Quarterly Review: Mirrors for Psychic Warfare, Candlemass, Skuggsjá, Black Lung, Lord Vicar, Dakessian, Gypsy Chief Goliath, Inter Arma, Helgamite, Mollusk

Posted in Reviews on June 22nd, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster


Who’s ready for another round of 10 reviews in The Obelisk’s Quarterly Review? I know I am. We gotta hit 50 by Friday, and there’s still a lot — a lot — of ground to cover. Yesterday was all over the place style-wise and today has some of that going as well, but there’s a lot of quality in both, so hopefully you get to check some of it out. Today is the all important QR Hump Day, wherein we pass the halfway mark on our way to the total 50 reviews. If you’re wondering, it’s Lord Vicar who do the honors this time around at #25. Just kind of worked out that way, but I’ll take it. Down to business.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Mirrors for Psychic Warfare, Mirrors for Psychic Warfare

mirrors for psychic warfare mirrors for psychic warfare

Probably fair to call Mirrors for Psychic Warfare an offshoot of Corrections House, since its two members – Scott Kelly (also Neurosis) and Sanford Parker (producer extraordinaire/also Buried at Sea) – are also in that group, but the feel of their Neurot Recordings self-titled debut is substantially different, rawer and at times harsher. Parker handles beats and electronics, creating at times a wash of abrasive noise as in the culmination of “CNN WTZ,” the centerpiece of the five tracks, and elsewhere providing an industrial backdrop for Kelly’s voice for a gothic feel, as on “A Thorn to See.” Unsurprisingly, nothing about Mirrors for Psychic Warfare makes for particularly easy listening – though opener “Oracles Hex” has some commonality with Kelly’s solo work and his voice is resonant as ever – but as they round out the album with “43,” the keys, synth and guitar find some common ground, which leaves distorted shouts from Kelly to do the work of taking listeners to task. We already knew these two worked well together, and the partnership once again bears fruit here.

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Neurot Recordings webshop

Candlemass, Death Thy Lover


The four-song Death Thy Lover EP (on Napalm) is the first new studio offering of original material from Swedish doom legends Candlemass since their 2012 album, Psalms for the Dead (review here), marked the end of the tenure of vocalist Robert Lowe, also of Solitude Aeturnus. His replacement is the person who nearly had the job in the first place, Mats Levén (formerly Therion), who has a kind of stateliness to his presence in opener “Death Thy Lover” but suits the plod of “Sleeping Giant” well. Of course, at the center of the band is bassist/songwriter Leif Edling, whose style is unmistakable in these tracks, whether it’s the late-Iommi-style riffing of “Sinister ‘n’ Sweet” or “Death Thy Lover”’s chugging its way toward the hook. Candlemass save the most grueling for last with “The Goose,” as guitarists Mats “Mappe” Björkman and Lars “Lasse” Johansson intertwine a chugging rhythm and extended soloing over dirge-march drums from Jan Lindh to give the short release a darkened instrumental finale.

Candlemass on Thee Facebooks

Candlemass at Napalm Records

Skuggsjá, A Piece for Mind and Mirror


Talk about scope. Oh, only a country’s entire cultural history is fair game for Skuggsjá, the brainchild of Norwegian artists Ivar Bjørnson (also Enslaved) and Einar Selvik (also Wardruna) that crosses the line between black metal and Norse traditionalism probably better than anyone has ever done it before. A Piece for Mind and Mirror is the studio incarnation of the work the two composers and a host of others did as commissioned for the 200th anniversary of the Norwegian constitution, and though it’s broken into 10 movements for the album, it flows together as one orchestral entirety, the gurgle of Grutle Kjellson (Enslaved) recognizable in the eponymous track amid choral backing and a richly textured blend of traditional folk instruments and metallic thrust. The lyrics are Norwegian, but whether it’s the blowing horn of “Makta Og Vanæra (I All Tid)” or the lush melodies in the march of “Bøn Om Ending – Bøn Om Byrjing,” the sense of pride and the creative accomplishment of A Piece for Mind and Mirror ring through loud and clear.

