There had not been much word from Swedish fuzz jammers Asteroid in over a year until about last month. Guitarist/vocalist Robin Hirse had moved on to a new project, The Sun, the Moon and the Witch’s Blues, and by all accounts, the trio were defunct. Then, on Sept. 23, they asked the simple question, “Is there anybody out there..?” on Thee Facebooks and followed that up with this picture, presumably a current shot of the band’s lineup of Hirse, vocalist/bassist Johannes Nilsson and drummer Elvis Campbell, the latter of whom was already out of the group when they released their final (to-date) 7″, Move a Mountain/One Foot in the Grave (review here). All this has prompted speculation of a reunion, and a particular point of interest is another photo from Oct. 24 given the heading “The circle’s complete…” of a setlist that features “Move a Mountain,” “Towers” from 2010’s II (review here), and one noted “Nya Låten,” which is Swedish for “new song.”
I don’t know when that photo is from. It could well be that it was a remnant from the last live show Asteroid played, but it would have to have been after that final single was put together, since the “new song” was coming together after “Move a Mountain,” which was the newest release. I’m also not sure where the song “Last Man,” noted on the same setlist, comes from, if that was also new or something else entirely. Either way, it’s fodder for thinking that Asteroid are either now or were at some point working on new material, and that potential is invariably good news. Whether or not anything comes of it obviously remains to be seen.
Still, the simple prospect of an Asteroid reunion is enough to have me breaking out II this afternoon for another go. Hands down one of the best albums of 2010, it was a step forward from the catchy stonerisms of the band’s 2007 self-titled debut (discussed here) and found the band nestling into a jammier sound, modern but still in line with the organic vibes for which their hometown of Örebro is known, having produced acts like Witchcraft, Graveyard and Truckfighters in addition to themselves. Truckfighters, incidentally, were the ones who released II, through their Fuzzorama Records imprint. A deal with Small Stone in 2012 fell through and didn’t lead to any release through the label, so I can’t help but wonder if a new Asteroid release would surface through Fuzzorama or perhaps another outlet. Still seems like a good fit to me.
My esteem for these tracks has only grown in the half-decade since they were released, and while I dug the single-song demo from The Sun, the Moon and the Witch’s Blues (review here) and that band seems to currently be engaged in some form or another of recording — the more the merrier — the chance of a reborn Asteroid is one more reason to look forward to the New Year, when presumably we’ll find out one way or another if this thing is really happening.
In the meantime, enjoy II, because it certainly is enjoyable.
So here’s my deal. I missed seeing YOB this week in Boston. I have a 90-minute driving commute each day to work and it has basically destroyed me for doing anything on weeknights more than watching Star Trek and complaining about my commute, how tired I am, and so on. YOB are playing New York tomorrow, which is Saturday, at an early show with their tourmates in Black Cobra and perennial favorites Kings Destroy. An early show at Webster Hall. Over at 9:50PM so the venue can do the dance-club thing.
No brainer, right? Of course I make that trip.
Thing is, Sunday morning at 10:45AM, I fly out of Boston Logan airport to go to Chicago. I’d be making the trip from Massachusetts to New York and back — eight hours of road time, minimum — and get in probably a little bit before 3AM before waking up at, what, 7AM, to get to the airport by 8:45 for a 10:45 flight. It is madness.
Precisely my favorite kind of madness.
Question becomes whether or not I completely demolish myself for this work trip, or whether I let the show go and just miss YOB, Black Cobra and Kings Destroy — all of whom I’ve certainly seen before — this time around. I’ll admit I’m not yet settled on the issue.
Anyway. However it winds up, good stuff to come next week. I’ll have a Magic Circle track premiere, I think, on Tuesday, and since I’m traveling one way or another, I’ll be sure to stop in at a record store somewhere along the line, so hopefully some fruits of that endeavor as well to remind myself why I have a job in the first place. Because I enjoy record shopping.
Speaking of, anyone notice that yesterday was a seven-post day and today was eight? No? Don’t flatter myself? Fair enough.
That’s 15 friggin’ posts in two days. Granted a lot of that was news, videos, etc., but still. Not exactly healthy, but it’s been a busy time between fests, new records, tours, videos, reviews and so on. Lots to try to keep up with. I’m only one person. Do not expect seven posts to become the norm.
Do have a great and safe weekend, and please do check out the forum and radio stream.
I didn’t hear the 2007 self-titled debut from Swedish fuzz rockers Asteroid until two years later, but even half a decade after that, it remains a record I’ve gone back to over time when the situation calls for something brilliantly laid back, heavy, fuzzed out and catchy. There’s a band now from Ohio called Doctor Smoke; the closing track on this album is where they got their name. And while at nearly an hour long, the Örebro trio made their first outing a considerable undertaking, that song makes an excellent place to wind up as the journey rounds out.
