Posted in Whathaveyou on November 6th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
I take no small amount of comfort in knowing that some of Winter 2014′s darkest, coldest hours will have Alcest‘s sweet melodies to provide warmth. Recently off a co-headlining US tour with Anathema, the French post-black metal forerunners will issue their fourth album, Shelter, through Prophecy Productions, with distribution through Dismanic/eOne, on Jan. 21. The album will be the follow-up to 2012′s Les Voyages de l’Âme (review here), which boasted some of Alcest‘s most gorgeous and complex material yet. As the band apparently traveled to Iceland to record Shelter, some interesting changes may be in store. I look forward to finding out how they manifest.
The PR wire sends word:
French dream-pop exemplars ALCEST issuing 4th release in U.S.
Shelter is the fourth release from latterday French Dream-pop exemplars Alcest. The album is the result of a long journey into vast new creative terrain . Mastermind and multi-instrumentalist Neige and drummer Winterhalter pile up the thick, layered cloud banks of multiple guitars and of classic Shoegazery and blend it with the sweet melodicism of pioneering post-punk Brits like the Cocteau Twins, as well as epic, soundtrack-like melodies and prog-leaning song structures. Shelter is being released by Prophecy Productions, distributed by Dismanic/eOne January 21, 2014.
Shelter features guest appearances from Slowdive’s Neil Halstead (lead vocals on “Away”), Billie Lindahl from Sweden’s Promise And The Monster’s and Amiina’s strings sections. The album was recorded at Sundlaugin Studio, Iceland, with Sigur Rós producer Birgir Jón Birgisson.
The title of the album, “Shelter,” describes its concept. These songs are about shelter as a safe place that allows everybody to escape reality for an instant, to reunite with what we really are, deep down. Neige’s own escape was to the sea, and all the songs here were inspired by and dedicated to it.
Alcest was founded in the year 2000, and via with releases such as Le Secret(2005) and Souvenirs d’un autre monde (2007) virtually created the post Black Metal Shoegaze/Black Metal “Blackgaze“ genre. Over the years, Alcest helped make this style surprisingly popular around the world and continue to be its foremost proponents. Since 2010, Alcest have toured Europe, North America, Asia and Australia. In 2012, they released Les Voyages De L’Ame which saw remarkable worldwide sales, landed them on magazine covers and BBC sessions.
As they’ve evolved, Alcest have left behind most of their Metal influences and with the help of Sigur Rós producer Birgir Jón Birgisson have wrought a markedly light and ethereal sound on Shelter.
Posted in Whathaveyou on June 26th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
I know that given the atmospheric nature of both these bands, an Anathema and Alcest co-headlining tour isn’t the kind of thing one would usually go “Fuck yes!” about, but still: Fuck yes! No word on whose brilliant idea it was to team up the French and British outfits for a run of US and Canadian shows, but to whoever, well played. Alcest were killer at Roadburn this year and even in the we’re-a-happy-prog-band mode Anathema showed off on last year’s Weather Systems LP (review here), they’ll make a good fit, and with Aaron Turner‘s Mamiffer opening, it’s going to be a gloriously gloomy night.
This September and October, PROPHECY PRODUCTIONS artists ALCEST will take a break from work on their upcoming fourth album to embark on a co-headlining tour across the United States and Canada with masters of atmospheric rock Anathema. Founding ALCEST visionary Neige had the following to say about the upcoming tour: “We feel honored to tour with Anathema and [openers] Mamiffer. For years, Anathema have been making this unique mix of prog and emotional rock. Mamiffer is the post-rock/experimental band of Faith Coloccia and Aaron Turner, talented Isis founding member and founder of Hydra Head Records. Sounds like a diverse and attractive billing! And this will also be the opportunity for us to play a few songs from our next album. See you in a few months!”
The confirmed dates + venues are as follows: 9/12 – Philadelphia, PA @ Underground Arts 9/13 – Springfield, VA @ Empire 9/14 – New York, NY @ Gramercy Theater 9/15 – Boston, MA @ Middle East 9/16 – Montreal, QC @ Foufounes Electriques 9/18 – Toronto, ON @ Opera House 9/19 – Flint, MI @ The Machine Shop 9/20 – Cleveland, OH @ Peabody’s 9/21 – Chicago, IL @ Reggie’s 9/22 – Minneapolis, MN @ Mill City Nights 9/24 – Denver, CO @ Summit City Music Hall 9/25 – Salt Lake City, UT @ In The Venue 9/26 – Boise, ID @ Knitting Factory 9/27 – Seattle, WA @ Studio Seven 9/28 – Vancouver, BC @ Rickshaw Theater 9/29 – Portland, OR @ Hawthorne Theater 10/1 – Oakland, CA @ Oakland Opera House 10/3 – Los Angeles, CA @ El Rey Theater 10/4 – San Diego, CA @ The Casbah 10/5 – Tempe, AZ @ The Marquee Theater
Posted in Features on April 20th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
04.21.13 — 00.25 — Sunday morning — Hotel Mercure, Tilburg
Before Black Magician went on at Het Patronaat to start off day three of Roadburn 2013 and the final day of the fest proper (the ceremonial Afterburner is tomorrow with two stages instead of four-plus), there was a showingof Costin Chioreanu‘s animated short film, Outside the Great Circle, which made its premiere earlier this weekend. The Romanian guitarist has played with a ton of bands and did the soundtrack for the film as well with help from Attila Csihar, whose vocals were immediately recognizable, and a host of others. Pretty heavy on the visual metaphors and there were a couple points where the digital animation style seemed awkward, but apparently it was Chioreanu‘s first time out as an animator, so I’m not about to rip on the effort.
