Posted in Whathaveyou on February 18th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Looks like Pittsburgh imprint Shadow Kingdom Records and underappreciated Maryland doom stalwarts Revelation will be continuing their alliance with a release of the latter’s newest album, Inner Harbor (review here), in April. As they usually do, Revelation self-released the album digitally last year and highlighted a more progressive sound, still melancholic, but steeped in a kind of resigned mellowness of spirit as well. If you didn’t hear it then, it’s worth hearing now.
The members of Revelation‘s other outfit Against Nature (same dudes, different band) will be playing a show in Philadelphia earlier in April as well that a trailer has just been released to help promote. Find that after the PR wire info about the Inner Harborrelease:
Shadow Kingdom Records To Release REVELATION’s “Inner Harbor” In April
April 30th, 2013 will see the release of Inner Harbor, the newest album from long-running prog rock/doom outfit REVELATION.
In existence since the mid-80′s REVELATION has earned the respect of many bands and fans from all around the world and are often credited with creating the Progressive Doom Metal genre. They’ve taken the very best sounds of Rush, Black Sabbath, and early Heavy Metal to create yet another masterpiece amongst a catalog of many with Inner Harbor. This is quite possibly the band’s most fluid and laid-back release to date. While the sound is difficult to pinpoint, one can hear classic REVELATION mixed in with a dash of 70′s Italian Progressive Rock. The music flows through you so smoothly and freely, that you’re going to feel like you’re in a state of deep relaxed meditation.
The combined creative forces of drummer Steve Branagan, guitarist/vocalist John Brenner and bassist Bert Hall Jr. are responsible for over twenty full-length releases – split between REVELATION and their eclectic alter-ego AGAINST NATURE – and countless demos and EPs. Inner Harbor was made available as a digital release last year by the band’s own Bland Hand Records (www.againstnature.us/BH/) and will see worldwide distribution on CD format by Shadow Kingdom Records in April. Pre-orders are being taken at the newly revamped Shadow Kingdom Records Webstore atwww.shadowkingdomrecords.com.
In other news, Revelation‘s alter ego Against Nature will be playing a rare gig in Philly on April 6 with Beelzefuzz, Wizard Eye and Lucertola at The M Room. A video promo for the show has been put together by Lucertola‘s Tad Leger (also Blood Farmers) and you can find it below:
Maryland’s Sixty Watt Shaman released their third album, Reason to Live, in 2002. Hard to believe it’s been that long, but I guess it has. I remember getting the album from Spitfire Records at the time and thinking it was pretty damn heavy, and sure enough, the first impression has lasted for a decade-plus, even if the band hasn’t. Sixty Watt Shaman broke up after Reason to Live, with drummer “Minnesota” Pete Campbell joining forces with The Mighty Nimbus and playing with Victor Griffin in Place of Skulls (he also features in Griffin‘s new outfit, In~Graved) and bassist Rev. Jim Forrester moving on to a variety of projects, including the current Serpents of Secrecy, whose details remain — you guessed it — a mystery.
They reunited in the later part of the last decade with their final lineup of Forrester, Campbell, guitarist Joe Selby and guitarist/vocalist Daniel Kerzwick, and have done shows here and there, mostly locally, but Reason to Liveremains Sixty Watt Shaman‘s last studio outing to date, and on the album, the 12-minute “All Things Come to Pass” serves all-too-fittingly as a closer. The song boasts a raging, burly jam, with Kerzwick repeating the title line ad infinitum, and that jam has two guests: Scott “Wino” Weinrich on guitar and Scott Reeder on bass.
If you have to have two names on a song, those are ones to have. Wino and Reeder, both former members of The Obsessed, leave a stamp on the extended cut to the point that after the big rock finish more than eight minutes in Kerzwick, calls them each out by name and says thanks. The impression given is that the jam was put to tape live with everyone in the studio at the same time, and while I don’t know if those were the actual circumstances of the recording, it sounds natural enough and it’s a killer groove, so I’m not about to complain.
“All Things Come to Pass” doesn’t use the full 12 minutes. There’s an acoustic hidden track afterwards, but as that’s got a cool vibe and this clip had the better sound quality of the ones I could find, we get the finish of Reason to Live in its entirety.
Posted in Reviews on February 5th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
The Baltimorean outfit make no direct claims about their fifth album being narrative in its structure, but there can be little question that Arbouretum’s Coming out of the Fog ends in a different place than it began. In a concise but peaceful 39-plus minutes, the four-piece move from “The Long Night” to the closing title-track, “Coming out of the Fog,” which contrasts the darker push of the opener with a soothing melody and soft strum from founding guitarist/vocalist Dave Heumann. With “All at Once, the Turning Weather” positioned near the album’s center, the metaphors may be mixed, but the hopeful movement is nonetheless conveyed over the course of the eight analog-recorded tracks. The Arbouretum lineup that also brought forth 2011’s excellent The Gathering – Heumann, bassist Corey Allender, drummer Brian Carey and Matthew Pierce on keys and extra percussion – has returned and that album’s lush tendency for creative genre defiance has been retained as well, Arbouretum working with patience and grace to walk a line between heavy psychedelia, doom, folk and indie rock(s), and while the album flows easily and naturally, there is a definite structure to Coming out of the Fog as well, each side ending with a quieter piece, be it “Oceans Don’t Sing” or the aforementioned title-track. Something else Arbouretum’s latest shares with its predecessor is a strong launch point – “The White Bird” was one of The Gathering’s high points, and “The Long Night” has an immediate appeal here as well, residing on the heavier end of the band’s sound without unveiling the full tonal crunch that will make itself known on “The Promise” still to come. Heumann begins solo on guitar and introduces the first two lines of the verse vocally before Allender’s bass and Carey’s drums join in. A not-overbearing hook persists in both the verse and the chorus, and Pierce makes his presence felt playing off the guitar in a bluesy solo section as the rhythm section holds fast to the established groove before shifting on a stop back into a final verse, where they end rather than reviving the chorus for a last runthrough – more a testament to the weight of that progression than an oversight – there’s nothing on Coming out of the Fog that feels like a misstep when it comes to songwriting.
