The Obelisk Radio Add of the Week: The Unmothered, The Unmothered

Posted in Radio on March 27th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

A few years back, Prosthetic Records seemed to get an itch for extreme metal that took some of the tropes of black metal and added elements of hardcore, doom and thrash. The result was a slew of albums from the likes of Book of Black Earth, Withered and The Funeral Pyre, each of which seemed bent on taking on black metal from a different angle. Austin trio The Unmothered appear to be on a similar kind of trip with their 2012 self-titled debut EP, but the conviction and thickness with which they carry across their ideas puts them in line as well with the newer class of post-His Hero is Gone “dark hardcore” — the main difference being The Unmothered come off as better at actually bridging the gap between that sound and doom than most others, who like to pretend they’re bridging it while playing redundant metalcore riffs in a Venom t-shirt.

It’s not in every song, but take a listen to “Leviathan,” which is tense to the point of breaking open even as it rolls out the groove of its verse. Unmothered drummer Matt Moulis sat in with The Hidden Hand on their last tour, and there’s some swing in the earlier “The Awakening” to show for it, but together with Matt Walker and Joseph Barnes, the three-piece draws more on later, rocking Carcass than anything so definitively fuzzed. Even the later post-black metal soloing of “Spectre” takes a vehement position rather than give itself up to psychedelic posturing for the sake of including one more genre in the mix, and with the Godflesh-y tone of “Solstice” and the gallop late into opener and longest cut “Gravitons,” it’s not exactly like The Unmothered have skimped on the variety anyhow.

Having just shared the stage with the likes of Venomous Maximus and Mala Suerte at SXSW in their native burg, and caught a fair amount of attention there, The Unmothered have a solid first showing to fall back on in their self-titled and a foundation to expand on in any number of directions. You can listen to the self-titled now as part of the playlist on The Obelisk Radio, and check it out via the stream below, hoisted from the Unmothered Bandcamp:

Tags: , , , ,

Scorpion Child Sign to Nuclear Blast; Self-Titled Debut Due in May

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 22nd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Interested to get some thoughts on this one, if you’ve got a minute. Austin, Texas, natives Scorpion Child have signed to Nuclear Blast for the release of their first album, about which you can find the details below. Record’s due in May, like the headline says.

Below that, you can see a lyric/performance video of the cut “Polygon of Eyes,” from the record. The band certainly seems to fit with Nuclear Blast‘s recent splurge of ’70s-worship worship, with a vintage metal sound, rightly compared to Rainbow, Zeppelin, etc. I guess I’m on the fence after just hearing the one track and will have to hear the full LP to make up my mind, but if you’ve got an opinion, please feel free to share.

Here’s the info and clip:

SCORPION CHILD SIGNS TO NUCLEAR BLAST ENTERTAINMENT; ANNOUNCES DEBUT ALBUM DETAILS

Attributes in music are known to be cyclical. Every few years, a band comes along who borrows just enough from the revered past to bring a new infusion of vitality to the musical present. SCORPION CHILD’s sound invokes a time when guitar-driven rock ruled radio’s airwaves, when being hypnotized by a frontman and his bandmates in a concert arena was one of life’s ultimate main events. A five-piece from Austin, Texas, SCORPION CHILD have spent the last few years perfecting both their songwriting and stage show. Guitarists Chris Cowart and David Finner deliver their finessed twin guitar attack with experience older than their years; bassist Shaun Avants and drummer Shawn Alvear are steadfast sentinels of their driving rhythm section; and lead singer Aryn Jonathan Black fronts the psychedelic rock cavalry with a passion & voice reminiscent of the early eras of Robert Plant and Ronnie James Dio.

“I’ve always wanted to hear new musical ingredients within a classic heavy sound,” states vocalist AJB. “It’s great to witness captivating performances where both the live show and the band’s recorded material can complement one another. The heavy-prog sounds of Uriah Heep, Hairy Chapter, and the epic delivery of early Rainbow showcases these crossovers brilliantly and gave us all honest – yet relentless – sonics to aspire to.  That’s why it’s important for us as a band to maintain spontaneity while putting a special emphasis into integral hooks.”

This May, Nuclear Blast Entertainment will release SCORPION CHILD’s self-titled, full-length debut. Produced and arranged by Chris “Frenchie” Smith (The Answer, Jet, And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, The Toadies, Dax Riggs), the album uses analog recording technology to organically capture a hybrid of nine, hook-filled chapters of heavy psych rock.  The goal?  To breathe new life into a neglected yet still important musical heritage.

