

The bomb-toners lived up to what one might’ve hoped for on the big stage. As it will, their 2002 self-titled featured prominently in tSpidergawd (Photo by JJ Koczan)he set, starting off with the one-two-three of “Scimitar,” “Return to Zero” and “Downed Star,” Brooks and Vialon pushing out now-classic riffs as Wilson seemed to drum with his whole body behind the kit. The guitarists kept a more quiet presence, Brooks here and there on stage, moving with the music but hardly thrashing about, and Vialon more or less still in a zen-through-volume kind of fashion, but the thrust of those songs is undeniable, and as they moved into “Dove” and “Night Full of Kicks” and Oblation cuts like “Trick Scene” and “Find Away” and “The Key,” they kept their momentum, fast or lumbering. “Tales of Lolita” is always a good time, and it worked well next to the thudding “The Quill,” and closing duo “Loanin'” and “Triangle Song” wrapped up to ensure that no bases were left uncovered. They weren’t, and yeah, I’ve seen Floor before, but there was no question doing so again was the right choice.

That said, there was no way in hell I was missing Spidergawd. Largely unknown in the States, and I think known mostly to those in Europe who’ve heard their two Stickman/Crispin Glover Records LPs to date — 2014’s Spidergawd (review here) and 2015’s Spidergawd II (review here) — because of their affiliation with Norwegian prog magnates Motorpsycho, whose bassist, Bent Sæther, and drummer, Kenneth Kapstad, double in the more boogie-oriented outfit alongside saxophonist/vocalist Rolf Martin Snustad and guitarist/vocalist Per Borten, who is related to but not to be confused with a former Norwegian prime minister of the same name. Spidergawd were aSpidergawd (Photo by JJ Koczan) must-see for me. One of several, but a must-see all the same, and they delivered all the way in the energy and upbeat feel of their songs. By the time they got down to “Fixin’ to Die Blues” from the new record, maybe three songs in, they had Het Patronaat eating out of their hands.

And rightly so. I saw a lot of music today and I’ll see a lot more before this weekend’s out, but I don’t know if anyone will give off a genuinely-happy-to-be-here vibe as much as Spidergawd did, still managing to both groove and be heavy while enjoying themselves. Their spirit was infectious, as are their hooks, and though it was hot in the church — damn hot — they had no letup, SnustadKapstad and Borten up front on the stage while Sæther played behind in a curious configuration, but one that obviously works for them. They’re a band more people should know, based solely on the merit of what they play and how they play it, never mind anyone’s pedigree or anything like that. They lit that room up, closing with the Thin Lizzy-style “Sanctuary” from Spidergawd II as if to portend even better things to come. They’ve been working quickly over the course of their first two records, and hopefully it’s not long before a third surfaces as well. The more the merrier.

Uzala (Photo by JJ Koczan)I stopped by to see some of Primitive Man through the door of the Green Room before they finished. Unsurprisingly they were punishing as fuck. Floor had started something of a bang-bang-bang for the rest of my night, one to the next to the next, and I had planned on catching a bit of Uzala in the Green Room and moving on to the next set, but once they went on, the Boise, Idaho, three-piece held me in place. I didn’t know it at the time, but they were just what I was looking for. Guitarist Chad Remains, guitarist Darcy Nutt (also running her guitar through a bass rig, for extra low-end) and drummer Chuck Watkins had a new song in tow called “The Gallows,” and that moved a little faster than some of their more plodding material from 2014’s righteous Tales of Blood and Fire, songs like “Dark Days” and “Seven Veils,” but wherever they headed, they were just the right blend of beat-you-over-the-head heaviness in Remains and Nutt‘s tones, melody and lurching groove that I couldn’t have left even if I’d wanted to. They were not to be missed, in other words. Vocals were a little low, at least up front where I was standing, but Nutt has a powerful voice and as dense as those tones got — seriously, there were parts where they sounded like a machine grinding to a halt; I wondered how they’d restart it for the next measure — she cut through with little trouble and palpable soul.

Their set was a highlight of the day for me, all the more because I’d seen them before, knew what I Uzala (Photo by JJ Koczan)was getting into and they still managed to surprise with how switched on they were. Remains shredded his solos in top form and had some technical trouble along the way that was fixed so promptly by the Green Room crew that I’m not even sure he noticed. Only complaint? No “Tenement of the Lost.” The closer from Tales of Blood and Fire that begins with a wash of feedback and culminates in one of the sweetest minimalist doom ballads my ears have heard in the last five years — it’s my go-to sad song — would’ve certainly been welcome, but honestly, I think the maximum-volume approach they took was probably a more practical call given the room. I could’ve gone to see Russian Circles on the Main Stage, or Thou at Het Patronaat, or Moaning Cities, whose merch I later looked for and could not find, in Stage01, but Uzala kept me where I was. They were a thrill to watch.