Or, for that matter, performance. Heumann gives the music plenty of space to breathe, but when singing, he’s very much at the fore vocally and shows no hesitation in carrying the band when appropriate. On second track “Renouncer,” a dug-in distorted riff is complemented by the vocal line following it, but with the heavier “The Promise,” Heumann is all the more up front in his delivery, and where’s “Renouncer”’s chorus has a gentle bounce, “The Promise” announces its arrival with sharp snare hits from Carey and an insistent, thick rhythm bolstered by Pierce’s added percussion. At no point on Coming out of the Fog are Arbouretum trying to be heavy for heaviness’ sake, instead using aural heft as a tool in their varied arsenal to evoke a specific feeling or add to the overarching atmosphere of the album. Such is the case on “The Promise,” which meets Heumann’s solo with a layer of surprisingly abrasive feedback noise that comes on with two minutes left in the song and remains for the duration of the instrumental jam remaining even as the rest of the music fades out, working to setup the transition into “Oceans Don’t Sing.” A contrast in sound winds up making the flow between the two tracks work, as the side A finale, even at the peak of its build, is given more toward Americana twang, filled out by a pedal steel guitar. At 3:24, when the song opens wider, Pierce’s piano adds to the breadth, and Heumann’s vocal doesn’t quitesoar, but is masterful nonetheless in keeping the fragility of earlier in the track. A pair of heavy rockers in “All at Once, the Turning Weather” and “World Split Open” start out side B, the former stretching Arbouretum’s sonic naturalism into psychedelics late into its run while the latter affirms the earthier fuzz of “Renouncer” while setting it to a more active rhythm. Both are exceedingly engaging, especially for listeners from the fuzzier end of the musical spectrum, rife with tonal warmth and a maintained balance of influence that still finds Arbouretum sounding like no one so much as themselves. Take your pick for which is the high point of the album; it could just as easily be any cut on Coming out of the Fog, depending on your mood when you hear it.
Posted in Reviews on January 16th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
I’ve had an itch to catch Baltimore’s Arbouretum live really since I caught wind of their 2011 album, The Gathering (which I didn’t review here because I didn’t think it would fit; I’ve since stopped caring), but especially since hearing about their sharing the stage with Om in their hometown the same weekend I was there and not being able to make that gig. Hearing their new record, Coming Out of the Fog, which is due out Jan. 22 on Thrill Jockey, only added to the urgency, and when I heard they were sharing a two-band bill with long-running alt country pioneers Freakwater at The Bell House on a Tuesday night, the decision basically made itself.
The ride in was easy enough. I’d stayed at the office late to split on time to get there for a 9PM start and miss most of the tunnel traffic, and when I got to The Bell House, I paid the door charge and was somewhat surprised to find rows of foldout chairs set up in front of the stage. I was taken aback, since last time I was there was to see YOB in May 2012, but I grabbed a seat up front and proceeded to make an activity of waiting the 10 or so minutes for the band to come out. It was mildly awkward and I felt a bit like the curtain behind Brian Carey‘s drums was going to rise and we were all going to be treated to a live The Creation of Adam à la Arrested Development (“Where is god?” “There is no god!” etc.), but no, in another couple minutes, Arbouretum emerged from the side door and the show began.
This being my first time watching them play and a big part of my attraction being their tonal warmth, I was particularly interested to see what kind of amps guitarist/vocalist David Heumann was playing through. It would be just as easy to imagine full stacks from some obscure fuzz factory, or even Dead Meadow-style Orange combos, given the sonic richness and fullness that pervades from Heumann and bassist Corey Allender, though the reality was far more understated. Heumann ran two small Egnater half-stacks arranged separately (it was a bit of linguistic near-irony when one of them started smoking mid-set; I couldn’t get “ignitor” out of my head), and while the striking visual aspect wound up working in the opposite direction from what I’d figured, his tone was unmistakable, and the band quickly went to work straddling and crossing the lines between heavy psychedelia, folk, indie and doom, as few other than them seem to be able to do.
My familiarity is really with the last couple albums (I was kind of hoping they’d have any of the first three on their merch table and I’d be able to get caught up, but no dice), but I recognized a goodly portion of the material they played, the memorable “Oceans Don’t Sing” standing out from Coming Out of the Fogalong with “Renouncer” and “The Promise.” The three cuts from the new album ran in order as they do on the record behind set opener “Mohammed’s Hex and Bounty” from 2007′s Rites of Uncovering. It seemed a curious choice to me to start off with — one would expect something more recent, and, if they’re playing tracks two, three and four from the new one, then “The Long Night,” which leads off Coming Out of the Fog, wouldn’t have been out of place — but it very quickly became apparent they knew what they were doing.