And it is that. For all its stoner rocking charm, Asteroid‘s debut has a psychedelic flow underlying that would come more to the fore in 2010 with the delightfully jammy II(review here), but can be heard in the funky groove in the verse of “Panoramic Telescope,” and elsewhere of course. One of the album’s chief strengths, however, is its sense of flow, how easy the material leads you along the full-length course, how smooth Asteroid sound. Impressive for a band of any experience, let alone for a debut. On summer nights, I’ve sat and looked at the stars with this album, and I’ve used it like a blanket in winter. There’s no time that “The 13th Witching Hour” doesn’t feel just right.
Asteroid released a 7″ late in 2012 (review here), and word got around last year they had signed to Small Stone, but nothing has surfaced as yet. I consider myself lucky to have heard them jam out some of this material at Desertfest London in 2012, and though Fuzzorama,who initially released both albums, just put out a new pressing of the second one, hopefully it’s not too long before Asteroid‘s jammy take gets another studio installment. Got my fingers crossed.
Also my eyes are crossed, but that’s just from being tired. I doubt it’s been a major consideration in your life either way, but if you were wondering at all where I’ve been the last two days, I’ve been getting ready to move. Yesterday, The Patient Mrs. and I closed on a condo in East Bridgewater — 16 minutes away as I timed the trip last night. We went there yesterday to start taking some stuff over and to clean. We’ve been packing for the better part of the last 10 days. Today was cleaning all day, from morning to night, and getting the internet set up. We’re back at the other place now, in Abington, and I’m pirating signal off one of the neighbors. Thanks and sorry to whoever it is.
The closing was originally supposed to be today. It’s good we bumped it up a day, with so much cleaning to do. People never vacuum. Fucking cruelty. It was hot over there and sleeping on an aerobed with two people sucks, and we still had more stuff to pack, so we came back here. Movers come in the morning. The Patient Mrs. leaves for Greece for a month tomorrow night at 10:45. Get ready for some classic “I miss my wife”-type shit, as I expect I’ll be there by the end of next week. No central air and no Patient Mrs. is gonna be a rough July, I expect.
But at least while I’m sitting in the new place all next week (and presumably the subsequent three weeks), unpacking, etc., at least I’ll have plenty of time to write, which I didn’t this week. Monday, look out for that Wo Fat instrumental stream. Was supposed to go up today, but there were 10 hours of vacuuming and dusting to do, so there you go. I’d also like to do a batch of radio adds, and I should be able to transcribe that Lowrider interview as well, so keep an eye out for that. It was a doozy.
So, moving tomorrow, more cleaning, saying goodbye to The Patient Mrs. for a month, etc., but hopefully things will be workable by Monday. Whatever you’re up to this weekend, I hope it’s a great time. It’s hot out there. Don’t forget to hydrate.
It’s been a while since I’ve had a fully functional turntable, and by that I mean one that worked at all. Platters have been coming in for review for The Obelisk and I’ve managed to figure something out, either listening somewhere other than my office or whathaveyou, but really, it’s something that I’ve been missing up to this point. I tried several times to acquire a working one to no avail, until just this past week, Slevin rolled through with one he wasn’t using and set it up. Toss in a new cartridge, dust it off, and as you can see above, whamo, a working player of vinyl records.
Nifty, right? I traded him the busted Technics that formerly resided at the top of my office shelf system and he gave me this working Optimus, and since I don’t know the difference, I’m just happy to have one that actually can play an albums. I’ve had a pile of stuff here waiting to be written up or even just listened to, so at the end of last week, there was a bit of a binge in vinyl listening, one after another after another and so on. Can’t help it. Sometimes I get excited.
In the spirit of sharing, I thought I’d post the first five records I put on once I had the ability to do so. Needless to say, there have been several more since:
1. YOB, Demo
I haven’t asked to confirm, but I think this was actually the one that got Slevin on board for giving my pathetic ass in the first place. A couple weeks ago, I put up a rant, basically pissing and moaning at having bought myself the 2009 vinyl reissue of YOB‘s demo despite not being able to hear it, so when I finally could, it was the first thing I grabbed. Sure enough, the four tracks on the release — the three of the initial 2000 demo and one live track to close out side B recorded in 2005 — were as primitive as one would have to expect, way more Sleep-derived even than YOB‘s first full-length, but still a joy to hear after so long. Even as a curio, this one was worth the wait and since I’m planning on having this turntable for a while, I was glad I got to play this one first.
2. Asteroid, Move a Mountain 7″
Maybe this one was kind of obvious, since a review went up the other day, but wow, I was looking forward to hearing the latest from Asteroid. Aside from thinking they’re one of the best Swedish heavy rock acts going these days — balancing heavy psych jams with memorable songwriting and sounding so incredibly natural doing it as they do — I wanted to hear how they were developing with their new drummer and was glad to find that even on such a short, two-song release, they hadn’t lost that combination of structure and laid back exploration that has made both of their albums to date so much fun, indeed pushing it further on the B-side, “One Foot in the Grave,” which was some of their fastest material yet. I was already looking forward to their third full-length. Now even more so.
