Posted in Whathaveyou on June 18th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
It’s been a minute, but there was a time when Underdogma Records proliferated a brand of heavy rock that stood right in line with their contemporaries in the likes of Small Stone and Tee Pee. Between about 2000 and 2009, Underdogma belted out killer offerings from bands like Sunnshine, The Rubes, Ironboss, Gate 9, Crom, Throttlerod and We’re all Gonna Die, spanning a genre range of heaviness that had its underlying identity in a running theme of grit and aggression. Tee Pee went psych, Small Stone got fuzzier, but Underdogma‘s trade was generally in dirtier, meaner fare.
Their Judge Not compilation from 2000 is still worth tracking down if you can find it, boasting cuts from Solace, Solarized, Calamus, The Quill, Satellite Circle, Raging Slab, Pale Divine and many, many others, and knowing that is part of why the announcement of Underdogma‘s return with the Go Down Fighting heavy rock tribute to Nazareth caught my attention. No release date has been named yet — and I wouldn’t want to try to pin something like that down — but a partial tracklisting has been posted, and with the likes of Abrahma, Against the Grain, Shatner and Argus involved, among many others of course, and more to come, it seems like they could come back with plenty of wallop.
That tracklisting follows here. Note the prospect of Solace recording a new track for the tribute. Makes one wonder just how much of a return to activity theirs might be:
Underdogma, brain step-child of Grant Williams and Carlton Duff, started out as a high school science project and has remained that way ever since…
Coming soon “Go Down Fighting” a riff rock tribute to Nazareth!
Limited Edition Colored Vinyl. Track List: “Miss Misery” – The Rubes “Sunshine” – Calamus “Razamataz” – The Humanoids “Changing Times” – The Heave-Ho “Love Hurts” – Easy Jesus Coe “Please Don’t Judas Me” – Argus “Whiskey Drinking Woman” – Shatner “Witchdoctor Woman” – Abrahma “Expect No Mercy” – Against The Grain “The Ballad Of Hollis Brown” – Lifetime Shitlist
Also possible contributions from RAGING SLAB, Left Lane Cruiser, Solace, Daniel Davies, Gideon Smith, Contra, Mothership, Magic Jove, and surprise special guests!
Posted in audiObelisk on June 12th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Some good stuff here, but that’s pretty much like walking outside and noting all the oxygen in the air. Roadburn 2015’s newest batch of audio streams continues the thread from last time around in including one of the most talked-about performances at the festival in Tilburg, the Netherlands, this past April — namely Bell Witch. Many American bands head over there and make a special impression on the largely European crowd, but Bell Witch, the Seattle duo who were traveling abroad to herald the arrival of their 2015 sophomore outing, Four Phantoms (review here), on Profound Lore, seemed to earn extra acclaim from those who caught their performance. I wasn’t lucky enough to be one of them, but the response was universally positive.
Likewise the impact made by Monolord, who also feature here, but for my money, one of the highlights of the entire weekend was watching Uzala slay the Green Room. The ethereal doom trio who trace their roots to Boise, Idaho, were a surprise even though I’d seen them before, to the point that I did something I don’t often do at Roadburn, and that’s stay put for the entire set. Massive sound. Killer. Argus (pictured above) were a fist-pumping launch for the Afterburner on Sunday after the fest proper came to a close, and their classic metallurgy is no less welcome now as I pay it a revisit with the live stream.
Hope you enjoy the whole bunch:
Anthroprophh – Live at Roadburn 2015
Argus – Live at Roadburn 2015
Bell Witch – Live at Roadburn 2015
Monolord – Live at Roadburn 2015
Oozing Wound – Live at Roadburn 2015
Svartidauði – Live at Roadburn 2015
The Osiris Club – Live at Roadburn 2015
Uzala – Live at Roadburn 2015
Special thanks to Walter as always for letting me host the streams. To read all of this year’s Roadburn coverage, click here. For the first and second batches of streams, click here and then click here.
I did manage to get back to sleep this morning for a little bit after I finished writing the review and sorting pictures for last night, but first I went downstairs and took full advantage of the hotel breakfast. You get one free, and I wasn’t saving it or anything, I just hadn’t been up when it was served. Well, today I was. It opened at seven, I’d been up since four, so yeah. No problem. Some eggs, cheese, fruit, juice, bacon and sausage later, I was a new man. Who needed sleep. I got maybe half an hour before I needed to be up and out again to get to the 013 office and finalize the last issue of the Roadburn ‘zine, the Weirdo Canyon Dispatch, with Lee from The Sleeping Shaman.