Somewhere in there, it would’ve made sense to have dinner. I did not. No time. Wovenhand would be on the Main Stage shortly, and I knew that was where I wanted to be. It was a return appearance for them and the second time I’d have seen them at Roadburn — never seen them anywhere else, come to think of it — but as I consider the set they played in 2011 a personal landmark, as in, “before I saw it” and “after I saw it,” I’d been very much anticipating their arrival. They were Wovenhand (Photo by JJ Koczan)headliners this time along with Eyehategod, who’d play the Main Stage afterwards, but Wovenhand had the longer set, and put their 80 minutes to use in the most dynamic manner I saw all day, frontman David Eugene Edwards far to the left side of the stage while drummer Ordy Garrison had the middle, and guitarist/backing vocalist Chuck French and bassist Neil Keener anchored the right. Edwards is among the more charismatic stage presences I’ve ever seen, and though he said before they ended that they knew they were “out of their league” in coming back to Roadburn, I felt more like I was out of mine watching them.

Last year’s Refractory Obdurate (review here) featured prominently in their set, which opened with “Hiss,” arguably their heaviest work to-date. Ultimately, it would be a much different kind of intensity they brought than four years ago, when Edwards, seated, laid bare a deeply spiritual — religious, Christian — neo-folk,Wovenhand (Photo by JJ Koczan) worldly in its arrangements and deeper than the eye could follow. Standing, the vocalist/guitarist still had a feather in his hat and still taunted or teased the audience in a kind of war-whoop, but he also softshoed while he played, and Wovenhand this time around was a much more stripped-down, rawer, meaner-toned outfit. Garrison‘s drums, aided now and then by some extra percussion by French, were a driving force, and the seething energy of their rhythm could be felt throughout the main hall, whether they happened to be raging at the time, as in “Hiss,” or engaged in a more quiet brooding, à la “Closer” from 2012’s The Laughing Stalk (review here). Opener “Long Horn” from that album was also a highlight, and I was amazed what a few years could do for band like that progressing in unexpected ways and pursuing different avenues of sound. “Good Shepherd” lacked nothing for its melody, but even that had a coinciding element of pummel.

It was to the point where, I knew I wanted to see Monolord. I’d wanted to see Monolord all along, Monolord (Photo by JJ Koczan)and they were playing Het Patronaat at the same time Wovenhand were on the Main Stage — Roadburn giveth and Roadburn scheduleth conflicteth. I left Wovenhand and went down the block to the other venue just as Monolord were going on. How heavy were they? They were superlatively heavy. A monumental sonic impact that seemed to hit all at once, as though the guitar and bass were also kick drums. It was ridiculous, and the line outside the Patronaat was backed up the longest I’d seen it yet to get in, but as I stood there and watched them, I couldn’t take the fact that Wovenhand were playing Roadburn and I wasn’t in the same room where it was happening. Monolord slayed the place, absolutely. I saw people coming out of there when they were done and they looked even more in a daze than usual. But me, I had to back and watch Wovenhand finish. They were too good to let it pass. And when they were done, they came back out and did an encore. Fucking a.

My evening was more or less done Kandodo (Photo by JJ Koczan)and I knew it, but when Wovenhand finished their encore, I swung back to Het Patronaat to watch some of Kandodo, who are led by guitarist Simon Price of The Heads and were doing a special set with Robert Hampson of Loop sitting in as part of The Heads‘ residency. I didn’t know what that collaboration might bring, but it brought a fervent run of heavy psychedelia that was perfect for me to close out the night. They started in the dark, Price and Hampson on guitar on opposite sides of the stage, bassist Hugo Morgan (also The Heads) and drummer Wayne Maskell (also also The Heads) between, but the lights gradually came up as they jammed their way through a first song — read as “Kandy Rock” on the setlist — and into the next. Watching them made me want to buy many albums, I’ll say that, but time was getting on and I had a review to write, so I cut out after a bit and made my way back to the hotel. It was a mindbender of a first day, but I know there is still much more to come over this weekend.

More pics after the jump.

Read more »

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Roadburn Trip Pt. 3: Harvest Begun

Posted in Features on April 9th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

Wovenhand soundchecking. (Photo by JJ Koczan)

04.09.15 — 11.53 — Thurs. Morning — 013 Office

Got to watch a couple minutes of Wovenhand’s soundcheck without feeling too much like I was blowing off responsibilities in the office of the 013 venue, where we were putting together the first issue of the Weirdo Canyon Dispatch ‘zine. That’s being printed now, incidentally. There will be 1,000 copies pressed, with the pages right-side-up and everything, and handed out at the doors once the day has officially started. I’m looking forward to getting one and using the schedule throughout the day, trying not to notice typos invariably missed weirdo canyon dispatch thursday coverin the copy-editing process. Our mantra has been a simple one: “It’s a ‘zine.”