3. Mars Red Sky/Year of No Light, Green Rune White Totem
Mars Red Sky — whose new EP, Be My Guide, is due in April, in case you missed the news that just went up — were kind enough to send me a vinyl copy of their Green Rune White Totem collaboration with their countrymen black metal experimentalists Year of No Light, and I think it must have gotten lost in the shuffle around the time the hurricane hit, and then when I finally would’ve had the chance to hear it, there wasn’t a working record player to make it happen. I was bummed out, because although Green Run White Totem is up on the YuberToubes, I was dying to hear the real thing. The textures that Year of No Light bring to Mars Red Sky‘s rich, deep tonality make the 12-minute collaborative piece all the more fascinating, and the black and red vinyl give it a truly special feel. It’s one I’ll be returning to for sure, especially as Mars Red Sky get set for Desertfest next month and that aforementioned EP release.
4. Clutch, Strange Cousins from the West
The heartbreak of slightly ripping the sleeve when taking out the second of the two LPs in the special edition of Clutch‘s 2009 outing aside, Strange Cousins from the West was a listen a long time in the making. The packaging on the Weathermaker vinyl is astounding (and now ripped, god damn it) with foil and a six-panel gatefold, and when the first side of the first LP started, I swore up and down it was the wrong platter because it was “Freakonomics” instead of “Motherless Child.” Nope, just a different tracklisting than the CD. Given that this is an album with which I’ve spent significant time over the four years since its original release, it was probably the first one on this list that I could really get a sense for the difference the vinyl makes, the compression in the cymbals and warm pops, etc. Particularly in light of their new one (review here), it was cool to revisit Strange Cousins and hear the older material in a new light.
5. Black Sabbath, Dehumanizer
If I’m honest, I don’t even really know where this vinyl copy of Dehumanizer came from. Must have been a reissue that came through at some point, but it’s been in my office for a while now and so it was something of a matter of principle that it should get a play on initial run with the new turntable. The 1992 reunion album between Black Sabbath and vocalist Ronnie James Dio isn’t the best work of either party — and wow, that really came out on side B; I can’t even remember the last time I purposefully listened to “Too Late” or “Buried Alive,” and I named my dog after Dio — but for cuts like “I,” “Master of Insanity,” “Computer God” and “Sins of the Father,” Dehumanizer was well worth another visit. Now I just need to get a copy on tape and I’m all set.
Even though I have a working turntable in my possession, I don’t see myself going overboard as a vinyl collector or anything like that, but if someone’s got a 7″ for sale at a show or something is vinyl-only, at least I know I’ll be able to give it some due time without using someone else’s player or scrambling for a download. But mostly it’s just a review thing for stuff that comes in on LP. It’s not like I’m looking to start a vinyl library. Not like I’m already eying up Hypnos 69 splits on eBay or anything. Me? No way. Ha.
Posted in Reviews on March 1st, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Relatively speaking, there hasn’t been much word out of Swedish fuzz rockers Asteroid‘s camp since they signed to Small Stone about a year ago. They played Desertfest (review here) and did other shows as well, but after losing drummer Elvis Campbell in 2010, the focus seems to have been on resolidifying the trio with new percussionist Henrik Jannson alongside guitarist/vocalist Robin Hirse and bassist/vocalist Johannes Nilsson. If that seems like a while to get things hammered out, then weigh that time against the organic nature of Asteroid‘s approach and it will probably make more sense — purveyors of laid back groove and whole-grain fuzz that they are, one imagines it takes some time to get the vibe just so, like trying to make sure a painting is even on all sides. Toward the end of last year, Asteroid issued their first offering with the Jannson/Hirse/Nilsson lineup, a self-released, limited 7″ single featuring the songs “Move a Mountain” and “One Foot in the Grave.” Strictly speaking, it’s the first Asteroid studio output since 2010’s much-loved II(review here) dropped courtesy of Fuzzorama, and as quick as it is, the new tracks are nonetheless a welcome arrival, hopefully heralding a new full-length to come, if not this year than sometime sooner rather than later.