If nothing else, it made the wait for Black Magician significantly less grueling than the one for Dread Sovereign was yesterday, though sleeping later also eased some of that burden. In any case, I was there in plenty of time to catch Black Magician‘s set, which followed in post-Cathedral suit with some of what Witchsorrow got up to last evening and had me once again thinking about what it is that makes British doom British and American doom American. One of these days I’m going to sit down with a piece of posterboard and a list of bands — Trouble and Death Row here, Cathedral and Pagan Altar there — and get it figured out. In any case, the Liverpudlian fivesome belted out weighted riffs and trudging nod, earning the support of both the UK contingent in the crowd, which was sizable, and the rest.
Their 2012 debut, Nature is the Devil’s Church, which I was hoping to buy but will have to pick up next week in London, was well represented, and frontman Liam Yates underscored the classic influences while prevalent organ — Matt Ford played on the album, presumably it was also him live — complemented Kyle Nesbitt‘s guitar and offered a distinguishing factor for the band. Yates is a charismatic presence up front. As they took the stage, he announced in no uncertain terms, “We are Black Magician and we play doom metal,” in the we-are-we-play Motörhead tradition, and before a new song which he dedicated to, “all you Catholics out there,” he announced that Black Magician‘s next release would be on Svart Records, so I guess congratulations are also in order, both to the band and to Shaman Recordings in getting their name out.
No shocker, they lived up to the “We play doom metal” promise, and though Nesbitt seemed less comfortable in the extended solo that started their final song, the extended “Chattox” that also closes the record, than he did while riffing out, they still came out of that long intro and crashed into the slowly unfolding verse unscathed. Over at the Main Stage of the 013, French post-black metal trailblazers Alcest were getting ready to go on. Fronted by 2013 artist-in-residence Neige, they also played in 2011 (review here), and put up a much, much better performance than I recall the last one being. Part of it has to be the fact that their 2012 third full-length, Les Voyages de l’Âme (review here), was superb — I mean that — and gave Neige a little more space to change things up, adding screams on “Là Où Naissent les Couleurs Nouvelles” while also generally sounding like a stronger singer as well.
Backing him was the same second guitarist/vocalist who had been with Les Discrets alongside Fursy Teyssier while Neige played bass, and here as with the other act, he also added a lot to the lush melodies. Drummer Winterhalter set up on the side of the stage and had a laptop open for the synth parts and other ambient whathaveyous — it was, I believe, the first laptop I’ve seen all weekend — and it was put to good use on “Beings of Light” from Les Voyagesand its memorable bookends, opener “Autre Temps” and closer “Summer’s Glory.” Perhaps most impressive of all, Alcest managed both to capture the serene melodic wash of their studio output and still give an engaging live show, striking a difficult balance and providing a sound follow-up/answer-back to Les Discrets‘ set at Het Patronaat. They were an unexpected highlight of the day.
While they played, Camera were getting ready to go on over in the Green Room. I only watched a couple minutes through the door, and though they had a laptop, they put it to much different use, setting a space-jammy tone and fleshing it out via personal computing. I’d get my fix of cosmic improv later with The Cosmic Dead and Endless Boogie, so I jive-turkeyed my way into Stage01 for the first time of the whole fest, managing to get in just after Raketkanon finished in order to see Texas fuzzers Wo Fat. Of everything that Roadburn 2013 has had to offer over the last three days, the balls-out stoner rock contingent has been relatively quiet (though I hear good things about Candybar Planet) in favor of doom, heavy psych, black metal and that specific kind of “other” that has become Roadburn‘s bread and butter these last few years, so I knew there was going to be a good crowd for Wo Fat, who rose to the challenge and dug right into the dirt with the title-track of last year’s excellent fourth album, The Black Code(review here), well representing their home state, American heavy rock, and well-spirited riffage. I can’t speak for everyone, but for my tired ass, they were an existential tonic. A pick-me-up like the espresso I’d soon grab from the machine in the merch area.
