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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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Live Review: Queen Elephantine and Insect Ark in Allston, 01.16.14

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

I had driven back from New Jersey during the day — most of it, anyway — with the knowledge that I wanted to see Queen Elephantine at O’Brien’s last night. I knew I’d be tired as crap, but figured it’d be worth it because somehow it had gotten to be like half a decade since I last saw the band, in Maryland at the first benefit for Evil Fanny. Hard to believe so much time had passed. Particularly in light of having missed their Boston show last fall with It’s Not Night: It’s Space, Olde Growth and Keefshovel and having very much dug 2013′s Scarab full-length (review here), it was long overdue.

Boston acts Glacier and Slow Mover opened the show. I didn’t get there in time to see Glacier, but Somerville’s Slow Mover were just about to get started when I walked in and established a pretty wide stylistic breadth once they got going, the dual-vocal/guitar four-piece (plus snare strobe!) culling elements from noise rock, post-hardcore and post-metal, stoner rock and even a bit of black metal and making it sound raw and cohesive without being overly thought out. They had their self-titled on vinyl at the merch table, but I was light on funds. Still, cool stuff, sounded like it was working on a multi-tier solidification process. Easy to hear where they could turn into something devastatingly heavy, though as a moniker, Slow Mover does little to describe the actual ethic of their playing, which was more varied in pace than they’d apparently have one believe.

Last year when Insect Ark, aka Dana Schecter of Bee and Flower, released the Long Arms EP, I kind of dabbled in checking it out, but I was looking forward to seeing how her noisy experimentalism translated live. First of all I’ll say that any heavy band in Brooklyn would be lucky to have her as their bassist, but that was really just part of what she brought to the table — quite literally two tables, set up on the stage — at O’Brien’s. With a pedal steel in front of her, bass strapped on, a sampler, other noisemakers and mixing board on the side, a laptop further over and amps behind, Insect Ark was both stylistically complex and viscerally loud. For each piece she set an initial bed of noise, hit a programmed beat on the laptop and then added pedal steel and bass as dictated by the song, winding up with a heavy wash that only got more and more furious as the set went on, whether she was walking into the crowd with her bass or assaulting the strings of the pedal steel with a slide on the other end to get the most noise for each strum.

I won’t lie, I was dragging ass by then. It was a long day on I-95 and I was at the show by myself, but it had been the chance to see Queen Elephantine that had pulled me off the couch and away from the episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation in the first place, so I wasn’t going to let it go. I took a minute, went outside, called The Patient Mrs. and got my head together to see the Providence, Rhode Island, experimental doom outfit, led by guitarist Indrayudh “Indy” Shome and featuring drummer Matt Couto of Elder and the aforementioned Keefshovel for the night alongside bassist Mat Becker, who shared a mic with Shome for the chanting vocals of the two extended pieces they played.

That’s right, two songs. When you’re Queen Elephantine and your songs run upwards of 20 minutes at a clip, you can do that kind of thing if you so choose, and I guess on a night where they stripped so far down from their usual current incarnation — I’ve seen recent pictures of a five-piece lineup and I don’t think there’s really a limit when people start showing up — you can do a set of two songs and have it work. Call it playing to their minimal side if you want, either way, Queen Elephantine wanted nothing for sonic presence or fullness save where they wanted to want for it, and were able to conjure vivid atmospherics even with the reduced personnel. Becker took a spoken word part in the middle of the first song — “The Search for the Deathless State” from 2008′s Kailash — and they settled into a fervent build across both that and “Chariot in Solemn Procession,” the latter taken from 2008′s Yatra EP and rounding out with an undulating groove made all the more insistent through Couto‘s drumming.

You could see when he clicked with Becker and Shome in the pacing. Initially he seemed to be pulling fast, but they smoothed out over the course of their time and ultimately, whether it was droned to oblivion or crushingly doomed, Queen Elephantine satisfied vigorously. I thought it was cool as hell, and similar to hearing Scarab and thinking the band was coming into a sound of their own after years of directional experimentation, I got the same impression in their confidence on stage. A loop of tanpura drone behind further filled out the sound behind them, only to be swallowed up by louder parts and reemerge here and there, staying on for a while after they brought their last song to its crashing conclusion.

Thursday night in Allston seemed like a fun time for hip cats, but I’m never been fun or hip, so I darted surreptitiously back to my car and headed back to my little slice of the Commonwealth. Beat as I was, I was glad to have shown up and I resolved more or less immediately not to let it go so long until next time.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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Live Review: Gozu and Never Got Caught in Allston, 01.10.13

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

Fun fact: I saw Gozu in Allston just about a year ago, down the street from Great Scott at O’Brien’s (review here). Oh, what a difference a year can make. For me, now I live here. For them, after the early 2013 release of The Fury of a Patient Man (review here), they spent much of the ensuing 12 months playing out in various Eastern Seaboard haunts while reaping international praise for their second Small Stone outing the likes of which landed them a slot at the impending Roadburn 2014 and Berlin Desertfest in April, between which they’ll presumably tour (unless they’re going for frequent flier miles, which is possible) their inaugural European run. Late last year, they also swapped out drummer Barry Spillberg (ex-Wargasm) for former Warhorse basher Mike Hubbard and added Jeff Fultz on third guitar alongside Marc Gaffney and Doug Sherman. I guess their year was somewhat busier than mine. Fair enough.