We did it, put the issue out and everything. I folded paper like a champ and have the ink stain on my edge-flattening fingernail to prove it. Not the only mark Roadburn would leave on me today, but we’ll get there in a bit. In the meantime, check out the last Weirdo Canyon Dispatch of Roadburn 2015 here. Go on and give it a read.
Today was the Afterburner, which is Roadburn‘s traditional way of saying, “Sooner or later, you have to get back to real life.” It’s a transitional day. Less stages, fewer running back and forth, fewer people around, and so on. Band-wise, it’s usually a little more of Roadburn‘s roots: Heavy rock, psych, doom, though of course like the fest proper, the Afterburner has branched out stylistically as well.
One didn’t have to look much farther than Gnaw Their Tongues, Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin or headliners Anathema — who, since they were playing a special set spanning their career, both fit a doomed aesthetic and pushed beyond it — to see that. Still, it was underrated New York space/psychedelic outfit White Hills who started the afternoon off at 15.00 on the Main Stage. An East Coast equivalent in my mind for L.A.’s Farflung — who also did quite well at Roadburn once upon a 2012 — they remain a much more popular band in Europe than in their hometown. So be it. For me, a little space is almost always welcome, but I wanted even more to see Pennsylvania’s Argus open up in the Green Room.
Riding the line between doom and traditional metal, the Brian “Butch” Balich-fronted Argus launched their set with “By Endurance We Conquer,” “No Peace Beyond the Line,” and “The Hands of Time are Bleeding,” the first three songs from their third and latest full-length, 2013’s Beyond the Martyrs (review here). The crowd knew the songs and sang along to the hooks, particularly in “No Peace Beyond the Line,” the five-piece of Balich, guitarists Jason Mucio and Dave Watson, bassist Justin Campbell and drummer Kevin Latchaw making the best case I’ve yet heard for their songwriting. With the two guitars, driving, forward rhythms, roots doom and NWOBHM-precision, Balich‘s powerful voice in addition to that level of craftsmanship, it was no challenge to see the appeal of Argus, and the Green Room certainly got into it. Heavy metal might be a subculture, but it’s one that crosses an awful lot of national borders, and I doubt if there’s any fist-pumping headbanger types who couldn’t get down with Argus. They’re as classically-styled as classically-styled gets, and they delivered in force at Roadburn.
They were dug into the particularly Trouble-y “Pieces of Your Smile” when I made my way over to the main hall for Chicago instrumental four-piece Bongripper. Now, it would’ve been awfully nice to see those dudes kick the living crap out of their latest album, 2014’s Miserable (review here), way back on Thursday night, but they were going on late and, well, you know the story, with the typing and the clacky-clacky and whatnot. Fine. No way in gosh darn heck was I going to miss my second chance to see guitarists Nick Dellacroce and Dennis Pleckham, bassist Ron Petzke — with whom I shared a cab to Tilburg from Schiphol Airport on Wednesday — and drummer Daniel O’Connor bludgeon all in their path with volume and raw, plodding riffs. With a formidable stack of amps and cabinets behind them, Bongripper tore into a swath of material, a crowd having shown up early to get a good spot for the punishment they knew was in store.
Seeing Bongripper live is like being swallowed by sound. Like if sound had a mouth — maybe the mouth from the front cover of Miserable would suffice, if you need an image — and that mouth ate you. A beastly barrage of riffs and tonal thunder, all of this maddening heft pushed onto the audience in an unrelenting assault. They ended by wailing on their instruments in time to O’Connor‘s crashes, a kind of violent assault on their equipment that fed into the thick wall of noise built up, the packed Main Stage room nodding in unison. The band stopped short of taking a bow when they were done, but no one would’ve been able to say they didn’t deserve to do so. It’s a primal element of doom and sludge and stoner riffing that Bongripper feeds into, fattens, and then slaughters, but the grungus is mighty in what they do and spread out on the wide stage, it was as much an art project as a wanton beatdown. Even their feedback was a weapon.
I’d run into Ohio’s Lo-Pan earlier in the day. They’re on tour with Abrahma now, have been for a couple nights, and like a lot of US heavy bands who come to tour Europe for the first time, I think they’ve been impressed at the show culture. People show up, bands aren’t treated like crap, and it’s a generally cared-for situation, something precious done in a general public interest. The crew working at the 013 as a part of Roadburn are second to none in professionalism or hospitality, and so it seemed reasonable to me the band would be singularly impressed. All the better for the show, which is both the intent and precisely how it worked out when they went on in the Green Room at 18.30. They were clashing with Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin, but I’ve been itching for Lo-Pan to make a debut at Roadburn since they put out Salvador (review here) early in 2011. Let’s be clear: I wouldn’t miss them anyway. I’ll go see Lo-Pan just about any night of the week, but I knew this one was going to be special.
