The Top 20 of 2013 Revisited

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

Six months ago, nearly to the day, I posted my Top 20 of 2013. Maybe I remember it so well because it took so damn long to put together. Well, now it’s time to basically look back and tear my own picks a new one. To see who’s stood up six months after the fact and which albums have been forgotten.

You know the drill. This is always an enjoyable, if somewhat humbling experience, but if a fierce numerical inventory is what needs to be made, then I’m on board. Here’s how it shakes out:

20. All Them Witches, Lightning at the Door

If I was putting this list together today, this would be a top 10 album. It was pretty recently released when I first did the top 20, but the more I’ve gotten to know it, the more I’ve dug it.

19. Queens of the Stone Age, …Like Clockwork

I went back and revisited this a couple weeks back, as I’ll probably do once or twice a year into perpetuity, but yeah, I’m still way more inclined to reach for an earlier Queens of the Stone Age album.

18. I are Droid, The Winter Ward

Spent a lot of time with I are Droid‘s second outing this long winter, has held up well. A clean, full, professional sound and excellent songwriting. Poppy at times, but that’s the idea.

17. Magic Circle, Magic Circle

This was some of 2013’s best doom. I haven’t gone back to the album a million times, but I do keep trying to track down a Magic Circle gig to see them live again. Hoping for new stuff from them soon.

16. Iron Man, South of the Earth

I felt like when Iron Man got signed to Rise Above, it was a victory for every underrated doom band ever. At very least all the ones floating around in Maryland. This deserved to be on the list.

15. Sasquatch, IV

So good. Sasquatch write hooks so catchy it’s supernatural. IV was a vision of what hard rock should’ve become after grunge died out in the ’90s. Haven’t gone back to it every day, but it remains a killer record.

14. Black Pyramid, Adversarial

This was going to be in my top 20 one way or another. With the breakup of the band owing to members leaving the Boston area, it’s become kind of a sad swansong in my mind, though the songs still make their victory plain to hear.

13. Across Tundras, Electric Relics

Every now and again, I check Tanner Olson‘s Bandcamp page to see if he’s put out anything new. He’s due at this point, but this Across Tundras record has enough staying power to hold me over either way. “Gravel Roads,” man.

12. Borracho, Oculus

I feel like I listened to this record so much I know it front to back, so I don’t even need to put it on. I just press play in my brain and the songs start. Riffs riffs riffs. Borracho proved they could thrive as a three-piece and Oculus blew their first one out of the water.

11. Ice Dragon, Born a Heavy Morning

Fucking hell, I wish Ice Dragon played shows. They’ve got four new CD reissues out since Born a Heavy Morning that haunt my dreams. If I had any money, I’d be telling them to shut up and take it from me.

10. Devil to Pay, Fate is Your Muse

It was a long album, but a good one. I was happy I could fit this into the top 10, and I still am. Charm goes a long way, and Devil to Pay have plenty.

9. Beast in the Field, The Sacred Above, the Sacred Below

I played this in the car the other day and The Patient Mrs. goes, “Can we listen to something less… abrasive?” It seemed to me she immediately understood the appeal of Beast in the Field. This record continues to crush everything in its path.

8. Beelzefuzz, Beelzefuzz

Kind of a similar deal to Borracho. Truth be told, at this point, I’m just glad to even talk about Beelzefuzz‘s self-titled. Seriously. I saw it on the other list and was like, “Yay!” One of the most inventive and individual albums I heard last year. Can’t wait to find out how they follow it.

7. Samsara Blues Experiment, Waiting for the Flood

I had kind of put this one down for a while, but I recently picked it back up and have been listening again. Excellent heavy psych. Put Samsara Blues Experiment in another class of bands as far as I’m concerned.

6. Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Mind Control

Probably haven’t listened to it all the way through since I made the Top 20 in December. Some of its hooks continue to resonate though, and I hope Uncle Acid continue to get weirder and more spaced out.