The three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump, bassist Tim Wilson and drummer/backing vocalist Michael Walter didn’t exactly shy away from jamming on The Black Code, and their set followed a similar ethic, Stump taking extended solos while Wilson absolutely nailed the grooves underlying and Walter held all the pieces together. They were glad to be there, everyone seemed to be glad they were there — it was awesome. I immediately had “The Black Code” stuck in my head and figured that if I had to spend the rest of the night with that groove on mental jukebox perma-repeat, I had no problem with that. “Descent into the Maelstrom” from 2011′s Noche del Chupacabrawas preceded by “Hurt at Gone,” which featured a few highlight leads, and they rounded out with the last two tracks from the latest LP, “The Shard of Leng” and “Sleep of the Black Lotus,” which meant they played the whole record, just not in order, plus “Descent into the Maelstrom” and “Enter the Riffian,” from 2009′s Psychedelonaut. This being their first European tour, and first real tour in general unless they went to Japan without telling anybody, I wouldn’t be surprised if they come out of it a much tighter, different band than they came into it. Clearly they were relishing every second of the Roadburn experience.
And while I watched them, so was I. I felt refreshed on my way to see Victor Griffin’s In~Graved in the Green Room, making sure to get there in plenty of time to get up front. Griffin, of course, is American doom nobility as much as anyone can be, with a pedigree that traces back through Place of Skulls to Pentagram to Death Row, but as he’s joined in In~Graved by bassist Guy Pinhas (Goatsnake, The Obsessed, etc.), keyboardist Jeff “Oly” Olson (former Trouble drummer) and drummer “Minnesota” Pete Campbell (Sixty Watt Shaman and Place of Skulls, among others), it’s something of a supergroup. Their recently-released self-titled debut (review here) for sure is Griffin doing what he does best, singing and playing guitar with his unmistakable tone and professing his faith in song. He was in his element at Roadburn 2013, and said it was good to be back. I saw him here in 2010 with a Death Row reunion and again in 2011 with Pentagram, and he’s got his thing and it works well for him. He led In~Graved in such a manner as to be fitting of having his name in front.
“Digital Critic,” which also started the record, opened. My issues with the subject matter notwithstanding (because if anyone needs a good shitting on, it’s bloggers; actually, if the song was about poor syntax and needless hyperbole, I’d be down with it), they were tight, and “What If” followed, immediately establishing the dynamic of the band, with Olson‘s keys playing a major role in enriching the melodies and underscoring the grooves of Griffin‘s riffs. It seemed to me that’s where the real potential for In~Graved lies. Here Victor Griffin has this awesome band that’s out on tour. Pinhas on bass is a rhythm section unto himself, and he and Campbell were locked in from the first note, so what I’m left wondering about In~Graved is what happens next? Where do they go from here? Is it a real band or a Griffin project with a revolving door membership? Seems to me that this lineup could yield some fantastic material if they wrote together. I don’t know how feasible that is — last I heard, Pinhas lived in California, and everyone involved seems to have plenty going on besides, so scheduling could be a nightmare — but they had potential to be a real band and not just a touring lineup. We live in a universe of infinite possibility. Maybe it’ll happen, maybe they’ll do this European tour and never speak again. Who knows.
High on Fire delivered their second set of the weekend on the Main Stage. Thursday night’s headlining slot was Art of Self Defense-only, so this one replied with selections from the rest of the trio’s catalog, launching with the rush of De Vermis Mysteriisopener “Serums of Laio” and weaving a vicious blood trail through material from Surrounded by Thieveson, cuts like “Devilution,” “Frost Hammer” (Jeff Matz joining Matt Pike on vocals), “Rumors of War,” “Madness of an Architect” and “Eyes and Teeth” melding together in a career-spanning sampler that may have been missing the first album’s highlights, but in the context of the other spot still made sense. It hadn’t been that long since I had seen them do most of this material, late last year in Philly, but they never disappoint live and this was no exception. Who could complain about two High on Fire sets in one weekend? Not me, not this weekend, though I knew with Elder still to come there was much more of the day to be had, and so I took a quick break for dinner — fish, rice, salad — and to pick up some Cosmic Dead tapes from the merch area. More espresso was the right choice as well.
I sat outside Het Patronaat for a few minutes to get caught up on my notes and drink said coffee in the fresh air — actually it kind of smelled like old potatoes, but that’s still fresher than inside — but wound up going in to see a bit of UK black metal progressives A Forest of Stars, who wound up being probably the most elaborate act of the whole fest, between the double-guitars, violin, flute, keys, extra percussion, ebow, multiple vocalists, shirts and ties, and so on. It was a far cry from High on Fire, to be sure, as screamer Dan Eyre stood almost perfectly still to seethe when he had a break as the band around him continued their well-received onslaught. The people there knew who they were — Roadburn‘s a pretty hip crowd anyway — but I didn’t, so for just being something different, it was exciting even though what they were doing, black metal tinged with psych and folk influences, isn’t really where my head is at. Very atmospheric, very complex, very intense, mixing clean vocals and screams and everything else. I can’t imagine getting seven people to agree on anything, let alone be in a band, so kudos are in order.