Of course, it was. “El Dorado” from Salvador opened and “Regulus” from last fall’s rager Colossus (review here) followed, the band immediately on fire. It was my first time seeing them with guitarist Adrian Zambrano, who came aboard in Nov. 2014 to fill the role formerly held down by Brian Fristoe. A new Lo-Pan, in a new place with new energy and even a new song in the set, there was nothing not to like. They were so tight it hurt With vocalist Jeff Martin set up in back behind drummer Jesse Bartz as per usual, Zambrano on stage left and bassist Scott Thompson on stage right, Lo-Pan were a heavy rock and roll force. Zambrano brought a little showmanship and style to the riffs and solos, and where Bartz and Thompson have always hit it hard on stage and the guitar was a more subdued presence (nothing against that whatsoever), having Zambrano headbanging away, tapping on the frets while throwing his pick-hand behind him, tossing a leg up on the monitor and so on both reinforced the energetic character of the band, as well as the material, and made it all the more exciting.
Speaking of headbanging, I did. It was among the best sets I’ve seen Lo-Pan play — lights, sound, performance, you name it — and yeah, I was getting into it a bit. I wound up banging my head into one of the monitors at the front of the stage early into the set. No blood, it wasn’t that bad, but I’ve got a bump sticking out of my forehead now and I expect by the time I get off the plane tomorrow in Boston it’ll be a good-size bruise. Easy enough to laugh it off and keep going, even if it’s a little sore when I raise my eyebrows, which I apparently do all the time. That’s how you find out that kind of thing.
Anyway, point is it was so, so, so, so good to see Lo-Pan. Not only because they’re one of American heavy rock’s best bands — I’ve called them the finest in US fuzz for pretty much the last four years — and not only because they killed it and put on a stellar show, but because they did it here, as a part of Roadburn 2015, looking across the stage at each other and challenging themselves to play better, harder than they have before. Their first European tour comes after countless US slogs and will hopefully lead to more, but it seems likely to me they’re going to remember this one, and I’m glad to have stayed through “Eastern Seas” and “The Duke” to watch them hammer down their victory. I’d been looking forward to it since they were announced, and it warmed my cold, dead heart to see them kick so much ass.
Their tourmates from Paris and Small Stone labelmates, Abrahma, were going on shortly down the block at Cul de Sac, which is right in the stretch of bars on Heuvelstraat adjacent to the 013 that for I don’t even remember how many years now I’ve been calling Weirdo Canyon (hence the Dispatch). The relatively small club is where the Hard Rock Hideout was held on Wednesday (review here), and I like the room a lot, so it seemed perfect to follow Lo-Pan with Abrahma and head over. Already they were on stage when I got there, dug into what turned out to be their soundcheck, but with the lights up, I snapped a few pictures just in case when they actually started they decided to play in the dark, as pretty much every band I’ve ever seen in that space has done. Abrahma, however, dared to be different.
In keeping, their upcoming second album, Reflections in the Bowels of a Bird (review/track stream here), does likewise, pushing into moodier, somewhat less psychedelic territory than their 2012 debut, Through the Dusty Paths of Our Lives (review here). Their set, which was actually just about split between the two records and leaned slightly toward the new one, was surprisingly heavy. Very riffy, very big in tone. Not quite to the level of Floor-syle bombdropping, but not far off either. As a frontman, Sebastien Bismuth was charismatic and engaging, banging his head harder than many and managing not to injure himself in the process unless you count an almost certain sore neck tomorrow, and joined by drummer Fred Quota for this tour along with bassist Guillaume Colin and guitarist Nicolas Heller, their sudden bursts of weighted groove hit with an impressive, genuine impact. As their songwriting continues to grow and become more complex, I’ll be interested to see how that impact evolves.
A prudent move would’ve been to stay longer, but even though it’s the Afterburner, Roadburn means time to move. Anathema would soon be on the Main Stage, playing a special set allotted 130 minutes that was being called “Resonance” and which started with the eponymous “Anathema” from last year’s Distant Satellites and working backwards through their discography. The Cavanagh brothers, Vincent (lead vocals, guitar), Danny (guitar, backing vocals) and Jamie (bass) were down front of the stage with drummer Daniel Cardoso and keyboardist/programmer John Douglas on risers behind, and over the course of their time, current vocalist Lee Douglas made intermittent appearances — a striking one for “A Natural Disaster” lit, at the band’s request, only by cellphone lights from the crowd, as seen on the cover of their 2013 DVD, Universal — and former bassist Duncan Patterson and former vocalist Darren White both showed up the farther along Anathema went, deeper and deeper still into their 25-year history.