You can see the first issue online here if you’d like to check it out. I’m way into the cover for it, by Cavum.

Slept hard, which was to be expected. It was a little after 01.00 when I went out, and woke up at 09.00, still groggy despite no small level of restoration. I had sat down at the office and opened my laptop before I remembered to have a cup of coffee, which I may have rectified with a bit of overkill as regards the double-double espressos. I’d say “whoops,” but it’s about the only thing that has me upright, so if I’m a bit twitchy, it’s a small price to pay for a brain that — if you’ll pardon me saying so — is functioning at least on a semi-conscious level. The entire office is abuzz, one way or another.

The day kicks off officially at 15.00 with Sólstafir on the Main Stage and Bell Witch at Het Patronaat. I’ll catch a bit of Minsk, probably through the door of Stage01, as well, and then on from there, Uzala, coffee cupSpidergawd, Wovenhand, etc. Looking at the schedule, today is one of my busiest days of back and forth at the fest, so maybe the extra coffee was a good idea after all.

I don’t think I’ll get much time to sit in Weirdo Canyon, as is my usual pre-Roadburn ritual, but hopefully at some point over the next couple days I’ll be able to sit and enjoy the vibe a bit and maybe a Roadburn Burger or some Roadburn Ribs or Roadburn Whatever It Might Be — the fest-specific specials abound, priced accordingly. It was quiet as I walked through this morning on the way to the office, but that will change by this afternoon for sure. If the next couple of days are going to be anything at all, that thing will most certainly not be “quiet.”

Tags: , , ,

Roadburn 2015 Trip Pt. 2: Hard Rock Hideout at Cul de Sac

Posted in Features, Reviews on April 8th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

Bark Soundchecking (Photo by JJ Koczan)

04.08.15 — 23.32 — Wed. Night — Mercure Hotel, Tilburg

I was early to Cul de Sac, which was something I didn’t realize until I was already there that I had done last year. Same thing, too. I had it in my head that the Hard Rock Hideout — the free, official Roadburn pre-show — was an earlier night to lead the way into the fest proper, which starts tomorrow. Wrong-o. Hardly the worst fate in the world. I watched Antwerpen thrashers Bark, who’d share the evening’s bill with ripping countrymen Prematory, soundcheck, and sit for a bit to gather my head and make some attempt at conscious thought — a notion that, though the night was dedicated to headbang-ready thrash, made up for any doomed quota that one might’ve set.

That make any sense? I don’t even know anymore.

Didn’t seem it to me, since I’d been sitting there a while, passing the time chatting as coherently as I was minimally able with Pete Green and Lee Edwards, both from The Sleeping Shaman, both cohorts on the Weirdo Canyon Dispatch daily ‘zine, and both good dudes through and through. I moved down to the front, also early, and waited there for Bark to kick off the night. If this was clickbait, I’d say something like, “you won’t believe what happened next,” but it was a fucking show. The show happened. Use common sense.

Here’s how it went down:

Bark

Bark (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Kudos to whatever perceptive individual decided to call this band Bark. In vocalist Ron‘s shouting approach and in the quick, bursting nature of their songs, it made an awful lot of sense. Less ’80s in their style than Prematory, they were more metal, drawing my mind to some of the early, rawer moments of The Haunted, but any number of other comparisons from that era just before the genre went full-on retro would probably fit better, plus just a touch of what of course sounds to my ears like New York hardcore. They don’t have a record out yet, but they managed a set of 13 songs. Highlights were “Roll the Dice,” “Voice of Dog” — which is apparently the title of their forthcoming full-length debut — and the bigger groove of “Day of the Witch.” As a five-piece, their two guitars, provided by Rui and Martin, were raging and tight in leading the charge, and the rhythm section of bassist Jorn and drummer Ward was propulsive, but Ron took command of the stage early and did not relinquish. I’m not the hugest thrash cat in the world — this site would be a lot different if I was — but I’d have a hard time arguing against a delivery like that if I was remotely interested in doing so. Fortunately, I’m not. If the idea behind the Hard Rock Hideout is to launch Roadburn at full-speed, Bark were a boot to the ass to get the show on the road.

Prematory

Prematory (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Hard to tell if Leuven’s Prematory were young or if I’m just old, but they killed it with sustained windmill-headbang energy anyway, their riffing owing more to hardcore punk than they probably realize. Shades of more extreme metal showed themselves in a turn here or a move there as they ran through tracks mostly taken from their 2014 sophomore outing, Corrupting Influence, heads banging through razor-sharp punishment on “Toxic Experiment” and “Evil Perfection,” the latter from 2010’s full-length debut, Suiciety. Comprised of guitarists Joeri Van de Schoot (lead) and Jonas Van De Sande (rhythm), vocalist Simon Duson, bassist Alain Hulsbosch and drummer Thomas Wuyts, it was pretty clear they were drawing their own crowd to Cul de Sac; a few friends stood up front along with your more standard show-goers, the room by then was packed out. Prematory were dead on, metal thrashing mad and all the rest, and though I felt like I was going to fall over and pass out on the floor, I think that’s more my lack of sleep than any fault of theirs, considering the reactions of those around me. Again, it’s not really my thing, stylistically, but the appeal is writ large all over the fiery presentation and the intensity and immediacy of what they were doing.

