Floor, Oblation: Offerings and Homegoings

Posted in Reviews on April 22nd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

It’s been just over four years since Miami trio Floor played a one-off reunion show that warned, “One show. One chance. Don’t blow it,” and it’s been a decade since the band’s sophomore outing, Dove, was released in 2004. Since that time, the band has spawned a family tree rivaled by few, members of the lineup throughout their 12-year initial run going on to play in acts like Torche, Dove, House of Lightning, MonstrO, Holly Hunt and Cavity (the latter of whom ran concurrent to Floor and who seem like fodder for a reunion of their own), among others. The biggest impact in terms of audience has unquestionably been by Torche, who, led by guitarist/vocalist Steve Brooks, inherited much of their pop-meets-bomb-drop-sludge-riffing ethic directly from Brooks‘ work in Floor, continuing to refine those methods and ultimately creating something new from them. Both bands now active, Floor release their first album since Dove and first new material since their reunion — 2009′s 8CD discography box set Below and Beyond notwithstanding — in the form of Oblation on Season of Mist. Its title refers to “an offering,” and that may well be what Floor have in mind, but while the core focus on tone and pop melody remains intact, there have been some very distinct changes in the approach of Floor – the trio of Steve Brooks, bassist Anthony Vialon (2010 interview here) and drummer Henry Wilson — since they issued their landmark 2002 self-titled debut and they show up audibly in the listening experience of Oblation.

That’s to be expected, right? It has been a decade. To expect Floor to get back together and release Floor Pt. 2 seems unreasonable and unfair. As righteous as that album is, for Brooks, Vialon and Wilson to have come in with the intent of recapturing that magic — and it is the self-titled lineup that’s reunited — would be shooting themselves in the foot before they started. No. Oblation is a collection of songs poised not to surrogate the hooks of old, but to serve as a beginning for this new stage of the band. In short, Floor have grown up. Oblation is not the work of a three-piece experimenting with their sound and happening into brilliance. There is poise, confidence, and awareness at its root, and whether it’s the ultra-thick underlying chugging of the spacious opening title-track or the ensuing upbeat rush of “Rocinante” — one of Floor‘s sonic gifts was to not only have tones so thick, but to make them move, and that remains the case here — or the standalone megastomp of “Love Comes Crushing,” the band offer crisp, assured songcraft and a defining clarity of intent. While the songs remain exciting well beyond the simple novelty of their existence, a new Floor album seeming like an impossibility for years, that clarity necessarily comes in trade for the spontaneous sensibility of their earlier work. That’s the nature of creative progression — once you know what you’re doing, your approach to it changes. The middle section of Oblation that runs from “New Man,” through “Sister Sophia,” “The Quill” and the aforementioned “Love Comes Crushing” before getting to the catchy “War Party” still works as a fitting summary for Floor‘s aesthetic — thick, at times lush, alternately crawling, running, but always moving, etc. — but it does so more in triumph at its level of execution than in raw punkish urgency.

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Psicomagia, Psicomagia: Convening el Congreso

Posted in Reviews on April 21st, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

From the very start of opener “El Memorioso,” the self-titled El Paraiso Records debut from Psicomagia is an album that makes short work of assumptions. In both their sound and in their situation, the four-or-five-or-six-piece offer surprises throughout the four tracks/39 minutes of Psicomagia, veering seemingly at will across stylistic borders. To look at their name, the fact that all the song titles are in Spanish and considering they’re on El Paraiso, one almost expects them to be European, but no, they’re based in San Diego, and while they cast off a lot of the heavy psychedelic swirl one might find in West Coast space rockers Mammatus, the jammier Harsh Toke and the ever-glorious Earthless — of the many things Psicomagia are, you would not call them “gnarly,” at least on record — they maintain a progressive mindset that shows up in the crisp execution of these cuts. Comprised of “El Memorioso” (5:19), “El Congreso Pt 1″ (14:37), “El Congreso Pt. 2″ (12:36) and “Simplõn” (6:20), Psicomagia present a rational and a symmetry even unto the album’s structure that’s mirrored in their fitting sonic balance. At times, their guitar-less blend of Tyler Daughn‘s keys and organ, the tenor sax of Brian Ellis (also of Astra), the drums of Paul Marrone (also of Astra and Radio Moscow), Trevor Mast‘s bass and Bernardo Nuñez‘s spoken word can be dizzying, but they are never without a sense of texture or melody, and the depth of organ tone fills the place where a guitar would no doubt otherwise loose an apparently needless barrage of solos.

So if you think looking at the cover or seeing the tracks that you might know what you’re going to get from Psicomagia, be prepared to be delightfully wrong. While they retain a deep sense of creativity throughout — the rhythmic block hits that start “El Memorioso” give a cinematic beginning to the engaging atmosphere that unfolds — they are never out of control, and while parts may have been developed in jams, they’ve since been purposed into precision jolts of switched-on jazz. Ellis‘ sax and Daughn‘s keys often work in tandem effectively on bop runs while Marrone and Mast lock in heady foundations, and even in a freaked out movement like that which begins “El Congreso Pt. 1,” they retain a sense of direction if not to-the-second plotting. Most of the album is instrumental, but Nuñez‘s delivery — he’s credited in the liner of the digipak with “Poetry,” and the band further credit Daniel Guttierez with “words” online while listing only “…” with the disc — adds to the personality, his voice even for someone who doesn’t speak Spanish giving a human anchor to the musical leaping and cavorting of the instruments behind. Psicomagia is not the kind of album that happens without a consistent and fervent level of confidence behind it, but even as “El Congreso” moves in its immersive reaches between its two parts, none of the indulgence feels unwarranted. It seems like no matter which instrument one might choose to focus on at any given point, there’s something happening that’s worth paying attention to. That could just as easily fall flat, but for how well the musicians worth together.