The lightly rolling groove of “Renouncer” and more lumbering fuzz of “The Promise” — on which Matthew Pierce turned from his Rhodes to add percussion and complement Carey – were an excellent setup for the instrumental build of “Oceans Don’t Sing,” which also proved a highlight for showcasing Heumann‘s voice, like an earthier David Bowie gone west. The setlist was probably tailored to the show, that is, playing with Freakweather, Arbouretum probably weren’t looking to blast out eardrums — though before they got going, Heumann warned that parts would be pretty loud and they were — but the flashes of heavy that came through the songs seemed to be met with appreciated from where I was sitting. Catchy almost in spite of itself with the vocals following the guitar line in a bouncing melody, “Renouncer” rumbled a subtle threat in Allender‘s bassline, and “The Promise” paid that off with a noisy finish and a solo that Heumann didn’t seem to want to let go.
Contrast was a big part of what made it all work. Arbouretum balanced heaviness and sweetness of melody and tone and ranged dynamically in terms of pace and volume. Rites of Uncoveringopener “Signposts and Instruments” followed “Oceans Don’t Sing” with a similar if less countrified linearity and the subsequent “St. Anthony’s Fire” provided the most raucous stretch of the set. Longer than everything else and seeming to range even further than the studio version (which appears as part of a 2012 split with Hush Arbors called Aureola), “St. Anthony’s Fire” gave way to a legitimately huge-sounding jam led by Heumann‘s guitar, which broke into an extended heavy solo, periods of shred offset only by the crunch elicited when the guitar, percussion and bass came together with Carey‘s thudding drums. Maybe it was the fact that I was sitting right in front of it, but Heumann’s lead was particularly impressive, sounding soulful and even a little funky as it moved along in a world seemingly of its own.
Little doubt that’s what Heumann was thinking of when he warned earlier they’d get loud, and the band lived up to the warning. The crowd at The Bell House had been filtering in throughout their whole set, but there were enough people in the room by the time Arbouretum got around to “St. Anthony’s Fire” to give a genuine response, and it was a cool moment to witness, cheers coming up after Heumann finished that solo. I had been hoping for “The Long Night” or even “The White Bird” from The Gathering, which still gets stuck in my head on the regular, as a closer, but they finished with the title-track to Coming Out of theFog. It rounds out the album as well and might have been somewhat faster live owing to the sheer momentum they built during “St. Anthony’s Fire,” but they made it work anyway, despite what looked like some technical difficulty in Allender‘s backing vocals.
Given that it was still early when they finished, I thought maybe I’d stick around for a bit and catch at least some of Freakwater, even just for myself if not to write about it later, but the temptation of being able to go to a show in Brooklyn and still get back to Jersey before midnight won out. I waited for the band to emerge so I could buy a copy of Coming Out of the Fogand then headed out, the freezing rain that would turn to snow overnight just starting to fall as I crossed the street to my car.
Driving past the homogenized “warmth” of the brick retail chains that have appeared since I was last down on the outskirts of Baltimore’s Fell’s Point neighborhood, I couldn’t help but think of John Brenner from Revelation discussing the inner harbor in that interview that went up last week. These places with all the trappings of economic stimulus except any investment back into the community that hosts them the way feet host blisters. There for a painful while and then gone. Pop.
It was different once I actually got into Fell’s Point. Not that the neighborhood wasn’t gentrified from its working class harbor roots, but that at very least it was actual gentrification, independently owned businesses or at least smaller, regional chains and a most welcome onslaught of pubs, eateries, and other gastro-type decadences. Kooper’s Tavern, where The Patient Mrs. and I had lunch, had tables set up outside selling oysters and recycling the shells for use by — wait for it — other oysters. Seems nobody is immune to the economic ravages of our age. Even the oysters have to buy used.
Fitting that act of conservation would be prelude to a radical haul whose like — in what otherwise might be considered a regular ol’ record shop — I’ve not seen in some time. Sound Garden (no relation) was just down the street from the pub where we ate and several others, and it wasn’t my first time there by any stretch (seems impossible that it would’ve been over three years ago, but I guess that’s why old posts are dated), but I didn’t remember it being quite the trove it was this time around. Walking up the middle of the three aisles, I went past the metal and the midsection divide — I’d come back to the metal, no worries — something strange compelling me forward, and that’s when I saw it:
The Psychedelic section.
Oh yeah, that’s right. The monkey that lives in my head where my brain should be clicked on the dim bulb of his cavernous abode and for a moment I said a prayer to my pagan octopus god that I might win the $300 million Powerball and come back to Sound Garden to purchase every album in the Psychedelic section on principle alone. A mere celebration of the existence of such a thing. Portrait of the mouth, drooling.
