UK Special — The Debate Rages: Conan vs. Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats

Posted in The Debate Rages on September 27th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster


It’s the battle for next-gen British doom supremacy!

In a way, the question of Conan vs. Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats all comes down to how you like your doom. If you want it with some of the world’s heaviest tones bashing you over the head alternately with ferocious hooks and unmatched lumber, you’re going to go with Conan. If you want it rife with slicing malevolence, lurking murderously in classic buzzsaw fuzz, as demented and mysterious in its slasher ambience as it is catchy and memorable, then Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats are the clear choice.

Yes, I know these bands are about as different as you can get and still call it doom. The way I figure it, that’s half the fun.

Conan released one of 2012′s best albums with Monnos (review here) and Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats‘ 2011 outing Blood Lust received such a massive response (not that I knew it at the time) that Rise Above couldn’t help but sign the band. Both acts have new material in the works — Conan are writing and Uncle Acid will enter the studio, of course, on Halloween — but as they have both have crazy momentum going into their next releases, it seemed like a good time to see where people stood.

There are a lot of bands coming out of the UK, but I’m hard pressed to think of two acts who so clearly highlight the diversity in the country’s current scene and the quality of material put forth by British artists. So what’s your pick for the forerunner of the next generation of British doom?

If you need a refresher, have at it:

Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats, “I’ll Cut You Down” from Blood Lust

Conan, “Grim Tormentor” from Monnos

As always, take your pick and leave a comment. Any other contenders are awesome too. Basically I just figured it would be fun to see how the support stacked up, so whatever you’ve got to say, it’s definitely welcome.

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Poll Results: The 10 Greatest Stoner Rock Records

Posted in The Debate Rages on September 20th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster


A couple weeks ago, I asked the question above: “What are the 10 greatest stoner rock records?” It was kind of just something I was throwing out there to see what came back. Nothing scientific, pretty vague on what “stoner rock” actually meant as a genre designation. Basically just trying to get a spur-of-the-moment response, like an inkblot test for riffs. First thing that comes to mind.

The response was awesome, so before anything else, thank you to everyone who contributed a list to the original post. I was taken aback by the number of replies that came in — a total 73 comments — and the resultant breadth of records named reads like a wishlist of the damned. Some people were pretty orthodox in their definition of the genre, and some more open in the bands they included, but working from everyone’s lists, I tallied up the votes, and while I don’t necessarily agree with all the choices personally (I added my own list as a comment to the initial post, so I won’t bother reprinting it), it was a blast to see what emerged on top. The people have spoken.

I tried to be as fair as I could in the tallying. There were some comments left that were individual songs and not albums, and those I didn’t count, but everything else went in, even if it was only mentioned once, and when someone said, for example, “Melvins – all,” I actually added a tally to everything by the Melvins that everyone else had said. Again, it’s not really a scientific thing polling demographic data, but it was a lot of fun.

Okay, here’s the list:

The Top 10 Greatest Stoner Rock Records Poll Results:

1. Kyuss, Welcome to Sky Valley (41 votes)
2. Sleep, Sleep’s Holy Mountain (27 votes)
3. Black Sabbath, Master of Reality (19 votes)
4. Kyuss, Blues for the Red Sun (18 votes)
5. Monster Magnet, Spine of God (15 votes)
5. Sleep, Dopesmoker (15 votes)
7. Electric Wizard, Dopethrone (14 votes)
7. Fu Manchu, In Search Of… (14 votes)
9. Queens of the Stone Age, Queens of the Stone Age (12 votes)
10. Fu Manchu, The Action is Go (10 votes)

As you can see, some real classics in there, and Welcome to Sky Valley was far and away the winner, picked by 41 out of the 73 people (myself included), with Sleep and Black Sabbath behind. There were two ties at numbers five and seven, but beyond that, it’s a pretty clear picture of where people are at with their favorites.

What about everything else? Well, it was all counted. I broke all the entries down by number of votes and listed them by artist with albums in chronological order.

You’ll find the complete list after the jump.

Read more »

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The Debate Rages: What are the 10 Greatest Stoner Rock Records?

Posted in The Debate Rages on September 5th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

The reason I ask is this: I said a while back I wanted to start some hall-of-fame-esque series of posts covering the classics of the genre, going all the way back to the start. It was — I’ll be honest — an excuse to slather even more praise onto Master of Reality, which I don’t think ever has enough. That never quite materialized, but this whole time I was thinking to myself about what makes an album really great?

There’s so much context involved. When did it come out? What was happening at the time? Where is the band from? What was the response? How influential was it? What made it so special? Who was on it? What else did they do and how much of it was defined by this single album? Never mind questions about what counts as stoner rock and when that began — was it the ’90s or was it when Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil? — but what is it about an individual record that lets it stand the test of time, and is standing the test of time a basis for judgment of greatness? What about those albums you listened to when you were younger that sound dated now? Are they any less great because you’ve grown out of them?