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Pet the Preacher, The Cave and the Sunlight: A Web in the Spinning

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

From an American standpoint, a lot of what riff-rocking Danish trio Pet the Preacher get up to on their second album and Napalm Records debut, The Cave and the Sunlight, will probably seem familiar. On the 11-track/51-minute offering, the Copenhagen-based three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Christian Hede Madsen, bassist/backing vocalist Torben Wæver Pedersen and drummer Christian Von Larsen proffer a brash, bruiser sort of heavy rock, indebted at times directly to Pepper Keenan-era C.O.C., as on “Remains,” but elsewhere deriving an emotional push that to US ears, could sound just as easily culled from commercial hard rock, as on “Marching Earth Pt. 2″ and the penultimate “I’m Not Gonna.” A modern clarity and fullness of production backs that read, though I think ultimately it’s a skewed interpretation. In context of geography, Pet the Preacher offer a split from Europe’s current heavy psych and classic rock proliferation — if there’s one thing The Cave and the Sunlight doesn’t sound like, it’s Graveyard — and whereas in the UK, that alternative seems to come either in vicious sludge or Orange Goblin-inspired booziness, the Danes have taken a different direction, based more on songwriting than tonal impact but still landing plenty heavy when they choose to do so, the initial rush of “Let Your Dragon Fly” following the blown-out bluesy intro “The Cave” and not quite setting up everything the album has to offer, but at least give it a riotous beginning and letting listeners know that in addition to dragons, there be stoner riffs ahead.

We never quite make it from “The Cave” to “the sunlight,” but I suppose the ending of the eight-and-a-half-minute closer and longest track “The Web” offers some brightness of mood compared to Pet the Preacher‘s more downtrodden moments. Between the two, songs play out with varied personalities but consistency of tone and overall feel, and while with an album that tops 50 minutes that can make a song like “The Pig and the Haunted” or even the longer “What Now” (7:45) — the standout lines from which are “What now?/Fuck it” — seem to have to work harder to justify their inclusion, The Cave and the Sunlight gets there sooner or later in each case. Earlier pieces like the drum-led “Kamikaze Night,” which plays tense tom-work against payoff riffing and Madsen‘s throaty, low-in-the-mouth vocal style, and subsequent “Remains,” which follows furthering the hints of slide guitar of the prior track with a verse that seems to singularly call back to C.O.C.‘s 1996 landmark, Wiseblood (not a complaint), have it somewhat easier in distinguishing themselves, resulting in an overarching linear feel for The Cave and the Sunlight — a CD structure that, like the band’s sound itself, runs somewhat counter to trend. Neither their 2012 debut, The Banjo, nor subsequent 2013 compilation, Papa Zen and Meet the Creature (Papa Zen being new or at least unreleased material and Meet the Creature being their 2011 debut EP), stretched beyond the bounds of vinyl-readiness in terms of timing, and here, the two chapters of “Marching Earth Pt. 1″ and “Marching Earth Pt. 2″ are arranged right in the middle, as if to underscore the trio’s intent toward a classic CD flow.

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Pilgrim, II: Void Worship: March of the Paladin

Posted in Reviews on April 15th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

The 2012 debut from Rhode Island’s Pilgrim, Misery Wizard, seemed to come out of nowhere and “happen” very fast. A young trio from Providence, they released a demo in 2011, a split with Boston’s Ice Dragon, and were signed to Alan Averill of Primordial‘s Poison Tongue Records, an imprint of Metal Blade. With that considerable endorsement and a collection of churning melancholies rife with doomly atmospheres and ambient space, Misery Wizard made a splash and Pilgrim did right in setting about almost immediately justifying it with extensive touring work. The hype abated as it does when new releases aren’t new anymore, but Pilgrim never strayed too far from public consciousness, jumping from Poison Tongue to Metal Blade proper as a result of their success for the release of their sophomore outing, II: Void Worship, an album that continues the band’s penchant for AD&D-worthy dark tales (see “In the Presence of Evil,” “The Paladin”), huge tones and pounding, slow grooves. From the beginning of the post-”Intro” opener “Master’s Chamber” (also the longest track at 10:36; semi-immediate points), guitarist/vocalist Jon “The Wizard” Rossi proves a conjuror worthy of any classic cave metal comparison you might want to put him against, successor to some of Karl Simon‘s woefulness as heard on the last The Gates of Slumber album, but bringing his own emotionality to it as well, particularly on the highlight and closer “Away from Here,” which seems to depart some from the epic-stories metaphor methodology that has become lyrical modus operandi for Pilgrim in favor of a more down-to-earth, straightforward take.

A major difference between II: Void Worship and its predecessor is that in the interim the band has parted ways with bassist Eric “Count Elric” Dittrich. Ice Dragon‘s Brad Richardson has been taking on the role live, but I’m not sure who’s on the album with Rossi and drummer Cave “Krolg Splinterfist, Slayer of Men” Johnson. If a marked personnel shift as it is anytime a trio loses a member, Pilgrim‘s sound remains large and encompassing on the eight songs/44 minutes of the new record. They recorded in (scenic) Jersey City, NJ, with Mike Moebius at Moonlight Mile Recording, and even on “The Paladin” — which is among the faster riffs II: Void Worship has on offer — a sense of physical space is maintained in the songs and the guitar and bass both come through with more crunch than on Misery Wizard, closer to the band’s live sound. Not much of a surprise there given the road time Pilgrim has put in since their debut, the increase in confidence of the vocals on “The Paladin” likewise makes sense in the context of their development as a stage presence. Backing the longer “Master’s Chamber,” “The Paladin” and the subsequent “Arcane Sanctum” show a still-burgeoning dynamic at work, the latter starting a gradual linear build that’s as effective in its nod as it is running counter to the song before, while still flowing easily from it, capping side A with a melancholy, somewhat exploratory feel. Side B opens with the gloriously churning, extra-huge “In the Presence of Evil,” setting up two extended pieces — the title-track (8:52) and “Away from Here” (9:39) — and though like “Arcane Sanctum,” “In the Presence of Evil” is also instrumental, the energy infused into the plod makes it a standout all the same.

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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 Day Three: “I Know Where to Go…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Roadburn 2014 Day Two: “Death Means Just Life”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Roadburn 2014 Day One: “So Much Still Lingers…”

Posted in Features, Reviews on April 10th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

04.11.14 — 00:08 — Thursday night/Friday morning — Hotel Mercure, Tilburg

This afternoon and this morning both seem like a really, really long time ago. I got asked a few times today when I got into town and I couldn’t seem to remember. 2009 maybe? Breakfast was two double-double espressos. Dinner was a protein bar and two bottles of water, some ibuprofen. No time for anything else. It’s Roadburn. There are places to be.

After much vigorous folding of the Weirdo Canyon Dispatch issues — I was handed one when I walked into the venue this afternoon, which was a cool feeling — I went downstairs from the 013 office to check out Sourvein‘s soundcheck and found their “Dirty South” had gotten a little northern flair thanks to the addition of Halfway to Gone‘s Lou Gorra on bass. When they were done, I went up to Stage01 to watch Hull get their sounds and was treated to a preview of “Fire Vein,” about which I had no complaints. They’d be my first two bands of the day, in that order, so it was like I was getting ahead of myself. Which is fitting for how completely out of time the entire day seemed.