Dangerous guitar riffs, soul-ridden bass lines, and thunderous drums with powerful rock vocals as lead conductor convey the on-stage swagger of SCORPION CHILD and will prepare you for the live experience awaiting you when the band tours the U.S. and Europe throughout 2013.

To watch the lyric video for “Polygon Of Eyes” or to stream the song, visit SCORPION CHILD at www.facebook.com/scorpionchild

Scorpion Child track listing is:

1. Kings Highway
2. Polygon Of Eyes
3. The Secret Spot
4. Salvation Slave
5. Liquor
6. Antioch
7. In The Arms Of Ecstasy
8. Lover’s Leap
9. Red Blood (The River Flows)

Tags: , , , ,

Small Stone Finalizes SXSW Showcase Lineup; Poster Revealed

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 21st, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Truth be told, they’ve been putting on shows during SXSW since 1997, but 2013 makes it a full decade that Small Stone has been doing an official SXSW showcase, and the venerable Detroit imprint are celebrating in style. I always get a little wistful thinking about my days in Austin at these parties — I went four years from 2003-’07 — and from seeing Suplecs touring on the strength of a post-Man’s Ruin demo to watching Sasquatch and The Brought Low lay waste to the room. Good friends, cheap beer, occasionally Mexican food. Some of the best times I’ve had at shows were at those things, and not just for the refried beans.

I won’t be making the trip this year, but consider it highly recommended nonetheless if you can get down that way. Brian Mercer has once again provided the poster for the shindig, which is below, followed by the lineup and set times:

Also available in purple.

Marking 10 years of official SXSW showcases, Detroit’s Small Stone Records returns to Headhunters (720 Red River) on March 14 with some of the finest in heavy rock. This year’s Small Stone showcase is headlined by New Orleans veterans Suplecs and Connecticut upstarts Lord Fowl, and features Virginia’s Freedom Hawk and Texan natives Wo Fat along with Luder, Supermachine and Mellow Bravo. For lovers of classic guitar and motor-ready grooves, it gets no better than Small Stone, and with a decade under their belts, they still throw a party like none other. Expect the epic.

Date: Thursday March, 14th, 2013
Venue: Headhunters – 720 Red River – Austin, TX – 78701
1 am: Suplecs (New Orleans, LA)
12 mid: Lord Fowl (New Haven, CT)
11pm: Freedom Hawk (Virginia Beach, VA)
10pm: Wo Fat (Dallas, TX)
9pm: Luder (Ferndale, MI)
8pm: Supermachine (Dover, NH)
7pm: Mellow Bravo (Boston, MA)

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

The Well, Seven 7″: First Act of Trespass

Posted in Reviews on November 23rd, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

It’s hard to know where to start with Seven, the debut 7” single by Austin, Texas-based trio The Well. The band self-released the two-track outing, featuring the songs “Act II” and “Trespass,” at the end of September in a limited marble-vinyl edition of 300, and coupled the record with a variety of artworks in what they called a “rip-off series,” with hand-drawn sketches from Casey Cork and bassist/vocalist Lisa Alley reinterpreting album art from Electric Wizard, Wicked Lady (the one I got, hence the flapper above), Black Sabbath and Blue Cheer to suit their own purposes, as well as some with an original design. Musically, I suppose The Well do pretty much the same thing. Having formed in 2010, the band are pretty clearly getting their bearings in terms of their development, but they already have a firm grip on their aesthetic, taking new (nouveau?) American laidbackitude and melding it with simple grooving riffs, obscure but catchy lyrics and an echoing sense of open space. Seven doesn’t really find The Well coming out of the gate with anything that’s never been done before, but it works no less well for them in 2012 than it did for Lords of the North in 2008, and the oft-concurrent dual vocals of Alley and guitarist Ian Graham are an immediate distinguishing factor on “Act II,” which rolls in casual-like on a stonerly bounce from drummer Jason Sullivan and nod-ready bassline from Alley. Graham offers crunch in his rhythm tone and classic fuzz for the bluesy lead he takes near the halfway point, and when the song breaks following the next verse into a post-Vitus noisefest, the effect is jarring in probably the best way it could be. Alley’s bass and Sullivan’s drums keep going while the guitar drops out and Graham and Alley – whose voices already prove impeccably matched – take the fore and make a viable hook out of the lines “Twisting ropes and needle pokes can’t harm me/Pious minds can’t understand what charms me,” and lock into wah-driven shuffle for what seems like it will be the instrumental outro until they pull back for one last run through the chorus, well timed and crisply executed on the live-sounding recording, helmed by Jason Morales of Austin heavy psych improvisators Tia Carrera.