A couple more pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

Read more »

windmill

04.09.15 — 00.49 — Wed. Night — Hotel

I’d nodded off for I don’t know how long in the van from Schiphol Airport to Tilburg, but when I woke up, it was Lady Gaga on the driver’s radio. I was sitting up front, and in back were Arik Roper — who has a gallery show in town in collusion with Roadburn and with whom, coincidentally, I shared a ride last year — as well as Bongripper bassist Ron Petzke and his wife, Cath, who had both been on my connecting flight from Dublin. Pretty easy to pick out who’s headed to Roadburn by the time you get to Amsterdam. But go ahead and take a second and let the image soak in of that van ride, with “Poker Face” as the soundtrack. Maybe it was the lack of sleep, but I thought it was god damn hilarious, especially since I’ve never encountered that song without thinking of the Cartman version from South Park. Life is strange, but I was so happy to be back in the Netherlands that I was taking pictures of dirt by the side of the road. It’s a different color!

As it has eluded me on both flights, the second of which sat for an hour at the gate before taking off — because fuck you, existence — there wasn’t even a choice about sleep when I got to the hotel, around 15.00. I fell out not quite immediately but not far off from it and woke up at 7. The four hours bought me maybe three of energy, and I hit a wall pretty hard by the time Prematory schipolwere going onstage at the Cul de Sac, the Hard Rock Hideout going ultra-thrashy this time around. Last year I saw Death Alley there and that was a blast. Strange how things evolve sometimes.

Tomorrow, the above-mentioned Lee Edwards and I start work putting the final versions together of the Roadburn ‘zine, the Weirdo Canyon Dispatch. I’m very much looking forward to that. This year’s ‘zine seemed to come together exceptionally smoothly — I blinked and the issues were full; we have an expanded staff, and I’m thrilled to say everyone turned in their stuff — and while that could mean a printer breakdown or a piano falling on my head or whatever tragedy it might be is in the offing (my offing, in the case of that piano), I’m quite pleased with how it has turned out and I’m looking forward to sharing it, both at the fest and in this space.

So I’ll set the alarm to get up and go to the office at the 013 venue to do that, and then Roadburn happens. To say I’m looking forward to it is understatement, but it’ll have to suffice because I’m too beat to come up with anything else. Ha.

Don’t forget those show pics are after the jump.

Read more »

Tags: , , , , , ,

Roadburn 2015 Trip Pt. 1: Walkin’ on the Sidewalks

Posted in Features on April 7th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

at the gate

04.07.15 — 6:29PM Eastern — Tuesday evening — Logan Airport Terminal E, Boston

I have never enjoyed air travel. Nor, I think, would any sane person who gave even the remotest conscious thought to the processes involved. If ever you doubt the void that exists where a just and loving god should be, use a commercial airline. That said, both traffic en route to the airport and traffic within it were minimal given the rush hour. The Patient Mrs. dropped me off freshly returned from a day of work and she stopped short of saying “have fun with the weirdos and get your head on straight,” but the point lingered in the air anyway. She knows I need this more than I do. Poor thing has to live with me.

Terminal E is the ass-end of Boston Logan International Airport. The “International” part. Lufthansa, SwissAir, IcelandAir, Aer Lingus (which is the dirtiest sounding airline and also the one I happen to be on — flight 138 which I remembered because of the Misfits), and a handful of others operate out of here. A year ago I sat on the other side of this giant rectangle of a room and waited to board a flight. I was absurdly early then too. They tell you an hour and a half, two hours. I got here at six and my flight is at nine. I’d rather sit, listen to music, watch people going here and there, boarding silly out-of-date airplanes with fresh paintjobs and tighter seats. Imagine an industry where the central technology around which it’s based remains basically unchanged for the last half-century. What’s that you say? Auto, banking, oil, airlines? Amazing coincidence that these people make a ton of money and run our lives. There’s no need for conspiracy, the shit’s right out there in the open. flight screenThe chemtrails people are looking in the wrong direction. They should be throwing molotov cocktails for cross-ocean high-speed railways and MTA teleporter transit systems, or at very least more legroom.