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Season of Mist webshop

Black Lung, See the Enemy

black lung see the enemy

Two years after making their self-titled debut, Baltimore heavy bluesfuzz trio Black Lung come swaggering back with the spacious vibes of See the Enemy (on Noisolution), which takes the establishing steps the first album laid out and builds on them fluidly and with a clear direction in mind. At eight tracks/45 minutes produced by J. Robbins, the album was clearly structured for vinyl, each half ending with a longer cut, the psych-jamming “Nerve” on side A, which resounds in an ending of scorching guitar from Adam Bufano atop the drums of Elias Schutzman (both of The Flying Eyes), and the closer “8MM,” on which Bufano, Schutzman, guitarist/vocalist Dave Cavalier and Robbins (who also contributes bass) roll out the record’s most massive groove and cap it with an impenetrable wall of noise. While the songs are striking in their cohesion and poise, there are moments where one wants Black Lung to really let loose, as after Trevor Shipley’s keyboard stretch in “Priestess,” but they have other ideas, feeding the title-track directly into “8MM” with no less a firm sense of control than shown earlier. All told, an excellent follow-up that deserves broader consideration among 2016’s finer offerings.

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Black Lung at Noisolution

Lord Vicar, Gates of Flesh

lord vicar gates of flesh

Offered through The Church Within Records as a paean to classic doom, Lord Vicar’s third LP, Gates of Flesh, nonetheless almost can’t help but put its own mark on the style. The Turku, Finland, outfit’s first album in five years, it finds guitarist Kimi Kärki (ex-Reverend Bizarre, Orne, E-Musikgruppe Lux Ohr, etc.), vocalist Chritus (also Goatess, ex-Saint Vitus, Count Raven, etc.), and drummer Gareth Millsted (ex-Centurions Ghost) — who, along with Kärki, also contributed bass after the band parted ways with Jussi Myllykoski and prior to adding Sami Hynninen as a temporary replacement — bold enough to shift into minimalist spaciousness on “A Shadow of Myself,” and really, they’re not through opener “Birth of Wine” before Kärki executes a gorgeous dual-layered solo. Trace those roots back to Trouble if you must, but there’s no question to whom the lurch of centerpiece “Breaking the Circle” or the sorrowful 10-minute closer “Leper, Leper” belongs, and the same holds true for everything that follows, be it the quiet start of “A Woman out of Snow” or the swinging second half of “Accidents.” Lord Vicar enact the doom of ages and take complete ownership of the sound, thus only adding to the canon as they go.

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The Church Within Records

Dakessian, The Poisoned Chalice

dakessian the poisoned chalice

Like the stench of rotting, Dakessian’s The Poisoned Chalice provokes a visceral and physical response. The long-in-the-making debut release from the Portland-based duo of vocalist Kenny Snarzyk (also Fister) and multi-instrumentalist Aaron D.C. Edge (Lumbar, Roareth, so many others) had its music recorded back in 2013, and the vocals were added earlier this year, throat-searing screams and growls that top the noisy, claustrophobically weighted tones from Edge’s guitar. The onslaught is unrelenting, both longer songs like “Demons” and “Ten Double Zero” and shorter cuts “Nothing Forever” and the sample-laced opener “Choose Hate” brim with aggressive misanthropy, the will against. Even the penultimate “Baerial,” which offers a glimmer of melody, continues to crush, and starting with a slow drum progression, closer “Cosmic Dissolution” barely tops two and a half minutes, but it brings thorough reassurance of the project’s destructive force before its final drone rounds out. One never knows with Edge if a given band will ever have a follow-up, but as ever, the quality is consistent. In this case, brutally so.

Dakessian on Bandcamp

Holy Mountain Printing

Gypsy Chief Goliath, Citizens of Nowhere

gypsy chief goliath citizens of nowhere

Actually, if you want to get technical about it, Gypsy Chief Goliath are citizens of Ontario, but you’d never know it from listening to their third album, Citizens of Nowhere, which if you had to pin a geographic locale on it might be more of a fit for New Orleans than Canada. The Pitch Black Records release sees the triple-guitar-plus-harmonica six-piece outfit dug deep in Southern metal grooves, marked out by the burl-bringing vocals of frontman/guitarist Al “The Yeti” Bones, formerly of Mister Bones, Serpents of Secrecy and The Mighty Nimbus and the chug-and-churn of cuts like “Black Samurai” and the shuffle of “We Died for This.” The title-track winds its central riff with thickened-up ‘70s boogie, while “Elephant in the Room” and “The Return” space out a bit more, and the closing Black Sabbath cover “Killing Yourself to Live” (a CD bonus track) plays it loyal structurally while dude’ing up the original like it was on hormone therapy.