Such moves make it easy to get into both songs on Seven, accessible in a totally non-commercialized but still traditional sense of pop songwriting. “Trespass,” which is more explicitly led by Graham’s guitar, shorter by just over a full minute and overall thicker in its chug, is no less catchy. Graham opens with a wash of Hendrix wah and is joined in time by Alley and Sullivan for another solid mid-paced groover, Sullivan’s fills telegraphing the transitions but not detracting from them. After the intro, which takes up 50 seconds of the total 4:43, “Trespass” follows a much simpler structure than did “Act II,” but the vocals tap into that same lysergic drawl that made the first Witch album so irresistible and a double-layered solo from Sullivan provides a point of interest leading into the build of the bridge, even if the song is clearly a B-side. As they did with “Act II,” they pull back to the central groove just when it seems like they’ve gone too far out to recover, and they end Seven with a return to the chorus, giving a final nod to the potential in their craft before the guitar clicks off and the release is over. The Well have reportedly already returned to the studio to record a full-length, this time with Mark Deutrom (who played bass in the Melvins during their Atlantic years), and their commitment to aligning themselves to producers with experience in heavy rock speaks to a professional mindset as much as any last chorus speaks to a quality of craft, so while Seven is the first time The Well have made their presence known, it seems unlikely it will be the last. All the better. Both “Act II” and “Trespass” give an impression of a trio taking off on a creative trip. Their efficiency on a musical level and their penchant for strong hooks can only serve them well as they continue to develop, and whatever they do next, I’ll be interested to hear what other tricks they might have up their collective sleeve in terms of changing up their approach or adding diversity to their sound or even just establishing a flow over the course of a debut LP. For now, though, Seven makes a welcome introduction.

The Well on Thee Facebooks

The Well on Bandcamp

Tags: , , , ,

audiObelisk: Stream Uzala & Mala Suerte’s New Split 7″ in its Entirety

Posted in audiObelisk on November 6th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

In mid-November, King of the Monsters Records will release a new split 7″ between Uzala and Mala Suerte. Now, if like me you’ve lost all sense of time and space, that sounds like a really long way away, but you’ll pardon if I blow your mind and say that mid-November is next week. So yeah, it’s sooner than you might think.

This isn’t the first time I’ve streamed material from Uzala. The Boise, Idaho/Portland, Oregon, psychedowner four-piece premiered the cassette-only “Cataract” from their self-titled debut here late last year, and it was awesome. Their album was unremittingly atmospheric, biting fuzz off Electric Wizard and adding a touch of newer West Coast fuckall, Darcy Nutt‘s vocals keeping a mystique in the croon while bassist Nick Phit (ex-Graves at Sea) thickened the tonal lurch into a fine oozing mess.

Their new track for this split, dubbed “Burned,” follows a similar but developed course, and pairs well with the more stripped down riffing of Austin, Texas-based doomers Mala Suerte. The cut they contribute, “The Veil of Secrecy,” takes a conspiracy-minded political bent, calling for — among other things — an end to the Federal Reserve, vocalist Gary Rosas noting in its opening lines that, “The road to Utopia is paved/With the bones and blood of the common man.” I guess that settles that.

When I posted the news that this split 7″ was coming, the response cool enough that I asked permission to host the release in its entirety for streaming, and I was lucky enough that said permission was granted. You’ll find “Burned” and “The Veil of Secrecy” on the player below, followed by info from the PR wire and a preorder link. Dig it:

 

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

 

King of the Monsters has announced the upcoming release of one of the heaviest splits of 2012 – a 7″ collaboration between Boise fuzz-doom shamans UZALA and Austin, TX’s own psych-minded doom fiends MALA SUERTEPreorders are now up on the label website, and orders will ship in early November. The split features a brand-new track from each band, as well as mind-blowing cover art, courtesy of UZALA chanteuse, axe-slinger, and celebrated tattoo artist Darcy Nutt and MALA SUERTE vocalist Gary Rosas.

The release is limited to 500 copies, with the first 100 available on black/white split vinyl and the remaining 400 entombed in obsidian black.

MALA SUERTE’S “The Veil of Secrecy” is an older fan favorite, recorded in winter 2012. The UZALA song was recorded at Type Foundry in Portland, OR in August 2011 with Alex Yusimov at the helm, mixed by Blake Green at WOLVSERPENT STUDIOS, and mastered by Mell Dettmer. 