It is short, though. “One Foot in the Grave,” a straightforward, heavy rocking B side less jammy than some of Asteroid‘s material, is reportedly the shortest thing the Fuzzorama alums have ever done, and I tend to believe it. Even the bluesier “Move a Mountain” feels relatively frill-less, though Hirse still finds room for an engaging solo in an instrumental break. It’s a blues, not 12-bar, but of a similar descending construction, and the three-piece sound at least as organic as they did on II, the vinyl’s compression only pushing forward the richness in Nilsson‘s tone and the rush of the guitar. As ever, the dual vocals from Hirse and Nilsson are a distinguishing factor (more on side B), and their approach remains neither completely aligned to a straightforward heavy rock take nor to Sweden’s oh-so-prominent post-Graveyard retro set. It’s mainly the open space in their songwriting that allows them to distinguish themselves so, and Jannson has made himself right at home in the groove of “Move a Mountain,” punctuating the bassline while Hirse strums out a teasing lead line near the song’s midpoint before a dead stop brings about a return to the verse. Hard to imagine this jam wouldn’t be longer live, but there’s only so much room on a 7″ single and they do well working efficiently anyhow, highlighting the catchiness of their blues and the lack of pretense with which they present it as the structure once again gives way to an instrumental break, Jannson‘s cymbals playing as much of a role in the build as Hirse‘s guitar and Nilsson‘s bass — the trio ideal.
The driving groove they elicit as the “Move a Mountain” peaks (get it?) bodes well for the dynamics they might be able to bring to a full-length, and on the other side of the platter, “One Foot in the Grave” is more of a shuffle — not necessarily in a rush, but an uptempo, classic groover that Nilsson and Hirse top with quick verses that leave little room for instrumental explorations. More than “Move a Mountain,” “One Foot in the Grave” is a departure, but it’s not necessarily out of character either with what Asteroid did on II, though were it to appear on that record, it would probably be more developed. The temptation is to read some change into it that might show up on a subsequent full-length, but really, it’s just the B side of a limited single and if Asteroid are signalling a shift in approach or some development of their style, likely that won’t come at the expense of any of the tonal warmth that has typified both of their full-lengths or their earlier debut split with Blowback. These guys arrived with a good sense of what they wanted to do, and “One Foot in the Grave” is enough in line with that so as not to be jarring so much in its approach — they’re not all of a sudden ripping out black metal screams or something — as it is for the sheer fact that it’s faster and shorter. It’s a fun experiment, and if Asteroid work in some higher-tempo material on their next record, the variety can really only make it a stronger offering.
Really, from my standpoint, that’s what Move a Mountain/One Foot in the Graveis accomplishing: It’s Asteroid signalling that despite the lineup change, the personality of the band remains intact and they’ve been working on getting themselves back up to speed, so to speak, perhaps with incorporating some new elements along the way. As a special release for fans to enjoy who might seek it out, the 7″ gets that message across well and revives some of the momentum Asteroid had coming off of IIahead of the potential III, which, the sooner it gets here, the better.
Founded in 1995 by Scott Hamilton, Detroit imprint Small Stone Records is the single most influential American heavy rock label of the post-Man’s Ruin era. What started as Hamilton releasing local Detroit acts of varied genres like Morsel, 36D and Perplexa soon took on a dedication to the heavy aesthetic that remains unmatched in both its scope and its reach of influence. Looking back, Five Horse Johnson‘s 1997 Double Down debut, seems to have been the beginning of Small Stone‘s turn down the fuzzly path. It’s like Hamilton followed the riff right down the rabbit hole and never looked back.
Now, 17 years on, Small Stone has a reach that goes beyond even the distribution of the albums it puts out. Thanks to the diligent work of Hamilton and oft-encountered names like Mad Oak Studios engineer/mixer Benny Grotto, mastering engineer Chris Gooseman, graphic artist Alexander von Wieding, among others, the label has earned a reputation for quality output that new releases are constantly reaffirming. Over the years, Man’s Ruin refugees like Sons of Otis, (The Men Of) Porn, Acid King and VALIS have come into the fold, but the crux of Small Stone‘s catalog is made up of acts like Roadsaw, Dixie Witch, Halfway to Gone, Throttlerod, Puny Human and Novadriver, who no matter what else they put out or who they put it out with, will always be considered “Small Stone bands.”
That designation and those groups specifically have helped establish a core American-style heavy rocking sound that the label seems to delight in toying with even as it continues to promulgate. Next generation bands like Gozu, Lo-Pan, Freedom Hawk, Backwoods Payback and even newer newcomers Wo Fat, Supermachine, Lord Fowl and Mellow Bravo — who don’t yet have albums out on the label — are expanding its breadth, and recent international signees Asteroid, Abrahma, Mangoo, Nightstalker and Mother of God should help ensure that Small Stone keeps pushing both itself and genre boundaries well into the next several years.
One of the hazards, however, of an ever-growing catalog, is that it can be hard to figure out where to start taking it on, and to that end, I’m happy to provide you with 10 essential Small Stone picks. Note I didn’t say “the 10 essential Small Stone picks,” because the reality of the situation is this is just the tip of the fuzzberg. If it’s any indication, I started out with five and couldn’t leave the rest out.