If I’m not mistaken, and I’m pretty sure I’m not, Sourvein is a completely different lineup, Gorra included, than played here in 2011. The one constant, of course, is vocalist T-Roy Medlin. To his credit, no matter who he seems to bring aboard in the band — people come, people go — it always sounds like Sourvein. You’d think after a while a polka player would slip in unnoticed or something, but their Southern sludge has seen no diminishing of its aggressive potency over the years. One imagines if that happened, whoever was responsible wouldn’t be in the band long. They grooved angry and gave the fest a wake up call from which it didn’t look back.

Knowing that Hull were playing Stage01, I made sure to get there early, as in by like half an hour. Say what you want for the practicality, the same thing did me no good later on trying to get up front for Conan at Het Patronaat. Sometimes you need to show up and wait if you want a place up front. Pretty much every time, actually. I was hoping for some new stuff from Hull – who are on tour in Europe with Boston’s Elder, also Roadburn veterans — but cuts from 2011′s Beyond the Lightless Sky (review here) like “False Priest” and “Earth from Water” were hardly time wasted, and both the old-made-new-again “Legend of the Swamp Goat” and “Architect” from 2009′s Sole Lord were right on, as was the extended closer, “Viking Funeral,” which shook the floor with volume that seemed ready for it to be later in the day than it was.

I didn’t hear the Beastmilk album, but I certainly heard a lot about the Beastmilk album, so I thought I’d check out their set, what with Hexvessel‘s Mat McNerney fronting the band. McNerney brought a good deal of Joy Division-style drama to songs like “Void Mother” and “You are Now Under Your Control,” and the music behind him was probably what someone will step up and call neo-goth in a few years if they haven’t yet, mining the moodiness of late ’80s dark rock and presenting it in a we-could-be-playing-black-metal-if-we-wanted-to context. Fair enough, but with Samothrace going on at Het Patronaat across the street, I wasn’t sticking around all that long.

Merch is outside this year, which is different from at least the previous five Roadburns. I stopped myself at a copy of the second Rotor CD and Monster Magnet‘s Love Monster. I didn’t buy the gatefold version of Colour Haze‘s All, or any of this year’s Roadburn exclusives. It was the first money I’ve spent since I got to Europe, and it was 22 of the 70 euro I had in my wallet left over from the 2013 fest. My unemployed ass was as sparing as it could be en route to Het Patronaat.

For Samothrace, I wound up standing in front of one of the house P.A. stacks near the side of the stage, and needless to say, I didn’t stay there long, as the throb of Joe Axler‘s kick drum felt like the pedal was hooked up to my rib cage. I had been looking forward to seeing them, since 2012′s Reverence to Stone was so killer and I missed them on their East Coast tour supporting it, and they justified my anticipation, both in tonal weight and atmosphere, the latter which it’s easy to overlook in their sound because the rest of the time they’re so damn heavy, but which ultimately made both the record and their set stand out from the rest of the day, guitarists Renata Castagna and Brian Spinks taking time to space out in a way that presaged some of what I’d catch later with Mühr at the Cul de Sac, Spinks furthering the dynamic with assorted screams and growls. Was glad to finally see them play and witness their shifts between tumbling lurch and excruciating crawls for myself. It seemed overdue. And oh yeah, then Napalm Death played.

More than several years have passed since the last time I caught a Napalm Death show, and while Roadburn 2014 seems an odd fit for the British grindcore progenitors — vocalist Mark “Barney” Greenway, guitarist Mitch Harris, bassist Shane Embury and drummer Danny Herrera – they tailored their set to the occasion, culling some of their more experimental, less blastbeaten, Swans-y material into something unique for the Main Stage crowd. It must be nice to be in a band for more than 30 years and still have the drive to change things up, and seeing them do so only furthered my opinion that they should tour in art galleries exclusively. Five or six bands formed and started writing songs while Napalm Death were still on stage — that’s how influential they are. They’ll never have the same kind of reputation for experimental rock as for grind, but their lead-in for Corrections House wound up as one of the smoothest transitions of the day, both bands having industrial elements at work.

In the case of Corrections House, those come courtesy of beats delivered via laptop from Sanford Parker, who took the stage first as he did when I saw them in Brooklyn early in 2013 (review here). Whether it’s Parker, who was in Buried at Sea, Yakuza‘s Bruce Lamont, Scott Kelly of Neurosis and Eyehategod vocalist Mike IX Williams, it’s hard separating the members of Corrections House from what they’ve brought to and done in their other bands, though Lamont‘s sax, played to lower end to cover where a bass might otherwise be, definitely had an appeal distinct from that in his main outfit. Their debut album, Last City Zero, came out last year and I didn’t give it enough time. Watching them play was my punishment for not knowing the songs better than I did, and I’d have stayed longer, but Philly’s Nothing were just finished at Het Patronaat and I wasn’t about to miss the start of Conan.

Seemed to me that 25 minutes before their set started would be plenty of time to get front and center. It was not. Not only were there people already up front when I got there, but they were already shouting requests at the UK trio, whose 2014 outing, Blood Eagle (review here), I consider one of the year’s best records, and who had a new bassist in the form of Chris Fielding, known perhaps best as the recording engineer who’s done their studio stuff and worked with Electric Wizard, Undersmile, and many others in the UK’s fertile scene. That was something of a surprise, as I hadn’t known he joined the band with Jon Paul Davis (guitar/vocals) and Paul O’Neil (drums), but he fit in well with the destructive path beaten out by “Crown of Talons,” which made for an ultra-doomed opening statement.

Conan were one of my gotta-see bands for the day, and their set at Het Patronaat with the line of people waiting to get in running most of the way back to the door from the 013 only emphasized how far they’ve come in the two years since they played Stage01 at Roadburn 2012. One expects utter dominance from them and they did not disappoint. Still, they were one of my gotta-see bands, and the other happened to be Amsterdam space-doomers Mühr, whose slot overlapped at Cul de Sac. They were not the highest-profile act on the bill, but I only watched one complete set today, and it was Mühr doing “Messiah” from their 2013 single-song full-length of the same name (review here). With ambience heavier than many bands at their most crushing, seeing Mühr, which seemed unlikely from the start, was a highlight of what was by then a long stretch.