So I’ve decided to open it up. Everything counts, everything’s in.

If you’ve got a list of 30 essentials or just one you want to add to the others, that’s cool. Let’s put everything out there and see what comes back, what we can agree on, disagree on, whatever. It’s all valid. If you think Welcome to Sky Valley is the best because it happens to be the album you listened to while you went trekking through the desert that one time, awesome. If you think it’s crap, pick something else.

In demographic research, they call it crowd-sourcing, but I’m not even sure what we’re crowd sourcing for, so let’s just have at it. The best of the best. What are the 10 greatest stoner rock records?

I’m looking forward to seeing your picks (and I think I already gave away two of mine). Leave a comment and let’s just have some fun with it.

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The Debate Rages: Witchcraft vs. Graveyard

Posted in The Debate Rages on May 16th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

It’s a battle for Sverige supremacy! Retro a retro! Winner takes Örebro! Other terrible Swedish puns!

I had this post planned to go up today even before the news came in that Witchcraft had joined the Nuclear Blast roster, where Graveyard already resides, but with the two as labelmates, it’s even better! Both bands’ pasts were already intertwined with Witchcraft guitarist/vocalist Magnus Pelander and Graveyard guitarist/vocalist Joakim Nilsson and bassist Rikard Eklund having been in under-appreciated Swedish proto-doom pioneers Norrsken together, but now their futures are interrelated as well.

So, with a host of links between the two acts, not to mention a stylistic core of ’70s worship running through both, I figured it’s time to find out which band inspires the most allegiance. Witchcraft hasn’t had a record since 2007′s The Alchemist continued the ascent to popularity that 2005′s Firewood and 2004′s self-titled began, but those albums — the first two particularly — helped set the stage for Graveyard to make their own run at heavy rocking glory, taking less direct influence from Pentagram, but still honing an ultra-analog approach on their 2007 self-titled debut and last year’s excellent Hisingen Blues.

Since it will have been five years by the time it gets out (not to mention a completely different band around Pelander) if Witchcraft has a new record in 2012, let’s make it as simple as possible and take the first album from each band. You could say Graveyard‘s songs are more rock and Witchcraft‘s more doom, but do you think the album Graveyard would have met the massive acclaim it did if not for Witchcraft paving the way? Or maybe you just think one is a better band than the other, flat out, not matter how many albums are involved? Let’s find out.

Witchcraft‘s Witchcraft vs. Graveyard‘s Graveyard. Take a second, revisit the bands/records below, and please leave a comment with your pick.

Witchcraft, “No Angel or Demon” from Witchcraft:

Graveyard, “Lost in Confusion” from Graveyard:

This is a tough one, but remember, the entire Swedish nation is depending on you, so, uh, no pressure. I’m pretty sure whoever wins this gets to be mayor of Stockholm for a week — yeah, it’s that big a deal. Hail Sweden.

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The Debate Rages: 35007 vs. Karma to Burn

Posted in The Debate Rages on April 23rd, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Okay, so maybe these two bands are stand-ins for bigger ideas, but think about it this way: The central question in looking at defunct Dutch psych proggers 35007 (on my mind following their inclusion in this month’s podcast) and reborn West Virginian riff bashers Karma to Burn is what do you want from an instrumental band? Do you want extensive musical exploration born out of freeform or structurally open jamming, or do you want head-down, driving rock, just without some singer guy blathering on about motorcycles and hey whoa baby yeah?

By way of examples, let’s take 35007‘s 2005 swansong, Phase V, and what was then Karma to Burn‘s second album, 1999′s Wild Wonderful Purgatory, which was the record that established them as an instrumental act following their 1997 self-titled debut. The 35007 made a bed of odd time signatures and underlying experiments in synth, resulting in a varied, eclectic presentation, where Karma to Burn‘s sophomore outing is among the most straightforward stoner rock albums, period. If it was any more stripped down, they wouldn’t be playing.

I’m not necessarily championing either as the best in the band’s catalog (though I’ll argue for Phase V in that regard), but looking to get a discussion going on what you want when you listen to instrumental heavy rock. Karma to Burn and 35007 — both pivotal and highly influential bands who got started around the same time in the early/mid ’90s — stand for very different things musically while still roughly residing in the same genre. So let’s do this:

Is it the expanded creative realm of 35007?

Or the balls-out, bullshit-free classicism of Karma to Burn?

You know the drill by now. These posts are always about having some fun, so wherever you stand, make sure you leave a comment below. I’m looking forward to seeing how this one turns out.

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The Debate Rages: Fu Manchu’s King of the Road vs. Nebula’s To the Center

Posted in The Debate Rages on March 15th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Not to overstate it, but these are two of the best stoner rock records ever.