The reason I was there, though, was for Elder, who played next. What a fucking blast. Seriously. That’s what it says in my notes: “What a fucking blast.” It’s a direct quote. Probably the best thing I can compare it to is when Black Pyramid played the Afterburner in 2011 and were given such a warm reception, but this was bigger, both in room size and in that reception itself. Similar to Goat last night, people were lined up out the door and down the alley to see Elder‘s Roadburn debut, and the crowd was cheering before they even started the first song. They waved and people cheered. It was a lot of fun to see, and as it was the 10th show on their 15-date European run with Pet the Preacher (who played earlier at another club down the way as a kind of annex to the festival), they also handed the place its collective ass. Both cuts from the Spires Burn/ReleaseEP were included, as well as “Dead Roots Stirring” and a host of others, and for the umpteenth time in the last couple days, I felt lucky to be there. I know for a lot of people, this was the first time they’re getting to see them live, but even for the several times I have, this one was something special. I’ve got my train booked to London in time to see them in Camden Town on Monday. Fingers crossed it actually works out.
My thought was to catch Mr. Peter Hayden at Stage01, but didn’t get there in time and so missed it. Drowned my sorrows instead in a few Electric Moon CDs — there are so many! — and ran back to drop them off at the hotel before heading back to the Main Stage for Godflesh. While I’m feeling lucky, I felt lucky to see Godflesh do Streetcleanerfront-to-back two years ago, so I guess I’m twice-over lucky as regards the seminal Justin Broadrick-led outfit for having now seen them do 1992′s sophomore full-length, Pure,as well. If it comes to it, I wouldn’t object if Broadrick and bassist B.C. Green wanted to go year-by-year through the whole catalog and wind up at 2001′s Hymns, but I doubt it will come to that. I had been wondering whatever became of the new record he alluded to when interviewed here for the last Jesu full-length, but nobody seemed to mind a roll through Pure — at least I didn’t hear any groans, “Oh, this again,” and so on — and from the sheer damage that material can inflict, it’s no real wonder why. Apparently one of the byproducts of being so ahead of your time is that later on your output is still vital. Go figure.
Now, I’m not going to claim to be the biggest Godflesh fan in the world. To me, they’re a band I’ve appreciated more in hindsight — hearing their records years after the fact and recognizing the parts that others have ripped off; there’s no shortage — but I don’t honestly think they would’ve worked as anything but the headliner for this final night of Roadburn. The energy and the volume they bring, Broadrick, Green and the drum machine, didn’t really leave room to be built upon. Robert Hampson, who played on Pure and the preceding 1991 Cold World EP following the dissolution of his band Loop that year and who also did a solo set on Thursday, joined them on second guitar, so that the three were spread out across the stage, Broadrick on the right, Green on the left and Hampson in the middle.
It only got louder and more pulsating from there. I made my way over to Stage01 to watch some of Mr. Peter Hayden through the open door — I had really wanted to see them — and even then, the sounds I was getting was a mixture of their heavy-as-hell psych freakout and Godflesh‘s dissatisfied industrial frustrations. Figuring that I was going to want to work my way up anyway for The Cosmic Dead‘s 23.15 start, I started through the crowd as Mr. Peter Hayden did a sort of space rocking baptism rite on the front row that involved a tinfoil-covered hand. Seemed like a great set, and it certainly ended riotous enough, but having missed them, there was no way I was letting The Cosmic Dead go unseen. I got to the front of the stage just in time to see Mr. Peter Hayden sell a DVD to the dude standing next to me for 10 Euro that I’m pretty sure was the visuals that were playing behind them and not, as I’m relatively sure this guy thought it was, a live video of what they’d just played. The day had been long for everyone.
But The Cosmic Dead were something of an arrival for me. You see, I knew this day was going to end jammy and spaced out, and so when I got up front at Stage01, it was the proverbial home stretch. My feet were sore, my back was sore, I smelled like other people’s smoke and the fish I ate for dinner, but dammit, I wanted to see the Scottish band bring their heavy space to life. I didn’t have much time, because New York’s Endless Boogie were going on the Main Stage at 23.50, but I’d get in what I could. This was fine until The Cosmic Dead made it apparent they were running on SRT (“stoner rock time”). They started closer to 23.30, which meant I had all of five minutes before I had to head out and see the last band. In my head, the voice of Lana from Archer made a “womp womp” noise, though what I saw of The Cosmic Dead was right on. The bassist set up facing away from the audience, and they were so densely fogged up from the smoke machine that one almost had to take the sound’s word for it that they were there in the first place, but they made it known that they’re in it for the jams. What little I got to see was a boon.