Preorder here: http://kingofthemonstersrecords.bigcartel.com/product/uzala-mala-suerte-split-7-preorder

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Uzala and Mala Suerte Team up for Split 7″ Due Next Month

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 26th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

It’s been a while since we heard anything from the camp of Austin, Texas-based doomers Mala Suerte, whose 2009 offering, The Shadow Tradition (review here), still gets broken out for periodic plays. But the PR wire brings the latest! It seems as though they’ve teamed up with Boise cult wizards Uzala (track stream here) for a split 7″ that’ll be out on King of the Monsters Records next month.

Behold the story, preorder link and whathaveyou:

Doom Sorcerers UZALA Announce Split w/ Sludge Destroyers MALA SUERTE via King of the Monsters

King of the Monsters has just announced the upcoming release of one of the heaviest splits of 2012 – a 7″ collaboration between Boise fuzz-doom shamans UZALA and Austin, TX’s own psych-minded doom fiends MALA SUERTE. Preorders are now up on the label website, and orders will ship in early November. The split features a brand-new track from each band, as well as mind-blowing cover art, courtesy of UZALA chanteuse, axe-slinger, and celebrated tattoo artist Darcy Nutt and MALA SUERTE vocalist Gary Rosas.

The release is limited to 500 copies, with the first 100 available on black/white split vinyl and the remaining 400 entombed in obsidian black.

MALA SUERTE’S “The Veil of Secrecy” is an older fan favorite, recorded in winter 2010. The UZALA song was recorded at Type Foundry in Portland, OR in August 2011 with Alex Yusimov at the helm, mixed by Blake Green at WOLVSERPENT STUDIOS, and mastered by Mell Dettmer.

TRACKLISTING
Uzala – Burned
Mala Suerte – The Veil of Secrecy

Preorder here: http://kingofthemonstersrecords.bigcartel.com/product/uzala-mala-suerte-split-7-preorder

Tags: , , , , , , ,

On the Radar: Old and Ill

Posted in On the Radar on October 4th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Not everybody likes extreme sludge. Well I fucking do, so when a band like Old and Ill comes along with a demo like Live Slow Die Old, I want to take a little time out and mark the occasion. Taking cues alternately from High on Fire, Electric Wizard and croaking, lurching black metal, the three-piece got started in Las Cruces, New Mexico, in 2008 but relocated (as I’m told people do sometimes) to Austin, Texas, from which their abrasive, malevolent dirges now emanate.

The demo was released Sept. 27, and it’s a wash of bleary-eyed distortion, frustrated sway and molasses-thick doom. The 10-minute “House of Wax” lurches even when the pace “picks up,” and it’s not so much in any kind of witchy/culty way, but how Jamus Reichelt, Jason Joachim and Garrett T. Capps earn their Electric Wizard comparison is through the efficiency of their material and how much they squeeze out of classic grooves and — in the case of “House of Wax” particularly — a well-mixed lead that seems to scream out from the surrounding tonal murk. At about 35 minutes, Live Slow Die Old is vinyl-ready and loaded with stomp enough for two vinyl sides, its meatiness resonant through “House of Wax” and its fellow extended cut, the viscous 12:16 “Stag Hunt.”

Sandwiched on either side by the faster “Throat Feast” and “Public Universal Fiend,” the two longer tracks are a big part of the overall impression Live Slow Die Old makes, with doomed groove and growling vocals — something few bands do and even fewer do as well as Old and Ill — hitting home on “Stag Hunt” while the post-Chris Hakius drumming in the midsection only underscores the band’s righteous lineage and “let’s take this and do something else with it” ethic — admirable. It’s probably easy to point to other acts working in a similar vein (Cough come to mind, most immediately), since after a certain point if you play slow and scream, someone’s gonna come along and compare you to Eyehategod, but if this is Old and Ill‘s first outing, they’ve put the four years leading up to it to good use in finding individuality within established genre tropes.

It may not set them up for the most prolific career, but even the roughness in these tracks feeds the nastiness of the atmosphere and the production lets more than enough low end through to give a genuine sense of rumble. Misanthropic cave echoes only enhance the dismal tonal thickness, and I wouldn’t put it on at my next family BBQ, but Old and Ill‘s Live Slow Die Old demo serves its purpose in serving notice: These guys are fucking serious. I dig it.