5. Lumbar, The First and Last Days of Unwelcome

I remember making the list and then pushing everything back by one to fit this in the top five. One of those one-time-only records that you’re going to hear people talk about a decade from now, myself included.

4. Vista Chino, Peace

No regrets for having this on the list, but there are records behind it in number that I’ve listened to more since. I hope at some point they do a second one, and I hope Mike Dean plays bass on it.

3. Gozu, The Fury of a Patient Man

Absolutely, yes. I haven’t seen any single band play as much as Gozu since I moved to Massachusetts about a year ago, and I am 100 percent okay with that. These dudes kill it, and these songs have only become tighter and more lethal on stage. Whatever they do next, it’s going to be very, very heavy.

2. Monster Magnet, Last Patrol

Hasn’t quite had the staying power I thought it would, to be honest. I have the vinyl but never got it on CD and I’m sure I would listen to it more often if I had that version. The LP is killer, but there are like two songs per side and that’s an awful lot of flipping for an album that just demands you chill the fuck out and let it take over your mind.

1. Clutch, Earth Rocker

Pretty satisfying to know that if I had to make a Top 20 of 2013 today, this would still be my number one pick. It felt glaringly obvious to me — it was the top of the Readers Poll as well — but some things you just can’t ignore. Clutch added a few classics to their catalog with Earth Rocker, and it felt like even the record’s B-grade material was top notch.

The Top 20 last year actually went to 30 — I think this year I’ll probably cut out the middle-man and just do a Top 30 — but here were the other 10 picks:

21. Blaak Heat Shujaa, The Edge of an Era
22. The Freeks, Full On
23. Luder, Adelphophagia
24. The Flying Eyes, Lowlands
25. Black Skies, Circadian Meditations
26. At Devil Dirt, Plan B: Sin Revolucion No Hay Evolucion
27. Kadavar, Abra Kadavar
28. Naam, Vow
29. Mühr, Messiah
30. Uzala, Tales of Blood and Fire

Most of those look about right. If I was making the list now, I’d put Mühr and Naam in the Top 20, in place of Queens of the Stone Age and I don’t know what else, and just seeing the name of the album there now makes me want to put on that Luder. I still feel like I don’t know the Uzala as well as I’d like to, and I bought that on CD and tape when I saw them last fall.

There you have it. Seems like the original list actually held up better than I expected, so right on. Overall it was a fairly stellar year for new music, though I doubt I’ll be saying anything different in another six months when the end of 2014 rolls around.

Anything you forgot about or anything that dropped off from your favorites last year? I’d love to hear about it in the comments. Thanks for reading.

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I’m Guesting WFMU Today — Please Listen!

Posted in Features on June 5th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

From 1PM-3PM today, I’ll be a guest on Diane’s Kamikaze Fun Machine on New Jersey’s venerable institution of the weird, 91.1 WFMU. If you’re in the area, you can tune in directly, but you can listen from anywhere in the world at http://wfmu.org

I am thrilled beyond belief and very, very excited to do this. I don’t get invited to take part in things like this very often, and I’ve picked some killer tracks — a lot of new stuff, and almost all within the last few years — to mark the occasion. If you haven’t heard any of the new Godflesh yet, I’m bringing that along, and a lot of fuzz and heavy psych stuff too. Lots of heavy psych, actually. I kind of went on a tear selecting tracks.

But there’s some brutality too. I’m carting along two full CD’s worth, which is more than we’ll be able to fit for a two-hour show probably by double, but I thought it would be good to have stuff to choose from. I’m crazy stoked, honored to have been asked to go there at all and I really, really hope you’ll be able to check it out.

Again, WFMU streams live online at http://wfmu.org, and all of Diane‘s playlists are available on her show’s page, which I would highly encourage you check out and basically use as a blueprint for stuff you should dig on. FMU has been doing support-worthy freeform radio since long before I knew what absurdity was, so if you’re someplace in the world where you can’t listen via radio, it’s definitely worth your time to listen, whether you do so when I’m on or not.