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Pitch Black Records on Bandcamp

Inter Arma, Paradise Gallows

inter arma paradise gallows

Hard-touring Richmond genre-benders Inter Arma are due for a landmark release. Their 2014 single-song EP, The Cavern, was wildly well received and earned every bit of praise it got. Their follow-up to that is Paradise Gallows, their third album and second for Relapse behind 2013’s Sky Burial (track stream here). Is Paradise Gallows that landmark? Hell if I know. Recorded, mixed and mastered by Mikey Allred, who also guests on trombone, bass violin, organ and noise, Inter Arma’s third brings an expansive 70 minutes of bleak progressivism, conceptually and sonically broad enough to be considered brilliant and still weighted enough that the prevailing vibe is extremity in their blend of sludge, doom, black metal, post-metal, atmospherics, and a moody acoustic closer. The only real danger is that it might take listeners time to digest – because it’s a lot to take in, all those twists and turns in “Violent Constellations,” particularly after the plod of the title-track – but I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to find Inter Arma inhabiting any number of year-end lists for 2016. Once again, they earn it.

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Inter Arma at Relapse Records

Helgamite, Hypnagogia

helgamite hypnagogia

Virginian bruisers Helgamite manage to cover a deceptive amount of sonic ground on their second LP, Hypnagogia (on CD through Lost Apparitions with vinyl soon on Flesh Vessel), spending plenty of time in dense-toned sludge metal but using that as a foundation for a wider range of explorations, winding up in blastbeats by the time 13-minute side B finale “The Secret” comes around, but by then having torn through the aggro-thrash of “Origins,” lumbered through the mosher “Æstrosion” and topped off “Shaman’s Veil” with math-metal guitar fits melded to a saxophone arrangement. Growls from vocalist William Breeden and Jonah Butler’s drums tie it all together as guitarist Casey Firkin (also sax) and bassist Matthew Beahm pull off intermittently jazzy runs, but impressively, Helgamite never sound in danger of losing sight of the songs they’re serving, and Hypnogogia is stronger for its unwillingness to waste a second of its runtime, even in the aforementioned “The Secret” or its 10-minute side A counterpart, “Snowdrifter.”

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Lost Apparitions Records website

Flesh Vessel Records on Thee Facebooks

Mollusk, Children of the Chron


Get it? Children of the Chron? I’ll admit it took me a second. While I was thinking about it, Allston, Massachusetts, duo Mollusk doled out sludge-punk-metal beatings via raw tones and shouts and a general sense of checked-out attitude, “Glacier” reminding of earliest, least-poppy Floor, but cuts like “Demon Queen” and “When You’re Gone” finding guitarist Hank Rose using a purposefully monotone vocal approach that works well over slower parts. Rose is joined in Mollusk by drummer Adam O’Day, and though I’ve already noted that the 11-track album is raw, their sound wants nothing for impact in the low end or any other end for that matter. Rather, the harsher aspects become part of the aesthetic throughout Children of the Chron and the band successfully navigates its own mire without getting lost in either its own “Torture Chamber” or “Zombie Apocalypse,” which like opener “Ride the #9,” is almost certainly a song about life in the Boston area.

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Mollusk at ReverbNation

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Mollusk to Release Children of the Chron in July

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 18th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster


Boston-area duo Mollusk have announced a July release for their second album, Children of the Chron. The record finds the two-piece of guitarist/vocalist Hank Rose and drummer Adam O’Day following up their 2014 debut, Gutter with another set of terrifying scenarios, alternately born of real life — “Ride the #9,” about the horrors of public transportation — and imagined — “Zombie Apocalypse,” which might as well be about the same thing — set to noise rock that’s raw and aggressive without losing sight of its purpose or taking itself too seriously, as the shift between tribal drums and grunge downerisms on “Blaze Cave” and “Lesbian Resume” makes plain enough to hear.

Perhaps as a means to clear their collective consciousness of the filth that was and make room for the filth that is, Mollusk have made Gutter available as a free download via a Dropbox link as a precursor to Children of the Chron coming out. That’s right. You don’t even need a download code, or to name your price as zero dollars. They’re just letting you take it. Nothing to lose but a minimum of hard drive space.

They’ve also begun to unveil songs from Children of the Chron at this point as well. “Ride the #9” and the newly-unveiled “When You’re Gone” can be heard on their Reverbnation page, if you can put up with the interface of that site, and they have a new video for “Glacier” that you can see below.

They’re a band of few words, but the info follows:

mollusk children of the chron

It’s Mollusk’s 2nd full length album. COTC is slower, sludgier and stonier. We are the Children Of The Chron.

Mollusk – Children Of The Chron
1. Ride the #9
2. Demon Queen
3. The Children of the Chron
4. Glacier
5. Human Tidalwave
6. Blaze Cave
7. Lesbian Resume
8. Torture Chamber
9. When You’re Gone
10 Zombie Apocalypse
11. Mental Hospital

Record to be released in July 2016.Recorded by Sid Lees at HERD Studio in Roxbury MA. 1st Track and video – Glacier.