You could almost call what they do post-metal, but for the fact that where a lot post-metal comes across as claustrophobic, Mühr make efforts to sound as expansive as possible. Their psychedelic, cosmic droning was rich in tone and righteously loud, vocals sparse, but a presence, the whole five-piece lit mostly by candles set up in front and to the sides of the stage. It was something I’d probably only ever see at Roadburn, and when they were done and left the stage one at a time after an extended wash of feedback and effects noise, they came back out to take a well-earned bow before still-cheering crowd. I was so into it it was silly, and I know already that the ability to say I saw Mühr live is among the things I’ll be most grateful to carry with me in a few days when I leave Tilburg.

There were so many bands I missed today. There always are. You can’t see everything. I got back to the Main Stage in time to catch Crowbar doing “All I Had I Gave,” “Planets Collide” and “The Cemetery Angels” and had every intent of sticking around to see Freedom Hawk close out in the Green Room, but the weight of needing to write and the thought of getting up for more Weirdo Canyon Dispatch work in the morning got the better of me. Not the first time that’s ever happened, at least as regards the former.

Tomorrow is Mikael Åkerfeldt‘s curated day. Only Day Two which feels odd for how immediately immersed in the vibe of Roadburn I and seemingly everybody else was by when afternoon became evening. If you told me we’d been here two or three days already, I’d believe it, but maybe lack of sleep is a factor there as well. All the more reason to nod.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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Roadburn 2014, Pt. 3: Hard Rock Hideout at Cul de Sac

Posted in Features, Reviews on April 9th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

04.09.14 — 23:25 — Wednesday night — Hotel Mercure, Tilburg

The Cul de Sac filled up nicely for the annual Roadburn pre-party, the Hard Rock Hideout — a sort of easing of the consciousness into the ooze it will become over the next few days. It was held at the same spot in Weirdo Canyon last year, the alley of bars and restaurants adjacent to the 013 has long held “Roadburn specials” and 2014 is no exception, though if I’m not mistaken, the Cul de Sac is the first joint there actually to host bands as part of the fest. Doubt it will be the last. In any case, it was two acts tonight: Amsterdam proto-metallers Death Alley and Belgian ’80s thrashers Evil Invaders. They made for a quick evening both in overall time spent at the venue and in their own pacing.

It was my first Hard Rock Hideout. In years past I’ve either gotten to Tilburg too late, stayed in Eindhoven or collapsed in a heap at the hotel on the pre-Roadburn Wednesday. Did that today too. I set the alarm so I could sleep for about two hours and then got up, showered the layer of travel stink off — this room, somewhat tragically, already smells like “dude” — and headed back out. I was early for the start of the show, but it could’ve been worse. I really didn’t want to miss Death Alley, and once they got going, they made it worth my while.

Here’s how it went:

Death Alley

Able to leap from thrash to boogie in a single bound, I know Death Alley are a relatively new outfit — their debut Over Under b/w Dead Man’s Bones 7″ (review here) is a recent advent — but they were among the bands I was most looking forward to at Roadburn. Even putting aside the stylistic potential they showed in that single, both songs from which were aired, “Dead Man’s Bones” providing an anchor later into the set following the long build of “Supernatural Predator” and unmitigated shuffle of “Hypermotion,” I thought they’d be fun to watch on stage. They were, and the varied of their sound, including the elements of psychedelia that only just began to show up in the single, came through live, making for a subtly diverse but fluid, energetic run marked by exemplary guitar leads, inventive basslines, snotty punker vocals that had more to offer than just that and chaotic drumming that held it all together. I’m not sure what Death Alley are doing to follow-up the 7″, but whatever it is, I’ll be keeping an eye out.

Evil Invaders

Oh, rethrash. Your silly hair, your hightops (also chained boots), your bulletbelts, headbanging Hammett/Hetfield hair speeding along at who knows how many kilometers an hour. Were they evil? Yes they were. How rotten were they? They were rotten to the core. I’d ask what bonded them — hint: it was blood, in which they also reigned — but I think you get the idea. The Belgian four-piece Evil Invaders were built for speed and their execution left nothing wanting. I’ll make no bones about the fact that it wasn’t really my thing, but they had the right balance of technical prowess and raw drive that makes the best thrash so vital. To call it unoriginal would be missing the point. Evil Invaders came out in full attack mode, ripping through cuts like “Alcoholic Maniac” and the instrumental “Speed Invasion” from last year’s self-titled debut EP, and the crowd — packed in by then — got way into it. Nobody threw beer by the time I left the front of the stage, which was fortunate, but it was easy to imagine that maybe in a different context Evil Invaders would have the circle pit going.

A riotous start for Roadburn 2014. Tomorrow picks up bright and early and it’s only going to get crazier from there. More to come, of course, and more pics after the jump.

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Electric Moon, Mind Explosion: Into the Outer

Posted in Reviews on April 7th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

German improvisors Electric Moon are rarely at rest, and for anyone who’s been following the jam-minded three-piece’s progress these last several years across their slew of studio and live albums, the latest of them, dubbed Mind Explosion, marks yet another interesting turn. When it comes to the band, comprised of guitarist/keyboardist/recording engineer Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt, bassist/visual artist/sometimes-vocalist Komet Lulu and drummer Marcus Schnitzler, the surest bet you can make about any given release is that it’s going to be the most psychedelic thing you’re going to hear that day. That said, I’ve always taken their sound to have more to it than just that, and likewise the band’s mission, which seems geared toward driving at the very heart of sonic collaboration between committed players. Schmidt, Lulu and Schnitzler avoid missteps along the way and get to the center of the galaxy of jamming. Their concoctions — Mind Explosion presents four of them, for a total of about 80 minutes — are hypnotic, swinging, exciting and saturated in shroomic properties. What stands Mind Explosion out from the catalog is that it’s a live album that basically serves the same function as a studio full-length would. Electric Moon are no strangers to live releases; plenty have shown up on LP, CD and limited CD-R from Schmidt‘s Sulatron Records. But where outings like the two-volume Live 2012 CDs (review here) were essentially live bootlegs, the presentation on Mind Explosion is like that of a complete studio outing. It’s bridging that gap.