And in that spirit, I share. Check out Old and Ill‘s Thee Facebooks page here for more info on them, or dive right into the stream below, courtesy of their Bandcamp:

Tags: , , , ,

On the Radar: Destroyer of Light

Posted in On the Radar on June 27th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Everything seems to be going as you might expect with the self-titled debut from Austin, Texas, doomly foursome Destroyer of Light, then all of a sudden a background in extreme metal becomes very, very apparent. Guitarist/vocalist Steve Colca keeps an inflection in his clean singing that’s more than a little kin to Karl Simon from The Gates of Slumber and that has its roots in the likes of CandlemassMessiah Marcolin — who did it best even if he didn’t do it first — but then Colca shifts into a vicious growl that’s right out of death metal. He doesn’t use it on every track of the self-released six-song album, but it’s striking when it comes up and if you’re not ready, half the fun (which I’ve just spoiled, I guess) is being caught off guard.

Destroyer of Light formed earlier this year in Austin, and as such, I’d imagine that one single member — be in Colca, guitarist Keegan Kjeldsen, bassist Mark Mars or drummer Penny Turner — is responsible for the songwriting. I’d guess that’s Colca, but I’ve been wrong about that kind of thing before and don’t want to assume. Whichever player it is, they’re obviously schooled in the modern interpretations of the doom of old, and the added element of extremity sits well alongside the riffy groove they craft. There are a few rough patches in the recording, but no doubt it all came together pretty quick, and as a basic demo, the down and dirty, sludgier riff of “Coffin Hunter” still gives a basic impression of what they’re going for stylistically.

And to put a name on it, what they’re going for is doom. Destroyer of Light also have a live recording up on their Bandcamp that’s worth checking out, but the album itself leaves a stronger impression. I might want more effects on the vocals next time out — something about lyrics about virgin sacrifices and all the rest just beg to be drenched in echo — but it seems from the sampling they’ve made available that the band are on the right path. They’re on Thee Facebooks here, and here’s the record if you want to check it out:

Tags: , , ,

Danny G., Leap of Faith: Pressure and Time

Posted in Reviews on June 25th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Leap of Faith is the second full-length from Austin, Texas-based multi-instrumentalist Danny Grochow – aka Danny G. His first outing was 2010’s Ocean of Stars. Like its follow-up, Ocean of Stars was recorded over the course of February’s 28 days with Grochow as a participant in the RPM Challenge to create an album from scratch in a month’s time. No word on whether the extra day he got from 2012 being a leap year gave him a leg up on Leap of Faith, or whether the title is a reference to that, but the fact remains that for being put down on a digital eight-track in a month and for Grochow having played guitar, bass and drums as well as recorded himself and done the full art layout on his own, it’s an impressive feat. That’s not to say it’s perfect, but I don’t think perfection is the idea in the first place, and for what Grochow is playing on Leap of Faith’s six tracks, the kind of self-contained, humble production actually fits really well. Something too overblown wouldn’t work, but the atmosphere on even more active material like “Rare Earth Metals” is intimate, and while the flirtations with psychedelia on opener “Leap of Faith: Symphony in D Standard” don’t really come across with the swirl reaching as far into space as it otherwise might, Grochow is more than able to get his point across, his effectively layered guitar leading the way there and almost at every other point on the entirely instrumental album.

It’s a better headphone listen, as proximity of volume seems to push the songs more to the forefront of consciousness, but part of what makes Leap of Faith work through speakers is the chill factor, that you can put it on and let it zone you out while you listen. That may not be the most in-your-face approach, but the Brant Bjork-style grooves on “Leap of Faith: Symphony in D Standard” or the later “Give us the Key” make it seem like laid back was Grochow’s intent all along, and it’s something these songs have in common with Ocean of Stars. It’s not that the music doesn’t get heavy – “Rare Earth Metals” has more dynamic range on both ends than it might immediately seem following the skillfully played nylon acoustics of “Luna en Sombra” – but that even when it does, the production allows for a consistency of atmosphere. There’s only so far it’s going to go, and indeed, only so far it wants to go. Grochow, whose main gig is playing bass with the blues rocking Eric Tessmer Band, shows a clear love of guitar. Maybe that’s a way for him to shake up his routine, but he’s obviously capable of using the instrument, electrically or acoustic, to set and build ambience. Leap of Faith is solo without being self-indulgent and engaging without losing its underlying lonely sensibility – a surprising balance that deepens the listen. It’s not definitively rock, or heavy rock, but vaguely progressive and an honest-sounding exploration. Somewhere else, some other context, a drumless song like “Krim: The Sound of Kali” might be bedroom-type neo folk.

Read more »

Tags: , ,

Frydee Amplified Heat

Posted in Bootleg Theater on May 12th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

This is a record I heard about on the forum a bit ago but never really had the chance to write on. Amplified Heat are in the top four of the most incredible live acts I’ve ever seen, and of all the bands I’ve ever managed to catch live, they’re the one who most seemed like the only reason they started a band was because someone told them they could get chicks if they did so. I don’t know if they did or not, but okay.