At the airport, even the CNN is geared toward selling you shit. Not that it’s not anyway, but there’s something to be said for a level of subtlety. Here’s a Christiane Amanpour news story about the perfect app for traveling, and it’s on at the airport! That’s incredible. Keep it light. Nothing about bombs dropping, drones flying, fucking Rand Paul or anything else that might hint at imminent destruction. A helicopter plunks into the marshland outside, a fireball seen for miles. I’d rather look at duty-free candy or the self-help paperbacks at the Hudson News. Could use some of that shit anyway. A fire alarm was going off when I was walking up to get here. It’s stopped now.

I am about to embark on an adventure the familiarity of which only heightens my sense of awe at the thought. My seventh Roadburn. In a couple hours, I’ll get on that Aer Lingus flight and “scoot” over to Dublin, connect there and then on to Amsterdam, from which a car — all of this pre-arranged; I hear I may or may not be sharing transport with a couple of the dudes from Bongripper — will cart my no-doubt sleepless ass to Tilburg in time, one hopes, to crash for a few hours before the Hard Rock Hideout. That will be Wednesday night, a day from now, but somehow it will still bleed into today. I’m so fucking lucky. I’m so fucking lucky. To be here, to be going there. The next few days, priority will be given to updates from the Roadburn fest, reviews, photos and the like, and other whatnot that happens along the way. I may have some other updates, but this is time out of time for me, and I intend to make the most of it. Less sleep, more rock.

Tags: , ,

GIVEAWAY: Win Borracho & Eggnogg Split 7″ Vinyl from Palaver Records!

Posted in Features on March 23rd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

borracho eggnogg vinyl

[TO ENTER GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment on this post with your email address in the form. You’ll be contacted at that address if you win.]

Easily one of the best short releases I’ve heard so far this year, I’m stoked to be able to giveaway TWO copies of the brand new Sludgy Erna Bastard split 7″ by Borracho and Eggnogg. The vinyl was released on March 19 by Palaver Records, and to win a copy all you have to do is leave a comment on this post. Make sure your email address is in the form provided so if your name is drawn, I actually have a way to contact you. Would be helpful. Winners will be drawn and notified on (or around) Monday, March 30.

Sludgy Erna Bastard (review here) brings new material from both outfits, Washington D.C. trio Borracho‘s “King’s Disease” offering a taste of what the follow-up to 2013’s Oculus might hold and their progression as a riff-riding three-piece after a likewise encouraging split last year with Boston’s Cortez, while Eggnogg provide a reminder of their elephantine stomp and gleefully weirdo vibe with “Slugworth,” their first new studio track since 2012’s Louis EP and released ahead of the coming full-length, You’re all Invited.

I feel like past the words “free vinyl,” this one doesn’t really need me to sell it, but both cuts are quality work on the part of the bands, and I’m thrilled to be able to host the giveaway. Vinyl is limited to 300 copies with art from Eggnogg‘s Justin M. Karol, and if you need a refresher of the badassery on hand, here’s the full stream of both tracks:

Once again, how to enter:

Leave a comment on this post with your email address in the form provided. Please note: I neither have the interest nor the capacity to save or sell any personal information given to me. You will not be added to any email lists as a result of entering. It’s really just free vinyl.

Good luck to all who enter and thanks to Palaver Records for the giveaway! Please check them out and the bands as well.

Palaver Records

Borracho on Thee Facebooks

Eggnogg on Thee Facebooks

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Saying Hello Again to My Favorite T-Shirt

Posted in Features on March 11th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

vitus-shirt-two-shirts

Nine days ago, I posted a eulogy for my favorite t-shirt, a Saint Vitus tour shirt purchased at their Spring 2011 run on the Metalliance Tour with CrowbarHelmetHowlKylesa and The Atlas Moth. I caught the tour in Manhattan at Irving PlazaGreat show and an even better shirt. I was sorry to lose it after four years of regular wearing, and knew that even if I bought another Vitus shirt — as I have done in the intervening years — it wouldn’t ever be the same.

vitus-shirt-oldBy my count, that post was up for 18 minutes before Lisa Hass, a venerated constituent of the NYC heavy rock faithful and all-around swell lady, left a comment that not only was she at the same show, but she also purchased the same shirt, in the same size, hardly ever wore it and was ready and willing to let it go to a good home, i.e. mine. Well shit. I just about fell off the couch. I informed Ms. Hass that, hell yes, I would be glad to adopt her Vitus shirt as a replacement for my own, and it came in the mail today.

The photo above doesn’t really do justice to how beat my old shirt (on the left) looks in comparison to Lisa‘s much-less-worn-by-me-for-four-years one (on the right), but trust me, there’s a difference. My old one is more or less gray. No holes in the new one — yet. If you’re wondering, yes, I tried it on. Of course it hasn’t had the intervening time to become acclimated to the shape of my gut, but I looked down at the sleeves and they just about covered my elbows and I knew the potential was there. They were just right. As for wearing in the rest? There’s plenty of time.