That last move in particular I found puzzling. Fultz is an experienced, classy player — one might recall his tenure in Seemless last decade, and he currently holds a spot in Mellow Bravo in addition to having joined Gozu — but I wasn’t sure what a five-piece incarnation might add to Gozu‘s dynamic that wasn’t already there in the four-piece. And so curiosity was part of what got me out of the house; the other part was cabin fever. I’d been treating home more or less like a cocoon for the whole week while riding out what the Weather Channel’s website couldn’t seem to stop calling the “Polar Vortex” (which sounds like a stoner rock song if it isn’t one yet). A break in the blistering cold, though it was raining, didn’t hurt either. Seems the mettle of my Mid-Atlantic sensibilities is being tested by my first winter in New England. If I forfeit can it be May?

The night was a five-band bill with Gozu, Never Got Caught, TownshipAwait Rescue and Thunderbloods, and I won’t pretend to have seen the whole show. I understand that’s how it goes here and bills are stacked regularly and shows are dirt cheap (two bucks per band on this occasion), but with respect for the fertile creative ground that is the Boston scene, I had work still to do. Never Got Caught were on stage when I walked into the Great Scott – a room I dig a lot despite their apparent stance against lighting acts while they play — and though it was catching Gozu that got me out the door like the misshapen pupa I am, I was glad to run into the native four-piece, whose guitarist/vocalist Bryan “Uzi” Hinkley and his brother, drummer Bill Hinkley, trace their pedigree back to ’90s hardcore/heavy rockers Tree.

A double-guitar outfit with Bryan on lead vocals backed by fellow guitarist Dave Ward and bassist Jesse Sherman, they were somewhat moodier live than I recalled from their 2009 Creepshow full-length, but still rich in tone with the guitars tapping at times into Wino-style fuzz without ever relinquishing their own identity to do so. Their songs were catchy and had character, but weren’t overly poppy, and when Bryan and Sherman and Ward all got on mic at the same time, the vocal interplay was clear, professional and made the songs all the more engaging. I’d never seen Never Got Caught before, but it’ll be worth keeping an eye out for a chance to do so again. They’ve reportedly got a new album in the works to release in Spring on Mad Oak Records.

Gozu followed immediately and played a set of eight songs evenly split between their two Small Stone records, 2010′s Locust Season (review here) and the aforementioned The Fury of a Patient Man, looking somewhat crowded on the Great Scott stage, but sounding tight although they’re clearly still smoothing out the presentation of the new lineup. Fultz seemed to have stage left to himself at first, while Gaffney was in the center, leaving bassist Joe Grotto and Sherman (Doug, as opposed to Jesse from Never Got Caught) packed on the right — neither of them has ever been wont to stand still while playing in my experience, but there were no collisions that I saw — and Hubbard behind. By the time they finished, they were more comfortable than they had been when they started. Fultz‘s amiable confidence meshed well with the rest of the band, Hubbard hit hard and slaughtered his way through the changes in “Signed, Epstein’s Mom” and “Ghost Wipe.” If nothing else, it was probably the loudest set I’ve seen from Gozu, and at this point I’ve seen a few.

And as they relaxed, sort of letting the songs do their work, the potential for Gozu as a five-piece really began to sink in. I had a forehead-slap moment of “holy shit, duh,” when Sherman and Fultz kicked into dueling solos for Locust Season highlight “Regal Beagle.” Gaffney held down the melody smoothly on vocals, and when the chorus was done and it was time for the guitars to take the lead, all of a sudden it was Gozu doing Thin Lizzy harmonies, adding a completely new twist on a familiar song, and whatever mental block I had to understanding why the band might want to add a third six-stringer evaporated. While Gaffney‘s a more than capable rhythm guitarist, before, it was clearly Sherman‘s role to handle the vast majority of the soling. With Fultz, not only is there a dynamic between lead and rhythm guitar, but between the lead guitars themselves as well. I don’t know why I didn’t get that before I actually stood there to see it — actually yes I do, it’s because I don’t play guitar — but being there made all the difference.

I was suddenly very glad to have left the house, and I felt like I also could relax from that point on in Gozu‘s set, which, as it stormed through “Meth Cowboy” and “Ghost Wipe” en route to closing out with “Mr. Riddle” only gained momentum. If it hadn’t been one before — and I think it had been — it was a party when Gozu were finished, but I beat a quick retreat like the misfit ogre I am and headed out into the moist but above-freezing air to slip on melting ice on the way back to my car. Served me right for not staying for the whole show.

Some more pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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Live Review: Devil to Pay and Mollusk in Allston, 11.15.13

Posted in Reviews on November 20th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Allston was busy on Friday night as one would imagine it being. I think one of the bars down the way from O’Brien’s was doing a fantasy sports draft or something — walking down the block, I passed two dudes muttering about someone in a tweed jacket cheating, or catching them cheating, whatever it was — but either way, the street was packed out. Still managed to find parking and get into the venue in time to catch most of Mollusk‘s set in support of Indianapolis’ Devil to Pay, who had swung north on the East Coast following an appearance at Stoner Hands of Doom XIII the weekend before. Having missed them there much to my dismay, catching the Boston stop was essential.