What fun I had. Flipping through was like opening presents. I limited myself to two discs about which I knew absolutely nothing but what was written on the eloquent description labels — Truth‘s Truthfrom 1969 and Escombros‘ Escombros, from 1970. The former is a poppy, folksy thing, not bad but not quite as bizarre as I was hoping based on the cover, and Escombros is a heavier Chilean obscurity that opens with a cover of Hendrix‘s “Stone Free,” so I guessed I was pretty safe in grabbing it. Turns out I was right about that. The vocals sounded mixed too high on my office speakers when I listened, but I expect on a different system, it might not be an issue at all, and there were a couple gems there anyway. Wicked Lady‘s Psychotic Overkillwas a welcome find as well, all buzzsaw-this and early-’70s narcodelia that.
I also picked up Goat‘s World Musicbased on the tarantula-sized hype surrounding. That hype is probably earned, and however problematic I might find European acts copping a feel on some Fela Kuti afrobeat fuzz, they’re hardly the first and they did it well enough. I wasn’t quite enchanted, but sometimes with albums like that I go into it determined not to like them and usually find I don’t. That wasn’t the case with Goat.
In the “I reviewed this and I’m annoyed at buying it” category, the newest ones from Golden Void (review here), Astra (review here)and Six Organs of Admittance (review here) were fodder enough for a grumble, even if Astra and was used. Six Organs was $15 new and the sleeve isn’t even a gatefold. Call me a privileged shit if you want — boo hoo you don’t get free stuff, etc. — but for the time and effort I put into even a shorter review, I don’t think a CD is too much to ask, especially when I know that I’m one of like three remaining motherfuckers who cares in the slightest. Apparently the music industry disagrees. Grumble grumble, man.
One might include the new Neurosis (review here) in that category as well — and the Grand Magus I didn’t even step to this time around — but the fact is on that one I was just being impatient and that a physical promo of Honor Found in Decaywould show up sooner or later (it did, today). However, my wanting to hear it right that minute met with such logic on the field of diplomacy and the compromise reached was that I’d buy the digipak edition, because it’s limited and the promo would likely be the jewel case anyway. I never got the digi version of 2007′s Given to the Rising and there’s a little bit of me that still regrets it. That same part is very much enjoying listening to “My Heart for Deliverance” as he types this.
There were odds and ends as well. With Kalas on my brain after The Johnny Arzgarth Haul resulted in another promo, Used Metal paid dividends in the first full-artwork copy I’ve ever owned — and in case you were wondering why I care so much about physical media, that’s how long I remember shit like that — and over in Used Rock, the first Grinderman happened to be situated next to a special edition of 2009′s Grinderman 2, the unmitigated sleaze of which I friggin’ loved at the time, as well as Grails‘ cinematic 2012 outing, Deep Politics (review here).
I wound up with a used copy of Dungen‘s 2002 third album, Stadsvandringar, getting the band confused with Black Mountain, I think because they both used to have the same PR. Thanks a lot, Girlie Action Media circa 2005. I felt a little pathetic when I discovered my error, but I checked out the Dungen and it wasn’t bad, covering some of the same sunny psych folk territory that Barr did on their 2012 sophomore installment, Atlantic Ocean Blues(track stream here), and giving me a new context for not onlyBarr, but a slew of other acts as well. Could’ve been much worse.
Cap it off with a used copy of Lewis Black‘s The Carnegie Hall Performancefrom 2006 — a stellar two-disc show recorded in the depths of American hopelessness post-Katrina but for the bit about air traffic control — and when I brought it all to the counter, the dude asked me, “Are you local?” I said I wasn’t and he said, “Well, I’m going to give you a discount anyway.” It was much appreciated, regardless of the geography involved, and by the time I left Sound Garden, I was more pleased with the outcome I carried in a red plastic bag than I’ve been coming from a single record store in a long time. Probably since I visited Flat, Black and Circular in Lansing, Michigan, over the summer, and that’s saying something.
My hope is that it’s not another three years before I get back there — appropriately enough, Lewis Black has a whole section early into his show about time moving faster as you age, and he’s absolutely right — but whenever it is, Sound Garden is definitely on the must-hit list for next time I’m in Baltimore. If you want to look them up, their website is here.
Seems only reasonable to cap this week with The Flying Eyes, from Baltimore, as I’m situated outside the city for the weekend. The Patient Mrs. has family down here and I’ve adjourned early on what if the noise level emanating from downstairs is an ongoing evening, but yeah, I’m pretty much done with the night. I left work early to head south, we’ve got the dog with us, and there will be plenty more geniality tomorrow. Honestly, I think last night’s Thanksgiving food coma carried over into today. No amount of coffee could make me stir, and all a few glasses of wine with leftovers for dinner did was increase my longing for the comforts of pajamas, bed and laptop glow. So here I am.
The Flying Eyes have a new album in the works that I’m looking forward to hearing, and in the meantime, this full set from Rockpalast Crossroads is full-on righteous. There are a few young bands right now that make me excited for the prospects of next-gen American heavy. The Flying Eyes are one. Eggnogg are another, and bands like Pilgrim and Elder seem like a given by now, but they’re both still plenty young as well. As long as everyone remembers to turn the bass up, things should be just fine. I’m excited to hear what The Flying Eyes have in store for their next record.