Earlier in the day, I was asked why I wouldn’t just go see Endless Boogie in New York. They’re from New York and I live in New Jersey, about an hour away. It makes sense. Well, the thing is some of the shows they play in New York are terrible, and I get bummed out at terrible shows. If you’re ever going to see a band live, no matter who they are or what they do, in my experience, there’s no better place to see them than at Roadburn. I’ve seen some awesome shit in my day, and when it came to me and Endless Boogie, I knew that if I was gonna run into their low-end moody improv, this was how I wanted it to happen. Asphyx were playing at Het Patronaat, but I didn’t care. I watched guitarist/vocalist Paul “Top Dollar” Major preach impromptu about whatever the hell he felt like while Endless Boogie smoothed their way into an all-flavor/no-filler groove that I think was loosely based on one of the cuts from this year’s Long Island(review here) but ultimately headed somewhere else.
The same could be said for me. I’d stayed later than the last two nights to at least get a glimpse of The Cosmic Dead and Endless Boogie, but with this ahead of me, I knew my time was limited and that I needed to get back to the hotel and start with the clacky-clacky. Tomorrow is the Afterburner — like Roadburn‘s (relatively) laid back way of transitioning its audience back into real life. There’s always a cool vibe throughout the day and from Sigh and Nihil to Golden Void and Electric Moon, I’m sure tomorrow will be no exception. First though, sleep. I lost track this morning of what day it actually was and started doing work that needed to be in by Monday — and post time after sorting through the 80 pics with this post is 06.30; I have not slept — so maybe I’m a little frayed, but nothing I’ve thus far encountered has made me regret any of this.
Whatever medium you enjoy music through, LPs, CDs, digital, tapes, reel-to-reel, Edison cylinders, the fact of the matter is that artwork — the visual representation of the album — makes a huge difference in the overall impression a record makes. There are bands who slave away for months negotiating fine details with artists and there are bands who snap a picture of themselves and throw it out front on their way to grab their next beer. Both methods have yielded classic results.
As 2012 winds down, I thought it might be fun to go back to the start of the year and take a look at some of the best album art that accompanied some killer albums. This isn’t the Best Albums list, just some of what I think is the Best Art. I’ll try my best to keep my reasons short as we go along alphabetically:
Alcest, Les Voyages de l’Âme
The sort of gloomy lushness that artist Fursy Teyssier brought to the cover for Alcest‘s Les Voyages de l’Âme was breathtaking from the first glance. Teyssier (also of Les Discrets; interview here) wonderfully captured the morose beauty in Alcest‘s music and painted a masterpiece that transcended “rock art” as much as the album itself transcended black metal or any other genre in which one might try to pigeonhole it.
The sentinel that has now graced the cover of the last couple Conan releases has mirrored the British act’s ascent in joining the ranks of great heavy metal mascots. Tony Roberts, who drew the piece on the cover of Monnos, has become an essential part of the band’s mythology, meeting their ultra-crushing tonality with visuals that seem to work in atmospheres no less oppressively brutal. If art was ever heavy, it was heavy here.
A pretty simple idea, but wonderfully executed, the front of Portland neo-traditionalists Doomsower‘s debut EP, 1974, came from an EPA photo documentary project that took place the same year. I picked it for this list not because it was so intricate or anything like that, but proof that sometimes something that seems basic can also be just right for the songs — the rails parallel, but joining, seeming to indicate Doomsower‘s journey undertaken.
Electric Moon, The Doomsday Machine
The question wasn’t so much would there be an Electric Moon cover on this list, but which one? The prolific German heavy psych jammers have a cache of treasure in the work of bassist Komet Lulu, and when it came time to choose from among the several recordings the band released in 2012, The Doomsday Machine stood out as a departure from the bright colors and classic psychedelia, being a painting by Lulu‘s father, Ulla Papel. Here’s to genetics.
Groan, The Divine Right of Kings
Having also handled Groan‘s split with Finnish trad doomers Vinum Sabbatum, W. Ralph Walters outdid himself with Groan‘s full-length follow-up, The Divine Right of Kings. With strong References to Hieronymus Bosch‘s vision of hell, Walters visualized the band’s move into classic metal and mixed it with manic get-stoned-and-stare kitchen-sinkery much as Groan continued to consort with brash heavy rock and doom. Walters‘ work on Blue Aside‘s The Moles of a Dying Race was no less distinct an achievement.
Larman Clamor, Frogs
Aside from thinking frogs are awesome in general, I was stoked to see how incredibly well Alexander von Wieding‘s art for his band Larman Clamor‘s 2012 offering fit the music. Otherworldly, darkly psychedelic and caked in haze, the dead stare of the frankenfrog on the front of Frogs perfectly matched von Wieding‘s swampy, bluesy style and looked even better on vinyl. Having also contributed to records by Lord Fowl, Wo Fat, Cortez and others this year, von Wieding has made himself one of the most essential heavy rock artists the world over.