Mollusk, “Glacier” official video

Mollusk, “When You’re Gone”

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In the Studio with Scissorfight at Mad Oak

Posted in Features on May 2nd, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

scissorfight in-studio 1 (Photo by Jay Fortin)

To run down the list of accolades that the Boston-area music scene has (rightly) foisted upon producer/engineer Benny Grotto of Mad Oak Studios over the last however many years would take a really, really long time, but suffice it to say that when an opportunity to watch him work is afforded, it’s not one you want to neglect. It’s a pleasure I first had six years ago, as Grotto — who also until recently was drumming in Slapshot — was mixing what would become Solace‘s long-awaited A.D. full-length, but of course his production credits go much further than that, including an entire pantheon of releases through Small Stone Records by DwellersRoadsaw — whose Craig Riggs is an owner of Mad Oak, along with Grotto and PK Pandey — SasquatchGozu and The Brought Low, as well as local luminaries like The ScimitarBlack Thai and Second Grave, among many others.

scissorfight in-studio 4 (Photo by Jay Fortin)But most of that, apart from the Second Grave, which is forthcoming, was done in the old Mad Oak. In January, the studio opened a new facility at 390 Cambridge St. in Allston, MA, and immediately set about filling the calendar with clients, among them reunited New Hampshire burl rockers Scissorfight, who were there tracking five songs for a new EP to be released sometime later this year. It will mark their first offering in a decade and their first with a new lineup including Doug Aubin on vocals and Rick Orcutt on drums alongside bassist Paul Jarvis and guitarist Jay Fortin that recently made their live debut to a sold-out Shaskeen in Portsmouth, NH, the first of many more live shows to come. The appeal of hearing new Scissorfight in-progress under Grotto‘s care was too good to ignore, so I headed into Allston last Wednesday to check out the tail end of the session.

Greeted outside by Jarvis‘ dog, Anna, who spent most of her time lounging on a bed made of an old flannel shirt, and Jarvis and Aubin, I made my way into the place to find Grotto, as ever, in front of a monitor filled with waveforms. A large tv on the wall behind him allowed anyone sitting on the plush couch nearby to see what he was doing, and from the spacious, clean layout of the room, it was clear that the studio had only been living in the redone space for a couple months. The floor, the ceiling, the giant monitors embedded in and in front of the wall to blast from a small stage in the control room — none of it had yet been kicked to hell by time, and the same went for the high-ceiling live room, which, if the sound of Orcutt‘s drums was anything to go by, is going to make a lot of percussionists very happy.

“From my end, I wanted to basically steal all the cool things I liked about the other studios I’d been working at, as well as minimize or eliminate the negative things that those places had,” Grotto explained. “For me, the general vibe and level of comfort were the primary issue. I wanted to set the place up in a way that really facilitates creativity and a relaxed atmosphere. We have unbelievable sight-lines scissorfight in-studio 3 (Photo by Jay Fortin)throughout the whole studio, lots of comfortable places to relax, and a wealth of instruments and gear that are all easily accessible, which helps artists to get ideas down quickly before the inspiration dries up.

“One of the big advantages to the new space is that we got to design it to our exact needs, from the ground up. So we were able take all the lessons that Riggs learned building the first place, combine them with my experience over the last couple years working in a variety of studios as a freelancer, and combine all that with PK‘s extensive experience as a studio building consultant, and really dial the whole thing into what is more or less our dream studio.”

The layout of the space reminds of a complex piece of software designed to look and operate simply. The live room is flanked on either side by isolation booths, there are big doors for load-in, the control room, a break space/kitchen, bathroom, etc., but from the cork in the ceiling to Grotto controlling colored LED lights from his phone and the acoustics as tracks were played back, what Mad Oak has become is clearly the result of meticulous work.

Craig really wanted to focus on the construction itself. He’s been on-site every day, basically working as the contractor, making sure everything is getting done to his very high standards, but he’s busting ass as a carpenter, a plumber, an electrician, everything. Very hands on. The work he and his guys have been doing in here is out of this world; the craftsmanship and attention to detail is really unlike anything I’ve seen in a recording studio.

PK has a massive amount of experience as a studio building consultant, and we were able to make use of that experience in a major way. Specifically by tapping the Walter Storyk Design Group — which is the studio architectural firm responsible for an incredible list of studios all around the world, including Hendrixscissorfight in-studio 2 (Photo by Jay Fortin)s Electric Lady — to design the control room. That really elevates us to a whole new level in terms of prestige — not to mention, the acoustics in here sound incredible.”