Kind of wild week, but I guess that happens with holidays. In any case, I took a little shit for it, but I was glad to get that Om review up yesterday. Coincidence has it that they’re playing the Ottobar in Baltimore tomorrow night, with Arbouretum opening. I’ve never seen Arbouretum, and I’d like to, but I don’t think it’s going to happen. Kind of a hard sell to be like, “Hey, yeah, we’re coming to stay with you for the weekend but by the way we’re gonna skip out and go to a show and oh by the way do you mind watching our dog for the night she’s allergic to peanut butter okay thanks bye!” Seems a little scummier than I’m interested in being, at least this weekend.
Nonetheless, I’m hoping to get into town proper tomorrow for a bit in the afternoon, maybe get a crabcake sandwich and hit a record shop or two, as is my wont. I’ll be sure to report on any and all acquisitions, and otherwise, stay tuned next week for reviews of Kowloon Walled City‘s new one, Cultura Tres, and probably one or two others, as well as a High on Fire live review — they hit Philly on Thursday and I’m going — an interview with Dylan Desmond about the new Bell Witch album and a track stream of the Don Juan Matus/Oxido split 7″ that’s been out for a while but I wanted to feature all the same because it’s limited and because it’s cool.
And speaking of audio, it seems only fair to give you the early heads up that on Monday I’m going to be launching a live, 24-hour streaming radio station. The Obelisk Radio. I’ll have more details Monday and you’ll probably be able to check it out before then since I’ll be putting the links up and stuff over the weekend, but yeah, that’s happening. Thanks to Johnny Arzgarth, I got the hard drive that was the old K666 from StonerRock.com, Slevin essentially set up the stream, and I’ll be adding to it as we go. The first record that I put up today as a test — in addition to the hundreds already there — was Sungrazer‘s Mirador. Much more to come on that.
Until then, I hope you have a great and safe weekend. I will see you on the forum and back here Monday for a whole new league of shenanigans.
Posted in Reviews on October 18th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
It seems strange to think that three years would pass before Revelation put out another record. The trio of John Brenner (guitar/vocals), Bert Hall (bass) and Steve Branagan (drums) released For the Sake of No One (review here) late into 2009, and it was the third of three full-lengths issued in a 16-month span (not counting the …Yet So Far reissue on Shadow Kingdom, but counting the previously unreleased self-titled from 1988). Still, it’s been three years and that time has brought some changes in Revelation. Not in lineup, or in their general writing ethic, but like much of Revelation’s music itself, the shifts the band is making stylistically are subtle. Their new work, Inner Harbor (free download through Bland Hand, CD forthcoming on Shadow Kingdom, vinyl through Pariah Child), is a full 10 minutes shorter than was For the Sake of No One, but more pivotally, its six tracks find the long-running Baltimore trio pushing into new, progressive territory, with keyboards featuring heavily in line with the guitars on tracks like “Rebecca at the Well” and closer “An Allegory of Want.” At the same time, Inner Harborpresents both the most active songs of Revelation’s new tenure – marking the middle of the last decade the point at which they got back together after disbanding after 1998’s Fourteen Inches of Fury four-way split – with the surprising upbeat motor-thrust of “Eve Separated,” and the most subdued tracks in terms of production, the opening title-track being no less a signal of a shift in modus than the aerial photo of Baltimore’s inner harbor is set when set against the classic art and sculpture that served as covers for For the Sake of No One, 2008’s Release, or Revelation. Additionally, as the band’s alter ego, Against Nature, has begun to distinguish itself from the three-piece’s work in Revelation by adding vocalist Ron “Fez” McGinnis for their latest album, Fallen Rock, released earlier this year, Revelation has in turn stepped out from its morose past to become something more aesthetically complex. Of course, they remain doomed, and when they want to, Revelation can elicit a plod second to none within the sphere of Maryland doom – see the early moments of “Jones Falls” – but they’re by no means limited to just that here. Less so than they’ve ever been.
Seems silly to put it in some kind of “casting off expectations” narrative, since Bland Hand is the band’s own label and it’s not like they’ve ever been shooting for having their songs used in car commercials or the reflective moment in your favorite sitcom, but one way or another, Inner Harbor is less tied to genre than anything Revelation has put out previously. It remains tonally gorgeous, with Brenner and Hall emitting rich warmth to match Brenner’s quiet vocal style and the often soft, straightforward drumming of Branagan, but “Rebecca as the Well” has a darker atmosphere and thicker pulse, and second track “Terribilita” comes as close to a shuffle as I’ve ever heard from Revelation in its intro before keyboard sirens – if I find out that’s a guitar, I’ll be genuinely surprised, but Brenner reportedly a big Rush fan, so anything’s possible with layering – underscore a fervent verse nod. Many of these shifts in approach and/or method can be chalked up to simple comfort. Revelation did not rush to get Inner Harbor out – if they had, it probably would’ve dropped in 2010 and been a much different album – and that extra time seems to have served the songs well. In particular, Hall’s performance on bass throughout these tracks is stellar. The final moments of “Terribilita” make a striking example, but no more or less so than the second half of “Eve Separated,” on which the bassist weaves a rhythm under Brenner’s guitar solo that proves no less engaging than that solo itself. Even in the slower stretches of “Rebecca at the Well,” Hall is forward in the mix and a huge part of carrying across Revelation’s emergent prog fetish – though in that regard, the synth really is at the core and it’s not so much that Hall is putting on a clinic technically as much as he’s playing thoughtfully and artfully on these tracks. With a more dynamic production, the ending swirl of “Rebecca at the Well” might be even more of an apex to close out the album’s first half, with layered solos, synth and Hall’s bass and Branagan’s drums holding down the rhythm beneath, but they’ve retained an element of DIY in their recording, while also staying true to their live sound. In any case, they more than get their point across.