Rest assured, the song I’ve had stuck in my head from the Austin, Texas, trio’s On the Hunt effort has been “Dirty Love No Romance,” but the video was for “Give it to Me,” so I feel like I’m no one to argue. In any case, Amplified Heat‘s Blue Cheer fetish comes across clearly, and that’s pretty much the point, so far as I can tell. One way or another, On the Hunt is devastatingly memorable, and a record I was glad to have picked up when I did. Better late than never, and so forth.

Podcasts aside, I’m loathe to post on the weekends, but I’ll have that Caltrop interview posted probably on Sunday. The Patient Mrs.’ brother is getting married tomorrow. After the rehearsal dinner tonight, I put on Kyuss‘s ..And the Circus Leaves Town and thought of Rock ‘n’ Roll Gina Brooks, whose tumors I’ve too often at this point internalized. There’s a longer story at this point, and I may tell it eventually, but maybe not. It depends on time.

Time, at this point, is something of which I don’t have much. I’d wanted to do that “The Canon of Heavy” post this week, and I didn’t, and there was other stuff too. Bit of a bummer. Anyway, stay tuned for that other interview, and next week, I’ll have reviews of Crystal Head and others. Worth checking back in for, if you weren’t sure.

Thanks to all who checked in. I hope you have a relaxing evening and that you’ll stop by over the weekend. I’ll be here as much as I can, what will the festivities and all. In any case, thanks much and good fun to come. My conscious head is mixing with dreams, so I’m gonna go to bed. Hope you have a great and safe weekend.

Tags: , ,

American Sharks, Weedwizard 7″: Sinking in the Teeth of a First Bite

Posted in Reviews on April 2nd, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Information on the Austin, Texas-based heavy rocking foursome American Sharks is sparse – which is impressive given their social media presence (Facebook, Twitter, Bandcamp, etc.) – but what it rounds out to is I can’t even say for certain if their recently-issued Weedwizard 7” is their first or not. It’s the first of their output I’ve encountered if not the first overall, so my inclination is to regard it as a debut, and the upbeat energy they show on the two included tracks, “”XVI” and “Indian Man,” would speak to a freshness of ideas in general, so even if it isn’t the first thing American Sharks have put out, it functions well on an introductory level. Not the least because of the short amount of time it takes up. Between “XVI” and “Indian Man,” Weedwizard (released by Pau Wau Records) clocks in with less time than inches on the record; both songs are just under three minutes. Nonetheless, within that span, Mike, Will, Nick and Zach, make a solid effort at establishing an aesthetic and context for future releases to come.

Their sound is new-school American stoner, taking cues from punk and metal’s heavy rocking forebears – The Stooges, MC5, etc. – and filtering them through modern indie/hipster shimmy, resulting in a sub-metallic swagger not at all unlike that which Portland, Oregon’s Red Fang affected on their 2011 album, Murder the Mountains. American Sharks have work ahead of them in establishing their own personality within this context, but the punkish pulse to “XVI” and “Indian Man,” though rudimentary, gives no indication it can’t be done. Transplants from Houston, the band clearly have some idea of what they’re doing and where it can be best presented, and with the grooves they lock in on these two songs – if Weedwizard is in fact their first outing – in less than six minutes, they’ve made a solid argument in their own favor. The shuffle fueling “XVI” draws a direct line to Red Fang’s wires in its overall affect, but the guitar lead that kicks in at the beginning of the final minute is confident enough in its tone and execution – and the rhythms behind it are likewise assured – that it’s enough to hold the attention. The charm of a 7” called Weedwizard and the complementing cover art (if that’s not Ryan Lesser of Megasus’ work, I’d be amazed) notwithstanding, American Sharks show a burgeoning depth of songwriting that does well here and hopefully will continue to grow.

Read more »

Tags: , , ,

Small Stone Announces SXSW Showcase Schedule

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 18th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

I know I’ve talked before about the amazing times and staggering drunken debauchery I’ve (allegedly) witnessed and/or been involved in at Small Stone‘s SXSW showcases. For all the years I went to SXSW, it was unquestionably the high point, and if I was going to go now, it would be just about the only reason.

The label just announced their 2012 schedule with an exceptionally well-constructed press release — I mean, seriously, whoever wrote the thing should be hired for some cushy work-from-home newsletter-writing gig at a major corporation with money to spend so he can spend his days blogging about European heavy psych records — and the lineup is enough to make me wistful for the hazy memories that could be.