I’m not sure I can properly convey to you, let alone to Lisa, how deep my gratitude runs for this gesture, or how amazed vitus-shirt-new-shirtI am by the generosity — my question about paying either for the shirt or the shipping was laughed off — and the selflessness. Needless to say, I’m going to wear the living crap out of this shirt, but when I do, I won’t just be thinking about how good that show was, or how lucky I was to see it. I’ll think about how lucky I am to know such wonderful people and to be a part of something so supportive and considerate.

Thanks to Lisa and to everyone else who took the time to comment or send condolences. I didn’t expect this story to have a happy ending, but I couldn’t be more thrilled with how it turned out.

 

Tags: ,

Everything I Needed to Know about Life, I Learned from Orange Goblin

Posted in Features on March 10th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

orange-goblin-(Photo-by-Ester-Segarra)

Songs of life, love, booze, and occasionally, monsters.

London doomsmashers Orange Goblin get a lot of credit for kicking ass, and rightly so. They do it well and they’ve been doing it for 20 years. But what you don’t hear as much about is the human core of the band. Listening to their riffs as they careen along — full-on stoner early on albums like 1997’s Frequencies from Planet Ten debut, more metal of late on 2012’s A Eulogy for the Damned and last year’s raging Back from the Abyss — is all well and good, but there’s more to Orange Goblin than just riffy punishment. There’s humor, there’s regret, honest reflection, harsh self-critique, and yes, occasionally monsters (“Scorpionica” walks by and waves).

There’s also a good deal of advice. Delivered from Orange Goblin frontman Ben Ward with don’t-make-the-same-mistakes-I’ve-made sincerity, it’s been a running theme throughout their catalog, and no matter where they’ve gone sonically, it has remained an essential part of what they do. Guitarist Joe Hoare, bassist Martyn Millard, drummer Chris Turner and Ward have become not only forerunners of the London and UK heavy rock scene — influencing a generation of bands with their signature burl and commitment to sonic propulsion — but almost like its godfathers as well, there to help out anyone willing to listen.

It’s probably not all advice everyone is going to be interested in taking, but I think even if you take the monsters into consideration, Orange Goblin‘s lyrics over the last two decades paint a human portrait that’s generous in sharing what it’s learned. Here are a few of my favorite lessons from along the way, ordered by the album on which they appeared.
 

Frequencies from Planet Ten (1997)

“In search for mystery, we find insanity.” — “Aquatic Fanatic”

Maybe a song that’s ostensibly about smoking reefer underwater (admittedly a simplification) isn’t where one might think wisdom would bloom, but the line “In search for mystery, we find insanity” reminds us how easy it is to forget about the important things in life as they’re happening while we’re trying to see what appears to us as a bigger picture. Not as blatant as some of the advice that would follow, but applicable nonetheless.
 

Time Travelling Blues (1998)

“You know your future is comin’ and it’s comin’ soon.” — “Shine”

The first of several on this list that turn a popular aphorism into something rawer in its expression. Live in the moment, tempus fugit, or as Clutch once said, “You can’t stop progress.” Particularly in the context of “Shine”‘s stoner-blues groove, this one hits home easily.
 

The Big Black (1999)

“…A blind man sees tomorrow, like a deaf man hears the sun.” — “298kg”

I’m not exactly sure what that’s supposed to mean, but it sounds badass in a synesthetic kind of way. The full verse is: “If a blind man sees tomorrow, like a deaf man hears the sun/Then we must choose if we were born to lose, or if we’re the chosen one/I can’t find the feeling, that’ll take my blues away/So I just keep on rollin’, ’til I find a brighter day.” Fair enough. We’ll keep on rollin’. Runner up to “I need your loving and some alcohol,” from “Cozmo Bozo.”
 

Coup de Grace (2002)

“The sun never sets on the last of the brave.” — “Rage of Angels”

Some especially dudely perspective there, but one could hardly accuse Orange Goblin of being the first to posit that great deeds outlive those who accomplish them. This cut from the underrated Coup de Grace also starts with a sample of Kris Kristofferson from 1978’s Convoy telling a sherriff “Piss on you and piss on your law,” so you know, bonus points for that in the sageliness department.
 

Thieving from the House of God (2004)

“Some you win, some you lose.” — “Some You Win, Some You Lose”

I don’t think a day’s gone by in the last 10 years that I haven’t at one point or another uttered the words, “Some you win, some you lose.” Once again, Orange Goblin didn’t invent “win some lose some,” but they turned it around and made it their own, and it’s one of their most memorable hooks. Runner-up from the same album: “If it ain’t broke, break it,” from the song of the same name. The “disruptive innovation” crowd could have a field day with that one.
 