Here they are, ordered by the date of release:
1. Novadriver, Void (ss-022/2001)
Still an album that’s more or less impossible to pin to just one genre, the stoner/space/weirdo jams of Novadriver‘s 2001 outing, Void, reside somewhere between Monster Magnet‘s early Hawkwind worship and the unbridled intensity of groove that came out of Detroit’s early- and mid-’70s heavy rock and proto-metal. The fact that Novadriver also came from the Motor City speaks to the label’s local roots, but if Void was coming out even today, it’d be coming out on Small Stone.
2. Los Natas, Corsario Negro (ss-028/2002)
Personally, I think 2005’s El Hombre Montaña is a better album and 2009’s Nuevo Orden de la Libertad is an even better album than that, but Corsario Negro earns the edge as a starting point because it was the beginning of the Argentinian rockers’ relationship with Small Stone (they too were left without a home in the wake of Man’s Ruin folding). Plus, if you haven’t heard them before and you get this, you can still marvel at the subsequent offerings. Either way, totally necessary.
3. Various Artists, Sucking the ’70s (ss-032/2002)
In a lot of ways, this is what it’s all about. Badass bands playing badass songs. By this point, The Glasspack, Los Natas, Fireball Ministry, Halfway to Gone and Five Horse Johnson (who lead off the first disc) had already put out at least one album through Small Stone, but Sucking the ’70s made the most of the label’s burgeoning reputation, bringing in Clutch, Alabama Thunderpussy and Lowrider, along with bands who’d later add records to the catalog like Roadsaw, Suplecs and Lord Sterling, all covering hits and obscurities from the heavy ’70s. A gorgeous collection that would get a sequel in 2006. Still waiting on part three.
4. Dixie Witch, One Bird, Two Stones (ss-037/2003)
The Austin, Texas, trio would go on to become one of the most pivotal acts on the Small Stone roster, and they’d do so on the strength of their Southern riffs and the soul in their songwriting. Led by drummer/vocalist Trinidad Leal, Dixie Witch hooked up with Small Stone on the heels of their 2001 debut, Into the Sun, which was released by Brainticket, and quickly gained a reputation for some of the finest classic road songs that Grand Funk never wrote (see “The Wheel”). Their 2011 offering, Let it Roll, affirmed their statesmen status among their labelmates.
5. Sasquatch, Sasquatch (ss-044/2004)
I was pretty well convinced that when the L.A.-based Sasquatch released their self-titled debut in 2004, rock and roll was saved. Whoever it needed saving from, whatever needed to take place to make that happen, this record did it. Truth is, rock and roll didn’t really need to be saved — it needed a stiff drink, as we all do from time to time — but Sasquatch would’ve been right there even if it had. They’re a Small Stone original with all three of their records to date out through the label, and still one of the strongest acts in the American rock underground, even though they’d never be quite this fuzzy again.
6. Dozer, Through the Eyes of Heathens (ss-061/2005)
Even now, seven years later, I can’t look at this album cover without hearing the chorus to “The Roof, the River, the Revolver.” Between that and songs like “Man of Fire,” “Born a Legend” and “From Fire Fell,” Swedish rockers Dozer made their definitive statement in their label debut (fourth album overall). Another former Man’s Ruin band, they’d already begun to grow past their desert rock roots by the time they hooked up with Hamilton, and Through the Eyes of Heathens played out like what heavy metal should’ve turned into after the commercial atrocities of the late-’90s. A gorgeous record and still a joy to hear.
7. Greenleaf, Agents of Ahriman (ss-074/2007)
It’s like they built nearly every song on here out of undeniable choruses. Even the verses are catchy. I’ve championed Agents of Ahriman since before I started this site, and I feel no less vehement in doing so now than I did then. A side-project of Dozer guitarist Tommi Holappa that on this, their third album, included and featured members of Truckfighters, Lowrider, The Awesome Machine and others, Greenleaf became a distillation of many of the elements that make Swedish heavy rock unique in the world. It wasn’t aping classic rock, it was giving it a rebirth, and every Hammond note was an absolute triumph.
8. Iota, Tales (ss-084/2008)
Once, I had a t-shirt with the cover of Iota‘s Tales on the front. I wore it until it got holes, and then I bought another. That’s the kind of album Tales was. A trio crawled from out of Utah’s Great Salt Lake, Iota took Kyuss, launched them into space, and jammed out for five, 10 or 20 minutes to celebrate the success of the mission. Recently, guitarist/vocalist Joey Toscano has resurfaced in the bluesier, more earthbound Dwellers, which teams him with the rhythm section of SubRosa. Their debut, Good Morning Harakiri, was a highlight of early 2012, building on what Iota was able to accomplish here while pushing in a different direction.
9. Solace, A.D. (ss-093/2010)
It took the better part of a decade for the Jersey-bred metallers to finish what became their Small Stone debut after two full-lengths for MeteorCity, but when it finally dropped, there was no denying A.D.‘s power. My album of the year in 2010, the band delivered front to back on seven years’ worth of promise, and though it was recorded in more studios than I can count over a longer stretch than I think even Solace knows, it became a cohesive, challenging album, giving listeners a kick in the ass even as it handed them their next beer. I still get chills every time I put on “From Below,” and I put it on with near-embarrassing regularity.