Mic check!

Now entering its 17th year of operation, Small Stone Records has announced the final lineup for its 2012 SXSW showcase, set to take place Friday, March 16, on the outside back patio at Headhunters on Red River in Austin, TX. The label, home to the best in heavy and ‘70s-fueled motor rock, has assembled a roster of new and old blood for a night that’s sure to remind Austin why it loves volume so much in the first place.

Says label honcho Scott Hamilton, “We are very much looking forward to our yearly showcase in Austin. We have a great lineup that we’ll stuff into Headhunters, which is also one of our favorite little watering holes on Red River. It is always nice to tilt some back with some old friends, and some new ones too! Save the date, Friday March 16th!”

Spanning genres from the fuzz-drenched psychedelic improv jams of Austin natives Tia Carrera, who will close out the night, to the crunchy, noise-driven blues of New Orleans trio Suplecs, Small Stone’s showcase is an annual high point of South by Southwest for those who manage to remember it the next morning. The complete lineup is as follows:

Friday, March 16
Headhunters (Outside Back Patio) 720 Red River at 8th St.:
1am: Tia Carrera
12am: Dixie Witch
11pm: Suplecs
10pm: Lo-Pan
9pm: Gozu
8pm: Backwoods Payback
7pm: Dwellers

Original 18″x24″ silk screen concert poster available by New York-based artist and illustrator Joshua Marc Levy.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Dixie Witch, Let it Roll: This is a Traveling Song

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

As smooth and unpretentious as the easy-drinking Lone Star Beer brewed in their home state of Texas, heavy Southern rock trio Dixie Witch have undergone some considerable changes over the course of their 12-year run. It’s astonishing to think it’s been five years since their stellar third album, Smoke and Mirrors, was released by Small Stone, and even more so to imagine the three-piece without guitarist Clayton Mills, who left in 2009. On Dixie Witch’s fourth album, Let it Roll (also Small Stone), dreadlocked guitarist Joshua “JT” Todd Smith makes his debut alongside founding drummer/vocalist Trinidad Leal and bassist/vocalist Curt “CC” Christensen, and as much as Mills’ tone, classic rock soloing and ability to lock in a groove with Leal and Christensen was a huge part of what made Dixie Witch the rock and roll powerhouse they were, the band hasn’t missed a beat. Smith rips through leads and lacks nothing in tonal heft, and Dixie Witch’s latest brims with the energy that has always been so prevalent in their sound.

More than energetic, though, the 10 tracks on Let it Roll are memorable, from the opening title cut – on which Smith quickly shows his hand as regards sped-up blues soloing – to the punkish late-album highlight “Automatic Lady” and on through closer “December.” Dixie Witch have always had their love of classic rock on their sleeve, and that’s definitely in play on Let it Roll as well, but the album is more a showcase of songwriting ability than ‘70s fetishism. Recorded at Mad Oak in Allston, Massachusetts, by Small Stone’s go-to engineer Benny Grotto, the balance of natural, live sound and clarity that has shown up on much of the label’s latter-day output (see also: 2011 releases from Freedom Hawk, Backwoods Payback, Lo-Pan, Roadsaw and Suplecs) is in full and righteous effect across Let it Roll. The dude knows how to make rock records sound like rock records, and Dixie Witch, for their part, certainly have some expertise in the matter as well. Leal’s drums don’t have the same kind of brightness in the hi-hat or prevalence in the mix as they did on Smoke and Mirrors (produced by Joel Hamilton), but everything is in order, and as Leal and Christensen set the tone for the several lead-vocal tradeoffs the album has on offer in the transition between “Let it Roll” and “Boogie Man,” the sense of balance is palpable.

That Leal and Christensen share lead vocal duties adds diversity to Dixie Witch’s approach, which is still relatively straightforward no matter who’s fronting at any given moment. The band’s propensity for strong choruses shines through, and “Boogie Man” shows right away that just because they’re using a consistent songwriting tactic doesn’t mean different personalities can’t be carried across. “The High Deal,” for example, follows “Boogie Man.” Leal takes over the vocals once more, and the song is less outwardly vibrant, a little slower, a little more ringing Southern note progression from Smith in the verse, and in that kind of heavy rock song of the road that Dixie Witch have always excelled at crafting without ever sounding foolish or overtly inauthentic. It’s a solid lead-in for the catchy “Red Song,” which revives the more energetic take and finds Leal putting his toms and double-kick bass drum (of which I’m normally not a fan) to excellent use setting up another engaging solo from Smith. Of all the tracks on Let it Roll, “Red Song” is among the easiest to imagine in a live setting, Christensen’s rumble adding emphasis to Leal’s persistent pedal work, and the band’s formidable charisma materializing even from just the audio.