I’ve been to O’Brien’s a couple times at this point and I like the room. It’s small, sans bullshit, dive-ish but not like it’s trying to be a dive because that’s hip these days. A comfortable space, and one that was pretty packed with volume when Mollusk were on stage. In a fun bit of mistaken identity, I had thought the Mollusk in question was the duo from Ohio, whose 2013 album, Colony of Machines, is patiently awaiting review. I was excited to see them live, but the Mollusk playing O’Brien’s was in fact a different two-piece working under the moniker, this one local to Allston. Really, I should’ve been tipped off when drummer/backing vocalist Adam O’Day (also an accomplished painter) was wearing a Bruins jersey, but I thought maybe they were playing to the crowd. Steve Janiak of Devil to Pay would later take the stage in a Faces of Bayon (they’re based in MA) t-shirt, so it didn’t seem that strange in context. That Mollusk, which is O’Day and guitarist/vocalist Hank Rose, would actually be from the area makes much more sense.

Blind Tigers had opened and Gut would close, so with Mollusk as the second of four and Devil to Pay in the prime slot, it was a full bill. As I said, I didn’t catch all of Mollusk‘s set, but they were plenty heavy, if somewhat less post-sludge inspired than their Ohio counterparts, reminding of some of Napalm Death‘s brooding moments of groove in between all the brutality. They weren’t what I was expecting — I was quite literally expecting a different band — but for both the coincidence and their sonic assault, it was enjoyable. Devil to Pay, who work much more in a straightforward heavy rock context, had a hard act to follow, but having been on the road for a few nights already were as tight as one could ask. This show was the second to last on their tour, which had started Nov. 1 in Muncie, Indiana, and the band’s 2013 outing, Fate is Your Muse (review here) hasn’t been too far from my consciousness since its release, in part because of their excellent videos.

The four-piece were recording the O’Brien’s set as well, which began with the The Atomic Bitchwax-esque winding riffs of “Savonarola” from Fate is Your Muse. About half of what they played was from that album. Catchy cuts “Prepare to Die,” “This Train Won’t Stop” and “Ten Lizardmen and One Pocketknife” were welcome, and the rest was a mix from their other three records, with “Distemper” and “When all is Said and Done” providing the same one-two live as on 2009′s Heavily Ever After and the band dipping back to 2006′s Cash is King for “Niflheim” and even further to their 2004 debut full-length, Thirty Pieces of Silver for “Valley of the Dogs.” This made for a decent mix of new and old, some of their earlier C.O.C. influence providing a mix among the more recent and individualized material, their standouts well chosen even if I’d been hoping for “Tie One On” from the CD version of Fate is Your Muse as well. Can’t have everything, I guess.

What struck me most in watching Devil to Pay this time around — I hadn’t had occasion to see them since last year’s SHoD in Connecticut, which was before the newest record was released — was how much like a metal band they seemed. With Janiak and Rob Hough on guitars, Matt Stokes on bass and Chad Profigle on drums, they were long-haired, black t-shirted, bearded nearly in uniform. Janiak spent most of the set singing with his hair in front of his face and between their headbanging, their relatively clean tonality and the one-the-road tightness of their set, they played heavy rock like metal dudes. That’s not something I’m about to hold against them, but one got much more of a sense of it live than on the album. They weren’t showy, though, which was all the more a fit with the songs, and if it was a different-seeming route they took to being an unpretentious good time, the destination was reached with no less efficiency than one would expect from their recorded output.

Local dirt-thrashers Gut finished out the night, with vocalist Brian pacing back and forth in front of the stage and drummer Scott Healey (brother of Black Thai‘s Jim Healey and a former bandmate in We’re all Gonna Die) so buried in the back behind the two guitars and bass as to be largely invisible from in front of the stage. Their sound was heavy, aggressive and drunk, which earned much hooting from the gathered masses left at the end of the show. I picked up the Ten Lizardmen and One Pocketknife (they’d played the B-side “Black Fog” as well) and This Train Won’t Stop 7″ singles from Devil to Pay‘s merch table and shot the shit for a while before heading out. Van trouble would keep them from making their final tour stop in Long Island, but between the O’Brien’s gig and their show the night before at Geno’s in Portland, Maine, with the hopefully-permanently-reactivated Eldemur Krimm — not to mention SHoD in Virginia and the other dates on the tour — they seemed to have made the most of their time anyhow.

Some more pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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Live Review: Pelican, Kings Destroy and Phantom Glue in Allston, 10.19.13

Posted in Reviews on October 21st, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

On the televisions in the back of the Great Scott, the Boston Red Sox were working their way into the World Series, so the air was tense at first and jovial later on as Pelican came north from two Brooklyn CMJ shows for a sold-out gig with Kings Destroy and Boston’s own Phantom Glue: A bill of three bands I’d very much been looking forward to seeing. Pelican‘s Forever Becoming was still fresh in my head from reviewing it last week, so I was excited to see some of those songs live, and with memories of the mastery they displayed last year at Roadburn, it was all the better to catch them in a smaller space. Kings Destroy had an added element of intrigue for me, catching them out of their native NYC habitat, and since Phantom Glue were pretty high on my Boston-bands-I-gotta-see list (which, frankly, I can’t believe I haven’t made a post of yet), there was no way to lose. It had been a great day and it would be a great night.