They’re doing a short “Resonance” tour, are Anathema, but Roadburn 2015 was the first night, and the first time White had been on stage with the band in 20 years. Something special, no doubt. Here’s a fun fact, though: I love that band. Along with Amorphis, who were playing through the main hall P.A. just before Anathema went on, Anathema were one of the acts that led me into exploring underground metal, and ultimately — so the story goes — selling my soul to Tony Iommi at the expense of career, well-being and, this week, sleep. No complaints. But while Anathema are a pivotal band for me personally, a landmark act without whom I genuinely don’t believe I’d be the same person, I also fall into a rarer category of Anathema fan. It’s not their early stuff that I got into back when I was in high school. Not 1995’s Pentecost III, from which “Kingdom” and “Mine is Yours to Drown In (Ours is the New Tribe)” were aired at the start of what would be a third individual component set in the longer runtime, and not even the album The Silent Enigma, which followed it that same year, powerful though “Sunset of Age” and “A Dying Wish” were.
I have those records, and I dig those records a lot, but what got me into Anathema is their often-overlooked middle period: 1998’s Alternative 4, 1999’s Judgement, 2001’s A Fine Day to Exit and 2003’s A Natural Disaster. When I’m reaching for an Anathema album — as I invariably do in a depressive fit as I wallow in my own filth and worthlessness because I’m just the right kind of emotional cripple that music offers comfort I apparently can’t allow myself to feel otherwise; whoops — those are what I go for, and when Vincent led the way into “Pressure” from A Fine Day to Exit and “One Last Goodbye” from Judgement tonight, those were the songs that had me tearing up. No bullshit, bringing Darren White out was incredible. Clearly charged up to be on stage with the band in the context of headlining at Roadburn 2015, he settled in and nailed the dramatic chorus of “Kingdom” — shades of Fields of the Nephilim influence showing themselves — and led the band through the finish of their professionally polished but still emotionally potent set, “Sleepless” from Anathema‘s 1993 debut, Serenades, closing out.
This was the Anathema show I’ve been dreaming of, covering their whole career, but their mid-period, pre-prog, post-doom, was what hit me the hardest, the first four cuts from Alternative 4 played with Patterson on bass to morose and atmospheric effect. They could’ve done a third hour, easily, and I might have stayed for it if they did.
As it was, time was ticking away. One more stop to make, and it was back in the Green Room of the 013 for Brooklyn trio The Golden Grass, whose 2014 self-titled debut (review here) has only grown in my esteem since it was released. They’re a reminder of home for me, the East Coast, New York and all that, so they were perfect to close out my own little version of Roadburn. Guitarist/vocalist Michael Rafalowich, drummer/vocalist Adam Kriney and bassist Morgan McDaniel are on tour with Hypnos, who’d wrapped a bit earlier at the Cul de Sac, and though I knew I wouldn’t be there the whole time, I wanted to catch at least a bit of their sunshine boogie to help make the thought of walking out of Roadburn 2015, taking off my wristband and coming back to the hotel to put this last review together not quite such a bum-out. By the time they were through “Stuck on a Mountain” and “Please Man” and into a newer song I didn’t know, a bum-out was out of the question. Nothing but good vibes the whole way as I said a few quick goodbyes and walked down the stretch of Weirdo Canyon, a little quieter Sunday than Saturday, but by no means abandoned. I owe The Golden Grass one for that.
Strange to think that “tomorrow” (read: in three hours) when I get up to shower early and head out, it’ll be to the airport instead of the 013 office to bang out another issue of the Weirdo Canyon Dispatch. Roadburn develops its own culture so quickly each year, and the more and more I’m fortunate enough to come see Tilburg in the springtime, the more it feels like home.
I’ll have another post up to close out this series and say thanks and whatnot, so until then, I’ll just say the same thing I always say: More pics after the jump and thanks for reading.
Posted in Whathaveyou on November 12th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Just days after announcing Anathema‘s special reunion set, Roadburn 2015 turns around and lets loose with another round of lineup additions, including Wovenhand headlining Thursday night — ask me about how they were the heaviest band I saw at the fest in 2011; I’d love to tell you all about it — and Enslaved and Wardruna each playing individual sets on top of their collaborative Skuggsja set. Russian Circles will also play, and Helms Alee with whom they’ll be on tour in Europe, and it’s kind of buried under all the other details, but some other killer acts have joined the bill as well.