Healing through Fire (2007)

“If this isn’t hell, it’s the next best thing.” — “Cities of Frost”

A plain truth, plainly spoken. Yeah, I’ve pulled the line out of context, but the chorus is a metaphor anyway. If you want a companion line, “The fruits of empire will not numb the pain/And in our weakness, the Lord’s to blame,” should suffice. There’s a terrible landscape being surveyed, but yeah, it’s probably a real place and time, and it’s probably here right now.
 

A Eulogy for the Damned (2012)

“You’ve got to stand for something or you’re gonna fall for nothing.” — “Stand for Something”

This song is a perfect example of the band’s learn-from-my-mistakes perspective, directly addressing the listener and encouraging the pursuit of one’s passions or beliefs. Granted, the phrase “fall for nothing” could be taken as not being tricked, but given the rest of the lyrics, it’s pretty clear they mean “falling for nothing” as in “for no reason,” and that if you have to fall as we all do, you might as well fall for what you believe in.
 

Back from the Abyss (2014)

“Praise the valium.” — “Into the Arms of Morpheus”

Amen, brother.

This is really just the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to Orange Goblin, and I hope if you have a particular favorite from along the way, you’ll let me know about it in the comments.

If you want to catch Orange Goblin live this year, they’ll be at Hammerfest, Desertfest, Hellfest, Dour Fest, Bloodstock, and others, with more sure to be announced. More wisdom at the links.

Orange Goblin on Thee Facebooks

Orange Goblin’s website

Candlelight Records

Tags: , ,

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Kent Stump of Wo Fat

Posted in Questionnaire on March 6th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

kent-stump

Across five records and nine fuzz-laden years, Dallas trio Wo Fat have become an institution in Texas heavy rock. Their latest album and second for Small Stone, The Conjuring (review here), is in many ways their strongest release to date, benefiting from the naturally-developed chemistry between guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump, bassist Tim Wilson and drummer Michael Walter, as well as from the self-sufficiency of the band recording at their own studio, Crystal Clear Sound, in Dallas. While their reputation has built steadily since the release of their 2006 debut, The Gathering Dark, and its ’08 follow-up, Psychedelonaut (review here), 2011’s Noche del Chupacabra (review here), on Nasoni, proved a particular breakthrough point, leading to the band’s signing to Small Stone for the next year’s The Black Code (review here), for which they toured in Europe for the first time, making their continental debut at the 2013 Roadburn Festival in Tilburg, the Netherlands (review here) and setting the stage for the triumph to come with The Conjuring and a return trip across the Atlantic, this one marked out by an appearance at last year’s Freak Valley in Germany.

Wo Fat‘s latest release is a document of their set there: Live Juju: Wo Fat at Freak Valley will hit the public on March 17. Later this year, the band will also take part in Magnetic Eye Records‘ tribute to Jimi HendrixElectric Ladyland [Redux], covering “Gypsy Eyes.”

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Kent Stump

How did you come to do what you do?

Well, what I do is play music and I record music, which is how I make my living – recording music, that is. Music has always been a huge part of my life. Both of my parents are musicians, so it was something that was just ubiquitous and inescapable in our house when I was growing up. Never once in my life did I consider doing anything with my life other than becoming a musician and doing something relating to music, although the place I’m at now is not where I would have thought I would be when I was a teenager, or even when I was in college. My journey to the heavy and the riff is a bit of a circuitous one.

I went to college to study jazz and fully planned on getting out of college and going on to be a jazz musician. While at college, I got turned on to a much wider world of music by so many great people with widely varying tastes. I discovered punk rock and ‘70s funk and African music and all the great ‘70s rock and the ‘80s NY noise scene, and on and on. And most importantly, I really discovered the blues. I had always known a bit about the blues since I was heavily into jazz, but I became much more hip to a lot of blues musicians that I hadn’t previously checked out, and that eventually led me to realize that my whole life I’ve been drawn to music that comes from the blues – rock, funk, etc. That, along with a friend I had that was into all things heavy who got me listening to Sabbath as well as a lot of ‘80s hardcore and metal, led to my desire to make heavy blues music.

When I was in college in Denton, Texas, the music scene at that time was absolutely electric, and the vibe was very open and experimental. Punk rock and funk and metal with a jazz edge were all kind of mixing together and it was a really artistically open-minded vibe at the time, which I think shaped my thinking about music a lot. So eventually in the late ‘90s I discovered bands like Sleep, Fu Manchu, Nebula, Kyuss and all the Man’s Ruin bands and I came to the realization that this is the music, along with the blues, that speaks to me on the most primal level and this is what I want to play.

Describe your first musical memory.