Neurosis, Honor Found in Decay
Were it not for the discussion about the process of putting it together in the interview I did with Neurosis guitarist/vocalist Steve Von Till at the end of October, Josh Graham‘s cover for Honor Found in Decay — especially being so similar in idea to his work on Soundgarden‘s King Animal — probably wouldn’t have made this list, but knowing the level of construction that went into making the piece, from painting the jawbones to using artifact arrowheads from Slovakia, I couldn’t help but see it in a different light. Graham‘s ended his association with Neurosis, but if this is how he went out, they couldn’t have asked for more.
I had spent some serious time with Summoner‘s Phoenix by then, had been in talks with the band about releasing it on The Maple Forum, but it wasn’t until I held the LP in my hands at SHoD and really saw the Alyssa Maucere cover in-person that I realized what I was looking at. And once you see it, it’s not really subtle at all. Get it yet? There’s a cock and balls on the right side. I gotta give it to the Boston outfit and to Maucere for sneaking and yet not at all sneaking that one in there. Hey, if you don’t appreciate some phallic humor every now and again, you’re probably not going to start a website called The Obelisk.
Ufomammut, Oro: Opus Primum & Oro: Opus Alter
Is it cheating to include both covers from Ufomammut‘s Oro two-album series? Probably. Do I give a shit? Not in the slightest, because the Italian collective — who for visual purposes go by the name Malleus — tapped into new territory of psych art with the pieces for Oro: Opus Primum and Oro: Opus Alter, manifesting the idea of “psychedelic metal” in the actual style and inks used, while also contrasting dark and light and conveying the permanent nature of gold itself and the notions of hypnotic ritual that show up in their music. These covers were proof that Ufomammut are more than just the masters of their sound.
Another Tony Roberts creation, but in a completely different style from Conan‘s Monnos above, the bleak cover of UK nautical doomers Undersmile‘s 80-minute debut LP Narwhal seemed to embody everything the band had to offer on the album. It was dark, with hard drawn structural lines, but also sprawling, encompassing every panel of the digipak and running into the liner much as Undersmile‘s oceanic themes ran into every minute of the music, crushingly heavy or minimalist and ambient. Less about the titular creature within and more about the sea itself, it conveyed an utter hopelessness and the smallness of humanity when set against something so massive as the sea.
There were plenty more I could’ve included here — records from High on Fire, Om, Graveyard, Wight, Caltrop, Ancestors, Samothrace, Vulture and several others all are worthy of honorable mention, but for one reason or another, these were the standouts to me and I hope you agree that even in this go-ahead-and-download-it age of immediate convenience, the visual art remains pivotal to an album experience.
Someone you think got left out? If you’ve got any suggestions to add, agreements or disagreements, I’d love to get a discussion going in the comments, so please, have at it.
Posted in Whathaveyou on August 30th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
The really crazy thing about it is there’s so much more to come from Roadburn 2013 as the fest starts to take shape. Already it’s been a wildly diverse lineup of bands added, and with the announcement today that Neige of French post-black metallers Alcest will be the artist-in-residence this year, performing with his band,
Neige Announced As Artist in Residence For Roadburn Festival 2013; Asphyx, A Forest of Stars, Mourning Beloveth and Goat among others confirmed as well.
France’s Neige will be Artist in Residence at Roadburn Festival 2013, set for April 18 – 21 at the 013 venue in Tilburg, Holland.
French black metal has always been conceptually diverse, a leading force in pushing the boundaries of the genre. Whether it’s the experimental, nihilistic, buzzing approach of Deathspell Omega and Blut Aus Nord, or Alcest’s soaring, emotional meld of Slinty post rock, spidery, shimmery shoegaze, ambient sounscapes, and black metal fuzz, the French are definitely in the vanguard.
Not surprising then, given Roadburn’s penchant for honoring the innovators, that Alcest mastermind Neige is our Artist in Residence for Roadburn 2013.Neige will carry on a tradition that began at the Roadburn Festival in 2010 with Enslaved, followed by Circle in 2011 and Justin K Broadrick in 2012.
“I remember it was such an honour for us when Alcest was asked to play at the 2011 edition of Roadburn festival”, says Neige. “We only started doing shows a short time before so it was an important step in the band’s existence. For 2013, they offered me to be here again as artist in residence and to perform on all three days of the festival with three different bands: Lantlôs, Les Discrets and Alcest (playing Les Voyages de L’âme in its entirety).
“I feel so glad to get the recognition of such a respected event. It is once again a great honour and I would like to thank the festival’s team for their confidence. Roadburn is one of the best experimental music events in the world, with billings that please the lovers of these kinds of music year by year. I will for sure do my very best to do justice to this status by giving captivating performances together with my bandmates.”
We’re extremely pleased to announce that Asphyx will be playing a special set of their slowest death / doom (only throwing in a couple buzzing, diabolical tracks for good measure) at the Roadburn Festival 2013 on Saturday, April 20th.