Read more »

Tags: , , ,

Liquid Sludge Fest Set for June 2-3

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 25th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster

There’s a host of quality Texan acts on the bill alongside out-of-staters like Kylesa, Lo-pan and Naam, and all in all the Liquid Sludge Fest seems to be like a decent way to spend a weekend in Austin with probably only a fraction of the bullshit you’d encounter at, say, SXSW. Plus, Orange Goblin will be there, and that’s always a plus.

Lineup and festival info comes courtesy of the PR wire:

No Strings Attached Media has announced their first annual Liquid Sludge Fest to take place as a part of Chaos in Tejas in 2011. This festival will be celebrating the independent subgenre of metal referred to as stoner rock and sludge metal.

Headlining this festival will be Honky from Small Stone Records on June 2 and a double-feature of Kylesa and Orange Goblin on June 3. The first day will feature a highlight of Small Stone Records with Tia Carrera, Suplecs, Dixie Witch, Lo-Pan, and Honky.

Liquid Sludge at The Scoot Inn (1308 E. 4th – Navasota and East 4th Street)

June 2
Amplified Heat
(inside stage)
Squidbucket
(inside stage)
Honky
(outside stage)
Lo-Pan
(outside)
Dixie Witch
(outside)
Suplecs
(outside)
Tia
Carrera (Outside)
Asylum on the Hill
(outside)
Big Tattoo
(Outside)
Doors @ 3pm

June 3
The Roller
(inside stage)
Rise Thy Ruin
(inside stage)
Kylesa
(outside stage)
Orange
Goblin (outside)
The Gates of Slumber
(outside)
Naam
(outside)
Sanctus
Bellum (outside)
Rust
(outside)
Switchblade
Jesus (outside)
Doors @ 3pm

Times are tentative and may be changed. Tickets are already available at www.ticketscene.com. The first 50 tickets sold to the Kylesa/OrangeGoblin double feature are $10 and with only 19 left they’re going fast. Standard admission is $10 (advance June 2), $15 (at the door June 2nd and in advance June 3rd), $20 (at the door June 3rd), and $21 (advance 2-day).

Liquid Sludge Fest can be found on Facebook here.

Tags: , ,

Tia Carrera, Cosmic Priestess: The Expanding Universe

Posted in Reviews on February 9th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster

“Slave Cylinder” opens with a nod to Sabbath’s “N.I.B.,” and from there, Cosmic Priestess — the second album from Tia Carrera on Small Stone Records — only gets trippier. The Austin, Texas, trio made their label debut in 2009 with The Quintessential, and while that album felt especially geared toward transposing their live sound to plastic, Cosmic Priestess seems more of a studio effort. Of course, the band relies heavily on improvisation throughout the four extended instrumental jams that make up the new collection, but it’s a different entity, a different spirit driving them throughout. Doubtless it was recorded live, the three of them in a single room, but the clean sound is thick with bass and rich classic rock drumming, and relies less on feedback to fill empty space than did The Quintessential. It’s less just about the noise and more about the interaction among players.

At least I think it is. Entirely possible I have my head up my ass and Cosmic Priestess is nothing more than three dudes ripping out good vibes for upwards of 30 minutes at a clip. Whatever the case, Tia Carrera not only manage to capture the excitement and immediacy of the best of heavy and/or stoner rock, but they do so now based on concrete ideas of what they want each piece of music to accomplish. “Slave Cylinder” wraps with the three-piece — Erik Conn (drums), Andrew Duplantis (bass) and Jason Morales (guitar) – coming together to drive home a central riff, before “Sand, Stone and Pearl” opens wide into electric piano and sustained notes from Morales. The heady psychedelia is a change from the opener, and shows Tia Carrera have more to their sound than simple jam-band pseudo-jazz crescendos or pointless noodling. Duplantis’ bass marches in time with Conn’s drumming even as it offers counterpoints to it, and as the 15-minute track plays out, it’s all the more evidence of the band’s growing chemistry and self-awareness. They’re not without their lost moments – which you expect in a live/jam setting and so aren’t out of place here – but the overall flow of Cosmic Priestess is encompassing. “Sand, Stone and Pearl” is twice as long as the opener, and in turn, “Saturn Missile Battery” is more than twice as long as it (Tia Carrera then pulls back to the eight-minute range to finish). In a way, it feels like the album is growing around you while you listen.

Read more »

Tags: , , ,