Among those, an immediate standout is Uzala, whose “Tenement of the Lost” has been stuck in my head the last few days, with its glorious wash of feedback and the sweetly depressive melody that emerges therefrom. The thought of Argus taking stage at Roadburn is a thrill as well, and Tombstones, who released their Red Skies and Dead Eyes (review here) album last year, and Bell Witch and Eagle Twin and Sun Worship and even more than that. It’s an astounding and exciting bunch of acts.
I won’t delay any further. Dig in:
Wovenhand, Russian Circles, and more announced for Roadburn 2015; Enslaved and Wardruna unveil more show details
Roadburn is very pleased to announce Wovenhand, Russian Circles, Wardruna, and a second Enslaved performance among the latest additions to the 20th edition line up of the festival which will take place in April 2015.
Wovenhand and Russian Circles added to Thursday line up
Wovenhand’s incendiary performance at Roadburn 2011 remains one of the most talked-about shows in the festival’s history, and it’s a great pleasure to have David Eugene Edwards and his band back at the festival for what should be another thrilling, transformative concert. The band will reignite the 013 stage as the headline act on Thursday April 9.
Led by former 16 Horsepower frontman Edwards, Wovenhand similarly delves deep into the darker, more gothic side of Americana, only on a much more personal, introspective level. The latest album ‘Refractory Obdurate’ is the band’s most visceral work yet, with its heavier arrangements packing a devastating punch.
Already veterans of Roadburn, Chicago instrumental trio Russian Circles will return to the 20th edition of Roadburn Festival for a much anticipated main stage performance on Thursday, April 9, filling the main hall with their spacious, tonally lavish sound.
With a blend of post-rock airiness, heavy riffing and progressive rhythms, they are one of the most evocative instrumental bands in the underground today, and we at Roadburn couldn’t be more excited to welcome them back.
Roadburn curators confirm details of special performances
After a stunning sneak preview of the upcoming Enslaved album, we can only conclude that the band keeps blasting past their own and their associated genres’ limits. Listening to the album prompted us to invite the band for a second show at Roadburn 2015 on Saturday, April 11th, so that all of our beloved attendees can bask in the band’s creativity and talent, and share our excitement about what is sure to become another Enslaved classic.
We at Roadburn are huge admirers of Enslaved, thus it won’t have come as a suprise that we have invited their guitarist/composer, Ivar Bjornson, along with Einar Selvik (Wardruna), to curate the 20th edition of Roadburn Festival (a special event named ‘Houses of the Holistic’) on Friday, April 10 at the 013 venue.
Besides performing Skuggsjá, the sound of Norway’s Norse History, together with Wardruna, Enslaved will also perform a show dubbed ‘House of Northern Gods’, which will consist of a set list specially put together for ‘Houses of the Holistic’, featuring songs from the band’s entire catalogue that embody the Norse gods, with accompanying visuals created by revered Romanian artist, Costin Chioreanu.
“The Friday show during Roadburn 2015 will indeed be a special one”, says Ivar Bjørnson. “We have named the concert ‘House of Northern Gods’ and it will consist of a walk-through of an imaginary, magical house. It is a mental construction that could represent the mythological Valhalla with its inhabitants – or in Jung’s school of psychology: the archetypical roles of the human psyche. This will be the foundation for the set-list and the framework around the concert; there’s a stem of thematic songs from ‘Allfadr Odinn’ (the Paternal archetype) on ‘Hordanes Land’ in 1993 up to ‘Materal’ (the Maternal archetype) from 2012’s ‘RIITIIR’ where various characters/ roles in the ‘House of Northern Gods’ are represented and materialized into music. These are the songs that will make up the Friday show at Roadburn 2015!”
“As if it wasn’t a big enough honour to play one show at Roadburn 2015, we get to play a second show Saturday!” Ivar continues. “We are already hard at work with planning to turn these into the most spectacular two Enslaved shows possible, as we know that this double-Roadburn-whammy is not likely to happen again (we’ve heard of lightening striking twice, but thrice?). This second show will be one of the first European shows where we present our new album, that will be released something like a month prior to Roadburn 2015. We don’t like to brag; but be prepared for something monumental! We will also make use of the fact that Tilburg will be loaded to the brim with friends and colleagues at this point, so don’t be surprised if the show culminates in Enslaved having good friends on stage to make sure we go out with a blast! He who lives will see…
Ivar Bjornson’s fellow curator, Einar Selvik will also be performing with Wardruna in a special performance, dubbed ‘House of the Spinning Seer’. The winners of Metal Hammer’s Golden God award for Best Underground Band, will take to the stage on Friday 10th of April as another part of ‘Houses of the Holistic’.