As I’d learned the last time I was at the venue, it was dark. That seems to be how it goes. O’Brien’s, P.A.’s Lounge, Radio, Great Scott. All very cool places with no lights on. Fair enough, I guess. Nobody’s putting on shows for the people who show up with cameras, so there you go. Hardly impeded my enjoyment of Phantom Glue, who, again, I’d been anticipating a live encounter with more or less since I moved. Their vinyl-only summer ’13 outing, A War of Light Cones (review here), was a beast, and live, songs like “Perils” and “Biocult” only came across as meaner and rawer, the dueling barks of guitarist Matt Oates and bassist Nick Wolf tempering noise rock cruelties with modern metal sense of growl. It quickly became apparent that I was right to have high expectations for their set.

In a way, their t-shirts said it all. Wolf had Disfear, Oates had Karp, guitarist Mike Gowell had Harvey Milk and in back, drummer Kyle Rasmussen bore the logo of a demolition derby. So between them all, you had d-beat hardcore punk metal mixed with West Coast noise, unhinged creative doom and sheer destructive mechanical force for its own sake. I highly doubt the four guys in the band got together and were like, “Okay, tonight we’re going to go with the band-summation wardrobe,” but I’ll be damned if it didn’t work out that way anyhow, and for what it’s worth, their identity seemed to have been long since carved from these elements. They were comfortable on stage, delivered a powerful (and loud) set, and they’re a local act I’m very much looking forward to getting to know better. For even just a first time seeing them, though, they impressed.

And to have them go on right before Kings Destroy as well emphasized a clear difference in my mind — namely that between aggression and confrontation. Phantom Glue were aggressive; a heavy, move-the-air kind of band that lacked nothing in presence. Kings Destroy, their New York hardcore pedigree seeping through in a way that you’d say was in spite of them if they didn’t seem to enjoy it so much, are confrontational, directly challenging their audience. In Brooklyn, which is by far where I’ve seen them most, one almost takes this as a given. In Boston, when vocalist Steve Murphy jumped off the stage and went into the crowd at the end of “Blood of Recompense” from this year’s A Time of Hunting, it was more of a surprise. That’s not to say New England doesn’t have its own hardcore lineage — you can’t walk through Harvard Square without being spin-kicked at least twice — just that the approach is different.

Kings Destroy loved it, and speaking of kicks, guitarist Carl Porcaro got one from fellow six-stringer Chris Skowronski to wake him up as the solo in “Medusa” went long. They were loose, having played with Pelican in New York the night before, but dead on all the same, bassist Aaron Bumpus playing through a Sunn head I’ve seen smoke rise from the back of before with a tone that only made the already-full room more temperate. As ever, I fucking loved “The Toe,” which I’d argue is the transitional moment between the more straightforward riffery of the Maple Forum alums’ first album and the gleeful weirdness of cuts like “Shattered Pattern” and “Turul” from the second, taking cues from multiple impulses and setting them to drummer Rob Sefcik‘s steady groove. “Turul” wasn’t aired at Great Scott, but “Shattered Pattern” followed “Old Yeller” as the second song they played, which seemed bold for how quiet parts of it are, but “The Toe,” “Casse-Tête” and “The Mountie” set a steady roll that continued from there on out as they got more and more riotous toward their finish.

I’ve never regretted watching them play — their confrontationalism fascinates all the more outside New York; it’s fun to watch them catch people off guard – and by the time they were done, monitors had been toppled, P.A. speakers pushed, and Murphy had gone so far into the crowd that a path had to be cut for him to put the mic back on the stage. Not that Pelican needed it, being instrumental, but one doesn’t want to wander off with these things either. I don’t remember exactly when the grand slam put the Red Sox ahead of the Tigers, but I’m pretty sure it was between Kings Destroy and Pelican, and since that fits my narrative of the night better, I’m gonna go with it. Whenever it was, a cheer went up in the back of the venue and celebration — by that I mean more drinking — began. Despite a shared backline, Pelican took a while to get going. When they did, it seemed like the place was pretty well sauced. Not a complaint.

Also jammed. I old-man reminisced about seeing Pelican at the Knitting Factory in Manhattan nearly a decade ago (another dude up front said he’d been there as well, which was cool), but when I turned around, the room was heads the whole way back. Sure enough, a sold out show. The Chicago four-piece of guitarists Trevor de Brauw and Dallas Thomas, bassist Bryan Herweg and drummer Larry Herweg got underway with “The Creeper” from 2009′s What We all Come to Need (review here), but it was the one-two-three of “Deny the Absolute,” “The Tundra” and “Immutable Dusk” from Forever Becoming that hooked the crowd, myself included, with a tonally rich and unrepentantly heavy thrust that seemed to revel in its own dynamic of chugging, locked-in nod and periods of pastoral ambience. Though it’s a “duh” kind of thing to say for a band who’s been around for roughly 13 years, they were noteworthy in how tight they were, and though de Brauw got on a mic a couple times to thank the crowd for coming out and near the near the end of the set said it meant a lot to the band to sell out the place after not coming to town for so long, most of their time on stage was an undulating sea of open-feeling grooves.