And in so doing, it’s continuing Electric Moon‘s journey into the sort of creative Big Bang that drives heavy psychedelia to start with. Why can’t an album that would be recorded live just be live on stage? Why can’t an album be a live album? Why does there need to be a distinction from one to the other? The four tracks of Mind Explosion – “Trip to the Moon” (21:45), “Kaleidoscopeephole” (22:14), “The Picture” (17:04) and “Mind Explosion” (18:50) — offer plenty of time to explore these questions, and but for the periodic interjections of crowd noise, shouts in the middle of especially engaging turns, etc., there’s very little to separate the album from anything Electric Moon have jammed out in the studio. In terms of the sound quality, it’s probably Schnitzler‘s drums that most give it away, but his cymbals sound full and have no problem creating a wash to back the spaced-out effects work from Lulu and Schmidt, who also come through clearly. Together, they ride the jams out as far as they want to go, riffs and leads topping sure-footed rhythms — the bass-tone that begins “The Picture” is as much a foundation for the song’s unfolding as one could ask — in a dynamic that has only grown over time. They’re never overly technical or looking to put on a clinic as much as a show, and part of what makes Mind Explosion successful as a release even into its later reaches is the band’s sense of bringing the audience with them on these sonic voyages. As far out as it is — and it is — Electric Moon‘s sound never lets go of also being inviting.

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Ararat, Cabalgata Hacia la Luz: Riding to the Light

Posted in Reviews on April 4th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Buenos Aires trio Ararat‘s third album is their broadest-ranging collection yet. Cabalgata Hacia la Luz, released by South American Sludge in partnership with Oui Oui Records, follows two years after their second album, II (review here), proffered massive tones and open spaces in kind, extended tracks like “Caballos” and “La Ira del Dragon (Uno)” becoming synonymous with the course of the record. Prior to, 2009′s self-titled debut (review here) established Ararat as pushing against some of the heavy rocking conventions of guitarist/bassist/pianist/vocalist Sergio Chotsourian‘s prior outfit, Los Natas, who released their to-date swansong, Nuevo Orden de la Libertad (review here), that same year. With Cabalgata Hacia la Luz, Ararat arrives as a band with its own conventions and methods of working. After what they established as their sound over the first two albums, Chotsourian‘s piano is not unexpected when it arrives on “Los Viajes,” and throughout, a steady use of synth from guitarist Tito Fargo and the richly fluid drumming of Alfredo Felitte will likely feel familiar to anyone who’s followed Ararat since their inception. Where Cabalgata Hacia la Luz most distinguishes itself, however, is in its scope. Granted, with a record that has 13 tracks and tops out at over 63 minutes, there’s plenty of room to flesh out, but Ararat prove more than capable of pairing off disparate sounds, be it acoustics and heavy distortion or synth and driving, propulsive rock, all while crafting a smooth full-album flow that stands up even into the later reaches and makes for an immersive listening experience well worth its runtime.

As with II even more than the debut, Cabalgata Hacia la Luz is deeply atmospheric. Fargo’s synth adds a cinematic sensibility to opener “El Camino del Mono,” which is part of a strong starting trilogy with the noise-soaked “El Paso” and “Los Escombros del Jardin,” the latter of which boasts one of the album’s several landmark choruses amid its chaotic swirl. It, along with later tracks “Nicotina y Destruccion” and “El Hijo de Ignacio” are exceptionally well placed to anchor the proceedings, whereas an organ-inclusive ambient piece like “El Arca” and the acoustic-based closer “Atalayah” might otherwise seem to float off from Ararat‘s central sound, instead they come across as the fruit of experimentation with it. Chotsourian‘s voice, smoky and recognizable, is suited both to the open spaces of “Las Dos Mitades” and the earlier straightforward rush of “Los Escombros del Jardin,” and the rumble of his bass steps forward at more than one interval to be the foundational element of songs — as on “Las Dos Mitades,” when Fargo takes to the keys atop Felitte‘s steady roll — but he’s by no means the only thing tying the diverse sounds of Cabalgata Hacia la Luz together. Precisely with that sonic diversity, Ararat present a challenge to themselves to remain tight and cohesive through the sundry changes in arrangement, and it’s a challenge they readily meet. There is a strong current of songwriting within the material here, even on a rolling, atmospheric cut like “La Sal y Arroz,” which marks the drawback from the album’s initial salvo to more spacious territories with sweet fuzz, calmer vocals and a wash of cymbals. It’s a different kind of highlight — not the densely packed hook of “Nicotina y Destruccion” — but a highlight all the same.

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Live Review: Small Stone Boston Showcase with Mellow Bravo, Wo Fat, Lo-Pan, Gozu, Roadsaw and Neon Warship, 03.28.14

Posted in Reviews on March 31st, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

I’ve had some pretty landmark good times at Small Stone showcases over the last 10 or so years. Some of them — admittedly, the more recent ones — I’ve even remembered. The last one in Massachusetts was 2012 at Radio in Somerville (review here) was a monster, and as my first time in the upstairs room at the Middle East in Cambridge, I can’t imagine a more fitting occasion. A six-band bill with a shared love of riffs and a record label in common, it was a front-to-back night of volume, distortion, and groove, and from Neon Warship through Roadsaw, Gozu, Lo-Pan, Wo Fat and Mellow Bravo, there was no letup. No moment when you’d want to go outside and smoke or get some air. No moment when the place to be wasn’t in front of the stage.

That’s rare enough when three acts are playing, let alone twice as many. The same lineup minus Mellow Bravo and plus Geezer would play the next night at St. Vitus bar in Brooklyn, but as I had family coming north Saturday and zero dollars for gas, this was my fix. Parking in Cambridge on a Friday night is a singular joy between what’s campus housing for this or that elite-perpetuation factory and other sundry restrictions, but I found a spot and made it into the Middle East well enough in advance of Neon Warship starting off the night. Here’s how it went down from there:

Neon Warship


Of all the acts who’d take stage Friday night, Neon Warship were the most recent addition to the label’s roster. Picked up late in 2013, the Dayton, Ohio, three-piece gave a taste of Small Stone to come with their steady rolling riffs and the post-The Sword vocal stylings of guitarist Kevin Schindel, who when he hit into his higher register made up for some of Freedom Hawk‘s absence from the bill. It was my first exposure to them live, though their 2013 self-titled debut had made an impression, and though they’ve been a band for three years, they came across initially as still getting their feet under them on stage. They were well received by what was rightly a friendly crowd, however, and flourished as their set progressed, getting more comfortable as they went on. It was short sets for everybody, however, so just as Neon Warship were hitting their stride, they were also wrapping up. I doubt it’ll be my last encounter with them, and I’d be interested to see them go longer and have more of a chance to engage the audience. They seemed to be headed in that direction.