“We are very excited as well as honored to be back to perform at Roadburn 2015″‘ says Einar “Kvitrafn” Selvik, “and so we plan to use this occasion to give the audience a concert out of the ordinary. It will be a Wardruna concert in an all-new form. With almost twice the amount of musicians that we normally have on stage our sonic threads of old and new shall be majestically spun and our soundscape carefully woven on the loom of the spinning seer.”
Argus, Bell Witch, Darkher, Eagle Twin, Helms Alee, Sun Worship, Terminal Cheesecake, Tombstones, Brimstone and Uzala have also been confirmed for the 20th edition of Roadburn Festival.
Curated by Ivar Bjørnson (Enslaved) and Wardruna‘s Einar “Kvitrafn” Selvik, Roadburn Festival 2015 (including Fields of the Nephilim, Anathema, Skuggsjá, Enslaved, Wardruna, Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin performing Dawn of The Dead and Susperia in its entirety, Zombi, Sólstafir, White Hills, Bongipper, Floor, Eyehategod and The Heads as Artist In Residence among others) will run from Thursday, April 9 to Sunday, April 12 at the 013 venue in Tilburg, The Netherlands.
Posted in Features on October 1st, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
I’m sure there are others. Seems to be the rule of this kind of thing that, if there’s a list, sure enough there’s something left off it. So to whoever I didn’t remember to include, please know it wasn’t premeditated. Basically I woke up this morning and thought of a bunch of kickass records that came out today and, after a cup of coffee, decided to put this together. Not exactly like I’ve been stewing on the idea for weeks or anything.
But, with a stylistically varied slew from trad doom to classic metal to weirdo drone ambience, Oct. 1, 2013, does indeed feel like a special kind of day for those who might hunt down a new release. Who doesn’t like that ritual? Pre-orders are great and all, but picking up an album on the day it comes out holds a place in my heart reserved for few rites. If I could’ve gone to a midnight sale last night and picked up all of these, I’d have been there in a second.
Barring that, I hope you at least find something here you might want to check out. Like the headline says, as far as I’m concerned, these are all worth your time. Let’s go alphabetically:
1. Argus, Beyond the Martyrs
Released by Cruz Del Sur. Argus‘ third album, Beyond the Martyrs (review here), finds the Western Pennsylvania troupe delving further into their classic metal roots. Singled out by the powerful vocals of Brian “Butch” Balich (formerly of Penance), songs like “No Peace beyond the Line” and “Cast out Your Raging Spirits” also feature ripping, landmark solo work and driving, fist-pumping rhythms. It’s a straightforward collection, but don’t be fooled — Argus take these classic elements and make them their own to such an extent that Beyond the Martyrsis their strongest work of songwriting yet. Get it here.
Argus, “By Endurance We Conquer” & “No Peace beyond the Line”
2. Black Rainbows, Holy Moon
Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Persistently underrated Italian trio Black Rainbows return with a new 38-minute release dubbed Holy Moon. They’re calling it an EP, but for my money it’s a full-length album, and it’s their most varied work to date. Rounding out with a cover of MC5‘s “Back to Comm” that stretches past 12-minutes in a huge heavy psych jam, Holy Moonalso finds the three-piece delving into Colour Haze-worthy lush exploration on “Chakra Temple” and riffing out with classic stoner fuzz on “The Hunter.” EP or LP, it’s a winner, and as Black Rainbows have toured Europe persistently these last couple years, it’s hopefully a matter of time before more people catch on. Get it here.
Black Rainbows, Holy Moon
3. In Solitude, Sister
Released by Metal Blade Records. Swedish metallers In Solitude return to reap the benefits of touring with Down and others in support of their 2011 sophomore outing, The World. The Flesh. The Devil. The Uppsala five-piece give traditional metal a genuine facelift with their third album, Sister, basking in some of the simplicity of approach and hook-filled songwriting of modern cult rock and casting off the grandiosity and pretense of Mercyful Fate but keeping all of the lurking sinister vibe. Look for In Solitude to make even more of an impact than they did their last time out. They’ll be touring in October with Watain. Get it here.
In Solitude, Sister
4. Iron Man, South of the Earth
Released by Metal Blade/Rise Above. 2013 has produced little news as welcome as the announcement that long-running Maryland doomers Iron Man were signing to Rise Above for the release of South of the Earth, thus ensuring they’d not only reap the benefit of that label’s considerable doomly credibility but also secure a North American issue through Metal Blade. Their first full-length with frontman Dee Calhoun, it’s also their strongest production yet, and one can only hope South of the Earth is the moment that marksIron Man beginning to get the recognition they’ve long since deserved as not only pioneers of Maryland doom, but one of its most engaging acts. Get it here.