Whatever else you can say about Pelican, they’ve never stopped doing things on their own terms — remember that time they found a singer and became the biggest band in the world? Nope, you don’t — so the loyalty engendered in their listeners makes sense, and justify by continuing to develop their approach over the years. One can trace their sound through the bevvy of splits and EPs and use their five full-lengths to date as a landmark, but live, it becomes more about the experience of where they are than how they got there. They dipped back to 2007′s City of Echoes to close out with “Dead between the Walls,” but that was as far back as they went. Last year’s Ataraxia/Taraxis EP (review here) was represented with “Lathe Biosas” and “Parasite Colony,” which like the three from Forever Becoming, appeared in succession as though to demonstrate that the flow of Pelican records is intended to mirror that of the live show and vice versa, and returning to the new album, “The Cliff” rested comfortably on Bryan‘s bassline as the airier guitars moved easily into the emergent churn of “Strung up from the Sky.”

By then, if you weren’t lost in it, you probably had called it a night already. I watched the end of Pelican‘s set further back, on the edge of the crowd swell, and found it no less immersive than it had been in front of the stage. “Strung up from the Sky” gave way to the galloping “Dead between the Walls,” breaking to atmospherics before building to a satisfying final churn and crashing noisy into its final moments. There was a requisite snap back to reality after the amps got shut off, and I watched as the crowd streamed out of the Great Scott and into the vomit-strewn baseball-loving Saturday night Allston street that awaited, got on line to pick up a CD of Forever Becoming – also buying a double of 2009′s Ephemeral EP, the title-track of which they’d played — and then likewise headed out.

Extra thanks to The Patient Mrs., Jaime Traba, Steve Murphy, Trevor de Brauw, and you for reading. This one was a special kind of night. Like I said, it was dark, but there are a few more pics after the jump.

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Buried Treasure and the Boogie of Thunder

Posted in Buried Treasure on November 16th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

It’s okay though. I’m pretty sure Lamont were only in such a hurry to kick your ass on Thunder Boogie because they had to get to that date with your girlfriend.

During their time together, Boston-based trio Lamont put out two EPs and two full-lengths. Thunder Boogie was the first, arriving a decade ago in 2002 on Traktor 7 Records after the 1999 EP and Muscle, Guts and Luck EP and preceding their swan song, Population 3. They broke up in 2007 — guitarist/vocalist Pete Knipfing went on to play in Mess with the Bull — and since then, info on the band has become sparse to the point on nonexistence. Even their MySpace page is gone by now.

A pretty familiar story — band does stuff then breaks up — and I’d leave it there were it not for the unencumbered freeballing swagger of Thunder Boogie itself. The basic fact of the matter is if this record came across my desk for review today, I’d fall all over myself to give it a glowing overly-detailed review, and while 10 years on, it’s not exactly groundbreaking for heavy or stoner rock, it’s clear even now that Lamont‘s penchant for speed-riffing and driving grooves — rushed from the start of the blazing “Hot Wire” — wasn’t about innovation as much as it was about drinking, classic rock worship, big hooks and no bullshit.

Like the best of Boston’s heavy rock scene then and now, there’s a strong undercurrent of punk in what Lamont does. Nine tracks in 31 minutes means there isn’t much time for screwing around, and “Vegas,” “I Saw Red” and “One White Line” ensure the first half of Thunder Boogie is filled with strong choruses, motor-ready rock and a blinding sense of pace that, even when it slows, hardly gives you time to process before Knipfing, bassist Mike Cosgrove and drummer Todd Bowman are on to the next thing. By the time they get around to “Thunderboogie,” “Hell’s Got Me Runnin’,” “Psychopath” and the infectious closer “Agent 49″ — which tops seven minutes only because of the bonus track — they’re well dug in, dripping attitude on the gang vocals of “Psychopath” or the post-rockabilly brashness of the finale.

Thunder Boogie finally came into my possession just hours after acquiring the Johnny Arzgarth haul, presented to me by the man himself, whose reaction earlier when I’d told him about my trouble finding any of Lamont‘s material was, “Oh yeah, let me call Pete,” in the manner of a person who gets things done. So be it. I don’t know how I’d ever be able to pick up any of Lamont‘s other releases — unless, I was to, say, move to Massachusetts sometime in the next year and immediately begin perusing CD stores — so the chance to hear this one was certainly much appreciated.

The video’s kind of lo-res, but should be enough for you to get the point:

Lamont, “Hot Wire”

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Friends Reviews Week Pt. 3: Cortez, Cortez

Posted in Reviews on May 31st, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

A little while back, guitarist Scott O’Dowd of Allston, Massachusetts, rockers Cortez hit me up for a band bio. The record, self-titled, came out on Bilocation just this very week, and of course, I said I was glad to write up a history of the band. I remember when they put out their 2007 Thunder in a Forgotten Town EP on Buzzville, and we’d played shows together periodically over the years, so as Cortez began to really take shape as a band – and especially after vocalist Matt Harrington came aboard in 2009 – it was exciting to think of their first album finally coming out. Songs like “Johnny,” “Until We Die” and the C.O.C.-esque riffing of “Monolith” were mainstays of their live set, and the demo they cut of that material was stellar. We’d talked about maybe doing a release via The Maple Forum on CD before I decided to draw back on that side of the site, and as I listen now to Cortez – a massive gatefold 2LP release with cover art by Alexander von Wieding that includes that 2009 demo as side D – I really do think it’s for the best that it ended up as a record. While my general preference is for shorter releases that, like a short story, can be absorbed in a single sitting, Cortez simply have more ground to cover. Ostensibly, this is their full-length debut, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s a follow-up to the EP, one that’s nearly five years in the making and one that has to do the work of establishing Cortez not only as a fresh act in Boston’s admirable heavy rock scene, but also a band who’ve put that half-decade since their last offering to good use in terms of development and creative personality. That’s a lot to ask of a 40-minute album, or even a 50-minute album. Cortez’s Cortez, including the demo, tops out at 75 minutes, and that proves to be more than enough time to get the job done.