Roadsaw

I knew when I left the house that it was going to be an evening of top-notch guitar work. What I didn’t realize was that Ian Ross of Roadsaw was going to meet the quota on his own. Don’t get me wrong — situated as early headliners no doubt to bring in the local crowd early and get them drinking; a nefarious plot that worked wonders — all of Roadsaw was on fire, including new drummer Kyle Rasmussen (Phantom Glue) who recently came aboard to replace Jeremy Hemond for reasons yet undisclosed, but Ross seemed particularly to rise to the occasion that the night presented, and whether he was tearing ass through “The Finger” from 2001′s Rawk ‘n’ Roll or leading the way through the undulating stonerism of “Black Flower,” if it wasn’t the best I’ve ever seen him play, it was certainly close. They finished out with two from their 2011 self-titled (review here) — which at this point is begging for a follow-up — “Long in the Tooth” and “Weight in Gold,” and were nothing if not in headliner form, frontman Craig Riggs sharing a mic with bassist Tim Catz after swinging his enough to dislodge its cable and all four bringing their still-too-short set to a monstrously noisy finish. Sometimes earplugs just don’t matter.

Gozu

Never say never in rock and roll, but at least for the time being this night marked the end of Gozu‘s three-guitar experiment. Lead player Jeff Fultz, who’d pull double-duty with Mellow Bravo, is reportedly on the move out of the area, so there goes that. And while his farewell with Mellow Bravo would be drunker/more emotional later on — he’d been in Mellow Bravo five years, a few months playing with Gozu — it was nonetheless a stellar sendoff. For me, they seemed to affirm the potential for Gozu as a five-piece they showed when I saw this lineup make its debut at the Great Scott back in January (review here), songs like “Irish Dart Fight” and “Meth Cowboy” benefiting both from the extra heft and and still nascent dynamic between Fultz and Doug Sherman‘s soloing. Guitarist/vocalist Marc Gaffney brought his own edge via a Gretsch hollow-body guitar — I don’t play, but if I had the money to spend I’d buy one just to look at it — and Joe Grotto, his foot up on the monitor, was duly animated holding down the low end, while still-relatively-new drummer Mike Hubbard made himself comfortable in the slower, more swinging terrain of “Alone,” the closer from 2010′s Locust Season (review hereand a rare enough inclusion in the set that I don’t think I’d ever seen them play it before. Certainly not since 2013′s The Fury of a Patient Man (review here) was released, anyway. They didn’t get to “Meat Charger,” but “Ghost Wipe” had been a raucous enough opener that all was well. They’re ready to hit Europe next month.

Lo-Pan

Oh, it had been too long. Too long. Not quite a year since they headlined the third Eye of the Stoned Goat fest in Brooklyn (review here), but still, that’s too long to go without seeing Lo-Pan. They played a set comprised almost entirely of new material, songs from the fourth album, Colossus, they’re recording with Andrew Schneider in Brooklyn this week, some I’d heard — “Colossus,” “The Duke” — others that were completely new. Hearing a runthrough of something once live is no way to judge how it will sound on record, but as guitarist Brian Fristoe nestled into the open, winding grooves of his own riffs backed by bassist Scott Thompson and drummer Jesse Bartz while vocalist Jeff Martin soul-man crooned behind, Lo-Pan sounded like Lo-Pan, and yes, I mean that as a compliment. It means the Ohio four-piece have established their sound and know what sides of what they do they want to develop and they’ve set to the work of that. I pulled my earplugs about halfway out for “El Dorado” from 2011′s Salvador (review here), but even the stuff I hadn’t heard before was easy to appreciate. As the hardest-touring band on Small Stone, Lo-Pan lack nothing for presence on stage, and though I almost got cracked in the head by Thompson‘s bass once or twice and when the night was over, I’m pretty sure it was Bartz‘s crash cymbal ringing in my ears, they silver-plattered a reminder of how vital an act they are. It would be premature to say their best days are ahead of them since Colossus is just now in progress, but they showed the room at the Middle East that anything’s possible, even topping Salvador.

Wo Fat


Getting to see Texas trio Wo Fat play a packed room was one of the highlights of my Roadburn 2013 (review here), and with their second Small Stone outing (fifth overall), The Conjuring, on the way, brief as it was, their set was no less enjoyable here. At the same time they’re probably the best advertisement for Texan tourism I can think of, it’s probably also a good thing they’re from so far away, otherwise I’d probably wind up saying something like, “Oh, it’s only 10 hours. That’s not too far to drive to see Wo Fat again.” The TSA had rifled through guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump‘s gear, so they had to set everything up from scratch before they got going, but once they did, it was a weekend’s worth of fuzz condensed and served in a three-song can. Bassist Tim Wilson was dug in deep for “The Conjuring,” which took hold following a noisy transition from “Nameless Cults” from their 2013 Cyclopean Riffs split LP with Egypt (review here) and in turn shifted via jam into “Sleep of the Black Lotus” from 2012′s The Black Code (review here), the whole set coming across as one consistent riff and fuzz fest, grounded by the plod of drummer Michael Walter. Wo Fat are masters of getting the most out of a slow stoner groove and pushing it into or out of a faster rush (“The Conjuring” does this really well), and the swamp-voodoo lyrical themes they’ve paired with their Fu Manchu-worthy tonality fits perfectly. They don’t have Lo-Pan‘s road experience, but like their Ohio compatriots, Wo Fat clearly know what works in their approach. They wrapped up with a big rock finish — no other way to do it, really — and suddenly the night seemed too short…

Mellow Bravo

…But the fact of the matter is when you want to round out a party in Boston, Mellow Bravo are the way to go. As noted, it was guitarist Jeff Fultz‘s last show with the band, and they were in top form to say goodbye. Irrepressibly outspoken frontman Keith Pierce warned the audience that they were going long in his honor, and while the local six-piece left the room thoroughly entertained — aside from borrowing my camera to take a house-lights-up shot of the crowd, I also saw Pierce at the bar at one point, and he finished the set in the audience — it was readily apparent that for them this was more than just another show or even a label showcase. For Pierce, keyboardist/vocalist Jess Collins, guitarist Andrew Doherty, bassist/vocalist Seager Tennis and drummer Dave Jarvis, they were losing a bandmate and a friend and paying him bittersweet tribute. That’s how it felt watching, anyhow. I’ve seen Mellow Bravo a few times at this point, as well as Collins and Pierce in their acoustic side-project, Tastefulnudes (live review here), and while this was hardly the tightest, crispest set I’ve watched from them, they gave the night a suitable finale, more or less starting an afterparty while they were still playing. To say the very least of it, it was worth sticking around for.