By releasing 2012′s stunning Deathhammer (Century Media), the band is keeping traditional death metal as true, honest and thrilling as ever. However, especially for Roadburn Festival 2013, Asphyx will put emphasis on their most epic, crushing material, played with guts and balls, and which will guarantee pure doom/death rapture. Along the way, Asphyx’ undisputable influence on many bands that have shredded Roadburn stages will become apparent as well.
The British Empire’s Gentlemen’s Club of A Forest of Stars have been confirmed for Roadburn Festival 2013 on Saturday, April 20th at Het Patronaat in Tilburg, Holland.
For the first (and possibly only) time at the request of this festival’s patrons A Forest of Stars will be performing their new album A Shadowplay for Yesterdays in its entirety, replete with the appropriate imagery, smoke, lighting and mirrors.
Mourning Beloveth, Ireland’s purveyors of death and doom for over 20 years, will be playing their classic second album, The Sullen Sulcus, in its entirety for the first time ever at Roadburn Festival 2013 on Thursday, April 18th.
“It is with pleasure we announce our participation in Roadburn 2013 and to mark the occasion we have decided to play, in full, our 2003 album The Sullen Sulcus”, says Mourning Beloveth’s Darren Moore, “We have spoken among ourselves over the years on doing a set dedicated to one album and now seems the perfect opportunity at a festival dedicated to the eclectic and underground movement in metal. This will coincide with the first official release of The Sullen Sulcus for the first time on vinyl with revised artwork. So bring your nightmares in red and enjoy our set, we may even have another surprise in store on the night.”
Looking for psych-spiced space jams?In search of a little something to expand your mind? Brothers and sisters, we are pleased to announce that Portugal’s Black Bombaim will be bringing their largely instrumental and experimental heaviness to Roadburn Festival 2013 on Thursday, April 18th at the 013 venue in Tilburg, Holland.
While there are plenty of loyal ‘burners who make the trek from the Iberian peninsula to the festival each spring, this is the first time in Roadburn history that a Portuguese band will be on the bill and we are very excited about it. Currently riding high on the release of their latest album Titans, featuring guests including Steve Mackay (Stooges), Isaiah Mitchell (Earthless / Howlin Rain) and Noel V. Harmonson (Comets on Fire), Black Bombaim will whisk you away on a swirling, sun-kissed psychedelic trip. Prepare for lift off!
Black Bombaim, Blues Pills, Castle, Eternal Tapestry, Hills, Hour of 13, Jess and the Ancient Ones, Kadavar, The Ruins of Beverast, Pilgrim, Sigh and Teeth of the Sea have also been confirmed for Roadburn Festival 2013.Roadburn Festival 2013, including Electric Wizard’ s curated event, Godflesh playing Pure in its entirety for the first time ever and Die Kreuzen reunion among others, will run for four days from Thursday, April 18th to Sunday, April 21st, 2013 (the traditional Afterburner event) at the 013 venue in Tilburg, Holland.
Posted in Reviews on January 27th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
With their signature crushing emotional weight in tow, French post-black metal forerunners Alcest return in 2012 with their third album, Les Voyages de l’Âme. The eight-track record, the title of which translates to “the journeys of the soul,” keeps its focus musically on Alcest’s well-developed melodic wash, toying with blastbeats, screams and other black metal genre conventions in the interest of exploring the kind of head-down melancholy that brought such notoriety to past efforts Écailles de Lune (2010; half-review here) and Souvenirs d’un Autre Monde (2007) and placed Alcest multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Stéphane “Neige” Paut at the head of a melodic movement championed by the label Prophecy Productions and acts like Les Discrets, Arctic Plateau and Lantlôs, of which Paut is also a member. Along with drummer Winterhalter (also of Les Discrets), who joined in 2009, Paut has long since established the sonic course of Alcest as a band. Indeed, even on the two extended tracks of 2005’s Le Secret EP, it seemed a specific aesthetic was driving Neige’s songwriting, and that has remained true and consistent across the ensuing releases – in conjunction with a steady touring schedule, that consistency is part of what has allowed Alcest to attain the profile they have. At times, it has felt like that adherence to aesthetic has trumped the actual songwriting in the creative process – songs have been more about the mood they generate or add to – and where that might also be the case given the overall affect of Les Voyages de l’Âme, there’s no question that the third full-length has Alcest’s most directly memorable material to date.