In that span, all four members – O’Dowd, Harrington, bassist Jay Furlo and drummer Jeremy Hemond – distinguish themselves, but most importantly, Cortez shines as a unit, and whether it’s the melodic complexity of a track like “Wormwood” or the doomed atmospheric reveling accomplished by the later “Satan,” their songwriting sensibility is never lost. There’s a clear allegiance to riff rock – that’s not to say “stoner rock,” though I think that’s part of their scope as well – but Harrington soulfully belts out these tracks in a manner that clearly indicates that though he’s a more than capable frontman, it’s not about any single person in the band, but about the group working together toward a shared whole. Solos are taken, to be sure – O’Dowd is a classy player and that shines through no matter how fuzzed out the material gets – but one gets no sense of ego bleeding through Cortez’s straightforward arrangements. With a crisp New Alliance Audio production and mix from Ethan Dussault, the songs prove to be their own greatest strength, and it’s not just the riff, or the bassline (though Furlo kills it in the rhythm section with Hemond, crafting the stomp that makes the back end of second track “All Hail” so effective), or the drums or the vocals. It’s how all of it works together. That might be the most modern aspect of their approach, clearly grown out of a Boston punker/hardcore ideology – “no rock stars” – but it’s well met by their classic rock structures and heavier leanings. Even at his roughest (i.e. even on those demos), Harrington is never separated entirely from a melody, and his professionalism is wonderfully matched in the presentation of the album’s 11 central cuts.

What Cortez don’t do, however, is fuck around. There are very few ethics to which I apply universal favor, and strong songwriting is one of them. Cortez make songwriting sound innate, effortless, like the “Helter Skelter”-referential chorus that immediately plasters “Johnny” on the lining of the cerebral cortex like it’s a gig flyer is just what the band does every day after work. As the opener, “Johnny” emphasizes many of the album’s best aspects. It is impeccably constructed, briskly performed and crisply presented, and that remains a thread that runs all the way through to pre-demo closer “Nice Try.” A lyrical narrative of dudely heartbreak is met by undeniable groove, and Harrington’s melodies are infectious alongside O’Dowd’s riffing. It’s especially interesting to listen to “Johnny” as the first of the three demo tracks, because as they appear in order of “Johnny,” “Until We Die” and “Monolith,” that’s also how they come up on the record – just with other songs in between. So it’s probably something you might recognize your second time through or on some subsequent listen, but those songs sort of wind up being anchors for the rest of the material. “All Hail,” which divides “Johnny” and “Until We Die” on Cortez-proper, marries an epic intro to a driving guitar-led central figure – Hemond (also of Roadsaw and also in Black Thai with O’Dowd) gives an especially rousing performance here to provide early indication of the diverse style in his play that manages never to lose accessibility despite being technically complex, particularly in the fills – and shifts with about two of its total five minutes left to the aforementioned stomp, changing tempo some but mostly relying on Hemond easing off on the drums and opening the groove up some to match the guitars and bass. That sets a high expectation, but “Until We Die” quickly outdoes it.

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Hey Desertfest, Roadsaw Made a New EP Just for You!

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 28th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Well I don’t know about you, but if Roadsaw made an EP just for me, I’d feel pretty dern special.

In order to honor the Massachusetts rockers’ upcoming appearance at the London Desertfest next week (my goodness how time flies), Roadsaw recently hit frontman Craig Riggs‘ own Mad Oak Studios to lay down three mostly-live tracks as an advance EP that they’ve made available for free download via Bandcamp. You’ll notice Tim Catz (of “70 RPMs” fame) killing it on bass on the moody “Twisted Steel and Broken Glass” and the bluesier “Burn Down the Night” — on which guitarist Ian Ross also shines amid some pretty righteous organ.

And while I once swore a blood oath never to groove on a song called “Monkey Skull” (that’s not true), the barn-burning, grunge-laden punk of the third cut is more than enough to make me rethink my (hypothetical) position on the matter, drummer Jeremy Hemond seeming to be on three cymbals at once in the chorus while Riggs makes himself at home in the catchy lines. If I get to see them play any of these tracks next week — or, you know, ever — I’ll feel like I’m winning out.

Dig it:

No word on if they’ll press these songs to any kind of plastic, be it that compatible to lasers or that best read by needles, but to download Roadsaw‘s new EP, click here to get it free from Bandcamp.

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audiObelisk: Cortez Stream Opening Track from Self-Titled 2LP

Posted in audiObelisk on March 12th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

A little known band from California once said that, “five years is forever,” and though that band was wrong about many, many things, they were right on that one. Fortunately, Allston, Massachusetts, heavy rockers Cortez are making up for lost time. Their new full-length, Cortez, will be released as a 14-song double-LP on Bilocation Records next month.