10. Lo-Pan, Salvador (ss-116/2011)
If you know this site, this one’s probably a no-brainer pick, but the Columbus, Ohio-based riff merchants took on unabashed stoner rock fuzz for their Small Stone debut (third album overall) and made some of 2011’s most memorable songs in the process. Subversively varied in mood and heavy as hell no matter what they were doing, every part of Lo-Pan‘s Salvador worked. There was no lag. Small Stone also reissued the band’s 2009 outing, Sasquanaut, in 2011, but Salvador surpassed it entirely, bringing the band to new heights of professionalism they’d confirm by touring, well, perpetually. They’re still touring for it. You should go see them and behold the future of fuzz.
That’s the list as much as I could limit it. If you want to immediately add five more, throw in Roadsaw‘s self-titled (they’re writing the best songs of their career right now, I don’t care how attached to the early records you are), Puny Human‘s Universal Freak Out, Halfway to Gone‘s High Five, Milligram‘s This is Class War and Five Horse Johnson‘s Fat Black Pussycat. If you want to semi-immediately add five more than that, get the reissue of Acid King‘s Busse Woods, Mos Generator‘sSongs for Future Gods, The Brought Low‘s Third Record, Tummler‘s Early Man and Erik Larson‘s The Resounding. There. We just doubled the length of the list.
And the real trouble? I could go on. We didn’t even touch on curios like Axehandle, Lord Sterling and Brain Police, or The Might Could‘s Southern aggression, Hackman‘s instrumentalism or the druggy post-grunge of VALIS. Suffice it to say that Small Stone is one of very few labels out there from whom any output will at least be worth a cursory investigation. As the label continues to grow and develop in 2012 and beyond with new bands and new releases from its staple acts, taking on new avenues of commerce — like releasing vinyl for the first time, which it did in 2011 — whatever changes might crop up, Small Stone seems ready to meet the future, distortion pedal first. Can’t ask more of rock than that.
Posted in Features on April 6th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
04/06/12 — 22:47 GMT — Friday — Hotel
Beyond the blister lurking underneath the callous of my foot, it’s hard to remember where today even began, though I’ll say that having failed yet again to attain a cellophone for the Eurozone — I mention it only because my lack of competency at this point I find comical — I made my way around the High Street intersection, trying to follow the weirdos this way and that in search of the Black Heart. It was, as a young man named Isaac guided me, behind the Underworld, back down an alley called Greenland Place. I guess it was a street. Hard to know, really.
I was early, having failed gloriously to acquire a phone, and after getting my wristband (it’s gold, you can see some red ones above), I sat at the bar and had a few Camden Town Lagers. Amazing how similar their font looks to the Brooklyn Brewery. Even the taps looked alike. Anyway, the lager was decent, and I was waiting — viciously awkward soul that I am sitting at a bar by myself — for Stone Axe to go on and do their set of Free covers. I ran into Pete Holland from Trippy Wicked/Stubb and then Tony Reed from Stone Axe, and following a few more drinks and some pleasant conversation, Desertfest was underway. That’s probably as good a place to start as any.
Stone Axe made a set of Free songs so much their own that, half the time, I wouldn’t have even questioned whether or not they were covers. Helps a bit that Free is probably the single act from which the Washington four-piece — whose Live at Roadburn 2011 CD I somehow ended up buying twice — most draw stylistically, but either way, they killed it. Highlights included “Fire and Water” from the 1970 album of the same name and they closed with “All Right Now,” which was somewhat expected, it being Free‘s most enduring “hit,” but nonetheless one of the many tracks Stone Axe sounded natural embodying, vocalist Dru Brinkerhoff making the lyrics sound like something he just came up with. A killer way to start the fest and it made me look forward to their set of originals at The Purple Turtle still to come.
From there, I was fortunate enough to have some kind soul willing to lead my semi-drunk ass down the block to the Purple Turtle in time to catch Stubb. I’m not going to lie, for me, this was the meat of the fest. It’s why I came to London; to see bands I wouldn’t be able to catch otherwise. Stubb, which boasts in its lineup two-thirds of Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight, did not disappoint. From “Mountain” — on which guitarist Jack Dickinson and bassist Pete Holland shared vocals excellently during the chorus — to the closer “Soul Mover,” they were an absolute thrill to watch, and as the room at The Purple Turtle was totally packed, it seemed I wasn’t the only one who thought so. It felt like I was transplanting myself on another locale’s scene, and you know, I was glad to do it. These dudes, aside from being a kickass band, I consider friends, and the chance to see them live, as well as to see Trippy Wicked immediately following, was something really special. In short, it’s why I’m here.