Both released in 1999, they’re of an era where those who played it were still cool with being called “stoner rock bands.” The genre hadn’t yet exhausted its commercial reach, and though Kyuss had already been finished a few years, Monster Magnet had hit it big with “Space Lord” only the year before, so mainstream success was still regarded as a possibility for that which was fuzzed and riffy.

Nebula and Fu Manchu. You couldn’t have one without the other — literally. Guitarist/vocalist Eddie Glass and drummer Ruben Romano split from Fu Manchu after the release of 1996′s In Search Of… and would go on to form Nebula with bassist Mark Abshire (also formerly of the Fu), releasing their first EP, Let it Burn, in 1998. Just a year later, their first full-length, To the Center, became one of the most blissed-out desert rock albums ever, striking a landmark balance between trippy indulgences and memorable hooks. In many ways, it has never been matched.

Meanwhile, Fu Manchu guitarist/vocalist Scott Hill and bassist Brad Davis joined forces with guitarist Bob Balch and drummer Brant Bjork (ex-Kyuss) to issue The Action is Go in 1997. A work of absolute stoner/surfer glory, it set a bar for tone so high that bands today still try to capture the same magic (and usually don’t). The subsequent studio outing from the same lineup was 1999′s King of the Road, on which Fu Manchu further refined their process to a perfect balance of heaviness and pop appeal, inciting many landmark choruses on tracks like “Boogie Van” and “Hell on Wheels.”

Of all the “The Debate Rages” posts so far, I’m most interested to find out how people feel about this one, as it really doesn’t feel that cut and dry to me. Whatever either of these bands has done since (both discographies have their ups and downs), there’s no denying both these records are masterpieces that have helped define what we think of as stoner rock today.

But that said, the point is to have fun with it, so please, leave a comment and let’s have some fun. Thanks in advance.

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The Debate Rages: Master of Reality vs. Vol. 4

Posted in The Debate Rages on January 26th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Admittedly, it’s a cruel, heartless question to ask, and yet, can there be any doubt as to the answer? Could anything ever top Master of Reality? I ask the question mostly because I want to see if anyone sticks up for Vol. 4, which, apart from “Changes,” is about as flawless as an album can get. With the recent terrible news of Tony Iommi‘s lymphoma diagnosis, I think we’re due for a good time. So let’s have some fun.

Earliest Black Sabbath was nothing if not a coalescing of various elements into a cohesive whole. A kind of cultural distillation, ground down and remade into the singular most formative basis of doom — the album Black Sabbath. Only months later in 1970, they released Paranoid and refined the darkness of the first record, adding range and sonic breadth. While the title-track became the band’s signature piece, “Electric Funeral” and “Fairies Wear Boots” grew into the anthems of a subculture within a subculture, and they remain so to this day.

However, every time I put on Master of Reality and listen to it straight through, with each successive track, I say to myself, “This is the heaviest shit ever made.” And each song proves the prior assessment wrong — yes, even “Solitude” — until finally, “Into the Void” offers clear and indisputable truth of riff. It is pure in its muck, and as perfect as stoner rock has ever gotten. The standard by which the genre is and should be measured: the heaviest shit ever made.

But what about Vol. 4? It seems to have an answer for every challenge Master of Reality throws at it. A “Snowblind” for “Sweet Leaf,” “Supernaut” for “Into the Void,” “Under the Sun/Every Day Comes and Goes” for “Lord of this World.” 1972 found Black Sabbath a more realized beast with a perfected heavy rock that seemed to already know the tropes of the metal genre it was shaping.

I could go on. I won’t. Is “Changes” enough to hold back Vol. 4 from standing up to Master of Reality? There are people who consider “Solitude” a misstep of similar magnitude. I leave it to you to decide in the comments.

You know the scenario. You can only pick one, so which is it?

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The Debate Rages: Saint Vitus’ Saint Vitus vs. Pentagram’s Relentless

Posted in The Debate Rages on December 1st, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster

Of all the doom albums that have come out of America since the birth of the genre, these are probably the two that are the most singularly influential, the most pivotal, and at their base, the most doomed. Saint Vitus released their self-titled debut on Greg Ginn‘s SST Records in California in 1984, and one year later, the East Coast answered back with Pentagram‘s Relentless essentially marking the beginning of what we think of today as Maryland doom. The question of which is the superior album seems ridiculous even to ask, since I feel like what we should be doing is just being glad they were both made, but here goes:

Saint VitusSaint Vitus flew directly in the face of what was expected both of SST and of the SoCal underground. It was slow, it was lurching, and it was miserable. Saint Vitus did not have Black Flag‘s sense of self-righteous social rage — they had slow suicide with booze and pills. Their message was not of rising above, but of being buried at sea. Scott Reagers‘ vocals remain a blueprint for doom singers to follow, but try as so many do, the same black magic has never managed to be captured. Together with the foreboding bass of Mark Adams, the noise-infected guitar of Dave Chandler and Armando Acosta‘s unbreakable plod, the combination of elements was overwhelming. Even now, listening to Saint Vitus makes you feel like you’re drowning in it.