I wouldn’t argue. Fortin was about to lay down some acoustic guitar flourish on a maddeningly catchy track with the working title “Beaver Fever” — the twist: it’s actually about Giardia — but already the material sounded huge, with the trademark crunch in his and Jarvis‘ weighted tones that became a staple of Scissorfight‘s sound in their initial run. Over top, Aubin brought his own edge to sardonic lyrics, snarls and growls about drinking beaver piss. The band called it a public service. I’ll assume the same applies to “Tits Up” and “’70s Boobs,” another working title.

Those three were mostly done. Jarvis put some banjo on “Beaver Fever” that may or may not make the final cut — was cool but might’ve been a bit much with the acoustic already there; would need to hear it mixed — and Aubin will have to go back in for “Ol’ Taint Rot” and “Stove,” but the basic tracks were finished to the point that Grotto, grumbling about the response time of his wireless mouse, was already compiling tracks for rough mixes to send the band. The mental organization involved in that process is not to be understated. At the same time he was cross-fading two tracks joining together, he was also running hard drive backups and drawing on markers so he knew where preamp dials were, for the next time the band are in, or maybe just to keep a record of it. Either way, there’s nothing haphazard about the process.

Grotto told me in a not at all complaining fashion that he’s had one day off since January. Watching him work again, I believe it. The drive and the passion he puts into what he does is inspiring, and as Scissorfight step up to claim the utter dominance of New England that has basically been theirs for the taking for the last decade, there are no better hands they could be in. With smartass jokes a-flying, FortinJarvis and Aubin (Orcutt wasn’t there) were completely at ease at Mad Oak, and it was clear just from being there for the few hours I was how much that was also part of the intricate design.

“The new space sounds amazing,” said Grotto. “It’s made my life so much easier. Every drummer who’s donescissorfight in-studio 5 (Photo by Jay Fortin) a session in here so far has told me it’s the best drum room they’ve ever played in. The room just sings. And we laid out the gear and infrastructure in a way that speeds up the workflow, so we’re just flying through setup, and the bands play great. It’s been fantastic.”

Scissorfight‘s new EP is called Chaos County and will be out later this year. Thanks to Jay Fortin for letting me use his photos of the session.

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Scissorfight on Instagram

Mad Oak Studios website

Mad Oak on Thee Facebooks

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Cortez Post Cover of Deep Purple’s “Stormbringer”

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 15th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

A subdued several months from Allston, Massachusetts, five-piece Cortez comes to a close with a cover of the Ritchie Blackmore/David Coverdale-penned opening title-track to Deep Purple‘s 1974 album, Stormbringer. The heavy rockers announced back in September that their new album, The Depths Below, was mastered and in the can, ready to roll, and basically since then all has been quiet at least on the surface. One assumes that means the band are in the process of securing a release for the record, which follows their 2012 self-titled debut (review here) and a subsequent 2014 split with Borracho (review here), but a check-in single in the interim is welcome nonetheless.

Plus, it’s not like “Stormbringer” is a lazy song to take on. Mark III Deep Purple had both Coverdale and bassist Glenn Hughes on vocals, as well as Ritchie Blackmore on guitar, Ian Paice on drums and Jon Lord on keys, and on any level you want to consider, that’s a formidable standard to set. They’re not the first ones to make the track their own, but they cut to the heavy core of the song and let their own performance shine through, which I’m glad to say it does. The track remains one you could do a lot worse than to have stuck in your head all day, so have at it. The download is free.

The band also offered assurances that The Depths Below was on its way:

cortez (Photo by Bruce Bettis)

Hey folks, we’re aware that things have been quiet in the Cortez camp lately. We assure you that our newest album “The Depths Below” IS indeed complete and will be released sometime in the not too distant future.

As a little teaser, we recorded a cover of the classic Coverdale/Hughes era Deep Purple track Stormbringer (written by Blackmore, Coverdale) with Benny Grotto – Producer/Recordist/Mixer/Musician at Q Division Studios, Mad Oak Studios, and Moontower Recording Studio. Jeff Lipton at Peerless Mastering did the mastering. The track is now live on our Bandcamp and Soundcloud pages for free. We sincerely hope ya dig it, and if you do please share it!



Cortez, “Stormbringer” (Deep Purple cover)

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Worshipper Release New Single Place Beyond the Light

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 18th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

worshipper (Photo by Bob Maloney)

Boston four-piece Worshipper have issued their second digital single, and it’s a bit of a doozy. The classic-style metallers made their debut in the frigid wee hours of early 2015 with Black Corridor b/w High Above the Clouds (review here), and their second two-songer, the newly-unveiled Place Beyond the Light b/w Step Behind, pushes even deeper into prime metallurgy while also adding a distinctly catchy hard rock edge that, especially on “Place Beyond the Light” itself, reminds me on first listen of some of Scorpions‘ poised infectiousness.