Posted in Reviews on July 10th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Not to be confused with the trad doom trio Pilgrim from Providence, Rhode Island, The Pilgrim are a bluesier heavy rocking five-piece from Baltimore. They make their debut in the form of the full-length The Pilgrim, which they’re self-releasing on Kickstarter-supported vinyl. The six songs that comprise the album were put to tape in 2009 by Rob Girardi at Sir Lord Baltimore Studio, and the band reportedly traded roofing in order to get the tracks recorded, so if you’re wondering what might be behind a three-year delay between tracking and pressing, let that give some indication of the kind of budget they’re working with. Nonetheless, a Spring 2012 tour also brought a handcrafted CD digipak issue, limited to 500, so the songs are out there one way or another, however much they might represent a version of The Pilgrim that The Pilgrim have already outgrown. If that’s the case (and I’ll underscore the point that I don’t know if it is or isn’t), all the more kudos to the band, because the tracks on The Pilgrim hardly sound formative. They’re crisply produced in a manner both organic and professional, and the band maintains a rough-hewn energy well suited to their ‘70s-derived sound, vocalist Mis Zill and guitarist Bob Sweeney coming together in several of the songs – “Cold Lady” and the later “Hey Freddy” and “The Pilgrim,” as examples – for what might truly be called duet parts. The band behind them, which has been through two bass players since Scott Rot played on this album (including Tonie Joy of the recently-reviewed The Convocation and current bassist Dan Evans), proves nimble, moving between fuzzy swagger on “Perdido” and a boogie shuffle on the title-track, guitarist Danny McDonald, Sweeney, Evans and drummer Derrick Hans touching on a variety of ‘70s rock tendencies without really ever aping one band or another. The resulting atmosphere hits on a mood somewhat reminiscent of Valkyrie’s Man of Two Visions, which was hard to place in a similar way – Zill’s vocals being an obvious difference between the two bands.
The Pilgrim have a clear awareness of their genre, and that shows right from the start of “Really Movin’,” which opens the self-titled with blues harp and a driving, classically-styled riff. Hans makes his snare pay for some unknown crime while McDonald and Sweeney move into and out of harmony with each other – feel free to cite Thin Lizzy for riff construction and any number of classic acts who’ve put their two guitars to good use over the decades as comparison points – and Rot does well holding the rhythm with the drums but veering here and there with and between the guitars. Zill’s vocals are an immediate focal point. She’s mixed high but is a more than capable singer, though perhaps best when backed by Sweeney and McDonald on “Cold Lady,” the longest cut on The Pilgrim at 8:12 and arguably the most stylistically complex as well, flowing well from one part to the next in its first half and much of the second to a frenetic boogie and slower break that boasts some of the album’s best vocals repeating the line “Go on and go.” That kind of strength of performance is heard again in the chorus of side B opener “Hey Freddy,” and because of that, it’s easy (and somewhat ironic) to forget “Perdido” closing out side A, but if you’re into dueling solos, it’s not to be missed. Sweeney and McDonald seem both to be lead players, which might account for their adept melodicism as well, and “Perdido” is a blistering showcase of their prowess, as well as a well-written song, on which Zill tops a kind of Witchcraftian sub-waltz (there’s a riff in there that keeps taking me back to “What I Am” from the first album – not a complaint) with an appropriately more crooned delivery. When “Hey Freddy” arrives on the CD, it does so as an energetic burst to contrast the subdued finish of the track before it.
Posted in Reviews on June 28th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Initially formed in the late ‘90s, Maryland’s The Convocation started out as The Convocation Of… and was a three-piece featuring guitarist/vocalist Tonie Joy, bassist Guy Blakeslee and drummer George France. In 2000 and 2001, they released a self-titled full-length and a follow-up called Pyramid Technology before fizzling out as bands do circa 2002. Blakeslee went on to form The Entrance Band, and Joy and France reignited the trio as The Convocation first in 2005 and have since played with a slew of bassists, among them Matthew Hall, Chris Camden, current bassist Donny Van Zandt and Jason Stevens, who happened to be in The Convocation for the 2009 release of their self-titled redux 7” single, The Convocation, on Gravity Records. Since the duo of tracks, “My History Mystery” and “Face to Face with the Beast,” the band has put out three more on a split with Chrissakes, but in the seven years since Joy (a veteran of hardcore outfit Born Against and a slew of others) and France reformed as The Convocation, neither a full album nor an EP has materialized. Whatever the situation in the band was or is, the songs “My History Mystery” and “Face to Face with the Beast,” both circling around the four-minute mark, prove worthy of a follow-up, reminding as they do of the earliest part of the ‘90s, as grunge didn’t yet have the name and was still just the weirdo rock that baggy-pants skaters listened to.