Other bands had started to pack up, but there was still a good deal of milling about, drinking, band-bonding, etc. going on. It was just hitting two in the morning, which had the bar in get-the-fuck-out mode, so I hiked the several blocks back to my car made my way home, more than a little bummed to know what I’d be missing the next night in Brooklyn but feeling fortunate to have been able to see the show I did.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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Causa Sui, Live at Freak Valley: Sacred Blood in the Garden (PLUS Full Album Stream)

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on March 31st, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Generally speaking, one of the problems with a live album is that save for rare exceptions, unless you happened to be at the show where it was recorded, it’s that much harder to make a connection to the experience of actually seeing the band on stage. I wasn’t so fortunate to be in Netphen, Germany, when Danish heavy psych masters Causa Sui played at Freak Valley 2013, but listening to the El Paraiso Records 2CD/2LP document of their set — fittingly titled Live at Freak Valley and available for preorder now ahead of an April 7 ship date — the audio easily gives a sense of the warmth and vibrancy of the four-piece’s performance. The material is culled from their 2005 self-titled debut (the inimitable “El Paraiso”) all the way to and through 2013′s hyperbole-worthy Euporie Tide, touching on the expansive jams taken from their Summer Sessions and Pewt’r Sessions along the way for a steady flow that, as the lineup of guitarist Jonas Munk, bassist Jess Kahr, drummer Jakob Skøtt and keyboardist Rasmus Rasmussen progress through their own catalog in swells of volume and stretches of subdued exploration, never subsides throughout the two-disc entirety of the release. Live at Freak Valley is Causa Sui‘s first official live album, and it’s not difficult to tell from listening why they’d want it made public. Especially in the longer-form cuts like “Red Valley” (10:19), the “Lonesome Traveller” medley that also includes pieces of “Santa Sangre” and “Garden of Forking Paths” (14:07), “El Paraiso” (12:36), “Euporie” (12:02) and “Homage” (9:56), Causa Sui are as engaging on their live incarnation as they are in their studio output.

Part of that has to be because Causa Sui‘s albums are closely tied to live performance. That sense was certainly true on Euporie Tide, where the mood was spontaneous, like the band could take their laid back grooving and tonal warmth anywhere they wanted to do go, places alternately lush and expansive or driving in their heavy riffs. Live at Freak Valley doesn’t allow for quite the same level of production value as a studio album, but it’s not far off, either. Munk handled the mixing and mastering himself, so the band’s touch is on every level of the release, and that’s clearly made a difference in the atmosphere of the audio. Each disc — or each platter, if you get the vinyl version — holds just under 45 minutes of runtime, so Live at Freak Valley comes across not as a live album sloppily assembled, lazily mixed and tossed out to capitalize on a willing fanbase, but as something that not only recounts Causa Sui‘s work in the past but actually adds something new to their oeuvre as well because of how well the spirit behind their material is carried through these songs and how plain to hear is the chemistry between the band members. Both the first disc (red) and second disc (blue) position Causa Sui not just as a group hitting their stride on stage, but pushing themselves past where they’ve been before to new places that are captured here. As “The Juice” and “Boozehound” from Euporie Tide flesh out into “Lonesome Traveller”-plus, the band elicit a hypnotized response that shows their command of their form and presentation and is only interrupted when the disc ends and it’s time to put on the other one. If anything interrupts the flow on Live at Freak Valley, it’s the constrictions of media.

That’s inevitable, however, and the tradeoff — aside from the positive, atmosphere-enhancing presence of physical media as a whole in comparison to the digital alternative — is that each half of Live at Freak Valley can be read as having a personality of its own, the first plenty immersive but more varied, with more songs included, the pieces worked into “Lonesome Traveller,” the jazzy jumps in “Mireille” and the thoroughly nailed build of “Red Valley” from Summer Sessions Vol. 3 marking the transition point to the second half’s come-get-lost-in-here sprawl. Those four songs alone — “El Paraiso,” “Euporie,” “Homage” and closer “Soledad” — make for what I have no doubt will prove one of 2014′s most satisfying in heavy psychedelia, but to have them coupled immediately with the preceding five tracks and to think of the entirety being presented whole, as one free-flowing set performed live, well, it’s one of the best live albums I’ve heard in a very long time and makes a solid argument for the live album as being able to capture the essence of a band on stage while also giving those who weren’t there a closer look at what they might have missed. Listening back to Munk‘s guitar and Rasmussen‘s keys lead the way over the steady progression of Kahr and Skøtt toward that song’s payoff, it’s clear that Causa Sui‘s creativity extends to how they conduct themselves live. It’s also clear that I need to see these guys play as soon as humanly possible, because whether it’s the initial wall of fuzz that “The Juice” builds or the serenity that bleeds through “Soledad,” Live at Freak Valley showcases some of the finest heavy psych that Europe has to offer. It’s a release the success of which exceeds even the considerable ambition that birthed it. Recommended.

PLEASE NOTE: I’ve been given permission to host the premiere of the full stream of Live at Freak Valley with this review. Please find it on the YouTube player below and enjoy!

Causa Sui, Live at Freak Valley (2014)

El Paraiso Records’ website

El Paraiso Records on Thee Facebooks

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Baby Woodrose, Kicking Ass and Taking Names: Gone Yesterday, Here Tomorrow

Posted in Reviews on March 27th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Seems likely that Copenhagen psych-garage aficionados Baby Woodrose have a considerable backlog of unreleased material. Before the band led by guitarist/vocalist Lorenzo Woodrose, also of Dragontears, released their righteously cool 2012 sixth full-length, Third Eye Surgery (review here), they preceded it with a 2011 comp of early demos titled Mindblowing Seeds and Disconnected Flowers (review here). The new collection, Kicking Ass and Taking Names, also dips back to the beginnings of the band, and from the second one unfolds the six-panel Bad Afro Records digipak (or, presumably, opens the vinyl), there’s an archival feel. Lorenzo Woodrose himself offers liner notes extolling the virtues of the B-side as an opportunity to experiment and gives recording dates and circumstances for each of the comp’s 14 tracks, spanning years from early 2002 to 2013, and as he explains it, there’s more on offer than just B-sides. The tracks “Coming Around Again” and “I Feel High” were released together as a single in 2008, and “Light up Your Mind” and “Bubblegum” came out together through Bad Afro last year. Covers of The Troggs‘ “6654321″ and Otis Redding‘s “That’s How Strong My Love Is” (which Humble Pie also covered in 1973) end each half of the tracklist and represent the earliest material included, coming from the band’s Feb. 2002 first session with their original lineup. Of course, with variation in the years of release, production and lineup, Kicking Ass and Taking Names has a few notable jumps in sound, but a remaster for everything included gives some sense of flow to the collection’s 36-minute course.