The band also have some killer shows coming up, including one this week in Allston, and they’ll play Tee Pee Records‘ upcoming two-day fest, Cosmic Sonic Rendezvous (info here), in Brooklyn at The Wick over Labor Day weekend, where they’ll open the second night with The Golden Grass, The Bevis Frond, Carousel and Witch. Some more than solid company to keep.

Release details and audio follow:

worshipper no place beyond the light

Worshipper just released Place Beyond the Light | Step Behind

We are pleased to announce the release of our new single “Place Beyond the Light / Step Behind.” Download it now from bandcamp. See us live Aug. 21 at Great Scott!

WORSHIPPER plays the kind of darkly epic rock that can only be found in the vinyl collection of your “cool uncle.” Through their unique mix of contemporary and classic influences, WORSHIPPER prove that the horn-throwing soul of melodic heavy music of the past still burns brightly.

1. Place Beyond the Light 5:04
2. Step Behind 4:46

released 17 August 2015

Music by Worshipper
Lyrics by John Brookhouse

Worshipper is:
John Brookhouse – Vocals, guitars
Dave Jarvis – Drums
Bob Maloney – Bass, vocals
Alejandro Necochea – Guitars

Recorded & Mixed by Benny Grotto at Q Division
Mastered by Mike Quinn at The Moontower

Aug 21 Great Scott Allston, MA
Sep 06 The Wick/The Well Brooklyn, NY
Sep 22 Wilbur Theatre Boston, MA
Oct 02 The Last Safe & Deposit Company Lowell, MA

Copyright Inspector Lucius Music ASCAP (2015)


Worshipper, Place Beyond the Light (2015)

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Live Review: Sun Voyager in Allston, MA, 04.18.15

Posted in Reviews on April 20th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

Sun Voyager (Photo by JJ Koczan)

People who bitch about “kids these days” and the post-Millennials or whatever they’re called and their fast texting and no rock and roll obviously don’t go to house shows. Neither do I, if I can avoid, but the kids are killing it. I’ve gone on at some length before about my general discomfort at being the oldest dude in the room in a basement. Hard not to feel like an invader, like I’m somewhere I shouldn’t be, even though the kid at the door who took my $5 donation for the out-of-town acts was polite in that “I helped an old person today” kind of way. “First time here?” Yeah man, it is.

sun voyager 2 (Photo by JJ Koczan)The Womb — oddly well promoted for a secret location — has come up in Allston in part I suspect because of that neighborhood’s lacking club scene. With the extra gloss of cool added to a basement show, there’s really no need for undergrad-age rockers to even try to get into a bar, and I won’t bother to name names, but a few of the venues around aren’t offering a much better product than a basement to start with, so why the hell not? There were four bands on the bill — Creaturos, Midriffs, Black Beach and Sun Voyager — but I knew that if I was going to be stretching the limits of personal awkwardness to be there at all (something on me, not The Womb itself), I’d mostly want to catch who I was there to see and then skip out.

That was Sun Voyager, incidentally. The Orange County, New York, four-piece have been high on my gotta-see list for a while now, and since I missed them the last time they rolled through the area, it seemed like The Womb was the place to be. They’d played Brooklyn on Friday, in another basement, and were well at home in the packed-out downstairs of The Womb, the walls of the staircase lined with sundry objectificationsSun Voyager (Photo by JJ Koczan) sexual and material, men, women and products in various states of vintage undress, while the walls of the basement itself were painted with various designs. Speakers hung from the ceiling by the A/C duct, a PA was set up on either side of the corner where the bands played. Sun Voyager weren’t on when I got there, but it wasn’t too long before they set up and were ready to roll.

A double-guitar four-piece with Carlos Francisco on stage right, bassist Stefan Mersch in the middle with drummer Kyle Beach behind and chapeaued lead guitarist Steve Friedman on stage left, his slide at the ready, they mostly played material from two recent King Pizza Records tapes, a split with Greasy Hearts and their standalone EP, Lazy Daze (review here). I dug the hell out of the EP — bought the split off Mersch after their set was done — and the prior 2013 demo, Mecca (review here), and I was there in large part to hear how the material translated live. “God is Dead” and “Gypsy Hill” were immediately identifiable in the set, the former for its oft-repeated title-line hook and the latter for its slower, more pastoral rollout.