Both tracks affect that kind of sensibility – if updated some in the production – but especially “My History Mystery,” which quickly after its launch brings in ringing-out guitar notes and a visceral rhythmic tension, calls to mind some intangible aspect of the year 1991. I don’t know if it’s Helmet I’m hearing there, or Soundgarden, or even something like Tad, but all are a fair touchstone one way or another for the atmosphere The Convocation are culling together on the single, Joy’s vocals coming on as though from a blown out megaphone. The song has basically three parts, a verse, a chorus and an ending, but the simplicity is put to good use, and whatever may have happened to eject Stevens from the band since, his bass is a key factor in what makes the song work so well. Along with straightforward drumming from France, Joy has a rhythmic, almost Fugazi-type vocal cadence, but his efforts most pay off as his voice and the guitar come together in the lines of the verse. It’s a rolling groove in the first part of the song, and that continues into the second, which follows a short, heavily-wah’ed solo and once again seems to find its foundation in the bass-led rhythm. A single line is repeated over a subtle build, and if you pay too close attention to it, it almost sounds like they’re doing it too much, but if you back off a bit and just ride it out, the build can genuinely take you along with it to a kind of sub-culmination – it’s not like there’s a sudden burst of energy that might qualify as a payoff – of slick basslines and guitar leads and France’s kit holding the whole thing together. As one of two, it’s a solid leadoff track, and its second part, though repetitive, turns out to be the catchiest part of the entire release.
They’re among the original harbingers of Maryland doom, and Baltimorian four-piece Iron Man have seen ‘em come, and seen ‘em go. The band’s last full-length, I Have Returned, came out in 2009 (review here), and in the time since then, they’ve been through I don’t even know how many drummers — at least two — and frontman Joe Donnelly has also departed, leaving “Iron” Al Morris III on guitar alongside bassist Louis Strachan, drummer Mike Rix (since out of the band), and newfound singer Dee Calhoun for the new Dominance EP. If we were doing SAT analogies, I might say that Calhoun : Rob Halford as Donnelly : Ozzy Osbourne, minus the physical mimicry of onstage persona. His voice fits well over the four tracks of Dominance, of which I’ll have a review in the next week or two.
In case you missed it, Iron Man aren’t the only ones who premiered a new video today. Pagan Altar, who already had a new track up this week, posted a brand new video from their forthcoming album, Never Quite Dead, for the song “Dance of the Vampires.” That video is on the forum here, and I’d recommend it if you’d like to get your doom fix a little bit more when you’re done with “Ruler of Ruin” above. Right on.
Tomorrow night I’ll be in Philly to check out Earthride, C.O.C. and Clutch at the Trocadero, which I’m confident is going to be a complete blast. While I’m posting links to new videos on the forum, Mike H. shot a yet-unreleased Clutch song Wednesday night in Maine, and embedded it here. Thanks as always to him for his diligence. Anyway, if you’re gonna be at the show tomorrow, I’m the fat guy with the long hair, beard and the brown messenger-type camera bag, singing along to the chorus, “The party’s over/You all got to go/The wolfman is coming out.” I imagine it’ll be the bag that most distinguishes me.
This week, aside from that probable Iron Man review, I’ll have a writeup on tomorrow’s show, as well as the new Cherry Choke album, and — if it kills me — I will get Skype to record on my laptop and hook up that Grifter interview. I’ll also have the December numbers (I have no idea how they are), and since it’ll be 2012, at some point in the week I’ll do a preview of the year to come, most likely in the spirit of last year’s two-parter of records I’ve heard and ones I haven’t yet.
And as we learned today, there will be some albums I won’t hear at all, and for that, I apologize profusely.
I wish you a safe, insanely happy and healthy New Year, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing. I hope your 2012 is overflowing with joy and personal fulfillment, large cash settlements and whatever else it is that will make you glad to be on this planet. Raise a toast to the killer records to come and we’ll see you back here Monday for more adventures in adjectival phrasing.
Ah, to be young, creative, and constantly on the road throughout the European Union. Such seems to be the plight of Baltimorean heavy psych-blues specialists, The Flying Eyes. Seems they’ve just about bypassed every bit of their locality in favor of a more worldly approach to supporting their two albums, The Flying Eyes and earlier this year’s Done So Wrong. An interesting way to go about it, but it seems to be working for them.
Their new video, for the song “Overboard” from the latest album, can be viewed below with the background info following, and then be sure to check out the flyer for their newest string of European dates, which is set to kick off Nov. 17. Dig:
The music video was shot on Super 8 film in Baltimore, September 2011 by VeruschkaBohn from Germany (http://veruschka.tumblr.com). Developed by hand, this video pays tribute to the analogue days of video production and was successfully presented as a pre-diploma project at HfG Offenbach, where Veruschka studies Photo & Film. The song “Overboard“ is taken from the album Done So Wrong (Trip in Time/World in Sound, 2011).
Posted in Reviews on June 17th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
Young men carrying old souls, Baltimore four-piece The Flying Eyes first made an impression by collecting two EPs into a self-titled Trip in Time full-length debut early last year, blending heavy psychedelia and Southern blues to an effect both surprisingly individual and confident given their age and the fact that it was their first album. Now following it with Done So Wrong, the collective of childhood friends continues to refine their approach and expand it a bit, shirking off some of the more stonerly elements in their sound – for better or worse – and instead working shades of indie, country and folk into their palette. The lead vocals of guitarist Will Kelly remain soulful and strongly presented, embodying in many ways the “beyond their years” aspect of The Flying Eyes’ sound, though the overall retro psychedelia in tracks like highlight “Overboard” and the Dead Meadow-toned instrumental “Heavy Heart” don’t hurt in that regard either, the band drawing more from late-‘60s pop sprawl than the hard-driving riff rock that would rise to prominence just a few years later.