Really, the structure of Kicking Ass and Taking Names isn’t that of a compilation of individual, standalone tracks, but of a previously unreleased EP plus enough bonus cuts to extend it to full-length. While they were subsequently released on singles, the first five tracks — “Information Overload,” “Good Day to Die,” “Coming Around Again,” “I Feel High” and “Making My Time” — come from the same session, recorded by the late Ralph Rjeily in 2007 and issued in drips and drabs in the years since. Those with prior exposure to Baby Woodrose‘s fervent worship of 13th Floor Elevators-style psychedelia will be right at home with “Information Overload”‘s space-rocking thrust and Woodrose‘s own howls echoing up from the swirl. I’ve always considered his style to have similar roots to those of Monster Magnet‘s Dave Wyndorf, but Woodrose‘s approach is looser, the material it tops less concerned with sprawl. “Good Day to Die” is an early highlight the energy of which is a precursor to some of what arrives later on side B’s (can you have a side B on a collection of B-sides?) “Here Today Gone Tomorrow” and “Live Wire,” while “Coming Around Again” delivers a poppier take and “I Feel High” backs it with acoustic-based lysergics, a steady undercurrent of fuzz and organ making a complex mix sound simple. That track builds but remains drumless, leaving the buzz of “Making My Time” to sum up the preceding four with organ start-stops, echoing space and an easy, right-on groove. As ever, Woodrose remains a strong presence, but I wouldn’t discount the organ work of Fuzz Daddy either, which is featured in a solo in the song’s second half.

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Live Review: Ichabod, Holly Hunt, Hollow Leg and Balam in Allston, MA, 03.25.14

Posted in Reviews on March 26th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

I have yet to see a show at O’Brien’s Pub in Allston and regret having shown up. At this point, that’s a pretty good track record, since I’ve far and away spent more time in that room than anywhere else since moving north last year. Last night was Holly Hunt and Hollow Leg on tour from Florida, joined by Newport, Rhode Island’s Balam and Boston’s own Ichabod for a persistently heavy but still varied four-band bill of doom and sludge. I’d had no coffee owing to a dentist appointment in the afternoon and have no problem admitting that I’m still reeling from being laid off last week from my last remaining income-providing job, but I was ready to see a show, and I got what I went for, Balam starting off with their well-honed take on doom.

Vocalist Alexander Carellas mentioned on stage that he and a couple others in the double-guitar five-piece were sick, but the band sounded no worse for the wear up to and including his own voice, which had also impressed when I saw them last summer with Olde Growth and Keefshovel (review here). They were starting off a week-long stint of shows around the Northeast — Boston, Providence, Portland, Burlington, Poughkeepsie, New Bedford, Providence again — and fresh from a gig at Dusk in Providence with Magic Circle, playing songs from an upcoming full-length for which the recording is reportedly in progress, so it wasn’t really a surprise they were tight, but it made for a solid start to the evening nonetheless, their riffs adding trad doom edge that the sludgier Hollow Leg would contradict almost immediately upon stepping on stage.

My desire to see Hollow Leg was twofold. First (spoiler alert) they’re good. Second, they seem to be in a state of transition. Their 2013 full-length, Abysmal (review here), followed in the muck-caked Southern sludgy footsteps of its predecessor, 2010′s Instinct, albeit with more of a focus on songwriting than the debut. Their 2014 single, “God-Eater,” on the other hand, came with word of seeking out a new direction “sonically, visually and lyrically,” so I was curious to find out how that played next to Hollow Leg‘s ultra-aggressive prior approach. Sure enough, “God-Eater” was pretty easy to pick out as the second song of their set, but it wasn’t necessarily incongruous with what surrounded.

Maybe hearing it once through in a set isn’t the best way to get a feel overall, but from what I heard, the new song worked well next to “8 Dead (in a Mobile Home)” from Abysmal, though I imagine the context of Hollow Leg‘s next studio output will make the shift more obvious. I look forward to finding out, and wasn’t sorry to hear their abusive crunch in the meantime, somewhat cleaner than Sourvein but definitely of that ilk. Last I saw them was before Abysmal was released, and they had a commanding presence then, but they got on stage and clicked immediately, which was only fitting for being five shows deep into the tour. The duo Holly Hunt, also from Florida and whom I hadn’t seen previously, would soon follow suit.

Holly Hunt also had new material from an EP called Prometheus that’s set to release next month as the follow-up to the Miami-based instrumental two-piece’s 2012 Year One full-length debut. They’re one of those bands that I’ve heard from several reliable sources that “you gotta see.” Sure enough, as heavy as their recorded stuff is, it does little justice to the volume emanating from guitarist Gavin Perry‘s dual Hiwatt heads or the distinct crash of Beatriz Monteavaro, who celebrated her birthday in lumbering style. Sound-wise, they are as elemental as you’re likely to hear — elephantine riffs cycled through in vicious nod, played very, very loud. On paper it’s a simple formula, standing in front it’s enough to shake your ribcage. At one point I heard a crackle and was convinced the O’Brien’s P.A. wasn’t long for this world, but fortunately it held out under the tonnage of tonal heft Holly Hunt supplied.

Given the unromantic duty of closing out a four-bander on a Tuesday night, two-guitar fivesome Ichabod answered Holly Hunt‘s demolition with their own brand thereof, frontman John Fadden shifting with intimidating ease between clean vocals and sit-tight-because-I-can-do-this-all-night screaming, lending the set a sense of drama to go with the alternately rocking and crushing riffs of Dave Iverson and Jason Adam, the steady and inventive bass of Greg Dallaria and the drums of Phil MacKay, which somehow prove to be the uniting force between the band’s space-rock push and their seething, malevolent sludge. Their psycho-delia was fluid through two new cuts from their upcoming LP, Merrimack, as well as favorites “Baba Yaga,” “Huckleberry” and “Hollow God” from 2012′s Dreamscapes from Dead Space, the latter of which closed out the evening on perhaps its angriest note — no small accomplishment considering the company Ichabod were keeping.

With the evening-long assault of volume as a comparison point, Allston seemed especially quiet on my way out of the venue. Holly Hunt and Hollow Leg roll into Brooklyn tonight, March 26, to share a bill at St. Vitus with The Scimitar, Kings Destroy and Clamfight as a benefit show for Aaron Edge of Lumbar to help with medical bills in his continued fight with MS. Info on that gig is here, and no doubt it’ll be one for the ages. Me, I’ll take what I can get, and was glad I got to see these acts at all, let alone on a show that was so dead on, front to back. No complaints.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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