Iron Man, “Hail to the Haze”
5. Mühr, Messiah
Released by Canardian Records. Early in 2011, I caught wind of the debut release from Dutch outfit Mühr, and that two-song offering (discussed here) left enough of an impression that when I heard they had a follow-up coming in the form of the single-track/47-minute Messiah, I was immediately excited. A couple years later finds Mühr a much different outfit, more dynamic and patient in their builds, but still able to break into some unbridled tonal crush when they so choose. On its own, “Messiah” is more diverse than some bands ever get in their careers, and Mühr emerge as masters of a complex aesthetic, at times gorgeous and at times terrifying. Not to be missed. Get it here.
Well, there you have it. There’s a ton of great stuff coming out this month, from bands like Horisont, Russian Circles, Pelican, Red Fang, Monster Magnet, on and on, but it’s important to start the month off right. And broke. Enjoy.
Got something I missed or something you’re especially looking forward to in the coming weeks? The comments are right there.
Posted in Reviews on August 27th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
It’s hard to discern just what Pennsylvania traditional doom metallers Argus intend with the title of their third album, Beyond the Martyrs. On a superficial level, one doesn’t think of a martyr as a place or a level of development to move past, but more than that, what’s supposed to be beyond them? What comes after that? Death? Devastation? Peace? Paradise? Which martyrs are the five-piece talking about? Is it a Christ figure? The al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades? The closing title-track — which arrives eighth on the 42-minute Cruz del Sur LP with cover art by Brad Moore — is instrumental, so that’s not much help in terms of answering the questions of theme. Tracks prior like “No Peace Beyond the Line” and “Trinity,” “Cast out all Raging Spirits” and opener “By Endurance We Conquer” could be read to have elements of religious conflict to them — certainly conflict, anyway — but if there’s a narrative to Beyond the Martyrs, it’s not one as stated by the band so much as one that relies on the listener to plot its course. Maybe that’s on purpose. As a band, Argus seem much more interested in making solid and conscious use of the dual guitars of Jason Mucio and Erik Johnson and one of traditional metal’s most powerful belt-it-out voices in former Penance vocalist Brian “Butch” Balich, who delivers a standout performance here no less righteous than that on 2011’s Boldly Stride the Doomed(discussed here) and 2009’s self-titled debut (review here). Balich is a big part of carrying across the dramas of Beyond the Martyrs— as a standalone frontman should be — and the songs he’s working on top of set a memorable foundation from which to soar as he and a bevvy of guitar solos please, bassist Andy Ramage and drummer Kevin Latchaw hammering out straightforward structures to make “No Peace Beyond the Line,” “Trinity” and “Cast out all Raging Spirits” among the album’s several highlights. That is to say, Argus isn’t just about its singer, despite his considerable presence within these tracks, and Beyond the Martyrsfinds a progressive balance between metal and doom that moves fluidly to cast its own personality somewhere between the two.
That process begins immediately with the deceptively catchy chorus of “By Endurance We Conquer.” Latchaw double-times it on his hi-hat to build up tension during the verse before the hook opens up. I don’t know whether it’s because of the arching militaristic bombast of the song or if it’s just the way the epic feel is crafted, but on first impression, “By Endurance We Conquer” stands out more for its voracious chestbeating and listing of virtues than for the delivery of the title line, but after a couple times through, the opener more than justifies its presence at the fore of Beyond the Martyrs, acting as something of a vanguard for the rest of the album to come. Already much of the record’s ethic is established: Balich carries a verse into a memorable refrain and the guitars answer back with accomplished solos and driving riffs underscored by strong, powerful heavy metal rhythms. As far as songwriting methodologies go, you could do a lot worse. “No Peace Beyond the Line” takes more time to unfold, but winds up in a fist-pump chug for its verse as the vocals tease the song’s greater hook still to come in a sort of bridge part that early on substitutes for an actual chorus. They cycle through twice before the guitar solo takes hold, and though it’s not until the last minute that they arrive, it’s the repetitions of “There is no/There is no/There is no peace beyond the line” that ultimately give the song one of Beyond theMartyrs‘ most lasting impressions, the vocals doing a layered call and response to deliver the title and finish with a nailed-it adrenaline-push yell. I don’t know where the line is, but there’s no peace beyond it. The issue is settled. After such a strong opening duo, some comedown is inevitable, but “The Hands of Time are Bleeding” fights redundancy by upping the doom in its slower early going and picking up to an effective linear buildin both pace and overall rush. A stop at 3:09 is a startling transition, but I’d guess that was probably the idea, and the solo that continues after stands out all the more for it. Vocals return toward the end, and though the results aren’t quite as instantly engaging as with “No Peace Beyond the Line,” the change in mood is effective leading to “Trinity” which is arguably the darkest moment on the album.