As stylized as they are, though, what’s most consistent about The Flying Eyes is prowess in songwriting. The funky, bass-led groove of “Poison the Well” – Mac Hewitt laying down warm low end in the verses while drummer Elias Schutzman one-e-and-a’s his hi-hat to classic affect later echoed on the toms during guitarist Adam Bufano’s solo break – offers immediate contrast to the fuzz and wah swirl of opener “Death Don’t Make Me Cry,” but both ultimately work. The diversity is subtle, but it’s there, showing up also in the chic neo-grunge feel of “Sundrop” and the thoughtful acoustics of closer “Leave it all Behind,” on which Kelly is joined by a female guest vocalist for a duet worthy of capping off Done So Wrong. Their heaviest moment, at least in the sense of playing fast and loud, might come in the cut before “Leave it all Behind,” “Greed,” which in addition to breaking down to guitars sounding more like violins, has one of the album’s several catchy and memorable choruses. Another strengthening Done So Wrong’s swaggering back half is “Overboard,” ringing notes from Kelly and/or Bufano topped with vocals that sound run through a just-overmodulated vintage mic. There’s obviously a self-aware element to what they do, but The Flying Eyes make it sound spontaneous, and ultimately, that’s why they succeed with the record.
Posted in Reviews on April 5th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
Against Nature know the score. The Baltimore trio have put out at least 15 full-lengths since 2005 on guitarist/vocalist John Brenner’s Bland Hand Records imprint, the latest of which is Stone Over Stone, and they’ve given them away for free the whole time. Physical CDs are pressed sometimes in limited numbers with accompanying artwork from Brenner – joined in Against Nature by bassist Bert Hall, Jr. and drummer Steve Branagan – but by and large, they just home record albums and put them up on the label’s website for those who find them to enjoy. Music for the love of music. It’s a beautiful ideal to work from, and Against Nature’s songs, humbly-toned, classically-styled and engaging, are perfectly suited to it. Stone Over Stone collects five solid traditional rockers and one more extended jam into about 29 minutes’ worth of material, paying homage to the LP ethic of old in the album’s relatively short runtime.
One thing about Against Nature’s material in every iteration I’ve heard (and at this point, I’ve heard a few): influences at work can vary by record, but in both tone and Brenner’s voice, Against Nature are distinctly themselves. Some material is more active, some more passive, but all of Against Nature’s work – and indeed this applies to Stone Over Stone as well – is completely lacking pretense and operating on a “what you see is what you get” level. Brenner is an accomplished solo guitarist, and he shows that off a bit later into this record on “Clod” or “Walking on Stilts in Sand,” and Hall and Branagan are as tight as ever in the rhythm section, the latter injecting some rocking fills into “Clod” that are as driven as anything I’ve heard from Against Nature in a while. The production style is the same as it ever was in its smooth but still home-recorded warmth, and though that can lead to some of the albums having a similar feel, the trio actually works in some different avenues on each record. It’s not quite a thematic concept, but the drive behind Stone Over Stone seems to be to capture a more spontaneous vibe. The seven-minute closing jam “Off the Cuff” is a big clue in that regard, but it’s true for some of the other songs as well.
Posted in audiObelisk on March 1st, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
Baltimore heavy psych rockers The Flying Eyes, whose self-titled debut was reviewed early last year, are in the process of preparing a follow-up for release via World in Sound/Trip in Time. The next album, reportedly titled Done So Wrong, is due out March 18, and drummer Elias Schutzman was kind enough to send over the track “Nowhere to Run” for your advance streaming pleasure. Check it out on the Soundcloud player below.
Done So Wrong is due out March 18 on World in Sound/Trip in Time. For more info on The Flying Eyes, check out their Facebook page.
Posted in On the Radar on January 6th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
They share a drummer with The Flying Eyes in Elias Schutzman, but blown-out psychedelic trio Mother Sun Flower are going for a different sound entirely. Where so much of what made The Flying Eyes‘ self-titled debut work was in the vocals, for Mother Sun Flower, the focus is on far-out riffing and an underlying intensity that comes across as kind of a surprise.
I credit youth for that and posit that The Flying Eyes probably couldn’t relax sonically even if they wanted to, which, as the three songs on their MySpace demonstrate, they don’t. “Death Talk” and “I Will End You” both get off on a blend of spacey atmosphere and outright aggression that few bands can pull off well, but Mother Sun Flower manages. The bass of Timmy Shaw and guitar/vocals of Jon Lipscomb only help bring out the meaner side of the band, and Schutzman‘s drumming can change from furious to sedate at a clip, so you never know quite what you’re going to get.
Their debut EP, which may or may not be called Mother Sun Fucker is in the works now, and for anyone in the Baltimore area, Mother Sun Flower join nomadic noise duo Jucifer for a show at The Ottobar next Wednesday, Jan. 12. More info on that here, and while you’re deciding how to spend your midweek evening, check out this clip from the YuToubes.