There’s a running comments page with the live-updated playlist (also a pronunciation guide for my last name in case you’ve ever wondered), so if you get the chance, please say hi. I can’t wait to get on the air!

Listen online at http://wfmu.org

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All Them Witches Interview with Robby Staebler: “We All Do What We Want.”

Posted in Features on June 3rd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

About a day after we spoke over the phone last week for this interview, I got a text from All Them Witches drummer Robby Staebler that read as follows:

Robby. Atw. Important point. As individual players we are more concerned and focused on our own playing. We are not focused on what the others are playing. We all do what we want. It’s why it works.

Talking to him, one could hear a core belief from Staebler in what the band is doing, both in how they approach writing and putting together material like that found on their excellent late-2013 sophomore full-length, Lightning at the Door (discussed here), and in how they’re handling the practical end of being in a band whose success seems to be burgeoning more each day. Their debut album, Our Mother Electricity (review here), was initially self-released in 2012, but was picked up for release by Elektrohasch Schallplatten in 2013 — they are the first American band the label has worked with — and since then and on through Lightning at the Door, the four-piece of Staebler, bassist/vocalist Michael Parks, Jr., guitarist Ben McLeod and keyboardist Allan Van Cleave have received the kind of response that most bands dream of. Label offers, tours, praise domestic and international from fans and critics alike. All Them Witches are onto something special sound-wise, and they know it.

In May, the band made their way to the West Coast for an appearance at the Scion Rock Fest in Pomona, California, and several other shows around it. It was their first time there and yet Staebler reports talking to fans who drove upwards of seven hours to see them. For a group as relatively new as All Them Witches are — formed early in 2012 — to have that kind of loyalty only underscores the deep impact their material, particularly Lightning at the Door, seems to have had on those who’ve encountered it. Later this year they’ll head to Europe, also for the first time, and on a tour booked by Sound of Liberation, they’ll hit Desertfest Belgium in Antwerp, which runs from Oct. 10-12, and the Keep it Low festival in Munich on Oct. 18, as well as play other shows around those. This along with more touring in the US will form the bulk of the rest of their 2014, but as Staebler hints, there’s new studio material in the works as well that may see release as an EP before the New Year hits.

The short version is All Them Witches have a lot going on at the moment, and it all seems to be building a forward momentum for both their prominence in the underground, their reputation as a live act, and a band whose stylistic nuance of bluesy twang, sonic pastoralia and heavy riffs distinguishes them from nearly everyone else around them. Tracks like “Charles William” and “The Death of Coyote Woman” from Lightning at the Door not only affirmed the potential All Them Witches showcased on Our Mother Electricity, but demonstrated a cohesive aesthetic already taken shape from players whose confidence in each other bled through each and every dynamic turn they made. And there were plenty of them. Lightning at the Door remains one of the best albums I heard last year, and Staebler makes it plain that the band considers it a landmark as well.

In the interview that follows, Staebler discusses that album and putting material together with Parks, McLeod and Van Cleave, while remaining geographically separate — a certified arborist, he lives and works in Ohio, while the rest of the band is in Nashville — his feelings on the response they’ve gotten since Elektrohasch released Our Mother Electricity, playing on the West Coast, thoughts on heading to Europe and much more. As confident as he is in what he and the band are doing, he never comes across as arrogant or crass about it, rather sounding like someone driven by his passion and eager to discover where that might lead. I’m curious as well.

Full Q&A is after the jump. Please enjoy:

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Tombs’ Savage Gold: Track-by-Track with Mike Hill

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

Three years, one bassist, one added guitarist and heaps of hyperbole later, Brooklyn atmospheric extremists Tombs return with Savage Gold, their third album on Relapse Records and the follow-up to 2011’s Path of Totality. Set for release June 10, Savage Gold pushes the four-piece into deeper terrain of the sonically frenetic, and if there’s any doubt the 10-track collection was produced by Erik Rutan, it’s dispelled immediately in the clarity of drummer Andrew Hernandez‘s blastbeats on opener “Thanatos.” Rutan (who cut his teeth in NJ-based Ripping Corpse before moving to Florida and joining Morbid Angel) brings the same sense of purpose and malevolent ambience to Tombs‘ latest as he did with his own outfit, Hate Eternal, on American death metal landmarks like 2002’s King of all Kings and 2005’s I, Monarch, proving that a crisp production doesn’t necessarily have to come at the expense of impact.