Holland moved over to guitar for the Trippy Wicked set, and drummer Christopher West stayed put as bassist Dicky King came on stage to make up the difference for Dickinson departing. He didn’t go far, though, as Trippy Wicked got going, backing up Stubb‘s power trio ethic with one of their own. They have a new album out, and I bought it back at the Black Heart, just to have the chance to support the band directly, and after hearing them play, I’m looking forward even more to checking it out. Holland‘s vocals have come a long way since they started out, and King and West make a formidable rhythm section behind the guitar melody. Like Stubb, they were a native band I felt lucky to be able to catch. As I’ve grown increasingly envious of the UK scene over the last few months, it was awesome to see Trippy Wicked in front of their own crowd. I think I’ll probably skip out on Berlin next week and try to catch these dudes with Stone Axe (and Stubb, naturally) in Eindhoven on Tuesday. We’ll see how it goes, but either way, killer set from a killer bunch of guys. Seriously. Made me glad I came.
Ditto that for Stone Axe, whom, though we hail from the same continent, I’ve only ever seen in Europe. Last year, their set at Roadburn made me not regret missing Ufomammut in the slightest — which should say something about the rock quotient; most of that set is available on that live CD I decided to make a double — and as afternoon transitioned into evening, I wanted to make sure I caught their originals to follow up on the killer start their set of Free covers made to the fest as a whole. Brinkerhoff and Reed showed no wear for pulling double-duty — maybe the fact that they’re touring with Trippy Wicked and Stubb had them keeping up with Holland and West on the two-set front — and the whole set was a party, the highlights of which were “Chasing Dragons” and “We Know it’s Still Rock and Roll,” which had one of the night’s best sing-alongs. I was right up front while they played, and I had no regrets for it. I missed Ancestors while Stone Axe was playing (and maybe a bit during the changeover to Greenleaf), but I’ll make the effort to see them next weekend at Roadburn. Stone Axe was a necessity.
Greenleaf, as the band who sealed the deal in my mind for coming here in the first place, all the more so. I didn’t anticipate much in their set older than 2007’s Agents of Ahriman, if only for the lineup involved, and that was pretty much how it went. They threw in a couple older songs, but by and large it was Agents material and songs from the new album, Nest of Vipers (review here), including the opener “Jack Staff,” “Case of Fidelity” and “Lilith,” which was missing its organ a bit, but still left me with no complaints overall. They started off with “Alishan Mountain” from Agents of Ahriman, in what I can only assume was a personal favor to me, and commenced from there to what I can say with no exaggeration I will consider a landmark experience for me as regards show-going. No bullshit. Greenleaf was a band I never thought I’d see. They were just too far away, and with guitarist Tommi Holappa in Dozer and vocalist Oskar Cedermalm in Truckfighters, I just didn’t think it would happen. No matter what else happens to me on this trip, I saw Greenleaf. Fuckin’ a. If I’m 100 percent honest, that’s enough. I could’ve caught a plane home after their set and still felt like I won out. Also cool to see Cedermalm‘s fellow Truckfighters, Niklas “Dango” Källgren and Oscar “Pezo” Johansson in the crowd. Gave the whole thing a family atmosphere, not that one was lacking after the sets that had already gone down at The Purple Turtle.
I wanted to stay and see Sigiriya, but I also didn’t want to miss Asteroid back at the Black Heart, so I decided to compromise. I stayed for the first couple Sigiriya songs before heading out to the other venue. Worth noting that along with Ancestors, Sons of Alpha Centauri, Karma to Burn and Rotor were on the main stage at the Underworld tonight, but I didn’t make it there at all. Tomorrow I will to catch Roadsaw, Sungrazer, etc., but not tonight. Anyway, Sigiriya‘s Return to Earth wasn’t exactly fresh on my mind — that is, it’s been a minute since I last put it on — but the songs came right back, whether it was “The Mountain Goat” or “Whiskey Song,” and the grooves were mighty. They were killing it, hands down, but I had to head out to catch Asteroid, so I departed a few songs into their set and made back for the Black Heart, my own black heart heavy in my hands at having split out on what I knew was some righteous rock.
There was, however, no debating it. I had to see Asteroid. Not seeing Asteroid simply would not do. It brought the day full-circle to be back at the Black Heart, and I topped off what was already a several-hours-long buzz with one last Camden Town Lager and waited for the Swedish trio to take the stage. Outside, the dudes from Black Pyramid were getting ready to head across the street to catch Karma to Burn, and I knew that would be awesome, but hell, I’d come too far to miss it now. Asteroid took the stage promptly and kicked into what seemed like an hour-long jam. It’s interesting now that I’ve seen both bands to realize how much they have in common tonally with Graveyard, but they’re on their own trip. “Time” knocked me out, and “Disappear” was more than a treat. They wound up doing about half of “Dr. Smoke” from the first album as a semi-encore, the crowd singing along to the riff with hands held high. I was in the back by then, my feet beginning to feel those new-sneaker blisters taking hold, but I stayed until they were finished, and — I can’t think of another way to put it — they were awesome, guitarist Robin Hirse and barefoot bassist Johannes Nilsson splitting vocal duties with ease and capturing the organic sounds of their albums (the second one is reviewed here) with what seemed like no trouble at all.