My first musical memory is laying on our living room floor when I was very young, maybe four or five years old, and my dad putting on a record of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. It’s an amazing piece of music and it definitely left an impression on me. I think, if I’m not mistaken, when that piece was premiered in Paris it caused a riot. Stravinsky is pretty hardcore.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

I don’t know if I have just one best musical memory. I’ve got a lot of things that were landmark musical moments in my life though. Getting to play at Roadburn is without a doubt one of the best musical memories for me. Roadburn is such an iconic thing and it was the first show that we played on our first European tour, which was also the first time I had ever been to Europe and it was just kind of a surreal, epiphenal and mindblowing experience. It was amazing to walk into the scene there and see a whole bunch of people that are hardcore fans of the same music I dig. I had never seen that, at least not on that level, before.

You don’t see that kind of thing when it comes to this kind of music in the US. And to be performing at this amazing festival was just awesome, and also a bit nerve-racking at the same time. I remember going to see High on Fire’s set after we played and it was packed and the crowd was just electric and High on Fire sounded better than I’ve ever heard them before. I think they were just vibing on the amazing vibe of the fans. Same with Elder’s set, who I got to see a little later that night. The vibe from the crowd was so intense and Elder kicked ass riding that wave, I think. Amazing day.

I have memories of a lot of transcendental shows that I would put in the great musical memory category. Getting to see Sleep a couple years ago was bad ass. Sometime around 1997 or 1998 I went to SXSW in Austin, before SXSW totally turned into utter crap, and I got to see Fatso Jetson just destroy as well as an amazing showcase that had Fu Manchu and Queens of the Stone Age right before they hit big. There was a whole Man’s Ruin showcase that was killer.

When I was in college I got to see free jazz great Cecil Taylor. That was an absolutely kick ass show. He was just pounding the piano and pieces of the pads inside the piano were flying out as he was playing. And there were maybe 10 people there to see this free jazz icon. So many great shows that have shaped my thinking.

I also have a lot of memories of late nights fueled with alcohol, and other things, and hanging with friends who turned me onto heavy, heavy tunes that I wasn’t previously hip to. Some of these rank up there with the great musical moments to me – sitting on the couch and tripping out to amazing, life-changing jams… These things all are part of my story as a musician and music lover that has brought me to where I am now.

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

That’s a tough question. I kinda feel like most my life, my beliefs and likes/interests have been juxtaposed between two opposing worlds. For example, my heavily schooled musical upbringing versus a more primal, less technical, organic approach to playing. Or, being a recording engineer like I am, most of my peers are gearheads focused on the technical aspects of engineering, which I am to a certain extent, but I am far more focused on the musicality of recording and finding ways to make a recording reach you on an emotional level, so I’m not über-obsessed with technical- and gear-related things about recording.

Also in this particular time, my political versus spiritual beliefs, that to me, are completely simpatico, are to most, seemingly at odds with one another.

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

Ideally artistic progression leads to more artistic progression. Art and music is a neverending journey. I don’t think I’ll ever have arrived at a stopping place artistically because every move forward reveals more things to reach for and directions to consider. That’s the beauty of it. You’re never finished. You can just abandon the quest if you want, but there is always further to go.

How do you define success?

I think it’s being happy and doing what you makes you happy. Despite the fact that financially, life is a struggle for me, I feel like I’ve achieved a good amount of success in the sense that I’m playing music I love and people are digging it, we own a killer studio and my day job involves doing things that are artistic and deal with music and, on top of it all, I’ve got the most amazing wife who I’ve been married to for 18 years.

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

On the one hand there’s probably a lot I wish I hadn’t seen, but at the same time, all those experiences contribute to making me who I am, although there are some things that I could probably do without ever seeing that wouldn’t change me too much. One thing that I wish I hadn’t seen is this: The studio that we run is in an industrial area of Dallas and there are a lot of stray dogs that run around in packs in that area. Seeing a stray dog is something I don’t like seeing to begin with because I love dogs and I want to help them all, but we’re full up at my house with dogs. My wife and I already have five dogs so there’s no more room at the inn.

Anyway, one day I saw a little Chihuahua-mix stray being harassed by a couple of big dogs. At first I thought they were playing, but then I realized that that was not the case and I wasn’t able to get to them to break it up before the larger dogs had inflicted a mortal wound on the little guy. It just breaks my heart that I couldn’t help him and it still pains me to this day to think about it. I hate to see the helpless get brutalized by the powerful, which, sadly, happens all around us every day.

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

I really wish that I could draw and paint. I would love to be able to create art like Frank Frazetta or Boris Vallejo. I don’t think that will ever happen for me, though, because I don’t have any of those skills. There is, of course, much more music I’d like to create. I’m always wanting to incorporate disparate musical styles and influences together in our music, like Afro-Cuban music, blues, jazz and metal.

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

Having dinner and watching hockey with my wife.

Wo Fat, Live at Freak Valley 2014

Wo Fat on Thee Facebooks

Crystal Clear Sound website

Small Stone Records

Magnetic Eye Records

 

Tags: , , , ,