As compares to the relatively jagged guitar sound of Écailles de Lune, Les Voyages de l’Âme seems to have more in common with Souvenirs d’un Autre Monde in terms of its production. Neige’s guitar, bass and keys come through clearly and smooth, and right away on opener “Autre Temps,” it’s apparent that Alcest had definite structural ideas going into this album. “Autre Temps” was chosen as the lead-off single/video cut, and rightly so with its balance of catchy wistfulness and gracefully unfolding melody. The vocals are prominent without being overbearing, and play a considerable role in making the chorus so ethereal. Guitars are layered in acoustics and electrics, and Winterhalter’s drumming maintains a metallic percussive edge without sounding out of place amid the song’s gradual build. As ever for Alcest, “Autre Temps” evokes a feeling of longing and a contemplative kind of classical sadness. “Là Où Naissent les Couleurs Nouvelles” follows and revives the black metal screams that “Percées De Lumière” from Écailles de Lune explored, in this context using them to complement the melody in the chorus and eventually take the fore. Winterhalter adds blasts, and were the guitars not so unabashedly gorgeous and the melody not still so prominent, “Là Où Naissent les Couleurs Nouvelles” would essentially be traditional black metal. It’s not, and the song’s later minutes emphasize a propulsive post-rock feel, capping the nine minutes with fading guitar that brings on the title-track’s headphone-worthy density. Squiggly guitars serve as a chorus amid more subdued, lower-register verse vocals, and the initial sway breaks after three minutes to embark on Les Voyages de l’Âme’s most effective musical and vocal build, on which both Neige and Winterhalter contribute to a vast, stirring sprawl. Side A wraps with the winding verses of “Nous Sommes l’Emeraude,” a fitting (if short addition) to Alcest’s worship of nature and the passage of time within it.
…And in case you’re wondering, yes, it does feature children running in the forest.
Actually, it features children running in the forest and some pretty thickly laid-on imagery about the journey of life, but it also features the new song, “Autre Temps,” which is the first single from French post-black metallers Alcest‘s upcoming album, Les Voyages de l’Âme (translated: “The Journeys of the Soul”), set for release in January.
“Autre Temps” is available as a vinyl single now via the master purveyors of the artfully wistful, Prophecy Productions. Check that out here if you’re so inclined, and please enjoy the clip for the song below:
I’m about 30 reviews in the hole as of today, and by that I mean I’ve got 27 band names on my “Reviews To-Do” list. Not complaining. I’m glad that bands get in touch, want their stuff written up, etc. It just takes time. And, as I know I’ve said before, if there are that many albums people sent in backlogged, it’s not really fair for me to review stuff I’ve bought just because I like it. I’m sure I could get away with it and no one would know or care, but I’d feel like a dick.
So here we are. When last we met under these terms, I was raving about the genius of the latest Wovenhand and Master Musicians of Bukkake. Still killer records, both of which are on my ongoing best-of-2010 consideration list (I like making lists). Newly joining said list are two recently-purchased works by British dark/alt folk troupe Crippled Black Phoenix and French one-man post-black metal outfit Alcest. Let’s take a look:
I didn’t even know Crippled Black Phoenix had a new full-length coming out until I saw I, Vigilante had been released. Their prior 200 Tons of Bad Luck was one of my favorites of last year, so there was no way I was going to miss the follow-up. I placed my order even as I was still making my way through the album stream on Bandcamp, and was excited to find even more than the listed five tracks when the physical CD showed up in the mail.
Those familiar with Crippled Black Phoenix‘s sound won’t be surprised by the turns they take here (the ending cover aside), but they do what they do so well, and it’s all so miserablyEnglish, that I swear every time I put I, Vigilante on the sky gets cloudy. Their songwriting has developed and they tone down some of the oddball elements that showed up on the double-CD set The Resurrectionists/Night Raider from which 200 Tons of Bad Luck was culled, focusing instead on songcraft and tight but still natural-sounding performances. The only trouble with Crippled Black Phoenix is I’m not finished absorbing an album before they put out the next one. As much as I’ve already enjoyed it, I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of I, Vigilante.
Alcest played New York this year and I missed them through my own negligence, laziness and scheduling deficiencies, so I wanted to make sure I picked up Écailles de Lune when I could. I finally found the album in Kim’s Video and Music on 1st Ave. in NYC, full price, new, for $17 and bought it. It’s more than I’d prefer to pay, but screw it, the other Kim’s went out of business and I was feeling saucy. I popped in the disc the next morning and was surprised to find that sole Alcest member Neige had been joined by a drummer, named Winterhalter, and was exploring a little more of a traditional black metal side as well as the excellent sense of melodic ambience he showed on 2007′s beautiful Souvenirs d’un Autre Monde.
By that I mean there’s some screamed vocals thrown into the mix. “Percées De Lumière” is probably the most abrasive thing I’ve yet heard from Alcest, but as excited as I was by that, even more thrilling was hearing that rather than use heaviness as a crutch, Neige‘s range of melody had grown as well. “Solar Song” is so encompassing when played at the (in)appropriate volume that I want to nap with it. It’s amazing to me how something so musically and emotionally weighted can also be so pretty.
Neither of these bands is going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but each has a lot to offer sonically to those with adventurous ears, and although I’m basically swamped, I thought I’d take a second to pass the recommendations on to anyone who might be interested.