Posted in Whathaveyou on August 15th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
I’m not sure what exactly lies “beyond the martyrs,” but I look forward to finding out when the third album from Pennsylvania doom merchants Argus drops. Cruz del Sur will release Beyond the Martyrson Oct. 1 in North America, and as their last outing, 2011’s Boldly Stride the Doomed(discussed here) was such a classic-tinged thriller, it’s a date you might want to write down. Get a pencil. I’ll wait.
ARGUS: Beyond the Martyrs Coming This October on Cruz Del Sur Music
Cruz Del Sur Music will release Beyond the Martyrs, from US doom metal outfit ARGUS, on October 1st in North America and October 7th release in the UK.
Beyond the Martyrs starts where their 2011’s release Boldly Stride the Doomed had left us…at the Ruins of Ouroboros. In between these two releases ARGUS has tested its strength and valor in several live shows both in their homeland and in Europe, receiving high praises from fans and from the record industry. Although a sense of impending fate marks again their compositions, the characteristic doom metal elements which were a distinguished trademark of ARGUS’ past releases have now given way to what is primarily to a genuine heavy metal approach, its nature rooted in the most classic environment of Heavy Metal tradition.
1. By Endurance We Conquer 2. No Peace Beyond The Line 3. The Hands of Time Are Bleeding 4. Trinity 5. Four Candles Burning 6. The Coward’s Path 7. Cast Out All Raging Spirits 8. Beyond The Martyrs
ARGUS’ third album is sure to force metal heads everywhere to raise horn-crested fists to the sky. Beyond the Martyrs contains the hallmarks of their previous works – twin guitars, soaring vocals, and a driving rhythm section; it is heavy, melodic, epic, and brooding all at once. After their successful shows at festivals such as Hammer of Doom in 2011 and Dublin Doom Days in 2012, the band will hit again the European soil with a proper tour in October 2013 in order to promote Beyond the Martyrs.
Butch Balich – vocals
Jason Mucio – guitar
Erik Johnson – guitar
Andy Ramage – bass
Kevin Latchaw – drums
Having done work for the likes of Penance, Place of Skulls, Sixty Watt Shaman, Züül and a host of others over the last 20-plus years, artist Brad Moore is known for a signature, definitively-metal style that nonetheless largely defies the black and white and mostly black convention of metal in favor of rich colors and textures. His work on Pennsylvania classic doomers Argus‘ two albums to date — 2009’s Argus and 2011’s Boldly Stride the Doomed — has proven particularly distinct.
As such, when Argus unveiled the art yesterday for the forthcoming third full-length, Beyond the Martyrs, I hit up Moore on the quick to see if he could give some insight on what went into painting it and what inspired the tone and complexity of the piece, which you can see below.
Click the image to enlarge, and special thanks to Moore for his input:
Argus, Beyond the Martyrs front cover
When Argus approached me about painting the artwork for their debut LP, we all agreed we wanted to sidestep the “warriors with swords” thing, and that gory art wouldn’t adequately complement the style of music and subject matter the band were striving to create. We all felt a “Lovecraftian” approach was best, to framework doomy metal that has a mystery to its feel. I created the creature that adorns the Argus covers (at least, the ones I had a hand in) to be the mascot, and though you’ll see it does not utilize any of Lovecraft‘s personal motifs (tentacles, amorphous blob-like gods, etc.), the whole effect is like those Lovecraft paperbacks. I deliberately use unusual color schemes for Argus, as I feel that way too many doom/death metal bands use a grey/black monotone approach that gives the scene, as a whole, a generic feel. I did paint their second LP, Boldly Stride the Doomed, in a very monochromatic style, to completely separate the two recordings, as Boldly is a much darker album than the self titled debut.
Getting to the newest Argus effort, Beyond the Martyrs, the cover painting is titled “Alien Gateway to the Gallery of the Martyrs” precisely because the band wanted to have an “otherworldly” atmosphere to the proceedings, and to have the artwork reflect a dark-but-with-colors feel. In essence; not the near over-the-top colors of the first one, but having toned-down colors to maintain the doom, but suggest a correlation of the two albums that signifies the forward growth of the band. This Argus outing will be their most aggressive! I, for one, am happiest with this new artwork the most, both in mood, and technical achievement.
Argus will release Beyond the Martyrson Oct. 1 in the US and Oct. 4 in Europe on Cruz Del Sur. More on the album to come.