Something of a surprise in itself that “Gypsy Hill” would be such a standout, since the easier flow with which Sun Voyager play off their more forward garage rock motion of some of their other material is so much a part of what they do on their studio material, but it was nonetheless the set’s most fervent nod, children behind me jumping up and down in sub-mosh form. I laughed as this or that one bounced off or got in a good shoveSun Voyager (Photo by JJ Koczan) and proceeded to fall here and there into the others in The Womb, which started off and remained packed for the duration of my time there. Good clean fun, not so much violent intent as general excitement brought to physical swirl. Sun Voyager had a couple new songs in tow — didn’t catch titles if they were given — but that stuff too had a faster garage edge, giving me a new appreciation for the tension in Beach‘s snare work and Francisco‘s overlaying echoes, which were thankfully preserved even in the raw, basement mix.

More of a concern was how Mersch‘s bass tone would carry over, since it’s such a pivotal aspect of their recorded sound, but it came across well enough and loud, with Friedman‘s leads cutting through on the high end of the shuffling “Black Angel,” the overarching vibe post-grunge and like active shoegaze as if such a thing might exist, a brand of heavy psych waiting for some clever jerk to give it a name and thus define it. Whatever it was, the swirl was righteous regardless of the pace of its churn and Sun Voyager carried it well through the end of their set, which found them, like their studio work, moving away somewhat from the jammier reaches of their beginnings but still carrying that swing with them as they move forward. They’ll continue to grow — they’re fortunate to have a place lsun voyager posterike The Womb to do so — and refine their processes, but I’m glad I braved the weirdness of being the oldest dude in the room to see them now, since the molten, in-progress nature of their creativity made their set all the more exciting.

I hauled ass out of there pretty quick when they were done — again, nothing against The Womb, or Black Beach or Midriffs or Creaturos; it’s not you it’s me — and chuckled as I walked by a dance-club-cum-sports-bar (Hello, Boston) on Mass Ave. that seemed to be hosting a sing-along to ’90s boyband fare that those singing along to it were probably in grade school, if that, when it came out. The perfect target demo on the come-back-around. So odd, so drunk. And me, covered in kid sweat and volume, hobbling my ass back to the car with The Patient Mrs., whose coming along had made the entire thing possible to take, to drive back home with a new tape in my pocket. What year is it again? How do we mash time and place into one strange, market-value nostalgia even as we grope so readily for whatever the next thing might be? Which turn takes me to the highway? Right on.

Sun Voyager on Thee Facebooks

Sun Voyager on Bandcamp

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Phantom Glue Stream “Tazed” from Angels of Meth Demo

Posted in audiObelisk on September 25th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

old phantom glue

If you didn’t know, this Saturday, Sept. 27, is Cassette Store Day, a tape-minded answer to the hugely successful Record Store Day initiative supporting independent music retailers. I’m sure you did know, because you’re on top of it like that, but more to the point, Allston’s Phantom Glue have a special release coming out to mark the occasion. Working with Negative Fun Records, they’ll release Angels of Meth, a four-track demo collection taken from their early going when they worked under that moniker.

A lot of what works today about Phantom Glue was present in their sound back then — their blend of raw punk, sludge and metal — but of course the demo material is less solidified than the band would become by the Phantom Glue - Angels of Meth covertime they got around to releasing their 2009 self-titled debut (review here) or A War of Light Cones (review here) last year. Their aesthetic was plenty assured by the first album and refined as much as something so bruising can be called refined on the second. The Angels of Meth demo has the elements there, but it’s a nastier churn and a dirtier distortion lurching out of their amps. Of course, this has an appeal entirely of its own on a song like “Tazed,” which I’m happy to have the chance to host for streaming ahead of the demo’s release.

The track hasn’t been completely unavailable or anything. If you’re willing to dig through the morass that MySpace has become, you can find it hidden somewhere in Phantom Glue‘s profile. This, however, is much easier (and higher quality), so I’ll go ahead and encourage you to just press play below instead. Angels of Meth will be the first time this material has been physically pressed as well.

Track and release info follow, courtesy of Negative Fun. Enjoy:

For all intents and purposes, Phantom Glue is Angels of Meth. The band was birthed by Matt Oates and has existed in various states since the mid-2000s.

The band was known as Angels of Meth up through the recording of the Phantom Glue S/T’d record. It wasn’t until after the recording process was completed for the Phantom Glue’s s/t record that the band decided to change the name.

This is the 1st recorded output from the band, which has never existed in a physical format until now, and further illustrates the dramatic development and shift in sound from release to release.