The album follows the Buzzville Records EP, Thunder in a Forgotten Town, which was released in 2007. True, members of Cortez play in Roadsaw, Black Thai and other outfits, but even so, it’s hard to keep momentum going off an EP for half a decade. Periodic shows and regional tours in the Northeast US have helped, but there’s no denying that Cortez are overdue for an album. I think the band would probably be the first to say it.

So what we have, then, in Cortez‘s Cortez is a long, long awaited release of classic-minded heavy rock songwriting. You got your ’70s, you got your ’90s and you get your ’10s from how the two are combined. Cortez‘s combination of riffs and soul has only grown in potency since Thunder in a Forgotten Town, and Cortez, the album, shows that quality songwriting is ultimately timeless. Catchy is catchy, whatever year it happens to be.

In that regard, and as a fan of the band, it’s my honor to premiere the first studio-recorded audio from Cortez in five years. They hand-picked the song “Johnny,” which opens the album, and I probably would have chosen the same one, since it’s a case of the band rocking at their unpretentious best on a song that’s as well-performed as it is immediately memorable. In other words, I dig it and I hope you do too.

Please enjoy “Johnny” on the player below, followed by some info about the band and the album:

Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!

Cortez is vocalist Matt Harrington, guitarist Scott O’Dowd, bassist Jay Furlo and drummer Jeremy Hemond. The album Cortez will be released on Bilocation Records as a 2LP, features artwork by Alexander Von Wieding and was recorded by Ethan Dussault at New Alliance Audio in Cambridge, MA. For more on the band and updates on the release, check out their Thee Facebooks or the label’s website.

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SPECIAL FEATURE: Orange Goblin Studio Diary, Week 5 (Bonus Update From Craig Riggs)

Posted in Features on September 16th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster

Earlier this week, Orange Goblin frontman Ben Ward described sending tracks across the Atlantic to Roadsaw singer Craig Riggs so he could record a vocal guest appearance. I took that as a cue to hit up Riggs (who also tour managed Orange Goblin on their recent American tour), to see if he had anything to say about the process. The resulting couple paragraphs comprise what I’m thinking of as a bonus track to this whole series, snuck in just before the conclusion this coming week.

Hope you enjoy. To see all the updates on Orange Goblin‘s recording progress, click here. Thanks to Riggs for taking the time out:

After joking in the public eye (Facebook) with Mr. Ward about having me sing some backups on the new OG record, I was pleased to see an email that contained 10 fresh tracks from the band. Ben gave me few instructions on just what they wanted and which songs to sing on. “Focus on these two,” he said. So I went into Mad Oak Recording Studio (I know the owner) with engineer Joe Slibia. We worked on the two songs, and worked on a few more. I put backups on five songs and sent them back UK way. I let Ben know that I was going to lay down as much as I could in the day and the band could use what they wanted and toss out the rest. They seemed pretty happy with most of the stuff, and went onto mixing. So I will soon find out what made the cut, and what hit the floor. I for one am very excited.

This new OG record is going to kick ass! from what I gathered, it’s like a perfect blend of Iron Maiden, Motörhead, Lynyrd Skynyrd, yet remains completely Orange Goblin. There is some great melodies and a fine mix of tempos. Even the rough mixes I heard sound killer. Everyone hit this shit at the top of their game. I got excited about the latest Lo-Pan record when I first heard it. I feel the same way about this OG record. I can’t wait till everyone can hear the fuckin’ rock that is Orange Goblin.

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Takes a Band from Virginia to Make Me Wish I Was in Massachusetts in January

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 6th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster

Go figure.

I was thinking of catching Richmond Southern specialists The Might Could at Acheron in Brooklyn on Saturday, where they’re playing with two bands I’ve never heard of and thus care very little about. Tooling around the internets today and what do I see but that the very next night, they’re sharing the stage in Allston, Massachusetts, with Black Thai, Gozu and Riff Cannon — which, if you need me to spell it out, is a fucking awesome lineup.

Because I’m jealous, here’s the flier. Dig its informative minimalism:

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Live Review: Black Thai and Thinning the Herd in Brooklyn, 12.05.10

Posted in Reviews on December 8th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster

It was a Sunday night in Brooklyn and Crowbar was at the recently-busted Santos Party House, so I thought I’d skip out on the Boardwalk Empire season finale (DVR’ed it) and check out the live set from Allston heavy rockers Black Thai at Hank’s Saloon. Between all these factors and the fact that it was cold as fuck out, I didn’t anticipate much of a crowd at Hank’s for Black Thai or Thinning the Herd, who opened — all the better to go. Fewer people means fewer assholes. Woody from Mighty High was there, and a few others, but Hank’s is a small room anyway, so it worked out.

This was the second or third time I’ve seen Thinning the Herd, and of all the bands kicking around New York right now, I just get the feeling these guys are on the right track. Especially in the work of guitarist/vocalist Gavin Spielman, they’ve got tremendous potential, and if they got hooked up with the right recording engineer, who understands their kind of music — riffing and aggressive, but still aware of melody — they could come out with something really killer. They weren’t as tight at Hank’s as when I saw them last at The Trash Bar, but a little looser worked great for the Sunday night and the laid back atmosphere of the show.