His work and Tombs‘ are exceptionally well paired throughout Savage Gold‘s 58-minute span, and whether it’s the bleak Celtic Frostery that emerges on “Deathtripper” and “Spiral,” the minimalist post-doom of “Severed Lives,” or the all-out blackened ferocity of “Seance,” “Ashes” and “Legacy,” Tombs proffer a laser-precise efficiency of songwriting, not just blasting away for extremity’s own sake, but conveying a darkened mood and churning tension to go with all of that brutality. Guitarist/vocalist Mike Hill, bassist Ben Brand, Hernandez and guitarist Garrett Bussanick offer no shortage of bludgeoning throughout, and more power to them for it, but as savage as it is Savage Gold‘s real asset is the sonic complexity that Hill and Tombs have been developing over the course of the last seven years, through their beginnings, 2009’s Winter Hours debut, and of course, from Path of Totality until today and hopefully on from here.

No doubt at the end of 2014, you’ll find Savage Gold on any number of best-of lists, but what the album really accomplishes is furthering Tombs‘ evolution, and to that end, it seemed prudent to get Hill‘s perspective on the songs themselves, rather than simply add to the chorus of praise. I’m fortunate that he agreed to do a track-by-track for each of the 10 cuts on Savage Gold, and happy to be able to bring it to you below.

Once again, Savage Gold is out June 10 on Relapse Records. Please enjoy.

Savage Gold Track-by-Track by Mike Hill

1. Thanatos

This is one of my favorite tracks on the record; fully realized and complete. It sets the tone for the entire record, a meditation on death and the thin membrane between realities

2. Portraits

We wrote this when we returned from the Path of Totality recording session down in Texas. The song went through a series of rewrites and metamorphoses before we arrived at the version that is on Savage Gold.

3. Séance

The Oroborus is a symbol that recurs in many different ancient cultures. While contemplating infinity, the vision of a serpent whose eyes stare into forever appeared to me.  This song is a simulation of what seemed like an eternity of experience.

4. Echoes

Over the last few years, I’ve been reading a lot of Graham Hancock, an Egyptologist and Alternative History Specialist among other things.  Echoes was inspired by the concept that civilization has gone through many cycles of technological advancement and cataclysmic events have forced it all to be reset.

5. Deathtripper

I pulled the lyrics of this song fully formed from an old journal. I had been living this dark, Travis Bickle-like existence that seemed incredibly hopeless. Ultimately, I pulled it together. “DeathTripper” is a tribute to that period.

6. Edge of Darkness

More meditations on death and the great unknown; “Edge of Darkness” refers to the membrane that separates this reality from what may lie beyond the coil of mortality.

7. Ashes

I watched Jacob’s Ladder one night. It was really late. I had seen it many times before, but the movie took on new meanings. I worked with the fear and anxiety that the film had caused and put these lyrics together. The song addresses the concept that the lies of organized religion will all be revealed at the final moments of life.

8. Legacy

This song had the working title “Dissection.” Musically, we were channeling the Swedish masters of black-death metal. Lyrically, the song works with the idea that time is a recurring cycle of infinity. That everything which has gone before will happen again, into infinity.

9. Severed Lives

This was one of those songs that sort of fell together. It wrote itself. Lyrically, I went into the “panspermia” concept that life on Earth originated out in the universe.

10. Spiral

This is more death and the unknown. It’s another meditation on the final moments of life and what will pass through your head as your consciousness scatters into an infinite number of infinitesimal pieces.

Tombs, Selections from Savage Gold (2014)

Tombs on Thee Facebooks

Relapse Records

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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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