I made my way back to the hotel as quickly as I could when they were done, hoping perhaps to catch an open coffee/sandwich shop along the Parkway here in Camden Town, alas, to no avail. Some spicy ramen noodles, a bag of salt and pepper chips and, finally, another protein bar served as dinner to cap a long day of music and drink. Tomorrow I’ll wake up and likely do it all again, though hopefully having some time in the morning to go CD shopping before Desertfest kicks up its sands again. I’ve got my wristband. My earplugs. My Advil. I’m ready for whatever comes.
Posted in Whathaveyou on February 15th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Congratulations to New Hampshire’s Supermachine (pictured above) for being one of the slew of new bands signed to Small Stone Records. The Detroit label passed along news today that it has made deals with them as well as Swedish fuzz upstarts Asteroid and Mother of God along with heavy rockers Lord Fowl (who so impressed at the Fuzz Fest in their native Connecticut last summer) and Texas’ Wo Fat. With new releases already on the way from the likes of Mangoo and Greenleaf, Small Stone‘s roster and scope seem to be continually expanding. Should be cool to see what comes out of it, and in the meantime, more good music is never a bad thing.
Here’s the word from label honcho, Scott Hamilton, sent the old-fashioned way (by email):
For some of you this old news, as we have already let the cat out of the bag on Facebook for a few of these… But for those of you who prefer to get your information the old fashioned way, we have quite a few new acts that have just joined the Small Stone Family.
Please welcome: New Hampshire’s Supermachine (two ex-Scissorfight boys, and two boys you are most likely not all that hip to), Dallas, TX’s Wo Fat (who have mastered the fine art of fusing early Sabbath riffs with the soul and swagger of the deep south), Connecticut’s Lord Fowl (who make incredible retro rock styled jams – thanks for the heads up Mr. Taskmaster), and not one but two acts from Sweden.
The first band you all should know by now, Asteroid (who widely respected and adored for their love of the fuzz), and some young whippersnappers named Mother of God (these kids rock, you are going to love ’em! – a special thanks goes out to the Infernal Overdrive band for pointing them out to us).
We do not have any formal release dates to announce for any of the above as they are all in different stages of production, but for the most part, you can expect some of these Small Stone debuts to be rolling out later this year.
Got back from seeing Serpent Throne and Pearls and Brass in Brooklyn long enough ago to cook up a couple chicken sausages and some edamame and call it a meal while watching an episode of Squidbillies and bemoaning tomorrow’s impending workload. The show was killer, the sausages delicious and the squids fantastic. The workload I could do without, but we’re approaching the semester, and there’s not really anything I can do to stop it. Reportedly it’s my last.
I thought we’d close out this week with a new jam that the guys in Asteroid posted on their Thee Facebooks page called “Bigger Than Asterix.” It’s reportedly not anything that’s going to show up on a new album (at least not in this form), but it’s Asteroid jamming out, anyway, and that’s better than most anything else I could think of posting, so hope you dig it. I know I do. Bands like this are the reason I’m applying for a Fulbright to Sweden.
Tomorrow night I head back to Saint Vitus (the bar) in Brooklyn to catch Totimoshi, and I hope next week to have reviews up of both tonight’s and tomorrow’s shows. I was stoked to see Pentagram on Sunday, but that’s a no-dice. Hazards of NYC shows. I asked for access too late and there are more important-types looking to get in. Some you win, some you lose. Anyway, two nights of shows in a row — especially after last weekend, from which I’m still reeling — should be plenty. Still psyched for Totimoshi tomorrow though. That new record, which was reviewed this week, really is stellar.
So I don’t know about you, but I’ll look forward to those writeups (some pics as well, hopefully one or two decent enough to post), and disc reviews of Finnish psych-outs The Fërtility Cült, Atriarch and Freedom Hawk, an interview with Faces of Bayon guitarist/vocalist Matt Smith — also formerly of Warhorse — and on Wednesday, a track premiere from Rwake‘s new album, which has surprised the hell out of me in how good it is. I figured I’d dig it and all, but wow. Much more to come on that.
We’ll also have another installment (fingers crossed) of the Orange Goblin studio report on progress for their new record, and on Monday morning, an announcement about a killer show The Obelisk and BrooklynVegan have joined forces on for September. Stoked on that for sure. There’s probably a ton more I can’t think of because it’s 2AM and that’s when my brain shuts down, so I’ll leave it at that. Hope you have a great and safe weekend wherever you are. See you on the forum and back here Monday.