Phantom Glue on Thee Facebooks

Angels of Meth at Negative Fun’s webstore

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Live Review: Earth in Allston, MA, 09.23.14

Posted in Reviews on September 24th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

earth (Photo by JJ Koczan)

There was one ticket left when I arrived at the Great Scott in Allston to see Earth on tour supporting their new album, Primitive and Deadly. Much to the venue’s credit, the show was sold out but not oversold, Plenty warm up front, but in back by the end of the night one could claim some semblance of personal space if desired and still see Seattle’s droniest on stage. Doors were at nine with just two bands on the bill — Earth and fellow Seattleites King Dude opening — and it would be over an hour before anyone went on. So, if you were looking to drink or, say, stare at inane bullshit on your phone, there was plenty of time to do it.

king dude (Photo by JJ Koczan)In the studio, King Dude is a solo-project of Book of Black Earth guitarist/vocalist TJ Cowgill, but live he led a trio dressed in a look that might appear in a catalog as “Heartland Gestapo,” matching black button-downs with collar pins, black pants, short hair calling to mind Baptist righteousness and fascist regimentation as was likely the intent as they played in front of a backdrop of a painted-black and tattered American flag. The songs were Americana-derived neofolk, tales of fire and brimstone and drinking out of some alternate universe USA, guitar, keys, cello, drums. I’m not sure where Cowgill got his Southern accent, but he was enough of a charmer on stage to get two whiskys, one bought from the bar and a mini someone else had apparently snuck in. Well enough earned.

If you’ll permit me a minute to wax critical, one of the most respectable aspects of Earth‘s long tenure — their first demo surfaced in 1990 and but for a stretch between 1997-2003, they’ve been going since — is the earth (Photo by JJ Koczan)relentlessness of their pursuit. Go see Earth for one album and then another and you’ll get two different shows. Guitarist Dylan Carlson, as the founder and driving force, has in the last decade built and continued to refine a legacy that seems no more solidified now than it was nine years ago when they released their landmark comeback full-length, Hex; Or Printing in the Infernal Method. It is a constant work in progress, shifting and remaking itself each time out. And perhaps because their music can be so raw — the repetition of riff cycles, steady drum plod of Adrienne Davies and the steadiness of their instrumental flow — that progression is all the more evocative and encompassing.

As they took the stage at the Great ScottCarlson provided the news that Primitive and Deadly (review here), which came out Sept. 1 on Southern Lord, took only a week to become their highest-selling release to date. He thanked the crowd and then began the set with “Badger’s Bane” and “Even Hell has its Heroes” from that record, the album’s weightier production translating excellently live through Carlson‘s tone, Davies‘ swinging-arm march and the fills of bassist Don McGreevy, also of Master Musicians of Bukkake, earth (Photo by JJ Koczan)who doesn’t play on the new full-length but took part in 2008’s The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull (discussed here) and had no trouble making the parts his own or fitting in alongside Davies as the rhythmic complement to Carlson‘s swaying guitar work.

Of course, a major distinguishing factor of Primitive and Deadly is the inclusion of vocals — Mark Lanegan and Rabi Shabeen Qazi (Rose Windows) guest — and while he had a mic on stage for thanking the crowd, they kept “There is a Serpent Coming” instrumental, that song coming out of “Old Black” from 2011’s Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light I (review here) and moving into “The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull,” which Carlson noted was their prior highest-seller and especially popular with female fans. I wondered how or why that might be the case as CarlsonDavies and McGreevy continued their droneout, the groove of the older material hitting not quite as heavy as that of the newer, reminding that whatever weight might reside in their tones or evocations, Earth is still far from being a “metal” band.

The new album’s opener, “Torn by the Fox of the Crescent Moon” served as the first installment of a closing duo with “Ouroboros is Broken” as the finisher, Carlson noting that they were the band’s newest and oldest songs, respectively. They paired together well, with the latter being somewhere between the reinvented textures of its appearance on 2007’s Hibernaculum EP and the original from 1991’s Extra-Capsular Extraction. earth (Photo by JJ Koczan)Whatever version it was, it made a rolling cap on a set that didn’t so much celebrate the entire scope of Earth‘s career — at some point, particularly as they’re hinging on their 25th year, one imagines a retrospective live set of one form or another will happen — but emphasized the vitality of the work they’re doing now, their continued relevance and expanding influence. Given the expanse of time they’ve covered and the years and decades their growth has encompassed, it’s even easier to appreciate the restlessness underlying their evolution and the irony that so much of their reputation is for the stillness in their material. Still maybe, but never stagnant.

I had no line of sight to Davies, but there are a couple more pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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