Black Thai killed. They barely fit on the stage, the four of them, but even in tight quarters, they rocked hard and heavy, drummer Jeremy Hemond (Roadsaw, Cortez) reaching high to nail his cymbals time and again, and guitarist Scotty Fuse (also Cortez) and guitarist/vocalist Jim Healy (ex-We’re all Gonna Die) emitting riffs and solos with charisma and energy while bassist Cory Cocomazzi filled out the low end and added a moodier feel to the material. They’d played the release show for their Blood from on High EP (review coming soon) the night before in their native Massachusetts, and some of that energy clearly carried over to Brooklyn. It was a welcome addition to the evening.

It wasn’t the highest profile show happening in New York Sunday night — for that matter, neither was Crowbar — but both Black Thai and Thinning the Herd delivered big, making it well worth the drive from Jersey on my end. It was great to see Black Thai for the first time live after listening to the two tracks from their demo (with which they opened the set) and to get to know Thinning the Herd better as a live act. The night wrapped at about midnight and I headed back through Manhattan and the Holland Tunnel feeling better than I’ve felt coming back from Brooklyn in a long time.

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Black Thai Update CD Release Tour

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 1st, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster

If you’re in Massachusetts this weekend, the place to be is Saturday Black Thai‘s CD release show with Black Pyramid, Riff Cannon and Livver. With it, the band kick off a week-long tour in support of their new EP, the soon-to-be-reviewed Blood From on High, and prove that the Massachusetts riff scene is as strong as ever.

I’d go myself, but that’s a long way away, and I’m hoping to see Black Thai the next night in Brooklyn with Thinning the Herd. Wherever you find yourself in relation to Black Thai, they’re definitely worth checking out. Here are the updated dates for their tour:

12/04 Great ScottAllston, MA CD Release show w/Black Pyramid, Riff Cannon, Livver
12/05 Hank’sBrooklyn, NY w/Thinning the Herd
12/06 The M RoomPhiladelphia, PA w/Backwoods Payback, Boss 302
12/07 TBA
12/08 Mojo 13Wilmington, DE w/Hoodless, Agent Mofo, Lydia Can’t Breathe
12/09 Velvet LoungeWashington DC w/Borracho, El Grande
12/10 DIVEbarRaleigh, NC w/Righteous Fool (Mike and Reed from C.O.C. – Free show)
12/11 37th and ZenNorfolk, VA w/The Crimson Electric, Fire Faithful

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Black Thai Post Tour Dates to Support First EP

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 19th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster

Well, that’s how you do it. You play some shows, you write some songs, then you make a record and you hit the road to get behind it. Kudos to Allston, Massachusetts rockers Black Thai, who feature in their ranks guitarist Scotty Fuse and drummer Jeremy Hemond from Cortez (the latter also of Roadsaw) and vocalist Jim Healey of We’re all Gonna Die, for getting their debut EP together and promptly booking a week’s worth of killer shows, including a free one with Righteous Fool (Mike Dean and Reed Mullin of C.O.C.). If you can help them with the TBA dates listed, hit them up at the email address below.

From the band:

Black Thai is heading out on the road to celebrate the release of our debut EP Blood from on High. We’re kicking it off with a CD release show followed by a week’s run down the East Coast.

12/04 Great ScottAllston, MA CD Release show w/Black Pyramid, Riff Cannon, Livver
12/06 The M RoomPhiladelphia, PA w/Backwoods Payback
12/07 TBA
12/08 TBA
12/09 Velvet LoungeWashington DC w/Borracho, El Grande
12/10 DIVEbarRaleigh, NC w/Righteous Fool
12/11 37th and ZenNorfolk, VA

If anyone can help us out with 12/07 or 12/08, email us at blackthai (at)

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Phantom Glue Hit Hard and Quick on Debut

Posted in Reviews on July 19th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster

There are no credits included with Phantom Glue’s self-titled Teenage Disco Bloodbath Records debut. Just lyrics and artwork. Usually when a band does this kind of thing – the most prevalent example I can think of when it comes to willfully withholding information is Black Cobra, but lots of acts do it – you’re not missing much. Recorded by their friend in a basement, blah blah, thanks to the bands we play with, blah blah. In the case of Phantom Glue’s Phantom Glue, however, the Boston, Massachusetts, outfit recorded with Converge’s Kurt Ballou at Godcity Recording Studio in Salem, had the record mastered by Nick Zampiello, and guitarist/vocalist Matt Oates handled the disturbing album art himself. One would think they’d want this information out there. Why attach names of the caliber of Ballou and Zampiello to a project and then not tell anyone about it?


The chief audio comparison point for Phantom Glue is going to be High on Fire all the way. Oates and bassist N. Wolf (who also contributes vocals) are rougher in their delivery than latter-day Matt Pike, and the music sometimes launches into Sunlight Studios-style death metal guitar theatrics (as on “Brainbow”) with Oates and fellow guitarist M. Gowell duking out harmonics in the grand Entombed tradition. They also mark Electric Wizard as a comparison point, I think for the slower moments on the record, like the first half of closer “Scabman,” the title track, or perhaps most appropriately, “Blacktar,” which is legitimately centered around a riff that’s pure stoner doom despite the bombastic chaos happening around it.

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