But if Chandler‘s guitar tone ever had a rival in that era, it came from Victor Griffin. One listen to the churning malevolence of “All Your Sins,” and there’s no question you’re hearing some of the most wretched doom since Sabbath‘s heyday. As much as Pentagram came to be known later for frontman Bobby Liebling‘s fabled drug addiction and a constantly rotating lineup, with Griffin, drummer Joe Hasselvander and bassist Martin Swaney (who had performed together as the trio Death Row), the band’s overdue first full-length was a milestone, and 26 years after its release, the title Relentless feels no less appropriate. “Sign of the Wolf,” “The Ghoul,” “Relentless,” “20 Buck Spin” — these are the standards by which we measure what doom has become since.

I could go on at length about both these records, but you get the point. Here’s what it boils down to: Two epics, two black covers, two of American doom’s greatest, and you’ve got to pick one. Damned if I can choose, but if you’re feeling more decisive, please, have at it in the comments.

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The Debate Rages: Blues for the Red Sun vs. Welcome to Sky Valley

Posted in The Debate Rages on October 24th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster

Last time, we took a look at some classic heavy ’70s artwork from Atomic Rooster and Buffalo, and that was fun, but let’s face it, there’s bigger fish to fry. For example, now that Californian desert legends Kyuss have been (mostly) resurrected in the form of the appropriately-exclamatory Kyuss Lives!, it becomes more necessary than ever to examine the legacy they left behind them in their first run. Kyuss: The gods of the ’90s desert!

The question in part comes down to lineup. For 1992′s Blues for the Red Sun, Kyuss consisted of drummer Brant Bjork, guitarist Josh Homme, bassist Nick Oliveri and vocalist John Garcia. Of those four, it was Bjork and Oliveri principally responsible for the songwriting. That remained true for 1994′s Kyuss, which would later adopt the unofficial title Welcome to Sky Valley (often shortened as just Sky Valley), but the swapping out of bassist Scott Reeder in place of Oliveri — a process which, it could be argued, is under way again now in Kyuss Lives! — had a huge impact on the band’s sound, accordingly with an increase in confidence, establishment of aesthetic, etc.

What’s not up for debate, however, is that these are two of the most classic and pivotal desert rock albums of all time. With landmark songs like “Thumb,” “Green Machine” and the truly post-punk “Allen’s Wrench,” Blues for the Red Sun helped set in motion the genre that would be centered around Palm Desert and the surrounding area, but the vision wasn’t completely realized until two years later, when Sky Valley was released. Broken into three larger movements, tracks like “Supa Scoopa and Mighty Scoop,” “100 Degrees,” the softer “Space Cadet” and the instrumental “Asteroid” solidified the sound that the prior album had proposed, arguing not just for its artistic relevance, but for the imperative blend of atmosphere and classic influence that has come to typify true desert rock.

But as much as that’s true, you couldn’t have had the one without the other. I know where my heart and listening habits place me, but what about you? Desert island scenario (or maybe just desert, if that’s more appropriate), you can only have one or the other. Which is more pivotal in terms of its influence, and which would you rather just hear for the rest of your life to the exclusion of the other? These seem like big questions — because both records are so great — but that’s why The Debate Rages.

Please cast your votes in the comments.

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The Debate Rages: Tittyhawk vs. the Ass-Volcano

Posted in The Debate Rages on October 6th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster

They’re both obviously classic heavy rock records. British outfit Atomic Rooster released their first album, Atomic Roooster (with the extra ‘o’), in 1970, and Aussie proto-doomers Buffalo unleashed Volcanic Rock three years later. If you’re standing in a store, and the two of them are there on the shelf in front of you, there’s no decision. You buy both.

But what I’m curious about in this new feature (that I hope will be a series from here on out, depending on the reaction/response it gets) is the artwork. Atomic Roooster and Volcanic Rock have some of the most ridiculous artwork ever put on a vinyl sleeve.

The first is a hawk trapped in a glass cube that inexplicably has breasts — and what’s up with that chair in the corner? — and the latter it what looks like a skull-faced neuter from Dragon Ball Z holding a giant penis over his head as he stands atop a giant volcano that turns out on the second half of the gatefold to be a woman’s ass and what may or may not be menstrual lava.

Each astounds in how little sense it makes, so I put it to you — which is the better cover?

Atomic Rooster, Atomic Roooster (1970)

or Buffalo, Volcanic Rock (1973)

Click either to enlarge the image, and leave your vote in the comments.

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